Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Peanut butter fudge cheesecake

Happy holidays everyone! My little stepbrother is a cheesecake fan, so we adapted this to what my mom had around the house. (Making ganache with sour cream worked surprisingly well.) It's like a big creamy peanut butter cup, but even better--a good addition to your white Christmas.

1.5 packs graham crackers + 1/4 c cocoa powder (or just use oreos)
5 T melted butter

Grind the cookies in the food processor, then combine with other ingredients.

cheesecake filling:
2.5 packs cream cheese (20 oz), softened (lowfat ok)
1 c sugar
1 c peanut butter (crunchy, unsalted)
1 t vanilla
3 eggs + 1 egg white

Cream all ingredients together, eg in the food processor.

chocolate filling:
1 c sour cream
2 T milk
1 egg yolk
2 c chocolate chips

Warm the sour cream, milk, and egg yolk in a small saucepan over low heat, taking care not to scald. Stir in the chocolate until smooth.

to assemble:
6 mini Reeses cups, chopped

Preheat oven to 325F. Press the crust into a 9" springform pan (there may be extra) and bake for 10 min, then cool completely. Pour 2/3 of the chocolate filling into the crust, smooth, and sprinkle with the chopped peanut butter cups. Pour in all of the cheesecake filling, top with the last 1/3 of the chocolate filling, and smooth carefully. The springform will be quite full, so place it on a cookie sheet to catch any overflow. Bake for about 1 hr 15 min until the center is just set, then chill overnight.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Two hearty winter dishes

Laura here, your friendly neighborhood guest blogger, with a couple recipes to warm your bones on those cold winter nights.  

Served these two dishes last night, accompanied by a multigrain baguette from La Farine, truffled pecorino, and a nice bottle of wine.  It was almost enough to make me homesick for Gran Sasso...

Chestnut and chickpea soup (Zuppa di ceci e castagne)

This recipe is a translation / adaptation of a recipe I found a few years ago on the official Abruzzo tourism website, attributed to l'Osteria Antiche Mura, a restaurant in L'Aquila.  Indeed, it tastes almost exactly as I remember -- rich, slightly sweet, and very flavorful.  The website where I found this recipe seems to have disappeared, but here's my take on it.

  • 1.5 lb chestnuts
  • two cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained 
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • sprig rosemary
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • olive oil, 
  • salt & pepper
Roast and shell the chestnuts.  If anyone knows a trick to make this easier, please for the love of god tell me what it is!  I usually score each chestnut with an 'X', then bake them at 350 for 20 minutes or so.  But I also usually have a hell of a time shelling them, so my method is probably not optimal.

Put the shelled chestnuts in a bowl of lukewarm water.  You can let them soak for up to 2 hours (recommended by the recipe), but in my experience, that's not really necessary.

Mince the garlic and rosemary.  Saute garlic in olive oil, then add the rest of the ingredients, along with ~6-8 cups water.  Simmer for a good long while (probably ~30 min.), until the chestnuts start to disintegrate and thicken the broth.

Chard with shiitake mushrooms

This recipe is based on a dish my friend Eden Gallanter once made for me.  It is one of the most delicious ways to cook greens that I have ever experienced.

  • 1 bunch chard, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 lb shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 shallot or 1/2 onion, finely sliced
  • generous pour Madeira or other cooking wine (~1/2 cup)
  • 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • olive oil
  • salt
Saute onions in olive oil until translucent.  Add shiitakes and cook until they release their moisture.  Deglaze pan with wine.  Add greens and cook until wilted.  Add nutritional yeast and salt to taste.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Chard and yam gratin

Make this. Just follow SmittenKitchen's recipe and do it. (3 lb chard = 5 good-sized bunches; 2 lb yams = 3 medium ones; 1 c cream + 1 c 1% milk worked just fine.)

See how little leftovers there are, compared to all those mujadarra leftovers? They're both way tastier than they look, but this gratin especially so. Totally worth chopping all those greens.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving mujadarra

What's a vegan gluten-free Thanksgiving main dish that's filling, savory, and made from scratch? This is my answer. It's mostly this, with a bit of this for good measure. The three components—wild rice, caramelized onions, and aromatic lentils—can be made ahead separately, tossed together in any order, and heated through at the end before serving. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

2 1/4 c wild rice

Cook the wild rice, ideally until just tender. Cooking it as recommended in the rice cooker, ie in 6 c water on the brown rice cycle, results in overdone rice. You might want to try what the bag and the Epicurious recipe say, ie cook on the stove for 45 minutes.

2 T earth balance
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
glug of red wine for deglazing

Melt the earth balance in a large cast-iron frying pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook slowly until translucent, stirring every 5-ish minutes. When they are uniformly translucent and starting to get some color (this takes 20-30 minutes) turn up the heat very slightly and begin to stir every 2-ish minutes. After another 15-20 minutes, turn up the heat slightly again and stir frequently. You can keep going like this as long as you like; at least an hour is really necessary to get a deep caramel color and flavor. When you're finally ready to be done, deglaze the pan with some red wine, scraping up all those delicious onion bits. (If you're cooking other savory things like mushroom gravy, do so in the onion pan without washing it. Mmm.)

glug olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 carrots, quartered and sliced thin
1 cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
1.5 c French green lentils
5 c stock
dozen allspice berries
dozen whole cloves
3 cardamom pods

Heat the oil over medium low in a large pot. Add the shallot and garlic, and saute for a few minutes. Add the carrots, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves, and saute while you boil the water for stock. When the stock is ready, add it and the lentils to the pot. Put the rest of the whole spices in a tea ball and drop into the pot too. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender. Check on them occasionally and give them a stir.

When you're ready to serve, toss everything together in a pot on the stove and heat on low until warmed through. Eat a little bit, and eat a lot of what everyone else brought!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Persimmon bread

It's finally time for baking with ripe squishy persimmons! This is a variation on James Beard's persimmon bread, which appears to be the consensus persimmon bread of food bloggers (eg David Lebovitz). My only change was to swap the walnuts and raisins—which would have made it too close to last weekend's carrot cake—for chocolate chips and currants—which are probably better complements for the very generous dose of Bulleit anyway. The loaf is soft, dark, moist, and surprisingly spicy, with a good crumb and a delightfully chewy crust.

1 stick butter
1 c Hachiya pulp (2 Hachiyas)
2 eggs
1/3 c bourbon.
1.75 c flour
1.25 c sugar
1 t baking soda
1/2 t nutmeg
3/4 t salt
1 c chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
1 c currants

Preheat the oven to 350F, and butter and flour a 9" loaf pan. (Mine stuck to the pan a bit on the bottom, so you might want to try parchment.)

Microwave the butter in a 4-c pyrex until melted. Scoop the persimmon innards into the butter and stir to break up the chunks as much as possible. When the mixture is cool enough, stir in the eggs and bourbon.

In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (flour through salt). Stir in the wet ingredients until just combined, then stir in the chocolate and currants. Scoop the batter into the pan and bake for 60-70 min until a tester comes out clean.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Maple creme fraiche ice cream

Based on the Jeni's formula, to go with carrot cake.

1/4 c milk
4 t cornstarch
1.5 c milk
1.5 c cream
3/4 c maple syrup
1/4 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
4 oz (1/2 pack) creme fraiche

Stir the cornstarch into the first 1/4 milk, and set aside. Combine the rest of the milk with the cream, maple syrup, salt, and vanilla in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until foaming, then keep heating and whisking for another 3 minutes. Pour in the cornstarch and cook until thickened. Dollop in the creme fraiche and whisk until thickened and smooth. Chill, churn, and enjoy.

