Monday, December 13, 2010

Cranberry Yogurt Cake

There are many things that do not last at my house. Socks disappear. I can't find my olive green datebook. We never have clean towels in my bathroom. Never. Car keys vanish. I swear that the library books migrate.

This cake is the next Houdini. I can see the headlines already: Here one day! Gone the next!
Or maybe that just has something to do with the fact that I live with a 15 year old boy. His only state of being is starving.

The point is. This cake doesn't last long. You can make it with blueberries or cranberries (like I did), swirls of jam would be good. Chocolate would be interesting, because chocolate + lemon = heaven. You could add rosemary, for an unexpected touch, or maybe substitute olive oil for the canola if you're really getting adventurous.

And it will disappear, it will disappear. Because it is moist. And gorgeous. And cakey. And good. The good die young. Socks and datebooks vanish to the netherworld. Cakes get eaten by brothers. Nothing lasts. Nothing lasts.

Lemon-Blueberry Yogurt Loaf
from who adapted it loosely from
Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (if you’re skipping the fruit, you can also skip the last tablespoon of flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed (miniature wild blueberries are great for this, and pose the least risk of sinking) OR cranberries, which is more holidayish.
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 (+) minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in (a pastry brush works great for this, as does using a toothpick to make tiny holes that draw the syrup in better). Cool.

Spicy Tomato-Arugula Angel Hair

(things are not always pretty in my kitchen)

You know what you do when there is nothing to eat and your mom won't take you out to lunch even though you asked really nicely four times?

You make this pasta.


It is so simple.
It is almost as good as that cheese burger you were craving.
It is light, but filling.
It is delicious and tangy and spicy and everything that pasta should be, but usually isn't.
I love love love it.

(So blissful and bodacious and beautiful.)

This recipe came from this book called The New American Table by Marcus Samuelsson. It has exceeeedingly beautiful pictures. However, with this book it was not love at first sight.
I believe in love at first sight.
My parents fell in love like that.
I am that way with cookbooks. And when I fall, I fall hard (see Dorie Greenspan.) But with this book...Things were...complicated. Marcus Samuelsson, who is a chef at somewhere important & prestigious, LOVES specialty ingredients, things like japanese spices and liquors only made in the Carribean. And much as I love grocery shopping and spending my mother's money, I just couldn't get enthused about buying so many random ingredients.
But this recipe caught my eye because of its beautiful clarity and gorgeous simplicity.

I am in love. Marcus and I on the road to wedded bliss because of this pasta.

I am not even kidding.
(too much cheese)

Spicy Tomato-Arugula Angel Hair
from The New American Table by Marcus Samuelson

2 yellow tomatoes, diced
3 red tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 pound dried angel hair pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
One 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped arugula
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 Anaheim chiles, seeds and ribs removed, chopped. NB: I used serrano peppers instead.
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place the yellow tomatoes and red tomatoes in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sea salt and let sit for 40 minutes. Or not, if you're short on time.

2. Bring 4 cups salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 3-4 minutes. Please read the package. Strain and rinse. Set aside.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and saute until the shallots are softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.

4. Toss the sauce with the pasta, the salted tomatoes, the arugula, pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes and chiles (or peppers or whatever) and heat until warmed through. Season with salt and sprinkle with Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

My friends, I went to Canada: land of fabulous salads, tall mountains, and sub-zero temperatures. I am not even kidding. It was so cold it felt like your face would crack and fall off every time you stepped outside. For the first few days it was -30 C. Or even below that. I am still appreciative of the miracle that is long underwear. One day, the only place that was colder IN THE WORLD was Antarctica. I'm rather proud of that.

I thought I loved Canadians until I realized they're all ski bums from Australia. I laugh whenever I say this phrase. Nobody else laughs though. I'm the only one who thinks me is funny.

I thought I loved Canadians until I realized they're all ski bums Australia.

I am such a riot.

Honestly, I don't know where the Australians put all Canadians. Everyone in Canada is from somewhere else. I was taught to ice skate by a Hungarian, an African from a small country on the Ivory Coast, and of course, an Australian. A Brit taught me to ski.
So I loved Canada. What's not to love about mountains and friendly Australians, and other delicious things like Chocolate Zucchini Cake?

