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December 2007

Irene Kuo's Stir-Fried Celery in Meat Sauce


I never met a vegetable I didn't like. Zucchini, with its sweet, creamy flesh; swiss chard, thick and papery to start, then soulfully silky to finish; kohlrabi, with its refreshing, vegetal snap; eggplant, spongy in one moment, melting the next. Green beans and Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoletti, artichokes and spinach - I love them all, truly madly deeply.

But there is one little exception to the rule that I must confess doesn't exactly knock my socks off. In fact, I usually find it downright disappointing. Perhaps because my first encounters with it were when it appeared, chopped up fine, in alarmingly mushy tuna-fish sandwiches (the filling mashed down wetly into a hot dog bun, of all things), or as a stubby little vehicle for palate-gumming peanut butter at my elementary school cafeteria. When I learned to cook, the only time I ever came in contact with celery was in the base for meat sauce and I quickly learned that leaving it out rarely, if ever, harmed the sauce at all.

There's just something so strange and awkward about celery, isn't there? Its stalks flail about like a gangly boy's legs. I never seem able to finish a bunch of it before it goes all limp and wobbly in the fridge. And the taste, well, it's never been something I've craved. But after the spate of baking I did over the past few weeks and a run of days in which turkey, stuffing and more turkey featured largely in our daily meals, I took one look at my recipe clippings last night and plucked this one straight from the top.

If anyone could get me to like celery well enough to make it my entire meal, I figured, the Chinese could.


First, I had to wrestle my way through the thicket of celery lying on my counter. And you know what I found out? Peeling celery, folks, must be right up there with training fleas as one of the jobs I'd least like to have on this Earth. But I soldiered through, convinced that celery nirvana awaited me on the other side of that swiftly growing pile of slimy, stringy peels lying in my sink.

A quick plunge into the hot, oily depths of my frying pan softened up the celery before it got tossed with a smashed garlic clove, a smattering of minced ginger, ground pork, and the pungent combination of chili sauce and soy sauce (my nostrils are still smarting). I gave the pan a good toss (there is something so satisfying about lifting a pan off the stove and shaking it so hard that everything flies up in the air and neatly falls back down again, just where it should, isn't there?) and then put the lid on to steam the celery into submission. White rice cooked away, plainly, on the stove.

As I waited for the celery to finish, I stood back and contemplated my apartment. It smelled like a Chinese restaurant. That in theory is better than in real life, truth be told. A few minutes later, I turned off the heat and stirred toasted sesame oil into the panful of pork and celery, fragrant and spicy. Then I stabbed around in the pan with a fork and brought a forkful to my lips.

And holy God, was it ever salty. And spicy. But mostly salty. And actually a whole lot spicy. Salty, spicy, salty, spicy, help, help, help - oh wait, what about that white rice? Man, it was like a cooling balm, that good white starch. The first bowl I ate had me mostly in pain with all that spice and salt. But then I found myself hankering after a second bowl, which was tastier and calmer than the first. I have a feeling this stuff will really shine tomorrow, after an overnight rest. The celery was muted, tamed - its stringiness gone, but its assertive crunch still there and its bold, grassy flavor tempered by all that heat, oil, and salt.

I'm still not sure I'll ever really love celery, but this brought me a whole lot closer to liking it.

Stir-Fried Celery in Meat Sauce
Serves 3 to 4

1 large bunch celery
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sriracha or other hot chili sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ cup canola or peanut oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large clove garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
2 teaspoons minced ginger
¼ pound ground pork
½ cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Using a peeler, remove the strings from the outer layer of the celery stalks. Trim the leaves, then slice the stalks into ¼ -by-1 ½ -inch sticks. (You should have about 4 cups.)

2. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, chili sauce, sherry and sugar.

3. Heat a wok or a large, heavy skillet fitted with a lid over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the celery and stir a few times; then add the salt and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the celery to a dish; clean and dry the wok.

