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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Herbed Gnocchi - Week of Eating In Days 5 & 6

We've gotten to day seven of the Week of Eating In. I dreamt of sushi last night. Really. I want to go out to dinner, but now that it's Sunday, I won't want to eat sushi until Wednesday (Never eat Monday's sushi. If you question this wisdom, read Kitchen Confidential.)

We had one of our favorite dinners on day five. Out of the freezer came Herbed Gnocchi. A spectacular recipe from Thomas Keller's Bouchon, this basic pate a choux is dressed up with cheeses and handfuls of herbs. It's then piped into a pot of boiling water, like a dumpling, and poached for a moment or two. When dried on paper towels, then frozen on a flat baking sheet, they hold for three months, easily, and are ready to cook, out of the freezer, in just an hour. When I set out to make these gnocchi (not a daunting task, but not for a weeknight) I always make a double recipe to ensure some are in the freezer.

I chopped and roasted butternut squash and along with four large shallots and the gnocchi, brown butter made dinner. Voila. A truly special, delicious vegetarian dinner.

On Day 6 - I was invited to a birthday dinner party. We had delicious pisco sours, roasted salmon, saffron rice and roast fennel. Birthday cake - superb, spiced carrot/walnut cake with cream cheese frosting and a second cake of meltingly tender chocolate layers with mocha buttercream. Divine. Dennis? He was busy all day in his acupuncture clinic, and was happy it was a ladies-only party. He enjoyed carrot soup and no-knead bread with the Olympics and a soft couch to shared with the dog.

And now? I'm continuing to cook, and we're still eating in, because that's what we do. Tonight, I've got a beautiful sirloin steak for myself, golden roasted turnips, and a salad. Dennis is having yellow lentil daal, saffron rice and those turnips. It's just another night at the Barrows. But you can bet we'll be at the sushi bar on Wednesday.

Herbed Gnocchi with Butternut Squash and Shallots
adapted from Thomas Keller's Bouchon

Parisian Gnocchi

8 oz water
4 oz butter (1 stick)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1.5 T Dijon mustard
1 T each chives, chervil, parsley, fresh & finely chopped
2 tsp kosher salt
2 t thyme, fresh (or 1/2 t Herbes de Provence)
1 c grated Comte or Emmenthaler
4 large eggs

Combine the water, butter, salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer and then dump in all the flour at once. Stir it fast and with purpose using a wooden spoon or sturdy silicone spoon until it forms a dough and pulls away from the sides of the pan and is smooth and glossy.

You want to let the steam out of the dough, so keep stirring with the heat very low. Add no color to the dough, but - here's how I do it - cook it until you no longer smell the flour cooking. Now, transfer to your mixer, add mustard, salt, herbs and cheese and start the mixer going on low. When everything is blended through, add the eggs, one at a time, and each time get the egg fully incorporated before adding the next.

Get the dough into a ziplock or pastry bag, and let it rest for about half an hour.

[Here is a BRILLIANT video demonstration of pate a choux by Michael Ruhlman. Mr. Ruhlman was first known for his contribution to all the Keller cookbooks (French Laundry, Bouchon, Ad Hoc) and most recently his own Ratio. I've been hooked on Ratio since I first opened it up and downloaded the Ratio IPhone app. So useful at the grocery/market, as well as in the kitchen. I realize I am a geek.]

Get a big pot of water boiling. Squeeze little dumplings out of the pastry bag, and use a sharp knife to cut them off into little dumplings or gnocchi. Allow the dumplings to fall directly into the boiling water. They'll sink and then come up to the surface. Cook about 20 at a time. When they pop back up, cook for another minute or two (check one - it should not taste like flour, and will be tender) then strain and place on paper towels to drain.

Cook all the pate a choux in this way. You can hold it for a day or two in the refrigerator, on a flat sheet pan lined with paper towels. You can freeze it at this point, or go on to complete the following recipe.

