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Monday, September 22, 2014

The Same But Different

Food52.com
I like recipes I can play around with.  Usually you can't really play around with cakes, because well, they're cakes, and cakes rely on chemistry to work.  But this nice little apple cake, perfect for the Jewish holidays, is one of those cakes that's flexible.

While I am not a huge fan of said Jewish holidays, I do really love the food, apple cake in particular.  Maybe it's my memories of my Grandma Fannie's (yes, her name really was Fannie) apple strudel, or maybe it was that apple cake from the Beverlywood Bakery.  Who knows.

My mother, as we have established in past posts, was no Martha Stewart, but she could bake an apple cake.  It wasn't a great apple cake, but it was good enough to trot out on the high holidays.  Regretfully, her recipe is long gone.  It would have been nice to be able to play around with hers, but this recipe for Teddie's Apple Cake approximates hers in style, but is way, way better.

But I digress.  I played around with this recipe, just a little bit.  I used olive oil in place of vegetable oil, and one cup of brown sugar in place of one of the cups of granulated sugar.  I also soaked the raisins in a little Calvados.  The resulting cake was moist and sweet, and the olive oil added an interesting fruitiness.  I'm always a fan of booze, so the Calvados soaked raisins added a little something extra.

What could be bad?

Recipe:  Teddie's Apple Cake
Food52.com

Ingredients:

Butter for greasing pan
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups peeled, cored, and thickly sliced tart apples like Honeycrisp or Granny Smith
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins

Directions:

Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch tube pan. Beat the oil and sugar together in a mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment) while assembling the remaining ingredients. After about 5 minutes, add the eggs and beat until the mixture is creamy.
Sift together 3 cups of flour, the salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Stir into the batter. Add the vanilla, apples, walnuts and raisins and stir until combined.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before lifting out. Serve at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nuts and Cherries


I have tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to master the art of the granola bar.  Either they are too soft and they fall apart, or they are so hard that the dental health of all who sample said bars is compromised.  Needless to say, a lesser food professional would give up and opt for the store bought variety.

But I am no such person.  I'm not sure how much a food professional I am, but I refuse to be daunted by something so seemingly simple as a granola bar.  I hope.

The other day I was perusing through my email and came upon a missive from Food 52.  Now, I love Food 52, although I'm never really sure exactly what Food 52 is.  Yes, there are recipes, but I don't know who actually contributes them.  And yes, there are nice food-ish things to buy, but I'm never sure what the connection to Food 52 is.  Well, it doesn't matter anyway.

Back to the email.  There was a nice little recipe for Bulk Bin Snack Bars.  I liked the sound of that, although I don't usually partake of the bulk food section of my grocery store.  Nonetheless, I knew that lurking in my pantry, I must have had pretty much everything called for in the recipe.  And if I didn't well, so be it.   I could always substitute.

The resulting snack bars, while not exactly granola bars, were perhaps my best ever foray into the snack bar realm.  I mean, these were absolutely delicious.

Of course, I substituted.  I didn't have any flaxseed (because I recently dropped an entire opened bag of said flaxseed on the floor.  I am still hearing the crunch crunch of flaxseed beneath my feet, despite sweeping 10,000 times).  I used toasted wheatgerm instead.  The recipe also called for 1/4 cup of applesauce, which I also left out simply because I forgot to add it.  (This happens when you (1) don't get everything out in advance, and (2) think you know everything and add ingredients out of order.)  Not to worry, the bars were plenty sweet without the applesauce.  And the best thing about these bars is that they are chilled, not cooked!  Yay!

These bars were so good that I've eaten one every day since I made them.  You may not think this remarkable, but usually I try a little nibble of whatever I've made and then dutifully pack the rest up and send it off to the office with Ted.  Not these.  I don't want to share.  And you won't either.  (That is, unless you are inherently a much more giving person than I am, which is entirely possible.)

Recipe:  Bulk Bin Snack Bars
Adapted from Food52.com

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup oats
3/4 cups sliced almonds
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup pepitas
1/2 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds
1/3 cup toasted wheat germ
1/3 cup honey
1 cup almond butter

Directions:

Line a baking tin or dish (9x13 or 8x8 -- whichever you prefer for thinner or thicker bars) with wax paper so that it extends over the edge.

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add honey, almond butter, and combine.  (This will seem very gloppy, but just keep mixing. It'll all come together.)

Pour the mixture into the baking dish, and flatten and spread with an offset spatula.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer overnight.

