Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Grissini and a Giveaway!

Crunch. Crunch, crunch. Shnomf, munch, crinchety-cronch. Mmm. Pass me another?

These, my friends, are the thin, crunchy, Italian breadsticks known as grissini. A couple of weekends ago Adam and I spent an afternoon making sixty some-odd crunchy breadsticks for a dinner party we were going to that evening. No, I did not notice before we started that the recipe made 16 per portion of dough and therefore 16 x 4 = SIXTY FOUR. Heh.

But you know what? Between the 8 of us, we ate all of them. After a totally delicious meal of insalata caprese, goat cheese and portabello salad, eggplant Parmesan and cherry clafoutis, I looked over at the grissini platter and there were only 3 (!) left.

It stands to reason, then, that you should make these for your next party. I found them via Nick over at Macheesmo, who added a little whole wheat flour to the original recipe, but you don't need to. I used regular old all purpose flour and I was very happy with the results. If you play around with the toppings (cheese? chili powder? fennel seeds?) or flour (rye sticks with caraway seeds?) let us know in the comments, ok?

Oh what was that other thing I mentioned in the title? Riiight: giveaway! I'm moving into a new apartment in a month, and I'm trying to lighten my very heavy load of books. I thought you guys might appreciate some of the food-related novels and such so let's begin the giveaways with this one:

Have you read Julie and Julia yet? The movie's coming out at the beginning of August, so you better hop to it! If you'd like this copy, leave a comment on this post any time before midnight on Sunday, July 6. I'll pick a winner at random on Monday. Oh, and if you just cannot wait another minute to find out what other books I'll be giving away, you could sneak over to my Flickr photos. [Update: winner has been selected! Check it out here.]

adapted from Wild Yeast and Macheesmo
makes 64 breadsticks

623 g flour (about 5 1/2 cups)
397 g water at room temperature (scant two cups)
6.5 g (2 t.) instant yeast
9 g (1.5 t.) salt
28 g (2 T.) olive oil
kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Combine the yeast, salt, and flour in a large bowl. Combine the water and olive oil in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Eventually you will need to use your hands, and once a shaggy dough has formed, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 5-10 minutes. I added probably another 1/4 cup of flour total as I was kneading to keep my dough from sticking to the board.

Lightly oil the mixing bowl (no real need to wash it at this point) and place the dough in the lightly oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, 1.5-2 hours.

Once the dough has doubled, preheat the oven o 350F. Line a baking sheet (or two if you have them) with parchment. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Start with one piece and keep the others covered. Flour a work surface and roll the dough into an approximately 12x8 inch rectangle (no need to bust out the ruler here!). Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough rectangle into 16 equal strips. Fold each strip in half the long way (they go from 8 inches long to four inches long) and roll them out into long snakes on an UNFLOURED surface. It has to be unfloured, they need a little stickiness in order to come together and stretch out. Each snake should be a little longer than your baking sheet.

Distribute the snakes evenly across your baking sheets. Lightly brush them with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roll them around a little to catch the salt and pepper around them. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until golden; if you think of it, rotate the sheets once while baking. Cool the grissini on a wire rack - the crunch develops as they cool! Repeat with the other 3 portions of dough as baking sheets become available.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Custardy Allure

I have never been a sweet breakfast person. If I'm out to brunch, I may try to steal a bite of your banana-walnut pancakes or cheese and strawberry blintzes, but I only ever want a bite, and I will quickly return to my huevos rancheros or everything bagel and smoked salmon.

The custardy allure of french toast is not totally lost on me, though, so when Adam suggested we bridge the great sweet/savory divide last weekend and add some Gruyere and fresh herbs to french toast, I said Yes! Now let's make a brioche. (Clearly, you can buy a brioche or use sandwich bread, but don't you own ABin5 yet? So. Easy.)

