Mark Bittman’s Squid and Artichokes Braised in White Wine

7 03 2013

Predictably, the cusp of spring brings desire for both rebirth and new vegetables.

Mark Bittman's squid and artichokes braised in white wine

The rain doused me today. I think I needed it along with the city. The surprise snow last week was charming for an hour or two, but ultimately resulted in little more than frozen toes. March calls for proper rain.

I went out walking in it, south to the Mercadona I used to frequent my very first year in the city. Very first year. It’s suddenly long ago. The grunge and the gintonics and the wicked-witch-of-the-West nails, Hector and Marta, Emily, theme parties and walking back across the city incensed about the nature of love during the night’s smallest hours. Surely aggravating our unseen neighbors with joyful raucousness of all sorts, much stomping and wailing. Always meaning to try that Colombian place across the street. Wearing boots. Cooking my first octopus, deciding to stay.

It’s all still there, when I visit. All the chaotic love that I found in Madrid, me, for myself, despite/owing in part to The Brick getting lodged somewhere deep in my corpus callosum. You know, I don’t even think about it anymore. I’ve told that story so many times that it has ceased to have weight. I disagree, in the end – we can heal, and we do. We’ll never be the same, but who wants pepper-pots anyway?

Mark Bittman's squid and artichokes braised in white wine

I want to rededicate myself to the art of constantly learning. I’ve misplaced much of the curious drive that so propelled me that first year. It’s not a wish to regress, far from it; it’s a desire for much more movement. I read somewhere recently that we Americans mistake comfort for happiness, which rings terribly true.

And so, today: I decided to learn how to prep artichokes. I’ve done so before but never alone. The thistle bulb takes specific TLC before it’s ready to offer up its buttery secrets, and the specific names for its alien parts make the process feel all the more intimate.

Spoon out the choke. Savor the heart.

Mark Bittman’s Squid and Artichokes Braised in White Wine

1 lemon
4 large artichokes, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
2 anchovy fillets, chopped
2 medium-sie squid, bodies cut into rings
1/2 cup white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
Minced parsley to garnish

1. Prep the artichokes: squeeze the lemon into an awaiting bowl of water, and submerge the artichokes as you trim them so they resist oxidation. Cut them into quarters.

2. Heat 2 T EVOO, then add the garlic and anchovies. Cook a few minutes, breaking up the ‘chovies. Add the squid, artichokes, and wine. Stir and cover.

3. Uncover and stir the mixture every 5 minutes or so. Both elements should begin to tenderize around 20 minutes; at this point, remove the cover and let the liquid simmer off – should take about 15 minutes or so. Season with black pepper, salt if needed, and parsley. Serve.

Black Bread

14 10 2012

Black bread: not just an excuse to eat dill butter. In the process, you’ll also get to go ingredient questing (hint: Spicy Yuli carries caraway seeds, and the word you want is alcaravea), finally make use of that half-jar of molasses bequeathed to you over a year ago, experiment with overnight rising in the fridge, infuse every room in your house with the deep scent of rye, and MacGuyver yourself a cooling rack.

It’s also an excellent excuse to eat dill butter.

Black Bread
very slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks.

1 packet fresh yeast
1.5 c warm water
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons finely ground espresso
1/4 cup molasses
3 teaspoons caraway seeds, plus more for topping
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
~2 cups grated carrot (2 large)
1 1/3 cup rye flour
3+ cups all-purpose flour (or bread flour if you’ve got it), plus more for dusting

1. Dissolve the yeast with the warm water and sugar; set aside until proofed.

2. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the cocoa, coffee, molasses, caraway, butter, and salt. Stir constantly until just melted – make sure the mixture isn’t too hot when you add it to the yeast.

3. Combine the yeast mixture with the grated carrot and molasses mixture in a large mixing bowl.

4. Add the flours, and stir until you’ve got a soft, tacky, cohesive dough. I ended up needing quite a bit more flour than called for here, and just kept adding and kneading until everything came together into a reasonable, pliable dough.

5. Shape the dough into a ball, rub with a bit of olive oil, and place seam-side down into an oiled bowl. Cover and allow to rise until the dough increases in size by at least half – I did this overnight in the refrigerator, but you could certainly do it in much less time in a warmer spot.

6. When doubled, gently press the dough down to release the build-up of air. Turn the out a very lightly oiled baking sheet, coax into a circular shape, then cover loosely. Allow to rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, another hour.

