Monday, February 8, 2016

leather chair.

I want to sit in this leather chair and read cookbooks and then ride my bike to the farmers market.


Très Bon Goût:

Image via Pinterest

Thursday, February 4, 2016

banana chocolate chip upside-down cake.


Look, when a recipe involves bananas nestled in brown sugar and paired with chocolate chips its going to be all of 5 seconds before my brain says "How soon can I make this?".  

I stumbled upon this gem while perusing David Lebovitz's blog.  I have the tendency to get lost in the rabbit hole that is the recipe archives on my favorite blogs and I'll emerge an hour later with a list about 20 recipes long of things I've convinced myself I need to have in my stomach RIGHT NOW. This landed at the top of the list mostly because I was dubious.  Can you have an utterly delicious cake that involves only 2 tablespoons of butter?  Is that even possible?  

The moral of the story is yes you can and that you should always trust David Lebovitz.  He knows his desserts and he knows how to make a really good dessert.  This is an impossibly addicting banana cake; moist, flavorful, and dense in that satisfying way banana cakes tend to be.   Studded with chocolate and layered with hints of caramel it's best suited for an afternoon snack or when just really need a pick-me-up because its been one of those days.    

Banana Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake

Recipe adapted slightly from David Lebovitz

Notes - I swapped 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour for oat flour because while banana and chocolate is good, banana, oats, and chocolate is even better (to me at least).  You can also replace another 1/2 cup of flour with spelt flour if you feel so inclined (I've been on a bit of a grains kick as of late) but using only all-purpose isn't a bad thing.   

I also doubled the chocolate.  Not sorry.   If you wanted to swap half the chocolate for toasted nuts (walnuts! pecans!) I would think that's a most excellent idea.  

One 8-inch (20 cm) cake

For the Topping

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons (60 g) packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
3-4 ripe medium bananas
a few drops of lemon juice

For the Cake


1 1/2 cups (210 g) flour (see notes above)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (30 g) melted butter, salted or unsalted
2 large eggs
1 cup (250 g) banana puree (about 2 bananas)
1/2 cup (120 g) sour cream, regular or low-fat or buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (160 g) chocolate chips or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

To make the topping, place the brown sugar and water in an 8-inch (20 cm) cake pan. Warm the pan directly on the stovetop over low heat, stirring until the sugar is thoroughly moistened.

Simmer the mixture for about 45 seconds. Let cool to room temperature.

Peel and slice the bananas in 1/4-inch (1 cm) slices. Arrange them in slightly overlapping rows over the melted brown sugar. Sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl, making sure there are no lumps. Mix in the granulated sugar.

In a small bowl, mix together the butter, egg, egg white, banana puree, sour cream, and vanilla.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients until almost combined. Do not overmix. Gently fold in the chocolate pieces.

Scrape the batter into the pan over the bananas, then use a spatula to carefully spread the batter over the sliced fruit.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake feels just set in the center when you touch it.

Cool the cake for about 20 minutes, then run a knife along the edges of the cake to help it release from the pan. Invert the cake onto a serving platter.

Serving: The cake is best served warm with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or by itself as a snack. If made an hour or so in advance, it can be inverted on the serving platter, and left with the cake pan over it, to keep it warm. Otherwise is can be rewarmed in a low over, covered with foil. Or enjoyed at room temperature.

Storage: The cake can be made up to two days in advance, although it is best the day it’s made. To freeze it, wrap it securely in plastic wrap; it can be frozen for one to two months.


Monday, February 1, 2016

chickpea stew with tomato, tumeric, yogurt, and harissa.


There are two types of soup people in this world.  The people who can eat a bowl and have that be a meal (me!) and the people who eat a bowl and then wonder where the rest of their meal is (most everyone else).  Soup is usually a starter or a side to a sandwich, it is rarely the main attraction.

This soup is more substantial then most which lends itself to being the center of a meal rather then a supporting role.  More of a stew then a soup, it's chock-full of chickpeas (a full pound!), greens, and more flavor then I thought was even possible in a vegetarian, bean based pot of deliciousness.  It also gets better with age which means making a pot ensures you dinner for the better part of a week.  

If you feel you can't serve it without a side of something, a hunk of good crusty, nutty bread wouldn't be a bad accoutrement (OK, and maybe a wedge of cheese).             

Chickpea Stew with Tomato, Turmeric, Yogurt and Harissa
Recipe from the Gjelina Cookbook

The original recipe says you get 4-6 servings out of this soup.  Unless you are feeding 300 pound men I think 6 - 8 servings is more realistic.

