17 August 2015

A lucky one

Saturday evening, 9-ish, after a late breakfast, a late lunch, a lot of administrative work, and slice of afternoon dessert (see above), we find ourselves at the corner Vietnamese restaurant (cuz if you are marrying a 6'2 ft man there will never be a late lunch + dessert that also suffices as dinner) : )  

Everything is the same about this place, always. I will order grilled wild shrimps, Ed beef or pork and we will never have to wait. There are people there but not too many. The family running it available but not intrusive, the dishes authentic but not trendy, fresh but not farm-y. The one minute walk there, often an extension of a concentrated day not needing any more accoutrements but the mint leaf garnishes. 

On this visit Ed ordered a good Belgian beer which was, within minutes, spilled as our waiter set down dishes. With karate-like reflexes, it was propped back up, the wetness graciously blotted with towels. Not much was lost but a new bottle was brought. A lucky one, perhaps. And just as I thought I'd want more later, my Sauvignon Blanc was, too, refilled with the last of the bottle. Did they know we'd be married in a week, I wondered?

It is a good life lesson to aim to put in something extra. I remind myself this daily when the option to disengage comes up, the opportunity to give less, to ask for less, to shy away, to be sharp. I'm not saying it's always easy, but why not aim to rise to the occasion? When it comes to Rose Levy Berenbaum and pastry, she's an occasion, and if you're already following her, you are on the road to baking better, and that in itself is rewarding.

Along the way, of making this peach galette, there will be notes and tricks that seem out of the way, automatic no's, and your experience will totally depend upon what you know to be  most important...the non-negotiables. 

Her method with peaches here is non-negotiable, one I will always come back to. And her cream cheese dough? Excellent--even though I did not use bleached AP flour nor spoon the mixture into a plastic bag and knead it from the outside or chill the bowl for 30 minutes as she originally suggests, I just hand-made the dough per usual and chilled it. 

Someday, I will follow her to a T, I fantasize, but for now I am just happy she gets me to pursue something worthwhile. 

Summer Peach Galette
Adapted from Rose
Note: After chilling dough, I sliced the disc in about half, and used the slightly larger one here, and froze the smaller one for future use. I cut the below peach filling in half. You can either get one large tart out of this or two smaller ones or one smaller one using half the dough and half the filling. 

Cream Cheese Dough (for a large galette or 2 smaller galettes)

6 Tbsp very cold unsalted butter, cubed small
1 cup / 125 grams all-purpose flour
1/4 cup /2 oz cream cheese, cold
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp ice water

Filling (for a large galette or 2 smaller ones)

1.5 lb/~20 oz/~3 cups (about 4 medium) peaches, peeled, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1.5 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup/~60 grams sugar
pinch salt
1/8 tsp almond extract 
1 Tbsp butter
2 tsp cornstarch

Milk + Turbinado for brushing

Make Dough: Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder well. Add the cream cheese and work in with your hands to form a coarse meal. Add the butter cubes, pressing with a snapping motion so no pieces larger than a pea remain. Use your palm to flatten some of the butter shards, too, in the bowl. Now mix the water and vinegar together and sprinkle over. Toss with a silicon spatula to moisten, then press into a rough ball. Place a piece of plastic on a counter and dump the dough onto it, pushing it together lightly and using the wrap to press into a disk. Refrigerate at least an hour, up to 2 days or freeze a month. 

Filling: Toss peaches with lemon juice and sugar and allow to sit for 30 min-1 hr. Set a fine mesh strainer over a wide measuring cup or bowl and carefully pour peaches over, letting the juice drip for a few minutes. Pour the juice mixture (there should be ~1/2 c ) into a saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Swirl but don't stir the mixture until it is reduced by half and lightly caramelized. Remove from heat and toss with the peaches in a bowl. Add the almond extract and cornstarch and toss to coat until no traces remain

Roll dough out to ~12 inch round on a lightly floured parchment surface, keeping it moving. Transfer parchment to sheet pan, and if dough has gotten a little soft, stick the tray in the freezer a few minutes. Mound peaches in center and evenly pleat the dough over to cover. Use a bench scraper to release dough from parchment and aid in pleating if necessary. 

