There is no better snack than a perfectly seasoned bowl of popcorn. In a large pot with a lid heat two tablespoons of any neutral cooking oil (sunflower, grapeseed, etc). The pot shouldn’t be too heavy because you want to be able to pick it up and shake it. While the oil is heating put a couple of kernels in the pot and replace the lid. When you hear the kernels pop, add ¼ cup of popcorn. With oven mits on, take the pot by the handles and, while holding the lid firmly on the pot, remove from the stove and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Return to the heat. Shake every minute or so until the popping has almost slowed to a stop. Turn the heat off immediately – nobody likes burnt popcorn. Well, some people do, but not us. Add a drizzle of nice olive to the pot and shake once more. Add two tablespoons grated Parmesan and a few grinds of black pepper. Shake once more and pour into a bowl. Instead of Parmesan and black pepper try Pecorino and finely chopped fresh rosemary. Or cinnamon, sugar and a bit of cayenne. And my all time favorite: old bay seasoning. Happy munching!
Woo Your Guests with Cheese
Putting together a cheese plate isn’t rocket science, but there are a few tricks that can turn a lackluster snack into a stunning first course. Most importantly, your cheese should be at room temperature when you eat it. Take it out of the fridge an hour before you want to serve it. Keep it wrapped up so that it doesn’t dry out. And then think about accompaniments. I’ve included two of my favorites in this week’s box: Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps (fondly referred to as simply “Jan’s” by everyone I know) and quince preserves. I like to assemble a few crackers with a bit of Bonne Buche and a smear of quince preserves. Then your guests can assemble their own after that. I also like to serve bread with my cheese, either baguette or a nice sourdough. Make sure to thinly slice the bread, so that the ratio of cheese to bread is still balanced. And where there is bread, I like to have butter. With the herbs in this week’s box you can make a simple herb butter. Chop a tablespoon of rosemary or thyme leaves (or both) and mix them into some soft butter with a few grinds of black pepper. And I like to round out the plate with some sliced apples or pears and a couple of veggies. Baby yellow or red carrots are always nice, and thinly sliced watermelon radishes are gorgeous and add a nice spicy element. And the fun doesn’t stop there: nuts, dried fruit, charcuterie and even chocolate are excellent with cheese. I find that a nice large wooden cutting board is the best thing to serve a cheese plate on. It gives you plenty of room to arrange everything in a welcoming way. But let’s be honest, people will eat cheese even if you served it on an old piece of plywood. Happy eating!
One of the recipes I wrote for our Thanksgiving box.
Maple Pumpkin Cornbread
Great cornbread starts with the best cornmeal. My favorite is the one from Farmer Ground Flour. It has the most lovely texture and rich, sweet flavor. The corn is organically grown by farms in upstate New York. The cornmeal is freshly ground to order on a stone mill in Trumansburg, just north of Ithaca. I wrote this cornbread recipe as a way to use up leftover roasted pumpkin. It is moist, decadent, slightly sweet. It is perfect served warm, with a dollop of cranberry sauce and whipped cream.
1 1/2 cups Cornmeal
½ cup All Purpose Flour
½ Tbsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
1 1/4 cups Milk
4 Tbsp. Butter, melted
½ cup Maple Syrup
½ Roasted Pumpkin
Preheat your oven to 375°. Prepare an 8” inch square baking dish or a small cast iron pan by generously spreading the butter over the bottom and sides. Combine the cornmeal, flour, the baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a medium bowl whisk together the milk, eggs, melted butter and syrup. Peel the roasted pumpkin and add the flesh to the bowl with the eggs and milk. Use an immersion blender (or a regular one) to puree the mixture thoroughly. Pour this mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Use a spatula to mix together. The batter should be wet enough to pour, but still thick like gruel. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 20-30 minutes until the top has begun to brown and the center has just set. When you touch it, it shouldn’t jiggle. Be careful not to over-bake, that will lead to dry cornbread.
It has been one of the great privileges and pleasures of my life to know and work for Bill Maxwell. Today we celebrated his retirement at Grand Army Plaza. During a lull in conversation he says to me, “We’ll probably work on things together in the future.” Nothing would make me happier. I can’t wait to see what comes next. Especially if it is five acres of premium rhubarb.
We love a good cranberry cocktail. Prairie Rose is the talent behind Bit By a Fox. She created a few cranberry cocktails for us. Here’s her take on an Old Fashioned.
Harvest Old Fashioned
12 Fresh Cranberries
Large Strip of Orange Zest
3-4 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters or Aromatic Bitters
1 tsp. Maple Syrup
3 oz. Bourbon or Rye
At the bottom of a rocks glass muddle 10 cranberries, the orange zest, bitters and maple syrup with a splash of club soda. Add large cubes of ice and stir in the whiskey. Top off with a splash of soda, garnish with a speared orange wedge and a couple of cranberries.