Sunday, February 28, 2010

IGA Item of the Week

This morning I woke up about 2 hours earlier than everyone else in the house, except for the poodle, who kept me company while I read the paper. Paging through the Sunday Styles section, I glanced at a profile of Gretchen Rubin, whose book, The Happiness Project, is on the New York Times bestseller list. Basically, she tells readers how to organize themselves, using to-do lists and charts, so they can take pleasure in small everyday moments and appreciate the good things already in their lives. I rolled my eyes before realizing that this blog has turned out to be just such a transforming instrument for me. Thinking and writing about what I buy at the IGA during the last 9 months has, surprisingly, led me to a greater enjoyment of every trip to Main Street and every dinner I cook. After I read the story, I decided to skip my regular breakfast of two slices of Bread Alone Organic Whole Grain Health Loaf (which I still love) and make myself some instant polenta, stocked at the IGA. I loved its bright yellow color against the white bowl, and it smelled so corny, just like The Happiness Project! I allowed myself a moment of regret after I poured some low-fat milk on top. I should have gone for the heavy cream or placed a big pat of butter on top. But then I compensated with some extra maple syrup so it was all good in the end. Here is the recipe (Caramelized Tofu to come tomorrow, as promised):

Instant Breakfast Polenta
Serves 1 to 2

2 ounces Instant polenta
1 cup water
Pinch salt
Heavy cream
Maple syrup

1. Whisk together the polenta, water, and salt in a small heavy saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick and piping hot, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn into bowls (or one bowl, if you are going to eat it all yourself), pour some heavy cream and maple syrup on top, and serve immediately.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Good Neighbor

A couple of days ago I noticed that when I turned on one of my cooktop burners it spewed gas into the air but wouldn't ignite. Poking around underneath, I saw a loose wire. So I grabbed it, thinking I could just stick it somewhere to make the thing work again. But instead of solving the problem this caused sparks to fly from the wire and a fuse to blow. I dialled an 800 number for authorized service and was told that a repairman could come out sometime next week, perhaps. I thought I could handle the wait. But since I know nothing about how electricity works, I spent a sleepless night imagining that sparks would spontaneously fly from that wire and ignite the roll of paper towels on my kitchen counter, starting a fire which would ultimately reduce my house to a pile of ashes. I couldn't stop worrying, even though we have about sixteen smoke alarms in this house, several of which are hooked up to a call station which has, a couple of times in the past, alerted the Sag Harbor Fire Department that our house was on fire even when it wasn't. In the morning, I decided I couldn't wait until next week. I got out my local yellow pages and called Chris at Good Neighbor Appliance Service (65 Clay Pit Road, 725-3300). He came over right after the storm and fixed the burner in 15 minutes flat. I am too exhausted to cook dinner, so we are headed to The Meeting House in Amagansett for some excellent macaroni and cheese, but tomorrow I plan on stir-frying some Spicy Caramelized Tofu with Green Beans.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Is the Sag Harbor Farmers' Market Looking For You?

Don't let the snowy weather stop you from considering this dream job. Deadline is Sunday.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tonight's Dinner

Just this morning I finished writing up my friend Dan Leader's recipes for his new book about quick yeast breads. So tonight I thought I'd make one of the most enticing, an Italian flatbread called Schiacciata. Dan fills his with champagne grapes and flavors the dough with orange zest, but I substituted chopped green olive and rosemary, to go with my garlic and cheese sausages from the IGA. Here's the recipe:

Olive and Rosemary Schiacciata
Serves 6

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon honey
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine
1 large egg
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup green olives, pitted and chopped

