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  SAUCE MAGAZINE
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Mar 29, 2015
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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By the Book

By the Book: Warm Pear Crumble

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

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I love cooking seasonally. I refuse to buy zucchinis and tomatoes in winter, and I question the logic behind serving butternut squash risotto in June. But about this time each year, I find my resolve weakening. I’m desperate for something green and raw, and the thought of roasting one more carrot or sweet potato is enough to send me into fits. Are supermarket summer squashes imported from South America really so bad?

So when Veronica Bosgraaf’s Pure Food: Eat Clean with Seasonal, Plant-Based Recipes crossed my desk, I immediately flipped to her March recipes. Bosgraaf, who rose to fame with her line of organic snack bars, penned this cookbook to make simple, season-driven vegetarian meals using whole, unprocessed ingredients. Each chapter is dedicated to a month of produce, and as a fellow Midwesterner (she lives in Michigan), I imagine Bosgraaf can relate to my longing for springtime seasonality.

 

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Recipes for March still include those winter ingredients (oranges, carrots, cabbage, potatoes) and while she isn’t breaking any new ground with her dishes (curried carrot soup, pickled vegetables) they are definitely welcome respite from roasted everything. I chose to test Warm Pear Crumble, arguing that if we must eat winter produce, I wanted it paired with ice cream.

 

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Sauce intern Tori Sgarro had no trouble following Bosgraaf’s clear, simple instructions, though the recipe took nearly two hours after all the prep work and baking time. As with all crumble recipes, Team Sauce agreed that we wanted double the buttery, almond-oat topping. Admittedly that cuts down the health factor, but isn’t the buttery crust the real reason people make crumbles in the first place? The pear filling, while plentiful, fell flat; a pinch of salt did wonders to enhance the fruit flavor, and next time I’ll add depth with a bit of cinnamon or grated nutmeg. We served our crumble with a scoop of Serendipity’s Big O Ginger ice cream, which played nicely with the fresh ginger and added necessary richness.

 

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Warm Pear Crumble
4 to 6 servings

¼ cup (½ stick) plus 2 tsp. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
¼ cup honey
2 Tbsp. tapioca starch
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
¾ tsp. grated fresh ginger
6 firm, ripe Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
¼ cup rolled oats
½ cup almond meal
2 Tbsp. organic cane sugar
1/8 tsp. sea salt

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish with 2 teaspoons of the butter and set aside.
• In a large bowl, combine the honey, tapioca starch, lemon juic, and ginger. Add the pears and toss to coat. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and cover loosely with foil. Bake until hot and bubbly, about 45 minutes.
• Meanwhile, put the oats in a food processor and process until coarsely ground. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add the almond meal, sugar and salt. Add the remaining ¼ cup butter and, using a fork, blend in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.
• Remove the foil from the baking dish and sprinkle the crumble topping over the pears. Return the pan to the oven and cook until the top is golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.
• Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Reprinted with permission from Clarkson Potter Publishers

How do you get creative with winter produce in the last days before spring vegetables finally arrive? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Pure Food.

By the Book: Jeanne Kelley and Sarah Tenaglia’s Pimm’s Punch

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

I used to break out the punch bowl for two very different occasions: the holidays and college parties. Holiday punch bowls were filled with vodka-kissed juices, rich buttered rum or citrus-studded mulled wine. College party punch bowls were filled with my friend Jesse’s Jungle Juice: the remnants of our liquor stash, a package of powdered lemonade mix, a two-liter of Sprite and our sanity.

I’ve recently come around to the joys of batched cocktails and more sophisticated punch bowls when hosting parties, but aside from those holiday renditions and sangria, I admit I’m not great at DIY-ing my own punch. Enter Punch Bowls & Pitcher Drinks, a slim but pretty volume by Jeanne Kelley and Sarah Tenaglia that offers dozens of batched cocktail recipes for all palates and occasions: sangrias and Champagne-inspired drinks, lazy Sundays, fireside cocktails and even a few nonalcoholic options.

 

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Since this punch would be shared with my Sauce co-workers, I turned to the classic cocktail-inspired punches. Here, simple recipes with pretty, thirst-inspiring photos are shared for things like an Old-Fashioned-Manhattan Punch, a Skinny Moscow Mule, Gin Fizz with Lemon Verbena, and – for reasons I cannot fathom – Jungle Juice, an actual recipe for our early-20s shenanigans gussied up with slices of fruit.

 

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I opted for a lighter, more grown-up Pimm’s Punch, a modified batched version of a Pimm’s Cup. The simple recipe was perfect for a busy Friday afternoon. Muddle together orange slices, lemon slices, cucumber rounds and apple wedges with fresh mint, cover with 2 cups Pimm’s No. 1 and fresh lemon juice, and let all the flavors get acquainted with one another for an hour. Then, I topped off the concoction with ginger ale and sparkling water and served it over ice with fresh mint.

 

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Despite only eight slices of cucumber, it’s bright, refreshing qualities powered through the liqueur. The ginger ale and sparkling gave the punch a lovely effervescence, and we all agreed this would be a perfect brunch or summer party cocktail. We all also agreed that it desperately needed more booze, topping off each of our cocktails with at least two ounces more liquor. If preparing this for a party, I’d advise placing the bottle of Pimm’s next to the punch bowl and letting guests add to taste.

