Friday, December 31, 2010
I have an inability to connect the dots that's almost masterful sometimes. Take for instance these blue cheese savories. I test drove this recipe earlier in the week, after lusting over it since Food52's post a month ago. And it did not disappoint -- these are amazing. Truly. The cookie itself is salty and savory, piquant with blue cheese, and counterbalanced with a dollop of tart jam. And, as an added bonus, it has a delightfully short and flaky crumb (and is easy to make, with just a handful of ingredients). It's like the most elegant Cheez-It ever, the best of a cheese plate (cracker, cheese and preserves) all in one tiny little mouthful. This is a recipe that practically screams "I am your New Year's Eve party appetizer!" I sent messages to everyone I know telling them to make this cookie. And yet, I still managed to putter around my keyboard the past day or so, wondering whatever should I write about this week. Sigh. See what happens when I forget to take photos? Out of sight, out of.... Sorry, what were we talking about?
Although 2010 draws to a close tonight, hopefully some of you are laggards like me, and are still mulling over what to bring to your New Year's parties. And if these don't get made tonight, put them on your list for 2011.
Blue Cheese and Jam Savories
from The Runaway Spoon, via Food52
yields ~4 dozen cookies
The initial recipe called for fig jam, but I've now made this with three types of jam, and all were delicious. I'd recommend something on the slightly less sweet side, such as fig, apricot or pear. Also don't worry that the recipe doesn't call for salt -- the salt in the cheese will be enough.
1 cup flour, plus additional for rolling
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened to room temperature, and cut into a few chunks
4 oz crumbled blue cheese (this was a scant cup for me, but the volume may vary)
~1/4 cup jam
Place the flour, butter, and blue cheese in a food processor, and top with a few grinds of black pepper. Pulse a few times, until both the butter and cheese are reduced to small bits. Do not over-process. Turn the dough out onto a bowl, and squeeze and fold it until it comes together (alternately, you can continue to process the dough in the processor until it comes together, then just turn it over a few times on the counter to finish the process, but I like to prevent over-processing and ensure flakiness with the other method). If you have a particularly moist blue cheese, you may need extra flour (I was working with a particularly dry cheese). Cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper, and chill it for half an hour (this step is optional, but I think it makes the dough nicer to work with).
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Let the dough warm up a few minutes if chilled, and roll out on your floured countertop to a thickness somewhere between 1/8"-1/4". Cut out circles with a 2" cutter (you can use a smaller one if you favor wee savories, which will yield more cookies). Place the rounds on a cookie sheet (they'll spread a bit, but not too much -- more if the dough is warm). Make a small divot in the center, with your finger or the back of a measuring spoon or whatever you like. Fill the divots with ~1/4 tsp jam (I think I used more), and bake the cookies until the jam is bubbling and the cookies are just beginning to color, ~10 minutes. Let cool on the sheet for a few minutes, then move to a rack (or your mouth).
Friday, December 24, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
At some point in my childhood, I developed the theory that when I was Grown Up, I would buy myself a container of frosting for my birthday and eat the entire thing. This plan makes me slightly ill to contemplate, and I'm not sure where it came from--I didn't even have too much experience with pre-made frostings. But somehow this act embodied the Best Present Ever to my little mind: someday I was going to get myself exactly what I wanted, and ain't no man (or, more accurately, mom) could hold me back.
Monday, December 06, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
It's back-to-back latkes! I'd apologize for the lack of variety, and for the fact that I'm yet again shunting you to another website to get the recipe (this time to The Oregonian), but honestly I'm too busy trying to avoid skinning my knuckles on the box grater to care. Hannukah starts this week, people! Where did that come from?
Monday, November 22, 2010
Sometimes I give myself ideas by accident. A few weeks ago I was writing an ode/guideline to the classic potato latke for our local paper. I wanted to sing the praises of simplicity, contrasting its potato perfection against all the ridiculous, nouveau-what-have-you variations. So I wrote that my classic potato latke could hold its own against the frou-frou trimmings of a latke with...say... caramelized leeks, hashed parsnips, and... oh, feta and sweet potatoes. I smirked a little. And then I looked at what I wrote. And then I got hungry. Challenge accepted!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Monday, November 08, 2010
I flirted with giving this recipe another name, since calling it huevos rancheros will cause me to lose serious cred with a certain demographic. So by way of disclaimer, I'm aware it's likely nothing resembling this dish has ever gone by this name in Mexico. Or New Mexico. Or Texas. But man is it good.
Monday, November 01, 2010
Halloween is something of a crapshoot here. Sometimes the kids flood to the door in clumps of nearly a dozen, and other years we're lucky if we get that many the whole night. This past Sunday the doorbell kept ringing, and my helper hellhound and I greeted scores of neighborhood kids.
We were quickly cleaned out of our peanut butter cups. and I frantically biked to the grocery store to restock. Sadly the quality salty-sweet peanut butter candy was gone, so I grabbed a couple of bags of the "fun" size chocolate bar samplers, and rushed home. To total radio silence. We had two more trick-or-treaters the entire night. And so, with a bag full of Mr. Goodbars and Krackle, I turned to compost cookies.
