Tuesday, April 8, 2014

55 Forsyth


Today I went in search of my great grandmother Molly, the one who used to make Baked Barley with Mushrooms.  I pushed Ethan in his stroller through the streets of lower Manhattan while he slept, and there, at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge I came upon a forgotten corner of the city where she used to live in 1911 at age 20.  The original building is not there anymore.  There's a small parking lot, some Chinese men smoking and spitting in the street.


For a little while I walked in her footsteps.  That woman I've never met, who died long before I existed.  Maybe her DNA is responsible for my long fingers and toes or my rare blood type.  Maybe her composition is why I have never broken a bone.  Perhaps she is the reason I love pumpernickel. 


Today, on my walk, I could see things in the grand scheme.  I think it's important not to forget.  Even though I never knew her, and know almost nothing about her.  It doesn't matter though.  Molly came long before me, and three generations later, I'm here because of her.

Next door, looks like an original building.
So even if all I do is make her barley with mushrooms, or maybe a rice pudding (certainly she ate that too) I will think of the strong women who came before me.  They lived harder lives than me, there is no doubting that.  I think that means I can rise to the challenge.

In Molly's time this was a Jewish Synagogue.  It's now a Greek Orthodox Church.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Plan


I remember Jean-Philipe, a Parisian I worked for when I was 20, laughing when I told him about my "plans."   Who knows what I was dreaming up at that age, but I had enthusiastically spelled it out with confidence for him.  "You can't plan life," he told me! 

He was mostly right.  I just sort of fell, or stepped, or leaped into several fortuitous situations in my young adult life, and kept moving ahead on my path. Still, I've kept on planning all these years, maybe it's the eternal optimist in me.   I make mental lists and day dream and somehow put one foot in front of the other and these lists get completed and my dreams become reality, well, sometimes.  

No, you can't plan whether your plane will arrive on time, or how you'll end up in another 20 years time.  But there's a lot you can plan, and count on.  Like what's for dinner all week, or more importantly, dessert.  So instead of flying by the seat of my pants,  I like to know that I'm never more than ten minutes away from a freshly baked cookie.  And this is how I do it.  With a plan, and some strategically frozen cookie dough.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with a hint of Coconut
Adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe

This dough can be frozen for up to a month (but I've left it longer and it's been fine, not to mention a nice surprise).  I usually prefer a cookie with lots of nuts but I sometimes bake them without, to accommodate my toddler who still gets frustrated with walnuts.  I like to substitute coconut palm sugar for a "healthier" cookie.  And I usually skimp on the amount of regular sugar, since most cookies taste too sweet for me.  But I've given Lebovitz's amounts below.  

Makes about 3 dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar (I prefer less)
¾ cup granulated sugar (I substituted coconut palm "sugar")
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup- ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 cups walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
14 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl by hand) beat together the butter, sugars and vanilla on medium speed until just smooth.
Beat in the eggs one at a time until throughly incorporated, then stir in the flour mixture, followed by the coconut, nuts (if using) and chocolate.

On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough in half.  Shape each piece into a log (resembling a 12 inch long baguette) and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until firm (or freeze at this point for later use).

Preheat your oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Slice the logs into ¾ inch disks and place them a few inches apart on your backing sheet.  If the nuts or chips crumble out, simply press them back together.  

Bake, rotating the baking sheets midway through baking, until the cookies are lightly browned in the centers, about 10 minutes.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets until firm enough to handle, then transfer to a wire rack.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Baked Jerusalem Artichokes with Bread Crumbs, Thyme and Lemon


I overheard a woman in the school yard yesterday saying how she was so bored with winter that she couldn't even find anything she wanted to eat.  It's easy to feel that sense of malaise in March, when winter feels interminable.  There may be a few more solid weeks of cold, so I'm trying to use this time to eat some really delicious warming foods.  Before long we will all be basking in the possibilities of really fresh salads and a new crop of Spring fruits and vegetables.

Sunroot, Jerusalem Artichoke, aka sunchoke.  It's not an artichoke, but it kind of tastes like one.  It's worth seeking it out and making this gratin before this winter passes us by, which surely it will.