 

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Pimm’s Punch
6 to 8 servings

8 ½-inch-thick unpeeled cucumber rounds or spears (from 1 cucumber)
1 large orange, cut into rounds, seeds removed
1 large lemon, cut into rounds, seeds removed
1 large apple, cored and cut into wedges
16 fresh mint sprigs
2 cups Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
½ cup fresh lemon juice
2½ cups chilled ginger ale or lemon-lime soda
1½ cups chilled sparkling water
Ice cubes

• Combine the cucumber, fruits and half the mint in a large pitcher. Using a muddler or a wooden spoon, press on the fruit and mint several times. Add the Pimm’s and lemon juice. Refrigerate 1 hour, then mix in the ginger ale and sparkling water.
• Fill tumblers with ice cubes, then add the chilled punch and its fruits. Garnish with the remaining mint sprigs.

Reprinted with permission from Clarkson Potter Publishers

What was your most embarrassing college “cocktail” concoction? Tell us about it in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Punch Bowls & Pitcher Drinks.

By the Book: The Perfect Egg

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

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When I don’t have the energy to come up with a good dinner, I usually make breakfast instead. It’s easy, it’s reliably good and it’s fast. I recently decided to do just that while flipping through The Perfect Egg: A Fresh Take on Recipes for Morning, Noon and Night by Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park.

Of course there were plenty of options for other meals. Dishes are readily available for any time of day, from typical breakfast to snacks, lunches, dinners, afternoon treats and even sweets. I passed up a tempting recipe for Egg Clouds – a cute dish of whipped egg whites with Parmesan baked with a sunny yolk nestle in each dollop. I also firmly passed on the poached yolk-stuffed ravioli. Maybe I’ll try it on day when I’m feeling particularly ambitious or apathetic toward failure.

 

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Alas, yesterday was a breakfast-for-dinner kind of day, and I was in the mood for classic buttermilk pancakes. I don’t like the fruit and other mix-ins nearly as much – blueberry pancakes aren’t my thing. But I did appreciate the eight variations that Fisher and Park provide like carrot cake, chai and whole-wheat or bacon and chive.

 

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However, these plain pancakes hit the spot. They were fluffy, a little tangy from the buttermilk and delivered perfectly crisp edges from a hot, generously buttered pan. Served with a bit of breakfast sausage and maple syrup, they were the perfect breakfast-for-dinner meal.

 

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Buttermilk Pancakes
Makes 8 to 10 5-inch pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1½ Tbsp. superfine sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled, divided
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
Unsalted butter and maple syrup, for serving

• Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl, mixing well. Stir in the egg, buttermilk, 2 tablespoons of melted butter and vanilla just until the ingredients are evenly distributed but the batter is still lumpy. Do not over-mix.
• Place a large griddle or skillet over medium heat, add 1½ teaspoons of the butter, and when the butter melts, swirl the pan to cover the bottom evenly. Making 3 to 4 at a time, ladle ¼ cup of the batter into the skillet and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until bubbles form on the top of the pancake. Carefully flip the pancake over and continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until cooked through. Transfer the pancake to a serving platter. Cook the remaining batter in the same manner, adding butter to the pan as needed.
• Serve warm with butter and maple syrup.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

Make your case. What is the best breakfast item: pancakes, waffles or French toast? Tell us why in the comments below for your chance to win a copy of The Perfect Egg.

 

By the Book: Kimberly Hasselbrink’s Roasted Cauliflower with Olives, Currants and Tahini Dressing

Saturday, March 7th, 2015

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Reading Kimberly Hasselbrink’s Vibrant Food reminded me of Nigel Slater’s Tender with a touch of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s voice from his River Cottage cookbook series. It’s because of the colorful photos (she’s a photographer) and personal narratives (she’s the creator of the blog The Year in Food) that celebrate ingredients in their ripest moment. I love fresh food at its peak. I love a veritable rainbow of food on my plate. And I love good stories. I devoured Hesselbrink’s cookbook.

Vibrant Food is a gentle tribute to mother nature for whatever bounty she bestows on us throughout the year. If you’re the type to cook up whatever you’ve found at the farmers market, you’ll soak up Hasselbrink’s writing. Food is described as tender, delicate, soft and dramatic. As a cookbook, this one is filled with unfussy vegetarian recipes (with the exception of a handful of fish and seafood dishes). The parade of fruits and vegetables is ordered by seasons. The spring section is alive with recipes for greens, alliums and flowers; summer sees dishes appropriate for berries, stone fruits, tomatoes and peppers; autumn brings ways with grapes, figs and tree nuts; and winter cooking is defined by roots, brassicas and citrus.

Were I to cook from this book come May, I’d try Hasselbrink’s grilled halloumi with strawberries and herbs. In fall, I’d give her chile-roasted delicate squash with queso fresco a go. Alas, it’s winter, and nothing’s growing unless it’s in a hot house. The landscape is barren and brown, infrequently changing to a brilliant, snowy white. I’ll take white on a winter’s day, so I chose to make roasted cauliflower with olives, currants and tahini dressing. Nothing like some caramelized, crunchy brassica, briny olives, sweet currants and tangy tahini to brighten up a dull gray day.

