Recipes, What’s Up, Etc…

Tiny Lobster ShackSince my site, Caviar and Codfish, was hacked in 2012, I really didn’t do much to get the links in order, or re-make a working Recipe Index. Life, it got in the way.

I opened a tiny-batch ice cream shop that I’m super proud of, called Half Pint Kitchen, but then after five years my husband and I decided to stop the constant ice cream cooking (yes, cooking, like custard) and churning and move up to the coast of Maine, where we live now.

I’m hoping to get this old site in order, because I am very proud of the little food blog I wrote before food blogs were super-cool. But, there’s a few things in my life right now that might make this pursuit take longer than I hope… So, if you want a copy of one of my recipes, look at the top right of the page: my current email. I will find it for you and get it emailed right away. You can also use that email for anything, like saying hi to your old blogger friend (we were a close group back when!) or, if you are starting out as a food blogger, feel free to write me about how I got started. Or, really, just if you feel like emailing, go ahead. I’ll get back to you.

I do hope I get all the links working soon, and I know I will in time. Until then, here’s my old blog; enjoy!


Recipe Index

Yellowtail GrilledSlowly updating the links of my old recipes. -Robin, 2018

French Onion Soup
Winter Squash Soup
Vegetable Soup
Leek and Cauliflower Soup
Fish Soup with Cider and Mushrooms
Hoppin’ John Soup
Garlic Soup
Lentil and Squash Soup
Cotriade Bretonne
Spicy Sick-day Soup
Zucchini Basil Soup
Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup
Cauliflower Soup with Creme Fraiche
Saffron Cauliflower Soup


Asian Style Beef Tenderloin Salad
Crab Salad
Not-So Greek Salad
Bistro Salad for One
Citrus Green Bean Salad
Portabello, Bacon, and Goat Cheese Salad
Mango and Watercress Salad
Shitake Mushroom Salad with Young Pecorino
Radishes in Balsamic and Mustard
Watercress Salad Wrapped in Chevre and Bresola


Crab Salad
Coconut Fish Stew
Chipolte Shrimp
Warm Shrimp Salad
Hearty Fish Stew with Cider and Leeks
Cotriade Bretonne
Grilled Tuna Tacos
Tuna Tartare
Peaches and Shrimp Stir-fry
Spicy Shrimp Boil
Manhattan Clam Pasta
Scallops with Mustard and Balsamic
Bluefish with Basil-Parsley Butter
Black sea bass with fiddlehead ferns, curried crab, and hazelnuts
Moonfish with Feta and Lemon
Bacon-wrapped Yellowtail Snapper
Whole Snapper with Ginger and Scallions

Salmon In Fried Oil
Scallops in Champagne Beurre Blanc
Linguine with Sea Urchin Sauce and Caviar
Cod Basquaise


Cilantro-Lime-Scallion-Mint-Chili-Orange Chicken
Rachel Ray’s Spanish Stew
Porcini-crusted Quail with White Mushroom Sauce
Moroccan Chicken with Apples
Fried Chicken
Quick Coq au Vin
Jerk Chicken
Arroz con Pollo
Pot-roast Chicken
Herb-rubbed Chicken
Real Coq au Vin
Asian-style Pasta with Duck
Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Mushrooms
Chicken Artichoke Stew
Roasted and Braised Duck with Sauerkraut
Chicken with Pancetta and Olives
Chicken, Mushroom, and Potato Hot Pot
4 Hour Duck with Potatoes


Cider-Brined Pork Chops with Apples
Island Pork Tenderloin
Dijon Pork and Kale Stew
Pork Belly Hot Pot
Pork and Pepper Stew
Relatively Quick Pulled Pork Wraps
Pork Belly with Turnips, Kimchi Soubise, and Green Onions
Red-cooked Pork Belly
Pork with Cardamom and Apricot Sauce

Beef and Lamb

Filet Mignon Stir Fry
Asian-style Beef Tenderloin Salad
Corn and Sausage Tart
Sloppy Joe’s
Lamb and Risotto
Birthday Pork Belly
America Tamale Pie
Beef Lettuce Wraps
Bison Meatballs with Cilantro Sauce
Corned Beef Hash
Veal Chop with Shallot-Tomato Relish and Polenta
Chinese Take-out Spare Ribs
Beef Tongue with Lentils
Molly Stevens’ Beef Rendang
Rib-eye à la James Salant
Tava (Baked Lamb and Potatoes with Cumin and Tomatoes)
Old-Fashioned Meatloaf

