Cooking vicariously

Posted in family, food, personal at 1:07 am by wingerz

As some of you know my sister has totally one-upped me in the kitchen by attending culinary school. She’s starting posting some of her class writing assignments on her blog. I’m hoping to pick up some good tips at home over the holidays.


Blueberry scones

Posted in baking, food, home cooking at 12:12 am by wingerz


These scones are awesome. They’re more work than the cream scones but it’s definitely worth it. I made these for our day care teachers when they came over for a home visit. I hope they bought Camille a few extra hugs.

Blueberry scones
from ATK’s Family Baking Book

16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), frozen whole (you’ll “only” use 10 tablespoons of butter total)
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (about 7 1/2 ounces), picked over (see note)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces), plus additional for work surface
1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces), plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Score and remove half of wrapper from each stick of frozen butter. Grate unwrapped ends on large holes of box grater (you should grate total of 8 tablespoons). Place grated butter in freezer until needed. Melt 2 tablespoons of remaining ungrated butter and set aside. Save remaining 6 tablespoons butter for another use. Place blueberries in freezer until needed.
2. Whisk together milk and sour cream in medium bowl; refrigerate until needed. Whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest in medium bowl. Add frozen butter to flour mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated.
3. Add milk mixture to flour mixture; fold with spatula until just combined. With rubber spatula, transfer dough to liberally floured work surface. Dust surface of dough with flour; with floured hands, knead dough 6 to 8 times, until it just holds together in ragged ball, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.
4. Roll dough into approximate 12-inch square. Following illustrations, fold dough into thirds like a business letter, using bench scraper or metal spatula to release dough if it sticks to countertop. Lift short ends of dough and fold into thirds again to form approximate 4-inch square. Transfer dough to plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in freezer 5 minutes.
5. Transfer dough to floured work surface and roll into approximate 12-inch square again. Sprinkle blueberries evenly over surface of dough, then press down so they are slightly embedded in dough. Using bench scraper or thin metal spatula, loosen dough from work surface. Roll dough, pressing to form tight log. Lay seam-side down and press log into 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Using sharp, floured knife, cut rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet.
6. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18 to 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before serving.


Cooking with a newborn (blueberry pie)

Posted in baking, food, home cooking at 1:24 pm by wingerz


As some of you know, Jen gave birth to our beautiful Camille two weeks ago. I’ve still been trying to keep Jen (and, transitively, the baby) well-nourished. The number of ingredients has gone way down; basically everything (lamb, salmon, zucchini, red peppers, asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes) gets a sprinkle of olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. The slow-cooker has also gotten some use – chicken soup and “barbecued” beef brisket.

Yesterday Joy came to visit so we were a bit more ambitious – made a delicious blueberry pie. The new oven is way better than our old one – baked goods come out with a better brown. The pie was amazing.

Best Blueberry Pie
from Cook’s Illustrated

Make a double crust according to this recipe.

6 cups fresh blueberries (about 30 ounces) (see note)
1 Granny Smith apple , peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
2 teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca , ground (see note)
Pinch table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large egg , lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

1. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
2. For The Filling: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.
3. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.
4. Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using 1 1/4-inch round biscuit cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2 inches from edge of center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1/2-inch overhang on each side.
5. Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes.
6. Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.


Cinnamon Rolls

Posted in baking, food, home cooking at 1:51 am by wingerz


For the past eighteen months I’ve had to make do with quite a small kitchen. It’s got a tiny dishwasher, a small fridge, a basic stove, and not a ton of counter space. A lot of our favorite appliances (even the stand mixer) get hidden away in closets or cabinets when they aren’t in use. It’s a far cry from the granite countertops and island in our old condo. But it’s most definitely been serviceable, and I’ve learned to be more efficient with my space and dish usage.

Sunday dinners have been the highlight of the week thanks to the year-long farmer’s market (as opposed to the June-October one in Somerville). One completely new skill that I’ve picked up over the past year is baking – from bread to fruit desserts to pastries. To celebrate our last weekend here I made four dozen cinnamon rolls today. I’m just now realizing that my upstairs neighbors probably hate me for running the oven all last summer too.