Place galette in fridge loosely draped with plastic and preheat oven to 400 for about 15 minutes. Brush edges with a little milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake about 40-45 minutes until bubbly, the peaches tender and the crust a nice golden brown/crisp, rotating tray around 30 min through. Cool completely, a few hours, before cutting. 

07 August 2015

Wine Truffles

Ever since I posted that recipe for Amaretto Truffles back around Valentine's Day (which are really good), I've been making truffles quite regularly. IMHO, it's one of the most simple sophistications you can have sitting around your kitchen, one that doesn't require much effort at all. Something you can take out of your back pocket like...oh, there's truffles... Eating them requires nary a napkin. Each bite is so strong, you only need a few, and when you announce these ones are made from booze, not cream, you'll get even more interest. I even brought them to a family gathering when I couldn't get it together to make another dessert. Once rolled, they'll last a few good days in a container. The only trick is setting aside the nice size bar of chocolate you'll need, but once you have, you'll be saving the last trickles of the bottle of red aside just so another batch can happen soon.

You'll start like you would any other truffle: dark chocolate, of the 70%-77% cacao variety, gets chopped and set in a bowl. Liquid is heated to just boil and poured over to soften. Now this is where things get different; the mixture doesn't step foot in the fridge. A little butter is then melted in the same pot and added and then the whole thing is stirred. It sits out and cools off, between stirs for up to an hour. You'll have to babysit it for a bit at room temperature, giving it stirs, but once it's scoopable, you'll roll your truffles into a little cocoa, store them and call it a day.

A note on the wine: Any red works here, and it doesn't have to be just opened! Use wine that has been opened already. While I don't recommend using deliberately staled and forgotten wine, something that you neglected for a few days will work just fine. I happened to recently visit a meadery in New Jersey and just as we were tasting the sweet honey wine, I knew I had to try some of it in these wine truffles, so I bought a bottle of the berry flavored mead (called Berry Chic) and swapped in some for the usual red wine. I didn't go all mead, because I think that could be too strong, but the hint of berry tang the mead delivered here was a welcome dimension. Feel free to use all red wine, or try some mead if you can get your hands on it--both ways are great.

Wine Truffles
Inspired from Pastry Affair

30 ml/ 2 Tbsp red wine
30 ml/ 2 Tbsp Mead** (or use all red wine--I do both)
pinch sea salt
drop vanilla or almond extract (optional)
15 grams/ ~1 Tbsp butter
4 oz dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
~2 Tbsp cocoa powder for dusting

Method: Place chocolate in a bowl. Heat wine and mead in a saucepan until just giving off boiling bubbles. Immediately pour over chocolate and let sit a minute. Swirl butter into same pan to just melt, heating again if necessary, then pour into chocolate bowl. Add pinch of salt and drop extract if using, and stir until completely smooth. Set aside in a cool place in the room and stir every 5-10 minutes. The process of tempering will depend upon how hot it is in the room. Allow for an hour. Once it's thickened and resists a spoon slightly when stirred, it's good to roll. Spread cocoa into a bowl, scoop balls and shake around in the bowl of cocoa. Tap off excess and set on a piece of parchment to set for a few minutes. Store airtight in a dark cool place (if it is very hot they keep in the fridge-bring to room temp to serve)

27 July 2015


About once a week, I pick up Griggstown chicken sausages at our farmer's market along with whatever vegetables are seeming new. Sold frozen raw,  it's a delicious product, infused with parsley, white wine and garlic, or sundried tomato and basil, and it serves as assurance that if I have no idea what to make one day coming up, it's there and ready to go without the demands for breadcrumbs or other accessories like meatballs need. When I get home from the market, I set it in the fridge to defrost: tomorrow will require a dash less thought. And then, that's done. While I believe the popular thing to do with these sausages is to grill them, a large percentage of us don't have that outdoor access even during these months, and I've completely fallen for this oven application. Sometimes, I don't even envy grillers...sometimes. This is one of those times.

