Thursday, January 21, 2010

Yesterday's Dinner and Today's Leftovers

Yesterday I went to Whole Foods for the first time since I've been back in New York and I bought:
- two 14oz cans Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes
- one 14oz can 365 garbanzo beans
- one head garlic
- one medium shallot
- 365 whole wheat linguini
- four navel oranges
- one organic seduction roll
- Noi Sirius Icelandic Chocolate 70%

The oranges and "organic seduction" roll are just for eating because I like them, but I used all the tomatoes, garbanzos, shallot, linguini and garlic (3 cloves, not a whole head...) in a very tasty pasta.

I sliced the shallots and chopped the garlic and lightly fried them in olive oil, then added the garbanzos (drained) and sauteed for 5 minutes or so (in hopes of infusing the beans with garlicky flavor. and don't forget the salt). Then I added the tomatoes and a couple shakes of crushed red pepper flakes and simmered until reduced. All the while, I boiled my pasta. Voila, pasta sauce in 20 minutes or so, with plenty for today's dinner and beyond. It's also a nice idea to drizzle some olive oil over the top when you're plating.

Improvements: add fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, or thyme would be nice) parmigianno reggiano; some ground meat would also be good...

Along with my dinner, I had a lovely Boucheron cheese. Always in the mood to try a new cheese, I chose this one and a very pleased I did...

Boucheron is a famous French cheese made with goat's milk, it has a creamy (ridiculously creamy!!) exterior kind of like brie, but better with less of that brie-like
tang/funk, and the interior is more like your traditional goat cheese, but not as tangy as goat usually is. Personally, I love goat cheese, but many people find it to be too gamey perhaps, but this one would be nice for goat beginners. Give it a go! I ate half of that puck-size disk with my organic seduction roll and couldn't stop!

Lastly, I would like to discuss my Icelandic chocolate. $3.99 for what is literally two bars of chocolate--the richest, most wonderfully textured dark chocolate--stacked upon one another. I of course love my Valrhona, but I couldn't find this stuff in California. Also, Valrhona doesn't break into such tidy 1x2cm squares, nor is it such a fabulous deal. If you can get your hands on this stuff, GET IT!!!


p.s. navel oranges are in season. thin membrane, juicy, orange-y...need I say more?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's cocktail time!

Yep. A Sandra Lee tagline. While it's a tad passé, I needed to share this recipe with the world. It's a sweet departure from the ordinary--one taste will surely say why. I came upon this formula entirely by accident. I wanted to make something with my Maker's Mark, and I have so many lemons from the farmer's market I went to over the weekend. It's got firm citrus notes and a strong slug from the bourbon. Here goes:

Meyer Monster

1 shot meyer lemon simple syrup (boil 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucier with the grated zest of 1 meyer lemon until sugar has completely dissolved and bubbles are just beginning to form)
1 shot bourbon whiskey
1/2 shot Cointreau
1/2 shot freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and pour into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a ribbon of lemon peel. Makes 1 Meyer Monster.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ode to a rainy Sunday farmer's market

As I mentioned in the previous post, it's been a rainy couple of days here in the Bay Area. But it was a Sunday, and I've been meaning to go to the farmer's market for a while. These poor vendors are out in the rain! The least I could do was buy their produce.

Here's what I found! A veritable winter cornucopia.

Collard greens

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Well if I'm going to have a play on words with these lovely greens as the blog title, I better show what I can do with them!

Meyer lemons

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Now that they're in season, I'm going to use them while I can. I'm thinking I've got the perfect recipe for lemon sorbet, so why not go Meyer?

Sweet potaters

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It's been a while since I've cooked up a sweet potato pie, that's for sure. These looked good. While most sweet potatoes I find at supermarkets are so gargantuan, these looked small. I'm hoping for more flavor out of these little 'uns.

Kabocha pumpkins

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After having an ok winter squash casserole earlier this winter, I'm hoping that these Japanese pumpkins can help me kick it up a notch.

Pink Lady apples

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Vendor: These apples are perfect for pie.
Me: Sold.
'nuff said.

