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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Things I Can Count On



There are few things in life that I know I can count on.  For me, I know that I can count on Ted.  Unequivocally.  I know I can count on the fact that I will have to text Charlie at least three times before he texts back.  I can also count on the fact that Charlie's phone call returning skills are much the same, maybe even worse, than his text returning skills.  On the other hand, I know I can count on the fact that Kate will call me without my having to place the first call.   Ditto the texts.  And she will keep me (more than) updated on the goings on in her life.  It's a girl thing.

I can count on my sister Jill, other assorted relatives, and my friends.  I can count on the fact that my hair salon will call a couple of days before my appointment to remind me of my appointment, despite the fact that I have told them over and over that if I put it on my calendar, I will be there.

I guess they're not sure they can count on me.

I can also count on the fact that I will love any recipe Ina Garten writes.  Yes, even Ina's too tart Chicken Piccata, which my aforementioned sister doesn't like.  I love Ina's recipes so much that I was willing to overlook the abundance of lip smacking-ness that accompanied that particular dish.

But I digress.  Of course I digress.  You can always count on my digressing.

Ina's new cookbook, Make It Ahead, is clock full of delicious tasting recipes (at lease those I've already made).  Included is a recipe for Sour Cream Cornbread.

Let me just start out by saying that I have never met a cornbread recipe I didn't like.  Also, as stated above, I've never met an Ina Garten recipe I didn't like.  I'm calling this a win-win.

Aside from being a really nice recipe, this one had a little something extra.  By baking it in a loaf, it can be sliced and popped in the toaster and served up at breakfast with a little butter and jam.  How cool is that?  I'll admit that it was just the teensiest bit crumbly, but that's another thing to count on:  cornbread bring crumbly.

Recipe:  Sour Cream Cornbread
Ina Garten, Make It Ahead, 2014

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease the pan
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Bob's Red Mill medium-grind yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder (see note)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
11/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sour cream
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
Salted butter and strawberry jam, for serving

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line the bottom of two 8 1/2 × 4 1/2 × 2-inch loaf pans with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, sour cream, and eggs and then slowly whisk in the melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix them together with a rubber spatula, until combined. Don't overmix! Pour the batter into the prepared pans, smooth the top, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Place the pans on a rack and cool completely.

When ready to serve, slice the corn bread, toast it, and serve with salted butter and strawberry jam.





Thursday, December 4, 2014

Barking Up the Right Tree



Even though the stores have been festooned with holiday decorations for months, the holiday season has now officially begun.  I no longer get annoyed at the twinkle lights adorning the mall.  It's okay now.  Thanksgiving is past and we are now officially on to Christmas, Hanukah, and eventually, 2015.

Back in the olden days, when I was just a young pup, Thanksgiving meant something.  Sure, it was a day to give thanks, but moreover, Thanksgiving was an actual dividing line.  Sometime on Thanksgiving, the Holiday Elves would sneak into malls across America (and the world, I think), and overnight entire shopping centers would be transformed into twinkling winter wonderlands.  Shopping malls would go from the harvest theme to a winter snow scene in just the blink of an eye.  Santa would arrive with his cadre of elves.  It was magical.


Gone are those days.  Pre-holiday sales start sometime around Halloween, and Thanksgiving is just another day on the retail calendar.  Santa arrives right after the Great Pumpkin display is dismantled.  I don't mean to be preachy, because I do not judge, (remind me to tell you a funny story about our tour guide at Middlebury College), but dammit, I'm judging.  It's just plain wrong.

The point of this rant is that I have made it my personal mission to not give the holidays one iota of thought prior to the passage of Thanksgiving.  Not one.  I block out all glistening snow scenes and search Target for cornucopias instead.
Fast forward.  Thanksgiving was a week ago and as such, I have decided to indulge in one of my favorite holiday pastimes: making chocolate peppermint bark and French chocolate bark.   I will plan to give these treats to others, but this is a lie.  I will put it all in containers and then spend the next couple of weeks breaking off just a nibble.


Actually, this is not entirely true.  Kate has requested that I send she and her friends a care package filled with chocolate peppermint bark to help them get through finals.  No problem.  I bought extra chocolate so whipping up another batch or two will be no problem.

Let the holidays begin.

Recipe:  Ina Garten's French Chocolate Bark

Ingredients:

8 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces very good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

Melt the 2 chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.

Meanwhile, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a ruler and a pencil, draw a 9 by 10-inch rectangle on the paper. Turn the paper facedown on the baking sheet.

Pour the melted chocolate over the paper and spread to form a rectangle, using the outline. Sprinkle the cashews, apricots and cranberries over the chocolate. Set aside for 2 hours until firm. Cut the bark in 1 by 3-inch pieces and serve at room temperature.

Recipe:  You Little Tarte's Triple Layer Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Ingredients:

6 ounces semi sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
12 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped, divided
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup Peppermint Snow or crushed candy canes

Directions:

Start by lining a sheet pan with parchment paper.  Draw an 8 by 8 inch square on the paper.  Turn the paper facedown on the baking sheet.

Melt half of the white chocolate with 1/2 teaspoon of the canola oil in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Once the chocolate is melted, add1/4 teaspoon of the peppermint extract and stir well.  Pour the melted chocolate over the paper and spread to form a square, using the outline.  Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or until hard.

Melt all of the semi sweet chocolate, along with 1/2 teaspoon of the canola oil.  Pour it over the hardened white chocolate and spread to cover the bottom layer of white chocolate.  Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until hard.

Melt the remaining white chocolate, along with a 1/2 teaspoon of canola oil.  Once the white chocolate is melted, add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract and stir well.  Pour and spread over the refrigerated chocolate layers.  Sprinkle the Peppermint Snow (or candy canes) evenly over the top white chocolate layer.  Return to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, making sure the chocolate is completely hardened before continuing.

