Archives for posts with tag: rosemary

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 2013 folks!

I have that U2 song “Lemon” stuck in my head, from the band’s 1993 album Zooropa. Well, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but that was twenty years ago. We’re old. And we misspent our youth.

Ok so much updating is in order. It’s been six weeks since my last post—the longest dry spell since I started this blog almost two years ago. What happened? December holiday madness. Office parties. Book deadlines. Dating. Etc. And then, on December 22nd, I suffered a concussion after fainting in the Whitney Museum, crashing hard on Marcel Breuer’s concrete floor, my head breaking my fall. I was at the Wade Guyton show on the third floor, which you should go see if you’re in New York, it comes down on Sunday. Go for the Guyton, stay for the Artschwager.

I’ve been largely out of commission for the past two and a half weeks. Not cooking, not biking, not yoga’ing, not working. For Christmas I received two copies of Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cookbook Jerusalem. One from my sister Hope, the other from the b.f. Melony. I’m exchanging one of them for Plenty, since I miss having Mark’s copy around.

So while I haven’t been at the stove, I’ve been curled up in bed with the beautiful book designed by Sarah Pulver (cover for U.S. edition) and Here Design (interior and cover for UK edition), dreaming of shakshuka, mejadra, and eggplant everything. But I thought I’d take it slow and begin my re-entry with something not too labor intensive but with big results: preserved lemons. On the few occasions I’ve had the store-bought kind in a jar I’ve enjoyed the fragrant sweet-sour tastes with couscous, bulgur, fish, lentils, meat. But never having made my own, it seemed about time to dive in.

This is also strategic: I plan to cook my way through this book over the coming months and having these luscious preserved lemons on hand four weeks from now will come in handy for multiple recipes.

Now, a head’s up: you make these lemons in stages. So first you stuff with salt and keep them sealed in a mason jar for a week. Then at that point you open the jar and stuff them with rosemary, chile, lemon juice, and olive oil, then let sit again for at least four weeks. I just began step one, but couldn’t wait to post about it. So I haven’t even added the rosemary, etc. yet. I’ll update here when that happens in about a week’s time.

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Preserved Lemons

6 organic, unwaxed lemons
6 tbsp coarse sea salt
2 rosemary sprigs
1 large red chile
juice of 6 lemons
olive oil

Make sure you have a Ball or Mason jar large enough to accommodate your lemons. Sterilize it by filling with boiling water, leaving for a minute, then emptying. Let it air dry.

Wash the lemons and cut a deep X or cross down through the lemon, leaving about 3/4 in. from the bottom. Stuff each lemon with 1 tbsp of the salt and place in the jar. Push the lemons in tightly, seal the jar, and leave in a cool place for at least one week. If you don’t know how to seal a jar properly, here is one of many links that explains how to do this.

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After this initial period, remove the lid and press the lemons as hard as you can to squeeze out as much of the juice as possible. Add the rosemary, chile, and lemon juice, and coat the lemons with a thin layer of olive oil. Seal the jar again and leave in a cool place for at least 4 weeks. The longer you leave them the better the flavor.

Enjoy these as a condiment to many meat, fish, and vegetable dishes. I’m planning to use mine in the recipe for Chermoula eggplant with bulgur and yogurt, from the same book.

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Two Saturdays ago I was thwarted at my local farmer’s market in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. I walked over at 9 am, canvas tote in hand, and headed to the one stand that is known to carry fiddleheads during their fleeting three-week run at the markets. “Just sold the last ones,” the farmer told me, not without a proud smile crossing his face. And then he pointed to the couple who scored the last fronds. They looked pleased with themselves.

He tried to get me to buy some stinging nettles instead, which are basically the opposite of fiddleheads—whereas fiddleheads are furled, introspective, and soft, nettles have tiny stingers pointing out from the leaves daring you to touch them, let alone eat them. Fiddleheads are coy, nettles defiant. I passed on the nettles (although I do quite like to eat them) and was reassured he’d have more fiddleheads the following week, and maybe, but not likely, the week after that.

I found myself in Union Square Friday after work and much to my delight, despite the late hour, one stand with a tiny batch of fiddleheads remained at the Greenmarket. Joy! I bought them up, leaving just enough for another customer, so as not to be that person the farmer points to and says, “Sorry, she got the last ones.”

Now what to do with these sleeping beauties? I like to just steam or sauté them, dip them in a little melted butter, or serve with fish and rice. But I had an idea. I passed one of those bakery stands at the market that sells hearty loaves of rye and cheddar scones, and noticed big, thick slices of focaccia. Aha! What about fiddlehead focaccia? After all, the first time I had fiddleheads they were served on bruschetta; focaccia wasn’t all that different. And the fiddleheads could roast up nicely on the dough, along with any other toppings I decided to add.

So I bought some Kalamata olives, rosemary, and shallots and set out to make the dough. This recipe requires a bit of time because you have to let the dough rise twice—the first time for at least an hour and a half, the second time for about forty-five minutes. So it’s a good thing to make on a lazy weekend when you can fiddle around in your kitchen, then go do something else for a while, then come back, then do it again. I was pleased with the results — turns out fiddleheads work well with the flavors of rosemary and olives. The bread is salty, crunchy, and let’s face it, rather pretty and springy, no?

Fiddlehead Focaccia

2 c warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
4 c flour (plus more for handling the dough) Note: I used 2 c all-purpose white flour and 2 c stone ground whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
Olive oil (about 1/4 c total)
1/4 to 1/3 lb fiddleheads, cleaned, ends trimmed
1/2 to 1 c olives, pitted
1 shallot, sliced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
black pepper

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 2 c warm water. Sprinkle in the dry yeast and stir gently with a fork. Let stand until the yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes. (You don’t need a stand mixer to make this recipe, just strong muscles if doing by hand.)

Add the flour and salt to the yeast mixture and set the mixer to a medium speed, using the dough hook attachment. Mix for about 10 minutes, until the dough starts to come together and almost forms a ball. Oil a separate, large bowl, and add the dough, formed into a ball with your hands, to this bowl. Turn it around in the bowl so it gets coated with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a cloth towel and let it stand in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down the dough, knead it into another ball, and return it to the bowl. Let stand until it doubles again, about 45 minutes more.

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Grease a baking sheet with oil. Transfer the dough to the sheet and spread out with your fingers. Drizzle with olive oil. Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes. Then add the fiddleheads, olives, shallots, rosemary, and a sprinkle of salt and black pepper. Push the ingredients into the dough, and make more indentations with your fingers throughout the dough.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the dough starts to turn golden brown. Remove from oven, and serve warm or at room temperature.

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