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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Settling In

I think we have seen the last of the sun.  Oh, maybe we'll get a few glimpses of the sun over the next couple of months, but bright blue skies are just a memory at this point.  Winter is coming and it's time to hunker down.

I really love winter food.  This is both a good thing and a bad thing.  The good news is that braises and stews and all things rich and heavy are very satisfying, especially when it's cold and nasty outside.  The bad news is that I may as well apply all these delectable foods directly to my thighs.  My goal this year is simple.  I want to emerge from the winter months being able to fit into the same clothes I'm wearing now, in December.  I think I can do it.

So, here we are on the edge of winter and what better way to welcome it than with a lamb tagine.  I've made lots of tagines in the past but I always like to try something new.  I cut this recipe out of the New York Times  years ago and never got around to making it.  I'm sure what attracted me to it in the first place were the buttered almonds, which were a new and different addition to the traditional tagines I've made in the past.  I'm all for the new and different and I have clipped, saved, cooked, and eventually loved recipes for far less substantial reasons than buttered almonds.

You'll want to start this recipe at least a couple of hours before dinner because there's a fair amount of braising time.  Or you can make it a day or two ahead if you would prefer and then just heat it up for dinner.  Either way it will be rich and delicious.

Recipe:  Lamb Tagine With Apricots, Olives and Buttered Almonds
Melissa Clark, New York Times,  February 21, 2007


4 pounds bone-in lamb shoulder or neck, or 2 1/4 pounds boneless lamb stew meat, cut into 2-inch chunks
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
* teaspoon ground cumin
2 large Spanish onions, peeled and quartered
2 cinnamon sticks, each 2 inches long
Large pinch crumbled saffron
1 1/4 cups dried apricots, sliced
1 cup cracked green olives, pitted and sliced if desired
2 to 4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Cooked couscous, for serving
Chopped parsley or cilantro, for garnish


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Trim excess fat off lamb. Put meat in a deep Dutch oven or cast-iron pot with the garlic, salt, black pepper, paprika, ginger and cumin. Rub spices and garlic evenly all over meat.

Thinly slice onions, then mince enough of them to yield 1/2 cup. Add minced onion to pot with lamb; reserve onion slices.

Place pot over high heat and let cook, turning meat on all sides, until spices release their scent, about 3 minutes. You need not brown meat. Add 3 cups water to pot (it should come 3/4 of the way up lamb), along with cinnamon and saffron. Bring to a simmer, then cover pot and transfer to oven. Let braise for 45 minutes.

Turn meat, then top with onion slices. Cover pot and braise for another 45 minutes to an hour, or until lamb is very tender. Use a slotted spoon to transfer meat to a bowl, leaving broth and onions in pot.

Place pot on stove over high heat and add 3/4 cup apricots and the olives. Simmer broth until it reduces by a third and thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Return lamb to pot and keep warm until serving. (Tagine can be prepared 4 days ahead; chill, then remove fat and reheat before serving.)

To serve, chop remaining 1/2 cup apricot slices. In a small skillet, melt butter. Add almonds and cook until well browned and toasted, about 2 minutes. Put couscous in a serving bowl and top with almonds and butter and chopped apricots. Pile tagine in center of couscous and garnish with herbs.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Yes, Yes, Yes: Part Two

My view is that if I'm going to eat chili I am going to have some cornbread too.  What goes better with chili than cornbread anyway.  I generally find cornbread to be on the dry and tasteless side.  That is, until I found Melissa Clark's recipe for Whole Wheat Honey Cornbread.
Wet and dry ingredients
Ready for the oven.
This cornbread is like a dessert.  It's rich and cakey.  The honey gives the cornbread just the right amount of sweetness -- not too much and not too little.  It's crumbly but not too crumbly.   And, the addition of the whole wheat flour gives the cornbread a rustic earthiness that is just perfect.  In short, this is cornbread to die for.

Recipe:  Whole Wheat Honey Cornbread
Cook This Now, Melissa Clark, 2011


 1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup sour cream, well-stirred
½ cup whole milk
1/3 cup honey
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter


Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a large bowl whisk together the cornmeal, flours, baking powder in salt. In a separate bowl whisk together the sour cream, milk, honey, eggs, and baking soda until thoroughly combined.

