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Archive for the ‘breakfast’ Category

I realize that these scones might not look like much.

There’s no shiny glaze, no bright fruits dotting the surface, but scrolling past these unassuming little lumps of baked dough would be a mistake.

They’re the most breakfast-y of scones I’ve ever known. And though I’ve never tried hot oatmeal – there’s just something about the texture that turns me off – I imagine that anyone raised on the stuff will find a familiar cozy feeling with each nibble. The scones are grounded in a healthy dose of oats, nearly as much oat as flour, which gives them heft without density. They get their sweetness from maple syrup (it’s in season right now, so go out and grab a gallon of fresh grade B), so they taste and smell of nectar and nature. Toasted pecans lend a buttery crunch. And then there’s butter and cream to round it all out.

Also, they take just a few minutes to throw together. In the time it takes to pre-heat your oven (mind you, mine takes ten minutes), you’ll have toasted and chopped the pecans, rubbed butter into flour, whisked maple into cream, mixed wet ingredients into dry, and scooped up these unremarkable looking lumps of dough. But bake these little guys up, and you’ll believe me when I say they’re all that.

No bag of chips necessary.

oatmeal maple pecan scones

Oatmeal maple pecan scones

Adapted from Flour, but just barely. I skipped the raisins and glaze in the original recipe, and made much smaller scones which reduced the baking time from 40 minutes to 25. Make sure to toast the pecans – I scatter them on a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven while it’s heating up. As for the maple syrup, buy grade B which is darker and mapley-er than grade A. You can also freeze the unbaked scones: scoop out the dough, freeze them on a baking sheet, and wrap them well in plastic. Then bake them straight from the freezer, adding about 5 minutes to the baking time. 

Makes 2 dozen small scones

- 3/4 – 1 C pecans (I used halves, but feel free to use pre-chopped)

- 1 1/2 C flour

- 1 1/4 C old-fashioned rolled oats

- 1 1/2 t baking powder

- 1/4 t baking soda

- 1/4 t kosher salt

- 1/2 C cold unsalted butter

- 1/3 C cold heavy cream

- 1/2 C maple syrup

- 1 cold egg

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Toast. Scatter the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven while it’s preheating. This should take less than 10 minutes – the pecans are done when they color slightly and you can smell their nuttiness. Once the pecans have cooled, chop them.

Mix. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix together the flour, oats, baking powder, and baking soda on low-speed for 10 to 15 seconds, or until just combined. Cut the cold butter into small cubes and scatter into the bowl. Mix on low-speed for about 30 seconds on low-speed, or until the butter is somewhat broken down and grape-sized pieces are still visible. (Or just dig your hands in and rub the butter into the flour with your fingers).

Whisk. In a small bowl, whisk together the cream, maple syrup, and egg until thoroughly mixed.

Mix again. On low speed, pour the cream mixture into the flour-butter mixture and mix for 20-30 seconds or just until the dough comes together. It will be fairly wet and you will still be able to see some pieces of butter. Stir in the cooled chopped pecans.

Scoop. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop dough – about 3 tablespoons per scone – onto the parchment. I used a tablespoon-sized scooper and mounded one heaping tablespoon on top of another heaping tablespoon. A regular tablespoon and a gentle nudge with your finger will work just fine here as well. At this point, I slipped half of the scooped dough onto a baking sheet and into the freezer, eventually packing them up in a few plastic bags.

oatmeal maple pecan scones, scooped and frozen, ready to be baked

Bake. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown on top. If you’re taking the dough straight from the freezer, baking will take about 30 minutes.

Store. The scones are best on the day they’re baked. However, if you can’t eat every last one, wrap up the leftovers and freeze them. I love them straight from the freezer; otherwise they thaw in just a few minutes.

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by my count

Look what arrived in the mail.

Picked with love from Evan and Mia

They were preceded by an email from Joanne:

“lemons arriving friday!!!!!!  organic, pesticide free, california meyer lemons picked just for you by child labor. enjoy!!!!!”

Here’s Evan.

Evan going to the post office

He and his sister Mia are the child laborers. The last time I saw Evan, he and I picked lemons together. Now he’s big enough to pack them up and take them to the post office.

