Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pick & Jam

I never thought I would get into the kitchen this deep (maybe you saw it coming), but I made jam this afternoon. The crazy part? It was easy! People always talk about what a hassle it is, how you have to have all this gear, be so precise, blah blah blah. And well, you have to have a stockpot and know how to follow directions, but those are life essentials anyway. So, here's how it went for me. There's a bit of technical food safety stuff to tend to before you start, but I'll include links, and tada, you'll be making jam before you know it! (And eating it for a long time.)

If you've got better chops than I in the jarring world, I'd love to hear your tricks & favorites (and hopefully you're not rolling your eyes at my novicey-ness).

I love Raspberry Jam, it's always been my Mom's favorite (conveniently, her birthday is tomorrow...) and became mine as soon as I outgrew my squirmishness about seeds. I've heard they're essential in developing full flavor and I like that thought, true or not, so I left them in.

First, get yourself to a raspberry patch. Ok, this first part isn't easy at all, but I'd venture you'll appreciate every teaspoonful of every jar at least three --no, five -- times as much if you pick your own berries. It's not breezy business, and when we went out this year, the bees came too. I've got a big ugly welt on the small of my back to prove it (impertinent, shirt-lifting bee!). I won't tell you about all the mosquito and fly bites, lest I discourage you. Besides, I'm sure our adventure was an anomaly.

(It was pretty entertaining watching Jacob run several hundred yards, hollering "there's a bee on my head! it's still there!" before ripping off his shirt and shaking himself loose of that bee, all the while still carrying the equipment he'd been using to record the sounds of the farm's bee hives. But no stings for him.)

We picked 3 heaping pints and ate half of one before I got around to cooking the jam...

I stirred together the 5 cups of berries, and 3 1/2 or so cups of sugar, and a tablespoon or two of fresh squeezed lemon juice in a pot and boiled it til the jam drips seemed to gel a bit coming off the back of a cool metal spoon.

While the fruit cooked, I pre-sterilized the jars by boiling them upright in a stock pot covered by an inch of water for about 10 min. along with their rubber gaskets, which I replaced with clean hands, setting them on a towel on the counter.

Then I filled my 5 200 ml jars, carefully, with a ladle (you can use a wide mouth funnel if you've got one)-- I had a bad spill, actually, a puddle of yummy jam on a dish towel, (which I had to eat right then & there). After closing them and making sure the lids were on properly, I dunked them all back in the stock pot, and boiled them away (at a rolling boil) for another 10 minutes, with the water covering them by 1 inch & making sure never to tip them over (you want to keep the fruit out of the sealing area.

Now they're sitting on the window sill on a towel, cooling. (They're not supposed to be exposed to a cold draft or counter top, hence the towel, but it's warm out today, so by the window is fine.) I hope the seals take!

The next morning...

It worked! When they were completely cool, we unfastened the metal clamps and the jars stayed shut! We pried one open this am to try it on a lonely english muffin that had been hanging out in our fridge for a couple of days, and, wow, it's real jam! Lucky muffin.

Now there's just this giant peck of apples left, sitting forlornly over in the corner. After I photograph Audrey & Wes' much anticipated wedding tomorrow, it's apple sauce for me!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pizza Bianca

I'm not even going to try to explain my abscence. I'm here now, that's what matters.

And what also matters is the Pizza Bianca I made today. An accidental success. I defrosted the dough a few days ago, but then didn't end up making it til today. Then I baked it on a super hot pizza stone (like, 450, 500 degrees, no joke). The result, bubbly, deep flavored crust. Yum.

Warning, this dough needs to hang in the fridge for several days. (NEEDS to, P., you know who you are!)

Pizza Bianca is typically topped with grated Mozarella in lieu of sauce.

Ok, for the crust. (We'll talk about toppings later since, honestly, I cleaned out the fridge to top these!)

2/3 cup lukewarm water
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup fine cornmeal
1 3/4 to 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 tsp coarse salt

In stand mixer with dough hook, or in a bowl mix water & yeast together & let sit til dissolved/frothing. Add sugar & oil, then add salt, cornmeal & 1 3/4 c. of the flour, adding more til dough is soft, not sticky.

