Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Leek Bread Pudding

I've been eager to try this recipe since Daniel, one of my customers at the market told me about it. He had a basket of leeks, cream, croutons, thyme and Gruyere. I asked him what he was making- "Leek Bread Pudding".
I was intrigued, never having made bread pudding before. I'm a huge fan of the lovely leek and if there's cheese in the mix, count me in. "Wow! that sounds great. Where'd you get the recipe?" Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home, it turns out. Daniel said he'd just made it for the first time earlier in the week and it was so good he wanted to make it again. I laughed because I do the same thing. If I make something new and it's really great I'm already planning my next shopping trip after my first bite. I like to make it again right away to make sure it's as good as I think it is. If it's just as lovely the second time around it'll become part of the repertoire.
When I Googled the recipe, the first thing to come up was Smitten Kitchen's adaption of Keller's recipe so I knew I was golden 'cuz everyone knows how much I love me some Smitten Kitchen. SK's recipe halves the Ad Hoc proportions to fit in a loaf pan and is more suitable for a small family meal as a side dish whereas the Ad Hoc recipe seems more inclined to those folks who entertain on a larger scale than me. Keller's proportions call for 3 cups of heavy cream AND 3 cups of milk. It's hard to carry that much dairy on the handle bars of my bicycle. In the meantime, I got the book from the library. The pictures are very pretty.
This turned out quite well in spite of a few.. uhmm.. substitutions
I used a variety of crusty freezer loaves I get from the day old bread basket at the market to make the croutons. The recipes suggests making croutons with brioche or a pullman loaf which are less dense and crusty.  This was a spontaneous decision when I found leeks at my local produce market yesterday. It was my day off so I didn't get the good stuff and ended up buying a block of supermarket swiss cheese instead of the Emmentaler or Comte the recipe suggests. I also forgot to buy chives so I just added extra thyme.
So yeah, there were a few flaws. It was still delicious so I know it'll be extra awesome next time.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Apples & Bacon

I'm auditioning brussels sprouts for a potential role in my Thanksgiving contribution this year. Brussels sprouts are a relatively uncharted territory for me as I was one of those haters for most of my life. I began my conversion a couple of years ago when I came across a very simple recipe in one of Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbooks. The photograph was delicious and I'd been trying to broaden my veggie horizons by focusing specifically on vegetables that I'd thought I hated (eggplant and squash rounded out the top 3 vegetables I've managed to avoid all my life). The brussels sprouts were pretty darned good. I felt accomplished, adventurous, and virtuous. Then I moved on.
In preparation for the upcoming holidays, I was asked if I'd be up to bringing a home made holiday dish to a staff meeting at the market and talk about how to shop for it and how to prepare it, providing printed copies of the recipe. This is an example of how we live Bi-Rite's mission statement: Creating Community Through Food.
The first thing that came to mind were brussels sprouts. I don't know why, because I've never prepared them since that first time but it seemed like the perfect occasion to revisit.

So, as usual, I embarked on a recipe Google-thon and landed on two recipes that morphed into this:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples & Bacon
adapted from Michael Symon at

1 ½ pounds brussels sprouts-trimmed and halved*
1  large tart apple, such as a Granny Smith or Pippin-cut the same size as the brussels sprouts
8 ounces slab bacon-cut into ¼ “ lardons (cubes)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Pre heat the oven to 450 degrees.
In a large bowl, toss the brussels sprouts and apples in 2 tablespoons of olive oil using your fingers to get all of the pieces coated. Transfer onto however many sheet pans you'll need so you can spread the pieces out so they are in one layer and not touching each other. You may need to roast in batches to achieve this. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
When roasting vegetables it’s important not to crowd the pan or else everything will just steam and not brown.
Roast for 20 minutes** or until the vegetables start to blacken. Halfway through the roasting time, remove the pans, toss the vegetables around and switch places on the racks if you have more than one pan going,
Cook the bacon until crispy. Drain onto a paper towel and drain the fat into a small Pyrex type bowl.
Turn the heat back on under your now empty, but brown bottomed bacon skillet and deglaze with balsamic vinegar scraping up that great stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan and let the balsamic cook down a little and thicken. Turn off the heat and whisk in the maple syrup and a couple of tablespoons (or more) of bacon fat. Toss the cooked bacon back into the pan and stir. Add your roasted vegetables and toss those around a bit to coat.
If you want to get fancy you can add toasted nuts or dried cranberries or top with crispy fried onions or shallots.
*I bought bagged brussels sprouts which contained a variety of sizes. To achieve uniformity, cut the large ones in quarters, the medium ones in half and keep the tiny ones whole. You can also buy them loose and choose ones that are uniform in size. I like the variation of crispiness you get from the differences in shapes and sizes. Save the loose leaves and roast those last. They're like kale chips and add another dimension to the dish. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn like mine did.

