So you may have noticed that I’m not really cooking much these days. What can I say that I haven’t said in the last 4-5 posts? I miss cooking. I almost even miss stopping everyone from digging into piping hot yumminess so I can spend 5 minutes photographing it. Almost.
While I have been building and planting at The Pantry like a crazy little caffeinated person in overalls, I did manage to learn a few things about cooking while I was away from my computer. In Seattle we have a lovely jam-maker named Rebecca Staffel, who owns a company called Deluxe Foods. She’s kinda awesome (and she’s my neighbor, how lucky am I?!) and one day in May she let me hang out with her while she made her prize-winning gingered rhubarb jam. I felt like the luckiest girl in the Pacific Northwest for learning some of the tricks of the trade. Because while I’ve made a jam or two in my day, I am in no way a seasoned jam-maker. And rhubarb jam just seemed intimidating. I mean, rhubarb’s not even a FRUIT! But Rebecca broke it down for me and I went away giddy with plans for making my own batch of pink goodness. It’s been a crazy month, and I suspect it’s about to get crazier (our first event is in three weeks!). But we officially ran out of home-made jam in my fridge and well, if that’s not a kitchen emergency then I don’t know what is.
So I dropped everything yesterday and made some rhubarb vanilla jam. Whew.
I started by chopping up the rhubarb into teeny tiny bits. Like 1/8″ big bits. I rubbed the vanilla bean seeds into the sugar, and mixed the vanilla sugar (pod included) into the chopped rhubarb. I squeezed in the lemon juice and threw in the whole lemon chunks, which supplied some much needed pectin. I let the whole pile sit overnight in the fridge to get the juices out of the rhubarb.
The next morning I heated it all in my favorite pot. I kept it at a good strong simmer (is that just a boil?), stirring occasionally, until it reached its set point. This was my first time using a thermapen (Thanks for the tip on THAT one Rachel!), so I was feeling condident bringing the jam just to 220. Except then I got nervous that it wasn’t set and cooked it a bit more…hee. I ladled the hot jam into jars that had been boiling the whole time to get nice and germ-free. Once the jars of jam were lidded, I placed them on a tray and baked them for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. This is my first time “baking” them instead of processing them in boiling water, and I’m super excited at how easy it is (easy like, I can set a timer and run back to construction land and let John pull them out of the oven)!
We cracked open one of the jars last night for dessert. We just ate it with shortbread cookies and whipped cream and oh my, it is going to be a great summer.
Rhubarb Vanilla Jam Recipe:
2 lb 12 oz rhubarb, finely diced
2 lb sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 lemon, quartered and seeds removed
So I had lots of plans for this post. I was working on this homemade snickers bar recipe. A recipe that I was certain would make me a certified candy-making badass. Salty roasted peanuts, sweet sticky caramel, fluffy chocolate nougat — you know the drill. And then I learned that nougat is hard. Quite hard. Literally hard, mine was. I couldn’t even get a knife through it.
So that post will have to wait a while, because life is kicking me in the butt these days. Classes and dinner at The Pantry are selling (Yay!) and we FINALLY finished grinding the glue off of our concrete floor, a month-long project that was pushing my sanity level to its edge. Sheet-rock is going up as I type, which means cabinets, counters and tile are up next. SO! MUCH! FUN! But, all this fun, just doesn’t leave much time for the elaborate cooking experiments that I just adore (sniff).
So I’m here to share with you what I actually eat these days: salad. And lots of it. Tuesday was my birthday, and we had a potluck in the under-construction space, and John made my most favorite summer salad ever, a salad that pretty much defined 2010 for me: a cabbage peanut salad to be exact. I found the original recipe in the book Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes and have slightly tweaked it to my taste (less sugar, less acid, more heat).
Obviously you start with a lot of cabbage.
While this salad is light on technique, it is like salad crack for me. You toss the cabbage with carrots, cilantro (LOTS of cilantro) and bell peppers and then mix in a spicy peanut sauce that I have to stop myself from eating straight from the bowl with a spoon. So maybe being a busy bee is a good thing? No time for desserts means more munching on salads, just in time for bathing suit season… Oh yeah, and did I mention you throw peanuts all over the whole thing? I was such a hurry when I made this one that I forgot the peanuts before snapping a quick photo. I was literally throwing them onto people’s bowls as they walked out the door (it was a lunch break on a cabinet painting day, good times).
