by Cara Nicoletti, August 19, 2015 2:53 PM
As a kid, I read for two reasons: the first, and most common, was to escape from my everyday life by imagining a different one — to read about people and places that I didn't and couldn't know. When I wasn't reading about castles and orphanages and talking animals, though, I read to understand my own world, to affirm that the feelings I was feeling were true and that the experiences I was having were normal.
I grew up in a large family, always looking for stories about siblings that felt real. I loved The Boxcar Children, but they were so terribly nice to each other. Same went for the All-of-a-Kind Family and the March sisters of Little Women. But when I discovered Ramona Quimby and her family, I felt like someone had cracked open my head and my home and peered inside.
With the Quimbys, Beverly Cleary created a family that is deeply normal without being dull. They struggle and laugh and fight and love each other very much, like my family did. But instead of making my family seem boring by contrast, like The Boxcar Children did, the Quimbys made my family feel as special as theirs. And Ramona! Ramona is one of the most fully realized children in all of literature. She messes up and gets yelled at a lot and holds grudges and forgives. To read Ramona Quimby, Age 8 as an adult is to remember viscerally what it was to be eight years old — to fight with your sister and worry that your teacher hates you, to resent and love your parents in equal measure, and to feel embarrassment deep down in your guts.
Another part of what makes the Quimby household believable and relatable is the food that they eat. Unlike the elaborate meals in The Boxcar Children and Little Women, Ramona's meals were familiar and comforting. While the Alden children make stew over an open fire in an old iron cauldron, and the March girls eat boiled lobster and currant jelly and something called "blanc mange," Ramona's mom makes French toast in the morning, and tuna fish sandwiches for lunch. At night they eat beef tongue disguised as pot roast, doused with gravy and served with a potato on the side. It's good, normal food, and bought at a discount price to boot.
One night, after Ramona and Beezus have been bratty and ungrateful and refused to eat their roasted tongue, Mr. Quimby announces that they will be cooking dinner the next night to give their mother a break. Ramona protests that she doesn't know how to cook, to which her mother responds, "Nonsense. You are in the third grade, and you can read. Anyone who can read can cook." I remember the line well because it changed the way I thought about cooking and connected it with reading in a way that I liked. It also pulled back the curtain of secrecy and magic that surrounded my mother in our kitchen.
Guided only by a smudged and illegible handwritten recipe, and the vague inkling of how their mother does it, Ramona and Beezus set out to make cornbread and chicken thighs. They look in the cabinet for cream of mushroom soup, and realizing that there isn't any, they cover the chicken in banana yogurt because "Yogurt is sort of sour, so it might work." They remember that the chicken has red specks all over it, so they raid the spice cabinet, sniffing each jar, before deciding on chili powder. No cornmeal? Cream of Wheat will do fine for the cornbread.
The resulting dinner is less than perfect, obviously, but not as huge a disaster as the reader might anticipate. Ramona and Beezus's cooking instincts are impressive, and it's clear that they have grown up watching their mother improvise in the kitchen and make the most of the ingredients she has. It's not dissimilar to many cooking experiences I've had in professional kitchens and in my own — minus the banana yogurt on the chicken. An enormous part of cooking is figuring out what to do when things go wrong, when you don't have buttermilk and can't find the lid to the blender and your cheese sauce breaks and the smoke alarm goes off.
Now that I'm an adult (Cara Nicoletti, age 29), I cook for two reasons. The first is to quiet my brain — to measure and stir and whisk in a calculated succession until I feel more like myself. The second is to wake my brain up — to challenge myself — to look inside of my refrigerator and imagine the mishmash of nothingness turning into somethingness and to feel the victory of having improvised and won.
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Ramona Quimby, Age 8 Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Thighs
Ramona and Beezus's improvised chicken thigh recipe is actually not that far off from being great, despite being not at all like what their mother makes. Chicken marinated in yogurt is fantastic, especially if the yogurt isn't banana-flavored and you add a few more things to it. The chili powder works too, and it's especially nice paired with sumac and garlic and fresh cilantro. Unlike Ramona and Beezus, we'll grill these chicken thighs instead of roasting them, because it's summer and our kitchens are hot.