Vegetables, Fruits, Pastas and Beans

Zucchini Cakes
Little Miss Muffins
Corn Relish and Black Beans
Not-so Greek Salad
Cranberry Applesauce
Brown-braised Onions
Truffled Baked Potatoes
Green Beans with Blood Oranges
Spring Lentils
Stir-fried Okra
Kale and Cabbage Stir-Fry
Black Beans
Maple Baked Beans
Chived Spaghetti Squash
Olive oil Mashed Potatoes
Boucheron-stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes
Broccolini with Pecan Brown Butter
Cauliflower, Carrots, and Cashews
Shitake Mushrooms with Young Pecorino and Lemon
Southern-style Black Eyed Peas with Bacon
Baby Potatoes with Tarragon
Celery Root and Okra Dal
Braised Asparagus with Gruyere
Marinated Squash and Beans with Dill
Braised Carrots, Turnips, and Potatoes with Cinnamon
Ricotta Gnocchi with Corn and Chanterelles
Carrots with Balsamic and Honey
Maple Roasted Squash
Rosemary Brown Butter Applesauce
Peperonata Rustica

Baked Goods

Intensely Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflés
Pound Cake
Dorie Greenspan’s Party Cake
Seeduction Bread
Zucchini Bread
Grape Pie
Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake
Pumpkin Tea Bread with Prunes
Double-vanilla Pound Cake
Chocolate Granola
Almond-Olive Oil Cake
Rosemary Brown Butter Soda Bread


Chocolate Chip Cookies
My Favorite Cookie (Triple Chocolate)
Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies with Raw Sugar
Dark Spice Cookies
Austrian Raspberry Shortbread Cookies
English Gingersnaps


Chunky Banana Bran Muffins
Zucchini Miss Muffins
Bacon and Egg Rice Bowl
Hangover Corned Beef Hash
Baked Eggs with Polenta and Bacon
Provolone and Broccoli Quiche
Chocolate-covered Granola
Parsi-style Scrambled Eggs

Caviar and Codfish was hacked!

Hi everyone,

I’m sorry to say that my blog of seven years was hacked and I no longer own the domain name and don’t see a way to get it back — though I continue to try.

To make matters worse, the new, unethical owner has left up my copyrighted photos (one being a professional photo of me taken by   my wedding photographer, and they have left up some of my blog posts, changing everything except a few words of my own and the post headlines. The new posts are filled with spam and the “About Me” page has construed my writing and, it feels like, my very life — it mentions personal details about me and my husband alongside random “spam catchphrases” and false comments about my life. Honestly, I’m really torn up, and offended.

But I want to keep blogging someday. so I will let everyone know when that day comes.

If anyone knows how I can go about getting my personal (copyrighted) photos and mentions of my name and life details, please email me at robin.salant [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

But, most importantly:

Thank you to my fellow bloggers and all my readers who gave writing so wonderful these past years. I hope you will continue to read my blog once at my new domain (which I will figure out soon and let you know via twitter, facebook, and this website. I can’t wait to get back to blogging!!

Pasta Puttanesca

In high school, I made pasta puttanesca for the first time. My teacher gave us a take-home assignment to cook an authentic Italian dish, and my team drew the puttanesca. All I really remember about the assignment was the name “Pasta Puttanesca” and just how funny it was, and the horrendous idea that we would have to eat capers (yuck!) and olives (double yuck!) and anchovies (too disgusting even to think about). I actually thought it turned out pretty good, though I imagine if I had to eat a meal prepared by three high school kids with no cooking experience, you might hear a few double yucks from me now.


I haven’t made pasta puttanesca since high school, but every time I’ve thought about it since then I’ve laughed — “Whore’s Pasta!” — gufaww! I’m laughing now. I guess jokes from your childhood have a way of making you smile. I find the name so funny that it was actually hard to cook it. I made joke after joke to Jim, who didn’t find them as funny as I did, and I even called a bunch of people to tell them I was making pasta puttanesca, hardy har har. I’m obviously regressing in leaps and bounds.


