Wednesday, December 31, 2008

foodie for life

The result of sitting around bored at work with Castro and trying to think of something fun to do. It was one stop in a day of indulgence that continued into the night and left us a good 10 pounds heavier and a whole lot poorer.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Two of J-Cat's overly generous Christmas presents are represented in this post: the pizzas are made with my new brick walled pizza oven, and the pictures are taken with my new Canon digital SLR (but give me a break, I don't know how to use it yet). Methinks someone was feeling guilty about all the nursing I had to do last month. But it's not like he doesn't benefit at least from the pizza oven. I turned out a batch of 3 small pizzas last night, with gloriously crispy crusts and melty cheese and the aroma of an actual pizzeria.

The first pizza turned out to be our favorite by far, a sauceless combination of brussels sprouts and sweet Italian sausage with fior di latte mozzarella. Pizza perfection. See what I mean about brussels sprouts obsession?

The second was a simple classic of tomato sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan. I was pretty happy with my thrown together pizza sauce, it really showed through on this one.

The third was the same as the second with the addition of spicy Italian sausage, and was the one that felt most like a pizzeria pizza. Overall I was really pretty thrilled with the results and how easy it ended up being. The hardest part was waiting for the dough to rise, but really it was an exceedingly simple dough. Recipes for the sauce and the dough after the jump:

Makes 4 8" pizzas or 3 10" pizzas, depending on the thickness of your crust.

3 cups all-purpose flour (up to 1/3 can be replaced with whole wheat flour)
1 packet active dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1 cup lukewarm water
2 tbsp olive oil

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the water and oil and stir just until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes until smooth. Lightly oil the mixing bowl. Shape the dough into a ball and return to the mix bowl, turning to coat all sides with a bit of oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours until about doubled in size.

After rising, return the dough to the floured surface and press out the air. Divide into either 3 or 4 balls, depending on what size you want your pizzas. Cover the dough with the plastic wrap and allow to rest for another 20 minutes. In the meantime, preheat your oven as hot as it will get. Shape the dough by stretching or rolling to desired thinness. Top and bake for about 10 minutes on a pizza stone or perforated pizza pan until the crust is browned and crispy. Best served immediately.


1 15-oz can plum tomatoes, pureed (I just use an immersion mixer, but this can easily be done in a food processor)
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp tomato paste
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add the tomato paste and allow to sizzle for a minute or two. Add the tomato puree and the seasonings. Bring to a strong simmer then lower to a light simmer until it reduces by about a half, approximately 20 minutes.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

i'm terribly late... wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy Chanukah. So instead, Happy New Year and Season's Eatings!

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veggie obsession: brussels sprouts pasta

The only vegetable that I eat more often than cauliflower is probably brussels sprouts. This is partly because they are literally the easiest vegetable to make. They require barely any prep, will cook in a myriad of simple ways, are best with little adornment, and make you feel like a giant. I also recently read that brussels sprouts are the "it" vegetable right now, I guess in the restaurant world they're what fennel was last year. As proof, I had an amazing crostini at 'inoteca last week featuring shaved brussels sprouts, lemon oil, and I think a bit of pecorino cheese. A couple of days later I had a pizza with brussels sprouts and speck at Motorino. Both were freaking fantastic.

This recipe for Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pine Nuts takes the diminutive wild cabbage one step further into the spotlight for a main dish, offset with toasted pine nuts and served with simply seared diver scallops. Recipes after the jump:

1 pound fettuccine, preferably fresh
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 pints brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the brussels sprouts with 2 tsp olive oil and generously salt and pepper. Place in a baking pan and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until tender and lightly charred. You can toast the pine nuts during the last 5 minutes but watch them carefully as they should not be over browned.

In the meantime, bring 4 quarts of salted water to boil for the pasta. When pasta is ready, drain and add to a large mixing bowl with the remaining olive oil, the butter, the brussels sprouts and the pine nuts. Toss to coat well, and taste for salt and pepper. Serve with grated parmesan.

The best scallops for searing are "dry" scallops. The "wet" scallops are treated for moisture and will never develop a good brown sear. Despite being dry, you should still pat your scallops dry with a paper towel before cooking to insure the best sear.

