Monday, June 20, 2016

Poached and Pickled Salmon

The dish I’m showing today would be perfect for celebrating Midsummer. I’ve never been to Sweden or any part of the Nordic region, but I’d love to visit during the Midsummer festival and enjoy daylight all night long. As usual, I’ve been virtually traveling with a cookbook, and this time it’s The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson. I received a review copy of this hefty book that covers traditional and contemporary foods from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland. Nilsson set out to show the similarities as well as the differences between each part of the Nordic culture. Several dishes are found in multiple locations and go by different names in each place, and some are unique to one area. He accepted that the book could never be a complete record of all the recipes from this large area, but it was intended to inform the reader about this food culture and provide guidance in creating some of that food. It also includes beautiful photos of the areas that were visited during the research phase. There’s a simplicity to the ingredients and most preparations, and flavors are brightened by vinegars, horseradish, and herbs. I loved all the potato recipes including several potato salads, soups, creamed potatoes, gratins, potato cakes, and Potatoes Hasselbacken. Why have I never made those? I learned the dish was invented in the 1950s at a restaurant that became a cooking school called Hasselbacken. There are meat and poultry dishes, sausage and charcuterie, breads and waffles and dumplings, cakes and pastries, and a chapter for little cookies and other sweets that I imagine would be perfect on a holiday cookie tray. I really enjoyed reading about all the various fish dishes with fresh, pickled, smoked, and dried variations. I really like pickled shrimp, so I had to try the Poached and Pickled Salmon since fresh wild salmon season is in full swing. 

In the end, the dish is a bit of a decomposed salad, and you can mix and match whatever items you’d like to serve with the salmon. Making the salmon itself was as easy as it gets. Fresh salmon fillets were cut into portions and placed in a heat-proof dish. Water was brought to a boil with salt, red wine vinegar, white vinegar, chopped carrots, sliced fennel, sliced onion, chopped celery, thyme springs, bay leaves, parsley stalks, and peppercorns. I'm thrilled to finally get to use my own thyme growing right outside once again. After boiling for a minute, the hot water, with vegetables and herbs, was poured over the salmon, and it was left to cool to room temperature. This steeping step was how the salmon was cooked. Once cool, the salmon was left in the liquid with the vegetables and herbs and refrigerated overnight. The next day, I made a homemade mayonnaise with dill to serve with the salmon. Fresh, new potatoes and purple long beans from Boggy Creek Farm were my cooked accompaniments to the salmon. And, I sliced some lacto-fermented cucumber pickles I had in the refrigerator as well. The chilled salmon was served with the carrot and fennel alongside the boiled potatoes and blanched beans with a dollop of dill mayonnaise and some pickle slices. Each bite of salmon and potato was swiped through the rich mayonnaise. 

The flavor of the salmon was mildly pickled, and I might add more vinegar to the steeping liquid next time. But, the mayonnaise was bright and lively with the vinegar in it and the dill. Those fresh, boiled potatoes went so well with the other parts of the dish. And, it could be presented in different ways. The salmon could be flaked rather than left as a fillet, or all the parts could be combined for a less-deconstructed salad. However it’s served, it’s a great way to celebrate summer. 

Poached and Pickled Salmon 
Recipe reprinted from The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson with publisher's permission (Phaidon, $49.95 US/$59.95 CAN, October 2015) 

This is a real summer dish, often served with Boiled Potatoes, Dill Mayonnaise, and Quick Pickled Cucumber. The pickled vegetables are delicious and should also be served with the fish. The salmon is not pickled in the sense that herrings are pickled and won’t keep for very long but should be eaten within a week if stored in the refrigerator. In a restaurant, where you would fillet a whole salmon to make this dish, it’s a good idea to cook the salmon bones and head together with the pickling liquor. If you do so, it will produce a light and very delicious jelly when it cools down. If you decide to try this at home, then add the bones, head and any salmon scraps you have to the pickling liquor, but leave out the vegetables. Bring it slowly to a simmer, then let it sit for 5 minutes before proceeding as described below. If you like the idea of the jelly, but you have no fish bones, then add 2 leaves of gelatin per 1 litre/34 fl oz (4 1/4 cups) of finished pickling syrup. 

