Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

iPhone experimentation

Can I really blog from my back pocket? Welcome to 2011 (and it's almost over)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

High & Dry

the proper way to eat your feelings: French toast cooked in bacon fat

It really wasn't right of me to drop of the face of the blog-earth for the past month or so.  I will be taking a brief hiatus due to personal matters of the heart and will be re-emerging with a bigger, better, tastier new year! Anyone interested in lending photography skills in exchange for tasting priveleges, please contact me :o) Until then, I wish you all a very, very happy holiday season!!

Love, love,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

viable sides

Thanksgiving is one week from today and I am beside myself with excitement! At some point I will have to transform that giddiness into motivation to complete my schoolwork, but we won't get into that right now.

Let's focus on this instead:
Crispy Duck Breast with Green Bean Casserole & Leeky Potatoes

The first time I made green bean casserole was at the request of my sister-in-law last Thanksgiving; tonight's run was my second re-creation. There was one major flaw this time [and it may have been present last year but she didn't say anything, Bless her heart], and that was I had assumed the green beans would cook themselves while in the oven, however such was not the case so I am advising you to blanch the green beans once you have the cream of mushroom soup simmering and thickening on the stovetop. 

Green Bean Casserole
*this recipe can be made Pareve by substituting the milk with vegetable stock, and omitting the Parmesan cheese.

You will need:
1 lb plus 1 handful green beans, stems removed. Blanched, and cut into thirds
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Cups sliced Mushrooms [I used a handful of Shiitakes, a handful of White Button, and 2 handfuls of Crimini]
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 medium Onion, small dice
2 ribs of Celery, sliced thin
1 sprig of fresh Rosemary
5 sprigs of fresh Thyme, or 1/4 tsp dried Thyme
2 dried Bay Leaves
3 Tbsp Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
1/3 Cup + 1 tsp light Buckwheat Flour
2 Cups 1% Milk
1 Cup unsalted or Low-Sodium Vegetable or Chicken Stock
Kosher Salt & cracked Black Pepper, as needed

For the Crunchy Topping:
1 Cup Panko Bread crumbs + 1/4 Cup grated Parmesan cheese, mixed
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1/3 Cup light Buckwheat Flour
1 Tbsp Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
small pinch Dried Thyme
dash of Turmeric
1.25 Cups Olive Oil, for frying

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Heat 2 Tbsp of Olive Oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then add the celery, thyme, bay leaves & a pinch of salt. Once the celery is softened add the onion and cook until the onion is translucent.

3. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt, and stir to incorporate with the other ingredients. Now add the chopped garlic, and cover the pot with a lid to allow the mushrooms to cook down and release their liquids, stirring occasionally [about 4 minutes].

4. Once the mushrooms are soft and there is a bit of natural broth in the bottom of the pot, add the soy sauce and then stir in the buckwheat flour. Increase the heat to high and whisk in 2 Cups of Milk and 1 Cup of Stock, be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to alleviate any lumps and prevent scorching. Whisk vigorously for 3 minutes. 

5. Bring the soup to a boil, being sure to whisk every couple of minutes, and then reduce the heat to low. Allow to simmer for 25 minutes, or until thickened, whisking occasionally.

While the soup is simmering, start the crunchy topping:
1- In a medium saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat [about 7/10].
2- While the oil is heating, coat the onions with the turmeric, thyme and soy sauce, then toss in the  buckwheat flour.

3- After about 5 minutes, the oil should be ready. Test it by dipping the tip of a piece of floured onion in it; if it doesn't begin to bubble and sizzle, allow the oil to heat for another minute and test it again.

4- Working in small batches, so as not to drop the temperature of the oil, begin to fry your onion strips until golden [about 3-4 minutes per batch]. Use a slotted spoon or spider to fish the onions out of the oil and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

6. Once the soup has thickened, remove the bay leaves and any thyme stems and then fold in the green beans. Then pour into an 8x8 baking dish and top with the fried onions and panko/parmesan bread crumb mixture. 
Dip a spoon in the soup; draw a line with your finger and if it stays put, the soup is thick enough.

7. Transfer to your pre-heated oven and cook until golden brown and bubbly.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I often argue that there is no need to put out appetizers before the big meal, but who am I kidding? My family loves food, so the more the merrier.  Plus bringing over some pre-feast snacks is possibly the best way to give thanks to your gracious hosts! If you aren't the one being bothered [or delighted] with the main event, then you should have plenty of time to make these tasty little morsels:

 Clams stuffed with Pepperoncini, Bacon & Bell Peppers

You will need:
A 50 count bag of Little neck clams, cleaned and soaked [soak the clams for 10-15 minutes in cold water with a 2 Tbsp Cornmeal and a pinch of Kosher Salt. This will help them spit out some of the grit they may contain. Discard any dead or questionable ones, its not worth it]
3 strips of Bacon, small dice
1 medium Shallot, small dice
7 Pepperoncini peppers, cut into small pieces and drained on paper towels
1/2 small Green or Yellow Bell Pepper, small dice
1/4 tsp Dried Oregano
1/4 Cup chopped Flat Leaf Parsley, set 2 Tbsp aside for garnish
3/4 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1/3 Cup White Wine
1/4 Cup Vegetable or Chicken Stock
Kosher Salt & Pepper, as needed
2 juicy Lemons, cut into 8 wedges each, for garnish
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling, or softened butter [as needed]

1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Fill a large saucepan with 1.5 inches of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, add a pinch of salt and all of the clams. Cover the pot and allow the clams to cook until they just pop open. You may need to give them a stir after 1.5 minutes to jostle them a bit and make sure the clams on top are exposed to direct heat as well. The clams should all be opened within 4 minutes.


3. Add the bacon to a cool saute pan and render it out over medium-high heat. Once the bacon has begun to crisp, add the shallots, oregano, and a pinch of salt. Saute for 1 minute or until the shallots are translucent and then add the bell pepper and another small pinch of salt. Cook for an additional 2 minutes.
4. Add the wine and reduce slightly, then reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in the pepperoncini, and  fold in the chopped parsley & panko breadcrumbs along with a pinch of salt and a few turns of cracked black pepper. 

5. Once the breadcrumbs are incorporated with the other ingredients add 1/4 Cup stock and gently mix with the breadcrumb mixture. If the filling is still too dry, add a little more stock until it is moist and softened, but not mushy.  If you accidentally add too much wine, add more breadcrumbs to absorb the excess moisture.
6. Taste the stuffing and adjust the seasoning as necessary, then set it aside to cool while you separate your clams.
Back to the clams...

7. Pull off the top half of the clam shell and then detach the clam from the abductor muscle. Leave the meat sitting in the half-shell, place on a baking sheet. Repeat with each clam.

8. Once you have all of your clams lined up on a tray begin stuffing them with the cooled breadcrumb mixture [Roughly 1-1.5 tsp per clam, depending on the size of the shell.]

9. Now that all of the clams are stuffed, drizzle them with olive oil or put a small smidge of butter on top of each one. Transfer to the top rack of your pre-heated oven and cook for 3-4 minutes or until fragrant and golden, be very careful not to burn them!

10. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with reserved chopped parsley & lemon wedges.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Kam bought me a couple of bags of Littlenecks this week, which means there will be a recipe for steamed clams and a recipe for baked clams in the near future.  Having shared that, I figured it was only fair to give a couple of clam-shopping pointers.

  1. You want the clams to be alive; if the shell is slightly opened you can either squeeze it shut and then release pressure- if the clam remains closed it is still alive, if the clam opens right back up toss it. You may also lightly tap the slightly open clam on a hard surface and wait to see if it closes back up on its own; once again, if it doesn't, TOSS iT.
  2. The clams should not smell!
  3. You don't want clams with cracked or broken shells- they're likely to be dead.
  4. Take a good look at the edges of the shells; a smooth perimeter guarantees less sand, debris and shell fragments than a clam with more rugged edges. 
Its preferable to note the difference prior to purchasing and/or cooking the clams. 

    6.  Do not keep the clams in a closed plastic bag; they will suffocate & die.
    7.  If you are not using them immediately, be sure to keep them cold and store them in a bowl, on ice,    in the fridge.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Butternut Squash, Bacon & Kale Gratin

ahhh- three of my favorite vegetables. Oh, wait, bacon isn't a vegetable. Downer.

This baked dish is a hearty accompaniment to any meal [86 candied yams and serve this with your bird], as well as a satiating main course. Its fairly simple to prepare, so long as you are careful not to burn the bechamel, and the ratios can even be played around with to turn this into a soul-warming fall soup.

1+1/3 lbs cubed Butternut Squash pieces [aim for 1 inch-ish pieces. Also, a 1.5 - 1+2/3 lb butternut squash should yield about 1+1/3 lbs after cleaning]
note: the easiest way to peel the squash is with an ordinary potato peeler. then cut it in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds using a table spoon.

3 strips nitrite-free Bacon, diced

small pinch Dried Thyme [barely 1/8th tsp]
1 large dried Bay Leaf, broken in half
1 small Yellow Onion, chopped
1.5 Cups 1% Milk
1/4 Cup Flour
3.5 C Kale, coarsely chopped [approximately 1 small bunch]
1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for greasing an 8x6x2 baking dish 
2/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese, divided [half goes into the gratin, the other half goes on top]
1/4 tsp Sweet Hungarian Paprika, for topping
Kosher Salt, as needed

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease your baking dish.
2. Render the bacon in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Once the bacon begins to release some of its own fat add the bay leaf & dried thyme and stir.
3. Once the bacon is slightly cooked 
[about 3 minutes] add the onion, along with a pinch of salt, and cook until the onions are softened and translucent.

