Monday, March 09, 2009

Site Has Moved

Live, at

Check it out.

Work In Progress.

Thank you, dear friend, Jason Simanek for all your work and help.

Also check out
Jason built josh a site. It's also a Work In Progress, but beautifully progressing!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

cheese, story of my existence and lack of my productivity.
why do i treat myself with sleep when I really want to make cheese?!
i've heard that botox doesn't allow your face to look angry. or sad.
maybe if i used botox i would make cheese.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Homemade Pizza

I think it's reasonable to want to make pizza every day of the week. It's so versatile, and can be as eclectic as your fridge and cupboards allow. You know those crazy Chicago style pizzas, stuffed to an overflowing and greasy pillow of calories? Hmm. I'm not so into those these days. I like the Italian pizza, the one without drippy sauces and doughy crusts. The crust can be mistaken for a flaky cracker and the toppings are not ruled by cheese and cheese alone. Sitting atop a pizza Italian style can be tomatoes, potatoes, anchovies, pears, bleu cheese, mozzarella, eggs, asparagus, and whatever is locally available. It really does transcribe to so many different cultures.

Our pizza the other night for all intensive purposes was a sausage pizza, with a thin crust, less flaky and more crunchy actually. I'm thinking that maybe the flour we used was less than ideal, maybe lacking proteins that bread flours need, as opposed to cake flours. But delicious nonetheless, and really entertaining. We used the pizza crust recipe from the most amazing encyclopedia of Italian cooking, The Silver Spoon. The recipe has you mound your flour and salt into a volcano, and then into a space created in the middle, pour half a cup of water with dissolved yeast. all this happens directly on your kitchen counter. It takes strategy, planning ahead for how you will deal with the river of yeasty water running across your non-level counters. But once you figure it out, damming the river with flour from the volcano, the whole concoction becomes smooth and cohered with a kneading shoulder work-out.

We chose sausage because we had some ground beef that needed to be used. Here's the fantastic and simple recipe for that, from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters:
using your hands, lightly mix together:
1 lb. ground pork
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh or 1 tsp dried sage
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
a pinch of cayenne
Mix well enough to distribute the seasonings evenly, but avoid mashing the meat. Make a small patty of meat, fry it ina small skillet, and taste. Adjust.
OR replace the sage, nutmeg, and cayenne with 2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and lightly pounded; 2 garlic cloves, pounded to a puree; 3 TB red wine; and optional 2 tsp chopped parsley and 1/2 tsp dried chile flakes.

After forming our pizza crust, we gently distributed some sliced cherry tomatoes and chopped garlic on the crust, drizzling olive oil over the top of these. We baked the pizza at 425 for 18 minutes, and then added our homemade pre-cooked sausage, cheese, and dried basil for 7 or 8 more minutes. The crust really was cracker-like on the edges, but still really good. Next time I'll try a change in flour and see what happens.

The basic pizza dough recipe from Silver Spoon cookbook (You've never heard of Silver Spoon? I want a semester of my life to be spent dwelling in this book, so many more recipes to explore!):

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 ounce yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
olive oil for brushing

Sift the flour and salt into a mound on a counter and make a well in the center. Mash the yeast in the water with a fork until very smooth and pour into the well. Incorporate the flour with your fingers to make a soft dough. Knead well, pulling and stretching until it becomes smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball, cut a cross in the top, place in a bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm place for about 3 hours until almost doubled in size. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a round about 1/4 inch thick. Brush a cookie sheet with oil or line it with baking parchment. Put the dough round on it and press out until it covers the area. Make sure the rim is thicker than the center. Sprinkle with the topping ingredients, leaving a 3/4 inch margin around the edge.
okay, so I'm really really busy right now. So much has happened this month that I haven't even begun to tell you about! We've been to California, and we just got back from a trip up north for Josh's 30th birthday. So many great things! But we also are cleaning and painting and working on our house to get it up on the market. Anyone want a cute and wonderful home full of good energy right in the middle of a really hip and lovely town? I do, but nonetheless we must sell.
So stay tuned to updates on the new blog in another week or so, once life has succumbed its grueling demands...

