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.

02 June 2015

Gingered Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Tart

As soon as I see tiny, juicy Jersey strawberries at the farmer's markets in May I want to put them on everything. I ensure there's plenty of yogurt and granola around for topping with the bright red juicy buds in the mornings, and reach for a few after dinner with another glass of white wine. But after a week or two I start getting the itch to bake them up. Strawberries typically have too much juice for muffins, unlike blueberries, so I don't go there, but the streusel bar (which I made last week again with rhubarb and strawberries-so good!) and crisp tart are good friends to them. Meet the ginger-kissed sweet I'll be making all summer, and when the blueberries do come around, they'll probably have their moment in it too.

It's not too different from those streusel bars, but with a hefty dose of oats, and baked into a round pan, it offers more possibilities. Thinly wedged for a group dessert, with dollop of creme fraiche on the side, for example, a slice alongside afternoon tea...a slice with a breakfast espresso? Check. Lily popularized this versatile recipe a few years ago with a blueberry-cinnamon version. I made it that way last year but I really liked this strawberry-rhubarb filling spiced with ginger, too. 

You'll start with a crumble dough you make with your hands. No need to wait for totally soft butter either, as chances are it's already hot in the kitchen. Then you'll pat about 2/3 of it into the pan, layer in your fruit mixture and top with more crumbs. Bake, cool, eat. I love rustic things like this made mostly with your hands. I assembled the entire thing in the midst of a wedding-planning conversation from across the room, careful not to confuse 95 grams with 95 people. 

Gingered Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp Tart

with inspiration from Lily's tart and these streusel bars

Notes: This works great in an 8 inch tart pan with a removable bottom and makes nice presentation. I adapted it to fit into that size. You could also do this in a 8 inch square pan, I imagine and slice into bars or use smaller tart pans and fill less bake accordingly. 

1 1/2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries and small diced rhubarb
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

3/4 cup/95 grams all purpose flour
1/2 cup/50 grams old fashioned oats
6 Tablespoons/72 grams sugar 
Zest of half a lemon
4 Tablespoons/55 grams butter, softened, cut in pieces 
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon salt ground ginger
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon salt

Oven to 400
In a medium bowl, mix lemon juice, cornstarch and sugar until no lumps remain. Add ginger and fruit and toss to coat. Set aside while you make the crust.
Mix flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, ginger and zest in a large bowl. Add butter and use your fingers to work it in until coarse crumbs form and the mixture holds together when pressed. Remove a heaped 1/3 cup crumbs and set aside.
Pour remaining crumbs into a lightly buttered 8-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press evenly into the pan. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the berry mix over the dough, leaving any juices behind. Evenly sprinkle remaining crumbs over. 
Bake about 45-50 minutes, or even 55 but watch it, until the filling is bubbling, the crust lightly browned. Let cool completely before slicing into wedges.
Storage: I stored on the counter in the coolest part of the house, wrapped in plastic on the tart pan bottom and loosely covered with parchment, for a few days. 

20 May 2015

Almond Flour and Jam Roll-up Scones

Blanched Almond flour is a wonder in the kitchen. Heart-healthy, low-carb and packed with protein, antioxidants, iron and other vitamins like Vitamin E, it's a welcome shift away from white flour, even if not a permanent change in the kitchen. With summer rolling around, everyone wants to eat lighter, and these scones are a welcome treat in Spring. Almond flour always contributes a soft texture to baked goods, as well as moisture. So pour yourself some organic coffee or tea, bake these scones and reap the benefits. This gluten-free powerhouse of a culinary staple isn't hard to find. Online stores such as Nuts.com have different packaging options.

The texture of the almond flour scone I've shared here is a bit different than wheat, but since I use cold butter, you still get those crispy edges. Keeping the dough cold will help it roll up and slice better. I took the master almond flour scone recipe I've been using, tossed in a few chopped almonds, kissed it with lemon and vanilla, and a little coconut sugar, then patted the dough thinner than usual in order to slather a bit of strawberry jam and coconut sugar atop, and then rolled it up. These scones whip up fast and are a great weekend breakfast. While I prefer them cooled a bit from the oven (about 10-15 mins on a rack) they can also be stored in a container in the fridge and rewarmed in a low oven for a few minutes.

Looking for more? Try my other popular recipes for muffins, and more muffins.

