September, 2011 Archive

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

apple and honey challah

apple honey challah, sliced

This month has came and has now almost gone and I’ve missed it entirely. It’s a shame, because September is my second favorite but less of a shame than it would be if I am still saying the same about October, which is my actual favorite. Nevertheless, I put my foot down and decided I absolutely, unequivocally would not let this month go without at least making you an apple honey challah. Due to my innate gift for impeccable timing (ha), I got the idea for this about two days after the High Holidays ended last year. So, for the better part of 12 months, I’ve plotted this spin on traditional challah and am still about six hours late on it. Typical.

baking with macs

Honey challahs are surprisingly easy — you simply swap sugar for honey, and you can increase it for a stronger honey flavor. Apple challahs, however, are challenging, mostly because larger chunks of baked apple are far more satisfying to bite into you than pea-sized ones, but they’re also tricky to work into a soft dough, and then shape that dough with a traditional braid. Many recipes I saw for apple challah forewent the braid, and baked the bread in a tin instead but it felt too much like cake to me. Plus, I like playing with Play-Doh bread dough far too much to do that. So, I came to two agreements with my dough. One, that I would not put so much apple in that it was more cake than bread, and also nearly impossible to shape and two, that if apple chunks fell out — and of course, they will — I’d just poke them back in. I’m pretty sure you’re picturing me right now negotiating with a large blob of dough on a speckled counter and your premonition would be correct. At least I’m not talking to myself, right?

spread 2/3 of apple chunks, fold over spread remaining chunks, fold again
tuck into ball, ready for rise 2 flatten, divide into four

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

roasted tomato soup with broiled cheddar

might have bubbled over a little

Lest you think I spend any part of my days doing Important Things — preparing, and totally not at the last second or haphazardly, for my only child’s second birthday, or for his first week of pre-preschool; assembling warm, wholesome meals for his lunch each day; meeting my manuscript deadline; dealing with the shoe bomb that went off in my closet, etc. — it’s only fair and honest that I tell you that I’ve spent a significant portion of the last year considering ways to merge grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup in a single vessel.

ready to roast
in to be processed

In a way, though, it relates to all of those things (well, not the shoes). There’s something very back-to-school-ish about tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and because it’s still September, if you’re lucky, you can still get some tomatoes worth eating, and if not that, at least worth cooking down. In my imagined intersections of grilled cheese and tomato soup, I dreamed of grilled cheese croutons in one-inch rounds but rejected it for being overly precious. I considered grilled cheese bread bowls, but never worked out the logistics. But it was when I revisited the ne plus ultra combination of cheese and soup — French Onion Soup — this past spring that I knew unequivocally that the very best solution would be to simply broil an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich on top of a bowl of tomato soup. The only thing left to do was to wait (and wait, and wait) for the slim overlap of tomato season, soup season and a gloomy, rainy week. And that, my friends, brings us to today.

pulsed roasted tomatoes, so good

Continued after the jump »

Monday, September 12, 2011

red wine chocolate cake

red wine chocolate cake

Saturday night, New York City was the loudest I’d heard it in a long time. I should preface this by saying that I live in a noisy part of an already noisy neighborhood and under the best of circumstances — NYU students gone for the summer, long holiday weekend, rain — there’s always a Saturday night ruckus. But this was something else. This woke me up. I swear, I heard a trumpet, more sirens than feasibly possible, people cheering like the Yankees had won the World Series (did they? no wait, something about football?) and when I went to the window, I saw a Vespa go down the sidewalk and I couldn’t get back to sleep. For the eve of such a somber anniversary, there was hardly anyone bummed out after midnight. I like that about this place, even grudgingly, even at 1 am.

the line-up, with bedell first crush!

I don’t have a 9/11 story. It barely happened to me. I mean, it very much happened to me, it happened to my city, I lived here at the time and it broke my heart. But I didn’t work down there, I didn’t know anyone that did, and were I to spin any kind of dramatic retelling, it would be inauthentic as it’s just not my story to tell. I wasn’t even on the island at the time, as I worked in the Bronx back then and I remember, distinctly, and in hardly my finest moment, feeling like I immensely hated my life right then, stranded miles and miles from everyone I cared about, stuck at the kind of job where they asked you to get back to work shortly after the first plane crashed. I wanted a different path, I just didn’t know how to forge it for myself.

swirly batter

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, September 8, 2011

roasted eggplant with tomatoes and mint

roasted eggplant with tomatoes and mint

One of the things I’ve been fiddling around with last year is the idea of making bruschetta without, you know, bread. I shared a Thanksgiving-inspired version last November, but was itching for a late summer spin on it when I created this. I’m the kind of person who would happily eat appetizers for dinner any day — I’m pretty sure if I had nobody else to feed, I’d have subsisted on nothing but pan con tomate, blistered padrons, pink wine and Gossip Girl season one reruns the entire month of August — but it doesn’t really cut it with a family of three.

ricotta salata, salty love

Instead, I spend a lot of time throwing things together for the sake of being a grown-up, a grown-up who doesn’t really have an excuse (such as, she hates cooking or doesn’t know how to cook, etc.) not to make dinner but still forgot to make it again, and quite often, these meals involve some element of roasting the bleep out of well-seasoned vegetables high heat cookery. For the kid, that usually suffices but we grownups get bored more easily, and it’s from that boredom that I started making small, finely chopped and loudly flavored salads and spooning them on top of my roasted vegetable du jour. In this case, it’s eggplant with a Mediterranean-ish topping. We found it completely addictive and less heavy somehow than eating the same on pieces of toast.

alone in the kitchen with an eggplant

Continued after the jump »

Friday, September 2, 2011

peach butter

happy breakfast

We spent last weekend in New Orleans. I’d been invited to be on a panel about recipe development at a lovely conference, and we wove that together with a baby-free mini-vacation for our anniversary weekend. We’d only been to New Orleans once before, just a couple months before our wedding in 2005, not realizing how strongly we’d feel connected to the city when our wedding and Hurricane Katrina fell on the same date. Meanwhile, we managed to miss another hurricane — and her damages — entirely back home. We’re lucky people.

streetcar
we called her Irene

When we go away, we always have great plans to walk everywhere and eat freely, hoping to strike a balance. However, that arrangement works out a little better in a city that doesn’t have the still air and intense heat of a preheated oven — summer there is no joke! So, we walked slowly and ate immensely. I wanted to tell you about all of it — the tomato salad with battered Vidalia “chips”! the boudin! the po’ boys! — but when I typed it all together, it was a terrifying thing to behold. I couldn’t even own up to it on a weblog that extols good eating. [Hint: I had at least four dishes smothered in gravy. In three nights!] But I will tell you about the brunch platter that nearly did me in, and had it, it would have been a fine, fine way to go: eggs, grits, fried green tomatoes, bacon, a giant warm biscuit and the owner’s own peach butter made to slather upon it. “You’re going to have to roll me home from New Orleans!” I told my husband, after which we vowed to find healthier fare on our final day (but still ended up with a beignet breakfast, muffaletta lunch and then pralines boxed up as gifts. New Orleans is snickering at me right now, I know it is.)

Continued after the jump »