Love to eat

Peanut Butter and Fudge Pie

Posted: February 28th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | Comments Off

peanut butter chocolate pie slice detail 1

It’s February: a month short on time and short on seasonal fruit so what better pie to make than a no-bake, peanut butter-fudge affair?

The recipe came from a book that’s been in my collection for quite some time and hadn’t been cracked in a good number of years –The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook: Become a Better Baker with 135 Foolproof Recipes and Tried-and-True Techniques. The recipe is a simple, trend-free, classic — sugar, peanut butter, chocolate. Done.

I used crunchy peanut butter from my local organic co-op grocery store, which did not produce the creamy, homogenous consistency I was expecting — but was still darn tasty. Next time, though, I’ll go with the good ol’ American grocery megastore brand peanut butter. Finally, I couldn’t help myself, I had to finish it with a healthy sprinkling of Maldon sea salt to make this pie of this time.


Favorite Recipes Made in 2013

Posted: December 31st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | Comments Off

It feels like it was a year of some good cooking at my house. I bought at least 25 cookbooks and probably cooked from 12? There were some gems this year and here are those that I can recall, in no particular order.

Sambal Chicken Skewers from Bon Appétit Magazine, July 2013: The Grilling Issue 

Bigoli in Salsa from Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook (of Sorts) by Russell Norman

Braised Scallops, Pancetta, and Peas from  Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook (of Sorts) by Russell Norman

Bucatini fra Diavolo from Franny’s: Simple Seasonal Italian by Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens and Melissa Clark

Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa (Salsa de tomatillo y chipotle)  from  Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots, and Street-Side Kitchens of Mexico by Roberto Santibañez and J. J. Goode

Chickpeas with Stewed Tomatoes  from  Canal House Cooking, Volume 7: La Dolce Vita by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton

Chicken Roasted Over Potatoes and Lemon  from  Canal House Cooks Every Day by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer

Vegetarian adaption of Pozole Verde: Hominy and Meat Soup with Green Herbs from A Cook’s Tour of Mexico by Nancy Zaslavsky

Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies 

Flaky Pie Dough  from  Leslie Mackie’s Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook: Favorite Breads, Pastries, Sweets & Savories by Leslie Mackie and Andrew Cleary

Tom’s Tasty Tomato Soup from  The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness in Seattle: 125 of Our Favorite Recipes by Tom Douglas and Shelley Lance

Moroccan Chickpea and Carrot Salad from 101Cookbooks

Zucchini Bread from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

Whole-Grain Waffles  from  The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution by Alice Waters

 


Brunch

Posted: December 8th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | Comments Off

Had the family over yesterday for brunch to celebrate my sister in law’s birthday. It was a great exercise in excess and lots of prep the night before.

Here’s what we had:

  • Baked french toast (http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2006/12/new-years-day-2001/)
  • Freshly baked cinnamon rolls (http://lookimadethat.com/2013/03/16/cinnamonrolls/)
  • Breakfast strata with portobellos, pecorino toscano, and roasted onions (from Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook)
  • Carrot and broccoli terrine (http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/savory-baked-carrot-and-broccoli-rabe-terrine)
  • Salad of frisee, fennel, and celery (White Salad from Lark: Cooking Against the Grain)
  • Turkey breakfast sausage
  • Non-alcohol fresh juice cocktail of apple, celery, fennel, ginger juice with a float of beet juice

My sister made the cinnamon rolls, which were light and buttery and absolutely divine. It was a good menu, not too brunch cliche, a bit on the excessive side with three bready items, but it was a celebration, so more bread please! The baked french toast and breakfast strata were great prepare ahead items that went into the oven about an hour before breakfast.

The juice cocktail was something I’d like to do more of  – what I was looking for was something refreshing and non-alcoholic, but exciting to look at and sip. I kept the apple juice and beet juice separate and mixed the celery, fennel stalks (left over from the salad), and ginger. I was hoping for a very light, pale, pale green base with a striking float of beet juice. I started with a mixture of apple juice with the celery mixture, some lemon San Pellegrino soda to brighten it up, and about of tablespoon of the beet juice right on top. The beet juice did exactly what I hoped it would — just floated right on top. The green wasn’t as pale as I had hoped, but it tasted dang good.

I’m finding more and more that what is lacking in cookbooks and food blogging/writing are menus or ways to combine items to round out a meal. While I like to think I know how to combine items into a satisfying and well composed meal, I’m not so sure that I do. In eating and cooking and life in general, I’ve been thinking about this a lot — how do I compose and combine and edit for  balance.

