Monday, October 29, 2012

spaghetti alla carbonara.


After last weeks almond cookie extravaganza I was left with three egg yolks that I dumped into a plastic container and placed in the fridge because I couldn’t bare to throw them away (these are cage free, organic, farmers market eggs – you don’t throw those away!). I figured in a couple of days I would get around to using them to make pudding or mousse or something equally rich and decadent but for once in my life I was craving something savory and I knew there had to be a way to incorporate them into a dinner dish. I thought about aioli or something equally Fancy-French sounding but I wanted rustic and cozy – elevated comfort food, which means I wanted pasta carbonara.  Carbonara in the most traditional sense has no cream or milk, the creaminess is derived from the eggs.  I figured a version made with egg yolks could only be more creamy and delicious.  For a little color (and to make me feel better about basically eating cheesy pasta for dinner), I added a couple of handfuls of thinly sliced spinach to my whole wheat spaghetti which allowed me to pretend this was a healthy dinner. 

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Recipe Adapted from Molto Italiano by Mario Batali

Serves 2

¼ pound pancetta, guanciale, or really good bacon, diced
1/3 pound spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
Generous ½ cup Parmesan
2 cups packed spinach leaves washed and then thinly sliced
3 egg yolks (or this can be made with 2 regular eggs)
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  When it boils, salt the water.  In a large sauté pan set over medium heat, cook the pancetta until it has rendered its fat and is crispy and golden..  

Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until just al dente.  Scoop out ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside.  Drain the pasta. 

In the sauté pan where you cooked the pancetta, add 2 tablespoons of the pasta water and then toss in the pasta and spinach, shaking the pan for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and add a generous 1/3 cup of parmesan, the egg yolks (or whole eggs), and a generous amount of black pepper.  Serve with the remaining parmesan and some more pepper sprinkle on top.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

almond cookies.


I will be the first to admit that I am a chocoholic through and through.  I gravitate towards desserts that contain the darkest chocolate possible and some kind of fruit or sea salt (because those are chocolates best friend) but on occasion (and this is very rare) I crave a palate cleanser cookie or dessert, something devoid of chocolate and multiple add-ins. The kind of cookie that’s rustic and reminds you of simpler times when cookies consisted of a handful of top quality ingredients.  My go to cookie when these moments arose were ginger cookies (I still adore ginger cookies.   The best one I’ve ever had can be found at the Bent Spoon in Princeton.  It’s love at first bite) but I recently came across a recipe for an almond cookie that intrigued me.  The ingredients reminded me of a macaron or an old-school Italian pignoli cookie.  It took me all of a week to convince myself I needed to make them and then another three days to devour all of them. These are absurdly good - they have a texture similar to marzipan and the orange zest provides the perfect flavor (and works oh so well with the almonds).  They are also beyond easy, no mixer and no fancy ingredients, just a perfect simple cookie.

Almond Cookies
Recipe from Leities Culinaria

Leitie's called these Almond Biscotti, but that just seemed silly to me since they are surely not like any biscotti I've ever met.  I think its safe to say you can call them a cookie. 

2 1/3 cups almond meal
1 cup superfine sugar (or you can blitz regular sugar in a blender until super ground, or you can just be lazy like I was and use regular sugar)
3 large egg whites
Grated zest of 1 orange, preferably organic
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 cups sliced or flaked almonds
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. 

Combine the almond meal, sugar, egg whites, orange zest, and almond extract in a bowl, stirring well.  Place the almonds in a separate bowl.  Roll a tablespoon of the biscotti mixture into a rough ball, then roll the ball in the almonds.  Using your thumb and forefinger, and middle finger, pinch the ball into a rough pyramid shape.  Stand the pyramid on the parchment lined sheet, and repeat with the remaining dough. 

Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned.  Let cool, then dust with confectioners’ sugar.  You can store the cookies in an airtight container for up to several days as long as its not terribly humid. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

oversized photos in unexpected places.

Currently obsessed with fancy-pants framed art in unexpected places.  Like kitchens!  Because no one expects kitchens to have framed black and white prints in ridiculously large sizes.  And black and white prints go oh so well with stainless steel and open shelves.  This may be the perfect thing to do with my vast collection of travel photographs.  






















Image via Pinterest 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

pumpkin ravioli with brown butter and sage.


