Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Meditation on Bread

Bread makes itself, by your kindness, with your help, with imagination streaming through you, with dough under hand you are breadmaking itself, which is why breadmaking is so fulfilling and rewarding.

Recipes do not belong to anyone -- given to me, I give them to you. Recipes are only a guide, a skeletal framework, to be fleshed out according to your nature and desire. Your life, your love, will bring these recipes into full creation. This cannot be taught. You already know. So plunge in: cook, love, feel, create. Actualize breadmaking itself.

-- from The Tassajara Bread Book

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The End of Summer Features Pie Crust

It's not quite Fall yet, folks. Granted, it will be on Monday, but here's a roundup of some delectable treats from the end of summer. It would seem that, while I completely ate myself out of all desire for anything having to do with pesto somewhere around late July, the summer squash/zucchini craze has lasted longer. They're just so dang simple, quick and tasty to do things with! Also, pie crust is a prevailing theme when one gets tired of/doesn't feel like pasta. This is the pie crust recipe I found in my mom's recipe box when I stole all her recipes, it's quick and easy, but any pie crust (heck, even frozen) will do for both these recipes.

Mad Basic Pie Crust
1 1/3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c Crisco/softened butter/fake butter (1/3 c. vegetable oil for vegan recipe if no EarthBalance is to hand)
3 tbsp. cold water
--Mix flour and salt, cut in Crisco. Sprinkle water in 1 tbsp at a time. Work into firm ball. Roll out as desired.

First offering of today has no pictures due to its overwhelming deliciousness. Sorry. The West Indian Labor Day Parade and Carnival passes our apartment and with all its loud, colorful spectacle we couldn't help but have a smallish shindig with mimosas and these Goat Cheese and Zucchini Tartlets. Pretentious? Maybe, but midday saw a second batch being made up, both in cheese-tastic and vegan variations. This recipe is easy as pie crust, and looks wicked impressive. (Courtesy of Bon Appetit magazine)

Goat Cheese and Zucchini Tartlets (makes about 24, maybe more)
1 pie crust (see above)
2 1/2 lb. 1" diameter zucchini, cut into 1/16" rounds (My fabulous mandoline makes short work of these...)
2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
3 oz. soft goat cheese, room temperature (for vegan recipe, omit cheeses, use whole grain or country-style Dijon mustard instead)
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
--Cut pie crust in 1 1/2" - 1 3/4" rounds, place on parchment or non-stick baking sheet. Place in freezer for 20ish minutes. Preheat oven to 400*F.
--Toss zucchini slices with salt, let stand 15 mins. Drain, pat dry. Toss with olive oil and thyme, salt and pepper.
--Spread cheese over frozen rounds, fold 2-3 zucchini pieces in half and arrange them artfully on top of rounds. Sprinkle parmesan over.
--Bake until dough is light golden, about 20 mins.

We had an impromptu dinner party this week in celebration of various things such as the New Cat, Val's new bed (but not the Ikea assembly) and me having bought the wondrous substance known as Onion Jam. This stuff is quite possibly bound to become one of my Permanent Secret Ingredients, much like whole grain mustard or lemon juice. (Crap, there go my secrets...) It packs a powerful savory-sweet punch of onion-and-roasted-garlicky goodness, and really makes this whole entree the marvel that it is. I'll confess, I just kept adding the contents of our fridge to this, and whatever manner of green items you have would probably not go amiss. Not quite a tart, not quite a pizza, this dish is complete end of summer goodness. Serves about 5 hungry people, though we made up another small batch in vegan.

Rustic End-of-Summer Pizza-Tart (makes about 2 med. baking pans, or 3 med. round pies)
1 zucchini, sliced thinly
1 summer squash, sliced thinly
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and chopped roughly
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tsp thyme, chopped
3 1/2 tbsp olive oil
Onion jam (available at hoity-toity organic markets, or wherever you find it)
1 tsp rosemary, chopped
parmesan cheese, grated (optional, for veganizing)
2 pie crusts (double above recipe)
--Roll out pie crusts to fit whatever baking trays you're using, fill pans with crust, making sure to roll a nice pizzalike edge. Place in freezer until firm, about 15-20 mins.
--Mix all veggies in large bowl with salt, let sit 10 mins, drain. Add olive oil, pepper, thyme, garlic.
--Spread onion jam over crusts in a thin-to-medium layer. Distribute veggie mixture between pies. Grate parmesan cheese over the whole.
--Bake at 400*F for 40 minutes or until crust is browning and veggies are soft. Let sit 5 minutes so jam can set up, cut and serve.

(I have GOT to get a better camera one of these days.)

rustic pizza tart

vegan pizza tart


Additionally: Bless me barrrrnacles! It be International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Arrrr, mateys!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Apples, apples everywhere.

I have been a bit of a nomad this summer, with no kitchen to call my own.  I am quite looking forward to cooking and baking again when I finally settle in Boston this weekend.  So, the recipe I'm posting today is an oldie but a goodie.