But if reverting to a fourteen-year-old is the price for pasta puttanesca, I’ll pay it. Capers, olives, and anchovies all seem so delicious now; briny, oily, fishy — the stuff of my dreams! I’m rather ashamed of my 14-year-old self, sticking out my tongue at those lovely ingredients. And the name, whore’s pasta or street-walker’s pasta, or whatever it actually translates to in Italian, only adds to the greatness of the dish, adding a little sex to the tomatoes and chilies and big fat shrimp.


To make a pasta puttanesca special, parsley is key. Use lots and lots of it. It’ll be the foil to the spice, the fish flavor, and the sweet tomatoes. Parsley brings it all together.


I’ve heard that people don’t traditionally put cheese on their puttanesca, so we tried it without first. But a good block of parmigianno was in my fridge, and a load of pasta on my plate, and the combination proved too hard to resist. And I don’t really know why you wouldn’t want cheese in there; it was delicious melding with the spices, coating the shrimp. A good glug of olive oil on top won’t hurt, either.

big bowl o' pasta

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

adapted from Patricia Wells’ Trattoria cookbook (a lovely cookbook, indeed)

serves 6

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 flat anchovy fillets cured in olive oil, minced
3 plump fresh garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
sea salt
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes in juice
15 salt-cured black olives, such as Italian Gaeta or French Nyons, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
1 pound dried Italian imported spaghetti
1 cup flat leaf Italian parsley, coarsely chopped.
1/2 to 1 pound big, fat shrimp, peeled and deveined

In an unheated skillet large enough to hold the pasta later on, combine the oil, anchovies, garlic, crushed red peppers, and a pinch of salt, stirring to coat with the oil. Cook over moderate heat just until the garlic turns golden but does not brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour out a little of the juice from the can of tomatoes, maybe about half, then add the tomatoes with reserved juice into the pan, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add the olives and capers. Stir to blend, and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

Meanwhile, in a large pot bring 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add 3 tablespoons of salt and the spaghetti, stirring to prevent the pasta from sticking. Cook until tender but firm to the bite. Drain.

Add the drained pasta to skillet with the sauce. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add the shrimp to the pasta and sauce. Toss, then tuck the shrimp into the pasta and let it cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the shrimp is mostly done. Turn off the heat and let the sauce absorb into the pasta for another minute or so.  Add the parsley and toss. Serve immediately, passing parmesan cheese and olive oil at the table.

Pork belly and cabbage

There are two things in the kitchen that I take too very seriously. First, there’s spaghetti carbonara — made with guanciale, always, copious black pepper, real parmigiano-reggianno cheese, and never, ever a sauce made from cooked eggs. The carbonara is prepared — sans egg — then put in the “carbonara bowl.” You add the eggs and stir them in, without scrambling, just cooking them ever-so-slightly. It won’t resemble a cream sauce. It will be silky beyond measure. There’s just no other way.


Second, there’s pork belly. I’m not as fanatical about pork belly as I am about carbonara. I don’t subscribe to totalitarian directions. A good pork belly braise, to me, is the opposite of strict. Feeling my way through the recipe, I prepare pork belly in the little of this, little of that method, thinking about the elements of flavor, adding pinches, sniffing, and dipping my finger in the braising liquid to get a good taste.


I’ve never had great luck following pork belly recipes, probably because the pork belly itself is such an important factor. Too much fat and you better be careful to sear and render it enough. Too little fat and the whole thing may turn dry as a bone. For an Asian-style braise, you’ll need to add a bit more of those “kick” ingredients — vinegar, orange — to work with an overly fatty belly. If there’s not enough fat, you’ll want to save a lot of the dripping in the pan after you’ve seared the belly. Or you could just find a belly with equal amounts fat and meat, and then you’ll be fine, indeed. 


Usually I serve pork belly over plain white rice, but this time I made a cabbage too. Spicy, of course. I sliced the cabbage thin and put it in a braising pot with some duck fat (my go-to fat for cabbage braising) and brown rice-wine vinegar, adding a few hits of sriracha once it was nice and tender. The result was just as sexy and handsome as that boiled kale I professed love for this winter, but a bit more, ahem, bow-chicka-wowow.


