Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tomato Salad with Crisped Farro, Purslane, and Roasted Tomato-Miso Vinaigrette

Do you know what’s happened? Including this one, I’ve just given you five posts in a row about salads. Apparently, I don’t call it salad season for nothing. I promise to bring something else to the blog soon and maybe even bake something. But for today, here’s another really great salad for beautiful tomatoes. I received a review copy of The Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson and immediately appreciated the book’s intent. Acheson was inspired to offer ideas for cooking with several common types of produce from farmers’ markets and CSA’s, and of course his humor is injected throughout the book. There are about four recipes each for 50 different seasonal items, and they’re the kind of interesting recipes that get you thinking of new ways to use these ingredients. I’m wishing our local season for artichokes wasn’t over yet now that I see the Pickled Shrimp, Crisp Artichokes, and Butter Lettuce dish and Shaved Artichokes, Bay Scallops, and Preserved Lemon. For summer corn, there’s Perfect Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Creamed Corn, Lemongrass, and Crisp Shallots. And, since this year’s first appearance of purple hull peas just arrived from our CSA, I can’t wait to try the Gratin of Field Peas and Roasted Tomatoes or Fried Black-Eyed Peas. I grabbed one of the first local melons I found and tried the Sauteed Catfish with Cantaloupe, Lime, and Cilantro Salsa. I love the flavors of sweet fruit with spicy chiles in a salsa for seafood, and this was a delicious example of that combination. Next, I found myself stuck in the Tomato section on this salad with crispy farro and that lovely-sounding Roasted Tomato-Miso Vinaigrette. Those two components make this much more than a simple act of layering sliced tomatoes and salad greens. 

To begin, you need to cook, drain, and dry the farro. Once tender, I strained off the cooking water and spread the grains on a towel-lined baking sheet to let them cool and dry. The dried, cooked grains were then fried in small batches in a saucepan of oil. I can tell you the grains want to stick to a spoon both when lowering them into the oil and when removing them from the oil. It helps to have two spoons handy so one can be used for scooping up the grains and the other can be used for scraping grains from the first spoon. After frying, the grains were left to drain on paper towels and sprinkled with salt. This step can be done in advance, and the crisped farro can be left at room temperature. But I did find them a bit addictive and kept reaching back for tastes risking not having enough for the salad. The vinaigrette needs to be started in advance as well since tomato slices need to roast for 30 minutes. Once roasted and cooled, the slices were added to a blender with thyme, white miso, soy sauce, and rice vinegar to be pureed until smooth while olive oil was added. The recipe calls for purslane and arugula, and I was lucky enough to be at the Boggy Creek Farmstand on a day when they had purslane. There was no arugula though, so I used baby mustard greens instead. But, any sturdy, flavorful salad greens would work here. The salad was built by placing tomato slices on a platter and drizzling them with some vinaigrette. Next, the salad greens were tossed with vinaigrette, and they were placed on top of the tomatoes. Last, the crisped farro was sprinkled on top. 

This vinaigrette made me wonder why I’m not putting miso into every salad dressing I make. With the roasted tomato, the big flavors were a great match for salad greens with character. Thankfully, I didn’t snack on every last bit of crisped farro before finishing the salad because the grains added a tasty contrast in texture. This book is for everyone who needs fresh new ideas for all those farmers’ market vegetables. It even has me looking forward to turnip season, and I don’t think I’ve ever said that before. 

Tomato Salad with Crisped Farro, Purslane, Arugula, and Roasted Tomato-Miso Vinaigrette 
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permission from The Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson, published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers. 

Great tomatoes sprinkled with kosher salt are enough to make me giddy, but when you add an awesome vinaigrette, some wonderfully fresh greens, and the crisp texture of fried farro, then I am over the moon. This is summer. Bring on the front-porch dinners. 

Serves 4 

Kosher salt 
1⁄2 cup farro 
2 cups peanut oil 
2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cored, halved, and sliced into half-moons 
1⁄3 cup Roasted Tomato–Miso Vinaigrette (recipe follows) 
2 cups fresh purslane 
2 cups arugula leaves 
Freshly ground black pepper 

1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan, and add 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt and the farro. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the farro until it is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Strain the farro. Spread it out on a large platter lined with paper towels to steam off and drain off as much of the water as possible. 
2. In a large saucepan, heat the peanut oil to 350°F. Add the farro, in batches, and fry until crisp, 1 to 11⁄2 minutes. You want the grains to be crisp but not like little rocks. Remove from the oil and drain on the platter, lined with fresh paper towels. Season with kosher salt to taste. 
3. Arrange the sliced tomatoes on a large platter and season them with kosher salt. Drizzle half of the vinaigrette over the tomatoes. In a large bowl, combine the purslane and the arugula. Dress the greens with the remaining vinaigrette and toss well. Place the greens in the center of the platter. Garnish with the crisp farro and season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. Eat, and eat well. 

