Thursday, January 19, 2017

zatar and parmesan popcorn.



When you're a child, snow days are a magical thing.   But as an adult, they loose a lot of their allure. Snow days mean schlepping to work even if the skies just dumped 8 inches of snow. 

Much of the joy I have for snow days stems from the tradition my mom started of making my siblings and I Parmesan popcorn (recipe form the Kids Cook Cookbook!) and hot chocolate when we came in from playing outside.   This past weekend, while Tyler and I were taking Jackson to the park in the middle of a snowy Saturday afternoon, I got a sudden bout of nostalgia for such a treat.  And so I did what I always do when that happens, I returned home and set about re-creating such food memories.   

This is my ode to my childhood snow day treat.  Freshly popped popcorn covered in a dusting of Parmesan and Zatar.   Zatar, an incredible Middle Easter spice blend, provides just enough of a kick to the bowl of popcorn, managing to make the popcorn taste just a little more adultish while still fully embracing what I loved about it as a child (the cheesy bites).   It's great snack food on snowy afternoons though I could also see myself serving it as an appetizer for a party (Superbowl anyone?). 

Zatar and Parmesan Popcorn 
Recipe adapted slightly from Serious Eats

I used the popcorn from the Whole Foods bulk bins though I am really keen to order some of this popcorn since I hear it's so great! 

1/2 cup popcorn kernels, popped (about 8 cups popped)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup store-bought za'atar spice blend 
1/2 cup parmesan or Pecorino grated on a microplane 
Kosher salt

Place popped popcorn in a large mixing bowl and drizzle olive all over, tossing to coat evenly. Add za'atar and cheese, tossing to coat evenly. Season with salt and serve. Popcorn can be stored at room temperature in a zipper-lock bag overnight.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

pasta e fagioli.


To counteract the effects of me eating my body weight in oysters and ridiculously good local beers while Tyler and I were in Charleston (oh and all the cookies I consumed before then), I've been on a bit of a soup kick.  

I've talked a lot about soup on this blog because I love it.  It's up there with cheese and peanut-butter as one of my favorite foods. It's satisfying and filling and it's my winter comfort food.  Most people think of comfort food, especially winter comfort food, as food involving cheese and butter.  But for me, brothy soups filled with pantry staples like beans, pasta, and carrots, is my kind of belly-warming comfort food.

This soup is about as basic as it gets but somehow all the basic ingredients come together to create a beautiful cohesive soup that makes cold January evenings all the more bearable.  

Pasta e Fagioli 
Recipe from Tasting Table

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for garnish
2 ounces pancetta, minced
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups dried white beans, soaked overnight
10 cups chicken stock
1 - 1 1/2 cups small pasta shells
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to tast
Grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, for garnish

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta, carrot, celery and onion, and cook until golden brown, 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, rosemary and garlic, and cook until the tomato paste is caramelized and the rosemary and garlic are fragrant, another 2 minutes.

Drain the soaked beans and add to the pot along with the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Add the pasta and cook another 10 minutes.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. Divide the soup between bowls and garnish with grated cheese. Serve.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

pasta with brussel sprouts, cheese, and sweet potato.


Hi 2017.

I debated endlessly over doing my yearly end of year life/blog/things of note re-cap but if we are being honest, 2016 took a lot out of me (I have so many more grays then I did a year ago) and I just didn't feel up to re-living it. 

But 2017, I have goals for you.  Finally (I mean it) making homemade croissants, traveling again (Charleston this weekend!), being a more mindful person and asking myself why (Why do you need this shirt?  Why do you need another cookie instead of an apple?).  Listening more to my gut, giving more hugs to my husband and dog, being a better consumer, trying new recipes that utilize new ingredients.  Go and visit my parents more often, throw a dinner party at least once a month, find a nightstand and bedroom table lamps, learn how to keep a plant alive, take more walks, listen more. Spend more time reading.  Watch some new documentaries. Learn more about wine.  Take a yoga class at least once a month.      

One of my goals is also continue to figure out ways of how to do something out of (what feels like) nothing. Being a cook means you look for ways to use what you have instead of always relying on some ingredient (you may need to buy) to make a meal.  Making something out of nothing is an art and it's an art I hope to perfect.   