Like many of my fellow Pacific Northwesterners, I'm something of an obsessive composter. So of course these cookies appealed to me. They're from baker Christina Tosi of New York's Momofuku Milk Bar, and are reputed to be a perfect repository for anything you can find in your pantry: bits of cereal, candy bars, goldfish crackers, pretzels, and, if stories are to be believed, a dollop of coffee grounds (I did, however, draw the line at the salt-and-vinegar potato chips lingering on a back shelf). You could probably try this nifty trick with any cookie recipe, but Tosi's particular variation whips the bejesus out of the butter and sugar, moving beyond creaming to create a crispy-outside, chewy-inside ugly-yet-delicious cookie. The most unexpected ingredients (I went with tortilla chips, a Chex-like cereal, and the assorted chocolate bars) create a deep combination of flavors, with that prized salty-sweet edge. Clearing out the leftovers should always be so delicious.
from Christina Tosi, via various blogs
yields ~15 large cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp coarse salt
1 1/2 cups salty snack food (chips, crackers, pretzels, cereal, etc)
1 1/2 cups sweet snack food (candy bars, butterscotch chips, chocolate-covered whatever, etc)
Place the butter, sugars and corn syrup in a mixer, and beat with a paddle attachment until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides, and add the vanilla and eggs. Beat on low to incorporate, then raise the speed to medium-high and beat for a full 10 minutes. It will become paler in color and larger in volume.
While the mixture is beating, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Chop or crush or crumble your snack foods into little bits, and set aside.
When the butter mixture has been beaten for a full ten minutes, add the flour mixture and beat for a few seconds until just combined. Add the snack foods, and stir until combined. Cover the mixture, and chill at least an hour (and up to a few days -- do not forgo the chilling, otherwise terrible meltage and nasty flat cookies will ensue). After chilling, scoop into 1/4 cup portions, place on a cookie sheet (or plate, if your fridge, like mine, doesn't have space for a full sheet sheet), and chill another 1/2 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the shaped cookies on a greased or lined cookie sheet, and bake until they've browned on the edges, and are just beginning to brown on the tops (this takes less time than you'd think -- only about 10 minutes for such large cookies). Let cool on the sheet for a few minutes, then move to a rack and cool completely.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
There's something intimidating about actually meeting people whose work you admire. You spend so much time appreciating from afar, be it music or writing or cooking, and feel a kinship with the artist because their work resonates with you so deeply. You know you must have so many sensibilities in common, and when you meet, this shared bond will just somehow sing across the room. If you don't end up bff, you'll at least end up with a real heart-to-heart moment, perhaps an invitation for a drink.
But in reality, it seldom works that way. You finally push forward your book for an autograph, stammer something generic about how "I really like what you do," blush, and melt back into the crowd. Sigh. Occasionally there are moments, such as when you and your friends sneak into the after party for a live taping of your favorite radio show and are invited out for a surreal evening of drinks afterward. But for the most part, it's pretty nervous-making and seldom goes the way you rehearsed in your many, many daydreams. Which is all to say I didn't go see Dorie Greenspan when she was in town this week.
For those unfamiliar with her lovely work, Dorie Greenspan writes about baking and French food. She manages to keep an eye on both the smallest details of technique, and the almost incalculably large role of food in our lives. Greenspan is also the woman behind the delicious salted chocolate sablees which I de-glutinized for a recipe earlier this year. And although I chickened out of the live meeting, I continue to worship in my oven from afar. And so I present Dorie's salted butter break-ups.
These cookies are baked from a single slab of buttery dough, and then broken apart into chunks with your hands (which proves just as emotionally satisfying as it sounds, plus yields a variety of textures ranging from nicely tender center chunks to deliciously caramelized end bits). I usually pooh-pooh people who say they don't have time to make cookies, because c'mon, they're so easy. But as I struggled to finish six quarts of soup and a round of bagel chips for a soup swap, a no-scoop mega-cookie sounded appealing. So I blitzed the dough, rolled it out, painted it with an egg wash and drew a crosshatch of lines with a fork (optional but fun, and strangely reminiscent of high school doodling for some reason), and baked it up. And broke it up. Perhaps next time I'll manage to make it to the book signing as well.
Salted Butter Break-Ups
yields 1 5"x11" cookie, which can be broken into as many chunks as you desire
adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
1 3/4 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling if desired
9 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 18 pieces
3-5 Tbsp cold water
1 egg yolk, plus additional water
Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor, and pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until you're left with pea-sized bits (in addition to some small flakes). Pulse the machine and add the water gradually, until it just barely forms a ball (this might not require the whole amount). The dough will be very soft.
Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, form it into a chubby square, and refrigerate for at least an hour (or a few days, if needed).
When the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with a silpat or parchment, or grease well. Let the dough soften at room temperature for a few minutes. Roll out (between plastic or waxed paper) into a rectangle that's about 5"x11", and transfer to the prepared sheet.