If you’re in a hurry, this is the dish for you since it comes together in 30 minutes. Just season the cauliflower with olive oil and salt and pop it in the oven.

 

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While the vegetable is roasting, whisk together the tarator sauce. Typical uses of this tahini-based sauce are with falafel (try it with the creative falafel loaf I made just a few weeks ago), with beef or lamb on pita or as a salad dressing. As Hasselbrink’s recipe proves, tarator is a fine partner for all sorts of vegetables.

 

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Then, just toss the warm cauliflower in the sauce and add currants, olives and parsley. Normally for By the Book, I follow recipe directions to the letter. I admit to deviating with the olives. Hasselbrink called for kalamata. I wanted vibrant color (and flavor and texture) so I included a mélange of olives. Stop at the olive bar at your area grocery or at Extra Virgin, An Olive Ovation in Ladue. And if you have leftovers after serving this dish, stop by the Sauce HQ and leave them for me. As with this cookbook, I’ll gladly have another helping.

 

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Kimberly Hasselbrink’s Roasted Cauliflower with Olives, Currants and Tahini Dressing
4 servings

1 large cauliflower (about 3 pounds), trimmed and cut into florets
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt
¼ cup tahini
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
2 Tbsp. water, plus more as needed
¼ cup currants
¼ cup coarsely chopped kalamata olives
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Toss the cauliflower florets with the olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt to taste. Arrange the cauliflower florets in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning once, until the edges are brown and caramelized.
• While the cauliflower roasts, make the dressing. Whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt until smooth and creamy. Add the water and whisk until combined. The sauce will be thick. Add more water to thin it slightly if you like. It will continue to thicken as it sits.
• Toss the warm cauliflower with most of the dressing. Add the currants, olives and parsley and toss to combine. Taste and add more dressing or salt, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

What’s the most creative way you prepare your winter produce? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Vibrant Food.

By the Book: Jeffrey Weiss’ Chorizo infierno

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

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Jeffrey Weiss’s Charcutería: The Soul of Spain, his hagiographic cookbook devoted to the art of curing meats, makes for heady reading. A full 30 pages are devoted to the science of charcuterie, including the freshman-chemistry precepts of pH, nitrates, salts fermentation and, yes, germ theory – or rather, sidestepping its dangers.

On a lazy Friday at the Sauce office, all of this (well, except basic food safety) is simply over my head. Plus, the thought of publisher Allyson Mace’s reaction after bumping her head against curing charcuterie hanging in the Sauce kitchen is too frightening to hazard.

So as a compromise, instead of true aged charcuterie, I made Weiss’ recipe for chorizo fresco. Then, I lit it on fire.

It’s tough to make homemade sausage in St. Louis without thinking of the city’s meatpacking heritage, largely by German and Eastern European immigrants. The vestiges of the meat-processing halcyon days can still be found here and there in Soulard, where tiny meat markets do business under the hanging fumes of beer brewed down the street at Anheuser-Busch. The tedium (and gross, gaseous noises) of sausage-making pulled me out somewhat of the idyllic charcuterie fantasy created by the cookbook’s photography. It is a lovely thing to behold, assuming your hands aren’t covered in ground pork. Weiss’ encapsulation of science and cultural trivia (along with a powerful forward written by Jose Andres) make this a captivating read.

Note well: Supplies for homemade sausage can be tricky to come by. After much searching, I borrowed a KitchenAid meat grinding attachment from Salume Beddu and purchased casings from Vincent’s 12th Street Market and the pork from Don’s Meat Market in Soulard.

 

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If using a pre-smoked cut of meat (I could only come up with smoked pork jowls), cut the salt in the recipe by at least a quarter, especially if you’re sensitive to it.

 

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When grinding the pork, place all of the sausage-making supplies – cubed meat, grinding components – in the freezer for at least and hour and half beforehand. This makes the grinding much easier.

 

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What makes this true chorizo instead of just sausage is the pimenton slurry, made with dry white wine, sweet and spicy paprika and oregano. Use good Hungarian or Spanish paprika for maximum flavor.

 

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Don’t forget to soak the sausage casings in water at least 30 minutes before stuffing them. Assuming you are using one long case, slide the meat downward as you go. You can separate it into links later on.

 

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The recipe’s greatest flaw is the logistics of cooking the sausage en flambé. Lacking a terracotta dish as instructed, I instead used a nonstick skillet and Georgia corn moonshine. Expect the flames to jump about 2 to 3 feet high, and for the ethanol to burn off far more quickly than the 6 to 8 minutes called for in the recipe. (Admittedly, the corn liquor may have been too high-proof, allowing the alcohol to burn away faster.) After singeing off a good bit of my arm hair, I just pan-fried the sausages in the skillet instead.

 

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Despite the deep vermilion of the chorizo slurry, it didn’t serve to color the meat as much as expected. While the taste was there, the flavor profile reminded me more of a well-made bratwurst – not that I’m complaining. A little heavy on the salt, a little light on the spice, the proportions on this recipe may need some slight recalibration, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.