This recipe is one of those turn leftovers into a meal kind of recipes and I feel its genius.  Roast some vegetables, turn a small bit of ricotta into a sauce, throw in some pasta, and suddenly, you have dinner.  Its magical and delicious and such an easy way to clean out the fridge.  Here's to more kitchen magic in 2017.   

Pasta with Brussel Sprouts, Cheese, and Sweet Potato
Adapted from the NYTimes 

I loved the idea of this recipe (pasta bake!  lots of veggies!) but felt it could be improved upon.  I roasted my veggies instead of boiling them because roasted veggies are far superior.  I swapped the white potato for a sweet potato because that's what I had on hand and because I love sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts together.   I grated the cheese over cubing it since I find grated cheese disperses itself more easily.   Regardless this is a stellar recipe that lends itself to endless variations (mushrooms and white potato anyone?). 

1/2 - 3/4 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (or quartered if large)
1 (8-ounce) sweet potato, peeled and in 1-inch dice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound pasta (NYTimes recommends whole wheat or spelt tortiglioni or penne)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 - ½ cup ricotta
4 ounces Gruyère, parmesan or pecorino romano grated 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
Additional parmesan or sprinkling on top  

Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet, place the sweet potato.  Drizle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.   Roast about 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and add the bruseel sprouts to the same sheet pan, drizzle sprouts with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and return the pan to the oven for another 12 minutes or until everything is roasted and browned.    Remove from the oven but keep oven on.   

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously, then the pasta, and let water come back to a boil. Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. Just before draining, remove 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and set aside.

Return pasta to the pot.  Add brussels sprouts and sweet potato, then add ricotta, Gruyère (or parmesan) and 3/4 cup cooking water, and toss well. Taste and additional salt and pepper if needed. Add more liquid if you think the pasta is too dry.

Pour the pasta into an 8x8 square pan.   Sprinkle with Panko, Parmesan,a and additional black pepper, and bake for 20 minutes, by which time the surface will be scorched a light gold. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before eating.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

cocoa-tahini cookies with sesame crunch.


Since purchasing Dorie's Cookies back in November, I've already made 5 different recipes from it and have earmarked at least 25 others.   

I haven't fallen this hard for a cookbook in a long time.   


Dorie's Cookies is the kind of book that every baker should have in their arsenal.  It's interesting, reliable, and quite frankly delicious.  It feels as if you have a friend in your kitchen guiding you to try new things (both flavors and techniques).  It's a cookie bible and I see myself turning to it season after season, year after year.


The first cookie I made were these Cocoa-Tahini Cookies with Sesame Crunch.   They felt like a such a modern-rift on a classic chocolate cookie (I love updated versions of classics).  The final product is a delight.  Tender, nutty, and exciting.  The pop of the sesame crunch provides the perfect textural contrast to the chocolate cookie base.   It would make the perfect addition to any holiday cookie plate though I expect these to be year-round favorites in our house.   


Cocoa-Tahini Cookies with Sesame Crunch
Recipe from Dorie's Cookies

Makes about 24 cookies

For the Sesame Crunch

2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons water
1/4 cup (40 grams) hulled white sesame seeds

For the Cookies

3/4 cup (102 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (28 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons; 3 ounces; 85 grams) butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
1/4 cup (63 grams) tahini (stir very well before measuring)
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1/3 cup (67 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
6 ounces (170 grams) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 1 cup (170 grams) dark chocolate chips
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling (optional but I recommend it)   

To Make the Crunch: Put a silicone baking mat on the counter near your stove or lightly butter the underside of a baking sheet.   Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the bottom of a small heavy skillet, drizzle over the water and place the pan over medium-high heat.   The sugar will boil and then, after 3-5 minutes, will start to change color. If during this time the sugar bubbles up the sides of the pan, wash the sides down with a brush (silicone is great here) dipped in cold water.  When about one quarter of the sugar has changed color, gently stir it with s silicone spatula or wooden spoon until you've got a fairly even pale amber color (the color of beer) - a matter of seconds not minutes.  Pour in the sesame seeds and stir to coat them evenly with caramel.   Don't worry if you see a little smoke rising from the mixture, just keep stirring until the seeds are coated.  Turn the caramelized seeds out onto the silicone mat (or baking sheet) spread them as thin as possible and allow to cool.  Finely chop the caramelize seeds (you'll have a scant 1/2 cup of crunch).  To clean your skillet, fill it with water and bring the water to a boil - the caramel will melt.   