4. Reheat the pan and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. After about 30 seconds, add the garlic clove, flipping a few times; then add the ginger and the pork, stirring to break up the lumps. Stir in the soy-sauce mixture. Return the celery to the pan and toss. Add the chicken stock, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Steam to reduce the liquid, about 2 minutes.

5. Remove the lid, increase the heat to high and stir until the liquid has evaporated. Add the sesame oil and toss well. Discard the garlic clove.

Jeff Hertzberg's Simple Crusty Bread


Yes, I know this recipe was just published this morning, and I know that you're all plenty busy as it is with turkeys and pies and stuffing, and if you're not cooking then you're probably on your way out the door (we're leaving in half an hour and I haven't even packed yet), but I couldn't exactly not post about this right away, could I? Come on, now.

If the response to Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread is any indication, then I feel like I'm practically contractually obligated to.

Almost exactly a year ago, The New York Times published that lovely no-knead recipe which had thousands of people baking deliciously flavorful, easy-as-pie, artisan bread in their own homes at last. The response to the recipe was phenomenal and well-deserved. The first no-knead loaf I made was devoured by two young men I know in less than an hour. The second no-knead loaf I made was devoured by a few young women I know in less than an hour. The third no-knead loaf I made...well, you get the picture. It was a big hit.

Today, The New York Times published a new recipe for "crusty", "flavorful" bread - perhaps almost an heir to the no-knead mania - that will, no doubt, have just as many people in a bread-baking frenzy as Mr. Lahey did.

Here's the thing, though: This bread? The one published today? It's not as good. It's simply not. In fact, it's not that great at all. There you have it. Oh sure, it's fine, in the way that most homemade bread is, because it's fresh and it's homemade and your house smells pretty darn good while it's baking. But compared to Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread? Well, there's just no comparison.


The article accompanying Jeff Hertzberg's recipe seemed to almost chastise (gently) No-Knead Bread for a few of its characteristics, like having such a long fermentation process (18 hours or more - of course, you don't have to do much during that time, in fact, you can all but ignore the dough) and the need to bake the bread in a cast-iron pot. But the former, combined with the fact that No-Knead Bread starts with a tiny amount of yeast, is where the bread gets its wonderful flavor, and the latter is how the very wet dough is able to create its own little steamy environment, which is exactly how you end up with a gorgeously thin and shattery crust that lasts and lasts.

It's true that Hertzberg's recipe will give you your bread in a fraction of the time that it will take you to make the No-Knead Bread, but your loaves won't have those appealingly craggy holes in the crumb or that indescribably delicious flavor. Because of the quick rise, Hertzberg's bread tastes overly yeasty and somewhat two-dimensional. Almost a little bitter. The crumb looks good, but more generic. The crust is crisp when you first take the loaves out of the oven, but as they cool, the crust becomes softer, the crunch less assertive.

I made turkey sandwiches out of this bread - they'll sustain us on our trip up to Boston today. And I'll take another one of the loaves with us for breakfast toast over the next few days. The remaining dough I'm refrigerating to see if a little rest can't coax a bit more flavor into it. But the next time I've got a hankering for homemade bread? I'm going back to the tried-and-true. No-Knead Bread it is.

Update: November 30, 2007

After eight days of rest in the fridge, I took the Tupperwared dough out last night, shaped it into a ball, let it come to room temperature and rest for about an hour and 20 minutes, and then baked it. The dough rose and browned beautifully in the oven, just like last time. This morning I sliced off a piece - the crumb looked nice, much like it does in the photo above - and toasted it very gently, just to a creamy buff color. Then I took a bite, plain, and found that it really didn't taste much different from the first time around. It didn't have that faintly bitter aroma anymore, but it was still yeasty as all get out and had this sort of odd, flat flavor - I can't really put my finger on it. Spread with apple butter, it was a good breakfast, but I didn't find the bread nirvana that I was so hoping for after a week in the fridge.


