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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Reading Material


I don't read The Wall Street Journal regularly.  First of all, during the week we don't get it at home because Ted reads it at the office.  Second of all, I can get my daily dose of business news from The New York Times, which we do get at home.

A couple of years ago, the WSJ must have been running some kind of a special.  Ted subscribed to the Saturday edition, which is now delivered directly to my doorstep along with my NYT.  At the time, I'm sure I probably said something like "whatever you want Ted", and didn't pay much attention at all.  Silly me, because at the time I had no idea how much I was going to grow to love the "Off Duty" section.

Besides covering fashion (yay!), travel(!), home design(!), and gadgets (none of which any mere mortal can afford), there are always articles about food and restaurants and recipes.  Yes, there are recipes.  In the Wall Street Journal.  And they always sound delicious.  And these recipes are usually simple enough that mere mortals (who may not be able to afford a $200,000 wrist watch), can make them at home.

I'm smitten.

This particular recipe for Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak was quick, easy, and delicious enough to serve even your most discerning Wall Street Journal reading guest.


Recipe:  Roasted Chicken With Clementines & Arak
Adapted from "Jerusalem: A Cookbook" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, to be published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
Wall Street Journal, September 15-16, 2012

An invention of the authors, this simple chicken dish reflects Jerusalem in the use of arak, a popular anise-flavored liquor, and fennel and citrus, which evoke the region's Mediterranean climate.

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons arak (or ouzo or Pernod)
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 medium fennel bulbs, cut lengthwise and then into quarters
1 2-pound organic or free-range chicken, divided into 8 pieces
4 clementines, unpeeled, sliced thin
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed Parsley, to garnish

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together arak, oil, orange and lemon juices, mustard, brown sugar and salt. Season with pepper, to taste. Add fennel, chicken, clementine slices, thyme and crushed fennel seeds. Turn several times to coat. If time allows, marinate chicken for a few hours or preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Transfer all ingredients, including marinade, to a large roasting pan. Chicken should be skin-side up. Roast until chicken is browned and cooked through, 35-45 minutes. Remove
from the oven.

Lift chicken, fennel and clementines from pan and arrange on a
serving plate. Cover and keep warm.

Pour cooking liquid into a small saucepan. Place over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then simmer until sauce is reduced and you are left with about 1/3 cup. You can degrease by using a spoon to remove some of the fat from the top of the sauce.

Pour the heated sauce over chicken. Garnish with parsley and serve.



Sunday, September 23, 2012

Go Big or Go Home

Part of the finished product.  So organized... It won't last for long.
I never do anything halfway.  I often intend to, but it never turns out that way. Sometimes I'll just say to myself "Self... Just get this done.  It doesn't matter if it's not perfect."  But then I get swept up in my own mishagosh, and before I know it, the simplest thing has turned into a major project.

Thus is the story of my closet.

I live in a very old house with the worst closet space you have ever seen.  Poor Ted has his clothes spread over three different closet on the second floor, only one of which is actually in our bedroom.  My closet is actually a room on our third floor that we've converted into, what I have to say is, a great closet.  But it's on the third floor and our bedroom is on the second floor.  Enough about that.

In any case, since my closet/room is somewhat out of the way, it had become a bit of a repository for stuff that ended up on the third floor that we didn't quite know what to do with.  Like the broken elliptical.  And a file cabinet.

Don't ask.

Anyway, a month or two ago, I decided to get rid of all that crap that didn't belong in my closet.  It was liberating.  It was fun.  It revealed that my closet really needed to be painted.
Look at all those nice matching shoe and storage boxes.

There's even a place to sit and put on my shoes.

Typical of me, I decided that maybe I should have the closet wallpapered instead of painting.  Wouldn't that be fun?  It could be my own personal space, my little sanctuary, a place where no one would bother me.

Ha Ha Ha.

Twenty wallpaper samples and two wallpaper hangers later, it became apparent that there wasn't a square corner in the room and that wallpapering said room would be more trouble and money that it was worth.

Quick regroup.

I decided to have my closet painted.  Pink.  Just in case you were wondering, there are a lot of different pinks out there.  I won't go into the story of how we got to the pink the closet ended up to be.  It looks pretty and that's all that matters.  The fact that my painter nearly had a seizure is a story for another day.

But here's the thing.  I'll bet you never really take stock of all the stuff you have.  I know I didn't.  That is, until I had to take everything out of my closet.  And I mean everything.  Every last shoe, every last item of clothing, every last everything.

And boy did I have a lot of stuff.  A lot of stuff I never wear, nor will I ever wear again.  And you know what I did with all that stuff?  I didn't put it back in the closet!  No, I actually boxed it up... and gave it to charity.

Now that's going big.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bucket List

New York Times, September 12, 2012
Bucket lists have become very trendy.  Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has one.  Babies that are dying of awful, incurable diseases have them.  Pets have them.  Clearly having a bucket list is the thing to do.