Apparently, four days is my limit before I need to discuss pumpkin, squash, and all other fall foods with you.  I tried to be patient and ignore the fact that I have pumpkin ravioli sitting in my freezer just waiting for their dinner debut but I succumbed to them (let's just say it didn't require much).  I have been thinking a lot about the sauce I wanted to pair them with, and inspiration struck while up in the Catskills perusing the menu at Cucina. (Which is so good I would suggest driving up there solely to eat at the restaurant and then you can stand outside, admire how beautiful it is with its soft colors and loads of candles and exposed wood, and imagine your rustic fall wedding there.  Not that I did any of this. Oh! And if you need a place to stay while in the Catskills I recommend the Roxbury Motel because it's so quirky and amazing.)  I knew a simple butter sauce would be ideal but it only occurred to me after analyzing the menu that a brown butter sauce would be even better.  Let me tell you brown butter is better; it's nutty and fragrant, the fall version of plain butter and atop pumpkin ravioli it’s kind of perfect.   

Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage 

I made this with pumpkin ravioli but this would be just as delicious with plan ravioli or with pumpkin tortellini or sweet potato gnocchi. Really the possibilities are limitless. 

Serves 2, generously (actually in serves almost 3)

1 pound pumpkin ravioli
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 - 8 sage leaves
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper (a lot of pepper) to taste
1/3 cup parmesan/pecorino plus more for dusting

Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.  Pour salt in the water when the water as come to boil and then add the pasta. Cook the pasta as per the package (generally for ravioli you cook until they begin to float).  When the pasta is cooked, set aside 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.

In a large heavy bottomed skillet, turn the heat to medium and place the butter in the pan.  When the butter is melted, add the sage leaves and cook until crispy, about 1 minute.  Remove the sage leaves from the pan and set aside on a plate.  Continue to cook the butter until it begins to smell nutty and turns brown.  Watch it carefully as it can burn quickly!  Should take about 2 to 3 minutes.  When the butter is browned, add in the balsamic vinegar and stir, then add in ¼ cup of the pasta water.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  If you find it too thick, add more water.  (I found a little more then ¼ cup of water was ideal.)  Add pasta to the skillet and toss to coat with the sauce.  Add ½ cup cheese and toss to coat.  Place ravioli on the plate and garnish with sage leaves, a dusting of cheese and a little more black pepper. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

amour fou for pumpkin hard apple cider.

My squash/pumpkin obsession is also apparent in my seasonal drink of choice which is Docs Draft Pumpkin Hard Apple Cider. I have spent much of the past two weeks visiting practically every beer distributor in the NY/NJ area and buying as many bottles as I can fit in my reusable tote (which means we have a stockpile that should last us through Thanksgiving).  If you do find it at a Whole Foods (they seem to be a good source especially the one in Tribeca) or another beer shop, consider yourself lucky because I've made every attempt to purchase every bottle in the city. Be forewarned this stuff is highly addictive. (So addictive that you may find yourself searching for distributors near your parents house when you worry the city is sold out.  Not that I did this or anything.)

I realized I may also love it because of its gold foil lid. I do have a slight love affair with gold.

Monday, October 22, 2012

ale, cheddar, and cauliflower soup.


I am a soup girl.  I thankfully date a guy who loves soup (with maybe not quite as much gusto as me but he still loves it).  Most guys don’t really understand soup as a meal.  I am constantly questioned at work as to how I can eat soup for lunch and not be hungry an hour later but I find soup to be comforting and filling and the perfect meal in the cooler months, especially when served a chunk of crusty fresh baked bread.  I have spent an inordinate amount of time searching for a soup recipe that feels and tastes manly.  The kind of dish you can serve to a guy on a Sunday evening during football season and have him not look at you as if you have three heads (because soup is not chili and everyone knows chili is more well received the soup any day).  I have finally found a soup that feels substantial and that seems appropriate for football season and got the boy’s seal of approval (!).  It contains beer and cheese (which we know all boys love) but it also contains a decent amount of cauliflower which keeps it firmly in the healthy category (or so I like to tell myself).  The little bit of Dijon mustard in this soup completely transforms and elevates the flavor of the whole dish.  I recommend serving this with a crusty rye bread or if you want something more I imagine a grilled cheese and sliced apple sandwich on rye would be perfect. 

