Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pickle Me This!

Ciao Amici!
Che la sono facendo oggi? Per me, scrivo il BLOG!

Yesterday, I whipped up a veritable smorgasbord of delicacies! Bore levels were high, so I set off to the store for some red onions. I have been wanting to make pickled red onions since last summer, when I worked at Columbia City Bakery. On our breaks, we would have the most delicious sannies made with a CCB roasted potato roll, chipotle mayonnaise, thinly sliced red onions, red bell peppers, turkey, and PICKLED RED ONIONS! By the time we were able to take a break, I was so ravenous the sandwich barely lasted 1 minute in my hand.
The pickled onions at CCB were made simply with red wine vinegar and sugar, which I might try next time. The recipe I chose to adapt today is from one of my favorite fancy blogs;
Pickle Me (Nelle) Onions
4 Red Onions, peeled and sliced thinly on a mandolin
3/4 C Sugar
3 C White Vinegar
red pepper flakes
cinnamon stick
4 garlic cloves, smashed
black and white peppercorns (OMG wouldn't PINK peppercorns be so good in here?!)
fennel seeds
whole cloves
3 bay leaves

Combine the sugar, vinegar, and aromatics in a non reactive pot and bring to a boil. Add in onions. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer for a minute or two. Remove from heat and cool.
These will keep for months in the fridge. Think of the possibilities… revel in the hot pink color and lifeless shape…then taste!

Now, you may use these hot pink lovelies on almost anything! Great with meats of all kinds, turkey sandwiches of course, and salads! I chose to recreate a fantastic salad I ate a lot of in Italy both when I studied there in college and while in Tuscany last summer with my mom.

Insalata con Tonno
As MANY know, Italians prefer to use oil packed tuna, not watery dry tuna. Last Christmas, I received a gift of said oil packed tuna in my stocking! I think Santa Claus is actually Pat McCarthy from DeLaurenti. The tuna that I used was actually locally troll caught albacore, to be precise.

Todd actually quizzed me in his typical fashion about what trolling was;
Nelle….do you even KNOW what troll caught means?
My dad used to take us fishing all the time when we were little and we would troll for salmon on our sailboat sometimes.
Take THAT, Todd.

Um, sorry you had to see that.
Back to the insalata!

Simply dressed with an anchovy caesar-like vinaigrette, I started with romaine and radicchio and added some sweet cherry tomatoes, tuna, and pickled onions. Finished off with a spritz of lemon, crackle of pepper, and a drizzle of fine olive oil….Buonissima!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Eyes for Soda Bread

Surprise! It's me again, so soon. So soon.
I thought I would share a little creation that I adapted from Noreen Kinney's "A Baker's Odyssey." My dearest friend in SF tried the recipe yesterday, so it was only natural for me to try it today, and on St. Paddy at that… HA, can you BELIEVE how that worked out?

This recipe is super easy, as you only must mix the dry ingredients with the wet, and there is no yeast involved. It comes together in a matter of minutes. Do you know what that means for me?It means that I made two loaves AND two batches of tomato jam with all my spare time. Good golly think of all the free time.

I took the liberty of substituting (from the og recipe) regular granulated sugar for honey, adding bee pollen for pizzaz and pumpkin seeds for that bit of green kick.

Irish Soda Bread
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour, plus more for shaping
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup untoasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons flaxseed
2 tablespoon bee pollen
1/8 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 large egg
Appx 1 3/4 cups buttermilk

Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 425°F. Coat a heavy baking sheet with vegetable cooking spray or line it with a silicone baking pan liner or aluminum foil.

In a large bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour. Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the fat particles are very fine.

Stir in the baking soda, salt, honey, wheat bran, oat bran, wheat germ, flaxseed, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds and bee pollen.

Beat the egg lightly with a fork in a 2-cup glass measure. Add enough buttermilk to come to the 2-cup line and stir with the fork to combine well. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the dough gathers into a thick, wet-looking mass.

Sprinkle your work surface with whole wheat flour and scrape the dough onto it. Dust the dough with a bit more whole wheat flour. Pat the dough into a circular shape about 7 inches across and 2 inches high and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Make a cross-shaped indentation on top of the loaf going right to the edges. I used my offset spatula and pressed it into the dough very gently; don't actually slash the dough. During baking the indentation expands, giving the top of the loaf an attractive pattern.

Bake the bread for about 35 minutes, until it is well browned and sounds hollow when rapped on the bottom. You will smell the nutty aroma wafting out of the oven when it's done. Cool the loaf on a wire cooling rack, and serve warm or at room temperature. Cut into quarters and slice each quarter with a sharp serrated knife. Delicious with butter, jam, tomato jam….and of course, cheese! I enjoyed mine with some Beecher's cheddar.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Hello fans, friends, fowl, and family! Today is going to be a spotlight on the idea of eating tarts all the time, especially for breakfast (as I currently do now) and the sunny inspiration of this wonderful sunny pleasure below:

Alyson's Lemon Curd Tart with Olive Oil
For those of you who may not know, my little sister got married last weekend! She and her betrothed are sunning it up in Cancun and basking in margaritas, chips/salsas, and newlywed bliss.

As part of the day of preparations, my mom and I decided to fortify the bridal party AND the crew (Hairdresser Lisa, Cameraman Spencer, Makeup Artist Annabelle) with one of Alyson's favorite lush meals, chicken caesar salad. My mom also made a lemon tart to go along with…BUT the sea was angry that day, and the curd did not cooperate. It sadly was thrown to the wayside and an emergency trip to the store was made for JARRED LEMON CURD
Lets just say, if you want to eat a tart filled with a gelatinous matter that exists in a jar for 13 months, then you will eat a vienna sausage or some spam.

Wedding Crew
I do want to say that Nancy is a SAINT and everything she makes is gold. Also, Kaitlyn Kirkwood is a saint too, because she was the one who tried the jarred tart. Bless their souls.
No matter! I have remedied the malady of the jarred tart with this procedure, courtesy of Gourmet Magazine.

Step One:
Tart Dough! This dough was enriched with a glug or two of olive oil, Kerrygold butter (heh, St Patty's day is coming up) and ground almonds. A nutty, buttery, rich, and crumbly crust is highly desirable, yes?

Step Two:
Press the dough into a tart pan with removable bottom. There will be fingerprints on the tart. This proves you are human and not a cyborg that creates perfectly smooth tart bottoms with an offset spatula.

Step Three:
Blind bake the tart until golden brown. Lightly grease a sheet of tin foil and cover the tart. Then, fill the tart to the brim with cheap pinto beans you purchased at the Food Pavilion. Next, trick your boyfriend into thinking you made a bean pie. Laugh hysterically as he does not get the joke, nor does he understand why you are taking a bean filled tart out of the oven.

Step Four:
Make the curd while the tart shell cools. Begin by artfully laying out lemons on the table. Go ahead, play with the shadows cast by the fruit in your own crazy sugar induced photo shoot.

Zest and juice lemons, and combine with your eggs, sugar, olive oil, and cornstarch (for thickening). Bring to a brief boil on the stove and watch before your very eyes as the eggs and starch thicken the mixture into a smooth and creamy lemon dream.
In summary, there is no substitute for a fresh lemon taste. There are attempts made by the taste of Lemonhead brand candy, but other than that, you must use the real thing.

I must say, I am a sucker for anything that uses a fine oil in its title. Therefore, does anyone have any other suggestions for me? I am dying to make Otto's Olive Oil Gelato….

Alyson's Creamy Smooth Lemon Dream Tart slice, signing off.