Sunday, October 31, 2010


There are a few recipes that I've been wanting to try but haven't for a variety of reasons. Osso buco? It's expensive to make. Pasta? I don't have a pasta machine or a rolling pin. Red velvet cake? I'd eat the whole thing in one sitting. Bread? It's complicated: making sure that the yeast is activated, the double rising, the kneading... However, after seeing the no-knead bread make its round on the food blogs and reading how easy it was, I decided to give it a go.

The first time I made this recipe, I planned on making it as part of an elaborate meal. There's a general rule that most people follow and that is to never attempt a recipe for the first time when entertaining guests. However, I was determined to make the rosemary bread because it paired so well with the short ribs and rosemary white bean puree that I was making for dinner. The relief I felt when I lifted up the lid and saw a perfect loaf of bread turned into excitement when I heard it sing. There were many comments from the blogs that said the bread sings to you as the crackly crust cools. At that moment, I fell in love with bread baking.

There really is a need to wax poetic about bread. It's one of those things that is perfect alone but does equally well when served as a companion. The well-roundedness of bread cannot be appreciated enough. It's fabulous drowned in good, fruity, olive oil or eaten with ricotta, honey and a bit of sea salt. It is a wonderful accompaniment for dishes that have leftover sauce as the bread can sop it up; short ribs and meatballs work especially well. When a simple dinner is called for, bread, cheese, sliced meat and of course, a glass of wine is the way to go. For something that is this versatile, what's not to love?

No-Knead Bread

Adapted from
New York Times, via Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
(I used 1 tbsp)
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

3 tablespoons rosemary

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt (optional: this is the step where I added rosemary). Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.

Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball.

Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal.

4. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


After eating vegetable omelets or Fiber One cereal Monday through Friday for breakfast, the weekends are a time for me to indulge. I like to start off my mornings on the weekends with either something sweet:

Saturday brunch at Belcourt: Vanilla and bourbon French toast with house made ricotta and New York State maple syrup

or savory:

Sunday breakfast of sausage, egg and cheese on a croissant from the deli

Gorgeous innards!

After a week of healthy eating, it's nice to treat yourself to a delicious, carb-y breakfast... or two ;o)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I'm a nerd. I love calc, I went to orchestra camp for six years, I play chess and one of my favorite places to be is in a bookstore.

This pretty much sums me up: "It's pathetic how much significance I attach to the Times puzzle, which is easy on Monday and gets progressively harder as the week advances. I'll spend fourteen hours finishing the Friday, and then I'll wave it in someone's face and demand that he acknowledge my superior intelligence. I think it means that I'm smarter than the next guy, but all it really means is that I don't have a life." David Sedaris. "Solution to Saturday's Puzzle."When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

Why the discussion of being a nerd? Because it follows me into the kitchen. Prior to baking or cooking for someone, I have to research whatever it is that I plan on making. I look at recipe after recipe and it must include pictures to justify making that recipe. Then I read food blogs and to find the best techniques and methods. This won't satisfy me though and I will repeat the process one more time to ensure that I have a foolproof recipe that will be mastered based on my acquired knowledge. With that said, meatballs: I will conquer you.

After reading many recipes and tips, here is what I learned:
  • The beef-veal-pork trifecta is key. I feel bad for the baby cows, too...but not bad enough because including their goodness in the recipe helps ensure that the meatballs are tender
  • Overhandling the balls when you're forming them will make them tough so use a light hand
  • Using a panade (bread soaked in whole milk) will keep the meatballs moist
  • Just use the egg yolk to help bind the mixture. The egg white makes the meatballs gummier
  • Add parsley and pecorino romano to the meat mixture for flavor
After reading many blog posts on meatballs, I went with the recipe on Use Real Butter, who got it from Lorna Yee, the author of The Newlywed Kitchen cookbook and the blog, The Cookbook Chronicles. I found that recipe to be the closest to recipe that my friend Rob uses. Rob's recipe comes from the best source, his Italian grandmother, and he recently made some for me. After eating them, I knew that I had to add Italian meatballs to my list of go to comfort foods. I've made Asian style meatballs but never Italian so I wanted to use a recipe instead of using Rob's "a little here, a little there" method for my first go around.

I love to eat comfort food. Give me heavy, warm food over something light any day of the week. Now that the nights are getting colder, there is something to be said about the joys of comfort food. When you combine it with a glass of wine and a friend, you get nothing less than a perfect fall evening.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Someone once tried to help me diet by giving me this tip: Treat cookies and desserts as if they’re the devil’s cocaine and you’ll drop the pounds! Obviously this friend had never tried Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies because if she had, she’d know that no will can fight the deliciousness that is the World Peace Cookie.

Here’s a little background on the origins of such a divine treat: Pierre Hermes developed the recipe and called his creation the Korova Cookie. After a neighbor tried Dorie’s attempt at the Korova the neighbor exclaimed, "a daily dose of Pierre's cookies is all that is needed to ensure planetary peace and happiness." Hence, Dorie renamed the Korova the World Peace Cookies in her latest book, Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Diet be damned because world peace takes priority over thin thighs.

When I saw a floor mate at work hobbling down the hallway on crutches, the baker in me screamed, "make him some cookies!!" Nick is recovering from hip surgery so I had to bake something above and beyond the typical “get-well-soon” cookie. I pulled out my two binders of recipes and searched for those that I had put a sticky on. I only have a few recipes that are worthy of a sticky. Given that Dorie's cookies had one, I knew this would be a real treat for Nick.

I didn't have much success the first time I made these. The cookies were crumbly and wouldn't hold their shape. These structure issues are the main reasons why I don't like to make "slice and bake" cookies. However, the cookies were so amazingly tasty that I couldn't help but give the recipe another attempt.

My second try produced cookies that turned out exactly the way I wanted them to. Given that there are no eggs to bind the ingredients together, allowing the butter to completely come to room temperature is the key to producing cookie dough that will hold its shape when baked.

The World Peace Cookie throws everything at you; all at once it's salty, sweet, buttery, sandy, rich, and delicate. My favorite treats are those that are both sweet and salty. When done well, there is nothing more satisfying to eat than something that hits both taste buds.

In true beauty pageant style, I hope that the devil’s cocaine (….I mean these cookies) will miraculously nurse Nick back to health at breakneck speed and bring the world peace.

World Peace/Korova Cookies
Smitten Kitchen via Paris Sweets, Dorie Greenspan

Makes about 36 cookies

1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons or 150 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (120 grams) (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces (150 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about one inch between them.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Serving: The cookies can be eaten when they are warm or at room temperature — I prefer them at room temperature, when the textural difference between the crumbly cookie and the chocolate bits is greatest — and are best suited to cold milk or hot coffee.

Do ahead: Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days (Deb note: not a chance); they can be frozen for up to 2 months. They can also be frozen in log form for months, and can be sliced and baked directly from the freezer, adding a coupld minutes to the baking time.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


"The 30-Second Rule, A Decision Tree" by Audrey Fukuman and Andy Wright

I think it's more like the 3 second rule because eating something that has been on the floor for 30 seconds is rather frightening... but I'm not judging.

The flow chart was in an article titled, "You Dropped Food on the Floor. Do You Eat It?" Do I eat it?! I don't need to consult a decision tree because the answer is so simple: always eat it - ALWAYS! (this rule especially applies to medium rare cheeseburgers and all things containing chocolate).