4-6 large dry scallops
1 tbsp unsalted butter or ghee
1 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper

Heat the oil and butter in a nonstick skillet over high heat until the butter foam subsides. Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel, then season generously with salt and pepper. Place the scallops in the hot pan, being careful not to overcrowd them. If the scallops are too close together, they will steam instead of sear. Do not touch the scallops for at least 2 minutes to insure a good brown crust. When they are nicely browned, flip the scallops and continue to cook for another minute or two. The scallops should still be a bit springy and not too firm. The second side will not brown as nicely as the first, just serve that side down. Remove the scallops from the pan and serve immediately.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

bread gifts

I know this doesn't look that appetizing, but hear me out. The other day my colleague Bill was walking around with a big loaf of bread and he didn't apparently want this gift loaf so of course I'm the obvious person who will take it off his hands. Then I had some intense lapse of mental capacity and forgot about it. How I managed to forget about a nice loaf of bread is beyond me, but by the time I remembered it was hard as a rock. Luckily, the voice of Bosslady Beth singing out "bread pudding!" resounded in my ears and I knew exactly what to do.

I would abandon my plan to make a simple pear tart and instead make a pear bread pudding, dosed with some Pear William Brandy. A little searching found not only a pear bread pudding recipe, but a supposedly healthy Caramelized Pear Bread Pudding. Now, in all seriousness, no bread pudding is going to be healthy, but I guess the use of low-fat milk instead of heavy cream and the moderate amount of sugar makes this somewhat less indulgent. Luckily, it still tasted indulgent, and the mild sweetness of the pears was the perfect balance to the dense custardy bread. I worked the pear brandy in by soaking the golden raisins in it for a while and dumping the whole lot into the mix before baking. A custardy rich bread pudding that you don't have to feel terrible about.

By the way, in other bread gift news, Bosslady Beth just gave me a gift card to Amy's Bread. Yes, that is how much I love carbs. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from Eating

2 1/2 cups low-fat milk
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
4 cups cubed, day-old country-style bread, crusts trimmed (4-6 slices), preferably whole-wheat
2 tablespoons golden raisins
3 tablespoons pear brandy (optional)
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
2 ripe bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Soak the raisins in the pear brandy while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Heat milk in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring, until steaming, 4 to 6 minutes. Whisk eggs in a large bowl until blended; gradually whisk in 1/4 cup sugar. Slowly whisk in the hot milk until blended. Whisk in vanilla, lemon zest and nutmeg.
2. Add bread and raisins with the brandy to the milk mixture; gently fold together. Press down lightly with the back of a large spoon. Cover and set aside at room temperature.
3. Butter the bottom and sides of a round 2-quart baking dish with 1 teaspoon butter. Preheat oven to 350°F. Put a kettle of water on to boil.
4. Cut each pear half lengthwise into 4 slices. Place in a medium bowl and toss with lemon juice.
5. Heat a medium skillet over low heat until hot. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and swirl until just melted and the foam subsides. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup sugar over the melted butter. Arrange the pear slices on their sides in the pan in an even layer. Increase the heat to medium-low and, without stirring, let the pears begin to brown and the sauce slowly caramelize, adjusting the heat as needed to prevent burning, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully turn each pear slice with a fork. Return to the heat and cook until the sauce is uniformly golden, 2 to 4 minutes more.
6. Carefully transfer the pears one at a time to the prepared baking dish, arranging them decoratively in a circle and slightly overlapping them if necessary. Use a heatproof silicone spatula to scrape any remaining syrup over the pears.
7. Set the baking dish in a shallow baking pan. Spoon the bread and custard mixture into the baking dish. Press down on the bread until it is submerged in the custard. Place the pan in the oven and carefully add the hot water to the shallow baking pan until it is halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
8. Bake until the pudding is browned on top and set in the center, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Carefully remove the pan from the oven. Transfer the baking dish to a wire rack and let cool for at least 45 minutes. To serve, run a knife around the edge of the pudding. Place a serving platter over it and invert the pudding onto the platter.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

sunday supper: oven-baked "BBQ" brisket

I never used to believe in liquid smoke. It sounds like some kind of snake oil that only rubes fall for. How could it possibly work? Is a faux-BBQ even worth attempting? Well, I found out the answer yesterday, when I tried Homesick Texan's recipe for Oven-Baked Brisket. I figured, if a Texan found the result acceptable, it couldn't be THAT bad. And I must say, it was THAT good. Now, of course, the whole apt smells of hickory smoke, which certainly is not a bad thing. And I have a hunk of delicious brisket to make sandwiches and - dare I say it - brisket fried rice. And Morty thought it was freaking delicious, too. Recipe after the jump:

From Homesick Texan

1 four-pound untrimmed brisket
2 tablespoons of salt
2 tablespoons of black pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion cut into slivers
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup liquid smoke plus an additional 1/4 cup.
1/4 cup black coffee
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 fresh jalapenos, sliced

1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.
2. Mix together the salt, black pepper, cayenne and crushed garlic, and rub all over your brisket (more heavily on the meatier side but also a bit on the fat side as well). Allow the brisket to come to room temperature.
3. In a large roasting pan, add the slivered onions, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup of the liquid smoke, 1/4 cup black coffee, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and half the sliced jalapenos.
4. Place the brisket in the pan, fat side up, and sprinkle the remaining jalapenos on top of the brisket.
5. Cover the pan tightly with foil, and bake in the oven for four hours. At this point, if you want a more pronounced smoky taste, pour another 1/4 cup of the liquid smoke over the brisket. Otherwise, just continue cooking for another hour, or roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes per pound.
6. Take the brisket out of the oven, and it should be tender to the touch. Let it sit out of the pan for half an hour, and then trim the fat on top and slice against the grain. If you desire a gravy, they pan juice is a fine, fine topping.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

this is not a post about snow

It's about the easiest side dish ever: garlicky broccoli rabe. It's simply broccoli rabe, lots of garlic, hot red pepper flakes, and olive oil. Yes, it's snowing out, but there's no reason to not eat some fresh springy greens. Recipe after the jump:

1 bunch broccoli rabe, chopped into 1-inch lengths
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
large pinch hot red pepper flakes, to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil with the garlic in a large saute pan over medium high heat. When the garlic starts to get fragrant but before it start browning, add the hot pepper and let it sizzle in the oil for a minute. Add the broccoli rabe and saute for a few minutes. Bring down the heat and cover for a few minutes until the broccoli is bright green and tender. Continue to saute to avoid burning.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

easy weeknight dinner: lemon chicken with artichokes

This one literally takes 20 minutes, it's fantastically tasty, and it's quite healthy. I think that's all that needs to be said about it. Recipe after the jump:


2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken meat (I prefer thighs for flavor, but anything will do) large dice
1 1/2 cups quartered artichoke hearts (canned or jarred – not frozen)
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste (I used half a lemon)
1/2 cup lightly packed basil leaves, chiffonaded
1 teaspoon lemon zest

1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add onion and garlic, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.
2. Add chicken and cook, stirring rarely, until well browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add artichoke hearts and cook until slightly broken down, about 3 minutes.
3. Add wine, water, and juice and scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporate any browned bits. Cook until alcohol smell is cooked off and sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in basil and lemon, and serve over rice or pasta.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

sunday supper: bolognese of my dreams

Marcella Hazan's magical bolognese. As far as I'm concerned, there is no reason to go looking for another recipe. This is exactly what you want bolognese to taste like, smell like, look like, sound like. This is the sauce you turn to when you're simply craving pasta in it's classic and true form. And the only thing difficult about this recipe is having the patience to cook it as long as you should - no shortcuts allowed. If I had one complaint - one teeny, tiny, probably sacrilegious complaint - it's maybe that this can be quite greasy. I know fat is a good thing and I use the fattier chuck meat, but I couldn't stop myself from skimming off a little bit of the fat as it cooked. I don't know, I have a problem. Recipe after the jump:

From Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

NOTE: I took a few liberties with ingredient amounts, which I've noted below. Still awesome.
1 Tbs vegetable oil
3 Tbs butter plus 1 Tbs for tossing the pasta
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
3/4 pound ground beef chuck (I used a whole pound)
Black pepper, fresh from the mill
1 cup whole milk
Whole nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice (I used a whole 28 oz can)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta (I used 1 pound of dried rigatoni)
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Put the oil, butter, and chopped onion in the pot and turn the heat to medium. Cook until the onion's translucent, then add the celery and carrot and cook for 2 minutes more until coated well.

Add the ground beef, a large pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper; crumble the meat with a fork and stir until the beef has lost its raw, red color.

Now the cool part: add the milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating--about 1/8 teaspoon--of nutmeg and stir.

Add the wine, let it simmer until it's evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all the ingredients.

When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers (just an intermittent bubble here and there). Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, continue the cooking, adding 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.

Cook pasta, drain, then add the pasta to the sauce with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Toss to coat evenly and serve with grated parmiggiano-reggiano.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

the elusive real enchilada sauce

It is very frustrating when searching around for authentic recipes to continually come across ones that appear to take a shortcut. I was determined to make chicken enchiladas one night, but quite a bit of searching kept turning up recipes that called for "enchilada sauce". But WHAT is this mysterious sauce? Why can't I figure out a way to make it from scratch? Do I really have to go back to the market and find this stuff? It just feels like cheating.

