Thursday, May 27, 2010

A New Cookbook!

When I was a kid, I loved to go get the mail, in hopes that there was something there for me...a letter, a magazine, a package. The possibilities were endless! But in becoming an adult, one quickly realizes that going to get the mail is not so much's always the same--bills, junk mail, and solicitations.

Unless....your husband's cousin's wife is kind enough to send you a new cookbook....out of the blue....filled with wonderful, farm-fresh recipes....from New Mexico of all places!

If you've been hanging out here for much time, then you know that our family drove across the country and back last summer. One of my very favorite places of the 26 states we visited was Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is famous for its gorgeous, historic adobe architecture, a renowned farmers' market, and amazing restaurants.

After a very long day of travel, we stopped in for dinner at Maria's, a restaurant favored by the locals. Just after we ordered our food, a basket of hot, crispy and delicious sopaipillas was delivered to our table with a bottle of honey. The kids were incredulous that they served dessert first (and we were thrilled with the strong margaritas.....and the peace that these deep-fried pillows brought to our table).

I will forever be grateful to Maria's for our delectable supper, the amazing sopapaillas, and lively atmosphere that recharged our spirits and got us through another day on the road.

This recipe, while not as fluffy as theirs (I think I rolled the dough too thin), was delicious. I mean, how bad can fried dough really be anyway?

adapted from Artisan Farming

Sopaipillas are New Mexican deep-fried pillows of pastry that you fill with jam or honey. You can also stuff savory fillings inside, like refried beans, stew meat or cheese. Make sure the oil is hot enough. You can drop a small bit of dough in the oil to test it. It should bubble up and begin to brown immediately, but the oil should not be smoking. If you have a thermometer, the ideal frying temperature is between 350 and 375 degrees F.

Prep time: 15 minutes, plus 30 minute rest time
Total time: 30 minutes
Yield: about 1 dozen


2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup warm water
vegetable oil for frying
honey, powdered sugar and/or jam


1. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl and whisk until blended. Stir in the oil, cream and water and mix until shaggy.

2. Turn out onto a board and knead until a soft dough forms. Knead for a couple minutes more. Cover the dough with a clean cloth and let it rest for about 30 minutes.

3. Roll dough out into a rectangle about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Cut into 3 inch squares using a sharp knife or pizza cutter.

4. Fill a medium saucepan with 3 inches of vegetable oil and heat over medium heat until a small piece of dough, dropped in the oil, sizzles and becomes golden brown (about 350 F). Carefully drop squares of dough, a couple at a time, into the hot oil. Fry on the first side for a minute or so, until golden brown, flip and fry for a minute or two more. Remove from the oil and place on paper towels to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

5. Dust sopaipillas with powdered sugar if desired (we didn't ) and fill with honey or jam. Eat immediately.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

At Market...Fava Beans

Despite the fact that I truly believed that I hated legumes when I was a girl (influenced, perhaps, by my mother's distaste for them), eventually, I realized their goodness. And not being one to be put off by soft and mushy textures, I indulge frequently.

One bean I have rarely eaten, however, is the fava bean, or broad bean. Known for their creamy and meaty texture, most chefs consider them the true star of the legume family, and will drop everything to create a menu around these beauties, which are available for a few short weeks each spring. While fava bean recipes abound, one of the most popular things to do with them is to make a puree to be spread on toasted rounds of bread.

Because the beans are encased in a dense pod, and further wrapped in a thick skin, they need to be cooked for ease of peeling. The usual way is to boil the pods, but when I found this recipe for grilled fava beans, I knew I had to give it a go, especially if it meant one less pot to wash! Of course, grilling the beans imparts a slightly smoky flavor, which I love, but the fact that they were bathed in a mixture of olive oil, sea salt and minced garlic, makes them downright addictive...and messy.

To eat you simply tear off the pod while piping hot, and slip the bean from its skin right into your's kind of like a super-sized edamame. And please do lick the salt/char/garlic off your fingers while you're at it (it's the best part). Just this once you can forget your manners...but don't forget the napkins.

Grilled Fava Beans

This fabulous way of preparing fava beans not only imparts a rich, smoky flavor, but also saves on clean up! Feel free to use any herbs and spices that suit your fancy like crushed red peppers, lemon zest or chopped fresh herbs.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 12 minutes
Yield: serves 2-3


1 pound of fava beans
a couple of glugs of olive oil
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
a good pinch of sea salt


1. Wash pods well then toss with oil, garlic, and salt in a large bowl

2. Heat a grill (or grill pan) to medium high. Grill fava beans for about 5 minutes on one side, then flip and grill for another couple of minutes. Remove one from the grill, open the pod, slip the bean from the skin to see if they are tender enough. If not, continue grilling for a couple of minutes more.

