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  SAUCE MAGAZINE
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Apr 20, 2014
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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: Lisa Fain’s Sopa de Lima

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

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I was curious about Lisa Fain’s second cookbook The Homesick Texan’s Family Table: Lone Star Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours because the same week it landed on Sauce’s bookshelf, Fain’s blog Homesick Texan was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award for individual food blog. Fain’s blog is reminiscent of Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen: recipes and anecdotes written by a likeable-sounding lady who lives in New York City, cooks in a small kitchen and takes impressive pictures of her creations.

But mostly I chose Fain’s new cookbook because I’m moving to Texas in about a month, and while I’m sure the Lone Star state is just great, I need a little persuasion regarding the move. Reading about the state from someone who makes a living out of her homesickness for the place seemed like a good start in the pro-Texas propaganda department.

The 125-recipe book is organized by breakfast and breads, starters and snacks, salads and sides, and so on and so forth. Between the sections are full-spread, beautiful scenic photographs of an almost mythical version of Texas: fields of bluebonnets, never-ending blue skies, grassy plains and so many cows. The recipes are all supposed to be Texas comfort food – the type of food a Texan grows up eating at a big family potluck.

Since April has decided to truly become the cruelest month with this week’s freezing temperatures, instead of fun outdoor barbecue fair, I flipped to the chilis, soups and stews section. I decided on this Mexican lime soup because in Fain’s introduction to the recipe, she writes that her friend from San Antonio (where I’m headed) grew up eating this dish.

 

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I was also attracted to the soup because it looked easy and featured tons of fun spices and my favorite green ingredients: avocados, limes and cilantro.

 

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I was slightly intimidated making the tortilla strips because I create a huge mess whenever I fry anything, but these turned out to be simple and fairly mess-free. I was too hungry to roast a chicken and then pull it, so I cooked some chicken breasts in my Dutch oven with a little water and olive oil, and they turned out great. If you’re feeling extra pressed for time, just buy a roasted bird at the store, but get an unseasoned one so as to not mess with the other flavors … and Texas.

 

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In total, this took less than 20 minutes, including cooking the chicken. The resulting soup was bright, refreshing and simply divine. In cold April weather, it’s actually the perfect dish. While the soup is still warm and comforting, it’s not a heavy stew that you’re probably bored with after our epic winter. In short, while I’m not yet sold on Texas, I’m certainly sold on this soup.

 

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Sopa de Lima (Mexican Lime Soup)

Oil, for frying
6 corn tortillas, preferably stale
1 yellow onion, quartered
10 gloves garlic
8 cups chicken broth
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. ground allspice
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp. lime zest
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup fresh lime juice

Garnishes
½ cup (2 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and diced
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and cubed
1 lime, cut into slices

• Heat ½ cup of the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 350 degrees.
• Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
• Slice the tortillas into strips ¼ inch thick. Add the tortilla strips to the hot oil and cook until crisp, about 1 minute. Drain on the paper towels.
• Place the quartered onion and garlic under the broiler. Cook until blackened, about 10 minutes, turning once.
• Combine the onion and garlic in a blender or food processor along with 1 cup of the broth. Purée until smooth, then pour into a large pot.
• Add the remaining 7 cups of chicken broth to the pot, and stir in the oregano, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, cilantro and lime zest.
• Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and cook for 5 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the seasonings, then stir in the lime juice.
• Garnish each bowl with tortilla chips, Monterey Jack, jalapenos, cilantro, avocado and lime slices.

Reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press.

What’s your favorite dish that one of your family members is the only one who can make just right? Tell us about it in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of The Homesick Texan’s Family Table.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Dan, whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won a copy of Down South: Bourbon, Pork & Gulf Shrimp and Second Helpings of Everything. Dan, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

 

By the Book: Donald Link’s Spaghetti with Pork Jowls and Fried Eggs

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

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When it comes to understanding life below the Mason-Dixon Line, you’ll always arrive at one certainty: the American South, by way of both creativity and necessity, is endlessly inventive with its food. In Down South: Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything, Louisiana chef Donald Link takes this to heart and riffs on a long lineup of de rigueur favorites using the classic, sometimes exotic ingredients relied on by generations of Dixie cooks.

