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pork roasted in wine + pastis

gorgeous slices

It’s Sunday and I just spent a good bit of time reading the “real estate” (read: totally absurdly expensive homes that no one could afford—not very “real”) section of the New York Times. Why do I torment myself like this? I am still scratching my head about how the Times is able to locate so many people who can afford multi-million-dollar homes. One of today’s features was an arty couple who have bought an old chapel and manor house in Italy. Mama.

As the kids say, whatever. I like my tiny kitchen. I especially like it on a sunny Sunday after a quick shop and a yoga class. I like that it has a sodastream: unlimited seltzer water! And the shelves are stocked with cookbooks with hundreds of slips of paper tucked in them. Lots of recipes to try out. So much potential.

nutmeg and pastis

I guess pork roast is kind of a thing here. It’s lean, it’s adaptable, it cooks faster than a roast of beef—all things I look for in my regularly scheduled programming in the kitchen. I have eyed a similar recipe in Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking, for pork simmered in red wine, for some time. As the wine reduces, a thick sauce forms. I think it wouldn’t work in the slow cooker properly, so this may just be a Sunday thing. You can rock out to some music, clean the kitchen, do some laundry. All the while, the pork is roasting on top of the stove. It is pretty magical. Bonus: you can do this in a house that did not cost $2.7 million.

A word of advice: do not skimp on the time you spend browning (and browning) the roast before you cook it. This adds a huge amount of flavor to the finished product, and makes the roast look incredibly appetizing to boot. I adapted Marcella’s recipe to incorporate pastis. Pastis or pernod is an anise-flavored liqueur, and I love fennel with my pork. In fact, you probably do, too. You know the little seeds you find in your Italian sausage (both hot and sweet)? They’re fennel seeds. If you despise fennel, just leave the pastis out. Still delicious, and very close to the original recipe. Skip the real estate, and head to the dining section. Happy Sunday.

Pork roasted in wine + pastis

Adapted from Essentials of Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 center-cut pork roast, about 3 lbs. (preferably with a cap of fat on one side)
  • 1/4 all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup pernod or pastis (anise-flavored liqueur)
  • 2 to 3 cups red wine such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or chianti
  • 2 bay leaves
  • fresh nutmeg for grating
  • kosher salt
  • freshly cracked pepper

1. Choose an enameled cast-iron or other very heavy pan with a lid, one which is just a smidgen larger than your roast. Warm butter and olive oil in this pan over medium heat until butter foams and the foaming subsides. Meanwhile, spread the flour on a plate and coat the entire roast in flour. Brown the roast, patiently, fatty side first, until dark brown on all sides. This will take 15 minutes or so. If the butter in the pan begins to burn, reduce the heat, and continue browning the roast.

2. When roast is browned, pour in the pastis, carefully. It will foam up right away. After a few seconds, add the wine, just until only less than an inch of the roast is above the level of the wine. Add bay leaves, a few gratings of fresh nutmeg, salt (about 1 teaspoon at first), and freshly cracked pepper. Use a fork to turn the roast a few times, and then return it to a position with the fatty side on top.

3. When wine mixture returns to a simmer, adjust the flame so that, with the lid securely on, the pot is barely simmering. Cook at a low simmer for about 3 hours, turning roast occasionally, perhaps every 30 minutes or so. If the level of the wine is lower each time, that is okay. By the end of cooking, you should have a small amount of thick sauce in the pot.

4. The roast will be extremely dark in color, tender and nearly falling apart after 3 hours. Remove it to a carving board and slice it thinly to serve. Pass sauce along side.

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hamantaschen | muhn or linzer

 pockets

When I was a little kid, when we got into bed at night, we listened to tapes of a guy reading the King James Version of the Bible. The tapes were in giant dark green upholstered fake leather cases, lined up row after row.  The man who narrated them was fairly expressionless. He didn’t really get into what he was reading, or act out the parts, or do accents or voices or anything. The tapes started at Genesis and went all the way through to Revelation. Deuteronomy got a little dry at a certain point and Ezekiel and Kings both have passages where you have to listen to a lot of building measurements in cubits. What are cubits?

bowl of butterMostly I did what I was supposed to—and this is what a rigorous religious upbringing gets you, if your parents play their cards right—I just listened to the next tape in order, cubits or so-and-so begetting so-and-so or what have you. But every once in a while I would beg to hear my two favorite books of the Bible. They were short books and you could pretty much hear the whole story on your way to sleep. One favorite was Ruth, and to this day my favorite name is Boaz because of that story. The other was Esther, the Jewish queen who saved her people from destruction.

ground poppyseeds

As a result, although I am not Jewish, I love the Purim holiday. In college I was beyond excited to learn that in Judaism, Esther has her own holiday! And people dress up for it! And it is super joyful. And there are special cookies to be made! See, all those nights, in my bed, I would be so angry at Haman and his outrageous abuses of power. I would curl up in a ball and think, Haman, you lying snake, I shake my fist at you! I would listen all the way through the part where the king honors Mordecai (Esther’s uncle), and makes Esther his queen, and hangs Haman, and Haman’s 10 sons.  At this point I would pump my fist in righteous celebration, and mutter, yesssss! The last chapter recounts all the details of the holiday of Purim, but somehow I never focused on that, and in all honesty, by then I may have been asleep. It is pretty exhausting stuff, after all.

