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applesauce cake

adapted from Gale Gand's Applesauce Cake 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature 2 cups brown sugar (dark or light), ...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

creamy turkey noodle soup with mushrooms and fresh dill

*note: this soup recipe has been adapted from smittenkitchen.com's chicken noodle soup recipe. thank you, Deb!

an ideal soup for a cold night, whether you're using up leftover turkey or not -- it's remarkably easy to make from scratch, using various cuts of turkey. on this particular occasion, I wanted to use up two previously roasted turkey drumsticks (and wings, but those don't really count for much) -- I knew that I'd want to add some white meat for balance, so I purchased a bone-in half turkey breast to add. it would truly be just as quick and simple to make without the leftovers, by purchasing two drumsticks and cooking them along with the breast. please make note: fresh parsley and dill are truly essential to the flavor of this soup. please do not leave out or substitute another herb for the parsley or dill, unless you're allergic to or despise either herb, of course! if that's the case, use whatever fresh herbs sound good to you -- tarragon would be quite good. fresh thyme or sage would be okay, but must be used sparingly -- only about 1/3 the amount, as they're quite strong in flavor. I don't recommend dried herbs in this soup -- its essential flavor is in the freshness of the herbs (especially the dill). even the cream is secondary -- you could substitute stock for the cream if you want a brothy-er soup. but please use fresh parsley and dill as recommended if at all possible. you'll understand why as soon as you taste it!

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 medium white onions, diced
  • 1 8-ounce box mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4-5 pounds either leftover roasted or fresh turkey pieces (for example: 2 drumsticks, 2 wings, one bone-in half breast)
  • 2 quarts (64 ounces) chicken or turkey stock, plus water as needed
  • 1-2 stalks celery, cut into 2-3 large pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 3-4 large pieces
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon or more freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 large stalks celery, cut into small dice
  • 2 medium-large carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 6 ounces dry noodles (egg noodles, mini-farfalle and orichiette are all good choices -- something small, but substantial, with a shape that catches some of the broth)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley (flat Italian or curly), finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill, finely minced
  • pinch of nutmeg, to taste
  • drops of hot sauce, to taste
  • more kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large French or Dutch oven (or other large heavy soup pot) over medium-high heat and saute the onion, browning thoroughly while cooking (to develop maximum flavor and color without burning). when onions are translucent and light golden brown, add the remaining tablespoon of butter, and then the sliced mushrooms. continue to saute until mushrooms are cooked through and onions are deep golden brown. scrape mushroom-onion mixture out into a clean bowl and set aside. return French oven to the heat, add the olive oil, allow to get hot, then add the raw turkey pieces, skin-side-down, and brown. for maximum flavor, brown only one layer of raw turkey pieces at a time (don't add more pieces on top, or they'll steam, not brown).  turn and brown on other side. if you're using only fresh raw turkey pieces, you'll have to brown in batches. any previously-roasted pieces of turkey are already browned, so this step isn't necessary for them -- just place them in the pot on top of the other pieces after the browning is done.

and speaking of "after the browning is done," pour the stock over all, then add cold water as needed to just cover them. add in the large chunks of celery and carrot, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. lower heat to a simmer, skim any scum from the broth and cook for 1 hour (if you're using only previously-roasted pieces, cook for 30 minutes). while this is cooking, place the mushrooms & onions you previously set aside into a separate soup or stock pot, and add the heavy cream. heat over medium-low flame until boiling; lower heat to a simmer and allow cream to reduce for about 30 minutes, then turn off the heat, and add a bit of salt and pepper to taste. when the turkey pieces have cooked the appropriate amount of time, remove them to a plate for ~10 minutes to cool before handling. meanwhile, strain the broth and return it to the large French oven and bring to a simmer. add the diced celery and carrot to the broth and let cook for 5 minutes, then add the noodles to the broth mixture and cook (according to package directions) until they're al dente. while the veggies and noodles cook in the broth, remove skin and bone from the turkey and chop/shred into bite-sized pieces. when the noodles are cooked, add the cream, onion & mushroom mixture to the soup pot, then the shredded/chopped turkey, then the minced parsley and dill. quickly bring back up to a simmer, and add the nutmeg, hot sauce, salt & pepper to taste. at this point, the soup should be positively scrumptious. and good thing, because it's ready to serve! it will be even better on the second day after making.

Friday, December 14, 2012


for the seventh night of Hanukkah, I made shakshouka for dinner. okay, the truth is that I made it because I got a great deal on medium-hot New Mexican dried red chiles, and I couldn't wait for tomorrow's carne adovada to try them out. instead of using powdered dried red chile, I made a puree out of the dried chiles. most of the puree went in the fridge for another dish, but I saved 1/2 cup for the shakshouka. the chiles gave the sauce a gorgeous, deep, rich color & flavor. I made a couple more changes from the recipe I usually use -- instead of tomato paste, I used soaked, pureed sun-dried tomatoes to thicken the sauce up, and I added a few spoonfuls of an Italian green tomato relish I made earlier this year. I didn't have bell peppers on hand, so I used some finely chopped pickled jalapeno, which worked very well -- so well, I'll definitely do that again. finally: although shakshouka is usually served with bread (to which I have *no* objection!), I had some roasted potatoes and butternut squash to use up, so I mashed those together with milk, butter, salt & pepper (served that way, it was definitely a dairy meal, and very very delicious at that! but it would be just as good with bread, which is how I'll eat the leftovers). it probably took a total of 20-30 minutes to make, yet tasted like something I'd slaved over all day. shakshouka will be on the menu again soon!

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1-2 pickled jalapeno peppers, chopped OR 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red chile puree (dry red chile pods, stems, veins & seeds removed, soaked in hot water for ~20 minutes, then pureed in a food processor, adding just enough of the soaking water to facilitate processing -- you want to end up with a nice, thick puree when done) OR 2 tablespoons powdered pure red chile (not cayenne; not chili powder -- you want pure red chili pods, powdered) plus 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 3 cups chopped ripe tomatoes OR 1-1/2 cans (16-20 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato puree (starting with dried tomatoes that are NOT packed in oil, process just as you did the chili pods) or 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • *optional: a few spoonfuls of green tomato relish, if you have it on hand
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • pinch of sugar, to taste
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4-6 eggs
in a 2-3 quart dutch or french oven OR deep cast iron frying pan, heat the olive oil, then add the onion and saute over medium heat for several minutes, until it starts to brown. add the pepper and continue to cook for a couple of minutes, then lower heat a bit and add the garlic. cook for another minute, just to soften (but be careful not to burn the garlic!), then add the chili puree (or powdered chiles and paprika), tomatoes and sun-dried tomato puree (or tomato paste), bring to a simmer, and add the optional green tomato relish, ground cumin and parsley. simmer for a few minutes until sauce begins to thicken, then taste and season with a bit of sugar, salt and pepper to taste. crack the eggs directly over the simmering tomato sauce, spacing them evenly, then cover the pot and cook for 7-15 minutes longer, until eggs are done to your liking. serve with warm, crusty bread, or another over mashed potatoes or polenta.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


easy! also, possibly the best things I've ever baked.

cream cheese dough

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese or neufchatel, chilled, cubed
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled, cubed
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon cold water
place flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the "s" blade and pulse briefly to combine. scatter cream cheese and butter cubes over the top, then pulse 12-15 times, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. add egg yolk and cold water, then run food processor continuously until dough forms large curds. tip out onto a clean surface and knead briefly, then shape into disks (I like to make three different fillings, so I make three discs), wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours. the dough will keep three-four days in the refrigerator, and up to three months if frozen.


