Monday, March 31, 2014

homemade bagels.

New York City.  I love you (most of the time) and I adore your pizza (especially Paulie Gees) but your bagels as of late, the thing you are suppose to be known for, seem to be doughy behemoths the size of a small child's head.  I find it unfortunate because eating a bagel shouldn't leave me feeling as if I just ingested an entire loaf of bread.  I'm not breaking up with you and your bagels (we aren't quite at that level) but I did decide it was time for me to take matters into my hands.  This is why I spent my weekend tackling homemade bagels.  

I'm really glad I did.  

Homemade bagels are a relic of a bygone area.  They are flavorful (malt syrup is a beautiful thing) and they have a superior crust with a excellent chewy interior.  They are superb (really superb) fresh from the oven slathered in salted butter but they are amazing when served open-face with thinly sliced aged cheddar, avocado, and poached eggs.  That is one epic (and proper) New York breakfast.  

Homemade Bagels
Recipe via Leite’s Culinaria

This recipe looks a hell of a lot more intimidating then it really is.  

Makes 6 to 8 bagels

For the dough

1 tablespoon (0.75 oz / 21 g) barley malt syrup, honey, or rice syrup, or 1 teaspoon (0.25 oz / 7 g) diastatic malt powder
1 teaspoon (0.11 oz / 3 g) instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons (0.37 oz / 10.5 g) salt, or 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (9 oz / 255 g) lukewarm water (about 95°F or 35°C)
3 1/2 cups (16 oz / 454 g) unbleached bread flour

For the poaching liquid

2 to 3 (64 to 96 oz / 181 to 272 g) water
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 oz / 28.5 g) barley malt syrup or honey (optional)
1 tablespoon (0.5 oz / 14 g) baking soda
1 teaspoon (0.25 oz / 7 g) salt, or 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt

Day One: Make the Dough:  Stir the malt syrup, yeast, and salt into the lukewarm water. Place the flour into a mixing bowl and pour in the malt syrup mixture. If using a mixer, use the dough hook and mix on the lowest speed for 3 minutes. If mixing by hand, use a large, sturdy spoon and stir for about 3 minutes, until well blended. The dough should form a stiff, coarse ball, and the flour should be fully hydrated; if it isn’t, stir in a little more water. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Resume mixing with the dough hook on the lowest speed for another 3 minutes or transfer to a very lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for about 3 minutes to smooth out the dough and develop the gluten. The dough should be stiff yet supple, with a satiny, barely tacky feel. If the dough seems too soft or overly tacky, mix or knead in a little more flour.

Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 hour.

Day One: Shape the Bagels: When you’re ready to shape the bagels, prepare a sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper or a silicone mat, then misting it with spray oil or lightly coating it with oil. Divide the dough into 6 to 8 equal pieces. (A typical bagel is about 4 ounces or 113 grams before baking, but you can make them smaller. If you make more than 6 bagels, you may need to prepare 2 sheet pans.  I made 8 bagels and found I was able to fit all of them on one pan.)

Form each piece into a loose ball by rolling it on a clean, dry work surface with a cupped hand. (Don’t use any flour on the work surface. If the dough slides around and won’t ball up, wipe the surface with a damp paper towel and try again; the slight bit of moisture will provide enough traction for the dough to form into a ball.)

There are two methods to shape the balls into bagels:

The first method is to poke a hole through the center of the ball to create a donut shape. Holding the dough with both thumbs in the hole, rotate the dough with your hands, gradually stretching it to create a hole about 2 inches in diameter.

The second method, preferred by professional bagel makers, is to use both hands (and a fair amount of pressure) to roll the ball into a rope about 8 inches long on a clean, dry work surface. (Again, wipe the surface with a damp towel, if necessary, to create sufficient friction on the work surface.) Taper the rope slightly at each end and moisten the last inch or so of the ends. Place one end of the dough in the palm of your hand and wrap the rope around your hand to complete the circle, going between your thumb and forefinger and then all the way around. The ends should overlap by about 2 inches. Squeeze the overlapping ends together by closing your hand, then press the seam into the work surface, rolling it back and forth a few times to seal. Remove the dough from your hand, squeezing it to even out the thickness if need be and creating a hole of about 2 inches in diameter.