Simple Crusty Bread
Makes 3-4 loaves

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast (active-dry)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough

1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours). Here's what it will look like after rising.

2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.

3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.

4. Dust dough with flour, slash the top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Variation: If not using stone, stretch rounded dough into oval and place in a greased, nonstick loaf pan. Let rest 40 minutes if fresh, an extra hour if refrigerated. Heat oven to 450 degrees for 5 minutes. Place pan on middle rack.

Alice Medrich's Whole-Wheat Sables





I made a bunch of cookies on Saturday afternoon, when it was cold outside and my oven and I were indulging in a little love affair. They were delicious, the cookies, all sandy and and buttery and wholesome and it was so calming, the process, making the simple dough and chilling it in a long, thin rope.

The small discs of dough turned golden brown in the heat of the oven, a frilly edge forming around the base of the cookies that crumbled deliciously under my fingers as I lifted the cookies off the sheet to cool. We ate them, dunked in tea, as we sat on the couch and at the desk in the waning daylight. Billie Holiday was on the radio and all I could think about was that the sound of her voice, on these cold, autumn days, just sounds so exactly right. You can't really listen to Billie in the summer, not with the same melancholy longing that you get when it's slowly growing dark outside and Manhattan glows coolly, gently on the horizon.


You might think that adding whole wheat flour to a regular little butter cookie might toughen it a bit, or make it too grainy, but I promise that it doesn't. In fact, you barely notice that these cookies are different - they're as delicious as their classic cousins. I chopped up a handful of lackluster dried dates to add to the dough, but I wouldn't do that again (they get too hard and chewy, lodging unpleasantly in your teeth) - do as Alice Medrich says and add cocoa nibs or toasted hazelnuts, chopped, of course. In fact, I imagine you could even add a little shower of chopped bittersweet chocolate and produce an elegant, Gallic version of the chocolate chip cookie.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, one could mistakenly think that cookies aren't exactly what the doctor ordered, but I've got to pipe up here and nudge you, delicately, because it's often exactly these kind of days that require a simple cookie and a hot cup of tea to bolster you. You could be stuck in traffic or stranded at an airport on the way to where you'll be celebrating: a couple of these cookies might make you feel a little less helpless. If you're hosting the feast this year, and you're suddenly overwhelmed by the kitchen prep that awaits you, a sable or two could make you stand up straight again, suddenly sure of your menu. And if you're just making a side dish or two and bringing them to a potluck, well, then you've already got the oven going - is it really that much more work to pop a few of these in the oven? Go on, go ahead. You'll be happy you did.


Whole-Wheat Sables
Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies

1 cup (4.5 ounces) flour
Scant 1 cup (4 ounces) whole wheat flour
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup cacao nibs or chopped toasted hazelnuts

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and whole wheat flour and set aside.

2. In another medium bowl, using the back of a large spoon or with an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar, salt and vanilla until smooth and creamy but not fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the cacao nibs and mix to incorporate. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Scrape the dough into a mass and, if necessary, knead with your hands a bit, just until smooth.

3. Form the dough into a 12-by-2-inch log. Wrap the log tightly in plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight.

4. Position the oven racks in the upper and lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

5. Using a sharp knife, cut the cold dough log into one-fourth-inch slices. Place the cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are light golden brown at the edges, 12 to 16 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Allow the cookies to rest on the sheets about 1 minute to firm up, then transfer them to a rack using a metal spatula. Let them cool completely. Store the cookies in an airtight container.

Carolina Braunschweig's Apple Butter


Hoo. Hoo. Hoooo. I'm having a hard time catching my breath. In fact, pass that paper bag, I feel like I might need it. Why? Let me tell you why. It's November 15th. November 15th! Do you know what that means?

It's that time of year again, that time of year that creeps up on me out of nowhere (nowhere, I tell you!) and manages to smack me in the ass every single time. I'm a smart enough girl, I can read and walk at the same time, I can listen to music and chew my food simultaneously, I can speak four languages and touch my tongue to my nose (well, no, those things I can't do at the same time): how am I still not smart enough to anticipate Christmas?

