It Ain’t Grilled

If you asked me what the most difficult dietary restriction was, I’d be at an entire loss.

My first answer would be gluten-free – I’m not sure how life would go on without a nice, toasted piece of french bread, or a whole-wheat pizza, or even croutons. But given my love for making things from scratch, from making things myself, I’d be willing to bet I’d adapt pretty quickly, and with all the amazing gluten-free-ers blogging these days, I probably wouldn’t go without nearly as often as I think I would.

So then I think about the diabetics. No sugar? That doesn’t seem like a life worth living, either. Days without chocolate? Caramel? Ice cream? But again, there are a thousand sugar-substitutes available, and maybe I’d adapt to that, too. Maybe I’d get used to using Spenda or Truvia or whatever all the time. I mean, I use them a decent amount now by choice, so how bad could it be if my doctor told me to cut the sugar?

Which brings me to the next one – lactose. Oh, my. No cheese? No milk? But I suppose I could have it all if I just battled a little indigestion and upset stomach for a bit, right? And maybe I could take Lactase and it would be all better. Something tells me it isn’t that easy. And rice cheese? I’m not sure that tastes anything like Manchego or Gouda or Parmesan. I doubt soy ice cream is an ounce as good as whole milk ice cream, but again, if this were my life I’m sure I’d learn to love it, and learn to adjust. People do it all the time, don’t they?

Be that as it may, I absolutely couldn’t imagine life without toasted, cheesy sandwiches. And I could forego the meat as long as the cheese is there, as long as it oozes like this one, and as long as I feel a crunch of crusty, toasted bread between my teeth. Yeah, I don’t need bacon or chicken or any of that.

In fact, I’m quite happy with a large whopping mound of garlic-infused kale. Again, as long as cheese and bread are at the party, too.

Word on the street is that it’s National Grilled Cheese Month. Did you know? I have to thank podcasts and Facebook for this niblet of info, I do. And while I could really get behind a grilled cheese sandwich right about now, I realized I’d made this kale and provolone sandwich (aka grinder to anyone who uses that term. who uses that term, anyway?) a few weeks ago and I think I’d be more than happy to have it again.

Then again, a panini-style samich with sharp cheddar and a fresh tomato would also be pretty awesome. But since tomatoes are quite in season yet, maybe I’d better wait. At the end of the day, eating this one is hardly a sacrifice.

Kale & Provolone Grinders
adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2012; makes 4

time commitment:  ~1 hour

printable version

ingredients
white bean puree
3 T olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans with liquid
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

sandwiches
2 bunches of lacinato/Tuscan/dinosaur kale
Kosher salt
3 T olive oil, divided
1/2 head of garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
2 c arugula or spinach
2 T fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
4 6″–8″-long French rolls, split lengthwise
4 ounces thinly sliced provolone heese
1 jalapeño, seeded, very thinly sliced

instructions
white bean puree
Heat 1 T oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until garlic begins to turn golden, about 4 minutes. Add beans with liquid. Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring often, until liquid thickens, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor; add 2 T oil. Process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

sandwiches
Cook kale, 1 bunch at a time, in a large pot of boiling salted water for 2 minutes (return to a boil between batches). Transfer kale to a baking sheet; let cool. Squeeze dry; coarsely chop.

Heat a large pot over medium heat; add 2 T oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until garlic is fragrant and beginning to turn golden, 2–3 minutes. Add kale and arugula/spinach; cook, stirring often, until stem pieces are just tender, 4–5 minutes. Add remaining T oil and lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper, and more juice, if desired. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and let cool. (you can do this a day early if you’d like)

Arrange racks in top and bottom thirds of oven; preheat to 400 F. Open rolls and arrange on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Spread bean purée on one side of each roll; add greens. Top with cheese, then jalapeño. Toast, rotating pans after 5 minutes, until cheese is melted, 7–10 minutes. Top, slice, and serve.

Before I Forget

Did everyone have a thoroughly enjoyable weekend? Did you have an easter egg scavenger hunt? Or eat a lot of chocolate bunnies? Cadbury creme eggs (man, I could tear one of those down right now, never mind the fact that I just shoved a piece of cake into my face…)? Did you wear really lame-looking pastel-colored outfits with bow ties and Mary Janes? Or did you force those sort of cute things on your kids, instead?!

