Stay tuned, stay hungry, and go cook something already!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Personal Update

Where's Waldo?
Hello my people! Just wanted to give you a little update — I am currently in New York City where my family and I will be permanently relocating as soon as I secure a great cooking job. In the meantime, I am in the city doing interviews and auditions, wandering around, and eating great food.

Yesterday, I had lunch at the Union Square Cafe, one of my all-time favorite restaurants. Every aspect of the food and service was perfect (as always!). This restaurant is the cornerstone of Danny Meyer's empire (which is currently massive). We celebrated my friend Dona's birthday with a gluten-free caramelized banana tart and a long thin candle. Dona enjoyed a roast broccoli melt with Manchego cheese and Meyer lemon on gluten-free bread with house-made potato chips. I went with a classic grilled tuna burger, which came with some cumin-scented coleslaw, on a house-made bun and with roasted red onion. Their food is very well thought out, presented clean and simply, and the service attentive but never annoying. How come I could never have this experience in Santa Fe?

Monday, April 07, 2014

Wheatena Coconut Cookies

The Altitude Adjustment Section
My mother Bernice loves Wheatena, she makes it for herself for breakfast at least once a week. It is an old-school hot cereal from NYC which requires constant stirring till it thickens, and then you finish it with butter salt and sugar. I always thought it looked like quicksand. Besides being a cereal, it also has great baking possibilities. This is a recipe for a hearty delicious cookies which I think you will love. I recommend partially dipping them in chocolate.

3 cups sifted AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup Wheatena (dry)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2/3 cup Crisco
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Stir in Wheatena. Add coconut and set aside. In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream together shortening, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla. Add the flour mixture to butter mixture; stir until well blended. On a floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a cookie cutter, cut into desired shape. Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment and bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes until lightly browned. Remove and let cool over wire rack. Dip in chocolate if you like. This dough holds very well in the freezer, so you can have fresh cookies any time, and isn't that what life is all about?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Famous, Dutch-Oven, Super-Easy, Fantastically Crusty Rustic Bread That Everybody Knew About But Me!

Seasonal Recipe of the Week
A few weeks ago Monica, my dear pal, showed up for Sunday dinner with the most delicious and beautiful crusted round loaf of bread still warm from the oven. Now that's a good friend! She said it was the easiest loaf she ever made and sent me the link over at Ben Starr's blog. Next weekend I tried it, and like her, I was skeptical, how could something so easy taste so good? Well campers, it works every time at every altitude, and you must give it a shot. The only thing is you need to start it the day before — so plan accordingly! Here's the recipe. Once you get the hang of it you can start experimenting but the basic formula should be stuck to.
3 1/2 cups (or 17 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt - not iodized, Ben says that will kill the yeast
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) filtered or bottled water - tap water has chlorine which is also a yeast-killer

In a medium bowl, combine yeast, flour, and salt and mix with your hands. Ben says it helps the bacteria activate — who knew? Then add the water (temperature is not an issue) and mix with a wooden spoon till a raggy dough forms. Done. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter in your kitchen for 12 to 24 hours. Longer is better, so I went 24 hours.

The next day, scoop the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. It should be quite soft. Knead it 3 to 4 times and form into a ball. Place a clean kitchen towel in a bowl that is about the same size as your dutch oven and sprinkle with some flour or semolina and place dough in bowl. Sprinkle some more flour or semolina on top (you want to make sure it doesn't stick to the towel). Cover with plastic and let sit 2 to 3 hours, until double in size.

20 minutes before you are ready to bake, put the empty Dutch oven with its lid in the oven, then preheat your oven to 450. Now this is the only slightly tricky part (but not really). Carefully take the Dutch oven out of the oven and take off the lid. Then flour your right hand and gently dump the dough into your hand so the top is in your palm and then flip it into the Dutch oven so it is right side up. Careful — the Dutch oven will be HOT! Using a razor blade or sharp knife cut a series of lines in the top. Put the lid back on, put it back into the oven, and bake for 30 minutes. Then take the lid off and bake it for 15 minutes more. That's it!

