January, 2007 Archive

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

sweet and spicy candied pecans

a monday salad

We eat salad almost every single night with dinner, but if I told you about all of them, you’d be bored to tears. Ninety percent of the time it is some variation of arugula, radicchio, endive or butter lettuce with a basic vinaigrette. At least in the everyday salad department, I like it simple.

Most of the time. Other times, I am crafting a plan, and Monday night that plan included me avoiding our leftovers by being too full for them. Time for a confession! I’m terrible at eating leftovers. Day old meat has this, I don’t know, musk to it that turns my stomach. I can smell it before I taste it; I can barely choke down two bites. Just about the only foods that I find equally good, if not better in the days that follow are quiches, tarts, soups and legume-full things, like that chili. Unfortunately, on Monday it was just piles of that pappardelle ragu. Alex couldn’t wait to dive into it, but I made us a big, elaborate salad.

Now, I know there is nothing new about endive bulked with arugula, red onion, crumbled blue cheese, apples and toasted nuts but I will argue that this everyday salad warrants mention because I tried a spicy, candied pecan recipe I’ve long had bookmarked and loved it. Toasted spiced nuts are a fairly particular thing; around the holidays you see so many recipes, it’s nearly impossible to see the great ones from the greasy, heavy, oddly-flavored or soggy. In the end, of course, it’s just personal taste that leads you to one over the other and mine is very pleased with the texture and kick of this. Consider it, will you? And let me know if you’ve got a version you swear by.

Continued after the jump »

Monday, January 22, 2007

hibernation fare

saturday frittata

It must be cold outside or something because all I have wanted as of late is the kind of grub that sticks to your ribs and sends you into a food cocoon for hours. It’s an odd sensation for a girl who hates feeling weighted down after a meal, and yet, salad has seemed an insult to freezing fingers and chapped lips, thin soups a cry for help and even my favorite dumplings have seemed too bright and springy this week. Go away, you peppy foods, I declare, and don’t come back until I can feel my toes.

Saturday morning I made another of those frittatas I’d mentioned a couple weeks back, hoping those potatoes, bacon and eggs with a toasted English muffin would make the icy breeze in Brooklyn less cruel and unforgivable, but no dice. (Though we loved it, despite all that, and I encourage you to design your own favorite frittata with on-hand ingredients.) We returned in the evening with intent make a reservation at whichever fireplace-d and cozy restaurant would take us but when first through fourth choices failed to see our charms, we started reminiscing about that three-bean chili I used to make with cheddar-jalapeno cornbread and suddenly, the idea of smarting up and going to a restaurant seemed utterly ridiculous. Go out? But why? We stayed in, spiced up and let Jennifer Hudson croon a hole in our speakers with a top-secret copy of Dreamgirls, happy as clams.

chili night

Continued after the jump »

Friday, January 19, 2007

grapefruit yogurt cake

grapefruit yogurt cake

We’ve torn into so many grapefruits this month, our fingertips have a near-permanent zest scent, I keep finding tiny juice capsules throughout the apartment and more pertinently, I have become fixated on finding a way to bring their bitter, sour-sweet flavor to a baked good. Unfortunately, my husband was convinced it wouldn’t work, and that it would be “weird.” Fortunately, I never listen to him.

grapefruit yogurt cake

In her latest cookbook, Ina Garten takes what I consider her best recipe yet — her lemon pound cake — and tries to lighten it up. As I’ve already expressed my disdain for Food Networkian notions of “light food,” I’ll skip the there’s-no-hope eye roll and simply state that in comparing the new and the old recipes, the butter is replaced with an equal amount oil, one-third of a cup of buttermilk is replaced with one cup of whole milk yogurt, and an extra egg is added and in the “lighter version.” That said, just because it may not exactly mesh with whatever your notion of diet food is doesn’t mean that yogurt does not a wonderful cake crumb make.

