May 29, 2009

Pouring






it is pouring here this week. field day is cancelled ("a sad day in fifth grade history" someone said). nothing to do but make some galettes. what is a galette? isn't that really a tart? yes, well no, sort of. a galette is really more like a giant cookie, easier to work with, the pastry is not quite as richly satisfying as a well made pate sucre tart dough, but satisfying enough and so easy. anyway, it is the kind of thing you can easily fit in between doctor appointments, errands and blog posting on a busy weekday when you have ripening fruit sitting around. will let you know how they've turned out. have a great weekend. weather is supposed to turn lovely. xo, g

May 28, 2009

philip johnson glass house, demystified






went on a lovely tour of the glass house last weekend. gorgeous setting. great vision.

a house of glass is shocking except that it is private and surrounded by acres of giant trees.  it is important to know that it was really a weekend house until the last 3 years of his life when he moved in full time. the heat in the summer and the cold in the winter made it fairly unlivable. the brick house across the walkway held all the mechanical workings of the house, leaving the glass house free to be simply glass and unconcerned with such mundane and unattractive things. the two buildings were connected by an underground tunnel. he built several buildings on the property, an underground berm art gallery, a sculpture gallery, a study with a giant occulus, and monsta house, the visitor reception building, above.

he said "effect is everything." and "create beautiful things. that's all." 

i am such a pragmatist, to a fault, that of course i loved it completely, and utterly. 

note to self: be more like philip johnson. 

May 26, 2009

homemade pizza, so many possibilities






top 10 reasons to make homemade pizza
1. working with dough is like child's play
2. really warms up the kitchen
3. you make it just the way you like it (in my case, loaded with organic vegetables)
4. playing pizzeria with pizza tools
5. warm, bubbly, coming out of the oven
6. fresh crispy crust is somehow deeply soul-satisfying
7. great leftovers
8. casual and fun  
9. healthful, yet cheesey
10. it's delicious
i could go on and on. i know i say this all the time, about all sorts of recipes, but this recipe is super fast and super easy. no long rise for the dough. cuisinart-like gadget does the kneading for you, unless you prefer to do it yourself. just a 30 minute or so rest for the dough and you are ready to go. i don't always have the time to make this, and it really covers the kitchen with flour due to my personal baking style. it is too fun. here we go.

entirely fast entirely homemade pizza
tools: pizza stone, pizza paddle, food processor
preheat oven with stone, in if you've got it, at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.
to make pizza dough
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (should be above 100 degrees but not above 120 degrees 105 to 110 is optimal)
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 to 1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup oat flour
semolina flour for dusting

proof the yeast in the 1/4 cup warm water for 10 minutes until thick and foamy.  mix together the olive oil, honey, salt and 3/4 cup water in a small bow. reserve. place the flour in Cuisinart-like gadget using plastic dough blade. pour the water/honey/salt/olive oil mixture into your food processor with the blade going. next, pour in the foamy yeast. mix until the dough forms a ball, you may need an extra bit of water here depending on the moisture level of your room and the flour, conversely, if it is quite sticky you may need to add a sprinkling of flour. once ball forms, let it fly around in there, holding it steady on the counter for 3 to 4 minutes. the dough is literally kneaded by the processor. when dough is rather smooth and pretty, turn off the machine. have a medium sized bowl coated with olive oil standing nearby. remove dough, pat into satisfying round shape, place in oiled boil, turn to coat. let rest for 30 minutes or more if you've got it. 45 minutes to an hour work well too. 

next, cut the dough into 4 equal portions. reserve in refrigerator until ready to use. (can wait several hours at this point) but i am usually ready to use it right away.

roll out 1 ball of dough on a lightly floured surface. turn the dough over several times to keep it loose during the rolling out. roll it out to about 10 inches across.

get out your pizza paddle if you have one. add a bit of semolina flour or corn meal to the surface and smooth it around. this allows the pizza to slide off the paddle onto the stone with the greatest of ease. place the rolled dough on the paddle. brush the dough with olive oil and decorate with your favorite toppings. cheese goes on first. toppings after. a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan and a bit of fresh pepper are the last things to go on before the pizza enters the oven. generally done in about 8 minutes. but in my last house/oven it was more like 11 minutes. all depends, etc.

