Friday, August 5, 2011

Soon Come

Believe it or not, this is a nice memory from our visit to St Pete in June.

We behaved.

We also dined on wonderful fish and visited with long lost relatives. Hi Todd and Nadine!!!

I'm happy to say that I've finally had the inspiration for an comeback entry, and it's a quick, weeknight roasted chicken. And I've been chosen for a major gourmet food company's food blogger tour!!!! Wooo-hooo!!!

More soon, with no fighting, foul language, or lewdness. At least not here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

TWD: Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

If it looks like an egregious use of vacation photos, it probably is one.

Here we are on July 31, enjoying our 5th wedding anniversary on the beautiful East End of St. John, USVI. In this photo, we are 20 nights into a glorious stay that included visits from a few really good friends. Hi Gina! Hi Lynne and John!

All I know is that moment was so sweet and fun and true I don't care that the camera was much too close and the sun is making my chin look weird. It was THAT good. And the past 5 years have been pretty fantastic, too.

Now, the cookies. The are incredibly decadent and delicious, but not photogenic. If you don't believe me, check out the brave posts of my Dorie Baking pals and see 'em. They are square, if you're lucky, and brownish little ugly ducklings.

Shortbread is a tough gig. A few days ago, when it actually WAS Tuesday and 100 degrees, it would have been impossible to pull off. Today fall was in the air and I had a chance at success.
For cookies, organic, cultured butter gives you an edge. With shortbread and sables, however, it's how you handle the ingredients that really counts. If you beat too much air into the dough, the cookies will puff and flop in a dramatic comment on the baker's lack of finesse. The butter and sugar get a quick whirl (yea, that's a baking term), all the flour goes in at once and then it's into the fridge for a good, long chill. That's not including your Star Ingredients, of course.

Baking is all about what you would do next time. For this recipe, I'd chop the chocolate a bit more. I'm really intrigued by the oatmeal spice version, too, because I gravitate toward those flavors at this time of the year. Most of all, I'd get them out of the house right away so my afternoon run would have some beneficial effect.

A big Dorie thank you to all the bakers for having me back after such a long absence, and to Donna of Life's Too Short Not to Eat Dessert First for the motivation to get back with the gang.

And finally, to my sweet husband, for eating the burnt and funny looking cookies, coaching me through the rough patches, and loving me so much.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Eggs

Since I don't make hard-cooked eggs very often, I always have to look up a good technique. Usually I consult Mark Bittman, but this week the current issue of Cook's Illustrated arrived just in time with this effortless method.

No, those eggs aren't turmeric and beet juice soaked or onion skin wrapped for all natural color. That's the good old fashioned Paas' kit with "new and improved" colors.

The Perfect Boiled Egg
Cook's Illustrated, May/June 2010

Place eggs in a single layer and cover with 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a bowl halfway with cold water and ice cubes. Transfer the eggs to the ice-water bath with a slotted spoon and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove from cold water and use as desired.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

TWD Rewind: Trio of Cookies

Ok, I admit it. I'm a slacker. What kind of self-respecting Dorie baker logs three recipes in one entry? And it's not even a Tuesday.

Mike of Ugly Dude Food chose these Thumbprints for Us Big Guys. He has the honor of posting the recipe, so check it out on his site.

This is the best new cookie recipe I have tried in years, and thumbprints shall be a part of my holiday cookie sampler this year, for sure. I filled mine with Robert Rothschild Farm apricot spread and strawberry and Grand Marnier preserves. The hazelnuts pair perfectly with the apricots, so go for it the next time you are at Wegman's. The full Rothschild line of products can be found there.

The next cookie began with a trip to the local Asian grocery store for the sweetened condensed milk preferred by David Lebovitz.

(Cue the music appropriate for the entrance of a God.)

Super-easy instructions for making dulce de leche can be found on his website here.

Jodie of Beasy Loves Cake selected these lovely Dulce de Leche Duos. This is the first recipe I made with my new kitchen scale from King Arthur Flour.

My Favorite Taster, Gina, remarked, "Ohhhh, they're sandwich cookies?!"

In a nod to the magical pairing of caramel and salt, I tripled the salt in this recipe. I didn't think they would be a preferred cookie - but WOW!

