Monday, December 19, 2011

Balthazar's Cream of Mushroom Soup

Based on my grocery store offerings, this is a slightly bastardized version of the original Balthazar Mushroom Soup.  Don't hate, because this is nothing if not a legitimate recipe.


1 package dried shiitake mushrooms
1 package baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 package oyster mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 sprig rosemary (finely chopped)
5 sprigs sage (finely chopped)
1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups chicken stock (one box good quality chicken stock)
splash of half and half or heavy cream
2 tbsp. butter
1.5 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper


our one cup of warm water over the dried mushrooms to let soak for 20-30 minutes, until soft and plump.  Strain the soaking liquid and mushrooms through a sieve and coffee filter to catch any dirt/grit.  Slick, then reserve the mushrooms and cooking liquid for later.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a big soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the herbs in to infuse the oil for a few minutes, then add the onio, garlic, salt, and pepper and stir until soft.  Turn the heat to high and add the baby bella nd oyster mushrooms.  Stir occasionally as the mushrooms release any liquid and start to soften.  Add the chicken stock and then the shiitake mushrooms and the liquid they had originally soaked in.  Lower heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the 2 tbsp of butter, and stir to melt and incorporate.  Working in batches (or with an immersion blender) blend the soup until smooth and velvety.  Return to the pot, and add a splash of the half-and-half or heavy cream (but not too much). Keep on a low simmer until ready to serve.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Carrot Ginger Soup

I got this from a book that we've had for years now, "The Complete Book of 400 Soups."  And make no mistake, that is no typo.  Four Hundred.  Guess who's making more soups for you this winter?


2 tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
1.5 lb. carrots, chopped
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh root ginger
5 cups chicken stock
7 tbsp. heavy whipping cream or greek yogurt (optional)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, if on hand. (If not, ground will do)
1 tsp. cumin
Salt, Pepper to taste
Dash of red pepper flakes (optional)


Melt the butter, add the onion and celery, and cook for five minutes over medium-high heat, and sprinkle some salt on as well.  Then stir in the potato, carrots, ginger, and stock, and a dash of red pepper flakes if you wish to add some kick.  Bring to a boil.  Next, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Pour the soup into the food processor (you may have to do this in batches if you have a small food processor, like mine), and blend until smooth.  Return the completely blended soup to the pan, and stir in nutmeg, cumin, salt, and pepper to your liking.  Add the cream if you wish, however, I added a dollop of Greek yogurt to the soup in my bowl, with a spattering of sliced almonds toasted with cumin on top, and it was out of this world. Healthier than cream, too.  Serve hot and enjoy!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Soft Rye Pretzels

Via Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce.


2 Tbsp. butter, melted, for the bowl and baking sheets

1 package active dry yeast
1 tbsp. honey
1 cup rye flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. kosher salt

1/2 cup baking soda

Coarse sea salt


Measure the yeast into a large bowl.  Heat 1.5 cups of water in a saucepan till warm to the touch, about 100 degrees F, and pour over yeast.  Add the honey and stir to combine.  (Make sure the yeast starts to expand and bubble to make sure it's active).  Add the flours and salt, and stir again.

Dump the sticky dough onto a floured surface and knead.  Add up to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour as needed until the dough is tacky but not sticky.  Knead for about 12 minutes, until the dough is soft and supple.

Lightly brush a large bowl with the melted butter.  Move the dough into the owl, and cover with a warm wet towel (so dough doesn't dry out) and let rise about 1.5 hours until doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, make sure your oven is turned on to 450 degrees F, and that the two racks are at the top and bottom thirds of the oven.  Brush two baking sheets generously with butter.

Once the dough is doubled, gently pour it from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface.  Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces.  One at a time (leave the remaining pieces covered by the wet towel meanwhile), roll out each piece of dough into the shape of a long snake, about 15-17 inches long.  Don't flour the surface as your roll; the slight stickiness lets you roll the dough evenly and quickly.