 

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With that in mind, I whipped up Link’s Spaghetti with Pork Jowls and Fried Eggs for two reasons. First, it spotlights several easy but essential Southern staples – hog jowls, buttermilk, cream – which give it a characteristic richness. The recipe also neatly packages Link’s vision of Southern culinary tradition: unexpected reimaginings of familiar fare using the ingredients of his youth, some of which your average Yankee wouldn’t dirty their kid gloves with. The mingling of comfort food with Continental standards like spaghetti and panko is delightful.

Oh, and the bonus? With a little shopping finesse, you can make it out of the grocery store for under $20 and be ready to start cooking.

 

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Start by poaching the eggs, a delicate process that can prove tricky. Try using a probe thermometer on the water first (shoot for around 190 degrees) before gently introducing the eggs with a shallow ramekin.

When it comes to frying the poached eggs, not everyone owns a deep fryer – myself included. Just use a few inches of oil in a deep cast iron skillet. And be careful once it heats up! I barely had time to flour and dip a poached egg in the wash before its predecessor had finished frying.

 

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The rest of the prep work is straightforward. Simply chop your garlic, your hog jowls and the parsley and set them aside. Most of the flavor fine-tuning will come at the end. Pork jowls fry just like bacon – toss them in the skillet and give them a few minutes to crisp up. The rendered grease gives the sauce its rich, full flavor.
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The chicken stock should salt the dish almost perfectly, but use a liberal hand with the lemon juice and red pepper flakes to give that already robust sauce a little more zing. I found it helpful to season each serving to taste.

It’s a good idea to have a partner in crime on this one to help with the deep frying, making this a perfect dish for date night at home or for entertaining a few friends.

 

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Donald Link’s Spaghetti with Pork Jowls and Fried Eggs
4 servings

4 large eggs
½ cup distilled white vinegar
8 oz. dried spaghetti
Vegetable or peanut oil, for frying
½ cup pork jowls, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup chicken broth
1½ cups heavy cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. thinly sliced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. red pepper flakes

• Fill a wide 2-quart saucepan with about 4 inches of water. Add the vinegar and bring the water to just below simmering. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Crack each egg into a small cup and slip it into the hot water; cook until the whites are just set, about 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the eggs to the ice water. Transfer the cooled eggs to a shallow dish lined with paper towels (or a dish towel) and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, until al dente but not mushy; drain the noodles in a colander.
• Meanwhile, heat 4 inches of oil in a medium pot to 350 degrees.
• In a large skillet (separate from your frying pot), cook the pork jowls over medium-high heat, turning as needed until their fat has rendered and they are just starting to crisp, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the chicken broth and heavy cream and simmer to reduce until the sauce is thick enough to coat the noodles, 5 to 6 minutes.
• Put the flour, buttermilk and panko in separate wide, shallow bowls. Dredge the eggs in flour. Gently shake off the excess and dip in the buttermilk and then coat in the breadcrumbs.
• Deep-fry the eggs until nicely browned but still soft in the middle. Transfer to a paper towel, season with salt and pepper, and reserve.
• Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Finish with the parsley, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss until combined and heated through. Divide the pasta among serving plates, sprinkle with a pinch of red pepper flakes, and top each with a fried egg.

Reprinted with permission from Clarkson Potter

What’s the best-kept secret ingredient in a regional cuisine that’s worth keeping on hand in the kitchen? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Down South. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Sue, whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won a copy of The B.T.C Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook. Sue, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

By the Book: Dixie Grimes’ Roasted Pear and Zucchini Soup

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

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“Little House on the Prairie” was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid. Even though I always rooted for little Laura Ingalls to best her nemesis, richy-poo Nellie Olsen, I had a soft spot for Nellie’s dad. Poor Mr. Olsen! Despite marrying a pushy wife who spoiled their daughter rotten, he was just a nice guy trying to run a general mercantile in a tiny town. God, how I love general mercantiles in tiny towns! That’s why I snatched The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook as soon as it arrived at the Sauce HQ.

Released just two weeks ago, The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook tells the feel-good story of how a small Mississippi grocery store/cafe has played a part in the revival of a small community since opening in 2010. B.T.C. owner and now author Alexe Van Beuren shares the ups and downs of operating her store and eatery, including the lucky hiring of B.T.C. chef Dixie Grimes, whose 120 down-home recipes and the story behind each span the pages of this fun cookbook.

