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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Do any of you get the Zingerman’s mail order catalog? When I was in preschool we lived in Ann Arbor while my Dad was in grad school, and my parents were big fans of the then-new Zingerman’s Deli. They now have an amazing mail order service, and my mom always ordered stuff from them as gifts. I do the same—few things are a more surefire hit than a coffee cake in a wooden hatbox, especially when the coffee cake is a really, really good one. They also have exceptional customer service, with real people on the phone who want to help you. HOWEVER. The prices are a bit steep for personal consumption, which is why I’m grateful for this recipe, which my mom has been making for as long as I can remember. It’s a heavy, dense cake, extremely moist and long-lasting (if you don’t eat it all up!).

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Batter:
1 C. butter
2 C. sugar
2 eggs
1 C. sour cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 C. flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Streusel:
½ C. brown sugar
½ C. pecans or walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon

* Preheat oven to 350
* Grease and flour a bundt pan; set aside
* Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy
* Add eggs one-at-a-time and mix
* Add sour cream and vanilla and mix
* Sift together the dry ingredients and add, mixing just until incorporated
* Pour half the batter into the prepared pan
* Strew streusel over batter
* Top with rest of batter
* Bake about 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean

One thing I’ve noticed (I made the cake twice so far): It might be a bit too much streusel topping. Try to make sure there is cake batter exposed around the edges, or at least not a thick layer of the streusel, so the cake doesn’t end up with top and bottom halves, unconnected to each other.

The tricky bit it adding the second half of the thick, sticky batter, on top of the streusel. Careful dabbing with a spatula seems to work:

I have had some trouble with my oven ever since we bought the Viking. It’s not noticeable when I’m cooking meat, but when baking I sometimes find that nothing is happening after I’ve put the pan in. As in, the temperature has dropped to 150 and the baked goods are just sitting there, flabby and pale and sad. I was on the phone with Mom the first time I made this, so I popped it in the oven and kind of ignored it until about 45 minutes in, when I saw that the batter had set a bit but definitely not baked. It took an additional HOUR to cook. Anyway, that’s my oven’s problem, not the recipe’s. But does anyone else with a gas oven have that happen?

Not the best distribution of streudel on that outing, but still a great cake. I baked the first one for a girl’s weekend a couple months ago, and Bridge declared it the best coffee cake ever! But really, how can you go wrong with 2 sticks of butter, a cup of sour cream, and all that sugar? Soooo healthy.

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(By the way, I went back and added some photos to my last post, including a teensy tiny baby hand, aw!)

If you read Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn, you may have seen a complete rave review of a Jamie Oliver recipe for chicken braised in milk, with lemon, sage and cinnamon. I have been burned several times by classic italian pork-in-milk recipes, but for some reason I had to go out and make the chicken version immediately. The writer, Faith, accidentally misread the recipe and covered the chicken for 2/3 of the cooking time, then tested it uncovered and preferred the covered version, so I followed her lead.

Here’s the recipe, from Jamie.

I think the ingredients look like a still-life–maybe I should paint them!

Though things aren’t as scenic if you zoom out:

The recipe is seriously easy. I hate hate hate cooking chicken, especially whole chickens, but the braising aspect made me more comfortable. The most annoying part is browning the chicken in the butter and oil, since it’s awkward to flip it around in the pan.

In an hour and a half of unsupervised (mostly) cooking, this unappetizing sight:

Turned into this:

I have never had crispier skin on a roast chicken; not sure why. The fat rendered out of it completely. And I’ll add my voice to those of Faith and Jamie in saying not to freak out at that curdled sauce. It tastes amazing. The first night we had shredded meat on rolls, as little sandwiches:

And the next night we had more of it (with that delicious, nasty-looking sauce) with israeli cous cous and sauteed greens:

We ate the meat for about a week, and it was scrumptious hot or cold. I’ll definitely make it again, maybe omitting the cinnamon if I want slightly more versatile leftovers, though it gave a really nice musky flavor. It hurts to use a whole stick of butter to brown the chicken and then toss it out, but I saved mine in a pyrex in the fridge, so maybe I could re-use it? It’s lovely browned butter now; I wonder if it would burn on a second use. Anyway, compared to dry-roasting a chicken, this method was way less stressful and gave really juicy, tender meat. As I said, I followed Faith’s lucky “mistake” and kept the pot covered for the first hour, opening it for the last 30 minutes to crisp up.

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Ok, so. I have spoken before about my unending love for Jamie at Home, and back in February I watched the pizza episode and promptly felt the urge to make dough from scratch. Hurray! It’s so easy! (Note: I had a tremendously bad day leading up to this attempt.)

Pizza Dough
adapted from Jamie Oliver‘s Jamie at Home
7 cups strong white bread flour or 5 cups strong white bread flour plus 2 cups finely ground semolina flour (next time I want to try it w/ semolina)
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dried yeast
1 tablespoon raw sugar
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water

pizza ingredients

Ok. So you’re supposed to sift the flour and salt together into a mountain on the counter. No sweat! I am a brave person who will go ahead and work straight on the butcher block. No fear! Mountain, ahoy!

flour

Now, that photo does not accurately depict the towering majesty of the 7-cup flour mountain. It was tall and steep. Back to the recipe:

“In a large measuring cup, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.”