Get this: I didn’t do any of those things. Except, of course, I did have an enjoyable weekend. Duh.

We spent all day Saturday at Tomales Bay Oyster Farm again, because going this long without an oyster retreat was just silly. The weather was brilliantly sunny, speckled with a  few appearances by the clouds and the wind, and we had plenty of awesome food to choose from, which meant we pretty much ate from 11 AM to 5 PM, and there was nothing wrong with that in the slightest. We finished up the day with some Walking Dead episodes, since Judy and Jared can’t seem to get their act together to watch the rest of this season on their own. Dang non-cable-havers.

Sunday started off with an hour and a half of constant sweating at Bikram yoga (I’m still not sure why I’m torturing myself in these classes, but I think I sorta like them…) and a nice lunch with friends followed by a few hours of pinning, blogging, photo-editing, and grocery-planning. Jealous? I get that all the time :). What won’t make you jealous, I’m sure, is that doing laundry was also part of the fun.

So before I forget, I wanted to slip in the recipe I mentioned a few weeks back – the fennel & manchego shortbread cookies that were part of the co-winning Iron Chef dish at the last battle. I’m not sure why shortbread cookies are named as they are – they are neither short nor bready, but what they are is extremely tasty. Butter-laden, they are always perfect cookies to have around tea, or coffee, or in this case, ice cream. And caramel. But I ate a few by themselves and they were just fine too.

Now don’t let these cookies surprise you – they are a touch sweet, and they definitely live up to the definition of shortbread, which essentially requires that they are loaded with fat, ahem, butter, and that they are crumby and biscuit-ish, but what they also do is this – they also lean more to the savory side of things, which some people find weird for cookies. For one, they have a healthy amount of cheese baked into them, which once out of the oven they possess a gorgeous orangey-brown speck here and there, like the cheese in a cheddar biscuit, perhaps (and yes, now I am dying to demolish a biscuit. with or without cheddar. preferably with.).

For two, they are showered in fennel seeds, which I promise you only makes them better. You could nix the fennel if you wanted to, and add say, sesame seeds or lavender or orange zest or whatever, but I swear to you the fennel and Manchego cheese are meant to be in this cookie. I promise you, your mouth will thank you.

 

Manchego Shortbread with Fennel & Sea Salt
Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2012; makes ~24

printable version

time commitment: 3 hours (1 hour active; 2 hours chilling dough)

ingredients
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 t freshly ground black pepper
3/4 t kosher salt
2 c all-purpose flour plus a little more for rolling out the dough
1 c finely grated Manchego cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 T fennel seeds
1 t sea salt
2 T extra-virgin olive oil

instructions
Using an electric mixer, beat butter in a medium bowl on low speed until smooth, 1–2 minutes. Add powdered sugar, pepper, and kosher salt. Reduce speed to medium and beat, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy, 4–5 minutes. Add flour and cheese. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat mixture just until dough comes together.

Wrap dough in plastic and flatten into a rectangle. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours. You can do this up to a few days in advance if you want. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before continuing.

Pulse fennel seeds in a spice grinder (aka coffee grinder) until coarsely crushed (or close them up in a Ziploc bag and crush with something like a rolling pin). Transfer to a small bowl; stir in sea salt. Set fennel salt aside.

Arrange a rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove plastic wrap from dough. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 10×8-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Cut in thirds crosswise, then cut each third crosswise into 6 rectangles. Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Brush cookies generously with oil, then sprinkle with fennel salt. If you have extra dough, you can always roll that out and re-cut. I did this with my dough to make even more cookies, just make sure the dough doesn’t get to warm or else the cookies will flatten when they’re baking.

Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until cookies are golden brown (flecks of cheese will be slightly darker), ~20 minutes. Let cool on sheets for at least 10 minutes. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days.

A Giant Kinda Night

One of the (10,000 bazillion) reasons Chris and I work so well together is that we play to each other’s strengths, we complement one another. For example, when we plan vacations, I like to hop around to tons of places, he likes visit 1-2 spots and really hone in on them. We usually compromise at 2-3. When we painted our kitchen together a few weeks ago (notice the teal in the back?), I agreed to do the tedious taping of the trim and mind-numbingly boring detail work, as long as he promised to do the big areas of rolling and lots of the cleanup. When I make dinner, he (usually) does the dishes. I drive, he navigates.

