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Thank You Jeanne Lemlin

February 4, 2009

I often get asked for cookbook recommendations. Usually it’s for someone who is new to cooking or new to vegetarianism or both. I never hesitate. Quick Vegetarian Pleasures is the one to buy. If you are just going veg, it is a wonderful book because nothing is aggressively vegetarian – that is to say, nothing too weird. Everything will sound good to you. If you are new to cooking (vegetarian or not), it is a wonderful book because everything is easy, everything comes out exactly as promised, and – true to the title – everything is relatively quick.

I credit the author, Jeanne Lemlin, with putting me on the path of being a good cook. Quick Vegetarian Pleasures was the first book I bought after college and once I knew that if I wanted to eat well, I was going to have to make the food myself. I knew what I liked (almost everything), but didn’t know how to make it. I picked up this book because every recipe looked like something I wanted to eat. I slowly but surely worked my way through the book and every single thing I made turned out. It gave me a lot of confidence and made me want to branch out and try more and more ambitious dishes.

Fast forward 16 years (yikes) and I am a personal chef. I have around 80 cookbooks. They are spread throughout my kitchen on shelves and in cabinets. I have my “heavy rotation” shelf and the three Lemlin cookbooks I own are permanent residents. I still use her books on an almost weekly basis. This week alone, without meaning to, all the main courses (and some of the side dishes) I made are from her books. I don’t worry when I make something new that it won’t turn out or the proportions will be off. Her servings are generous – just like I like them – and her recipes are foolproof.

This pie is one I have made over and over and just love everytime I make it. It is kind of like a quiche, but over the years I have tweaked the recipe so that my version is more like a bunch of vegetables held together by a few eggs. You could certainly increase the eggs to 4 and reduce the veggies to make it more quiche-like. One of the things I like best about this is that there is a minimal crust which requires nothing more than buttering your pie plate and sprinkling it with breadcrumbs. This is a real time-saver and very non-intimidating for those who are scared of making crusts.

Broccoli and Red Pepper Pie
Adapted from
Main Course Vegetarian Pleasures
Serves 3

Olive oil
1 medium onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

Sea salt

1 small red pepper, cored and diced

1 large bunch of broccoli, cut into small florets

1/4
tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2
of a 14 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp. butter, softened

1/4
cup plus 1 tbsp. bread crumbs
3 eggs

1/2
whole milk
1/4
cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4
tsp. dried oregano
Freshly ground pepper

1 cup grated cheese (
DN: The recipe calls for Muenster but I usually use what I have on hand.)

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and red pepper plus a good pinch of salt, and saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for another 2 minutes.

2. Stir in the broccoli, crushed red pepper flakes, and chickpeas. Pour on 2 tbsp. of water, cover the pan, and cook for about 7 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender yet still bright green. Remove the cover and cook away any remaining liquid. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. To make the “crust”, butter a 9-inch pie plate with the butter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs on the bottom of the pie plate. Rotate to cover the bottom and sides of the plate with the crumbs.

4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Beat in the milk, Parmesan cheese, oregano, a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Stir in the vegetable mixture. Spoon half the mixture into the pie plate. Sprinkle on the 1 cup of cheese. Spoon on the remaining mixture, then sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of bread crumbs over the top.

5. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

(Vegetable mixture can be made one day ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. Pie can be made 4 hours ahead and served at room temperature.)



Birthday Cake for the Birthday Boy

February 7, 2012

By many peoples’ standards, we spoil our children.  We have a basement full of toys, bikes in the garage, an X-Box and other gaming things, and lots of movies to watch.  We go on nice vacations.  Both boys have plenty of clothes to wear and ski gear (though we rent skis and boots).  Their chores consist of bringing over their plate after dinner and cleaning up their rooms.  They get a lot of hugs and kisses and treats after dinner.

But.  We are sticklers about manners and being polite and respectful to adults and kids both older and younger.  We try to encourage awareness about how lucky they are without being morbid about it.  About once a year we go through our toys and clean out things they are not using to give to children who are less lucky.  They are old enough to understand that we can go look in a toy store but we are not going to buy anything.  (Unless they are with dad, who usually caves.)

