December 29, 2013

Best of 2013

Goodbye, 2013. Good riddance. This year was a rough one...lots of stress, anxiety, drama, and sadness: no heat for over a week in January, a leaky steam pipe that had to be replaced, a collapsed carport, a badly sprained knee, a broken AC system, a friend's betrayal, lies, failed trust, and a broken heart.

But, there were a few good highlights: a new car, a couple of new tattoos, a fun 40th birthday party, and reconciliation. At year's end, things are starting to look up. I am trying to remain hopeful about the future while being happy in the moment.

Thinking back, through all the heartache I realized some important things. I decided what I really want out of life & I learned that I have a couple great friends, that my students are very important to me, that time does heal all wounds, that I am loved, and that no matter what I have to just keep swimming.

I never tend to stick with my new year's resolutions, but there are a few changes I'd like to make this year: go to the gym more often (I was doing so well last year before I hurt my knee), do more yoga, let go of jealousy, be a better friend, and spend less time on social media (in fact, I'm seriously considering giving up Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the year).

I'd also like to do more cooking and blogging. I only posted 35 times this past year. I have an ever-growing list of recipes I'd like to make, so I'm going to put in more effort to experiment in the kitchen. What would YOU like to see more of on here?

Below are my most popular posts of the year:

December 23, 2013

Pecan Pepper Jelly

I'm finding it hard to believe that Christmas is almost here. I'm not ready. Then again, I never am. 

This fall has been a rough one. Things are looking up now (fingers crossed), but I'm still not in the holiday mood. School ended for the semester last Friday, and my brain is just now recovering from its mushy, essay-grading state. 

I haven't put up any decorations. I haven't sent any cards. I haven't bought any gifts. I'm just not doing Christmas this year. 

Instead, I'll be celebrating my annual "Day of Debauchery" on the 25th...lots of eating, drinking, and lazing. Sounds like Christmas anyway, huh?

If anyone is a holiday slacker like me and needs a last-minute gift, this jelly is perfect! It's easy to make and really delicious. I like to serve it with homemade cheddar coins; they're like the best Cheez-Its you've ever had.

December 9, 2013

Eggnog Cake with Rum-Soaked Cranberries & Pecans

I'm happy to be participating in an Eggnog Party sponsored by Davidson's Safest Choice® Eggs. They've asked me to create and post an eggnog recipe using their pasteurized eggs. 

You can join the party, too! Safest Choice® Eggs is giving away two baking Grand Prize packs valued at $500 each:
  • one (1) $200 Amex gift card
  • one (1) Sur La Table® Platinum Professional Bakeware, 7-Piece Set
  • one (1) Sur La Table® Silicone Snowman Spatulas, Set of 2
  • one (1) Better Homes and Gardens Baking: More than 350 Recipes Plus Tips and Techniques cookbook
  • 52 coupons for a free dozen of Davidson’s Safest Choice® Eggs
The giveaway will end at midnight Eastern time on Friday, December 13th. You can enter at the end of this post.

So, why use pasteurized eggs? "Davidson’s Safest Choice® Eggs are pasteurized in an all-natural, gentle water bath pasteurization process to eliminate the risk of Salmonella. The vast majority of eggs sold in grocery stores are NOT pasteurized. Safest Choice™ offers peace of mind when making recipes calling for raw or undercooked eggs [like homemade eggnog] and removes the worry of cross contamination."

December 1, 2013

Wagyu Steak Tartare

'Tis the season & I've been thinking about holiday foods, of course. I love to indulge during this time of year...lots of champagne and rich, expensive foods...oysters, lobsters, caviar, steak...

I remembered that a couple years ago, I was given a Wagyu strip steak for Christmas. I know some pretty awesome, generous people. I am very lucky.

Wagyu steak comes from Japanese cows that are genetically predisposed to yield meat with a higher fat content than typical beef. Fat equals flavor, especially in meat. Intensely marbled, Wagyu is considered the best beef in the world. And it's fairly pricey.

I knew right away that I didn't want to cook that steak; I didn't want to risk ruining it. Instead, I decided to make tartare for Christmas Eve that year. When would I have the chance to make--let alone eat--Wagyu tartare again? And, I mean, if you're going to eat raw beef, it should be the best beef you can get your hands on....right?


So, I trimmed and chopped up the steak, then mixed it with a couple tablespoons of capers, the zest of a Meyer lemon, a handful of chopped parsley, some olive oil, a pinch of salt, and lots of coarsely-ground black pepper.

It was delicious.

November 9, 2013

Winter 2013-2014 Cooking Classes

Next month, I'm teaching one of my favorite cooking classes: The Ultimate Cocktail Party. Each December, I plan a fabulous spread designed to inspired your own holidays parties. This year we're making cranberry-champagne sangria, gingersnap-apple vodka martinis, roasted five-spice cashews, baked cheddar coins with pecan-pepper jelly, caramelized onion bread topped with olives and anchovies, smoked shrimp with cilantro-lime yogurt dipping sauce, & homemade marshmallow s'more skewers.

I'm also teaching two new Girls' Night Out demonstration classes: Italian food on January 11 (featuring ricotta-spinach gnudi in parmesan broth & sautéed garlic shrimp with saffron orzo) and Asian food on February 1. This new menu includes Thai-spiced hot crab dip, smoked salmon and edamame panzanella salad, red curry noodles with shrimp and scallops, & cardamom-caramel apple cake.

As usual, I'm teaching several Date Night for Couples classes: A chili cook-off with three different recipes on January 19, sushi on January 25, and a menu featuring all foods made with rum on March 23 (coconut bisque with rum flambé, macadamia-crusted scallops with rum beurre blanc, jerk pork tenderloin with spiced rum glaze, Caribbean rice, & mini-hot buttered rum cheesecakes).

I'm also repeating one of my popular kids' pasta classes (for ages 7-12) on March 8.

Below is my schedule through March. To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.

November 7, 2013

Lane Cake

As you might have guessed from my previous post, I am single...again. Corey and I broke up a couple months ago. It's been really, really hard. Though we are keeping in touch and are friendly to each other (it wasn't necessarily a "bad" breakup), I miss him. A lot.


I'm getting better, though. I'm taking it day by day. Some days are, of course, better than others. I'm working through some of my own issues, keeping busy, and trying to figure out that thing called "happiness."