Cabbage Peanut Salad Recipe:
1/3 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 TBSP soy sauce
1/3 cup peanut butter
2 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP grated peeled ginger
3 garlic cloves
1 finely minced jalapeno
- Mix all of the liquids in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix together the peanut butter, brown sugar, ginger, garlic cloves and jalapeno. Slowly drizzle in the liquids, whisking constantly to emulsify into a smooth sauce. If your sauce doesn’t look so good, a few hits of an immersion blender should sort it out.
1/2 head small green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 head small red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 large carrots, shredded on cheese grater
6 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup packed cilantro, roughly chopped
salt to taste
1/2 cups roasted peanuts
- Toss all of the salad ingredients together with the dressing. Taste for salt adjustment and dig in.
What a week!
Construction on my new business, The Pantry, is moving along, and I can finally see how the space is going to feel when all done. Such a good feeling. Then we released our class schedule on Monday and my “How to be a Pie Ninja” classes sold out in three days! And THEN, as if that wasn’t enough to make me blush, I wake up on Wednesday to the announcement that “I Made That” is a finalist for Saveur Magazine’s Best Cooking Blog award along with 101 Cookbooks, Lottie and Doof, Smitten Kitchen, Sprouted Kitchen and The Wednesday Chef! Seriously, my friends, I am glowing. And a little intimidated…I mean, I knew I had a few readers out there, but I don’t know how I landed in that company. All of a sudden I’m staring intensely at my photos, worried that they just aren’t up to snuff. And what recipe do you post when people are actually LOOKING? I was so scared I actually went out and bought $25 worth of pine nuts, because suddenly walnuts just weren’t good enough! I’m cracking people, I obviously can’t take the pressure. But thank you, whoever nominated me, you are a very nice person. And I mean that.
After a week like that there is only one answer: cake. And, well, I might as well put those pine nuts to good use…
So I toasted them.
And folded them into one of the weirdest cake batters I’ve ever made. It’s from the book “Urban Italian” by Andrew Carmellini, which is a book that I just love. Everything I’ve made from it has been right up my alley, and I’m excited to share this particular recipe. The book has you start with creaming the butter and sugar, and then go straight into adding all of the flour. Once all the flour is in, THEN you start adding the eggs, yogurt and lemon juice. That’s just crazy. But it worked. The cake has a beautiful crumb and it’s not too dense for my taste at all (did I mention it gets meringue folded into it? That probably has something to do with it).
It’s a simple cake, with the texture of a pound cake and a flavor that is almost savory. I made the recipe as he called for, except that I added salt, because all cakes want a little salt. And to be honest, I might add a bit more next time to make it feel even more savory. Or maybe make a salty caramel to pour over it. In fact I might just go do that right now. Certainly all that salt I just added makes it count as dinner rather than dessert, right?
Pine Nut Cake (Pinolata) Recipe (Andrew Carmellini):
2 cups pine nuts
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 pound (4 sticks) butter, at room temperature
zest and juice of 2 lemons
4 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 whole eggs
3/4 cup yogurt
for the meringue:
4 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Toast the pine nuts over very low heat in a dry saute pan until they have just begun to take on a golden color. Remove from the stove and reserve. I actually just toasted them in the oven…
- Prepare the batter
- Meanwhile, cream the sugar, butter and lemon zest together in a KitchenAid with the paddle attachment. Be sure to scrape down the sides as you go to make sure everything mixes evenly.
- When the mixture is quite smooth, add the flour and baking powder. Mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated and then begin adding the eggs, one by one, waiting until each egg is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next. Turn the KitchenAid up to high for about 5 seconds to combine everything thoroughly, then scrape down the sides and the bottom with a spatula and mix in any bits that have failed to incorporate.
- Add the yogurt and mix in with the paddle attachment until it’s thoroughly incorporated.