Roasted Tomato-Miso Vinaigrette 
Makes about 1 1⁄2 cups 

1 large heirloom tomato 
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves 
1 tablespoon white miso paste 
1 teaspoon Japanese soy sauce 
2 tablespoons rice vinegar 
1⁄3 cup olive oil 

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. 
2. Core the tomato and cut it into thick rounds. Season the tomato slices with the kosher salt and arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, until the tomato slices are concentrated and very soft. 
3. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and let them cool to room temperature. When they have cooled, place them in a blender and add the thyme, miso, soy sauce, and vinegar. Puree until smooth, and then, with the motor still running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The dressing will keep for a week in a jar in the fridge. 

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Greek Salad

This is a story of one of the simplest dishes having the most impact. I have this memory of a Greek Salad that I ordered at a restaurant in Palm Desert during one of our trips there. It was my favorite thing I ate that entire trip. Tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and feta makes for such a simple combination that it’s weird that I even remember it. But, it was perfect. When I read my review copy of A Girl and Her Greens, I found myself nodding in agreement with April Bloomfield’s description of her Greek Salad. It starts with fresh, ripe tomatoes and cucumbers, and I have a little thing about fresh cucumbers. Just like tomatoes, farm-fresh, just-picked cucumbers have so much more flavor than anything from the grocery store. And, I love bringing home different varieties of cucumbers. I found two types of cucumbers and several types of tomatoes at Boggy Creek Farm including the red and purple Indigo Rose tomatoes. After you gather the best of those two ingredients, Bloomfield suggests you take the time to cut them into different shapes to make the salad more interesting. Then, those chopped pieces get refrigerated to get them nice and cold. She marinates the onions in vinegar and oil for a few minutes. These little details along with carefully choosing the type of olives and using a good goat feta make this simple salad great. Thoughtful considerations like these are found in all the recipes in the book. I did a similar nodding in agreement as I read the Eggplant Caponata and Piedmontese Peppers with Tomato, Basil, and Anchovy recipes. There’s nothing too difficult here but lots of smart techniques for delicious vegetable dishes. 

So, to make this salad, the chopped cucumbers and tomatoes were placed in separate bowls and refrigerated for 30 minutes. That way, if juice from the tomatoes runs, it won’t get the cucumbers soggy. While those chilled, I sliced red onion into rounds and marinated them in Banyuls vinegar with extra virgin olive oil and a little salt. Separately, a vinaigrette was made with lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. Once the cucumbers and tomatoes were chilled, they were combined, the lemon vinaigrette was poured over them, and they were gently tossed. There’s mint in this version of the salad, and I’m lucky to have mint growing in front of our rented, temporary home that I can use. I have my own basil in pots, but everyone knows I’m incapable of growing mint myself. I used both herbs in the salad. For olives, Bloomfield uses pitted Nicoise. I like Nicoise olives fine, but meaty Greek olives are my favorites. I used some of both. And, I used our locally made Pure Luck goat feta. To serve the salad, the cucumbers and tomatoes were placed on a plate, the onions were set on top, olives were scattered about with the mint and basil, and feta was crumbled over everything. Last, the remaining liquid from the bowl with the onions was drizzled over the salad. 

Taking care with each step of this salad made it wonderful. The service wasn’t nearly as good as what I remember when I ordered that Greek Salad in Palm Desert and the view from the dining table this time didn’t compare at all, but the flavors, textures, and freshness were just as good if not better. Next up from this book, I have to try a very similar salad that becomes a sandwich filling on thick, white bread. It even inspired me to bake the bread myself. 

