Voilà… a pumpkin bread with prunes steeped in orange tea.

This pumpkin bread is dotted with prunes that were steeped in Mighty Leaf Orange Dulce tea—and before you run away thinking The nerve! This chick wants me to go out and buy Mighty Leaf Orange Dulce tea for a stinkin’ pumpkin bread recipe give me a chance to explain my case.

This pumpkin bread is worth every penny you spend on the tea (and if you buy it loose-leaf by the pound, it actually isn’t expensive.)  It’s warm but bright and citrusy.  There’s cinnamon, allspice, orange zest, and pumpkin.  It’s orange and purple, which is totally cool.  It’s different from any other pumpkin bread.  And better, in my opinion.

I made it this weekend, but it’s been brewing in my brain for a while.  I wanted to bake a pumpkin bread but didn’t want the same ol’ thing… and it was early morning on a gloomy Saturday and I sure as hell wasn’t going to get dressed and go shopping.  Prunes were in the pantry.  But prunes?  Kinda boring, no?  So after brainstorming on what I could do with them—didn’t have Armagnac, no brandy—I gave up and decided to have a cup of tea.  And voilà… a pumpkin bread with prunes steeped in orange tea was born.

Now, you don’t really need to buy Mighty Leaf Orange Dulce tea for this recipe but I can’t take responsibility if it doesn’t taste as mind-blowingly delicious with Lipton.  The Orange Dulce has notes of vanilla, and jasmine—so if you can, buy a tea with that profile.  The tea, which the prunes are steeped in, flavors the whole bread much more than I thought it might.  The bread is almost deceiving in all it’s flavors—one thinks ones getting a plain ol’ pumpkin bread but is surprised at the floral quality, the bright orange.  I gave a piece to Jim—not telling him what was in it—and he spent a long time guessing at “that wonderful background flavor” before I told him about the tea and orange zest.

So.  Since we’re a few weeks into the season and you may have baked your fill of pumpkin breads by now—but you still can’t stop the pumpkin season feeling—try this bread.  It’s easy to make but it tastes far from easy. The recipe also yields two loaves.  Put one in the freezer for when you get stuck with relatives during the holidays.  Or you can just nosh on the two loafs for the next two weeks—this bread has a long shelf life since it is super-moist from the pumpkin puree.  Jim (my ex-meth-addict author of a boyfriend) got off 5 years probation on Friday and I plan to serve this bread as a warm comforting Sunday breakfast to the guests who’ve stayed over at our big Jim-Got-Off-Probation-And-We’re-Spit-Roasting-a-Lamb! Party. Should be a blast—Jim and I were planning to go on a heist or commit some crime like that—but his parent’s convinced us to stay home and roast a lamb.  It’s not illegal, but I guess we’ve gone 5 years abstaining from crime—why not another weekend?  (Totally kidding about all of that, Mom.)

Hope you are enjoying your weekend and not getting put on probation!

Pumpkin and Prune Tea Bread

makes 2 loaves

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 scant tsp ground clove
  • 1 generous tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg (freshly ground if you can)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • 16 ounces (1 can) pumpkin puree
  • 12 prunes steeped in Mighty Leaf Orange Dulce tea (or any other orange-black tea)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Grease and flour two loaf pans.

Sift flour, baking soda, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

Combine sugar and oil and beat with a handmixer or in a stand mixer for about 2 minutes, until well combined and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating all the while, 3 to 5 minutes in total.  Add pumpkin, and orange zest and beat one minute more.

Add flour mixture in 3 additions.  Once mixed, divide batter between the two loaf pans.

Drain prunes.  Without drying, add the prunes to the top of the breads.  Make sure to bruise them up a little (without pulling them to pieces) so the juice runs out and into the batter.

Bake for 60-70 minutes, checking that a toothpick comes out clean when done.

Fool-proof grass-fed and a La Cense Beef Giveaway.

