Saturday, May 31, 2008

No, We can't order pizza out...

Ugh. I get so tired of the cost of pizza out, although, I must admit to loving Anthony's Coal-fired Pizza here in Weston, and now we've got Pizza Fusion, a very cool, all-green concept (and a good one: growing by leaps and bounds)...

So when Bryn asked for pizza ordered in the other night, I just said NO. Let's make it. For pennies. I used Carole Bloom's Italian Baker book, which I've mentioned before. This is a nice recipe, easy to do within a couple of hours. I had some San Marzano tomatoes. Unfortunately I didn't have any mozzarella. I dug out a bit of grated cheddar and I always have parm, so I got some freshly grated action going there...Easy.

For the second pie, I went for the focaccia--rolled it out, brushed it with oil and sprinkled it with great sea salt, fresh rosemary, black pepper and more freshly grated parmesan...Oh, I almost forgot: my secret ingredient for any pizza--I whisk up some anchovy paste with great olive oil and I brush that on the crust before anything else gets there. Anyway, the plain bread with olive oil and herbs disappeared it was that loved.

For the REALLY great news? The pizza stone I thought I MUST have left in the oven of the old apartment? I found it in the garage. I am so happy--it's now at home in the oven, where it will stay until we move again..

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Herb Baked Eggs a la Contessa

Tonight I cooked from my Barefoot Blogging group--Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Herb Baked Eggs...shirred eggs in other places, oeufs en cocotte in France. en France, oui?

This recipe proves that great ingredients are the root of all good. A bit of cream and butter heated under the broiler.
Two eggs cracked into the dishes and topped with a mixture of fresh thyme, rosemary, garlic, parsley and freshly grated parmesan. Salt and pepper (I used sel gris from The Meadow--wonderful Mark Bitterman sent me a sampler. I love salt.)

Back under the broiler. Enjoy with great slice of buttered toast. I admit to only doing two eggs (three seemed like so much), and I think they cooked faster than the three would--they got hard, but I'm not complaining bec. I love eggs so much, but how much more luxurious these must be with runny yolks. I'll be trying this recipe again...soon. It makes a simple and delicious supper for a busy night.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Make-up recipe: Brown Sugar Pecan Shortbreads..

Shortbreads are probably one of my favorite cookies. What's not to like: butter, sugar, and just enough flour to hold them together. This recipe from Dorie, the Brown Sugar Pecan Shortbreads, appeals to that Pecan Sandy lover in me...I am making an earlier Tuesdays with Dorie recipe because I already made the brioche sticky buns: you can see my brioche here AND my brioche sticky buns here. I made those almost the minute I had the book in my hand.

They are in the oven baking even as I type...She said a pinch of clove, and I might have put more than a pinch in: I can smell the cloves, which makes me think I was over zealous. We'll see.

Also, can we discuss how much I dislike the stooooopit silicone hot pads I use? They are awkward, you cannot feel anything through them: heat OR the cookies you ruin by clumsily grabbing the cookie pan...(see here--that cookie missing its edge? It got destroyed by one of those pads...)
I have to either get rid of them, always use my dish towels (the cotton ones, not the microfiber ones: those melt. Trust me on that.)...or just my tongs, which probably are my answer...

At any rate, I did as Dorie told. I didn't over mix. This is key. I rolled them out in a zip-lock bag (very clever), although I think I may have rolled a bit thinner near the edges than 1/4-inch. Once chilled, it was simplicity itself to measure and cut...and since I'm learning to bake, I'm learning to be a bit compulsive about getting it right...I even used the ruler (that's from Barbados with cool Bajan stamps...say Bajan with a hard "j", not the "h" sound you might think...I love that the locals call themselves Bajans. I digress...) Of course, since I didn't roll out perfectly, I got some less-than-perfect shortbread squares.

I would say I probably baked them a titch too long and yes, if truth be told, one shake of clove should have been enough. But now they are clove brown sugar pecan shortbreads.

Things could be worse.

As for the taste tests: all is well. I make shortbread at Christmas every year, and as I enjoy this with a glass of red wine, I think Dorie is on to something with that not overmixing: these are melt in your mouth.

