Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cookbook #5: The Greens Cookbook

Adapted from Cookbook #5:  The Greens Cookbook (1987)

Recipe:  Potatoes and Chanterelles Baked in Cream

I am surprised to be turning to this cookbook so soon after cooking from Fields of Greens, its sequel.  I had plans for the carnitas from another cookbook (don't worry, I will be making those soon enough, my sweet carnivore friends).  But then my husband went mushroom hunting this weekend.  We have a friend who is quite the mycologist, and it has been pouring down rain here for the past week--prime mushroom sprouting weather.  So much so,  hunting for mushrooms seems a misnomer.  Tripping over them seems more like it.  On Saturday, the skies cleared long enough for them to forage for dinner while I gleefully remained inside our house.  I am enamored with the idea of tumbling down 45-degree declines of recently-rained-on hillsides, but really only in theory, not in practice.  They returned, albeit a bit sodden and muddy, with pounds of chanterelles and black trumpets.

Thus, I was obligated to make this recipe, seeing as I was still dry and clean.

It's hard to believe that this cookbook came out 23 years ago (and it's in a new release, hence the fancy new cover on amazon.com).  Deborah Madison is the queen bee of vegetarian cooking, and she too has put in her time at Chez Panisse, and she opened the Greens restaurant before Annie Somerville took over as chef.  From her new hive in Santa Fe, she continues her work to educate others to grow, cook, and eat locally, and she writes with startling clarity and sensitivity about the joy of knowing what you ate and where it came from.  For her, food is more than sustenance.  Or perhaps, better put, it is the most important sustenance, as it sustains not only our physical lives but our emotional ones, too.

And so, this particular cookbook has supplied such nourishment for me as well.  As I mentioned before, my dear friend in graduate school gave this cookbook to me about 12 years ago--I believe as reward for all of the cooking I was teaching myself to do.  I remember one night, I wanted to make lasagna and I got carried away, as I often do when it comes to cooking, and made three different vegetarian lasagnas from three different cookbooks, including this one.  As you can imagine, of course, then I had to throw a party, inviting my friends to sample and judge each of the dishes.  I cannot remember which recipe won, but both the Spinach, Cheese and Tomato Lasagna (p. 168) and the Mushroom Lasagna (p. 186) from this edition are quite wonderful, filled with multiple steps, and well worth all the time. This book then traveled from Utah to Colorado and now to California with me, remaining a connection back to this dear friend, who probably has even forgotten she passed it on to me.  We don't stay in touch as much or as often as we should, but no matter the recipe I make from this book, I think of her and love her for all the joy, sincerity, and laughter she brought into my life for two years as we lived in that little yellow house with tulips, a cherry tree, and no vacuum cleaner.

Okay, let's get back on track here:   the recipe recommends serving this "earthy, rich dish" with a salad of bitter winter greens or with a light, acidic soup (such as Red Onion and Red Wine Soup with Tomatoes and Thyme (page 106, and thus not included here)).  So we did just that (soup, not salad).  Now I am not sure which lunatic planet I decided to inhabit on a Tuesday night, but I decided to take on not one but two Greens recipes:  and on this planet it has taken me hours to make a dinner, but what a great Greens-restaurant-inspired planet we inhabit.  Soup:  light, acidic and quite phenomenal to be exact.  Potatoes and chanterelles in cream (people, did you notice this!  in cream!): everything you would imagine a locally foraged mushroom doused in cream (CREAM!) would be.   Sigh.

4-6 Servings

2 pounds new or russet potatoes
1 pound chanterelles  (in the head note, they say that this is a rather generous amount; you can use 1/2 the amount of chanterelles, they say, and still get a pretty yummy result)
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1.  Peel the potatoes and slice them into rounds 1/4 inch thick.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add 1-tablespoon salt, and the potatoes.  Return the water to a boil and cook the potatoes for 2 minutes.  Drain them and set them aside.