 

Chorizo al Infierno
1 serving

1 chorizo fresco (recipe follows)
¼ cup (50 milliliters) orujo, aguardiente or other high-proof neutral liquor

• Warm a terra cotta or other flameproof dish over high heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until it is very hot. Using a metal skewer long enough to suspend the sausage over the terra cotta dish, impale the sausage. Remove the dish from the heat and place on a heatproof trivet.
• Place the skewered sausage over the dish and carefully pour the liquor into the dish. With a long match, set the liquor alight. Cook the sausage over the strong flame (watch your fingers, eyebrows, and other body parts) for 6 to 8 minutes, turning as needed, until the sausage is charred and cooked through. Serve hot.

Chorizo Fresco
3 to 4 loops or 6 to 8 links of sausage per 2.2 pounds

Per 2.2 lbs. (1 kg.) of the following blend of meats, cut into large cubes: 40 percent aguja (pork collar), 40 percent panceta (pork belly), and 20 percent papada (pork jowl)
¾ oz. (20 g.) whole cloves garlic, peeled and destemmed
1 oz. (25 g.) kosher salt
¼ cup (50 milliliters) dry white wine, such as a Verdejo, chilled
¼ cup (50 milliliters) water, chilled
⅓ oz. (10 g.) pimentón dulce
⅓ oz. (10 g.) pimentón picante
⅛ oz. (2 g.) dried oregano
3 Tbsp. (45 milliliter) extra virgin olive oil, for frying, divided

Optional:
2 feet (60 cm.) 1¼- to 1½-inch (32- to 36-mm.) hog casings, soaked, or more as needed
Caul fat, as needed

• Place the aguja, panceta, and papada meats and grinder parts in the freezer for 30 minutes to par-freeze before attempting to grind.
• Using a mortar and pestle, crush together the garlic and salt to form an ajosal. If desired, you can finish the ajosal in a food processor fitted with the “S” blade.
• In a mixing bowl, combine the meats and ajosal. Toss together and set aside as you set up the grinder.
• Fill a large bowl with ice, and place a smaller bowl inside the ice-filled bowl. Grind the meat mixture once through a medium-coarse (⅜-inch) die into the smaller bowl. Be careful: The meat mixture is wet, so it may squirt and pop out of the grinder.
• In a small mixing bowl, combine the wine, water, pimentones, and oregano, making a slurry. Keep the bowl containing the slurry chilled until ready to use.
• Place the ground meats in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or you can just mix in a mixing bowl with a sturdy spoon). Begin mixing on low speed. As the mixer runs, pour the wine slurry into the bowl in a steady stream.
• Continue mixing on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until the wine slurry has been fully incorporated into the mixture, a white residue forms on the sides of the bowl, and the mixture firms up. Place the bowl containing the ground meat mixture in the refrigerator to keep it cold until you are ready to stuff the sausage into casings.
• To make a prueba, in a small skillet over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the oil. Place a small piece of the meat mixture in the skillet and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.

To ferment the sausages:
• If stuffing: Stuff the mixture into the casings and tie into 12-inch (30-cm.) loops or 6-inch (15-cm.) links. Using a sterile pin or sausage pricker, prick each sausage several times. Place in the refrigerator to ferment overnight.
• If not stuffing: Form the mixture into 8-ounce (226-g.) patties. Wrap in plastic wrap or caul fat, if using. Place in the refrigerator to ferment overnight.

To cook the sausages:
• If stuffing: If you have stuffed the sausages into links or loops, warm the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and fry for 8 to 10 minutes, until they register an internal temperature of 150 degrees. You can also oven roast or grill the sausages at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until they reach the same internal temperature.
• If not stuffing: Warm the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and fry the sausage patties for 8 to 10 minutes, until they register an internal temperature of 150 degrees.
• Remove the sausages from the heat and serve.

Reprinted with permission from Surry Books.

What needlessly ambitious dish(es) have you attempted in the kitchen? Tell us how it turned out in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Charcutería.

By the Book: Diane Kochilas’ Stuffed Lenten Cookies

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

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As a Catholic kid who hated seafood, Lent was not a season I looked forward to. The 40 days of fasting and reflection to prepare for Easter is traditionally observed by abstaining from red meat and poultry on Fridays – not great news for the cod-averse. During these dinners, I subsisted mostly on plates of cold spaghetti in meat-free red sauce (which I also hated). Thankfully, my palate has since matured, now welcoming both tomatoes and seafood, and I enjoy Lenten fish fries along with thousands of other St. Louisans, regardless of religious identity.

Fortunately, my newfound love of fish has also segued to healthier dietary habits, something Diane Kochilas’ new cookbook, Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life, and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forgot to Die, has in spades. I’d never heard of Ikaria (located here) but Kochilas says much was made of this small Greek island a few years ago when a study revealed that, on average, its people were reaching age 90 almost twice as often as Americans. The reason for this robust longevity, Kochilas explains, was a relaxed, stress-free lifestyle and a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, seafood, legumes, potatoes and wine.

