Tuesday, February 13, 2018

stromboli lasagna.

This recipe showed up on the Smitten Kitchen site about a week before the Superbowl and it took me all of 12 seconds to decide that I had to make it for Superbowl Sunday.   

I probably don't need to tell you that I have a real weakness for things involving bread, sauce, and cheese.  (My last meal on earth will always be pizza.)  And this stromboli which is essentially layer upon layer of thinly sliced pizza on top of thinly sliced pizza is like the perfect marriage of a pizza and a lasagna.  It's also the kind of dish that would allow for so many variations - a white version with crumbled sausage and greens, a tomato version with roasted zucchini and ricotta, basically I could go on forever.   

I know it looks daunting but I promise it's not scary (the dough is incredibly forgiving) and the resulting dish is the epitome of party food (so I suggest you invite some friends over).   

Stromboli Lasagna (Scaccia Ragusana-Style)
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

For the Dough

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons or 165 ml) lukewarm water
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup (115 grams) semolina flour
1 1/3 cups (175 grams) all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
A few sprigs of fresh basil


2 ounces finely grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese
6 ounces coarsely grated provolone (aged is great if you can get it) or caciocavallo cheese
2 ounces coarsely grated mozzarella (if buying in a ball, buy wrapped in plastic, not sitting in water)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 3 1/2 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni (optional)
A few slivered leaves of fresh basil (optional)

Make the dough by hand: In a large bowl, combine flours and salt with your fingers or a whisk. Make a well in the center and pour in warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes, until foamy, then add oil to liquid and mix together with your hands or spoon until a craggy ball forms. Knead it together, gathering any loose flour, into a ball, then transfer to a counter and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until a smooth, elastic ball has formed. Oil your now-empty bowl and return dough to it, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours; it should double. (Mine was done on the early end — for once.)

Make the dough in a stand mixer: Pour water, sugar, and yeast into the bottom of the mixer’s bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Add oil to yeast mixture, then flours, then salt and use the machine’s dough hook to pull the mixture into a craggy ball. Knead on low for 5 minutes, scraping down as needed, until a smooth, elastic ball has formed. Briefly remove it from your mixer bowl, oil the bowl, and return the dough to it, covering the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours; it should double. (Mine was done on the early end — for once.)

Meanwhile, and I mean right away so it has time to leisurely cool, make the sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom of a medium-sized pot over medium, then add garlic, cook until it barely picks up color, and add pepper flakes and oregano, stir again. Add canned tomatoes (be careful — it’s going to splash up) and salt and stir to combine. Add basil, bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce to a low simmer, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard basil. Adjust seasonings to taste. Set aside to cool to lukewarm or room temperature while dough rises.

Mix cheeses together in a large bowl and refrigerate until needed.

To make a stromboli/packet-like/scaccia shape: Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. On a floured surface, roll your dough into the thinnest rectangle that you can, pulling and stretching it as needed. You’re looking for 1/16-inch thickness; the longer sides should be parallel to you.

Spread tomato sauce over the whole rectangle in a thin, but not too thin, layer. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with about half the cheese, scatter with slices of pepperoni and slivers of basil, if using.

Fold the left and right sides of the dough over the filling to meet at the center. Spread the top with more sauce, seasonings, cheese, and toppings.

Fold the top and bottom in so they meet in the center; spread the top with more sauce, seasonings, and remaining cheese and toppings.

Fold top half over bottom half, take a deep breath, and lift this from the counter and onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.  Prick the top all over with a fork.

Bake the stromboli/packet/scaccia shape: For about 1 hour, until deeply browned all over and charred in some spots. Rotate the pan as needed for even coloring. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting into squares with a serrated knife, and serving.

Monday, January 22, 2018

pineapple upside-down cake.

As of late, I've been having a number of kitchen highs and lows.   I'm challenging myself to be a little more loose in the kitchen by experimenting more and just simply winging it.  The good thing about that approach is that it allows me to be a little more creative and make some really noteworthy dishes.  The bad thing is that there can also be some epic fails.   Dishes that just feel blah or lack the look/feel/taste of what I envisioned in my head.  They aren't bad per se but they just aren't what I wanted.   When those mistakes happen I can be very hard on myself - wondering how and why I could have wasted certain ingredients on a dish that feels lack luster.   I think part of the issue is that on the weekends, I push myself to tackle too many cooking projects because I convince myself I will never get my chance to cook again.  Obviously this is a crazy thought to have but it's very real thought for me - I manifest this mindset that the opportunity I have will never exist again.  (Traveling with me is not always easy because I convince myself I am never coming back to that location again and then need to eat EVERYTHING I've wanted to eat in the span of 3 days - my stomach and head do not match-up).  I've been trying to control these things and as noted in my last blog post, I'm trying to make 2018 the year where I let myself be OK with doing less or an amount I feel comfortable with.   It's not my nature but I think it will be good for myself.   

