Posts tagged simple
Monday, August 23, 2010

peach shortcake

peach shortcake

And the kitchen counter was covered in flour. As was the kitchen floor. And my face. And my hair. And shhhhhh, parts of my camera! Oh recipe development, you are a mess-maker! Not that I didn’t know that. But I think the chaos created in my kitchen was of an unprecedented level. And I can’t wait for more.

fragrant summer peaches

That’s a peach shortcake above that you see. I figured that because I like shortcake (and I’m not alone in this, am I) I shouldn’t be limited to just strawberry shortcake. We’ve got but a short window when strawberries are in season and after that, it’s just not the same, though with a little sugar and balsamic, there are miracles to be had. But, still, the season is woefully short, especially if you love strawberries as much as I do. Or shortcake for that matter. And last time I checked, there wasn’t a soul in the world who was going to (willingly) refuse shortcake: all that butter and whipped cream? Yes, please. Thus, I decided to extend the shortcake idea well into the summer months, when stone fruit, such as peaches, comes in full swing at my local farmer’s market.

shortcake mise

By now you probably know that I have this unabashed love of rustic dessert. If you ask me to choose between a chocolate tart and a chocolate bread pudding, inevitably, the bread pudding will win almost every time. Crumbles, buckles, brown bettys, slumps, spoon cake, pudding cake, buttermilk everyday cake – hold my attention more than their fancier cousins. The dessert, I’d want to eat in my pajamas, on my couch on a quiet evening; kind that looks better messy than perfectly composed.

Shortcake biscuits benefit from fruit that has been allowed to steep in its juices, usually facilitated by the addition of sugar. On its own, the biscuit is dry and crumbly, but ladle some fruit with some sugary juices in the middle of a halved biscuit, and a few minutes later, the fruit begins to penetrate the crumbly surface. Peaches, especially right now, tend to run on the sweet side, so I add a tiny bit of lemon juice to up the tartness just a bit. Mixed with a few spoons of sugar and left alone, the peaches transform into a lovely uncooked compote of sorts.

crumbly and mixed circles

I originally wrote up this recipe, upon Jennie’s invitation, for the Cuisinart blog as a guest post. I’m not sure when the post is going up, but I couldn’t wait to share it with all of you. I tested the biscuit recipe and came up with something that can either yield a more rustic and chewy biscuit, or a more traditional crumbly one, depending on what you want to do. So I’m offering you a whole wheat and an all purpose versions here. With this exercise alone, I have found new respect for coming up with new baking recipes – testing batches, adjusting your ingredients, is nothing to scoff at. Not that I ever did. But the process can be laborious, intense, at times frustrating – but in the end, if you are patient and persistent, immensely rewarding.

shortcake
blanched! nekkid peach

This upcoming Sunday, I’m embarking on testing chocolate cake recipe for cupcakes I’m making for a friend’s wedding in October. I’m going to enlist Andrew and a part-time photographer to capture the messes and the hands-on details. Operation “Wedding Cupcakes” is about to commence. I see flour everywhere. Brace yourselves.

chillin'

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

tomato and onion salad

tomato & onion salad

I’m gonna make this one brief; there’s little time. Work has been busy, but I want to post more and give you guys more recipes. And yet I’ve barely any time to type up the recipe, never mind edit the photos and write a few words outside of the cooking instructions. It’s strange to be so busy in August, because August, by my calculation, shouldn’t be busy at all. It should be slow and languid and hot. Well, it got one out of three down, but yowza, August, wanna slow down for me a bit? Just enough for me to catch my breath?

tomato & onion salad

Though to be fair, we did finally get a few cooler days in New York and the weather has grown, as I like to call it, more civilized, at least for the time being. I no longer arrive to work covered in sweat, which is a bonus, not only because it’s sort of gross, but more importantly because the minute I get in to work, I’m hit with such cold temperatures, I should have furry boots under my desk. You get that much colder when you’re sweaty. Thank goodness for that oversized fleece I keep nearby. Still, cooler temperatures and all, it’s still plenty hot out there.

