Thursday, December 21, 2017

tahini brownies.

Hi!   It's been a weird not-at-all relaxing December.  Work has been exceptionally nutty and for that reason I'm not in the holiday mindset or in the holiday spirit.  Everything about the holidays has exhausted me this year. I tried listening to Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You on repeat to get out of this funk and that did't help.  (Instead I've reverted to Joni Mitchell's River which will always and forever be the greatest Christmas song though the furthest thing from uplifting.)

For a lot of the above reasons, I didn't attempt too many new cookies this year because it all seemed like a lot of work.   Instead I relied on some old favorites (like these and these) to contribute to the annual Cavagnolo cookie-plate extravaganza.  I'm still working on the perfect ginger-molasses cookie.  The first batch I made was good flavorwise but totally wrong when it came to texture.  I'm in the process of making a second batch and tweaked some things.  Will see what happens.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  

I did make one new recipe.  These brownies which have been calling my name in the new Ottolenghi Sweet cookbook for sometime.  These are decadent but my god are they unreal.  The tahini and chocolate pairing makes these really special.  Like holiday table special.   Since they are rich, they can be cut into tiny squares which means they are great for sharing.  And if you do have any left, they freeze brilliantly (I actually prefer them frozen).  

Tahini Brownies 
Recipe tweaked slightly from Sweet 

1 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp/250 g unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch/2-cm cubes, plus extra for greasing 
9 oz/260 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into 1 1/2-inch/4-cm pieces 
4 large eggs 
1 1/3 cups/280 g granulated sugar 
3/4 cup plus 3 tbsp/120 g all-purpose flour 
1/3 cup/30 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder 
1/2 tsp salt 
7 oz/200 g halva, broken into 3/4-inch/2-cm pieces  (can be omitted if you can't find)
1/3 cup/70 g tahini paste 
1/4 cup cocoa nibs (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Grease your chosen pan and line with parchment paper, then set aside.

Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Leave for about 2 minutes to melt, then remove the bowl from the heat. Stir until you have a thick shiny sauce and set aside to come to room temperature.

Place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until pale and creamy and a trail is left behind when you move the whisk; this will take about 3 minutes with an electric mixer, longer by hand. Add the chocolate and fold through gently with a spatula—don’t overwork the mixture here.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into a bowl, then gently fold into the chocolate mixture. Finally, add the pieces of halva, gently fold through the mix, then pour or scrape the mixture into the lined baking pan, using a small spatula to even it out. Dollop small spoonfuls of the tahini paste into the mix in about 12 different places, then use a skewer to swirl them through to create a marbled effect, taking the marbling right to the edges of the pan.

Bake for about 23 minutes, until the middle has a slight wobble and it is gooey inside—they may be ready anywhere between 22 and 25 minutes. If using the 12 x 8-inch/30.5 x 20-cm pan, they will need a couple minutes less cooking time. They may seem a little undercooked at first, but they firm up once they start to cool down. If you want to serve them warmish (and gooey), set aside for just 30 minutes before cutting into 16 pieces. Otherwise, set aside for longer to cool to room temperature.

Storage: These will keep well for up to 5 days in an airtight container. They also freeze well, covered in plastic wrap, for up to a month. When you take them out of the freezer, they are uncommonly good eaten at the half-frozen, half-thawed stage.

Monday, December 11, 2017

my best books of 2017.

The library is 3 blocks from our apartment and earlier this year it re-opened.  Outside of adopting Jackson and getting married, it was one of the best days of my life.   I love libraries (I even worked in one in college though I use the term "work" loosely) and I really love books.  Now that it's back, I've become a bit of a book worm and have spent most of my free time reading rather then watching TV.  It feels really good to read more and I have read A LOT this year.   

While not cooking or cookbook related, I figured I would put together a list of my top 5 books of 2017.  I have fairly electric reading tastes so I think this list includes something for everyone.  So if you are looking for something to hunker down with over the holidays, I hope you can find something on this list to try.   

Also!  Lest you think I wasn't going to be posting about holiday cookies, that is simply not the case.  I have a brownie recipe in my back pocket that will be coming in the next couple of days and I'm currently working on making the perfect ginger molasses cookie.  It is much harder then it looks.  Hopefully sometime next week I'll have that.   

Now without further ado, my best books of 2017 (not necessarily in order).   

1 -  Red Notice by Bill Browder - This reads like a Borne Identity movie (but is in fact a true story!) which would typically be the furthest thing from my wheelhouse but in this political climate, it just worked.   Bill Browder was one of the first foreign investors in Russia and through-out his career he found a lot of ways to make money and he also found that a lot of corruption exists in Russia.  I can't begin to tell you how fascinating this book is (I made Tyler read it when I finished).  