**cooking time will vary depending on how large your brussels sprouts are.

I'm gonna go all out and do a big batch of these. The leftovers make a great fritatta the next morning and a nice garnish for soup.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Roasted Red PepperTartine & Za'atar

This is a page from the recipe collection I compiled for my niece's bridal shower gift this summer. The book included original art, illustrated recipes and photographs from this blog and personal family photographs. The recipes I chose to include in the collection came right out of this blog. I went back and put together selection of favorite recipes I've gone back to time and time again. I thought I'd share the artwork and revisit some faves. I've also linked back to the original blog post.
I'm a huge fan of toast piled with stuff. I've always got a freezer full of day old bread. I bring a loaf home from the market every couple of days. I slice it in half and double wrap each half in plastic wrap and then seal them in a freezer bag. When I want to thaw it, I wrap a half in foil and toss it in the oven. I'll either leave it in the turned off oven over night or if I need it sooner I'll crank the oven on high for a few minutes then turn it off and let the bread heat through with the residual heat for about 15-20 minutes.
Slice thickly and toast. Rub with a half of a garlic clove and top with your spread of choice.
Za'atar is a middle eastern spice & herb blend that can be purchased dry or made fresh. I used to buy it dry but when I discovered how easy it was to make fresh I've never gone back.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Raspberry Lemon Drop

This is a little project I've been working on since handing off my collection of illustrated recipes to my niece for her bridal shower gift.
Yet again, there's been a sad lack of cooking content here, but that is not to say the little kitchen has been inactive but I've been having a lot of fun with the illustrating and cooking and spending way too much time lost in the vortex of Pinterest. Computer issues are also an issue when you're at the mercy of the sloooowwwness of free public wifi and library computers with a mind of their own. I get really impatient.
Anyhoo, I'm going to share some of my illustrations here to keep the blog active.
Some notes about this recipe:
My simple syrup recipe is a cup of water and 1 1/2 cups of sugar, heated in a sauce pan until the sugar is dissolved. Let it cool. It doesn't have to be refrigerated.
My favorite raspberry liqueur is St. George. I find Chambord to be too sweet and cough syrupy. That's just me though. I also just realized that I neglected to note on the illustration that fresh raspberries add a nice touch.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Kuri Curry Coconut Soup & A Day on the Farm

This pretty pumpkiny thing is a Kuri squash. I picked it right out of the patch with my own two hands along with the butternut and a whole bunch of onions. I'll get back to this.
Photographing pureed soups is just best left to the experts. I lacked the werewithal to come up with photo friendly garnish strategies because this soup was so damn good that I couldn't bear to let it sit around while I noodled around with what?...chives? fried shallots? squeeze bottle drizzle art? No. None of that because I realized that this soup was not about that particular destination. It's the farm to table journey that bears note.
I went to Sonoma last week to get my first gander at the Bi-Rite Farm. I did more than gander. I harvested. I traveled up the afternoon before with a small caravan of co-workers. We spent the night at my boss Sam's gorgeous weekend home, cooking a lovely meal together in a true chef's kitchen around a ginormous island. 
After our meal of chili & cornbread, a few beers and a round of Cards Against Humanity, we hit the sleeping bags and got out to the farm early the next morning.

I picked this crazy lemon cucumber.
This was really overgrown, at first I thought a melon snuck it's way into the cucumber patch. I'd never seen a lemon cucumber until last year when I started working at Bi-Rite. They are ready to harvest when they are the size of a fat lemon, speckly pale green with a blush of yellow. 

