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Archive for the ‘dairy’ Category

As everyone posts photos of their kids’ first days of school and France celebrates la rentrée, I’m still trying to wring the most out of summer. This salad is how I’m doing it.

watermelon feta salad

There have been a lot of outdoor days, but I have to say that I’ve enjoyed my fair share of reading in the air conditioning over a plate of this composed salad. It’s a classic hot-weather country pairing of crisp sweet watermelon and creamy, briny (but not too salty sheep’s) feta that I first tried in Israel. After having an Italian variation in my restaurant – we call it anguria and serve compressed melon with ricotta salata, shishito peppers, and toasted almonds – I bought my first of many watermelons this summer.

For my version, the dressing is a blitz of lemon, oil, and a big fistful of mint. The more mint, the better in my book. Toss the dressing with some arugula, arrange a few slabs of watermelon, dot with feta, and sprinkle with oven-toasted hazelnuts. Nothing to it.

In case you want some reading suggestions, here are a few of my faves from the past few weeks:

Elissa Altman on feeding her mother.

Rachel Roddy on her two Italian kitchens.

Molly Birnbaum on the late Oliver Sacks.

Happy reading, all!

watermelon feta salad

Watermelon feta salad

Serves 6

– 6 C arugula
– 3/4 C mint dressing (see below)
– 1/2 medium seedless watermelon, sliced into wedges
– 3/4 C sheep’s milk feta
– 1/4 C toasted and roughly chopped hazelnuts
– handful mint leaves, torn

Toss. Toss the arugula with half the dressing.

Arrange. Divide the dressed arugula onto plates. Lay watermelon slices artistically, and top with crumbled feta, hazelnuts, and a few mint leaves. Drizzle with remaining dressing.

Mint dressing

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

– 1/4 loosely packed mint leaves
– 1/2 C lemon juice
– 1 C olive oil
– 1 T honey
– 3/4 t salt

Mix. Use an immersion blender to mix all the ingredients together.

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Ok, so this little salad may not have much going for it in the looks department, but I had to share because it’s such a simple idea that I couldn’t not let you in on it.

cucumber avocado salad with schug

I’m in kitchen scrounging mode as I try to empty my fridge before I head out on a little trip (ok, a big trip; more on that to come), and made a list on a pink sticky of things to use up before I go: 1 zucchini, 2 stalks rhubarb, 1/2 bunch kale, 1/2 cucumber, 2 avocados, 2 cheeses (Consider Bardwell Farm’s Danby goat’s milk cheese and a sheep’s feta), yogurt, and 4 lemons.

I had bookmarked Deb’s obsessively good avocado cucumber salad a while back and was excited that I had the two key ingredients in the title. I started chopping things into cubes before I bothered to read the rest of the list. Here’s how that went (I’m sure you’ve been here too):

Mayo. Nope.

Lime. Nope.

Hot sauce. Yup, several.

Cilantro or parsley. Nope, nope.

I craved the combination of creamy – spicy – fresh and I needed to do some major substitutions fast. Yogurt for mayo. Lemon for lime. I had Sriracha, which is what Deb recommends,  but I was getting caught up in wanting herbs. I almost, almost, ran out to buy some parsley. And then, I remembered I had schug.

Earlier this year, my friend Adeena had given me a jar of this Yemenite hot sauce, green with cilantro and little peppers, piquant with garlic, cumin, and a dash of cardamom.  The recipe is Gil Hovav’s – he’s an Israeli chef and writer and all-around fun character – and he made a huge batch in Adeena’s kitchen a few months ago when they had a series of Yemenite pop-up dinners. (The recipe says you can store schug refrigerated up to 3 weeks, but I’ve had mine for months with no sign of spoilage.  Use that information as you will.)

I’d eaten schug before, typically in Israel where it and Moroccan harissa are served alongside falafel. Both are referred to by the generic Hebrew word harif – spicy – and I like to dribble a little of each into a hummus- and salad-filled pita. Halfway through my sandwich, I would go back for more. It never occurred to me to use it in other ways until Adeena served it alongside an ooze-y round of brie and a scattering of super thin crackers. I repeated this cheese plate combo at my own birthday celebration.

Thinking about how well the schug went with dairy, it seemed a good option to mix with yogurt in my salad, with the added benefit of well preserved, once fresh herbs. So, I scooped out some Greek yogurt, stirred in a timid dash of schug and a pinch of salt, thinned it out with lemon juice and olive oil, and then, after tasting, added another good dollop of schug – just enough to set my tongue tingling but not so much that it would overtake the cooling cucumber and velvety avocado.

cucumber avocado salad with schug

PS – Schug is great smeared on bread and topped with a fried egg. Mmmm….

PPS – I’ve used up the rhubarb too with these little rhubarb almond cakes. I followed the recipe more or less as is, using almond flour instead of grinding my own and reducing the baking time to 45 minutes or so for a dozen 4-inch little tart pans.

rhubarb almond cakes

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to will

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Just a few days after I made only a small dent in my coconut stash, I started another baking project. This one was a bit of a potschke, a bit of a fuss, that required several steps over the course of two days. I was reviewing Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love for the Forward and found myself deep in the rugelach chapter. That’s right, people, an entire chapter on rugelach and their similarly-made, differently-shaped Polish cousins, kolatchkes. (Don’t the Kolatchkes sound like a nice family you’d like to have over for dinner? I would definitely invite them.)

