17 February 2015

Amaretto Truffles

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up book, is all the rage right now. There was an opinion piece in today's Times referencing it, and a profile/closet visit with Marie Kondo, the self-taught Japanese author, in New York magazine last week. It's blowing hot and--because it deeply challenges people and their stuff--cold. Those close to me know I've been prone to living with little, hesitant to take on new objects that aren't painstakingly considered, and of course, to engage in fits of discarding. I picked up the book for other reasons of intrigue, though.

While discarding is a big part of the method, Kondo also aims at something deeper than physical clutter, which is perhaps the public's real root of attraction to the phenomenon; for instance, if you find yourself re-doing the same tidying over and over, perhaps something is amiss in how you've tidied to begin with? This is pretty challenging. What about washing and putting away the dishes or wiping down the same counter, you ask? That's pretty, uh, repetitive. 

Half into the book, I'm learning this isn't exactly her point. The point is to live with only the things that "spark joy," place them wisely, and thus reboot your entire mindset about your surroundings and in turn foster respect. The point is to cultivate your lifestyle and personify it rather than have it topple over on you. And what is amiss about washing the same pan again and again? Perhaps some batch cooking is in your future. She doesn't say this, but it's my conclusion.

Nothing has been mentioned in the book about food, yet. But, I've been thinking about it as I cook. Decluttered cooking is often satisfying on multiple fronts, and that is why truffles have become my new favorite thing. When breaking off piece by piece of the same chocolate bar for dessert begins to get tedious, flavor and heat some cream, pour it over the chopped chococlate, wait 2 minutes, stir, chill a few hours, then scoop, roll, and stash the truffles in the fridge for something a little more elegant. It feels silly that I previously thought making truffles at home was a complicated affair. 

Happily, it's not. Make, eat, live with the things that spark joy. Print your iphotos. Can it be so simple?

Amaretto Truffles

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Notes: Use good chocolate, quality cream and amaretto. BA's truffles were rolled in coarse ground coffee beans and as much as I like coffee, I just couldn't do it. I went the traditional cocoa-dusting route, but also pulsed up maybe half a teaspoon of chocolate-covered cacao nibs I had on hand, in the coffee grinder for a compromise, and I like how it all worked together. 

4.5 ounces good bittersweet chocolate, rough chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp amaretto liqueur 

*Cocoa powder for rolling, about 1-2 Tbsp, and infused with some ground coffee, cacao nibs, or minced chocolate-covered cacao nibs, or a combination of all, if you wish

Place chopped chocolate into a heat-proof bowl. Heat cream and amaretto in a small saucepan over medium heat just until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat. Pour over chocolate. Wait 2-3 minutes. With a whisk, stir the mixture until completely smooth. Cover and chill 3 hours or up to 2 days. You've made a ganache! When ready to roll, mix cocoa powder and flavorings, if using, on a plate. 

Remove bowl of ganache from fridge, and scoop out teaspoon sized dollops. Roll between hands into balls and roll through cocoa mixture until dusted and coated. Set onto a parchment-lined container and chill for a half hour or so to set cocoa before serving. Truffles will keep a few days covered in fridge. It's a good idea to remove from fridge 10 minutes before eating so they can lose their chill. 

12 February 2015

Banana granola

We're all in the market for another overripe banana use! Earlier in the week, I found myself with a few of the browning fruits, and after I baked off some mini loaves of our favorite Banana Graham Bread, I opted to mash up the last half of banana into a granola batch and it was simply delicious. The smell emanating from the oven as the granola bakes becomes more and more like banana bread as it crisps up, but your end result is something totally different. Adding fruit or vegetable puree (try MB's with pumpkin puree, too!) to granola mix is a revelation. You can cut just very slightly your oil/sweetener ratio, tailor your flavor based on what you have and learn a few things about how wet and dry ingredients interact. Here's the thing though: when adding the banana puree, you want to take out your measuring cup or scale and dole out the proper amount. If you just throw in a jumbo brown banana and don't measure, it will throw off the ratios. You want this granola to crisp up enough, and it does when all the ingredients work in tandem. This crunchy vegan/gluten free addition to your morning is sure to satisfy when you've had your fill of banana bread. I spiked it with ground ginger but you can use another spice like cinnamon if you prefer. Try it spooned on yogurt or soak it with almond milk!

