Cilantro Oil

Have I ever told you that I have a thing for cilantro?  Oh, I have? Well, you can see what a dunce I’ve been then: A professed cilantro-lover, who’s never made cilantro oil before.  Bows head in shame.

The thing was, I never had even thought of cilantro oil before.  I add lots of cilantro to lots of things and it is a total-pain-in-the-ass to go out to the store solely for cilantro on a cold, wintery night but I never thought of another option.  Then finally, over the weekend I made cilantro oil and—while it’s not quite the real thing, less pungent—now I can unabashedly put it on anything (well, almost).

I’ll be showing you the reason why I made the cilantro oil (can you guess it? hint: it slurps) in a few days, though I’ve got to admit that my favorite use is drizzled over some of the ah-maze-ing bread I’ve been baking from this book.  So go ahead, make this cilantro oil before I let you in on its partner-in-recipe; I’m sure you’ll find some use for it.

Cilantro oil

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup safflower oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Purée cilantro, oil, and salt in cleaned blender (or with immersion blender), scraping down sides of blender (or bowl) several times. Pour oil into a jar or bottle and use within a few days or a week.  You can also strain out the solids for a smoother oil.

Chocolate in the morning.

I’m guessing that no one needs another post about Molly’s french chocolate granola—the recipe that spread like wildfire through the blogging world last spring.  I remember reading it and thinking—oh, my, god—and promptly bookmarking it.  Then, as these things do, I forgot all about it and continued to make do with store-bought granola.

But this weekend, with quitting my job and the consequential worrying about money, store-bought granola suddenly seems an extravagance, as well as (so I’ve learned) down-right silly.  Store-bought granola doesn’t hold a candle to homemade, especially when it’s made with high-quality chocolate.  This chocolate granola, adapted just slightly from Molly’s, makes the perfect breakfast; it’s hardly sweet, with an undercurrent of bittersweet chocolate that echoes caffeine.  It calls to me wake up while at the same time rubbing my back, soothingly, telling me to pamper myself, to eat chocolate in the morning.

So that’s my plan.  I’m going to eat chocolate, in the form of granola, every day while I am in this transition period—while I sort out a few things and decide what’s on my horizon.  But to be honest, I don’t think I’ll stop eating it… ever.

Molly’s Chocolate Granola

adapted from Orangette

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup raw almonds
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup, or more, finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 Tbsp. mild honey
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, almonds, raisins, chocolate, and salt. Stir well to blend.

In a small saucepan, warm the honey and oil over low heat, whisking occasionally  until the honey is loose. Pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to combine well.

Spread the mixture evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden. Set a timer to go off halfway through the baking time, so that you can give the granola a good stir; this helps it to cook evenly. When it’s ready, remove the pan from the oven, stir well – this will keep it from cooling into a hard, solid sheet – and cool completely.

When cool, transfer the granola to a large bowl, storage jar, or zipper-lock plastic bag.

Comfort food #2.

Last post, I gave you vanilla, so today is comfort food #2: roast chicken.  Specifically, roast chicken with buttery gold potatoes, cremini mushrooms, and slab bacon.  Like a warm blanket on a snowy night.

If you’ve never roasted a naturally-raised, organic-fed chicken before, you don’t know what you’re missing.  Unlike the bland, big-breasted counterparts of the Purdue variety, organic or natural chicken (preferably from a local farm, though I know I’m pushin’ it) isn’t bred solely for its breasts—which leaves the chicken unhappy and anxiety-ridden throughout her life, most of the times unable to walk on her overburdened legs.  Because an animal’s mental state has more to do with how tasty the meat is than how you cook it, happy animals yield well-flavored, moist meat, while factory one easily, almost unavoidably dry out.

If you are looking to switch to farm-raised chickens, you’ll need to know how to roast.  Most chickens that are raised humanely, at local farms (or in your backyard), are only profitable if sold whole.  And while it’s a good idea to buy in bulk and break down some into packages of thighs, breasts, and legs for later, I hardly ever think that far in advance.  Since I am lucky enough to live down the road from a great chicken farm, I just drop in and pick one up for the night’s dinner.

So I’ve fallen in love with roast chickens.  A 3.5 pound bird is perfect for two lovebir—erm, people—and could even do for a family of three. A cinch to put together, leaving time to clean up while it’s in the oven; a dinner that invites after-dinner canoodling, or comfy family time.  A Sunday roast dinner even, especially when it’s cold and snowy outside.

