Mac(abee) and Cheese

I am completely at ease with my age. I am not at all embarrassed to admit I just skipped my 15 year high school reunion. ($30 a ticket when Facebook is free? Pfft!) I’ll admit, it’s weird to remember things from 25 years ago so easily, but as Aleza pointed out last week, it’s pretty neat to remember history and be a part of it at the same time.

My body, however, is a different story. Things creak and crack, weight seems extremely easy to gain and much harder to lose. Last week when I bent down to pick up a boot, I pulled something in my back. I spent the work week Googling words like “lumbar support” and “yogic stretches at a desk.” I rode my bike some days, but didn’t want to push it too hard. Thursday night, after I stood by the stove frying celery root and carrot latkes, and stirring my butter and flour to make a roux for my chipotle mac and cheese, I felt it a few hours later when I was whimpering in pain at 1AM. I needed a heating pad after yesterday’s hard wooden pew at Christmas Mass, and I’m writing this not from my usual perch on the red couch, but in a chair with my own personal heating pad.

I honestly didn’t even know if I’d get up a post this week, but someone wrote me saying that she’d never fried a latke before and was surprised I didn’t have a recipe posted on Cheap Beets. Not one to leave anyone in a food-related lurch, I immediately e-mailed her my favorite go-to potato latke recipe. But I’m so mortified I’d let that important food detail slip, that I’m offering up two holiday-related recipes as penitence.

The first, a latke fried in oil, is to remind us of the miracle of the menorah. Briefly, in the 2nd century BCE, the tyrannical Greek King of Syria, Antiochus, outlawed Judaism and took over the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. A Jewish rebellion ensued, led by the Maccabees, and against all odds, the Jews reclaimed the Temple from the Greeks. The Jews had to repair and purify the Temple, but they only had one night’s supply of oil for lighting their holy menorah. Miraculously, that small amount of oil burned for eight consecutive nights, giving them just enough time to replenish their olive oil supply.

For Eastern European Jews, the potato latke is the most common fried recipe. (Israeli Jews eat sufganiyot, fried jelly doughnuts.) Now, the latke I have for you is made not with potato but with celery root and carrot. My friend Russ, who likes to keep it real and old school for the holiday, always goes potato, but hear me out. First, potatoes are a soggy drag. You have to squeeze and squeeze all the excess water out, and you’re always left with a brown puddle at the bottom of your mixing bowl. Second, how old school is it, really? Potatoes are a New World vegetable, so it looks like the potato latke tradition is only a few hundred years old, at best.

I went with carrot and celery root because my co-worker’s wife gave us another of her CSA celery root rejects on Thursday morning and I thought they’d team well with some of the remaining CSA carrots I still had in the crisper. I paired those with a dollop of cilantro and garlic yogurt, because, well, why not?

The second dish I have is to celebrate a lesser-known, but possibly even more awesome Chanukah food: cheese. The custom of cheese for Chanukah dates back to the Middle Ages, when the Book of Judith played an important role in the Chanukah narrative. Judith was a celebrated Jewish heroine who saved her village from an invading Assyrian army. Judith, a beautiful widow, plied the Assyrian army’s general with wine and salty cheese. When the general passed out drunk, Judith beheaded him with his own sword. The Israelites launched a surprise attack on the leaderless Assyrian army and emerged victorious.

Sure, the tale is hidden in the Apocrypha, but I like celebrating a strong female leader – and cheese. I actually was able to use wine in this dish too, from the same small bottle I used for our stuffed pumpkin in the fall. (What can I say, we’re not big wine drinkers.) I add chipotle to mine, riffing off an episode of Gilmore Girls I once saw where Sookie cooked up a pan of jalapeno mac and cheese for a kid’s birthday party. The kids hated it, but I kind of sat up and went “oh?” And thus, chipotle mac and cheese was born.

