Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Roasted Cauliflower Leaves

Can we talk about cauliflower leaves for a second?

Historically, I've thrown them out, or when I'm mindful added them to a stock pot. I've never been served them at a restaurant. I've never had a friend cook them for me. But a while back after reading enough Dan Barber, Tamar Adler, Deborah Madison, and Alice Waters I started to think about cooking cauliflower leaves. Then I saw this article. The thing is, neither I nor thekitchn invented roasted cauliflower leaves, but when you make them for the first time if feels like a crazy new world discovery.

The other week at the farmers' market I stopped by the Finley Farms Stand (so good!). They had the most beautiful, delicate, tiny little cauliflower heads. Each one was about the size of a baseball and covered with beautiful bright green delicate leaves.

One of the women who worked at the stand and I talked about roasting the leaves... she always does it and she described how they turn kind of "marshmallowy" when cooked. The thick stems do have this amazing soft texture when roasted, and they are rich and sweet in flavor. But the leaves! They get crispy, peppery, and brown and taste better than any kale "chip" I've ever had.

You can roast them alongside the cauliflower (I like cutting the cauliflower into neat flat cross-sections about 1/4-1/2-inch thick, as opposed to florets... they caramelize beautifully and evenly this way - see above photo). Or you can roast them separately. If roasted together you should keep an eye on the leafy parts... the leaves cook more quickly than the florets. You may need to remove them from the pan while the rest of the cauliflower cooks... but also burnt leaves are kind of the best.

For these to taste delicious all they need is salt, pepper, and a generous amount of oil.

Roasted Cauliflower & Roasted Cauliflower Leaves

however much cauliflower you like, leaves still on heads
cauliflower leaves independently of the cauliflower they hailed from
generous drizzles of olive oil or melted coconut oil
generous sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut up your cauliflower and cauliflower leaves into even-sized pieces. You can do these at any thickness or size... but you want them as even as possible so that they all roast at the same rate.

On a parchment lined-sheet pan (or two) evenly spread out the cauliflower/cauliflower leaves. Make sure they are not too crowded and they'll brown better that way. Generously drizzle them with your preferred oil. Toss with your hands. You want them to be evenly coated with the oil, glistening. Generously season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes. Check on them, flip them over, rotate the pan and let them roast until they are golden brown, roughly another 5-10 minutes (it depends on your cauliflower so check on it every 5 minutes or so. Serve immediately or even at room temp.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Simple Salted Butter Cookies

Remember those Danish sugar cookies that come in the blue tins? I haven't had them in forever, but they were THE staple cookie of my childhood. My parents and my grandparents often had them on hand for a sweet treat and their tins were always repurposed into excellent storage containers. I liked the crinkly paper that contained the different shapes of cookies that all tasted exactly the same. I never thought much of them because they were so unassuming and plain, but before I'd know it I'd eat ten of them. They were addictively satisfying in their simplicity.

That's the inspiration for these cookies. I just wanted to make a cookie that had almost no frills and tasted mostly of butter. Good butter.

If you've made pie crust from scratch then this recipe will feel familiar. If you have never made pie dough, this recipe is still on the easy end of the baking spectrum. A food processor helps the cause, but a pastry cutter or hands will work too.

The key for simple dishes is that all of the ingredients should be great. For these cookies you'll want to invest in very good butter above all else. A nice fleur de sel, sel gris, or flake salt would be helpful, too. And that's it... anyway, there are only about 5 ingredients in this cookie. It's the perfect recipe for when you're in a baking mood but not in a going-to-the-store-to-get-what-you-need mood.

These buttery crumbly crisp things are especially perfect dunked into a hot beverage. Good strong black tea or coffee with a drop of cream.