If you don't have sumac on hand, replace it with the zest of the lemon you squeezed for the juice for a different flavor that's still good — or better yet, go on your own adventure to a spice shop or Middle Eastern grocery.
1½ cups full fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, crushed
½ teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons sumac
2 teaspoons kosher salt (plus more to taste)
1 bunch of cilantro, de-stemmed and finely chopped
3–3½ pounds chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on
oil for brushing grill
Whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, chili powder, sumac, salt, and cilantro in a medium nonreactive bowl. Add chicken thighs to marinade and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
30-40 minutes before cooking, take the chicken out of the refrigerator and let it come up to room temperature.
Prepare your grill for indirect grilling — if you have a gas grill, this means putting the burners on high on one side and turning them off on the other side. If you have a charcoal grill, it means piling the coals higher on one side than the other.
Heat your grill to 400°F and brush the grates with oil. Place the chicken, skin side down, on the cool side of the grill and close the lid. Cook, turning once halfway through, until the chicken is browned and nearly cooked through — about 25 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium and move the chicken over to the hot side of the grill. Cook, turning occasionally, until the thighs are slightly charred and an instant-read thermometer reads 160°F — about 15-20 more minutes.
Transfer chicken thighs to a cutting board and let them rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
by Tod Davies, June 4, 2014 8:00 AM
I was chatting idly with my best friend the other day, and as usual, we ended up talking about books and food (this is doubtless a big reason why we are friends in the first place). Sometimes it's one, sometimes it's the other, but in this particular case, it was both of them combined.
"I love book clubs," he said.
"Oh, me, too," I agreed. "A bunch of people sitting around, preferably with a glass of wine in hand, talking about books. What could be better?"
"But there has to be food," he insisted. "There always has to be food at any kind of party. So what food would you serve that would be as stimulating, nourishing, and satisfying to a group of people with different tastes, as whatever book you all had gotten together to read?"
The query instantly made me fantasize about my very own perfect book club party.
It would be on a hot summer's day, cooling down then with just enough of a breeze to wake up the curiosity of the readers involved in the discussion. And the talk itself would be held under some trees in a shady meadow, around five in the evening. There would be wine for those who wanted it — red, white, and a lot of my favorite rosé. There would be sparkling water, with lemon and lime slices, for those who wanted that. There would be discreet little bowls of olives and roasted nuts and cloves of pickled garlic, for those who wanted a bit of a lagniappe before supper.
Nearby, on a picnic table or a long folding table, there would be a plate or two or three of flat omelets, frittatas, browned and each filled differently: say, one of chard and garlic, one of zucchini and marjoram, and one of potato and onion and smoked paprika* — all waiting, in the cool evening temperature, to be cut into wedges and served easily, so that the eater could enjoy them while talking earnestly about some point that had just occurred to her or him.
But the main part of my fantasy would be lining up behind those platters. Long, thick baguettes sliced whole down their middles, filled with salad fixings of various kinds, anointed luxuriously with olive oil, and weighted down to let the fillings soak through. When the weights are removed, and the rolls sliced diagonally into hand-sized pieces, each guest would have a salad and bread all at once. Pan Bagnat**, they call this in Provence, so they tell me, where these sandwiches originated. Or Pan Bagna, or even Pan Bagnia. But it always means the same: bread filled with a garlic-tinged, tomato-sliced salad, weighted down for an hour at least, if not more, so the whole becomes a more celestial version of its parts. Not unlike all the voices in a book club weighing in on a book.
But even beyond that similarity… the weights on the sandwiches would be books. Books lying horizontally all the way up and down the table, pressing down the Pan Bagnat, melding the ingredients, all the separate bits, into a harmonious whole just as the discussion is melding all the thoughts about a book into, I hope, another harmonious whole, both of them nourishing in the late summer evening sun.
And tasty, too. Because that is very important, in both food and books: good taste.