Searching for enchilada sauce recipes also turned up a mish-mash of recipes, some even calling for jarred salsa, which, really? Come on. So whatever, I have to go find myself a real Mexican cookbook to figure this out, but in the meantime I cobbled some things together and made something that mostly resembled chicken enchiladas. They were actually very good, but I wouldn't call them authentic. And that just kills me, to be honest. Recipe after the jump:


For the enchiladas:
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
12 6-inch corn tortillas
1 medium onion, chopped
2 small jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cups enchilada sauce, recipe to follow
3 cups (about) shredded cooked chicken (use leftovers, or simply poach a couple of chicken breasts in broth or water)
3 cups packed grated Monterey Jack cheese (about 12 ounces)
Sour cream or Mexican crema, to garnish
Cotija cheese, to garnish

Heat 1/3 cup vegetable oil in heavy small skillet over medium-high heat. Using tongs, add 1 tortilla and cook until softened, turning once, about 15 seconds for each side. Transfer tortilla to paper towels and drain well. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in heavy large skillet. Add onion, pepper, and oregano and saute until onion and pepper are tender, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Lightly oil 13x9x2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Spoon 1/2 cup enchilada sauce into dish. Place scant 1/4 cup chicken in center of 1 tortilla. Sprinkle with 1 generous tablespoon onion mixture. Set aside 1/2 cup cheese for topping. Spoon 2 generous tablespoons cheese atop chicken. Roll up tortilla and place seam side down in prepared dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas, chicken, onion mixture and cheese. Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas. Sprinkle with reserved 1/2 cup cheese. Cover with foil. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.)

Preheat oven to 350F. Bake enchiladas, covered, until sauce bubbles and cheese melts, about 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes to lightly brown the top. Serve hot with sour cream and a sprinkling of cotija cheese.

For the sauce:
3 tbsp chili powder
3 tbsp flour
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp oregano
3 cups chicken broth
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Stirring constantly, slowly add enough of the broth to make a thin paste. Pour into pan and add rest of broth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Stir in tomato sauce.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

the upside of a thanksgiving chicken

Matzo ball soup, made from scratch. The carcass of our Thanksgiving chicken made a delicious soup that I believe has bone-healing properties. At least for my poor Jewish boy. He took one look at the soup and said "It looks just like my mom's!". I guess that's about as good a compliment as I could ask for from him. Recipe after the jump:


For the stock:
1 chicken carcass
4 quarts water, or enough to completely cover the carcass
1 onion, halved
2 carrots, halved
2 ribs celery, halved
various fresh herbs, tied in a bouquet garni (I used thyme, sage, and rosemary. Use whatever you have on hand.)
salt and pepper, to taste

For the matzo balls:
1 cup matzo meal
3 eggs
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp seltzer, optional
salt and pepper

For the soup:
1 recipe chicken stock
2 carrots, cut into coins
1 onion, diced
3 tablespoons fresh dill
1 recipe matzo balls

To make the stock: In a large stockpot, cover the chicken carcass with water. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, then lower to a rolling simmer. Simmer for at least 3 hours. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the carcass and set aside to cool. Remove the aromatics and discard. Strain if desired.

For the soup: after straining the stock, pick the chicken meat off of the carcass and add back to the stock with the carrots, onion and dill. Bring to a boil and add the matzo balls.

For the matzo balls: Beat the eggs and oil together, then add the matzo meal, salt, pepper, and seltzer and stir just until it comes together. Shape into small balls about 1-inch in diameter and drop into the boiling stock. Cook for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

nutmeg-maple cream(?) pie

Oh this pie. Normally I wouldn't try a brand new pie recipe on a holiday like Thanksgiving, but just reading this recipe made my mouth water and I knew it had to be good. What I found odd about it, though, was that it was called a cream pie when clearly it was a custard pie. Sure there's quite a bit of cream in it, but it's the egg content that really informs the texture. This pie was like an especially good version of those eggy custard tarts at Chinese bakeries that I grew up eating. And the key to it's awesomeness was this:

Fresh nutmeg. It has to be fresh for this. The dimensions of spiciness and warmth that you just don't get in the pre-ground nutmeg is what made this pie sing.