tomato & onion salad

This is a recipe I did for the Real Simple’s blog, Simply Stated, a few weeks ago when they asked me to put together a three ingredient recipe that was perfect for summer months. Barring your usual caprese and prosciutto e melone ideas, I wanted to give you something that was actually a bit revelatory. I know three ingredients sound a bit like cheating, and to be honest with you, I was a little afraid putting this in front of you, except, you see, this recipe here, that’s one of those things I ate as a child by huge bowlfuls. Were you to give me a small shovel in place of a spoon, I would have been even more pleased. Every time I make this, I am, at once, at my grandmother’s for the summer, two hours away from Moscow, surrounded by lush farmland and dense Russian forests.

tomato & onion salad

I know this salad looks so simple, that it’s almost a non-recipe, but I’m okay with that. I’m not trying to pull a fast one on you. This is seriously amazing, delicious, and sings a glorious ode to summer and to tomatoes, which are everywhere right now. These particular tomatoes here come from one of my favorite local farms, but good tomatoes can be found anywhere this time of year. I like make this salad for dinner and eat it with thick slices or rustic sourdough bread. It takes minutes to make, it’s beyond addictive, and it allows tomatoes to really shine. I particularly love the bite of the onion here as it accents the sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes. Plus, when was I able resist anything with sour cream in it? Exactly – never.

tomato & onion salad

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Friday, August 13, 2010

couscous, corn, and mushroom salad

couscous salad with corn and mushrooms

Last week was a bit of a whirlwind, and I’m still recovering. Darting between work and blog events and friends’ birthdays can sure be exhausting. I’m dreaming of a beach chair with an umbrella drink and hours upon hours of reading. Alas, a vacation is but a few months away, so I must comfort myself with periodic lazy weekends in Brooklyn! Brooklyn, you complete me!

salad mise

Well, dear readers, last week I got to check out the BlogHer conference in New York, and it was mere minutes away from my office – bonus! The impetus was seeing good friends in town, particularly the lovely Alice Currah, of Savory Sweet Life, who crashed at my place for the weekend and ate some of my homemade mango sorbet! I finally met Kamran, an old twitter friend (amazing what the interwebs has done for us, isn’t it?), in person. And I also got to met Ree, of the incredible Pioneer Woman, and Elise of the encyclopedic Simple Recipes, at the amazing party that Ree, Elise, and Jaden (of the spicy Steamy Kitchen) threw on the roof of the Peninsula Hotel. It was good to see some old friends there: Lisa, Deb, Marc, and Jennie. And meet some new ones whose blogs I’ve been reading for so long. Sadly, I missed saying hi to a few folks as well. Sometimes, it seems, we forget about face time, given how much time we spend online: working, playing, maintaining our lives. In person, face-to-face is so much nicer, I think. While Twitter and Facebook and blogs have been instrumental in building beautiful communities and bringing people together, there’s nothing like saying hello to them and shaking their hand, or hugging them because you feel like you’ve been reading them for so long, you’ve known them forever.

israeli whole wheat couscous button mushrooms!

Martha's Circle Blogger Soiree

On the heels of the conference, the lovely folks at Martha Stewart Circle (see the turquoise circle on the side of this site? That’s them!) threw the most beautiful party for bloggers, with a private tour of the building for their charter members. I was elated to finally meet Mark Ganem, who looks after MC members, after we exchanged a flurry of emails, as well as other folks who work for MSLO (thanks, Amie, for sheparding me through). I finally got to meet Aran, the voice behind one of my favorite blogs, http://cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com/, and Matt Armendariz and Adam Pearson of Matt Bites.

sauteeing mushrooms & onions

We were sent home with a gift bag full of Martha’s publications: Living, Everyday Food, Bride, and Whole Living, and I spent a good portion of the past Sunday curled up in a chair leafing through the complete stack. I remember getting a subscription to Martha Stewart Living at fourteen (along with Gourmet (sob!) and Bon Appetit! I devoured each new issue immediately upon its arrival. I think my parents were relieved I wasn’t reading magazines like YM or Seventeen, but by and large they were puzzled by my addiction. I clipped a whole bunch of recipes, but this one here – really caught my eye. I was contemplating cooking a Sunday supper, when I saw: Israeli couscous, fresh corn, sauteed mushrooms – sold! It sounded simple and fresh – summer embodied.

