Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew

Posted in food, home cooking at 1:49 am by wingerz


While I haven’t been posting much lately, we’ve definitely been cooking and eating well. I made this one a few times over the winter, once in a Dutch oven in the oven (as specified here) and once in the slow cooker. It freezes really well. Also, not surprisingly, it tastes better if you use twice the specified amount of pancetta.

Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew from Cook’s Illustrated.

Table salt
1 pound dried cannellini beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and picked over
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil , plus extra for drizzling
6 ounces pancetta , cut into 1/4-inch pieces (see note)
1 large onion , chopped medium (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium celery ribs , cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
2 medium carrots , peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
8 medium garlic cloves , peeled and crushed
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 bunch kale or collard greens (about 1 pound), stems trimmed and leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 8 cups loosely packed)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes , drained and rinsed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Ground black pepper

1. Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.

2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Heat oil and pancetta in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is lightly browned and fat has rendered, 6 to 10 minutes. Add onion, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 16 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in broth, water, bay leaves, and soaked beans. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook until beans are almost tender (very center of beans will still be firm), 45 minutes to 1 hour.

3. Remove pot from oven and stir in greens and tomatoes. Return pot to oven and continue to cook until beans and greens are fully tender, 30 to 40 minutes longer.

4. Remove pot from oven and submerge rosemary sprig in stew. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves and rosemary sprig and season stew with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, use back of spoon to press some beans against side of pot to thicken stew. Serve over toasted bread, if desired, and drizzle with olive oil.


Lemon squares

Posted in baking, dessert, food at 1:15 am by wingerz


The Meyer lemon tree in our backyard has been calling out to me for the past few weeks. Today I harvested 10 lemons and doubled-up this recipe (that’s right, i used 18 eggs). I love lemon curd; I really should make it more often because it is amazingly good. I made the curd in a double boiler since I’m paranoid.

Lemon squares
from The ATK Family Baking Book

1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) all purpose-flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened

7 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 cup (7 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup grated fresh lemon zest (about 4 lemons)
pinc salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
3 tablespoons heavy cream
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat to 350 degrees. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with a foil sling and grease the foil.
2. Crust: Process the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt together in a food processor to combine, about 3 pulses. Sprinkle the butter over the top and pulse until the mixture is pale yellow and has the texture of coarse sand, about 8 pulses. Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer with the bottom of a measuring cup. Bake the crust until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 20 minutes.
3. Filling: While the crust bakes, whisk the egg yolks and eggs together in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the granulated sugar until combined, then whisk in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Add the butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and registers 170 degrees, about 5 minutes. Strain the mixture immediately into a bowl and stir in the cream.
4. Pour the filling over the warm crust. Bake the squares until the filling is shiny and opaque and the center jiggles slightly when shake, 10-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
5. Let the bars cool completely in the pan, set on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Remove the pars from the pan using the foil, cut into square, and dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.


Food resolutions for 2011

Posted in food, home cooking at 3:17 am by wingerz


This year I’d like to:
Eat more whole grains and vegetables. Going to have to wean myself off of white bread.
Try more new recipes. I’ve been kind of stuck in a rut where I make the same dozen things for ourselves and for dinner guests. The good news is that I’m good at making those things now.
Waste less. Need to control myself at the market. We let food hang out for too long in the fridge sometimes.

Last year:
Keep the kitchen clean/organized as I cook. This one is really tough when I’m cooking alone. I think I’m doing better though, especially when it’s a small group for dinner.
Be more creative. I think I do an ok job of putting together menus and doing variations of recipes that I really like.
Post more recipes. Whoops, kind of dropped the ball on this one. Another thing to blame on Camille!

Holiday gaming

Posted in games at 2:59 am by wingerz

Camille’s sleep schedule has been a bit erratic over the holidays, so we still need to be vigilant about going to sleep at a reasonable hour – at least on most nights. Over the past month or so I’ve been kept up past our bedtime to play a couple of games – Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii) and Heavy Rain (PS3). Both were totally engrossing in their own way, and I’ve gotten enough of a gaming fix to last me for a while.

Donkey Kong Once you die 8 times in a level a pig shows up and asks you whether you want to skip the level. He mocks you by waving a little white flag. I’m happy to report that I beat the levels myself but saw the stupid pig a handful of times. I hate that they didn’t include a non-motion-controlled option because that would have saved me a lot of frustration. Other than that, this game is fantastic and unforgiving, even if you don’t try to collect all the hidden stuff.

Heavy Rain This is more like an interactive movie (with lots of different endings) than a traditional game. If you don’t replay chapters, you basically have one shot at completing each scene – if something ‘bad’ happens you just continue and the events get woven into the storyline. The story is pretty good, the atmosphere is haunting, and the action sequences are intense. There are a lot of mundane activities, like feeding and changing a baby – what happened to video games being an escape? Definitely worth a play-through though.


Almond Vinaigrette

Posted in fish, food, home cooking at 3:10 am by wingerz


This is a really nice accompaniment to roasted salmon.

Almond Vinaigrette
from Cook’s Illustrated

1/3 cup almonds , toasted
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 medium shallot , minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon cold water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
Table salt and ground black pepper

Place almonds in zipper-lock bag and, using rolling pin, pound until no pieces larger than 1/2 inch remain. Combine pounded almonds, honey, mustard, vinegar, and shallot in medium bowl. Whisking constantly, drizzle in olive oil until emulsion forms. Add water and tarragon and whisk to combine, then season with salt and pepper. Serve.


Halibut en Cocotte

Posted in fish, food, home cooking at 1:18 am by wingerz


I’m always on the lookout for really good fish recipes, and this one is phenomenal. Quick and simple preparation, colorful, flavorful, and succulent.

Notes: I used one 1 lb halibut filet and grape tomatoes and stuck a thermometer into the fish before putting in the oven (took it out when it was a shade under 120 since it was really fresh fish).

Halibut en Cocotte with Roasted Garlic and Cherry Tomatoes
from More Best Recipes

1/4 cup evoo
2 medium garlic cloves, sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups (12 ounces) cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 1 1/4 lb halibut steaks, each about 1 1/4 inches thick and 10 to 12 inches long
ground black pepper

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 250 degrees. Cook 2 tablespoons of the oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt together in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat until the garlic is light golden, 2 to 4 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the tomatoes, capers, and thyme.
2. Pay the halibut dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Lay the halibut on top of the tomatoes. Place a large sheet of foil over the pot and press to seal, then cover tightly with the lid. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook until the halibut is opaque and flakes apart when gently prodded with a paring knife, 35 to 40 minutes.
3. Transfer the halibut to a serving platter and tent loosely with foil. Bring the tomato mixture in the pot to a simmer over medium-high heat until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the halibut and serve.


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.

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