Kochilas loves Ikaria, its people and especially its cuisine. Her book is filled with simple, intensely flavorful dishes, each with a story and its purported health benefits. Simple onion pies, braised peppers, rice pilaf with clams and other dishes showcase a cuisine created from the abundance of humble but delicious ingredients on and surrounding the island. Ikarian desserts are simple sweet pleasures, usually involving fruit, nuts and honey. Since Lent began last Wednesday, Feb. 18, I chose to try my hand at Kochilas’ Stuffed Lenten Cookies, which are filled with ground nuts and spices and look suspiciously like empanadas at first glance.

 

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Sauce executive editor Ligaya Figueras often talks about her quest for the healthy cookie. This recipe can certainly give any contenders a run for their money. No butter or eggs; in fact, they are completely vegan. Instead, the dough calls for flour, two full cups of extra-virgin olive oil, orange juice, spices and just two-thirds cup of sugar. The filling is simple mixture of ground walnuts, orange zest and honey.

 

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While bringing the dough together was simple enough, I found the actual process of rolling out and cutting the cookies problematic. The dough, which had the consistency of very wet sand, crumbled as I rolled it out. I stopped frequently to pat it back together with my hands, only to watch it crumble again under my rolling pin. Perhaps there was too much flour, yet the olive oil stuck to the pin and my board with equal persistence.

 

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My solution: try again tomorrow. I treated the cookie dough like a pie crust, refrigerating it overnight to let it come together. It still fell apart somewhat, but the cookies were easier to cut and transfer to the cookie sheet. I struggled to fold the crumbly dough over the filling, but it was nothing a few quick pinches with my fingers couldn’t fix, and the final dusting of powdered sugar covered the imperfections.

 

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My efforts were well worth it. These flavorful bites had the texture of shortbread with the heady spice of gingerbread. The walnut filling offered a nutty sweetness, and my Sauce coworkers immediately offered ideas for other fillings I should try (fig preserves, dried apricots, even carrot jam). I’ll certainly have the chance; this recipe makes nearly three dozen big cookies, and I have another ball of dough waiting for me at home.

 

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Stuffed Lenten Cookies (Skaltouinia Nystisima)
Makes 25 to 30

Finikia Dough (Recipe follows)
2 cups ground walnuts
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ cup raisins (optional)
Grated peel of 1 orange
2 Tbsp. Ikarian pine or other honey
Powdered sugar or granulated sugar for garnish

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• Prepare the finikia dough and divide it into 3 balls.
• In a bowl, combine the walnuts, cinnamon, cloves, raisins (if using), orange peel and honey.
• Roll out a ball of dough to a round about 15 inches in diameter. Take a 3-inch glass or cookie cutter and cut rounds out of the dough. Place 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of each circle and fold over to form a half-moon. Wet the inside edges with a little water and press closed with your fingers or with the tines of a fork. Continue until the dough and filling are used up. Gather any excess dough and roll it out and fill it, to finish off the cookies.
• Bake until lightly golden, about 25 minutes. Removes the skaltsounia from the oven and cool slightly on a rack. Sift a generous amount of powdered sugar over them.

*Note: Instead of sprinkling powdered sugar on the cookies after baking, you can sprinkle them with a generous amount (about 2 teaspoons per cookie) of granulated sugar before baking.

Finikia Dough

6-8 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
2 cups Greek extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup sugar
Juice of 2 oranges, strained.
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Heaping ¼ tsp. ground cloves

• In a large bowl, sift together 6 cups of the flour, baking powder and baking soda.
• In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the olive oil and sugar until fluffy. Add the orange juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and beat to combine.
• Add 2 cups of the flour mixture to the batter and whisk to combine. Remove the whisk attachment. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, slowly add as much of the remaining flour as you can in ½-cup increments to form a smooth, soft, but dense dough, kneading as you add.

Reprinted with permission from Rodale Books

What’s the best healthy dessert recipe you’ve tried that still feels like an indulgence? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Diane Kochilas’ Ikaria.

 

 

By the Book: Clodagh McKenna’s Authentic Lasagna

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

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My mom is an amazing cook. She would say that’s she’s the best –modesty doesn’t exactly run in my bloodline when it comes to skills in the kitchen. Because she’s so good, I always want her recipes. I’ll ask her how to make a dish and she’ll give me her recipe: a confusing jumble of words that contains vague instructions, approximations of ingredients (“You could add cumin, if you feel like it, sometimes I like it sometimes I don’t.” What?!) and cook times and temperatures that actually don’t make sense. In short, if I wanted to learn how to make a dish of my mom’s, I’d have to watch her make it a few times and write down the recipe for myself. That’s how I felt when I cooked out of this latest book by Clodagh McKenna, Homemade: Irresistible Recipes for Every Occasion.

I had high hopes for this book. At first glance, the recipes seem to be right up my alley: Banana bread pudding, baked eggs, lasagna, potato gratin, all some of my favorite things. I decided to make her Authentic Lasagna. In the end I thought the recipe could have used a bit more editing. Like my mom, it felt like she just left some important details out of her recipe, which can be frustrating.