each of these filling recipes makes enough to fill the entire recipe of dough above -- if you want to make more than one filling, decrease the amount of ingredients in each filling accordingly.

filling 1: Israeli chocolate

  • 1.5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch kosher salt
pulse/process all ingredients in a food processor until chocolate is in fine crumbs.

filling 2: apricot-nut

  • 1 cup apricot jam
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots (use the soft sulphured variety), cut into bits
  • 1/2 cup toasted nuts (walnuts, pecans or almonds), finely chopped
  • pinch kosher salt
combine all ingredients.

filling 3: cherry

  • 1 cup dried sour cherries
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch kosher salt
place all ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes, until fruit is hydrated and mixture is thickened. cool to room temperature (or chill in refrigerator) before using.

assembly & baking

  • powdered sugar to roll out dough
  • melted butter (it will take 4-6 tablespoons total to fill all the rugelach)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cold water
preheat oven to 350 degrees F. take a disc of dough out of the fridge (1/3 of the total dough, formed into a disk and chilled thoroughly). sprinkle large cutting board or clean countertop with powdered sugar, flip the disc of dough on it a couple of times to ensure it's evenly covered with the sugar, and roll out with a rolling pin into a circle, adding powdered sugar as needed to prevent sticking. once the dough is about 1/8-inch thick, spread the surface liberally with melted butter, than cover with your filling of choice. cut the circle into 4 wedges, then cut each wedge into 4 long, thin triangles. starting at the wide edge of each wedge, roll towards the center up to the point. as you roll the crescents, place each one, point down, on a buttered cookie sheet/jelly roll pan (covered with buttered parchment if you have it -- otherwise, plan to soak the pan to clean it). whisk the egg yolk, sugar and water together to make a glaze, and brush/dab this mixture evenly over all the exposed surfaces of each crescent. bake the rugelach for 20-28 minutes, until the cream cheese dough is medium-golden brown, puffed a bit and cooked all the way through. if you used parchment paper, pull the paper off the cookie sheet directly onto a rack to cool, then peel off the parchment. if you baked them directly on a buttered sheet/pan, remove them to a plate while still warm and flexible.

Monday, December 10, 2012

pasta with roasted butternut squash & brown butter

the combination of roasted butternut squash, brown butter, parmigiana and sage is simply heavenly. ravioli stuffed with sweet, rich winter squash is classic, but also a fair amount of work to make from scratch. I wanted those flavors in a dish that was easy to make; cooking bits of roasted squash in brown butter with freshly-cooked pasta did the trick. I tossed in some potatoes (Yukon Golds are ideal, but feel free to use a different variety, as long as you choose a firm, non-mealy potato -- russet potatoes won't work here), onion and carrots to roast alongside the squash, and their flavors contributed to the dish. of course, as long as you have plenty of roasted squash, you can skip the other veggies if you don't have them on hand. for those who doubt the wisdom of combining potatoes and pasta, they complement each other and meld to become the very definition of "comfort food."

  • 1 small butternut squash, cut in half, seeds removed
  • 2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 onion, cut into strips or slices
  • butter to grease roasting pan
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter
  • 4 tablespoons fresh sage leaves: 1 tablespoon whole, 3 tablespoons sliced into a fine chiffonade
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup + grated parmigiana reggiano (or grana padano)
  • tiny pinch ground nutmeg
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound dried pasta, cooked al dente
  • *1/2 package (4 ounces) cream cheese or neufchatel, optional
heat oven to 400 degrees F. arrange squash (cut side down), onions, potatoes and carrots in roasting pan, strew whole sage leaves and thyme sprigs over top and roast for 40-50 minutes, until all vegetables are tender. remove herbs and discard. cut carrots and potatoes into a small dice, remove skin from squash and chop into a larger dice. 

heat 6 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat until browned -- not too fast! you don't want the butter to burn. your goal is to cook the milk solids until the butter is deep golden brown with darker brown flecks. it should smell indescribably delicious. pour 4 tablespoons of the butter out into a bowl, and toss in the sliced fresh sage. return the pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown butter to the burner, and toss in the carrots, potatoes and onions. saute for a few minutes to soften vegetables, then add the squash. toss around and smash the squash with the back of a wooden spoon until some of the water is cooked out, and the squash is creamy and soft. add the smallest pinch of nutmeg, and season to taste with salt and pepper. pour in the reserved brown butter with sage and the cooked pasta, and toss over medium heat until warmed through. add in the parmigiana, taste again for salt & pepper and voila, it's ready to serve!

*if you want to send this dish over the top (and why wouldn't you?), stir a few ounces of cream cheese or neufchatel in at the end. the creamy flavor goes perfectly with the squash, and your eyes will roll back into your head. really!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

olive oil granola with fresh cranberries

sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? olive oil in granola? fresh cranberry sauce baked into granola? how? why?

why olive oil? actually, you're food-savvy; you probably heard of it before I did. granola made with extra-virgin olive oil is rich, delicious and deep -- a perfect combination of sweet & a bit salty; totally addictive. there are quite a few recipes going around the interwebz; Melissa Clark's recipe for Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios from the New York Times is excellent, and possibly what started the trend back in 2009. so then, you may ask, why cranberries, Diane, why??? simple: I had leftover fresh cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving, and I wanted to use it somewhere I could taste it, because I love cranberries. they're very good in this granola; so good that I made a new batch of cranberry sauce just to refine/test this recipe. of course, if you don't have leftover cranberry sauce hanging around, or if you'd prefer a different berry, you can substitute raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, etc. -- just use a bit less sugar to compensate for sweeter fruits. you can also leave out the fresh fruit entirely, and just add plenty of dried fruit at the end. you can easily leave out the coconut and/or nuts and it still works; this is one of many delicious variations. by the way, if you've read this far, leave me a comment to let me know. if you can make it through my verbiage, I'll at least name a recipe after you. anyway...

however you make it, I highly recommend you try making olive oil granola. then be prepared to lock it up tight, because it will disappear at an alarming rate. it's that good. this recipe will yield about 6 cups of granola.

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant, not steel-cut -- only old-fashioned rolled oats will work for this recipe)
  • optional: 1 cup unsweetened, flaked coconut (I don't like the combination of coconut and cranberries, so I left it out, but I'd definitely use it with just about any other fruit)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey (you can substitute 1 cup maple syrup for the brown and/or white sugars and water, or substitute 1-1/4 cups maple syrup for the sugars, water and the honey)
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2-1 cup leftover (or freshly made) cranberry sauce, however much you have
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (I used reduced-sugar dried cranberries; just about any kind of dried fruit will work here, as long as it's somewhat soft -- no leathery un-sulphured apricots or the like, but just about anything else will work)
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 4 ounces toasted nuts, such as chopped pecans, sliced almonds, roasted shelled pistachios, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds -- whatever combination you prefer
place the oats (and optional coconut) in a large bowl. combine the brown sugar, white sugar and water in a medium/deep saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. after your sweetener has cooled a bit, whisk in the honey , olive oil, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cranberry sauce, and combine thoroughly. pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees F. pour the sweetener/olive oil mixture over the oats in the bowl and mix in completely. oil a couple of baking sheets and spread the granola out into even layers and bake for 60 minutes or so, until golden brown and crunchy, stirring gently/rotating trays every 15 minutes. remove to racks and allow to cool a bit. n.b. don't let the granola cool in the pans unless you *really* enjoy soaking & scrubbing -- otherwise, tip it out while it's still a bit warmwhile still a bit warm, scrape the granola off the baking sheets into a large clean bowl, allow to cool completely, and mix in the dried fruits (and optional toasted nuts). taste for seasoning, and add a pinch more salt or cinnamon if you'd like. whatever you do, don't break up the big clusters of granola that form -- you know those are the first pieces you're going to eat! I don't know why, but they're the most desirable pieces of granola, so let them happen. seriously: every time you break up a cluster of homemade granola, somewhere a tiny kitten cries. so just don't do it. store this granola in large jars in the freezer (it will get stale in the fridge), except for the jar from which you're currently munching -- that can be kept safely at room temperature for at least a few days. if it lasts that long. 

