Monday, December 14, 2009

I have been baking!

I just haven't been posting. How boring, I know. But once again, finals time is here. And anyone who knows me knows finals time means baking time. Last week I made lemon poppy muffins. I would have posted but the recipe I created based on a bunch of different ideas came out slightly too dry and, in my opinion, not sweet enough. Almost a failure, except that they were good! Just not good enough to be called lemon-poppy muffins on my blog.

Tonight, instead of reviewing slides for my in-class presentation of the psychosocial and cognitive effects of chronic illness, particularly heart disease and sickle cell anemia, I am baking simple chocolate cookies. So super simple that I whipped up the dough in 5 minutes, and now it's sitting in the fridge to chill for 30 while I write this post..err.. I mean... work on slides?

Here's the recipe. I'll recap how they came out when they're done, at about 9 pm.

6 T softened butter
2 T oil
1 1/4 c sugar
1 egg
splash vanilla
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 c cocoa
1/4 c cream cheese

In a bowl, cream butter, oil, and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Beat well. Add all the dry ingredients. Continue to beat. Finally, slowly stir in cream cheese. You can leave it in swirls or fully incorporate it. It's up to you. Toss dough into a container and stick in the fridge for 30 min to chill. 10 min before it's done chillin, preheat oven to 325.

When your dough is chilled and your oven is preheated (or almost there), start scooping. With a regular table spoon, scoop some dough into the palm of your hand, and shape into a ball. I fit about 18 cookies on each tray; the balls don't spread too much, I could have fit more, but I was experimenting. You could probably fit about 24 on each tray. If you want, roll each ball in confectioners sugar. I didn't but I thought about it when they were done.

Bake for 18 minutes on 325 convection. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack.

I have to admit, yesterday, I wasn't so into these. But they got better with a day! The texture is very nice-- somewhere between brownie and cookie. Slightly chewy, slightly dense. Real good.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fall Mushroom Stew

I felt ill all day. I knew I couldn't just up and leave my externship and come home and get into bed, although that was what I desperately wanted to do. I also knew that all I needed was a good rest and some soup. So what did I do? I created the ultimate fall stew.

The recipe I give below is super easy. The entire process requires very little tending-to time once you've chopped all your veggies. The stew turned out great. It wasn't too thick, there was enough broth to coat my aching throat, and although it is chunky in texture, there wasn't too much I really had to chew (which was perfect, because I just was not in the mood to chew!).

Also, I realized when I was putting the leftovers away that this stew looked like fall. Orange carrots, pale yellow parsnips, white potatoes, brown broth reminded me of the season we are in now (although I say it feels more like winter). The recipe here will serve 6, or 1 or 2 with leftovers for lunch!

Fall Mushroom Stew

2 c + 8 c water or stock (I use both)
1 1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 T unsalted butter
1 lb sliced button mushrooms
1 leek, white part sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
3 parsnips, sliced
2-4 bay leaves
2 potatoes, chopped
1 c rinsed barley
2 T soy sauce
black pepper and salt to taste

Heat 2 c water or stock to boil. Pour liquid over dried mushrooms in a small bowl. Let sit 20 min. Meanwhile, melt butter in a pot. Add sliced fresh mushrooms and cook, on medium-low heat, until they've released liquid and are cooking down. After about 10 min, add the rest of the ingredients through bay leaves, including the rehydrated mushrooms and their soaking water and the rest of the 8 c water or stock. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 min. Add potatoes and barley, and simmer until both are done, about 30. Add soy sauce and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beyond Cauliflower

This recipe was in the New York Times foodie Thanksgiving section. I usually do not "do" recipes straight from other recipes; I find it hard to stick to what is written (problem with authority?). However, for this recipe, I stayed pretty spot on. The results were well received: cauliflower as a vehicle for subtly serious flavors of brown butter, sage, and lemon. With only hints of each main ingredient, this cauliflower is definitely the most Mysterious I've ever had. And the sage salt-making process was beautiful and fun.
I will most likely make the recipe again, but will perhaps experiment with adding other herbs. I'll keep you posted. Check it out:

1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
handful of fresh washed sage leaves (you don't need much- fresh sage is very strong)
1 T kosher salt
2 heads cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 T unsalted butter
1 lemon, zest set aside (a microplane or regular grater works great for zesting; you'll also need the juice, so don't toss it out when you're done zesting!)

Pour olive oil into a small saucepan. Over medium low heat, warm the oil. When little bubbles form on the bottom of the pan, add the sage leaves. Simmer about 2-3 minutes. Pour oil and sage into a small bowl. Remove the sage leaves from the oil; dry them on a paper towel.
On 425, roast cauliflower tossed in fresh sage oil. Keep in oven about 30 min, or until lightly browned. While this is in the oven, prepare brown butter sauce by melting and simmering butter on low. Cook until butter turns brown, smells toasty, and solids are brown. Add lemon juice, stir well. Prepare sage salt, too, while cauliflower cooks. Do this by crumbling the sage leaves in between your fingers and then adding your kosher salt.
When cauliflower comes out of the oven, place in a large bowl and toss with brown butter sauce, zest, sage salt. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fall Granola

I was asked yesterday why I make so much granola. My response? "We like it, don't we?" The answer is obviously yes. The stuff flies outta the jar! But people enjoying granola isn't the only reason I make it. I also make it because it is super simple and really fun to make. There's almost no way to screw up. All you need are oats, and any of your favorite seeds, nuts, fruits, seasonings, sweeteners... in any combination, really.

I'm always working on my granola recipes. They're in no way scientific, but I've experimented with many different combinations, and will continue to. I'm sure I'll never settle on just ONE granola recipe.

I always thought I liked my granola chewy. I turned my nose up at crunchy granola, or loose granola, that didn't clump together. But this week's granola recipe pleasantly surprised me. Crunchy? Yes. Sort of loose? Also yes. I didn't have these on hand, but I think cut-up dried apples would have gone more nicely than the dried tart cherries and cranberries I put into this batch. Or some crystallized ginger. Next time. There will definitely be a next time. For now, I am just going to savor my new batch, either right out of the palm of my hand, or sprinkled on plain yogurt.

This Week's Granola

Approximately 3-4 c oats
3/4 c pumpkin seeds
3/4 c sunflower seeds
1/3 c sesame seeds
3/4 c slivered almonds
3/4 c dried flaked coconut (unsweetened is preferred but not necessary)
1/4 c oil
1/3 c brown sugar
1/3 c honey
1 T vanilla extract
1 1/2 c chopped dried fruit

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toast the oats, seeds, almonds, and coconut on a sheet pan, dry, in the preheating oven, for about 6-8 min, or until the coconut begins to brown or become fragrant. Allow to cool just a bit, and then pour into a big bowl. Mix in oil, sugar, honey, and vanilla. Mix until all ingredients are adequately integrated and coated well. On parchment paper, in one layer, spread the granola mixture. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes. Check it at 15 minutes. If it's nicely browned, it's done. If not, you can let it go a bit longer. Once out of the oven, allow to cool about 10-20 minutes on the pan. Add the dried fruit right on top of the granola and, using a spoon or a bench scraper, incorporate the fruit into the cooling granola. This way, the fruit doesn't bake and become too chewy. Allow to further cool before storing it in a jar or eating.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I can't believe I did it, but I did it!

Last night I baked my first ever batch of sourdough bread. I had been working on the starter for about a week and, although I sort of botched it by not saving enough to keep the thing going post-bread making, the bread turned out amazingly. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but this bread was a-may-zing. Is amazing.

I used Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice to make the starter and the Basic Sourdough. This book is incredible. It's by the same guy who wrote Brother Juniper's Bread Book, which is what we used as a guide when I worked in a bakery. I took this one out of the library about a week ago after seeing it on shelves and hearing it was awesome. I'm telling you, the book lives up to the hype. I am going to need a copy for Hanukkah or something (hint hint!)...

Not only are the recipes amazingly easy to follow, but Reinhart's commentary and description of the Stages of Bread have are indispensable. For instance, I never knew that what makes sourdough sour isn't that it is made of wild yeast but instead because of the bacteria it attracts during fermentation. I also didn't know there was a unique bacteria in the San Francisco Bay Area that is named after it: Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis. Who knew? This book has copious amounts of information--everything I ever wanted to know about baking hearth breads. Even the esoteric method of steaming bread in the oven in order to create a great crust with adequately baked bread beneath.

Following Reinhart's method in the book is advised (by me). I took mine basically straight from the his, except my starter was 100% organic whole wheat, and the bread dough itself was a mix of white and whole wheat, about 3 to 1, which is unusual for me, but I thought I'd go more by the book or this one.