Can't wait to bake again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Proust, Madeleines...and Me

Well, it's gotten so I am pretty much really looking forward to my Tuesdays with Dorie Baking sessions. This week the chosen recipe was classic Madeleines...Mmmm. Butter, a hint of lemon, nothing fussy. Right up my ally. Of course, the variations Dorie names look pretty enticing, too: Earl Grey, Lavender, Rosemary/orange, spiced and FLUFF FILLED CHOCOLATE MADELEINES...Sorry, did I yell that? Dorie likens it to a Hostess cupcake, and while that may be a stretch (no disprespect to Hostess, just more kudos to Dorie for being modest), I think that may be an interim experiment. Who knew? All of a sudden, I am a baker.

Once again, the recipe is simple, ingredients happen to be things I actually have in my cupboard. No special trips needed, not even for the pan, if you can believe it. Florida Table did a pumpkin Madeleine last fall and I bought (and didn't expense, in case anyone from the magazine is reading!) a silicone Madeleine pan...(mine is not quite this one, but you get the idea) only piece of silicone..I'd say it came in handy in this case because of the ease with which the mads fell out of the pan...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, the simple ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, lemon zest, eggs, vanilla and melted butter.

Whisk, mix, then this difficult instruction: let it sit for at least three hours. Mine sat overnight, so bright and early Sunday morning, I was baking. Isn't my family special?

You can see I was a bit zealous filling one or two of the molds, but mostly it was all good.

This photo shows that mound that Dorie says is what all those hours resting in the fridge do for the batter....

My pan is for eight. The recipe is for 12. What is up with that??? But it was the easiest thing in the world to give them a gentle push and to pop them out of the pan.

Mmmm. Mounds of Madeleines. Four went to my friend's son, Michael, who likes Madeleines above all else. I hope you liked these better than that famous coffee house's mads, you know the place, it starts with an S and ends with bucks...Say these were better, Michael, or no more baked goods come your way!!!

Mmm. Proust, Madeleines and where is that copy of Proust I had lying around here? Oh, forget it. Just me and my Madeleines...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Florida Pie: My Tuesday With Dorie Session

This week's Tuesday with Dorie baking project is called Florida Pie, which is key lime pie with a twist from
Dorie--she adds coconut in the form of a coconut cream (heavy cream cooked down with coconut). She says you can substitute regular limes, but not here in Florida, right? That would be some form of heresy, especially when key limes are so easy to get here (and mostly imported from Mexico these days, by the way...)

I keep being surprised by how easy Dorie makes the recipes...Easy steps, the right order...I
started with the crust--homemade, even though in the notes, Dorie says she buys store-bought, but that wasn't going to cut it, especially after my pebble Oreo crust last week. I did the graham crackers in the processor (I guess it's not THAT hard to clean, right?)...Bake and freeze, except I have a side-by-side fridge/freezer in this apartment. This has to be the stupidest invention ever (GE? Are you hearing me? No more side by sides, really.)--my pie plate wouldn't fit into the freezer-until I tilted it and forced it...

Once I got the crust into the freezer, I turned to juicing a pound of key limes...(that would make about 1 1/4 cups juice)...Here is my mise en place...I don't think I made any measuring errors this week.

Reducing the cream with coconut in it, then letting it cool...moving on to whipping the yolks with the sweetened condensed milk and juice..Coconut cream onto the bottom of the crust, topped with the yolk and lime juice custard. Bake 12 minutes...Cool slightly, return to freezer...

The meringue is interesting--Dorie has you cook it (for safety's sake, I am sure) then whip it to stiff peaks. Gently fold in remaining coconut

I am taking the pie to a get together this evening, but in the line of duty to the blog, we took a slice out of know, to photograph it...well, know, to taste it. My cutting skills need work, I guess...but that first piece is always tough!

Anyway, Ian, Bryn and I shared the tastes of that first piece...An excellent key lime pie, we all agreed. I love the texture--and the taste--of the coconut in this pie, but I find myself wishing I'd toasted the coconut for the meringue instead of stirring it into the the time, that will be the way I make it (I DO have all that extra key lime juice, after all...maybe I'll have to make it to take into the magazine again...)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Dorie's Peanutbutter Torte

Wow. This is rich and decadent and so good. If you love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, you will adore this...and for me, the non-baker, it's not even really baking. This is this week's Tuesdays with Dorie achievement (anything I bake is an achievement, trust me on this).

