Category Archives: Recipes

Birthday celebration cake

Andrés

This past weekend we went to my cousin Lana’s birthday brunch.  There was a lot of good food, including Cremont, a great goat and cow-milk cheese from Vermont that was recently reviewed in the Times.  Among the many desserts, we contributed a birthday cake.  Having recently learned that Lana likes chocolate, we headed to Alice Medrich’s recipe collection.

Instead of making a more traditional and easy birthday cake, this time we wanted a big challenge, so we decided to bake Medrich’s strawberry birthday celebration cake from her Bittersweet book.  This is a two layer chocolate génoise with whipped mascarpone and strawberries in between.  Alice Medrich does not usually emphasize the difficulty of her recipes and yet she mentioned that several steps in this recipe were hard to master, so we were both excited and afraid to attempt to bake this cake.  The intricacies of the recipe include its artistic design and difficult techniques at almost every step in the creation of the cake.  You can see Alice Medrich baking a very similar version of this cake with Julia Child 14 years ago, here.

We started by making an external chocolate coating, which was not that difficult.

A génoise cake is a type of sponge cake that gets its volume from whipped eggs, without the use of any leavening agent.  It is the basis of many baked goods.  Baking the génoise was fun and easy, but not so much cutting the cake horizontally in two halves.  After some juggling, we managed to put one of the layers inside the coating, then added the whipped mascarpone, placed the strawberries, covered them with more mascarpone and then put the other half of the génoise on top.

We then covered the cake with a chocolate – cream glacé and finally with chocolate cones, instead of the more difficult to make fans.  Making the cones was difficult, as it involves melting chocolate, pouring it over the back of a warm baking sheet, letting it cool down and then scraping parts of the chocolate off with an offset spatula.

In the end, it was worth the effort.  Everybody was very impressed.

Rhubarb crazy

By Sarah

This spring I have gone a little crazy. Rhubarb-crazy.

I grew up eating rhubarb and it wasn’t much different than the other exceptionally fresh vegetables we grew in our garden or got as gifts from my grandparents’ garden. When I went to college it disappeared from my culinary life, but I really didn’t miss it. Until this April. Suddenly I couldn’t go another day without eating rhubarb. I dragged Andrés and another friend to the Union Square green market only to find potatoes and apples in the rhubarb’s stead. When the first barely pink stalks finally did appear, I took dozens home with me. And ever since I have not allowed our fridge to be lacking in rhubarb.

One of the first things I made with that rhubarb was a lovely sorbet. But I also did a lot of experimenting. I found I adore rhubarb in just about all of its incarnations, but that it’s tastiest when its natural spring tartness is allowed to shine. Stewed with white sugar was better than brown sugar. Vanilla and white wine made a better compote than red wine and cinnamon. I liked real chucks in my dishes (except that sorbet) instead of just vegetable mush.  This is all a matter of personal preference of course.

My favorite incarnation of rhubarb this spring has been this dish. The rhubarb is mixed with blueberries, a slightly nontraditional accompaniment, but one that balances it nicely. The rhubarb/berry mixture is contrasted by a crisp topping of oats, walnuts, and hazelnuts (which really steal the show). So I get both tastes: fresh fruitiness and warm, comforting goodness.

Julio liked it so much he licked the entire pan and then begged for more. I kind of wanted to do the same.

Rhubarb Blueberry Crisp

For fruit:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 pound rhubarb
2 cups blueberries  (~11 ounces, frozen worked just fine)

For topping:
1/3 cup walnuts
1/3 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup demerara sugar (aka, sugar in the raw)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Chop rhubarb is 1/2 inch pieces. In a large bowl, mix the flour and sugar, then add the rhubarb and blueberries and mix well. Transfer to a medium baking dish.

In a food processor, coarsely chop hazelnuts and walnuts. Add flour and oatmeal and mix in pulses (oatmeal will be partially ground but not as fine as a flour). Add sugar, salt, and butter to the processor and mix, in pulses, until butter is incorporated. Remove mixture from food processor and, if necessary, mix until dough forms a ball. Squeeze small amounts of dough and drop onto the rhubarb-blueberry mixture.

Bake the crisp in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 1hr. Serve crisp warm. Lick pan (you will want to).

Yiddish food

-By Andrés


Some of my happiest and most vivid memories are of eating certain things as a child.  I remember the exact place and context when I was around 6 years old and I had a piece of spoiled pineapple that was so astringent and sour that I didn’t want to eat pineapple for years afterwards.  I also remember with a lot of pleasure the food I used to eat at my grandmother’s house.  She was such a great cook.  And now that I cook myself, I go to great lengths to try to replicate the flavors, smells, and images from my memories of the food she cooked.  So far I’ve successfully reproduced her celery soup, her potato chips, her kokletn, and her chicken milanese.  Others are getting closer.

The Lithuanian party about which Sarah posted a while ago was basically an excuse to try more of both of my grandmothers’ recipes.  I made a lokshn (noodle) kugl, veal kokletn, gehakte leber, cold borscht, and pickles.  Here are some of the recipes.

