29 December 2009

We ate our weight

It would appear as though we only have a few days left in December. I could be mistaken, though--yesterday, Jeff pointed out that the last time I wrote here was in, um, October. October???

He was right. Whoops.

So for those of you who are dying of curiosity, here are a few of the highlights from the past couple of months, in no particular order:

> I started writing for another blog, Eat Life.

> As of this weekend, I will be half of the way through my course at French Culinary! I have to start looking for a job. HA! HA! HA!

> My parents came for Christmas and birthdays. It was GREAT to have them here--so fun! We all ate our weight in dinners. Jeff and I put up a Christmas tree. There was much holiday cheer.

> I turned a whopping 28 and so far have nothing but positive things to say.

> I went to Chicago for Thanksgiving, saw a great friend who I hadn't seen in AGES, and got hit on by two men approximately my parents's age at the bar. No, thanks, guys. I'm really not into men who remember the Nixon era as first-hand experience.

> I've managed to be a terrible communicator, even with the people I miss the most. I don't return phone calls, rarely return emails, and feel guilty about it ALL THE TIME.

So that's about it, folks. I have a tasty pasta dish for you to make, but alas, no photos. My parents, Jeff and I may have gobbled the entire dish up before I had a chance to photograph it; you'll see why when you make it. It's creamy, cheesy, and hearty all at once, and I very highly suggest it if it's a cold night and you want to stay in, watch movies, and eat something cosy. After all, who can resist baked pasta with spinach, cheese and cream? Not I, my friends. You shouldn't either.

Have a happy 2010, and I'll see you then.

Alpine Baked Pasta, adapted from The Best of Food and Wine

My mother and I have made this many, many times. We find that it's best if you have a dish that's not too big. I used a 9 x 13 glass casserole/brownie pan, and it worked perfectly. I also massively increased the vegetable content. Below are the adaptations I made. You will want to make them, too.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the dish
1 teaspoon freshly chopped sage
3 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian parsley
1 pound penne/farfalle pasta (pretty much anything that's chunky/long (not spaghetti like, not macaroni like) works)
2 leeks (white part plus 1 inch of the green), well washed and thinly sliced crosswise
1 large box baby spinach leaves, rinsed--use the kind that's pre-washed and is in the salad refrigerator at the store. It's well worth it. (I know, I know. If you want, use 2 bunches of spinach, well washed and roughly chopped)
1 cup finely grated fontina cheese
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/2 + 1 delightful splash heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Butter a baking dish (the recipe recommends 12 inches square) and set aside.

2. Put a very large pot of water on to boil over high heat, and salt well.

3. While waiting for the water to boil, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium heat. When the butter becomes a light nut brown, add the herbs and turn off the heat; set aside.

4. When the water has boiled, add the pasta. When the water returns to a boil, time your pasta carefully, and cook it to 3 minutes under the recommended time (approximately 6-8 minutes, depending on your shape); add the leek to the pasta. After the water has again returned to a boil, add the spinach and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Drain the pasta and vegetables in a colander, return them to the hot pot, and add the herb/butter, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the fontina, Parmesan, and cream, and toss well to incorporate all the ingredients.

5. Turn the pasta out into the buttered baking dish. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the top edges begin to brown.

Serve immediately.

Serves 5-6 pretty darn generously.

28 October 2009

Mighty fine

In my house, there is no sound more horrendous than the smoke alarm. By all accounts, though, the smoke alarm in the new house is heads and shoulders above the one in the old place. The old one, after shrieking for a few beeps, said in a woman's automated voice, "FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!" It would also beep, every three seconds, when it was low on battery. Take the time that we went to Denver for Thanksgiving and came back, and it had been beeping for god knows how long. Or the time that it started at three in the morning and couldn't figure out how to remove the battery until four thirty.

Undoubtedly, we were not our building's preferred neighbors.

Part of the problem of a triggered alarm is that a lot of the things that get shoved in the oven are overfull and slightly liquidy.

Liquidy + heat + rising agents = bubbling over that gets stuck at the bottom of the oven and burns off whenever the temperature surpasses 350 degrees (F).

This would be the case at the present moment. Pizza, for which I have had an unnatural craving for the past three weeks, is causing my smoke alarm to sound, thus making me a little less happy with it. That really isn't saying much, though, since this pizza is delicious. The crust is good: bready, chewy, and a little sour. It might even rival Mark Bittman's, which has been my standby for the past few years. You don't even need to roll it out--just a little poking and prodding does the trick. Topped with sautéed vegetables and a little crumbled sausage, it's a mighty fine thing. Mighty fine, indeed.

Basic Pizza Dough, from Jim Lahey's my bread

Jim Lahey is best known around these parts for his magnificent, easy-peasy no-knead bread. You remember when that recipe came out. It seemed as though the entire foodie community was suddenly in the kitchen, stirring a few magic ingredients together to make the easiest rustic loaf in the world. (Recipe here). This pizza dough takes after the bread--totally easy, and totally worth it.

Yield: two baking pan-sized pizza crusts

3 3/4 cups (500 grams) bread flour
2 1/2 teaspoons (10 grams) instant or active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) salt
3/4 teaspoon plus a pinch (approx 3 grams) sugar
1 1/3 cups (300 grams) room temperature water (body temperature or cool to the touch)
olive oil, for the pans

1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until blended, at least 30 seconds. (I found this took a little longer--more like a minute or two.) Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the dough has more than doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

2. Oil two 13 x 18-inch rimmed baking sheets. Use a bowl scraper or a rubber spatula to scrape half of the dough onto an oiled pan in one piece. Gently pull and stretch the dough across the surface of the pan, and use your hands to press it evenly out to the edges. If the dough sticks to your fingers, lightly dust it with flour or coat your hands with oil. Pinch any holes together. Repeat with the second piece. Use as you like.

*One note: this dough takes a few minutes longer to cook all the way through than does regular pizza dough. Bake accordingly.

Eating my words

So. The other night. I did make that soup after all. And you know what? It was good. Really really good, actually--full of satiny onions and carrots, dimply pasta, and loaded with beans. I may have gone overboard with the beans. By double the amount. They were so nice, though--thick and starchy and satisfyingly creamy. If you ever get a chance to try some beans from Rancho Gordo--do it. (Even though they are absurdly expensive. I tell you, they are worth it.)

Really, though, I needn't have worried. It was a perfect soup for the chilly days that have engulfed us here in New York. It was so good, even, that I didn't... take any pictures. I ate it all first. Sorry about that. I will, though, someday. Hopefully someday soon. In the meantime, make a batch for yourself. You'll see.

