Wednesday, March 31, 2010

IGA Item of the Week: Passover Edition

Because I have been so involved in monitoring the ebb and flow of water in my basement, I nearly forgot the holiday. But these delicious handmade rosemary matzohs stocked at the IGA reminded me that Passover started on March 30th and continues through April 6.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Thank You, Plumbers!

Thank you, nice plumbers from Okey, for coming over twice today to get rid of the water in my basement. When you return for your pump I will have to remember to give you some of my peanut-and-popcorn fudge. Here is the recipe:

Crackerjack Fudge
Makes more than you will want to eat, so give some to a friend

I made this fudge while watching the water recede in my basement. Both activities cheered me up on a gloomy day.

16 oz. best-quality bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao from the IGA), finely chopped
One 7-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup salted dry roasted peanuts
1 cup unsalted, unbuttered popcorn
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with heavy duty foil, making sure the foil is tucked into all corners and there is at least 1 inch overhanging the sides.
2. Bring 2 inches of water to a bare simmer in a medium-size saucepan or double boiler. CCombine the chocolate, condensed milk, and butter in a bowl big enough to fit on top of the pan or in the top of the double boiler and set it over the pan, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Heat, whisking occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are just melted but still a little lumpy. Do not over heat.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the peanuts, popcorn, and vanilla. Scrape the fudge into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Refrigerate until firm, 2 to 3 hours, then cut into small squares. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container, for up to 1 week.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Today's Lunch

Our birthday celebration is winding down. After New York Cheesecake for dessert last night and breakfast this morning, I took some leftover mashed potatoes, coated them in egg and panko bread crumbs, and fried them in olive oil for lunch. (Our penance: whole wheat pasta with broccoli and chickpeas for dinner.) Here is the recipe:

Mashed Potato Croquettes
Serves 2

1 1/2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup (or more) olive oil

1. Form the potatoes into 4 equal-size patties. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the eggs and bread crumbs in separate shallow bowls. Dip the patties into the egg, and then coat with the panko.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the patties, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes total. Serve immediately.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Place de Fetes

On my way to the IGA for some milk and paper towels, I stopped at the Romany Kramoris Gallery to see what was in the $1 postcard bin. I came away with a bunch of these Paris Metro cards, which I thought would make nice party invitations. I guess I'll have to have a party soon!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Birthday Cupcakes

Here are my chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and shimmering golden sugar from Williams-Sonoma. Happy birthday to everyone celebrating this weekend.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tonight's Dinner

I am so excited about tonight's dinner that I'm going to write about it before I even eat it! Yesterday I read about an interesting method for brining dried beans, so they cook up creamy and tender but intact, so last night I put these Rancho Gordo Good Mother Stollard beans (mail-ordered and gifted by a generous friend and neighbor with good taste) in a bowl of salted water and today I cooked them, Tuscan-style in a Dutch oven with some sage and a head of garlic. Then I went and bought myself this highly recommended bottle of extra-virgin olive oil at Cavaniola's (89 Division Street, 725-0095) to drizzle over my beans, and a Blue Duck Pugliese bread from the IGA, to scoop them up. Now I'm just watching the clock.

Here is the recipe:

Tuscan-Style Beans
Serves 8

Table salt
2 cups dried beans (white are traditional)
2 sprigs fresh sage leaves
1 bay leaf
1 head of garlic
Fine sea salt
Ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

1. Dissolve 3 tablespoons of salt in 4 quarts of cold water in a large bowl. Add the beans and let them stand for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
2. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Combine the rinsed beans, sage, bay leaf, whole head of garlic, and 10 cups of fresh water in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer over high heat, cover the pot, and transfer it to the oven. Cook until the beans are tender, 1 to 2 hours depending on how fresh they are.
3. Drain almost all of the cooking liquid form the beans and season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Spoon portions into bowls, drizzle with your best olive oil, and serve.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Whale Week?

Whale images are popping up in the internet like crocuses around town. I was planning on pointing you to my favorite Greek Salad recipe today, but then I saw this tea towel here. To purchase, go here. Tomorrow: Greek Salad.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

IGA Item of the Week

The IGA's display of Springy Dutch Petals bouquets just brightened up my rainy day.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shimmering Sanding Sugar

I was tempted this afternoon by these jars of sanding sugar at Williams-Sonoma in Bridgehampton. The gold sugar will decorate birthday cupcakes for my daughter next week. Today, I made these Cherry-Vanilla Biscotti and sprinkled them with the white sugar, which gave the cookies a sparkling and deliciously crunchy crust. Here's the recipe:

Cherry Vanilla Biscotti
Makes 48 cookies

3/4 cup pecan halves
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup coarse white sanding sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool, and then coarsely chop. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add 2 of the whole eggs, the egg yolks, and the vanilla and mix until a dough forms. Mix in the chopped pecans and cherries.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, divide into two equal pieces, and shape each piece into a flat log about 18 inches long and 2 inches wide. Place the logs on the parchment-lined baking sheet, at least 3 inches apart.
4. Beat the remaining whole egg and brush it over the dough. Sprinkle with the sanding sugar. Bake until the logs are firm to the touch, about 35 minutes.
5. Let the logs cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, transfer to a cutting board, and cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Lay the slices on their sides back on the parchment-lined baking sheet and return to the oven to crisp up, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Shopping for Belts Revives Identity Crisis

The arrival of Spring, and a message from L.L. Bean in my inbox, got me thinking that I needed one of their whale belts. But before I bought it, I thought I'd look around for others, and turned up this resin and and gold leaf buckle with belt. Which just made me wonder, "Who am I?" I think I might be the person who has two whale belts.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

IGA Item of the Week

I bought my corned beef yesterday at Schiavoni's, where they had several choices. My husband likes the point cut because it has more fat; I like the flat cut because it has less fat. Since I was doing the shopping, you know what we'll be eating tonight. (Just updated to include a photo of my complete dinner!) Here is how I'm going to cook it:

Corned Beef
Serves 6

Since I don't love vegetables boiled in greasy meat broth, I'm going to brush wedges of cabbage and lengths of carrots with olive oil, sprinkle them with salt, and roast them in a 400 degree oven until they're tender, to serve on the side.

1 corned beef brisket, 4 to 5 pounds
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 yellow onion
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1. Trim the corned beef of visible fat, rinse thoroughly under cold water, and pat dry. Cut small slits in the meat with a sharp paring knife and insert a garlic sliver into each slit.
2. Place the corned beef in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cover by 1 inch with cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 to 7 minutes, skimming off the gray foam that forms on the surface.
3. Stick the yellow onion with the cloves and add it to the pot along with the fennel seeds. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the meat feels tender when the thickest part is pierced with a skewer, 2 to 3 hours.
4. Transfer the meat to a cutting board, cover with foil, and let stand 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blogging Pays Off Big Time

Several people wrote to me yesterday afternoon, saying that they had also purchased these cookies at the Pierson bake sale and enjoyed them very much. And several people wrote, saying they bitterly regretted missing out. We are all in luck, because Mimi Yardley has agreed to share her superb recipe. Thank you! Here it is:

Butterscotch Raspberry Linzer Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
Seedless raspberry preserves
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cream together butter, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar in a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer.
3. Microwave the butterscotch chips in a microwave until just melted, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, stirring them until smooth. Stir the melted chips into the butter mixture and beat until light and fluffy.
4. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the egg and vanilla. Beat in the flour on low until a dough forms.
5. Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece of the dough to a 1/8-inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter (any shape you like) to cut out the cookies. Don't forget to cut centers out of half of them. Transfer the cut cookies to ungreased baking sheets and bake until the edges are lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough, re-rolling the scraps.
6. Once the cookies are cooled, dust the cut-out top cookies heavily with confectioners' sugar. Spread a thin layer of raspberry preserves on the bottom cookies. Sandwich the bottoms with the tops. Yum!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pictures From a Bake Sale

The Pierson 8th graders were having a bake sale in the gym lobby today to raise money for their upcoming trip to Washington D.C., as parents attended parent/teacher conferences. I was having a difficult time making my choice, until I saw these Linzer cookies, donated by a child whose mother is well-known around town as a talented baker. Talking to so many dedicated teachers about my daughter's progress was made even more pleasurable by the prospect of eating my cookie when I got home.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

IGA Item of the Week

Earlier in the week, someone asked me for a simple cucumber and yogurt recipe, to serve alongside grilled salmon. I've made this kind of thing in the past, and it's always gotten soggy pretty quickly. So I took care to seed the cucumbers. I didn't add any salt until 7:15, my younger daughter's estimated arrival home from SCMEA band practice in Port Jefferson. As it turned out, however, her bus was almost an hour late. I was afraid the salad would be weeping (I know I almost was, since I'm not used to eating that late) by the time she sat down to dinner, but it was beautifully creamy with no separation. I give credit to the thick and delicious Greek yogurt I bought at the IGA. Here is the recipe:

Cucumber and Yogurt Salad
Serves 4

We ate this last night with salmon fillets from The Seafood Shop in Wainscott, but it would be just as good with loin lamb chops from the IGA.

2 cucumbers, peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon or more finely chopped fresh dill
Ground black pepper

Combine the cucumbers, yogurt, garlic, and dill in a bowl and toss to coat. Refrigerate for up to 3 hours and (just to be on the safe side) season with salt and pepper just before serving.