Place each shaped bagel on the prepared sheet pan, then mist with spray oil or brush with a light coating of oil. Cover the entire pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days. (You can also proof the full piece of dough in the oiled bowl overnight and then shape the bagels on baking day, 60 to 90 minutes before boiling and baking them, or as soon as they pass the float test.)

Day Two (Or Even Three) Test the Bagels: Remove the bagels from the refrigerator 60 to 90 minutes before you plan to bake them, and if you plan to top them with dried onion or garlic, rehydrate those ingredients (see the variations below). Immediately check whether the bagels are ready for baking using the “float test”: Place one of the bagels in a small bowl of cold water. If it sinks and doesn’t float back to the surface, shake it off, return it to the pan, and wait for another 15 to 20 minutes, then test it again. When one bagel passes the float test, meaning they rise to the surface, they’re all ready to be boiled. If they pass the float test before you are ready to boil and bake them, return them to the refrigerator so they don’t overproof. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C) and gather and prepare your garnishes (seeds, onions, garlic, and so on).

Day Two (Or Even Three): Poaching the Bagels: Fill a pot with 2 to 3 quarts (64 to 96 ounces) of water, making sure the water is at least 4 inches deep. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain at a simmer. Stir in the malt syrup, baking soda, and salt.

Gently lower each bagel into the simmering poaching liquid, adding as many as will comfortably fit in the pot. They should all float to the surface within 15 seconds. After 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to turn each bagel over. Poach for another 30 to 60 seconds, then use the slotted spoon to transfer it back to the pan, domed side up. (It’s important that the parchment paper be lightly oiled, or the paper will glue itself to the dough as the bagels bake.) Sprinkle on a generous amount of whatever toppings you like as soon as the bagels come out of the water (except cinnamon sugar; see the variation below).

Transfer the pan of bagels to the oven, then lower the oven heat to 450°F (232°C).

Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate the pan and check the underside of the bagels. If they’re getting too dark, place another pan under the baking sheet. (Doubling the pan will insulate the first baking sheet.)
Bake for another 8 to 12 minutes, until the bagels are a golden brown.  (Mine were done at 8 probably because they were of a smaller size.)

Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing or serving.  (I waited maybe 15 minutes and there were perfectly awesome then.)

Bagel Variations 

You can replace any amount of the bread flour with an equal amount of whole grain flour (by weight), such as wheat or rye. If you do so, increase the water in the dough by 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz / 14 g) for every 2 ounces (56.5 g) of whole grain flour you substitute.

Top your bagels with any combination of the following garnishes: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse salt, or rehydrated dried onions or garlic. (Soak dried onions or garlic in water to cover for at least 1 hour before applying.) The toppings will stick even better if you first brush the top of each bagel with an egg white wash made by whisking 1 egg white with 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz / 14 g) of water. If using coarse salt as a garnish, remember that a little goes a long way.

For raisin bagels, mix in 1 1/3 cups (8 oz / 227 g) of raisins during the final 2 minutes of mixing and, if you like cinnamon, stir 1/2 teaspoon (0.14 oz / 4 g) of ground cinnamon into the flour before you start mixing. When the bagels come out of the oven, brush the tops with melted butter and dip the top into a bed of cinnamon sugar to give it a very tasty cinnamon crust. You can make cinnamon sugar by whisking 2 tablespoons (1.6 oz / 44 g) of ground cinnamon into 1/2 cup (4 oz / 113 g) of granulated sugar.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

old fashioned banana cake.

The Banana Cake (and let's be honest, the banana cupcakes as well) at Billy's Bakery in NYC are my version of kryptonite. The ethereal combination of cream cheese frosting and moist banana cake makes me weak in the knees.  Their version is the best I had ever had (and I've tried a lot of banana cakes). 

That was until I discovered Ina Garten's recipe for Old Fashioned Banana Cake and I felt as if my world was turned upside down because it tastes exactly like the one at Billy's.  Exactly!  I never imagined I would find a recipe that tastes so close to the original (there is a god).  So closely in fact that I can say with 90% certainty if I did a blind tasting I couldn't tell the difference between mine and the original.  

Now I can eat banana cake all the time which is a dangerous, dangerous thing.  

