Tuesday, October 17, 2017

morrocan semolina and almond cookies.

It feels a bit awkward to be posting about cookies that don't utilize apples (which we currently own about 20 pounds of) or pumpkin/squash since it is the season but here I talking about non-seasonally appropriate (but utterly delicious) cookies.

A couple of weekends ago I hosted a dinner party at our place.  It was a full-blown Middle-Eastern inspired menu that included lamb and lots of tahini.   The desert involved maple poached pears with toasted hazelnuts and labneh whipped cream and these cookies.  The cookies weren't part of the original menu but I felt I needed something else and after doing a quick perusal of my cookbooks, stumbled across these which seemed like the perfect compliment to the dessert (and the larger dinner).   

Tyler tried them and declared them worthy of being included in the holiday cookie plate which is the highest level of accolades a cookie can receive.  These are deceptively simple but the flavor and texture are unparalleled.  Simple like a butter cookie but with a more crumbly and sandy texture.  The almond flour provides a little heft and a an extra layer of flavor.  These will be made again in December (if not before).   

Moroccan Semolina and Almond Cookies
Recipe from Dorie's Cookies

1 ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons/294 grams semolina flour
2 cups/200 grams almond flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ cup/150 grams granulated sugar
1 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup/60 milliliters flavorless oil, such as canola
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 teaspoon orange blossom water (optional)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dredging

Position racks to divide the oven into thirds, and heat it to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk together semolina, almond flour, baking powder and salt.

Put sugar in bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl in which you can use a hand mixer. Finely grate lemon zest over sugar, then rub them together with your fingertips until sugar is moist and fragrant. Add eggs and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. With mixer running, pour oil down side of the bowl and beat for another 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla and orange blossom water, if using. Turn off mixer, add half the dry ingredients and mix them in on low speed, then add the rest, mixing only until dry ingredients disappear into the dough, which will be thick.

Sift some confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl. For each cookie, spoon out a level tablespoon of dough, roll it between your palms to form a ball and dredge in sugar. Place balls 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets, then use your thumb to push down the center of each cookie, pressing firmly enough to make an indentation and to cause the edges to crack.

Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating pans top to bottom and front to back after 8 minutes, or until cookies are ever so lightly colored: They will be golden on the bottom, puffed, dramatically cracked and just firm to the touch. Carefully lift the cookies off sheets and onto racks. Cookies will keep for about 4 days in a covered container at room temperature.

Monday, October 2, 2017

sweet potatoes with yogurt and cilantro-chile sauce.

I've been feeling as of late un-motivated to come to this place to talk about food.  It's not that I'm not cooking, I am cooking, almost every night, and most weekends, but I sometimes feel unsure about whether blogs are now being replaced by Instagram and Tweets and things that get you information quicker and with less words.   Does anyone care to read a couple of paragraphs about my life and what I'm cooking?  

I also think, that with the guy we have currently occupying the White House, I have to spend so much more time and energy reading about what he's done that day.  It's really exhausting and it makes me feel useless.  Spewing my thoughts to my husband and co-workers about all the injustice in the world, what does that accomplish?  I keep donating money to all of these causes because I feel like it's something to do but really is it doing something?    

But if I take a step back and try (really try) to look at this all glass-half full,  I feel like I'm learning so much.   Did you know we have stricter laws about importing cheeses from Europe then we do gun laws?  It's true.  We do and that's dumb.  Because I would much prefer people buy imported raw milk brie cheese then automatic rifles (raw milk brie de meaux is so good).   I hope I'm not the only one that feels this way.  We need gun laws.  What happened in Vegas today is just another very unfortunate reminder of why.      

I came back to this place today because I missed it, because I wanted to just throw a lot of random thoughts down so I can come back later and re-evaluate my sanity, but mostly so I could talk about these sweet potatoes which are honestly the most exciting thing I've made as of late.   Seriously, the most exciting thing.  It comes down to the green sauce which is kind of like a greem romesco but better.  SO MUCH BETTER.  Honestly, I could eat this for lunch every day for the next month and never get tired of it.  The contrast of sweet potatoes with herby, spicy green sauce and creamy yogurt is just so good.  It also tastes great at room temperature, doesn't get soggy, and pairs well with just about anything (Chicken!  Fish!  Lamb!).   There isn't much to be excited about right now, but this salad is one of those things.   

