22 July 2008

Short Break

I apologize (again) for the unannounced absence. I'll be taking a short break from blogging due to some family things I need to focus on right now. I should be back in the middle of August.

02 July 2008

Weekend Reading #2: The Known World

The Known World, by Edward P. Jones, tells the story of slavery in pre-Civil War Virginia from a slightly unusual perspective: that of slaves owned by free blacks. The writing is beautiful and the story is incredibly touching. I encountered a slight difficulty in reading it, though - through the middle 150 pages or so, the story dragged. This is through no fault of Mr. Jones - introductions had to be made an events had to occur that would render the last third of the novel possible and believable. However, there was a time that I wasn't sure that I could finish the book.

I did finish it, though, and I'm very glad that I did. The last hundred pages or so made the entire struggle worthwhile. I finished the book in a single sitting. It went quickly and I was very satisfied with the book as a whole. I've heard complaints that the book drags through the middle and then rushes through the story at the end, and I can certainly see where those complaints are coming from. I think the pace was very effective, since the events were happening for the characters so quickly that they couldn't get a handle on what or why they were happening and what the final results would be.

Overall, I highly recommend the novel and I'm eager to read more of Jones' work.

30 June 2008

Daring Bakers: Danish Braid

This month's Daring Bakers challenge is hosted by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's cooking? and the have selected the Danish Braid recipe from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking.

When I saw this challenge, the first thing that I thought was that it was a good thing I made croissants back in March - otherwise I would have been shaking in terror. Post day snuck up on me this month and I wound up rushing through the recipe, but that was the only problem that I encountered. I said yesterday that no matter how good this turned out, it wouldn't be worth making again just because the dough was almost impossible to work with. I was happily proven wrong. Not only did the dough become easier to work with with each fold, it was also extraordinarily delicious. I made a cranberry and orange filling and an orange-vanilla glaze, and I was blown away by the results. Not only will I make it again with this same recipe, I'll definitely play around with it as well.

Danish Braid with Cranberry-Orange Filling

For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.
2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.


1 cup orange marmalade
5 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water

Combine the marmalade and cranberries in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When the cranberries start popping, add the sugar. Bring to a boil, then make a slurry with the water and cornstarch. Add to the cranberries, stir well and return to a boil. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough
1 recipe filling, jam, or preserves

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.


3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Triple Sec

Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl. Add the vanilla and enough triple sec to make a drizzle-able glaze. Drizzle over the cooled braid.

27 June 2008

Cherry Torte

I am currently frantically trying to finish the book that I'm currently reading, so in lieu of posting my review today, I'll post a delicious cherry torte recipe instead. I'll post the review as soon as I finish the book.

I cannot claim this recipe as my own. I got it from my mom and made only slight changes. She got it from somewhere else - though I'm not sure where. It is, however, extremely easy and absolutely delicious. I made it recently for the first time in years and I was blown away by the tastiness.

Cherry Torte

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
1-2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2-3 cups pitted and halved cherries (enough to cover the pan you're using)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and butter a 9-inch round pan.

2. Cream the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs, salt, and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

3. Add the flour and mix until just combined.

4. Spoon the batter into your buttered pan. Arrange the cherries, cut side down, on top of the batter. Sprinkle with about a quarter cup of sugar.

5. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes to an hour, then allow to cool to room temperature.

6. Serve and enjoy!

13 June 2008

Weekend Reading #1: The Road

The Road was recommended to me last fall by Maud Casey, who I was lucky enough to have as a Creative Writing Professor. I was skeptical at first, primarily because it's really not my kind of reading and I rarely go into a book that I know will leave me depressed. However, I was almost instantly proven wrong.

There aren't many books that I read in a single sitting these days - I just don't have the time. Once I started on Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece, though, I was determined to finish it. To stop reading would have been to abandon his characters, and that wasn't something that I was willing to do. I couldn't leave McCarthy's world, because the pace of the book made me believe that if I put the book down, something terrible would happen while I was away.

The novel opens with a father and son walking through the desolated countryside of an unspecified location, believed to be the American midwest. The word as we know it has ended suddenly and murder, looting and cannibalism has become the most common way to survive. They cannot survive another winter in their location, and they are moving south. McCarthy writes that the man and his son are "each other's worlds entire," and they keep each other alive though their journey south.

