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Preview: alexandra’s kitchen

alexandra’s kitchen





Updated: 2018-03-07T12:40:48.925-08:00

 



I've Moved!

2009-02-27T00:31:06.196-08:00

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I have officially moved to www.alexandracooks.com. Come visit!













The Best Granola & A Little Blogging Change

2009-01-30T15:42:12.630-08:00

It has come to my attention that my blog can take quite a bit of time to load on various computers. I'm not really sure why this is happening, but I find it very frustrating and I am in the process of doing something about it. Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know that part of the reason I have been such a terrible blogger these past few weeks is because I'm trying to figure out what to do.  I'll keep you posted, and I apologize for the recent lack of activity on alexandra's kitchen. But before I leave you, I just thought I'd remind you all about one of my all-time favorite recipes. It has been over a year since I made this granola and it is just as delectable as I remember. The base recipe has been adapted from the Barefoot Contessa and the candied nut recipe comes from one of the Moosewood cookbooks. With the addition of dried cranberries and blueberries, this granola makes the best breakfast/snack/lunch/dinner ever. Seriously. It most definitely will appear on Olalie's Menu. Candied cashews and almonds:Granola and nuts mixed with dried cranberries and blueberries:Nuts before roasting:Granola just out of the oven:Also, for those of you who live in the San Diego-Orange County area and have yet to make plans for Valentine's Day, Cafe Mimosa is offering a four-course prix fixe tasting menu on both Friday and Saturday nights (Feb. 13th and 14th). The menu sounds fantastic! [...]



Grilled Cheese & Cafe Photos

2009-01-16T07:40:00.201-08:00

I cut the bread too thick. And I didn't use enough cheese — I thought four ounces of cheese per sandwich seemed a little excessive. But maybe that's what it takes to make the ultimate grilled cheese.Saveur says:"The Secret to making a perfect grilled cheese sandwich is cooking it over low heat, which brings out the subtle flavors of a cheese, and slathering the bread with butter, which crisps it in the pan. Comté, with its semifirm texture and nutty taste, is great for grilling."Saveur's recipe for "the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich" calls for placing a cast-iron skillet over low heat and cooking the sandwich, flipping once, for 20 minutes. Twenty minutes! Who knew it took so long to make a grilled cheese sandwich? I did in fact cook my grilled cheese for 20 minutes and, thanks to a hefty slathering of butter, my sandwich crisped up nicely in my cast-iron pan. Oh, if only I had cut the bread thinner! I think this cooking technique has the potential to produce a really great sandwich and next time around, I hope to find comté cheese, too. French comté is made from the milk of the Montbeliarde cows who graze on wild orchids, daisies and dandelions. Yum. If you can't find comté, gruyère makes a fine substitute.Don't strain your eyes. Find the recipe here.Since all I have to offer today is an unperfected grilled cheese sandwich, I thought I'd share some pictures with you as well. All of these are taken at the cafe where I work. If I can somehow get the chef to share his recipe for lemon madeleines, I will be sure to report back ... they are so damn good. [...]



Prosciutto, Endive & Shaved Manchego Salad with Tarragon-Shallot Vinaigrette

2009-01-05T01:07:34.476-08:00

I am anxious to share with you my aunt Marcy's blueberry muffins, my mother's rosemary shortbread and my stepfather's glug — a high-octane, blood-warming winter punch. Those treats are going to have to wait, however. My eyes and mind need a break from the recent holiday indulgences.And so today, I have only two things to share with you: a yummy yummy salad and a favorite vinaigrette.Several weeks ago, a friend and I dined at Froma on Melrose, an LA cheese-, charcuterie-, and wine shop, where I ordered the Jamón Serrano salad, a combination of salty ham, bitter endive, and sweet pear, topped with Manchego cheese and drizzled with chestnut honey. What arrived at the table — essentially a platter of meat topped with a sprinkling of endive — was entirely different than what I envisioned but entirely enjoyed that evening. With my side of sliced baguette, I assembled mini open-faced sandwiches, which, along with a glass of red wine, made for a delectable dinner. I've since made the salad several times, omitting the honey, which Froma overdid a tad and which is unnecessary anyway — the pears add a perfect amount of sweetness. A tarragon-shallot vinaigrette, I find makes the perfect dressing for this simple salad.Happy New Year everyone!Tarragon-Shallot VinaigretteYield = ½ cup (Make a double batch — It's so nice to have on hand.)4 teaspoons sherry vinegar1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots½ teaspoon Dijon mustard¼ teaspoon sugar¼ teaspoon kosher salt¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil2-3 tablespoons tarragon, finely choppedIn a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, shallots, mustard, sugar and salt. Let mixture macerate for 20 minutes. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly until emulsified. Stir in tarragon. Taste, add more salt and pepper if necessary. Set aside.Prosciutto, Pear & Endive SaladServes as many as you likeprosciuttoendive, sliced into thin wedgesarugulapear, sliced thinlyManchego cheese, shavedbread, toasted or grilledArrange prosciutto on a large platter. (Alternatively, arrange a few slices on individual plates.) Toss endive, arugula and pear with the tarragon-shallot vinaigrette. Top prosciutto with salad. Top salad with slices of cheese. Serve with warm bread. [...]



Holiday Linzers: Too Pretty To Eat

2009-01-05T22:43:40.572-08:00

Last Saturday morning, while warming up with a cup of coffee and some sweets in an adorable cafe in Boulder, my mother offered me her latest theory: "The prettier a cookie is," she said, setting down a handsome palmier, making no effort to hide her disgust, "the less edible it becomes." Though the palmier may have been an unlucky pick that morning, I think Liza might be on to something. I had been eyeing this Dorie Greenspan recipe for linzer cookies for weeks. And after reading last Wednesday's New York Times' article, "Butter Holds The Secret To Cookies That Sing," I felt primed for an all-star baking session in my all-but-neglected kitchen. I would follow the recipe to a T, and with my recently acquired butter knowledge, I would think science not just mechanics.I would cream my 65-degree temperature butter — "cold to the touch but warm enough to spread" — for at least three minutes with the paddle attachment of my stand mixer set on medium speed — no higher, lest the butter's temperature rise to 68 degrees — until enough air bubbles formed to create the required texture and aeration to produce a cookie to rival all cookies. My adrenaline was pumping. It was game time. I laced my apron around my waist, pounded a quart of Gatorade and set to work, not veering ever so slightly from the recipe, fighting off laziness every step of the way. I whipped. I chilled. I rolled. I baked. I baked again. I dusted. I jammed. I sandwiched. I admired. Expectations were high. Perhaps too high. After assembling all of the linzers, I ate one. And then another. And then another. I kept tasting, hoping with each new bite, I would be overwhelmed with satisfaction and joy, which I could then take to my computer and report to all of you. But alas, it never came. I can't quite pinpoint my disappointment. These cookies are not too sweet, which I like, but I find them a bit too dry, which I don't. The final sandwich, I felt, needed more jam to combat the dryness, but the nature of the cookie only allows so much jam to exist between the two layers before a mess oozes out the sides. I offered one of my creations to a four-year-old boy who promptly spit it out. His six- and eight-year-old siblings ate theirs happily, with smiles even, but I think at that age, they've already learned tact. I can say with certainty these are the prettiest cookies ever to emerge from my kitchen. Truly. I only wish I could say they were the tastiest, too.As the above tale reveals, I am not totally satisfied with this recipe. Several years ago I made a batch of linzer cookies for Valentine's Day, which I prefer to this recipe. It has a higher butter content, which I think adds to the flavor. The cookies are not as pretty, but if taste is what you are after, I think you might have better success with this recipe. Linzer SablésAdapted From Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours1½ cups finely ground almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts1½ cups all-purpose flour1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon¼ teaspoon saltScant ¼ teaspoon ground cloves (optional — I did not use any cloves)1 large egg2 teaspoons water1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature½ cup sugar½ cup raspberry jam (or any jam you like) plus 1 teaspoon of water (optional)Confectioners' sugar, for dusting1. Whisk together the ground nuts, flour, cinnamon, cloves (if using) and salt. Using a fork, stir the egg and water together in a small bowl.2. Working with a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the egg mixture and beat for 1 minute more.3. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated. Don't overmix. If the dough comes together while some dry crumbs remain in the bottom of the bowl, stop the mixer and finish blending the ingredients with a rubber spatula or your hands.4. Divide the dough in half. Workin[...]



