Guest post: On Momofuku bo ssam!

Tonight’s post brought to you by the lovely Ana Schwartz, a good friend, colleague, and fellow blogger. You can find her at http://paleontographist.tumblr.com, where she muses about going paleo (for 30 days), being a writer, and the relationship between food and text. Thanks for such a thoughtful, delicious, caring post, Ana!

There will be no photos of her magnificent bo ssam from last month. Camera phone? In the purse. Yeah, on the sofa. In the corner, where it remained all night. And good riddance. Neither will you find here a verbal recreation of the sights and smells and tastes, even the sounds of the feast. Obviously words fail, but that’s not the reason to avoid them.

Truly, there does exist meaning in the wish to want to memorialize that evening at the end of May, when Kelly cooked for her friends some pork shoulder, following David Chang’s recipe in the Momofuku cookbook. Her loving labor, first of all, let’s not overlook. It took Kelly an entire day—an entire day—to cook the damn thing. She’d been wanting to cook it for months, if not years. Moreover, there was much to celebrate at the dinner. Not the smallest reason to congregate was to say goodbye, together, to a long year and to exorcise its memories before they become ghosts. You know it: a good meal can do that. There were some new guests, some rare guests. And it was also springtime. Oh, the evening was bright, late, and warm. See, even in explaining reasons to celebrate, description and memorialization sneaks in.

Continue reading

Tomato and Corn Pie

It’s summertime in Minnesota, which means one thing and one thing only: tornado season.  So perhaps you’ll excuse me if this post is rather brief; I’ve got my eyes peeled on the television, which is proclaiming a tornado watch.  Seriously, people: if it’s not one thing, it’s another (warning: this contains spoilers to a really excellent film.)  But back to the softer side of seasonality…

Chances are:

  1. It’s the middle of summer where you are, and
  2. it’s blistering hot and humid, and
  3. the mere thought of turning on the oven (not to mention wrangling with pie dough) makes you want to cry, and
  4. you would cry, you really would, were it not for the fact that saving your bodily fluids Dune-style because the heat index is just! that! intense!

While all these things may be true, this recipe will make you say pooh pooh.  Imagine layers of pure tomato and corn goodness, bound together by cheese and a tangy lemon mayonnaise, its savoriness accented by basil and chives, all wrapped up in a buttery, flaky, biscuit crust:

Does it need more saying?  Very well, then.  If you take a chance on this pie, you will:

  1. Discover an undeniably sexy butter-brushed biscuit pie crust that will take your breath away!
  2. Learn the most amazing flash-peel technique for tomatoes, a technique whose genius and simplicity will shock and awe you!
  3. Develop a new-found taste (no, scratch that, esteem…no, scratch that, obsession) for savory pies!
  4. Capture summer in a piepan!

This pie is a rock star. I promise you nothing but good things from it.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch the weather report.

Update, 6 pm: Storms have moved south of us, thankfully, at least according to Channel 5.  Calling in from Watertown, MN, a certain Molly Hoof reports golfball-sized hail and strong winds, noting: “I grabbed some cheese and crackers because I didn’t know what was gonna happen.” Spoken with all the wisdom of a true Minnesotan, doncha know. I tell my mother, who responds thoughtfully, “Sounds good to me.  She’s a smart woman…”

Update #2, 8 pm: Um, never mind.  Grabbing the cheese and crackers, heading to the furnace room with dogs and company in tow.

Final update: We’re all okay!  (Locked?) door somehow blew open, sailboat and neighbor’s dock flipped over, huge branches all over the yard, but otherwise things are looking clear and calm, with a consolation prize of the most amazing sky you’ve ever seen.

Tomato and Corn Pie

As found on Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Gourmet, who adapted it from Laurie Colwin and James Beard.  This pie gets around!  (Further support for its rock star status.)