In the introduction to her book, Mindy writes “Spring is here only after I’ve made strawberry rhubarb rugelach.” With the weather we were having, I was ready to do anything to will spring on. Anything. Even spend two days making cookies.

So, I picked up a few pounds of strawberries. No, not the ones below – these I snagged this morning at the farmers market (!!!) – but a plastic box of uniformly red, decent enough berries.

strawberries

I grabbed a couple stalks of rhubarb, also from the grocery store, and heated them up with the berries. Everything mushed together, eventually slumping into a soft pot of preserves, sweet with berries, tart with rhubarb, and just enough sugar to help the grocery store produce along.

strawberry rhubarb preserves

Want a closer look?

strawberry rhubarb preserves

Whoa, that’s close.

I pulsed together an oatmeal streusel crumble.

Mindy Segal's oatmeal streusel

And made a cream cheese dough that I covered with fruit and sprinkled with streusel.

 Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

I sliced the dough into triangles. OK, officially, those are trapezoids.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Then rolled them up.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

And covered them with more streusel.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

And popped them in the oven.

Through the glass, I could see the dough puffing and browning and falling. The pink fruit bubbling and leaking from its spiraled home.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Out of the oven, the rugelach cooled, and dribs and drabs of caramelized preserves hardened into edges of brittle.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

The dough was soft and flakey, ribboned with pucker-y berries, and punctuated by nubbins of crispy streusel.

I thought about eating them all. Myself. But I didn’t. I shared.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love. I’ve modified the order of the steps and some of the language to best reflect how I made the rugelach. The recipe is long, so make sure to read through the whole thing through before starting.

There are a lot of components to make here and many ingredients require chilling, so I made these over the course of two days. On the morning of day 1, I macerated the fruit and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours. Later that evening, I cooked down the fruit preserves and then prepared the cream cheese dough, chilling it overnight. On day 2, I made the oatmeal crumble and then assembled and baked off the rugelach. 

Makes 48 rugelach

For the cookies:

– 1 recipe Classic Cream Cheese Dough (see below), divided in half and chilled
– 1 recipe Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves (see below)
– 2 cups Oatmeal Streusel (see below)
– cooking spray
– 1 egg white, lightly beaten
– ¼ cup granulated sugar

Roll out. Put a sheet of parchment paper the same dimensions as a half sheet (13 by 18-inch) pan on the work surface and dust lightly with flour. Remove one dough half from the refrigerator (it should have been chilling for at least 2 hours and should be pretty solid) and place on top. Using a rolling pin and a pastry roller, roll the dough half into a rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border from the edge of the parchment paper. The dough should be just shy of ¼-inch thick. If the edges become uneven, push a bench scraper against the sides to straighten them out. To keep the dough from sticking to the parchment paper, periodically dust the top lightly with flour, cover with another piece of parchment paper, and, sandwiching the dough between both sheets of parchment paper, flip the dough and paper over. Peel off the top layer of parchment paper and continue to roll. Repeat with the second dough half.

Chill. Stack both sheets of dough on top of each other and refrigerate until chilled, approximately 30 minutes.

Heat. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a few half sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.

Fill. Invert the sheets of dough onto the work surface and peel off the top sheet
of parchment paper. For each sheet of dough, spread ¾ cup of strawberry rhubarb preserves in a thin, even layer across the surface. Sprinkle approximately ½ cup of streusel per sheet over the preserves. Trim the edges.

Slice. Using a dough cutter or a pizza cutter, divide the sheet in half lengthwise into two long strips. Working with one strip at a time and moving crosswise, cut out triangles with flat tips, with each base approximately 1½ inches wide and each tip approximately ¼-inch wide. Shoot for 12 triangles per strip.

Roll up. Using an offset spatula or dough cutter, separate a triangle away from the rest of the dough. Starting from the base, roll the dough 
up like a crescent roll. Place tip-side down on the prepared sheet pan and repeat with the remaining triangles, spacing them on the pans 1 inch apart. Brush the tops with the egg white and sprinkle with the sugar. Sprinkle the tops generously with the remaining
 1 cup streusel.

Bake. Bake one pan at a time for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 
8 to 10 minutes, or until the streusel is golden brown.

Cool. Let the cookies cool on the sheet pan for 1 to 2 minutes (do not wait too long or the preserves will stick to the parchment paper). Using an offset spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Store. Rugelach can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Rolled, unbaked rugelach can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

***

Classic cream cheese dough

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love. This is the basic cream cheese dough that Mindy uses for rugelach, kolachkes, and even her own version of fig newtons. The dough really needs to stay cold, so I popped it back in the fridge a few times while I was rolling it out if it started to feel too delicate. I saved half of the cream cheese dough and brought it to a friend’s house – her daughters and I rolled out the dough and stuffed it with a combination of peanut butter, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips. 

Makes 2 (13 by 18-inch) sheets of dough

– 1 C (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 1 C (8 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
– 1/3 C plus 1 T granulated sugar
– 1 t pure vanilla extract
– 2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
– 1 t kosher salt
– 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

Mix. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on medium speed for 5 to 10 seconds. Add the cream cheese and mix on medium speed to combine, 10 to 15 seconds. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed until aerated, approximately 3 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to bring the batter together.