Beat the yolk with a splash of water, and paint it over the surface of the dough with a pastry brush (or, if you're me, a wadded up bit of the waxed paper you used to roll out the dough). Using the back of a fork, decorate the cookie in a crosshatch pattern by drawing the underside across in one direction, forming a series of tracks, then perpendicular to them. Sprinkle with additional salt, if you favor a pronounced salty-sweet flavor.
Bake the cookie for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is lightly golden (and slightly dark on the edges, if that's what you favor). It will be firm to the touch, but have a little spring when pressed in the center. Allow to cool to room temperature, then break it as you please, either before serving or at the table.
Monday, October 18, 2010
I told you last week that I would leak a few more secrets about the soup swap that led to my (oh-so-delicious) bagel chips. So I present my article from today's Oregonian about a swap I attended in Portland, as well a general rundown of this sort of swapping. And as a bonus, you get a link to my very own matzoh ball recipe (as well as some other delicious homemade soups from friends and neighbors), and tips for hosting a swap of your own. What are you waiting for?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
I love when multiple problems can be solved with a single act. To wit: a few weeks ago I attended a soup swap (more on that later), and needed to clear out some freezer space in anticipation of the quarts I was set to receive. It was a tall order, since my freezer is stocked to the gills with who-knows-what (my freezer inventory system is sadly no longer in effect). A significant chunk of freezer real estate was taken up by a bag containing a half dozen or so day-old bagels. And, concurrently, I needed to bring a snack to said soup swap. Hello, bagel chips!
Bagel chips are ridiculously easy to make. The hardest part is thinly slicing the bagels -- next time frozen bagels call out for en-chipping, I'll probably try to slice them up when they're still a bit frozen, so they'll hold together firmly for easy cutting. But beyond the slicing, it's just tossing with some oil, seasoning if desired (I used everything bagels, so I just added a sprinkling of salt, but you can add pressed garlic, chopped rosemary, or whatever sounds delicious), and baking. As an inveterate toast-burner, I erred on the side of well-browned crispness, but you can pull them from the oven whenever they're done to your liking. It's my new favorite way to clean out the freezer.
This is more of a loose guideline than an actual recipe, easily adapted to any amount of leftover bagels you may have in your possession (frozen or otherwise).
bagels, sliced as thinly as possible
seasonings (salt, chopped or pressed garlic, fresh rosemary, etc.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the bagels in a bowl, and barely coat them with olive oil (If you have one of those olive oil misters or a pastry brush, those work perfectly, but if you're like me, just drizzle with a bit of oil, place another large bowl over the top, shake madly, and repeat as necessary until they're all lightly coated). Toss with any desired seasonings, and turn out onto a cookie sheet(s) in a single layer. Bake, turning once or twice, until they're cooked to your desired level of browning, ~15-25 minutes. They will crisp up further upon cooling.
Monday, October 04, 2010
It's hard to know what to cook these days. We're not yet into the brown-leafed, squash-studded days of fall here in Portland, but at the same time it's not really summer either. We've been alternating between barbecue-ready sunny afternoons, and rainy cold days that make you wonder if it's not too soon to dig out your wool sweaters. Hot soup? Cold salad? Hard to say.
This carrot and chard dish is one of my favorite recipes for these liminal days. It's a warm salad from the Moroccan tradition, pairing cooked carrots and chard with a bright herbal dressing. The recipe comes from Wolfgang Puck's contribution to The New York Times Passover Cookbook, and it's graced our Passover table for the past two years. The seder meal is often a celebration of Spring, and sprightly spears of asparagus are a common choice. But it's also right on the seasonal cusp, and depending upon the particulars of the Jewish calendar and the weather patterns, Passover can happen weeks before the chilly fields are even thinking about asparagus. This dish is a perfect choice for times like these, and not just because the shoulder crops of roots and greens are in season: the earthy/sweet carrots and rich chard provide a hearty, autumnal base, but the bright lemon juice and parsley perk things up with bright and sunny notes. On these strange days, when you wrap a thick cardigan around your sleeveless shirt, it's the perfect recipe.
Moroccan Carrot and Chard Salad
adapted, heavily, from Wolfgang Puck's recipe in The New York Times Passover Cookbook (I roasted instead of simmered the carrots, upped the parsley, reduced the oil, and made a few other tweaks)
serves 4-6 as a side dish
2 lb carrots, peeled and cut on the diagonal into 1" chunks (or longer if you like a more dramatic presentation)
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 tsp ground cumin
1 large bunch (or two small bunches) Swiss chard, coarsely chopped (stems included)
1 clove garlic, pressed
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
1/2 large bunch (or 1 small bunch) flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Toss the carrots in a baking dish with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, and sprinkle on the cumin and a few pinches of salt. Stir to coat the carrots with the oil and seasonings. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are soft and caramelizing on the edges, about 25-30 minutes (adjust the time depending upon how well-caramelized you like your carrots). Remove from the oven and set aside.