It wasn't the most beautiful pie, due mostly to my impatient decision to pour the filling into the crust while it was still rife with bubbles from whisking. The color is perhaps a little lackluster. But no one is going to care what this pie looks like, they're just going to want to eat it. Recipe after the jump:

From The New York Times, November 15, 2006

¾ cup maple syrup
2¼ cups heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pre-baked 9-inch pie crust (see recipe).

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, reduce maple syrup by a quarter, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in cream and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and egg. Whisking constantly, slowly add cream mixture to eggs. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a cup or bowl with pouring spout. Stir in salt, nutmeg and vanilla.

3. Pour filling into crust and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until pie is firm to touch but jiggles slightly when moved, about 1 hour. Let cool to room temperature before serving.

Yield: One 9-inch pie, 8 servings.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

respect the cranberry

The cranberry, that tart symbol of holiday cheer and over the top gluttony. I love cranberries because they provide perfect balance when combined with both sweet and savory foods. From one bag of fresh cranberries I got two holiday dishes - a lovely classic cranberry sauce, and a sweet cakey cranberry cornbread. Ironically, in the end I discovered that spreading the sauce on the cornbread was the best possible use of both dishes.

Both of these dishes were afterthoughts. I woke up on Thanksgiving morning with my now-familiar sleep deprivation hangover and wondered if I would have the energy to put together the meal I had planned for my invalid J-Cat. I regretted that I didn't buy a big cranberry cornbread from Amy's Bread the day before, because it was delicious and I really wanted more, and I didn't think I could duplicate it. But then I realized that I had a bag of fresh cranberries and I wasn't even planning to do anything with it that day, so why not?

The bread was simple - a classic sweet cornbread with the addition of halved cranberries. That used up about 1 cup of the berries, so the rest I boiled down into a cranberry sauce with spices and golden raisins. All in all it took no more than 30 minutes of prep time and I had two perfect dishes for even the smallest and laziest of Thanksgiving dinners. Recipes after the jump:

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups fresh cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup golden raisins

Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil to dissolve sugar. Add the cranberries and return to boil. Lower to a simmer, add the cinnamon stick and nutmeg, and allow to simmer for 10 minutes until the cranberries burst. Remove from the heat and gently fold in the golden raisins. Allow to cool to room temperature, then store in the fridge. The sauce will thicken as it cools.


1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup cranberries, halved

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs; mix well. Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Fold in cranberries.

Transfer to a greased 9-in. square baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm.

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thanksgiving plate

Thanksgiving for two, enough food for twenty.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

thanksgiving recovery

Thanksgiving, the holiday of eating. It's no surprise that it has always been my favorite holiday. But because of J-Cat's surgery the other day and a difficult recovery, we've decided that a quiet Thanksgiving at home with the kitties would be the best for both of our psyches. It's been a long long long week...

But a Thanksgiving for 2 humans and 2 felines does not mean a couple of frozen turkey dinners. I'm doing my best to find that compromise between hitting all our favorites and not going overboard. So, here's the menu plan, and all of the new recipes will be posted in the coming days:

Roast Chicken with Lemons (Yeah, they don't make 3-lb turkeys. And, to be honest, neither of us really likes turkey anyway.)
Chicken Gravy
Classic Bread Stuffing
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Roasted Delicata Squash
Cranberry Cornbread
Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Golden Raisins
Nutmeg-Maple Cream Pie

What, is that too much for two?

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

on-set torture: squash & chickpea tajine

When you make food television, sometimes you sit around all day tortured by delicious aromas they you just CAN'T. EAT. YET. This recipe tops the list because not only did it take forever before all the shots were done, this incredibly aromatic dish was persistently gnawing at my senses, insisting that I would love anything that smelled like that. Cinnamon, cumin, garlic, onions, wafting, all over the studio, driving me crazy.

This recipe was also responsible for a rather exciting first day back on set, as Aida sliced her finger while chopping up some preserved lemon. I discovered that glopping on liquid bandage wasn't really going to work if it just kept bleeding and bleeding and the blood was diluting the liquid bandage. Then I discovered that the blood clotting spray in the first aid kit was a joke but might have made us giggly. Then I discovered that our EP Matt was strong and could possibly break Aida's finger while trying to apply pressure. Then I discovered that the tannic acid in a wet tea bag works as a natural coagulant. The more you know. Recipe after the jump:


1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 (3 inch) cinnamon stick
1 pound butternut squash, large dice
3/4 pound red potatoes, large dice
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices
Pinch saffron threads
1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped
1 cup brined green olives (recommend: Cerignola)[note: I used Moroccan Oil-cured olives because they were pitted, cheaper, and Moroccan, which I thought was fitting]
Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped, for garnish
Toasted slivered almonds, for garnish
Plain Greek yogurt, for garnish
Steamed couscous, for serving

1. Heat butter and olive oil in a 3- to 4-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tightfitting lid over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add onion, garlic, cumin, and cinnamon, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until spices are aromatic and onions is just soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Add squash and potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, stir to coat, and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Add broth, chickpeas, tomatoes and their juice, and saffron. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until squash is fork tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and stir in preserved lemon and olives. Serve over couscous garnished with cilantro, almonds, and yogurt.