Ale, Cheddar, and Cauliflower Soup
Recipe adapted from Mark Bittman

When making this the first time I almost forgot the Dijon mustard which would have been a tragedy.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much it transforms the dish.   So don’t forget the Dijon

4 ounces bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium celery rib, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt and black pepper
1 small to medium cauliflower, cored and chopped
2 12-ounce bottles in the Belgian dark-abbey-ale style
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Chopped chives for garnish

Place a large pot on the burner and turn it to medium-high heat.  Add the bacon and when it begins to brown and render its fat (about 5 minutes) remove it from the pot and set aside. Add in the onion, carrots, and celery, garlic, and some salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. 

Add the cauliflower, beer, stock, bay leaf, and cayenne.  Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles steadily; cover and cook until the cauliflower is very tender, 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Stir in the mustard and puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a Cusinart (or you can semi puree it by using a potato-masher). 

Toss together the cheddar and cornstarch.  Add the cheese mixture to the soup a handful at a time, stirring all the while, until it’s well incorporated and the soup is smooth.  Serve hot garnished with the chives and bacon.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

diners.

I have a slight infatuation with diners.  Vinyl booths, jukeboxes, and laminated menus.  A place where you can go for a cup of strong black coffee and a slice of pie with real whipped cream.  The kind of place where you can sit alone for hours with your thoughts and your newspaper.   Diners like that are a dying breed which is why I was so surprised when I found one randomly on the side of the road in the Catskills.  

Something about the old-schoolness of it is hauntingly beautiful.  


Friday, October 19, 2012

pumpkin whoopie pies.


I've gone squash crazy. It all started a few weeks ago with the bread pudding, which led me to eat pumpkin oatmeal for breakfast for a week straight. Then I moved onto butternut squash, which has consumed me for the last week in the form of several Italian specialties. Now I am back to pumpkin in the form of another dessert. I thought about saving this for another week - a week when you haven't seen a plethora of squash recipes but this is just so damn good that I couldn't bring myself to save it.

My better half is from Maine and I had never heard of whoppie pies until I went to Maine one spring and came across a cookie/cake hybrid that was the size of head and filled with a marshmallow filling that oozed out of the sides of the cake with each bite.  This was like an Oreo on steroids.  I was hooked and have made sure to seek them out on each subsequent visit.  As fond as I am of the chocolate version, I prefer the pumpkin.  There is something about a heavily spiced (and very moist) pumpkin cake that makes me happy.  Traditionally the pumpkin ones have a cream cheese filling but I prefer the traditional marshmallow one, sometimes it's nice to keep a bit of tradition. 

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Marshmallow filling recipe from Gourmet

Makes 10 hamburger size whoopie pies or double the amount if mini sized

I halved the whoopie pie and filling recipe since having 24 whoppie pies around seemed like a bad idea.  If you do make the full amount, you can freeze these individually (fully filled).  They actually taste wonderful cold!

For the Whoopie Pies

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups chilled pumpkin puree
1 large egg
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Filling

½ stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup + 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 ¼ cups marshmallow cream such as Marshmallow fluff
½ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves together and set aside.  In a separate bowl, whisk the brown sugar and oil together until combined.  Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly.  Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.  Sprinkle the flour mixture over the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.

Using a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, about one inch apart (I only had a regular ice cream scoop thus my hamburger sized pies). Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cookie comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely while you make the filling. 

To make the filling, beat together butter, confectioners sugar, marshmallow, and vanilla in a bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. 

Drop a large dollop of filling onto the flat side of the cookie.  Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edge of the cookie.  Repeat until all the cookies are used.  Put the whoopie pies in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

butternut squash pizza with smoked mozzarella and pancetta.


It's been so long since I discussed pizza with you.  Actually, I have neglected pizza making over the course of the last couple of weeks in favor of heartier more fall like fair like braised chicken dishes and creamy cheesy lasagnas.  After the lasagna-making extravaganza last week, I had a decent amount of squash puree remaining, which left me puzzled as to what to do with it.  Should I make ravioli? Squash muffins? What about squash oatmeal?  Then I remembered one of my most favorite pizzas (I have many favorite pizzas, must compile a full list at some point.)  It involves butternut squash and smoked mozzarella and pancetta which really is one of the most lovely and amazing combinations ever.    I had recently had the "original" version of this pizza when I was on Arthur Ave. a few weeks back, it was less then stellar (it breaks my heart to say that), too much pancetta and cheese and not enough puree.  I decided to make my own version that would fulfill all my pizza needs, which is exactly what happened.  I was generous with the squash puree and light-handed with the cheese and pancetta, which resulted in a pizza that had the most balanced combination of flavors - salty pancetta, sweet squash, and spicy red pepper flakes (the holy trifecta in my book). 