I've never really jumped on the bucket list bandwagon.  Maybe it's just that I'm a kill joy.  Or maybe it's that I figure I'll get to do a lot of cool things in my life and that I don't need to put them on a list to keep track.  Who knows.  Who cares.

One thing is for sure.  You won't catch me making a bucket for Pebbles, even if her health goes and she only has three days to live.  She's would have had a good life and wouldn't need donations of dog toys or trips to the park to confirm that.

Maybe I really am a kill joy.

So imagine my surprise when, this morning, I mentioned to Ted that going to a farmer's market with Melissa Clark is something that I have on my "list of things I really want to do."  In fact, I went so far as to suggest to him that setting me up on an excursion with Melissa would be a lovely birthday present.  Ever the pragmatist, Ted pointed out that my birthday is in February so there's nothing all that exciting at the farmer's market then anyway.

Melissa and I could buy potatoes and root vegetables and then we could talk about what to do with them.  So there, Ted.

Some of the things I have on my "list of things I really want to do" will never happen.  Let's be realistic.  I doubt I'm ever going to write a great novel.  Chick Lit seems more likely, and even that's a long shot.

Climbing Mt. Everest sounds cool too.  I think reading about people who have done it is probably as close as I'll get to base camp.

The point of all this is that maybe I really do have a bucket list after all.   I'm not quite trendy enough to call it that.  Or maybe I'm a rebel because  I don't need a bucket list to do cool things.

In the meantime, I think I'll concentrate my efforts on those things I can actually achieve.  Like making dinner.  And maybe going to a farmer's market with Melissa Clark.





Recipe:  Braised Brisket with Plums, Star Anise and Port
(Melissa Clark, New York Times, September 12, 2012)

*Note:  This recipe is perfect for the Jewish holidays.  I know.  I should have given it to you last week.  What can I say?

Ingredients:

1 brisket (6 to 7 pounds), preferably second cut
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bunch lemon thyme or regular thyme
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 white onions, thinly sliced
1 cup ruby port
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 whole star anise (or 2 whole cloves)
4 whole bay leaves
2 1/2 pounds ripe but firm plums, halved and pitted
Thyme leaves, for garnish (optional).

Directions:

Season brisket all over with salt and pepper. Place it in a large container and cover with garlic and half the thyme sprigs. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours. Let meat stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. Wipe off garlic and thyme.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place a very large Dutch oven over high heat. Add oil. Place brisket in pot and cook, without moving, until browned, about 7 minutes per side. (Cut meat into two chunks and sear in batches if it doesn’t fit in a single layer.) Transfer to a plate.

Add onions to pot and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook onions, tossing occasionally, until golden brown around the edges and very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Pour in port and wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in star anise, bay leaves and remaining thyme. Scatter half the plums over the bottom of the pot and nestle brisket on top. Scatter remaining plums over meat. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook, turning every 30 minutes, until meat is completely fork tender, about 5 hours. After 4 hours, uncover the pot so some of the liquid can evaporate and sauce can thicken.

If you have time, let brisket cool completely in the pot, then refrigerate, covered, overnight. (This makes it easier to remove the fat from the top with a slotted spoon.) Reheat meat in a 300-degree oven for about 45 minutes before serving, if necessary. If sauce seems thin, remove meat from the pot and bring liquid to a simmer. Let cook until it’s reduced to taste. Slice meat and serve with the plum sauce, garnished with thyme leaves if you like.







Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Everything is Better with Peanut Butter



It's just about banana season again.  And whenever there are bananas, banana bread can't be far behind.

Last week I was at Costco and I picked up some bananas.  I knew when I bought them that there were at least 3 or 4 more bananas in the bunch than we would ultimately consume.  Alas, I wasn't wrong.  Today there were a couple of sad looking bananas sitting there on the counter, too speckled to be of interest to anyone around here.  "Make me into banana bread", they said.  (That would be assuming that bananas really could talk -- but you get the idea.)

I made a lot of banana bread last year and frankly I couldn't stomach another hum drum loaf.  I needed to shake up the banana tree and make a bread that was a little, shall we say, outside last year's banana bread box.

My close personal friend Google helped me out with this recipe.  What could be better than a banana bread chock full of banana, peanut butter, and chocolate chips.  Hardly a health food, but very appealing nonetheless.





Recipe:  Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Banana Bread
(Adapted from Tate's Bake Shop)

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup salted butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
¼ cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup ripe banana, mashed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 cup chocolate chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a standard loaf pan and set aside.

In a small bowl whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together.

In a separate large mixing bowl beat butter and sugars until combined. Mix in peanut butter and banana. Mix in egg and vanilla, scraping down sides of bowl. Add flour mixture and beat on low until combined. Pour in milk and beat on low until batter is smooth. Mix in chocolate chips.

