Home is Where the Cook Is: Brooklyn Supper

 

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One of the best things about cooking is that anyone can do it. You don't have to be a celebrity, a trained chef or a stay-at-home mom to understand the time, energy and dedication it takes to make delicious food.  Food has recently become a huge part of our pop-culture and with it the emergence of food blogs. One such blogger is Elizabeth Stark from Brooklyn Supper, who focuses on recipes that are both simple and seasonal. We caught up with Elizabeth and asked her about her life with food.

What is the name of your blog and how long have you been blogging for?

My blog is Brooklyn Supper. I started the blog with my husband Brian in June of 2008, so we've been at it for over five years.

Who do you cook for at home?

I have two young daughters so my day-to-day cooking is about striking a balance between what they'll like while also keeping with my preferred focus on seasonal vegetables and local foods. Planning dinner parties and cooking for friends is my favorite reason to get into the kitchen, and I try to entertain as often as I can.

What or who inspires your cooking?

I used to spend hours thumbing through cookbooks, but now I usually work in the opposite direction –– by visiting the farmer’s market or the butcher and finding ingredients I really want to work with and then devising a recipe to use them. Or sometimes I’ll have a craving for a certain ingredient and ask “What can I make with horseradish?” and just look around the grocery store until I have something great. All of my best recipes come together as I shop.

What kind of food do you enjoy to cook the most?

I love making food that takes time. There are few things I enjoy more than braising meat on the stovetop all day or having a flavorful stock simmering away. In the summertime, though, I am all about making fresh fruit pies.

What is your biggest cooking disaster?

It's tough to pin down just one! I once worked for weeks to capture wild yeast and then make a wild yeast sourdough bread. I ended up with a sourdough brick (bread baking eludes me to this day). It also took me multiple tries to master homemade caramel. It's actually a cinch to make, but it took a lot of burnt sugar and gloppy messes for me to figure it out.

What is your best tip for other cooks at home?

Know your ingredients. If you start with quality meat, fresh produce, and great ingredients, it's a lot harder to go wrong. Learning about the growing season in your area and getting to know food producers can help you to make the most of what's available.

If there is one dish that is your signature, what would it be? 

I look forward to the winter months as a time to challenge myself to come up with fresh, healthy meals combining local storage foods or hoop house crops (such as leafy greens and root vegetables) with fresh California citrus. I enjoy playing with sweet and sour flavors, as well as color. This pretty layered farro salad incorporates blood oranges, kumquats, kale, and caramelized shallots, for a fresh and satisfying midwinter salad.

Click here for  Elizabeth's recipe for Farro Salad with kumquat, blood orange and kale that you can make at home. 

blood orange kale farro salad 2

The Basics of Making Your Own Jam

Learning how to can your own jams and preserves can be a fun and economical way to save your summer fruits and enjoy them for several months. By canning your own fruits, you know exactly what you are eating and you don't have to worry about too much sugar or the unhealthy preservatives you might find in some store-bought jams.

If you want to try out canning for the first time, there are only a few things you'll need and a few things to keep in mind. There are various home canning kits you can buy in stores or online, which will include things like a canning pot, a canning rack, a funnel, and a jar lifter.  However, you probably already own many of the tools you need!

What you'll need: - Fresh fruit and sugar. These are the basic ingredients for almost any jam. Consult a recipe for the exact measurements and jam making procedure. - A large pot. - A sturdy pair of tongs. - A rack or tea towel. To prevent the jars from sitting directly on the bottom of a your pot of boiling water, you can place them on a rack in the pot or just line the bottom of the pot with a tea towel. This will just prevent the glass from getting too much direct heat and from clinking around too much. - A funnel. This can be helpful, but is not necessary. A funnel will just help you minimize the mess when filling your jars with the jam. - Several glass jars with matching metal lids and screw bands. You can reuse the jars and screw bands over time, but you will need new a new metal lid for each jar. The metal lid has a sealing compound that will get used up each time, so new ones will be necessary for future cannings.

The basic steps: - Cook down the fruits into a jam. There are various methods of doing this that include roasting the fruits first or boiling the fruits down into a pulp. Consult a recipe for this since different techniques will work better for different fruits. - Add the jam to the pre-sterilized, still-warm jars. Make sure to leave about a 1/4 inch space between the top of the jam and the top of the jar. - Place a lid on the jar. Before you do this, make sure the top of the jar is completely clean of any jam residue otherwise the jar can't seal properly. - Screw on the metal band onto the jar to hold the lid down. Screw it on snuggly, but not too tightly. - Place the jam-filled jars back in the pot. Cover with water by at least one inch and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes, or whatever your recipe directs. - Remove the jars from the boiling water and let them rest overnight, undisturbed. Make sure to keep them upright the whole time. - Check to see if the jars sealed correctly. If the lid pops back up when you press it down, it is not sealed correctly and you should use the jam soon. If the lid stays down, you can store away your preserves for several months.

For more tips and information, check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation and their section on jam and jelly. If you don't want to make your own jam, there are great specialty jams right now. Check out these five delicious artisan jams for something special on your next PB & J.