Remove from freezer and cut into bars.  These are best stored in the fridge in a tupperware, with layers separated by wax paper.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Cool Dinner for a Hot Night


I know I'm like a broken record, but it's been hot and when it's hot, I try to avoid turning on the oven.

Here's the thing.  My house is over 100 years old, and while it is fully air-conditioned (obviously added years after it was built),  not all of the rooms benefit equally from said central air-conditioning.  And heating for that matter.  Kate's room, for example, is coldest in the winter and warmest in the summer.  Charlie's room, which is right next to Kate's, is the complete opposite.  Go figure.

The kitchen seems to be in an ecosystem all its own, because the rest of the first floor bears no similarity in temperature.  Like Kate's room on the second floor, the kitchen is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.  This problem is obviously exacerbated in the warm months by using the appliances, most specifically the oven.  Turning on the oven is pretty much a direct ticket to hell, so obviously I try to limit my oven use to early mornings and after the sun goes down.

Needless to say, being of a certain age, I have absolutely no need to add to my already somewhat fickle body temperature issues.  In an effort to keep things a little cooler, I have taken to making dinners that rely on anything but the oven.  In fact, I would chop 1,000 vegetables into 10,000 tiny little pieces if the net result is that I can avoid turning on the oven.

The other day Ina Garten made caponata on her Barefoot Contessa show.  She served it with lovely little pita chips.  It was very appealing, but did not a dinner make.  Still, I wanted to make the caponata.  We are not really dip people, so I decided to make the caponata and serve it as a sauce for grilled swordfish.  I grilled the swordfish and let it come to room temperature and then served the whole platter the same way.

The nice thing about this recipe is that it makes quite a bit of the caponata, and the flavors develop as it sits in the frig.  So, you can serve this lovely cold dinner and still have caponata left over to serve another day with cocktails, al fresco, of course.

Recipe:  Grilled Swordfish featuring Ina Garten's Caponata

For the caponata:

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds)
Good olive oil
4 ounces jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
1/2 cup large green olives, pitted and chopped
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
3 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Toasted pita triangles, for serving

For the swordfish:

Swordfish steaks
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.

Place the whole eggplant on the pan, prick with a fork in several places, and rub with olive oil. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes, until the eggplant is very soft when pierced with a knife. Set aside to cool. Halve the eggplant, peel, and discard the skin. Place the eggplant, peppers, and olives in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped. Pour into a mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the onion and red pepper flakes and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the onion is lightly browned. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, and add to the eggplant mixture. Add the parsley, pine nuts, lemon juice, capers, tomato paste, vinegar, salt, and pepper and mix. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to develop.

Prepare a grill pan or a barbecue.

Drizzle the swordfish steaks with olive oil and then season generously with salt and pepper.  Cook to desired doneness.

Spread caponata on a serving platter.  Place the swordfish on top and sprinkle with chopped parsley.  Serve at room temperature.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Peanut Buttery


It is indeed good news that no one in my house has a peanut allergy.  We love all things peanut around here, especially peanut butter.  We're not even picky.  We love the lowbrow (Skippy and Jif), all the way up the ladder to the fancy schmancy artisanal stuff.  Kate has recently introduced me to Justin's, which is sort of in the middle of the range, and I have to say that I'm a real fan of the honey peanut butter.

As I mentioned, I really love peanut butter.  My preferred way of eating it is directly from the jar.  So, you're saying "big deal.  I do that too."  Well, I like to drizzle the honey directly into the jar and make my own perfect combination of peanut butter and honey.  I'm sure my family wonders why the peanut butter is always so sweet with honey.  It's because I'm a drizzler.

Okay, I'll admit it.  It's probably kind of gross that I drizzle the honey directly into the jar, but let's just, for a moment, consider other vices I could have.  Things could be a whole lot worse.

The point of this confession, besides my pathological need to over-share, is that as much as I like my peanut butter straight, I really love a good peanut butter cookie.

Don't kid yourself, a good peanut butter cookie is tough to find.  Some are soggy.  Some are greasy.  It's no small feat to make the perfect peanut butter cookie.

But I have and I didn't do it alone.  I had a great recipe which, as we all know, is pretty much essential for successful baking.  This recipe is from The Model Bakery Cookbook.  You really should go out and buy this cookbook, because I haven't made anything from it that hasn't been the best example of whatever it happens to be.  (As an aside, on my baking bucket list, is making Model Bakery english muffins, although maybe I should just put visiting the Model Bakery on the list. I could eat an english muffin right there at the source, and save myself a whole lot of rising time.)

