Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Technical Difficulties Cancel Thanksgiving Special -- But Here's a Cranberry Sauce to Give Thanks For

Blog Appetit had planned (through FJK's inventive writing, incredible imagination and the use of You Tube and Photo Bucket) to present it's first ever Blog Appetit Thanksgiving Special and Variety Show, complete with guest stars, family members, entertainment, maybe a little singing and dancing (although not mine) and, of course, appropriate seasonal remembrances and recipes.

Technical difficulties made that impossible, since usually I can only operate my computer in safe mode right now. While I am relatively pure and practice fairly high ethical standards it appears my computer does not and it seems to have gotten rather corrupt.

So while I ponder the advisability of turning the BATSAVS into the first ever Blog Appetit After Thanksgiving Special, the Chanukah Cavalcade or the Just Name Your Own Winter Holiday Extravaganza, I move aside from the figurative raspberry I appear to be getting from Windows and on to cranberries. (And maybe on to an Apple -- but that is a different post.)

I have been making (and adapting) this sauce for years. I love it year round. Fresh cranberries in the bag freeze well and there is no need to defrost them before using them in this recipe.
Bag a few bags after Thanksgiving when the price goes down and you'll be giving thanks all year round.

Baked Cranberry Sauce

This is more of a flexible guideline than an actual recipe since I probably make it different every time I prepare it. It is easy to do and can be made well in advance so it doesn’t tie up the oven on the big day. This version calls for it to be baked in the oven, but I have also made it on the stove top and in the microwave (be sure the dish has a microwave-safe cover to prevent splatters). You can use more or less cranberries; just adjust the sugar and other seasonings appropriately. We like our cranberry sauce tart, so we use the lesser amount of sugar.

4 cups of cranberries, rinsed (frozen and not defrosted okay, but you may need extra baking time, see directions below)
1 to 2 cups sugar (see note above)
¼ cup orange juice (optional)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
Zest of 1 orange (orange part only), finely minced (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the cranberries in one layer in a baking dish. (Use two dishes and divide ingredients if you can’t get all the cranberries in a single layer.) Add the sugar and any or all of the optional seasonings. Mix well, making sure the cranberries end up in a single layer. Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake for about a quarter of an hour, uncover and stir, spreading the cranberries back out as before. Put the foil back on and bake for another 15 minutes. If the sauce is too liquid, uncover and bake for a few minutes more as needed. (The sauce will also thicken up a bit when standing or cold.)

When the sauce has cooled a bit, taste. If it is too tart mix in sugar to taste and stir well.

This can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Serve warm or at room temperature.
About the image: From RStamp -- online rubber stamp store, where stamps "are made fresh daily."

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Jews of Italy (and What They Ate) in San Francisco -- Plus a Recipe for Green Sauce for Fish

A new exhibit at the Museo ItaloAmericano in San Francisco takes a look at the lives of Jews in Italy. From ancient Jewish envoys sent by Judah Maccabee to the creation of the first ghetto (in Venice in 1516) to the dismantling of the last (Rome in 1870), the exhibition covers a wide swath of history focusing on the development of an Italian Jewish identity and studying how regional and cultural differences and restrictions shaped the lives of the Jews.

One topic covered in Il Ghetto: Forging Italian Jewish Identities 1516 - 1870 is an overview of what the Jews’ daily life in the ghetto was like including, of course, food. The legacy of Jewish Italian cooking is a rich one imbued with adaptations of dishes brought from the Jews original homelands in Germany, the Iberian Peninsula, France and the Levantine. It was also influenced by local ingredients and the regional tastes and resources of the Italian city states the Jews made their homes. New World foods such as tomatoes and corn and exotic spices also flavored their meals thanks to the rise of Jewish maritime trade and merchants in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The exhibit is at Fort Mason, Building C, until February 15th and Bay area Jewish and other institutions will be sponsoring coordinating films, lectures, and displays. For more information, please go to the musuem's website or call (415) 673-2200.

For more about the historic food ways of Italy’s Jews, perhaps one of the best known cookbooks on the topic is Joyce Goldstein’s Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen (Chronicle Books). Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Smarkand to New York (Knopf) is also a good source.

Here is an Italian green sauce for cold fish, adapted from the Roden book. I like it over poached salmon or milder white fish such as halibut. I’ve also served it over salt-cured salmon such as lox or gravlax instead of gefilte fish as a starter for holiday dinners.

Salsa Verde per Pesce
Serves 8

Note: Do not substitute dill or sour pickles for the gherkins which are smaller and sweeter.

2 cups of flat leaf (Italian) parsley
½ cup unseasoned bread crumbs (toast sturdy white bread and chop in a blender or food processor until fine) OR ½ cup pine nuts
5 small pickled gherkins (also called cornichons)
8 pitted green olives
3 crushed garlic cloves
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup very light, good quality extra virgin olive oil

Remove stems from the parsley and discard. Put parsley leaves, bread crumbs or pine nuts, pickles, olives, garlic, vinegar and salt and pepper in a food processor. Blend until finely chopped. Slowly pour the oil in with the blade running and blend until incorporated and fairly smooth.