Here's a general sketch for making Pan Bagnat:
There are many ways you can go about this, just as there are many ways you can go about most things, and the way I suggest you go about it is the way that feels easiest and most entertaining to you, the cook. (Once again, not unlike how I would suggest going about expressing yourself on the book at hand.) What's needed is bread, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, some kind of onion, tomato, and a variety of salad fixings. When I say variety, I mean whatever variety appeals the most, and is the most convenient. I'll tell you what I would do, just because I can, but first, to give you an idea of the scope we're looking at, let me list possible ingredients for a Pan Bagnat:
Tomato. Garlic. Onion (red, white, green, or shallot). Cucumber. Tuna. Anchovies. Artichoke hearts. Pesto. Roasted peppers. Raw peppers. Radishes. Hard-boiled eggs. Olives. Sorrel. Basil. Arugula. Raw fava beans. Pickles. Lettuce. Mushrooms. Grated carrots. Olive oil. Vinegar. And so on.
No matter what goes into the Pan Bagnat, you pretty much follow the same pattern. Lay out your bread slices. Sprinkle them with olive oil, scrub them with a cut garlic clove (if you're not, like I am, going to put garlic liberally in the filling). Layer the filling in, or (see below) do like I do and toss all the ingredients together as a salad, layering that on the bread. Fit top slice above filling on bottom slice. Wrap in plastic wrap, or paper towels and then plastic wrap. Then weight down and leave for at least an hour. More will never harm things. In fact, it will only make things better.
(And you can weight them any way you like. Two boards are good. For a picnic with children, best is to wrap the sandwiches in a towel and let the kids sit on them on the way to the festivity. This will give rise to additional hilarity, adding to the pleasures of the day. Also, it makes a great sandwich. Something about the body heat. But back to the book club version…)
When you're ready to eat, unweight, unwrap, and slice to your preference. You should now have a juicy sandwich, a little messy to eat, but hey, that's why you're eating it in a meadow after the book club discussion, with plenty of paper napkins to help.
Here's how I'd make Pan Bagnat to feed a book club, body and soul:
Find the longest baguettes I can, slice in half, anoint with olive oil and a little vinegar on both sides.
Then make two kinds of fillings: one robust and hearty, one more delicate and vegetarian. Each one tossed in a bowl of its own, anointed with more olive oil and vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste, before being spread on its own baguette.
The Robust and Hearty Filling (really just a version of Salad Niçoise):
Juicy tomatoes, sliced
Canned tuna, drained
Canned anchovies, minced
Olives, pitted and chopped
Handfuls of arugula, chopped
Add together. Add a bit of vinegar and three times as much olive oil. Salt and pepper. Toss.
Then, for the Delicate and Vegetarian:
Cucumber, peeled and diced
Red onion, sliced paper-thin
Artichoke hearts, sliced
Roasted green or red peppers, sliced
Add a squeeze or two of fresh lemon. About twice as much olive oil. Salt and pepper. Toss.
Taste. You might want more lemon. I know I would.
I would figure out how many little sandwiches a hungry book club is likely to need here, and make a little more, since they'll only be better for my own lunch the next day. And then I'd fill the baguettes with one or the other of the filling, and cover the sandwiches, and wrap them snugly in plastic wrap.
Then I'd line them up on the picnic table and dreamily arrange books, stacked on their sides, up and down the baguettes. Not books chosen, necessarily, first for their physical heft, but for the piquant quality of their content, the satisfying nature of their
by Nathan Williams, October 22, 2013 10:30 AM
In today's second blog celebrating the release of The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings, I'd like to share two of the most popular recipes imagined up by members of the Kinfolk team.
The process of curating this cookbook was quite simple: we wanted to showcase the personal recipes of friends from around the world, allowing our readers into the kitchens of the people close to us. Focusing on like-minded cohorts from Portland, Brooklyn, Copenhagen, and the English countryside, we spent afternoons in their homes with cameras, notepads, and aprons, replicating the memories of the past to reinvent for our readers.
