Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dressing for Temple

Basil, balsamic vinegar and pine nut dressing 

Towards the end of my pregnancy with Roman, my doula was guiding me through some relaxation techniques and she suggested I  "thank" my body for all the hard work it had done.  It was the first time in my life I ever considered uttering such a phrase out loud.  This time around, I've come to regard my body with more reverence.  It's not perfect, but there's something sacred going on inside.

Endives, avocado and tomatoes 

Though my body occasionally misbehaves, still-- with water, some fresh air and plenty of good things to eat, it's been great to feel good.  This is my first chance to nourish this little life.  He's getting lots and lots of greens.

French Anchovy Dressing 

My refrigerator shelf is home to several mason jars each week, filled with tangy, bright tasting ingredients.  When lunch rolls around, I pull out the spring mix, kale, spinach, endives- whatever I have gathered from the green market, and dress it with one of these special concoctions.  I reach for extra Omega 3's in tiny fish like anchovies or sardines, add protein with a handful of chopped walnuts or a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Anchovy Dressing over Zucchini Ribbons 

I can't control the city smog, construction dust or people blowing cigarette smoke in my face, but at least there is no limit to how much salad I can eat.   These are a few of the offerings for my temple.

Basil, Balsamic Vinegar and Pine Nut Dressing
Jamie Oliver, The Naked Chef Takes Off

This was delicious served over endives, avocado and cherry tomatoes.

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 good handful of chopped fresh basil
1 good handful of pine nuts, toasted and chopped (about 1/4 cup)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Carefully toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet.  Watch them closely as they will tend to burn easily.  Cool and chop.  Combine the vinegar, oil, chopped basil and pine nuts in a jar with salt and pepper and shake well.

Anchovy French Dressing
The New York Times Cookbook (My mother's copy, 1961 edition!)

Toss this with some fresh assorted lettuces or serve over zucchini ribbons made using a mandoline or vegetable peeler.

1 small can flat anchovy fillets
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Mash the anchovies with a fork (I chose to cut them into bits with a sharp knife.)  Combine with the olive oil and lemon juice and mix until thoroughly blended.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Oatmeal Cookies


Today I had some time to myself so I spent part of my afternoon in the kitchen "with" my Grandmother Ruth.  I was delighted to find she had a recipe for Oatmeal Cookies in her old green box that looked like it would be quite to my liking.


Having only known Ruth when I was a young child, I allow myself to imagine a lot of things.  It's easy to idealize someone after they die, and I try not to do that.  I have more of a running list of things I'd ask, especially now that I'm pregnant again.  I want to know about her pregnancies and labors, pivotal times in a woman's life.  In reality, the closest I can get is what kind of oatmeal cookies she liked, well, so be it.


While I baked, I thought about what I do know about Ruth.  She had waited until after World War II to start a family, a somewhat surprising choice for a woman of her era.  She was 34 when my mother was born, and 39 when she had my Uncle.  I'm not sure what kind of looks she might have gotten as an "older" pregnant mother in those days.  I suspect she was secure in herself and didn't care what people thought. 

As I age, I hope I'm getting closer to the type of grace that I believe my mother and grandmother had.  The kind of grace that brings acceptance and a certain capacity to deal with things head on and get through challenges with poise.  I realize now as an adult, that life brings plenty of these opportunities.  There will be challenges until the very end, and even that prospect we can face with a certain amount of grace.  


So this was my pensive kind of afternoon.  But there were also cookies.  I am extremely partial to cookies with walnuts, and I will always choose a cookie without raisins.  It must be an idiosyncrasy of mine, because I know some people adore raisins in their oatmeal cookies.  To me, these are simple and satisfying.  I'm hoping they stick around long enough to be packed up for a picnic on one of these beautiful spring evenings.  And if they remind me to be graceful, well, all the better. 

Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen

1 cup shortening (or margarine, butter or a combination half/half)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups quick oats (I processed regular oats quickly in the food processor)
3/4 cup Grape nuts cereal or chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream together the shortening and sugars with an electric mixer and add one beaten egg.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and cinnamon and add to the shortening mixture.
Then add the oats, grape nuts or walnuts and vanilla.
Chill for one hour in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 350.
Roll walnut-sized pieces in your hands, then dip in granulated sugar and flatten as you place on a greased cookie sheet. (Or you can line with parchment.)
Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pasta with Anchovies and Arugula


Two years ago this week, I thought up the name 'And Baby Cakes Three' and decided to blog about food.   A lot has changed since I wrote from my apartment in Rome- new mother to a six month old trying to document adventures and food of the Eternal City.

But that's just the thing.  With each anniversary or birthday I remember that life doesn't exist without constant change. Sometimes I look back at myself five or even ten years ago and feel just a tiny tinge of nostalgia for that stylish, world traveling person.  But how important to meet the passage of time head on and to relish the wonderful gifts that change has brought.


