Sunday, September 30, 2012

Boston Globe Review: Savoring Moroccan Hospitality

Moroccan Collage
Clockwise from top: Plate of goat cheese, feta, gorgonzola, pickled veggies, pita wedges, and olives; mocha latte with amaretto cookie; and Mrouzia chicken, topped with caramelized onions, plump raisins, and toasted almonds.
This has been one of my favorite assignments.  I also love the headline by my colleague Wendy that ran in the print edition: Savoring Morrocan hospitality.  It summed up both my experience and what I think the chef/owner's mentality is at Cafe Paprika, a Moroccan restaurant in Norwood.

I submitted a different photo of owner Lahcen Abaichi for the paper, but I wanted to share this personal one here. After his initial camera-shy protests, he said, "Wait, you have to get me with my photo of my mother."
You can probably guess at my verdict, but read all about it at:  I'm still thinking about those tagines and desserts.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Multigrain Focaccia with Grapes and Rosemary


Have you ever had roasted grapes?  They're a revelation to me.  They give this bread wonderful jammy and fruity spots after they bake up and get soft.  And they're not like grape jelly, which I don't care for.  The next time you roast vegetables with olive oil, throw some grapes into the bunch.  This focaccia is great too, and although it's time-consuming it is easy.  Most of the time is inactive, so you can fold laundry or watch TV, but do plan ahead and start that pre-ferment about 12 hours before you plan the rest of the process.

Focaccia 2

In King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking, the intro to the recipe says: "This version, which is more than half whole wheat flour, may not reach the same heights as the fluffiest focaccia, but its creamy, chewy texture and fragrant flavor make it one of our favorites."  I love it.  It's not a proper focaccia, but it's crusty outside and soft and chewy inside.  The whole wheat gives it hearty flavor, and I used white whole wheat flour, which is just as nutritious as regular whole wheat flour but has a softer texture.  It's a more virtuous focaccia, and I prefer this to traditional focaccia.

Foccacia Collage
The focaccia right before going into the oven.  Top-right down: the pre-ferment is ready to use; the sticky dough; and the dough after a couple rises and folded into a packet.
The other reason it's more virtuous?  Very little oil.  Have you ever used the nutrition calculator at Panera and seen what a difference in fat it makes to swap in another bread for your sandwich?  Or maybe you've made focaccia before, and seen the dough sit in about two-thirds of a cup of oil and suck it up like a sponge?  Joe made Peter Reinhart's recipe years ago, but after seeing how much oil went into it we never made it again.  This recipe has no oil in the dough, and calls for oiling the sheet pan generously, whatever that means.  The first time I used about a quarter-cup, and it was unnecessary.  This dough doesn't really soak up the oil, so it just splatters in your oven.  The second time I used about a tablespoon and it worked out perfect, plus there were no oven splatters.  I've already made this twice, and it's going to make repeat appearances in my kitchen through the fall and winter.

Pumpkin Fritter closeup

On a side note, the Huffington Post featured my Pumpkin Fritters photo and recipe in a roundup of savory pumpkin recipes today.  To see it there or check out the other recipes, visit

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Hobbit Day, and Second Breakfast Ideas

Image from Middle Earth News
Happy Hobbit Day!  Did you know there was such a celebration as Hobbit Day, or Tolkien Week?  Apparently September 22 was the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  So have your second breakfast, followed by Elevenses, and get psyched about the upcoming Hobbit movie.  Bake up some Lembas bread, or try one of these recipes.

Ideas for your second breakfast:

Country Ham Cheddar Tomato Quiche

Country Ham, Cheddar, and Tomato Quiche - Nice and hearty, yet somehow fancy.

Austen Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

Austen Cucumber Tea Sandwiches - They honor my other favorite English author, but they're great for breakfast or tea time.

Lemon or Raspberry Braid

Braided Lemon Bread - For lovers of lemon curd.

Bacon Cheddar Chive Scones

Bacon Cheddar Chive Scones - When you want bacon to start off your day.

Buttermilk Biscuits

Buttermilk Biscuits - Pastry flour makes these extra tender.