Our small team and the spider web of connections that branch out from it may not be professional chefs, but they are passionate hosts. Most of the time, these gatherings are spontaneous, unfussy, and informal, put together on the whim of a good conversation and the contents of a pantry. While the food is often delicious, the meaning of the exchanges doesn't exist in cups of flour, but instead in some other immeasurable notion.
These two recipes for Citrus Lentil Salad and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies can be thrown together using staple items you will already find in your drawers, making them perfect for drop-in guests or quick afternoon snacks. This way, you have more time to talk about your day and less to spend traversing supermarket aisles. We hope you enjoy eating them as much as we enjoyed making them.
Oh, and if you're in Portland and would like to come say hello to our team, please join us tonight at 7.30 p.m. at Powell's City of Books for a special launch event for The Kinfolk Table. Snacks will be provided! More details here.
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This first recipe is for a salad my wife and I make often during the fall and winter months because it's both hearty and refreshing. The lentils make the dish feel substantial and filling, while the lemon and basil bring a fresh taste from summer. It's quick to prepare and can be made in advance as the flavors get better after mingling and chilling for at least a few hours.
Citrus Lentil Salad
1 cup (7 ounces) green lentils, picked over
6 scallions, white and pale green parts thinly sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine or apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon or orange
1 tablespoon (.5 ounces) sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
200 grams green lentils, picked over
6 scallions, white and pale green parts thinly sliced
45 milliliters extra-virgin olive oil
15 milliliters white wine or apple cider vinegar
45 milliliters freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon or orange
15 grams sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Rinse the lentils under cold running water in a fine-mesh sieve until the water runs clear. Place the lentils in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches/7.6 centimeters. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
- Drain lentils and return to pot. Add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches/7.6 centimeters. Remove and discard any lentil shells that rise to the top, then drain once again.
- Place lentils in a large bowl and toss them with the scallions, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, zest, sugar, salt, and pepper.
- Allow salad to rest for at least 20 minutes to let the flavors combine. Serve.
Note: The scallions may be substituted by half a red onion or 2 shallots, thinly sliced. The sugar may be substituted with agave.
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The second recipe we want to share today is by Kinfolk's community director, Julie Pointer. She joined us early on in the magazine's conception and is responsible for planning the dozens of events we hold internationally each month. When she's not parceling together delicately constructed packages to be sent to Kinfolk dinners from Moscow to Michigan, she spends a lot of time in her tiny inner-Portland kitchen whipping up these office-legendary oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
It's fairly normal to walk into our workplace in the morning to find a recently cooled plate of these morsels sitting on a bench, covered with a linen tea towel. The Kinfolk team makes sure they're usually completely gone before morning tea even starts, guaranteed. Once you've made your first batch, you'll understand why.
Everyone knows I have an insatiable sweet tooth — so while I love baking and making sweet things, I've now gotten in the habit of giving away most of the things I make. Otherwise I might enjoy them all myself! Thankfully I know most of my neighbors, so I have lots of willing recipients within close reach. I have a friend who refers to me as a little bear cub with my paws always in the honey pot; the comparison unfortunately rings quite true." – Julie Pointer
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
Adapted from Annie's Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup (8 ounces/230 grams) packed dark brown sugar
1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (8 ounces/230 grams) organic vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (6 grams) salt
1 teaspoon (3 grams) baking soda
2 large eggs, beaten and at room temperature
1½ cups (7½ ounces/210 grams) all-purpose flour
3 cups (3½ ounces/100 grams) whole rolled oats
1 cup (12 ounces/340 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
- Combine the sugars and shortening in a large bowl and mix until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla, salt, baking soda, and eggs, and mix until just combined.
- Stir in the flour, oats, and chocolate chips. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour or until the dough is chilled and firm.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Using a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism or a 2-tablespoon (30-milliliter) measure, scoop the dough out into balls and place them on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) apart. Press the dough down gently with your fingertips.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating and alternating the sheets halfway through the baking time, until the cookie edges begin to brown. Immediately remove the sheets from the oven and rap them sharply on a count
by Yvette van Boven, June 7, 2013 10:00 AM
A warm dessert is often a good idea for a summer night. It can get chilly at the end of the evening, and you might have to run into the house to find cardigans or scarves for your guests (well, maybe only for the ladies).