Today we visited our old neighborhood in Brooklyn where I started out as a home cook.  My first apartment on my own, my first pots and pans, my first dinner party (that was May 7, 1999.)  I was discovering many new ingredients back then, pouring over cookbooks I'd bring home from the library or The Strand.  My husband and I were just dating at the time, but I knew he was someone I could marry when he did not balk at my love of anchovies.  He dove right in to anything I served and ate with a sense of excitement.


You see, I've always loved bold food with an opinion and an attitude.  Anchovies and arugula - you have to love them both to love this dish.  Forgive me for not telling you earlier.  Anchovies are among my favorite foods in the world.  I hope that doesn't put you off.  Seeing them splayed against the glass in their little jar is more appealing to me than a box of chocolates. That, I'm sure, is one thing that will never change.


Pasta with Anchovies and Arugula
From Mark Bittman
4 servings

This comes together almost effortlessly and is great for an easy summer dinner with a glass of some white wine or some sparkling Italian soda.

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
8 anchovy filets (I recommend more to taste, with some of their oil)
1 lb linguine or other long pasta
2 cups arugula, washed, dried and chopped
1/2 teaspoon or more hot red pepper flakes
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Set a large pot of water to boil and salt it.

Put half of the olive oil in a deep skillet and turn the heat to medium.  A minute later, add the garlic and the anchovies.  When the garlic sizzles and the anchovies break up, turn the heat to its lowest setting.

Cook the pasta until it is tender but not mushy.  Reserve one cup of the cooking liquid, and drain.  Add pasta and arugula to the skillet, with enough of the reserved cooking liquid to make a sauce.  Turn heat to medium and stir for a minute.  Add salt and pepper to taste, plus a pinch or more of red pepper flakes.

Turn pasta and sauce into a bowl, toss with remaining olive oil and serve.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Chocolate Wholewheat Waffles with Hot Fudge Sauce


What do you give someone who sews, knits, crochets and quilts all of the gifts she gives for birthdays, baby showers, holidays big and small, year after year?  This person happens to be my sister Lisa, and in a few days she's celebrating a special birthday, so something store bought wasn't going to cut it.

One of the things I find most endearing (and surprising) about Lisa is her sweet tooth.  I've seen her reach into hidden stashes of chocolate while she thinks no one is looking.  I've known her to pull over to a roadside stand and enjoy a cone of soft-serve ice-cream (her all-time favorite).  When she told me how much she loves waffles and that she could eat them every day, I knew that this would be her kind of treat.

We certainly had our moments, both good and bad, as kids.  We were terrible to each other when confined to a car for more than a few hours.  Mom caught her trying to make me pay for her hand-me-down clothes one year.  But without fail, I got a card and a small gift from her if I stayed home sick from school.  I remember seeing her standing at my bedroom door and I always felt warmed by those glimmers of proof that I wasn't just a skinny little pest to her.  As you can see in the photos, no matter how much we fought, we were also friends, and that is what stuck into our adult years.

She deserves something decadent-- a rich chocolate waffle with some hot fudge sauce, not just for putting up with me, but for the years of rock-solid advice she's offered up for free, without asking anything in return-- unlike those old hand-me downs.


Chocolate Wholewheat Waffles
From Kitchen Butterfly via Food 52
Serves 4 - 6

These waffles make an excellent dessert.  I would never recommend you eat this for breakfast, unless it's your birthday.  And, since my big sister is celebrating hers, this is what I propose.  I'm providing her with a jar of the home made chocolate fudge and she can use her own good judgement.  I chose the recipe because they are made with wholewheat flour, which I think adds to their richness since the whole wheat tends to lend a nutty flavor.  My only changes to the recipe were the addition of sugar and substitution of ricotta.

1 1/2 cups (200 grams) wholewheat flour
1/2 cup (50 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups (400 grams) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup (25 grams) yogurt (I used ricotta)

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and baking powder into a bowl.
Make a well in the center and add the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, oil and yogurt.  Mix with a balloon whisk until smooth.
Let the batter rest for 10 minutes or longer.  You can easily make the batter a day ahead and store in the refrigerator.
Spoon some batter into your hot waffle iron.  According to what type of iron you have, the amount of batter and cooking time will vary.

Hot Fudge Sauce
From Epicurious
Makes about 2 cups

Sauce can be stored for over a week in the fridge.  Reheat without burning before using.  Enjoy on waffles, ice-cream sundaes, or drizzled over fresh sliced fruit.

2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces fine quality bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring cream, corn syrup, cocoa, salt and half of chocolate to a boil in a 1 to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until chocolate is melted.  Reduce heat and cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, then remove from heat.  Add butter, vanilla and remaining chocolate and stir until smooth.  Cool sauce to warm before serving.

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