Almond Flour Roll-up Scones

Makes 6
1 1/2 cups Blanched Almond Flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon coconut sugar
1 Tablespoon toasted almonds chopped finely

2 Tablespoons/ 1 ounce VERY COLD butter (cut into tiny cubes and placed in freezer while you prep)

1 large organic egg
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To fill:
About 2-3 Tablespoons strawberry jam
Pinch coconut sugar

Oven to 350. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Measure/cube your butter and let it sit in the freezer. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, zest, sugar and almonds in large bowl. Set aside. Mix egg, honey, vinegar, vanilla and place in fridge. Work butter into dry mix with pastry blender until you have pea-sized and finer crumbs. Pour in wet mix and stir from outside in until a nice chunky dough forms. Dump onto parchment and with bench scraper, shape into rectangle and fold it over itself a few times. Dust with tiny pinch almond flour if necessary.

With the scraper, push the sides to an even rectangle about 5 x 7 and 1/2 inch thick. I like to keep things cold, so here and there, I place the dough in the freezer for a moment. Now spread the jam in the center, sprinkle coconut sugar and starting with the side close to your body, roll up dough into a log. Place in freezer again for a minute or two, then cut into 6 slices. Place them with the pinwheel facing up and brush with any of the wet/egg mix left in your measuring cup and a pinch coconut sugar if desired. Bake 20-23 minutes, until browning and a toothpick comes out of the center clean, then cool on pan on a rack for a few minutes, before moving the scones off pan and onto rack. Enjoy!

15 May 2015

An act of trust

My mother-in-law to be made biscotti around the holidays this year and when we dunked them into coffee on Christmas I was immediately reminded how lovely they are. Her's were studded with pistachios and apricots and anise and nice and toasty. Homemade twice-baked biscotti is so much better than what you'd get in a package. Unlike other cookies, they do have a longer shelf life but when you've molded the fresh dough yourself it's a game-changer. At about three points since Christmas I stocked those add-ins in my pantry only to reach for them and find: we've snacked on the pistachios and they're now gone, the apricots got chopped into granola, and the anise is there, waiting to be used in a sweet application (though it does like to be crushed into meatball mix). Last week I decided I would let her's be her's and go a different direction with the inspiration.  

I happened upon a recipe from Cook's Illustrated using a good amount of almonds (check) and almond extract (check) and loved it. As is not unusual in Cook's recipes, which often contain a hack, making the dough was a bit of an act of trust. Because of the process of aerating the egg and sugar first in a food processor (which you'll use first to grind some of the almonds til powdery; this cuts the gluten down), the dough is a bit more sticky. After the first bake, things don't look all that exciting. You'll be staring at a mass of what looks like an undercooked, stout loaf of bread (see above). But this is ok and what biscotti is all about at this stage. 

You'll then slice it on the bias, hopefully more accurately to the 1/2 inch than me--some of mine ran more like 3/4 inch--and place them on a wire rack to bake for another 35 minutes. At which point they will emerge toasty and golden, but not tooth-shattering. Yes there is some babysitting here but the results are worth it. Biscotti keep airtight for over a week...maybe 2. We've been pulling them out of the jar for dunks in warm afternoon coffee and tea. I don't even think this heat wave will stop me from making them in the near future again.

Almond Biscotti
Barely tweaked from Cook's

Notes: This is Cook's Illustrated, which I don't recommend messing with. Biscotti don't run high on the butter and sugar spectrum anyways. My only change was to add a little lemon zest and make a half recipe to fit on my baking sheet--which is reflected below. I think it is easier to work with one "loaf" of dough, especially on your first time. The dough, as I mentioned, is sticky, but nothing to be concerned about once you get it into the oven. Don't be intimidated by the amount of steps, either. You're ultimately mixing wet and dry and doing a double bake. No mixer needed but food processor is recommended for some of the work though not mixing the actual dough. You could use a blender I'd imagine for the grinding and egg aerating. Use your judgement on the first bake for when to pull it--you'll want to see cracking tops and light golden hue. If your dough was a little sticky, you may need a few minutes longer than the recommended 30. 

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp (3 1/8 ounces) whole almonds, lightly toasted
3/4 cups + 2 Tbsp (4 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, plus 1 Tbsp white beaten with pinch salt
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 teaspoons almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Few swipes lemon zest

Vegetable oil spray

Adjust oven rack to middle and heat to 325 degrees. Using ruler and pencil, draw an 8 by 3-inch rectangle on a piece of parchment paper, then place parchment on a sheet pan, ink side down.

Pulse 1/2 cup almonds in food processor until coarsely chopped, 8 to 10 pulses; transfer to bowl and set aside. Process remaining 2 Tbsp almonds in food processor until finely ground, about 45 seconds. Add flour, baking powder, and salt; process to combine, about 15 seconds. Transfer flour mix to second bowl. 