Monday, March 02, 2009

this needs to be made

Home cured, home made, home cooked corned beef.

Check it out, people. It takes days to cure before cooking. And it is that time of year. It's a good sign that it's finally corned beef and stout season. Longer days are already here and warmer days supposedly are slipping around the corner. I also love the theory behind this roast, soaking the meat in a brine solution with stout beer and pickling spices, the house filling with complicated smells as it cooks. Yet it's so easy to put the whole thing together on the stove and forget about it- welcome to my week. Ahh... forget about it.

The recipe, from
Homemade Irish Corned Beef and Vegetables

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Pound Cakes and Stomach Aches!

The pound cake, so misunderstood in the world of the grocer. So easily made and so easily kept, but so often purchased full of chemicals and complicated words at the chain markets. After some digging, I found my original pound cake recipe. It's the one that every time I make it and share it, the receiver never forgets it and deliberates back and forth in her mind whether or not she really wants the recipe. It's so good that any level headed person knows that it's better left unmade. It makes one crazy with desire- for the pound cake, that is, and only the pound cake. You can think of nothing else but just one more moist, soft, crumbly bit. And then your stomach turns over with glee from its richness- ouch.

The reason I searched high and low for the recipe- I really need to invent some sort of an organizational system for myself (it'll never happen)- was that I had found a pound cake recipe in gourmet this month that called for cardamom. I've been home alone the past 4 days, Josh still being in California, but I haven't touched more than the damn microwave. I wasn't into it. After being in heaven the past week myself (aka San Francisco), I just wasn't in the mood to be domestic. I was like a little bachelor, going out to dinner with girlfriends I don't see enough of, going to the bar by myself, drinking whole milk and not much more for breakfast, not touching laundry or dirty bathrooms that were supposed to be cleaned before we left... and it was fantastic. But last night I was tugged to do something, preferably something that was less than productive, but more than drinking beer or wine and reading off the computer.

I received some pretty severe news yesterday afternoon, news that overwhelmed me with sadness and further debilitated my motivation. It's nothing involving my life, but life changing news for a friend. So I decided to make this friend homemade yogurt and pound cake. She's a very competent cook and I think would not appreciate a meal just yet, but this pound cake you can freeze and the yogurt lasts for at least 2 weeks. It's something, right? And it took my attention for a good while, filling the house with sweet smells.

Last night I actually made the new recipe from Gourmet, but pulled out the original pound cake recipe discovered back in 2003 in Bon Appetit for comparison and options for you. Funny to think back to when this pound cake entered my life. Was I really an adult with a real job in 2003? It sounds like so long ago, but I was married, paying back students loans, working a couple of jobs, making this pound cake and shipping it to family when we couldn't be there for holidays. Let me tell you, it seems like a great and economical idea, but it is a pound cake people. It's a bit heavy. Maybe now that we have evolved to smarter postal ways since then (sigh, I feel so old) you could actually send in the flat rate box and send all over this country. Other than its weight, it's great for shipping because it lasts so very long. It's actually better the next day and is naturally preserved by it's sugar content.

So here they are; take your pick. Honestly, I like the cardamom flavor, but it is not bashful so use cautiously if sharing with a timid eater. All in all I think the 2003 recipe is a bit more addictive, but I think it's because it remains a little moister from cooking at such low temperatures. The Gourmet recipe has fewer eggs and less sugar, but does have more butter due to not having cream cheese in the recipe. I think in the end I would stick with Gourmet, but cook for less than an hour. I actually diviated from the recipe by using vanilla extract (saddly I felt that I couldn't spend the $11 on the vanilla beans at Whole Foods yesterday- I wish I could have had specks of compost black vanilla bean seeds in this cake) and adding some sour cream to the milk just because we had it. It was great and would have been better a little less cooked (unless you are sharing with those people that like their cookies crispy- then it would have been cooked just perfectly).

