From Canal House Cooks Every Day (Andrews McMeel, 2012)

MEATBALL MADNESS

makes 100 little meatballs

Everyone loves good ole meatballs, including us, and this big batch can feed a crowd. We are partial to a delicate diminutive size, so a 1-ounce ice cream scoop works perfectly and keeps everything uniform (a tablespoon works just fine also). We use one of the sauces that follow, depending on our moods.

6 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs

1 cup half-and-half
1½ cups fresh bread crumbs
1 pound ground veal
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork

Preheat the oven to 375°. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Sea­son to taste with salt, pepper, and lots of nutmeg. Remove from heat and let cool.

Put the eggs and half-and-half into a large bowl and beat together until well mixed. Add the bread crumbs and the cooled onions and mix together. Add the veal, beef, and pork and mix well. Roll the meatballs into 1-ounce balls (they will be very soft but they will hold their shape when cooked) and arrange on 4 large baking pans. Bake in the oven until just cooked, about 20 minutes.

 

QUICK TOMATO SAUCE

makes 2–3 cups

Add the hot meatballs to the finished sauce and serve over spaghetti for an old-fashioned Italian–American style dinner. Don’t forget the candle in the Chianti bottle!

1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons salted butter
Leaves from 1 sprig rosemary, minced
2 cups canned whole
Italian tomatoes, crushed
⅓ cup minced fresh parsley leaves

Melt the butter in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the bay leaf and rosemary. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat, and gently simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the parsley and adjust the seasonings. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

 

TETRAZZINI SAUCE

makes 2–3 cups

It seems like no one cooks with sherry anymore—it is a forgotten flavor. Once ladies sipped sherry in tiny stemmed glasses and added a splash of it to sauces to make them taste fancy. This sauce, with its white button mushrooms, is decidedly retro, but we love it spooned over the hot meatballs over creamy mashed potatoes or wide egg noodles.

1 onion, minced
4 ounces white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
¼ cup dry sherry
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup grated parmigiano-reggiano

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often,until just soft, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the sherry and cook until it has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms, stirring until the flour coats them and absorbs any butter left in the pan, 5–10 minutes. (At this point you are cooking the flour to remove that raw floury taste.) Heat the chicken stock along with the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until warm. Add the stock mixture, ½ cup at a time, to the mushrooms, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Stir in the parmigiano.

 

DILL SAUCE

makes about 3 cups

We serve meatballs in this dill sauce on a bed of fluffy white rice. Sometimes we add a spoonful of sour cream on top and lots of chopped fresh dill.

2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, minced
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken stock
½ cup minced fresh dill

Melt the butter in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle in the flour, stirring often with a wooden spoon, and cook for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a saucepan until warm. Add the stock, 1 cup at a time, to the onions, stir- ring with a wooden spoon until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Stir in the fresh dill.

 

 

We are taking our lunch al fresco on this unseasonably warm March day. So it is cold braised brisket, thinly sliced and sauced, with céleri rémoulade for our lunch.  We’ll set the picnic table with a mason jar of cut daffodils collected from the banks of the canal. Spring has unofficially sprung!

 

Every summer, my husband and I plan a couple of family camping trips to the Tahoe National Forest, a place we have been returning to for more than 15 years. Our style of camping is the primitive car variety. We like the luxury of packing up our four-wheel-drive truck and pulling right into the campsite but still deep enough into the wilderness to distance us from other campers. I am not one to hike into the wilderness with a full backpack and here’s why: I couldn’t live without my giant cooler. I am a bit of a nut when it comes to camping trip food. I plan exactly what my husband, my young son, and I will eat hour by hour, and I meticulously list every food item, condiment, drink, tool, and utensil we’ll need. A lot of preparation goes into planning these meals and snacks. I wouldn’t think of shoving everything into the cooler with a few of bags of ice. I’m sure it would still be fine and we would eat well, but I am too much invested in the food experience. I enjoy nudging out on little details like putting a paper bag of dry ice in the bottom of the cooler so the regular ice stays frozen all weekend, or save little jars and bottles and filling them with condiments and cooking oil so I don’t have to pack the big bottles, or using my FoodSaver to seal marinated meats so the meat juices don’t leak and ruin the ice for my five o’clock Jack and Coke. I pack my cooler with the focus of a tournament chess player and I am proud of the result. Here’s how I do it:

The cooler: We have two coolers, a 100-quart capacity (17 × 17 × 33 inches), which we use for trips longer than four days, and a 48-quart capacity (15 × 15 × 22 inches), which we use for weekend trips.

Dry ice: I buy a couple pounds of dry ice from an industrial gas supplier because I can buy it by weight, no minimum amount. I found my supplier through this website: www.dryicedirectory.com.  The night before we leave, I go there with my empty cooler and a brown paper shopping bag. After few scoops of dry ice goes into the bag (I’ll get 3-4 pounds for the larger cooler and about 1 pound for the smaller one), I carefully fold up the bag and pop it into the cooler. Dry ice is not safe to handle with your bare hands so it is a good idea to keep it contained in a breathable material like paper. The dry ice will evaporate by the end of the trip.

Cubed ice: If we are bringing the large cooler, I take four bags of ice: two for keeping food cold, one for drinks, and one for backup. For the small cooler, I take two bags of ice: one for food and one for drinks.

FoodSaver: I marinate meat and poultry and seal them separately in the FoodSaver. This gadget vacuum-packs food in hermetically sealed plastic bags that are airtight. There is no chance of cross-contamination, and if the ice happens to melt or something spills in the cooler, the meat will be safe in these bags. Plus the packets are flat, so they don’t take up valuable square footage in the cooler. If you don’t have a FoodSaver, resealable plastic bags work well too. As a safety measure, I would put all the individual packets together in a larger bag.

Little jars: I save glass and plastic jelly and condiment jars, the ones I get from hotels and airplanes. I fill them with ketchup, cooking oil, mustard, mayonnaise, and barbeque sauce. It’s another space-saving trick.

Square plastic containers: I use these stackable containers to hold my jars of condiments, and to organize the produce, cheese, and cold cuts. The containers serve as drawers in the cooler and keep everything in order, dry, and off the ice.

Drinks: I transfer milk and juice to smaller containers. We wouldn’t drink a whole carton of milk or orange juice, so I only take what we need in Mason jars or metal or plastic water jugs.

—Julia Lee

 

RIB RUB

We can’t go on a family camping trip without these barbecued ribs. Here’s how we make it. A generous coating of the rub goes on both sides of a rack of baby back ribs. Wrap the ribs in a few layers of heavy-duty foil and cook the packet on a low, glowing fire for a few hours, turning now and then, until the ribs are cooked through but not falling off the bone. Take the ribs out of the foil and pour the delicious cooking juices into a bowl and mix with an equal amount of barbecue sauce. Slather the ribs with the mixture and cook over a medium-low fire until the edges begin to crisp up a bit.

For one full rack of baby back ribs, mix together 3 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika), 1 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon ground New Mexico chile (or other mild chile), ¼ teaspoon granulated garlic and a healthy pinch each of ground black pepper, celery salt, and mustard powder in a small bowl. —Makes about ¼ cup.

 

KOREAN-STYLE MARINADE

You can use this marinade with just about any kind of meat, but I lean toward chicken thighs and legs, and beef short ribs. The longer the meat marinates the better, so we eat this on the last day of the trip.

Combine 1 cup soy sauce, ½ cup water, ¾ cup mirin (sweet rice wine), 2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 3–4 crushed cloves garlic, 3–4  crushed slices ginger, 1 coarsely chopped scallion, and ground black pepper to taste in a medium bowl, stirring until the sugar dissolves. —Makes about 2 ½ cups or enough for 1–2 pounds of meat.