avocado

I loved the recipe, but made a few tweaks: upping the corn to three ears from two (because there’s no such thing as too much corn, don’t you agree?); and sauteing the mushrooms with the onions (because caramelized onions make everything, and I mean, everything better!); and throwing in some cilantro (because when you ask me to complete a sentence: “Corn, black beans, lime, jalapeno, and…”, I want to shout out “Cilantro!”) I realize all too well that to many folks cilantro tastes like soap, so if you’re one of those people, by all means do leave it out, but I think it works rather nicely here. Also, the recipe didn’t call for whole wheat couscous, but I wanted to try it and loved its hearty bite.

cooking the corn and the scallion whites

Perhaps the weekend following this one, I will whisk Andrew (my plus one has a name!) and myself to Prospect Park, armed with some Arnold Palmers, ripe tomatoes, olives and this salad. We might sit under a tree and read, and snack, and read some more. We might even nap. Summer is passing us by, and I don’t want to waste single moment soaking it in. It’s not quite a beach vacation, but I think it’ll do just fine.

mixing with the corn

couscous salad with corn and mushrooms

Oh Wait, there’s more!! Bonus! Lookie here, I made a wee bit video with the folks at Yahoo! Shine while at the BlogHer conference. I was egged on by Alice – she thinks I do well on camera, but I can’t quite bring myself to watch it. You be the judge!

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

hungarian sour cherry cake

hungarian sour cherry cake

Well, thank you, dear friends, for such an lovely outpouring of support and enthusiasm! The comments, the emails, the tweets! You are too good to me! I remember the amazing support almost two years ago when I took a little time off and even though it was a tough time for me, your comments and emails made feel really loved and connected to this lovely web of people somewhere out there, reading, and actually caring. Thank you for coming here, and thank you for staying here. I can’t wait to share more of my “hunk” with you!

hungarian sour cherry cake

Considering how lovely you have all been, it seems terribly unfair of me to tell you about sour cherries when they’re done for the season, and all you can really do is just stare at these pictures and bookmark the recipe in hopes of remembering next summer (don’t worry I’ll remind you!). Except, this cake was so good, I just couldn’t let it languish in the depths of my computer for a whole year – it was going to get lonely and would need some company. Besides, I know some of you are quite the industrious types, and probably froze your sour cherries like I did. I do this with cranberries every November. I buy a half a dozen bags and stuff them in the freezer and then make boozy banana bread studded with those gems. Next year, you should do the same with sour cherries. This cake could come in handy on a cold, rainy day when you want to hang out in your house and bake.

hungarian sour cherry cake

Whether or not you froze them this year, I wanted to tell you about this cake so much, I simply couldn’t wait a year. All that excitement of the moment just might fizzle, and excitement is a terrible thing to waste. I bought these cherries in the eleventh hour of the sour cherry season, at a stand at the Union Square Market. The stand appeared to be the only one selling sour cherries, and upon spotting it, I let out a little squeal. I had plans, friends, for these babies. These cherries were going to be baked into a pie that inspired me not just by its lovely top crust design (aren’t circles pretty?), but also by the pre-baked bottom crust (genius!). I had the recipe printed and stuck to my door. I even had a pie crust skulking about the freezer. But then I spied this little winner of a recipe at Saveur and could think of nothing better for these sour cherries than finding themselves surrounded by a whole wheat thin layer of cake. They would look so pretty scattered around.

hungarian sour cherry cake

Some of you might still be wondering what is the big deal about sour cherries. Most of you wondering that have probably never tried them. It’s difficult to put into words what sour cherries are like. My best description of them goes a little something like this: a sour cherry is what a sweet cherry aspires to be. Don’t for a second think that I’m downplaying the glory that a sweet cherry is. But that tart zing, the opalescence, that gentle yield to the touch, the ephemeral, fleeting season – a sour cherry is something of a treasure. Blink – and you’ll miss it.

egg shells hungarian sour cherry cake

We had them abundantly in the summer in Russia, upon our arrival to the US, they were nowhere to be found. Of course, I was too busy lamenting my introduction to Nutella (while we were in Italy) and its absence from the American supermarket shelves to really notice or care about sour cherries’ absence from the produce landscape. It wasn’t until a few years later, when my family and I went to visit their friends in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and took a road trip through the Michigan countryside, that I rediscovered sour cherries again. There were numerous stands by the side of the road offering travelers pints of sour cherries and freshly hot-smoked trout. To this day, one of my favorite meals remains this trout, mixed with cold, boiled potatoes we brought with us on the road, and sour cherries for dessert. I had forgotten how tart and delicious they were.