You get the point, right?

And when major holidays or events roll around, he likes to stick to tradition, and keep things as they usually are. I’m fine with that, as long as there’s good food involved, which there always is. For July 4th, we always make burgers. These are still one of my favorites. For Thanksgiving, we don’t do anything crazy with the turkey, and we can’t change the stuffing, but I have free reign over most of the other dishes (which even I, Miss I-Hate-To-Make-Things-More-Than-Once, usually only rotate out the green veggie dish and keep the rest the same, too). There is usually a time of the year that we find a reason to make pulled pork (like watching a season of The Walking Dead. Get it – pulled pork?! shredded meat?! bwa ha ha), and there’s always another holiday, like Memorial Day perhaps, where we just plain ol’ grill.

Let there be no doubt in your mind that Super Bowl Sunday is its’ own holiday, too. And when Super Bowl Sunday rolls around, it’s chili time – 20 degree weather outside or not.

Mind you, a move West hasn’t changed a single one of these traditions – somehow we manage to really gravitate towards the same type of people no matter where we live – the ones that like to eat, drink, and have a shit-load of fun together. And as per usual, we have no issue with hosting, again playing to the “as long as we get to make good food” mantra.

This time around, instead of making 1 chili for everyone to eat, we made 2 different chili recipes – watch out! The recipe below is adapted from a Texas-style all-beef chili. For you Texans-to-the-core out there, don’t hate, but I put beans in it, too (!). I won’t be caught walking an alley of Texas alone (does Texas have alleys?), that’s for sure, because I’m about to let ya’ll know that this girl LOVES beans in chili. Plus, even though we doubled mostly everything in the original recipe, I couldn’t quite bring myself to dump 8 lbs of beef into a pot, but by all means, if you prefer beef to the beans, go for it. I liked the additional texture of pinto beans, and clearly I need just a little more ammo in my nightly “Dutch ovens“, so there you have it ;).

The other recipe satisfied the gluten-free and white-meat-only eaters out there, and was another tasty concoction – a white bean and chicken chili, with loads of chili powder. Maybe I’ll share that one a little later on.

And of course, there’s no such thing as chili without some cornbread, and we all know how much I love cornbread, right?! No pics of it, and no leftovers either. Sad faces.

But when it came to the chili, we were happy to eat it for another couple of nights. Happy faces!

Oh, and GO, Bears! 49-ers? Ok, ok, YAY GIANTS!

 

Beef & Pinto Bean Chili with Ancho, Mole, and Cumin
Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2009 via Epicurious; serves 12-16

I should add here, that the serving sizes are NOT generous (maybe 1 cup each). They’re based on the fact that this chili was eaten after tons of other snacks were consumed, so ginormous bowls of chili were not had. If you’re making this chili for dinner, I’d guess that this exact recipe yields closer to 10-12 servings. But it’s hearty, so consider yourself forewarned!

printable version

time commitment: at least 4 1/2 hours, most of which is inactive

ingredients
chili
2 T cumin seeds
8 bacon slices, chopped
1 4-pound boneless chuck roast, trimmed, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes
2 large onions, chopped (about 4 c)
8 large garlic cloves, chopped
7 c beef broth, divided, possibly more
1/4 c pure ancho chile powder
1/4 c chili powder
2 T mole paste
1 T salt
4 t apple cider vinegar
1 T dried oregano
1 bottle of stout beer
4 15-oz cans of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 c masa (corn tortilla mix)
1/4 t cayenne pepper

garnishes
Chopped green onions
Queso fresco
Sliced fresh  jalapeño chiles
Tortilla chips

instructions
Toast cumin seeds in heavy small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes. Cool; grind finely in spice mill or in mortar with pestle.