Herbed Gnocchi with Butternut Squash and Shallots

1 large butternut squash
2 T olive oil
Salt & pepper
(here's a little hint: look for squash with long necks. it's easiest to cut the neck portion. I use the bulb portion for soup or ravioli filling - anything that allows me to roast it whole and not chop it.
4-6 large shallots
2 T fresh thyme
4 Tbls butter
Salt & pepper
1/4 c parsley, chopped
1/2 lemon

Preheat the oven to 425•
Dice the squash - Try to make it about the same size as the gnocchi.
Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Spread the squash on a parchment lined sheet pan and roast for 20-25 minutes, until some of the edges have begun to brown.
In the meantime, melt the butter in a large saute pan. Allow the butter to brown, it should begin to smell nutty. Add the shallots and cook until they are translucent, then add the gnocchi. Toss, saute and brown the gnocchi. Add the squash. Continue to gently toss and saute. Everything should be warm and ready in 4-5 minutes. Garnish with the parsley. Squeeze half a lemon over the whole dish and serve.

A crisp, acidic salad is the perfect side dish.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Daring Attempt to Make Tiramisu!

a perfect slice of tiramisu

homemade ladyfingers!

Another month and another Daring Baker’s Challenge.

You might remember last month’s challenge, when I made gluten free graham crackers and nainamo bars.

This month was more in my wheelhouse. Tiramisu. From scratch. Oh, I’ve made tiramisu a few times. Traditional with espresso and mascarpone. Not so traditional with strawberries and cointreau. But I’ve always purchased the ladyfingers and the mascarpone. This time, these clever bloggers were challenging me to make my own.

l to r: mascarpone, zabayon w/walnut wine, whipped cream, pastry cream, espresso, ladyfingers

And all this happened during the Week of Eating In, so cooking anyway, and could just divvy up the time for all the different steps involved in tiramisu over the course of a few days. During the week, we were hosting a party for 12, so I thought the heavens had aligned. I wouldn’t have to eat an entire tiramisu by myself. (Dennis likes tiramisu, but doesn’t LOVE it, and has far more self-control than I do.)

I recommend this dessert for those of you who are adventurous. It’s not hard, it’s just a matter of planning. A little time (about an hour) each day for three days.

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Here's the way I planned my approach.

Tuesday: Mascarpone Cheese – Baking Obsession for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese

Wednesday: Savoiardi/ Ladyfinger Biscuits – Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home,
And pastry cream and zabayon from the tiramisu recipe
Thursday: Tiramisu – Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post

Friday: serve
(not as pretty as I had hoped, but.... tastes amazing)

I made the mascarpone with the freshest most delicious cream,and the pastry cream and zabayon with beautiful farm fresh eggs
and milk that had just arrived at the market, in the classic glass bottle.
I substituted my homemade walnut wine for the Marsala, adding a spicy Christmas-y kind of undertone to the zabayon.
I brewed decaf espresso. No kidding. I gave up caffiene 10 years ago, and one piece of tiramisu could make me climb the walls if it was fully-caffienated.
I loved making the ladyfingers. Simple and satisfying. Felt like a good skill to have. They’re made from the most basic baking ingredients with no more than a sieve, a bowl, a big rubber spatula for folding, and an electric mixer. While the recipe suggested ladyfingers 5" long and 3/4" wide, I found a 3" x 1" ladyfinger was prettier and more useful.

I substituted homemade blood orange liqueur whenever the recipes called for vanilla extract.

And I warmed 1/3 c homemade raspberry jam into which I stirred 3 Tbls. orange liqueur, cooled, then poured over the bottom layer of ladyfingers, making this tiramisu a distant cousin to the trifle I made over Christmas.

I formed the tiramisu using a 10" springform (no bottom pan) right on the platter on which I wanted to serve. I selected perfect small ladyfingers to make the outside layer.

I gave the finished tiramisu a full 24 hours to soak, macerate and develop.

So worth it. So worth it.
At the very least, make the mascarpone. It’s ridiculously easy, and you can stir the leftover into your grits the next day. Or stuff dates. Or do anything you would do with creme fraiche. Use very fresh cream.

By the way, the party was cancelled as there were storms, high winds, and the fear of more snow. I’m so sorry to have missed the chance to chat up the farmers and other members of the CSA, and hope we can reboot in about a month.

So, I have a huge tiramisu. It’s more than delicious, it tastes like the labor of love it is. If you are in the neighborhood, give me a call and come have a piece of tiramisu, and please please save me from eating the whole thing.

Here are some additional photos. The recipes are all linked.

the most demanding part of making mascarpone is waiting for 190• whipping egg whites for ladyfingers

sift flour over the eggwhites & yolks, folded together

gently fold until just combined
crackly topped ladyfingers

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Still Eating In - Days Three & Four

We're continuing to eat in for the week, along with so many others (check the hashtag #eatin on Twitter.) It's been lots of fun for me, I've been busy cooking all sorts of things, testing out recipes.

