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Washington, DC, United States
"A rose is a rose is an onion." -Ernest Hemingway

5.12.09

Orecchiette with Spinach Cream Sauce

This is a quick - not to mention beautiful and tasty - supper fix!


For 3-4 servings, you'll need:

+ orecchiette pasta, 1/2 pound
+ 1 small white onion, thinly sliced
+ garlic, 2-3 cloves, minced
+ fresh spinach (baby preferred), 1 pound
+ olive oil
+ S&P
+ ground nutmeg, 1 pinch
+ heavy cream, 1/4 - 1/3 cup
+ 1 chicken breast, roasted and sliced (optional)

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until lightly browned. Add spinach, and stir until mixture wilts and cooks down. Season to taste; cool.

Blend spinach mixture in food processor until mostly smooth. Add cream, and continue to blend until thick and creamy.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and return to pot. Toss with sauce (and chicken, if using); enjoy!

(Does this recipe remind anyone else of the Arthur episode where D.W. desperately wants earrings, but thinks they may turn her ears green?)

15.11.09

Jeremy's Vanilla-Cocoa Cake

Honestly, does this really need any explanation?


For 1 9", two-layer cake, you'll need:

+ butter, softened, 2 sticks
+ sugar, 3 cups
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ buttermilk, 2 cups
+ 4 eggs
+ baking powder, 2 tablespoons
+ vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons (OR 1-2 vanilla beans)
+ flour, 2 cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; liberally grease two 9" cake pans.

Cream butter, sugar and salt. Whip in eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Gently mix in flour and baking powder, until just combined. Evenly distribute batter between 2 pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

In the meantime, prepare the cocoa frosting. The following recipe is only an approximation, and will leave plenty of extra - just in case. You'll need:

+ powdered sugar, 1 pound
+ cocoa powder, 1/4 cup
+ shortening, approximately 1/2 cup
+ water, 2-4 tablespoons, if necessary

Combine all ingredients until desired flavor and texture are achieved.

If necessary, use a serrated knife to even the tops of the cakes. Place the first layer bottom-down, top-up. (Two frosting tricks? Apply a dab of frosting to the base of the cake stand to secure the cake; place small slips of parchment around the edge of the first layer, to make clean up a bit easier.) Smooth a liberal amount of frosting over the first layer. Place the second layer top-down, bottom-up. Frost the sides and top to desired smoothness. Remove parchment paper. Serve (peonies not required) and enjoy!

Lavender-Infused Olive Oil Cakes

These moist, tender cakes have a crisp exterior and a mild, floral aroma. I baked mine in a jumbo muffin tin, and the recipe yielded about 6 small cakes. The same recipe (with a shorter cook time) would yield about 1 dozen standard-sized cupcakes.


For 6 small cakes, you'll need:

+ olive oil, 1 cup
+ dried lavender, 3 teaspoons
+ 3 eggs
+ sugar, 1 1/2 cups
+ baking powder, 3 teaspoons
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ flour, 1 1/2 cups

In a small skillet, combine olive oil and lavender over very low heat; there should be no crackling. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; pass through a sieve, and cool oil. Discard lavender.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; grease muffin tins.

Whip oil and eggs until creamy. Add sugar. Gently mix in remaining dry ingredients until just combined. Evenly distribute batter between tins. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Cool completely.

In the meantime, prepare a lemon glaze:

+ powdered sugar, 1/2 cup
+ 1 lemon, juiced

Combine sugar and juice until a light glaze forms. Reserve.

Lavender on Foodista

Invert cooled cakes onto a plate; drizzle with glaze. If desired, sprinkle with dried lavender just before service. These are perfect for a light dessert, a sweet breakfast or with tea - enjoy!

10.11.09

Flank Steak with Balsamic Chimichurri

This took about 20 minutes of "active" cooking, and was extremely tasty. Enjoy!


(My oven and broiler suck, so the meat isn't exactly evenly caramelized. I didn't want to risk it becoming tough, so I pulled it out of the broiler before it had a proper chance to get nice and evenly browned - and then I doctored it up with the reserved sauce, which made it even tastier, albeit, less pretty.)


