20 April 2015

A pleasant surprise

“You wander from room to room
Hunting for the diamond necklace
That is already around your neck!”


There is an unpleasant feeling to wandering. But when you land where you land, oh what relief. 

I have been lately keeping track of the subtle differences between purposefully trying something new and shying away from new. I'm not talking about your keepers. We all need a rolodex of keepers. The muffins you know, the non-guesswork roast salmon you crave weekly, meatballs, the walk in the same park, coffees from the usual place that gets the frothed milk ratio just so... It is good to be in tune with where you're going. And then there are inevitable moments when you're drawing blank. This is perhaps the perfect time to pick something random, not on the usual drawing board. 

Having purposely forgotten to restock all-purpose flour twice this week, when something needed to be baked, I settled on these all-rye sables on the drawing board. Perfuming the creaming butter and sugar with a little orange and almond, and beating in the last of the dark rye flour in my freezer, I hoped for the best. I was pleasantly surprised. These cookies, not shortbread per se and not a chewey drop cookie either, have a pleasant, sandy snap. I'd classify them as "thins" or even sables; they're too tender to be crisps, and the egg makes the dough a bit more pliable than your typical shortbread sable. How about just thins? Nicely tan ones at that. And boy, they're good. 

A few notes: Anyone looking for a great asparagus recipe? Yes, you are because it's finally in season. See my new favorite way of cooking the stalks on this month's ShopRite Blog.

Anyone looking for a different art exhibit in NY? (who isn't...) Check out these mesmerizing, traditional ancient masks at the Rubin (the above photo is a Beggar mask of traditional Noh theater)

Rye Orange Almond Snaps

Adapted from Epicuious via  Liana Krissoff's Whole Grains for a New Generation

Notes: I scaled down this recipe by about 4. You'll still get a lot of cookies if you do too. I kept an eye on them toward the end but pulled them when they looked just to be browning but not overly so. The additions here were mine. Feel free not to roll in almonds or use almond extract.

2 1/2 cups/ 230 grams  Dark Rye Flour

3/4 cups granulated sugar

2 sticks/ 225 grams unsalted butter

1 egg

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp orange zest

1/2 tsp almond extract

A handful toasted crushed almonds and 2 Tablespoons sanding sugar for finishing

-In a mixer, cream butter and sugar til fluffy, add zest, extract, salt and egg and incorporate fully. Scrape down sides, then gradually add flour, mixing on stir/ low until just combined.

-Dump dough onto plastic wrap, form into a 2 inch cylinder and chill an hour (min)

-Preheat oven to 350 and spread sugar and almonds if using, onto parchment. Carefully roll the cylinder to coat the sides evenly, pressing a little if necessary. 

-Slice into 1/8 inch thick rounds and space 1 inch apart on parchment lined sheets. Sprinkle a little almond sugar on top if desired. Bake about 16 minutes, or until the edges are turning golden. 

-Cool on a rack completely. Store airtight. 

26 March 2015

Big top blueberry muffins

Sometimes you just want a muffin with a big top. I'm tempted to end this post at that, but it'd defeat the purpose : ) These muffins were a last minute idea to continue chipping away at my carefully frozen stash of last August's Jersey blueberries before fresh seasonal berries kick in again. When I stumbled upon the recipe, from Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery, I knew I was in good hands, (remember her banana bread?) and when I realized the batter can be made a day before baking, I immediately got out a mixing bowl. As the dishwasher ran last Friday evening after a day of the season's final snow, and we were feeling quite healthy from a supper of Japanese salmon and rice, I decided that bakery-style berry-streaked muffins were a qualified indulgence for the next morning.

I was inspired last week by a quote I read from Jenny (Dinner, a Love Story): "When we prioritze dinner I find a lot of other things fall into place." Behind this seemingly simple statement, she is referencing sports practices, school pick-ups and other modern family negotiations, but it's bigger than that. The essence of this idea that I find applicable in the kitchen and beyond it is this: to know what you are going to do. Waking up to a clean counter and a bowl of rested batter in the refrigerator is a particularly zen moment. Then, all you have to do is preheat the oven, grease the tin and scoop the thick batter into the molds, mounding it a little higher than you would normally. The resulting muffins are perfectly sweet, gloriously puffed, with slightly crisped edges, soft interiors and berry-licious flavor. But for me, it's knowing I already did the work, that will keep me coming back. 