Of course, I managed to not make it look like the photo in Dorie's Book. First of all, I have an 8-inch spring form pan. You don't THINK it will make so much difference, but that's a lot of volume (you do the math; I didn't understand 7th grade math until I was 40, but then the boys moved on to more difficult stuff and I forgot everything again). Second of all, she says either crush the Oreos for the crust by hand (that's what I said--an OREO cookie crust. How cool is that?) OR with a food processor. Because we all know how much I don't like cleaning the food processor, I crushed by hand. My crust is not so so much a crumb crust as a cookie pebble crust. How very Flintstone.

Taking it out of the springform was easy (thank goodness I've moved that pan from NYC to Philadelphia to KY to the first apartment in Florida to the second apartment here in Florida. I just knew I would need it!). I had to alter the topping a bit because even though I asked two different people in the house (one husband, one son) if they could stop and buy me a measly cup of heavy cream for the ganache topping, neither one remembered...So instead I stirred a touch of melted butter into the chocolate to give me something spreadable that won't turn brittle in the fridge...It works. (Not like I was saving calories at this point...)

But that doesn't mar the flavor. A bite of heaven. This and a cup of good espresso is on the menu for my afternoon break. Life is good.

(The picture shows how challenged I am with the whole crust thing...but I like its "rough" form...forget pebble crust. When cut, this looks like boulder crust...still tastes great. Lucky office workers at Florida Table, because this is so NOT staying in my house for me to eat. I should be everyone's favorite!)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Local Clams Do The Double

A few days ago, I was lucky enough to score about 10 pounds of freshly caught clams at The Olde Fish House in Matlacha on Pine Island, off the west coast of Florida. I'll post about the woderful owners, Jessi and Tom, later, but today, I am all about my clams.

I knew I wanted pasta and clam sauce from those clams...I called my sister. The last time I'd made clam sauce was at her house from one of her books with clams I'd bought at Grand Central's market. Pat and her husband, Sushil, have made Double Clam sauce more than once...I scribbled ingredients and methods...

Then turned to the task at hand.

Great clams. good olive oil, butter, fresh parsley, pasta cooked to perfection. But it melds plenty of garlic, olive oil, butter and white wine with the clams--some chopped, some still in their shells, which makes it double clam. It's a keeper of a recipe.

Ten pounds of clams makes enough for 8 to 10 people, but I couldn't entice a soul to my dinner table--so sad.

So I enjoyed it all on my own with a lovely Summers Estate 2007 Le Nude Chardonnay ($24), an unoaked, stainless steel aged wine with crisp flavors that matched the clam dish perfectly.

I like my clam sauce with great Parmesan, what can I say? There was enough juice when I was done for it to be mopped up with a piece of sourdough bread. Life is good. Next time, you are all welcome to join me!

Do The Double Clam Sauce for Pasta (Enough for 8 to 10 people...if they choose to join you for dinner)

10 pounds clams in shells, cleaned
24 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups white wine
1 cup pasta water
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 stick butter
1 cup parsley, chopped
2 pounds linguini

1. Place half the clams into a stock pot with half the garlic, 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup wine. Bring all to a boil, and reduce to simmer, steaming until all clams open (discard any clams that do not open). Remove clams from pot. Strain and reserve cookng liquid. Chop clams and set aside.
2. In separate pot, bring water to boil. Add linguini and cook until just al dente.
3. While pasta is cooking, return first pot to medium heat. Add remaining olive oil, remaining garlic and white wine and red pepper flakes. Add remaining clams in shell and 1 cup pasta water plus the reserved liquid used to make the chopped clams. Bring all to boil, reduce to simmer and cook until clams open. Stir in butter and parsley, and cook until butter is melted.
4. To serve, place portion of pasta in shallow bowl. Top with about 8 to 10 clams in shells. Use ladle to add sauce to bowl. Pass with cheese for grating (for those of you who break all the rules the way I do...) and bread to mop up any remaining sauce.