1. Combine the flour, salt, yeast, honey, olive oil, wine, egg, and water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. Give the mixture a few turns with a rubber spatula until a rough dough forms. Knead on medium until the dough is smooth and supple, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until doubled in volume, 2 to 3 hours.
2. Oil the bottom and sides of a rimmed baking sheet. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured countertop and divide into two equal pieces. Roll one piece into a 9-inch by 12-inch rectangle and place in the sheet. Pull and stretch the dough so it reaches the edges of the sheet. Sprinkle the olives over the dough. Roll the second piece of dough into a 9-inch by 12-inch rectangle and place it over the olives, pulling and stretching it so it covers the first piece of dough. Loosely cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and let stand until puffy, about 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the schiacciatta in the middle of the oven until it is golden and risen, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, lift it from the sheet and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely, cut into squares, and serve.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Dream for Haiti

If you missed the triumphant production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Pierson in November, you have another chance to enjoy our local acting talent: A gala performance on Friday at 7, proceeds going to Unicef and Save the Children. Click here for ticket info.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cupcakes and the Collective Unconscious

The Golden Eagle's window display tells me that I am not the only one wishing for a local bakery...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tonight's Dinner

One of us caught a nasty cold on the flight home from the Dominican Republic on Saturday, so yesterday I made a big pot of chicken soup. Afterwards, the children had the nerve to complain that they were tiring of matzoh balls, so tonight I made this Italian Wedding Soup with the leftover broth to show them that I am no one trick pony when it comes to soup. Here is the recipe:

Italian Wedding Soup
Serves 4 to 6

If you don't have homemade broth, go to Citarella's and buy some of theirs. It is more expensive than canned broth, but tastes so much better.

For the meatballs:
1/2 pound ground chuck or meatloaf mix
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the soup:
8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves trimmed away from stems and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
3 ounces ditalini or other small pasta
Ground black pepper

1. Make the meatballs: Combine the ground chuck, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic, egg, salt, oregano, nutmeg, and pepper in a large bowl. Shape into 1-inch balls.
2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan ove rmedium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides (you don't have to cook them through). Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
3. Make the soup: Discard the fat from the pot. Add the broth and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
4. Add the Swiss chard, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook until the chard is tender, about 7 minutes.
5. Stir in the pasta and meatballs and continue to simmer, covered, until both are cooked, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Will Kill for a Bakery

Hello! I've been visiting my parents in the Dominican Republic, in case you were wondering about the steep dip in the IGA's receipts last week. It was my Dad's birthday, so we went to a stylish new bakery in La Romana called Crema to buy him a cake (I was on vacation and aside from a batch of blondies the night before his party, I didn't bake a thing). Crema has an immaculate little counter where you can sit and have an espresso and a brownie or a lemon square. I would kill to have a place like this on Main Street! And you don't know me if you think that's just a figure of speech! There is a vast menu of cakes, but the children already have their favorite, so we came away with a dulce de leche-covered cheesecake for Abuelo. Coming in March, when we have a birthday in this house: My own recipe for a caramel-covered cheesecake.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What's Cookin'

While my daughter worked on her Valentines, would you believe that I had to run out last night to King Kullen to buy nectarines? This spinach salad (also with some goat cheese, and yes,to my friend Cheryl's horror, the last bits of my ham) was a rush request from a magazine editor for her July food pages. I will post the recipe--in July. Have a great holiday weekend. XXOO

Monday, February 8, 2010

Adopt a Whale for Your Valentine

Looking for an original Valentine's Day gift for a beloved Whaler? Adopt a whale in his or her name. Your donation will support The College of the Atlantic's Photo-Identification Studies of rare and endangered humpback and fin whales. Click here for information on the Valentine's Day adoption program.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Superbowl Sunday? Not in East Hampton.

