Tuesday, November 25, 2014

top 3 san francisco sweets (on this trip!).

Tyler and I spent a blissful week on the west coast doing not much more then wandering around aimlessly, consuming massive amounts of really delicious food, and watching the Wire (such a good show). Only on your honeymoon can you get away with such a schedule.

We ate a lot of really good food but it was the sweets that really caught my attention this time around. Below are the favorites and the items I will be dreaming about (and looking to potentially recreate now that I have so much wonderful time on my hands.)

1 - Banana, Chocolate, Almond Croissant from b.Patisserie - Be still my heart this was amazing.  Delicate yet hefty, sweet but not cloyingly so, it is a croissant a French person would probably turn their nose at which just means there are more for me to eat.  I will continue to dream about this and the entire pastry case of amazing desserts.  I regret not purchasing the pumpkin kougin but I needed to exhibit some restraint.

2 - Cherry Cornmeal Rosemary Doughnut from Dynamo Donut - Tyler and I both agreed this was one of the best doughnuts we've ever had and that's saying a lot since I am a bit of a doughnut fiend (as evidenced by the doughnut bar at our wedding).  It kind of tasted like a cross between a doughnut, a cake, and a panetone which means it was dreamy and wonderful.

3 - The Passionfruit Dessert (and in particular the chocolate passionfruit sandwich cookies) from SPQR - Everything we ate here was incredible (squash and chestnut tortelli with cherry jus!) but the passsion fruit panna cotta with 2 mini chocolate passionfruit curd sandwich cookies, stole the show.  The panna cotta somehow managed to be both perfectly tart and sweet in the same bite but the cookies were everything. Soft bittersweet chocolate cookies sandwiched passionfruit curd.  A version of this cookie will be on my holiday list this year.

Monday, November 24, 2014

autumn panzanella.

When it comes to Thanksgiving, I am a stuffing girl.  It isn't the showstopper the way the turkey is but it's the showstopper in my book and I can't get enough of it.  (This is why you will find me in the kitchen on the day of shamelessly eating all the crispy bits of stuffing out of the cooked turkey.  Sorry Mom.)

But why is a one day a year kind of food? And if people insist upon keeping it a one day a year food, how can I take that concept and turn it into something that people will eat from September through December?  

Well.  I had a light-bulb moment last evening and realized that panzanella is a pretty close cousin to stuffing. So close in fact that an autumn panzanella could in fact be the answer to all of my stuffing issues.  This is why I found myself in the kitchen this morning chopping the last remaining bits of my first loaf of Tartine bread (yes I brought a loaf of bread back with me on an airplane and no I don't think this is weird) and turning it into the most amazing rift on stuffing.  Ever.  

This salad-stuffing-bowl of delicious-ness is the kind of thing you will find yourself craving.  Cubes of well toasted bread are tossed with chunks of squash, pepitas, chorizo and goat cheese.  A maple-sherry dressing gets drizzled over the whole thing for a little bit of extra flavor.  It's a lighter more elegant version of stuffing which is why you can eat it much more often.  

Autumn Panzanella 

Serves 2 as a main

I don't have to tell you that you could throw just about anything into this and it would be really good.  Some roasted piquillo peppers could be nice (or plain old roasted red peppers), sopressata could easily replace the chorizo, and burrata instead of goat cheese could be magical.  Some dried cranberries and almonds would be a happy addition as well (or some sauteed greens!).  But I assure you that this version is pretty deliciously spot-on.  

For the Salad 

4 cups of hearty bread cubed and toasted
3 cups cubed and roasted butternut squash or sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons pepitas
1/4 cup chopped dried chorizo
2 ounces goat cheese crumbled
Fried brussel sprout leaves (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste.  

For the Dressing

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Mike's Hot Honey (or 1 teaspoon honey and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes)
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss all of the ingredients for the salad except for the brussel sprout leaves into a bowl .  Stir to combine.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together except for the salt and pepper.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Pour over the salad.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Garnish with brussel sprout leaves.


married.

Guys, I'm married. (?!?)