hungarian sour cherry cake hungarian sour cherry cake

When I finally got around to my batch of frozen and pitted cherries, I was feeling rather bold, and decided to give the recipe a major overhaul, swapping out enough ingredients to create a recipe distinctively different from its original creation. I still credit Saveur with the inspiration, which goes a long long way. I decided to stick with wheat flour and only wheat flower; I scaled back the sugar, because I always prefer my everyday cakes to err on the less-sweet side. Out went the kirsch, and in went creme de cassis – I’ve got nothing against kirsch, but I wanted something with a more berry-like zing, and creme de cassis sings so beautifully in desserts. Have you ever had creme de cassis? Smelled it? It’s intoxicating – I am always tempted to pour a bit over a “boule” of vanilla ice cream, because it’s really one of the best things ever. And also, in the spirit of full disclosure, I realized I was flat out of kirsch, and felt a bit lazy having to walk over two whole blocks while all my ingredients sat neatly in a mise en place. In my last throes of creativity I decided to use buttermilk instead of regular milk the original recipe called for. I find that buttermilk yields a more tender crumb in a cake, and who doesn’t like a tender crumb?

hungarian sour cherry cake

This is a hearty cake – the whole wheat gives it heft and body, and the berries make the batter shine. But here’s the rub – this cake would be a perfect breakfast cake over coffee on a crisp, rainy fall day. So, don’t despair if sour cherries are out of season, throw some blueberries in it. Or, I wonder, how will this cake taste with some thinly sliced apples, sprinkled with cinnamon? I bet you it’ll be perfect. You really can’t go wrong!

hungarian sour cherry cake

I made this a week ago and a bunch of us, my plus one included (should I tell you his name?) ate it for dessert and there was still lots of the cake left over, (this makes a lot of cake, so be sure to invite friends over!) and then (and this part here is tragic and my lower lip quivers as I type this), then we forgot about the cake and it sat in the fridge for over a week until I discovered it again, but by then it had gone bad and needed to be tossed. But I can’t bring myself to do it. Sour cherries! I worked so hard for them! All the pitting and freezing and unfreezing! Sigh. I’ll have to dispose of the cake tonight. Most likely with a proper burial, followed by moment of silence. And perhaps a somber song or a poem.

hungarian sour cherry cake

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Monday, August 9, 2010

cucumber yogurt soup

cucumber yogurt soup

Today, I have soup for you. Not hot soup, mind you, because we are in the midst of summer, nobody wants to eat piping hot soup. Not me, at least. This here today is cold soup – cold cucumber yogurt soup to be exact. It’s amazingly refreshing, I promise you. I even had it for breakfast the day after I made it – over one of those days the heat index broke 100. I realize it’s less than traditional to eat soup for breakfast, but then again, I am also a fan of cold lo mein the morning after a night of Chinese food. Go figure.

The way this summer’s been going, I’m looking forward to eating a lot of this soup. Full bowls of it with crusty hunks of bread, kohlrabi salad, and buttermilk granita. Anything to keep me from turning on the stove or the oven. I do break down sometimes, in an attempt to conquer fear, or bring the summer barbecue inside my tiny apartment, but if I can get away with not raising the apartment temperature I’m all for it.

cucumber yogurt soup

Speaking of hunks (I do know a way with burying the lede, don’t I), I’ve been keeping something from you. Or rather someone. And it’s partly been because I have been so protective of it (him), and partly because I wasn’t sure how to. You see, every time I wanted to tell you about this someone, words would fail me. Like, really fail me. Every time I tried, I would stare at the computer screen, not sure where to start and how to finish. What I want to say go so far beyond language that for now, I’ll say just this: he makes my heart and my life fuller and brighter like a great big song that you want to fill a space with – a song that is deep, clear, resonant. He’s the best “plus one” a girl can hope for, and an eager and enthusiastic eater – an inspiration and a support. And it’s nice to say things like “our dinner” and “we ate” because sharing a meal with him is always a joy and I’m grateful for each little moment like this – really grateful. That’s all I’ll say for now, but expect him to be an ever-growing presence here. I’m happy. Really, truly, ridiculously pinch-myself-I’m-not-dreaming happy.

