Tuesday, December 9, 2014
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
1½ teaspoons chile powder
1½ teaspoons ground turmeric
1½ 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
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.