March 2009 Gourmet Cardamom Vanilla Pound Cake
3 c. flour
1 tsp ground cardamom (I used more)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter (I buy by the pound and calculated it to be just over a pound)
1 3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise (or 1+ TB extract)
4 large eggs
1 TB fresh lemon juice
1 c. whole milk (I used 1 1/2 TB sour cream, scooped into a measuring cup, and added milk to the cup)
For whipping cream (which I didn't make):
1 1/2 c. chilled heavy cream
2 1/2 TB confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

}Preheat oven to 350 with rack in middle. Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
}Whisk together flour, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat together butter and sugar in mixer at medium speed, scraping side of bowl occasionally, until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape seeds from vanilla beans with tip of a paring knife into butter mixture, reserving pods for another use, and beat until combined well, about 1 minute. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in lemon juice until combined well. At low speed, add flour mix and milk, alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, mixing just until combined.
}Spoon batter into pan, smoothing top. Gently rap pan on counter to eliminate air bubbles.
Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in pan 1 hour, then invert onto a rack and cool completely, about 1 hour more.
}For whipping cream: Beat cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla extract using whisk attachment of mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve cake with whipped vanilla cream.

And from December 2003 Bon Appetit:
Cream Cheese Pound Cake

The cake is put into a cold oven and then baked slowly at gradually increasing temperatures.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups sifted all purpose flour

}Butter and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Using electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and salt; beat 10 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Beat in flour at low speed until batter is smooth (do not overbeat). Transfer batter to pan.

}Place pan in cold oven. Set temperature at 200°F; bake 20 minutes. Increase temperature to 250°F; bake 20 minutes. Increase to 275°F; bake 10 minutes. Increase to 300°F; bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour longer. Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack; cool completely. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Wrap; store at room temperature.)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cast Iron Apple Pancake

Oh geez. You should make this for Valentine's Day.

But since it's past and beyond, you should make this for the week of Valentine's Day, in the morning, before going to work. It's that easy and it will surprise your loved one with oven baked warmth and scent, even if that loved one is only you. Don't even mention that you are making breakfast. Just beat your housemate to the kitchen before they have time to reach for their habitual box of cereal or oats. Give yourself 25 minutes- 5 minutes to prep and 20 to bake it. It's that easy. And it's so good. Of course, if you want to take some pretty pictures of the whole thing, give yourself a few minutes there. I was about to miss the bus so have little to show for this impressive bit of goodness.

It's best day of, so if you have leftovers don't be afraid to share with a neighbor or co-worker. You will lift her spirit and she will wonder how you knew her spirit needed lifting.

The recipe comes from everybody likes sandwiches. The recipe below has a few changes from her recipe, so follow whichever you like.

Cast Iron Apple Pancake
2 T butter
3 small apples, sliced (keep that skin on)
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 T cinnamon
1 1/2 T brown sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup milk
Grated nutmeg
Lemon peel or orange peel (if you happen to have)

For the topping:
juice of ½ lemon
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400. In a large cast iron pan, heat butter and add in sliced apples, raisins, cinnamon and sugar. Saute until the apples are golden brown and the sugar has melted into a delicious caramel sauce.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together and add in flours, milk, nutmeg, citrus zest. Whisk until combined and pour over the apple mixture. Place skillet in oven and bake for 20 minutes or so, until the pancake is fluffy and golden brown. Remove from oven and squeeze lemon juice over top and sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Serve immediately with some yogurt on the side.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Flowers

My dad sends both my sister and I flowers for Valentine's Day every year.
It's nice to be loved.

Steamers and Such....

There's been this habit that I just can't seem to break this week: steamers. Whole raw milk, warm, rich, and fragrant, comfort poured into a glass ball jar and topped with just grated nutmeg. We buy our milk in advance, receiving a gallon every Sunday evening. That's sort of a lot of milk for two not really into milk people. Not that we're not into milk. I mean, we are now. I want to make ricotta, mozzarella, raw milk yogurt, paneer. But the time to do so just hasn't presented itself to me in recognizable form or fashion. So at the end of the week we end up making non-raw yogurt, bringing the temperature of the milk up to about 180 degrees, in a sense pasteurizing it. This yogurt is extremely delicious and such a treat, but we usually still end up with a little milk at the end of the week that we try to save and savor, the milk itself unexpectedly going sour. Thus, the resulting and habitual end of the evening winter steamer.