Carrot cake

Just a regular old carrot cake for Laura's birthday. First birthday cake I haven't screwed up in ages though! Maybe I did learn something about cakes this summer after all. This cake is very moist and tender, which means it also sticks to pans and cooling racks, so you'll be happier if you actually use parchment and/or cupcake liners. Also pictured: maple creme fraiche ice cream.

3 c grated carrots
1.5 c pecan halves
2 c granulated sugar
1 c canola oil
4 eggs
2 c flour
2 t baking powder
2 t baking soda
2 t cinnamon
1 t cloves
1 t nutmeg
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t cardamom
3/4 t salt
1/2 c raisins

Preheat the oven to 325F, and prepare 2 8" cake pans (parchment and butter) and a 12-cupcake pan (cupcake liners).

Grate a crapton of carrots in the food processor, and transfer to a 4-c pyrex. Put the pecans in the food processor and pulse a few times to chop, and dump them into the pyrex too.

In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and oil until smooth, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the dry ingredients and mix to just combine. Fold in the carrots, nuts, and raisins.

Fill the cupcakes 3/4 full, then divide the remaining batter between the two cake pans. Bake the cupcakes for 25 min and the cakes for 40-45 min until a toothpick comes out clean.

8 oz pack cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick butter, at room temperature
2 t vanilla
2.5 c powdered sugar (or to taste)

Beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth, then beat in the vanilla. Beat in the powdered sugar one cup at a time, tasting before each addition (it's ok to add at least another cup of powdered sugar if you want). This is enough to generously frost the layer cake.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween fig+orange rugelach

Looks pretty much like fall around here these days. So I've been making loads of persimmon and fig baked goods, right? Wrong, sadly, because both have missing from the farmers market and corner store, somewhat bafflingly.

But since it's Halloween already, I decided to make do with non-homemade fig butter and orange zest to seasonal it up. Orange-and-black-ness = pretty good, flavor = delicious. Thanks for bringing the fig butter last weekend, Brandon!

dough and instructions:
2/3 batch of this
with no cardamom, and with 1 orange's worth of zest (about 1 T)

spread inside:
TJs fig butter with a dusting of cocoa powder

glaze then sprinkle with:
orange sprinkles

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Vegan chocolate mousse pie

It was so hot here yesterday! So hot. Like normal summer temperatures anywhere else. I could wear a sundress at night and not wish I was wearing seventeen more layers. It made me really happy.

But when I wanted to make a dessert, turning on the oven didn't seem like a great idea, so I tossed this together instead. I thought the filling was nice like this without any added sugar—the salt and bourbon bring out the nutty chocolate flavors just fine by themselves—but you should taste it and see if you agree before pouring it on the crust.

1/2 pack oreos
3-4 T earth balance, melted
1 pack silken tofu
3/4 c nutella
2/3 c chocolate chips, melted
dash salt
1 T bourbon

Remove the insides from the oreos and set aside. In the food processor, grind the oreo cookie parts until fine. Add the earth balance and process until clumped up and moldable. Press into the bottom and sides of a pie pan. Put all the other ingredients in the food processor (you don't need to wash it in between) and process until smooth. Taste and adjust, then pour the filling into the pie crust and smooth the top. Stick in the fridge for an hour until set.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Blackberry bundt cake

Lester and I spent Labor Day afternoon picking a gallon of blackberries at Albany Bulb. Yes, a whole gallon of blackberries.

One quart was immediately made into 3 cups of blackberry juice, then into 2 1/3 c jam. Another quart was getting lonely in the fridge, so I worked from home the other morning to make this cake. That leaves two more quarts in the freezer for future blackberry fun!

This makes one rather large cake. My guess at scaling down the cake recipe from two 9" layers to one bundt cake--i.e., multiply by 3/4--exactly hit the capacity of my bundt pan, at least with the addition of all the berries. Folks at the office made quick work of it though, so don't worry about having a surplus of leftovers.

juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1 c milk
1/2 c ricotta
1.5 t vanilla
3 c flour
3 T cornstarch
1.5 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1.5 sticks salted butter
1.5 c sugar
3 eggs
1 quart fresh blackberries, carefully washed

Preheat the oven to 350F and butter and flour a bundt pan. Mix together the wet ingredients (lemon through vanilla) in one bowl, and mix together the dry ingredients (flour through salt) in another. In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the wet and dry ingredients in several alternating batches, mixing until just incorporated after each addition. Pour half the batter into the bundt pan, cover evenly with the blackberries, and pour on the rest of the batter. This left a thick layer of blackberry goodness near the bottom of the cake; I think just mixing the blackberries into the batter would work at least as well. Smooth the top and bake for an hour until a tester comes out clean.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Broiled okra and shishitos

The gchat conversation between me and Lester as I was leaving the office this evening:

me: what are you thinking for dinner?
Lester: not sure
we have quite a few things but I am short of ideas
could do something with the okra and shishitos, or eggplants
me: yeah let's do the broiled okra + shishitos :)
Lester: okey dokey
me: and maybe something with the polenta to go with it?
Lester: exactly what I was thinking
me: maybe with garbanzos?
Lester: again... exactly what I was thinking
me: so you do have ideas :)
Lester: roast garbanzos and baked polenta
me: yep
Lester: I'll get the oven on

That's pretty much the recipe, but I'll spell it out anyway. Toss garbanzos and polenta slices in olive oil, and bake at 400 for 15-25 minutes until starting to brown. Toss whole okra and shishito (or padron) peppers in olive oil, and broil for 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle everything with sea salt and eat.

The okra and shishitos were inspired by an appetizer we had at Pizzaiolo on Friday, as part of my "hooray I've finally submitted a paper!" dinner. They baked theirs in the wood-fired oven, but other than that their results and ours were pretty much the same: totally simple, and totally delicious. I expect nothing less from Pizzaiolo, of course, because pretty much everything about that place makes me happy. (Great coffee and internet in the morning, great dinner and cocktails at night!) But it's nice to see that you can get almost identical results without the fancy oven, so there's really no reason not to do this all the time while the ingredients are in season.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Empanadas with pepper sauce

I made this pepper sauce a couple days ago, tossed in a can of black beans, served it over fried polenta rounds, and topped it with grated cheddar and avocado slices. That's a good meal.

So good, I had to make the sauce again. And then I had to make some finger food to go with it to take to John&Christina's martini science party. I found this empanada dough that has a bit of polenta in it, since the sauce went so well with polenta before. It makes empanadas that are pretty crunchy, but also a little bit soft and a little bit flaky.

800g bread flour
200g polenta
2/3 c olive oil
1 stick butter, melted
2/3 c dry white wine
1 t sugar
~2/3 c hot water
semolina for dusting
1 egg, beaten

Mix everything except the water in a bowl. Knead in the water a little bit at a time, adding just enough to make the dough hold together. Cover and let rest while you make the filling and sauce (an hour or two). When you're ready to form the empanadas, preheat the oven to 425F and line baking sheets with parchment. Chop the dough into 64 pieces (just keep subdividing). Roll each dough bit into a 3" round (the size of the dumpling maker), fill it with about a tablespoon of filling, and pinch it closed with the dumpling maker. Brush with egg and bake for 15-20 min until golden.