This year Spencer is getting two birthday cakes.  This is the first year that we are having a real true party for him.  I’m not the mom who treasures throwing themed birthday parties for my kids complete with perfect invitations and favors.  I try and farm the party part out.  Seeing as Spencer is the second child, we tried to get away with just doing family for as long as possible.  There have been years where we have been in Sun Valley over his birthday (spoiled!).  But this year we are home, he turned five, and we are doing a trampoline party (spoiled!).

Spencer wants a Batman cake for the party which we will be getting from the same bakery as Graham’s cake.  Mommy doesn’t do Batman cakes.  Or she could, but it would end up looking like a gerbil cake or a blob cake which wouldn’t make him very happy.  For his “real” birthday cake, we sat down with several of my baking books and paged through options.  “I want that one!  Or wait, I want that one!  No, that one!”, is kind of how the conversation went.  I thought we were going with a lemon cake with a meringue frosting when he spied a cake in Flour that sealed the deal.  I guess to him it just looked like a birthday cake.  That may have been because there are birthday candles on the cake in the photo.  At any rate, I was glad to make a traditional cake that I knew he would like.

I feel like some of my cookbooks are kind of like the good guy friend in college who patiently listens to your love life failures, all the while secretly hoping you will actually notice him.  Flour has been sitting on my shelf for about a year now.  I made a couple ho hum things from it in the first few weeks after purchase and then moved on to brighter shinier things.  I knew it would house some good birthday cake ideas and this perfect birthday cake was in there waiting for me all this time.  Actually, not perfect, but pretty darn good.  The cakes themselves were very crummy and the frosting kind of set up too much after I put the cake in the refrigerator with the crumb coat, but the taste and the look was pretty close to perfect.  According to the birthday boy, that is.

One Year Ago:  Macaroon Brownie Bars, White Chocolate Tiramisu, Red, White, and Green Lasagne
Two Years Ago:  Olivetta Loaf, Spicy Smoky Chili
Three Years Ago:  Roasted Orange Pepper Soup, Mushroom Enchiladas, Broccoli and Red Pepper Pie, Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Yellow Birthday Cake with Fluffy Chocolate Ganache Frosting
Flour
Makes one 8-inch layer cake (serves 8-12)

I’m giving you the (very wordy) recipe as written in the book.  A couple of tips.  The cake cools completely in the pans, presumably because it is large and thick, so be sure to grease them well and use a parchment round in the bottom of the pan.  I always refrigerate my cakes with a crumb coating for about 30-60 minutes, but I think the frosting hardened up too much during the waiting time.  So be sure to follow her advice and just frost the cake right after the crumb coating.  She recommends using non-fat buttermilk but I can never find that so I just used low fat.

1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk

Fluffy Chocolate Ganache Frosting
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF.  Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.  (DT:  Don’t forget the parchment here!)

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), cream together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until light and fluffy.  (This step will take 8 to 10 minutes if using a handheld mixer.)  Stop the mixer a few times  and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle to release any clinging butter or sugar.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla just until combined.  On low speed, slowly pour the egg mixture into the butter mixture and mix just until incorporated.  Scrape the bowl and paddle again, then beat on medium speed for 20 to 30 seconds, or until the mixture is homogeneous.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  On the lowest speed, add about one-third of the flour mixture to the egg-butter mixture and mix just until barely combined.  Immediately pour in about half of the buttermilk and continue to mix on the lowest speed until the buttermilk is almost thoroughly incorporated.  Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl well.  Again on the lowest speed, add about half of the remaining flour mixture and mix just until barely combined.  Add the rest of the butter milk and mix just until combined.  Be careful not to overmix.

At this point, it is best to finish the mixing by hand.  Remove the bowl from the  mixer stand and, using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining flour mixture until the batter is just homogeneous.  As you fold, be sure to incorporate any batter clinging to the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the ops are golden brown and the cakes spring back when pressed in the middle with a fingertip.  Let cool completely in the pans on wire racks.  (The cooled cakes can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and stored  in the freezer for up to 1 week.  Thaw at room temperature, still wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.)