I will post my own recipe for other sourdough in the coming weeks, so be on the look out. For now, revel with me in the sourdough skills! Thank you bacteria!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Soup soup SOUP

So, I wasn't going to post this recipe. The main reason is that I was browsing Everybody Likes Sandwiches, one of my favorite blogs, and I found a recipe (follow the link!) for Sweet Potato, Corn, and Jalapeño Bisque. I traced that link back to a recipe here, by the Wednesday Chef (another blog favorite!). Wednesday Chef sent me here. And, finally, to a recipe in "Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found From The Times-Picayune of New Orleans" (Chronicle Books, 2008). I figured, if this recipe is already all over the web in various renditions, why do I need to post my version? I will look like a poser.

As I ate my soup for the past week and a half, for lunch some days, snack and dinner others, people would ask me, "What is that soup?"

Usually when people ask me what I am eating, I refer them to my blog. But now, I found myself at a loss. I could tell them what it was, but it was far less satisfying just telling them what it was! Today was the second week of me finishing off this delicious soup. It's sweet, it's spicy, it has corn in it (who doesn't love corn in their soup?), and I'm telling you, if you bring it to work, people will want to know what you are eating and where they can get some. And you will feel good eating it, too. Don't be disappointed, I don't have a photo. Sorry.

Here's my adaptation, inspired first by Everybody Likes Sandwiches, Second by the Wednesday Chef, Third by the New York Times, and Finally, as a guide, by Cooking Up a Storm. This recipe will yield 3 quarts of soup. It is a lot, but it keeps fairly long in the fridge, or you can donate one container to a friend who never uses her stove.

1 T oil (not olive)
1 chopped leek
3 crushed and chopped garlic cloves
5 sweet potatoes, rough chopped
about 3 c leftover cooked pumpkin (or winter squash)
4 c good veggie stock+4 c water
1 jalape
ño, seeded if spice scares you, and chopped
2-3 c frozen corn kernels
1/4 c molasses
medium-big dash cayenne
dash salt
dash pepper
small dash cinnamon

In a large saucepan, cook leek and garlic in oil, about 5 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and liquids. Bring to a boil, then reduce. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 min. Add cooked pumpkin. Simmer. Use immersion blender to puree soup. Simmer. Add the jalapeno, corn, molasses, and stir well. Now add the rest of ingredients. Serve. Or put in containers and save for lunch tomorrow!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Maple Oatey Bites

I have been cooking a LOT this week. I get home from work or school around 7 or 8 and, although I'm exhausted, I find myself either dreaming about food in the car ride home, specific dishes I want to actualize, or when I get home, my brain shuts off, and my legs walk me into the pantry. Once there, my arms pull things off the shelves, and I end up with something like I did tonight. It's that no-control kind of cooking I wrote of once before. I mindlessly end up putting things together. Even baking, from scratch, recipe-less all the way.

This is my most recent. If you like maple, chocolate, oats, and tart dried fruit, all in one bite-sized cookie, give these bad boys a shot. Since I made them from scratch, though, they do need a little help from you in the shaping process. If you decide not to roll the dough into a log and refrigerate for an hour before slicing and baking, make sure you flatten the dough from small balls into flat discs before baking, or they will stay pretty round once out of the oven. Tasty, but round.

Maple Oat Bites

1/3 c vegetable oil
1/3 c brown sugar
1 egg
scant 1/4 c maple syrup
1 c whole wheat flour
1 c oats
1 t salt
1/8 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 c dried cherries
1/3 c sunflower seeds
1/3 c chocolate chips (bittersweet are the best)

In a bowl (or electric mixer), beat oil, sugar, egg, maple syrup, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients, next, and mix. Finally, add the cherries, seeds, and chocolate chips. Once thoroughly combined, dough will come together pretty well. Roll into 2 logs and refrigerate for an hour, then slice and bake at 350 for 10-12 min. Cool on a rack. Or eat hot!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Waffle Sunday

Last night, instead of going out on Halloween, I read my Harold McGee On Food and Cooking and decided I, Meghan Bernhardt, was going to recreate the original waffle. Mr. McGee's book told me waffles originally came to the US from Holland in the 18th century. That's a long time ago, I know. And a long time ago, food often didn't taste so good. You know, in the evolution of food tasting good, I'm just saying, a lot of basics we eat today are improved-upon versions of their tasteless pasts. So I did a little research, because McGee doesn't say much about waffles being yeasted doughs, only that they came from wafers (see the WAF- in both words?). Anyway, I wanted to know the truth about them yeasted waffles. While America's first waffles may have been from Holland, way back when, Belgian waffles apparently came from Belgium in time for the 1964 Worlds Fair! And it's the Belgian waffles that are yeasted.

So here's my yeasted waffle. It was really exciting to make, as I thought it would be. Using yeast and other more natural leavners is really fun (keep an eye out in the next month or so for my sour dough experiment). You get to see the expansion, the rising process taking place, and that's pretty darn cool. This waffle dough rests in the fridge overnight and, in the morning, when you rise, all you have to do is heat the waffle iron and go from there.

Truly satisfying. In my opinion, best served with fresh blueberries, maple syrup, and a fork.

Waffle Batter

1/2 c warm water + 1 c warm milk
1 package yeast
2 t agave syrup
2 lightly beaten eggs
1 c milk (yes another one)
2 t vanilla
pinch salt
2 c whole wheat flour

In a large nonreactive bowl, sprinkle yeast on top of water+milk. Let stand for 5 min while you make sure you have your other ingredients ready. Add agave, eggs, milk, vanilla. Mix. Add salt and flour. Mix until just incorporated. Cover in plastic wrap, place in fridge, 8 hrs-overnight. After fridge rise, head waffle iron.
Scoop batter with a ladel, ice cream scoop, or a 1/2 c measurer onto the hot plates. Cook until brown and crispy. And enjoy!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I love this book.

The library is a great resource for cookbooks, for a number of reasons. Buying cookbooks can be a tricky science. There is no good way to tell, at least for me, if a new cookbook will be good or bad. In my cookbooks, I like a friendly tone, but one that errs on the side of expert-- I want to be learning something new from someone. The author has to be able to convince me she or he has something to offer. The library allows you to test run a coobook before making a commitment to it. It is a really undervalued resource, in my opinion. One of the cookbooks I borrowed the other day will be added to my cookbook wishlist! It's called The South American Table by Maria Baez Kijac. It's filled with wonderful recipes from all over South America, tidbits about the food's history in the context of a various cultures, and no photos, but really well-written descriptions. This book is truly educational, and the recipes, what I look for most in a cookbook, are inspirational, and open to a lot of flexibility.

I adapted my Bolivian Tamales from this book, and I urge you to check the book out. These Bolivian tamales are not only great as a meal but, come Passover, I will revisit them, as the starch is quinoa, which is kosher for passover. Also, unlike more well-known tamales, which are wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks and steamed that way, these are not tamales, per se, but one big baked tamal, not wrapped, which saves a lot of fuss.

BAKED TAMAL (adapted from Kijac's The South American Table)
1 c cooked quinoa
2 T butter
1 onion, diced
1/2 c evaporated nonfat milk
3 beaten eggs
pinch salt
1 t agave
1/2 t fennel seeds, lightly toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant
1/2 t cinnamon
1 T peri peri sauce (or other hot sauce)
4 oz diced jack or Chihuahua cheese (found at Latin markets)

In skillet, cook onion in butter until translucent. Combine with quinoa, milk, eggs, salt, sugar, fennel, cinammon, Peri Peri, and cheese in a food processor. Process until mixture resembles an airy dough. It will be rather liquidy, but thick, goopy. Pour into a greased 9x9 dish. Bake for 45 min, until top is golden brown, on 350 degrees. Allow to cool a bit (say, 10 min out of the oven). Then serve.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Caldo Verde

That's right. It's green. It's mean--I mean, it's meanly delicious! And nutritious! I love dino kale, and I love love potatoes. This soup combines both of those things, and it is super easy to make. I even figured out an ace method for trimming my kale: a pizza cutter! The rolling-wheel-knife of a pizza cutter makes shredding kale lengthwise super easy before you slice with a chef's knife into inch-long pieces, or so. Seriously, the whole soup requires minimal effort, and it can be made vegetarian, vegan, or meaty. I strongly recommend the variation with sweet chicken sausage, but white beans work almost just as well.
For those of you who read my blog and are afraid of cooking, trust me, you will not be disappointed with this. I had it for dinner tonight with light, homemade Bolivian quinoa tamales, but a slice or two of good crusty bread (such as this) will do just as well.