2 - Last Days of Night by Graham Moore - A fictional booked loosely based on the true story of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse battling among themselves to be the first company to bring electricity to the US.   This is not boring historical fiction, it's exciting and interesting and despite it's length goes quickly.  Another book I've recommended to pretty much everyone.   

3 - The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne - At almost 600 pages, this is not a short novel, but it is so beautifully done it hurts.  Cyril Avery is born out of wedlock in Ireland in the 1930's (when things like that were frowned upon).   Each chapter takes your an additional 7 years into his life and within each chapter you as the reader find common threads that tie Cyril's past to his future.   This book is gorgeous and it touches upon so many issues (Catholicism in Ireland, AIDS, adoption, etc) and despite all of those heavy topics, it manages to remain somewhat light.   It's truly one of the best books I've ever read.   

4 - Sourdough by Robin Sloan - This book actually has a food related angle.  It's about Lois, a software engineer who moves to San Fran and spends her days coding and her nights unfulfilled.  That is until her favorite takeout place gives her their sourdough starter and she's left to take care of it.  This is a book about the intersection of food and technology.   It's a cute, easy read, and one that I really loved.   

5 - Amanda Wakes Up by Alisyn Camerota  - When I first finished this book I wasn't sure how I felt but the fact that I continue to think about it (a month after I finished it) means I really liked it.  This is chick-lit at it's best - smart, engaging, and fast paced.  It's the story of Amanda Gallo, a TV anchor who gets her big break on FAIR News, a new channel thats trying to be the unbiased news channel during the current presidential election.  While she's working, she realizes she is loosing herself in order to fit the mold of the company she works for.   This book has a LOT of similarities to the 2016 election cycle and now that we are a year out, I can finally read a book like this without feeling like I want to throw something.   

Honorable mentions go to Cork Dork (all about becoming a sommeillier) and Eleanor Ophiliant is Completely Fine (which I just finished!).   

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

all i want for christmas (isn't really much at all).

Image result for apartment therapy christmasHonestly, I have no idea where 2017 went and how it's Holiday time again.   My aversion towards things continues unless it's vintage or practical.   I can't believe how much Tyler has rubbed off on me.   

But, after a year that has been stressful and at moment downright scary, it's kind of nice to spend a little bit of time looking at completely beautiful things that deserve a place in our home.   So here is the list of things Caitlin would like to see under the tree.   Some are practical, some are silly, all of them make me happy.  And couldn't we all use a little happiness?    

Also - all of them support small companies doing new/cool different things which I always feel is important (minus AirBnb but AirBnb does support individuals turing their home into way to make money so I think that's OK).  

1 - A Wooden Matchbox - I've been on a bit of candle kick since moving into our new place.  I like how good they make our apartment smell and how they make everything feel cozy.  We have an ugly plastic lighter for lighting them and I can't stand seeing it on the mantle.  SO, as a replacement, I want this little wooden box for matches.  It's pretty, it's practical, and it works with our color scheme.   In zebrawood or maple please.   

2 - More Wool Socks - I love wearing thick wool socks around our apartment.  I've worn down several pairs that I currently own and am therefore always looking for new ones.  These are adorable.  I'll take any and all colors.    

3 - This Wine (or any of their Ancestral ones) - I had this wine at a tasting and couldn't get it out of my head.   I bought a bottle and then I couldn't find it again.   Tyler and I love it so much - it has a funky kombucha like taste to it.   

4 - Any of these Sculptural Earrings - It took 32 years and I finally got my style (kind of) down.  High-waisted pants, simple top, and sculptural earrings in gold.   I love the fluid earrings  and the cavernous studs that look like little pieces of crumpled paper.   

5 - Airbnb gift cards - Travel is pretty much all Tyler and I can agree to spend money on Airbnb gift cards are basically our favorite thing.   

6 - This Almond Butter - Yes, it is expensive for peanut butter/almond butter but it's the best of the best.  Especially when you eat it with homemade apple butter.   

7 - A lot of bags of Rancho Gordo Cranberry Beans - These are the best beans for soups and beans on toast.   I just finished my latest bag so more of them will make me very happy.   

8 - A Work Tote not in Black!  - My go-to work tote is by Cuyana.  It's big, its light-wight and it's good looking.  I've been wanting to get a second one in a camel color since mixing up my all-black look isn't a bad idea.   This one in camel with a navy lining (or blush lining) is EVERYTHING I want.   Someone please get this for me.  I could also use a new wallet (also in camel).   

9 - Mittens - Because I walk to work everyday and it is cold in the winter.  These are my ideal mittens.  Camel color and ribbed.   

And to end this list.  Charity donations.  I donate monthly to the ACLU.  We've been also donating to a lot of the groups involved in the Hurricane relief for Texas and Puerto Rico.   