Cinnamon-Raisin Bread

2008-12-28T20:19:37.759-08:00

Is there anything better than homemade bread? I mean seriously. I've asked this question before. The answer is always no, there is nothing better than homemade bread. The smell and taste of this buttermilk, cinnamon-raisin bread has confirmed this assertion once again.I mixed together this batch of dough before bed one night about five minutes after reading an email from a friend raving about the recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The following morning I baked off two loaves of bread. One, I sliced and froze. The other, I sliced and ate and ate and ate and ate. And then I tucked the remaining heel in a ziplock back and stowed it in my cabinet. And then several hours later, I opened the cabinet and the bag and ate the heel for dinner. It was a quite a day.Anyway, thank you, Darcy, for inspiring me to venture into the "enriched breads and pastries" chapter of Artisan Bread In Five. Readers, if you still haven't taken a stab at bread making, pick up this book. Bread making has never been so easy and fun. And while you're at it, order an 8-quart Cambro and lid (odd that the two aren't sold together) for easy mixing and storing. And, if you happen to be ordering flours and other baking staples for the upcoming holidays, order a bulk bag of yeast. I store mine in a cylindrical, plastic tupperware-type vessel in the fridge.Also, I must confess, I didn't have raisins on hand when I set out to make this bread and so should have titled this post "Cinnamon Bread," but that just sounds wrong. All I'm saying is that with or without raisins, this recipe is a winner. Also, I am very excited to report that I won an autographed copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day simply by leaving a comment on the blog Baking and Books. You, too, have a chance to win a cookbook every month. Stop by Baking and Books for more details.Cinnamon-Raisin Buttermilk BreadYield = Three 1½-lb. loaves (these are smallish loaves) or Two loaves (which I prefer)2 cups lukewarm water1 cup buttermilk1½ T. yeast1½ T. kosher salt1½ T. sugar6½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flourbutter for greasing the pan1½ tsp. ground cinnamon (I tripled the amount of cinnamon the second time around, so make your cinnamon-sugar mix according to taste.)1/3 cup sugar¾ cup raisins (if you are using them)egg wash (I egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)1. Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast, salt and sugar with the water and buttermilk in a 5-quart mixing bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.2. Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment) or a heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook. If you’re not using a machine, you may have to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.3. Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses or flattens on top, approximately 2 hours.4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 7 days.5. On baking day, lightly grease a 9x4x3-inch nonstick loaf pan. Set aside. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1½-pound (cantaloupe-size) piece. (Note: the original recipe yields 3 loaves. I prefer dividing the total amount of dough in half and making two larger loaves as opposed to three smallish loaves.) Dust with more flour and quickly shape into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.6. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to an 18x16-inch rectangle (or about an 11x18-inch rectangle — just wider than the loaf pan) about ¼-inch thick, dusting the board and rolling pin with flour as needed. You may need to use a metal dough scraper to loosen rolled dough from the board as you are working with it.7. Using a pastry brush, cover the s[...]



101 Gift Ideas And Maybe Many More

2008-12-07T07:43:56.692-08:00

Yikes! It's December 5th and I have yet to purchase A single Christmas gift. I seriously need to get cracking.Fortunately I have a few ideas, which I've listed below. Readers, if you have anything to add to the list — a favorite food-related gift — please let me know and I will add it in the appropriate category. And fellow bloggers, if you have any go-to gift-giving recipes you have posted on your blogs, send me the link and I'll link back to you. Happy Shopping!The Gift of Chocolate1. Box of chocolate truffles: My favorite chocolate truffles are Éclat's sea-salt topped, caramel-filled chocolate truffles. Éclat Chocolate: eclatchocolate.com; Vosges Haut Chocolate: vosgeschocolate.com; Richart Chocolates: richart-chocolates.com 2. Homemade chocolate truffles and a truffle scoop (#100 scoop), with a printed recipe enclosed. 3. Homemade fudge or chocolate sauce packaged in a festive box or jar. 4. Homemade chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls with recipe enclosed. (They taste like Reese’s peanut butter cups, but better.) 5. Homemade hot cocoa mix with instructions and homemade (or store-bought) marshmallows. Package mix in a jar wrapped with a festive bow; package marshmallows in a cellophane bag tied with a bow. 6. Fair Trade chocolate bars. My favorite brand is Chocolove. 7. Gift Certificates to places such as Ritz Carlton Dessert Buffet or Four Seasons Dessert Buffet. (In Philadelphia there is the Naked Chocolate Café ... I'm sure your town, wherever you are, has some place similar.)The Gift of Cheese8. Tub of quince membrillo with a wedge of Roncal, Manchego, Zamorano or Idiazabal. Contact your local cheesemonger or Whole Foods Market. 9. Artisan Spanish fig cake, made with dried fruit and nut and a wedge of Garroxta. 10. Jar of lavender honey (Williams Sonoma) with a wedge of blue cheese such as Bleu de Basques. 11. Aged balsamic vinegar (A particularly good brand is Villa Mondori sold at Williams Sonoma for $49.95) with a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano. 12. Jar of truffled honey with a wedge of aged Manchego. 13. Slate, wooden or ceramic cheese platter with serving knives. (Any kitchen wares shop). 14. Small wedges of assorted cheeses chosen by country such as France (Brin D’Amour, L’Edel De Cleron, Abbaye de Belloc, Tomme de Savoie, Chaource, Bleu D’auvergne, Bleu des Causses) or America (Humbolt Fog, Birchrun Hills Farm Blue, Berkshire Blue, Grafton Classic Two-Year Cheddar, Jasper Hill Farm Constant Bliss, Jasper Hill Farm Winnemere) or Spain (Ibores, Queso de La Serena, Roncal, Monte Enebro, Cabrales) found at any cheese shop with several boxes of 34º Crackers — best crackers to serve with cheese. I am obsessed.15. Cheese books: Two informative, coffee-table-style books by Max McCalman and David Gibbons: Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best and The Cheese Plate; and an excellent reference by Steven Jenkins: The Cheese Primer 16. Membership to a Cheese of the month club: MurraysCheese.com; Igourmet.com; Artisanalcheese.com; FormaggioKitchen.com 17. A ball of local or imported Burrata, box of gray salt, and bottle of Temecula Olive Oil Company extra virgin olive oil.The Gift of Fruit 18. Jar of homemade quince jam or apple sauce or a block of homemade quince membrillo. 19. Jar of apple butter, pumpkin butter or pear butter. Check a local farmers' market. 20. A tray of the juiciest, most delectable Florida grapefruits: Pell’s Citrus and Nursery. 21. Box of Royal Riviera pears from Harry and David with a wedge of Stilton.The Gift of Cheer(Note: Many of these ideas are Philly specific. I've included them on the list anyway hoping they might spark an idea.) 22. Three bottles of wine: One to open now; one to enjoy in five years; and one to savor in 10 years. Consult a local sommelier. 23. From Moore Brothers, (specific to Philly and NYC) the Bon Marche Collection (six whites, six reds $125); or the Courtier Collection (si[...]



