Friday, December 20, 2019

thumbprints with dulce de leche.

I wouldn’t feel right if it didn’t post a new cookie recipe during the month of December.

With that being said, I haven’t been baking that much.  I’ve found most of the cookie recipes that came out this year felt gimmicky and were created solely for the purpose of likes on Instagram.  (I’m talking lots of bright colors and an excessive amount of sprinkles.)   In my mind, most holiday cookies should come in shades of beige – shortbread, snowballs, linzer cookies.  That is where my allegiance lies.  I’ve been combing through the backlogs of some of my favorite blogs.  Unearthing recipes that are in line with what I really want to eat – rugelach, brown butter shortbread, ginger cookies. 

This isn’t to say all the 2019 cookies recipes were a disappointment.   The one that spoke to me successfully straddled the line between tradition (thumbprints) and new (dulce de leche) – it was a perfect marriage of old and new and the resulting cookie received such rave reviews from the guinea pigs in my office that I think it’s going to become a permanent fixture in holiday cookie box. 

Thumbprints With Dulce de Leche
Recipe from the NYTimes

The NYTimes shares a bunch of variations so these are truly a “choose-your-own adventure” cookie.  Below, this includes the variation I made.  

3 ounces/85 grams whole pecans (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
2 ¼ cups/290 grams all-purpose flour, plus 2 teaspoons
1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
⅔ cup/135 grams granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup dulce de leche

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pecans out on a small baking sheet and cook in oven, shaking several times, until toasted, 10 to 12 minutes.

Once cooled, transfer the nuts to a food processor, preferably a mini one. Add 2 teaspoons flour and pulse just until nuts are finely ground, being careful not to overprocess.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping bowl as needed. Add egg yolks and vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until well combined, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl a few times as needed.

Add 1/2 cup ground nuts, the salt and the remaining 2 1/4 cups flour; beat on low speed just until combined, then increase speed and beat until dough starts to clump together. Scrape the bowl and fold a few times to make sure everything is well mixed. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, flatten into a disk, and chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pinch off small pieces of dough the size of a rounded tablespoon (about 20 grams each) and roll the top half of each one in the remaining ground nuts. Place a few inches apart on parchment- or silicone mat-lined baking sheets. Chill in the freezer until firm, about 10 minutes.

Bake for 8 minutes, remove from oven and make a thumbprint in each cookie. Bake until golden brown on the bottom, and nuts are looking toasty but not burned, 6 to 8 minutes longer. Let cool a few minutes on the baking sheets and transfer to wire racks to cool further. While the cookies are still a little warm, fill each one with about 1/2 teaspoon of filling, and cool completely. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Friday, November 22, 2019

carrot flan.

I've been thinking lately that while I'm cooking a lot I'm, I'm cooking what is referred to as to as "mommy blogger food".  The food is good!  Very good!  Healthy!  Filling!  Satisfying!  But is it exciting?  Is it remarkable?  Is it even worth writing about?  Unsure.   I think it’s good that people post those types of recipes – the things you can make in 30 minutes or less on a Tuesday evening.  It’s the kind of food I want to eat and make most nights of the week but I’m not sure it’s the kind of food I want to write about.   

The kind of recipes that make me run to this site to jot down my thoughts are the kind of recipes that teach me something.  That have interesting techniques.  They turn a humble ingredient into something that delights.  They make me say holy shit this is good.   

I’ve had this recipe bookmarked since I bought this cookbook earlier this year.  I think I book-marked it because I wasn’t sure what a carrot flan would be like.  Would it be delicious?  Odd?  Would I know it was eating carrots?  I made it around Halloween because it felt seasonally appropriate (and very on-color theme) but now that I’ve made it, I think it would be fantastic addition to a Thanksgiving dessert table.  

The consensus is that carrot flan is delicious.  Earthy but rich and comforting.  You would never guess it’s filled with carrots though I’m less sure what most people would think it tastes like.  Squash?  Something else?  Regardless, I think it belongs on a Thanksgiving table.  You can make it a couple of days ahead!  Requires no reheating on the day of!  It’s 5 ingredients (all of which I imagine you already have on hand)!  It provides a very simple end to a very traditionally over –the-top meal.     Also leftovers make a fantastic morning-after-Thanksgiving breakfast.  Especially when paired with good coffee and a good book.   

Carrot Flan
Recipe from My Mexico City Kitchen: Recipes and Convictions by Gabriela Camara

If you don’t have a flameproof baking pan, it is OK. You probably won’t be able to invert the flan after it is chilled, but you would still be able to cut it in perfect wedges.