Jo said he only dropped the box twice.

meyer lemon and fresh cranberry scones, ready for the oven

The lemons, all twenty-five of them, arrived swaddled in towels and perfectly intact.

Two went straight into these scones, dotted with chopped cranberries that I froze a little while ago. By my count, that leaves me with twenty-three more.

What would you make if you had a wealth of Meyer lemons? Because right now I feel like the wealthiest woman alive. Thanks Jo!

meyer lemon and fresh cranberry scones

Meyer lemon and cranberry scones

Adapted from Gourmet. I used some cranberries that I froze a few months ago (via Smitten Kitchen) and made a lemon glaze to cut the sweetness (via White on Rice Couple). Without cream on hand, I made a milk (1%) and Greek yogurt (2%) mixture. The resulting dough was more liquid-y than most scone doughs are, and they spread as they baked, but they were still delicious. I used a 1/4 cup ice cream scoop because forming by hand was too difficult. Next time, I’ll make these with blueberries (I also have a large bag in the freezer)

While I generally like to bake things that will keep for a few days, these are truly best right out of the oven and you’ll want to eat them within a day of baking. Shouldn’t be a problem, but you may need to invite a few friends over. If you think you’ll have too many, freeze half the raw dough. 

Makes 18-20 2-inch scones

- 2 Meyer lemons for zest (~2 T) and juice (~1/4 C)

- 2 1/2 C all-purpose flour

- 1/2 C plus 3 T white sugar, divided

- 1 T baking powder

- 1/2 t salt

- 1 stick (8 T or 1/4 C) cold unsalted butter

- 1 large egg

- 1 large egg yolk

- 1/2 C Greek yogurt (I used 2% fat)

- 1/2 C milk (I used 1% fat)

- 1 1/4 C fresh cranberries

- 3 – 4 T confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Pulse. In a food processor, pulse together the lemon zest, flour, 1/2 cup of white sugar, baking powder, and salt until it resembles a coarse meal. Cut the cold butter into small cubes and add to the processor bowl, pulsing a few more times.

Mix. Whisk the eggs, yogurt, and milk.

Pulse again. Add the liquid mix to the processor bowl, and pulse until the dough just comes together.

Chop. Coarsely chop the cranberries and mix with 3 tablespoons of white sugar in a bowl.

Stir. Stir the cranberries into the dough.

Scoop. Cover 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Use a 1/4-cup scoop (or a measuring cup with a spoon for nudging) to drop dough on to the parchment, leaving at least 1 inch between scone since they’ll spread a bit.

Bake. Bake the scones for 15 – 20 minutes until light golden.

Brush. While the scones are cooling, whisk together the lemon juice and confectioners sugar to make a glaze. I only used 3 tablespoons because I didn’t want the glaze to be too sweet. Brush the cooled scones with the glaze.

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the rest

I’m catching up on my NPR over here, this time a Splendid Table broadcast from a few weeks ago. (Listen to the first 9 minutes or read the transcript here.) It’s a conversation with Penny De Los Santos, photographer extraordinaire. I almost wrote food photographer, but, when you hear her talking, you realize that she doesn’t just photograph food, she captures moments and feelings.

So I flipped through the pages of this blog. I’d say I mostly shot food. Nice food, but food nonetheless. I take pictures I think are pretty, that demonstrate a method, that show you what your breakfast-lunch-dinner-snack-dessert might look like if you try out a recipe. The blog is largely recipes with a little life thrown in. Often I struggle with talking about that life. Or photographing it.

I do sometimes photograph moments. A shared lunch, a week on another coast, a long day. But the majority of my photos feel like this, inside:

I’m standing on a chair, alone in my apartment, taking pictures of something I’ve made.

Most of the time, you’ll see a single piece of something that I’m eating. Alone.

Usually, I’m bringing the rest to friends.

So, today I tried to focus on the rest. The best part.

Not that cooking – the tap-tap as you chop potatoes, the tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap as you chop herbs, the rising of a cake, the wiping your hands on a towel (or, if you’re me, on your jeans), the digging your hands in — isn’t the best. But it’s not enough. And I’d like my pictures to express that more.

So, as I try to write in a different way, I’ll also experiment with photographing in a different way.