Butternut Squash Pizza with Smoked Mozzarella and Pancetta

Cooking the pancetta on the pizza makes this whole pizza that much easier.  Don't worry about it not getting cooked through, I guarantee it will as long as you dice it up into ¼ inch cubes!  I also highly recommend seeking out smoked mozzarella, it brings a wonderful flavor to the dish, it almost gives the pizza a grilled outdoor taste.  I've seen smoked mozzarella at Whole Foods as well as at specialty Italian stores. 

2/3 cup butternut squash puree (If you are using store bought dough you may want some more puree)
½ pound smoked mozzarella, shredded into large chunks (I used a little less then this but figured it's always good to have some extra to snack on!)
¼ cup pancetta diced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons parmesan
¼ cup basil
½ recipe of my favorite pizza dough

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees (or the hottest it will go) and if you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven while it's preheating.  You want it to preheat for at least 30 minutes. 

Divide the dough in half, place one-half on a floured surface, and then flour your hands as well.  Roll or use gravity to stretch the dough into a 9 inch "circle" (I use the term circle loosely as mine always ends up misshapen which doesn't bother me at all, I like to think of it as rustic).  Remove the pizza stone from the oven if you are using it (or get a baking sheet out if you don't have a stone) and place the dough on the stone/sheet.  Top the dough with 1/3 cup of the puree (spread the puree out on the dough so the whole thing has an even layer), then top with half of the smoked mozzarella, half the pancetta, and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes.

Bake the pizza in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, the cheese is melted, and the pancetta is cooked and crispy.  Remove the pizza from the oven top with 2 teaspoons of parmesan and half the basil.  Repeat with the other piece of dough. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

cabinets.

I am a girl who dreams about cabinets so organized and neat.  Or maybe I just dream about having enough space to have cabinets so organized and neat.  White and glass and silver has never looked so beautiful.

I am also lusting over that perfectly organized spice rack.  I think its time for a weekend project.  Now I must find glass containers.  



























Image via Pinterest.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

butternut squash lasagna.


I just want to take a moment to thank the lovely Mr. Christopher Columbus for inadvertently discovering America and getting a holiday named in his honor; if it wasn’t for that I would have spent last Monday in the confines of the office instead of happily standing over the stove preparing this lasagna.  Lasagna is the kind of dish that makes you warm inside and think of Sunday evening family dinner.  This particular one with its layers of butternut squash puree and basil white sauce reminds you that fall eating is utterly delicious.  It also reminds me of why I adore savory and sweet food pairings (I know I am like a broken record talking about sweet and savory, but I can’t help it). The creamy, salty mozzarella is the perfect counterpart to the sweet and smooth squash puree making this the kind of food I want to eat almost every day.  This is a rich dish but it isn’t heavy in the slightest making it the kind of thing you can make during the week (on your day off) without too much guilt.

Butternut Squash Lasagna
Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentis

Ok! - Let us talk about my changes.  I halved the original recipe and cooked it in an 8x8 pan, since I couldn't eat lasagna for the next week (as much as I wanted to eat lasagna for the next week) .  You could make the full recipe and put it in two 8x8 pans and freeze one but we lacked freezer space for that option.  I added a decent amount of red pepper flakes to the dish since I felt it could veer on too sweet, I think it added the perfect amount of zing but you can omit it if you don't love heat or are feeding this to kids.  I also used fresh pasta but using no-boil noodles will make this a little easier.  I realize that lasagna may seem labor intensive or scary but I promise you this really isn’t difficult.  If you do halve this you will have leftover butternut squash puree, which will be perfect on ravioli (or plain!) but I love it on pizza and that recipe will be here later this week!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (1 ½ - 2 pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch cubes
Salt and fresh ground pepper
½ cup water
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cups whole milk
Pinch of nutmeg
Generous ¼ cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves, sliced in thin strips. 
12 no-boil lasagna noodles (if they are the short lasagna no-bake sheets the ones I usually see cater more to an 8x8 pan) or about ½ pound fresh lasagna noodles
1 ½ cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella
½ cup grated parmesan
1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (optional or you can use less) 