Friday, November 17, 2017

caramel apple pie.

I've found my perfect apple pie recipe (just in time for Turkey Day).  

This is not an apple pie for the faint of heart (3 1/2 pounds of apples are involved!).  It's a multi-day (though fairly hands-off ) affair.  But my god is this good.  It is the everything you think of when you think of apple pie and more.  Layer after layer of thinly sliced apples are enveloped in a apple-y caramel sauce.   (I can't explain the magic that creates this caramel sauce but it is magic.)   The crust is crisp, the apples are fork tender, and the cranberries add a burst of tartness that works well with the sweet caramel sauce.   

If you make this for Thanksgiving you will be hailed a hero.   

Caramel Apple Pie 
Recipe from Tara O'Brady

I'm pasting the recipe here so you can see it as written but I make a couple of changes.  I added in about a cup of fresh cranberries since I had some on hand and thought the tartness would pair nicely with the caramel apples.  This was an excellent idea.  I decided to add a crumble topping to my pie rather then a traditional double layer.  This is personal preference!   

For the Pie 

Juice from ½ lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
3½ pounds (1.5 kg) apples
½ cup (90 g) packed light brown sugar
¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
60 gratings fresh nutmeg, or ¼ teaspoon ground
Flour, for dusting
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Coarse sugar, such as Demerara, coarse Turbinado, or sanding sugar, for sprinkling
Pie Doug (recipe below) 

Lightly butter a 9-inch (23 cm) pie pan and set aside. Squeeze the lemon juice into a large, nonreactive bowl. Peel, core, and cut the apples into ¼-inch (6 mm) slices, adding them to the bowl as soon as they are cut. Turn the apples in the lemon juice now and again while you work. Toss the apples with the sugars and salt. Cover and leave at room temperature for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours, or refrigerate overnight. Stir whenever you remember to do so. If you haven’t already, this is a good time to make the pastry. (Instructions below.)

Set a colander over a large heavy pot. Turn the apples into the colander and let them drain completely. Flip the apples back into their bowl and pour the juice into a liquid measuring cup, taking note of the amount. Melt the butter in the pot over medium heat. Let it brown, swirling occasionally. Add the drained apple liquid and bring to a boil without stirring. Reduce the liquid to ½ cup (120 ml).
Toss the apples with the cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg, until the cornstarch dissolves. Pour the reduced juices over the top and fold to combine. Set aside.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll half the dough out to a 12-inch (30.5 cm) round. Drape the dough over the prepared pan and gently ease into place, snug against the bottom and overhanging at the rim. Fill tightly with the apples and the juice, mounding the fruit toward the center. Place in the fridge. Roll out the remaining dough to a 12-inch (30.5 cm) round and either cut into strips for lattice or leave as is. Retrieve the pastry shell from the fridge. Brush the edge of the lower crust with beaten egg, reserving any remaining egg. Place the top crust over the filling, or weave the lattice directly on top of the filling. Press the top and bottom crusts together to seal, then crimp or decorate. Pop the whole pie in the freezer for 15 minutes.

While the pie chills, preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C) with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Brush the chilled pastry with the remaining egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar. For solid-top crusts, cut steam vents with either a knife or a small cookie cutter. Set the pie on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the juices are bubbling and the apples succumb to the tip of a knife, 50 minutes or so. If the crust browns too quickly, protect it with a layer of foil.

Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 1½ hours. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Pie Dough

Makes enough for 2 pie shells or 1 double-crust pie, each 9 inches (23 cm) in diameter

2¼ cups (320 g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar (for sweet crusts only)
1 teaspoon medium-grain kosher salt
1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into large cubes
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Ice water

In a large, wide bowl, whisk the flour with the sugar and salt. Scatter the butter over the flour. With the pads of your fingers, squish each cube of butter into thin cakes, in a motion similar to dealing cards off the top of a deck. Toss the butter into the dry ingredients as it is flattened, so that it is kept coated on all sides. Once all the butter has been squashed, chill the mixture for 30 minutes.

Stir the egg yolk with the vinegar in a 1-cup (240 ml) liquid measure, then add enough ice water to make ¼ cup (60 ml) total. Drizzle the liquids over the flour and butter mixture, then, with a butter knife, start stirring the wet into the dry. After a few stirs, abandon the knife and use your hands or a spatula to pick up stray flour and press it into the damp pockets of dough. Continue collecting the dough together in this way, pushing and smearing the mass against the bowl. This will not only incorporate the flour but also create long sheets of fat within the dough in a lazy-person’s version of fraisage, a classic pastry technique. If the dough seems dry, stingily drip in more ice water as needed. Once the lion’s share of the our is incorporated, fold the dough onto itself a few times, trapping any remaining our in the folds. Cautiously pat out the dough in between each fold, and shift the bowl a quarter turn so that the dough isn’t always folded the same way. The dough should be together, albeit raggedly, with visible pieces of butter.