Banana ginger granola

~makes a nice sized carafe

Notes: I made a few changes to MBs recipe, swapping in whole almonds, pepitas and sunflower seeds for pecans, chia seeds for flax and ginger for cinnamon. I also decreased the liquid ingredients and sugar a smidge. I always bake this off longer than the original recipe recommends, but not as long as my standard granolas, turning down the temperature just a notch toward the end, as I like to get it nicely browned and dry enough. It will crisp up even more as it cools, but the mix should not be wet when you take it out. Bon appetite!

1.5 cups/150 grams GF old fashioned rolled oats
Scant 3/4 cups mixed raw nuts and seeds (whole almonds, pepitas, sunflower seeds)
1.5 tsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp natural granulated sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp ground ginger 
Scant 2 Tbsp (24 grams) virgin coconut oil
Scant 3 Tbsp (50 grams) real maple syrup 
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup/55 grams mashed very ripe banana (half a medium)

Heat the oven to 350. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Mix oats, nuts, seeds, sugar, salt, ginger in a large bowl and set aside. In a saucepan over low heat warm coconut oil until just about melted and stir in maple, vanilla and banana puree. Whisk very well. Pour mixture over oat mix, stirring aggressively to get everything well coated. Turn out mix onto sheet pan spreading evenly. 

Bake 20 minutes. At this point, take the granola out and carefully flip over the chunks, stir a little, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Stir clumps slightly again.

At this point if it's toasty to your liking, remove to a cooling rack. However, for optimal crispness, lower heat to 325 and return tray to oven for another 10-20 minutes, checking frequently, making your total bake time more like 40-50 mins. Cool COMPLETELY, 1-2 hrs, before storing.


V-day is coming up and I have cookie recommendations! Casual cookies not fancy piped desserts, are the name of the game this year. Need ideas?


From the web:

Dorie's world peace cookies. Enough said. Make them. (I'm weird and like them baked for 14 min instead of the recommended 12)

Merrill's crispy oatmeal cookies. I was asked if they contained coconut. They don't. They are just incredibly toasty, buttery and crisp.

From the Salvegging archive:

04 February 2015

Whole Grain Blueberry Scones

Hey all, just a quick pop-up this week. I'm posting on ShopRite's blog this month as part of a group of menu ideas for Valentines Day. And since it falls on a Saturday, I thought I'd contribute some delicious berry scones for your cozy morning convenience. Take my advice and make the dough ahead. Something tells me that no clean-up, and warm, fresh scones would beat out a holiday brunch wait by a mile. As far as the dough for these goes, it's a simple blend of all purpose and whole wheat pastry flour, egg and half-and-half, a formula I go to most often because it creates a nice inner crumb and I always have the ingredients. If you have only buttermilk, make these. Heavy cream? Try these. I use a combination of blueberries and blackberries, or just blueberries depending on what I have. I carefully froze a bunch of August Jersey blueberries and have just started ripping into the supply. They work nicely here. If you are feeling really pink, try raspberries!  Click here for the recipe to my scones and check out the other posts as well! XO

30 January 2015

chocolate rye cookies

This post was to be about chickpeas. It had a photo of an up egg plated over a helping of the same chickpeas I made three times in three days. I'd pan fried very well-blotted, (canned organic!) chickpeas, added paprika and salt, a spoonful of thick tomato sauce and a glug of white wine to deglaze. I was going to tell you how practical and satisfying and versatile they were. We had them at dinner alongside this frittata (highly recommended), and at lunch again beneath an up egg (well, mine was up; Ed inexplicably does not do up eggs!?) and then again as an egg side sans tomato sauce. Well, maybe you do want more specifics on the chickpeas, but it will have to be later, for now, it's going to be about chocolate. 

