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and, lo

Welcome to the second and final installment of celebrate Hanukkah without frying (or, at least without frying in your own kitchen).

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Someone asked me yesterday which extra virgin olive oil I used for the cake, and, lo, I had forgotten to mention it in my post.

Whoopsies.

For the recipes (yes, recipes – today we get ice cream), I used a delicate Israeli oil from Havat Philip in the Negev. A more universally easy-to-find oil that would work great in these recipes is Unio, a Spanish extra virgin made from Arbequina olives with a low 0.2% acidity). It has a slightly more assertive flavor without too much kick, an olive oil that really tastes like olives.

The two other extra virgins that I mentioned buying in the grocery store felt too peppery for sweets. The first, Olympic, is made from Kalamata olives with a slightly bitterness and a peppery finish. Some people describe peppery oils as one-, two-, or three-cough oils. This one is a two-cough. The Italian, Di Molfetta Frantoiani, is very mild at first but has a real kick at the end – it’s a three-cougher. I’m saving these two for salad dressing and bread dipping.

olive oil ice cream with balsamic caramel sauce, above

olive oil ice cream with balsamic caramel sauce, side

Olive oil ice cream

This recipe is from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. Making ice cream does require a lot of pots, bowls, spoons, and whisks, but you don’t need an ice cream maker. Instead, freeze the custard in a shallow pan for a few hours and periodically give it a whir with an immersion blender. For other tips on making ice cream by hand, check out what David Lebovitz, ice cream aficionado, has to say on the subject.

Makes 3-4 cups

- 2 C whole milk

- 1 C heavy cream

- 5 large eggs for yolks only

- 1/2 C white sugar

- pinch salt, preferably fleur de sel

-  1/2 C fruity extra virgin olive oil

- 2 t vanilla

Prep. Fill a large bowl with ice and water, and keep in the refrigerator. Set a strainer over a slightly smaller heatproof bowl (you’ll be pouring the cooked custard through the strainer). If you have a candy thermometer, this is a great time to get it out.  If you don’t have one, that’s OK too.

Boil. Bring the milk and cream to a slow boil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Once you see some bubbling around the edges, turn the heat down to medium and follow the “cook” step below.

Whisk. While the milk and cream are heating, whisk the yolks and sugar in a large bowl until very well blended and just slightly thickened. I did this by hand. Keep whisking and slowly drizzle in 1/3 of the hot liquid – you want to do this very slowly to avoid cooking the eggs. (In case some of the eggs do get cooked, you’ll strain them out later, so all is not lost.) I placed the bowl on a towel to keep it from wiggling around while I whisked with one hand and poured with the other. Once the eggs have acclimatized to the heat, you can pour the rest of the liquid in more quickly. Add the salt and whisk to incorporate.

Cook. If you have one, clip the thermometer to the side of the saucepan and pour the mix back in. Cook the custard over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, and making sure to get into corners of the pan. Stir until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon: run your finger down the back of the spoon – if the custard does not run back into the track your finger leaves behind, it is ready. If you have a thermometer, it should reach 170°F but no more than 180°F.

Strain. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the custard through the strainer into the bowl. Throw out whatever remains in the strainer.

Whisk again. Add the olive oil and vanilla and whisk vigorously.

Chill. Remember that large bowl of ice water you put in the fridge? Take it out and set the bowl of custard over the ice, making sure that no water overflows into the custard. Put the bowls in the fridge and stir the custard every half hour or so until the mix is cold (about 2 hours).

Freeze. If you have an ice cream maker, churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. If not, pour the chilled mix into a large bowl and place in the freezer (you might need to clear out some room first). It will begin to freeze from the edges. After 45 minutes, remove the bowl from the freezer and mix it with a whisk or use an immersion blender to break everything up. Repeat this every 30 minutes. It will take about two to three hours to full freeze.

Serve. Take the ice cream out of the freezer ten minutes before you plan to serve it to allow it to soften.

***

Salted balsamic caramel sauce

Of course, what goes great with olive oil ice cream? Balsamic caramel! I added two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to a basic caramel sauce recipe from Simply Recipes. Make sure to use a large saucepan, at least 2 quarts, because when you add the butter and cream the mix will bubble vigorously and foam up to the top of the pan.

Makes about 1 cup

- 1 C sugar

- 6 T butter

- 1/2 C milk or cream (I used whole milk for a thinner sauce)

- 2 T balsamic vinegar

- large pinch salt, preferably fleur de sel

Prep. Before you get started, you should get the ingredients measured out because you don’t want to fuss with things while you have hot sugar bubbling on the stove, threatening to burn.

Melt. Over medium-high heat in a heavy large saucepan (2 quarts or larger), heat the sugar. Once it starts to melt, whisk it until all the sugar has melted, comes to a boil, and turns amber. Then add the butter and continue to whisk until all the butter has melted.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. Once all of the butter is mixed in, take the pan off the heat. Slowly pour the cream into the pan, continuing to whisk. This is when the mix will bubble and foam to the top of the pan, so be careful. Whisk until the caramel sauce is smooth, and then add in the balsamic and salt.

Cool. Pour into a glass jar to cool at room temperature.

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Happy Hanukkah, folks. Have you had your latkes yet? Your sufganiyot?

If so, let’s try something different. Cake!

Olive oil Cointreau cake. cooling

At the Hazon Food Conference last week, my friend Leah taught a cooking class on fried Hanukkah foods from around the world. We made perashki kartoskagi (Bukharian potato turnovers) with tamat (fresh tomato sauce) and frittele de riso (Italian rice fritters). I helped man the fry station — you should have seen me trying to figure out how to use an industrial oven. We staved off the fire alarm for a full twenty minutes.

Later in the day, Leah and I sat next to each other on a food writers panel, sharing the stage with Liz Reuven, Liz Traison, and Mary MacVean from the LA Times. As we waited for the audience to trickle in, Leah whispered to me “we’re going to smell like fried for the next few days.”

I still smell like fried.