Blueberry Muffins (adapted from Flour via Fine Cooking)

Notes: The original recipe uses a pound of flour. Below is a half recipe which should give you 7-8 big muffins. I made a quarter batch which gave me four. But they freeze well so it's worth making more : )

1 3/4 cups (225 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour (I swapped a few Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2.5 oz (5 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted, slightly cooled
1 large egg
1/2 an egg yolk (optional)
1/2 c + 2 Tbsp  (120 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (120 grams) milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup (120 grams) crème fraîche, at room temperature 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
zest of half a lemon
Heaped 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

-Oven to 350, rack in the center
-In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Set aside.
-Pour butter into medium bowl and whisk in the sugar, followed by the milk, creme fraiche and egg. Mix well.
-Pour wet over dry and fold together gently. When there are a few streaks flour left, sprinkle in the berries and fold to combine. Batter will be lumpy. Do not try to smooth or overmix. 
-At this point you may cover the batter and refrigerate up to 24 hrs. 
-When ready to bake, grease muffin tins and spoon batter into cups, mounding above the top by about 1/2 inch. 
-Bake until golden brown and springing back when you touch the middle and a wood skewer comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Let cool on a rack in the tin for 15-20 min. 

12 March 2015

Small Batch Grain-Free Brownies

A little while ago, I was an adventurous home cook wondering if we would have to, for a serious health issue, cut out all grain and sugar (well, if my husband-to-be would--but to not go along at least part of the way would be cruel). Lucky for him I don't tend to hover over the bread basket anyway. I spent a lot of two summers ago baking with almond flour, which was both delicious and and intersting, but had never touched coconut flour, the other popular paleo choice. Thankfully, we've adjusted to include grain and sugar but as always, in moderate amounts, and have concluded that balance is the best prescription. But when I got a bag of coconut flour for Christmas, the memories of all that almond flour resurfaced. Still an adventurous home-cook, but not willing to sacrifice taste for special ingredient needs, I found myself searching for a good starter recipe to use the flour and stumbled upon SlimPalate's brownie recipe from his cookbook, which the inimitable Topwithcinnamon had lightly adapted/auditioned. 

I have now made them about four times. Besides providing the perfect healthy snack to accompany obsessive weddingwire scanning, they are delicious, with minimal, easily sourced ingredients. A tad on the cakier side and strong on the chocolate, they will fool anyone who doesn't "need" a special diet sweet. No matter what dietary restrictions you may or may not possess, they are a keeper. They offer a few customizations on the nut front, feature (optionally) browned butter, contain no granulated sugar or gluten, come together in a flash, last a good few days in a container on the counter and satisfy that mid-afternoon sweet-treat. Or if you're like my husband-to-be (!), that mid-morning, mid-afternoon or mid-night sweet treat. 

Coconut Flour Brownies
makes 8 large or 12 small
adapted via SP via TWC 

Notes: I like to make these in a loaf pan. I'm not sure how this began but I just know it's the right size for halving a typically full batch intended to be baked in an 8 x 8 pan. It also offers good release utilizing the high parchment "sling."

2 Tbs (14 grams) coconut flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 1/2 Tbs (7 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp cinnamon and/or finely ground coffee (optional)
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 oz (42 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped (I used a Lindt 90% bar)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz (half a stick or 4 Tbs) organic butter
1/4 c (75 grams) honey
1 large organic egg
1-2 Tbs chopped toasted nuts, cacao nibs (optional)
Flaked salt to sprinkle (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and line a loaf pan with a sheet of parchment, lining it up to the top of the pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together coconut flour, salt, baking soda, cocoa powder (and cinnamon/coffee if using).

In a small sacuepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir frequently as it bubbles and just as soon as it begins to brown, remove from heat. Immediately toss in chopped chocolate and stir to melt. Transfer to a heat-proof bowl and allow to cool a few minutes, then stir in honey and vanilla. Test a finger in the mix. It should be just a little warm, not hot (you don't want to cook the egg). Add egg and mix to incorporate, so the mixture is glossy. Add in flour mixture and stir until no flour is visible, about 20 strokes. Pour into prepared pan, sprinkle nuts and nibs over, if using, and a few grains salt.

Bake about 20-25 minutes. I usually do 25. Test with a wood skewer, it should come out very close to clean with no wet batter. Top will look set and dry but middle will still be soft to touch. Allow to cool completely in the pan, about 2 hrs, until removing and cutting. You can chill the pan 10 minutes before cutting, and also cutting with a plastic knife is a trick. Store airtight a few days. If they last. 

02 March 2015

Lenten Lentil Meatballs

We went to The Meatball Shop in the West Village maybe two years ago and I picked up a postcard on the way out with a recipe on the back for their veggie balls, which I had ordered and found delicious. The physical reminder to test it sometime got shoved into one of my cookbooks, but I came across the card last week while cleaning and flipping through books which inevitably get stubbed with torn papers, recipes and notes. I put it aside on my desk for the Lenten season. The fact that the postcard was sturdy, not flimsy, meant that it wouldn't get lost in the mix. The same can be said about these 'meat'balls; sturdy, not flimsy, and a total stand-out even among a week of omnivourous meals.  