Serves 6 - 8

1 pound of dried chickpeas
1 yellow onion, quartered
1 carrot, peeled and quartered
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 bay leaf
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and cut into half moons
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon of ground turmeric
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 cup of dry white wine
4 cups of vegetable stock
1 bunch Tuscan kale or swiss chard, stemmed and cut into strips (2 inches, 5cm wide)
1 teaspoon of red wine or sherry vinegar
1/4 cup of harissa
1/3 cup of spiced yogurt (see recipe below)

In a small, dry frying pan over medium heat, toast the coriander seeds and cumin seeds just until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool before grinding to a powder in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.

For the chickpeas: In a large bowl, cover the chickpeas with water by 2 inches and soak overnight. Drain the chickpeas and rinse with cool water.

In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, combine the chickpeas, onion, carrot, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme. Add water to cover by about 2 inches. Season with a little salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until the chickpeas are tender but still hold their shape, about 45 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Cool the chickpeas in the cooking liquid and then drain, discarding the liquid. Set the chickpeas aside.

In a small, dry frying pan over medium heat, toast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds just until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool. With a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, grind to a powder.

In a clean, large soup pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic; season with salt and pepper; and cook until the vegetables begin to soften and brown slightly, about 5 minutes.

Add the powdered cumin mixture and the paprika, turmeric, thyme, and bay leaf and cook until quite fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, scraping the bottom of the pot frequently so that it does not burn, and cook until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the wine, bring to a boil, and cook, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan until reduced by more than half, 2-3 minutes. Add the stock, discard the bay leaf, and return to a simmer.

In a blender, combine 1 cup of the soup base with 2 cups of the cooked chickpeas and purée until smooth. Return the puréed beans to the soup pot. Throw the kale into the stew and cook until softened. Add the remaining cooked chickpeas and gently stir. Remove from the heat and let stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Just before serving, adjust the salt and spike with the vinegar. Serve with a dollop of spiced yogurt and a drizzle of harissa.

Spiced Yogurt
Recipe from the Gjelina Cookbook

¼ tsp of coriander seeds (or ground coriander)
¼ tsp of cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
1 cup of Greek-style yogurt
2 Tbsp of chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp of chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp white wine vinegar
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Kosher salt
3 Tbsp of water, or as needed

In a small, dry frying pan over medium heat, toast the coriander seeds and cumin seeds just until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool before grinding to a powder in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. (Omit this step if using ground spices.)

In a food processor, combine the yogurt with the ground coriander and cumin, cilantro, and mint. Process until the herbs are broken down and the yogurt is tinted green, about 5 seconds. Add the olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice and pulse just until incorporated. Taste and season with salt. Stir in the water, a little bit at a time, stopping when the yogurt is still thick but thin enough to drizzle from a spoon.

Over time, the lemon juice can cause the yogurt to break and lose its creamy texture, so make just a small amount and use it right away.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

cheese danish.

I am a cheese danish fanatic.  

It's not that surprising.  I have an affinity for cheese and pastries so eating them together, as a socially acceptable breakfast, is pretty much my idea of heaven.   

Unfortunately, most of the cheese danishes in this world are awful.   Cloyingly sweet or lacking enough cheese to have them even be worth eating.  So many of them are just wrong and that surprises me.  In New York, it's no longer difficult to get a good croissant but it's incredibly difficult to find a good cheese danish; one with a tender, buttery, yeasty pastry, a sweet yet cheesy center. and a smattering of glaze strewn haphazardly over the top. Where is it?!


For a while I gave up.  I convinced myself that cheese danishes were like finding the perfect pair of jeans - something everything one wants but few rarely find.   And then back in December the NYTimes wrote an article about Danishes and included a recipe for cheese danish and I had a moment where I wondered if this was going to be the recipe that provided me cheese danish nirvana. I was apprehensive.  It all seemed a little too easy (or as easy as making faux puff pastry can be) and I grew skeptical.  Over the last couple of weeks, I kept going back to the recipe and I started reading the comments and all anyone could say was how delicious the recipe was and how easy it was and at that point I was sold (or at least needed to try it myself).  

So this past weekend, during the Great Blizzard of 2016, I set out to make the cheese danish of my dreams and I did!  The dough is a breeze, the process is simple, and the resulting pastry is everything I've ever wanted.  I'm already dreaming of new riffs on the old classic but for now I'm content to know that anytime I want a good cheese danish I can have it.       

Danish Dough
Recipe from the NYTimes

This is not a labor intensive process in the slightest, but it does involve some planning.  I started by making the initial dough on Friday evening and letting it rest overnight.  On Saturday I made my folds, let it rest, and made my filling.  On Sunday morning, I formed my pastries, let them rise, and baked them up.  They make for one hell of a an awesome breakfast after treking around outside in the snow with your dog.   