Which was a good thing, because pork belly usually needs some heat. The belly was seared to hell, then braised with a bunch of scallion tops, shavings from half an orange, star anise, dark soy sauce, and chicken stock. I let it bubble away for a few hours, before slicing it into little squares along the crosshatch. Squares that I served atop the cabbage and covered in scallion slices and cilantro sprigs, and a few dashes of soy sauce. People, they were perfect bites.

IMG_0776pork belly braise

The weather may be too hot this weekend for a pork belly braise now (80 degrees in NJ lately). Unless, of course, you’re too very serious about your pork belly…

pork belly

Pork Belly Braise with Red Cabbage

For the pork belly:

1 piece of pork belly, about 1 pound, with about 50 percent fat and 50 perfect meat, scored
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 bunch of scallions, green parts only, coarsely chopped (reserve the white part of the scallions for garnish)
2 whole star anise
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
peel from 1/2 orange
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1/4 cup Shaoxing wine
water to almost cover

For the cabbage:

1 small to medium head of red cabbage
2 teaspoons duck fat
1 cup Shao-Xing rice wine
1 cup water
salt, pepper

In a dutch oven that fits the pork belly snugly, melt sugar into oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until sugar turns a deep brown color. Put the scored pork belly in the pot, fat side down, and brown on all sides, caramelizing, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pork belly to a plate.

Take some of the drippings out of the pan, or leave it all in, depending on how much has accumulated, and then add the scallion greens, ginger, star anise, and orange into the pot.  Cook for a few minutes and then add the wine and soy sauce.  Fill the pot up with enough water to come up the sides and almost completely cover the pork belly.  Cover the pot and cook over low heat, so that the broth is just simmering, for about 2 hours.  Uncover the pot and cook for another hour or hour and a half.  Remove the pork belly and cut into squares, following the scoring marks.  Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve and discard solids.  You can boil the broth if it’s too thin, otherwise serve it as is.

Meanwhile, prepare the cabbage.  Slice cabbage as thinly as you can. Add duck fat to a large pot over medium heat.  Add cabbage and cook for a few minutes.  Add wine and water and cook until the cabbage is completely tender, about 1 hour.  Add sriracha, starting with a few drops, then adding more until it is as hot as you like it (a little hotter, even, since it’s going to be mixed with rice and pork belly.) Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm until the pork belly is ready.

Serve the pork belly in big bowls with white rice and cabbage, pouring some broth into the bowls.  Garnish with scallions and cilantro, and pass around sriracha at the table.

In agrodolce

Have you all read the most recent Saveur? The feature on cooks in Rome, Eternal Pleasures, makes me want to literally bathe in agrodolce.


And I’ll admit I came pretty close on Monday. Maiale in agrodolce. Cipolline in agrodolce. Together with some garlicky broccoli. It was pure bliss. Worth running out of the office to go home and make right now. Make some excuse. Tell your boss it’s an emergency. Maybe your kitten is stuck up a tree? It would be worth it, really, if you called your neighbor and asked if they would please stick your kitten (any kitten) up a tree so you could go home. Really.

cippolini onions

Worth it, even, if you don’t think you’re a fan of the sweet and savory combination.  I’ve learned that, in culinary terms, there’s nothing I’m not a fan of — if it’s the right recipe, that is. I mean, I really, really, really dislike foie gras if it’s not done right. But, recently, I licked my foie gras plate clean at Town House in Chilhowie. Oysters will make me gag on most occasions, but I’ve twice gobbled up my fair share, in the Outer Banks, and at Town House, too.  I don’t even like sweet and savory combined in most recipes, and yet here I am, raving about two agrodolce preparations, one for onions, one for pork. Remember when I mentioned that I could bathe in agrodolce? Just ask me if I was kidding.


The “agro” in both is balsamic vinegar. I used a cheap one, so that it wouldn’t be too sweet on its own. For the onions, the “dolce” is regular white sugar and hydrated raisins; for the pork, it’s honey. Despite the similarities, the two agrodolces have their own flavors. Honey, butter, and rosemary create a round flavor, while the olive oil, sugar and raisins have a sweet tartness. The agrodolce sauce is a bit jumpier on the onions. Perfectly so, especially when you mix just a little bit of it into the honey-butter-rosemary agrodolce marinade you’ve made for the pork.


