I check the farm stand every few days for signs of spring really being here. Back in the city, broccoli rabe is an indicator (more on that, plus a recipe, hopefully next week). In a few weeks, peas may even start showing up, and soon after that, it’ll be time for strawberries. See, the farmers’ markets in NYC aren’t reflective of the city itself. They’re representative of what’s happening in the ground up in the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. It’s even possible to get tomatoes year-round thanks to a hydroponic farmer there on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Continue reading »
Just a quick check in to say hello. I’ve spent far too much time working this weekend, but it’s all for a good cause. We’re Montreal bound for spring break this week, so I’m trying to cram seven days’ worth of work into two. Yes, I know. It’s colder there than it is here, and it would’ve been nice to swap winter boots for open toe sandals. I’m on a mission for an amazing pain au chocolate I tasted at Patisserie Au Kouign Amann last summer. Montreal is only 250 miles from my house, and my motto is “will travel for good eats”. I suppose once I tally tolls and gas, it’s a rather expensive pastry, but since we only live once, I’m doing it to the fullest. Continue reading »
It’s been a while, I know. Life has been quite busy, and I didn’t mean to stay away for this long. As usual, there are a ton of recipes I want to share with you, all in various stages of being tested, written, and edited. There’s also the matter of deciding which ones to share here, save for the magazine, for the cookbook proposal, and for future projects.
Alas, my visit here will be very brief today. I worked on a recipe for traditional Irish soda bread recently, and realized if I didn’t share it with you all today, then it would have to wait until next year. It would be like sharing a recipe for chocolate truffles the day after Valentine’s Day, right? I suppose a proper cooling off time, say a few weeks, and a recipe for soda bread popping up here would’ve been fine. But with it being St. Patrick’s Day, and all, I didn’t want to wait. So, here I am, bread (recipe) in hand, clicking away at the keyboard while lunch heats up in the oven in preparation for getting the kids out to school.
In my search for a traditional Irish soda bread recipe (remember I made this oat soda bread a few years ago), I came upon this site called The Preservation for Irish Soda Bread Society. After delving in a bit, I knew I had to stay somewhat true to tradition. You’ll notice my recipe below isn’t the sweet teacake kind being sold in most bakeries at this very moment. My recipe is more of an everyday bread that you can enjoy lightly toasted, with a smear of butter, and jam, if you like. It still isn’t quite a sandwich bread. I imagine my kids would blow a gasket if I tried to tuck a few slices of turkey between it. Still, it’s a nice counterpart to the fruit and egg enriched recipes out there. Hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve been. Now time to go pack those lunches, and get the kiddos out the door. Have a great day everyone!
Irish Soda Bread
Traditional Irish soda bread is made without any sweetener. The versions we’re accustomed to, flecked with raisins or currants, and enriched with eggs and a touch of sugar, are considered a teacake. I love that kind of bread, but decided to develop a recipe that harkened back to its roots. Of course, I still took a couple of liberties, one by using whole-wheat pastry flour, and the other in including a smidge of honey. It’s just enough to enhance the flavor of the bread without it being noticeable. Feel free to swap in all-purpose flour (it’s an equal weight), and omit the honey, or swap in agave to make it vegan. I’ve not tested it with gluten-free flour blends, though, but do let me know the results if you give it a try, as I’m curious.
Makes one 8-inch round loaf
1 2/3 cups (240) grams whole-wheat pastry flour, plus more for kneading & shaping
1 1/4 teaspoons (6 grams) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) sea salt
1 cup (237 ml / 214 grams) plus 1 tablespoon (15 ml) buttermilk, well shaken
1 tablespoon (20 grams) honey
1. Arrange the rack to the upper middle position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt to a deep bowl. Whisk to combine.
3. Pour one cup of the buttermilk into the bowl. Drizzle the honey over the top of the flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir just until it comes together into a rough dough (it will look more like a very thick batter at first).
4. Dust a counter or cutting board with a bit of flour. Scrape the dough onto the counter. Sprinkle a little more flour on top. Knead 30 to 60 seconds until it forms a somewhat smooth ball (it will have dimples, but shouldn’t be sticky).
5. Generously sprinkle flour on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the shaped dough onto the tray. Brush the top and sides with the remaining buttermilk. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour on top. Using a very sharp knife, make two cuts into the top to form an “X”, taking care not to cut all the way through to the bottom (you want a deep slash in the dough, not to separate the pieces).
6. Bake for 25 to 27 minutes, until the loaf is a deep golden color, and sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckle. Let the bread cool completely before slicing, about an hour.
I ate chocolate cake for breakfast two days in a row. I suppose I could call it research and development for work. I mean, it is important to know how many days homemade devil’s food cake lasts exactly, right? Of course, it’s that kind of fuzzy logic that has me wondering why my jeans feel more snug than I’d like.
It’s easy to blame the weather. The temperatures drop, and the needle on my scale rises. Okay, that last bit is a lie. The only scale I own is my OXO one for baking (big surprise!). Years ago, my real scale broke, the needle stuck at 25 pounds, and the kids couldn’t understand why I kept it for so long.
But back to this cake problem, um, I mean work dilemma. Rather than forsake sweets, I tend towards moderation in other ways to balance out my lack of running since the snow started falling mid-January. Salads always find their place at our dinner table, and lately I find myself going back for seconds on them before the main course. My guy isn’t generally a salad person, so I was quite flattered that he’s enjoyed everyone I’ve made so far. There are a couple of basic things that define good cooks, the art of salad making ranking high for me. It’s about texture and flavor, and getting both of these into every bite. Continue reading »
Last week when I told Isabella I wondered what gingerbread rice crispy treats would taste like, she rolled her eyes and said “oh here we go…gingerbread this, and gingerbread that”. It was a page right out of the Michael Perillo playbook. He would’ve teased me incessantly about the tear I’ve been on the last two weeks. I just.can’t.stop.
