December 30, 2008

birthday wishes

Happy birthday to my beloved sis who turns 24 today! As part of her present, we made her marshmallows in 4 flavors: chocolate, cinnamon-mocha, vanilla and blackberry. They are puffy and really delicious and I can't wait to share them with her, along with the rest of her gifts.

We'll be ringing in the New Year somewhere in Manhattan with my two of my favorite people and then we'll be eating our way through the city, from Jean Georges to soup dumplings in Chinatown to pizza in Brooklyn. Wishing all of you the very best for 2009!

December 10, 2008

how to warm up on a snowy night

To me, cold weather means soup, boots, skiing, and hot drinks. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate? All just fine. But at this time of year hot mulled wine (also known as glögg, glühwein, or vin chaud) is just the thing. I don't drink so much (hello, my name is Kim and I am a notorious lightweight) and, as a general rule, I really dislike overly sweet alcoholic drinks -- but there is something about cozily spiced, warm, sweet red wine that is so, so nice. Especially if there are actual (!) snow (!) flurries (!) outside (!!!).

And it's so easy. You make an infused syrup using the sugar, citrus peels, and spices, then add a bottle of wine and glug of triple sec. Heat through. Seriously, that is all. I don't know about you, but I have all of those things on hand all the time.

And I think the German term, glühwein, is the best name. As my funny co-worker put it this morning: "Glühwein means 'glowing.' It doesn't glow but, after drinking it, you will!"

Hot mulled wine
adapted from Jamie Oliver

This recipe is very forgiving: you can use almost any combination of spices in your wine, and if you don't have orange liqueur you could use brandy or rum. There's also no need to use any expensive wine -- we use a $3 bottle from Whole Foods and it is perfect.

1 bottle dry red wine
3/4 cup sugar
2 clementines
1 small orange
1 lime
1 cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods, smashed
whole nutmeg, grated 6-10 times on a rasp grater
5 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup orange liqueur such as Cointreau

Using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, peel large sections from the peel of the clementines, orange, and lime. Add sugar, citrus peel, cinnamon stick, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, bay leaf and the juice from the clementines and the orange to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil until syrupy and thick, 1-2 minutes. (If the sugar sticks to the pan too much, add in a dribble of red wine to make it syrupy again.) When the syrup is ready, turn the heat to low and add the wine and orange liqueur. Heat through, 5 minutes or so, without bringing to a boil (the alcohol will burn off).

December 6, 2008

Jones Tasty Hearty Healthy Beanie Soup

My brother, sister, Mark, and I are in love with what we like to call MomSpeak, MomSpeak being the hilarious and adorable emails that my mom sends to all of us. After more than 25 years in this country, her English is very good (she regularly beats all of us in Scrabble, to my dad's chagrin) but she has a really funny habit of mixing metaphors or using words that aren't necessarily used in casual conversation. We never know what she is going to say next.

A few months ago she sent my sister the recipe for her ham and bean soup and, inexplicably, called the recipe "Jones Tasty Hearty Healthy Beanie Soup." As far as I can remember, we always referred to this soup as plain old bean soup. But from now on I will always call it Jones Tasty Hearty Healthy Beanie Soup.

We ate this all the time when we were kids, probably because my dad grew up eating this and loves it. And why not? Jones Tasty Hearty Healthy Beanie Soup is indeed Tasty, with creamy beans, salty and smoky ham, and a smidge of sweetness from softened carrots, onion, and celery. It is Hearty, really more of a stew than a soup, and (I'm quoting my mom here) is "perfect for a bone chilling day." Finally, this soup is Healthy, the beans --excuse me, beanies-- provide a wallop of fiber and protein. The name is apt. Good job, Mom.

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo for you, because my brother inhaled everything before I had a chance to take one. Instead, I offer this, as a reminder to stock up on clementines!

Jones Tasty Hearty Healthy Beanie Soup

My mom says that ham shanks are preferable to ham hocks because they provide more meat for the soup. However, when I went to the grocery store, there were no ham shanks to be found. Instead I bought 2 large ham hocks and a ham steak. By the way, I think 1 pound of beans is roughly $1.00, the ham shanks were $2.50, and the ham steak was on sale for $3.80. This is recession-friendly fare! This soup filled our le Creuset French oven (which is 5.5 quarts of beautiful red enameled cast iron) almost all the way to the top, so you will need a large vessel in which to make this soup.

1 pound dry white beans, such as cannellini (my preference) or navy beans
1-2 pounds of ham shanks or 2-3 ham hocks
1/2 to 3/4 cup cubed ham, if desired (recommended if using ham hocks)
1 large diced yellow onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
2-3 cloves minced garlic
sprig of thyme
1-2 bay leaves
  1. Soak beans in 8 cups of water overnight, or 4-6 hours. Drain the water.
  2. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large pot or dutch oven.
  3. Add bay leaves, ham shanks (or ham hocks), beans, garlic, and thyme to the water and bring to a boil again. Lower heat to medium and allow to boil slowly, stirring occasionally, until beans soften. Note that, depending on how old your beans are, this process could take anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours. I usually let the beans simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. When the beans are softened but still al dente, add the chopped vegetables. If using cubed ham, add to the soup. Let the soup simmer --on low or medium low-- another 45 minutes to an hour, until vegetables are soft and beans are creamy. Some will burst and thicken the soup -- this is good! If you are using ham shanks, you may want to pull them out of the soup, shred the meat, and return to the soup.
  5. Taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary. Depending on how salty your ham is, it may not be necessary. Garnish, if desired, with a bit of minced parsley or more fresh thyme leaves.