I know there is a lot of fear generated out there about fat and whole dairy, and I'm not attempting to renounce it, but I'm not sure I really believe it. I would so much rather drink this decadent product, coming straight from a cow I met practically down the road, then a less fresh industrially produced rendition. It sort of bewilders me that so many of us drink dr. pepper, eat high-fructose corn syrup cereal, snickers bars with a mighty long list of ingredients, cheeses wrapped in individual portioned plastic and advertised with "real milk." I choose the raw whole milk over all of these things. I don't want them. I want my local udders! My comforting sweet treat! I can't stay away from it!

So here's how I do it.
Vanilla or almond extract
Heat this in a sweet little pot, being frugal with the extract. If you really want to try for a steamer you can whisk the milk and make it somewhat frothy. My slippers are usually forcing me up the stairs by this point, so I don't usually get into the whole froth thing. Pour into a medium glass ball jar. Top with a hearty grating of fresh nutmeg. Sniff the goodness, the nutmeg, the aromatic milk, filling your body with restful intent. Appreciate the leathery and marbled texture to the nutmeg, and then simply rest.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sugo di Carne

Oh baby, pat that rump. Rub that salt and pepper into that tender roast.
Sounds so seductive, so ooh la la like. But eugh yuk, I hate that part.
And I would do it all over again, tossing my groans and shrieks frivolously out to the nonexistent members of my pity party.

Have I told you about Culinate before? It's a great site,, that comes to us from Portland. I haven't even begun to explore all the nooks and crannies of their pages. But they have many attainable recipes out there, all free and accessible to all us free people! I usually prefer to dream my meals from under my feather comforter, eventually taking to the kitchen in a flurry, whipping out all the things that need to be used; things I am down-right irritated with, sick of, or items about to go bad. Other times, though, there's nothing better than perusing blogs and sites like culinate that allow me to find inspiration for particular dishes, developing a list of ingredients that I can shop for on my way home from work. Yesterday before leaving work I found five recipes that I wanted to make and eat straight away. I finally narrowed the options to two. We ate at 11pm. Of course the two recipes I chose took 2 & 4 hours to make.

Let's start with the recipe we actually did eat for dinner last night, and one that I will duplicate with some variation for the rest of my life. It was seductive, rich, so flavorful, and beautiful. The flavor is amazing, the ingredients are few. It's quite simple and worth the wait. A normal person, though, would make this on a weekend, so that the hour of eating is reasonable and kind to your stomach.

The recipe calls for a 2 pound rump roast, cooking it in a wine, espresso, tomato based medley, at the astronomical temperature of 475 degrees for 3-4 hours. We used a 2 1/2 pound roast, so unfortunately the entire roast wasn't submerged in braise. I think it would have been substantially more fork tender had we been able to cover the roast in liquid. Keep in mind that the liquid reduces as it cooks. I also prefer my pasta to be saucier than meatier, so we actually didn't even use half of the meat in our sauce. Josh is more than okay with that- more meat to snack on throughout the week.

So here's the recipe:

Sugo di Carne

Total Time 4½ hours

2 to 3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 lb. beef bottom round
~ Salt and pepper
2 medium red onions, chopped
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
1 bottle (3 cups) red wine
6 oz. brewed espresso
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1½ lb. penne pasta
~ Parmesan cheese

1. In a large, heavy-bottomed, ovenproof pot, heat the olive oil. Season the beef with salt and pepper, transfer it to the pot, and cook over medium-high heat until browned on both sides.

2. Add the red onions and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until softened. Add the remaining ingredients (except the pasta and Parmesan), cover, and cook in a 475-degree oven for 3 to 4 hours, checking the meat after 2 hours and replenishing the liquid if necessary (use water or broth). Continue cooking, covered, until the meat is fork-tender.

3. Remove the beef from the pan. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat and return to the sauce to reheat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and toss with the meat sauce. Serve warm with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Today already!

I finally have some new clothes. There is this sweet deal I've discovered where I donate a bunch of stuff I've had around but never wear to a consignment shop, and then use any credit from those clothes to buy different things. Ah... new to me clothes that I don't feel bad about their sweat shop origins. And to top it all off, the store had half off the entire price after you've spent $10. I got 3 long sleeve shirts, 3 sweaters, a cutie zip up hoodie, and a pair of gap cords for $20. I just love it. For all you Ann Arbor/Ypsi'ites, the store is on Rosewood (btwn Industrial and Packard) and called Woman in the Shoe- a hidden treasure chest.

