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.  

Friday, April 12, 2019

chocolate snacking cake with orange glaze.


Several weeks ago Melissa Clark did a story in the NY Times about snacking cakes.  The kind of thing you make when you need a little pick-me-up/a small sugar rush/a little indulgence to go with your afternoon tea.    I loved the article and the premise of the snacking cake.  It just seems like the kind of recipe everyone should have it their repertoire.  Something you can whip up when your friends are having a bad day or you want to celebrate a little victory or perhaps just because (which is the ideal reason).   

I’ve made 2 of the 3 recipes and while the banana cake is a delight (who can say no to a caramel glaze?) it was the chocolate snacking cake with orange glaze that really won me over.  The chocolate cake is deeply chocolaty, spongy, and moist.   The glaze is sweet with the perfect amount of citrus punch and if offsets the bitterness of the cake incredibly well.   It’s a one bowl and maybe 15 minutes of active cook time.  This makes it dangerously easy to bake it pretty much any day of the week.   

Chocolate Snacking Cake With Orange Glaze
Recipe from the NYTimes 

For the Cake

⅓  cup/80 milliliters neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola, plus more for pan
¾  cup/95 grams all-purpose flour
½  cup/50 grams Dutch-processed cocoa powder
½  teaspoon baking soda
¼  teaspoon baking powder
¼  teaspoon fine sea salt
2  ounces/60 grams chopped dark chocolate (about 1/3 cup)
½  cup/120 milliliters hot coffee
¾  cup/155 grams light brown sugar
⅓  cup/80 milliliters sour cream 
2  large eggs
1  teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Glaze

½  tablespoon finely grated tangerine or orange zest 
1  tablespoon tangerine or orange  juice
1  teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1  cup/115 grams confectioners’ sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-9-inch pan and line with parchment paper, letting the two long edges hang over the sides by at least 2 inches.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a heatproof bowl, melt chocolate in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between. Or you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water on the stove, stirring well. Whisk in hot coffee.

Whisk together flour mixture, coffee-chocolate mixture, brown sugar, sour cream, oil, eggs and vanilla. Scrape into baking pan and smooth the top. Bake until the top is springy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool completely before glazing.

When cake is cool, make the glaze: Whisk together tangerine zest, tangerine juice and lemon juice, then whisk in confectioners’ sugar. Taste, and if it’s too sweet, add another drop or two of lemon juice. Pour glaze onto cooled cake, and spread to the edges. Let glaze set for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

focaccia.

I've been thinking a lot about how much this place has evolved since I first started it.  How the concept of a blog has evolved.  Instagram is the new blogging platform as people don't want long-form paragraphs about recipes or fashion or really anything.  They want instant gratification - a picture of a dish, a one liner about what you made, and then, to move-on.  I can't tell if I think that's the better approach or if there is something special about taking the time to craft a couple of sentences (heck a couple of paragraphs) about life and food.   

Does anyone want to read my thoughts?  I don't have much of a following despite doing this for the better part of 7 (!!!) years.  My lofty plans of turning this into some kind of career never really manifested (though unsure if that kind of career would even suit me).  I'm not really even sure why I continue to come back here.  Am I hoping this means something to someone?  Does it mean something to me?  Does it even matter? 

I watched the Salt Fat Acid Heat 4-part special on Netflix and got a longing to travel to Italy and Japan and then a desire to eat a massive wedge of warm focaccia.   This is the recipe from Samin Nosrat's episode on Fat.  The focaccia that emerges from the oven is perfect.   If I ever open a sandwich restaurant, all sandwiches would be served on this.   

Focaccia
Recipe from Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat

For the dough

2½ cups (600 grams) lukewarm water
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
2½ teaspoons (15 grams) honey
5 1/3 cups (800 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (18 grams) Diamond Crystal Kosher salt or 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
¼ cup (50 grams) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan and finishing
Flaky salt for finishing


For the brine

1½ teaspoons (5 grams) Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
⅓ cup (80 grams) lukewarm water

In a medium bowl, stir together water, yeast, and honey to dissolve. In a very large bowl, whisk flour and salt together to combine and then add yeast mixture and olive oil. Stir with a rubber spatula  until just incorporated, then scrape the sides of the bowl clean and cover with plastic wrap. Leave out at room temperature to ferment for 12 to 14 hours until at least doubled in volume.

Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons oil evenly onto a 18-by-13 inch (46-by-33 cm) rimmed baking sheet. When dough is ready, use a spatula or your hand to release it from the sides of the bowl and fold it onto itself gently, then pour out onto pan. Pour an additional 2 tablespoons of olive oil over dough and gently spread across. Gently stretch the dough to the edge of the sheet by placing your hands underneath and pulling outward.  The dough will shrink a bit, so repeat stretching once or twice over the course of 30 minutes to ensure dough remains stretched.  

Dimple the dough by pressing the pads of your first three fingers in at an angle.  Make the brine by stirring together salt and water until salt is dissolved. Pour the brine over the dough to fill dimples.  Proof focaccia for 45 minutes until the dough is light and bubbly. 

Thirty minutes into this final proof, adjust rack to center position and preheat oven to 450°F (235°C). If you have a baking stone, place it on rack.  Otherwise, invert another sturdy baking sheet and place on rack.  Allow to preheat with the oven until very hot, before proceeding with baking. 

Sprinkle focaccia with flaky salt. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes directly on top of stone or inverted pan until bottom crust is crisp and golden brown when checked with a metal spatula.  To finish browning top crust, place focaccia on upper rack and bake for 5 to 7 minutes more.  

Remove from oven and brush or douse with 2 to 3 tablespoons oil over the whole surface (don’t worry if the olive pools in pockets, it will absorb as it sits). Let cool for 5 minutes, then release focaccia from pan with metal spatula and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. 

Serve warm or at room temperature.  

To store, wrap in parchment and then keep in an airtight bag or container to preserve texture. Gently toast or reheat any leftover focaccia before serving. Alternatively, wrap tightly to freeze, then defrost and reheat before serving.