Saturday, December 22, 2007

But It Has So Many Other Uses

(Yes, I let this blog be slightly more personal than the main law blog, but limitedly, and so don't expect too much)

My beloved roommate, whom I love very much, and I switched presents on Friday before I flew home to visit my parents. She said "This is for you...and The Dude!" Now, that is very nice of her to think of The Dude. Of course, terrifying images of what this present could be flashed through my head, until I just opened it. It turned out to be....

A breakfast tray.

"So that you can bring The Dude breakfast in bed!"

Hmm. I Blame The Patriarchy.

Not that the The Dude, who is awesome and wonderful and happy-Belle making, doesn't deserve such, uh, servitude. He is very awesome, and I am not exactly contrarian with my "I am a feminist who cooks and bakes" schtick. It is often the case that I make dinners, picnic lunches, and all sorts of desserts for us, although I think he is the better cook, as he proved when he brought me a homemade feast during finals.

And I expect that it's so we can have it together, although crumbs on 400 count sheets from Crate and Barrel are not ideal. He laughed at the idea of me serving him breakfast in bed, which is the right response, even if I ever decide to do it. Which, I highly doubt I will. He may be awesome, and I may be a domestic diva, but I am entirely too full of sardonic irony and too much of a sarcastic bitch to do this.

I'm still very excited about my new tray table though. I can serve tea and biscotti at my all-girl tea parties! I can bring out a lot of stuff from the kitchen at once during dinner parties! This is a really great present. The Roomie didn't think of all these other applications, but they do exist.

Including my favorite:

Now, this would really get me going in the morning.

Recipe on Blondies to come on Monday, when I let the children get their grubby little hands into the dough to sprinkle the chocolate pieces.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Best Weekend EVER

For those who do not (yet) ski, hiking 8 miles in the snow, sledding and going up the ski lift to catch the view from the observation deck is just as fun. At least to a girl raised in Southern California, where even 60 degrees feels brisk, and winter sports were disfavored because there is never winter.

To my credit, I resisted the impulse (which came very often) to say "wow, this is just like in the movies!"
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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cookies Are Like Kisses

Things are winding down, at least for Phase I of My Life Is Hell Twice A Year, Or Once A Term. I took a writing break to bake cookies to bring along for this weekend's trip to Cold Place In The Mountains. Road trips make me hungry, as does cold air and elevation. Hence, the picture of them in a "dude, that's ghetto" tupperware. For prettier, food pornier pictures, go here and here.

My beloved Amber beat me to it, but I have been dying to make Homemade Oreos ever since I saw the recipe on Smitten Kitchen. They are the most wonderful things I have ever eaten. As soon as I took a bite, I immediately hated everything I had ever eaten prior to the Cookie of Awesomeness. It was as if a choir of angels had burst into song in my mouth. This must be what heaven tastes like, if heaven existed and you could dunk it into milk (or coffee) and bite, chew, swallow and digest it. They are wayyyy better than the chocolate mascarpone cookies I had at Breadlines in D.C. (18th and Penn), and that is saying something.

If bundt cakes are like hugs, cookies are like kisses, and these are like the ultimate makeout session of cookiedom. I hope that these cookies get me some kisses, but they are so good that really, kisses are almost unnecessary. Almost.

Homemade Oreos (Chocolate Mascarpone Cookies)

For the chocolate wafers:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa (yes, this matters, I got mine at Peets)
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 to 1½ cups sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
¼ cup sugar
8 oz Mascarpone cheese

1. Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375 degrees.

2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

3. Take rounded tablespoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

4. To make the filling, cream the mascarpone with the sugar with an electric beater until fluffy and mixed.

5. To assemble the cookies, spread the mascarpone cream evenly onto a cookie with a butter or pate knife. Sandwich together. Refrigerate to firm up and "sticken" the cream.

Keep refrigerated, although you probably won't die if you leave the cookies out for a while. But, this is a cautious food blog.

Okay, so for once Smitten Kitchen lets me down. These cookies are so sweet I feel like my teeth are wincing. Next time I will take out the 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, which is so unnecessary when you have 2/3 cups of brown sugar already. 1 1/4 cups of flour to 0.91 cups sugar doesn't sound like much (considering that most recipes call for equal amounts of sugar to flour), but these seem way too sweet for me. I'm bringing them anyway--maybe other people like sweet cookies.