3. Serve hot...with napkins.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Odd Couple

One of my very favorite rides at Disneyland is the Haunted Mansion from October through December. During that time, two holidays, Halloween and Christmas, collide, creating something that's more than slightly bizarre. But I happen to think that it's a wonderfully creative and delicious interpretation of Tim Burton's movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and I definitely appreciate how seamlessly two disparate ideas are blended in to one attraction that totally works.

Fresh produce can find some odd pairings too, especially during the transition months, as one season morphs into the next. One of my favorite examples of this is cranberries (fall) and jalapenos (late summer), simmered together to make the most intoxicating and flavorful jelly ever. In spring you'd expect to pair snap peas with asparagus or fava beans. But in this recipe, I've partnered them in a stir fry with the beautiful, nearly seedless tangerines that are enjoying their final days at our farmers' market. The contrast both in colors and flavors is so wonderful in this dish. Crisp and sweet peas are a perfect foil for the sour, slightly bitter and yielding flesh of the tangerine. Add in a little heat from some chili sauce, and you've got one heck of a dish with well-balanced flavors.

Sugar Snap Pea and Tangerine Stir Fry with Pork Tenderloin

Adapted from Bon Appetite

The contrast in colors and flavors, not to mention the heat from the chile sauce, makes this dish exciting. Don't bother peeling the tangerines as their skin becomes tender and sweet during cooking. I've included a recipe for sweet chile dipping sauce below, but sometimes you can find it at the grocery store.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: serves 4


1 1/4 pound pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon cornstarch
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 seedless tangerines, sliced into 8 wedges
1 pound of sugar snap peas, de-stringed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup sweet chile sauce (*see below)
1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal


1. Slice the tenderloin into 1/2 inch rounds, then slice each round into strips. Toss with the corn starch and a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside.

2. Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add oil and when nearly smoking add the fresh ginger root and stir. Toss in the tenderloin slices and garlic and cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat begins to brown and is almost cooked through. Add the tangerines and cook for 30 seconds more.

3. Stir in the sugar snap peas, soy sauce, chile sauce and half of the green onions and cook until the sauce begins to thicken, about 1 to 2 minutes more. Take off the heat and top with remaining green onions. Serve over hot rice.

*Sweet Chile Dipping Sauce

Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Yield: about 3/4 cup


1 C sugar
1/2 C white vinegar
1/2 C water
3 cloves of finely chopped garlic
1 t salt
1 T chile garlic sauce (sambal oelek or siracha sauce...or minced fresh chiles or dried chile flakes)


In a medium saucepan bring the first 5 ingredients to a gentle boil over medium heat. Boil for 10 minutes or until the mixture is a thin syrup. Remove from heat and stir in the chili garlic sauce. It keeps for about a week in the fridge when sealed in a glass jar. If you are using dried red chile flakes or fresh chiles instead, use sparingly as they can be quite spicy.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The "First" Garden

The garden at the White House....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Salted Caramel Blisscake

Meet Salted Caramel Cupcake. She is my new best new new drug. Her soft white belly with perfectly moist crumb can just barely withstand the weight of the rich caramel frosting, but that doesn't matter to me at all. Because after my first bite, I'm pretty sure that I lost consciousness for awhile. When I came to, I devoured the rest of her greedily (well, okay, I shared one bite with my true love...).

She makes you lose your manners. I felt like I was a fox in dinner scene from Fantastic Mr. Fox. So civilized....and yet 100% animal, eating with two paws, crumbs flying, snarling lips. I'd think twice before serving these at a dinner party. It might get chaotic and unruly, especially if alcohol is involved. No, really you should save these for yourself....try them with tea, or coffee, or a glass of milk....or an after dinner drink. But be warned. One taste is never enough. She keeps you coming back for more....

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Oh my goodness, these are good. Frost sparingly, and while the frosting is still hot, as it sets quickly and is quite heavy. Maldon salt is best for sprinkling over the tops. It can be found online or at many specialty grocers (like Whole Foods). If you don't have cake flour, all purpose flour can be substituted. After measuring, remove 4 tablespoons of flour and replace with 4 tablespoons of corn starch.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: 1 dozen cupcakes


2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons of cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup of buttermilk, well shaken


1 stick of butter
1 cup of dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup whole milk
5 cups of powdered sugar, sifted

Maldon salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners, or spray liberally with cooking spray.

2. Whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

3. Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer). Add sugar and beat until mixture becomes light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla and beat until thoroughly combined.

4. Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula.

5. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from muffin tin and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

6. Make frosting. In a large saucepan melt the stick of butter with the brown sugar over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Bring mixture to a boil (will take about 2 minutes), then add the milk. Remove from heat when it returns to a boil and whisk in vanilla and then the powdered sugar, cup by cup. Frosting will be quite thick.

7. If desired, spoon warm frosting into a piping bag (or ziplock bag with the corner snipped) and pipe frosting over cupcakes, sprinkling salt over each one immediately after it is frosted. Alternately, frosting can be spread on top of the cupcakes with a knife. Frosting will harden quickly, so you need to work fast. Cool and serve.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Savory Summer Tart

This is my view most days from my cutting board. Meet Cricket, my vacuum, my perpetual kitchen companion, and the one who comes running when she hears me flip-flop my way into the kitchen. Always eager to snap up rogue hunks of cheese (or better yet, meat) that may go falling in her direction, she was quite disappointed by tonight's offerings of crook-neck squash and parsley. In fact, she left quite a mess, littered all about the floor. Doesn't she know she has a job to do? What I ought to do is teach her how to use a camera, so she could be even more helpful in the kitchen! That way, I could blog more often.....

Speaking of cameras, when I went to grab mine for this much overdue blog post, I realized it was in the back of the car (which was at baseball practice). Not to be deterred, I decided to use what I had around, thus creating a multi-media extravaganza (in my own mind??). I used my eight-year-old's Nikon CoolPix camera (set on the food setting) for the first photos of tonight's efforts.....which are not great, but not horrible either. They illustrate the gorgeous (if not slightly blurry) herbal slurry, which is made with parsley, thyme, oregano, garlic, and olive oil, that is spread on lightly buttered sheets of phyllo dough--the first step in what is to become the most amazing squash tart ever. Does that even sound appealing? It should, because it's fantastic!

Then her camera runs! out! of! batteries! Fortunately, after a swig of my martini, I remember that I also have an iphone, which is not only super cool for updating my Facebook status, but also handy for taking photos. So, the following photos, from my iphone, illustrate me sprinkling the summer squash (that were spread out on top of the herb paste) with feta cheese, pitted kalamata olives, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Finally order is restored to the universe once again, and by the time the tart is out of the oven, my beloved SLR has been returned to me by my baseball boys! See how rich the color is? How crisp and golden the crust looks? How the cheese has toasted ever so slightly and how the salty black olives have released some of their briny juice onto the squash underneath? It looks pretty, but it tastes even better. It was a complete meal...well, that and some of the sweet-tart rhubarb wine we purchased last summer at the Brattleboro Farmers' Market. It's definitely a recipe that we will revisit sometime over the summer, especially when my own garden starts producing these succulent summer squashes. I hope you do too.

Summer Squash, Olive and Feta Tart

adapted from Martha Stewart

This dish makes a wonderful main course when served with a salad, or cut it into smaller squares and serve it as an appetizer. Using a mandoline slicer to cut the squash really speeds up preparation time, but a sharp knife does the job too. Martha's version doesn't call for cheese, but I think it adds a rich,salty edge to the otherwise mild squash.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: 4 main course servings


3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh thyme, plus a few sprigs for garnish
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 small zuchini, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
2 small yellow summer squash, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
6 sheets phyllo dough (each 12 by 17 inches), thawed if frozen
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Unroll the phyllo dough on the counter, count out six sheets, and cover them with a clean, damp cloth. Re-roll the remaining dough, wrap with plastic and refrigerate or re-freeze. Brush a large baking sheet with butter, then carefully lay down one sheet of phyllo. Brush it lightly with the melted butter, top it with another sheet and brush it lightly with butter. Continue in this way until all the phyllo is stacked together on the baking sheet.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the parsley, oregano, thyme, garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper and the olive oil. Spoon the mixture over the phyllo dough, leaving a 1 inch border all around.

4. Spread the squash slices evenly over that, again leaving a border. Drizzle the squash with olive oil. Sprinkle over the olives and the feta cheese and another pinch of salt and pepper. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until edges are crisp and the squash is tender. Serve immediately, or at room temperature.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

And so our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see -- or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read.

- Alice Walker

On this Mother's Day, I'm so thankful for all the things I've learned from my beautiful mother (and her mother too).

Here's wishing all mothers a very happy Mother's Day!