So stay tuned for the end products of these fabulous pieces of produce. It's sure to be a lively few days of cooking!

Stay classy, y'all!

<3 David

Rainy Day Food

Oh dear. It's a rainy, wintry day. What ever is a home chef to do? Beef stroganoff of course! Start with a creme fraiche base, some paprika and spices. Throw in some sauteed mushrooms, onions, and beef and you've got yourself a remedy for the rainy day blues. Ain't nothing more comforting, warming and filling than this stew. It's definitely one of my personal favorites that I've been making for years--summer, spring, winter, or fall! This recipe comes from the Silver Palate cookbook, with my suggestions in italics.

Here we go!

3 c creme fraiche (mix 1 1/2 c of sour cream and 1 1/2 c heavy cream in a bowl and cover overnight)
1 1/2 T Dijon mustard
3 T tomato paste
3 T Worcestershire sauce
2 t imported sweet paprika
3/4 t salt
fresh-ground black pepper to taste
1 t demiglace (this is basically way concentrated stock, and can be found at Whole Foods or at a specialty grocer)
1 lb firm white mushrooms (I find that crimini mushrooms contribute more flavor to the dish)
10 T butter, unsalted
24 pearl onions (red or white are fine)
3 lbs beef tips (I've used almost everything from sirloin to London Broil)
chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Combine the creme fraiche, mustard, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, salt, pepper, and demiglace in a medium-sized saucepan and simmer slowly until the sauce is slightly reduced, 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, while completing the recipe.

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I used my Cusinart immersion blender, or as I call it, my disco stick. It's a rock star in the kitchen when I want sauces or dressings as smooth as possible. Stay tuned to see the disco stick's many other appendages!

Trim the stem ends off the mushrooms and discard. (I like to leave them on!) Wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth and slice thinly. Melt three tablespoons of the butter in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and reserve.

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Cut a small "X" in the root end of each pearl onion. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop in the onions. Blanch for 10 minutes, drain, and rinse under cold water. Peel the onions.

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Melt another 2 tablespoons of the butter in the same skillet over medium-low heat and sauté the onions until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the onions to the bowl with the mushrooms.

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(Aren't they pretty? Such great coloring!)

Cut the meat into thin slices on the diagonal. Melt remaining butter (5 T) in the skillet and sauté the pieces of fillet over high heat until just lightly browned, 3 or 4 minutes. Transfer the pieces to a plate as each batch is browned.

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To complete, set the creme fraiche sauce over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add the mushrooms, onions, and any accumulated juices from the bowl, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the fillet slices and any accumulated juices and simmer until the meat is just heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately, with chopped parsley.

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I served the dish with some sauteed cherry tomatoes and buttered egg noodles. While the cherry tomatoes are wonderful, I strongly recommend the egg noodles. The way they pick up the sauce from the stroganoff is simply divine!

Keep it classy, y'all!

<3 David

A Story of Starter

Once upon a time, a rogue gourmet wanted to follow up on a myth he had heard of bread that rose without yeast. Lucky for this rogue, he found and purchased Alain Coumont's cookbook, "communal table: memories and recipes." Inside this wonderful tome of tartine, clafoutis, and bread is the recipe for the a sourdough starter used everyday by famed international bistro/cafe Le Pain Quotidien in their breads.

I'll quote Coumont here for a bit of clarification, as I'm definitely no experienced baker:

"Bread is a product of fermentation, like cheese, yogurts, beer, wine and cider, to name a few. Fermentation is dependent on the action of microorganisms , living things which convert the sugars contained in the raw materials, generating in the process a whole range of aromas and flavours characterizing a finished product, expressing its terroir; its place of origin in the broadest sense, in a word, giving it its unique personality."

When one constructs a starter, all of the maltose produced by the enzymes in the starter get produced into alcohol and carbon dioxide by fermentation. The carbon dioxide bubbles give bread the air pockets of fluffiness and guarantee a great texture. This fermentation process, without yeast will take some time--to the tune of 11 days of patience. So if you've got the gluten, honey, I've got the time!