Remove the bark from the refrigerator and break into 1 to 2 inch pieces.  Refrigerate in a tightly sealed plastic container until use.  





Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Braise the Roof


It's that time again.

"The weather outside is frightful.
But the fire is so delightful.
And since we've got no place to go
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!!"

How could I resist?  It's December.  The weather is, shall we say, less than ideal.  And,  in lieu of a bunch of holiday gifts that my kids neither need nor want, we are going on a warm weather vacation.  As a result, I have no real holiday shopping to do.

What to do with all this spare, housebound time?

Braise.

I love, love, love braised food.  Maybe it's my eastern European roots.  Maybe it's my fear of roasting.  Maybe it's that braised food is just so damn comforting.  Who knows?  But I'm a fan of braised anything.

I am especially fond of tagines.  They're hearty and the ultimate in one pot cooking.  This recipe from Ina Garten's new cookbook, Make It Ahead is full of all my favorite braised things: lamb, butternut squash, Moroccan spices, and sweet potatoes.  Served over simply cooked couscous, you'll look like you slaved away all day, when in reality you slaved for about a half an hour and the oven did the actual slaving away for three low and slow cooking hours.

You'll have a reason for staying in your nice, warm house all afternoon.  Maybe you'll tackle that closet that needs reorganizing, or that pantry that needs a little straightening.  Or not.


Recipe:  Moroccan Lamb Tagine
Ina Garten, Make it Ahead, 2014

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed
6 small frenched lamb shanks (5 to 6 pounds total)
2 large onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
teaspoons chile powder
teaspoons ground turmeric
teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
1 can (28 ounces) dicedntomatoes (such as San Marzano)
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons lightly packed light brown sugar
4 slices of lime, ¼ inch thick
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound (2 medium) Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch dice
1 pound (½ medium) peeled butternut squash, cut into 1-inch dice
½ pound (1 medium) sweet potato, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch dice

Directions:

Set the oven at 300 degrees.

In a very large (12- to 13-inch) flameproof casserole or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Pat the lamb shanks dry with paper towels. In batches, cook the lamb shanks over medium heat for 3 minutes on each side, until they are nicely browned. Transfer to a plate and brown the remaining shanks, adding a little more oil if necessary. Transfer all the shanks to the plate; set aside.

Add the onions to the pan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds. Add the
chile powder, turmeric, cumin,
cardamom, and cinnamon. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Stir in the tomatoes, with their liquid, the chicken stock, brown sugar, lime, a generous pinch each of salt and pepper, the potatoes, squash, and sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil. Return shanks to the pot, spooning some of the sauce and vegetables over the meat (they will not be completely
submerged). Cover and transfer to the oven.

Cook for 3 hours, until the lamb shanks are very tender. Serve with steamed couscous.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Eating My Books

Eat Your Books

They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step in solving a problem.  Okay.  Here goes.

I have a cookbook problem.  Yes, that's right.  I just can't get enough.  And shelf space is becoming a problem.  As is keeping track of said cookbook collection.

I love cookbooks, maybe even more than I love luxury leather goods.  For those of you who know me, and who know of my vast and wide ranging shoe and handbag collection, admitting that cookbooks may be more of a problem is, well, probably quite shocking.

The truth is that I actually use my cookbooks, which sets this collection apart from my shoe collection.  I cook from a cookbook everyday.  Really.  I'm not just saying that the justify the collection.  I don't make a roasted potato without looking for a new way to make them more delicious.  Maybe a higher heat?  More garlic?  Thyme instead of rosemary?  The possibilities are endless and I am determined to try and try again until the absolute deliciousness completely overwhelms me.

My real problem isn't that I buy a lot of cookbooks.  For heaven's sake.  I could have worse vices.  I don't really drink and I don't smoke.  I don't cavort around town with unsuitable people.  Okay, maybe my shoe addiction is a little out of hand, but on a scale of one to 10 in the vice department, I'd say I'm at the low end of trouble.

My real problem is keeping track of which cookbooks I already own.  After buying my second copy of David Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen, I knew I had to take action.  (If you don't own it, you really should consider it.  The Chicken Lady Chicken alone is worth the purchase.)

Enter Eat Your Books.  For a small fee, this website provides a fantastic indexing and management system for cookbooks, blogs, and other recipes.  It doesn't give you recipes, but instead what it does do is provide you with a listing of which recipes are in which cookbooks.  So, if I want to make Coq au Vin for dinner (oh, that does sound good, doesn't it?) Eat Your Books will give me a listing of all of my cookbooks that include recipes for Coq au Vin.  Genius.

Now, there's a catch.  I had the enter all of my cookbooks in the database, but it's so worth it.  First of all, it was kind of fun to go through all my books, and second of all, it reminded me of a lot of cookbooks I own that I used to cook from and that have somehow moved to the bottom of the pile.

It's a win-win!

Now I have a system down.  When I add a book to my collection, the first thing I do is enter it into my personal database on Eat Your Books.  It's easy.  And then I start cooking.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Joining the Rotation


My friend Lisa was coming to visit for a couple of days and I thought it would be nice to whip up a batch of muffins to serve at breakfast.  Why not?  Who doesn't love a muffin?

Right around that time, I was chatting with my sister Jill on the phone.  I mentioned that I was in the mood for an almond poppy seed muffin.  Did she have a good recipe?

Jill gave me a great recipe: "Use your favorite basic recipe and adapt".

Adapt?  I don't adapt.  I religiously follow recipes, to the letter.  I do not adapt.

Still, Jill thought I could adapt.  I thought, "Well, if Jill thinks I can be adaptable, then why not?"   I'm nothing if not adventurous.