I haven't told many people about what's been going on...and while I don't usually tell my students much about my personal life, they can tell something is wrong. I've gotten many "hope you feel better" and "don't be sad" messages from my juniors and seniors. I even got a few "we love and need you" messages. One of my classes gave me a group hug; the other made me a huge Frankenstein card with sweet sentiments like "you're beautiful" and "boys are stupid." ;-)

October 22, 2013

Caramel Apple Cake

I've been dragging my feet on this post for weeks, writing and rewriting...wondering how much is too much to say, how little is too little.

So, I'll just say this:

Life isn't going as I'd planned or hoped. I am heartbroken. Again.

Doesn't that seem to be a reoccurring theme for me?

But, I'm dealing with it as best I can. Trying my hardest to heal myself and to be a better, stronger person. Keeping some hope--what little there might be--alive. For now.

Because I have to. I have to belief in love and happiness.

Besides, cake always makes it a little better, right?

October 12, 2013

A Culinary Diversion

I was looking through a couple of boxes of old cookbooks recently and found a copy of the 1976 British book The Alice in Wonderland Cookbook by John Fisher.

Fisher’s book features illustrations and excerpts from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass.  Recipes are inspired by each of the Alice passages.  Dishes include “Drink Me” Soup & “Eat Me” Cakes, Ambidextrous Mushrooms, Not “Too Much Pepper” Soup, Mock Turtle Soup, Bread-and-Butter-Fly Pudding, and–of course–The Jam Tarts of the Queen of Hearts.

August 30, 2013

Jalapeño Pepper Jam

What do you do when a friend gives you a bunch of jalapeños, you don't have television, you're feeling kinda antsy, and you realize you have some fruit pectin in the pantry?

You make jam, ma'am!

I've made pepper jelly before, though I didn't blog about it. Several years ago I had to use up a bunch of Thai bird chiles, so I made a red & green pepper jam and a raspberry-pepper jelly. I chopped so many of those peppers that my hands were red and burning. I had heard that you can pour rubbing alcohol over skin that's come in contact with capsaicin (the hot stuff in peppers) to relieve the pain. I didn't have any rubbing alcohol, so I poured most of a bottle of vodka over my hands. It helped...though drinking the vodka may have helped even better. 

August 16, 2013

Julia Child's Cold Watercress Soup

A love letter to Madame Julia Child:

Yesterday would have been your 101st birthday.

Everyone seems to have a Julia story. Mine is about a trip to Hollywood in 2009 to see Julie & Julia, which culminated in meeting Julie Powell, who had sparked my interest in your story two years earlier when I read her book.

Whenever I'm in a horrible funk, from which even the gooiest of mac-n-cheeses won't rescue me, I turn to you. I watch old episodes of The French Chef. I browse your cookbook. Sometimes, I even spend an evening making one of your recipes. In fact, my first post on this blog was about one of your dishes: Potage Parmentier (Leek & Potato Soup).

August 13, 2013

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

I recently came across a post by Zoe & Jeff, authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, featuring bread baked in a crock pot. "Genius," I thought. "No heating up the house to bake bread during the summer!"

Their basic white bread recipe makes four pounds of dough, enough for four loaves of bread. It's a simple technique: Simply mix the dough by hand and let it sit for 2 hours. At that time you can either bake a loaf or refrigerate the dough for a couple weeks, taking a pound out each time you want to bake some bread. It's stupid easy.

August 9, 2013

Blackberry-Peach Breakfast Crisp

I call this a "breakfast crisp" because it's healthier (no sugar added to the filling & only 1/4 cup in the topping!) and more suited for breakfast than as a decadent dessert...and because I made this for brunch at a friend's house last weekend.

While I've made many crisps before, I usually just throw together the topping with whatever I have on hand. This, however, is the best version I've made and is now my go-to recipe.

You can use whatever fruits you want in this. I used wild blackberries and local peaches because I'd just bought them at the farmers market.

August 5, 2013

Homemade Mayonnaise

 photo e624d2bf-57ed-4888-b60e-678681da48d4_zpsc45afbf9.jpgEvery year, during late summer when the tomatoes ripen, I make mayonnaise by hand. And when I say "by hand," I mean that I whisk oil into an egg yolk one drop at a time.

One. Drop. At. A. Time.

I don't use a food processor or blender. I use a hand-held whisk. I don't rush. I revel in the whisking. I get lost in the rhythmic sound of metal striking the side of a glass bowl. Why? Because it's worth it.

August 3, 2013

Fall 2013 Cooking Classes

I have a couple of new classes that I'm teaching this fall. One is a Girls' Night Out demo class with Italian food (September 14), including homemade ricotta cheese and black pepper pappardelle. Another GNO class is pork-centric (November 23), four dishes all made with pork from the appetizer (five-spice rillettes) to dessert (candied bacon ice cream).

I'm teaching a Weekend Dinner Party demo class (October 26) featuring some of my favorite recipes from Nigella Lawson that ends with a luscious flourless chocolate-lime cake with tequila-lime whipped cream.

As usual, I'm teaching several couples classes: Cajun food & hard ciders (September 21), sushi (October 19), comfort foods (October 27), a chili cook-off (November 10), and the ultimate holiday cocktail party (December 22).

I'm also repeating my best-selling kids' class, the "Heir And A Parent" class where we make all foods from the Harry Potter books (November 3).

August 2, 2013

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

My "back to school" letter from the superintendent arrived today, AND Schlafly just announced that their pumpkin ale should be hitting stores next that makes it official: Summer is Over.

This has been the most rejuvenating break I've had in a while. I cut back on hours at my other job, so I've had time to do some things around the redecorating the living room and cleaning out the basement.

In June, I made a list of 50 things to do this summer. So far, I've done 15 of them. But, I plan to do a few more in the next couple weeks...go to the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park, check out the new library downtown, finish painting the kitchen, have drinks on the roof of the Moonrise Hotel, try baking bread in the crockpot, and go thrift store shopping.

July 21, 2013

Curried Chicken Salad

This is not a "new to me" recipe; it's one that I've pulled from my personal recipe box. In fact, this is based on my Uncle Eric's recipe, one that he served at a small coffee house/lunch spot (The New Leaf Cafe) that he used to own with my Aunt Nancy (his sister) in Springfield, Illinois, in the early 1990's.