Make sure you have preheated the oven just before you start to finish off the main dish. You can make these cobblers up front and keep them in the fridge just until you pop them in the oven. Do this when you go back out to the garden to enjoy the Italian chicken with your guests.
DON'T FORGET TO SET A TIMER!
This will come in handy when you're all caught up in a huge discussion at the dinner table and you've totally forgotten that the dessert is burning in the oven!
Learn! It happened to me too often.
This is one of my favorite desserts. And maybe just because it contains rhubarb! If you don't like rhubarb or you can't get your hands on it, use peaches, pineapple, or pears instead. Decrease the amount of sugar, though, when you prebake the fruit — rhubarb is far more sour.
Serve the little rhubarb cobblers with sour cream, whipped cream, or ice cream: I leave that part up to you.
That's it! A summer dinner party is so simple, isn't it? Easy as pie... eh, cobblers.
More from Yvette van Boven at PowellsBooks.Blog:
by Yvette van Boven, June 5, 2013 10:00 AM
Okay — your guests are getting hungry now. Time to move to the garden table. The sun is going down slowly, you've set the table, and you're turning all your lanterns on.
I suggest you make this Yummy Salad, with everything I like in it. The recipe is for about four people, but feel free to double it if you have more friends at your table.
It's sweet and savory at the same time, with lentils (my favorite legume in the world — make sure you get those tiny green ones from France called "du Puy") and Roquefort, a stinky but noble French sheep cheese that has so much depth to its taste (if you think it's too strong, replace it with Stilton or Gorgonzola).
And, again, the recipe is terribly easy. It's summer, so why the fuss?
More from Yvette van Boven at PowellsBooks.Blog:
by Makini Howell, April 15, 2013 2:00 PM
Note: Makini Howell will talk about her journey and new book at Powell's City of Books on April 27 at 4 p.m.
Grains, grains, grains. I have fallen in love with grain bowls and it shows here. Faro and Israeli couscous combined make for a nutty, hearty, but somehow still light, dish. The grape almond dressing makes this dish an amazing accompaniment for anything you whip up for dinner, or it's simply great on its own. Feel free to mix and match any veggie you have in your fridge to make this a truly seasonal salad. The grown-up charred fava bean salad is everything late spring needs. It makes use of early plums and sweetens them up a bit on the gill. The fennel adds an aromatic flavor burst that is very unexpected — and of course the charred flavor and protein-packed beans make it simply delicious.
Miner's Lettuce and Fava Bean Bowl with Faro and Toasted Israeli Couscous
This tasty seasonal bridge salad is rich, nutty, and protein-packed.
Serves 2 to 4
2 cups shelled unpeeled fava beans (about 2 pounds whole pods)
½ cup Israeli couscous
½ cup uncooked farro
½ cup shaved red cabbage
2 large handfuls of fresh miner's lettuce
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons ribboned fresh basil (optional)
Grape Almond Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
To get to the heart of the fava, first take the fava beans out of the pods (it's sort of like how you would shell a pea). Bring 4 to 5 quarts of water to a boil; add enough salt to make it taste as salty as the sea. Drop the beans in and blanch them for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Scoop the fava beans out with a strainer and run under cold water until cool to the touch. Use your fingers to squeeze and pop the inner bean out of its shell.
It may be helpful to Google "shelling fava beans" if you have never done it before.
Keep the same water. While you're waiting for the pot to boil again, in a medium skillet over medium heat, toast the couscous, stirring often, until golden-brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Toss the toasted couscous into the boiling water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Scoop couscous out of water with a strainer and rinse under cold running water until cool. Toss the couscous into a large mixing bowl with the cooked fava beans.