The Road is bleak, harrowing, and excruciatingly painful to read. Overall, though, it is a hopeful look at what good people can rise above, no matter the circumstances they find themselves in. McCarthy writes monster stories, but he makes people - ordinary people - the monsters. Through all the pain and the suspense, this book was truly a delight to read.

A housekeeping point:

Even though life got in my way and it took me a long time to post this first review, it was great fun to write. Of course, I'll be back on food early next week (I have a fabulous recipe I'm sitting on), but these reviews should be a weekly event from now on. I think it would be fantastic if we bloggers could take this idea and run with it. So here's what I'm thinking: If you would like to participate in Weekend Reading, please post an original review of a book you've read sometime during the week, and send me an email at cookingandbooking AT junebug DOT org by midnight on Friday, with your blog name, a permanent link to your review, and your name. I'll post a recap on Saturday morning. Hopefully we can really get this to take off and get some people reading!

04 June 2008

Squash and Zucchini Tart

One of my favorite flavors of summer is squash. I just can't get enough of it - all year long, really, but in the summer the flavor just goes to a whole different level and the squash is incredibly sweet. So, I'm always on a quest to find new things to do with it. When I saw Deb at Smitten Kitchen's Ratatouille Tart, I was intrigued. However, I'm neither a huge fan of tomatoes or of eggplant, so it wasn't really my thing. So, on simplifying it, I came up with this delicious squash and zucchini tart.

Squash and Zucchini Tart

1 tart shell, blind-baked (I used this recipe, and I doubt I'll ever use another)
2 each yellow and green squash
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

1. Either by hand or using a mandoline, thinly slice the squash. You will probably have some slices left over after assembling the tart - they'll be delicious on a salad.

2. In a small saucepan, combine the olive oil, butter, and garlic over low heat until the butter is just melted. Turn off the heat and let sit while the tart shell is baking.

3. When the tart shell has cooled to room temperature, brush it lightly with the oil and butter. Working from the outside in, lay the squash slices in the shell, slightly overlapping each one. I used three rings plus a few pieces for the center, but your mileage will vary depending on the size of your squash.

4. Brush the squash lightly with the butter and oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes. Serve and Enjoy!

28 May 2008

Daring Bakers: L'Opera

This month's Daring Baker's Challenge is hosted by Ivonne, of Creampuffs in Venice, Lisa of La Mia Cucina, and cohosted by Fran of apples peaches pumpkin pie and Shea of Whiskful, and they've chosen this delicious, amazingly wonderful and absolutely worth the time it takes to make it Opera Cake. This month's challenge is dedicate to Barbara of winosandfoodies.

As I mentioned, this cake is amazing. I'm extremely proud of how mine turned out. Traditionally, L'Opera is made with chocolate and coffee flavors, but we decided to stick with light colors in honor of Livestrong Month and Barbara. My cake was flavored with orange and vanilla. Other than that, the only change I made to the recipe was just to make four layers instead of three. Will I make it again? Absolutely. I'll probably try other flavors as well.

And don't you dare forget to check out the rest of the wonderful concoctions the Daring Bakers have come up with at the blogroll!

A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake

This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.

For the joconde

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
1⁄2 cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (11⁄2 ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.

2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).

3.Line two 121⁄2 x 151⁄2- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.

5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.

6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).

7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.

9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.

10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

For the syrup

1⁄2 cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons Triple Sec

1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the buttercream

1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup (60 grams) water
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
13⁄4 sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon orange extract

1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.

3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!

5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.

7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

8.At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.

9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

For the white chocolate ganache/mousse

7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. Triple Sec
Zest of 1 orange

1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

For the glaze

14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1⁄2 cup heavy cream (35% cream)
1 teaspoon orange zest

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Assembling the Opéra Cake

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 121⁄2-cm) rectangle.

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

26 May 2008

Cheese Puffs

Before I get into this (absolutely astoundingly amazing and delicious) recipe, I would like to apologize for my unannounced absence. I didn't think that exam week would hit me as hard as it did, but I was wrong. I do have a new job that has gotten me very much re-interested in cooking and baking, so I am now 100% back and ready to share my creations once again.