Preparation and cooking time: 30 minutes 
Pickling time: overnight 
Serves: 4 

800 g/1 3/4 lb salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces 
50 g/2 oz (1/4 cup) sugar 
2 tablespoons salt 
100 ml/3 1/2 fl oz (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) red wine vinegar 
100 ml/3 1/2 fl oz (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) Attika (12%) vinegar or white distilled vinegar 
2 carrots, cut into 5 mm/1/4 inch slices 
1 red onion, thinly sliced 
1 small fennel bulb, sliced 
1 celery stalk, chopped 
1 sprig thyme 
2 bay leaves 
12 white peppercorns 
1 handful parsley stalks 

Place the salmon pieces in a pot and keep at room temperature to warm up slightly. Pour 2 litres/3 1/2 UK pints (8 1/4 cups) water into another pot and add the sugar,salt and vinegars. (Remember that it needs to be saltier than you would think because it is supposed to season the salmon. 2 tablespoons fine salt could be a starting point point but you will have to taste your way forward.) Bring to the boil, then add the vegetables and aromatics and continue boiling for 1 minute. Pour the pickling liquor over the pieces of salmon in the other pot and leave to cool to room temperature. 

Refrigerate the salmon in the pickling liquor overnight. Serve the salmon cold. 

Dill Mayonnaise 
I hate mayo that is not thick enough; it should be stiff! If not, it goes very liquid from dilution as soon as it comes in contact with any type of moist food you are eating or mixing it with. Add more oil if it isn’t really thick. If you are using it in a sauce that has more liquids in it, or a salad, it could be on the verge of splitting from containing a lot of oil when you mix it with the remaining ingredients. The water content in the thing you are mixing the mayo with will make it perfect as it dilutes it a bit. 

Preparation time: 20 minutes 
Serves: 4 

2 egg yolks 
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 
2 tablespoons white vinegar 
250 ml/8 fl oz (1 cup) neutral oil 
salt and white pepper, to taste 
a handful of chopped dill leaves 

Put the egg yolks in a bowl. Whisk in the mustard and vinegar then season with a pinch of salt and a little white pepper. Add the oil, a drop at a time, beating slowly but constantly, until no oil remains and the mayo is nice and thick. Stir in chopped dill. Season to taste. 

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Roasted Pepper and Chickpea Soup

You might not immediately think that summer and soup go together, but give me a chance to explain. I’m declaring this a perfect soup for summer because it’s so easy to make, because the ingredients can all come from the pantry or freezer, and because it would be as good chilled as it is hot. This was a treasure I discovered in my recipe files. I keep physical files of magazine pages I’ve cut out over the years. All the pages are filed according to type of recipe like soup, cake, pasta, etc. It had been ages since I’d gone through them. A couple of times a year, I flip through the recipes to pull out ones that I’ve since tried from other sources and to find inspiration from ideas I’d forgotten. This soup was a long-overlooked gem, and it’s from the October 2012 issue of Food and Wine. In its original format it’s even easier than how I prepared it, but I’ve never met a recipe I couldn’t make more complicated. In the magazine, it was made with store-bought hummus. Instead, I used canned chickpeas, lemon, and garlic. But, what I realized is that this soup is ideal for the night you return from a trip or return from a day in the outdoors or return home after having so much summer fun you don’t want to cook anything difficult. It’s a puree of roasted red peppers from a jar, chickpeas from a can, lemon and garlic from the panty, and store-bought chicken stock. The toppings are chopped roasted red peppers, cooked rice, and optional sliced chicken from the freezer. 

Piquillo peppers are suggested in the original recipe, but they’re not always easy to find. I used regular, jarred roasted red peppers. They were drained and all but one was added to the blender pitcher. The extra pepper was diced for topping the finished soup. I also rinsed and drained one can of chickpeas and added that to the blender pitcher as well. The juice of one lemon and three chopped cloves of garlic were added along with two cups of chicken stock, and the mixture was pureed. I prefer the blender for pureed soups for a smoother texture than a food processor would create. I had some Texas-grown, long-grain rice that I cooked while warming the soup puree. Salt and black pepper were added to the soup, and I added Espelette pepper for a little spice as well. I had some leftover grilled chicken from the freezer than I thawed and sliced for topping the soup. 

