Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Event Alert: Five Little Piggies ...

... Went to market?
... In a poke?
... Constructing houses of questionable stability?

Nope. This Sunday evening at Cochon 555 Boston, five piggies will be prepared and served by five Boston area chefs and washed down with wines from five winemakers (See? Five pigs, five chefs, five winemakers: 555).

Cochon 555 is the brainchild of Taste Network, an Atlanta-based group initially focused on the promotion of artisan wine and cheese through educational (and social!) programs. They run a number of really exciting programs in the Atlanta area (The Kudzu Supper Club: farm to table events, looks like so much fun!). A new event for them, Cochon 555 is a nationwide series of ten pig-centric parties. Proceeds from the event go to Farms for City Kids, a nonprofit that gives children from urban centers (primarily New York City and Boston) the opportunity to visit and work on a farm in Vermont. It looks like a really amazing program.

Cochon 555 Boston will be held at the Liberty Hotel and will highlight heritage pork dishes from:
Five winemakers will be pouring pork-complementary glasses of wine:
All the twittering and blogging I have seen about this event have really gotten me excited to attend. I have also had the good fortune to visit three of the chefs' restaurants and am really looking forward to tasting what they prepare for this event. The dishes will be judged by an august panel of Boston-area food-lovers, restaurateurs and food producers and one chef will be crowned the "Prince of Porc" at the end of the day.

I am concerned about the scrum that normally forms at the tables at events like this. You know how it goes: you elbow your way through the crowd, just to get a postage-stamp sized piece of something on a toothpick, which is then knocked off aforementioned toothpick by a someone's wildly gesticulating arms. However, this event has already run in New York, Seattle, Portland (Oregon), Atlanta and Napa, so I am hopeful that they've figured out the crowd control/Lord of the Flies issues that are so common at these events.

Product placement disclaimer: I have been granted a press pass for this event and am looking forward to reporting back on it for you. Many pictures will be taken, many dishes will be tasted.


Cochon 555
The Liberty Hotel Boston
5:00 - 8:00, Sunday, April 5
Tickets are $125 and are still available. There is a $25 industry discount: use code "baconbits".

Future dinners coming soon to: Des Moines, Chicago, Washington, DC and San Francisco.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Week of March 29

What a weekend! Beppo and I had the good fortune to be invited to an "Eggstravaganza" (not the official name) at my new friend Linsey's house. I got there nice and early to help prep and had a grand time baking off brioche, portioning foie gras, and slicing miso-cured char. Later that day many delicious courses, each featuring eggs, were served to a group of hungry and enthusiastic guests. We kicked off the evening with Pisco Sours and much fun was had from there. For a full discussion and lots of pictures of the 24, 24, 24 dinner (sponsored by Foodbuzz), check out Linsey's lovely blog: Cake and Commerce.

Menu for the Week
Cowboy steak (That's it up there on the right - nearly three inches thick. One steak serves three. And no, it's not made of actual cowboys.)
Broccoli di rapi
Roast potatoes with garlic and rosemary
Oven-fried onion rings (not bad at all, but not fooling anyone)
Cupcakes for dessert!

Chili-fried shrimp with scallions
Napa cabbage and shiitake mushroom saute
Steamed rice

Ubuntu's Yellow Eye Bean soup (I couldn't believe it, a New York Times recipe calling for a specific Rancho Gordo bean that I have in my pantry right now!).

Sweet potato gnocchi (this is an experiment - we'll see)
Sauteed spinach
Grilled portobello mushrooms with crispy pancetta and sage

Chilaquiles topped with a fried egg (this version from Rick Bayless)
Black bean and avocado salsa

Red lentil soup (delicious and freezable!)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Trip Report: King Arthur Flour Baking Center

I've been running my own business for a year now and have been doing a lot of professional exploration and development. As part of this, I thought it would be a great opportunity to take a class at King Arthur Flour's Baking Education Center. I hoped to take a professional-level class there last year, but due to their popularity and small class sizes I got boxed out of everything I wanted to take.