Tip the dough onto a work surface and shape into a round. Wrap with plastic wrap. Once sealed, press firmly, so that the film is good and tight and the dough looks like it could burst from its wrapping. I feel this binding helps the dough in the end, encouraging the dry ingredients to fully absorb the wet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Lightly flour a work surface, a rolling pin, and both sides of the unwrapped dough. Roll the dough into a long rectangle. Dust off the excess flour and fold into thirds, like a business letter. Turn the package 90 degrees and roll out again, flouring the board, rolling pin, and dough as needed. Brush away loose flour, then fold as before. If ever the dough gets too warm, cover and chill before proceeding. Turn the package a final time and roll the dough into a rectangle double the length of its width and cut in two. Shape the pieces into rounds, wrap snugly with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 1 month. For frozen dough, defrost in the fridge before using.

Whole Wheat Variation: Up to about ¾ cup (85 g) whole wheat flour can be swapped in for the same amount of white, though the crust will not be as flaky. Use whole wheat pastry flour if you can.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

turkey and ricotta meatballs.

I already have several meatball recipes in the archives of this blog but when you discover another one that feels somehow easier and less fussy then all the others, it makes sense to share it with the world.  

Now that we are firmly in fall (at least I think we are but by Friday we could be back to mid-70's), I've been craving a lot more stick-to-your ribs meals.   The kind of stuff that you eat with pasta or polenta and a glass of wine (as a side note, I’ve been super into natural wines since they have a fermented/sparking kombucha-esq taste that’s so addicting).  Things like braised meats, roasted squash, sautéed mushrooms, and of course meatballs which are the first thing I think of when I imagine stick to your ribs food.   

These meatballs are devoid of eggs and breadcrumbs which is unusual for a meatball.   Despite that, they are excellent - moist, flavorful and literally the easiest meatball that ever was.   Dump everything into a bowl, mix with your hands, and throw in the oven.  The recipe is capable of feeding a crowd and there wasn’t a person that didn’t want seconds which is the true test of a good recipe.   

Consider these my new go-to meatball recipe.   

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs
Recipe tweaked slightly from Julia Turshen's Small Victories 

I served these a top spaghetti squash which is an UNBELEIVEABLE alternative for pasta in the fall.  I also find the slight sweetness of the squash works really well with meatballs.   But obviously lots of pasta works well too.   Also, if you are unfamiliar with Julia Turshen, she is an awesome cook who is helping to lead the resistance through cooking.   If you don't follow her on Instragram you should (she also posts a lot of adorable dog pictures in addition to food).   

Two 28-oz [794-g]  Cans whole peeled tomatoes
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
7 garlic cloves 4 thinly sliced, 3 minced
1/4 -  1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
Kosher salt
1 cup (40 g) fresh basil leaves finely chopped
1 cup (40 g)  fresh Italian parsley leaves finely chopped
1-1/2 cups (300 g) fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup (50 g)  finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 pounds (900 g) ground turkey (preferably dark meat) at room temperature

Pour the contents of the tomato cans into a large bowl (set the cans aside) and crush the tomatoes with your hands. Rinse one of the cans with about ¼ cup [60 ml] water, pour it into the second can and swish it around to get all the excess tomato out of the cans, and then pour the water into the tomato bowl.

In a large saucepan or pot over medium-high heat, warm 3 Tbsp of the olive oil, add the sliced garlic, and cook, stirring, until it begins to sizzle, about 1 minute. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, the tomatoes, and a very large pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer, stirring every so often, until it is slightly reduced and has lost any tin-can taste, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425°F [220°C]. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Drizzle 2 Tbsp olive oil on the baking sheet and use your hands to rub it over the entire surface of the sheet. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the minced garlic, basil, parsley, ricotta, Parmesan, turkey, and 1 Tbsp salt. Blend everything together gently but authoritatively with your hands (they’re the best tool for the job) until well mixed. Then, use your hands to form the mixture into golf ball–sized meatballs; the mixture will be sticky, so wet your hands with a bit of water to help prevent the meat from sticking to them. Transfer the meatballs to the prepared baking sheet as you form them (it’s okay if they are touching a little). Drizzle the meatballs with the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil and roast until they’re browned and firm to the touch, about 25 minutes.

Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the meatballs to the simmering sauce (discard whatever juice and fat is left on the baking sheet). Cook the meatballs for 10 minutes in the sauce (they can be left in the gently simmering sauce for up to 1 hour) and serve.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

morrocan semolina and almond cookies.