 

 
 

As soon as I returned from my photo assignment at Corti Brothers in Sacramento, California (to take Darrell Corti’s photograph for Canal House Cooking Volume N° 6 The Grocery Store), I called Canal House to check in. The first question they asked was, “What did you buy?”  I rattled off the yummy things I found in the store, then said, “But it was the sandwich I ordered for lunch that made the whole trip, the Corti Special.”

The sandwich menuboard describes it as the end cuts and over-cuts of deli meats. You get what you get, and you will never get the same sandwich twice. What you could ask for was the type of bread (I got a sweet roll), the type of cheese (I ordered provolone), and garnishes (I picked shredded lettuce, tomato, mayo, peperoncini, oil and vinegar, and salt and pepper). What a huge sandwich! It was tightly swaddled in white butcher paper and weighed in at well over a pound.

The story doesn’t get very romantic here because I didn’t eat my sandwich sitting at a pretty picnic spot bathing in the California sun. Instead, I ate and enjoyed my sandwich in my car, sunroof open, and Stevie Wonder on the stereo—not a bad second choice. I cannot say exactly which meats were in that sandwich, but if I had to guess I’d say mortadella, ham, and some type of salami. Here’s what made it my cosmic sandwich: I didn’t have to fight with the bread, it was perfectly seasoned, it was cold, it was juicy, and it was copious. Heaven, pure heaven.—Julia Lee

 

 

 

All too often cooks use garlic with a heavy hand.  When there’s too much, it overwhelms an otherwise lovely dish. When subtle and controlled, it adds incomparable savory flavor.

Tender spring garlic might just be garlic at its best. We found some beautiful stalks at our local farmers’ market the other day, grown by Gravity Hill Farm in nearby Titusville, New Jersey, which grows some of the loveliest vegetables we’ve seen.  When we see spring garlic at the market we know we’ve fully left winter behind.

Also called green garlic or new garlic, spring garlic is the young garlic plant that shoots up before the large bulb full of individual cloves forms in the ground. At this stage it looks like a skinny leek or even a large scallion, with a pink or purple tint near the root. Though these tender plants are pulled up whole in early spring to make more room for the plants that will mature through the summer, they are certainly not second best.

We are crazy for spring garlic’s subtle flavor and seek it out during its very short season, as it is the first in four stages of growth for the garlic plant. Next we’ll await the arrival of garlic scapes—the long, wildly curled flower stalks that come from the same bulb. The scapes typically shoot up in June and July after the garlic bulb has grown larger and are snipped off the top of the plant while the bulb continues to mature. They are beautiful in the garden but a bit strong for our tastes, so we fill vases full of them and catch a whiff of their garlicky scent as we pass by. The third stage is fresh garlic, which is the just-harvested version of the familiar bulb sold in most stores. Fresh garlic is a rarer find as most garlic is cured (hung to dry for a few weeks) during which it develops a papery white skin and a longer shelf life.

Spring garlic is sweeter, gentler, and almost more innocent in this stage than it will be as it matures. It can be used raw or cooked to add mild garlic flavor with less pungent heat (and with less need for hesitation on the part of the cook). At Canal House we mince raw spring garlic into vinaigrette, or add thin slices to a potato-leek soup. It gives a nice background flavor to the delicate spring offerings—fava beans, lettuce, peas, artichokes, and asparagus—that could be overpowered by mature garlic. Look for it at farmers’ markets now through early June.

 

 

by Constantine P. Cavafy

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

 

honoring people pushing the food world in
new and adventurous directions

read more about it here

 


 

I’d been waiting for this moment all spring.

Ever since the days began to grow longer and the ground was warm enough to dig. I’d nailed together the frames for the new raised beds and nestled them into their trenches. I’d tilled the heavy topsoil, turning in small truckloads of rich black compost. I was sure I’d planted everything a little too early—before the hard frosts were over—yet only had to protect the seedlings once by draping the entire garden with long disposable paper tablecloths the one night the temperature dropped below freezing. I’ve been watering and weeding. Giving support to tendrils, staking branches before they brake.