2.  Clean the chanterelles, if they need it, with a soft mushroom brush or a damp cloth.  Slice them into pieces about 1/4 inch thick.  Heat the butter in a wide pan, then add the mushrooms, the garlic, and a little salt, and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.

3.   Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly butter a gratin dish.  Layer half the potatoes and season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Add the mushrooms; then cover them with the remaining slices of potatoes.  Overlap the top layer, if you like, to make them look pretty, and season again with salt and pepper.

4.  Pour the cream over the top and bake for 40 minutes, or until the potatoes have absorbed most of the cream and are covered with a golden crust.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cookbook #4: Cheese Board: Collective Works

Adapted from Cookbook #4:  Cheese Board:  Collective Works (2003)

Recipe: Four-Cheese, Three-Onion, Four-Herb Pizza

Four cheeses?   I needed four cheeses to make one pizza?  When you're the Cheese Board, the answer is yes.

Four cheeses: four gospels, four noble truths, four horsemen of the apocalypse,  four chambers to mammalian heart, the fantastic four ... And so, to follow in this illustrious suit of four, I give you four reasons why this was a good recipe for me to make:

1.  I don't make pizza. My husband does.  For his thirtieth birthday in 2003, he and I were envisioning our ideal kitchen, so I gathered together an immoral amount with the kitchen-themed presents, including a pizza stone.  Since then, he has been delegated head pizza chef, so this is another one of those recipes I would never make but would foist upon him.  When I pull this cookbook off the shelf, I go straight to the scones pages (which are relatively easy to find as they are currently the buttermilk-splattered and baking-powder-dusted).

2.  And I make those scones because, O sweet Jesus, have you ever sat on the meridian on Shattuck in front of the Cheese Board with a cup of tea or coffee and one of their cornmeal and cherry scones?  O, these are the divine.  This morning, I took a much needed day off from work and I vowed not to check my email (a vow I broke).  But to begin the day, we stopped off at the Cheese Board for scones (said husband got a cheese scone, I got the aforementioned cornmeal and cherry scones).  Then we went to Point Reyes to watch the end of the storm pass over us.  It was pretty spectacular.  Almost as spectacular as the scones.  Okay, it was more spectacular than the scones, but not by much.

3.  And in a movement from the sublime to the ridiculous, I would like to point out that while I am currently not the pizza maker of our little household, I was once a pizza maker extraordinaire. In college, for at least two years, I worked at Elm's Pizza in a small town of Ohio.  I took orders, rolled dough, threw toppings on pizzas, stood in front of a 500-degree oven, and listened to a lot of country music.  I loved the Friday nights when the intoxicated revelers would stumble back to their dorm rooms and call down the hill to our little pizza joint to ask for a delivery. I came home smelling of oregano and onions. That yeasty smell of pizza dough still reminds me of being 20.

4.  Finally, for the un-initiated, the Cheese Board is everything you imagine Berkeley to be:  idealistic, collective, earnest, crowded, and sometimes a little grouchy.  And they do provide some fine cheeses and pizza.  Opened in 1967, the owners wanted to embrace all of the communal spirit of the late 60s and they eventually sold their cheese shop to their employees.  Today you can stand in line to speak to someone who really knows his cheese.  They offer tastes of everything in the shop and help you plan your cheese plate for the night.  In the mid-eighties, they opened a pizza shop that sells one kind of pizza a day, so you better like it.  And plenty of people do:  they line up around the block, or at least down the street, to have a slice or a whole pie.  Tonight, I am proud to announce that people may begin lining up down my street, for I can replicate their tasty goodness in my own home.  Unfortunately, we got a bummer email before we tore into this yummy dish.  But the garlic oil on the edges and the fresh herbs on top redirected us to what was most important in the moment:  crispy crust, tangy onions, and four cheeses.  All the rest will work itself out.

3 ten-inch pizzas (I halved the recipe because three pizzas seemed a bit much for two people,  but the recipe that follows is for the three pizzas)

1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 recipe Pizza Dough (recipe follows)
Fine cornmeal or flour for dusting
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Italian Fontina or Italian Fontal cheese
1/4 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
2 green onions, coarsely chopped (including green parts)
2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano


1.  Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  If using a baking stone, preheat the baking stone on the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes.