For day three's dinner, I made a Peruvian style roast chicken. I was inspired to get this chicken recipe written and all the ingredients measured out (I've made it before, but never bothered to measure) for the Food52 contest this week - Your Best Roast Chicken. Already, every single recipe entered looks fantastic. I like this one and this one, too.

The fact is, I just love roast chicken. But this Peruvian recipe is one of my favorite ways to enjoy a small roaster. Tasty, spicy, easy. And the leftovers are just great.

We had rice, to which I added green olives and toasted almonds. And I oven roasted some golden turnips from the CSA that were sensational.
Day four of the Eat In and our fridge is full of little bowls of this and that. I declare it's time for a leftover dinner, and supplement the daal, steak, chicken, black beans and rice with a loaf of no-knead bread and this delicious carrot soup from Food & Wine.
I also made a pot of cheesy grits specifically so I could have leftover grits to make grit cakes. That's what I have been craving for breakfast, and I made enough for the next three or four days. I bought these Hoppin John grits at the Bethesda Central Farm Market last Sunday from Anna St. John. Anna carries grits, meal and flour from Hoppin John, as well as her own homemade raviolis and soups, and Dylan's favorite snack - seriously crunchy Dog Balls.
The Eat In has been a fun way to chronicle the cooking this week. But I have to say, I've been missing my garden this week, and hope the snow will retreat soon so I can get back my balanced life - in and out, kitchen and garden.
I did sneak out through the snow this afternoon to get this picture of a few snowdrops, about to burst into bloom. Spring really is around the corner.
Peruvian Style Roast Chicken with Roasted Garlic

Buttermilk Brine
3 c buttermilk
2 crushed garlic cloves
4 T white wine vinegar
2 T Kosher salt
One 3 to 3.5# roasting chicken - from the farmers market, pastured, grass fed

Peruvian Style Rub
1 medium head garlic
1 tsp olive oil
4 T softened butter
1 T hot Hungarian paprika or smoked paprika, or a combination - depending on personal preference
1 t turmeric
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t salt
3 limes
3-4 sprigs gresh thyme
1/2 c chicken broth

Soak the chicken in the buttermilk brine for 3-4 hours. I use a ziplock bag, as it's easier to get the buttermilk all around the chicken.
Roast the head of garlic. Slice off the top of the head, exposing all the cloves. Drizzle oil between all the cloves, and wrap the whole thing up in foil. Bake for about an hour at 350. I use the toaster oven.
Squeeze all the tasty roasted garlic out into a small mixing bowl. Add the butter and spices, and the juice of one lime, and make a paste.
Remove the chicken and brine from the refrigerator. Rinse the chicken and throw away the brine. Pat the chicken dry. Rub the paste under the skin of the breast and thighs and then over the entire chicken. Tuck one or two quartered limes in the cavity and truss the chicken loosely.
Allow the chicken to come to room temperature and the paste to season the chicken - about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 475 with the rack in the bottom third of the oven. In good weather, I use my outdoor gas grill as an oven. It heats up faster and hotter than the oven. Get out a heavy cast iron skillet.
Heat the skillet for 3 minutes on high heat. Add a shimmer of canola or other oil and get that good and hot, too. Another minute or two.
Slip in the chicken, back side down, into the skillet, and then place the skillet in the oven (or on the grill.)
The chicken will take about 5o min. to one hour. The only reliable test is a thermometer reading of 160.
Remove the chicken from the oven/grill and put it on the stove, over high heat. Add the thyme and 1/2 c chicken stock, then spoon the broth over the chicken. Allow the bird to rest for 10 minutes, then quarter and serve.
I pair this chicken with rice spiked with green olives and toasted almonds and a roasted vegetable or lightly dressed salad.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day Two: Week of Eating In

It was a day of catching up on pantry basics here. I put up a pint plus of duxelles using gorgeous organic cremini, button and shitake mushrooms from our CSA. The recipe is Eugenia Bones' - saute diced mushrooms in olive oil with shallots until dry, add some wine or cognac and cook it off, then pack in jars, cover with olive oil, and store in the refrigerator for as long as a couple of months. I use these mushrooms for many things -- pizzas, focaccia, crostino, scrambled eggs, tucked under chicken skin, tossed with noodles, and spooned into soups.
I started another loaf of no knead bread. And I worked on some cooking projects destined for another post.