With all of that being said, here is a cake.  A recipe I did not make but I wish I did because it's just so good (I did tweak it slightly).  This was the first time I made a pineapple upside down cake and  considering how much I love all other upside-down cake recipes (apple, cranberry, cherry, etc), I'm unsure as to why I waited so long.   The combination of tender, caramelized fruit with a light and fluffy cake base is pretty addicting.   So make this.  And make it your only project one weekend.   

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Tweaked from Apt. 2B Baking 

I upped the pineapple from 2 cups to 3 cups since I had the room.  I also made my own creme fraiche since I had heavy cream I needed to use though I think yogurt could easily be subbed for the creme fraiche.   I also dialed back some of the sugar in the cake as well since I thought the combination of caramel and pineapple would be sweet enough.  Some ground ginger would be really good in the cake but I didn't want to play around with the flavor too much during my first go-ahead.   

Makes one 9-inch cake

For the Topping

4 tablespoons (55g) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (110g) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons rum (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground pink peppercorns 
1/2 vanilla bean, split
1 bay leaf
3 cups sliced pineapple (fresh or canned – you do you)
A pinch of salt

For the Cake

1 cup (220g) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (110g) light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (260g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/3 cups (320g) crème fraîche or sour cream (I also think 2% or full fat yogurt or a combination of these 3 would work)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat oven to 350° F.

Melt the butter and brown sugar together in a 10-inch (or deep 9-inch) cast iron skillet set over medium heat. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and combined. Add the rum (if using), pepper, vanilla bean, bay leaf, and a pinch of salt.

Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the pineapple and cook for a few minutes turning the pineapple over in the sauce occasionally until the pineapple begins to soften and release its juices.  Set the pan on a baking sheet, and brush the sides of the pan with a bit of butter. 

To make the cake, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and crème fraiche/sour cream and mix to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to combine. Fold the flour into the wet ingredients then pour the batter over the fruit and spread into an even layer.

Bake the cake on the baking sheet until a toothpick inserted inserted into the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a spatula around the outside of the cake and invert the cake onto a cooling rack. Cool completely and remove the bay leaf and vanilla bean pod before slicing and serving. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

curried lentil, tomato, and coconut soup.

Happy 2018.   I know I usually do a re-cap in this space and much like last year, I don't really feel like it.  2017 felt hard in a lot of ways and I don't want to dwell on it.  

I also don’t want to set any outright resolutions because resolutions really stress me out, but the idea of throwing some goals out there feels like a good thing so here it goes.  Find a photograph that I love and buy it.   Run/go to a gym class twice a week (ideally more) because I always feel better after.  Find more creative food solutions for beans and legumes.  Buy less stuff but when you do buy stuff try and buy it second hand.  If you can’t find a small company to buy from.   Make sure you only buy things that you really truly love and can’t live without.   Give and get more hugs.   Continue to read (especially books on topics you don’t know about).   Stop feeling the need to do too much (I’m looking at you weekend cooking projects).  It’s ok to just tackle one thing and tackle it well.   Figure out if it’s time to make a change in your career or if you’re just feeling impatient.  Hold Tyler’s hand more.  Get a cleaning person since cleaning is the source of almost all stress in your life.   Eat more soup since you love it, it’s filling, and it’s cheap.  Eat less cookies.   

And with that, let’s talk about this soup which was in the December/January issue of Bon Appetit.   It’s a Yotam recipe which pretty much guaranteed it was going to be good.  I loved it because it didn’t use chicken stock but instead relies on flavorful ingredients (tomato, coconut milk, etc.) to make a broth that tastes like it’s been cooking for hours.  Best of all it comes together in about 40 minutes, making it the perfect dish for a cold weekday dinner.  

Curried Lentil, Tomato, and Coconut Soup
Recipe from Bon Appetit 

2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 2½-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
1 tablespoon medium curry powder (such as S&B)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¾ cup red lentils
1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
½ cup finely chopped cilantro, plus leaves with tender stems for serving
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk, shaken well
Lime wedges (for serving)

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium. Cook onion, stirring often, until softened and golden brown, 8–10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, curry powder, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add lentils and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, ½ cup cilantro, a generous pinch of salt, and 2½ cups water; season with pepper. Set aside ¼ cup coconut milk for serving and add remaining coconut milk to saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until lentils are soft but not mushy, 20–25 minutes. Season soup with more salt and pepper if needed.

To serve, divide soup among bowls. Drizzle with reserved coconut milk and top with more cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Do Ahead: Soup (without toppings) can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

tahini brownies.

