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March 2015

Amy Chaplin's Black Rice Breakfast Pudding with Coconut and Banana

Black rice pudding

Last fall, a publisher sent me a heavy package. Inside were two copies of Amy Chaplin's At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen, a vegan cookbook and whole foods manual of sorts. Amy used to be the executive chef at Angelica's Kitchen, the legendary vegan restaurant in New York City, and now works as a private chef, teacher and recipe developer. At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen is her magnum opus, if I may be so bold, a well-researched, deliciously crafted and carefully written guide to making the most of all the wide array of plants - from whole grains to beans to vegetables to seaweed, yes - available to us today. It feels like an instant classic, modern and interesting and definitive. (Also, the photography is jaw-droppingly beautiful.)

These days, it's tough to keep up with the onslaught of information blaring at you from every corner, and the cookbook market is no exception. The rate at which new cookbooks come down the pipeline is crazy, for lack of a better word, and the speed and haste in which they are thrown together is sometimes depressingly apparent. But in this case it's clear that Amy poured an enormous amount of work into getting the book just right. There is so much information here, so many thoughtful little tips and nice stories, not to mention the delicious recipes, that it really earns the adjective of encyclopedic. I'm so impressed.

Black rice pudding with bananas

I've cooked from the book for several months now, but I've also kept it by my bed for a soothing bedtime read and I'm happy to say that it works on both counts. For those of you who are interested in why soaking grains is so good for you, how to use seaweed to bolster the flavor of beans, for example, or how to make desserts out of things like ground toasted coconut, maple syrup and oat flour, you need this book. And if you're a vegan, this book will become your Joy of Cooking. I'm not a vegan, or even a vegetarian, but the recipes are so richly conceived and so well-developed that they don't read as "special diets" food, but rather as warming, soulful, wonderful food, the kind I'd like to eat all the time. (There are a few exceptions, mostly in the dessert chapter, but I imagine that for people who are gluten-free or vegan or lactose-intolerant or all of the the above, it's manna from heaven. I mean, toasted coconut crust for pies, chocolate pots de crème, Earl Grey fruit cake, helloooo?)

My latest discovery in the book is a black rice breakfast pudding made with coconut milk and lightly sweetened with maple syrup. You soak the rice overnight first, then cook it with coconut milk, water and nut milk (those of us who aren't vegan can use regular milk, like I did, which makes the pudding creamier than nut milk will) until it's soft and creamy and the "pudding" is a deep, beautiful purple. Spooned into a bowl and topped with cool slices of banana and some crisped-up toasted pieces of coconut (regretfully missing from the photos here), it's the nicest breakfast I've had in a long while. Warming, rib-sticking, tropical. Hugo loved it too, by the way!

Black rice pudding with banana and coconut

My husband is obsessed with Amy's turmeric lemonade that I doctored with blood oranges during a recent onset of the flu, and next up on our to-try list is her silky cauliflower-celery root soup made with two whole roasted heads of garlic and roasted shiitakes. There's cherry-coconut granola and a corn-tofu frittata, a hibiscus drink made with ginger and citrus and a black bean butternut stew, among so many other things I cannot wait to try.

And! The second copy is for one of you! Yippee! Just leave me a comment and tomorrow evening I'll pick a winner.

Have a wonderful Friday, everyone. March is almost here!

UPDATE: Anne is the winner! Thanks for participating, everyone! Comments are now closed.

Amy Chaplin's Black Rice Breakfast Pudding with Coconut and Banana
Adapted from At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen
Serves 4 to 6

1 cup black rice, washed and soaked in 4 cups of water for 12-24 hours
1 cup coconut milk
1 1/4 cups milk (cow or almond)
2 cups water
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup maple syrup or coconut nectar
Sliced banana, for serving
Toasted coconut flakes, for serving

1. Drain and rinse the rice. Place in a heavy-bottomed pot and add the coconut milk, almond or cow's milk, the water and the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat without the lid, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. (Some liquid may escape - as above.)

2. When the rice is tender and the pudding is creamy, remove from heat and stir in the sweetener. If desired, you can thin the pudding with a little extra nut or cow's milk. Serve topped with sliced banana and toasted coconut. Leftovers can be reheated the next day with a little water stirred in to loosen the pudding.