To Make the Cookies: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.   Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.   

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, and baking soda.

Working with a stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter, tahini, both sugars and the salt together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Add the egg and beat for a minute or so, then use a sturdy spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.   With the mixer off, add the flour mixture all at once and beat on low speed until the dry ingredients are almost but not completely incorporated.  Pour in the chopped chocolate and sesame crunch and mix until the dry ingredients have disappeared.  Give the dough, which will look like frosting, a few finishing turns with the spatula.   

Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop out level portions of dough or use a tablespoon to get rounded spoonfuls, place the mounds of dough at least 2 inches apart on the baking sheet - these are spreaders. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt if using.  

Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. At 13 minutes the cookies will look unset; at 15 only the edges will be unset.  They'll both be fine, one just a little firmer then the other - your choice! (Note - I took mine out at the 13 minute mark.) Place the baking sheets on racks and let the cookies rest for 5 minutes before carefully transferring them to the racks to firm and cool. Repeat with any remaining dough.     

Storing - The dough can be refrigerated, well wrapped, for up to 3 days.  The cookies will keep in a container at room temperature for about 4 days.   They'll get a little firmer and sandier, but their flavor and appeal won't diminish.  Wrapped airtight, they can be frozen for up to 2 months.   

Friday, December 9, 2016

black-bottom oatmeal pie.


It's December (when did that happen?).   We should be talking about cookies and trust me I have a lot of cookies I want to talk about but it felt cruel to not discuss this pie because it's one of the absolute best things I've made (maybe ever?).   

This my friends is the so-called Poor' Man's Version of Pecan Pie.  In my opinion, it's better then pecan pie. Maybe because I have a fondness for oats?  Maybe because I subbed the corn syrup in the original recipe with golden syrup?  Have you ever had golden syrup?  You should go to your nearest Whole Foods (that's where I found mine) and seek it out.  It's the way better version of corn syrup with a subtle caramel flavor and I am quite frankly obsessed.   Maybe I love it because there is a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache at the base of the pie which provides the perfect counterpart to the goo layer.  

Because of all those reasons I love this pie and I imagine you will too.   

Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie
Recipe from Four and Twenty Blackbirds Cookbook

I dialed the brown sugar back a tiny bit to 1/2 cup (100 grams).  Your choice!

Crust

1 1/4 cups (155 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (6 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) fine sea or table salt
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup (60 ml) very cold water, plus an additional tablespoon if needed

Filling

1 1/2 cups (120 grams) rolled oats
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
4 ounces (115 grams) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup (145 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup golden syrup 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
4 large eggs

Make the pie dough: By hand, with my one-bowl method: In the bottom of a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. (Some people like to do this by freezing the stick of butter and coarsely grating it into the flour, but I haven’t found the results as flaky.) Add 1/4 cup cold water and stir with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula until large clumps form. Use your hands to knead the dough together, right in the bottom of the bowl. If necessary to bring the dough together, you can add the last tablespoon of water.

With a food processor: In the work bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and pulse machine until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. Turn mixture out into mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup cold water and stir with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula until large clumps form. Use your hands to knead the dough together, right in the bottom of the bowl. If necessary to bring the dough together, you can add the last tablespoon of water.

Both methods: Wrap dough in a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours, or you can quick-firm this in the freezer for 15 minutes. Longer than 2 days, it’s best to freeze it until needed.

Form the crust: On a floured counter, roll the dough out into a 12 to 13-inch circle-ish shape. Fold dough gently in quarters without creasing and transfer to a 9-inch standard (not deep-dish) pie plate. Unfold dough and trim overhang to about 1/2-inch. Fold overhang under edge of pie crust and crimp decoratively. If not parbaking, place in fridge until ready to fill. If parbaking, place in freezer for 20 minutes, until solid.

Par-bake the crust: [Optional, but will lead to a crispier base.] Heat oven 400°F (205°C). Line frozen crust with lightly buttered or oiled foil. Fill with pie weights, dried beans or pennies. Bake on a rimmed baking sheet for 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and let cool completely before filling.

Heat oven: (Or reduce oven heat, if you just par-baked your crust) to 350°F (175°C).

Prepare filling: Spread oats on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F (165°C).

