Ruth’s Mushroom Barley Soupa

Ruth is a longtime family friend and contemporary of my mother.  Ruth contends that she can’t cook.  In fact, the things I’ve eaten at her house have always been wonderful.  Her mushroom/barley soup is rich and hearty, almost like a stew.  Ruth will tell you it’s Minna’s recipe (her ancient housekeeper) and perhaps it was at some point but I had Minnas soup and she never used wild mushrooms, which I think are key to the recipe.  Ruth uses dried mushrooms but I like to use fresh ones. I make vats of the soup around Thanksgiving when the grocery stores bring in loads of fresh Chanterelle, Royal Trumpet, Enoki and other mushrooms that are hard to find during the year.  Once cooked I package it up and put it in my freezer to nourish us during the desolate winter months.

  • 3 lb piece of chuck roast, trimmed
  • 1 pound short cut carrot or carrots peeled and trimmed to 2″pieces
  • 2 pints of white mushrooms and two pints of exotics: Chanterelle, Royal Trumpet, Baby Bella, Crimini, enoki etc
  • 2 cups sliced yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons of beef base ( I like Better than Bouillon) diluted in 4 cups of water or two beef bouillon cubes or 4 cups beef stock
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley

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  1. Wipe chuck roast dry with paper towels and cut into 2” pieces. Season meat with salt and pepper and toss with some flour until all the sides are lightly dusted.
  2. Heat oil in sauté pan or cast iron skillet. When oil is smoking put in as many pieces of meat as you can without crowding the pan. Sautée until meat is brown on all sides. (The meat should not be touching each other in the pan  I generally have to do this in two pans to sautée the meat and I do it at the same time.  If you only have one pan and need to sautée the meat I. Two batches I advise doing a patch, removing the meat from the pan, deglazing the pan with some water or stock, cleaning the pan and doing the whole routine a second time with the rest if the meat.  The reason I’m suggesting this is so that you don’t burn the fond.
  3. Place the meat and deglazed juices in a stock pot and clean the pan.
  4. Sauté the sliced onions and garlic in about a tablespoon of oil until the onions are nice and brown. Throw them in the stock pot as well along with the tomato paste, thyme and bay leaf.
  5. Add about 4 cups of homemade beef broth or more to cover the meat. If you dont have homemade, I like Better Than Boillion but, I dilute it. They call for 1tsp bouillon paste to 1cup of water. I only use 1/2 tsp of paste.
  6. Cover stock pot and simmer for about 2 hours.
  7. Check the meat and if it is tender, add the carrots and the barley and simmer until the carrots are al dente.
  8. Add the mushrooms and cook until the barley and mushrooms are cooked.

Grandma Natalie’s Cranberry Relish


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My Sicilian grandmother didn’t know from Thanksgiving, but she was a great cook and her cranberry relish is the best I’ve ever tasted.  It is sweet, sour, crunchy and fresh.  It’s a welcome counterpoint to all the heavy Thanksgiving foods: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes etc.

There were no food processors back in the day so she used her cast iron, hand cranked meat grinder and sausage maker to grind the cranberries.  Now that my grandmother has passed away, I am asked to bring the relish to every   Thanksgiving dinner and it is my pleasure and my honor.

  • 12oz pkg fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup diced apple
  • 1 juicy navel orange
  • 1/4 cup diced celery heart
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (toasted or raw)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • A few grindings of black pepper
  1. Wash and dry cranberries.  Place in the work bowl of a food processor with the blade attachement and chop course.  My grandmother had a hand cranked meat grinder which she used on a medium grind for this purpose. You can also use a stand mixer if you have a grinder attachment or simply chop by hand.
  2. Place cranberries in a bowl and add the sugar, walnuts, apple, celery, salt and pepper.
  3. Zest the orange with a micro plane and add half or all to the cranberries.  How much you use is a matter of preference. I use half the rind
  4. Supreme the orange (my grandmother never did this) over the bowl of cranberries to catch the juice.  Cut the orange slices in half and to the cranberries.  In the picture, I have the oranges in the work bowl but don’t process them in there or you’ll get orange mush.

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5.  Let macerate for a few hours.  The sugar will break down the cranberries and make them juicy and a bit softer.  I recommend using the full amount of sugar.  If you find it too sweet you can add some lemon juice but it needs the sugar to break down the cranberries.