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Another pitfall: The béchamel sauce was too thick, and the writer adds a note saying to add more milk to thin it out if it is too thick. (That’s so my mom.) To me, that instruction indicates the recipe needed more milk, I would have preferred that she just gave a more accurate volume of milk in the first place. It’s not like baking, where humidity and other subtle factors can affect how much liquid your flour will absorb that day. This is a sauce. The amount of milk (3½ cups) to the amount of butter (6 tablespoons) and flour (¾ cup) was not right. I would have added an extra cup of milk.

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My biggest issue with this recipe was the lack of clear instruction on seasoning. In the recipe for the meat sauce, there’s no measurement of salt and pepper, and it just says to season the sauce during the meat-browning stage. There’s tons of great flavor in the sauce with the mirepoix, the meat and the wine, but it needed extra salt at every stage to bring all those flavors out. Also, there’s no salt or pepper in the béchamel at all, just a pinch of nutmeg, which leaves the sauce tasting floury.

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In the end, I was left with an OK lasagna that was underseasoned and carried a faint taste of flour. In other words, not cute. At least it’s a lasagna. Lasagna always gets eaten.

Authentic Lasagna
6 servings

2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ stick butter, plus a little extra for greasing
2 onions, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
½ celery stalk, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2¼ lbs. freshly ground beef
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1¾ cups red wine
1¼ pound canned chopped tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves, torn
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
12 fresh lasagna noodles

For the béchamel:
¾ stick butter
¾ cup all-purpose flour
3½ cups milk
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  • Place a flameproof Dutch oven over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter, followed by the onions, carrot, celery and garlic. Stir and cook for 5 minutes until softened.
  • Stir in the beef and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef has turned a light brown color. Pour in the red wine and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and fresh basil. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour, or more if you can. The longer you allow it to simmer, the more tender the meat becomes.
  • To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour, and cook for 2 minutes until it resembles a small piece of dough. Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring all the time. Turn down the heat and cook until the sauce starts to thicken (it should coat the back of a wooden spoon). Stir in the nutmeg. The béchamel sauce should be creamy in texture; if it becomes too thick, add more milk.
  • Preheat the oven to 350.
  • Grease a shallow baking dish. Pour a layer (about 1/2 inch deep) of meat sauce into the baking dish so that it covers the base. Follow with a thin layer of béchamel sauce and a grating of Parmesan cheese. Place a layer of lasagna noodles on top. Continue with two or three more layers. Finally, smear a layer of béchamel sauce on top of the last lasagna noodles followed by a final generous sprinkling of parmesan.
  • Bake in an oven for about 40 minutes until bubbling all over and a knife slips easily through the layers of lasagna

Reprinted with permission from Kyle Books

What recipe forces you to improvise – and improve – the original? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Homemade.

By the Book: Joumana Accad’s Falafel Loaf with Tarator Sauce

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

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Maybe it’s because I’m such a food grazer that I love a good meze. I salivate just imagining a smorgasbord of Middle Eastern bites like olives, yogurt-, vegetable- and legume-based dips with pita, salads such as fattoush or tabbouleh and finger foods like stuffed grape leaves and meat pies. Some years ago, I presented an assemblage of such fare to a Turkish dinner guest. He thanked me profusely, telling me how much it reminded him of home.

Although I have never visited Turkey or any Middle Eastern country, I do feel at home preparing and eating food from this part of the world. It’s food that I taught myself to make primarily via cookbooks, so it was fun to sift through Joumana Accad’s Taste of Beirut. Among the 150-plus recipes (and lots of color photos), are all the classics – from kibbe to kafta – along with a few contemporary innovations spun from traditional dishes. I chose to prepare an item from the latter camp: falafel loaf with tarator sauce.

Falafel is a mix of puréed chickpeas, eggs and seasonings usually rolled into balls and then deep-fried. Accad’s version called for baking the falafel mixture to make a vegetarian meatloaf of sorts, which piqued my health-inclined sensibilities.

 

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Lebanese cooking is not hard or involved. In this instance, you first make a garlic paste pounding the cloves with salt using a pestle and mortar. Next, open a couple cans of chickpeas (or cook your own to control the salt content), crack a few eggs, gather spices and purée in a food processor before transferring it to a loaf pan.

 

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While the loaf was baking, I made the tarator. It’s a tangy sauce that is akin to mayonnaise for the Lebanese. If you’ve never made this tahini, garlic and lemon juice sauce before, it’s one you’ll want to keep in your back pocket. It’s useful as a salad dressing or atop cooked vegetables.

 

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I baked the loaf 15 minutes longer (and covered with foil during this time) than the prescribed 35 minutes so it firmed. Once it was done, I let rest the pan a good 10 or 15 minutes before unmolding and slicing it. The falafel was moist and delicious, a light, healthy alternative to the fried variety. I may never board a plane to Lebanon, but I like to travel there often in my kitchen, and Accad is a fine travel guide.

