Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Plum & Apple Dutch Baby


Bonjour de France! I am in Grenoble, France for two weeks to learn about interferometry at IRAM (a European interferometry observatory). I've been eating a lot (90% of which has been bread) and doing a lot of science. I won't talk about the science here because truly almost nobody cares about interferometry. And because I've been talking about science all day.


But food. That's another story. Grenoble is in the south of France, and while it's a reasonably large town, in some ways the culture here feels closer to that of rural France (which I've largely read about and gleaned from pop culture, rather than experienced) than to that of Paris. In part, that means that most of my meals have involved some glorious combination of potatoes, cream, cheese, bacon, and chicken. It's been a bit heavy, but to be honest, that's kind of my jam. Some days I've only eaten one real meal (either lunch or dinner), and then just some combination of pastries, bread, fruit, and yogurt for the other two meals. I've decided this is my ideal way of life (gratuitous pictures of said way of life below).


But I also come bearing a lovely fall recipe! I fully intended to get this out before plums were totally gone, but I suspect I may have failed. This would probably still be good with off-season plums, though, since they are cooked down until syrupy anyway. And it would be equally good with all apples. I've been daydreaming about this combination since shortly after last year's plum season (how many times am I going to say something like this? I'll probably have some great summer recipe ideas in about a week). It did not disappoint. I ate it as breakfast/dessert for dinner, but you really could have it for any meal or dessert (if you're going the dessert route - or if you're not - a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream would be parfait).


Plum & Apple Dutch Baby
Yield: 2 large meals or 4 small-ish dessert servings
Dutch baby recipe adapted from smitten kitchen

Ingredients
Dutch babies:
4 eggs
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup flour, sifted (let's be honest, I didn't sift)
2/3 cup milk
2 tbsp softened butter
Plum & Apple Filling:
1 tbsp butter
1 medium apple
1/2 lb plums (about 6 small)
2 tbsp honey
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon, plus more to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and butter two 9-inch cake pans or oven-safe skillets1.
  2. Place eggs in a blender or in a bowl with beaters and mix until pale yellow.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined (I had some small flecks of butter and everything turned out just fine).
  4. Divide evenly among prepared pans and bake 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until pancakes are gloriously puffed and light golden brown.
  5. While the pancakes bake, thinly slice the apple and plums. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, and add the apples once it is melted.
  6. Once the apples have just started to soften, add the plums. Cook until slightly syrupy, then add the honey, nutmeg, salt, and cinnamon. Continue cooking the fruit, stirring occasionally, until very soft and coated in a thick honey syrup.
  7. Remove pancakes to two plates and divide the filling evenly between them.
Notes:
  1. I used an 8-inch skillet (because I don't have a 9-inch one), and my pancake puffed tremendously. I was a little worried about the batter overflowing before it cooked, but that was not a problem. It was awesome.


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Friday, August 26, 2016

Dressed Up Sourdough Panzanella



This one has been in the works for a long time. I really like the idea of making a panzanella where I grew the tomatoes and baked the bread myself, and finally my plants are giving me ripe fruit!


For those of you who are unfamiliar, panzanella is essentially a bread salad. Traditionally it was made as a way to use stale bread, but here we will toast the bread to get a little extra flavor. Though I don't dislike greens, it's nice to mix things up a bit (I've been eating a ton of greens since I often get them in my CSA box), and this salad is all tomatoes and bread. The vinaigrette is very punchy, which I think is necessary in this type of dish and also makes it quite refreshing. Following a brilliant tip from a Serious Eats article on the subject, I salted the tomatoes and collected the juices to add to the vinaigrette, which really made it pop. I thought I'd want some sliced red onion in the panzanella, but I actually found that it wasn't necessary - there was plenty of flavor already. This panzanella is "dressed up" because there are some extra herbs and chunks of mozzarella in addition to the bread and tomatoes. The mozzarella soaks up some of the dressing too, making it super flavorful. This panzanella is the perfect late summer dish!