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Smoky Chicken Salad with Roast Bell Peppers, Shitake, and Green Beans

Despite the fact that when it comes to meat I only eat fish and fowl, I still own plenty of cookbooks with lots of recipes for red meat. So, with most cookbooks when I arrive at a meat chapter, I imagine coming back to those recipes some day when we have people visiting or maybe when I want to surprise Kurt with a beef dish for his birthday. They become the ‘’sure, maybe, one of these days” recipes. When I started reading my review copy of A Bird in the Hand, I quickly realized how unusual and refreshing it was to have a cookbook in which 100% of the recipes were made with meat that I personally would eat. In Diana Henry’s new book, every single recipe is one I’d want to try. Some are quick and easy for weeknight meals, others are grander for parties, one chapter is just for chicken salads, and another is all comfort foods. There are classics, takes on classics, and chicken dishes from all around the world. I tried the Vietnamese Lemongrass and Chile Chicken made with chopped, boneless chicken thighs, and it was a burst of great flavor. I can’t wait to try the Royal Chicken Korma, the grilled Chicken Piri Piri, and Negima Yakitori skewers. At the end of the book, there’s even a chapter for what to do with leftovers. I’d love to have extra chicken in the refrigerator to use in Chicken, Date, and Lentil Brown Rice Pilaf with Saffron Butter. For the salad posted here, I took a few minor liberties. After marinating the chicken, it could have been cooked under the broiler. Instead, I fired up the grill to add more smoky flavor and roasted the bell pepper on the grill as well. I also used fresh, local green beans rather than the snap peas suggested. The most important part of the recipe was the marinade that was also used in the dressing, and I didn’t change that one bit. 

The marinade was a mix of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, dry vermouth, orange juice, five spice powder, seeds from cardamom pods, minced garlic cloves, and strips of orange zest. Chicken breasts were covered with the marinade and refrigerated for several hours. To use excess marinade for the dressing, it’s later boiled and reduced to a syrup. I actually reduced enough to use for both the dressing and to baste the chicken while grilling. I grilled a bell pepper until charred, let it cool, peeled and seeded it, and cut it into strips. I used green beans and blanched them before draining and rinsing with cold water. Halved shitakes were sauteed in olive oil. The chicken was grilled and basted then allowed to cool before slicing. For the dressing, some reduced marinade was mixed with olive oil, lime juice, and some honey. Typically, when a dressing recipe includes honey or maple syrup, I skip it. Here, a little honey really brought everything into balance nicely. Without it, the dressing was a tad salty. To finish, mixed salad greens were tossed with the sliced chicken, bell pepper, shitakes, green beans, cilantro leaves, and dressing. The plated salads were sprinkled with sesame seeds. 

This is a perfect meal for salad season as I like to call the hot months. The dressing is a nice mix of big flavors that work well with the lingering smokiness of the chicken and peppers. I also discovered that some leftover slices of this chicken were great on a sandwich with more greens. I won’t stop reading all sorts of cookbooks, but I do love knowing that every page of this one is fair game. So to speak. 

Smoky Chicken Salad with Roast Bell Peppers, Shitake, and Sugar Snap Peas 
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permission from A Bird in the Hand

Serves 4 

For the marinade: 
1 tbsp hoisin sauce 
1/3 cup soy sauce 
1/3 cup dry vermouth 
1/3 cup orange juice 
1/2 tsp five spice powder 
seeds from 2 cardamom pods, crushed 
2 garlic cloves, crushed 
strip of orange zest, white pith removed 

For the salad: 
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts 
2 red bell peppers 
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing 
4 oz. sugar snap peas 
16 shitake mushrooms, halved if large 
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
good squeeze lime juice, to taste 
about 1/4 tsp honey, to taste 
5 oz. mixed salad leaves 
small bunch of cilantro (optional) 
1 tbsp sesame seeds 

Combine all of the ingredients for the marinade. Put the chicken in a dish and pour the marinade evenly over it. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for a couple of hours, but ideally 24 because this really will improve the flavor. Bring it to room temperature before cooking. 

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Halve and seed the bell peppers and put them into a small roasting pan. Brush with a little of the regular oil and roast them in the hot oven for about 35 minutes, or until tender and blistered. Once cooked, cut into slices lengthwise. If it looks as though the skin is about to peel off you can remove it. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. 

Preheat the broiler to high. Lift the chicken out of the marinade and put it on a foil-covered broiler rack (the foil really just helps make it easier to clean later). Cook under the hot broiler for 12 minutes (6 on each side), brushing every so often with the marinade. 

Cook the sugar snap peas in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain and run cold water over them. Heat the tablespoon of regular oil in a skillet and quickly saute the shitake mushrooms until they are golden. 