Anyone who reads my blog (and I’m amazed to say there are a bunch of you) knows that’s I support grass-fed beef.  I won’t belabor the subject again today.  Not everyone cares about the ethical motive for choosing grass-fed beef (though if you do, you can join the La Cense Grass-fed Party’s Moo-ovement)  I will say, though, that you shouldn’t knock it until you’ve tasted it.  And you should make sure to taste it the right way. Grass-fed beef is uber-lean and, when cooked like a grain-fatted steak, can easily dry out.  Don’t let that fact scare you away from cooking it—fool-proofing your grass-fed beef is very easy.  I recently ate a very plain, only-seasoned-with-salt-and-pepper grass fed rib-eye and petite fillet.  La Cense Beef sent Jim and me some steaks and burgers to sample after I voiced my grass-fed love on Twitter. And what’s even more awesome than that, they agreed to a giveaway on this site! All you have to do is comment on this post by Wednesday, October 29th and you’ll be entered. And if you win, though this is totally not required, I’d love for your to try your steak plain, seasoned with salt and pepper, and cooked using the tips below.  That, in my ethical meat-eating snob’s opinion, is the best way to try your first grass-fed steak.

Ok, first, you’ve got to rub oil into your steak when you season it, about 20-30 minutes before you want to cook.  (Of course you can skip this if you are marinating your steak in a marinade before cooking) Really, you can oil all steaks, since it helps the browning, but it’s essential for grass-fed, in order to prevent the steak from drying out.  This leads to another point, which is take your steak out of the refrigerator at least 20-30 minutes before you want to cook. You don’t want your steak to go right from the fridge onto the hot pan within minutes.  That wouldn’t be nice.  You’ve gotta hold hands before you get to second base, man.

Jim and I always cook our grass-fed steaks in bacon grease, and while this isn’t a necessity, it makes the steaks extra-tasty and goes even farther to prevent dryness.  Really, what can’t you improve with bacon?

Finally, a grass fed steak is done when it looks like this.

I’m not kidding.  It’ll be pinker, err redder, than you think it should be.  It’ll look very raw, while not feeling like raw meat when you touch. Grass-fed is a darker color that grain-fed and grass-fed won’t have the rubbery raw taste that a grain-fed steak of this color would have.  This rib-eye, which we ate last night, was not overly-rare.  It was perfect.  Tender, juicy, meaty.  If you like your regular steaks medium-rare, this is what your steak should look like.  If you like medium, cook it a touch longer, but leave it a little pink in the middle.  And if you like your steak past medium, screw the grass-fed, screw any steak, you aren’t allowed to eat meat until you get some sense. (I know, that was mean… and okay, there is a time for well-done, but that’s during a braise and the well-done meat should never, ever, be a rib-eye.) It won’t take long to get to this doneness, grass-fed cooks very quickly, so keep you head in the game, your eye on the ball, your [insert sporting euphemism here] and don’t overcook!

If you take those precautions, your grass-fed beef should taste juicy, moist, and above all, beefy. I like to serve my grass-fed beef with a decadent, buttery side, like mashed potatoes or the butter-braised scallions that we had on Friday night (recipe will come soon).  Because grass-fed beef is leaner and more flavorful than grain-fed, you can get away with buttery, creamy sides without making dinner too-heavy.

I found that La Cense Beef is a super alternative to grain-fed.  It’s not as bold as some of the grass-fed beef I’ve gotten from local farms (but still had a ton of flavor) so it’s a great way to ease into grass-fed meat-eating.  The petite steak was tasty, but could’ve used to be marinated for an hour or so with something sweet and vinegary.  The rib-eye on the other hand, needed nothing save for salt and pepper and a quick sear.  I roundly recommend it–what a wonderful anniversary or birthday dinner it would make!

We tried the burgers on Saturday afternoon and they too were good—dense and meaty. Since they are 85% lean, we had them with cheese.  Sliced american-style cheese.  On a soft hamburger bun.  It was delicious, I just wish we had a summer day and the beach in the background.

If you are going to buy from La Cense Beef, I most recommend the rib-eye, the burgers, or any of their cheaper cuts of meat.  I’m looking forward to ordering up some short-ribs for a stick-to-my-own-ribs winter stew.

And remember! You just may be able to WIN a free sample of La Cense Beef on this blog!  Just leave a comment.  Tell me if you’ve tried La Cense Beef, or grass-fed, or if you think I should take my ethical meat-eating and shove it up a cow’s you-know-where (and if you tell me that and then win and fall in love with the stuff, I get to tell you I told you so!) I’ll pick the winner at the end of next week through a random generator.  In the meantime… check out the La Cense Moo-ovement and help make a difference in the way people eat!

