get ready, kitchen aid, for you. are. mine.

kitchenaid recently, i came into a tiny sum of money. stop salivating, blackmailers. those rotten whores at the student loan corporation and various credit card agencies (note to all: don’t get addicted to drugs or alcohol – they’ll put you in debt and cloud your judgment when you’re determined to purchase those $400 chanel slides) will be reaping the benefits of my blood, sweat and tears.

but i have a little bit of money left over to play with and i’ve been twiddling my thumbs. i’ve been frugal for so long (half my wardrobe comes courtesy of my coworker and two clothing swaps, and one of my friends who gets my clarkson potter cookbooks had to shackle my hands from typing any more email requests that start with BY GOD, PLEASE. IT’S CRUEL THAT I DON’T HAVE X’S COOKBOOK!) that i’m paralyzed. what to do? my little fingers are quivering. i want to treat myself to something, but what?

then i had a conversation with myself. i have these often but i’ve determined that i’m not insane for having them. i said: self, what is the one thing you would never buy unless you got married, tortured your father for a combo christmas/birthday gift or stole one, ala vegas style, from bed, bath and beyond? you guessed it, culinary cuties. A KITCHEN AID.

Martha Stewart Baking Book think of the endless possibilities. think of my shame and alientation when i can’t make the fucking recipe out of the very beautiful martha stewart (god) baking book because it requires 35 goddamn minutes of stirring, and why oh why are my souffles so flat? after many woeful lamentations and shin kicking on the subway, i said forget it, man.

i’m getting the goddamn kitchen aid. i don’t know where i’ll store it (who’s kidding here, i’ll toss my cat out the window for a spot) or when i’ll use (morning muffins at 4:30 am, anyone?) it, but i’m getting it. and there is no stopping me (stomps foot).

on a related note, i should point out that i penned a quick tip sheet on how to buy a cookbook for ehow.com. i own a shameful amount of cookbooks that should my house blow up from a gas fire, my cookbooks and the cat are the first thing out the door.

cripe. would you get a look at the dough hook?! fox trot, i say.

calling all cookies!

who said green ain't yummy come fall i have plans to launch a syndicate of foodie sites. get ready because it’ll be all food, all the time. food for people who love to it. foodies who don’t take themselves all that seriously. the sites will have recipes, food writing, interview, features, and other delectable goodies which i’ll announce at a later date.

the first site to launch will be Cookie Couture. i’m seeking your very best cookie recipes, stories, shoppes, et all. we’ll road test your concoctions, post your recipes (with attribution, of course) and share your finds with the free world. and we’re talking WORLD. as in international.

feel free to use the comments space below to get all cookie with it.

Fried Apples – Why, Yes! Yes! Please

.flickr-photo { border: solid 2px #000000; }
.flickr-yourcomment { }
.flickr-frame { text-align: left; padding: 3px; }
.flickr-caption { font-size: 0.8em; margin-top: 0px; }



Dutch Baby, originally uploaded by twelve22.

years ago, i remember watching nigella lawson fix up a blistering hot yorkshire pudding. out of the oven, it resembled a blooming cloud of pastry that would somehow implode on itself when dolloped with a generous serving of whipped crème. although the recipe seemed easy enough: flour, milk, eggs, a hot oven, i was suspect. i could fix a trifle, a soufflé, a mousse, but a muffin? a loaf? forget about it. easy recipes were a mystery to me and my alchemy in the kitchen for such concoctions was helter skelter.

so when jasmin (who is the owner of chekhov, a feline i want to smuggle back to my crib) emailed anna’s recipe for a dutch baby with fried apples which puffs up golden and unimaginable light, my response was a resounding HELL NO! i’ll retreat to the safety of my crumbles and cherry chocolate trifles, thank you very much. but then i kept returning to anna’s images, which are incredibly simple, clean and comforting and i kept thinking about a sunday morning: the paper, a cup of hot english breakfast and a spoon diving into a hot baby.

i’m sold. bring on the rapture and fried apples – i’m in. this weekend – it’s me and the pudding.

the ultimate blueberry pie with a crisp topping!

