Archive | August, 2011

How To Cook Chewy Chess

31 Aug

Several weeks ago, I went to my very first pop-up shop since moving to New York. Martha Stewart opened up a weekend pie and tart shop to celebrate the release of her new cookbook, Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts.

Sadly, there was a one-pie-per-person limit. There was a lot of pressure in making just the right choice. After no small amount of deliberation, I chose this Chewy Chess Tart.

Chess pie was my favorite pie for most of my childhood. I never had any idea what went into one. I just knew I liked it. Now that I consider myself somewhat of a baker, I am fascinated by this pie and its simplicity. How is it possible that sugar, butter, and eggs can evolve into something so amazingly good?

This pie tastes far more complex than its list of ingredients might lead you to believe. The baking of a custard-like pie, however, can be a bit tricky. While I tend to like underbaking by a smidge, that is not the way to go with this one. If it’s not baked long enough, you’ll end up with a gooey mess.

I am a big fan of this nontraditional (to me, at least) vanilla cookie crust. Honestly, if the pie doesn’t turn out just right, you could be content just eating that crust.

How To Cook Black-Bottom Cookie Bars

31 Aug

Having lived in the South all of my life until last year, summer has always meant unbearable heat and a few months of staying inside as much as possible. I won’t say that it doesn’t get plenty hot here in New York. It certainly does. Thankfully, though, it’s not quite as long-lived as all of the other summers I’ve known. As I write this in mid-August, it’s already feeling a little bit like fall outside.  A few weeks ago, the good folks over at Everyday Food were kind enough to send me a copy of their special summer issue. With my brand new summer attitude, I delved in and found several recipes to add to my seemingly insurmountable “to-try” pile.

These cookie bars called to me. They were practically begging to be made. So, make them I did. And a wise decision that was.

Imagine, if you will, a bar with a rich, chocolate-y bottom layer. There’s no cream cheese involved in the top layer, but the taste and texture are reminiscent of cheesecake. I can only describe it as the cousin that cheesecake actually likes. The total package is a soft, chewy, delicious treat not just for summer. This kind of goodness works in any season in my kitchen.

How To Cook Soft Boiled Eggs with Mushroom Salt and Truffle Oil

29 Aug

It’s been a while since I have been on my breakfast soapbox here, so allow me to once again wax evangelical about my favorite meal. You all know how breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day, I am sure. It’s been a constant refrain of a million cereal commercials and mothers all around the world. So, I won’t bother repeating it…although it seems I just did.


I’m here to tell you that breakfast can be your best friend. It is exactly what you need at the beginning of your day, when the carnival of “the whole world” and all its demands/wonders/foibles has not yet made its way to you. It can be that rah-rah-rah that gets you going. It can be that comforting hug that tells you that this too shall pass. It can be the buttressing you need to get through an especially trying workday. It can be the elixir that lets you move mountains/change the world/answer 100 emails/do the laundry.

When I say breakfast, I don’t just mean what you eat, but also the time you take to eat it. Giving yourself a dedicated moment (no matter how long or short – I prefer long and luxurious, but I am aware that we do live in the real world majority of the time) to start your engine can be just as important as what you use to start it.

What’s that you say? You’re not a morning person? Well, let me tell you, with much resolution, neither am I. I hold a PhD in sleep and have, in the past, spent a good part of my life waking up at noon. But I can promise you, in all sincerity, that it is worth it. It really sets the tone for my day, gets me started confident and raring to go, instead of rushing forth blindly, blouse untucked, without plan or compass. It also keeps me from getting to lunch time starving, devouring the closest thing at hand, whether that be a week-old serving of Spam or 3 stale Krispy Kreme donuts.

Believe you me, breakfast is in all our best interests. Take the time to enjoy it. Here’s another way how.

Soft Boiled Eggs with Truffle Oil and Mushroom Salt (and toast soldiers)

2 eggs (the best you can find/afford)

A drizzle of truffle oil, to taste

A sprinkling of mushroom salt, to taste

Toast soldiers, to serve

– Cook your eggs soft boiled using your preferred soft-boiling method. I won’t claim to have the best or sure-fire way of doing this. It’s a much-debated topic that I won’t get into here. If you’d like to know though, this is how we do it: I place the 2 eggs in room temperature water in a small pan, then place on high heat for about 5-7 minutes. I like my soft boiled very soft…just-set whites and gloriously runny yolks-gone-wild!

– While your eggs are cooking, make your toast soldiers. Toast a slice of bread, and then cut lengthways into 4 strips. You can butter these if you wish, but I forwent the butter since I used truffle oil in the eggs. A moment of uncharacteristic restraint….who knew?

– When your eggs are done, peel the tops off gently and scoop the eggs into a small bowl or cup.

– Drizzle truffle oil over the eggs and sprinkle with mushroom salt. Mix and taste…adjust seasoning. Consume immediately!