cucumber yogurt soup

But – back to this soup, which, incidentally I had all to myself. The best part about this soup, besides the fact that it’s delicious, is that you don’t need to turn on your stove, which I already said, but let me stress it again – it is marvelous to make something so quickly and so easily, especially when there’s not enough iced water in the world to cool you off. This soup comes together in mere minutes. That’s right – minutes. The weeknight meals I tell you about that take under an hour to cook while you drink wine? Well, you can definitely have a glass of wine while prepping this, but I’d be surprised if you were able to finish it by the time this soup was done. Unless, of course, you just downed it (no judgment here!) There are no hard and fast rules here – use more or less of the herbs you want, and if dill isn’t to your liking, you can always swap it out for parsley or chives. I think the mint is critical here as it gives the soup its wings, if you will.

cucumber yogurt soup

I could almost hear my oven whimpering when I walked into the kitchen, pulled out my ingredients, and five minutes later sat down to eat this soup. I felt a little badly ignoring it so, but I more than made up for it the following weekend when we had some company over. I ate this soup with my larger-than-life old Russian spoons I inherited from our family friend’s mother after she passed away. I love those gigantic spoons – they mean business. And a perfect vehicle to transport delicious soup from bowl to mouth. I only wished that I could have shared it that evening, though I’m not too worried – we’ve got more sweltering days coming our way and it’s only a matter of time before I’ll reach for this recipe again and make a double batch, to share. See, I just wrote “we” and “our” and it made me all aflutter and smiley – isn’t love grand?

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

harissa-roasted chicken with chickpeas and red onion

harissa-roasted chicken

Oh, chicken! You are so maligned sometimes. You’re the thing people probably order the least in nicer restaurants. And you’re easily relegated to boring and blasé. Sometimes you are cooked into dry oblivion, upon which you, at best, taste like pressed wood chips. To make matters worse, you’re far too humble to ever speak up for yourself. Instead, you wait. You wait for a cook to realize your true potential, and elevate you to your well-earned exalted position. Just as a concept, chicken, you are bland. Commonplace, even. But there are so many way to prepare you, that you possess the versaility other meats simply to not. You can be dressed up, or down, depending on the occasion. Different version of you have legions of loyal followers. Roast chicken. Chicken braised in Riesling. Chicken braised in milk. You can take on so many roles that it is, indeed, unfair to call you boring. Chicken, you are the Meryl Streep of food! There’s no one more versatile than you! [And thus, I end my ode.]

the magical ingredientsmarinading!

Despite chicken’s apparent versatility, writing excitedly about it, does present a bit of a problem. I think what makes or breaks a chicken dish, in particular, is how you make it. I know that this rule applies to just about everything, but I like think of chicken as the true, great, blank canvas. There’s an endless range of possibilities, but chicken generally needs a bit of direction, be is just a bit of salt and pepper, and roasting; or a more elaborate cooking process. And with a few great ingedients and some gentle prodding, what you can wind up with is nothing short of a miracle.

onion

I’ve been on a harissa kick lately, so much so, that I am thinking of just biting the bullet and making my own. Luisa’s recipe has been on my mind for awhile now, but as per usual, I am slow to get things done. Work, you consume me so! I made this a few weeks ago for a very special dinner. I’ll leave it at that, but suffice to say, I was trying to impress. I was intrigued by the marriage of yogurt, spices and harissa as a marinade for the chicken – I knew, in an instant, this would be fragrant, flavorful, intense. I wanted a chicken dish that wasn’t delicate with its notes; I wanted a bold, daring dish that would hold its own against the carrot salad. And the flavors worked beautifully. The yogurt added a lovely tang that took the heat of harissa and deepened its structure, all the while softening its heat just a bit. I wanted a slightly earthy aftertaste, so I mixed some cumin into my marinade – a decision I was particularly happy about once we tasted the final product. And because there were chickpeas in the salad, I opted to skip them this time around (fearing the mighty chickpea overload), but added some extra onions to roast and flavor the chicken.

onion, scattered
harissa-roasted chicken, ready for cooking

I’m always on a lookout for a chicken recipe that will be a real stand-out in a crowd of just-so recipes. I’ve gotten quite lucky with the Riesling one, and this apricot-Sriracha one (among a few), and this will take a place alongside my keeper recipes. If you think that making chicken is a snooze-fest, I implore you not to give the bird a chance – it will play any role you want and will transform itself so much so that you might just exclaim, “This is chicken?!?” and never look back. Except, maybe, to get second helpings.

harissa-roasted chicken

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