Sunday, January 6, 2008

Moving Day!!!

NDP has officially moved!
You'll be redirected in just a second to
NDP's new digs....

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Vegetable Galette

Few things showcase the rustic nature of fruits and vegetables better than a galette. Essentially a freeform tart, a galette has a hand-folded crust that is folded half way into the center, leaving some of its innards exposed. A galette is by definition slightly asymmetrical, but more beautiful for its imperfection, in my opinion.

I most like galettes with thinly-sliced fillings. If slices are more like chunks, it becomes quite unweildy and difficult to eat. However, packed with thin slivers of apples, spices, and brown sugar, or layered with red peppers, yellow squash, onions, and goat cheese, a galette is both easy to eat and oh-so-delicious.

The key to a good galette is to make sure that the exposed part stays moist in the oven. To do this, there are two tricks: first, add a little extra liquid or fat to the middle. Two, cook uncovered until the galette crust starts to turn golden, then cook covered for a bit so the inside has a chance to steam. I've covered both of these bases in the recipe below, but PLEASE, pretty please feel free to improvise. if you don't like onions or goat cheese, throwsome feta, greek olives and tomatoes in instead. Alternatively, use pears and gorgonzola. Wow, I just figured out what to make this weekend.

Vegetable Galette

Basic Flaky Pie Crust
from The Pie and Pastry Bible (© 1998 Cordon Rose, Inc.)

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 1/2 cups + 1 1/2 tablespoons pastry flour or 1 1/2 cups (dip and sweep method) bleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (for savory recipes, use 1 1/2 times the salt)
  • 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • (Optional)1/8 teaspoon baking powder (if not using, double the salt)

  1. Divide the butter into two parts, about two thirds to one third: 6 Tbsp. and 3 Tbsp.
  2. Cut the butter into 3/4-inch cubes. Wrap each portion of butter with plastic wrap, refrigerate the larger amount and freeze the smaller for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Place the flour, salt, and baking powder in a reclosable gallon-size freezer bag and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Add the larger amount of butter cubes to the flour mixture and process for about 20 seconds or until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  5. Add the remaining frozen butter cubes and pulse until all of the frozen butter is the size of peas. (Toss with a fork to see it better.)
  6. Add the lowest amount of the ice water and the vinegar and pulse 6 times.
  7. Pinch a small amount of the mixture together between your fingers. If it does not hold together, add half the remaining water and pulse 3 times.
  8. Try pinching the mixture again. If necessary, add the remaining water, pulsing 3 times to incorporate it. The mixture will be in particles and will not hold together without being pinched.
  9. Spoon the mixture into the plastic bag.
  10. Holding both ends of the bag opening with you fingers, knead the mixture by alternately pressing it, from the outside of the bag, with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled.
  11. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap, flatten it into a disc, and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.
  12. If crust refrigerated overnight, set it out at least half an hour before rolling.

  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 1 onion, finely sliced into thin rings
  • 1 yellow squash or zucchini, sliced into thin slivers or using a mandoline
  • 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1 log chevre or soft goat cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Flour rolling surface; roll out crust into a circle 14 inches in diameter.
  3. Spread a thin layer of goat cheese over the crust, using about half of the log..
  4. Layer julienned vegetables in a decorative pattern on the crust, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.
  5. Fold border inward, pleating and tucking in when necessary.
  6. Dot the exposed filling area with chunks of goat cheese. (I actually ended up spreading goat cheese over the whole top after taking these pictures, and I like it better that way.)
  7. Bake galette uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until crust starts to turn golden. Cover loosely with tin foil and bake another 15 minutes, until innards are soft and cooked through.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Chocolate Pretzel Success (corrections appended)

A while back, Deb of Smitten Kitchen fame blogged about the shortcomings of Martha Stewart's chocolate pretzel cookie recipe. "Dry, bland, and not chocolatey enough" and more colorful adjectives described a cocopretzel that just didn't cut it. She suggested trying to make pretzels out of Dorie Greenspan's very flavorful and buttery chocolate rollout cookies, which I had been planning to make later that day. I figured what the hell? Chocolate pretzels they would be.

Needless to say, nothing is ever that easy. Dorie's chocolate rollout cookies are awesome cookies, but they make lousy pretzels. In the oven, they flatten out and spread a bit, losing their pretzel shape, and once cooled, they've got the texture of great cookies, not crunchy, crispy pretzels. Pretzels: 1. Rivka: 0.

With disappointment under my belt, I decided to give chocolate pretzels a second chance -- but not without a great deal of research. I googled several different phrasings of "chocolate pretzel cookie" and found total rubbish -- not even one decent recipe came up. I checked all my cookbooks with no luck. Left only to my own devices, I decided to develop a chocolate pretzel recipe.