Tartine's chocolate rye cookies are very different from your typical chocolate cookie, and different from the two other chocolate cookies I have on this blog already. You get to have a bit of fun with your mixer far from mixing until just combined. A luscious batter of melted chocolate and well-whipped eggs and sugar, is graced with just a smidge of rye flour and leavener to hold it up. It's briefly chilled, then scooped and sprinkled with flakey salt. You may, given the high chocolate-low flour ratio, and when you see the frosting-like batter first before it chills, be tempted to call them brownie cookies, but don't. They aren't. They have a crackly outside and an overall lightness to them, not the chew and density of a brownie. And because of this "lightness" that definitely means you can have more than one : )

Tartine's chocolate rye cookies
Recipe by Tasting Table
Note: I made a quarter of the recipe, which yielded a dozen nice sized cookies! A single egg and 4 oz chocolate are enough for me to sacrifice at once as this recipe in full uses a ton of both. Feel free to cut the whole recipe below in half if you want less dough to handle, or in four like I did. I will make them again and my only change would to be to use a better chocolate, like a really good one, like Mast Brothers or Valhorona as recommended. It's not that a lesser quality is a huge problem, but a top notch, more complex chocolate would make them even better. 
1 lb/16 oz/450 grams chopped bittersweet chocolate (70%) 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup whole-grain dark rye flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups muscovado sugar or light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Good quality sea salt, such as Maldon or flaky fleur de sel, for topping

First melt the chocolate and butter together over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally. Once melted remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

In a small bowl, whisk together the rye flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

Place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high, adding the sugar a little bit at a time, until all the sugar is incorporated. Turn the mixer to high and whip until the eggs have nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes. Note, that will be less if you make half the recipe.
Reduce speed to low, add the melted chocolate-butter mixture and vanilla. Mix to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, then add in the flour mixture just until combined. At this point the dough will be very soft and loose, it will firm as it chills.
Refrigerate dough until it just firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Note: after scooping, I froze half the balls. 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from the fridge and scoop with a rounded tablespoon onto the baking sheets, shaping the balls of dough into rounds and spacing them 2 inches apart. Top each mound of dough with a few flakes of sea salt, pressing gently so it adheres.
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or maybe a minute or two longer if your scoops were more mounded, until the cookies have completely puffed up and have a smooth bottom and rounded top. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let cool slightly (the cookies may flatten a bit), then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. The cookies with keep up to 3 days in an airtight container.

20 January 2015

An LA Food Diary

We're a few days out of a trip to Los Angeles, the Venice/Malibu area, and with that in mind, for this post, I thought it could be fun to relate how we ate over the course of a few days. For us East coasters, the pink sunset, sunny days and spectacular Point Dume are etched in good memory. And as it goes when you visit somewhere new, you take a piece back with you. As I head back into the kitchen here, I feel a kick of the Pacific informing our cuisine. Travelers, if you're looking, bookmark some of these items I cobbled together through recommendations, a torn page from a cooking magazine, a colleague and a few LA bloggers. You'll find natural sites much prettier than your plate, but you can eat well, too. 

Our welcome to Hollywood began with, naturally, a late night drink. I'd been on a plane, Ed already there, watching business presentations all day, so we stole away via Uber to the bar with only an address, no sign. Walk through a back door, open in a vintage-inspired bar with handcrafted cocktails. My O Henry, was a delicious mix of bourbon, ginger and lime, chilled by a rectangular ice cube and my gentleman, a fine aged scotch. Next time, I'd dress the part. 

An early lunch is a delicious bet here; while the popular, thick breakfast brioche and house jam seems delicious, if a bit unbalanced on the belly, the savory items are not to be missed. The sorell pesto rice bowl topped with feta, preserved lemon, radish and a poached egg screams Welcome to CA, and is benefited by hefty avocado and marinated kale garnishes, and the scrambled egg, avocado, pancetta, arugula on baguette is indeed a man-'wich. A hipper than hip vibe, yet also reasonable on the wallet. The coffee is delicious, too, and served in a carafe. 

The food is excellent. The wine. People will be ordering lots of plates, and lots of wine. You'll order a few things and realize that they are probably spending $300. The small plates are deliciously detailed but small. There was a rustic pile of escarole, almond and parmesan salad, super-fresh, wood-fired large shell-on shrimp (3!), house-made sausage with king mushrooms and a fire-roast cauliflower. In a Seinfeldian moment, a group of four foodies beside us asked the busboy for bread, which he promptly brought. That may have been the missing link to take our meal into more substantial territory. It's there if you ask! I'm sure it wasn't free...

