December 22, 2012

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

One of my favorite parts about Friday night is the anticipation of Saturday morning, and our delicious, lazy weekend ritual. We sleep a little late, and somewhere a bit before nine I might slip out of bed, turn the oven to preheat, and pull something out of the freezer to defrost. Then back to bed until the oven beeps, at which point we get up and Michael takes care of the coffee and I take care of the food. We recently got a Chemex coffee maker (though "maker" doesn't seem like quite the most appropriate word, since it doesn't actually make the coffee, it just holds it while you do the work) and Michael has been getting his coffee making down to a science. And if it's a really good week, then I've already prepared a batch of something that can be easily frozen raw, then pulled out in two portions at a time to be baked fresh - like scones, cinnamon buns, slightly different cinnamon buns, or more recently, these buttermilk biscuits.

I'm really proud of these biscuits. I've been experimenting with various biscuit recipes for a while, trying to come up with a light, flaky, soft, tender, buttermilky mouthful of goodness that can easily be split in half and spread with apricot jam or honey. Peter Reinhart's recipe gave me the folding technique to get the flaky layers. I found that swapping out cake flour for some of the all-purpose flour made them all the more tender. I also decided against using round cookie-cutters, because in my opinion that's a criminal waste of biscuit dough. I cook them at a lower temperature than a lot of recipes suggest, not only because the higher temperature sets of our smoke alarms, which definitely kills the weekend morning mood, but also because I think they brown more evenly. And I made the preparation process simple enough (it all happens in the food processor and then on the counter) that you could even make them on Saturday morning in barely more time than it would take to make the coffee.

I highly recommend weighing the flour, if you have a scale - it will allow you to be much more precise. 

October 17, 2012

Momofuku Roasted Brussels Sprouts

We haven't had the chance to go to any of David Chang's Momofuku restaurants in New York, and we do not own the Momofuku cookbook, but we probably need to make both of those things happen sooner rather than later. We've made a couple of recipes from the cookbook and every one has been not just good, but excellent. I'm tempted to say mind-blowing. The first thing we made was Bo Ssam - how could one not want to make it when the New York Times article featuring the recipe was called The Bo Ssam Miracle? So you see, perhaps my mind-blowing adjective is not hyperbole. Miracle, mind-blowing - whatever you call it, these recipes are worth trying. I could go on and on about the Bo Ssam, but I won't, because I'm here tonight to tell you about the magic David Chang has worked with Brussels sprouts.

First, a few words on Brussels sprouts. I've been confused by the spelling for a while, so I have checked and confirmed - Brussels sprouts, with a capital B and an -s at the end. They are apparently named after the city in Belgium, because they have historically been popular there. They are a member of the brassica genus, which includes all kinds of good stuff, like cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. They have a bad reputation, probably because when they're overcooked they get mushy and taste of sulfur - no wonder generations of kids revile them! If those kids could taste these sprouts the way David Chang prepares them, I think they would change their minds. This is a totally different take on this vegetable, with the combination of sweet, spicy, savory, and sour that much of Asian cuisine does so well. We added a few things to the recipe to make it into a main course rather than just a side. 

September 22, 2012

Cinnamon Sticky Rolls

Perhaps one of our favorite things about the weekend is the ability to have a leisurely breakfast at home. During the week, I like to sit at home for a bit and have a cup of tea and some granola, and Michael has a granola bar at work. On the weekends, though, we have a different ritual. Michael has become our in-house coffee expert, and recently we've been enjoying Sweet Maria's coffee brewed in our new Chemex coffeemaker. Whenever I have a chance (or an excuse, like some heavy cream or buttermilk sitting in the fridge that I just must use before it goes bad), I make us a weekend breakfast treat, like scones or biscuits, and put them in the freezer to be baked fresh in the morning. We've already posted our standard cinnamon bun recipe, but today we want to share with you a new variety - something that's a bit more like a sticky bun, because the filling turns  into gooey caramel that bubbles out of the sweet dough. 

This recipe came about because we had tried and loved Joy the Baker's Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread, but realized that it was impractical, since it clearly must be eaten fresh out of the oven, and the fact that it is also clearly far more than two people need was probably not going to stop us from eating the entire thing. So, we converted it into individual rolls which rise in muffin tins and then can be frozen and baked as needed.

July 21, 2012

Chocolate & Salted Almond Shortbread Cookies

The Scharffen-Berger chocolate factory used to be just down the street from the school where I work. It was in a beautiful old industrial building on Heinz Avenue, and was originally a Heinz ketchup factory. They gave a pretty cool tour (with plenty of chocolate samples) and had a little shop which offered plentiful chocolate and even more samples. The best part of all this was that when I rode my bike past the factory every day on my way to work and again on my way home, I would inhale the aroma of chocolate. It was a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, Scharffen-Berger was purchased by Artisan Confection Company, which is a subsidiary of Hershey, and their production operations were moved elsewhere. My use of the word unfortunately here is not meant in a local, organic, sustainable, anti-corporation, anti-Hershey, Berkeley way; they are still making the same tasty chocolate as before, but I am saddened that I no longer get to breathe in chocolate on my way to work and stop by on my lunch break for samples. Oh well - we have moved since then anyway, and I now walk past Acme bread's bakery on 9th Street. And Artisan Confection has not changed Scharffen-Berger's chocolate at all - it's still just as delicious, and my absolute favorite chocolate bar of all time is their sea salted almonds and milk chocolate bar.