This roast chicken, cooked atop a bed of cremini mushrooms, bacon, and gold potatoes, is my favorite roast to date.  Since the new year, Jim and I have made it again and again; it’s our go-to comfort dish.  It’s not too bad for you—just bad enough really—while still tasting full and homey and lovely. The creminis add a down-home foresty feeling, the potatoes are creamy inside and crisp out, and the bacon warrants time spent fishing out each piece.  Because of all the accoutrements, this roast could certainly feed 3 (dare I say 4), though there might be a fight for the oysters. On New Year’s Day, Jim and I made this dish with black truffles, chanterelles, and shiitakes but found the lower-cost version just as good (maybe even better).  If you’d like the real-deal, the recipe is here.

Roast chicken with mushrooms and potatoes

serves 2-3

  • 1 3- to 4-pound roasting chicken
  • handful of herbs, especially thyme and rosemary if you have them
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold or Buttercream potatoes, peeled, halved or quartered (depending on the size)
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, stemmed, halved
  • 3-4 thick bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons on olive oil, divided
  • vermouth, optional

Wash off your chicken, salt (kosher, preferably) and pepper generously inside and out, top and bottom.  Stuff 6 peeled cloves of garlic and a handful or herbs, if you have them, inside.

Put potatoes, mushrooms, and bacon together in a bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Stir to combine.

If you have it, take a length of tin foil and crumple it into a coil large enough to hold the chicken.  Place that in the bottom of a roasting pan.  Place chicken on top.  Scatter potatoes, mushrooms, and bacon all around the chicken.  If you have it, add a couple splashes of white wine or vermouth.  Drizzle the other tablespoon of olive oil over everything.  With your hands, rub the oil into the chicken skin and all over the vegetables to coat.  Salt and pepper a little more.

With your oven on a 450F, roast chicken for 30-40 minutes or until it’s about 155-160F. Take out the chicken and the foil, place on a platter or cutting board and cover with the unrolled foil. The vegetables won’t be done yet.  Mix them all up, getting chicken fat over everything, and send back in the oven and roast at 450F for another 15-25 minutes, or until they are totally tender and the potatoes getting very browned.  Carve up your bird, arrange on a platter and spoon the vegetables over.

If you like, take two cups of chicken stock and add 4 minced shallots and bring to a boil.  After it boils, bring down to a soft simmer and add 2-3 tablespoons of butter.  Pour this sauce over everything.

ScanPan Giveaway Winner

Expired Baking Soda (a haiku)

The dough was yummy,
But when the cookies emerged,
They flattened my hopes.


A random number generator chose from the finalists below and picked Erica as the winner.  Thank you all for participating.


A box of pasta swinging at my side:
The endless rasp of pebbles moving with the tide.

-Language Hat


Herbs cook quickly in a wok.
It’s not only Chinese — how fast
Thyme fries.



Kiss me with mangoes still on your lips
embrace me with dewberries clinging
Woo me when winds of morning are birds
softly singing
Hold me while summer cherries turn red
upon the reddest vine
and sun-ripe scuppernongs turn bronze upon
a swaying vine
Caress me where wild strawberries crush beneath
our dancing feet
and pomegranates hang like love
intricately sweet.



Expired Baking Soda (a haiku)

The dough was yummy,
But when the cookies emerged,
They flattened my hopes.



Cookie Diet

“Oh the COOKIE!” Cried John. “How delicious!
And nutritious and healthful and RIGHT!
Now for most they may seem somewhat naughty
But for ME they are naught but delight!

“You see,” he went on, “I have proof
Of their magic, salubrious ways
A psychic once told me my aura
Glows gold in a chocolate chip haze.

“Macadamia nut and white chocolate
Makes it sparkle like sun on the sea
And Girl Scout troop peanut butter patties
Has it shiver with uncontainable glee.

“Oatmeal raisin means purpley paisley
Snickerdoodles red cinnamon swirls
Gingerbread with black licorice buttons
Causes joyous cerulean curls.

“And with a cookie or two in my belly
I could exercise all night and day
With the power of sugar and flour
Losing thirty plus pounds is child’s play.

“So you might THINK that they just make me fatter,”
Said John as crumbs fell onto his shirt.
“But in FACT they’re my secret to weight loss
Contained in one multi-purpose dessert!”


Double-Vanilla Pound Cake

I have two bonafide comfort foods: roast chicken and vanilla (not together, though I recently spied a recipe with both).  Either are liable to stop my tears when I’m crying, or calm me out of a panic.  Comforting in a different kind of way than chocolate or soup is—not sick day comforting, or got the blues comforting—but a in-serious-need-of-a-life-change-and-a-hug comforting.

