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.