If you want to play around with the recipe, you can start adding stuff like sesame, poppy, rye, or fennel seeds or herbage like basil or rosemary. Then I was thinking what about substituting in 1/2 whole wheat flour? Or upping the nutrition with millet, chia, or hemp seeds? Also, chopped Kalamata olives or some nuts would not be bad. As you can see, the possibilities are endless so have fun with it and let me know how yours turns out!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ask Rula! Authority on Everything, Expert on Nothing

Time to answer some questions!
Hello, my people! Just because I am off the radio, and not doing my weekly column, does not mean there are no questions to be answered. Wherever I go, people ask me stuff, some questions about food, some about etiquette, and some just plain rude! Frankly, I love them all. If you have a question email me! I thought I would answer a few questions today, because without constantly acquiring knowledge we would all just be stupid, and that would get boring, don't you think?

The first question is from Pickled Patty and she writes:
Dear Rula,
What is the difference between capers and caper berries? Are they relatives? I have noticed caper berries are becoming more popular and one even showed up in my martini the other day! Do you use them in different ways, hot or cold, cooked or raw? Thanks Rula, I need answers and you are my go-to girl!
Pickled Patty

Dear Pickled Patty,
Capers are a yummy addition to any salad, pasta, or seafood but they are such a mystery to so many. Let's let Mr. Wiki help us out. Wikipedia says:
The salted and pickled caper bud (often called simply capers) is often used as a seasoning or garnish. Capers are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. The mature fruit of the caper shrub are prepared similarly and marketed as caper berries. The buds, when ready to pick, are a dark olive green and about the size of a fresh kernel of corn. They are picked, then pickled in salt, or a salt and vinegar solution, and drained. Intense flavor is developed as mustard oil (glucocapparin) is released from each caper bud. This enzymatic reaction leads to the formation of rutin often seen as crystallized white spots on the surfaces of individual caper buds.

Capers are a distinctive ingredient in Italian cuisine, especially in Sicilian and southern Italian cooking. They are commonly used in salads, pasta salads, meat dishes and pasta sauces. Examples of uses in Italian cuisine are chicken piccata and spaghetti alla puttanesca. Capers are known for being one of the ingredients of tartar sauce. They are often served with cold smoked salmon or cured salmon dishes (especially lox and cream cheese). Capers and caper berries are sometimes substituted for olives to garnish a martini.

Capers are categorized and sold by their size, defined as follows, with the smallest sizes being the most desirable: non-pareil (up to 7 mm), surfines (7–8 mm), capucines (8–9 mm), capotes (9–11 mm), fines (11–13 mm), and grusas (14+ mm). If the caper bud is not picked, it flowers and produces a fruit called a caper berry.
The fruit can served in salads and they are also lovely just as a snack, especially when dangled into your mouth by a tall stoic man in a toga.

Next we have a question from Hershey Harry and he writes:

Dear Rula,
In your last post you talked about tempering chocolate for your chocolate sculpture but I still don't understand why you go through all that trouble. What does tempering actually do?
Hershey Harry

Dear Hershey Harry,
You know those expensive sexy truffles you see at high end chocolate boutiques? Notice that the chocolate is shiny, firm enough to tap with your fingernail, and will break with a sharp snap. That's because it's tempered. Tempering is a process that encourages the cocoa butter in the chocolate to harden into a specific crystalline pattern, which maintains the sheen and texture for a long time. When chocolate isn't tempered, it can have a number of problems: it may not ever set up hard at room temperature; it may become hard, but look dull and blotchy; the internal texture may be spongy rather than crisp; and it can be susceptible to fat bloom, meaning the fats will migrate to the surface and make whitish streaks and blotches which makes the chocolate look old — and nobody likes an old sweet. Anytime you need chocolate to be firm at room temperature and to have a glossy sheen and a crisp texture, you must temper the melted chocolate which is done by taking the chocolate up and down to certain temperatures. Best to do a little internet research to find out the correct temperature for your specific type of chocolate. Be patient and use an accurate thermometer and the results will speak for themselves!

If you have any questions for me, send me an email or leave a comment! Well, that's all for now — I have a fitting for my "Easter" Bunny outfit. Ciao!