Once I got started, I found that a favorite basic recipe really can be just a jumping off point.  I could do anything.  I could make the almond and poppy seed muffin of my dreams.  In fact, I could indulge my wildest muffin fantasies.   Wow.

So, here it is.  My own adaptation of Almond Poppy Seed muffins.  They were delicious, and I think they may just become one of my rotating muffin recipes.

It pays to be adaptable.  Stay tuned for more...

Recipe:  Almond Poppy Seed Muffins
Adapted from The Daring Gourmet

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup white granulated sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup virgin coconut oil
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon good quality almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Sliced almonds
Turbinado Sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, coconut oil, and sugar for at least 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, almond and vanilla extract, and buttermilk and beat until combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat just until combined, being careful not to over-beat.   Add the poppy seeds and stir gently until combined.  Fill muffin cups to about 2/3 full.  Sprinkle with a few sliced almonds and a little turbinado sugar.

Bake for approximately 20 or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean but moist.  Let cool for about 10 minutes in the muffin tin, and then transfer to a wire cooling rack to finish.




Monday, November 10, 2014

Comments on Condiments


There's really nothing I like better than a good condiment.  Just ask my family.  For years they have been deriving enormous humor from my hotdog preparation at Pirates games.  I think of the hotdog and its accompanying bun as the delivery system for the condiments.  Ted and the kids think the whole things turns out to be pretty messy and gross.  I think it's perfect.  The more mustard, onions, relish, and kraut, the better.  I like it that way.  No apologies.

My love of condiments extends far beyond hotdog fixings.  I love all condiments, and that includes even the weird ones like chutney.  Is it sweet?  Is it savory?  It's a little of both.  And that suits me fine.

Generally speaking, chutneys are served with roasted meats.  They add a nice sweetness and spice -- think Major Grey's Mango Chutney.  I'm a renegade though.  I like to serve chutney in unexpected ways. This particular apple chutney is really nice on toasted  multigrain bread or cornbread.  Think of it as an interesting fruit compote.  It adds an interesting little something something to everything it touches.

This is an Ina Garten recipe so you know (1) it'll be good, and (2) it'll be fairly easy.  For the record, I was out of raisins.  (Who runs out of raisins?  Running out of raisins is like being out of milk.  It just doesn't happen.)  I used currants instead and it was still tasty as can be.  The chutney took just minutes to whip up and the leftovers kept for a week or so in the refrigerator.

So, spread your condiment wings.  Live a little.  This chutney could be your new favorite condiment.

Ina Garten's Sweet and Savory Apple Chutney
Make It Ahead, 2014

Ingredients:

6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and half-inch diced
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
3/4 cup good cider vinegar
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon whole dried mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup raisins

Directions:

Combine the apples, onion, ginger, orange juice, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, pepper flakes and salt and in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to simmer and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Take off the heat and add the raisins.

Set aside to cool and store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.







Thursday, October 30, 2014

Picture Perfect






I think we can all agree that I am no food stylist.  I think I am also safe in assuming that none of you thinks I am a gifted food photographer either.  That's okay.  I know my limitations.

Let's face it.  There's only so much you can do with an iPhone.  Yes, there are those people out there that are gifted selfie takers.  I get that.  I've watched Keeping Up With the Kardashians.  I am pretty much convinced that besides parading around with her boobs hanging out, all Kim Kardashian does is take selfies.  It's no wonder she's good at it.  She gets a lot of practice, what with all the Selfie Books she makes for Kanye.  Everyone needs a skill, and I suppose that selfie taking is as good a skill as any.  True, Kim isn't solving world hunger, but it's important to work with what you've got.

But back to me.

I've often thought about how I might make the photos on my blog better.  First and foremost, I could do a better job of staging them.  Charlie's girlfriend has suggested I take the pictures from above, but that would require moving a step stool or some other something to stand on.  I could also veto the really bad pictures and not use them.  I don't do that either.  I always think all my pictures are artistic, which is really just an excuse for pictures that off center or blurry. Maybe it's that I don't have a good eye for these things.  Who knows.

My overall photography approach is quick and dirty.  I snap, I download, I post.  I guess I think that the food should speak for itself.  Sometimes this works.  Sometimes not.

Today was a good day.  Not only is Yotum Ottolenghi's Cauliflower Cake beyond divine in terms of taste, it also came out looking looks picture perfect.  I'm not kidding.  I took these pictures of the actual cake I baked.  Right out of the oven.  Honestly, I don't think I've ever made anything that spoke for itself better than these pictures.  (If you disagree please don't tell me.  I'm on a high from the sheer thrill of it all.)

I'm sure these and every other photo I've ever taken could be improved.  Maybe someday either (a) I'll get better at the whole food styling/photography thing, or (b) become so wildly successful that I can hire someone to do it for me. (Personally I'm voting for option (b), but I wouldn't mind a little smattering of option (a) either.)

Until then, bear with me.  And enjoy this picture perfect treat as either a light main course or a really special side dish.





Recipe:  Yotum Ottolenghi's Cauliflower Cake
Plenty More, 2014

Ingredients:

1 medium cauliflower
1 large red onion, peeled
5 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
7  eggs
½ cup chopped basil
1 cup all purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
1½ cups grated parmesan
Salt and black pepper
Melted butter, for greasing
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds

Directions:

Heat the oven to 350F.

 Break the cauliflower into medium florets, put them in a pot with 1 teaspoon of salt, cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes, until quite soft. Strain, and leave in the colander for a few minutes to dry.

While the cauliflower's cooking, prepare the batter. Cut 2 or 3 rings off one end of the onion and set aside (these will go on top of the cake); coarsely chop the rest. Heat the oil in a pan and on a low heat sauté the chopped onion and rosemary for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, leave to cool down, add the eggs and basil, and whisk.