Hi!   It's been a weird not-at-all relaxing December.  Work has been exceptionally nutty and for that reason I'm not in the holiday mindset or in the holiday spirit.  Everything about the holidays has exhausted me this year. I tried listening to Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You on repeat to get out of this funk and that did't help.  (Instead I've reverted to Joni Mitchell's River which will always and forever be the greatest Christmas song though the furthest thing from uplifting.)

For a lot of the above reasons, I didn't attempt too many new cookies this year because it all seemed like a lot of work.   Instead I relied on some old favorites (like these and these) to contribute to the annual Cavagnolo cookie-plate extravaganza.  I'm still working on the perfect ginger-molasses cookie.  The first batch I made was good flavorwise but totally wrong when it came to texture.  I'm in the process of making a second batch and tweaked some things.  Will see what happens.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  

I did make one new recipe.  These brownies which have been calling my name in the new Ottolenghi Sweet cookbook for sometime.  These are decadent but my god are they unreal.  The tahini and chocolate pairing makes these really special.  Like holiday table special.   Since they are rich, they can be cut into tiny squares which means they are great for sharing.  And if you do have any left, they freeze brilliantly (I actually prefer them frozen).  

Tahini Brownies 
Recipe tweaked slightly from Sweet 

1 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp/250 g unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch/2-cm cubes, plus extra for greasing 
9 oz/260 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into 1 1/2-inch/4-cm pieces 
4 large eggs 
1 1/3 cups/280 g granulated sugar 
3/4 cup plus 3 tbsp/120 g all-purpose flour 
1/3 cup/30 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder 
1/2 tsp salt 
7 oz/200 g halva, broken into 3/4-inch/2-cm pieces  (can be omitted if you can't find)
1/3 cup/70 g tahini paste 
1/4 cup cocoa nibs (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Grease your chosen pan and line with parchment paper, then set aside.

Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Leave for about 2 minutes to melt, then remove the bowl from the heat. Stir until you have a thick shiny sauce and set aside to come to room temperature.

Place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until pale and creamy and a trail is left behind when you move the whisk; this will take about 3 minutes with an electric mixer, longer by hand. Add the chocolate and fold through gently with a spatula—don’t overwork the mixture here.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into a bowl, then gently fold into the chocolate mixture. Finally, add the pieces of halva, gently fold through the mix, then pour or scrape the mixture into the lined baking pan, using a small spatula to even it out. Dollop small spoonfuls of the tahini paste into the mix in about 12 different places, then use a skewer to swirl them through to create a marbled effect, taking the marbling right to the edges of the pan.

Bake for about 23 minutes, until the middle has a slight wobble and it is gooey inside—they may be ready anywhere between 22 and 25 minutes. If using the 12 x 8-inch/30.5 x 20-cm pan, they will need a couple minutes less cooking time. They may seem a little undercooked at first, but they firm up once they start to cool down. If you want to serve them warmish (and gooey), set aside for just 30 minutes before cutting into 16 pieces. Otherwise, set aside for longer to cool to room temperature.

Storage: These will keep well for up to 5 days in an airtight container. They also freeze well, covered in plastic wrap, for up to a month. When you take them out of the freezer, they are uncommonly good eaten at the half-frozen, half-thawed stage.

Monday, December 11, 2017

my best books of 2017.

The library is 3 blocks from our apartment and earlier this year it re-opened.  Outside of adopting Jackson and getting married, it was one of the best days of my life.   I love libraries (I even worked in one in college though I use the term "work" loosely) and I really love books.  Now that it's back, I've become a bit of a book worm and have spent most of my free time reading rather then watching TV.  It feels really good to read more and I have read A LOT this year.   

While not cooking or cookbook related, I figured I would put together a list of my top 5 books of 2017.  I have fairly electric reading tastes so I think this list includes something for everyone.  So if you are looking for something to hunker down with over the holidays, I hope you can find something on this list to try.   

Also!  Lest you think I wasn't going to be posting about holiday cookies, that is simply not the case.  I have a brownie recipe in my back pocket that will be coming in the next couple of days and I'm currently working on making the perfect ginger molasses cookie.  It is much harder then it looks.  Hopefully sometime next week I'll have that.   

Now without further ado, my best books of 2017 (not necessarily in order).   

1 -  Red Notice by Bill Browder - This reads like a Borne Identity movie (but is in fact a true story!) which would typically be the furthest thing from my wheelhouse but in this political climate, it just worked.   Bill Browder was one of the first foreign investors in Russia and through-out his career he found a lot of ways to make money and he also found that a lot of corruption exists in Russia.  I can't begin to tell you how fascinating this book is (I made Tyler read it when I finished).  