Honey-Buttermilk Dinner Rolls, Poached Pears & Aunt Vicki's Salad Dressing

2009-01-05T22:43:14.958-08:00

Oh my. I cannot believe Thanksgiving is almost here. I know everyone is very busy preparing, so let's keep this short and sweet, k?If you get anything out of this post, I hope it is this:1. A yummy recipe for buttermilk dinner rolls, perfect for the holiday table and a great way to use up a left-over buttermilk.2. A delectable salad dressing made with reduced orange juice and white balsamic vinegar. This dressing is particularly nice with wintery salads — endive, shaved fennel, apple, pear, oranges, etc.3. And a simple method to poach pears. Ready? Combine equal parts white wine and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Add peeled, halved and cored pears. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Check with a paring knife — pears should be tender but not mushy. Turn off the heat, remove pears and let cool to room temperature. Save the poaching liquid for another use. Slice pears further if desired. (Note: I used ½ cup of wine and sugar for about 4 pears. Nice additions to the poaching liquid include orange zest, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean.)OK, let's get started.First, these rolls. Looking for a way to use up a half-quart of buttermilk, I stumbled upon this recipe for honey buttermilk bread. I simplified the recipe a little bit, divided the dough into two big portions and made dinner rolls with half the batch and a regular-sized loaf with the other. The dinner rolls I devoured in about a day-and-a-half. The loaf, I sliced and froze and have been toasting every morning, spreading with apple butter, cinnamon and sugar, and sometimes just butter and salt. So yummy.Here's the recipe:Honey-Buttermilk Dinner RollsAdapted from the blog, The Baking SheetYield = Two Dozen 2-oz. rolls or one large loaf2½ teaspoons active dry yeast (rapid rise is fine, too)2 cups buttermilk, room temperature is ideal — bread will take longer to rise if you use cold buttermilk2 T. honey4½ cups flour, plus more while kneading or mixing2 tsp. kosher salt1. Combine yeast, buttermilk and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer or, if kneading by hand, in a large bowl. Whisk until combined. It's OK if a few lumps of yeast remain.2. Add the flour and salt to the mixer and with the dough hook attachment (or your hands), knead for about 10 minutes or until dough is pulling away from the sides of the bowl and forming a mass around the hook. I probably added an additional cup of flour.3. After 10 minutes, transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot for about two hours (may take as long as four) or until doubled in bulk. Longer is fine, too. Punch down dough, and decide what you are going to make — rolls, loaves, boules, etc. If making rolls, begin portioning the bread into about 2-ounce pieces — if you don't have a digital scale, just use your eye to judge. It is best to cut with a dough scraper or a sharp knife. (Alternatively, cut the dough in half, then divide each half into about 12 equal portions. Err on keeping the rolls smallish.) Round each portion of dough into a ball and place on a parchment-lined (or oiled) baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Let rolls rise for about 40 minutes. Bake rolls for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown — check the bottoms of the rolls because they will brown first.)If making a loaf, place dough in a greased loaf pan. Let rise until almost doubled, about 40 minutes. Bake 45 minutes, until loaf is browned and sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing.I first tasted this salad dressing when Aunt Vicki made a Greek salad for a dinner party this summer. I love its versatility — it is delicious with romaine, endive, baby spinach, arugula, etc. I think it is a perfect dressing for this Thanksgiving salad.Aunt Vicki’s Salad DressingYield = 1¾ cups2 cups orange juice¼ cup white balsamic vinegar, (regular is [...]



Candied Pecans & A Thanksgiving Day Salad

2008-11-14T01:14:10.344-08:00

So, you see my vision. It's nothing earth-shattering. A classic combination, really. But a timeless one, and one I think will be festive for Thanksgiving Day. So, to execute this salad, all I need to finish tweaking is my recipe for poached pears. The pecans I've got down to a science, (for me at least — I'll explain in a bit); the dressing, made with reduced orange juice, white balsamic vinegar and olive oil, has been tested countless times (Aunt Vicki's recipe, to be provided next week); the blue cheese (perhaps Stilton or Maytag) and the endive merely need to be purchased. The pears, however, have been giving me a little trouble this past week. I've been working with a combination of white wine, sugar, orange zest, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean. Something is not quite right yet. Any suggestions are welcome.Now, about these pecans. I've been making this recipe for several years now, and I find it produces the crunchiest, most delicious candied pecans. I'm not promising a simple and foolproof recipe, however. It's the kind of recipe, in fact, that could potentially lead you to swear off my recipes altogether.The first two-thirds of the recipe is simple: the pecans are blanched for two minutes, then simmered in simple syrup for five minutes. The final third of the process, which calls for deep-frying the pecans, is where problems can arise. I suggest using a deep fryer with a built in thermometer. My deep fryer continues to exist in my kitchen solely for the purpose of making these pecans — it keeps the oil at 375ºF, which is key for this recipe. I tried deep-frying the pecans in a heavy-bottomed pot on my stovetop once, and the process was so frustrating: At first the oil was too hot, then it wasn't hot enough, and before I had finished frying, I had ruined nearly half the batch.The key, I've learned, is to let the pecans fry for about 3 to 5 minutes — the longer they fry, the crunchier they will be. However, they must be removed from the oil before they burn, and they continue to cook a little bit once they've been removed from the oil. It's a trial-and-error process, but one well worth it in the end. I highly recommend using a deep fryer with a built-in thermometer, but if you are comfortable with stove-top deep frying, by all means go for it.Candied Pecans1 lb. raw (unblanched, unsalted) pecans = 4 heaping cups 1 1/3 cups sugar1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add pecans and simmer for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.2. Combine the sugar with 1 cup of water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 2 minutes, add pecans and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain.3. Meanwhile, preheat a deep fryer to 375ºF, or pour canola or peanut oil into a heavy-bottomed pot to reach at least one-inch up the sides and fix a deep-fry thermometer to its side. When oil is ready, fry pecans for 3 to 5 minutes in small batches. This will be a trial-and-error process. The longer the pecans fry, the crunchier they will be. If the oil is too hot, they’ll burn before they get crispy. So, fry the pecans in small batches until you can read your oil. Remove pecans from fryer with a slotted spoon or spider and let drain on cooling rack or parchment paper — not paper towels. Repeat process until all pecans are fried. Refrain from sampling until the pecans have cooled completely — they’ll be crunchier and tastier when they are completely cool.This recipe begins with raw (unblanched, unroasted, unsalted) pecans:They are blanched for two minutes in boiling water, then drained:Then they simmer in a sugar syrup for five minutes:Then they are drained again before being deep-fried for three to five minutes.[...]



Stir-Fried Veggies and Tofu

2008-11-07T01:09:17.231-08:00

What makes a good stir-fry? Sometimes all I want for dinner is a big bowl of steaming rice (or noodles) topped with stir-fried veggies, tofu, perhaps a little meat, and, maybe (always) a fried egg. And so, my friends, I ask you, what makes a good stir-fry?Is it the farmers' market veggies?Is it the wok?Is it the non-farmers' market add-ins?Is it how the veggies are chopped?Is it the sauce?Stir-Fry SauceAdapted from this 1995 Bon Appetite recipe¼ cup soy sauce¼ cup Sherry1 T. honey2 cloves garlic, minced2 tsp. orange zestWhisk ingredients. Set aside until ready to cook. Is it the rice?(This is brown basmati, but I would love to get my hands on some of that short-grained brown rice served at Chinese restaurants.)Is it the Sriracha?Dousing the bowl with Sriracha is a must.Simple Stir-Fry:I wish I could give more detailed instructions/measurements, but this truly is a no-measure recipe.1. Cook rice — whatever you like. Set aside. Prepare sauce (recipe above). Set aside.2. Chop all of your ingredients. The stir-fry takes five minutes of cooking once all the veggies are prepared, so it's best to have everything chopped ahead of time. This is what I used: onion, cabbage, baby bok choy, rapini, cilantro, snow peas, zucchini, scallions, tofu and peanuts. Be sure to wash the bok choy.3. Heat wok with about one tablespoon of canola oil until smoking hot. (Alternatively, heat wok without oil, then add oil once hot — I'm not really sure what the difference is, but I think it depends on your pan.) Add tofu cubes and let brown until nice and crispy on one side, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove tofu from wok and set aside.4. Add onions and zucchini to wok. Let cook until onions are slightly browned. Refrain from stirring — just let the vegetables brown. Add the cabbage, rapini, and bok choy and cook for another two minutes. Stir briefly. Add, the snow peas, scallions, cilantro and peanuts. Add about a ¼ cup (or less) of the sauce and let cook for about a minute. Add the tofu. Turn off the heat. Top rice with veggies and douse with Sriracha.[...]