(Non-dairy) skillet cornbread with cayenne

I was searching for a non-dairy cornbread to bring’s to a friend’s dinner, and Elisha came to the rescue with a recipe that doesn’t require milk substitutes or margarine.

(A few other people suggested using coconut oil. Barella, a high school classmate, even offered to send me a recipe for a “vegan butter spread made with coconut oil, flax oil, and agave nectar among other things”. Clearly she remembers me from my overly ambitions teen years.)

There’s a little bit of magic in this recipe. You purée the corn with oil and water and eggs, which creates a creamy replacement for the milk or buttermilk that most recipes use. You don’t miss the buttery taste because the corn taste is nice as strong. I don’t like whole corn kernels in my cornbread, but if you do, feel free to throw an extra cup or so into the batter. I also added a bit of cayenne for a little heat at the end of each bite. I increased the recipe by half because I only had a large (11-inch skillet); the original calls for a 9-inch skillet, so check out Elisha’s blog for the right measurements if you have that size.

Finally, I have a few words on technique. It will probably take your oven a while to heat. You might be tempted to mix all of the ingredients together and then wait. Do the opposite – wait until the oven reaches the right temperature, and then blend everything together. Cornbread is a quick bread and it rises due the chemical reaction of baking powder and liquid (and eggs). Once you mix the wet and dry ingredients, you’ll notice bubbles. You don’t want all the bubbles to form and break before they hit the oven of you’ll get a flat dense bread. (Ever tried to make pancakes from yesterday’s batter? They’re thin and tough. Same reason). So, mix up the dry ingredients, puree the corn with the wet ingredients and just barely stir everything together right before you pour it into the skillet.

Now, about that pan. You want the pan to be really hot before you add the batter so you’ll get a nice sizzle. Keep in in the oven while it’s heating up. Then take it out (oven mitts, don’t forget oven mitts), grease with a little oil and add the batter. I let my pan cool down a bit too long, so I stuck the filled pan on a burner for a few minutes to make sure the bottom would get nice and crisp.

Ok, finally, on to the recipe. It’s much easier than the length of my notes would have you believe.

Serves 8-10

- 2 1/2 C flour

- 1 3/4 C fine cornmeal

- 1/2 C coarse cornmeal

- 1/4 C sugar

- 2 t salt

- 2 t baking powder

- 1/2 t cayenne pepper

- 1 C corn kernels (I used frozen and thawed them before use)

- 2 C less 2 T water

- 5 T oil (I used canola), divided

- 3 eggs

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Place a large oven-proof cast-iron skillet on the middle rack. 

Mix. In a large bowl, mix together flour, both cornmeals, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cayenne. Set aside.

Purée. Place the corn, water and 3 tablespoons of oil into a blender (or food processor) and puree for about 2 minutes until it’s smooth and no corn pieces remain. Add the eggs and continue to blend everything together.

Wait. Wait until the oven is hot before adding the wet ingredients to the dry.

Stir. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Stir until all the ingredients are incorporated (don’t over-mix), scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure you don’t miss any flour.

Swirl. Take the skillet out of the oven (don’t forget the oven mitts!) and pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, swirling so that it coats the bottom and sides of the skillet. Pour the batter into the skillet – is should sizzle as it hits the hot pan.

Bake. Bake for 20-25 minutes. I broiled it for the last few minutes to get a golden brown top. Serve warm right out of the pan. Again, oven mitts. Don’t forget the oven mitts.

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in focus

She stopped, mid-snap, lens nearly abutting the plate. My camera broke, she said.

Your camera broke? he said.

I don’t know. Yes. Maybe. Do you hear this? It clicks when it’s supposed to focus.

Nah, I don’t hear anything.

She twisted off the lens and twisted on another one. Please focus, please focus, please focus, she whispered.

It focused. OK, she announced, it’s not the camera, it’s the lens.

The lens? he said.

The lens.

How’d it break? he said.

I don’t know.

Are you sure it’s the lens?

Yes.

She pointed the camera out the window and depressed the button halfway. With a whirring sound, the lens zoomed forward and back. Hear that? she said. See that? It made a zooming sound. It moved.

Yes.

OK, let’s try the other lens, the one that didn’t work a few seconds ago.