To make the ganache frosting:  While the cake layers are cooling, put the chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl.  In a small saucepan, scald the cream over medium-high heat (bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, but the cream is not boiling).  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for about 1 minute, then slowly whisk together the chocolate and cream until the chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth.  Let sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, or until completely cool.  (Or refrigerate the ganache until cool, about 30 minutes, whisking every ten minutes.)

Fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or use a handheld mixer) and beat the butter on medium-low speed for 10 to 15 seconds, or until smooth.  Add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, and vanilla and continue to beat on medium-low speed for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy and smooth.  Stop the  mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape the bowl and paddle to release any clinging butter or sugar.  On medium speed, add the cooled ganache and beat for about 2 minutes, or until completely combined.  Stop to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute, or until the frosting lightens in color and thickens.  You should have about 4 cups.

Remove the cooled cakes from their pans.  (Be sure they are completely cool.  If they are even the slightest bit warm, the frosting will melt and you will have a mess.)  Using a long, serrated knife, trim the top of each cake to level it (the layers will have rounded a bit in the oven; the trimmed scraps make great nibbles).  Place one cake layer on a cake plate or cake pedestal (if you have a revolving cake stand, use it.)  Spoon about 1 cup of the frosting on top and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly to the edges.

Carefully place the second layer top-side down (so the even sharp edges will be on the top of the finished cake), on top.  Spoon about 1 cup of the frosting on top and spread it over the top and down the sides of the cake, smoothing the frosting as well as you can and covering the entire cake with a thin layer.  This the crumb coat which will keep any loose crumbs from migrating to the surface of the finished cake.  Spoon a heaping cup of frosting on top of the cake, an spread it evenly across the top and down the sides.  This is the finishing layer of frosting.  If desired, spoon any remaining frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a small round or star tip and pipe a decorative line along the top and/or bottom edge of the cake.

The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.



My First Cannoli

February 9, 2011

Here is where I admit that up until a couple of days ago, I had never eaten a cannoli.  My parents were both born and raised in New York and they had the luxury of eating things like real bagels, good profiteroles, late summer tomatoes, and cannoli.  My mom has a cousin who used to come visit us every summer and they would bring 4 dozen bagels with them to store in our garage freezer.  I’m sure that if the other things on that list weren’t so perishable, my mom would have requested she bring those too.

So, cannoli were not a part of my childhood.  If I were the type to go nuts over cheese in my desserts, I would have made them long ago.  But truthfully, this is not my kind of treat.  If you are a regular here I think you know what my kind of treat is.  But I am telling you about these cannoli for several reasons.

1)  Someone at Saturday’s yoga retreat sat me down and said, “If you do not post the recipe for these cannoli, I will never speak to you again.”  Strong words.

2) One of my new favorite “Food and Graham” stories happened while preparing these.  I don’t mention this often enough but Graham is a great eater.  He has a huge appetite and really loves food.  He is eager to try new things.  Something he hasn’t seen before makes him wonder what it tastes like.  Spencer‘s response is the opposite.  Anyway, I was chopping crystallized ginger for the filling and Graham asked for a taste.  I gave him a cube of it, he took a little bite, and then asked for three more pieces.

3)  I got this recipe off Epicurious.  Our computer is in our study which is not right next to the kitchen.  I was the end of a LONG cooking day when it came time to prepare these.  I took a quick glance at the recipe and then went back to my food processor to finish it.  I had a nagging suspicion that I had forgotten something in the filling but was too lazy to go back and double check.  Finally, once the filling was in the bowl, I took a quick taste and thought it was fine for, you know, a cheese filling, and into the refrigerator it went.  Then I checked the recipe.  Sugar.  I didn’t add the full 2 cups of powdered sugar that the recipe called for. I tasted again.  I’m no expert, but cannoli are not supposed to be super sweet, right?  It tasted just about right to me and everyone loved this without the sugar.

