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The End, At Last


This is all so anti-climactic. NaBloPoMo draws to a close and I find myself at a total loss. Because for all the complaining I did, I actually found myself enjoying the daily blogging thing. The constant sense of vague distress and hysteria, the fantastic feedback, the ever-climbing stats - I kind of like all that stuff. It's nice being challenged. Thank you, dear readers, for sticking with me.

So now what?

Maybe I'll go home and make some chocolate pudding. That way I'll have something to write about tomorrow (gasp). Doesn't that sound like a good idea?

Florence Fabricant's Wheat and Cornmeal Cheese Rolls

I know you're probably all still quite busy baking more of that No-Knead business and, frankly, I need to make time for more of that myself. But in case there's anyone out there who noted Florence Fabricant's recipe for whole-wheat and cheddar rolls a few weeks ago and wondered how it really is, I'm here to tell you that it's good! Yes, it is! It's super-easy and super-quick, which I realize has become a too-oft repeated phrase around here, but what can I say? I work a lot and tend to hypo-glycemia, hence my preference for quick and easy fixes.

Florence wants you to serve these beautiful little rolls at Thanksgiving, though I personally think that serving bread at Thanksgiving is overkill, and, readers, I could eat bread every day (I often do). My point is, isn't there enough to eat on that day? I'd stipulate that you serve these rolls with homemade tomato soup for a simple weekend meal, perhaps, or a microwaved work-day lunch. That way, they become sort of a glamorous version of the grilled-cheese sandwich, to be dunked in a creamy red pool of soup.

The dough starts off with a milky pot of polenta that's cooled off before getting mixed together with some proofed yeast and syrup (I actually used Lyle's golden instead of maple - thanks, Gemma). Then in went a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour, but I didn't have enough, so I added some rye flour. The recipe says that the dough will be soft and sticky. And boy, was it. Make sure you keep your flour handy, because kneading that dough might actually require more than the recipe called for. I think I ended up using one cup of whole-wheat flour, one cup of all-purpose and one and a half cups of rye. The dough rises beautifully, all plumped up and happy with the warm water and sweet syrup and vigorous kneading.

To facilitate rolling and clean-up, I rolled out the risen-and-punched-down bread on my Silpat, sprinkled in with grated cheese (but only about 4 ounces of Cabot's Seriously Sharp) and chopped sage, then used the Silpat to roll the dough in on itself. I sliced the roll carefully, let the rolls rise longer in their buttered pan, then baked them to a warm, toasty brown (my pan was dark metal, which I think made my rolls brown faster, but I think the rye flour darkened these considerably, too). The apartment filled with a sweet and savory smell and even though it was close to bedtime, I found myself standing impatiently next to the oven when the timer went off.

Between me, my roommates, and Ben, we ate six of these rolls within 10 minutes of pulling them out of the oven. They're faintly sweet, but that inner ribbon of pungent cheese and herbal sage gives them a delicious complexity. They were crunchy on the outside, and soft and yielding on the inside. I think they're perfect soup rolls (I need plain, ascetic bread for salads and fork-pushing and plate clean-up), but they need to be eaten right away, or else frozen and reheated. That short shelf-life, in fact, reminds me a bit of these rolls.

Which, incidentally, I never made a second time. With these, however, things will be different, I just know it.

P.S. Only one day left!

Wheat and Cornmeal Cheese Rolls
Makes 12 rolls

1½ cups milk
1/3 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1½ teaspoons salt
1 packet active dry yeast
¼ cup maple syrup
1½ cups whole wheat flour
1½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
6 ounces mild Cheddar cheese, shredded, or 8 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
2 teaspoons minced sage leaves

1. Scald milk in a 1-quart saucepan. Stir in cornmeal, mixing constantly, and cook over medium heat about 5 minutes, until thickened. Add salt and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

2. Place yeast in a bowl and add ½ cup warm water. When cornmeal is no longer hot, stir in yeast and syrup. Mix in whole wheat flour, then 1 cup all-purpose flour a half cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.

