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Posts from the ‘Food’ Category

Food Friday

Yesterday I made bread.

No-Knead Peasant Loaf

I made bread so good it makes me giddy.  It almost makes me want to cry, it’s so good.  And it’s not because I’m such a skilled cook, or a trained pastry chef, or a dough-whisperer.   I am none of those things.

It’s because I bought a book a long time ago, and finally cracked it open and gave it a try.

It makes me giddy because, where I live, there is no good bread to buy. I’ve been struggling with this for years now.  There’s an adequate bakery 20 minutes away.  There is one bakery in the county that produces truly great bread, and it’s a good hour drive from my house.

A loaf of good bread is such a simple thing, right?

But it’s so much more too.


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Back when I was fresh out of school, living in Cambridge with two sisters from California, I found a weird little green thing on the kitchen table. We were sitting around, having after work drinks, and Jen (one of the sisters) sliced it open, whacked out the pit, and started making guacamole. I was sort of stunned, because while I’d had guacamole before (for years, and loved it), I’d never seen an avocado, nor did I really know what guacamole was.

(To be fair, the girls were just as amazed and confused at the variety of gourds I brought home that fall. I grew up with squash, they grew up with avocados and lemon trees. Regionality at its best.)

Anyway, another food that used to be in the love-but-really-not-sure-what-it-was-parade was rhubarb. I clearly remember the first time I had strawberry rhubarb pie (my grandfather’s post-funeral gorge and get drunk Irish Catholic mourning thing – it was one of his favorite pies I found out that day). I remember how delicious and different it was, and wondering what the hell rhubarb was. A spice? A fruit? But then I quickly got very very drunk and forgot all about it.

Then, years later, we got a bunch with our CSA basket in NYC and I thought “ooooohhhhh, so THIS is what rhubarb is” immediately followed by “I must make pie!”. Long time readers of the blog may remember the pie soup fiasco that ensued (I thought I could wing it in the same way I wing making apple pie), but shortly thereafter Carole passed along her pie recipe and saved my hopes of mastering this pie.

And now the rule in my home is every time I see rhubarb and strawberries sold together, I must buy them and make pie. It only happens a few times a year, and it’s a huge treat. Fortunately, that time is upon us again, and it resulted recently in this:

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
From Carole, Baker Extraordinaire

Pie filling:
2 ½ cups strawberries
2 ½ cups rhubarb
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup cornstarch

Pie crust:
You’re on your own. I always used store bought until recently, but am not good enough at making my own to offer any guidance. Carole has a tutorial here, and it’s a good place to start if you’d like to make your own. And here’s Smitten Kitchen’s take on making a butter-only crust.

How to:
Mix together strawberries, rhubarb, sugar and cornstarch. Let stand for 15 minutes, giving it a stir a few times. Put that in your crust and dot with some butter. Make a lattice top, and then bake for 30 minutes at 425, reduce heat to 350 and bake another 25-35 minutes.

The lattice top is very very important. Strawberries get soupy, and the lattice allows the excess moisture to steam out. Also, I highly recommend lining the oven shelf with tin foil to catch drips. (See: soupy) The last thing you want is a constant stream of sugary drips collecting on your hot oven floor and smoking you out of house and home. Ask me how I know.

Thoughts on filling ingredients:
I almost never have exact amounts of strawberries and rhubarb. I aim for equal amounts (sometimes they’re equal, sometimes they’re not) and having enough total to fill a pie. I often go light on the sugar, particularly if the strawberries are at the peak of ripeness and from a local farm. Those don’t need much help.

Food (foodfoodfoodfoodfood)

Scroll down for recipe: Pasta with Cheese and Pepper

Since I last posted, our house has been a parade of illness. I will spare you the details, but it is pertinent to our discussion for me to disclose being felled by a 36-hour stomach virus (the dreaded rotovirus), not once, but TWICE in the span of two weeks.

People, you can ask Eric, but generally it is a bad idea to withhold, say, a snack or a meal when the hunger comes upon me. (Jess supplied the perfect word for this phenomenon: Hangry.) When pregnant, I get very very hangry, very very quickly. Lashing out and irrationality ensue. I become incapable of processing language. And now twice this past month I’ve gone 4 or so days without ingesting anything but ginger ale and chicken broth.

This has resulted in transforming my former passion for food into full-on obsession.

I spend my days pouring over cookbooks and food sites, researching recipes and techniques. Several days a week involve trips to grocery stores, specialty stores, bakeries… sometimes for purchasing, sometimes to scope out what is available in the area for future planning.

EJ and I spent one morning on a 5-store hunt for horseradish root.

(It was worth it. I’ll tell you why later.)

And so, in the spirit of using what you got, I’ve decided to share my food crazy with the blog. I’m starting with this ridiculously simple, but crazily delicious, traditional Roman pasta recipe I whipped up for EJ and I the other day.

Pasta with Cheese and Pepper

Adapted loosely from Mario Batali and Smitten Kitchen

I know that you could be fooled into thinking that this is just pasta with some cheese sprinkled on top. But what is hard to capture on film is the hot, dripping, emulsified, butter/cheese sauce that is perfectly coating each piece of pasta.

The basic recipe follows these super simple steps:

1) Cook pasta.
2) Drain, reserve pasta water.
3) Dry pot, return to burner.
4) Heat olive oil to almost smoking.
5) Add pasta, some reserved water, some butter, grated cheese, & pepper.
6) Saute for a minute or so.
7) Season to taste and serve.

It was one of the easiest things I’ve ever made, and it was transcendent. The sort of meal found in hot little NYC restaurants, on authentic Roman countryside tables, and if you look closely, it is nothing more than a recipe for mac’n’cheese using real ingredients instead of boxed, powdered cheese.

In fact, I am NEVER buying or making mac’n’cheese again, not even the Annie’s stuff, because this was just as easy to whip up, using ingredients I always have on hand, and was a thousand, trillion times more delicious than anything that could ever come out of a box.

Now, a note on ingredients and amounts. I was deliberately vague in my instructions…. Mario and Deb list specific cheeses (cacio di roma and pecorino romano, respectively), specific pastas (linguine fini and spaghetti, respectively), exact amounts.

I used fusilli and parmigiano reggiano, because that’s what I had. I guessed at amounts, because I only made about a 3rd of a package of pasta. It was still perfect. My thought is that this is the sort of pasta that you need only understand the technique, and it’s meant to be thrown together with what you have.

(That being said, I’d only use a hard Italian cheese. This is not the place to go grating cheddar into pasta.)

Make it, and rejoice in having a meal in your arsenal that would be equally suited to being served at an elegant dinner party, or for your toddler’s lunch. Oh, and using only things that should be in your pantry at all times.