favorite toppings around here
fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thin (use a serrated knife to make this easier). roasted zucchini slices, roasted cherry tomatoes, roasted eggplant slices, raw sliced leeks and cooked sliced potato (cooked in 1/4 cup water 1  TBSP olive oil and  1/2 teaspoon salt on stove for 5 minutes in small pan). goat cheese, potato, roasted tomato, leek pizza would also be nice. raw sliced roma tomatoes and sliced leeks are nice too. fresh herbs of course and chopped garlic. mushrooms and spinach leaves make great additions. for the spinach, you can just lay the leaves on top of the cheese. or you can blanch the spinach and make tiny mounds out of the leaves. sautee the mushrooms first maybe. anything goes really. little french olives and sliced roma tomatoes with or without anchovies, don't really even need cheese for that one. nothing like pizza-making to nurture your creativity. for the kids we use a bit of tomato sauce and mozzarella for a pizza margherita, they like it best without the fresh basil. funny how naturally suspicious children can be of unusual toppings.

*note, of course you don't need a food processor, pizza stone or pizza paddle to make pizza. your hands can make the dough. a baking sheet will suffice for the pizza, in which case you skip the paddle altogether. i would still add a bit of semolina to the baking sheet first. and i would probably raise the temperature to 500 degrees fahrenheit if using a baking sheet and adjust slightly. the main benefit of the stone is the crust, only way to get it so perfect in texture. so crisp.
**leftover dough. this is the best part. go ahead and roll out the last dough ball even if you are all too full to eat another bite. cook it for 3 minutes. patting it down every minute or so as it will swell with no toppings. pull it out and allow to cool completely. wrap up for fridge or freezer. waits patiently in the fridge for a day or two, and in the freezer for a few months. great do-ahead trick as well.

May 22, 2009

pretty enough to eat, but please wash hands

oh my what a week: science fair, orchestra field trip to massachusetts, baseball games, driving back and forth to the pharmacy to pick up new eye drop prescriptions as everyone in the household slowly came down with conjunctivitis, one by one, day after day. lovely. and so a gentle reminder, to myself, to please wash my hands 100 times a day. 

and aren't these gorgeous soaps from italy by nesti dante just the motivation i need? they look delicious. nesti dante soaps are available in florence, italy, where they are painstakingly produced by hand, in a giant stone cauldron or something and triple milled. they are sold at fine apothecaries all over the world, (as well as amazon and kew gardens' gift shop where i spied these). the flavors are wonderful (i guess that should be scents) and the florentine paper wrappers are beyond gorgeous. i want them all. all the ones that smell like food that is. tangerine and olive, fig and almond, pomegranate and black currant, tomato, cucumber, mmm.

i tell you, the upside of this pandemic flu business is the reminders for everyone to please wash their hands all over the place. even though it is a bit of a nuisance, i am a strong proponent of regular hand washing, especially before and during food preparation and dining. now if i could just get my children to do the same without my sounding like a broken record. actually they are good sports about it, but don't always remember. 

this week was a bit of a wash (irresistible pun, sorry). but lots and lots of cooking going on this weekend, much to share next week. anyway, a healthy, happy and safe weekend to you. xo, g

May 19, 2009

great package in the mail



nothing like a great package in the mail to brighten my day. these are some swedish linen dishtowels i ordered from manos. they are even better than they look in photos, more gorgeous, the weave is awesome and perfect in an indescribable way.  and the packaging with that adorable stick covered with lichen. love everything about it. manos is the shop of the fabulous karin eriksson. i also love her blog

May 18, 2009

mystery solved, wood sprites




i was surprised to find these photos on my camera this weekend. now i know how those sofa pillows and cushions always wind up all over the family room floor (chances are, i am picking them up again right now).  we live on a lovely wooded hill, surrounded by maples and oaks. clearly some wood sprites must have snuck in. they move so fast you can barely see them. it was a bit of a wild weekend. kind of relieved it is monday.