To make the pretzel shape:  take both ends of the snake-shape (leaving the center on the counter) and meet in the middle, and switch places in the hands (so the left side is now in right hand, and right side now in left hand).  Bring the ends back down and make sure it has the curves of a normal pretzel shape, and gently press back down onto the sides of the center of the snake-shaped roll.  Place pretzel on one of the baking sheets.  Continue until you are finished with all the dough and pretzels, and let rise additional 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the bath, fill a large pot with ten cups of water, and bring to a boil.  Once the pretzels have risen for the 20 minutes and the water is boiling, add the baking soda to the water.  Place 2-3 pretzels into the pot, (depending on size of pot, you don't want the pretzels to touch), and boil each side of the pretzel for 30 seconds, then use a straining spoon to lift the pretzels out and back onto the baking sheets, (tapping gently with a towel or against pot to remove excess water).   Repeat for all pretzels, and sprinkle liberally with salt while still moist.

Place the baking sheets with pretzels in the oven and bake 15-18 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  The pretzels should be a dark mahogany color.  Transfer to a rack to cool, and are best eaten warm, ideally within the hour and with mustard.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stone Fruit Lattice Pie and Pie Crust Recipe

Got this from the new Bon Appetit mag, but added some rosemary from my friend's garden.  Zing! I loved it.   Awesome pie crust recipe directly below.  Pie recipe below that.

Master Pie Crust


3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Process flour, butter, vegetable shortening, sugar, and salt in a food processor until butter resembles tiny pebbles, about 25 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl. Gradually add 3/4 cup ice water, using a fork to stir until dough is a mixture of clumpy wet pieces and sandier pieces, adding more water by tablespoonfuls if dry. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to chill for at least an hour, or overnight.
For a single- or double-crust unbaked pie crust:

Divide dough in half. Flatten each half into a disk. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 disk into a 13"-14" round. Roll over rolling pin and transfer to the pie dish. Pick up the edges and allow dough to slump inside the dish. Trim, leaving about 1" overhang. (For single-crust pie, fold overhang under and crimp edges.) Chill at least 1 hour or overnight.

For a blind-baked pie crust:

•Preaheat oven to 375°. Prick chilled crust in pie dish (see instructions, above) alll over with a fork. Line crust with foil or parchment paper. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven; lift out foil and weights. Reduce temperature to 350°. Return to oven and bake, using fork to prick any bubbles that have formed and pressing down on them with back of fork, until crust is light golden brown, 20-25 minutes longer. Let crust cool completely.

For instructions on how to lattice the heck outta your crust, check this nifty "how to" from Bon Appetit.

Stone Fruit Lattice Pie
(I only used peaches and plums, and added a pinch of rosemary. yum!)



2 pounds nectarines
1 pound peaches, peeled
1 pound plums
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary (optional)
1/2 teaspoon orange-flower water (optional)
1 large egg, beaten to blend


Divide dough in half. Roll out one half according to Unbaked Pie Crust recipe. Roll out second dough disk on a lightly floured sruface to a 14" round. Transfer round to a baking sheet. Cover and chill both crusts for 1 hour. DO AHEAD option: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep chilled.


Preheat oven to 400°. Halve, pit, and cut fruit into 1/2" thick slices. Place all fruit in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup sugar and toss to coat. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, tossing occasionally. Strain fruit, reserving 1/4 cup of liquid; return fruit to same bowl. Whisk cornstarch and reserved fruit liquied in a small bowl. Add cornstarch mixture, nutmeg, rosemary, and orange-flower water, if using, to fruit; toss gently.

Pour fruit mixture into unbaked pie crust in dish. Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut 14" dough round into 3/4"-wide strips. Weave strips over filling, forming a lattice. Trim strips 1/2" shorter than dough overhang. Fold overhang over strips and cripm edges decoratively.