White Bean and Pasta Soup, adapted from Bon Appétit

1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
2/3 cup chopped carrot
2/3 chopped celery (I peeled it--a fussy step, for sure, but there was no stringyness)
3 1/2 to 4 cups water
1 Parmesan rind (I save mine whenever I run out of a chunk, wrapped, in the freezer)
4 cups cooked white beans, with 3/4 cups reserved cooking liquid
1 large tomato, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup small pasta (I used dittalini)

1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy arge pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrot, and celery. Sauté until all vegetables are soft, about 12 minutes. Add 3 1/2 cups water, beans and cooking liquid, tomato, and Parmesan rind; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 25 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally.

2. Mix in pasta and bring to a boil. Cook until pasta is just tender but still firm to bite, adding more water to the soup if the the mixture is very thick. Season with salt and pepper.

26 October 2009


There are a few things in life that are more frustrating than having a plan and then not wanting to execute when the moment arrives. Take that outfit the other night--you know the one. The one over which you had hemmed and hawed, set out the night before, picked out the shoes, the necklace. And then, ten minutes before your date? OH MAN WHAT A TERRIBLE OUTFIT. Who would want to wear that? What were you thinking??? And then you have nothing to wear. Nothing looks good. All clothes are suddenly offensive. But you can't go back to the carefully planned outfit, no sirreee Bob you absolutely cannot.

Now what?

This is how I feel about dinner, maybe two days out of five. It happens all the time. Example: tonight, I am supposed to make a bean soup. Yesterday, I went to the store--I have everything I need, I have enough time, and I'm 82% certain that it will be good. I am also 82% certain that bean soup, no matter how tasty or nice, is definitely not what I want to eat.

Let's make a list of things I would rather eat:

Chinese stir fry (beef/broccoli/onions/red peppers)
Boeuf bourguinon
Ramen noodle soup
Italian Sausage Sauce with pasta

We might need a serious change of plan.

18 October 2009

More often

It would appear as if I will not, in fact, be reporting for rice month.


Where did the time go? No, seriously--I feel like the beginning of September was last week or something. But then I think about all the stuff I've been up to--going to class and attempting to be student number one, going back to work, going to Denver for an AWESOME wedding, hosting Jeff's parents--it's been a little chargé, as they say.

So today I took the day off. Off from hosting, off from cleaning, off from working on school stuff. I'm listening to music Jeff doesn't like and baking things NOT in my curriculum. (Ok, tha'ts not exactly true--I'm working on a batch of pains au chocolat, but can you really count that as WORK?? I didn't think so.)

I really should do this more often.

Honeyed Goat Cheese Tart with Pistachio Crust, adapted from Food and Wine

1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups AP flour
11 ounces soft goat cheese
2 cups full-fat Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup honey

1. In a food processor, pulse the pistachios and 2 tablespoons of the sugar until finely ground. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle atachment, beat the butter with the granulated sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add the pistachio/sugar mixture, almond extract and salt and beat until combined. Add the flour and beat at low speed until incorporated and the dough is crumbly.

2. Scrape the dough into a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removeable bottom. Press the dough until it is evenly spread out along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. The heel of your hand works well, as does a glass. Refrigerate until well-chilled, about 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Bake the crust for abotu 45 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer to a rack and let cook completely.

4. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the goat cheese, yogurt, lime juice and lime zest until combined. Add the confectioner's sugar and beat until smooth. Scrape the filling into the crust and refrigerate for 2 hours.

5. Just before serving, in a small sauce pan, cook the honey over moderatly high heat until it reaches 236 degrees F on a thermometer, about 2 minutes. Remove the honey and stir until slightly cooled, about 2 minutes more. Drizzle the honey over the tart and let stand until the honey firms up, about 5 minutes. Cut and serve.

10 September 2009

Rice, rice, baby!

Hey! Did you know that September is National Rice Month? (OK, I didn't know either, but Gourmet.com filled me in, and now we know.) Do you know what this means? This means that I can have all the rice I want, and I don't have to feel bad about it!

I'm not one to feel bad about overindulging on rice, anyway. Just ask Jeff about how I'll stand over the pot of rice after dinner and eat more. Straight out of the pot.

Anyway. Since I found out this juicy tidbit of information, I think what I'm going to do is eat a lot of rice this month. Then I will tell you about it. Hah!

Please note that I am acutely aware of the banality of rice. But you know what? I love it. Love love love it.

What's your favorite way to eat rice? Tell me! So I can join in.

04 September 2009

Iron Chef

Here is a picture of the results of my first exam! There was a written component, and then a 3 hour practical. Everyone had to make three different things: a large tart, mini tarts, and then some cookies. We all had to work separately, and we didn't know what we were going to get before we started.

So this is what I made (from left to right): Tarte aux noix caramel (French nut caramel tart), Vanille-Kipferl cookies, and Quiche Lorraine.

It went well.

27 August 2009

Jam, revisited

Could someone please inform me when summer stuck it's foot out the door? Please? Because today is chilly and rainy, and I have less than a week to go until I have to turn up to teach again, and I have a test, that's right--you heard me--a test at school (also) in under a week. Let's not get too carried away: I am in no way mourning the hot humidity, but another week of not doing a whole lot would be nice. Hello? Summer gods? Is there anyone around to listen? Anyone?

Luckily, I received a lagniappe of fresh plums from my CSA this week--since so many people are on vacation, attempting to soak up that last bit of August, there was more fruit left over than you could shake a stick at. So much that each volunteer was able to take home as much fruit as they could carry, which made the guy with the pregnant wife very, very happy. Apparently, she's been craving fruit. Not a terrible craving to have, if you ask me.

So I made jam out of my plums--pretty much a redux of last year's experiment. It's so lovely and beautiful, and a gorgeous shade of pink. This year, I added some ginger, though it didn't come through all that well. But that's OK. Now there's at least a little summer left for the rest of the year to come--a bright reminder of the fleeting pleasures of the market, and of summer at it's peak.

Ginger, Vanilla, and Plum Jam

2-2 1/4 pounds plums
1/3 cup + 1/4 cup tablespoons vanilla sugar, to taste
1/2 vanilla bean
1 two-inch thumb of ginger, peeled and cut into three pieces

1. Cut your fruit into bite-sized pieces and put in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the sugar and the vanilla bean, and cover with a parchment lid, placed right onto the fruit. Let sit 30-45 minutes, to macerate the fruit--some of the liquid will start to leech out and sit at the bottom of the pot.

2. Remove the vanilla bean, and scrape out the seeds from the pod--add them into the plum mixture. Discard pod. Put the pot over high heat, and bring to a boil. Lower the temperature and let lazily simmer until the jam reaches the consistency that you want. (Mine took about 30 minutes.)

3. Pour into jam jars, leaving some space at the top. If you're not going to sterilize your jars, keep the jam in the refrigerator.

24 August 2009

Wait it out

In my life, coffee is non-negotiable. I realize that I am not alone in this, and that the majority of the American population is with me. There is little more pleasurable than waking up to a warm cup in the hand, reading the paper, and suddenly knowing that today is going to be OK. That's what coffee does for me, at least. (Let's not talk about the bad days, though. They are a completely different story. We don't need to elaborate on that today. Or ever.)