My friends, I have been missing out on this luxurious and moist miracle for my entire life. Until Canada that is. I had it at this tasty, tiny bakery in Banff, Canada called The Wild Flour. I think that name is rather clever. It's clever, but it's not funny. Nothing is as funny as "I thought I loved Canadians until I realized they're all ski bums from Australia."

My friends, the point is, this is one helluva cake. It's similar to carrot cake or banana bread. Only chocolate. And the zucchini makes the cake moist and delicious. And there's chocolate. And it dissappeared so fast I didn't even have time to take a picture or blink or anything. All that was left was crumbs.
So thank you Canada for introducing me to this culinary wonder. Amen.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake


  • 2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans. (NOTE: I made it in one 9x5 pan.) In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate until melted. Stir occasionally until chocolate is smooth.
  2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil, grated zucchini, vanilla and chocolate; beat well. Stir in the flour baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes (perhaps because, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie

So here's what you do: you make a lemon meringue pie.

I've been dreaming about this for several days. Except in my head I kept calling it a "lemon cream pie."

I had a gorgeous time making this pie. I listened to Audra McDonald, who is now on top of my Music God Pyramid and took deep breaths and daydreamed.

It has been a very lovely afternoon.

Make this pie. It will make your afternoon gorgeous too.

Lemon Meringue Pie
from The Gourmet Cookbook

For Filling
4 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
4 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

For Meringue
6 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar

Make the Pie Shell: Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13 inch round. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim edge, leaving a 1/2 inch overhang, and crimp decoratively. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Put rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 375 F.
Lighly prick shell in several places with a fork. Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights, raw rice, or dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and bake shell until golden, 12 to 15 minutes more. Transfer to a rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F.
Make the Filling: After you remove the foil and weights, whisk together egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk together sugar, cornstarch and salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Gradually add water and milk, whisking until cornstarch is dissolbed. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking until mixture begins to thicken. Gradualy whisk about 1 cup milk mixture into yolks, then whisk yolk mixture into milk mixture. Simmer, whisking, for 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter, zest, and juice until butter is melted and filling is smooth. Cover witha round of wax paper to keep warm.
Make the Meringue: If pie shell has cooled, place it in oven just until warm. Beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until whites hold soft peaks. At high speed, beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until meringue just holds stiff peaks.
Assemble and Bake the Pie: Pour filling into warm shell. Spread meringue on top to very edge of pastry, covering filling completely. Draw meringue up into peaks witha spatula. Bake until meringue is golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer pie to rack to coll to room temperature, about 2 hours, then refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours more. Eat.

Pancakes for Marit

My Aunt Marit is pretty chill.

Except for the fact that she likes to live in countries with names I can't pronouce, let alone spell, i.e. TAJIKISTAN.

Marit sent me an email the other day, telling me that all of her friends in DUSHANBE have been laughing at her, beacause she's an inept when it come to pancakes. She's as bad at making pancakes as I am at spelling TAJIKISTAN. She blames it all on Betty Crocker.

I don't call pancakes, pancakes. I call them hotcakes, because that's what my dad calls him. Maybe it's because he's from Oklahoma. But I've never heard anyone else in Oklahoma call pancakes "hotcakes". Maybe calling pancakes "hotcakes" is his way of bastardizing the Queen's English. Or whatever. I call them hotcakes too. Because I'm contrary, which rhymes with my name: Contrary Mary.

Something else: I resent going out to breakfast and paying for pan/hot/cakes because hot/pan/cakes are simply to easy to make at home, and no restaurant can make them quite the way you want them. You can add specialness to a pan/hot/cake very easily, you can add:
-grated apple
-brown sugar
-pumpkin puree
-ground pistachios

All these options are limitless which is soooooo exciting. That's why you should never eat breakfast out again. Unless you take me with you of course.

These pan/hot/cakes will make you a kitchen goddess. Your friends in DUSHANBE will never laugh at you again.

SO. These are pancakes for Marit.

fact: pan/hot/cakes are best with raspberry jam.