My strategy was pretty simple (um, amateur?). I wrote out the ratio of butter:flour:cocoa:sugar:eggs in each recipe, noted the addition of baking powder and chocolate to Dorie's recipe and water and espresso to Martha's, and did my best to create a compromise between the two recipes that maintained the pretzely texture without sacrificing (much of) the flavor. And friends, you'll be thrilled to know that I succeeded! Yep, this super amateur method actually, to my total shock, worked!

Rivka's chocolate pretzel recipe (that's right, it's named after me!) yielded a chocolate pretzel that kept its round shape and its relatively toothsome crumb, but also packed a chocolatey punch from lots of cocoa and even a bit of chocolate. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've developed a recipe from scratch -- so pat me on the back, will ya? And then run home and make these. They'll surely spread some holiday cheer (and maybe some chocolate onto your face, too).

Rivka's CocoPretzels
makes 18 pretzels

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 or 2 oz. good quality chocolate (I used ghiradelli chips, and 1 oz is about 30 chips; the second time around, I used 2 oz and they were even better!)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • (1 egg yolk, for brushing)
  1. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or with an electric mixer, whip butter until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add sugars and whip until incorporated, 2 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, melt chocolate over double boiler.
  4. Add egg, vanilla and salt; mix until combined, about 20 seconds.
  5. Add chocolate; mix until combined, about 30 seconds, on low speed.
  6. Add cocoa, flour, and baking powder. Mix on low speed until completely blended, about two minutes or less.
  7. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or freeze for 45 minutes.
  8. Remove dough from fridge/freezer. Break off 1 1/2 Tbsp.-size chunks. (Alternatively, do as I did and slice the dough into relatively equal portions from the start.

  9. roll into 10-inch logs, about 1/3-1/2 an inch thick.
    DO NOT do as I did and roll them all out before shaping, because they'll get stiff and crack when you try to shape them. Shape as you go!

  10. Take the edges in your hand, bring them together, and twist them twice, leaving the tips dangling.

  11. Bring the twist down onto the rounded pretzel, stick the tips to the pretzel, and transfer to a non-stick or lined baking sheet.

  12. Brush with a very light coat of egg yolk mixed with water and sprinkle with rock sugar if you desire.

  13. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, until they've just begun to harden.
  14. Move delicately from baking sheet onto cooling rack, and allow to cool completely before serving. (Don't let that stop you from trying one...or two.)

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Sugar High Friday, baby!

Hey folks! Just a plug to check out Zorra's roundup of the Sugar High Friday entries -- mine's all the way at the bottom; it's the saffrom rice pudding and it's delicious! All the entries look mouthwatering -- so go check'em out!

Have a great weekend! Read more!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Simple antipasti

In Italy, antipasti are meant to whet your appetite. (Granted, when I ate out in Italy, my appetite needed little whetting -- what with all the whiffs of freshly-made pasta and roasted tomato sauce drifting from the kitchen to my table.) Nonetheless, in Italy, antipasti are simply appetizers, mere preludes to the main dish. In my house, they're just part of the meal. After all, roasted vegetables with a splash of quality balsamic vinegar and just the right amount of good olive oil make a perfect accompaniment to whatever's being served. In my humble opinion, they need not precede the main course -- in fact, they do just fine right alongside it.

By far the best thing about antipasti is their simplicity. Season, drizzle, and roast, that's all there is to it! These simple steps work wonders for eggplant, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, even sweet potatoes. The trick is to slice thinly, and flip once half-way through the roasting process so that both sides crisp up. If you're sparing with the oil, as I am, best use a pastry brush, which will spread the oil over the entire surface without soaking them all too much. And while cooking spray is fine for the pan, I strongly recommend sticking to real olive oil for the vegetables themselves; olive oil is a strong player in the saturated, concentrated flavor that antipasti develop.

I can safely say that this "recipe" has no recipe, but a method, instead: slice whatever vegetables you use about 1/4-1/8 inch thick, as uniformly as possible. Line a roasting pan with a single layer of vegetables. Brush each side with olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper, and add herbs if you like (I favor sage, pictured below, for eggplant, and rosemary with sweet potatoes, onion, and a new addition -- turnips).

Bake at around 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until the tops are browned; flip, and bake another 10-15 minutes. Check regularly to avoid burning (which I unfortunately have a tendency to do!). Once the vegetables are out of the oven, transfer to a platter, drizzle with good balsamic vinegar, add salt and pepper to taste, and bring to room temperature before serving.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

You know it's holiday time when this is your kitchen table display...

Happy Holidays to all, and enjoy the winter season! Read more!