It feels a bit awkward to be posting about cookies that don't utilize apples (which we currently own about 20 pounds of) or pumpkin/squash since it is the season but here I talking about non-seasonally appropriate (but utterly delicious) cookies.

A couple of weekends ago I hosted a dinner party at our place.  It was a full-blown Middle-Eastern inspired menu that included lamb and lots of tahini.   The desert involved maple poached pears with toasted hazelnuts and labneh whipped cream and these cookies.  The cookies weren't part of the original menu but I felt I needed something else and after doing a quick perusal of my cookbooks, stumbled across these which seemed like the perfect compliment to the dessert (and the larger dinner).   

Tyler tried them and declared them worthy of being included in the holiday cookie plate which is the highest level of accolades a cookie can receive.  These are deceptively simple but the flavor and texture are unparalleled.  Simple like a butter cookie but with a more crumbly and sandy texture.  The almond flour provides a little heft and a an extra layer of flavor.  These will be made again in December (if not before).   

Moroccan Semolina and Almond Cookies
Recipe from Dorie's Cookies

1 ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons/294 grams semolina flour
2 cups/200 grams almond flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ cup/150 grams granulated sugar
1 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup/60 milliliters flavorless oil, such as canola
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 teaspoon orange blossom water (optional)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dredging

Position racks to divide the oven into thirds, and heat it to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk together semolina, almond flour, baking powder and salt.

Put sugar in bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl in which you can use a hand mixer. Finely grate lemon zest over sugar, then rub them together with your fingertips until sugar is moist and fragrant. Add eggs and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. With mixer running, pour oil down side of the bowl and beat for another 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla and orange blossom water, if using. Turn off mixer, add half the dry ingredients and mix them in on low speed, then add the rest, mixing only until dry ingredients disappear into the dough, which will be thick.

Sift some confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl. For each cookie, spoon out a level tablespoon of dough, roll it between your palms to form a ball and dredge in sugar. Place balls 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets, then use your thumb to push down the center of each cookie, pressing firmly enough to make an indentation and to cause the edges to crack.

Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating pans top to bottom and front to back after 8 minutes, or until cookies are ever so lightly colored: They will be golden on the bottom, puffed, dramatically cracked and just firm to the touch. Carefully lift the cookies off sheets and onto racks. Cookies will keep for about 4 days in a covered container at room temperature.

Monday, October 2, 2017

sweet potatoes with yogurt and cilantro-chile sauce.

I've been feeling as of late un-motivated to come to this place to talk about food.  It's not that I'm not cooking, I am cooking, almost every night, and most weekends, but I sometimes feel unsure about whether blogs are now being replaced by Instagram and Tweets and things that get you information quicker and with less words.   Does anyone care to read a couple of paragraphs about my life and what I'm cooking?  

I also think, that with the guy we have currently occupying the White House, I have to spend so much more time and energy reading about what he's done that day.  It's really exhausting and it makes me feel useless.  Spewing my thoughts to my husband and co-workers about all the injustice in the world, what does that accomplish?  I keep donating money to all of these causes because I feel like it's something to do but really is it doing something?    

But if I take a step back and try (really try) to look at this all glass-half full,  I feel like I'm learning so much.   Did you know we have stricter laws about importing cheeses from Europe then we do gun laws?  It's true.  We do and that's dumb.  Because I would much prefer people buy imported raw milk brie cheese then automatic rifles (raw milk brie de meaux is so good).   I hope I'm not the only one that feels this way.  We need gun laws.  What happened in Vegas today is just another very unfortunate reminder of why.      

I came back to this place today because I missed it, because I wanted to just throw a lot of random thoughts down so I can come back later and re-evaluate my sanity, but mostly so I could talk about these sweet potatoes which are honestly the most exciting thing I've made as of late.   Seriously, the most exciting thing.  It comes down to the green sauce which is kind of like a greem romesco but better.  SO MUCH BETTER.  Honestly, I could eat this for lunch every day for the next month and never get tired of it.  The contrast of sweet potatoes with herby, spicy green sauce and creamy yogurt is just so good.  It also tastes great at room temperature, doesn't get soggy, and pairs well with just about anything (Chicken!  Fish!  Lamb!).   There isn't much to be excited about right now, but this salad is one of those things.   

Sweet Potatoes with Yogurt and Cilantro-Chile Sauce
Recipe from the NYTimes 

¼ cup plus 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
½ tablespoon honey 
Juice of 2 limes
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
2 ¼ pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch wedges
½ bunch cilantro, leaves only (1/2 ounce)
2 green chiles (I used jalapenos), seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane or minced
2 tablespoons sliced blanched almonds
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 cup Greek yogurt

Pre-heat the over to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup oil, the honey, juice from 1 lime, a large pinch of salt and pepper to taste, and toss with potato wedges. Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet, bake until tender and lightly browned in spots, 45 to 55 minutes. Sprinkle with additional salt to taste.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse to combine 1/3 cup oil, the cilantro, chiles, garlic, almonds, juice from remaining lime, vinegar and a large pinch of salt, until it forms a chunky purée. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Spoon the sauce over the potatoes, dollop with some yogurt, drizzle with oil, and serve with any remaining yogurt on the side.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

pasta with kale sauce.