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Poor J-Cat. Surgery on Monday.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

emergency cookies: white chocolate cherry chunkers

Oh my. What a week I've had. Such a week that I can't even remember when I made these cookies or how I had the energy or time. But it's a good thing I did, because it turns out that J-Cat is practically surviving on them. On Saturday night, my manchild of a boyfriend broke his upper arm skateboarding and now is pretty much unable to do anything. Between multiple visits to the hospital and the realization that I have to do quite a lot to help him (imagine all the things you can't do with only one arm) and a severe lack of sleep, I'm wondering if perhaps I baked these cookies in the middle of the night. Luckily, these hearty white chocolate cherry chunk cookies are full of oats and relatively low on sugar, so when I go to work and leave the gimp alone at home all day, he can easily eat these rather than try to get something off of a shelf or whatever.

The recipe comes from the new book The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread, with some minor modifications from me to reduce the sugar (I always do that, as I actually don't like really sweet desserts), and increase the fiber. I also made smaller cookies than the recipe suggests, so I have adjusted the cooking time to account for it. Amy's Bread is an incredible bakery that constantly strives to thwart all of my attempts to lose weight. It's right downstairs from my office. It's magical. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread
(Makes 36 small or 12 large cookies)

1 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup dried tart cherries
3/4 cup white chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar

1. Position one rack in the top third of the oven, one rack in the bottom third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line the cookie sheets with baking parchment.

2. In a bowl, add the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt and whisk together. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. In another large bowl, add the cherries and white chocolate and toss gently to combine.

3. In another bowl, using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed for 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently. Gradually add the egg mixture until everything is well combined.

4. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in stages. Mix only until everything is well combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently. There should not be any pockets of dry flour left in the dough. Add the cherries and chocolate and mix again on low speed until everything is evenly distributed. If you're using a mixer that has beaters instead of a paddle, you may want to fold these last ingredients in by hand with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.

5. Using a large soup spoon, a metal ice cream scoop, or your clean hands moistened with water, scoop out small balls of dough and place on lined baking sheet. Press down lightly to flatten them to a thickness of about 1 inch. They will spread a lot during baking. Bake the cookies for about 14 minutes, rotating the cookies halfway through the baking time. They should be golden brown and baked all the way to the center. They should be soft, but be careful not to underbake them or they'll be doughy and will fall apart easily.

6. Let cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then move them to a rack and cool completely before serving.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

another vat of goodness

Okay, maybe some of these vat dinners are getting repetitive. Rice, beans, greens, a touch of meat, how many variations of this have I made already? The thing is, this theme has countless variations, and somehow many of them are awesome. This time it was brown basmati rice, collard greens, black-eyed peas, and a bit of andouille. I went with the influence of southern ingredients and threw some dashes of tabasco in for a familiar bite. Recipe after the jump:


1 cup brown basmati rice
4 ounces andouille sausage, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch collard greens, cut into thin ribbons
1 15-oz can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp dried tarragon
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
a few splashes tabasco sauce, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium saucepot, combine rice with 2 cups water and bring to a strong boil. Lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for 40 minutes or until water is absorbed and rice is tender. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute the sausage until browned and letting out fat. Add the onions and garlic and saute for a few minutes until onions are translucent. Add the collards and saute until wilted. Add the beans, tarragon, paprika, cayenne and tabasco sauce and saute until beans are heated through.

In a large bowl, combine the collards and beans with the rice and toss well. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

maple nut & pear scones

The aroma of these hearty scones baking on Sunday morning was intoxicating. My attempt at a healthy weekend breakfast was thwarted, however, by my inability to stop myself from eating FOUR of them. Then another for dessert. And another the next day. If you are craving the flavor of fall in an addictive, filling, not-too-sweet bread item, this is the scone for you. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from Eating Well

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
¼ cup plus 1 ½ teaspoons sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons chilled reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), cut into small pieces (2 ounces)
2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
¼ cup canola oil
1 cup diced peeled pears, preferably Bartlett (about 1 large)
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts, divided
¾ cup low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon maple extract or vanilla extract
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water for glaze

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or coat with cooking spray.