2.  In a small bowl, combine the garlic and olive oil.  Set aside.

3.  To shape the pizzas, transfer the dough to a lightly flowered surface and divide it into 3 pieces.  Gently form each piece into a loose round and cover with a floured kitchen towel.  Let rest for 20 minutes.  Scatter cornmeal over 3 inverted baking sheets.  Shape each round into a 10-inch disk. [or in my case, the shape of a left-leaning Louisiana, but only  if you have a creative eye]

4.  Toss the Mozzarella and Fontina together in a medium bowl.  Divide the cheese mixture into 2 piles, one about two-thirds the total amount and the other one-third.

5.  Line up the 3 pizzas for assembly.  Distribute the larger amount of the cheese mixture over the pizzas, leaving a 1/2-inch rim.  Scatter the onions on top of the cheese.  Dot the top of the pizzas with small clumps of the Gorgonzola.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

6.  In a small bowl, mix the Parmigianino and herbs together.  Set aside.

7.  Place a baking sheet with a pizza on the lower oven rack and bake for 8 minutes.  Rotate the pizza to the upper rack, place the second pizza in the oven on the lower rack, and continue baking for 8 minutes.  Then, finish baking the first pizza by sliding it off the pan directly onto the baking stone.  Rotate the second pizza to the upper rack and put the third pizza in the oven on the lower rack.  Bake the pizza on the stone for 4 minutes to crisp the bottom until well browned.  Finish baking the second and third pizzas in the same manner.  [Or do what we did.  Cook the first pizza on the baking stone.  Eat.  Then ponder making the second pizza but think, "ah, we're full already."]

To make the pizza dough (apparently at the Cheese Board they use a sour dough pizza dough, which is also included in the book, but I don't have a starter, so here's their recipe for the regular yeast-driven dough, which is pretty darn fantastic):

3 ten-inch pizza crusts

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 1/2 to 4 cups bread flour

1.  In a large bowl, whisk the yeast into the warm water until dissolved.  Let stand for 5 minutes.

2.  Add the olive oil, salt, and 2 cups of the flour to the bowl.  Using a wooden spoon, mix for at least 5 minutes to form a wet dough.  Pour 1 1/2 cups of the flour onto a work surface, place the dough on top of it, and kneed for about 8 minutes to form a soft dough with a nice sheen; it should be a little sticky, but not too wet.  If the dough sticks to the work surface, rub a little olive oil on it.  If the dough is impossibly sticky add the remaining 1/2 cup flour by the tablespoon as needed.

3.  Form the dough into a ball and place it in a large oiled bowl.  Turn the dough over to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.  Or, put the dough in the refrigerator and let it rise overnight; the next day, let it stand at room temperature for 2 hours before proceeding with the recipe.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cookbook #3: Fields of Greens

Adapted from Cookbook #3:  Fields of Greens (1993)

Recipe: Potato, Fennel, and Leek Gratin

From 1992 until 2000, I was a vegetarian.  In that time period, I bought a lot of vegetarian cookbooks, as you will see in the next few months.  A darling housemate of mine in graduate school very kindly donated her Greens Cookbook to me as I struggled to teach myself how to cook (this cookbook will come onto the scene when chanterelles show their heads and we have a little more cash to purchase them).  Anyway,  I have since acquired the next cookbook from that little restaurant located in Fort Mason.  Oh, how I love these two cookbooks (sigh, the mushroom lasagna....).  However, you do need to set aside some time for the recipes.  They are not quick ones.  Neither are they of the humorless vegetarian-bean-sprouts-wheat-germ variety.  But I am not kidding when I say that these are of the set-aside-two-hours variety.  But, lord, how wonderful the recipes are.