She twisted off the lens and twisted on the first one. Please focus, please focus, please focus, she whispered.

She pointed the camera down the hall and depressed the button halfway. Click. The lens stayed put.

OK, it’s definitely the lens which is good. But, she said looking at him, this is the lens. The darling of all food bloggers lens. The lens.

She twisted off the lens. Squinting, she held it up to her eye and moved it forward and back until his face came into focus. Upside-down, but in focus.

You have manual override on the lens? he asked.

Yes, on the camera.

On the lens?

No, on the camera. I think. I don’t know. Maybe I should get the manual. Maybe I should read the manual, she muttered.

He took the lens. He turned it around in his hands. He fiddled with the rings, the ones that spin, the ones that don’t budge. He pulled, he prodded. The lens didn’t move.

She turned away to tap on her computer, downloading the manual.

He tapped her shoulder. I think I got it.

Really?

Yeah.

Really?

Try it.

She twisted the lens back on. She took a few steps back and pointed the camera at his hands. She half  pressed the button. His hands came into focus. She exhaled and smiled. She turned the camera away from her face, pointed to the right and pushed the button again, watching the lens move forward and back.

You fixed it!

Yeah, I fix shit. Can we eat now?

Tortilla española

As I mentioned in my last post, tortilla española is a Spanish potato omelette, similar to an Italian frittata. I adapted Mark Bittman’s recipe in How to Cook Everything (the yellow cover).  My tortilla differs from the traditional Spanish dish in a few ways. In Spain, the tortilla is more egg than potato, is very light in color, and is flipped over onto a plate so that it looks like a thin, slightly domed cake. I brown my potatoes, add parsley, and serve my tortilla right out of the skillet. Recipes generally either call for russet (“Idaho”) or thin-skinned potatoes – I tried both and preferred the russets (over fingerlings). 

While we’re talking about following recipes (or, more accurately, not following recipes), check out this recent NYTimes article about Chris Kimball of Cook’s Illustrated and his philosophy of the art vs science of cooking. If you want an authentic tortilla española and are good at following recipes, check out my friend Molly’s recipe or a couple of others I found online here and here

Serves 4, at least.

- 2 – 3 medium-sized russet potatoes

- salt and pepper, to taste

- 1/3 C olive oil

- 1 large onion

- 2 cloves garlic

- 6 eggs (or more, depending on how much potato you have)

- 1 bunch parsley

- 1 t hot paprika

Slice.  Cut the potatoes width-wise into 1/8-inch slices (don’t bother peeling them). I use a mandoline on the 3-mm setting. If you don’t have one, get out a sharp knife and a cutting board and slice the potatoes as thinly as you can.

Cook. Over medium-high, heat the oil in a large skillet (I used a 10-inch one; non-stick is best) until shimmering. Pile the potatoes into the skillet – it’ll be pretty crowded. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Every few minutes, turn the potatoes over carefully, bringing some of the top layer down to the bottom, and trying not to break them (too much), until the potatoes soften and start to brown. This should take about 20 minutes. Traditional recipes suggest that you not brown the potatoes, but I prefer them a bit crispy, almost like hash browns. If you notice your potatoes browning, and you want to make a tortilla that could be served in a tapas bar, turn down the heat.

Slice again. While the potatoes are cooking, use your mandoline/knife to slice the onion into very thin half-moons. Mince the garlic.

Preheat.  Around now, you’ll want to turn on your oven to 375°F.

Keep cooking. Add the onions to the potatoes, continuing to turn everything over every few minutes, and cook for another 10 minutes. Then add the garlic and mix everything together again, cooking for another 2 minutes. If you’re counting, that’s 32 minutes on the stove top.

NOTE. The original recipe suggests that you take the potatoes out of the skillet and cook the onions and garlic on their own. I didn’t want to dirty another bowl, but it probably would have made my life easier. If you are going to do that, here’s the deal: After cooking the potatoes for 20 minutes, transfer them to a bowl. Pour a bit more oil into the skillet and cook the onions for about 10 minutes. Then add the garlic and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Then, add back the potatoes and mix everything together, letting it cook together for another 5 minutes.

Beat. In a bowl, beat the eggs. Finely chop the parsley and add 1/2 cup of it to the eggs along with the paprika.