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

six oddities + one apple glory

sow's ear baked apple pancake

I’m not a huge fan of memes, but Marce is simply too adorable to resist responding to. That said, limiting my food weirdness to six bulleted points was no small feat. I have innumerable food opinions and culinary soap-boxes, as anyone who has ever been stuck in a conversation with me that I have, yet again, segued to food can attest as their eyes glaze over and feet shifting toward the door. I believe that my husband has legitimate concern that I will one day shoot the television the next time one of the Food Network’s “healthy eating” episodes that suggest you make cheesecake with fat-free ricotta but still eat a wedge the size of your head as portion comes on, or when Michael Chiarello seasons his pasta water with a fistful of grey salt.

Come, step into my great tangle of food hang-ups and see if you still like me when you’ve made it to the end:

1. After being a vegetarian for more than 15 years, the thing I took most quickly to was bacon, followed by any sort of pork, mussels and then beefy stews in butter-enriched sauces. Perhaps I wasn’t so much a “vegetarian” all those years but “rebelling against Jewish food.” Meanwhile, I have no love for typically easy-to-love non-vegetarian items such as chicken, turkey and shrimp. I’d pretty much rather eat a beet than a grilled chicken cutlet, which I will insist to my dying day tastes closer to cardboard than something edible.

2. As the above should suggest I’m really quite the curmudgeon about food; cooking allows me to hide this: I hate beets, green peppers on anything but pizza and even then not really, find cilantro (the green, not the powdered spice or seed) distasteful, as well as most teas, broccoli rabe and kale,all chais, cardamom, caviar, cheese-stuffed or coated items, dolma, minestrone, coconut curries, mustard that looks like yellow paint, the vast majority of fruit juices, nectars and smoothies and the vast majority of California cabernets and chardonnays I have tried. Another wildly popular thing that bores me: molecular gastronomy. Please, don’t make me eat foam.

3. Discussing dieting makes me want to stick pins under my fingernails.

4. I will make bread, pasta, sauces, candy, you name it, from scratch but I find soaking my own beans too tedious to be worthwhile. That said, I used to feel this way about homemade pasta, and considering how currently enamored I am with it, I am eager to be bean-soaking converted, like if someone could convince me the flavor really is vastly superior.

5. I will defend Rachael Ray until the bitter end.

6. I am really, really not in the mood to cook tonight and hope this doesn’t mean I am broken.

But wait, there’s more: It took me a whole 24-hours to break down and make the Sow’s Ear Baked Apple Pancake Luisa posted about this weekend and truly, I shouldn’t have even waited that long. Oh puffy, buttery, apple-y gloriousness, I have such plans for more formats for you: Strawberries! Blueberries! Bananas! Pears! This is not hugely different from the German Pancake/Dutch Baby I made a couple months ago, albeit with fewer eggs, more milk, slightly less flour, a little more butter and of course those sauteed apples, and, sigh, I just don’t know how I ever liked it without them. Go. Make this and convert yourself, too.

Monday, January 15, 2007

fresh pasta + basic tomato sauce

seven-layer lasagne

I have been enamored with the idea of thousand-layer lasagne since I first saw Heidi’s recipe for it on 101 Cookbooks. From “whisper-thin sheets” and “crunchy and caramelized” to her threat to “fight you for a corner piece,” I knew instantaneously this approach would be the answer to the deadweight-style baked pasta that has long kept me away. But, just like last weekend’s English muffins, it took Ruth Reichl’s whisper in my ear, er, email inbox, about “sheets so thin you could practically read the newspaper through them” to convince me not to wait any longer. I had to make it.

pasta, new school
self -portrait in upended bowl

But first, we had to buy a pasta roller. Unlike the artichoke ravioli, which I was able to form through hand-rolling, pressing lasagne noodles into impossibly thin sheets sounded like torture by hand. The machine cost about fifty percent more than I had hoped, but at that point was too obsessed with this baklazagne to care. One cinch of a sheeted noodle later, my doubts had evaporated, and as I ran it through setting after setting, thinner and yet thinner still, I couldn’t bring myself to stop one mark shy of the thinnest as Heidi has suggested, instead going all the way to 9 (baby). At its slimmest, the noodles were translucent, nearly impossible to keep flat and had almost torn-paper like edges, which I didn’t bother to trim clean.

Continued after the jump »