Pancakes for Marit
from SmittenKitchen, who adapted them from Martha Stewart

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat an electric griddle to 375°F, or place a griddle pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and 4 tablespoons melted butter, and whisk to combine. The batter should have small to medium lumps.

Test the griddle by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If the water bounces and spatters, the griddle is hot enough. Brush remaining melted butter onto skillet with fork/knife/heat-proof spatula.

Ladle 1/3 cups of batter onto pan, about two inches apart. Wait until bubbles begin to form and pop on surface of pancake, and edges begin to look dry and more cooked, about two minutes. Using a spatula, flip over to cook other side. The now-exposed side pancake should be golden brown. Allow bottom to cook until golden brown. About 1 minute.

Use a spatula to flip pan/hot/cake onto plate. Eat. Spell KYRGYZSTAN in your head. You have become a kitchen goddess.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What UP?

This is to say--
I have been disgustingly busy.
What is up with this whole applying to college thing?
It eats up time. Time that should be spent: luxuriating in the glory that is apple pie, reading Just Kids by PATTI SMITH (who is on my list of awesome people to someday invite to dinner), shopping, sleeping, NOT TAKING THE SAT, shopping, making glorious music, and further apple pie consumption.

This is also to say-- that I am insanely thrilled and excited, because I'm going to be speaking (albiet very briefly) about the glories of pie at the Austin Museum of Art this Thursday at 7 pm. You can check the event out here:
My mouth started watering when I read the pie slinging line up. So you should come. Yes. Please do. Because I am excited.

I'll post a recipe soon. Until then, besos. Hope you're luxuriating in the glory that is apple pie, reading Just Kids by PATTI SMITH, shopping, sleeping, NOT TAKING THE SAT, shopping, making glorious music, and consuming more apple pie.

Also, this time change makes me sad. It is so DARK so early.

For your pleasure you should read the following poem, by glorious genius Shel Silverstein. It reminds me of my brothers.

by Shel Silverstein

Milford Dupree, though he knew it was rude,
Talked with his mouth full of food.
He never would burp or walk out of in the nude,
But he talked with his mouth full of food.
His mother said, "Milford, it's crude and it's lewd
To talk with your mouth full of food.
Why, even the milk cow who moo'd as she chewed
Never talked with her mouth full of food
And the cuckoo would never have ever cuckoo'd
If he coo'd with his mouth full of food."
His dad said, "Get married or go get tattooed,
But don't talk with your mouth full of food.
And if it was a crime, you would surely get sued.
If you talked with your mouth full of food.
Why just like an animal you should be zoo'd
As you talk with your mouth full of food.
Cause you know we're all put in a terrible mood
When you talk with your mouth full of food."
They pleaded and begged. He just giggled and chewed.
He laughed with his mouth full of food.
And all they advised him he simply poo-poo'd
He poo-poo'd with his mouth full of food.
So they sent for the gluer to have his mouth glued
Cause he talked with his mouth full of food.
And now instead of "Good morning", he says,
"Gnu Murnood. I wun tuk win mny marf furu foog."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sunny Side Up Lemon Curd Cake

I never got to make my mom a birthday cake this year. I don't know why, but somehow, we were traveling on her special day and then school started and then I got sick and then finally my cake loving cousin came to town, and it was time to make her a cake.

This is a lemon cake. I adapted it from several Dorie Greenspan recipes. So I think I can say with some pride, that this cake is of my own invention. My dad christened it Sunny Side Up Lemon Curd Cake. If the name doesn't make you happy then probably nothing can.

It is extremely delicious. My mom said it was her favorite ever. I'd believe her, except she says that every time.

Dear Mom,

I love you so much. You are my mom. You carried me for 9 months in your womb. So obviously I am grateful. You remind me of irises, royal blue, pure white vases, grecian urns, birkenstocks, gardens, freshly baked bread, and lemon flavored desserts. Especially lemon bars.

You have let me play dress-up in your closet since I was two. You let me clunk around in your heels, and steal your scarves and wear your lipstick and twirl in that beautiful crazy colorful skirt that makes me think I have a career as a flamenco dancer. You let me tear it and play with it, because you knew that I NEEDED to play with that skirt.