Add batter to loaf pan and evenly spread out. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until the center springs back when pressed with a fingertip. Cool in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, remove from pan and cool completely.

Monday, September 10, 2012

It's A First... Of the Season


There's a (slight) snap in the air.  The sky is (unusually) blue, and I'm feeling the fall coming on.

Yes, fall is coming and it's time to start anew.

I've always been a big fan of fall.  This is a somewhat bittersweet fall for me though.  You see, both of my kids are seniors this year.  Charlie is a senior in college and Kate is a senior in high school.  How did this happen?  I'm not any older so how is it possible that they are?

I realized as I sent Charlie off to Carleton and Kate off to high school, that this was pretty much the end of an era for me.  No longer was I going to be making an annual late August pilgrimage to Staples for school supplies.  No longer would I be making lunch, (not that I've actually made a lunch in the last four years, but its the idea of never packing another lunch that gets me).

I need to find something new to do with my time.

Maybe I should write the next great American novel.

Or maybe I should focus on doing something that's actually a little more attainable.  Like getting a job. Or organizing all my recipes.

It's almost too much to consider.  So I won't.

In honor of the fall coming, I decided to try this Tyler Florence recipe for Beef Bourguignon.  It somehow seemed appropriate to try something new.  I'm going to be doing a lot of that come next fall.




Recipe:  Beef Bourguignon
(Tyler Florence)


Ingredients:

Canola oil
4 bacon slices
31/2 to 4 pounds beef chuck or round, cut in 2 3 2-inch cubes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Cognac
1 bottle dry red wine, such as Burgundy
1 (141/2-ounce) can low-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Bouquet garni (1 fresh rosemary sprig, 8 fresh thyme sprigs, 2 bay leaves,  tied together with a strip of leek)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups pearl onions, blanched and peeled
1 pound white mushrooms, stems trimmed
Pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, for garnish

Directions:


Place a large Dutch oven over medium heat; drizzle with a 1/2-count of oil. Fry the bacon until crisp and then remove it to a paper towel; you’ll crumble it at the end and use it for garnish. Add the beef to the pot in batches. Fry the cubes in the bacon fat until evenly browned on all sides; turn with tongs. Season with salt and pepper. (Don’t skimp on this step—it’s key.)

After the meat is browned, put it all back in the pot. Sprinkle the flour over the meat; then stir to make sure the beef is well coated and there are no flour lumps. Pour in the Cognac and stir to scrape up the flavorful bits in the bottom of the pan. Cook and stir to evaporate the alcohol. Pour in the red wine and beef broth; then add the tomato paste and bouquet garni. Stir everything together and bring the pot up to a simmer. Cook until the liquid starts to thicken and has the consistency of a sauce; this should take about 15 minutes. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour.

Uncover the pot and add the garlic, pearl onions, and mushrooms, along with the pinch of sugar to balance out the acid from the red wine. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up slightly and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes longer, until the vegetables and meat are tender. Remove the bouquet garni and then stir in the butter to finish up the sauce. Shower with chopped parsley and the reserved crumbled bacon before serving. Deep and rich flavor!





Friday, September 7, 2012

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom


When Charlie and Kate were little, we used to read to them all the time.  Of course, each one had their favorite books.  Charlie was a huge Benjamin Bunny fan and Kate loved the If You Give A Moose A Muffin series.  As many times as Ted and I read those stories to the kids, the all time standout favorite for both of them was Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  

Let me tell you, even after all these years, I can still recite that book.  Even with my somewhat dwindling memory... "A told B, and B told C, I'll meet you at the top of the coconut tree."  I could go on but I'll spare you, lest it gets stuck in your mind for all eternity.

This has absolutely nothing to do with today's recipe.  I just liked the title for a post about a chicken dish, so I went with it.  Listen girls. It's not easy to come up with pithy titles everyday, so work with me here.




Everyone has a zillion recipes for roast chicken, so add this one to the list.  It's a nice, one pot (pan?) meal, that you can throw together in a snap.  It's also good for using up whatever veggies you have hanging out in the frig.  I had brussels sprouts so I threw them in along with carrots, garlic, and potatoes.  The possibilities are limitless!

Just make sure to make this chicken in a pan large enough to hold the vegetables in a single layer.  If you pile (instead of scatter) the vegetables around the chicken they won't get crispy, and that's the best part of this recipe.  And I wouldn't want you to be disappointed.

Recipe: Garlic-Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
(Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)

Ingredients:

For chicken:
1 (6 1/4-pound) chicken, rinsed and patted dry
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 sprigs fresh rosemary
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 lemon, quartered

For butter:
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 large lemon)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For vegetables:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 baby red potatoes, halved
4 medium carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 large parsnips, peeled and quartered lengthwise
2 large shallots (about 8 ounces), peeled and halved
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Position an oven rack just below the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

For the butter: In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, rosemary, thyme, lemon juice, salt and pepper until smooth.