1 ½ cups/6 3/4 ounces/192 grams bread flour, plus more for the work surface and the rolling pin
2 tablespoons/24 grams granulated sugar
2 teaspoons/6 grams active dry yeast
¾ teaspoon/3 grams kosher salt
14 tablespoons/198 grams cold, unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks), roughly cubed
1 large egg
¼ cup/60 milliliters cold whole milk

Combine the flour, granulated sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse to combine. The butter should be the size of small marbles and peas. Transfer this mixture to a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and 2 tablespoons/30 milliliters water.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the mixture until it is evenly moistened. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape into a small rectangle, and wrap well. Chill for at least 3 hours, and up to 2 days.

On a lightly floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to an 8-by-15-inch rectangle. With a short side facing you, fold the dough in thirds like a letter, bringing the top third of the dough down, then folding the bottom third up. Use a bench scraper to help lift and fold the dough if necessary. At this point, the dough will be rough and shaggy with visible butter pieces; as you roll and fold the dough it will come together. Rotate the dough 90 degrees. Repeat the rolling and folding process, then rotate the dough once more and roll and fold again. As you work, dust the work surface, your hands and the rolling pin with flour as necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Repeat the entire rolling and folding process one more time for a grand total of six turns. If the dough starts to fight you and become difficult to roll at any point, just pop it in the fridge for an extra rest. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Cheese Danish Filling
Recipe from the NYTimes

Makes 9 danishes

8 ounces/226 grams cream cheese
1 ¼ cup/160 grams confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg yolk
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 batch Danish dough (see recipe above)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons/30 milliliters whole milk

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, 1/4 cup/32 grams confectioners’ sugar, the egg yolk, the salt and the vanilla until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a resealable plastic bag; set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 12 1/2-inch square. Trim 1/4 inch off each edge. Cut the dough into nine 4-inch squares. Brush the corners of each square with a bit of the beaten egg, then fold each corner into the center and press down gently. Transfer the squares to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets.

Cut the tip off one corner of the filled plastic bag so you have a 1/2-inch hole. Use the bag to pipe the cheese filling onto the center of each dough square. Loosely cover the pastries with plastic wrap and let stand until slightly puffed, about 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes. Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Remove the plastic and gently brush the top and sides of the dough with the beaten egg. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Continue to bake until pastries are puffed and deep golden brown, another 6 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1 cup/128 grams confectioners’ sugar and the milk. Let the Danish cool slightly on the sheet then drizzle with the glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

































Friday, January 22, 2016

carrot salad with tahini, crisped chickpeas, and pistachios.





Since adopting Jackson, Tyler and I have been buying carrots with abandon, something that previously we never did.  This dog is a foodie and is particularly fond of carrots and all other orange-hued vegetables so he gets them as a snack with peanut butter (it's like we have a five year old). Feeding him so many carrots got me thinking - why don't we eat carrots more often?   I remember eating them as a kid - cooked slowly in orange juice and and brown sugar - but since then, I haven't really given them much thought.  

That was until I stumbled across this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen archives in an attempt to up my own carrot intake.   I know that carrot salad sounds very unexciting, but this recipe is so incredibly good.  I have a hard time getting excited about salads in January, mostly because all the produce needs to be imported from some far off country and that makes me sad.  Carrots on the other-hand can still be found at the farmers markets in January which makes this an incredibly seasonally appropriate dish.  The bright Middle Eastern spices, tahini dressing, and crisped chickpeas takes this from ho-hum side dish to delicious main especially if served with some good cheese and even better bread.   

Carrot Salad with Tahini, Crisped Chickpeas and Salted Pistachios
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 6

Chickpeas

1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas, or 1 15-ounce can, drained and patted dry on paper towels
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon zatar

Salad

1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley or cilantro
1/4 cup shelled, salted pistachios, coarsely chopped

Dressing

1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
1 tablespoons water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon zatar
1/2 teaspoon sumac
Salt and red pepper flakes (or Aleppo) to taste

Roast chickpeas: Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss chickpeas with one tablespoon olive oil, salt and cumin until they’re all coated. Spread them on a baking sheet or pan and roast them in the oven until they’re browned and crisp. This can take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size and firmness of your chickpeas. Toss them occasionally to make sure they’re toasting evenly. Set aside until needed.

Make dressing: Whisk all ingredients together until smooth, adding more water if needed to thin the dressing slightly. Taste and adjust seasoning; don’t worry if it tastes a little sharp on the lemon, it will marry perfectly with the sweet grated carrots.

Assemble salad: Place grated carrots in large bowl and toss with parsley. Mix in 2/3 of the dressing, adding more if desired. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle with a large handful of chickpeas (you’ll have extra and if you’re like us, won’t regret it) and pistachios and dig in.