On the contrary, breakfast is completely negotiable. I'm not the biggest breakfast fan, unless breakfast comprises some sort of crispy potato, eggs, or cinnamon rolls. Honestly, I could not eat breakfast foods and be happy. Maybe it's the Chinese in me--I'd *almost* always prefer leftovers from last night. But... it all depends, of course.

Yesterday was a non-breakfast day. Jeff had his, but I preferred to wait it out until lunch. (We got up late, so it wasn't that much of a stretch, really.) Lunch! Delicious pasta salad with tomatoes and a lovely, light dressing. It seems so criminal to waste any time not eating tomatoes at present, especially when they're in season, and your CSA delivered, despite the blight. Thanks CSA!

Really, though. Eat this up. You'll be glad you did.

Tomato and Herb Pasta Salad, adapted from Gourmet

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons crème fraîche
1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 pound mixed tomatoes (preferably heirloom)
1 tablespoon finely diced shallot
1/2 pound curly or curvy pasta
1/2 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs

1. Whisk together oil, crème fraîche, vinegar, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.

2. Coarsely chop tomatoes and toss with shallot and dressing. Marinate until ready to use.

3. While tomatoes stand, cook pasta in a pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente. Drain in a colander and immediately add to tomato mixture, tossing to combine. Cool to warm or room-temperature (do not chill), tossing occasionally; add herbs before serving.

21 August 2009

Tart fever!

It would appear as though tart fever has taken over my life. I go to school, bake a bunch of tarts and cookies. I come home and am supposed to practice said tarts and cookies. (For a visual, check out my Flickr page.) But what happens when the decision is made to branch out and make a different tart? One that has nothing to do with class? And everything to do with the delicious tomatoes that showed up in my CSA this past week? I guess there is also the need to practice making crust. Which is slowly killing me.

However, it should be noted that crust, it should be noted, is waaaaaaay easier when you have a brand spanking new KitchenAid mixer at your disposal.

Yes, it has arrived! And yes, it is my most favorite thing in the apartment. Sorry, Jeff.

So if you're in the mood for making crusts, and savory tarts, this one is a good place to start. It's summery and nice, and with a salad, makes a lovely, light dinner.

Granny's Tomato Tart, adapted from the New York Times

1 recipe pâte brisée, chilled; recipe here

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 pound Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated
4 medium-sized tomatoes, thinly sliced into rounds
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
Freshly ground black pepper
salt, to taste

1. Roll the dough into a round of about 9 inches. Transfer to a baking sheet and crimp edges 1/2-inch hight. Refigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Remove dough round from the refrigerator, and prick all over with a fork. Place parchment paper or foil on top and weigh down with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until lightly browned, 10-15 minutes. Remove paper/foil and weights from dough, and continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes more. Remove from oven and set aside to cool; do not turn off oven.

3. Spread the mustard thinly over bottom of the cooled shell. Scatter evenly with cheese. Arrange tomatoes in even, slightly overlapping rows. Sprinkle with herbes de Provence, and season to taste with pepper. Bake until tomatoes begin to shrivel and cheese melts, 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, and serve either hot or at room temperaure.

15 August 2009

Deb's Best Birthday Cake

Yesterday was a busy baking day--class: two tarts, cookie dough, crème pâtissière, cold custard, flambéed apples in Calvados (YUM--if you've never done this, I HIGHLY SUGGEST doing so, because it makes plain apples into divinity incarnate). Fin bref, there was more butter and sugar than you could shake a stick at.

Then I came home and made a birthday cake.

Not just any birthday cake. Deb's Best Birthday Cake. As we all know by now, Deb is never wrong. She is especially right about everyone deserving a birthday cake, one that's homemade tastes like someone cares for you.

Are you reading this, Jeff?

(OK. Just kidding. Sort of.)

So I made a cake. I won't bore you with the recipe, since it's faithfully reproduced from the Smitten Kitchen, and let me tell you, this may have to go into my permanent repertoire. It's fluffy and light and, importantly, not dry and gross. I attempted Alice Waters' 1-2-3-4 cake from my most favorite of books, but it wasn't what I was hoping it would be. It has the extra, fussy step of whipping the egg whites as a leavener, and it just wasn't worth it. It just wouldn't do.

(Like I said, Deb is never wrong. Trust her.)

10 August 2009

A total and utter wuss

Normally, I wouldn't complain about the weather. Actually, it's something I make a point not to do--for nine months out of the year, I'm surrounded by people who have nothing better to gripe about. See, living for the first 20-something years of my life in the upper Midwest means that weather doesn't really faze me. Rain, snow, heat, cold, whatever. I have students who don't come to school when it rains. Because they don't go outside when it rains. I have a few concerns about them. Life concerns.

New Yorkers don't really get it about the weather. About how cold it can get. About how much snow actually can accumulate.

I will admit this, however: I'm a total and utter wuss when it comes to heat and humidity. I am not above going shopping for hours in order to stay in an air conditioned place. Yesterday, I seriously considered staying on the subway all day. Not that I needed to go anywhere. Just to sit and read in an air-conditioned spot. All day.

Eating? Forget it. I would live on a steady diet of ice cream and sorbet and fresh limeades if I could. But alas, a girl cannot live on ice cream alone. Even if it's Malted Milk Ice Cream with Fudge Ripple. Which may be one of the earth's most perfect foods. Tell me: what do you eat when it's so hot that you lose your appetite?

Malted Milk Ice Cream with Fudge Ripple, adapted from The Perfect Scoop

for the Malted Milk Ice Cream
1 1/4 cups whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup malt powder
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon cornstarch + 1 tablespoon milk, mixed to make a slurry

1. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl; set aside. In a medium pot, warm the milk, sugar, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, vanilla, and malt powder and set a mesh strainer on top.

2. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cornstarch/milk mixture. Temper the eggs--slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly (it helps to have a partner at this stage), then scrape the warmed yolk mixture back into the pot.

3. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and whisk it into the malted milk mixture. Stir until cool over an ice bath.

4. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

for the Fudge Ripple
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
6 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Mix all ingredients except the vanilla in a medium saucepan, and whisk constantly over medium heat, until it starts to bubble at the edges.

2. Allow mixture to simmer for 1 minute, whisking occasionally. Take off the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract. Chill in the refrigerator.

08 August 2009

Hello Fava!

Before last night, I'd never really considered the fava. I know, I know. Fava beans, favorite food of Hannibal Lecter. I'd had them once, in a purée at a fantastic little Italian restaurant in Chicago, but that had been about it. (The purée was good--bright green, sweet and bitter all at once--delicious. It must have been, since that meal was in 2005 and I'm still thinking about it.) But I'd never really given them too much thought otherwise.

