April 6th, 2015

Matzo Brei

My weekend was filled with long walks, frigid wind, taking my trike out for the inaugural ride of 2015(!), eating far too many Cadbury mini eggs, and matzo brei. A typical Easter/Passover weekend. My mom converted to Judaism when she married my dad, so growing up, we had a fairly normal, suburban, Jewish home, filled with dreidels and shabbos candles. The only bit of cross-pollination that remained from my mother’s Catholic upbringing was the Easter basket. On Easter morning, my sister and I would wake up to a pastel basket, overflowing with multicolored straw, and egg-shaped chocolates nestled throughout. They were a delight!

And you know what else is a delight, but for different reasons? Matzo brei! It’s one of the many dishes that Jews will eat during the week after Passover (this year it’s right around Easter) when eating anything leavened is forbidden.

MatzoBrei2 Typically, matzo brei is matzo, crushed then softened in hot water, and scrambled in eggs– very simple, and very quick. It can be eaten on the savory side (fry some caramelized onion with the eggs and serve with sour cream), or the sweet (sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar with a side of apple sauce). Some people say that matzo brei is the sort of food that one has to grow up with in order to truly like. It’s true that it doesn’t sound like much– and that’s because it’s not. Like a bowl of rice (another forbidden Passover food), it is perfectly bland, subtle, and could be mistaken for baby food.

The kind of matzo brei that I most prefer, uses the same ingredients, it is how they are handled that differs. I make a sort of pancake from the batter, not the typical hard scramble. The matzo is soft and swollen, and the egg acts as a binder. Fried in oil and butter, the brei gets golden around the edges with a casual chew. You can have this matzo brei either sweet or savory. I had a tired basket of strawberries in the fridge so I made a compote from them. Waste not, want not!

I made matzo brei to celebrate Passover, but this dish one of those meals that’s made year round at my house.

MatzoBrei1Matzo Brei

Depending on appetites, the general rule for matzo brei is one egg and one sheet of matzo per person. Believe it or not, I find those swollen sheets of matzo quite filling.

2 sheets of matzo
2 eggs
large pinch of salt
1 tablespoon flavorless oil, like canola
1 tablespoon butter

Makes 2 servings, 6 pancakes

In a colander, or sieve, crush the matzo into pies about 1 inch square. You want some irregularity in the size. Run the colander under hot water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the matzo is softened and swollen. Shake the colander of excess water, gently pressing the matzo.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Season with the salt, and then add the matzo.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, add the oil, and melt the butter. Spoon in the matzo brei batter, like you would pancakes. Depending on size, the recipe should make 6 pancakes. Cook until golden brown at edges, about 2 minutes. Flip, and continue to cook on the other side until golden brown, about 1 minute.

Remove from pan, and serve with apple sauce, sour cream, or compote.

February 5th, 2015

Sourdough Popovers

Sourdough amazes me, and popovers do too. When they come crashing together it’s a delicious thing to behold.

I am enthralled with sourdough bread–how basically a handful of ingredients: flour, water, and salt, can make a crisp, webby loaf of bread– it gets me every time. I feel like I am truly making something great out of very little. In my research for the the book, I found a lot of sourdoughs that were given a little help with commercial yeast. I understand why. Yeast speeds the process; it insures levity; it can help. But it also seemed like cheating and  I didn’t want my recipe to be a cheat! It was important to me to have a reliable, easy sourdough starter, that used NO commercial yeast– that did it on its own. If homemakers, settlers, and pioneers, could bake sourdough bread without the aid of commercial yeast hundreds of years ago, surely we could do it in 2015!

It took awhile, but I developed a starter that works for the home chef, and it’s been going strong now for over two years. The recipe for the starter is in United States of Bread along with several recipes for loaves, but now that the book’s out, I have begun experimenting more with my starter. There have been waffles (stellar!), and pancakes (to die for!). And last weekend there were these superb popovers.

SourdoughPopoversTypically, popovers aren’t made with any sort of leavening. Made in a hot pan, they display the alchemy of baking by transforming from a runny batter, into an eggy, puffy dream. The sourdough popovers, made with a bit of sourdough starter, is leavened and more substantial than the original, but this resulting popovers is like a whipped muffin. (If that makes any sense!) Still airy, still eggy, slightly sour, with substance from the starter, these popovers only needed a smear of jam and a cup of coffee. Forget Wheaties, this was my breakfast of champions.

This morning treat does behave like a standard popover– they rumple and deflate– so they really should be eaten moments from the oven. I don’t have a popover pan, so mine were made in a muffin tin. If you don’t have a popover pan either, just try to space the popovers out in the tin. This allows for expansion.