4 cloves garlic, minced
canola oil
2 carrots
1 lb red cabbage
1 can black beans
5 green onions, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1/2 t each coriander, cumin, and oregano
8 oz grated cheddar+gruyere

Grate the carrots and cabbage (eg in the food processor). Saute the garlic over medium-low heat, then add the carrots, cabbage, and black beans. Cook, covered, until soft, adding the green onions and spices partway through. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Grate the cheese (you don't even have to wash the food processor first) and stir it into the veggies. Adjust the spices, remembering that the empanadas will be dipped in the sauce.

canola oil
1 medium red onion
2 jalapeno and/or aji lucento peppers
1 unidentified, medium-spicy purple pepper
1 green poblano pepper
1 medium red bell pepper
4 assorted tomatoes

Chop everything into small dice, and heat some oil over medium heat. Saute the onion, then add the spicy peppers, then the sweet peppers, then the tomatoes, sauteing for 5 min between each addition. Simmer, uncovered, until the tomato juice is reduced to a nice thick sauce. Add a dash of salt; it shouldn't need anything else. Blend if you're using it as a dipping sauce, or don't bother if you're just glopping it on something.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A week of food in Seattle: James and Margo's wedding edition

I bet you want that wedding cake post, right? Well, turns out I was far too busy making the cakes to take pictures of them too. I'll post something as soon as I get the official-wedding-photographer photos from Elise and Jrd, I promise. In the meantime, here's what I did the rest of the week—thanks everyone for a great trip!
  • padron peppers from Pike Place for a tapas dinner at SarahS and Brandon's
  • pho at Pho Than Bros before borrowing hours at Michelle's
  • coffee and editing at Trabant, Stumptown, and Solstice throughout the week
  • pretty good bagel and very good lentil soup at Eltana
  • grilled fajitas at DavidS and Cat's with Jill
  • lunch at Google Fremont with DavidS
  • lovely night out: aged la biciclette in a tiny bottle and fun bathrooms at Canon, dinner at one of those Ethiopian places by 12th and Jefferson, and blues dancing at Waid's with Brandi, Peter, SarahS, William, DavidP, Jones, and Sabo
  • ramen at Samurai Noodle with Lester before I scooted off to a belly dance class
  • pies and pints at Pies and Pints with a crowd of wabis
  • morning coffee with Lester at Anchored Ship, which is adorable in the best Seattle way
  • fantastic dinner of oysters (best was Eagle Rock), smoked trout, smelt, salad, goat cheese & figs, and doughnut-like fried rhubarb with SarahS and Lester (who chose the best cocktail, the mustache ride) at The Walrus and the Carpenter after day 1 of cakemaking
  • delicious veggie shawarma at Petra with SarahO before strolling back along the Elliot Bay Trail to finish day 2 of cakemaking
  • a wonderful wedding! (with wonderful catering by James's aunt)
  • dinner with Marcus, Gaby, and Lester at Tamarind Tree squeezed in after a day of post-wedding hangouts
  • surprisingly good salmon pesto sandwich at Madison Diner while showing Lester around Bainbridge Island
  • nachos at College Inn Pub with lots of folks before heading off to the airport

Sunday, July 15, 2012


I tried to make meringues once in college, and they were terrible. Not these! When piped into 1-2" rounds, they're light and crunchy almost all the way through, with just a tiny bit of a softer center. These will be the wedding cake toppers, without the plum jam mousse that they're shown with here.

n egg whites
n x 1/4 c white sugar
vanilla or flavorings

Preheat oven to 200F and line baking sheets with parchment. Beat egg whites until they hold medium-soft peaks, then keep beating while slowly drizzling in the sugar until very stiff. Beat small amounts of liquid flavorings, or very carefully fold in dry flavorings (do not beat in anything chunky!). Pipe the meringue onto the parchment however you like. Bake for 2 hr, then turn off the oven, open the door, and let the meringues keep drying in the oven for 2 more hours. The meringues are done when the surfaces are dry and they easily detach from the parchment. Store in a sealed container at room temperature.

Lemon and lavender cake

Thanks so much to Alan for suggesting this combination, and thanks to Jaime&Alan and Todd for hosting 4th of July parties to eat cake at! (Hence the "USA".) All you can see here is the frosting, but that's at least enough to demonstrate that the whipped cream is happily pipable. And the cake inside is finally the right texture, and the lemon, sour cream, and lavender all balance out very well to make a final cake that's both light and interesting. Second wedding win!

4 c all-purpose flour
4 T cornstarch
2 t baking powder
1.5 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 c buttermilk (or milk + juice of 2 lemons)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 c sugar
2 t vanilla
4 eggs
1 T Meyer lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350F and prepare two 9" cake pans. Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix milk and lemon juice in a small bowl. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the vanilla, eggs, and zest until fluffy. Beat in the dry ingredients and the buttermilk in several alternating batches, without overmixing. Transfer to pans and knock out the air bubbles, then bake for 35-40 min until golden. These domed a fair bit, so make sure to level before assembling the cake.

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3.5 c powdered sugar
1 T honey
4 T Meyer lemon juice
5 T sour cream
1/2 t vanilla
pinch salt

Beat everything together until fluffy. Adjust the sour cream and powdered sugar to get something stiff enough.

several whole sprigs lavender, gently rinsed
2 T honey
1 c cream
powdered sugar as needed (at least a cup I think)

Put the lavender, honey, and cream in a saucepan. Heat until just simmering, then turn off the heat, cover, and let steep for half an hour. Strain into a bowl, discarding the lavender, and chill the cream in the fridge. Whip the cream until fairly firm, then beat in powdered sugar to get the taste and sturdiness you want.

Chocolate caramel cake

Same cake as this, because it's so friggin good. The caramel frosting was a bit hard to work with, with a fine line between too runny and too stiff, but it works out in the end. Overall, the combo makes a rich, sweet, crowd-friendly cake that lends itself to small slices—wedding win!

make this in one 8" square pan with right-angle corners + one 8" square pan with rounded corners

Swiss meringue buttercream, with some powdered sugar and finely chopped chocolate whipped in. Spread this in between the layers.

caramel frosting:
1.5 sticks unsalted butter
2 c brown sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 c cream
1 t vanilla
2.5 c powdered sugar

Put 1 stick of the butter in a medium saucepan, along with the brown sugar and salt. Heat over medium until bubbling and you're positive that the sugar is thoroughly dissolved (you don't want it to be grainy or overly sweet). Stir in the cream and cook until bubbling again. Pour into a bowl and beat in the vanilla and powdered sugar, beating until lukewarm. Add the other 1/2 stick of butter and beat until light and spreadable, or at least thickly pourable. Use this frosting to cover the outside of the cake.

Cheesecake ice cream with plum jam

[First of several long-overdue posts. Most will have crappy pictures, sorry. Blog overload day!]

This is actually two entirely separate recipes in one post. The plum jam I made a quite a while ago but never posted, and has already gone into a batch of braided danish for Jon and Jen's potluck brunch wedding that I didn't post either but was pretty much what you'd expect. (Big happy congrats to Jon and Jen, and thanks to them and everyone else for a lovely weekend in Seattle!) The verdict on the jam: tart and delicious and great in danish if done correctly, tart and delicious and totally unspreadable if overcooked.

Hence, some ice cream to put the jam in, since Lester has had some luck stirring the overcooked half of the batch into yogurt. The ice cream is a very slight tweak to this base, which I'd noticed around the internet but not tried before today. The verdict on the ice cream: awesome. Thickens up like a charm without eggs, churns up nice and smooth, strong cheesecake flavor from the cream cheese that would play well with all sorts of different mix-ins. I'm looking forward to making this one again.

ice cream:
2 c milk (1 3/4 + 1/4)
4 t cornstarch
1 1/4 c cream
2/3 c sugar
2 T light corn syrup
1/4 t kosher salt
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 c overcooked plum jam

Stir together the cornstarch and 1/4 c milk in a small bowl until dissolved, and set aside. Put the cream cheese in a 4-c Pyrex and stir to loosen, and set aside.

Put the rest of the milk in a medium saucepan, along with the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and salt, and whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat until foaming, then cook another 4 minutes, whisking occasionally. Add the cornstarch, and keep cooking and whisking for a couple minutes until thickened. Pour half of the hot cream into the cream cheese, whisk until smooth, then pour in the other half and whisk until smooth again. Put in the fridge until chilled.