7. Uncover, brush with water, and sprinkle with a dusting of flour and caraway seeds. Use a serrated knife to slash an ‘X’ deeply across the dough without deflating the loaf. Bake for 20 minutes at 425F/220C. Dial back the heat to 350F/180C, and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the loaf develops a structured, toasted-bottomed crust, and the loaf sounds a bit hollow when you knock on it.

8. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes on a rack – or chopsticks balanced on a plate – before slicing into and dousing in dill butter.

Make one extra-large loaf – or two smaller ones if you like. I liked. Don’t forget to bake them for less time.

Shaved Asparagus, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Fresh Ricotta Pizza

12 05 2012

Fresh ricotta is easy. Homemade pizza crust is easy. Deciding what to do with the sudden summer afternoons, made that much more languid when lunch is this simple, proves continually more difficult.

(if you’re me, the answer seems to be: go to neighborhood bar and blog. the windows are flung wide open and people seem in general stupefied by the heat; it is glorious.)

To be fair, the assembly today was streamlined by means of lovingly packaged leftovers from last night – but honestly, both of the time consuming elements here require very little hands-on prep work. The trickiest bit might have been shaving the asparagus stalks, which absolutely refuse to come out even. The choppy chaos ends up rather visually attractive in the end, though, and the snappiness left in some of the fatter slices provides pleasing textural crunch as a foil to the creamy pockets of lemony ricotta.

There’s also an intentional excess of minced garlic, a quick dash of red pepper flakes for soft heat, and the occasional sliver of salty sun-dried tomato from my prized jar of Cetara beauties. A proper dose of olive oil and black pepper ties everything together, and the wholesomeness of the whole wheat dough is balanced out by the playful interaction of fresh vegetable with cheese.

Helloooooo fledgling summer. I missed you so.

Fresh Homemade Ricotta
from smitten kitchen.

I changed the amounts based on what’s commonly available around Madrid. Basically you want to be adding lemon juice to near-boiling whole milk, with the option of adding in extra cream. The exact amounts don’t matter a great deal.

You should try your hand at making ricotta regardless of whether you put it on pizza. It’s sublime in salads, pasta dishes, spread on sandwiches, or alone on crusty bread sprinkled with sea salt and olive oil. Then there are all the sweet applications – in crepes with fruit and honey would be exceptional (raspberries, peaches…!).

1.5 L fresh whole milk
1 small box heavy cream (“nata para cocinar”) – optional according to Deb.
1/2 tsp salt
juice from 1-2 lemons (I used a whole one plus a half I had sitting around)

1. Bring milk, cream, and salt to just under a boil, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan.

2. Take off the heat and add lemon juice. Stir maybe once to incorporate, then let it rest for about five minutes.

3. Voila! The curd has separated from the whey*. Pour curds into awaiting strainer, lined with cheesecloth if you can find it, several layers of paper towels if you can’t. Sit strainer atop a bowl to catch whey drips.

4. It takes about two hours of draining to get to what I’d consider a properly thick consistency. At the end, I switched out the paper towels twice, which seemed to work a charm at drawing out final remnants of moisture.

5. Eat immediately, or store in airtight container in the fridge for a few days. I stirred grated lemon zest into mine.

*WHEY NOTE: That liquid is nutritious! In essence, it’s the isolated milk proteins, and is absolutely lovely for cooking pastas, using in place of water for baking, or even throwing into smoothies if that’s your bag. I used part of mine for the pizza dough.

Couldn’t Be Easier Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
from eat make read.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour (you can also use just all purpose flour if you like)
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of sea salt
1 packet dry yeast/1 cube fresh yeast
2/3 cup lukewarm water – or fresh whey, if you’ve got it at hand!

1. Whisk the yeast into the water/whey and let proof until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, combine flour, olive oil and salt in a large bowl.

3. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and stir until combined – get your hands in there in the end and knead the dough until nicely homogenous.

4. When the dough is beautiful and smooth, take out of bowl and pour a small amount of olive oil in the bowl. Put the dough back in the bowl, then flip it to coat both sides. Place a towel/plastic wrap over the bowl and let dough rise, about 30-45 minutes. If you feel like it and have the time, punch it down and let it rise a second time – why not?

5. Preheat oven to super-duper hot – as hot as it will go, which on mine is 270C.

6. Roll out dough very thin on parchment paper – which I found will make two quite large pizzas. Reserve half for tomorrow in a ziploc in the fridge, if you like.