1 pound 2 ounces carrots
¾ cup whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar
⅔ cup unsalted butter, melted
6 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Thoroughly scrub the carrots but don’t bother peeling them. Cut the carrots into 4 pieces so that they fit comfortably in a medium pot.
Place carrots in pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook carrots for about 15 minutes, until just soft. Pour them into a colander and let cool completely. Press out any excess water.

Bring a full kettle of water to a boil.

In a blender, combine carrots, milk, sugar, butter and eggs, and mix at high speed, until smooth. Grease a 10½-inch flameproof baking pan with butter. Pour mixture into pan. Place in a roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with boiling water to reach at least halfway up outside of baking pan.

Bake flan for 1 hour, 30 minutes. Place flan on a cooling rack to cool. When flan has cooled to room temperature, refrigerate overnight.

When ready to serve, place flan on stove over low heat and warm slightly to loosen the sides. Place a serving plate over pan and invert pan and plate together so that flan falls onto the plate.

Slice flan and serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

big beans and tomato vinaigrette.

Two weeks ago I returned from vacation in Portugal.  I want to write about it.  And I will!  At some point!  Mostly because people keep asking me for my itinerary (I think this is a testament to what an epic planner I am)  but I haven’t gone through all my photos and I’m still waiting on film to come back and I figure when I can finally digest everything, I’ll write about it.

Until then,  let’s talk about produce.  Specifically tomatoes. 

Most days I’m dreaming about tomato sandwiches.  Weekends are for making tomato confit in an effort to freeze a little bit of summer.  I’m spending a lot of money on heirloom tomatoes in every shape, size, and color.  There are worse vices you could have.   

I’ve made this dish twice since seeing it in the August issue of Bon Appetit.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love it - it can actually be a meal!  Especially if you round it out with some good bread and a couple of nice cheeses.  If you’re fortunate enough to live near a farmers market where you can get fresh beans, use them here. 

Big Beans and Tomato Vinaigrette
Recipe via Bon Appetit

For the Beans

Handful of oregano sprigs
Handful of thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
8 oz. dried butter beans, rinsed, soaked overnight if possible
1 medium onion, halved
1 large carrot, scrubbed, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Vinaigrette and Assembly

10 oz. cherry tomatoes or 1½ cups chopped heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes
1 garlic clove, smashed
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt
2 lb. assorted heirloom, beefsteak, and/or cherry tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
Handful of basil leaves
Mild red pepper flakes (such as Aleppo-style or Maras)

Make the Beans - Tie together oregano, thyme, and bay leaves with kitchen twine. Combine beans, onion, carrot, and herbs in a medium pot. Pour in water to cover beans by about 4" and bring to a very gentle simmer over medium-high heat. Immediately reduce heat and cook at the barest of simmers, stirring hardly at all, until beans are creamy and tender at the center but not falling apart or mushy, about 1½ hours (this could take longer, depending on the beans). The key is to not agitate, which will help the beans maintain their shape. Remove pot from heat; season beans aggressively with salt. Gently stir in oil. Let cool. Drain beans; discard onion, carrot, and herbs.

Do Ahead: Beans can be made 2 days ahead. Keep in liquid; cover and chill.

Vinaigrette and Assembly - Purée cherry tomatoes in a blender. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in garlic, vinegar, and ⅓ cup oil; season with salt. Let sit 15–20 minutes, then pluck out garlic.

Transfer drained beans to a medium bowl and add vinaigrette; toss gently to coat. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Slice, halve, or quarter heirloom tomatoes and arrange on a platter or divide among individual plates. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil. Spoon beans along with plenty of vinaigrette over; top with basil and a few pinches of red pepper flakes.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

arcade bakery - a love letter (and the story of a relationship).

This week I realized that my relationship with Tyler has been defined by croissants. 

A month into us dating and a couple of weeks after we arrived back to the states from studying abroad in Europe,  Tyler showed up at my dorm room with a French breakfast in bed. Croissants he had gotten after walking a mile to his car and then driving to Wilmington to find the best version available to us in Delaware. There was butter and jam.  I think coffee too.   To this day it remains one my favorite memories (and probably the single most romantic thing he’s ever done - we peaked early!). 

When we moved in together, Saturday mornings were reserved for breakfast together.  For over a decade it's been the same breakfast.  Scrambled eggs with cheese and lots of black pepper.  Toast with butter and jam.  Coffee with milk and sugar. In the summer there may be berries or sliced peaches.  In the winter there could be grapefruit or oranges.  After we finish our eggs, we share a  chocolate almond croissant.

I use the term share loosely because he eats the edges and saves me the center.  The piece with more chocolate and more almond.  Love is giving the person the better piece because you know it means more to them. 

