Tofu, Edamame & Soju

Warm Tofu with Spicy Dipping Sauce — The Only Way I Eat Tofu

tofuWaywaywaywaywaiiit. Stop. Seriously. I know what you’re doing. I can see you. I can’t. But I know what you’re doing. You’re turning your nose. The thought of tofu for dinner, you’re thinking, is unacceptable.

I was there once, too. But in the past few months, I have been experimenting with tofu, trying to truly grow to like it. So when I read Ruth Reichl’s description of this warm tofu with spicy dipping sauce — “a beautiful dish, which takes ten minutes, costs very little, and is so utterly delicious” —  in this month’s Gourmet, I had to try it. 

This is by far the easiest easiest easiest (my friends who hate to cook are you listening?) method of preparing tofu I have encountered. The recipe calls for simmering the tofu in water, making a sauce and pouring the sauce over the tofu. And it is delicious. Truly. I think you will be pleased. 

tofu

PS: Though this rectangular plate is quite pretty, I think bowls are a more appropriate serving dish. 

Making the sauce:
sauce prep

toasted sesame seeds

scallions

On the side? Way back in the day, I worked at a catering company in Philadelphia. At nearly every party I worked, ‘peking duck rolls’ served straight from a bamboo steamer were passed with a soy dipping sauce … everyone raved. Of course, I went to Chinatown immediately following the first party I worked to purchase one of these three-tiered bamboo steamers. I must admit, I have hardly used it since, but it is a great gadget to have on hand even so. It steamed my edamame tonight in under five minutes. If you have one, place it right into a wok filled with just enough water to reach below the first tier. Bring the water to a boil and then place edamame pods into one of the tiers. Cover and steam until done. Sprinkle with a nice sea salt according to taste.

edamame

steaming edamame

edamame with nice salt

What to drink. What to drink. My day started with soju and has ended with soju. Soju’s “neutral flavor,” according to Gourmet, makes it a great mixer and “a favored alcoholic beverage in Korea.” I can’t really tell you how it tastes, only that it tasted damn good in the bloody Mary I had this morning at The Ramos House Cafe and damn good in the beverage I am drinking now — a grapefruit soju cocktail. If you can’t find soju, any vodka will make a fine substitute. 

grapefruit soju cocktail

To Make This Feast:

Step One: Pepare Cocktails

Grapefruit Soju Cocktails
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes 10 drinks (according to Gourmet), 5 drinks (according to Ali)

1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1 quart (4 cups) fresh-squeezed (or not) grapefruit juice
1 cup soju (sometimes called sochu), sake or vodka, chilled
Club soda or seltzer water chilled

1. Stir the sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt into the juice and stir to dissolve. Stir in soju and add sugar to taste.

2. Pour into ice-filled glasses and top with a splash of club soda.

Gourmet’s note: Grapefruit mixture without soju can be made four hours ahead and chilled. Add soju to mixture just before serving.

Step Two: Prepare Tofu

Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce
Adapted from Gourmet
Serves 8 (as part of a Korean Meal according to Gourmet), 2 (as a main dish according to Ali — This recipe yields enough sauce for two, but I would double the amount of tofu if serving this as a main dish for 2.)

1 (14- to 18-oz) package firm tofu Note: The original recipe calls for soft (not silken) tofu. I have now made this recipe with both soft and firm tofu, and I prefer the firm tofu — the soft was very hard to eat with chopsticks.
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
¼ cup chopped scallion
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted and crushed with side of a heavy knife (I minced the seeds with some garlic and scallions, which helped keep the seeds from flying off the cutting board.)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon coarse Korean hot red-pepper flakes (crushed red pepper flakes)
1/2 teaspoon sugar

1. Rinse tofu, then cover with cold water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then keep warm, covered, over very low heat.

2. Meanwhile, mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. Stir together with remaining ingredients.

3. Just before serving, carefully lift tofu from saucepan with a large spatula and drain on paper towels. Gently pat dry, then transfer to a small plate. Spoon some sauce over tofu and serve warm. Serve remaining sauce on the side.

Notes: Sauce can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature before using. Tofu can be kept warm up to 4 hours.

Last Step: Steam Edamame

Edamame in pods
Nice sea salt

1. Steam pods until done, about five minutes. Sprinkle with nice salt. Serve. Yum.

12. March 2009 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Appetizers, Asian, Drinks, Entrees, Side dishes, Vegetarian | 41 comments

Zuni Cafe’s Fried Eggs In Bread Crumbs

Zuni Cafe's Eggs in Bread Crumbs

eggs in bread crumbs

I wish I were a hen;
I wouldn’t have much to do.
I’d lay an egg most every day,
And Sundays sometimes two.

— German nursery rhyme

Just a little jingle I thought you all might like. I found it in the book I’m reading: My Fine Feathered Friend by William Grimes.

Anyway, I’ve found my latest favorite way to eat eggs: fried in bread crumbs. This recipe comes from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, which devotes a whole chapter (a very small chapter) to egg recipes. At Zuni, these eggs appear on the Sunday lunch menu accompanied by house-made sausage or bacon (sounds amazing), but Zuni’s chef-owner Judy Rodgers likes these crunchy eggs for dinner with a salad of  bitter greens. I couldn’t agree more: A simple salad of arugula, oranges, Parmigiano Reggiano, maybe an avocado and a couple pieces of toast couldn’t make a better dinner. 

These eggs are so yummy. Just after the eggs finish cooking, they get sprinkled with a little vinegar — don’t omit this step — which adds the perfect amount of bite. Even I refrain from dousing these eggs with Tabasco. It would ruin them.

I’ve made these eggs two nights in a row now and very likely will bring the streak to three tomorrow. When you plan on making them, be sure to read the whole recipe through — there’s nothing tricky about it, but it’s not your standard-issue recipe either.