Orange & Olive Oil Cake, Perhaps for Election Day

2008-10-31T10:17:56.817-07:00

I hate to be Debbie Downer, but I must share some disheartening news with you about olive oil. The extra-virgin olive oil you find at your local supermarket very likely is not extra-virgin at all. It turns out that the USDA doesn't even recognize classifications such as “extra-virgin.” As a result, bottlers all over the world can blend olive oil with cheaper vegetable oils and sell it for a premium price as “extra-virgin." If you care to learn more about the widespread fraud in the olive oil industry read this: Slippery Business, The New Yorker, August 13, 2007.A recent visit to the Temecula Olive Oil Company's shop forever changed how I think about olive oil. I learned so many incredible things, but I cannot, I regret, share them all with you at this moment. You'll just have to trust me that the company is awesome, their olive oil is delicious, and, as with all foods it seems, it pays to know your grower.Now, about this recipe. I made this cake — a longtime family favorite — using the TOOC's citrus extra-virgin oil, and never has it tasted so delicious. I didn't even use fresh-squeezed orange juice (the horror!). As you can see, I baked this batch in my mini springform pans, but a standard 9-inch springform pan works just as well. This cake puffs up a touch when it bakes, and sinks slightly when it cools. It is moist and delicious, perfect with coffee or tea, and only needs a dusting of powdered sugar to make it fit for consumption. Note: If you cannot get TOOC extra-virgin olive oil or any other extra-virgin oil you know to be from a credible source, use an olive oil as opposed to an extra-virgin olive oil. I've made this cake with e.v.o.o. from the grocery store and the taste is too overpowering. That is not the case, however, with TOOC oil.Oh, and apparently it's tradition to make a cake on Election Day. My mother recently emailed me an article that offers several accounts of the cake's history, which dates to 1771.Oh, and if you're looking to bake a traditional Election Day cake next Tuesday, here's a recipe:Election Cake - Thirty quarts of flour, 10 pound butter, 14 pound sugar, 12 pound raisins, 3 doz eggs, one pint wine, one quart brandy, 4 ounces cinnamon, 4 ounces fine colander seed, 3 ounces ground alspice; wet flour with milk to the consistence of bread over night, adding one quart yeast; the next morning work the butter and sugar together for half an hour, which will render the cake much lighter and whiter; when it has rise light work in every other ingredient except the plumbs, which work in when going into the oven.Recipe from Amelia Simmon's cookbook American Cookery, 2nd Edition, 1796.Orange And Olive Oil CakeYield = One 9-inch cake or six 4-inch cakes, Serves 10-12 peopleButter for greasing the pan1½ cups all-purpose flour½ tsp. baking powder¼ tsp. baking sodapinch of salt2 eggs1¾ cups sugar2 tsp. grated orange zest2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (the juice from about 2 oranges)2/3 cup olive oil, such as any made by the Temecula Olive Oil Company, Note: If you cannot get TOOC oil or oil you know to be from a credible source, use olive oil as opposed to extra-virgin olive oil.1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Butter a springform pan (or pans) or a 9-inch cake pan. (If using a cake pan, place a round of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan.)2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.3. With an electric mixer, beat the eggs until blended, then gradually add in the sugar, beating until thick. The mixture will be pale yellow. In a separate bowl, whisk the zest, juice and oil. Add to the egg mixture in thirds alternating with the flour mixture.4. Spread batter into pan and bake for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on rack for 15 minutes.5. Sift confectioners’ sugar over[...]



Pipe Dream

2008-10-24T16:46:30.551-07:00

I have two dreams in life: 1. To open and run a little cafe. 2. To start a farm. Today, let's explore dream number one, an idea a college friend and I have been scheming for years.The cafe might be called something like Olalie, open for breakfast and lunch daily from 6am to 3pm. My friend, a lovely girl, would run the front of the house, wooing customers with her big smile and California charm. I would be the devil in the back of the house, running a tight ship, raising hell when my little culinary student interns burn the croissants and overcook the oatmeal. And if all goes as planned, around 10 am everyday, when the grunt work is completed, my friend and I would turn the reins over to our obedient staff while we dipped biscotti in our cappuccinos and read the newspaper on our sunlit patio.At Olalie, we would serve coffee and tea, homemade muffins and scones, wood-burning-oven-baked breads and pizzas, salads and soups, house-made granola and steel cut oatmeal. Maybe even delicious creations such as the sandwich pictured above. All of our ingredients would, of course, come from local farmers or Fair Trade vendors and would change with the seasons, peaches in the summer, persimmons in the fall. I have yet to create our signature, Olalie coffee cake, but I suppose I still have a time.I know, I know. Let me dream.The projected grand opening of Olalie Cafe and Bakery is September 2020. I've heard, however, one can never be too prepared. And so, I've started to draft our marketing material:This folder, created in 2003, holds all of the recipes we will use at Olalie's.With any luck, our cafe will draw a loyal following, much like San Francisco's Tartine:And, after years of honing our skills as restaurateurs, we will turn that folder of recipes into a fantastic cookbook. I am so excited about my latest purchase: The Tartine Cookbook:[...]



Gateau Tiede Aux Poires Mas De Cure Bourse

2008-10-17T08:25:22.881-07:00

Surely you've heard of Gateau Tiede Aux Poires Mas De Cure Bourse. No? The best translation I've found so far is this: Delectable Pear Custardy Caramel.Attention all crème brulée, tarte tatin and crème caramel lovers. Here is another recipe that must be added to your repertoire, especially now during pear season. Apples would make a fine substitute as would quince, (though the quince might need some preliminary cooking. Maybe? Maybe not.) For my mother, this recipe rivals Balzano Apple Cake — my favorite fall (maybe, all-time) dessert, a recipe everyone should try, at least once.Just a slight warning about the preparation of this gateau: Nothing about it feels natural. If you are out of practice cooking sugar, the first step might turn you away. Don't be afraid. It's quite quite simple. Moreover, the recipe calls for a sprinkling of yeast. Again, don't worry — no rising or proofing is called for. And lastly, the batter in its final state looks like a curdled mess. But fear not. In the oven, the caramel, pears and batter combine to form, as my mother described, a delectable custardy goodness. Gateau Tiede Aux Poires Mas De Cure BourseServes 4 to 61 cup sugar1¼ tsp. yeast 4 large ripe pears, about 2 pounds, (Bartlett or Anjou), peeled, cored and sliced very thin1/3 cup flour4 large eggs1 tsp. vanilla7 T. unsalted butter, room temperature 1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter a 9”-round cake tin. In a large skillet cook ¾ cup of the sugar over moderate heat until it begins to melt. Continue cooking until it turns a golden caramel. Meanwhile, sprinkle the yeast over one tablespoon of lukewarm water.2. Pour the hot caramel into prepared pan. Make sure caramel covers the bottom. (If your caramel has hardened up before you allow it to cover the bottom of the pan, place the pan, using potholders, over one of your stovetop burners and hover it over the heat until the caramel begins to melt.) Arrange thinly sliced pears in slightly overlapping circles on top of caramel.3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then add the flour, 1/4 c. sugar, the yeast mixture and vanilla. In another large bowl (sorry about all of the bowls!) beat the butter with an electric mixer (or standmixer) until smooth. Add the egg mixture and beat until the mixture is combined well, but do not overbeat. It will look slightly curdled. Pour the mixture over the pears being careful not to dislodge the pears.4. Bake the cake on the middle rack for one hour or until golden. Let cool on rack for five minutes and then run a knife around the edges, and invert onto a large dish or platter deep enough so the syrup won’t flow over the edges. Serve warm. [...]