About 3 years ago I made a completely on the fly kale pesto recipe.  (I measured nothing which is typical of me.) Instead, I threw a bunch of ingredients in the blender, pulsed a couple of times, and magically created a pretty great pasta sauce.   

This pasta sauce is slightly infamous because one of my close friends has been asking for the recipe for about 3 years.  This past week,  I finally got around to making it again.  

This is different version then the original and I actually think I like it better.  It uses more kale (1 pound!) and no pricey pine-nuts.   Instead it made up of staple ingredients.  The simplicity of the sauce is what makes it shine.   

We've eaten it a handful of times over the last couple of weeks.  I like the fact that I can make a batch and simply cook-up some pasta whenever we need a quick and easy lunch or dinner.   It's a flavorful and (pretty) virtuous sauce that tastes way better then you would imagine.   

Pasta with Kale Sauce
Recipe adapted slightly from Six Seasons

This makes enough sauce for about 1 pound (if not a little more) of pasta.   You will only use half the sauce for the below recipe.    Keeps in the fridge for a couple of days!    

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
1 pound kale (any variety but I like lacinato), thick ribs removedd
1/2 pound pasta
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

Bring a large pot of water to water to a boil and add salt until it tastes like the sea.

While the water is coming to a boil, put the garlic and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a small heavy pit or skilled over medium heat and cook until the garlic begins to sizzzle.  Reduce the heat to low and cook until the garlic is light golden, soft, and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes.   Pour the oil and garlic into a bowl so it can cool quickly.

When the water is boiling, add the kale leaves and boil until they are tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes.   Pull them out with ton gs and transfer to a blender.  It is fine if they are wet.   

Add the pasta to the still-boiling water and cook until al dente.   With a ladle or measuring cup, scoop out about 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the noodles.  

Process the kale in the blender with the oil and garlic. adding just a bit of the pasta water to help the process alonmg and to make a nice thick puree.  Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.  

Transfer the drained pasta back to the pot and pour in about half of the kale puree.   Add half of the Parmesan and toss well.  Add a touch more pasta water and toss until the pasta noodles are well coated with a bright green, creamy textured sauce.  Serve right away with a drizzle of olive oil and the rest of the cheese.   

Thursday, August 17, 2017

buckwheat poppy seed jam biscuits.

I didn’t think it was possible to make a biscuit better but apparently it is.

You do it by subbing some of the traditional all-white flour for buckwheat or spelt.  This provides some nuttiness and a toothsome quality to the biscuits that I find addicting.  

And then you add a dollop of jam to the crater you create with your thumb in the middle of the biscuit.  This crater of jam ensures that that the biscuit is a singular dish, a portable handheld treat that can be eaten for breakfast as you are walking to work.  

This is my dream breakfast biscuit. 

Buckwheat Poppy Seed Jam Biscuits
Recipe from Apt. 2B Baking

Yield 10-12 biscuits

12 ounces all-purpose flour
8 ounces buckwheat or spelt flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
8 ounces cold butter, cut into cubes
1 ¼ -1 ½ cups buttermilk
About 6 ounces jam

Preheat oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and poppy seeds.

Add the butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter or your fingers. Keep mixing until the mixture looks mealy with a few pea and lima bean sized hunks of butter remaining.

Make a well in the center of the mixture and add in 1 1/4c of the buttermilk. Gently mix the dough together, making sure that all of the flour mixture gets moistened. If the dough is dry or crumbly continue to add the additional buttermilk 1T at a time until the mixture mostly comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, it's okay if the dough comes out of the bowl in a few pieces, and pat it out into a circle 1 1/2''-2'' tall. Cut the biscuits with a floured 2 1/2'' biscuit cutter or drinking glass. Gently pat the scraps together and cut one more round of biscuits. Place the cut biscuits on a lined baking sheet.

Use your thumb to gently make a tablespoon sized indent in the middle of each biscuit, then very gently, while supporting the sides of the biscuit, use your thumb to push down and make the hole deeper. Aim to make the hole a little wider at the bottom than the top and push down almost to the bottom of the biscuit. Fill each indentation with a tablespoon of jam.

Bake for 35-40min or until the biscuits are golden and crisp on the outside.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

zucchini parmesan.