 


Birthday Malaise

Posted: October 19th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | Comments Off

I’m turning 39 in too few days. I don’t like the sound of it, I’m very uncomfortable admitting it, but that’s the way it is. And there, I said it.

Does it mean something to turn 39? It feels like it means something to turn 40, most surely, but 39? It has been weighing on me as I feel I need to accomplish something “meaningful” before I exit my 30s, so as not to feel that I wasted an entire decade. Your 20s are for wasting and figuring it out and your 30s are for getting it done, right? I succeeded in wasting my 20s, but didn’t manage to figure anything out. My 30s were a scramble to figure something out, try to make things right, and hurry to get it done. But I’ve always been bad with time. I am a tortoise, molasses, a tough cut braise. Slow. Really slow.

I will be celebrating my 39th birthday in NYC, having dinner at Per Se. It is a luxury that will make me more fully appreciate being almost 40. I most certainly would not have been able to afford that meal in my 20s and my 20-year-old self would balk at the extravagance. But I know that when I sit in that dining room, I won’t feel that awkward crush of being the youngest, or most poorly dressed, or most inexperienced diner in the room. I still bear some cache of youth, but with a respectable burnish. I’m looking forward to that dinner.


Where does the time go?

Posted: July 21st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | Comments Off

So much time spent trying to be a good worker bee, a person of normal height and weight, a person who can pluck a vegetable or herb from the yard, and a person who tries to read more than headlines … so much time spent trying, wishing, hoping.


No Knead Rye

Posted: February 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | No Comments »

Rye Bread

How is it that something so unfussy resulted in something so glorious? It has taken me quite some time to get around to trying the no-knead method of bread baking, but I finally managed to last weekend. I’m not sure that it will become a regular occurrence in our house, given how close we live to one of Seattle’s best bakeries, but it was well worth what little effort it took.  Basically, all ingredients (i.e. flour, water, yeast, salt) are stirred together in a bowl, left to rise for 12 to 18 hours, shaped, left to rise for another 2 hours, and baked covered in a cast iron dutch oven for about 60 minutes.

The bread didn’t come out as highly domed as I had hoped, but our old house runs on the cold side, so I think that the 16 hour rise wasn’t quite long enough. But beyond that minor flaw, the bread had a dark, crackly exterior and a chewy, lush, and bubbly interior.  We kept it under a cake dome, where it lasted through the week as we worked our way through thick slices with butter and jam and sandwiches.


Great Pizza at Home

Posted: November 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | No Comments »

Back in April I had the good sense to sign up for the Great Pizza at Home class offered up at The Pantry at Delancey. Good thing I did, because those classes are getting harder and harder to get into. I tried to sign up for the Advanced Pizza Workshop, but within 30 minutes of receiving the email announcement for the class, it was sold out.

Six month after signing up, I finally attended the 3-hour workshop, lead by Brandon Pettit, and here’s s summary of what I learned.

Use Fresh Flour

Fresh flour tastes better. Whole wheat flour is probably already rancid by the time you get it home. You know that “healthy” taste that we attribute to whole wheat flour? — it’s the flavor of rancid flour. Store your whole wheat flour in the freezer to help maintain its freshness.

Washington state is one of the largest wheat producers in the world, so we have access to really fresh flour here. Italian flour is not necessarily better, as it is likely milled from wheat imported from the US. Stone Buhr flour is made from Washington wheat and is commonly stocked in grocery stores.

Good Flavor Takes Time

A flavorful pizza dough cannot be achieved in the 2 hours typical of most pizza dough recipes. The Delancey dough requires relatively little yeast and a slow rise. The dough is left to proof 16 to 20 hours, during which time it grows 2 to 2-1/2 times its original size. Pettit recommends Fleichman’s yeast for its flavor.

More Salt

Another typical flaw of most pizza dough recipes is inadequate salt. Salt slows the production of yeast, which produces better flavor.

It’s Not the Water

Contrary to what some pizza nerds believe, where the water comes from doesn’t really make a difference. According to Pettit, he’s tried the dough with water from locations all over the country and hasn’t been able to tell a difference.

Get a Wood-Fired Pizza Oven

Sadly, the single biggest takeaway from this class for me was that my home oven alone isn’t capable of producing the pizza I’m aspiring to make at home. We prepared and sampled the Delancey dough cooked in their wood-fired oven along side the same dough cooked in the Pantry’s home-style gas ovens. As you might have guessed, the wood-fired pizza was heavenly, while the other was, well, just homely.