Breakfast was toast, cheese and an apple. (Dennis had his granola and berries.)
Lunch - easy! - leftovers from last night's Indian feast.
Dinner was one of our standard meals. Black bean Borrachos, from the freezer. Wrapped in a tortilla for Dennis. As a salad for me. Oven fried sweet potatoes. Salad greens with shallot, sherry vinegar, crunchy fleur de sel, cracked black pepper, and a very green, first pressing olive oil.
The magic zing-a-ling? That secret sauce pictured at the top of the page? One of my favorite cooks/twitter-friends - SavoryKitchen - sent me this bottle of her secret tasty sauce. I don't know if it's the honey from her own hives, her magical setting near one of my favorite spots in the world, Plum Island, or just the extra special niceness of an unexpected gift of homemade food, but it just made the dish. I hope to trade comestibles from our pantries again, and soon! Check out Mary's blog at Cooking 4 the Week.

Another day of Eating In. Tasty.
Black Bean Borrachos
adapted from LastNightsDinner recipe on Food52.
(I love Jen's recipe as is, but Dennis doesn't like spicy/hot and isn't so crazy for chunks of tomatoes, so I subbed tomato paste and add jalapenos to my own bowl of beans, after the cooking.)

1# black beans - I prefer Rancho Gordo's Midnight beans
1 bottle Guinness or other dark beer
2 Tbls tomato paste
1 onion, chopped rough
1 garlic clove, chopped rough

Rinse the beans in cold water, then, in a large stockpot, cover with boiling water by 2".
Add beer, tomato paste, onion and garlic.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 2-3 hours.
I freeze half of the beans. It's a weary cook's lifesaver to take a bag of these beans out for dinner.

Oven fried Sweet Potatoes
Serves 2 (with extra for the clean-up snacking)

3 medium sweet potatoes, skin left on, cut into thin wedges
3-4 T olive oil
2 tsp Penzey's Southwest Seasoning

Preheat oven to 375
Line a baking sheet with parchment
Toss sweet potato wedges with olive oil
Place in a single layer on the parchment.
Sprinkle with Southwest Seasoning
Bake for 20 min
Turn the wedges over
Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day One: Week of Eating In

Starting the Huffington Post's Week of Eating In today, here are some decisions I made.
For the rest of the Week,
All food we eat will be cooked in my kitchen.
No restaurants.
No processed foods (naturally.)
Use what's in the refrigerator, pantry and freezer to round out the meals. After all, I spent weeks last summer "putting up" and sourcing all sorts of foods.
Document it here.

Does that mean everything? I decided YES when we were out doing errands and Dennis said "Let's stop at Starbucks." I responded, "No, let's go home and I'll make you a latte."

I may weaken as the week goes on.

Mostly, I suppose, this is an opportunity to provide a view right into the kitchen. What gets cooked, how we eat, every week day in and day out. And how I put together meals for both Dennis who is primarily vegetarian (or, our favorite new tag - a meat reducer) and my more omnivorous nature without spending all day in the kitchen.

At breakfast, our true natures come out.
Dennis: Granola, soy milk, blueberries (Trader Joes, from Chile)
Cathy: No-knead wheat bread, local cheese (CSA) - gouda

Lunch. Dennis is great about eating leftovers. I'm on a minestrone kick. It's very filling and not fattening.
Dennis: Leftover manicotti
Cathy: Homemade minestrone (from the freezer)

Apple (CSA) & cheese (CSA)
Kelsey's darn Bundt cake (now half gone)
Roasted tamari almonds

We've been travelling, and have missed having Indian tastes, a staple in this house. We both love daal, such a simple, satisfying food, easy to spice up with some of my garden-fresh minced jalapenos (from the freezer.) Add to that, cardamom scented rice, Nigella Lawson's superb sake-marinated steak, and roasted cauliflower and potato. Homemade mango chutney and thick yogurt balance the heat. A perfect dinner in.
Here are the recipes, and the photos.

Sake-marinated Steak
adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson
Serves 2

2 small beef filet or a few pieces of tenderloin tips, total 10 oz

1 tsp English mustard
2 Tbls Worchestershire sauce
1 T soy sauce
1 T Asian chili or garlic oil (this is quite spicy, adjust to your taste)
1/4 c sake

Canola or grapeseed oil - scant 1/2 tsp.

