Friday, August 26, 2011

Of leftover flours

A few months ago my addiction to recipes with long ingredients, preferably obscure, led me to make Smitten Kitchen's 19 ingredient Russian Black bread (and Julia Child's ratatouille, lasagna Bolognese from scratch and many four layer cakes).  The endeavor left our cupboard overflowing with bags of rye, cornmeal and whole wheat flours.  Determined to use them again in a more modest recipes, I stumbled upon a recipes for Boston Brown Bread in Amanda Hesser's NYTimes cookbook.

Boston brown bread is a traditional New England bread, made with “brown flour,” or a mix that usually contains a combination of wheat, whole wheat, rye and corn meal.  According to some research on the internet, it was invented by settlers as a way to supplement the more expensive flour (wheat) with flours that were in abundance (rye and corn).  It also traditionally contains milk (or buttermilk), baking soda, molasses or maple syrup and raisins.  I added some walnuts as well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My least favorite food

I'll admit it, I do not like zucchini.  I find it flavorless and mushy.  I pick it out of soups, skip over it on grilled vegetable platters and never buy it at the grocery store.  My aversion was put to the test this week when our CSA brought us three giant summer squash, swollen with the spring rain.  Never one to let food go to waste, I was determined to find a recipe to change my mind.  On Food52, Amanda Hesser's fantastic site, I found the perfect dish.  It involved a lot of zucchini, yes, but also gruyere, bread crumbs, jalapeno and an herb packed sauce called "salsa verde" (a bonus because we could use some of the fresh oregano that came this week).  If any recipe can make me eat zucchini, I decided, this is it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

For the love of the pig

Though the title of this blog may suggest a love of poultry, we're pretty big pork fans around here too.  Particularly in the form of baby back ribs.

And what better way to do Memorial Day than a slab of balsamic glazed ribs.  Sticky smokey sweet fall-off-the-bone ribs eaten outdoors under a low hanging tree strung with Christmas lights.  They taste like the beginning of summer, of backyard barbecues, beer on the sun warmed patio and sun baked skin.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Spaghetti with Baked Tomato Sauce

Hey the blog is back!

And seven months later, a lot has changed.  I am no longer sleeping on a pull out coach in Boston or living with my family in Connecticut.  I finally have my own 2 bedroom, 1/8 bath, 5 story walk up in New York.  I have a new roommate (Sarah!) to overfeed and drive crazy with unnecessary stacks of dirty dishes and no dishwasher.  

I have a food related art wall.

I have an herb garden on my bedroom window sill (I often fall asleep smelling basil and dreaming of pizza).

I also have the motivation to finally start writing this blog again.  

Inspiration didn't happen all at once.  This is the fourth recipe I've made recently that I dutifully took pictures of in between chopping and stirring.  And even though those recipes- chicken and dumplings, calamari salad, lasagna Bolognese- were certainly more elaborate than this pasta, it was this dish that made me want to write again.  It's just so fundamentally easy, delicious and adaptable.  It doesn't need any special ingredients.  On dreary days (weeks) like this, its the kind of food I crave.

Last time I made this dish it was the dead of winter and I had just spend a day fruitlessly looking at apartments all over the city.  As Sarah and I walked back to her studio in the snow, we picked up a pound of pasta and a can of tomatoes, and whipped this up, the perfect antidote to the chill outside.   We warmed up and poured over Craigslist apartment listings.  A few days later we found a great place that, despite its incessant radiator, slanted floors, live-in mouse (mice as of this morning) and frequent pigeon visitor, I love dearly.  Especially the pig doormat.

The city?  Well it's hard not to gasp at all of it, from the view of the midtown skyline in the park at dusk to the overweight middle-aged man who struts in a skin-tight black thong leotard every Tuesday at 9:00 in front of our apartment. 

And of course there's the food: late night falafel on the street in the lower East Side, the Union Square farmers market, a pastrami sandwich from Katz's deli, free s'mores pie from a bartender at Fatty 'cue.

But often I just want to be at home cooking things like this.

The recipe is loosely based off the Wednesday Chef, though you don't really need any directions after making it once.  