My favorite cookie.

This cookie makes me want to have babies.  Well, to be more precise, have kids. A few five-to ten-year-olds who come from my stock of good tastebuds and greedy appetite.  I don’t think about the future of my having children often, or imagine how I’d be with them, but when I cook this cookie, all I think about is doing it with my future offspring, and then sitting around the kitchen table and stuffing our faces.  Chocolate smeared all over our smiles and big mugs of milk.

This is my favorite cookie.  By far.  And if you like your cookies super-chocolatey and baked thin with crisp edges and chewy centers, then this might be your favorite too.  Because of all the white chocolate, there’s an oreo-quality about the cookie (my imaga-kids love that!) and a wave of creaminess within that rich dark chocolate.  The recipe calls for 12 ounces of the chocolate chips but I must admit that I usually make that a generous 12 ounces.  Like any kid (or any sane person) will tell you, the chips are the best part.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made these cookies; I lost count a long, long time ago.  But I will say that they are my favorite dessert, my ultimate sweet comfort food.  Just looking at the photos from the batch I made a few months ago makes me feel better.  I made a big batch and froze most of them (they are great for freezing) and over the past weeks Jim and I have slowly and steadily gone through them all.  There’s none left.  I’m telling you this because I’ve been laid up on the couch with a bad back for almost two weeks now and I’m hoping Jim will read this post and bake these cookies because I can’t myself but I would really, really like to eat them. And for that matter, they’d do just fine sent through the mail.  Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. (I’m totally kidding.)

But in all seriousness, make these cookies.  Feed them to your children if you have them.  And if you don’t have children, these cookies just may put you in the mood to make some babies.

My Favorite Cookie

makes about 24//adapted by Dorie Greenspan

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 ounces milk chocolate chips
  • 6 ounces white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for about 2 minute, until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 3 minutes or so, until well-blended and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. **I’m always careful here to make sure the mixture is very fluffy. If unsure, beat a little more. The fluffier the better in my opinion.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. Stop the mixer and fold the chocolate chips in with a rubber spatula.

Spoon the dough by slightly rounded tablespoonfuls (or with a small ice cream scoop) onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between spoonfuls.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until they are crisp at the edges and gooey in the center. Pull the sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for 1 minute, then carefully, using a wide metal spatula, transfer them to racks to cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the remainder of the dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

Cranberries are back.

It’s time.  Can you taste it?  That tongue-titillating tartness?  Cranberries are back. Whether you love them or hate them, cranberries are a practically indispensable part of Thanksgiving.  But really, they are so much more.

Cranberries are an autumn pick-me-up, little bombs of shocking flavor that can be added into applesauce, baked in muffins, made into jam and slathered on your sandwich, eaten with granola and yogurt, or even by the spoonful whenever you need that jolt of it’s-okay-that-summer’s-over feeling.  Winter’s coming but it doesn’t need to be all butter and braising.  Just because we’ve got to make do without raspberries and watermelon doesn’t mean we still can’t have a little fun.

This cranberry relish in particular is fun with a capital “F”.  White cranberries (cranberries harvested after they’ve matured, but before they turn red) are joined with candied grapefruit peel and grapefruit juice, cooked until the berries “pop!” and sassied up with mint.  To say it’s refreshing is a serious understatement.  This cranberry relish is practically electric.

Maybe too electric for the Thanksgiving table.  It’s a bit too dominating for turkey but the zing!-factor shines slathered over a pork tenderloin, or even a flank steak.  Better yet, serve this (warmed up a tad) over buttery pound cake.  You’d never know it wasn’t summer outside.

White Cranberry Relish with Grapefruit and Mint

Makes 3 cups//adapted from Bon Appetit, Nov ’08

  • 1 large pink grapefruit*
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups white cranberries (or red cranberries)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Using vegetable peeler, remove peel (pink-yellow outer layer only) from 1 grapefruit in strips. Cut peel into 2-inch-long, 1/8-inch-wide strips (about 1/2 cup). Squeeze 1 cup juice from grapefruits.

Stir 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add grapefruit peel; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until peel is soft, about 15 minutes. Add 1 cup grapefruit juice and cranberries; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until berries burst, about 10 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl. Stir in mint. Cover; chill until cold. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.