We picked the last of the red beans, then pulled up the plants and mashed them into the compost heap. Amaranth weeds were yanked and  fed to the cows next door, one of which was destined for our market shortly and carrot tops were fed through the fence to the donkeys at the other next door farm. There is virtually no waste here. The pretty stuff goes to the markets and the rest goes to the kitchens.

A new crop to the farm... hops. I was invited to tear into one of these buds and rub it around in my hands. It was like perfume. These are destined for a limited edition Bi-rite brew. I've renewed my love of beer since working at the market. I've had the opportunity and great good fortune to be able to taste a vast array of amazing small craft brews and after 15 years of bloaty beer banishment, I am back and truly in love with all manner of hoppy beers. IPA all the way.
I came home with a couple of squashes, a bunch of red torpedo spring onions and fistful of rosemary. I didn't want to get greedy, thinking of what I was capable of using soon and carrying along with my sleeping bag and other gear once we got back to the city.

The very next day I got this going:

I caramelized most of the onions & roasted up the kuri squash. The great thing about the kuri squash is that you can eat the skin. Here's how this all went down:

Kuri Curry Coconut Soup

1 medium Kuri squash cut into 1" cubes
3 spring onions-caramelized
1 teaspoon of Penzey's Sweet Curry Powder
1 teaspoon cumin
olive oil
salt & pepper
2 large cloves of garlic
4 cups water
1 heaped tablespoon Better than Bouillion Chicken broth base
1 can coconut milk

Cook down the onions first. In general it takes about an hour to get a good caramelization if you go with the low and slow method. These farm fresh onions took even longer because they were so juicy...not like the drier supermarket/produce market onions I'm used to that have been sitting around for god-knows-how-long. It took me a while to figure that out. I cooked the first batch within 8 hours of picking. I was seriously thinking "What is wrong with these onions? Why are they taking so long?" City girl. It was really hard to resist turning up the heat to get them to go faster. I refrained. I'm not sure what difference it would have made to the soup, but I like to think a world of...

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Toss the squash with big glug of olive oil, curry, cumin, salt and pepper. Spread onto parchment lined sheet pans, using as many as needed so as not to crowd the pan. Roast for 15 minutes, toss and roast for another 15 minutes.
I had caramelized the onions the night before, so I reheated them in the bottom of the pot with some chopped garlic. Heat up a pot of water and start a broth with the innards of the squash, cooking for about 30 minutes. Strain and add the chicken broth base and dissolve. Add more water if needed to reach 4 cups of broth. Bring to a boil. Add the roasted squash wasn't until this moment that I realized I could have roasted a bunch of garlic with the time. Maybe. This soup turned out so great that I seriously had to resist over thinking it.
Anyhoo...let the soup simmer for 30 minutes. Puree (carefully-it's super hot). Return to the pot and stir in the coconut milk. Done and Delish!
This soup is killer with a grilled cheese sandwich to dunk into it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lemon Zucchini Bread

There's been a sad lack of content here these days but that doesn't mean the little kitchen has been inert. In fact, productivity is at an all time high, thanks to the little sister kitchen joining forces with me for a while. It's usually technical difficulties or just plain laziness that inhibits post production. I can't manage to get from the kitchen to the computer, well that's a lie. I get to the computer just fine. Here I enjoy my favorite OCD/ADD procrastination activities along with homemade baked goods. I came home from work last night to a batch of biscotti.
I'm way too easily sucked into that vortex known as Pinterest...not that there's anything wrong with that because that's where I found this little gem at one of my faves, My Baking Addiction. I saw the words lemon & zucchini in the same recipe title and well...the brain went into overdrive thinking about two ginormous lemons one of my co-workers brought me from his tree and that zucchini sitting in the veggie drawer ready for my next round of fritters.
I managed to make it home and make this beautiful bread and it blew me away because it's a rare, rare occasion when I get my mitts on lemons this fresh. I've always been a city girl and small apartment renter. Lemon trees? When was the last time I saw one of those? I don't get out much-but when I come across a recipe that inspires me to commit it to paper right then and there-then it manages to exceed my expectations AND teach me a lesson...well, in my little world, it doesn't get any better.