Then they started showing up in my CSA. This past Wednesday was the third week in a row that they've poked their stalks through my little bag, and I decided that a cache of three weeks worth of beans would probably be enough to work with. See, you can't treat favas like any other bean. They are sneaky little buggers, hiding under layers of pod and fake bean. Like anything else worth having, favas are more than meets the eye. Even though they fat and heavy, they not only require shelling from the original pod, but then a boiling in their pale green fake bean shells, and then you can slip the fake beany shells off, revealing the tender bean beneath.

Oof. That's a lot of work for a bean, don't you think?

But the end result is beautiful: bright, shiny little pods that are grassy and earthy and slightly bitter. They are better than the best Lima bean in the world. (I don't really like Lima beans, so I guess that's not saying much, but really, they are quite nice.) I put them in at the end of a plain risotto, and they were just lovely. Along with a fresh green bean salad, it made for a light supper that was worth the work.

Fava Bean Risotto

1 1/2 to 2 pounds fava beans, peeled, boiled and shelled again, set aside

1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups risotto rice
1 small onion, finely chopped
4-5 cups stock, either chicken or vegetable, warmed
1/2 cup dry white wine
parmesan cheese, grated

1. In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat. When it's melted, add the onion and sauté until translucent, not allowing the onions to brown. When they are soft, add the rice, and stir constantly until glistening. Pour in the wine, and let simmer until it's just about gone, stirring constantly.

2. When the pot is almost dry, add 1/2 cup of the stock, and stir in. Let simmer, stirring from time to time, until the pot is almost dry. Repeat this process until the rice is plump and tender, and when you try it, it's just about cooked through, but still has a bite to it. This will take about 4-5 cups of stock or water, and about 15-20 minutes once you start adding the stock.

3. About 15 minutes after you started adding the stock, fold in the prepared fava beans. Add a tablespoon of butter and a handful of grated parmesan cheese, and beat in, to release the starch in the rice. Let sit 2 minutes before serving.

04 August 2009

Make as directed

See that beautiful machine right there? This is my new toy. I love it! I am *sightly* obsessed. You would be, too, if you loved ice cream as much as I do, and now had the opportunity to make it all the time. Let me explain. My dad and I, for some reason that neither of us can properly explain, love ice cream. My mom says that when they were first married, Dad would have some every night, for dessert. Not knowing this, I bought a lot and had it not infrequently, when Jeff and I first moved in. Father and daughter apparently had the same, nasty consequences: cavities. And you know what? Cavities are painful and expensive. So after quite a bit of mouthwork, we cut back.

However, let's remember that ice cream is the perfect summer food. (Let's ignore the butterfat content, shall we? Then we can go on believing that it's the perfect summer food.) I find that I'm often too hot to eat anything much, but ice cream and sorbet always seem to do the trick. So two weeks ago, the day before we had to load up all of our stuff into a truck and haul it to the new place, I took a Craigslist-inspired jaunt up to the Bronx. I mean, who doesn't take a two hour break from packing only to add more last-minute stuff to the already groaning pile of their belongings at the instant before they move?

It was the first thing I unpacked, and definitely the first appliance that I used (besides the stove) in the new house. Here is what I discovered: ice cream makes the unpacking process bearable. And thanks (?) to David Lebovitz, making ice cream is a snap. You should seriously consider an ice cream maker. (It would also make a lot of those food magazine articles more bearable--my pet peeve is when they require some equipment that you don't have and are like, make as directed for your machine! Spare me.)

Chocolate Star-Anise Ice Cream, slightly adapted from Not Eating Out in New York*

1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
8-10 pieces star anise
5 tablespoons dutch-process cocoa powder
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon cornstarch + 1 tablespoon milk, mixed to a slurry
3/4 cup sugar
a pinch of salt

1. Combine the milk, cream, star anise, and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce heat to very low and continue heating for 20 minutes, without boiling. Turn off heat and let stand, covered, another 10 minutes. Remove the star anise pieces from the milk.

2. Beat the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch slurry in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Temper the mixture by adding tablespoonfuls of the hot milk mixture and whisking at the same time--do this nice and slowly as to not make scrambled eggs. Repeat until about half a cup of liquid has been added. Transfer egg mixture to the milk mixture in the saucepan and stir constantly, cooking over medium heat, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. You will know that it's done when you dip a spoon in, coating the back, and can draw a finger down the middle, but the mixture doesn't run or try to go anywhere else. Do not let boil. Chill in an airtight container overnight; churn in the morning.

*It would appear as though this website's domain has "expired", and that the recipe has "disappeared." Thank god for chached websites.

02 August 2009

Like a construction zone

Annnnnnd.... we're back!

Hello everyone, and greetings from the depths of *almost* unpacked boxes and *almost* completed new furniture. It sure does look a lot nicer out there where you are, unless, of course, you happen to live in New York, where it's been raining every other day for weeks on end.

The new apartment is working out just fine, all things considered. It's spent a week looking like a construction zone, and therefore I have felt as though I've been living in one, too. It's been so hectic, even, that I've avoided grocery shopping, because there is no place to put food that isn't a) in the refrigerator, or b) on the floor, in a bunch of grocery bags that are holding all of the groceries from the old place.

Last night, though, was a breakthrough. We put together a new bookshelf, so that my cookbooks no longer feel neglected on the kitchen cart, and have begun to put together a kitchen island, which has loads of shelf space. I was so thrilled that I reached into the refrigerator to make a little more usable space and got out my rain-induced green tomatoes and fried them up.

It's funny sometimes, right? I mean, fried green tomatoes are a part of the American Cultural Identity (also, it was movie way back when), but how many of us, if we didn't grow up in the South, have eaten them? I certainly hadn't, and neither had Jeff. As a confirmed Yankee, I can wholeheartedly recommend them. I cut down the amount of egg, and swapped in panko for the cornmeal called for--also, Aleppo pepper, besides being my favorite, was the only one I had in the house, though cayenne or something else spicy would have worked here, too. They are tangy and sweet and crispy and good. If you are faced with green tomatoes, this is a pretty good way to eat them.

Fried Green Tomatoes, adapted from Epicurious

4 medium green tomatoes
salt and pepper
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 heaping teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 large egg, beaten and set aside
vegetable oil

1. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4-1/2 inch rounds, and salt and pepper them. Set aside.

2. In a shallow bowl, combine the panko and the Aleppo pepper, set aside.

3. In a large skillet, heat enough oil to liberally coat the bottom of the pan, and heat on medium-high. When the oil is hot, dip the tomato slices in the egg, and then dredge them through the panko mix. Try not to have either coating be too heavy (though you do want the panko to completely coat the tomatoes), or it will be less fun to eat. Fry them until nicely browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Once they're done drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and eat!

20 July 2009

Sour Cherry Pie, and commotion

Let me tell you something. This is the third post that I've written in a week. You don't believe me? It's probably better that way, since they were terrible. Terrible! Let's pretend that I didn't write them at all. That would make me feel better.