Should you decide (like me) that because the weather feels remarkably fall-like for July (was last week perfect or was last week perfect), that you want to go all in and just consume comfort food, might I suggest this dish.  An excellent way to utilize that summer produce (notably zucchini which everyone is bored of by early August) in a way that feels remarkably rich and comforting.   

While it is comforting, this is not particularly rich.  It is not loaded with cheese (though there is some), its not filled with oil or eggs.  It's a simple baked dish filled with layers of roasted zucchini and tomato sauce.  I don't know how it happens to taste so decadent (but not in  a I can only eat one bite kind of way) but it does!  And it's awesome.   

Zucchini Parmesan
Recipe adapted from the NYTimes

The original recipe called for making fresh tomato sauce with farmers market tomatoes.  Normally I'm into that thing but when I make fresh sauce, it's an all weekend affair involving 20 pounds of tomatoes and a lot of cursing.  I wasn't going to do that for this dish.  I used canned tomatoes and it was great.  Though if you want to use fresh, by all means do so.    

For the Sauce

1 28 oz can tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste)
Salt and pepper
⅛ teaspoon sugar
2 sprigs fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 cup ricotta (optional)

For the Zucchini Parmesan

2 to 2¼ pounds zucchini
 Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (pepperoncini), to taste
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan

To make tomato sauce, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add 
garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute, and add tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and basil sprigs. Increase heat to medium-high. When tomatoes are bubbling briskly, stir and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until tomatoes have cooked down and are beginning to stick to pan, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on consistency. Remove basil sprigs; taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in chopped basil and ricotta (if using).

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment. Trim ends off zucchini and cut in half crosswise, then into lengthwise slices, about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. Season on both sides with salt and pepper and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Arrange zucchini slices on baking sheets in one layer and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Roast for 12 minutes, until lightly browned and easily pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees.

To assemble the dish, oil a 2-quart gratin with olive oil. Spread 1/4 cup tomato sauce over bottom of dish. Arrange a third of the zucchini in an even layer over tomato sauce. Spoon a third of remaining sauce over zucchini and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Repeat with 2 more layers, ending with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Drizzle on remaining tablespoon olive oil. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until bubbling and browned on the top and edges. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, July 24, 2017

swiss chard fritters.

These are not going to win any beauty contests.   But what they lack in looks they make up for in taste.  And isn’t that all that matters?  

I’ve been revisiting a lot of my cookbooks over the last couple of weeks.  With the farmer’s markets practically bursting with produce, they’ve become a good resource for inspiration.  And the pages I have marked serve as reminders of the dishes that previously called to me but have never been made.   It’s fun uncovering recipes that called to me but I never got around to making.

These fitters were one of those dishes.  Something that I thought could serve as a good veggie side to poultry or fish dish (we actually ate them with these turkey zucchini burgers ) but also stand alone as a vegetarian main if served with an egg on it and a tomato salad on the side.   They are incredible.  Very earthy (in a good way!) with a nice flavor punch.  The addition of the herbs provides a nice level of brightness and freshness that I can’t get enough of.  

So yes, they aren’t pretty but we love them.   

Swiss Chard Fritters
Recipe from Jerusalem 

400g (14oz) Swiss chard leaves, stalks removed
30g (1oz) flat leaf parsley
20g (3/4oz) coriander
20g / 3/4oz dill
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 tsp sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 eggs
80g (3oz) feta, crumbled
Olive Oil or Grapeseed Oil for cooking
Lemon wedges, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the chard & simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze until the chard is completely dry.  Place the chard in a food processor along with the herbs, nutmeg, sugar, flour, garlic, and eggs. Season with salt and pepper and pulse until you have a somewhat smooth green batter. Crumble in the feta & gently fold it through.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Spoon in 1 heaped tablespoon of the batter for each fritter. Press down gently on the fritter to flatten it to about 2 1/2 inches wide. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown or rather green. Transfer to some kitchen paper & keep warm while you fry the rest of the fritters in batches. 

Serve warm, with lemon wedges and/or yogurt sauce.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

blistered green beans with tomato-almond pesto.

I made this dish on a whim earlier this week  and I am very glad I did.   

We buy most of our produce on at the Saturday farmer’s market and during the week before leaving for work, I perform a mental checklist of what’s in the fridge and what needs to be used-up and from there I build dinner.   If I’m feeling un-inspired or particularly bored with whatever I think I should be making I perform a Google search consisting of “NYTIMES or Bon Appetit + INSERT VEGETABLE HERE” and see what pop’s up.  Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t but whatever the outcome it usually helps me to come-up with some kind of game plan.    

This time it worked!

This is my new favorite way to eat green beans.   Cooked in a cast iron skillet until blistered in spots and tossed in a smoked paprika and tomato laced “pesto” that tastes like a combination of Romanesco and gazpacho.   It’s a bright, punchy, and the perfect side for grilled meat or fish.  