2. Combine whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, oats, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl; whisk to blend. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut or rub cream cheese and butter into the dry ingredients. Add oil and toss with a fork to coat. Add pear and 1/4 cup nuts; toss to coat. Mix buttermilk and maple (or vanilla) extract in a measuring cup and add just enough to the dry ingredients, stirring with a fork, until the dough clumps together. (It will be sticky.)

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times; do not overwork it. Divide the dough in half and pat each piece into a 7 1/2-inch circle. Cut each circle into 6 wedges and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with the egg glaze and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup nuts, pressing lightly. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar.

4. Bake the scones until golden and firm to the touch, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

sunday supper: pasta e lenticchie

Homey, filling, simple and tasty, all the makings of a perfect Sunday Supper on a chilly fall day. It's a one pot meal that results in a rich-tasting but ultimately extremely healthy dish. A very classic dish from the Campania region, it is often made using the odds and ends of leftover pasta, or pasta mista. I used capellini, broken into 2-inch pieces, so that it would cook quickly in the same pot as the lentils. I also used way more pasta than the recipe actually calls for because I am a carb freak, so the proportions were probably pretty different. No matter, it was delicious. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from Naples at Table by Arthur Schwartz

6 cups water
3/4 cup lentils
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes, with some juice
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
3/4 pound vermicelli or capellini, or small tubular pasta, or pasta mista
2 rounded tablespoons finely cut or snipped parsley
Optional: Extra-virgin olive oil and hot red pepper flakes or hot pepper oil for garnish

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a rolling boil, add the lentils, and cook, covered over medium-high heat, until nearly but not entirely tender, about 20 minutes.

2. Add the garlic, the olive oil, the tomatoes, the salt, and the pepper. Reduce the heat, cover, and continue to simmer briskly for another 10 minutes, stirring a few times, or until the lentils are fully tender.

3. If using capellini, break it into 2- to 4-inch pieces and add them to the lentils. Cook, covered, at a steady simmer, stirring several times and scraping the bottom of the pot when you do. Cook until the pasta is just done, stirring more frequently as it gets closer to that point. If using a small tubular pasta or pasta mista, cook the pasta at least halfway in plenty of salted boiling water. Drain the pasta, add it to the lentils, and simmer to finish cooking the pasta.

4. When either pasta is cooked to taste, remove the pot from the heat, stir in the parsley, cover the pot, and let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

5. Serve hot, passing hot pepper oil or the best-quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling on top.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

sunday supper: berry beer baked beans

How many times have I posted about a recipe I saw on 101 Cookbooks? I've lost count, but I can't help it. How can I ignore a recipe that not only gives me an opportunity to use my beautiful heirloom Borlotti beans from Rancho Gordo, but calls for delicious Belgian Lambic Framboise beer? To be honest, I was a little concerned that this might turn out quite sweet between the beer, the dried cherries, and the molasses, but I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor. The beer gave a tangy edge to the dish, and the hot pepper, smoked paprika, and dijon mustard rounded out a very complex flavor. The only thing I did differently was use some nice smokey kielbasa and its fat in place of the olive oil. I mostly did that because I had the leftover kielbasa, but I figured the smokey flavor would complement the dish well. A word of warning, I ended up having to cook this far longer than the 2 hours she suggests, but this may be because the Borlotti beans I used turned out to be much larger than your typical cranberry bean. I recommend giving yourself plenty of time and letting the beans simmer for as long as possible; it can only get better with time. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

2 cups dried cranberry, borlotti,or pinto beans, soaked over night

3 ounces kielbasa, diced
1 medium red onion, chopped
1/4 cup molasses
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups berry beer
1/2 cup dried berries and/or cherries, loosely chopped
2 cups light vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (or more to taste)
fine-grain sea salt

Preheat oven to 350F degrees, and place rack in lower third.