June 6, 2012

Pea and Fava Tartine

Tartine is a fancy French word for an open-faced sandwich. And we have to be honest - we chose to use it to sound a little fancier here. But this simple dish that Michael created deserves some fanciness; it is all that's glorious about spring, spread over focaccia and covered with melted fresh mozzarella. Some chopped chives and a drizzle of good olive oil finish it off. Please, eat this for lunch or dinner sometime soon while the shell beans are in their prime. And if you haven't gotten yourself some fancy olive oil, I must recommend it. I was given some Laudemio as a gift from a very thoughtful and generous parent of one of my preschool students, and we have thoroughly enjoyed it. We've found that it's not worth using for cooking or even in salad dressing - you don't really taste it - but it adds a wonderful flavor when drizzled on top of pasta, risotto, or of course this lovely tartine.

April 29, 2012

Oatmeal Molasses Cookies

Michael and I generally have the same tastes in food. Of course, there are certain things that one of us loves a little bit more than the other - so Michael will always let me have the last bite of dessert, and I am willing to let him take the extra slice of pizza. There aren't many things that one of us likes and the other truly dislikes, but there is a difference in opinion when it comes to oatmeal cookies. I love oatmeal cookies; Michael doesn't dislike them, but his take is that he would always prefer to have a chocolate chip cookie. So, if hungry and offered an oatmeal cookie, he wouldn't turn it down, but if we're going to make cookies at home he's going to want to go with chocolate chip. This has not been a major source of strife in our household, though, first of all because we're talking about cookies, and second of all because I also happen to love chocolate chip cookies and could never be unhappy if they were around.

However, I wanted to make some cookies last week for my knitting club at school, so I saw my opportunity to give the less favored cookie a moment in the sun. I wanted to make the cookies with molasses, since I think molasses always adds great flavor to baked goods, and I also wanted to use up a few things that we had in our cupboards. I consulted a couple of molasses oatmeal cookies online, including this one from Allrecipes, but I would say that the result, which includes currants, white chocolate chips, and shredded coconut, is my own creation - and I would also say that they came out fantastic. I'm not the only one - Michael also loved them, and the kids at school devoured them. They're chewy, flavorful, and flecked with tiny tart currants and chunks of sweet, melty white chocolate. The oatmeal cookie has finally achieved equal status with chocolate chip!

April 10, 2012

Half Boiled Shoyu Tamago

Until a couple of years ago, I didn't know that ramen could be anything more than a package of dry, curly noodles microwaved in a bowl with hot, salty water.  Then our friends Grant and Eric from Portland took me and Amanda to an amazing Japanese restaurant called Biwa where we had a life-changing ramen experience.  The broth was so deep and rich, the noodles so tender, the pork belly so thin and perfectly crisped.  It was during that dinner at Biwa that I learned for the first time that ramen was so much more than those dry, salty noodles.

All of a sudden, I started noticing ramen everywhere.  The former Namu in San Francisco only made six bowls of it each night because it was so labor intensive.  On a business trip to Tokyo, my clients made sure to take me to their favorite ramen joint in Shibuya.  And then, of course, there's the movie Tampopo, a Japanese foodie western (yup) all about ramen and the love of food.

March 26, 2012

Judye's Apple Cake

As soon as Michael saw an email from his mom appear in his inbox with the subject "I invented a new apple cake," we knew that we would be baking that night. My mother-in-law is a terrific cook; before we met, our first email exchange was about how to make her roast chicken. She's great with savory dishes but, probably because she has a sweet tooth like me, she is particularly inspired when it comes to creating new desserts. 

When we looked the recipe over we had the immediate gut reaction of wanting to add cinnamon, because apples and cinnamon are such a natural combination. But it's possible that no one else in the world loves cinnamon more than Michael's mom - she buys it by the 18 ounce jug, and her dishwasher is stained reddish brown. So if she doesn't put cinnamon in something, she must have a good reason. We baked the cake and yes, of course, Michael's mom was right - not just right, but genius. You have a moist cake with a little tang of buttermilk, you have apples, and you have brown sugar, and it turns out that's all you need. After taking one bite, I declared this an all time top cake

February 28, 2012

Broccoli with Béchamel

Well, friends, it's been a while. We hope you haven't missed us too much. Don't worry, we've been cooking and eating plenty, but somehow the end of January and most of February slipped by without a post here. But we were inspired by a simple and tasty dish to get the camera back out and hold off a few minutes before devouring it in order to take a few pictures.

This dish has the odd pedigree of being inspired by a restaurant dish that we didn't actually eat. We had dinner at our neighborhood Italian place and noticed that they were serving a steak with a side of broccoli with béchamel. We were more in the mood for pasta so we went that route, but the idea of broccoli served with a simple, creamy white sauce stuck with us, and we just had to try it.

January 18, 2012

Risotto Cakes and Red Wine Braised Root Vegetables

We've recently had three culinary epiphanies:

1.) Leftover risotto is awesome if you form it into cakes and pan fry them.
2.) If you put some root vegetables in the oven with some wine, good things will happen.
3.) The results of the previous two epiphanies go very well together.

So in this post, we bring you the happy results, and we were so excited that we put them all together. However, both items here - the risotto cakes and the wine braised roots - would be delicious in combination with other things as well. The roots have a rich, hearty quality that makes them perfect spooned over any grain or carbohydrate - think of them as beef stew without the beef (and you won't even miss it). Polenta or pasta would be good bases. And as to the risotto cakes, top them off with whatever inspires you: a rich tomato sauce, whatever vegetables are seasonal, slices of roast meat or steak. And it would certainly not be a bad idea to put some cheese into the middle of the cakes; think fresh mozzarella or gruyère.

January 11, 2012

Poached Chicken with Tarragon Sauce

We're back! We had a fantastic holiday in France, where there was much eating, drinking, and merrymaking. Although it was difficult to return to a life where croissants for breakfast and wine at lunch are not a given, it also feels good to be home, back in our kitchen, and back on our blog. After all, the aforementioned lifestyle is probably not sustainable in the long run.