Dressed Up Sourdough Panzanella
Yield: 4 servings
Adapted from Serious Eats and NYT Cooking

Ingredients
2 1/2 lb mixed tomatoes
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
12 oz (3/4 lb) crusty sourdough bread
6 oz mozzarella cheese, cubed
10 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 small shallot, minced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced (if you want an extra strong dressing, you can even bump this up a bit)
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
A couple of big handfuls of basil leaves, slivered (to taste)
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (lemon thyme is great, if you can find it)
  1. Preheat an oven to 350 F. Large dice the tomatoes and toss with 2 tsp kosher salt in a colander or strainer set over a bowl. Set aside to drain for 15 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, cube the bread to about 1". Toss with 2 tbsp olive oil, spread on a baking sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes, until crisp but not browned.
  3. Set the bread cubes aside to cool and remove the tomatoes to a serving bowl. To the bowl with the tomato juices, add the shallot, garlic, mustard, and red wine vinegar. Whisk to combine, and continue whisking as you add the remaining olive oil (1/2 cup). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the bread cubes and mozzarella to the tomatoes and toss with the vinaigrette. Gently fold in the basil and thyme. Let the salad rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes, until bread cubes are soft but not soggy. Dig in!
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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Blogaversary: Corn and Tomato Summer Salad

It's officially tomato season in Apt 2A, where the tomato plant:human ratio is 3:1! (I won't delve into the overall plant:human ratio, but it is very high). I picked my first harvest recently, most of which went into this salad. My cherry tomato plant, especially, has really exploded and I expect I'll soon be drowning in cherry tomatoes.

Perhaps more importantly, this blog is a year old today! Although it has occasionally been neglected for long periods of time, I'm still quite pleased (and a little surprised) that I've been doing this for a whole year. Lots of people surprised me with their support and enthusiasm for my public ramblings about food (and occasionally plants), so thank you all for reading! In celebration, I've prepared one of the most summery things I could think of. Like all good summer recipes, this is more of a loose sketch and should be guided by whatever is freshest and most beautiful in your crisper at the moment. Or, in my case, whatever is most irresistible when you go to the farmers market and/or open your CSA box. I feel particularly proud of this dish because it includes that first crop of tomatoes from my (not-so-) little balcony garden. This made such a refreshing lunch and kept pretty well in the fridge (some liquid collected at the bottom since salt draws it out, but the flavors and textures were intact). It would be delicious as a salad, but equally wonderful with tortilla or pita chips. I hope it inspires you to go all-out the next time you're shopping for produce!



Corn and Tomato Summer Salad
Yield: 2 servings as a main, or 3-4 as a side

Ingredients
4 ears corn
Diced red onion, to taste (I used about 1/4 of a medium onion)
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (I used a mix of big heirlooms and heirloom cherry tomatoes)
1/4 of a small/medium poblano pepper (or to taste), diced small
Zest and juice of 1 large lime (about 3 T juice)
1-2 cloves of garlic, pasted or minced
1 T olive oil
1/3 cup queso fresco or feta cheese, divided
1-2 T chopped parsley, divided

  1. Cook corn in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes, until just tender (Note: I've read this takes longer for grocery store corn than for farmers market corn, so just go by the texture of the kernels if they seem too hard). Let cool, then cut of cobs and place in a medium bowl.
  2. While the corn cooks, soak the onion in ice water for about 10 minutes (this takes the bite out of it). Drain on paper towels, and add to the bowl with the corn.
  3. Add the tomatoes and peppers to the bowl, and fold gently to combine.
  4. In a small bowl or liquid measure, whisk together the lime juice and zest, garlic, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing into the bowl of vegetables and fold gently to coat.
  5. Set aside a small palmful each of queso fresco and chopped parsley, and mix the rest into the salad (the queso fresco will make things slightly less pretty, but it adds a nice creamy texture).
  6. Taste and adjust any flavors to taste (for example, I added another big squeeze of lime juice, some salt, and that second clove of garlic). Garnish with the remaining cheese and parsley, and serve at room temperature.
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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Spiced Plum Ice Pops

The idea for these came to me shortly after plum season last year (of course), so I've been sitting on this for the better part of a year. I fully expected to have to run through several iterations of this before I hit on the right ratios in the syrup and the right amount of plums, but I was pleasantly surprised by how happy I was with my first batch! (Can you imagine if I'd had to plow my way through countless ice pop "failures"? The horror.) In these pops, the spices serve to support the plum flavor, rather than overpowering it, exactly as I'd hoped. Plus, if you use pink- or red-fleshed plums, the ice pops take on a lovely deep pink hue. If you have a different combination of dried/ground and fresh/whole spices, feel free to mix and match - just adjust the amounts accordingly.