linzer

These cookies are traditional at Purim, but I think they are one of the all-time great cookies. Crisp, buttery exterior, toothsome pastry interior, a burst of flavorsome filling: this is cookie heaven. Most sources say the name hamantaschen actually derives from the German word for poppy (the traditional filling), muhn, and the word for pocket, taschen. And when you look at these little triangles, they really are just pockets filled with poppyseeds. Here I use a second filling, which is not very traditional: a coating of melted chocolate topped with a dollop of raspberry preserves. Also delicious. The filling recipes below are each enough to fill an entire batch of cookies. You can halve the recipes to make half muhn and half linzer, or simply make one or the other. Leftover muhn filling is great dolloped into the middle of your favorite coffee cake.

muhn

The cookie here is a very short butter pastry, which doesn’t fold easily. I know, you’re thinking, that doesn’t make sense—the whole point of this cookie is that you fold it. But when you get to the part about forming the cookies, you’ll see that even though the pastry will mostly break along the fold, you can simply press it back together without risking flat, melting hamantaschen. (When I first read this post on SmittenKitchen I felt so much better after countless years of runny taschen.) Even though it is a pain in the neck to form these crumbly cookies, the truth is that they don’t spread or run on the baking sheet, and thus will save you countless hours of heartbreak. And therefore leave you even more time for listening to the King James Version of the Bible on tape, or whatever else it is you do for a fun time.

cookie of liberation

Hamantaschen | muhn or linzer

Adapted from SmittenKitchen, which is adapted from this recipe on the NY Times; makes 60 cookies.

Pastry

  • grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) butter cut into small pieces, room temperature

1. Add zest, powdered sugar, flour, and salt to the bowl of your food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to combine. Add yolks and pieces of butter. Pulse in long pulses (2 seconds or so) until the dough forms a clumpy mass, or a ball. This takes many pulses. Scrape dough onto plastic wrap, knead it two or three times, form it into a flatt-ish disc, and wrap it up tightly. Transfer to refrigerator for at least one hour, or overnight.

Muhn Filling (poppy seed, enough for a whole batch of cookies)

  • 1 cup poppy seeds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1/3 cup golden or black raisins, or chopped prunes
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur (such as Cointreau)
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter

1. In two batches, grind poppy seeds in your very clean coffee grinder (the kind with a blade, not a burr grinder) until they are sticky and chopped. Scrape into a saucepan. Add milk, sugar, zest and raisins. Warm over medium heat to a bare simmer, reduce heat and simmer until seeds absorb the milk. This takes about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally, and more frequently towards end of cooking.

2. Add remaining ingredients and stir well to mix. Set filling aside to cool completely. This can also be done the day before and kept in the refrigerator.

Linzer filling (enough for a whole batch of cookies)

  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)
  • 1/2 cup raspberry preserves (with seeds)

1. In a metal bowl suspended over a pan of boiling water, carefully melt the chocolate, stirring constantly once it begins to melt. When just a few solid pieces are left, remove from heat and continue stirring. Allow mixture to cool completely.

To assemble the cookies:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line up to 4 baking sheets with parchment.

2. Cut chilled pastry in half and place half on a floured counter. Lightly flour your rolling pin and roll dough (forming a circle) to just shy of 1/4-inch thick. Use a 2.5-inch round cookie cutter to cut circles, placing them on prepared baking sheets nearly touching. Add just 1/2 teaspoon of muhn filling on each cookie. If making the linzer version, place a smear of melted chocolate with 1/2 teaspoon of raspberry preserves on top of each. Do not overfill cookies.

3. Clean hands, then carefully fold cookies. First fold up one side across filling. The pastry will likely break along the fold; simply nudge and pinch it back together. Repeat with two more sides on each cookie, forming triangles. Pinch along the edges to seal the cookies.

4. Place cookies, one tray at a time, into the oven. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until light brown. Let cookies rest on tray for 5 minutes before carefully removing to a wire rack.

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sweet + tangy meatballs

For a long time I have played around with Marcus Samuelsson’s Swedish meatball recipe, which is a great addition to a Christmas Eve supper, or a Christmas lunch. The combination of sweet (lingonberry preserves) and creamy (heavy cream) and tangy (pickle juice) with the rich meatballs is just the perfect holiday mixture.

When I make meatballs, I like to make a lot. It’s a pretty labor-intensive—not to mention messy—process. You can always freeze them for later and then have the benefit of having messed up the kitchen only once. When I started making these meatballs, I would fry them in oil on top of the stove. But with the larger batch, I find that it’s dramatically less messy than frying in batches, and I can make sure the meatballs are cooked all the way through. Sure, the resulting meatballs are kind of flat on one side (the side sitting on the baking sheet), but this is a price I’m more than willing to pay to avoid a grease-coated kitchen. If you’re dedicated to producing the cordon-bleu version of these, by all means fry away!

While the meatballs are cooking, you’re cooking up a sweet, tangy, and then ultimately creamy sauce on top of the stove. After the meatballs are cooked and the sauce is thickened up, you can combine them right away in a slow-cooker on low or on top of the stove on low, to coat the meatballs and allow the flavors to mix. After that, you can reheat or keep warm at will. If you’re freezing part of the meatballs, you should freeze them after baking in the oven, and make up the sauce when you’re ready to use them.

