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.


Monday, May 22, 2017

rhubarb "big crumb" coffeecake.


I’ve been thinking about this coffee cake for maybe 3 years now.  Every year I promise myself I’m going to make it and every year I forget.  

It’s a vicious cycle.  

This year, this year was different (throwing more brunches and dinners for friends ensures I get to try more recipes which is a win-win for everyone).  And now that I’ve made it, I can’t imagine how I ever lived without.  

This is quite possibly the best coffee cake I’ve ever had.  

Crumbs (SO MANY CRUMBS) sit atop a cake layer that is studded with rhubarb.  The tartness of the rhubarb pairs balances out the sweet (but not too sweet) crumb and spiced cake layer.  I’ve declared it the ideal breakfast pastry and if you were to show-up with it at the next group brunch, no one would be mad.

Rhubarb "Big Crumb" Coffee Cake
Recipe tweaked from the NYTimes

When rhubarb season ends, I plan on trying this with blueberries and sour cherries.  I think diced peaches would also be awesome.   This cake also freezes incredibly well.  I suggest wrapping individual pieces in plastic and foil and saving them for when you want to make your Sunday morning (or really any morning) feel more celebratory.      

For the Rhubarb Filling

1/2 - 3/4 pound rhubarb, trimmed
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground ginger

For the Crumbs

⅓ cup dark brown sugar
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup melted butter
1 ¾ all-purpose flour or some combination of your favorite flours (I did 3/4 cup AP, 1/2 cup sprouted whole wheat, and 1/2 cup spelt)

For the Cake

⅓ cup sour cream or thick yogurt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. For filling, slice rhubarb 1/2 inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.

To make crumbs, in a large bowl, whisk together sugars, spices, salt and butter until smooth. Stir in flour with a spatula. It will look like a solid dough.

To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.

Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon rhubarb over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over rhubarb; it does not have to be even.

Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.


Friday, May 12, 2017

pan roasted asparagus with chimichurri.


Asparagus consumption is at an all time high in our apartment.  We are averaging a couple of pounds of week between the two of us and I don't expect this to stop until they are gone.  

We've been having them every which way - shredded on pizza, diced in tacos, and pan roasted which is perhaps my favorite way to eat them.   Pan roasting ensures you get charred, burnt bites while still keeping the asparagus pretty green and a little raw - it's the best of both worlds.   

This recipe takes those asparagus up a notch by pairing them with bright and tangy chimichurri.   Chimichurri is an raw herb sauce that is traditionally paired with meat but here it gets paired with tender asparagus, olives, and goat cheese.  It's pretty brilliant pairing and the epitome of spring eating.   

Pan Roasted Asparagus with Chimichurri
Recipe adapted from the NYTimes 

3 tablespoons finely chopped green garlic
½ cup finely chopped parsley or cilantro 
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 - 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon red wine or sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper
1 pound pencil-thin asparagus, tough ends snapped off
4 ounces crumbled feta or a firm goat cheese 
Handful of olives
1/4 cup hazlenuts, toasted and chopped 
Crushed red pepper and sumac, to taste

Heat a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. 

Make the chimichurri sauce: In a small bowl, stir together chopped green garlic, parsley or cilantro, oregano, olive oil (start off with 1/4 of a cup), vinegar and 2 tablespoons water.  If it looks thick, add a little more olive oil and water until the desired consistency.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle very lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt.

Transfer asparagus to hot cast-iron pan.   Let asparagus cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until nicely charred, with a few burnt and blistered spots. Asparagus cooked this way tastes best if slightly undercooked and still bright green.

Put cooked asparagus on a platter and spoon chimichurri sauce generously over spears. Top with crumbled feta, olives, and hazelnuts , then sprinkle with crushed red pepper and sumac.  Serve immediately.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

sesame banana pudding.



The first signs of rhubarb showed up this weekend and while I am very excited about it (and all the incredible desserts that are to come) I can't get this sesame banana pudding out of my head.  