I just returned from the three-day class Running a Successful Bakery and had a wonderful, educational time. (My full Flickr set from the class is here.)

The class is taught by Chef Jeffrey Hamelman. Chef Hamelman has thirty-plus years of baking experience and run his own bakeries as well as having been a CIA instructor. He's now King Arthur's Bakery Director (they run a full retail and wholesale operation at their headquarters in Norwich, Vermont).

Chef Hamelman is a great teacher: he's got extremely high standards, a tactful and direct style, an encyclopedic knowledge of all things bread and pastry, and a great sense of humor. It was a rare experience to spend three days learning from him. He has written a remarkably complete cookbook called Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes. (I picked up a copy while I was there and am already fermenting several starters for breads in this book.)

An additional benefit of this class was the opportunity to meet so many other passionate bakers from around the country. Our class had fourteen students and they hailed from the East coast as well as California, Texas, and Indiana. The students' broad range and variety of experiences only added to the richness of the class experience.

Class started promptly each day at 9:00. This class was unusual for the Baking Education Center in that it was about 60% lecture (about the business of running a bakery); other courses are much more hands on. That said, we still got to get deep into a french bread dough and brioche and croissant doughs as well. A number of us commented several times that one of the best aspects of the class was Chef's frequent tips and pointers on how to use product creatively and how to reduce waste. For instance, from one bread dough we made baguettes, batards (a large oval loaf), rolls and fougasse. From brioche dough, we made brioche Nanterre, tete brioche, brioche pastries with cherries, and a quiche-type dish called a flamiche.

We were also treated to lectures by Tod Bramble (Bakery Food Service Sales Manager) and Mary Bihrle (VP Finance) and Patricia [I didn't write down her last name, sorry!] (Controller). Tod spoke about the intricacies of wheat growing and flour production. He was a great resource for us; it's essential to understand your ingredients, and for such an important one, flour always gets short shrift. Mary and Patty spoke with us about the financial side of running a business and shared their experiences with us.

The class wasn't cheap (about $200 a day) but it was definitely worth the investment for the knowledge imparted by Chef Hamelman and for the opportunity to meet so many other bakers. I'm hoping to attend another class there later this year. The Norwich area is really beautiful - it's right near Dartmouth University so there are a fair number of tourist services available to area visitors.

Information about baking classes at the Center and nationwide can be found here.
Information about the Bakery is here.
My full Flickr set from the class is here.

Daring Bakers March: The Lasagna of Emlia Romagna

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

I'm a pretty recent Daring Bakers member, so it was a pleasant surprise to me to see a savory item go onto the challenge roster. We were to make a ragu, a bechamel sauce, and most importantly, fresh spinach pasta.

The recipes were taken directly from Lynne Rossetto Kasper's glorious book The Splendid Table. The recipes are challenging, but doable, and I strongly recommend you give this dish a try. The ragu can be made ahead and frozen and the pasta can be done earlier in the day and held before assembly.

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

  • 1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)
  • 1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)
  • 4 ounces freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Working Ahead:
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil or butter a 3 quart shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese. (I ended up with about six layers - you may have more or less depending on the thickness of your pasta.)

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)
Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

  • 2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more
  • 10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm).

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.


  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
  • 2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)
Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta).
I made mine batch of this in my crockpot - it worked perfectly for the slow simmer this sauce needs.

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
  • 2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
  • 1 small carrot, minced
  • 4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
  • 4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
  • 8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
  • 1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
  • 2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
  • 1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
  • 2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
  • 3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Peanut and Pepper Stew

This soup was inspired by this North African recipe. I made some minor modifications (mainly increasing the acidity with more lime juice and the heat with a squirt of sriracha) but the technique and basic recipe stayed the same.