Brush beaten egg over crust edges and lattice. Sprink 1 Tbsp. sugar over. Set pie on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake pie for 40 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Bake until crust is golden brown and juices bubble, about 40 minutes longer. Let cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cheddar-Jalapeño Scones

I added about 2-3 finally sliced green onions to the original recipe to give it even more pep.  It worked.  These are fantastic at any time of the day, morning and night.  I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Peter Oleyer at Calexico Carne Asada in Brooklyn via NYMag.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick or 4 ounces) cold butter, diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 eggs, divided
1/4 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, diced
2 medium jalapeño peppers, finely minced
3 scallions, finely sliced


Preheat oven to 400°F. In a small skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter and sauté the jalapeños for a few minutes, until soft. Let them cool, then place them in a small bowl with the cheddar cheese and coat them with one tablespoon of the flour. Combine the remaining flour with the baking powder and salt. Cut in the remaining butter with a fork or two knives, until the butter bits are pea sized.

Lightly whip two of the eggs and cream and add to the flour and butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, fold mixture until it begins to come together. Add the cheddar-jalapeño mixture to the dough, as well as the scallions, and mix until everything is incorporated.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead gently for less than one minute. Pat dough out to a 3/4- to 1-inch thickness and either cut into 8 triangles or the shape of your choice with a biscuit cutter. Make an egg wash by beating the remaining egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush the scones with egg wash and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

These are definitely best on the first day, but can be put back in the oven for a quick warm-up the next day.

Scones are always best the first day.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pasta Puttanesca

I got this from Bon Appetit via Epicurious...named for the ladies of the night from back in the mother land, Italia, it's become a hearty pasta dish for us busy folk that need a flavorful, interesting, and quickly-thrown together meal in the night time.  And I'm thankful to them for it.


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 28.2-ounce can peeled tomatoes in puree with basil
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, halved, pitted
3 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons drained capers
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
3/4 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese


Heat oil in large pot or skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute. Add tomatoes with puree, olives, anchovies, capers, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Simmer sauce over medium-low heat until thickened, breaking up tomatoes with spoon, about 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

While the sauce is simmering away, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain pasta; return to same pot. Add sauce and parsley to the hot pasta. Toss until sauce coats pasta, about 3 minutes. Serve with grated cheese.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Coconut Banana Bread

I got this recipe (and idea for sprinkling the thick, natural Demerara sugar along the top) from Orangette. Molly, of course, got it from HomeBaking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition around the World, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.


3 large, overripe bananas
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp distilled white vinegar
2 Tbsp. dark rum
½ cup dried shredded unsweetened coconut
Demerara sugar (to your sprinkled liking)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a standard loaf pan.

If using frozen bananas, make sure they are completely thawed (at least 4 hours out of the freezer...alternatively put them in the fridge the day before or overnight).

In a blender or food processor, purée the bananas. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of purée to 1 3/4 and set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vinegar and rum, and beat to mix well. Add the banana purée and the flour mixture alternately, about 1 cup at a time, beginning with the banana and beating to just incorporate. Use a spatula to fold in any flour that has not been absorbed, and stir in the coconut. Be careful to not overmix.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with the demerara sugar. Bake for 50-65 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack or cutting board and try not to dig in while the loaf is still steaming. If you must though, I understand completely. When storing the loaf, keep in an airtight don't want it to dry out.

Makes 1 loaf.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

I had a friend crash at my place and no slumber party is complete without Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, wine, and a plate of warm cookies.  Weird?  I think not.  In flipping through my trusty Gourmet Cookbook, I found this prize-winner of a recipe.


1 cup chunky or smooth peanut butter (I used JIF Natural Creamy)
1 cup sugar (I recommend 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar)
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
Optional: Handful of chopped walnuts or chocolate bits if you like


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with butter and set aside. With a mixer, combine peanut butter and sugars until well combined, about 2 minutes or so. Add the egg and baking soda and mix for another 2 minutes.  Fold in the walnut pieces or chocolate bits if you wish at this point, then roll mixture into a ball, about 1-1 1/2" wide, and repeat for the rest of the dough.  Bake for 10-13 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges.

These cookies are best served warm, and be careful:  they are pretty delicate and would only keep for another day or so in an air-tight container.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Grilled Cheese with Pear and Brie

Grilled cheeses are like pajamas.  Mix and match all your favorite things, you're bound to find something that just works for you.  This worked for me last week, and I'm sure I'll return to it again.


