gastronome
December 30, 2006
cranberry upside-down coffee cake

I just checked to see when I posted last, and it was in June of 2005. Well. The story is: I got my heart broke, and started going out to hear bands play to distract myself, and then I started DJing about the same time... But with the turning of the year I'm starting to feel pulled less to the bars and clubs and more to my kitchen. I decided to dive right back in with this recipe from the December 2006 Cooking Light. I forgot how difficult it is to find fresh cranberries, so I substituted half a cup of dried. I think that contributed to how much the "crust" caramelized in my version. It's pretty chewy on top. But it's still freaking tasty, with the cake buttery underneath. I'll be taking it to a party tonight, and here's hoping cute hipster boys like coffee cake.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare cake, coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray; dust with 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour. Combine 1 cup fresh cranberries, 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted dates, 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, and 1 teaspoon grated orange rind in a bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons butter, softened, in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar, 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour brown sugar mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle cranberry mixture evenly over brown sugar mixture.

Lightly spoon 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Place 1 cup granulated sugar and 6 tablespoons butter, softened, in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 large egg; beat well. Add flour mixture and 1/2 cup fat-free buttermilk alternately to granulated sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Spoon batter over cranberry mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; run a knife around outside edges. Invert cake onto a plate; cool.

To prepare glaze, combine 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon butter, melted, and 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice in a small bowl, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over cake. Cut cake into squares. Yield: 12 servings.

Posted by astraea on December 30, 2006
December 27, 2006
Dutch Oven Love: Bean and Smoked Chicken Soup

My winter philosophy: if we're going to heat with gas, I may as well use the oven. I have been improvising recipes with my cast iron 6 quart dutch oven. Today's rainy weather was a good excuse for a simmered bean soup, but it had to be pork-free, since I wanted to feed it to a friend who doesn't eat pork. Luckily, Magnani's Poultry in Berkeley has some excellent chicken options. They've recently started house-smoking all kinds of things, and the half smoked chicken and smoked duck and turkey sausages that I picked up on the weekend really made the dish.

This recipe is simmered in the oven, in a cast iron pot. I think it tastes better than stovetop simmering, but I could just be looking for excuses to use my Staub cocotte and run the stove for a few hours.

Naomi's Crazy Good Soup for Them as Don't Eat Pork
(improvised from Catt's Autumn Soup recipe)

2 c. mixed beans, picked over and presoaked (4-8 hours in water, or in the pressure cooker for 1 min)
3 tbsp olive oil
3 smoked duck and turkey sausages
6 large cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 red peppers, chopped

12-16 oz can chopped tomatoes
1/2 smoked chicken
2 c. chicken broth
about 2 c. water

coarsely ground black pepper
rosemary, sage, chili flakes to taste

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Place your dutch oven on medium-high heat. Slice the sausage into 1/4-in. pieces, and quarter the pieces. Heat the oil until it smells like olives. Add the sausages and saute them a minute or so, then add the garlic. Saute until the garlic smells like it's cooking. Add the onions, celery, and peppers and cook until onions are translucent. Cut the chicken into manageable pieces and add that to the pot, along with the pre-soaked beans, the tomatoes and their juice, and the chicken broth. Add 2 c of water, or however much water will fit in your pot. Add seasonings. Simmer for an hour or many, until the beans are cooked through and the soup tastes good. If you are using a cast iron dutch oven, you can simmer the soup by putting it in the oven at 325 or 350 and leaving it there -- the oven will heat the soup evenly from all sides, and the top of the soup will caramelize and become even tastier. (Not to mention the added benefit of heating the kitchen.)

When the soup is done, remove the chicken and pick the meat off the bones. Return the meat to the soup.

Posted by naomi on December 27, 2006
December 15, 2006
salted caramel ice cream

Photo by Melissa Schneider.
This post is for Derrick, but the ice cream was for Melissa. This Thanksgiving, we were lucky enough to have the Schneiders over for a long, lazy day of cooking and chatting and storytelling. Just what the Borogoves needed: an eye in the midst of a torrential storm of work. (And they did the shopping to boot, which pretty much elevates them to sainthood in my book...)

Miss Melissa looooves ice cream - and I wanted to try and mimic the incredibly tasty salted caramel ice cream I had at Berthillon last winter in Paris. The perfect excuse to pick up the ice cream maker I had been coveting...