I mentioned this would be a good cold soup, and I think that’s due to the lemon. In a cold version, some crab meat or pickled shrimp would make good topping options, although those would make this less pantry- and freezer-friendly. Still, however you top it, this soup is meant for summer. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Buttermilk Pretzel Rolls

Baking books can be dangerous for me. Dangerous in that I’m tempted to bake my way through them, marking more pages than I leave unmarked and wanting to start multiple recipes at the same time. Little Flower Baking was definitely in this category. It’s the latest from Christine Moore of LA’s Little Flower Cafe, and I received a review copy. The style of baking here is familiar and comforting with a few surprising flavors and twists. The scones include versions like Peach Ricotta, Plum Ginger, Strawberry Basil, and Curry Pineapple. I was dizzy from the pies, fruit-filled tarts, layer cakes and simpler cakes, muffins, vegan and gluten-free options, and then came the cookies chapter. I absolutely have to try the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies made with two different types of dough that get smooshed together to form each cookie. And, the Chai Sugar Cookies and White Chocolate Chai Cookies have my complete attention as well. I actually went straight to the kitchen when I saw the Pink Peppercorn Hibiscus Shortbread and made these lovely wedges cut from a round that was topped with a mix of sanding sugar and ground dried hibiscus flowers. They were so pretty with the sparkling, red-pink sugar on top. I haven’t even started telling you about the Savories chapter yet. The Savory Muffins each have a whole egg baked into them and cheddar melted on top, and the Potato Tart looks delicious with the slices circling the top and baked until golden. But my weakness for all things pretzel could not be overcome when I saw the Buttermilk Pretzel Rolls. 

This was the puffiest, funnest dough to work with, quite possibly, that I’ve ever encountered. At first, I worried that the amount of yeast in the recipe was a typo because two tablespoons for this quantity of dough seemed like a lot, but the result was just as it should be. The dough was made with the yeast, buttermilk, vegetable oil, water, bread flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and salt. There’s not enough sugar for the dough to be truly sweet, but there is a hint of sweetness and the sugar adds to the browning of the rolls. The dough was mixed in a stand mixer for almost 20 minutes until smooth. It is a sticky dough that requires a bowl scraper to transfer it to an oiled bowl to rise. It was left to rest for about an hour. Now, in addition to the pretzel roll recipe in the book, there’s also a pretzel dog recipe. It’s kind of like a pig in blanket with pretzel dough criss-crossed around a hot dog. I had to try a few of those too. I divided the dough to make several plain rolls, and then I used some remaining dough to blanket little chicken breakfast sausages for mini chicks in blankets. There’s one of those in the photo below. For the rolls, the dough was portioned, rolled into six-inch long pieces, and then knotted into a round shape. Both the rolls and chicks in blankets were then poached in boiling water mixed with baking soda and brown sugar. After a few seconds of poaching, the rolls were placed on baking sheets, brushed with vegetable oil, and sprinkled with extra coarse salt. They were baked for about 24 minutes total. 

The rolls emerged from the oven a deep, golden, pretzel-brown, and the texture was delightfully tender. And, the chicks in blankets? They couldn’t have been more fun to dip into grainy mustard before biting into the salt-topped blankets. I may need to step away from the kitchen before every surface is covered with scones and cookies, but I’ll be back to bake more from this book soon. 

Buttermilk Pretzel Rolls 
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from Little Flower Baking.
The aroma of soft pretzels and roasting chestnuts from a street cart in New York City meant a great day at Central Park or a museum visit. Memories from childhood are so powerful and comforting. Making these pretzel rolls every day in the cafe keeps those memories alive. 