Sourdough Popover
from the King Arthur Flour website

1 cup milk (I used whole)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sourdough starter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour

Makes about 9 popovers

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a muffin tin in the oven to preheat as well.

Warm milk slightly, it is fine to do this in the microwave. Combine the milk, eggs, starter and salt. Add the flour and mix. It is fine if lumps in the batter remain; don’t overmix.

Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven. Spray well with cooking spray, or brush with melted butter. Pour batter into the tin, filling the batter almost to the top.

Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue to bake for 15-20 minutes, until popovers are golden brown.

Remove from the pan. You may need to pry the popovers from the tin with an offset spatula. Serve immediately.

December 20th, 2014

Happy Holidays!

The holidays are almost here! Each year I say this, but it is true– I can hardly believe it!

So I never do the gift guides, or even the yearly round ups, but this year I’ll leave you with this, my favorite Christmas song. My dad loved the Little Drummer Boy. It didn’t matter that we were Jewish, come December he would be puffing ba-rump-a-bump-bumps under his breath all month long. I’m pretty sure he loved the Johnny Mathis version, but if you ask me, Bing and Bowie do a marvelous mash-up.

Have a great holiday everyone, see you next year!

November 21st, 2014

Vermont Graham Bread

Bitter cold mornings?

Check.

Changed your the sheets on your bed to flannel?

Check.

Leaves almost completely fallen off the trees and into messy piles of muck?

Check.

Preparing yourself for winter? Oven is being turned on more often?

Check. And check.

Me too. This recipe is for a quickbread from my book. It’s one of those recipes that sort of sneaked up on me, and weaseled its way into my culinary lexicon– one that I find myself baking time and again. Maybe its because it’s dead simple, or perhaps it’s because I usually have all of the ingredients in my pantry, or maybe it’s because it is just delicious!

VermontGrahamBread1This bread is made with Graham flour– a flour that was new to me. I was familiar with Graham crackers (adorned with peanut butter– sign me up!), but I had never baked with the flour. Graham flour is one of those old-fashioned, regional New England flours from the 19th century. Created by Sylvester Graham, a preacher and one of the countries first health nuts, this flour is similar to whole wheat, but it grinds the entire wheat berry at coarser levels. The result is a rich, nutty, and slightly sweet flour.

This recipe hales from Vermont and uses a bit of pure maple syrup. With just a hint of brown sugar, and raisins– for added sweetness and chewiness, it’s dark and sustaining. This is a humble bread, but once released from the pan, and set to cool on a rack, I find myself returning to the kitchen and slicing off piece after thin piece and slathering it with salted butter. It’s one of those simple yet superb recipes, and a very good reason to turn on the oven!

VermontGrahamBread2Vermont Graham Bread
from United States of Bread

Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) graham flour
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup (2 ounces) brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup (21/2 ounces) raisins

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter, or lightly coat a standard loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk the flours, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt together. Set aside. In another medium-size bowl, whisk the brown sugar, maple syrup, egg, and buttermilk together until well blended. All at once, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Fold in the raisins.

Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the bread is lightly browned, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then unmold. Bread can be sliced and eaten while still warm.

Note:
Graham flour can be found in health food stores, and some grocery stores. Bob’s Red Mill, as well as Hodgson Mills make great graham flour. If you are having trouble finding it, you can substitute whole wheat flour, though the bread will not have the same nuttiness, or flavor.

October 14th, 2014

United States of Bread is Here!

After months of work, many sacks of flour, pounds of yeast, mishaps and triumphs– my latest book has arrived! United States of Bread has officially hit the shelves!

USofB3
If you follow me on Twitter, maybe you have seen the #USofBread, over the past months. Maybe you thought, “Well, that bread looks delicious.” Or maybe you thought, “Doesn’t that girl eat anything else besides bread?” (Actually, that wouldn’t have been too far from the truth at times. There was A LOT of bread-eating going on at my house.) Well, the hashtag was more than just a symbol. Now you can pick up a copy of the book, and make the loaves for yourself!

USofB2This isn’t your artisan bread cookbook. I don’t teach you how to make European baguettes or batards. United States of Bread recreates the bread-baking tradition of the US. And yes, there is an American tradition of baking bread! This is for the home baker who is interested in making sustaining breads like Minnesota Wild Rice Bread, Amish Dill Bread, and all sorts of sourdough. (There’s a starter recipe in the book.)