Chocolatier Blue
A charming handmade chocolate shop across the street on Abbott Kinney, with a laid-back vibe. We bought a few chocolates: espresso, sage-honey, 75% dark, and then, incredulously, were handed a parchment bag of three giant oatmeal raisin cookies. "We give away what didn't sell at the end of the night!" said the bright bandana-wearing employee. The giant, oaty cookies lasted three days, not losing a shred of moisture. We brought one on each outdoor excursion for fuel. Ok, maybe we split the first one for dessert right away. With tea of course.

This clean, design-forward, small shop steps from Venice beach is so charming, we forewent both the Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia on Abbot Kinney altogether. They make a mean long black, have fresh beans and a kind, hip vibe. 

Probably one of my favorite finds, thanks to a coworker. A bare bones, fresh-caught fish shack. Order at the counter and you only have a few choices, which is exactly what I loved about it. Choose a fish fillet from the case for grilling, choose 2 sides. We did a halibut and an Aji tuna. Enjoy one of the many beers, sit outside or in at a checkered picnic table. We went for a late Friday lunch 4ish, and it was pleasantly occupied but with a nicely sparse crowd. A bonus for going at this time is being able to capture the sunset across the street afterwards.

The budget-answer to Gjelina. Our bill with a takeaway kale salad, burrata pizza, meatball side and store bought wine was half what it was the previous night. People stand in the alleyway and at the counter there scarfing down their hot pizza and sides but we were happy to drive peacefully around the corner into our Airbnb abode. 

Malibu Farm Cafe
Put on your sweater at sunset, walk down the pier jutting out into the pacific ocean and sit in what feels like someone's big rustic California kitchen. White-walled, oak-tabled, this quiet, romantic spot is ideal for the end of a day, and the tangy soy-mustard salmon and skirt steak are sturdy mains.  

A Friday morning market with a coffee cart, lovely citrus, avocados, fresh eggs and a seeded organic French baguette, which lasted 3 days on the counter.

Every couple blocks in this part of the country. We replenished our sundry supply with gruyere, smoked deli turkey, watercress, maple yogurt and on-sale California strawberries. Whole Foods are interesting for people watching in general and this SoCal one was no exception...

Be back soon with a new recipe xx

Photos: Malibu sunset, Point Dume I-3, Venice market, Getty Villa mosaic detail, Sqirl, Reel Inn

Martha rose shulman's marinated chicken

In an online community with so many recipes, it can be hard to know what to keep around, let alone what to jump on. What I notice is the desire to try new things competing with the familiarity of what you usually do. And the middle ground is that you don't always get to know something unless you make it a few times. It took me a while to get to this, probably because it's so basic, and that's exactly why I love it.

On the one hand, posting this re-hash of a speedy chicken cutlet recipe from Martha Rose Shulman of the Times feels, well, unoriginal, and yet this is exactly what I find myself searching for in the sea of online cooking; more hacks, techniques, concepts, things that get into your head and then can become riff-able. Practicality if you will. 

These chicken fillets, very briefly marinated, pounded, seasoned and pan fried very quickly in a hot pan, are a ticket. I've served them plain like this with just lemon and flakey salt alongside a bulked out green salad, and I've also placed fresh mozzarella on them right when they come out of the pan and tented with foil. An impromptu deglazing of the pan for a pan sauce is also nice.

Martha indicates starting with two 8 oz breasts, halving and pounding them thin, I have used tenderloins all the times I've made this. My local grocery has recently begun stocking Dartagnan tenders by the pound and they are less expensive than breasts, plus they are already small cuts. I'm happy with how tenders work in this recipe but you can also do as Martha says. 

Tender, flavorful free-range chicken, green veggies in olive oil and lemon and healthy avocado, on the table in a half hour. Hello January. I'm off to California for the first time in ages today. I'm excited for a bit higher temperatures, palm trees and the possibility of finding better avocados. If so, I'm stuffing them in my suitcase. Is that possible? I hope. We'll see! 

Lemon garlic chicken filets
Adapted from NYT

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced or puréed
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (8 ounces each) or 1 lb chicken tenders
1 T flour (optional- I have not found it necessary!)
High heat oil for pan frying

Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Cut each chicken breast into 2 equal pieces and place in the bowl. Stir together and refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes.

Remove chicken from marinade and pat drya little. With a flat mallet, pound chicken breast until about evenly 1/4 inch thick between plastic wrap or a ziplock. 

