Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Say It Ain’t Soda Bread

Monday, March 15th, 2010

It might be called Irish Soda Bread, but don’t let that caraway and raisin-studded white round loaf fool you. It’s Irish alright. It’s just not traditional soda bread. “Consider its origins,” says Rachel Gaffney of Rachel Gaffney’s Authentic Irish Goods. “We were a poor nation. This was an easy to make all-in-one mixture that was made with buttermilk, a byproduct when making butter. Wholemeal flour was more widely available. Raisins were never used. These were imported and if anything were a luxury for the Irish. When white flour was added, this was indeed for a special occasion.”

So, what is the real soda bread like? I recently took a stab at Rachel’s traditional recipe (below) and thought it screamed ‘hearty’ from the outside in. Its nutty and earthy flavor is a far cry from the sweet bread we consider Irish Soda Bread here in the US. This authentic version has an honest, unambiguous taste of a rugged and rich homeland. Just good, old fashioned BREAD! And with a healthy spreading of salted Irish butter (I can’t live without Kerry Gold, by the way)…lets just say it won’t last long. But that’s ok. It’s easier than pie to make.

Thank you, Rachel, for enlightening us. ‘Tis definitely one of those rare cases where the truth doesn’t hurt!

Brown Soda Bread
Rachel Gaffney’s Authentic Irish Soda Bread

3 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 teaspoons rolled oats, plus 2 teaspoons rolled oats for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 quart buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl mix all dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and add liquid ingredients. Mix together well, trying not to handle too much. Form a ball gently with your floured hands. Do not work this bread like traditional yeast breads. Sprinkle with remaining oats. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, make a cross in the bread with a sharp paring knife and bake for 45 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

I Resolve to Seek Inspiration

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

Literally and figuratively in the eleventh hour (p.m.) of January 1, 2010 I was looking for inspiration. Cooking inspiration, that is. Although I love perusing through cookbooks, even reading them cover to cover sometimes, I rarely use them when I cook. That is, I almost never have a cookbook cracked open on the counter for me to refer to pre-chopping or mid-saute. But when I find myself short on ideas, unable to unearth all the dishes, dinners, meals, and masterpieces in my mind, I turn to my cookbook collection to get the ball rolling.

Seldom bought, mostly given by a publicist, publisher, or t.v. producer, the cookbooks in my collection are a bibliographic timeline of my culinary career. Tonight I flipped through some old favorites: Michel Nischan’s “Taste Pure and Simple,” which he gave to me the first time I ever worked with him a few weeks before the book hit stores; Tyler Florence’s “Tyler’s Ultimate,” which I read cover to cover the night before I worked with him for the first time on The View four years ago; and “Modern Mexican Flavors” by Richard Sandoval, one of the only cookbooks I have bought for myself post-culinary school simply because his food inspires me.

And then I stumbled upon Susan Herrmann Loomis’s “Cooking at Home on Rue Tatin.” The moment I cracked open the book I remembered why I first liked it so very much. It is written the way a cookbook should be – with depth, history, culture, anecdote, and nostalgia. All that, and the recipe writing is meticulous, the techniques tried and true, the French cuisine utterly authentic, AND she offers a wine recommendation with each dish. What a good book! The words and flavors jump off the page and it is as though you are right there with Susan Herrmann Loomis in her Normandy kitchen.

I had the pleasure of meeting the author once several years ago in New York when she was touring for her book. I listened to her talk, watched her cook, and tasted her delectable fare. She inspired me then, and she did again tonight when I landed on page 55 (see excerpt below). May her words inspire us all for a scrumptious 2010!

How to Eat Like the French

I am often asked how the French eat so well, yet look so thin and healthy. Here are some tips I’ve learned:

1. Buy ingredients as close to the source as you can. Go to a farm, a farmer’s market, a shop featuring farm ingredients. Buy organic ingredients whenever you can. They may cost more, but realize that their cost is the real cost of producing food, for most organic farmers don’t get government subsidies.

2. Serve a green salad with lunch and dinner.

3. Serve bread without butter at mealtimes.

4. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

5. Avoid snacking between meals.

6. Always have seasonal fruit available. I often cut up fruit – apples, pears, melons, peaches – when my children are agitating for a meal and I haven’t quite finished preparation.

7. Serve vegetable soup often; it is a delicious and satisfying way to enjoy vegetables.

8. Have a glass of wine with your meal. Wine, particularly red wine, is believed to have health benefits when taken in moderation.

9. Avoid processed foods and soft drinks.

10. Don’t be afraid of your food. If you are comfortable with your food, you will enjoy it more and eat less.

11. Take time at the table so you can enjoy the meal you’ve prepared.

I Can Pull Pork In My Sleep

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Pulled pork might take days to make but all the action takes place while you sleep. This past weekend I was part of a tailgating event for the last home football game of the season at my alma mater, Colgate University. On Saturday, the school featured me cooking tailgate food with a twist, and sold my two books alongside the free tasty fare: cider braised pulled pork sliders with apple slaw, and chicken satay skewers with coconut lemongrass sauce.