Just some last thoughts, too: If you can find some farmers’ market greens and eggs, this meal will be all the more delicious. I feel like a brat saying this given that I live in sunny southern California, but if you do a little research, regardless of where you are, you’d be surprised what you might find. I remember buying delicious greens, even in the colder months, from various sources at the Fair Food Farmstand in Philadelphia.

For you locals, pictured below are Don’s eggs, Blue Heron Farm’s arugula, and Eli’s Ranch oranges, all of which can be found at the Sunday San Clemente farmers’ market.

egg on toast with arugula and oranges

The pan. The Zuni cookbook recommends using a 6- to 8- inch French steel omelet pan. I’ve used my 9.5-inch carbon steel crepe pan that I bought at Fante’s in Philadelphia. A nonstick pan will work just as well.

French steel omelet pan

Fresh, soft bread crumbs:

freshbreadcrumbs

Bread crumbs “oversaturated” with olive oil, as instructed by The Zuni Cafe Cookbook:

crumbs saturated with olive oil

To clean your skillet, dump some kosher salt into it and place it over medium heat. Let the salt heat up and begin to change color. Turn off the heat.

salt
Next, take a paper towel and rub in a circular motion, scraping off all the bits of food from the bottom of the pan. Wipe out all of the contents and discard. Drizzle pan with a tiny bit of olive oil and rub the surface to coat.

pan with salt

Fried Eggs in Bread Crumbs
From The Zuni Café Cookbook
Serves 1

Notes from the cookbook: This recipe has been written for one because these eggs are easy to make and fun to eat when you are alone. If you are making them for more than one person, use a larger pan and cook the eggs in batches of four to six. Also, see the note at the bottom of the recipe regarding toasting the bread crumbs in an oven.

1 loaf of white, bakery-style bread such as a peasant loaf or ciabatta or a boule
(This is to make the fresh, soft bread crumbs. You only need 3 tablespoons of crumbs, so you’ll likely need just a portion of this loaf.)
kosher salt
about 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
a few fresh thyme or marjoram leaves (optional)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon red wine, white balsamic, balsamic or sherry vinegar

1. To make the bread crumbs: Carve the crusts off a loaf of white bakery-style bread such as a peasant loaf or ciabatta or boule. (Discard the crusts or add to your compost pile.) Break the tender insides of the loaf into large chunks, then grind in the food processor. Don’t grind too finely or evenly.

2. Sprinkle the crumbs with a pinch of salt, then drizzle with enough of the oil to oversaturate them.

3. Place the crumbs in a 6- to 8-inch French steel omelet pan or nonstick skillet and set over medium heat. (If you like your fried eggs over easy, reserve some of the oiled raw crumbs to spinkle on top of the eggs just before you flip them.) Let the crumbs warm through, then swirl the pan as they begin drying out — which will make a quiet staticky sound. Stir once or twice.

4. The moment you see the crumbs begin to color, quickly add the remaining oil (or a dab of butter) and the herbs if using, then crack the eggs directly onto the crumbs. Cook the eggs as you like. (So far, I’ve made them two ways: without flipping them, but by finishing them in a heated oven so the tops cooked through a tiny bit; and flipping them, but cooking the eggs only briefly on the second side — the yolks were still runny.)

5. Slide eggs onto a warm plate ( … right), then add the vinegar to the hot pan. Swirl the pan once, then pour the drops of sizzling vinegar over the eggs.

Note: If you are preparing the eggs for more than a few people, it is a little easier to toast the seasoned bread crumbs in advance in a 425ºF oven instead of in the skillet. In that case, toast them to the color of weak tea. Then scatter them in the skillet, add the remaining olive oil and proceed as described above.

Serve these eggs with a simple salad tossed in a citrus vinaigrette (recipe below):

How to make a simple vinaigrette

I learned to make salad dressing from Chez Panisse Vegetables. This simple recipe calls for macerating shallots in lemon juice and vinegar for about 20 minutes. Once you master this simple recipe, you can alter it as you wish — use orange juice, lime juice, or any number of vinegars in place of the lemon juice and champagne vinegar. I often add sugar to taste as well.

Champagne-Shallot Vinaigrette
Source: Chez Panisse Vegetables

2 small shallots, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white balsamic vinegar*
2 tablespoons lemon juice*
¼ teaspoon sugar (optional — this is not in the original recipe, but I always like a pinch of sugar)
½ teapoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper

*As I noted above, you can substitute what you wish for the vinegar or citrus. You also could use only vinegar or only citrus juice. Use whatever you have on hand or whatever you like best.

To make the dressing, place the shallots in a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and salt. Stir and let the mixture sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly to make an emulsified dressing. Set aside.

Here are some other dressings you might like:

Tarragon-Shallot Vinaigrette
Orange & White Balsamic Vinaigrette
Orange Dressing, Especially nice with Roasted Beets
Sally Schneider’s Blue Cheese Dressing
Tartine’s Caesar Dressing

06. March 2009 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Breakfast, Eggs, Entrees, Salads, Sauces, dressings, jams & spreads, Vegetarian | 28 comments

Orecchiette with Hot Italian Sausage & Wilted Greens

cheese, garlic & redpepper flakes

pasta1a

Yipee! I’m back. It has been way too long. I believe the slowness issues on my blog have been resolved. Thank you to all who let me know my blogspot blog was painfully slow to load, and thank you to all who offered thoughtful advice about how I should be saving/resizing photos. So far, the new site seems to be running smoothly. All of the posts have been imported from Blogger and all of the recipes can now be printed (in their own window without images and without all of the sidebar distractions.) Many of the links in various posts still link back to Blogger, but in time, I hope, those will be updated.