4. Make sure you have a whisk nearby and add the 1/4 Cup Flour. Stir to cook the flour just briefly [no more than a minute] and then pour in the milk, while continuously whisking.
5. Raise the heat to high and whisk while the mixture comes to a boil [do not stop whisking or you seriously risk scorching your bechamel], as soon as the mixture comes to a boil reduce the heat to low. Allow the sauce to cook for about 10 minutes, being sure to whisk often so that the bottom does not burn.
6. Once the sauce has thickened considerably, remove the bay leaf pieces and fold in the chopped Kale. Allow to cook until wilted, then add the parmesan cheese. Taste & adjust seasoning as necessary.

7. Now fold in the butternut squash.

8. Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish, top with remaining parmesan cheese and sprinkle with sweet Hungarian Paprika and a pinch of kosher salt.

9. Transfer to 375 degree oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the butternut squash is tender and the top is browned. 

The squash releases some water during cooking, so it is normal to have a fairly loose dish. You can technically shorten the cooking time & moisture content by par-roasting the squash in advance. To do so simply coat the cubed squash with 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or Grapeseed Oil, and roast in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. When it is time to make the gratin, shorten the cooking time to 20 minutes [or until squash is tender] and increase the temperature to 425 degrees.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

adventures in baking

I'm not much of a baker. Some times I can conjure up a great batch of cookies, and I've been told I make a mean pizza, but thats about the extent of my baking abilities thus far. I'm beginning to take some baby steps into experimenting with doughs, and I am using my day off to play around with making soft pretzels. I borrowed the recipe from The Fresh Loaf and modified it a bit... I should probably follow the recipe exactly, at least for the first round, but I kind of want to see what I can get away with, and what will happen if I add more yeast than the recipe calls for.

** These pretzels didn't turn out like the soft pretzels you get on a street corner, I would definitely say they were more "rustic", or bread-like, to be honest. Yes, they are yummy, but I haven't hit the nail on the head yet. 

Here is my modified list of ingredients:
1.25 tsp Rapid Rise Yeast
1 Tbsp Turbinado [Sugar in the Raw] Sugar
1/4 Cup ground Flax Seed
3/4 Cup White Whole Wheat Flour
2 Cups Wheat Flour, with germ [not whole wheat flour, just plain white wheat flour. It simply hasn't been refined or enriched. also, the 2 Cups is an approximation; I used just under 2 Cups to achieve what I perceived to be the desired consistency... ]
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1 Cup warm 1% Milk [microwave until warm to the touch. the recipe I followed called for 110 degrees. I was too lazy to dig out my thermometer and decided to go with "very warm to the touch". Once again- we'll see what happens]

1. In a separate bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients.
2. Pour the warmed milk into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add 1 Cup of the dry ingredients and begin to mix on Speed 2 [as per KitchenAid mixer, using the hook attachment].

3. Once the first cup of flour is mostly incorporated, add a second cup and continue to mix. The batter will thicken considerably.
4. Now add 1/2 Cup more of the dry ingredients and allow the mixer to knead the dough for 2-3 minutes. The dough should begin forming a ball, and not sticking to the sides of the bowl. If the dough still seems a bit too tacky, add 1/4 Cup more flour and let it work in for a moment. If at first it seems too dry, let it keep mixing and it should incorporate perfectly within a minute or 2.  If it is too dry, sprinkle in a teaspoon or so of water.

5. Once the dough has completely pulled away from the sides of the mixing bowl and has been kneaded by the dough hook into a tight ball, transfer it to a clean bowl [large enough to hold the dough once it has doubled in volume], lightly coat the entire surface [bottom & top] with a little bit of olive oil [1 tsp], cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place somewhere warm to proof for at least an hour.
 lubed & proofing.

 after one hour.

6. Now that the dough has doubled in volume, preheat your oven to 425 degrees, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and turn the dough out onto a large cutting board and gently shape into a ball. Cut the ball into 6 relatively equal pieces.

7. Roll each chunk of dough into a long rope, about 18-20 inches or so. Be sure to keep all resting dough and rolled ropes covered with a damp towel.

8. Twist each rope into your desired shape.  I twisted one into a sort of fancy roll shape, and the rest we shaped as pretzels.

"fancy knot"

standard pretzel

9.  Now that all of your pretzels are shaped, using two spatulas to hold the pretzels in the water- carefully submerge each one, one at a time, into the boiling water for about 15 seconds. Transfer to a non-stick baking sheet, or baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and sprinkle with Kosher salt.

10. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the pretzels are a dark, golden brown. Remove from oven and enjoy!