2 slices- bread of choice (I used Pepperidge Farm Dark German Wheat)
Your favorite chutney (cranberry would be good.  I used My Naani's Apple Chutney)
4 slices of brie
1/2 red pear, thinly sliced
a small handful of spinach or arugula leaves
butter, as needed


Instead of buttering the bread before grilling, I decided to go crazy up in my kitchen and melt the butter a bit in the skillet itself,  just till it started to brown.  Meanwhile, I slathered some chutney on each slice of bread, dashed a bit of cayenne pepper for added kick, then layered the brie, then pear.  I correctly figured each side would get melty enough as-is, and so I put each half-sandwich side on the melted butter (over medium-high heat) on my stove, so they would simultaneously get melty (I didn't want the spinach to wilt, you see.)  After about 2 minutes and the sandwiches were toasting (not burning!) and the brie was just starting to melt, I added the spinach to one half-sandwich, flipped the other half on top of it, and finished grilling my sammie to perfection.  I rather liked my "melted butter" version than the traditional version.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Limoncello Mint Sorbet

Originally from Cooking Light, this lovely little dish comes my way via the blog The Craving Chronicles.  My adapted version (less sugar) is below, but follow the original if you want full-sugar.

Makes 4 cups


2 cups water
3/4 cups sugar (add more if you feel it's not sweet enough.  Original recipe called for 1 1/3 cups)
1/2 cup limoncello
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4-6 lemons)
1/2 cup fresh mint
lemon slices, zest strips, or extra mint leaves for garnish if you like


Combine the water, sugar, and limoncello, and heat in a saucepan over medium to high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar as you bring the mixture to a boil. As it comes to a boil, remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and whole mint leaves.

Cover and chill for at least four hours in the fridge.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into another bowl.  Discard the mint leaves.  Pour the mixture into the frozen bowl of your ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer instructions (approximately half an hour or so).

Transfer the frozen mixture into a freezer-safe container, and freeze for at least an hour.  When ready to serve, add garnish if desired.  Or...just grab a bunch of spoons and dig in.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cochinita Pibil

There are about a million recipes for Cochinita online.  I chose to go with a fellow Phoenician's recipe (albeit a genius Mexican chef fellow Phoenician), Alex Padilla, Executive Chef at Taberna Mexicana.  I've adapted this recipe from the Phoenix New Times.  Serves 4.  (I doubled the recipe and omitted things like pineapple juice, habanero peppers but the original is below minus the banana leaf wrapping).


3.5-4lb. Pork shoulder
1 Grapefruit, juiced
2 Oranges, juiced
2 Limes, juiced
2 Lemons, juiced
1 c. Pineapple juice (I omitted this and used an extra grapefruit instead)
4-6 garlic cloves, toasted slightly
1 can diced or whole tomatoes (or fire roasted for spice)
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
1/8 c. kosher salt
1/4 c. black pepper ground
1/4 c. dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 1/3 tsp. cumin
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
1/3 lb. achiote paste


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Remove skin and extra fat from the pork shoulder.  When clean, cut the pork into one to one-half pound pieces.  Then season with salt, pepper, and oregano.  On the grill (in my case, a skillet), brown the meat on all sides for about ten minutes total.  You might have to do this in a few batches if using a skillet.  Place browned meat on the bottom of an oven-proof dish like a dutch-oven. 

Blend all of the juices together.  Next, blend the achiote paste with the vinegar, black pepper, jalapenos, and garlic.  Mix with the juices, then pour on top of the meat.  Sprinkle rest of salt, oregano, bay leaf, sliced onion, and the tomatoes on top.  Cover the dish and place in the oven for 3-4 hours.  Resist all urges to peek, even if your house is filled with heavenly aromas.  Serve with fresh corn tortillas, and cabbage, lime wedges, freshly chopped onions and name it!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread

Found this lovely gem from Antonia James via Food52.  Hey-o!  Great cooks contribute to a great site.  Check it out, lovelies. 