Old Fashioned Banana Cake
Recipe via Ina Garten

For the Banana Cake

3 very ripe bananas, mashed 
¾ cup granulated sugar 
½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed 
½ cup vegetable oil 
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature (large are fine, I've never had an issue)
½ cup sour cream 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
Grated zest of 1 orange 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
½ teaspoon kosher salt 
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional) 
Walnut halves or pecan halves, for decorating (optional) 

For the Cream Cheese Frosting 

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature 
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
2½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (½ pound) 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 × 2-inch round cake pan. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the bananas, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on low speed until combined. With the mixer still on low, add the oil, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and orange zest. Mix until smooth. 

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Stir in the chopped walnuts, if using. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, turn out onto a cooling rack, and cool completely. 

Make the Cream Cheese Frosting : Mix the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low speed until just combined. Don’t whip! Add the sugar and mix until smooth. 

Spread the frosting thickly on the top of the cake and decorate with walnut/pecan halves, if using. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

blue period.

Having a blue (minimalist) period.  

We are t-minus 3 weeks until we hop a plane to Mexico and I am dreaming of warmer climates and wearing a muted palate of blue and white while lounging by a blue pool or a blue ocean or under a blue sky.  I am dreaming of tacos and driving through the Yucutan peninsula with my better half.   

Who knew I would ever fall for such minimalism.  

(Loving the look of an imperfectly painted wall.)  

I love the waall coloring ..

Image via Pinterest.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

kale and ricotta tortellini.

You know how whenever someone tells you no, it makes you want whatever you were just denied that much more?  That sentiment is what drove me to the kitchen this weekend to make tortellini.  Our wedding caterer has advised us that my dream of eating bowls of squash and kale tortellini showered in Parmesan during our first evening as husband and wife is unrealistic.  It kind of breaks my heart and I'll get over it (eventually) but until then I'm going to drown my sorrows in bowls on homemade tortellini.  Because if I can't get someone to make it for me, it's time I go and make it for myself.  

Homemade tortellini are a beautiful thing.  They are a labor of love, but the end result truly justifies the time and energy they require.  Here, tender pasta gives way to the creamiest ricotta filling.  The sauteed kale provides a nice earthy bite that pairs brilliantly with the cheese.  Serving these doesn't require much more then boiling them and then sprinkling them (liberally) with cheese but if you want to get real crazy, making some tortellini en brodo isn't a bad idea.  

Kale and Ricotta Tortellini
Pasta recipe from Lidia's Family Table by Lidia Bastianich.  Filling recipe is my own.  

Pasta making looks a lot more intimidating then it actually is.  I promise.  Don't let the length of this recipe deter you!  I think it makes for a great weekend activity when you have a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon ahead of you.  Turn on some good music, set up your pasta making station, and you'll be all set for an afternoon of fun. While I did my best to explain the process below, I really find if you are new to pasta making that a picture is really, really helpful.  This guide is awesome for showing you how to fold the tortellini into their cute little shapes (something I am still trying to master) and this guide excels at showing you how to make the dough and roll it out.  Once you master the rolling of the dough, the pasta possibilities are endless (ravioli! lasagna!).  

For the Poor Man's Two Egg Pasta

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large whole eggs
¼ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons water

For the Kale and Ricotta Filling  

2 cups washed and thinly sliced lacitano kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
12 ounces ricotta
1 1/2 ounces parmesan

Make the Filling: Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the kale and stir so everything gets coated in the oil.  Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Cook until the kale begins to wilt and cook down, about 5 minutes.  Place the cooked kale in a bowl and allow too cool. Put the cooled kale in a paper towel and squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the kale. Return the kale to the bowl and add the ricotta and parmesan.  Stir to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.    

Making the Dough:  Measure the flour and shake it through a sieve into a medium sized mixing bowl

Drop the eggs into a small bowl or measuring cup; beat briefly with a fork to break them up. Pour in the measured amounts of oil and water and mix well with the eggs. 

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour. Toss and mix everything with a fork until the flour is moistened and starts to clump together. 

Lightly flour with your hands, then gather the clumps-or use a flexible plastic dough scraper-and begin kneading right in the bowl, folding the ragged mass over, pushing and turning it, then folding again. Use the kneading action to clean the sides of the bowl. 

When you have formed a cohesive clump of dough, turn it out onto a small work surface lightly dusted with 1/2 teaspoon of flour and continue kneading for 2 to 3 minutes, until the dough is smooth and shiny on the outside, soft throughout, and stretchy. 