Reduce the marinade by boiling until it is syrupy. To make the dressing, mix 3 tablespoons of the reduced marinade with the 3 tablespoons of virgin oil, a good squeeze of lime juice, and a little honey (both to taste). Slice the chicken diagonally and toss with the leaves, the warm dressing, strips of bell pepper, sugar snaps, shitakes, and cilantro, if using. Throw on the sesame seeds and serve. 

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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Tomato Leaf Pesto

Tomato season is in full swing here in Austin, and I’ve been bringing home as many as the two of us can consume. A tomato is possibly the easiest type of produce to put to good use in the kitchen, but I had no idea that the leaves of the plant can be used as well. I received a review copy of the new book The CSA Cookbook by Linda Ly and learned about eating tomato leaves and a few other ways to use even more of edible plants. The goal of the book is to share ideas for using every bit of what shows up in a CSA box including the less popular vegetables. But, it’s also a great reference for gardeners who have entire plants at their disposal. I’ve eaten sweet potato leaves when they show up in our CSA in late summer, but I didn’t know leaves from pepper plants are edible too. And, entire squash plants are edible from the vines and leaves to the blossoms, vegetables, and seeds. Now I want to grow my own so I can make Sicilian Squash Shoot Soup. There’s even a recipe for Quick-Pickled Sweet ‘N’ Spicy Radish Pods which appear after the plant flowers. Not all the recipes are for such unusual parts of the plant though. There’s also Rosemary-Roasted Carrots, Carrot Top Salsa, Green Onion Pancakes, and Fennel Apple and Celery Slaw to name a few. But, let’s get back to those tomato leaves. I’ve always loved the smell of tomato vines and leaves, and I couldn’t wait to try a pesto made with the leaves. We all know that I can’t grow tomatoes myself to save my life, but Springdale Farm was kind enough to let me purchase some leaves from their plants. They suggested Brandywine tomato leaves since they have a nice-looking shape, and I was thrilled to take them home and turn them into pesto. I also took home several of their tomatoes to serve with the pesto. 

I am capable of growing some herbs, and I do have a few pots with basil plants. This pesto is made with a mix of basil leaves and tomato leaves. The rest of the ingredients are the usual suspects in traditional pesto. Pine nuts were toasted, Parmigiano Reggiano was grated, garlic was peeled and chopped, and extra virgin olive oil was ready to be added. Everything was pulsed in a food processor. I liked the suggestion in the book of using this pesto in a take on Caprese salad. I sliced some fresh mozzarella from Full Quiver, topped the cheese with fresh tomatoes, and spooned the pesto over them. I had a few extra tomato leaves to use to decorate the platter. 

As usual, Kurt was suspicious of this new spin on a classic recipe. He wasn’t sure the tomato leaves would be a welcome ingredient in pesto. All concerns were forgotten when he tasted it though. The flavor is like a traditional basil pesto with an added, herby dimension. It was fresh and delicious as part of a Caprese. If I ever attempt to grow tomatoes again, now I know I can at least eat the leaves if no fruit appears on the vines. And, I have lots of new ideas for other plants too. 

Speaking of tomato season, I've been helping plan a Tomato Dinner to be held at Springdale Farm this Tuesday, June 9. The dinner will benefit Springdale Center for Urban Agriculture and Slow Food Austin. Tickets are still available. The participating chefs are planning some incredible dishes for this feast on the farm.

Tomato Leaf Pesto 
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permission from The CSA Cookbook

When I think of summer bounties, I think of basil and tomatoes—the poster children for the season. Something about the sweet, savory, and ever-so-slightly peppery aroma of basil makes a fruity, subtly smoky, vine-ripened tomato sing. When you combine both of their characteristics into an otherwise traditional pesto, the result is a sauce that is unmistakably basil-scented, but with a note of warm and earthy tomato leaf. 

Slather it on a thick slice of mozzarella for a different take on the classic Caprese salad. 

