An Homage to Gourmet

Well its been a few weeks, and I think I’m finally adjusting to the fact that Gourmet is gone.  But thankfully, the entire magazine (at least, all of the recipes) has always been archived online, at Epicurious.  And after picking up 8 million leeks at our second-to-last CSA this week, give or take one or two, J and I dug through those archives, with only 3 requirements:

1) That the recipe use as many leeks as humanly possible.
2) That it be served warm.
3) Of course, that it be from Gourmet.

But, it wouldn’t be our style to just cook the recipe… we try, but we never manage not to tweek.  So here is what we came up with, courtesy of Gourmet and whatever ingredients we had lying around the house.

Leek and Roasted Mushroom Risotto

Risotto is the perfect winter food: warm, creamy, healthy (?), comforting… I could go on.  It’s also perfect for making a giant batch and then reheating it throughout the week for lunch.  I think I’ve talked about how to make risotto on this blog about a hundred times, but the construct of the veggies in this one is slightly different.

Make the leeks and the mushrooms first.

For the leeks:

Dice the bulbs of 4 leeks.  The easiest way to do this is to cut the stems off right after the light green part.  Cut the leek crosswise, and then chop.  Depending on how big your leeks are, you might not need 4, but you should have about 2 cups after everything is all cut up.  On the stove, heat about 1 cup of heavy cream in a saucepan.  Add the leeks, bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes.  The leeks will get soft and infuse the cream with their flavor.  Set aside.

For the mushrooms:

The more the merrier.  Mushrooms get quite small when you cook them, so we used a whole carton of cremini.  Slice them thinly.  Also slice a whole onion.  Place the mushrooms and onions in a casserole dish and toss them with several tablespoons of melted butter and some fresh thyme.  We also used this delicious truffle salt that I brought back from Nice, but it was completely unnecessary.  Roast in the oven (about 350-400) for 30-45 minutes.  Our oven is a bit wacky, so just make sure to keep an eye on them.  You’ll know when they’re done: they’ll be golden and delicious-looking.

While the veggies are roasting and simmering, you can start on the risotto part of the dish.

Dice an onion and cook it in several tablespoons of butter on your stovetop.  On another burner, have several cups of chicken broth simmering.
When the onions are translucent, add about 2 cups of aborio rice (you’ll need a big saute pan for all of this–the rice is going to get huge).   Saute for about 2 more minutes, until the rice is coated, slightly translucent, and warm.  Pour in a cup or a cup and a half of white wine and let it cook off.  Remember, the most important part of risotto is constant stirring.  Keep the rice moving.  Now start adding the warm chicken broth, about half a cup at a time. Stir, stir, stir.  Add more chicken broth as needed.  This part of the process should take about 20-30 minutes.  I usually stop adding broth at about 20 minutes in and then let the rest cook off.

Now to finish.

Add to the risotto 2 tablespoons butter, grated Parmesan cheese, the cream and leeks, and the mushrooms and onions.  Stir to combine, and try not to eat all in one sitting (its hard, I know).


The Making of Pasta

Yesterday the weather was absolutely disgusting, and so while I was out shopping with M, we ducked into Broadway Panhandler.  For those of you that don’t know, the Panhandler is the poor man’s Sur La Table.  Anyways, we spent the better part of the hour browsing for kitchen appliances that we didn’t need, and then I spent the latter part of the hour calculating how much money was in my bank account, and how much of the unnecessary things I could actually afford to purchase.  I ended up putting back the potato ricer (more on my brilliant ideas for that tool later) and the latex egg shells (for the perfect poach) and settled on the pasta maker.  Now this I had been eying for a long time.  A gorgeous, old-fashioned looking wooden handled metal box that makes fresh pasta.  What more could one ask for?

I took it home immediately and got to work, after M assured me that making pasta is extremely easy (um, thanks for that tip).

First I just set up the little machine on my chop block and stared at it, cranking the handle, fitting on the fettuccine attachment, clamping it to the counter.  (NOTE: I am not Italian and I will never spell any Italian pastas correctly.  My apologies in advance, I know its horrendous).  Then I got to work with the pasta.  I ended up calling in Martha Stewart’s Cooking School on this one, because that method has pictures, and the little booklet that came with my pasta machine was all in Italian, except for one page in English that looked like it had been put through Babelfish and was nearly as unreadable as the rest of the instructions.  So here we go:

Fresh Pasta

Start by lightly combining 3 eggs with a fork in a small bowl.  Then, on your counter, dump two cups of all purpose flour (or Italian 00 if you have it).  Form the flour into a mound, and then make a little well in the middle.  Into the well, pour the eggs.  Now, not being an engineer, my well was slightly structurally unsound and much of my egg escaped out an unknown crack.  So pour the egg in slowly and make sure your mound of flour is solid.  I spent a good five minutes chasing egg back into the well and trying to unsuccessfully repair the crack.  What a mess.

