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breads

Open-Face Croque Monsieur from Pastis

Despite the fact that it’s been years since we’ve been there and it’s been well over a year since it closed, every once in a while I still get a craving to go to Pastis. In spite of all of the irritations about the place–the crowds, the rather ridiculous prices, the cramped banquettes and tiny tables–every visit there would still be a pretty fantastic food experience, and I’ve even taken their lead on a few dishes and incorporated them into our normal recipe rotation.

Plus, it was arguably the prettiest of Keith McNally’s very pretty restaurant empire: lots of dark wood and penny subway tile, but not as dark as Balthazar nor as intentionally run-down as Lucky Strike. (I have yet to visit his newer places so I can’t speak to them, but I imagine they are also very, very pretty but probably not as aesthetically pleasing to me as Pastis.) While it helped that there always seemed to be a preponderance of European tourists eating there at all times of the day, you really did feel like you were being swept into a bustling bistro in a hip Parisian neighborhood and the only thing missing was being able to light up a cigarette or two while you lingered over French 75s and omelettes. Read More

Peach, gorgonzola, and honey crostini

Garlic-rubbed crostini with peaches, gorgonzola, and honey

Because it has been very hot over the last few weeks and will probably get very hot again before the end of the summer, I’m going to continue to discuss easy foods that could easily double as dinner if you just make enough of it. The peaches have been particularly good this year, happily, and so I’ve enjoyed placing it on slices of garlic-rubbed bread along with some meat, some cheese, or both. I made these as an early evening appetizer, and given that we hadn’t had much to eat that day (because it was hot) I ended up making quite a few pieces, which is to say that probably had too many but I don’t really care because they were that delicious. Read More

Focaccia with Oven-Roasted Campari Tomatoes

When our dear friend L told us she wanted to spend a weekend in the city to visit her sister as well as check in on us, the first thought we had was, of course, what food to prepare in anticipation of her arrival.  She mentioned something about potentially going out on Saturday night, and therefore wanted to eat many small plates.  Michael’s only request was for eggs and sausage to be somehow worked into the meal, so it should be hardly surprising that tapas became the theme of what would be a singular afternoon in our little Manhattan apartment. Read More

Rosemary Focaccia

Rosemary Focaccia

I’ve shared the results of my focaccia baking adventures here a few times, but I’ve hesitated on posting a recipe for it until I felt like I got it right.  Michael has commented that each attempt has yielded a better loaf than the one before, and now that I’ve gotten back into bread-baking mode as the weather has gotten cooler, I’ve finally solidified my method to the point where I feel comfortable sharing it with you.  Baking is difficult; it’s been said time and time again that baking requires the level of precision that cooking does not, and I wanted to share something that, well, works.

This produces a sizable loaf that can easily serve 4, whether cut up into pieces to snack on, or to slice in half and use for sandwiches, depending on what toppings you feel like sprinkling on top.  For this time around, I went simple:  just some fresh rosemary needles.  Cherry tomatoes work wonders here too, or tarragon, or even some hard cheese grated over the top.

So here it is:  my focaccia recipe as adapted from an incomplete one by Emeril Lagasse:

Focaccia

Serves 2-4 with leftovers

  • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 packet instant dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1½ cups warm water (no hotter than 110 degrees—I microwaved my water for a minute to get this temperature
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more for topping
  • Olive oil
  • Toppings of choice (cheese, herbs, etc.)

In a stand mixer bowl (with the mixer attached to a dough hook), combine flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and warm water and then stir slowly to combine.  Bring the mixer up to medium speed and knead for about five minutes.  Depending on the humidity, you may need to add more flour in order to turn it into a smooth ball.  After five minutes, knead by hand a little more, adding flour if needed to reduce the stickiness.

Coat a bowl with olive oil and place the smooth ball of dough into it and cover with a towel.  Let rise for three hours at room temperature.  Once the dough has doubled in size, punch down and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 9×13 pan with olive oil and stretch the dough to fill the pan, press dimples into the dough, and then season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle toppings evenly over the top of the bread, and place into the middle of the oven to bake for 20 minutes.  Then set the oven to broil, and while monitoring every two minutes, brown the top of the bread to desired doneness.

