Category Archives: recipe

Recipe: Cauliflower Soup

Wait! Don’t leave. I know cauliflower soup sounds disgusting. I didn’t think I would like it either. But it is actually kind of amazing. Behold!

Urban Cholita: Cauliflower SoupWhat makes this soup awesome is the topping — a salty, crunchy, tangy mix of breadcrumbs, lemon zest, pancetta, and parsley. Recipe below the jump. Continue reading


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Recipe: Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

One of my favorite parts of fall is the food. Now that the weather has turned chilly, I’ve been on a soup bender. This one will warm your toes quite nicely. Enjoy it in front of a crackling fire. If, like me, you don’t have a fireplace, now is the time to pop in your fake fire DVD.   Continue reading

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Recipe: Bánh Mì

For Easter, I made an Italian pork roast called porchetta. The labor-intensive recipe came from my favorite bread book, Tartine Bread.  The Tartine recipe starts with a boneless butterflied pork shoulder. This gets smeared with a mix of olive oil, fennel tops, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt, and — because this is a bread book — bread crumbs. Then you roll the whole thing up like a rug and bind it with string.

The roast should resemble a Hostess Ho Ho, albeit with pork instead of cake and fennel stuffing instead of cream. This pork Ho Ho gets roasted at 220 degrees for 8-10 hours. I did the roasting while I slept, but I wouldn’t recommend this. My dreams were haunted by pigs, smoke alarms, and kitchen fires. Sweet dreams aren’t made of these.

The pork turned out delicious. But the stuffing was . . . meh . . . not great. First, there was way too much of it. Second, it was too fennel-y. Or too bread-y. Definitely too something. I may try this recipe next.

On the bright side, we had tons of leftover pork. Tartine recommended making Vietnamese sandwiches aka bánh mì. And so I did. Continue reading

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My paternal grandma has been gone for more than a decade, but yesterday I missed her something fierce. So I pulled out one of her old cookbooks: Cook with Hope. Published in 1973 by the women of Trinity United Methodist Church in Cavalier, North Dakota, it begins with a few helpful hints. Here’s one gem:

To dry lettuce, pat it with crumpled paper toweling. It absorbs water quickly and does not bruise the leaves. Lettuce for salad should be well dried and cold.

I mean no disrespect to the women of Cavalier, but drying lettuce with paper towels sounds less like a “helpful hint” and more like common sense. Maybe paper towels were a new thing back then. Maybe lettuce had only recently arrived in North Dakota. Maybe people had been standing out in their yards shaking the dickens out of leaves of iceberg before this book hit the shelves. Continue reading


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Best. Bread. Ever.

Ok, maybe not EVER. But it’s the best bread to come out of my kitchen. Flecked with nutty flax seeds and whole grains, this bread offers the perfect amount of heartiness, sponginess, and chewiness (I like bread that gives your teeth a workout. I want to hear ripping when I bite). Best of all, unlike most of Reinhart’s recipes, you can complete all the steps in a single day (provided you’ve already got a happy, well-fed sourdough starter in the fridge). The recipe comes from Wild Yeast, a blog I’ve been following for six months or so. I love this blog because 1. it has great pictures, 2. all the recipes use ONLY sourdough starter, 3. the sourdough starter* she relies on is 100% hydration, which basically means that it’s really easy to maintain.

[*A not-so-brief note on sourdough starters: Don’t be scared, they’re friendly and easier than you might think to maintain. (If you don’t already have one, Wild Yeast has an excellent tutorial on how to start one here. You can also order one, like I did, here.) One common myth is that you need to be super careful to feed them weekly. I have gone as long as a month without feeding my starter, which I keep refrigerated. And it’s still going strong. If I leave it for a particularly long time, I will throw most of it out before I bake and start building it up again by adding flour and water, then waiting for it to get really bubbly, then adding more flour and water, and so on. There are some great tips for maintaining your starter here.

What I love about Wild Yeast is that Susan uses a 100% hydration starter for all her recipes. That means that you add equal amounts of flour and water (I do this by weight, not by volume). No complicated math = fewer screwups. So MY starter (also 100% hydration) will work for every single recipe on her site, no tweaking required. Much simpler.]

But enough talk! You want to see the pictures, don’t you?