My favorite photo of Eric, taken at his house in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina

I like this recipe so much that I asked him to make it for my high school graduation party. It's my favorite chicken salad, and during the summer I usually make it every couple weeks or so. Each time I do, I'm hit with a wave of nostalgia.

Curried Chicken Salad

July 14, 2013

Blueberry Lime Pie

Last Friday, we went to the St. Louis Art Museum's outdoor concert & film series for an evening picnic on Art Hill. The museum hosts this event every Friday in July, with music starting at 7:00 and a film starting at 9:00. My friends and I brought quite a spread, as usual...eggplant caponata, cheese, salami, chicken salad, hummus, olive tapenade, veggies & guacamole, and lots of wine.

For dessert, I baked a blueberry pie. I found an awesome-sounding recipe with lime zest & juice added to the berries and decided to give it a first blueberry pie! (I'm rhyming. It's not easy. Sure, I make it look easy.)

Instead of rolling out a top crust, I rolled the dough bigger than I needed and folded the edges over the filling. Easy!

July 10, 2013

Brussels Sprouts & Apple Salad

In an effort to be healthier (thanks to a slightly elevated cholesterol level), I'm eating more vegetables (less fat & carbs) these days.

That is to say: I'm totally food bored after two weeks of salads.

I've tried to mix it up; I've enjoyed Greek salad with spinach & chickpeas, tuna salad with white beans, curried chicken salad with grapes & almonds...but I'm finding that salads just aren't that satisfying to me. I'm still craving bread, pasta, and potatoes. *sigh*

And then I tried this...a stupidly simple salad that I can't seem to get enough of. It makes a lovely side dish particularly for BBQ or sandwiches (I ate it with a BLT on whole wheat toast). It holds up well, too, so it's great for picnics.

NOTE: I've tried raw Brussels sprouts salads before, one in particular was made with a lemon dressing, but they were always too bitter. This one, however, is just perfect with a hint of sweetness from cider vinegar and honey.

Brussels Sprouts & Apple Salad
slightly adapted from Love & Olive Oil

June 28, 2013

Thai Shrimp with Chili, Mint, Basil & Parsley

A few days ago, my friend Rachel posted this on her Facebook page:
Thinking of going to no-cooking for July. I'm tired of doing so many dishes every day and spending time over my stove! What are your favorite healthy, no-cooking (or little-cooking) recipes?
I then remembered that I have a cookbook called No-Cook Pasta Sauces, and I went in search of a new recipe to try and to share with Rachel. I adapted their Shrimp Sauce with Basil, Mint, and Cilantro...taking out the sugar, adding some fresh garlic & red pepper flakes, and substituting some parsley for the cilantro.

As with any recipe, switch out or leave out whatever you (or your kids) don't like. Try this with chicken instead of shrimp, add Sambal for a spicier kick, or substitute sesame oil for the sweet chili sauce.

Thai Shrimp with Chili, Mint, Basil & Parsley

June 21, 2013

Summer 2013 Cooking Classes

I'm teaching many classes this summer, including a couple new classes. One is a demo class featuring my favorite recipes from vacations (Recipe Redux: Road Trip Recollections on July 15), and another is a hands-on baking class where we'll make all fruit desserts (Fruit of the Bloom on August 1).

I'm also teaching a fun summer cocktail party, Cajun food and ciders, several Date Night and sushi classes, and a couple kids' classes.

Here is my schedule through September. Hope to see you there!

To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.

June 16, 2013

Strawberry Pie with Basil & Mint

Ahhhh....summer break. I've been out of school for two weeks now. So far, it's been a pretty happy-inducing/heart-mending vacation (which I desperately needed). I got the initial tattoo on my finger redesigned into a lotus flower ("Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted"), saw Shakespeare's Twelfth Night performed in Forest Park (my favorite St. Louis summertime event), and bought a new VW Beetle (an early 40th birthday present to myself).

I've been spending my time enjoying leisurely breakfasts on the front porch, reading (finished two new novels about Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald), and cooking...working my way through the ever-growing stack of books on my nightstand and the never-ending list of recipes I want to try. This list includes most of the recipes on my new favorite food blog Yummy Books, where author/butcher/voracious reader Cara recreates dishes from various books. Food + literature = heaven!

I read through all of the posts on Yummy Books last week and decided to try the strawberry pie inspired by Steinbeck's East of Eden (one of my favorite authors). Cara's recipe is unique because she adds basil and mint to the strawberries. Brilliant. 

This isn't one of those strawberry pies in which the fruit is drowning in a thick, cloying syrup or gelatin. The fresh berries are simply mixed with sugar and herbs (I added some flour to thicken the juice as it baked instead of letting the berries macerate & then straining the juice out before filling the pie).

This is the first strawberry pie I've ever made AND the first time I've attempted a lattice top. The crust is way easier than I expected...and so pretty.

photo by Corey Woodruff

Strawberry Pie with Basil & Mint
adapted from Yummy Books

For the crust:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter (cut into tablespoons)
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup ice water

For the filling:
2 pounds ripe strawberries, hulled & quartered
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
zest of a small orange
5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 fresh mint leaves, chopped

1 egg, separated

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • To make the crust: Mix the flour & sugar in a large bowl. Using your fingertips or a pastry blender, cut the butter & shortening into the flour until you have pea-sized pieces. Mix in the water, one tablespoon at a time, just until the dough holds together. Cut the dough into two equal pieces & form each into a disk. Wrap one in plastic wrap & chill. Roll the other disk out & fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Brush bottom crust with beaten egg white. Chill while you make the filling.
  • To make the filling: Mix everything together. Pour into chilled pie plate, then return it to the refrigerator.
  • To assemble the pie: Roll out the chilled disk of dough bigger than your pie plate. Cut into 12 strips. Place 6 strips, evenly spaced apart, on top of your pie. Fold every other strip in half over itself. Add another strip of dough across the top, folding the strips back into place. Repeat, alternating strips of dough, to form a lattice weave (see pictures below). Trim the strips & press the edges into the rim of the bottom crust. Brush top dough with beaten egg yolk.
  • Bake for about 1 hour, until the crust is golden brown.

