Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Party Pâté

I don't know about you, but I grew up eating liver and onions quite frequently (and being force fed cod liver oil - NOT in pill form). I guess having your copper and iron content so far off the charts that you bled pennies was all the rage in nutrition way back when. Whatever. I survived. And never ate liver again...Until I learned that one didn't have to only eat beef liver and that it could be blended with copious amounts of butter and spread on toast. (Probably the opposite of healthy.) Ever been to Marlow & Sons for the mound of deliciousness that they serve? Get thee to the restaurant stat! Or make it yourself. I never knew it was so easy. Simmer, puree, season, serve. That's it. But you can't be squeamish about the natural state of the chicken liver. You will have to handle it for a hot second in it's raw state. But then you'll appreciate the deliciousness that you create that much more! I made a batch for Christmas Eve dinner but was just thinking that it would be the perfect app paired with some bubbly for a New Year's Eve party. How can it already be New Year's Eve? (Almost New Year's Eve???) I'm still writing 2010 on my checks! (The 12 times a year that I write one!) OK I'm breaking into the Champagne a few days early...

Chicken Liver Pâté
Adapted from Jacques Pépin via Food & Wine

1 pound chicken livers, well-trimmed
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt
1 cup water
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon Cognac or Scotch whiskey
Freshly ground pepper
Toasted baguette slices, for serving

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken livers, onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the livers are barely pink inside, about 10 minutes.

2. Discard the bay leaf. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the livers, onion and garlic to a food processor. Process until coarsely pureed. With the machine on, add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, until incorporated. Add the Cognac, season with salt and pepper and process until completely smooth. Scrape the pâté into 2 or 3 large ramekins. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pâté and refrigerate until firm. Serve chilled and sprinkle with sea salt, if desired.

Make Ahead: The pâté can be covered with a thin layer of melted butter, then wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 2 months.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Better Butter Cookie

I finally got my tree up. I mean, between the never ending holiday parties (my soon to be scheduled liver transplant if I don't stop attending), physical therapy and getting myself to work on time, how can I be expected to decorate my home with shubbery in advance of the X to the Mas? Well, after hoisting my one foot wonder onto a cake stand and tuning in to Cameron Crowe's documentary, Pearl Jam Twenty (for the 18th time - just another holiday classic), I got to decorating. (It took more time to wrestle my stash of holiday decor out of my closet than to actually decorate.) And now I'm thinking about reneging on my previous post about not making cookies. Just this once. Sometimes you have to bring something to holiday parties other than another random bottle of 1996 Chateau Talbot Grand Cru Classé Saint - Julien. Am I right? When it comes to cookies, the more butter the better. Dori Greenspan's Sable (aka French butter cookie or Breton biscuit) recipe is the perfect butter cookie. Trust.

Dori Greenspan's Master Recipe for Sables
(from The New York Times)

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter (preferably high-fat, like Plugra), softened at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted before measuring
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably sea salt
2 large egg yolks, preferably at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour For the decoration (optional):
1 egg yolk
Crystal or dazzle sugar

1. Working in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until it is smooth and very creamy. Add the sugars and salt and continue to beat until smooth and velvety, not fluffy and airy, about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in 2 egg yolks, again beating until well blended.

2. Turn off the mixer, pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the mixer and pulse the mixer about 5 times at low speed for 1 or 2 seconds each time. Take a peek; if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of more times; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, stir for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks uniformly moist. If you still have some flour on the bottom of the bowl, stop mixing and use a rubber spatula to work the rest of it into the dough. (The dough will not come together in a ball -- and it shouldn't. You want to work the dough as little as possible. What you're aiming for is a soft, moist, clumpy dough. When pinched, it should feel a little like Play-Doh.)

3. Scrape the dough onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a smooth log about 9 inches long (it's easiest to work on a piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic to help form the log). Wrap the logs well and chill them for at least 2 hours. The dough may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

4. When ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and keep it at the ready.

5. To decorate the edges of the sables, whisk the egg yolk until smooth. Place one log of chilled dough on a piece of waxed paper and brush it with yolk (the glue), and then sprinkle the entire surface of the log with sugar. Trim the ends of the roll if they are ragged and slice the log into 1/3-inch-thick cookies.