While the carrots are roasting, steam the chard in a steamer basket until wilted and soft, about 5-10 minutes. If you don't have a steamer basket, you can just simmer the chard for a few minutes in a large pot of boiling water, then drain well. Set aside.
In the meanwhile, make the dressing: mix together the remaining olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice and zest, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the carrots on a serving dish, top with the chard and parsley, and then pour the dressing over everything. You can toss to combine, or leave as is, like a composed salad. Serve warm. It's even nicer as the flavors sit and combine, but I seldom wait that long.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Several years ago I formed a lunch collective with a group of co-workers. We took turns bringing in food for each other, sharing the cooking load and saving each other from the truly dismal take-out options surrounding our office. In addition to saving time and money, the club exposed me to a whole library of other people's recipes. But amidst the culinary excitement, some trends started to emerge. There are some ingredients that seem ubiquitous across the continents, and seem to travel in pairs. For one: chickpeas and tomatoes. This classic combination cropped up in Indian, Italian, and general hippie recipes across the board. I think I ate 4-5 variations on the theme. And another combination, one dear to my heart: the savory greens pie.
Even on this blog which only recently passed its first birthday, I've already posted a few passes at this classic package. There's my favorite spanakopita recipe, a Greek-inspired pairing of spinach with creamy feta, cottage cheese, and fresh dill. And this Middle Eastern take, with individual spinach turnovers studded with pine nuts and lemony sumac. And evidently I can't stop, because now I'm going to tell you about the Turkish version: borek.
Borek is a catchall term that could describe a great range of savory pastries, from a phyllo-covered meat turnover to a little cigar-shaped package of cheese rolled in yufka dough. In this case, it's a light yeasted dough layered with greens, herbs and feta cheese. It's lovely, and much easier than the dramatic presentation suggests. The original recipe calls for spinach, but I cooked down some Russian kale instead, and mixed it with a bunch of flat leaf parsley (inspired by the similarly sesame-studded Izmir flatbread in my favorite Paula Wolfert cookbook). It's substantial without being heavy, and since you don't have to worry about flaky phyllo, it's a perfect travel food. There are reasons some things become classics.
Borek with Greens and Feta
adapted from Home Cooking in Montana, who translated it from the Romanian on Gabriela's Blog
yields 1 8" square borek
1/2 cup warm milk
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp warm water
1 3/4 tsp active yeast
2 cups flour (you can swap out half whole wheat flour--just add an additional Tbsp water)
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 bunch Russian or lacinato kale, washed and finely chopped
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, washed and finely chopped
3/4 cup feta
2-3 Tbsp melted butter or olive oil
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
To make the dough: Pour the water and milk in a mixing bowl, sprinkle on the yeast, and allow to soften for a few minutes. Add the flour and salt, kneading with your hands or a dough hook for several minutes until you create a soft, pliable dough that just clears the sides of the bowl (if it doesn't, add a touch more flour). Cover and let sit for a few minutes while you prepare the filling.
To make the filling: Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the kale and stir to coat with the oil, and sprinkle with a very light dusting of salt to draw water out. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is softened. Add the parsley, and cook an additional minute. Remove from heat and stir in the crumbled feta.
To assemble and bake: Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll out the first piece to form a large rectangle, ~15"x17". Drizzle it with the melted butter or olive oil, and then scatter half the filling evenly over the top. Roll out the second piece of dough, lay it on top of the first, and repeat the process with melted butter and the remaining filling. Roll out the final piece of dough, lay it over the top, and drizzle with the remaining butter.
Fold the right- and left-hand sides in, so that they meet in the middle (you can consult the pictorial on this page, which gives you a better idea of the whole process). Repeat with the top and bottom, so you have a nicely folded package. Flip it upside-down, so the smooth underside is on top. Roll it gently with a rolling pin, taking care to not tear the dough while you ease it into a roughly 8" square. If you have parchment paper, place the borek on a large square of it. With a large knife, cut through all the layers halfway through each side and on the diagonal, yielding 8 little triangles. Pick up the parchment, and transfer the cut square into an 8" brownie pan (if you don't have parchment, just make sure your pan is well-greased). Cover lightly with a clean dishtowel, and let rise for about 1 hour.
When the dough is almost done rising, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Gently brush the dough with the beaten egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Place in the oven and bake until lightly browned, ~30-45 minutes. Let cool and serve.
Monday, September 20, 2010
There seem to be certain truisms of parenting an infant. Baby boys will pee on you about once a week. Finding the time to shower is shockingly difficult. And new nursing mothers crave nothing more than calorie-dense, healthy snacks that can be eaten with one hand.
I spent last weekend with my dear friend in Minneapolis, checking in on her and her adorable cooing baby boy. In addition to catching up, taking walks, and general infant detail, we cooked a staggering amount of food. Potato knishes (and their exciting cousins, broccoli cheddar potato knishes), red lentil soup, borscht, kreplach, chard and carrot salad, lentil walnut burgers, enchilada sauce, sloppy sauce, oatmeal raisin cookies, and some other things I’m probably forgetting. I’m surprised we were able to close the freezer. I can report that, based upon this small nonscientific sampling, any of the above would be happily received by a new mother. But these homemade granola bars might be our most exciting creation.