Makes 16 

2 tablespoons (18g) active dry yeast 
1 1⁄2 cups (333g) warm water, 95 to 110 degrees F 
1⁄2 cup + 2 tablespoons (140g) buttermilk 
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil 
5 cups (600g) bread flour, plus more for dusting 
1⁄3 cup (71g) golden brown sugar, packed 
2 teaspoons granulated sugar 
1 tablespoon sea salt 
1⁄2 cup (100g) grapeseed oil, plus more to coat bowl 
3 tablespoons pretzel salt or coarse sea salt 

Poaching Liquid 
6 tablespoons (108g) baking soda 
1 cup (213g) golden brown sugar, packed 
3 cups (666g) water 

Place yeast and warm water in a small bowl and whisk until yeast dissolves. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add buttermilk and oil. Set wet mixture aside. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine flour, sugars, and salt on lowest speed for 15 seconds. Add wet mixture all at once and mix on lowest speed until dough is smooth and tacky, 15 to 20 minutes. 

Lightly coat a medium bowl with grapeseed oil. Transfer dough to the oiled bowl. Flip the dough so it is coated with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. 

Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and brush paper with oil. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. 

Divide dough into 16 even portions, each about the size of a tennis ball. Roll each portion into a 6- to 7-inch rope. Tie each rope into a simple knot. Set pretzel rolls onto the sheet pans. 

Preheat oven to 375°. To make poaching liquid, combine baking soda, brown sugar, and water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil. 

Set up a small bowl with 1⁄2 cup grapeseed oil, a pastry brush, and a small bowl of pretzel salt. 

Once poaching liquid foams, begin poaching. Use a slotted or perforated spoon to submerge 3 pretzel rolls for 8 seconds. Remove from saucepan and place onto sheet pan, leaving at least 1 1⁄2 inches of space between each roll. Brush each roll with oil and sprinkle with a pinch of pretzel salt. Continue to poach the remaining pretzel rolls in same manner. 

Bake poached pretzel rolls until golden, about 12 minutes. Rotate pan and continue baking until darker golden brown, about 12 more minutes. 

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Crumb-Topped Blackberry Muffins

Do you listen to music in the kitchen? Sometimes I listen to a shuffled mix of music, or I’ll play live a local radio station from their website, or I’ll pick something on Pandora. When I pick something specific, more often than not it’s jazz. And, Sarah Vaughan is one of my favorites. When I read the head note for the recipe shown here today (see below), I was inspired to turn on the music and start baking. These blackberry muffins are from Patty Pinner’s latest book Sweet Mornings, and I received a review copy. This is a collection of sweet, and some savory, breakfast treats Pinner has put together over years of gathering recipes from the women in her family and women from her neighborhood. The recipes all come with stories, and she writes: “my recipes are testimonials to all I’ve learned, listened to, and observed in the kitchens of other women.” It makes you want to slow down in the morning, invite your neighbor in, and chat for a few minutes over hot tea and something sweet. And, if you like coffee cakes as much as I do, this is a book you’ll want. In addition to the muffins, scones, biscuits, rolls, sweet loaves, pancakes, and doughnuts, there are no fewer than 25 different types of coffee cake. There’s a Rhubarb Coffee Cake, Pistachio Coffee Cake, Nutmeg Coffee Cake, Blueberry-Cornmeal Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping, Eggnog Crumb Coffee Cake, and a Peanut Butter and Jelly Coffee Cake to name a few. Don’t they all sound great? But, I had been eagerly awaiting blackberry season and had to try these crumb topped muffins first. Due to the nature of my love of a crumb topping, I should mention that I learned a lesson from another crumb topping aficionado years ago. That lesson was to always double the crumb topping quantities. Ignore that suggestion if you’re not as crazy for crumb topping as I am. 

Making that crumb topping is step one. Flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt were combined in a bowl, and butter was worked into the mixture. I used coconut palm sugar which gave mine a darker brown color than it would have had with granulated sugar, and as usual, I doubled the quantities. To prep the pan, I used muffin cups rather than greasing and flouring the pan. Making the batter was a simple matter of combining the dry ingredients including flour, more coconut palm sugar for me, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, lemon zest, and salt. A well was made in the center of the mixture. In a separate bowl, yogurt, melted and cooled butter, eggs, and vanilla extract were combined and then poured into the well in the dry ingredients. The batter was carefully stirred together so as not to overmix. Next, blackberries were folded into the batter before it was spooned into the muffin cups. The crumb mixture was sprinkled on top of each muffin, and they baked for about 25 minutes. 