Let me know what you think! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

10 c vegetable stock or water, or a combination of the 2
2 lb potatoes (creamier=better, so yukon gold is good), rough chopped
1 onion, rough chopped
salt and pepper to taste
6 c shredded kale, or another hearty green, into about 1"x 1/4" long pieces
2 T extra virgin olive oil
a bit less than 1 lb sweet chicken sausage, sliced into 1/4" pieces and browned, OR white beans, if you're going veg

In a large saucepan, bring stock/water, potatoes, onion, salt, and pepper to boil, until potatoes are very very soft (test one with a fork, after about 20 min). When ready, drain liquid from potatoes into another vessel (a 2nd large pot works well), and mash potatoes and onions in original pot. Now pour cooking liquid/stock into mashed potato-onion mixture. Bring to boil again and simmer anywhere between 15-40 min. The longer it cooks, the richer the flavor becomes, but if you want to be done quickly, 15-20 min is just fine. Add olive oil and kale, and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Granola Bars

I love to eat. And I am always thinking about food. Eating, cooking, baking, reading about, and buying food are some of my favorite activities. Whether I'm in class or at work, on any given day, my mind is filled with food thoughts: What can I make for dinner? I must go to the library to take out some more cookbooks! I wonder what I should do with that fennel I just got from my CSA? When will I have time to read more in my Harold McGee book? Sometimes, my thoughts are simply: Must Eat Now. And since I love to snack, I feel the urge to munch quite often!

So one of the things I'm always trying to figure out is what can I eat a lot of, during the day, that will fill me up for a little longer, but not substitute a meal. Finding healthy snacks can be tricky. On principle, I do not like the idea of buying (or eating) energy bars; they are expensive and I tend to go by the rule, if I cannot fathom how the thing is produced, I will try not to eat it. It's hard to stick by these "rules" when you are super busy during the week--hey, a girl's gotta eat, right? Well, this week I will be testing out a new healthy snack: homemade granola bars. I made them yesterday, and I think they will last me about a week. I am hoping they will be just what I need to keep my snack craving at bay. And they are amazingly delicious, too.

Granola Bars
3 c oats, toasted in the oven at 375, for just about 5-8 min
1 c dried cranberries
2/3 c crushed almonds (I used lightly salted roasted almonds)
1 T sesame seeds
1/4 c sunflower seeds
scant 1/4 T canola oil
1/4 c honey
2 T brown rice syrup (or 1 T honey)
2 T brown sugar

1. Mix oats, cranberries, almonds, and seeds together. I use the bowl of the mixer, as it makes mixing in the sticky sweeteners much easier.
2. On a low speed (or by hand), mix in remaining ingredients. Mix well until everything is well-coated with the wet and sticky ingredients.
3. Pour granola bar mixture into lightly oiled pan; I used an 8x8 glass dish.
4. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
5. When completely cooled, cut into bars.

Monday, October 12, 2009

OK It's Cold in NY. Now What?

As soon as you can feel Winter in the air, as if the air particles are tinged with ice, it's time for soup. Now, I know what you're thinking. It's not even November, yet, and the air is freakin cold! What's going on? It's supposed to just be Fall!! Summer just ended, why, a matter of weeks ago. Well, not that Mother Nature is particularly cruel--I'm sure we'll have some warm[er] days in the next few weeks before the icy chill sets in for good, but I must say, I'm not too unhappy being forced into wearing woolly sweaters and sipping on steamy stews.

I found this recipe online, actually, at a site I had never before visited. I adapted my recipe from this Design Sponge Online page. Having grown up eating a lot of Mediterranean food, I'm familiar with the concept of red lentil soup. But, I tell you, this soup is different! Now, I love red lentil soup. Squeeze of lemon, black pepper ever-present--who wouldn't love it? And I do love it. However, this soup has flavors I had never thought of putting in lentil soup before. With lemongrass and red curry paste, it's exciting to my cortex as idea AND as taste.

I also made my rendition of the bread in the link above. Simple, crusty, and a great accompaniment to the thick, stew-like soup.

2/3 lemongrass stalk (see how to prepare here), minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 yellow onions, diced
1 mounded T red curry paste
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
2 lbs potatoes, peeled, large diced
2 1/2 c rinsed red lentils
8-10 c vegetable stock (recipe here)
1 15-oz can peeled, diced tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste

1. Over medium heat, saute lemongrass, garlic, onions, curry paste, and ginger, about 5-10 min.
2. Add potatoes, lentils, stock, and tomatoes. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, 40 min. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Super Easy Baguettes
2 1/2 c luke warm water
1 package dry yeast
4 c white bread flour
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
3 T salt

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, sprinkle yeast over water. Let sit 5-10 min, till it starts to bubble.
  2. Add flour and salt, mix on medium speed, until well mixed but not letting dough to climb hook.
  3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, let sit about 2 hrs.
  4. Line a pan with parchment paper lightly sprayed with oil. Flour a surface. Dump sticky, not-too-well-mixed dough out onto flour. Divide into 3 equal portions.
  5. Twist each portion of dough into oblong baguettes. Slash each with a knife.
  6. Bake at 480 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 and bake for another 13-15 min. Allow to sit on pan, cooling, without being cut, for about 10 minutes. Serve with butter and bowl of soup!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Too many zucchini?

I have the solution. According to the calendar, summer is gone. As sad I am to see the warm weather fade, I have to admit: I'm sick of summer squash! And ready for the real thing!

So what to do with a fridge full of the vegetable I've had way too much of in the past three months? Instead of being wasteful, or feeding it to the dogs, muffins are an enjoyable and tasty way to get rid of the stuff, and fast.

I consider myself a baker, for sure, but I am also very much into holistic health, and that extends into my baking. If I can use alternative flours and sweeteners successfully, I feel as if I've completed a self-imposed challenge. And then I feel better about eating the stuff. I feel even better if I can get non-believers (those who think using alternative ingredients is a waste or purposeless) to eat the products without noticing any difference.

Anyway, tonight's recipe was definitely an achievement. Hey, I'm proud!
If you have any leftover summer squash, give these bad boys a shot. You won't be disappointed.
And if you don't have access to alternative sweeteners, using sugar, a little bit more to compensate for the less-sweet brown rice syrup, will yield very similar results.

2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c oat flour
2 t baking powder
pinch salt
1 1/2 c milk
1 egg
1/4 c oil
1/3 c brown rice syrup
3 t agave syrup
1 1/2 c grated zucchini, strained in a sieve for 20 min
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease 2 muffin tins (holding 12 each).
  2. Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl.
  3. Mix wet ingredients separately.
  4. Add wet to dry, stir until just incorporated. Then add zucchini.
  5. Pour batter into muffin tins; bake 20 min.
  6. Let cool in tins for 5-10 min, then cool on rack.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I've never actually had "real" moussaka. I see it on menus at Greek restaurants, sure, but as I didn't grow up eating meat, I'm still not completely comfortable with trying foreign meat items on menus. Still, I love potatoes, especially in their mashed form, and I need a recommendation from SOMEONE, anyone, who knows where, in NY, I can get a good authentic moussaka.

Anyway, without knowing what moussaka is
supposed to taste like, I attempted low-ish fat, vegetarian moussaka tonight (hence the quotation marks in the title), with Voluptuous Vegan as a guide. Note, my rendition is NOT vegan, but I admire people who take the time to create entire menus of vegan cuisine. It can be quite tricky. My end result was remarkably tasty (ask my parents!), but I'm not sure it would actually qualify as moussaka if served to a blindfolded contestant asked to Name That Dish!

Regardless, for a filling but not-too-heavy meal with protein and veggies galore, check out below!

Vegetarian "Moussaka"

Here's how this is going to go. We're gonna end up assembling as a bottom layer eggplant, then a layer seitan/mushroom, then potatoes. Then layer zucchini, layer seitan/mushroom, then potatoes. Then a pour of bechamel, if using, and a heavy sprinkling of breadcrumbs. This is a good recipe to make when you have more than just your lonesome self cooking in the kitchen, because with a possible 5 separate jobs, each person can do something, and not get in each other's way.