For the starter:

2 kg of stone-ground whole wheat flour
1.2 L water
grey, unrefined salt

The first day:
In the morning, in an earthenware or stainless stell bowl, mix by hand 100 g of the flour, 60 ml of the spring water and a pinch of salt. Cover with a plate and leave at kitchen temperature.

In the evening, 12 hours later, add 100 g of flour, 60 ml of water and a pinch of salt. Mix, and cover with a plate.

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The second day:
In the morning, keep only 150 g of the dough and add 100 g of flour and 60 ml of water. Mix quickly and cover with a plate.

In the evening, keep only 150 g of the dough and add 100 g of flour, 60 g of water and a pinch of salt. Mix quickly and cover with a plate.

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The third to tenth day:
In the morning and the evening, repeat the second day's operations.

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The eleventh day:
In the morning, the bread is kneaded for the first time. Take all of the sourdough starter and add 500 g of flour, 300 ml of water and a pinch of salt. Leave to rest for 5 hours.

It is now ready-to-use starter yeast.

Phew. That's a lot of waiting, to be sure. But once you've got your yeast, you can keep cycling it through if you desire. Stay tuned for a recipe to use with your starter. I know, more waiting. I'm a person, not a machine you fool.

Keep it class y'all!

<3 David

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Sounds like sex in a pastry shell, doesn't it? That assumption isn't too far off. If you're looking for a rich, sweet pie with a kick, look no further. Pecans add that perfect, buttery texture while chocolate adds that extra almost much-too-muchery of sweetness that makes your teeth cringe a little bit as you fork into the pie. And while the alcohol is for the majority "cooked out" through the heat in the oven, tasters unanimously report, "Ooh! I can definitely taste the bourbon!"

My recipe comes from The Southern Heritage Pie and Pastry cookbook, which is part of a culinary compendium of all things Southern. While it is out of print, copies can be found on's Marketplace for a few dollars. The history bits betwixt the rich, sweet recipes makes for a slobbery, informative read.

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Before I proceed with the recipe, I'd like to talk a little bit about pie crusts. I admit that these things are some of the most frustrating pastry doughs to work with. I still don't think I can do pie crusts the justice they deserve. However, after some research I stumbled upon a recipe that works far better than any other I've encountered in any cookbook. It comes from America's Test Kitchen, published in Cook's Illustrated Magazine. The following clip lays the foundation for what these chefs were trying to accomplish in their reconstruction of the common recipes for pie dough:

Watch America's Test Kitchen - Pie Crust in Educational & How-To | View More Free Videos Online at

So we see that the secret here is good ole fashioned Polish water, or vodka as it's called. Call on this recipe when you need a single crust pie, or simply double it when you need a two cruster.

1 1/4 c unbleached, all-purpose flour plus extra for work surface
1/2 t table salt
1 T sugar
6 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" slices
1/4 c chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into two pieces (I always use my home-rendered lard here--you can't beat the flavor!)
2 T cold vodka
2 T cold water

Process 3/4 cup flour, salt, and sugar together in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until it is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured work surface to 12" circle about 1/8" thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least a 1" overhang on each side. Working around the circumference, ease dough onto plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave overhanging dough in place, and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Trim overhang to 1/2" beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Flute dough or press the tines of a fork against dough to flatten it against the rim of the pie plate. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.

From this point, you can either "blind bake" the crust if required. Alternatively, you can proceed with finishing the pie with a filling and rolling out a top crust, if desired or called for.

But back to the chocolate bourbon pecan filling for a second, lest we become too abstracted by the rudimentary aspects of pie crusting.

For the filling:
3 eggs
1/4 c plus two tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 c light corn syrup (I typically avoid corn syrups in favor of cane syrups, sorghum molasses, or agave nectar)
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c firmly packed brown sugar (I have unwavering affections for the dark variety)
2 T bourbon
1 T all-purpose flour
1 t vanilla extract
1 c chopped pecans (I also use about 3/4 c worth of pecan halves to reserve for garniture, as you can see in the photograph)
1 c semisweet chocolate morsels
1 unbaked 9" pastry shell (recipe above)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl until frothy. Add butter, beating well. Add syrup, sugar, bourbon, flour, and vanilla; beat well. Stir in chopped pecans.