Gently fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture until just combined. Melt the butter in a 9-inch cast iron skillet or baking dish (I doubled this recipe and used a large baking dish for the above photograph) and swirl it around to coat the pan. Pour the remaining butter into the batter and mix well. Pour the batter back into the skillet and bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden and a cake tester comes out clean.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Yes, Yes, Yes: Part One

I have been on a Melissa Clark kick.  Her new cookbook Cook This Now is filled with recipes that just call out to me.  And I am never one to pass up something calling out to me.

This recipe for Spicy Three Meat Chili had me at hello.  Come on.  How could I resist a recipe with a name like Spicy Three Meat Chili?  It just sounds like something I would love. 

And I did love it.  Yes, it takes some time to make.  And yes, it has about a zillion ingredients.  But was it worth it?  A resounding yes.

Recipe:  Spicy Three Meat Chili
Cook This Now by Melissa Clark,  2011


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground beef or bison
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus additional to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground veal
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 to 2 jalapeƱos, seeded and finely chopped, to taste
3 tablespoons chili powder, plus additional to taste
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, broken up with a fork
3 cups cooked kidney beans or 2 (15 ounce) cans, drained and rinsed
Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving


Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook, breaking up with a fork, until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Season the meat with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and transfer the meat to a paper towel–lined platter. Repeat the cooking process twice more with the pork and veal. Season each with 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Add the tomato paste to the pot. Cook, stirring, until the paste is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the peppers, onion, garlic, and jalapeƱo. Cook until the vegetables are softened, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and a pinch of salt; cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, beans, 2 cups water, and the remaining salt. Return the meat to the pot. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes.

Ladle the chili into bowls. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Comfort Classic

Last year I made a gourmet version of tuna noodle casserole.  While it was absolutely delicious and Ted and I loved it, Kate was unenthusiastic.  As far as she was concerned, tuna noodle casserole was to be made with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup and not with a fancy bechamel sauce.

Now I have to tell you that I am not a fan of condensed soups.  They're gloppy and for the most part not particularly flavorful.  In fact, that's pretty much how I feel about all canned soup.  But there is a place for Cream of Mushroom soup and that place is in tuna noodle casserole.
Before baking.

Ted was out of town this week so it was just us girls.  I could have been really virtuous and made up a nice little piece of fish for dinner but what fun would that be?  I figure that if we had to be home while Ted was living it up in Berlin with Charlie, we should at least get to have casserole.  And what better casserole than tuna noodle.

Recipe:  Tuna Noodle Casserole


6 oz. egg noodles (wide or extra wide), cooked
1  can of water packed albacore tuna, drained and flaked with a fork
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 cup (or more) grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs tossed with 1 tablespoon melted butter 
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)


Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, combine noodles, tuna, soup, Worcestershire Sauce, and cheddar cheese.  
Transfer mixture into a small greased casserole dish
.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top of mixture in casserole dish.   Lightly sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the bread crumbs.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes until browned and bubbly and serve hot.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What Are You Thankful For?

It's the time of the year when the subject of thanks takes center stage.  It's always seemed a little strange to me that there is a designated day of thankfulness.  Nonetheless,  I guess putting such a date on the calendar assures that we will all take time out of our busy lives for a little reflection.

I, like most everyone, prefer to think that I am regularly thankful for all that I have been blessed with.  I have a loving husband, two wonderful, kind (although not always to each other), accomplished children, and the world's cutest bulldog.  I have extended family and lifelong friends.  I have multitudes of acquaintances who are important to me as well.  Aside from little aches and pains, we are all in good health.  We are all lucky.

So often we think of the things we have as being what we should be thankful for.  And it is true that I am thankful that I have a lovely home and nice things filling that home.  I am thankful that, from time to time, I get to go on nice vacations or out to nice restaurants.  But as I am getting older, I am mostly thankful for the people around me;  the people who share my day with me, either close by or far away.

This brings me to all of you, the readers of You Little Tarte.  Some of you have been with me since the beginning and others of you have just found me.  However long we have been together, I am thankful that we have found one another.  I hope that I add a little something to your day, either a recipe or maybe just a  chuckle.  You certainly add to mine and for that I am truly thankful.

You Little Tarte will return on Monday, November, 28th.  Enjoy the holiday.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Pumpkin Brown Butter Cupcakes with Cinnamon Frosting
I know that I sound like a teenager but that was the only thing that came to mind when I tasted the Pumpkin Brown Butter Cupcakes with Cinnamon Frosting that I made the other night.  They were, quite simply, beyond description.  Beyond, beyond, beyond.
The brown butter.