Mix some more. On medium speed, add the vanilla, mixing briefly until incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to bring the batter together. In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salts. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together but still looks shaggy, approximately 30 seconds. Do not overmix. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. With a plastic bench scraper, bring the dough completely together by hand.

Chill. Stretch two sheets of plastic wrap on a work surface. Divide the dough in half (each half will weigh around 14½ ounces) and place a half on each piece of plastic. Pat the dough into rectangles, wrap tightly, and refrigerate until chilled throughout, at least 2 hours or up to 1 week.

***

Strawberry rhubarb preserves

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love. To get one pound of hulled strawberries, you’ll need to start with about 1.5 pounds of unhulled berries. These preserves are definitely puckery – which works nicely for the regulach since the streusel adds another sweet element and baking seems to intensify the fruit’s sweetness – but you might want to add more sugar to taste. Any leftover preserves are great mixed with yogurt or poured over ice cream. 

Makes about 2 cups

– 2 C finely diced rhubarb (approximately 2 large stalks)
– 1 lb washed, hulled, and dried strawberries, finely diced
– ¾ C granulated sugar
– 1 T freshly squeezed orange juice

Macerate. Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, granulated sugar, and orange juice in a bowl and let macerate for at least
 4 hours at room temperature or cover and refrigerate overnight.

Heat. In a high-sided, heavy pot, heat the fruit mixture over medium-high heat until the juices start to boil and foam. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from scorching, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the rhubarb has broken down completely, approximately 30 minutes. You will have close to
 2 cups. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours.

***

Oatmeal streusel

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love

Makes 2 cups

– 6 T (3 oz) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
– 6 T firmly packed light brown sugar
– 1¼ C unbleached all-purpose flour
– 6 T old-fashioned oats
– 1/2 t kosher salt

Pulse. In a food processor, pulse together the butter, sugar, flour, oats, and salt until it forms a fine meal, and the butter is evenly incorporated. Do not over-process.

Chill. Transfer to a storage container and chill completely, approximately 1 hour. Or freeze and use within 1 month.

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so too

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Well. Now that I’ve gone all “screw seasonal cooking” on you, I finally found spring nirvana in the farmers market this week. On Wednesday, I picked up a fistful of wild leek-y ramps whose scent lingered in my office well after I left for home and whose floppy leaves and hairy bulbs taunted me from the fridge this morning. So too did the bundle of asparagus – so fresh that there were no tough ends to snap off and whose raw taste can be only be described as green.

Inspired by Rivka‘s asparagus toast and a warm asparagus salad with ramps, I whipped up my own quick salad, just barely wilting the ramps and asparagus and tossing with mint and a mild feta. Best warm, great on toast, and sure to pop up in my own kitchen at last once more this Spring.

I’ll keep this post and recipe short – approximately the length of ramp season.

Asparagus and ramps with mint and feta

Because of the salted butter and feta, I didn’t add any salt. The dish tastes best warm or at room temperature.

Makes 2 – 4 servings

– 1 lb young asparagus

– 1/3 lb ramps (approximately 20)

– about 20 leaves mint

– 3 T salted butter

– 1/4 C feta, preferably sheep’s milk (I like Pastures of Eden brand – you can find it at Trader Joe’s)

Cut. Trim the asparagus and and slice into approximately 2-inch . Clean the ramps well and remove the hairy root ends. Roughly chop the bulbs and white/purple stems. Chop the leaves into 2-inch strips and set aside. Chifonnade (or tear) the mint leaves.

Heat. Melt over medium heat the butter in a skillet large enough to hold all the vegetables. Add the ramp bulbs and stems, sautéing for 3 minutes until softened, but not browned. Add the asparagus and stir everything around to coat the asparagus with the butter. Cover for 3-5 minutes to allow the asparagus to steam a bit – it’s ready when the stalks are bright green but still firm. Add the ramp leaves and stir gently to wilt.

Serve. Toss with mint and crumbled feta.

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This winter is the boyfriend who keeps coming back after you categorically told him you’ve moved on. And winter vegetables are the ones you have a hard time turning your back on no matter how much you want them in your rear view mirror. Since winter’s being so persistent this year and until spring produce makes an appearance in the market, you might as well hold on to the best of winter – his beets, carrots, cabbages, and brussels sprouts – and give them a warmer weather treatment. We’re talking bare legs with booties here.

brussels sprouts, apple, and hazelnut salad

For starters, take these brussels sprouts for a final spin around the block in a convertible. Take the top down, but keep the seat warmers on. While you do turn the oven on to toast a handful of hazelnuts, the sprouts themselves are raw, crunchy, and bathed in a bracingly sharp lemony vinaigrette. Tossed with tart apples and and a generous sprinkle of parmesan, the sprouts are a perfect bridge from winter to spring.

brusselss sprout, apple, hazelnut salad

For a few more ideas on how to get the most out of the last days of winter vegetables, check out this Epicurious article and the late Gil Mark’s recipe for spicy Moroccan carrot salad.