This afternoon I attended a lovely piano recital at Ellen Johansen's Music Studio in East Hampton. Heart-shaped post-it notes on the bulletin board announced the program, which included selections from Gershwin, Schumann, and Bergmuller. I baked these heart-shaped pecan shortbread cookies drizzled with chocolate to share with the performers, their parents, and Ellen. Here is the recipe:

Pecan Shortbread Hearts
Makes about 36 cookies

1 cup (4 ounces) pecan halves
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake until fragrant and toasted, about 7 minutes. Let them cool completely and then finely chop them (I did this in the food processor).
2. Combine the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in the flour on low. Beat in the chopped nuts on low. Scrape the dough onto the countertop, press into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees again. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured countertop, roll the dough to a 1/8-inch thickness. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut otu as many hearts as you can and place them, 1/2-inch apart, on the prepared baking sheets. Bake, one sheet at a time, until the edges of the cookies are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Slide the parchment onto a wire rack and cool the cookies. Re-roll and cut any scraps, bake, and cool.
4. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until it is just barely melted, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Stir it every 30 second to make sure you aren't overheating it.
5. Dip the tines of a fork into the chocolate and then wave the fork over the cookies (still on the parchment--otherwise you will make a mess!) to create a striped chocolate decoration. Let the cookies stand until the chocolate has set, about 15 minutes. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature, between sheets of waxed paper, for up to 3 days.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Reminder of Summer

As I unpacked ingredients for winter weather recipes like the slow cooker ziti I'm making tomorrow, this card was a happy reminder of better weather to come.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

IGA Item of the Week

I bought these little potato rolls this morning for a ground turkey slider recipe I'm working on. When I got them home, I realized they are the perfect item (just add a mini-burger or meatball) for the big game on Sunday.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Last Night's Dinner

Unable to face another salad, but unwilling to throw out half a box of baby arugula from the IGA, I decided to wilt the greens with some mushrooms and to serve the mixture alongside some broiled skirt steak. The elements came together nicely, and the dish disappeared from the platter in minutes. Here is the recipe:

Skirt Steak with Mushrooms and Arugula

For the steak:
1 pound skirt steak
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar

For the vegetables:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 shallots, thinly sliced
8 ounes cremini mushrooms, sliced thin
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thin
Ground black pepper
4 cups baby arugula

1. Marinate the steak: Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar in a zipper lock bag. Add the steak, seal the bag, and turn several times to coat. Set aside for 15 minutes.
2. Cook the vegetables: Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the shallots and cook until just softened, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid they give off is evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the arugula until wilted. Cover and keep warm.
3. Heat the broiler to high. Remove the steak from the marinade and place it on a broiler pan. Broil the steak to the desired doneness, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board, let rest for 5 minutes, slice, and serve alongside the mushrooms and arugula.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Burlap Problem, Solved

I bought a half-yard of burlap at the Variety Store a while ago, since it was cheap ($4.99 a yard) and I thought I could whip up something clever with it. But it languished in a bag on my countertop while all of the projects I considered seemed to be either beyond my limited abilities or just too ugly to go ahead with. But then I saw this pretty packaging today, looked over at the empty Sarabeth's jam jars I'd been saving, and decided to use my burlap and the jars to pack some candy I was making for Valentine's Day. Here is the recipe:

Valentine's Day Chocolate Bark

Makes about 1 pound

This recipe should make enough for 3 jars' worth of candy.

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup "Cupid's Mix" peanut M&Ms, coarsely chopped

1. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil.
2. Place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high until most (but not all) of the chocolate is soft and melty, about 1 1/2 minutes, mixing it every 30 seconds to make sure it's not overheating in spots.
3. Use a small metal spatula to spread the chocolate in an even layer across the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with the M&M pieces. Let stand until solid, about 45 minutes. Break into pieces before packing in an airtight container.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sag Harbor Sourdough Offer Still Stands

Long after I had given up on getting anyone to try my local sourdough culture, I got a note from my friend Vicki, wondering if I could spare some. It took a couple of good feedings to nurse the culture back to health so I could bring it over to her in good baking condition. Seeing it so vigorous and bubbly, I couldn't resist baking these sourdough sesame seed batards this morning. They will be so good with the split pea soup I have left over from the weekend. I can feel myself falling back into the sourdough baking routine. In a few days, I'll bake another batch, maybe with green olives and rosemary. And then with raisins and walnuts. And then with golden flax seeds.