- As you continue mixing, add the lemon juice and incorporate. Scrape down the sides and bottom and mix well with a spatula. Then transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
- Fold a third of the meringue into the batter using a rubber spatula to combine well. Add the rest of the meringue and fold in well until the mixture is combined. Fold in the pine nuts, reserving about 3 tablespoons for the top of the cakes.
- Brush 2 9×5 loaf pans with melted butter. Fill each loaf pan with the batter. Smooth and flatten the tops with the spatula. Sprinkle the tops of the cakes with the reserved pine nuts. I forgot to do that part. (Now I’ll never win!)
- Bake the loaves on the middle rack until you can put a knife into each and bring it out clean, about 45 minutes.
- Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool in the pans for about 30 minutes and then turn them out onto a cake rack to cool completely.
Okay, time to own up to another guilty pleasure.
You might remember a certain love letter, to a certain carnitas, written many a month ago. Well, it is carnitas time again. I mean, when is it ever not carnitas time…. We’ve been hard at work on The Pantry, and there’s nothing quite like building your own business with your bare hands to work up an appetite. We’ve been working so hard, in fact, that I invited my most carnivorous friend Scott to Seattle, to help my tiny little muscles. Because in case you didn’t know this, construction, it is physical. After weeks ripping sheet rock from the walls, nailing boards to form our new ceiling, scraping the linoleum off of the floor to find (gasp!) a SECOND layer of linoleum, I found myself with a small bit of time before we start jackhammering (oh yeah, you heard me) the concrete in our future garden. Give me a night off with some of my meat-loving friends, and some porky goodness is sure to show up. Carnitas. That deliciously salty, crispy, sweet, melt in my mouth porkfest was calling. But hold your carnitas, because there’s new tortilla in town.
Here’s the thing. I know you’re supposed to like corn tortillas better, because that’s the “authentic” Mexican way. But guess what? I’m not from Mexico. In fact, being from Alabama, I’m doing good just to have graduated past Taco Bell. So I’m here to admit for the world wide web to hear: I like flour tortillas better. Not the stretchy, gummy kind of steamed flour tortillas you get at a taqueria (oh how I miss you, dear Mission district), but something with some chew to it. Blistered from heat and even a little puffy. I could munch on good flour tortillas daily. The problem? Good flour tortillas are few and far between. As per usual, I thought, why not make my own? So I did. And they were perfection. I now pass the baton to you.
A note about lard: If you don’t have time to make your own, then you should be able to find freshly rendered lard at a good butcher shop. Even if you don’t see it, just ask, because sometimes they keep it hidden away. This time I got my lard from Rainshadow Meats on Capitol Hill.
Flour Tortillas Recipe:
Makes 8 tortillas.
2 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
6 TBSP fresh lard, RT
3/4 cup milk, warm
- Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the lard and work in you’re your hands until all of the flour is coated.
- Add the warm milk and stir the mixture with a spoon until it forms a dough. Knead for 4 minutes on a floured surface. The dough should be firm and soft.
- Place the dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap for 30 minutes.
- After the dough has rested, roll it into a log. Slice the log into into eight discs. Use your hand to flatten each disc, then place on a plate without touching each other. Cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap for 10 minutes. After the dough has rested, one at a time place a piece on a floured surface and roll with a rolling pin from the center until it’s thin and about eight inches in diameter. Keep rolled-out tortillas covered until ready to cook.
- In a dry cast iron skillet heated on high, cook the tortilla about thirty seconds on each side. It should start to puff a bit when it’s done. Keep cooked tortillas covered wrapped in a cloth until ready to eat. They can be reheated in a dry iron skillet.
Some things are so simple that I hesitate to share. But today, I’ve got a little snack that is making me a very happy girl. It is inspired by a dinner I had at Frankie’s on my last visit to NYC, and I can honestly say that it was the most memorable thing I ate there. The “it” I keep mentioning was a bruschetta, with a giant mound of fresh ricotta on top, drizzled with honey and a healthy shower of black pepper. I was in heaven. Sure, I’ve been known to sing the praises of ricotta to anyone willing to listen, particularly the homemade kind (because let’s face it, most of the stuff you get in a tub at the grocery store tastes like canned air). The truth is, I try to work in fresh ricotta whenever possible: gnocchi, galettes, pasta, cakes, fritters, we’re even serving a ricotta and blood orange dessert at Delancey right now. I LOVE RICOTTA. But even I sometimes have a bowl of delicious fresh ricotta in my fridge and the feeling of “there’s nothing to eat in the house”. I will say this no more, because the “honeyed and peppered ricotta cracker” is my new go-to. Try it, you’ll see what I’m talking about. I made them last night for the Academy Awards and I think I might have eaten 10 while no one was looking.
