Monthly Archives: March 2010

a homemade life

A really awesome development in my life has been a new, totally fun cookbook book club.  The main regret of my last two months was forgetting my camera for our first amazing dinner talking about, and eating from, the River Cottage Meat Book.  Basically, it was the best.

But, this past month (week, still, as I am trying to blog better, you know?) we had a delicious brunch eating from Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life. I’ll spare you my many thoughts about the blog-to-book transition, instead saying that many many amazing breakfasts (and lunches, and dinners) can come out of this book, or they could just be merged into a super brunch like last weekend. The biggest downfall of the day was that apparently we all have a serious sweet tooth, so we ate coffee toffee, french toast, cupcakes, scones, fruit preserves, and bacon. Of course everything came together with maple syrup, best best best.

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I made this semi-crazy corn bread. It was good, but really needed fruit or (better) maple syrup to tie it all together. I am not totally sure about how I feel about it, but I think other people sort of liked it (unless they are trying to not hurt my feelings, but it’s okay guys!). Anyway, here is cornbread with a caveat: it is sweet, desserty, and kind of has a texture that gave me pause. But, if you are looking for something sweet and desserty, pour some maple syrup on this, because it is okay! (big sell, here, guys.)

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons distilled vinegar
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350, and butter a pan (square, 8 inches, ish) and put it in the oven to heat up.  I don’t know why this step happens, but I did it…  Melt the butter in a microwave, let it cool a bit.  Stir the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda together.  Add the eggs to the butter and whisk.  Add the sugar, salt, milk, and vinegar to the butter and eggs and stir together.  Add the flour mixture and stir until there are no lumps.  Pour the batter in the pan and pour the cream into the middle of the batter.  Don’t stir.  Bake for 50 minutes to an hour.

The cornbread is sweet, and the cream turns into a custard, somehow, so be warned!

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I think we generally agreed that the best tip from the book was using canola oil (lots) to fry french toast.  Seriously, it is noticeably better!

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ricotta

Lindsay made ricotta last summer and brought it to Ashley’s cottage, and I’ve been meaning to do it ever since.  In my mind, it was hard and sciency, but it was actually neither of these things.  Basically, all you need is a cheesecloth, and I love making things with cheesecloths. Super easy, but then felt compelled to eat it all on top of a pizza. Next time, I guess I’ll try to not eat it in one night…

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I used the recipe from the very pretty Salt & Fat, and I probably should have followed it more carefully. I was nervous that the sciency part wasn’t happening, so I kept adding more and more lemon. Maybe, don’t do this.

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (seriously)

Prep the cheesecloth by putting it in a bowl or colander, so it’s ready when you need it.  Bring the milk, cream and salt to a running boil on medium high, making sure to stir it pretty often so nothing burns.  Once it’s boiling, add the lemon juice, stir it in carefully, and turn the heat down to maintain a simmer.  Keep stirring for a few minutes, watching for everything to separate, and don’t be alarmed if it looks like it’s not going to yield much of anything.  Just wait, ideally without adding more lemon juice…  Let it drain for about an hour, I like to tie it up over a bowl so things happen quickly.  I hope to try again this with some flavouring, but I’m not totally sure what would work…

pancakes

These are really just delicious pancakes.  They are so good that I have kept my 2009 agenda for two whole months because it was written in over a week when I apparently had absolutely no plans or deadlines in November. It seems like a better idea to keep this recipe here, and get rid of last year’s plans.

When you make these, the first thing you notice is that the batter tastes like cake.  You have to be truly committed to raw food (in the bad way, not in the healthy way) to try pancake batter, because it usually tastes like baking powder.  Luckily, both Ashley and I are, and now we know that this batter tastes amazing.  But it also makes really light and fluffy pancakes and basically only needs ingredients that I usually have in my cupboard.  Basically, best pancakes ever.

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  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons oil

Mix all the dry ingredients together well, then add the liquids except the oil, then add the oil.  Fry them in a butter/oil combo.

This recipe comes from Ashley, and I’ve only ever made them with her.  The first time was at her cottage, and we had them with Lindsay’s homemade lemon ricotta (delish!), the second time was at Ashley’s parent’s house the morning after going to a serious serious haunted house.  Basically, lovely days made better by these pancakes.  I should make them more, so good!

panzanella

I used to work at Chez Piggy in Kingston, and learned lots about cooking and working in kitchens.  The big thing for restaurants is trying hard not to throw out food, but at the same time serving fresh food. Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential tries to do a big exposé on daily specials and how they’re just ways to sell ingredients that are about to go bad, but it’s pretty much common sense and you can be the lowly dessert girl (and, later, the lowly line cook) and still see how this works. Or, you know, you can just think about it. Anyway, bread was a hard one at Chez Piggy, there was a sister bakery, where I later worked, that made all the buns and breads for the restaurant, and so there was basically always too much bread. And day-old bread didn’t cut it. One of the ways to get through this was panzanella, a pretty delish bread salad. Sometimes I want this bread salad so much that I can’t wait for my bread to go stale. This happened this week, so I toasted slices of a baguette to dry them out.

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The recipe is easy and quick, but made better if you take some time with it.

  • dry bread (I always vote for a ciabatta, it’s crusty and soft, but this time I used a demi baguette and it was better than okay)
  • two bell peppers
  • tomatoes
  • jarred artichoke hears
  • capers
  • red onion
  • garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar

If you’re using fresh bread, toast it, rip it into pieces (rustic!) and leave it out as long as you can.  If you have time, slow roast the tomatoes as long as you like.  I used grape tomatoes, and roasted them with olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper for about an hour and a half.  For the last fifteen minutes, I threw in a splash of balsamic vinegar.  Grill or roast the sliced peppers and onions.  Chop the artichokes.  Mix everything together in a bowl.  The oil and vinegar from the tomatoes should be enough to coat everything, but you really want a lot of sauciness.  Add more oil and vinegar if you want more.  I also threw in half an avocado and some cheddar, because everything is better with avocado and cheese.

This gets better after a day or so, and would make a great picnic.  The weather has been amazing lately, so maybe maybe this is a possibility for next week!