I snip the casings open, discard them, then pinch and dollop the raw sausage onto a lightly greased sheet pan. Vegetables are then trimmed to even size and I stick to a formula of something that will cook in 20-25 minutes (red peppers, broccoli, asparagus, (when it was abundant), and currently, zucchini), an aromatic (leek rounds or scallions cut in half--shown above), toss it all in olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme or oregano and spread it out for browning amongst the sausage. Everything gets roasted in a hot oven, shaken halfway through and when it leaves the oven, you'll wonder if you should even bother transferring it to a serving dish. A lemon wedge, smatter of herbs and a serving spoon is all you need. Well, salad and bread is nice, too.

Chicken Sausage and Vegetable Sheet Pan Supper

12 oz seasoned raw chicken sausage in casings (like Griggstown)
1 medium zucchini (or pepper or broccoli head), sliced into coins
2 small leeks, white part sliced into coins, or 6 scallions, halved and trimmed of tops and bottoms
sea salt and pepper
1 tsp white wine
olive oil
fresh thyme or oregano

Heat the oven to 425 F. Use your finger to lightly grease a sheet pan with about 1/2 tsp oil. Toss vegetables in a glug oil and salt/pepper. Sprinkle with oregano or thyme. Transfer to pan and spread out. Open the sausage casings and use your fingers to pinch off pieces about 1.5 inches--I usually get about 5 pinches per sausage. Divide among the sheet pan. Drizzle sausage with a tad more oil and pinch of salt and oregano, pour the 1 tsp wine around the vegetables, and transfer to oven. Roast 20 minutes, then remove and shake pan, tossing. Return to oven for 2-4 minutes more, until sausage is firm to touch, cooked through but still tender (cut into one to see no pink or take temp) optionally broiling for the last minute if you want more char--but watch it! I only do this sometimes if I've crowded the pan. If you've spread everything out you should be nicely browned. Let cool a few minutes, then transfer to serving dish. Serve with lemon to squeeze, and sprinkle herbs on top.

16 July 2015

An ideal berry crisp

I had begun a mental list of things I wanted to do without my husband-to-be while his brothers swooped him for a "bachelor" weekend. I thought of any movie, drink, or food that could make a 36 hour appearance, but the list felt silly. When I remembered that he also expressed interest in the new documentary about the gay "voice" I abandoned the list. Despite the fact that he'd likely pay me at this point to stop. discussing. centerpiece flowers. right. now., we like to do most things together.

When a surplus of cherries and blueberries bought for their trip returned home, I noted: berry crisp! on a scratchpad. So today I'm sharing this crisp. It's a go-to. The filling is adapted from Heidi Swanson's 'tutti fruity' filling and isn't too sweet. Berries are already sweet. You don't want them cloyingly so. A little red wine is a weapon in that department.  It is one of the easiest desserts you can make in the summer.

I learned  last fall, after a few apple crisps sourced around the Internet, that one size does not fit all. Just because apples are baked down with a crumble topping it does not a good crumble make. I experienced a goldilocks effect with the three I'd tried and even thought I was 'not that into' apple crisp at one point... until I found the one! And good thing, because I don't think it's possible to not be into apple crisp : )

The difference included education on the crumble/crisp science and using the right apples. In the end, there are some secrets to keeping the topping, as I like it, crispy, and I think the trick is in the baking powder. The other key is to let it cool down before serving. The last time I made this we ended up waiting a good 3 hours after it came out of the oven, which makes it an ideal thing to make slightly ahead. A dollop of lightly whipped cream of creme fraiche alongside is a nice finishing touch.