Bon Appetit uses 2 grapefruits, I only had one on hand.  I didn’t feel like I was missing out on any grapefruit flavor (it was very pronounced, actually) but feel free to use 2 instead of 1.

When soup ain’t cuttin’ it.

I had started out making Manhattan Clam Chowder, the tomatoey, sea-scented soup that’s far removed, and much healthier, than the cream version from Bahston.  After all that pork belly (I had a few bigger-than-average sized portions over the weekend), I had put myself on a diet. I wanted something flavorful, spicy, and light.  I was even planning to leave out the potatoes.

But as my diets go (why-oh-why do I think starving will work?), I hadn’t eaten a thing past a banana with black coffee for breakfast, and when it got around to dinnertime, I was famished.  What had I been thinking?  Clams?  Vegetables? Tomato broth?  Why didn’t I buy those potatoes?  I hadn’t even bought a loaf of bread for dipping.  I needed substance.  Or I would starve. (Stop rolling your eyes, ok, ok, I can be a little dramatic.)

Thankfully, I remembered I had some egg pasta in my cupboard. Manhattan Clam Pasta was born and, like most inventions created by necessity, it was even better than the original chowder would have been.  The egg noodles added a buttery-starchy component that is usually absent in the chowder, thickened only by potato starch.

Being that the soup was already made and simmering (sans clams) on the stove-top, I cooked the pasta right in the liquid.  Perfect, I thought as the pasta soaked up some of the liquid, making the remaining less of a soup and more of a sauce.  Sometimes (however rarely) things just come together in my kitchen.

And while I’m sure I wouldn’t have starved on the clam chowder alone, I sat down to my plate of crisp bacon, buttery noodles, salty clams, earthy celery, carrots and onions, and sweet, acidic tomatoes knowing that I’d be sleeping well that night.  It filled my belly but didn’t leave me stuffed—the perfect combination for a healthy diet.

Manhattan Clam Pasta

serves 4

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 pound good, fresh chopped clams (Whole Foods sells a good brand)
  • 1 (14-oz) can whole San Marzino tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 sprig or two of fresh thyme
  • a good pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 pound egg noodle pasta
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Drain clams, reserving liquid.

Add bacon into a dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Once bacon fat has rendered, remove bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve on a paper towel.

Add celery, carrots, and onion to the dutch oven.  Saute until translucent and beginning to brown.  Add reserved clam liquid, tomatoes, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Add egg noodles and cook until tender.

Add chopped clams, reserved bacon, and parsley.  Simmer for another minute or two.  Serve.

Gingerbread to get me through.

I’ve been bedridden since Monday and probably will have to stay put for another day or two—I had another epidural steroid shot this week and man, oh, man I do not fare well with those shots.  I can’t stand up straight, can’t lie anyways but flat on my back, and certainly can’t cook.

I’m thankful, however, for a few things that are getting me through it all: Jimmy has been wonderful–waiting on me hand and foot.  And to stop from being insanely bored, I spent a lot of time futzing around with the HTML of the site and am quite pleased with the new Caviar and Codfish layout (please let me know what you think!).  Then there’s the handful of recipe posts that I’ve got sitting on the back burner, just waiting to be written and the photos to be uploaded.  These posts (along-with a few Tivo’d cooking shows—Jamie at Home, Mexico: One Plate at a Time—that I haven’t had the time to watch until now) should keep me busy.  And finally, there’s gingerbread.  I knew that after my shot, the chances of being laid out were pretty great, so I made sure to bake something this weekend.  And something is right.  This gingerbread is warm, spicy, and not too sweet—the perfect treat to get me through.

While this gingerbread is certainly healing, I can also imagine it for a sophisticated tea-party treat.  Less sweet than your holiday gingerbread, using only a small amount of brown sugar and molasses, this cake focuses more on buttery moistness and its dominating fresh ginger flavor. The pear to use in this cake should be firm but fragrant, so it keeps its shape while baking but also has a sweet pear taste.  Pair it with a nice oolong, break out your good tea set, and you’ve got the blueprint for a perfect, breezy autumn afternoon.

Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake

Makes one 9-in cake//from Gourmet, October ’08

Anyone notice the picture of this cake in Gourment Magazine?  It was a flat cake with the pear bits on the bottom – not how the cake comes out when made according to the magazine’s directions.  What’s up with that?  Am I missing something?