For 2-3 servings (by that, I mean I ate about 1/4 of the steak, and Jeremy ate the rest ... in two bites), you'll need:

+ 1 1-pound flank steak
+ fresh parsley, roughly torn, 2 cups
+ garlic, 3-5 cloves, crushed
+ S&P
+ 1 lemon, zested
+ balsamic vinegar, 3-4 tablespoons
+ olive oil

In a food processor, combine parsley, garlic, lemon zest and salt & pepper. Pulse until roughly chopped. Add vinegar. With food processor running, slowly pour olive oil through the feed tube until the mixture is a smooth, relatively thin sauce. Remove.

Marinate the steak in the refrigerator with half of the sauce for at least 2 hours. (The longer it marinates, the better it'll be!)

Transfer to a roasting pan; drizzle lightly with olive oil. I petaled some red onions and halved some cherry tomatoes, for color, as shown. Broil for 11-13 minutes for a medium-rare steak. Rest; slice. Dig in!

2.11.09

Ciabatta

This bread is great with soup, fabulous for bruschetta - and couldn't be much simpler.


For one large (6" by 12") loaf, you'll need:

+ pate fermentee, 1 batch
+ lukewarm water, 1/3 cup
+ sugar, 1 teaspoon
+ dry yeast, 1 teaspoon
+ buttermilk or water, 2/3 cup
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ flour, 2 cups
+ olive oil, for brushing

The day before you make the bread, prepare the pate fermentee.

On the following day, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Rest for 5-10 minutes, or until foamy. Scrape the pate fermentee, yeast-water mixture, salt and water/buttermilk into a stand mixer (with a bread hook) or food processor (with a dough blade). Combine. Gradually incorporate the flour, until you have a soft, smooth dough.

Briefly knead dough on a floured surface. Transfer to an oiled bowl. Cover; rise in a warm location for 45 minutes. Gently shape into a loaf, and transfer to an oiled baking sheet. Lightly brush with remaining olive oil. Cover; rise for 90 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake bread for 20-22 minutes, remembering to turn the sheet pan occasionally to prevent uneven browning. Enjoy!

* While water will yield a "holier," more familiar product, the buttermilk lends the bread a rich flavor, increased moisture and a pleasant chewiness. Experiment with any combination of the two!

31.10.09

Garlic-Rosemary Focaccia

This moist, springy bread is a great appetizer or snack - and makes an excellent base for pizza or sandwiches.


For one 12" round loaf, you'll need:

+ lukewarm water, 3 tablespoons + 2/3 cup, divided
+ dry active yeast, 1 .25-ounce package
+ olive oil, 4 tablespoons + extra
+ sugar, 1 tablespoon
+ flour, 2 cups
+ garlic, 3 cloves + 2 cloves, divided
+ fresh rosemary, 1 sprig + 1 sprig, divided
+ salt, to taste

In a bowl, combine yeast, sugar and 3 tablespoons of water. Rest for 5-10 minutes, or until foamy. In the meantime, place olive oil in a small skillet over low heat. Crush 3 garlic cloves; add to skillet with 1 whole sprig of rosemary. Cook for approximately 5 minutes; pass through a sieve. Cool.

Add the flour, remaining water and 3 tablespoons of cooled infused oil to the yeast mixture. Mix gently until a ball forms. Lightly knead dough on a floured surface until soft and smooth. Transfer to a clean, oiled bowl. Cover, and allow to rise in a warm area for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; oil. Mince reserved garlic and rosemary. Transfer dough to a floured surface. Using your fingertips, press dough into a round (or whichever shape you prefer), approximately 1/2" thick and slightly dimpled. Transfer to baking sheet. Brush reserved oil on dough, and sprinkle minced garlic and rosemary. Liberally salt.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Enjoy!

24.10.09

Spice Flats

These crunchy little bites are perfect with a mug of hot apple cider. (They rather remind me of ginger snaps - and you could definitely substitute ground ginger for the cinnamon, and make exactly those!) I got the idea to use sesame seeds from the Benne Seed Wafers that my mom makes. The nutty flavor from the sesame seeds balances the spiciness of the cookies, and they add a bit of texture.