As tubers go, this one is pretty special, coming from a sunflower. Knobby like ginger, so it takes some persistence to peel.  But a little stick-to-itiveness sometimes makes a dish even more rewarding. 

Baked Jerusalem Artichokes, Bread Crumbs, Thyme and Lemon
From Jamie Oliver

This would be a great accompaniment to any roast meat or broiled fish. Don't slice the artichokes too thick or you will wind up baking the dish a lot longer than 30 minutes.

Serves 4-6
1 ⅓ cup heavy cream 
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 good handful of fresh thyme, leaves picked from stems and chopped
3 handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 ¼ lbs Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and sliced as thick as a pencil
2 good handfuls of fresh bread crumbs (I made mine in a food processor using rosemary sourdough bread)
olive oil

Preheat your oven to 425 F.  In a bowl, mix your cream, lemon juice, garlic, half the thyme and most of the Parmesan and season well to taste.  Throw in the sliced Jerusalem artichokes.  Mix well and place everything in an ovenproof baking dish. 

Mix the breadcrumbs with the rest of the thyme and Parmesan and some salt and a little olive oil.  Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes, until the artichokes are tender and the bread crumbs are golden.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chocolate Chia Pudding


Since December I've been turning to the same list of characters:  fish pie, shepherd's pie, soups, stews, casseroles and all other forms of warming, comfort foods.  To brighten things up, I rely heavily on citrus, namely navel orange segments and those luscious satsumas.  A vinegary kale salad from time to time also helps distract from the winter doldrums.

Chocolate is playing a starring role for me this winter.  Sometimes chocolate chips are snuck in greedy handfuls.  Then came a decadent treat in the form of Valentine's chocolates from Jaques Torres.  And finally, I tried my hand at a chia pudding, stirring in some rich bakers cocoa and topping it with raw cacao nibs.  Little treats come in many forms.

Chocolate Chia Pudding
Inspired by this recipe from Simple Bites
This is where healthy 'super food' meets indulgence.  I also made a breakfast version of this, substituting the chocolate for some cinnamon and nutmeg.  It's effortless to make- just combine the ingredients in a jar and shake it up, then chill for 4 hours, or overnight.  My version uses whole milk, because that's what we drink.  But this will work with any milk, including non-dairy nut milks or soy/rice milk.

⅓ cup chia seeds (I used black chia seeds)
1 ½ cups whole milk (or whatever type of milk you drink)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
Cacao nibs, optional

Combine all the ingredients in a pint jar.  Cover it with a lid and shake vigorously.  Chill for about an hour, then shake the jar again.  Let it chill for at least four hours or overnight.  Sprinkle with cacao nibs or shaved chocolate, or eat it as is.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chocolate Mascarpone Icebox Cake

There is something about the way the mascarpone enriches the heavy cream, and softens the chocolate wafers without making them soggy... it's enough to make even this bitter winter fade away for just a while, leaving me fully content with this one perfect (yes, perfect) thing.


Chocolate Mascarpone Icebox Cake
Adapted from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook and Ina Garten's icebox cake

I made two of these recently for a friend's 1940's themed 40th birthday.  I used two springform pans like Ina Garten does, to be sure they would be neatly and safely transported via taxi cab.  But I admit I like the looks of this free-form somewhat messy cake, stacked just slightly off kilter.  Any cream you happen to have left over should go on top of a rich cup of hot chocolate.

2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces mascarpone
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ packages Nabisco chocolate wafer cookies

In a large bowl whip the cream, mascarpone, vanilla, sugar, espresso powder and unsweetened cocoa powder until soft peaks form, being careful not to over whip.  To assemble the cake, on a flat plate at lease 9 inches in diameter, arrange seven chocolate wafers, with one wafer in the center and six wafers surrounding it.  Scoop about ¾ cup of cream onto the wafers, and holding them securely in place, gently spread the cream on top of them.  Continue to layer the wafers and the cream, making sure to end with a whipped cream layer on top.  Refrigerate for at least 5 hours, or overnight before cutting and serving.  Shave some good dark chocolate over top for a garnish.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How to taste bread


 My friend's father was a baker.  I love how she describes the way he tasted bread.

