Tuesday, November 14

Pomegranate Pork Chops with Winter Tabbouleh

Casa Moro is a book I coveted for a long time before buying a few months ago. I'd read so much about it in the blogging world, that I knew it had to be good. It's a colorful and beautiful book. It's pages are full of the commentary of an English family living in Spain - a couple and their two adorable children. The food is full of robust flavors, but the recipes are all very authentic, and they promise meals that are simple and delicious, like the foods that families serve in their homes all over the Mediteranean.

I took one look at the Winter Tabblouleh recipe and knew it would be the first thing I would make. I'd never really seen a recipe like it, and it looked gorgeous - bulgar, cauliflower, walnuts, pomegranate seeds, mint and parsley - just the sort of dish to lift your spirits in the dark days of winter.

I had some great looking pork chops I wanted to serve with the tabbouleh, and it was a cold night, so instead of creating a raw salad, I decided to cook the vegetables before assembling the salad. I had never used pomegranate molasses before, and was excited at the chance to pull it out of my cupboard, where it's been gathering dust for over a year now. The dressing for the tabbouleh was dead simple - pomegranate molasses, cinnamon, a crushed garlic clove, water, olive oil, salt and pepper. At first taste, I was worried - the molasses tasted like cherry cough syrup to me.... but after letting it sit for awhile, I returned and found that it had transformed into a much more sophisticated version of what I had tasted just 20 minutes before - the sweetness had mellowed and I was intrigued - this was a taste I'd never experienced before.

A last minute decision on my part turned the dressing for the salad into a sauce for the pork; I had browned the chops on the stovetop, then added some stock and popped them in the oven to finish cooking. When they were done, I removed the pan from the oven, set the chops aside, and added the pomegranate dressing to the pork juices and stock in the pan and cooked briefly to make a thick, dark sauce to pour over the pork.

I was pretty excited about how this dish turned out - the sweetness of the pomegranate molasses and the warmth from the cinnamon were a great match for the pork, and the tabbouleh salad was a fun contrast of flavors and textures. It's not often I get make something that I feel is truly different than anything I've made before, but this dish was one of those - it sort of opened my eyes again to the fact that there plenty of foods and combinations out there that I have yet to discover and explore in my own kitchen.

Pomegranate Pork Chops with Winter Tabbouleh
Partially adapted from Casa Moro Cookbook

For the Pork:
2 center cut pork loin chops
1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 Tablespoon water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper

For the Tabbouleh
1 cup coarse bulgar
1 1/2 cup boiling water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup cauliflower florets, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 small fennel bulb, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 leek, sliced in half lengthwise, then into 1/4-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup fennel fronds, chopped

To prepare the dressing:

Combine the pomegranate molasses, cinnamon, and water, and whisk to combine. Add the garlic clove and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To prepare the tabbouleh:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes, until lightly toasted. Remove from the oven and cool before coarsely chopping. Set aside. Leave the oven on for the pork.

Combine the bulgar and boiling water in a medium bowl and set aside to let the bulgar absorb the water. Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over moderate heat. Add the leeks, fennel, and cauliflower and cook gently to release their flavors and soften. Season with salt and pepper. When the leeks are beginning to soften, add the garlic cook until fragrant, adding the wine or broth, then turning up the heat briefly, to reduce the liquid. When the pan is almost dry again, remove from the heat and add the vegetable mixture your serving bowl. Add the bulgar, draining any extra liquid before adding.

When the salad has cooled, add the walnuts, pomegranate seeds and fennel fronds. Toss lightly to combine. Drizzle with additional extra-virgin olive oil if desired.

To make the chops:

Drizzle the chops with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat a saute pan over medium heat, adding olive oil to the pan once it's hot. Add the chops and saute on each side until golden brown. Before adding the chops to the oven, add about a half cup of broth to the pan. Depending on the thickness of the chops, they should take anywhere from 10-25 minutes to finish cooking. When the chops are cooked through, remove the pan from the oven and set the chops aside on a plate while you finish the sauce. Return the pan to the stovetop, (be careful not to grab the hot handle - ouch!), adding the pomegranate dressing and cooking over medium heat to reduce the sauce slightly. When the sauce has reach your desired consistency, remove from the heat.

To plate the dish, add some of the tabbouleh to the bottom of your serving bowls or plates, then top with a pork chop. Drizzle the sauce over the pork, and serve!

Serves Two

Monday, November 13

Squash Ravioli with Garlic, Olive Oil and Crispy Sage

Oh my. This dish was quite possibly the best thing to ever come out of my kitchen. At least in recent memory. I've been somewhat hesitant to try my hand at homemade ravioli in the past, but yesterday was the type of day, where after our breakfast plates had been cleared, and our bellies full of the best buttermilk pancakes ever, I didn't skip a beat before pulling the flour and eggs out of the cupboard again.

I made another loaf of the Cracked Wheat Walnut Cider Loaf, which this time turned out fantastically round and domey-topped, and I decided to conquer my irrational fear of filled pasta. I used some leftover diced squash to create the filling by sauteing shallots and garlic over low heat until they were golden and tender, then I added cider and chicken stock, covered it and cooked until soft. I mashed it up, added some parmesan, and let it rest while I went on to make my pasta.

I had some pasta flour from Williams Sonoma, which I started with, but didn't have quite enough, so I made up for the difference with a blend of semolina and all-purpose flours, which turned out to be a happy substituion. The semolina gave the pasta a lovely golden-flecked appearance, and just a little more texture and bite than my normal pasta recipe. After a late-afternoon matinee, it turned out to be too late to make raviolis, so we had Chipotle (oh how I love thee), and I stayed up until 11 pm watching Brothers & Sisters new favorite show), and making these little devils. They say that raviolis are a labor of love, and they are - and they are so worth it.

When I had finished the production work, I tossed the raviolis in flour and carefully froze them for us to enjoy for the next few weeks. After work today, I made a quick garlic and sage infused oil, which I emulsified with some pasta water to create a light and fragrant sauce to coat the raviolis before they received their sprinkle of parmesan. These babies were so good, I couldn't help but profusely praise myself throughout the course of dinner - poking and prodding Dustin for some compliments to the chef on her outstanding achievement. Even better than Dustin's compliments though, were the satisfaction I got in knowing that I made something that tasted so damn dreamy.

This is a great technique to use if you're a little squimish of dressing your pasta in ungodly amounts of butter, which is the usual accompaniment to squash raviolis. The process of boiling the flavored fat with pasta water creates a light yet satisfying sauce which clings to the pasta and gives them a luxurious mouthfeel.

Squash Raviolis with Garlic, Olive Oil and Crispy Sage
My own creation
This makes about 6 servings

2 cups assorted flours, such as a blend of semolina and all-purpose
3 eggs

1 Tbsp olive oil
4 large shallots, sliced
4 good-sized cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 cup apple cider
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp olive oil
5 garlic cloves, sliced
8 large sage leaves, sliced into 1/4 inch strips

To make the pasta: Combine the flours in a large bowl and toss together with your hands. Break the eggs into a separate small bowl, and whisk with a fork. Add the eggs to the flour mixture and use the fork to gently incorporate the eggs into the flour, using your hands to finish the dough by squeezing and working it to combine the two elements evenly. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter and knead it until it is smooth and has a uniform appearance. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge. Remove the dough 30-40 minutes before you plan on rolling it out.

To make the filling: In the meantime, heat the olive oil over low heat in a medium heavy saucepan. Add the shallot and garlic, and cook slowly until golden and soft. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Add the cider and broth, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer until the squash is very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the lid and mash the squash to an even consistency - don't worry about getting it entirely smooth. The roasted shallot and garlic with provide a little bit of texture to the mixture. Cook the squash a little longer over low heat to reduce if necessary. You don't want the mixture to be thick, but you don't want it too wet either. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parmesan.

To assemble: Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and gently flatten the discs. Use a pasta machine to roll out the pasta into thin sheets. Line up one sheet at a time and place a tablespoon of filling at a time on the sheet, about 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches apart, in the center of the bottom half of the pasta sheet. Use your finger to run water along the bottom edge and in between each dollop of filling, and fold the top half of the pasta sheet over to cover the bottom, lining up the edges if you can. Use the side of your palm to press the two halves together, working out the air bubbles as you can. Once your filling is secure inside the pasta, use a knife to cut the raviolis and trim the edges. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. While you are assembling, take care to cover the finished raviolis so they don't dry out. I tossed my in flour then lined them up on a wax paper covered cooling rack to freeze in an even layer.