The majority of commercially-made granola bars are tooth-achingly sweet, more like a oaty alternative to a doughnut than an actual health food. Luckily Smitten Kitchen took on this quest for a delicious granola bar, and adapted a recipe from the venerable King Arthur Flour blog (the folks behind my favorite peanut butter chocolate cookies). I took this adaptation and tweaked it even further, cutting the sugar down yet again, swapping out honey for the corn syrup (or, as I believe it would like to be known, corn sugar), fussing with the spices, and replacing the butter with the oh-so-delicious coconut oil. This recipe is a lovely loose template, giving you a framework into which you can sneak any nuts, seeds, dried fruit, or other nubby goodness your pantry and heart steer you towards (we went with a pantry-cleaning mix of almonds, walnuts, pecans, sesame seeds, flax meal, coconut, dried cranberries and raisins). The bars are like your favorite granola, all toasty and nutty, pressed into a convenient hand-held cube. Irresistible. I doubled the recipe and left behind a lasagna pan’s-worth of bars behind me, but I doubt they’ll last the week.
adapted from King Arthur Flour, via Smitten Kitchen
yields 1 8" square tray
Make sure you let these bars fully chill in the refrigerator before cutting. If you’re impatient and jump the gun (because, say, you needed to clear out the casserole dish in order to fill it with spanikopita), your bars may crumble a bit (in a related note, the crumbles are ridiculously delicious with yogurt). Chilling the bars fully sets them firmly, allowing you to neatly chop them into single servings.
1 2/3 cups rolled oats (aka oatmeal)
1/3 cup oat flour (if your pantry doesn’t contain this, just blitz oatmeal until it’s reduced to a floury powder)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 cups dried fruits, nuts, seeds or grains of your choosing (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, prunes, dried apricots, currants, flax seeds, ground flax meal, etc etc etc)
6 Tbsp coconut oil (substitute butter if desired)
1/3 cup almond butter (or peanut butter)
4-6 Tbsp honey (depending on your sweet tooth and honey availability)
1 Tbsp water
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
If your nuts aren’t toasted, you can toast them in the oven while you’re assembling the other ingredients (this step may sound fussy, but the depth of flavor you get is totally worth it—just make sure you don’t forget and burn everything).
Mix together all of the dry ingredients (including sugar) in a large bowl, and set aside. Line an 8” square pan with parchment, if you have it, or just grease the pan well and hope for the best. Set aside.
Place the coconut oil in a saucepan, and warm over a low heat until it melts (this won’t take long). Add the almond butter, honey, and water, let sit for a moment to warm and loosen, and then mix until well combined. Pour this syrupy mixture over your dry ingredients, and stir until well combined. Pour the combined dough into your pan, and press it down firmly to compact it evenly. Place in the oven and bake ~30-45 minutes, until the edges and top are lightly browned (if you like your bars chewy take them out as soon as this browning happens, when the bars seem barely set; for crisper bars wait until they are well-browned). Let the pan of uncut bars cool to room temperature, then move them to the refrigerator until they are fully chilled (~45 minutes). Remove the bars from the pan, and cut them into shapes of your choosing. Store at room temperature in a covered container, or in the refrigerator if the weather’s hot and humid. They also freeze beautifully.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
It seems I've been somewhat remiss this Rosh Hashanah. Yes, I told you about a galette that played on the traditional flavors of the holiday, mixing crisp apples with rosemary-infused honey. But I somehow forgot to tell you about my kreplach. I wrote about kreplach here last year, when I first figured out how to make the lovely wonton-like packages on my own (thanks, egullet!). But last week I ran a story in our paper plumbing the history, significance and technique behind this delicious-yet-unfortunately-named dumping, and somehow I forgot to tell you all about it. Oops! I'm atoning for it now -- you can follow the link and read the details in The Oregonian.
Monday, September 06, 2010
A few years ago, I read a great article attempting to parse the seemingly random trends in baby names. Sociologists weighed the evidence, and tried to figure out why there now seem to be a glut of Isabellas but nary a Lisa in sight. They pointed to numerous factors, but one that stuck out in my mind was the strong pull of the slight variation. Sometimes a name becomes so popular that it starts to feel a wee bit stale. But make the smallest of tweaks, and the name sounds fresh again. Exit Madeleine, enter Madison. My daily world is food (as opposed to baby names), but I know just what they mean. Sometimes I want the familiar flavors of tradition. But I'm also a little bit bored with that, and crave a variation that satisfies off my childhood memories while appealing to my grownup tastes. Exit the honey cake, enter the rosemary honey apple galette.