In that same large pot, drop in the farro, stir, and get water to a steady, vigorous simmer. Partially cover the pot and cook 30 to 45 minutes, or until tender. Drain the farro in a strainer. Run cold water over until cool and add to bowl with fava beans and Israeli couscous. Toss in cabbage, lettuce, parsley, and basil. Toss with Grape Almond Vinaigrette and serve.
Grape Almond Vinaigrette
½ cup sliced almonds
? cup white grape juice
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 teaspoon mixed salt and pepper
? cup olive oil
Combine the almonds, grape juice, vinegar, mint, and salt and pepper in a food processor and blend. While processor is running, slowly pour oil in to emulsify the dressing.
Charred Fava Beans with Marigolds, Fresh Plums, and Grilled Fennel
This salad is beautiful, and the grown-up dressing made from plum sake makes it perfect for early spring entertaining.
½ fresh fennel bulb
1 pound fava beans
1 large handful of miner's lettuce
1 small handful of marigolds or edible flowers
1 plum, sliced into ¼-inch wedges
Dressing (recipe follows)
Fava beans have so many varied uses, I decided to fire up the grill and try them whole, pod and all.
Heat an outside grill to high. Slice fennel bulb into ¼- to ½-inch wedges. Grab a mixing bowl, then wash fava bean pods and place them in the bowl along with fennel wedges. Toss them with 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil — make sure to coat the pods and the fennel. Separate out fava pods and place favas on the grill and char over heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, turning occasionally, until softened and blackened in spots. When the beans start emerging from the pod, they're ready.
Turn the grill down and wipe black spots off (make sure it's clean and oiled). Put the fennel on the grill, cover, and turn down to medium-low heat. Grill each side of the bulb wedges for about 5 minutes (depending on toughness of bulb). The fennel wedges will become soft and tender. If you want to retain a crunch in your fennel, use a young fennel bulb and leave on the grill just long enough to mark, but not completely cook, wedges, about 2 to 3 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, flowers, plums, fennel, and favas. Toss with dressing and serve.
½ cup plum sake
½ cup olive canola oil blend
½ teaspoon Pernod (anise-flavored liqueur)
3 teaspoons fennel fronds
2 teaspoons minced shallots
1 teaspoon mixed salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients and whisk in small bowl
by Amy Stewart, March 21, 2013 2:00 PM
1.5 oz. House Spirits Aviation gin
.5 oz. Clear Creek Distillery loganberry liqueur
.5 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
.5 oz. simple syrup
1-2 oz. IPA (your choice — I'm not going to tell a Portlander what beer to drink)
Shake the first four ingredients over ice and strain into a short tumbler filled with ice. Top with IPA to taste, and give it a good stir.
This cocktail, like Powell's, is seriously committed to Portland and offers something for everyone. I happen to think it's a lovely drink, light and fizzy, the perfect balance of tart, sweet, and bitter. But when I make it for friends, everybody wants to tinker with the ingredients, adding a little more fruit liqueur, dialing back the lemon juice, or adjusting the ratio of gin to beer.
So go ahead — customize it. Just as a certain enormous bookstore on Burnside caters to everyone's unique needs, this drink does, too. If you can't stand the thought of even an ounce or two of beer in your cocktail, use soda water instead. And if you're one of those beer aficionados who is offended by the mere suggestion of polluting beer with other ingredients, then just leave the rest out and drink the beer. See how easy that
by Deb Perelman, November 22, 2012 8:00 AM
While we were thinking about Thanksgiving, we couldn't think of a more beloved authority than Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, whose new cookbook, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
, is one of the titles we chose for our Holiday Gift Guide
. Deb shared with us the following recipe, one of her favorites. Bon appétit!
Over the years, we've had a lot of dinner parties. I've made mussels and fries and red pepper soup; I've made meatballs and spaghetti repeatedly; brisket and noodles were on repeat until I got the kinks ironed out of the recipe in this chapter, and there was this one time when I decided to make nothing but delicate flatbreads for dinner. It was a terrible idea. Don't do this unless you want to spend three days making doughs and mincing vegetables, only to have everyone leave hungry.