I do hope you make these - they're a snap to make and taste like summer. The taste of summer, incidentally, is why I haven't been posting much - I've been spending my time buried in summer produce! My CSA is keeping me busy, as are my weekly visits to the farmers market. And very soon, I will have my first tomato haul to add to the mix! In the meantime, I have plenty of herbs from my garden.

Oh, by the way, these have fruit in them, which means they are 100% fair game for breakfast.

Spiced Plum Ice Pops
Yield: 5-6 3-oz popsicles

Ingredients
Ice pops:
1 lb plums (I used a mix of black plums and teeny tiny sugar plums)
1-2 pinches ground nutmeg
1-2 pinches ground allspice
1/2 c spiced simple syrup (recipe below)

  1. Slice plums, peeling only if you (gasp) really don't like the skins (to be honest, peeling plums sounds like a nightmare, so good luck with that). Place in blender, add nutmeg, allspice, and syrup (feel free to adjust amount to taste), and blend until smooth. Pour into ice pop molds and freeze until solid, about 6 hours longer than you feel it should take.
Spiced simple syrup:
1/2 c water
1/2 c sugar
0.5-1 oz fresh ginger (to taste), peeled and sliced into thin coins
2 whole cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick
  1. Place water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until sugar is dissolved and small bubbles appear on the bottom of the pan.
  2. Remove pan from heat, add remaining ingredients, and cover. Steep until syrup is spiced to desired strength (this took about 10 minutes for me).
  3. Strain out solids and set aside 1/2 cup for the ice pops. You will have leftover syrup (it's tough to make simple syrup in smaller quantities than this), which can be used for cocktails or fancy homemade soda (or more ice pops, duh).
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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Crispy, Cheesy Black Bean Tacos

I feel that I've spent far too much time this summer doing very responsible, adult things, such as paying bills and scheduling/attending an unholy amount of appointments. Thus, this is the perfect time to post this delicious and spectacularly unsophisticated recipe, which, quite honestly, is not even a real recipe. This is more what the New York Times calls a "No-Recipe Recipe", with loose measurements and easily scaled portions. You should feel free to add and swap ingredients to your heart's content.

There's no time to take good pictures when crunchy delicious things await! Not pictured: the taco I had already shoved down my throat before I realized these would be good for the blog.


These tacos were cobbled together from a few things I'd seen online over the years, plus some vague ideas floating around in my head and the need to use up awkward amounts of various Mexican-ish ingredients (see what I mean about this not being a real recipe?). As with most dishes that come together in a half hour (max - and I include the time it takes to chop vegetables, because people who don't are evil), this was totally delicious and a whole lot of fun. Crunchy corn tortilla + crunchy cheese on the outside + melty cheese on the inside...how could it not be?

Hopefully there should be some fun seasonal recipes inspired by my garden (which is growing at a rate that would be alarming if I was remotely responsible) soon. My balcony is bursting with green, fragrant goodness and I have some teeny baby tomatoes at last! As soon as they're ripe, I have plans for a 100% homegrown/baked panzanella. But in the meantime, tacos!




Crispy, Cheesy Black Bean Tacos
Yield: 3 tacos (which I found to be a light lunch serving - this is very easily scaled up)

Ingredients
1 scant cup black beans
2 T finely diced red onion
2 T finely diced poblano (or jalapeño, etc.) pepper
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
3 corn tortillas
2-3 T chicken broth (or water or vegetable broth)
A few palmsful of shredded cheddar cheese (Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack would be delightful as well, I suspect)
Cumin, paprika, cayenne, salt, black pepper, etc. for seasoning
Sour cream, for serving (optional)

  1. Cook the onion, pepper, and garlic over medium heat in a bit of olive oil until softened. Add the black beans and chicken broth and cook, mashing beans slightly so they stick together a bit but still have some texture.
  2. Once the broth has largely evaporated and the beans are soft and cohesive, remove to a bowl or plate and wipe out the skillet (no need to clean it).
  3. Return the skillet to the stove over medium to medium-high heat with 1-2 T oil (I used olive oil). Working somewhat quickly once the oil is hot, drop a pile of cheese about the size and rough shape (no need to be exact here) of half a tortilla into the pan. Place a corn tortilla on top so that it half covers the cheese and add a few tbsp of filling and some more shredded cheese on the side that's covering the cheese.
  4. Fold the un-cheesed side of the tortilla over and hold it in place with a spatula or tongs until the cheese on the bottom is crisped and starting to brown (it will also smell amazing, so you can use your nose here). Flip carefully and cook until the tortilla is golden and crisp. Repeat with remaining tacos and serve warm with sour cream dolloped on top.
Happy summer!