Celery Root and Carrot Latkes

Ingredients

1 celery root, washed and peeled

2 medium-sized carrots, peeled

½ red onion

3 eggs

1/3 cup flour

¼ teaspoon cumin

Pinch of salt

Oil to fry

Directions

Shred, with a box grater or food processor, first three ingredients. Place into a large mixing bowl, and add the next four. Heat approximately 1/3 cup oil in a large skillet (I prefer a non-stick skillet, and actually have two going at the same time for this step.) Lower the flame and space out as many tablespoons of batter as you can fit without them touching. Fry on one side for approximately four minutes until golden brown. Turn over and fry on other side for three minutes. (Uncharacteristically, I actually employ a timer for this task.)

Remove from pan and place on paper towels to drain excess oil. Continue with remaining batter, adding more oil when necessary.

Serve with the following yogurt.

Cilantro Yogurt

In a small bowl, mix together:

¾ cup Greek yogurt (I used whole-fat, but I know a reduced-fat would work well, considering all the flavor boosters in this sauce.)

½ cup chopped, fresh cilantro

1 small clove garlic, minced

Squeeze of lemon

2 teaspoons olive oil

Pinch of salt

I ended up with leftovers of this dip, and mixed it with some chickpeas I had in the fridge the next day for lunch. It was terrific.

Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

2 ¼ cups macaroni (really, any small pasta will work well for this)

¼ cup butter

½ cup flour

3 cups milk

½ cup dry white wine

10 oz. (1 ¼ cups) shredded cheddar cheese

1 chipotle in its adobe sauce, chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package.

Meanwhile, gently melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the flour and chipotle and cook, stirring, 1-2 minutes. (This brownish paste is called a roux, by the way.) Add the milk a little at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition. Stir in the white wine. Bring to boil. Cook, stirring continuously, until the sauce thickens, then remove from the heat.

Let's talk about the roux, just for a sec.

Add the ¾ of the cheese to the sauce. Stir well to mix in the cheeses, then taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Add your well-drained pasta into the sauce, then pour everything into a 13”x9” or 2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot.

The Silver Lining

This past June, on the way to my cousin’s baby shower, I got lost. Really, really lost. Like, call my parents on a Sunday morning slightly hysterical lost. Like, call Rich the morning after a bachelor party while he’s eating at IHOP lost. The worst part was I had a GPS, but the road I would have normally taken was being worked on, and every time I turned on the GPS to lead me north, it directed me back to the closed-off highway. By some miracle, I made it to the shower on-time, although I now know that GPS and cellphone reception between Lowell, MA, and southern New Hampshire is a bit spotty in places.

The silver lining to the story is that while I was in the car, NPR’s Weekend Edition introduced me to Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli-born chef now working in London, whose new vegetarian cookbook, Plenty, has become a smash hit this year. Vegetarian and Israeli — basically, a cookbook written for me. My friend Sara tells me that when she lived in London in 2005 she went to his restaurant all the time, but was always surprised that he had so little name recognition in the States.

As soon as I made it back from the shower, I put my name on the waiting list at the library. There were about two dozen people ahead of me, and as his recipes started popping up on blogs I read, I needed to remind myself that patience is a virtue. Last week, I received the notice that the book was waiting for me at my local branch around the corner. I was so excited. It was my turn, finally. Mine, mine, mine.

Except, not unlike the GPS debacle, the book the librarian handed me wasn’t Plenty, but his first cookbook, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, written in 2008. Well, I told myself, a top chef still has top recipes, even if they aren’t the ones I was counting on. So I decided to make lemonade out of lemons — or, in Ottolenghi’s case, preserved lemons — and dove in.

It’s always interesting reading a cookbook from another country because it’s a reminder that there’s a whole lot of world outside of my home. I knew that courgettes were zucchini and aubergines were eggplants, but I had no idea that snow peas were called mangetout, or that I actually had a swede — aka a yellow turnip, aka a rutabaga — in my crisper. I also had celeriac, (celery root) in the house as well, a cast-off from my officemate’s CSA.

The recipe I have for you today, a celery root and rutabaga slaw, is just perfect for these late autumn/almost winter months, and makes me wish these veggies were year-round produce. I’d never considered eating rutabaga raw, as I usually roast or braise them. And boy, have I been missing out! Seriously, the dish is extraordinary. Rich said it was one of the better things I’ve made lately. Not that I’ve been serving him swill; it’s just a really amazing salad.