You certainly don’t have to make the pork and onions for the same meal, but I thought they worked magic together. Add in this broccoli, and I would say it all works symphonically, if that didn’t risk revealing my extreme dorktitude. But I guess I already did that with the whole bathing in agrodolce thing…

Totally worth it.


Sweet and Sour Glazed Pork Chops

Printable Recipe

from Saveur Magazine, Issue #128

serves 4

4 10-oz. bone-in pork chops
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. honey
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 sprig fresh rosemary, torn into 1″ pieces

Put pork chops on a plate; drizzle with oil; season generously with salt and pepper; let sit for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high heat. Combine vinegar and honey in a 1-qt. saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced to 1⁄4 cup. Stir in butter and rosemary and set aside.

Put pork chops on grill and cook, occasionally turning and basting with balsamic mixture, until browned and cooked through, 12–14 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Sweet and Sour Onions

Printable Recipe

from Saveur Magazine, Issue #128

serves 4

1⁄2 cup raisins
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1⁄2 lbs. cipolline onions, peeled
1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1⁄2 tbsp. sugar
Kosher salt, to taste

Put raisins into a small bowl; cover with hot water and let soften for 30 minutes.

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until golden brown, 8–10 minutes; pour off oil. Drain raisins. Add raisins, vinegar, and sugar and season with salt. Cook, stirring, until sauce thickens, 2–3 minutes.

Salmon & Scallop Sashimi

Jim and I celebrated our fourth anniversary this past weekend. It’s the last one before we get hitched and our first-date anniversary falls by the wayside. Sadly, it wasn’t filled with dancing, or wining and dining somewhere fancy, but with a movie that I could hardly sit through because of back pain, and a few ice-packs and a stint on the couch.

Organic Scottish salmon

But luckily, there’s not much that could deter Jim and me from romance. It’s the reason, really, why we’re marrying this fall. Now, a year’s-running back injury isn’t an aphrodisiac, but lightly pounded sustainably raised organic Scottish salmon, served raw with a sprinkling of chives and Thai basil, and a drizzle of hot oil, can overcome the worst pain if you’re in the right company, landing you both in the romantic spirit.


My love affair with raw seafood rivals (not really) my passion for Jim. Granted, my relationship with raw seafood has more ups and downs than my relationship with Jim. He’s never left me staring into the abyss of a toilet bowl. But, when you find the perfect scallop, buttery and sweet and needing just a sprinkling of kosher salt, a grinding of black pepper, and a few healthy drops of fruity olive oil, you realize that it would be silly to judge all seafood based on a few bad experiences. It helps, though, to go about your seafood seriously.


So, these recipes (if you can call them that) won’t work for everyone. First off, you’ll need to have access to great seafood.  It’s not an easy thing.  You’ll need a seafood market, or a very trustworthy guy at your local grocery. Even if you go to a stand-alone seafood market, you’ll need to get to know your fishmongers. You’ll need to express your interest in fish. You’ll need them to know you’re serious and you want serious quality. You’ll also need them to like you. And you’ll absolutely need to tell them that you’ll be eating the fish raw.


You may not be able to get sashimi-making fish just when you want it. I almost always give at least one day’s notice. And, for a special occasion, it’s good to give as much notice as possible. Or you can just wait around, ask what’s good each time you go to the market, and drop whatever you’ve got planned whenever your fish monger is really excited about something. When we go to the market, and they hold out a scallop, asking us to try it, beaming from ear to ear, we immediately forget whatever we’d planned to eat that night, and buy some for sashimi (or to barely cook them and serve over a tomato compote). And, I’ll say it again, always be nice to your fish monger. I’ve learned to put away my pride when I step into my favorite fish joints. I’m at their mercy, and I’m rewarded with salmon sashimi, cut from a fatty section, on my anniversary, with my soon-to-be husband feeding it to me with chopsticks. Results may vary, but if you can find yourself some great seafood, I imagine they’ll be nothing short of spectacular.


Organic Scottish Salmon Sashimi

serves 2

I get my salmon from Metropolitan Seafood in Clinton, New Jersey.  You want to make sure it comes from a sustainable farm; otherwise buy wild salmon (it won’t be as fatty, but will still be good).