I'm pretty sure if you asked my friends what the very best thing I've ever served them was, they'd still go on about chicken pot pies I made from an Ina Garten recipe all those years ago. People, it turns out, go berserk for comfort food ? especially comfort food with a flaky pastry lid ? doubly so on a rainy night. I liked them too, but the chicken ? which often ends up getting cooked twice ? has always been my least favorite part. What I do like is the buttery velouté that forms the sauce, and it was from there that I decided to make a pot pie I'd choose over chicken, peas, and carrots any night of the week.
You really have to try this for a dinner party, especially if your guests were expecting something fancy. The crust and stews can be made up to 24 hours in advance, and need only to be baked to come to the table; this means that you could spend that time getting cute, or at least making pudding for dessert. And if people are expecting the same old same old beneath the lid, this will be a good surprise ? the lid is so flaky, it's closer to a croissant than a pie crust, and the pancetta, beans, and greens make a perfect stew, one you'd enjoy even without a bronzed crust. But, you know, it helps.
Pancetta, White Bean, and Swiss Chard Pot Pies
Yield: serves 4
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
13 tablespoons (185 grams or 1 stick plus 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons (90 grams) sour cream or whole Greek yogurt (i.e., a strained yogurt)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) white wine vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) ice water
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
4 ounces (115 grams or 3/4 to 1 cup)
1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 large stalk celery, finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
Thinly sliced Swiss chard leaves from an 8-to-10-ounce (225-to-285-gram) bundle (4 cups); if leaves are very wide, you can halve them lengthwise
3 1/2 tablespoons (50 grams) butter
3 1/2 tablespoons (25 grams) all-purpose flour
3 1/4 cups (765 ml) sodium-free or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups white beans, cooked and drained, or from one and a third 15.5-ounce (440-gram) cans
Make lids: In a large, wide bowl (preferably one that you can get your hands into), combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender, cut them up and into the flour mixture until it resembles little pebbles. Keep breaking up the bits of butter until the texture is like uncooked couscous. In a small dish, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, and water, and combine it with the butter-flour mixture. Using a flexible spatula, stir the wet and the dry together until a craggy dough forms. If needed, get your hands into the bowl to knead it a few times into one big ball. Pat it into a flattish ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
Make filling: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, wide saucepan, and then add the pancetta. Brown the pancetta, turning it frequently, so that it colors and crisps on all sides; this takes about 10 minutes. Remove it with a slotted spoon, and drain it on paper towels before transferring to a medium bowl. Leave the heat on and the renderings in the pan. Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil if needed and heat it until it is shimmering. Add onions, carrot, celery, red pepper flakes, and a few pinches of salt, and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are softened and begin to take on color, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the greens and cook until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with the additional salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Transfer all of the cooked vegetables to the bowl with the pancetta, and set aside.
Make sauce: Wipe out the large saucepan; don't worry if any bits remain stuck to the bottom. Then melt the butter in the saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour, and stir with a whisk until combined. Continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring the whole time, until it begins to take on a little color. Whisk in the broth, one ladleful at a time, mixing completely between additions. Once you've added one-third of the broth, you can begin to add the rest more quickly, two to three ladlefuls at a time; at this point you can scrape up any bits that were stuck to the bottom ? they'll add great flavor. Once all of the broth is added, stirring the whole time, bring the mixture to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. Cook the sauce until it is thickened and gravylike, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the white beans and reserved vegetables into the sauce.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Assemble and cook pot pies: Divide the filling between four ovenproof 2-cup bowls. (You'll have about 1 1/2 cups filling in each.) Set the bowls on a baking pan. Divide the dough into four pieces, and roll it out into rounds that will cover your bowls with an overhang, or about 1 inch wider in diameter than your bowls. Whisk the egg wash and brush it lightly around the top rim of your bowls (to keep the lid glued on; nobody likes losing their lid!) and drape the pastry over each, pressing gently to adhere it. Brush the lids with egg wash, then cut decorative vents in each to help steam escape. Bake until crust is lightly bronzed and filling is bubbling, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Do ahead: The dough, wrapped twice in plastic wrap and slipped into a freezer bag, will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge, and for a couple months in the freezer. The filling can be made up to a day in advance and stored in a covered container in the fridge.