Kokletn
(Serves 6)

2 lbs. ground veal or chicken
4 large eggs
1 large onion, chopped in 1/4 inch pieces
2 tsp. chicken bouillon
Vegetable oil for frying
1/3 cup hot water
1/3 cup bread crumbs
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Fry onion over medium high heat in 1 tbsp of oil until golden brown and slightly blackened.  Dissolve the chicken bouillon in the water.  Puree the fried onions with the water in a blender.  Mix the blended onions with the ground meet, eggs, salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Add a spoonful of the bread crumbs to the bowl and mix. Keep adding bread crumbs by the spoonfuls and mix until the mixture is of a consistency enough to form a ball that will hold its shape.
Pour oil in a frying pan to a height of 1/8th inch and heat at medium high heat.  Make large egg-shaped balls (about 2-3 size the volume of a large egg) with the meat mixture and fry.  Fry about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate with paper towels and serve.

Lokshn (noodle) kugl

1 lb egg noodles (or penne)
4 tbsp butter
5 large eggs
16 oz cream cheese
1/2 lb ricotta cheese
1 lb cottage cheese
4 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepepr

Pre-heat the oven to 300 ºF.  Cook pasta in salted water.  Drain saving 1/2 a cup of the water in which the pasta was cooked.  Mix the cooked pasta with the saved water and the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl.  Transfer to a (DIMENSIONS) pyrex and bake for ~1.5 hours until all the liquid has been absorbed and the top gets browned and crispy.  Cut in squares and serve.

Cold Day, Toasty Granola

By Sarah

Last week we got more snow. More snow! Just after I had put away my thick snow gloves because I was certain that the imminent arrival of March meant that winter was over.

Apparently, I was wrong.

Despite how bored I am with winter weather, I decided that I would not let it get me down. So on Sunday I went for a nice long walk with Julio in Central Park. Although we came home soaking wet from nose to tail, the walk was a lot of fun. We did our best to avoid the slopes of children shrieking on sleds and instead wandered the rambles, enjoying being in the midst of something at least reminiscent of “the great outdoors.”

When we came home, in addition to desperately needing a bath, we were hungry for something warm and toasty. So I made up a batch of this granola and it hit the spot. I find winter weather is much easier to handle when there’s a cinnamon-oatmeal-toasted-pecan smell coming from one’s oven. The only thing lovelier than the aroma is that this recipe came together with about 5 minutes of active time. And now I have a delicious homemade breakfast for the next week! Or a topping for buttermilk ice cream. Or an afternoon snack. Or a mid-morning snack. Or . . . well let’s just say there are plenty of reasons one can think of to eat this. So far my favorite is combining this with Andrés’s homemade yogurt and a handful of frozen blueberries.

The best part of making granola is that you can make it your own. If you don’t like one type of nut, go ahead and sub in another. And if you don’t have an ingredient feel free to leave it out. As long as you have the basic ratio of dry to wet ingredients, you’re good to go. What I’ve written down is how I made the granola above but many others have blogged on this same recipe, so you can check out what they have to say.

Toasty Granola
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Feast

Dry Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients. Combine wet and dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly.

Spread granola on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 300 F for ~45 minutes, stirring the granola every ten minutes. The granola is done when it is lightly browned and smells toasty. It won’t be crisp as soon as it comes out of the oven, but if you let it cool it will get there. Store granola in an airtight container.

Making yogurt

By Andrés

I never thought making yogurt was so easy.  And it’s great to watch bacteria at work making something useful (and delicious).  I started making yogurt after reading Harold McGee’s article in the NY Times.  Ever since, I’ve been making it religiously (well, not really religiously, but regularly), every other week.  First time you make it use your favorite yogurt (flavored or not).  The following times, you can use the last of your previous home-made yogurt.  Here’s how you do it.

1 quart (4 cups) of milk (regular or reduced-fat milk; keep in mind that not all reduced-fat milk brands work well for yogurt)

2 tablespoons yogurt

A 1 quart container (preferably glass)

Heat the milk to 180-190 F, or to the point when it starts to steam and form bubbles. This denatures the whey proteins and is necessary for a good yogurt texture.

Turn off the heat and let cool to 120 F, or when it is very hot, but not burning. If the milk is too hot, the bacteria will die. If it is too cold, they will take longer to grow and “make” the yogurt.

While the milk is cooling, put the old yogurt in a small bowl. When the milk reaches 120 F, add a couple tablespoons to the yogurt and mix to dissolve. Add this mixture to the container and mix with the rest of the milk.

Cover the container with kitchen towels to keep warm. After 4 to 5 hours, the yogurt will be set and you can transfer to the fridge.  If you want greek-style yogurt, strain it with a cheese cloth.

Thai-Mex

I’ve been hoping to become more adventurous in my cooking. There are so many foods I like and that I want to try to cook, but instead we eat about four meals around here. Pasta, salad, roasted vegetables, and things covered in salsa verde. Of course we get a little more interesting when we have people over for dinner, but I want to shake up our everyday dining. I want to try different ingredients, new recipes, exotic cuisines.

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Snow Day Truffles

By Sarah

I used to love snow days. They didn’t come very often because in Minnesota just getting heavy snow does not mean school will be cancelled. But when they did occur, it was pure bliss. Suddenly you had a break from real life for twenty-four glorious hours. The homework that you were planning on doing before 5th hour? Well you could do it tomorrow before 5th hour. That lecture you were dreading? You could be bored during it tomorrow. There was absolutely no reason to go out of the house or even to be productive while in the house. One might as well lay in bed all day reading. Or play in the snow. Or do nothing at all and just watch the hours slip away.

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