Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's a dull, grey morning and I can no longer stubbornly deny it - summer is coming to a close. The air has suddenly taken on distinctively autumnal feel, and I have found myself burdened with a number of sub-par tomatoes, ill-advisedly picked up from the market by my tomato-shunning mother, bless her. As I sit here in freezing in my scarf and slippers (granted, there's a good chance I'm actually cold-blooded), cranking up the oven to 400 degrees seems like a fine idea. So I have decided to coax the flavor out of those tomatoes by roasting them into tomato jam. If you could put summer into a jar and preserve it for the fall and winter ahead, I would, but this seems to be the next best thing.

Roasted Tomato Jam (recipe adapted slightly from Food52)
Thinly slice 1 1/2 lb of tomatoes. I don't think it really matters what kind; some of mine were cherry tomatoes, which I halved rather than slicing. Sprinkle 1/3 cup sugar on the bottom of a baking dish and layer half of the tomatoes on top. Add another sprinkling of sugar, the zest and juice of half a lemon, a pinch of slightly crushed fennel seeds (I happened to like this addition, but if you're not the biggest fan of fennel's licorice-y flavor, I would recommend leaving it out, since the flavor was not overpowering, but definitely apparent), a pinch of red pepper flakes, and 1/2 a cinnamon stick. Add the rest of the tomatoes, and finally another 1/3 cup sugar. Let it all hang out on the counter while the oven heats to 400F,  then roast for about 1-2 hours, checking every 20 minutes or so and stirring until the mixture has a jammy consistency. Spread it on toast and pretend it's still July.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Soft pretzel buns, two ways

Just popping in to share these pretzel buns I whipped up this morning. Just for fun, I threw some chopped dark chocolate in half of the dough. I ended up with two different buns, each with its own character. One was great as a more savory treat; I would love to try using it as a hamburger bun. The other achieved the perfect sweet-salty balance I look for when I want a dessert that you can also eat for breakfast. I might transcribe the recipe later, but for now enjoy a tasty picture.

Monday, July 28, 2014


As many who read this blog know, yesterday was my birthday, and besides an unforgettable dinner at Zuni Cafe, I was gifted a shiny new pasta roller attachment for my Kitchenaid. And so, the only logical course of action was to churn out some fresh, homemade pasta the very next day.

In the absence of a pasta drying rack, clothes hangers on a chandelier are a perfectly acceptable alternative.
Once you have the proper equipment, making pasta is delightfully easy. The recipe I used was so simple - nothing but flour, eggs, and salt - and maybe I'm just easily amused, but feeding the hunk of dough through the machine and watching it smush into a long, flat sheet was such a satisfying task. Apart from the terrifying moment when the chain of my bracelet (and presumably my entire arm soon after) was almost lost to the unrelenting jaws of the roller, the process went smoothly and I was soon rewarded with my very own batch of fresh pasta ready for dinner tonight, perhaps with just a simple tomato sauce to let the pasta shine. I can't wait to do some experimentation. Squid ink pasta, anyone?

Step 1: crack eggs into your flour, sprinkle in salt

Step 2: Beat eggs with a fork and then gradually incorporate the flour
Step 3: Knead your dough for 5-10 minutes and refrigerate for about a half hour. Then you're ready to roll!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Still alive!

My sincerest apologies for the radio silence these past months. No, I haven't stopped cooking and baking, it's just that starting a new, time-consuming, tiring, but utterly fulfilling job tends to send things like blogging to the back-burner. BUT! With this post, I'm hoping to slowly get back into it. So without further ado...

I'll have you know that I have another one of these in the oven as I type. That's how good it is. The one I made yesterday didn't survive to see the light of a new day, and the rest of the homegrown nectarines given to me by my aunt were just begging to meet the same fate as their brethren - to be covered with a blanket of brown sugar and butter and baked into deliciousness.

I can take no credit for this recipe's success. All the work is done by the those amazing nectarines, whose freshness and sweetness needed little to help them onto another level of culinary delight. I've found that this is often the case with quality, fresh, seasonal produce. Sometimes it's best to just let those ingredients shine.

First, I sliced the nectarines, put them in a baking dish and drizzled them with a little lemon juice. Then I covered them with a simple streusel topping and baked them at 375F for 30 minutes. That's all, folks! Here's how I made the streusel:

114g brown sugar
58g all-purpose flour
43g quick-cooking oats
about 3/4 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of salt
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Mix everything but the butter together in a largish bowl, then add the cold butter chunks and mix with a pastry blender until the mixture is sandy and just holds together when you squeeze it. I imagine you could also accomplish this with a food processor, but I found the pastry blender gives more control of how much you mix, and more importantly makes for an easier clean-up.

If you're as lucky as I am and happen to work in an artisan chocolate factory and have access to raw cacao nibs, you might want to do what I did and throw a handful of those in there too. I think you'll be pretty happy with the results, but I'm positive it will be great without them as well.