Adapted from a very schmancy breakfast sandwich recipe found on cookthink, this recipe used the very end (!) of last summer's slow roasted tomatoes that I had hidden away in the back of the freezer. If you're already through your stash, I suggest you 1. bookmark this recipe and make it in September and 2. try it with a different vegetable! Asparagus would be lovely, blanched first and arranged on top of the toast. I bet sauteed spinach would be good, or even broccoli, as long as you cut the florets small enough and tossed the blanched pieces with a light touch of olive oil. Heck, you could even skip the veggie topper altogether.

Savory French Toast with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
Serves 2

4 thick slices brioche, ciabatta, or other bread
1/2 cup half-&-half, cream, or whole milk
1 egg
salt and pepper
2-3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh herbs such as sage, marjoram, thyme, chives (we used thyme and marjoram, and garnished with chives)
3 ounces Gruyere or other swiss cheese, grated
4 halves of slow-roasted plum tomato (one total tomato per person) or the veg of your choice, blanched

Preheat the oven to 400F. In a wide, shallow dish, whisk together the cream, egg, and salt and pepper (start with a half teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Dip the bread slices into the egg mixture, turning to coat, and leave them to soak for about 20 minutes. Defrost the frozen tomato halves, if necessary.

Line a baking dish or cookie sheet (with sides) with parchment paper and butter it well so the toast doesn't stick (and believe me, it wants to stick). Place the bread slices on the paper, and spread each with a thin layer of mustard. Sprinkle with herbs and cheese, divided evenly among the four slices, and top each with a tomato half, face up. If you like, you could sprinkle more cheese and herbs on the tomato.

Place the baking dish in the oven for 20 minutes or so, until the bread is slightly browned on the inside and the tomatoes are taking on a little color. Garnish with chopped chives or other herbs.

Monday, June 22, 2009

My Default Meal

Do you have regulars? I mean meals that you make again and again, by default, when you've lost your inspiration or all you've got in the house is the a mess of greens that need to be used today and a few tiny potatoes? This is mine. It's infinitely adaptable. In the past I have added: sliced radishes, leftover spicy take-out green beans, pecans, chickpeas, leftover asparagus, grated Parmesan, vinaigrette instead of hot sauce... you get the idea. This incarnation is:

One Bowl Meal for One
multiply as necessary

Pile of greens (spinach, in this case, one small bunch), washed and roughly chopped
5 small potatoes (fingerlings or baby yukons, cut into bit sized pieces)
One large shallot, thinly sliced
Hot sauce (I'm a Frank's Red Hot kind of girl)
Chopped fresh herbs such as chives, basil or parsley (optional)
One egg (optional)
Salt and pepper
Olive Oil

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a wide (preferably nonstick) saute pan. Add the potato pieces, toss to coat with oil, and cover the pan with a lid for a few minutes to steam the potatoes. Test for doneness by piercing a big piece with a knife. You know what a cooked potato feels like, right? Once they're cooked through, remove the lid and let them cook in the oil to crisp up a bit. Add the sliced shallot and toss to combine. Continue cooking another 3-5 minutes until the potatoes have some golden brown spots and the shallots are soft. Remove from pan, set aside.

Don't clean the pan, return to medium heat and add spinach. Sautee, turning often with tongs. If necessary, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Cook until wilted and tender but not soggy, 3-5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove to plate.

Add a few shakes of your favorite hot sauce or tangy vinaigrette, top with potatoes and shallots. If you like, top with an over-easy egg and sprinkle with some fresh chives or basil.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The second leg of our Pacific Northwest adventure started with a drive out to the coast. I got to put my toes in the Pacific for the first time ever! Then we had a tasty lunch at Baked Alaska in Astoria and crossed a very, very long bridge.

Here is a quick shot of a couple small plates we ordered at Purple Wine Bar, recommended to us by a friend and the closest place on our list to the hotel, hence it was our first dinner in Seattle. The wine was good. The food... was ok. I actually really liked my fennel/dill/chilled shrimp/citrus salad (bottom left) and plan to re-create it soon. The hummus was pretty dry, and the bisteeya was sort of flat tasting. The desserts, however, were phenomenal, and just the right size.

