Gnocchi & Spinach Sauce

Folks. I am very happy about this piece. It’s very different than Cooking by Heart videos we’ve made in the past and I think you’ll enjoy it. This piece documents the gnocchi recipe of an Italian friend of Dominique Sarthe.  The spinach sauce was invented deep in the mind cogs of Domi’s husband, Cyril Sarthe.

Paul and I met the Sarthe’s in their hometown of Cassagnabere-Tournas, France, where we spent the month of March WWOOFing on their farm. Being that it was early spring, we planted everything from tomatoes to eggplants to squashes, spinach, lettuces, corn, leeks, basil, parsley, potatoes even peanuts. We harvested radishes, leeks, carrots, turnips, parsnips, celery, arugula, and spinach. It was wonderful to eat veggies that were so incredibly fresh. (WWOOFing is a great way to travel cheap – we work about 5 hours/day for room and board. See our travel blog here.) Luckily for us, Domi and Cyril know about good food. Before farming, they had another life as owners of a pizzeria near Toulouse. Now they live about an hour and a half south of Toulouse, in an old farmhouse that’s nestled into the rolling hills that dominate the area.  On a clear day, you can see the Pyrenees in the distance; it’s gorgeous. The Spanish border is about 2 hours away.

I should preface this story with the fact that Paul and I came to France speaking very little French. By very little, I mean we took a 101 class at Idlewild Bookstore in NY that met once a week for about 2 months. However, on March 1, we arrived at the nearby train station of Boussens where we first laid eyes on Cyril Sarthe. Bonjour was about all we could muster. Everything else came out all messed up. All we could do was smile. The drive was well a bit uncomfortable. Cyril drove home and we dragged our heavy backpacks up to the room that would be our bedroom. Cyril managed to convey to us that Domi would be home soon. It was a Thursday evening; she was at tango class. (what!?)

When Domi got home, she was all dolled up in her tango best and full of energy. Dinner preparations began. Cyril toasted pinenuts and crushed them in a wooden mortar and pestle. Domi boiled water for some fresh pasta and minced garlic. The nuts and garlic were mixed with basil they had preserved in olive oil from last summer. A bit of salt and voila. Handfuls of pasta topped with fresh pesto and handfuls of salad topped with nutritional yeast and vinaigrette made from sunflower oil and homemade cider vinegar.

Our conversation was limited and difficult. But we found ways to communicate. And each day, we could communicate a little more, and some days were impossible and some days were not so bad, but we learned a good deal, trial by fire style. We shared every meal with Domi and Cyril, we slept across the hall, we shared the same bathroom, shower, everything. We spent a lot of time together. And it was tough sometimes. But in the end, it was probably the best thing for our French and we all got to know each other well.

Domi and Cyril work hard. They are certified organic farmers who live almost entirely off their plot of land – with a few exceptions like coffee and chocolate. They’ve got a couple of pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and sheep. They also have two doggies and five cats, but not for eating. Domi sells their veggies and homemade products like canned tomatoes and apple juice at the market each Saturday in Muret. And each Wednesday evening, clients would stop by to pick up veggie baskets as part of a CSA (called an AMAP here). We would spend Tuesday and Wednesday preparing for the CSA; Thursday and Friday preparing for Saturday’s market. There was always work to be done.

It was maybe three weeks in, when we started talking about what recipe we could document. Domi and Cyril liked this one because they each prepare a piece of it and it’s one of their favorites. The music is by Django Reinhart, who I know they both love, and the track is called Honeysuckle Rose. Hope you enjoy!

 

Merci beaucoup, Domi et Cyril! xxo

Potato Latkes & Applesauce

Are you ready to witness a top notch Chanukah recipe passed from one generation to the next? That’s how we do! It was a special treat to shoot with  NY chef, teacher and cookbook author Peter Berley and his daughter Emma Jean at Peter’s teaching kitchen on the North Fork of Long Island. For those of you who are not familiar with latkes, you don’t know what you are missing! They are also known as potato pancakes, they taste incredible with applesauce, but it is also very common for folks to eat them with sour cream or even a bit of both. You can serve them on their own for a snack or as a side dish with dinner. They are delicious.

Peter Berley’s beautiful new teaching kitchen in Jamesport, NY

Like Emma Jean and Peter himself, I grew up glopping lots of applesauce onto my latkes so I am excited to have learned how to make applesauce from scratch! Latkes are a fried food but Peter has found a way of keeping them from being heavy. His latkes are light, fluffy and crunchy all at once. I’ve seen other recipes that call for 1/2 inch of oil or more but I think Peter’s shallow fry, or pan fry, is the way to go. There are many latke recipes out there, but this one may take the cake. I had the pleasure of sampling the goods and they were the best. I could have eaten ten.