Mmm. Fresh bread with butter and homemade strawberry jam.

Of course, I’m a hopeless perfectionist, so I will tell you what displeases me about this loaf.

1. You can see that it’s rather flat. I didn’t get a nice dome like I wanted. I have a sneaking suspicion that this has something to do with the way I manhandled the loaf while trying to wrestle it into the oven. But how are you supposed to transfer the loaves from the place where they rise to the place where they cook, anyway? I’m thinking parchment paper for next time.

2. I cannot for the life of me get a good “ear.” The ear is the nice crispy flap that you see on the tops of artisan loaves. Here’s how it forms: You slash the loaves before they go in the oven to release gas and the dough flap formed by the slash is supposed to rear up and get really brown and crispy. Mine doesn’t. Maybe because I hacksaw my slashes with a serrated knife?

3. The bottoms of my loaves, this one included, tend to get overly thick and crisp. They are so crisp, you need some serious bicep strength to saw through them. Is my stone too close to the heat? Is that normal? What gives?

Questions to ponder I as gobble slice after slice of butter-slathered bread positively dripping with jam.


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Truly, Madly, Deeply . . . in love with brisket

I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it. I want to dance in the streets. I want to yodel on the rooftops. I want to pretend my immersion hand blender is a microphone and spin around the kitchen singing.

Why all the fuss? I have found the perfect brisket recipe.

Wait, what?

That’s right, you heard me. I am in love with a brisket. (Fortunately, Soren is in love with it too, so there’s no awkwardness, and nobody has to leave anybody over a piece of meat).

To be perfectly honest, it’s not so much the brisket that has me swooning as it is the sauce — a silky-smooth, coffee-colored concoction that’s the perfect blend of smoke and spice. Placed atop the brisket on a warm corn tortilla with a few slices of pickled onion and some cabbage slaw, it’s the perfect food. Seriously. Angels sing. The heavens open up. Saint Peter descends, leaving the pearly gate unattended while he fixes himself a plate. It’s that good.

Before I give you the recipe, I want to pause to say thank you to Deb. Her food blog, Smitten Kitchen, is a work of art. Every recipe I’ve made has been delicious. Seriously, if I were having George Clooney, Nelson Mandela, and the Queen of England over for dinner, I would feel entirely comfortable cooking one of her recipes without even testing it first. She’s that good. Not surprisingly, she’s the one who turned me on to this brisket. Her recipe, which is adapted from a Food Network recipe, is great as is. But I’ve reposted it below with a few minor changes. This works in the oven, or in a crockpot (which everyone on the East Coast calls a slow cooker. Snobs.)

Southwestern Pulled Brisket

Serves 6-8 as filling for tacos.

3 pounds beef brisket
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 Spanish onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices
1 to 2 chipotle chiles en adobo (Even 1 adds a strong kick. Use 2 with caution. I open a can, pick out the peppers I want to use, and freeze the rest.)
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup molasses

Pre-heat the oven to 325 F. If using grass-fed beef, 310 F.

Season the beef generously with salt and pepper, to taste. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat just until beginning to smoke. Add the meat and sear, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 10-14 minutes total. If the brisket has a layer of fat on one side, sear that side second. Transfer the meat to a dutch oven; leave the skillet on the heat.

Add garlic, onion, chili powder, coriander, and cumin to the drippings in the skillet and stir until fragrant, about one minute. Add vinegar and boil until it’s almost gone, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in water and pour the mixture over the brisket. Crush the tomatoes through your fingers into the dutch oven; add the tomato juices, chipotles, bay leaves, and molasses. Cover, and place in the oven for 3.5 hours. Check for tenderness by sticking a fork in the meat. The fork should slide in easily. The meat should be nearly falling apart. If the brisket isn’t quite tender, put it back in the oven and cook for another 30 minutes to an hour. This kind of beef is nearly impossible to overcook. I usually leave the meat in the oven for a total of 4 hours. Also, you may need to add a little more water before you put it back in the oven. The meat should be at least halfway submerged in the juice.