When you're ready to make the raviolis, heat your olive oil over low heat with the sliced garlic, and cook until the garlic has turned golden and soft. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the sliced sage leaves to the garlic and cook until they are crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside with the garlic.

Boil a pot of water to cook the raviolis, and salt generously. Toss your raviolis in (We did 8 per person, which was about perfect) in the water and cook gently, in batches, reserving them in a small bowl as they are cooked through, which takes about 3 minutes.

Take about 1/2 cup of the pasta water and add to the pan with the oil, turning up the heat and simmering to emulsify. Toss the water and oil in the pan to help the emulsification along. Add the cooked raviolis, reserved garlic and sage to the pan and toss several times to coat the raviolis with the sauce. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan over top and enjoy immediately!

Monday, October 30


Yes, I've been known to sneak all the cherries out of the fruit bowl, and I've been caught more than once stealing extra frosting off the cake to put on my slice. I've even developed a reputation with my mother-in-law as that elicits warnings whenever one of her poundcakes and yours truly find themselves in the same room together... I will shamelessly cut just the crust off the poundcake, and leave that naked wobbly slice there in cold to fend for itself. I am guilty as charged of non-egalitarian eating. Forget the notion of building up to the climax, or saving the best for last, or even the idea that you don't deserve the frosting unless you eat the cake with it.

I'm not totally without dignity though. Ideally, a dessert or anything else for that matter, should be so good through and through that you don't want to give up a single crumb. It's a fine eating experience that finds you meticulously planning each bite so that you end with the ideal ratio of crust to the soft center, cake to frosting, or in this case, warm, gooey pears, and oh-so-tender gingerbread.

I have to admit there was nothing wrong with this cake, but last night, around 10:00 pm, eastern standard, you could find me hovering over the cake plate, slicing off the top half of a second piece of cake, just so I could eat the goopy pear topping, which had somehow transformed itself in the oven to a almost pudding-like texture. I threw the rest of the piece of the cake away, and never looked back.

I had read a few rave reviews of this cake in various places online, and when I recently bought Leslie Mackie's Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook, it was one of the first recipes I tagged to try (after the Cracked Wheat Walnut Cider Loaf). I was torn between trying this recipe and a very similar recipe out of one of my favorite cookbooks, but ended up deciding on Leslie's recipe because of the copious amount of buttermilk called for - surely a sign of a tender and deliciously moist cake.

This cake was good, but admittedly, I don't think I'd make it again. Not to say that you might not love it, but although I loved how tender and moist the cake turned out, I expect something different from my gingerbread. I want it to be sticky, dark, and dense. I should also admit that skipping the fresh ginger might have made the cake less spectacular, so if you want to try this cake, definitely go for the bite of fresh ginger (mine was moldy, so I passed). I think a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream would have been a wonderful accompaniment.

Ginger Pear Upside-Down Cake
Adapted Slightly from Leslie Mackie’s Macrina Bakery & CafĂ© Cookbook

The Pear Topping:
3 Tbs unsalted butter
½ cup light brown sugar
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
4-5 medium to large ripe (but not soft) pears, peeled, cored, and quartered lengthwise (I had to cut mine into eigths to make it work out)

The Gingerbread:
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup light brown sugar
2 Tbs peeled, grated ginger (I substituted 2 teaspoons ground ginger)
3 large eggs
2/3 cup molasses
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I substituted a combination of spelt and whole wheat pastry flour)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, and line the bottom with a 10-inch circle of parchment paper.

For the pear topping, combine 3 Tbs butter, ½ cup brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Melt the butter over medium low heat until melted; then pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan, completely coating the parchment paper. Place the quartered pears on top of the butter-sugar mixture, lining the pieces up in a circle so that the entire bottom of the pan is covered.

For the gingerbread, cut 2 sticks of butter into 1-inch pieces, and put them in a large mixing bowl. Add ¾ cup brown sugar, and cream the mixture on medium speed for 3-5 minutes, until it is smooth and pale. Add the grated ginger (if using), and beat 1 minute more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating on low speed and making sure that each egg is fully incorporated before adding another. When all the eggs have been added, slowly pour in the molasses and beat to fully mix. The mixture might look as though it is curdling, but don’t worry—it will come together.

In a separate medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, (and ground ginger if using) and salt. Whisk to fully combine.

Alternately add small amounts of flour and buttermilk to the batter, stirring and folding with a rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are just absorbed. Do not overmix the batter. Pour and scrape the batter into the pear-lined pan, smoothing the top with a rubber surface. The pan will be nearly full.

Carefully transfer the pan to the center rack of the oven, and bake for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the cake’s center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cover the pan with an upside-down serving plate; then carefully invert them together. Release the sides of the pan, and lift it away. Gently lift the pan’s base off the cake, and peel away the parchment paper. Allow the cake to cool for a half hour or so, and serve warm, with whipped cream.

Note from the Baker :

I had quite a lot of batter leftover, so I used some of my silicone canneles molds, and got 8 little mini gingerbreads out of it; not sure where all the extra batter came from, but the little cakes sure turned out cute!

Monday, October 23

When Work Takes Over...

Whoa - work has been so busy lately that I've barely had time to exhale, and least of all, get into the kitchen and cook something worth posting about! My position at work has shifted over the last month, and I'm basically learning on the job - figuring it out as I go now - which means a new level of stress that I'm not yet used to.

This is great for my career, but I need to tilt the scales a bit and get back in balance. I've hated not having time to dreamily flip through my cookbooks on the weekend and choose our menu for the upcoming week - lately it's been a mad rush to the store on the way home from somewhere else on Sunday evening, and by the time we eat most nights, I'm already thinking about something else before I've finished my last sip of wine, and I'm back to the computer or books.

Well, I've had enough of that! Cooking is a part of my life - a passion that I'm not ready to sacrifice to a busy schedule.

This Sunday Dustin and I were trying come up with a list of dishes that we haven't eaten in a long time, since we've been relying on old standards lately. Our list is our menu for this week - Roast Pork with Brussel Sprouts, Pesto Chicken Pasta (to use up the 4 pounds of basil still in the garden), a Squash Souffle (from this month's Gourmet), Risotto with Raddichio, and finally, our Sunday night Supper - Chilaquiles.

If you've never had Chilaquiles before, and have been turned off by their messy and unsophisticated nature - think again. Chilaquiles are everything that I love about Mexican Food - warm, rich with the flavor of toasted corn and smoky chiles, and a fabulous excuse to eat all the best condiments - Avocados, Sour Cream, Crumbly, Salty Cheese, and Cholula. With a cold beer, it's the perfect thing to remind me why I love to spend time in my kitchen - to slow down, create something beautiful and delicious, and celebrate daily life.

This recipe is wonderfully simple, but if you want to make it even simpler, you could substitute a good-quality Tomatillo Salsa for the Homemade. It will lack some of the sweet nuance of a homemade sauce, but I'll admit it's just as good. I've had good results with Rick Bayless' Tomatillo Salsa, sold in Whole Foods.

Chilaquiles with Salsa Verde
Adapted from Mexican, by Williams Sonoma

1 lb. tomatillos, husked and rinsed
4 serrano chilies
2 cloves garlic
½ white onion, coarsely chopped, plus 1 or
more thin white onion slices, separated into rings for garnish
1 tablespoon canola or safflower oil
A pinch of sea salt, plus more, to taste
½ lb. thick tortilla chips (the thicker the better)
2 cups shredded chicken (optional, but recommended)
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
1 cup crema or sour cream
½ cup crumbled queso fresco or mild feta cheese
1 Avocado, sliced into thin lengths

Place the tomatillos in a small saucepan and add water to barely cover. Bring to a simmer and cook until the tomatillos soften, about 10 minutes. Add the chilies and garlic and continue to cook until the tomatillos are completely soft, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatillos, chilies and garlic to a blender; reserve the cooking liquid. Add the chopped onion and 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid to the blender and process until well blended.

In a heavy skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Pour in the tomatillo mixture all at once and stir vigorously. Stir in an additional 1⁄2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid along with a pinch of sea salt. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Add more liquid if necessary.

Just before serving, carefully fold the tortilla chips, chicken and cilantro into the sauce and continue cooking until softened but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings with sea salt.

Scoop the mixture into 4 shallow bowls, and top with sliced onion rings, sour cream, queso, avocado and additional cilantro leaves, if desired. Serves 4.