Carpaccio of Beef from Lucca

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My husband and I love to travel and one of our favorite places is Italy.  One year we had the good fortune to stay with a friend of my mother in law in Volterra, famous for its alabaster.  Ido graciously lent us his home and moved in with his daughter for the week.

Ido’s home was set in the Tuscan hill side amid peach and olive trees, grape vines and an assortment of vegetables.  The house was rustic with terra-cotta colored plaster walls and tile floors.  I distinctly remember chasing spiders out of the shower. All the beds in the house were cast iron with metal springs.  The dining room table was composed of several planks of wood pegged and doweled together and it was surrounded by tippy little chairs with rush seats. However, we rarely ate in the dining room.  There was a little patio on the East side of the house where we took our breakfast and in the evening we went to the patio on the West side of the house and had dinner, watching the sun set and eating Edo’s fresh peaches, soaked in his home made Chianti with a little sugar and lemon juice.

Every day Ido would drop buy bearing a small gift: some potatoes he’d just dug up, those amazing peaches with skin so thin and crisp and flesh so sweet and juicy that it was like biting into a Creme Brûlée with the crack of the sugar and then the unctuous silky cream.  Ido made his own wine, olive oil and peach preserves.  The peach preserves were lovely and had a distinctive flavor I had not tasted before. I sat him down one day and asked him to reveal the secret of the preserves.   “Well”,  he said.  “I macerate the peaches in sugar and lemon juice overnight.  Then I put everything in a big pot and boil it until it thickens.  Unfortunately, I’m usually doing several things at the same time and it usually burns.  But, I just scrape it up and put it in jars”. So, what was the secret of Ido’s peach preserves?  He burnt it and what I was tasting was caramelized sugar.

Ido spoke a bit of French but often mixed it with Italian, creating new words and phrases.  For example, he would often say” Va bien” in response to our query, “ How are you”.  In Italian one would respond “ Va bene ” and in French one would respond “ Ca va bien”, thus Ido created the new phrase “ Va bien” which we still use with great affection when we speak of him and the enchanted week we spent in his home.

The recipe I’m going to give you is not from Ido, but it is from Lucca, not to far from Volterra and certainly in the style of Ido: excellent ingredients prepared simply. Dinner was served in the garden of a farmhouse which was up a winding rode in the hills of Tuscany.  I remember two items from the meal.  One was an appetizer of thinly sliced pieces of Lardo.  The other a lovely carpaccio of beef.  I had never seen carpaccio of beef done with anything other than raw meat so I was happy to see that this was cooked, rare but not mooing.

  • 1 lb Eye of round roasted rare and sliced paper thin
  • One 5 oz bag arugula
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Hunk of Parmesan Reggiano
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. I buy my eye of round at Whole Foods in the deli department. They usually have a nice rare piece and are very happy to slice it. Ask them to slice overlapping pieces onto wax paper and when they have filled up one sheet, put another piece on top and repeat, filling that sheet with overlapping slices. This way, the slices of meat don’t all stick together.
  2. Dress the arugula with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the vinegar and a pinch of sea salt.
  3. Arrange 1/4 of the slices around the edge of the plate, leaving the inside empty.  Place a handful of arugula in the center of the plate.  With a vegetable  peeler, peel large pieces of cheese over the arugula.  Sprinkle the meat with some grindings of pepper and drizzle with the rest of the olive oil.

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Candied Fruit (adapted from Chef Pierre Herme)

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  • 5 navel orange
  • 1000 grams (4 cups) water
  • 470 grams (2 1/3 cup) sugar
  • 60 grams (1/4 cup) fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 10 black peppercorns, preferably Tellicherry
  • 1 star anise
  • pulp from one moist vanilla bean
  1. Place a large pot of water to boil. I use about a 6 quart pot.
  2. Cut off a thin slice from the top and bottom of each fruit so that you can see the flesh.
  3. Working vertically from top to bottom, cut 1” slices of peel off the fruit including a thin slice of the flesh.
  4. Place the peels in the simmering water and boil for one minute.
  5. Empty peels and water into a colander.
  6. Fill pot with fresh water and bring to a simmer. Place peels in water and simmer one minute. Drain peels. Repeat this process 3 more time for oranges and lemons and 4 more times for grapefruit peel which is really bitter. The simmering process accomplishes two things. It removes the bitterness from the peels and it opens the pores of the peel so they can absorb the sugar which candies and preserves the fruit.
  7. Place the rest of the ingredients in a pot and bring to a simmer. Add the peels, cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours until peel is translucent and tender.
  8. Remove pot from the heat and let it sit out in the counter for 24 hours, covered. At that point, the peel can be placed in jars, with enough of the syrup to cover the peels or the peels can be drained and left on racks to dry. I have jars in my fridge that are about two years old and they still taste amazing. Eventually the syrup tends to crystallize but I simply wash off the syrup and use them. For this dessert, I would take some of the peel, put it on a rack and let it dry for 24 hours. Stick the remaining peels in the fridge for something else down the road. You can dry them and dip them in tempered chocolate, chop them up and use them for fruitcake, use them for a Casatta Siciliana or cannoli. These peels are so much better than anything you can buy. You’ll always want to have them on hand. This preparation also works well with grapefruit, lemons, kumquats and Michigan Sour cherries. You can change the spices, or use no spices at all, and the cooking time will be far less for the small fruits.

