January, 2009 Archive

Monday, January 19, 2009

smashed chickpea salad

smashed chickpea salad sandwich

It has been over one week since I told you about the Light Wheat Bread (and just as long since we’ve been out of it, sob), a post I ended with a promise to tell you about my new favorite sandwich next. But instead I told you about Clementine Cakes and then Mushroom Bourguignon and Chouquettes and do you know what happened? Not a single person griped that they were owed a sandwich. Because really, who does that?

zesting the lemonjuicing the lemon

I take issue with the banality of most sandwich recipes. I will actually change the channel if I see a food program that walks viewers through making one of any kind. I mean, is this how low the bar has dropped for “cooking”? But it’s not the shows that are to blame, I think, or not fully: it’s the sandwiches. Most sandwiches are dull. Some sliced stuff and schmear between two uninspired slices of bread. Who can stay awake for that?

ready to mix and mash

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

sugar puffs


I have been wanting to make the sugar puffs known as chouquettes forever, or at least as long as it has been since I read about them for the first time on Chocolate and Zucchini. I loved Clotilde’s descriptions of buying them by weight in French bakeries and how the best part is eating the sugar crystals (by licking your finger and reaching in, of course) that have collected in the bottom of the bag. They’re apparently the after-school goûter, or snack of choice, for the French schoolkid set and though I might be getting a late start on them, I am quickly making up for lost time.

mini chips and pearl sugarblending in the flourpiping the moundschouquettes, ready to bake

Chouquettes are actually really simple: they are based on the “paste” or pâte à choux dough that is also used to form cream puffs, éclairs and gougères — a simple mix of water, melted butter, flour and eggs. There’s only a smidgen of sugar in them, which is why that craggy pearl sugar on top, or — who are we kidding — a deluge of miniature chocolate chips, are so essential. And it was precisely the absence of that pearl sugar that caused my, ahem, five-plus year delay in making them.

sugar puffs

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

mushroom bourguignon

mushroom bourguignon

When it is as cruelly cold out as it has been this week, beef bourguignon is one of my favorite things. If there is anything better than a symphony of onions, carrots, red wine, broth and a scoop of tomato paste simmered for hours, I haven’t met it. I don’t want to meet it. I already know my favorite.

big grimy portobellosbig fat mushroom slices

Julia Child’s recipe was always my mother’s go-to dish for company and back in the day, the smell of it braising in the oven was enough to get me to reconsider my vegetarianism. I cheated more than once, ladling the braise broth over egg noodles, and never felt that I wasn’t missing a thing. In fact, I always argued that most of the things people thought they liked about meat they actually liked about the sauces and braises and spices they were cooked in, which is why I have been dreaming up a vegetable based bourguignon for ages.

reducing the winethickened up

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

clementine cake

clementine cake

Last year, when I made that dud of a clementine clafoutis a whole bunch of you brought Nigella Lawson’s Clementine Cake to my attention. But, by that point in the winter I was tired of clementines and filed it away to try the following year.

It was a long wait. When you know you want to make something but the item is out of season, it seems like its time will never arrive. Last week, I came upon an artichoke recipe that is clearly designed to blow my artichoke-loving mind but are artichokes (that you’d want to buy, not that one with a fuzzy pelt I saw last week) anywhere? Nope. And tomatoes… flavorful, non-mealy tomatoes. I can’t even think about how far off they are. It makes me weep.

darling clementines

Nevertheless, I suspect that each and every one of our households has adopted one or ten of these crates this winter. I think we’re on box four or five, which is kind of frightening when you realize there are just two of us. So I don’t think about it.

boiling the clementinesboiled clementine, bustedboiled clementinespureed clementines

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

light wheat bread

light wheat bread, thinly sliced

I don’t think it is a big deal if other people buy sandwich bread pre-sliced in a soft plastic bag from some factory bakery that specializes in long shelf lives. But I do think it’s a shame that someone like me who: a) enjoys, nay, loves baking bread, b) always remarks that if something has no flavor, it’s probably not worth the calories, c) works from home, meaning that the 15 minutes of labor and four hours of idle time that goes into making a delicious loaf of light whole wheat bread is more than doable, and d) owns two of the best bread-baking books out there still buys that pre-sliced stuff all of the time.

flourdry ingredientspowdered milkready to rise

This week I decided “no more!” And I set out to find a whole wheat bread recipe would be soft but tough enough for sandwiches and have such an amazing flavor that I’d no longer find that tasteless bagged stuff worth buying. You know, just a few stipulations. Not surprisingly, I had look no further than Peter Reinhart, whose Bread Baker’s Apprentice has not one but two whole wheat sandwich breads. In the end, I rejected the 100 percent whole wheat version, though I might get to it down the road, as I have to admit that I don’t need my sandwich bread to be that earnest and it felt like more work than I wanted to put into a bread that I essential use as a peanut butter and jelly vehicle. While we’re being honest and stuff.

forming the loaf

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