All that after a good nights sleep, a good meal late last night, a good breakfast of oats and apples, and a great walk with Josh while the sun was coming up, the birds started singing, and the air warmed as we moved through it. Fantastic. And it's not even lunch time yet.

I made two different meals last night to get us through the week, both worth telling you about. So that is to come!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Mixt Bejangles

Frenetic, frenzied,and frantic. How to cope? The day disappeared out from under you like the magic genie got friskie and whisked it away. There was one task after another, each of them seeming to simultaneously build towards a greater nothing, a pyramid to nowhere.

But alas, my dears, it went to a heaping, helping bowlful of fried rice. Leftover, coconut oil cooked white basmati, tossed in almost as an after thought to the celery, onion,garlic, pine nut, coriander, cumin, cayenne, tahini des coupage. That's right. That's it.

Oh; and olive oil plus a fried egg.

Let me ask Josh what is in the fried egg.. ah, yes: salt, anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, and pepper.

What to do when you are paupers, hungry, meek and mild. Little for cash flow these days, but spilling over with passion and desperation for all things life.

I think we're ready.
A little fried rice.
Smith house style... in February... when it's below zero... and that fridge seems all together empty. Hooyah! It's not. It's fried rice.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Another Gourmet Roll

I bridged that gap again, the one between all things domestically intimidating and all things inherently, clumsily me. I successfully employed this living yeast from our fridge to make a yummy, wheaty, and hearty bun. This living organism once again rose to the challenge of foaming and momentously gained that smell of beer even in its chilled and slightly dank abode, and despite my homely fears. These rolls are perfect accompaniments to vegetable tomato based soups, and we're going to make some egg sandwiches for lunch with them. And not only that, they're really fun! Tying knots with bread is revolutionary! It's mischievous! It's almost something you are afraid your grandma will refuse to condone, heaven forbid she catch you in the making!

To achieve the shape of these rolls, you first roll the dough out to about twelve inches in length. You then simply start the knot tying process like you would your sneakers, leaving space in the middle to continue the snake-like bread through that hole. They are satisfying and abundant, making about 24 rolls, just enough to please your those in the office that can't take one more calorie in cupcake form.

There are two parts of these rolls that were devilishly pleasing to me. There is a flaky salt that you twinkle over the tops of the egg washed knots, and there is whole medium bulgur mixed into the bun batter. On an afternoon adventure last weekend, Josh and I ran over to a local Mediterranean shop just because. We found olives, french feta, cream cheese filled baklava, and lo and behold, four different grades of bulgur! I want to know what you do with all these different grades, but most importantly I do know what to do with the medium (grade 2) grain. We soaked the grain in water, drained the water, and it became part of the mix. It's nice to have whole grains in your bread, you know? Just feels like you're doing something good for yourself. Anyway, enjoy this recipe. It's attainable, fun, and great to be able to share with those around you. From Gourmet's February edition...

Cracked-Wheat Topknots

1 1/2 cups boiling hot water
1/2 cup medium bulgur (also called cracked wheat)
1 TB table salt, divided
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast, a 1/4 oz package
1/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 TB mild honey or sugar
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
3 cups all purpose flour plus more for kneading and dusting
1 large egg white beaten with 1 TB water for egg wash
1 1/2 TB flaky sea salt (Maldon)

Stir together boiling-hot water, bulgur, and 1/2 tsp table salt in a small bowl and let stand until bulgur is tender, about 40 minutes.

While bulgur soaks, heat milk with butter in a small saucepan over low heat just until butter is melted.

Stir together yeast, warm water, and honey in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Start with new yeast if mixture doesn't foam. Add flours and remaining 2 1/2 tsp table salt to yeast mixture.

Drain bulgur in a sieve, then mix bulgur and milk mixture into flour mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a sticky dough forms.

Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead, dusting surface and your hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is elastic and almost smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Form dough into a ball.