Every single year, I vow to make a handmade Christmas - to bake and cook and craft until I've spun a mountain of lovely, tasty, personal gifts to bestow upon the lucky folks who happen to be related to me - and every single year I fail miserably. On December 22, I'm pacing the streets of Soho with a wide-eyed, hysterical glare in the whites of my eyes and an unpleasant little squeakiness to my voice - I think some of you might call it the sound of desperation.

You'd think I'd give up by now. You'd think that this year, the year that I (gulp, gulp, and triple gulp) turn thirty (where the hell is that paper bag?), I'd have made my peace with this reality: that I'm just not cut out for a handmade Christmas.

Obstinacy is a funny thing, isn't it?

Because here it is, November 15th, and I'm frantically making lists of recipes and ingredients to assemble, culling together cello paper and tupperware, hunting down jam jars and clean lids, scrounging up twine and stickers, finding mailing labels and shipping rates and, God help me, I think I'm going to try again.


Last year, after I'd given up and gone back to Berlin for the holidays, defeated and beladen with a suitcase full of perfectly acceptable, purchased gifts, Molly (who this year has made it official and taken the handmade pledge - brave one) sent me a jar of homemade apple butter so delicious that it was gone in a matter of days. (Addressed to both me and Ben, I didn't have the heart to hoard it for myself, in which case it would have lasted perhaps a week. I can be so stupidly generous sometimes.) I spent the next 9 months wishing she would send me another jar.

Molly got her recipe from Heidi who got it from Carolina Braunschweig, so when I eventually realized that wishing wasn't going to get me anywhere, I went apple-picking and made my own. Between a colleague and my upstairs neighbor and the constantly hungry man residing in my apartment, the four jars I made were gone in a week. It really is that good. It goes well on toast and in Liberte plain yogurt and apparently in cookies, though I haven't tried those yet. It makes your house smell like a holiday and makes you feel all calm and happy while it burbles away on the stove. And will you believe me when I tell you that while boiling jars sounds all technical and frightening, it really, really isn't? Really, I promise. If I can do it, so can you.

So, join me in the madness, won't you? Let's do it together. You make apple butter, and I'll do - I don't know - chutney. Or cookies! Or both. I don't know. Oh God, I'm having trouble breathing again. But it'll be fun, I promise! And then, if it all goes south in the end despite our best intentions, we can go shopping together a few days before Christmas when the stores are empty and our hair is falling out in handfuls. Hmm? What do you say - do we have a deal?

Apple Butter
Makes 4 or 5 8-ounce jars

4 pounds of apples, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
Roughly 1/2 gallon of apple cider
2 cups of sugar (I cut this to 1 and 1/4 cups of sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I would do just 1 teaspoon next time)
1/2 teaspoon cloves (and I'd do a little less than 1/2 teaspoon next time)
Juice of one lemon

1. Heat oven to 225 and place jars (but not lids) on the baking racks. Jars will need to stay in the oven for at least 20 minutes. Wash the lids with hot water and let them dry completely on a clean towel.

2. In a big, heavy pot over medium heat add the apples and enough apple cider to just cover the apples. Bring to a simmer. A bit of a foam will form, you want to skim that off a couple of times. Cook the apples until they are tender throughout, roughly 20-30 minutes. Take the apples off the heat, let them cool for a couple minutes, and then puree in a blender in small batches (don't fill the blender over half full with the hot liquid or you will have a mess) or with an immersion blender directly in the pot. The puree should be the consistency of a thin applesauce.