6. Place the rounds on the baking sheet, leaving an inch of space between each cookie, and bake for 17 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the halfway point. When properly baked, the cookies will be light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges and pale on top. Let the cookies rest 1 or 2 minutes before carefully lifting them onto a cooling rack with a wide metal spatula. Repeat with the remaining log of dough. (Make sure the sheet is cool before baking each batch.)

Lemon Sables: Before mixing the butter and sugar together, pour the sugar in a bowl with the grated zest of 1 to 1 1/2 lemons. Work the zest and sugar together with your fingertips until the mixture is moist and aromatic, then cream it with the butter in the mixer.

Parmesan Sables: Replace sugars with 3/4 cup very finely grated Parmesan added to the beaten butter. A few grains of fleur de sel may be gently pressed into the top of each sable before the baking sheet is slipped into the oven.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Coffee Cookies

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! I've already been to my company holiday party and strung some Christmas lights (on a friend's tree - I have yet to decorate). Clearly I need to get baking! (And should probably start my holiday shopping...) Instead of making my usual 37 dozen cookies, I'm going to go the minimal route and just bake as needed which is to say...not very much. I just end up eating the cookies I don't bring to the office so why go crazy? These shortbread cookies are fab not only because they are delish but because the recipe makes so few cookies, you won't find yourself eating them for days on end or trying to pawn them off on everyone you encounter, including the not-so-subtle mail carrier who leaves a holiday note in your mailbox. (Really??) The chocolate espresso kick reminds me of my favorite candy, Pocket Coffee, the best candy invention of our time. Incidentally now is the time to stock up as they are a seasonal candy and are only shipped during cold weather months (hint hint). Maybe I should hang a stocking or two just in case.

Mocha Shortbread
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons finely ground coffee beans, preferably espresso
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Sift together the flour, cocoa, and salt. Stir in the coffee, and set aside.

2. Beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar, and beat well. Add the flour mixture, and beat until combined.

3. Pat the dough into an ungreased 8-inch round cake or springform pan lined with parchment paper. Bake until firm, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the shortbread from the oven, let sit for 5 minutes, then cut into wedges. Let cool completely. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pumped up Pumpkin Bread

Whooops! I forgot to post this before Thanksgiving, but I'm pretty sure that everyone still has plenty of family gatherings, holiday parties, gifts to give, breakfasts to eat, house guests you'd rather not have and all around free time to make some post-Thanksgiving pumpkin bread in the next month or I right??

I tried to find the pumpkin bread recipe that I normally use, but since I couldn't find it, I combed through a ton-age of others and decided that the classic Libby's recipe made the style of bread that I like the best. Their standard pumpkin pie recipe hasn't ever failed me, so why not try the pumpkin bread? Yum. Aside from calling for pumpkin pie spice (which is just an excuse to make you buy another spice you'll never use again) I was totally pleased with the recipe. And you can make your own pumpkin pie spice blend in about 30 seconds. Seriously.

For one teaspoon of Pumpkin Pie Spice:
Measure 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon of ground allspice or ground cloves, and 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg into a small bowl and stir to blend.
The end.

Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from Libby's

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice**(see above)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups granulated sugar
1 (15-ounce) can 100% pure pumpkin
4 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup orange juice or water
1 cup sweetened dried, fresh or frozen cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans (or any variation below).

2. Combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Combine the sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and juice in a large bowl. Beat until just blended. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Fold in the cranberries. Spoon the batter into prepared loaf pans.

3. Bake for 60 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Alternative loaf sizes:
•For three 8 x 4-inch loaf pans:
Prepare as above. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes.
•For five or six 5 x 3-inch mini-loaf pans:
Prepare as above. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

On the Side

Green bean casserole again? There's something to be said for tradition, I guess, but maybe you could try something new at your Thanksgiving this year. I once made roasted brussels sprouts for my family who had either never had them before, or claimed to not like them. They ate them and liked them. And no one died. You can always cover your bases by making the old standbys.