Summer Berry Crisp
Serves about 4. I've cut in half for 2 : )
Filling adapted from Super Natural Everyday, Topping adapted from Rock Recipes. Berries are totally customizable.
1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup spelt flour (or use all all-purpose)
1/2 cup rolled oats
scant 1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp  baking powder
Few swipes lemon zest
small pinch of salt
6 Tbsp cold, cubed salted good butter
1 1/2 teaspoons all-natural cornstarch
2 1/2 Tablespoons ( 3/4 oz) natural cane sugar or muscovado sugar
2 1/4 cup of berries – a mix of ripe, pitted cherries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, rhubarb etc.
~scant 2 Tbsp jammy red wine, like port or a fruity pinot noir

Heat the oven to 360 and lightly grease a ceramic or glass baking dish of about 8.” A small-ish oval baker is a good size. Begin by making the filling. Stir together flours, salt, oats, zest, baking powder and sugar. Pinch in butter with fingers until incorporated into a mass. Don’t overwork. It should look like a rough cookie dough ball. Place in fridge while you make filling.
In a large bowl stir cornstarch and sugar. Toss in fruit, and wait three minutes. Then add the wine and toss again. Transfer berry mixture to prepared dish. Remove topping from fridge and break off pieces the size of your thumb top. Scatter those on top of the berries but don’t press down.
Place in the oven for about 40 minutes, until the top is golden and the berries are bubbling. Remove to a wire rack and cool at least 15-20 minutes before scooping servings. Serve alongside creme fraiche, a dollop of whipped cream or the like.

04 July 2015

Chocolate, spelt and mascarpone scones

Mascarpone to me is one of those small wonder ingredients like creme fraiche or a good ricotta, that can seem to pop out of nowhere and steal the show, whether it be from behind the scenes or plain and loudly schmeared into pure white creaminess atop something that demands its contrasting presence. The Italian cream cheese known for its tiramisu attribution, had found a suitable place as an as-close-to English clotted cream we can get, alongside jam for scone topping in my kitchen. But what happened, I wondered, if the cheese went into the dough itself? 

I set to find out using a recipe from the Tiny Buffalo baking company, using figs, mascarpone, a little maple syrup and the usual suspects of scones: butter, flour, cream, as well as a glaze made from concentrated fig preserves. Even when I went the fig route, I skipped the glaze, and they turned out great: lightly sweet, with a little extra something from the cheese. Then I fiddled with swapping in alternate flours, and half + half for cream. I varied the spices, I tried them as cut scones rather than dropped.

They've thus had many iterations over the past month or two in my kitchen. There was the cornmeal-fig version, the oat-flour-fig version, and finally the dark chocolate-spelt one. Two items I nearly always seem to stock. I snuck in some cinnamon and espresso, too, and I'm sticking with it, because no one will ever turn down dark chocolate and whole grains in the morning alongside a strong cup of coffee.

And if you do have extra mascarpone and raspberry jam on hand, a schmear of each is most deserved. They do say, it's all about the details, don't they?


55 grams/4 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
125 grams/1 cup all-purpose flour
45 grams/ 1/4 c + 2 Tbsp spelt flour
25 grams/ 2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoons salt
1/4 tsp ground espresso 
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3-4 Tbsp chopped dark chocolate
30 grams/2 Tbsp half + half
1 large egg
1/4 tsp vanilla
22 grams/ 1 1/2 Tbsp mascarpone

18 grams/ 1 Tbsp maple syrup

In a small bowl, whisk the egg, maple, mascarpone, vanilla and half + half. Set in the fridge

In a large bowl, whisk: flours, baking powder, salt, sugar, spices. Pinch in butter in a snapping motion with your fingers until a coarse meal is formed with some pea sized lumps. Work quick. Stir in chocolate. 

Make a well in center and pour in egg mixture. With a spatula, gently fold to toss and moisten.

Once a mass is created with some dry and shaggy bits, dump out onto a lightly floured bench and bring together into a mound. Pat out then fold it over itself once or twice, creating a rectangle about 6 x 4. Cut in half vertically, then horizontally, then again twice horizontally to make 8 equal, small scones. 