Form the dough into a disk and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and let it rest at room temperature for 1/2 hour. Store, very well wrapped, in the refrigerator for a day, or for a month or more in the freezer. Defrost frozen dough slowly in refrigerator, and let it return to room temperature before rolling. Defrosted dough will need a bit more flour.

Rolling the Dough: Have your dough at room temperature and cut the dough into 4 pieces.  Work with one piece at a time and keep the others covered.  Have a large trade tray or baking sheet nearby, lightly sprinkled with flour, on which to lay the dough strips. 

Turn the knob to the widest setting  - you’ll work at this setting for a while . Press the first piece of dough into a rectangle, then fold it in half, and roll it through the machine two times.  Fold the now elongated rectangle in thirds, turn the dough 90 degrees (so the fold in on the side) and roll it through. 

Catch the dough; fold it and roll it through again with the fold on the side.  Repeat the folding and rolling six more times (total of 8) to straighten and smooth the dough.  Like kneading this will make if more resilient and workable. 

Resent the roller to the very next setting (slightly narrower) or skip to the third (even narrower).  Roll your strip through, short end in first (don’t fold it again).  Let the rollers grab and move the dough – don’t push it or pull it through – and catch it on your hand as it comes out. 

Reset the machine even narrower; you should be on the third or fifth setting by now.  Pass the strip through once again; it will lengthen rapidly, and you will need to catch and support it as it comes through the rollers.  Flour the strip lightly and cut the dough in half so it becomes a more manageable size.  You should now have 2 long strips about 5 inches wide and 13ish inches in length, dust them with flour so they don’t stick.  Cover the strips with a towel until ready to stuff and shape the tortellini.  Repeat the above procedure with the remaining 3 pieces of dough. 

Stuffing and Shaping the Tortellini:  Fill a small bowl with water and set aside. Take one of your strips of dough and cut it in half so you have 2 rectangles about 2 ½ inches wide.  Cut each rectangle into about 5 pieces (so you create 10 2 ½ inch squares).  Place about 1 teaspoon of filling (recipe below) in the middle of each square.  Dip your finger in the bowl of water and run it along two edges of the square.  Fold the square into a triangle, pressing the top together and then working your way along the sides. Draw the bottom two corners of the triangle together to form a kerchief shape. Press tightly to seal. Toss with flour, set aside on well-floured baking sheet, and cover. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.

Cooking the tortellini: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a tablespoon or two of salt. Lower the tortellini into the water a few at a time with a slotted spoon. Stir the pot occasionally to prevent the tortellini from sticking to the pot or each other. Cook until all the tortellini have bobbed to the surface of the water, about 5 minutes. Taste one to check for doneness.

Freezing the tortellini: If not cooking the tortellini immediately, freeze them on a sheet pan and transfer to a freezer-safe container once solid. Tortellini will keep for about 3 months. Cook directly from the freezer, but increase the cooking time by a minute or two.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

roasted carrot and avocado salad.

I know you are probably wondering what's happening around here, two salad posts in one week is not my typical style, but stranger things have happened (like how I've become a less impulsive shopper, go me).  So let's embrace the new me because 10 bucks says by next week I'll be back to discussing the merits of chocolate, caramel, and sea salt crepes and why they make for an acceptable breakfast (they do).  

This salad is the kind of salad that can qualify as a meal.  In my world leafy greens and shredded carrots do not qualify as a meal but this, this does.  This is hearty and filling.  A textural array of awesomeness in each and every bite.  Carrots covered in a combination of citrus and spices are slow roasted until tender and charred.  They emerge from the oven in a state of blistered gorgeousness and then they get paired with wedges of perfectly ripe avocado, a dollop of sour cream, and a heavy sprinkling of pumpkin seeds for the perfect amount of crunch. Now if only all salads could be this awesome.  

Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad
Recipe via the NYTimes who got it from ABC Kitchen.

Serves 4

3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound medium-size carrots peeled
1 orange, halved
1 lemon, halved
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and cut in thin wedges
1 1/2 cups packed radish or other sprouts
3 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons roasted hulled pumpkin seeds

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a small food processor or a mortar, pulse or pound the garlic with the cumin, thyme, chile flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper to make a paste. Add vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the oil, and mix well.