The thing is, I've been a little distracted. The weather has finally been nice, so I've been attempting to be outside for most of the time, and Jeff and I are moving in less than seven days to a new apartment with a kitchen that is even tinier than the one I have now. "How can that be?" those of you who have been at the current apartment are thinking. Ummmmm, I'm not sure. It just is. And I have been moping about it.

I suppose that I should be doing my darndest to take advantage of the kitchen that I have now, but really? It's been hot.

Whine, whine, whine.

Thankfully, we caved and put in the air conditioner, and that makes me feel better. YAY AIR CONDITIONER!! Now I can bake you a pie. Please excuse me while I do this.

While I'm off baking air-conditioner allowed pie, I should probably let you know that I'll be taking (another) brief hiatus, just so I can get things packed up and shipped out to the new place. I still have a few things to tell you about (maybe I'll re-write those posts that never made it), so hopefully I can get my act together. If not, I'll just throw myself a pity party and eat the rest of this pie.

Classic Sour Cherry Pie with Lattice Crust, adapted from Bon Appéit

for the crust: make two recipes worth of pie crust, found here, chilled in rounds

1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups whole pitted sour cherries, or dark sweet cherries (about 2 pounds)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (if using sour cherries), or 3 tablespoons (if using sweet cherries)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons raw sugar

1. Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Stir in cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla; set aside.

2. Roll out 1 dough round on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to a 9-inch glass pie dish. Trim dough overhang to 1/2-inch. Roll out second round on floured surface to another 12-inch round. Using large knife or pastry wheel, cut ten 3/4-inch wide strips from dough round. Transfer filling to pie dish, mounding slightly in center. Arrange dough strips on top, forming a lattice**; trim dough strip overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold bottom crust up over ends of strips and crimp edges to seal. Brush lattice crust with milk (but not the edges). Sprinkle top of pie with raw sugar.

3. Place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Bake pie until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown, covering edges with foil collar if browning too quickly, about 1 hour longer. Transfer pie to rack to cool completely.

**NB: A lattice crust is a painful thing to make. Next time, I'm going with a fully-covered pie.

11 July 2009

New York, New York

Where to even begin? This weekend has been the first that we've spent in New York in nearly a month, and it was a good one for reimmersion into city life. This whole week, actually, has been nice. Aside from making a delicious Boy Bait for a friend's backyard shindig, we also went to Katz's Delicatessen with our occasional dinner group, and today went to the Greenmarket at Union Square and bummed around Soho.

But back to Katz's. Perfect pastrami on rye, cheesy When Harry met Sally atmosphere, and great half-sour pickles, so green that they looked as though they were straight from the vine. Pickled. Check out the background, because it looks exactly the same now as it did in 1989:

After dinner, cinnamon babka from Russ and Daughters, a gem of a smoked fish and other Jewish foods outlet, only a block away from Katz's. I also picked up some smoked salmon. The picture above is from their website. I didn't take it myself.

What I did do myself, however, was make a version of our friend Mo's salmon carbonara. And maaaaaaan... it was good. It was simple and creamy and lemony and everything you would want out of such a dish. Moreover, it took about ten minutes to make, a perfect note to end on after a day of tromping around. I suggest you make it after such a day, too. It's delicious.

Salmon Carbonara, adapted from Mo Gunning

1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup cream or thereabouts
zest of 1/2 lemon
3 sprigs fresh dill, leaves only
1/2 pound angel hair pasta
1/4 pound smoked salmon, cut into small pieces, or flaked

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and season well with salt. Add pasta, and cook.

2. Meanwhile, heat butter in a large skillet, and add onion. Sauté until translucent. Add cream, lemon zest, and dill. Simmer slowly until pasta is done.

3. Drain pasta and add to cream mixture. Turn heat to medium and simmer for a minute or two, or until the cream sauce starts to thicken and absorb into the pasta. Add salmon and toss. Serve immediately. Add salt to taste.

08 July 2009

Seriously, here

One of the major things I miss about living anywhere else but here (and Paris) is the absence of a personal grill. Man, do I love grilled food. But who's kidding whom? We all love grilled food. So last night, when we were invited to an impromptu backyard/patio barbecue, we dropped everything else and hightailed it over there. And it was such a pleasant evening--sitting around with wine and beer, the tantalizing aroma of fat sizzling on hot coals, looking up at a quickly overcasting sky, it was great. I offered to bring dessert. Quelle surprise!

Even though Deb at the Smitten Kitchen only posted this recipe yesterday, I couldn't resist making it immediately. (By the way, how much do you love the Smitten Kitchen? I mean, seriously, here.) I had blueberries lying around from my less-than-stellar foray to the grocery store, and leftover buttermilk from my cherry cake from a few weeks ago, so there was nothing standing in my way! (I love knowing that I have all the ingredients for something. Running to the store can be the pits.)

And our cake? Light, luscious, slightly caramelized from the sugar topping--this may be my new favorite dessert. We all had seconds. More than a few of us surreptitiously went back for (small!) thirds. As one of our friends described it, it tasted fresh--not heavy, not cloying, just fresh. With or without all the baited boys that hang around the door.

Blueberry Boy Bait, adapted from the Smitten Kitchen

2 cups all purpose flour, + 1 tablespoon, set aside
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks/ 16 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar (use vanilla sugar if you've got it)
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup blueberries (if frozen do not defrost first

1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup sugar (vanilla, again, if you've got it)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

2. Whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl, and set aside. In a large bowl, beat sugars and butter until light and fluffy; add eggs, one at at time, stirring until just incorporated. Beat in one third of the flour mixture in, and stir until just added; add half of the milk, and stir in. Repeat, ending with the flour mixture. Toss blueberries with remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold in to the batter with a spatula. Spread batter into prepared pan.

3. Scatter remaining blueberries over the top of the batter. In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the top of the cake. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Let rest in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and let cool completely.

06 July 2009


Now that I've come back from the West, it would appear that my reset button has been pushed. Yesterday, wandering around the little grocery by my apartment, nothing looked good except yogurt, blueberries, and croutons. (I purchased all three.) And today... well, let's just say that I'm making my *new* standby of fried potatoes and sunny side up eggs, since I actually have a few potatoes, and a few eggs. I don't really want to go to the store. And thanks to Project June, my pantry is pretty much wiped out. I mean, looking at the canned goods, I have... 2 cans of pumpkin/sweet potato purée, one can of sliced bamboo shoots, and waaaaay more grains and pasta than I'll be able to eat in a few weeks. Also, way too much tea. Let's not even talk about the fridge. I mean, it's OK to eat eggs that have been sitting there for just over a week, right? That's what I thought, too.