This year, I left the latkes to the experts, opting to cook and bake with olive oil rather than fry with it. Faced with which extra virgin olive oil to buy, one that would really shine in the recipe, I stood in the store for almost half an hour. I had no idea how to decide between the different varieties.

So I guessed and came home with two different bottles – a Greek one for authenticity and a well-known Italian one just in case – and set up a tasting, throwing an Israeli one from my cabinet into the mix. The Greek was too peppery, the Italian too mild, the Israeli just right.

And then I researched how to choose a good extra virgin olive oil. It’s actually much more complicated than I thought, and there is significant fraud in the industry*. The gist? That “extra virgin olive oil” you just put in your cart might not be extra virgin, and in fact might not even be olive oil at all.

In this  month’s article for the Jerusalem Post, I shared some tips on how to find a good extra virgin olive oil. Here are some of the main points:

Certification symbols are a good starting point. They indicate that an oil was properly made, for example demonstrating adherence to national or state olive oil association standards or conveying Protected Destination of Origin (“PDO,” or “DOP” in Italian) status confirmed by quality control committees overseeing production processes.  Or course, just like kosher certification agencies, the symbol is only as reliable as the organization behind it.

Second, providing notation of acidity level is another positive, even better if the acidity is well below the 0.8% standard.

Further, good olive oils report the processing or pressing and best-before dates.

Finally, always choose a dark bottle over a clear one, as light exposure causes oil to go rancid. There are several online sources listing reputable, high-quality extra virgin olive oils (links below), including some sold in mainstream grocery stores.

Once you’ve hit upon your favorite oil, you’re ready to get cooking.

Olive oil Cointreau cake, from above

Olive oil Cointreau cake, from the side

Check out Tom Mueller‘s recently published Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, discussed on NPR here, in which he explores corruption within the olive oil industry, spurred by his 2007 New Yorker article. Thanks Molly and Sara for turning me on to this guy!)

***

A few fun holiday links I think you’ll enjoy.

Traditional vs innovative latkes? Two chefs duel. I think the wrong one won.

A conversation with Max and Eli Sussman, co-authors of This is a Cookbook, including the recipe that Eli made in the video.

An electronic advent calendar with holiday cookies behind each door? Why yes! No peeking, guys, no peeking.

Olive oil Cointreau cake, sliced

Olive oil orange cake

This recipe is adapted from Food & Wine magazine and I think it is one of the best cakes I have ever made with its moist crumb, crackly top, and aflash of citrus to complement the fruity extra virgin. You can use any orange liqueur you’d like – I chose Cointreau. Or you can go the lemon route and use limoncello (replacing the orange zest with lemon and the orange blossom water with vanilla).  For a non-dairy option, substitute full fat, unflavored almond or soy milk.

The original recipe had a hefty 1 ¾ cup sugar which I reduced to 1 ¼ cup – the cake is still quite sweet. The recipe also called for a 10-inch round cake pan which I didn’t have, so I used a 9-inch round instead. The batter filled the 2-inch high pan about ¾ of the way up and rose a lot during baking, reaching the top of the pan at the edges and at least an additional inch above that in the middle. If it looks like your pan won’t be big enough for all of the batter, leave some out and make a few cupcakes.

Makes 8-10 servings                                                                                                                 

- 3 large eggs

- 1 ¼  C sugar

- 1 C extra-virgin olive oil

- 1 C whole milk

- 1 t orange blossom water or vanilla

- 1 orange for zest, about 2 t (then, eat the orange)

- ¼ C Cointreau or other orange liqueur

- 3 C flour

- 1  ½ t salt

- ½  t baking soda

- 1 t baking powder

Prep. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut a piece of parchment to fit into the bottom of a 9- or 10-inch round cake pan.

Mix. In a bowl (I use a stand mixer), whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and yellow, 2-3 minutes. Add the oil, milk, orange blossom water, zest, and liqueur. Continue to whisk until everything is mixed. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and use a spatula to fold in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Bake. Fit the cake pan with the parchment, and lightly grease the sides. Pour the batter in the pan and bake for 1 hour or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. (This actually took 65 minutes in my oven.)

Cool. Let the cake cool in the pan, about 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and then invert the cake over a rack, peeling off the parchment. Let the cake cool completely, about 2 hours.

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snowbird

Monday was salad. Tuesday was cookies. Wednesday was salad. Thursday is…

Oh, and these are not just any cookies. They’re chocolate-covered graham crackers. Let me say that again, for full effect. They’re graham crackers that I made (!), that I covered with chocolate (!), and that I didn’t eat all in one sitting (!). I will admit, however, that I also didn’t share them.

I’ve been slow to jump on the DIY food bandwagon (actually, I’m generally slow with these bandwagon things), but I’ve made an exception for graham crackers.

Because  when the holiday lights and decorations come out of storage, and the carols play on every radio station, I think of  chocolate covered grahams, pink grapefruit, and Chinese food.

My mother’s mother was a snowbird, leaving her Manhattan home every October to spend the coldest months in Miami. Each December when my sister and I were kids, our parents drove us down from Maryland to the tip of Florida for two weeks of sun.  As we pulled up to the building, no matter what time of night, Bubbie would be sitting in the lobby, perched between a twinkling plastic pine tree and an over-sized candelabra. Riding up the elevator, luggage still in the car, Bubbie would hand my father a list of chores – hang a picture, re-wire a lamp, fix a television.

When the elevator door opened, my sister and I would grab the key and race down the hall, bursting into the apartment and making a beeline to the kitchen. In the middle of the table, next to a bowl of the pink grapefruits that Bubbie sliced and sectioned before every dinner, sat a plate of chocolate-covered graham crackers and two glasses of milk.

We knew the deal. No milk, no sweets. We drank a lot of milk during those two weeks.

The highlight of each visit was going to the kosher Chinese restaurant on Christmas eve. We’d order the usual – egg drop soup, mu shu chicken, beef with broccoli, and Kung Pao chicken. And a steak. Bubbie figured that if we were going out, she was going to go all out. I don’t like Chinese food, she would say. So we’d order the steak.