Recipe:  Model Bakery Peanut Butter Cookies
Model Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients:

3 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 c. chunky peanut butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position racks to center and top third of oven. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. 

Sift flour, baking soda and salt together. Beat the butter and both sugars with an electric mixer on high until pale yellow, about one to two minutes. Add in eggs, one at a time and beat well. Beat in peanut butter. Reduce to low speed and gradually add flour mixture, mixing just until combined. 

I use a small scoop for these cookies but you can go up to 1/4 cup for the size. Bake about 15 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through baking.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Crunchy Enough


My friend Heidi has been getting me in the granola mood lately.  I used to make granola all the time, but like so many things, I kind of fell out of the habit.  Or maybe I went into granola overload.  Or maybe I realized that despite sounding healthy, granola is more akin to a dessert than it is to say...breakfast.

Anyway, while I was waiting for Heidi to send me her current favorite granola recipe, this one appeared in the Off Duty section of the Wall Street Journal.  I love the Off Duty section.  Aside from some seriously good recipes, I love to peruse how "the other half lives".  Doesn't everyone need a $10,000 handbag?

This is a really nice recipe.  It's not too sweet, and it's very crunchy.  For me, minimal sweetness and maximum crunchiness are two make or break aspects of any good granola.  Sometimes granola is just so damn sweet that I think my teeth are going to fall out.  And, often it's just not crunchy enough.  I don't like it so crunchy that my over sweetened teeth are going to break, but it does need a little crunch to keep it interesting.  Plus, the more work it is to eat, the less I'm going to eat, thus removing the threat of eating 10,000 calories worth of granola for breakfast.
Heidi has since sent me her newest granola recipe, so for you granola lovers out there, stay tuned...

Recipe:  Double-Almond Cherry Granola
Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2014

Ingredients:

½ cup almond butter
½ cup honey
¼ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons chia seeds, optional
1 teaspoon sea salt
¾ cup dried cherries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a small saucepan over low heat, mix almond butter, honey and sugar until mixture is meltingly soft and combined, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in cinnamon and vanilla.

In a large bowl, toss together oats, almonds, chia seeds and salt. Pour almond butter mixture over oat mixture and toss well. It will be sticky. Make sure oats, almonds and chia seeds are well coated.

Spread oat mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Place in oven and bake, stirring once halfway through, until golden brown, about 20 minutes. (Granola will be soft when removed from oven but will become crunchier as it cools.) Let cool on baking sheet, then stir in cherries. (Cooled granola will keep for 3-4 weeks in an airtight container.)




Thursday, July 31, 2014

Another Wednesday To Love


I love Wednesdays because I know there's always something to look forward to.  Not every day is like that.  In fact, most days are pretty mundane. Get up, exercise, do chores, cook dinner, go to sleep.  I'm not complaining.  Things could be a lot worse.

But Wednesdays are special.  That's NYT Dining day.  I know that even if the news on every other page of the newspaper is bad, that the Dining section is guaranteed to make me happy.  I know that no matter what is happing at home or abroad, Melissa Clark or David Tanis are sure to have written about something I am anxious to cook.

It really doesn't take much to make me happy.

Last Wednesday was a real cooking bonanza.  So much so that I made a couple of recipes from the Dining section.


This recipe for cold roast pork with green bean salad is absolutely perfect for these hot summer days. In fact, it's the kind of meal that I always envision being served at one of those really long tables in the middle of a tuscan garden.  Or a garden in the South of France.  Or a backyard in Pittsburgh.

Recipe:  Cold Roast Pork with Green Bean Salad
David Tanis, New York Times, July 23, 2014

Ingredients:

For the Pork:

1 boneless pork loin roast, about 4 pounds
Kosher salt
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fennel fronds, plus extra fronds for garnish
2 teaspoons fennel seed, crushed in a mortar or spice mill
1 teaspoon fennel pollen (optional)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons roughly chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons roughly chopped sage
2 tablespoons roughly chopped marjoram
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (peperoncino)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Salad:

1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound green beans, or a mixture of green beans, yellow beans and Romano beans, trimmed
2 heads fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced

Directions:

For the Pork:

Season pork loin generously on all sides with salt (about 2 tablespoons).