May 15, 2009

friday photo


this is my backyard. lots of rain. lots of leaves.  lots of spring green, my favorite color in the world. 

looking out the window at it sustained me this week while i was down with the flu. the flu, was it the flu? i don't know as we didn't get tested. but i did catch this bug from my daughter who goes to a school that has had confirmed cases of the flu for 2 weeks now. about 10% of her school was out. but it was very mild in any case. sore throat, low grade fever, congestion, headache, occasional nausea, light cough. crushing fatigue was the worst part of it for us. major inertia. feeling much better today. everything is bright and beautiful again. back to it.

May 13, 2009

chicken soup, mexican version


bright fresh flavors in this simple soup. "like tacos, only soup." says my daughter enthusiastically. and just as popular, around here. when we lived in los angeles we ate a lot of tortilla soup. there are so many wonderful versions of it. this recipe is our favorite. but it is a flexible soup, good in many variations, spicier, vegetarian, etc.

mexican chicken soup
serves four, with leftovers for tomorrow
3 quarts good quality chicken stock
1 large onion, thinly sliced and then quartered
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups chopped seeded tomatoes, fresh or canned
2 small tomatillos, husks removed and chopped
1 and a half cups shredded chicken breast
pinch of paprika and or cayenne pepper (both optional)
1 cup fresh (prefered) or frozen corn kernals
1 jalepeno pepper seeded and finely sliced into rings
1/2 cup cilantro (leaves only)
1/4 cup lime juice
1 avocado, chopped
1 lime, sliced for soup garnish
8 fresh corn tortillas, crisped in oven for 8 to 10 minutes at  350 degrees

first, bring your stock to boil. add sliced onion and garlic. simmer for a few. add tomatoes. simmer for 5 to 10 minutes (5 if fresh tomatoes, 10 if canned). add tomatillos and the shredded chicken. add paprika and/or cayenne (if using) and corn and thinly sliced jalapeno. simmer for another 5 minutes. add in the lime juice. correct seasoning. ladle into bowls. add chopped avocado, sliced lime, a small mound of cilantro to finish it. serve each person two corn tortillas to break and crumble into the soup. mmmmm. 

May 11, 2009

mother's day treat, profiteroles


all i wanted for mother's day were profiteroles. r, my lovely husband, who has been diligently, dutifully, training and sweating in my kitchen for umpteen odd years, indulgently obliged me. the kids contributed by heating the chocolate sauce and scooping vanilla ice cream. we use the recipe in joy of cooking or baking with julia, depending on how we are feeling. choux paste is really pretty simple and quick with very few ingredients. milk, butter, flour, water, eggs, a touch of salt and or sugar. you do need a strong arm though for incorporating the eggs into that tough ball of dough. but it is good exercise, right? store bought whole foods dark chocolate sauce and store bought all natural organic vanilla ice cream inside. no mystery there. and yet so fluffy, and such a gorgeous mix of textures and temperatures in every bite. 

May 8, 2009

friday photo


something wonderful underfoot. gorgeous day. perfect weather, actually. everything so clean from those incredible thunderstorms yesterday. high of 73, sun shining, it's friday, lovely weekend planned. (also not dead of plague or financial ruin just yet.) all good. great weekend everyone.

May 7, 2009

broiled salmon, japanese style







i was dead tired yesterday. it has been a week of one too many. as in one too many baseball games, choral and orchestra concerts, dress rehearsals, all town practices, important luncheons, orthodontist appointments, etc. i didn't have much or hardly any sleep. things were not going well. some things weren't working, some things were working too much. traffic was bad. we were completely out of edible food. (they do eat more now, these growing children, i confess i can barely keep up). oh yes we had some rotting produce in the fridge and some pasta and rice of course. but nothing you could actually get excited about eating or cooking. so, on the way home from one of these important luncheons i ran into a grocery store with no plan. no plan whatsoever. incapable of stringing two thoughts together, i looked around. what could we possibly eat after baseball practice ends at 7:30 that takes no time at all? as we will be busy driving to and from this baseball practice that starts at 6? ah yes. broiled salmon. even an extremely tired zombie cook could make this. after practice, we all sat down to dinner. my son, the baseball player, took a bite. "and, mom."  yes, i replied? tiredly, oh so tiredly. "delicious!" he said with a sly grin. 

japanese broiled salmon
adapted from Harumi's Home Cooking, an amazing, truly amazing, cook and book, of course, being me, i've changed both the amounts and the ingredients, but buy her cookbook, it's fantastically brilliant. harumi kurihara is known as the "martha stewart of japan" 
serves 4 hungry people