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Caramelized Walnuts

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Caramelized nuts are a staple, in my opinion.  They can be used in pastry applications and also in salads.  They’re easy to make either with a dry caramelization method or a syrup.  I love the ease of just throwing a bunch of sugar in a pan and caramelizing it but for the nuts, I’ve had more success with using the method below.  For some reason, I seem to get a smoother coating over the nuts.  The ones in the picture I did with the dry pan method.  As you can see they’re a bit gloppy  although still delicious.

  • 200 grams of room temperature walnut halves
  • 70g (1/3 cup) superfine sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  1. Place sugar in a small pot and moisten with the water.
  2. Place pot on a low flame and swirl the pan by the handle until the sugar is completely dissolved and liquid is clear. Bring syrup to a boil. Dip a heat proof pastry brush in cold water and wash any sugar crystals off the sides of the pot. Cook until the syrup reaches 248 degrees Farenheit.
  3. Pour in all the walnuts at once and stir with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to coat nuts with the syrup. The syrup will turn white and crystallize on the surface of the nuts. Keep stirring until the crystals melt and turn a light brown.
  4. Pour the nuts out on parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  5. Try and separate the pieces after a few minutes.

Earl Gray Ice Cream Cakes

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My family loves Earl Grey tea and begged me to try and tackle an ice cream cake with that flavor.  Earl Grey tea is a black tea flavored with Bergamot, a citrus fruit. I love the combination of Earl Grey and chocolate.  It also works well with other citrus fruits and with nuts, particularly walnuts.  So I thought a moist walnut and chocolate cake would be a nice base for the cakes.  If you don’t want to make a cake and prefer something crunchy, you can make a chocolate cookie crust.  Or, you can do none of the above and just scoop some in a dish and eat it plain or drizzled with sauce

Finding a chocolate cake recipe proved tricky. I didn’t want something too rich, like a brownie.  I thought about using my favorite chocolate butter cake recipe but butter cakes don’t like to be cold. They get hard and dry with refrigeration and I wanted to be able to assemble the ice cream on top of the cake and freeze the whole thing. So I started trying chiffon cakes which use oil instead of butter.  Oil doesn’t freeze so I figured the cake wouldn’t freeze hard. One recipe by Rose Levy Barenbaum in “The Cake Bible” caught my eye.  Apparently when her mother gave  her the recipe she told her the texture was perfect even right out of the freezer.  So I gave it a shot but it didn’t have a deep enough chocolate flavor and the texture was too fluffy so  I tried again, adding another 25 grams of cocoa powder and that seemed to do the trick. It had a deeper chocolate flavor and the texture improved as well.

This recipe makes about a quart of ice cream.  The number of cakes you get depends on the size of your molds. 

Earl Gray Ice Cream Cake Componants

  • Earl Gray Ice Cream
  • Chocolate walnut chiffon cake
  • 1/2  cup Caramelized walnuts ( see my post on Caramelized nuts)
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied orange peel (see my post on candied fruit)
  • 1 cup Bittersweet chocolate sauce