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Creamy Lemon Pasta with Asparagus and Garlic Scapes


Now that spring is practically over, I thought I'd share this delightful pasta I made a couple of weeks ago. But first, a look at this spring according to my phone and snapchat story. I joined a CSA this year (in which you pay a farm up front and get a box of fresh produce every week), and I've been having fun with some unusual ingredients like applemint and garlic scapes. Here are the contents of my first box from a few weeks ago:


And of course, I've been making lots of trips to the farmers market(s) as well.


And my tomatoes are finally in the ground! My herbs and garlic are doing wonderfully, as well.

My fridge has been bulging with produce for the last month or two as I try to get as much rhubarb, asparagus, and strawberries as I can before their all-too-short season is up. When I saw this creamy lemon pasta on the New York Times cooking newsletter, I couldn't help but dress it up with some of that produce (plus a little Parmesan, of course). It was delicious, and surprisingly filling. And it's quite an easy recipe! My additions will be described in pretty loose terms, since I wasn't really measuring and the amount of vegetables mostly depends on taste.

Creamy Lemon Pasta with Asparagus and Garlic Scapes
Adapted from The New York Times
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients
25-30 medium asparagus spears (1-2 lb)
4 garlic scapes 1
Olive oil
12 oz wide egg noodles
Zest of 2 lemons and juice of 1-2 lemons, to taste
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 425. Slice the asparagus and garlic scapes into 1-inch lengths and toss with enough olive oil to coat, but not so much that they are swimming. Season with salt and pepper. Spread in a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan (or even on a pizza stone) and roast 15-20 minutes, until tender and lightly browned.
  2. About halfway through the vegetables' cooking time, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the egg noodles according to package directions until al dente. Drain and return to the pot.
  3. Two minutes before the noodles are done, add the cream, zest, salt, and pepper to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour cream mixture over the noodles and add lemon juice to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring, for another 1-2 minutes, until pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  4. Add in vegetables and top with a generous amount of grated Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.
Notes:
  1. Garlic scapes are the green stems of hardneck garlic, harvested so that the plant will expend most of its resources on the bulbs rather than producing the flowers that eventually emerge from the scapes. They have a delicious mild garlic flavor and can be found at some farmers markets in the spring. If you don't have any, I think this would also be delicious with a couple of thinly sliced garlic cloves, cooked briefly in a little oil in the saucepan before adding the cream mixture, or (gasp) even without garlic.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Julia Child's Pain de Mie

French lesson time! Pain is French for bread, which you likely know. Mie means "crumb", and refers to the dense, moist crumb this bread has. The crumb is the interior of the bread (i.e., not the crust). A dense crumb means that the bread has very tiny air pockets in it, while an open crumb refers to a bread more like ciabatta, which has beautiful big bubbles inside. The crumb of pain de mie makes it perfect for slicing, so it's often used for sandwiches or toast.

I've been eyeing this recipe for a while, and I finally had some time the other day while I was working from home. I had some downtime while I was running some things for my data, and I used those intervals to make the bread. It came out beautifully, and it's delicious! It looks so professional but really doesn't take much effort (it does take most of a day, but it's largely downtime). 

I also had a chance to get out some pent-up aggression by whacking a stick of butter with a rolling pin. I just love Julia Child's recipes. You always get to do something fun. I hope you give this recipe a shot!


Pain de Mie (White Sandwich Bread)
Yield: 1 9x5 in. loaf
Barely adapted from From Julia Child's Kitchen