1 4 oz. center cut piece of salmon, skin off
a small handful of chives
a few leaves of Thai basil
soy sauce
fresh black pepper
kosher salt, preferably David’s brand
fruity, high quality olive oil
dried red chili flakes

Place the salmon on a piece of parchment paper. Cover the salmon with another piece of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin or other blunt object, tap the salmon until it flattens out. It’s okay if it breaks apart some — you want it to be in bite-size pieces.

Place flattened salmon on a plate.  Sprinkle with chives, basil, and a few splashes of soy sauce.  Grind on some black pepper and season with salt.

Heat oil with chili flakes in a small saucepan until it is just about to smoke.  Drizzle hot oil (without any chili flakes) over salmon, and serve with chopsticks.

Raw Sea Scallops with Olive Oil

serves 2

4 medium sized buttery, sweet sea scallops
kosher salt, preferably David’s brand
fresh black pepper
fruity, high quality olive oil

Remove the abductor muscle from the side of the scallop if it isn’t already removed.  Sit the scallop upright on its side and, with a very sharp pairing knife, cut the scallop lengthwise into thirds.  Arrange scallops on a plate in a flower pattern.  Sprinkle on a good amount of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and few glugs of olive oil.  Serve with chopsticks and some soy sauce on the side.

Brown Butter Soda Bread

I had planned to bring with me today an authentic Irish Soda Bread. I had done some research.  I could’ve told you that soda bread first appeared in Ireland in the 19th century, when baking soda was invented; that caraway seeds are strictly optional; that raisins make traditional Irish Soda Bread more Americanized; that sometimes, when raisins are added, the bread is called “Spotted Dog”; and that the cross you slash into the bread before baking is really less of a religious symbol than a handy outline for portioning the loaf once it’s baked.


But at some point, deep in my research, I came across Brown Butter Soda Bread. Now.  Brown butter can stop me in my tracks, but when I clicked the link and read the recipe—Rosemary! Black Pepper! Oats!—I remembered the complicated relationship I’d had with Irish Soda Bread as a child, loving the taste but also being just the tiniest bit disgusted by the combination of raisins and caraway. Maybe I overdid it one time and swore I would never eat Irish soda bread again or something; not that I remember anything like that ever happening…

dry ingredients

But I’m getting away with myself. I said Rosemary! Black Pepper! Oats! and left you in the lurch. I’m sorry. Back to the bread. It’s got the fluffy, moist, biscuit-like texture that soda bread is known for. It’s a snap to put together, like all soda breads. And, unlike the raisin and caraway version (which is more of a breakfast or tea bread), it can easily stand up to dinner.


The rosemary flavor is subtle, but the fragrance wafts from the loaf as you break it apart, inviting you—No, when you smell this rosemary, buttermilk scented bread, it demands you dig in; it holds you hostage, helpless, because it knows you have no power to resist.

Then there’s the black pepper. If you’re not a fan of the spice, you could always reduce the amount, or omit it altogether, and I think you’d still have a great bread; but to me, the black pepper is icing on the cake. A heaping spoonful to the dough, plus a sprinkling on top, provides heat throughout, allowing every bite a peppery pop. With the proper Irish “lashing” of good butter slathered onto each slice, it’s the perfect combination of rich and spicy.

I may make another soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day this year, one that’s more authentic, sans rosemary, oats, and pepper (though I’ll probably be the American that I am and add raisins), but this will be the soda bread that I continue to bake all year long. I’ll bet you do too.

brown butter soda bread

Rosemary Brown Butter Soda Bread

from Bon Appétit, February 2006

makes 2 loaves

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper plus additional for topping
1 3/4 cups buttermilk

1 egg white, beaten to blend

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Stir butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until melted and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir flour, oats, sugar, rosemary, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in large bowl to blend. Pour buttermilk and melted browned butter over flour mixture; stir with fork until flour mixture is moistened.

Turn dough out onto floured work surface. Knead gently until dough comes together, about 7 turns. Divide in half. Shape each half into ball; flatten each into 6-inch round. Place rounds on ungreased baking sheet, spacing 5 inches apart. Brush tops with beaten egg white. Sprinkle lightly with ground black pepper. Using small sharp knife, cut 1/2-inch-deep X in top of each dough round.

Bake breads until deep golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool breads on rack at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Baker’s Wisdom:
You’ll get the most tender soda bread by kneading the dough gently and briefly, just until it comes together, so the gluten is minimally developed.