Some people may find the consistency and routine of this odd.  I find it comfortable.  I like having something to always look forward to.  It's a standing date.  It's something I can rely on in a world where everything always feels like it's moving.  

Since the first croissant there have been countless others.  There was the croissant we shared the first weekend we spent in our new apartment after the hurricane.  There was the one we ate after we got engaged on a snowy morning in December while we watched Pitch Perfect.  There were croissants eaten in AirBnB's in Seattle, Washington and in cars while driving home from Maine.     

But, for almost 5 years, our relationship has been defined by a very specific chocolate almond croissant from Arcade Bakery. 

Arcade Bakery is perfect. It's a bakery that feels like a hidden secret but not in a pretentious way.  Instead it comes across as a gem you just stumbled across in the middle of NYC.  It's in the lobby of an office building and you would never know it was there unless you were looking for it or actually stopped to smell the scent of fresh baked bread and asked yourself where its coming from.   You can find me there once a week.  Buying baguettes and loaves of bread and cinnamon sugar brioche and chocolate almond croissants for our Saturday morning breakfast dates.    

The first time we ever shared an Arcade Bakery croissant was on the morning of our wedding.  I couldn't imagine breaking our routine on our wedding day.  Marriage is about the things you love.  The person you love.  I love Saturday morning breakfasts with Tyler.  I wanted to start our marriage that way.

Since then, they've been a constant.  You can almost always find one or two of them in our freezer.  I have the tendency to buy them in multiples just in case I can't get there one week.   Is this something an insane person does?  Probably.  (I've never said I wasn't crazy.)   We reheat them in the oven, wrapped in tinfoil, for about 10 minutes.  They emerge as if they have been freshly baked.   They are prefect.  

On Friday August 2nd, Arcade Bakery closes.  The owner, Rodger, has rheumatoid arthritis and it's too painful for him to bake bread.  I keep thinking about how cruel life can be.   I keep thinking about his this feels like the end of an era. 

I'm currently on what I am referring to as a reunion tour with them.  Finding every opportunity to go there before it closes.  I feel such a visceral reaction to this bakery in the lobby of an office building.  It's been such a part of my life.  It was constant.  It was happiness.   In a lot of ways it's defined my marriage.  Should food define a marriage?  Why not.  Food is a way to connect people. 

Can love exist between the flaky layers of a chocolate almond croissant?  I think it can.  For me it has.   I'm currently stockpiling our freezer so we have what I am now referring to as "the croissant" for at least a couple of more weeks.  I will be saving the last one for our 5 year wedding anniversary.  You take your year old cake.  I'll take the my months old croissant.   

Last night Tyler asked me what's next.   I don't know.  Maybe it's time we find something new.  Doughnuts?  Chocolate rugelach?  Regular chocolate croissants?  At this moment, nothing else feels quite right.   Perhaps each week is a grab bag and we constantly try new things until we settle on a favorite.  He suggested that maybe I could turn this into a new blog series - what comes after a perfect chocolate croissant?  

Trying new things with him wouldn't be the worst idea.  Maybe we can start creating a new set of memories.  Something else I can love so deeply that I always want to return to it week after week.  

Monday, July 15, 2019

broccoli quesadillas with chipotle-peanut sauce.

It's been a while.

Somehow, some way, we are in the middle of July and I feel as if I blinked and missed half of summer already.  But! It's been a really lovely summer thus far.  Weekends spent all over (Upstate! Miami!  Maine! The Beach!) and cooking/assembling/eating whatever looks remarkably in season and impossibly delicious.  I've been doing less "projects" and more winging it which is fun.  It also means dinner isn't always cohesive but rather a sum of parts.  Take last night for example where we ate grilled shisitos (first of the season!), steamed sweet potatoes with tahini butter, and tomato toasts with goat cheese and pesto.  Not your typical dinner but it was easy and delicious and isn't that the whole point of cooking?   

In addition to winging it, I've also found a couple of recipes that I love so much that they've become a part of our weekly rotation schedule.  Good for days where improvising feels like a lot of work.  These broccoli quesadillas have made the cut because they are fantastic.  Crunchy, spicy, cheesy.  Leftovers are delightful at room temperature the next day.  The best part is the peanut sauce which if you have a Vitamix and make it in there results in the most unbelievably creamy sauce you've ever encountered.  Great with chips, excellent drizzled over any number of vegetables, would also be excellent on a roll in a cemita type of sandwich.  