A hot cup of tea went perfectly with these fruity muffins, and I had received a selection of organic teas from Teavivre to try. The Organic White Peony was subtly floral and lovely. It’s a very light bodied tea that was delicious hot and iced. Next, I tried the Hangzhou Tian Mu Qing Ding Green Tea which is a slightly grassy green tea with great flavor. Another green option is Tian Mu Mao Feng, and this one is milder in flavor and lighter in color. These are high quality, loose leaf teas packed in sealed, airtight packages. And, they’d be great with all those coffee cakes too. 

Crumb-Topped Blackberry Muffins 
Reprinted with publisher’s permission from Sweet Mornings by Patty Pinner, Agate Midway, 2016. 

In 1965, jazz was everywhere. It floated out of project buildings and penthouse windows alike. Daddy listened to Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie on homemade 8-track cartridges he bought from Mr. Manning, who made them in his garage. I guess you could say that making tapes was Mr. Manning’s hustle. Sarah Vaughan was Mama’s favorite singer. She loved Miss Vaughan’s lush voice and played Miss Vaughan’s “My Favorite Things” over and over on a small stereo in the kitchen. Mama baked while Miss Vaughan’s velvety voice sang on. And the music came out in her cooking—the morning sweets she made were as plush and smooth as cool jazz. These Crumb-Topped Blackberry Muffins are a case in point. 

Make 16 muffins 

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
1/4 cup granulated sugar 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces 

Nonstick cooking spray, for greasing 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
2 teaspoons baking power 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 cup plain yogurt 
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled 
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries 

1. To make the topping: In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Using your fingers, a pastry blender, or the tines of a fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it becomes crumbly. Set aside. 
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease 2 8-count muffin pans with the cooking spray. Set aside. 
3. To make the batter: In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, lemon zest, and salt. Make a well in the center of the mixture and set aside. 
4. In a small mixing bowl, combine the wet ingredients: the yogurt, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract. Add the yogurt mixture to the flour mixture and stir until the batter is moistened. (Do not over mix; the batter should be lumpy.) Carefully fold in the blackberries, ensuring they are evenly distributed and that the fruit does not become broken up. 
5. Divide the batter evenly among the cups of the prepared pans, filling each about 1/2 full. Sprinkle each evenly with the topping. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. 
6. Using a serrated knife, separate the muffins from the pans and then tap the pans gently on the counter to release the muffins. 
7. Transfer to a serving platter and serve warm. 

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ground Chicken Kebabs

Did you see the film The Hundred Foot Journey? Do you remember the omelet-making scene? That omelet was the creation of Floyd Cardoz who was the consulting chef on the film. It’s also found in his new book, Flavorwalla, of which I received a review copy. In the book, he explains that a walla in India is someone who sells something specific or is particularly knowledgeable about a topic. A paowalla is someone who sells bread. Floyd Cardoz is the flavorwalla because he has “made his mark as a creator of bold, exciting food with balanced layers of flavors and textures that play off each other.” The recipes reflect his varied style of cooking with a mix of cultural influences. There are Mexican, Thai, Moroccan, and Portuguese influences in the dishes as well as Indian flavors. The common thread is the use of spices, herbs, and aromatic ingredients to punch up the results. There’s a Spiced Chicken Soup with Chickpea Noodles that sounds like it’s guaranteed to lift you from feeling under the weather. It’s made with cinnamon, cloves, cumin, scallions, ginger, fresh chiles, and homemade noodles with chickpea flour. I was intrigued by the Yellow Lentil “Dal” enriched with whisked eggs stirred in at the end. And, the Stewed Chicken with Fresh Tomatoes with chipotle, ginger, turmeric, and tamarind paste sounds great for late summer tomatoes. There are other egg dishes in addition to the omelet like Oven-Baked Eggs with Poblanos and Fingerling Potatoes and Coddled Eggs with Crab, Grits, and Leeks. There are quick meals for weeknights and dishes that are perfect for parties, and there are a few cocktails as well like the Tamarind Margarita. I fired up the grill for the Ground Chicken Kebabs because of the big flavors from ginger, garlic, mint, and serrano, and they were great served with the fresh, zesty Romaine Salad with Lime and Thai Chile. 