Shake. Once the potatoes are tender – try one, it should taste good – turn the heat to low and pour the egg into the skillet. Shake the skillet around to distribute the eggs. (If it looks like you don’t have enough egg, quickly beat another one or two with the parsley left in the bowl, and pour it into the skillet.) Gently lift the potatoes here and there so that the egg can get into all the nooks and crannies. Then let everything cook for about 5 minutes until the edges of the eggs begin to set.

Bake. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the eggs are set, around 10 more minutes.

Serve. Let the tortilla cool to room temperature. I like to slice up the tortilla right in the pan.

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Welcome to week 2 of my cooking techniques course. Last week was knife skills. This week, eggs.

Of course, I walked into class this morning with all of my very very very dull knives to sharpen. Brian, one of the school’s purchasing managers and my new best friend, sharpened all my knives for me. But more on that later.

First, let’s get to the food.

A few tidbits about eggs. The fresher the egg, the thicker and more dense the white (“albumen”) and the more prominent the little umbilical cord (“chalazae”). To check for freshness before cracking, place in a glass of water – if it sinks it’s fresh; if it floats, that means that the air cell (that little bubble you sometimes see in hard-cooked eggs) is big and the egg is less fresh. Since eggs shells are gas permeable, the older the egg, the more air enters, creating a big air cell.

Always crack an egg on a flat surface (a countertop is great) to avoid getting shells in the eggs.

Separate yolks from whites using your hand rather than passing from jagged egg shell to jagged egg shell.

Eggs boil at 180ºF, water at 212ºF. So be careful when adding eggs to hot water and other liquids if you don’t want them to scramble.

Always beat egg whites at room temperature. Copper bowls are best, but if you don’t have one, add a pinch of cream of tartar or sugar to help stabilize the whites.

We cracked and cooked no less than sixty eggs, folks. That’s more than five dozen. And we definitely cracked five baker’s dozen because some of them inevitably made it into the garbage. Between the twelve of us, we pretty much ate them all. If you’re counting, that’s about 5 eggs per person.

When I was first learning to speak French, my teacher used English-French puns to help us learn pronunciation. In french, un œuf is an egg. The pronunciation is not entirely obvious, especially when  you’ve only barely mastered the alphabet. So she told us, “one egg is enough.” One egg, un œuf is pronounced like “enough.” Sort of. If you don’t think about it too hard.

Puns are never funny by the time you explain them.

Moving on and back to cooking, we started class this morning with a few egg basics.

Hard-cooked eggs.

Note, I did not say hard-boiled eggs. Because hard-cooked eggs are not boiled. Instead, you put the eggs in a single layer, add water to cover eggs by at least 1 inch, cover and bring water to a boil and then remove the pan from the heat. Let eggs stand in hot water for 10 minutes. That’s it. Run under cold water or put in an ice bath until completely cooled. A little trick – the air cell usually forms at the bottom (the fat end), and if you crack it there, it’s easier to peel because you more easily get under the shell membrane (that thin, translucent film under the shell).

Soft-cooked (“coddled”) eggs.

Same as hard-cooked, but you let the eggs stand in the water off the heat for only 4-6 minutes.

Poached eggs.

This is the basis of the eggs Benedict (no bacon for me) that my team made. In a saucepan, bring 2-3 inches of water to a boil. Here’s a trick so you don’t have to pull out your ruler: unless you have abnormally long or short fingers, your index finger is about 3 inches from tip to palm. From finger tip to second joint is about 1.5 inches. So, just stick your finger into the (not yet boiling) water to make sure you have enough (un œuf!).

Prepare a bowl of ice water next to your stove. Boil the water and then lower the heat to a simmer. Break a cold egg into a small bowl. Hold the bowl very close to the water (I actually put the bottom of the bowl into the water) and quickly tip the egg into the simmering water. Cook until the white is set and yolk begins to thicken but is not hard. This takes about 3-4 minutes. To test the egg, gently lift it out with a slotted spoon and gingerly touch the white. It should feel firm. If it’s not yet done, slip it back in to the simmering water for another 15-30 seconds. When the egg is ready, take it out of the simmering water and slide it into the ice water for about half a minute to stop the cooking. Then drain on a paper towel.