When the meat is fully cooked and tender, pull it out of the dutch oven and put it on a platter covered with tin foil. Let it rest while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce: First, fish out the bay leaves. Then skim off any fat that has collected. (You can also chill the sauce if you want to remove even more fat. It will harden in the fridge and you can easily remove it). Use an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor to grind up everything left in the dutch oven. This should be all the juices and vegetables minus the bay leaves. When the sauce is completely blended, reheat and serve with the brisket.

Crockpot version: Instead of putting everything in a dutch oven, put it in a crockpot. Set it on LOW, and cook the brisket until it pulls apart easily with a fork, about 8 to 10 hours.

This brisket is great on its own, but it is even better on a corn tortilla with a dollop of sauce, some pickled onions, cabbage slaw, and black beans on the side. I highly recommend Deb’s recipe for pickled onions. And make sure you salt the cabbage before you make the slaw.

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Taming of the Cookie Monster

I live with “Cookie Monster” Wheeler, so I’ve made my fair share of cookies.

(for a dramatization depicting what it’s like living with C.M. Wheeler, go here and then here)

Wheeler’s favorite is an oatmeal cookie with dried cherries, pecans and bittersweet chocolate from Cook’s Illustrated. But every once in awhile I like to try something new. So last night (I’m ashamed to admit that I was the one in the throws of cookie withdrawal, not Wheeler), I decided to whip up a batch of Heidi Swanson’s Sparkling Ginger Chip Cookies. Ginger + dark chocolate + cookie = delicious.

As I started to gather the ingredients, I had high hopes. But then dread set in. The recipe felt off. (Melted butter!? I have made gazillions of batches of cookies and NEVER — and I mean EVER — have I melted the butter first.) So as I stirred, I fretted. “These will never turn out,” I whined. “The batter is too soft. Now I’ve wasted all this expensive Ghirardelli chocolate!” Ask C.M. Wheeler and he will tell you that I never cook without fretting. He has long since ceased to believe me when I say something won’t turn out. I’m the boy who cried ‘wolf’ (or the girl who cried ‘cookie disaster’) too many times.

Miraculously, the cookies turned out perfectly. In fact, they turned out so well, they may replace my go-to ginger spice cookie recipe off of Epicurious. Or perhaps I’ll combine the two into one drop-dead delicious cookie. WARNING: These cookies are intensely gingery, and they may not be to everyone’s liking. If you want a milder ginger flavor, I would drop the fresh ginger and add half the dried.

Here is the recipe, courtesy of 101 Cookbooks, one of my favorite food blogs:

Sparkling Ginger Chip Cookies

If you can’t locate whole wheat pastry flour, you can substitute spelt flour. Or feel free to use all-purpose flour if that is what you have on hand. As far as the unsulphured molasses goes, I use Wholesome Sweeteners or Plantation Organic Blackstrap Molasses. I used a Scharffen Berger Bittersweet 70% here. You can use light brown sugar, or light muscavado sugar in place of the natural cane sugar.

1/2 cup / 3.5 oz / 90 g turbinado sugar
6 ounces / 170 g bittersweet chocolate
2 cups / 8.5 oz / 245 g whole wheat pastry flour (I used all-purpose)
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup / 4 oz / 113 g unsalted butter
1/4 cup / 2 oz / 60 ml unsulphured molasses

2/3 cup / 3.75 oz / 100 g fine grain natural cane sugar, sifted

1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger, peeled
1 large egg, well beaten

Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C degrees – racks in the top and bottom third of the oven. Line a couple baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper or a Silpat mat, and place the large-grain sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.

Finely chop the chocolate bar (I used chocolate chips) into 1/8-inch pieces, more like (mostly) shavings really.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, and salt.

Heat the butter in a saucepan until it is just barely melted. Remove from heat and stir in the molasses, sugar, and fresh ginger. The mixture should be warm, but not hot at this point, if it is hot to the touch let it cool a bit. Whisk in the egg. Now pour this over the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate.

I like these cookies tiny, barely bite-sized, so I scoop out the dough in exact, level tablespoons. I then tear those pieces of dough in two before rolling each 1/2 tablespoon of dough into a ball shape. (I highly recommend making them bite-size. They are adorable this way). From there, grab a small handful of the big sugar you set aside earlier and roll each ball between your palms to heavily coat the outside of each dough ball. Place dough a few inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until cookies puff up, darken a bit, and get quite fragrant. (Mine took about 8-9 minutes).