Samuelsson’s recipe is based on his family’s Swedish traditions. In my family, molasses is a traditional ingredient in just about anything. And we get the best molasses in the world from Center Market in Cambridge, Md. I keep lots of it in the house this time of year. I played around with using it here in lieu of honey in the meatballs themselves, and I added them to the sauce, just like I do to my barbecue sauce. The result is a nicely browned meatball, and a rich and sweet sauce. (By the way, if you prefer, you can make up the meatballs as below and make the barbecue sauce recipe to dress them. Also delicious.)

Enjoy serving these to your family and friends—and adapt the recipe with traditional ingredients in your house this time of year.

Sweet + tangy meatballs

Based on Marcus Samuelsson’s Swedish meatballs, which is a great recipe

Meatballs:

  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large or 2 medium red onions, finely sliced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground veal
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • pinch of cloves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Line two large baking sheets with baking parchment and set aside. Preheat oven to 425 F. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and half-and-half and allow to rest, stirring occasionally while sauteing the onions. Set up food processor fitted with metal blade.

2. In a large saute pan, melt olive oil and butter together over medium heat. Add sliced onion and saute until soft and transparent. Do not allow to caramelize. Scrape contents of pan into food processor. (Set pan aside without washing to make sauce later.) Add soaked bread crumbs. Pulse about 20 times until onion is finely chopped and mixture is well combined.

3. In a large bowl, combine onion mixture, ground meats, molasses, eggs and spices. Using your hands, combine until mixture is consistent, but use a light touch. Do not squeeze or manhandle the mixture. Take your time. When combined, set aside and wash your hands.

4. Place the meat mixture and baking sheets on a work surface. Wet your hands and begin to form meatballs the size of golf balls. Pinch off a suitable amount of the mixture and lightly form them into balls by smoothing between your hands. Line meatballs up, not touching, on the sheets. When all meatballs are formed, place the sheets into the oven and lower the temperature to 400 F. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the internal temperature of meatballs is 170 F. Remove from oven and set aside.

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ancho chile powder (this is not the same as chili powder, which should not be used)
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 c molasses
  • 1 and 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or pickle juice
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

1. While meatballs are in the oven, make the sauce. Using the saute pan you used for the onions, warm tomato paste and ketchup over medium-high heat. When mixed and bubbling, add chile powder, cayenne, and allspice. When these are mixed in, add molasses and stir until bubbling and combined. Slowly add apple cider and whisk until mixture is smooth and combined. Cook this mixture until thickened and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Adjust heat lower if boiling too rapidly.

2. When mixture is thickened, add salt, chicken stock, and vinegar. Whisk again until very smooth and continue simmering until reduced and thick, another 10 to 20 minutes. Taste sauce and correct seasonings. Remove pan from heat and stir a few times. Slowly add cream, whisking constantly, and bring back to a simmer. Keep warm until ready to combine with meatballs.Taste again and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

3. To finish the dish, place the cooked meatballs in a large heavy Dutch oven or sauteuse with high sides. Cover with sauce and gently combine until meatballs are coated. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve. Serve as hors d’oeuvres, or with mashed root vegetables, mashed potatoes, or egg noodles.

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rosemary + olive oil bread

Ty came back from a recent trip to Maryland with this lovely, gorgeous rosemary, and a recipe for rosemary bread from his mother. This bread is so easy to knead, in part because it is a soft and more liquid bread due to the use of olive oil. This makes it a bit sticky on the kneading board. You can divide it into two loaves (grease and line the loaf pans), but below I give directions for one large round. The dough is far too loose to rise in a round on its own. The solution I came up with was to use the ring from my springform pan, unlatched in its largest circumference, as a pen to hold the rising dough. And boy, does this dough rise–and fast!

The speed with which the dough rises makes it another weekend winner in my opinion. In total, it has about an hour less rising time than most other breads I frequently make. If you aren’t a regular bread-maker, this may be a good loaf to start with. Just remember, most recipes you try in the future won’t be this easy to mix up, or so fast to rise.

I think fresh rosemary is really key in this recipe. You could use even more than the 4 tablespoons of minced rosemary needles I call for in the recipe. Its sticky, piney flavors add a lot to the bread. Bonus: if you toast this in the morning, your house will smell just as lovely as it did when the bread was baking, all over again. I wonder this winter if I might try this in other variations, perhaps with thyme or even chives.

Rosemary + olive oil bread

1 enormous round

  • 2.5 cups warm (wrist temperature) water
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 6 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup olive oil plus more to grease pan
  • 2 tablespoons salt, divided
  • 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced

1. Place warm water in a large bread bowl and whisk in honey. Sprinkle yeast on surface of water and allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon add 4 cups of flour, then oil, 1 tablespoon of salt, and rosemary. Stir until smooth and add remaining flour. Mix it as thoroughly as you can in the bowl with the spoon, then turn onto floured counter and knead for 10 to 12 minutes, vigorously, until smooth. Add small amounts of additional flour if dough is sticking to the counter. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover it with a clean towel. Let it rise for 45 to 60 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.

2. Punch risen dough down and form it into a smooth round. Line a metal baking sheet with baking parchment. While holding the ring only of a springform pan in the open position, spray it with cooking spray, or brush it well with olive oil.  Place the ring on the lined baking sheet, and then place the round of bread inside the ring. Cover it again and let it rise about 45 minutes, until doubled in bulk.