eat over greek yogurt and fresh fruit, with milk, or any way you like granola. I must confess: I ate every bit of this granola plain, pouring myself small cups full as snacks/desserts. it's definitely that good!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving dressing (the good stuff): UPDATED for extra deliciousness

like many of the best holiday dishes, this is an amalgam of recipes from family, friends, things I learned in my former life as a chef and a few twists of my own. and like all the best recipes, it changes just a little every year. dressing is extremely malleable and customizable, so don't be afraid to change it up, add/subtract ingredients, make it your own. that said, I suppose I should give you a recipe rather than just the general notion "hey! make some stuffing or dressing!", so here's what I'm doing this year (including comments re: what I may do differently next year).

start by baking three different breads (my recipes are linked below):

  1. buttermilk cornbread, made with brown butter (see the brown butter batter bread recipe notes for directions to make it) in which I sauteed about 1/4 of an onion, plus a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh sage, 4-5 good slugs of Tabasco and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  2. brown butter batter bread
  3. biscuits (one day I'll publish my own recipe, but today I made them with Pioneer Buttermilk Biscuit Mix, and they were wonderful. just promise me you won't use canned biscuit dough, if you can avoid it -- the baking mix is just as easy and bakes pretty great biscuits). I made a batch from 3 cups of baking mix and 1 cup of milk.
hmmmm... buttermilk cornbread, brown butter batter bread & biscuits -- that's awfully alliterative, isn't it? unintentional, but mildly amusing. I am easily amused. so! after you bake each kind of bread, cool it, crumble coarsely and toast in baking pans in an oven heated to 400 degrees F for anywhere from 15-25 minutes -- you want to dry it out a bit (to avoid soggy dressing -- ew!) and get the crumbles golden brown. I do all of this -- baking and toasting -- the day before. dressing actually works a bit better when the bread is a day old.

by the way, baking all that bread will give you enough stuffing for an enormous crowd, but it doesn't make sense to bake a half loaf of bread, so once I got to this point, I took out about 3 quarts of the bread crumbs and froze them for future batches of dressing/stuffing. next year, I'll bake fewer biscuits, and maybe a smaller loaf of batter bread. or maybe I'll do it exactly like this again. I'm not sure yet. one new thing I did this year that I will continue to do -- make extra bechamel/veloute, and you'll have the base for your turkey gravy all ready -- all you'll have to do is add turkey drippings after you roast the bird; no hassle at all! and it's *good*. okay, here we go.
  • 3-4 quarts of the aforementioned crumbled, toasted breads -- about half of the total if you bake full batches of all the breads
  • at least 1/4 cup of fresh parsley (don't even think about using dried -- it's worthless); more if you'd like
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons schmaltz (!!!) yes, rendered chicken fat! your turkey's not cooked yet, or you could use the fat from the drippings. and if you don't keep schmaltz around in your freezer (I skim it off the top of my chicken stock when cooled, or do the same with refrigerated drippings after roasting a chicken), well, I think you should, but you can also just use the rest of the stick of butter instead. I just love schmaltz -- so much flavor -- like the poor man's duck fat.
  • 1 large or 2 small yellow onions, chopped finely (shallots would be lovely here, too)
  • 4-6 stalks celery, chopped finely (yeah, I forgot to buy celery this year -- d'oh! it would have been better with it, but was still good)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage (or 1 teaspoon dried, rubbed sage), chopped finely
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme), chopped finely
  • 1/2-3/4 teaspoon dried poultry seasoning, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2-3 medium carrots, peeled and diced finely
  • 1 bunch green onions, cleaned and sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream or half and half
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
caveat: I'm still working on these proportions; I may adjust them tomorrow -- I'm fairly sure about the amounts of bread, herbs and veggies, but may need to adjust the amounts of butter, liquids and/or eggs. *update: OH, the changes I made! well, nothing huge, but enough that it's made quite a nice difference (including the surprise bonus of getting the gravy base done at the same time) -- this is now the best dressing I've ever tasted... so far! some measurements have been nailed down, while others are still a bit... fluid, but with good reason! additions and explanations are indicated in bold throughout (except in the main cooking instructions below, because I changed so much that it would just be silly to bold it all).

that said: combine the breads in a large bowl, stirring together lightly (don't smash them up; keep it a bit fluffy). use 3 tablespoons each of the butter and schmaltz (or 3 tablespoons of just butter, if you're not using schmaltz) to saute the onions and about 1/3 each of the sage and thyme until tender, translucent and golden brown, seasoning as you cook with a bit of freshly ground black pepper and some poultry seasoning. when done, set aside 2 tablespoons of the sauteed onions in a small bowl, and scrape out all the rest of the pan into the bowl of breads. in the same pan, do the same with the celery, sauteeing w/the same amount of butter and schmaltz (or just butter), 1/3 each of the sage and thyme -- everything you did with the onions, including adding 2 tablespoons of the sauteed celery to the bowl with the reserved onions, then adding the rest to the big dressing bowl. add 3 tablespoons more butter/schmaltz and cook the carrots and green onion together with the remaining sage and thyme and cook just as you did the yellow onions and celery, seasoning as you go, setting aside 2 tablespoons of the cooked carrots/green onions with their yellow onion and celery friends, pouring the remaining carrot mixture into the dressing bowl. now, add 3 tablespoons of butter to the pan, place over medium heat, add the reserved sauteed yellow onion, celery, carrots and green onion, and saute for just a couple of minutes. then add the flour and mix into the fat -- it should combine to become approximately the texture of peanut butter. add more fat -- butter or schmaltz -- if it's too dry. lower heat to medium low and cook the veggies and roux, stirring/scraping the bottom of the pan constantly, for about 5-6 minutes, allowing the roux to darken a bit (adjust heat accordingly if it starts browning too quickly or doesn't brown/bubble at all). when the roux is done, whisk in 3 cups of the chicken stock and cream, and add the bay leaf and a pinch of nutmeg. raise heat to medium and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened -- it should coat the back of a spoon nicely; a bit thicker than a regular white sauce. season to taste with salt, pepper and perhaps another touch of poultry seasoning, and then ladle about 1.5-2 cups into the dressing mixture, and stir to combine. you want to add enough to moisten it all, but not soak it. some of the larger chunks of bread will still be a bit dry in the center, but it will hold together fairly well. taste and make your final seasoning adjustments. but what about all that lovely sauce you didn't use, and the extra cup of chicken stock? yep, you've got it! strain that sauce through a chinois or a fine metal mesh strainer (throwing away the solids), add the chicken stock to the sauce and bring back to a simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened -- this time, it's the right thickness for gravy! so when you finish roasting your turkey, add in the turkey drippings (excess fat removed, of course), and your gravy is done! magic! back to the dressing: whisk the eggs in a bowl with the baking powder, and fold it into the dressing mixture. spoon it (without packing it down too much) into a 9x13 buttered baking dish. cover with buttered foil or parchment (butter-side-down) (you can prepare it a day ahead at this point -- just refrigerate, then take out from the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to bake it, so it can come to room temperature). bake the dressing covered for 30 minutes, then remove foil or parchment and continue baking another 15-20 minutes, until top is nicely browned and crisp.

things you could add to or change about this stuffing that would be delicious (just don't do them all!):
  • a moderate amount of fresh, finely chopped rosemary
  • 1-2 peeled, diced apples, sauteed in butter with the onion, celery, etc.
  • a container (I think they're usually 8-10 ounces) white button, cremini or baby bella mushrooms, cleaned, quartered and sauteed in butter/schmaltz like the other veggies
  • 1/2-3/4 cup dried fruit, plumped in just a bit of hot water or chicken stock -- cranberries or cherries would be especially good
feedback on this recipe particularly welcomed!

brown butter batter bread

adapted from smittenkitchen.com's fantastic recipe for white batter bread -- easy, retro, so comforting and addictive -- try it! my adaptation consists mostly of adjusting the amounts/proportions to create a nice, high loaf in a 9x5 loaf pan, and a little twist of using brown butter* to add a bit more dimension to the flavor. browning the butter isn't essential; it's still delicious with just melted butter as an ingredient, but brown butter (a.k.a. beurre noisette) is magical, and makes it just that much more... mmmph. yum. etc.