Meanwhile, sauté bacon in large pot over medium-high heat until brown and crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to large bowl. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Working in 3 batches, sauté beef in drippings in pot until browned, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer beef and most drippings to bowl with bacon. Add onion and garlic to pot. Sauté until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1 c broth to pot. Bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Return beef, bacon, and any accumulated juices to pot. Mix in ancho chile powder, chili powder, mole paste, salt, vinegar, oregano, and cumin. Add 6 cups broth, stout, and pinto beans; bring to boil. Reduce heat to very low and simmer gently uncovered until beef is very tender, stirring occasionally and adding more broth by 1/2 cupfuls if chili is dry, about 2 1/2 hours. Mix in masa by teaspoonfuls to thicken chili or add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin. Season chili with salt, pepper, and cayenne, if desired.

Chili can be made up to 3 days ahead (and making it ahead does give flavors time to meld, so try to make it at least a day in advance). Let cool at stovetop for an hour, then refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat before serving.

Set out garnishes as desired. Ladle chili into bowls and serve.

Survival of the Fittest

The day I was born, my dad near about had a heart attack, or at least that’s the story. My parents are both fair-skinned and light-haired. Although technically, my mom truly does have dark roots but you don’t really notice them because she still gets her hair “frosted”. Last time I checked, that’s a pretty common ‘do for her age group. Anyway, I came into the world writhing and crying, full of life and all that good stuff. But I also came out with something that really threw my dad for a loop – I had a head FULL of nearly black hair. WTF?

I would have been confused too.

Anyway, clearly there are no paternity issues. Just like most of us, I recognize that I have some traits from my mom, and some traits from my dad. Some are good, like my big brains, blue eyes, and relatively normally shaped symmetrical head, and some are downright nasty, like my cankles, my big knees, and über mushy upper arms. I mean seriously – you’d think there would have been a selective advantage against such atrocities, but as it turns out cankles and big knees are all kinds of sturdy, so I guess that’s a good thing. The fat arms? Well, I suppose in the event that I’m stranded in Antarctica, it would take me a little bit longer to use up my own mush before I start gnawing on the arms of my friends.

Aside from all that loveliness, I try not to complain too much. Sure, I have a hard time finding boots that zip up over my cankles and ginormous calves (that I’m pretending are all muscle; laugh it up, Simpson!), but all in all I’d say things could be much worse. Yeah, I am as close to legally blind as you can get (dramatic, much?), but that’s nothing a pair of contacts and ultra thick glasses can’t fix.

Then you get the traits that are sorta ‘give or take’. I don’t mind having thinnish hair because it dries quicker. I don’t mind being short because I can make people do stuff for me with a quickness, and it’s always easier to take in length on pants than to let it out. I don’t mind having boobs because at least I didn’t have to stuff my bra when I was 14. Plus, boys generally like boobs. So I guess that’s good.

And then there’s the butt. Hoo boy. Again, there definitely is no denying my true lineage, but I swear there has to be some African American ancestry somewhere in one of my family trees. I guess it’s not impossible, being Southern and all… Because this is the truth: I have a little bit more rhythm than a lot of white folk (and I mean a little bit more…. I am no Beyonce for sure). I have slightly fuller lips (at least the bottom one) than a lot of white folk. Last but certainly not least, I have a ginormous ass for a white chick. It’s not proportional. It’s not right, and I have no idea where it comes from. It’s just not natural.

Here’s where the story gets funny. Because of said unnaturally large ass, I seemed to get harassed by the vast majority of black boys in my school. Maybe it was stylish for a regular looking white girl to wear such an unusually large backside, or maybe there’s some other reason why black boys (and a handful of white boys) like girls with junk in the trunk. Who knows. Either way, I remember one specific group of guys in high school who taunted me almost daily. How rude, right?! But I remembered it, not because of the fact that it was nearly daily, but because of what they said to me every. single. time.

“Girl, you be eatin’ all your cornbread!”