I chose to prepare Roasted Pear and Zucchini Soup. According to Van Beuren, it is B.T.C.’s most celebrated soup “mostly because it’s the most esoteric and was featured in the New York Times. It’s also really, really good.”

 

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Most of the active time for this easy recipe will be spent peeling and slicing pears. The recipe calls for Bosc pears, but Van Beuren never explains why. If you don’t have Bosc, Anjou should be fine.

 

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Once the pears have roasted in the oven, they go in the stockpot with an onion, shallots, garlic and lots and lots of zucchini.

 

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While the ingredient list for this soup is long, don’t let that stop you. A good half of the ingredients are kitchen staples, mainly spices. If you keep a well-stocked kitchen, all you’ll really need to purchase is the produce: pears, zucchini and spinach.

After the ingredients marry after an hour in the stockpot, the soup is puréed, then cream is added. The recipe calls for a stick of butter at the finish, but honestly, it didn’t need a thing at that point – except a few slices of chunky, hearty bread on the side. The dish is tasty, and I especially enjoyed the licorice undertones imparted by Pernod (a brand of absinthe) and ground anise. It was the perfect choice for a soup in early spring.

 

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Dixie Grimes’ Roasted Pear and Zucchini Soup
6 to 8 servings

8 ripe yet firm Bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut in 1-inch slices
6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
6 to 7 medium zucchini, diced (8 cups)
2 Tbsp. Pernod
8 cups chicken stock, homemade or store-bought, or vegetable stock
2 cups apple juice
1 Tbsp. honey
2 cups fresh spinach
¼ cup pear or apple butter
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. ground anise or ground fennel
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. granulated onion
½ tsp. dry mustard
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. white pepper
4 cups heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
• Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Toss the pears in 4 tablespoons of the oil and spread them out flat on the baking sheet. Roast until caramelized, about 20 minutes. Set aside to let cool.
• In an 8-quart stockpot set over medium heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the pears, onions and shallots and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the zucchini and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the Pernod and stir, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock and apple juice and bring to a simmer. Add the honey, spinach, pear butter, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, anise, granulated garlic, granulated onion, mustard, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and white pepper. Simmer for 1 hour.
• Remove the pan from the heat, and using an immersion blender or working in batches with a regular blender, purée until smooth. Add the cream and bring the soup back to a low simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the cold butter.
• Serve hot. The soup can be store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 7 days.

Thanks to Planter’s House for supplying the absinthe used in this recipe.

Reprinted with permission from Running Press

What is the most esoteric soup you’ve ever eaten? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Steve, whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won a copy of Come In, We’re Closed. Steve, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

 

By the Book: Christine Carroll and Jody Eddy’s Skillet-Glazed King Trumpet Mushrooms

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

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I’ve wanted to get my hands on Come In, We’re Closed: An Invitation to the Staff Meals at the World’s Best Restaurants for a while. Books like Edible Selby, I Love New York and Come In, We’re Closed are my favorite kind of cookbook: a compilation of recipes for a foodie reader. Like a greatest hits album from Beyoncé, it is perfect for me – a book of greatest staff meal hits from rockstar chefs.

 

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Restaurants like Arzak in San Sebastián, Spain, wd~50 in New York City and The Slanted Door in San Francisco are just a few notable restaurants with featured dishes. The meals range from simple recipes to ones that call for ingredients that clearly had to be used up that day (smoked sturgeon, anyone?) to recipes that call for kitchen prep byproducts they won’t sell customers, like mushroom stems. Would I make a lot of these recipes? Probably not anytime soon. But I love reading about the culture at restaurants and the Q&As with the people that run these famous kitchens.

 

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I decided to make Skillet-Glazed King Trumpet Mushrooms, which came from chef de cuisine David Cruz at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc. It’s a simple but delicious side dish.  Cruz says this staff meal dish usually uses mushrooms unfit for the customer’s plate, calling it an “ugly mushroom makeover,” though something tells me  there isn’t one ugly dish that comes out of a Keller kitchen – even if it’s for a staff meal.

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Skillet-Glazed King Trumpet Mushrooms
6 Servings

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1½ lbs. king trumpet mushrooms, left whole (I substituted shiitake.)
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 sprig thyme
½ cup chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until just shy of smoking. Add the mushrooms and saute until lightly brown on all sides, about 6 minutes.
• Add the shallot, butter and thyme and saute until the shallot is slightly golden, about 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and cook to reduce the liquid down to almost nothing, about 3 minutes. Begin to swirl the pan to coat the mushrooms with a shiny glaze. Season with salt and pepper.
• Remove the pan from the heat, pluck out the thyme and serve the mushrooms immediately.