Blistered Green Beans With Tomato-Almond Pesto
Recipe from Bon Appetit

2 pints cherry tomatoes
¼ cup unsalted, roasted almonds
1 garlic clove, grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
3 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 pounds haricots verts or green beans, trimmed

Preheat oven to 450°. Roast tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, turning once, until blistered and lightly charred, 15–20 minutes. Let cool slightly. Finely chop almonds in a food processor. Add garlic, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, cayenne, and half of tomatoes; pulse to a coarse pesto consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1½ tsp. vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add half of beans; cook, undisturbed, until beginning to blister, about 2 minutes. Toss and continue to cook, tossing occasionally, until tender, 7–9 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Spread beans out on a platter; let cool. Repeat with remaining vegetable oil and beans.

Toss beans with pesto; season with salt and pepper if needed. Add remaining tomatoes and transfer to a platter.

Do Ahead: Dish can be made 3 hours ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature. Toss and adjust seasoning just before serving.

Friday, July 7, 2017

blueberry-buttermilk pie bars.

Now that we are in the throes of summer (and the proud owners of a balcony) we’ve been eating a lot of meals outdoors.  We bring Jackson’s dog bed outside so he can join us.  Jackson sits quietly and watches his surroundings.  As the meal nears the end he gets up to rest his head on my lap; waiting for the opportunity to lick the plate clean or get a some scraps of whatever it is that we are eating.   Being able to eat outdoors makes weekday dinners feel like a mini-vacation.  

Our new surroundings has also encouraged me to prepare meals that feel like picnics.   I’ve always had a fondness for meals composed of assorted things but in the summer it feels all the more appropriate.  Some kind of quick and easy salad with whatever produce is new that week (snap peas with radish and tahini dressing has been our recent favorite), a couple of cheeses from our local cheese shop, a piece of a baguette, and perhaps some sausage, leftover chicken, or prosciutto.   Depending on our mood and the day of week, we round out the meal with a beer or a glass of wine.   Meals like this are how I love to eat.   

We finish these meals with dessert (this is me after all).  The farmer’s market fruit has been out of control good this year and I’ve been eating so much of it – a lot of it by the handful but an equally large amount has been baked in crisps, crumbles, and pie bars (my favorite).   These blueberry-buttermilk pie bars have been a favorite around here.   More tangy they sweet and perfectly portable – they are the dream dessert for lazy July days and nights.     

Blueberry-Buttermilk Pie Bars
Recipe from Dorie's Cookies 

I don't doubt these would be really good with halved cherries instead of blueberries.   

For the Crust

3/4 cup (102 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (67 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (33 grams) cornmeal (not coarse)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons; 4 ounces; 113 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

For the Topping

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) buttermilk
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (1 ounce; 30 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup (150 grams) fresh blueberries (though I nudged this up to 1 1/2 cups)

To make the crust: Have an 8-inch square baking pan at hand.

Put the flour, sugar, cornmeal, cornstarch and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Drop in the chunks of butter and work in long pulses — about dozen or so — until you have a moist dough that forms curds. Turn the dough out into the baking pan and use your fingertips to press it evenly into the pan. Put the pan in the refrigerator while you preheat the oven (it needs a short chill before baking).

Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F.

Bake the crust for 23 to 25 minutes, until it’s golden brown. Even though the crust will be baked again with the topping, it needs to be thoroughly baked now, so err on the side of more golden rather than less. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the crust to cool completely.

If you’ve turned off the oven, return it to 350 degrees F.

To make the topping: Spoon the cornstarch into a small bowl and pour over 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Stir until the cornstarch dissolves; this is a slurry, which will thicken the custard.

Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl until foamy. Add the sugar and immediately start whisking vigorously (you must beat sugar and eggs together quickly, or the sugar will “burn” the yolks and cause a film to form). Whisk in the salt and vanilla, then whisk in the slurry. When the slurry is fully incorporated, stir in the remainder of the buttermilk, followed by the melted butter. Scatter the blueberries over the crust and then pour on the topping. The blueberries will shift — they’ve got nothing to hold on to — so try to even them out by poking them with your fingers or a spoon; but give up if it’s not happening.

Bake the bars for 42 to 45 minutes, until the topping is puffed all the way to the center, brown around the edges and firm everywhere. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 20 minutes. Carefully run a table knife around the edges of the pan, place a piece of parchment paper over the pan and unmold the bar onto a rack. Remove the pan and invert the bar onto another rack to cool to room temperature; chill if you’d like. Just before serving, slide the bar onto a cutting board and, using a long, thin knife, cut 2-inch squares.

Storing: Covered and kept away from foods with strong odors, the bars will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator. However, like “real” pies, these are best the day they are made.