Knead on a lightly floured surface for 10 mins til smooth & elastic, or 5 mins in stand mixer. Let rise in a warm place, covered in a lightly oiled bowl for an hour or so, til doubled. Divide into four & form balls. Pop'em in ziplocs in the fridge (for use 2 days later) or in freezer (to save for a month or so).

To bake pizzas pull dough out of fridge a few hours to a few mins before ready to roll them out. Preheat your oven & pizza stone to 450 ish, and roll out the dough to 10 inches or so.

Start with a generous sprinkling of mozzarella and then be creative, I had odds & ends of things lying around and these 2 combos came out nicely:

1/2 c grated Mozzarella
1/4 c or less of Feta
1/4 cup good black olives (this makes a difference, I got mine at the olive bar at whole foods)
dusting of fresh thyme leaves
a quarter of a yellow pepper, diced


1/2 c grated Mozzarella
1/4 c freshly grated parmesan
1/3 c asparagus tips, par boiled
3 or 4 slices prosciutto
1 small sprik of fresh rosemary, chopped

It's good to be back. Now if only we hadn't eaten these before I could snap some photos....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Two long months of silence, a new blog and (soon-to-be) website later, I'm back to edible earth! See what I've been up to at the EJA photo blog.

Meanwhile, we haven't stopped cooking, in fact I've had some happy successes-- kiwi tartelettes, grapefruit-glazed coconut madeleines, and individual banana puddings one guest called "heaven in a cup" for my sister Stef's bridal shower, an insanely good chicken bouillabaise, the season's first Mojitos, and my latest euphoria is for Semifreddo which I'll be making again Friday for my friends Meghan and Robb.

Check back for that infamous bread recipe soon-- sorry to keep you waiting with your sleeves rolled up, and thank goodness the weather's been nice enough for open windows!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Guns and Roses

In Paris, my parents are faithful frequenters of a certain bakery, called, most unfrenchly, Bread and Roses. When I made this grainy loaf for them a few weeks ago, mom exclaimed, "this is as good as Guns and Roses!" (For some reason, ten or so years ago when it opened, our family, being only peripherally acquainted with the late 20th century rock scene and not a little confused about many things, took to calling it Guns and Roses -- with an "and," fittingly, not with an " 'N".)

Unlike certain punk, heavy metal, and classic rock fusion, trying this at home is bound to make your neighbors happy. Jacob and I both agreed that it made our place smell like a "real bakery," so, roll up your sleeves and open the windows.

I'm going to post in real time, as I bake. Check in if you like!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

"salad is the new soup"

Salads are in order this week as we've just returned from a WWOL (tm) week end with the original WWOL-ers, where we ate enough to sustain the average human being for weeks. Really. This was just one dinner:

Eggplant Soup with Parmesan Whipped Cream and Rustic Parmesan Bread
Chicken, Red Pepper and Pineapple Kebabs
Grilled Salmon, Asparagus and Brown Rice
Michael's Perfect (and copious!) Salad
Lemon Olive Oil cake with Pistachios and Creme Fraiche

Paired with local New Glarus Fat Squirrel and Spotted Cow, it was quite a feast.

(photo by K.M.)

Barley Soup with Parsley and Walnuts

I'm new to barley (except in the form of, ahem, soup), and was pleased to discover it had pasta-like qualities under tooth. It's a pretty hearty meal, actually, not really the best recovery-from-overeating meal, but healthful and fresh.

We modified this from Food & Wine and had a nice dish of it last night. Next time I'll have my resident grill-master light a fire under some asparagus to top it off. It would be absolutely excellent with some jumbo shrimp like the ones my dad did up in Provence a couple of years ago.

Boil a pot of water & preheat your oven to 350

Salt your boiling pot, and add,
1 & 1/2 cups of Pearl Barley

Pop in the oven til fragrant (10 min),
1 cup walnuts (I used halves & pieces from tjs)

Whisk together in your salad bowl,
Juice of 1 juicy lemon (2 1/2-3 tbsp)
1/3 c olive oil
1 lg clove of garlic, minced.
1 tsp of finely grated lemon zest
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Add barley and walnuts to dish and mix, along with:
1 cup of tender fresh parsley leaves
feta, crumbled, to taste (we used about a half cup)

This was fantastic with the faintest drizzle of honey.

Another salad/pasta dish that had us swooning last week was Smitten Kitchen's recent Cauliflower dish (adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables).

