Posts Tagged ‘Italian’
So, I made this over a week ago. That seems a little weird to me, to be writing about and talking about something that is already long gone and enjoyed (well enjoyed, mind you!). Although I usually don’t blog in anything close to “real time,” I think I have been especially aware of the time lag lately since everything seems to be going by SO QUICKLY. We’re down to a less than 3 weeks (!) until I graduate. That’s three weeks to find a way to eat all the food in my pantry, to handle both my best friend’s and my own birthday, to do all those things I’ve wanted to do in this city with these friends over the past 3 years that I haven’t got a chance to, to finish that thing called a thesis that has been consuming me wildly, to, you know, figure out what I’m going to do with my life after I graduate (something that strangely enough hasn’t been consuming me wildly, but should be).
It’s all a little surreal to me. I could try to gauge my feelings about everything but I’m pretty sure I have neither the time nor the audacity to try and figure that all out at the moment. I have a good knack of blocking pesky or bothersome things out of my consciousness anyway. Some part of my brain, for my sake, hides feelings and decisions that I don’t want to deal with away where I can’t reach them. They stay there, until someone or something else makes the decision for me or it all compounds into one big terrible mess that I can’t ignore. I can’t tell if this “skill” of mine is good or bad yet (you tell me).
Anyway, a critical part of this whole scheme of mine is that I don’t have time to do everything I want or need to, but I do have time to muddle away making treats of some form…obviously. Because treats are necessary. Anyway, so about a week ago a friend of mine and I wanted to make some treat resonant of tea time; something buttery, cakey and a little crumbly, sweet. Although I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for the better part of a year, the fact that I had an almost-full jar of apricot jam in my fridge (along with the very important fact that I have only the aforementioned scant 3 weeks (3 weeks!) to use it up), this recipe seemed like destiny.
So we made the dough, briefly chilled it, squished it all into a pan and spread nearly the full jar of jam on top. I suppose that on this particular day, we were feeling rather aesthetically inclined, seeing as we went all out and decided to do a pretty lattice top. You’ll be happy to know that despite how we pretty much botched it up, squished it all around, and made it look rather messy, when it emerged from the oven it was a real beauty. We ate slices of it warm, but I think it is best at room temperature.
When I ate a slice of it for breakfast, it reminded me of when Waylon and I were in Florence, where we shared a twin bed at a hostel. Even though the shower didn’t work, the breakfast at that hostel was the best—they had teas and toast and jams and an apricot crostata, with a lattice top just like this one. I can’t really remember what it tasted like, but I think this one was just as good if not better. The pastry is crumbly, buttery, and soft, and it has a really nice texture from the addition of some cornmeal (the idea of which came from David Lebovtiz). It’s basically like a cookie-pastry crust that’s all wrapped around a thin layer of sticky sweet jam.
Regarding the jam, I think any would really do. With that being said, I honestly also think a quick homemade jam would be best here—that way you could control the amount of sugar and balance out the sweet pastry with a more tart jam (kind of like that of the rhubarb-raspberry sort in another crostata I made, just about forever ago). I do however find a lot of appeal in the idea of making this sort of dessert as a spur-of-the-moment thing by being resourceful and using up what you have on hand. So if you have an almost-full jar of apricot jam in the fridge that needs to be used in a few weeks, I’d say that trumps all.
One Year Ago: Rhubarb-Grapefruit Marmalade (hey! that woulda worked well here) and Caramelized Cauliflower Pasta with Parmesan, Pine Nuts, and Lemon
You can make the dough ahead of time and store it in the fridge, but when you take it out to press into the pan, you’ll probably have to wait a bit for the dough to soften and become flexible. Also, feel free to substitute any sort of jam you’d like here.
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling dough
1/2 cup (70 grams) cornmeal or polenta
scant 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
9 (110 grams) tablespoons unsalted butter, at room tempurature
1/2 (100 grams) cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
14 ounces (450 grams) apricot jam
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar until well-combined, about 1 minute. Mix in the egg and egg yolk until combined. Add in the flour mixture and continue to mix at medium speed until the mixture begins to get all clumpy.
By hand, separate the dough into two balls, with one part roughly twice as big as the other (as in, separate the dough into two parts of 1/3 and 2/3). Wrap the two balls in plastic wrap and place the in fridge for about 30 minutes, just to firm up.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the dough from the fridge. Starting with the larger section, press the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Fill the crust with the jam, spread in an even layer. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the remaining 1/3 dough until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into narrow strips and place them in a lattice pattern, if you’d like, on the crostata. I personally think it’s prettier and more personal if you don’t make it look too perfect.