Ingredients:

2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1 ¾ tsp Salt, divided
¾ Stick (6 Tablespoons Or 3 Ounces) Cold Unsalted Butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, plus 2 teaspoons melted
¾ cup Whole Milk
⅓ cup Mayonnaise
2 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
1 ¾ pounds Beefsteak Tomatoes  (I used regular tomatoes; they worked well.)
1 ½ cups Corn (From About 3 Ears), coarsely chopped by hand, divided
2 Tbsp Finely Chopped Basil, divided (optional, but worth it!)
1 Tbsp Finely Chopped Chives, divided (again, optional, but worth it)
Salt and pepper
7 ounces Coarsely Grated Sharp Cheddar (1 ¾ Cups), divided

Directions:

Dough: Whisk together flour, baking powder, and ¾ tsp salt in a bowl, then blend in cold butter (¾ stick) with your fingertips or a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal. Add milk, stirring until mixture just forms a dough, then gather into a ball.  (N.B.: I probably only used 1/2 a cup of milk, if that, of the 3/4 called for by the recipe.  Nothing worse than a sticky, too damp pie dough–it makes it miserable to work with and severely diminishes the flakiness of the resulting pie.)

Divide dough in half and roll out one piece on a well-floured counter (my choice) or between two sheets of plastic wrap (the recipe’s suggestion, but I imagined it would annoyingly stick to the plastic) into a 12-inch round (⅛ inch thick). Either fold the round gently in quarters, lift it into a 9-inch pie plate and gently unfold and center it or, if you’re using the plastic warp method, remove top sheet of plastic wrap, then lift dough using bottom sheet of plastic wrap and invert into pie plate. Pat the dough in with your fingers trim any overhang.

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. If your kitchen is excessively warm, as ours is, go ahead and put the second half of the dough in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

Filling: Whisk together mayonnaise and lemon juice.

(And here’s the cool flash-peel technique:) Cut an X in bottom of each tomato and blanch in a large pot of boiling water 10 seconds. Immediately transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to cool. Peel tomatoes, then slice crosswise ¼ inch thick and, if desired (see Notes above recipe), gently remove seeds and extra juices. (Yes, do this.  It helps the pie be more like pie and less like stew.) Arrange half of tomatoes in crust, overlapping, and sprinkle with half of corn, one tablespoon basil, ½ tablespoon chives, salt and pepper (if you want to be exact, the recipe calls for 1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper for each layer; I just seasoned with a pinch of each) and one cup of grated cheese. Repeat layering with remaining tomatoes, corn, basil, chives, salt, and pepper. Pour lemon mayonnaise over filling and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Roll out remaining piece of dough into a 12-inch round in same manner, then fit over filling, folding overhang under edge of bottom crust and pinching edge to seal. Cut 4 steam vents in top crust and brush crust with melted butter (2 teaspoons). Bake pie until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes, then cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Do ahead: Pie can be baked 1 day ahead and chilled. Reheat in a 350°F oven until warm, about 30 minutes.

Balela in the Nabokovian Style

Balela, light of my life, fire of my belly.  My obsession, my thriftiest recipe.  Ba-lay-lah: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps across the curves of chickpeas and beans to tap, at two and three, on softness of a tomato and the crispness of an onion.  Ba.  Lay.  Lah.

It can be plain, just plain in the morning, standing fresh and greenly adorned only by parsley.  It’s delightful with mint, and better with both.  It’s even still good with cilantro.  But in my kitchen it is always Balela.

Did it have a precursor?  It did, indeed it did.  In point of fact, there might have been no Balela at all had I not stumbled, one weekend, on a certain plastic container.  In a Trader Joe’s in the city.  Oh when?  About as a third as many weeks before I discovered it as my age is this year.  You can always count on a food blogger for borrowed prose style and literary in-jokes.

Ladies and gentlemen of the food-blogging scene, exhibit number one is what the people, the strapped-for-cash, earnest, nobly-tasteful people, search for.  Look at this exquisite tangle of of a salad.

Balela

1 15 oz can chickpeas

1/2 15 oz can black beans (you can do a whole can of beans, or even two cans of chickpeas; I tend to like my Balela more chickpea-heavy)

1 large tomato, chopped (or less, or more)

1/2 onion, chopped (I like Vidalia, but red would work as well)

1/4 cup fresh parsley, mint, parsley and mint, or cilantro

healthy glug of olive oil (don’t be shy!)

healthy glug of balsamic vinegar (no really, don’t be shy)

1 clove garlic, minced

sprinkling of red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Pizza


When summer time is over and school time sets in, what better go-to, quick-and-easy dinner do we have than homemade pizza? I’ve heard it’s the new thing, prompting an outbreak of gourmand pizzerias–but I guess I just haven’t caught on to the trend of going out for pizza, not when you can make such scrumptious versions at home for super-cheap. You can find ready-made dough in the supermarket fairly easily (I like Whole Foods’ whole-wheat variety, for under $2!), and what you put on it is up to you.