Saturday Round-Up

In a little less than half an hour, my husband and I are leaving the apartment, taking the bus six stops and checking into this hotel for a much-needed one-night getaway. It feels totally indulgent and also totally fantastic and I am basically counting the seconds until we get there. (I think I should also be packing a bag right now?)

But before I go, a few things that I read and loved this week:

Shauna's post on a weekly cooking routine. SO GOOD. Do you guys do this?

How to sharpen a knife without a knife sharpener or steel. (!!)

Brilliant: A comic book Piglet review! One of my favorites ever and that's saying a lot because I basically love everything about the Piglet.

My favorite thing about this article on a recent uproar in Rome about school lunches is the last paragraph.

Ira Glass talks about his creative process. Interesting, funny and enlightening.

We are on a crazy roll with recipe testing for the book, but I'm starting to develop a serious aversion to sugar. Wholesome meals like this one, with buckwheat and roasted romanesco, sound even more appealing these days.

Finally, Max introduced me to The War on Drugs a few weeks ago and I've fallen hard for the music. It makes me want to get in a car and drive for days, preferably somewhere where the sky is always blue.
The whole album is amazing; here's just the first song:


Thanks for being patient while things got quiet around here this week. Next week: turmeric lemonade! Black bean soup! A report on our little adventure tonight!

Have a lovely weekend, you all.

Gerhard Jenne's Bittersweet Brownies with Cranberries

Brownies with cranberries

Drowning as I am in cakes and cookies and sweet breads, I have absolutely no business - none! - making brownies on my day off. But I couldn't help it! I'm sorry! It's just that I was looking through a book that a British publisher sent to me last year (written by a German baker living in London) when something on page 141 called Boston Brownies caught my eye.

Now as you know, I have spent many a year in Boston, both as a child and a college student, and I have never, in all that time, heard of a Boston brownie. (Have you?) I had to read a little closer. My interest was piqued! Turns out that Gerhard Jenne, inspired by the fresh cranberries he discovered on a trip to Massachusetts, decided to pop a bunch of them in a brownie batter. The result - sort of like an American take on the Black Forest Cake of his youth - was so good he put the recipe in the book.

I was intrigued. I was also a little skeptical. I mean, fresh cranberries? With chocolate? (Also, er,  Anglo-German brownies?) The recipe looked really easy, though, and it was Sunday and I happened to have frozen cranberries in the freezer, so I decided to go for it and I am here to tell you now that these brownies are amazing.


Bittersweet brownies with cranberries

You all. The brownies themselves, made with a mix of bittersweet chocolate and cocoa, are incredibly fudgy and dark with a gorgeous crackling crust. So the recipe would be a keeper for that alone. But the addition of the cranberries is, in fact, totally inspired - the sour, fruity pop against all that rich, dark chocolate is really delicious. We took the brownies to tea at our friends' house, where we each ate two pieces (Hugo included!) and then the men each ate a third while I tried to distract Hugo from demanding more by throwing myself on the floor and pretending to be a car. (It worked!)

In conclusion:

A.The world does need another brownie recipe.

B. Fresh cranberries in brownies are brilliant.

C. Anglo-German bakers have got the brownie thing figured out.

Oh, and furthermore! Do not repeat my dunderheaded mistake of always leaving the pan of brownies wherever I bring them. Make sure to keep a few for yourself the next day or you will regret it. Speaking from experience. Ahem.

Gerhard Jenne's Bittersweet Brownies with Cranberries
Adapted from Deservedly Legendary Baking
Makes 16
Note: The original recipe calls for 200 grams of chocolate and only 1 tablespoon of cocoa, but I didn't have enough chocolate in the house that day, so I made do with what I had and upped the amount of cocoa. I loved the result, so that's what I've listed below.

3 eggs
1 1/3 cups (275 grams) sugar
6 1/4 ounces (175 grams) butter
6 1/4 ounces (175 grams) dark chocolate (54 – 60% cocoa solids), chopped into small pieces
1 1/3 cup flour plus 1 tablespoon (175 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 1/4 ounces (175 grams) fresh cranberries

1. Heat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with parchment paper.

2. Break the eggs into a mixing bowl, then whisk in the sugar until frothy. Set aside.

3. Put the butter in a pan and melt over medium heat until it has completely melted and small bubbles are just beginning to rise to the surface. Turn off the heat, add the chocolate, and stir until melted.