Cardoz explains that in many places in the world “kebab” is anything grilled whether it’s a cut of meat or piece of sausage or something formed into a patty. It doesn’t always involve food on a stick. And so, these patties were not skewered, just grilled as is. Two cloves of garlic, an inch of ginger peeled and cut into coins, and half a serrano chile chopped were combined in a food processor and finely chopped. Two tablespoons of cilantro and two more of mint leaves were added and finely chopped. A half cup of finely chopped onion was added to the mixture along with salt, pepper, and a half teaspoon of Garam Masala. The mixture was worked into a pound of ground chicken by hand. Lately, I’ve been buying humanely-raised, pastured chicken from Smith and Smith Farm at the farmers’ market and have been completely avoiding industrially-raised chicken. Direct from the farm, they sell whole chickens, pieces, and even boneless breasts and packs of ground chicken. So, once mixed, the chicken was formed into small patties that were refrigerated while the grill was being prepped. I brushed each side of the patties with vegetable oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper before placing them on the grill. They only need about three minutes per side depending on the heat of the grill. The dressing for the salad was made with canola oil, lime juice, fish sauce, minced ginger, and a minced Thai chile. It was tossed with chopped romaine, sliced radishes, cilantro leaves, and mint leaves. I served the kebabs with lime wedges and the salad on the side. 

The simplicity of little, grilled patties made the brightness of flavors even more unexpected. The squirt of lime on each kebab brought out the herbs, ginger, and chile within. A bite of kebab with a bite of fresh, crisp salad made an ideal mix. If you’re looking to add more spice and interesting flavors to your cooking, this book would be a great place to start. 

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Olive Twisty Bread

The topic of authenticity in relation to cuisines seems to pop up frequently lately. What is truly authentic to a place and time? When are outside influences permitted within what’s thought to be authentic? It’s not always black and white. I like the approach taken in Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. I recently received a review copy of the book. The authors, both American, became acquainted in Rome as they were both documenting the city’s dishes. They “enjoyed celebrating new flavors and breaking down the stereotype that Roman food must be hypertraditional in order to be authentic.” In fact over the centuries, there have been varied influences, from spice trade to immigration, on what has become Roman cuisine. This book, with both traditional and contemporary dishes, “focuses on the foods that best communicate the spirit of the Roman flavors,” and there are new twists that even include finding those flavors in cocktails. For instance, the Carbonara Sour di Co. So. is made with guanciale-washed vodka and a pinch of black pepper. There are also true classics like Torta Rustica, which is a savory pie filled with greens, and Cacio e Pepe. I liked that the Pollo alla Romana recipe spans generations by staying true to the original concept of a braised dish with wine and peppers with a contemporary spin of using leftover deboned meat and sauce on sandwiches. There are historical facts strewn about the pages and a section devoted to Cucina Ebraica, the distinctive cuisine of Roman Jews who were once confined to a walled Ghetto in the city. There are pizzas and breads, vegetable dishes, meat dishes, poultry dishes, and fish dishes. And, there are sweets and drinks as well. I’m looking forward to using summer vegetables for the Verdure Gratinate al Forno with the seasoned breadcrumb topping. I also want to try the Concia which is fried and marinated zucchini, and this too sounds great suggested as a sandwich filling. I was quickly drawn to the bread chapter by the cute, little Pizette made from rounds of puff pastry and topped with thick tomato paste and oregano. But, my first stop in the book was at the page for Trecce con Olive or Olive Twisty Bread. 