Process 1 egg in now empty food processor until lightened in color and almost doubled in volume, about 1 minute. Slowly add sugar until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds. Add melted butter, almond extract, lemon and vanilla and process until combined, about 10 seconds. 

Transfer egg mixture to medium bowl. Sprinkle half of flour mixture over egg mixture and, using spatula, gently fold until just combined. Add remaining flour mixture and chopped almonds and gently fold until just combined.

Using floured hands, pat dough into a rectangle, using lines on parchment as guide. Spray each loaf lightly with oil spray. Using rubber spatula lightly coated with oil spray, smooth tops and sides of rectangles. Gently brush tops with egg white wash. Bake until golden and just beginning to crack on top, 30-33 minutes or so, rotating pan halfway through baking.

Let loaf cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes. Transfer to cutting board. Using serrated knife, slice on slight bias into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Lay slices, cut side down, about 1/4 inch apart on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 35 minutes, flipping slices halfway through baking. Let cool completely before serving. Biscotti can be stored in airtight container for 2 weeks. 

05 May 2015

Again and again

I can't resist sharing these on here. A simple cookie made from good butter, oat flour (mostly), and a customizable spice mix (I went for cardamom and orange zest--Again--), they are cut with a nice dose of salt and sweetened just enough to round things out. With no eggs or leavening to measure out, they come together in a flash and will be churned out in my mixer again and again. That's the kind of stuff that should be talked about. Taking them for a dip in dark chocolate is the icing on the cake, but of course optional, as you do have to wait for them to set up a bit. Once they do, they hold up nicely for a few days in a container. 

I'm just crazy about this shortbread and its reliance on oat flour.  Experimenting with different flours is always on my radar but oat flour is made in 5 seconds by opening your pantry. Simply grind rolled oats in a coffee grinder finely to yield your desired amount. My other secret? Don't clean the grinder first. You'll get a little coffee flavor into your spiced shortbread. Surfing around the web to do a bit more research before diving into this, I found that traditional Scottish shortbread, was originally often made with oat flour, as it was a food of the poorer class. Little did they know they were tapping into the secret to tender cookies: lower the gluten. 

Lastly, I'm on ShopRite's Blog this week with a little homage to mason jars and baby's breath. Check it out : )

Adapted from Food52
Yeild: 1 1/2 dozen

Notes: The original recipe uses lavender--I didn't have any. Spicing these is of course your preference. I like a little of a few things: almond, orange, cardamom, ginger, as I think they complement the chocolate dip. You can try other blends though. Also, creaming the butter and sugar together with the flavorings is a tip I always do now a la Alice Medrich--as well as keeping a ruler around : )

56 grams rolled oats (about a 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons)
32 grams all purpose flour (1/4 cup)

1/2 tsp fresh orange zest
1/4 tsp cardamom (slightly heaped)
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp sea salt (slightly heaped)
25 grams (2 Tablespoons) granulated sugar
55 grams (1/2 stick) good unsalted butter, room temp

Turbinado/flake salt to sprinkle
1-2 ounces dark chocolate


In a 325 oven, toast the oats for 8 minutes, until a little fragrant (can be done in advance if needed). Set aside to cool, then grind till powdery in a coffee grinder. Whisk oat flour and all purpose flour together.

In a mixer with the paddle, place butter, extract, zest, salt, sugar and spices. Blend on medium until light and fluffy, 2 minutes or so. Scrape down the sides and beat another few seconds.

Add flour in 2 additions. Scrape down between them a little, until the dough is just coming together and pulling away from the side of the bowl. It doesn't need to be all one mass. Look for chunks.

Dump dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, form into an even log 1 1/4 inches in diameter, and wrap. Chill 2 hrs.

To bake: oven to 350. Racks in top third and bottom third. Line 2 sheets with parchment. Slice the log into 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch thick coins, place on the sheet pans evenly apart. Sprinkle each with a few grains of sugar, a flake of salt if desired, then dock each coin with a fork once or twice.

Bake 18-22 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and back to front, about 12 minutes in, until golden at the edges and firm to touch. Cool on the pan 5 minutes on a rack, then slide parchment to rack to cool completely.

To dip in chocolate, melt half of chocolate in a double boiler, then slowly add the rest off the heat , stirring vigorously after each addition to cool it down. Dip in shortbreads and let set up completely, an hour or so.

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.