Brussels sprout salad with apple and hazelnut

Inspired by 101 Cookbooks and Love and Olive Oil. The dressing here is very lemony, with an almost 1:1 ratio of lemon to oil. The main tool you need is an a mandoline (throw out the guard and just buy a pair of cut resistant gloves). It’s important here to toast the hazelnuts twice – the first time to remove the skins, the second time to give the nuts some crunch. Make sure to let the salad sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. It’s also great the next day – the lemon in the dressing prevents the apples from browning. 

– 1/4 c lemon juice

– 1/4 C + 1 T olive oil

– 1 t honey

– 1/2 t salt

– a few grinds pepper

– 4 oz parmesan (3/4 C shredded)

– 1 C hazelnuts

– 1 1/4 lb sprouts = 4 generous cups shredded

– 2 small granny smith apples

Shake. In a small jar, mix the juice, oil, honey, salt, pepper, and 3 tablespoons of cheese. Let sit.

Toast. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spread hazelnuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet and toast for 7-10 minutes until they are flagrant (but not burned) and the skins begin to peel off. Use the parchment to pour the hot hazelnuts into a glass jar or container with a cover. Keep the oven on.

Shake. Holding the jar with a towel (it will be hot), shake the bejesus out of it. Pretty quickly, the skins will steam off, leaving  you with mostly naked hazelnuts.

Chop. Once the nuts are cool enough to handle, remove the from the jar, leaving the skins behind. With a sharp knife, roughly chop the hazelnuts and put back in the oven to toast for a another 5-7 minutes or until fragrant and lightly golden. Allow to cool.

Shave. Rinse the sprouts and remove the outer layers. Over a very large bowl, holding the stem end, shred each sprout (I use the widest setting on my mandoline – 3 mm) about half way until you hit the core, then tilt sideways to shred the remaining leaves.

Shave. Cut each apple in half and cut out the core. Keeping the mandolin on the same 3 mm setting, and thinly slice the apples into half-moons.

Mix. With your hands, mix the sprouts and apple pieces. Add at least 1/2 of the dressing and keep mixing. Allow the sprouts to wilt over about 30 minutes. Add more dressing as necessary. You can store the salad like this overnight.

Serve. Top the salad with the remaining parmesan and toasted nuts right before serving.

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early or late

Well, Purim has already come and gone, and while I planned to publish a recipe for hamantashen before the holiday this year, it’s now so late that I think it’s reasonable to say I’m really really early for next year’s celebration.

pistachio rose hamantashen

I’ve never had much luck with hamantashen, but I was inspired by Breads‘ apple and marzipan varieties of the three-cornered treats and decided to have a go at it. My first instinct was to commandeer a recipe for sweet tart dough (pâte sucrée) and wrap it around diced apples and cinnamon, like little triangular apple tarts. But despite my best efforts to fold and seal the edges, the dough wouldn’t hold together and there just wasn’t room for enough apple filling for the pastries to taste like much of anything.

Frustrated, but not defeated, I made a pistachio filling, based on a recipe for frangipane almond cream. I flavored the pistachio with rose water as an ode to my favorite Persian flavor combination; last year, I made pistachio rose biscotti for my mishloach manot.

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pistachio rose paste

After a bit of research, I turned to my friend Leah‘s dough recipe and everything quickly came together. (Check out her cookbook that will be released tomorrow – it’s a keeper!) After a few practice runs, I figured out a few tricks for hamantashen success that I’m sharing now so you’ll have more than enough time to practice before next Purim rolls around.

First, make sure to roll out the dough quite thin – Leah suggests 1/8-inch. I initially had a difficult time getting my dough thin enough. It’s not that I measured, but after baking off the first few tashen, I noticed that the cookie to filling ratio was too high and the cookie part was nicely golden on the outside but undercooked in the middle. I found it much easier to roll out no more than a quarter of the batch at a time. Then smoosh the scraps back together and roll it out again, adding a knob of dough, bit by bit, until you finish the batch. As a general rule, I like to roll dough on a sheet of parchment (or between two sheets) so I don’t need to use extra flour.

Now, let’s chat about the fillings. Most importantly, only use a teaspoon of filling for each 3-inch round.  You will want to add more. Don’t or you’ll have a difficult time folding the dough and and the filling will leak out any which way it can. If you use jam that’s liquidy, like my jam was, no matter how good you are at folding, the jam will make a mess.

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strawberry rhubarb hamantashen

I like the caramelized jam, and was peeling it off the parchment and eating it like candy, but it would have been nice if it had stayed put. So either use a thicker jam, or strain some of the juice out. The pistachio filling that I made was pretty thick, and baked up almost cookie-like, so once I got the folding down, it behaved and even rose a bit as it baked, filling out the hamantashen. I suspect brownie batter would work quite well too. Just saying.

pistachio rose hamantashen

As for closing up the hamantashen, I vote for folding up the sides and weaving the three flaps one over another as if closing a cardboard box without tape. Then pinch the points to seal everything in. Also, while you’re folding up your hamantashen, I highly recommend humming La Kova Sheli Shalosh Pinot / לכובע שלי שלוש פינות (check out this stylized version) or, in English, My Hat It Has Three Corners.

Before we get to the recipe, here’s a little fun reading for your week.

If you give a dude a kale chip.

The New York Times on shooting food porn.