The waiter would pile all the dishes on a lazy Susan in the middle of the table, and pass around plates. My grandmother would hand back her empty plate and place her steak plate in front of her. We’d spin the Susan to the pancakes, pass hoisin sauce under Bubbie’s nose, and then spin the Susan  back to the mu shu. And Bubbie would smile and slice into her steak. Soon, she would sneak a fork into the mu shu. Then into the beef. She’d make room on her plate for rice, pushing the steak aside. It’s too tough, she’d say. We’d pass her the Kung Pao. My dad would finish the steak.

Maybe one day I’ll bribe my own kids with some chocolate covered grahams. And then my grandkids. For now, though, they’re all for me to nibble with my coffee. Sorry Bubbie. I still don’t like to drink milk.

Chocolate covered graham crackers

I adapted Alton Brown’s graham cracker recipe, and frequently consulted Joanne Chang’s recipe in Flour (Thanks, Molly, for lending me your extra copy). You’ll need to give yourself enough time to chill the dough for 30 minutes before you can roll it out.

Makes over 3 dozen cookies

- 6 T unsalted butter
– 1 1/2 C T graham flour
– 5 T  all-purpose flour
– 5 T packed dark brown sugar
– 3/4 t aluminum-free baking powder
– 1/2 t baking soda
– 1/2 t kosher salt
– 1/2 t ground cinnamon
– 3 heaping T dark molasses or honey (I used 1 tablespoon of molasses, 2 of honey)
– 2 T low-fat or whole milk
– 1/2 t vanilla extract
– 1/4 – 1/2  lb  dark or milk chocolate (If you plan to drizzle, use less; if you plan to dip, use more)

Chill. Cut the butter into 1/4-inch cubes and place in freezer while preparing the other ingredients.

Pulse. Place in the bowl of a food processor both flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Pulse several times to combine. Then add the butter and continue to pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add molasses/honey, milk, and vanilla and process for about a minute until the dough forms a ball.

Chill again. Press the ball into a 1/2-inch thick disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll. Remove the chilled dough and divide it in half. Return the other half to the fridge. Roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment until it is 1/8-inch thick .

Slice. Remove the top sheet of parchment and slide the other sheet onto a cookie sheet. You want to cut the dough into squares – a traditional graham cracker is 2 X 2 – but I made mine about 1.5 X 1.5 or so (I skipped the ruler). Use a pizza cutter and straightedge to make vertical and horizontal cuts all the way across the dough. Don’t trim the excess! (You’ll see why in a moment.) Use a fork to make holes in the crackers in whatever pattern you’d like. Don’t separate the crackers.

Bake. Bake the crackers in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes until the edges just start to darken (luckily, you kept on the extra dough and these jagged edges get too dark, leaving all the crackers perfectly golden.)

Cool. Remove from oven, set the sheet pan with the crackers on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. As the crackers cool, they’ll harden.

Break. Once the crackers are completely cool (20-30 minutes), break them up.

Temper. Fill a small pot with 1/2-inch of water and bring to a slow simmer. Chop the chocolate into small chunks and place half of them in a large metal or glass bowl. Place the bowl over the simmering water, making sure that the water doesn’t touch the bowl. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix the chocolate until it melts. Take the bowl off the pot and wipe away any moisture from the bottom. Slowly add the remaining chocolate pieces, continuing to stir until each small addition melts, and then add another pinch or two. The chocolate will start to get glossy. The more you stir, the glossier your chocolate will be. If you have a candy thermometer, keep stirring until the chocolate reaches 90ºF. No thermometer? No problem. Keep stirring and after about 15 minutes, dip a metal spoon in the chocolate, and then stick it in the refrigerator for 2 minutes for dark, 5 for milk. If it comes out set and glossy and not tacky to the touch, it’s perfect. If it’s still sticky – it’s not cool enough, and not tempered, so keep mixing and add any remaining chocolate pieces.

Drizzle. Lay the cooled crackers in a cooling rack. Drizzle the chocolate in a crisscross pattern over the crackers. Let the chocolate harden.

Dip. Dip each cracker in the tempered chocolate, coating half of each side. Lay the dipped crackers directly on parchment.

Eat. Don’t forget the glass of milk. 

Store. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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Today was a salad-for-breakfast kind of day. And a salad-for-lunch-kind of day. And a salad-for-dinner kind of day. Not only that, it was a kale-salad-for-breakfast-lunch-dinner kind of day.

I was pretty late to the kale game. My first ever taste was nearly four years ago when I bought a big bunch of kale to help me decide whether to join a CSA. I had heard that in bad years, even in good years, you can go weeks on end with little more than kale and a few carrots in your weekly vegetable box. So I made a kale soup. I did end up buying into CSA, but the soup was decidedly on the con list, despite what may have I told you at the time).

And then for years, kale disappeared from my blog. It disappeared from my kitchen. It even disappeared from my CSA box (every week, I found some pour soul to trade their tomatoes/chard/potatoes/tomatoes for the prized kale; yeah, you never want to share food with me).

But it’s back, my friends. Kale is back. And with a vengeance. Three times this month. Thrice!

I took baby steps at first, using delicate tender baby kale leaves in a salad and a soup. And then, I dove right in. I skipped over the mild lacinato (dinosaur) variety and went straight for the red Russian. Imagine biting into curly parsley when you’re expecting Italian flat-leaf. That’s the difference between red Russian and baby kale.

But mix some kale with a little oil, a little acid, a little salt, and we’re in business. The leaves wilt just enough to become not merely palatable, but delicious. They absorb the flavors and then hold them in while resisting the wilt that their less hardy brethren are so prone to.

Dress it today, eat it tomorrow. Or, if you’re like me, dress it today, eat it this morning, this afternoon, and this evening.