Heat oil in a large pot or a large skillet over medium high-heat.  Add the squash and toss to coat in the oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pour the water into the skillet/pot and the cover and simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.  Cool slightly and transfer the squash to a food processor.  Season the squash puree, to taste, with more salt and pepper. (Can be made a day or two ahead of time and stored in the fridge until you are ready to assemble.). 

Melt the butter in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium heat.  Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute.  Gradually whisk in the milk.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often about 5 minutes.   Whisk in the nutmeg.  Cool slightly.  Add the basil, taste, and season with salt and pepper. 

If using fresh pasta:  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Season with salt.  Boil the noodles for about 4 minutes (they should be pretty al dente).  Remove the noodles from the pot and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. 

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. 

Lightly butter or spray with a bit of non stick spray and 8x8 inch glass baking dish.  Spread a generous ¼ cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish.  Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan.  Spread a generous 1/2 cup of the squash puree over the noodles (you may need a little bit more you just want to make sure all the noodles are covered with a thin layer of the puree), sprinkle with ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (if using), 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese, and 2 tablespoons parmesan.  Drizzle a generous ¼ cup of the sauce over the noodles.  Repeat layering 3 more times.  Top the lasagna with the remaining ½ cup mozzarella, 2 tablespoons parmesan, and any white sauce you may have left.

Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes.  Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer.  Let the lasagna stand 15 minutes before serving. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

apple and white cheddar scones.


Apparently, I have a lot of thoughts on breakfast.  I never realized how opinionated I was about the first meal of the day but I have begun to see that I have a lot of vices about it. I find that so many breakfast offerings are devoid of any real flavor which is why I have fallen hard for these apple cheddar scones.  These scones are heavenly – they remind you why sweet and savory is such a perfect pairing.  The roasted apples bring a level of complexity to the scone and the cheddar brings the perfect salty savory bite to the dish.  Some bites taste like a sweet breakfast food and other bites leave you feeling that this could almost be a lunch dish which means this makes the most perfect brunch dish ever.  I highly suggest serving it with scrambled eggs (of course) and perhaps a side of ham or bacon.  Oh, and a very large coffee. 

Apple and White Cheddar Scones

Depending on how many people you are cooking for, I would recommend baking 3 scones and freezing the other 3 (even though we probably could have eaten all 6).  You will want to freeze before baking them, and then when you do want them you can bake then frozen, they will just take another couple of minutes.  I also prepared the dough and formed them the night before and then baked them up that morning which works well for lazy Saturdays. 

2 firm tart apples, such, such as Granny Smith, Macoun, or Pippin (about 1 pound total)
1 ½ cups (6.75 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus additional for work surface
¼ cup (2.2 ounces) sugar, plus 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons for sprinkling
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt, plus additional for egg wash
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ½ inch cubes
½ cup (about 2.25 ounces) sharp white Cheddar, shredded
¼ cup heavy cream
2 large eggs at room temperature

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Peel core and dice each apple into large cubes (should get about 16 cubes per apple).  Place the apple pieces in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Bake the apples until they take on a little color and feel dry to the touch, about 20 minutes.  Transfer the apples to a bowl and let cool.  Leave the oven on.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper and set aside. 

Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the apples, Cheddar cheese, cream and 1 of the eggs.  Sprinkle the flour mixture over the butter mixture and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together.  Do not overmix. 

Generously flour the work surface, place the scone dough on it, and sift a light layer of flour on top.  Use a rolling pan to gently roll the dough into a 1 ¼ inch thick, 6 inch circle (or you can make a rectangle shape which is what I did).  Cut the circle into 6 wedges and transfer the wedges to the baking sheet leaving at least 2 inches between each scone. 

In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt.  Brush the apple scones with the egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons of sugar.  Bake on the center rack until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. With a spatula, lift the scones onto a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Then serve warm.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

slow roasted tomatoes.