Cream Scones with Chocolate Chunks

Cream Scones with Chocolate Chunks - Indulgence for breakfast.

Cinnamon Buns

Cinnamon Buns - You'll never eat the ones from a can again.

Maple Muffins

Maple Muffins - Perfumed with maple and studded with walnuts.

How are you celebrating Hobbit Day?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pumpkin Fritters with Rosemary and Cheese

Pumpkin Fritters

There's not a rule against eating pumpkin any time of the year, but like a lot of people I gravitate toward it in the fall.  I bookmarked this recipe months ago and imagined what it would look and taste like.  Then I realized before cooking it that reality wasn't matching up with my imagination.  I had pictured these fritters as golden, crusty orbs, but it sounded like they were meant to be pancake-shaped.  Well, I just couldn't let go of the image in my head, so I changed up the recipe.  It makes more sense to follow a recipe that's tried and true, and for health reasons one that's pan-fried rather than deep-fried, but sense doesn't always get through to me.

Pumpkin Fritter closeup

I increased the amount of baking powder in the recipe to help the fritters puff up, and substituted rosemary for the parsley because I thought it sounded more flavorful.  The half-inch of oil in the recipe became a few inches in a saucepan for deep-frying.  I scooped tablespoons of dough into the oil, and watched them fry up golden.  Like doughnut holes, they will flip in the oil on their own when one side is done.  In the end, I had my golden fritters -- crispy outside, flecked with rosemary, cheesy inside and very moist because of the pumpkin.  Vision fulfilled.  Will I make them again?  Probably not, because I don't deep-fry much and I got them out of my system.  But maybe I'll give the original recipe a whirl next.


On a side note, my backyard tomato crop is still going!  These are Brandywines, an heirloom tomato.  We've made and eaten a lot of fresh salsa in the past two months.  I also used them in this recipe for Baked Orzo with Eggplant, making no changes except substituting ditalini for the orzo, and basil for the oregano because that's what I have in my garden.  That dish was so good, I was too busy eating it to snap a photo for you.  But take my word for it, especially you, Jacob.  The mire a poix gives it wonderful depth of flavor, the sauteed eggplant is awesome, and the dish is like a lighter baked ziti that doesn't weigh you down.

Raspberry Muffin Collage

I also found these interesting berries at the farmers market.  They taste like the ordinary darker raspberries but with the tartness toned down.  I tried them in Raspberry Crumble Muffins from Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, but was disappointed.  So let down that I didn't bother giving them their own post.  There wasn't enough crumble topping or raspberry flavor, and it tasted like a corn muffin with a strangely light interior structure.  Not awful, but not worth making again either.

Back to those pumpkin fritters . . .

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pecan Tassies

Pecan Tassies

These are what I've been looking for.  The Pecan Bars I posted a few weeks ago got a lot of attention, but they weren't right.  They were expensive to make, and had too much sugar and fat.  Remember, nine sticks of butter total??  Sure, they were tasty -- hard not to be with butter, sugar, pecans, and chocolate -- but food should leave you craving a little more, not feeling weighed down and in need of a cleansing fast.  These tassies are little bites of pecan pie.  What appeals to you more?  The plentitude of big bars dipped in chocolate, or petite one-bite tassies?  In terms of taste, the tassies win hands-down and more closely resemble pecan pie.

Tassies in Pans
Mini-muffin tin on the left, and fluted tartlet pan on the right.
The crust is great, flaky and just slightly tangy due to the cream cheese.  Like all mini-tarts, they take a little bit of time to put together rather than one large tart or pie.  I used a mini-muffin pan, and also a fluted square tartlet pan (the push-up bottoms make for easy removal).  The square wells are a little bigger than the recipe calls for, so I cut the dough into nine squares instead of a dozen for that pan.  The baking times stay the same.  The filling is whipped up in a flash.  I top each tassie with a whole pecan for garnish, and for more crunch and pecan flavor.  This version, it's a keeper.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Boston Globe Review: Korean Grille

Korean Grille Collage
Photos by Shirley Goh/Globe Staff
I was excited to do this particular review because Korean barbecue is a favorite of mine.  I have fond memories of my parents taking me and my siblings to Flushing, Queens, in New York to eat it.  The restaurant had grills built into the tabletops, and it was fun to watch my parents cook it.  When I got home and hung up my jacket in the coat closet, it still smelled like that delicious beef, and so did my hair.  I was a little disappointed that Korean Grille does its grilling in the kitchen, but the bulgogi is so good you can overlook that.  The restaurant has other Korean specialties (that's bibimbop above the bulgogi), as well as sushi.