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses (not robust or blackstrap)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup grated peeled ginger
  • 1 Bosc pear

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan, knocking out excess. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Melt butter with water.

Beat together brown sugar and molasses with an electric mixer until combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well. Beat in flour mixture at low speed until just combined. Add butter mixture and ginger, beating just until smooth. Pour into cake pan.

Peel pear and cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Scatter over batter. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly.

Belly up.

I live in a country—in a culture—where pork belly is sorrowfully misunderstood.  Things are changing for the better, I’ll admit, but most people still think of pork belly as sinful, fatty, an easily avoidable indulgence.  Too often, I talk to people—people who would eat a rib-eye steak when they feel like indulging but would never go so far as to eat fresh, uncured bacon (which is what pork belly is)—who are shocked to hear that I eat it, on weeknights no less. But to me, the thought that you could live your life (assuming you are an omnivore) without knowing the luxury of pork belly… well, that thought leads me to believe the whole country’s gone belly up.

Let me make my case:  Ethical meat-eating is becoming quite a hot trend—and the excuse for guiltlessness—with gluttons.  I say gluttons without any ill-feeling.  I am a glutton.  And proud of it.  The word glutton is a crucial distinction here, I think, because omnivorous, gourmet-minded gluttons are the people who desperately need to eat meat ethically.  If you are say, simply a greedy-eater—one who cares little for taste and greatly for quantity, you may do just fine with the state of the American meat industry as it is: lots of lean meat, homogeneous flavors, cheap prices.  If you are simply a gourmet, or a good eater with money, you may be able to satisfy yourself on caviar, Brie, and pomme puree.  You may not need to eat meat much, so when you do, you buy the best filet mignon or foie gras, without a thought to the cost since it is an occasion.  And if you are simply an ethical eater (as compared to an ethical meat-eater) you may not need meat at all.  You can happily live a life of smoked tofu and artisanal breads, with a clear conscience and an ample purse.

But if you are a glutton, if you desire-no-need the unctuous, savory taste of full-flavored fatty meat more often than you would like to admit (and if your wallet is, like most Americans’, a bit slimmer now than it was a few months ago), then you simply must eat meat ethically. Remember, not all ethical meat-eating is expensive.  It can actually can be quite the opposite.  Think short ribs, think offal, think… pork belly.  These uber-flavorful cuts of meat are not often found in the supermarket but are easily bought from good, ethical butchers or small markets, producers, and farmers (people who care for the animal that provided the meat and make sure that all of it will be sold and enjoyed).  Fresh pork belly, even from the most organic, most natural, most hoighty-toighty farmer would never run over $6 per pound.  And usually it is about $3.  A pound of pork belly served over rice or noodles can easily feed a family; three pounds will provide a week’s worth of dinner and lunches for the most greedily gluttonous couple (I’m speaking from experience).

It doesn’t even have to be bad for you—an average serving (3-4 ounces) of pork belly has fewer calories than a Big Mac (and will satisfy you longer.)  Yes, it’s fat, it’s cholesterol.  But, yess, it’s fat. Slippery, greasy, cover-your-rice-in-the-best-sauce-that-you’ve-ever-tasted fat. It’s certainly not rabbit food, and don’t put it on your menu for crash-dieting, but it’s food that will leave you satisfied.  Not just satisfied with dinner, but satisfied with life.  I challenge anyone not to fall in love with the person who cooks you braised pork belly.  It’s impossible.  Case closed.

I hope I don’t sound like a food snob here—trust me, I have very little patience for them.  I’ll take the black-top BBQ over a stuffy restaurant any day and I don’t think that everyone needs to learn French to know food.  But I do think that a lot of Americans have lost the fundamentals of eating meat.  If I do anything in my life, I hope it’s convincing people that while a quick-seared filet is mouth-watering and delicious, it’s not the only game in town.  You may have to go outside of the supermarket, and you may need to have three hours to kill at home while your dinner simmers away in a pot, but you will be rewarded for trying your hand at the “lowlier” cuts of meat.  Rewarded with a few extra dollars in your pocket and a full, blissfully happy belly.