Feel free to adjust this to your taste too. I think it would be super served over baked sweet potatoes or (sans rice) over a fried noodle cake with sauteed bok choy.

Peanut and Pepper Stew
(as inspired by a Flickr poster who was inspired by a Moosewood cookbook)
4-6 generous servings (this freezes well)
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 red peppers , chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (if your curry powder is hot, you may want to reduce or omit the cayenne)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, your choice)
  • juice of one lime
  • chopped cilantro, lime wedges, sliced scallions, toasted peanuts and/or sriracha for garnish
Over medium-high heat, saute the onion and celery in a large saucepan until they are soft (about ten minutes). Add the peppers and garlic and saute another five minutes more. Add in the cayenne and curry powder and saute for two more minutes.

Add the rice, tomatoes and three cups of water. Add a pinch of salt. Cover the pan and bring to a simmer. Cook until the rice is tender, about 30-40 minutes. Whisk in the peanut butter, lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk in more water if the stew is too thick. Bring the acid/spicy balance up to your taste with more lime juice, hot sauce, salt and pepper.

Serve with your choice of garnishes.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Savory Bread Pudding

My mother-in-law sent us home from the holidays with a whole lotta challah (L: thank you again!). One loaf went into french toast production, as to be expected, but the other loaf has been sitting in the freezer waiting for me to get my act together.

I had an exceptionally good dessert bread pudding (butterscotch with salted caramel) at Eastern Standard a few weeks ago and it got me thinking about bread puddings in general. After reviewing recipes, I thought a savory option would be nice to try. Of course, I realized that I had already made a savory bread pudding before, I had just called it "strata".

So bread pudding or strata or whatever you want to call it, this is a great way to use up bits of vegetables, stale bread and ends of cheese. I used asparagus, caramelized onions, dill and goat cheese in this one. I can vouch for the breakfasty deliciousness of a sausage, ham and cheese version (thanks Doug!).

As I mentioned, I used challah in this version, but any delicious bread will do. It should be stale to keep things from getting too soggy. If your bread is too fresh, cut it into cubes and bake it in a 300-degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Savory Asparagus and Caramelizd Onion Bread Pudding
Serves 6-8 as a main course, more if served as a side dish
  • 2 onions, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 large bunch asparagus, ends snapped off, stalks sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup minced dill or parsley
  • 4 cups of 1-inch bread cubes
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, saute the sliced onion until well-caramelized (this will take about 20 minutes). Put into a large bowl and set aside. In the same pan, saute the asparagus until cooked through and bright green. Add to the onions in the bowl.

Stir together the onions, asparagus, dill, bread cubes and goat cheese. Pour into a 9x9 baking dish (you can use a large dish, the pudding will be thinner, is all). In the same bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Season with a little salt and pepper. Pour the milk-egg mixture over the bread cubes in the baking dish (the dish should not be full to the top as the pudding will puff up to almost double its pre-baking height). With a spoon or spatula, push the cubes into the milk mixture. Let the dish sit for 15 minutes and then sprinkle the parmesan over the top.

Bake for about 45 minutes until browned and puffy. Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving (it will be insanely hot in the center when it first comes out).

Note: This can be made ahead (up to baking it) and held in the refrigerator overnight. The bread will soak up all the liquid, but don't worry. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 15-30 minutes (until hot all the way through).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Week of March 15

I have a lot on my plate (no pun intended) this week, so most of our meals are super easy items I've made before.

Menu for the Week
Rabbit stewed with vaquero beans and tomato
Sauteed kale

Asparagus and prosciutto bread pudding (this is an experiment, we'll see)
Green salad


Potato-onion soup

Macaroni and cheese with broccoli


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Week of March 8

In true New England fashion, winter skulks out (throwing a sucker punch on occasion) and spring limps in. Almost 60 degrees today, but tomorrow we're expecting a high of 34 and 5 inches of snow. It makes the sun feel that much more precious, does it not?