3. Put the puree back in the big pot over medium heat. Bring puree to a simmer (you need it to hit 220F on candy thermometer). Then, while stirring, slowly sprinkle in the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and lemon juice. Continue to simmer over medium/med-low heat. It takes quite a while from this point until the apple butter reduces and really thickens up, anywhere from 1 to 2 hours (try to keep it around 220F). Make sure you stir regularly, you don't want it to burn or cook to the bottom of the pot. You are looking for the apple butter to thicken up and darken. Towards the end it gets a bit messy, the simmer becoming more lava-like - it also sounds different, lots of plop and slop noises and lots of spattering coming from the pot. Remove from heat.

4. Using tongs, carefully remove each jar from the oven and fill to within 1/4 inch of the top with the apple butter. Wipe off rims with a clean dry paper towel. Place a dry lid on each jar and close tightly. Turn the jars upside-down and let cool completely.

Kim Boyce's Whole-Wheat Sweet Potato Muffins


I am an orderly and punctual kind of girl. One who revels in being in bed by 10:00, gets pleasure out of the neatly folded lines of sheets and towels in our linen closet, loves using up the last four turnips, two beets and half a rutabaga in the fridge for a lovely autumn soup that also results in a beautifully empty vegetable crisper, sweats unpleasantly when running even just five minutes late, thrills secretly when the neat piles of mail and magazine inserts and cardboard paper towel rolls all get placed in the recycling bin in the little closet next to our apartment, and exults when using up the last few shakes left in a bag of flour.

And yet. On weekday mornings, I somehow still end up running four minutes late far too often, throwing my scarf over my shoulder while I press the elevator button as the door bangs shut (rats!), remembering that my cell phone is still on the coffee table, running back inside to get it as I thread my belt into my belt loops while the door slams again (crap!), then hearing the elevator ping its arrival, managing to make it out just as the elevator door opens, but not smoothly enough so I don't keep the our apartment door from banging a third and final time (damn it!) and as I ride down to the ground floor, realizing I've forgotten to eat breakfast entirely.


If there's something I hate, it's missing breakfast at home. See, I have this little routine: I take my breakfast (a small pour of orange juice in a narrow glass, a little white bowl of Grape Nuts and milk) and sit in the big office chair that Ben brought with him when we moved to Queens. While I eat my breakfast swiveling around in the chair, looking out the window or listening to the radio, Ben stands next to me and irons. We don't talk much, but we start our day together there. It's calm and peaceful in that office, we can see the tree tops waving, and the big city feels pretty far away. Plus, this way the orderly me gets her morning fiber (check), her vitamins in pill and juice form (check), and one third of her daily calcium requirement (check). All this, too, warms my soul.

But let's get real: the number of mornings I'm able to have this dreamy little breakfast scenario has dwindled substantially of late and I've been spending far too much money on morning breakfasts in the city. (Close to $5.00? For a scone and a cup of tea? What is going on here?) I read Amy Scattergood's article on Kim Boyce's healthy muffins while I ate a Balthazar scone, delicious but crammed to the brim with butter and cream, at my desk for the (gulp) third time last week and vowed to change my ways.



The only problem is that Kim's muffins are far too good to be eaten, ascetically, one by one each day of the week. Trust me, you'll make a batch, envision it lasting you two weeks in the freezer, and by the end of the weekend - bam! - the muffins will be gone, baby, gone. Wholesome and grainy and full of autumnal flavor, they're simply delicious. Studded with juicy little bits of dates (dates, I swoon for you) and with the occasional bright orange pocket of sweet potato, they're the kind of muffin that make you feel practically virtuous whilst eating them, which as you probably know, is a very special kind of muffin indeed.

Whole-Wheat Sweet Potato Muffins
Makes 12

1/2 pound sweet potatoes (also known as yams)
Vegetable oil spray for coating the tins
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 Medjool dates, pitted and cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast for 1 hour or until they are tender when pierced with a fork and are caramelizing. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, peel, then lightly mash with a fork. Set aside.

2. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Lightly spray the muffin tin with vegetable oil.

3. Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

4. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, whole-wheat flour, whole-grain pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and allspice. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, yogurt, egg and vanilla together.