Do you can or make jam at home?

Photo: ryochiji

Try These Five Delicious Artisan Jams

Photo: AZAdam on flickr

With summer here, a lot of different fruits are in season. In addition to delicious fruits, fruit salads, and fruit pies, fruits jams are also going to be available soon. Even though the first crop of strawberries are a revelation, then maybe the next get baked into a cake, inevitably there are some leftover berries or other fruits that need to be stored. Whether it's freezing fruit before it goes bad or making preserves, it's important not to throw out leftover fruit!  Of course, you don't need to make your own jam to enjoy summer's flavorful bounty-new artisan jam-makers are changing the flavor profiles of the generic jams you grew up with, resulting in creative palate pleasers like Strawberry with Pink Peppercorn and Mint. For breakfast, an afternoon snack, or swirled into yogurt for a light dessert, artisan jams make for a fresh, traditionally made, and exciting taste experience. Check out these great five artisan producers for something new on your PB&J!

Blue Chair Fruit - Located in Oakland, CA, Blue Chair Fruit has been offering a variety of artisan jams and marmalades since its inception in 2008. With selections like Apple-Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Adriatic Fig & Candied Ginger Jam, and Blood Orange-Chestnut Honey Marmalade with Rosemary, Blue Chair has enough exotic flavors to keep you interested for a while. The company also sells a home jam-making cookbook, various accessories, and offers classes on jam making.

Ellelle Kitchen - Ellelle Kitchen was founded by a journalist-turned-chef name Lennie LaGuire who trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and wanted to bring traditional methods back to America to create new and exciting flavors for her handcrafted jams. Flavors like Strawberry with Pink Peppercorn and Mint, and Backyard Grapefruit with Campari are available at various markets and farmers' markets near the Ellelle Kitchen in Pasadena, CA, but can also be bought online and shipped around the country.

June Taylor Jams - Hailing from Berkeley, CA, June Taylor and her company work with small family farms to find "heirloom and forgotten fruits," in order to revive and keep alive these flavors for their marmalades, conserves, and fruit butters. By doing this, June Taylor is able to offer flavors built around less common fruits. Bergamot Marmalade, Diamond Princess Peach Converse, and Gravenstein Apple Fruit Butter are among the offerings that can be shipped around the country. June Taylor also sells a selection of other specialties like candied citrus peels, tomato ketchup, fruit paste, and vegetarian mincemeat.

Bonnie's Jams - Gathering the freshest and most fragrant fruits from around New England, Bonnie Shershow hand makes all her jams, preserves and marmalades in Cambridge, MA without any pectin and with about half the sugar of commercial jams. Besides offering classes in her kitchen in Cambridge, Bonnie can ship her jams all around the country. And with simple flavors like Raspberry Lime Rickey, Peach Ginger, and Red Pepper Jelly, it would be difficult not to place an order!

Jam According to Daniel - Based out of Charlottesville, VA and working exclusively with local fruit in season to ensure the highest quality and best flavor, Daniel is able to fit one pound of local fruit into every jar of jam. By adding less sugar, foregoing pectin, and cooking the fruits down to their purest flavor while removing most of the water content, Daniel produces flavors like Strawberry, Lime and Caraway, White Peach and Hibiscus, and Lemon Italian Plum. Jam According to Daniel is available in the Charlottesville Farmers Market on Saturdays from April to December or through online purchase.

Photo: AZAdam

5 Homemade Graduation Gifts for the Food Lover

It's graduation season again! From a small gift to a new apartment to straight cash, there are a lot of really considerate presents to give a recent graduate. However, if you're trying to stay on a budget, a very thoughtful and practical gift would be to give a food-loving graduate your favorite go-to recipes for when they're living on their own. Here are some other great ideas for edible gifts for new graduates: 

1. Everyone has their family traditions of different recipes handed down from their parents and grandparents. Combine them in a handmade cookbook so they can have it at all times no matter how far away from home they are. Intersperse family photos for an extra special touch.

2. If the graduate is a pizza lover, why not create a homemade pizza kit? Buy a pizza stone, pizza peel, and a few pre-made frozen pizza dough balls. Armed with your favorite pizza recipes and a pizza cutter, the new grad won't have to think too much about dinner. Include recipes some healthy options like Vegan Tortilla Pizza, Ravioli with Ramp Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes and Walnuts, or Whole Wheat Kale and Mozzarella Pizza.

3. Who doesn't love delicious sugar cookies or pound cake? Give your graduate some good ideas for when they need to bake up a storm! Bake a batch of your favorite dessert recipe and attach the recipe on a nice ribbon.

4. Help the new grad settle in to post-collegiate life with 5 tools for your kitchen under 100 dollars and a list of 5 cheap ways to beautify their kitchen and home.

5. Stock the new graduate's refrigerator for them! Fill it with high-quality entertaining foods like cheese, olives, and more. Pre-make a few of your favorite recipes like vegetarian chili, or some delicious pesto that can easily be mixed with pasta, whole-grains like quinoa, or sandwiches.