Funeral Rituals; A Healthy Kitchen; Autumn in Russia; Inside El Bulli; Slow Cooking

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Recipes and other resources from today's Good Food:

Slow Food LA presents Great Grilled Cheese with Laura Werlin:

When: Sunday, October 31, 2004 at 4:00pm
Where: The Cheese Store of Silverlake
Junction3926-28 W Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Cost: $34.00 for Slow Food LA members; $40.00 for nonmembers
Cost includes the grilled cheese and wine tastings and a signed copy of Great Grilled Cheese by Laura Werlin.

Jonathan Gold is a food writer for Gourmet magazine and the LA Weekly. He spoke about the Metro Cafe (the secret Serbian restaurant) at 11188 Washington Blvd in Culver City. It's located at the ground floor of the Travelodge.

Serbian dishes are not on the menu so you must ask for them. Each day is something different. Most Tuesdays and Wednesdays you can find a white bean soup with smoked pork served with coarsely mashed potatoes and spinach/greens cooked with garlic.

From Death Warmed Over: Funeral Food, Rituals, and Customs from Around the World by Lisa Rogak, published by Ten Speed Press.

Irish Wake Cake
Serves 10

  • 3/4 cup ( 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs1 3-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup dried currants
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan.
  2. With an electric mixer or by hand, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fluffy. Add the cream cheese and blend until well combined.
  3. In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Place the currants in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the flour mixture to the currants and stir until the currants are well coated.
  4. Alternately add one-third of the remaining flour mixture and one-third of the buttermilk to the batter, mixing well after each addition. Blend until smooth. Add the currants and stir until well distributed.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 1 hour and 25 minutes.
  6. Transfer to a rack and let the cake rest in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the cake from the pan to the rack.
  7. In a small bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar with the lemon juice and drizzle over the warm cake. Let the cake cool completely before serving.

Sharon Hudgins is the author of The Other Side of Russia: A Slice of Life in Siberia and the Russian Far East, published by Texas A&M; University Press.

Mushroom-picking -- known as "silent hunting" -- ---is a national pastime in Russia. In summer and autumn Russians of all ages head for the forests and fields, hoping to find their favorite fungi sitting on a tree stump or hiding under a few fallen leaves. More than 100 kinds of mushrooms grow wild in Russia, and mushrooms are an important ingredient in many dishes.

From July through October the open-air markets are full of mushrooms, in colors ranging from beige, pale yellow, and cappuccino brown to bright orange and deep purple. Russians eat them fresh, in season, and preserve the remainder by salt-pickling, marinating, or drying. First dried in the oven, on a radiator, or near a wood fire, the mushrooms are then loosely threaded on strings, tied at the top to form a loop, and hung up to finish drying in a well-ventilated place. In late autumn these "necklaces" of mushrooms are a common sight, hanging inside on the wooden verandas of village houses and the glass-enclosed balconies of big-city apartment buildings.

Stuffed Mushrooms
Makes 4 servings as an appetizer, 6 to 8 servings as an accompaniment to other dishes.

  • 16 large fresh Boletus edulis mushrooms (or 16 large champignons, about 1 lb)
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (divided use)
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp mild or medium-hot paprika
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely crumbled sheep's cheese (such as feta) or finely shredded yellow cheese (such as Cheddar)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350--F.
  2. Brush any dirt off the mushrooms, or wash them lightly and pat dry with paper towels. Carefully twist the stem off each mushroom, leaving the cap whole. Finely chop the mushroom stems.
  3. Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a medium-size skillet. Saute the mushroom stems, shallot, and garlic over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parsley, paprika, and bread crumbs. Add the cheese and mix well.
  4. Use the remaining 3 tablespoons of melted butter to lightly brush the outside of each mushroom cap. Stuff each mushroom cap with a heaping tablespoon of the filling, shaping the filling by hand into a small dome. Use all the filling to stuff the 16 mushroom caps.
  5. Arrange the mushrooms, filling side up, in a single layer in a lightly oiled baking dish. Bake at 350--F. for 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Serve hot, as a first course or as an accompaniment to broiled steaks.
Russian Eggplant Caviar (Baklazhannaia Ikra)
Yield: 6 servings as an appetizer/dip, 12 servings as a stuffing for medium-size tomatoes.
  • 2 large eggplants (2 pounds total)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion (or 5 to 6 small green onions, white and tender green parts), finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced or put through a garlic press
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Garnish: Chopped fresh parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 375--F. Wash the eggplants and pierce them with a fork in several places. Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes (depending on their size), until they are very tender when pierced with a knife into the center. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  2. While the eggplants are cooling, heat the olive oil in a small skillet and saute the chopped onion until golden but not browned. Turn off the heat and stir in the garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, oregano, and cayenne.
  3. Cut the eggplants in half and scoop out the pulp -- seeds and liquid, too -- onto a cutting board. Coarsely chop the eggplant pulp and transfer it to a bowl. Scrape all the onions and seasoned oil out of the skillet and stir them into the eggplant. Mash the mixture together with a large fork or an old-fashioned potato masher, until the eggplant has absorbed the oil but is still somewhat chunky (not pureed). Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight, to let the flavors meld.
  4. Taste again before serving and add more black pepper, if desired.
  5. Garnish the top with chopped fresh parsley. Serve as a dip or spread for toasted triangles of yeasty flatbread, or as an accompaniment to grilled meats. Eggplant caviar also makes a delicious stuffing for hollowed-out tomatoes. Garnish the top of each stuffed tomato with chopped fresh parsley.