Sift the flour, baking powder and turmeric into a large bowl, and add the parmesan, one and a half teaspoons of salt and plenty of black pepper. Add the egg mix and whisk to eliminate lumps. Add the cauliflower and stir gently, trying to keep some florets whole.

Use baking parchment to line the bottom of a 24cm round cake tin with a loose base. Brush the sides with butter, put in the sesame seeds and toss them around so they stick to the sides. Tip in the cauliflower mix and arrange the onion rings on top.

Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set. Serve just warm or at room temperature.



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Anticipation


I'm so excited.  I'm thrilled.  I'm waiting for the UPS guy like a kid anxiously awaiting the appearance of Santa Claus down the chimney.  Today's the day Ina Garten's new cookbook, Make It Ahead, comes out.

Needless to say, I preordered from Amazon.  Early this morning, I got my UPS status update text reporting that said Amazon package will be arriving on my doorstep by the end of business today.

Woo-Hoo.

Let's be honest here.  Not that much happens on a daily basis around here.  Life chugs along at a pretty predictable pace.  This isn't a bad thing.  In fact, for the most part, no news is good news.  But, when something as easily satisfying as a new cookbook by a cookbook author I love comes out, it's cause for at least a little anticipation.  It's the little things.

Ina is reliable.  Her recipes always work.  They are always delicious.  More than that even, Ina instills a sense of fun in the kitchen.  I always think that being in the kitchen with Ina would be a complete blast.  Ina has made me a better cook, because she's really just a person (albeit a very successful person) who loves feeding people.  Ask my kids.  Feeding people is what I do best.

So, fasten your seat belts. Once I peruse my new cookbook, you will no doubt be seining lots of Ina's recipes.  Better yet, go out and buy a copy yourself and cook along with me!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Overcoming Fears


For several years I have had an irrational fear of spaghetti carbonara.  I could blame it on the raw eggs, but that would be true because things like raw eggs dot generally bother me.  Nope.  My irrational fear of spaghetti carbonara is because of Mark Bittman.

Mark Bittman, you ask?  Yes, Mark Bittman.

Now, I have nothing personal against Mark Bittman.  He's a great cook, a compelling food writer, and probably an all around nice guy, although I am not personally acquainted with him.  He's really never done anything to me.

Then why do I blame my irrational fear of spaghetti carbonara on Mr. Bittman?

I'll tell you why.

Back, several years ago, when Mark Bittman was retiring his Wednesday food column from the New York Times, he published, as a sort of farewell article, a list of his 50 favorite recipes.  Included in that list was a carbonara like spaghetti dish that included not only the eggs, but anchovies (I think), and bread crumbs.  It sounded good.  I tried it.

My results were disastrous.  The spaghetti cooked into a big clump of somewhat greasy goo.  It was completely inedible.

Okay.  So the recipe didn't work for me.  Big deal.

This was back in the days when Kate would come home from tennis and plop her tennis bag in the middle of the entry hall.  It seemed like that gigantic albatross of a bag was everywhere I stepped.  On this particular day, it was right in my path as I carried the uneaten remains of this gooey mess back into the kitchen.  One false step and I tripped, the greasy mess landing plop, not only all over Kate's tennis bag, but inside her tennis bag as well.  (She had the courtesy to leave the bag wide open,  thus welcoming the greasy pasta.)

There was spaghetti everywhere.  It was a mess to end all messes.  I was screaming because it was such a mess.  She was screaming because there was spaghetti in her tennis bag.  Ted was doing his calming thing, which only made Kate and I scream more.

Needless to say, after that I swore off anything even remotely resembling spaghetti carbonara.  There were just too many memories.

Fast forward to tonight and the need to come up with something for dinner without going to the grocery store.

I felt bold.  I felt invincible.  I am food professional, hear me roar.  Enough was enough.  I wasn't going to let the all too vivid memories of a tennis bag full of spaghetti hold me back from conquering spaghetti carbonara.

And I didn't.  I followed the instructions to the letter.  I wasn't quite bold enough to try Mr. Bittman's recipe again.  Instead, I went for the big guns:  Anna Del Conte.  I've always had good luck with her recipes, and I knew if I was going to succeed, it was going to be with Anna's clear, concise instructions.

And succeed I did.  I managed to get the plates to and from the dining room with nary a spill.  The carbonara was delicious: rich from the eggs, and salty from the pancetta.

Take that carbonara.




Recipe:  Anna Del Conte's Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic cloves, peeled and bruised
4 sage leaves
4 ounces unsmoked pancetta (or bacon) cut into short strips or cubes
12 ounces dried spaghetti
3 eggs
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 tbsp unsalted butter

Directions:

Heat the oil, sage leaves, and the garlic in a large frying-pan over medium high heat.  Add the pancetta to the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the pancetta is golden brown.  Discard the garlic and sage.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water.

While the pasta cooks, lightly beat the eggs in a bowl, and add the Parmesan, a little salt, and a generous amount of black pepper.

When the pasta is done, drain it, reserving a cup of the cooking water.

Return the spaghetti to the saucepan and toss with the butter, and then add to the frying pan.  Stir-fry for a minute or so.  Mix 3 or 4 tablespoonfuls of the reserved pasta water into the egg and cheese mixture, then tip into the spaghetti.

Toss very well, adding a little more water if necessary. Adjust seasonings and serve immediately.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Today It's A Tart

Today we're going savory.  And instead of a cake, we're going with a tart.  A savory tart, filled with potatoes.  I didn't say anything about this being a low cal dish.  I just said it wasn't a cake.

Oh, I know.  Your jaw has dropped.  A tart filled with potatoes?  And potatoes au gratin to boot.

Yup.  You heard me right.

Starch on starch.  Oy vey.