Last autumn I lived in Sacramento near my friend Samantha, who had an apple tree in her back yard.  She and her mother and I tried to think of as many ways as possible to make use of the apples - apple spice cakes, apple butter, apple crisps.  This was my favorite variation: apple cinnamon cupcakes with homemade vanilla frosting.  Because one of my co-workers was lactose intolerant, I made them vegan as well - don't worry, they tasted so delicious that no one even knew the difference.  Except for my co-worker's intestines, of course.

Without further ado, the recipe:

~ Grate two cups of apples (keep the skins for texture).  
~ Put them in a big pot and begin heating it on the stove.  Then, as it heats, add two cups of sugar, two cups of water, one cup of butter/butter substitute, and around two teaspoons of cinnamon and nutmeg, depending on how much you like cinnamon and nutmeg.  Put in some ground cloves if you have them. 
~ Heat it all until it boils, then take it off the stove to cool. 
~ Add three cups of flour and two teaspoons of baking soda slowly, mixing well.  
~ Put in the oven at 350 degrees for ten-fifteen minutes.  Check if they're done by pressing on the tops.  If they bounce back, they are!

The frosting is just three cups powdered sugar, a quarter teaspoon vanilla, one third cup butter/butter substitute, and two tablespoons milk/milk substitute.  Mix until it's nice and smooth and then spread as much as you want on the top of your cupcakes.  You can sprinkle a bit of cinnamon or cinnamon-sugar on top for show.

Makes 24.  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

2 1/2 Things to Do with Summer Squash: An inaugural post from the Brooklyn Kitchen.

So, I have been left all by my lonesome this week in our lovely new apartment with its lovely (newish) not-quite-lived-in kitchen, and thus have had to entertain myself. I'd throw a hand across my forehead and cry out 'woe is me!' but for the fact that said entertainment has generally meant cooking nice healthy things and watching movies afterward.

So, after a while I got bored and went off to Manhattan to poke around bookstores, and wandered over to the Union Square farmer's market to buy myself summer squash and 'taters, because I had been dying to try smitten kitchen's Summer Squash and Potato Torte. And not just because it gave me an excuse to use my new mandoline, but that was a nice bonus. Halved the recipe which nicely filled a round baking dish, and popped it in the oven.

Delicious. And really wonderful the next day, too. (Just the thing to eat while making fun of America's Next Top Model. Take that, matchstick girls, I am eating food that is delicious!) My one note would be to let it go a little longer uncovered, til everything is nice and crisp. And maybe a little garlic, but really? Utterly worth it, and on my list of favorite things forever. COOK THIS.

Here is a picture before it went in the oven. How pretty! There are no afterward pictures, because I was hungry.

summer squash and potato torte

A couple days later, I had an Adventure. Or maybe more of a mad scientist moment. This is the 1/2 thing to do with squash. I took it into my head, after much reading of blogs and thought about what to do with the limited resources in our pantry, that Summer Squash Fritters were a good idea. And I hold by this. Just not quite the way I made see, we had no binding agents in the place to make the batter hold, and so after throwing some flour and herbs and spices together, I just dipped the slices of squash in butter and smished 'em in the flour. Figured, get the oil hot enough, it'll totally work!

Did I not get the oil hot enough? Or was it the butter and squash juices releasing that caused a gross squishy brown substance to form on the bottom of the pan? Whatever it was, it a) didn't quite work out as planned and b) set off the smoke detector. What a fun way to meet one's neighbors! It turns out the trick with our smoke detector (as I found out, our vent fan is not, in fact, ventilated...) is to stick a fan underneath it, or move the damn thing to another room.

So I let the Horrible Ugly Mess sit there and think over it's crimes, and switched over to a clean pan with less oil, to finish off the squash-thingies which, despite the horror of the pan they came from , were quite salvageable. I figure I'll try again later, probably with panko and an actual binder, and all will be well. Still, they were nice tasting and went decently well with greens and pasta at the end of the chaos. (Stir fried the kale and chard til the kale was crispy, a la Cora, and then with some sesame oil and garlic & herb mix) I made a gin and lemonade to soothe my ruffled feathers, and all was well. As my mom would say, I get an A+ for color, at least.


Yesterday's experiment was surpassingly sucessful, however! Little bit of butter, some garlic, some House Spice Mix (that garlic & herb stuff we all know and love...) and some sliced squash and string beans. The string beans and summer squash play very well together, balancing out with different kinds of savory-sweetness and texture-- soft squash, crisp-tender beans. These over penne pasta with some olive oil and fresh grated parmesan. Needed salt, and a little garlic powder I added later, but a lovely light delicious dinner. Quick, too!


We went to the farmer's market last week, and came home with acres of kale and chard and assorted other yummy things, but wouldn't you know it, Letty went off to NH, leaving me to consume VAST AMOUNTS OF GREENS before they went squishy. Lots of stir fry later, it is all eaten. I kind of feel accomplished for that alone. And for finally starting this blog.

So, what have you guys been cooking recently?


Also note: Don't blog about food on a bus when you didn't have time to buy lunch before getting on said 4 hour long bus ride to Boston. I am a fool.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tasting, tasting, 123

Space pantries!