And finally ----

Michelle of Flourchild - one of my favorite Dorie bloggers - chose Dorie's Honey-Wheat Cookies.

I thought these were just ok, but I used Meyer lemon for the first time and subsequently learned that I should have adjusted the sugar a bit.

By the time I took the photo, this is what I had to work with, so I think the gang at Moore Brothers enjoyed 'em.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Luccan Farro Soup

It's tough planning a second trip to Italy, especially when my sweetheart, the Wine Guy, has been so many times and wants to share all of its treasures. He wants me to see Cinque Terra, I want to camp out at Lake Como hoping for a glimpse of George Clooney. He wants to visit Gianni Piccoli at Corte Gardoni on Lake Garda, I want to eat my way through Bologna.

One thing we can agree on is there is never enough time in Tuscany. I'm not even there and I feel that rush of not wanting to leave so soon. Last time we became so enraptured with San Casciano and its environs that we couldn't blast ourselves to other villages. This time we hope to make it to Lucca.

In his mouth-watering and delightful article "The Riches of Lucca," Mark Bittman says that the best food in Tuscany can be found in Lucca. This traditional soup certainly supports his claim. It is deceivingly simple, yet so satisfying with the toothsome addition of farro and the creamy white beans. It's perfect on those March days that feel more like winter than spring.

If, like us, you are planning your trip to Italy well in advance, you can linger over travel books and enjoy a taste of Tuscany in this lovely dish.

Luccan Farro Soup
Adapted from the New York Times

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup farro, spelt or barley
1 cup dried white beans, soaked for several hours or overnight
2 cups chopped tomatoes (canned are fine; do not drain)
6 cups stock or water, more as necessary
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, optional
Freshly grated Parmesan and lots of your finest extra virgin olive oil for serving

1. Put oil in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat; a minute later add onion, celery, carrots, a large pinch of salt and some pepper. Cook until vegetables are glossy and onion is softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, and stir; add farro, beans, tomatoes and stock, and stir.

2. Bring to a boil, then adjust heat so mixture simmers steadily. Cook until farro and beans are tender, at least an hour, adding stock or water as necessary if mixture becomes too thick. Stir in parsley and basil (if using), then cook another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve with lots of Parmesan and a healthy drizzle of olive oil.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Erin Go Bragh!

This is Dennis, my dear friend whom we affectionately call The Devil. Believe me, he's earned it.

Today he's just my favorite Irishman.

The photo was taken over the holidays in 2004, when we were celebrating what I found in the toe of my stocking that Christmas morning - the sparkly engagement ring on my finger. He had introduced me to the Wine Guy some 12 years before, and as you can see, I'm pretty thrilled.

Dennis and I started making Irish Potatoes together a long time ago, and now he resides in Spain. St. Patrick's day just isn't the same without him on the sofa watching Riverdance and drinking whiskey.

Mrs. Murphy's Irish Potatoes

1/4 lb butter
8 oz package cream cheese
2 lb bag confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb coconut, chopped in food processor
cinnamon for rolling

If you are using a stand mixer, the butter and cream cheese do not need to be softened. If mixing by hand, allow both to come to room temperature. Use

Cream butter and cream cheese. Mix salt and sugar; add slowly to creamed mixture. Add vanilla, mix well, then add coconut a little at a time. Spoon the batter on a large cookie sheet and allow it to become crusty, about 2-3 hours. Shape into small balls and roll in cinnamon. If you put the cinnamon in a sandwich bag, you can roll several at a time.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Gift

I know a lot more about being a daughter than having them. Actually, I can't even remember my first daughter. After teaching for 20 years, the blessings really start to add up.

In the early years, I was blessed with my cheerleaders - Chrissy, Shanae, Candice, Michelle, Amanda. Gilmarie. Pammy. Damaris. I still keep the photo of all of us together at the Holiday Light Show at Wanamaker's in my desk drawer.

There was Amarilys, my first "assistant." She made the tough days at Mastbaum so much better. Now she runs a household of 8 and I bet she doesn't miss a beat.

Then came the Mini-Mac years. Nicole spent so much time with me that her peers named her Mini- Mac, and eventually she just became Mini. She still surfaces with good wishes - and sometimes a plant - on every holiday.