  • 1.5 cups whole milk, warmed to approximately 110 degrees -- not hot; you don't want to kill the yeast; just warm enough to provide an ideal temperature for the yeast to do its job
  • 2 teaspoons (a bit less than one envelope) active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons brown butter*
  • 2.5-3 cups all-purpose flour
combine the milk, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl. add the brown butter after it's cooled for a few minutes (but still liquid; not a solid -- just not burning hot), then stir in 2 cups of the flour and beat the batter for a few minutes with a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of an electric mixer. anywhere from two minutes (by mixer) to five minutes (by hand) is fine -- get it totally smooth and activate the gluten a bit. add another half cup of flour and mix in, then keep adding flour, tablespoon by tablespoon, until it reaches a texture somewhere between a pourable batter and regular bread dough. you should still be able to stir it by spoon (don't add so much flour that it must be kneaded by hand), but not too easily. the best description I can come up with is that the batter should be "scoop-able;" sort of able to hold its shape as you scoop it out with a spoon, but still sticky, and by no means stiff. more solid than pancake batter, but looser than cookie dough, plus it should be sticky and stringy because of the gluten development. don't worry too much -- there's room for error in both the consistency and the mixing time (more than you'd think).

so! scoop it out into a buttered 9x5" loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for an hour. when it's time to bake, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F and bake for 40-50 minutes; until the internal temperature reaches 190-205 degrees F, measured by instant-read thermometer (I know Deb from Smitten Kitchen calls for the bread to be baked to 210 degrees F, but I found it just a bit too dry. I am also aware that her recipes instructs you to lower the heat to 375 degrees F after putting the loaf in the oven, but I prefer the crustiness that develops when baked at 400 degrees F.)

*brown butter (or beurre noisette) is just butter that's been heated slowly, so that the milk solids brown and undergo the Maillard reaction, which creates a whole new world of more complex, toasty delicious flavor. to make it,  just place unsalted butter in a saucepan or saute pan, and heat over medium-low heat until the milk solids in the butter cook and change color, deepening to somewhere between golden brown and deep, rich (but not dark!) brown. "noisette" is French for hazelnut, and the color of the hazelnut is pretty much the color you're aiming for when you brown the butter. keep the heat medium-low, and as soon as you reach the desired color, take the pan off the heat and pour directly into your recipe, or into a container to stop the cooking. burnt butter is not what you want. on the off chance your butter smokes and/or turns deep brown/black, throw it out, clean the pan and try again. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

brussels sprouts with brown butter and parmigiano reggiano

the key to making delicious brussels sprouts is simple -- cut them in half so they cook quickly, parboil them for ~3-4 minutes until just almost tender, cool quickly in ice water to stop the cooking, then re-warm them in butter to serve. to make them sublime, brown the butter (the French call it "beurre noisette" -- which means "hazlenut butter," referring both to the color and the flavor).

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, rinsed, outer damaged leaves removed, core end trimmed and cut in half vertically
  • large pot of boiling water w/a pinch of salt
  • large bowl of ice water
  • 1/4-1/2 stick of butter (depending upon how much butter you like -- I use the larger amount, but I like butter a LOT), cooked over medium heat in a large saute pan until deep brown but *not* burned -- remove it from heat as soon as it's done and set aside
  • 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 ounces parmigiano reggiano, finely grated
drop the trimmed brussels sprouts into the boiling water (use lots of boiling water, set over high heat, so that it comes back to a boil quickly), and cook for 3-4 minutes -- until the brussels sprouts are tender, but a teeny bit less done than you want -- they will finish cooking in the butter. as soon as they're done boiling, drain them and immediately plunge them into the ice water to set the color and stop the cooking -- they should be bright emerald green and beautiful. while you're cooking the brussels sprouts, brown the butter as instructed, then removed from the heat. drain the sprouts when they're cool, and place them in the butter in the saute pan. return the pan to medium heat, and toss the sprouts in the hot butter until warmed through. season with salt and pepper, give a final toss and turn out into a serving dish. top with the finely grated parmigiano and serve.

brown butter and parmigiano perform some sort of magical alchemy on almost any green vegetable, turning them into ambrosia. trust me on this.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lynell's maple-glazed sweet potatoes

I've put this recipe together in response to a request from my friend Lynell, who wants to make a Thanksgiving sweet potato/yam dish with maple syrup, butter and pecans -- no brown sugar... and knowing Lynell, no artificially-flavored marshmallows, faux low-fat ingredients -- she likes *real* food, as do I!

this should make about 6 cups total. I highly recommend using true sweet potatoes rather than yams -- sweet potatoes usually have smoother skins. while I love the texture and flavor of white sweet potatoes (usually found in Asian markets and some larger grocery stores that cater to a Hispanic market), they don't contain as much vitamin A as their richer, sweeter orange-fleshed counterparts, and they just don't have that classic flavor you're looking for at Thanksgiving. so look for some nice, smooth-skinned sweet potatoes with deep orange flesh (the peel is really no indication of the inner color, so it's worth it to ask the produce staff for their suggestions).

  • 1/2-1 cup pecan halves
  • 2-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into one- to two-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon or rum (try Eagle Rare Bourbon or Myers Rum), OR 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice (closely related to black pepper, but sweeter in flavor)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated (or pre-ground) nutmeg
  • optional: a pinch or two of ground cinnamon, if desired
  • kosher salt to taste 
preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and toast for about 5 minutes, until fragrant (err on the side of under-done, if needed -- you don't want them burnt! and they will cook further in the dish). pour the pecans out onto a cutting board to cool, then chop finely. butter the same baking sheet and arrange the potatoes in one layer. in a small saucepan, combine the maple syrup, butter, bourbon OR rum OR lemon juice, spices and a big pinch of salt, and heat over low heat until butter is melted. whisk together, taste and add more salt if desired -- it should taste a bit salty, as it needs to season the sweet potatoes, too. pour the syrup mixture over the sweet potatoes and toss to coat evenly. cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. remove foil and continue to bake, stirring occasionally, until tender and beginning to brown. add the chopped pecans and bake 15 minutes longer.

if desired, you can prepare the dish a day ahead -- just place in an oven-safe serving dish & refrigerate. reheat the next day at 350 degrees, for 20-30 minutes, until hot all the way through.