You can make the applesauce and latkes simulaneously. Get your apples cooking first, then you’ll have plenty of time to prep your latkes. Before you begin frying latkes, mill your apples so your latkes can be served up hot and fresh as possible. Peter also suggests turnip latkes or adding a bit of grated carrot, or chopped scallion or chives to the mix. Have fun, experiment and let us know what you think!

Applesauce:

(makes about 2 quarts)

Ingredients :
5 pounds red apples (cortlands are best but can also use
McCoons, Empires, Galas or others)

Method:
1. Wash the apples. Halve core and slice into 2 inch chunks (do not peel them!)
2. Place the apples in a heavy pot and bring to a simmer over high heat, give
them a few stirs to prevent scorching.
3. Lower the heat and cover the pot. Cook gently until they turn soft and juicy,
about 30-40 minutes.
4. Puree the apples in a hand cranked food mill.
5. Serve alone, atop latkes or any way you like!

Notes on Applesauce:
If an apple (or pear) is on it’s way out, getting soft or over ripe, it’s a good time to sauce it.
When making applesauce, use a heavy pot – in a thin one, apples will burn before they sauce.
In addition to the pink color the skins provide, Peter keeps the skin on his apples for the pectin, which is just under the skin of apples. Pectin has a thickening effect on the sauce.
You can add cinnamon once the apples are cooked, but that doesn’t go so well with latkes.
Your applesauce will keep for 1-2 weeks in the fridge without any preserving method.

Potato Latkes

(makes 10-12 latkes)

Ingredients:
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
1 cup onion, coarsely grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 cup ( or more ) vegetable oil or shmaltz

Method:
1. Fill a large bowl with cold water.
2. As you grate the potatoes and onions transfer them to the water (this prevents them from turning
brown).
3. Drain the potatoes & onion mixture and place in a large to a clean towel. Ring out as much water as
you can. You can also do this by hand in batches.
4. Transfer the potato-onion mixture to a large bowl and stir in the beaten egg, salt and pepper to taste.
5. Heat a large skillet with 4 tablespoons of oil until hot but not smoking.
6. Fill a 1/2 cup measuring cup with potato mixture and press out excess liquid back into the bowl.
Add the mixture to the pan and flatten into a 3 inch round with a spatula.
7. Fry 3-4 pancakes at a time or whatever amount will fit comfortably in the pan without overcrowding it.
Cook until golden brown on each side. Drain the pancakes on brown paper. Season with a little salt.
8. Serve immediately or drain on a wire rack and keep warm in a 300 degree oven.

Notes on Latkes:
For this recipe, do not use extra virgin olive oil. Extra light pure olive oil, safflower or canola oil are best.
Once pan is hot, keep flame low.
You can make the grated potato mixture a day ahead. Keep it in the fridge with plastic directly on the grated mixture so no air gets to it.
If preparing latkes for a crowd, you can keep them in warm oven around 200.
If you are vegan, can use flour instead of egg to help bind the latkes.

 

Thank you Emma Jean and Peter! And as usual, thank you Sintalentos, Trokon Nagbe, and Mister Helzer. And thank you Momma and Pops Helzer for lending us the car so we could shoot this piece! Also merci, Domi et Cyril, pour le pomme et le pomme de terre ;). As for music credits: Meg’s Shopping Spree (Take Without Giving) and The Fall of Benson Mining by Sven Libaek; Something Elated by Broke for Free; Kolomeiko by Tres Tristes Tangos; Leno by Vlada Tomova Balkan Tales.

Nigerian Jollof Rice

Each time we make a video, I feel privileged to have the opportunity to take away a few little gems, whether it’s a great cooking tip, recipe secret, or a glimpse into an entirely different approach to food and family. To be honest, until the day we spent with the Utuk’s, I had no experience with Nigerian food nor jollof rice. Jollof rice is a staple rice dish that is common all over West Africa. It can be made with a variety of different proteins, but the basic ingredients for jollof rice are tomatoes, onion, salt, and red pepper. Affiong Utuk prepares her jollof rice with some of the usual ingredients but she also uses tomato paste, chicken bouillon and lots of crushed red pepper that gives her version of the dish a spicy kick. She serves protein dishes on the side, to accommodate the various dietary needs of her four children.