Grab a pint of cherry tomatoes, a few plum tomatoes or just a can of drained tomatoes, which I did here.  Turn on your oven to 400.  Slice the tomatoes in half and place in a gratin dish, cut side up.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Mix together a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs with slightly more grated Parmesan cheese.  Add to the mix a clove or two of garlic and whatever spices you are craving.  Today it was a lot of red pepper flakes and oregano.  Mix and sprinkle over the tomatoes.  Drizzle with more olive oil.  Place in the oven until the juices are bubbling and the edges are browned (for me this took about 30 minutes, though the original recipe says 20).  Meanwhile, toss your spaghetti in boiling salted water, cook and drain.  When the tomatoes are done, sprinkle with fresh torn basil leaves and mash the tomatoes with a fork, making a sauce.  Add the pasta and toss.  Taste and add more cheese, olive oil or salt as needed (or all three, if you're me).  Enjoy, in your new apartment, on the table recycled from your parents' basement.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Of Pumpkins

The green of summer is fading fast now as the orange and yellow of leaves cover the lawn.  Likewise, the bright greens of summer kitchen staples make way for the rustic shades of squash and apple crisps.  The world smells unmistakably of fall, which I can only insufficiently describe as a sweet decomposition.  The drenching cool breeze makes you switch focus to the smells inside, to the aroma of a dinner of roast chicken and a gruyere stuffed pumpkin. 

This pumpkin is an adaptation of two recipes, taken both as suggestion rather than rule.  Begin by going pumpkin picking, purchasing a few large ones to carve and a small sugar pumpkin to cook.  Back in the kitchen, start by slicing up half a loaf of stale french bread.  Treating the pumpkin like a jack-o-lantern, cut off the top and remove the goop.  As your friends pick out the seeds for toasting, stir together a mound of gruyere, 1 small clove of garlic, 1 small shallot (both minced), salt and pepper.  Layer the bread with the cheese mixture inside the pumpkin, filling it to the top.  You forgot to add the nutmeg to the cheese, so grate some fresh on top now.  Drench the stuffing with a mixture of chicken broth and heavy cream, the ratio dictated by your feelings of temperance and hedonism.  

Replace the lid and bake at 350 for 90 minutes.  Remove the lid, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes more until the pumpkin is soft and the filling irresistibly bubbly and browned.  Serve, scooping out the pumpkin flesh with the filling.

Adapted from Ruth Reichl and Dorie Greenspan

Note: This is a much better use for a pumpkin than trying to carve Don Draper's face on it, though staring at a picture of him while carving isn't so hard.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The End of Summer

When I was up in Canada last month for labor day the NYTimes published an article on tomatoes by Sam Sifton.  The first three paragraphs are worth quoting in full; to paraphrase would be like using egg beaters to make a souffle:
The last of the tomatoes are coming in now, wide and cracked, heavy with the captured humidity of passing summer, each one a Neruda poem shedding its own light, benign majesty. It is time to eat them, these sunsets of the season, then put away our flip-flops and face the fall.

And so this last celebration, a dinner of fat-slob tomatoes stuffed with a mixture of cheeses and a hint of tomato flesh, scented with paprika, made light with vodka, dusted with chives. There ought to be bread as well, to mop up the remaining juices, and a platter of grilled chicken served alongside, cooked in whichever manner most evokes in you the feeling of a summer night that goes on just late enough.

There should be sunflowers somewhere in the house, a nod to autumn. There should be friends and a soundtrack that is elegiac without being sad. Everything should be casual except your commitment to having plenty of wine. And the combination should lead inexorably to a morning spent lying slack and sun-kissed on powdery sand before a restless sea or, failing that, in bed somewhere, as comfortable and careless as Daisy Buchanan.
This article almost seemed to speak to us, up on a summer beach vacation wearing jeans and flannel shirts.  The heat from July and August was still in the water, but September and October winds were blowing in the air.  Instead of lying on the on the beach, we curled up in the hammock listening to the waves push up on the shore, the autumn wind blowing through the trees above.  We didn't have a soundtrack, but an old radio, a fork in the antenna, tuned just so.  In the world of ipods, it was it was a delight to find Shout by Tears for Fears as we washed dishes.  But true to Sifton's words, we had plenty of wine.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Homemade Blueberry Ice Cream

Not owning an ice cream machine has really been an act in self preservation.  I could only imagine what endless amount of homemade mint-chocolate chip or black-raspberry would do to my waistline.  That was until I read this article in the NYTimes about sweetened condensed milk.  Among its many merits is its ability to be used to make ice cream without a machine.  The recipe they give is for plain vanilla, but with almost a full pint of blueberries in the fridge I decided to adapt their technique to a fruity dessert.