3. Preheat oven to 450 F and place a 13 x 9-inch pan filled with boiling water on the bottom rack of the oven. Place the other rack in the middle of the oven. Sprinkle the top of the loaf with remaining salt, and then place it in the oven (leave the springform ring in place) to bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Bread is cooked when it is a deep golden brown, and when the loaf is lifted off the baking sheet and the bottom of the loaf is tapped, it makes a hollow sound. Let bread cool for at least an hour before slicing.

 

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pumpkin caramels w sea salt + pepitos

I’m having more than a bit of difficulty this week, attempting to write a new blog post while the Internet is crawling with new fall recipes—all of which are evocative of the crisp blue sunshine—or the soggy gray chill—of this season. Every recipe that flits across my screen features telltale words of the season: harvest (as in tart), ragu (as in bolognese with chicken livers), brandade (as in potatoes and salted fish). When my brain becomes a vagrant these days I find myself pondering a mythical panade, one that includes butternut squash, and kale, and sage. (I will finalize an approach to this dish, and you will be the first to know when I do.)

Meanwhile, here is a recipe that deserves some practice between now and Halloween, or, dare I say it? Thanksgiving? I am not much of a sweets-eater, but I do love making candy, probably because my grandfather, when he lived with us, would occasionally take up a notion to make penuche on a whim when I was a kid. I can still see him placing an 8 x 8 pan of it on the counter to cool. It was the only thing I ever knew the man to make in the kitchen. And lord help me, I swear, he could eat the entire pan by himself.

This is too good to give to trick-or-treaters (unless you really, really love—and I mean adore—the kids in your neighborhood), but it makes a great treat for after a dinner party, or an afternoon pick-me-up in the office. The salt keys up all the flavors in the spices.

I picked this recipe up last year from Food52. It was a contest winner, and deservedly so. What a brilliant idea. And the candy is a lot like caramel, but it has everything you love about pumpkin pie, and at the same time it lacks that super-sticky caramel factor. You’ll see in the recipe that after the pumpkin puree is added, you have to cook it for a very long time (in candy terms) to get the mixture back up to the “soft ball” stage on the candy thermometer. My guess is that this is due to the moisture content of the canned pumpkin (or any pureed pumpkin), which has to be evaporated quite a bit before the temperature can rise sufficiently. I am toying with the idea that you could take the pumpkin puree and cook it separately in a pan for a while, or roast it in a thin layer in the oven for a short while, to both intensify the pumpkin flavor and reduce some of the moisture before it goes into the candy. The only trick there would be to do this very carefully so the puree would not harden or crisp up.

Give it a try if you dare, or just bite the bullet and make this some evening when you feel like standing at the stove, stirring a pot of sugar, is just the ticket to your personal sanity.

You might even want to eat the entire pan all by yourself.

Pumpkin caramels w sea salt + pepitos

Adapted from this recipe at Food52, makes 64 1-inch square caramels

  • 2/3 cup pepitos
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp mace
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ginger
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into slices
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt

1. Line the bottom and the sides of an 8-inch square pan with parchment. Butter the parchment on the sides of the pan only.

2. Heat a cast-iron skillet (do not add oil or butter) over medium-high heat. Add pepitos and toast them, shaking the pan frequently, until seeds make a popping sound and are golden brown. Spread the pepitos in the bottom of the prepared pan.

3. Combine cream, pumpkin puree, and spices in a pan. Heat it over medium heat until almost boiling and then set aside.

4. Select a heavy bottomed pan (I used a Le Creuset round French oven) with high sides. Add the sugar, maple and corn syrup, and water to this pan. Place pan over medium-high heat, and stir constantly until sugars are melted. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Allow the mixture to boil until it reaches 244 degrees (the soft ball temperature).

5. Remove pan from heat for a moment and—careful!—add the hot cream and pumpkin mixture. Stir well and return to heat until the mixture reaches 240 F on the candy thermometer. This takes at least 30 minutes. Stir occasionally during this time, and stir constantly when the mixture reaches 230 F.

6. When the candy reaches 240 F, remove from heat and add butter and lemon juice, stirring vigorously. Pour the mixture directly into the prepared pan over the pepitos in a prepared pan. Cool candy in the pan for 30 minutes and then sprinkle the fleur de sel over the top. After candy has set for at least 2 hours, flip the candy out of the pan onto a cutting board. Use a hot, sharp knife or bench scraper to slice into 1-inch squares. Wrap individually in parchment or waxed paper.

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oatmeal molasses buttermilk bread

I was one of those ridiculously lucky children whose mother baked us bread every week. While I learned how to make a lot of different dishes from my mother, it is when I’m kneading bread that I’m most reminded of her cooking when I was younger. Her version generally was a whole-wheat bread that she mixed in a giant metal bowl. It was always soft, and pliable, and more delicious than any other bread. For lunch we’d often get sandwiches made with her bread, butter, and honey. If you’re also a bread-maker, you know that to develop the gluten properly in whole-grain breads, you have to knead the dough for a punishing amount of time. At least 15 minutes, sometimes more. You have to knead until the dough is pliable, and no longer gets stretch marks. It becomes slightly damp (this is the moisture that forms from the protein formation in the dough), and gains the texture of an earlobe, or the skin on the inside of your wrist, or baby’s skin. This is the thing with bread. Sure you have a recipe, but this is an art form. And for art, we must suffer. Thus: kneading.