Greens was founded in 1979 by the San Francisco Zen Center, and Deborah Madison was the chef with Edward Espe Brown until 1985, when Annie Somerville was granted the golden spatula, and she has been sautéing there ever since.  Madison used to work during lunches at Chez Panisse (that Berkeley staple founded by Alice Waters) with Judy Rogers, who opened the Zuni Cafe (quite possibly my favorite restaurant in San Francisco).  Chez Panisse, of course, has spawned all the places I love to eat:  Zuni, Greens, Olivetos, Ici, and Cesar.  Thank you, Alice Waters.  Just thank you.

Anyway, from the second book from Greens, I have now cooked Potato, Fennel, and Leek Gratin.  This is precisely the kind of recipe I wouldn't normally make:  cooked fennel?  I admit it, I was a cooked fennel virgin until this evening:  I have only had my fennel thinly sliced in fresh salads (preferably with grapefruit).  Never in my imaginings of dinner would I say, "Ah, yes, please, let's cook some fennel."  And, ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you that I am a convert. There was a lot of "oh," "yum," "wow," and "mmmm":  this was every bit of savory heaven that you can imagine savory heaven to be.    

As the husband announced, this was a "page 210 for the win."  Seriously, best thing I have made yet, so if you have two free hours (I peeled the potatoes before putting them in, and that took a little while), I recommend cooking what you find below.

4-6 servings

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 large leeks, white parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced, and washed (about 4.5 cups)
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
Salt and Pepper
2 large fennel bulbs, quartered lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs: Italian parsley, thyme, and marjoram
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
3 fresh thyme sprigs
2 ounces provolone cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 2/3 cup)
1.5 pounds Yellow Finn, White Rose, or red potatoes
12 Nicoise olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

1.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet; add the leeks, ground fennel, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper.  Sauté over medium heat until leeks are heated through, then cover the pan and steam until wilted, about five minutes.  Add the sliced fennel, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt; sauté until the fennel is tender, about five to ten minutes.  Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and toss with the chopped herbs.

2.  While the leeks and fennel are sautéing, pour the cream and milk into a small saucepan; add the bay leaf, peppercorns, whole fennel seed, and herb sprigs.  Steep the cream over low heat for 20 minutes.  Pour through a strainer and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

3.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.   Mix the cheeses. Thinly slice the potatoes and layer one-third of them in the bottom of the dish, overlapping the slices and rows as you go. Sprinkle the potatoes generously with salt and pepper, followed by the olives, half the leeks and fennel, and one-third of the cheese.  Make another layer of one-third of the potatoes, overlapping the slices and rows.  Top with the other half of the leeks and fennel and one-third of the cheese.  Top with a final layer of potatoes and pour the hot cream over.  Cover the dish and bake for 40 minutes.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake, uncovered, until the potatoes are very tender and the gratin turns golden and a little crisp, another 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with the remaining chopped herbs just before serving.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cookbook #2: Jacques Pépin's Table

Adapted from Cookbook #2: Jacques Pépin's Table: The Complete Today's Gourmet (1995)

Recipe: Chicken Legs with Wine and Yams

Jacques Pépin: one of the first celebrity chefs. His name is synonymous with French cooking made light, French cooking with a health-conscious bent. I know that Pépin was not always like this. His earlier--and more traditionally French--cookbooks used as much butter as Julia Child's did, and often he did so with the heroic Ms. Child on public television. But Pépin began to champion those now-hackneyed-but-then-revolutionary health-conscious aphorisms of cooking in the 80s and 90s: if you eat mindfully with good and fresh ingredients and if you master technique before all else, you don't have to cook "low-fat" or "healthy" meals--they will just be so. (Alice Waters, don't worry, I have plenty of your cookbooks, too.  Just you wait.).

This is all preamble to say, we had yams.

Sweet potatoes, yams, tubers: call them what you will*. We had plenty of leftover sweet potatoes from when my husband made sweet potato pie. There they were, sitting in the veggie bowl on the kitchen table--sort of exiled to the Land of Unwanted Tubers. And, let's face it, they had been there awhile. So, we needed to do something with them. Sweet Pépin came to my kitchen on the wings of page 210. Behold, an Alsatian-style faux coq au vin with yams. Hallelujah!