Now, onto the cheese puffs (or gougeres, if you prefer). You can certainly make these with any kind of cheese you like. I used Parrano Cheese, a Gouda with an Italian flavor, because I picked it up at Whole Foods and I really wanted to showcase it. The only consideration to take into account if using a different cheese would be to adjust your amount according. With something very strong, a Parmiggiano Reggiano or a blue, I would recommend using less cheese, and more with something very mild.

Cheese Puffs

1 cup water
1 stick butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
1 cup flour
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups finely shredded cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the water and butter to a simmer with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

2. Add the flour and stir for a minute or two. The dough should pull away from the sides of the pan and be very thick and slightly shiny. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you could do this by hand also, but the mixer is easier).

3. Mix the dough for a few minutes to cool it off. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing completely after each addition. Add the cheese and mix until combined.

4. Move the dough into a piping bag fitted with a large round or star tip (I used a star). Pipe onto a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet in little spiral mounds.

5. Bake for 20 minutes, until puffed and just barely golden.

6. Serve warm from the oven and enjoy!

Currently, I'm reading... The Known World, by Edward P. Jones.

07 May 2008

Shrimp and Broccoli Rabe Quiche

Monday nights are casserole nights in my apartment - I have a night class, so I come home in the afternoon and put something together, then throw it in the fridge and leave instructions for my boyfriend to cook it when he gets home. Most of these are very unpostable, Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup affairs. This one, on the other hand, was quite good and not at all trashy.

Shrimp and Broccoli Rabe Quiche

1 pie crust, blind-baked (I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen cut in half and minus sugar, but any will do)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
zest of 1 lemon
1 bunch broccoli rabe, roughly chopped
1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and roughly chopped
Salt and Pepper
1 cup cheddar cheese
3 eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half (or 1/4 cup each cream and milk)
pinch nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and lemon zest and saute until the onion is soft.

2. Add the broccoli rabe and toss to coat with the oil. Cook, uncovered, for 3-5 minutes, stirring, until the greens are reduced to less than one quarter of their starting size.

3. Add the shrimp and season well. Cook until the shrimp are pink and opaque. Taste and re-season. Transfer the whole mixture to the pie crust.

4. Sprinkle the cheese over the filling.

5. Combine the eggs, half-and-half, and nutmeg. Season liberally with salt and pepper, then whisk.

6. Pour the egg mixture slowly over the filling, giving it some time to settle in. Stop just before it reaches the lowest point of the crust. The top of the filling may not be covered, but that's OK.

7. Bake the quiche, uncovered, in the 375F oven for 30-45 minutes, until the center is set. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes.

8. Serve and enjoy!

06 May 2008

Slow Roasted Duck

For my birthday dinner, I decided to go out for Tapas because I've been on a trying new things trip lately, and I thought that would be a fantastic way to try as many new things as possible. One of the new things was duck confit. I don't see duck much here in Maryland - I mean, we have a lot of ducks, but not much duck meat. Not to mention, no one that I know well enough to take food from hunts, so duck is kind of hard to come by. Anyway, to make a long story short, I loved it. So, at Whole Foods Market in Annapolis, this transpired:

Me: I wish they had duck.
BF: [Disappears for a while, then comes back] Like this duck? [Hold up a duck]
Me: Oh my god! Duck!
[Duck buying proceeds]
Me: I don't know how to cook duck.

So, I went to Food Blog Search and found this fantastic looking recipe from Amuse Bouche, which I used as my inspiration. My technique is about the same, but my flavors are different. And let me tell you, this duck was amazing. The skin was crispy, the meat was moist but not at all greasy, and the flavor was heavenly. Not to mention, the smell during the whole five hours of cooking was unbelievable.

Slow Roasted Duck

1 duck, giblets and any flaps of fat removed, rinsed
1/2 onion, peeled
4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1/2 orange, in four pieces
1 tablespoon salt
1-2 teaspoons pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 300F.

2. Season the cavity liberally with salt and pepper. Stuff it with the onion, garlic, and orange. Rub the skin with more salt and pepper, and prick with a paring knife, being careful not to pierce the skin (this works best if you do it at an angle).

3. Put the duck in a pan just large enough to hold it so the fat doesn't burn with the breast side down. Roast for one hour.