There are three variations for this bread shown in the book: olive, walnut, and zucchini. When I made this a couple of weeks ago, zucchini hadn’t quite come into season here yet, and I was so excited about the olive version I made the entire batch with an olive filling rather than making two loaves of each flavor. Making the dough begins a day in advance since it’s made with a biga. Flour, water, and yeast were combined, and the mixture spent the night in the refrigerator. The biga needs to come to room temperature before being mixed into the dough the next day. To make the bread dough, the biga was combined with water, olive oil, and malt syrup. Because the biga is a dry mixture, it takes a little work to break it up, and using your hands to mix it into the water is the best approach. Flour and yeast were added to the biga mixture and stirred with a wooden spoon. Salt was added, and the dough was kneaded until smooth but still somewhat tacky. This was a slightly wet dough but not unmanageable. While the dough was left to rise for an hour, the filling was prepared. In my case, I chopped olives and sauteed some garlic and red chile flakes in olive oil. The risen dough was divided into six pieces, and each piece was stretched to about 24 inches long. I brushed the pieces of dough with the garlic-chile oil and topped the bottom half of each piece with chopped olives. Each long piece of dough was folded over to enclose the filling leaving the sides open. Then, each piece was twisted to expose the filling in places. The tops of the loaves were brushed with more olive oil, and I sprinkled them with sea salt. They baked for about 20 minutes until golden. 

As the twisted dough baked, the edges became crisp and golden while the centers remained tender and full of olive flavor. These are great with a traditional accompaniment of wine keeping in mind “the ancient city was responsible for introducing vines and viticulture to every corner of its empire.” But, I can confirm that pieces of the olive breads are also delicious with more up-to-date gin cocktails. For tastes from both the past and present, you’ll find a lot to like in Tasting Rome

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Root Vegetable Chips

The book I want to tell you about today focuses on “connecting to nature while savoring good food.” It’s about seasonal, fresh food whether foraged in the wild or at the best local-sourcing market. And, the recipes are simple, straightforward dishes made with those beautiful ingredients. Can you already tell I really liked this book? It’s Savor: Rustic Recipes Inspired by Forest, Field, and Farm by Ilona Oppenheim, and I received a review copy. Oppenheim lives in the mountains in Aspen, and much of what she cooks does come from foraging in the woods near her home. Many of the ingredients are used in a couple of ways including a fresh dish to make right away and another one with a preserved version of the ingredient to use later. There are lovely chapter titles that correspond to where the primary ingredients are gathered like Around the Pasture, Into the Wild, and Through the Mill. There are wonderfully simple building blocks to use in other recipes like homemade yogurt, ricotta, and cultured butter. There are two versions of savory, rustic tarts, and they’re both so pretty in the photos. One is made with thinly sliced zucchini, goat cheese, lemon, and rosemary, and the other is filled with halved cherry tomatoes, onion, and thyme. Trout is shown three different ways with a Trout Amandine, Cured Trout, and Trout Jerky. I wish I had a stream full of trout nearby where I could catch the freshest fish, but fresh from the store will be the best I can get. There’s information about soaking grains and how that makes nutrients more available and digestible, and it was good to learn that dried, soaked grains can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months. I’d love to have some soaked grains at the ready for the cookies and breads. I’d also like to try the Ancient Grain Pancakes made with buttermilk-soaked grains. Throughout the book, there are dishes both savory and sweet for every meal as well as snacks. I wanted to make good use of some of the last root vegetables of the season, and oven-crisped chips sounded like a perfect plan. 

The process couldn’t be simpler, but it requires a little patience for the chips to dry enough to be crispy. A big sweet potato and some beets were scrubbed but not peeled. They were all thinly sliced on a Benriner. The sweet potato slices were kept separate from the beet slices so the color couldn’t bleed. Although, I used chioggia beets, and they tend to bleed less than red beets. Each group of slices was tossed with just a teaspoon and a half of olive oil and salt. The sliced vegetables were placed on separate baking sheets and baked at 250 degrees F for an hour and forty minutes for the sweet potatoes and two hours for the beets. The pans were rotated a couple of times during baking. You’ll want to check the chips from time to time toward the end of the baking time to see if they’re getting too brown or if they’re still tender. After baking and cooling, the chips can be stored in an air-tight container for a few days, and they stay crisp. I served the chips with whipped feta and an extra sprinkling of flaky sea salt. 

Each vegetable’s earthy sweetness gets concentrated as it slowly bakes. The crunchy chips make a great snack on their own or with a dip, and whipped feta was especially good with the beet chips. I may be doing my foraging at farmers’ markets and farm stands rather than in the great outdoors, but I look forward to using my finds in the simple, delicious dishes from this book. 

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