Blueberry Pie with Crumble topping. I just burned my mouth and I have no regrets. Trust me, if you pulled this pie out of the oven, you’d need a fire extinguisher and then an air-conditioner blazing in your mouth. From yesterday’s post, you’ll see that I made a peach pie. The pie, although gorgeous and juicy, was a little heady. The cardamom overwhelmed the peaches and I knew, deep down, that I didn’t have enough for the pie. I keep having to remind myself that baking is all about precision and chemistry, none of this improvisation business of which I so love. This morning I was determined to make up for the peach snafu with a fruit I know and adore quite well – the blueberry. oh! how it blisters and turns violet when cooked and spritzed with lemon juice!!!

So what I’m looking for is a pie without all that dreaded heaviness. Something light. A topping that is a vehicle for the fresh local berries. I recently made a pie with a marzipan crumble, but while delish, not light. So I turned to one of my favorite foodies, Heidi Swanson. She recently posted a recipe for a peaches and plum crumble and the topping seemed perfect (a great mixture of textures and suitably sweet, but not overwhelmingly so), and a little on the lighter side, courtesy of the yogurt rather than dumping in a stick of butter (I only used 3 tablespoons and, in retrospect, I think I could have gotten away with less). So a marriage was in the making. My pie from July’s Bon Appetit combined with Heidi’s crumble, and voila! light! delish!

If you want to go even crazier, you can nix the pie crust on the bottom and roll with crumble.

INGREDIENTS
Note: I use all organic and/or local ingredients, because that is just how I roll.

Filling
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (or more) sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
5-6 cups fresh wild or regular blueberries (32 ounces) or 32 ounces frozen wild or regular blueberries (do not thaw) or 2 pints from your local market
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Crisp (adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Plum & Peach crisp recipe):
3/4 cup rolled oats (I used toasted oats because I couldn’t find rolled oats in my local market)
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
big pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup yogurt (I used low-fat yogurt)

Blueberry Pie HOT out of the over For filling:
Whisk 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar and cornstarch in heavy large saucepan to blend. Stir in blueberries and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until mixture bubbles and thickens, frequently stirring gently, about 13 minutes. Chill filling until cool, about 1 hour (I shoved this in the fridge and it cooked in 1/2 hr, just fine).

For the topping
Combine the oats, flour, and sugar together in a medium bowl. Stir in the butter, and then the yogurt and mix until everything comes together in a dough-like texture. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the blueberry mixture.

In a 9inch pie dish (please do not use aluminum or one of those pie crust pans as this will be a disaster), add a rolled out pie crust (i use store bought, because no way am i making dough until autumn). Add filling. Add topping, ensuring you distribute evenly. In a pre-heated 400 degree oven, place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust and topping are golden and filling bubbles thickly, about 25 minutes.

Serve lukewarm/chilled with gelato!

the perfect peach pie!

Peach Pie, the finale!When your best friend finishes her novel (four years in the making), what other way would one celebrate than with blueberry pomegrante spritzers (juice, lime perrier, freshly squeezed lime juice) and the ultimate peach pie flavored with vanilla and cardamom?!

From the July issue of Bon Appetit

Ingredients
2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
–I actually used vanilla sugar, which was easier and cheaper!
3 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon (scant) ground cardamom
3 3/4 pounds firm but ripe unpeeled peaches, halved, pitted, each half cut into 4 slices (about 10 cups)
2 Best-Ever Pie Crust dough disks (I used pre-made pie crust dough as it’s almost 90 degrees here in NY and no way in hell am I making dough in this heat. i’m waiting until fall)
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Whipping cream (for glaze) (I didn’t use this)
Vanilla ice cream (I used gelato)

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Combine 2/3 cup sugar and vanilla bean in processor; blend until vanilla bean is very finely minced. Sift vanilla sugar through strainer into large bowl; discard any large bits in strainer. Mix flour and cardamom into vanilla sugar. Add peaches to flour-sugar mixture and toss gently to coat.