Makes one loaf

1 tsp. sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast, or 1 ½ teaspoons of “rapid-rise” or instant yeast
7/8 cup buttermilk (lowfat is fine)
½ cup rolled oats (old fashioned or quick)
2 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons honey
1 ½ teaspoon salt
3 – 3 ¼ cup bread flour (You may need just a bit more for kneading.)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Olive oil for brushing the dough before baking


Proof the yeast by putting it in a small measuring cup with 3 tablespoons of water that is warm (no hotter than 115 degrees Fahrenheit), with a pinch of sugar. Set it aside for at least ten minutes.

Mix together the buttermilk, oats, melted butter, salt, honey, 1 cup of flour and the baking soda. Beat well until combined. (If you have a stand mixer, use the dough hook attachment).

Beat in another half cup of flour, then add the yeast and water mixture along with another half cup of flour, and beat some more, until combined. The dough should start to feel a bit stretchy.
Stir in another half cup of flour as best you can and then dump the contents of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface.

Set the remaining ¾ cup of flour close to your work area. Knead, adding flour a bit at a time as necessary, using a bench scraper to lift from your work surface any dough that is sticking.
Knead for about ten or twelve minutes, adding only as much flour as you need to keep the dough from sticking hard to your hands. You don’t need to add the entire amount stated in the ingredients list. Remember, this dough has oatmeal in it, which will continue to soak up the liquids in the bread during the rise.

Let the dough rest for a few minutes while you prepare the bowl and your rising area, if necessary.

Wash in hot water the same bowl that you used for mixing the dough. Dry it and drizzle in the bottom a teaspoon or two of good, fruity olive oil. You can also use butter to coat the bowl, if you prefer.

Gently form the dough into a ball, put into the bowl topside down, and then flip it over to coat with the oil.

Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel. Allow to rise until doubled, for about an hour to an hour and a half. Carefully remove from bowl, then roll loosely like a log. Pinch the seams together. and place in a greased bread pan or oven-proof pot. Cover the pan/pot with the damp cloth.

Allow to rise a second time about 45 minutes or until nearly doubled in size.

Brush with olive oil, slice the dough a few times with a sharp knife, and bake at 350 Fahrenheit (for regular ovens) for about 55 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when the bottom is gently tapped.

Allow to cool on a rack or cutting board for about an hour before slicing.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Ricotta, Spinach, and Arugula Gnocchi

Originally from GoodFood, I got this by way of Fresh 365 Online. Luv them.

Serves 4


1 c packed fresh spinach
1 c packed arugula, chopped, plus additional to serve
small handful basil leaves, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
3/4 c ricotta
1 c flour, plus additional for rolling
2 eggs, beaten
1 c grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional to serve
1 t salt
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t pepper
olive oil, to serve


Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add spinach, and turn off heat. Remove spinach after 2 minutes and transfer to colander, to drain, pressing out as much water as possible. Transfer to a cutting board and chop.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, arugula, basil, garlic, ricotta, flour, eggs, cheese, salt, nutmeg and pepper. Mix well, adding an additional 2-3 T flour, if needed. Mixture will be wet, but should be able to form into 1” balls, with floured hands. Roll each ball in a bit of flour, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet (or cutting board). Transfer to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop 1/4 of the gnocchi in the water, and let them sink to the bottom. When they rise to the top (about 2-3 minutes), allow them to cook for 1 minutes more. Remove with a slotted spoon, transferring to a plate. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi, in batches. Place arugula on large plate, and drizzle with fresh lemon juice and olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve the gnocchi on top of arugula. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, to taste.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pita Bread

Martha Stewart has a great and simple recipe for homemade pita. In doing a bit of research, it seems that almost everyone has nearly the exact same recipe and technique: bake these puppies in the oven, or in a cast iron skillet, a spritz of water, and you're golden.

Makes 8 pitas


1 1/4 cups warm water (approximately 100 to 110 degrees)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour (or a mix of whole wheat and regular), plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for bowl


Pour water into the bowl of an electric mixer, and add a pinch of sugar. Sprinkle yeast over water, and stir to dissolve. Mix in 1 1/2 cups flour until well incorporated. Cover bowl; let sit in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours, until dough has doubled in bulk.