Now, before you have a coronary, hear me out.  This potato tart is totally worth it.  Well, it might not be worth a coronary, but anything short of that, it's worth it.

First of all, it's delicious, although we already kind of knew that.  Second, it's beautiful.  This tart makes a stunning presentation alongside roasted meats, on a buffet table, or as a light lunch with a little salad.




Most of all, this tart falls into the why didn't I think of this category.  A potato tart.  Genius.

And yummy, to boot.

Recipe:  Savory Potato Tart
David Tanis, New York Times

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

2 cups/250 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ teaspoon salt
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter cut in 1/2-inch chunks
½ cup ice water

For the filling:
2 pounds medium yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled
1 ¼ cups crème fraîche
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
 Pinch of grated nutmeg
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

For the egg wash:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cream or crème fraîche

Directions:

Make the pastry:
Put flour and salt in a mixing bowl (or use a food processor or a stand mixer with paddle attachment). Add half the butter and mix well, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add remaining butter chunks and the water and mix until dough comes together. Remove dough, divide into two equal pieces and dust with flour. Quickly form each piece into a ball, then press down to make two 1-inch-thick disks. Wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. (May be made a day in advance or frozen for up to 2 weeks.)

Make the filling:
Slice potatoes as thinly as possible, using a sharp knife, mandolin or food processor. Put potato slices in a large bowl and add crème fraîche, salt, pepper, nutmeg, garlic and thyme. Mix well with hands, making sure all slices are coated and seasoning is well distributed. Set aside.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. On a well-floured surface, roll out each pastry disk to 12 1/2 inches in diameter. Line an 11-inch fluted French tart pan (with removable bottom) with one sheet of pastry, pressing in at the sides and leaving a 1-inch overlap hanging.

Add the potatoes to the tart pan in even layers, making sure to scrape in all remaining crème fraîche with a rubber spatula. Lay the second pastry sheet on top. With a paring knife, trim excess dough and crimp the edges all around to seal. Make a few slits in the dough to allow steam to escape. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set tart on it. Stir egg yolk and cream together and paint the top of the tart generously.


Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 1 hour more, until top is golden and potatoes are tender when probed with a paring knife. Cool slightly, then set tart pan over a small, sturdy bowl, so that the bottom of the tart pan is elevated and the fluted ring comes off. Carefully transfer tart to a plate. Serve small slices, hot or at room temperature. May be cooled completely and reheated if desired.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

It's a Cake! It's A Bread! It's Delicious!


I've been in a cakey mood lately.  I realize that this flies in the face of all good judgment.  After all, isn't it I who recently cut way back on my carbs so as to regain my svelte thirty years ago body?

Yes, that would be me.  But as everyone always says, you only live once.  What good is all that carb cutting if you can't splurge every so often and enjoy a nice little piece of cake.  It's no good at all.  That's what I always say.  But that's just me.  In my ever so humble opinion.  (For the record, Ted is now coughing and choking at the mere implication that I would consider any of my opinions ever so humble.  Or, for that matter, humble at all.)

But back to today's recipe.

This carrot concoction isn't a cake so much as a quick bread, although my sister always says that quick breaks and muffins are just cakes in a different format.  And she's probably right about that.  In fact, she's right about a lot of things, but I'm going to cling to the word bread here and pretend that this isn't really a cake at all.

That this carrot cake/bread is is delicious.  And it was the best ever use for those meaty carrots I received in last week's CSA basket.  Although I could have done lots of other things with those pretty carrots, somehow baking them into something sweet and special seemed just right.

Smear this baby with a little cream cheese or a delicious jam, or both, pour yourself a cup of tea, and sit back and enjoy yourself.  To hell with those nasty little carbs.

Recipe:  Carrot Cake with Cider and Olive Oil
Smitten Kitchen

Note:  I added 1/4 cup of golden raisins and 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped to the batter because in my world, carrot cake always includes raisins and walnuts.  But that's just me.

Ingredients:

2 1/3 cups (290 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) table or fine sea salt
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder (I prefer aluminum-free)
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground or a bunch of gratings of whole nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
3/4 cup (145 grams) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (205 ml) apple cider (updated and reduced to help cake bake through; see suggestions below)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
2 cups packed coarsely grated carrots from about 12 ounces (3 meaty/large or 6 to 7 slim or 340 grams) whole, peeled ones
Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray for baking pan

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×5-inch loaf pan* with olive oil or a nonstick cooking spray. If yours is old and you’re nervous about the cake sticking, it cannot hurt to line yours with a fitted rectangle of parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, brown sugar, eggs, cider and vanilla. Stir grated carrots into wet ingredients until evenly coated, then stir wet ingredients into dry just until no floury bits remain.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out batter-free. Let cool in loaf pan for 20 minutes, then cool the rest of the way on a rack. Loaf should keep at room temperature for a few days, and longer in the fridge. It’s even more moist on the second day.

Whatever you do, definitely avoid making a cream cheese frosting-like spread whipped together from 4 ounces of softened cream cheese, 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extra and 6 tablespoons powdered sugar, some of which can be replaced with honey or maple syrup but will make for a softer spread. It will unquestionably compromise this cake’s dairy-free status. It might be dangerously good.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Flipping for Apple Cake


Last night our dear friends Deborah and Larry stopped by for dinner in Pittsburgh.  You might not think that stopping by for dinner is any big deal, but they live in Los Angeles, so it was a big deal.  Since we moved to Pittsburgh a dozen or so years ago, it's been hard to see each other regularly.

As you may recall, I visited Deborah in Los Angeles in June.  While I was there, she threw one of her fabulous dinner parties.  I needed to reciprocate.

But it was a Monday, and they were just with us for one night on their way to Florida, so instead of a dinner for eight or 10,  I made a dinner for the four of us.