5. Scrape down the sides of the butter bowl and alternately add the dry and wet ingredients; do not overmix. Gently fold in the sweet potatoes, then the dates.

6. Using an ice cream scoop (about one-half cup capacity), scoop the batter into each of 10 prepared muffin cups, about 1 scoop per muffin. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The muffins will be dark golden brown on the bottom.

Russ Parsons's Salt-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary and Fingerling Potatoes


Oh yes, I know what you're thinking. Doesn't that look lovely? All burnished and brown and crusty? All herby and earthy and fragrant? Pork tenderloin, baby, and soft little potatoes, baked in a salt crust. Oh yeah. You don't even know how good the house smells right now. So good. Yes, it does.

I'm alone in the kitchen, heating up braised cabbage on the stove, while the pork and potatoes roast quietly in the oven under their thick cloak of herbed salt. The apartment's all warm and cozy and I'm waiting for my fella to come home and sit down to dinner with me - cold beer in hand, square meal awaiting, love all around.

Keys in the door. He's home! The man walks in, peels off his wool coat, shouts out a "Honey, I'm home!". I'm dancing in the kitchen, pulling the pan out of the oven, happy, so happy. He rinses off the back of his neck, plastered with little hairs from a quick trip to the barber, walks into the kitchen (that haircut, that face, oh, it's good), kisses me hello. We're all so-nice-to-see-you, oh-goodness-how-I've-missed-you, oh-lordy-how-awesome-are-you, no-no-how-awesome-are-you, and then suddenly - with no warning - all this huggy-bear-kissy-face, domesticated-bliss fest comes to a shrieking, gear-grinding halt.

One finger stretches out and points. Lips curl. The music stops playing. Readers, the world practically stops turning.

"What. Is. That."

(Now is probably the time to tell you that if there's one thing that Ben dislikes more than salt (well, except for anchovies - and the feeling for them is more like abject loathing, so it's not even up for discussion), it's pork. So pork and salt, together? You can only imagine the horror.)

Come on, baby, pork is tasty, so tasty, and really, not at all bad for you, as long as you're not snarfing bacon down every weekend and having pulled pork sandwiches on a weekly basis. Would I try to hurt you, honey, would I? I think you might be getting a little unreasonable about the whole thing, trust me, baby, trust me and if you don't trust me, then trust Russ, because Russ - well, it changed his life, this salt-roasting pork thing and if Russ says something's life-changing, I have to sit up and pay attention, I just do.

Ben stands in the kitchen in accusatory silence. I wield the butt of our heaviest knife and crack open the salt crust. Fragrance, the earthy scent of rosemary and potatoes and roasting meat, wafts aloft. I peek a sideways glance. Ben's impassive but for the tiny glint of interest now shining in his eyes. I lift up the browned tenderloin, brush off the clinging salt, set it down and carve it into moist, pink slices. The potatoes, tender with appealingly wrinkled skin, emerge from the white, sandy dome.


Three small potatoes on each plate, three slices of juicy pork, a riotous, purple tangle of cabbage, too. The knives sink easily into the flesh of the potatoes, the plates run pink with juices. The pork is tender and tastes, as Russ says, hugely of itself. A suggestion of rosemary fills the air, but the potatoes are just their best possible version, as potato-ey as it gets. I do my best to enjoy the meal subtly. I don't want to bang Ben over the head with the triumph of the pork tenderloin. It's bad enough to have forced him into eating something he usually spurns - I can't then also have it be the best meal of the week, can I?

What a silly question. Ben's plate is empty, as is mine. I get up for more cabbage and he holds out his plate. "More pork, please." I knew you'd come around, honey, I'm so glad you did.

Salt-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary and Fingerling Potatoes
Serves 4

2 tablespoons snipped rosemary leaves
6 cups coarse salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (1 1/4 -pound) pork tenderloin
1 pound fingerling potatoes, scrubbed but unpeeled
1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon minced shallots

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the rosemary and the salt in a large mixing bowl and stir in 1 cup of water until the texture is that of gritty snow.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil until the surface ripples. Pat the pork tenderloin dry with paper towels and sear it in the hot oil until it is browned on all sides, about 8 minutes.