What restaurant’s staff meal would you most want to try? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Come In, We’re Closed. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Joel P., whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won a copy of Secrets of the Best Chefs. Joel, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

 

 

 

By the Book: Adam Roberts’ Lentil Soup with Sausage, Chard and Garlic

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

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Though this lentil soup recipe is attributed to Adam Roberts, he’d be the first to give credit where it’s due. You see, this hearty soup actually came from Gina DePalma, pastry chef at the acclaimed Babbo in New York and Italian cookbook author. The recipe is one of dozens Roberts collected from some of the country’s greatest chefs – from Alice Waters to Jonathan Waxman to Roy Choi – along with their wit and wisdom cultivated from decades in the kitchen.

Roberts’ book Secrets of the Best Chefs: Recipes, Techniques and Tricks is a sort of greatest hits compilation from a year spent traveling to chefs’ homes and professional kitchens. Roberts, a lawyer by training and blogger by trade, succeeds in getting each chef to share recipes, the stories behind the dishes and even tips and tricks of the trade: “Good mushrooms are like jewelry and should be treated as such,” or “When separating eggs, don’t obsess about getting every bit of white off … Leave the snot on.”

 

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I’ve had a bag of lentils languishing in my pantry for weeks. The legumes were destined for yet another pot of winter stew that I just couldn’t bear the thought of making again. But when temps dropped back down to the 20s Sunday, I took comfort in a bowl of DePalma’s lentil soup.

 

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The recipe itself is fairly simple: one pound-ish of sausage, garlic, a can of crushed tomatoes, a generous few handfuls of lentils and some aromatic vegetables to bring it all together. And olive oil – lots of it. The recipe calls for a half cup, plus more for drizzling. Add that to all the fat rendered from the pork sausage (none of it drained, mind you) and this thick tomato soup, billed as “nourishing and healing” was not quite as healthful as I anticipated.

As Roberts repeatedly points out, the best cooks go with their gut. So I improvised a bit, adding just two tablespoons or so of oil to the bottom of the pot and proceeded to brown the sausage. Once it was nicely browned, I poured off a quarter cup of the rendered fat and oil and reserved it to finish the dish. The end result had plenty of delicious meaty flavor without bogging me down.

 

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Roberts suggested using salciccia or another spicy Italian sausage for this dish, and I agree. There isn’t much seasoning in the actual recipe (salt, pepper, bay leaves, optional red pepper flakes), so the flavor-packed sausage added a good kick of fennel seed and oregano. Stirring in the sauteed garlic and infused oil at the end balances that thick, acidic tomato sauce.

A note: this makes a lot of soup, nearly six pints of the stuff. I was quite full after just one bowl plus a wedge of foccacia, and now I have a several pints in my freezer waiting to be thawed – just in case winter has one more trick up her sleeve.

 

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Lentil Soup with Sausage, Chard, and Garlic
6 Servings

½ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling, divided
4 large links of sweet Italian sausage*, removed from the casing
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks, cut into crescents
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into crescents
4 cloves garlic, sliced (reserve half for later in the recipe)
Kosher salt to taste
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup brown lentils, sorted
2 bay leaves
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
6 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 to 4 cups shredded red Swiss chard leaves or kale
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese

• Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pot) in a large pot on medium heat and, when it’s hot, add the sausage. Break up the sausage with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes.
• Add the onion, celery, carrots, the first two garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and, if you like your soup spicy, a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir, then add the lentils, bay leaves, tomatoes, water, and salt and black pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. (It may be necessary to add more water if the soup gets too thick.)
• When the lentils are cooked, add the Swiss chard and cook until the leaves are tender, just a few minutes more. Discard the bay leaves.
• To finish (and don’t skip this step!), add the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil to a small pan along with the remaining garlic; cook on medium heat just until the garlic turns soft (1 to 2 minutes) and then stir that, oil and all, into the soup. Drizzle the soup with more fresh olive oil and Pecorino Romano cheese and pass more cheese at the table. Serve the soup hot. Leftovers will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

* You can also make this with an equal amount of pancetta or use hot Italian sausage, if you like a hint of spice.