And with that, friends, I have embarrassed myself in front of the whole internets (but only slightly), and! I have given you a great recipe for cornbread. I won’t lie – I do fancy a piece of cornmeal-laden bread every now and then, but it’s not like I ate it all the time as a kid. I’m gonna chalk it up to science, and swear there’s some genetic influence quite a few generations back. Selective advantage? I won’t even try to answer that…

Zucchini Cornbread
adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2011; makes 1 loaf 

this is a really good cornbread recipe, so let’s start with that. it’s not moist, so don’t expect a texture like banana and pumpkin breads. it’s drier, but it’s buttery (with browned butter – yum!) and has just enough sugar to provide a little sweetness, too. You don’t notice the zucchini much, but at least you’re getting veggies, if only a little dab! and to be honest, this is NOT the way Southern cornbread tastes. Southern cornbread is not as sweet, and maybe even a little more dry, a bit heftier. either way, it’s a great side item to a stew, or perhaps Thanksgiving? I ate it as a late-night snack this week, but that could lead to ill effects, as we’ve already discussed…

time commitment: 3 hours (includes cooking + cooling time; only about 30 minutes active)

printable version

ingredients
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c skim milk
1 large zucchini (about 10 ounces)
1 c spelt flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c sugar
1 t baking powder
3/4 t kosher salt
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 c medium-grind cornmeal

instructions
Position a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350 F. Spray or butter a bread pan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until butter solids at bottom of pan turn golden brown, about 3 minutes. Scrape butter into a medium bowl. Set aside and let cool. Whisk in eggs and milk.

Peel and coarsely grate zucchini. Add to bowl with butter mixture and stir until well blended.

Whisk together both flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl. Whisk in cornmeal. Add zucchini mixture; fold just to blend (mixture will be very thick). Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake bread until golden and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 55 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan; let cool completely on a wire rack. For best flavor, make a day in advance.

Finally, I Bathed in Buttermilk

There was a moment in time, not too long ago actually, that I could not for the life of me get the thought of a juicy, gnarly-shapen heirloom tomato out of my head. I imagined them, bursting with seeds and almost tie-dyed in their outward appearance, in a number of iterations, but at the time the markets were instead selling peaches and strawberries and maybe some squash by the bushels. A couple of tomatoes sat sadly on the corner of one table, and all the while I thought I’d be none the wiser if I just nudged them onto the ground and walked away, because I was damn tired of being taunted.

I don’t like being taunted.

Let there be no doubt – peaches, strawberries, and squash are lovely in their own right, but a tomato is what I craved. And then I missed a couple of Sundays at the market, probably the same weekends the troves of ‘maters made their awaited debut. All the while, I resorted to the canned version and made a tomato-semolina soup (okay, but not earth-shattering) and a roasted tomato and red pepper soup (totally earth-shattering, so stay tuned for this post). Then, I got some decent fresh tomatoes and made a panzanella salad with quinoa, but the quinoa was undercooked, which I’ve never done before (overcooking quinoa is my strong suit), so this merits a re-make.

To make a long story that shouldn’t be long short, I finally got what I’d really been craving and I scored those tomatoes. Then I had my way with them.

Now, some of you may say something like this when you realize I slathered them in buttermilk dressing: “wow. that’s a lot of dressing there, girlfriend. you know, you really don’t neeeeeed to put anything on a perfect heirloom tomato. it takes away from the flavor of the tomato, which should be left as is.”. This is just being way too judgmental. You should get with the program :). Others may say something like this: “damn. that’s a good lookin’ salad. not the first thing that came to mind for fresh tomatoes, but it’s worth a try.”. I’d say you’re on to something, and I like that you’re open-minded. And then there’s the rest of you, who’d say: “by golly I love me some buttermilk dressing, and I’m ’bout to tear this salad DOWN! then!, I’m going to drink the rest of the dressing and rub it all over my body.”. That’s what I’m talking about. Full of enthusiasm! I heart you.

Okay, so maybe you won’t bathe in it, but you’ll sure as hell want to. Of course, only if your thoughts are in line with the last group, and maybe the second. I’m totally in the last group, but generally I don’t like a lot of stuff on my ‘maters either, so I sorta blend into the second. And to be truthful, I normally don’t bathe in my food, but I made an exception.

What can I say? In-season, heirloom tomatoes have that effect on me.