Pizza Pizza

2008-10-10T09:37:05.412-07:00

I am resolved. I am resolved never to make another recipe for pizza dough. Seriously. This is it. My family has been making this recipe for years and it is incredibly delicious. Tried and True. Foolproof. No tweaking necessary. Caramelized onions, grapes (or figs), gorgonzola and mascapone (or some other creamy cheese like ricotta) is one of our favorite combinations.These strong feelings stem partly from several recent failed experiments but also because I am realizing now truly wonderful homemade pizza is. Really, for me, the idea of a perfect dinner is this: several of these thin-crust pizzas (each topped differently), a salad (a homemade Caesar salad sounds nice at the moment) and a glass (OK, a bottle) of wine.I can think of only one thing that might — MIGHT — improve this recipe: A wood-burning oven. Which I intend to build soon. Or, let's say within the next six months. Seriously. It only takes a day-and-a-half to build. It's just a matter of getting organized. I saw the construction of a wood-burning, adobe oven in San Francisco at Slow Food Nation last month, and I have been wanting my very own ever since. There are two pics at the bottom of this post of the oven I plan to build and there are several other pictures of the adobe-oven-making process here.This recipe yields enough dough to serve about 6 to 8 people. I am submitting this recipe to the World Food Day blog event. Created by Val of More Than Burnt Toast and Ivy of Kopiaste, this event seeks to raise awareness about world hunger: Around the globe there are 862 million undernourished people. Since 1945, October 16 marks World Food Day, an event created by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. To participate in the blog event, follow these instructions.Want to build your own adobe oven, too? Buy this book: Build Your Own Earth Oven. I met the authors at SFN and they were pretty awesome. I also just found this article on Sunset.com — it might be interesting to compare the two methods: Sunset's Classic Adobe OvenThese pizzas take about 10 minutes at 500ºF. When they emerge from the oven, all they need is a sprinkling of fresh herbs and perhaps, but not critically, a drizzling of olive oil.One key to making a good pizza is this: keep toppings to a minimum. A thin layer of yummy ingredients is all this is needed. It helps keep the crust crisp and allows you to taste the dough. (I may have over done it a bit here. Refraining from overloading the dough is a true skill.)This adobe oven was made in one-and-a-half days. Supplies, if I recall correctly, cost under $50. I am dying to make one. Pizza DoughAdapted from Todd English’s The Figs TableMakes 4 8- to 10-inch pizzas (Serves 1 to 2 people per pizza)¼ cup whole wheat flour3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling2 teaspoons kosher salt1 2/3 cups lukewarm water2 teaspoons sugar2 teaspoons active-dry yeast2 teaspoons olive oil1. Place the flours and salt in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. (Or knead by hand. I have not had luck making this in the food processor — the engine starts smoking after about five minutes.) Combine the water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl and let sit for five minutes until the mixture bubbles slightly. Add the olive oil and stir. With the mixer on low, gradually add the oil-water mixture into the bowl. Knead until the dough is firm and smooth, under 10 minutes. The dough will be very wet and sort of difficult to work with. I liberally coat my hands with flour before attempting to remove it.2. Divide the dough into four balls, about 7½ ounces each. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. (Be sure to oil the parchment paper.) Place two balls on a sheet. Lightly rub the balls wit[...]



Swiss Chard Tart

2008-10-07T00:05:44.148-07:00

(image) I have an excellent recipe for a buttery, cornmeal tart shell. It NEVER fails to please. Why then, I ask you, must I continue to experiment with other recipes? Oiy. Rarely do they measure up. Tonight I'm annoyed. Truly. I mean, this tart would have been unbelievably delectable had I just stuck to the tried-and-true recipe I know.

Alas. This tart closely resembles the breakfast pizza I made several months ago. The topping is nearly identical: sautéed Swiss chard with garlic, grated cheese (whatever you have on hand), and a couple of eggs — a combination I really adore. OK, fine, I adore eggs on everything, but you know what I mean.

So, I can't in good conscience leave you with a foolproof recipe today, but I can give you some guidance. Use this recipe for the tart shell and follow this recipe for the topping. Combine the two and you'll likely create a yummy dinner. Again, I regret, I am leaving you with yet another recipe that must be revisited shortly.

(image) My Swiss chard plants are still going strong. In fact, they have been consistently productive since I planted them. For all of you novice gardeners out there, Swiss chard is a great vegetable to start a garden with — it is easy to grow and very tasty.

(image)



Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

2008-10-03T07:15:33.862-07:00

What do you get when you combine heavy cream, half and half, egg yolks, sugar, fresh mint and dark chocolate? Absolute, pure, utter and complete deliciousness. I don't know what else to say about this mint chocolate chip ice cream except that it is one of the best things I have ever tasted. Ever. Seriously.Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice CreamAdapted from Alice Q. Foodie's recipe1 cup half and half2 cups heavy cream2 cups lightly packed mint leaves5 egg yolks¾ cup sugarpinch saltpure peppermint oil* (not extract), optional 1 cup chopped dark chocolate, such as Valrhona 70%, chopped with a chef's knife into ¼-inch pieces *Peppermint oil can be found at specialty cookware shops. I found mine at Fante's in Philadelphia, but Alice Q. Foodie says Henry's Market carries it as well. 1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the cream and half and half with the mint leaves until it's good and hot but not boiling. (You can just touch it lightly with your finger to test it.) Cover pan and set aside to steep for 30 mins. Strain out mint and discard (or compost) it.2. Whisk yolks in a large bowl. If your cream mixture is still relatively hot to the touch (which it should be after only 30 minutes), slowly ladle the mixture into the egg yolks whisking constantly. Transfer yolk-cream mixture back to the saucepan and add the sugar with a pinch of salt. 3. Cook the custard over medium heat for about ten minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heat proof spatula. When the mixture begins to coat the back of the spoon, remove the pan from the heat. (If you have a thermometer, it should be about 170 degrees.)4. Strain the hot custard into a bowl. If using the peppermint oil, take it and drip one or two drops into the cap of the bottle, then dip a toothpick in the oil and swish it through the custard mixture. (This stuff is powerful and can easily ruin a batch of custard if restraint is not used.)5. Chill the mixture until completely cold. Churn in an ice cream maker. During the last few minutes of churning, add the chocolate chips. Freeze mixture until ready to serve. [...]