I learned a lesson about lemons-well, more of a heightened awareness because of course I know that fresh is best. I have this weird thing about lemons. I love them and I always want to have them because I never know when I'm going to be in the mood for popcorn or salad dressing or a spritz in my sparkly water, but every now and then-sad to say-I'll wind up with a lemon or two teetering on the edge of petrification. I've been known to zest up some sad, sad lemons even though they're dry as dirt. 

This was the polar opposite of that.

one ginormous lemon=2 tablespoons zest.

The AHA moment: working the zest into the sugar with my fingertips. The fragrance was out of this world.

Lemon Zucchini Bread
Adapted from allrecipes via My Baking Addiction

Yield: 1 loaf
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest (about 2 medium lemons)
1 large egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (packed and undrained)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray an 8x4 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and lemon zest, mixing with your fingertips until fragrant. Add the egg, vegetable oil and vanilla and whisk to combine. Stir in zucchini. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and cinnamon. Stir the flour mixture into the zucchini mixture until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake 50-55 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. Remove pan to wire rack and cool in pan for about 10 minutes before turning out onto the wire rack to cool completely.
4. Once bread is cooled, prepare the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. Drizzle the glaze over the bread.
Bread will store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days-if it even lasts that long.

Make this ASAP!! You'll be so glad you did.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Zucchini Fritters

I can't get enough of these tasty little fritters-so simple and they're a great do-ahead. Topped with a poached egg...well, they are just the thing.
This recipe is a mash-up of two recipes I love. One from Smitten Kitchen and the other from The Longevity Kitchen Cookbook.

I've made these several times over the last two weeks. I've been playing around with spices. I like to add several grinds of Trader Joe's Everyday Spice Blend to the egg mix. I didn't put it in the recipe because it's not really necessary-I just like using those grinders.  The parsley, cilantro, mint medley came to mind as a really nice herb combo, one I had gleaned from the zucchini burgers I made from Jerusalem. I didn't have any mint though.

Zucchini & Sweet Potato Fritters
inspired by smitten kitchen and The Longevity Kitchen Cookbook

2 medium zucchini
1 small sweet potato-about the same size as the zucchini
1 small yellow onion
1 finely chopped scallion-green part only
1 heaped teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley & cilantro-mint would be good here too)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
sunflower oil for frying

Preheat oven to 200 degrees and place a sheet pan inside.
Trim ends off zucchini, peel the sweet potato, slice the onion in half and peel.  Grate everything either on the large holes of a box grater or in the food processor.
In a large bowl, toss the shredded vegetables with 1+ teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Line a colander with a clean tea towel and transfer the grated vegetables into the middle of the tea towel. Gather the ends and twist and squeeze out as much liquid as you can-there will be a lot.
Return the grated vegetables to a large bowl and loosen the compact ball with two forks and stir in your chopped herbs. Taste to see if you need more salt. To the beaten egg add stir in some freshly ground black pepper, then add to the shredded vegetables. In another small bowl, stir together flour and baking powder, then stir the mixture into the veg mix as well.
In a large heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. I like to use two forks to form small dollops of the veg mix into the skillet so there’s space between each pattie. Lightly press them flatter with the back of the fork. Cook the fritters over moderately high heat until the edges underneath are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. If you find this happening too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Flip the fritters and fry them on the other side until browned underneath again, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Drain briefly on paper towels then transfer to baking sheet and then into the warm oven until needed. Repeat process, keeping the pan well-oiled, with remaining batter. The fritters should continue to cook in the warm oven for another 10 minutes to finish setting and get a little more crisp.
Stack them up and top with a poached egg.
These fritters keep well, chilled in the fridge for a couple of days though they never last that long.They can also be frozen-place a sheet pan in the freezer, place the cooked fritters on the chilled sheet pan and freeze until solid, about an hour. Transfer the frozen fritters into a freezer bag and drawing or pressing out as much air as possible.
When you’re ready, bake them on a sheet pan, in a 325 degree oven until they’re hot and crisp.