Arrange carrots in a roasting pan and spread spice paste on top. Place orange and lemon halves, cut side down, on carrots. Roast until carrots are tender and starting to brown, about 45 minutes.

Using tongs, arrange carrots on a serving platter. With a dishtowel to protect your hands, squeeze juice from the roasted orange and lemon halves into a measuring cup. You should have about 1/2 cup juice. Beat in remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle some of this sauce over the carrots.

Arrange avocado over carrots, then scatter sprouts on top. Drizzle with reserved sauce, top with dollops of sour cream and a sprinkling of the seeds. Serve.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I can never deny my love affair with mismatched everything.  

Well organized chaos.  A win in my book. 

And the look I am always striving for.  

Brooklyn Heights Loft - desire to inspire -

Image via Pinterest.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

(the best) kale salad.

My mom and I have always shared the same sentiment that salads made by other people are infinitely better then salads made by yourself.   

Until now.  

This salad has changed everything. I simply can't get enough of.  I dream about it and find myself wondering if time somehow manages to slow down on the days I bring it for lunch.  

The combination of sweet currants, nuts, crunchy croutons, and creamy cheese ensures that each bite has a wide variety of textural contrasts which is the key (in my humble opinion) to a great salad.  One that you keep returning to bite after bite.  Oh and a stellar dressing helps to.  This one is a tart mustardy vinaigrette that manages to keep things oh so interesting.  

(The Best) Kale Salad

Serves 2 Generously 

The other key to kale salads is to dress the salad at least an hour before you are ready to eat it.  The dressing helps to soften and tenderize the leaves.  I've been known to dress it before I leave for work and it's perfect hours later which ensures this is an utterly flexible recipe.  

1 bunch Tuscan (aka lacinato) kale, washed and thinly sliced (about 7 cups)
1/3 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
Generous 1/3 cup currants
1/2 cup ricotta salata or feta, crumbled
2 cups cubed bread, toasted for croutons
Salt and pepper

For the Dressing

4 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the dressing:  Place all of the ingredients in a jar with a lid.  Shake to combine the ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.  Set aside.

Place the kale, almonds, currants, and crumbled ricotta salata in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.  Allow the salad to rest for at least at hour at room temperature.  When ready to serve toss in the croutons.  Divide among two plates.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

brown butter blondies.

When I was a wee child, I participated in an after-school cooking program. The actual cooking was rather minimal (how much can a 6 year old really do) but it was a nice excuse to cover the front of my denim overalls in a flurry of flour (something I am still prone to doing as a 28 year old) and return home with the stickiest of fingers (now I have no excuse).  The highlight of the class was the discovery of the blondie, the most wonderful cousin to the brownie and the newest obsession of my 6 year old self.  Since that most exciting day of discovery, I have stuck with my tried and true recipe (because why mess with a childhood favorite) but sometimes (only sometimes) it's time to try something new.  

This new iteration is awesome.  A rather adult version of a childhood favorite (though I can't imagine any child turning them away). The browned butter transforms them into something multi-dimensional (so much extra flavor develops when you cook the butter). Normally I am a proponent of the center when it comes to bar cookies but here the edges (and especially the corners!) reign supreme. Somehow they end up with a deep caramel flavor the kind of thing that would normally take hours of cooking to achieve. The addition of instant espresso powder only heightens the flavor and the chocolate well that's because we needed to keep one element of the original. My inner six year old is extremely happy with the results.  

Brown Butter Blondies 
Recipe adapted from Not Without Salt

I halved this for fear I would eat them all.  Halving an egg is not the easiest thing to do but I usually just break the egg into a bowl, scramble it with a fork, and eyeball half (or if I am being anal, I weigh it and halve that way).  A little more or less won’t harm anything.  If you do halve it, bake the blondies in an 8x8 pan. 

1 ¼ cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter and flour parchment paper.

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the butter until it turns golden brown. The butter will bubble up to stay with it and watch closely. Turn off the heat when you see a nice golden color. It will continue to cook a bit as it cools. Stir it around a bit to see the color underneath the foam. Remove from heat, and let cool. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder.

In the bowl, combine browned butter and both sugars; stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Add flour mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined, then stir in chocolate chips, pour into prepared pan.  Sprinkle with sea salt if using. 

Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. (Do not overbake so start checking at 30 minutes.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting. Blondies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days – but seriously, they won’t last that long.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


On an eternal search for kitchen stools. The ones below are perfection.  Masculine in the best possible way.  

warm neutral kitchen

Image via Pinterest.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

corn risotto-stuffed poblanos.

I've been on a bit of a decluttering frenzy over the past couple of weeks.  Cabinets that I have not seen the back of in months solely because they are filled to the brim with half-finished bags of 6 different types of rice are finally seeing the light of day.  I'm trying to teach myself to use the items I have on hand instead of procuring new items all the time.  It's going to take me awhile to have such behavior feel instinctual but eventually I'll get there.  

This recipe was finally tackled after I realized that I had 5/6 of the ingredients on hand, it would help me finish some of my almost empty bags of rice, and in making it I could finally cross it off my list of recipes I have to try where it has been languishing for over a year now (in my defense it's a very long list that is ever expanding).  This is exactly the kind of thing you should be making right now when we are in the throws of March and that weird in-between time where it isn't quite winter and it isn't quite spring.  It's fresh tasting (corn! peppers! cilantro!) yet the kind of thing your body gravitates towards this time of year (namely starchy comfort food with some cheese thrown in for good measure).  It's incredibly satisfying and utterly filling for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike and did I mention it reheats brilliantly? It does which is why the leftovers make the perfect next day lunch. If you're smarter then me you wont wait a year to make this.  

Corn Risotto-Stuffed Poblanos
Recipe adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

This is the kind of the thing that begs to be made on a Sunday afternoon.  You have dinner for that evening and enough leftovers for lunch the next day!

Serves 4 generously (This also halves easily.) 

8 large fresh poblano peppers
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups short-grained rice, such as arborio or carnaroli
¾ cup beer, preferably light or medium in color
2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 2 large size cobs or you can use frozen corn as I did)
¾ - 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
½ teaspoon table salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ cup crumbled queso fresco, ricotta salata, or another crumbly cheese
3 tablespoons sour cream mixed with 1 Tablespoon milk and a pinch of salt, for serving
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Prepare peppers: Lay several chiles at a time on their sides on the racks atop a gas burner, and turn the flame to high.  Using tongs, rotate the chiles frequently until their skins are blistered, about 4 to 6 minutes each. Transfer the peppers to a bowl, and cover them with foil or plastic wrap.  Repeat with the remaining chiles. Should you not have a gas burner, you can do this under a broiler. Or you can skip this step altogether if the pepper skins don't bother you.

Make risotto: In a medium saucepan, heat the stock to a low simmer.  On a separate burner, heat a larger saucepan over medium heat.  Once the saucepan is hot, add the oil and heat through; then add the onion, and sauté until it is softened and translucent, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the rice to the pot, and stir it for a minute or two, until it becomes slightly toasty.  Pour in the beer, scraping up any stuck bits from the bottom of the pan.  Let beer simmer for roughly a minute -- it will mostly disappear.

Ladle 1 cup of warm stock into rice mixture, and simmer until it has been absorbed, stirring frequently.  Add the remaining stock, ½ cup at a time, allowing stock to absorb before adding more, and stirring often.  Along with the final addition of stock, add the corn. The total cooking time for the rice is about 30 minutes, after which it should be creamy and tender.  Though risotto is traditionally supposed to be on the loose side, you can leave this one ever-so-slightly thicker, so it can be easily stuffed into peppers.  Once the stock is added and the risotto is tender, stir in the Monterey Jack cheese, the salt, many grinds of black pepper, the paprika, and the chile powder.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Remove risotto from the heat.

Assemble and cook poblanos: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Remove chiles from bowl, and gently (very carefully my peppers were very tender) rub off the skins, which should now remove easily.  Cut a slit lengthwise in each chile, and remove the seeds and membranes as best you can.  Leave the stems on -- they're cute.  Fill each chile with risotto through the slit.  Arrange the chiles tightly in a baking dish, and sprinkle with crumbled cheese.  Bake the chiles for 10 to 15 minutes, until bronzed a bit on top.

To serve: In a small dish, whisk together the sour cream mixed with milk and salt.  Drizzle the mixture over hot chiles.  Garnish with cilantro.  Eat them while they're hot.