Perhaps it Was Fate

January 11, 2009

biscuits

I didn’t expect to check one of the New Orleans-inspired recipes off my To Make List this soon. For the biscuits, in particular, I thought I’d be searching for the perfect recipe for weeks. And, frankly, I was kind of looking forward to the buttery, flaky auditions. But they won’t be necessary: this recipe is a clear winner.

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As I mentioned last week, one of the first things Kevin and I ate in New Orleans was a big, hot biscuit, served with a foil-wrapped pat of butter at Mother’s. And it was perfect—dunked in my gumbo or standing alone. None of the other biscuits we ate during the trip quite lived up and I was doubtful that I could find a recipe to stand up to the Mother’s memory in my own kitchen.

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Creature of Habit

October 10, 2008

I am an unabashed creature of habit. I’ve enjoyed routine—its dependableness, its ease, its comfort—since I was very young. Let’s just say that I’ve been picking out the next day’s outfit before I go to bed since my bedtime was somewhere in the neighborhood of 8:00 p.m. Oh, and that’s another thing: I firmly subscribe to a bed time. Ten-thirty every school (er, work) day. (Wow, I’m making myself sound like a barrel of laughs here, eh?)  So, as I’ve started to settle into a routine with my new job (a new gym time in the morning; a new spot to stop for a cup of coffee; a new el station), I can feel myself relaxing even as my workload and responsibilities increase.


Given this proclivity, I suppose its no great surprise that this blog has developed its own steady cadence: I post and comment at the same time of day, I upload photos to Flickr about 24 hours in advance, I lay out each post in almost the exact same format. And, even though I hadn’t planned it this way, it turns out that my Friday posts since I’ve started working have fallen into a pattern of their own.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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Whole Grain Focaccia

April 4, 2008

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Well, it’s finally happened. It was inevitable. I hit a wall in my increasingly-unreasonable quest to bake all things carb-centric with whole grains. I’m sure my canister of all-purpose flour is smirking now or perhaps even laughing at me, from its back corner of the cupboard, where it languishes behind the canisters of whole-wheat flour (pastry and regular and white whole wheat), cornmeal, bran flour, old-fashioned oats, flaxseed meal, and … well, you get the picture.

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As this site’s recipe index makes clear, I’ve ventured into loafs, rolls, biscuits, muffins, pancakes, pitas and, most recently, bagels—all in at least partially whole grain form. And, while the recipes haven’t appeared on this site (yet!), I’ve also dabbled in cookies and pastry crusts and pizza dough using whole grains as well. And, if I’m honest with myself, I knew that there would be a point when I would come up against a bread/baked good that was staunchly opposed to whole grains. Turns out, I was right. The focaccia you see here—based on Whole Foods’ Whole Grain Focaccia recipe—finally felled me.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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Bagels!

April 3, 2008

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Among my desires to make my own foodstuffs that are readily available at bakeries, markets and the like, making my own bagels might seem like it would rank high on the unreasonable-meter. But, I actually have a very good reason for making these bagels from scratch (which was incredibly fun and surprisingly easy, but more on that later). The reason is essentially this: I like to have my cake and eat it too. You see, my favorite bagel topping is sesame seeds. As in, I prefer every square inch of my bagels to be covered in the crunchy seeds. But, I rarely eat non-whole grain breads. So, every time I step up to the counter at the bagel shop, I’m faced with a terrible choice: opt for my favorite topping and forsake my flour of choice (whole wheat), or vice versa.

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Clearly, this was a travesty that needed remedying. So, I set out to find a whole wheat bagel recipe, fully intending to absolutely smother the bagels with whatever toppings I so chose. In my bagel recipe search, I saw many that came from big names in the bread-baking world (Peter Reinhart, Nancy Silverton, Rose Levy Beranbaum). Sadly, I didn’t see any whole wheat recipes. Feeling like I was back at the aforementioned bagel counter all over again, I resolved to dig deeper.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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Oatmeal Wheat Bread

March 7, 2008

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I guess you could say I’ve been rolling in the dough this week. Between the pitas I made last weekend and this gorgeous loaf, I seem to be on yet another bread baking bender. I’ve been proofing, kneading and, um, carb loading. And, meanwhile, the no-knead recipe on my to do list still languishes. Soon, soon. I swear.

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It was (finally) Kevin’s pick for this week’s Family Dinner menu. He requested BLTs, which, of course, don’t involve all that much cooking. Given the chance that I’m busy studying for an ethics exam right now, one might guess that I’d relish the thought of a night with so little cooking. And, one would be wrong. What did I go and do? First, because the tomatoes are oh-so-woeful right now, I decided to roast roma tomatoes in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, rendering what could’ve been bland, mealy rounds of tomatoes into savory, soft, slightly charred wedges. Then, I decided we should have homemade bread too.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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Whole Wheat Pita Bread

March 3, 2008

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I tinkered with the idea of doing a post today about Pulaski Day, a wholly Chicago holiday. All my friends from college who grew up in Chicago used to talk wistfully of the holiday. For one reason: growing up, this holiday awarded them with a day off from school. Apparently, schools have scaled back on that perk, but it’s still a government holiday. In honor of Casimir’s big day, I considered making Polish specialties like stuffed cabbage or pierogi. But, instead of making either of those two stuffed dishes, I made something decidedly unstuffed instead. I baked pita bread, known, of course, for it’s vacuous middle.

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So, today it’s going to be less Pulaski and more pita. And, about baking pita bread, can I just say: cool. The whole process is not unlike baking any old loaf of bread. You proof the yeast, you let the dough rise, you knead. But, instead of a dense, solid loaf, you end up with puffed rounds. You place full moons of two-dimensional dough on your oven rack and, presto, you open the door a mere three (!) minutes later to find swollen, entirely three-dimensional breads. It’s as though little elves have injected each round with a poof of hot air.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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Recipe for Relaxation

December 15, 2007

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I’m in the middle of law school final exams.  My second-to-last set of final exams (I graduate in the spring) ever.  With a final on Thursday night and Friday morning of last week, our kitchen didn’t see a whole lot of action.  Add in a holiday party here and a night of running errands there, and the kitchen was downright neglected this week.

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So, when my final was over yesterday morning, I did the only natural thing.  No, I did not head straight to a bar, to bed or back to the books, like most law students would do.  Rather, I headed into the neglected kitchen.  I was greeted by some pretty meager refrigerator contents and an intense urge to create something.  The leftover chicken carcass from our Hanukkah dinner and some veggies that were just this side of being tossed in the garbage spoke to me: chicken stock.

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It was the perfect way to ease out of an intense week of studying and into the weekend (which, of course will contain more studying, but still — it’s the weekend).   I’ve skimmed enough recipes in the past to get the gist of making chicken stock—throw veggies (usually carrots and onions, but leeks, celery or parsnips can’t hurt), herbs (thyme, bay leaves, etc) and some seasoning (I always roll my eyes at the recipes that call for “20 black peppercorns”) into a gigantic pot with a chicken carcass or parts.  Fill the pot with enough water to cover the contents and set it a-simmering for four hours.  In less than a half an hour, I had put the kitchen back to use and had the house smelling savory and delicious.  Then, it was back to the books.

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