You can dunk the soldiers in the eggs or, as I love to do, just toss the soldiers into the eggs and press them down until all the egg is absorbed and the bread is a soggy mess of truffle-mushroom egginess!

Although we would all benefit, both health-wise and in taste, from buying free range eggs, their rich flavorful yolks are most especially enjoyed in preparations like these. So do spring for them if you can! The mushroom salt I chanced upon at one of my favorite stores, owned and operated by friends who are passionate about all things local and sustainable. You can check it out here. If you are in Manila I highly recommend a visit…it’s a charming general store type gem offering all sorts of locally sourced goodies. Bring your own containers if you want to stock up on salt and rice. I love the subasta cacao, any of the sea salts, and the lemongrass hand wash.

I hope this has inspired you somewhat, even just a little bit, to go and set your alarm clock a smidgen earlier, and celebrate breakfast! Rise and shine everyone!

The Run-Up to Hurricane Irene in Food

28 Aug

Creative taping and window-boarding styles were evident at many restaurants — sometimes with a memorable slogan thrown in. In this case on Greenwich Avenue: “Missed You Irene Bet You Are a Hoot.”

If you’re one of those boulevardiers who prides herself in never touching a kitchen utensil, and eating every meal out, whose kitchen still looks like the day it was renovated, maybe you’re wondering, “Where the hell am I going to eat tonight and tomorrow?”

​Looking for a place to eat? Irish bars are a good bet, this one fortified, but still open for business as evening approached.

An informal survey of restaurants conducted by bicycle from the Upper West Side to the West Village between cloudbursts indicated that many restaurant chains (Subway, McDonald’s, Qdoba Grill) and upscale restaurant empires (Danny Meyer, David Chang) where completely shuttered by decree from the top, and so were bistro-level places, especially those that depend on hip waiters who live in Brooklyn.

Indeed, the places most likely to be open (and they were multiple, especially in commercial areas) as Saturday evening approached were:

1) Neighborhood Chinese restaurants

2) Irish bars with pub grub

3) Pizza parlors

4) Neighborhood delis

The places that had stayed open seemed to be doing three or four times their normal business.

At the corner of West 11th and Sixth Avenue, for example, Famous Ray’s, Sammy’s Noodles, and French Roast (a bistro, normally open 24 hours) were all wide open. A call placed to French Roast elicited the response: “We plan to stay open 24 hours throughout the storm.”

Elderberry Syrup with Alexis Siemons of teaspoons & petals

28 Aug

I’m off on a much-needed vacation this week with my husband Scott. While we wander the wilds of Lancaster County, PA, a few of my favorite bloggers will be dropping by to keep you entertained. First up is Alexis Siemons from the gorgeous blog teaspoons & petals. A freelance writer and tea consultant, she writes evocatively of tea and its many accompaniments. Today Alexis has a recipe for elderberry syrup and the perfect chilled tea to pair with it.

Warm days are fleeting as fall is creeping into the leaves and cooling the air. In hopes of holding on to summer just a bit longer, I’ve been steeping floral tea blends. The blossoming aromas of White Rose, Lavender & Mint and Jasmine Pearls are filling my kitchen with fresh-from-the-garden scents.

During a recent trip to a local spice shop, I perused the $1 basket in search of a new flavor. I love to close my eyes and reach in for a surprise find. This time, I jumped for joy when I saw a petite bag of dried elderberries lingering in the basket. While I’ve often tasted drinks mixed with the sweet berry, I’ve never brought them into my tea lab (a.k.a my kitchen counter).

In hopes of pairing the earthy berries with a fragrant tea, I decided to make an elderberry syrup to mix with the smooth, perfumed notes of Jasmine Pearls green tea. Combining the berries with water in a pot, the syrup had started to simmer on the stove. Before moving on to the steep, I took a moment to watch the tiny elderberries paint the water a deep eggplant shade.

The kettle began to sing its sweet song and I carefully spooned the delicate tea pearls into the infuser. (FYI the green tea leaves are naturally scented with fresh jasmine flowers and then hand-rolled into tiny pearls-a true art!). After the water had slightly cooled to a gentle steam, I poured it over the pearls and watched them tumble about in the infuser, slowly unfurling and releasing their jasmine fragrance.

The tea cooled on the counter as the berries finished their simmering dance. I strained them with a fine mesh infuser, squeezing out every drop of juice with a spoon. Normally when making a syrup you might use a 1:1 ratio of water to sweetener, but I prefer lighter syrups (only ½ cup of honey) that let the tea flavor still shine. I slowly stirred in summer amber pure honey from Two Gander Farm in Fleetwood, PA. The richness of the summer amber honey was a sweet companion to the earthy berries. After the syrup and tea had cooled, I poured them into a glass jar and bottle and let them chill in the fridge overnight.