Always, always distrust a recipe that proclaims that these cookies are so good that eating them would make everyone so happy that world peace would ensue:

When Dorie Greenspan included Pierre Hermé’s recipe for to-die-for chocolate cookies in her Paris Sweets cookbook, she called them Korova Cookies (Sablés Korova), after the restaurant off the Champs-Élysées for which Pierre Hermé created these cookies, not the milk bar in A Clockwork Orange. In her most recent book, she calls them World Peace Cookies, as her neighbor became convinced that a daily dose of these cookies was all that is needed to ensure planetary peace and happiness.

That is some claim for a cookie to make! Anyway, such a schmaltzy, maudlin name guarantees that the cookie is too sweet, metaphorically and literally. An ironic shame; Dorie Greenspan is such a good bakebook writer, the French generally don't like things too sweet, and I cannot imagine eating these cookies every day (the other cookies I've made, certainly).

Anyway, the recipe, with the warning that you should take out the 1/4 cup granulated sugar, or leave it in if you are inclined to the saccharine:

World Peace/Korova Cookies

Paris Sweets, Dorie Greenspan

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I recommend Scharffenberger or Dagoba)

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon fleur de sel or ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous ¾ cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Thoughts On Cookbooks

I am shamelessly sharing this good advice with everyone. A friend of Belle writes to say:

If Julia Child's Mastering is like a very good undergrad course in French cooking, then Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of Southwest France is a wonderful graduate education in a particular region. For a simpler and easier approach to French cooking at home, why not try Anthony Bourdain's cookbook or one of Julie Child's simpler cookbooks? I've generally had good luck with recipes from the Bourdain cookbook, especially the onion soup recipe.

Fergus Henderson's two cookbooks are wonderful to read and have some interesting recipes, especially if you like offal. I roasted a suckling pig this weekend, taking some suggestions from recipes in Child's and Henderson's cookbooks, and I was quite pleased with the result.

For other baking cookbooks, have you ever seen any Francois Payard or
Pierre Herme' cookbooks? Herme's recipe for chocolate macarons is definitely worth trying.

For Cajun and Creole cooking, books by Paul Prudhomme and John Folse are worth a look. I've found both of them to be helpful, even in law classes: my only book award came about because of a seminar paper in which I set the Hart/Fuller debate in the context of gumbo.

I don't find Ina Garten's cookbooks to be worth the price, especially since you can often find her recipes on line. They make nice coffee table books and the recipes aren't bad, but there are so many more interesting books out on the market.

Thank you, Friend of Belle!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Building a Cook's Library

I don't have enough "real" cookbooks besides the Better Homes and Garden one, which sucks because it's full of bland, uninspiring recipes that are a little too 1950s casseroley for me.

But you do need classic, "bible" type cookbooks. I only have thin, not-as-useful ones that I got as gifts, like a tapas cookbook, an Asian vegetables cookbook, a "best-ever chicken" cookbook and some random international cookbook. I also have two dessert bibles (Great Desserts From Great Chefs; Dessert Circus), and those are very good. But I need more bible-like ones for other foods and other types of baking. Cooking is a religion, and you need textual inspiration and affirmation.

Books for which I intend to scour Liberal College City's used bookstores or get on my next book budget or birthday, which I also suggest to you in order of importance (e.g get the high-ranked ones first, the Chez Panisse ones are not as necessary to building your store of skills and ideas):

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman (this is like the New Testament)

Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten (I like books for home cooks; too fancy and you'll never make them)

Jacques Pepin's Table (out of print, but a good book!)

The Tartine Bakery Cookbook (the best bakery in America)

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (low ranked only because the above are more versatile and cross-cuisine)

The Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook (the slow foods movement: a good idea, hard to keep up, hard to sustain in less agricultural parts of the country)

Chez Panisse Desserts (the Tartine book is better)

Irresponsible Picnic: Lemon-Fennel Chicken Sandwiches and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday, with some help, I escaped the library by going on an impromptu, irresponsible picnic--the best kind! We went up to a nearby park that was really beautiful, sat next to a lovely lake, watched ducks swim, and froze our bottoms while filling our bellies with Not-Turkey Sandwiches. It was very awesome.

Next time I am packing a thermos of laced hot cocoa. First I have to buy a thermos. And whatever you lace hot cocoa with.

Lemon-Fennel Chicken Sandwiches With Sauteed Peppers, Onions, Arugula, and Basil Pesto

See the recipe for basil pesto.