Sprinkle chocolate morsels in pastry shell. Pour pecan mixture over chocolate morsels. If you have reserved pecan halves, arrange them in a circular formation floating on top of the filling. Bake for one hour and cool thoroughly before slicing.

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There you have it. A buttery, bourbony, chocolaty, nutty, gastronomical orgasm. For extra decadence, serve with some full-fat vanilla ice cream.

Keep it classy y'all!

<3 David

Duke's Dessert Royale

I should mention now that I'm completely and utterly taken with Southern foods. Pecans, collards, sorghum, red velvet cake: I love them all to pieces. (And food comas) That all is beside the point, but merely serves to be a clunky, expositional set up for the recipe I'm about to describe. But first, a little more about that recipe's author.

Delilah Winder is a renowned restaurant owner from Philadelphia who cooks up Southern food with flair. (Hence her recipes are a part of a tome dubbed "Delilah's Everyday Soul: Southern Cooking with Style") I think she's just fabulous, and her recipes are wonderfully flavorful on every level. Her shrimp and grits has a spicy kick, her buttermilk dressing an irresistible tang, and her Duke's Dessert Royale a certain je ne sais quois that makes it one of my favorite chocolate cakes of all time.

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I can't say enough terrible things about where America's chocolate obsession is headed. We've suckered into fudgy-wudgy, dense layers of cake made with crappy, mainstream American cocoa powder and tasteless chocolate bars. So when I set out to execute this chocolate cake, I made sure to pull some of my higher-shelf chocolates. (In this recipe, I used Scharfen-Berger and Valrhona) With this in mind, I loved that Ms. Winder didn't pack chocolate between the layers. Instead, she throws in three varied fillings that almost sound out of place here: vanilla pudding, applesauce, and apricot preserves.

So take that in for a second. I know, it's weird. Applesauce? Are you freaking kidding me?! Vanilla pudding? She didn't even make a creme patisserie?! Relax, my foodie friends, relax. When you put it all together, it spreads like a dream and the flavors marry surprisingly well. So here goes:

Chocolate cake:
1 3/4 C all-purpose flour
1 C cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 3/4 t baking soda
1 1/4 t salt
1 C milk, at room temperature
2 1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 lb unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 C boiling water
1/2 C brewed coffee, strong

Chocolate Frosting:
1/2 lb. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 lb. unsalted butter
2 16-ounce boxes confectioner's sugar
1 C milk
1 T plus 1 t vanilla extract

3/4 C apricot preserves
3/4 C vanilla pudding, prepared
3/4 C applesauce
vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9" x 2" cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

For the cake:
Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine the milk and vanilla in a small bowl.

Place the butter in a large bowl and, using a hand mixer, beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar and continue beating until light. Incorporate eggs, one at a time, one at a time, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. (This can also be accomplished using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.)

Reduce the mixing speed to low. Alternately add the flour and milk in thirds, beginning and ending with the flour and stopping once or twice to scrape the sides of the bowl. Raise the mixing speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 1/2 minutes until the batter is smooth. Reduce the beating speed to medium low and gradually pour in the water and coffee. Stop to scrape the sides of the bowl again and continue beating until smooth. (The batter will appear thin.)

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. (If there are a few crumbs, it's alright. Overbaking will result in an unpleasantly dry cake.) Set the cakes on wire racks to cool in the pans for ten minutes, and then invert to cool completely.

For the Frosting:
Combine the chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Whisk together the sugar, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl and stir in the melted chocolate/butter mixture. Set the bowl in another larger bowl filled with ice water and beat on high speed until the frosting has lightened in color and is fluffy, about two minutes.

Assembling the cake:
Slice each layer in half horizontally. (I strongly suggest purchasing a cake slicer at a crafts store like Michael's.) Place one of the four layers on a serving tray or cake plate and spread with apricot preserves. Place the second layer on top of the apricot layer and spread the vanilla pudding on top. Then, place the third layer on top of the pudding and spread with the applesauce. Lastly, put the last layer of the cake on top of the applesauce layer.