Set on a parchment lined sheet and stick in the freezer while you preheat your oven to 400 F. * You may flash freeze then bag to bake later at this point.

Brush scones, when ready to bake, with half and half, and a generous sprinkle turbaned sugar.

If baking from frozen, bake for about 25-30 minutes, rotating sheet pan halfway through, if not, they will be ready sooner, more like 20. Keep an eye. Cool on sheet pan on a wire rack few minutes, then transfer parchment to wire rack to cool at least 10 minutes more. 

23 June 2015

Wheat berry bowls

There are plenty of things to get used to when sharing a kitchen and food with another, presumably romantic, partner. My recent favorite includes the snacking of "deconstructed" granola: a handful of granola poured from the jar to the palm followed by a long sip of almond milk straight from the carton, while standing in front of the open refrigerator. I consider myself lucky in this department... and I've got my own faults: mostly ingredient control, I suspect. When it comes to sharing food and space, I gather, based on recent conversations, a common anxiety (the topic coming from a friend embarking on romantic kitchen-sharing last week) is, can you cook once--and manage the potential of a "where's the meat" question infiltrating every meal shared? The person I spoke with is vegetarian, but we all know that most ladies are more willing to subsist some nights on a fancy salad with good cheese, a nice glass of wine and a chocolate something for dessert and call it balanced, than their male counterparts.

I said some nights. Actually, most days I've come to find it the most inspiring and worth it (a little leftovers please) to make meals revolving around a good protein source, but there are days when it just doesn't make as much sense. Vegetables are coming on strong now, maybe you had your fill of BBQ chicken and burgers over the weekend and you feel like you could give the earth a donation today. Which brings me to these wheat berry abundance bowls. Mostly everything can be prepared in advance and assembled when you're ready to share a meal. Add a little mixed greens, sliced avocado, and a poached egg (or sliced omelet for the runny yolk averse) and I will most definitely promise you that meat won't be missed. #Meatlessmonday

I like to work with bulky vegetables here that can withstand a good roast and compliment hearty grains like wheat berries. I saw a huge cauliflower at the market for the first time this year and we've already discussed the shiitakes. Bell peppers, onions work well too. And if you've got some shelled beans on hand (cranberries, favas, --or I used frozen edamame) that adds protein and texture. With the wheat berries--you MUST soak them. They cook up so much better after having been soaked overnight. They still take 90 minutes to simmer in my book, but just think of how much you can do in that hands-off time. Leftover grain can keep in a container a few days. And lastly, don't forget the cheese. A little of the strong stuff like feta goes a long way. Build your bowls.

Wheat berry bowls

1/2 cup wheat berries, dry
Olive oil
Lemon, juiced
Salt + pepper
2-4 cups mixed vegetables, chopped into 1/2-1 inch pieces: shiitakes, cauliflower, bell pepper, e.g.
2-4 ounces feta cheese
1/2-1 c cooked edamame, cooled and shelled
Handful mixed herbs such as dill, parsley, oregano

Wheat berries:
The night before, place 1/2 cup wheat berries into a jar or bowl, cover with twice as much water, loosely place plastic over and let sit overnight. The next day, rinse lightly, drain. Melt 1/2 tsp butter in a sauce pan and pour in drained wheat berries, stirring constantly for a minute. Add a pinch salt and 1 1/2 cups filtered water. Place a few herb sprigs, and/or a few onion slices into the water as well.

Bring to a boil, stir, then lower to a simmer and cover. Cook about 90 minutes (my preference) or a little less, depending on your al dente preference. You can start checking at 60. The berries should have absorbed most of the water, and be tender but not too chewy and not mushy. Remove from the heat, let stand to cool a bit, then transfer to a bowl. Season with salt, pepper, lemon and olive oil.