Reprinted with permission from Artisan Publishing

What’s your cooking secret, the little tip or trick you’ve learned that makes your dishes so much better? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Secrets of the Best Chefs. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Kathryn P., whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won a copy of One Good Dish. Kathyrn, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

By the Book: David Tanis’ Swiss Chard al Forno

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

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David Tanis describes his latest cookbook best when he writes, “If it sounds like all these recipes are relatively easy to prepare, they are. And if it seems like the menu is all over the map, it is. The only real requirement for a recipe’s inclusion here – wherever it comes from – is for it to be tasty, simple and real.”

As I paged through Tanis’ One Good Dish, I couldn’t agree with his words more. Not all of the dishes are what you would think of as a dish – like salted almonds with rosemary or cucumber spears with dill. There isn’t an obvious organizational scheme besides by ingredient, and even that theme is loose. Yet Tanis’ structure, or lack thereof, is purposeful; as he also mentions in his introduction, he doesn’t believe certain foods should have to be eaten at specific times of day. And he doesn’t think a meal must be made of a main, side, salad, etc. … Maybe you want anchovy-garlic spread for breakfast, and maybe you crave pickled ginger coupled with boiled peanuts for dinner. If this is the case, this is your book.

 

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The reason I chose to make Tanis’ Swiss Chard al Forno is because he likened the dish to a lasagna without the pasta – I was intrigued.

 

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I almost hated to chop up the two pounds of Swiss chard, it looked so beautiful and fresh.

 

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The recipe called to boil the stems of the chard for five minutes before adding it to the dish, which was a great tip. Sometimes baked vegetables, particularly greens, turn into a soggy mess, but the stems and the greens in the finished dish were not at all limp.

 

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As Tanis explains, this dish, along with most of his recipes, is fairly simple. However, there were certain add-ons that made it stand out, such as the touch of nutmeg that was swirled into the béchamel.

 

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I only used two cups of milk in the béchamel and it still seemed too runny. The recipe advises adding the milk in one-quarter cup at a time, but I would recommend adding it even slower or not using as much.

In the end, this recipe really was just buttery, cheesy greens – not pasta-less lasagna. And the consistency of the dish was a bit too soupy. I would either keep it in the oven longer or use less milk in the béchamel. Still, the finished product looked and tasted delicious, and the nutmeg turned out to be a great addition. Even though I only used a pinch, I immediately was able to taste in my first bite. While I wouldn’t recommend this dish as a meal, it would make for a great side dish to bring to a potluck.

 

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David Tanis’ Swiss Chard al Forno
6 Servings

For the béchamel:
4 Tbsp. butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 to 3 cups milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Grated nutmeg

2 lbs. Swiss chard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp. butter, divided
¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano  cheese

• To make the béchamel, melt the 4 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and let cook for 1 minute.
• Add 2 cups milk, ¼ cup at a time, whisking constantly as the sauce thickens. Thin with more milk if necessary. Season generously with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
• Turn the heat to low and cook, whisking, for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep the sauce warm in a double boiler.
• Meanwhile, cut the stems from the chard. Trim them and cut into batons, about ½ inch thick by 3 inches. Rinse well and set aside.
• Stack the chard leaves about 6 at a time, roll them up like a cigar, and cut into 1-inch-wide strips. Wash twice in cold water and drain.
• Bring 8 cups of well-salted water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the chard stem batons and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and let cool.
• Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and let sizzle without browning, then add the chopped chard leaves. Season with salt and pepper and stir-fry until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander. When the chard is cool, squeeze to remove excess liquid.
• Heat the oven 400 degrees. Use 1 tablespoon of the butter to grease a 2-quart gratin dish or shallow baking dish. Add the chard leaves in an even layer. Arrange the cooked stems over the top. Spoon the béchamel over the entire dish. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.
• Bake until golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes.

Reprinted with permission from Artisan.

Sashimi for breakfast? Ice cream sundae for lunch? What one good dish have you eaten at an odd time of day? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of One Good Dish. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Chris T., whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won a copy of Vegetable Literacy. Chris, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

 

 

 

By the Book: Deborah Madison’s Chard, Ricotta and Saffron Cakes

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

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Deborah Madison is one of my cookbook goddesses. When I began reading her books years ago – first The Greens Cookbook and later The Savory Way – I fell in love with her thoughts on veggie, not even realizing she was a culinary figure of national import. I was drawn toward the simplicity yet utter perfection of her recipes. And Madison’s newest (and 11th cookbook), Vegetable Literacy follows in this vein with 300 mainly meat-less recipes.