Ingredients for Two Sandwiches:

3 chicken thigh cutlets (or 2 chicken breasts, if you must use dry, bland, healthy white meat)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. fennel
1/4 cup of flour to dredge
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 red bell pepper, julienned into small strips
1/2 onion, cut into thin half-rings
2 slices of swiss cheese
1 tbs. basil pesto (or more)
Handful of arugula
1/4 cup olive oil
Two ciabatta sandwich buns, split in half (or just cut up a ciabatta however you want)

Salt, pepper, and fennel up the chicken pieces on both sides. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the chicken pieces, and allow to marinate. At least 10 minutes for light flavor, a few hours or overnight for total juiceyness and strong lemon flavor

Heat the oil in a skillet until ver hot. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, tap excess off. Fry in pan, 3-4 minutes each side (or more) until crisp and browned and cooked through. Remove to a plate. After cool, cut into thin slices.

Add the peppers and onions to the skillet, and sautee until soft and slightly charred.

Spread the homemade pesto on the toasted ciabatta. Arrange everything in the bread to your liking, and "sandwich" together.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Underbake for soft, chewy cookies, bake a little longer for crispier ones. I do both.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1.5 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.

Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.

Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup* at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

* 1/4 cup cannot be right, as it made a cookie approximately 8″ across, an egregious excess by any standard. For a typically oversized cookie, use 1/8 cup.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hey Presto, Basil Pesto!

Instead of a picture of green paste, I give you a picture of love: a basil plant given to me by Amber, and the source of many pesto meals. I have to wait a while between pesto yumminess, but fresh pesto is worth it!

I toss this with pasta and grated parmesan, or spread it on sandwiches. Pesto makes everything better!

Basil Pesto

2cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Special equipment needed: A food processor

1. Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

2. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Makes 1 cup.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Grad Student Eating




1. Open box. Pour desired amount.
2. Add milk to desired ratio of dry-to-wet
3. Be careful not to over-milk, as this will result in soggy cereal. Too little milk, though, and the flakes will masticate into a dry paste.

Turkey Sandwich


-Two slices whole wheat Orowheat bread
-2 slices each of Foster Farms' oven roasted turkey; ham; and smoked turkey. This may be found in their "Club Sandwich" variety pack
-1 tablepspoon Best Foods mayonaise
-1 Roma tomato, sliced thin
-A couple of leaves of romaine lettuce
-1 slice of Provolone Cheese

1. Spread the mayo on the bread. Layer three pieces of lunch meat on each piece, to give your sandwich stability.
2. Arrange tomato slices on one piece of bread and lunch meat
3. Place the lettuce on the other slice of bread and lunch meat
4. Put the cheese on either piece, and "sandwich" the two slices of laden bread together.
5. Cut in half diagonally or perpendicular, enjoy.

Seriously, I cannot eat like this anymore. I would rather not eat. I might be able to go back to pizza again, but I cannot eat another turkey sandwich, and I've only had three this week.

I have taken to making quick pasta, which I can bring to school for a long day of work and eat cold, because there are no public microwaves at Liberal College Law. Only in the journal offices, and I don't affiliate. But I would rather eat cold pasta than another turkey sandwich, the thought of which fills me with nausea and tears.

Fortunately, a savory savior is coming at 9:45 pm tomorrow.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Chicken Soup

I have served this soup to TC, The Philosophical Werewolf, The Roving Commenter, 1L,* and The Dude, to much acclaim. It is the Soup of Friendship and Love. It is The Roomie's favorite soup, even after she went vegetarian, making it the soup for which people make moral compromises. It is currently my only solace in my state of feverish illness, and the tastiest placebo I know.

It's also the easiest way to make chicken soup without using a whole chicken, which I think is 1) needlessly difficult to butcher, and 2) inefficient. It uses only dark, flavorful meat, but very low fat due to the fact that I remove the skin and fat. After refrigeration, no fat surfaces to the top.

It takes a while to make, but if you make it the following multi-stage way, you'll build up the flavors of your stock layer by layer, starting with the things that take the longest to cook but impart the most flavor. The onions add a great flavor, the carrots a nice sweetness, the celery a bright flavor, and the thyme the ultimate finish. Of course, you could do all the sous cheffery the night before, toss all the vegetables in at once after the stock is built, and it'll end up tasting good anyway.