The Secret To Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes

2008-09-30T07:45:11.007-07:00

Before I mislead you any further, I'm going to come clean. I don't know the secret to making lemon-ricotta pancakes. In fact, what I flipped around the griddle on Saturday morning was nothing short of a disaster. Breakfast was saved only by the bacon.Which leads me to the "secret" I am referring to in the title. Several weeks ago, I was up in San Fran dining with a few friends for brunch. One of my friends was being particularly indecisive. I think he sent the waitress away twice, insisting that he "needed more time." My stomach grumbled while he wavered between the burger and the pancakes. He finally chose the pancakes, ordering a side of bacon to satisfy his grease craving. He promised the rest of us he would share. And share we did. No sooner had the waitress dropped our food had we ordered another plate of bacon for the table. I had ordered the pancakes, too, and I have to say, with the addition of a few strips of crispy bacon, I don't think I've ever been more satisfied with a brunch order. I'm always tempted by dishes such as French toast, waffles and pancakes, but I always worry about missing the greasy, savory egg dishes. A side of bacon, I've discovered, is the perfect solution. So, I suppose, all I can share with you today is this: perhaps the secret to enjoying pancakes is to eat them with a little grease?Now about these pancakes. Several years ago while visiting my sister in NYC, I ordered lemon-ricotta pancakes for brunch at Sarabeth's in the upper west side. I have been dreaming about them ever since and over the years have saved countless recipes from various newspapers and magazines. After comparing the recipes, including a handful from the blogosphere, I chose this one and set to work.Now, I don't want to blame the recipe because I think I'm partly at fault. I have never figured out how to make pancakes. By the time I get my rhythm going and start cooking the pancakes properly, I've eaten about 100 and can hardly bear to look at the griddle any longer. That's precisely what happened this weekend. But even the pancakes that I believe I cooked properly lacked the flavor I remember so fondly. The lemon flavor certainly came through but the ricotta was indiscernible, likely a tribute to the icky ricotta I purchased at my grocery store.So I wish wish wish I could leave you with an awesome recipe for lemon-ricotta pancakes, but alas I cannot. I am determined to make these again soon, however, and when I do, I hope to report back with more favorable results. On a side note, imagine my excitement upon seeing this month's Saveur in my mailbox. Look at this cover! Pure genius. There's a nice little two-page spread offering detailed instructions for cooking eggs four ways: baked, sunny-side up, soft-boiled and scramble. Might be a good thing to tuck inside a cookbook for future reference. Just a thought.[...]



Leftover Tortillas? Make a Quiche

2008-09-26T09:00:27.910-07:00

I hate wasting food. I really do. But sometimes, I stash things in the freezer merely to avoid the guilt of trashing food at the present moment. By "things" I mean 4 tortillas or 6 egg whites or the heels of a loaf of bread. I have good intentions. I really do. With the tortillas, I envision making a quick wrap for lunch one day. With the egg whites, an angel food cake. With the bread, homemade croutons.These things sit — preserved, certainly — but effectively, trashed. Inevitably, I clean out the freezer several months down the road and toss the cracked tortillas and frost-encrusted heels of bread into the garbage can.Anyway, last weekend, I rescued four flour tortillas from meeting their cold fate. When I spotted them in my fridge, I recalled a recipe I had seen on the Blue Heron Farm Web site for asparagus quiche that used tortillas as a shell. And then I played a game called "use every possible item of food in your fridge that can be sautéed and packed into a quiche shell." Never played? Give it a go. It's a great time. What's most fun about the game is that there are no rules: Expiration dates should be overlooked; mold, scraped away and sent down the disposal; shriveled, wilted vegetables, scrubbed and chopped as if they were new.I wish I could say I were exaggerating. I'm not. I cut off serious mold from a pepper. I gave a block of cheese a chemical peel. I browned a questionable piece of several-days-old hamburger meat. The result? A yummy yummy quiche.Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350ºF.Step 2: Prep your ingredients. Here I have 1 bell pepper, 1 zucchini, 2 chipotles in adobo, 1 hot chili pepper, 1 tomato, leftover sautéed leeks, grated Parmigiano Reggiano and cilantro. Cook your ingredients. Sauté peppers and onions and such together. (I also had a leftover uncooked hamburger patty, so about 6 ounces of ground beef.) Season with salt and pepper. Add zucchini and tomatoes and cooked leeks. Add cilantro at the end. Note: This is just what I had on hand — use anything you have. Step 3. Line a buttered dish, such as a 9-inch round baking or pie pan, with about 4 tortillas.Whisk together 3 eggs with 1/2 cup of milk in a large bowl. Add the prepped ingredients. Add the cheese and stir. Step 4. Pour into prepared tortilla-lined pan. Bake for about 30 minutes or until set. Mixture should jiggle just slightly when shaken.Step 5: Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before cutting. Ta-da! A simple simple quiche. [...]



Corn Pudding

2008-09-22T21:56:23.486-07:00

Several years ago, I received two non-stick All-Clad mini baking pans as a birthday gift. They are adorable! And, before this evening, entirely useless. Tonight, I am happy to report, I finally found a use — a very good use — for them: corn pudding.Corn pudding for two, that is. This original recipe, printed in the July 2007 issue of Gourmet, feeds 8-10 people as a side dish. It is such a wonderful recipe, and I made it several times last summer after hearing my mother rave. Tonight, in an effort to minimize potential leftovers, I made a third of the recipe and baked it in one of my adorable, All-Clad baking dishes. Success! I love this recipe. It takes only minutes to prepare and is a perfect late-summer, early-fall dish. For the past few weeks I have been buying delectable corn at the San Clemente farmers' market from the same Carlsbad farmer that sells the Cherokee Purple tomatoes I have been obsessed with all summer. I am submitting this recipe to the September 20th Farmers' Market Report. If you have a farmers' market story/recipe/discovery you want to share, you can play, too. Just read the rules first, then submit your post. Happy first day of fall.Corn Pudding For TwoServes 2 as a side dish(Note: Click here for the recipe written to serve 8-10 people)2 ears corn, kernels scraped from cobcilantro or basil to taste1 tablespoons all-purpose flour1 teaspoon sugarpinch kosher salt2/3 cup 1%, 2% or whole milk2 small or one large egg, lightly beaten1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF with rack in the middle. Butter a small shallow baking dish (such as the one pictured above) or individual crème brulee dishes or ramekins.2. Pulse half of the corn in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the herbs, flour, sugar, salt and remaining corn. Whisk together milk and eggs and add to bowl with the corn. Stir until just combined. Pour into baking dish or ladle into individual dishes.3. Bake until the center is just set. About 30-35 minutes. (Maybe longer — I kind of lost track of time.) Let stand 15 minutes before serving.[...]



Peach Blueberry Cake

2008-09-18T22:35:57.851-07:00

This recipe has so much potential. And I so badly want to rave about it. I mean, I have been snacking on it morning and night for the past two days. But something, I must confess, is not quite right.This recipe appeared in the August 2005 issue of Gourmet. If you care to hear what other people think of the recipe, you can read the 143 reviews posted on Epicurious. Online, I just discovered, the recipe is prefaced with this: We've received some letters from readers complaining about a burned crust when making the peach blueberry cake, so we ran through the recipe two more times. Baked in a standard light-colored metal pan, the cake was perfect; baked in a dark metal pan, however, it burned — be aware that the cake's high sugar content makes it more susceptible to burning at high heat.A burnt crust was precisely the problem I ran into. The recipe calls for baking the cake at 375ºF for 1 hour and 45 minutes. 1 hour and 45 minutes! Does that sound crazy to you? I mean, sometimes I wonder what people (recipe writers) are thinking. I baked my cake at 350ºF for about 1 hour and 15 minutes because it smelt too good to leave in the oven any longer and the fruit looked bubbly and delicious. You can't see the pastry below the layer of stewing fruit, so there is no way of knowing if "the crust is golden" as the recipe suggests as a determining doneness factor. When I bake this cake again — which I am determined to do before summer is over — I will bake it for one hour and see if that improves the texture of the crust, which in addition to being slightly burnt tasted slightly dry. When I bake it again, however, I might use a different pastry all together. My mother suggested using a shortbread pastry recipe from Chez Panisse Desserts, which she adores and which could be the perfect substitute for the current dough. All I know is this: whatever pastry is used in this dessert must be strong enough to support a thick layer of juicy, oozing fruit. And in an ideal world, it must be moist and delicious, too.For all of you bakers out there, any suggestions?Cake just before entering the oven:Cake after resting for 20 minutes out of the oven:Peach Blueberry CakeServes 81½ cups all-purpose flour½ cup sugar1 tsp. baking powder¼ tsp. kosher salt1 stick (½ cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes1 egg1 tsp. vanilla½ cup sugar2 tablespoons flour2 lb. firm-ripe large peaches (about 4), halved lengthwise, pitted, and each half cut lengthwise into fourth or fifths1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)1 tablespoon fresh lemon juicepinch salt1. Make pastry. Pulse together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with pea-sized butter lumps. Add egg and vanilla and pulse just until the dough clumps into a ball, about 15 pulses.2. With floured fingertips press dough onto bottom of an ungreased springform pan. Chill pastry in pan until firm, about 10 minutes.3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and toss until the fruit is evenly coated. Pour filling over chilled pastry and cover pan loosely with foil. Bake for about an hour, until filling is bubbling.4. Transfer cake in pan to a rack and cool uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove sides of pan and cool longer or serve immediately with vanilla ice cream. The pastry for this cake comes together quickly with just a few pulses in the food processor. Of course, it can be made by hand as well.[...]