Anyway, I am excited to share with you this recipe for orecchiette with sausage and greens. The inspiration for this dish came from this Nigella Lawson recipe, which I spotted in an email blast from The Cookstr 10 regarding vegetarian dishes for everyone. I had a little trouble with the recipe the first time around — the one cup of wine and one cup of water turned my greens to mush — so I’ve altered the recipe a tad.

Now, as many of you know, when I make pasta, I usually begin with a pound of Delaney’s Culinary Fresh delectable homemade linguini. A trip last weekend to visit my adorable nephew, however, kept me from my Sunday farmers’ market, forcing me to improvise. Here, I’ve used orecchiette, which I adore, but I think elbow macaroni (or any pasta really) would make a nice substitute. I’m liking the little shapes these days for whatever reason.

Again, too, because I couldn’t stock up on chard last weekend, I found a one pound bag of “Southern” cooking greens, a mixture of turnip, collard, spinach and mustard, at Trader Joe’s. Sausage is not a must here, truly, but if you’re craving a little meat, the addition of hot Italian sausage adds a nice flavor. For those of you who live in the area, Tina and Vince’s homemade sausages are the best. The whole combination of pasta with greens and sausage and grated Parmigiano is so classic and so wonderful. Nothing original here, just a nice, simple, tasty dish. Yum.

pasta2

sausage

cheese, garlic & redpepper flakes

pastaandgreens

greenscollander

bittergreens

Orecchiette with Sausage and Greens
Serves 4

olive oil
1 lb. fresh, hot Italian sausage
1 lb. greens such as a mix of turnip, mustard, spinach, chard and collard (Trader Joe’s sells a 1 lb. bag of Southern cooking greens)
3 cloves garlic minced
kosher salt
crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb. orecchiette pasta
1 T. unsalted butter, room temperature is ideal
1/2 cup. grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more to pass
fresh cracked pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, squeeze sausage from its casing. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and cook the sausage until browned and cooked through. Transfer cooked sausage to a large bowl.

3. In the same pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil and turn heat to high. Once the oil is hot, add half of the greens. Let the greens sit for a minute undisturbed. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and crushed red pepper flakes to taste. Add half of the garlic. Begin to toss the greens around until they start wilting. Once wilted, transfer to the large bowl with the sausage. Repeat with the remaining greens. Transfer greens to large bowl. Don’t wash the pan yet.

4. Add a pinch of salt to the pasta water. Boil the pasta for about 9 minutes. (The box says 11, but check it at 9.) Reserve a cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the pasta.

5. In the same sauté pan that you cooked the sausage and greens, add about half of the reserved cooking liquid and bring to a simmer. Add the tablespoon of butter and stir, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let simmer until reduced slightly, about a minute. Place the pasta in the large bowl with the sausage and greens. Pour this cooking liquid-butter mixture over top. Add the cheese and stir with a large spoon. Taste. Add more of the reserved cooking liquid if necessary. Place pasta in a big serving bowl.

6. Dish out the pasta, cracking black pepper over each serving and passing more Parmigiano Reggiano on the side.

27. February 2009 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Entrees, Pasta | 37 comments

The Best Granola

granola1

granola1

Hello! I recently migrated my blog from blogspot to wordpress. This site is still a bit under construction and might not be fully up-and-running for several more weeks. I’m hoping, however, to post an entry this Friday and to continue with a once-a-week routine thereafter. I’m looking forward to getting back on track!

Posted on alexandra’s kitchen blogspot blog:

It has come to my attention that my blog can take quite a bit of time to load on various computers. I’m not really sure why this is happening, but I find it very frustrating and I am in the process of doing something about it. Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know that part of the reason I have been such a terrible blogger these past few weeks is because I’m trying to figure out what to do.  I’ll keep you posted, and I apologize for the recent lack of activity on alexandra’s kitchen.

But before I leave you, I just thought I’d remind you all about one of my all-time favorite recipes. It has been over a year since I made this granola and it is just as delectable as I remember. The base recipe has been adapted from the Barefoot Contessa and the candied nut recipe comes from one of the Moosewood cookbooks. With the addition of dried cranberries and blueberries, this granola makes the best breakfast/snack/lunch/dinner ever. Seriously. It most definitely will appear on Olalie’s Menu.

granola2

 

Candied cashews and almonds:

nuts1

Granola and nuts mixed with dried cranberries and blueberries:

granola

Nuts before roasting:

nuts-uncooked

Granola just out of the oven:

granola4

Also, for those of you who live in the San Diego-Orange County area and have yet to make plans for Valentine’s Day, Cafe Mimosa is offering a four-course prix fixe tasting menu on both Friday and Saturday nights (Feb. 13th and 14th). The menu sounds fantastic!

29. January 2009 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Baking, Breakfast, Olallie Cafe recipes | 41 comments

Grilled Cheese

overhead-grilled-cheese

gcheese

I cut the bread too thick. And I didn’t use enough cheese — I thought four ounces of cheese per sandwich seemed a little excessive. But maybe that’s what it takes to make the ultimate grilled cheese.

Saveur says:
“The Secret to making a perfect grilled cheese sandwich is cooking it over low heat, which brings out the subtle flavors of a cheese, and slathering the bread with butter, which crisps it in the pan. Comté, with its semifirm texture and nutty taste, is great for grilling.”

Saveur’s recipe for “the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich” calls for placing a cast-iron skillet over low heat and cooking the sandwich, flipping once, for 20 minutes. Twenty minutes! Who knew it took so long to make a grilled cheese sandwich? I did in fact cook my grilled cheese for 20 minutes and, thanks to a hefty slathering of butter, my sandwich crisped up nicely in my cast-iron pan. Oh, if only I had cut the bread thinner!       

