Archive for August, 2012

From the Magazines

August 2, 2012

Ever since my early 20’s, I have been getting food magazines in the mail.  The subscriptions have varied over the years but I have received at least one every month for 20 years.  (Current ones are Food & Wine, Cook’s Illustrated, and Saveur.  How about you?)

The magazines tend to pile up for months before I attack them with scissors, cut out the recipes that I want, and tape them into four binders that I have with 20 years worth of magazine recipes.  It is a long process and since the past few years have been pretty busy, it has literally been two years since I last did a scissor attack.  Two years worth of magazines is a lot of magazines.  There is no way I am moving those along with the other 9 billion things we have in our house so it was time to start whittling them down.

In the past, when I have started this process, I have just gone through them chronologically.  But that often meant I was paging through Christmas issues in July, or BBQ special issues while the Thanksgiving turkey was in the oven.  Reading about food that is completely out of season is not all that inspiring.  So this time, I decided to sort them out into season and start with the summer issues.  I was looking for some inspiration anyway and I certainly found it within the pages of June, July, and August magazines.

This recipe will surely become a favorite around here.  I’ve always been a fan of Israeli couscous – so much so that I had no fewer than three bags of it in my pantry.  Here it gets tossed with a pesto made from arugula and lots and lots of tomatoes.  I like basil pesto as much as the next person, but arugula is such a nice change.  It tastes brighter than its green cousin and just a tantalizing hint of bitterness.  The cooking time is minimal so it is a great choice for a hot night.  It is best served room temperature so it is great to bring to a potluck or a picnic (it also makes a lot and scales up easily.)  And if you are one of those lucky people who has tomatoes coming out of their ears, now you have a wonderful place to park them.

I served this salad along side a beautiful vegetable terrine that I was really excited about.  All of us picked at the terrine and had seconds of the couscous.

One Year Ago:  Tomato and Corn Pie
Two Years Ago:  Yeast Bread Sticks
Three Years Ago:  Grilled Potato Slices with Salt and Vinegar

Israeli Couscous and Tomato Salad with Arugula Pesto

Adapted from Food & Wine
6-8 servings

One of the things I don’t like about pesto is how oily it is.  I use a bit less oil in mine here.  If you like you can add a full ½ cup or you can drizzle additional over the finished salad if it seems too dry.

6 ounces arugula, plus additional leaves for garnish
2 cups Israeli couscous
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts
1 garlic clove, chopped
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
Kosher or sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 pints multi-colored cherry tomatoes, halved

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the 6 ounces of arugula and blanch for 10 seconds.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the arugula to a colander.  Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking, then drain thoroughly.

Add the Israeli couscous to the boiling water and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until it is al dente, about 10 minutes.  Drain the couscous and put it in a large wide bowl.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and toss to prevent it from clumping.  Let the couscous cool to room temperature.

In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, tossing, until golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Let cool.

Squeeze the excess water from the blanched arugula and coarsely chop it.  Transfer the arugula to a food processor.  (DT:  I used my mini food processor for this job.)  Add the pine nuts, garlic, cheese and the 1/3 cup of olive oil and process until the pine nuts are finely chopped.  Season the arugula pesto with salt and pepper.

Using a spatula, stir the pesto into the cooled couscous until well combined.  Gently fold in the tomatoes.  Garnish the salad with the remaining arugula leaves and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

(I didn’t try it but I’m sure you could make this salad earlier in the day.  Cover and refrigerate it but allow it to come to room temperature before you serve it.)

No Special Equipment Needed

August 1, 2012

Let me say this, I love my KitchenAid mixer.  It has a permanent home on my counter in this house and will in the next house.  I got my first one in my mid 20’s and it saw me through countless cookies, cakes, and confections of all sorts.  Once I started working as a personal chef, I decided to upgrade and get the professional one.  It is larger and has a different way of uniting the bowl and the paddle, but otherwise it is the same machine.  To tell you the truth, I kind of miss my old one.  I can’t recommend a KitchenAid mixer highly enough.  I can also tell you that most recipes that tell you to use a stand mixer can also be made by hand.  An exception would be something like brioche which requires long periods of mixing at high speeds.

Once in a while, I find it nice to bake with minimal equipment.  I am drawn to recipes that tell you to stir things in a bowl.  This is just one of those recipes.  It comes from Alice Medrich – an undisputed genius baker and cookbook author.  We had her at Book Larder and I loved what she had to say about her new book Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts.  She wrote it for cooks – not bakers.  So it is heavy on play and options and light on hard fast rules.  I loved that idea.

And now, in case you haven’t been reading along for 4+ years on this blog, a short summary of my feelings about cookies.  I love chocolate!  I like white chocolate!  Cookies should be chocolate!  Most of the time!  I don’t like nuts in my sweets! 

I think that about does it.  My brother Michael, an avid reader of this site and someone who has been eating cookies with me for his whole life, said, after gulping one of these down, “I thought you don’t like nuts in cookies.”  True.  But these are very rich little buggers and for some reason that little crunch and nuttiness is welcome for me here.  I had some odd bits and bobs of chocolate so I used a variety, including these huge white chocolate disks.  I really liked what they did for the cookie.

One Year Ago:  Soft Lettuces with Herbs and Avocado,
Two Years Ago:  Soft Tacos, Holly B’s Fruit Scones
Three Years Ago:  Indian Spiced Chickpeas with Yogurt and Herbs, Muhummara Dip, Zesty Tofu Wraps

Bittersweet Brownie Drops
Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts
Makes about 30 cookies

This is one of the very few recipes where my yield matched the expected yield.  And the title is perfect, these taste like brownies in cookie form.  Thank you Ms. Medrich!

4 tbsp. (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70 to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. (1.75 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
1/8 tsp. baking soda
Scant 1 cup (6.5 ounces) sugar
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup (3.5 ounces) walnut or pecan pieces
6 ounces bittersweet, semisweet, milk, or white chocolate, coarsely chopped or 1 cup (6 ounces) chocolate chips

Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Put the butter and bittersweet chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl, preferably stainless steel, set in a wide skillet of barely simmer water, and stir frequently until the mixture is melted, smooth, and fairly hot to the touch.

Meanwhile, whisk the flour and baking soda together.

When the chocolate mixture is ready, remove the bowl from the water bath and stir in the sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Add the eggs one at a time, stirring until incorporated.  Add the flour mixture and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula until the batter is smooth and glossy and comes away from the sides of the bowl; it is critical that the batter pull itself together, so don’t stop mixing until it does.  Make sure that the batter is completely cool, then stir in the nuts and chopped chocolate or chocolate chips.

Scoop slightly rounded tablespoons of the batter 2 inches apart onto the lined sheets.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and crackled on the surface but feel slightly soft when touched with a fingertip; rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.  Set the pans on racks to cool completely or slide the pan liners onto racks.  The cookies keep in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days.


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