Put dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 2- 2 1/2 hours.

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Punch down dough (do not knead), then halve. Cut half of dough into 12 equal pieces (keep remaining half covered with plastic wrap). Roll each piece into a 12-inch-long rope with floured hands (flour surface only if dough is sticky). Make a loop with each rope, wrapping it around fingers of one hand, then knot dough twice through loop, leaving one end in center on top and tucking bottom end under. Transfer to a baking sheet, arranging rolls two inches apart.

Make more rolls with remaining dough, transferring to second sheet. Cover rolls with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 with racks in upper and lower thirds.

Brush rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake rolls, switching position of sheets halfway through, until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes total. Transfer rolls to a rack to cool at least 20 minutes.

For using leftover bulgur, gourmet suggests going here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Love has a hem to her garment
that reaches the very dust.
It sweeps the stains from the streets and lanes,
and because it can,
it must.

- Mother Teresa

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bread making begins

My friend Lisa has promised to teach me how to bake bread. It's an intimidating notion, this prospect of baking with living yeasty organisms, shaking your spatula at them and asking them to grow. I decided to take the task in parts, starting with less of a bully, parmesan pull-aparts. They sound so playful, don't they? Their picture in Gourmet magazine shows them as stately, golden, gazing up at the camera with a look of obstinate professionalism. For some reason I neglected to take after photos. So you'll just have to believe me that they are quite gorgeous and glazed.

I was ecstatic when I mixed the warm milk with both the honey and the yeast, and in just a couple of minutes the yeast decided to break into action, foaming and frothing and proving to be alive. I always fear these tasks in a cold home, but if you give it just what it needs, like the right temperature of milk and maybe even heat your mixing bowl, it'll feel the love and rise up to your every request. Probably a close second though, to seeing the yeast and then the dough rise is the satisfaction of punching that dough down and feeling the air poof and collapse the entire thing.

I made a double batch of these, mostly because I had lots of everything they needed, and took one portion to work. They disappeared, leaving traces of golden crumbs throughout the office desks and floor. They gave an extra sort of reason to persevere on a below zero winter day. Hm. These rolls are actually very similar to the rolls I grew with my mom making. The parmesan definitely is very evident and a good savory punch to accompany a nice winter bowl of soup.

Next, before my lessons with Lisa begin, I want to make salt-speckled cracked-wheat topknots.

Parmesan Pull-Aparts
From Gourmet, February 2009 edition

2 tsp active dry yeast (from a 1/4-oz package)
1 tsp mild honey or sugar
2/3 cup warm milk (105-115 F), divided
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus 2 TB for sprinkling
1 1/4 cups grated (with a rasp) Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 1/3 oz)
1 tsp salt
3 large eggs
5 TB unsalted butter, cut into TB pieces and softened
1 TB water

Stir together yeast, honey, and 1/3 cup warm milk in mixer bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. If mixture doesn't form, start over with new yeast. Whisk together 2 1/2 cups flour, cheese, and salt, then mix into yeast mixture along with remaining 1/3 cup warm milk at low speed. Increase speed to medium and beat in 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, until a very soft dough forms, about 3 minutes. Beat in butter, 1 TB at a time, until dough is elastic, about 2 minutes. Dough will be very sticky.)

Scrape dough into center of bowl and sprinkle with remaining 2 TB flour. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Punch down dough (do not knead) and turn out onto a floured surface. Cut dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each into a ball by cupping your hand and pushing dough against work surface as you roll in a circular motion. Arrange rolls 1 inch apart in a buttered 9x2" round cake pan and cover with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth). Let dough rise in a draft-free place at room temperature until doubled and dough fills plan, 1- 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in middle.

Whisk together remaining egg with water and brush on tops of rolls. (You will have leftover egg wash.) Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Loosen edges of rolls from pan with a sharp knife and invert rolls onto a rack, then reinvert and cool at least 20 minutes.