Friday, March 12, 2010

This is How You Publicize a Cookbook

Some persuasive second graders took the floor at Morning Program today, plugging the cookbook they wrote and published, with proceeds to go to the Sag Harbor Food Pantry. Before their presentation was over, I ran to the front desk of the Elementary School and bought a copy, which is well worth the $15 cover price for Cavaniola's Truffled Macaroni and Cheese Recipe alone. Books are available at the Elementary School (68 Hampton Street, 725-5301). Get them while they're hot.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Afterschool Snack

We fortified ourselves for a long trip to Medford this afternoon with Hampton Dairy iced tea and freshly fried, powdered sugar-covered zeppole from Espresso.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Doily Source Discovered in Sag Harbor

Just as I was about to give up on finding a crocheted doily for my project, I passed by Carol O'Neill Linens (114 Division Street) on Sunday afternoon. I pushed open the creaky door, walked up a narrow staircase, and turned right, into a room filled with antique lace, embroidered pillowcases, and an abundance of crocheted doilies, all reasonably priced. I took the doily at the top of the pile, soaked it in liquid starch I had bought at the Variety Store (45 Main Street; 725-9706), and set it over a plastic wrap-covered bowl. (Can I just say, where else on this earth can you find liquid starch, just sitting on a shelf? I wonder how long it's been since someone before me bought a bottle? And yet, you know they will re-order when the last bottle is gone.) A day later the starch had dried and I had my delicate lace bowl.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Back to the Book

Last night I got an e-mail from gardening expert Cheryl Merser, whose erudite book, A Starter Garden, is based on years of research as well as her experience of growing a garden from scratch in Sag Harbor Village. So she knows her local flowers. She gently corrected me: "Your neighbor's 'crocuses' are actually daffodils." I had a feeling those leaves were too long and skinny to be crocuses, but they were green when everything else was brown, so I just assumed... In addition, she wrote, "Did you know that saffron comes from crocuses?" I did not! Thank you for the info, and for not correcting my grammar! Now, where can I get some local saffron?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What I Did and Didn't See Yesterday

As I was polishing off my last scone yesterday morning, my husband returned from the Sag Harbor Gym to report a major celebrity sighting: James Franco. With the excuse of shopping for doilies (no luck with that yet, I'm sorry to say), I headed into town, keeping my eyes peeled just in case James Franco was hanging out at Provisions. But he must have skipped the spirulina smoothie after his workout, because he was nowhere in sight. My stroll wasn't a total loss, however. After picking up a bag of organic black beans (I made this recipe from the Times Magazine for dinner), I walked over to Sylvester & Company, where I bought a giant peanut butter cup, well worth the $3 price tag, and enjoyed the sight of these glamorous pugs.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Trip to the Library Inspires Breakfast

After last week's sweet polenta, I committed myself to making a fun and unusual breakfast for myself every Saturday morning. Dropping off some books yesterday at John Jermain Library, I spotted this food-themed mystery on the Large Print shelf. I didn't check it out, but I did begin to crave some warm, fluffy scones. When I woke up this morning, I thought of trying out the Australian style, but since I was all out of 7-Up and Sag Harbor Beverage (89 Division Street, 725-7308) doesn't open until 10, I went back to an old recipe of my own. It yields a small batch, which prevented me from over-indulging (for me, that meant eating no more than four before everyone else got out of bed). This was a nice way to start an exciting weekend. My plans include buying some liquid starch and a doily at the Variety Store for a little project I have in mind. Not another word until I see how it turns out.

Lemon Cream Scones
Makes 4

Cake flour (available at the IGA), will make these scones very tender, but they will still be delicious if you substitute all-purpose flour.

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Turbinado sugar (Sugar-in-the-Raw) for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 450. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Whisk together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the egg, 1/2 cup heavy cream, lemon zest, and vanilla until the flour is moistened.
3. Turn the dough out onto the counter top and knead just until it comes together (it will still be shaggy and raggedy). Shape it into a 6-inch disk. Use a sharp chef's knife or bench scraper to cut the disk into 4 wedges.
4. Place the wedges on the baking sheet. Brush each one with a little cream and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar. Bake until golden and well-risen, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly and serve warm.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Signs of Spring

Even if I had missed the crocuses just starting to pop up in my next door neighbor's yard today, I wouldn't have been able to ignore the display of jelly beans, chocolate bunny pops, and Marshmallow Peeps at the IGA's checkout. And there are new raincoats at T.J. Maxx. Spring is on the way.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My New "Riding" Boots?

I've always had a secret wish to walk around the Hamptons in riding boots, like Madonna or Kelly Klein. But since I would never in a million years sit on top of half-ton animal who might throw me to the ground and then kick or crush me to death, dressing as if I'd do this would be dishonest. Or would it? Today, on my way to the IGA, I saw these rubber rain boots, cleverly molded to look like riding boots, outside of Flying Point. Although I won't ride a horse, I do go out in the rain. In fact, it was raining as I stood on the sidewalk. So I went inside to try on the boots. My size was out of stock, so I proceeded to the grocery store empty handed. But the manager is checking at the Southampton store...