For the chicken: Tuck the wings under the chicken. Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture into the cavity. Place the rosemary, thyme and lemon quarters in the cavity. Tie the legs together loosely with kitchen string. Place the chicken in a large roasting pan

Starting at the neck end of the chicken, loosen the skin over the entire chicken breast. Smear the remaining butter mixture over theoutside and under the skin of the chicken, being careful not to tear the skin.

For the vegetables: In a large bowl, toss together the oil, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, shallots, garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.

Arrange the vegetables around the chicken in a single layer. Add the broth and roast until the vegetables are tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken thigh registers 160 degrees F to 165 degrees F, about 1 1/2 hours. Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a platter. Arrange the vegetables around the chicken. Scrape the contents of the roaster into a 4-cup measuring cup. Spoon off the layer of fat that rises to the top. Season the pan juices with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve the chicken with the pan juices.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Is It "Erb" or "Herb"?


There's always a debate going on in my head.  Are those nice those nice little aromatics I'm growing out in my backyard called "erbs" or "herbs".

You can giggle, but these are the kinds of things I find myself pondering.  I really do need something more to do with my time if this is what I'm pondering.

But here's the thing.  Martha Stewart calls them "herbs", with a hard "h", as in "This is my friend Herb".  The rest of the english speaking world calls them "erbs", without the "h" sound. You can bet that no one's ever called a guy named Herb, Erb


.

I'll bet you never thought about this before.

I've Wikipedia-ed this and I've called in my close personal friend Google.  I've listened to how the chefs on the Food Network pronounce it.  I've done my homework on the subject.  And you know what?  It doesn't matter.  Call them whatever you want.  What's the difference?  Everyone will know what you mean, with or without the hard "h" at the beginning.

Recipe:  Salmon with Green Herbs
(Ina Garten, 2010)


Ingredients:

1 (2- to 2 1/2-pound) skinless salmon fillet
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup good olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (4 scallions)
1/2 cup minced fresh dill
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup dry white wine
Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Place the salmon fillet in a glass, ceramic, or stainless-steel roasting dish and season it generously with salt and pepper. Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice and drizzle the mixture evenly over the salmon. Let it stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the scallions, dill, and parsley. Scatter the herb mixture over the salmon fillet, turning it so that both sides are generously coated with the green herbs. Pour the wine around the fish fillet.

Roast the salmon for 10 to 12 minutes, until almost cooked in the center at the thickest part. The center will be firm with just a line of uncooked salmon in the very center. (I peek by inserting the tip of a small knife.) Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Cut the salmon crosswise into serving pieces and serve hot with lemon wedges.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Red, White, and Blueberries


I love a good muffin.  I know, I know.  A muffin is really just cake, and as such is probably on the verboten list for many of my readers.  But come on girls (and men, if you're out there).  Live a little.  At least it's not a giant slab of chocolate cake served at breakfast, (although I can't say that that doesn't have it's appeal).

And, just to be clear, I am not a fan of those mega-muffins sold in bakeries and at Starbucks.  That's not the kind of muffin I'm advocating here.  I'm talking about a nice little muffin, made in a standard size muffin tin.  The kind of muffin where the little muffin paper is filled about 2/3 of the way full so that it puffs up just so.  My kind of muffin is just a few bites, not a meal... for a family... of four.

Back when I first started You Little Tarte, I shared my friend Mona's recipe for quick and easy muffins.  I use this recipe as a basis for many kinds of muffins because it's pretty much foolproof.  Over the years, I've mixed in all kinds of things -- fruits, nuts, chocolate chips, zest, and a host of other yummy things.  I've added glaze to the tops of the muffins as well as my all time favorite topping, streusel.  Like I said, this is a work horse of a recipe.

I have to admit that I made this version sometime ago.  In fact, I can tell you exactly when I made it: the Fourth of July.  This explains the red, white and blueberry theme.  I took the pictures, but as you know I was a lazy mess over the summer, so I never got around to posting a blog extolling their virtues.


I figured that since today was Labor Day, I could pull out the red, white and blueberry theme.  It applies, don't you think?  And while these are in fact muffins (or cake in a muffin format), they are delicious and a really nice

Recipe:  Mona's Muffins with a Red, White, and Blueberry Twist

Ingredients:


1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup blueberries
1/3 cup raspberries
1/3 cup blackberries
1 tablespoon Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 400.  Sift dry ingredients together.  In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients.  Add wet to dry and stir until just combined.  Add berries and mix carefully so as not damage the fruit.  Fill greased muffin tins 2/3 full and sprinkle tops with Denerara sugar.  Bake 18-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Makes 9 muffins