In case you’re *ahem* still trying to organize your kitchen more than a month after moving to a new place. And on a related note, tidying up.

pistachio rose hamantashen

Pistachio rose hamantashen

Makes about 36 hamantashen (depending on size)

– 1 batch hamantashen dough (below)

– 1 batch pistachio frangipane (below)

Prep. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll and cut. Remove a quarter of the dough from the refrigerator, making sure to wrap the remaining dough well. Roll the dough out on a sheet of parchment (or between 2 sheets) to 1/8-inch thickness. Use a 3-inch round cookie cutter – I actually used a 3 1/2-inch glass because that’s what I had – to cut out as many circles as possible and transfer them to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover the circles with plastic wrap or a sheet of parchment paper to prevent the dough from drying out. Re-roll the scraps and additional dough from the refrigerator until you fill the baking sheet.

Fold. Spoon 1 teaspoon of pistachio filling into the center of each dough circle. Fold the left side over on an angle, followed by the right side. Fold the bottom flat up, tucking one end under the side flap to make a triangle-shaped pocket. The filling should be visible in the center. Pinch the seams firmly to seal.

Repeat. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling.

Bake. Bake until lightly golden and browned at the corners, about 15 to 18 minutes, until the cookies are cooked through. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.

Store. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

***

Hamantashen dough

From Leah Koenig via Food52. Just one bowl! No stand mixer required! 

Makes enough dough for about 36 hamantashen (depending on size)

– 2 eggs

– 1 T water, plus more if needed

– 1/4 C vegetable oil

– 1/2 C sugar

– 2 1/2 C flour, plus more if needed

– 1 t baking powder

– 1/2 t kosher salt

Whisk. In a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Continue whisking in the water, vegetable oil, and sugar until combined.

Mix. You could mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a second bowl. But rather than dirty another bowl, just pour about half the flour into the bowl on top of the egg mixture. Sprinkle the baking powder and salt over the flour and use a fork to mix together the dry ingredients without disturbing the wet ingredients  below. Then, with a spatula or large spoon, stir everything together. Add in the remaining flour and mix until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a flat surface and knead a few times with your hands until it is smooth, but not sticky. (If the dough appears too dry, knead in more water, 1 teaspoon — and no more! — at a time. If it looks too wet, knead in up to 1/4 cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach the right consistency.)

Chill. Gather the dough, then divide it in half with a knife and form into two flat disks (to make it easier to roll out later). Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to overnight.

***

Pistachio frangipane

Frangipane is an almond pastry cream. Here I replaced the almonds with pistachios and added rose water for a baklava-like flavor. I based the recipe off of my pear frangipane tart and Cannelle et Vanille‘s mini peach and pistachio frangipane tarts. You can make the recipe parve by replacing the melted butter with vegetable oil. 

Makes about 2 cups

1 3/4 C unsalted shelled pistachios

2/3 C sugar

1/2 t salt

2 eggs

2 t rose water

3 T melted butter

1/4 + 2 T C flour

Pulse. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the nuts, sugar, and salt until the mix is ground to the consistency of a fine cornmeal. Don’t let the nuts turn into a paste just yet.

Process. Add the eggs and pulse to combine. Then add rose water and melted butter and mix until the consistency of cake batter. Add flour 2 tablespoons at a time and mix until all the flour is integrated and the paste starts clumping up over the blade and rolling around the bowl.

Store. Keep the pistachio paste in the refrigerator. If  you have any left over, you can bake up tablespoonfuls of paste into cookies (350ºF for about 12 minutes).

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Now that I’m getting settled in my new place, it’s time to get back to making something other than salads. First up: lentils.

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While they might not be lookers, these belugas are nothing short of delightful. They hold their shape nicely, are the color of dark dark chocolate, and keep you warm with cumin and a pinch of mustard seed. They make the type of homey, comforting dish that you want to eat on a snowy day, and lord knows we’ve had more than enough winter weather opportunities to sup (or breakfast) on these lentils.

Best part? They’re the first thing I cooked on my new stove in my new kitchen in my new apartment. I poured oil in a pot (yeah, I found a pot!) and dropped in spoons of spices (yeah, I found spices!), swirling the mix over the front right burner. With the first few whiffs of cumin, I dragged the edge of my knife across my cutting board (yeah, I found a cutting board!) and scooted onion and garlic into the pot. After a few minutes, I poured in the lentils and broth, brought everything to a boil, lowered the heat, and balanced a lid on the pot at an angle, with just enough room for delicate wisps of steam to escape. Every once in a while, I checked on my lentils, lifting the lid with a yellow striped towel and peeking inside at the gurgling mess, adding a dribble of broth if the pot was looking a little dry.

The afternoon was going so well until the acrid stench of smoke replaced the scent of cumin and I rushed to the kitchen to find that the yellow-striped towel that I had left on the lid had slid down a bit and caught fire. I grabbed another towel – this one with red stripes – and yanked the pot off the burner, tipping the lid and towel into the sink. I checked inside – yup, the lentils were fine, but not quite done. I turned on the faucet and doused the flames, flung open the windows and door to air out the apartment, and returned the lentils, with another splash of broth, to the stove for a few more minutes.

I ate the warm lentils under a dollop of yogurt, with the winter air whistling through every open window and a smoldering towel in the sink.