3. Place on a floured surface and knead about 8 minutes, adding most of remaining flour. Dough should be elastic and a bit sticky. Wipe a large bowl with some melted butter, place dough in bowl, turn so buttered side is up, cover loosely and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

4. Punch dough down and roll or stretch on a board to a rectangle 12 by 16 inches. Sprinkle Cheddar on top or spread with goat cheese. Scatter with sage. With long side facing you, roll dough up tightly. Brush edge with water to seal it. Cut roll in four equal sections, and cut each in thirds.

5. Use half the remaining melted butter to grease a baking pan 9 by 13 by 2 inches. Place rolls in pan with a cut side up and brush tops with remaining butter. Let rise 30 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake rolls 10 minutes, lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake about 30 minutes more, until browned. Remove pan from oven and cool 10 minutes. Cut rolls apart and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Maggie Barrett's Ribollita di Luana


After the excesses of the Thanksgiving table, all I wanted was a light, vegetarian end to our weekend, which is why a big plate of stewed vegetables sounded like the perfect Sunday dinner. But I should probably also note that as I'm nearing the end of The Omnivore's Dilemma, I've become frantically wide-eyed and horrified at the thought of most of the food accessible to me (with the exception of the goods on display at the farmer's market), so eating a pile of vegetables whose origin I (mostly) know just seems so much safer.

For now.

Maggie Barrett's recipe for ribollita (a twice-boiled bread-and-vegetable soup) is a quicker, breadless version of the classic Tuscan dish. Not only is the ingredient list simple and pure, but the preparation is peaceful and I wanted nothing more than a easy cooking experience after a relaxing day of lunching with friends and reading in bed. Sometimes Sunday cooking is about pulling out all the stops, but sometimes it's just about simplicity.

You cook most of the vegetables together in oil until they start to caramelize before throwing in water, tomatoes, the beans and the herbs. Although I halved the recipe (and left out the yellow squash, because yuck), I needed to use the same amount of water, so keep that in mind if you make this yourself. I wonder if the full recipe, cooked as Barrett indicated, would turn out too dry? After an hour of simmering, I added frozen leaf spinach instead of the fresh stuff, but I wouldn't do that again - I'd buy chopped frozen spinach. The leaf stuff is too long.

We drizzled our bowls with olive oil and sprinkled grated Parmigiano on top. We breathed the savory steam in deeply and ate our stew with crusty Portuguese rolls. The long-cooked vegetables were sweet and tender, the beans yielded gently in each mouthful, and the grassy oil complemented the verdant spinach. This isn't the prettiest dish you'll ever make, but it's so satisfying, healthy and warming you'll find yourself making it again and again. It's such good winter food.

Ribollita di Luana
Serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, cut intо 1/3 -inch-thick slices
4 carrots, peeled and sliced intо 1/3 -inch-thick rounds
2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut intо 1/3 -inch-thick slices
2 yellow squаsh, halved lengthwise and cut intо 1/3 -inch-thick slices
1/2 fennel bulb, cut intо 1/2 -inch-thick pieces
1/4 savoy cabbage, roughly chopped
2 15-ounce cans cannellini bеans, drained and rinsed
1 14-ounce can peeled whole tоmatоes, drained and divided intо pieces
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon finely chopped sage
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
1 bunch spinach (about 6 cups), rinsed and roughly chopped
Red-pepper flakes
Extra-virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese, grated
Crusty bread, optional

1. Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add thе oil. When hot, stir in thе onion, garlic, celery, carrots, zucchini, squash, fennel and cabbage. Season with salt. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add thе beans, tomatoes, herbs and 2 cups water. Seаson with more salt, thеn gently fold togethеr until combined. Press on thе solids so thеy are submerged in the water. Bring to a boil, then lower thе heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour. Stir gently only once or twice.

3. Fold in the spinach and simmer 30 minutes more. Remove thе bay leaf. Stir in more salt and red-pepper flakes tо tаste.

4. Ladle the soup into individual serving bowls. Drizzle each with olive oil and sprinkle with grated Parmesan. If you choose, serve with bread.

