Friday, April 29, 2011

I Can't Wait

Today I learned how to make fresh rice noodles from one of the cooks at the Slanted Door--it's another recipe we're planning to put in the cookbook. Three ingredients: rice flour, water and tapioca flour, kneaded until it attains a Play-Doh quality, then pressed through a ricer into boiling water. The resulting noodles--silky and tender, perfect in soup--were a total revelation.

It's another example of something I didn't realize you could actually make at home, and it's doubly exciting because the recipe is dead simple. We're still fiddling around with the proportions, but once we have a reasonable home-sized batch of dough, I can't wait to share it with you.

Monday, April 25, 2011

For Breakfast This Weekend

One of my first food media-related jobs, 15 years ago, was working on a web site PBS produced in conjunction with the re-release of the Julia Child: Lessons with Master Chefs series. It was a pretty thankless gig that mostly entailed watching (and rewatching, and watching again) the series (on VHS, naturally), taking notes so that each video could be time-coded, and writing biographies of the featured chefs.

So the work itself was mind-numbing, but the silver lining was getting to watch hours upon hours of the greats--Zarela Martinez, Daniel Boulud, Madhur Jaffrey--together with Julia Child, who was getting on in years but was still a terrific joy to watch.

One of my favorites, and the one that has stuck with me all these years later, is the episode with Beatrice Ojakangas. Beyond having an amazing name, Ojakangas is a skilled Scandinavian baker, and on the show she showed Julia how to make Danish pastry. I got sort of obsessed. There are some things that you think you can't make at home, and Danish was one of those things. But with Beatrice on my side, I made a flaky, glazed fruit-and-cheese filled Danish bread without breaking a sweat.

It would be years before I realized that the dough is essentially a yeasted puff pastry, and up until this weekend, it had been years since I had made it. But I baked one again this weekend, and it was just as successful and easy to work with as I'd remembered. Also: It is so impressive, and covered with glaze, and the "braiding" looks far more complicated than it actually is.

Click here to read the recipe. I filled mine with lightly sweetened fromage blanc and some tart apricot jam, but the possibilities are endless. And since the dough recipe makes enough for two braids, you can choose two different fillings (or put half of the dough in the freezer).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Green Goddess-ish

After a week of barbecue, queso and other Tex Mex delights, it's was about time to get the Texas out of my system. Extraordinary though it was (with particular praise for Smitty's, in Lockhart, to Ray's Drive Inn, in San Antonio, and to Papalote and Torchy's Tacos in Austin), after five days I started to casually daydream about vegetables.

How very California of me.

In particular, I dreamed of green goddess, the brilliant, creamy, herb-flecked salad dressing. Except that I believed that green goddess had avocado in it. For some reason, I'd always attributed the lovely hue to avocado, but not so: the tarragon, basil, chives, parsley do the work.

Well. I guess I can't call the dressing I made green goddess, lovely name though it is. Instead, we'll just call it avocado-crème fraiche-anchovy-buttermilk-herb dressing, and we'll also call it delicious. I left mine a bit thick, so it would cling to the leaves of Little Gem lettuce (you could use romaine, too, but this is not really a dressing for those tender young things, not for spring mix or mesclun or whatever it's called.) When you leave it thick like that, it can also be used as a dip, and if it sits overnight in the fridge and thickens even more, it's good spread on a piece of toast.

Here goes into the food processor:

Half of a Hass avocado
A big spoonful of crème fraiche
About a 1/4 cup of buttermilk
2 anchovy filets
1 small clove garlic, chopped
salt and pepper


Add the juice of half a lemon, a few tablespoons of olive oil, a few tablespoons of Champagne vinegar (if you've got it, otherwise, more lemon juice). Gather up a good cup of soft green herbs (chervil, parsley, basil and tarragon are nice, but dill and mint aren't invited to this party) and add those to the processor. Whir the whole bit together until the herbs are finely chopped and the dressing is smooth and bright green.

If it's too thick for your liking, thin with a bit more buttermilk or even a small amount of hot water. Season to taste with additional salt, pepper or vinegar.