4. At the end of the hour, pull the duck out of the oven and transfer it to a baking sheet, large plate, cutting board - just something to hold it. Carefully pour the accumulated fat out of the roasting pan. Don't throw it away! Flip the duck over and put it back in the roasting pan. Roast again.

5. Every hour, pull the duck out of the oven, drain the fat, and flip the duck. If there are any pockets of fat towards the last two hours, prick them again with the knife.

6. After the duck has cooked for five hours total (more or less if your duck is very large or very small - this is very forgiving), pull it from the oven for the last time. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then carve it the same way you would a chicken. One duck should serve 2 people very comfortably, but probably not more than that.

7. Serve and enjoy! The duck fat, in my opinion, is too good to throw away. Mine is in a mason jar in the fridge, until I can accumulate enough to make confit. It's also supposed to be amazing with potatoes. Food Blog Search has a wealth of ideas for it. I also froze the bones to make stock in the future.

04 May 2008

Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies

I have a confession to make: I'm a bit of a show-off. So, when I found out that my classmates and I would be taking turns bringing snacks for a particularly long class, I knew that I would have to bring something fantastic. Luckily, for my birthday a few weeks ago, I was given Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours, which turned out to be a treasure trove of recipes. There are, quite literally, fewer than five that I would not make.

So I decided to make these double-chocolate shortbread cookies, and they were a hit. I was thrilled with the results (and with the leftovers!). So, here is the recipe, with a few slight modifications.

Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cups packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (or fleur de sel)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces (about 3/4 cup) chopped chocolate (I used milk, the recipe calls for bittersweet) or mini chips

1. Sift the flour, cocoa, and baking powder.

2. Beat the butter with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer (or a hand mixer) until light and fluffy. Add the sugars, salt, and vanilla and cream together, again until light and fluffy.

3. Turn off the mixer and add the flour mixture all at once. Cover the mixer with a towel and pulse about 5 times. Check to see if the flour has been incorporated at all. If it hasn't, pulse a few more times. If it has, mix just until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Add the chopped chocolate and mix quickly.

4. Turn the dough out of the mixer and use your hands to form it into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap well and chill for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days (it can be frozen for up to 2 months, just add a minute to the cooking time - no need to thaw).

5. Preheat the oven to 325F. Unwrap the log of dough (if you like, roll it in about 1/4 cup of sugar) and cut it into 1/2 inch rounds. Place on a baking sheet 1 inch apart. If they crack, just press them back together. Bake for 12 minutes. Dorie notes that they won't look done or be firm, they that's how they should be. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and let rest until just warm or room temperature. Makes about 36 cookies.

01 May 2008

Dressed-Up Mac and Cheese

A while ago, I decided to go check out the organic market near the apartment. I found an 8 ounce block of beautiful, creamy white raw milk sharp cheddar cheese. It's been sitting in the fridge for a bit, patiently waiting for me to get the inspiration of what to do with it - and it hasn't been easy, trying to find something that would really show off the flavor of the cheese. Now that I've cooked with half of it, the rest will probably be snacked on with crackers.

This pasta is kind of a dressed-up mac and cheese. I used homemade pasta, but you could certainly use store-bought, in any shape that you like. It is fantastically creamy and surprisingly easy to make.

Pasta with Cheddar Sauce

1 recipe homemade pasta, or 1 pound dry
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
Salt and Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
Pinch nutmeg
4 ounces grated sharp white cheddar (best quality you can find!)

1. Cook the pasta until al dente and preheat the oven to 350F.

2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, but not brown. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes so it doesn't taste raw. Stirring constantly, slowly add the milk.

4. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3-5 minutes.

5. Add the shredded cheese to the pot.

6. Stir the cheese into the sauce until it is smooth and velvety.

7. Add the drained pasta to the sauce and stir until it is well-coated. Transfer to a buttered baking dish.

8. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the tops of the pasta are golden brown. Serve and enjoy!

Currently, I'm reading... In Persuasion Nation, by George Saunders.