For dessert I made this amazing, if I do say so myself, upside down apple cake from one of my fav bakers, Joanne Chang of Flour fame.  I found this recipe quite by accident.  When we were flying home from Maine on Sunday evening, I looked on my iPhone for a recipe for upside down apple cake, just thinking it would be good.  I knew there was such a thing as upside down pineapple cake, but I'd never seen (or rather looked for) an apple cake recipe.

I'm not going to tell you this was quick, although tarte tartin would have been a whole lot more effort.  The busiest part of this recipe was cutting up the apples, but I did that while the maple syrup was reducing.




If you decide to make this, splurge on the really good maple syrup.  Being regular visitors to Maine, we have an abundance of the stuff, so I was in good shape.  If you don't have any around the house, go out and buy a nice dark amber maple syrup (no maple flavoring for this cake) and then be prepared to taste autumn with your first bite.

And sharing it with good friends makes it all the more delicious.

Recipe:  Maple-Apple Upside-Down Cake
Joanne Chang

Ingredients:

1 cup pure maple syrup
3 Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
Crème fraîche, for serving

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan. In a large saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil over high heat, then simmer over low heat until very thick and reduced to 3/4 cup, about 20 minutes. Pour the thickened syrup into the cake pan. Arrange the apples in the pan in 2 concentric circles, overlapping them slightly.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a glass measuring cup, whisk the eggs with the buttermilk and vanilla. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the dry and wet ingredients in 3 alternating batches until the batter is smooth; scrape down the side of the bowl.

Scrape the batter over the apples and spread it in an even layer. Bake the cake for 1 1/2 hours, until golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool on a rack for 45 minutes.


Place a plate on top of the cake and invert the cake onto the plate; tap lightly to release the cake. Remove the pan. Let the cake cool slightly, then cut into wedges and serve with crème fraîche.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Shorter Days Bring Chili Weather


I never make chili in the summer.  It's just not a summer food.  At least not for me.  In the deep recesses of my somewhat age addled mind, I recall reading that in some parts of the country (and the world, for that matter), highly spicy food is summer fare.  That may be, but not for me.

The good news is that it's getting to be chili weather.  Summer is over, and although it's still not frigid outside, a nice pot of chili isn't out of the question.

As luck would have it, today the cooking segment on The Today Show featured Padma Lakshmi making three different chili recipes.  Aside from looking far too gorgeous at 8:15 in the morning, that chick knows her food.  (Just as an aside, apparently she and Richard Gere recently split.  I'm sure it was his fault, because she is far too good a cook and far too perfect and beautiful to have done anything wrong enough to warrant a breakup.)

Before you get all high and mighty (as in I only cook from cookbooks), let me just tell you that I have been getting excited about cooking segments on The Today Show for years.  Where else would I ever be able to withstand Mark Bittman's holier than thou dissertations on eating local and having a well stocked pantry?  Certainly not in print, that's for sure.



But I digress.

One of Padma's recipes featured turkey, which oddly enough is my favorite protein when making chili.  It's a little lighter than beef, and really takes on the flavors of all the delicious seasonings.

This recipe was quick and easy.  Once all the chopping and dicing is done, it goes relatively quickly and really makes the kitchen smell good.  On top of that, it tastes far more decadent than the ingredients would suggest, making it the perfect treat as the days grow shorter and the evenings get cooler.

Recipe:  Turkey Chili
Padma Lashmi

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
5 medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1/2 cup packed shredded carrots (about 2.25 oz)
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 serrano or jalapeño chile, finely chopped (including seeds)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 pound ground turkey breast
1 14 1/2-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste dissolved in 1 1/2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons chipotles in adobo, chopped
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
Kosher salt
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup non-fat plain yogurt
Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat.

Directions:

Add the cumin seeds, stir for a minute or so. Now add the onions, garlic, chiles and oregano. Cook until the onions are glassy and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Now add carrots and celery and bell peppers.

Increasing the heat to medium high, add the turkey, stirring well and breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you go; cook until it's lightly brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato water, chipotles, vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir and cover, cooking for 5 minutes.

Lower heat to a simmer, then cook, uncovered, maintaining a steady simmer and stirring occasionally until the chili looks moist but no longer soupy, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Season to taste with more salt if needed, stir in most of the cilantro, and divide among four big bowls. Top each bowl with a generous dollop of the yogurt (about 1/4 cup) and sprinkle on the remaining cilantro.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

I'm All About the Savory



As you may have noticed, I've been on a bit of a savory campaign.  What's up with that?  Here's another food that my only experience with has been sweet: Rugelach.

I grew up on Bea's Bakery's chocolate chip rugelach.  I was especially fond of the chocolate chip, but there were lots of other flavors as well: apricot, cinnamon sugar, cherry, and prune.  Yes, prune.  But for Jews' love of prune filling, I suspect that it would be a thing of the past.  But thanks to Jewish bakeries across the world, prune filling is alive and well and thriving in a bakery near you.

My mother was a lover of bakery.  That's what she called it.  Bakery.  Once a week, usually on Fridays,  she would go to Bea's and stock up on bakery.  Sometimes she would buy a coffee cake, sometimes those delicious little butter sandwich cookies that were spread with raspberry jam and then dipped thickly in chocolate.  And often, she would buy my favorite: chocolate rugelach.  (She called them delcos.  Why?  I'll never know because the ladies at Bea's called them rugelach.)

Anyway, although  my love affair with rugelach/delcos began years and years ago., I had never, and I mean never, had anything but sweet rugelach.



That is until the other day, when  this recipe for pumpkin rugelach appeared on the Food 52 website.

So, I'm going to skip over what a pain in the ass making rugelach is.  They're little tiny rolled cookies.  Of course they're labor intensive and a pain in the ass to make.  That's a given.  So let's move on to why you should make these.