As some of you know, I’ve been needing just that lately.  A big life change has hit me unannounced and I’m still settling into it.  It’s nothing serious, or life-threatening; it may actually be positive in the end.  But for now, I need comfort.  Comfort in the form of double-vanilla pound cake.

This pound cake, from my new favorite baking book, is intensely vanilla.  Not too sweet, the vanilla doesn’t become cloying—like so many packaged sweets and soft-drinks; no, it’s the flavor, the beany, earthy, fragrant sweetness of vanilla that defines this cake.  It’s scattered with black specks of the real thing and vanilla extract sits sweetly in the background.

I’m sad to say that I overcooked the cake by a few minutes (stressful days can do that to you) and it was a touch too tough.  The flavor was all there though, so I couldn’t keep my mouth shut about it here.  I’ll surely make it again.  Everytime I need a hug.

Double-Vanilla Pound Cake

makes one loaf

from Cindy Mushet’s The Art & Soul of Baking

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 ½ sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (7 ounces) sifted cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¹/3 (3 ounces) sour cream, at room temperature
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF and position an oven rack in the center.  Lightly coat a loaf pan with butter, oil, or high-heat canola oil spray and fit it with parchment paper to extend up both long sides to the top of the pan.

    Place the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Use a paring knife to split the vanilla bean lengthwise, then turn the knife over and use the dull edge to scrape the seeds into the sugar.  (Save the pod for another use.)  Blend on low speed until the seeds are evenly dispersed.  Add the butter and beat n medium-high until the mixture is very light—almost white000in color, 4 to 5 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl with the spatula.

    Beat the eggs with the vanilla in a small bowl.  With the mixer running on medium speed, add the eggs to the butter mixture aout 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend in before adding the next.  About halfway though turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl, then continue adding the eggs.  Scrape down the bowl again.

    With a fine-mesh strainer, sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk together.  With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture and sour cream alternatively, beginning with one-third of the flour mixture and half the sour cream, repeat, then finish with the flour mixture.  Scrape down the bowl and finish blending the batter by hand.

    Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Baked for 45 to 55 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely.  When cool, remove from the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and serve.

    Printable Recipe

    ScanPan Giveaway! (Updated Below)

    Pot Roast

    I gaze upon the roast,
    that is sliced and laid out
    on my plate
    and over it
    I spoon the juices
    of carrot and onion.
    And for once I do not regret
    The passage of time.

    I sit by a window
    that looks
    on the soot-stained brick of buildings
    and do not care that I see
    no living thing-not a bird,
    not a branch in bloom,
    not a soul moving
    in the rooms
    behind the dark panes.
    These days when there is little
    to love or to praise
    one could do worse
    than yield
    to the power of food.
    So I bend

    to inhale
    the steam that rises
    from my plate, and I think
    of the first time
    I tasted a roast
    like this.
    It was years ago
    in Seabright,
    Nova Scotia;
    my mother leaned
    over my dish and filled it
    and when I finished
    filled it again.
    I remember the gravy,
    its odor of garlic and celery,
    and sopping it up
    with pieces of bread.

    And now
    I taste it again.
    The meat of memory.
    The meat of no change.
    I raise my fork in praise,
    and I eat.

    That is a food poem by one of my favorite poets, Mark Strand. By posting your own food poem in the comments section (any length, any form) you might just win yourself a ScanPan! You can also submit an unusual but successful egg recipe — quiche, frittata, scramble, whatever (not all cooks fancy themselves poets, after all, and everyone should have a shot). Robin and I will choose our favorite poems and recipes, aiming for a total of five entries (though we might include more if it’s close); then — because poems and recipes are in many ways subjective and because we’ll surely know some of the contestants — we’ll use the random number generator to pick the winner. Good luck!

    Update: Whoops, I should have been clearer. Both poems and recipes must be original — lest, judging one masterwork after another, I be left feeling like a patient etherised upon a table. Seriously, though, I don’t see how it could work otherwise (Batali vs. Eliot vs. Joe the Blogger who thought to put something really tasty and inventive in his scrambled eggs…); I’m already pushing it by asking for poems and food. Those who’ve already submitted others’ poems/recipes should feel free to submit their own.

