Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Back in action!

Hello! I am back to blogging again after a much too long hiatus. The new blog can be found at: 

See you there!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Flour Cafe & Bakery Cookbook

As soon as I first read that Joanne Chang, creator several award-winning establishments including the famed bakery Flour, I immediately pre-ordered it on Amazon. (Incidentally, on her website, Giada de Laurentiis mentions Flour under her "Favorite Boston Eateries"!) So when the heavy cookbook arrived I poured through it, noticing that recipes for virtually the entire bakery are included. Everything from the sweet to the savory are represented in this 320 page bible. Each recipe is prefaced with some background, a recipe "Forward" of sorts. Joanne chronicles what episodes in her life contributed to the shaping of each recipe. And, it's quite endearing and classic with unique twists. Writing this book mush have been somewhat like what an autobiographer experiences as he or she delves back into the past. The cookbook is easy to follow and indexed well. The first recipe I made were the chocolate chunk cookies, which are flat, but extremely flavorful: just like the ones in the bakery. I notice that in many of her recipes, the common denominator is taking the time to really ship together the butter and sugar. Using a stand mixer, usually the cookie recipes require 5 minutes to mix these ingredients (hand mixers take 8 or so minutes). There must be some truth to this, because after the alloted time, the butter/sugar mixture was much, much frothier and just overall better looking than in my previous batters. She details each numbered step, but not as to insult your intelligence. 

So, last week I was fortunate enough to read that she was appearing at the Crate and Barrel here in Boston. I took my book to be signed, of course! She was so approachable and thankful of all of the popularity the book had received. I could tell that it was really a labor of love - as are all of her 4 food establishments. In addition to bringing samples of Flour goodies, she led a demonstration of how to make a perfect pate sucree, pastry dough which serves as the basis for many recipes, from pie dough to shortbread. She gave a charming talk as she demonstrated each step. If you are a baker, Bostonian, a pastry lover, or anything in between, you will appreciate this thoughtful and impressive collection of recipes created by the brilliant mind behind the Flour Bakery. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Braised Chicken Breasts with Fall Medley...

I came across this recipe in the Sunday Boston Globe's Magazine. The beautiful photography featuring fall's finest colors, flanking perfectly braised chicken breasts left me reaching for the scissors to cut out the recipe. Although the recipe featured celery root, or celeriac, as the main ingredient, I had parsnips waiting to be used, so I concluded that they would be a  fitting substitute. Parsnips, like celeriac, is a creamy starchy fall vegetable that has a unique velvety flavor. And don't be fooled by the white color: that white pigment means big time antioxidants, called anthoxanthins. These antioxidant compounds found in creamy-white colored vegetables are in the flavonoid family (like dark chocolate and red wine), and have potential anti-cancer links. Even more, parsnips, like potatoes, are rich in vitamin C, another antioxidant. So they are a win-win! They can be substituted wherever a starchy vegetable is used, like carrots or potatoes, or enhance a fall dish like this one. 

Braised Chicken 

(adapted from Boston Globe Magazine, "Warm Up to Celery Root", 11/7/2010)

Serves 4

1-2 pounds chicken boneless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound 2- to 3-inch diameter red potatoes, halved
3 medium onions, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup vermouth
½ cup chicken broth
4 parsnips, pealed and cut into chunks
1½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or thyme

Sprinkle chicken liberally with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Place chicken pieces in pot skin side down (do not crowd – brown in batches, if necessary) and cook, without moving, until the golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces and cook, again without moving, until second side is golden brown, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a plate. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin.
Return the pan to the burner, adjust the heat to medium, add the potatoes cut side down, and cook, without moving, until the cut sides are browned, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, onions and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 40 seconds. Add the vermouth and bring to a strong simmer, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to dissolve the brown bits. Add the broth, parsnips, and chicken with accumulated juices, cover, adjust heat to medium-high, return to a simmer, and cook, adjusting heat if necessary to maintain simmer, until the chicken is cooked through, about 16 minutes.

Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover loosely to keep warm. Adjust heat to medium-high and boil the liquid until reduced by about half, about 2 minutes. Adjust the heat to low, add the lemon juice and butter, and stir constantly to incorporate it into the sauce. Stir in most of the parsley. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste, spoon the sauce over the chicken and vegetables, sprinkle with the remaining parsley, and serve at once.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Grass-Fed Beef Chili

Whole Foods had grass-fed beef on sale this week, so I eagerly brought it home with the intent on making chili. Notice how bright red the meat is? Compare this to conventional meat from who knows where in most grocery stores. While I don't buy into the "organic" argument 100%, I do respect the meat issue. Not all meat is created equal, and I take consideration when buying any beef or poultry. And, when most meat in the supermarkets is corn-fed, it's hard to navigate the meat department and choose healthful options. I recently learned in my Food Science course that grass-fed beef is actually tougher then grain-fed beef.  Don't ask me the particulars, but it's true. So, anyways, I was anxious to see how this lean ground grass-fed beef would taste. While any lean beef, 90% lean or more, has somewhat of a "tougher" texture (due to the lack of fat to soften it). I made my chili without a recipe, just adding the appropriate amount of spices, carrots, celery, garlic, onions, kidney and white beans and tomatoes. The meat browned right up in the Dutch Oven and went from the bright red to a nice caramelized brown color. The meat wasn't tough, due to the low simmer it received on the stove top. By cooking it slower and longer, meat can really develop flavors from the cooking liquid. It's a healthful, nutrient-rich meal and I feel better about eating meat from cows that ate grass, not corn! I highly recommend it!

Look how red it is!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cash or Card?

$ometimes research is published that truly affects everyone. Findings from a collaborative study by Cornell and Binghamton University researchers show that people who purchase groceries/foods using cash, actually make more nutritional purchases. One thousand people's purhases were tracked over 6 months. The larger "spends" involved plastic debit or credit cards. That is, the cost of cookies, cakes, and so-deemed "junk food" can easily make their way into your card (and bill) because you don't realize how much you're actually spending when you slide the plastic card. Paying with cash is simply more candid: you see the bills handed over for items in your cart, and each item's cost seems all that more important. Bottom line? Cash is impulse control's WORST enemy. You may think twice about the extraneous foodstuff that wasn't on your list, but somehow found it's way into your cart. So buyer, beware!