Chocolate/Walnut Chiffon Cake

  • 38g (7 Tablespoons) Cocoa powder
  • 88g (6 Tablespoons) water
  • 87g  bleached cake flour
  • 187 (3/4 plus cup 2 tablespoons)superfine sugar
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1 tsp  baking powder
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 80.5g (3 Tablespoon) walnut oil
  • 27g (1 Tablespoon) Canola oil
  • 3 eggs separated (55g)
  • 2 egg whites (150g)
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Wisk together flour, salt, baking powder and all but one tablespoon of sugar.
  3. In a separate bowl pour 3/4 cup of boiling water over the cocoa powder.  Wisk until smooth.  Wisk in egg yolks, oils and vanilla.
  4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the chocolate mixture in the middle
  5. Beat for 1 minute until smooth and glossy.
  6.  In a clean, grease free bowl beat egg whites at medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar. When egg whites are at soft peaks add sugar in a slow stream. Raise beater speed to high and beat to whites to stiff peaks.
  7. With a balloon wisk fold one quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen up the batter.  Fold in the rest of the whites just until blended.
  8. Pour batter gently into the sheet pan. Keep the bowl close to the pan so your not deflating the batter by pouring from a great height.  Even out batter with an off set spatula.
  9. Bake for 13 minutes until a tooth pick crumbs out with a few moist crumbs attached to the toothpick.  image
  10. Cool to room temperature.
  11. Cut to fit the bottoms of your molds.
  12. Freeze the rounds, separating each one with parchment paper.

Earl Grey Ice Cream

  • 3 Tablespoons Earl Grey loose tea (I like the Earl Gray Royal from the Tea House which I buy on line. It has real pieces of dried bergamot as opposed to bergamot oil. I think it makes a difference).
  • 400g (2 cups) whole milk
  • 300 g (1.5 cups) cream
  • 50g (1/4 cup) glucose
  • 150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 100g (5) egg yolks
  • 1 tsp commercial stabilizer pereferably Cremodan 30 (optional but recommended)
  1. Wisk together stabilizer, if using, and sugar.  Place milk, cream and glucose in a pot and wisk in sugar.
  2. Bring to a simmer and stir in tea leaves. Remove from heat, stir in loose tea and cover. Let steep three minutes
  3. Strain dairy through a fine mesh sieve into a clean pot.  Press firmly on tea to release as much flavor as possible. Discard tea leaves.
  4. Wisk egg yolks in a heat proof bowl. Stir about 1/4 cup of the base into the egg yolks to temper them and gradually wisk in the rest of the base.
  5. Place mixture in a clean pot and stir constantly on a medium low flame.  Cook the mixture at least until 145 degrees to pasturized the yolks. When the mixture coats the back of a spoon and you can draw a line down the center of the spoon’s back and the edges don’t flow back together, the base is done. I’ve seen a lot of ice cream books say you need to cook the mixture until 180 degrees but I don’t think that’s necessary.
  6. Strain once again through a fine mesh sieve to get rid of any particles of yolk.
  7. Chill overnight in a covered container.

Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

i halve other hot fudge and chocolate sauces but this one is good for this dessert because it’s a little thinner and has a more de,I ate chocolate flavor

  • 8 oz fine bittersweet chocolate ( not chips but callets are fine.  For this sauce I like Callebaut semi sweet chocolate callets)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup glucose or corn syrup (I prefer glucose as it’s not as sweet and is more viscous)
  1. Chop chocolate into fine pieces and place in a heat proof container.
  2. Place glucose and cream in a pot and bring to a simmer.
  3. Pour hot cream over chocolate.  Cover and let sit about five minutes.  With a wisk, start from the center of the bowl and gently mix together the chocolate and cream, widening the circle as the mixture begins to amalgamate.  The purpose is to get a smooth mixture without air bubbles.
  4. Refrigerate until needed but warm it up before using.

Assembling

  1. Freeze whatever molds you are using whether it’s silicone or a stainless steel loaf pan or ring. I love, love, love silicone as the ice cream pops right out.  If I use a loaf pan, I line it with parchment paper. I prefer it to plastic wrap, which wrinkles. Of course, you can go commando and not use a liner but then, in order to unfold, you need to blast the mold with a blow torch or dip it in hot water. Too messy!
  2. Churn the ice cream and fill the molds.
  3. Take the cake and presss it gently on top of the mold. When you unfold, the cake will be your base.
  4. Freeze at least 6 hours
  5. Unfold and plate.  Garnish with toasted walnuts and candied orange peel.
  6. You can garnish with other sauces as well: fresh oranges poached in orange marmalade and fresh juice, rhubarb compote perfumed with lemon or orange zest.  Anything with citrus will work. Just don’t use too much or it will overwhelm the flavor of the tea.  In the top photo I used some pink grapefruit which I poached for a minute in some of my blood orange marmalade and a bit of fresh juice. If you don’t have blood orange marmalade hanging around strain some Seville orange marmalade, thin it with a bit of fresh juice until you have a saucy consistency and throw in some supremed orange segments.  Easy, peesy.

 

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