So there you go.  Cannoli.  Discuss.

Now.  The recipe makes enough filling for 25 regular size cannoli.  For reasons that are too boring to explain, I only bought 12 shells.  I cut each cannoli in half so everyone could have one but I still had tons of leftover filling.  I brought it back home with me, wondering what I was going to do with it.  And then, an unexpected opportunity came my way.

This is Spencer’s birthday cake.  Once again for reasons that are too boring to explain, I did not make enough frosting.  I was left with just enough to very lightly frost the outside of the cake but  not enough to frost all of the cones.  (The chocolate you see is the buttercream mixed with melted chocolate.)  As I was contemplating driving to the store to buy some frosting in a can (shudder), I remembered my leftover filling.  So that is what is adorning half the cones.

This cake is pretty darn cute and the cake part itself, which is the part I care about, was super moist and flavorful.  If you are interested in making it, I direct you to this recipe.  In the comments, most people hated the frosting, so I made a simple buttercream from The Cake Bible.  Just do yourself a favor and make sure you have enough frosting…

And now, back to the cannoli.

One Year Ago: Olivetta Loaf and Spicy Smoky Chili
Two Years Ago: Broccoli and Red Pepper Pie

Dried Cranberry and Ginger Cannoli
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes 25

This recipe originally called for dried cherries but I only had cranberries.  If you would like to add the sugar that I forgot, add two cups – one in each batch.

4 cups (2 pounds) fresh ricotta cheese
1 cup mascarpone cheese
Zest of 1 orange
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup minced crystallized ginger
¾ cup minced dried cranberries (or cherries)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
25 purchased cannoli shells
Chopped pistachios

Working in 2 batches, blend first 4 ingredients in processor until smooth; add ginger and cranberries and process until finely chopped and well incorporated.  Using on/off turns, mix in chocolate just until blended (do not purée).  Transfer filling to a large bowl.  (Filling can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature before continuing.)

Working in batches, transfer filling to pastry bag without tip.  Pipe into shells.  Dip ends in chopped pistachios.  Chill at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.



For People Who Fear Crust

March 24, 2010

Some people are afraid of yeast so they don’t make bread.  Some people are afraid of crusts so they don’t make tarts or pies.  (I myself am afraid of frosting layer cakes but I don’t let it stop me.)  So, If I say “tart”, are you one of those people who gets scared?   Truth be told, I find crusts can be tricky even thought I have made a lot of them.  Every time I make a pie, I say a little prayer to the crust gods to make things go smoothly.  My only advice is that it helps to have a good recipe and lots of practice.

If you do suffer from a crust phobia, please make this pie.  I would say it’s like a crust-less quiche, but it does in fact have a crust.  It is nothing more than some breadcrumbs sprinkled into a buttered pie plate, but somehow just that little bit of attention makes it more elegant, interesting, and also helps hold the slices together.  The lack of a butter and/or shortening  crust also makes a slice much lighter and healthier – so you can be a little more heavy-handed with the cheese.

This is one of many Jeanne Lemlin tarts that I have made – all easy, all delicious.  It is totally adaptable and great for lunch, brunch, or dinner.  Although she says it is important to use Swiss cheese in this one to help keep it all together, I bet you could substitute another firm cheese and have it turn out fabulously well.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

Zucchini, Tomato, and Swiss Cheese Pie
Adapted from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures
Serves 4

1 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup bread crumbs
Olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 tsp. fennel seed
¼ tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
¼ pound grated Swiss cheese
3 tbsp. grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 375º F.  Butter a 9 inch pie plate, then sprinkle the bread crumbs all over the sides and bottom.  Allow whatever loose crumbs are there to just sit on the bottom.

2.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add enough olive oil to just coat the bottom, then add the onion.  Sauté until translucent, then add the garlic and sauté for another 3 minutes.  Stir in the diced tomatoes and sauté another 5 minutes.  Raise the heat to high.  Mix in the zucchini, fennel seed, salt and pepper.  Cook until the zucchini is barely tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and cool 5 minutes.  (The recipe may be prepared in a dvance to this point an dchilled up to 24 hours.  Bring to room temperature before proceeding.)