NOTES: We keep our house quite cold, so I usually turn the oven on low, open it to release some of the heat, turn oven off and oven light on, then place rolls to rise in the oven. Also, if you make a double batch of these, you will only need five eggs, not six. They freeze fine, but are best fresh. Thaw them completely if you freeze a batch, then reheat on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes.
In retrospect, I would have cooked the rolls closer to 20 minute then 25. They continue to bake a little when they are removed from oven, and I love my bread a little less dry.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Savory & Sweet

One of the Ann Arbor establishments that will stay forever in our iconic memory as an icon is Morgan & York, previously known as the Big Ten Party Store. Classic, huh? Big Ten refers to Ann Arbor's obsession with football, and "Party Store" is used to designate liquor and junk food spots, the drunk person's oasis. This store, though, is far from junk. It's filled with delicacies and specialties from near and far. While the atmosphere could be perceived as elitist, I think of it as just being a phenomenal food and drink resource with an interesting and kooky persona. The clerks in the store are extremely knowledgeable and wear long and literal blue collared garments. They offer samples, engage you in pairing your foods and drinks, teach you more than you want to know about fondue cheeses, and arguably make the best cappuccino in the county. I love going in there, almost as much as my wallet loves the freedom of its weighty contents once we've gone.

Being in the poorhouse as of recent, we probably should not continue to think that it's reasonable for us to shop there, regardless of the desire to comply with our expensive tongues. But I can't help but believe everyday is a beatific celebration in food and substance, worth tastes that bring satisfaction and comfort. It's really a solace, like a massage for my palate and brain. This most recent trip we came home with a delicious bottle of French red wine, pastrami from Sal Ginsberg in Detroit, Comte cheese sliced for sandwiches, and a soft cheese called Pave Sauvage. Oh my, my, my... it was so delectable.

We had a nice loaf of farm bread that was ready to be used at home and a croak of fermenting sauerkraut that recently reached it adulthood. With great rumbling tummies, we cut thin slices of bread, toasted each piece, and then layered the sandwiches with the Comte cheese (crusty rind still attached), perfect peppery pastrami, forkfuls of sour homemade sauerkraut, and dijon mustard. The sandwiches ended up being about $2 a piece, which isn't necessarily cheap when they are made at home, but oh so worth it and so much cheaper than if we had bought them at the party store or zingerman's.

With the soft, spreadable tarragon and pepper crusted Pave Sauvage we made a pear salad. Earlier in the week I bought a bag of organic red pears and had tired of eating them by the fistful. To rejuvenate the fruit we diced the pears, tossed them with fresh crushed pepper, very flavorful and syrupy balsamic vinegar, walnut oil, sliced almonds (I wish we had pecans), some dried herbs, bacon (Yes! Bacon!), and this three pepper and tarragon crusted cheese, smooshy and tangy. I could eat a bag of pears a day in this style. I had been inspired by a co-worker who saw my weary afternoon face on Friday and offered me a bite of her pears with bleu cheese. My thoughts just brewed as I chewed that delicious quick bit of sweet and savory.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Beef, potato horseradish cake, endives!

I always feel a little jumpy blogging about meat dishes, as though spirits of the beef will rise in my dreams and haunt me through my vegetarian friends (and I have a lot of those.) But I haven't blogged in forever, and Josh made a really assuaging dinner so this just needs to happen. You need to hear about this over and again fabulous book, the marinade that you can use twice, and the absolutely brainy potato and horseradish cake. Josh swears the secret is in the rosemary we have bunched and hanging daintily on our kitchen wall, pounded with three cloves of garlic in a positively heavy and murderous cast iron mortar and pestle. I'm always a fan of a good recipe that incorporates red wine. This inevitably means that you buy one bottle for cooking with and one bottle to drink as your cooking and eating. Perhaps by the end of the meal you are a bit more smashed than you otherwise would be because you had two bottles of wine open; a true recipe for unabashed sleep and cozy moments around an otherwise imperfect day. This recipe comes yet again from a library borrowed cookbook, Jamie Oliver's: Jamie's Kitchen. The recipe is somewhat adapted and abbreviated.

I have no idea how big our roast was, but I do know that it was a rib roast not too hefty or huge. This should be generously seasoned and patted and prodded with salt & pepper (this would be the husband's part, if not the whole meal, in my meager opinion.) Then with that mortar and pestle, don't be shy, pound and press the rosemary and garlic together (1-3 cloves). Loosen this with some olive oil, more than you might think (up to 5TB) and rub into the beef (call for the husband or male counterpoint again.)

