Olive bread

Dry yeast, 1 tbsp
Warm water, 1/2 cup (for activating yeast)
Sugar, 1 tbsp
Salt, 1 tbsp
Warm water, 1 cup (for bread)
Stone-ground whole wheat flour, 2 cups
Unbleached flour, 3-5 cups
English walnuts, chopped, 1 cup
Large spicy green olives (marinated with cracked red pepper; do it yourself if you must!) and black olives (Mediterranean - Kalamata or Niçoise), pitted and chopped, 1 cup
Fresh thyme, minced, 2 tbsp
Extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup
Cornmeal for cookie sheet

Makes: 4 loaves

1. In a large bowl combine flours, yeast, sugar, salt, walnuts, olives and thyme.
2. Add water and oil, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. 
3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. 
4. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. 
5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
6. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. 
7. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. 
8. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
10. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. 
12. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. 
13. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.
14. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

The story:
My daddy and his grandson
Christmas 2012
Not as easy to describe as you'd think, my dad wrote, when I requested this recipe. He adapted Jim Lahey's no-knead method for a recipe that wasn't intended to be no-knead: you can check out his book or this article from the New York Times.

At some point, while living in Mississippi, my sister acquired a breadmaker. After graduating, she returned home to my parents' house in New York with her 100-plus pound yellow lab, Maddox, and the aforementioned breadmaker. (Tangentially: I got the privilege of driving the dog home from Mississippi via the Blue Ridge Parkway in late spring. Beautiful, but I think he was a bit carsick by the end. My mom got an even more unique tour, when I decided to drive by every place I ever slept whilst in college in Charlottesville. She was also a bit carsick by the end.)

Anyway, some time later it seemed (to me, the occasional visitor) that a bread-making bug took over the house...though the breadmaker was rather infrequently involved. (see Turtle Bread...coming soon). This bread, which my dad describes as rustic and hearty with "unexpected" pepper that he loves, was - also unexpectedly - on the counter when I arrived home to visit one autumn day. (I think it was autumn...) I immediately loved did...as did Maddox (the dog) who hovered anxiously nearby whenever I cut myself a slice. The very smell of it baking seemed to send him into a panic of longing.
The best thing that ever happened to Maddox is having a baby in the house who is trying to learn to eat solids.
October 2012

Flank steak with chimichurri

Bavette steak with chimichurri
Shallot, 1-2
Garlic cloves, crushed, 4
Fresno chile, 1
Sherry or red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup
Coarse sea salt, 1 tsp or to taste
Fresh cilantro, 2 cups
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1 cup
Fresh oregano, 1/4 cup
Extra-virgin olive oil, 3/4 cup
Flank or bavette steak, 1-2 lb (can substitute ribeye or other cut of your choice, or even grilled chicken, suggest Polyface Farm or Teton Waters beef if you happen to be nearby)

Chimichurri butter (optional)
Butter, softened, 1 stick

Steak panino (optional)
Fresh mozzarella, drained and sliced
Arugula dressed with lemon, olive oil and sea salt
Ciabatta, sliced

1. Mix first five ingredients in mini food processor until finely chopped and let stand for 10 minutes.
2. Add herbs and olive oil; purée again until finely chopped.
Flank steak with chimichurri
3a. Marinate flank steak before grilling; top with additional fresh chimichurri before serving.
Steak with chimichurri butter
3b. To make chimichurri butter, add softened butter and blend again. Pack into container and refrigerate until firm. Cut into 1 tbsp slabs and serve on top of freshly grilled steak (flank or ribeye, seasoned just with salt and pepper), allowing butter to melt into steak. 
Steak panino
3c. Marinate flank steak in chimichurri and grill as in step 3a. Slice thinly.
4. Spread ciabatta with chimichurri.
5. Layer steak, slices of fresh mozzarella and arugula dressed in lemon and olive oil.
6. Toast lightly in panini press (but don't fully press sandwich) and serve. 

The story:
Summer plate: arugula salad; oven-roasted potatoes with shallots,
tomatoes and mushrooms; corn on the cob; sautéed broccolini; and steak
Chimichurri is a bright, herbal sauce from Argentina usually served with grilled meat. It's very simple to make and requires no cooking. There are several variations involving different herbs: this is my favorite. It's similar to the first version I tried, made by an Argentine couple who was also staying with my host family in Cusco in 2004.

I love it with flank steak, or a similar cut called bavette, but it will enhance many types of meat. It also freezes well, particularly in as a chimichurri butter (Steuben's style). The panino version is based on a sandwich called, merrily, Italians in Argentina, from my favorite Denver Italian restaurant, Spuntino.