You make me feel good when I'm blue and brought me breakfast when I was sick. And insist I take water with me where ever I go so I don't get dehydrated. And you always have to pee whenever we go to the library, just like I do. And you buy me treats and tell me not to worry so much. And you make beautiful things with clay, because you're a potter, which is something I tell everyone I meet with great pride.

"My mom is an Artist." I say.

And you don't know that but I guess you do now.

Anyways, I love you, happy belated birthday.



Sunny Side Up Lemon Curd Cake
Adapted from several recipes in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the Cake:
2 1/4 cups cake four
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream:

1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Lemon Curd:

1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
1 large egg
6 large egg yolks
Freshly squeezed juice of 4 lemons

Getting Ready:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9x2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. But the pans on a baking sheet.

To make the cake:

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them togehter with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remainging dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2 minute beating to ensure that it is throughly mixed and well areated. Divide the batter between teh two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch--a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooking racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cool cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)

To make the buttercream:

Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or other large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will loook like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or witha hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6 to 10 minutes. During this time, the buttercream may curdle or separate--just keep beating and it will come together again. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny, smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To make the lemon curd:

Put all the ingredients in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir witha heatproof spatula to moisten the sugar. Put the pan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring without stopping, until the butter melts and the mixture thickens like custard, 4 to 6 minutes. Keep your eyes on the pan, because the curd can curdle quickly. It is cooked enough when you can run your finger along the spatula and the curd doesn't run into the track you've created. Don't worry if the curd looks thin at this point--it will thicken more as it cools. Remove the pan from the heat and scrape the curd into a heatproof jar or bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the curd to create an airtight seal and cool to room temperature before storing in the refridgerator.

To assemble the cake:

Place a cake layer on a cardboard round or cake plate. Spread layer with a thick layer of buttercream. Over this, carefully spread about 3/4 of the lemon curd. I'd suggest refrigerating or letting the lemon curd/frosting set before topping with the second cake layer.
After adding the second cake layer, gently frost cake with the rest of the buttercream. With the remaining 1/4 of the lemon curd dot decorate the top of the cake with large happy polka dots.

Sexy Cepe Risotto

What do ou say to mushroom risotto?

You say "Yes please."

When I was in France we went to a little bistro on the sidewalk. I had some of the most memorable delicious food of my life there. The first time we went the waiter told us in beautiful accented English, "Do you want the best mushrooms in the world?" My cousin said, "Yes please." And then an hour later, she got the most beautiful, fragrant omelette, filled with these mushrooms called cepes. Which is pronounced like "sex" only with a "p." To be honest, these mushrooms are the most sexy delicious mushrooms ever.

My beautiful cousin Claire was in town last weekend and she loves to eat. She was in France too, and she loved the sexy cepes almost as much as I did. In loving memory of those sexy cepes we all bought bags of the dried fungi to bring home. Only, when you have mushrooms so beautiful and special, you want a good occasion to celebrate their specialness. Her mini-visit was a good reason to celebrate. So we made this mushroom risotto. We made it with our sexy cepes. But you can use porcini, just as the recipe calls for.

For the uninformed, risotto is something Claire wishes she could eat at every meal (other than cake). If that isn't a recommendation to make this right away then I don't know what is.

Sexy Cepe Risotto
adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

1 1/2 cups water
5 1/2 cups chicken stock or store bought low-sodium broth
1 1/4 ounces (about 1 3/4 cups) dried porcini mushrooms OR Cepes, if you have them
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups (about 14 ounces) Arborio rice
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 2 ounces), plus additional for serving
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine water and 1 cup stock in a small saucepan and heat until hot. Put mushrooms and 1 tablespoon oil in a bowl and oour hot liquid over them. Let soak for 30 minutes.
Lift porcini out of soaking liquid, squeeze excess liquid back into bowl and rise well to remove any grit. Coarsely chop porcini. Pour soakin liquid through a fine sieve lined with a dampened paper towel into a large saucepan. Add remaining 4 1/2 cups stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, cover and keep at a bare simmer.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter with remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a 4-quart saucepan over moderate heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened,a bout 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup stock and cook at a strong simmer, stirring constantly, until stock is absorbed. Continue adding stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rie is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, 18 to 20 minutes (there will be leftover stock).
Stir in mushrooms, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, cheese, salt and pepper. If necessary, thin risotto with some of remaining stock. Serve immediatel, with additional cheese.