Here’s what Ottolenghi has to say about this dish:

It is a bit like a rémoulade in its tang, but also has multilayered sweet (dried cherries) and savoury (capers) flavours to create a magnificently intense accompaniment to fish or lamb. It will also make a great addition to a vegetarian mezze.

Variations on this dish are endless. Try using kohlrabi, beetroot, turnip, carrot or cabbage, or a combination of them for this salad. Most soft herbs would suit, and don’t forget the acidity from citrus juice or vinegar to lighten it up.

I always have capers in the house, and I keep dried cherries from Ocean State Job Lot on hand in the pantry at all times, making this a great pantry recipe. I’ve made this dish twice in a five day period, and that’s without my large food processor. If you do have a food processor, this whips up in a jiff; if you don’t, I promise you it’s worth the extra effort. I didn’t have any sunflower oil on hand, so I used olive oil exclusively for the salad. I also used regular sugar in lieu of caster sugar. The slaw was still wonderful.

Don’t be scared of the ugly celery root. Give it a rinse to get some of the dirt off, and stand it up on the cutting board and cut the skin off by slicing down the sides of the bulb with a large sharp knife. You can cut the waxy skin off the rutabaga in the same manner.

The recipe is in grams, so my digital scale got quite the workout this week. I’ve converted it into ounces and cups for a more Continental-friendly audience, but the grams are the original measure and most accurate.

Sweet and sour celeriac and swede (aka Sweet and sour celery root and rutabaga) from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

Serves 4-6

250g (9 oz., 1 1/2 cup) celeriac, peeled and thinly shredded

250g (9 oz., 1 1/2 cup) swede, peeled and thinly shredded

4 Tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

4 Tablespoons roughly chopped dill

50g (2 oz., 1/3 cup) capers, drained and roughly chopped

4 Tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

4 Tablespoons olive oil

4 Tablespoons sunflower oil

3 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 teaspoons caster sugar

100g (3.5 oz., 1/2 cup) dried sour cherries

Salt and black pepper

  1. Place the shredded celeriac and swede in a mixing bowl. Add all the rest of the ingredients and use your hands to mix everything together thoroughly. ‘Massaging’ the vegetables a little will help them absorb the flavors. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking You might also want to add some extra sugar and vinegar.
  2. Allow the salad to sit for an hour so the flavors can evolve. It will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge. Add more herbs just before serving, for a fresher look.

A Perfect Pear-ing

We had quite a busy Saturday this weekend, starting with a lovely afternoon on Cape Ann. I shared a hay bale and a microphone with some really remarkable women to discuss eating locally at the Rockport HarvestFest. While we were there, we enjoyed lots of local treats like maple-covered almonds, fresh corn chowder and homemade pumpkin whoopie pies.

Then we trucked it back to town for an evening of parties. First stop was our friends’ annual beer and cheese party. What started as a gathering of about two dozen enthusiastic beer geeks six years ago has blossomed into more than 75 people sharing their favorite pairings.

In keeping with the local spirit, we brought a 2-year aged cheddar from Shelburne Farms in Vermont. We paired it with two versions of a saison, a spicy Belgian-style farmhouse ale, by new local breweries: Mystic Brewery in Chelsea and Backlash Beer Co. in Holyoke. And although the most popular accoutrement at the party was a baby (another change over the six years), my special accompaniment was a pear chutney I churned up earlier this week. As I simmered my pears, I thought about how my attempt to prepare a locally sourced dish had ended up involving ground coriander from Asia and lemons from California. Of course, the vinegary relish is of Indian origin and is now the most popular condiment in the United Kingdom.

Me, Maggie Batista, and Jane Ward. Not pictured: Heather Atwood.

Our second party was a 30th birthday for a dear friend, and the chutney did double duty that night as a small gift for him. I had actually tagged this recipe last fall to use as little gifts for friends, but the season slipped by too fast for me. To make sure that doesn’t happen again, I have another half dozen pears resting on my dining room table, just waiting to spruce up anything from a serving of yogurt to accompanying a nice piece of fish.