Printable Recipe

Saffron Cauliflower Soup

Life doesn’t seem to understand that my head is still on vacation. I keep telling Life, over and over, that I’m still in Savannah or soaking in the tub at the Riverstead, and Life just puts his fingers in his ears and ignores me. He tells me I’ve been home for almost a month, and that I need to get back to cooking, and blogging about my meals, and to quit thinking I’m some kind of restaurant blogger now.

Writing about restaurants here and over at my new second-blog-home, Jersey Bites, helps me pretend I’m still on vacation. I went out to brunch last week and had two cocktails. I went out to lunch the next day. Then Jim and I ordered wood-oven pizzas two nights in a row. Then back out to dinner the next day. Hey Life, that sounds like a vacation to me. It’s all amazing fun.

But honestly, Life is right. I need to get back to cooking more regularly. I made a soup this morning and it felt so good to be standing over the stove, chopping onions, sneaking tastes here and there before the soup was finished. It even felt strangely good to be cleaning up the dishes later, swiping my favorite cutting board clean, drying off the blender. And finally, after almost a month back from vacation, I felt like I was me again: home in my kitchen, slurping up this creamy, salty soup, flavored boldly but not overwhelming with saffron, and topped with chive oil and fat snips of chives.

Soup is me. I need to remember that when I’m feeling out of sorts. I love making soups in the middle of a Saturday morning. No one else in the kitchen. No rush to get dinner on the table. I putt around. Listen to an episode of The Splendid Table. Cut the onions with precision, even though I don’t need to. And then, after the dishes are done and the table is cleared, I can sit down next to the tulips and have a proper lunch.

My favorite soup for this kind of proper lunch, on a Saturday with flowers on the table, is a pureed vegetable soup. This one, cauliflower, is just right: velvety with a bit of cream; very smooth after a long twist in the blender. It’s fancier than your typical clean-out-the-fridge pot of soup, so you can have a bowl for lunch and then serve the rest at a dinner party. The chives this time of the year are a little less than bright and cheery, so I pureed them with some nice olive oil for drizzling.

But the saffron is what really makes it special. Saffron is the long satin glove of the spice wardrobe. Delicate, fancy, and exotic, it lends a very-slightly bitter taste, almost of iodine, to the creamy soup—a flavor that can’t be mimicked. And the way you cook with it, lifting the little threads of out of their tiny bag, your soft, nimble fingers crushing it, measuring it out just right (because too much saffron is more like big, burly snow gloves), before you finally let it steep in the broth—it’s all very satisfying. With this soup, in my own home, I’m not missing vacation at all.

Saffron Cauliflower Soup

serves 6

adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2003

2 cups water
2 cups chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon coarsely crumbled saffron threads

3 tablespoons butter
2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 pounds cauliflower, cut into1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup heavy cream, or more to taste

1 small bunch chives
1/3 cup olive oil
Thinly sliced fresh chives

Combine 2 cups water and 2 cups low-salt chicken broth in medium saucepan. Bring mixture just to simmer. Remove from heat. Add saffron threads. Cover and steep 20 minutes.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy medium pot over medium-low heat. Add chopped onions and sauté until very tender but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add cauliflower pieces; stir to coat. Add saffron broth. Bring to simmer over high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until cauliflower pieces are tender, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, puree cauliflower mixture in a blender until smooth. Transfer cauliflower puree to large saucepan. Stir in half and half and bring to simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before serving.)

Put chives into cleaned blender.  Pulse for 1 minutes.  Add oil in a steady steam and blend for 1-2 minutes more, or until chive oil is smooth.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with chive oil and a few sliced fresh chives and serve.

Printable Recipe

Elements, Princeton

My fiance, Jim, grew up in Princeton. So when six months into our relationship I packed up all my things and moved from North Jersey to a tiny apartment in Princeton Junction, I figured he’d know where to get a good Sunday brunch. I was wrong. It’s been a sore spot in the otherwise loving affair, but thankfully, with six months to go before our wedding day, the situation has been rectified.

French toast; Egg with Brioche, Bacon Custard, Maple Foam

Elements is the place to go for brunch in Princeton; the place, also, to go for lunch, or dinner, or a fine round of drinks. …You can read the rest of this post on JerseyBites.