This week brings Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year celebration. Apples and honey are traditionally eaten on the holiday, to give a sweetly auspicious start to the coming year. Many of my sticky childhood memories involve a bowl of MacIntoshes and a bear-shaped plastic squeeze bottle. I wanted to make a dessert featuring that familiar combination, but providing a more sophisticated riff on the season.
This galette does the job beautifully. The apples are a tart, firm variety, instead of the mealy Macs of my youth, and are featured front-and-center in the open-faced tart. Honey is used to flavor a thin layer of frangipane, a base of almond custard that keeps things from drying out, and also drizzled on top after the galette comes out of the oven. But even better, the frangipane and finishing honey are both infused with the piney scent of rosemary. It's subtle, providing just a bit of sharpness to play against the sweet round notes of apples and honey. I daresay it could start a new tradition of its own.
Rosemary Honey Apple Galette
2 Tbsp butter, softened to room temperature
3 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp finely-chopped fresh rosemary
1/3 cup ground almonds
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 unbaked pie crust
4-5 apples (~2 lbs), a tart variety like Granny Smith, peeled, halved and cored, and thinly sliced (I like to keep the slices together in the apple-half shape, and just fan them slightly onto the crust)
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 sprig rosemary
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Mix together the frangipane ingredients (this is a snap in a food processor, but you can easily mix it by hand if you take care to finely mince the rosemary). Set aside.
Roll out the crust to a few circle with a diameter a few inches larger than your tart pan. Ease it gently into the pan, and spread the frangipane evenly over the base (just the base, not the overhang). Lay the apples on top, fanning the slices slightly and arranging them in whatever design you like. Take the overhanging crust, and fold it gently inwards to cover the edges of the apple slices, arranging it into folds as needed. Brush the exposed apples and crust with the melted butter, and sprinkle both lightly with the sugar. Bake until the apples brown at the edges and the crust is becoming lightly burnished, ~45 minutes.
Shortly before the galette has finished baking, take the remaining scant 1/4 cup honey and place it in a saucepan with the rosemary. Heat it gently, so that the honey becomes runny and infuses with the rosemary flavor (don't let it come to too much of a boil, or it'll be reduced to an unpourable thickness). Fish the rosemary out with a fork, and drizzle the infused honey over the apples. Serve.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
When I'm invited to a potluck, my culinary inclination goes in one of two directions. Sometimes I want to go all-out in my kitchen, due to either adoration for my fellow potluckers, a latent competitive desire to impress, or just excitement at having an excuse to try out extravagant recipes. And other times I feel the pinch of my budget, and a slight surly resentment at feeding strangers better than I feed myself, and the motivating principle is producing a respectable potluck contribution for about $5. Luckily, there are dishes like this roasted cherry tomato tart, which can satisfy both of these impulses. This tart is crazy elegant, and also ridiculously cheap (especially if you, like us, have tomatoes of all sorts spilling out of your front yard).
This tart takes lovely late-summer tomatoes, and concentrates their flavor with a roast in a slow oven (which also has the added benefit of reducing their moisture content, so your tart won't be soggy). You can skip the slow-roasting step, if you like, and your tomatoes will be a bit prettier and less shriveled, but not nearly so rich. The roasted tomatoes are set on a bed of goat cheese that has been lightened with a bit of egg and half-and-half -- the liquid isn't enough to create a quiche-like custard, but gives the goat cheese a bit of mousse-like softness. The tangy goat cheese perfectly complements the rich tomatoes, and a wee bit of mustard on the base and fresh thyme leaves over the top provide a nice accent without distracting from the summer flavors. It's sure to please any sorts of crowds.
And speaking of group meals (potluck and otherwise), I return to the subject of my all-zucchini dinner party. I know that some of you thought sure, it's nice to read about. But what did it sound like? Well, wonder no more. You can hear an audio dispatch over at The Splendid Table, and see a slide show full of zucchinitastic photos.
Roasted Cherry Tomato Tart
1 9" tart crust, par-baked
~ 1 1/2-2 cups cherry tomatoes (the exact amount may vary, depending upon the size and shape of your tomatoes - if you roast too many, that's not a bad thing at all)
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
8 oz soft goat cheese, such as chevre
1/2 cup half-and-half or milk
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme (or other herb of your choice), divided
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Halve the cherry tomatoes along their equators, and place them cut-side up in a baking dish. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and place them in the oven for 3 hours. They should shrink up somewhat, to maybe 2/3 their size, but still be juicy. Set aside.
Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Spread the mustard along the bottom of the tart shell, leaving a very thin layer. In a mixer (or using a whisk or fork and a lot of patience), blend together the goat cheese, eggs, half-and-half, and half the fresh herbs. Pour this mixture into the tart shell. Gently place the tomatoes on top, cut-side up, in an arrangement that strikes you.