I made this pudding last weekend when it was rainy and gloomy and both Tyler and I couldn't get enough of it.  Homemade sesame wafers get tucked between layers of banana pudding and sliced bananas.  The whole thing is topped with a toasted meringue that makes the entire dessert feel incredibly fancy.   It's definitely a dessert that makes and entrance and one that I think everyone will love.   

Sesame Banana Pudding
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit 

The original recipe said it serves 8.  I made a half batch and after seeing how much it made, I think a full batch can serve anywhere from 12-14 people (unless you want to eat a tub of banana pudding).   

Sesame Wafers

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup toasted sesame seeds
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1½ tablespoons light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pudding And Assembly

7 ripe bananas, divided
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
4 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Sesame Wafers: Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 375°. Whisk flour, sesame seeds, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and both sugars in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg, egg yolk, oil, and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and mix in dry ingredients. Cover dough and chill until cold, about 30 minutes.

Drop dough by the tablespoonful onto 2 parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets, spacing 1" apart. Bake wafers, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until brown around the edges, 13–16 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets.

Pudding and Assembly: Rub 3 bananas with oil. Roast (oven should still be at 375°) on a parchment-lined baking sheet until skins are dark brown and flesh is popping out, 25–35 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile, bring milk, butter, and ¼ cup sugar to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Whisk egg yolks, cornstarch, vanilla, ¼ cup sugar, and 1 tsp. salt in a medium bowl. Adding ¼ cupful at a time, whisk in one-third of hot cream mixture, then whisk egg mixture into remaining cream mixture in saucepan. Cook pudding, whisking constantly, until thickened and bubbling, about 5 minutes. Scrape into a large bowl set over an ice bath; let cool.

Peel roasted bananas and process in a food processor (or beat by hand) until smooth. Stir into pudding.

Slice remaining 4 bananas ¼" thick. Ladle one-third of pudding into a 9½" deep pie dish or 8x8" glass baking dish. Layer half of wafers over pudding; top with half of bananas. Repeat, layering with half of remaining pudding and wafers and all of bananas. Finish with a layer of remaining pudding, then wafers. 

Meanwhile, using electric mixer with clean beaters, beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and a large pinch of salt in a large bowl on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Increase speed to high, gradually add remaining ½ cup sugar; beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 1 minute. Working in 3 batches and beating well after each, add powdered sugar. Beat until meringue is very stiff, dense, and glossy.

Let pudding cool slightly, then decoratively spread meringue over top. Toast with a kitchen torch, if desired.

Do Ahead: Dessert (without meringue) can be assembled 6 hours ahead; chill.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

mushroom tartines.



Build me a window to watch everything
Leave it unshuttered so nothing slips by
No season, no sorrow, no wonderful thing
No raspberry, strawberry sun in the sky
I will bring music and marsipan bars
And live deep inside you
Wherever you are

-Joni Mitchell, Gemini Twin 

I haven't had much of a desire to cook new things over the last couple of weeks (partially due to the fact that I just want some asparagus and rhubarb as I am so sick of kale and sweet potatoes). But, I did convince myself a couple of weeks back to make these mushroom tartines after seeing them on the Smitten Kitchen blog (I needed something to tide me over until more green things arrived at the market).

You need to make these.   They make for a great light dinner when paired with a nice green salad. They also taste shockingly good the next day (I'm as surprised as you are).   I also think that you could make them a "madame" by throwing an egg on top.  Not necessary but also not a bad idea.      

Mushroom Tartines
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen 

For the Sauce

2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (15 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (175 ml) milk, ideally whole but lowfat should work
A few gratings fresh nutmeg
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon (15 grams) smooth Dijon mustard

For the Mushrooms

1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) fresh mushrooms (cremini, white or a mix of wild all work), thinly sliced
Olive oil and butter as needed
2 teaspoons minced mixed fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 of dry white wine (optional)

For the Assembly

1 pound loaf of a hearty white or whole wheat sourdough bread, in 3/4-inch slices
8 ounces (225 grams) coarsely grated gruyere or comte
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, to garnish

Make the sauce: In a large skillet (so you can use it again for the mushrooms), melt butter over medium heat and then stir in flour until a paste forms. Very slowly drizzle in milk, whisking the whole time to keep the mixture smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until mixture has simmered for a couple minutes. It will be thick and get thicker as it cools; this makes for a better spread. Scrape into a bowl and stir in Dijon. Adjust seasonings if needed. Set aside.