Makes 1 Cup 
2 cups packed fresh basil 
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
1/3 cup packed tomato leaves 
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts 
3 garlic cloves 
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil 

Add the basil, Parmesan, tomato leaves, pine nuts, garlic, and salt to a food processor and pulse until crumbly, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Continue pulsing and add the oil in a steady stream until well blended. Use 1/4 cup oil for a thicker paste or up to 1/2 cup oil for a thinner sauce.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Grilled Thai Cabbage Salad with Almond Chile Sauce

I do my best to make good choices about the food I buy. I don’t eat a lot of meat, and I don’t eat any red meat. But, I can always try to do better. The new book Living the Farm Sanctuary Life is full of inspiration for eating better, taking better care of the planet, and paying more attention to how animals are raised. I received a review copy. It’s doesn’t beat you up about how you choose to eat. It just tells the story of Farm Sanctuary and how they’ve rescued animals and inspired a lot of people to stop eating animal products. There are charming anecdotes about the animals that have been saved, nursed back to health, and gone on to delight everyone who gets to know them. There are reminders about the horrible conditions at factory farms and suggestions for making small changes that will add up. I started thinking about how my consumption of espresso drinks with milk has increased over recent years. In the past, I drank tea more often. I decided it’s time to switch back to more tea and less dairy and to make sure I’m visiting coffee bars that use milk from good sources when I do need a cappuccino fix. I’m also thinking that fewer turkey sandwiches and more sandwiches filled with vegetables would be a good change. Following the stories about the animals and the farm and tips for healthy eating, there are recipes for Breakfast, Salad, Handheld Meals, Soups, Appetizers and Sides, Entrees, and Desserts. And, they’re all free of animal products. Some dishes I want to try include: the Tacos with Salted Grilled Plantains, Salsa Verde, and Pepitas on homemade tortillas; the Spring Vegetable Cioppino; and the Savory Wild Mushroom Crepes with Roasted Fingerling Breakfast Potatoes made with chickpea flour in the crepes. I jumped right into the Grilled Thai Cabbage Salad before our local cabbage disappears for the summer. 

The salad itself is an easy mix of a few vegetables and lots of herbs, and the grilled cabbage adds a lot of flavor. But, the real star here is the sauce. I want to keep a bowl of it handy for dipping all kinds of vegetables or grilled tofu. It’s made in a blender by combining almond butter, lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, chopped fresh ginger and garlic, a chopped serrano chile, some tamari, and a little water and pureeing until smooth. You can add more water as it purees to get the consistency you’d like. Meanwhile, the cabbage was cut into big wedges and drizzled with oil. I grilled the wedges inside on a grill pan, but the flavor of grill smoke would have been even better for it. The wedges were only grilled for a few minutes per side to get some marks and to allow the cabbage to just begin to take on some tenderness. After removing the cabbage from the grill pan and letting it cool, it was chopped into chunks. The cabbage was tossed with chopped mint, basil, cilantro, and bean sprouts and green onions. It was served with the sauce drizzled over top. 

I always love a peanut sauce, so I suspected I was going to enjoy this almond sauce on the salad. In fact, I might have liked it more than any variation on peanut sauce I’ve made before. The lemon juice was the magic ingredient, and the serrano gave it just enough heat. The salad was fresh and full of flavor from the herbs, and the charred cabbage added an earthy note. With dishes like this, eating all plant-based food is easy. 

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Honey Cashew Morning Buns

I like the idea of cutting back on sugar. I’ve been doing just that for a while now. I’ve been baking fewer sweet treats and looking for ways to incorporate natural sweeteners other than refined sugar. So, I was delighted to find out that Joanne Chang’s newest book is all about Baking With Less Sugar, and I received a review copy. She set out to recreate some of her favorites using much less or in some case no refined white sugar. There are no manufactured sugar substitutes here, just reductions in total sugar used or appearances of honey, maple syrup, molasses, or fruit for sweetness. And, something I love about Joanne Chang is that she always gives you the facts about how and why recipes work. There are a few pages at the front of the book with explanations about what sugar does in baked goods and how it affects browning, texture, coagulation of proteins, etc. It makes it clear that you can’t just eliminate sugar and expect to get the same results as when it’s used, and there are reminders about these facts throughout the recipes. I marked a lot of pages of things to try while reading this book. Almost every page of the Just Chocolate chapter has a flag on it, and I’m not even a serious chocoholic. These recipes highlight the sweetness already found in chocolate and have no additional sugar. Double-Chocolate Whoopie Pies, Chocolate-Fudge Bourbon Ice Cream, Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches, and Mocha Shaved Ice with Vanilla Cream all got my attention. I already baked the Peanut Butter Honey Cookies with oats and chopped peanuts. They’re made with natural peanut butter, butter, and honey with no sugar added. The cookies were nutty and perfectly sweet enough and very tender. As warned in the recipe headnote, without the sugar these cookies are soft and cake-like rather than crispy or chewy. They might not hold up well for packing and sending, but they were great for snacking right at home. Next, I had to try the Honey Cashew Morning Buns. 

