Saturday, December 20, 2014

thoughts on seating.

I'm making it one of my goals to bring back the dinner party.  Now that we are in possession of more alcohol then we would ever purchase for college parties (and we aren't throwing any college parties) we need to have people over to drink it.  I have visions in my head of a cocktails and cheese party but I am also thinking about hosting smaller more intimate dinner parties where I get to cook whole fishes, pork shoulder, and fresh pasta for another couple (or 2).  I realize that in order to do this we may need a couple more chairs and for that reason I've started exploring ottomans and poufs.  Below are a few that I have my eye on...

Blake Ottoman, Ochre
Moroccan Pouf, White
Peter 23" X-Bench, Cream/Black Dots

1 - Blake Ottoman  (Green)

2 - Morrocan Pouf (White)
3 - Peter Bench (Grey and Gold)
4 - Tufted Bench (Grey and Gold)

Threshold™ Tufted Bench - Buff Beige and Gold

Thursday, December 18, 2014

upside-down cranberry-caramel cake.

After a hiatus from the kitchen that lasted far longer then I ever thought possible, I have finally returned to the routines of my former life.  And what a return it has been - epic lasagna, pumpkin bread, slow-cooked chickpeas, and now this cake which may be the best thing I've eaten (out of my own kitchen) in a long time.

I realize cranberries are usually consumed in the dried form and while there is nothing wrong with that (tossed in kale salads with sliced almonds and creamy blue cheese they are excellent), I've begun to think it's time we show fresh cranberries a little respect.  I find that in the depths of winter their bright tart flavor is a welcome change of pace form the massive amounts of chocolate desserts people seem to favor.  (Not that there is anything wrong with massive amounts of chocolate but a little variety never hurt anyone right?)

Tart cranberries are nestled in pockets of caramel and layered over a dense and buttery cake that is so obscenely perfect that I have begun to wonder why all cakes can't be this good.  It's rich (even with the addition of cranberries, no one can call this health food), but it doesn't feel heavy.  It's festive and just right for this time of year.  I am not suggesting you eliminate your holiday cookie plate but I will say that no one would be disappointed if you brought this to your next party.

Upside-Down Cranberry-Caramel Cake
Recipe tweaked slightly from Smitten Kitchen

Unsalted butter or cooking spray for the baking pan
2/3 cup (5 ounces or 142 grams) packed light brown sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces or 171 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses or maple syrup
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces or 242 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces or 198 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (9 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (8 1/2 ounces or 242 grams) sour cream
2 ½ cups (10 ounces or 288 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries
Zest of 1 orange
¼ - ½ teaspoon ground ginger (I love ginger with oranges and cranberries so I happily added a generous amount.  Dial it back if you don’t love ginger quite as much)
Few gratings of fresh nutmeg (optional) 

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of the melted butter, molasses and 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Stir well and pour into prepared cake pan. Set pan aside.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into a bowl or onto a sheet of waxed paper and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the whisk attachment (eh, I just used a handmixer with standard beaters) beat the eggs and sour cream together at medium speed until well blended. Add orange zest, ground ginger, and nutmeg (if using). Scrape down the bowl and add remaining melted butter (1/2 cup) and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth.

Add the cranberries to the prepared baking pan and gently press the fruit into an even layer. Dollop the batter on top and use an offset spatula to gently nudge it into place without disturbing the cranberries underneath. Bake on the center rack until golden and a tester inserted into just the cake comes out clean, which took 30 to 35 minutes. Please,please check yours on the early side. Remove from the oven and let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the inside of the pan then insert over a flat platter that is larger than your cake pan, to catch any puddling or jumping cranberries.

This cake keeps well for 3 days at room temperature.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

dear santa..

All I want for Christmas is an actual table to eat at (with mis-matched chairs) and a light filled kitchen.   (So really what I am asking for is to win the lottery.)  Love, Me.  

Image from here.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

slow cooked chickpeas on toast with poached egg.

"If you want to make it dinner put an egg on it.  If you want to make a dinner put an egg on it.  Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh."

-Lyrics written by me but sung to the tune of Beyonce "Single Ladies".  

I've mentioned it before and I'll mention it again, throwing an egg on just about anything makes it a meal. It's my cooking motto, my life motto, my "I don't know what to eat but we are hungry so an egg it is" motto. The fact that I now have a song to go along with it just further reinforces the fact that this is a completely valid maxim.  

Most throw an egg on recipes come about out of necessity and the need to use up what we have languishing in the fridge.  On occasion I stumble across one that drives me to make it out of sheer desire for the end product. That is is why this particular recipe got made.  

Yotam Ottolenghi knows his way around vegetable and grains and beans so when he tells you to make to make a chickpea dish that takes 5 hours to cook, you may think that sounds absurd, but you do it because he always seems to know best.  And boy does the man does know best.  This recipe is brilliant. Chickpeas are bathed in an amp-ed up tomato sauce that leaves them as tender as can be.  They are piled high on sour dough toast and topped with that requisite egg and a sprinkling of za'atar.  It's warm and comforting and impossibly addicting especially with a the mix of runny yolk and tomato sauce.  Eggs and winter just belong together.  