Serves 4

Monday, October 2

Love, Despite Looks

This loaf of bread had me worried. I paused my breadmaking session on Sunday while Dustin and I went for an impromptu two and a half hour walk, and stuck my bread in the fridge to tame those hungry little yeasts while we were gone, which I've heard is a legitimate thing to do, but when I returned from my walk, I opened the refrigerator door in anticipation, and my bread had risen so high that it was squished up against the top of the next shelf!

If I were a calm and patient baker, I would have punched down the loaf, rolled it up again into a little swaddle of bread dough, and let it rise while we had our Spaghetti and Meatballs for dinner (it was my turn to choose our Sunday supper), and then popped it in the oven and all would have been tall and rounded in the land of happy bread loaves. Instead, I chose to make due with the deformed loaf I had on my hands, and throw caution to the wind by sending it off to meet it's fate in a 385 degree oven.

The loaf came out flat and rather homely looking, but I wasn't about to give up on it just yet. I mean, if ever a bread and I were destined for true love, it had to be this Cracked Wheat Walnut Cider Loaf. Wholesome and rich with the taste of toasty walnuts, along with the substance and toothsome quality that bulgar would add, and the seductively unknown taste of cider in a loaf of bread? Wow, I'm still getting excited about it again, even after my botched first attempt.

The point is though, despite appearances, this is a bread to love. It might not seduce you with a tall and stately domed top, or a golden brown crust, but what it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in character. The bread turned out a fabulous purplish shade of brown, flecked with walnuts and bits of bulgar, and it is so wonderfully moist. I had a slice for breakfast with some pumpkin butter, and a slice for lunch with my broccoli soup. Plans for the rest of the loaf include a turkey and munster sandwich tomorrow, and then it's going to play host to some creamy goat cheese, served alongside a bowl of lentils for dinner tomorrow. This is one hardworking bread!

I have plans to make this bread again very soon, and I can't wait to see how it will turn out if I give it the proper space it needs to rise!

Cracked Wheat Walnut Cider Loaf
Adapted from Macrina Bakery, by Leslie Mackie

3/4 cup cracked wheat
1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups walnut halves
1 1/4 cups apple cider
1 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup and 1 tablespoon coarse whole wheat flour
2 1/4 cups King Arthur's white wheat flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup canola oil

Place the cracked wheat in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Stir with a wooden spoon to make sure all wheat is moistened. Let sit, uncovered, for 10 minutes while liquid is being absorbed.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet to bake in the oven for about 10 minutes. Check the nuts after about 7 minutes though, to be sure they aren't browning too deeply. Remove the nuts form the oven and let cool. Coarsely chop and set aside.

Place apple cider in a medium saucepan and warm over low heat, until just warm to the touch. Pour the warm cider into the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the dough hook. Add the yeast and honey and whisk until the yeast is dissolved. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes. Add plumped cracked wheat, 1 cup whole wheat flour, the white wheat flour, kosher salt and canola oil. Mix on low speed for one minute, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 10 minutes. The dough will form a loose ball at the base of the hook. Add the walnuts and beat for an additional 2 minutes. Be sure to watch your mixture toward the end - they have a tendency to "hop" when they are working hard, and might hop right off your countertop!

Transfer the dough to an oiled, medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let proof in a warm room, 70 - 75 degrees for 2 hours. Dough will almost double in size. The dough is done rising when you can poke your finger into it and the indentation stays. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. The dough will be sticky, but don't add more flour. Gently shape the dough into a 12 by 6 inch log, with the long end facing you. Turn the egdes in to meet in the middle, then start rolling the dough away from you into a loaf, and place the loaf in a 9 x 5 x 4 inch oiled loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let proof at room temperature about an hour, or until the loaf rises slightly above the pan.

While the loaf is proofing, preheat the oven to 385 degrees. Remove the plastic from the loaf and dust with the remaining tablespoon of whole wheat flour. Place the pan on the center rack of the oven and bake for approximately 50 minutes. The finished loaf will be medium brown on top. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 30 minutes on a wire rack, then run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan to invert the bread onto the rack to cool completely.

Makes One Loaf

Sunday, October 1

Buckwheat Cake with Cider Poached Apples

This is the perfect fall cake. The color of the buckwheat-flecked cake, and the shiny and jewel-like apples are both beautiful and delicious. The cake is moist and rich, with butter, almonds, and egg yolks, and just a touch of buckwheat flour to hold it together, then lightened up with the addition of egg whites, beaten with sugar until they look like fluffy meringue.

The apples are poached in a mixture of cider and a few simple spices, which smell heavenly while they are soaking up the juice that will turn them almost transparent, and flavor them with subtle notes of clove and cinnamon. I love desserts which provide texture or contrast, and this one does just that. I couldn't decide which I liked better; taking a bite of cake, followed by a bit of apple, or if I preferred to combine the two in one bite. You'll have to make that choice yourself.

The cake would also be incredible with any number of other fruits or fruit syrups. Blood oranges, plums, and apricots come to mind. And this recipe once again comes from the incredible David Lebovitz, whose desserts are perfection in my book.

Buckwheat Cake with Cider Poached Apples
From Ripe for Dessert, by David Lebovitz

For the Buckwheat Cake:
1 ½ cups sliced almonds
½ cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
12 Tbsps unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
6 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs, room temperature, separated
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cream of tarter, (optional)

For the Apples:
3 cups apple cider or unsweetened apple juice
½ cup sugar
1 stick cinnamon
5 whole cloves
2 - 3 firm apples (Granny Smith or Golden Delicious)
powdered sugar, for dusting

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 2-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

To make the buckwheat cake: In a food processor, pulse the almonds with the buckwheat flour and baking powder until the almonds are finely ground.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat together the butter and 1/2 cup sugar until very light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes if using a mixer. Beat in the vanilla and the egg yolks one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

In a separate glass or metal bowl, whip the egg whites until they become frothy. Add the salt and the cream of tartar, if using, and continue to whip until the whites begin to hold their shape. Gradually whip in the 6 tablespoons of sugar and keep whipping until the whites form soft, shiny peaks.

Blend the almond and buckwheat mixture into the creamed butter and egg yolk mixture with a rubber spatula. Stir about a third of the beaten egg whites into the batter. It will be thick, but this will lighten it up. Then carefully fold in the remaining egg whites until just incorporated. Don't overfold!

Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan, smooth the top and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

To poach the apples: Warm the cider, sugar and spices in a medium saucepan. Peel the apples with a vegetable peeler and use a 1/2 inch melon baller to make the apple balls.

Drop the apple balls into the cider mixture and simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until tender.

The apples definitely take longer than 10 minutes - I probably cooked mine for 40 and then reduced the liquid even further. I didn't have a melon baller, so I just made large chunks.

Thursday, September 28

Moroccan Braised Chicken

I've become a huge fan of chicken legs lately. They aren't dry and
boring like some poultry cuts I know (ehem, chicken breast), they are
cheap enough to justify spending those dollars you save elsewhere
(like the wine aisle). They make for a handsome presentation, and
they work wonderfully in braises.

Braising is something I've been doing a lot lately; maybe because of
the change in seasons, or my new book on braising ,or maybe just
because it works so beautifully, and is so easy.

I tore this recipe out of Everyday Food, that
pint-sized magazine which the grande dame of domesticity publishes.
This is a magazine which I've been suspicious of in the past. The
recipes always appear to be too simplistic. I can appreciate cutting
a few corners for the sake of a quick weeknight meal, but microwaving
a beef stew? A pea soup recipe with 4 ingredients? I have my doubts
about these things.

Despite my snobbery, I thought this recipe look promising - it was
short on ingredients, but you could tell it would be big on
flava'. The chicken legs were braised with onion, prunes, and
a trio of spices - tumeric, ginger and cinnamon. I took the liberty
of adding some cayenne, some honey, and some cilantro to the braising
mixture, and used chicken broth instead of water. The chicken is
served alongside roasted carrots, dressed in lemon, olive oil, salt
and fresh ground black pepper, and all this is set atop a bed of
couscous, to which I added olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro. If
you're one of those people who has a thing against fruit and meat
sharing a plate, then perhaps you could add some almonds, which would
have been a great idea anyways, but as it was, this was an
outstanding weeknight meal.