Heirloom Tomato Salad w/ Buttermilk Dressing
Adapted from Bon Appetit, September 2010; serves 4 

okay. one thing I will say about this salad, aside from the fact that I adored it, is that the blue cheese can come or go. if you’re big in to blue cheese, you may like it. if you’re not, you may think it’s waaaaay too much. I like blue cheese, but I preferred the salad with just the dressing, and no cheese…

time commitment: 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
dressing
1/2 c mayonnaise
1/3 c buttermilk
2 T finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 T fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 T minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, minced
kosher salt and pepper

salad
3 slices of white bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (optional)
2 1/2 lbs heirloom tomatoes (various shapes and colors), cored, & cut into 3/4-inch-thick wedges (I used a pineapple corer but you could also just cut the core out with a knife)
1/2 c thinly sliced shallots
2 T evoo
1 T fresh lemon juice
kosher salt
1/2 c crumbled blue cheese (optional)
2 green onions, thinly sliced diagonally
2 T fresh Italian parsley leaves

instructions
Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk first 6 ingredients in small bowl. Season dressing with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.

Toss bread cubes onto a baking sheet and bake for ~10 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Place tomatoes and shallots in large bowl. Add oil and lemon juice; sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper and toss. Divide among 4 plates. Drizzle with dressing. Sprinkle with blue cheese, if using, as well as green onions, and parsley. If you want a crunch to your salad, divide the croutons among the 4 plates (for leftovers, keep the croutons separate from the salad until eating.).

We Go Together

Some things are meant to go together. It’s easy like that.

It’s like a game when someone says one word, and then you say the first word that comes to mind upon hearing that word – you know, the natural or most logical answer. Like if I said “dog” you’d perhaps say “bark” or “cat”. Or if I said “cotton”, you might say “candy” or “ball”. You get the jist, no?

Movies?

Popcorn. You can’t go to a movie without seeing a ton of folk noshing on butter-laden bags of it, right? It just makes sense. For us though, movies = hot tamales snuck in from Walgreens. Popcorn is a splurge

Peanut butter?

Jelly or bananas. I used to think only jelly went with peanut butter, but I eventually saw the light, and I’d take a PB&B sandwich any day. And PB&J is a lovely standby, so long as there’s no seeds in my J. Credit would also be given to the word cookie, because peanut butter cookies are dynamite.

Red wine?

Any red meat. This is a total no-brainer. Please don’t drink Chardonnay with your steak. Thank you. I’ll also accept any red varietal for credit here, if you must know.

Milk?

Cookies. I mean, duh. Except if you’re lactose-intolerant, then I’d suggest almond milk instead. Extra-tasty, indeed.

Scallions?

Cilantro. And sesame seeds, and bread. Oh, and yeast. Holy moly. If there was ever something you should make in double quantity, it’s this bread. You’d be sorely regretful otherwise – I ain’t playin’.

But for serious – these ingredients are like a mixture of everything lovely. A crunch here, a chew there, you’d have a hard time eating just one roll, which is why you’d be smart to double every last one of these ingredients. Why, you could even freeze the rolls before baking, and bake off one by one alongside dinner, if you prefer. Extra credit goes to those who do so, in my book.

Cilantro-Scallion Bread
From Bon Appetit, July 2011; makes 12 rolls

time commitment: ~2 hours (half active, half letting dough rise and rolls bake)

printable version

ingredients
2 t active dry yeast
2 t Kosher salt, divided
2 t sugar, divided
1 3/4 c plus 3 T all-purpose flour
4 T unsalted butter, chilled, cubed
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
1 1/4 c coarsely chopped scallions
1/2 c coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 c sesame seeds
1 T black sesame seeds
3 T olive oil plus more for bowl and brushing

instructions
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour 1/2 c warm water into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar over; let stand until mixture bubbles, about 10 minutes. (if yeast doesn’t bubble, it might be dead, so start over with new yeast.)

Place flour, butter, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1 teaspoon sugar in bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached. Rub in butter with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Beat in egg, yolk, and yeast mixture, scraping down sides. (you can also do this without a stand mixer – just combine ingredients together with an electric mixer or spoon.)

Knead on medium speed until dough is soft and smooth, about 5 minutes (or do this by hand until soft and springy). Form dough into a ball; transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (If you’re preparing this for baking the following day, you can put it in the fridge at this point; the dough will still rise very slowly, and you’ll want to remove the dough and let it get to room temperature before moving to the next step.)