3. While the pork is browning, spoon a layer of salt about one-fourth-inch thick in the bottom of a gratin or baking dish just big enough to hold the pork and the potatoes in a single layer.

4. When the pork is browned, pat it dry with a paper towel to remove any excess oil and place it in the gratin dish, laying it down the center. Arrange the potatoes around the outside and cover everything with the remaining salt.

5. Roast until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees, about 20 to 25 minutes. At this point, the pork will be quite moist but still a little pink. If you prefer the pork to be more cooked, push the temperature to 150, about 5 more minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and set aside 5 minutes to finish cooking.

6. With a sturdy metal spoon or chef's knife, chip a crack around the base of the salt crust and carefully lift off the top. Use a dry pastry brush to brush away any salt on the surface of the potatoes or the pork, turning the pork over to brush all sides. Transfer the pork to a carving board. Slice the pork into medallions one-fourth-inch thick and arrange on a serving platter. Place the potatoes in a medium bowl and toss with the shallots and butter just until coated, discarding any excess butter. Arrange the potatoes around the outside of the pork and serve immediately.

Teddie's Apple Cake


Let's start with a thrilling announcement, shall we? Readers, I now have a fancy Recipe Index on my site! Right there, to the left, under my author photo. Thank you for putting up with those difficult-to-navigate archives for so long - two years, two months, and 304 posts to be exact. I've gotten many, many complaints about this, and I'm so pleased to say that your struggles through my archives are finally over.

In the spirit of democracy, I've included ALL the recipes that I've made on this site in there, including the duds. I'm still debating a system in the Index in which I alert you to my Hall-of-Famers, my Absolute Disasters, my Weeknight Repeats. Any suggestions? Anyway, I hope it's useful to you all - I've already re-discovered more than a dozen things I cannot wait to try again.

To celebrate (and to fortify myself, because I haven't entirely finished going through my archives and adding them to the index), I'm having cake for breakfast. Now, I'm of the opinion that not every cake can double as breakfast. Some cakes, the flourless and the frosted, for example, just can't - they're too glamorous, too late-night, too spangly and wicked. But the homey cakes, the ones that look a little craggy on the edges, with a generous, open crumb and a scent not unlike fresh pancakes, those will do just fine for the weekend mornings when a bowl of cereal is simply not enough.


First published in 1973 and resurrected this weekend by Amanda Hesser, Teddie's Apple Cake (who is Teddie and why is the cake named after him or her? Unfortunately, I have no answers for you) is such a cake. It's got this wonderfully craggy top, all mountains and valleys of soft apples jutting upwards through the cake and slumping down gently into the crumb, and a faintly shattering crust. It could be masked through some confectioner's sugar sifted on top, but I like its rustic appeal just fine. Besides the cake teeters on the edge of too-sweet-ness as it is.

I had to fiddle with things a bit (my God, I've become such a renegade), using less sugar, adding pecans instead of walnuts, swapping in fresh cranberries for the raisins. (It's not that I don't like raisins, but the tart little pops of cranberry are so much more refreshing.) But it was a hit around here last night, fresh out of the oven - with Ben, and with Gemma upstairs. This morning, for breakfast, it's even better.

Teddie’s Apple Cake
Serves 8

Butter for greasing pan
3 cups flour, plus more for dusting pan
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups peeled, cored and thickly sliced tart apples, like Gala
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 cup fresh cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch tube pan. Beat the oil and sugar together in a mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment) while assembling the remaining ingredients. After about 5 minutes, add the eggs and beat until the mixture is creamy.

2. Sift together 3 cups of flour, the salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Stir into the batter. Add the vanilla, apples, pecans and cranberries and stir until combined.

3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before turning out. Serve at room temperature.