Buon apetito!

 

Roasted Tomato Focaccia, Red Grapefruit, Cheese Platter and Cappucinos

Roasted Tomato Focaccia, Red Grapefruit, Cheese Platter and Cappucinos

 

 

It’s very rare that I buy lunch during the week, but following the taping on Thursday I found myself in the Whole Foods near my office picking up a so-so sandwich and almost buying the latest issue of Saveur.  There’s a gorgeous focaccia dappled with cherry tomatoes on the cover, but I didn’t feel like dropping 5 bucks on another magazine and instead made a mental note to make my own version.

The results, happily, were delicious.  I found some gorgeous tomatoes at Stop & Shop, and they roasted so well as the bread baked, resulting in a delicious, savory brunch.

Paired with some cheese, grapefruit and espresso, it was a good brunch.

Roasted Pork Loin with red wine sauce, homemade focaccia and pea puree

Roasted Pork Loin with red wine sauce, homemade focaccia and pea puree

Who needs rhyme or reason when you’ve got chewy, piping-hot handmade focaccia? This was one of those times where you have to play quartermaster- look at your stores and ask, what am I going to feed the troops tonight?

Elizabeth had had some success in the savory baking department and we decided to bake first and ask questions later. I had had a pork tenderloin in the fridge (they had been on sale that week); usually the little ones come pre-brined (they always have a flavor on the sleeve), but this week I had found a small one that was completely unadulterated. I have no real issue per se buying pre-brined stuff, my main concerns are the lingering saltiness and the fact that flavored brines force you to tailor the rest of the meal (I have a hard time serving Parmesan rice with teriyaki pork), which can be fun, but also a pain in the neck.
I topped the roast with a red wine sauce, not *quite* a reduction, which, as I’m learning, require hours to be done properly. I have been researching the red wine reduction and am transitioning to the laboratory testing phases quite soon.
This sauce was just some 1 cup red wine, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (this is up to you) and a tbsp of honey simmered in my wonderful saucier for about 20 minutes. You can add herbs if you like. To finish, remove from the heat and add a tbsp or two of butter while still warm. Do not let the sauce boil or go cold after the butter’s been added or you will regret wasting that wine.
The pea puree one of these concoctions that can vary based on what’s at hand. With something like pork, I’d puree one package of thawed, frozen garden peas with a clove or two of fresh garlic and cup of basil leaves or half a cup of mint or parsley, whatever’s on hand. As it’s blending, add up to 1/2 cup of good olive oil (I tend to go light on this) and then 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, more if you like. Finish it with 1/2 tsp salt and a pinch red pepper flakes for a kick, increasing either to your taste.
Soft-Boiled Eggs with Salsa Verde

Soft-Boiled Eggs with Salsa Verde

Though Michael is Italian, his family mostly hails from the southern half of the boot, and therefore when we decided to go to Piemonte for a week, neither of us knew much of anything of the region besides the fact that we would be staying at a fabulous B&B run by a dear friend’s awesome aunt.  Said friend gifted me with a copy of the gorgeous travelogue/recipe book Autumn in Piemonte as a way to get us acquainted with the food of the area–something Michael had expressed uncertainty over, only because he never had it before–and so a few weeks before we hopped on a plane, we finally made some dishes from the book.

I started with this delicious salsa verde–a combination of onion, parsley and butter thickened with some flour–and served it with crusty ciabatta bread (seriously, New Haven has the best ciabatta bread ever via Chabaso) and the reccommended soft-boiled eggs.  In the future I think I’ll give the onions a finer dice and cut back on the butter, but otherwise it is a fantastic dish.  Don’t scrimp on the eggs, either–get the brown ones with the almost neon-orange yolks, since you’re eating them as-is.  Just spoon some sauce onto a slice of bread, put an egg on top, and enjoy.  Sop up the rest of the sauce with the remaining pieces of bread once you run out of eggs.

Unconventional, yes, but so good.

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