Fall Archive

Monday, September 22, 2014

sunken apple and honey cake

sunken apple and honey cake

There are recipes on my Cook This list that I’ve been plotting for years but take forever to jump from that place where they’re a rough idea of how I think something might taste good and how I’ll make that happen. There are items on the list which are just the names of dishes I haven’t tried yet and want to learn more about. And there are recipes that make me kick myself every time I see them because how have we not made a good hearty tortilla soup here yet? And where is that Russian napoleon I’ve been promising you? But this here is none of the above. Exactly one month ago, someone emailed me (hi Angela!) and asked if I had ever made a German Sunken Apple Cake [which sounds even cooler in its native language: Versunkener Apfelkuchen] and I had barely finished reading the email before I had a new tab open because I had to immediately know what it was.

four deceptively tiny apples
peeled, halved, cored

What it was is adorable. Seriously, it’s relentlessly cute. Small apples are peeled, halved, cored and then scored and arranged rump-up on a buttery cake base and in the oven, the cake begins to creep up around them and the apples fan out like accordions and the whole thing is so golden, dimpled and lovely that I abandoned all hopes, plans to do anything else until I could make this happen. (Perhaps predictably, this still took three weeks.)

many slices, but don't cut through

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

cauliflower slaw

cauliflower slaw

Given my druthers, a word I’ve been looking for an excuse to type in a sentence for at least eight years, I would never choose a salad with lettuce in it over one that’s mostly shaved or shredded raw vegetables. I mean, lettuce — the dewy, freshly-plucked-from-the-earth stuff that spends a couple months a year gracing local farmer’s markets — can be absolutely delicious, but nine times out of ten, the same word is used to refer to that packaged stuff that doesn’t taste like a whole lot. And can we talk for just a second about that prematurely rotten red leaf that no bag of mesclun is ever without? Clearly I have spent an unnatural amount of time thinking about this. But in a world filled with avocado cup salads, broccoli slaw, butternut squash, carrot salads with harissa, feta and mint or tahini and crisped chickpeas, chopped salads with lime, sunflower seeds and radishes, crushed peas with sesame dressing and fennel with blood oranges* I’ve found little reason to worship solely at the salad altar of baby field greens.

what you'll neeed
thinly sliced raw cauliflower

Ever since I made one of my favorite salads to date, the broccoli slaw, I have wanted to make a cauliflower slaw companion for it, and I know this because I have listed it no less than five times on my sprawling To Cook list. I knew that I wanted it to be “mayo-free,” with a “sharp lemony dressing.” I knew that I wanted it to have “tiny dried currants” in it, and that maybe I’d soak/plump them in the dressing for a while so they added more than just sweetness. I knew that, like the broccoli slaw, it should have well-toasted almonds in it, and that I didn’t mind if it had capers in it, especially if they were crispy. But I couldn’t figure out the structure — I was convinced that cauliflower, shaved thinly, would be nothing but a pile of rubble, but not in a charming way. And then a couple months ago a cauliflower salad appeared on the menu of my favorite restaurant, Barbuto in the West Village (which also brought us this kale salad), and to my delight, it turned out to have many elements of the cauliflower slaw I’d been dreaming about — theirs with raisins, hazelnuts and a unholy helping of olive oil — and the cauliflower had been shaved thin on an adjustable-blade slicer and it was perfect. Sure, there was some rubble but there was an equal amount of nicely intact slices and all I wanted to go home and make it the very next second.

cooling the almonds outside

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

sweet potato cake with marshmallow frosting

sweet potato cake with toasted marshmallow frosting

I hope you don’t mind me going briefly off-topic here. I know that the holiday week demands exclusive chatter about giblets and squash and all the things we can pour butter and cream into, but I had the best revelation this week and even though it’s about as revolutionary of a concept as, brr, it’s cold outside in November, I’m going to tell you about it anyway because that’s what I do here.

sweet potato fuzzy pumper barber shop
the fall spice lineup

It began, as distress often does, on Sunday night when I should have been watching Homeland and going to sleep early. Instead, I was on the internet when I came across a gorgeous apartment only to look up from the laptop and see my own decidedly less gorgeous apartment sprawled out before me, and said, as I have a zillion Sunday nights before this one, “Why is this place such a MESS?” And continued, “Alex, look at this apartment on the web. Why can’t we do this? We have these to-do piles everywhere and whole weekends pass and we never get to them and uuuugh.” And my husband, he of few words but exceptional insight, said “We went to the Museum of Natural History today.”

add the sweet potatoes to the batter

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

cauliflower with brown butter crumbs

cauliflower with brown butter crumbs

This site is 7 years, 4 months and 5 days old, which is exactly how long I’ve been meaning to tell you about one of my favorite ways to make cauliflower. You think I would have gotten around to it already, as it’s the very cauliflower dish I ever knew, but instead I’ve been distracting us with quiches* and soups, and pasta and fritters. It’s a shame, as this is so much easier to make.

everything but the butter
cauliflower in giant florets

My mother used to steam a whole head of cauliflower, and when it was about done, melt a pat or two of butter in a cast-iron frying pan (back when all of our skillets were cast-iron, and I found them heavy and annoying and embarrassingly old-fashioned; oh, Deb), then toss in enough seasoned breadcrumbs (always seasoned “Italian-style” which makes me chuckle because what would Italian seasoning be in Italy, salt and pepper?**) to absorb the butter and cook them until they were a browned together. This would be sprinkled on and pressed against the cauliflower and it’s really no surprise that I become a cauliflower person, is it? Salty butter, brown butter-crisped crumbs will do that to a person.

getting ready to brown the butter

Continued after the jump »

Monday, November 18, 2013

green bean casserole with crispy onions

green bean casserole with crispy onions

One of the best food books I read last year but rudely never got around to telling you about (in my defense, this time last year was a little nuts) was a 135-page, photo-free and straightforward guide called Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well by the New York Times former restaurant critic and sometimes newsroom editor Sam Sifton. And although I realize there is barely a page on the internet or of printed matter near you right now not currently angling to be the one that gets to walk you through the biggest home cooking holiday of the year next week, I like this one more. Maybe it’s because one of the earliest lines in the book is “You can go your whole life and then wake up one morning and look in the refrigerator at this animal carcass the size of a toddler and think: I have to cook that today. There is no need to worry. Thanksgiving does not have to be a drag,” and continues in that empathetic but not remotely patronizing tone for the remainder of the book, cheering you on through turkey purchases and homemade stock, classic sides and newer ones worthy of consideration, game plans and even tidbits on seating, such as whether it’s okay to separately seat the Republican, Marxist and Free Spirit factions of your extended family (in short: yes, absolutely yes).

halved and thinly sliced onion
onions tossed with flour, crumbs and seasoning

But it’s more likely because the book is compact, something you could drop in your bag and read later on the subway and be transported away from the crowds and airlessness to a glowy evening late in every November when you can shed all the crutches usually required to get through the day (shortcuts, irony, rushing, a mega-latte in a to-go cup, permanently adhered to your hand), set a table (any plywood over milk crates will do), forgo the appetizers (Sifton is adamantly anti-salad or anything else on Thanksgiving that will take up valuable stomach space better saved for foods draped with butter, cream, maple syrup and bacon*) and reminisce about that silly time you spent half the day making an gourmet sous-vide vegetable confit when all anyone really wants is the casserole they’ve always secretly loved and only get to revisit once a year.

cook a handful at a time, spread out

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