Gently transfer the tart to the oven, and bake ~45 minutes, until the filling has puffed and begun to brown, and the tomatoes are caramelized a touch on top. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Sprinkle the remaining fresh herb and a light sprinkling of salt across the top, and serve.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
While there are many times I use my freezer for the purpose that God and Whirlpool intended, more often than not it serves as sort of way station en route to the trash. Sure, I've got a useful bag of trimmings for vegetable stock, piles of frozen garlic naan for impromptu Indian, and tubs of homegrown tomatoes. But then there's the dark side. Cooking experiments that are too terrible to stomach (but too nutritious to compost) get apportioned into neat serving sizes, tucked into the freezer, and left there. For a good long time. Sometimes the better part of a year. Oof. I end up with a somewhat fraught relationship with my over-full freezer. But that relationship has been wholly repaired by the frozen watermelon daiquiri.
The other day we split a watermelon between three people. Not one of these teensy personal-sized melonlets that are apparently all the rage, but a full-on, armload of melon. It was huge. Even on a hot day, we only put a dent in it. What remained was literally too large to fit in the refrigerator. So I hacked it into cubes, filling one container after another, until we filled the refrigerator. In desperation, I tossed the remaining tub of watermelon cubes in the freezer. Maybe I'd get to them someday? Or maybe they'd just end up in the compost a few months later, like my other frozen good intentions. But then the heat rolled back around, an internet search revealed a slushy, boozy cocktail, and oh man am I now the biggest fan of frozen watermelon.
This cocktail is quite simple, especially if you've got a tub of frozen watermelon in your freezer. If not, just cube some up, toss it in, and wait a few hours. The sweet icy cubes are blended up with rum, lime juice, a splash of soda if you've got it, and a sprig of mint. The combination of frozen watermelon and cooling mint makes this one of the most refreshing cocktails I've ever slurped.
Frozen Watermelon Daiquiri
adapted, heavily, from Cooking Light
yields 1 drink, but can easily be multiplied by number of drinkers
1 cup cubed and frozen watermelon
juice of 1/2 small lime
1 tsp sugar
1 sprig mint
1 shot light rum
splash seltzer (~2-3 Tablespoons)
Place all ingredients in a blender, and pulse until well-mixed into a slushy, frothy mix. Pour into a glass and enjoy.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
My dog has a basket of toys by the front door. There are a few that he plays with nearly every day -- bones to gnaw and hollow rubber thingies to fill with peanut butter -- but then there are a handful that he ignores. Some promotional stuffed animal that he stopped caring about once he realized it couldn't be destroyed, or the twisted rope he liked to play tug-of-war with five years ago. He'll toss them aside to reach the more exciting items underneath, but for the most part they sit around gathering dust. Until another dog comes to the house. Magically, the value-adding property of another dog's interest renders a treat infinitely more appealing. You want that thing I've ignored for five years? Suddenly I want it too! So much!
I laugh a bit at this transparent ridiculousness, but truth be told I can be the same way. My friend Robert once noted that somebody could be eating poop on a cracker, and he'd be angling for a bite. It can happen easily. A few weeks ago, I took the cookbook Baked: New Frontiers in Baking out of the library. I thumbed through the pages, earmarking a few, thinking maybe I'd make them someday. But then I saw an enticing version of Baked's peanut butter chocolate chip cookies on the lovely blog A Little Ginger. And suddenly I wanted them too! So much!
I've eaten my share of peanut butter cookies over the years, but these are easily the best I've had. Hands down. Perfect cookies. They have a toothsome texture somewhere between soft and crisp, with a deep, slightly salty peanut butter flavor. They keep well, like any cookie, but I think they're especially lovely the first day.
And speaking of ridiculous notions that consume your thoughts, I recently was so taken with the zucchini dishes I saw posted everywhere that I decided to host an All Zucchini Dinner Party. It took a bit of recipe-testing, a mountain of zucchini, and some very game friends, but in the end a good green meal was had by all. You can read about it (and get more recipes than you can shake a squash at) in The Oregonian.
Perfect Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
yields ~36 cookies
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for topping
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup peanut butter
6 oz chocolate, milk or dark, coarsely chopped
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, soda and salt. Set aside.
In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, mixing until combined. Add the vanilla and peanut butter, mixing until well combined.
Fold in the dry ingredients until *just* combined. Fold in the chocolate bits, and place in a covered container and refrigerate overnight.
On baking day, remove the dough from the refrigerator, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Plop out rounded tablespoons of dough onto lined cookie sheets, at least 2" apart, and flatten slightly with the heel of your hand to smush the doughballs into chubby disks. Sprinkle a bit of granulated sugar on each cookie, enough to give a light dusting (this will make a lovely, sweet-crunchy crust).
Place sheets in oven and bake 10-12 minutes, until the edges just turn golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, and then remove to finish cooling on a rack. Enjoy.
Thursday, August 05, 2010
Good crusty bread seems to be the final frontier in gluten-free baking. Cupcakes and cookies certainly take a bit of skill and care, but if you have a good recipe (especially one with a lot of fat and sugar to do the heavy lifting), you'll end up with something delicious. Sandwich bread needs to be able to stay together, sure, but usually they're topped with enough flavorful ingredients and tasty spreads that by the end it doesn't matter too much. But a good, crusty hearth loaf? The sort of old-school, artisan boule with a toothsome crust and a rangy, airy crumb? For most gf people, these can be a sad, distant memory.