1st Job
1 lb baby eggplant, sliced lengthwise, 1/4" thick, salted (to remove bitterness) and placed in a colander to drain, for about 20 min
3 zucchinis, sliced lengthwise, 1/4" thick
olive oil

2nd Job
5 small russet potatoes, washed but not peeled
1 c organic milk
scant 1/4 c olive oil
white pepper
black pepper

3rd Job
8 oz "chicken style" seitan (or plain if you can't find chicken style)
2 destemmed portabello mushrooms
3/4 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, diced
pinch cinnamon
1 t cumin
15 oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes, chopped or squeezed by hand, juices reserved

(Optional 4th and 5th jobs)


1. Ok. Job 1 is farely simple. Dab the wetness off the salted eggplant. Brush olive oil on the front and back of each slice. Do the same for the zucchini. Layer both (should fit together on one parchment-lined baking sheet) on pan, add sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook in oven on 375 for 25 min. Set aside.

2. Job 2 is also quite easy, hands free. Wash your potatoes. Throw them in a pot of water. Bring to boil. Boil for about 30 min, or until soft. Drain water. Mash potatoes with 1 c milk, olive oil, and salt and peppers, to taste. Set aside.

3. Job 3 takes more effort. Begin to cook onion in oil in cast-iron skillet. Sautee until translucent. While onion cooks, pulse mushrooms and seitan to itty-bitty pieces i
n a food processor. Add this mixture to the onion, and sautee about 15 min. Add the rest of the ingredients under Job 3. Mixture will be quite liquidy to start. Cook on medium-high heat until most moisture has evaporated and mix has thickened, about 25 min.

Jobs 4+5 are optional, but tasty.
Breadcrumbs were made by food processing 3 old whole wheat pitas with some olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, and herbs de provence, yielding me about 2 c seasoned bread crumbs. 1 c was sprinkled on top of the last layer of potato, the other half is in a container in the freezer, for later.

Bechamel is also very optional. In fact, you can look up your own recipe or just ignore this step. I ended up using very very little of mine and, if anything, I think it only added moisture. If you think your dish will be dry, make you potatoes wetter, or something.

Assemble as directed above (funny instructions, I know), and bake at 350 for 30 min. Rest 10 min. Serve. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Round Things

So right, this is where we left off: round things = good for Jewish new year.

This recipe is one I've been dying to post since my birthday (see birthday feast below). This dough came out amazingly. It is the best dough recipe I have ever made. I don't know if it would work in super huge batches (ie: in a cafe, like the one I used to bake for), but if it's just you're buddies and you, and you love grilled round things, well, it is awesome.

Also, I should mention, that although you can definitely attempt this recipe without a food processor, the food processor is what makes this process a delight- super simple, easy, fast, and almost foolproof. But seriously, if you lack the crazy equipment or want to feel closer to your dough without sending it through a super fast spinning dough blade, do it your way. Just want to clarify that this way is BETTER!!!

I should also mention that this dough recipe yielded eight 7-9" rounds (or less-than-round oblongs) of grilled flatbread, and one personal calzone, made a few days later.
ALSO, this dough will sit in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, for about a week after production. So you don't have to use it right away. In fact, I found that it became more elastic after sitting in the fridge for three days, at which point Matt and I created round 2 of grilled flatbread (photos above).

One more tip: it wasn't until a baking expert (who trained me) told me otherwise, but I want to make clear something about dealing with yeast doughs. I always thought the water you use should be warm, b/c yeast likes a warm environment. Well, if your water is too warm, you will kill your yeast. If it is too cold, it will only take longer to rise. So, when in doubt, go for cooler.

1/4 c olive oil
2 c water, closer to cool than warm
3 c unbleached flour
1 1/4 whole wheat flour, plus more in case sticky dough
scant 1 T sugar
2 t salt
1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 t dry yeast)

1. In a liquid measuring cup, measure oil and water.
2. In food processor with plastic dough blade, pulse dry ingredients.
3. With food processor on, slowly pour wet mixture in through tube on top. Mixture should begin to clear sides of container. Stop mixing, feel dough. It should be sticky but not like super duper sticky. If it is tooo sticky, you may add some more flour, by the tablespoon, mixing and feeling after every addition.
4. Ball your dough, place in a lightly greased bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Stick in an unused oven, or anywhere out of a draft, and allow to rise about 2 hrs.
5. After rising, dough can be cut into 8-10 equal sized balls. These should rise in this shape. If you are going to use them right away, let rise on a baking sheet. If you are not going to use them right away (ie: in a few days, or even later in the evening), allow to rise wrapped loosely in plastic, and place in the fridge. They can last in there for about a week.

Grilling the Flatbread!

Have your charcoal grill reach medium heat. Stretch dough to desired thickness right before grilling. It's a fast process, but you can do it! Have all of your preferred toppings ready. We did zucchini, grated egg, mint and parm on one, tomatoes and fresh basil from the garden on another... Also, we brush both sides of the bread with garlic oil, made from steeping grated garlic in olive oil for about an hour.

1. Grill side 1 of dough, until dry bubbles begin to form.
2. Flip dough to grill side 2. Top right away.
3. Remove before burning.
**Tip: you may cover the flatbread with an aluminum pan or grill cover so toppings have a chance to cook a bit on bread before it burns!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rosh Hashana Post

Today is Rosh Hashana- Jewish new year.

Super observant Jews wouldn't write a blog post on this day- they observe this holiday as they do shabbat and other holy days; that is, no writing, no computers, no tv, no turning lights on...

I have pretty much come to terms with the fact that I am not a "religious" person. It took me a while, but I'm currently here. That is not to say I am not spiritual, and it is also not to say that I am not happily Jewish. I love spending time with my family, and celebrations of my cultural heritage foster love and happiness and remembrance, as well as something to look forward to in the future. Furthermore, I love family traditions and the fact that Temple Beth Sholom will be turned into a quasi-high school reunion today for a number of hours. I look forward to having dinner at my South African Jewish cousins' house tonight, where I'll be hearing and seeing the elders bicker and joke with each other, and then sitting down to a enjoy some of the best food known to human kind.

I wanted to write about the awesome grilled flatbread I made last week. Instead, I leave today's post open, without a recipe, to encourage you all to eat something sweet (for a sweet new year), and round (to symbolize cycles of everything). Apples and Honey will do just fine. Chag Sameach!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Birthday Feast

Three days ago, I turned a quarter of a century old. I decided that, instead of going out to a shmancy restaurant for the big event, I wanted to create a small feast for several friends. The menu was inspired by our CSA, my time in California, Christian Noto and, of course, my own (and Matt's) cravings.

Here is the menu:

  • olives and spanish cheeses to start, along with Smuttynose sampler beers
  • Grilled Flatbread with garlic oil, zucchini, sieved egg, and parmesan
  • Salad of Boston lettuce, Satur Farms arugula, watercress, Golden Earthworm stonefruit, toasted hazelnuts, and shaved piave
  • Wheat Berry salad
  • Chicken grilled two ways
  • Grilled halved rosemary potatoes
  • Carvel Ice Cream Cake
Amazing, amazing. In the next few days I will disclose the first three recipes. Just wanted to whet your appetite for now with my leftovers recipe for chargrilled potato homefries (what can I say, it was a lot of food for only eight people!). I'm eating it right now, and it's amazing. Better than normal homefries (which is a big statement, I know), because they have been grilled over charcoal, which gives them this exceptional smokey flavor. These are best if served with over-easy eggs and Piri Piri sauce.

Chargrilled Homefries

vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
8 leftover potatoes, sliced into bits of your size preference

In a cast iron skillet, heat oil.
Add onion, and cook until translucent.
Add potato bits, salt, pepper, rosemary.
Cook on medium to high heat, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are crisp on the outside, and nice and hot and delish on the inside.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Late Summer Breakfast Scramble

So, I'm back in New York. It's strange coming back to this house, the one I grew up in. While I was gone, my dad redid the place, what with new furniture and everything. I think it makes it more exciting to be here, instead of just plain boring. The fridge is fully stocked (YES!), and apparently our CSA from Golden Earthworm Farms is still up and running, providing end-of-summer treats like yellow summer squash and, my favorite, sun gold tomatoes. Also, my mother's garden is thriving, providing us with beefsteak and cherry tomatoes, as well as fresh herbs. It is a true comfort to be able to walk outside to our huge garden, flowers flourishing in the sun, pick some chives, and run back to the kitchen for a quick wash and prep.