Salted Butter Cookies
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Salted Butter Breakups recipe
Makes 22-24 cookies, depending on size (or one sheet-pan's worth)

  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup vanilla sugar or regular granulated sugar (I throw discarded vanilla bean pods into a jar and fill it with sugar. Voila! Vanilla sugar is born and used all the time)
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar (I like the texture of this - it's usually coarser - and I like it in baking. You can use 100% vanilla sugar, 100% cane sugar, 100% regular sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon fleur de sel, or sel gris (gray salt), or flake salt, or 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) very cold good quality unsalted butter, small cubed
  • 3-5 tablespoons ice cold water
  • 1 cold egg yolk + a few drops of cold water beaten together
  • Turbinado sugar to sprinkle on in the end (optional)

In a food processor (or using a whisk), pulse the flour, sugars, and salt together.

Cube the butter into small chunks and drop them into the processor. Pulse a few times until the pea-sized clusters form. You want this pretty coarse so that you don't overwork the butter. Small chunks of butter will be visible in the finished dough. If you don't have a food processor, you can combine the butter and flour mixture using a pastry cutter, or you can even use your hands.

Add the cold water to the food processor one tablespoon at a time and pulse again. Pulse until the mixture sticks together when you press it with your hands (or using your hands to combine if you're skipping the FP). Only pulse to combine everything. Again, don't overmix or your dough will be tough and gross instead of crumbly and wonderful.

Transfer your mixture to a flat surface. Form it into a large disc or ball (flatter round disks are easier to roll out later). Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Here's where patience is a virtue: refrigerate for at least 1 hour. You could keep it in the fridge for hours before you're ready to use it, but definitely you need at least one solid hour of chilling.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly dust a flat surface with flour. Roll the dough out until it is 1/4-1/3-inch in thickness. Using a fork, run the tines of the fork into long stripes in the dough. I go in one direction and then I do the second direction after. I like a crisscross shape (see cookie above). This step is so optional... it's mostly for aesthetics but it is also nice texturally. You can go pretty deep, the dough will rise and the lines fade as it bakes.

Cut out the cookies and transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet. I used a square cookie cutter, but you can use any size/shape/style cookie cutter you'd like. Alternatively, you could cut it into squares using a knife.

Beat together one cold egg yolk with a few cold drops of water. Using a pastry brush, lightly (!) brush the tops of the dough with the egg wash. Sprinkle the cookies with Turbinado sugar (or coarse sugar) if you like that kind of thing. You can skip this step and it will be fine. You can also sprinkle with a tiny bit more salt if you're into saltier cookies.

Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan after 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Watch carefully, ovens vary and you don't want them to get too dark/browned. Remove from the oven and let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a rack and let them fully cool. The texture will be better once they're room temp.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days (or longer if you can make them last that long).

Friday, May 15, 2015

Easy Homemade Vegetable Stock

There's nothing like homemade stock. That boxed kind from the store is certainly useful, and can be a necessary evil, but it usually just makes me disappointed with its sad, dull and muted flavors. Of the store bought stocks I've often found that veg stock is the worst in terms of flavor. The brands wildly differ in taste, and some of them are just straight up bad.

I think making stock seems daunting, but while it take a few hours of simmering it's pretty much one of the easiest things to make and the pay off is huge.

The other bonus of stock is that it can utilize a lot of the odds and ends of veggies that you normally throw out (or compost?). I hate seeing bags of green things go into the trash. When I'm prepping veggies during the week, I keep a bag of trimmings and stuff I know I won't use: leek tops, cauliflower ends (not the leaves which are great to eat), carrot ends, parsley stems without the leaves, green onion roots, celery leaves, veggies that are a little wilted and past their prime. I keep a lot of those guys in one bag and at the end of the week I fill a pot with water and dump the veggies into the pot. I also usually add a few whole onions or shallots with the skin still on too. Onion skin gives stocks a lovely rich brown color.

Basically, stock is about throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot, letting it simmer in a lot of water for hours, or until the stock reduces by half so that the flavor gets concentrated and yummy, and then you strain it using a mesh strainer (or cheese cloth if you're fancy).

