Monday, January 8, 2018

curried lentil, tomato, and coconut soup.

Happy 2018.   I know I usually do a re-cap in this space and much like last year, I don't really feel like it.  2017 felt hard in a lot of ways and I don't want to dwell on it.  

I also don’t want to set any outright resolutions because resolutions really stress me out, but the idea of throwing some goals out there feels like a good thing so here it goes.  Find a photograph that I love and buy it.   Run/go to a gym class twice a week (ideally more) because I always feel better after.  Find more creative food solutions for beans and legumes.  Buy less stuff but when you do buy stuff try and buy it second hand.  If you can’t find a small company to buy from.   Make sure you only buy things that you really truly love and can’t live without.   Give and get more hugs.   Continue to read (especially books on topics you don’t know about).   Stop feeling the need to do too much (I’m looking at you weekend cooking projects).  It’s ok to just tackle one thing and tackle it well.   Figure out if it’s time to make a change in your career or if you’re just feeling impatient.  Hold Tyler’s hand more.  Get a cleaning person since cleaning is the source of almost all stress in your life.   Eat more soup since you love it, it’s filling, and it’s cheap.  Eat less cookies.   

And with that, let’s talk about this soup which was in the December/January issue of Bon Appetit.   It’s a Yotam recipe which pretty much guaranteed it was going to be good.  I loved it because it didn’t use chicken stock but instead relies on flavorful ingredients (tomato, coconut milk, etc.) to make a broth that tastes like it’s been cooking for hours.  Best of all it comes together in about 40 minutes, making it the perfect dish for a cold weekday dinner.  

Curried Lentil, Tomato, and Coconut Soup
Recipe from Bon Appetit 

2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 2½-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
1 tablespoon medium curry powder (such as S&B)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¾ cup red lentils
1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
½ cup finely chopped cilantro, plus leaves with tender stems for serving
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk, shaken well
Lime wedges (for serving)

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium. Cook onion, stirring often, until softened and golden brown, 8–10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, curry powder, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add lentils and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, ½ cup cilantro, a generous pinch of salt, and 2½ cups water; season with pepper. Set aside ¼ cup coconut milk for serving and add remaining coconut milk to saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until lentils are soft but not mushy, 20–25 minutes. Season soup with more salt and pepper if needed.

To serve, divide soup among bowls. Drizzle with reserved coconut milk and top with more cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Do Ahead: Soup (without toppings) can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. 

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.