Omelettes and other things

I don't know what's been up.

But all I can think about is eggs.

Eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Eggs with cheese. Eggs with bread. Eggs with cheese and toast smeared with jam. Eggs with tomatoes. Eggs with greens.

Because of my stupid protracted sickness, I've craved rich comfort food. Eggs fulfill every need.

Mostly, I eat omelettes.

My inspiration:

I'm quite sure I make them the wrong way. Infact, I doubt that Julia Child would approve. My flipping technique leaves a lot to be desired. I mean, I use a spatula. But all the same.
The deliciousness of my omelettes is not exactly suffering.

Because I use cheeeeese. Lots of cheeeeeeeese. (Something I'm sure Julia would approve of.)

And that's my only secret. Eaten with a bit of lettuce, or broccoli tossed with whole grain mustard, (Mustard is one of my current passions in life.) and maybe some bread with butter and jam, the cheeeeeeesey omelette becomes a meal of total perfection.

For the omelette ignorant, I've included Julia Child's recipe of great fame.
Not that I use it. I made up my own sloppy technique. But you should learn from the master.

from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

2 or 3 eggs
Big pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

Beat the eggs and seasonings in the mixing bowl for 20 to 30 seconds until the whites and yolks are just blended.

1 tablespoon butter
An omelette pan 7 inches in diamete at the bottom

Place the butter in the pan and set over very high heat. As the butter melts, tilt the pan in all directions to film the sides. When you see that the foam has almost subsided in the pan and the butter is on the point of coloirng (indicating it's hot enough), pour in the eggs. It is of utmost importance in this method that the butter be the correct temperature.

Let the eggs settle in the pan for 2 or 3 seconds to form a film of coagulated egg in the bottom of the pan.
Giving the handle of the pan with both hands, thumbs on top, and immmediately begin jerking the pan vigorously and roughly toward you at an even, 20-degree angle over the heat, one jerk per second.
It is the sharp pull of the pan toward you which throws the eggs against the far lip of the pan, then back over its bottom surface. You must have the courage to be rough or the eggs will not loosen themselves from the bottom of the pan. After several jerks, the eggs will begin to thicken. (A filling goes in at this point, if using.)
Then increase the angle of the pan slightly, which will force the egg mass to roll over on itself with each jerk at teh far lip of the pan.
As sson as the omelette has shaped up, hold it in the angle of the pan to brown the bottom a pale golden color, but onlya second or two, for the eggs must not overcook. The center of the omelette should remina soft and creamy. If the omelette has not formed neatly, push it with the back of your fork.

Turn omelette onto a plate and rub the top witha bit of butter and serve as soon as possible.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pork Ragu al Maialino

Monday nights are the night when I cook for my family, because I am the only one who is home on Monday night. So I made this, with some eventual assistance from my brother Michael. We are a good team. I like Monday night. I like them because no one bothers me an I can waste time doing nothing in particular while I putter around the kitchen and pretend to be VERY BUSY. But it was nice to have some brotherly help. I love sitting down to a meal. It's such a beautiful habit. Because often dinner is the only time my family gets to gather together and share a meal. It just feels so special. I also like that because I cook, I don't have to wash dishes. That ranks high on my list of good things in life. I don't want a maid, I want a personal dishwasher.

This recipe is from The New York Times. The idea was to recreate this pasta dish, which is famous at some restaurant somewhere. The only thing that makes it particularily restauranty is the fact that it has half a stick of butter in it. (Butter is really what makes restaurant food so lovely. Chefs don't care if you have a heart attack.) The recipe is all about indulgence. And good pasta. I used regular lasagne noodles, but wouldn't recommend it. Use the best pasta noodles you can get your hands on, I'm going to go out on a limb and tell you that you should really make this dish with homemade pasta noodles, because the texture of homemade pasta is so superior. But if you have a brand of noodles that are extraordinarily good, use them by all means.