Kale salad with ricotta salata, walnuts, and bread crumbs

I started this salad with Kim Severson‘s version (also reprinted in the New York Times where Mark Bittman called it The Kale and Ricotta Salata Salad, as if it were the only one worth knowing!) and then added parsley for its fresh flavor and toasted bread crumbs and walnuts for some crunch. Ricotta salata is ricotta cheese that has been pressed, aged, and dried. It is solid, but can crumble. If you can’t find it, a sheep’s milk feta could substitute (I like Pastures of Eden brand). 

Serves 4 (or just 1 over the span of a day)

- 3-4 slices stale baguette (for 1/2 C crumbs)

- 1/2 C walnuts

- 1 t + 1/4 C olive oil, divided

- kosher salt and pepper

- 1 large shallot

- 1 lemon for juice (~2 T)

- 1 large bunch red Russian kale (approximately 6 C shredded and loosely packed)

- 8-10 parsley stems

- 1/4 lb (4 ounces) ricotta salata (1/2 C shredded)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Blitz. Break the bread into pieces, including the crust, and then blitz in food processor or blender until you get large crumbs. If your bread isn’t stale, dry it out by placing it in the oven with the walnuts for about 5 minutes.

Toast. Spread the  walnuts and bread crumbs out separate baking sheets and toast for about 10 minutes until fragrant and slightly golden. Drizzle the tablespoon of olive oil over the bread crumbs, sprinkle with salt, and mix with your hands.

Whisk or shake. Cut the shallot into several large pieces and mince it in a garlic press (or chop it very fine) into a bottle or bowl. Add the 1/4 cup oil and the juice of the lemon with a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Shake or whisk until emulsified.

Slice. Trim the leaves of the kale above where the stems become thick. Stack the leaves in a pile, roll them like a cigar, and slice it thin crosswise. Chop the parsley.

Assemble. Scoop the kale and parsley into a large bowl and add the dressing (this recipe makes the right amount of dressing for the salad, so no worries about over-dressing). Dig your hands in and toss the leaves with the dressing, and let the salad sit for about a half hour. At this point you can also leave the dressed leaves (and only the leaves) in the fridge overnight – they’ll continue to soften, but are hardy enough not to get soggy.   Before serving, sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs and walnuts and shave  the ricotta salata over the salad. Give a quick toss and serve.

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good stuff

I normally read my magazines from front to back. I might sneak a peek at the New Yorker’s cartoon contest on the last page, but for the most part, I’m a cover-to-cover gal.

But when I pulled the plastic off of this month’s Bon Appétit, I jumped right to page 96 for Dorie Greenspan‘s cover recipe. She made speculoos.

I first encountered speculoos on a flight to California. This was back in the days when you not only got stuff on airplanes, you got good stuff. Around this time, Belgian cookie maker Lotus contracted with airline food suppliers and literally flew their cookies into the US to expand their market from Europe . As we boarded that plane and struggled with our luggage, the crew handed out two thin little rectangular cookies wrapped in red cellophane. One pack per passenger. This cookie  hooked me in just one bite (well, maybe two, then three, then … I stole my sister’s pack of cookies). They were crispy and delicate and caramel-y and just a little spicy and they managed to melt away in my mouth.

If I first encountered speculoos on a plane, I first truly experienced these cookies visiting my friends Janouk and Regina in the Netherlands. In light of that, I’m going to refer to these cookies as the Dutch do — speculaas (pron: spek/you/lahs) — going forward.

I met Janouk and Regina during the summer of 2006 while we were taking a stage – a dance workshop – in Nice. We danced for 3-5 hours a day and then relaxed together afterwards — sitting on the pebbly beach, grabbing a bite (and we ate a lot more than salade Niçoise), and walking back through vieille ville, the old part of town, to our rented apartments.

So, the following year at just around this time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I flew out to Den Haag for a few days en route to Belgium. I stayed with Janouk (then a student, now a teacher), toured around a bit, shopped more than a bit, and spent a day in the dance studio, taking a few hours of class with Regina, the owner. After class, we climbed the stairs to Regina’s home above the studio and hung out like we had in Nice. But this time, we ate Dutch food. Regina set out a few beers and tossed a big red bag to me. I caught it and tore it open, finding small button-shaped cookies inside. Regina said not to bother putting them in a bowl as they’d disappear before long. Those little quarter-sized nubbins were called kruidnoten (“spice nuts”) and had a taste very similar to that of speculaas. But they’re more fun that speculaas (and more dangerous) because you can wrap your fingers around about a half-dozen and pop them in your mouth as if they were seedless grapes. 

Janouk and Regina gave me a little history lesson about these cookies and Sinterklaas‘ holiday. As they tell it, Sinterklaas travels by boat from Spain (where he lives the rest of the year) to the Netherlands with several short black Zwart Pieten child servants*. They arrive on the evening of December 5th and Zwart Pieten give out candies and kruidnoten to good children. Judging by the bag we finished in one evening, we must have been very good girls that year.

As I made Dorie’s speculoos  buttons, I fashioned them closer to kruidnoten, a little smaller in diameter, a little higher in height. I wanted to make sure that I could grab a  nice handful at once.

* There is some controversy about these characters and their costumes, but that’s a topic I’d prefer not to discuss here.

Kruidnoten (or speculoos/speculaas buttons)

I adapted this recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s speculoos buttons recipe in Bon Appetit (December 2012). I skipped her glaze and colorful decorations, opting instead for a very humble looking cookie that really lets the spices and caramel flavor shine. I also made mine slightly smaller (diameter 1.25 – 1.5 inches) and thicker than recommended, so my yield was a bit lower than Dorie’s expected 90 cookies. I’ve kept the original directions. The main difference is that I rolled the logs a little bit longer and thinner (about 9 inches each instead of 8) and made slightly thicker cuts (on the liberal side of 1/4-inch). I might make them even smaller and thicker next time.