Moroccan Braised Chicken
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food

For Chicken:
2 Chicken Legs, trimmed of excess fat
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow or sweet onion, sliced to a medium thickness
Coarse Salt and Ground Pepper
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne
10 pitted prunes
1-2 Tbsp honey
1/2 cup cilantro stems and leaves, washed well
1 1/2 - 2 cups chicken broth
Toasted sliced almonds, (optional)

For Carrots
1 bunch carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into large chunks
1-2 Tbsp olive oil (a good drizzle)
Course salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 lemon

For Couscous
1 cup couscous
1 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
Course salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 lemon

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Toss the carrots with the olive
oil, a few squeezes of lemon, and season with salt and pepper. Place
the carrots on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven to roast
until cooked through and deeply browned, adjusting the heat if
necessary. This will take anywhere from 20 - 40 minutes depending on
your carrots. Keep an eye on them though - and turn the oven down if
they are browning too quickly. When the carrots are done, toss them
with additional lemon juice.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium to medium-high
heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the hot pan
to brown both sides until they are crisp, and golden brown. Set the
chicken aside on a plate, and pour out all but enough oil and
drippings to keep the bottom of the pan coated with fat. Turn down
the heat and add the onions, seasoning with salt and pepper. Saute a
few minutes, then add the spices, stirring to coat, and release their
flavor. Place the chicken legs back in the pan, on top of the
onions, and add the broth, prunes, honey and cilantro. Bring to a
boil, then turn down the heat to low, cover, and simmer gently.

Meanwhile, make the couscous. Place the couscous, olive oil, lemon
juice, and cilantro together in a medium bowl. Season with salt and
pepper. Bring the water to a boil and pour over the couscous. Cover
with plastic wrap to steam.

The chicken is done when it's cooked through - 20 minutes or more,
depending on the thickness. To serve, place a mound of couscous in
the bottom of a bowl (you want something to catch those juices!),
place a chicken leg on each, and arrange the carrots, and prunes &
onions from the sauce around the chicken. (I discarded the cilantro
stems). Taste the sauce - if it's weak, turn up the heat on your
stove and reduce the sauce until thickend slightly. Pour the sauce
around the chicken, and garnish with additional cilantro leaves, or
almonds if desired.

Serves 2

Monday, September 25

A Cookie is Never Just a Cookie

Is it? With a tall glass of cool milk, it's a comforting end to a long day. It's the sweetness you crave at 3:00 in the afternoon, when it seems like an eternity since lunch. And if you're a baker, it's the perfect thing to help you satisfy your need to bake something without getting out too many pots and pans, or making a trip to the store.

Some people like them chewy, others crispy, some with nuts, some without. Or what about the addition of oats, shaved chocolate, dried cherries, or cocoa nibs? Some people don't give a gosh darn - they just want a hit of sugar, and don't mind how it's delivered. I like to say that I've never met a cookie I didn't like, but like most people, I do have my 'druthers'.

I almost never make the same chocolate chip cookie recipe twice - almost never. Usually I can't resist the idea of stumbling across another great cookie recipe, and I hope that somewhere along the way, I will learn so much about what makes a cookie turn out the way it does, that I can develop my own perfect cookie. But certain cookies require loyalty, like this one, or my mom's chocolate chocolate chip cookies, which are absurdly impossible to stop eating. More on these later.

My ideal cookie though is crispy on the edges, with an almost caramel-edge, and chewy in the middle. They have to be absolutely loaded with chocolate chips - no chip-free bites allowed. I don't want to find myself searching through the cookie bag, turning each over to see which one looks like it has recieved the greatest proportion of chips - I don't want my cookie to put me that position. Don't make me look desperate, cookie. Give me some toasty walnuts, and on occasion, some oats, dried fruits, or almond extract to spice things up, too. But for the most part, it all comes down to the chips and the consistency of the dough.

This cookie, however, was made for my loving hubby, who likes to end each and every day with something sweet, followed by a large glass of milk, which is always consumed in one amazing gulp, which is in turn followed by an immediate and mandatory horizontal position. This sweet tooth likes his cookies on the soft side, verging on underbaked. I left a few cookies in the oven longer though, so I could satisfy my craving as well.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from this recipe, which was adapted from this one.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ Tbsp vanilla extract
½ Tbsp hazelnut extract (or vanilla, if you don't have it)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 ½ cups best-quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 ½ cups rolled oats zizzed in a food processor for a few seconds

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats .

Sift together both flours, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter and brown and granulated sugars until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, hazelnut, egg, and egg yolk, mixing until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients, and mix until well-blended. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the chocolate chips and oats by hand. Chill dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to one hour. Scoop and press dough into ¼-cup measuring scoops, and plunk the mounds onto the prepared cookie sheets. Give the cookies a few inches to spread out as they bake.

Bake cookies for 13 to 20 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Be sure to check on your cookies around 13 minutes, because mine didn't take much longer than this. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cook completely.


Saturday, September 23

Wild Rice and Friends

I first made this salad out of Food and Wine 3 years ago, and I have faithfully returned to it every 6 months or so since then. Probably because it uses some of my very favorite ingredients - wild rice, chickpeas, raisins, sliced almonds, and it introduced me to this wonderful curry-flavored dressing, sweetened with honey, and given a little kick by a generous pinch of cayenne.

I still remember the article this recipe came from too - it was about a couple that had moved to Texas to escape city life, and all the recipes in the article looked wonderful. There were two other grain salad recipes, that are still on my to-try list.

Wild rice is such a treat - it's chewy and light, with an earthy taste that is a perfect base for all sorts of wonderful additions - dried fruits, nuts and seeds, smoked meats, and flavorful dressings. This particular salad fits in beautifully at the fall table, with it's muted colors and warm flavors. The original recipe calls for ham, but offers sliced almonds as an alternative, which I always use, because the salad stays longer in the fridge that way, and I always have some sliced almonds laying around.

I had this salad for lunch all week long, which my Butternut Squash Soup, and they made quite a pair for the first chilly week of fall, here in North Carolina. This salad is open for all sorts of happy experimentation - cranberries, whole smoked almonds, or even some roasted shallots... really, you could do anything with it your little heart desires. The dressing is versatile and delicious, so ladies and gents, get out your apron and get busy.

Wild Rice Salad with Chickpeas and Almonds
Food and Wine, June 2003

1 ½ cups wild rice (10 ounces)
Kosher salt
2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 19-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
¼ lb. smoked ham, diced (optional)
1 large handful sliced almonds
4 small scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
¼ cup golden raisins (I used currants this time around)
Freshly ground pepper
Hot sauce (Cholula - is there any other brand worth using?)

Fill a large saucepan three-quarters full of water and bring to a boil. Add the wild rice and 1 tablespoon of salt and simmer over moderate heat until the rice is tender and most of the grains have just split, 50 minutes. Drain and rinse the rice under cold water, then drain again.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, honey, curry powder, cumin and cayenne. Add the olive oil and whisk until combined. Toss in the chickpeas, ham, scallions, raisins and wild rice. Season the salad with salt, pepper and hot sauce, transfer to a bowl and serve.

Serves 6

Tuesday, September 19

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Confit

Does that sound delicious, or what? This soup was so easy, and the apple confit pushed it from ho hum, to "oh yum". Okay, that was cheesy, but this soup was great, it was ridiculously simple, and there's very little else to say about it. Make it. You will be so happy you did!

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Confit
From "Fields of Greens" by Annie Somerville

3 cups Light vegetable or chicken stock
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Medium Yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
3 Tbsp Calvados (if you don't have Calvados, you could substitute white wine, but the flavor is wonderful, and you'll find a million other uses for it!)
4 lbs Butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into large cubes (about 6 cups)
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 McIntosh apples or other flavorful, not too tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
½ cup Apple Juice
½ cup Creme Fraiche, (I used Greek yogurt)

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and saute over medium heat until slightly caramelized, about 15 minutes, adding a little stock and scraping with a wooden spoon if they start to stick to the pan. Add 2 Tbsp of the Calvados, and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the pan is almost dry.

Add the squash cubes and about a teaspoon of salt to the onions. Add just enough stock to barely cover the squash (about 2 cups); the squash quickly breaks down and releases its own liquid as it cooks. Cover the pot and cook over medium heat for 20-30 minutes, until the squash is very soft.

Puree the soup in a blender or with a handheld immersion blender, and thin it with stock to reach the desired consistency. Return the soup to the stove and cook over low heat for 30 minutes to further develop the flavors.

While the soup is cooking, make the apple confit. Melt the butter in a medium-size saute pan and add the apples; saute over medium-high heat, stirring to coat them with the butter. When they're heated through, add the remaining Tbsp of Calvados and cook until the pan is almost dry. Add the apple juice, cover the pan, and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until soft; cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes to reduce the liquid. Mash the apples, making sure the confit retains some texture.