Do ahead: Salad keeps well in the fridge for two days, however, I’d add the chickpeas and pistachios right before serving, so they don’t get soft.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

gnoochi.



Gnoochi is one of those incredible winter comfort foods that I struggle with making homemade.  I can't tell you how many times I've ended up with gnoochi that stuck together in the pot and turned into a massive ball of mush.  Other times I managed to create dense hockey pucks of potato and flour - nothing like the pillowy ethereal gnoochi from the best Italian restaurants.  Starting in October and going through April, I try every couple of months to create a batch that is perfect; light, melt in your mouth pieces of heaven.

A few weeks ago I made what may be the best batch of gnoochi of my short thirty year old life.  They were tender, fluffy bites of wonderfulness and I was one proud lady (even Tyler said they were my best!).  I'm not sure I've figured out all the secrets to making perfect gnoochi but I've come close. This recipe has been (for me at least) the most successful and hopefully it helps you make your best gnoochi.

Gnoochi
Recipe from Andrew Carmellini

Some gnoochi advice based on my own experience - do NOT attempt gnoochi on humid days.  You will end up with horribly sticky dough that is impossible to work with and you will cry.

Once the potatoes are tender, work quickly.  Don't wait for the potatoes to get cool.  You want that sweet spot of not so hot you are burning your fingers and not cold.  I don't know the magic behind why it works but it really does help the final product.

If you freeze your gnoochi, I find that when you are ready to cook them, it's best to only cook a small handful at a time (and then transfer to a plate until all are done and you are ready to sauce).  If you put a lot of frozen gnoochi in the pot at one time, the temperature goes down too quickly and then when it comes back up to a boil, it causes all the gnoochi to stick together (which is when Tyler will usually find me cursing).  Take the extra time required to just cook a few and you'll have better results.

4 large Idaho potatoes (about 2 lbs.), scrubbed
1 whole egg, beaten
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon course ground black pepper

Method: Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 425°F.


Prick each potato several times with a fork and place on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan large enough to hold them all in a single layer. Bake in the oven until the potatoes are tender enough to be easily pierced with a small knife (about 60 minutes).

Remove the potatoes from the oven and let them cool slightly—just enough so that you can handle them, not more. They should still be steaming when you cut them open ( about 6 to 10 minutes). (If you let the potatoes get too cold, the proteins in the egg won’t bind with the potatoes, and your gnocchi will fall apart). Cut each potato in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Pass the potato flesh through a food mill or press through a ricer set over a medium bowl. (When it comes through the ricer, the potato should look sort of like Play-Do.) Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the beaten egg, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, melted butter, salt, and pepper, and 1 cup of flour, reserving the rest. (You can melt the butter in the microwave). The mixture should be stirred only until the ingredients are combined: anything more will overwork the dough, and your gnocchi will come out tough (like the frozen-in-a-bag variety). Work the mixture into a smooth ball; if the dough seems a little too moist for this, add a touch of flour (the moisture level in every potato is different, so every batch of gnocchi will be a bit different, too).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Working quickly, cut the dough into inch-wide slices, using a dough cutter if you’ve got one, a regular dinner-table knife if you don’t. Roll these between your hands to make them into a ball. The dough should feel soft, slightly tacky but not sticky—sort of warm and sexy. Roll out each piece into long logs (or “snakes,” as we call them in the kitchen), approximately 14” to 16” long, about ¾“ thick. (This isn’t a precise measurement. You can make your gnocchi whatever size you want—this is just how I like ‘em.) Cut each on in half and roll it out again, thinner, to the same length. Sprinkle the rolled-out snakes with flour to keep them from sticking, and keep adding more flour to the work surface as you go to help as you roll the dough. Cut each snake into gnocchi-sized pieces ( I like mine to be about 1 inch x 1 inch), and place the pieces on a baking sheet covered with semolina. Cover this with a cloth or plastic wrap until you’re ready to cook the gnocchi, so they don’t dry out.

Gnocchi are delicate little things; fresh gnocchi should be cooked the day they are made or, at the very latest, the next day. Frozen and stored in an airtight container, they’ll keep for up to a month.

To Cook the Gnocchi: This step is just as important as the preparation: tender gnocchi require careful attention.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi all at once (or as close to it as possible). Stir once gently all around, so that the water is aerated and the dough doesn’t become glued together like one big gnoccho. Let the gnocchi cook until they rise to the surface (about 1-2 minutes); wait one more minute and then, using a slotted spoon or a spider, remove the gnocchi. (Don’t ever dump the gnocchi out into a colander the way you would spaghetti: that’s a disaster. All the gnocchi crash onto each other and break.)