Ok, ok, here's my gratuitous Pike Place Market shot. We went, it was overwhelming, and Adam bought a really beautiful kaleidoscope. I enjoyed it in the morning the first time we went because there are lots of beautiful fruits and flowers on display, but we went back one afternoon for some reason and it was crazy crowded and therefore not quite as much fun to stroll through.

After exploring the Olympic Sculpture Park one morning, we were in the vicinity of Boat Street Cafe. I had heard about their amazing pickles, but sadly none were on the lunch menu that day. I had to make due with this asparagus, tomato and emmenthal sandwich. Picture me heaving an enormous sigh and putting the back of my hand to my forehead. HA. This sandwich was so awesome I didn't miss pickles. Once I figure out how to make ridiculously good rolls, I'm definitely making it for myself. So, so yummy.

Adam and I spent two whole afternoons at the Seattle Public Library. We LOVED it, and not just because we are big readers, but also because it's an inviting space where they didn't hassle us for playing cribbage. We were looking for a snack and found Post Alley Pizza just a few blocks from the library, a nice little hole-in-the-wall pizza place where they put hot dogs (!) and mustard (!!) on a specialty slice called the Coney Island. Clearly I am a fan.

A slightly more upscale meal we enjoyed was at Cafe Lago, which was 100% worth the bus ride. I've already told you how good the pomodori al forno was, but did I mention the martini sporco? Sporco is Italian for "dirty," so theoretically this is a dirty martini, right? But here's the thing! They infuse the gin with olives, so you can taste the "dirt" but it doesn't cloud up the drink. The rim is salted with olive-salt and black pepper, and the olive speared with a fragrant rosemary sprig. I can't think of a reason not to use rosemary in your next martini, it was a really delicious touch.

One of our favorite meals of the trip is a meal of which I have no photographic evidence. My camera battery had died, and I charged it briefly thinking I would want pictures, but I was enjoying myself too much to take the camera out of my purse! We had dinner one night at Shiro's Sushi, the oldest sushi restaurant in Seattle. Please, please promise me that if you go to Seattle you will go to Shiro's. It took us a LOT of poring over the menu to decide which direction to go, but in the end we went with one of their omakase options - essentially letting the chef decide what we would eat.

We had smoked cod. We had oysters with chili, and asparagus with peanut sauce. We had chawanmushi with unidentifiable beans and the world's tiniest mushrooms. Shiro prepares tuna using an "old school Japanese method" according to our waiter, soaked in sake and soy sauce, which gives it a curious sweetness. There was sashimi and broiled cod (so rich and savory!) and eggplant and miso soup with tiny local clams. The last course was sushi (fish over rice, not rolls), and we tried geoduck for the first time - it was dense and chewy and not my favorite thing on the plate, but I ate it. There was also a raw shrimp sushi on the plate, which the waiter informed us was "alive one minute ago and crawling around!" Hm. I had a tough time with raw shrimp, and please don't tell Shiro, but I cooked it myself, very briefly, in the miso soup that was also on the table. I regret this. I do not regret eating the shrimp heads the waiter brought out shortly afterward, calling them "just like Japanese chicken nugget!" and instructing us to spritz them with lemon and eat the whole thing, eyeballs, legs and all. By the time he brought out melon and grapes, we were stuffed to the gills (pun intended), but very happy.

The food we ate on this vacation was wonderful. Weird, classic, sweet, savory, rich, light, crunchy, chewy, cheap, expensive, and wonderful. I hope you've enjoyed my recaps, and I can't wait to get back to our regularly scheduled programming and start talking about what I've been making with our CSA shares!

Monday, June 15, 2009


I got back from vacation over a week ago, but already it feels like forever. I have been putting off and putting off telling you about my trip because I've been agonizing over the details like "Oh, but I have to tell them about Simpatica! Oh, but I don't have a good photo of Samantha and Dave!" And then I realized that I'll never be able to get to all the things that made this trip wonderful. I've shown you some highlights, but if you're looking for allll the photos from the trip, I've added a link to my Flickr photos over there on the right.