The result? A deep, just-to-the-edge-but-not-quite burnt caramel ice cream, with surprising pops of salt every few bites. I thought it was perfect on our apple pie - even though I was so so so full!

I went my usual route, consulting a few of my favorite books; unfortunately, I wasn't excited about any of the precise recipes at my fingers. (Ask around - I can't ever do anything the easy way.) The recipe that follows was synthesized by poking at the ice cream recipes in Room for Dessert, The Last Course, and A Sweet Quartet.

1.5 c sugar
a dash of karo syrup
a wee pat of butter

1 big sploosh homemade vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks, whisked together minimally

a couple general pinches of your favorite sea salt

Put the sugar, butter, and karo syrup in a heavy bottomed pan. Make a caramel. I took mine fairly dark - I wanted to have the deep, rich flavor to hold its own amongst all the dairy and egg. When the caramel is to your liking, drop in the heavy cream and stand back - it will spatter! Turn down the heat; incorporate the cream & vanilla. Then the milk. Add a small pinch of salt. Taste the caramelly sauce - you don't want it to be at full salt yet.

Slowly pour the solution over your eggs, whisking continuously. Strain the mix into a container, and chill according to your ice cream maker's directions. Freeze according to the same (or your whim, as the case may be). Just before you turn the ice cream maker off, add in a generous pinch of big-grained sea salt. (We used some fleur de sel we picked up on the aforementioned trip to Paris.)

Cure the ice cream during dinner, and enjoy!

Posted by shock on December 15, 2006
December 04, 2006
happy birthday, Tom!

Photo by Melissa Schneider.
Just a quick note to wish our favorite Butter Pig a happy birthday - he's probably influenced you gastronome readers (and any stray OWF readers) more than you might imagine.

So much love, from your kitchen staff. I think I speak for all of us when I say we'll always be your sous (souses?) - in or out of the kitchen. :)
Posted by shock on December 04, 2006
December 03, 2006
basic risotto with pressure cooker

I love my pressure cooker. Skeptics believe that you can't make anything tasty in it, because the pressure will break down any flavouring, but that's not exactly true: like anything else, you have to use the pressure cooker for what it is best at, and modify the plan accordingly.

One of the things the pressure cooker is best at is risotto. I love risotto, but I don't like the constant stirring. With the right proportions of rice to liquid, you can have your risotto cooked to perfection in 4 minutes (okay 10 if you include the initial and final fussing) and you don't have to stir except at the very end.

Basic pressure cooker risotto:

1 tbsp. butter or olive oil (or both!)
1 c. minced onions or leeks
1.5 c. arborio or carnaroli rice
1/2 c. dry white wine
4 c. chicken or veg broth

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Heat the oil in the pressure cooker until it is foaming. Add your onions (or leeks) and cook them until they're slightly soft. Stir in the rice, making sure that all the grains of rice get evenly coated with oil. Add the wine and stir often until most of the wine is evaporated. Add the broth. Close the lid. Bring the pressure cooker to high pressure. Reduce the heat to keep the pressure on high and cook for 4 minutes longer. Put the pressure cooker under cold running water to reduce the pressure quickly, and open the lid. The risotto will look soupy, still. Add seasoning and any other ingredients. Boil the risotto over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes more, until the grains of rice are cooked just right and the risotto looks creamy and thick. Turn off the heat and stir in some cheese. Serve.

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I made a butternut squash and kale risotto recently, a la recipe in Annie Somerville's excellent Greens Cookbook. The method for the additions went something like this:

Peel and cut butternut squash into 2-in. chunks. Toss with chopped garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, and roast in a dutch oven for about 20 min at 400 F or until the squash is soft and cooked.
Wash and remove stems from kale. Boil some water. Add salt. Cook kale about 4 minutes. Drain. Chop.
I added the squash and the kale to the risotto as above, along with nutmeg and about 2 oz grated Italian fontina cheese.

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A different variation, where you make the squash in the pressure cooker along with the rice in the first stage.

Peel and cut about 3 c. butternut squash into 1-in chunks. Add them along with the broth. Season at the end with chopped sage and about 2 oz. grated Parmesan cheese.

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Garlic flavour breaks down in the pressure cooker. If you want garlic flavour, saute your garlic in a little olive oil and add it at the end, or else cook one of your late additions with garlic as in the first variant here.

Posted by naomi on December 03, 2006