I liked this dish. It could be heavy and rich because of the pork and butter, but the heaviness and richness is cut by the lemon and arugula. It's a very interesting dish and one I'd like to play with again. Definately give it a try.

Pork Ragu al Maialino

from The New York Times

1 pork shoulder, bone in, roughly 4 pounds

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium white onion, peeled and cut into large pieces

1 rib celery, cut into large pieces

1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into large pieces

1 quart chicken stock (or enough to almost cover the pork)

3 sprigs fresh thyme

Freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 9-ounce boxes dry lasagna, broken into 3-inch shards

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons grated grana Padano cheese

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Small handful arugula leaves, cleaned.

1. Using a sharp knife, remove the thick skin from the pork, leaving a sheen of fat on top of the meat. Season aggressively with salt and place in the refrigerator until ready to use, as long as overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a deep saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. When it shimmers, gently cook the onion, celery and fennel until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the stock and thyme and bring to a simmer, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Rinse pork to remove excess salt, dry with a paper towel and add to seasoned broth. Cover and place in the oven for 90 minutes or more, until the meat just begins to pull away from the bone.

3. Allow both meat and broth to cool on the stove top for 30 minutes, or until you can touch the meat with your hands. Remove the pork and gently pull the meat from the bone, then tear the chunks into bite-size shreds. Place these in a large bowl.

4. Strain the liquid into a separate bowl and then pour enough of it over the meat to barely cover. (Use the rest for soup.) Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

5. Put a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil.

6. Place a large pan over medium-high heat and add the pork and braising liquid. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the butter and stir to emulsify.

7. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water according to the directions on the package, 10 to 12 minutes. When it is finished, drain and add to the sauce along with a splash of pasta water. Simmer for 1 minute, then add the lemon juice, half of the cheese, a tablespoon of olive oil and the parsley. Stir to incorporate.

8. Serve immediately, topped with arugula and the remaining cheese. Serves 4. Adapted from Nick Anderer at Maialino in New York

Mom's Apple Cake

I love love love this cake. Oh yes I do I do.

It's an excruciatingly easy, medatative kind of cake to make, because you have to chop lots of apples, preferably in the afternoon with gold sunlight filtering through your kitchen window. The kind of sunlight that turns everything hot and liquid and gold.

This is an autumn cake. I can imagine it as a plum cake, or even a pear cake. But really, it's probably best as an apple cake. The apples on top, from the long baking become almost caramelized and burnt. And the apples in the middle of the cake are wet and moist and sweet. And the cake itself is just right, not too sweet, and perfectly cakey.

Also, this it's extraordinarily beautiful. Especially with all of that sunlight.

This cake is best eaten with milk, or maybe if you're feeling really indulgent, with a spoonful of yogurt or ice cream.

My friend Mikaila was over while I baked this. She wanted something sweet and so did I. What I like about her is that we can be quiet together. We don't have to talk. She let me be absorbed in my cake making and she was her special Mikaila self. It was very pleasant. So I also suggest hanging out with someone very beautiful and contemplative while you make this. It makes this cake even more pleasurable.
credit to Mikaila for taking several of the sun-soaked pictures. they make me happy.


Mom's Apple Cake

Also, this is not my mom's apple cake. It is Deb of's mother's apple cake. It is very special.
But it is exactly the kind of cake my mom likes. So maybe I should call this The Kind of Apple Cake My Mom Likes. I don't know...

6 apples, Mom uses McIntosh apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar

2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours*, or until a tester comes out clean.

*The only thing difficult about this cake is figuring out when it's done. For some reason, this cake likes to underbake on me, and honestly, I don't like underdone cake, even though my friend Mikaila who was over when I made thought it was like a warm pudding or something. I would add an extra 15 minutes of baking time. But then again, warm pudding has never exactly been my thing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Roast Chicken for Les Paresseaux

Oh my friends.

Oh my darling friendly friends.

I am renewing a commitment to what I like to call SAVORY FOOD.

In other words, food that is not cake or doughnuts.