This recipe is from the ATK Family Baking Book. It’s actually a pretty easy recipe; the stand mixer and yeast do most of the work for you. Mine deserves a break after running non-stop for about an hour.



Posted in baking, food, home cooking at 2:03 am by wingerz


I haven’t been blogging much lately but that doesn’t mean that our kitchen has been quiet. A few months ago I started making pastries. Our butter consumption has skyrocketed and I think my work pals will die young, but at least we’ll be well fed.

Launching yelp.fr inspired me to tackel chocolate croissants. They turned out to be easier than I thought to make (lots of resting time), but they might be the best thing that’s ever come out of our kitchen. The Danish braid was quite tasty too – I made five of them (two apricot, one cheese, one strawberry, and one cherry).

The recipes are a bit too long and don’t make much sense without the diagrams, so I’m leaving them out. They’re both from ATK’s Family Baking Book.


Oranges and asparagus

Posted in food, home cooking at 12:50 am by wingerz


Two of my favorite winter ingredients, together at last: juicy oranges and sweet, tender asparagus. The sauce is pretty similar to my favorite salad dressing ever (recipe).

Pan-Roasted Asparagus with Warm Orange-Almond Vinaigrette
from Cook’s Illustrated

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 pounds thick asparagus spears, ends trimmed

1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering; add almonds and cook stirring frequently, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add orange juice and thyme; increase heat to medium-high and simmer until thickened, about 4 minutes. Off heat, stir in shallot, sherry vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste; transfer vinaigrette to small bowl. Wipe out skillet.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. When butter has melted, add half of asparagus to skillet with tips pointed in one direction; add remaining spears with tips pointed in one direction. Using tongs, distribute spears in even layer (spears will not quite fit into single layer); cover and cook until asparagus is bright green and still crisp,about 5 minutes.
3. Uncover and increase heat to high; season asparagus with salt and pepper. Cook until spears are tender and well browned along one side, 5 to 7 minutes, using tongs to occasionally move spears from center of pan to edge of pan to ensure all are browned. Transfer asparagus to serving dish, pour vinaigrette over and toss to combine; adjust seasonings and serve immediately.


Braised artichokes

Posted in food, home cooking, pasta at 2:11 am by wingerz


Artichokes are kind of a pain to prep, but they’re plentiful this time of year (and also delicious). This recipe is braindead simple (once the artichokes are ready) and really good. I mixed in some grated Asiago cheese and lightly roasted asparagus and served it over spaghetti.

Braised Artichokes with Tomatoes and Rosemary
from Perfect Vegetables

1 lemon, cut in half
4 medium artichokes
3 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1. Squeeze the lemon juice into a large bowl filled with cold water. Drop the spent lemon halves into the water. Cut off the stem and top quarter. Then, to get to the heart of the artichoke, bend back and snap off the outer leaves, leaving the thick bottom portion attached to the base. Continue snapping off the leaves until you reach the light yellow cone at the center. With a small knife, carefully trim off the dark green outer layer from the bottom of the artichoke. Cut off the dark section of the top. Halve the raw hearts to remove the the purple leaves and the fuzzy choke with a sharp-edged spoon, then quarter. Cut into 1-inch wedges and drop them into the bowl of water until ready to cook.

2. Heat the oil in a large sate pan or deep skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Drain the artichokes and add them to the pan along with the tomatoes, wine, rosemary, 1/4 tsp salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan, turn the heat down to medium, and simmer until the artichokes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Add more salt, if necessary, to taste.


Strawberry shortcake

Posted in baking, dessert, food, home cooking at 1:06 am by wingerz


Wow, the farmer’s market still has strawberries. Wasn’t expecting to have them all winter long. This was dessert tonight, and I’d definitely make it again.