Click here to view the story and photos.  If the subscriber pay wall locks you out, you can still read the story and see one photo by clicking here.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cream Scones with Chocolate Chunks

Cream Scones with Chocolate Chunks

I fight it every year, but it's hard to be in denial after Labor Day that fall is near.  But as much as I want to hold on to beach days and barbecues, watermelon and peaches, shorts and sandals, I get excited about fall holidays and baking.  These scones are definitely colder-weather food, meant to be enjoyed with a hot cup of tea.

Scones Collage

You don't even need a mixer, food processor, or handheld pastry blender to make these because there is no butter.  Simply stir together all the dry ingredients and chocolate, add the cream, and stir until the dough comes together.  The recipe calls for 3 to 4 ounces of chocolate -- go for the higher amount.  A bite of scone that has a hunk of chocolate is wonderfully creamy and bittersweet, but a bite without chocolate is kind of bland.  I chopped up a block of Callebaut dark.

My verdict?  I'm a creature of habit, and I like my currant scones with Devonshire cream.  But these are not at all bad, and you might enjoy them.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Chocolate-Raspberry Roulade

Chocolate Raspberry Roulade

This raspberry roulade is a thin sheet cake spread with raspberry jam and whipped chocolate ganache, sprinkled with fresh raspberries, then rolled up and drizzled with chocolate.  It's the chocolate lover's alternative to yesterday's Blueberry Roulade, and the ganache is crazy good.

Chocolate-Raspberry Roulade 2

You'll want to plan this cake in advance, since the whipped chocolate ganache needs to be chilled for hours. It can also be made a few days in advance.  I've been leafing through Alice Medrich's Bittersweet, and I like her explanations for why chocolate behaves in a certain way, or her adaptations when using a chocolate with a higher or lower cacao percentage.  One thing Medrich points out for this recipe is not to worry if the melted chocolate and cream look too soft to spread, because it won't stiffen until it's whipped -- and it will stiffen more after it's chilled.

I'm going to miss farmers market berries when the cold hits!
Out of these three roulade combinations I've posted, my favorite has been raspberries and cream.  Because I like raspberries more, and the plainer whipped cream really lets the subtle summery flavor shine through.  But this whipped chocolate ganache is so good I'm bookmarking it for other recipes, like piping on top of cupcakes or using as a filling between cake layers.  Use a quality chocolate to really appreciate the flavor.  I used Callebaut.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Blueberry Roulade . . . or make it Raspberry!

Blueberry Roulade

This is so good, so easy, and so versatile I've made it three times in the past week now.  And Labor Day will be four.  No, I didn't polish them all off myself, but they were a hit at an intern's farewell party and then a beach picnic.  Nobody believes me that they're a cinch to pull off.  "It's just a sheet cake," I say, "filled with cream and jam and fruit and rolled up."  "Rolled up?" they ask.  "How do you roll up a cake?"

Bluberry Roulade 2

The cake itself is almost fat free -- no butter or oil in the recipe, just eggs.  There's the cream in the filling, but it still comes off feeling light.  And that was really welcome after the ultra-rich Pecan Bars I made last time.  This is just what a summer dessert ought to be, seasonal fruit in a cake that doesn't weigh you down.  And the cake is easy, going something like this: Beat eggs with sugar, then fold in flour with other dry ingredients, scrape into a pan, and bake.


This blueberries and cream variation was really good, but my favorite was the raspberries and cream version.  Dress the cake simply with a dusting of confectioners sugar, or pipe whipped cream on top.  Another possibility?  Come back tomorrow to see how to make this into a Chocolate Raspberry Roulade with whipped chocolate ganache.