 

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Falafel Loaf with Tarator Sauce
8 servings

2 15.5-oz. cans chickpeas
3 large eggs
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 large white onion, chopped
1 tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. paprika or Aleppo pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 cup Italian parsley
1 cup cilantro
1 Tbsp. garlic paste (recipe follows)
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup tarator sauce (recipe follows)

• Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
• Drain the chickpeas and transfer them to the bowl of a food processor. Add the eggs, breadcrumbs, onion, baking powder, cumin, coriander, paprika and salt, and process until mixture is doughy. Add the parsley, cilantro, garlic paste and olive oil, and process until the mixture is smooth and all the ingredients are well combined.
• Transfer to a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Bake 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the loaf comes out dry. Serve at room temperature with the tarator sauce.

Garlic Paste
Makes 1 tablespoon

6 garlic cloves
1 tsp. salt

• Peel and cut the garlic cloves lengthwise; toss out the clove if it contains a green shoot, which indicates that it is old. To peel the clove easily, knock it decisively with the handle of a knife.
• Chop the garlic fine and place in the mortar with the salt. Pound away for 2 or 3 minutes until the mixture is the consistency of a paste. Use in cooking right away or store in the freezer, wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in an airtight container. You can prepare several such small packages at one time.

Tarator Sauce
Makes 1 cup

1 tsp. garlic paste
½ cup tahini
¼ to ½ cup lemon juice, according to taste
¼ to 1/3 cup water

• Place the garlic in a bowl, add the tahini, and mix well. Add the lemon juice and water gradually, stirring until the sauce is the consistency of a creamy yogurt. Add more water slowly if needed. Taste and adjust the sauce as needed.

Variation: Add ½ cup chopped parsley to the tarator and mix well prior to serving. This herby tarator can be used to dress salads.

Reprinted with permission from Health Communications

What cookbook author takes you on a cultural adventure in your kitchen? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Taste of Beirut.

 

 

By the Book: Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway’s Whole-Wheat Banana Pancakes

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

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Reading Thug Kitchen, the cookbook inspired by the profanity-laced blog, is a chore. The authors became roiled in controversy when their weakly urbanized, off-key “thug” voice, which ends up sounding like an affluent white millennial’s, was revealed to be just that: 29-year-old Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway, as white and as Hollywood as they come.

Aside from their problematic co-opting of a persona that reads queasily like a bad caricature of African-American vernacular, the very concept of Thug Kitchen is a head-scratcher: What exactly are vegans Davis and Holloway going for here? If it’s a vegan ethos that swaps out green thumbs for potty-mouthed snark, why not convey it in less appropriative, less flippant terms, especially given our moment of sociocultural reflection?

I hope that at least Davis and Holloway would deliver ace recipes. To an extent, they measure up. Apropos of blustery February, I opted to make banana pancakes, easily the whitest breakfast food recipe in existence. Mercifully, the authors tone down the offensive language in the recipes proper, though are still prone to roundabout, tiring phrasing that distract from the recipe. If you can stop rolling your eyes, you’ll find these dishes quite tasty.

 

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Mashed banana makes a lovely emulsifier. You’ll find the batter can be whisked together faster than even regular flour-and-egg pancake mix. Add cinnamon or other baking spices as desired. Fair warning: the raw batter is safe to eat and quite addictive.

 

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Davis and Holloway may be ham-handed writers, but they offer workmanlike replacements for the usual ingredients. Here, almond milk adds a marvelous, subtle nuttiness to the pancakes, complementing the syrup, banana and wisp of coconut oil used to grease the pan. Leftover batter keeps in the fridge for at least a day or so.

 

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Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes
12 servings

2½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. brown or white sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 cups nondairy milk (like almond)
1 small banana, mashed (should be around 1/3 cup)
Grapeseed oil or coconut oil for cooking the pancakes

• In a big bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Make a crater in the middle and add the milk and mashed up banana. Mix that all together until there are no more dry spots, but don’t go crazy. Mixing it too much will make your pancakes tough, so just chill the fuck out sir mix-a-lot.
• Now, you probably know what to do once the batter is done, but in case this is your first time at the griddle, keep reading. Grab a skillet or griddle and heat it over medium heat. Lightly grease the pan with some oil and pour some pancake batter onto the griddle for each pancake you want. Cook the first side for about 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on top. The bubbles mean your pancake has cooked through. Flip and continue cooking the other side for 1 to 2 minutes or until the pancake looks golden brown.

Reprinted with permission from Rodale Books

What’s your secret ingredient to elevate your breakfast food from ho-hum to heavenly? Tell us in the comments for a chance to win a copy of Thug Kitchen.

Editorial interns Rima Parikh and Victoria Sgarro contributed research and reporting to this post.

 

 

By the Book: Alice Medrich’s Ricotta Cheesecake with Chestnut Crust

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

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Alice Medrich’s new book Flavor Flours poses an intriguing question: What if wheat flour didn’t exist? Though I’ve used almond flour for baking (and engaged in a brief foray with spelt), I haven’t delved deeply into non-wheat flours before. Still, I’ve had success with Medrich’s recipes in the past, and so I thought if anyone could walk me through the technicalities of coconut flour, rice flours and others, she could.