"He would look at it, touch it, smell it, and then taste it... then look at it again," she said, tilting her head back the way he probably did, contemplative.  She had a serious look about her, considering the bread, lost in remembrance.

I could feel her longing for her father, but she seemed comforted, talking about him while she tasted a slice of my freshly baked loaf.  It reminded me of watching my mother adeptly forming rolls or a braided bread.  Or how as kids she took us in our pajamas to the Rockland Bakery in the wee hours because that was how much she loved their bread. Those details about a person that we hope remain engraved somewhere permanent.  And as for the bread, perhaps it helps us hold on.


Rosemary Boule
Makes one loaf. It is excellent as toast on the second and third day.

¾ cup water
2 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
cornmeal for dusting the pan

Combine ¾ cup warm water with 2 teaspoons of active dry yeast and one teaspoon of sugar.
Allow to proof for several minutes.
Measure 2 cups all-purpose flour into a mixing bowl, along with 1 teaspoon of fine salt, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 teaspoons of crumbled, dried rosemary.  Stir to combine.  
Add the yeast mixture to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon.
Turn this out onto a clean but floured countertop and knead for 3-4 minutes, adding in additional flour as needed until the dough is not too sticky but not too firm.  
Oil the same mixing bowl with olive oil and put the dough in the bowl to rise, covered with a dish towel, for about an hour.
Punch down the dough.  If you have a banneton, you can use it for the second rising, also an hour.  Without a banneton, form the dough into a round loaf and let it rise on a baking sheet coated with corn meal.
Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  The loaf is done when it sounds hollow when tapping on the bottom.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Libby's Hot Waffles

Libby's Waffles

I've had this image in my head lately of the 1950's housewife.  For background, I've been stuck inside for six days with a sick child, vacuuming copious amounts of NYC dust like crazy, reaching into my secret stash of chocolate (my version of mommy's little helper.)  But this morning it seemed we had all turned a corner.  Cheeks were rosy again, spirits were higher, and I thought of making waffles.  Instead of our usual, whole wheat, flax-filled waffles, I pulled out my tattered copy of the Good Housekeeping Cook Book that belonged to my Grandmother.  There, circled in purple pen by my own mother, was the waffle recipe I remember from my childhood.

And for the first time, my little family happily gobbled up white waffles- just regular flour, sugar, butter, eggs and milk.  Boy were they good.  Then, to redeem my feelings of failure over having reached the end of my rope a couple times over the last few days, I pulled out the glue and glitter and built my kids a Broadway Local train.  

The R Train

I've listened to other mom's lament that they lost part of their identity when they chose to stay home with their kids.  I can't look at things in that light.  Learning to be a mother and to organize and protect and wipe noses and shlep, I gained a whole new identity, certainly.  It's not all about flax and veggies and overachieving.  What will these boys remember about these years together?  I guess when we judge the adults who raised us, it's best to think that we all do our best.  And hopefully, we remember eating well.

Libby's Hot Waffles
Adapted from GoodHousekeeping Cookbook copyright 1955
Makes 4-6 waffles.  We prefer real maple syrup.  You can follow the steps below, which I copied from the cookbook, or I find the recipe works just as well if you throw all the ingredients into a blender, saving time and energy!

1 ½ cups sifted all purpose flour
3 teaspoons double acting baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 to 1 ½ cups milk (I use 1, but you can use an additional ½ cup for a more liquid batter)
2 eggs, separated
¼ cup melted butter

1. Start heating waffle iron.
2. Into large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt, sugar.
3. Slowly stir in milk, beaten egg yolks, then melted butter.
4. Beat the egg whites stiff, then fold in to batter.
5. Pour batter into center of lower half until it spreads about 1" from edges. Bring cover down gently. Do not raise the cover while baking.
6. When waffle is done, lift cover, loosen waffle with fork, serve at once.  

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