Churn in the ice cream maker until almost done, then dollop in spoonfuls of jam and churn briefly until the jam is distributed. If your jam isn't rock-hard, then do the usual ripple thing.

~2 lb Flavor Rosa plums (enough for 4 c chopped, packed)
2.5 c sugar
1/3 c Meyer lemon juice
2 t lemon zest
1 oz bourbon

Rinse and drain the plums. Cut each plum into chunks by slicing the plum longitudinally into wedges while attached to the pit, slicing once around the equator, then pulling the chunks off the pit with your fingers. Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and let the fruit macerate in the sugar for an hour or so. When you're ready to start heating the jam, do the usual jam prep things (put a saucer of spoons in the freezer and a pan of jars in the oven at 230F). Turn the heat on to medium and cook the fruit until it breaks down, mashing it up with a potato masher periodically. Start testing the jam for doneness about 5 minutes after the fruit seems all broken down, then can it when it's ready as previously described.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Blueberry-tarragon ice cream

Let me introduce myself: I'm Laura, and I've been participating quietly behind the scenes of this blog since its inception -- as an occasional sous-chef, taster, adviser, and all-around appreciator of Anna's excellent cooking.

Well, I've also been known to get up to my own mischief in the kitchen.  Though I'm not usually well enough organized to document the method to my madness, I thought I would share a recent creation in this here guest blog post.

Blueberry-tarragon compote
2 pints blueberries
juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch of tarragon (~5 sprigs)
1/2 c sugar

Cook blueberries and lemon juice together until berries release some of their juices to form a nice saucy mix.  Add the tarragon sprigs and simmer them in the sauce for a few minutes, until it takes on a robust aroma and flavor of tarragon.  Remove tarragon sprigs.  Stir in sugar and cook for a while longer, until the berries are starting to fall apart, but some are still intact.

Remove 1.5 c of the blueberry mixture and puree.  Reserve the rest to use as a topping.

Custard base
1 1/4 c milk
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 c cream

Whisk eggs & sugar together.
Heat milk in small saucepan until it is just boiling. 
Whisk milk into egg and sugar mixture.
Return mixture to pot and heat until custard begins to thicken, stirring continuously.
Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl.
Mix in cream and 1.5 c blueberry puree and chill before churning.

Other noteworthy ice cream flavor experiments:

Here are some other ice creams I've made lately, all of which were delicious.

Jasmine green tea with white chocolate chunks
Follow this mocha chip recipe, except instead of coffee, use 1.5 Tbsp jasmine tea pearls steeped in the milk at around 180 degrees for 5-10 minutes.  Substitute chopped white chocolate bar instead of regular chocolate (although to be honest, the white chocolate didn't blend as well as I expected with the green tea flavor.  It might have been better without).

Siberian rose
Follow this bay leaf ice cream recipe, but substitute ~1/4 c siberian rose buds for the bay leaves.  You can get siberian rose at some chinese tea shops, such as Vital Tea Leaf in SF.  

Black pepper cardamom chocolate chip
Simmer black peppercorns and whole cardamom pods in the milk before making the custard.  Use more black pepper than you think you need.  Melt the chocolate and drizzle it in as the ice cream is churning for stracciatella-type chocolate chips.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hazelnut dacquoise cake with chocolate mousse and espresso whipped cream

Tada, cake #3! I'd planned to make the daquoise from the Flour cookbook (shown pictorally here), but then I realized that this hazelnut cake was the same idea but faster and more cake-like. The cake only has a smidge of flour, so it might be adaptable into something the gluten-free bride can consume! But I did my best to follow the recipes this time, at least for the cake. Leaving the raw egg white out of the mousse resulted in dense, almost truffle-like filling.

This cake was barely tall enough to consider slicing in half when baked in a 9" pan—apparently my folding-in-egg-whites skills are a few notches below smittenkitchen's. And, although I did successfully slice it into two flat and even halves, I was not able to successfully place the top layer on the mousse without it breaking. Luckily the whipped cream covered up my mishaps. The flavors go together beautifully, but I think the dacquoise is too finicky to make for the wedding itself.

5 oz hazelnuts
2 sticks butter (preferably unsalted, but I had 1/2 stick unsalted and the rest salted)
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/3 c powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting the cake
1/3 c flour
6 large egg whites
3 T sugar

Preheat oven to 350F, and butter and parchment a 9" springform pan.

Toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet for 12 minutes. Dump onto a clean dishtowel, fold the towel up into a nice little package, and roll your palms around on the towel to rub off the hazelnut skins. It's like a warm massage for your hands.

Put the butter, the scrapings out of the vanilla bean, and the vanilla bean itself in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until browned, stirring frequently after it started to foam. Remove the vanilla bean and let cool.

Transfer the hazelnuts, sans skins, into the bowl of the food processor. Add the powdered sugar and grind until fine, then add the flour and pulse to combine.

Separate the egg whites into the bowl of the stand mixer. Beat with the whisk attachment until just shiny, then with the mixer still running slowly pour in the sugar. Beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Fold in the butter and dry ingredients extremely carefully in small alternating batches. (I opted to err on the side of leaving some small egg white chunks in the batter instead of on the side of extra deflating, which resulted in a few unappealing egg white spots in the finished cake.) Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes until browned and a tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely (1 hr).

3 T butter
4 oz TJs pound plus dark chocolate, chopped
2 T Drambuie
1/2 c cold whipping cream

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a double boiler equivalent, then stir in the Drambuie and let cool. Whip the cream until it holds soft peaks, and gently stir the cream into the chocolate. Let sit on the counter for up to an hour until it's time to assemble the cake; it will set up within a minute or two.

whipped cream frosting:
2/3 c cold whipping cream
3 T powdered sugar
1/2 t vanilla
pinch allspice
1/2 t espresso powder

Whip the cream until it holds soft peaks, then whip in the other ingredients until holds not quite firm peaks and the espresso powder is dissolved. Stick in the fridge until assembly time.

Place the cake, flat side down, back on the base of the springform pan. Slice the cake in half with a serrated knife, even though it's not very tall, and set the top half aside. Spread the mousse on the bottom half of the cake and top with the top half of the cake, then spread the whipped cream on top. Carefully put on the sides of the springform pan, cover with plastic wrap, and put in the fridge overnight.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chocolate orange cake

Cake number two of the Great Wedding Cake Training Season! All the components are adapted from this cake and inspired by the need to use up a denuded blood orange left over from cocktail production on Friday night with only 1/2 c cocoa powder in the house. The cake base is pretty much perfect—dark, moist, soft yet held its structure despite my tendency to come perilously close to dropping layers on the floor at various points. The frosting and ganache are delicious but a bit sloppy in the context of a sunny afternoon barbeque, as expected.

Noga didn't seem to mind though.

And Virginia Wolff the coolest caterpillar around was quite happy running in circles around her red cup.

If I had been a bit smarter, I would have drawn an eclipse on the top of the cake with the extra frosting. Nevertheless, totally functional pinhole cameras were made!

orange curd:
3 egg yolks
3 T sugar
1/4 c blood orange juice
3 T Meyer lemon juice
pinch salt

Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a small saucepan, the whisk in the juices and salt. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for several minutes until thick. Pour through a sieve into a small bowl and put in the fridge until needed. Makes 1/2 c curd.

1/2 c Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 oz dark chocolate (TJs pound plus), chopped
1 c hot coffee
3/4 c brown sugar
2/3 c plain Greek yogurt
2 t vanilla extract
1.75 c flour
1.5 t baking soda
1 t salt
1.5 sticks butter, softened
3/4 c white sugar
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 300F. Choose your pans wisely: this amount of batter would fit comfortably in two 9" round, two 8" square, or two 8"x2" round pans, and it just barely didn't overflow my 8"x1.5" round pans (but only because they happen have a bit of a lip on top). Once you've made your choice, butter them, line the bottoms with parchment, and butter and flour that.