Sprinkle the streusel atop your nectarines (or peaches, or any other kind of fresh fruit you happen to have on hand) and pop it in the oven. After 30 minutes, pull it out in all its bubbling glory, and try your best to wait til it's just cool enough to not burn your tongue. It may not be the prettiest thing when plated, but i guarantee you it will taste like pure summer.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

I like to think that I'm not a total food snob; I don't always insist upon small-batch gourmet condiments, or artisan hamburgers, or that food that's only acceptable if it comes from a certain remote village in the Swiss Alps. Not always. But sometimes, I feel there is something to be said about making a regional dish the "traditional" way.
I'm reading a book called "Mastering the Art of French Eating", by Ann Mah, in which she tells the story of her year living alone in Paris when her diplomat husband is called away for an assignment in Iraq. She spends her time travelling around France and learning about the traditional dishes of each region she visits. I highly recommend it.
The ways in which those recipes are passed around, tweaked, argued over, preserved, and enjoyed by everyone from locals to tourists to cooks hundreds of miles away are the things that those who love to study culture and who love food (i.e. me) just eat up (pun shamelessly intended).
Last week, on an unusually sweltering day, I had no desire to make anything that involved cooking. Then I recalled something I had read on the blog of David Lebovitz about the classic Salade Niçoise. According to Jacques Médecin, an accepted authority on Provencal food, the only thing that should be cooked in a true Niçoise salad are the eggs. No boiled potatoes, no steamed green beans, none of the things we often find in "Niçoise salads" commonly found on menus in the States. No cooking required equals the perfect dish for an oppressively hot day.
And so, having some hard-boiled eggs already sitting in the fridge, I set out to make an authentic salade Niçoise, and here's how I did it:

Salade Niçiose (From David Lebovitz)
This was enough for Dad and I, and my mom, who doesn't like tomatoes or olives (so this was perfect for her) had a teeny bit, so I'd say it serves 2 or 3. I used the amounts as loose guidelines.
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
1 cucumber, peeled, seeds scraped, and sliced
2 spring onions, peeled and thinly sclied
1/2 c shelled fava beans
1/3 c niçoise olives or other small black olives, pitted
a large bunch of lettuce or mixed salad greens
3 hard-boiled eggs, cut in wedges
a handful of fresh chopped basil or parsley
1 6oz tin of tuna
olive oil

Rub the halved garlic all over the inside of your salad bowl
Cut the tomatoes in wedges and put them in a colander. Sprinkle them with salt and let them drain while you assemble the rest of the salad.
Add cucumber, onions, fava beans, olives, lettuce, and tuna to the bowl
Mix herbs with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper, drizzle most of it over salad and toss.
Top the salad with egg wedges and drizzle with the remaining oil.
Serve with a crusty baguette and pretend you're sitting by the beach in Nice.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Happy Monday!

I don't have much to say today, but I thought I'd check in with some pictures of bread, because why not?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Work with what you've got

"What's for dinner tonight?"
It's the perpetual question in our house. I love planning meals, looking through recipes, and thinking about interesting new ingredients to try. Something I don't love? Making a trip to the store. And sometimes, on days like today, when I've just gotten home from work and the thought of combating gale-force winds in the grocery store parking lot makes me want to stay indoors forever, it's just not going to happen. So the question becomes, "What do we have in the house that can be put together into what might resemble a meal?".
Luckily, our little vegetable garden is beginning to come in handy. While not abound with produce, one thing that it has actually managed to produce is just enough arugula to do something with. Just enough, maybe, to whip up some arugula pesto. I can always count on having Parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic, and some kind of nuts knocking about in the pantry. Arugula lends a nice spiciness to the sauce and makes it a little different than your basic basil version.
So pesto, there's that.
I know there's also pasta in the pantry, but there doesn't seem to be a decent amount of any single shape. No matter! A master of rationalization, I tell myself, what better way to make plain old pasta fun and exciting than a myriad of shapes and sizes, each handling the sauce in its own way? So I toss together a few kinds, making sure that they have similar cooking times, and away I go.
I also just so happen to have a couple of leeks and some zucchini in the fridge, so I cook those up as well. Et voilà! This springy green meal is starting to come together.

Mixed pasta with Arugula pesto and Veggies 
For the pesto:
1c arugula (or any green, really), loosely packed
1/4c toasted pine nuts (I happened to have the classic, but I think almonds might also be good here)
1/4c Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic
a few tbsp olive oil, depending on your preference
salt and pepper to taste

Process arugula in a food processor until it's very finely chopped. Then add garlic, nuts, and cheese,
processing after each addition. Finally, drizzle in olive oil until desired consistency is achieved. Taste 
and add salt, pepper, and any more of any ingredient you feel it needs.

For the Pasta:
1lb pasta (any kind you wish)
1 leek, sliced into rounds
1 clove garlic
about 3 medium zucchini, or your vegetable of choice, chopped in 1/2" pieces
a splash of white wine
a handful of sun-dried tomatoes, minced
1/2c pesto
olive oil
grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta to just short of al dente in boiling salted water. Drain and save about a cup of the pasta water.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet and add leek and garlic. Sautée until leeks are softened, then add zucchini, wine, and sun-dried tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until zucchini is tender, about 8-10 minutes.
Add drained pasta to skillet along with pesto, a handful of cheese and some of the reserved pasta water. Toss to coat the pasta in that delicious sauce that forms, and serve immediately.