I think this cooking technique has the potential to produce a really great sandwich and next time around, I hope to find comté cheese, too. French comté is made from the milk of the Montbeliarde cows who graze on wild orchids, daisies and dandelions. Yum. If you can’t find comté, gruyère makes a fine substitute.

Don’t strain your eyes. Find the recipe here.

overhead-grilled-cheese

gruyere

grated

15. January 2009 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Cheese, Lunch, Vegetarian | 32 comments

Prosciutto, Endive & Shaved Manchego Salad with Tarragon-Shallot Vinaigrette

openface-overhead

pears

I am anxious to share with you my aunt Marcy’s blueberry muffins, my mother’s rosemary shortbread and my stepfather’s glug — a high-octane, blood-warming winter punch. Those treats are going to have to wait, however. My eyes and mind need a break from the recent holiday indulgences.

And so today, I have only two things to share with you: a yummy yummy salad and a favorite vinaigrette.

Several weeks ago, a friend and I dined at Froma on Melrose, an LA cheese-, charcuterie-, and wine shop, where I ordered the Jamón Serrano salad, a combination of salty ham, bitter endive, and sweet pear, topped with Manchego cheese and drizzled with chestnut honey. What arrived at the table — essentially a platter of meat topped with a sprinkling of endive — was entirely different than what I envisioned but entirely enjoyed that evening. With my side of sliced baguette, I assembled mini open-faced sandwiches, which, along with a glass of red wine, made for a delectable dinner. 

I’ve since made the salad several times, omitting the honey, which Froma overdid a tad and which is unnecessary anyway — the pears add a perfect amount of sweetness. A tarragon-shallot vinaigrette, I find makes the perfect dressing for this simple salad.

Happy New Year everyone!

endive

pears-overhead

salad-overhead1

sliced-pears

manchego   

tarragon-dressing

Tarragon-Shallot Vinaigrette
Yield = ½ cup (Make a double batch — It’s so nice to have on hand.)   

4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons tarragon, finely chopped

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, shallots, mustard, sugar and salt. Let mixture macerate for 20 minutes. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly until emulsified. Stir in tarragon. Taste, add more salt and pepper if necessary. Set aside.

Prosciutto, Pear & Endive Salad
Serves as many as you like
prosciutto
endive, sliced into thin wedges
arugula
pear, sliced thinly
Manchego cheese, shaved
bread, toasted or grilled

Arrange prosciutto on a large platter. (Alternatively, arrange a few slices on individual plates.) Toss endive, arugula and pear with the tarragon-shallot vinaigrette. Top prosciutto with salad. Top salad with slices of cheese. Serve with warm bread. 

openface-overhead

04. January 2009 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Appetizers, Salads, Side dishes | 42 comments

Holiday Linzers: Too Pretty To Eat

Linzer Cookies

Linzer Cookies

Last Saturday morning, while warming up with a cup of coffee and some sweets in an adorable cafe in Boulder, my mother offered me her latest theory: “The prettier a cookie is,” she said, setting down a handsome palmier, making no effort to hide her disgust, “the less edible it becomes.” Though the palmier may have been an unlucky pick that morning, I think Liza might be on to something. 

I had been eyeing this Dorie Greenspan recipe for linzer cookies for weeks. And after reading last Wednesday’s New York Times’ article, “Butter Holds The Secret To Cookies That Sing,” I felt primed for an all-star baking session in my all-but-neglected kitchen. I would follow the recipe to a T, and with my recently acquired butter knowledge, I would think science not just mechanics.

I would cream my 65-degree temperature butter — “cold to the touch but warm enough to spread” — for at least three minutes with the paddle attachment of my stand mixer set on medium speed — no higher, lest the butter’s temperature rise to 68 degrees — until enough air bubbles formed to create the required texture and aeration to produce a cookie to rival all cookies. My adrenaline was pumping. It was game time. I laced my apron around my waist, pounded a quart of Gatorade and set to work, not veering ever so slightly from the recipe, fighting off laziness every step of the way. 

I whipped. I chilled. I rolled. I baked. I baked again. I dusted. I jammed. I sandwiched. I admired. 

Expectations were high. Perhaps too high. After assembling all of the linzers, I ate one. And then another. And then another. I kept tasting, hoping with each new bite, I would be overwhelmed with satisfaction and joy, which I could then take to my computer and report to all of you. But alas, it never came.  

I can’t quite pinpoint my disappointment. These cookies are not too sweet, which I like, but I find them a bit too dry, which I don’t. The final sandwich, I felt, needed more jam to combat the dryness, but the nature of the cookie only allows so much jam to exist between the two layers before a mess oozes out the sides. I offered one of my creations to a four-year-old boy who promptly spit it out. His six- and eight-year-old siblings ate theirs happily, with smiles even, but I think at that age, they’ve already learned tact.   

I can say with certainty these are the prettiest cookies ever to emerge from my kitchen. Truly. I only wish I could say they were the tastiest, too.

Linzer cookies

cookie shapes

As the above tale reveals, I am not totally satisfied with this recipe. Several years ago I made a batch of linzer cookies for Valentine’s Day, which I prefer to this recipe. It has a higher butter content, which I think adds to the flavor. The cookies are not as pretty, but if taste is what you are after, I think you might have better success with this recipe

Linzer Sablés
Adapted From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home To Yours  

1½ cups finely ground almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
Scant ¼ teaspoon ground cloves (optional — I did not use any cloves)

1 large egg
2 teaspoons water
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar

½ cup raspberry jam (or any jam you like) plus 1 teaspoon of water (optional)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Whisk together the ground nuts, flour, cinnamon, cloves (if using) and salt. Using a fork, stir the egg and water together in a small bowl.