More fruity desserts:

June 9, 2013

St. Louis Food Media Forum

Last year, some of my awesome food blogging friends put together the Food Media Forum, "the first ever food media conference to be held in St. Louis." The conference is returning bigger and better this summer. 

This year's conference features keynote speakers Aki and Alex from Ideas in Food. The schedule includes sessions on restaurant reviewing, recipe writing, blog design, photography & video, using social media, and marketing & branding. Since the conference is being held at a culinary school, there will be hands-on plating & style, knife skills, and photography sessions as well.

There are also several writing workshops: feature writing & interviewing, freelance writing, and cookbook writing. I am teaching a session on the craft of writing (on Saturday, August 10, from 9:00-10:00 am), focusing on descriptive writing. My plan is to include a couple activities involving tasting and writing to stimulate your creativity.

The Forum is being held August 9-11 at The Culinary Institute of St. Louis at Hickey College. Special early bird pricing runs through the end of the month. You can purchase tickets online.

Hope to see you there!

May 29, 2013

Self-Medicating with Chocolate Cake

At nearly 40-years-old I’m still trying to figure out life. Above all, I’m trying to figure out how not to be so hurt by other people’s actions. It is my ultimate weakness.

Most of the advice I’ve gotten is “let it go”  & “get over it.” That is the worse advice ever. It’s so much easier said than done. Sometimes, hurt feelings are hard to just let go. A broken heart is hard to get over, no matter how much time as passed.

I’ve had my heart broken more times than I want to think about: my mom’s early death, two failed marriages, numerous severed friendships, family abandonment, betrayal, disappointment. I often wonder if my heart will ever completely mend.

After a couple of rough, emotional weeks, a weekend spent laid up with a sprained knee, three days of sitting on the couch with too much time inside my head (that damned bell jar always hovering just above my head), much crying, overwhelming anxiety, and racking my brain to understand why people act the way they do, I had to finally DO something.

And what do I do in times of emotional crisis when nothing else works? I cook. Particularly, I cook something chocolate cake.

Because chocolate is supposed to heal a broken heart, right?

* * *

I found this recipe for “The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe {Ever}” on Add a Pinch. It’s the first homemade cake recipe that I’ve thought was actually perfect...tender & moist cake, rich & chocolatey flavor without being overly sweet.

It was dark and bittersweet.

Apropos for my mood lately.

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting 

Makes a double-layer cake

I made a full batter recipe but used a 10-inch cake pan to make a single layer cake. I halved the frosting recipe for it.

For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

For the frosting:
1½ cups butter (3 sticks)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
5 cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon espresso powder
  • Preheat oven to 350º F. Butter & flour two 9-inch cake pans.
  • For the cake: Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl. Stir until combined well.
  • Add milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.
  • Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-20 minutes.
  • For the frosting: Add cocoa to a large bowl & whisk to remove any lumps.
  • Melt butter and pour into bowl with cocoa powder. Whisk together until well-combined.
  • Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, turn mixer onto a high speed for about a minute. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.
  • Add vanilla extract and espresso powder, combine well.
  • If frosting appears too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears to wet and does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.

More chocolate to soothe the soul:
Bittersweet chocolate tart with pretzel crust
Chocolate bourbon creme brulee
Chocolate sorbet
Chocolate amaretti torte
Chocolate zucchini muffins
French chocolate brownies

April 29, 2013

Creamy Spring Mushroom Soup

So far, it's been a fairly chilly, damp, & dreary spring. Gray skies with rain, rain, and more rain.


The stone-foundation of my 100+ year old house is constantly seeping water, which puddles on my unfinished basement floor. My carport is still crumpled, hanging off the side of my house--a victim of last month's foot-deep snowfall. There are squirrels communing in my attic, and a rogue agent made his way into the living room (presumably through the walls & out the gap in the pocket door) last weekend.

So, last night, as I tried to shake this I'm-ready-for-summer melancholy and the last of the winter chills from my bones, I made a warming soup with a nod to spring. (And behold! Today is clear, sunny, and warm! It worked!)

Morel mushrooms are very popular around these here parts. Die-hard shroom heads search the woods for the prized fungi, never revealing their secret scavenging spots. All of the recent spring rain is great for these coveted mushrooms, and I've seen many pictures of giant morels that my friends have found lately. Unfortunately, I haven't found or bought any morels this year. *sadface*

This soup, however, would be a great way to use morels or any other spring mushrooms.

Creamy Spring Mushroom Soup
adapted from Season with Spice

2 cups fresh mushrooms, cleaned & finely chopped
2 tablespoons black truffle oil* (or plain olive oil)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons flour, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoons truffle salt* (or to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
Fresh chives, thyme, or parsley for garnish

* I used truffle oil & truffle salt to deepen the earthy mushroominess. You can, of course, use olive oil & Kosher salt instead. Though, I highly recommend trying truffle salt. It is the crack of all seasonings.
  • Heat olive oil in a sauce pan. Add butter and lightly sauté garlic on medium heat.
  • Add mushrooms, thyme, bay leaf and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until the moisture from the mushrooms disappears. 
  • Add broth. Stir occasionally until broth boils, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Add diluted flour & stir constantly (while simmering) until the mixture thickens. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. 
  • Add milk & heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Turn heat off.
  • Serve hot garnished with fresh chives, thyme, or parsley.

April 17, 2013

Rhubarb Pie

I started a post Monday night with these words:
I just...

I mean...

I don't even...


I have no words. 
Then, instead of writing, I made pie. Chopping jewel-hued stalks of rhubarb and rolling out butter-dotted dough took my mind off the heavy things. It didn't cure our society's evils. But it helped to cure my mounting blues. A little. Once again.

And then...I got to hear author David Sedaris speak last night at a local university. As always, he was hilarious--witty and raw. I laugh so hard; it was such a release.

On the way home from the reading, I thought about laughter...about how good it felt to chuckle and guffaw. I need to do that more often. Laughter is just as healing--even more so--than my favorite comfort foods.

When I got home, I settled down with one of David's books (I own nearly all of them)...and a piece of pie. And in that moment, life was pretty good.