Sweet Potatoes with Yogurt and Cilantro-Chile Sauce
Recipe from the NYTimes 

¼ cup plus 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
½ tablespoon honey 
Juice of 2 limes
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
2 ¼ pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch wedges
½ bunch cilantro, leaves only (1/2 ounce)
2 green chiles (I used jalapenos), seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane or minced
2 tablespoons sliced blanched almonds
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 cup Greek yogurt

Pre-heat the over to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup oil, the honey, juice from 1 lime, a large pinch of salt and pepper to taste, and toss with potato wedges. Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet, bake until tender and lightly browned in spots, 45 to 55 minutes. Sprinkle with additional salt to taste.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse to combine 1/3 cup oil, the cilantro, chiles, garlic, almonds, juice from remaining lime, vinegar and a large pinch of salt, until it forms a chunky purée. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Spoon the sauce over the potatoes, dollop with some yogurt, drizzle with oil, and serve with any remaining yogurt on the side.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

pasta with kale sauce.

About 3 years ago I made a completely on the fly kale pesto recipe.  (I measured nothing which is typical of me.) Instead, I threw a bunch of ingredients in the blender, pulsed a couple of times, and magically created a pretty great pasta sauce.   

This pasta sauce is slightly infamous because one of my close friends has been asking for the recipe for about 3 years.  This past week,  I finally got around to making it again.  

This is different version then the original and I actually think I like it better.  It uses more kale (1 pound!) and no pricey pine-nuts.   Instead it made up of staple ingredients.  The simplicity of the sauce is what makes it shine.   

We've eaten it a handful of times over the last couple of weeks.  I like the fact that I can make a batch and simply cook-up some pasta whenever we need a quick and easy lunch or dinner.   It's a flavorful and (pretty) virtuous sauce that tastes way better then you would imagine.   

Pasta with Kale Sauce
Recipe adapted slightly from Six Seasons

This makes enough sauce for about 1 pound (if not a little more) of pasta.   You will only use half the sauce for the below recipe.    Keeps in the fridge for a couple of days!    

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
1 pound kale (any variety but I like lacinato), thick ribs removedd
1/2 pound pasta
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

Bring a large pot of water to water to a boil and add salt until it tastes like the sea.

While the water is coming to a boil, put the garlic and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a small heavy pit or skilled over medium heat and cook until the garlic begins to sizzzle.  Reduce the heat to low and cook until the garlic is light golden, soft, and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes.   Pour the oil and garlic into a bowl so it can cool quickly.

When the water is boiling, add the kale leaves and boil until they are tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes.   Pull them out with ton gs and transfer to a blender.  It is fine if they are wet.   

Add the pasta to the still-boiling water and cook until al dente.   With a ladle or measuring cup, scoop out about 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the noodles.  

Process the kale in the blender with the oil and garlic. adding just a bit of the pasta water to help the process alonmg and to make a nice thick puree.  Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.  

Transfer the drained pasta back to the pot and pour in about half of the kale puree.   Add half of the Parmesan and toss well.  Add a touch more pasta water and toss until the pasta noodles are well coated with a bright green, creamy textured sauce.  Serve right away with a drizzle of olive oil and the rest of the cheese.   

Thursday, August 17, 2017

buckwheat poppy seed jam biscuits.

I didn’t think it was possible to make a biscuit better but apparently it is.

You do it by subbing some of the traditional all-white flour for buckwheat or spelt.  This provides some nuttiness and a toothsome quality to the biscuits that I find addicting.  

And then you add a dollop of jam to the crater you create with your thumb in the middle of the biscuit.  This crater of jam ensures that that the biscuit is a singular dish, a portable handheld treat that can be eaten for breakfast as you are walking to work.  

This is my dream breakfast biscuit. 

Buckwheat Poppy Seed Jam Biscuits
Recipe from Apt. 2B Baking

Yield 10-12 biscuits

12 ounces all-purpose flour
8 ounces buckwheat or spelt flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
8 ounces cold butter, cut into cubes
1 ¼ -1 ½ cups buttermilk
About 6 ounces jam

Preheat oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and poppy seeds.

Add the butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter or your fingers. Keep mixing until the mixture looks mealy with a few pea and lima bean sized hunks of butter remaining.

Make a well in the center of the mixture and add in 1 1/4c of the buttermilk. Gently mix the dough together, making sure that all of the flour mixture gets moistened. If the dough is dry or crumbly continue to add the additional buttermilk 1T at a time until the mixture mostly comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, it's okay if the dough comes out of the bowl in a few pieces, and pat it out into a circle 1 1/2''-2'' tall. Cut the biscuits with a floured 2 1/2'' biscuit cutter or drinking glass. Gently pat the scraps together and cut one more round of biscuits. Place the cut biscuits on a lined baking sheet.