When the egg is safely in the well, start to stir it into the flour with a fork.  When it gets too thick, use your hands until the flour and egg has formed into a dough.  Then begin to knead the dough, just as you would bread or pie crust.  Do this for about 10 minutes. According to Martha, this “develops the glutens in the flour.”  When your hands are tired, form into a ball and wrap with seran wrap.  Then let the dough ball sit on the counter for about an hour and a half (this helps the glutens “relax”).

Now the fun part!!  When you’ve managed to distract yourself for an hour and a half (me and J were making ravioli, so we roasted the butternut squash and made the filling during this time), unwrap the dough ball and using a pasta cutter (or in our case, pizza cutter) to cut the dough ball into 8 sections.  This makes it easier to feed into the pasta maker.

Start with the pasta maker on the lowest setting, so the rollers are as far apart as they go.  Feed the dough into the pasta machine.  When it comes out, you can reshape the dough and feed it through several more times.  Reshaping the dough a little helps to make sure the pasta is even.  Now tighten the settings and feed it through the machine 2 or 3 times on each setting.  We went down to the lowest setting since we were making ravioli and wanted it really thin, but you can stop at whatever thickness you prefer.  If you are making fettuccine, feed it through the attachment directly after pressing it through the pasta maker.

And voila!  Fresh pasta!  Now (if you’re not filling it), you just boil, sauce, and eat.  If you want to dry it, take 8-10 strands of fettuccine and form them into loose nests.  Then leave them out to dry for 24 hours before wrapping them or putting them in tupperware.  The nest shape is so they don’t break when you store them, the 24 hour rule so that they are completely dry before you store them, or the moisture in them will mold.  You can keep dried fresh pasta for two weeks.

More on the ravioli later – we’re off to the Promenade to watch a dog halloween parade.  And no, I’m not joking.


Okay, I know, I have a habit of disappearing.

But (there’s always a but): it was the long weekend, I had tons of work, several projects are coming up due, yadda yadda yadda I’ve got more if you need them.  I had no idea making the transition back to fall (among other things) would be so hard!  But I’m here now.  Isn’t that worth something?

Last night T and I headed around the corner to the Brooklyn Inn (if you’re not from the neighborhood, you might recognize it from its brief role in Gossip Girl, caught betwixt Vanessa, Chuck, and Blair) for our first CSA cook-off.  Well, we didn’t cook anything because I don’t think I’ve been home for more than 5 minutes at a time this week, but we thought that we would offer up our excellent palates and judge.

Well, seems like nobody else had an extra few minutes to cook up a dish either.  The only one that entered the cook-off was a simple (yet delicious) Yellow Tomato sauce pasta dish.  Which I then ate an entire plateful of for dinner.  I don’t recall the woman’s name (she didn’t stay long), but from what I tasted, here’s a quick and easy way to throw together a fresh dish for a last minute dinner.

Yellow Tomatoes
Pasta (spaghetti or angel hair)

Start with your aromatic: saute the onions (chopped) in butter while you’re boiling your pasta in another pot.  Dice the yellow tomatoes and throw those in with the onions once the onions are translucent.  Add the garlic, cook for another minute (you don’t want the tomatoes soggy or the garlic bitter) and remove from heat.  Mix in the pasta (we had angel hair) and top generously with parmesan cheese.

Then say goodbye to summer, because it looks like fall is on its way in…


Simple Sundays: Swiss Chard Pasta

We had leftover everything in our house: mascarpone from our eggplant lasagne, wilting Swiss chard from last weeks CSA, and half an onion that someone left in the fridge.  We always have pasta, so I concocted a quick dish that would be a little bit healthy, a little bit creamy, and wouldn’t waste what we have in the house.  That’s been one of the best parts about the CSA – its forcing us to be a lot more creative than we usually would be.  And more spontaneous.

This is a great recipe to throw together when you just don’t have time and you just don’t want to be cooking.  Its a quick meal without being processed, packaged, or frozen one.  Plus, Swiss chard really is that good for you.