The wedding.  The wedding was everything and so much more.  I don't know how we lucked out the way we did. How the day managed to go so flawlessly.  Tyler says it's because I am an incredible planner, I personally think it was sheer dumb luck (and the fact that we hired some pretty awesome people) but I'll take the compliment.  Having people tell us the wedding was the coolest they've ever been to and how thankful they were to be part of the day, watching my friends and family dance all night under bistro lights, reading out loud the words I had spent 8 months crafting (and was still crafting the day before) was one of those incredibly once in a lifetime experiences.  The whole thing still feels like a dream.  I don't know if it will ever feel real.  (I do know I am still in possession of a tea-length tulle-skirt and I plan on wearing it around the apartment just because.)

I've had a lot of thoughts about all of this but I'm not sure how to articulate any of it because I still haven't grasped what has happened.  I do know that I get giddy when I look over at Tyler's hand and catch sight of his wedding band - a reminder of the fact that this actually happened.  

So what did I learn from all of this?  I learned that when you decide to devote 11 months of your life and a significant chunk of your money to planning a party that you should do exactly what you want.  So if you want to elope, do it.  If you want to have a doughnut bar, that's awesome.  Everyone says a wedding is for everyone else and that is definitely true but if you're doing the work make it a day that you will look back on with love. People will understand and if they don't who cares!  Just be happy.  

So I'm married and I'm pretty freaking excited about that.  I am also pretty freaking excited that wedding planning is over and that my life can return to a normal state - one that involves lots of cooking, reading, and all around winter hibernating with my new husband.    

Photo courtesy of Sarah and Daniel at Chellise Michael.  AKA the best wedding photographers ever.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

roasted carrots with tahini sumac sauce.

I know I've been neglecting this space as of late, but when you are less then a handful of days from your big day and you decide that making 7 batches of cookies for the wedding was a sane thing to do you can see why I may be a little tied up.  

But I have finally finished the cooking dough making (hip hip hooray!) so let's talk about carrots.  

If there is one cookbook I return to time and time again it's Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.  I am no vegetarian by any means, but we do treat meat as a once or twice a week treat so I come to rely on cookbooks that make vegetables front and center.  Yotam does that and he does it in a way that makes the vegetables feel new and different so when he came out with a second book called Plenty More, you can pretty much guarantee that I purchased the book almost the day it came out.   I have about half the book marked off (so many projects to tackle soon!) but the recipe that kept catching my eyes was one for Middle-Eastern carrots.  

I took inspiration from Yotam and roasted carrots with warming spices (Zatar!) and then served with a sauce that is a little sweet and a little spicy with a wonderfully bite of tahini.  A sprinkle of mint over the top provided the perfect amount of freshness.  This recipe makes for a killer lunch but it would be pretty awesome as a side dish on Thanksgiving.  

Roasted Carrots with Tahini Sumac Sauce
Recipe inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi 

Serves 2 generously  

For the Carrots

1 bunch of carrots peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces  
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Zatar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika 

For the Sauce

1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons sour cream or Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon tahini
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
1 - 2 teaspoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon aleppo pepper
1/4 teaspoon sumac
1/4 teaspoon Zatar
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
Mint for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the carrots with the olive oil, zatar, salt, and smoked paprika.  Dump the carrots on a baking sheet and roast on a sheet pan for about 40 minutes until tender and blackened in spots. Remove from oven and set aside.

Combine all ingredients for the sauce in a bowl except for the mint and water.  Stir to combine.  Add 1 teaspoon of water and stir to combine.  If the sauce still seems thick, gradually add a little more water until the sauce is thick but smooth.  

Dollop the sauce on a plate.  Top with carrots.  Sprinkle with mint.  



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

white beans and spinach over toast.

If you were to send me a coupon, it's pretty much a guarantee that you will get me to visit your website.  From there, I will probably spend 45 minutes of my life on-line shopping and then I will probably purchase something I don't really need.  I will convince myself that it only makes sense to buy this item because it's on sale or a good deal or because I would be doing a disservice to the entire marketing industry if I did not buy it.  

