Campanelle with Hard-Boiled Eggs, Capers & Watercress

campanelle with hard-boiled egg, capers & watercress

The union of egg and noodle has long been celebrated: beaten eggs form the base of a creamy sauce in pasta carbonara; eggs scrambled with rice noodles are essential in Pad Thai; and poached or fried eggs cracked atop fresh pasta make an instant sauce for an impromptu, deeply satisfying dinner.

As much as I adore this pairing, I’d never thought to enter hard-boiled eggs into the equation until I spotted a recipe in the April Bon Appetit. The goal of the three succinct recipes tucked into the corners of this one page was to offer ideas for using up those colored eggs many of us find in our fridge this time of year. But the combination of hard-boiled eggs, capers and anchovies works so well together, you might find yourself — I have at least — boiling eggs even once you’ve depleted your stock.

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23. April 2014 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Easter, Eggs, Pasta | 9 comments

Kouign-Amann

kouign amann

Bon Appetit began running a column this month called The Project, in which they detail how to make involved dishes, ones that require ambition, energy, thought, dishes such as cassoulet or ramen or their debut project: kouign-amann, a buttery pastry from Brittany, France.

I love this idea. So often these days I am too focused on what’s easy, what’s familiar, what’s going to get dinner on the table fastest. I miss the days when I would come home with a rabbit — oh to be young! — and open up my favorite Sally Schneider cookbook to find an impossibly involved recipe for ragù, which I would make and then serve over homemade pappardelle — oh to be young! — even if it meant serving dinner at 10pm.

Today if I see more than five ingredients in a recipe, my eyes glaze over, I file it into the “perhaps-one-day” folder, and I move on to the “fast, easy, fresh” recipe.

I love the spirit of this BA column so much that I almost didn’t write this post. Because the thing is that I cheated. One glimpse of those flaky, buttery, caramelized kouign-amann, and I thought: I need those in my belly. Immediately.

And so I cheated. Because Nigella Lawson, with her food processor Danish pastry dough, has made me a cheater. I fell for her dough when I made cheese danishes with lemon-ricotta filling last spring; I fell in love with her dough when I used it to make cronuts last fall. Twenty years from now, I might just learn to laminate dough properly, but until then, whenever I see recipes calling for that butter block and that folded pastry dough and that laborious process, I will cheat. And I will not look back.

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17. April 2014 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Baking, Breakfast, Easter, Holidays | 28 comments

Lemon-Ricotta Cheesecake

slice of lemon-ricotta cheesecake

Before making my mother’s lemon-ricotta cheesecake earlier this month, I hadn’t made a cheesecake in years. And I’m not sure why — it is the easiest dessert to make; it can be made a day in advance; it feeds many people; and people generally love it, especially this one, made with both ricotta and mascarpone, both lemon juice and zest.

A simple cookie crumb dusting of the pan allows this cheesecake to come together in no time, and its silky texture somehow tastes both rich and light at the same time. A small slice will suffice though it’s nearly impossible to resist seconds.

I hope all of your holiday preparations are going well, Everyone.

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15. April 2014 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Baking, Cakes, Cheese, Desserts, Easter, Holidays | 33 comments

Broiled Lamb Chops with Nigella’s Mint Sauce

broiled lamb chops

Nigella Lawson’s mint sauce first appeared on our Easter table in 2003, the same year the Easter Egg Nest Cake made its debut, both recipes having appeared in the New York Times earlier that week.

Unlike the Easter Egg Nest cake, which we loved — really, we did — the mint sauce returned to the table every following Easter, the fresh combination of mint and parsley, olive oil and vinegar, capers and cornichons the perfect accompaniment to lamb no matter the preparation — roasted racks, braised shanks, broiled meatballs, pan-seared chops.

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09. April 2014 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Easter, Entrees, Grass-fed Meat, Sauces, dressings, jams & spreads | 24 comments

Spring Wheat Berry Salad

spring wheat berry salad

About this time last year, I learned how to properly cook quinoa, a revelation that not only gave the ancient grain a permanent spot in my pantry, but also inspired a number of grain salads I made all summer long.

While the ingredients in each salad varied from radishes and peas to cherry tomatoes and cucumbers to roasted squash and wilted mustard greens, the formula was always the same: something fresh, something crunchy, something spicy, something sweet. The dressing was simple too: extra-virgin olive oil and minced red onions macerated in vinegar or lemon juice. Cheese never entered the equation, nor was it missed.

Here, wheat berries and walnuts combine with asparagus and radishes in an addictive, chewy, crunchy, colorful combination, a simple salad to herald the arrival of spring, which at last appears to be here to stay.