The first pizza pictured was a mixture of dried figs, Gorgonzola, bacon and caramelized onions. (Hold on, don’t rush to the kitchen quite yet!) Pictured above is a delectable white pizza, made with ricotta, mozzarella, a sprinkling of Parmesan, fresh tomatoes and garlic-sautéed spinach. I’ve also made a great mushroom pizza with onions, Fontina and rosemary–although I don’t have a picture for that, I can assure you it is so good. And of course there’s the classic Margherita, a revelation when, in the confines of your own kitchen, you can douse that baby with as much mozzarella and basil as you want. You don’t need a pizza stone. I usually sprinkle a foil-covered baking tray with cornmeal and slap the dough right on top. Just be sure to crank your oven as high as it will go, unless otherwise directed; the pizzas will bake and bubble merrily for around 12-15 minutes before your judgment (or impatience, for me) deems it done. Oh, and a drizzle of olive oil and light crackling of salt pepper doesn’t hurt either.

Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Figs, Bacon and Blue Cheese
from The New York Times

● large onion
● 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
● 2 bay leaves
● Kosher salt
● 4 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch thick batons
● 1 ball pizza dough (see above)
● Flour, for dusting surface
● 12 dried mission figs, stems trimmed, cut into quarters or small pieces
● 3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
● Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle
● Freshly cracked black pepper.

1. At least 45 minutes before cooking, preheat the oven and pizza stone to 550 degrees.

2. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the onions, thyme and bay leaves. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the onions begin to wilt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and turn a deep, golden brown, about 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaves and transfer the onions to a small bowl.

3. Place the bacon in the pan and set over high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until brown and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a small bowl.

White Pizza, very casual:

(Ingredients: ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, spinach, tomato, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper)

Put a glug of olive oil in a pan and heat to medium. Add some garlic and stir until fragrant. Sauté a whole lot of spinach in this mixture until cooked down, and drain off excess liquid. Cut up the tomato in a medium dice. Open cheese containers, and assemble at will. Just before sliding in the oven, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with light hand of salt and a liberal hand of pepper.

Wild Mushroom Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Fontina, and Rosemary
from Epicurious.com

● 7 tbsp. butter, divided (I used less–you don’t need 3 Tbsp of butter to caramelize onions)
● 2 tbsp. plus 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil (I just used olive oil)
● 3 onions, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise (about 6 cups)
● 2 lb. assorted wild mushrooms (such as crimini, oyster, chanterelle, and stemmed shiitake), cut into bite-size pieces
● 6 garlic cloves, minced
● 2 tbsp. minced shallot (about 1 medium)
● 2 cups dry white wine
● 1 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
● Pizza Dough
● Cornmeal (for dusting)
● Garlic oil
● 3 cups grated Fontina cheese (about 10 ounces)

Melt 3 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until golden, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter with 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil in another heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, garlic, and shallot. Sauté 4 minutes. Add wine and simmer until almost all liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently, about 13 minutes. Add rosemary; season with salt and pepper.

Position rack in bottom third of oven. Place heavy 17×11-inch baking sheet on rack (invert if rimmed). Preheat oven to 500°F at least 30 minutes before baking. Roll out 2 dough disks on lightly floured surface to 8-inch rounds, allowing dough to rest a few minutes if it springs back. Sprinkle another baking sheet (invert if rimmed) with cornmeal. Transfer 1 dough round to second baking sheet. Lightly brush dough with garlic oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese. Scatter 2 1/2 tablespoons onions over cheese. Scatter 1/2 cup mushrooms over onions. Sprinkle with salt.

Position baking sheet with pizza at far edge of 1 side of hot baking sheet. Tilt sheet and pull back slowly, allowing pizza to slide onto hot sheet. Repeat with second dough disk, garlic oil, cheese, onions, mushrooms, and salt, and slide second pizza onto second half of hot baking sheet. Bake pizzas 6 minutes. Rotate pizzas half a turn. Bake until crust is deep brown, about 6 minutes longer. Using large spatula, carefully transfer pizzas to cutting board. Let rest 1 minute. Slice into wedges and serve. Repeat with remaining ingredients.