Let me cut to the chase and say that if you are going to bother with any sort of multi-compnent vegetarian meal, whether it be for a veggie crowd option, religion or simply wanting a day off from cooking meat, make these guys. There's a bit of prep work required, but it's worth it. The sauteed celery, onion, carrot, garlic, mushroom, thyme and tomato paste are all essential to creating the aromatic base that infuses the hearty cooked lentils. Eggs, breadcrumbs, walnuts, parmesan and parsley bind, bulk out and deliver flavor. 

This recipe makes a ton. Even halving it, we still had a nice tray of hearty veggie balls for dinner for 2, and the next day's lunch. Which is, if you're like me on a Saturday and don't remember to plan anything for lunch until 3:00 pm, very convenient. They reheat in a low oven for a few minutes beautifully. The only thing in your court is the sauce: use their basil-spinach pesto below or a simple tomato sauce. I used a little of both. On a non-Friday, I am looking forward to trying their chicken balls, also available on their website. But as far as Lent goes, you can bet that even the staunchest omnivore is unlikely to turn up his nose at these on a meatless day, which is most likely why The Meatball Shop has them on their menu. 

Lenten Lentil Meatballs

2 cups lentils
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
8 ounces button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
3 large eggs
1/2 cup grated rennet-free Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

-Combine the lentils and 2 quarts water in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft but not falling apart, about 25 minutes. Drain the lentils and allow to cool.
-Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil to a large frying pan and sauté the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and salt over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown. Add the tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 more minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, add the lentils to the vegetable mixture.
-Add the eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley and walnuts to the cooled vegetables and lentils and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Place in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.
-Roll the mixture into round golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the vegetable mixture firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, allowing 1/4 inch of space between the balls and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. 
-Roast 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.
Basil Spinach Pesto via TMS
1/4 cup roughly chopped, toasted walnuts
4 cups baby spinach leaves
2 cups fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan/Pecorino
Blanch spinach and basil into the boiling water for 1 minute, then strain the greens, and plunge them into a bowl with ice water. Drain again and squeeze tightly to get as much water out as possible. Chop roughly.
Combine the greens and walnuts with the salt, olive oil and Parmesan in a food processor and process until a smooth consistency is reached. Taste and season with additional salt, if desired.

17 February 2015

Amaretto Truffles

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up book, is all the rage right now. There was an opinion piece in today's Times referencing it, and a profile/closet visit with Marie Kondo, the self-taught Japanese author, in New York magazine last week. It's blowing hot and--because it deeply challenges people and their stuff--cold. Those close to me know I've been prone to living with little, hesitant to take on new objects that aren't painstakingly considered, and of course, to engage in fits of discarding. I picked up the book for other reasons of intrigue, though.

While discarding is a big part of the method, Kondo also aims at something deeper than physical clutter, which is perhaps the public's real root of attraction to the phenomenon; for instance, if you find yourself re-doing the same tidying over and over, perhaps something is amiss in how you've tidied to begin with? This is pretty challenging. What about washing and putting away the dishes or wiping down the same counter, you ask? That's pretty, uh, repetitive. 

Half into the book, I'm learning this isn't exactly her point. The point is to live with only the things that "spark joy," place them wisely, and thus reboot your entire mindset about your surroundings and in turn foster respect. The point is to cultivate your lifestyle and personify it rather than have it topple over on you. And what is amiss about washing the same pan again and again? Perhaps some batch cooking is in your future. She doesn't say this, but it's my conclusion.

Nothing has been mentioned in the book about food, yet. But, I've been thinking about it as I cook. Decluttered cooking is often satisfying on multiple fronts, and that is why truffles have become my new favorite thing. When breaking off piece by piece of the same chocolate bar for dessert begins to get tedious, flavor and heat some cream, pour it over the chopped chococlate, wait 2 minutes, stir, chill a few hours, then scoop, roll, and stash the truffles in the fridge for something a little more elegant. It feels silly that I previously thought making truffles at home was a complicated affair. 

Happily, it's not. Make, eat, live with the things that spark joy. Print your iphotos. Can it be so simple?

Amaretto Truffles

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Notes: Use good chocolate, quality cream and amaretto. BA's truffles were rolled in coarse ground coffee beans and as much as I like coffee, I just couldn't do it. I went the traditional cocoa-dusting route, but also pulsed up maybe half a teaspoon of chocolate-covered cacao nibs I had on hand, in the coffee grinder for a compromise, and I like how it all worked together. 

4.5 ounces good bittersweet chocolate, rough chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp amaretto liqueur 

*Cocoa powder for rolling, about 1-2 Tbsp, and infused with some ground coffee, cacao nibs, or minced chocolate-covered cacao nibs, or a combination of all, if you wish

Place chopped chocolate into a heat-proof bowl. Heat cream and amaretto in a small saucepan over medium heat just until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat. Pour over chocolate. Wait 2-3 minutes. With a whisk, stir the mixture until completely smooth. Cover and chill 3 hours or up to 2 days. You've made a ganache! When ready to roll, mix cocoa powder and flavorings, if using, on a plate. 

