Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Trip to Pie Country

Beloved readers and friends,

Just a note to let you know that I'm taking a small blogging hiatus to head Southward for a friend's wedding. All kinds of culinary delights will occur in the interrim, and I promise to report them upon my return (the 25th). In the meantime, I beg your pardon for my absence with this, my first attempt at challah. I didn't let it rise long enough (which is why it looks a little stretched out in the picture), but it was delicious. A mixer fitted with a bread hook is descibed in the directions, but I did all the mixing by hand, and the consistency turned out fine. Next time I'll try using fresh yeast instead of dry. Good luck, and I'll see you after the 25th - with a lot of catching up to do!

Much love,

Challah Bread


1/2 cup plus 2/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons dry yeast (I don't know the conversion of dry yeast to fresh yeast...anybody?)
1 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup sugar

5 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
(1/4 cup honey - my addition)
1 teaspoon salt
7 1/2 cups (about) all-purpose flour

1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon water


Combine 1/2 cup warm water, yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in large glass measuring cup and stir until yeast dissolves. Let yeast mixture stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In large bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat 5 eggs until blended. Add oil, salt and 3/4 cup sugar and beat until pale yellow and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Beat in 2/3 cup warm water (and honey). Add yeast mixture and beat until blended. Remove whisk and fit mixer with dough hook. Add enough flour 1 cup at a time to form smooth dough, beating well after each addition. Beat on medium speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding flour by tablespoonfuls if sticky. Turn out onto floured surface and knead 2 minutes.

Lightly oil large bowl. Add dough, turning to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, then with clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Cover with plastic and clean kitchen towel and let rise 30 minutes.

Grease 2 large baking sheets. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Divide each portion into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 9-inch-long rope. Braid 3 ropes together; pinch ends together to seal. Repeat with remaining dough pieces, forming 2 braids. Place each braid on baking sheet. Cover with towel . Let rise in warm area until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk yolk with 1 tablespoon water to blend. Brush dough with egg mixture. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 35 minutes. Transfer loaves to rack and cool.

Makes 2 loaves.

This recipe comes straight to you from Bon Appétit, courtesy of

Friday, July 14, 2006

Doesn't This Look Like Honey to You?

...Because it did to me. And now I want to die.

J and I were wandering around the luxurious ABC Carpet & Homes today, searching for a wedding gift, when we found that they've recently inducted a fancy chocolatier in the back: Chocolat Michel Cluizel. The rear anteroom of ABC, where the chocolate bar is, opens onto three adjacent restaurants (Lucy Latin Kitchen, Pipa Tapas y Mas, and my personal favorite, Le Pain Quotidien), and when ABC closes at night, the chocolatier is only available via those restaurants, speakeasy-in-the-back-room style. They have cute little cafe tables, live music in the evening, thick hot cocoa you can buy in seven-dollar mugs or two-dollar "hits," and a beautiful array of expensive, elegant confections. They don't carry many organic chocolate products or anything free-trade, soI won't be frequenting it (as I can find more ethical chocolate elsewhere), but J and I didn't leave without a frothy, creamy mug of homemade chocolate milk over ice. Mmm!

Back up a short staircase and into bustling ABC proper, a tiered display of Savannah Bee Blackberry Honey adorned a table. Now, I've had Savannah Bee honey. In fact, I keep sea salt in the empty bottle - a glass bottle similarly shaped to this one. It's marvelous clover honey. So how excited I was to discover a blackberry version! And in a bottle with a squirt-top - how inventive! And with a tester! How generous!

So I squirted some onto my fingers. And then I ate it.

I didn't have time to read that barely-legible, squiggly-cursive text reading "hand soap" before I garbled to J (who was about to sample the hand soap himself) "It's not honey!" and bolted for the door, so as to avoid potentially vomiting all over ABC's overpriced carpet & home decor. I frantically dug in my purse, feeling around for some Kleenex to spit in, but if you read my recent meme post you'll notice that there aren't any Kleenex in my let's just say that sudoku torn out of the newspaper came in handy. Then my throat started burning and I chugged an entire Diet Coke to keep from yakking and all the bubbles made my stomach feel like an overfilled washing machine on the wash cycle and I WANT TO DIE.