Place the cocoa powder and chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour in the coffee and stir until smooth, then stir in the brown sugar, yogurt, and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt) in a small bowl. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and beat until fluffy. Mix in the flour and chocolate in several alternating additions.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake until a tester comes out clean; 47-52 min for tall layers, presumably less time for shorter layers. Cool for a few minutes in the pans. Invert onto one wire rack (parchment side up) then invert onto another wire rack (parchment side down) to let cool completely. I wanted to go to bed at this point and the layers were flat enough to stack as is, so I placed one layer (parchment side down) on top of the other layer (still on a small wire rack), wrapped the whole thing in plastic wrap, and let the package sit on the counter overnight.

8 oz dark chocolate (TJs pound plus), chopped
2 T blood orange marmalade, blended until smooth
1 c cream
1 t John's blood orange bitters

Place the chocolate and marmalade in a bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until about to boil, then pour the cream over the chocolate. Let sit a few minutes to soften, then stir until smooth. Stir in the bitters. Let sit on the counter for an hour or two to set up.

3 egg whites
3/4 c sugar
2 sticks butter, slightly softened
orange curd

Same general idea as for the last cake. Place the egg whites and sugar over a double boiler and heat, whisking constantly, for 7 minutes. Pour into the stand mixer and whisk for several minutes until glossy and stiff peaks. Add the butter one chunk at a time, stopping as soon as the frosting gets fluffy. This makes 2 cups of frosting, which is more than you need to frost only the middle and top of the cake, so I left 1 c frosting in the mixer and put the other 1 c in a tupperware in the fridge for the next cake. Add the orange curd to the frosting in the mixer and beat until smooth.

For not-impossible transportation, I assembled this cake on a cardboard round cut out of a cereal box and placed on a round wire rack. Place one cake layer (parchment side down) on the cardboard and spread with half of the orange buttercream. Peel the parchment off the other layer, place on top of the first layer, and spread with the other half of the buttercream. (Next time I would split the cake layers in half and use the same amount of buttercream to spread in three thinner layers in between the cake layers, with no frosting on top.) Place in a cool place to set while you to go the farmers market. Microwave the ganache for 15 seconds if it's not pourable, and give it a good stir. Pour half the ganache in the center of the top of the cake and spread to the edges of the top, letting it start to drip down the sides. Pour on more ganache and push to the edges, smoothing the ganache around the sides when there's enough of it. This is about the right amount of ganache to generously cover the top and sides, with some extra glops on the cardboard here and there. Let set in the fridge if possible (but I didn't).

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Orange tofu and veggies

Here's something to do with a blood orange that's not a cocktail or a dessert. Cocktails were last night, when several lovely friends came over to infuse things into other things and to consume already-infused alcoholic concoctions; amaro post forthcoming. Dessert is later tonight, installment two of the wedding cake training regimen; post on that forthcoming too. But dinner is a good thing to do in between.

This is supposed to be along the lines of that Chinese orange chicken dish. The sauce goops right up and sticks inside the broccoli florets in bright flavorful clumps, just as it should. For a true cheap Chinese restaurant experience, you'll probably want more sweetness and/or saltiness than the amounts listed, so make sure to taste the sauce before dumping it in the pan. Regular orange and regular garlic would work perfectly fine too of course.

brown rice
1/2 block tofu
1/4 c (blood) orange juice
3 T lemon juice
1 T soy sauce
1/2 T honey
1/2 t chili flakes
1 T minced ginger
1 T minced (green) garlic
1/2 T sesame oil
1 T cornstarch
canola oil
small head broccoli
1/2 red bell pepper
1 small bok choy

Start cooking some brown rice, and start pressing the tofu. Stir together the sauce ingredients (orange juice through cornstarch) in a small bowl with a fork until smooth, then taste and adjust if needed. Cube the tofu and chop the veggies. Heat some canola oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, and fry the tofu until browned on all sides. Add the broccoli and red pepper and fry until just starting to soften, then add the bok choy and fry until done. Pour in the sauce and stir briefly until everything is coated with thickened sauce. Serve the stirfry over rice.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Vanilla and raspberry layer cake with Swiss meringue buttercream

The careful reader of this blog will notice that I have never posted a layer cake. Cakes in general abound, whether bundt or sheet or round or loaf or cupcake. But none of those linked to are decorated with more than a simple glaze or a dollop of whipped cream, and none are the traditional two-layers-and-picture-perfect-frosting type cake that you probably think of when you hear "cake." That's because, whenever I do attempt that sort of cake, it invariably ends up a lopsided mess that I don't even bother to post, no matter how delicious it is.

This sad state of affairs is about to change. Because by mid July, I plan to be capable of creating a cake that is worthy of gracing the table at James and Margo's nuptials. That's right, I'm making a wedding cake! Well, not just me: my sister and her kitchen and I are going to team up to create the awesomest cake of the summer. We have no idea yet what flavor or aesthetic or whatever we'll be going for—suggestions anyone?

Between now and then, I'm going to make a bunch of practice cakes until I suck a bit less at decorating and have a bit more intuition for what makes a good layer cake recipe. This is the first of those attempts, and I'm pretty darn happy with it. Decorating-wise, it's at least an order of magnitude better than any other layer cake I've made, mostly due to a good structurally-sound frosting recipe. Way pinker than I'm comfortable with, frankly, but great for Mother's Day if your mom is into that. (ps happy Mother's Day to any moms reading this!)

For the record: The cake itself is on the firm side, not unlike a pound cake, which means that it handled very well with the flipping and leveling and stacking. There's a delicate vanilla flavor in the crumb and a bright buttery flavor in the domed crust (which makes the parts I sliced off during leveling extra good for snacking). It's not dry per se, but it would benefit from being brushed with some sort of sweet boozy or jammy glaze. The frosting tastes much lighter than it seems like it should be with all that butter and is definitely not too sweet. The assembled cake, minus a few slices of course, held up well on the counter overnight.

2 c cake flour = 1 3/4 c all-purpose + 1/4 c cornstarch
1 T baking powder
1 1/3 c sugar
1/4 t cardamom
1/4 t salt
seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/4 sticks butter (10 T), thoroughly softened and cut into chunks
1/3 c plain Greek yogurt + 1/3 c milk, stirred until smooth (or 2/3 c buttermilk)
2 T milk, in addition
3 eggs + 1 yolk
2 t Christina's bourbon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325F and butter and flour two 8" round cake pans. If you're good, put a round of buttered parchment paper inside the bottom of each pan too.

Sift the cake flour (or flour + cornstarch) and baking powder together into a large bowl. Stir in the rest of what this cake considers dry ingredients: sugar, cardamom, and salt. Add the vanilla bean, butter chunks, and 2/3 c buttermilk or yogurtmilk, and beat with an electric mixer until smooth, fluffy, and pretty stiff. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 T milk with the eggs and vanilla. Pour the egg mixture into the rest of the batter in three additions, folding the thin liquid into the thick batter with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula between each addition until smooth. It's weird, but it works. Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 28-32 min until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn out onto wire racks and let cool completely.

Swiss meringue buttercream frosting:
4 egg whites
1 c sugar
2.5-3 sticks butter, slightly softened and cut into chunks
1 t Meyer lemon zest
1 T Meyer lemon juice
pinch salt

Bring some water to a simmer in the bottom of your favorite double boiler substitute. In the top, place the egg whites and sugar. Whisk constantly for 5-7 minutes, past when the sugar seems to be well dissolved. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whisk at medium speed for 4-6 minutes until the bowl is a neutral temperature and the meringue holds stiff peaks. With the mixer running, add the butter one chunk at a time, mixing until it looks like frosting. (Mine looked great and hadn't gone through the rumored curdled stage after I'd added 2.5 sticks of butter, so I called it quits there, even though all the recipes I saw called for at least another few tablespoons.) Toss in a bit of salt and whatever flavorings you like, eg lemon, and mix briefly to combine. This can sit uncovered on the counter for a few hours until you're ready for assembly.