Michael Romano and Danny Meyer's Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Zest


I'm not going to do five separate posts on Thanksgiving, because I did that last year, and frankly, I found it tiring. And after all, now that Thanksgiving is over, your eyes are probably glazing over at the thought of contemplating someone else's holiday table. But since we did make one real keeper, a classic, something that should grace your table at least once a month (or at least mine) from here on out, I can't help but tell you about it.

The recipe comes from The Union Square Cafe Cookbook and was excerpted in Julia Moskin's side dish article from a few weeks ago. Molly blogged about a version with poppyseeds last year. And luckily, Ben's mother - the hostess of our Thanksgiving feast this year - was as enthusiastic about serving it as I was.

It's an easy thing, since you can prepare the washed and sliced sprouts earlier in the day, dress them with lemon juice and let them sit in the fridge while your turkey roasts and you begin to freak out about whether or not that damn temperature thingy will ever pop and if your gravy will ever measure up to your stepmother's and why-oh-why most kitchens don't come equipped with at least three ovens, because life could be so much easier that way, don't you agree?

Then, just before serving, you heat some oil in a pan and saute the lemony sprouts along with some fragrant mustard seeds and garlic before dousing the pan with white wine. The whole cooking part takes about 5 minutes. Which is perfect, because right before serving is when all hell breaks loose, the kitchen fills with hungry guests, the turkey pops, the gravy comes together, knives are brandished, wine is opened, and you can, at least, breathe easy knowing that your Brussels sprouts will be a revelation.

A forkful of these combined with a mouthful of mashed potatoes (I made these this year, which were...fine) soused with rich gravy is a pretty great way to start Thanksgiving. And it's a flexible dish, too. Warmed in a pan and eaten two days later, they were still pretty delicious. A tad more sulfury, but tasty nevertheless. Cabbage and mustard are fine bedfellows indeed.

(We also made Deborah Madison's Swiss Chard with Pickled Red Onions from Moskin's article, and though it was a sparkly little dish - those onions are puckery! - it's better suited for a summer table, alongside a freshly grilled bird or something. At Thanksgiving, it was a little too bright and shiny. Do you know what I mean?)

Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Zest
Makes 10 servings

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus grated zest of 1 lemon
2 pounds brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons black mustard seeds or poppy seeds
¼ cup dry white wine or vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste. 

1. Place lemon juice in a large bowl. Cut bottoms off sprouts, and discard. Halve sprouts lengthwise, and thinly slice them crosswise. The slices toward the stem end should be thinner, to help pieces cook evenly. As you work, transfer slices into bowl with lemon juice. When all sprouts are sliced toss them in juice and separate leaves. (Recipe can be prepared to this point and refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 hours.)

2. When ready to serve, heat oil and butter over high heat in a skillet large enough to hold all sprouts. When very hot add sprouts, garlic and seeds, and cook, stirring often, until sprouts are wilted and lightly cooked, but still bright green and crisp, about 4 minutes. Some leaves might brown slightly.

3. Add wine, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Turn off heat, add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the lemon zest, reserving a little for top of dish. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with remaining zest and serve.

Maury Rubin's Cranberry, Caramel and Almond Tart


It really wouldn't have been fair not to follow up this post with a more detailed one, because despite the shrunken crust, this tart really is one for the recipe files, the lamination, the hall of fame. It comes from Maury Rubin, of City Bakery fame and the author of the fabulous Book of Tarts (which I own, and yet have never baked from, puzzlingly), so of course its pedigree promises great things. And if you'll note in your printout that you must line your unbaked, empty pie shell with aluminum foil and pie weights before blindbaking it, then you'll have spectacular results, I'm sure.

Oh, and another thing? I think the metal tart pan is key. I forgot mine at home, and had to use a glass pie dish instead, and while I'm not sure what effect that had on the crust, something tells me that Maury calls for a metal tart pan for a reason. But otherwise, the rest of the recipe is so easy. You melt sugar in a nonstick pan until a brown caramel emerges. You add warmed cream and melted butter to the pan and stir this into a luscious sauce, before tossing frozen cranberries and sliced almonds in it and piling it all into the baked pie shell.