Tuscan kale (the elongated, pebbly surfaced variety) may sound way too healthy for the decadence that is the Thanksgiving meal, but there are ways to prepare it that are a little less granola than you might expect. For example, making crispy kale chips to serve with a pre-dinner drink is a healthy alternative to regular chips, yet you still get the salty-crunchy experience. Or you could make a salad for your first course that is not as filling as a soup.

Tuscan kale, like all kales, is extraordinarily nutritious. One cup provides more than 100 percent of the daily value of vitamins K and A, and 88 percent of the daily value for vitamin C. (And you can fight off colds!) OK so it is very healthy...but you will need a little greenery to offset all of the buttery mashed potatoes and gravy! And stuffing. And pie. And green bean casserole.

(They may not look cute, but they are extremely addictive!)

Tuscan Kale Chips
(From Bon Appétit)

12 large Tuscan kale leaves, rinsed, dried, cut lengthwise in half, center ribs and stems removed
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 250°F. Toss kale with oil in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Arrange leaves in single layer on 2 large baking sheets. Bake until crisp, about 30 minutes for flat leaves and up to 33 minutes for wrinkled leaves. Transfer leaves to rack to cool.

Tuscan Kale Salad

4 - 6 cups Tuscan kale (such as Italian black/Lacinato/Cavolo Nero), loosely packed and sliced, stems removed
Juice of 1 lemon
3 - 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, mashed
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste
2/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, or other flavorful grating cheese such as Asiago or Parmesan
1/2 cup freshly made bread crumbs from lightly toasted bread

1. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a generous pinch (or more to taste) of hot red pepper flakes. Let sit for a few minutes, then remove the garlic and discard.

2. Whisk the dressing and pour over the kale in a large serving bowl and toss well. Add 2/3 of the cheese and toss again.

3. Let kale sit for at least 5 minutes. Add the bread crumbs, toss again, and top with the remaining cheese.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Shock and Awe

Hallelujah! ConEd (boo!) and my landlord (boo!) finally turned the gas back on after TWO WEEKS! Yeah! Now I know what the phrase "cooking with gas" really means! This all dovetailed with the extra annoying snowstorm of October 29. I was without gas, heat and hot water on the 28th & 29th, and have been without gas until today. It actually had nothing to do with the storm, but then again, I have yet to understand what it had to do with. I couldn't get a straight answer out of anyone! Obviously it was nothing like what the people in the state of CT have been dealing with for the past 10 days, but still. Ordering in, making salads, and cooking in the toaster oven gets old after a while! BTW: Does anybody know if I can withhold a portion of my rent? I haven't looked into that yet...

So, in light of being able to cook and bake again, I bring you...lemon pound cake! To be truthful I made this over two weeks ago, but it felt somehow wrong to blog about baking when I actually couldn't! (I am dying to bake something autumnal and pumpkin-y this weekend though, so stay tuned.) Anyway, I have been on a super hard core purge/re-organization of my apartment, and not only came across 150 food magazines hiding in the back of my closet (Relax-I threw them out!), I found a few binders full of recipes, which I similarly didn't recall hoarding, I mean, having. I did quickly flip through the recipes to pull anything that looked appealing, and this pound cake was a clear winner. It was originally a recipe for orange pound cake, but since I can't stand anything orange flavored, I changed it to lemon. Delish. I pawned it off on the folks at work not knowing that it might be the last thing I ever bake...(sniff). I think I'm going to go boil a pot of water! Because I can!

Lemon Pound Cake
Adapted from Saveur

For the Cake:
14 tablespoons softened, unsalted butter
tablespoons milk
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
tablespoon grated lemon zest

For the Glaze:
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. For the cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 6-cup loaf pan with 1
tablespoon of the butter. Set aside. Put the milk, eggs, and vanilla in a bowl and beat until well combined. Set aside.

2. Sift together the flour, sugar, and baking powder into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk. Add the zest, beating on medium speed, then add remaining 13
tablespoons of butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting until each is completely incorporated before adding more.

3. Slowly add the milk-egg mixture, beating constantly, until the batter is just mixed together. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 55-65 minutes. (Lightly cover the cake with a piece of buttered foil during baking if it begins to get too brown.) Allow the cake to cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan. Using a skewer, poke holes all over the top of the cake.