Sounds easy enough, and Jamie made it look like a cakewalk on the show. Proceed: Liquids mixed with sugar and yeast:

liquids

Commence whisking, while feeling extremely smug and craftsmanlike:

whisking flour

Here’s the important part: Get cocky and pour in too much liquid at once, collapsing the walls of the too-tall mountain and flooding yeasty-oil-water down the dishwasher and your pants. And socks. And under the baseboards. Stand stock still while it gushes over, before fitfully trying to shove flour into the liquid to stop the onslaught. Grab paper towels to make a moat, then take a photo that doesn’t come close to portraying the chaos:

mess

(Aren’t I brave, giving you the warts-and-all view into my kitchen?)

Take stock, recognizing that you have used nearly all of the flour in the house, all the yeast, and you don’t have an alternate plan for dinner. Decide to soldier on, mixing what liquid is left on the counter into the flour and then adding additional water and kneading until, miracle beyond miracles, the dough pulls together into a gorgeous, silky smooth ball.

Set it to rise while you pry off the baseboards and scrub yeasty flour paste off the inside of the cabinet doors.

Now, back to the original plan!

“Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.

Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands – this is called punching down the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straightaway, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas. “

Fine! The dough rose, though maybe not quite as much as normal:

I froze half and made the other half into four pizzas:

dough balls

It rolled out like a dream, not sticky like store-bought dough:

I made half with flat edges and half with pinched crusts like my mom does, to see which I preferred. (Note: The Food Network version of the recipe doesn’t specify baking time or temp. I cranked my oven to around 450 and just watched the pizzas carefully; I think they took about 10 minutes but I could be wrong.)

Pinched won:

And dinner did eventually get served. Without the 45 minutes of cleaning up the kitchen, it would have been a really easy process.

(BTW I think I’m over white pies, at least with the slightly-dry cheese blend I have been using. The other half of the dough got slathered with various sauces, to be explained in a future post.)

(Also, I’m totally uninspired and haven’t been cooking much. Is it just the late-winter doldrums? Anyone else feeling it, too?)

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Oh, brussels sprouts, I love you so. The one downside to the CSA was the fact that they didn’t grow (or had bad luck with) sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower last year, and since I was working my way through what they DID grow I never bought any, either. Ben actually accused me of withholding sprouts, can you believe the nerve?

In response, I bought two pounds from Trader Joe’s and went to town. Herewith, a window into how food and leftovers live out their lives Chez Girl Reporter.

The first night, I roasted all two pounds.

brussels sprouts

brussels sprouts 2

roasted brussels sprouts

I won’t lie, I don’t have the roasting quite perfect. I feel like they get smooshy by the time they are cooked and not bitter. Maybe next time I’ll parboil them? Actually, next time I’ll shred them in the food processor and then roast them on high heat like Greta does. Oh god, that’s good.

Anyway, we ate them with polenta cakes and sausage.

sausage dinner

Now, two pounds is a lot of brussels sprouts, even once you’ve trimmed about a third off. The next night Ben was at a meeting, so I was on my own. We had some no-knead bread that was bordering on stale, so I toasted it up, heated up some sprouts, and fried an egg in olive oil. Truly an awesome dinner.

fried egg brussels sprouts

The next day at lunch there were still a few left. Also, two rounds of polenta. I don’t have a photo of the cold brussels sprouts (sue me) but here’s what I ate on the side while I fished them out of the pyrex bowl, still cold and more delicious than ever:

polenta

Ok, so Ben, who was so concerned about Sprout Deprivation, only got to eat them for one meal and I ate them for three. But I also cleaned them all: fair’s fair!

——-
I finally caved and joined Twitter, after watching Aileen …tweet….things all weekend. If you are interested in scintillating stuff like what I’m eating for lunch or what the squirrels outside my office are up to, I’m here.

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Ben has moved on from breakfast pancakes or oatmeal on weekend mornings, and has discovered the connection between organized personalities and the joys of baking. In addition to churning out no-knead bread for his lunch sandwiches, he has recently started baking biscuits.

Our downstairs neighbor, Jean, is a lovely lady who hails from North Carolina. At her annual pre-Christmas tree-trimming party, she serves about as much food as a table can hold, but the highlight is the delicious ham accompanied by basket after basket of tender buttermilk biscuits. This year we asked for the recipe, and not only did she e-mail it to me, she brought us back a bag of biscuit flour from her holiday trip down South! Now that is neighborly.

Ben and I made the biscuits together the first time, but since then he’s been making them before I wake up on the weekend, including Valentine’s morning. I strongly equate love with baked goods (don’t we all?), so it was a wonderful start to the day!

BEST BISCUITS
(From Jean)

Cut together 2 cups self rising flour with 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter (I use unsalted) until well blended. Add a pinch of salt if you want. I do this step in the food processor, then dump it into a bowl to add the buttermilk.

Add 3/4 cup buttermilk and gently mix until moistened. Do not overmix

Turn out on a floured surface and knead very gently a few times (pat it, really) until the dough forms a coherent ball. Do not knead vigorously like you would knead bread.