I'm not even getting that little tingly glow from looking at my piles of recipes. I'm telling you, this is very dire. Luckily, Wednesday will bring fresh vegetables and new eggs, and maybe then I can start thinking about feeding myself again. Wish me luck.

04 July 2009


There is nothing so lovely as a roasted tomato. I love them straight-up roasted, with nothing but some baguette to soak up the juices, or with a little aged goat cheese on the side, or over pasta or polenta or with nothing else, save perhaps a fat basil leaf or two.

For me, roasted tomatoes are the essence of summer (that and anything grilled, but I don't have a grill *SOB*). They are especially good if you start with good tomatoes, preferably from the back yard, or the farmer's market or your CSA, if you're unfortunate enough not to have a good place to grow tomatoes. See, to me, a good tomato tastes like sun and warmth and is meaty and delicious. And the best part is, roasted tomatoes can be as ugly as they come--since they're going to melt in the oven anyway, there's just no reason for them to be perfect specimens. All tomatoes can get some love.

So it was only fitting that Jeff and I ended our summer vacation with them--after having spent almost 10 lovely days in Denver, we gave Jeff's mom a night off from cooking, and we made Jeff's very favorite summer pasta. Summer pasta has roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and plenty of herbs to brighten it up. It is warm and creamy and tastes pretty much like you would hope summer would.

Summer Pasta, adapted from The New York Times

2 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, sliced about 3/4-inch thick
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound chunky pasta, such as farfalle or orichiette
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cups fresh, ripe cherry tomatoes
1 tub (about 12 ounces) fresh mozzarella, either the small balls or large
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup torn mixed herbs, such as assorted basils, parsely, and mint

1. roast the tomatoes Heat oven to 275 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchement paper or aluminum foil, and place tomato slices evenly on them. Sprinkle the tomatoes evenly with salt and sugar; pour on olive oil. You may need a little more; also, make sure that each tomato gets at least a smattering of oil--I usually rub it in with my fingers. Bake tomatoes for 15 minutes, and reduce heat to 200. Continue baking, turning halfway through, until tomatoes are shrunken and chewy, but not crisp, 4-6 hours.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, chop roasted tomatoes very finely, until they are almost a paste. Place in a large serving bowl, and add the garlic, butter, and olive oil. When the pasta is done cooking, drain and add it to the tomato mixture. Toss well.

3. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, and cut the mozzarella until it's about the same size as the tomatoes. Add these, as well as the parmasan and herbs, to the pasta mixture. Toss again, and serve warm.

25 June 2009

Busy days

For no particular reason, today was a lot more tiring than it should have been. I won't bore you with the details. Luckily, I had a friend drop by to borrow a book, and we chatted with a glass of wine. Just what the doctor ordered--things just look so much brighter after a good chat. And good wine.

But being busy also meant that I wasn't in the mood for making dinner. Luckily, making pesto is a snap--just throw some stuff into a food processor, boil some pasta, and voilà! Dinner. An intensely green, fresh and grassy and herbal dinner. (Sorry about the lack of visual here, but Jeff's camera is packed away for our upcoming trip and I'm not sure where he put it--hopefully I will remember to post them sometime soon.) Pesto freezes very nicely, too, so make a big batch and put it in the freezer, ready for the days when you just can't deal with cooking.

Garlic scapes are a great addition to pesto--they are curly and springy and nearly as pungent as garlic. I got mine through my CSA, and I wasn't sure what to do with them, but this worked out perfectly. If you don't have scapes, punch up the basil and add 2-3 cloves of peeled garlic. Works like a charm.

Garlic Scape and Basil Pesto

1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
5-7 or so garlic scapes, green parts sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup olive oil
salt to taste
lots of Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

1. Wash your basil leaves, and put into a food processor. Add the scapes. Chop finely, until the basil and scapes make a heady green paste. (Note: this paste will be kind of chunky. Chop as finely as you like.)

2. With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil, 1/4 cup at a time, adding salt in between drizzles.

3. Serve over pasta, but be sure to save some of the pasta water to loosen the pesto. Otherwise it gets really clumpy and sad. Shower with Parmesan. Eat.

24 June 2009

More CSA madness

I have to say that the CSA experience this year is dramatically improved from last year. Last year, we had a fruit share that came in every other week. The fruit was okay, not great, and Jeff and I were constantly forgetting to go pick it up. Also, the produce was just kind of sad, wilting listlessly in its bins. I struggled for a while with the fact that I wasn't a fan. That I didn't want to do that again this year.

But I didn't want to give up on CSA in general. It's something I believe in, something important. I believe that supporting small farms is better for the environment, makes for better community, and really? The food tastes better too. (Joe would contend that I sound like Michael Pollan. So what? I think, no, I know, he's right. Go read the book(s), lazy.) It is difficult, though, to send in a fair amount of money up front, only to not know what kind of produce you'll be faced with when the growing season comes around.

So far, I'm glad I haven't given up. Our produce is beautiful, and I just bought a share of eggs, too... because really? I. Love. Eggs. On the other hand, I've been wracking my brain for ways to use chard, without going back to the world's best quiche. Tonight: quick stir-fried greens. I made these last week, before heading out to Minnesota, and they were fantastic. Not entirely original, perhaps, but waaaaaaay better than I had been expecting. Pair it with some stir fry and some steamed rice, and you're good to go. If you don't have chard, any green will do, really (like the bok choy featured along with the chard in the photo).

Soy Sautéed Greens

1 bunch fresh large-leaf greens (chard, spinach, ect.)
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste.
1 tablespoon peanut oil, or another neutral oil
1-2 teaspoon soy sauce
salt, to taste

1. Wash greens well, and remove the tough stems. If you're using large leaves, stack them, roll like a cigar, and slice, about 1/2-inch thick or so. This is only helpful, though, if you don't want to gnaw your way through large leaves. Just a thought.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. When it's hot, add the garlic and pepper, and sauté about 30 seconds or so, until fragrant. Add greens, and sauté until wilted. Add soy sauce, and stir to coat, taste, and add salt. When the greens are cooked though, take off the heat and serve. This really doesn't take long, so keep a sharp eye on them. Three minutes max, if you're working with a hot stove.

23 June 2009

CSA madness

I have to admit that I am having a teeny bit of a hard time keeping up with the produce that my CSA has been throwing my way (even though we only have half a share). What is mostly to blame is the fact that Jeff and I have been traveling fiends for the past month: first we went camping in the Catskills, last weekend we went to Reunion ('04Ever!), and Friday we're off again, this time for an extended 10 days. This time, we're headed to Colorado, to see both sets of parents, friends, and some mountains. In the meantime, I've been trying to clear out my fridge, with limited success. Today, though, I did finish up my chard from last week. Thank goodness. Tomorrow looks like more chard... it may be a stir-fry night.