In Vegetable Literacy, Madison explores how vegetables within the same plant family can be used interchangeably in cooking. The 12 chapters include a discussion of vegetable, flower and herb relatives from such families as carrots, nightshades, cucurbits (squashes, melon and gourds) and grasses. It’s a different way of looking at edible plants, but a helpful resource for any cook, especially one who tends a vegetable plot and seeks to use that bounty to prepare tasty dishes.

Yellow Post-It notes currently mark some two dozen recipes in this cookbook that I want to try, like roasted parsnips with horseradish cream; shredded radicchio with walnut vinaigrette, hard-cooked eggs and toasted bread crumbs; and salsify, Jerusalem artichoke and burdock soup with truffle salt. But for this column, I had to choose one. Since I was cooking on a Sunday morning, brunch was on my mind, which made chard, ricotta and saffron cakes an easy choice.

 

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Madison noted in the introduction to the recipe that spinach could be substituted for the chard. I took that route because it was easier (and less expensive) to buy 12 cups worth of spinach than chard. I saved the trimmed leaves and plan to use them in another cooking project, perhaps in meatloaf or maybe just in my next vegetable stock. And, after letting the spinach drain, I saved that flavorful, deep-green veggie water for cooking, too.

 

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The recipe calls for a couple pinches of saffron thread, which, after soaking in boiling water, are added to the batter. Saffron is king among spices, and if you don’t stock it in your pantry, it will be the most expensive ingredient you purchase for this dish. Is it worth it? While saffron is warm, fragrant and intensely flavorful, those elements didn’t shine in these finished cakes. Tumeric is a spice that some home cooks resort to as a saffron substitute, especially to achieve a golden color, but really, I wouldn’t bother with either in this instance.

 

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The batter is dropped by the spoonful in a hot skillet. Madison points out that you can make the cakes as small or large as you desire. Make both; there’s enough batter to cook tiny ones suitable for snacking, medium-sized ones for brunch or lunch, and larger sized ones that can be a main dish for dinner rounded out with salad or soup.

 

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The spinach did shine in this dish, but there are some minor changes I would make: add a couple of three-finger pinches of sea salt, another quarter-cup of grated Parmesan, a few grinds of peppercorn. But that’s simply seasoning to taste, and I think Madison would be more than pleased if you took license to experiment in the kitchen.

 

Chard, Ricotta and Saffron Cakes
12 servings

10 to 12 cups trimmed chard leaves
2 pinches saffron threads
1 cup white, whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. sea salt
1½ tsp. baking powder
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup or more grated Parmesan cheese
¾ cup milk
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. olive oil or ghee, plus extra for frying
Thick yogurt or sour cream, to finish
Micro greens or slivered basil leaves, to finish

• Wash the chard, drain and put in a pot with the water clinging to the leaves. Cover and cook over high heat until wilted. You want the chard to be tender but not overcooked, so keep an eye on it and taste it frequently. Add a few splashes of water if the pot threatens to dry out. When the chard is done, put it in a colander to cool and drain.
• Cover the saffron threads with 2 tablespoons boiling water and set aside.
• Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. In a second, larger bowl, mix together the ricotta, Parmesan, milk and eggs until blended. Add the oil and the saffron, then whisk in the flour mixture. Returning to the chard, squeeze out as much water as possible, then chop it finely and stir it into the batter.
• Heat a few tablespoons olive oil or ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Drop the batter by the spoonful into the hot pan, making small or larger cakes as you wish. The batter is quite thick, and it will not behave like a pancake. You need to give it plenty of time in the pan to cook through. Cook until golden on the bottom, then turn the cakes once, resisting the urge to pat them down, and cook until the second side is also well colored, maybe 3 minutes per side, or longer.
• Serve each cake with a tiny spoonful of sour cream and a finish of diced beets and beet thinnings.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

Who is your cookbook god or goddess and why? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Vegetable Literacy. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Madeleine, whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won a copy of Le Petit Paris: French Finger Food. Madeleine, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

 

 

By the Book: Nathalie Benezet’s Melting Chocolate Cakes

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

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Nathalie Benezet’s Le Petit Paris: French Finger Food takes a bite-sized look at French cuisine. Teacup-sized bowls of onion soup, beef tartare on tiny toasts and foie gras burgers far too dainty to be called sliders grace the pages of this cookbook. I opted to try her mini Melting Chocolate Cakes, small but sophisticated chocolate loaves that make cupcakes look uncouth. Besides, any recipe that calls for equal parts butter, chocolate and sugar is A-OK with me.