This morning, post-bike ride, I mixed up a delightful yellow breakfast scramble. Super simple, yet easy on the eyes and the stomach.
Follow below:

1/2 medium yellow summer squash, cut into quarters, lengthwise, then sliced
2 eggs, scrambled with a splash of organic milk
2 T chopped fresh chives
few slices raw milk cheddar
5 sun gold tomatoes, quartered

1. In a greased nonstick pan, quickly sautee squash until just not-raw, then remove slices to bowl.
2. Add beaten eggs to the pan. Quickly add cheddar, chives and, finally, lightly cooked squash.
3. When eggs are beginning to set, scramble ingredients in pan until eggs are fully cooked.
4. Plate eggs, top with quartered tomatoes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My First August Post (Sorry.)

I have been on a terrific carefree vacation for the past two months. Forgive me for not having written. It is not for lack of having been cooking, constantly. The recipe I will share today is more a revelation than a recipe, for me. An opening of doors and windows, if you will.

I have been striving to find a decent fish market. One that's as good as its yelp reviews say it is. I finally found it. Tokyo Fish Market was a little bit out of my way, but I suddenly got an urge to grill tuna the other day. It may have something to do with my recent purchase of Ann Worthington's New California Cook, maybe not. Either way, last week, I found myself craving tuna. I did not want canned tuna or cooked tuna. I do not know how else to describe this but I simply had a feeling inside that told me I had to go out, buy the fish, and sear it over hot coals. And then serve it over a green salad. Something inside was kicking me to the fish market, making me buy the freakin tuna, and grill it. It was like one of those times when I just was not even thinking- I was being driven by something deep down. Driven to cook, and driven to cook this, specifically.

The man at the market suggested using the albacore. Not only was it cheaper but he said they suggest if it's going to touch flame at all, they recommend it over the ahi. Alright, 3/4 lb taken home. Ann Worthington suggests a marinade of acid and oil for over 30 min, under 1 hr, then grilling over medium-hot coals. Next time I will marinade for less than 30 min, as it was not as pink in the middle as I would have liked. However, the fish was delish! And my eight dinner guests could not agree more.

Grilled Albacore over Market Greens
Juice of 2 lemons+zest of one, grated.
1/4 c olive oil
pinch ancho chile powder (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

3/4 lb albacore (or other tuna)
more pepper, to taste

1/2 lb mixed baby greens (ours were from Happy Boy Farms, nastursiums and all)
1/3 c mandolined radishes (or sliced very thinly)
1/2 English hothouse cucumber, mandolined or sliced very thinly

emulsion-less vinagrette (there's no whisk here!):
1 shallot, finely chopped
dollop dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 c rice wine vinegar
juice from half a lemon
2-3 T olive oil

1. Prepare marinade for the fish, vinagrette for salad. Set aside. Light coals.
2. When coals are about 20 minutes from being ready to cook on, add fish to marinade.
3. Grill fish, about 2-3 min on each side. Remove and let rest. Do NOT cut it open yet.
4. Prepare green salad, then slice cooked fish. Toss salad in dressing, then add fish on top.

I've got to say, I'd always been a bit afraid of cooking fish, but after this experience, there will be much more adventurous fish cooking to come!

Monday, July 27, 2009

When life gives you tomatoes...

There I was, at the end of the market, watching Isa sort out the too-soft-to-pack from the good to go for this week. We're talking tomatoes. OK maybe food not bombs would have gotten the extras, but maybe they'd be fed to las chivas! I had to do something. "I'll take them!" I told her. I just couldn't help it. She asked how I'd get them home on my bike-- the box of too-softs was at least a few pounds heavier than what I'm used to balancing on my handle bars. I assured them I could do it. I'd just walk...very slowly. And that's just what I did.

Upon my arrival home, I sorted out the Romas from the Beefsteak organic slightly-too-soft tomatoes. I blanched about 40 Romas and made the simplest sauce I've ever made. Every so often I get these spaghetti and sauce cravings. I don't even want to eat the good stuff-- homemade pasta. I crave angel hair pasta from a box (I try to keep some bulk angel hair in the cupboard, purchased from the Bowl). This was one of those times.

After letting my sauce simmer on low heat for about an hour, I tossed a serving's worth with just-cooked pasta. Heaven-on-lazy-day earth, I tell ya!

Simple Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes

2 T olive oil
40 blanched and peeled Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped or crushed by hand
salt, to taste (careful- as sauce reduces, it will get more concentrated=saltier)
garlic+basil+crushed red pepper infused olive oil (recipe below)

1. Drizzle olive oil into heavy-bottomed stock pot; heat on medium
2. Add tomatoes at once
3. stir, add salt, to taste (less is more, I believe- you can always add more when it's done)
4. bring to boil, reduce to simmer, let cook, simmering, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour
5. when done, add 1/8-1/4 infused olive oil, depending on strength/your tastes

Toss with angel hair pasta, freshly torn basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese, and a small pat of butter, if desired. Yum.

garlic-infused oil

1/2 c olive oil
1 head garlic, cloves peeled
1/4 c fresh basil leaves
3 t crushed red pepper

1. Put all ingredients in saucepan and, on low heat, simmer for 30 min, strain.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Matt's Birthday Cake

Matt turned 25 a week ago and, as per tradition, I made him a birthday cake. Each year I make Matt a cake, and it may not seem as though making 5 or 6 different cakes is that difficult, but making 5 or 6 delicious unique exciting cakes can be quite a challenge. I feel as though I'm drying up- I don't want each year's cake to be too similar to the last, even if the last was to die for delicious!

This year, I selflessly made a cake whose flavor combination I less than desire for myself. That's right- chocolate and peanut butter. Yugh is my reaction to that combo. I avoid it on ice cream menus and in candy shops at all costs. It just doesn't do it for me. Inexplicably, some people just fawn over this mixture of rich creamy chocolate nuttiness. Matt is one of them. In my typical birthday cake fashion, I made a double layer cake. Chocolate layers and peanut butter frosting. I have to admit, even though I found myself eating around the frosting (I just can't take that much peanut butter!), the balance of moist, rich, chocolatey goodness was addictive. Within 2 days, the entire cake was gone, eaten by 3 or 4 individuals, alone. That's pretty good for a sizeable cake.

For you peanut-chocolate lovers, this one is right on, apparently.

Chocolate Cake and Peanut Butter Frosting
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

2 T butter, for greasing pans
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus 1/4 c for dusting pans
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup [light] sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten

1. Heavily butter two 9" cake tins, then dust with 2 T cocoa, each. Preheat oven to 350 and, in a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
2. Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and add oil and sour cream. Mix as well as possible; mixture will be thick if not still a little dry.
3. Add water by the 1/2 cup-full, mixing well after every addition. This took some patience on my part but it was well rewarded.
4. Add vinegar, vanilla, and eggs. Mix well, and scrape sides with rubber spatula, if on hand.
5. Pour batter into two cake tins until each is about 2/3 full (NO MORE-- it will overflow in the oven!!). If you have extra batter, fill some muffin cups, or discard (as much as I hate to waste... it's better than the catastrophe that was my oven on Saturday morning due to overflowing cake tins and batter burning on the oven floor!).
6. Bake for about 40 min, checking after 30 min with a toothpick. If it comes out mostly clean, you know you're done.
7. Let cakes cool in tins for at least 10 min, then invert on cooling racks until fully cooled.
8. Apply crumb coat of frosting (recipe below). Freeze for about 40 min, apply the rest of the frosting as desired. SERVE!

Frosting recipe

1 8 oz package cream cheese
remaining stick of butter left over from greasing pans, softened very much!
3 1/2 c confectioners sugar
1/2 c skippy creamy peanut butter

1. Mix cream cheese and butter with fork (if you are staying over at a friend's who owns no electric mixers of any kind, this works!), until uniform.
2. Add sugar by the cup, mixing extremely well after each addition.
3. Finally, add peanut butter, stir to blend well (we don't want no streaks!).

If you're using the frosting directly on cake above, no need to refridgerate. It will be much softer this way and easier to use.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jam Tart

I'd never thought of jam as a particularly interesting food. No doubt, I appreciate it for its simplicity--reduced fruit to sweeten cookies or toast or muffins. But I've never before felt drawn to make jam. That changed when my boyfriend also got a job at a different farmer's market, selling fruit, and came home last Saturday with a few pounds of soft plums. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume someone forced him into a trade and told him they'd make up a bag of fruit for him, instead of letting him pick it out himself. On the upside, we had a whole bag full of soft plums to work with. After being delegated to plum jam duty (for the Monte Cristos on the menu) at Split Pea, I wanted to try plum jam on my own. Not only did I want to try -- for days I couldn't stop thinking about how easy but delicious the process of jam-making really is!