Un hombre anciano bajo la mirada de Ausangate
Sacsayhuamán, Cusco, Perú, July 2004


Rainbow chard with pignoli and pancetta

Pignoli (pine nuts), 2 tbsp
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Rainbow chard, 4-5 lb (can substitute red chard if necessary)
Garlic, crushed and finely chopped, 2 tbsp
Olive oil, 1/4 cup
Pancetta, 2 oz, coarsely chopped (original recipe used Serrano ham, which I love but find less readily; prosciutto is also an option)

1. Toast the nuts lightly in the oven (350˚F, about 10 minutes) or in a dry frying pan (watch them carefully and stir occasionally, they can burn easily). Set aside.
2. Separate the chard stems from the greens. Chop the stems into one-inch pieces and cut the greens into long strips.
3. Blanch the stems in boiling, salted water for 3-4 minutes (tender but still slightly firm). Drain and set aside.
4. Crisp the pancetta in a sauté pan with a tablespoon of olive oil, over medium-high heat. Set aside the crispy pancetta (with the pine nuts) but leave the oil and dripping.
5. Bring the pan to medium heat and add about one-quarter of the greens at a time, cooking for 3-5 minutes or until wilted to about half its previous size. Continuing adding greens until all have been cooked. Season with salt as you cook. Pour off excess liquid. 
6. Add pine nuts, pancetta and nuts and toss to combine quickly. Season with salt and pepper.

The story:
This is one of my favorite recipes from my other favorite cookbook, Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home, which I first encountered on my friends' coffee table in New York City, just before Christmas a few years ago. I perused it by the light of their Christmas tree and just knew - despite my general avoidance of cookbooks - that it was worth having.

I found it under my own Christmas tree a week later. Santa's workshop prints books, apparently.

This version is somewhat simplified. I've particularly left out the raisins, as I'm not terribly fond of them, but recently I've been reconsidering. The original calls for golden raisin soaked in dry white wine (brought to a boil first), star anise, and cloves. If you try it...let me know what you think!

We go all out for Christmas in our family!


Pappardelle con funghi

Fresh or homemade pappardelle (similar to fettuccine but 2-3 cm wide)
Butter, 3 tbsp
Olive oil, 3 tbsp
Pancetta, 1/2 lb, thickly sliced (~1/4 inch) and coarsely chopped
Medium yellow onions, 2, coarsely chopped
Fresh mushrooms, 2 lb, ideally including shiitake, crimin, chanterelle and portabella, roughly chopped
Chicken stock, 1/2 cup
Sage, 2 tbsp, chopped
Garlic, 2-3 tbsp, crushed and finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pecorino or parmigiano-reggiano to taste, finely and freshly grated

1. Prepare pappardelle according to the recipe here or purchase fresh pappardelle and cook.
2. Heat 1 tbsp of butter with 1 tbsp olive oil.
3. Lightly brown pancetta in butter and olive oil.
4. Add garlic and onions and sauté until tender and translucent, 5-10 minutes. Set aside.
5. Add the second tbsp of butter and olive oil and raise heat to high.
6. Add half of the mushrooms and sauté until they just begin to release liquid and soften. Set aside in bowl with pancetta, garlic and onion.
7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 with last tbsp of butter and olive oil and other half of mushrooms.
8. Heat the entire mushroom mixture over high heat, adding stock as needed to add moisture.
9. Stir in sage and season, then toss with pasta and serve.
10. Grate pecorino or parmigiano over the top if desired.

The story:
Mushroom sauces are among my favorite dishes - and are nearly impossible to mess up. (I'll be following this up with a slightly trickier mushroom risotto.) I also adore wide noodles - anything wider than spaghetti, really, and particularly tagliatelle and pappardelle, but the preference extends to non-Italian noodles (for instance, I prefer the wide rice noodles in pad see ew to pad thai noodles). Something about the texture is much more satisfying and very hearty.
Suboptimal cooking conditions

I rarely use cookbooks, but this recipe comes from one of my three favorites, the Williams-Sonoma Complete Entertaining Cookbook, which my parents, every practical, gave to me for Christmas during my first year away at university. Sadly, most of the recipes were not well-suited to a dorm room equipped with only a micro-fridge, but I bided my time and have been working my way through it every since.

What are my other two favorite cookbooks? I'll be sharing some recipes from them soon but here's a sneak peak:
- Ad Hoc At Home
Betty Crocker's International Cookbook

I have eclectic taste.


Salt-roasted turkey with lemon, thyme and oregano

Salt rub
1/2 cup coarse sea salt (1/4 cup if just cooking the breast)
Lemon thyme, chopped, 2 tbsp
Fresh oregano, chopped, 2 tbsp (I treat these amounts as suggestions)
Lemon peel, finely grated, 3 tbsp
Garlic, crushed and finely chopped, 4 tbsp
Black pepper, freshly ground, 1 tbsp
Everything else
Turkey, 14-16 lb (if you are feeling ambitious, you can save the neck, heart and gizzard for making turkey stock; if you are feeling less ambitious - and have a smaller party in mind - a 6 lb breast and two 1 lb legs also cooks beautifully)
Lemons, coarsely chopped, 3
Celery stalks, chopped, 2 (feel free to leave out, I don't think celery adds any flavor)
Medium yellow onion, chopped, 1
Fresh oregano, chopped 2 tbsp
Fresh lemon thyme, chopped, 3 tbsp (can be difficult to find, but so fabulous that I suggest buying a small plant and freezing portions all year).
Black pepper, freshly ground, 1 tbsp
Coarse sea salt, 1 tbsp
Extra-virgin olive oil, divided, 1/2 cup
Fresh lemon juice, divided, 6 tbsp or 2 lemons
Chicken or turkey stock, divided, 3-5 cups
Turkey-size oven bag (optional)