7. Pop dough in oven for 5-10 minutes, enough to develop a nice crustiness to it. It might puff up in the center, which looks funky but is easy to puncture and flatten.

8. Take crust out of oven and attractively arrange your toppings – which I’d recommend going light on, this ain’t no Chicago deep-dish – then let cook at slightly lower heat for a few minutes more, depending on what you’ve added and your personal taste. The asparagus/ricotta needs maybe five minutes to coalesce.

Shaved Asparagus, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Fresh Ricotta Pizza

1 pizza crust

1/2 bunch asparagus
4 sun-dried tomatoes, either packed in olive oil or reconstituted, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
dash red pepper flakes
piquant black pepper
good glug extra virgin olive oil

1/4 c fresh ricotta
crunchy sea salt

1. Shave asparagus with vegetable peeler. Don’t worry if it comes out uneven (it will). Toss with tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, black pepper, olive oil to coat.

2. Arrange atop partially baked pizza crust. Daub with ricotta, sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Bake at perhaps 170C for perhaps 5 minutes – keep an eye on it, you want just the tips of the asparagus and the crests of the ricotta to brown.

3. Munch, maybe with a glass of chilled rosé.

Alice Mendrich’s Lime-in-the-Coconut Macaroons

2 05 2012

Coconut snubbers – get out now.

I thought I hated macaroons too, I truly did. Gooey little processed sugarpiles with sticky bits that inevitably get lodged in your palate, only to be unearthed by nothing short of archeological excavation hours later.

If you couldn’t tell already by the crispy punk rock style of Alice Medrich’s version, these puppies have zero in common with those bland saccharine nightmares.

Instead of the cloying shredded fluff called for in most recipes, here you use coconut flakes – unsweetened! – then heat them over a double boiler mixed with classic egg whites, a touch of sugar, and a few drops of vanilla. They take a siesta for half an hour, the better to absorb the slowly hydrating egg. A heap of lime zest rounds out the dough, which is piled into attractive little spike-bundles and dusted with cinnamon, then briefly singed at high heat followed by coalescing under lower intensity.

They’re light, miniature piña coladas. They’re lime-in-the-coconut buttercrisps. They’re gluten-free. They will disappear within 24 hours.

Alice Mendrich’s Lime-in-the-Coconut Macaroons
from food52’s take on Alice Mendrich’s recipe.

4 large egg whites
3 1/2 cups unsweetened dried flaked, not shredded, coconut (also apparently known as coconut chips?)
3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest from 1 lime
cinnamon for dusting

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large heatproof mixing bowl, preferably stainless steel because the mixture will heat faster than in glass. Set the bowl directly in a wide skillet of barely simmering water (if your bowl bobs in the water, simply pour some out). Stir the mixture with a silicone spatula, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, until the mixture is very hot to the touch and the egg whites have thickened slightly and turned from translucent to opaque, 5 to 7 minutes. Set the batter aside for 30 minutes to let the coconut absorb more of the goop.

2. Stir grated lime zest into batter.

3. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350F/170C. Using approximately 2 tablespoons of batter, make attractive heaps 2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheets. Dust dough with cinnamon. Bake for about 5 minutes, just until the coconut tips begin to color, rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.

4. Lower the temperature to 325F/160C and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are a beautiful cream and gold with deeper brown edges, again rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time. If the coconut tips are browning too fast, lower the heat to 300F/150C. Set just the liners on racks to cool. Let cool completely before gently peeling the parchment away from each cookie.

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

22 04 2012

All that glitters golden and chocolate-studded is worth the wait – specifically, because the agonizing hours in the fridge are what allow the gelatinous eggs the time they need to deeply hydrate the pair of flours in this perfectly balanced cookie dough.

The scatters of crunchy salt crystals coax the palate wide, allowing the consummate toasty butter nuttiness to stop time dead in its tracks. Creamy dark chocolate serves as bitter foil.

These are Cookies. Enjoy them with Milk.

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies
barely adapted at all from the NYT.

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons/8.5 ounces/240 g cake flour
1 2/3 cups/8.5 ounces/240 g bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/4 cups/283.5 g unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups/10 ounces/283.5 g light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons/8 ounces/225 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
2 bars dark or bittersweet chocolate, broken up into bits, perhaps with a hammer
Sea salt

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes with an electic mixer, or with a fork until your hand feels like it’s about to fall off in protest.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

4. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Incorporate chocolate. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for at least 24 hours (NYT claims 36 is optimal). Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day.

I froze half my dough; results pending experimentation.