Tonight, amidst cooking a near-feast with Matt for dinner, I could not deny my craving to make jam. I didn't stop just there- I made a jam tart! Below is a rough recipe for the stuff. Feel free to use any stone fruit on hand-- I even tossed in a few apricots that were getting soft in the fridge. Also, at Split Pea, we put the jam through a food mill for a more uniform end product. I don't mind skin or lumps in my jam, so no food mill necessary (although I should admit I LOVE using the food mill otherwise!).

Stone Fruit Jam Recipe
4-5 lbs soft stone fruit (i.e.: apricots, plums, pluots, nectarines, peaches...)
2 c sugar
2 t vanilla extract

1. Cut the fruit off the pit, trying to use as much as possible.
2. Don't worry about large pieces of fruit- it's all going to cook down.
3. Put fruit in a heavy-bottomed stock pot and cover with sugar and vanilla.
4. On medium heat, begin to stir your future jam.
5. Over the period of an hour or so, cook jam on medium heat. Mixture should be simmering constantly, but stir occasionally to avoid burning.
A good way to tell if it's almost ready is to do the spoon-coat test. If you can stick a spoon in the jam and pull it out with a good coating of jam sticking, you're almost there. Now run your finger through that jam-coat. If a line of no jam stays, you're pretty much done, as the jam will continue to thicken while it cools.

Jam Tart Recipe

1/2 c butter, softened
1/3 c sugar
1 egg yolk
2 t vanilla extract
1 c whole wheat flour
big handful of oats
1.5-2 c your favorite jam

1. Cream together butter and sugar. If butter is soft enough, this can be done by hand.
2. Add egg yolk and vanilla and continue to mix.
3. Add flour and oats, and stir. Mixture should resemble lumpy sand, not cookie dough.
4. Take a handful of the mixture and squeeze it-- it should stay a clump. If it crumbles, add water by the Tablespoon until it stays a clump when squeezed.
5. Press dough into a 9x9 pan to form a layer about 1/2"-3/4" thick (or thicker/thinner depending on your preference). Save a bit of dough for the topping.
6. Pour desired amount of jam on top, spread to even out, perhaps with a spoonback.
7. Shape remaining bit of dough into flat circles about 1 inch in diameter. Plop these circles on top of the jam, about 1/4" apart.
8. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool almost completely for the jam to thicken back up. This makes serving easier. But if you can't wait (like me), get out your fave vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, serve up, and enjoy!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Why Cali is better, Part II

I left off having just acquired the Farmers Market job. It turns out, the job is bomb! And my boss, the owner of Catalan Family Farms, is pretty amazing, too. She is generous and kind (even though she makes me work hard), and at the end of each market, she donates food to Food Not Bombs without hesitation. I worked both markets this weekend, one in downtown Berkeley, the other in Temescal, and both left me with wonderful gifts of produce, breads, homemade kimchi from Cultured, a local fermenter, and clabbered cottage cheese from Cowgirl Creamery.

I have a fridge filled with more veggies than I can handle, so I've been on a steady diet of organic zucchini, crookneck squash, onions, garlic, cherries, tomatoes (first of the season!), leeks, carrots, cabbage, lettuces... and more. I also salvaged an entire box of summer squash that were being tossed out because harvest is this week, and there will be many many many squash if these were kept around.

So I've been trying to act quickly and use what I have while I can. If it looks like my goal is unattainable, I'll donate them to friends, but I'd like to see if it is achievable. So far I've made a light salad of mandolined squash, mint leaves, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice. Next time I'll add French feta. I've added it to pasta, tortellini, and chicken dishes. This morning I mandolined a skinny zucchini and one clove garlic into a 4x2" baking dish (very small), thinly sliced in tomatoes, tossed in about 1 tsp olive oil, salt, and pepper, and added two unbeaten raw eggs. I baked this mini casserole in an oven set to 350 for 20 minutes, and out came zucchini-tomato baked eggs for one. I dare you to try it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

And this is why Cali is better

Update: Apologies for 10 days having passed without a post. Since the last addition, I moved to California for the summer, found an apartment, moved in, and acquired not one, but two temporary food-related jobs. I have been rather busy, but I have also been cooking, a lot. I've resumed my old job cooking for Christian Noto of Split Pea Seduction, and I've also managed to hook up a farmers market gig. I biked to the North Berkeley market yesterday and, since I am currently living completely alone, spent very little money on terrific produce!

You know me, I get my kicks from reading cookbooks as literature and strolling down gourmet supermarkets' aisles. So hand-picking organic produce at the market AND getting hired to work for an organic farm in the same day is quite exhilarating for me! Tonight, as I was too tired to actually go out and not motivated enough to find myself a charcoal grill to borrow, I used some of the vegetables I bought yesterday.

I found the cutest baby eggplants, no longer than four inches in length, maybe one and a half inches in diameter at the largest part. I split them in half, lengthwise, lightly olive-oiled them, stuck them in a pyrex baking dish, cut-side down, along with three cloves of unpeeled garlic, and roasted, at 375, for 12 minutes. Then I turned the eggplant over, placed 1/2 a teaspoon of grated parmesan on each, and threw back in the oven for 2 more minutes.

Out they came, my cute little baby eggplants. Six halves of delicious, organic, fresh, local baby vegetables. Needless to say I am very, very happy to be back in the bay.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Quickle Pickle!

So our CSA started up again last week, and we got some awesome veggies. You know, it's not even that I even care exactly what comes in the box. It is just so refreshing to eat fruits and vegetables that taste as they should. Someone in my grad program told me she likes it when carrots taste like water, not like earth. Carrots are not supposed to taste like water! Is this what we've come to? People appreciate fruits and vegetables when they taste like NOTHING? This is the sad truth of the reality big agribusiness has created. Human beings are victims, fooled into thinking they actually enjoy tasteless produce with which they feel no connection. Truly outrageous.
As you can tell, I'm real happy our first CSA box was ready for pickup last week. There's something to eating vegetables as they are, without trying to cover the true taste and texture of the original. Maybe that's why I love California cooking, and what sets it above the rest. In New York, the food tastes good, but not in a way that really lets the ingredients shine on their own. I mean, that's understandable considering that for a large chunk of the year, there is no growing season. Produce is imported from near and far, and maybe it loses that specialness you can only get from fresh, local produce. It feels like an honor to cook with and eat fresh vegetables that taste as they should, and not like water!

Tonight I made a mild pickle of farm-fresh breakfast radishes and salad turnips. I sliced 10 radishes and 3 turnips thinly with the mandoline, and refridgerated them in this vinegar recipe for 15 minutes. Results=delicious!

Vinegar recipe
1/4 c brown rice wine vinegar
3 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 c water
2 T sugar
sprinkle of salt

Bring all ingredients to a boil, then cool to room temperature. Pour over veggies and refridgerate.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Blueberry Oven Pancake

As a young child, every year, my family would travel to San Diego to visit Grandma and Grandpa. Every year we would see the same sites (I can't tell you how many times I've been to the zoo, Sea World, and Balboa Park) and eat at the same restaurants. One of these restaurants was the T-Bird Diner, an old-school replication of a 1950s Diner, complete with servers in poodle skirts and paper hats. I loved that place, if even just for the thick shakes.
Another of these over-visited restaurants was what I think is part of a California chain, called Pancake House (which is, somehow, different than IHOP). I remember always being intrigued by their giant pancakes that were not flat and floppy but puffy and light. This style of pancake, my brother informed me, is very popular in the Netherlands--it's actually known as a dutch baby, but my have more German roots, and be a descendant of Yorkshire pudding.
Anyway, I really like the recipe I made, which was super simple, faster than making batches upon batches of griddle cakes, and super tasty! For some reason, I always have a thing for casseroles, or just dishes that are baked, all at once, all servings originating from the same vessel. I really don't know why- I am just drawn to these meant-to-be communal dishes! This blueberry oven pancakes makes the cut as such. I hope you do enjoy! And serve with maple syrup or powdered sugar, if you've got it on hand.