Once the stock is done, I store some in the fridge for immediate use, but I also like to keep mine in pint size freezer-safe glass mason jars labeled with the type of stock and the date. Then I take them out and defrost as necessary. Stock keeps for about 3-4 months in the freezer and about 1 week in the fridge.

Also, while you're making stock, if there are some veggies you want to blanch that day, you can throw them into the pot too. They'll add extra flavor to the stock, and the stock will add extra flavor to them. It's a win a win for all the veggies involved (see pic of cabbage below).

And, the smell of simmering stock on the stove always makes everything feel cozier and like delicious things are on their way...

Easy Way to Clean Out the Fridge and Use Up Veg Scraps Stock
Makes half of whatever amount of water you add
  • 1-2 onions, cut in half with peel still on
  • 1-2 shallots (if you have them), cut in half with peel still on
  • 2-3 celery stalks with leaves
  • 2 carrots, or a bunch of carrot ends 
  • Any of the following: fennel outside layers (or whole fennel), leek tops (or whole leeks), parsley or parsley stems, dill stems, garlic, cabbage, 10-12 crimini or shitake mushrooms (will make richer browner stock), green beans (in moderation), parsnip ends (or whole)... pretty much any veggie you like... beets will make everything pink so I usually don't use that. Also broccoli florets are too strong of a taste for me, but sometimes I include the stalk which I find doesn't have the same broccoli-ish taste...  but play around and see what you like...
  • 3-4 quarts water
  • salt to taste - I only throw in a few big  pinches so that I can control sodium levels later when I use the stock
Fill a large stock pot with water (at least 3 quarts/12 cups). Throw all of your vegetables into the pot.
Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1.5-2 hours, or until the liquid reduces by half. Once simmered and reduced, strain the stock through a fine-meshed sieve, or a cheesecloth-lined sieve.

Use immediately or store for later use.

Monday, May 4, 2015


I first learned to make baklava my freshman year of college. It was spring. It was Portland. The days were starting to get longer and warmer, and I was head over heels for a guy I had just started dating.

He was a senior and he lived off-campus in a one bedroom apartment in an old building in the heart of SE Portland. His apartment had hardwood floors, vintage furniture, and string instruments hanging on the walls like art. Compared to my dorm room, his home seemed like a dream. This was 2001 and hipster, foodie and Portlandia weren't things people talked about yet, but he may or may not have embodied all three.

The first night he invited me over to his place he played a record with Yusef Lateef's cover of Eric Satie's First Gymnopedie. I had never heard of either musician. The room, the music, and the easy conversation seduced me. We sat late into the night talking and playing records and at some point he asked me if I wanted a hibiscus tea. He brewed the tea in a small pot on the stove, mixing dried hibiscus flowers, tea leaves, honey and then pouring it into two mugs topped with a little vodka. At that point in my 18 years of limited worldly experiences I had never met anyone quite like him.

One night, he asked me if I would help him make baklava. Even then, I never turned down an opportunity to cook. We chopped up a mix of almonds and walnuts, we blended together cinnamon and sugar, we melted butter and carefully brushed it over individual layers of phyllo dough, and then we made a syrup to pour onto the baklava when it came out of the oven. The kitchen smelled like toasted buttery pastry, cinnamon and sweetness.

Soon after that night he graduated and moved away. We lost touch. I never wrote down the recipe and I have no idea who gave the recipe to him. But somehow, I always remembered how to make baklava and made it many times from that day on.

A few months ago a friend asked me to bring some baklava back from Israel and I told him I could just make him some instead. I hadn't made baklava in 5 or 6 years, but the important parts of the recipe easily came back to me and the rest I figured out or changed to my liking. This time I wrote the recipe down.