While the first time I tasted this combo was on bruschetta, I’m now a convert to serving it on crackers. And when I say crackers, I would hope it’s obvious at this point in our relationship that I’m talking about homemade ones. I know it sounds annoying to make your own crackers, especially after I just smacked down store-bought ricotta. But if I can find the time while working at Delancey and starting a new business, then I swear, you can do it too! Did I mention that it’s actually quite soothing? The dough is super easy, and I’ve found that I can make rather large batches in my KitchenAid mixer, freezing for later what I don’t need at the moment. Then whenever I need crackers, it’s as simple as rolling them out and baking them fresh!
I’ve been tweaking this recipe for over a year, getting the balance of flours and salt just so, and I’m feeling pretty good about it. But feel free to adjust to your own personal taste! The sea salt is great with the ricotta and honey topping, but I would never turn down a cracker with seeds and other yumminess. Get crazy, you’ll thank me! My one piece of advice: resist the urge to pull them out too early, this is your chance to get back at all those pasty bland crackers at the store. Color is flavor my friends!
Olive Oil and Sea Salt Crackers Recipe:
Yield: 50 crackers
1 lb AP flour
6.75 oz semolina flour
4.5 oz whole wheat flour
2 1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups warm water
3/4 cup olive oil
extra olive oil and sea salt for topping crackers.
- Whisk together the flours and salt in a stand mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook. Mix the water and olive oil and add to the flours. Mix the dough at medium speed for about 5 – 7 minutes, until smooth. The dough should be just a bit tacky, but not difficult to work with. Add a bit more water or flour if needed.
- When you are done mixing, shape the dough into a large ball and rub with olive oil. Place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour to relax the gluten.
- Preheat your oven to 475 degrees.
- Cut the dough into equal-sized pieces roughly the size of a billiard ball and flatten.
- Using a pasta machine, roll into a flat strip of dough, starting with the widest setting and working your way up to number 5. Lay the sheet of dough on a floured surface and cut into whatever shape you like. Set on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush each cracker heavily with olive oil. Top with sea salt and bake until golden.
- Cool completely.
6 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups cultured buttermilk
1 TBSP salt
- Combine everything in a large pot and cook over medium heat. When the mixture forms curds and the whey separates and becomes clear, turn off heat. Let it for 30 minutes for the curds to strengthen.
- Set a strainer over a container and line with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Pour ricotta onto cheesecloth and let strain until a desired consistency is reached.
- Stir in salt.
So January was kind of a big month for me.
Construction for my new business, The Pantry, is in full swing. We’ve got all of the walls and ceiling ripped out of our space, and now begins the moment of building rather than destroying. We have a beautiful landscape plan (dreamed up by the talented crew at Fresh Digs), 3 sore backs’ worth of scavenged garden pavers, and lots of beautiful edibles in our future. We just launched our brand new website (check it out!), courtesy of the fantastic Wandering Works Design Co., as well as our first bit of press in Seattle Magazine. I am positively giddy. And if that weren’t enough, last week me and John took a trip to NYC, where we first met 8 years ago, and got ourselves engaged. Wow. Talk about a fun year ahead!
So to celebrate good times, as well as my trip to Momofuku Milk Bar on my first day as a fiancée, I give you the Crack Pie. If you haven’t heard of the Crack Pie, I am so happy to be the first to introduce you. Possibly the most famous slice of pie in Manhattan right now, it is a force to be reckoned with. It’s sweet. It’s salty. It’s oaty. Dare I say it’s over the top. It was exactly what was called for last night.
The crust. The crust is so much fun. It starts with a pretty straightforward oatmeal cookie dough. You press it into a sheet pan until it’s pretty thin. I actually found it a bit sticky to work with and ended up rolling it between parchment sheets.