Michael Pollan's Nightmare, His Autograph & Some Thoughts From Slow Food Nation

2008-09-15T20:50:23.666-07:00

I had waited in line for one hour with six books in hand, when I saw him stand up. He's leaving, I thought. Michael Pollan is leaving. My heart sunk. I considered jumping out of line like a crazy woman to beg him to sign one more book before he left. An act of craziness, fortunately, was unnecessary. Michael Pollan, who, next to Wendell Berry, was receiving little action at the book-signing table, had stepped out to meet the people in line. One by one, he greeted Slow Food devotees, engaged in small talk and signed books. When he reached me, I could hardly utter a word. "Who should I make this out to?" he asked. "Well, I'm Ali," I said. "And, I love your books," I blurted out."Well, Thanks Ali," he replied.And that was it. A 30-second conversation. My heart was racing. But I'm not going to lie — I'm pretty psyched to have my copy of The Omnivore's Dilemma signed by Michael Pollan. (See picture below. In case you cannot read his writing, he wrote: "For Ali, Vote With Your Fork.") Click here to see more photos from Slow Food Nation including a blurry picture of Pollan from the event described above. What can I say, my hands were shaking.Now, about this corn burger. I recently finished an intro graphic design course at UCLA Extension. One of our projects was to create a teaser movie poster. Teasers are the posters released months before a film hits the studios — the ones that include little written information about the film (no credits, no photos from the screening, etc.). Often even the title is absent from the poster. I chose King Corn, a documentary released in 2007 about corn production in this country. Corn, the two college friends and movie protagonists learned, is ubiquitous in our food supply, from the burgers and breads we eat to the beer and soda we drink — an idea Michael Pollan explored in depth in the Omnivore's Dilemma. (The corn burger is something I imagine starring in a Michael Pollan nightmare.) King Corn is very interesting and can be rented at Blockbuster or purchased from the movie's Web site.The other element of my poster, modeled after Fat Burger's logo, is pictured below:I love these vintage posters lining the walls of the bread stalls at Slow Food Nation's Taste Pavillion:I left Slow Food Nation feeling inspired yet overwhelmed by the many issues facing this country (and the world) regarding food production. Perhaps what I thought was most interesting, however, was hearing the many speakers collectively criticize both Obama and McCain for failing to discuss reformation of our food system. The panelists noted that if politicians could pass laws that promote sustainable agriculture, they would solve (or begin to solve) many other problems along the way.But the "slow food" or "local food" movement has always been driven by the people. Wendell Berry described the ongoing revolutions as a "leaderless movement." Below I have summarized what I learned from the various Food For Thought sessions I attended. Slow Food: ‘A Leaderless Movement’When asked how our presidential candidates stand on the subject of food and agriculture, author Michael Pollan responded frankly: “They don’t stand.”Among the many challenges the next president of the United States faces, three remain at the forefront: limiting our country’s dependence on foreign oil, reducing the high costs of health care, and fighting global warming. Senators Barack Obama and John McCain have proposed various solutions to these problems ranging from off-shore drilling to universal health cov[...]



Farmers' Market Quesadillas

2008-09-12T00:31:06.861-07:00

I found corn masa! Real corn masa. Like freshly made every day corn masa. El Toro Rojo (in my town, San Clemente) receives a delivery of this tortilla base every day precisely because real corn masa perishes that quickly.Tonight, I made quesadillas following a method prescribed in Rick Bayless’ Mexico One Plate at a Time cookbook.  In this method, the freshly pressed, uncooked tortillas are placed on a hot griddle. The filling gets placed atop the side facing up (the uncooked side), and the tortilla is folded over and pressed to create the traditional half-moon shape. The tortilla gets flipped back and forth every minute or so and cooks in less than five minutes. I worried about the uncooked side tasting, well, uncooked, but it doesn’t — it becomes wonderfully crispy and golden on the outside while the cheese melts and the filling all melds together.Now, if you can’t find fresh corn masa, don’t fret. This vegetable sauté will taste delectable in any tortilla. Just use whatever variety of flour or corn tortillas you prefer. In fact, while I am thrilled with the results of the fresh corn masa tortilla, this recipe is all about the filling: quickly sautéed farmers’ market veggies mixed with chopped fresh basil and topped with grated cheddar cheese. I used corn, zucchini, poblano peppers, onion and cherry tomatoes, but use whatever vegetables you find. I am loving the taste of corn with basil right now. Such a good combination.Once the vegetables are all chopped, this sauté takes five minutes to complete. Use high heat and cook the peppers and onions first. Add the corn with the zucchini once the onion bits look a little brown. Cook for another minute or so, and add the chopped cherry tomatoes and basil at the end with the pan off the heat.So, I made this filling for quesadillas, but this quick sauté could be served over rice or mixed with orecchiette pasta (the perfect shape for vegetables this size) or served with polenta or whatever. I have a feeling a poached or fried egg atop this vegetable medley would only enhance its deliciousness. Try it! It is so yummy.Farmers’ Market QuesadillasServes Two1 onion, diced1 poblano pepper, diced1 ear corn, kernels scraped from cob1 zucchini, diced1 cup cherry tomatoes, quarteredbasil to taste, choppedolive oilkosher saltTabasco, optionalTortillas, corn or flourCheddar cheese, gratedSalsa, sour cream and lime for serving, optional1. Over high heat, sauté the onion and pepper together until the onion looks slightly browned. Add the zucchini and corn and cook for one to two minutes. Season the whole mixture with salt to taste. Turn off the heat and add the cherry tomatoes and basil. Taste, adjust seasoning as necessary. Add a splash of Tabasco if desired.2. Proceed with your preferred recipe for quesadillas. (See below if using fresh corn masa.) Here is a good method: Brush a cast iron or non-stick pan with a thin coating of olive oil. Place a flour tortilla in the pan and brush it lightly with olive oil. When the underside starts to get little light brown bubbles, turn the tortilla over and top it with the cheese and vegetable mixture. Fold the tortilla in half so it looks like a half moon. Place a smaller cast iron pan on top to weight down the tortilla. When one side is brown, flip over the tortilla and brown the other side. Make sure that the tortilla cooks until it almost could crack like a bisquit. You'll have to play with the heat — it should be hot enough to brown, but not to burn.3. Rick Bayles[...]