You should make these rugelach because they are so delicious that they're worth the effort.  It's that simple.  They're worth it.  You're not going to find anything like these in your local bakery.  They're too, shall we say,  outside the box.  It doesn't matter.  They are divine.  And they are worth all the mixing, rolling, and more rolling.

Trust me on this.  Go ahead.  Set aside an afternoon.  Thing of it as a adventure into a whole new savory culinary world.  You won't be sorry.

Recipe:  Pumpkin Rugelach with Sage and Walnuts
Food52

Makes 32 small rugelach

Ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter
8 ounces cream cheese
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped finely
2 large shallots, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 teaspoon aleppo or chile flakes
1 cup pure pumpkin puree (or squash or sweet potato puree)
2 healthy pinches kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 egg
1 teaspoon water
flaky sea salt or finely shredded parmesan, for sprinkling

Directions:

Prepare the dough. Cut the butter and cream cheese into tablespoon-sized pats and let soften for 10-15 minutes. Pulse the flour and salt in the food processor, and then add the semi-softened butter and cream cheese and pulse several times, until the mixture has formed large crumbly chunks (this can also be done very easily with a pastry knife, if you've got a sleeping baby and don't want to use the food processor). Gather the dough together into two large balls, flatten into disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for two hours or up to overnight.

While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmery. Toss in the chopped shallots, sage, and aleppo and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin puree and cook for 5 minutes more, to help evaporate some of the water in the pumpkin. Season with two healthy pinches of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Remove from the heat to cool down (the filling should not be hot when you spread it on the dough).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the dough has chilled, roll each disk into a 12" circle on a well-floured board. Make sure you flour the underside of the dough often, so that it doesn't stick. Spread half of the cooled pumpkin filling onto each disk, and then distribute half of the finely chopped walnuts over each disk. Using a bench scraper (or knife, or pizza cutter), cut the dough into 16 triangles. Roll up each triangle, starting from the base, to form a crescent, and place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.

Beat the egg with a teaspoon of water and brush lightly onto the rugelach. Top each rugelach with flaky sea salt or finely grated parmesan (I prefer the sea salt, my husband prefers parmesan, so I make half of each kind). Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm, if possible.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Salt 'n Peppa


I've been in a kugel-y mood lately.  To be brutally honest, I'm always in the mood for a nice piece of kugel, so nothing here is news.   Just roll with me for a minute...

Kugel isn't really a summertime food.  I think of it as a little heavier, and thus not quite as appropriate in the summer months.  But now, with the leave changing and the days getting a wee bit shorter, I'm back on the kugel brigade.

I grew up eating sweet kugels, those custardy confections full of eggs, and cream cheese, and raisins, and cinnamon sugar.  In fact, as far as I can tell, everyone's mother (at least everyone who's Jewish), has their own version of a sweet kugel.

Yes, my mother had her signature Patti Sherman kugel.  I think the recipe originally came off the Manischewitz noodle package, but pretty much so did everyone else's.  Let's face it, if you're talking Jewish food, Manischewitz figures into it somewhere.

But I digress.  Although I am a huge fan of sweet kugel, I knew that out there, somewhere in the kugel galaxy, there were savory kugels too.  In the deep recesses of my mind, I even recall that Cantor's Deli on Fairfax served a savory version of said kugel.

A quick confirmation with my close friend and resident expert on all thing culinary, Google, revealed that in fact the savory kugel is alive and well and living in Jewish kitchens from here to eternity.  Oh savory kugel, if only I had known.

I decided to start small and simple with a salt and pepper kugel.  I didn't even actually follow a recipe.  Rather, I just played around and this is what I came up with.  What resulted was a delicious, crispy on top and dense in the middle, slice of kugel.  Not to salty, and not to peppery.  It would be just right with chicken or roasted meat.  It would even be nice in place of its sweeter cousin at brunch.

Savory kugel perfection.

Recipe:  You Little Tarte's Salt and Pepper Kugel

Note:  I am a perfectionist and I like nice sharp edges on things like kugel.  If you are less picky than I am (and this would be a good thing), bake the kugel at 350 for about 1 hour and serve.  Skip the refrigeration step.

Ingredients:

12 ounces extra fine egg noodles, cooked to just before al dente
5 eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.  Cook the noodles to just short of al dente.

While the noodles are cooking, melt the butter.  Combine the eggs, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Dribble a little of the melted butter into an 8x8 baking dish and, using a paper towel or a brush, butter the dish well, making sure to get all the corners and sides.

Once the noodles are cooked, drain them, and pour them into the bowl with the eggs.  Add the remaining butter, and stir well to combine.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and refrigerate until it is cold, or overnight.  Once the kugel is cole, cut it in squares or triangles (I like triangles), and return to a preheated 350 oven for an addition 40 minutes.

Remove from oven.  Your perfect, ready to serve slices of kugel will be easy to remove from the pan. Serve hot.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Better in Color


I like carrots.  I don't particularly love carrots,  That is, until I received these beautiful multicolored carrots in last week's CSA basket.  I mean, what's not to love?  They're stunning -- and so, so sweet.  Obviously I've been eating the wrong carrots all these years.

Coincidentally, I came across this delicious recipe for pomegranate (molasses) roasted carrots.  They're absolutely perfect for this time of the year, earthy and rustic.  I served them with my brisket and it was truly a beautiful sight.
The finished product
And a very tasty dish.

Recipe:  Pomegranate Roasted Carrots
Melissa Clark, In The Kitchen With A Good Appetite

Note:  Pomegranate molasses is often available in the middle eastern section of the grocery store.  If not, it's a staple in middle eastern cooking, so hit up your local middle eastern market,

Ingredients:

1 pound carrots, peeled, trimmed, and halved or quartered lengthwise (halve the thin carrots, quarter the fat ones)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
pinches Turkish or Syrian red pepper (such as Aleppo pepper) or cayenne
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses or 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrots with the oil, salt, and red pepper or cayenne. Spread them out in a single layer.