2. Working with a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the egg mixture and beat for 1 minute more.

3. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated. Don’t overmix. If the dough comes together while some dry crumbs remain in the bottom of the bowl, stop the mixer and finish blending the ingredients with a rubber spatula or your hands.

4. Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, put the dough between two large sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap.(*See note) Using your hands, flatten the dough into a disk, then grab a rolling pin and roll out the dough, turning it over frequently so that the paper doesn’t cut into it, until it is about ¼-inch thick. Leave the dough in the paper and repeat with the second piece of dough. Transfer the wrapped dough to a baking sheet or cutting board (to keep it flat) and refrigerate or freeze it until it is very firm, about 2 hours in the refrigerator or about 45 minutes in the freezer.

Note: I divided the dough into two pieces, chilled it overnight, then rolled it out the next day. It was a little tricky rolling out the dough the next day because it was so cold, but I made it happen. I chilled the cut cookies on the pans for about 15 minutes before baking.

Note: The rolled-out dough can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Just thaw the dough enough to cut out the cookies and go on from there.  

When ready to bake: 

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.  

2. Peel off the top sheet of wax paper from one piece of dough and, using a 2-inch round cookie cutter — a scalloped cutter is nice for these — cut out as many cookies as you can. If you want to have a peekaboo cutout, use a small fluted cutter or the end of a piping tip to cut out a circle (or heart or whatever shape you have) from the centers of half of the cookies. Transfer the rounds to the baking sheets, leaving a little space between the cookies. Set the scraps aside — you can combine them with the scraps from the second disk and roll and cut more cookies.

3. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 11 to 13 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden, dry and just firm to the touch. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the second disk of dough, making sure to cool the baking sheets between batches. Gather the scraps of dough together, press them into a disk, roll them between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, then cut and bake.

Preparing the sandwich cookies: 

1. Place the jam in a small saucepan or in a microwaveable bowl and stir in the 1 teaspoon of water. Bring to a boil over low heat. When the jam is hot, pass it through a sieve to remove the seeds (optional), then let it cool slightly.  

2. Place the cookies with the holes in them on a cookie sheet or cooling rack and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Turn the remaining cookies flat side up and place about ½ teaspoon of the jam in the center of each cookie. Top with the confectioner’s-sugar-dusted cookies.

cookies1

22. December 2008 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Baking, Cookies, Desserts | 29 comments

Cinnamon-Raisin Bread

breadstack

breadstackIs there anything better than homemade bread? I mean seriously. I’ve asked this question before. The answer is always no, there is nothing better than homemade bread. The smell and taste of this buttermilk, cinnamon-raisin bread has confirmed this assertion once again.

I mixed together this batch of dough before bed one night about five minutes after reading an email from a friend raving about the recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The following morning I baked off two loaves of bread. One, I sliced and froze. The other, I sliced and ate and ate and ate and ate. And then I tucked the remaining heel in a ziplock back and stowed it in my cabinet. And then several hours later, I opened the cabinet and the bag and ate the heel for dinner. It was a quite a day.

Anyway, thank you, Darcy, for inspiring me to venture into the “enriched breads and pastries” chapter of Artisan Bread In Five. Readers, if you still haven’t taken a stab at bread making, pick up this book. Bread making has never been so easy and fun. And while you’re at it, order an 8-quart Cambro and lid (odd that the two aren’t sold together) for easy mixing and storing. And, if you happen to be ordering flours and other baking staples for the upcoming holidays, order a bulk bag of yeast. I store mine in a cylindrical, plastic tupperware-type vessel in the fridge.

Also, I must confess, I didn’t have raisins on hand when I set out to make this bread and so should have titled this post “Cinnamon Bread,” but that just sounds wrong. All I’m saying is that with or without raisins, this recipe is a winner. 

Also, I am very excited to report that I won an autographed copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day simply by leaving a comment on the blog Baking and Books. You, too, have a chance to win a cookbook every month. Stop by Baking and Books for more details.

loafandstack

Cinnamon-Raisin Buttermilk Bread
Yield = Three 1½-lb. loaves (these are smallish loaves) or Two loaves (which I prefer)

2 cups lukewarm water
1 cup buttermilk
1½ T. yeast
1½ T. kosher salt
1½ T. sugar
6½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
butter for greasing the pan
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon (I tripled the amount of cinnamon the second time around, so make your cinnamon-sugar mix according to taste.)
1/3 cup sugar
¾ cup raisins (if you are using them)
egg wash (I egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)

1. Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast, salt and sugar with the water and buttermilk in a 5-quart mixing bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

2. Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment) or a heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook. If you’re not using a machine, you may have to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.

3. Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses or flattens on top, approximately 2 hours.

4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 7 days.

5. On baking day, lightly grease a 9x4x3-inch nonstick loaf pan. Set aside. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1½-pound (cantaloupe-size) piece. (Note: the original recipe yields 3 loaves. I prefer dividing the total amount of dough in half and making two larger loaves as opposed to three smallish loaves.) Dust with more flour and quickly shape into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

6. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to an 18×16-inch rectangle (or about an 11×18-inch rectangle — just wider than the loaf pan) about ¼-inch thick, dusting the board and rolling pin with flour as needed. You may need to use a metal dough scraper to loosen rolled dough from the board as you are working with it.

7. Using a pastry brush, cover the surface of the dough lightly with egg wash. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the dough. Distribute the raisins, if using.

8. Starting from the short side, roll it up jelly-roll style. Pinch the edges and ends together, tucking the ends under. Place the loaf seam-side down in the prepared pan. Allow to rest 1 hour and 40 minutes (or just 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough.)

9. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375ºF. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from pan and allow to cool before slicing.

breadstack

12. December 2008 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Baking, Bread, Olallie Cafe recipes | 40 comments

101 Gift Ideas And Maybe Many More

Parchment Paper Package

Gift Idea Header

Yikes! It’s December 5th and I have yet to purchase A single Christmas gift. I seriously need to get cracking.

Fortunately I have a few ideas, which I’ve listed below. Readers, if you have anything to add to the list — a favorite food-related gift — please let me know and I will add it in the appropriate category. And fellow bloggers, if you have any go-to gift-giving recipes you have posted on your blogs, send me the link and I’ll link back to you.

Happy Shopping!

The Gift of Chocolate

1. Box of chocolate truffles: My favorite chocolate truffles are Éclat’s sea-salt topped, caramel-filled chocolate truffles. Éclat Chocolate: eclatchocolate.com; Vosges Haut Chocolate: vosgeschocolate.com; Richart Chocolates: richart-chocolates.com 2. Homemade chocolate truffles and a truffle scoop (#100 scoop), with a printed recipe enclosed. 3. Homemade fudge or chocolate sauce packaged in a festive box or jar. 4. Homemade chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls with recipe enclosed. (They taste like Reese’s peanut butter cups, but better.) 5. Homemade hot cocoa mix with instructions and homemade (or store-bought) marshmallows. Package mix in a jar wrapped with a festive bow; package marshmallows in a cellophane bag tied with a bow. 6. Fair Trade chocolate bars. My favorite brand is Chocolove. 7. Gift Certificates to places such as Ritz Carlton Dessert Buffet or Four Seasons Dessert Buffet. (In Philadelphia there is the Naked Chocolate Café … I’m sure your town, wherever you are, has some place similar.)

The Gift of Cheese

8. Tub of quince membrillo with a wedge of Roncal, Manchego, Zamorano or Idiazabal. Contact your local cheesemonger or Whole Foods Market. 9. Artisan Spanish fig cake, made with dried fruit and nut and a wedge of Garroxta. 10. Jar of lavender honey (Williams Sonoma) with a wedge of blue cheese such as Bleu de Basques. 11. Aged balsamic vinegar (A particularly good brand is Villa Mondori sold at Williams Sonoma for $49.95) with a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano. 12. Jar of truffled honey with a wedge of aged Manchego. 13. Slate, wooden or ceramic cheese platter with serving knives. (Any kitchen wares shop). 14. Small wedges of assorted cheeses chosen by country such as France (Brin D’Amour, L’Edel De Cleron, Abbaye de Belloc, Tomme de Savoie, Chaource, Bleu D’auvergne, Bleu des Causses) or America (Humbolt Fog, Birchrun Hills Farm Blue, Berkshire Blue, Grafton Classic Two-Year Cheddar, Jasper Hill Farm Constant Bliss, Jasper Hill Farm Winnemere) or Spain (Ibores, Queso de La Serena, Roncal, Monte Enebro, Cabrales) found at any cheese shop with several boxes of 34º Crackers — best crackers to serve with cheese. I am obsessed.15. Cheese books: Two informative, coffee-table-style books by Max McCalman and David Gibbons: Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best and The Cheese Plate; and an excellent reference by Steven Jenkins: The Cheese Primer 16. Membership to a Cheese of the month club: MurraysCheese.com; Igourmet.com; Artisanalcheese.com; FormaggioKitchen.com 17. A ball of local or imported Burrata, box of gray salt, and bottle of Temecula Olive Oil Company extra virgin olive oil.

The Gift of Fruit

18. Jar of homemade quince jam or apple sauce or a block of homemade quince membrillo. 19. Jar of apple butter, pumpkin butter or pear butter. Check a local farmers’ market. 20. A tray of the juiciest, most delectable Florida grapefruits: Pell’s Citrus and Nursery. 21. Box of Royal Riviera pears from Harry and David with a wedge of Stilton.

The Gift of Cheer
(Note: Many of these ideas are Philly specific. I’ve included them on the list anyway hoping they might spark an idea.)


22. Three bottles of wine: One to open now; one to enjoy in five years; and one to savor in 10 years. Consult a local sommelier. 23. From Moore Brothers, (specific to Philly and NYC) the Bon Marche Collection (six whites, six reds $125); or the Courtier Collection (six whites, six reds $175); or the Moore Brothers Six Pack (three whites, three reds $75). Each collection comes with anecdotal and technical tasting notes on each of the wines. 24. Bottle of a special dessert wine such as Aged Port, Madeira, Ice Wine, Sauternes, Sherry 25. Bottle of Single Malt Scotch with a pair of scotch glasses. 26. DVDs: Bottle Shock (2008): Sideways (2004); Mondovino (2004) 27. American Vintage wine biscuits So yummy. 28. Gift certificate to a local wine or beer shop such as Moore Brothers or The Foodery (Philly). 29. Books: Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Jobinson; The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson; What to Drink with What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, and Michael Sofronski; Making Sense of Wine by Matt Kramer; The Brewmaster’s Table by Garrett Oliver 30. Local spirits or wine such as a bottle of Bluecoat Gin (Philly) or assortment of Chaddsford wines. You may have to do a little research to find a local wine or spirit maker but they exist everywhere. 31. From the Foodery (Philly), a mixed six-pack of festive winter brews or one of several gift sets such as the Hobgoblin gift set ($21.95), Historic Ales From Scotland ($12.95), Val Dieu Gift Set ($23.95), St. Bernardus ($17.95), Christmas in Belgium Gift Set ($29.95), or the Chimay Gift Set ($13.95). 32. From the Foodery or online, a bottle of Mad Elf Ale made by Tröegs ($65.95 for .8 gallons) or a bottle of Samichlaus Bier ($124.95 for 3L). 33. Homemade coasters or trivets made from corks. 34. Built N.Y. BYOB wine or beer tote or a white wine freezer sleeve. 35. Special equipment such as antique ice tongs, Riedel glasses (Target sells a line of reasonably priced Riedel glasses), ice bucket, engraved cocktail shaker. 36. Membership to a wine or beer-of-the-month club. I wish I could recommend one in particular, but alas I have no first-hand knowledge of one specifically.