 

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After melting and mixing butter, sugar and chocolate the recipe called for four eggs. Now ordinary eggs would have done the job, but this recipe required something special – the last four eggs from executive editor Ligaya Figueras’ chickens Perrault and Cacciatore, who were slain by an opossum this weekend. RIP Perrault and Cacciatore – we made these gooey chocolate cakes in your honor.

 

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This dessert is all but gluten-free, with one teaspoon of flour among all 12 cakes. While I’m no expert on wheat-less baking, it seems that a simple substitution of almond flour might allow these desserts to be enjoyed by a gluten-free friend.

Then you sit. And wait. And wait. The longest moment of my Monday was the 30 minutes spent breathing in that heavenly chocolate scent as the cakes cooled. I’ll admit, my mini cakes didn’t sink the way I wanted. Their centers were resolutely firm, but the middles sagged slightly as if they pitied me for failing the “melting” part of Nathalie’s Melting Chocolate Cakes.

Regardless, these treats were moist and decadently fudgy. They toed the line between traditional desserts, too gooey to be simply cake and too delicate to be brownie. Their texture and taste is distinctly buttery, but the single-serving trays make it easier to eat just one.

Just kidding. It’s still difficult to eat just one.

 

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Nathalie’s Melting Chocolate Cake
Makes 12 mini loaves

200 g. (7 oz./scant ¾ cup) butter, cubed
200 g. (7 oz./scant ¾ cup) dark (bittersweet) chocolate, (at least 70 percent), broken into pieces
200 g. (7 oz./scant ¾ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. flour

• Preheat the oven 350 degrees.
• Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate has melted.
• Transfer to a large mixing bowl with the sugar, stir with a wooden spoon and leave to cool a little.
• Add the eggs to the chocolate mixture, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Finally, stir in the flour and mix well.
• Pour the cake batter into 12 mini loaf cases and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the centers are set but still a little wobbly.
• Turn the oven off but leave the cakes inside for another 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
• You can store these covered in the fridge for up to 2 to 3 days. Take out 30 minutes before serving.

Reprinted with permission from Hardie Grant Books

What’s your favorite one-bite sweet or savory treat? Tell us about it in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Le Petit Paris. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Kalila, whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won a copy of Seriously Bitter Sweet. Kalila, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew!

 

By the Book: Alice Medrich’s Fallen Chocolate Soufflé Cake

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

 

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Alice Medrich’s newest cookbook, Seriously Bittersweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker’s Guide to Chocolate is a follow up to her hugely popular Bittersweet from 2003. The book covers everything from ganache to torte to savory mains with chocolate. I am admittedly not much of a baker, but as a lifelong chocolate enthusiast, I was keen to try, and Seriously Bittersweet is a great primer.

In her introduction, Medrich breaks down the whys and hows of measuring, mixing (Hint: If you’re not using your whisk, you’re doing it wrong.), and more. But her depth of knowledge really shines when she discusses chocolate. She starts with a detailed explanation on how chocolate is made (Thankfully, I had a little knowledge about this already.), and what really goes on during the baking process when you substitute chocolate that has a higher milk-fat or water content for another type. If my high school chemistry teacher had explained chemical reactions using 60-percent cocoa, I probably would have done better in class.

 

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Normally I’m a frozen dessert girl, more apt to buy a pint of chocolate ice cream than whip up a chocolate cake. But it was Valentine’s Day, and when you’re already going for broke with dinner, you might as well end with an out-of-the-ordinary treat. And when one of the reigning queens of chocolate confections declares The Queen of Sheba chocolate torte as her go-to recipe for any occasion, you take note. But after a meal of braised short ribs and creamy polenta, I couldn’t justify serving a cake that required a stick of butter, four eggs and chocolate ganache.