Mixing the cupcakes.
Ready for the oven.
One of my favorite baking blogs is Sprinkle Bakes.  The recipes are always so delicious sounding and the photographs so enticing.  The recipes just beg to be made.

The cinnamon frosting.
BTW (as long as we're speaking in code today), you may have noticed that lately I've been taking my own pictures.  You can tell that I'm taking them because they're not, shall we say, either particularly artistic or professional looking.  But, I'm working on it so bear with me please.

But back to the cupcakes.  The cupcakes were cupcake-y, not muffin-y.  Often cupcakes made from pumpkin or bananas (or zucchini or carrots, for that matter), taste more like muffins.  These do not.  They taste like cupcakes and the cinnamon frosting adds a whole other dimension and takes them completely over the top.

You have to try these.  To hell with the calories.  They're worth it and I promise you'll be saying OMG along with me.

Recipe:  Pumpkin Brown Butter Cupcakes with Cinnamon Frosting
(Sprinkle Bakes)
Yield:  About 25 cupcakes

For the Cake:

3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake tins with papers.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns golden brown. Pour the browned butter into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not solidified.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and allspice.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk 1 ½ cups of pumpkin puree with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and sour cream until well combined.  Stir in the flour mixture until just combined.  Whisk in the browned butter until well blended.

Divide batter between cupcake liners.  Fill them about half full.

Bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes, or until they spring back when pressed in the middle.

Cinnamon Frosting:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and heavy cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; beat until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to chill slightly, and then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Easy and Elegant

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
This morning I cleaned out the refrigerator.  It was my usual weekly clean out and there wasn't anything unidentifiable in there so everything was good.  In fact, not only did I come away from my refrigerator explorations with a couple of leftover items from last week's shopping trip, I came away with an idea or two.

Into the oven...
The finished product.
Now mind you, there is no need to call James Beard and tell him to reconsider this year's James Beard Award winners.  Nonetheless, I am always in favor to using up what's in the refrigerator so let's just chalk these couple of recipes (if you can call them that because they're foolishly simple and really require no recipe) to dumb luck.

The first is roasted butternut squash.  Yes, we have all made roasted butternut squash zillions of times but this time I added cranberries and a couple of tart apples.  I topped it off with some toasted pecans and  autumn seasonings.

The second recipe is as simple as the first.  Roasted brussels sprouts are one of Kate's favorites.   A recipe is hardly required.  All you need to do is toss the brussels sprouts with olive oil.  Season liberally with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 35 -40 minutes at 400.

The nice thing about both os these recipes is that they're perfect for this time of year.  They're festive enough to serve for Thanksgiving and easy enough to serve to your family with dinner tonight.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples, Cranberries, and Pecans


1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, cubed
2 tart apples, peeled, cored, and cubed
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped


Preheat oven to 400.

In a large bowl, toss the squash, apples, and cranberries with the olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  When well combined, pour onto a large baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until soft.

In the meantime, in a small skillet, toast the pecans over medium heat until lightly browned, about 6 minutes.  Set aside.

To serve, toss the squash mixture with the pecans and adjust the seasonings.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Apple of My Eye

I forgot to take a picture of the finished product.  Here it is just before going into the oven.
The other day I realized that I had a couple of apples that had been languishing in the bowl for far too long.  They looked a little less shiny and felt just a little softer than when I had gotten them on my last trip to the farm stand.  Clearly these apples were the leftovers destined to shrivel up in the fruit bowl.  Upon closer inspection, I saw that there were also a couple of pears also on their last legs.

Well, when you have past their prime apples and pears, the best thing to do with them is to cook them.  What could be tastier than some homemade apple pear sauce?  I had some cranberries too so I knew I had the makings of something good.

I could have gone the minimalist route and just cook the fruit in water.  Good but uninspiring.  Or you can do a little doctoring up of the fruit and emerge with applesauce that's it's own food group.  You know me.  I went with the doctored up version.

The nice thing about applesauce is that while there's a bit of prep work, mostly it's just cooking time.  I think of making applesauce as sort of an inactive activity.  What could be better?  I got all the fruit prepared, popped it in the oven, and then did some laundry.  And some more laundry.  Nothing like multitasking while I cook.

I'll tell you this, there's nothing better than homemade apple-pear-cranberry sauce.  It's especially delicious served warm.  You'll love it.