Again, this recipe had no refined sugar. The yeasted dough for the buns contained no sugar or honey, and the sweetness all came from the “honey goo” in which the buns were baked. This is a lightened-up version of the famous Flour Bakery sticky bun. The dough was made in a stand mixer with water, yeast, flour, salt, and olive oil. It was covered and left to rise for a few hours. Meanwhile, cashews were toasted and chopped for the filling. The filling was a mix of softened butter, cinnamon, and the chopped cashews. The risen dough was rolled into a square, and the filling was spread across the surface before the dough was rolled into a jelly roll. I cut the individual buns and chilled them in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, I made the honey goo which included melted butter, honey, heavy cream, water, and salt. Once cooled to room temperature, the goo was poured into a baking pan and the rolls were set into it. They were left for a second rise for about an hour or so before baking. The finished rolls need to be served warm so the sticky glaze can be scooped up with each one. 

The rolls were decadently gooey in the best way. There was plenty of sweetness from the honey and lots of great flavor from the cinnamon and nuts. I can’t wait to try all those chocolate recipes, but the Pineapple-Coconut-Banana Sorbet sweetened only by the fruits in the recipe is a top contender to try next too. Looks like we might start having dessert more often than we have been lately around here. 

Honey Cashew Morning Buns 
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from Baking With Less Sugar.

Our famous sticky bun at Flour is unapologetically sweet. It’s drenched in a brown sugar-honey “goo” and chock-full of cinnamon sugar and pecans. Not only did it beat Bobby Flay in a Throwdown episode on the Food Network, he also graciously picked it as his choice for The Best Thing I Ever Ate in another TV show. It has become a signature item, and it has put us on the map. I confess that I can only eat a few bites and then I’m done. It’s incredibly rich, which is what makes it so good, but I longed for something just as decadent but in a lighter, less sugary way. These morning buns are the answer. Made with a light, yeasted, unsweetened dough, they get filled with chopped cashews (my favorite nut) and then baked in a honey goo that is rich with cream and butter, and sweet with a little honey, but not so much that they hide the flavor of the bun or cashew. I especially love the caramelized pieces on the edge of the pan. 

240 g/1 cup water, at body temperature (when you put your finger in it, it should feel neither cold nor hot) 
1/2 tsp active dry yeast or 3 g/0.1 oz fresh cake yeast 
350 g/2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus up to about 35 g/1/4 cup more, if needed 
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt 
50 g/1/4 cup olive oil or other mild vegetable oil 

115 g/1/2 cup unsalted butter 
170 g/1/2 cup honey 
120 g/1/2 cup heavy cream 
120 g/1/2 cup water 
1/4 tsp kosher salt 

240 g/2 cups raw unsalted cashews, chopped 
115 g/1/2 cup unsalted butter, very soft 
2 tsp ground cinnamon 