Perhaps because I am still rather sick, but I have been craving all kinds of unusual things. Namely ice cream and heavy rich foods I normally don't approve of.
Tonight I made a roast chicken, and really, there are not words for the self satisfaction I am feeling right now. I have never cooked meat, ever never, until today. Meat is just not my thing. Or at least it wasn't today.

So there was a problem at the beginning, when I realized that if I actually wanted to cook the chicken I would have to touch it. Something that hadn't occured to me when I was reading over the recipe. So I stood in the kitchen, with this horrible naked chicken in the sink, and squealed for five whole minutes. I mean this poor horrible dead thing had a LIVER. And I really didn't want to touch that liver.

In those painful moments I seriously reconsidered becoming a vegetarian.
And then my dad came and saved me, he was very gentlemanly and held the chicken and pulled all of the nasty innards out and all I had to do was salt and pepper.

The moral of the story: Have some one who isn't squeamish to help you. Otherwise you will stand infront of your chicken, and marvel at your ability to forget your normal meat-free cooking principles.

Anyway, once the beginning nastiness is done with, you stuff the chicken with a bit of garlic (sawn in half) and fresh herbs, and you plop the chicken in a oiled dutch oven or very heavy pot with lid and bake it. Here is a very important point: You put the chicken on a thick piece of bread. I cannot stress the importance of this. After about 45 minutes you add some diced root vegetables, such as potatos, and I added sweet potatos, because they rank very high on my favorite foods list, and I added celery and bell pepper for color as well. And garlic. Because impossible to NOT LOVE garlic that has been stewed and cooked and browned forever and ever.
And then you cook everything for a bit longer.

And then you take the chicken out of the oven. And then you go right for that piece of bread that has been soaking up all that fat and juice. And you eat that hot delicious piece of bread. It is the kind of thing that puts people into cardiac arrest, but ignore that. Treat yourself. Calories and fat be damned!

That's what you have to say to that piece of bread. And then you eat it. And then you don't share it with anyone else.

And you still have chicken and potatoes to look forward to!
And honestly, it was some of the best chicken and potatoes I've ever ever eaten.

Did I mention that I'm insanely proud of myself?

Also, this recipe is from Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook Cooking From My French Table. She's the best cookbook writer out there, every recipe comes with a story and everything is very clear and simple, and the ingredients aren't difficult to find. This is real food for real people. I humbly bow down to her supreme greatness and chicken roasting skillz.

P.S. Please ignore my unstellar photographs. I was just so excited you have to understand. I couldn't really even think about taking pictures. Think of them as action shots.

Roast Chicken for Les Paresseaux (Lazy People)
from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan

Olive oil
1 thick slice bread or 2 slices baguette
1 chicken, 4 1/2 to 5 pounds, preferably organic, at room temperature
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 springs each of rosemary, thyme, and oregano
1 garlic head, cut horizontally in half, unpeeled
About 2/3 cup dry white wine or water (optional)
4 baby potatoes, scrubbed and quartered (optional)
2 carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into thick chunks(optional)
4 shallots, left whole, or one onion quartered (optional)
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch chunks (optional)
1 bell pepper, finely diced (optional)
2 stalks celery, finely diced (optional)
cloves of garlic, peeled (optional)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 450 F.
Rub the inside of a Dutch oven or other large high-sided casserole with oil and place the bread in the center of the pot. Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper. Put the liver, if you've got it, inside the chicken and toss in a half sprig of each of the hearbs as well as one half of the garlic. Put the chicken in the pot, resting it on th bread. Put the other garlic half in the pot, along with the remaining herbs,a nd pour in a few tablespoons each of oil and the wine or water, if you're using it. Slide the pot into the oven.
If you'd like to roast the vegetables with the chicken, wait until the chicken has roasted for 45 minutes. Then toss the potatoes, carrots, shallots and other optional vegetables with enough olive oil to them a shine, season generously with salt and pepper, and scatter them around the chicken. Roast the chicken undisturbed for about 45 minutes more-- a total of about 90 minutes-- or until the skin is crackly and crisp and the juices run clear when you pierce the thickest part of the thigh with the tip of a knife. Remove the chicken from the oven
If you're feeling really lazy, you can leave the chicken in the pot for 5 to 10 minutes to rest before serving. If you've got a bit more get-up and go, to get the juices back into the breast meat, put a cereal bowl at one end of a large platter and transfer the chicken, breast side down, to the platter. Let it rest under a foil tennt, tail leaning on the bowl and pointing up, for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Should you want a little pan sauce--and you'll only get a little-spoon the vegetables, if you've got them, into a bowl, remove the bread and skim off as much of the fat remaining in the pot as possible. Put the pot over high heat, and when the liquid boils, pour in about 1/2 cup wine or water and cook, scraping up whatever bit may have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Remove from the heat.
Carve the chicken and serve with the sauce, if you made it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Harvest Corn Chowder with Bacon