Pat out to about 3/4 inch think, cut with a round cutter, and bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

The biscuits will be better if you use Southern Biscuit or White Lily flour –something about soft wheat, I think. But they will be good anyhow.

This was the first batch, a bit raggedy because we were so careful not to overwork the dough. It does need (ha!) a few kneads to pull together.

One of Ben’s finished batches, complete with lovely presentation!

Topped with my mom’s raspberry jam, they are unspeakably good. Sadly, we used up the last of the jam in the biscuit mania.

Not bad, right?

Now, as if waking up to fresh biscuits weren’t the way to a girl’s heart, Ben made me dinner for Valentine’s day. But not just any dinner. I ordered him to take photos, but I had no idea what he was making, and he recreated the meal I always always order at my favorite restaurant in NYC, Inoteca. At least, what I always ordered: On my last visit it came to light that they have changed the fantastic romaine-raddichio-ricotta salata salad that I’ve loved for years. Good thing we started making it at home a while ago.

Ben’s perfect salad (he added a couple drops of truffle oil for good measure):

TRUFFLED EGG TOAST!!

I have meant to make that at home for years but never did. There was a slight mis-reading of the recipe (you’re not supposed to use whole eggs, just egg yolks), but on the whole it was a swoonily romantic and delicious gesture. Best Valentine’s ever! (He even got cupcakes for dessert.)

Here’s what he made Sunday morning:
french toast

He’s making meatballs again as I type. I think Ben has spent much more time in the kitchen than I have lately, and I’m not complaining.


Stay tuned for brussels sprouts (and creative use of leftovers) and an epic mess.

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Simple dinner trick

Ugh, I have barely been cooking lately. Ben’s been working or at meetings a lot of evenings, and we’ve only been averaging a real dinner about once a week. Not good. I miss the casual “come on over for dinner” atmosphere of Hanover, which motivated me to try new recipes!

Anyway, one night last week we grilled some frozen tuna that I wanted to get out of the freezer, and since I hadn’t really grocery shopped in ages (aside from picking up coffee and milk) I pulled together sides from what I had on hand. I made my old carrot salad again, but this time with an asian-inspired dressing of rice vinegar, sesame oil, plain oil and a bit of chili sauce. I thought it was a great change of pace, but Ben wasn’t an enormous fan the first night. When he ate leftovers a couple days later he loved it and asked if I’d made a new batch, so who knows.

Ben requested israeli cous cous as a side, but I was bored just thinking about serving it plain. (Can you tell I have cabin fever and a terrible case of ennui?) I dug around in the freezer and found a bag of frozen shelled edamame, which I threw in with the cous cous to cook. After those were cooked and drained I dressed the whole pot with more sesame oil, salt and pepper, and was delighted by the combination. Crazy easy–no more trouble than the plain cous cous, but a bit of added color and protein.

cous cous edamame carrots

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I am unnaturally obsessed with vegetables, but even I know that most people don’t get too wound up about the root vegetables that locavores in northern climes are working their way through this time of year. I also think we should all give up on the word Rutabaga altogether, and follow the Euro lead in calling it Swede. No wonder no one cooks the poor thing; what an awful name. But my Bubble and Squeak didn’t use a fraction of the vegetables I’ve got in cold storage, so prepare yourselves for a few more entries on how to use The Other Root Vegetables.
(Alternative slogans:
We’re not sexy but we sure store well!
Lumpy but delicious!
Off your feed? Try some Swede!
)

(Oh my god, someone help me.)

ANYWAY. Look, turnips!

I tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted for….a while. A long while. I kept tasting every so often once they looked cooked, and by the time Ben had grilled [more] steaks they were wrinkled-looking but tasted awesome.

Now for the really photogenic stuff. Go get some swede. Seriously, go. It’s a huge wax-covered lump in most grocery stores, though mine were much smaller than normal since they came from the CSA. I used two small and one medium; a normal-sized large one would do all by itself.

Peel and cut it up into smallish pieces so it will cook quickly and evenly. Be careful while cutting it and keep in mind that before pumpkins were common in the British Isles, the original jack o’ lanterns were made from swede. These things are tough. Cover the pieces with water, add some salt, bring to a boil and cook until soft.

Drain, add butter and get out your trusty masher (I found an Oxo one
that resembles Jamie Oliver’s, and I like the design a lot.)

Mash. Add salt and pepper to taste. Do a little dance to celebrate how tasty this nutritious vegetable is (wiki tells me it’s a cross between a turnip and a cabbage! I love cabbage!). Serve with something good: in this case, crispy pork cutlets and corn from the farm that I froze in August.

Oh, and by the way. While this is what winter looks like in these parts (snowier, actually; it’s snowing as I type)…


(The beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA in mid-January)

…I have to celebrate our wonderful annual visit to our friends Josh and Keren and The Amazing Adley in Florida. This is their reality:

Here I am, baffled by this “sunshine” and “warm weather” of which I’ve heard so much:

It was hard to come back to this:

But I have pretty tulips this week and I know spring will come eventually.

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