For about 3 dozen cookies, you'll need:

+ butter, 3/4 cup, softened
+ sugar, 3/4 cup
+ ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons
+ ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon
+ ground cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon
+ 1 egg
+ flour, approximately 2 cups
+ sesame seeds, 3 tablespoons, toasted

Preheat oven the oven to 400 degrees F. In a food processor, grind the sesame seeds; set aside. (For more texture, leave them coarse.)

In a separate bowl, cream the butter, sugar and spices. Add the egg, and whip until evenly blended. Fold in the ground sesame seeds, and gradually incorporate flour.

Shape heaping teaspoons of dough into balls; crush into flat rounds between your (clean!) palms or with a floured glass. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Dot each cookie with a fork, as shown in the photo. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until crispy and lightly browned. Enjoy!

Buttermilk Biscuits

Look, I hate to brag, or anything ... but these are the bomb.


For about 10 large biscuits - perfect for bacon, sausage, eggs or any combination thereof - you'll need:

+ flour, 3 cups
+ baking soda, 1 tablespoon
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ sugar, 3 tablespoons
+ cold butter, 4 tablespoons, diced
+ cold shortening, 4 tablespoons, diced
+ cold buttermilk, 3/4 cup
+ honey, 2 tablespoons *
+ melted butter, 2 tablespoons

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt and sugar. Add the cold butter and shortening, and, using your hands, no matter what, mix until evenly combined. The mixture should be crumbly, and should clump up when squeezed. Add the buttermilk and honey, and knead gently until incorporated. As soon as you have a ball of dough, stop kneading.

Flour a hard surface, and roll the dough to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Use a round cookie cutter or a glass to shape the biscuits, and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each biscuit with melted butter. Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet periodically if your oven is less-than-stellar, like mine. Enjoy!

* I decided to include honey because, really, nothing's better than a dollop of honey on a southern-style biscuit. I wanted to impart a hint of that sweetness into the recipe without compromising the integrity of a classic buttermilk biscuit.

20.10.09

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

This rich, thick soup is perfect for these chilly fall months - and it's a breeze to make!

For about 1.5 quarts, you'll need:

+ cauliflower, 6 cups, broken into florets
+ 1 onion, diced
+ 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
+ celery, 3-4 stalks, diced
+ 1 russet potato, peeled and diced
+ butter, 4 tablespoons
+ flour, 1/4 cup
+ vegetable stock, 3 cups
+ olive oil
+ S&P
+ 1 bay leaf
+ heavy cream, 1/2 cup
+ chili powder, to garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Toss cauliflower in 3-4 tablespoons of oil; arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, and liberally salt and pepper. Roast until evenly browned (20-30 minutes).

In a small stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and potato; saute until onions are translucent and potatoes are beginning to soften. Do NOT allow the mixture to brown. Add the flour; stir until a roux (a thick paste) forms. Add the vegetable stock and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, and immediately reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally until thickened; remove from heat.

Remove bay leaf. If you have an immersion blender, you can add the roasted cauliflower to the pot, and puree until the soup reaches the desired consistency. If you're using a food processor, puree 1-2 cups of thickened stock and 1/2 cup of cauliflower at a time. For a really smooth final product, you can pass the pureed soup through a mesh sieve or china cap - but I like mine a little chunky!

Return to pan; swirl in cream and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with chili pepper, if desired. Enjoy!

30.9.09

Pesto

This is a highly generic, extremely flexible pesto recipe. I've been eyeballing the ingredients for years, but today I decided to use real, grown-up ... measuring cups. :) The photo quality isn't very high, but the vibrant color and stiff, thick texture speak for themselves.


For about 1 cup of pesto, you'll need:

+ fresh basil leaves, 2 cups, loosely packed
+ toasted pine nuts, 1/2 cup
+ grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese, 1/2 cup
+ garlic, 2-4 cloves
+ 1 lemon, juiced
+ S&P
+ olive oil, approximately 1/4 cup

In a food processor, pulse the basil, pine nuts, cheese and garlic until coarsely chopped. Add the lemon juice. With the food processor running (keep the top on, and use the feed tube), slowly drizzle in the olive oil, until your desired texture is achieved. Salt and pepper to taste. This is great tossed with freshly-cooked pasta or on my own Pesto-Feta Stuffed Chicken. Enjoy!