Dinner was fine: fast, one pot, weeknight meal.  The whole cloves of garlic and shallots were pretty divine.  The sweet potatoes were really fantastic all sauced up with the wine reduction, and the chicken was darned tasty.  Week two:  success.  And we will see more of you again, Mr. Pépin. This is not the sole cookbook by you that I own.

*The jury has actually reached a verdict on the yam/sweet potato debate, and we have The Food Lover's Companion to stand as foreman at this trial:  "Although sweet potatoes and yams are similar in many ways and therefore often confused with one another, they are from different plant species. In the southern United States, sweet potatoes are often called yams and to add to the confusion, canned sweet potatoes are frequently labeled yams. True yams, however, are not widely marketed and are seldom grown in the United States."   As for the sweet potato, they reach this judgment: "There are many varieties of sweet potato but the two that are widely grown commercially are a pale sweet potato and the darker-skinned variety Americans erroneously call 'yam.'"    Fine. We had sweet potatoes. Nonetheless, we had leftover, large, edible roots belonging to the morning glory family and I needed to find something to do with them.

4 Servings

4 chicken legs
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 large shallots, peeled
8 medium mushrooms
4 yams, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 cup dry white wine
8 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Remove the skin from the legs. Cut the legs into thighs and drumsticks.

2. Heat the oil in one large skillet and brown the chicken pieces on all sides for about 10 minutes.

3. Add the onion, and cook for 1 minute. Then add the shallots, mushrooms, yams, wine, garlic, salt, and pepper.

4. Bring to a boil, cover, and boil very gently for 20 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cookbook #1: Joy of Cooking

Adapted from Cookbook #1: The Joy of Cooking (my edition is 1997, originally published 1931)

Recipe: Greek Salad

I thought I would begin the year with the old workhorse. A friend of mine remarked, "You can't start with that cookbook. Everything in it is canned or boxed." Lucky for me 210 was in the salads section.

I think the only thing that makes this Greek is the fact that it has olives, anchovies, and feta on it. Nonetheless, the lemon dressing was good and the salad was yummy in the midst of winter. I did leave the red onions off because, well, I don't like them.

Joy of Cooking is one of those books that gets passed down, generation after generation. It's one of those cookbooks with a history. So many of us have dog-eared pages, gravy spills, and marginalia with ways to cut fat or add flavor. It's one of those cookbooks that remind us all the cooking is not about adding ingredients together but about something much larger: from confession to communion, from resentment to denial, from community to celebration.

Another friend has directed me to an article on our workhorse, and oh how I love knowing all of this now: Irma, my fellow midwesterner, an "artist of life," one who opens with the "virtues of cocktails." How could I go wrong? Well, maybe if the ingredients called for condensed cream of mushroom soup, but I am happy to have opened the year with an old friend, who in the past has taught me how to make slump and grunt (terms for a rustic English steamed pudding), offers one of the best potato salads (secret ingredient: pickle juice), and has never failed me with quick breads (pumpkin bread clearly equals autumn). Irma feels like a quirky aunt, steeped in German-Midwestern fare. Maybe it's just that it feels as if she could be my quirky aunt, steeped in German-Midwestern heritage. So I am glad to have opened her book to begin the year.

The epigraph of the book is "Joy's soul lies in the doing" from Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. Indeed. Let the doing and the joy begin.


4-6 servings

2 large heads of Boston, romaine, or iceberg (!) lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
8 cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup coarsely crumbled feta cheese
6 thin slices of red onions
1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced
8 Kalamata olives, pitted
3/4 cups celery, thinly sliced
4 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 firm radishes, sliced
One two-ounce can anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry and halved lengthwise.
6 to 7 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and ground pepper to taste

1. Combine lettuce through anchovies in a salad bowl.

2. Whisk together the remaining ingredients to make dressing.

3.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well.  Serve immediately.