Stir half the confit into the soup, saving the rest to stir into each serving. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Add a spoonful of apple confit and a swirl of creme fraiche to each serving.

To make a wonderful meal, serve this soup with crusty sourdough bread, nutty, well-aged Gruyere cheese, and a salad of biter greens with toasted walnuts and walnut-oil vinaigrette.

Wednesday, September 13

Mole (Moh-lay) on My Mind

As I was contemplating how to approach this post today, I started wondering at the place that mole has in Mexican cooking. It seems interesting that a culture which produces such wonderfully simple food should come up with a sauce which is has a famously long list of ingredients. So, curiosity leading the way, I pulled out my trusty Food Lover's Companion, which gave the following definition of mole:

Mole [moh-lay] From the Nahuatl molli, meaning "concoction", mole is a rich, dark, reddish-brown sauce usually
served with poultry. There are many variations of this spicy Mexican specialty...mole is a smooth, cooked blend of onion, garlic, several varieties of chiles, ground seeds and a small amount of Mexican chocolate...

With some further investigation, I uncovered some debate as to whether or not the Aztecs (thought by many to have made the first mole) would have actually used chocolate, which they considered to be sacred, in such a sauce. Turns out scholarly types don't think so, so the mole we know today is most likely a complex sauce that has developed over time, but has the basis of onion, chiles, and spices, which are all very familiar Mexican ingredients.

I ate my first mole only a short time ago, and it has been one of those foods that grew on me while I wasn't looking. The first time I tried, I said "this is pretty good", but wasn't enamored. I tried it a few other times - still no love. Then suddenly, out of the blue, I was craving mole on a regular basis. I wanted to try and make it at home, but envisioned a long and frustrating day in the kitchen, where at the end, I might find myself wishing I'd just gone to my local burrito shop to fulfill my craving instead.

Lucky for me I have Sally Schneider's A New Way to Cook, which offers up a tasty "Revisionist Mole", which is quicker, easier, and healthier than most moles. This may not win any Mexican cookoffs, but it sure makes for a tasty addition to your weekday meal repetoire. This recipe made enough for me to freeze 4 extra servings, which I've used for the burritos I show below, and some outstanding "Fat Bean Tacos", which we topped with sliced radishes, chopped avocado and some fresh cheese. My plans for the remaining sauce in the freezer include a Mole Pork Tenderloin, and another round of bean tacos, which were totally delicious.

Revisionist Mole

6 Dried Ancho chiles
5 Garlic cloves, Unpeeled
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1 ½ cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped medium fine
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes or whole plum tomatoes, (pureed in a blender with their juices, if using fresh)
1 ounce chunk smoked ham, cut into 4 pieces
¾ ounce Mexican chocolate, (or 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder)
1 - 2 tsp sugar
Kosher salt

With scissors, split open the chiles, and sicard the stems and seeds. Cut the chiles into large flat pieces. In a large heavy skillet, toast the chile strips over moderate heat, turning occasionally to prevent burning, until they begin to darken and smell pungent, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Cover with about 2 cups boiling water and let soak for 20 minutes, or until soft.

Meanwhile, add the garlic cloves to the skillet and toast for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally, until the skins have blackened in spots and the garlic has softened somewhat. Remove from the heat.

In a blender, combine the garlic, cinnamon, basil, oregano, cumin seeds, chicken broth and vinegar. Drain the ancho chiles and add to the mixture. Blend at high speed for one minute, until smooth.

In a large skillet, combine the oil and onions, cover and cook over low heat until the onions have begun to release some of their liquid, about 5 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to moderate, and saute the onions until golden brown, about 10 - 15 minutes.

Add the ancho chile mixture and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and ham, partially cover, and simmer until the sauce is very thick, about 25 minutes.

Add the chocolate and simmer until the sauce is very thick and has reduced to about 4 cups, about 10 minutes longer. Discard the ham (which will have given up its flavor) and add the sugar and salt to taste.

The sauce can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 week or frozen up to 3 months.

This is an easier take on mole, and much less fattening. You can use it to season bean soups, doctor up canned beans, or braise pot roast and chicken. Use it in Fat Beans with Mole (from the book). Toss it with shredded leftover pork or chicken or with shrimp and roll up in hot tortillas. You can also make a marvelous chili by stewing 2 pounds of 1/2 inch chunks of trimmed stewing beef or venison in the sauce until it is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours over low heat. Brown the meat in 2 tsp rendered bacon fat or oil first. Add dark beer, 1/4 cup at a time, to the sauce to replenish the level as it cooks.

Sunday, September 10

A Little Sunday Night Comfort

If you love to cook, Sundays are the most anticipated day of the week. A full day to prep, season, and saute away! I love to plan for the week on Sundays, sometimes preparing soups to eat for the week, or just cleaning out the fridge and making the kitchen sparkle, so that when I get home from work, it's a pleasure to spend time in the kitchen preparing dinner.

As much as I love to cook on Sundays, I also don't like to be stuck in the kitchen all day long, so our Sunday night meals are usually something simple and comforting, something to help us finish off the week in a good state of mind, preferrably something that goes well with some red wine (there aren't many things that don't go well with red wine if you're a dedicated daily indulger).

I have had Donna Hay's Book, Off the Shelf: Cooking From the Pantry for about 6 years now, and never had I made one thing from it until tonight. Why? I really couldn't say, because I've flipped through it a million times, the photos are so enticing, and everything is dead simple. When I pondered what to do with my leftover ricotta (why is there always this dilemma of leftover ricotta? I actually like it enough to eat off a spoon, but usually try to refrain from doing so), I decided to finally give old Donna a try. This Ricotta Spinach was simple and pretty satisfying, but I altered the recipe quite a bit, and found that I needed the full amount of pasta called for in the recipe, but only half the ricotta spinach topping, which caused me to have to go back and boil another pot of water for pasta, since it was obvious that I had WAY too much topping for half a box of pasta, even though I had halved the recipe for it.

This is a great base recipe, and uses some ingredients that I'm usually looking to use up after days of sitting in the fridge with no purpose ahead of them. I will certainly use this as a basis for future baked pasta dishes, but I will probably never make it exactly the same. I think a layer of roasted cherry tomatoes would have done wonders for the overall impact of the dish, visually and because it would provide an extra layer of texture and brightness that was missing here. As for Donna's book, I'm not sure I could make a judgement just yet... I'll have to do some more testing and report back.

Ricotta Spinach Pasta Bake
Based loosely on a Donna Hay recipe

5 fl. oz sour cream
3/4 lb ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, grated
1 bunch Spinach, stemmed and washed thoroughly
1 clove garlic, minced fine, and smashed to a paste with your knife
1 handful Italian parsley, chopped
1 handful basil leaves, chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
1 pound penne or rigatoni

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put a large pot of water on to boil ( you will use this for blanching the spinach and cooking the pasta. Prepare a oven safe baking dish, about the size of a large pie dish, or deep casserole; whatever you choose, just keep in mind that thick you want your layer of noodles - probably about 3 inches or so.

In a medium bowl, combine the sour cream, ricotta, eggs and parmesan cheese. Season with a pinch of nutmeg, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and set aside.

When the water reaches a boil, blanch your spinach and remove to a colandar to drain and cool. Bring the water to a boil again and cook the pasta to al dente. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze well to drain, and move to your cutting board to chop. Add the spinach, garlic, parsley, and basil to the ricotta mixture and stir to combine.

When the pasta is finished, toss with a little olive oil and place in your baking dish, pressing the noodles into the dish to remove air pockets. Spoon the ricotta mixture over top the noodles and smooth the top.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, and the top is set. If necessary, turn up the oven at the end to achieve a more golden crust.

Serves 6

Sunday, September 3

Inspiration for a New Season

I adore fall, and the change that it brings. The cooler air seems to bring with it a sense of renewal that I find more intense than the spring. After a long, hot summer, I cannot wait to pull out my sweaters, trade my iced coffees for warm lattes, and to treat myself to all the wonderful foods of fall. Warm stews and soups, roasted squash and parsnips, pies and delicious warm breakfasts of oatmeal are all the ultimate comfort foods to me. I feel inspired and reflective in the fall. The slower pace and softer light offer a beautiful new perspective.