The Gift of Breakfast Treats

37. Homemade granola. For a nice presentation, fill airtight canisters with the granola and wrap with a festive bow. 38. Tin of McCann’s steel cut oatmeal, a package of medjool dates, and a jar of cinnamon with a recipe attached. 39. Yogurt maker. (Salton yogurt maker on Amazon.com) 40. Homemade muesli 41. An eight-inch nonstick pan (the perfect omelet pan), a heat-proof spatula and instructions for “how to make a fines herbes omelet” printed from JacquesPepin.net.    

Stocking Stuffers

42. A wooden reamer. 43. Kuhn Rikon Peeler ($3.50 to $3.99 — Best peeler ever.) 44. Bench scraper (a great tool both for cleaning cutting boards and cutting dough — any kitchen wares shop) 45. Oxo measuring spoons and measuring cups. Note: The unconventional sizes (2/3, ¾, and 1½ cups) are a nice addition to any collection. 46. Bottle of truffle oil. 47. Homemade spiced nuts or candied pecans. 48. Assorted spices from Penzeys Spices such as Ceylon True Cinnamon; Aleppo Pepper; Szechuan Peppercorns or Punjabi Style Garam Masala. 49. Bottle of Madagascar vanilla and vanilla beans from Penzeys Spices. 50. Assorted hot sauces. (For dangerously hot hot sauces — only for extreme dare devils — contact the owner of Pica Peppers at james@picapeppers.com).
The Gift of Sweets

51. Tin of assorted homemade cookies, Bourbon balls, Maris’ Biscotti etc. 52. Jars of the best candied pecans ever, sold at Fork:etc in Philadelphia. These pecans are made in small batches by the mother of Fork’s owner, Ellen Yin. Call before to see if they are still available: (215) 625-9425 / www.forkrestaurant.com 53. One giant (large) homemade chocolate chip cookie, packaged in a cellophane bag and tied with a festive ribbon. 54. Espresso caramels. 55. Assorted homemade, white chocolate- and dark chocolate-dipped biscotti. 56. Tin of brownies and blondies. 57. Homemade peppermint patties. 58. A tin of Daley Family toffee.

The Gift of Baking

59. A Silpat, an essential tool for bakers. 60. Cookbooks such as Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois (an awesome book with simple bread-making recipes) or The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart (complex recipes, yet very informative) or Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. 61. From the Baker’s Catalog, 16 oz. bag SAF yeast (to be stored indefinitely in the freezer), assorted flours, Salter digital scale. 62. A giant cupcake/muffin pan such as the “Texas muffin pan” from the Baker’s Catalog.

The Gift of Caffeine

63. Bags of whole bean or ground Fair Trade coffee. 64. Gift certificate to a local, independent coffee house such as Joe Coffee Bar (Philly) 65. French press coffee maker. 66. Nespresso Espresso Machine 67. Nespresso Aeroccino 68. No. 66 and 67 together. 69. Francis Francis Espresso Machine. (For someone you really really really love) 70. Fun espresso cups. 71. Green Tea whisk with box of matcha green tea powder 72. Fun teapot with a funky tea cozy. 73. Homemade chai tea, packaged in glass milk bottle with a recipe attached. 74. “French press” teapot such as the Bodum glass teapot.

For the Gourmand in General:

75. Anything sold at the Temecula Olive Oil Company from the incredibly delicious olive oils and vinegars to the biscotti to the olives and the list goes on. 76. If local to San Diego, homemade pasta or sauces from Delaney’s Culinary Fresh. 77. Assortment of cured meats such as Capicola, Toscano Salami and Saucisson Sec. 78. Gift Certificates to favorite cookware or food shops (Philly: Fante’s, Foster’s, Kitchen Kapers, Williams Sonoma, Claudio’s, DiBruno Brothers, Talluto’s, Gourmet of Old City, Cookbook Stall in Reading Terminal Market) or favorite restaurants, etc. 79. Fun Aprons such as Now Design aprons or dishtowels or fancy French polishing rags. 80. Homemade muffin/cupcake/cake mixes. Simply mix the dry ingredients for a standard recipe, package it in a cellophane bag tied with a festive ribbon and supply a recipe. 81. Mini loaf of pumpkin bread baked in decorative paper loaf pans. 82. The most delicious rosemary shortbread packed in a stationary box with printed recipe attached. (Recipe to be supplied shortly). 83. Assortment of local honeys, maple syrups, and jams. 84. Pizza stone, pizza peel, bag of high-gluten flour. 85. Vintage food or wine calendar. 86. A large cutting board — an essential tool for every kitchen — such as the Boos Edge-Grain Maple Cutting Board, 24″ x 18″, $80.00. 87. Pasta maker, bag of “perfect pasta blend” flour from KingArthurFlour.com, and a recipe for homemade ravioli. 88. Invite someone to customize a 100-recipe hardcover cookbook with photos using TasteBook on Epicurious.com. 89. Recipe binder set from Russell and Hazel. 90. A fancy Williams Sonoma timer. 91. American Tuna — the best canned tuna. AT is the only tuna fishery in the world certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. 92. Basic/essential knife set from Wusthof.com: 1 classic chef’s knife (From Wüsthof classic series, 9” cook’s knife), large serrated (From Wüsthof classic series, 8” bread knife), paring knife (From Wüsthof classic series, 4” paring knife) 94. From Wüsthof classic series, the two-piece carving set (8” carving knife and 6” straight meat fork) 95. Lodge cast iron grill/griddle pan, spans two burners, reversible or a Staub “cocotte.” 96. Set of plain or chocolate croissants from Williams-Sonoma. 97. Assortment of gourmet SALTs such as Maldon sea salt, Peruvian pink salt, gray salt and Fleur de Sel. (www.salttraders.com) 98. One-year subscription to a Cooking Magazine: Saveur, Fine Cooking, Cook’s, Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, Martha Stewart, Cooking Light, Edible Communities or Real Simple. 99. Food Movies: Mostly Martha, Ratatouille, Babette’s Feast, Like Water for Chocolate, Chocolat, Tortilla Soup, Eat Drink Man Woman, Big Night, Tampopo 100. Food Books: Heat, Bill Buford; My Life in France, Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme; The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver or cookbooks to a favorite restaurant such as Zuni Cafe, Tartine or Balthazar.