Makes 90 small cookies (with my modifications, I only made 70)

- 2 C all-purpose flour

- 1 T ground cinnamon

- 3/4 t ground (dried) ginger

- 1/2 t fine sea salt

- 1/2  t freshly grated nutmeg

- 1/8 t ground cloves

- 1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

- 1/2 C  (packed) light brown sugar

- 1/4 cup sugar

- 1 T dark blackstrap molasses

- 1 T honey

- 1 large egg, room temperature

- 1 t vanilla extract

- 1 large egg white

- Sanding or other decorative sugar – I used raw sugar

Whisk. Whisk first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside.

Beat. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat butter in a medium bowl until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add both sugars, molasses and honey; continue to beat until mixture is smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla; mix for 2 minutes.

Mix. Reduce speed to low; add dry ingredients and mix to blend well.

Shape. Scrape dough from bowl and divide into thirds. Using your palms, roll each piece of dough into an 8-inch log. Wrap logs tightly in plastic or parchment paper.

Chill. Freeze the logs for at least 3 hours. (For neater edges, remove logs from freezer after 1 hour and roll on counter.)  Dough can be made up to 2 months ahead, just keep it frozen.

Preheat. At least 30 minutes before you’re ready to bake, arrange racks in top and bottom thirds of oven and preheat to 375°. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Cut. Whisk egg white in a small bowl to loosen; lightly brush all over 1 log. Roll in sanding or raw sugar. Using a long, slender knife, slice off a sliver of dough from each end of log to make ends flat. Cut log into 1/4 inch-thick rounds. Transfer to a baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart; place in freezer while you cut the next log. (The cookies hold their shape better if you bake when dough is cold.) Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake. Bake 2 sheets of cookies, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 6 minutes, until tops are golden brown and centers are almost firm, 11-13 minutes.

Cool. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool. Repeat with third sheet of cookies. Cookies can be baked 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

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I was just scrolling through the blog today and realized that we haven’t had salad in a while. If you don’t count the that kale and barley deal from earlier this month (Is it salad? Or is it a side? I categorized it as salad on the recipes tab, but I’m rethinking that one), the last salad we ate together was on July 13. If you’re curious, that was eighteen weeks and three days ago. I was curious.

That Friday the 13th salad was unusual in that I had veered from my standard dressing of a drizzle of oil, a squeeze of lemon, salt, pepper, and I’m done. Instead, I made an orange blossom dressing that I actually call liquid gold, it’s that good. Well, my friends, I’ve found another dressing that just might just give that dressing a run for its money.

This Monday the 19th one centers around pomegranate molasses. You’ve seen pomegranate molasses (also called pomegranate syrup) all over this blog. It’s in lamb and meat sauce and a roast. It glazes carrots, decorates roasted vegetables, and caramelizes tarte tatins. It has also found itself atop a bowl or two of vanilla ice cream.

Pomegranate molasses is just very concentrated pomegranate juice. You can buy it in Middle Eastern (and sometimes Indian) grocery stores or make it yourself by reducing pure juice in a sauce pan until it thickens into a sticky syrup. It’s sweet and puckeringly sour. If you like sour candies, you might want to run out to buy a bottle of this stuff. Or two.

But it never occurred to me to turn it into a salad dressing until my friend Jess suggested it. And now I can’t get enough of it. The first time I made, I licked the last few drops off of my plate when I ran out of bread for sopping up. Luckily I was alone at the time. Though, I might very well have done it in a restaurant full of strangers.

Arugula salad with pear, goat cheese, pomegranate, and walnuts

Serves 4

- 3 C loosely packed arugula

- 10 sprigs of parsley, minced

- 1 scallion, sliced on a bias

- 1 pear (I used Bosc), cubed

- 2 T goat cheese, crumbled

- 1/2 C pomegranate seeds

- 1/3 C spicy candied walnuts (see below)

- pomegranate molasses dressing (see below)

Pile. Mix together the arugula and parsley and arrange on a large plate. Sprinkle with scallion, pear, and goat cheese.

Tap. To remove the seeds from the pomegranate, slice the fruit in half, hold a piece cut side down over a large bowl, and hit the outside skin with a wooden spoon. Most of the seeds will fall out and you can gently pry out any remaining ones. Juice will splatter, so don’t wear white.

Finish. Scatter the pomegranate seeds and walnuts over the salad. Drizzle with dressing. The dressing is intense, so drizzle sparingly.

***

Spicy candied walnuts

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. You’ll have leftovers, which you’ll probably end up eating by the handful. 

Makes 2 1/2 cups

- 1 egg white, room temperature

- 1 T pomegranate molasses

-  1/3 cup brown sugar

- 1/3 cup white sugar

- 1.5 teaspoon kosher salt

- Generous pinch of cayenne pepper

- 1/2 t cumin

- 1/2 lb (2 1/2 C) walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 300ºF.

Whisk. With a fork, whisk the egg white and pomegranate molasses in a large  bowl.

Mix. Add the sugars, salt, cayenne, and cumin, and mix everything together. Stir in the walnuts and toss until evenly coated.

Bake. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the  sugared nuts in a single layer on top. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cool. Remove from the oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.

***

Pomegranate molasses dressing

Inspired by Sweet Amandine. You’ll have leftover dressing, but it keeps in the fridge for at least 2 weeks.

Makes 1/2 cup 

- 6 T olive oil

- 1 T pomegranate molasses

- 1 T lemon juice

- 2 t brown sugar

- salt and pepper

Shake. Put everything in a jar and shake to mix. The sugar may stick to the bottom, so use a fork to dislodge it and keep shaking.

Taste. Dip an arugula leaf into the dressing and adjust the seasoning.

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I’ve lived in Cambridge for four years and three months. That’s the longest I’ve stayed in a city since I left my childhood  home when I was 17. Which has gotten me thinking about what home is. And what it means to me to have really planted roots. Oh, not in the get married/buy a house/make babies/get a dog/build a picket fence kind of way, but roots nonetheless.

But when I say I’m going home, I always think of the city where I grew up and the house where my parents still live. Nothing new here, of course, and many of you probably share the sentiment. But nowhere have I seen this feeling of home so poignantly captured as in Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi‘s most recent cookbook collaboration.    