I’d been waiting for this moment all spring.

When I could cut a head of cauliflower from its roots and unfold its broad sturdy leaves I’d snapped over to blanch it, revealing its tight white curd. When the English peas had swollen so fully in their pods they had to be picked. When I could reach way under the huge green thorny leaves of the zucchini plants and carefully cut off tiny pinky-size squash attached to buxom pale orange blossoms. When the turnips finally filled out and were worth pulling from the ground. And when the chard would be standing tall and proud.

I’d been waiting for this moment all spring.

When there would be enough to gather from my garden to make a simple lunch for us at Canal House. That moment arrived this week. Just seventy-five days whence I began. The meal couldn’t have been more simple. Nothing could have been more satisfying.
Melissa Hamilton

 

OUR FIRST SPRING GARDEN-TO-TABLE LUNCH

Tiny Zucchini with their Blossoms Fritto Misto—we started off with a quick fritto misto, dipping the small handful of zucchini-laden blossoms in a thin batter then fried them in pure olive oil. Pure heaven.

English Peas in Irish Butter—we shelled the fat starchy sweet English peas and cooked them in a tiny bit of water and lots of salted Irish butter.

Cauliflower with Brown Butter—we had three fist-size heads. We steamed them until very tender. While that was going on, we made a small skillet-full of brown butter with slivers of garlic, then poured that toasted nutty deliciousness over the heads.

Young Turnips—we trimmed and peeled these then gave them the same luxurious treatment as the cauliflower.

Tender Swiss Chard with Cannellini—we sautéed the chard in olive oil with peperoncini, first the sliced stalks, then the leaves, wilting them in the warm oil just at the end. To flesh out the meal, we added cannellini beans we’d had on hand from a previous meal. They were meant for each other.

Salad of Head and Leaf Lettuces—we finished our meal the way we often do, with tender floppy greens tossed with an anchovy and lemon vinaigrette.

 

Last week we finished the final phase of production on our forthcoming book, Canal House Cooking–Volume N°4–Farm Markets & Gardens. We’d been glued to our computers for days (and nights) tweaking layouts, syncing images and text files, pouring over the final pages, and inputting corrections. And then, finally, with a push of the button, the final finished files flew off to Wisconsin to be printed and bound. We sat back and breathed a satisfied sigh.

It was a momentous day, one that needed a proper celebration, after all. So we poured tall glasses of bone-cold pink champagne, opened up a nice fresh bag of salty potato chips, and tucked into the “from-scratch” onion dip that our friend and design colleague, Teresa Hopkins, had brought to the studio earlier that day.

As we sipped and crunched we couldn’t agree on what was more delicious, the exquisite champagne, the cool onion-y dip, or the happiness we were all feeling for bringing our newest darling, Volume N°4, into the world.

Canal House Cooking Volume N°4, Farm Markets & Gardens will be available in early July.

ONION DIP

makes a generous 2 cups

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
Kosher salt
1 ½ cups sour cream
¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Pepper

Melt the butter and the olive oil together in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, season with a big pinch of salt, and sauté until deep golden brown, 15–20 minutes. Reduce the heat if the onions begin to brown too quickly. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Mix the sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic powder, and cooled onions together in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with chopped fresh chives, if you like. The dip will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

 


Spring Sorrel Soup

Poached Wild Salmon with a “Sauce” of Peas, Bacon, and Chives

Young Leaves, Fresh Herbs, and Wild Violets with Lemon and Olive Oil

A Very Ripe French Brie and Crunchy Bread

Strong Coffee and Cookies


The other day the creative crew from Williams-Sonoma came for lunch. It was a beautiful sunny spring day with a blue sky full of big puffy clouds. Thank heavens there was still enough of a chill in the air so we could justify building a fire in the wood-burning stove—a fire always seems to cheer and cozy the whole place up. So we had the best of both seasons that day.