1. Mix all ingredients for salt rub in small bowl. Set aside for now.
2. Rinse turkey. 
3. Pull out metal insert that holds legs and remove fat pads from neck and main cavities. 
4. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons salt rub inside cavities. 
5. If using bag, slide bird into oven bag. 
6. Sprinkle remaining salt rub over bird. 
7. Place bag or bird alone on rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate for 24 hours.
8. The next day: Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 350°F. 
9. Combine lemons, celery, onion, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 3 tbsp lemon juice in large bowl. 
10. Spoon into main cavity. 
11. Whisk 1/4 cup olive oil and 3 tbsp lemon juice in small bowl. 
12. Place turkey on rack in roasting pan (when I made the breast alone, I didn't own a roasting pan with a rack yet; I used a Le Creuset Dutch oven and it turned out delicious, although the bottom will not crisp as nicely) and brush with oil mixture.
13. Pour 2 cups stock into roasting pan. Roast turkey 1 hour. 
14. Brush all over with remaining lemon oil. Roast turkey 45 minutes (30 minutes for breast alone). 
15. Pour 1 cup stock into pan. Roast 45 minutes (30 minutes for breast alone). If making just the breast and leg, skip to step 18.  
16. Add 1/2 cup or more of stock to pan to maintain liquid level. Turn pan around (not necessary for breast alone). 
17. Roast until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165°F, about 45 minutes longer. 
18. Transfer turkey to platter; reserve pan with juices. 
19. Tent turkey loosely with foil; let rest 30 to 45 minutes before serving. 

The story:
This recipe was adapted from the November 2010 Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appétit. For now at least, you can find the original recipe here. The most crucial change I've made is leaving the salt rub on throughout the entirety of the process (instead of rinsing it off). The salt rub is supposed to draw the moisture to the skin, giving a crisper skin and juicier meat; I think leaving the salt rub takes the crunch of the skin to the next level. 

The first time I made this recipe, I was going to be working over the Thanksgiving holiday, but my significant other at the time had his young daughter in town, and I didn't want her to miss out. Since I was working the entire week, each night, I came home at five or six and carefully prepared dishes (with painstaking, hand-written instructions) so that her father would be able to get everything in the oven on Thanksgiving Day and have it ready to it the moment I walked it the door. I made this turkey (the breast and leg variation), roasted cranberry sauce with lemon thyme (my favorite herb), Moroccan spiced carrots, sugar pumpkin and sweet potatoes, and apple-pancetta-fennel stuffing.

I had never cooked a turkey before, or made my own Thanksgiving dinner, for that matter. In fact, I would have said that, from a gastronomic standpoint, Thanksgiving was my least-favorite holiday and I didn't like turkey at all, truthfully...until this recipe. This is inarguably that best turkey recipe in the world. If you must have cranberry sauce, I highly recommend roasting cranberries, but truly, it does not need it. Crunchy, salty, savory, delicious... It does not get any better...or rather, it seems to get better each time we make it. I'm not exaggerating when I say that last winter, my mom and I roasted a whole turkey on three separate occasions that were not holidays. It is that good.

(Unfortunately, I can't really say the same for the carrots and sweet potatoes. The next day, I salvaged them via the immersion blender. They made a much tastier soup.)


A day in the life of the toddler palate no. 1

A new section on the intrigues of cooking (and sometimes "cooking") for a child who will eat ceviche and refuse dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets...

This morning (as we do every weekend), we walked to the farmer's market. My son eats his first breakfast when he first wakes up (today, banana and croissant) and then we nibble at the market. Before we left, I bought a maple-bacon doughnut and he had a root beer-flavored doughnut hole. 

A few hours later, he was taking a nap and I settled in to have my (amazing) doughnut with a cup of tea and the newspaper. To no one's great surprise, he woke up as I was taking my second-to-last bite. His bright little eyes widened and blinked, first with surprise, then with a look one could only describe as betrayal. 

He got the last bite. 

Feeling slightly guilty, I decided I should get together some lunch - quickly - for my doughnut-less boy. I had a package of quinoa, oatmeal and mashed fruit in the fridge and I popped a sweet potato cinnamon spelt pancake (ahhh, organic baby food) in the toaster. To try to supplement the calories, I spread almond butter on the pancake. The pancake was a hit, but the oatmeal medley was flat-out rejected with tightly sealed lips, so I added a tablespoon of peach noosa yogurt. Noosa is like eating frosting and will make anything better, at least in theory. In practice, those sweet baby lips pressed together until they almost disappeared. Then I noticed my son was licking the almond butter off the last bites of pancake and re-dipping into the jar (yes, so hygienic), so I dipped the oatmeal spoon instead. Apparently, a little almond butter was just what the quinoa, oatmeal, peach, pear, and yogurt medley needed to be palatable...but it was best spread on top of the sweet potato pancake.  

Weirdest lunch ever.