Toss with oil, salt, pepper, and other spices, roast at 425 for 20-30 minutes until tender. Set aside to cool. Toss edamame with the same seasonings as the wheat berries.

To serve:
Layer seasoned wheat berries, edamame, vegetables, and feta on platter. Serve with add-ons on the side. Scatter with herbs, more olive oil and lemon and flakey salt.

A poached egg per person, or omelet cut into strips
Sliced avocado
A handful of dressed greens

12 June 2015

Salmon with fingerlings and shiitakes

I'm almost certain it's time for something seasonally savory on here. And by that I don't mean asparagus. Or asparagus. The other day I glanced at a list of items one should definitely pick up if spotted at a farmer's market around now because they might not be there the next time if you blink. Among them was mushrooms. I brought home some wonderful shiitakes the other day, along with some fabulous fingerlings, which have an earthy sweetness straight from the soil, and roasted them up together(ish). And since we now have a fishmonger at a couple of the Jersey City markets, searing up some salmon fillets alongside the was just the kind of land and sea fare in order. Let me tell you, I am one happy shopper on the days where everything needed to sustain us can be purchased in an outdoor marketplace...where no scanners are beeping, and replenishing the plastic wrap or foil does not cross my mind. Where the answer of what to eat is simply before your eyes.

If cooking mushrooms previously invoked for you high heat and fat and lots of stirring and flipping on the stovetop and finding that process a little high maintenance (ahem), then I suggest you switch to roasting. Whether roasted whole or sliced, tender, mineral-rich mushrooms doused in a little oil and seasoning truly live up to their potential in a hot oven for a short stint, just like their counterpart of potatoes. For the fish I'm quite stuck on riffing Ina Garten's pan roast lately ( her salmon with green herbs is a keeper, too. I made it all late winter/early spring intending to share with you but never got One. Decent. Photo in the lack of evening light...oh well, take my word instead). Both call for skinning, which make the cooking faster, but there's really something nice about getting exterior char on the fish in pan-roasting.

ALSO: I'm over on ShopRite's Blog today with another rendition of my favorite streusel bars!

Seared Salmon with Fingerlings and Shiitakes

6-8 medium fingerling potatoes, cut in half
4-6 large shiitake mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch
Olive oil
sea/kosher salt + pepper
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
Pinch dried oregano
1 small garlic clove
1/4 tsp red wine vinegar
2 organic salmon fillets, center cut, 6-8 oz each, skinned, removed of any white extra fat
1/2 small lemon
1 small scallion, snipped
1 Tbsp  fresh dill + parsley, snipped
Pinch red pepper flakes

Turn the oven to 400. Line a sheet pan with parchment. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the thyme, a generous pinch salt, few grindings of pepper and enough olive oil to coat. Toss with your hands, spread on the pan and place in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile toss mushrooms into the same bowl as the potatoes. Grate half the garlic clove in, add the red wine vinegar, a little more salt, pepper and oil to coat. Toss well. After 15-20 minutes, remove pan and add the mushrooms to the potatoes, giving enough room for everything to breathe, and continue roasting another 15-20 minutes. Mushrooms should be slightly shriveled, tender and potatoes easily pierced with a knife and crisped on the outside. Set aside to cool a bit, then transfer to a low bowl or platter.

Meanwhile, let the fish sit out for about 10 minutes from the fridge. Rub the fillets with a tiny glug of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper and a little dried oregano. Heat an oven-safe, heavy skillet (I use cast iron) over medium high heat until very hot and brush or melt just a little vegetable oil. Place fillets presentation side down in the pan (they should sizzle on contact) and let cook undisturbed 1.5-2 minutes. Turn each over carefully with a large spatula and tongs, and transfer to the oven for 5-9 minutes, until just cooked in the center. A thin knife should slide through the thickest part with little resistance and feel just warm to your lower lip when removed. Rest on the plate a few minutes. In a small bowl mix the dill, parsley, pepper flakes a squeeze of lemon and oil, salt and pepper. Dollop over.