Roll out 1 pie crust disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Trim dough overhang to 1/2 inch. Spoon peach mixture into crust; dot with butter. Roll out second pie crust disk on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Drape dough over peach filling; trim overhang to 1 1/2 inches. Fold top and bottom edges under, pressing together to seal. Crimp edges decoratively. Using small sharp knife, cut 2-inch-long X in center of top crust to allow steam to escape. Brush crust lightly with whipping cream; sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar.

Place pie on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden, peaches are tender, and juices bubble thickly through cut in top crust, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool until lukewarm, about 2 hours.

Serve pie lukewarm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

the fig tart with cream cheese filling – oh my!

Fig Tart You are the only person I know who plans their baking a week in advance, one of my coworkers says. To which I responded with a resounding HELL YEAH (in all caps). This weekend will be all about the succulent fig. Eat your heart out, foody people. It doesn’t quite get as good as this (unless you count my pumpkin spice loaf or chocolate mousse with orange).

Recipe cribbed from the master, Martha Stewart.

Ingredients
Serves 8 to 10
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1/2 teaspoon salt
Nonstick cooking spray
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 1/2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 pint black or purple figs, stemmed and quartered
1/4 cup fig or red-currant jam
2 tablespoons dry red wine

Directions

Cream together butter and granulated sugar in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, about 2 minutes. Add yolks, and mix just to combine. Whisk together dry ingredients, and add to yolk mixture; mix just until it comes together loosely. Transfer the dough to plastic wrap, press together, and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes, until firm.

Prepare a 4 1/2-by-14-inch rectangular fluted tart tin with cooking spray. Roll out dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to about 1/8-inch thickness. Discard the top plastic wrap, and gently invert dough over the prepared tart tin. Discard the remaining piece of plastic wrap. Press dough into tin, and trim so dough is flush with edges. Repair tears or cracks by pressing together dough with your fingers. Place in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prick crust all over with a fork, and bake on the middle rack of oven until crust begins to color, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. When cool, remove from the pan. Place on a serving platter or board.

Place cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer, and beat until smooth. Add crème fraîche and confectioners’ sugar, and beat until mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes. Spread filling into cooled crust, and arrange figs on top, pressing them in slightly.

To make glaze, combine the jam and wine in a small saucepan. Set over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, and simmer until mixture is thick and syrupy, about 2 minutes. Cool slightly, and brush warm glaze over figs with a pastry brush. Chill the tart in the refrigerator if not serving right away.

Serve within several hours.

who knew vegetarians had it so good? feast your eyes on…the wheat berry salad!

Super Natural Cooking's Wheat berry salad

Heidi Swanson’s recipes are true culinary delights. I very well could prattle on incessantly about Swanson’s creativity, her passion for cooking close to the earth, her breathtaking food photography, but I’ll spare you the swooning. You can read my shameless praise here.

After a long day of shopping, running errands and negotiating my way through the Union Square Greenmarket, I decided to fix a recipe I’ve been dying to make: The Wheat berry Salad, and believe me when I say that I am eating this now, as I type this, straight from the serving platter.

Wheat berry Salad (adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking)

INGREDIENTS
2 cups of Wheat Berries (consider me an idiot. I’ve never cooked with Wheat berries before and I roamed my local Whole Foods market like a lunatic because, by god, was I going to make this salad.) I finally found a seemingly reasonable facsimile with Arrowhead Mills’ Whole Grain Wheat
2 teaspoons of Sea Salt (I used Kosher salt, which is what I have on hand)
Grated zest/juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice (I didn’t have a lemon handy, so I chucked this)
1 tablespoon of minced shallots
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil (I used less than this and the recipe turned out fine)
3 handfulls of fresh spinach
1 cup of toasted pine nuts (I didn’t have this on hand, either)
1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese
Salt/Pepper to taste

My improvisations: I added a 1/4 cup of dried cranberries for color and texture and a handful of chopped fresh sweet basil.