In a large oven-proof casserole (I use my large Le Creuset Dutch oven), saute the kielbasa until it gives off a couple tablespoons of fat, then saute the red onion for a minute or so. Stir in the molasses, mustard, red pepper flakes, beans, beer, dried berries, and broth. Bring to a simmer, cover, and place in oven for roughly 1 1/2 - 2 hours, or until beans are tender. Every batch of beans is different, and they'll decide for themselves when they're done. After an hour or so, (carefully) check every 25 minutes to see how the beans are doing. When the beans are tender remove the pot from the oven. In the off chance they need more liquid during the baking process, add more broth (or water) 1/2 cup at a time. More likely, if the beans finish cooking before the cooking broth really thickens up, pull the pot back up onto the stove top, uncover, and bring the pot to a boil until the liquid has more body - usually 5 - 10 minutes.

Now it's time to season the pot. Stir in the smoked paprika and a few big, generous pinches of salt. Wait a minute and then taste, you definitely need enough salt and to make the flavors pop and to counter-balance the sweetness of the molasses and fruit - the smoked paprika helps balance in this regard as well.

A big pot - serves 8 - 10.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

save the apples

J-Cat dropped a container with 4 honeycrisp apples in it. I'm not blaming or anything, but those apples were MESSED UP. It made me sad, because honeycrisps are for eating raw and these apples were too jacked. But just to prove that I don't hold any hard feelings, I made something with those jacked up apples that I knew J-Cat would love: a warm apple topping for some homemade buckwheat pancakes.

J-Cat isn't much for pancake syrup. He generally prefers a pancake with fruit in it so that it doesn't need the sweetness of syrup. But the bananas I got for Sunday breakfast just weren't ripe enough, so actually it's a good thing he dropped those apples. This was like a warm apple pie, for breakfast. Recipes after the jump:

1-1/2 cups sifted buckwheat flour
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups buttermilk (or less is you like thicker pancakes)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon oil

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until they come together. Avoid overmixing as this will cause toughness. Heat a skillet over medium heat and grease with butter. Ladle about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Pancake is ready to flip when bubbles start forming closer to the center. Flip and cook another minute or two until cooked through. Serve with warm apple topping, recipe to follow.

2 ripe apples of your choice
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Peel, core, and thinly slice apples. Melt butter in a skillet and add apples. Sprinkle with sugar, spices and salt. Saute over moderate heat until softened. Serve over pancakes.

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Monday, October 27, 2008


The newest member of our family:

For the time being we're calling him Morty Nuzzlebaum, but we haven't made our final decision yet. We're still waiting for him to let us know.

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I distinctly remember when I first heard of Bigos, the classic Polish Hunter's Stew. I had just moved back to NYC from college and was living in the East Village, which had an abundance of Polish restaurants. Brother #2 suggested I try Little Poland, and specifically to get the Bigos. I had no idea what Bigos was, but I was game. I thought that Bigos was something plural, like one of them was a Bigo, and a plate of them were Bigos. Wrong. Delightfully, deliciously wrong.

Bigos is actually considered by many to be the national dish of Poland, and is a stew consisting of sauerkraut (kapusta kiszona in Polish), fresh cabbage and various meats. It seems like one of those dishes that can vary from region to region and family to family, so I didn't feel as if I had one central classic recipe to draw from. Instead I focused on the most typical components and went for a pretty simple version that I'd say is probably more Bigos-inspired than authentic. I got a nice hunk of mystery Kielbasa from a Polish meat market in Greenpoint (I say mystery because there were about 10 different kielbasa's and I had no idea what the differences were, and the cards were written in Polish, so I just pointed). I also threw in a smoked pork chop and some bacon. To truly be a hunter's stew it actually needed some game of some kind, but I didn't have any, so unfortunately that was left out.

I served the Bigos with some fantastic Potato Onion Dill bread from Amy's Bread, which ended up being perfect because it was a rye bread, the type typically served with Bigos. I didn't know that at the time so perhaps my choice to pair them was some real cook's intuition? Recipe after the jump:

1/2 pound kielbasa, sliced into rounds
1/2 pound smoked pork chop, cubed
1/2 pound smokey bacon or salt pork, chopped
1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
1 pound fresh sauerkraut, drained and rinsed
1 pound fresh cabbage, shredded
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp peppercorns
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp dried marjoram
1 tbsp dried dill
fresh dill for garnish

Heat a large deep saute pan or dutch oven over high heat. Add all of the meats and saute to render the fat. Add the onions to the pot and saute in the fat until translucent. Add the tomato paste and allow to sizzle for a minute before stirring in. Add the cabbage, sauerkraut, and all the spices, then add chicken stock until just barely covering. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, then cover and allow to simmer for at least an hour, 2-3 hours is even better. Add additional stock if necessary. If there is excess liquid, simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes to boil away. Serve topped with chopped fresh dill along with a nice soft rye bread.

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