Hello my lovlies.

I made this soup when I was still very sick, even though my skin hurt and my eyes hurt and my back ached.

I suffered for you.

But the suffering was worth it.

This is a soup that makes life worth living.

What is sad, is that I am not even kidding.

I say this all the time, but this is really, really worth making. The cup and a half of cream does not exactly make this healthfood. But it makes the soup comfort food. Which is really the only thing you care about when you're sick.

Harvest Corn Chowder with Bacon
from Gourmet Today
(Makes about 11 cups)
Active time: 40 minutes. Start to finish about 1 1/4 hours.

1/2 cup diced (1/4 inch) slab bacon (2 ounces, rind discarded if necessary)*
2 cups diced (1/4 inch)**sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla
2 large carrots, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and vut into 1/4 inch dice
1/2 pound yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold (2 small), peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
5 cups Chicken stock, or store bought reduced sodium broth
2 fresh thyme sprigs
3 cups corn
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Optional Garnish: 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced; finely chopped fresh chives

Cook bacon in a 6-to8-quart wide heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer witha slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.
Add onion, carrots, celery, and bell pepper to bacon fat remaining in pot (I didn't have quite enough fat, so added a few tablespoons of olive oil) and cook, stirring, until onion is softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add both potatoes, stock and thyme, bring to a simmer, and simmer, covered, until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes.
Add corn and cream and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper and stir in bacon. Serve sprinkled with tomatoes and chives. ***

*I didn't use slab bacon. I just used regular bacon. Probably about 4 or 5 slices.
**I also didn't use a "sweet" onion. Even though I love the sound of Walla Walla onions.
***I didn't garnish. Lazy me.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Roasted Tomato Soup

I've been sick, and I feel like shit.

It's wrong that anyone should be ill at this gorgeous time of year, in this gorgeous city.


I defy convention.

The point is, I made some special soup yesterday. Soup for the soul. Because my soul needs a lot of comforting when it doesn't feel good.

Tomato soup is gorgeous. Ideally it is eaten with a blisteringly hot, grilled cheese sandwich. (When I was little I thought that grilled cheese was actually girl cheese. I also thought that cheese burgers were pronounced cheese boogers. But that's probably more than you wanted to know.) Of course, because I wanted a grilled cheese, we had no bread, so I simply ate the soup with some shredded Guyere. And for dessert ate a pear.

And then, I still felt sick, but also, comforted. Which is really the whole reason for ever eating soup in the first place.

Roasted Tomato Soup
from Gourmet Today

Note: The recipe says to strain the tomatoes, which I really don't have time for, so I just when ahead and pureed them.

4 pounds tomatos, halved lenghtwise
6 garlic cloves, left unpeeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried organo, crumbled
2 teaspoons sugar
3 cups chicken stock or store-bought reduced-sodium broth OR vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream

Put a rack in middle oven and preheat oven to 350 F. Arrange tomatoes cut side up in one layer on a large baking sheet. Scatter garlic around tomatoes. Drizzle tomatoes with oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Roast until tomatoes are browned around edges but still juicy, about 1 hour. Cool in pan on a rack then peel garlic. Melt butter in a 6-to 8-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat. Add onion, oregano, and sugar and cook, stirring frequently until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Ad tomatoes, garlic and stock, bring to a simmer, and simmer covered, for 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
Puree soup in batcches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids), then pour througha fine-mesh sieve into cleaned pot, pressing on solids;discard solids. Stir in cream and salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 2 minutes. Serve, preferably with a grilled cheese sandwich.