To make the eggs benedict, toast an English muffin brushed with butter, top with poached egg and then hollandaise (see below). If you’re eating bacon/ham, put it between the muffin and egg.

Next, we moved on to egg-based “mother sauces.” The main components of hollandaise and mayonnaise are egg yolk, fat, acid, and an emulsifying aid. Hollandaise is a cooked sauce, mayonnaise is uncooked. Hollandaise uses butter, lemon juice, and cayenne. Mayonnaise uses oil, lemon juice or vinegar, and mustard (dry or prepared). After mixing the yolks with the acid and emulsifier, add the fat very slowly. Really slowly. Teaspoon by teaspoon, and whisk to incorporate in between additions. You can increase the amount of fat towards the end, adding a tablespoon at a time. Season with salt and pepper and other flavorings at the end.

Hollandaise. 

Melt 8 ounces butter.  In a saucepan, mix together 1/4 C water 2 T lemon juice and a pinch of cayenne pepper and reduce over medium heat down to 2 T. Why take 2 T lemon juice, dilute it, and then reduce it back to 2 T? Here’s the deal:  heating an acid activates it, so you need to dilute it with water so it’s not too strong, but you only want about 2 T of acid for the sauce. Cool slightly, and whisk in 3 egg yolks over very low heat until the mix is thick and creamy. Remove from heat and pour warm melted butter in teaspoon by teaspoon, whisking constantly. If the sauce thickens too much, add a little warm water to thin it out; if you need to reheat the sauce, add some extra water and warm over low heat, whisking periodically.

Mayonnaise.

Whisk together 2 egg yolks, 1/4 t dry mustard (or 1 t regular mustard), 1 t lemon juice or wine vinegar. Slowly whisk in 1 C vegetable oil teaspoon by teaspoon as with the hollandaise. If the mix gets too thick, add a little water or lemon juice to dilute. Add salt to taste.

A few mayo notes. The ratio of yolk:oil ranges from 1:1/2 C to 1:1 C. Commercial mayo tends to go to heavy on the oil — that’s why it’s lighter colored than ones you make at  home. If you “break” your mayonnaise, i.e., added your fat too quickly without incorporating, you can add another egg yolk and then slowly slowly whisk in more oil.

Mix cooked egg yolks with mayonnaise, mustard, and finely chopped chives and fill hard-cooked egg whites for deviled eggs.

Cheese soufflé was a masterpiece. While I wasn’t able to make this myself, I was an interloper, trying to pick up as many tips as I could.

For a soufflé, it’s important to have your “mise en place” all prepared. Greasing a soufflé dish and sprinkle with cheese. Make a collar out of aluminum foil to help the soufflé rise: rip a piece of foil long enough to wrap around the dish, and then grease top half of the foil, followed by a sprinkle of cheese. Cut a piece of string long enough to tie around the dish.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. (For a dessert soufflé, bake at 400ºF  because you want the inside to be a bit gooey.)

Then make a béchamel. In a saucepan, scald 1 C milk (it’s scalding when you stick your finger in and you yank it out because it’s too hot; no need to boil). In another saucepan, make a roux by melting 3 T butter until foam subsides and whisk in 3 T flour. Cook roux for ~ 2 minutes while whisking. Add half the scalded milk, whisk, and then add the remaining milk and whisk again. Bring to a boil while stirring, reduce down to a simmer, and cook until thickened. Then turn off the heat. Season with salt, pepper, a few grates of nutmeg and a pinch of cayenne. (Nutmeg is a great complement to dairy, making cream creamier and cheese cheesier.)

To the béchamel, add 3 egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in 1/2 C grated cheese (we used Gruyère).

Clean a copper bowl really well – wipe down with a vinegar-salt solution, rinse with water, and wipe completely dry. Beat 4 cold egg whites until stiff and glossy. (Let’s be honest…at home, I will probably just use my mixer with a pinch of cream of tartar.) Stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the cheese mixture. Then pour the cheese mixture into the egg whites. Use a spatula to fold the remaining egg whites into the cheese.

Immediately and gently, spoon the soufflé mixture into the prepared dish – fill about 1/2 inch from top. Tie the aluminum collar around the dish (cheese obviously facing in).