Mix marinade ingredients, except sake, in a bowl or small ziplock bag. Add beef and marinate for at least 3 hours and up to two days.

About an hour before cooking, take the beef out of the marinade and place on a rack, allowing the beef to dry out a bit.

Place a cast iron or other well-seasoned pan over high heat for three minutes. Add oil, heat for another two minutes.

Add beef and sear on high heat for 3 minutes per side (assuming thick cuts of beef). It should be seered and crispy. Wrap in a double thickness of foil and allow to rest 10 minutes, sitting atop a wooden cutting board or on a stack of newspapers. (This last is direct from Nigella, and such a smart idea. Maybe I'm just dense, but until I read that, it didn't really occur to me to keep the meat warm and off the cold countertop while it rested. Newspapers are very insulated.)

When ready to serve, heat the sake, boil off the alcohol and reduce by 1/2, then open up the foil, slice the beef and plate over the cardamom rice, adding the accumulated juices to the sake and then drizzle the sauce right over the top.

Cardamom Rice

1 c basmati rice
3 cardamom pods, smashed
2 c water

Bring water to a boil. Add rice and cardamom pods. Bring back to a boil, stir, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 13-15 min. then stir with a fork and keep covered until ready to eat.

Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes from Gourmet, 2004. Delicious. Easy. Satisfying.

Yellow Lentil Daal

1 T canola oil
2 c chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 c water
1 c yellow daal lentils
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 - 2 tsp minced jalapeno
1 Tbls cilantro, chopped

Heat oil in 4 qt saucepan or saucepot with cover. Saute 1 c onion and 1 garlic clove until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add to the pot water, lentils, 1 c onion, 1 garlic clove, spices. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Add minced jalapeno to taste. Taste and correct for salt. Cook 10 additional minutes.

Remove 1/2 the lentils and blend in the blender (or do as I do and just blitz the whole pan a few times with the immersion blender). Stir in the browned onion and garlic. Top with chopped cilantro.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Went on Vacation and My Attitude's Adjusted

carnival dancers

I've been away. Really away. I have thought about writing. Even started a few posts, but I just couldn't get all the ducks in a row until right now. Many things have happened. It snowed. It snowed again. I had a birthday. I made three cakes and invited the kids in the 'hood to come to my birthday party. If ever you are fighting the big bad blues on your birthday, just invite some ten year olds over. They know how to do a birthday party.

Then, my computer quit on me. Died. Bought a new one. Waited a few days to get data from old to new. Sent old one off for new logic board. Computer drama is now officially over.

Then, we went on vacation. Mexico. It was heavenly. I highly recommend Playa del Carmen and send shout outs to all who provided names of hotels, restaurants, transportation, massage, sight-seeing insights. Thank you so much for the direction - it made the trip all that much better.

I expected to do some writing while away, but a spotty wi-fi connection was all the excuse I needed to procrastinate. And the garden at the hotel.

Now, home again, spent the last two days at farmers markets and CSAs, so the refrigerator is full. The laundry is sorted and underway. Bathing suits and t shirts put away. I have no more excuses.

I signed up for the Week of Eating In challenge from The Huffington Pos and from 2/22 to 2/27 I'm going to report on what's going on in my kitchen.

Also, on Thursday, we're co-hosting a get-together for Bending Bridge Farm (our winter vegetable CSA) and the other CSA members and friends. It's a potluck, aptly titled Parsnip Appreciation Night - an opportunity to celebrate the fantastic winter vegetables Audrey and Cameron have been providing and shake off the winter blues.

Tonight, our first home-cooked meal, I went to Food52 and enjoyed the recent winning recipes from two of my favorite bloggers - Jennifer Perillo, In Jennie's Kitchen, and Kelsey, The Naptime Chef.

Jennie's Manicotti is so delicious! I had a pint of last summer's oven roasted tomato sauce in the freezer, made some fresh ricotta, the crespelles, and had a delicious dinner ready in no time at all.

And Kelsey's easy Bundt Cake made tonight's dinner seem like a special occasion. I used olive oil and baked it in my favorite fancy bundt pan.

A wonderful vacation. Nice to be back.

the amazing ruins at Tulum - I had no idea - expected a pyramid, not an entire city

the architecture is very complex, and imagining the structures with bold painted exteriors blew my mind

I hate to sound trite, but this really was one of those experiences that made me feel like a blip on the timeline of the world.

one happy camper