In any case, if you need something to do with chard (besides lap it up with fried eggs, of course), I highly suggest these darling little rolls. Though I have to say that next time, I would increase the number of rolls to about 15 or so, maybe even a few more. I also only had about half of the chard recommended, which was fine, I think. I might also make a quick tomato sauce to replace the béchamel. Actually, this is one of the great things about Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone: her recipes are solid, but often need a little tweaking (mostly for salt). And with her, it's fairly easy to figure out what to do, because her recipes are familiar enough, but also not.

Cannelloni with Chard Filling, adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

12 sheets no-boil lasagna noodles (Barilla is a good bet)
béchamel sauce, made with 1 1/2 cups milk, 3 tablespoons butter, 3 1/2 tablespoons flour; also salt and pepper to taste
2 large bunches chard, stems removed
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 white onion, finely diced
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg, to taste

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and blanch the chard for 5 minutes. Remove chard, and pour water over noodles, to soak them, 5 minutes. Set aside while you rinse the chard under cold water; squeeze dry, finely chop, and put into a large bowl. When the noodles are "done", place them on clean kitchen towels to rest; discard water.

2. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and parsely and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the onion to the chard and mix with the ricotta, half of the Parmesan, lemon zest, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste, set aside.

3. Meanwhile, make your béchamel: heat the butter and flour over medium-low heat, whisking constantly for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture starts to turn lightly brown. Gradually add the milk, still whisking constantly, until it is nice and thick. Not milkshake thick, but definitely getting there. Remove from heat.

4. Butter a shallow baking pan and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Shape and fill the cannelloni: place about 2-3 tablespoons filling onto one edge of the pasta, and roll fairly firmly, as though you were making a fat cigar. Place into pan seam side up, nestled next to each other. Pour béchamel over rolls, and bake until lightly browned and bubbling, about 30 minutes.

17 June 2009

Beautiful cake

Doesn't this cake look beautiful? It's such a lovely one to make, and so easy. Mix some stuff, but not too strenuously. Scatter fruit. Sprinkle sugar. Bake. It tastes beautiful, too--all red-fruity and light and moist. This might turn into my go-to summer dessert this year. Raspberries are the original recommended fruit, but I had some leftover cherries from last weekend's camping trip (you can see the photos on my flickr page), and they worked out wonderfully.

I made it for my book club last night, and it went over pretty darn well--especially considering that the members of said book club are generally restrained when it comes to eating sweets. It went over so well, in fact, that I'm considering making another one to bring to the MN for Jeff the girls at Reunion tomorrow.

**A few notes on the cake**
1. I would cut the sugar just a little. Maybe 1/2 cup instead of 2/3.
2. Ideally, this should be served warm, so the sugar crust stays nice and crisp. It's not bad, don't get me wrong, when it's been resting all day, but a little heat would do it nicely.
3. I'm going to add a little lemon zest next time, too.

Cherry Buttermilk Cake, adapted from Gourmet

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and halved

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. (I did this all by hand, and it came out just fine.) Beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well.

4. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.

5. Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter cherries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

6. Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. (Mine was done right at minute 25, so be sure to start checking around then.) Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10-15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

16 June 2009

With a bang

Summer produce has finally arrived with a bang. Yesterday's quick tour of the Union Square greenmarket proved that--there were so many different things to see and to eat: lovely bouquets of freshly-picked flowers, new strawberries, fat zucchini, green onions, and more salad greens than you could shake a stick at. I tried to restrain myself, as I was only there for a few potatoes and onions, but couldn't resist a quart of beautiful, small strawberries, shining in the sun.

Part of the reason I attempted to demonstrate a little restraint was that the veggies from our CSA started to come in last week. Perfectly sweet turnips, sharp braising greens, oh-so-pink radishes, and enough scallions and new garlic to make my house smell like onion for days. And there are a few more coming in tomorrow, so... I'm doing my best not to overstock the fridge. And so to use up those perfectly lovely greens, I made an old standby: braised greens with polenta and fried eggs.

I know. If you don't like eggs, this is not the recipe for you. If you don't like bitter greens, see the previous comment. (I'm fairly certain that most of you like polenta, so I won't have to say anything about that.) But this is one of my favorite things to eat, especially if I'm cooking for one (I just cut the recipe in half). The sharp bite of the greens, along with the sweetness of the polenta, smeared in runny egg yolk, well... this might be the ultimate comfort food, if you're me.

Polenta with Quick Greens and Olive Oil Fried Eggs

3 cups water
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons stone-ground polenta (I cannot recommend highly enough seeking out decent polenta. The 5-minute stuff that comes in a box is foul.)
a pinch of salt
1 bunch braising greens, rinsed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped.
olive oil
1 generous teaspoon (or 2) red pepper flakes
4 eggs

1. Bring the water to a quick boil, and pour in your polenta and salt. Whisk for about a minute, and turn the heat down to low. Simmer the polenta for about 25 minutes, or as long as you like, stirring frequently. I ususally let mine go for 20-30 minutes, but longer is fine. Add water if it's getting too thick.

2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. When it's hot, add the garlic and pepper flakes, and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the greens, stir to coat with the oil, and cover. Let steam and wilt for about 2-3 minutes. Take off the lid, and let cook a few minutes more. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Meanwhile in a non-stick skillet, fry your eggs to your preferred consistency.

Serve all together, generously sprinkled with parmesean cheese, if you like.

serves 2

09 June 2009

Still kicking

For the most part, I'm glad I've started on the Project June mission. I've been meaning to eat up my pantry for a long time, but you know how it goes. There's so many things that are good to eat, and often so appealing, that are not made of ingredients that you already have. That just seems to be how it rolls, you know? So it seemed like tackling the dried garbanzo beans would be a good way to start.

I tried making garbanzo beans from scratch a few years ago, and it was a complete and utter disaster. I don't even know where I went wrong, but I know I soaked those beans for hours, and then had them simmering for hours more on the stovetop, and they just refused to cook through. After that one, pathetic attempt, I decided that cooked, canned beans were the way to go. I trust them pretty well. I mean, they taste fine. They are a little more expensive than I would like, but hey, that's the breaks. Every time I so much as glanced at a dried bean, I remembered the garbanzo bean debacle. Canned it was.

And then. I keep reading about these beans from Rancho Gordo. They are supposed to be more delicious than delicious. I caved and bought a pound, and they now stare at me reproachfully whenever I open the pantry. In order to assuage my guilt, I decided to take another stab at the garbanzos before heading for the reportedly delicious ones. So I consulted with Mark Bittman, followed his directions and... voilà! Perfect, and really good tasting. I can't believe I waited this long. But you knew where that was heading, didn't you? Obviously.

The garbanzo beans don't really merit a recipe. Instead, I present to you the moronically simple steps I followed. (I'm still kicking myself about this. It's a little ridiculous.)