Heat oven: To 425 degrees F. Line your largest baking sheet with foil. 

Cook the mushrooms: Wipe out skillet and heat over medium-high. Add a glug of olive oil or a mix of olive oil and butter. Once it is very hot, add 1/3 to 1/2 of mushrooms, 1/3 to 1/2 of herbs and let sear in pan until brown underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes, before stirring and continuing to cook until tender and any liquid in the pan has cooked off, about 5 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining mushrooms.  If you have some brown bits on the bottom of your pan, deglaze with the wine and cook until all absorbed.   

Assemble and bake: Spread bread in one layer on prepared baking sheet. Schmear each all the way to the edges with sauce; you should have exactly enough for a thin coat on each. Heap each slice with mushrooms; use them all. Sprinkle cheese over and since the mushrooms are heaped so high, you’ll probably have to press it in a bit with your hand. You’ll be glad you got all the cheese on there.

Bake for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted all over, then transfer to the broiler and cook until tops are browned, a few minutes more (but keep an eye on it because broilers vary wildly and mine is rather weak).

To serve: Scatter with parsley and eat with a knife and fork, preferably with a big green salad on the side. (And more wine.)  Serves 4


Monday, March 27, 2017

wine harvester's chicken.


Should you decide you want to throw a dinner party for friends and serve them something that you can...

1 - Prepare a day or two ahead of time 
2 - Utilizes an under-appreciated piece of meat
3 - Tastes as if your super talented French grand-mother spent hours making it

Might I suggest this chicken dish?   I made it this past weekend for a group of friends and it was a big hit (6 plates were wiped clean so I consider it a success).   It's fragrant, flavorful, full-bodied (that combination of tender shallots, bacon, and reduced wine is quite the trifecta) and just the thing to eat while were're in the middle of this "is it winter/is it spring" kind of weather.  

Wine Harvester's Chicken
Recipe tweaked slightly from David Lebovitz

My only issue was that the sauce didn't quite reduce enough for my taste after 45 min in the oven.  To remedy this, I took the pot out of the oven, took the chicken out, and reduced it on a medium-high burner setting for about 15 minutes.  This got me the right consistency.   

You're also looking for flavorful grapes here!  I used muscat grapes that I found at Whole Foods.   

About 6 chicken thighs (weight about 2 - 2.5 pounds total)
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a tablespoon or more for frying the bacon
1 cup (150g) diced, thick-cut bacon
3 shallots, minced, or 1 small onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups (375ml) dry white wine
1 1/2 cups (375ml) chicken stock
1/4 cup (60ml) red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Two 1-inch (3cm) strips fresh orange zest
10 branches fresh thyme, (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)
10 allspice berries, lightly crushed or 1/2 teaspoon ground all-spice 
2 cups (315g) stemmed grapes

Season chicken with salt and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. (This step isn't imperative, but does make the meat more succulent.)

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven, large, wide casserole, or roasting pan, that has a lid.

Sear chicken piece so they are brown on both sides, about 5 to 8 minutes per side. Depending on the size of your Dutch oven or casserole, you may need to do them in batches. Remove pieces of chicken to a bowl once they're browned.

Preheat oven to 350ºF/175ºC.

Saute the bacon in the pot. If necessary, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Stir the bacon until it's mostly cooked, then add the shallots or onion and garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.

Add the wine, stock and vinegar to the pot, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the black pepper, orange zest, thyme, and allspice. Put the chicken pieces in the pot, skin side down, cover and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven. Turn the chicken pieces over, so they're skin side up. Bake, uncovered, adding the grapes to the pot midway during cooking, until the liquid in the pot is thick and reduced to the point where the chicken pieces are about halfway submerged in sauce, and the chicken is browned. (About 30 to 45 minutes).