Warning: this is a recipe for 10 quarts of soup. No less, maybe even more. I have a good-sized stock pot, and this is all just fits.


10-12 (at least) chicken thighs, de-boned, skinned, trimmed of fat, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Reserve the bones.
3-4 tablespoons of salt
One large yellow onion, cut into small wedges
1 lb. yukon gold potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. large carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. celery, cut into bite-sized pieces
5-6 sprigs of thyme, tied into a bundle
Optional: 1/2 lb. pasta

Put the chicken + chicken bones into the stock pot, along with the onions and salt. Fill the pot 7/8 full, giving it room to boil.

Bring to a boil on high heat, and skim off the scum as it rises and discard. After it comes to a boil, there will seem to be no end to the scummy seepage, until you turn down the heat to medium-high. Stir the pot as you skim, because this will bring the scum to the top. Check the color of the stock, which should be turning a nice pale yellow.

This takes about an hour for the water to boil and . So while you wait for things to boil, cook, and release scum, you can chop the vegetables. Otherwise, this will be cooking for about an hour and a half, before you add the first round of vegetables:

Add the carrots , and cook for a half hour. While the carrots are cooking, peel and chop the potatoes, and add those along with the thyme. They cook for another half hour. While they cook, chop up the celery, and toss that in, and cook for another half hour, until everything is tender and the thyme leaves have totally fallen apart from their bundle. Fish out the chicken bones, and serve.

In total, this soup will have been cooking for 3 hours on medium-high. If you want to add more body to the soup and make it a little more filling, add pasta in the last 15 minutes. I did for the first time yesterday, and the starchy release added a nice body to the broth and the noodles made me feel fuller longer. Of course, upon reheating the noodles became swollen and slightly mushy. This isn't that bad though, because my usual MO is to bake biscuits and tear them up into my soup and make faux dumplings.

* From 1L, a message decrying his omission from the list of Chicken Soup Lovers:

I am DISGUSTED and defeated to have been left out of your post on Chicken Soup. Not only have I had it, but I loved it. I demand, pursuant to The Rules of Belle Procedure (RBP 15(a)(2)) that you amend the post to include my pseudonym, 1L, noting that I've had it.

Duly noted, and pursuant to RBP 15(a)(2), amended in favor of petitioner 1L. It is so ordered.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Fusilli with Sundried Tomatoes, Basil, and Asiago

Last week, when my pizza supply ran out, I was faced with the conundrum of foraging through my dried goods pantry. It was either another bowl of oatmeal or a box of crackers, as I didn't want to defrost anything. But then I rememered that I had pasta, and could eat "real food" after all.

Whatever pasta you think is enough for one person
2-3 tablespoons sundried tomatoes packed in oil
1/4 cup shreded Asiago cheese (parmesan will also work, of course)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly torn basil
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste

Cook the pasta, and drain well. Toss with the tablespoon of olive oil, however many sundried tomatoes you want, and crushed red pepper

Add cheese, toss again. Thow the torn basil leaves on top.

Eat, satisfied that you can create a not-completely-inedible meal from your pantry.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Sage Porkchops, Yams Baked with Cranberries and Walnuts, and Cranberry-Apple Cobbler

I made this meal on the fly, literally: my plane landed last Monday at 11:30 am, I got home by 1 pm after waiting for baggage and taking the door-to-door shuttle, quickly typed up an assignment, jumped on the bus and had class from 2:20 to 5:30, then I went grocery shopping on the way home, and whipped up this meal in a couple of hours. Almost all was ready by the time The Dude came by at 8:30 pm.

It is not hard to make pork or lamb chops. The simpler, the better, and they cook up quick, making them a good weekday meal (e.g., not soups, stews, roasts). The meat should be cooked right before serving, and not completely cooked through--pink is okay, even for pork. The sides are what take a while to make, although I am not entirely sure that The Dude likes my side dishes. He never seems to finish them, and while that may ostensibly be due to a somewhat reasonable desire to limit carbs, he polishes off my desserts. This makes me wonder if I am not correct in my intuition that I am a better baker than I am a cook. In any case, for those of you that like my side dishes, the recipes:

Pan Roasted Pork Chops With Sage and Garlic


Two pork chops
10-12 sage leaves
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
Freshly ground sea salt and pepper

In a large, heavy skillet, heat up 1/4 cup of olive oil until hot. Drop in about 10 sage leaves and fry until crispy, just a few minutes. Remove with slotted spoon or tongs or chopsticks and drain on paper towels. Do the same with the garlic slices.

