Archives for category: Cookbooks

Every once in a while I read a book that makes me go, Dang, I want to be able to write like this author does—as economically, as unpredictably, as gracefully. It tends not to matter so much what the content is, and in fact, the last few writers who’ve affected me this way have been Michael Ondaatje, Rachel Cusk, and Tamar Adler.

My dear friend Madeleine gave me Tamar Adler‘s An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace for my birthday last month and I devoured it the following week. Adler formerly cooked at Chez Panisse, was an editor at Harper’s Magazine, and is now a columnist for the New York Times Magazine. Her book’s subtitle could have been: writing with economy and grace. She writes like she cooks—unpretentiously, no panache, no gotchas.

To me it seems that most writing about food these days, especially in the pages of magazines and blogs, not so much in books I suppose, is an all-too-clever, winking, gotcha! tone. We get it, you’re funny; you could be an ad copy writer; you’re smart and I’m smart and we all have impeccable taste in food and style, bla bla bla.

Well Adler is none of those cloying things. Instead she’s all: here is how to boil your vegetables, use parsley, turn leftovers into better leftovers, cook meat, make soup. It’s an old-fashioned kind of mentality and tone and I mean that in the best possible way. The book, basically, instructs how to get good at the act of cooking and all the simple but important preparations involved in doing so. In all the food writing I’ve read over the years, hers is integrating into my being in a way others haven’t. In the past few weeks I’ve already wasted less food and made better meals than I have all year.

Yesterday, on a blustery early April afternoon in Brooklyn, I ventured to make her rosemary olive oil cake, which she adapted from Cooking by Hand by Paul Bertolli. It was subtle, herbaceous, moist, and would go perfectly with a cup of Earl Gray tea or an espresso. Here you go. You’re welcome.

(When I made this cake I wasn’t planning to write about it and thus have no good photos of it…then today I was struck by the desire to share the recipe so am doing so sans visual aids for the first time! Maybe it’s the spirit of Tamar encouraging me that simple is ok.)

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake
ala Tamar Adler

8 eggs
1 1/2 cups raw cane sugar (I used only 1 cup)
1 2/3 cups olive oil
4 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary*
3 cups flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

*You may be thinking 4 tbsp sounds like a lot. I only had 3 tbsp so I used that and the rosemary was subtle and in fact I think 4 would’ve been better, so be bold!

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Butter and flour a bundt pan.

Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl for 30 seconds with a handheld beater. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture becomes foamy and paler in color. Still mixing, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Then fold in the rosemary.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, and then pour the batter into the bundt pan.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, rotating the pan halfway through. Mine took closer to an hour. The cake should be golden brown and a skewer should come out clean. Allow the cake to cool briefly in the pan then gently tip it out to cool on a rack.

This would be delicious with unsweetened whipped cream, or smeared with a bit of honey. Makes great breakfast leftovers the next day.

 

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Happy holidays and happy new year folks!

This post came into being in a very round about way. I was reading the New York Times article on baking whole grain holiday cookies, recipes courtesy of Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. What a smart idea. I’ve been doing this already, and wanting to do it more, and am so glad someone’s already gone and made a whole cookbook on baking with whole grains. And not in some preachy, eat-more-whole-grains-they’re-good-for-you way, but because, as Chad says, they just taste more complex and interesting. So right Chad.

For instance you could make these thumbprint cookies with toasted nuts and whole grains, using dark rye flour. Check out Chad’s Tartine Book No. 3 which is chock-a-block with similar recipes.

Anyway this led me to reading about Tartine’s earlier cookbook, Tartine Bread, and a recipe for Whole Grain Seeded Bread. This was last night. It was late. I’m in holiday vacation mode, game for baking. I very quickly scanned the recipe I found online and thought, great, I’ll get the dough started tonight, head to bed, and bake it in the morning! Unfortunately at every turn in the recipe I realized it was more involved, more complex, than I’d been prepared for. (And I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand.) But there was no going back, I’d already mixed a large quantity of flour and water and besides, I love a good challenge.

This recipe uses a pre-ferment: a mixture of flour, water, and yeast that sits overnight to develop a flavor in the bread that is more, well, complex and tasty. The pre-ferment is later added to the rest of the dough the following day. This recipe also calls for baking the bread at a high temperature (475 degrees) and in a covered dutch oven the first 20 minutes, and uncovered for the last 20 minutes. The recipe below is my very adapted version of the original from Tartine, accounting for which ingredients I had on hand (whole wheat flour but not whole grain wheat flour; sesame seeds but not flax or poppy), and my slight lack in patience (original recipe would take a total of at least two days from start to finish). And you know what? The bread turned out real good. With a tang like the San Francisco style sourdough loaves. And only 12 hours from start to finish (including sleep time), so get baking!

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Whole Grain Seeded Bread
Adapted from Chad Robertson
[Measurements are rough, not precise; recipe was given in metric so I tried to convert as best I could, and reduce the recipe—the original of which would’ve produced more like 3 loaves, whereas this produces 1 large-ish loaf]

For the pre-ferment
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c warm water (approx. 70 deg. F)
1 gram active dry yeast (about 1/3 tsp)

Prepare this pre-ferment the night before you will mix your dough and bake. Mix the flour, water, and yeast in a non-reactive bowl (I use glass). Let stand at room temperature overnight for 10–12 hours. If you are not ready to mix your dough after this period, put the pre-ferment in the fridge, covered, and use within 8 hours.