Makes roughly 4 dozen.

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I Don’t Knead You

Have I mentioned that I love bread? Well, I do. I love it. And I love baking it. But why does it have to be so difficult?? The chewy, crusty loaves that I adore are typically no more than yeast, flour, salt, and water. Four ingredients. Put them together right and you can bring grown men to tears. Put them together wrong and you can use your brick-like, inedible loaves to knock out purse snatchers.

There are likely some famous bakers who will argue that bread baking is a science. But to me it seems more like a faith-based undertaking. You can follow a recipe to the letter and still fail. In the end, it all comes down to the whim of a higher power: The Great Loafmaster. He is a fickle god, and apparently he is displeased with me.

Last week I spent the better part of two days putting together the various elaborate components of Peter Reinhart’s “Transitional Multigrain Bread.” Despite my fastidious attention to detail, I ended up with two bricks of whole-grain sawdust (to be fair, I think my yeast was dead).

Well, enough is enough! I’m taking a stand. Do you hear me, Loafmaster? No more bowing and kissing your pinkie ring in a vain attempt to achieve The Perfect Loaf. I’ll settle for the Pretty Damn Good Loaf. If you too are fed up with elitist bread books that talk about bigas and windowpane tests and gluten and fussy sourdough starters, welcome to the wonderful world of no-knead bread.

I first came across no-knead bread (like so many others) in the New York Times. It was a revelation, crusty, chewy, and moist. It’s not that I mind kneading. I don’t. But these loaves are simple and forgiving: They come out perfect nearly every time. No fussing, no crossed fingers, no hail marys.

The recipe in the New York Times is good. But it’s better with a few tweaks. My recipe is a hybrid of the New York Times’ recipe and Cook’s Illustrated’s “Almost No-Knead Bread.”

Happy baking!

Cassie’s Hybrid No-Knead Bread

In a large bowl, whisk together:

– 3 cups bread flour (or 2 cups bread flour and 1 cup whole wheat, or 2 cups bread flour and 1 cup rye)

– 1/4 tsp of instant or rapid rise yeast

– 1 1/2 tsp salt

– (if you’re making rye bread, you may want to add 1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp of caraway seeds. These are optional)

In a 2-cup measuring cup, mix together:

– 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp of lager beer

– 1 Tbsp of white vinegar

Then fill the cup with cool water to make 1 1/2 cups of liquid total.

Use a spoon to mix the liquid with the dry ingredients until combined. You should have a really sticky dough. Cover your dough with plastic wrap and let rise 12-18 hours (18 is best). Dump the dough out onto a heavily floured counter. Sprinkle dough liberally with flour. Now you’re going to try to knead the bread just a bit. Add just enough flour to make 8-10 “kneads” possible. The dough can still be sticky.

Line a skillet with parchment paper. Put your dough on top of the paper, spray or rub the dough with oil, and cover the whole thing loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise 2 or 2 1/2 hours. It should rise quite a bit.

Half an hour before the dough has finished rising, place a large, heavy pot, such as a dutch oven (I love this one), in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. (Dutch ovens typically come with plastic handles that aren’t rated for 450 degrees. I’ve replaced my handle with a metal one.) Let the pot heat up for at least 20 minutes (30 is better). Take the pot out of the oven, remove the cover, and place the dough in the pot. This is easiest if you use the parchment paper like a sling: Grab both ends of the parchment paper and place the whole thing (parchment paper and all) in the pot. Place the cover on the pot (it’s ok if the ends of the paper hang out). Lower temperature to 425 and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake another 20-30 minutes.

The loaf should be dark brown. Allow to cool for 2 hours. Slice and enjoy!


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Comfort Food

After several days of sweltering 80-degree plus heat, a fall chill is finally in the air. Soren, who hates heat and humidity, is ecstatic. I like fall too because it means the return of soup season (and honeycrisp apples). I don’t want to play favorites, but if I had to pick a favorite food, it might be soup. This one, a hearty mix of ham, sausage, beans, potatoes, kale, and tomatoes from the Ovens of Brittany (a cookbook written by the very talented Terese Allen) verges on stew.

I made a batch last Sunday, before curling up on the couch to watch Mad Men.

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