A maximum temperature of 550-degrees is not hot enough to get the crispness, subtle smokiness, or the spotted underside that is characteristic of really good pizza. The pizza oven at Delancey is fueled by apple wood and reaches temperatures of 700 to 800-degrees.

Combinations of grilling pizza, cooking pizza on cast iron, and broiling were all discussed as ways to get the subtle char and a properly cooked top and bottom. Home oven hacks were touched on briefly, but I guess details on that topic are being saved for the Advanced Pizza Workshop.

The Recipe?

So what about the recipe? Well, Pettit is working on revising the recipe to work better in a home oven which I think is worth waiting for. While the dough was delicious from a home oven, it didn’t shine. My recommendation is to find the dough recipe from The Mozza Cookbook which has been modified to work in a typical home oven.


Liberated by a Little Bit of Knowing

Posted: May 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | No Comments »

Growing Edibles 2011

Garden bed with tom thumb lettuce and tomatoes

(photo taken 22-may-2011)

Having recently finished Seattle Tilth’s Comprehensive Organic Gardening class, I’ve been busy planting with that sense of abandon and liberation that I think only comes with knowing a little bit about something. For years I’ve admired gardens and pea patch plots that seemed a bit of contained chaos, with a bush of that here and a tuft of that there in a mysterious symbiosis. There was something going on but it was a secret, at least to me. So this year I buckled down and spent a few Thursday evenings and Saturday days getting schooled on the ways of organic gardening in Seattle.

And that lovely little bed is most definitely a product of that learning. In raised beds past, I grew one or two things in straight rows and had little faith that anything would grow, so I planted densely. But it grew and grew and grew and we found ourselves with a lot of those one or two things. 2010 was known as the year of cavolo nero. 2009 was the year of the beet. But 2011 will be a year of variety! I’ve planted tomatoes, bok choy, spinach, arugula, and butter lettuce in one bed, in diagonal and diamond rows all with a strategy. As the tomatoes grow, the little butter lettuces and bok choy will be shaded from direct sun. Arugula and spinach were planted in the voids of the tiny lettuces to help retain moisture, keep weeds away, and will be harvested before crowding out the growing lettuces.

Here’s the run down of the edibles growing:

  • 6 kinds of tomatoes
  • 2 kinds of cucumber
  • 2 kinds of brussels sprouts
  • 2 kinds of kale (no cavolo nero this year!)
  • 2 kinds of garlic
  • 2 kinds of leeks
  • tom thumb butter lettuce
  • romanesco broccoli
  • spinach
  • arugula
  • snap peas
  • snow peas
  • mustard greens
  • carrots
  • russian fingerling potatoes
  • shallots
  • nasturtiums
  • bok choy
  • shiitake mushrooms (indoors)

Despite it being a record-cold spring, we’re eating from the garden and hope to all year long. Last night for dinner we enjoyed dumplings made primarily from home grown veggies: homegrown mustard greens, green garlic, chives, and shiitakes with store-bought tofu.

I’m excited to write about the progress of the garden and the lovely things we’ll eat from it.

 


Growing Shiitakes

Posted: May 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | No Comments »

Shiitake kit on arrival

 

It is a wonderful, magical thing. They will grow and you will have shiitakes.


It Makes Food Taste Better

Posted: March 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | No Comments »

I can clearly see the food plated on the 80′s china with what appears to be geometric vomit spattered around the rim of the plate and the same food plated on standard issue white porcelain. The makings of a study right up my alley, but I can’t recall exactly where I read it. The study found that the same food presented in two ways — your parent’s wedding china from 1979 versus plain white makes a difference in how food is perceived. Not a big surprise, but now scientifically validated: food on white plates just plain tastes better. And so in an effort to eke out a little more deliciousness from home cookery we’ve traded in the outdated, patterned Mikasa china purchased when I was way too young to know better for restaurant supply white, 10″ dinner plates, bowls, and salad plates. Long overdue.

It was a big transition, one I’ve been thinking about for some time and in so many ways seems much too mundane to reflect on. But how many times in a lifetime does one switch out their dining ware? Twice, maybe thrice? I drooled over Heath for months, but dammit all, it was just too expensive. So I went with restaurant supply plates and bowls, spending less than $200 for 12 place settings. I splurged and bought two mugs and a shallow serving bowl from Heath.

And does the food taste better? Why yes, it does and looks better. Strangely, it sounds better too. There is a sound that sturdy, workhorse restaurant plates make that is industrious and musical. It is the sound of meal after meal after meal – perpetual. And the Heath … I run my finger nails across the empty belly of that shallow serving bowl and it sings.

I look forward to many home cooked meals during which the dining ware is not a distraction.