Bake on the bottom rack until a skewer comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Once the soufflé goes in the oven, don’t open the door for at least 20 minutes. Don’t even touch the door.

While the soufflés were baking, I brought my knives downstairs for a little sharpening. Actually I brought two blocks full of knives (one dairy, one meat) to sharpen. Actually, I brought two blocks full of knives for Brian to sharpen. After a quick inspection, he identified the five that were worth saving. He also scolded me for throwing my knives in the dishwasher.

Brian sharpened each knife on three or four surfaces and then a final honing on a steel. I watched. Well, until I heard that the soufflés were coming out of the oven and I rushed upstairs to snap a few photos.

We also made a few quiches, a frittata di cipolle (onion omelette), and pipérade and scrambled egg (a dish from the Basque region of the Pyrenees). To seal the deal, we made strawberry basil black pepper ice cream.

Luckily, we don’t have to clean all of our own dishes. Because you know how I hate to wash dishes.

Are you ready for another FrEnglish pun?

What happened when three cats fell in the lake?

Un deux trois quatre cinq

Get it? You probably know that un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq is counting from one to five in French. But in FrEnglish, you can read the first three words in French as un de trois, meaning one of three and the last two words transliterated into English as cats sank. So, what happened when the three cats fell in the lake? One of the three cats sank.

Am I the only one giggling?

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my daily bread

The food at our resort in the Dominican Republic was…

…well, it was there.

To be fair, it was plentiful. And there were some nice mangoes. And I had some lovely crêpe Suzette (the chef let me flambé them myself). But by day 2, and every day thereafter, I found myself stuffing a zip lock bag full of the corn bread served at breakfast to sustain me on the beach until dinner. Because we skipped lunch. Because there just wasn’t anything worth leaving that hammock and sunshine for.

So, let’s talk about that cornbread. Cornbread? Not really. It was more like a buttery pound cake with some corn meal thrown in for good measure. There were chocolate and strawberry versions as well, but I stuck with the original. I could fit 4, sometimes 5 slices into a zip lock bag. Bubbie would be proud!

So, imagine this. I’m wearing a little bikini, lying on a hammock on a tropical island, warmed by the sun … and eating pound cake. Actually, better to not imagine me. But you get the picture.

Cornmeal pound cake

I tried a few poundcake recipe and landed on Chocolate and Zucchini’s yogurt cake (“gateau au yaourt”).  It takes longer to pre-heat the oven than it does to mix together the ingredients.  I replace some of the flour with cornmeal to approximate the breakfast cake I had in the DR. The key here, like with pancakes, is not to overmix the batter. The cake is not nearly as rich and butter-laden as the original — and I like it even better. It’s especially great toasted and buttered.

- 1/3 C melted buter

- 2 eggs

- 1 C nonfat plain yogurt – don’t use Greek yogurt….it’s too thick

- 1 C sugar

- 1 t vanilla

- 1 1/2 C flour

- 1/2 C fine ground corn meal

- 1 1/2 t baking powder

- 1/2 t baking soda

- good pinch of salt

Prep. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease loaf pan (I used a 9X5) with spray oil (or whatever you like). Melt butter (to minimize dishes, I microwaved it right in my large mixing bowl).

Mix. Gently combine butter, eggs, yogurt, sugar and vanilla until well incorporated.

Fold. Sift into the mixing bowl flour, corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold the ingredients together until just mixed. The batter should be somewhat thick and bubbly.

Bake. Bake cake 30-35 minutes until top is golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.

Cool. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to rack. Don’t cut until fully cool.

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in the works

Hi there.

Summer’s going by fast, isn’t it?

There’s a lot of stuff in the works over here.

What started out as a little project to catalog my recipes has turned into something I’m incredibly proud of.

That’s about all that I can say right now. More later.

Blueberry oatmeal muffins

These muffins are based on the raspberry oatmeal muffins in The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook. I’ve been involved with Hadassah on and off for the past few years through their Young Hadassah International group, including traveling to Rome with them for a conference. I was even asked to contribute a few recipes to the cookbook – how cool is that?! This recipe made exactly a dozen muffins.