For Affiong, presentation is everything. She is a Nurse Anesthetist at Virtua Memorial Mt. Holly, NJ. Perhaps this is partially why she is very conscious of keeping her kitchen so clean while she cooks. One smart piece of advice she offered was this: when you are cooking for others, your guests should find out what you are serving by the aromas of the food, not by the mess you’ve left while preparing it. Along the same lines, Affiong says it doesn’t matter how good the food tastes; if it doesn’t look appetizing, why bother? In Affiong’s kitchen, she practices what she preaches, as she prepares a family feast with tender loving care.

Thank you Affiong, Ediomi and all of the Utuk’s for your patience and for seeing this project through. Katrina, thank you for your help during the shoot. Trokon, without your audio gear, these videos would not be very good… Sintalentos, you’re the musical man, thank you! Chitra, thank you for introducing me to Ediomi! And Paul, you toil so hard on these shoots and I love you for it. Thank you!

Music: Yaba E (Farewell) by Solomon Ilori And His Afro-Drum Ensemble; Super Mom by The Very Best; Nouvelle Generation Pts 1 & 2 by Orchestre Lipua Lipua; Surprise Hotel by Fool’s Gold; Happiness Is by Podington Bear; Children of Light by Quilt

Wild Chanterelle Bruschetta

The story of Foraging with Fialkoff

Georgia and Donna are two peas in a pod. They are saucy and strong, petite and powerful, serious and silly. In July, we spent a beautiful day gathering chanterelle mushrooms in northern Vermont. Donna has been foraging for mushrooms for 15 years and like most foragers, she is secretive about her spots. These are the locations to which she returns annually to harvest her coveted wild fungus, including chanterelles, morels, boletes, and her favorite, hen of the woods, or the maitake. Donna blind-folded us and took us to some secret locations and made us swear never to tell! Just kidding about the blind-folds, but these are some serious secret spots. Not only was it a new experience for Georgia, who had never foraged with her mom before, but it was a new experience for me. Georgia (and I) learned a lot. Maybe I was naive, but I always thought mushrooms need to be cooked in a lot of oil because they are so absorbent. I never realized that if you saute them in a little bit of butter and/or oil, water will cook out of them, concentrating their flavor. Wild mushrooms have a very subtle flavor and lend themselves to dishes in which they can be featured. Donna (and Georgia, when she is visiting from Brooklyn) prepares her mushrooms differently every time, but suggests cooking them with bland staples like pasta, toast, rice or eggs. Don’t use too many flavorful herbs, because they can be overpowering. I now know that throwing a load of mushrooms, especially ones you spent all day harvesting from the woods, into a tomato sauce is criminal. The mushrooms will absorb the tomato flavor and the flavors of the mushrooms, themselves, will be overwhelmed. This is precisely why Wild Chanterelle Bruschetta is phenomenal. You could use same preparation on pasta. And since chanterelles can be expensive (I’ve seen them for $50/lb in the store), you might consider trying this out with shittakes. Also, I want to share a few other things I learned that I think are really useful:

How to clean mushrooms: some people say not to wash mushrooms. Washing them in water can make some mushrooms gooey and gross. It can also dilute the subtle flavors. It is best to remove dirt with a knife or blow it off with a turkey baster.

How to store mushrooms: In a paper bag in the fridge. Stored in a plastic bag with no air, they will sweat and go bad much more quickly.

Eating raw mushrooms: Mushrooms need to be cooked in order for our bodies to absorb the good nutritional value they have to offer. Raw, they really have no nutritional value and can be tough to digest.

Poisonous mushrooms: Donna mentions one beautiful white mushroom called the Angel of Death, which is poisonous and can kill. Because this one is so dangerous, she tends to avoid all white mushrooms. In fact, if she has any question about a mushroom, she avoids it. Even if they aren’t deadly, some mushrooms can cause fairly severe gastrointestinal problems. Some even react poorly with alcohol. Educate yourself before you go off and start eating all kinds of unidentified wild mushrooms in the woods! In other words, do not try this at home.

On the other hand, definitely try THIS at home:


Thank you, Donna & Georgia. It was so much fun. Thanks Trokon Nagbe and Topiary Productions for your audio equipment. Thank you for your musical suggestions, Sintalentos. Thanks for helping out, Yashua & Chitra!