Rhubarb Pie

For the filling:
4-5 cups sliced rhubarb
1 cup sugar
4-5 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon almond (or vanilla) extract

For the crust:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoons salt
1 cup cold butter, sliced
ice water
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • To make the filling: Mix all the ingredients & set aside.
  • To make the crust: Mix the flour, sugar, & salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or rub it through your fingertips until you have pea-sized pieces. Add the water, 2 tablespoons at a time, "fluffing" the dough with your fingers after each addition, just until the dough comes together. Gather into a ball & cut in half. 
  • Roll out half of the dough & place into the bottom of a pie plate. Add the filling. Roll out the other half of the dough & place on top of the pie, folding & crimping the edges. 
  • Brush the pie evenly with the egg/water mixture. 
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 375 degrees and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the crust is deep, golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven & let cool before slicing.
More pies:
Coconut Key Lime Pie
Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie
Cherry Streusel Pie
Banana Cream Pie with Chocolate Crumb Crust
French Silk Pie
American Apple Pie

April 1, 2013


According to Wall Street Journal writer Aleksandra Crapanzano:
"When Martha Stewart asked the founder of gourmet meat purveyor D'Artagnan about the hearty French dish of duck confit, garlic sausages and tarbais beans, Ariane Daguin responded in a thick Gascon accent that imparted culinary authority. 'Cassoulet,' she said, "it is not a recipe in France. It is a way to argue between villages.'"
Crapanzano goes on to explain cassoulet's history, a dish that originated with "white beans, garlic, pork shoulder, sausages, [and] stale breadcrumbs." The name cassoulet refers not to the recipe itself but to the dish it's assembled and baked in.

When my friend Steph and I decided to make a traditional cassoulet for Easter, I began my research with the source of all French food: Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julia's "French Baked Beans" recipe is 6 pages long. In the introduction, she explains:
"As cassoulet is native to a relatively large region of France, each part of which has its own specialties, arguments about what should go into this famous dish seem based on local traditions. Toulousains insist that it must include among its meats preserved goose, confit d'oie, or it is not a real cassoulet. [...] Then there are those who declare the cassoulet was born in Castelnaudary, and originally contained only beans, pork, and sausages. A heretical few suggest the cassoulet was not a French invention at all, but an adaption from the Arab fava bean and mutton stew. And so on, with variations and dogmatisms rampant."
While a traditional cassoulet can be made with a variety of meats--duck, goose, pork, lamb--Julia says that "the important item is flavor, which comes largely from the liquid the beans and meats are cooked in." Her version is made with pork loin, lamb shoulder, unsmoked bacon & homemade sausage cakes.

In my cassoulet research, I also studied recipes from Michael Lewis (whose adaptation of Julia's recipe features duck confit, bacon, lamb bones, garlic-pork sausage & goose fat), Saveur (a tomatoey pork-extravaganza loaded with ham hocks, pork shoulder, pancetta, pork sausage & duck confit), Mark Bittman (which begins with a whole duck and finishes with bacon, lamb shoulder, seared duck breasts & garlicky sausage), Anthony Bourdain & Michael Ruhlman (a 3-day production layered with beans, pork sausage, more beans, pork belly, more beans, duck confit, and beans again with a caramelized onion & garlic puree between each layer), and Nigel Slater (his "unctuous meat and snowy white beans" version contains duck confit, pork shoulder, bacon & pork sausage with a breadcrumb crust that's stirred into the stew after an hour, then topped with more breadcrumbs & a drizzle of duck fat).

Slater writes:
"The perfect cassoulet is one that sends wave after garlicky wave of warmth from the end of your tongue to the tips of your toes. The beans are held in just the right amount of herby, tomatoey goo, the breadcrumb crust is crisp, and the first mouthful piping hot. It should contain haricot or broad beans, some fatty pork, garlicky sausages and a thick breadcrumb crust."
I pieced together aspects of a few different recipes to create my own Frankenoulet, but I used Crapsanzano's recipe from the Wall Street Journal (which she adapted from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bistro) as my starting point...forgoing her step to reduce the bean cooking liquid, adding caramelised onions to her garlic confit puree, layering the cassoulet in Bourdain/Ruhlman fashion, and baking the assembled dish uncovered for a couple hours before adding the breadcrumb topping.

Steph and I made our cassoulet with (clockwise from bottom right) White Emergo beans (most recipes call for Tarbais beans, but Julia says that Great Northern beans work just as well), duck confit (thanks to Steph, who used a whole duck), fresh baguette breadcrumbs, olive oil used to make the confit (instead of using duck fat throughout the recipe), locally-made Bolognese sausage & pancetta, and caramelized onion & garlic confit puree.

Cassoulet isn't necessarily difficult to make; it just takes 3 days to prepare all the separate parts before baking the finished dish. Julia refers to this as "the order of battle." Day One: Make the duck confit (if you're making it instead of buying it) & soak the beans. Day Two: Cook the beans & make the garlic confit, then refrigerate overnight. Day Three: Finish the rest of the ingredients (make breadcrumbs, caramelize onions, cook pancetta & sausage), assemble the cassoulet & bake.

As Bittman says, "[...] cassoulet isn’t that demanding; it just takes time, and I’m here to say: You can do it."

And you CAN do it. WE did. So go do it already!


For the beans:
1 1/2 pounds dried white beans
1 bay leaf
1 large garlic clove, peeled
6 peppercorns
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 onion, peeled and halved crosswise
1 carrot, peeled and halved crosswise
1 piece bacon skin or trimmings (about 2 ounces) *
4 quarts freshly-made chicken or duck stock

* I used the skin from the pancetta.