29 April 2008

Warm Corn and Black Bean Salad

I have to admit, I don't have a musing introduction to this recipe. So, in lieu of that, a few announcements. If you check out the sidebar to the right, you'll see a form to subscribe to Cooking and Booking by e-mail. You'll also see a form for the Food Blog Search, which was put together by several people, including Elise of Simply Recipes, and compiles recipes from over 2,000 food blogs. I've been using it religiously myself, and it's a fantastic tool.

Also, after the results of the poll I posted last week, I'm going to start trying very hard to post reviews of the books that I mention or have mentioned in the past. If there are any that you'd particularly like to see, please let me know. I will be posting the first review on Friday, and subsequent reviews on the subsequent Fridays!

So, without further ado, a warm salad with corn and black beans that is absolutely delicious and incredibly filling.

Warm Corn and Black Bean Salad

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, sliced thinly
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons roasted red peppers, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried (or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh) cilantro
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1/4 cup water

1. In a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, red pepper, and garlic, and saute until the onion is translucent and just beginning to brown. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the water, corn, and black beans. Bring to a simmer and cook until the corn is thawed (if it was frozen) and the water is almost completely evaporated.

3. Stir in the cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy! I served mine with a plain cheese quesadilla, but this would also be delicious with grilled chicken or fish, or by itself. A squeeze of fresh lime juice would be fantastic as well.

22 April 2008

Chickpea Fritters (Falafel)

Whenever I'm about to post a recipe that has a very specific name that comes with connotations or cultural implications, I do a good amount of research beforehand to make sure that I don't inadvertently offend anyone or post an inauthentic recipe. So, I have looked through a lot of recipes for falafel recently. Falafel seems to be one of those rare recipes that doesn't have any hard-and-fast requirements. (If you know otherwise, please correct me!)

Normally, falafel is made with ground chickpeas, but I like a little bit of texture, so I decided to hand-mash my chickpeas. I also added some spinach, which was a great flavor and texture contrast to the chickpeas. I didn't make sandwiches with mine, but you certainly could.


1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/4-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup grated onion
1-2 tablespoons grated garlic
1 can chickpeas
1/2-1 cup thawed frozen spinach, squeezed dry
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 tablespoons flour
Vegetable Oil (for frying)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1. Toast the fennel, coriander, and sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and fragrant.

2. Combine the toasted seeds, pepper, salt and cumin in a mortar and pestle and grind until fine and well-mixed.

3. In a large bowl, combine the spice mix, onion, garlic, chickpeas, spinach, flour, and olive oil and mash with a fork until well-mixed. The mixture should be relatively dry and able to hold its shape fairly well.

4. Divide the mixture into about six portions. I used a #20 cookie scoop, and it worked perfectly.

5. Using your hands, shape the portions into patties.

6. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1/4-1/2 inch of vegetable or canola oil until the surface ripples.

7. Coat the patties lightly with the breadcrumbs. If you like, you can season the breadcrumbs with salt, pepper, and cumin.

8. Carefully place the falafel in the oil. Fry for 3-5 minutes per side, until golden brown.

9. Serve and enjoy! I served mine alongside some simple steamed rice.

Currently, I'm reading... The Constant Gardener, by John Le Carre.

17 April 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging #129: Zucchini/Courgette

This week's edition of Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook, and I'll be writing about one of my favorite vegetables, just beginning to come into season around here: zucchini.

Until I started doing a bit of research for this post, I thought (as I think most people do) that zucchini was a vegetable. Little did I know, it isn't! It's a fruit. See? You just learned something!

Anyway, this is one of my favorite ways to prepare zucchini, because it really lets the flavor shine through.

Grilled Zucchini

4 zucchini, washed and sliced either diagonally or lengthwise
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter (optional)

1. After slicing the zucchini, preheat your largest grill pan to medium to medium-high. I don't know if this would work on a real grill - the zucchini gets fairly soft and I suspect it would fall apart on the grates.

2. Drizzle the slices, on one side, very lightly with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Put the slices, seasoned-side down, on the grill pan. Drizzle and season the second side. If all of the zucchini doesn't fit, you can work in batches and keep it in a warm oven.

4. Cook on the first side until the zucchini begins to look transparent, about 5 minutes. Turn over. If your grill pan is like mine and has warm and cool spots, rotate the slices around to make sure that all the slices get grill marks on at least one side.