I’ve written about this London-based pair before and shared a small handful of their recipes. But their latest venture is much more than a cookbook. It’s a journey to their shared home of Jerusalem, where they grew up on opposite sides of the city.

In the introduction to the book, they explain: “It is more than twenty years since we both left the city…Yet we still think of Jerusalem as our home. Not home in the sense of the place you conduct your daily life or constantly return too. In fact, Jerusalem is our home almost against our wills. It is our home because it defines us, whether we like it or not.”

They continue, “the flavors and smells of this city are our mother tongue.” I love that. Our mother tongue. I get that.

I speak street food. Hummus and tahina, falafel and schwarma, all wrapped up in warm pita and laffa. Fresh carrot juice and bourekas.

I speak market food. Tomatoes and pickles, goat cheese and sheep cheese, rugelach and, well, more rugelach.

I speak home food. Spicy carrots and eggplant dips, chicken soup and harira, syrup-drenched cakes and pistachios by the handful.

I speak these foods and they inform my cooking  even though each of my visits to Jerusalem have been brief. I can only imagine what it’s like to have grown up there. And then to make the journey back, senses more keenly aware of everything after an absence.

I can imagine. And I can cook now that I have the recipes. And I can share them with you. Here is my first taste from the cookbook.

(For more discussion of the cookbook, check out my column this month in the Jerusalem Post. You’ll also get a non-so-sneak peek at another recipe before I post it here in a few days.)

Roasted cauliflower with tahina

Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook. The original recipe calls for frying the cauliflower, but I simplified it with a  quick roast in the oven. I made it with multi-colored cauliflower, having found purple, green, and yellow varieties in the grocery store. This makes a lot of dressing. I had enough left over after five heads of cauliflower to drizzle over a few more brassica vegetables – a head of broccoli and a few kale salads. Feel free to make only half of the dressing.

A few notes on tahina  Make sure to refrigerate it after opening because it can go rancid quickly (the same is true of sesame and nut oils). If the tahina separates, heat it up slightly to make it easier to mix. When you first add liquid to the tahina  it will thicken but quickly loosen up as you stir. For this recipe, add enough liquid so the sauce becomes about same consistency of honey. I’ve been told the most authentic brand you can buy outside of Israel is Roland. 

Serves at least 10 as a side dish

- 3 heads of cauliflower

- 8-10 scallions

- 1 small bunch parsley

- 1 small bunch mint

- 3 cloves garlic

- 2 lemons for zest and juice

- 4 T olive oil, divided

- ¾ C tahina

- 2/3 C Greek yogurt (I used 1% fat)

- 1 t pomegranate molasses (sometimes called pomegranate syrup), plus extra for drizzling

- About ¾ C water

- Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425˚F.

Prep. Trim the end of each cauliflower and then quarter them through their cores. Cut out the cores and then break the vegetable apart into bite-sized florets. Cut the scallions in 2- to 3-inch pieces. Roughly chop the parsley and mint – you’ll need ¼ cup of each for the dressing; reserve any extra for garnish. Mince the garlic.  Zest one lemon. Juice both lemons – this should yield a little over ¼ cup.

Toss. Toss the cauliflower in a bowl with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a few pinches of salt, and a few grinds of pepper.

Roast. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Spread the cauliflower on the pan in a single layer and roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the cauliflower is crisp and parts of it have turned golden brown. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.

Saute. Heat up the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a small pan. When the oil is shimmering, add the scallions and sauté for about 5 minutes until they begin to color. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Whisk. Spoon the tahina into a bowl and mix in the  yogurt, garlic, herbs, lemon zest, ¼ cup of lemon juice, pomegranate molasses. Slowly pour in the water, whisking with each addition. Only add enough water to get  the sauce to a thick, smooth pourable consistency, similar to honey. Taste a floret dipped in the sauce, and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Serve. Mix the vegetables with a some of the sauce, enough to coat the vegetables without drowning them. (As I mentioned, there will be leftover sauce!) Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and any leftover parsley or mint.

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how recipes go

I was digging around for a container of soup last night, and out plopped a bag of blueberries. I had frozen the berries at the peak of their season, having bought a pint (or two) too many.

You can’t get a better surprise than this during the first snow after the first hurricane of the season. And on the first night that you turn on your heat, the though of blueberry anything feels like a vacation in the sun.

I was envisioning a blueberry coffee cake, but that didn’t seem right. Then a friend reminded me of a rhubarb crumb bar that was adapted from another rhubarb crumb bar that was adapted from a blueberry crumb bar that was adapted from another blueberry crumb bar that I might want to check out.

Did you get all that?

But, isn’t that just how recipes go? We find something that looks good, we do a little research, we check out the “original” recipe — if you can ever really call a recipe an original — and then we tweak  until we can call it our own.

And not that anyone ever owns a recipe, but there are some that are just classically you. I’ve got a few of them — the aforementioned soup, a pear tarte tatin, almond chocolate chip cookies, and lemon bars — and friends request them regularly. So, when I heard bars, I though of my turn-to  lemon version. Blueberries instead of lemon? Do I need to ask?

And then, of course, crumb topping. Yes, definitely with crumb topping. A brown butter crumb topping. With all these recipes scattered across my screen, I set to work. While I mixed and browned and baked, I scrawled a few notes, taking an ingredient from here, a technique from there. A little cornmeal in the crust. A lot of lemon in the blueberries. And that nutty brown butter in the crumb.

And voilà. Introducing blueberry cornmeal brown butter crumb bars. Pull up a chair.

Blueberry cornmeal brown butter crumb bars

This recipe is based on my lemon bars with their cornmeal crunch. I then added a brown butter crumb topping, inspired by une gamine dans la cuisine. If you haven’t browned butter before, what are you waiting for? Brownies? Blondies? Squash? Yes, yes, and yes. 