Writing up a menu plan for a chilly week while you're sitting in the sun in a t-shirt can be challenging. I just thought about cozy, warming foods and went from there.

Menu for the Week
Green salad with pickled shallots and pomelo

East African groundnut soup (this one's been in my reader for a while - time to try it)
Pickled carrot salad

Jacket potatoes (so much more fun than baked potatoes, which is what they are)
Roasted cauliflower with garlic, anchovy and parsley
Green salad

Red beans and rice (I got a locally raised and smoked ham bone to try in this)

Roasted broccoli and shrimp (from the Amanda Hesser's NY Times recipe - too many positive endorsements to ignore!)

Pizza (was so good last week, figured we'd do it again)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Drink of the Week: Pisco Sour

Beppo and I were introduced to the Pisco Sour by the engaging and knowledgeable bartending staff at Eastern Standard. In this drink, we were introduced to two new things: pisco, a Peruvian brandy (essential ingredient in a pisco sour) and drinks with eggs in them.

Let's get the egg issue out of the way: Most of us have probably had egg drinks and not known it. Any drink with a light froth on the top was (hopefully) made with an egg or egg white or a bar mix containing powdered egg whites or the appallingly named mixer-additive called "Foamy Head" (yum).

Anyhoo, for anyone out there who's squeamish about the idea of a raw egg in your cocktail: get over it I say. The egg white in this drink provides a creaminess that you can't get any other way. Think of it as a meringue float on the top of your cocktail - plus, it's additional protein to fortify you for the night ahead. If you're making your drink at home, this is yet another great motivator to get you to buy local fresh eggs.

Pisco Sour
In an iced cocktail shaker, vigorously shake together:
  • 1 1/2 ounces pisco
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 egg white (this will be enough if you're going to make two drinks at once)
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and dot with several dashes of Angostura bitters. (for a totally awesome looking flamed Angostura option, look on Jeffrey Morganthaler's website).

May 13 - Edited to add my How2Heroes video on making a Pisco Sour!

Beets with Garlic Sauce

One more dish from the WBUR Meet Up. I love beets and this is a great way to serve them. Even better, everything can be made ahead as this is a dish that benefits from being served at room temperature.

The garlic sauce is a Greek dish called "skordalia" (Prounounced: "score-tha-LEE-ya"). There are several versions of skordalia. At its root, skordalia is a sauce that is heavily seasoned with raw garlic. You'll see recipes that call for potatoes, bread, nuts and/or eggs as the thickener. Traditionally this sauce is made in a mortar and pounded by hand, but most modern cooks will use a blender, food processer or mixer (stand or handheld).

My version of skordalia ia adapted from The Greek Vegetarian by Diane Kochilas. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to cook Greek vegetarian meals. There's more to Greek cooking than gyros and spinach pie!

To cook my beets, I use a non-traditional technique (at least it's not one I see elsewhere very often). I cut the root end and leaf end off the raw beets. Using a vegetable peeler, I peel the raw beets. Then I cut them into slices, wedges or whatever other shape I want. (The beets will be very hard, so be sure to use a sharp knife and be careful not to hurt yourself.) I lay the beets in a single layer in a baking dish and add about a 1/4 cup of water. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake in a 375-degree oven until the beets are tender (about 30-45 minutes depending the age and cut of the beets).

Beets with Skordalia
Serves 4-6 (more if being used as part of an appetizer spread)
  • 1-2 bunches of beets (enough for about 1-2 beets per person, depending on the size of the beet)
  • 12 ounces of potatoes (russets or yukon golds), about 2 large russets
  • 4 -6 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed in a garlic press
  • 1/2 cup of toasted walnuts or hazelnuts, chopped fine
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • approximately 1/2 cup olive oil
  • approximately 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cook the beets according the method above or another method of your choosing. The beets should be cut into wedges or 1/2" slices. Season with salt and pepper and a sprinkle of red wine vinegar.

