Bircher Muesli | Homemade Muesli | Bulk Food Shopping

Bircher muesli

Thanks to an amazing co-op in Albany, I’ve discovered the joys of bulk food shopping. A quarter (wild guess) of the 31,000 square feet that is the Honest Weight Food Co-op is lined with tubes, bins, and barrels holding every nut, seed, grain, flour, pasta, oil, butter, extract, paste you could imagine. It’s an astonishing site — really, I’ve never seen anything like it: whole aisles dedicated to unpackaged food, which you can cart home in your own vessels or in an array of glass jugs and jars sold at the store.

I had never found myself drawn to bulk food shopping until I started making this toasted muesli (granola, really), which everyone in my family adores. It’s truly the only thing I make that instantly silences my children, that keeps them sitting at the table focused on what’s before them, that they invariably ask for seconds of. When I found myself making double batches of it twice a week, I started paying more attention to the prices of the teensy bags of almonds and flaked coconut and large jugs of maple syrup I was ripping through.

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Slow Cooker Gigante Beans with Tomatoes and Pancetta

stewy slow-cooker gigante beans

In a recent Dinner, A Love Story post, Jenny Rosenstrach captured my exact experience and thoughts regarding crockpot cooking. In sum, despite seeing the appeal, she has not had great success.

I have owned a crockpot for 10 years — received one as a wedding gift — and every winter, I break it out once, only to make something good but not great. Let’s just say no recipe this past decade has left me drinking the crockpot Kool Aid.

Part of the issue for me is that often the recipes don’t feel easier. If a recipe calls for browning meat in one pan, then finishing it in another, that means I have two pans to clean, not one. And I don’t understand the crockpot recipes that call for canned beans — isn’t that the beauty of canned beans? That the long, slow cooking has already been done for you? I own a cookbook dedicated to crockpot cooking, which includes a recipe for poached eggs, which, start to finish, take 45 minutes. Why?

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Canal House Chicken with Preserved Lemon

chicken in pan

Remember those preserved lemons we made last fall? Well, I think I’ve found my favorite use for them yet: this five-ingredient chicken, a recipe which arrived two weeks ago in my mailbox — my real, outdoor mailbox — on a 4×6-inch recipe card.

Shortly after the card, one of three, arrived, I secured it to my fridge, and I made the recipe, chicken thighs with lemon from Canal House, a day later. And then I made it the next day and the next. I should know by now not to be so confounded when simple meets spectacular, but one bite of these thighs left me puzzled: How can this be? How can salt, pepper and preserved lemon alone produce something so tasty? Why have I never used this method — 30 minutes skin side down, 10 minutes skin side up — to cook thighs? How can such a simple method create the crispiest skin, the juiciest meat?

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The Crispiest Oven Fries

crispy oven fries

Before I started paying attention to local food and to cooking with seasonal ingredients, I would have categorized potatoes as a winter vegetable, miraculously growing in the frozen solid earth, harvested by farmers through layers of snow.

I never would have guessed that a potato’s peak season in colder climates is actually midsummer through late fall, and that during these months, never do potatoes taste so good. Every summer, when the potatoes start arriving in our CSA, I am blown away by their flavor, by how they need nothing more than olive oil and salt, by how many potatoes we consume as a family each week. I’ve been on such a potato bender recently I’ve had to supplement our supply at the farmers’ market, and when I was there last, I asked the woman at the Barber’s Farm table why the summer potatoes were so good. She responded: “Because they’re fresh!”

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Cauliflower, Broccoli & Pepita Salad

tossed broccoli, cauliflower & sesame salad

I’ve heard that trying to please everyone, as a general life strategy, may at best lead to disappointment and, at worst, failure. Eek.

But what if, say, without even trying, you just happen to please everyone? Hmm.

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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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Toasted Muesli // Camping at Heart Lake, Lake Placid

bowl of muesli & Argyle Cheese Farmer Maple yogurt (amazing!)

If I were to look back on my life and find myself eating a bowl of muesli, it would most likely mean I was with my brother and sister at my dad’s house for the weekend. We would have found the box, the only cereal option, nestled with the Jaffa Cakes, the After Eights, and the Earl Grey tea in the kitchen cupboard, and it would likely be several months old, its powdery contents stale, any dried fruit petrified.

If we were in luck, there might be some milk in the fridge. If we were in more luck, that milk might be just a day or two past expiration. And if the stars were really aligning for us, we would avoid getting our fingers pinched in the mousetrap set in the silverware drawer while searching for a spoon. My English father is many things: a man of the kitchen he is not.

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Millet Muffins

millet muffin

Every time I visit Philadelphia, I have high hopes of hitting up all of my favorite spots: La Colombe for a cappucino, Cafe Lutecia for a croissant, Ding Ho for fresh rice noodles, Reading Terminal Market for a soft pretzel, Fork for brioche French toast and Metropolitan Bakery for a millet muffin.

But on a recent overnight visit I had time for neither a coffee nor a croissant, and I returned home craving all of my favorite carbs but most of all a brown-sugar, millet-studded muffin.

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Quinoa with Walnuts, Radishes & Spring Onions • How to Cook Quinoa Properly • Fair Trade Quinoa

quinoa salad

A few weeks ago I discovered that for all the years I have been cooking quinoa I have been doing it wrong. The quinoa I have made, as a result, while edible and receptive to countless seasonings and additions, has never kept my attention for very long — after the odd week-long-quinoa binge, I’d forget about it for months.

But after posting the radish entry a few weeks ago, I received a comment from a dear old friend who managed several of the Philadelphia farmers’ markets while I lived there. Joanna pointed me to a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe for a quinoa salad with radishes, fava beans, avocado and a lemon vinaigrette she had recently made for some friends to rave reviews.

A quick google search led me to the recipe. While the ingredient list had me foaming at the mouth, it was the first few lines of the instructions that really struck me: Place the quinoa in a saucepan filled with plenty of boiling water and simmer for 9 minutes. Drain in a fine sieve, rinse under cold water and leave to dry.

PLENTY of boiling water. Simmer for NINE minutes. RINSE under cold water. Is this news to you, too? Why has every package of quinoa instructed me to cook it as if it were rice — 1 part grain to 2 parts water — in a covered pot? And to cook it for at least 15 minutes but often for as long as 20? And after the cooking process, to let it rest off the heat under its steaming lid for an additional 5 to 10 minutes?

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Torta Caprese — Flourless Chocolate Almond Torte

chocolate almond torte

On Christmas Eve my mother served this torta caprese — a flourless, chocolate-almond torte originating from the Isle of Capri — for dessert. If this is any indication of how it was received, not a single person sitting at the table, nine in total, turned down seconds. Later that evening, Santa even helped himself to thirds.

I love this class of cakes, those that can stand on their own, that don’t beg for layers of buttercream, pools of crème pâtissière, glazes of chocolate ganache or even dollops of whipped cream. This one, like the orange-and-olive oil cake and the Chez Panisse almond torte, fits into this class.

Containing no flour and leavened only by whipped egg whites, this torte is at once light, rich and moist. Ground almonds give it a wonderful texture throughout, and a splash of Grand Marnier offers a hint of orange. Made with bittersweet chocolate, it is perfectly sweet, and when it bakes, that brownie-like, most-delicious, paper-thin crust forms on the top-most layer. It is every bit elegant the finale of a special occasion should be, Valentine’s Day or otherwise. I hope you find an occasion to celebrate it soon. [Read more…]