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups (1 lb) all-purpose flour (measure by scooping measuring cups into flour and sweeping off excess)
2 tsp salt
1 package (0.25 oz or 2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast, dissolved in 3 T warm water (~105 degrees F)
1 1/3 cups milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter
  1. Place the flour and salt in a 4-5 quart mixing bowl (preferably straight-sided) or into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix in the dissolved yeast and milk. If you are doing this by hand, I found that a rubber spatula worked well. Let the dough rest either in the stand mixer or on a lightly floured surface for two minutes.
  2. Mixing by hand: Use a bench/pastry scraper or stiff spatula to flip the near side of the dough over onto the far side, then right onto left, etc. about a dozen times. You want the dough to get tough enough that you can start kneading it, or, in Julia's words: "until dough has enough body so that you can sweep it off the kneading surface, slap it down hard, and push it with the heel of your hand as you continue to flip it." I'm not sure that I really mastered that technique, but I had a lot of fun. After about 3-4 minutes, the dough will start cleaning itself off the work surface and retain its shape. I found I needed a little flour here and there during this process to keep the dough from sticking so much that it was unworkable, so use some if you need it (just be sparing).
    Mixing by machine: Knead at moderate speed for a minute or two, until dough balls on hook and draws back upon itself.
  3. Beat the cold butter with a rolling pin (this is the part where I really had fun) until it is somewhat malleable, then smear out with the heel (not palm - it's too warm!) of your hand so that it is fully malleable but still cold. I did this on the counter right next to the dough, which I'd recommend. Rapidly fold and smear tablespoon bits of butter into the dough (or beat it in with a mixer), one at a time. It will be a holy mess, and if you're doing it by hand, the situation will probably seem hopeless. Just keep swimming! The butter will start incorporating better and it will start seeming more like bread dough with some "vigorous kneading" (I channeled Julia here and got quite a workout). Let rest for another 2 minutes.
  4. Wash out the mixing bowl 1 and pour in 10 1/2 cups of water (I used warm water to get the bowl warm, since yeast prefer that), then make a mark or put a piece of tape on the outside of the bowl to indicate the water level. Knead the dough briefly with the heel of your hand once it is finished resting. When it cleans the butter off the work surface, dump the water from the bowl and put the dough in. The dough will be soft and still a bit sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a clean towel and let rise in a warm place (72-75 degrees). Dough should take at least 3 hours to reach the mark on the bowl; if it is rising to quickly, refrigerate to slow rise. The entire rise can also take place in the fridge to make a more flexible schedule.
  5. Turn risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat into a rough rectangle about 12 inches long. Fold the right side over to the middle and then the left side over to cover it. Pat back into a rectangle and repeat. (This redistributes the yeast cells and makes for a finer grain.) Return dough to bowl, cover, and let rise again, this time to slightly below the 10 1/2 cup mark on the bowl. This should take at least 1 1/2 hours. This again can be done in the refrigerator - just put a plate with a weight on the dough so it doesn't rise too much. Risen dough may be frozen, too!
  6. Grease the inside of a 9x5-inch loaf pan with shortening. Turn dough out onto a work surface (minimally floured, and only if necessary), and push it into a rectangle about the length of your pan. Fold in half so that the two long sides meet, and seal with the heel of your hand. Roll the dough a bit so that this seam is on top, and press a lengthwise trench down the center of the dough with the side of your hand. Fold in half along the trench and seal again. Put dough in pan seam side down. Let rise uncovered until slightly more than doubled, about 1-1 1/2 hours. Preheat the over to 425 degrees F before the next step.
  7. Bake for about 35 minutes, until bread is lightly browned and comes easily out of the pan. Unmold onto a rack and cool on its side. Flavor and texture improve after 24 hours 2. Once totally cool, wrap the bread airtight and store in the refrigerator or freezer.
Notes:
  1. Okay, we all know I didn't actually wash the bowl. I just swished some warm water around until it was mostly warm. This is good enough since you're just going to dump the dough back in.
  2. Then again, there's nothing quite like a slice of bread warm from the oven. I took a couple of slices and then let the rest cool. Use your judgment.
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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Spring Chicken and Vegetable Skillet

I realize now that the name of this recipe is sort of punny. It wasn't intentional, but I'm leaving it because I'm the type of person who loves food puns (and most other puns, for that matter).

It's finally spring! Going through the blog archives, we just skipped straight from the dead of winter to asparagus-laden tables at the farmers market. If only that's how it went in real life...

It was a rough semester (hence the lack of posts since January), but because of Michigan's weird schedule, I've been off for a few weeks now. I've got a lot of recipes to post! This is actually one I just made the other night. The farmers market has finally had asparagus the last two weeks, and I have been out-of-my-mind excited about it. Asparagus is one of those things I rarely bother buying out of season, because it's generally pretty sad, so its arrival at the farmers market is a big deal for me. I generally wake up early on Saturdays and head over to the market, but the first week of asparagus season I had just gotten back from California and could barely get out of bed until 9. I missed the asparagus and was very disappointed. But this week, no one was getting between me and the asparagus. I took the earliest bus over and was greeted with a thriving farmers market, the first such one in months. It was wonderful! So many seedlings - I had to control myself because I already have more plants than I was supposed to.