Make the skordalia: Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks. Put in a pot of salted water and bring to a simmer. Cook until tender and then drain.

Put the potatoes into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachement (or use a large bowl and a hand mixer). Add the garlic, nuts, and lemon juice. With the paddle, mash the potatoes together with these ingredients. With the mixer running on low, blend in half the oil and half the vinegar. Stop the mixer and taste. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Turn the mixer back on and blend in more oil until the mixture is slightly fluffy and airy (lighter than mashed potatoes). Turn off the mixer and taste again. Add in more salt or vinegar if needed: you want a blend of salty, sour and garlicky.

Serve the beets on a bed of skordalia, or with it on the side. If desired, garnish with more chopped nuts or chopped parsley or dill.

If you have any leftovers, make a quick "hash". Chop up the beets and mix them together with leftover skordalia. Put the mixture in a non-stick skillet with a wee bit of olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute on both sides until crispy. Serve with a fried egg (I also made a quick "sauce" of parsley, more garlic and red wine vinegar to spoon over the top).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ugly but Good

Can we agree that sometimes really ugly food tastes pretty good? This lentil salad is a perfect entry into that category (in fact I just made a tag for it - ugly food deserves respect). It's another one of the dishes I made for the WBUR meet up. Clearly, even I wasn't enamored of its looks - this is the only picture I took of it.

Lentils are a great budget-conscious food. But they can also be jazzed up with some pretty elegant ingredients. In addition to lentils (just regular green ones from the supermarket), this salad contains roasted kohlrabi pieces, caramelized onions, parsley and feta cheese. It's seasoned with a toasted cumin and red wine vinaigrette.

Treat this recipe as more of a guideline. Hold back some lentils when you're mixing everything together - add more in as you: you want a nice blend of lentils and vegetables. You'll know when it looks right. Keep checking your seasoning: shoot for a nice contrast between salty and sour. If you're adding feta, keep that in mind and don't oversalt before you add it to the salad. To make this a full meal, add a hard boiled egg to each serving and serve the salad over or alongside a green salad with some pita bread or foccacia.

Lentil Salad with Kohlrabi and Caramelized Onions
Serves about 8
  • 1 pound lentils (pick through them for stones and give them a good rinse before cooking them)
  • 2 large onions, peeled and cut into thin slices
  • 2-4 cups of "roastable" vegetables, cut in chunks (I used kohlrabi, but you could broccoli or butternut squash or peppers or mushrooms or what have you - left over cooked vegetables would be great in this)
  • 1/2 - 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 pound feta (or goat cheese or farmer cheese)
  • red wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Cook the lentils: In a large saucepan (the lentils will nearly double in volume) place the lentils are cover them with 2" of water. Add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender. Depending on how old the lentils are, it will take between 30-45 minutes for them to cook. When they are cooked, drain them and set them aside.

Make the rest of the vegetables: Saute the sliced onions over medium heat until dark brown (not burned) and caramelized. Roast the chopped vegetables in a 400-degree oven until they are cooked through to your taste.

Put the onions and roasted vegetables in a large bowl with the parsley and cumin. Add half of the lentils and stir gently to combine. Add more lentils until you get the proportions you want. Drizzle the salad with vinegar and oil (about equal amounts of each). Sprinkle with salt and a good amount of freshly ground pepper. Add the feta and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for acid and salt as needed.

This is good right away, but also holds really well so you can make a day or so in advance. It tastes best at room temperature.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ouzo-Cured Salmon

Ouzo-haters, don't turn away!

I made this salmon, recipe originally found here at Kalofagas, for a Meet Up (Eat Up!) at WBUR in conjunction with their Public Radio Kitchen project. The Public Radio Kitchen provides a great aggregation of Boston-area food and restaurant blogs. The Eat Up was the first opportunity (for large a number us) to meet in person. I offered to bring along a large spread of food for the attendees. A few other folks brought treats as well, and in occurrence similar to the miracle of the loaves and fishes, we all got plenty to eat! Some pictures from the event are here.