Now that I’ve mastered, er, broken in, the stove-top, I’ll turn my attention to the oven. Stay tuned…

Cumin-spiced beluga lentils

Adapted ever so slightly from Bon Appetit. If you can’t find beluga or black lentils, substitute French (du Puy) lentils – both hold their shapes and don’t break down or get mushy when cooked. If  you want a bit more  heat, add 1/2 teaspoon or so cayenne pepper or hot paprika with the other spices. Top with thick Greek yogurt or a fried or poached egg – the extra fat and creaminess complement the texture of the slightly dry lentils. 

Makes 4-6 servings

– 1 t cumin seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle

– ½ t mustard seeds

– 2 – 3 T olive oil 

– 1 small onion, finely chopped

– 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

– 1 C black beluga lentils

– 3 – 4 C vegetable or chicken broth 

– 1 T sherry vinegar or lemon juice 

– kosher salt, freshly ground balck pepper

Saute. Stir crushed cumin, mustard seeds, and 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until sizzling, about 1 minute. If the pot looks dry at this point, add an additional tablespoon of oil. Then add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until just softened, about 5 minutes.

Simmer. Add lentils and 3 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, adding broth as needed to keep lentils covered, until lentils are soft, 30–40 minutes. I found I needed a total of 4 cups of broth. Remove from heat, stir in vinegar or lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.

Serve. Serve warm under a scoop of Greek yogurt, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of cumin. Or top with an egg. Whatever.

Reheat. Whether you reheat the lentils on the stovetop or in the microwave, make sure to add in a tablespoon or two of broth or water so that the lentils don’t dry out. Once warmed, add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to add a bright kick.

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as a way to celebrate

One year, for my birthday, I bought myself a suit. It was the first designer anything I had ever purchased and, with its lovely pattern, its boucle texture, its leather trim, it made me feel very special. Every time I wore it, I told people I was wearing my birthday suit.

This year, on my birthday (December 8th, in case you want to mark your calendar for next year) there was no designer suit, but there were cookies. Whole wheat chocolate chunk cookies.

whole wheat chocolate chip cookies

Now, there are two types of cookie people: the chewys and the crispys. (Or is that the chewies and the crispies?) I am squarely on team crispy and that’s where the cookies pictured above fall. If, however, you root for team chewy, stop reading right now and head over to the original recipe. According to Jess, who introduced me to this recipe, the cookies have an interior that is “soft, even borderline flakey.”

The first time I baked them up, I followed the recipe to a T and, well, I didn’t like the cookies very much. They were big – three tablespoons of dough big – and puffy and, if you can imagine this, sort of fluffy in the center. And yet, flawed as their texture was, the nutty-without-nuts taste was intriguing, and I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

One year went by, two years, then three, the cookies almost forgotten, until a big bag of whole wheat flour called to me from the cupboard. I played around with the recipe, making batch after batch and tweaking flours (2:1:1 whole wheat to graham to white makes a nice combo but is too fussy), sugars (less brown sugar equals less chewy), cookies size (I like them small), and baking temperature and time (lower the temp and bake for longer). Finally, finally, five batches in, I nailed the recipe.

I send to few dozen cookies to a few friends, including Meira and Caroline, as a hey-I’m-just-thinking-about-you kind of surprise. Two days before my birthday, their mother Monica emailed me: “Did you send Meira cookies because it was your birthday?” I hadn’t, but I liked that she thought of me as someone who takes care of other people as a way to celebrate.

So I baked another batch of cookies and invited friends over for an impromptu evening of birthday nibbles and bubbles. More on what I cooked in a bit, but for now, the cookies.

Whole wheat chocolate chunk cookies

Adapted from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain, as published on Food 52. I made a few changes to keep the cookies crisp, and in case you’re curious, here’s what I did, using using The Food Lab: The Science of the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies article to guide my experimentation.

1) Most importantly, I replaced half of the brown sugar with Demerara sugar. Using a crystalized sugar instead of brown helps the cookies crisp, and Demerara retains some of the molasses and toffee flavor of brown sugar. You could also use white sugar, so 1 1/2 cups white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar. 

2) I increased the amount of chocolate by 50%. Because, chocolate.

3) Rather than three tablespoons of dough per cookie, I used one tablespoon. After scooping the dough onto the cookie sheet, I smushed them with the palm of my hand so they would bake more evenly, eliminating that chewy center. The consistency ends up on the denser side, almost shortbread-like.

4) I lowered the temperature and increased the baking time to encourage the cookies to spread as much as possible, which isn’t very much.

5) I only bake one sheet of cookies at a time. I don’t like to fuss with rotating trays from top to bottom, front to back. 

6) The original recipe has you cool the cookies on parchment, which I assume encourages them to retain a bit of moisture – not what I want at all. Instead, when the cookies are cool enough to touch, I transfer them straight to a cooling rack.

Makes 7-8 dozen small cookies

– 12 oz bittersweet chocolate

– 1 C (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

– 1 C white sugar

– 1/2 C Demerara sugar (or turbinado or sugar in the raw)

– 1/2 C brown sugar

– 2 eggs

– 1 T vanilla extract

– 3 C whole wheat flour

– 1 1/2 t baking powder

– 1 t baking soda

– 2 t kosher salt

Prep. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Chop the chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks.