Wheatberry Salad, the finale I boiled 2 tea of salt, 6 cups of water and 2 cups of rinsed Whole Grain Wheat in a pot. In a bowl, I added the chopped shallot, orange zest/juice, salt/pepper and stirred in the olive oil. After an hour, I drained the wheat (the wheat should expand in size and be al dente). I added the hot wheat to the dressing and then added the chopped fresh spinach, feta, dried cranberries, & chopped basil. I tossed until all the ingredients were combined and set aside to cool. You can eat this hot, cold or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

your very best dinner: pecan-crusted chicken breasts & sauteed rainbow chard

Rainbow Chard??? WHO KNEW!?? After having my third dinner at a local Brooklyn organic eatery, I decided to forgo spending another $25 on a meal I had suddenly become obsessed with but knew I could easily fix at home. The version in the restaurant comes with sauteed swiss chard and brown rice, but my home version calls for rainbow chard and cous cous cooked in chicken stock and seasoned with olive oil, ground pecans, dried cranberries, salt & pepper to taste.

But let’s get down to the chicken business.

INGREDIENTS
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup quinoa flour (you can use unbleached all-purpose white flour, but I’m opting for a more flavorful, healthy grain)
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
2 tablespoons olive oil (for sautee)

1. Marinate the chicken in buttermilk for a good 1/2 hr. Four hours is ideal. The buttermilk will tenderize the chicken

2. Set up your stations:
-egg
-flour + all seasonings + pecans blitzed in a processor or finely chopped

3. Dunk each breast in the egg and then the flour and settle on a rack before transferring into the oiled non-stick skillet. The rack will help with any excess egg drippage so your breasts aren’t “eggy” or “gloppy” (if that’s even an adjective)

4. Fry for 4 minutes/side, until golden brown and the pecans are toasted, not burned

While this is going on (or before or after as the chard can be served at room temperature), rinse 1 pound (sounds like a lot, but think of spinach – it reduces) chard & separate stem from leaves. Rough chop the leaves and stems and add (separately – first the stems, then the leaves and cook for 3-5 minutes each) to a pan with a tablespoon of butter or you can simply use the pan where you’ve cooked the chicken (all that yummy juice). sautee with a spritz of lemon, garlic (2 cloves), salt and pepper. cook until almost tender.

enjoy!

mad for figs!

.flickr-photo { border: solid 2px #000000; }
.flickr-yourcomment { }
.flickr-frame { text-align: left; padding: 3px; }
.flickr-caption { font-size: 0.8em; margin-top: 0px; }



Figs for lunch 3, originally uploaded by Xerones.

forget the pies and trifles! i’m mad for fresh fruit and if it wasn’t grilled peaches then it simply has to be about figs. this luscious, decadent fruit. check out what i whipped up yesterday – an easy breezy recipe adapted from nigella lawson’s Feast:

1 tablespoon red wine (i substituted for rosewater as i don’t drink)
1 orange, zested
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 cup lowfat yogurt
Pinch ground cinnamon
2 to 3 ripe figs
2 teaspoons nibbed or splintered pistachios, to garnish
1/8 to 1/4 tea of pistachio oil (my addition) to drizzle over the pistachio garnish

Put the red wine (or rosewater), orange zest and honey into a bowl. Whisk in the yogurt and ground cinnamon. Quarter the figs and divide them between 2 bowls. Pour the yogurt mixture around the figs in each of the bowls and sprinkle with the pistachios to decorate.

who says dessert can’t be virtuous?

when it’s all about dessert

Saturday morning at Dean & Deluca it was all very innocent. i just happened to pop into dean & deluca. i just happened to pause in front of the rows and rows of delicious fruit, scallions and sweet basil already overflowing from my tote bag (saturday at the farmer’s market), when i considered the apricot and then the pinnacle – the peach. the worst thing you can do is squeeze the fruit – you’ll bruise it. to tell if it’s ripe, you only need to smell it – if the fruit is fragrant, it’s ripe. so i piled a few peaches in my bag and headed home. i dusted the fruit with brown sugar and set it on the grill. a little honey, a little vanilla gelato and a silver spoon and forget lunch.

because it was all about dessert.