I started making bread, too, at some point. I started with quick breads, but moved to learning to knead early on. (Smart strategy, mom—get the kids in on the act before they’re smart enough to realize what is going on.) Bread is something a child can make because it doesn’t involve chopping or heavy kitchen equipment—you just need a wooden spoon, a giant bowl, and your ingredients. And, for most of the preparation, using your hands is the best way forward. Mom’s basic bread recipe was on a 3 x 5 card taped inside the overhead cupboard in the kitchen, the one where she kept the salt, and vanilla, cinnamon, cream of tartar (for making biscuits) and baking soda. You know that shelf on the cabinet, right? The lowest shelf in any cook’s kitchen contains these items or a variation on the theme. So I would stand on the stool and mix the ingredients precisely. I don’t recall that the instructions of how to knead, and how many rises, and for how long, were on that 3 x 5 card. We’d all seen mom make the bread constantly. That part was literally self-evident.

Back then on the cookbook shelf was a book mom’s friend Ruth had gotten us at a yard sale for a few cents, the now-classic Vegetarian Epicure. It had a recipe for oatmeal bread, and I experimented with it once. We all loved the oatmeal bread, and it became a family favorite. Over time I’ve made hundreds of permutations. This one is based on five or six different recipes, including this one, which introduced me to the concept of using buttermilk to make bread. I may never go back! To learn about whole-grain bread and bread-making, I also recommend The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book. Oatmeal makes the bread toast up beautifully, and helps the loaves retain moisture and stay fresher longer. You can swap out the flours here and use a combination of any of the three, but I find that having at least 2 cups of white flour helps the gluten form faster and makes the bread’s crumb more consistent. But don’t ask me to explain why! This is art.

Oatmeal molasses buttermilk bread

  • 2 and 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 2 tablespoons butter, very soft
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 cups white flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups rye flour
  • 2 cups fine whole-wheat pastry flour

1. Warm buttermilk and molasses together to about 95 F, which is roughly the temperature of your finger. (If you put your finger in the warmed liquid it should feel neither hot nor cold.) Pour this mixture into a very large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast over top and let it soften for 5 minutes.

2. Whisk yeast into buttermilk and molasses. Add butter, salt, rolled oats, and white flour. Use a wooden spoon to thoroughly mix this into a very wet dough. When it is uniformly mixed, stir in the rye flour with the wooden spoon. Then add as much whole-wheat flour as the dough will accept at this point, choking up on the wooden spoon and mixing vigorously. Use some of the remaining whole-wheat flour to dust the counter. Turn dough onto counter and begin to knead it, adding whole-wheat flour as needed. Knead the dough, which should remain very moist and a bit sticky, without sticking to the counter at all.  (Don’t add all the flour unless you really need it to manage the dough.) Knead for a total of about 15 minutes. The dough should feel soft and have the texture of your earlobe. It should be uniform and very smooth.

3. Turn the dough into a lightly oiled bowl at least twice as big as the volume of dough. Cover with a damp tea towel and let it rise in a warm place for 60 to 90 minutes, until double in bulk. (I use my oven set to “proofing” setting at 95 F.) Punch down and return to the bowl for another 60 minutes, until doubled in bulk again. Punch dough down, divide into two equal halves (use your kitchen scale to do this), and let the dough rest.

4. Grease two loaf pans and line with parchment. Form each dough half into a loaf and place gently into the bread pan. Return to rise one final time, covered in a damp cloth, for about 60 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 F. After the loaves have risen, place in the hot oven and bake for about 35 to 45 minutes. Loaves should be golden on top and when they are popped out of the bread pan, they should make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.

5. Remove from loaf pans and let loaves cool on a wire cooling rack. When totally cool, store in an airtight plastic bag or container.

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rye + whole wheat buttermilk bread

If we ever win the lottery, the first thing I would do is design a kitchen with a special counter about 18 inches below counter height for kneading bread. I know this sounds crazy, because who wins millions of dollars and then thinks about how much easier it will be for her to knead bread now that she’s on Easy Street? Obviously, I was meant for a life of poor obscurity and drudgery. Or! I was destined to live in a paradise that smells constantly of freshly baked bread, where a 5-foot-tall baker can knead to her heart’s content with perfect leverage, suffering nary a knot in her shoulder.

Especially when you like to bake breads with whole grains, kneading at “counter height” (I swear counters are designed for people over 6 feet tall) for 15 to 20 minutes can be a challenge. I usually stand on one of the bottom rungs of our stepladder when I knead. It gives me a little bit of an advantage that really pays off in minute 12 of the kneading process. This bread, all I can tell you, this bread is worth it. And don’t even think of quitting kneading too soon in the process. You want all those whole grains to form long, smooth strands of gluten. It is what makes this bread so special when you pull it apart, fresh out of the oven. This has to be at least as good as winning the lottery.