USofB1This book has a little bit of everything, from sandwich loaves, to sourdough, sweet breads, to quickbreads. I tried to develop a book for everyone– from the novice baker to the more experienced home cook, from the weekend baker to the cook that only has moments to throw together some cornbread– there’s a recipe to be found!

USofB4
I only hope that you’ll find the recipes intriguing, and delicious– that they become a part of your baking repertoire. Long live carbs, and long live American bread!

September 1st, 2014

Food Writing Course!

I know that it’s short notice, but I’ll be teaching a weekly food writing course, starting this Wednesday evening! The class is at Gateway Community College here in New Haven, and is open to students and non-students the like.

We’ll be reading all the biggies– MFK Fisher, Elizabeth David, James Beard– to name a few, and we’ll be doing a lot a writing too. From expository, recipe writing, restaurant critique, there’s a little bit for everyone. There are a few spots left in the class– so sign up, I’d love to meet you!

(The course is HSP 1249, if you’re having trouble signing up, drop me a note.)

July 18th, 2014

Spaghetti Pasta Salad

It’s the height of summer. That means quite a few things:

Going to the farmers market each week only to find tantalizing produce, not just yarn and honey.
It stays light so much longer.
Pre-dinner cocktails while sitting on the front porch.
Loving and hating the air conditioner.
Dresses! I pity men who can’t wear them all summer long.
Riding my bike around, and not just for exercise!
BBQ! Everything.
Salads, lots of salad.
It being too hot to even think of turning on the oven.

If you’re anything like me, you take the last two mentions very seriously.

SpaghettiPastaSalad

Yes, salad means vegetables, and sometimes fruit. It also means pasta. And not the pasta salad of yore– tri-color fusilli, sliced olives, and “Italian” dressing– but cold spaghetti, toasted bread crumbs, a good amount of parsley, and lots anchovies. (Yes, anchovies. Even if you don’t like these little fishies on their own, they’re a must in this salad!)

There’s not much that traditionally Italian about this salad– except the fact that it’s made with spaghetti. It’s cold, for one thing; or at the very least, room temperature. I rinse the pasta after I boil it– starch is the enemy of pasta salads. But that’s ok; this salad is all about flavors and textures. The flavors should be bold: the briny anchovies, the salty Parmesan cheese, and the freshness of the parsley. The breadcrumbs should be dry and toasted, that way they cling to the pasta, drying it out and giving the salad a nice crunch. This is not a slippery salad.

SpaghettiPastaSalad2

I’ve made this cold spaghetti salad quite a few times already this summer, and there’s not really a recipe. It can be adapted to your own taste. It’s as good the next day, as the day you make it. So go ahead, and play around, but here are the basics:

Spaghetti Pasta Salad

1/2 pound spaghetti
1/3 cup olive oil
a few cloves of garlic, smashed
1/2 can anchovies, minced
red pepper flakes
parsley, minced
grated Parmesan cheese
1/2-3/4 cup toasted fresh breadcrumbs*
salt and pepper

Boil the pasta in  salted water until cooked. Drain well, and rinse well under cold water. Put in a large bowl, and toss in a few tablespoons of olive oil to coat. Set aside.

In a skillet, over medium heat, add the remaining olive oil and a few cloves of garlic. Saute until cloves are beginning to brown, then add the anchovies and the red pepper. Continue to saute until the anchovies melt and begin to muddy the olive oil. Pour mixture over the spaghetti, and toss well.

Add the parsley, cheese, and breadcrumbs, and season with salt and pepper. Check for seasoning. The pasta should be well seasoned, as the flavors will dull slightly in the refrigerator. Salad can be made and refrigerated ahead of time.

* If you don’t have fresh breadcrumbs, panko breadcrumbs are a good substitute. Before, simply toast in a bit of olive oil until golden brown.

June 16th, 2014

Best Ever Doughnuts

BestEverDoughnutsNational Doughnut Day may have passed, but that doesn’t (and shouldn’t!) mean you have to stop eating doughnuts. If you’ve never made doughnuts– it’s time– you’re in for a treat!

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece for Food52‘s Heirloom Recipes column. It’s for “Best Ever Doughnuts” a recipe that came with my grandma when she moved to California from South Dakota. This cake doughnut is crispy outside, pillowy inside, with just the right amount of sweetness.

My grandma used to make these for me on very special occasions– but I think this coming weekend is special enough for you to give them a try! If you’d like to read the story, or get the recipe it’s right here.