Let's get into some more highlights, shall we? Our first breakfast in Portland was Pine State Biscuits; one order of sausage gravy and one order of mushroom gravy later we were very, very happy campers. Oklahoma-born Adam said they were, ahem, the best biscuits he has ever eaten. I'm pretty sure that's a ringing endorsement. If you're in Portland, go there. Get biscuits. Be happy. Plus, it smells AMAZING in there.

And while we're talking breakfast, we're going to have to talk about Voodoo Doughnuts (the Magic is in the Hole!). We went in for a sampling of donuts and then down the street for Stumptown Coffee (omg delicious). I showed you the photo above already, but behold, the aftermath:

As much as we wanted to, we just couldn't do it. Now, I've already told you about Paley's Place, where we had scrumptious rabbit ravioli, razor clams, and rhubarb financier, and Widmer Brothers with its excellent beer and tasty veggie burger. I also have to mention how nice it is to plan a trip online. All I had to do was ask the hivemind of Twitter where I should eat in Portland, and not only did Samantha provide a list, she suggested we get together for a meal! We went to Simpatica Catering because they had a great dinner there the night before, and really, the brunch did not disappoint. I've got plans to recreate my light-as-a-feather crepes full of veggies as soon as possible. One other tasty thing from Portland I look forward to re-creating: the specialty cocktail from Blue Hour with jalapeno tequila and mango puree. Woo!

As a parting shot, here is my favorite succulent plant ever, Hens & Chicks. They were all over the rock walls. Ok, I know that's not the most logical and orderly post I've ever posted, but come back tomorrow for an illogical and disorderly post about Seattle, ok?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Vacation Highlights!

Hi friends! It's weird to be back at the computer after a ten day vacation, but while I slog through almost four hundred photos, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite bits and pieces from Portland and Seattle.

Brown butter financier with rhubarb compote and mascarpone ice cream at Paley's Place in northwest Portland. This was one of the best meals of the trip, and I have never seen a restaurant owner work so hard. Kimberly Paley went out of her way to talk to every. single. guest. who walked in the door. Very, very pleasant experience.

Flight of tasty beer at Widmer Brothers in Portland. Sadly, our favorite brews are available ONLY at the brewery's Gasthaus Restaurant, but we did get to have some delicious Broken Halo IPA.

Voodoo Donuts. Here you see the legendary Maple Bacon, which was indeed delicious. When we saw Anthony Bourdain's lecture tour the night before, an audience member gave him one of these, and he was so excited he actually jumped up and down on stage, so clearly we had to try it. To the left is the Voodoo Donut itself, doll shaped with a pretzel stick for stabbing at the raspberry filling. The one above it has a name I can't remember, but mostly it was just A Big Mess - peanut butter and chocolate and waaay too much donut. The small piece is the Classic Buttermilk, which I very much enjoyed.

We drove out to Astoria on the Oregon coast before heading to Seattle on Monday, and I got to stick my feet in the Pacific for the first time ever. Totally worth the extra two hours of road trip.

This is one of the top three meals we had in Seattle, I think. I'm so grateful to Amy for suggesting it (via Twitter), and if you go to Seattle, I can heartily recommend Anchovies and Olives. If you go soon, try the hamachi crudo, it's got pickled rhubarb, sweet peas and basil puree, and it's fantastic. Plus, look how cute the olives are in their little canning jar!

Cafe Lago, and the legendary pomodori al forno. Molly's Bon Appetit column is the reason this was on my list of places to eat, and these tomatoes did not disappoint. Luckily, I know I can make them at home!

There were lots and lots (and lots) of amazing meals in Portland and Seattle, and I will do my best to tell you all about them, but now I leave you with this Great Blue Heron who was hunting at the Chittendon locks on Thursday, and a link to my brand spankin' new Flickr account, where I have started to upload more photos from the trip!