Mix. Add the butter and the sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Mix in the vanilla. The batter might look curdled at this point, but don’t worry.

Keep mixing. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add this mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 30 seconds. You’ll probably find some extra flour lurking at the bottom of the bowl, so scrape down the sides and bottom.

Keep mixing. Add the chocolate all at once to the batter. Mix on low speed until the chocolate is evenly combined. Use a spatula to again scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and use your hands to fully incorporate all the ingredients, kneading lightly.

Scoop. Scoop dough onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, using a 1-tablespoon ice cream scoop, at 2-inch intervals.

Press. With the palm of your hand or a wooden spoon, press the cookie dough until it’s about 1/4-inch thick.

Bake. Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes until the cookies are evenly dark brown and dry to the touch. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes until you can pick them up and transfer them to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining dough – you can re-use the parchment.

Store. While for many cookies, I like to scoop out the entire batch and then freeze the scooplets so that I can bake up a half-dozen or so when the mood strikes, it doesn’t work as well for these cookies because of their crumbly dough. So, just bake all of the cookies and store them in an airtight tin or in the freezer. If you’re afraid you’ll eat them all … well, that’s when you give them away as gifts.

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On Labor Day, a bunch of us from the restaurant went to Sycamore Farms.

Sycamore Farms

We toured the land on a tractor.

Sycamore Farms

Our guide, Kevin, let me drive the tractor. Everyone on board survived.

Sycamore Farms - another tractor

Just barely.

Sycamore Farms

We picked corn.

corn at Sycamore Farms

That’s Chef Carmen*.

Chef Carmen picking corn at Sycamore Farms

We picked tomatoes.

Sycamore Farms - tomatoes!

Lots of tomatoes.

tomatoes at Sycamore Farms

We cooked together.

We ate together.

Then I went home and turned our torn-from-the-stalk corn into soup.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

* A special thank you to Krishna Kinsey, Union Square cook and one of the best pasta makers I know, for the photo of Chef.

Farm-fresh corn soup

Improvised after consulting David Lebovitz’s recipe for fresh corn soup and Dorie Greenspan’s for summer corn soup in Bon Appétit. 

Makes 8 cups

– 6 ears of really fresh corn, shucked (I like the microwave method)

– 6 C water

– 2 T olive oil

– 1 large onion, chopped (approximately 1 C)

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 red poblano pepper, seeded and finely chopped (approximately 1/2 C)

– 2 t hot paprika, plus extra for garnish

– 1 C cream

– 1 T salt

– 1/4 C chopped parsley for garnish

Slice. Slice the corn off the cob into a large bowl. This should yield about 6 cups total. Reserve the naked cobs.

Boil. Cut the reserved cobs into 3 – 4 pieces. Bring water and cobs to a boil in a pot. Lower heat, partially cover the pot, and simmer for 30 minutes to extract the flavor from the cobs. Remove the cobs. Some of the liquid will evaporate, so you should be left with about 4 cups of corn stock.

Saute. In the meantime, in a larger pot (the one you plan to make the soup in), heat the oil and saute the onion over medium heat until soft and translucent, but not browned, 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic, pepper, and paprika, continuing to saute for another 5 minutes until the pepper starts to soften. Stir in 4 cups of corn kernels, reserving the remaining 2 cups.

Simmer. Pour the corn stock over the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Stir in the cream.

Puree. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is as smooth as possible. If you want the soup to be perfectly smooth, strain it, pressing hard on the solids, but it will be a bit on the thin side. I didn’t bother straining.

Serve. Divide the soup among bowls, garnishing with corn kernels, parsley, and a sprinkle of paprika.

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On the third Friday in July, I met Dorie.

Dorie Greenspan

I want so badly to tell you all about it. About how, at a fundraiser for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, my friend Ruby won a high-stakes bidding war to spend a day baking with Dorie in her Connecticut home. How she asked Adeena and me to join her.

About how Dorie bounded out of her house when we arrived, a scarf tied just so and a dark denim-colored apron wrapped around her spotless white oxford shirt. How she greeted me with one of the warmest, tightest hugs I’ve ever received. How her husband proudly showed us the collection of cars that he and his son have restored together over the past several years. How their house is more French than if it were in the middle of Paris, its walls covered with iconic vintage French posters, an entire corner dedicated to Gallic roosters, a farm table set with a purple and red jacquard tea towel and spread with rich yogurt, berries, and granola.

About how my pâte sucreé crust fell apart as I tried to roll it over the pan. How Dorie helped me patch it into a piecemeal press-in crust that she said even Martha Stewart would be proud of. How, when she realized that we had left out the butter, Dorie quickly scrapped our biscuit dough and started a new batch without missing a beat. How her assistant Mary taught us to pour cream over a spatula into a pan of near-boiling sugar to make caramel without vigorous bubbling and scary splattering.

About our alfresco lunch of simple vegetable salads, salmon smoked then baked, ricotta-herb dip, generous pours of rosé, and loaves of bread baked by Michael.

I want to tell you about the cookies we made. The two tarts we made. The strawberry shortcakes we made.

But mostly I want to tell you about the friend that I made, a friendship that developed over the course of the afternoon. About Dorie and Michael’s genuine invitation to come back to spend the day with them again. About Dorie’s goodbye hug that was even warmer and even tighter than the one she greeted me with just hours before.