Recipe:  Apple Pear Cranberry Sauce
(Adapted from Ina Garten)


zest and juice of 2 large naval orange
zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 lbs apples 
3 lbs ripe Bosc pears 
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 Tbsp unsalted butter 
1 tsp ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 350.

Zest and juice the oranges and the lemon.  Place the zest and juice in an enameled cast iron Dutch oven.  Peel,
 core, and quarter the apples and the pears, placing the chunks in the Dutch oven
. Add the cranberries.  Add the brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon.  Cover the pot.

Bake for 90 minutes, until the fruit is tender.  (The apples will turn to mush on their own.  
 Use a whisk to mix until you have a smooth sauce with a few chunks.  The apples will fall apart, but the pears will break up into small chunk.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Broccoli, Please

Besides candy, Kate's favorite food is anything green.  Yes, despite having a sweet tooth the size of Texas, Kate is a vegetable lover.  Thank heavens because otherwise we would definitely be in trouble.

As far as I can tell, the only veggie Kate doesn't like is zucchini, which is kind of funny because it's such an inoffensive vegetable.  Other than that, she's on board with the full array of nature's bounty.  Among her favorites is broccoli.  She loves any and all preparations.

The other day she mentioned that she was in the mood for some broccoli to eat before she played tennis.  (Mind you, the broccoli was to go along with a Snickers bar.)  I could have steamed it which would have been the quickest way to go but I decided that I would take advantage of the opportunity to try a new recipe.

This recipe for Oven Roasted Broccoli takes broccoli to a whole new level.  The toasted panko really sets it apart and given the whole dish a heartiness that would be lacking otherwise.  I made it without the parmesan because Kate doesn't usually eat cheese before playing tennis.  Even with the missing cheese, it was tasty and delicious.  I can only imagine that it would be even better with the inclusion of the parmesan.

I always tell Kate that if she even stopped exercising like she does that should would have to lay off the daily candy bar.  Needless to say, the veggies would stay on the menu.

Recipe:  Oven Roasted Broccoli
(Alton Brown, 2007)


1 pound broccoli, rinsed and trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or sharp Cheddar


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the broccoli florets into bite size pieces. Cut the stalk into 1/8-inch thick, round slices. Place the broccoli into a mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil, garlic, kosher salt and pepper and set aside.

Spread the panko into a 13 by 9-inch metal cake pan and place into the oven for 2 minutes or until lightly toasted. Remove the panko from the oven and add to the bowl with the broccoli mixture. Toss to combine. Return the mixture to the cake pan, place in the oven and roast just until the broccoli is tender, 8 to 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven, toss in the cheese and serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shortcut Authentic

I have a couple Greek cookbooks but I have to admit that it always seems like too much of a project to just whip something up for dinner.   Most often, when I have a hankering for pastisio or moussaka, we just go out and find it in a restaurant.  The problem is that there aren't an abundance of great Greek restaurants in Pittsburgh so the short answer is that we rarely have Greek food.  And that's too bad because I like it.

But the other day my Greek food prayers were answered.  A somewhat shortened version of moussaka appeared in Melissa Clark's column in the New York Times.  In fact, the title of the recipe was Shortcut Moussaka.

Shortcut is a relative term when it comes to Greek food.  What "shortcut" cut meant in this case was that instead of it taking all day to make the moussaka, it only took half the day.  Let's face it, it took a really long time for Greek civilization to grow and develop, why should their cuisine take less time to prepare.

I love a cooking project so I dove in with enthusiasm.  I chopped, sauteed, roasted, stirred, and sniffed.  I had a sink full of dirty dishes and a tomato splattered stove.  And the time flew because as I said before, I love a cooking project.

The results were well worth the effort.  Maybe it wasn't the most authentic moussaka but it sure was good.  And it took less time than some of the other recipes I've considered.  It was authentic enough for me.

Recipe:  Shortcut Moussaka
(Melissa Clark, New York Times, October 26, 2011)


2 medium eggplant (about 2 pounds), cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup grated kefalotiri or Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 pound ground lamb (or beef)
1 very large onion, finely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
2 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons bread crumbs.


In a colander, toss the eggplant and 1 teaspoon salt. Drain in the sink for 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 450 degrees Toss the eggplant with the oil and spread on a large baking sheet. Roast, turning occasionally, until golden and tender, about 40 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Bring 6 cups water, the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Lower heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes; drain and return potatoes to the warm pot. In a small bowl, whisk together milk and egg yolk. Mash potatoes with milk-egg mixture, 1/2 cup cheese, butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt and nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

In a very large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the lamb, breaking it up with a fork as it cooks. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Push the meat to one side of the skillet and spoon off all but a thin layer of fat from the skillet. Add the onions and cinnamon sticks to the skillet. Cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir the lamb back into the onions and add the garlic and ground clove. Cook 2 minutes more. Stir in the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cook until tomatoes are soft and the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in the eggplant.