Do you believe that children only come from our bodies? Well, I have news for you. I count all of these remarkable women - and more - as my daughters.

Now - a new chapter begins. Say hello to Jaylani Anne, and her momma, Idalee. 2 weeks ago she arrived - perfect and adorable and so content in my arms. Although many of my girls are now incredible moms, Jaylani is my first "glam-baby." Idalee is a particularly special daughter, and I am so happy for her.

Yea, yea, yea - I know - where are the cookies? What about the delicious dinners? Well, I have honey wheat cookies, and Cook's Illustrated chocolate chip cookies, and thumbprints to write about. This weekend I was really busy in the kitchen: shellfish squid ink pasta, pizza, and brioche buns.

I'll be back soon.

But first, I have to hold the baby.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

TWD: It Takes a Village to Bake a Brownie

One of my favorite things about being a part of the Tuesdays with Dorie baking community is the weekly P & Q. It's an opportunity to eavesdrop (or participate, if you dare) on a conversation about the week's project. My fellow bakers are so interesting; they substitute ingredients and pans, chatter about technique and baking times, and troubleshoot the tricky recipes.

You wouldn't think that a brownie recipe would cause much of a stir with a group of accomplished bakers, but Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia (Child, that is) yielded no fewer than 47 comments. This validates a lot of my experiences in the kitchen; even with great recipes and the freshest ingredients the process for a home cook is probably going to be much different than the recipe implies. In this case, the key to success was a much larger pan than Dorie recommended (9 x 13 instead of 8 x8), a strip of parchment paper, and about 5 extra minutes in the oven.

The coolest part of this recipe was splitting the egg and sugar mixture, incorporating half of it into the melted chocolate, then whisking the other half in a stand mixer until it tripled in volume. I wouldn't call them weeknight brownies because of that step and the number of bowls and pans involved, but they are by far the best brownies I have ever made.

Since my friend Scott was turning 29 (for the first time - how nice!) I let him choose the addition of peanut butter chips. Bay-bee!

Thanks to Tanya of Chocolatechic for choosing this week's confection. Check out the recipe and her blog here.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snow Day

It's not often that the Wine Guy has a snow day, but on Saturday Moore Brothers was closed and Paolo De Marchi's much anticipated visit was canceled because of the storm. We dug out, we puttered around in our comfy clothes, and of course, we ate.

The back of Madison Court blanketed in snow.

4th Street from our front door.

The historical marker in front of our house should say, "Most cookies consumed in any location in Philadelphia."

Finally roasted the turkey bones and made soup.

Eggs for lunch!

Goldilocks called; she wants the bears' chairs back.

Choosing the day's projects.

Trash can snowball.

French TV snacks - salty, sweet hazelnut goodness.

Roast chicken - the perfect ending to a beautiful day together.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

TWD: Cocoa-Nana Bread

I'm dedicating my first post of the New Year to our dear friends Gina and Al. Today - right at this moment, to be exact - they are celebrating 11 years of being in love. For 8 of those years, Gina and I have been working at Bodine High School and Al has been off in various exotic locations (like St. Louis) becoming a doctor. Now that they are married and Al is back in Philly I have to share her, but she's so happy I can't possibly mind.

Gina is the secret ingredient in Too Many Dirty Dishes. She's my editor-in-chief, dedicated taster, and usually my only reader. She's also the friend who will come to the emergency room when I'm really, really scared. I love her for many things, but that's the one I will cherish forever.

So where is the Cocoa-Nana bread, you ask? Well, let's just say it's not the most photogenic of baked goods. Not even with the fancy new camera the wine guy got me for Christmas. Gina is much prettier, wearing her traditional Korean hanbok and enjoying her wedding cake with Al. She gave the bread a rave review this morning, so there you go.

The recipe created quite a stir on Tuesdays with Dorie this week as many bakers scrambled to find substitutions for the bananas. Apparently a lot of people have an aversion to this combination, but with Penzey's Dutch-processed cocoa and Scharfenberger and Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chunks, it's much more chocolate than banana. It's really rich and delicious.

Thanks to Steph of Obsessed with Baking for choosing the recipe this week! It's posted on her blog, so check it out.

Happy Anniversary Gina and Al!!