Rinse and pick over a pound of garbanzo/whatever kind beans. (Mark Bittman says to source your beans from a place with a high turnover, so they don't sit on the shelf for a million years before you cook them, rendering them impossible to cook.) Before you go to work in the morning, pour the beans into a large pot with a tight-fitting lid, and cover with plenty of water (a couple of inches). When you get home, 8-12 hours later, drain the beans and taste for doneness. If they still need time, cover them with about 2 inches of water and set them on the stove. Bring to a simmer. Taste for doneness every 10 minutes or so. Salt. Use in whatever bean dish your heart desires.

08 June 2009

Non-winner pie

Secret project revealed:This weekend I entered a pie contest. Oh, I know, I know. Why the secrecy? Well... I just didn't want to jinx it, ok? I kind of wanted to win, but I didn't. I had a really good pie, too--it was creamy and chocolatey and crispy crunchy on the bottom. Honestly? We think it should have won. This was completely unbiased opinion, by the way. But it probably didn't help my case that I had to carry it to Governor's Island from my house on a fairly warm day, and it really needed to be refrigerated. So it was a drippy pie by the time it got to the contest.

BUT: the Jazz-Age Festival was fun--there was a live band playing music from the 20s, and there were plenty of people walking around in white linnen, flapper dresses, and cloche hats. There was even a dance floor. And it was a completely gorgeous day: sunny, breezy, a lawn for sitting. Governor's Island is less than a mile off of the southern tip of Manhattan, and we met some friends for a picnic. I provided the pie. A non-winning pie.

(I don't mean to sound bitter, really. But you know what? The winner was a brownie pie. I know what you're thinking. "What's wrong with a brownie pie? That sounds good!" Yeah, well, as far as I could tell, it was some brownies baked into a crust. Excuse me, but since when are brownies baked into a crust "pie"??? As far as I can tell, the judges really needed to be judging brownies. Brownie pie seems like cheating. Grumble.)

Cream of Coconut-Chocolate Ganache Pie with Ginger Crust

for the crust
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
7 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced, plus a pat to grease the pan
1-2 tablespoons cold milk

for the chocolate ganache
10 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream

for the coconut pudding
4 large egg yolks
3 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. make the crust Grease a tart or pie pan with butter and set aside. Grate the ginger using the smallest grater you have; discard the woody fibers and save the pulp and juice. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Add the butter and ginger remains, and rub them into the dry ingredients with the tips of your fingers or with a pastry blender, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add a tablespoon of the milk and blend it in, handling the dough as lightly as you can. The dough should still be crumbly, but it should clump if you gently squeeze a handful in your hand. If it doesn't, add a little more milk, teaspoon by teaspoon (there are 3 in a tablespoon), and blend again, till working lightly, until it reaches the desired consistency.

2. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and use the back of a tablespoon to spread it evenly over hte bottom. Using the heels of your hands and your fingers, press down on the dough to form a thin layer, covering the surface of the pan and creating a rim all around. Don't worry if the dough feels kind of dry--this is normal. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes and up to a day.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden, keeping an eye on it. Transfer to a rack to cool.

4. make the ganache Put the chocolate medium mixing bowl, preferably stainless steel. Bring the cream to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Pour half of the cream on the chocolate, let stand for 20 seconds, and stir gently in the center with a whisk, gradually blending the cream with the chocolate until smooth. Add half of the remaining cream, and stir again until combined. Repeat with remaining cream.

5. Pour the chocolate into the tart shell, and level the surface with a spatula. Put in the refrigerator to set for an hour.

6. for the coconut cream Prepare an ice bath and set aside. In a bowl, lightly whisk egg yolks and set aside. In a saucepan, whisk together coconut milk, granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Bring to a simmer (do not boil), and cook, whisking constantly, 3-4 minutes.

7. Whisk a quarter of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks, then whisk in the remaining milk mixture. Strain into a clear saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until custard is thick and bubbles appear in the center, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl, and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Set in the ice bath until completely chilled, 30-35 minutes. Filling can be kept in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 1 day.

8. When everything is nice and chilly, pour the custard on top of the ganache, and chill once again before eating.

04 June 2009


I've been thinking a lot about dessert lately. About how much I like to make dessert. About what I like to eat. And about what other people like to eat. More specifically, I've been thinking about pie. See, I have a project involving pie, but I don't want to tell you about it--not yet. I will, soon, I promise. All my thinking means that I've been looking through my millions of dessert recipes for inspiration, pie-related and otherwise. So when we were invited to dinner for tonight, with a request to bring dessert, I knew exactly what I wanted to make.

This never happens. I mean, I usually hem and haw and choose something and then something else. I'll put in a call to my mom, and try ideas out on various and sundry ears. This time it was different. See, I had to clean out my massive stack of cooking magazines, and, in a fit of extreme organization, I collated all the recipes I wanted to try out into a nice, neat, less than half-pound notebook. Fresh from that little escapade (collating, whoo!!) I had in mind a coconut mint cake. Reading the recipe, though, I wrinkled my nose at the thought of making a double layer cake. Cupcakes, though... perfect.

And they are delicious. The coconut milk-sweetened condensed milk mix makes the cupcakes really moist and lovely, and the mint whipped cream was a nice addition, too. Next time, though, I think I would make a not-terribly-sweet mint buttercream frosting instead, since the whipped cream doesn't travel well. And despite the strong presence of coconut, they are very mild. I refrigerated them before we ate them, and I think that helped the consistency, too; I suggest you do the same.

Coconut-Mint Cream Cupcakes, adapted from Food and Wine

1 1/3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 + 1/4 cup sugar, divided
2 large egg whites
10 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
10 tablespoons coconut cream (the thick stuff on the top of a can of coconut milk--I needed two cans worth of milk and saved the rest)

mint whipped cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup heaving whipping cream, chilled

sweetened flaked coconut, for garnish

1. cakes Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 cupcake tins with liners, and set aside.

2. Sift cake flour, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Mix milk and vanilla extract into a small bowl, and set aside.

3. Beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl until well blended. Beat in flour mixture alternately with milk mixture in several batches, alternating, and beating just to blend after each addition.

4. With clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry peaks form. Fold egg whites into batter in 3 additions.

5. Pour batter into muffin tins. Bake until tester comes out clean; check at 15 minutes. (Be very careful with your timing here--cupcakes can go from perfect to terrible in about 2 minutes.)

6. Meanwhile, combine condensed milk and coconut cream in a small bowl.

7. Remove cakes from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Poke holes all over top of each cake layer with toothpick. Pour coconut cream mixture by large spoonfuls over cakes, allowing mixture to be absorbed before adding more. Cool completely in pans.

1. mint whipped cream Stir mint, sugar, and water in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Cook just until bubbles appear. Cover and remove from heat, let steep 30 minutes.

2. Strain syrup into large bowl, pressing on mint. Cool completely. Add 3/4 cup whipping cream to syrup and beat until firm peaks form. Turn cakes out of pans, and frost.