There is something to be said about "slow and low".  It's a technique that produces the world's best BBQ but it can also be used for other things, like these tomatoes which are like vegetable candy.  I've discussed many times the merits of roasting, but cooking vegetables (like tomatoes) for hours at time at a low temperature produces something equally amazing.  The flavor gets super concentrated resulting in a tomato that has such a bold tomato taste it's like nothing you've ever had.  Now is the time to make these - the temperature is cool so it's not annoying to have the oven on for a couple of hours and we are at the tale end of tomato season so this will allow you to hoard them in your fridge for a little.  I love scattering these in a frittata or scrambled eggs, loading them up on a sandwich, using them as a pizza topping, or just eating them plain as the beautiful tomato candy they are. 

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

You can add all sorts of herbs to this if you choose - rosemary, basil, etc., but I have to say I find it unnecessary. This is when simple really is best. 

2 Pints cherry tomatoes or other small heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 225 degrees.  Place your tomatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet, cut size up.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and the drizzle with olive oil (not a  lot you just want everyone to have a subtle coat). 

Bake the tomatoes in the oven.  Begin checking them after 2 hours (but they will probably take closer to 2 hours 45 minutes depending on the size of your tomatoes).  The tomatoes should be shriveled like a raisin with almost all the liquid evaporated from them but there should still be a little bit of liquid.  If you want to store them, place them in a container in the fridge with a little olive oil over them. Try to refrain from eating them all immediately (but no one will blame you if you do.)    

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

patterned floors.

There is something so beautiful about lush green plants, bright yellow chairs, huge wood sliding doors, and this patterned floor.  I think I may have found my ideal dinning space.


























Image via Pinterest

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

chicken empanadas with sausage and olives.


I kind of have an obsession with compartmentalizing things and placing things in boxes and bags.  When I was little my mom would always find me storing things in assorted packages and leaving them around the house.  Why I felt the need to do this I don’t know (I am sure some psychologist would have a field day analyzing this) but, what I do know is that I still love the idea of packaging things up in little containers which is probably why I LOVE empanadas.  Empanadas if you are unfamiliar with them are little dough “purses” that encase a savory (and sometimes sweet) filling.  Traditionally they have a ground beef filling, which is the one my mom usually makes, but for a riff on the classic I made a chicken version this past weekend.  The combination of chicken and sausage is irresistible and the addition of briny olives and sweet raisins ensure that each bite is loaded with flavor.  Despite the small amount of smoked paprika in the dish, I urge you to seek it out since it in parts a great deal of flavor.  This is the kind of thing to make on a rainy weekend afternoon when you have nothing better to do then spend time some quality time in the kitchen. 

Chicken Empanadas with Sausage and Olives
Recipe adapted from SmittenKitchen

I halved the original recipe from Smitten Kitchen since we currently have a minimal amount of freezer space.  Still, I was able to make 14 empanadas from the dough using a 4 ½ inch circular cookie cutter. 

For the Dough

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 large egg
1/3 cup ice water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

For the Filling

A little over 1 pound of chicken thighs (or legs and thighs)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved lengthwise, and the cut into ¼ inch wide strips
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
1 link pork sausage or chorizo (I used pork and poblano), removed from casing
Generous ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika (I used hot)
3 tablespoons chopped pitted green olives
2 tablespoons raisins
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ cup water or chicken stock

Make dough: Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small butter lumps.  Beat together the egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to the flour mixture, stirring with fork, until just incorporated.  (Mixture will look shaggy.)  Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with the heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together.  Form the dough into a rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic for at least an hour (can be chilled up to 6 hours). 

Make filling:  Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12 inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken, turning over once, about 6 minutes total, and transfer to a plate.  Sautee onions, garlic, and bay leaf in fat remaining in skillet, stirring frequently, until onions are softened, 4 to 5 minutes. 

Add sausage and paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Add olives, wine, raisins, and broth/water and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits.  Return chicken to skillet along with any juices accumulated on plate, then reduce heat to moderately low and simmer chicken, covered, turning over once, until tender, 25 - 30 minutes total. 

Transfer chicken to a clean plate.  (Sauce in the skillet should be the consistency of heavy cream; if not, briskly simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.)  When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones and coarsely chop meat.  Stir chicken into sauce and discard bay leaf.   Season with salt and pepper, then cool filling, uncovered, about 30 minutes. 