Serving: As per David - The chicken would go well with mashed potatoes, or another root vegetable puree, or wide noodles tossed in a little butter.  I served it with homemade semolina gnoochi and roasted carrots (and bread for sopping up the juices!).   

Storage: The chicken will keep for up to three days in the refrigerator.



Thursday, March 9, 2017

baked char siu bao (roasted pork buns).


My weekends are for tackling cooking projects.  Not all of them are labor intensive 48 hour adventures but on occasion I get that itch to tackle an over-the-top project that's been on my to-do list for some time.  

(Like croissants which 3 years later are still on my to-make list. )

Char Siu Bao are one of those weekend long projects.  They aren't particularly difficult (though the length of the recipe may lead you to believe I'm lying) but I find it best to draw the preparation of them out over a couple of days.   It makes the whole thing more relaxing and stressful.   

If you've never had char siu bao (otherwise known as a roasted pork bun) you're in for a real treat. Extremely tender (and very light and fluffy) dough encases shredded a sweet and spicy shredded pork that people find irresistible (I find it seriously irresistible).    I love them for their portability but also because the dough which utilizes a process called tangzhong is super soft which means you can reheat them in the microwave and they stay tender (it's kind of magic).   

So yes, making these is a project, but it's a project that's well worth it.     

Baked Char Siu Bao
Recipe from Crepes of Wrath and Serious Eats

These freeze brilliantly so don't worry if you can't eat them all!   

For the Char Siu Pork

3 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder, cut into large pieces
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon chili oil
1 tablespoon black bean paste
1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
1 3-inch knob of ginger, grated on a microplane or finely minced
4 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane or finely minced

For the Char Siu Filling

1 pound of your roasted pork, diced into ¾-inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely diced
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon black bean paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup minced chives 

For the Tangzhong

3 tablespoons bread flour
1/2 cup water

For the Dough

1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Roast your pork - Cut your boneless pork shoulder or butt into 5 or 6 pieces and place it in a sealable back or container. Whisk together all of your marinade ingredients, and pour it over the pork. Marinate for at least 3 hours, or as long as overnight. When ready, preheat your oven to 300 degrees F, place your pork in an oiled baking dish, cover with foil, and roast for 2½ to 3 hours, until the pork is very tender and shreds easily. Remove the pork from the oven, uncover, and let cool slightly. You will only need about ⅓ of your pork for the buns - the rest makes for great leftovers! Toss it with some roasted or stir-fried broccoli and you've got lunch for the rest of the week.

Make your char siu filling - Chop ⅓ of your roasted pork into small cubes and set it aside. Finely dice an onion, heat your vegetable oil in a medium-sized pan over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Whisk together your water, cornstarch, vinegar, hoisin sauce, sugar, black bean paste, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Add your pork to the onion, and add your sauce to the pan. Stir to combine, and cook for 5-8 minutes, until the mixture has darkened and thickened - be careful not to burn the filling, as the sugar will quickly caramelize. When ready, remove the pork from the heat and set aside until ready to use.  Can be made 1 day ahead and stored in the fridge until ready to assemble.

For the Tangzhong - In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, mix together the water and bread flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick and lightly golden. Remove from heat and transfer the tangzhong to a small container. Cover with plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.

For the Dough - Warm 1/2 cup of milk and pour in the yeast. Let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes. Combine the yeast-milk mixture, the Tangzhong, and the remaining dough ingredients in a large bowl, and stir until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Remove from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured work surface until stretchy, about 10 minutes longer. Spray the dough all over with nonstick spray and return to the bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the dough to prevent it from drying out and set in a warm, draft free area until doubled in size, about 1 hour (or overnight in the fridge).

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 16 even pieces. Roll the pieces into balls. Using the palm of your hand, press down each dough ball until flat. Place 2 tablespoons of filling on the center of each round. Pull up the edges and pinch together to seal. Transfer the filled buns, seam-side down, to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Re-cover with the coated plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly brush your bao with your beaten egg, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes, then brush lightly with honey and sprinkle with chopped chives. Serve warm. These will keep well for up to 5 days - just heat them up for 15-20 seconds in the microwave before serving.