Pork Belly Hot Pot

Serves 6//adapted from The River Cottage Meat Book

  • 3 pounds pork belly, rind on
  • 6 cups pork or chicken stock, or water
  • 12 green onions
  • 7 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons mirin (sweet Chinese wine)
  • 3 star anise pods
  • 4 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Bring the stock to a boil. Remove the bones from the pork belly and cut into chunks, about 1 by 2 inches.  Put them in a large pot, pour over boiling stock to cover and then bring back to a boil on the stovetop.  Simmer for 5 minutes, skimming off the scum that accumulates on the surface.  Drain.

Rinse out the pot and return the pork to it. Pour enough of the boiling stock to cover the pork again.  Cut 5 of the green onions in hald and add to the pan with the soy sauce, mirin, star anise, ginger, and red pepper flakes.  Stir well and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer very slowly for 2 hours, turning the meat occasionally, until the pork belly is very tender.

Remove the pork with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Stain the cooking liquid through a colander lined with cheesecloth, skimming off as much fat as you can.  Wipe out the pot and return the liquid to it.  Bring to a boil and boil hard for a few minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the pork belly back to the pot to rewarm.

Meanwhile, slice the remaining green onions.  To serve, center a scoop of cooked white rice in a bowl, ladle broth into bowl, and top with pork belly and onions.

Naked tush on the beach… and mushrooms.

If you happened to be at Napeague Beach in East Hampton this weekend, you just may have seen my naked tush running full speed into the crashing ocean waves.  And if you were wondering what the hell is that naked tush doing running full speed into the crashing ocean waves, I’ve gotta tell you – it was one of those spur of the moment ideas that just seems so right—the water felt warm, I’d forgotten my bathing suit, the beach was empty save for a few walkers in the distance, and you only live once. I mean, everyone needs to run naked into the ocean in broad daylight once in their lives, right?

I couldn’t have imagined myself performing this act of public indecency a year or two ago—one of the wonderful things about getting older.  I’m no longer a teenager and I no longer care if the little-dots-that-are-people walking far in the distance on a practically deserted September beach would like me in my birthday suit.  I like me in my birthday suit—but that’s besides the point—and I like jumping in the ocean every chance I get.  And there’s no better chance than when the water in September is still warm and the sky has cleared up for a moment in your otherwise-rainy weekend in Hamptons.

Now, if you are wondering why in the hell this relates to food, well, it doesn’t.  Except that, alongwith my newfound mid-twenties attitude (ohmygodijustrealizedi’llbe25thisyear), I’ve grown to love lemon.  Maybe my tastebuds have a better attitude now too, but whatever it is, I can’t get enough of lemon.  Fresh lemon-juice and oily lemon rind.  There’s something so fresh, so don’t-worry-that-it’s-not-summer-I’m-around-all-year about the taste of lemon that just makes me smile.  A big, puckered smile.

Pair it with a good olive oil, young pecorino cheese, and shitake mushrooms and I don’t know if I’ll be able to control myself.  Seriously.  I might have to make a big bowl, strip down, and jump into this dish.  The lemon sparks up the mushroom’s earthy dankness while cutting through the silky olive oil and creamy cheese; parsley gives a good herbaciousness to it all.  You can (and should) make this dish ahead—making it the perfect dinner party dish, for when everyone comes in from their last romp at the beach.

Shitake Mushrooms with Young Pecorino

makes 6 servings//from Bon Appetit, October 08

  • 7 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 lemon, peel cut into long thin slivers (yellow part only)
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cut into 1/2-inch-wide slices or left whole if smaller than 1 1/2 inches in diameter
  • garlic clove, peeled, flattened
  • 8 ounces young pecorino cheese (pecorino fresco) or Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves

Whisk 5 teaspoons lemon juice and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in 6 tablespoons olive oil. Stir in lemon peel slivers. Season dressing to taste with coarse salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Toss mushrooms, remaining 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons oil in large bowl. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle mushrooms with coarse salt and pepper. Roast 15 minutes. Using spatula, turn mushrooms over and roast until soft and beginning to brown around edges, about 10 minutes longer.

Pour half of dressing over hot mushrooms on sheet. Add garlic and toss to coat. Let cool on sheet.

Combine mushrooms, cheese, parsley, and remaining dressing in medium bowl. Let marinate at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. Discard garlic clove. Serve mushrooms and cheese with toothpicks, if desired.