Wait, one more note. Keep an eye on your oven. Ours was a bit hot and the top layer of almonds burned in the second baking. We attempted to pick off the worst offenders, which resulted in a slightly lopsided tart. But covered with a dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream? It didn't matter at all. The faintly bitter caramel, the bright and saucy cranberries, the mellow, crunchy almonds - they all blended into a fantastic, sophisticated dessert that absolutely shone on the holiday table.

Cranberry, Caramel and Almond Tart
Serves 10 to 12

Tart dough
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon heavy cream

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Let the butter sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, until malleable.

2. Place the powdered sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer or a large free-standing bowl. Add the pieces of butter and toss to coat. Using a paddle attachment with a standing mixer, combine the sugar and butter at medium speed, until the sugar is no longer visible.

3. Add the egg yolk and combine until no longer visible.

4. Scrape down the butter off the sides of the bowl. Add half of the flour, then begin mixing again until the dough is crumbly. Add the remaining flour and then the cream and mix until the dough forms a somewhat sticky mass.

5. Flatten the dough into a thick pancake, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours before preparing to roll out the dough.

7. Lightly butter a 9-inch pastry ring or fluted tart pan and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a nonstick Silpat pad.

8. Once the dough has thoroughly chilled, cut it in half, then cut each piece in half lengthwise. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat, until you have 16 equal pieces. Sprinkle your work surface with a thin layer of flour. Knead the pieces of dough together until it forms one new mass and shape it into a flattened ball. Flour a rolling pin and sprinkle flour again on the work surface underneath the dough. Roll out the dough into a circle one-eighth-inch thick.

9. Dock the dough with a pastry docker or prick the dough all over with a fork. Transfer the dough into the ring or tart pan by rolling about a third of it around your rolling pin, lifting it and placing it into the ring. Gently pat the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the ring. Trim the edges so that they are flush with the top. Put the baking sheet with the ring into the freezer for one hour. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before filling.

Filling and assembly
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into eight pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1 3/4 cup frozen cranberries
2 cups unblanched sliced almonds

1. Measure the cream and butter into a saucepan and heat it over low heat. When the butter has melted completely, turn off the heat.

2. To make the caramel, spread the sugar evenly in a perfectly dry 10-inch deep nonstick skillet and place it over medium-low heat.

3. The sugar should turn straw-colored, then gold and then a nutty-brown caramel after about 10 minutes. Slowly whisk the cream and butter into the sugar. Be extremely careful about the sugar, which can splatter as the cream is added (long sleeves are a good precaution). Strain the caramel into a bowl and cool it for 30 minutes.

4. Stir the frozen cranberries and the almonds into the caramel and mix until all the fruit and nuts are coated. Spoon the filling into the partially baked tart dough mounding toward the center.

5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until juices and the caramel are bubbling slowly around the edges. Remove from the oven and let stand for one hour, then gently lift the tart ring off the pastry.

6. Let the tart cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thanksgiving Digest


The last few days have been a blur of turkey dinners and hiking excursions and game nights, so I'm just popping in quickly to leave you with a forest portrait after our hike of Breakneck Ridge and an exhortation to visit Homespun Foods on Main Street in Beacon, NY. If you're ever in town and have an unreasonable hankering for the best bread pudding in the world (mind you, their spicy hot chocolates and quiches and soups aren't exactly something to sneeze at either), you would be well-served to stop by.

And now I'm going to go spend the last holiday hours away from the stove and the computer.


Did anyone else make Maury Rubin's Cranberry Caramel Almond Tart yesterday and forget to line the unbaked crust with aluminum foil and pie weights before baking it because it didn't say to do so in the recipe and although you've blindbaked crusts a million times before, without that prompt you completely forgot that step this time around, leaving you with a sadly shrunken crust and an irrational case of Thanksgiving rage directed straight at that lovely man?

Still, a pretty fantastic tart. Tart, gooey, crunchy, complex. Absolutely delicious (except for that damn crust) and gobbled up entirely last night.