4. For the glaze: Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the glaze by half. Brush some of the warm glaze over the top of the cake, reapplying the glaze until cake is saturated. Serves 8.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

And Devil's Night and The Day of the Dead! (It's a big week.) What better way to start your day than with a cup of skull and crossbones iced coffee? Even if it has already snowed? I'm still an advocate of coffee ice cubes so as not to dilute one's coffee, so it might as well look cool!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Apple, Turn Over

So it must be almost 6 years to the day that at my birthday party at the Pegu Club, I summoned enough liquid courage to approach Melissa Clark (who was there to celebrate her latest book launch - another long circuitous story) to tell her how much I loved her writing and her column in The NY Times. But honestly, who knows what exactly I said? All that I can recall is that she said something along the lines of, "Thank you so much," then asked me if it was my birthday and if I would prefer that she and her small group move to another table to make way for my ever expanding party. We must have been super annoying because even though I said, "No, it's no problem," she moved anyway. Or maybe I came across as scary stalker? Probably.

Anyhoo...I am still reading her column in The Times and I've been holding onto this apple muffin recipe for just over a year waiting for...what? I dunno. Fall is officially here so it seems as good a time as any to bake! And since apples are plentiful, I might as well bake them into something extra tasty. It's so tiresome to eat them raw. Yawn. You should definitely bake and serve (and eat!) these on the same day, preferably within a few hours of making them otherwise they will be super sogged-out the next day. Not cute. But the day you bake them they are extra cute and tasty, like little mini-cakes. My only question about the recipe was that Melis tells you to distribute the apple slices among the muffin cups but doesn't tell you what to do with the extra sauce. Should I have cooked it down to a glaze? Poured it all in the muffin tins? Poured it over my pancakes? What's a girl to do?? I poured about half of it over the apples in the muffin tin and then threw the rest away. I worried about all of that liquid. Maybe I'll just ask her the next time I run into birthday is coming up.

Upside Down Apple Muffins
Adapted from Melissa Clark and The New York Times

For the Apple Topping:
3 apples (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch kosher salt

For the muffins:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat the oven to 375˚F. Generously grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, stir together the apples, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 6 tablespoons butter and pinch salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender, about 15 minutes. Distribute the apple slices among the muffin cups.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

4. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the 8 tablespoons butter, eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold together until smooth. Distribute the batter on top of the apples. Bake until the muffins are slightly puffed, about 20 to 22 minutes.

5. Allow the muffins to cool for about 15 minutes in the pan. Turn onto a platter and serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 muffins.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Art Prize Autumn

Another year another...ArtPrize! This was the third year of the ginormous art contest and my second year in attendance (and my mother's second year participating). Last year I managed to visit during the first week, so was able to participate in voting. This year I went right at the very end so wasn't able to vote, but did attend the finalist party where the winner (of the major public voting prize) was announced in addition to several juried awards. I spent the next day walking all over town looking at art with the fam for 6 hours or so, with a pit stop at Reserve to refuel. The weather was amazeballs so I basically spent the entire weekend outside, topping it all off with donuts at Robinette's (again!) and a trip to the beach. Now, after a lengthy delay (while I looked up details of everything that I took photos of!)...I present: A Fall Weekend in Western Michigan.

Mom's painting The Four Horses

Detail of Mom's painting - nail polish used in the highlights

Rain by Lynda Cole

Serial Reproduction by Meir Lobaton

The other perspective

Look and Learn, Little Girl Series by Jess Larson

Branches Unbound by Wendy Wahl

Salvaged Landscape by Catie Newell

Detail of the charred wood salvaged from a Detroit house hit by arson

A former location of Junior Achievement utilized by Site Lab as a gallery

Wall detail

Disappearances - An Eternal Journey by Shinji-Turner Yamamoto

Detail of Disappearances

View from the opposite direction

Tele-present Water by David Bowen

Glass Totems by Todd Kime

Prosciutto pit stop

Early birthday candle

Art walk at sunset

Robinette's! Donuts! Sugar!

Have you ever seen a bluer sky?

Grand Haven, MI

GH Pier

The Big Lake