You bake it until you have one gigantic golden brown oatmeal cookie.
Then you break it into crumbs and toss it with butter and brown sugar, to form an oat cookie pie dough.
That gets pressed into a pie pan, really tightly to prevent leaks.
Then the filling is poured in and the whole thing goes in the oven to set.
And Oh. My. It is insane. Kind of like pecan pie, without those pesky pecans. Wrapped in a crunchy oatmeal cookie. I will admit now that I made two. Friends came over last night and helped me devour the first pie. The second, well I’m regretting that one. It’s just too much crack for this little one. I suspect some staff at Delancey will be finishing it off if John doesn’t read this and hide it before I get there.
CRACK PIE RECIPE (Christina Tosi, Momofuku Milk Bar):
Oat Cookie Crust
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
4 1/2 oz unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
5 1/2 TBSP (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
2 TBSP sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 TBSP old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 tsp (generous) salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper; coat with nonstick spray. Combine 6 TBSP butter, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 2 TBSP sugar in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Turn oat mixture out onto prepared baking pan; press out evenly to edges of pan. Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.
- Using hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl; add 3 TBSP butter and 1 1/2 TBSP brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together. Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 TBSP nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 oz unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
6 1/2 TBSP heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for dusting)
- Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 10 minutes longer. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight.
- Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into wedges and serve cold.
First, let me apologize for my absence. December was rough. Fun, but rough. But January is here and I am finally back in the kitchen.
Now, to business.
When I was itty bitty and carried a lunchbox to school, my mom used to pack it full of yumminess. Well, at the time I thought it was yummy. Though I remember being jealous of my friend Leia’s lunch, because she always had more homemade-type things. Years later she told me she was always jealous of my lunch because I had Little Debbie snacks. Today we both win! I’ve been wanting to recreate these cookies for years, but have been lacking what I thought was a great oatmeal cookie recipe. I wanted a thin cookie, one that was chewy enough to hold a soft fluffy filling. After some tweaking, I feel confident in saying that I’ve got it. In this batch I chopped up dates into my dough, but next time I’m thinking currants, because those dates are just too sweet for me!
I scooped the dough into little balls.
And smashed them down with the back of a wet spoon (wet is important if you don’t want them to stick). This might seem like a meaningless step, but it makes the cookies spread nice and thin.
While they were baking, I got to work on the filling. I first tried making a simple vanilla fluff, much like the original. My friend Olaiya happened to swing by at the exact moment I finished and confirmed for me that to make these little guys palatable to adults, I needed some acid. So I decided to go with a lemony filling, to balance out the sweetness of the cookie. I ground lemon zest and half of a vanilla bean into sugar in the food processor until it was nice and crumbly.
I mixed the lemon sugar with egg whites and heated the whole thing up before whipping it into a swiss meringue. Into the meringue I folded in some lemon juice. And then I hid it until the cookies were all ready for sandwiching, because nobody needs a giant batch of fluff within reach.
Once my cookies were cooled, I started stacking. It took me a few hours before I was ready to munch on them, because all the snacking during the testing phase kind of blew me out. When it was time though, oh boy was I happy. Little Debbie, you have been one-upped.
OATMEAL COOKIE RECIPE:
8 oz butter, RT
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, RT
1 egg white, RT
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup AP flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 cups oats
6 oz chopped dates
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Add the chopped dates and rub to break up clumps. Add the oats. Set aside.
- Cream butter for 1 minute.
- Add the sugars and cream for 3 minutes.
- Add the egg and vanilla and cream for 2 minutes.
- Add the dry ingredients.
- Scoop onto a parchment lined sheet pan. Press flat with a wet spoon.
- Bake for 11 minutes.
LEMON FLUFF RECIPE:
6 oz egg whites
12 oz sugar
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp lemon juice
- Combine sugar and lemon zest in food processor. Process for 1 minute.
- Combine with egg whites in a kitchen aid bowl. Whisk well.
- Heat over a water bath, whisking constantly until the egg whites reach 160 degrees.
- Remove from water bath and whip for several minutes, until cool and fluffy.
- Whisk in lemon juice.