Swiss Chard and Mascarpone Pasta

Swiss chard
chicken broth
Mascarpone cheese
whole wheat pasta (I recommend spaghetti, but I used penne)
a clove of garlic
half an onion


Cut the stems out of the swiss chard.  Roll the leaves up like a cigar and slice the chard.  This will cut the chard into nice skinny, long pieces to wrap around the pasta.  Mince the garlic and chop the onion as well. Throw the garlic and onion into a saute pan with some butter.  Once the onions are translucent, add about a tablespoon of chicken broth and keep cooking.  After a few minutes, add the chard.  Let wilt.  Then add as much Mascarpone as you have (or as you want!).  It will melt into the other veggies when it hits the pan.  If the sauce is too thick, add more chicken broth (but most likely the melted Mascarpone will be enough).  Pour over the pasta (that you boiled while you were cooking the rest of the meal).

This will take you *at most* 20 minutes.  And you didn’t even have to use anything pre-packaged.  Okay, except for the pasta.  But I’m not going to ask you to make your own pasta…



Call For Tasters

As I keep saying (probably more out of stress, less out of excitement) the launch of Authors in the Kitchen is just around the corner.  This weekend, as part of an entire month of finishing touches, is food photography weekend.

So many authors passed on delicious recipes to me, that I (naively?) want to include in the articles – as photographs.  Because I have little time, and no natural light in the evenings when I get home, I’ve decided to have a one weekend cooking extravaganza.  This means if you know me and are in the New York City metropolitan area, you are being mandated to come to my house to eat the vast quantities of food that I will be producing (and photographing).

Enticement? Besides my amazing cooking? I’ll definitely be remaking those limey gin & tonics…

See you tomorrow!



Top Secret Gin & Tonics

Coming this September, as I must have mentioned a million times, is my “Authors in the Kitchen” project.  A friend of mine, who is a writer and also a fabulous bartender (and chef!) gave me her Limey Gin & Tonic recipe for the project. Trust me, you should get excited about it.  I can’t share it just yet, but J and I whipped up a test batch last night, to photograph for the project of course!  And then proceeded to drink the entire pitcher between the two of us… hey, its hot out!  So to tease you just a little bit…



Oh Julia: Gratin Dauphinois

I am writing this post in the 95 degree heat in my un-airconditioned apartment, the sun beaming in (and the fan BLASTING).  Fortunately, I am also enjoying a bowl of yogurt with fresh blackberries, courtesy of our CSA: finally they realized berries were in season!

They also realized, after a fairly disappointing last two weeks, that they weren’t giving us enough veggies.  They loaded us up this week – so trust me, you are in for some treats.  For some reason, since they gave us potatoes, we decided to gratin them.  Even though, I know, it is not December, it is not snowing, and we do not have the fireplace going. But who doesn’t want to bake a hearty dish when the temperature is pushing 100? I didn’t know either.

So here is our variation on Julia’s Gratin Dauphinois.  It’s a tad bit unorthodox, but the method is spot-on Rhone Alpes, so just leave out the onions, mushrooms and pancetta if you please.  But you must use heavy cream: I implore you.

Gratin Dauphinois

gruyere cheese
a clove of garlic
butter (this is french food we’re talking about)
1 pint heavy cream
salt and pepper

mushrooms, quartered
onions, chopped
pancetta, chopped


Slice the potatoes.  As you slice them, place them in a bowl of cold water.  When all of the potatoes are sliced, rinse and dry them before putting them in a large pot on the stove.  Fill the pot with milk until the potatoes are covered.  Bring to a low boil, and cook the potatoes for 15-20 minutes in the milk.

While the potatoes are cooking, prep the rest of the dish: make sure everything is chopped and the cheese is grated.  Take the deep dish casserole dish you’ll be baking the gratin in (if only I had a Le Creuset…) and rub the edges and bottom with the glove of garlic (I then chop up the garlic and throw it in with the rest of the veggies, but this is again optional – though rubbing the dish is not!).  Then butter the dish.

When the potatoes are ready, build the gratin.  Layer about half of the potatoes into the dish, then top with half of the cream, half of the cheese, salt, pepper, and half of the veggies.  Put most of the rest of the potatoes on top of that, followed by the rest of the veggies and a little bit more salt and pepper.  Then put a last layer of potato, pour the rest of the cream into the dish, and grate the rest of the cheese on top.  I then dot it with butter (maybe 1/2 tablespoon – this dish is already rich enough!).  Bake in the oven at about 350 degrees for about an hour.

Let it cool before you eat it!  This is not worth waiting the 2 hours to get everything together, only to burn your tongue and not be able to taste anything!

We photographed ours (of course!), J and I, but the thing was so close to golden brown that it looks like its glowing in the photographs!

As my dad has been saying in falsetto since he saw a recent Meryl Streep film…

Bon Appetit!