Sprinkle salt over flour and yeast mixture, and add olive oil and remaining 1 1/2 cups flour. Mix on medium-low speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

Transfer dough to a floured work surface, and knead about 10 turns, forming a ball. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until dough has doubled in bulk, about 1 1/4 hours.

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Turn dough out onto a board, and cut in half. Cut each half into four pieces, and form each piece into a ball. Cover them loosely with a piece of plastic wrap to keep the dough from drying out. On a floured work surface, roll two balls into circles 7 inches in diameter and slightly less than 1/4 inch thick. Place pita on an ungreased baking sheet (or cast iron skillet), sprinkle a few drops of water (or spritz with a spray bottle), and bake until puffed and light brown, about 5-8 minutes (keep an eye on the pita!) . Repeat, baking two pita breads at a time.

Best if served warm, but you can let them cool and wrap them up and keep them for a few days for any meals you want some pita lovin' on.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mushroom and Lentil Shepherd's Pie

I am a true believer in putting whatever the heck you want to in the veggie portion of this. Raid the freezer! Raid your veggie drawer! Don't like mushrooms? Cut them out. Alternatively, if you're a lentil hater, don't put them in and just do fresh veg. This is an experimenting-is-fun kind of dish.


3 medium Russet potatoes
1/2 cup whole milk
5 tblsp. butter, divided
1 cup red or green lentils
1 large shallot
3 celery stalks
3 carrots
1 cup peas
1 carton baby bella mushrooms (or whichever kind you prefer)
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup chicken stock (optional...just makes the veggies juicier)
1 5 oz. package of goat cheese
Thyme and Rosemary, as desired
salt and pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Chop up the potatoes into very large makes it easier to boil and then mash them up this way. Bring to a boil a large pot of salted water, then add in the potatoes and boil, about 10-15 minutes. Check tenderness with a fork to see when done (should be very soft.) Meanwhile, bring the lentils to a boil in salted water, and add a sprig or two of rosemary into the pot. Boil for about 10 minutes, until soft. When cooked, drain lentils and set aside.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain, then return to the empty hot pot. They should be steaming (which means the extra water is evaporating and you won't have soggy taters.) Add in a couple tablespoons of butter, the milk, salt and pepper, and mash. (Note: I like leaving the skins on the potatoes, makes it tastier, but if you're seriously anti-potato-skin, you can peel them in the beginning before chopping and adding to water.) Mash to a smooth consistency, and add as much butter/milk/salt/pepper as suits your taste preferences. When smooth, scoop out hunks of the goat cheese and stir in (but you want to keep pockets of the goat cheese to get melty in the oven later.) Set aside.

Chop the carrots, celery, shallot, mushrooms (I like a combo of sliced and chopped mushrooms, makes for a good consistency). Saute in the remaining butter in a pan, add salt and pepper and thyme and continue to cook over medium heat until softened. Add in the lentils, wine (a bit at a time), and chicken stock if you wish, and taste for flavor. Add in the peas. Once everything tastes to your liking in terms of salt, pepper, etc, remove from pan. (Make sure the veg don't get too dried out!)

In a medium-sized ovenproof dish, scoop in the lentil-mushroom mixture and spread out evenly. Next layer on top the mashed potato mixture, and even out over the lentils. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes start to brown on top and everything smells heavenly.

Remove from the oven, and let settle for about ten minutes. Serve hot.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Leek and Cauliflower Risotto

Fresh 365 Online posted this, from Gourmet (sniff. I still miss you.)

This is the (almost) original recipe...the original called for a blanching and sauteeing of the cauliflower. I, instead, chose to roast it. I also replaced 1/2 cup of white wine in the stock liquid as it just tastes better that way. I think this would be even more divine with some roasted asparagus on top or sauteed mushrooms for good measure.