Bake in the preheated oven until the pastry is golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. (Side note: in researching this recipe I found this bit hidden in the instructions of a recipe from an Italian cook: “Do not let it overbake or the pasta frolla will become hard as stone and the jam will become as sticky as glue.” So yeah, keep that in mind.) Let cool at least a little bit before serving; it’s best served at room temperature.
The Wednesday Chef was the first food blog I really got. It was through her site that I learned to recognize the very fine, but distinct, line between simply caring about food in all of its forms and caring about the more important people, places, and memories that inevitably get tangled up in all the food that gets made and eaten and shared throughout a lifetime. Because while there is certainly food out there that deserves attention, food by itself can really only go so far. Food is a means to an end. A beautiful means, mind you, but a means nonetheless. I think I always felt like this, since I really only like cooking and baking for others, but it was Luisa who really articulated it for me.
There’s this letter that F. Scott Fitzgerald sent to a young woman who was hoping to get some feedback on a story she wrote. Fitzgerald let her know that to be able to be a writer, “you have to sell your heart.” He said that the price of admission to that sort of profession is being willing to transfer your emotions “to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.”
Luisa Weiss must have sold her heart to the public (thank you, Luisa, for doing that), because her book, My Berlin Kitchen, is pure beauty in its writing and story. Luisa said something along the lines of how she wrote this book for anyone who has felt perpetual homesickness, being split between opposing worlds with loved ones being on different continents and how to deal with it. Now I’m fortunate to have almost everyone I really love and care about be pretty close near me, but I know the feeling of wanting everyone you love to just get along, and fit together like one big family, even if they don’t and probably won’t ever. I also know the feeling of homesickness, even if I’m home, just because I’m one of those people who live in the past and nostalgically (and unsuccessfully) try to reconcile the moments from those that are gone with what I’m currently living through. And I also know trying to choose what type of path you want to lead in life, and trying to figure out and guess where those different paths might lead you. My life hasn’t followed the same pattern as Luisa Weiss’s has, as narrated by her memoir. But her writing is good, so good, enough to where her heart is lent out to you and every emotion she has, you feel.
Of course, all of these emotions are usually, in some way, tied to food. Luisa has such a way of talking about life and food that makes you want to make every single recipe she shares in the book. That’s just how it goes: the emotions come out, there’s that whole wonderful human feeling, some time or another food follows and we invariably want to get at those feelings again by making that same food. The first recipe I chose to make out of her book may seem pretty homely, and a little unshowy. And guess what, appearances don’t deceive here–it is homely, and unshowy. This is the sort of meal you make for just yourself, when you’re not fortunate enough to have people to share it with. Luisa’s recipe in the book reflects this, as she writes it out to serve just 1. How convenient for my life lately! But you know, it gets the job done, and in probably the best way possible when you’re just trying to feed yourself before getting back to some school readings or papers.
Anyway, go out and enjoy Luisa’s new book if you haven’t already. Because I’m willing to go out on a limb and say if you have any value for love and finding your place in this world, you’ll love Luisa’s new book. If you happen to love food, too, then better yet.
One Year Ago: Risotto with Wild Rice, Butternut Squash, and Mushrooms, and Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Frosting (By the way, just recently made these again and replaced the old photos with new ones. In case you’re interested.)
Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs, Capers, Anchovies and Parsley
Adapted slightly from Luisa Weiss’s My Berlin Kitchen
A couple notes: although Luisa says the anchovy is optional, I would go ahead and say it’s really not. Don’t omit it, please, or you’ll be missing out. Also, instead of smashing the garlic clove and taking it out at the end, you could just cut the garlic into slivers, cook until barely golden, and serve the pasta with it.
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 ounces dried spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, smashed
a good pinch of red pepper flakes
1 anchovy filet
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1-2 tablespoons capers
Bring water to boil in a medium-large saucepan. Just as it gets boiling, add in a few good pinches of salt. Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until al dente. Drain, but make sure to reserve a 1/4 cup or so of the starchy pasta water.
While the pasta is cooking, set 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the smashed garlic clove, red pepper flakes and anchovy in a small saucepan over medium heat. Break up the anchovy with a wooden spoon so it dissolves into the heated oil. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until the breadcrumbs are golden and crunchy and coated in oil. Remove the smashed garlic clove, add the parsley, and taste for salt.
Add the cooked pasta to the saucepan along with the second tablespoon of oil, the capers, and a spoonful or two of the reserved starchy cooking water, and toss to coat in the breadcrumbs and parsley. Serve, and top with a little more parsley if you’d like.
Well, I’m pleased to say that summer has finally hit Washington. By summer, I mean when you go to sleep without any sheets or blankets on, and when you wake up with the sun hitting you through the windows. When you have to spend the middle of the day in a swimsuit on the beach, and when turning on the oven is absolutely not an option (you’d be surprised how warm and inviting baking usually sounds most usual overcast and chilly Northwest summer mornings).