2 - Last Days of Night by Graham Moore - A fictional booked loosely based on the true story of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse battling among themselves to be the first company to bring electricity to the US.   This is not boring historical fiction, it's exciting and interesting and despite it's length goes quickly.  Another book I've recommended to pretty much everyone.   

3 - The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne - At almost 600 pages, this is not a short novel, but it is so beautifully done it hurts.  Cyril Avery is born out of wedlock in Ireland in the 1930's (when things like that were frowned upon).   Each chapter takes your an additional 7 years into his life and within each chapter you as the reader find common threads that tie Cyril's past to his future.   This book is gorgeous and it touches upon so many issues (Catholicism in Ireland, AIDS, adoption, etc) and despite all of those heavy topics, it manages to remain somewhat light.   It's truly one of the best books I've ever read.   

4 - Sourdough by Robin Sloan - This book actually has a food related angle.  It's about Lois, a software engineer who moves to San Fran and spends her days coding and her nights unfulfilled.  That is until her favorite takeout place gives her their sourdough starter and she's left to take care of it.  This is a book about the intersection of food and technology.   It's a cute, easy read, and one that I really loved.   

5 - Amanda Wakes Up by Alisyn Camerota  - When I first finished this book I wasn't sure how I felt but the fact that I continue to think about it (a month after I finished it) means I really liked it.  This is chick-lit at it's best - smart, engaging, and fast paced.  It's the story of Amanda Gallo, a TV anchor who gets her big break on FAIR News, a new channel thats trying to be the unbiased news channel during the current presidential election.  While she's working, she realizes she is loosing herself in order to fit the mold of the company she works for.   This book has a LOT of similarities to the 2016 election cycle and now that we are a year out, I can finally read a book like this without feeling like I want to throw something.   

Honorable mentions go to Cork Dork (all about becoming a sommeillier) and Eleanor Ophiliant is Completely Fine (which I just finished!).   

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

all i want for christmas (isn't really much at all).

Image result for apartment therapy christmasHonestly, I have no idea where 2017 went and how it's Holiday time again.   My aversion towards things continues unless it's vintage or practical.   I can't believe how much Tyler has rubbed off on me.   

But, after a year that has been stressful and at moment downright scary, it's kind of nice to spend a little bit of time looking at completely beautiful things that deserve a place in our home.   So here is the list of things Caitlin would like to see under the tree.   Some are practical, some are silly, all of them make me happy.  And couldn't we all use a little happiness?    

Also - all of them support small companies doing new/cool different things which I always feel is important (minus AirBnb but AirBnb does support individuals turing their home into way to make money so I think that's OK).  

1 - A Wooden Matchbox - I've been on a bit of candle kick since moving into our new place.  I like how good they make our apartment smell and how they make everything feel cozy.  We have an ugly plastic lighter for lighting them and I can't stand seeing it on the mantle.  SO, as a replacement, I want this little wooden box for matches.  It's pretty, it's practical, and it works with our color scheme.   In zebrawood or maple please.   

2 - More Wool Socks - I love wearing thick wool socks around our apartment.  I've worn down several pairs that I currently own and am therefore always looking for new ones.  These are adorable.  I'll take any and all colors.    

3 - This Wine (or any of their Ancestral ones) - I had this wine at a tasting and couldn't get it out of my head.   I bought a bottle and then I couldn't find it again.   Tyler and I love it so much - it has a funky kombucha like taste to it.   

4 - Any of these Sculptural Earrings - It took 32 years and I finally got my style (kind of) down.  High-waisted pants, simple top, and sculptural earrings in gold.   I love the fluid earrings  and the cavernous studs that look like little pieces of crumpled paper.   

5 - Airbnb gift cards - Travel is pretty much all Tyler and I can agree to spend money on Airbnb gift cards are basically our favorite thing.   

6 - This Almond Butter - Yes, it is expensive for peanut butter/almond butter but it's the best of the best.  Especially when you eat it with homemade apple butter.   

7 - A lot of bags of Rancho Gordo Cranberry Beans - These are the best beans for soups and beans on toast.   I just finished my latest bag so more of them will make me very happy.   

8 - A Work Tote not in Black!  - My go-to work tote is by Cuyana.  It's big, its light-wight and it's good looking.  I've been wanting to get a second one in a camel color since mixing up my all-black look isn't a bad idea.   This one in camel with a navy lining (or blush lining) is EVERYTHING I want.   Someone please get this for me.  I could also use a new wallet (also in camel).   

9 - Mittens - Because I walk to work everyday and it is cold in the winter.  These are my ideal mittens.  Camel color and ribbed.   

And to end this list.  Charity donations.  I donate monthly to the ACLU.  We've been also donating to a lot of the groups involved in the Hurricane relief for Texas and Puerto Rico.