Chocolat Michel Cluizel,
ABC Carpet & Home
888 & 881 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
212 473 3000

CSA Week #5: Summer Pasta

What came in our CSA this week:

(all organic)
Red lettuce
Spring onions
Fresh garlic
Fava beans
One dozen farm-fresh brown eggs
Palatine extra-sharp cheddar cheese
Creamline maple yogurt

After enjoying the fava beans with a little pecorino, olive oil and sea salt, I whipped up this easy, summery pasta dish with fresh basil from my fire escape, glowing tomatoes from the greenmarket, and - my favorite - a handful of crisp, summy squash blossoms. (Squash blossoms are also great in salads, quesadillas, or stuffed with cheese and tempura-fried.) Most of the tomatoes and garlic in this dish aren't cooked, so that zesty tomato tang and spicy raw garlic flavor shine through, along with the zing of basil added at the end. With fresh veggies and almost no oil, this pasta is a delicious, healthy summer treat.

Summer Pasta


4 garlic cloves
4-5 sun-ripened tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon plus 1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2/3 cup komatsuna, chopped into ribbons
8-10 squash blossoms, bases removed and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lb. dried capellini (angel-hair pasta)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Olive oil for drizzling (optional)


Finely mince garlic with a pinch of salt using a large, heavy knife.

Core 3 tomatoes and coarsely chop. Halve remaining tomatoes, then rub cut sides against a grater into a large bowl, discarding skin. Toss pulp with chopped tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, sugar, and pepper. Let stand, unrefrigerated, until ready to use, at least 10 minutes.

Warm a small skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and swirl in pan; add 1/2 cup tomato mixture. When mixture begins to sizzle, add komatsuna, squash blossoms, and a pinch of the fresh basil; saute until wilted but still brightly colored, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

While sauteing, boil pasta in a large pot of salted water, uncovered, until desired texture is reached (3-4 minutes). Drain in a colander and transfer to serving dish. Immediately add tomato mixture and kotsuma mixture. Sprinkle with rest of basil; toss to combine. Drizzle with oil if desired and serve hot.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Coffee and Memes and the Java and Me...

A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup...ahhh!

Memes are perfect for coffee hour - a creamy café au lait, a crisp wedge of biscotti, and just enough time for a quick chat full of extraneous information.

Like a valentine from a crush in my glorified kindergarten shoebox, I got tagged for the 5 Things Meme by Helios over at Tales from a Veggie Kitchen. So now, without further ado, the 5 Things Meme...and a recipe for some delicious Pistachio Biscotti.

5 Things in My Freezer

5 Things in My Closet

  • A buckwheat pillow
  • A satin prom dress I bought on sale and never wore
  • A skirt I got and silk-screened at the Swaporamarama (and if you look carefully, I think you can see the back of my head in the background of this video)
  • A polyester red cowboy shirt I got at the dollar store years ago and don't throw away because I can always envision a scenario in which I might need it
  • One of those jangly belly-dancer things

5 Things on My Bookshelf

5 Things in My Purse

  • A wad of receipts
  • Burt's Bees lip shimmer in "nutmeg"
  • A cloth grocery bag
  • A sudoku torn out of the newspaper
  • Little gribbly bits

Pistachio Biscotti


2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ cups shelled unsalted pistachio nuts (about 6.5oz)
2 large eggs
¼ cup honey
¼ cup high-quality olive oil Grated zest of 1 large navel orange

(Note: If you can only find salted nuts, rinse them in a sieve under cold running water and dry thoroughly before use.)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in pistachios and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey, olive oil, and zest. Use a fork to stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring until the dough clumps together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and press the dough together. Divide in half. With lightly floured hands, gently shape each half into a log 13-14 inches long. Carefully transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet, placing them at least 3 inches apart. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until logs are well risen and firm. Set the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool the logs completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Peel away the parchment paper and transfer the logs to a cutting surface. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on the diagonal into half-inch slices. Line the baking sheet with clean parchment paper and place the biscotti, standing up, on the baking sheet.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until dry. Set the baking sheet on a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Yields about 35 biscotti.

This recipe is brought to you from The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle. For more of Ms. Boyle's beautiful recipes incarnate, visit Ivonne at Creampuffs in Venice; she introduced me to this marvelous cookbook.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

CSA Week #4: Zesty Garlic Scape Pesto

What came in our CSA this week:

Garlic scapes
Bibb lettuce
Mesclun greens, mixed
Sugar snap peas
Spring onions

The farm seems to be in a precarious state of recovery, with more rains potentially imminent, but I think the excessive moisture has made all the greens that didn't drown robust and crunchy. The lettuces in particular are delicious.

I did another cooking demonstration at distribution today; the featured item was garlic scapes, so I made two varieties of pesto - a buttery one with pine nuts and parmesan, and a tangy, zesty one without.