We were lucky enough to get a little cooler weather right in time for the beginning of September, and although I know we have more hot weather ahead of us here in the South, my mind and body are already set in the new season, and so I've begun cruising through my cookbooks and magazines, looking for my inspiration for these next few months in the kitchen. I pulled out this recipe from Gourmet last month, and the soup is a perfect transition from summer to fall. It uses the last of the tomatoes reddened in the summer sun, or, if you're like me and you already exhausted your supply, go ahead and use canned tomatoes. I can guarantee the results are just as tasty.

This soup is satisfying without being heavy. With a salad or a slice of bread, it would make a great lunch or light dinner.

Provencal Tomato Soup with Rice

2 lb tomatoes (or substitute 1 28-oz, and 1 14-oz can of whole, peeled tomatoes, de-seeded as instructed below)
2 medium onions, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise (2 cups)
1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
1 celery rib, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 (3- by 1-inch) strips fresh orange zest, finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
Scant 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 Turkish bay leaf or 1/4 California
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups water
1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch crumbled saffron threads
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup long-grain white rice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Cut a shallow X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife. Blanch tomatoes in batches of 2 or 3 in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling water 10 seconds, transferring with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking.

Peel tomatoes, then halve crosswise. Squeeze halves gently, cut sides down, over a sieve set over a bowl to extract seeds and juices, then press on seeds and discard them. Reserve juice and tomatoes.

Cook onions, carrot, celery, garlic, zest, thyme, red-pepper flakes, fennel seeds, and bay leaf in oil in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes with reserved juice, tomato paste, water, chicken broth, salt, pepper, saffron, and 1 teaspoon sugar, then simmer, uncovered, stirring and breaking up tomatoes with a spoon occasionally, 20 minutes. Stir in rice and simmer, uncovered, until rice is tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf and stir in parsley, basil, and sugar and salt to taste.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Friday, September 1

A Muffin with Character

It's crunchy with millet and cornmeal, it's scented with orange, and it's full of chewy dried cranberries. Muffin, I think I love you.

This recipe is from my favorite cookbook In The Sweet Kitchen. I highly suggest toasting the muffins in the oven if you can't get to them warm out of the oven.

Orange, Dried Cranberry and Cornmeal Muffins with Millet

(Author's Note: I probably make this recipe, exactly as it is here, more often than any other. These muffins became a hit several years ago when my duties as pastry chef at Avalon included baking breakfast pastries for the sister restaurant, Zocalo. After weeks of the entire batch of these disappearing into the hands of the cooks and wait staff before the customers even got to them, the chef insisted everyone eat breakfast at home! They are a great combination of flavors and textures. Cornmeal adds a nutty, toasted flavor; plumped dried cranberries give the muffins a chewy, pleasantly tangy taste; millet adds a subtle sweetness and crunch; and freshly grated orange zest and orange juice lace it all together with a fresh, bright taste. As far as I’m concerned, the perfect muffin!

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (I used half whole-wheat pastry flour)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cups yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1/4 cup millet
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 1/2 cups orange juice
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup dried cranberries, plumped in warm water for 30 minutes if necessary

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 6 large (1-cup) or 12 regular-sized (1/2 cup) muffin tins, including rims, or line with paper liners. I find a non-stick cooking spray works very well. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a large bowl. Add the sugar, cornmeal and millet and stir together with a fork or whisk to blend.

In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, then blend in the orange zest and juice and melted butter. Add the egg mixture all at once to the dry ingredients, mixing with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon just until the dry ingredients are moistened. While there are still a few floury patches, gently fold in the cranberries.

Spoon the batter into prepared tins, filling each cup to the rim, and place the try on a baking sheet, to catch any drips. Bake 20 to 25 minutes for regular-sized muffins, 30 to 35 minutes for large ones, or until the tops are golden brown in places, spring back when lightly touched and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Transfer the tray to a rack and cool 5 minutes, then turn the muffins out onto the rack. These are fabulous served warm with a little sweet butter, or may be cooled completely, then wrapped individually and stored at room temperature for up to two days. If they become slightly hard, wrap in foil and warm in a low oven before serving. These muffins also freeze beautifully, for up to 2 months.

Source: In the Sweet Kitchen, Regan Daley
Makes: 6 large or 12 regular muffins

Thursday, August 31

Mediteranean Bean Panzanella

Dustin and I have grown terribly fond of panzanellas. So easy, so versatile, and healthy to boot. It's the perfect summer meal, when you get home from work and would rather sit outside, sipping a beer than throw something together for dinner. And, since it's just the two of us, and I have a weakness for purchasing delicious artisinal bread, which we can never finish, we always have leftover bread laying around. And people, if I made bread pudding everytime we had leftover bread, my pants would no longer fit.

The first time I made panzanella was actually only a few months ago. I tore out a recipe card from Martha Stewart for a Meditteranean Panzanella, with green beans, olives, red onion, and feta. From that point on we were hooked. I've made a few panzanellas since then, but the one that we had for dinner last night was by far the best yet. Having some leftover flageolet beans, and the last of our tomatoes from the garden, which I roasted in the oven with thyme and garlic, dinner was practically made before I even started.

Hopefully you'll make this, or use it as inspiration to create your own panzanella. Although it's usually considered a summer dish, I've already been envisioning fall versions, with roasted squash, or some roasted peppers, or maybe even a variation with some steak and blue cheese. If you love beans though, absolutely give this a try. I totally adore beans, and this was meal perfection for me.

Mediteranean Bean Panzanella
Serves 2

For Dressing
2 Tbsp good-quality olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

For Salad
1 1/2 cups beans, preferably a soft-textured white bean
1/2 cup roasted tomatoes
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
8 oil-cured black olives, chopped
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Feta or goat cheese for garnish, optional

2 Thick slices good-quality bread, cut 1-inch thick

Preheat your oven to broil. In a large bowl, combine the ingredients for the dressing, mixing well to emulsify. Toss the onion, and olives in the bowl, and let sit while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Warm the beans and roasted tomatoes in a small saucepan (drain and rinse if using canned; add a splash of olive oil or chicken broth to moisten) over medium-low heat. In the meantime, place your bread slices under the broiler, and toast evenly to a golden brown on both sides. Remove from the oven.

Add the beans and tomatoes to the bowl with the dressing, and toss gently to combine. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes, and add to the salad, along with the chopped parsley. Toss gently again, to thoroughly mix ingredients and moisten the bread with the dressing.

Divide the salad among 2 bowls and top with cheese if desired.

Five Things

Oh Joy of Joys! It's so much fun to discover the world of blogging. You spend weeks, months, maybe even a year or two silently learning the ropes, following link after link until you realize that there's an entire world out there full of people who, like you, spend obscene amounts of time thinking about food & cooking, and then turn around and share their stories and lives with a world of friends, who happen to live on opposite sides of the world, who they may never meet, who they have found through their love of food.

It's been fun to stumble into this hobby, and find an outlet for my obsession, and even more fun to "meet" so many of the bloggers who stop by my site to say hello, or who I've reached out to through their blogs. There are so many talented people out there, it amazes me and inspires me every day.

Anyways, Natalia, of From Our Kitchen was one of the first fellow bloggers to stop by, give me advice, and encourage me in my new blogging adventure. So I was delighted this morning that she had tagged me to participate in the blogging event "5 Things to Eat Before You Die", started by Melissa, from the gorgeous The Traveler's Lunchbox.

Obviously this is a hard exercise for someone who loves food, but therein lies the fun! My list leans more toward foods that I could not live without than it does toward the exotic. So here goes....

1. Poached Eggs with extra-runny yolks. I can seriously think of nothing else that I eat that gives me quite as much pleasure as runny eggs, as long as I have plenty of bread to soak up that golden goodness.

2. Blueberry Pie, eaten at room temperature, for breakfast. Blueberries are magical when they bake down into a deep sticky sweetness. You can really taste most things a lot better at lukewarm or room temperature, and I love to have my pie with coffee, in the morning, when I can cut a significantly larger piece than I would after eating dinner.

3. "Bolo", made by my husband. Dustin makes the most outrageous Bolognese. It's an all day affair, and he's never makes it the same way twice, but it's always unbelievably comforting and delicious. I look forward to a huge batch every fall, which we freeze and feast on until (sniffle) it's all gone.

4. Thanksgiving leftovers. I look forward to leftovers more than I do the actual Thanksgiving feast. I love it when my mom pulls out the soft potato bread, layers on the leftover turkey meat, and tops it all off with tons of gravy, so that the bread practically disintegrates. It's so sloppy, and so good. Also in this category is the turkey sandwich made with nothing but mayo, on squishy white bread, best eaten after a night of drinking with all your hometown friends.