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04. April 2014 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: CSA, Easter, Eating Locally, Salads, Side dishes, Vegan, Vegetarian | 27 comments

Baked Ricotta & Wisconsin Cheese Giveaway

baked ricotta

Can we talk about the Madness? Uconn upsetting Michigan State? Kentucky’s last-second 3-pointer for the win? The Wisconsin-Arizona overtime nail biter?

I sound like I know what I’m talking about, right? I don’t. But thanks to theSkimm, I am up-to-date on all the most important goings-on in the world. (Really, you should subscribe, it might change your life.)

You also should make this baked ricotta for any guests you might find at your house watching the Final Four this weekend. As is the case with so many baked cheese dips, the success of this one can be attributed to the synergistic reaction that takes place in the oven, the final melty product amounting to so much more than the sum of its herbs, spices, and cheeses. In other words: cheese is good, melted cheese is better. At least when placed before a crew of ravenous, raucous, raging sports fans.

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01. April 2014 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Appetizers, Baking, Cheese, Hors d'oeuvres | 149 comments

Vermont | Homemade Cultured Butter

cultured butter

I just spent a week eating cheese, making butter, growing sprouts, baking bread, snuggling with Golden Retrievers, visiting farms, driving through covered bridges, admiring snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes, and sampling microbrews while eating wood-fired pizzas. Could I have been anywhere in the world but Vermont?

Perhaps, but short of meeting a few friends for a morning snowshoe, my week couldn’t have been filled with more quintessential Green Mountain State activities. My siblings and I grew up traveling to Charlotte many times a year to visit my mother’s sister Marcy, master of pies, soup, and delectably melty appetizers. The five-hour drive always felt interminable, knowing what we had awaiting us: our cousins, a zipline, Uncle Wade’s waffles, Lake Champlain, dogs and endless outdoor fun.

For my parents, the drive was a breeze, the nature scenes providing endless distraction. I never quite understood the enthusiasm for the birds perched on the highway light poles or the first glimpse of Mount Mansfield, but on my drive north this past Sunday, I realized I had officially become my parents. “Children!” I would shout at every turn. “Look at the cows! The silos! The mountains! The sugar houses!”

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27. March 2014 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Baking, Bread, Breakfast, Condiments, Sauces, dressings, jams & spreads | 30 comments

Gluten-Free Peasant Bread

gluten-free peasant bread

For the past year, the most frequent question asked on this blog is this: Can the peasant bread be made gluten-free?

Everyone knows someone — a friend, an uncle, a cousin — recently diagnosed with Celiac disease who has had to forget bread as he/she once knew it.

You might have this friend, this uncle, this cousin. I do. And you might want to treat him/her to a loaf of freshly baked bread but you don’t know where to begin. This is the position my mother found herself in a month ago while preparing for the arrival of her brother-in-law, who had recently adopted a gluten-free diet. Panicked by the thought of serving dinner without warm, fresh bread on the table, she called asking if I had ever successfully made the peasant bread gluten free. I answered as I have to everyone who has asked thus far: no, not yet.

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21. March 2014 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Baking, Bread, Gluten-free | 18 comments

Roasted Vegetables with Tahini, Lemon & Za’atar

roasted vegetables with tahini sauce and za'atar

Tired, pale, wrinkled — it’s a sad lot of vegetables gracing the farmers’ market tables these days.

But I’m not judging. Those very three words came to mind as I looked in the mirror this morning. I could use a little help right now — some sun, some fresh air, spring — and so could those vegetables. And I’ve got just the thing.

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17. March 2014 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: CSA, Eating Locally, Vegan, Vegetarian | 23 comments

Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Green Olives

just off the stove

I will consider this post a success if, by the end, one of two things happens:

1. You feel inspired to tackle Moroccan cooking, immediately buy a tagine, preserve and then purée a batch of lemons, find a source for ras-el-hanout, and, in the short term at least, join me on a tagine-making bender, throwing any and everything possible into your new favorite kitchen tool.

2. You move to Schenectady so you, as I, have a Moroccan pantry in your backyard, a supply of Aneesa’s ras-el-hanout, preseved lemons, tomato jam, parsley chermoula, all of which make throwing together a Moroccan feast as effortless as popping a frozen pizza in the oven.

Either outcome will be a win for me, especially number two — perhaps we could meet for lunch? — but let’s start from the top.

Scenario #1. If you are more inclined to stay where you are and take a stab at tagine-style cooking…

…first disregard everything you know about braising, which typically calls for searing meat then finishing it in a covered pot with a small amount of liquid. Tagine cooking in essence is braising but there is no initial browning, no deglazing of the pan, no multi-step process. Everything gets thrown into the tagine at step one and forgotten until step two, at which point your food is cooked and you, pita bread in hand, are ready to attack it.

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12. March 2014 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Chicken, Eating Locally, Entrees, Preserves | 59 comments

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