Waking with a craving for a lightly sweetened sip, I headed to my fridge. The glass jar of the regal, deep purple elderberry syrup caught my eye. I poured the sweet and floral jasmine green tea into a tiny jar and stirred in a few spoonfuls of the syrup. Before adding a sprig of mint, I stole a sip. The smooth and refreshing green tea balanced the deep, earthy flavor of the elderberry syrup. The floral notes lingered on the palate as I watched summer start to fade from the window.

Recipes for the elderberry syrup and chilled tea after the jump…

Elderberry Syrup:

1 cup water

½ cup honey

¼ cup dried elderberries

Add water and elderberries to a pot on the stove and bring it to a rolling boil. Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Strain the berries and pour the liquid into a bowl. Stir in the honey. Pour into jar and refrigerate until ready to use. Best if used within the week.

Chilled Jasmine Pearls Green Tea:

Add fresh, cold (preferably filtered) water to a tea kettle. Heat to 175° (bring to a boil and them let cool for 7 minutes). Add Jasmine pearls to infuser (1 teaspoon of Jasmine Pearls per 8oz of water). Steep for 2 minutes. Remove infuser (can be resteeped 1-2 more times, so set aside to resteep later). Pour into pitcher and chill in refrigerator.

Food Bank Shows Off New Mobile Food Pantry

27 Aug

COLUMBIA — A massive, colorful pantry idled in the parking lot of Schnucks Friday to demonstrate the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri’s delivery capacity and to solicit food donations.

The mobile pantry is a Freightliner truck that can carry 14,000 pounds of food and was donated to the food bank by Kraft Foods. The truck is one of 10 donated around the nation.

Last year, Kraft Foods’ National Huddle to Fight Hunger campaign donated over 20 million meals throughout the country. This year Kraft hopes to donate over 25 million meals.

“Food insecurity”is the dubbed phrase for when a family doesn’t know where their food is coming from next week, said Peggy Kirkpatrick, executive director of the food bank.

“Of the 32 counties we serve, 29 have a worse child food insecurity percentage rate than the national average,” said Kirkpatrick. According to data collected by the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, the national average of child food insecurity is 23.2 percent.

In Boone County, an estimated 32,521 people experience food insecurity, according to statistics gathered by the food bank. 7,080 are children under 18 years old.

The mobile pantry seeks to lower these statistics. The food bank already owns one mobile pantry truck, which distributed 993,642 pounds of food to the 32 counties in Missouri it covers in 2010, and it fed more than 3,400 peoplein those counties, said Rachel Ellersieck, communications coordinator of the food bank.

According to Ellersieck, the new truck holds 14,000 pounds of food.

“That’s 10,500 meals in just one trip,” said Ellersieck.

The Freightliner is composed of three cooling compartments and four dry compartments. One table compartment holds five tables.

“The truck will roll into pockets of poverty to places sometimes without a building for a food pantry, pull out the truck’s side awnings and set up tables to distribute the food,” said Kirkpatrick.

The truck’s refrigeration units allows for delivery of meats and dairy products, which were items store owners often threw away, said Schnucks store manager Bill Chrisco.

The truck will set off on its first voyage Thursday to Unionville, Mo. in Putnam County.

“It’s hard to fathom being a 6-year-old and not having breakfast,” Chrisco said.  “We are overwhelmed and awed at the changes this truck will bring to people’s lives.”

Hickory smoked Corn

27 Aug

I was privy to an e-mail recently that said all I ever talk about is pork. Well, Mr. Anti-Swine, stick this in your judgement pipe and smoke it.* Corn! A vegetable! Serious!

Defensive? Moi?

The golden cobs were 5 for a pound in Peckham last week, which is obviously an offer only a stupid woman would refuse. I decided to smoke them using hickory chips, considering I’d had such success with the hot wings (that’s chicken, right? Pigs don’t have wings, silly!) The Gods of Confidence were there to teach me a lesson however and the first time I was way too enthusiastic with the chips. It is definitely possible to over-smoke things, which seems really obvious now that I’ve done it.

My default topping for corn is usually butter mixed with chipotle and lime but I didn’t want to confuse things with smoky chipotle and smoky corn so I just gave them a thorough butter-bath followed by a scattering of my best (unsmoked) paprika, the zest of a lime and a good squeeze of its juice.

I can see myself using these in some sort of relish, or maybe serving them frittered with bacon. Oh no wait…

Okay FINE, so it has been a little pork heavy around here lately. Ahem.

Hickory smoked corn

Paprika, cayenne or fresh chilli (whatever takes your fancy)
Lime juice and zest
Salt and pepper

Hickory wood chips for smoking (1 handful. Do not be tempted to add any more for 4 cobs).

Light your BBQ for indirect cooking (with the coals to one side). The corn doesn’t necessarily need indirect cooking but you’re using wood chips and (apparently) should never cook food directly over the smoke. Soak a handful of chips in cold water while the BBQ is lighting.

When it is hot, put your corns on the side that is without coals, throw your chips into the coals then put the lid on your BBQ. Cook until the corn cobs are tender and juicy – about 20 minutes. Adorn with butter, lime, chilli, salt and pepper.