    Jimmy talks the ScanPan

    “Product Reviews” — that’s what it says on the door to my new office here at the C&C Complex, an office to which I was relegated after failing to turn in a single post for three weeks. Champ was given my old job. After he’s finished lapping up all the scotch I was given for Christmas, he’s somehow expected to review restaurants. I think I might be supposed to train him, but to hell with that — he can’t even type. My plan is simply to wait until he, too, gets demoted, and in the meantime review all the products I’m assigned promptly and bitterly.

    First up, the ScanPan! Unfortunately, this is a product about which it is impossible to be bitter. The eleven inch saute pan is hands-down the best pan I’ve ever used. Not only is it so nonstick that everything you put in it slips and slides like a drunk eighty-pound dog on black ice (ladder-climbing mutt) but, unlike most nonstick pans, you can use metal on it. Which for me, when I’m flipping eggs, is crucial (I hate plastic spatulas). With just a little butter, an egg over-easy glides so smoothly I’ve even been tempted to try the restaurant flip. The thought of yolk oozing into the cracks of our electric stove has held me back, of course; but when that dog gets fired and my scotch is returned, I imagine I’ll probably give it a go. The pan really is perfect for eggs.

    Fish, too: Robin wrote a post a while back about the way I used a knife to sort of squeegee off (or rather out) all excess liquid from the skin to ensure its crisping in the pan (somebody named Keller does it too). That method, I’m almost sad to say, is now obsolete. Using the ScanPan the other night, all I had to do to my salmon was saute it skin-side down in olive oil for four minutes (applying pressure here and there to make sure the skin crisped evenly) before covering it for another three minutes so the rest of the filet would steam to medium-rare. That was it. The skin, the fish, was perfect. (Admittedly, this new method might also work with a lesser pan:; I’d never tried it before the ScanPan was sent to us, and I don’t have endless salmon filets to test our other cookware. I doubt it would come out as well, though. At no point, even when I first set down the filet in the crackling-hot pan, did the fish stick: I could have flipped it whenever I wanted; hell, I could’ve set up little pins and bowled with it. And if I’m starting to sound like a salesman here, that’s because I’ve really been sold, and there’s no reason not to celebrate an excellent product. I just wish it were a scotch.)

    [Editor’s Note: To win a ScanPan of your own, click here.]

    Black-eyed peas.

    A while back, when I decided not to be religious, I realized superstitions wouldn’t jibe with my newfound atheism.  I had, afterall, never quite believed in throwing salt over your shoulder (it made such a mess) or not letting a black cat cross your path (I had one named Midnight); it had all felt very half-hearted.  Nonetheless, there are a few superstitions that stuck with me; I’ll always take a sip after a cheers, I tend to knock on wood—and I eat black-eyed peas for the New Year.

    Not quite on the New Year however; I can’t seem to get myself to eat beans on a day that I associate with my last holiday calorie-filled hurrah.  I’ll buy the peas for New Years, sometimes with an honest intent to make them, but never do, giving in to roast chicken and potatoes, or braised pork.  I’m weak-willed.

    Though when New Year’s Day is over and the diet begins, black-eyed peas help me with the transition.  They remind me that fat- and carbo-loading isn’t the only way towards delicious.  Especially this recipe, coming from Daniel Boulud, which pairs the earthy peas with (the herb I now consider its true love) dried oregano.  Bacon is added because, come on, it’s a transition to health—not a nosedive.  And finally, most importantly, a good dose of hot sauce keeps things exciting.  Without that, you’re just full of beans.

    Southern-style Black-eyed Peas with Bacon

    from Daniel Boulud’s Braise

    makes 4 servings

    • 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
    • 5 ounces slab bacon, cut into cubes
    • 2 red onions, peeled and sliced
    • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
    • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
    • 2 teaspoons Tabasco or other hot sauce
    • Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish

    The day before you plan to serve this dish, put the peas in a bowl, cover with water by at least 2 inches, and refrigerate.  The next day, drain well before using.

    Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 275ºF.

    Place the bacon in a small cast-iron pot of Dutch oven over medium-high heat and cook until it renders its fat, about 5 minutes.

    Add the onions, garlic, oregano, and black pepper and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes.  Add the drained peas, bay leaves, salt, and 6 cups water.  Bring to a simmer, cover, and transfer to the oven.

    Braise until the peas are tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes*. Stir in the Tabasco, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve.

    *For my taste, it was closer to an hour and forty-five minutes.

    Snuggled. And beef rendang.

    I apologize; I’ve been away for a bit. For the first few days of my post-Christmas vacation I had a humdinger of a cold, and then Jim got it for the next few days, and then I decided that what we needed most—more than anything—was to lie down with each other and snuggle. So we snuggled for the last few days of our vacation.  We’re still snuggling, actually, until Monday—Jim’s run out to the post office now and I figured I’d say hi.