Spoon into a 9-inch baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes over the lamb. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Bake until top is golden brown and slightly crusty, about 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6 servings.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Liquid Smoke Brisket
I have been making brisket more or less the same way for as long as I can remember.  Sure, I've tried new recipes but like many other things in life, they're pretty much different versions of the same old thing.

Well seasoned...

and ready for the oven.
But low and behold, the other day my friend Deborah mentioned a new twist on a brisket recipe that she got from her friend Vicky.  Vicky is from somewhere in the south where Liquid Smoke is an pantry staple.  Liquid Smoke?  Yes, you heard me right.

I had seen Liquid Smoke in the grocery store but I'd never though of buying it.  If I wanted meat to taste smoky then I would just throw it on the grill.  Not so in the south apparently.  The recipe sounded intriguing so I decided to buy myself a bottle of Liquid Smoke and give it a try.

Now here's the thing.  There's not really a recipe for Liquid Smoke brisket.  It's just a bunch of seasonings (and nothing too esoteric) and then the smoke.  Cooked for 3 hours at 350, the end result is one very tender brisket.  Let's just say that your Jewish grandmother would not recognize this as brisket but it's very tasty nonetheless.

The next time you're rolling down the aisle with the barbecue sauce, pick up a bottle of Liquid Smoke.  Buy yourself a brisket and give this a try.  It's a whole new take on brisket.

Recipe:  Liquid Smoke Brisket


1 brisket (mine was about 4 pounds)
1 bottle Liquid Smoke
Season salt
Black peppercorns
White pepper
Hickory seasoning
1 red onion, sliced thin
1 cup beef broth


Preheat the oven to 350.

Season both sides of the brisket with the season salt, white pepper, black peppercorns, and hickory seasoning.  Make sure to use enough seasoning so that the brisket is covered.

Place the brisket fat side up in a large dutch oven.  Place the slices onions on top of the brisket in the pot.

Combine 1 bottle Liquid Smoke (1/2 cup) with 1 cup of water.  Pour into the pot with the brisket.  Add 1 cup beef stock.

Cover the brisket with a sheet of aluminum foil and then put the lid on the pot.

Cook for 3 hours or until fork tender.

Slice and serve hot with braising liquid.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's All in the Vinaigrette

Let's face it.  To some extent salad is just salad.  No matter how fancy you get with the lettuce, it's still just lettuce.  I've tried them all and to a great or lesser extent none of them really excite me.  Except for maybe arugula, which I really love.  What really makes a salad spin is the dressing.

As you know, I've recently been cooking from Melissa Clark's Cook This Now.  I've been having a lot of fun trying new dishes that focus on what's seasonally available.  When I saw this recipe for spinach salad I knew I had to try it and not because of the spinach.  I was excited because of the vinaigrette.

So off I went to Whole Foods the other day in search of "mature" spinach with which to make this spinach salad.  You would imagine that Whole Foods would have something a little more imaginative than baby spinach in a bag but they did not.  So, rather than go that route, I took Melissa Clark's advice and substituted in arugula.  I like arugula better anyway.  I picked up some plump dried cranberries too.  I was all set.

A mortar and pestle is perfect for combining the garlic and anchovy.
Like most salads, this one was quick and easy to put together.  It took just seconds, including pine nut toasting time.  Now it was time to make the vinaigrette.

I have to confess that the reason I was so excited about this vinaigrette was because in it was an anchovy.  I love the salty taste of anchovies.  The salty bite of the fish against the peppery crunch of the arugula sounded too delicious to pass up.

And delicious this salad was.

Recipe:  Spinach Salad with Dried Cranberries and Pine Nuts
(Melissa Clark, Cook This Now, 2011)

Note:  You can substitute the same amount of arugula for the spinach.


1/4 cup pine nuts
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 anchovy fillet, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces spinach leaves, trimmed about 8 cups
1/4 cup dried cranberries


In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over medium heat until they turn golden and smell toasty, about 3 minutes,  Pour them onto a plate to cool.