1 pack raspberries (about 30)

If you have a cake stand or cake cardboard or whatever, you're way ahead of me and probably shouldn't read this part. If not, put some parchment on a cutting board, and transfer one cake layer (flat side down and domed side up) onto the parchment. Level the top with a serrated knife (level the other cake layer too while you're at it). Spread the cake on the parchment with a generous layer (about 3/4 c) of frosting using a flat icing spatula, spreading all the way to the edges. (I've decided that the key to not having trouble with crumbs is to use a lot of frosting; screw crumb coats.) Gently break some of the raspberries in half and cover the surface of the frosting with them. Place the other cake layer (cut side down and flat side up) on top of the bottom layer. Spread the top and sides of the cake with another generous layer of frosting, using the base of the kitchen scale as a not-really-rotating cake stand. Place some of the remaining raspberries decoratively on top of the cake. You should have less than a cup of frosting and maybe a dozen raspberries left; crush the raspberries and mix them into the frosting. Use the pink (pink!) frosting to pipe more decorations around the cake.

Monday, May 7, 2012


Lester made me a birthday cake! It's lovely and delicious and will come car-camping with you with grace. It will also come back from camping ready to be eaten for breakfast.

The syrup from candying the orange slices is worth making on its own—it's already found its way into John's old-fashioneds and this granola. The rest of the granola, using these ratios, is just sweet enough and nicely nutty. This was my first granola attempt, but don't be surprised if there are more granolas in our future.

(Sorry for the smudges in the centers of those photos, I just checked and I do indeed have a fingerprint smack in the middle of my lens. My bad.)

1/2 c raw whole hazelnuts
1/2 c raw shelled pumpkin seeds
3 c oats
1/2 c shredded coconut
2 T sugar
dash of salt
6 T cardamom-honey-orange syrup
3 T canola oil

Preheat the oven to 300F. Toast the hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds in a frying pan, then roughly chop the hazelnuts. Combine the nuts, seeds, oat, coconut, sugar, and salt in a bowl, and toss with the syrup and oil until everything is coated and clumping slightly. Spread onto one or two rimmed baking sheets and bake for 25 minutes or until golden and slightly crunchy, stirring once or twice during baking. Stir again on the baking sheet(s) then let cool completely. The recipe suggests adding chocolate bits, which I'm sure would be wonderful. But we enjoyed it chocolate-less by the handful, in yogurt, or with milk.

Anna ganoush

Like baba ganoush, but sufficiently different that Alan (pictured) decided it needed a different name. When I was throwing this together out of the veggies that didn't fit on my kabob skewers, I didn't expect it to be notable in any way, so I didn't pay much attention to measurements (I can vouch that the ingredient list is complete though). What did make it notable to folks on my birthday camping weekend extravaganza is the combination of mint and chili flakes, so don't leave those out. Everything else is "to taste." The texture was surprisingly reminiscent of pate the next day: stir to break it up if that's a bug, or call it a vegetarian pate substitute if that's a feature.

olive oil
1/2 medium eggplant, cubed, salted, and drained as if for kabobs
1/2 red + 1/2 yellow bell pepper, cubed as if for kabobs
3 crimini mushrooms, minced (optional)
1/3 c plain greek yogurt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 t or more red chili flakes
at least 10 leaves fresh mint
salt and pepper

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Add the eggplant and saute until softening on both sides. Add the bell pepper and mushrooms, and cook until everything is soft. Transfer the veggies to a food processor and add the rest of the ingredients. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Firms up overnight in the fridge.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pineapple fried rice, plus things in dirt

When I asked 101cookbooks what to do with the mizuna we got at the farmer's market today, I was surprised when this was what came up. But quite coincidentally there was a pineapple ready and waiting, because Lester found out that you can plant the pineapple top and it will grow another pineapple! Thus, pineapple fried rice for dinner. Add more or different veggies as you see fit—I would have added some thinly sliced carrot and some bite-sized chunks of green beans if they hadn't been a bit too far past their prime. The mizuna works well, with slightly earthy and bitter flavors to complement the tangy and sweet pineapple.

But before dinner, gardening time! We dug up a new, sunnier plot in the front yard and planted some starts from Spiral Gardens and the farmer's market folks. Pictured are Israeli cucumber, jalapeno, padron pepper, black brandywine tomato, tomatillo, and Rosalie's Early Orange tomato. Not pictured but also planted today: watercress by the drain spout, boysenberry behind the lemon tree, and an old-school herb called salad burnet next to the other flowering shrubs. Expect to see these guys popping up in recipes later in the summer.

1 c cashews
1/2 c coconut flakes
1/2 pineapple, cut into 1-cm slices
3 T soy sauce
1.5 T sriracha
1/2 T lime juice
2 T canola (or nuttier) oil
1 red onion, diced
2 eggs
6 cloves garlic, minced
volume of minced ginger equal to that of the garlic
1 green bell pepper, diced
2/3 c frozen peas
4 c cooked brown rice, at least a few hours old
1 bunch purple mizuna, leaves coarsely chopped
more soy sauce, hot sauce, and lime to taste

Heat a large cast-iron pan over medium-high (without oil). Toast the cashews and coconut without letting them burn, then transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the pineapple slices to the pan and cook on both sides until grilled-looking, then transfer to a cutting board and chop into bite-sized chunks. Mix together the soy sauce, sriracha, and lime juice to make a sauce.

Add the oil and onion to the hot pan and saute for a couple minutes. Crack in the eggs and stir to scramble. Whenever things stick to the pan, from now until the end, add a splash of sauce (or a splash of water or oil if you run out of sauce). Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a couple minutes, then add the pepper and peas and saute for a couple more minutes. Add the rice and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom periodically. Turn off the heat and stir in the cashews+coconut, pineapple chunks, and mizuna. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Strawberry marmalade scones

Like strawberry shortcake, but with the strawberries baked in and without the mess—great for picnics. Makes about 25 smallish scones.

1 c diced strawberries
1/4 c marmalade
1 T brown sugar
4 c flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cardamom
2 T baking powder
1/2 c shortening
1 c plain greek yogurt
1/2 c milk

Preheat the oven to 425F. Toss the strawberries with the marmalade and sugar, and let sit and macerate for 10 minutes. Pour the strawberries into a sieve set over a bowl, and let drain for another 10 minutes. Save the juice.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour through baking powder). Rub the shortening into the dry ingredients with your fingers. Add the yogurt, milk, and strawberries, and knead gently to make a dough dotted with evenly-distributed strawberry bits. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and press into a rectangle at least 1 cm thick, folding over a couple times to create layers. Cut into your preferred sizes and shapes. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes until golden on top and bottom, then immediately transfer to a cooling rack.

While the scones are baking, see if the strawberry juice seems like a good consistency for a glaze as it is. If not, cook it down a bit, add some sugar, etc. Brush the baked scones with glaze as they cool. Any leftover glaze can be made into strawberry lemonade (pictured in the background).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Homemade matzah

This is matzah I actually enjoy. Shocking, I know! It's not as good as actual bread, of course, but it's much closer to a pita or tortilla than to a saltine cracker. And, by definition, it's fast—not more than 18 minutes from when water touches flour to when finished matzah comes out of the oven. It's also easy to make a large quantity, since you can roll out another batch while the last batch is baking (or make a double batch if you're a seriously fast roller). There's really no reason not to make this for all your leniently-kosher-for-Passover needs.