    When we’ve been able to pull away from each other long enough to get into the kitchen we’ve cooked up some of the best dishes we’ve ever made, though in the name of vacation, haven’t been photographing most of it.  They’re all make-agains, so I’m sure you’ll someday hear all about them.  For now, you can have one—a (albeit unphotogenic) braised Malaysian beef dish from Molly Stevens’ All About Braising—that we did happen to snap some photos of.

    I was certain that this dish wouldn’t come out right; the spice paste was like, whoa intense, punch-you-in-the-nose lemongrass, onion, and chile. Our eyes were tearing up the minute I took the top off the food processor; though once the oil, the beef, and the coconut milk was added, I was sure it would turn out okay—edible, at least.

    But then—ohh then—3 1/2 hours later, when everything had cooked down and mellowed and the flavors had married; when the coconut milk turned to curd and the beef was supremely tender and fragrant, I knew that it wouldn’t just be okay, it would be transcendent.

    And it was.  The flavor is almost indescribable but it’s damn, damn good.  None of the overpowering ingredients give so much as a growl in the finished dish—it’s more a purr, a come hither murmur.  Paired with some white rice, with some of the fragrant sauce poured over it, I couldn’t have asked for a cozier, more snuggly dish.  So if you are hankering for some comfort on these last few days of your winter vacation (sick of Christmas ham and gingerbread), then here’s your dish.  And if you want to invite me over for some, I promise I make for a good spoon.

    Molly Stevens’ Beef Rendang

    from All About Braising

    For the spice paste:

    • 4-6 dried red chiles, such as chile de arbol
    • 2 lemongrass stalks, woody tops, root ends, and outer layers removed, fragrant 4-inch cores coarsely chopped
    • 4 small shallots, coarsely chopped (scant ½ cup)
    • 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
    • One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
    • One 2-inch piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and coarsely chopped, or ½ teaspoon ground
    • One 2-inch piece of fresh galangal, peeled and coarsely chopped (optional—and left out by me)
    • Pinch of coarse salt

    For the braise:

    • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
    • 3 whole star anise
    • 5 cardamon pods
    • 2 cinnamon sticks
    • 2½ pounds boneless beef chuck or brisket, but into 1½ to 2-inch cubes
    • 1½ teaspoons sugar
    • Coarse salt
    • 2½ to 3 cups unsweetened coconut milk, or as needed
    • 4 fresh kaffir lime leaves (optional—and left out by me)

    Combine the chiles, lemongrass, shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and galangal (if using) in a blender, small food processor, or mortar and pestle.  Season with salt.  Grind the spices to a coarse paste, adding 3 to 4 tablespoons of water as necessary if the flavorings are too dry to grind.  Be sure to grind thoroughly; too many fibers or chunk will be unpleasant in the finished dish.

    Heat the oil in a wok or large deep skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the spice paste and fry, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the paste appears a bit glossy as the oil begins to separate out of it, 3 to 8 minutes.  (If you added water to grind the paste, this will take longer.)  Add the star anise, cardamon, and cinnamon and stir to combine.  Add the beef and stir to coat the meat evenly with the paste.  Season with the sugar and a healthy pinch of salt.

    Pour in enough coconut milk to just cover the beef and stir to blend the paste into the milk.  Bring to a gentle simmer, and braise, uncovered*, until the meat is almost tender, about 2½ hours.  Stir the beef every 20-30 minutes, and check that the simmer remains quiet—there should be occasional bubbled but certainly not a torrent.  If necessary, lower the heat or place the pan on a heat diffuser  The color of the coconut milk will darken to a light milk chocolate color as it absorbs the beef juices.

    As the liquid reduces to a thick paste, stir in the lime leaves, if using, and continue braising, monitoring the pan more closely.  Eventually a clear oil will separate out from the paste, When this happens, stir more frequently, and then fry the beef in the oil until it becomes mahogany brown, another 45-60 minutes.  During this last stage, you may want to retrieve the whole spices when you spy them since you may not want to but down on them unknowingly.

    If you’ve used chuck, there will be as much as 1/3 cup clear oil in the pan when the rendang is done; brisket will give off less.  Either way, spoon off and discard** as much oil as your care to.  Don’t be afrais to leave a bit for flavor.  Stir and taste for salt.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

    *I half-covered the pan for most of the cooking time.

    **This oil is delicious drizzled on white rice.