Form empanadas: Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out dough about 1/8th inch thick, and using a 4 ½ inch circular cookie cutter, cut out the rounds of dough.  Spoon about 2 tablespoons of filling onto the center of the dough and fold in half.  Press the edges to seal, and then crimp with the tines of a fork to make a decorative edge.  (I usually cut out several rounds and then stuff.)  Continue until you run out of filling or run out of dough.  Arrange the empanadas on a parchment lined baking sheet.  (At this point you can freeze some of the empanadas if you don't want to use them all up - make sure you freeze on a baking sheet and then can transfer to a zip lock bag.)

Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Transfer empanadas to a rack to cool at least 5 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature with hot sauce. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

pumpkin bread pudding.


I spent the last hour of my life trying to figure out what to say about this bread pudding and the only thing I could think of is that it’s the most perfect bread pudding and the single best fall dessert.  It’s soft and creamy and spicy and has the perfect amount of textural contrast with the addition of diced apples and dried cranberries.  This begs to be made on a lazy Sunday afternoon with the temperatures are cool and you are craving something warm and cozy.  I love to serve it with a strong bourbon-cider cocktail but a tall glass of milk is just as good if it happens to be made on a school night.    

Be forewarned, the boy and I have been known to polish off almost the entire thing in one evening.  If you manage not to then you have far better self control then us (but I already know everyone has better self control then me).  

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Recipe adapted from Gourmet

1 ½ cups whole milk (or 1 cup skim milk ½ cup heavy cream)
1 cup canned solid packed pumpkin
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
6 cups day old baguette or other crusty bread
2 apples, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes
¼ cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat over to 350 degrees with the wire rack in the middle.  While the oven is preheating, place the butter in an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan or a pie pan and then place the pan in oven for the butter to melt. 

In a bowl toss together the bread cubes, apple, and dried cranberries.  Whisk together the milk/cream, pumpkin, sugar, eggs, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.  Remove the pan from the oven when the butter is melted and drizzle the butter over the bread cubes.  Then pour the pumpkin mixture over the bread cubes making sure all the bread gets coated.  Transfer the bread/pumpkin mixture to the buttered dish and bake until custard is set, about 25 – 30 minutes.   

Saturday, October 6, 2012

braised chicken with capers and parsley.


I found the perfect Sunday evening dinner recipe.  Actually, my mom (thanks mom!) found the perfect chicken recipe and she served it to me when I was at home and I fell in love.  It has only a handful of pantry staple ingredients and requires a minimal amount of work to make.  The chicken that emerges after cooking is moist and tender (falling off the bone!) and is encased in a sauce that is so perfectly acidic and salty that I found myself licking my plate and using pieces of bread to sop up every last bit.  After spending an entire week thinking about this chicken I decided I needed to make it for myself and see if it lived up to my memories.  Oh did it!  (It really was love at first bite.)  This dish will now be in heavy rotation as it lends itself to fall evenings and cozy meals for two (or a crowd!).  Did I mention how easy it was?  I managed to catch up on my overflowing stacks of Martha Stewart magazines while it simmered on the stove and filled our apartment with the most delicious smell.  

Braised Chicken with Capers and Parsley
Recipe is perfect and comes from Bon Appetit
                                                                                                            
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, minced (1 ½ cups)
4 chicken legs, drumsticks, and thighs, (or any combination of these pieces as long as it’s about 2 pounds)
Kosher salt
½ cup minced flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup salted capers
2 cups low-salt chicken broth (or homemade!)
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, cook, stirring often, until softened, about 8 minutes.  Transfer oven to a bowl, wipe skillet clean. 

Add 2 tablespoons oil to skillet and increase heat to medium-high.  Season chicken with salt.  Add chicken to skillet and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, 10-12 minutes.  Transfer chicken to plate. 

Add reserved onion, ½ cup parsley, and capers to skillet.  Cook for 1 minute.  Stir in broth and vinegar.  Add chicken with any juices.  Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until meat is tender and falling off the bone, about 1 ¼ hours. 

Transfer chicken to a large platter.  If you still have a lot of liquid in the pan, increase to high and stir to reduce sauce down a little, about 5 minutes.  Taste sauce, and add more salt or pepper if necessary (I found it needed pepper and not salt).   Spoon sauce over chicken; garnish with parsley.