 

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Luckily, Medrich’s Queen of Sheba recipe is as verstaile as she claims. A lighter version, Fallen Chocolate Soufflé Cake, falls like a sad soufflé but is as rich as a brownie and soft as a pillow. The cookbook’s lower-fat recipes were designed to have fewer than 300 calories, less than 10 grams of fat and less than 30 percent calories from fat. Not exactly Weight Watchers, but my conscience was clearer.

 

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Six egg whites whipped into a fluffy cloud give the cake the lift it needs to bake up beautifully. The end result was crumbly (No butter or oil makes for a “nubbly” cake, as Medrich would say.), but packed with intense chocolate flavor thanks to the 70-percent chocolate and a half-cup of cocoa powder. Medrich suggested serving the cake with a sprinkling of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream, but my valentine and I found it went perfectly with a scoop of coffee ice cream. Old habits die hard.

 

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Fallen Chocolate Soufflé Cake
10 Servings

¼ cup blanched almonds
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 oz. 66- to 72-percent chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup premium unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
½ cup boiling water
2 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 Tbsp. brandy
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
Scant ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
2 to 3 tsp. powdered sugar for dusting
Lightly sweetened whipped cream (optional)

• Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Unless you are planning to serve the cake on the pan bottom, line the cake pan with a circle of parchment paper. Spray the sides with vegetable oil spray.
• In a food processor or blender, grind the almonds with the flour until very fine. Set aside.
• Combine the chocolate, cocoa and ¾ cup of the sugar in a large bowl. Pour in the boiling water and whisk until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in the egg yolks and brandy; set aside.
• Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining ¼ cup sugar and beat on high speed until stiff but not dry.
• Whisk the flour and almond mixture into the chocolate. Fold about a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites. Scrape the batter into the pan and level the top if necessary.
• Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick or a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. The torte will sink like a soufflé.
• To serve, slide a slim knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake, remove the pan sides and transfer the cake, on the pan bottom, to a platter, or invert the cake onto a rack or tray, remove the bottom and the paper liner, and invert onto a platter. Using a fine-mesh strainer, sift a little powdered sugar over the top of the cake before serving, if desired. Serve each slice with a little whipped cream, if you like.

Reprinted with permission from Artisan Books

What is your go-to dessert to make for special occasions? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Seriously Bittersweet. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Kristine W., whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won a copy of Sweet. Kristine, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew!

 

 

By the Book: Valerie Gordon’s Chocolate Cookies

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

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I love dessert, particularly cookies. They’re the perfect end to a meal, and the possibilities are endless. They can be sweet, savory, sophisticated, nostalgic … whatever.

 

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Valerie Gordon’s new book, Sweet, has a chapter on cookies I knew I would tackle. (Although the celebration desserts chapter sounded cute, it looked too ambitious for a weekday.) The cookie chapter had something for everyone from classics like oatmeal raisin and gingersnaps to creative recipes like coconut-finger lime cookies. This is February though, and we’re all really into chocolate right now, so I made Gordon’s chocolate cookies.

 

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Even though they are thin, fragile little things, chocolate dough studded with bittersweet chocolate chips makes for rich cocoa taste, and a mild hit of kosher salt rounds out the flavor. And best of all, they were really easy to make.

 

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Chocolate Cookies
Makes 50 cookies

Some people might call this a brownie in a cookie because it tastes as chocolately as a fudgy brownie. Follow the directions closely – the cookies are exceptionally delicate when warm and will break if you try to move them too soon after baking.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1½ sugar
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ cups 61-percent bittersweet chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

• Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.
• In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer), cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg, mixing well. Add the dry ingredients and continue beating until the batter is smooth. Add the milk and vanilla, then add the chocolate chips, beating until combined.
• Turn the dough out onto a cool surface, form it into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, approximately 2 hours.
• Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two heavy, large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
• Using a 1-ounce scoop, scoop the dough onto the lined baking sheets, spacing the cookies 2 inches apart, or use a measuring spoon to scoop heaping tablespoons of dough on to the sheets. Let the dough come to room temperature.
• Bake the cookies for 11 minutes, or until they lose their shine. Let cool on the baking sheets on cooling racks for 10 minutes.
• Using an offset spatula, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.
• The cookies can be stored in an airtight container up to 4 days (These cookies are quite fragile and do not freeze well.).

There’s a lot of mediocre cookies out there. What’s the best cookie you ever had and what made it so special? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Sweet. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Susan, whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won a copy of Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook. Susan, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew!

 

 

 

 

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