A good friend of mine recently went off gluten, and has been sorely missing these loaves. Before the dietary shift, gluten was a big part of her existence. She bought flour in 25-lb sacks, and on weekends would mix up a double batch of Jim Lahey's famous no-knead bread, stud it with seeds, and bake the loaves up for the family to enjoy throughout the week. It's a pretty hard thing to say goodbye to.
But thanks to some amazing gluten-free bakers, you don't have to. The wonderful Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë Francois, along with Shauna James Ahern came up with a gluten-free loaf that does a shocking job of passing for its gluten-filled inspiration. A mix of several different gf flours, xanthan gum, eggs and oil combine into a a crusty, satisfying hearth loaf. In keeping with the tradition (and my own hippie leanings), I tossed a good handful of seeds into the dough, and scattered more on top. The results are amazing.
Would you mistake this for standard bread? Possibly. It's pretty darned close, I'll say. Although it's definitely "bready," if you pay close attention you might find it a little more spongy, a little less rangy and airy than the usual hearth breads. In that way it's similar to the spongier Italian semolina loaves, sort of a hybrid of that style and the leaner artisan boule. But mostly, it's just good. Really really good.
Gluten-free Crusty Seeded Bread
yields 1 2-lb loaf
Adapted from the Gluten-Free Crusty Boule in Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë Francois' lovely book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Things to keep in mind:
1) You will see the word "gently" appear in this recipe several dozen times. Gentleness is key, it turns out. While all unbaked doughs are somewhat delicate, gluten-free dough is especially so. If you handle it roughly after it's risen, you'll knock out those hard-earned air pockets, and lose your lovely texture in the finished product. A bit of babying will pay off mightily.
2) While you'll want to tear into this bread right away, it continues to cook internally and set after removing from the oven. You break it open, you get gummy bread. So you must wait, sadly.
3) Many people with gluten intolerance are sensitive to even the smallest amounts of trace cross-contamination. If you're not gluten-free but cooking for someone who is, make sure you use clean, nonporous equipment and avoid any traces of gluten. If your Dutch oven has been used on other gluten-y meals, use a large enough piece of parchment paper to prevent the dough from coming in contact with the pot.
1 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup sorghum flour
1 1/2 cups tapioca starch
1 Tbsp xanthan gum
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/3 cups water (slightly warm, especially if your rising area is cold, but not so warm that you kill the yeast -- just comfortably warm)
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp neutral oil, like canola
1 Tbsp sugar
1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup whole flax seeds
3 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 egg, beaten with 1 small splash water (aka "the egg wash")
3 Tbsp raw pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp whole flax seeds
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
Mix together the rice flour, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a mixer (or another large bowl), pour the water and sprinkle the yeast over it. Let sit for a few minutes to allow the yeast to soften. Add the eggs, oil and sugar, and mix thoroughly. Add the gf flour mixture, and mix thoroughly to combine. If you're using a mixer, use the paddle rather than the dough hook. Continue to mix together until the dough is well-combined and smooth. The dough will not seem like a traditional bread dough -- it's somewhere between a cake batter and smooth mashed potatoes. Add the pumpkin, flax, and sesame seeds, and stir to combine.
When the dough is mixed, place it in a lightly-oiled covered container, and let sit, loosely covered, at room temperature for 2 hours. If your rising place is particularly warm, cut this down to 1 1/2 hours. After it has risen, gently take the container and place it in the refrigerator. Chill at least overnight, and up to about a week.
When you're ready to bake, gently take the dough out of the refrigerator. Tip it out onto a piece of parchment paper, taking care to not deflate any of the air that it has captured. Using a wet hand, shape the dough into a round, and smooth out the surface as best you can (keep wetting your hand to prevent the dough from sticking, and to wet the surface of the dough enough to smooth it out). Cover loosely with a piece of plastic, and allow to rise an hour and a half (less time if your rising area is warm).
Half an hour before the rising time is done, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Place a large Dutch oven and its cover (making sure the cover doesn't have a meltable plastic knob) in the oven to preheat. While this is preheating, mix together the seeds for the topping.
When the dough has warmed and risen slightly, brush the surface completely with the egg wash (use a pastry brush if you have it, otherwise just wad up the plastic you'd used to cover the dough, and use it to gently blot the surface of the dough with the egg wash). Sprinkle the seeds for the topping evenly over the surface. Take a sharp serrated knife, and gently cut slashes 1/4" deep over the surface of the dough.
Carefully remove the preheated Dutch oven from the oven. Gently pick up the piece of parchment paper around the loaf, and gently lower it into the preheated pot. Cover, and gently place in the oven. Let bake 25 minutes, then remove the lid, and lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Let bake an additional 20-25 minutes, until the surface of the dough is browned (it may be difficult to see under the seeds), and the dough seems done to your liking. Lift it out of the pan, and cool on a rack. When nearly completely cool, slice and serve.