The event might have taken place Saturday, but the prep work began Thursday when I coated the pork butt (that’s really pork shoulder) in a spice rub of paprika, brown sugar, garlic and onion powders, chili powder, cayenne and white pepper, salt, and oregano. The heavily seasoned meat was wrapped tightly in plastic, then in aluminum foil. It sat for 24 hours in the refrigerator to cure.

The next day, I removed from the refrigerator the seasoned meat, now glistening a deep, glossy red from the paprika and sugar spice rub, and placed it on a rimmed sheet pan. It then went in a preheated 250F oven overnight. While I slept, the meat cooked, rendering its fat and loosening itself from the bone. When I awoke, the smells of barbecue permeated the house. I had cooked another pulled pork in my sleep! Now all that was left was a quick braise to make the “sauce.”

I love Texas barbecue, but only for brisket and sausage links. When it comes to pulled pork, I want it Carolina style with a vinegar/mustard based sauce. After 8 hours in the oven, the pork was juicy and tender to the bone. I let it cool a bit while I warmed half a gallon of apple cider in a large pot with yellow mustard, honey, molasses, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, and liquid smoke (no other choice for a city girl who wants to impart that smokey flavor to the meat). I effortlessly pulled the pork off the bone and placed it in the warm cider braising liquid. I let the meat and juice mixture simmer for an hour before packing up and taking it upstate to Colgate.

The lesson: it is so easy to make pulled pork you can do it in your sleep!

An Oldie But Goodie With a Twist

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Lately I have been reading blog posts and tweets about Sheila Lukins, the American culinary pioneer and co-author of the Silver Palate cookbooks. She died in late August, and many friends and fans remember her and her scrumptious food fondly. Chicken Marbella was by far her most famous dish: an unexpected concoction of chicken with prunes, olives, and capers so popular that you couldn’t escape it in the 1980′s.

I set out to make Chicken Marbella because it had been quite some time since I had it. Once I began to gather my mise en place, I realized that I didn’t have prunes (only dried apricots), and had mixed olives (not all green). I was out of red wine vinegar, but had sherry vinegar. And I had half a bottle of red wine already open so why bother with a new bottle of white? I was determined to get those flavors brewing in my kitchen and ultimately in my mouth, so I persevered with the same principles and ratios albeit on a slightly different path.

Chicken “Lorena” emerged:

8 chicken thighs, or 1 chicken quartered
4 cloves very finely chopped garlic (like a paste)
2 tablespoons dried oregano
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup pitted mixed olives
1/4 cup capers with the juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup red wine
chopped parsley for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the garlic, oregano, kosher salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, olive oil, apricots, olives, capers, and juice. Add the chicken and toss well to coat. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.

Arrange chicken in a single layer in a large, shallow baking pan and spoon the fruit/olives over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour the wine around them.

Bake uncovered for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting every 10 minutes with pan juices.

Serve the dish warm or cold. It actually improves after a few days in the fridge.

Fun on the Farm

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

There is a very special place, just 40 miles northwest of New York, called Rainbeau Ridge. A small, family-owned farm, Rainbeau Ridge is the realization of a dream and an admirable example of sustainability and community. They grow fruits and vegetables, sell fresh eggs in spectacular shades of blue and brown, and raise livestock to make arguably some of the best goat cheese there is (Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns certainly agrees). I have been very fortunate to spend countless, joyful hours there over the years and July 16th was no exception.

Lisa Schwartz, owner and farmer extraodinaire, invited me to spend an afternoon at the farm to sign books and meet her Community Agriculture Partnership (CAP) customers. From noon to 4 o’clock I met with people who love the ingredients they use just as much as they love to cook. It was inspiring to see how many people deeply care about the quality of their food, from farm to table. One woman, Shirley, is in a book club where Alice Waters’s “The Art of Simple Food” is on the list. Oh, what a fun idea for a book club! Maybe “Notes on Cooking” will be next? How wonderful that would be…especially if I am invited to join!

To entice people to chat with me and browse through the book, I bribed them with a little treat: a tomato tart made with Lisa’s Mont Vivant goat cheese. Everyone was raving about it, no doubt due to that delectable chevre! Flaky puff pastry, scrumptious tomato jam, heirloom tomatoes paired with basil from the garden, and a little extra virgin olive oil and coarse salt were a savory backdrop for Lisa’s cheese (she impressively makes it all herself). Try the following recipe for just a little taste of Rainbeau Ridge. Better yet, go visit the farm or a local store or restaurant where Rainbeau Ridge cheese is sold.

Heirloom Tomato & Goat Cheese Tart

for the tomato jam:
2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes
6 whole shallots, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
4 sprigs thyme
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

for the tart:
1 sheet puff pastry
1 cup tomato jam
6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 pint small heirloom tomatoes, halved or quartered
frehsly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt
fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 400F.

To make the tomato jam, combine the tomatoes, shallots, garlic, and thyme in a rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until the shallots have caramelized and softened. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the tomato mixture to a food processor. Puree for several seconds until more or less smooth. Allow to cool before assembling the tart.