- 1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter

- 1/2 C brown sugar

- 1 egg

- 1/2 C milk (I used skim)

- 1 t vanilla

- 1 C flour

- 1 t baking  powder

- 1/2 t baking soda

- 1/4 t salt

- 1 C instant/quick cook oats

- 1 C fresh blueberries

Prep. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line cupcake tray with cupcake liners.

Melt and Mix. Melt butter on stovetop or in microwave. Mix with brown sugar until fully combined (I used my mixer). Add egg, milk, and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined.

Mix again. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in a few batches, mixing in between. Add oats and mix again. Add the blueberries now and mix very gently. If you want your muffins a bit neater, add the blueberries to the batter once it’s been scooped into the tins and press them down into the batter.

Scoop and Bake. Scoop the batter equally into the 12 cupcake liners. I used a 1/4 C scooper which made this a cinch. Add a few extra blueberries if you’d like. Bake 18-20 minutes. You can try to use a toothpick to test whether the muffins are done, but mine just came out blue. If the muffins are dry on top and a little bit springy, they should be good. Cool on a rack.

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this is America

Last year, I spent the Fourth in Panama (yes, yes, I know that I owe you more chronicles…they are in the works, I promise).

This year, I was back on US soil and my friend Rachela and I drove out to Berkshires for the long weekend. It was a colorful weekend on so many levels, so please bear with me as I test out my new camera to capture it all. Our adventure started with berries plucked straight from the bushes. It ended with the most non-PC gentleman you could even imagine pointing us towards the nearest gas station. In between: farm animals, a swimming hole (yes, a swimming hole), the local Independence Day parade complete with the Chesterfield Chicken and the town mime, dance, fireworks and a long line of traffic, art, a lake, and the largest popovers I have ever seen.

And just when I thought I was a little out of my comfort zone, the Israeli photographer we shared breakfast with reminded me that “this is America.”

Remember those black raspberries? Did I tell you they were picked from the bushes behind our B&B? Or that when we met the proprietor his hands were stained from his collection? Or that they starred in the muffins that made up part of our multi-course breakfast? Or that I snagged the recipe to share with you? Yes, I may be slowing down on the recipe front, but this one is well worth the wait.

Black Raspberry Muffins

Generously shared by Denise at Seven Hearths. Makes 12 muffins. You will eat them all.

- 2 C flour

- 1 T baking powder

- 1/2 t salt

- 2/3 C sugar

- 1 egg, beaten

- 1/3 C sweet butter, melted

- 1/2 C milk, warm

- 1/2 C sour cream

- 1 1/2+ C black raspberries

Pre-heat oven to 400.

Mix. Mix all dry ingredients. Add remaining ingredients except fruit and stir until just blended. DO NOT OVERSTIR. Fold fruit in lightly.

Bake. Scoop batter in lined or greased muffin tins. Bake approximately 20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 7-10 minutes and then remove.

Variation: you can substitute 1 1/2 C other fruit, but adjust the sugar (and other ingredients) accordingly:

Blackberry: 1 C sugar
Raspberry: 2/3 C sugar
Blueberry: 1/2 C sugar, 2 t lemon juice, 1 t grated lemon rind
Bing Cherry:  2/3 C sugar, 2 t grated lemon peel
Nectarine: 1/2 C sugar
Peach: 1/2 C sugar, 1 t vanilla

And it’s been a while since I shared some dance videos with you, so here are excerpts from the performance we saw.

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dream come true

How often do you have the power to make a dream come true? Well, I did it this morning. I woke up ravenous, dreaming of shakshuka. That typical Israeli breakfast of eggs atop a bed of spicy tomato sauce. Having all the ingredients in my kitchen, I whipped up my dream for a great start to the day.

Shakshuka

Not really a recipe, but just guidance as there are many variations to this dish. I like mine spicy and liberally add cumin and schug (a Yemenite mix of hot red or green peppers). Taste the sauce as you go along and make adjustments as necessary.

Heat oil in a pan and add garlic, onions, and diced peppers, sautéing until  soft. Add salt, a few pinches of cumin, and schug. Then add crushed tomatoes to fill the pan and continue to cook until heating through. When sauce is to your taste, crack two eggs into the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes until the whites are solid. If you prefer your yolks less runny, cover the pan while the eggs are cooking. Eat while still hot with some bread to soak up any leftover sauce.

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