Coat the entire cake with frosting, working from the center and spreading in an outward motion.

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Phew. I know it sounds like a lot, but this cake is well worth it. It's remarkably light and the frosting smacks of so much more than just a basic chocolate buttercream. To embellish without a piping bag, just take the back of a spoon to the frosted cake and pull little hills from the buttercream.

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In the vein of my cohort, Patricia, I'll take some time here to say a bit about myself. I'm currently a 20something college student majoring in sociology. In my spare time I enjoy frequenting Whole Foods, catching repeats of Paula Deen on the Food Network, and maybe catching a drink with friends. Eventually, I'm hoping to go to culinary school and open a restaurant with some of my Southern inspiration. For the record, I am not from the South.

Keep it classy, y'all.

<3 David

White Loaf

Yesterday I had a hankering to make bread. Nothing that took too long to rise, but something that gave me a feel of dough and yeastyness: white loaves. I've made it once or twice before and it's always lovely. So, here it is (recipe is from "baking with julia" cut in half:
-In mixer bowl add 1.5 tsp yeast to 1/4 c warm water and 1.5 tsp sugar. let sit for 5 minutes so yeast can get creamy.
-Add to the yeast 2c flour and 1c water mixing on low until just incorporated, then add 1.5 c more flour and then once flour is absorbed, beat on medium for 10 minutes until dough comes together then add 1.5 tsp salt.
-Beat for 10 minutes more until dough is smooth and elastic, then add 2tbs room temp/softened butter to the mix, a small amount at a time. The dough will separate a bit, but then it will come together with more beating. When the dough comes back together, turn off the mixer and shape the dough into a ball and put in an oiled or buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 45min-1hr.

When I made this, the dough was sticky and moist, but very elastic, so it stays together and pulls itself into a ball. In the directions, it said to shape the dough into a ball on a lightly floured surface, but I didn't feel like pulling out my wooden board for such a small task, so working quickly, I gathered it into a smoothish ball and neatly plopped it into the bowl.

-Shaping the dough (My favorite part!): On a lightly floured surface, deflate the dough. Pat out your dough out to a 9x12 rectangle. Fold the top down two-thirds and seal it with the heel of your hand. Fold it down two thirds again and seal with the heel of your hand. Fold the dough down so it meets the bottom and seal.
-Flip the dough so that the seam is facing up and pinch the seam to make sure the dough is completely sealed. Then fold in the sides so that they will fit into a 4.5x8.5 loaf pan and pinch together. Put your loaf into your buttered/oiled 4.5x8.5in loaf pan and let rise for 45 minutes, covered with greased plastic wrap. Preheat your oven to 375.
-bake your loaf for 35-45 minutes (until an instant read thermometer plunged into the center of the bread reads 200). During the last 10 minutes of baking, you may also take your bread out of its loaf pan so that it may brown all over.
-Let cool, then slice when just a little warm. "just warm is just-right"

Do not slice hot bread. Hot bread has no texture and will collapse if sliced.

Now enjoy your bread. It is a nice buttery loaf and easy to make.

Alas, I will not have the luxury of a standing mixer when I return to New York, but I will continue to make bread by hand (my favorite way to make things, if messier and more time consuming, but it's a labor of love).

A little introduction:
Hi, my name is Patricia. I like to make bread. Right now I am a student in New York City studying biology, but I'm thinking of pursuing baking in culinary school afterwards. I love yeast, I love mixing things and I love throwing down dough. My resolution for my return to NY: buy some quarry tiles at Home Depot so I may make artisanal loaves with a proper crust, perhaps a scale (I may be too poor to afford one, but we'll see), smuggle in my thermometer, buy a dough scraper (I have one at home, but I can only smuggle in so much), whole wheat flour, a jar (!!! I usually only buy those little packets) of yeast, bread flour..the list goes on. I only hope that I will be able to fit my Baking with Julia cookbook into my luggage. This semester, you can count on me to make lots of bread, hopefully stews and the occasional pie, among other things, of course. Stay tuned...