In a small bowl, combine garlic, fennel fronds, fennel seeds, fennel pollen if using, lemon zest, rosemary, sage, marjoram, red pepper flakes, black pepper and olive oil. Rub and pat mixture on loin, then wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for several hours, or preferably overnight. Bring to room temperature before roasting.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place a rack in a roasting pan. Put loin on the rack and roast for about an hour, until a thermometer registers 130 degrees. Let cool to room temperature before serving. If desired, after cooling you can wrap and refrigerate loin for up to 24 hours, then return to room temperature.

For the Salad:

For the dressing, put garlic and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and whisk in olive oil.

Blanch beans in boiling salted water for 2 minutes, then drain and cool. Put beans and fennel in a salad bowl, season lightly with salt and toss with dressing. (Dress salad about 20 minutes before serving.)

To serve, cut roast into 1/4-inch slices. arrange on a platter and garnish with reserved fennel fronds. Pass the salad separately.

YIELD 6 to 8 servings

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cook This Immediately


One of my favorite cookbooks is Cook This Now by Melissa Clark.  As those of you out there who have been reading this blog for a long time know, I love Meliisa Clark and I love Melissa Clark's recipes.  In fact, if anyone out there in You Little Tarte-land knows Melissa Clark, I'd be very happy if you could introduce me.  I'm just putting it out there.  Just in case.

But my point is, Melissa Clark cooks the way I want to eat.  She uses only the freshest ingredients, but more than that, her recipes are accessible and they work.  Yes, they work.  In fact, I've never made a Melissa Clark recipe that wasn't (a) delicious, and (b) didn't work.

Melissa Clark strikes me as a person who enjoys her job as a food writer.  She also strikes me as a person who doesn't have a complicated relationship with food.  With the exception of dealing with her husband's lactose intolerance, it appears that Melissa is pretty much game to try anything.  I like that in a food writer.

So, today's delicious cavalcades of flavor (you like that, don't you?) come from the aforementioned Cook This Now cookbook by Melissa Clark.  Oddly enough, despite using this cookbook nearly to death since I purchased it a couple of years ago, I've never made either of these recipes.  I can't imagine why.

The first recipe is for Panfried Striped Bass with Anchovy Garlic Bread Crumbs and Basil.  Need I say more?  Anchovies? Garlic?  Yum, and double yum.  The only thing that could possibly make this recipe more appealing is the addition of olives.  You might think the fish with the fish would be a little on the fishy side, but it's not.  The combination is definitely salty, but salty in the very best way possible.  Even if you are a confirmed anti-anchovy person, you may find your mind being changed forever.  And if, perchance, it is not, at least you tried to widen your horizons, which is always a good thing.  Trust me.

And because I needed something to go along with the fish, just a few pages further into the July section of the book, is this recipe for Corn Salad with Tomatoes, Avocados, and Lime Cilantro Dressing.   Don't reject this out of hand because you think cilantro tastes like soap (which I do not).  Instead, substitute in flat leaf parsley.  It will still be delicious.

And while you're at it, adding Cook This Now to your cookbook collection would be a really good idea.  As would be introducing me to Melissa.

Recipe:  Panfried Striped Bass with Anchovy Garlic Bread Crumbs and Basil
Cook This Now by Melissa Clark

Ingredients:

 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 anchovy fillets
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup coarse bread crumbs (I used panko)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Chopped fresh basil, for serving
Lemon wedges for serving

Directions:

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the anchovies and cook, stirring and breaking up with a wooden spoon, until the anchovies have melted into the butter, 1 to 2 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the bread crumbs and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Season with pepper.  Scrape the bread brumes into a small bowl.

Wipe out the pan and return it to medium high heat.  Add the oil and heat until very hot but not smoking.  Season the fish with salt and pepper.  Add the fish to the skillet skin-side down.  It should sizzle when it hits the pan.  Cook, without moving, until the edges and sides of the fish are opaque, about 5 minutes.  Carefully flip the fish and continue cooking until it is completely opaque and beginning to flake, 2 to 3 minutes more.

To serve, arrange the fish on individual serving plates,  Scatter basil over the fillets and top with the bread crumbs.  Serve with lemon wedges.

Recipe:  Corn Salad with Tomatoes, Avocados, and Lime Cilantro Dressing
Cook This Now by Melissa Clark

Ingredients:

3 ears corn, kernels sliced from the cob
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large tomato diced
2 rip avocados, diced
2 scallions finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.  Drop in the corn and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes.  Drain.

In a bowl, whisk together the lime juice, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Whisk in the oil.

In a large bowl, combine the corn, tomato, avocados, scallions, and cilantro.  Add the dressing and toss well to coat.