Dorie and me!

There’s so much more to tell, but I’m on a brief layover at the airport in Vienna typing on a QWERTZ kezboard, er keyboard, and my flight’s about to board, and I can’t in good conscience leave you without the recipe for plum and rose shortcakes, adapted from Dorie’s one for double strawberry and rose shortcakes.

Dorie told us she had the idea to marry rose with strawberry when she learned at the Driscoll’s farm that the fruit is a member of the rose family. Strawberry season is short in my neighborhood and when I went to the greenmarket just a few days after our visit, the farmers told that the local harvest had ended. But stone fruits were – and still are – in their prime. Turns out, plums and other drupes are also roses, as Robert Frost knew:

The rose is a rose,
And was always a rose.
But the theory now goes
That the apple’s a rose,
And the pear is, and so’s
The plum, I suppose.
The dear only knows
What will next prove a rose.
You, of course, are a rose –
But were always a rose.

I’ll leave poetic analysis to the experts, but I guess that I, perhaps subconsciously, have always made the connection between plums and roses: exactly two years ago, I added rose water to Dorie’s dimply plum cake.

Dorie – the strawberry’s a rose and the plum is a rose. You, of course, are a rose. With toes, I suppose. And now I’m just being plain silly.

I’ll see y’all when I get back from vacation with my sister. Until then, I give you plum and rose shortcakes.

Plum and rose shortcakesPlum and rose shortcakes

Makes 12 – 20 servings, depending on the size of the biscuit cutter

Adapted from double strawberry and rose shortcakes recipe that Dorie developed for Driscoll’s, as taught to Ruby, Adeena, and me by Dorie herself. I replaced Dorie’s rose extract with rose water which is a bit easier to find and found that you need about four times as much rose water as extract.

For the plum compote:

Makes about 2 cups

I’ve started adding this compote to my morning yogurt and granola. Also, ice cream.

– 1 1/2 lb sugar plums, roughly chopped (about 3 cups)

– 3 T sugar

– 1 T rose water (or 3/4 t rose extract)

Cook. Toss the chopped plums in a small saucepan with the sugar. Put the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring, for 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the ripeness of your fruit, until the plums soften and slump into a thick sauce. Scrape the compote into a bowl, stir in the rose water or extract, and cool to room temperature. You can make the compote up to 3 days ahead and keep it covered in the refrigerator.

For the lemon-buttermilk biscuits:

Makes 12-20, depending on the size of your biscuit cutter.

Dorie prefers petite biscuits about 2 inches in diameter.

– 1 1/2 T sugar

– freshly grated zest of 1 lemon

– 2 C (272 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling

– 1 T baking powder

– 1/2 t fine sea salt

– 1/4 t baking soda

– 6 T (3/4 stick; 76 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

– 3/4 C (180ml) cold buttermilk

Preheat. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Rub. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl and, working with your fingertips, rub the ingredients together unit the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the rest of the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk to combine. Drop in the pieces of cold butter and, again using your fingertips, crus rub, and blend the butter in. You’ll have flakes of butter and small pieces and this is just right.

Stir. Pour the cold buttermilk over the mixture, switch to a fork and toss and stir everything together until the milk is absorbed. Your dough might look like curds, but that’s fine. Don’t stir too much, too vigorously or for too long, and if there ar a few dry spots in the bottom of the bowl, ignore them. Reach into the bowl and knead the dough gently, folding it over on itself and turning it over 6 to 8 times.

Roll. Dust a work surface lightly with flour, turn out the dough, and still using your hands, pat the dough out until it is 1/2-inch thick. (The thickness sis what’s important here). Using a high-sided 2-inch cutter, cut out biscuits and place them on the baking sheet. Make sure to push the cutter up and down without twisting or turning so as not to crush the layers that you’ve worked so hard to create. Pat the scraps together until they’re 1/2-inch thick and cut out as many biscuits as you can. (The leftover dough can be cut into biscuits, but they won’t wise as high or as evenly ad the others – you can keep them as your baker’s treat.)

Bake. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the biscuits have risen gloriously and their tops and bottoms are holder brown Transfer the baking shed to a cooling rack and allow the biscuits to cool until they reach room temperature. (The biscuits can be made up to 6 hours ahead; keep them uncovered at room temperature.)

For the whipped cream:

– 1 C (240ml) very cold heavy cream

– 2 T confectiners’ sugar, sifted

– 1 t pure vanilla extract

– 1 T rose water (or 3/4 t rose extract)

Beat. Working with an electric mixer, theta the cream just until it mounds softly. Still beating, add the sugar, followed by the vanilla and rose water until the cream is fully whipped and holds firm peaks. The whipped cream can be made up to 3 hours ahead and keep tightly covered in the refrigerator; whisk a couple of times before using).

For the topping:

– 1/2 – 3/4 pound sugar plums

Slice. Just before you’re ready to put the shortcakes together, use a sharp knife to slice wedges of plums.

For assembly:

Split the biscuits and set the tops aside. Spoon compote in the center of each biscuit bottom followed by a scoop of whipped cream. Balance the biscuit top on the whipped cream and serve with plum slices.

Plum and rose shortcakes

 

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