5. Ice Cream. Preferrably Cookies and Cream or Coffee. There's a debate in my family over what would be harder to give up for life - steak or ice cream. We all lean towards ice cream. This creamy confection runs in our blood.

And.... is that really it? Just 5? I could play this game for awhile. All this daydreaming about food has me hungry....

Monday, August 28

What to do with an Italian Prune Plum

I had read, over and over again, the praises of the Italian Prune Plum in magazines and in my most treasured dessert cookbooks, yet I had never tried one. When I came across them at the Farmer's Market last year, I was delighted at their miniture size, and their blue-ish purple appearance. Truth be told, they didn't taste all that different to me than say, a Santa Rosa, but I had faith in their superiority.

The recipe with which I chose to christen my prune plums was out of Claudia Flemings Last Course: The Desserts of the Gramercy Tavern, which I've only used several times, but flip through quite regularly. Spiced Italian Prune Plum Crisp is the kind of recipe that has set a standard in my kitchen. I had always considered crips pretty homely, and while delicious, somewhat unsophisticated. This crisp is in another league entirely. Made with flour, ground walnuts, brown and white sugar, and kissed with the essense of cinnamon and cardamom, the topping is gently mixed by fork while melted butter is poured slowly into the bowl, creating nubby, wet crumbs that are sprinkled generously, (and in great quantity) over the quartered plums.

The glory of the Italian Prune Plum lies in its size. Because it is small, and less juicy than other plums, when it is baked, it concentrates in flavor and texture, so that the fruit maintains more of its shape, and because there is less liquid, the flavor is more intense. The crisp topping is just that: Crisp. While so many crisp toppings end up slightly gummy, this mixture ends up with a beautiful crunchy texture, somewhat along the lines of a butter cookie, but with a warm and rich flavor from the ground walnuts. While I usually can't resist the opportunity to try something new, when I saw some gorgeous Italian Prune Plums at Whole Foods on Saturday, I didn't even hesitate before pulling out this recipe again.

I would highly recommend using this crisp topping on any of your favorite fruits, but if you can find Italian Prune Plums, give them a try - it's a wonderful combination.


Spiced Italian Prune Plum Crisp

"Served warm from the oven, this fragrant plum crisp makes a heavenly late-summer treat. The cinnamon and cardamom really bring out the inherent spicy flavors that develop inside cooked prune plums; and the nutty crisp topping is a delectable contrast to the soft, flavorful fruit that bubbles colorfully underneath it."

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used half whole-wheat pastry flour)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon ground walnuts
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (I used nutmeg instead; I didn't have cardamom)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
2 1/4 pounds Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered (6 cups)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, walnuts, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, cinnamon and cardamom. Slowly drizzle in the butter and combine with a fork until the mixture is crumbly. Do not allow the mixture to come together in a ball. Break up any large crumbs with your fingers. The crumbs should be smaller than 1 inch in size (otherwise they won't cook all the way through).

In another large bowl, combine the plums and the remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and toss well. Spoon the fruit into a buttered 2-quart gratin or shallow casserole dish, mounding the fruit in the center. Evenly sprinkle the crumbs on top of the fruit.

Bake the crisp until the fruit is bubbling and the topping browned, 50 to 55 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Serving suggestions: Serve with whipped creme fraiche, vanilla or basil ice cream.

Serves 8 - 10

Wednesday, August 23


Once again, I find myself posting about my memories of Spanish Food. How strange, since I rarely find myself thinking of the time I spent in Spain. My time in Spain has clearly embedded itself in me through culinary means, which is laughable, since upon my return home from Spain, I lamented to friends and family alike that the food in Spain was pretty boring.

In the south of the country, there is a stubborn adherence to all things traditionally Spanish. The list of tapas bar standards is short, and like any culture, the Spanish have their own classic cuisine based on what was available to them locally, and throughout the years, this cuisine is relied upon to help celebrate the unique heritage and tradition of the Spanish people. Simple grain and bean stews, soups and salads, cured and stewed meats, and plenty of rich egg tortillas were offered on every corner, and these are the dishes that taste of Spain to me.

A Spanish egg tortilla is a rich mixture of eggs, potato, and onion, most traditionally, with the occasional addition of roasted peppers, cheese, or chorizo. Plenty of olive oil contributes to the satisfying texture and mouthfeel of the tortilla, and with a simple salad alongside, it makes for a delicious light dinner. The taste of a tortilla is simple and earthy, sweet with the taste of sauteed onions and potatoes. If you've ever spent time in Spain, this recipe will transport you right back to those streetside tapas bars, drinking Spanish wine and nibbling on Manchego cheese. The taste of this tortilla is Spain, through and through.

Potato and Roasted Bell Pepper Tortilla
Recipe courtesy of Williams Sonoma

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3 teaspoons salt
¾ lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into julienne
¼ inch thick
6 eggs
1 cup grated dry jack or Manchego cheese
½ teaspoon freshly ground five pepper blend
2 roasted red bell peppers, peeled, seeded and
cut into strips 1/4 inch wide

In a 10-inch nonstick fry pan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the onion and 1 tsp. of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a small plate.

Return the pan to medium heat and warm 1 Tbs. of the oil. Add half of the potatoes and 1/2 tsp. of the salt and stir to coat the potatoes evenly. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Stir again, cover and cook until the potatoes are soft and golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to a separate plate. Repeat with the remaining 1 Tbs. oil, potatoes and 1/2 tsp. of the salt. Wipe out the pan with a damp paper towel and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cheese, the remaining 1 tsp. salt and the pepper blend. Add the onion, potatoes and bell peppers and stir to evenly distribute the ingredients.

Set the fry pan over medium heat, pour in the egg mixture and partially cover the pan. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes. Shake the pan gently to loosen the tortilla. Invert a large plate on top of the pan and invert the pan and plate together. Lift off the pan, letting the tortilla fall onto the plate; be careful as some uncooked egg may spill out. Slide the tortilla, cooked side facing up, back into the pan and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Flip the tortilla out onto another plate and let cool to room temperature. Cut into slices and serve. Serves 6 to 8.


I became tired of standing over the stove and opted for baking the tortilla in the oven, instead of on the stovetop. If you would prefer to do so, preheat your oven to 350 degrees while you're finishing up the potatoes, pour the egg mixture into a 9-inch pie dish, and bake for about 30 minutes or so. Check the tortilla while baking; it should be firm to the touch, and it will have browned on the edges slightly.

Tuesday, August 15

Buttermilk Waffles

I look forward to breakfast on the weekend, because Dustin and I will either head to Ollie's for a scone, to the Bagel Station for egg and cheese bagels on our way to the farmer's market, or we'll whip up something special at home. I'm usually the one doing the whipping, but that suits me just fine.

I had never considered waffles anything more than a special occasion breakfast, say, for Christmas morning. Therefore, I've seen relatively few waffles on my breakfast plate througout the years. No doubt this is due to the fact that waffles require equipment - equipment that most college students lack, and few people consider to be a necessity in their kitchen. I however, dreamt of a waffle iron for quite some time before we were gifted one for our wedding, and now, waffles are one of our favorite ways to celebrate the weekend.

My sister has made Alton Brown's recipe for pancakes, and proclaimed them the best in the world, and after feasting upon them last time Dustin and I were in Chicago, I was in enthusiastic agreement with her. So, it was with anticipation and confidence that I chose his recipe for Basic Waffles to make on Sunday morning. Once again, that goofy blond did not disappoint. The waffles had excellent flavor, a good crunch, and were not terribly high in fat, like some waffle recipes can be.

We topped ours with blueberries, cooked down in some maple syrup, and sat down to eat them together on the couch, watching Napolean Dynamite for the second time this week. A fabulous start to any Sunday.

Basic Waffles
Makes 6 8-inch Round Waffles

4 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 1 cup
4 3/4 ounces whole-wheat flour, approximately 1 cup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 whole eggs, beaten
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
16 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
Vegetable spray, for waffle iron

Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In another bowl beat together eggs and melted butter, and then add the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Ladle the recommended amount of waffle batter onto the iron according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Close iron top and cook until the waffle is golden on both sides and is easily removed from iron. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree F oven until ready to serve.

