Thursday, March 19, 2009

A taste of New York

I recently returned from a trip to New York City. Despite the week of meetings I had planned, I made sure to leave time to eat my way through Manhattan (and some of Brooklyn). I asked everyone I knew for recommendations, and also went by my gut (both the instinctive and the grumbling).
I was pleasantly surprised by lunch at L'Express. I was a little disappointed with dinner at Bar Breton (although the company more than made up for that!) I had delicious chestnut soup at Little Giant, and stumbled upon a lovely salumeria on Amsterdam Ave.
There was one place that I loved so much that I had to bring it home with me. Local is a little cafe on Sullivan Street. I wandered in, desperate for coffee and looking for a quick bite to eat. After salivating over their delicious sandwiches I decided to order something they called "pukkolla." It sounded like a muesli of sorts, hearty with oats and bran and studded with dried apricots and apples. Mug of coffee in hand I dug into the pukkolla. It was delicious: the apples and apricots sweetened it slightly and the oats gave it a healthy heft. With a hard-boiled egg and Local's tasty coffee it was the perfect breakfast.
Once I got home I figured I could make my own version. The recipe follows below, although these are rough guidelines. Feel free to adjust and tweak. One note--it tastes best when soaked overnight, as time and memory allow, but is also delicious with a quick soak method too.
I have been enjoying this most mornings since my return, and since I also brought some of Local's Thompson Street coffee home too, it's almost like I'm there!

Local's Pukkolla

2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. wheat bran
1/3 c. dried apricots, finely chopped
1/3 c. raw almonds, chopped

Apple, unpeeled but cored, finely grated
Milk to cover

Combine oats, bran, apricots and almonds in large bowl. Toss to combine. Transfer to container with tightly fitting lid. This mixture will keep for about a month in your cupboard. The night before you'd like to eat your pukkolla, put about 2/3 c. of the oat mixture into a bowl. Grate in about 1/3-1/2 of your unpeeled apple and stir to combine with the oat mixture. Cover all of this with milk, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and pop into the fridge overnight. The resulting mixture is a cross between muesli and porridge, but is surprisingly refreshing.

Quick soak method
So you forgot to soak everything overnight. No problem! When you put your coffee on in the morning, pour 2/3 c. oat mixture into a bowl, grate in your apple and cover with milk. By the time that your coffee is brewed, the oats should have soaked up enough milk to be slightly tender.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Cherry and Blueberry Mascarpone Danish (for Andy)

Pecan Sticky Buns

Doughnuts--Glazed and Apricot Jam-Filled

Monday, March 9, 2009

Quick dinner: Farfalle with Lacinato Kale and Mascarpone

Still snowing in Seattle this March, which calls for a hearty pasta to keep away the chill nights. Lacinato kale is lovely and meaty and isn't as bitter as some of its friends. (Some might say the same of me!) You can play with this simple recipe. For a brighter flavor add a little lemon juice to the pasta and kale before adding the cheese. You could also brown some pancetta or bacon in the olive oil, remove it to a plate while you cook the veggies in its fat, then crumble it on top after you've added the mascarpone.


1/2 pound farfalle pasta (or other hearty shape like orrechiette)
1 1/2 c lacinato kale, with the ribs removed and cut into 1/2 inch ribbons
1 tsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 c onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (freshly grated is best if you have it. If not, use just a pinch of the bottled kind)
1/2 tsp lemon zest (use a microplane grater to get the finest texture)
2 Tbsp mascarpone cheese


Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Add healthy pinch of salt to water.
Once the water is at a rolling boil, add farfalle and cook until al dente. This should take 10-12 minutes. Using a skimmer, remove the pasta from the hot water and set aside in a warmed serving bowl.
Meanwhile, melt butter and olive oil over medium low heat in a saute pan. Add the chopped onion and saute until translucent. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add chopped garlic to onions, stirring occasionally to avoid browning the garlic too quickly.
Bring the salted pasta water back to a boil, then blanch the ribbons of kale in the hot water. Using the skimmer, remove the blanched kale from the water (pressing any extra water back into the pot) and add the kale to the onions and garlic.
Turn the heat up to medium and continue to saute as any excess water evaporates. Season to taste with a bit more salt and pepper, then add the nutmeg and lemon zest.
Toss the cooked farfalle into the saute pan with the onions, garlic and kale. Stir to combine, then return the entire mixture to the warmed serving bowl. Add the mascarpone and stir to encourage it to melt on the warm pasta. Top with another grating of fresh nutmeg and lemon zest and serve.
This should feed two light eaters or one hearty eater (a.k.a my boyfriend).

Operating without a net

When I was a kid I spent hours combining ingredients from my mother's pantry. I wondered what would happen when you blended chocolate into tomato sauce, or roasted garlic and apples and potatoes together. In most cases my "experiments" were just that--way of testing flavors and textures-- but completely theoretical and highly disgusting (although my dad still claims to have liked the garlic apple soup I concocted). I learned a lot about flavors and I think I began to develop my palate at that point.
Once I began cooking for a living I still experimented with flavors but generally within the confines of a recipe. But a little part of me has always been interested in getting back to the most basic part of cooking: what happens when you mix this with that?
This weekend I decided to make a cake without a recipe. Now those of you who aren't bakers might not realize how dangerous this can be. And I mean dangerous in the horrible-heavy-brick-like-baked goods sort of way. Baking is all about chemistry and proportions and even the smallest deviation from the recipe can cause inedible results. I was actually a little nervous--what
would happen when I mixed this with that?
Cranberries in the freezer (leftover from the holidays) called out to be used and I mapped out the first round of the rest of the ingredients. I decided a simple cranberry tea cake would be my test subject. After mixing oil and eggs, adding sugar then flour with leavening and finally the cranberries, I spread the mixture in a loaf pan, popped it in a pre-heated oven, and waited with baited breath for the results.
Well, it wasn't quite brick-like. In fact, the crumb was lovely and dense. Perhaps a little
too dense, but the cake was still quite tender. I was a little disappointed with the results. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and this cake wasn't perfect.
But as I munched on a slice with some tea yesterday I realized that it represented something important. I was back where I began--exploring the basic building blocks of one of the things I love most in the world, food. Even after cooking professionally for six years, and as an amateur for many more, I still had that lovely, fluttery feeling in my stomach as I wondered what would happen when I mixed this with that. I was operating without a net but flying high.

the perfect balance