For the cassoulet:
2 tablespoons olive oil or duck fat
1 pound pancetta, diced into lardons
1 pound garlicky sausages
confit from 1 whole duck
1½ cups garlic confit puree (recipe below)

For the garlic confit puree:
2 heads of garlic, cloves separated & peeled
olive oil, as needed
2 onions, halved & sliced
salt & pepper
For the crumb topping:
3 tablespoons olive oil or duck fat
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
3 tablespoons thyme, finely chopped
salt & pepper

Day One
  • Cover the beans with room temperature water and let sit overnight in a nonreactive bowl.
Day Two
  • Drain the beans and discard the water. Transfer beans to a large pot. Add bay leaf, garlic clove, peppercorns, thyme, onion, carrot & bacon. Cover with stock. (The beans should be covered throughout the cooking process by about 1 inch of liquid.)
  • Bring to a light simmer and cook over low heat, uncovered, until fully tender. This could more than 2 hours, depending on what kind of beans you are using. Start testing after 90 minutes. When they are just tender throughout, turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate beans in their liquid overnight (cover the pot).  
  • To make the garlic confit: Cut the root end off of the peeled garlic and place in a small saucepan. Add enough olive oil to cover the cloves by 1 inch. Set the pan over the lowest possible heat and cook gently. You should see very small bubbles in the oil but nothing that breaks the surface. If necessary, set the pan partially off the burner to achieve sufficiently gentle heat. Cook garlic, stirring occasionally, until cloves are completely tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Remove the pan from the heat and allow cloves to cool in the oil, about 1 hour. Then, pour the garlic and oil in a jar or covered bowl and refrigerate overnight. 
Day Three
  • Drain the beans, discarding the vegetables and bacon but reserving the cooking stock. (If you used bacon fat or trimmings--not skin--save it to add to the garlic puree.)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • To make the garlic confit puree: Caramelize the sliced onions (seasoned with salt & pepper) in a few tablespoons of the oil from the garlic confit. Puree the onion & the drained garlic cloves in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add some of the garlic oil if needed to make a smooth paste. (If you used bacon fat or trimmings in the beans, you can add it to the garlic puree as well.)
  • Heat olive oil or duck fat in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook the pancetta until lightly browned but not crispy. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon.
  • In the same pan, brown the sausages. Remove from pan & set the aside. (If you don't want whole sausages in your cassoulet, let them cool a little bit and slice them into 1-inch pieces.)
  • Start layering the ingredients in a large heavy-bottom dutch oven. Star with a layer of beans, then add the sausages, some of the garlic confit puree, another layer of beans, the pancetta & duck confit, more of the garlic puree, then the rest of the beans.  
  •  Add the reserved bean cooking stock, enough to just barely cover the beans.
  • Bake uncovered for two hours. The cassoulet should be moist but not soupy. Check the beans for doneness; they should be soft and creamy.
  • Meanwhile, combine all of the ingredients for the crumb topping. Sprinkle the cassoulet with the crumbs. Bake an additional 15 minutes, or until the topping is evenly browned. (We increased the oven temperature to 400 for this step, then finished with a couple minutes under the broiler for a crunchy topping.)
  • Behold your gorgeous creation and rejoice because you are now a culinary badass.
  • Serve immediately.

March 10, 2013

Homemade Maple Granola

Last weekend, I got to meet Deb Perelman, creator of the infamous Smitten Kitchen blog.  Along with several other St. Louis food bloggers, I was invited to sit down and chat with Deb for an hour before a signing at a local bookstore. She was, to my delight, very down-to-earth and very awesome. 

Deb talked about her process for writing a cookbook and asked us about our own blogs. I was pretty giddy most of the hour as I sat there thinking "I like her!" Sure, her blog is beyond great...but I've met a few "famous" food bloggers and was disappointed to discover they were snobby and kind of bitchy. NOT DEB! She really is the kind of person you want to be friends with. And despite her blogging success, she really is just like us...someone who loves cooking and tinkering around in the kitchen. 

I took her new cookbook home, read it cover to cover that weekend, and make a long list of recipes I'd like to try. I do this with most cookbooks that I buy and usually end up with a dozen or so recipes on my list. For Deb's book, I listed over 40 recipes I want to make...several of which I starred to try very soon!

The first recipe I made was her maple granola, because I've never made granola before. It's easy to do...just mix everything in a bowl, spread it on a cookie sheet, and bake! This recipe is loaded with oats, walnuts, coconut, & dried cherries and flavored with maple & cinnamon.

Big Cluster Maple Granola

February 26, 2013

Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)

I wasn't planning on posting this (hence the crappy phone picture below), but it was SO FREAKING GOOD that I decided to share the recipe.

I recently bought a new pressure cooker, and BOY am I glad I did! It's a handy piece of equipment, easy to use and versatile. The first thing I made in it was brown rice, which took only 20 minutes to cook. I have plans to make pulled pork, pot roast, osso bucco, pork rillettes, and artichokes in it as well.

Sunday night, I made chicken broth for pho in less than an hour, something that would normally take at least three hours to cook!

And it was SO DELICIOUS. Seriously. It tasted just like the pho I order at my favorite Vietnamese restaurants.

Pho Ga 

For the broth:
1 chicken *
2-inch piece of ginger
4 garlic cloves, peeled
6 whole cloves
4 star anise
4 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 onion
2 teaspoons fish sauce (or substitute salt)

For each bowl of soup:
rice noodles (cooked according to the package)
shredded chicken
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1 green onion, sliced
4 basil leaves, torn
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tablespoon soy sauce

* I used the bones from a leftover roasted chicken & picked all the meat off to use in my soup before making the broth.
  • To make the broth: Toast the ginger, garlic, cloves, anise, cardamom & cinnamon in a dry pressure cooker pan over medium heat until fragrant (just a minute or two). Add the onion, chicken, fish sauce, and enough water to cover the ingredients. Be careful not to fill the pot more than 3/4 full. Close the lid & bring to pressure over high heat, then turn down to medium low & cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Release the pressure. Remove the large pieces from the broth (be sure to pick the cooked chicken off the bones, shred or chop, & set aside) and strain though a cheesecloth-lined strainer.
  • To make a bowl of soup: Put noodles (as many as you'd like), shredded chicken, sprouts, green onion, and basil in a large soup bowl. Top with the broth and finish with the lime juice & soy sauce.

February 18, 2013

Espresso Meringues

Confession: Recently, I made meringues for the first time. They were another thing on my "to cook" list that seemed difficult & persnickity.

I was wrong.

Meringues are actually very easy...just four ingredients & little prep time. Plus, you can flavor them with just about anything (vanilla, chocolate, citrus, herbs, peppermint, berry). 

I made espresso meringues (which we sandwiched together with bittersweet chocolate ganache) in my cooking class last weekend. My class chose to make heart-shaped meringues for Valentine's day. But, you can make stars or kisses, depending on what kind of pastry tip you use, or simple disks.

Espresso Meringues

Just a quick, not-great pic snapped with my phone during class.