Pear Chutney from Deborah Madison’s America: The Vegetarian Table (I know, I’ve become a little addicted to this cookbook.)

As Deborah writes, “chutneys are sweet and sours in a single jar. Firm but ripe fruits are the best to use – little Winter Nellis, Anjou, or Bartlett Pears that are a day shy of eating. Peaches and nectarines can also be used for this chutney.”

Ingredients

2 pounds firm pears

½ cup white sugar

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup light brown sugar

½ cup golden raisins

Zest of 1 lemon

1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon minced garlic

½ cup peeled and diced or sliced fresh ginger

¾ cup finely chopped white onion

3 dried cayenne, árbol, or other slender dried hot chiles

10 whole cloves

Directions

Peel and core the pears and dice them into small pieces. Put them in a heavy saucepan with the white sugar and place over low heat. Cook until they’ve released quite a bit of juice, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir them a few times while they cook. Drain off the juice and set the pears and juice aside separately.

In a nonreactive pot, combine the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Add the reserved juice, lower the heat, and simmer until fine bubbles dot the surface, about 40 minutes. Add the reserved pears and cook over low heat until the pears are translucent and the sauce is quite reduced and thick, about 25 minutes more. Ladle into a clean jar, cover tightly and refrigerate. They are best served after sitting for at least a day and will keep for up to two months.

Breakfast of Champions

kosher vegetarianI am not a breakfast food person. Not that I don’t eat breakfast — it is, of course, the most important meal of the day. But I am not one for cereal, omelettes, waffles or pancakes. Today I had leftovers from last night, tamari and mirin roasted vegetables on top of soba noodles. Yesterday was eggplant salad with a side of pita and hummus. My stepdad used to come down the stairs in the morning, spy the food on the plate in front of me and exclaim, “Soup, it’s not just for breakfast anymore!”

I’ve tried, really, I have. This past June, when Whole Foods put large containers of Fage yogurt on sale, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me to get more into breakfast. I’ll have some in the morning with a teaspoon or two of jam, maybe a nice bit of honey swirled in, I told myself. After taking a look at the expiration date – all the way in August! – I bought several containers, assuring myself that this would be the perfect way to start my breakfast quest.

Well, it didn’t work. The yogurt got eaten, all right, just not for breakfast. I used it in Ana Sortun’s beet tzaziki (I’ll post the recipe soon, Scout’s Honor), to cool down curries and dress up dressings. And then there were these paletas.

This is a riff on another one of Fany Gerson’s ice pops. She makes hers with blackberries; I thought this was the perfect opportunity to use the pint of blueberries from my CSA. She suggests using the berries whole, or, if they are too big (a problem I can’t possibly imagine) to slice them in half. I tried her method but soon discovered the pop stick could not be inserted properly. Instead, I used the blender to whirl it all together.

A lovely byproduct of making the lemon simple syrup for this dish is candied lemon peel. As I munched on mine, I pondered what other things would be nice candied. More on that one in a later post, I hope.

And if you ask me, these would make a perfectly suitable breakfast.

Yogurt Blueberry Ice Pops – adapted from Fany Gerson’s Paletas

1 lemon

½ cup water

½ cup sugar

1 ½ cups plain unsweetened Greek-style yogurt

2 Tablespoons honey

2 cups fresh blueberries

Directions

Rinse the lemon, then peel it. (This recipe uses only the peel, so save the lemon for a different use.) Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil and the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon peel, lower the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve, then refrigerate until chilled.

Put the yogurt and honey in a blender, add the chilled syrup and blend to combine.

Put the berries in the blender and whirl.

Pour the mixture into the molds.

If using conventional molds, snap on the lid and freeze until solid, 3 to 4 hours. If using glasses or other unconventional molds, freeze until the pops are beginning to set (45 minutes to 1 hour), then insert the sticks and freeze until solid, 3 to 4 hours.

(Nothing But) Flowers

Tulips

People have been asking us what we saw that was really great on our trip to Spain and The Netherlands. Well, at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, we saw the artist’s dozens of variations of Velazquez’s Las Meninas, and then saw the actual Las Meninas at the Prado in Madrid.  While in Madrid, we also saw Guernica, which has its own room at the Museo Reina Sofia. And when we got to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, we could only laugh when we saw the Picasso in Paris exhibit and half wondered if he had been following us.