The oil is now infused with sage and garlic. Fry the pork chops, already seasoned with salt and pepper, in the oil until well browned on both sides. The middle should be pink and not tough.

Add the sage leaves and garlic back to the pan, and the juice of one lemon, swirl everything together to form a sauce, and spoon over the plated pork chops.
Serve with these side dishes, which you've already prepared and kept warm:

Sauteed Zucchini and Yellow Squash

This is not hard. Slice up 2-3 squash, sautee in 2 tablespoons of butter until tender and browned, and grind copious amounts of sea salt and pepper over it. Grate the zest of a lemon on top. Lemon zest makes everything better.

This works really well with blue lake green beans, which are at least tasty. Also, asparagus.
Squash and other such vegetable marrows are watery, bland things, and I serve them because they are good for you and usually on sale.

Yams Baked With Cranberries and Walnuts

This would have been better with pecans, which I didn't have on hand:

One and a half to two large yams, diced
1 cup of fresh cranberries
3/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons of butter, diced

Toss the yams, nuts, cranberries and brown sugar together, and put in a large baking dish. Pour the orange juice over the yams, letting it sink to the bottom. Add the diced butter on top.

Bake at 350 F in the center rack of the oven for about an hour (to an hour and a half), tossing the yams in the juice every half hour to prevent drying out and burning on top. The yams will absorb most of the orange juice, which combined with the brown sugar and butter will make a sweet, tangy sauce.

Cranberry Apple Cobbler

I must credit Daniel Goldberg, blog buddy and master of MedHumanities Blog, for this recipe. I must also wish him felcitations and acclamations for the recent birth of his daughter, Maya-chan, born on November 29 at 7 lbs. and 8 oz. According to Daniel, "she is already translating Latin into French, and has rejected 5 of the most eligible bachelors in the nursery."

No doubt, she is already a foodie as well!

The Dude and The Roomie ate this up, and The Best Friend (who happened to be in town for a day) cried delightfully that it was "sweet, nutty, tangy goodness!"

(I used two 9x6 dishes for the following, tartlet pans would be prettier):


2 medium baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

1 cup fresh cranberries

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup chopped nuts (being from Texas, I always use pecans wherever possible, but walnuts would work fine, too)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 cup pastry flour (all-purpose flour will also work)

1/2 cup butter melted

2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease four tartlet pans and set aside. In a large bowl, mix cranberries, apple slices, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and nuts.

Spoon mixture evenly into pans; set side.

2. For topping, in a medium bowl, combine eggs, flour, melted butter, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, orange peel, vanilla, and a pinch of salt.

Stir with a fork until smooth, and spread topping over fruit mixture.

3. Bake about 30 mins or until topping is golden and fruit is tender. Cool slightly on a wire rack. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve warm.

These can be made up to 24 hrs ahead and chilled. Reheat in a 350 F oven for 15 minutes or until warm.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Food Blog: Food Coma LA

My beautiful, funny, talented and weird friend Kelly Fremon is listed by Variety as one of the "10 Screenwriters to Watch" for her independent screenplay "Ticket To Ride" (to star Alexis Bledel, Carol Burnett, other awesome people) and is remaking the French film "Intimate Strangers" with Hillary Swank.

Kelly has been inspired by me to create her own food blog: Food Coma, LA. Check it out! It is, like her, wonderful and weird and hilarious.

We met each other in the two-year Humanities Honors program at UC Irvine, and were both pfouffy English majors who had to figure out what to do with our humanities degrees (although we also doubled in a social science). I went to law school and decided to become a law professor. She moved to Los Angeles to pursuse her dream of being a screenwriter. She started working at Fox writing promotional copy for DVD releases, wrote her own screenplay at night after work, and sold it to Warner Bros within a year and is now re-writing two other movies (well, currently she's on strike, as she's no scab).

To my knowledge, she is the only person I know who pursued her dream in Los Angeles and actually achieved it. Go to any coffee shop in Los Angeles and throw a rock, and chances are it'll hit a failed screenwriter, half of whom have pricey MFAs. She is utterly awesome, has the coolest job in the world, and for some reason thinks I am awesome and what I do is interesting. She is also drop dead gorgeous and insanely goofy, and thus has that bewitching combination of being utterly sweet and non-egotistical and really weird. She met her boyfriend at a pretentious Los Angeles wrap party for "24" by meeting him in the middle of the dance floor getting her groove on to "Billy Jean." 'Nuff said.