I’m not sure what gives this bread its tender soft interior paired with a shattering crisp exterior. I suspect the buttermilk—the only liquid in this bread—is the secret. While I love the flour mixture I recommend below—one-third white, one-third wheat, one-third dark rye—you can combine the flours any way you like. If you eliminate white flour all together, you will need to extend your kneading time and rising may take a bit longer, especially the first time around. The instructions below walk you through how to braid these loaves, which I highly recommend so that you can pull bits of the loaf off and eat them warm, with fresh butter. (Save the second loaf for the prim practice of slicing the next day, for toast and sandwiches. Eating your civilized toast you will reflect wistfully on your savagery the day before.) However, you can also simply form each half of the dough into a loaf, plop it into the pan, and bake it like a normal loaf of bread. No one here is judging you. Anybody who kneads bread for the 15 to 20 required minutes can do whatever he or she wants, in my book. Bonus points if you’re short and your counter is high.

Rye + whole wheat buttermilk bread

Adapted from thirschfeld’s recipe on food52

Makes 2 loaves

  • 2.5 cups buttermilk, heated to about 95 degrees
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups dark rye flour (finely ground)
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons fine salt or 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, very soft

1. In a large bowl, mix warmed buttermilk (it should feel about the temperature of your finger, or use a meat/candy thermometer), honey, and yeast. Whisk to dissolve yeast.

2. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the all-purpose flour, then the rye flour. Stir until well mixed, then add salt, egg, and butter. Stir until mixed again. Add about 1 cup of the whole wheat flour and stir until mixed it. (Dough should be getting very stiff.) If you can add more flour in the bowl, add it 1/4 cup at a time, until you can no longer mix it in.

3. Sprinkle some of the remaining whole wheat flour from the measuring cup onto the clean counter. Dump dough onto counter. Begin to knead, mixing in the remaining whole wheat flour as you knead. Use all-purpose flour to continue lightly flouring the counter if dough sticks. Knead until dough becomes smooth, strands of gluten have formed, and dough’s texture is soft like baby skin. This takes at least 15 minutes.

4. Form dough into a smooth ball and place in a large, oiled bowl. Cover with a warm, damp tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled in bulk. (I use a giant measuring cup for this so I can see the dough has doubled. And I use the “proofing” setting on my oven set to 95 F.)

5. Punch dough down, form a ball, return to bowl, let rise 1 more hour, until doubled in bulk again. Grease and flour two loaf pans.

6. Punch dough down and turn out onto counter. Divide in half. Divide each half into three balls. (I use my kitchen scale to get symmetrical pieces.) Roll the first three balls into thick ropes a bit longer than your loaf pan. Pinch the ends together tightly and braid the ropes, pinching them together again at the end. Snuggle the braid down into the first loaf pan. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

7. Cover pans and return to a warm place. Let them rise again for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled again. Preheat oven to 375 F. When bread has risen for the last time, remove all coverings from it. If desired, brush with some well-beaten egg and sprinkle with rolled oats or a rolled 7-grain mixture. Pop loaves into the oven on a baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes, until loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottom. Remove loaves from pan and let cool as long as you can. Pull apart braids or slice, as you wish.

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lamb bolognese

Well, here is a Sunday project for you. Double this recipe and you’re in business for a meal this week and another meal in the future. There is nothing hard about making this; you simply have to be around for a few hours. While there are no time-consuming or advanced techniques involved, there are no shortcuts for time in this recipe. It literally takes forever for the milk to soak in and evaporate—this step often takes at least an hour for me, usually more. And turning up the heat doesn’t speed things along, and it usually causes the milk to curdle. (If this happens to you, it won’t affect the taste of the sauce, so don’t worry.) You really have to have the patience to keep this at a very low heat for hours. This is a good dish to make when you’re spring-cleaning the kitchen, and have to be in there for several hours anyway.

This recipe is similar to the classic bolognese recipe I have shared before, but last weekend I only had a single pound of ground lamb in the freezer. I also wanted to use fennel in the soffrito instead of the classic celery. To be honest, after the fennel cooks this long in the sauce, it is hard to distinguish from celery—and you should definitely substitute celery here if that’s what you have. Also, if you keep a kosher kitchen, there is no reason you can’t substitute more olive oil for the butter, and use some kind of stock in place of the milk. To be honest, not every bolognese recipe in the world calls for these dairy products, and I’m convinced they don’t necessarily change the flavor that much.

You can toss this with pasta, or use it in lasagne, or—this is our favorite—make “sloppy giuseppes” by heaping a big helping on top of a thick slice of crusty Italian bread. Serve that in a dish with a sharp knife and a fork. But beware: you might eat the portion you were planning to freeze, too.

Lamb bolognese

Adapted from Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Italian Cooking. Makes about 3 cups of sauce, enough for 8 servings and up to 1 1/2 pounds of pasta. It is easy to make a double or triple batch of this sauce (if you have a large and wide enough pot) and freeze the extra for quick weeknight meals.

  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped fennel
  • 1 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 and 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 and 1/3 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juices
  • 1 and 1/2 lb. of pasta: tagliatelle, fettuccine, or other

1. Select a very wide and heavy pot. I use the bottom of my large Le Creuset braiser. This will ensure that the liquids evaporate through the long cooking period for this sauce. Add oil, butter, and onion to the pan. Turn heat to medium, and no higher. Cook until onion is translucent.

2. Add fennel and carrot and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, making sure vegetables are well coated.

3. Add lamb, salt and pepper. Stir constantly, breaking lamb up with your spoon, and cook until it has lost its pink color.