Makes 9-16 squares

For the crust:

- 1 C sifted flour

- 1/2 C fine yellow cornmeal

-  pinch salt

- 1/8 t baking soda

- 3 T unsalted butter (room temperature)

- 1/3 C white sugar

- 1 egg

- 1 T yogurt

- 1/4 t vanilla extract

For the filling:

- 3 C blueberries (fresh or frozen)

- 3 T white sugar

- 3 t cornstarch

- 1 lemon for zest and juice

For the crumb topping:

- 6 T unsalted butter

- 1/3 C brown sugar

- 1/2 C flour

- 1/4 C fine cornmeal

- a pinch or two of salt

Prepare. Preheat oven to 350ºF and put a rack in the upper 1/3 of the oven. Grease an 8X8 square pan with vegetable oil or line it with parchment.

Make crust. Stir together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. Beat butter in another bowl until creamy (I use my mixer). Add the 1/3 C sugar and beat for about a minute until smooth. Beat in the egg, yogurt, and vanilla. Add in the dry ingredients and beat on low until just combined. The dough will be sticky, so this is going to get a little bit messy. Scoop the dough into the pan, spread it around evenly (I just did this with wet fingers), and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top gets just starts to brown.

Make the filling. While the crust is baking, mix together the blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest and juice.

Make the topping. To brown the butter, cook it in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter starts to foam. After about 5 minutes, the butter will start to brown as the milk solids cook. Once you see little brown specks (the solids), take the butter off the heat. It should smell nutty. In a bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, cornmeal, and salt. Then pour the browned butter over it and mix everything together.

Put it all together and bake.  When the crust comes out of the oven, pour the filling over the top (it should be a magenta color by now!) and then crumble the topping over the blueberries. Bake for another 20-30 minutes until the topping sets — it won’t change color much, so you’ll have to test the firmness with your fingers.

Serve. It’s best to let bars to cool completely before cutting if you want everything to be neat. If you can’t wait, try to hold off for at least 5 minutes before digging in.

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Enough chit-chat. Let’s cook, shall we?

See that up there? The New York Times calls it barley soup with mushrooms and kale. Barley soup with mushrooms.

If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’re thinking: why isn’t it called mushroom barley soup with kale?

Is it barley-er than the classic soup? Is it less mushroom-y? No and no. The mushroom and barley get equal billing here (and share very nicely with supporting actor kale). Which really should make it mushroom barley soup with kale.

If I had to compare it to what I know of mushroom barley soup, I’d say it’s, well, soupier.

Maybe we should call it soup with barley, mushrooms, and kale.

But that just sounds odd, don’t you think?

Barley soup with mushrooms and kale

I adapted this recipe from the New York Times, skipping the dried mushrooms and upping the garlic. I’m still working up the guts to use regular kale, but for now I’m dipping my toe in with the more tender baby kale. Be patient with me, people, be patient. I’m getting there. 

So here’s the thing: I’ve never been a fan of mushroom  barley soup – it always seemed thick and slimy. But this one is, as I said before, soupier. And it’s good. Good enough that I ate it for lunch four days in a row. As it sits in the fridge, the barley will absorb more of the liquid, so you’ll have to add some liquid (I just used water) to thin the soup a bit. To keep it bright, I squeezed some lemon and chopped some parsley after re-heating. Admittedly, by day four, I was happy to see the bottom of the pot.

Serves 4-6

- 1-2 T olive oil

- 1 large onion

- 1/2 lb cremini mushrooms (sometimes called baby portabellas)

- 4 cloves garlic

- 2 qt (8 C) water

- 3/4 C pearl barley

- a handful of fresh parsley, divided

- a few sprigs thyme

- parmesan rind

- 5 oz baby kale

- lemon for juice

- kosher salt and black pepper

Chop, cook, and stir. Cover the bottom of a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven with the olive oil and heat over medium until shimmering. While the oil is heating, chop the onion and thickly slice the mushrooms. Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring frequently until just tender (don’t let it brown), about 5 minutes. Then add the mushrooms, continuing to stir for another 3 minutes or so until they start to soften and release their moisture. Mince the garlic and add it to the pot with a good pinch of salt. Cook and stir for another 5 minutes until the mushrooms start to reabsorb their moisture and the whole mix dries out.

Simmer. Add the water, barley, a few sprigs each of parsley and thyme, and parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes. The barley won’t yet be cooked through.

Slice. Stack the kale leaves in bunches and slice crosswise into slivers.

Keep simmering. Add the kale to the simmering soup and continue to simmer, covered,  for another 15-20 minutes.

Serve. Remove the parsley and thyme sprigs, taste for salt and pepper, and stir in a few squeezes of lemon. Chop the remaining parsley and sprinkle a pinch over each bowl.

Store. The soup should keep in the fridge for a few days, but the barley will absorb liquid. Just add a bit more water before you reheat to get the right consistency. Don’t forget the lemon and parsley. I suspect that the soup also freezes well.

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It all started with apples.

Poor apples. They’ve had a rough go at it this year, and I missed apple picking. Unless you were on the ball, you probably missed apple picking around here too. Luckily, two of the farms at my Monday market still proudly display a full range of red and green and yellow beauties. I buy them in twos and threes and they hold me over until the next week.

My favorite varieties are Jonagold and Honeycrisp. In the afternoon, I pull out a paring knife and balance the dull side of its blade against my thumb, pushing through the rough, unwaxed skin and covering a plate with apple slivers. I pair the slices with a spoonful of sweet creamy peanut butter. Sometimes two spoonfuls.

Last week, I barely saw home, and the apples piled up. I had enough for a tarte tatin. But a tarte tatin can’t be eaten alone, so I invited a group over for dinner.

The group grew to ten, the tarte grew to two, and the apples, well, I no longer had enough of them. A quick run to the store for a few more apples, and dinner was on the way.

The guests arrived and we crowded around the table for eight set for ten.

It was a simple dinner. We started with soup. Next up, a kale salad with roasted beets and orange. Another salad brought by a friend. And a tortilla española* that was a last-minute addition when I realized soup and salad might not be enough.

Shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip, we drank wine and prosecco out of tumblers.

Ten soup bowls were swiped with bread, ten plates were scraped with knives. When I rose for seconds, I found on the buffet (also known as a microwave cart hastily cleared moments before everyone arrived) a few kale leaves swimming in a large bowl, a cube of avocado embracing a spoon, and a Molly scratching the last few dark bits of egg and potato stuck to a 14-inch (!) pan.

“Did I not make enough?” I whispered. Molly solemnly nodded.

I looked around. My guests were sprawled on the sofa, chairs, and floor.

Retreating to the kitchen, I pulled out the tarte tatins, apples still tucked under crusts whose edges were tinged with sticky scarlet pomegranate caramel. I covered each pan – first the blue skillet, then the orange – with a plate and flipped. I expected an apple or two to latch on to the skillets. I didn’t expect some of the apples to have turned into circles of mush. I guess a few of my mismatched apples** were better for sauce than pie.

I hid in the kitchen for a few moments, thinking. I spooned the clinging apples and mush from the skillets and arranged them as artfully as I could.

A smile on my face and a Times article in my head, I emerged with a tarte in each hand. “Pomegranate applesauce tarte tatin for dessert!”

* The tortilla española. A tortilla española is a Spanish potato omelette, similar to an Italian frittata. I followed Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to Cook Everything (the yellow cover).  For the recipe from the updated version of Bittman’s book of the same name (the red cover) , check out Molly’s story of her trip to Spain. Let me know if you’re interested in the version I made – I’ll gladly whip another tortilla and report back to you.

** The apples. I used a mix of market- and store-bought apples that included Mutsu, Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Gala, and Granny Smith. I did a  bit of research and I think the Honeycrisps were the sauce culprits.

Pomegranate apple(sauce) tarte tatin

Tarte tatin is a traditional French upside-down caramelized apple tart. Still obsessed with pomegranate, I found a recipe that combines this tart fruit with this sweet tarte (hehe!). I cut the sugar down to 1/2 cup and the tarte was still plenty sweet. I know that the recipe might seem daunting – make caramel? flip over a burning hot skillet?  – but if I can do it, so can you. I’ve made tarte tatins with pears and tomatoes, and there are a bunch of things I’ve picked up along the way.

First, the caramel. It’s pretty easy to burn the caramel, so you need to watch it closely. If you’re afraid the caramel is starting to burn, take the skillet off the heat immediately and assess the situation: let things cool down a bit, dip a fork in the caramelizing syrup, and carefully taste it. Carefully because you don’t want to burn your tongue. A slight burnt flavor – think crême brulée – is fine, but if you taste smoke, start over.

Then, the flip. The tarte will be prettier if you flip it just out of the oven. Get out your oven mitts and extra kitchen towels. Place a plate on top of the pan and cover the plate with a towel. Grasp the pan-plate-towel pile with oven mitted-hands, hold your breath for a moment, and turn the whole thing over. Some caramel might spill out onto the towel, but you’ll be fine because your hands will be protected. If you want to wait until the tarte cools, it will turn out almost as pretty, but a few apples will probably stick to the skillet. Just scoop them off and put them back on the tarte. 

1 pie crust or puff pastry (I make this sweet pâte sucrée or pâte brisée, or just buy puff pastry)

- 1 1/2 C pomegranate juice or 1/2 C pomegranate molasses/pomegranate syrup (thickened pure pomegranate juice; don’t bother with the ones that add sugar)

- 4-8 of  your favorite baking apples, depending on size (you want enough to fit tightly into your skillet); for me, the most reliable are Granny Smith

- 1/4 C (1/2 stick) butter (or margarine for a non-dairy tarte)

- 1/2 C sugar

- large pinch kosher salt

Prep. Preheat oven to 400ºF and let pie crust/puff pastry come to room temperature.

Reduce. Bring the pomegranate juice to a boil until it reduces by a third (down to 1/2 cup ) into a thick syrup. If you use purchased pomegranate molasses/syrup, you don’t need to boil anything.

Slice. Peel and core the apples, then slice into halves or quarters. I like halves, but you can fit more apples in if you use quarters.

Caramelize. Melt butter in a heavy oven proof 9- or 10-inch skillet and then sprinkle evenly with sugar. Cook over medium heat without stirring until the mixture begins to bubble all over and turns lightly golden. This should take about 3 minutes. Remove from  heat.

Cook. Tightly fill the skillet with apples, cut side up,  and sprinkle with salt. Keep in mind, the apples will shrink as they cook and you might be able to slip  in a few more slices midway. Return the skillet to medium heat and cook the apples without stirring  until a thick, deep amber syrup bubbles up between the fruit. (OK, even though you’re supposed to leave the caramel alone to do its thing, I usually flip the apples once or twice to make sure they soak up the caramel evenly. Just make sure to leave the cut ends up because when you flip the tart, you’ll want the rounded sides facing the top.) This will take about 20 minutes. Pour the pomegranate syrup over the apples – the mixture will bubble up. Cook until the juices further thicken. The apples will be a deep burgundy color. Remove from heat. With a spatula, make sure that the apples are tightly packed.

Tuck. Roll out the crust between two sheets of wax paper into a circle one inch larger than the skillet (i.e., leave an extra inch all around). Slide the crust over the skillet and tuck it in around the apples and at the edges of the skillet. The crust doesn’t have to be perfect because you’re going to flip it over anyway. Cut a few slits in the crust to let air escape.

Bake. Bake the tarte until the crust browns and the juices at the edge are thick and scarlet in color. This takes 25-30 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and let cool for five minutes minute. (If you let the tarte cool for too long, the caramel will thicken and the apples are more likely to stick to the pan. But if you’re nervous, just flip it later.)

Flip. Place a large plate over the skillet. Using oven mitts and kitchen towels, hold the skillet and plate together and carefully flip over the tarte. Lift the skillet — if any apples are stuck to the skillet, just put them back into place on the crust. Let the tarte cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

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