Preheat oven to 450. Parboil (which means blanche) six or so medium waxy potatoes in boiling and salted water for about 5 minutes. Drain, transfer to bowl and coat with olive oil. Season well. Using a non-stick and greased cake pan or a nonstick metal frying pan, layer half the potatoes and then smother with 3TB (more or less depending on your tastebuds) of creamed horseradish. Then finish layering with other half of potatoes. Put aside for now.

Brown the beef on all sides in a snug-fitting roasting pan. Add garlic to pan and place beef on top. Place in oven with the pan of potatoes below. Cook for 20 minutes, then turn beef over, baste, and add 1/2 bottle of red wine and 1/4 cup butter. Remove the potato dish, place a clean towel carefully over the potatoes and apply pressure to compact potatoes into a tight cake. Replace in oven and cook for 15-20 more minutes.

After this time, remove and test roast. Cook to your desired temp, then allow roast to rest. Brown potatoes in oven about 5 more minutes if needed. Serve juice as an au jus, or cook to a gravy. We chose the au jus, and had plenty left to use for another dinner tonight.

In addition to this we had wild rice, a simple roasted squash, and endives we dipped into an equally simple and homemade vinagrette adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast, Food to Celebrate Life:
Use 1 tsp grainy mustard, 1 TB tahini, 3 TB extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp sherry vinegar, few drops of honey, salt & pepper. Whir all these together and toss with the endives or just dip like we did, the wild and civilized pair we are. It was refreshingly raw and crunchy and bitter. Yum.

These little endives look like soldiers preparing for the feast here.

A note on the separated role of male as rubber, believe me, I am a fairly independent woman. All friends who knew me prior to Josh would probably say this was my most endearing and irritating quality. But I know my limitations, and rubbing, seducing, or pulverizing meat is one of them. Forgive me, ladies, for assuming you partake in a similar process of thought.

And just to mention tonight's experiment, I roasted the other half of the roast we had bought, salt, pepper, thyme, savory, and oregano sprinkled and tossed on (Josh was in class and unavailable to assist in the rub down). This roast was cut in half length wise, and then half a large onion situated in between the two halves. Two pears were chopped, cores removed, and tossed in, and the remaining au jus of dinner past poured on the whole concoction. Another simple roasted squash and some short grain brown rice on the side made for a very balanced dinner. I was terrified when Josh came home and thought the pears to be potatoes. I realized that he was about to be shocked, and I felt terrible that he would be disappointed with finding that his chewing would result in fruit, not potato. Potatoes are, afterall, really all he needs in life. And these were pears. He was anything but disappointed. He loved them. They were beautifully tainted purple, as were the onions, from roasting in the red wine au jus.

I guess the idea of this second dinner could easily be transposed to tofu, pork, chicken, or potato cakes. But one reason the au jus was so good the second time around is that there were meaty juices that resulted from the original roasting. Pretty hard to make vegetarian. And not an ounce of disappointment to report.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Mad Farmer

You know those moments when you are slapped around by the jolting movements of time, your neck aching with heaviness of its own weight and measure? These moments can be so revitalizing when you back against the wall, breathe into the empty pipes of your body, and curl into a good book of words and thoughts. Last night with a quiet spirit for New Year's Day, I sat mesmerized by the words of Wendell Berry, farmer, poet, and novelist. After such rushing through the holidays, a day to sleep until 3pm and then think of nothing but beautiful words put into thoughts was sanctifying to say the least...

From Wendell Berry's The Mad Farmer Poems

Don't worry and fret about the crops. After you have done all you can for them, let them stand in the weather on their own.

If the crop of any one year was all, a man would have to cut his throat every time it hailed.

But the
real products of any year's work are the farmer's mind & the crop land itself.

If he raises a good crop at the cost of belittling himself & diminishing the ground, he has gained nothing. He will have to begin over again the next spring, worse off than before.

Let him receive the season's increment into his mind. Let him work it into the soil.

The finest growth that farmland can produce is a careful farmer.

Make the human race a better head. Make the world a better piece of ground.