4. Add the milk and simmer, stirring nearly constantly, until milk has completely evaporated. This takes quite a long time, as much as 45 minutes. Do not be tempted to turn the heat too high or the milk will scorch—keep it at a gentle, constant simmer, until the milk has evaporated. Add nutmeg.

5. Add white wine and let it bubble and simmer again until it has completely evaporated. Stir often.

6. Add tomatoes, stir and combine thoroughly. When it comes to a simmer again, turn sauce to the lowest possible simmer. Let it cook uncovered for at least 3 hours, stirring from time to time. The sauce should simmer at the barest level, with a bubble breaking the surface just occasionally. If the sauce becomes too dry, add 1/2 cup water as necessary. When the sauce is done, though, all liquid should once again be evaporated.

7. Prepare pasta and cook until just al dente. Toss pasta with sauce, mixing thoroughly. Serve in warmed dishes, and pass a hard cheese such as parmigiano-reggiano.

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mushroom + spinach lasagne

Do you ever see a recipe in a publication or a blog and think to yourself, that looks delicious! And then quickly realize, that is way too indulgent for anything but a major holiday or occasion? (And I don’t mean Presidents’ Day, either, but a really serious holiday.) And indeed, where this lasagne began was with a recipe Sam Sifton shared in the New York Times, for a lasagne that he was served at someone’s wedding. The original recipe looks divine, but it has four cups of cheese in it as well as a rich bechamel sauce! And no temporizing ingredients except for a tiny amount of roasted radicchio. And it sounded absolutely wonderful, but the amount of cardio I would have to do—hours every day for weeks and weeks—to work it off was, well, a bit prohibitive. I still left a good amount of cheese intact, as well as the butter for the bechamel, but I don’t regret the substitutions one bit.

I created this version keeping the mushrooms intact, and, in fact, adding more. I love mushrooms in all forms and had long been in search of an excellent mushroom lasagne recipe. The trick is to cook the mushrooms long enough so all the liquid emerges and then evaporates, but not so long that they become dry and shriveled. I decided to add spinach, of the organic, chopped, frozen variety for convenience. Same as the mushrooms, the key here is to squeeze every last drop of water out of the spinach so that it is totally and completely dry. I have to say, the process here has an element I had never seen before, but which I am now prepared to adopt henceforth in all cooking involving both bechamel and garlic. Instead of frying the garlic with the mushrooms and spinach, you actually saute it in the butter while making the roux for the bechamel. The sauce has such a rich garlic flavor—it is absolutely perfect!

While you could serve this on a weeknight, you would have to come home a bit early to get it ready in time for kids if you have them—total prep and cooking time is about two hours. There is some assembly required, and you have to prepare the bechamel as well as the mushroom-spinach filling. I think it is a bit more weekend-appropriate, but unless you are a family of six (and lord love you if you are), you will have leftovers for lunches or supper the next day. For the two of us, it lasted through at least two days of lunch and two suppers. I couldn’t have been happier, especially thinking about all the exercise time I saved myself.

Mushroom + spinach lasagne

Based on this recipe in the New York Times by Sam Sifton and Home / Made; serves 6 to 8 people

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large (6 oz.) red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 10 oz frozen spinach, squeezed bone dry in a kitchen towel
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 oz parmesan, grated on large holes of box grater (about 3/4 cup loosely packed)
  • 2 9-ounce boxes of no-boil lasagne pasta
  • 6 oz fresh mozzarella (2 balls about 2-3″ each), sliced
  • extra parmesan for grating on top

1. In a saute pan large enough to accommodate all the mushrooms, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and toss frequently and cook over medium-high heat for 12 to 15 minutes. You will have to stir them a lot and you may also have to add a touch more olive oil from time to time. When the mushrooms are cooked and plump, and browning around the edges, add the sage and thyme and toss for another minutes. Then add the white wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan, cooking until wine is evaporated and mushrooms are glossy, about 6 or 7 minutes. Scrape mixture into a bowl, add dry spinach and combine. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Set aside.

2. Wipe out the saute pan, put it back on medium heat, and add the butter. When the butter melts and then foams, add the garlic and saute until fragrant but not brown. Sift the flour over the butter using your fingers, and stir to incorporate. Cook this paste for about 10 minutes—it will turn a pale golden color. Add a drizzle of milk to the paste and whisk to combine. Add a bit more, and whisk again. Add the first half of the milk in small doses like this, whisking constantly. You can then add the last half of the milk in a constant drizzle, whisking, until combined. When the sauce has thickened to a creamy consistency, add the grated parmesan and whisk until it is melted. Remove 1 cup of sauce and set aside. Pour the rest of the sauce into the bowl with the spinach and mushroom mixture. Stir to combine thoroughly and set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 350 F while you are preparing the lasagne. Pour 1 cup of reserved bechamel sauce into the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch pan. Spread it around the bottom. Add a layer of the noodles, overlapping by 1/4 inch. Spoon in 1/3 of the mushroom mixture and spread over noodles. Add some of the mozzarella and a grating of parmesan. Add another layer of noodles, and repeat with filling and cheese. Set aside about 1/2 cup of the filling, and then add another layer of noodles, the last 1/3 of the filling (minus what you just reserved) and the rest of the cheeses. Add a top layer of noodles, the 1/2 cup of reserved filling, and cover with parmesan cheese.