There’s a funny little thing about people in the Northwest with weather. They like to complain most of the year when it’s gloomy, overcast, and drizzly, yet when the sun finally shines and the heat is packed on, they complain it’s too hot. I guess they’re a hard crowd to please. I must have not been destined to be a Northwesterner (is that a word?), because I quite know what I like when it comes to the weather, and the sun is most definitely involved. I love walking outdoors and feeling the heat as if it were pounding on your bare arms, and wearing a swimsuit about 80% of the day. I’ll even take the whole no-oven thing. Besides, a lot of food is fine just as it is this time of year—not much messing around involved.
This dish here does require a little bit of work, as in you have to turn on the burner, and broiler. Also, the resulting dish, delicious though it is, does happen to be warm. Something to keep in mind if the weather is so hot that it’s more of a grilled-meat-and-fresh-salad kinda night. (Speaking of which, I have an awesome salad to share with you soon. Yes, be excited.)
Anyway, this dish is relaxed and a little bit lazy—just like how the days have been dripping by here lately. The original recipe requires soffritto, a flavor base built from simmering aromatics in lots of good olive oil for almost half an hour, which Bon Appetit tells me would form a foundation of flavor for whatever sauces or soups I would add it in. To me it just sounds a bit like homemade bouillon, but who am I to know? Reader, please enlighten me if you know more about this than I do. But, I made the soffritto anyway, set aside 1/2 cup for the bean ragout, and set the rest to freezer in ice-cube sized portions to be used to flavor some other things in the future. I must admit it was quite the scene to watch it bubble away in a pool of olive oil until it practically melted into a deep, darkened caramelized mush.
After making the initial batch of soffritto, the rest of this dish came together easy, easy, easy. It’s basically the cheap-classic-simple dish of beans and toast, adjusted for the summer with the addition of some ripe cherry tomatoes. Don’t be deceived by its simplicity though: when you’re mopping up the sauce with the crusty, olive-oil drizzled bread, while getting as many plump beans and juicy tomatoes as can fit in one bite, the concepts of ease, or time, have no place. It’s just good. For how easy (especially if you’ve got that soffritto already stored away) and cheap it was, and considering how very, very good it ended up tasting, I’ll be making this throughout the year, with or without the tomatoes, and with or without the sun.
Summer White Bean Ragout with Toasts
Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2012
Serves 4 to 6
Some quick things to note. The soffritto isn’t mandatory, but it does add a great depth of flavor. If you don’t want to go through the trouble (slight though it is) of making it, I’d saute some onions and garlic first before adding the beans. Or add some flavor from something like Better than Bouillon’s vegetable flavor base.
1 garlic, halved
4-6 1-inch thick slices ciabatta or good bread (preferably pre-grilled)
about 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup sofrito (see recipe below)
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
few tablespoons parsley, chopped, for garnish
Set the oven on its broiler setting, or, like me, set the broiler setting on a toaster oven. Rub bread slices with the cut sides of the garlic. Place bread on a baking sheet and cover with roughly a good tablespoon of the grated parmesan over each slice. Toast in the oven until the cheese browns a little, about a couple minutes.
Heat the sofrito and beans in a skillet (preferably the same one you cooked the sofrito in), over medium-high heat until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in the vegetable broth; bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to bring the mixture to a simmer. Continue to simmer, scraping up the the browned bits from the bottom of the pan every once in awhile, until liquid has thickened a bit, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and let simmer in the mixture for about 3 or 4 minutes more, or to your liking. Stir in a couple tablespoons of parmesan, and season well with salt and pepper.
To serve, place a piece of bread in a shallow bowl, or a plate with a little depth to it. Top with a good few spoonfuls of the bean-tomato mixture with its juices and broth. Garnish with a good drizzle of olive oil, some shavings of parmesan, and a sprinkle of parsley.
Onion, Bell Pepper, Tomato and Garlic Soffritto
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 teaspoons tomato paste
Pulse onions in a food processor until finely chopped but not pureed. It should total about 2 cups. Transfer to a medium bowl. Next, pulse the bell pepper in the food processor until finely chopped, but not puree. This amount should total about 1 cup. Add to the bowl and mix well.
Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Carefully add the onion-bell pepper mixture (it may splatter a bit), and season liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper. Simmer, stirring often, until vegetables are completely softened and caramelized looking, about a full 25 to 30 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, for about 3 more minutes until the mixture turns a deep, dark red-brown. Remove from heat. Measure 1/2 cup soffritto and set aside for the bean ragout. Transfer remaining soffritto to a container an let cool completely, uncovered. Cover and store in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze for up to a few months.