Here's the full menu of what I provided for the event:
  • Ouzo-Cured Salmon with Carrot Tzatziki
  • Lentil Salad with Roasted Kohlrabi and Caramelized Onions
  • Roasted Beets with Skordalia (Potato-Garlic Sauce)
  • Butternut Squash Baklava (savory, not sweet)
  • Rosemary Foccacia
  • Citrus Salad with Pickled Shallots, Kalamata Olives and Arugula (Sunday's cover shot)
I thought I'd share some of the recipes with you, starting with the salmon. The hardest parts of this dish are finding really high quality salmon (let your fish guy or gal know that you'll be curing it and that you need great quality product) and slicing it thinly enough (sharpen that knife!) when you're ready to serve it. This recipe can scale (no pun intended) up or down, depending on the size of the fillet you're using. The ouzo flavor isn't prominent, it just provides a nice herbal note to the salmon.

Ouzo-Cured Salmon
For appetizer servings, plan on 2 or 3 ounces of salmon per person.
  • Salmon
For every pound of salmon you use:
  • 3 tablespoons ouzo (or vodka - if using vodka and you still want an anise flavor, add 1 tablespoon aniseseed to the cure mixture)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coarse-ground black pepper
  • zest of one orange
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
Put the salmon, skin-size down, on a large sheet of plastic wrap in a container large enough hold the salmon in one flat layer (The salmon will exude more liquid - make sure the dish you're using has sides high enough to contain any drips: rimmed baking sheet, roasting pan, large Tupperware container, etc.).

Drizzle the salmon with the ouzo. Mix together the remaining ingredients and rub on the flesh. Wrap the plastic around the fillet tightly, trying to keep the liquid inside the plastic. Cover the fish with a cookie sheet, plate or some other flat item (you want to weight the fillet down, so make sure it's entirely covered. Weight down the sheet with a heavy item (a can, bag of flour, cast iron skillet, etc.) . Place the salmon in the refrigerator for one to three days (the flavor gets stronger the longer it cures).

Unwrap the salmon and pat it dry. Using a very sharp knife, slice very thin slices across the fillet. Garnish with citrus (I used kumquats and some dill fronds). Serve with carrot tzatziki.

Carrot Tzatziki
This is a play on the more traditional cucumber tzatziki. To make a cucumber version, substitute 1 cup of shredded, drained cucumber (about half an English cucumber - the one that's wrapped in plastic in the supermarket). This recipe is adapted from The Greek Vegetarian by Diane Kochilas.
  • 2 cups thick Greek-style yogurt (Fage is a good brand. Trader Joe's sells one too)
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients together. Adjust salt to taste. If you need more tartness, add a little more lemon. As the tzatziki sits, the garlic flavor will become more pronounced. For best results, make this the day you intend to serve it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Week of March 1

Welcome to March! In true Massachusetts fashion, we're expecting a foot of snow tomorrow. Sigh. I just placed my vegetable seed order so I'm thinking spring while sitting in front of a roaring fire in our wood stove.

Last week was crazy busy, so I'm looking forward to taking a breath or two this week. As usual, I'm trying out some new recipes while making some old favorites.

Menu for the Week
Fancy tacos (I bought a whole tenderloin on sale - $7/pound, wow! So we're using the tenderloin "chain" to make tacos tonight - filet mignon tacos? Why not!)
Homemade corn tortillas
Black beans (from Rancho Gordo) with onion, garlic and chilies
Cilantro slaw

Roast chicken
Zuni bread salad
Broccoli with lemon and garlic

Ma po tofu with pork
Baby bok choy with ginger and scallions

Turkey meatloaf
Olive-oil garlic mashed potatoes
Some vegetable (I forget what I bought)

Chickpea and okra stew

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