To make the tart, line a sheet pan with a nonstick liner. Place the puff pastry on the sheet pan, then spread the tomato jam evenly over the surface, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle with the crumbled goat cheese, then place the tomato pieces evenly on top. Top with freshly ground black pepper and bake in the 400F oven for 30 minutes, or until the edges of the pastry are golden brown and have puffed. Remove from the oven, drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil, season with finishing salt, and sprinkle with whole fresh basil leaves. Serve warm or room temperature.

The tomato jam may be made up to one week in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Share Your Recipes

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Many people are shocked that I happily give away recipes. “If I could cook like you, I would never give away my secrets,” I often hear. Well, I must say that I thoroughly disagree with this attitude. Sharing recipes is like storytelling, traveling, and reading a book all in one shot. It is a way to give and receive something special and new.

It has been said that sharing a recipe makes it immortal. So many of us make Grandma’s apple pie, or our mother’s roast chicken. This is what makes a recipe live on, long after the life of the person who first shared it with us. The following quote expresses this sentiment best:

The recipe that is not shared with others will soon be forgotten,
but when it is shared, it will be enjoyed by future generations.


In that spirit, I’d like to share my recipe for sour cream cake, a simple and satisfying base to any variety of luscious summer fruits:

Sour Cream Cake

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 1 large loaf pan or 4 mini loaf pans. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until thickened and a pale yellow color. Beat in the oil, sour cream and vanilla until smooth. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Add to the egg mixture until blended.

Fill greased loaf pans 2/3 full. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden on top and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely on wire racks.

Serve with fresh berries or stone fruits.

Add berries to the batter for a fruit pound cake. Drizzle the loaves with a powdered sugar glaze made with powdered sugar and just enough lemon juice to make the right consistency.

Feeding the Family Is an Affair to Remember

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

Pizza is a big deal at my house. Every Friday my son, Jonathan, and I make a homemade pizza for lunch with all his favorite fixings that we affectionately call Pizza Giovanni (recipe below). Sometimes we invite good friends or family to join us, but many days it’s just the two of us and one of the special ladies in his life who babysits. This week we are making this family treat on Sunday instead so that Daddy can join in the fun.

Jonathan loves vegetables, so we pile them high in a bounty of color. We both like a lot of contrasting textures and flavors. We pair crisp, raw white onions with supple, sweet roasted red peppers. Baby mozzarella the size of pearls yield all the benefits of fresh buffalo with the kid-friendly edge of not needing a knife. Italian chicken sausage is just like its pork counterpart, but far more healthful. We favor raw mushrooms to cook with the pizza, thus avoiding the need to sauté them in advance. Homemade sauce is wonderful, but in a pinch I use Muir Glen’s organic fire roasted tomato sauce.

The crust, of course, is key (so, too, is going light on the sauce). And we have a special field trip for that piece of the pie. My son loves that he has a role to play in the preparation by walking around the corner to the pizza parlor each week. It’s something he looks forward to almost as much as the 50 cents change he gets to throw in his piggy bank from paying for the $4.50 dough with a $5 bill. Our local New York pizzeria, Arturo’s, makes excellent dough and happily sells it to us each week.

Feeding my family is something really special. The memories we are making—and the skills my son is learning —are priceless. I love sharing what I do with my son, and I am always pleased to see his enthusiasm for the food he loves begin with its preparation.

There are two books I highly recommend for anyone who wants to cook not only for their children, but with their children. I recently had the privilege of styling TV segments for both authors on their respective appearances on CBS’s The Early Show:

familymealscoverMaria Helm Sinskey’s Williams-Sonoma Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen is a stunning and authentic collection of family recipes. Sinskey’s enthusiasm and passion for family and food jumps right off the page. She covers everything from pancakes to crab cakes, all with accompanying mouthwatering photographs and helpful hints. Parents and kids of all ages will be inspired to cook together after a leisurely look through this beautiful book.         hungrymonkeycoverHungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater by Matthew Amster-Burton is a witty and entertaining book about the ups and downs of feeding his adorable and deliciously precocious daughter, Iris. Peppered throughout the book are delectable recipes that are, to borrow a pop-culture phrase, kid-tested and [father] approved. His potsticker recipe rivals that of any dim sum joint in Chinatown.

Pizza Giovanni

1 large pizza dough
¾ cup tomato sauce
1 pound fresh mozzarella (in baby balls or sliced)
2 Italian chicken sausage links, fully cooked and sliced
2 roasted bell peppers, sliced
6 large button mushrooms, sliced
1 small white onion, sliced
freshly grated Parmesan
Basil leaves for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400˚F and place the oven rack in the middle.

Stretch the pizza dough to fit a half sheet pan (a jelly roll pan of 18 x 13). Place the dough in the pan, making sure that it is fully stretched to every corner. Pinch excess dough within the pan to create a border.

Spread the tomato sauce over the base of the dough, then evenly place the mozzarella on top. Next add the sausage slices, roasted peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and bake for 20 minutes, or until the crust is brown and the cheese is bubbling.

Remove from the oven and onto a cutting board. Let the pizza rest for two minutes before slicing. Serve immediately.
Makes 4-6 servings.