One Peach, One Tart, A Favorite Recipe, Simplified

2008-09-06T07:58:53.852-07:00

As the title suggests, the tart featured in this post is based on a longtime favorite recipe printed in Fine Cooking several years ago. The original recipe calls for making a frangipane — an almond-based filling — to spread in a thin layer across the dough. The fruit lies over this creamy base and the combination of dough, frangipane and fruit in every bite is absolutely delicious. The addition of frangipane to any free-form tart — from plums, peaches and apricots (really all stone fruit) in the summer to pears and apples in the fall — seriously raises the bar of the classic fruit tart, adding a most subtle flavor, but a dimension that pure fruit tarts lack.That said, in the tart pictured above, the frangipane has been omitted, and had I never known frangipane existed, I wouldn't have missed it. A dessert of warm peaches in a flaky, buttery crust topped with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream alone is pretty damn good. And whereas frangipane requires almond paste, rum and room-temperature butter, this simplified fruit tart can be made with pantry items in no time.All I'm saying is this: If you have the time and the ingredients, make the frangipane. You won't be disappointed. If you don't have the time or the ingredients, however, make this tart anyway. You will still produce an elegant and delectable dessert. You won't be disappointed.This recipe yields two small tarts each of which will serve three or four people. I used only one peach in the tart I made and froze the remaining portion of dough. I love love love this dough recipe. I'm not quite sure how it differs from a traditional pie dough but it without fail produces a perfect crust. It should be noted that while this tart probably tastes best when warm, I am discovering that it complements morning coffee very nicely as well.Galette DoughYield=Two mini tarts (each tart yields 3-4 small servings; double recipe to yield two 9-inch tarts)1¼ cups all-purpose flour1 T. sugar¼ tsp. table salt8 T. unsalted butter¼ C. + 1 T. ice waterWhisk flour, sugar and salt together. Cut butter into flour and using the back of a fork or a pastry cutter, incorporate butter into flour mixture until butter is in small pieces. Add ice water and continue to stir with fork until mixture comes together to form a mass. Add more ice water if necessary, one tablespoon at a time. Gently form mass into a ball and divide into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes and as long as overnight. (Dough can be frozen, too.)FrangipaneNote: I did not use a frangipane in the above pictured tart. This frangipane makes for a truly special tart. If you're pressed for time, however, or don't feel like making frangipane, the peaches and the galette dough alone will make a wonderful dessert.¼ C. almond paste2 T.. sugar2 T. butter at room temperature2 tsp. rum1 small eggIn the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor, combine almond paste, sugar and butter. Beat until combined, then add rum and egg and beat until smooth, or until only small lumps remain. Set aside.To Assemble:1 peach, sliced (If making two tarts, use two peaches.)pinch sugar, pinch salt1 T. butter, melted1 tsp. sugarparchment papervanilla ice cream1. Toss peach slices with the pinches of sugar and salt. Set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, roll one disk out approximately into a 9-inch circle, using flour as needed to prevent sticking. Line a rimless cookie sheet (or upside-d[...]



Roasted Tomato Soup Thickened with Bread (Pappa Al Pomodoro)

2008-08-28T22:15:33.378-07:00

At an adorable café in San Clemente, a bowl of tomato-and-bread soup sent four ladies knocking on the kitchen’s door. Through an open window, the women praised the chef for his creation, swooning over the soup's deep, rich flavors, begging him to disclose any secrets. Flattered and unafraid to share, the chef rattled off the ingredients: tomatoes, basil, onions, bread, salt. The women stared in disbelief. They wanted something more. They wanted to hear that the soup was drizzled with white truffle oil; that it was lightened with a goats'-milk foam; that it was finished with an 80-year Xeres vinegar. Alas, simplicity, it seems, triumphs again.Several of you out there recommended I roast or dry my small tomato harvest and store the tomatoes indefinitely in my freezer or fridge to be used as I please. I did in fact follow these instructions, but upon hearing this exchange between the chef and patrons at Cafe Mimosa last week, I couldn't resist pureeing my tomatoes into a soup. Roasting, I discovered, sweetens and intensifies the tomato flavor, making the need for any exotic, unexpected flavorings unnecessary. Chef Tim Nolan surely wasn't holding anything back. This rustic soup originates in Tuscany and, like so many traditional recipes — panzanella salad, bread pudding, bruschetta, French toast — was created as a way to prevent day-old bread from going to waste. Simplicity (as well as bread) is the common denominator of all of these recipes. Whether the soup at Cafe Mimosa is vegetarian or not, I do not know, but my vegetables certainly needed some sort of a stock to bring the mixture to soup consistency. I used chicken stock and coarsely pureed the mixture with a large bunch of basil and a few dried out pieces of a French boule. Many of the recipes I found on the web for pappa al pomoodoro called for a fair amount of olive oil, but I didn't think this soup needed any more than what was used while roasting them. Adjust this recipe, however, according to your liking — this batch of soup has been made completely to taste. If you start with a base of slow roasted tomatoes, onions, garlic and shallots, I assure you your soup will be a success. Served with a few shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano and a piece of crusty bread, pappa al pomodoro makes a wonderful late summer meal.Slow roasted tomatoes, onions, shallots and garlic form the base of this Tuscan tomato soup.Roasted Tomato Soup Thickened with BreadInspired By Café Mimosa’s Tomato Bread Soup Yield = 1½ to 2 quartstomatoes, halved if large, left whole if cherry or grape, enough to fill a sheet tray1 onion, peeled and chopped into big chunks1 shallot, peeled and chopped into big chunks1 head garlic, cloves removed and peeleda few carrots, peeled and cubedolive oilkosher saltfresh cracked pepper3-4 slices bread (French or Italian)about 2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade or a low-sodium variety1 bunch fresh basilcrushed red pepper flakesShaved Parmigiano Reggiano and crusty bread for serving, optionalNote: This recipe is all done to taste. Adjust as necessary.1. Roast the vegetables. Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Line a rimmed sheet tray with all of the vegetables. This tray should be filled in a single layer. Use whatever vegetables you have on hand — I threw in the carrots because I had them, but leeks, celery, thyme etc. would all make nice additions. Drizzle olive oil over top. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and roast for about t[...]



Buttermilk Panna Cotta: Simplest Dessert Ever

2008-08-24T22:39:39.718-07:00

This dessert takes five minutes to make. Ten minutes tops. And it's a great way to use up leftover buttermilk.For example, I opened the fridge a few days ago and spotted a carton of buttermilk dated August 13. It smelt a little funky and I noticed a few lumps, but doesn't buttermilk always kind of look/smell this way? I gave the carton a good shake, poured the buttermilk into a clear, glass measuring cup to inspect for anything looking particularly threatening and proceeded with the recipe. Success. I have now eaten panna cotta three nights in a row and have yet to feel a tinge of sickness.Even if you aren't trying to use up a half-empy carton of buttermilk, this is a great recipe to have on hand for several reasons:1. It can and should be made the night before serving — perfect for entertaining.2. It is made in individual servings — perfect for entertaining.3. It is light and summery.4. It literally takes no time to whip up.5. It is delicious.Also, you don't need fancy ramekins or custard cups. I have them, (and love them, obviously), but for the sake of demonstration, I poured this batch into various-sized glass cups including an old-fashioned mason jar. It looked precious. The panna cotta doesn't even really need to be inverted onto a plate, and if you chose to use glasses, in fact, I wouldn't recommend inverting. Just eat it right out of the glass. Yum.Note: If you do have a set of ramekins, invert the panna cotta onto plates and serve with fresh fruit or a raspberry coulis, as my grandmother does.What is panna cotta? Panna cotta, meaning "cooked cream," is an Italian dessert made by simmering milk or cream and sugar together. It is thickened with gelatin and must chill for a few hours to set. According to Wikipedia, panna cotta originates from the Piedmont region of Italy.Buttermilk Panna CottaIf you have 1½ cups buttermilk on hand:1½ tsp. unflavored gelatin½ cup milk, not skim, but 1% and up½ cup sugar1½ cups buttermilk¼ tsp. vanilla extractIf you have 1 cup buttermilk on hand:1 tsp. gelatin6 T. milk6 T. sugar1 cup buttermilk1/8 tsp. vanilla1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over ¼ cup (or 3 tablespoons if using 1 cup of buttermilk) of water. Let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.2. In a saucepan, heat milk and sugar over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot but not boiling, 3-5 minutes.Remove from heat, stir in gelatin mixture, then buttermilk, and vanilla. Pour into 4 or 6-oz ramekins* and chill until set, 3 hours.3. To serve, run a knife around edge of ramekin, place a plate on top, flip over and gently shake to turn out onto plate.Garnish with some fresh berries.*Note: Pour into any vessel you have. If using tall, narrow glasses, do not worry about inverting. Serve right in the glass. Keeps well in the fridge for at least a week. [...]