4 egg whites

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon espresso powder

  • Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. 
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. 
  • Sift the powdered sugar, cream of tartar, and espresso powder together and then slowly beat them into the egg whites. Continue beating until all of the sugar is incorporated and the whites form stiff peaks. 
  • Scoop the meringue into a pastry bag & pipe onto silicone mat-lined baking trays. 
  • Bake for 90 minutes until the meringues are hard. Remove from the oven and let cool.

February 9, 2013

Meat Corn

Still looking for an appropriately anti-Valentine dish? This snack is pretty much the epitome of anti- EVERYTHING.

A few years ago, my BFF Sarah joked around about bringing “meat corn” to my Fourth of July party. Our menu planning went a little like this:

Sarah: “This might be a good time to try out the recipe from ORVILLE REDDENBACHER’S POPCORN COOKBOOK for ‘Meat Corn,’ a delightful blend of popcorn sprinkled with Brown Gravy Mix and pieces of Beef Jerky.  BLARGH!”

Me: “OMG. Please tell me that’s NOT real. Because if it is, I’m TOTALLY MAKING IT ON SATURDAY! Trashy foods, FTW.”

Sarah: “It is TOTALLY real.  I think there is a picture in the book.  ‘Perfect for Armchair Quarterbacks’”

Me, barely able to contain my mounting excitement: “BRING THAT BOOK WITH YOU ON SATURDAY!”

And, so, being the AWESOME friend she is...Sarah showed up with the ingredients (and I’m using that term loosely) to make TWO batches of the now infamous MEAT CORN.

With all the fabulous homemade food we had that day, the meat corn was actually the most popular.

Meat corn: who knew what was so absolutely wrong--in more ways than one--could be kind of right.

For hot meat-on-meat action:

MEAT CORN (aka Mighty Meaty Mix) *

“An armchair must while watching any sporting event.”
from Orville Redenbacher’s Poporn Cookbook, circa 1992

* Disclaimer: I am in no way advocating that you make this recipe as instructed by Mr. Redenbacher. I am merely the messenger.

makes 3 quarts

1 bag popped Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Natural Microwave Popping Corn
1 (.82 oz) package brown gravy mix
2 tablespoons Orville Redenbacher’s Buttery-flavor Popcorn Oil
1 (1.2 oz) package beef jerky, snipped in pieces
  • Place popcorn in a brown paper bag, sprinkle with gravy mix (Mmmm...powdered graaaaaavy) and shake; pour oil over and shake again.  Place in a large bowl and stir in beef jerky pieces.
  • Variation: You can substitute salami or pepperoni for the beef jerky. (But why would you? I mean REALLY.)

January 29, 2013

Liver is Sexy

I remember Twitter chatter a couple years ago between some local chefs about Valentine’s dinner menus.  One person asked why lobster seems to be the go-to for Valentine’s Day dinner.  Someone else replied that it was because being in a restaurant on Valentine’s Day is like being boiled alive.

I’ve also never understood the fascination with eating lobster on Valentine’s day.  Sure, it’s an expensive ingredient, but lobster is fairly brutal to prepare (it does involve murder after all) and a little messy to eat whole (if you steam them, there’s a lot of water that leaks out when you break them apart at the table).

Besides, I’ve never considered going out to eat much of a “sexy” activity.  It’s much more erotic to cook a meal for your lover at home (see my tips for preparing the perfect dinner).

My idea of sexy food is probably much different from most people’s.  Strawberries with whipped cream is out; dark chocolate tart is in. Red wine is out; a ginger-laced cocktail is in.  Seafood of all types is out; bone marrow is in (the innermost part of a body, eating bone marrow is like eating an animal’s soul).

After reading Julie Powell’s Cleaving, I discovered the sexiness of liver.  Yes, that’s right…LIVER.  Don’t believe me?  Read the beginning of Powell’s book and judge for yourself:

February 13, 2008

This is really not what it looks like.

The work is most often a delicate thing, and bloodless. In the year and more I’ve been doing this, I’ve gone whole days with no more evidence of my labors by evening than a small bit of gore on my shoes or a sheen of translucent fat on my hands and face (It’s excellent for the skin, I’m told.) So this is unusual, this syrupy drip, my arms drenched up to the elbows, my apron smeared thickly with crimson going quickly to brown.

I reach down into the plastic-lined cardboard box one more time, coming up with an organ weighing probably fifteen pounds, dense and slippery dead weight, a soaked blood sponge. I slap it onto the cutting table with a sound like a fish flopping down on the deck of a boat; the risk of dropping it on the floor is not inconsiderable. The box is a deep one, and one of the times I reached to the bottom of it my face brushed up against the bloody lining. Now I can feel a streak of the stuff drying stickily across my cheekbone. I don’t bother to wipe it off. On what clean surface would I wipe it, after all? Besides, it makes me feel rather rakish.

I take my scimitar from the metal scabbard hanging from a chain around my waist. For most work I use my boning knife, an altogether more delicate thing, six inches long, slightly curved, with a dark rosewood hilt worn to satin smoothness by all the fat and lanolin that has been massaged into it. That little knife cracks open a haunch joint or breaks down muscle groups into their component parts like nothing else. But with this heavy, foot-long blade I can, while pressing firmly down on the flesh with my right palm, slice straight through the liver in one dragging stroke. Thin, even slices. With the boning knife I’d have to saw away to get through that bulk of organ meat, making for torn, jagged edges. And you wouldn’t want that. You want the blade to slip easily through. Smooth. Final.

More than a year ago, when I first told my husband Eric that I wanted to do this, he didn’t understand. “Butchery?” he asked, an expression of mystification, perhaps even discomfort, screwing up his face.

His suspicion hurt me – there was a time, just a few years before, when there was no trace of it in his heart. I knew I deserved it. But it was just so strange to have to try to explain; strange to have to explain anything to Eric at all. I’d known him by then sixteen years, almost literally half my life. I knew him when he was a beautiful, shy, blue-eyed teenager in baggy shorts, a stretched-out sweater and worn Birkenstocks, with a dog-eared paperback jutting out of one rear pocket. And almost at the beginning I picked him out, decided he was the one I needed. It took most of a school year to snatch him up from out of the swarm of pretty girls that seemed always to be circling – he so oblivious, he so sweet and gentle – but I managed it. God, I was invincible when I was eighteen. When it came down to it, I pretty much got whatever I went after. Want, Take, Have, that was my simple motto. And I was right – to take him, I mean. From the beginning we were interlocking puzzle pieces. From the beginning we nestled into the notion that our two lives were to be irrevocably woven into one.