Broccoli Quesadillas with Chipotle-Peanut Sauce 
Recipe tweaked slightly from Food 52

For the Quesadillas
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided, plus more for cooking quesadillas
1 large broccoli crown (or 2 small), about 400 grams or 14 ounces
Roasted peppers if you happen to have some in your fridge
Kosher salt, to taste
1 lime
1 to 1 1/2 cups crumbled cotija, crumbled queso fresco, or shredded Monterey Jack cheese
6 soft corn or flour tortillas (about 6-inches in diameter)

For the Chipotle-Peanut Sauce
1/2 cup peanuts (I like roasted and salted)
2 chipotle chiles in adobo, plus 1 tablespoon adobe sauce (from the can)
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 teaspoons honey, or to taste
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Kosher salt, to taste

For Serving
Sliced avocado
Sour Cream/Yogurt Sauce
More limes!

To shave the broccoli: Trim the crown of any discolored areas and cut into quarters. Use the slicing blade of a food processor (or a sharp knife) to cut the broccoli into 1/4-inch slices. You should have about 4 to 4 1/2 cups. Set aside. (Tip: wipe the bowl of the food processor clean, and use it for Step 2.)

To make the chipotle-peanut sauce: In a food processor or blender, combine peanuts, chipotles, adobe sauce, water, olive oil, vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Process until smooth. Taste a small amount to gauge spiciness, then add honey, to taste, to balance the heat. Taste again, and adjust seasoning and acidity. Add more water (a teaspoon or two at a time) to loosen the sauce, if needed.

To make the filling: In a 12-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the  the broccoli and peppers; season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is crisp-tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the chipotle-peanut sauce, lower the heat, and cook another minute to warm through. Season with salt and a few squeezes of lime juice, to taste.

To make quesadillas: In a large skillet, heat a teaspoon of oil over medium heat, then place the tortillas in the skillet (working in batches to fit). Quickly sprinkle the whole tortilla with cheese, then spread the broccoli mixture (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup) over half the tortilla and fold in half. Flip quesadilla; cook, pressing down a few times, until the cheese is fully melted and the tortilla is nicely toasted on both sides, about 4 to 5 minutes in total. **Alternatively, you can make the quesadillas with two full tortillas, which I sometimes do if my corn tortillas aren’t pliable.

For serving, stir together sour cream and 1/4 cup of the chipotle-peanut sauce (or more or less, to taste). Cut quesadillas into wedges, and serve with sour cream and lime.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

jam bars.

This past weekend, I spent so much time eating outdoors.  A slice of pizza standing on a NYC street corner.  Salads and asparagus flatbread by the pool.  Focaccia sandwiches of roasted zucchini, kale pesto, and mozzarella in a hidden corner of Liberty State Park.   It was the kind of weather that beacons you outside.    Slight breeze, warm sun, freckled shoulders, bare feet.   

Come summer, I like making food that can travel well.  The kind of cooking that allows for spontaneity and spur of the moment park meet ups or alfresco dinners with friends.  As a natural introvert, I’m trying to set myself up to be more comfortable with asking people to do something on a really nice Sunday afternoon.   If the food can be flexible and adaptable, I like to think it’s possible I can be as well.  

To prepare for all of these impromptu picnics, I plan on having a batch of these bars in the freezer at all times between now and Labor Day weekend.  They are a dream – crispy and kind of cookie-like, filling but not heavy.  The right amount of sweet.  I filled them with a homemade cherry rhubarb jam (I cleaned out the freezer!) but I think they would be amazing with a strawberry jam or apricot jam come late summer.   

Jam Bars 
From Tartine All Day by Elisabeth Prueitt

1/2 cup/110g unsalted butter or coconut oil (vegan!), at room temperature
1/3 cup/85g smooth almond butter
2 Tbsp brown rice syrup or maple syrup
1 1/2 cups/150g rolled oats
1 cup/120g almond flour
1 cup/120g oat flour
6 Tbsp/90g granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (Diamond)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp/340g jam 
1 tsp lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt
Sliced almonds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line a 9 by 13-inch/23 by 33cm baking pan with parchment paper. Combine the butter or coconut oil, almond butter, and brown rice syrup or maple syrup in a large bowl and, using a wooden spoon, mix well.

Add the rolled oats, almond flour, oat flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla and almond extracts, and cinnamon to the butter mixture and stir until a soft dough forms. Divide the dough into thirds. Press two-thirds of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan and reserve the remaining one-third for the topping.

Stir together the jam, lemon juice, and salt and then spread the mixture evenly over the bottom crust.

Crumble the remaining one-third dough over the jam filling. If desired, scatter slice almonds on-top.   

Bake the jam bars until golden brown around the edges, about 35 minutes (push it a little bit, you don’t want them pale). Let the pastry cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before cutting into bars.

The jam bars will keep, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 4 days (or in the fridge, which is kind of nice too).  Wrapped well, they will last for weeks in the freezer.