Roast for 15 minutes, stir well, and roast for 10 more minutes. Then remove from the oven and drizzle with the pomegranate molasses; toss gently to coat the carrots with molasses. Roast until the carrots are golden and soft, about 5 more minutes. Serve garnished with parsley.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Tisket, A Brisket


After a long summer of grilling, the sun is setting a little earlier and brisket is back on the menu.  Usually my inaugural brisket happens in September, as we Jews ring in the "New Year".  What better reason than a holiday to pull out the dutch oven?

The great thing about brisket is that you really can't overcook it.  In fact, the longer you cook it, the more mouthwateringly delicious it becomes.  All you need is time and even a neophyte in the kitchen can produce a brisket worth celebrating with.

This is a new brisket recipe for me.  There's really nothing special about the ingredients or the method, but I have to tell you, this was one absolutely delicious brisket.  I think it's all in the cooking.  This brisket cooks for a hella long time -- about 3 1/2 hours to be exact.  But it's worth it.  The end result is tender, but not stringy or falling apart, and the onion jus is to die for.


Because I'm disorganized, I didn't get this recipe posted in time for Rosh Hashanah, but not to worry. This brisket will make any dinner feel festive.

Recipe:  Nach Waxman's Brisket of Beef
Genius Recipes, Food 52

Serves 10 to 12

Ingredients:
1 6-pound first-cut (a.k.a. flat-cut) beef brisket, trimmed so that a thin layer of fat remains
1 to 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour (or matzoh meal)
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons corn oil (or other neutral oil)
8 medium onions, peeled and thickly sliced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Kosher salt
2 to 4 cloves garlic
1 carrot, peeled

Directions:

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly dust the brisket with flour, then sprinkle with pepper to taste. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large ovenproof enameled cast-iron pot or other heavy pot with a lid just large enough to hold the brisket snugly. Add the brisket to the pot and brown on both sides until crusty brown areas appear on the surface here and there, 5 to 7 minutes per side.

Transfer the brisket to a platter, turn up the heat a bit, then add the onions to the pot and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the onions have softened and developed a rich brown color but aren't yet caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes.

Turn off the heat and place the brisket and any accumulated juices on top of the onions.
Spread the tomato paste over the brisket as if you were icing a cake. Sprinkle with salt and more pepper to taste, then add the garlic and carrot to the pot. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and cook the brisket for 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and, using a very sharp knife, slice the meat across the grain into approximately 1/8-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the pot, overlapping them at an angle so that you can see a bit of the top edge of each slice. The end result should resemble the original unsliced brisket leaning slightly backward. Check the seasonings and, if the sauce appears dry, add 2 to 3 teaspoons of water to the pot.

Cover the pot and return to the oven. Lower the heat to 325°F and cook the brisket until it is fork-tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Check once or twice during cooking to make sure that the liquid is not bubbling away. If it is, add a few more teaspoons of water—but not more. Also, each time you check, spoon some of the liquid on top of the roast so that it drips down between the slices.
It is ready to serve with its juices, but, in fact, it's even better the second day. It also freezes well.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Nothing But Corn


I have really enjoyed my CSA this summer.  Unlike last summer, where I was overrun with cauliflower, this summer's CSA has been a little more, shall we say, balanced.  I've gotten my fair share of cucumbers and zucchini, but I've also gotten delicious peaches, blueberries, and kale.  All in all, I've been pleased.

I guess this must have been a good summer for corn, because I literally have corn coming out of my (pardon the pun) ears.  I've gotten so much corn that I've started cutting it off the cob and freezing it to use later.  The problem is that later may have arrived, since I now have 3 large bags of frozen corn winking at me every time I open my freezer.

Well, Smitten Kitchen to the rescue with this absolutely delicious Corn and Cheddar Strata.

First of all, this is one easy to put together recipe.  There aren't a ton of ingredients, and it can be assembled (in fact, it's best if it is) the night before you plan to serve it.  Then all you have to do it take it out of the frig and pop it in the oven and you'll look like a gourmet hero.  It slices beautifully and can be reheated for lunch if you are lucky enough to have leftovers.

But the best part is, this strata really showcases the delicious late summer corn.  The corn gives it a sweetness that you just can't fake.  Use bread that's a little past its prime (we all have some of that hanging around the bread box) and together with the sharp cheddar and the scallions, you'll be sorry that you don't have more late summer corn hanging around.

Recipe:  Corn, Cheddar and Scallion Strata
Smitten Kitchen

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter
3 cups fresh corn (cut from 3 small-to-average cobs)
1 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (both white and green parts from a 4-ounce bundle)
8 cups whole wheat, country or French bread in 1-inch cubes (weight will vary from 10 to 14 ounces, depending on bread type)
2 cups (6 ounces) coarsely grated sharp cheddar
1 cup (2 ounces) finely grated parmesan
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (optional, see Note up top)
2 3/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon table salt or 2 teaspoons of a coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Generously butter a 3-quart baking dish (a lasagna or 9×13-inch pan works well here too). Toss corn and scallions together in a medium bowl. Combine cheeses in another bowl. In a large bowl, gently beat eggs and mayo together, then whisk in milk, salt and lots (or, if measuring, 1/2 teaspoon) of freshly ground black pepper. Spread one-third of bread cubes in prepared baking dish — it will not fully cover bottom of dish; this is fine. Add one-third of corn, then cheese mixture. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, corn and cheese. Pour egg mixture evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 1 day.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake strata, uncovered, until puffed, golden brown and cooked through, about 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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.