Monday, August 14

Black Cod in Tomato Saffron Broth

The photograph of this dish in Martha Stewart a few months back was absolutely gorgeous, and I couldn't wait to make it, but for whatever reason, I kept putting it off, pulling out the issue every once in awhile, then tucking it back away, saving it for some future date in which a fish stew would be the perfect thing to make. That day came on Saturday, and like usual, once I looked at the recipe and read through the steps, I realized how simple and quick this dish would be, despite how impressive it looks when plated up.

A simple broth made with tomatoes, garlic, saffron, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes provides the "bath" for chunks of white firm-fleshed fish, which cooks just until opaque, and is finished with currants, sliced green onions, and almonds. The recipe was almost too basic, and since I had some time on my hands Saturday before our dinner guests arrived, I embellished it, adding a few ingredients, and enriching the dish with extra flavor where I could.

We served the stew with fresh baguette for dipping in the beautiful broth, and a green salad on the side. It was so easy, and so delicious, that we will be making this again and again, although I'm sure it will be slightly different each time, as it is really more of an outline for making a quick fish stew.

Cod in Tomato Saffron Broth
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

3 Tbsp olive oil
½ medium onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 large pinches saffron
1 tsp dried oregano
28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
½ cup white wine
¼ cup dried currants
2-3 cups chicken broth
1 ½ lbs Cod, Grouper or other firm, mild white fish, Cut into 1-2 inch chunks, seasoned with salt and pepper
¼ cup sliced almonds
2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Heat the oil in a heavy medium pot over moderate heat. Add the onion and saute until golden and slightly browned. Add the garlic and spices, along with salt and pepper, and saute until fragrant, a few minutes. Deglaze with the white wine and let it cook off. Add the tomatoes and crush with a wooden spoon. Saute for a few minutes to meld the flavors.

Add the currants, then the chicken stock, about a half cup at a time, reducing it down, then adding more once the broth has thickened. Repeat this several times, and finish with a little more broth, to reach the desired "thickness" of the broth. This is optional, but if you have the time it makes for a more flavorful broth. If you do not plan on working this step in, then only add about a cup of broth, and reduce only slightly.

When you are ready to serve, add the fish, and simmer gently until opaque throughout.

To serve, ladle the stew into shallow bowls, and garnish with green onion and sliced almonds. Serve with crusty bread.


This was great, and so easy. This is a good basic recipe to work from for a fish stew - lots of possible variations. I also added halved cherry tomatoes and cooked those down in the broth.

Sunday, August 13

Buckwheat and Honey Oatmeal Bread

I have been struggling over the past year to become a better bread-baker. I am trying to follow my mom's lead, and until this past weekend, I was beginning to think I hadn't inherited her gene for taming and transforming yeast. My breads always turned out leaden, never rising quite high enough.

My family sat down to dinner together every night, and many of those meals included homemade bread in some form. Two of our family favorites were my mom's soft white bread, swirled with cinnamon and sugar, and her oatmeal bread. I was always partial to the oatmeal bread, because although it was soft, it also had substance, and held up well to a good toasting, and topping of butter and plenty of jam.

I started to wonder if my trouble with bread didn't have something to do with my recipes, since I usually choose whole grain recipes, loaded with good things like nuts and fruits, so this time around, I chose an oatmeal bread as a benchmark, since I know in my mind what a good oatmeal bread should look and taste like. Now, I don't know if it was my recipes all along, if I'm finally getting the hang of it, or if my mom's bread lesson paid off last time I was home, but I do know that this Buckwheat and Honey Oatmeal Bread turned out wonderfully - rising to unprecedented heights, tasting slightly earthy and sweet from the grains, and boosting my confidence that I too, can make homemade bread a regular occurence in my house.

Buckwheat and Honey Oatmeal Bread
Makes 2 9x5 inch loaves

2 Tbsp (2 pkgs) Active dry yeast
1 tsp Honey
1 ⅓ cup Warm Water, (105 - 115 degrees)
1 cup Warm Milk , (105 - 115 degrees)
½ cup Honey
¼ cup Vegetable oil or melted unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 Tbsp Salt
1 cup Buckwheat Flour
2 cups Rolled oats
4 ½ - 5 cups All-purpose flour
Extra rolled oats for sprinkling

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast and the 1 tsp honey over 1/3 cup of the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl with a whisk, or in the work bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining 1 cup warm water, the warm milk, the 1/2 cup honey, oil or butter, eggs, salt, buckwheat flour, and the 2 cups oats. Add the yeast mixture and beat hard until creamy, 2 minutes. Add the remaining unbleached flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough is formed that just clears the sides of the bowl, switching to a wooden spoon as necessary if making by hand.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured work surface and knead until firm yet still quite soft and springy, about 3 minutes, adding only 1 Tbsp flour at a time as necessary to prevent sticking. The dough will retain a nubby, tacky quality because of the whole-grain flour. Do not add too much flour, or the bread will by dry and hard. Place in a greased deep container, turn once to coat the top, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Turn out the dough onto the work surface. Divide into 3 equal portions and form into rectangular loaves. Place the loaves in 3 greased clay or metal 8 by 4 inch loaf pans that have been sprinkled on the bottom and sides with rolled oats. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake in the center of the oven until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, 40 - 45 minutes. Remove from the pans to racks to cool completely before baking.

I made 2 large loaves in 9 x 5 pans instead.

Thursday, August 10

I Dream of Andalusia

I've been to Spain twice in my life. The first time in high school, when my peers and I, accompanied by two overbearing chaparones, traveled by bus across the Spanish countryside. Our main appreciation of Spain at that point was the easy access to beer and cigarettes, and my palate so underdeveloped at the time, that I subsisted solely grilled cheese and gazpacho for the entire two weeks.

My second rendevous with Spain was during college, when I lived there for half a year. Needless to say, the second time around I got much more intimate with that hot-blooded country, and I got to experience the best side of Spanish cooking - home cooking. My senora, Lola, was a simple cook, but her food is still burned into my memory. Her stews were outstanding, always made with homemade broth, and probably cooked with animal parts I'm much more comfortable not knowing about. There was one morning, when I looked up from my toast to see a gigantic tail being pulled from a bag on the counter. I said "Dios Mio, Lola!", and she about died laughing. I never did find out what animal that tail belonged to - not sure I wanted to.

There were many dishes I came to love while in Spain, but of them all, gazpacho has remained one of my favorites - something I look forward to making as soon as the weather turns warm. I used to use Ina Garten's gazpacho recipe exclusively. I thought it was gazpacho perfection, but friends, I have found a new gazpacho to compete with my beloved Barefoot recipe. I have started helping out a local personal chef, who also caters small events and parties, and Wednesday was my first night in the kitchen with her. And my first catered dish to prepare? You guessed it. Gazpacho.

Holly is a great chef, and I'm so glad she shared this gazpacho recipe with me. Both recipes have their charms, but this one has the interesting addition of a garlic and egg mash which is blended in with the vegetable mixture, along with breadcrumbs, for body and substance. There are a few other ingredients I was surprised to see in there, but I can assure you, they make for one harmonious and interesting bowl of soup...it takes me right back to Spain, and there is absolutely nothing better to eat in the dog days of summer, no matter what country you live in.


Holly's Gazpacho
Serves 8

2 cups fresh plum tomatoes, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 English cucumber, chopped
½ cup red onion, finely chopped
2 serranos or jalapenos, minced
½ lemon , juiced
2 cups chicken broth
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup parsley, finely minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonade
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco, to taste
Coarsely ground black pepper
46 ounces tomato juice
1 cup plain bread crumbs

For Garlic & Egg Paste:
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs

Make the egg/garlic paste:
Place the eggs in a small pot of cold water, bring to a boil, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the garlic with kosher salt and set in a small bowl. When the eggs are finished cooking, peel and rinse, then add to the garlic and salt mixture, and mash together with a fork.

Make the Soup Base: In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, red onion, olive oil, lemon juice, chicken broth, red wine vinegar, parsley, basil, worcestershire, and season with freshly ground black pepper. Stir to combine.

Pour the tomato juice into the bowl with the vegetables, then add the garlic and egg mixture, along with the bread crumbs and stir to combine.

Using a handheld mixer, puree the soup to an even consistency, or use the food processor, in batches, to puree the soup. Taste for seasoning, and adjust with additional salt, pepper, or tabasco.

Chill for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight. Garnish with additional minced hardboiled egg, olives, red onion, or parsley.

This gazpacho will keep in the fridge for up to a week. The garlic and egg mixture adds body and substance to the soup, but you can leave it out if you prefer a more subtle taste.
Vermont Farm Table