Zesty Garlic Scape Pesto


1/2 cup garlic scapes, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cups grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
Salt, to taste


Combine scapes and lemon juice in a food processor or blender and process about 1 minute, or until scapes are very finely chopped. With food processor running, add oil in a stream and blend another minute, . Add parmesan, lemon zest, and salt; process until desired consistency is acheived.
Serve as a dip or tossed with hot pasta. Enjoy!

4th of July Cherry Pie

Apple pie may be the flavor that comes to mind in conjunction with the phrase "all-American," but apples are far from in season on Independence Day. The fruits ripe for pie on the fourth of July are cherries, blueberries, and peaches.

This fourth, we had a small grilling get-together on the rooftop of my teensy Manhattan apartment. I definitely traded square footage for location, roof access, and a great view when I rented this place - my building overlooks the treetops in Tompkins Square and out onto the midtown skyline. Both the Midtown and Seaport fireworks displays are viewable from the roof; we grilled everything from tofu to sirloin and listened to the booming explosions ricochet off the skyscrapers.

After fireworks, we tramped downstairs for a cold, sweet bowl of vanilla ice cream and a slice of red, white and blue Cherry-Blueberry Pie.

This pie is filled with an assortment of tart red cherries and sweet golden cherries, plus a big handful of the juicy blueberries that have just come into full fruit here in New York. I made the crust with butter, rather than shortening, which made it a little harder to maneuver but was worth the tender, flaky crunch.

Cherry-Blueberry Pie


I made a butter crust using this recipe, which has very specific directions for crust-making and latticing; my only caution would be that I made the quantity of dough the recipe calls for in a 2-crust 9-inch pie for my lattice, and it was still not quite enough. If you're going to make a lattice, I advise you to make the full two-crust amount, just in case. I also added about 2 tablespoons of sugar to the dough, which gave it a sweet, crispy flake.


1 cups fresh sour cherries, pitted
2 cups fresh sweet cherries, pitted
1 cup fresh blueberries
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)


Combine fruit, lemon juice, zest, and sugar; stir in cornstarch and let stand while rolling out crust. Pour filling into bottom crust and lay lattice over top. Brush lattice with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake pie at 400 degrees on top rack of oven for 20 minutes (put a heavy baking sheet on the lower rack for more even baking). After 20 minutes, tent edge of crust with foil collar to prevent further browning and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until lattice is golden. Cool for about an hour to allow the liquid to set; serve warm with ice cream.

This was my first bash at homemade lattice crust, and though it had its trials and tribulations (try rolling out chilled dough on hot kitchen counters in the summer with no air conditioning!), the end result was definitely worth it. I appreciated the explicit directions in the recipe (from The Pie and Pastry Bible), which protected me from the usual errors of overkneading or adding too much water. The recipe, which has a split-butter strategy where you cut in about two thirds of the butter and then toss in the other third in big chunks, explains that this keeps the flour from absorbing too much water and creating gluten, which causes the crust to be chewy and elastic. The bigger bits of butter are rolled out into flakes, which add dimension and texture to the crust. All the fresh fruit made the pie very juicy - perhaps a little too much so - but everyone gave it rave reviews, and it was the perfectly sweet end to an evening of fire and festivities.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

CSA Week #3: Chicken Cheddar Omelette

What came in our CSA this week:

(all organic)
1 dozen large brown eggs
Palatine extra-sharp cheddar cheese
Creamline lemon yogurt
Napa cabbage
Bibb lettuce
Red lettuce
Sugar snap peas (!)
Dark cherries
Lemon-apple juice

The incredible bounty of this week's share surprised me; I was expecting less, based on reports that Norwich Meadows Farm (and much of upstate New York) has been suffering from terrific flooding. The water has swamped some of their fields and left almost all of them unnavigable by tractor, so all harvesting has to be done by hand. They're short-staffed and in need of help, so if anyone feels like taking a daytrip to Norwich, NY, let me know...

Anyway, the flooding, understandably, delayed distribution until Thursday, but this week I had the pleasure of doing a cooking demonstration of my Sugar Snap Peas with Lemon-Mint Gremolata at distribution, as sugar snaps were the featured item in this week's share. I got a lot of positive feedback, and I had so much fun cooking in the fabulous kitchen in NYU's food studies department!

Anyway, this morning I cracked open the first speckled egg and spilled its dark golden orb into the pan. In went grated cheddar, diced chicken (leftover from a Singaporean experiment), and a handful of crisp baby lettuce from last week's mixed greens. A little salt and red pepper, and voila - a healthy, delicious omelette as sunny as today turned out to be.