4. Cover the dish tightly with foil and pop it into the oven for 45 minutes. Carefully remove it from the oven at that time, uncover the dish, and return to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the top is brown and crisping around the edges. Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Finish, if you like, with lavender + meyer lemon finishing salt.

 

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sunday pot roast

I am so glad I made this last Sunday. Because it now turns out I can share this with you in time for you to run out before the snow starts to accumulate (if you’re on the East Coast) and buy the cheapest cut of beef in your butcher’s counter to make this roast. It is the perfect meal for a snowy Sunday! Last weekend I got grass-fed top round roast for $4.99 at Whole Foods, which even at their meat counter prices is a bargain. The roast I bought was about 3 pounds. The top round (I have also used chuck roast and chuck shoulder for this recipe) is usually dry and bland-tasting, but a long, long braise like this is just the right treatment. It fell apart after roasting and was meltingly tender.

Anyway, this roast cooking in a slow, slow oven for half the afternoon will warm your kitchen up and provide a few days’ worth of meals. You can use a whole variety of root vegetables. As you can see in the picture, I used a handful of tiny potatoes, a few small turnips, and a few rutabagas. I also added carrots. You could also use parsnips, or celery root. Because this cooks for so long, I recommend leaving the skins on the potatoes, but peeling everything else and leaving it in fairly large pieces. Really this depends on the size of your largest, heaviest Dutch oven with a lid. If it’s big enough to make a significant moat around the meat, you can fill it with larger pieces of vegetables.

When everything has cooked for a really long time, I make a puree out of the vegetables. In the bottom layer of the pan, I put the aromatic vegetables that I do not include in the mash. In this case, onion, garlic, and celery. These add their flavor to the roast and the cooking liquid, but I separate them from the root vegetables for the mash and throw them away. They have given all their flavor to the sauce. Because of the presence of the carrots, this particular puree had a very warm hue.

When the roots are in the food processor, and the rest of the vegetables are strained from the broth, you can reheat the broth and thicken it into a sauce, either with a mixture of flour and water, or by adding back some of the puree, which is what I usually do. This method of cooking a roast is so forgiving—I learned it from the brasato recipe in Judy Rodgers’ wonderful Zuni Cafe Cookbook—that you could make this any number of ways with roaring success. And of course if you don’t feel like pureeing the vegetables, you might just as well eat them as they come out of the pan after cooking. Still delicious! Leftovers make great open-faced sandwiches with some of the sauce poured over, or torn into bits and mixed with the leftover sauce and egg noodles. In case you’re trapped inside for longer than you expected.

Sunday pot roast

Inspired by the Zuni Cafe Cookbook; Serves 6 as a main course

  • a 2 – 3 lb. beef roast, top round or chuck
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 to 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 branch fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried, minced rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, trimmed and cut into 2″ lengths
  • 5 to 6 carrots, trimmed and cut into 2″ lengths
  • 3 small or 2 medium turnips, peeled, left whole if small or cut in half if medium (roughly 2 – 3″ chunks)
  • 3 small or 2 medium rutabagas, peeled, left whole if small or cut in half if medium (roughly 2 – 3″ chunks)
  • 6 very small potatoes, scrubbed
  • coarse sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 300 F. In a large Dutch oven with a lid (large enough to hold the roast and all the vegetables surrounding it), place the roast, fat side down. (If your roast has no fat on it, add some olive oil to the pan and proceed starting with any side of the roast you like.) Turn heat to medium or medium-high (regulating as needed so that the fat does not begin to smoke). Brown the meat very well, at least 5 minutes on the fatty side. Turn roast and brown all sides.

2. Meanwhile put red wine in a small saucepan at medium-high heat, boil, and reduce by half, to 1 cup of liquid.

3. When meat is browned, turn the fatty side to the top. Add rosemary and thyme to the bottom of the pot, and then the vegetables to the pot in the following order: garlic, onion, celery, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, potatoes. Sprinkle all with coarse sea salt and a bit of black pepper.

4. Add reduced wine, and then add beef stock until liquid comes three-quarters of the way up to the top of the roast. Bring to a brisk simmer on top of the stove. Then add the lid and pop into the oven for about three hours.

5. After one hour, turn the roast over, taking care that no vegetables are trapped beneath it. Return to the oven and turn heat down to 250 F. After another hour has passed, turn the roast over again and return to the oven.

6. Remove pan from oven, and remove roast from the pan to a cutting board and tent with foil. Using a fork or slotted spoon, place potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, carrots into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Puree contents to a smooth puree. If too dry, simply add some liquid from the pot 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste and correct seasoning.

7. Place a large bowl in the sink and place a fine strainer over it. Pour the entire contents of the Dutch oven into the strainer (there should still be celery, onion, and garlic remains in it, as well as the herbs). Wipe out Dutch oven if necessary and return it to the stove. Pour the strained liquid back into the Dutch oven and return to a boil to reduce and thicken it. (If you want something more like gravy, whisk 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour into 1/2 cup water, then pour into the boiling liquid in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Boil this for a few more minutes and it will become thicker. Or, you can thicken the sauce by adding some of the puree back to it.) Taste and correct seasoning.

8. Slice the roast. Into large bowls, scoop the pureed vegetables, a few slices of roast, and then pour the thickened pot juices over all.

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