Cooking note: For a vegetarian version, skip the pancetta and cook your vegetables in 2 tablespoons olive oil instead of 1.
Excerpted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
by Deb Perelman. Copyright © 2012 by Deb Perelman. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in
by Terry Hope Romero, October 30, 2012 10:00 AM
I'm a fan of marrow beans — an intriguingly named, old-fashioned bean I found on a recent trip to Kalustyan's and couldn't pass up. Some say marrow beans taste like bacon or even fatty bone marrow. In a world where pumpkin may just overthrow the gastric tyranny of bacon worship
, these beans could be the tipping point toward regaining some sanity.
These little, round white beans add creamy richness and thicken up (without a touch of dairy) pumpkin bisque, the little black dress of cool-weather soups. I wouldn't call the flavor "meaty," but it's soothing and just the thing for rapidly cooling fall nights. Leeks add further body, and a touch of smoked salt (found mine at Trader Joe's — it's that trendy) brings home the almost-bacon. No smoked salt in your pantry? Try adding ½ teaspoon of liquid smoke.
This is a lazy soup because I didn't feel like browning the vegetables before adding the liquid; I just threw (almost) everything into the pot and let it go to town. I'm crazy about the aroma of simmering beans with plenty of garlic and bay leaves, the ideal home fragrance when I'm browsing through the Internet, cookbooks, or comic books, or playing a video game. Once cooked to creamy perfection, I add a drizzle of good, fragrant olive oil to taste on top of each serving. A little goes a long way, so you can pull out all the stops and use the fancy stuff here.
÷ ÷ ÷
Lazybones Pumpkin Bean Soup
Serves 4 to 6
Any white bean can be used (such as more common navy or cannellini), but you'll miss out on the "bone" of this soup! I keep the salt amount fast and loose; use a little less if you're using vegetable broth, especially if it's made from bouillon cubes.
Be patient when cooking beans from scratch. Let them simmer until very creamy, and stir in more water if the broth is too thick. Like all bean soups, this will taste even better the next day. For variety, stir in diced tomatoes or finely chopped dill or basil during the final 5 minutes of the simmer.
For a chunky (rather than smooth) consistency, remove only a cup or two of the soup, puree in a blender, and stir back into the pot.
1 cup dried marrow beans
5 cups water or vegetable broth
6 cloves peeled garlic, finely minced
1 large leek, ends trimmed, cleaned, and chopped into ½-inch-wide pieces
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1½ teaspoons smoked salt or sea salt (use 1 teaspoon or less if using veggie broth)
1½ pounds pumpkin or sweet winter squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
Plenty of freshly cracked black pepper, fresh lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil
- In a mixing bowl, cover beans with 3 inches of cold water and soak overnight. Or soak them in the morning before leaving for work. When you wake up (or get home), drain and rinse the beans.
- In a big soup pot, combine the beans, water/broth, garlic, leek, oregano, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and salt (using less if the broth is salted). Bring to a rolling boil for 3 minutes over high heat; I skim off some of the bigger puffs of foam, but if you're truly lazy, just stir them back in. Turn heat down to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer for 70 to 85 minutes until beans are very tender and creamy. Test by removing a bean, cool slightly, and crush in your mouth; it should feel mushy, not gritty.
- If you desire a more brothy soup, stir in up to 1½ cups of additional water or broth. Taste the broth; add more salt if necessary. Stir in the pumpkin, increase the heat to medium high, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until pumpkin is very tender. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Season the soup to taste with lots of freshly ground pepper and fresh lemon juice. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Use an immersion and puree the entire pot of soup as smooth as you like. Ladle warm soup into wide, deep serving bowls, and drizzle with good-quality olive oil. Serve with rustic crackers and celebrate your lazy