Yes, we saw some of the true masterpieces of Western Art, but those paintings weren’t the most amazing things we saw on our trip. That honor goes to the day we spent on rented bicycles (3 Euros!) with our American friends Mel and Cullen, who are doing their neuroscience post-docs in Rotterdam.

The Bicycling Party

The four of us biked about 30 km (around 18 miles), from Leiden to Lisse, on our quest for blooming tulips. As it turns out, tulip season was just beginning, but daffodil and hyacinth season was in full swing.

This was not a bad thing, not at all. In fact, I’ll never forget the scent wafting from the fields of hyacinths as we biked by.

We were starving by the time we got the the Keukenhof Castle, and had a wonderful picnic on the grounds. Cullen had packed a 30 year-old chunk of Gouda, speckled with  crystals, from which he scraped delicate shavings with a cheese plane. We ate that with baguettes that Mel had heated in the oven and wrapped in dish towels to keep warm. The Dutch like to spread a little mustard in between their bread and cheese, and Rich and Cullen enjoyed some thin pieces of rare roast beef with theirs.

Picnic food

It was sitting on our rain jackets — which we didn’t need to use a single day on our trip, it turns out — that I fell for this this potato salad. Its origins were modest enough; I found it in the prepared salad section of the Albert Heijn grocery store near Mel and Cullen’s place.

The original had pieces of chicken but I’ve omitted them from my version, making it vegan. (It’s also kosher for Passover.) The Dutch have a very bland palate, so I’ve gussied this up a bit with some fresh herbs and slices of green olive. I think the potatoes in the original had been boiled, but I steamed mine. I also roasted the zucchini after I tossed it with some chopped garlic and olive oil. Nothing here is paper thin, no mandolin required. Everything, including the radishes, is about 1/4 inch thick.

Potato, Zucchini and Radish Salad

About 1 pound of small, new potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled, halved lengthwise and chopped into 1/4 inch wide half moons. Steamed.

1 Zucchini, halved lengthwise, chopped into 1/4 inch wide half moons, tossed with about 1.5 tablespoons olive oil, one clove of chopped garlic, and roasted for about 20 minutes. If you have red chili flakes, now would be a good place to use a few, if that’s your thing. Keep an eye on the squash; zucchini has a way of getting mushy fast.

About 6 radishes, sliced into 1/4 inch wide discs

1/4 cup of green olives, sliced

A handful of parsley, chopped

5 green onions, chopped

1 shallot, chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

About 2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Warm potatoes have a way of sucking up oil, so you might need to add a few more glugs worth to get it to a moistness that suits you. Enjoy!

Hello, Old Friend

I’m a big proponent of the well-stocked pantry, but there is one staple that has until recently been banished from my larder: tamari.

You see, tamari and I have a history. When I was in college, I went on a bit of a tamari bender. The darker, thicker, wheat-free cousin of soy sauce found its way into nearly everything I cooked. Back in the day I was a pretty strict vegetarian, and tamari is as flavorful as a piece of meat or hunk of cheese. It enhances the flavor of everything from rice to tofu to steamed vegetables. Tamari is umami incarnate: a concentrated blast of that “fifth taste” that makes meats and hard cheese so mouth-watering.

It took an intervention from my friend, Ben, to get me off the sauce. After eating endless tamari-spiked dishes from my kitchen, Ben began to comment on the tamari addiction. Considering that Ben is finishing up a Psy.D. in counseling, I am glad I took his observations seriously. Under Ben’s watchful eye, I finished up my last bottle and went cold turkey. I haven’t had it in the house for about a decade.

All that changed last week. How I came across this recipe is a fine example of social media. I am Facebook friends with my sister’s sister-in-law, Sarah, and a few weeks back, Sarah posted a question about purchasing some vegetables, and her friend, a perfect stranger to me, responded with this recipe.