There is nothing I miss more than hanging out with her and her Dude eating stuff and watching The Office (UK edition). I miss the days when I used to come over from a long day of law school and bake banana bread and awesome pie and eat her chicken in madeira sauce and avoid her weird strumpety neighbor and get freaked out by her boyfriend's ghost stories. Now we live too far apart for me to do any of that, but our food blogs will be the umbilical cords between our well-fed bellies.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Favorite Food Blog: Smitten Kitchen

TC, she of the awesome cake that bringeth luck, fame, and fortune, introduces me to an awesome blog: The Smitten Kitchen.

Everyone who regularly dines with me is, I hope, hitting the gym more, because this site makes me want to cook up all manner of mischief in the kitchen. Fortunately, this also runs up against end-of-term paper crunch time, so they are not in too much danger of expanding waistlines. Alas for all around, I tend to survive off of 1-2 cooked meals a week and a lot of take out, turkey sandwiches, pizza, and bowls of cereal for the first three weeks of December.

If the plans hold though, tomorrow upon my return I will be making:

  • Fried Sage Leaf Pork Chops
  • Yams Baked with Cranberries and Pecans
  • Sauteed Squash in Lemon Basil Butter
  • Apple-Cranberry Cobbler

Yes, for a casual Monday night meal. Everything is so much more impressive when you Type Things Out With Capital Letters, but really, everything above is very easy and cooks all at the same time, it's only a lot of chopping. And my poor knife technique is at least getting more efficient. We've been eating a lot of chops lately (pork, lamb) because they cook quickly right before serving, a bonus when I'm coming home from a long day at school and The Dude's coming in from a long day of "real work" and a commute. Recipes and pictures will be posted the next day.

For Wednesday, I plan to make my Big Pot of Awesome Chicken Soup and chocolate chip cookies. Comfort food for a cold night that will last me through a weekend dissertating alone--at least my belly will be warm.

But now that I have learned about this blog, I am going to have to make:

Savory recipes are lacking on this blog, but I'm sure I'll figure something out with my freezer-full of 5 lb. pork roast, pork chops, and 12 lbs. filet mignon steaks.

I like this blog because of the very good pictures (appealing without being food porn), the snappy writing (again, descriptive without being salivatingly sexed up, no use of "voluptuous" to describe beets for example), and the fact that they road test recipes from TV and magazines and say which ones work and which don't. It's "real": home cooks trying to make do and make good, and sometimes your pate brisee breaks and so your galette bubbles and leaks. Right now I'm eating Cheetos, which means I fail the foodie test and should have no pretenses of being a better person/cook than I really am.

I also like how the snappy writers and commenters acknowledge universally known truths: Rachel Ray is f'ing annoying with her acronyms and hybrid neologisms and nicknames for food ("stoups" = stew-like soups; "sammies" = sandwiches), too loud, too stupid, too easy. But there is nothing wrong with a 30 minute meal (see above menu for tomorrow, even though it's more like 1 hour of prep + cooking and doesn't include half of the bake time). And at least she's a better cook and person than Sandra Lee of Semi-Homemade Craptastic meals.

Seriously, what would explain the chutzpah of a WASPy Aryan Stepford wife coming up with something as offensive (and DISGUSTING) as a "semi-homemade" (even an idiot can use a can of store-bought frosting on a store-bought cake) "Kwanzaa Celebration Cake" using Cornuts?! WTF?!

At any rate, stay tuned and add this blog to your RSS feed for more recipes and fun. Just don't expect me to bake a Kwanzaa Cake.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Recipes to Come

I am going to post favorite recipes, but I would like each to be accompanied by photos. But I make my favorites pretty regularly (they are easy and economical), even as I want a little more variety and creativity when I'm not eating alone. Then again, when I eat alone, I'm pretty lazy.