1.5 c flour, plus a bit for rolling
1/2 c water
toppings of your choice: salt, grated cheese, roasted garlic, sesame seeds, cinnamon sugar, etc

Preheat the oven as hot as it will go, at least 450F. If you have a pizza stone, preheat that in the oven too; if not, get out a baking sheet.

When the oven is preheated (and not before!), stir the water into the flour to form a stiff but workable dough. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out as thin as it will easily stretch, making a rectangle about the size of a baking sheet. (You can even do the rolling right on your baking sheet if you want.) Poke the dough all over with a fork to stop it from puffing up in the oven, or don't poke if you don't mind some sacrilegious puffing. Sprinkle or spread with toppings, then cut into 2"-5" squares with a sharp knife.

If you're using a pizza stone, remove it from the oven, carefully place each piece of dough on it, then put it back in the oven; if you're using a baking sheet, just slide it into the oven. Bake for a few minutes until the first brown spots start to form. Actual baking time will depend on how hot your oven is, so keep a close eye on your first batch and use that baking time for later batches. Take the finished matzah out of the oven and immediately transfer it to a cooling rack or serving platter. Eat it fresh out of the oven (best), after cooling for a few hours (ok), or perked up in the toaster oven the next day (pretty good).

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A vegetarian seder menu

Thanks so much for coming, those who came! It's always a pleasure to share practices I care about with people I care about. (And even though I don't believe in the God parts, I do care about the celebration.) It's also a treat to provide and host a nice big meal like this, especially when the timing actually works out such that I'm just finishing cooking when people show up *and* I can put hot food on the table at the right point in the evening. Win all around.

(-) make your own!

appetizers and ceremonials:
(^) Homemade matzah
(*) Guacamole by Lester
(*) Asparagus egg salad (this time with green beans instead of snap peas)
(*) Charoset

the meal:
(~) Matzah ball soup (recipe on the box, in not-chicken broth)
(~) Roasted garbanzos and chard
(~) Matzah lasagna (with thinly sliced roasted eggplant)

(-) Mocha chip ice cream
Truffles by Chris
TJ's meringues

preparation notes:
(-) Make a few days ahead of time.
(*) Mix up during the day, then keep in the fridge or on the counter.
(~) Do most of the prep during the day (mix and shape the matzah balls, completely make the garbanzos+chard, assemble the lasagna). Then do the final heating during the seder, only needing to step away from the action once or twice to check on things (cook the matzah balls, reheat the garbanzos+chard over low heat on the stove, bake the lasagna in the oven that's still warm from the matzah).
(^) Make as the guests are arriving.
(*) and (~) together make for a nice full day of chopping and stirring, so don't plan to do much else. But there's still time to go to dance class, pop to the shops for last-minute ingredients, and put the finishing touches on the haggadah.


Or as LauraR termed it, God's kindness. The fig butter is a lovely way to deepen the flavor, especially if you're using a drinkable table wine (as I did) instead of some syrupy Manischewitz thing. Charoset goes well with matzah, maror (horseradish), or yogurt, depending on how you roll.

1/3 c red wine
2 t honey
2 T TJ's fig butter
1 t cinnamon
4 medium-small Pink Lady apples
1/2 c raisins
3/4 c toasted walnuts

Mix the wine, honey, fig paste, and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Finely mince each apple: I did it by hand without peeling, but many people peel and use a food processor. Either way, toss the minced apple bits into the wine as you go, before they start to brown. Also mince the raisins and walnuts, and toss those in too. Mix well until all the bits are coated but not swimming in wine, and adjust the spiciness and sweetness as you desire. This keeps better than you might expect, and you should definitely let sit for at least a few minutes before serving to let the apples soak up the wine.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Blood orange and Meyer lemon marmalade

I'm following this NYT recipe, with a few methods modifications as explained here and with Jaime's ladle-into-a-pyrex trick. The resulting procedure is loads easier than most other marmalade recipes I've seen: nothing complicated with saving the seeds, nothing time-consuming with letting the fruit soak overnight, nothing dangerous or awkward with hot jars. Plus it's delicious! As well as absurdly pink.

These amounts are intended to be equivalent by volume to 1 part orange slices, 1 part lemon slices, 2 parts water, and 1.5 parts (or a touch more) sugar, to make 2-2.5 parts marmalade. If your fruit doesn't add up to 4 cups, just scale the other amounts accordingly.

Also, from experience, your marmalade-making experience will go much more smoothly if you use a large pot. Like a really large pot, one that can hold about 3 times the volume of what you're putting in it (so >12 parts worth). It's quite a pain in the ass to scrub nicely caramelized marmalade out of a gas burner after your pot boils over. (But this is the batch that went flawlessly, thankfully.)

2 blood oranges
7 Meyer lemons
4 c water
3-3.5 c sugar
spoons, saucers, canning jars with lids, pot, thermometer, ladle, pyrex or other jug that's good for pouring

Prepare the fruit by slicing off the ends, cutting the fruit in quarters lengthwise (parallel to the inner pithy core), picking out the inner pithy core and any visible seeds, thinly slicing each quarter crosswise (so you can see several segment bits in every slice), and picking out any remaining seeds. Discard the seeds, pith, and ends.

Put a few saucers and a few spoons in the freezer, put your jars and lids in a loaf pan or two so the jars stand upright, and preheat the oven to 225F. This will all make more sense later.

Place the fruit and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, until the peels are soft (erring on the chewy side of soft, rather than the disintegrating side). Add the sugar and bring back to a low boil. The oven should be preheated by now, so put the pans of jars in to sterilize. Every few minutes, give the marmalade a stir and check the temperature. When the temperature gets up to about 217F, after half an hour or so, start checking whether the marmalade is done by scooping out a spoonful with one of your chilled spoons and letting it sit in the freezer on one of your chilled saucers for a couple minutes. The marmalade is ready if the spoon of marmalade gels and gets a wrinkly skin on top; if it's still runny, keep boiling and stirring and waiting and checking.

When you decide the marmalade is done, turn off the heat and remove the pans of jars from the oven. For each jar, ladle a jar's worth of marmalade into your pouring jug, pour the marmalade into the jar, place the flat part of the lid on top of the jar, and loosely screw on the screwy part of the lid. Wait for that satisfying popping sound of jars well sealed (but don't stand there waiting, it takes anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours). Screw the lids on the rest of the way, then store unopened jars in the pantry and open jars in the fridge.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Fig and oat bars

A brunch treat loosely based on these guys. The filling would have used pretty much the whole jar of fig butter if I'd let it, so I added some applesauce to bulk it up—probably not quite as delicious as an all-fig filling, but totally satisfactory. Then I went and totally unveganized the batter because I didn't want to overdose on applesauce. The final result is a good balance between soft and crumbly, between sweet and substantial, and between breakfast and dessert.

1 c oats, coarsely ground in the food processor
3/4 oats, in their usual form
3/4 c flour
1/2 c hazelnuts, coarsely ground in the food processor
1/4 c brown sugar
1 t baking soda
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/2 c yogurt
1/4 c milk
1/4 c canola oil
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1/3 c fig butter
1/3 c applesauce

Preheat the oven to 350F and butter and flour an 8" square baking pan. In separate bowls, stir together the dry ingredients (oats through salt), the wet ingredients (yogurt through vanilla), and the filling (fig butter and applesauce). Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients to make a batter. Spread half the batter in the pan, top with the filling, then dollop on the rest of the batter in as even a layer as possible. Bake for 35 min, and let cool in the pan for at least 5 min before slicing.

Farro and spinach salad

Last night I wanted my grains and protein and veggies, but didn't want the usual beans and pasta and kale, so I threw this together for some really delicious balanced-meal springtime food. Recommended cooking times for farro vary wildly so just go by whatever your package says. Mine took about half an hour, which is plenty of time to get the rest of the ingredients together.