Rich and Tender Shortcakes with Strawberries and Whipped Cream
from Cook’s Illustrated

3 pints fresh strawberries , hulled; 1 pint crushed with potato masher or fork, 2 pints quartered
6 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 cups bleached all-purpose flour , plus more for work surface
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar for sprinkling
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons), frozen
1 egg , beaten
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon half-and-half
1 egg white , lightly beaten

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream , chilled (preferably pasteurized or pasteurized organic)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Mix crushed and quartered berries with sugar in medium bowl; set aside while preparing biscuits (or up to 2 hours).
2. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and 3 tablespoons sugar in food processor, pulse to combine. Add cold butter that has been cut into half-inch pieces and continue to pulse until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal flecked with pea-sized bits of butter. Pour the mixture into a bowl; stir in the egg and half-and-half with a rubber spatula until the mixture comes together.
4. Pat dough into 9- by 6-inch rectangle, 3/4 inch thick. Cut dough into six pieces (original recipe says to cut into 2 3/4″ rounds, but I don’t own a biscuit cutter). Place 1 inch apart on small baking sheet; brush dough tops with egg white and sprinkle with remaining sugar. (Can be covered and refrigerated up to 2 hours before baking.) Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Place baking sheet on wire rack; cool cakes until warm, about 10 minutes.
5. Chill nonreactive, deep, 1- to 1 1/2-quart bowl and beaters for a handheld mixer in freezer for at least 20 minutes. Add cream, sugar, and vanilla to chilled bowl; beat on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium; continue beating until beaters leave a trail, about 30 seconds more. Increase speed to high; continue beating until cream is smooth, thick, and nearly doubled in volume, about 20 seconds for soft peaks or about 30 seconds for stiff peaks. If necessary, finish beating by hand to adjust consistency. (Can be transferred to fine sieve or strainer set over measuring cup and refrigerated up to 8 hours).
6. Split each cake crosswise; spoon a portion of berries and then a dollop of whipped cream over each cake bottom. Cap with cake top; serve immediately.


Roasted Salmon

Posted in fish, food, home cooking at 3:37 pm by wingerz


I first had something like this over at Nick and Ceida’s place. The salmon is wonderfully silky-smooth. As always, use good fish and don’t overcook.

In the photo, topped with a tangerine-ginger relish and accompanied by a shrimp salad. Recently I served it with couscous with wild mushrooms and a creamy cucumber-dill salad.

Oven-roasted Salmon
from Cook’s Illustrated

1 skin-on salmon fillet (1 3/4 to 2 pounds), about 1 1/2 inches at thickest part (see note)
2 teaspoons olive oil

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Following step by step illustrations below, use sharp knife to remove any whitish fat from belly of fillet and cut into 4 equal pieces. Make 4 or 5 shallow slashes about an inch apart along skin side of each piece, being careful not to cut into flesh.
2. Pat salmon dry with paper towels. Rub fillets evenly with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees and remove baking sheet. Carefully place salmon skin-side down on baking sheet. Roast until centers of thickest part of fillets are still translucent when cut into with paring knife or instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of fillets registers 125 degrees, 9 to 13 minutes. Transfer fillets to individual plates or platter.


Favorite recipes of 2009

Posted in equipment, food, home cooking at 3:01 am by wingerz

  1. Cream scones
  2. Easy and delicious, especially with fresh fruit jam. This might be my favorite recipe of the year; I’ve made it at least five times, probably more.

  3. Peach pie (lattice)
  4. Lattice-top is impressive but easier than it looks.

  5. Fresh fruit tart
  6. Ultimate summer dessert. I miss fresh peaches.

  7. Braised short ribs
  8. Tender beef in a rich sauce. Works well as a make-ahead recipe.

  9. Shrimp fra diavolo
  10. I love shrimp.

I’m sad to have not included a fish recipe in the top 5, maybe next year.

Of the new kitchen equipment I acquired, the food processor that I got for Christmas last year has been life-changing. I use it to mix all sorts of doughs for pastries, pies, and pasta. Recently I’ve been using it to grate potatoes and carrots. It’s quite an amazing machine.

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