I did pick up some asparagus, though, and since I love it roasted, I threw it together with some little potatoes and chicken I had on hand. I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out! It made enough vegetables for two (I had to make sure the potatoes neatly covered the bottom of the skillet, of course), so I upped the number of chicken thighs in the recipe to correspond with that. You can easily double or halve this though - just change the size of the skillet, or use multiple skillets.



Spring Chicken and Vegetable Skillet
Yield: Two servings

Ingredients
Two bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Salt and pepper, to taste
Few pinches paprika
Two small pinches cardamom, optional (but encouraged!)
2 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3-4 smallish potatoes, any color (I used a mix of colors the size of medium red potatoes)
5-6 oz asparagus 1

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat 2 T olive oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat. While the oil heats, season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, plus a couple of pinches of paprika and a small pinch of cardamom on each. Rub the seasoning under the skin as well.
  2. When the oil shimmers, place the chicken in the skillet skin side down, making sure not to crowd them (or else they won't get crispy). I'd recommend using a splatter screen here, because it tends to spit. Cook the chicken for about 15 minutes, until the skin is browned and crispy. Turn the heat down if the skin starts to burn or brown too quickly. Remove the chicken briefly to a plate and take the skillet off the heat.
  3. While the chicken cooks, slice the potatoes into 1/4-inch thick coins. Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and slice the stalks on the bias into 1-inch lengths.
  4. Leave the fat in the skillet and line the bottom with potato slices (I used just enough to cover, but if you have more you could probably stack them on top of the bottom layer). Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper (I also used some garlic salt). Put the chicken, skin side up, in the middle of the skillet on top of the potatoes.
  5. Sprinkle the asparagus on top of the potatoes around the chicken, drizzle with more oil, and season with salt and pepper. Slide the skillet into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are soft (but not falling apart). Enjoy!

Notes:
  1. For me, this was something in the neighborhood of 7-8 spears, but mine were kind of chubby. If you're using thinner asparagus, like the ones I usually see at the grocery store, you'll probably need 10-15. The amounts in this recipe are very forgiving, though.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Crêpes with Lemon Sugar


Well, it's definitely winter. I'm back on my citrus kick (not that I was ever really off it, but I bought something in the neighborhood of 10 lemons this week, all of which had a specific purpose). I've been dying to make crêpes ever since I got a couple of sturdy, super-nonstick pans for Christmas, and so these crêpes were born. When I was in Paris (sigh...), there was a crêpe stand down the block from me, and it took everything I had not to grab a crêpe every day (and even when I allowed myself to get one for lunch while I was out, it was generally a Nutella one - a questionable meal). The crêpe stands in Paris are fantastic - just large enough for a big, round griddle and a few toddler-sized jars of Nutella. The crêpe-makers expertly pour just the right amount of batter onto the griddle and sweep it into a paper-thin circle using a tool that looks very much like a squeegee. I don't know how they do it, but every. single. time. they manage to flip this giant, papery crêpe without a single tear. They then spread Nutella (or other fillings, but honestly if Nutella isn't one of them, what's the point?) over the crêpe and fold it into quarters, forming a nice, neat package that they slide into a paper cone. The crêpe and filling are piping hot and almost burn your hands through the cone, but it's so worth it.


One time, out of curiosity, I ordered a crêpe au sucre. Note that this is different from a crêpe sucrée. The former is a sugar crêpe, while the latter, literally translated, means "sugary crêpe". Properly translated, this is a sweet crêpe (as opposed to the savory crêpe, or crêpe salée, which literally means "salty crêpe". French is weird). A sugar crêpe just didn't seem to have the necessary sophistication to be sold in Paris, even on the streets*. Of course, once I took a bite, I understood. There really weren't any bells and whistles, but the sugar started to melt under the heat of the griddle and it was fantastic. This recipe is a riff on that wonderful crêpe. I couldn't resist adding some lemon!














* Then again, this is the city that sells waffles on the street, so I should know better than to question them.