To make the black bottom, bring the cream just to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Pour in chocolate pieces and whisk until melted and smooth. Scrape the chocolate into the bottom of the cooled pie shell and spread evenly. Place in freezer while making the filling.

To make the oatmeal layer, in a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, ginger, salt, and melted butter. Add the corn syrup, vanilla, and cider vinegar and whisk to combine. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Stir in the cooled oats. Place chocolate-coated pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet and pour filling over.

Bake: For 55 to 70 minutes, rotating 180 degrees for even color if needed halfway through. The pie is done with the edges are set and puffed slightly and the center is slightly firm to the touch but still has a little give — like gelatin. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Do ahead: The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

Monday, December 5, 2016

a 2016 christmas wishlist.

The Best Garlands We’ve Ever Seen via @domainehome:

Over the last couple of weeks I debated over putting together a Christmas wishlist.  Since buying a home I've developed a strong aversion to things/stuff unless...

1 - The item is insanely practical.
2 - It literally makes my heart skip a beat.   

So needless to say, Christmas which is all about (mostly) impractical objects wrapped in shinny boxes, is leaving me feeling a wee-bit overwhelmed.   Tyler is probably thrilled to hear about this.   

Tyler and I will be gifting to each other a weekend away in January (location TBD) and will be donating to some charities that are going to be negatively impacted by the presidency of you know who (also known as the man who can't-stop-tweeting about things that should be a non-priority TO THE PRESIDENT ELECT).   

Over the last couple of months, I've kept a running list of things our new home needs so without further ado, this is all I (and our home) wants for Christmas.  

1 - A Milk Frother - I previously owned one but it saw it's demise during the great flood of 2012 (i.e. Hurricane Sandy).  I never replaced it because I thought to myself  "you don't really need this" but then when I was home for Thanksgiving my dad made me coffee with frothed milk and it was so much better then coffee without frothed milk.  So yeah, now I want one again.    

2 - A Dust Buster - Asking for this makes me feel as if I'm 50 but yes, I want a dust buster.  We don't have the need for a full-fledged vacuum since the majority of our home is hardwood, but a dust buster for sucking up dust bunnies and pet hair is something we need.  This one fits the bill nicely.   

3 - More Serving Utensils - Tyler and I hosted our first official-large scale holiday soiree this past weekend and it made me realize we could benefit from a couple of more serving utensils.  Keeping with the theme of our apartment, I want them in brass!

4 - Dusters (big and little) - Our apartment is like a dust magnet.  I'm not sure if it's due to us being on the 4th floor or something else but there is so much dust.  We've been using the Swiffer to clean but it just feels so wasteful.  A real old-fashioned duster that can be cleaned and used again and again seems like the perfect solution.   (Big duster also be found here.)

5 - An Angora Beanie - Yes, this is an expensive hat.  When I tried it on, I said to myself this is really nice but you don't really need it.  And yes, I don't really need it, but I can't stop thinking about it.  It's the first hat that I've tried on and just really loved.  The color's great, it's soft, and it actually looks good!  In the winter, you're bundled up and all anyone ever sees's is your jacket and your hat so you might as well wear a really good hat.  

6 - A Garlic Press - I love garlic but I hate mincing it.  Especially for salad dressings since it takes forever to mince it small enough that you don't feel as if you are eating pieces of raw garlic.  This press gets rave reviews from the team over at Serious Eats and for that reason I want it.   

7 - A Quartz Co. Parka - Since adopting Jackson, Tyler and I have spent a lot of time outdoors at the dog park or on walks which has made me realize I really need a nice warm jacket.  I love this one. It's warm, stylish, and Made in Canada.  It costs a lot, but its a jacket you have forever and that makes it worth it.  (Oh and my color choice?  Olive grey (size medium).)   

8 - Soom Tahini - I asked for it last year and I'm asking for it again.  It's the world's best tahini and I need more of it.

9 - A Natural Sheepskin Rug - I've been obsessed with this rug for a while since the tan color feels so different then the white rugs you see everywhere.  It would look great thrown over our chair in the living room and will make everything feel that much more cozy.   

Other random items of interest - a gift certificate for Anson Mills (so I can buy more oats), socks, and Trader Joe's chocolate covered mint faux-oreos (they are awesome). 
Image via Pinterest.