The Favorites:
  • Chicken Soup and Biscuits
  • Masoor Dal with Saffron Basmati Rice
  • 4 Hour Adobo Pork Roast with Mashed Sweet Potatoes
  • Sage Pork Chops and Yams Baked With Cranberries and Walnuts
  • Wine Braised Chicken with Rosemary, Mushrooms and Onions and Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
  • Sausage Pasta with Homemade Chunky Tomato Sauce
  • Mushroom Asparagus Risotto
  • Tomato-Cumin Braised Chicken over Cous Cous with Cilantro
  • Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken
  • Cranberry Walnut Scones
  • Anise Almond Biscotti
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
  • Orange Essence Shortbread
  • Blondies
  • Brownies
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies

New experiments to come as well!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Amber's Bundt Cake Of Love and Joy

All bundt cakes are cakes of love and joy. A bundt cake is like a hug.

--Amber Taylor

I stole this from her blog. This remains the best chocolate cake I've made (and I've experimented with other recipes) using cocoa powder, which I use because it's cheaper per gram and I don't have a double boiler. It's the one I keep making over and over: at three dinner parties, and for dinner with The Dude. It is an awesome cake.

Amber's Bundt Cake

This is a modified version of the Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake from The New Best Recipe (modified in that I didn't have any instant coffee so I used extra cocoa instead).

Using a bundt pan instead of two round pans essentially doubled the baking time.

Preheat oven to 350 and grease pan with Baker's Joy.

12 tbsp softened unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large room-temperature eggs

Beat butter for 30 seconds, then gradually add sugar and beat 3-5 minutes.

Add 1 egg and beat for 1 minute. Repeat for other egg.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 tsp cocoa (2 tsp should have been powdered coffee, but I didn't have any.)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Whisk these together and add 1/3 of the mixture to the batter with your mixer on its lowest setting.

Then add 1/3 of a mixture of the following:

1 cup + 2 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla

and mix until almost blended.

Repeat for other 2/3 of dry and wet ingredients.

Mix for 15 seconds or until satiny.

Schlop into bundt pan and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Dust with powdered sugar.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Pear, Pecan and Cranberry Pie of Awesomeness

This is my favorite pie to make in the Fall, as it is full of autumnal ingredients, warms up the house, and is best served warm on a cold day. It's also a big hit at a dinner party. I plan to make a variation when I get my tartlet pans, which will make for pretty little pies. I lost the original recipe, so I'm making this all from memory (I've made it enough times that I can).

It takes forever to make (though maybe because I used to make dough by hand with a pastry cutter, and used to chop less efficiently), but can be made in stages. Everything can be premade (the dough, the filling), refrigerated, and put together at the last stage. If you do this all in one day, it cuts into fancy dinner making.

I used to call this a tarte in a fit of Francophilic pretension, but then I got down on France, so let us call a pie a pie. I add pastry flowers on top, making it a variation on the lattice pie. I am a jingoistic American, so all is cool.

I make a basic, flaky sweet pastry dough, jazzing it up with fresh lemon zest and a teaspoon of sugar. I recently bought a food processor, so now I put my pastry cutter and too-warm hands to rest.

I double the recipe below to get enough dough to work with. You can always freeze the extra dough (if any), or use it to make jam tarts (fancy pop tarts!) like I do.

Pastry Dough:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) COLD unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 to 5 tablespoons ice water

Blend together flour, butter, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.

Drizzle 3 tablespoons ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated. (Belle: I use a spray bottle to get greatest surface-area dispersal of the cold water, drizzling is for drips.)

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn't hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated.

Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.

Turn out dough onto a work surface. Divide dough into 4 portions.

With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all dough together with pastry scraper.

Press into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk (Belle: you will have two 5-inch disks).

Chill for an hour in the refrigerator. While that is chilling, you can make the filling:


2-3 Diced Anjou pears
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped roasted pecans
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup cognac
3 tablespoons butter

Toss the pears and cranberries in the lemon juice, sugar, and lemon zest until coated

In a big pot, melt the butter, and over low-medium heat, cook the pears and cranberries, stirring around until the pears soften a bit, about 15 minutes.

Turn up the heat a bit and add the cognac and vanilla. Cook until the alcohol burns off and the liquid reduces a bit, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in the pecans, let cool to room temperature. While you do that, you can prepare your pie crust:

Take out the 5-inch dough disks and set out for 10 minutes (you could have done this as you were in the last stages of filling prep). Roll out one disk and line the bottom of a pie dish or your tartlet pans. Roll out the other disk and using a paring knife, cut out leaf and flower shaped bits of dough. If lazy, use cookie cutters. Put these decorative bits back into the fridge to chill.