This is how I ended up purchasing 4 pounds of heirloom beans about 2 weeks ago.  

(The marketing industry and online retailers love me.)

No one needs 4 pounds of heirloom beans.  But, when the beans are 20% off and come from a company called Rancho Gordo and when you've read about how good there beans are, you can easily convince yourself that such a purchase is a really smart investment.  

And to answer your question, the beans are awesome.  

I've only tried one of the 4 varieties thus far which was a white bean.  The closest comparison I can think to make is a mini cannelini but I don't think that does it justice.  I think this particular variety would be incredible in soups and I am itching to make a meat and bean chili (sorry to the Texan's who think this is sacrilegious) in the next couple of weeks with some of the other types.  For this first batch I made a very traditional Italian preparation of spinach, beans, and parmesan to be served a top toasts.  It's nothing fancy but it's particularly comforting and with beans this good, simple is better. 

White Beans and Spinach over Toast

Think of this as a jumping off point.  Kale would be lovely and so would swiss chard.  And it goes without saying though I will remind you, putting an egg on it wouldn't be a bad idea.  And splurge on the good bread.  Thick, chewy, delicious bread.  

The beans can be found here and if I wasn't clear before, they are insanely good.  Totally worth buying. 

Serves 4

4 - 8 Slices of thick-cut bread (depending on the size of the bread.  
About 2 cups (or 1 15 ounce can) of white beans
About 1 pound of spinach, washed and thinly sliced  
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes plus more if you want some extra heat
1/4 cup chicken broth (or your bean liquid)
1/4 cup parmesan or pecorino romano plus more for sprinkling at the end  
Salt and pepper to taste  
A drizzle of Mike's Hot Honey (optional)

Toast your bread in a 350 degree oven until golden brown (a toaster also works though you can't cook all of the slices at the same time).  

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add red pepper flakes and cook another 10 seconds. Stir in spinach, beans, and broth and cook, stirring constantly, until the spinach is just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the parmesan.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Spoon the bean-and-spinach mixture over the toasts.  Sprinkle with additional cheese and pepper.  Drizzle Mike's Hot Honey over the top if you choose.     



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

apple butter.

If you are anything like me, apple picking means returning home with more apples then one could possibly eat in a reasonable amount of time.  This is not necessarily a bad problem to have especially when there is a slew of apple items you can make (pie! crisp! pork chops with apples!).

But sometimes you long for something else and that is where apple butter comes into play.

Apple butter is not pretty.  It looks like brown mush (no point in stating anything but the obvious) . It's nothing like the beautiful peach jam of summer or strawberry jam of spring.  But! What it lacks for in looks it more then makes up for in flavor.

Apple butter is dreamy.  It's the definition of fall and its everything I want slathered on my peanut butter sandwiches this time of year (best sandwich ever involves chunky peanut butter, apple butter, chia seeds and a sprinkle of sea salt - DYNAMITE).  Cubes of apple are cooked with apple cider and spices. As the apples cook, they begin to thicken to create a cross between apple sauce and jam that may in fact be the greatest condiment ever.  EVER.

Fall, I love you.

Apple Butter 
Recipe from Apt 2B. Baking

Yield - about 2 pints of finished butter

2 pounds good eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into bite sized pieces (but really any apples work)
½ - 2 cups apple cider
¾ cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon fresh nutmeg
Juice of half a lemon

In your biggest, heaviest pot combine the apples and enough cider to cover them. Bring to a simmer and cook the apples until tender. A bit of foam will form on the surface that should be skimmed off, it's okay if you can't get it all.

When the apples are tender, remove the pot from the heat and puree the mixture until it is smooth (an immersion blender is the best tool for this). Stir in sugar, spices and lemon juice.


Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it darkens in color and begins to pop and bubble, about 1-1 1/2 hours. Make sure to watch the pot carefully and stir often in the last 1/2 hour to prevent scorching. I would usually tell you here to cook the butter until it reaches 220º, but I couldn't get mine above 210º and the set turned out perfect. Ladle the hot apple butter into your prepared jars.