1 c farro
1/2 stock cube in at least 4 c water
2 eggs
olive oil
5 stalks asparagus, sliced into small pieces on the bias
4 oz spinach, coarsely chopped
2 green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced
5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
juice of 1 lemon
2 oz crumbled feta
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the farro and stock to a boil then let simmer, covered, until the farro is tender and chewy. Meanwhile, prepare everything else: hard-boil and coarsely chop the eggs, saute the asparagus in some olive oil over medium heat until charred in a few spots, and prep the other veggies. When the farro is done, drain it if needed, then toss everything together in a large bowl until it's well mixed and the spinach is a bit wilted from the heat of the farro. Adjust the salt, pepper, lemon, and oil to taste, and enjoy.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lemon curd cheesecake

This cheesecake doesn't look like anything special, but almost everyone who had some declared it to be one of the best cheesecakes ever. It's amazingly light and smooth, almost fluffy—probably because the yogurt (subbed for sour cream) is inside the filling, instead of being an extra layer on top. I plan on using this method for pretty much every cheesecake here on out, and I suggest that you try it too. The lemon curd is, unsurprisingly, also a delicious addition.

6 oz graham crackers
5 T melted butter
2 T sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grind the ingredients together in a food processor, and press into the bottom and sides of a 9" springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then let cool while you make the filling.

20 oz (2.5 packs) cream cheese, softened
1 c sugar
3 eggs
3/4 c plain greek yogurt (nonfat ok)
1 t vanilla
1 c lemon curd

Preheat the oven to 300F. Beat together the cream cheese and sugar until fluffy, then beat in the eggs, yogurt, and vanilla until smooth. Pour half of the filling into the prepared crust, dollop on half of the lemon curd, top with the rest of the filling, then with the rest of the lemon curd. Swirl the filling and lemon curd together with a knife, gently and minimally. Place on a baking sheet (to catch possible drippage) and bake for about 1 hour (no more than 1hr 15min) until the edges are set but the center is still jiggly. Turn off the oven but keep the oven door closed, and let the cheesecake cool in the oven for at least an hour. At bedtime, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge overnight.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Roasted cauliflower and mushrooms with dill, and kale risotto

That's a long title, and in fact this post contains two entirely separate recipes. But it's two recipes that can easily be made in parallel by one person, as the instructions indicate. And although I rarely make two complementary dishes when all the ingredients could go into one, I'm glad I did the two-dish thing this time—I think it turned out way better than if I'd tossed the cauliflower into the risotto.

roasted things:
1/2 head cauliflower
8 oz crimini mushrooms
3/4 c loosely packed bread cubes/crumbs
salt and pepper
juice of half a lemon
1/3 c chopped fresh dill
light sprinkling of grated pecorino

1 large onion
several leaves of kale
1 c arborio rice
3/4 c white wine
2 c broth
2 oz grated pecorino
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450F and melt some butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Thinly slice the onion and get it started caramelizing in the frying pan. Break the cauliflower into bite-sized florets, and toss them with enough oil to coat in a 9x13" pan. Cover the pan with foil and put in the oven. While the cauliflower is softening, keep an eye on the onions, and halve the mushrooms and mince the kale. After the cauliflower has been steaming in the oven for about 15 minutes, stir in the mushrooms (adding more oil if needed) and return the pan to the oven (uncovered). When the onion is a bit caramelized (right about now), stir in the kale and rice, and saute for a couple minutes. Add the broth + wine to the rice in 1/2-1 c increments until the rice is tender, letting the liquid cook off in between additions, and stirring occasionally (20-30 minutes). Take that time to chop some stale baguette into bread crumbs, chop the dill, and grate the cheese. After the mushrooms have been roasting for 10-15 minutes, stir in the bread crumbs, and stir the roasting things every 5 minutes thereafter until they are nicely browned (about when the risotto is ready). To finish everything off, season with salt and pepper, stir a bunch of cheese into the risotto, and sprinkle the lemon, dill, and extra cheese over the roasted things. Serve a scoop of each next to each other on a plate.

Monday, February 27, 2012

What to do with 15 Meyer lemons

After several very busy weeks, I was able to collect a few hours yesterday morning for some project-scale cooking. Fifteen lemons were picked, peeled, and juiced:

And prepped like so:

(center) After scraping off any white pith on the peels, put them in this year's batch of limoncello.

Use 1 c lemon juice to make 3 c lemon curd (this time by adding the lemon juice to 1/3 c butter, 1.5 c sugar, and 5 eggs, and whisking over a double boiler until thick).

(right) Use half of the lemon curd in hot toddy ice cream (this time by whisking 1/4 c honey, 1/8 t cloves, 1 T lemon zest, 1.5 c cream, 1/2 c 1% milk, and 1/4 c bourbon into 1.5 c lemon curd, then chilling and churning as usual).

(left) Put the other half of the lemon curd in jars for later. It's almost but not quite overpoweringly sweet and tart, as lemon curd should be, and a good consistency for spreading or dolloping. (The sourdough pancakes were disappointingly rubbery though.)

Give the rest of the lemon juice to Laura so she can make some dressing for an asparagus + feta pasta salad.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Beer + cheddar + mustard bread

Lester has been excited about this ever since Toni linked to it a few days ago. And what sounds like a better use of a Sunday than either writing a talk or making beer/cheddar/mustard bread? Adapting beer/cheddar/mustard bread for sourdough. The pull-apart style is great, but the rolls are very good too if that's more your speed.

1 t yeast
1/2 c pale beer (eg TJ's Mission St)
1 c starter
2.5 c bread flour
1/4 c rye flour
1/4 c wheat bran
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 egg
1.5 t salt

3 T melted butter
1 T Dijon mustard
1.5 t bbq sauce
hot sauce to taste
1.5 c shredded cheddar
1 t mustard powder
1 t paprika
1/2 t salt
ground pepper

Dissolve the yeast in the beer, then combine all of the bread ingredients and knead until smooth and elastic. Let rise until doubled (about 6-8 hr). When you're about ready to form the bread, make the fillings: the mustard filling (stir together the melted butter, mustard, bbq sauce, and hot sauce until smooth) and the cheese filling (mix together the cheddar, mustard powder, paprika, salt, and pepper until the cheese is evenly coated with spices).

Butter a loaf pan (9x5") and find a muffin tin in case you have extra dough. Flour a surface and turn out the dough. Roll the dough into a rectangle that's at least 20"x12" (mine was closer to 24"x15") and has fairly straight sides and square corners. Spread the mustard filling evenly over the entire surface of the dough, then slice into 4"x12" (or longer, but not wider) strips. Sprinkle 1/(number of dough strips)ths of the cheese on one strip of dough, place another strip on top, sprinkle with more cheese, etc. Slice the stack into 2"-3" wide strips. Tip your loaf pan so it's standing on the short side, and stack the stacks on top of each other until the pan is full (4" side along the 5" side of the loaf pan, 2" side along the usually-vertical side of the pan). When you tip the pan back to its normal position, the slices of dough should be standing up like slices of bread, which is exactly what they are. If you have extra dough, butter that muffin tin and roll extra strips into little muffin-size rolls (I got 6 rolls). Cover with a plastic bag and let rise until the dough is puffy but not yet filling the pans (about 2-3 hr).

When Laura starts making dinner, preheat the oven to 350F. Bake for 30-35 minutes until nicely browned and very much filling the pans. Let cool for just a couple minutes, then remove from the pans. If the slices come out of the pan in chunks because some cheese got crusted onto the pan despite your thorough buttering, just stand those chunks next to each other on the cutting board and enjoy.