Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sweet Summer

I'm not much of a sweet person. On any given day, I'd rather dig my fork into a big bowl of noodles than eat a slice of cake.

I like to think that brunch defines whether a person is inclined towards sweet or savory foods. We all know people who order french toast and pancakes lathered in syrup on Saturday mornings; that would never be me. I love eggs Benedict (bring on the smoked salmon), quiches, and plain old bacon and eggs (fried, of course). Did I ever mention how much I love eggs?

Every once in awhile, though, I crave something sugar-laden—and it's usually after dinner. This summer, the fruit was so amazing at the farmer's markets, it inspired me to make dessert.

So here I was, baking sour cherry and almond bread,
a blueberry-lavender crumble,
a peach and blackberry cobbler with almond crust,
and two fig and franginpane tarts.
I'm sad summer has slipped away—not just because warm weather already seems like a distant memory, but also because I won't see the jewel-toned fruits at the market.

Until next year.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

One of my greatest culinary joys is taking a big bite of fresh, perfectly seasoned pasta. That being said, it should be of utmost importance that I learn how to create that experience in my own kitchen.

Yesterday, I spent the entire day making pasta with my good friend from culinary school, Amanda. We experimented with different ratios (semolina + AP flour, semolina + water, egg + AP, etc.), making a total of six doughs.
We discovered some keepers as well as some we won't be making again. Below was our favorite.

Nine Yolk Dough

1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) AP flour
9 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon milk
Couple pinches of kosher salt

1. Place the flour on a work surface and make a large well in the center. Add the yolks, oil, milk and salt. Using your finger, slowly incorporate the liquid ingredients. When partially incorporated (not too runny), use a dough cutter to fully blend the ingredients.

2. Bring the dough together with your hands (it will look flaky). Knead it with the heels of your hands. Reform into a ball and repeat several times. If too dry, add a bit of oil or milk; if too wet, add a bit of flour. Continue kneading until the dough becomes soft and silky. Be patient—this can take 10 to 15 minutes. Don't worry about over-kneading the dough.

3. Double-wrap the dough in plastic so it doesn't dry out. Let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before rolling it through a pasta machine. It can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, but make sure it comes to room temperature before using.

We used the dough for two types of ravioli (arugula-Pecorino as well as fresh corn-smoked mozzarella). Both were amazing.
Originally, we were following a recipe from The French Laundry Cookbook, but Amanda and I changed it so much we think of it as our own.

Barilla, you've got nothin' on us.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Right Stuff

Thursday, I purchased a last-minute plane ticket to Ohio for a family reunion. Friday, my flight was cancelled. Saturday, my rebooked flight departed for Cleveland. Sunday, I spent the day at the reunion. Monday, I returned to New York.

There was a bit of uncertainty during this short-but-sweet weekend due to the crazy weather pattern, but one thing was for sure: I ate my weight in food. When I arrived in Ohio on Saturday, I inhaled a pile of battered perch and french fries (my grandpa's favorite combo). Of course, I ate nonstop at the family reunion the following day.

Who can say no to my mom's ribs, walking tacos (non-Midwesterners, please Google this), and loads of sides? I sure can't. I ate two heirloom tomato slices for good measure.
After the reunion, we grilled Slovenian sausages from the local butcher. I savored the moment, and then realized it was time to lighten up my diet.
I headed to my local organic market after work today on a mission to find the best-looking vegetables. I settled on summer squash and zucchini, stuffing them with onion, red pepper, basil and—yes—a little Gruyere. Delicious and nutritious.

Stuffed Summer Squash
Yield: 2 servings

2 medium squash (I used one summer squash and one zucchini)
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 egg
3/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
Olive oil, for drizzling

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Trim the ends of the squash and cut lengthwise. With a spoon or melon baller, scoop out the flesh, leaving 1/4-inch-thick shells. Save 3/4 of the flesh. Pour sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan and place four squash halves on top like bowls.

3. In a separate bowl, combine squash flesh with onion, red pepper, garlic, basil, egg, and 1/4 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Distribute evenly among squash. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top of each and drizzle with olive oil.

4. Bake for 45 minutes, uncovered, until squash is tender and cheese is melted.
Here's to hoping this dish will squash my gorging—at least for this week.