Use your thumb to gently make a tablespoon sized indent in the middle of each biscuit, then very gently, while supporting the sides of the biscuit, use your thumb to push down and make the hole deeper. Aim to make the hole a little wider at the bottom than the top and push down almost to the bottom of the biscuit. Fill each indentation with a tablespoon of jam.

Bake for 35-40min or until the biscuits are golden and crisp on the outside.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

zucchini parmesan.

Should you decide (like me) that because the weather feels remarkably fall-like for July (was last week perfect or was last week perfect), that you want to go all in and just consume comfort food, might I suggest this dish.  An excellent way to utilize that summer produce (notably zucchini which everyone is bored of by early August) in a way that feels remarkably rich and comforting.   

While it is comforting, this is not particularly rich.  It is not loaded with cheese (though there is some), its not filled with oil or eggs.  It's a simple baked dish filled with layers of roasted zucchini and tomato sauce.  I don't know how it happens to taste so decadent (but not in  a I can only eat one bite kind of way) but it does!  And it's awesome.   

Zucchini Parmesan
Recipe adapted from the NYTimes

The original recipe called for making fresh tomato sauce with farmers market tomatoes.  Normally I'm into that thing but when I make fresh sauce, it's an all weekend affair involving 20 pounds of tomatoes and a lot of cursing.  I wasn't going to do that for this dish.  I used canned tomatoes and it was great.  Though if you want to use fresh, by all means do so.    

For the Sauce

1 28 oz can tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste)
Salt and pepper
⅛ teaspoon sugar
2 sprigs fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 cup ricotta (optional)

For the Zucchini Parmesan

2 to 2¼ pounds zucchini
 Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (pepperoncini), to taste
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan

To make tomato sauce, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add 
garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute, and add tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and basil sprigs. Increase heat to medium-high. When tomatoes are bubbling briskly, stir and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until tomatoes have cooked down and are beginning to stick to pan, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on consistency. Remove basil sprigs; taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in chopped basil and ricotta (if using).

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment. Trim ends off zucchini and cut in half crosswise, then into lengthwise slices, about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. Season on both sides with salt and pepper and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Arrange zucchini slices on baking sheets in one layer and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Roast for 12 minutes, until lightly browned and easily pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees.

To assemble the dish, oil a 2-quart gratin with olive oil. Spread 1/4 cup tomato sauce over bottom of dish. Arrange a third of the zucchini in an even layer over tomato sauce. Spoon a third of remaining sauce over zucchini and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Repeat with 2 more layers, ending with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Drizzle on remaining tablespoon olive oil. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until bubbling and browned on the top and edges. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, July 24, 2017

swiss chard fritters.

These are not going to win any beauty contests.   But what they lack in looks they make up for in taste.  And isn’t that all that matters?  

I’ve been revisiting a lot of my cookbooks over the last couple of weeks.  With the farmer’s markets practically bursting with produce, they’ve become a good resource for inspiration.  And the pages I have marked serve as reminders of the dishes that previously called to me but have never been made.   It’s fun uncovering recipes that called to me but I never got around to making.

These fitters were one of those dishes.  Something that I thought could serve as a good veggie side to poultry or fish dish (we actually ate them with these turkey zucchini burgers ) but also stand alone as a vegetarian main if served with an egg on it and a tomato salad on the side.   They are incredible.  Very earthy (in a good way!) with a nice flavor punch.  The addition of the herbs provides a nice level of brightness and freshness that I can’t get enough of.  

So yes, they aren’t pretty but we love them.   

Swiss Chard Fritters
Recipe from Jerusalem 

400g (14oz) Swiss chard leaves, stalks removed
30g (1oz) flat leaf parsley
20g (3/4oz) coriander
20g / 3/4oz dill
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 tsp sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 eggs
80g (3oz) feta, crumbled
Olive Oil or Grapeseed Oil for cooking
Lemon wedges, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the chard & simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze until the chard is completely dry.  Place the chard in a food processor along with the herbs, nutmeg, sugar, flour, garlic, and eggs. Season with salt and pepper and pulse until you have a somewhat smooth green batter. Crumble in the feta & gently fold it through.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Spoon in 1 heaped tablespoon of the batter for each fritter. Press down gently on the fritter to flatten it to about 2 1/2 inches wide. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown or rather green. Transfer to some kitchen paper & keep warm while you fry the rest of the fritters in batches. 

Serve warm, with lemon wedges and/or yogurt sauce.