The book is divided into eight chapters discussing everything from oat flour to buckwheat and teff. I selected a stunning-looking ricotta cheesecake with a chestnut-flour crust. Of course, on the next page (after the beautiful photos) was this note: Patience Required. “I’ve never made a cheesecake that did not improve with at least a full 24 hours, if not 48 hours, of mellowing in the fridge before serving,” Medrich writes. This supposes the baker to possesses enough will power to not touch a cheesecake staring her in the face every time she opens the refrigerator. Patience should be called for up front, along with the springform cake pan, food processor and other special equipment.

 

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Tracking down the ingredients proved more difficult than the recipe itself. After several phone calls, my coworker wisely suggested trying DiGregorio’s Market on The Hill. After all, chestnut flour is often used in Italian desserts, she reminded me. Rice flour was an easier find; a bag of Bob’s Red Mill was quickly located at my neighborhood supermarket.

The dough for the crust comes together in a snap, though it looks much wetter than a typical tart dough. Molding it to the pan takes some work (sort of like spreading cold peanut butter), but keep at it and use a piece of plastic wrap and a water glass as Medrich suggests to get an even thickness.

 

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My patience was first tested during the parbake. My kitchen smelled like the fire-roasted chestnuts heralded in The Christmas Song, and I had to remember I was not allowed to eat the crust prior to pouring the thick, lemon-flecked ricotta filling. Back into the oven again, and then, against my better judgement, not into my mouth but into the refrigerator.

The final product was worth every agonizing minute. The buttery crust, nearly chocolate brown after two rounds in the oven, was deeply nutty and contrasted beautifully with the rich, savory ricotta studded with slivered almonds and pine nuts. Medrich’s brilliance came through for me once again, though I must confess: We only waited 24 hours, not her prescribed 48, before slicing. Everyone has their limits, after all.

 

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Alice Medrich’s Ricotta Cheesecake with Chestnut Crust
12 servings

For the crust:
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (115 g.) chestnut flour*
¼ cup (40 g.) white rice flour or 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. (40 g.) Thai white rice flour
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. (75 g.) sugar
Scant ½ tsp. salt
9 Tbsp. (130 g.) unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into chunks
3 Tbsp. (45 g.) cream cheese
1 egg yolk mixed with a pinch of salt and ½ tsp. water, for the egg wash

For the filling:
3 cups (665 g.) whole-milk ricotta cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup (150 g.) sugar
1 Tbsp. white rice flour
1½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. chopped candied orange or lemon peel or golden raisins
2 Tbsp. slivered almonds, toasted
¼ cup (30 g.) pine nuts, toasted

Equipment:
Food processor fitted with the steel blade (optional)
9-by-3-inch springform pan or cheesecake pan with removable bottom
Baking sheet
Handheld mixer

• To make the crust by hand, put the chestnut flour, rice flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and whisk until thoroughly blended. Add the butter chunks and cream cheese. Use a fork or the back of a large spoon to mash and mix the ingredients together until all are blended into a smooth, soft dough.
• To make the crust in a food processor, put the chestnut flour, rice flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor. Pulse to blend. Add the butter chunks and cream cheese. Pulse until the mixture forms a smooth, soft dough. Scrape the bowl and blend in any stray flour at the bottom of the bowl with your fingers.
• The dough may seem much softer than other tart doughs. Use the heel of your hand and then your fingers and/or a small offset spatula to spread the dough all over the bottom of the pan. Press it squarely into the corners of the pan with the side of your index finger to prevent extra thickness at the bottom edges, and press it as evenly as possible about halfway up the sides of the pan. Have patience; there is just enough dough (although you may not think so at first). If there is too much dough in one place (or hiding in the corners of the pan), pinch or scrape it off and move it elsewhere. Spread or smear it smooth with the spatula. Here’s a final trick for a perfectly even crust: Press a sheet of plastic wrap against the bottom and up the sides of the pan and lay a paper towel on top. Set a straight-sided flat-bottomed cup on the towel; press and slide the cup all over the bottom and around the sides to smooth and even the surface. Leave the plastic wrap in place. Refrigerate the pan for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight and up to 3 days.
• Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
• Peel off the plastic wrap and place the pan on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, checking after 15 to 20 minutes. If the crust has puffed up on the bottom, press it back down carefully with the back of a fork. Continue baking until the crust is golden brown with darker edges. Remove the pan from the oven but leave the oven on. Brush the bottom and sides of the crust carefully with a thin coating of the egg wash. Return the pan to the oven for 2 minutes to set the egg wash. Set the pan on a rack to cool for at least 20 minutes or until you are ready to finish the cake. The crust can be wrapped and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days.
• Set the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
• To make the filling, beat the ricotta with the sugar, rice flour, and vanilla with the handheld mixer just until well blended. Beat in the eggs one by one, just until blended. Mix in the candied orange peel or raisins, the almonds, and pine nuts. Scrape the batter into the crust. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 (degree symbol) F and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted about 2 inches form the edge of the pan comes out clean. The center should still be jiggly. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack before unmolding. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours (48 hours is even better) before serving. Leftovers keep, covered and refrigerated, for another few days.

*Chestnut flour is available at DiGregorio’s Market.

Reprinted with permission from Artisan Publishing

What’s your favorite non-wheat flour to work with and why? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Flavor Flours.

 

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