5. Cook on the other side for about another five minutes. If you want to, during the last minute of cooking, melt the butter in the pan - it will flavor the zucchini a bit more.

6. Serve and enjoy!

Today, I'm reading... Of Love And Other Demons, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

15 April 2008

Smashed Roasted Potatoes

I believe I have mentioned my love of mashed potatoes in the past. I can't imagine that I haven't. Anyway, I have a deep and abiding love for all things mashed potato. But, even the best loves can get boring.

So, outside of the ordinary loading and gravies and such, how does one jazz up mashed potatoes? Roasting, of course!

Smashed Roasted Potatoes

4 medium-large Yukon Gold Potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 stick salted butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream (or milk or half-and-half)

1. Toss the potatoes with the olive oil and salt and pepper and spread in a baking pan or sheet.

2. Roast at 450F for 30 minutes, or until very tender and well-browned.

3. Use a fork to smash the potatoes and mix in the softened butter. I find that it's easiest to break the potatoes in the baking pan, then scrape them into a bowl and mix.
4. Add the cream, and wait for the butter to melt.

5. Season with more salt and pepper to taste, serve, and enjoy!

I just finished reading... Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt.

13 April 2008

Recipe Archive


Warm Corn and Black Bean Salad


Beef and Bean Soup with Rice Noodles

Beef and Cabbage Fried Rice
Mongolian Beef

Basic French Bread

Julia Child's French Bread

Danish Braid

Home Fries

Cakes and Cupcakes
Cherry Torte
Coconut-Pecan Icing (for German Chocolate Cake)
Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake
Mint Julep Cupcakes

Candies and Sweets
Mexican Chocolate Truffles

Chicken and Artichoke Stew

Chicken and Dumplings
Chicken with Basil-Riesling Cream Sauce

Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli
Simple and Juicy Roast Chicken

Dorie Greenpan's World Peace Cookies

Slow Roasted Duck

Salmon with Wine-Butter Sauce

Tilapia with Pureed Chickpeas and Olive Relish

Hors D'ouvres/Snacks
Asian-Style Pork Dumplings

Cheese Puffs
Spinach and Artichoke Mini-Pies

Ice Cream/Sherbet/Sorbet/Gelato
Dulce de Leche Gelato

Homemade Pasta Dough

Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli
Penne with Sausage, Onion and Cranberry Sauce
Dressed-Up 'Mac and Cheese'

Lemon Meringue Pie

Shrimp and Broccoli Rabe Quiche

Spinach and Artichoke Mini-Pies
Squash and Zucchini Tart

Asian-Style Pork Dumplings

Birch Beer Braised Pork
Slow Cooker Shredded Pork

Home Fries

Scalloped Potatoes

Smashed Roasted Potatoes

Beef and Cabbage Fried Rice

Green Onion Risotto
Risotto with Roasted Vegetables
Triple Garlic Risotto

Beef and Bean Soup with Rice Noodles

Grilled Zucchini

Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Spinach and Artichoke Mini-Pies
Squash and Zucchini Tart
Tilapia with Pureed Chickpeas and Olive Relish
Warm Corn and Black Bean Salad

12 April 2008

Birch Beer Braised Pork

I almost feel bad about posting a recipe for this. Really - it's almost too simple for a recipe. That said, it took me awhile to figure out the best way to go about it, so I'm going to post it anyway.

I had quite the debate with myself over what kind of soda I wanted to use in this dish - root beer, plain cola, orange soda, and ginger ale all came up at one point or another. Eventually, though, I settled on the birch beer for it's complex spiciness. All of them would certainly work, and I'd love to hear about your results if you try any of them.

One last thought before I get into the recipe: The leftovers were delicious!

Birch Beer Braised Pork

1 pork shoulder, small enough to fit in your largest saucepan or dutch oven
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (2-liter) bottle birch beer

1. Season the pork liberally with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a very large saucepan or dutch oven.

2. Brown the pork on all sides.

3. Add the birch beer to the pan, either enough to cover the pork or then entire bottle.

4. Simmer for about 3 hours.

5. Remove from the pan (carefully!) and shred with two forks. Before serving, pour over about a half-cup of the cooking liquid to keep the meat moist and flavorful.

I just finished reading... Possession: A Romance, by A.S. Byatt.