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Excerpted from Milk by Anne Mendelson Copyright © 2008 by Anne Mendelson. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.



This pretty dish originally came from a small Indian paperback, 100 Easy-to-Make Gujarati Dishes by Veena Shroff and Vanmala Desai. Our corn and watery milk undoubtedly produce a thinner, sweeter result than the starchy, filling corn and richer milk of India, so I replace some of the milk with cream and add a little starch in the form of wheat flour. To me, corn here seems plenty sweet without the added sugar, but this is a matter of individual taste.



Asafetida, once available only in Indian grocery stores, now turns up in more venues (my local Whole Foods supermarket, for one). It deepens all the other flavors just as the turmeric deepens the color.



Dishes like this are regularly made with either cows’ (or buffaloes’) milk or coconut milk; in both cases the milk brings out the “corny” quality of the corn. In a pinch you can substitute three 10-ounce packages of frozen corn kernels, first giving the corn a very short spin in a blender or food processor to bring out the juice while leaving the texture coarse.



y i e l d : 4 to 6 servings as main dish, 7 to 8 as side dish



6 large ears of corn, shucked and cleaned
6 small hot green chiles (any preferred kind)
A 1-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
3 tablespoons ghee (page 251) or vegetable oil
1⁄4 teaspoon Indian brown mustard seeds
1 tablespoon flour (optional)
11⁄2 cups milk and cream, combined in any preferred ratio
(I use 11⁄4 cups milk and 1⁄4 cup heavy cream)
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
A pinch of ground asafetida
1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Juice of 1 lemon
Minced cilantro for garnish

Cut and scrape the corn kernels from the ears with a sharp knife. Chop the chiles (deseeded if you prefer) and ginger together until they are almost a paste.

Heat the ghee or oil in a deep wide skillet or sauté pan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to splutter and pop, add the corn and stir over pretty brisk heat for a few minutes. Add the optional flour, stirring well to eliminate lumps. Add the chile-ginger paste, milk-cream mixture, salt, sugar, asafetida, and turmeric. Cook uncovered over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes. The texture will thicken somewhat if you have used flour and remain a little runny otherwise. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and serve garnished with a sprinkling of minced cilantro. va r i ation: To convert this into Spiced Corn Chowder, omit the flour and use 5 cups of the milk-cream mixture, 8 to 10 chiles, and a 2-inch chunk of ginger.

Proceed as directed above, doubling the amount of all other seasonings and making any further adjustments when you taste the soup after it has come to a boil.




Excerpted from Milk by Anne Mendelson Copyright © 2008 by Anne Mendelson. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.




I first encountered this silky, pungent stuff as “tyrokafteri” in the Greek neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. Later I learned that htipiti is a more common name in Greece. Some people also call it kopanisti, though that risks confusion with the soft ripened cheese of the same name. By whatever handle, it belongs to a large family of whipped feta preparations eaten everywhere throughout the Diverse Sources Belt. You can’t miss the similarity to its Carpathian descendant, Liptauer cheese (page 303). The irreducible elements of the many Greek versions are feta cheese, olive oil, and some kind of hot or sweet peppers, usually but not always charred over a flame or fried in hot oil. You can use anything from fire-roasted sweet red peppers to small dried hot ones, or even pickled cherry peppers. Once you’ve tried it, vary the proportions to suit your mood. Some people add lemon juice, yogurt, and/or a favorite green herb. I like garlic, but it’s not essential.

The intrinsic creaminess of sheep’s-milk feta gives the most irresistible texture. Whatever kind you use, taste it before soaking so that you can gauge the desalting process. The briny sting should be softened, not completely washed out.

y i e l d : About 2 cups

1 pound feta cheese, preferably made from sheep’s milk
2 long green hot chile peppers (or any preferred kind; see above)
1 to 2 garlic cloves
1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup (or to taste) sharp, peppery olive oil

Coarsely crumble the cheese or cut it into roughly 1-inch chunks; put it in a bowl and cover it well with cool water. Let stand for half an hour to 1 hour; every 15 minutes or so change the water and taste a crumb of cheese for saltiness. (Remember that the oil will temper the salt somewhat.)

While the cheese soaks, roast the chiles over a gas flame until blackened all over. (Alternatively, blacken them, turning a few times, under a broiler, or char them on a dry griddle or in a heavy skillet set over high heat.) Scrape off the charred skin. (Some people recommend first letting them sit briefly in a closed paper bag to soften the skins, but I’ve never found much difference.) Scrape out and discard the core and seeds. Chop the flesh very fine or mash with a mortar and pestle. Mash the garlic to a pulp with the flat of a knife blade.

When the cheese is desalted to your taste, drain it in a colander until it stops dripping. Turn out the cheese into a mixing bowl and begin vigorously beating it with a stout wooden spoon. (Or process it in a food processor.) Beat in the oil a little at a time, tasting at intervals, and stop when the balance of oil and cheese is to your liking. With a sheep’s-milk feta the texture will gradually turn light and creamy, becoming almost like a heavy whipped cream when you have added the full amount of oil. The effect won’t be as airy and satiny with goats’- milk or cows’-milk cheese.

Stir in the minced green pepper and crushed garlic. Serve as a spread with good crusty bread or a dip with crudités.

A small dab is a lovely addition to a simple oil-and-vinegar salad dressing. va r i at i o n ( s ) : People who don’t like feta will be glad to know that similar spreads are frequently made (minus the soaking step) with blander fresh goat and sheep cheeses. Greek manouri cheese is one good choice. Or substitute any fresh, soft goat cheese, using just as much oil as you need to make a spreadable paste.



Excerpted from Milk by Anne Mendelson Copyright © 2008 by Anne Mendelson. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.




4 to 6 thick slices of bacon, coarsely diced
3 to 4 tart, juicy apples, pared, quartered, cored, and coarsely diced
4 tablespoons butter
4 large onions, coarsely diced
3 cups good beef broth, or as needed
6 to 8 whole allspice berries, lightly bruised
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste Freshly ground black pepper
A dash of lemon juice (optional)
1 teaspoon carraway seeds, lightly bruised (optional)

Cream soups are best when they have something more than creaminess going for them. A good cold-weather example is this robust sweet-tart combination of apples--use a good local fall variety in season--and onions with some crisp bacon for counterpoint. It's best when made with a strong, full-flavored beef broth.

1. Cook the bacon slowly in a heavy skillet to render out all the fat. When it is crisp, scoop it out of the fat and drain on paper towels.

2. Sauté the diced apples over medium heat in the same skillet, stirring occasionally, until cooked through. Scoop out a few spoonfuls of the apples for garnish and set aside.

3. Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan. When it foams and sizzles, add the chopped onions and sauté very patiently over low heat, stirring frequently, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions are well softened and starting to brown. Scoop out a few spoonfuls for garnish and set aside with the reserved apples.

4. Add the rest of the apples to the onions, pour in the broth, add the allspice, and simmer until everything is nearly dissolved, 10 to 15 minutes. Fish out and discard the allspice.

5. Pureé the soup in batches in a blender or food processor, making sure to leave the texture slightly coarse.

6. Return the soup to the pot, heat to a boil, and stir in the cream. Let it come to a boil again, add the salt and a grinding of pepper, and taste for seasoning; if it seems too bland, squeeze in a little lemon juice. If it is too thick for your taste, thin it with some hot water.

7. Serve garnished with the reserved bacon, apple, and onion. I like a scattering of carraway seed as well.

YIELD: 8 to 9 cups