Remove bowl of ganache from fridge, and scoop out teaspoon sized dollops. Roll between hands into balls and roll through cocoa mixture until dusted and coated. Set onto a parchment-lined container and chill for a half hour or so to set cocoa before serving. Truffles will keep a few days covered in fridge. It's a good idea to remove from fridge 10 minutes before eating so they can lose their chill. 

12 February 2015

Banana granola

We're all in the market for another overripe banana use! Earlier in the week, I found myself with a few of the browning fruits, and after I baked off some mini loaves of our favorite Banana Graham Bread, I opted to mash up the last half of banana into a granola batch and it was simply delicious. The smell emanating from the oven as the granola bakes becomes more and more like banana bread as it crisps up, but your end result is something totally different. Adding fruit or vegetable puree (try MB's with pumpkin puree, too!) to granola mix is a revelation. You can cut just very slightly your oil/sweetener ratio, tailor your flavor based on what you have and learn a few things about how wet and dry ingredients interact. Here's the thing though: when adding the banana puree, you want to take out your measuring cup or scale and dole out the proper amount. If you just throw in a jumbo brown banana and don't measure, it will throw off the ratios. You want this granola to crisp up enough, and it does when all the ingredients work in tandem. This crunchy vegan/gluten free addition to your morning is sure to satisfy when you've had your fill of banana bread. I spiked it with ground ginger but you can use another spice like cinnamon if you prefer. Try it spooned on yogurt or soak it with almond milk!

Banana ginger granola

~makes a nice sized carafe

Notes: I made a few changes to MBs recipe, swapping in whole almonds, pepitas and sunflower seeds for pecans, chia seeds for flax and ginger for cinnamon. I also decreased the liquid ingredients and sugar a smidge. I always bake this off longer than the original recipe recommends, but not as long as my standard granolas, turning down the temperature just a notch toward the end, as I like to get it nicely browned and dry enough. It will crisp up even more as it cools, but the mix should not be wet when you take it out. Bon appetite!

1.5 cups/150 grams GF old fashioned rolled oats
Scant 3/4 cups mixed raw nuts and seeds (whole almonds, pepitas, sunflower seeds)
1.5 tsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp natural granulated sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp ground ginger 
Scant 2 Tbsp (24 grams) virgin coconut oil
Scant 3 Tbsp (50 grams) real maple syrup 
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup/55 grams mashed very ripe banana (half a medium)

Heat the oven to 350. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Mix oats, nuts, seeds, sugar, salt, ginger in a large bowl and set aside. In a saucepan over low heat warm coconut oil until just about melted and stir in maple, vanilla and banana puree. Whisk very well. Pour mixture over oat mix, stirring aggressively to get everything well coated. Turn out mix onto sheet pan spreading evenly. 

Bake 20 minutes. At this point, take the granola out and carefully flip over the chunks, stir a little, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Stir clumps slightly again.

At this point if it's toasty to your liking, remove to a cooling rack. However, for optimal crispness, lower heat to 325 and return tray to oven for another 10-20 minutes, checking frequently, making your total bake time more like 40-50 mins. Cool COMPLETELY, 1-2 hrs, before storing.


V-day is coming up and I have cookie recommendations! Casual cookies not fancy piped desserts, are the name of the game this year. Need ideas?


From the web:

Dorie's world peace cookies. Enough said. Make them. (I'm weird and like them baked for 14 min instead of the recommended 12)

Merrill's crispy oatmeal cookies. I was asked if they contained coconut. They don't. They are just incredibly toasty, buttery and crisp.

From the Salvegging archive:

04 February 2015

Whole Grain Blueberry Scones

Hey all, just a quick pop-up this week. I'm posting on ShopRite's blog this month as part of a group of menu ideas for Valentines Day. And since it falls on a Saturday, I thought I'd contribute some delicious berry scones for your cozy morning convenience. Take my advice and make the dough ahead. Something tells me that no clean-up, and warm, fresh scones would beat out a holiday brunch wait by a mile. As far as the dough for these goes, it's a simple blend of all purpose and whole wheat pastry flour, egg and half-and-half, a formula I go to most often because it creates a nice inner crumb and I always have the ingredients. If you have only buttermilk, make these. Heavy cream? Try these. I use a combination of blueberries and blackberries, or just blueberries depending on what I have. I carefully froze a bunch of August Jersey blueberries and have just started ripping into the supply. They work nicely here. If you are feeling really pink, try raspberries!  Click here for the recipe to my scones and check out the other posts as well! XO