3.  Beat the eggs in a large bowl.  Stir in the milk, then mix in the zucchini mixture.  Pour half into the prepared pie plate, top with the Swiss cheese, then pour on the remaining vegetable mixture.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese all over the top.

4.  Bake 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is golden brown.  Let sit 10 minutes before cutting.



Apple Torte from a Great Book

February 9, 2010

IMG_4655_picnik

When you are a cookbook addict and you have more than your fair share of vegetarian cookbooks, what do you do?  If you are me, you start buying baking books.

I don’t remember when I bought The Greyston Bakery Cookbook and I don’t remember why.  It is a fairly unassuming looking book.  It doesn’t feature any of the gravity defying desserts that seem so tempting from other gorgeous books I have been fooled into buying.  In a moment of unremembered inspiration, I brought home this sweet book and am I ever glad I did.

In spite of the draw toward architectural and difficult desserts, the truth is that I like my sweets on the simple side.  I like the challenge of making something involved but if I am going to sit down and eat a treat, simple is better for my taste buds.  I don’t mean simple as in plain; I mean simple as in unfussy.

IMG_4686_picnik

If you are with me, this cookbook is a treasure.  So often when I start opening my baking books looking for that elusive just-simple-but-still-delicious cake (like this one), I start to lose interest as page after page of time consuming sweets go by.  Last night I had some friends coming over and, after our vacation, I was ready to bake.  But I definitely wanted simple.  I first picked up Tartine, the dessert book I chose for my Top 10 Desert Island cookbooks.  Nope, nope, and nope.  Then I remembered this book.  Yep, yep, and yep.  Grapefruit Yogurt Cake, Orange Poppy Seed Cake, Chocolate Obsession Cake.  All tempting, all relatively simple.

I decided on this Apple Torte.  I was a little nervous about it turning out.  I have made some of the bar recipes in the book and a fantastic cookie recipe but never any of the cakes.  It could have been a mess.  It was not a mess.  In fact, I think it was amazing.  The contrast in textures of the crunchy crust, the smooth cream cheese filling, and the soft but not mushy apples was amazing.  And taste.  The buttery richness of the crust, the fruity sweetness of the jam, the tang of cream cheese and the spiced and maple syruped apples was sublime.  This is coming from an avowed chocolate lover – it is a terrific dessert.  I’m officially changing that Top 10 list to include The Greyston Bakery Cookbook.

IMG_4681

One Year Ago: Broccoli and Red Pepper Pie

Apple Torte
Adapted from The Greyston Bakery Cookbook
Makes one 9″ Cake, 10-12 servings

Although this recipe is found in the cake section of the book, it is really more like a tart.

For the Crust
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup flour
½ cup apricot jam

For the Filling
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 egg
¼ tsp. vanilla extract

For the Topping
3 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ cup slivered almonds

Prepare the crust:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.  Grease a 9″ round springform pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla on medium speed.  Using a fork or your fingers, work in the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Press the mixture onto the bottom and 1″ up the sides of the prepared pan.  Pierce the bottom several times with the tines of a fork.  Chill at least 30 minutes.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the pastry is set and golden.  Cool on a wire rack.  When the pastry is cool, spread the apricot jam evenly over the bottom of the crust and set aside.

Prepare the filling:
Using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until light.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Spread the filling over the prepared crust.

Prepare the topping:
In a large bowl, combine the apples with the sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and cardamom.  Arrange the apples in concentric circles over the filling.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.  Remove the torte and sprinkle with the almonds.  Put the torte back in the oven and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until the apples are tender.  Cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes.  Release and remove the pan sides.  Cool completely and then refrigerate until ready to serve.

(DN: I didn’t do this, but I would recommend brushing the apples with warmed apricot glaze.  It will make them shine.  Also, I had LOTS of leftovers which I refrigerated and they still look great, so I would imagine you can make this a day ahead.  Much more than that and the apples will start to look tired.)



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