1. To make the dough: Lightly oil a large bowl. 
2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the water and yeast and let sit for 20 to 30 seconds to allow the yeast to dissolve and activate. Dump the flour and salt onto the yeast mixture, and carefully turn on the mixer on low speed. Let the dough mix for about 10 seconds. (To prevent the flour from flying out of the bowl, turn the mixer on and off several times until the flour is mixed into the liquid, and then keep it on low speed.) When the dough is still shaggy looking, drizzle in the olive oil, aiming it along the side of the work bowl to keep it from splashing and making a mess. 
3. With the mixer still on low speed, knead the dough for 4 to 5 minutes, or until it is smooth and supple. The dough should be somewhat sticky but still smooth, and have an elastic, stretchy consistency. If it is much stiffer than this, mix in 2 to 3 Tbsp water; if it is much looser than this, mix in 2 to 3 Tbsp flour. 
4. Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cloth. Place the bowl in a draft-free, warm place (78 to 82°F [25 to 28°C] is ideal; an area near the stove or in the oven with only the pilot light on is good) for 2 to 3 hours. The dough should rise until it is about double in bulk. (This is called proofing the dough.) 
5. Meanwhile, make the honey goo: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and let the goo cool for about 30 minutes before using, or until room temperature. The goo can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 
6. To make the filling: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F [175°C]. Put the cashews on a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Turn off the oven and set the cashews aside to cool. 
7. Punch down the dough to deflate it—literally give it a punch in the center of the puffy dough, which will allow you to roll it out more easily. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12-in [30-cm] square about 1/4 in [6 mm] thick. It will be a bit stretchy and it may spring back, but keep rolling gently until it roughly holds its shape. 
8. In a small bowl, with a wooden spoon, mix together the butter, cinnamon, and cashews. Spread this mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough square. 
9. Using your hands and starting from the top of the square, and working your way down, roll the dough loosely like a jelly roll until the entire sheet is rolled up. Using a sharp knife, trim both edges of the dough roll about 1/4 in [6 mm] to even out the ends. Using a bench scraper or a chef’s knife, cut the roll into 12 equal pieces, each about 1 in [3 cm] thick. (At this point, the unbaked buns can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap—either individually or stack them all and wrap as a tower—and frozen for up to 1 week. When ready to bake, remove the buns from the freezer. Leave them wrapped and thaw in the refrigerator over¬night, or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours; proceed as directed.) 
10. Pour the goo into a 9-by-13 in [23-by-33 cm] baking pan. Place the buns in the pan, evenly spaced. If some of the buns have become oblong or oddly shaped from the cutting and moving around, feel free to arrange them once they are in the pan into round spirals. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let the buns proof at warm room temperature (78 to 82°F [25 to 28°C] is ideal; an area near the stove or in the oven with only the pilot light on is good) for 1 to 2 hours, or until the dough is puffy, pillowy, and soft and the buns are touching. 
11. About 15 minutes before the buns are ready to bake, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F [205°C]. 
12. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the buns are pale and light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes. 
13. Using a spatula, invert the buns, one at a time, onto a serving platter. Serve warm. (These are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. You could make them one day and serve them the next after warming them in a 300°F [150°C] oven for 6 to 8 minutes.)

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Monday, May 11, 2015

White Bean Walnut Spread with Roasted Tomato Tea Toast

I was immediately intrigued by the new book Steeped. I love tea. I drink tea often and have cooked and baked with tea as well, and now here was a book full of “Recipes Infused with Tea.” I received a review copy. What I quickly realized as I started reading the book is that not only is it full of clever uses of tea in all kinds of different dishes, it’s also full of just really delicious-sounding food. The Green Tea Noodles in Asparagus Sauce with Goat Cheese Pearls has a couple of genius things happening in the same recipe. The fresh pasta is made with matcha green tea powder mixed with the spelt and all-purpose flours. And, the dish is served with goat cheese pearls made by rolling little pieces of goat cheese between your palms. They make the prettiest garnish. The Iced Tea Sugar Cookies are made with five options for glazes, and each glaze is made with a different type of tea. For instance, the Mojito Glaze calls for Moroccan mint green tea and lime zest, and the Rooibos Carrot Glaze has rooibos tisane and finely grated carrot. I first learned about tea leaf salads when I read the book Burma, and this book includes a fabulous, big, composed, California-version of a tea leaf salad with chopped avocado, jalapeno, and sunflower seeds. There are also really lovely pairings like the Jasmine Tea Whipped Cream with Shortcakes topped with Canteloupe. I can already imagine how good sweet, ripe cantaloupe will be with the flavor of jasmine tea. This is definitely so much more than a darling, little book about tea. First, I had to try the Roasted Tomato Tea Toasts and experiment with the smoky flavor from lapsang souchong tea. 

You begin by grinding lapsang souchong tea with coarse salt in a spice grinder. It results in a smoky-flavored salt accented with the floral qualities of the tea. This salt was sprinkled on tomato slices before they were roasted. I had just received some tomatoes from our CSA, and I bought some extras at the farmers’ market. This happened two weeks ago, and at that point, our local tomatoes were of the greenhouse variety. They were good candidates for roasting to concentrate their flavors. While the tomato slices roasted, white beans, toasted walnuts, minced garlic, more ground lapsang souchong tea, and some of the tea salt were pureed together in the food processor. Olive oil was drizzled in until the puree was smooth. Last, olive bread was sliced and toasted. I cut the bread to about the size of each slice of tomato. The bread was topped with the white bean puree, then a slice of tomato, and chopped chives. 

These tea toasts were so simple to prepare, and the result was a delightful and unique flavor experience. The lapsang souchong salt is just smoky enough without being overbearing as some smoked salts can be. It combined perfectly with the white bean and walnut spread, and the roasted tomatoes on top. I love now having the idea of this tea and this salt for adding a hint of smokiness in my bag of tricks, and I look forward to using tea in even more new and different ways. 

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