For the dough
1/4 c seed mixture (flax, poppy, and toasted sesame)
3 c whole wheat flour (or, next time, I’m going to try whole rye flour)
1 1/2 c warm water, plus additional when mixing
2 tsp salt

At least one hour prior to mixing the dough, soak the seed mixture with a small amount of hot water, then let cool to room temperature. (Remember to toast your sesame seeds prior to this—I used a small skillet on the stovetop to do this.)

To mix the dough, add the water to a large bowl. Add the pre-ferment and stir to disperse. Add the flour. Using your hands, mix throughly, firmly, until no bits of dry flour remain. At this point you may need to add either more flour or more water. (I o.d.’ed on the water so ended up having to gradually add more flour.) If you’re used to making bread you’ll know when you have the right consistency, and right ratio of water to flour. It should be dry enough that it doesn’t really stick to your hands, and should be pliable, and able to form into a round or the shape of your choice. Let the dough rest in the bowl for 20 to 40 minutes.

After the rest, add the salt and seed mixture and incorporate into the dough. Continue to fold the dough on top of itself to develop the dough and dissolve the salt. Ideally you would let the dough rise at this point, at moderately warm room temperature, for about 3–4 hours. I let it sit about 20 minutes then baked it.

Preheat your oven to 500 deg. F, along with the heavy dutch oven and tight-fitting lid. I shaped my loaf not quite into a round but more of an oval, since the Le Creuset I have is not a dutch oven but more of a casserole. Place the loaf into the dutch oven, seal completely, and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 475 deg. Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on, then after 20 minutes, remove the lid and continuing baking another 20 minutes or until deep golden brown.

Cool the bread on a wire rack. Serve plain and simple with butter and salt. Or Earth Balance. Or Olive Oil.

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Pics below from the past week: strolling down 5th Avenue two days before Christmas, glimpse of the tree at Rockefeller Center; my favorite work in the American Modern: Hopper to O’Keeffe exhibition at MoMA, this is Alfred Stieglitz’s Georgia O’Keeffee – Hands and Horse Skull from 1931; and me below with my lovable nephew Nate.

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It’s no secret: I am possibly cooking my way through the entirety of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem. I’ve blogged about a couple of the recipes here—Lentils with Broiled Eggplant and Preserved Lemons; and from his earlier book Plenty, Hummus & Ful, Caramelized Garlic Tart. This month’s Recipe Lab at the New York Times is even focusing on Jerusalem and soliciting fan favorites. I’ve been meaning to write in.

I was flipping through Jerusalem the other day before shopping at the food co-op. I had almost settled on the Helbeh—a honey-soaked, fenugreek-infused cake—when I remembered the outside temperature (97 F) and how much I have been avoiding the oven. I stumbled next on a recipe for Spiced Chickpeas and Fresh Vegetable Salad, a gorgeous mélange of crisp vegetables that are all currently in season, accompanied by chickpeas coated in spices then quickly fried in olive oil. Served with greek yogurt it seemed like the only other thing I’d like to eat in this heat other than cold watermelon. (Check out Bittman’s Watermelon All Day Long in this weekend’s Times’ Magazine.)

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You need to get a head start on this the night before by soaking 1/2 cup chickpeas in cold water with a pinch of baking soda. The next day, as the chickpeas are cooking, you can assemble the rest of the salad. I improvised and bought what looked best at both the co-op and the farmer’s market—crunch Kirby cucumbers, local radishes, an assortment of cherry tomatoes from Hepworth Farms, purple scallions, cilantro, and parsley. It’s that time of year in the Northeast when you can’t really go wrong in the produce department if you stick to buying locally.

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I’d love to serve the salad as brunch for friends, along with some good pita and homemade hummus. To the salad you could add a salty cheese like feta; or maybe even watermelon!

Spiced Chickpeas and Summer Vegetable Salad

1/2 c dried chickpeas
1 tsp baking soda
2 small cucumbers
2 medium or large tomatoes, or a small basket of cherry tomatoes
1/2 pound of radishes
1 red pepper, seeded, with white pith removed
1 small or 1/2 large red onion, peeled
1/2 cup scallions (green or purple), chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
6 tbsp olive oil
grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp vinegar (such as sherry, champagne, or combo white and balsmic)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cumin
Yogurt (optional)
salt and black pepper

Soak the dried chickpeas overnight in plenty of cold water with a pinch of baking soda. (In this hot weather I put them in the fridge overnight.) When you’re ready to cook them the next day, drain and transfer to a large saucepan. Cover with water (about twice the amount, in volume, as the chickpeas) and bring to a boil, cooking on high for up to an hour. Mine were thoroughly cooked in 30 minutes. Skim off the white foam as needed during cooking. Drain and set aside.

Chop the cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, and red pepper into small (roughly 1/2-inch chunks, and place in a bowl. Add the chopped scallions, parsley, and cucumber. Mix together.

To make the dressing, combine 5 tbsp of the olive oil, the lemon zest and juice, vinegar, and sugar in a jar and shake well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.

Mix together the cardamom, allspice, cumin, and 1/4 tsp salt. Spread out over a plate, then toss the cooked chickpeas in the spice mixture. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in a sauté pan and add the chickpeas, cooking for 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Divide the salad onto plates and serve with the warm chickpeas and a dollop of yogurt.

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