Music credits: The Next Time Around by Little Joy; Straw Man by Les Blanks; The Dolls’ Tea Party by The Magnetic Fields; Road by Nick Drake; Sing my Lord by Ponies In The Surf; Everybody’s Missing the Sun covered by Ladybug Transistor

Chapati (North Indian Flat Bread)

It was a treat to spend the day with Chitra and her dad while we shot this piece and learned from a master. Chitra’s father, Vishwani, shares his method of making chapati, also known as roti, a flat bread most commonly prepared in northern India. Vishwani grew up in Allahabad, one of India’s oldest cities, where he learned to prepare chapatis by watching his mother and then as time went on, by refining his own technique. On the shoot, Vishwani told us about leaving home for college, which is when he first began making chapati. Later, when he met his wife, Prathima, he continued to make chapati. Prathima is from south India, where rice is more commonly served as a staple. To this day, Vishwani remains the primary chapati-maker of the house. And since Vishwani and Prathima make chapatis weekly, they’ve become masters. It seems like making any kind of bread dough takes some experimentation to get it right.

When I asked Vishwani about the importance of passing down the tradition, I was excited by his response. He pointed out that traditions are not a one way street. They aren’t blindly passed on and can’t be forced onto the next generation, but rather they are actively accepted, practiced and kept alive by the younger generation. It’s refreshing to hear a different perspective and to consider that we are not just vessels but we are active participants in creating new traditions and keeping old traditions alive. Vishwani can teach what he knows, but it’s up to Chitra to keep it going, if she so chooses. As he tells Chitra, he teaches procedure, technique is what you figure out on your own.

Vishwani and Prathima reside in Alabama, where they both work in the Computer and Electrical Engineering Department at Auburn University.

Chapati

Ingredients (makes 6 rotis)
1 cup of flour
~1/2 cup lukewarm water
extra flour for rolling

Method
Sift the flour into a bowl and slowly add water while kneading until you get to a dough that is soft, smooth and pliable. The longer you knead the dough the better but 5 minutes of heavy kneading will do.

Take the dough ball and cover with a damp cloth for a minimum of 30 minutes (you can also make the dough and put in your fridge for making another day).

Divide the dough into 6 dough balls or loee and roll them in flour.

Flatten each each dough ball with your palm and roll out to a 6 inch diameter, using extra flour so it does not stick.

Heat an iron skillet on medium heat. When it is hot (water drops should sizzle immediately), place roti on.

Let it cook and when you start to see bubbles form in many places, flip it over and cook until the other side does the same.

Over a medium flame, with flat tongs or chimta place the roti until it blows up or browns on both sides. (If you are cooking on an electric stove, you can press the roti in different places with a cloth to make it blow up a bit right on the skillet)

With the tongs, hit the roti against a surface to shake off any excess flour.

Butter one side with ghee and place in an airtight container lined with paper towel.

Music: Boss City by Wes Montgomery; Evelyn by Dabrye; Pacific Theme by Broken Social Scene; Cause=Time by Broken Social Scene; Little Chin by Tommy Guererro

Vishwani and Chitra, thank you for sharing. Franny & John, Thank you for letting us take over your apt for the day! Sintalentos, thank you for your musical consultation. Michael Legume, thanks for the audio equip. Paul, you’re the best.

Bise Bele Bath Masala Powder

The tough thing about cooking Indian food is that the secret is always in the spices. So seeing how a masala is made from scratch is really demystifying. The great thing is that if you make a batch of a masala like this, you can just keep it on hand and make incredibly tasty dishes very easily.

This is a follow up to Asha Janardhan’s Bise Bele Bath recipe – Asha shows how to make the masala powder that gives the bise bele bath it’s rich flavors. Of course, you can buy pre-made powder at an Indian market (and those can be really good too – MTR is a favorite brand), but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can make it from scratch:

Bise Bele Bath Masala Powder Ingredients:

1 tsp. whole cloves
1 tsp. marat maggu
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp ghee
1-1/4 tbs chana dal
1 tbs urad dal
3 handfuls coriander seeds
~20 curry leaves
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1/2 tsp nutmeg
~2 cups byadgi chilis

Method:

In heavy bottom pan over low-med flame, roast cloves, marat maggu, broken cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods in ghee. When it begins to splatter, cover briefly but don’t let it burn. Remove from heat.
In same pan, roast poppy seeds. Remove from heat.
Roast urad dal and chana dal until they darken. Remove from heat.
Roast corriander, curry leaves, asafoetida and nutmeg until fragrant. Remove from heat.
Remove stems from chilis and heat over low flame until fragrant. Remove from heat.
Grind all your roasted spices together and use in Bise Bele Bath or to spice up any dish.

Thank you Sintalentos for the music recs: Patrick Lee: Bad Panda #42; “Caddo Lake” by Michael Chapman

Also, thank you Joram for lending us your audio equip!