Friday, November 16, 2012

quite tasty Texas chili

I combined several chili recipes, then adjusted them together to my taste and added the things I want in chili, and came up with something really good. note: sometimes I make "fancier" chili -- using stew meat (hand chopped), soaking and grinding dried pasilla, ancho and chipotle chiles -- this is not that kind of chili. this is a good, basic, easy-to-make recipe; the kind that every Texan (or honorary Texan!) should have in their repertoire. you're welcome to make this one your own, and of course, I'd love to hear how y'all do it. and speaking of "recipes" -- this is not so much a recipe as a set of guidelines. you can change many of the steps and/or ingredients: use all ground beef instead of a beef/sausage mix, or stew meat instead of either; soaked and ground dried whole chiles instead of chili powder (if you do this, use a little less chile and add a bit more ground cumin, oregano, salt and black pepper to compensate & balance the flavors), leave the small amount of tomato sauce out entirely or substitute Rotel or a similar tomato/green chile sauce, leave out or increase the green chiles (or use fresh, roasted & peeled green chiles)... the possibilities are almost endless.

Texas chili does not contain beans of any sort (unless you're making a vegetarian version, of course, which makes more sense than you might think -- with all these seasonings, the meat is not really the star). but if you wanted to make this into, say, Cincinnati chili, you could include some kidney beans, add a pinch of cinnamon, and serve over noodles, with optional toppings of grated cheddar, chopped onion, etc. in fact, except for the noodles, those toppings are fairly universal. try making it into a Frito Pie by pouring it over some Fritos (only Fritos will do!), either in a bowl or right in a single-serving bag, and top with cheddar, onions & jalapenos.

I could go on, but I think you know how to eat chili if you're looking at this recipe. so without further ado, here's how I made it today:

  • 2 tablespoons oil (cooking oil or EVOO; whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 smallish (or 1/2 large) chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 pound ground chuck (80/20, as in 80% lean, 20% fat)
  • 1 pound hot pork sausage (I used Jimmy Dean, but almost any kind will do, as long as you avoid wildly clashing flavors)
  • 30-32 ounces low-sodium beef broth (I only had chicken broth on hand, and it did just fine; veggie would work, too)
  • 1 bouillon cube (beef, chicken or veggie), crushed
  • 1 8-ounce can El Pato Salsa de Chile Fresco (or 1/2 can of Rotel Tomatoes w/Green Chiles, or 8 ounces plain tomato sauce, or salsa, or... you get it; whatever's on hand)
  • 2 4-ounce cans chopped, peeled green chiles (or a similar amount of freshly roasted, peeled & chopped green poblano or Hatch or Anaheim chiles
  • 2-3 tablespoons ground paprika (hot or sweet, but not smoked -- that would be too overpowering here, though you could add a pinch of smoked paprika if you like)
  • 1-2+ tablespoons chili powder (the kind that includes chiles, oregano, cumin, etc. OR use 1.5 tablespoons straight powdered chile, and add more oregano, cumin and black pepper to taste)
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon Mexican oregano (start w/less, add more near the end if needed)
  • 1-1.5 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons masa harina, (if you don't have any masa flour on hand, do what I did -- tear a few fresh corn tortillas into quarters and throw into the chili, allow to cook ~15 minutes or so, until disintegrated), to thicken chili to your taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar, to taste
  • 1-2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (or whatever you have on hand -- just not super-fruity raspberry vinegar, nor straight white vinegar -- something mildly acidic, as a flavor counterpoint) or lime juice, again, to taste
  • whatever else you like to add to your chili: I tossed in a couple of small bits of Mexican chocolate, but NOT much; you could add a pinch of cinnamon here, more oregano, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, garlic or onion powder (the only reason those last two items are in my kitchen are for chili -- they're traditional in Texas chili, and they just taste good in it -- just be sure you're using onion or garlic powder, not onion or garlic salt!), chopped canned chipotles -- whatever you like, except for salt! with all the bouillon cubes, pork sausage and regular chili powder, it's likely this chili will be quite well salted. however, if you think you want to add some, please finish simmering before adding salt -- you'll probably need less than you think.
in a large Dutch (Lodge cast iron) or French (Le Creuset) oven, or similarly large, heavy pot, heat the oil and lightly brown the chopped onion over medium-high heat. when translucent and browned to your liking, turn the heat to medium-low and add the minced garlic. continue to cook for a minute or two, then scoop it all out into a large bowl. put the pan back on the heat, and brown the ground beef, then drain off the fat, and scoop that into the bowl with your onions. then do the same with the sausage, breaking the pieces up. after pouring off all excess grease, add the onions, garlic & browned meats back to the pot, and pour in the El Pato sauce (or other tomato sauce) and broth (you can use two 15-ounce cans, or a 32-ounce carton -- or a similar amount of homemade) and bring to a boil. reduce heat to a medium boil and add the canned green chiles, 2 tablespoons of the paprika, 1 tablespoon of the chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon of the oregano, 1 tablespoon of the cumin and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper, and cook, covered, for ~45 minutes. then taste, and add the remaining paprika, chili powder, oregano, cumin and/or black pepper to suit your taste (if it's not hot enough, add a bit of cayenne pepper if you want -- but only after all of the various chiles have been added and have simmered for a bit). you can add another clove of minced garlic also, if you'd like. reduce heat to a simmer and cook another 20 minutes, then taste again and adjust heat/spices, and add the masa harina (or corn tortillas -- whatever you have on hand -- even regular cornmeal will work, but the flavor's best w/masa or corn tortillas), brown sugar (try adding a teaspoon at a time, until the right balance of flavor is achieved), a bit of vinegar, and simmer for 10 minutes. taste and  add salt if needed (mine didn't need any additional salt, which is surprising, because I'm a salt fiend!). serve with rice, macaroni noodles, saltines, Fritos, cornbread, sourdough -- however you like to eat your chili. top with shredded cheddar, sour cream (or crema mexicana), chopped white or green onion, sliced jalapenos, salsa -- again, however you like it. ENJOY.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

update: "the best brownies" are now "the perfect brownies!"

it's time for me to update my recipe for "the best brownies," because I tweaked the recipe a little and made them, in a word, perfect. the changes required actually make them a little more simple to make, and the ingredients a bit easier to find. who knew? also, doubling the recipe and baking in a slightly larger pan made them the ideal thickness. you can cut this recipe in half, but you will need to find a pan smaller than 8 x 8 inches to make them come out right. I prefer to make a bigger batch, and find the "extra" brownies disappear just as quickly.

these have everything I want in a brownie, and nothing I don't: a crisp, crunchy top, delicious, fudgy interior and wonderfully chocolately, sweet, rich, balanced flavor. an added bonus: I've made the mixing technique much less fussy, but it still yields excellent results. here's the new recipe:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped or broken up into approximately 1/2" pieces
  • 4 eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup regular cocoa (not Dutch-processed -- the naturally slightly acidic flavor of regular cocoa makes a very important difference in the flavor. the brownies need that extra acidity to be perfect! and regular cocoa is available everywhere and often less expensive
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • a little more than 1/2 teaspoon salt (this makes a big difference -- you can go all the way up to just shy of 1 teaspoon, if you're using kosher salt)
  • 1-1/3 cup flour, unsifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
preheat the oven to 350 °F. butter and flour an 9 x 13 inch baking pan. place chopped chocolate in hot melted butter and allow chocolate to melt while preparing other ingredients. in a large bowl, gently whisk the eggs (you do not want to incorporate extra air here; brownies are best when dense and just barely leavened) with the sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and salt. pour in the melted butter and chocolate, and stir or gently whisk to combine thoroughly (but do not overbeat).  sift the flour and baking powder directly over the bowl, all at once. again, gently whisk it all together until just combined -- i.e., no streaks of flour unincorporated; batter is thick and homogenous. using a flexible spatula or spoon, scrape the brownie batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly and smothing the top out a bit. bake for 25 minutes. test center for doneness and continue to bake, checking every 5 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. cool on a rack and enjoy. while warm brownies smell incredible, in my opinion they taste even better when cool.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

club sandwich breakfast strata

I'm still playing with the name of this recipe. so far, I'm thinking "club sandwich" is most descriptive, since it contains bread, turkey, bacon, tomatoes and cheese... but perhaps I should call it "Conundrum Strata," as my friend Erik B. suggested, since my version contained both bacon and challah? oh so very not-kosher, but delicious! easy and tasty; works for any meal of the day, not just breakfast.