Slow Cooked Chickpeas on Toast with Poached Egg 
Recipe from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi  

I wont lie that a little bit of goat chesse spread on the grilled sourdough is a mighty fine (and delicious) addition.  
Rounded 1 cup/220 g dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight with 2 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. olive oil, plus 1 tbsp. to finish
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup/140 g)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons tomato paste
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. smoked paprika
2 medium red peppers, cut into 1/4-inch/5-mm dice (about 1 1/4 cups/180 g) (Can also use canned roasted tomatoes) 
1 2/3 cups/300 grams crushed or diced canned tomatoes
½ tsp. superfine sugar
4 slices sourdough bread, brushed with olive oil and grilled on both sides
4 eggs, freshly poached (or over easy)
2 tsp. za'atar
Salt and black pepper

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and place them in a large saucepan with plenty of water. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, skim the surface, and boil for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Place the oil, onion, garlic, tomato paste, cayenne, paprika, red peppers, 1 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper in a food processor and blitz to form a paste.

Wipe out the chickpea saucepan, return it to the stove over medium heat, and add the paste. Fry for 5 minutes (there’s enough oil there to allow for this), stirring occasionally, before adding the tomato, sugar, chickpeas, and a scant 1 cup/200 ml water. Bring to a low simmer, cover the pan, and cook over very low heat for 4 hours, stirring from time to time and adding more water when needed to retain a sauce-like consistency. Remove the lid and cook for a final hour: The sauce needs to thicken without the chickpeas becoming dry.

Place a piece of warm grilled bread on each plate and spoon the chickpeas over the bread. Lay a poached egg on top, followed by a sprinkle of za’atar and a drizzle of oil. Serve at once.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

cheese dome.

I've been on the search for a cheese dome for a couple of years now.  I love them because they double as a beautiful vessel for plants or other objects when you aren't serving cheese.  Nothing like a multi-purpose item.

This one is particularly beautiful and would look incredible on our coffee table...

Cheese dome can be found here.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

yeasted pumpkin bread.

It wasn't until college that I was introduced to the gloriousness that is monkey bread.  For those of you unfamiliar with this epic treat (I feel sorry for you), it is essentially small balls of yeasted bread dipped in cinnamon sugar and baked in a bundt pan.  What emerges from the oven is a tower of sugar and spiced deliciousness that is best eaten warm. I promise you it is impossible to eat anything less then half.  Once you consume this, you will spend the rest of your life looking for pull-apart bread recipes that involve cinnamon and sugar.  

While in California, I had a pretty super yeasted pumpkin roll from Acme Bread.  It was so good that one of the first things I did upon returning to the East Coast was Google "Yeasted Pumpkin Rolls" to see if anyone had a recipe.  The search for rolls proved less then fruitful  but I did uncover a recipe for yeasted pumpkin bread which is basically the money bread cousin I never knew existed.  I practically wept with happiness and proceeded to make it as fast as possible.

So yeah...I think the pictures speak for themselves but if you wanted some verbal feedback it would be something along the lines of "pumpkin spiced sugar awesomeness".  Layers of pumpkin bread envelope sugar and cinnamon.  It's epic, it's amazing, it's best eaten on lazy Sunday mornings though I think it would be a mighty fine addition to your Christmas brunch spread.  

Yeasted Pumpkin Bread
Recipe from Sprouted Kitchen

Note - You have 2 options with this bread.  You can use the full 1 ¼ cup of sugar (white and brown) and omit the glaze (just drizzle on a little maple syrup instead) or you can dial the sugar back to 1 cup and include the glaze.  Up to you and your preference!

If you are using your own homemade pumpkin/squash puree, just be mindful of how watery it is.  Mine was for some reason more wet than normal and I required additional flour. 

Note this is not a slicing bread, it breaks in chunks for a free form breakfast treat. 

For the Bread

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
½ cup milk
2 ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
¾ cup white sugar, divided (see note above)
½ cup dark brown, maple, or muscavado sugar
¾ cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon. sea salt
1 1/3 cup unbleached bread flour or all-purpose
1 cup spelt flour (can replace with all all-purpose flour)
1 tablespoon. olive oil
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook 2 tablespoons of the butter, without stirring, until brown bits form, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the milk and get the mixture to 110' (too hot and it'll kill the yeast). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, stir in the yeast and 1/4 cup of the white sugar. Let it stand for 10 minutes.

Stir in the pumpkin puree, salt and 1 cup of the bread/all-purpose flour. When combined, add the rest of the flour in several additions, kneading between additions. Knead the dough until it is elastic and slightly sticky, 6-8 minutes.  (This can also be done in a mixer with the bread hook.) 

Brush a large bowl with olive oil, place the dough ball inside and turn it over several times until it is well greased. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled in size, about 1 ½ hours.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1 cup (¾ if making the glaze) sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and remaining 2 tablespoons butter (chop the butter into small pieces before adding) and stir well. After the dough has doubled in size, knead it for two minutes. Roll it out into a 12x9 inch rectangle. Sprinkle the sugar mixture on top, gently pressing it into the dough. Slice the dough lengthwise into six strips, and stack them on top of the other. Cut the strips into 6 squares and stack them into a 9x5 inch loaf pan lined with parchment. Cover with a clean dishtowel and allow it to rise for 30 minutes to an hour, until it doubles in size again.

Preheat the oven to 350'. Bake the loaf on the middle rack for 30 minutes until edges are golden. Set the pan on a rack to cool.

Optional Glaze 

If omitting the glaze, just a drizzle of maple syrup is pretty perfect.  

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 ½ tablespoons real maple syrup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1-2 tablespoons. milk
3/4 cup roasted and salted pecans, chopped

In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners sugar, syrup, butter and 1 tablespoon of the milk. Whisk in more milk for a thinner consistency if desired. Drizzle the glaze over the bread and sprinkle with pecans. Serve warm.