I won’t stop.
But, I think we covered that with my last post, you know the one where I made a NO-BAKE GINGERBREAD CREAM PIE. Sorry, but that one got me really excited—I had to get that out, and only all caps would do. Can you tell I’m feeling punchy tonight? I’m just feeling a groove I haven’t felt in quite some time, and truth be told—it’s nice to be my own muse, of sorts. I’ve nothing more witty to say about this recipe, just that it’s so easy, and the perfect thing to make when you’re short on time (and who isn’t this week?). Provided you have the ingredients on hand, these treats are ready to eat in about 45 minutes, from start to finish. You can make a tray, wrap it in a cloth, and bring it as a hostess gift (the gingerbread twist ups the ante, making them worthy in my opinion). Last minute class party? It’s great for those, too. Continue reading »
Eating seasonally is food foreplay. As I slow-roasted my first batch of cherry tomatoes this weekend, I knew it would be the beginning of a tomato orgy. Two days in a row, I gorged on so much panzanella, my stomach ached. Two huge bowls of tomatoes sit on the dining room table, waiting to be canned (tomato jam or marinara sauce, is the dilemma). I know this affair is a short one, considering tomatoes are only in season two months out of twelve.
But the recipe I’m sharing today has nothing to do with tomatoes. I have nothing prolific to say about cantaloupe, or perhaps I had nothing to say until I started looking at it differently. Michael loved eating cubed cantaloupe. The girls follow in his footsteps. As for me, I never get a craving for it. It’s likely due to the fact that buying melons is like going to Vegas. You plunk your money down, hope for the best, and aren’t surprised at the dismal results. I’ve never gambled, even having been to Vegas twice for business, but imagine that’s how it goes. Continue reading »
Spring has finally sprung upstate. It was a long, cold winter, and many of us thought it would never end. The wonderful thing about living in the Northeast is that we have seasons. The not so great part of that gift is that the contrasts between summer and winter are brutal. Spring and fall aren’t always a guarantee. Often, they feel like blips on the radar of Mother Nature, and yet there are people who still question the direct correlation of how we use our planet with climate change (a conversation for another day).
Everything around is coming to life. The raspberry bushes are snaking their way through the side garden. I’ve been told they’re like weeds, and indestructible. I hope that’s true since I have much to learn, and my thumb is far from green. There’s a single rose bush along the house, too. I can’t help but think of M when I see them. He took such loving care of the ones we had at our old apartment on Henry Street.
Finding some inner peace has been more challenging than usual lately. I’m so thankful I started running again before it all hit me. That time I carve out for myself every morning helps me reset my feelings a bit. Breathing in the salty, sometimes funky air rolling off the river as I run by Brooklyn Bridge Park wakes up my soul (and sense of smell!). The only other place that awakens me in such a way is the kitchen. So, lately my time has been filled with clocking miles and cooking.
A few days ago, I had turnips on my mind. They’re this week’s theme for Food Network’s Fall Fest, and it was a welcome distraction from the other thoughts in my head. Growing up, the only time I ever remember seeing my mom use turnips was when she made chicken soup. I’ll admit that they still aren’t part of my every day cooking repertoire, but I’ve certainly branched out from just using them to make stock. Turnips pose a creative challenge because on their own the flavor is rather bland, with a hint of bitterness if that makes any sense. In one way they’re a blank canvas, blending into the flavors of the ingredients you pair them with, but you have to pay attention to that aforementioned slight bitter quality. You want flavors that will tame it, not accentuate it. Continue reading »
I want to say it took me a full two weeks to get used to the back to school schedule, but truth is I’m not even close. I simply tolerate it, and consider the juggle associated with the school year to be one of those things in life I can’t avoid (like death and taxes). After a lazy summer of no alarm clocks, the early morning routine has completely thrown off the girls’ eating habits. They’re simply not hungry for breakfast at 7:30am. Even their favorites, like pancakes and waffles, have been met with a lukewarm reception. The pep talks about needing their energy, and how it’s not good to go to school on an empty stomach weren’t cutting it either. Continue reading »
This is my seventeenth summer going to Cape Cod. Michael first took me just a few months after we started dating in August of 1995. I was a kid back then, just 21 years old, but still remember that summer so vividly. The 300 mile drive in his little red Toyota Celica, and the box of cassette tapes he used to pack for road trips. It was the first time I’d heard Cracker, and found myself singing Movie Star again all these years later as I made the drive out here last week. I still keep the Best of Van Morrison, Vol. 2 cassette in the glove compartment.
As we make the drive out here, I still murmur silly things like Bic Pen Drive, as we pass the Bic Drive exit on the I95. And crude things like “Exeter, I wasn’t even in her”—Mikey made that one up as we drove through Rhode Island once. Then there’s Mash-the-peas, as we pass Mashpee, one of the towns on the Cape. The motel we stayed at, Terrace Dunes, is just down the road from the house we rent now. I glance at the efficiency unit we called home for those two weeks every time I drive by it on my way down Shore Road.
And there I go with the “we” again. Technically, I’m still part of “we” because it’s me and the girls, but often the “we” I refer to in conversations is me and Mikey. It’s hard to remember that “we” is now just “me”, at least in the immediate, physical sense of the being.