Blueberry Oven Pancake

1 T butter
4 eggs
1 c milk
1 c flour of your choice (unbleached or wheat)
1 t vanilla
pinch salt
1 1/2 c blueberries (frozen will do just fine)

1. Preheat oven to 450 with cast-iron skillet in oven.
2. Mix eggs, milk, vanilla with a whisk.
3. Add flour, salt, mix well.
4. Remove skillet from oven, and spread your butter all over it, bottom and sides, before it all melts!
5. Pour in batter.
6. Sprinkle blueberries on top.
7. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, then lower heat without opening oven, to 350, for 8 minutes.
Be sure to use oven mitts to remove this bad boy- I've had nasty skillet handle burns before. That thing gets HOTT!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Eggplant Rollatini

The other night, my little brother and his girlfriend, Meera, joined us for the evening. I told Meera to decide what to have for dinner- if she could pick anything at all, what would it be? She flipped through a copy of Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, a book I wasn't quite sure how I felt about. Meera chose Eggplant Rollatini with Cappelini, and here is our adaptation of that recipe, below.
I tell you, I was a little bit thrown by the idea of something so soundingly Italian for a Shabbat dinner main course, that I relegated it to side dish to flounder with oregano in parchment. However, it was clear from how quickly these rollatini literally flew off the baking dish that they could have been the main course, no problem. As I sit in bed writing this post, my mouth is watering. I'm thinking of how to serve rollatini for brunch, perhaps next to eggs poached in leftover tomato sauce?
I urge you to try this recipe. The fresh basil makes it truly irresistible.

Eggplant rollatini with fresh basil and cappelini
2-3 globe eggplant, sliced thin, lengthwise (thin enough to be rolled up), salted and set aside for an hour or so.
10 oz cappelini, cooked al dente, and set aside
10 oz fresh mozzerella, diced into small cubes
1/4 c fresh basil, roughly chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
your own tomato sauce (our recipe is below)

1. Rinse salted eggplant and blot with a towel to dry.
2. Mix pasta, cheese, basil, salt and pepper together in a bowl until well tossed.
3. In a 9x13 baking dish, ladel some tomato sauce. To make rollatini, spoon some pasta/cheese mixture on the eggplant slice, and roll to close. Place rollatini, seam-side down, on top of sauce. Repeat with all slices. Cover dish with foil and bake, 30 min at 375.
4. Ladel more tomato sauce on top, and serve at the table, or ladel sauce on individual plates, place rollatini, and ladel more sauce on top, with fresh basil to garnish.

Our Sauce
1 T olive oil
2 T finely diced garlic
1/4 c diced onion
2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes (we used 365 brand)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 c roughly chopped fresh basil

1. In medium saucepan or saute pan, add garlic and onions to oil on medium heat. Be careful to not brown garlic.
2. Add diced tomatoes, salt, and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer until thickened, about 25 min.
3. Towards the end of cooking, add fresh basil. This step is key-- the basil absolutely makes this sauce!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fiddleheads and other good eats

I just came home from a weekend visiting a dear friend in the Berkshires. Rebecca moved to the Berkshires around the same time I moved back to NY from San Francisco. She also went to Oberlin College with me, where she was an ice cream maker in the coops. These days she is the production manager at SoCo Creamery, a great little ice cream factory with a few shops in Berkshire County. Getting together with Rebecca always means good eats and, on this visit, she treated me to my first time eating Fiddlehead ferns.
I had never eaten them before, only seen and heard of them. For you aspriring foragers out there, these are good ones!
They taste kind of like slightly more bitter and crunchier asparagus, and look like little sprialy caterpillars, or something!
We just roasted them in a pan with a quick drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper, then squeezed on some lemon juice.
They make a great side dish or appetizer, as you can pop 'em in your mouth like popcorn while you wait for your salmon to finish cooking on the grill (that's what we did).
How terrific?
I encourage you all to find your own this summer (or buy them), and have a good roast or sautee!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More cookies... it's finals week, u know?

So, finals week=craving refined sweets. Hence these cookies, which are the BOMB diggity!!

Chocolate Madness Lurks in this Bite!

16 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/4 c butter

1/2 c flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

4 eggs
1 3/4 c brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract

1 c toasted chopped walnuts
1 1/2 c chopped toffee candy bars

1. In a double boiler, melt butter and chocolate chips. When melted and smooth, remove from heat.
2. In a bowl, mix flour, bp, and salt.
3. In electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla on high until very smooth.
4. Add flour and chocolate mixture to egg mixture. Mix.
5. Add walnuts and toffee.
6. Put in the fridge, to cool, for about 45 min.
7. Preheat oven to 350, scoop tablespoons of dough onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
8. Bake for 12 min.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I <3 Cookies UPDATED

"It's a masterpiece!" read the pad I use to jot down recipes as I create them.

Add to cookie recipe below 2 t ground ginger, 1/2 c more oats, and swap the proportions of chocolate chips and cranberries, chopping both, roughly, before adding.

Cook for the same amount of time on the same heat, and you will know why this recipe... is a MASTERPIECE!

I didn't think it would be such a great idea, but the ginger really makes them wild. If you feel wild...these may be the way to go!

Friday, May 8, 2009

I <3 Cookies

I made these cookies for the same reason I make many things: I was hungry. I tinkered with the ingredients a bit, and one recommendation I'd make would be to reverse the amounts of chocolate to cranberry. The cranberries add a wonderful tartness to a sweet, crispy cookie. I'm not sure if the chocolate is even "necessary", but I love chocolate, so it's not a question of necessity for me.
With trial-and-error baking, there's often error (those are the recipes I do not post). However, this attempt was worth the trial. It resulted in deliciously crisp, but slightly chewy cookies. The oats and the oat flour contribute to a lightness, crunch, and sweetness not evidenced by using solely regular wheat flour. Also, it would be possible to use less butter, too. Maybe 3/4 stick, instead.

1 stick softened butter
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
1 egg

1/4 c whole wheat flour
1 c oat flour
1/2 c oats
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

1/2 t vanilla

1/2 c dried cranberries
3/4 c bittersweet chocolate chips

In medium bowl, mix dry ingredients (flours, oats, baking soda, and salt). In bowl of electric mixer, cream butter and sugars until color lightens from original.
Add one egg. Continue to beat.
Add dry ingredients at once. Mix on a low speed until mixed perfectly.
Add vanilla. Mix.
Add cranberries and chocolate chips. Mix.
Scoop with little spoons or soup spoons onto pans lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 12-14 min on 350 in a convection oven (maybe 375 in non-convection).


Thursday, May 7, 2009


I meant to upload this the other night, but clean forgot. Well not clean, but forgot, for sure.
I originally intended for this first recipe to be butternut squash and red pepper quesadillas, but you know me, I can't follow recipes. I have to veer. I can almost never follow a recipe exactly-- I should say, it's not that I actually can not, but more truthfully will myself away from the recipe. Maybe it's distraction, maybe unwillingness to do what's been done. Whatever it is, though, it keeps me from recreating already-known-to-be-good recipes, leaving me with trial and error, which is a-okay by me, in all honesty.

The recipe is quite easy and does not require any skill. Tools yes, appliances yes, but skills, talent, NO. This one is for everybody. It is vegetarian (not vegan, lo siento from the bottom of my heart), nutritious, and makes use of old squash from the back of the pantry. AWESOME! Resourceful, I might add, too.

Okay, so here goes it: Butternut Squash/Yam/Red Pepper Layered Bake

1 small-medium butternut squash, peeled with a potato peeler, cut in half, seeds discarded, and flesh chopped into 1/2" cubes.
1 large-ish yam, peeled and chopped into 1/2 " cubes
1 onion, peeled and chopped into quarters
2 cloves unpeeled garlic
extra virgin olive oil
6 tortillas
1 red pepper, diced small
1 c jack cheese, shredded

In a shallow pan (I used a 9x13), roast squash, yam, onion, and garlic with a drizzle of oil (no more than 1 T) for 30 min, or until veggies are tender. When done, squeeze garlic out of skin and, in batches if necessary, puree roasted ingredients in blender or food processor.
Lay 2 tortillas in a casserole dish or another shallow pan.
With a spatula, spread 1/2 veggie puree on top. Sprinkle on 1/2 red pepper pieces, and 1/3 c cheese.
Layer on 2 more tortillas, and repeat, then layer final 2 tortillas, and top with cheese, only.

Bake on 375 for 25 minutes covered, 10 uncovered. Let rest 5 min once out of the oven. Then serve.

I should mention that my dad commented that this was "one of those things that tastes better than it looks," and that I had commented that I'd made too much, and then finished it all in three days (it made a good take-along lunch)!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The best I've ever had!

In my family, no one can describe a dish as "the best I've ever had", because my grandpa Harold used to say it all the time. If he ever wanted us kids to try anything, he'd say, "Try it- it's the best I've ever had!". Or if he was just excited about a meal he was eating he'd say it. I remember he took me to Paris when I turned 12. We were sitting outside at a restaurant and he had ordered escargot. He kept trying to convince me to eat it and, of course, he told me it was the best he'd ever had. We finally compromised; he sopped up the garlic butter with my bread. But Grandpa said "It's the best I've ever had" so often that it lost its meaning. Like the boy who cried wolf.