It looked good. So good, in fact, that I wrote on Sarah’s wall, to her friend, that I was going to steal the recipe. I did not mention the part about posting it to my blog, but her friend encouraged me to do so, telling me it was the best salad dressing. Ever. The secret? My old friend, tamari. So, judging myself a decade older and wiser, it was off the wagon and off to the market.

Tamari, meet Tahini

And let me tell you, WOW, this dressing is fantastic. Rich hasn’t stopped eating salad all weekend long. I think I’ve counted him eating 7 separate servings of salad in a two-day period. Since I have never served Rich tamari before, he was blown away by the smooth, rich flavor of it. He could totally see why I had the addiction; low in calories and animal-free, tamari is pretty darn remarkable. Now I have a fresh bottle of it in the house, and I will work hard to make sure I don’t abuse it.

This is a pantry recipe if I’ve ever seen one. You really should have everything here on hand at all times in the house. I’m not very particular about my tahini brands; I’ve tried maybe 3 or 4, and there’s no one that really jumped out at me or I didn’t like. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t have nutritional yeast on hand, most people don’t, but it’s good idea to have a hunk of parmesan hang out in the fridge to top off pastas, risottos or in this case, for dressings. You can whisk this altogether in a bowl, but I wanted the smoothness of a blender. Either will work.

Ingredients

2/3 cup good extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup tahini
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (or finely grated hard cheese)
1/4 cup tamari
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients in a bowl or blend together in a blender. I served this with some crunchy romaine and crisp discs of cucumbers and radishes, simply because that’s what I had on hand in the fridge. I have a feeling this dressing will work with just about any vegetable, but use a stronger lettuce than say, mesclun.

For now, the leftover dressing is in a jar in the fridge. I’m not sure how long it stays, but I don’t think it’s going to be around for more than couple more days.

She cooks with the fishes

Oh my. Is it possible to devour a head of lettuce?

Winter in New England is tough. But slipping on black ice or climbing over a snow drift to get to a sidewalk isn’t what frustrates me the most about this season.  It’s the fresh vegetable situation. Oh, how I long for August and its ripe tomatoes and corn straight from the cob. I’ve been hungering for salads recently, and have been contemplating persimmons and escarole. But for now, a Caesar salad will do quite nicely.

It’s been a few years since I realized I could make Caesar salad at home. The recipe base I use is from an ancient Cook’s Illustrated, but I do wander away from it after a certain point. (Eight grindings of fresh black pepper? Really?) They suggest coddling the egg, as does The New York Times Cookbook, although Zuni Cafe, which sells more Caesar salad than anything else on their menu, does not. Neither use Worcestershire sauce, although I do, and I really do think it brings it to the next level. It is not key, however.

The key to Caesar salad is anchovies. Anchovies, you might be thinking to yourself, are NOT vegetarian. But here’s the thing:I called this blog “mostly vegetarian” so I could sneak around the anchovy issue. If you’re a fish eater but are squeamish about anchovies, please give them a shot. Anchovies are the cheapest flavor packets I can think of. Ancient Romans doused everything in garum, and many Asian cuisines wouldn’t be the same without fish sauce. When I bite into something with an anchovy in it, I am always struck by all the complex layers of flavor they add.

In most scenarios, you won’t even have to touch them. If you’re cooking with them, beat them in the pan with the back of a wooden spoon. You can get a can of anchovies for less than $3 at any grocery store. Ocean State Job Lot used to have glass jars of anchovies that were really special but hasn’t had them for a while. I toss the remaining anchovies, can and all, into a plastic bag in the fridge. Let them sit for a few minutes at room temperature and the oil will return to form. But please be warned: anchovies are incredibly ugly. I took numerous shots of mine and realize there was no way to make them look pretty. None.

I've gussied up these anchovies with some garlic. Not as ugly now.

Another thing that I love most about this dish is that it is a quintessential pantry recipe. You should have all these things on hand, so when you start to miss out-of-season veggies, you can whip this up in minutes.  It’s even quicker if you don’t insist on the croutons.