Pour cooled pie filling into pie shell.

Arrange the decorative dough bits across the top, overlapping the edges of leaves or flowers. Press the edges together a bit to make sure they stick, or brush with egg white. Press the edges of the pie shell with the tines of a fork to seal, or do what I do and overlap more pastry leaves. Roll out some flower centers and make things pretty.

Bake everything for about 40-45 minutes at 350 F, depending on your oven, until the crust is golden.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Apple Coffee Cake

I baked this for Larry Solum when he visited. I used a round pie dish to get high, fluffy wedges, and this added 10-15 minutes to the bake time. I tented it with foil to keep the top from getting burnt with the additional bake time.

Preheat oven to 350° and grease 9"x13" pan.

Mix together 3 cups of apples, peeled and sliced with 2 tsps of cinnamon; set aside.

Beat together the following ingredients for about 3 minutes:

3 cups flour
3 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
3 eggs

Pour half of flour mixture into 9"x13" pan, top with half of the apple mixture and repeat.

Mix 1/4 cup pecans and 1/4 cup brown sugar together, sprinkle over the top.
Melt 2 Tbsps of butter and drizzle over.

Bake for 50 minutes; cool for 15 minutes.

Mix the following until smooth consistency:

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp softened butter
3/4 tsp vanilla
3 tsps hot water

Drizzle the glaze over the cake.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sugar Cookies

I add the zest of Meyer lemons to these cookies to make them tastier. Icing is optional, as I use them as tea cookies. I underbake a bit to make them soft, chewy tea biscuits, or overbake to make crisp dipping cookies.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon zest of Meyer lemons

Whisk together flour and salt in a small bowl.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer or 6 minutes with a handheld.

Beat in egg and vanilla and zest. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

Form dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 6-inch disk. Chill disks, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll out 1 disk of dough (keep remaining dough chilled) into an 8 1/2-inch round (1/4 inch thick) on a well-floured surface with a well-floured rolling pin. (If dough becomes too soft to roll out, rewrap in plastic and chill until firm.)

Cut out as many cookies as possible from dough with cutters and transfer to 2 ungreased large baking sheets, arranging cookies about 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, gather scraps and chill until dough is firm enough to reroll, 10 to 15 minutes. Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (reroll scraps only once) and bake on cooled baking sheets.

If using icing and coloring it, transfer 1/4 cup icing to a small bowl for each color and tint with food coloring. Spoon each color icing into a sealable bag, pressing out excess air, and snip a 1/8-inch opening in 1 bottom corner of bag. Twisting bag firmly just above icing, decoratively pipe icing onto cookies. Let icing dry completely (about 1 hour) before storing cookies.

Cooks' notes:

• Dough can be chilled up to 3 days.

• Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lemon Bars and Cake

The Roomie and I found and rescued about 7 large lemons from an abandoned Minute Maid stand at the end of a baseball game in a large stadium in The City. This is what resulted from the fruit of the poisonous tree:


Shortbread Base:

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces.

In a food processor process all ingredients until mixture begins to form small lumps.

Sprinkle mixture into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan and with a metal spatula press evenly onto bottom.

Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden, about 20 minutes.

While shortbread is baking, prepare topping.

I doubled the recipe for the lemon curd and add lemon zest to make them tarter and juicier bars.

Lemon Curd:

6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1.5 cups fresh lemon juice
Zest of half the lemons
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a bowl whisk together eggs and granulated sugar until combined well and stir in lemon juice and flour.

Pour lemon mixture over hot shortbread.

Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. and bake confection in middle of oven until set, about 30 minutes.

Cool completely in pan and cut into 24 bars.

Bar cookies keep, covered and chilled, 3 days. Sift confectioners' sugar over bars before serving.


1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 large lemon
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven.

Spray bundt pan with Baker's Joy. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and pale in color (about 3 minutes).

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and then add to the batter along with the lemon juice. Mix only until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.

Bake about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place on a wire rack to cool, then gently remove the sides of the pan.

For the icing, combine the sifted confectioners' sugar with the 2 tablespoons lemon juice. (You want the icing to be thicker than a glaze but still thin enough that it will just run over the sides of the cake.

If not the right consistency add more lemon juice or powdered sugar, accordingly.)

Frost the top of the cake, allowing the icing to drip down the sides.

Let the icing set before covering.

This cake will keep for several days in an airtight container.