Making Sauerkraut In Russia
One evening in mid-October, before the first frost in Vladivostok, my Russian neighbor Alla came over to my apartment to show me how to make kislaia kapusta--Russian sour cabbage, a sort of crunchy, mild-tasting sauerkraut with a delicate flavor far removed from the assertive taste of most commercially pickled products. Earlier in the week, following Alla's instructions, I had purchased five large white cabbages, several carrots, a small amount of anise seeds, and a kilogram of salt. Alla arrived with her own long knife for shredding the cabbage.

Alla tore off and threw away the tough outer leaves of the cabbages, then cut the unwashed heads into quarters. Wielding her knife like a pro, she proceeded to shred three cabbages in the time it took me to do one, while my husband finely shredded five carrots in our food processor. When the table was covered with a mountain of cut-up cabbage, we mixed it by hand with the carrots, adding a soupspoon each of anise seeds, sugar, and freshly ground black pepper, along with a cup of salt. Then we crushed the mixture by handfuls, pressing it between our palms to "bruise" the cabbage a bit.

Alla showed us how to pack the mixture into a 10-liter enameled metal bucket, alternating it with layers of large chunks of cabbage that she had held in reserve. Alla mentioned that some people season their kislaia kapusta with cranberries, lingonberries, bay leaves, allspice, caraway seeds, or dill. And once at a farmers' market we saw kislaia kapusta flavored with chunks of apples and green tomatoes. Alla herself sometimes put thin layers of raw salmon between the layers of shredded cabbage in her own sauerkraut bucket, a variation I was never brave enough to try at home.

Finally she put a small plate on top of the cabbage and set a heavy weight on top of that, to press the cabbage down while it fermented. We kept the bucket on our kitchen floor, away from the radiator, for three days. Then we removed the weight and plate on top and poked holes in the mixture to release the gases that had formed during fermentation. Later that day we transferred the pickled cabbage to 3-liter jars, which we set outdoors in the corner of our balcony away from the sun. And a week later, the sauerkraut was ready to eat. One evening's work and a few days of tending the bubbling brew had produced enough kislaia kapusta to last us for the next three months.

Joyce Goldstein is the author of many books on Mediterranean cuisine. Her latest is Italian Slow and Savory, published by Chronicle Books. You can meet Joyce Goldstein in person and taste her food on Friday, November 5 at Angeli Caffe. Call 323-936-9086 for details.

Le Virtu
Farro and Bean Soup from the Abruzzo
Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 to 2 1/2 cup assorted dried beans such as chickpeans, cannellini, small white beans, borlotti and lentils, piicked over and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped pancetta or prosciutto
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups diced canned plum tomatoes
  • 2 quarts water or chicken stock, or as needed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup farro
  • Extra virgin oilive oil and grated Parmesan cheese for serving
Soak all the beans except the lentils overnight then drain.

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta or prosciutto and saute, stirring often, until the fat is released, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic and all the chopped herbs and saute, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the drained beans and lentils, tomatoes, water or stock and 2 tablespoons salt, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (If you want a creamier soup, scoop out 1 cup of the bean mixture, puree it in a blender or food processor, and return it to the pan.)

Meanwhile, bring a second saucepan three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the farro, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the farro is al dente, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain it and add to the beans when they are tender.

Simmer the beans and farro together for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and top each serving with a thread of extra virgin olive oil, some grated Parmesan and a liberal dusting of pepper.

Tonno al Ragu
Braised Tuna with Tomato, Garlic and Mint

Served 6

  • 1 thick piece of tuna fillet, 2 to 2 1/2 pounds
  • 3 cloves garlic, cut into thin slivers
  • Leaves from 6 fresh mint sprigs, plus 2 tablespoons chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 can (6 ozs ) tomato paste and 3 cups water, or canned tomato sauce
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Pinch of chile pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Soak the fish in cold salted water for 10 minutes, pat it dry. Using a small, sharp knife, make small slits all over the tuna and insert the garlic slivers and mint leaves into the slits. Chop any leftover mint leaves and suse as needed for the 2 tablespoons.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the tuna and saute, turning once, to color both sides, about 5 minutes on each side. Use 2 spatulas to turn the fish so that it does not break apart. Dissolve the tomato paste in 1 cup of the water, pout it over the fish, and then add the rest of the water, or add the tomato sauce. Add the wine, the cinnamon stick, the chile pepper flakes (if using), and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook until the fish is tender but not dry, 40 to 60 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.

Using the 2 spatulas, carefully transfer the fish to a warmed platter. It is difficult to slice the fish neatly; it is easier to break the fish into large pieces with a fork. Spoon some of the pan sauce over each serving, and sprinkle with the chopped mint.