Meanwhile, coursely chop scallions and cilantro. Transfer to a medium bowl; stir in all sesame seeds and 3 T oil and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll dough into a 18×9″ rectangle. Spoon scallion mixture evenly onto center and spread mixture to corners of dough. Working from one short edge, roll dough rectangle into a cylinder. Cut cylinder into 12 dough swirls (~3/4″ each), trimming off the two ends. Transfer dough swirls to prepared baking sheet; brush with oil. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

In Moderation

Let me just tell you how outta freaking shape I feel these days. (Yes, we will wrap ice cream into this conversation. Watch and learn, children.) Okay, for realz – how outta freaking shape I am. Let’s be honest. It ain’t pretty.

Sure, my clothes are all the same size; they more or less fit the same as they have for oh, 4 years now. But that’s not the point. There seems to be a lot more wiggle in my jiggle, if you catch my drift. I’d like to blame my love for food, or maybe this blog, or maybe Chicago and San Francisco, or my genes (which that one, that one is a good one – have you seen the hips and thighs of my Southern aunts?!). But at the end of the day, it’s really all because I am a loud and proud, lifetime member of the “clean plate club”. Shoot, I should have a medal for it, or a fake wood plaque, or something.

Yes, I know – you could easily skim through the recipe page and point out quite a few items that would lead to jiggle-y-ness even if eaten in small quantities. I like to indulge. But I also hate the sheer thought of a diet. Sure, they work in the short term, I’m aware of that. But the difficulty is that, after the diet is over, the dieter slowly starts incorporating all of those foods that were off-limits during ‘diet phase’, and then slowly the curves start to reappear.

The key, friends, is everything in moderation. It sounds awesome, but I seem to have forgotten how that works. In an effort to figure it out again, I made ice cream.

Chocolate ice cream. With caramel swirled into it. Don’t get me wrong, I could eat the whole pint if I really put my mind to it, and that’s an exaggeration, because I’m sure I could roll outta bed in a full-on daze and eat a pint of this ice cream. But get this – you definitely don’t need to.

I first noticed this recipe on Tara’s site, and then I quickly realized that I’d already finished that particular episode of Bon Appetit from whence this recipe was made, and so I ran to the toilet (ahem. there is a magazine rack there where we keep old food magazines, and Mens’ Healths, thank you very much.), grabbed the last BA, and hunted down the recipe that I must have totally ignored previously.

Then it sat on the table for a few days, and it’s safe to say I walked past it at least a dozen times, cursing the words chocolate and ice and cream and then I read it even closer and saw that there was caramel involved and finally, at long last, I put this moderation idea to the test.

And just like Tara said, you’ll want to start this task immediately after reading here. You grab your ingredients from the fridge and pantry, because chances are you have them all on hand, or can easily procure them in a few moments. Then you walk, no run, to turn on some good ice cream-makin’ music (something with a lot of fist-pumping), and you plant your feet at the stovetop to get this project going.

Five days later, you remove your almost-but-not-quite-forgotten pint from the freezer, let it thaw for a good ten minutes, and scoop one mighty mound of decadence into a teeny tiny bowl. Because, believe me when I say so, I promise you that’s all you need. And with that, success in the form of ice cream. And moderation.

Chocolate Chocolate Ice Cream
Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2011; makes 1 pint

time commitment: 5 days, but 1 hour active

printable version

ingredients
7 ounces dark chocolate (70% to 75% cacao), finely chopped
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons 2% milk
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 large egg yolks
13 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

instructions
Place chocolate in a medium microwave-proof glass bowl. Microwave chocolate on 30 second intervals, stirring well after each time, for about 1.5 minutes, or until the chocolate is smooth. Sit aside.

Whisk milk and cocoa powder in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat until mixture begins to boil; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 7 tablespoons sugar in another medium bowl until very thick ribbons form, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add hot milk mixture to egg yolk mixture. Return mixture to saucepan. Add melted chocolate and whisk to blend. Stir over low heat until slightly thickened and an instant-read thermometer registers 175°, about 5 minutes. Transfer chocolate custard to a large bowl and place over another large bowl of ice water. Stir until chocolate custard is cool.

Bring remaining 6 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water to a boil in a small heavy, deep saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush (do not stir), until a dark amber color forms, about 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Whisk caramel into chocolate custard. Strain into a large container; cover and chill for 2 days.

Process custard in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to another container; freeze for 3 days before eating.