Stir together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary in a large bowl. Cut each chicken breast into 2 equal pieces, and place in the bowl. Mix together and refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes. If using tenders, keep whole. Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry slightly (discard marinade) and pound chicken breast with the flat side of a meat tenderizer until about 1/4 inch thick. Doing this inside a ziplock or between plastic wrap is ideal. Season the pounded chicken breasts with sea salt and pepper, dredge very lightly in the flour if using, tap to remove excess. Heat a wide, heavy skillet over high heat and add oil. When oil is hot, place a few pieces of chicken in the pan – however many will fit without crowding. Cook for 1 1/2-2 minutes, until bottom is browned in spots. Turn over and brown other side, about 1 1/2 minutes. (Do not overcook or chicken will be dry.)

07 January 2015

house (turkey) meatballs

I figure waiting for the perfect time to capture sun-drenched kitchen photos for this overdue post is a game not worth playing. I've been making them all Fall and can't wait any longer. Sure I could schedule them on the lunch menu some winter Saturday but on the weekend breakfast is usually lunch and menus rarely scheduled, and that would just be keeping you further away from the point of these meatballs: winter dinner. These have become our house meatballs and I particularly love making them when it is Unacceptably. Cold. Out. They're turkey-based, lightly herbed, very tender and just warm you the heck up. Tomato sauce does that, yes? So open a bottle of red, dress greens (I love caesary baby kale with this) and warm some bread. I promise you don't need to bother with spaghetti. 

Over the summer, with zucchini and corn around, I made Ottolenghi's spiced turkey meatballs several times. After the fresh produce went away I started with this recipe from TheKitchn because the technique sounded up my alley. After being formed, the meatballs are lightly browned in olive oil and then tomato sauce is poured directly on top and the pan is covered, the heat lowered a little  and they simmer to cook through. I love this method for the same reason as the stove top to oven method with Ottolenghi's: you get them browned but not burned, and just cooked through and tender. After the meat simmers in the sauce for even the 10 minutes here, it adds such richness the sauce, too. I think the best compliment on these, besides the fact that I make them once a week, sometimes twice, was that they were mistaken for beef meatballs. We actually like them better than the ones at one of our favorite fancy pizza joints, which are beef! 

I like to take the opportunity to use up both homemade breadcrumbs and tomato sauce here, but you can use whatever sauce you have. Same goes for breadcrumbs. Making your own is as easy as forgetting about a baguette for a day, de-crusting it and whizzing in the processor. I freeze the breadcrumbs and use them when needed. They defrost in no time when left out. As for turkey, get good, humane stuff, from a good source. And if you have it, either a little torn fresh mozzarella or even more Parmesan is wonderful on top of these. When you take the pan off the heat and see they are done, the whole thing will be very hot. Throw some extra herbs and cheese on, just a little, partially cover the pan and set it on the table to rest while you get everything else ready. When you sit down, it will be melted. Bon appetite! 

Italian turkey meatballs
tweaked from thekitchn.

Notes: as you can probably guess, I usually make half of this recipe at a time, as half is hearty enough for two, about 14 meatballs, and involves no batch browning. If you make the whole thing you'll have to brown in batches before simmering. 

1 pound good quality ground turkey, 85% lean or 93% lean
1/4 cup grated onion, using large holes on a grater
1 large egg
1/3 cup breadcrumbs, I used fresh from stale bread
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Asagio cheese
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley (I have used half fresh oregano too)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups tomato sauce, homemade or store-bought
Shaved Parmesan or Asagio or fresh mozzarella, torn, to serve, optional
Combine the turkey, onion, egg, breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, and parsley in a large bowl. Mix gently with your hands until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. 
Roll the meat mixture into 1 1/4-inch balls. You should have 26-30.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or sauté pan. Place the meatballs in hot skillet and brown for  around 4 minutes, turning so each side hits the pan, gently rotating so they brown evenly. Brown in batches if making whole recipe.
Reduce heat to just below medium, add the tomato sauce to coat and cover pan. Simmer the meatballs and sauce for another 10 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through. To test cut into one  to see no pink or use a thermometer, stacking them if necessary. 
Remove from heat, shake skillet to coat in sauce, top with additional herbs and cheese, and let rest a a few minutes on the table, the lid on but ajar.