Caesar Salad Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated September/October 1997

Garlic Croutons

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and pressed through a garlic press

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups 1/2-inch white bread cubes (from a baguette or country loaf)

Caesar Salad

1 large egg

Juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Pinch of salt

A few grindings of fresh black pepper

2 small garlic cloves, pressed

3 or 4 flat anchovy fillets, minced (I do mine in a mortar and pestle with the garlic at the same time)

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium heads romaine lettuce or 2 large romaine hearts, washed, dried and torn into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 10 cups, lightly packed)

1/3 cup grated Parmasean cheese

1. For the croutons: Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix garlic, salt and oil in a small bowl; set aside for 20 minutes. Spread bread cubes out over small baking sheet. Drizzle oil onto bread; toss to coat. Bake until golden, about 12 minutes. Cool on baking sheet to room temperature. (Croutons can be stored in airtight container for up to 1 day.)

2. For the dressing: Bring water to boil in small saucepan over high heat. Carefully lower whole egg into water; cook for 1 minute. Remove with slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle, crack egg into small bowl with all other dressing ingredients except oil; whisk until smooth. Add oil in slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Adjust for seasoning. (Dressing may be refrigerated in airtight container for 1 day; shake before using.)

3. Place lettuce in large bowl; drizzle with half of dressing, then toss to coat lightly. Sprinkle with cheese, remaining dressing, and croutons; toss to coat well. Serve immediately.

“Sometimes you eat the bar…”

Making lemon curd used to scare me until this recipe.

I grew up in a very conservative town, and my nose ring, pink hair and green Doc Martens cast me as a bit of an outsider. But, that doesn’t mean I was alone. I developed some wonderful friendships in high school, and still carry on those friendships to today.

One terrific friend in particular was Caitlyn Webster. I haven’t seen Caitlyn in years — she’s spent the past five years living in Thailand as a web designer. Thailand is pretty darn far away from Western Mass. where we’re from, so whenever Caitlyn would feel homesick, she’d bake all sorts of wonderful things that she used to bake with her grandmother growing up. Her baking became so popular that she ended up writing a book “American Baking by Cee!” — in both Thai and English on facing pages. It’s full of her adventures baking American treats like chocolate chip cookies and the WORLD’S BEST LEMON BARS.

I guess Caitlyn goes by Cee now.

If you’re interested in getting hold of Caitlyn’s wonderful cookbook, please feel free to contact me. In the meantime, check out her gorgeouswebsite about Thai cooking.

Caitlyn will be moving back stateside in the next year to settle down in Portland, Oregon. I’m really looking forward to having a visit with my dear friend from high school, and do things like, as she said this week, “ride our bicycles, go to farmers’ markets, and hear live music.”  I can’t wait, but in the meantime, I have her lemon bars, and now you can, too.

The nice thing about this recipe is that it’s all stuff you should have in your pantry, and even the perishables are things you should keep on hand in your fridge. Lemons are always at least two for a dollar, anywhere. Eggs are always a good thing to have on hand, except these. I have no preference on a brand of butter. For me, the cheapest works just fine. If you see butter on sale, buy a few boxes and store them in the freezer. It will always thaw beautifully and be good to go for baking things, shmearing things, or frying things in a jiffy.

Lemon Bars

From American Baking by Cee!

Makes 12-16 pieces (one 8×8 pan)

Don’t fret if you don’t have a stand mixer. In fact, Caitlyn uses no machines at all in her entire book. All her baking can be and is done by hand.

Ingredients

Crust

Looks like I'm gonna need more flour after tonight.

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ cup powdered sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

Curd

3 eggs

1 ½ cups white sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

½ cup fresh lemon juice [I use a whole lemon — MP]

½ cup all purpose flour

Directions

  1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350.
  2. To make the crust: cream the butter and sugar until soft. Add the flour and salt and mix. Press evenly into an ungreased pan and cook for 12 – 15 minutes until lightly browned.

This is my most absolute favoritist dough to work with.

While the crust is cooking, whisk the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and flour in a bowl. Pour this over the finished hot crust and continue baking for another 23 – 25 minutes, until set.

Remove from the heat and let cool completely before cutting.Top with sifted powdered sugar just before serving.