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.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

detroit, mi. thoughts + a food guide.


When Tyler and I told people we were visiting Detroit, 90% of the people had a look of horror on their faces and asked why, 5% were indifferent, and 5% thought it sounded awesome (that 5% was mostly made-up of my parents and siblings). 

To say I began to question my choice would be a bit of an understatement. 

But Detroit is an incredible city.  Yes there are pockets of poverty and so many abandoned and dilapidated homes (that Tyler and I talked endlessly about rehabbing) but it is place filled with generosity, resiliency, and some of the friendliest people I've ever met. It's a place that feels mis-understood but also on the cusp of its 2nd golden age.  It's a place I could see us living in.   

Detroit has a lot to offer.  Some incredible museums (we only visited one since the weather was so good while we were there), a plethora of breweries, and some of the best food made by people who are truly embracing that whole locavore/seasonal/small-plate thing I love.   Below, find a handful of places we tried and loved.  This was only the tip of the iceberg, but I know we'll be back so I don't feel too bad about it.   


Food 

Gold Cash Gold - The first restaurant I had on my list and the only reservation I made.   It's located in an old pawn shop.   Hyper-seasonal with  a really interesting menu the veers in all different directions (some Southern, some Mexican).  We swooned over the cocktails, marrow dumplings, tomatillo salad, and vegan ice-cream sandwich.   

Gather - Our last dinner.  It just opened (like 2 weeks before we arrived) but it had been getting such good press that I felt we had to go.   Small-plate/shareable style (though if you are used to NY small plates then these plates would not be considered small).  Focus on grilled foods (fish, chicken, and bread).  We loved the homemade bread, crunchy salad, and a most excellent strawberry ice cream sandwich.   

Detroit Institute of Bagels - Probably the friendliest bagel shop I've ever been to.  Great bagel sandwiches best eaten in between river swimming.   

Sister Pie - My favorite stop in Detroit.   So many pies (we had Strawberry Pistachio and Marshmallow Butterscotch) and incredibly good cookies (the peanut butter paprika is awesome).   I really hope they make a cookbook.   I would fly back out there solely for more pie

Rose's Fine Foods - I've always wanted to own a diner and if I ever do such a thing, it will be modeled after this place.   Quirky with an emphasis on homemade (they make their bread).  It's diner perfection.   We had an order of pancakes with yogurt and caramelized bananas that may be my new favorite breakfast dish.    

The Farmer's Hand - A corner store/specialty grocer that only sells items made in Detroit.   We stopped her for local kombucha and cookies.   A great place to pick-up something fun to bring home.  

Bon Bon Bon   - A chocolate shop that is anything but traditional.  The flavors are out of control and their packaging is awesome.   



To-Do

Detroit Museum of Art -  A very impressive art museum that has Egyptian galleries, European art and an awesome contemporary wing.  It's a nice way to spend a couple of hours indoors.

Belle Isle - Probably my favorite stop in all of Detroit.   This is an island situated between Detroit and Canada.   There are a whole bunch of different attractions on the island (golfing, aquarium, etc) but we brought a picnic, a couple of towels, some books and magazines, and spent the day swimming in the Detroit river.  There's a great mix of hipsters and families and and sandy shore to lay out on.  Our day spent there was my kind of perfect day. 

Eastern Market - Due to plane delays we missed going here but if you are a food lover it's a market you don't want to miss.   There are vendors, produce stalls, and other booths selling locally made items.   It's also one of the oldest running markets in the US!   



Libations

Jolly Pumpkin Brewery - Great collection of sour beers (something Tyler and I are very into at this moment).   They also sell pizza's to help you sop up some of that beer (and the pizza comes highly rated).  

Detroit Brewing Company - Across the street from Jolly Pumpkin.  They have a great outdoor seating area and nice rotating list of beers so you can always find something seasonal on tap.

Batch Brewing Company - My ideal brewery.   Great bar food (we had a really excellent cubano and homemade pretzels), family friendly (should you be traveling with kids, they have games), and some excellent beers.  They also make a beer slushie for the summer and let me tell you, it's awesome.   

Places I didn't hit but wish I had time for - Mabel Grey, Mudgie's Deli.  The MoTown Museum.




Tuesday, June 6, 2017

pistachio cake with strawberries.


I've been eating strawberries with such abandon (we're talking about 2 quarts a week in our house).   For breakfast with keffir or atop pancakes.  For lunch as a side to roasted vegetables and a wedge of cheese (such a lunch makes me think for about 15 minutes I'm not at my desk) and for dessert pretty much every which way. In a bowl covered in a thick layer of whipped cream, in galettes, and baked in strussel bars.  2017 has been the year of the strawberry.   

But for all the ways I've consumed them, this is perhaps my favorite.   I never thought much about the pairing of strawberries and pistachios (strawberries and almonds yes, but not strawberries and pistachios) but let me tell you, it is incredible.   A buttery, fragrant, tender cake (that is quite frankly even better on day 3 then day 1) gets paired with ripe, juicy, bursting with flavor with strawberries.   It's a dessert that epitomizes early June and everything I love about it.   

Pistachio Cake with Strawberries 
Pistachio Cake recipe (without Strawberries) from Smitten Kitchen

For the Cake 

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (140 grams) roasted, shelled, and unsalted pistachios
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
10 tablespoons (5 ounces or 145 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Slightly heaped 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (115 grams) all-purpose flour

For the Lemon-Pistachio Glaze 

1/3 cup (40 grams) roasted, shelled, and unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Heat oven: To 325 degrees F. Line the bottom and long sides of a loaf pan with a sling of parchment paper. Coat paper and exposed short sides of loaf pan with nonstick spray or butter.

With a food processor: In the work bowl of your food processor, grind pistachios, sugar and salt together until as powdery as you can get them without it turning to paste. Cut butter into small chunks and blend with pistachio mixture. It’s going to be lumpy at first, and then balled for a minute, but keep running the machine until the mixture loosens up into a frosting-like consistency, i.e. smooth and shiny. Add eggs, one at time, blending briefly between each, scraping down sides as needed. Add milk, blend to combine. Add extracts and baking powder and blend to fully combine, scraping down workbowl. Add flour and pulse just until it disappears.

Without a food processor: You’re going to want to start with 140 grams pistachio meal or flour and softened butter and can proceed as with a traditional cake. Beat butter and sugar until fluffy, then beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in milk, then extracts until smooth. Beat in salt and baking powder until fully combined, scraping down bowl well. Add flour and mix just until it disappears.

To bake: Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread top smooth. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes (see note up top by way of explanation/apology). Mine took 70, but it’s safest to check sooner. Look for a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake to come out clean and then, do a second check near the top. I find with loaf cakes that the undercooked batter likes to hover right below the top crust. It often takes 10 minutes extra (built into this baking time already) just for that to set for me.

Let cake cool in pan on rack for 10 to 15 minutes, then run a knife around cake and transfer to cooling rack. Let cool completely.

To make glaze (optional): Bring pistachios, sugar, zest, and juice to a simmer in a small saucepan; simmer for 2 to 3 minutes then pour over cooled cake.

To serve: Cut into slices.  Top with sliced strawberries (preferably macerated for about 10 minutes in lemon juice and a teaspoon or 2 of sugar) and some whipped cream. Cake is great on the first day but even better on the second, as the ingredients settle. Keep at room temperature for several days, wrapped in foil, or longer in freezer.