1 and 1/2 pound salmon fillet, tail end
soy ponzu marinade
lemon slices
1/2 cup of soy sauce or tamari sauce
1/4 cup of mirin
1/4 cup of ponzu marinade from japanese grocery store (clear liquid brand i use is Marukan)

(if you don't happen to have any ponzu marinade on hand...i know i rarely do...i use a mixture of lemon and/or  lime juice, rice vinegar and water or sake and to approximate it. this works equally well, have made this many many ways based on what i have on hand and it is always inexplicably delicious regardless. it must be a bit of magic, but then japanese cooks are magicians with fish, no surprise there)

cut up your lovely salmon into largish chunks with kitchen shears (could use halibut or sea bass etc) and keep the skin on by all means, it really adds to the dish. marinate in soy ponzu marinade with sliced lemons for at least 2 hours, 4 is best.

throw together a veggie stir fry (i used a mixture of cabbage, bean sprouts, peppers, mushrooms and scallions this time). or any other crowd pleasing and easy vegetative accompaniment like maybe broccoli. serve with plenty of japanese rice. start your rice cooker 45 minutes before. if you don't have one, you must cook it in the usual way on the stove, of course. cooking lots of asian food as we do it is the one gadget i own that i couldn't part with, not even for ready money...this is probably because i have a tendency to get distracted with homework questions, ringing phones, etc and can forget i am cooking quite easily, rice can be rather cruelly unforgiving to the distracted cook. 

15 minutes before dinner, set your broiler to high and move the top rack as high as possible in the oven. 5 minutes before serving. put the fish under the broiler. check after 3 minutes. check again at 4 minutes. it should be done around the 5 minute mark all carmelized, crispy, gorgeous and sizzling. however, broilers are highly variable, so you will have to watch it. burns quickly if you don't. also, when buying salmon, i mostly select the tail end, which has fewer bones, important for smallish or choosy children. this salmon is so pleasing, people who don't even like fish tend to enjoy it. 

May 5, 2009

oatmeal chocolate chip cookies





it is so rainy here on the east coast. they keep adding more days of rain to the forecast. i don't mind. i love rain actually. rain like this makes me want a cup of tea, a cookie and a hug. so yesterday, we made our favorite oatey oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. oats and chocolate are a great combination. a little bit good for you, a lot delicious. 

ive been slowly developing this recipe for 15 years. i got the original idea from hillary clinton. after her "i could have stayed home and baked cookies" comment, and prior to the presidential election, some women's magazine publication, i can't remember which one, had barbara bush and hillary each submit cookie recipes, a bake-off to help decide the 1992 election. hillary won, and consequently, bill won the election. coincidence? yes! but no matter, herein was the kernel of an idea that oats go far better with chocolate than they do with raisins and cinnamon. for us, a household of chocolate fiends, who aren't so crazy about raisins, but are crazy about oats, this works. 

oatey oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
makes about 6 dozen cookies. we love cookies.

preheat oven to 350 degrees
combine dry ingredients:
2 and 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup organic oat flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda

in mixing bowl beat together:
4 sticks organic unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cups organic sugar or super fine sugar if you've got it
1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 TBSP vanilla extract
until nicely mixed and all light and fluffy.

now add
4 eggs, (best if they are at room temperature)
until thoroughly incorporated.

with large wooden spoon, gradually mix in dry ingredients and then
5 and 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

you want to walk the line between mixing thoroughly, but not over-mixing here. a light touch is required.

next gently fold in
1 12 oz package of chocolate chips 

and once in a great while, but completely optional
3/4 cup chopped pecans

bake for 10 to 11 minutes, or until lightly browned on bottom and set/starting to brown just barely on top. cool for two minutes on baking sheet, then remove to plate or rack to cool the rest of the way before storing...or just eat right off the tray at exactly two minutes, as my kids do.

May 4, 2009

lucky cookbook giveaway winner

thanks to everyone for your lovely comments and remarks. the random number generator has selected #5 which by my count is deborah. if you are deborah please email me your mailing address so i can ship your book out to you straight away. happy monday to all. please contact me here: gretchen@cupandtable.com