I now slice off eight pretty burgundy flaps of liver. The cut organ releases a metallic tang into the air, and yet more blood onto the table. Changing out knives now, I delicately excise the tight pale ducts that weave through the slices. Perfectly cooked liver should be crisp on the outside with a custardy-smooth center. Nothing tough or chewy should get in the way of that sensual quintessence. Six of these slices are for the gleaming glass and steel case at the front of the shop; the last two I set aside, to wrap up and take home after work for a Valentine’s Day dinner tomorrow. Once, I thought the holiday merited boxes of chocolate and glittery cards, but in these last few, eye-opening years, amid the butchery and wrenches of the heart, I’ve realized life has gotten too complicated for such sweet and meaningless nothings; I’ve even learned I’m okay with that.

January 24, 2013

Clementine Bars

What do you do when you have a bowl full of sad-looking clementines going mushy on the counter? 
Make dessert. Duh.

Clementine Bars
recipe from Felt & Honey 

For the crust:

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
pinch of kosher salt

For the filling:

3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons flour
5 tablespoons clementine juice
zest of 2 clementines
2 eggs, at room temperature, beaten
Powdered sugar, for dusting

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • To make the crust: cream the butter & sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the bottom & slightly up the sides of a 13x4-inch rectangular removable bottom tart pan (or an 8-inch square baking dish). Chill.
  • Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack while you mix the filling.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the sugar, baking powder, & flour. Whisk in the clementine juice, zest, & eggs and blend well. Pour the mixture over the baked crust & bake again until set, about 20-25 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes clean. Let cool on a wire rack.
  • When cool, lightly dust with powdered sugar & cut into bars.

January 16, 2013

Homemade Ramen Noodles

One of the perks of working at a cooking school is being able to audit classes. Last night, I took a class with Chef Brendan Noonan to learn how to make a traditional bowl of ramen from scratch.


At first, I thought that making ramen from scratch was just too time-consuming to do at home. But now I realize that it's not really all that difficult, and many elements (like the tare, broth, and meats) can be made in advanced. I think this would be a fun thing to make on a weekend when friends are coming over for dinner.

My ramen started with raw shiitake mushrooms & green onions, sliced and placed into the bottom of a large, wide serving bowl. I added chopped Asian greens (like bok choy), chunks of orange-braised pork belly, a roasted duck wing, an egg (Usually poached, but I added it raw. Next time, I'll either poach or just add the yolk, as the white never cooked and remained kind of snotty in the bowl. Eww.), and a couple tablespoons of tare seasoning.

The tare is made by roasting 1 pound of "bones from any tasty critter" until caramelized. Remove the bones and deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of sake, then add 1/2 cup of mirin (a sweet cooking rice seasoning), and 1 cup of soy sauce. Simmer on low for 1 1/2 hours, strain & chill.

Once the noodles were cooked (recipe for homemade ramen noodles is below), I added them to the bowl then ladled in some homemade broth.

To make the broth, bring 5 quarts of water to a simmer. Turn off the heat and add 2 ounces of kombu (edible kelp) that's been rinsed. Let steep for 1 hour, then remove the kombu. Add 5 pounds of meat & bones (we used chicken backs, but you can use anything) and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and skim the white, frothy "scum" that comes to the top of the pot. Add the shiitakes & green onions and simmer very slowly for 5 hours. Strain.

And then I slurped to my heart's content.

Alkaline Ramen Noodles

3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons sodium carbonate *
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup cold water

* To make sodium carbonate, spread baking soda on a sheet pan and cook in the oven at 250 degrees for 1 hour.
  • In a medium bowl, dissolve the sodium carbonate in the warm water, then add the cold water. Add the flour and mix with a spoon to a crumbly dough. 
  • Turn onto a work surface and knead for a full 5 minutes. This dough is tough & the kneading with be strenuous, but keep with it for the full time.
  • Wrap the dough in plastic and rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  • Knead the dough for another full 5 minutes. 
  • Wrap the dough again and refrigerate for at least an hour (but not more than 2 days). 
  • Let the dough come to room temperature before rolling. Cut into smaller pieces and use a pasta roller to roll out the dough, passing it through the widest setting twice & each narrower setting once. Keep the noodles well-floured so that they don't stick. 
  • Cut the dough to the desired thickness (we used the spaghetti cutter on the pasta roller). 
  • Cook for 2 minutes in salted, boiling water. Serve immediately.

January 12, 2013

Sour Citrus & Feta Bruschetta

Well, now that the Christmas season is over, it is officially "time to get ready for Valentine's Day."

I hate Valentine's Day.

In fact, for the past couple years I've thrown an Anti-Valentine dinner party where we eat unromantic dishes...garlicky, oniony, spicy, sour, bitter, salty, messy, & stinky foods. My favorite appetizer to put out is a big hunk of blue cheese with a "Love Stinks" sign. Anything with a face still attached is always welcome.

The first year I made Angry Lobster, and my guests had to murder their own crustacean. Last year, I made Pasta Puttanesca, a pungent sauce with anchovies, olives, and capers...for the whores.

This year, my theme is "Let's Fork!" I am asking guests to bring an appropriately un-love-ly appetizer to share. I'm thinking of making pissaladiere and chicken liver pate. But, I have so many other foods (like beet pasta) and black foods (like crostini with spicy homemade ricotta & black lentils) are on the top of my list.

Here are some other ideas for the perfect "Anti" dinner:


Sour Citrus & Feta Bruschetta

1 firm pink grapefruit
1 firm clementine
1 medium shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon minced tarragon
1/2-inch-thick baguette slices, toasted
  • Remove the peel and white pith from the clementine. Working over a skillet, cut between the membranes to release the sections. Cut the grapefruit in half & cut out the sections as well.  Squeeze the juice from both fruits into the skillet. 
  • Add the shallot, vinegar and mustard seeds. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until most of the juice has evaporated and the fruit has started to break down, 2 minutes.
  • Let the relish cool to room temperature, then stir in the tarragon and season with salt. Spread the relish over the toasted bread.