About baklava... it's hard to mess up, but it does has a lot of little steps. It's similar to making lasagna; it's all about layering. Traditionally baklava is made with some combination of almonds, pistachios and or walnuts. I'm using a mix of almonds and pecans because I love both of their flavors. Almonds are crunchier and pecans have a caramel-like nuttiness and softer texture that I love. You can use any combination you like.


for the baklava-
1 16 oz. package phyllo dough (also spelled filo and fillo), defrosted*
1 cup of unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted
1½ cups almonds, chopped fine
1½ cups pecans (or walnuts or pistachios), chopped fine
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice (optional)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
pinch of salt

for the syrup-
1 cup of sugar
⅓ cup of water
1 cinnamon stick
pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon of rosewater (optional -it's a very strong flavor, but often used in the Middle East)
¼ cup honey

Note about the dough - Phyllo dough is generally sold frozen in 1 lb. boxes. You can find it at most grocery stores near the frozen pie crusts. Allow the dough to fully defrost before using. I do this by leaving it on the kitchen counter for 5-8 hours before using (depending on how hot it is that day). If you are an amazing superstar cook and make phyllo from scratch I am humbled and impressed... but this is one of those things I feel ok about buying pre-made.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Line a 9" x 13" baking dish with parchment paper.

Prepare all of the ingredients for assembling the baklava:

  1. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan.
  2. Chop the nuts. These should be chopped pretty fine but it doesn't have to be perfect. If you chop by hand the baklava will be less heavy/dense. If you don't feel like chopping that much you can use a food processor to break up the nuts into small pieces by pulsing a bunch of times until the nuts are chopped fine. Transfer the nuts to a bowl.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and a generous pinch of salt.
  4. Add 1/4 cup of the sugar mixture to the nut mixture. Stir until combined.
  5. Lay out the phyllo dough on a clean surface. Cut it into two halves crosswise (each half will be about the dimensions of your baking dish). Stack the two halves on top of each other and cover them with a slightly damp towel. Phyllo dries out fast, and the damp towel will prevent this. Keep the phyllo covered between layers so that it never dries out as you assemble the dish.
Now you are ready to assemble:
  1. Using a pastry brush, brush the parchment with melted butter. Place a piece of phyllo into the bottom of the dish. Brush that piece with butter. Remember to keep the stack of phyllo covered with the damp towel as you're doing this.
  2. Place another layer of phyllo on top of the first buttered layer. Brush the second layer with butter. Repeat the process until you have stacked 10 buttered layers of phyllo.
  3. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of the sugar mixture over the top layer of phyllo dough.
  4. Sprinkle a cup of the nut mixture over the sugar.
  5. Drizzle a few tablespoons of butter over the nut layer.
  6. Place another piece of phyllo dough over the nuts and brush with butter. Layer that piece of phyllo with 3 more layers (4 total).
  7. Add 2-3 more tablespoons of sugar mixture and 1 more cup of nuts. Drizzle with butter. Add 4 more layers of buttered phyllo.
  8. Add 2-3 more tablespoons of the sugar mixture and the last cup of nuts. Top with 6 final layers of individually buttered phyllo.
  9. Cut the phyllo before placing it in the oven. Make sure the knife goes through every layer. It's very important to cut at this stage because after it's baked the phyllo will become crumbly, paper thin, and difficult to cut cleanly. Here is how I cut mine:

Place the baklava in the oven on the center rack and bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown.

While the baklava is baking, make the syrup.
  1. Add the sugar, water, cinnamon stick, and a pinch of salt to a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until the sugar has fully melted. 
  2. Once the sugar has melted take the syrup off the stove. Add the rosewater (a little goes a lonnnng way) and honey to the syrup. Stir and reserve until the baklava is fully baked.
Finish the baklava..
  1. Drizzle the syrup evenly over the baklava while it is still hot. Once the baklava cools down to room temp, cover the baking dish.
  2. Let the finished baklava rest at room temp for at least 8 hours or overnight. The longer it sits the better... it needs time to soak up the syrup.
  3. To serve, I like to place each piece into a muffin tin liner... it makes it easier to eat and serve the sticky triangles (see photo above).