Place the garlic, anchovy, a pinch of salt and black pepper in a mortar and pestle.  Crush to form a paste. Transfer the paste to a small bowl.  Whisk in the vinegar, then slowly whisk in the oil.

Place the green in a large bowl; add the vinaigrette and toss well to combine.  Add the nuts and cranberries.  Toss once more and serve.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fill 'Er Up!

The perfect peanut butter cookie
One of the most obvious victims of the kitchen construction was the cookie jar.  There's no baking if there's no oven and as a result, for the last couple of weeks we've had to resort to store bought cookies around here.  Kate has been unhappy.  I have been unhappy.  Ted doesn't care because he's not really a cookie person.

But we are back online as it were and I can fire up the oven and get down to some serious baking.  Or not so serious, depending on how you feel about peanut butter cookies.

I love a good peanut butter cookie.  To me,  peanut butter cookie perfection is soft and chewy with just a little crispness around the edges.  I have tried a million different recipes, some better than others, but I believe I have finally hit peanut butter cookie pay dirt with this recipe from my current favorite cookbook Cook This Now.

The log rolled in Demerara sugar
Ready to be baked
At first glance this is just a standard peanut butter cookie.  But look closer and you'll see that instead of all purpose flour, this recipe calls for whole wheat pastry flour.  The whole wheat flour gives the cookie an earthier taste that blends well with the peanut butter.  The recipe also calls for Demerara or raw sugar which adds just the slightest crunch to the cookie.  The cookie dough is rolled into a log, refrigerated, and then rolled in more Demerara sugar just for good measure.  Those simple little changes to the standard peanut butter cookie recipe make a huge difference in the final product.

So now the cookie jar is full but I'm not sure for how long.  I just may have to make another batch.

Recipe:  Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Sandies
( Melissa Clark, Cook This Now, 2011)


1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon plus a pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup natural salted peanut butter
1 cup Demerara or raw sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter. Beat in the peanut butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat well. Beat in the egg and vanilla until fully incorporated. Stop and scrape down the bowl. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients.

Transfer the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper. Shape the dough into a 12-inch-long log. Wrap the dough in the plastic, using the wrap to help form the most uniform-size log possible. Transfer the dough to the refrigerator and chill at least two hours.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and transfer them to an ungreased baking sheet 1 inch apart. Bake the cookies until lightly colored and semi-firm, about 15 minutes; rotate the sheets halfway through baking. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

If you can’t get salted peanut butter (and I feel sorry for you if you can’t, because unsalted peanut butter tastes like paste), use a heaping 1/2 teaspoon salt, or even 3/4 teaspoon salt, in these cookies. They need the salt.

If you can’t get coarse raw sugar, use regular brown sugar here. The texture of the cookie will be slightly denser and chewier but still highly delectable.

For added texture and sugar content, roll the logs in more Demerara sugar before slicing and baking.

I’ve never done it, but I’ll bet almond butter would make a great substitute for the peanut butter here. If you try it, let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Greens and Beans

Greens and Beans
Before I moved to Pittsburgh I had never tasted greens and beans.  Maybe it's a regional thing, or maybe it was available in Los Angeles but I overlooked it.  Who knows?  All I know is that greens and beans is everywhere in Pittsburgh and everyone loves it.

Isn't kale pretty?
Now here's the thing.  I am not a lover of either greens or beans but the idea of them being braised together makes the combination sound appealing.  Come on.  What could be bad?  Kale is tasty enough and so are cannellini beans.  Greens and beans is also very easy to make which makes the dish all the more tempting.

Make sure to rinse the beans.
Ted has been out of town this week so I decided to make greens and beans for Kate and I tonight.  Kate loves kale so I knew she would like this.  What I did not count on is that she would love greens and beans. A lot.

And here's the really good news.  There's really nothing in greens and beans that's not good for you.  Aside from a little olive oil and whatever fat is in your chicken stock, this is a very low-cal dish.  I used homemade chicken stock but you could use fat free chicken stock in the box.  Or to make it totally vegetarian, you could use vegetable stock.  It's a win-win.

Ted sure missed out.

Recipe:  Greens and Beans


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups kale, washed, stems trimmed and chopped
1 (15- ounce) can cannellini beans, drained
3/4 cup chicken stock


Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven.

Add onion and garlic slices. Saute until tender about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and salt and pepper; stir until fragrant. Add the kale and let saute until it cooks down slightly. Add the beans and the chicken stock.

Cover and let cook for 10 minutes.