(Dad has a way with goats too.)

Monday, March 31, 2008

This past week, we celebrated Spring Break. In that spirit, though we never left Chicago, Jacob and I switched our morning coffee routine to strictly stovetop esspresso maker and pulled stools up to the kitchen counter to eat, and felt strikingly "depayses" in our own home. We rode bikes in the drizzly grey city, immersed ourselves in authentic Austrian goodness at Julius Meinl, and spent evenings in book stores dreaming up new schemes, made a string of pizzas with friends, and piled stacks of blueberry pancakes on a cake stand for my sister's college girlfriends post sleepover.

AND, I got a bob, a bicycle, and a new blue dress.
(Surely a triptych of these life-brightening novelties is in order. Stay tuned.)

Meanwhile, I must make note of a couple of the week's lessons.

Wednesday I learned that lemon-glazed madeleines are heaven (I don't know if I'll ever make them any other way but Mr Leibowitz'). The aforementioned college girlfriends ate them all up despite their initial declarations of fullness from a trip to Letizia's Natural Bakery.

On Saturday, I discovered the granola recipe that may put my old recipe out of commission, (thank you once again, Molly.) Step aside wheat-germ.

There, just when you think you know a thing. You make your own neighborhood a getaway and cross off two of your sworn-favorite recipes.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

...comme une madeleine.

I know, that was a mean trick, posting those 2 photos all alone with no words and no recipes.

Rediscovering the Madeleine, when I think about it, makes me want to cry. They're a childhood treat I had all but forgotten about until one day, at *$ of all places, there they were, two little ones of them, for a whole two dollars and twenty-five cents. I switched my order from an americano to hot chocolate and lost myself in memories of rainy afternoons in Paris. I must have been pretty cute, actually--as a kid that is--in my navy wool coat and little leather mary janes. I think my hair was usually primly half-ponied (thanks for keeping things classic, Mom), a refreshing sight in the reverse chronology of my hair history. I never had the head shape to pull off that pixie cropped and dyed black look. Anyway, the sweet reminded me of home, and of my current semi-transplantedness, despite being small and dry and not at all like a real Madeleine. It was a mean trick for corporate coffee to play on a girl so susceptible to childhood melancholy, and I fell for it.

Last spring I discovered there had been this reasonably authentic looking Madeleine recipe slumbering in my copy of The Paris Cookbook for, like, three years. It was time to have a madeleine pan imported (never mind their ubiquity in US retail stores). My dear friend Kate was on her way to Paris and I carefully described to her how to find the infamous E. Dehillerin.

Then I got caught up in wedding flurry and forgot all about the pan until one of those delicious August vacation days when I made my first batch, alternating forces with Jacob to beat the eggs and sugar (we didn't have our stand mixer yet). They were perfect, and somehow, now that I have Baby Kitchen Aid (when I got home from the store with the machine, Jacob, who must have been more excited than I thought, had created an impressive "WELCOME HOME BABY KITCHEN AID!" sign.) I still beat the eggs by hand with a whisk. Nostalgia.

This is Patricia Well's recipe with a few mods. You'll get 1 dozen golden goodies the length of my index finger (2 1/2 inches) from this recipe.

2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
splash of vanilla extract
3/4 cups a-p flour
1/8 tsp salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted & cooled
Butter your madeleine pans, dust them with flour and pop them in the freezer.

Whisk together your eggs and sugar until thick and lemony hued. Add the zest, then flour and sea salt, and finally the butter, stirring.

Chill for an hour, and heat the oven to 375. Fill the madeleine molds to nearly full and bake until they're just browning on the edges and the tops are golden yellow. Tap onto a rack to cool, and make yourself some hot chocolate for reminiscing...

So, the whole story is, that when I made these a couple of weeks ago for my long long time friend Elizabeth's suprise birthday, I also made a lemon meringue tart that was a total fiasco, especially since another friend piped in mid-serve and slicing, as I was chirping away about how I made all these lemon treats because I know how much Beth loves all things lemon, with a terrible, "but Beth, I thought you didn't like lemon!" He was right. I was humiliated. I mean, people get Beth and I confused we're so close (or is that because we supposedly look alike?). Trauma.

I'm back now. I'm going to tell you soon about my other love from the aforementioned cookbook. Walnut bread. But be patient, I'm new to bread.