2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped
1 medium head cauliflower (2 lbs), rinsed and cut into 1” wide florets or sliced into 1" pieces length-wise to roast.
3 c vegetable broth or chicken stock
1/2 c white wine
1 1/2 c water
3 T butter
1 c Arborio rice
3/4 c finely grated Parmesan cheese (1 1/2 oz)
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
2 T fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place cauliflower on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, tossing to coat evenly. When the oven is ready, roast the cauliflower for about 25-30 minutes, (or until it starts to caramelize on the bottom.) Meanwhile, wash chopped leeks in a colander to remove dirt. In a large pot of boiling salted water, blanch leeks for 1 minute. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Remove the cauliflower when done, and let cool until you can tear apart into little flourets to mix into the risotto.

Bring stock and water to a boil in a small saucepan and keep stock at a simmer. Heat 2 T butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat until foam subsides. Sauté leek and shallots, stirring, 2 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add in the cauliflower and stir. Reduce heat to medium-low and add 1 c simmering stock. Cook at a strong simmer, stirring, until absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue adding stock, 1/2 c at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next. Finally add the 1/2 cup of wine and stir until rice is tender and creamy, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 T butter, cheese and roasted red pepper. Season to taste with salt and pepper and top with cilantro or parsley.

Serve warm.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pasta with Pesto Trapanese (tomatoes and almonds)

Adapted from Gourmet.

Use whichever pasta is your fave, but I think a linguine or spaghetti works best with this. I usually go for a wheat or whole grain pasta, but it's all up to you!


3/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds (alternatively, you can use pre-roasted almonds)
1 large handful fresh basil leaves
2 large garlic cloves
Several sprinkles of sea salt
6 ripe plum tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan
1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
1 pound linguine or spaghetti


In a large skillet, sauté the almonds in a little olive oil until toasted (if you get the sliced or slivered almonds, not the roasted kind). Let cool, then blend them in a food processor or blender until they are coarsely chopped. Remove from the processor and set them aside.

Put the basil, garlic and a few pinches of sea salt into the food processor and chop. Add the almonds back to the food processor (keeping them separate keeps the almonds from getting too finely chopped) with the tomatoes, cheese and olive oil and process briefly. Season with freshly ground black pepper and adjust the salt to your taste.

Cook your pasta until it is al dente and could use another minute of cooking time. Reserve one cup of pasta cooking water and drain the rest. Immediately toss the hot pasta a bit at a time with the pesto and mix quickly so that it drinks the sauce up a bit. Add more pasta water if needed, and pasta (I usually end up using 3/4 of a box depending on how juicy the sauce is). Serve warm with a heft sprinkling of fresh parmesan or pecorino and freshly ground pepper.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Penne Frittata with Ricotta and Basil

Courtesy of Martha Stewart Living

Take a chance on this awesome little pasta dish/egg dish and do yourself a favor. It's good hot, or room temperature snuggled between two pieces of crusty bread.


6 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups cooked and drained penne rigate pasta (or 7oz. dry...or whatever you have in the fridge)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Garnish: fresh basil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together eggs, milk, ricotta, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir in cooked pasta and chopped basil.

Heat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat bottom and sides of skillet. Pour in egg mixture, and cook until edges are just beginning to set, about 2 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven, and bake until eggs are completely set, 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove to a plate, and or serving dish. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges. Garnish with basil.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Homemade Vanilla

Loosely adapted from Barefoot Contessa, the mixture of alcohol and vanilla beans is simple. Make sure to clean and sterilize the jars beforehand (steep in boiling water for about 10 minutes, then let dry completely.)


1 cup good-quality rum or vodka
3 medium vanilla beans (or 1.5 fat ones)


Using a sharp knife, slice down the side of the vanilla bean, exposing the seeds. Place the vanilla bean(s) in a clean jar. Carefully pour the vodka or rum into the jar and seal tightly. Shake a few times, then place the jar in a dark cabinet, and let rest approximately 8 weeks. And voila! Vanilla.

(Alternatively...and while I obviously haven't tried it yet, you can use mostly vodka, which is what I did, but with a splash of rum on top.)

Also, keep in mind this vanilla is meant to last forever! As you use the vanilla in cooking, refill it with alcohol so it continues to steep. Also add in a new vanilla bean every so often, and remove the old ones. The lovely cycle is bound to continue for years. I'm looking forward to it.