  • .5 pounds bacon, sliced
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced thinly
  • ~6 thick slices of bread, cut into large cubes (I used homemade challah, cut into 1.5" cubes, which yielded about 3 cups of cubed bread)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1.5 cups milk (I prefer whole milk; you should use whatever you like or have on hand)
  • a few drops of hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg, to taste
  • 2-4 fresh tomatoes (depending on size), cored, halved, then cut into 1/4" slices (I used 4 smallish tomatoes; about 1.5 cups sliced) *note: you must use fresh tomatoes here; canned will not taste right
  • 3-4 ounces sliced turkey, diced
  • 3/4 cup grated cheese (I used a good-quality domestic parmesan, which was delicious; sharp cheddar would have worked well, too -- almost any cheese will be good here)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, especially parsley, chives, and/or basil; any combination (use half that amount if using dried or stronger-flavored herbs)
cut the bacon slices in half (so they fit easily without wrinkling) and arrange in a cold skillet. place on the burner and start heating on medium-low, until just sizzling, and cook to preferred done-ness. cooking over lower heat will minimize the spattering and potential mess. when done, drain bacon pieces on a paper towel-lined plate, and pour out all but 1 teaspoon of the bacon drippings. return the pan to the burner and add the green onions. stir and cook over low-medium heat for a few minutes, until slightly translucent, but not browned. remove from heat.

in a medium sized bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk, and add the sauteed green onion. add the hot sauce, salt, black pepper and nutmeg and combine. butter a baking pan (about 9" x 11") or casserole dish, and pour in the bread cubes. crumble the cooled bacon and scatter it over the bread, then add the tomato slices and turkey. sprinkle on the grated cheese and herbs, then pour the egg/milk mixture over all, ensuring there's enough to thoroughly moisten all the bread (more is fine, but you don't want so much that the bread cubes float atop the liquid). cover the pan well with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours; overnight if possible.

when you're ready to bake the strata, take it out of the refrigerator, remove the plastic and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. place the pan near the middle of the oven and bake for 45-55 minutes; until custard mixture is set and top is golden brown. cool on a rack for a few minutes, then serve. it's yummy!

Friday, September 28, 2012

check out my first article for the Austin Post!


please come by The Austin Post and read my new article re: my streamlined method for making Greek yogurt! I'm really excited about it. thanks, y'all.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

tandoori-style chicken breasts

obviously, not actual "tandoor" chicken, because I don't have a tandoor oven to cook it in. most authentic flavor comes from grilling, but roasting works as well.

tandoori chicken breasts

adapted from Savoring India by Julie Sahni

  • 3-4 split chicken breasts (with skin and bone)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (regular or Greek)
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 large or 2 small lemons)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon (a pinch) ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  • 1 small white onion, sliced into medium-thick half-moons
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • fresh cilantro sprigs and lemon wedges to garnish

  • classic tandoori chicken is usually skinless, but since chicken skin is one of my favorite culinary delights (when cooked properly -- crisp and brown), I'm experimented with leaving the skin on this tandoori style chicken. since I make my own yogurt, I usually keep several different thicknesses on hand. thick Greek yogurt is wonderful with fruit for breakfast, or atop baked potatoes, but I find thinner yogurt is quite useful, too. I made this marinade with un-strained, plain yogurt, and even added a little additional whey (strained from the Greek yogurt) to help it penetrate the chicken better, and for flavor. the smoked Spanish paprika gives the finishes dish a little more "grilled" flavor, especially helpful if you roast (rather than grill) the chicken, but you can substitute regular paprika.

    rinse chicken breasts and pat dry with paper towels. mix the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger (both are very easily grated on a microplane, which every cook should own for all kinds of kitchen purposes!), cumin, ground coriander, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, cardamom, cloves and black pepper. add salt to taste. place the chicken breasts in a non-reactive baking pan, plastic food storage container or a large ziplock bag. pour the yogurt mixture over the chicken and rub it in well. cover (if using a pan) or seal (if using a ziplock bag or plastic storage container) and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

    at least 30 minutes before cooking, remove chicken from refrigerator, and preheat the oven to 400 °F. lightly oil a baking/roasting pan (you can use the same pan in which you marinated the chicken; just wash and dry it first), and arrange the chicken breasts, skin up, evenly spaced in the pan. spoon any remaining marinade over them. toss the sliced white onion with the oil in a small bowl and strew the sliced onions over the chicken breasts. place the pan in the oven and cook for 35 to 50 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts. test for doneness by inserting an instant-read meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat; they're ready when the temperature registers 165 °F to 180 °F (another way to check: look for the juices run clear when pierced with a knife near the bone).

    *note: you can also roast an entire chicken this way -- just prepare the marinade in a similar way. using a small paring knife, cut slits in the thickest parts of the breast, thighs and tops of the legs with a stabbing motion, to help the marinade absorb. place the whole chicken in a roasting dish and arrange the onion slices around, placing a few inside the chicken cavity.

    garnish with fresh cilantro and wedges of lemon. serve with freshly cooked basmati rice and a fresh cilantro-coconut chutney and/or raita (both recipes below). serves 4.

    cilantro-coconut chutney
    • 1 bunch fresh cilantro (minus a bit used to garnish the chicken and/or make raita), stemmed and roughly chopped
    • 1 fresh jalapeno or serrano chile, stemmed, seeds and membranes removed, and minced
    • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
    • 4 tablespoons shredded coconut (unsweetened)
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon water, if needed
    • pinch of salt, to taste
    • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed (sometimes called brown mustard seed)
    in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle, grind the cilantro leaves, chile, ginger, coconut, sugar, lemon juice and oil (add water if needed to help process to a paste). when processed, add salt to taste. toast the mustard seeds in a pan over medium-high heat until they pop and turn grey, and stir into the chutney. refrigerate until time to serve.

    • 1 cup plain yogurt (regular or Greek)
    • 1/2 medium-large cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated
    • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
    • 5-6 cherry or grape tomatoes, diced
    • 2 green onions, minced
    • 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1-2 teaspoons of water or milk to thin sauce (if using Greek yogurt
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
    • 1 teaspoon black mustard seed (sometimes called brown mustard seed
    • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
    combine the yogurt, grated cucumber, carrots, tomatoes, green onion, cilantro, cumin, turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper, water or milk (if needed to thin the sauce a bit), salt, and sugar (if needed to balance flavor). toast the mustard seeds lightly in a pan over medium-high heat until they pop and turn grey (they add a wonderful toasty flavor), and stir into the raita. cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, taste for seasoning, and top with a pinch of garam masala to serve.

    Monday, August 27, 2012

    the best brownies

    update: I've tweaked this recipe, and it's much better. please try "the perfect brownies!" I think you'll like them even more.

    for years, the brownie recipe printed on each canister of Ghiradelli Sweet Ground Chocolate has been my favorite. alas and alack, I am currently unable to purchase that ambrosial substance, so I finally decided to try to adapt the recipe for cocoa and baking chocolate. I am pleased to report that the experiment was a success... no better than the Ghiradelli recipe, mind you, but just as good. I added extra sugar to make up for the sugar included in the Ghiradelli product. these brownies came out just as they should -- ooey, gooey, chewy, chocolatey, etc. oh happy day! *baker's note: I use kosher salt, and I like to stir it into the wet ingredients, rather than sift it in with the dry ones. either way will work.