May 14th, 2014

Ramp Pesto

My husband and I have a tradition. Each year, when the weather finally gets warm, the ground begins to thaw, and little streams erupt, letting water trickle over the rocky landscape– we go foraging for ramps. We will go for a hike, and from past experience, we know where they hide. The first one we spot is always the most thrilling, like a hidden gastronomic treasure. They are truly the first, local green edible we have.

RampPesto1After a season’s worth of cellared carrots and winter squash, I enjoy the ramps with gusto. I will cook with them at every meal– grilled and sprinkled with Maldon, or sliced and sauteed with a grain, or eaten whole after a wilting in my cast-iron skillet. Frankly, I eat them until I almost become tired of them. (Isn’t that the point of seasonal eating anyway?) And when this happens, I always make pesto out the rest of my booty.

A blitz in the food processor gives new life to this vegetable. Ramps can be bracing, garlicky, oniony, peppery (halitosis, anyone?). But given a quick blanching and then pureed, and the strength of flavor mellows into a lovely springtime concoction.

RampPesto3There really is no hard and fast recipe for ramp pesto. Depending on how you use it, and your accessibility to these beauties, the texture of the pesto can change– more paste-like if you’re using it to top pasta, thinned with olive oil and used as an accent in any number of dishes. Just remember, it’s important to blanch your ramps, especially the bulbs, before making the pesto, or you will be exposed to the aforementioned ramp breath.

Ramps are still growing in Connecticut, and are even at the farmer’s market, but you must act quickly– they’re appearance is fleeting. If you can’t find ramps, this pesto would be different, but equally delicious with spring onions. Here’s my basic recipe. Enjoy your spring!

RampPesto2Ramp Pesto

bunch of ramps, cleaned and trimmed
handful of roasted almonds
zest of a lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Boil a large pot of water. Cut the bulb, and the rosy stem end of the ramps, separating it from the leafy green ends. Drop the bulb end into the boiling water, and boil for about 45 seconds, the bulb should be beginning to soften. Add the greens, and continue to boil briefly, about 15 seconds. With a spider, remove the bulbs and greens from the boiling water, and put in the bowl of a food processor.

Add a handful of almond to the blanched ramps, and process to a paste. Add the lemon zest, turn on the food processor, and slowly dribble in olive oil, until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper. If you are using the pesto right away, feel free to add some grated Parmesan cheese. The pesto also freezes well, simply defrost when a taste of spring is desired.

March 21st, 2014

Donut Muffins

Is it a donut or a muffin? It’s both. And I sort of didn’t believe that it could be.

DonutMuffins3
I have always been skeptical of those donut baking pans. If you want a donut, something crisply fried on the outside, tender and moist on the inside– just eat a donut. Although the donut shape they form is cute, a baking pan, just seems like a poor, dietetic substitute. But these muffins, baked in a mini muffin pan, and rolled in sugar-cinnamon, have me rethinking my donut pan bias. Yes, they still look like a muffin, but they actually do taste like cake donut.

This is a recipe that I am playing around with for a baking course that I teach at the local community college. The course is for beginning bakers highlighting the basics of small batch baking. So I wanted a recipe that was quite straightforward, but delicious to boot.

DonutMuffins1The recipe is made from pantry staples– sugar, flour, butter– and can be easily made on a Sunday morning, and on the table for brunch. Because the recipe is so basic, it also is left open for experimentation– something I’m trying to teach my students. Although the recipe call for all-purpose flour, some whole wheat could easily be substituted. Try a little lemon zest in the muffin batter, or some cardamon thrown in the cinnamon-sugar rolling mixture.

The muffins are light, and sweet. A similar texture to frying is created when the warm muffins are rolled in additional melted butter and sugar. These muffins can be made in a mini muffin tin– where they remind me of a donut hole waiting to be popped in my mouth, or they can easily be baked in a standard muffin tin. Either way, they’re delicious enjoyed still warm from the oven, on a Sunday morning.

Donut Muffins
adapted from All Recipes

For the muffins:

2/3 cup (5 ounces) sugar
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour

For the topping:

1/2 cup (4 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

Makes 20-24 mini muffins, 10-12 muffins

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease the muffin tin and set aside.

With a mixing spoon, mix the sugar, butter, nutmeg and salt together. Stir in milk, until well blended. Add the baking powder and flour, and mix until just combined. Fill the prepared muffin cups until half full.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes for mini muffins, 25 minutes for standard muffins.

While the muffins are baking prepare the donut topping. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, place the melted butter.

Remove the muffins from the pan. While they are still warm, gently dip each muffin into the butter, and then roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Allow to cool on a rack. Muffins can be eaten while still warm.

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