4. Whisk the eggs and sugar again until pale and frothy, then whisk in the chocolate mixture until well combined. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and stir gently with a spatula until there are no white streaks remaining. Add the salt. Fold in the cranberries. (If you're using frozen, this will cause the batter to seize up slightly, so work quickly.)

5. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and even the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, then take the pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack to cool completely. Cut into squares and serve.

Amelia Morris' Corn, Chile and Potato Soup

Potato, chile and corn soup
Without further ado, my favorite soup discovery of 2014! Potato soup spiked with chipotle chiles, some corn and lime juice, then topped - at serving time - with shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips and lime-juice-slicked avocado cubes.

Yup. But you know what? It's even better than it sounds. It's a freaking symphony of flavors and textures - hot, sour, spicy, spiky, soft and crunchy - all in one delicious bowl.

I found the recipe in Amelia's just-published memoir, which I first received as a galley last year. It too is, in turns, soft and spiky, funny and bittersweet. With wit and honesty, Amelia takes a magnifying glass to her own coming-of-age story as a Pittsburgh transplant in Los Angeles, trying to find her way as a home cook and a wife and writer, but mostly just as a person.

And this soup is a perfect distillation of that coming-of-age narrative. The base is a very simple potato soup - olive oil, chopped onion, chicken broth, cubed potatoes. But then as the soup gets going, you start adding in some, well, let's call them complicators. Chipotle chiles in adobo (one if you want just a little heat; two if you're nuts). Lime juice, sharp and floral. Nubby bits of corn.

When the soup is done and you sit down to eat, you're a kid again, crushing chips with your hands, squeezing more lime, sprinkling in avocado and shredded cheese to soothe your fiery mouth (we do two chipotles, because we are nuts). The heat makes this a grown-up soup for sure, but it's definitely the most fun grown-up soup I've ever known.

Amelia Morris' Corn, Chile and Potato Soup
From Bon Appétempt
Serves 3 to 4

2 pounds potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken broth
½ cup water
1 to 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo
2 avocados
1 to 2 limes
1 (16-ounce) package frozen corn (not thawed) or 1 large can (between 340-450 grams) of corn
Tortilla chips
Grated cheddar cheese

1. Rinse, scrub, and peel the potatoes. Chop them into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and give it a few pinches of salt and a bit of pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Add the potatoes, chicken broth, water, and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot. Raise the heat to high to bring to a boil. Mince the chile using a fork to hold it steady as you chop. Add the minced chile to the pot. Once the soup is boiling, take it down to a simmer; simmer until the potatoes are very tender, 15 to 17 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, dice the avocados and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and the juice of half a lime. Set aside.

5. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes right in the soup—just until coarsely broken up. Add the frozen or canned corn and simmer for about 2 minutes more, until heated through. Turn off the heat. Add the juice of the other half of the lime.

6. Ladle into bowls and top with a nice heap of tortilla chips, avocado cubes, and shredded cheddar. Serve with wedges of the remaining lime.

Delicious Friday Links



So! This week I delivered my first batch of recipes for the cookbook with head notes, a table of contents, and a handful of photos from my kitchen to the publisher. The rest are due in August, which seems like a lot of time on some days and absolutely no time at all on others. If you're following along on Instagram, you know that we are deep in a Russischer Zupfkuchen phase, a cake that I ignored my entire life until about a week ago and that now has me tightly in its grip. (It's a Quark cheesecake baked in a chocolate crust, dolloped with more pieces of chocolate dough. It has nothing to do with Russia, despite the name, and is totally addictive.) This weekend, Linzertorte and raisin buns are on the docket and next week, we're diving into a whole slew of recipes from southern Germany, including a leek tart, a savory potato cake-bread-hybrid thing, and an applesauce loaf that I am verrry excited about.

In other (thrilling) news, the electricians are done rewiring our apartment. On Monday, the painting begins. And, uh, on that very same Monday I have to choose the paint colors. Hold me?


The prettiest cream-of-wheat!

This list of cooking tips has some really smart stuff on it (via Tim).

Speaking of smart, do you roast vegetables on parchment? I think I need to change my game.