    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
    • 4 ounces baking chocolate (I used Ghiradelli), chopped
    • 1-1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup cocoa (preferably dutched -- I used Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa with great results)
    • 2/3 cup flour (unsifted)
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, if you insist on this sort of thing (but I will never understand nuts in brownies) :-)
    preheat the oven to 350 °F. butter and flour an 8x8 baking pan(reduce to 325 °F if baking in a clear glass pan). place chopped chocolate in hot melted butter and allow chocolate to melt while preparing other ingredients. sift together the cocoa, flour and baking powder (and salt, if you like). in a large bowl, gently whisk the eggs just to combine the yolks and whites (you do not want to incorporate extra air here; brownies are best when dense and just barely leavened), then stir in the sugar, vanilla, and salt. add in the melted butter and chocolate, and stir to combine. gently stir half of the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, then the other half, until just combined (if you're using chopped nuts, add them now). pour ingredients into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. test center for doneness and continue to bake, checking every 5 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. cool on a rack and enjoy.

    Sunday, March 25, 2012


    Makes 12-16 cookies

    • 1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder*, sifted
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1-1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 egg
    • optional: 2 tablespoons whole milk, if needed
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 2-1/2 - 3 tablespoons cinnamon

    preheat oven to 350 ˚F, and butter a half-sheet baking pan** or cookie sheet. cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until fluffy. add the egg and vanilla, and whisk until completely smooth and incorporated. mix the flour, salt, nutmeg and (sifted!*) baking powder in a small bowl, and add the flour mixture to the butter/egg mixture. mix together just until it comes together. if it seems too dry and crumbly, add a 2 tablespoons of whole milk.
    mix 1/3 cup sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl***. scoop out the dough (I use a small ice cream scoop to get consistent cookies), roll them into balls between your palms. you're aiming for spheres that are approximately 1-1/2 inches in diameter. as you finish rolling each cookie, lightly drop it into the cinnamon sugar. pick up the bowl and swirl it around to coat the cookie dough completely, then place on the prepared baking sheet. give them about 3/4" clearance so they have some room to spread a little (they won't spread very much). they may all fit on your sheet pan or cookie sheet, but if that would crowd them, then bake them in two batches. pop the pan into the preheated oven and bake for 14 - 16 minutes; until golden brown. cool them on a baking rack.

    *baker's note: regarding baking powder and sifting: I generally don't sift flour these days for anything other than very fine and/or delicate pastries. almost every kind flour I find at the grocery these days works well without sifting (though I have a very strong preference for King Arthur flour) (<-- BTW, that link is purely for reference, the price is ridonkulous). everything I bake with it comes out well. baking powder and baking soda are another story. I've found that I absolutely need to sift baking powder and/or baking soda before measuring and using, because they're hygroscopic (they attract moisture from the air), which results in hard little clumps that don't break up properly when you mix your dough or batter (or whatever else you're baking). so for best results, sift your baking powder and/or baking soda in a sifter, push it through a small sieve or just thoroughly pulverize it with the back of a spoon before using. re-measure after you sift.

    **baker's note II: in case you're looking, I found a nice steel half sheet pan here; I don't like aluminum pans.

    ***baker's note III: you'll probably have a little leftover cinnamon sugar when you're done. I trust you know what to do with it (hint: buttered toast! mmmm). if that doesn't sit well with you, use a little less of the sugar and the cinnamon, but: you may run out. sometimes the little fellows pick up more cinnamon sugar than others!

    Saturday, March 24, 2012

    we interrupt our regular broadcast...

    so you're going to start seeing a few affiliate links here and there on this blog. I wanted to mention it now, before I go hog wild and it turns into links-only-no-recipes. okay, that's not going to happen. but every once in a while, there will be a link to something I consider relevant. I'm open to feedback re: your opinion of/experience with these things.

    I've become part of the LinkShare program, and if it's the sort of think you want to do, you can, too. or you can just take a look to see just how far I'm selling out (hint: not much). just click below:

    LinkShare Referral Program (<-- (please ignore that obnoxious little white box; I'll try to find a way to make that look less hideous ASAP)

    my goal is to keep the links unobtrusive, and to focus on the food, because, after all, it truly is all about the food!
    comments welcomed. thanks, and now back to our normal programming...

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    banana bread

    • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or finely ground sea salt)
    • 2 large eggs
    • 3 very ripe bananas (slightly over-ripe is ideal)
    • 1 tablespoon milk
    • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla (Mexican vanilla is great in this)
    • optional: 3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

    preheat the oven to 350 °F (325 °F if using glass pans). butter a loaf pan or a 9 x 13 cake pan.

    cream the butter, sugar and salt together thoroughly in a large mixing bowl; it should be light and fluffy when finished (a sturdy wooden spoon is perfect for this; switch to a sturdy whisk for the next step). add one egg, beat until fully incorporated, then add the other, and beat again until mixture is smooth and light.

    peel the bananas and break up into chunks into a smaller bowl, then mash with the milk, cinnamon and vanilla. whisk banana mixture into the butter/sugar/egg mixture until smooth (small chunks of banana are not only fine, of course, but desirable). add pecans (if using).

    add the flour, baking powder and baking soda to the banana mixture and whisk in carefully, until just combined. the batter will be fairly thick. using a spatula, transfer batter to baking dish and lightly smooth out the top. place in oven and bake ― 60-70 minutes for loaf pan; 45-55 minutes if using cake pan. banana bread is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out perfectly clean. place pan on cooling rack before cutting into serving pieces.

    Sunday, March 04, 2012

    introducing whole grains to improve "no-knead" bread

    update 03/05/2012: flour and water measurements adjusted slightly -- recipe writing is, indeed, a process.

    I've been continually baking homemade bread for a few weeks now, ever since I finally tried Jim Lahey's "no-knead" bread. along the way, I've made some slight changes to the technique. I've scaled down the basic recipe to use a little more than 2 cups of flour/batch (which makes a loaf both my roommate and I like), and I've also been maintaining a lively sourdough that I use that to raise the bread. it's easy to substitute for yeast -- use about 1/4 - 1/3 cup recently-fed, vigorous loose starter (I keep mine about the thickness of pancake batter just because it's easier to deal with) to substitute for the 1/4 teaspoon yeast called for in the recipe, and adjust the amounts of flour and water down a bit to accommodate. I do add the tiniest dash of yeast to ensure the dough will rise in a reasonable amount of time (which for me is 8 - 16 hours); I could just as easily leave that out and allow a full 16 - 30 hours for a slow rise (part of that in the refrigerator, to develop flavor and keep from exhausting the yeast), but I prefer to keep my bread proofing on the countertop. I've scaled the flour and water adjustments below to work with a mixture of King Arthur Bread Flour and King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour to get some whole grain into my daily bread, and the flavor and texture are excellent. please do remember that flour is different everywhere and dough acts different almost every time you bake it -- you're looking for the same dough characteristics at the beginning (sort of wet and shaggy) before the bulk rise, and will add more flour after that when you actually CAN do a little bit of kneading if you want , although you really only need to do a couple of folds. when I fold, I use a roll-up fold, scroll down a bit after you click the link to see it. when I'm in the mood to knead, after the fold I just give it a bit of a knead, just a few times. you don't want to knock all the bubbles out. proceed with the recipe technique as in my own variation on the classic "no-knead" recipe, but use the following ingredients to add flavor, some whole grain and interest to your loaf:

    • 1/4 - 1/3 cup sourdough starter** (and I often, OFTEN augment this with the tiniest dash of Red Star active dry yeast -- maybe 10 grains?). if you don't have sourdough or just don't feel like feeding it, use 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast.
    • 1-1/4 cup King Arthur bread flour
    • 1 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour (*a note on this flour: it uses a different variety of wheat and is ground finer than regular whole wheat flour, but still uses the whole grain. it produces a creamy, ivory-colored flour with a wonderful whole-grain flavor that's more refined than regular whole wheat flour -- I love it! and the crusts of the finished loaves come out the most gorgeous burnished, shiny brown color, with an off-white/ivory crumb)
    • 1 cup filtered water
    • 1 teaspoon mild rice vinegar (*optional, depending on the sourness of your starter; if not desired, add another tablespoon filtered water if needed)
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    the dough will seem a bit wetter than regular no-knead at first -- that's because it takes the white whole wheat flour a bit longer to absorb water. mix it together well with a wooden spoon, cover with plastic wrap and bulk-ferment overnight (8-16 hours -- it's flexible), then check the texture and you should find it's just right. if anything, it may need a sprinkle of flour to knead.

    the finished loaves are tasty and lovely! I'd love to hear what you think.

    **I'll post on creating and maintaining a happy sourdough starter with a minimum (or no) waste very soon -- this latest one is the simplest, liveliest and the most effective sourdough I've ever used.

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    no-knead bread for two

    I love no-knead bread — Jim Lahey's recipe (published in 2006 in the New York Times) turned everyone into fabulous baker boys (and girls). not only is it outrageously easy, it's also beautiful and delicious with nothing more than the four essential bread ingredients (flour, water, yeast and salt). and talk about versatile! you can add all kinds of wonderful things to the dough (kalamata olives, roasted garlic, rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, chunks of Italian cheese and salami — or go the sweet route, with dried cranberries and orange zest, cinnamon and raisins — you're pretty much limited only by your imagination), and/or you can make a few delicious variations on the crust (sprinkle it with a bit of sea salt, poppy and/or sesame seeds, grated parmesan, etc.). just don't add too much of anything, because you want to leave plenty of crust exposed to get wonderfully browned and crunchy. I've found the original recipe, which calls for three-cups-of-flour, makes a bit too much bread for two people, so I make a two-cup loaf with slightly altered proportions and baking times.

    note: I know these instructions are long for such an easy recipe; I want to include all the tips/tricks I've learned along the way (including my ridiculous OCD-influenced clean-as-you-go habits). despite my verbiage, this is probably the easiest bread recipe you'll ever encounter, and the loaves you bake will be gorgeous, rustic beauties that make you wonder why you ever paid $5 or more for bread that's THIS easy. but you're not one of those chumps; you're a baker now!

    • 2 cups flour (King Arthur bread flour is the BEST, darn them to heck for not paying me to say that, but all-purpose flour works great, too)
    • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon filtered water
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon yeast (it still takes the same amount of yeast, for some reason) (I heart Red Star yeast — there's an affiliate link below to buy it at Amazon, if you can't find it locally — it's about 10 times tastier and more reliable than Fleischman's)
    mix the dough ingredients together. no need to knead (har); just mix it in a bowl with a wooden spoon or whatever you prefer, until it's sort of shaggy and the ingredients are reasonably distributed. it won't be smooth or perfect at this point, and that's fine. cover your bowl (I use a dinner plate; plastic wrap's fine, too). make sure your bowl's big enough to allow to dough to double in size!

    now walk away from it and forget it for 12-18 hours — I like to make mine in the early evening, and then bake it first thing when I wake up. 

    when it's time to bake:
    • remove the plate and beam down at your dough. it should have risen and will have some bubbles on the surface. sprinkle a little flour on the top and on your hands, and dig down in there to loosen the sides of the dough ball from the bowl. fold the dough over onto itself a couple of times.
    • wipe the plate free of condensation, set it on the counter and sprinkle it with some flour. tip the dough out onto the plate, and dust the top with yet more flour. put the bowl in the sink and fill with cold water to soak (you don't want to activate the gluten in the flour when you're cleaning out the bowl — it's a mess!).
    • get out your trusty Le Creuset casserole (or cast iron dutch oven; I've heard even Pyrex will work — just make sure it's big enough to hold your bread once it's expanded, made of thick material that will heat evenly, and that any knobs and/or handles it may have won't melt) and put it in the oven, lid and all. set the oven temperature to 450 ∘F and let it heat for 30 minutes.
    • in the meantime, form the dough into a boule (ball). do this by cupping your hands over the top of the dough, smoothing it down the sides and tucking it underneath. rotate the dough a little and repeat (keeping your hands/the boule lightly floured as needed to prevent sticking). after the first couple of rotations, turn the boule over and pinch the seam at the bottom together, but just do it ONE time — after that, don't worry about it. you're going to flip the boule upside-down when you bake it, and the seam will function as a slash would; allowing the dough to expand (plus the finished loaf will look all professional and artisanal and whatnot. trust me). shaping is KEY for this bread, IMO. some people say it doesn't matter, but the texture of the finished bread is so much better when the dough is well-formed into a nice, tight ball, so keep going for a few minutes until you get there. your bread will taste good regardless, but a well-formed boule will make you feel like a rockstar when it's baked.
    • once you've formed your rockstar boule of dough, clean out that bowl you stuck in the sink and dry it. place it upside-down over the dough while the oven continues to heat to keep the boule from drying out.
    • after the oven and casserole have heated for 30 minutes, peek under that bowl on the counter to see if the dough has risen sufficiently. if you don't feel it has, give it another 10-15 minutes to do so. the boule doesn't have to double in bulk. I find 30 minutes of rising is usually plenty (unless my kitchen is really cold), but it doesn't take me long to shape the dough — maybe 3 minutes total? if it takes you significantly longer, give your dough a bit more time to rise.
    • once the oven's nice and hot and the dough's risen, put on your good pot holders and remove the HOT casserole (or dutch oven) from your oven. take the lid off and set aside on top of the stove for a moment (somewhere it won't melt through everything down to the center of the earth). you want to take your lovely boule of dough and flip it upside-down, ending up seam-side up in the casserole, without burning yourself or completely deflating the dough in the process. experiment to find the method that works best for you — I pick up the dough gently, ending up with it seam-side-down in my hand, and then I flip it over while placing it in the pan. don't worry too much about getting it perfectly centered or anything like that.
    • slip those potholders back on. at this point, you can gently shake the dutch oven to get the dough better-centered/more even, if you want. I find that if you've formed the boule correctly, it all works out no matter what. put the lid back on and pop the whole thing back into your oven for about 25 minutes.
    • after 25 minutes, peek under the lid and check out your bread. at this point, it should have risen nicely, and should be a light golden-brown (if it's still pale, put the lid back on and bake it for 5-10 more minutes). take the lid off and place the casserole back into the oven to let the crust brown for 10-20 minutes longer (I find 12 minutes is just about perfect for mine), until it's a lovely burnished brown. use those potholders one more time to remove the casserole from the oven and set it down somewhere safe (again, like the top of the stove). remove the bread from the casserole pan to a cooling rack (I use a couple of wooden or non-melting silicone spatulas — you use whatever works for you).
    • let it cool at least 20 minutes before slicing into it; longer if you can stand it — it's still finishing baking inside, even after it's out of the oven. when it's cool enough, slice with a sharp bread knife and check out your awesome bread. yes, you do rock.
    Red Star Baking Yeast is available through my Amazon affiliate link if you can't find it locally.