The Gift of Charity

101. Make a donation to a food-focused charity in someone else’ name: Coffee Kids (www.coffeekids.org); Heifer International (800-422-0474 / heifer.org); Farm Aid (800-327-6243 / farmaid.org); Share Our Strength (800-969-4767 /strength.org); BloggerAid and Philly based: Philabundance (215-339-0900  / philabundance.org) and White Dog Community Enterprises (215-386-5211 / whitedogcafefoundation.org). Or, host a Drop In And Decorate party and donate your creations to a local food pantry, emergency shelter, senior center, lunch program, or other community agency serving neighbors in need.

05. December 2008 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Gifts | 36 comments

Honey-Buttermilk Dinner Rolls, Poached Pears & Aunt Vicki’s Salad Dressing

rolls

rolls

Oh my. I cannot believe Thanksgiving is almost here. I know everyone is very busy preparing, so let’s keep this short and sweet, k?

If you get anything out of this post, I hope it is this:

1. A yummy recipe for buttermilk dinner rolls, perfect for the holiday table and a great way to use up a left-over buttermilk.

2. A delectable salad dressing made with reduced orange juice and white balsamic vinegar. This dressing is particularly nice with wintery salads — endive, shaved fennel, apple, pear, oranges, etc.

3. And a simple method to poach pears. Ready? Combine equal parts white wine and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Add peeled, halved and cored pears. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Check with a paring knife — pears should be tender but not mushy. Turn off the heat, remove pears and let cool to room temperature. Save the poaching liquid for another use. Slice pears further if desired. (Note: I used ½ cup of wine and sugar for about 4 pears. Nice additions to the poaching liquid include orange zest, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean.)

OK, let’s get started.

First, these rolls. Looking for a way to use up a half-quart of buttermilk, I stumbled upon this recipe for honey buttermilk bread. I simplified the recipe a little bit, divided the dough into two big portions and made dinner rolls with half the batch and a regular-sized loaf with the other. The dinner rolls I devoured in about a day-and-a-half. The loaf, I sliced and froze and have been toasting every morning, spreading with apple butter, cinnamon and sugar, and sometimes just butter and salt. So yummy.

Here’s the recipe:

Honey-Buttermilk Dinner Rolls
Adapted from the blog, The Baking Sheet
Yield = Two Dozen 2-oz. rolls or one large loaf

2½ teaspoons active dry yeast (rapid rise is fine, too)
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature is ideal — bread will take longer to rise if you use cold buttermilk
2 T. honey
4½ cups flour, plus more while kneading or mixing
2 tsp. kosher salt

1. Combine yeast, buttermilk and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer or, if kneading by hand, in a large bowl. Whisk until combined. It’s OK if a few lumps of yeast remain.

2. Add the flour and salt to the mixer and with the dough hook attachment (or your hands), knead for about 10 minutes or until dough is pulling away from the sides of the bowl and forming a mass around the hook. I probably added an additional cup of flour.

3. After 10 minutes, transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot for about two hours (may take as long as four) or until doubled in bulk. Longer is fine, too. Punch down dough, and decide what you are going to make — rolls, loaves, boules, etc. 

If making rolls, begin portioning the bread into about 2-ounce pieces — if you don’t have a digital scale, just use your eye to judge. It is best to cut with a dough scraper or a sharp knife. (Alternatively, cut the dough in half, then divide each half into about 12 equal portions. Err on keeping the rolls smallish.) Round each portion of dough into a ball and place on a parchment-lined (or oiled) baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Let rolls rise for about 40 minutes. Bake rolls for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown — check the bottoms of the rolls because they will brown first.)  

If making a loaf, place dough in a greased loaf pan. Let rise until almost doubled, about 40 minutes. Bake 45 minutes, until loaf is browned and sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing.

endive-salad

I first tasted this salad dressing when Aunt Vicki made a Greek salad for a dinner party this summer. I love its versatility — it is delicious with romaine, endive, baby spinach, arugula, etc. I think it is a perfect dressing for this Thanksgiving salad.

Aunt Vicki’s Salad Dressing
Yield = 1¾ cups

2 cups orange juice
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar, (regular is fine, too)
kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup chopped scallions, green part only, cut on the diagonal (optional — I don’t add the scallions because I like to keep a jar of this in my fridge for a long time)

1. In a small saucepan, bring the orange juice to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook until it has reduced to ½ cup, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to a medium-sized bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Once cool, whisk in the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Transfer to a jar and store in refrigerator until ready to serve. Bring to room temperature before using.

21. November 2008 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Baking, Bread, Salads, Sauces, dressings, jams & spreads | 31 comments

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