We made a special lunch in their honor and had a wonderful time before they had to run off and jump on a plane back to San Francisco. We talked about all kinds of things but they must have really been listening when we spoke of our love of Meyer lemons. They told us of lemon trees laden with fruit right in their backyards—Oh California!  A few days later a big bulging box arrived at the studio. They had picked a pile of Meyer lemons from their trees and sent the mother lode to us as a thank you present for lunch. Now that was the Thank You “Note” of all times in our book.

Here’s how we preserved the lemons and along with them the memory of the day and their lovely gift.

PRESERVED LEMONS

Everyone needs a few culinary tricks up their sleeve—or, better yet, in their refrigerator. If you live in a metropolitan area with lots of ethnic shops, you’ll be able to find these lemons already cured. Living far from those stores, we make our own—big jars of them that last us throughout the year. And it is so well worth it. These golden treasures are money in the bank as their deep salty-sour flavor can brighten up practically any dish. Actually, we have to restrain ourselves from using them in just about everything.

We like to use Meyer lemons, a sweet, thin-skinned variety (most likely a cross between a mandarin orange and a true lemon). You’ll find them in the market from fall through spring. But any variety of lemon will do. In fact, a thicker-skinned lemon is the traditional choice in Morocco, where this pickling method originated.

Preserved lemons are typically rinsed before they are added to stews, tagines, soups, and couscous dishes. Only the rind is used and the pulpy flesh gets discarded. When our own preserved lemons are still new (aged between one month and about six months), we use both rind and flesh, not even bothering to rinse the lemons. The salty brine softens the rind until it is almost translucent and makes the flesh plump and supple. The longer the lemons cure, the saltier they get, so taste them first to decide how you will cook with them. Preserved lemons will last up to 1 year in the fridge.

Lemons, washed
Kosher salt
Sterilized wide-mouth container with a tight-fitting lid

Cut the lemons (almost all the way through) into quarters, keeping them attached at the stem end. Working over a bowl, tamp the inside of each lemon with salt. Tightly pack the salt-filled lemons into the sterilized container. Pour more salt over the lemons as you fill the container. Cover the salt-packed lemons with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Store in the refrigerator. Turn the container occasionally for the first few weeks to moisten all the lemons with the ever-accumulating salty brine. The lemons should eventually become submerged in this brine. If the brine doesn’t completely cover them after a month, use a metal kitchen spoon to gently press the lemons under the surface.

Recipe from Canal House Cooking, Volume N° 1

 

 

We’re having a perfect spring.  The mornings are chilly and the afternoons are warm and sunny.  Once a week or so the skies open up and a big shower drenches the earth and swells the canal outside our windows.  They’re having the same weather in the Rhone Valley in France so we’ll pretend we’re there.  While we’re busy tending our young spring gardens, winemakers in the Rhone are tending to vines that are also getting started for the season.

They’re hardly thinking about the rosés they bottled in the fall, but we’re thinking about drinking them.  The best thing to accompany the soft lettuces, sharp radishes, and poached salmon we’re eating is rosé, and Yves Cuilleron makes one of our favorites.  He’s sort of a quiet celebrity in the Rhone, known for his impressively soft Condrieu whites, but it’s the bright, lush, rosé we turn to with its silky texture and coppery pink color.

It’s called Sybel, meaning “belle syrah” and it’s the only rosé Yves Cuilleron makes each year.  From all handpicked syrah grapes this northern Rhone lovely is organically made and delicious.  They’ll be releasing a 2009 vintage in early June, but if you can still find it, 2007 was a special year in the Rhone and this wine is just right, right now.  For around $15 it’s just right for us for any occasion.   The younger brother—the 2008 vintage—has not opened up quite as much, but it’s a stellar steal for $9.99 at 3 Cups.

 

Today our first day of all things, we are out of the studio shooting the last images for Canal House Cooking Volume N° 4. We give you this picture to remind you to stop and smell the peaches while you’re moving through your day. Come back and see us tomorrow.

Claire Ptak, chef owner of London's Violet Cakes