Truly, I never say something is the best I've ever had. So when I tell you that the French Toast I made this morning was the best I've ever had, there's good reason you should believe me. Growing up, the only thing my dad knew how to make was French Toast and grilled cheese. My recipe for French Toast has been the same since I learned to make as a kid: leftover challah dipped in a batter of eggs and some milk, and maybe, if overcome with creativity, a dash of cinnamon, and then cooked in a skillet. Served with honey.

This time, I looked up recipes. I consulted my cookbook section. I settled on an amalgamation of different ideas. And I cannot describe how perfect the results were. The end product was a piece of French Toast so moist, so delicious, it was more like croissant than French Toast. It needed no syrup lubricant--only some fresh strawberries sliced on top. The perfect texture, the perfect flavors...I ate it all day long, actually!

The Best French Toast I've Ever Had

1 organic brown egg
1 c milk
1/2 T melted butter
1 T vanilla (*or almond*) extract-- if you use almond, serve with toasted sliced almonds on top
1/8 c sugar
1/4 c flour
10 1" slices challah bread***

Whisk all ingredients (except bread) together in a shallow but medium-large bowl.
Heat skillet on medium.
Place one slice bread in the batter. Soak on both sides, maybe 30 seconds for each side.
Place battered bread in skillet, and cook about 1 1/2 minutes on each side.
Repeat with following slices.
Serve with maple syrup, honey, or just fresh sliced strawberries.

***I should say, any challah will do, but we in our house, we use Zomick's, which I think made this recipe even better.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Crackers in Bed

Remember that game? Crackers in bed? Where you had to feed the guy in bed crackers through a cutout in the cardboard that was supposed to be his mouth? I don't remember what the point of the game was, but I do remember the idea... strange game.
Anyway, in the spirit of posting when I have lots of schoolwork to do, I whipped up a batch of whole wheat cornmeal crackers and MAN, if you dig snack as much as I do, you will LOVE these!
I'm big into snack. Ask anyone who knows me well. I eat all day long. In class, people eat Balance bars and other "non-food" items made of ingredients I can't pronounce, or identify in real life. Not me. I bring real food for snack. Dried fruit, cookies, yogurt, pretzels, chocolate, nuts and, this week, CRACKERS! I have made crackers before; when I was a snack maker in Old Barrows, we once made cheese crackers. Those were insanely delicious and rich-- a different kind of cracker than these.
I want to note that these used a method I saw on a New York Times video from the tiny kitchen girl, in which you roll out the dough on the BACK of a baking sheet and bake it that way, on the underside of the pan, pan upside down in the oven. I don't remember why you were supposed to do it like that, but I did it, and they came out great. It's also easier to roll out this way so you don't bump into the edges of the pan with your rolling pin. At my old job I had to roll out pans of rosemary focaccia and I would always bump the rolling pin into the sides and it was annoying. Anyway, this way is a good way.

Whole Wheat - Cornmeal Crackers

1/2 c cornmeal
2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
2 T crushed red pepper, more or less depending on if you like very spicy.
1 t salt
2 big pinches kosher salt for sprinklin'
1 c water
1/4 c olive oil

In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients together (minus the kosher salt).
In the bowl of an electric mixer (if you don't have one, no worries), mix water and oil together.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix on "stir" or low, just until mixture becomes "dough".
Lay out a piece of plastic wrap, and put your dough in the middle. With your hands, form into a rectangle or square, and wrap in the plastic.
Stick it in the fridge for an hour. 15 minutes after putting it in the fridge, you can start to preheat your oven to 500 degrees (HOTT!!).
After the hour's up, lay parchment on the back of two baking sheets. I spray the back of the sheets with oil, a trick I learned to make the paper stick to the pan.
Slice the dough rectangle in half, making two smaller rectangles.
Put one rectangle on each sheet back.
With a rolling pin (or can of beans?), roll out till very thin. Try to make thickness uniform. You can tell by gently pressing with your finger. If you can press deeper at one spot than another, roll that spot more. It's too thick. Then again, the worse that can happen with dough that's too thick is it doesn't get as crispy.
When both are rolled out, bake for 15 minutes in the oven.
Allow to cool completely when done. Then break (or crack), into Crackers!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pretzels and Lemonade

I should have known that street vendor-style pretzels were not what I was looking for when I began, but I was just itching to make a sponge (something yeasty), and I wasn't in the mood for bread. In fact, for the past few days I have been craving salt. Passover ended over a week ago, and there's still no good snack food in the pantry. What's going on?
I decided, in the spirit of not spending money and being proactive, that I would make pretzels. So I adapted a recipe from the book I turn to when I want basic, classic, American and nothing else (although come to think of it, I think the best pretzels I've ever had have been German yeast-free pretzels from the farmers' market in San Mateo, CA, where Matt and I used to sell cheese). Anyway, I thought what've I got to lose? I had more than enough yeast packets to screw up and make a new batch tomorrow.
So I started to pretzel away. At my old baking job in San Francisco, all of our yeasted products started as a sponge, left to proof overnight in the walk-in fridge. I thought I might as well try this method for the pretzels. The sponge proofed over night, comprised of all the ingredients minus the second addition of flour and soft butter.
I was a little confused about the boil; the recipe I used as a guide said boil the pretzels for a minute before baking, or until they floated to the top. My pretzels floated right away, so they were only in the water for about 10-20 seconds, max.
My last comment about this recipe is to definitely not use parchment paper. I guess because the pretzels were wet when put in the oven, the parchment stuck to the backs of most of the pretzels. This was kind of annoying, but for the half of the batch that had no paper, eating was hassle free and great! I could either spend time peeling off paper from the other half or just suck it up and eat it, like an old candy with some paper stuck to it. And that's just what I did!
I lied- one more comment. In the future, I will definitely try a whole wheat flour and honey batch, because I really appreciate that salty/sweet mixture.

Yeast Pretzels For The Sponge:
1 c water- it doesn't have to be warm
1 t dry yeast
1 1/2 c organic flour
1/2 t salt
2 t agave nectar

For After the Sponge:
1 1/4 c sifted organic flour
1 T soft butter

For the Boil
4 c water
5 t baking soda

For the Sprinkle
2 big big pinches of kosher salt

For the sponge, in a large plastic container or mixing bowl, pour water. Gently sprinkle yeast so it floats on the surface. Go walk around your kitchen for a bit, say, 5 minutes, so when you come back and look at the yeasted water, small bubbles are appearing. If no bubbles after 5 min, something is probably wrong. Maybe your yeast is dead? If bubbles, proceed. Dump remaining ingredients for sponge right on top and, with a whisk, gently stir a couple of times--the mixture does NOT have to be fully incorporated.
Cover the container loosely-- as the dough proofs, gas will need to escape from the container. Make sure your lid is NOT tightly fitting.
Leave this sponge overnight, or at least for a few hours (as many as possible).
In the morning, scrape mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the second addition of flour and butter. With the dough hook attachment, mix the dough until it climbs up the hook, or until mixture is not sticky. The first guy who ever taught me about yeasted breads told me it's done when it feels like an earlobe. Or a booty. Either one. At this point, ball up the dough, and place in a lightly oiled container, no lid necessary. Wrap the entire container in plastic wrap, so it is air tight.
When the mixture has doubled in size (say, an hour?), it's time to shape and form the pretzels. This amount of dough made for me 10 pretzel-shaped pretzels, 10 pretzel sticks, and 10 little knobs, the size of golf balls. To shape the pretzels and the rods, roll the dough between your palms until they become ropes the thinness of your pinky finger. Shape the ropes into pretzels when they reach a little over a foot in length, and stop for the rods when they are about 6 inches long, tops. With the leftover dough, you can continue making rods or pretzels or little knobs. Whatever you like.
On a greased baking sheet (or probably two), let all of these fun pretzel shapes rise again, this time for about 25 min.
When rise is almost over, preheat the oven to 475 degrees and boil the water mixed with baking soda.
When water is boiling, gently place pretzels, about 4 at a time, into the water, for about 20 seconds each. Remove on a slotted spoon and replace on original baking sheet. Repeat until all are done. Sprinkle generously with course salt.
Bake pretzels in the oven on 475 for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
Lemonade by Matt
2 lemons
fresh mint

Juice the lemons into a cocktail shaker, and muddle with mint. Add a bunch of sugar (to taste), and fill shaker with water and some ice. Shake.
Pour through a strainer and serve with ice and a lemon wedge on the rim of the glass.