I've been craving hamburgers for weeks now and this put me over the edge.

Perfect February baking project: Homemade rye crispbread with poppy and sesame seeds.

Thanks to reader Leslie for alerting me to this smoky black bean stew. (!!!)

I loved this interview on blogging and life with Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge; so interesting and inspiring.

And, related, Grace and Julia's kitchen makeover - amazing what a few coats of paint and some shelves can do!

Ooh, I love a good Grub Street Diet and Christine Muhlke's totally delivers. (Actually, I'm in awe.) (And now off to order some Smoky Earl Grey.)

Have a wonderful weekend!

Melissa Clark's Braised Beans with Bacon and Wine

Braised beans with red wine and bacon

I have a very unquiet mind when it comes to dregs of wine in bottles and leftover ends of cured bacon in the fridge. (Okay, fine, when it comes to other things, too, but let's not dwell on that today, shall we?) Last week, a friend came over for dinner with a really nice bottle of Zweigelt that we almost finished, but not quite, and I bought a chunk of Speck for recipe-testing (I am deep into the savory chapter right now and it is just full of good stuff, let me tell you) that I almost finished, but not quite, and then there was this weirdo jar of dried beans on my pantry shelf that had been eyeing me reproachfully for months - all of this building to a feverish crescendo when I stumbled upon Sarah's post. Blog kismet, because there was a recipe that would use up all three - wine, bacon and beans - in one delicious big-potted meal. I practically felt like shouting "a-ha!" out loud.

It's funny, after all these years of obsessive recipe clipping from the newspaper, I still sometimes miss recipes when they're first published. Like this one, a Melissa Clark recipe for a refined bean stew with rosemary, bacon and wine that she put together with a little help from Daniel Boulud. She created it in response to a request for an affordable, vegetarian dinner party dish and I am here to say that not only would I happily serve this as a dinner party dish (oh wait, I did!), but it does very nicely indeed as a three-times-in-one-week-for-the-two-of-us-dish, too. More than very nicely. It makes you feel practically rich, to have a pot full of beans like this just waiting for you on the stove every day.

What makes the stew refined is the wine syrup that you make separately, while your beans and bacon and aromatics are braising away in a big pot. The syrup then gets mixed in at the end, darkening the beans both visually and taste-wise. Both Sarah and Melissa suggested serving this stew with polenta, which I did, but I confess that I didn't like it as much as I liked just plopping a big ladleful or two in a shallow bowl, drizzling the top with nice olive oil and then tucking in with a chunk of crusty, holey white bread. Which came in very handy, too, for cleaning the bowl carefully at the end. Because - I'll just go ahead and tell you - you won't want to miss even one gram of the gravy, which is a veritable symphony of flavors.

Of course, the bacon makes this stew decidedly un-vegetarian, though I think the meaty, salty, smoky bacon is crucial to the end result. Plus, I love coming across those chewy little cubes as I eat the meltingly tender beans. But Melissa swears that it's just as good without the bacon, so proceed as you wish.

Melissa Clark's Braised Beans with Bacon and Wine
Serves 8
Note: You can soak the dried beans overnight or skip this step. If you soak the beans, the cooking time will reduce by about half. But remember that the age of your dried beans will also affect the cooking time (the older they are, the longer they'll take). I used dried beans, unsoaked, and they were done after 2 hours of cooking.

½ pound smoky bacon, diced
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 large sprigs rosemary
1 pound dried beans (pinto or white beans)
2 teaspoons coarse salt, more to taste
2 cups dry red wine
Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

1. In the bottom of a large enameled cast-iron pot, over medium-high heat, brown bacon until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in onion, celery, carrots, garlic and rosemary. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. If you soaked the beans, drain them and add to pot along with the salt. Pour in enough water to just cover the beans (about 7 to 8 cups). Bring liquid to a boil; reduce heat and simmer gently until beans are just tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour for soaked beans, 1 1/2 to 2 hours for unsoaked beans.

3. Meanwhile, in a small pot over medium heat, simmer wine until it is reduced to 2/3 cup, 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Remove rosemary branches from bean pot and discard them. Pour wine into beans and cook for 10-15 minutes longer to meld flavors and thicken broth to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and serve, preferably with some crusty bread.