Lemon Sugar Crêpes
Yield: 20 5.5-inch crêpes and a wonderfully excessive amount of lemon sugar (1 pint)1
Lemon sugar adapted from Martha Stewart, crêpes adapted from From Julia Child's Kitchen

Ingredients
For the lemon sugar:
3 large lemons
2 cups granulated sugar
For the crêpes:
3 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup water
1/4 tsp salt (I used table salt)
3 tbsp melted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
Melted butter or peanut oil, as needed for brushing the pan

  1. Make the lemon sugar: Zest the lemons and mix the zest with the sugar on a large baking sheet. Work the zest into the sugar with your fingers to help release the fragrant oils in the zest2. Allow to dry on the baking sheet for an hour or two (I did this overnight and just broke up any clumps in the morning). Place in a sealed container and store in the refrigerator (where it will last for quite some time). I did this a few days ahead and I think it helped really infuse the sugar with the lemony flavor.
  2. Make the crepes: Place eggs in a blender and pulse to combine yolks and whites. Add all ingredients except flour and pulse again to combine. Add flour and blend until very smooth (if you don't have a blender, you can do this with a whisk and some elbow grease). Place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
  3. Once the batter has rested, remove from the fridge and stir to recombine. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat (I used an 8-inch skillet) until a drop of water sizzles on contact.
  4. If your pan is not nonstick or if you are uncertain about whether the crêpes will stick, brush the pan with a light coating of melted butter or peanut oil3.
  5. Pour a small amount of batter in the center of the pan (I've also seen that some people have success tilting the pan and pooling the batter on one side first), and immediately swirl to coat the pan evenly with batter. Your first one (...five...ten...) will likely look terrible. They will still taste delicious!
  6. Once the bottom is evenly browned, use your thinnest, most flexible spatula to flip the crêpe. Sprinkle one half with a light dusting of lemon sugar. Once the bottom has brown spots all over, fold the non-sugared half on top of the sugared half, then fold in half again to form a triangle. Transfer to a wire rack and enjoy as soon as you can pick up the crêpe without burning yourself!
Notes:

  1. If you can't think of what to do with this much lemon sugar (stir it into tea, roll cookies in it, caramelize it just to see what happens, etc.), you can just put a few tbsp of sugar in a bowl and add lemon zest until it tastes good to you.
  2. Alternatively, you can pulse the zest and sugar in a food processor. I wanted a less homogenous sugar, but the food processor method probably releases the zest flavor better.
  3. You may not need to oil the pan after the first crêpe - just use the first few as testers.
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Friday, January 22, 2016

Lemony Garlic & Herb Bread

My aunt and uncle got me a gift card to a local olive oil and vinegar store (which has cooking classes!) for Christmas, and as usual, my aunt put together a beautiful little gift basket to go with it (thanks, Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Tom!). The basket had some fun spices in it, plus a little jar of chopped roasted garlic. I'd been meaning to play around with adding flavors to my go-to no-knead bread recipe, and this garlic seemed perfect for it. I added some lemon zest and dried parsley, and it was delicious!

Check out that crumb!


This bread, plus last post's chicken noodle soup, will make a lovely lunch for this week as I write, and write, and write to finish my proposal and paper...

Lemony Garlic & Herb Bread
Yield: Two one-pound loaves
Adapted from The Italian Dish

Ingredients
1.5 cups lukewarm water (100-110 degrees F)
1 tbsp active dry yeast OR 2.25 tsp (one standard 0.25-oz packet) instant yeast
2.25 tsp kosher or other coarse salt
1.25 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat (or regular whole wheat) flour
1 cup bread flour1
0.75-1 tsp dried, chopped roasted garlic2
1 tsp dried parsley
Zest of half a lemon (about 0.5 tsp)

  1. If using active dry yeast, mix yeast and water in a 2.5-quart (or larger) container and let sit 10 minutes until foamy. A container with a lid is preferable, but you can also use a metal or glass bowl (something plastic wrap will stick to). If using instant yeast, combine yeast, water, and salt in the container or bowl, no need to proof the yeast.
  2. Dump in the flour, garlic, parsley, and lemon zest and stir to combine until there are no pockets of flour. The dough will look like a shaggy, wet mess.
  3. Mostly cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap, and let sit until doubled, about 2 hours3. From this point, you can use the dough or refrigerate it for later. I prefer to refrigerate it because it makes the dough easier to work with.
  4. Shape each half of the dough into a ball (or just make one loaf at a time) and let rest on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet or cutting board for 30-40 minutes. During the last 20 minutes, preheat a pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven at 450 degrees F (if using a baking sheet, you may only want to do 10 minutes or so).
  5. Once the dough has rested, dust with flour and slash with a sharp knife. You can do a cross for a boule, parallel slashes, or any other pattern you want. This is so the gas can escape as the bread cooks, but it also makes it look super fancy.
  6. Slide the bread, leaving it on the parchment, onto the stone or baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is deep brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped.
  7. Allow to cool on a baking sheet before slicing and enjoying with soup, olive oil and sea salt, or just plain. Or, you know, rip off a piece the moment it's cool enough to touch.
Notes:

  1. You can use just all purpose flour here, or half all purpose and half bread flour. I found the dough is sturdier and easier to handle with some bread and/or whole wheat flour, but I've made it loads of times with only all purpose flour and it's come out just fine.
  2. Using a whole teaspoon will give you a pretty garlicky bread. If you're not as crazy about garlic, use the lower amount or even 0.5 tsp. I haven't tried this using fresh roasted garlic, but I suspect it would still be great. You'd just have to play with the amounts a bit, likely.
  3. Letting the dough rise for longer is fine. In fact, it develops more flavor the longer it sits. The main thing is to keep it mostly covered to prevent it from developing too hard of a skin on top.
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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Chicken Noodle Soup

I am back, after an exceptionally long and entirely unplanned hiatus! The last few months have been busy and, at times, stressful, so I suppose something had to fall by the wayside. I certainly didn't stop cooking during that time, though, and I missed sharing recipes. Today's is a classic: chicken noodle soup. While I've always liked chicken noodle soup in principle, I've had a lot of bland and/or over-salted versions that left me none too enthusiastic about the dish. As usual, I had to look no further than smitten kitchen to find a recipe that did the trick. Simply browning the chicken and onions before making the stock makes all the difference in the world, and cuts the simmering time for the stock to just 20 minutes. In case you are skeptical of how big of a difference this can make (as I was), check out my stock just five minutes after dumping in the water:



Magic. After the full 20 minutes, you get a beautiful, rich brown stock:



Add in some veggies and egg noodles, and you've got yourself a nice meal. Just the thing I need while I attempt to get over the cold that has left me sounding like a wounded elephant for the past week (I think I sound almost normal today...).




Chicken Noodle Soup
Yield: 4 servings
Adapted just a bit from smitten kitchen

Ingredients
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
3 lb. bone-in chicken thighs (I removed the skins and kept them for stock)
2 quarts water
1 bay leaf
3 small or 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 tsp table salt, plus more to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, stems reserved
1 large carrot, diced1
1 medium parsnip, diced, or another carrot
1 large celery stalk, diced
3-4 oz egg noodles2

  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, adding the onion once the oil shimmers. Brown without stirring for 3-4 minutes, then make little wells in the onions and add the chicken pieces, ensuring that they make contact with the pot. This can be done in batches, if necessary. Brown the chicken on both sides, 10-15 minutes.
  2. Add water, bay leaf, garlic, salt, pepper, and parsley stems and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate until cool enough to handle. Strain the stock and return to pot, discarding solids3.
  3. Add vegetables to the pot and simmer until firm-tender, 5-7 minutes. Add noodles and cook according to package directions (usually they give a range, and if you're planning on reheating the soup for lunches, I'd recommend cooking them al dente so they don't get too mushy in the microwave).
  4. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the soup just to warm through. The recipe does not call for all of the chicken to be used in the soup, but I wanted a hearty and sustaining soup and found the full amount to be just perfect. If you don't use all of the chicken, use it in salad or shred for tacos or sandwiches (or pick at it while you're cooking, which is what I'd have done).
  5. Garnish with parsley and enjoy!
Notes:
  1. The recipe calls for 1/3-inch dice, which is what I did, but the size doesn't much matter as long as they're uniform. If you want a chunkier soup, cut the veggies bigger and extend their cooking time a bit.
  2. The recipe calls for 3 oz of egg noodles. I thought this was too little and added an extra ounce or so, fully acknowledging to myself that they were going to absorb more broth and make a rather chunky soup. They did just that (of course), but I found the resulting soup delightful because it actually kept me full. The choice is yours!
  3. I really wanted to try to salvage the onions here, both because I love onion and because it feels so wasteful to throw them out. However, they were really mushy and sort of inextricably tied in with the garlic, parsley stems, and bay leaf, so this wasn't really possible. Do make sure you press on the solids with a spatula to get out all the broth trapped in there!


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