Friday, March 27, 2015

The Friday Pie Slice: Welcome to D.C. Edition

Many a food writing friend and hero are converging on D.C. this weekend for the 2015 International Association of Culinary Professionals conference (IACP). With that in mind, I thought I'd compile a short list of favorite spots in the city to hit.

1st slice. I met Mark Furstenberg a couple years ago at Molly O'Neill's LongHouse and he told me all about his plans for a new bakery, Bread Furst. 2 years later, it's winning James Beard nominations and transforming the city's bread scene with Corn and Teff Ryes, bialys, and more. Available at Bread Furst and Whole Foods P Street.

2nd slice. Julia Child's Kitchen. Need I explain? The French Chef's entire kitchen, peg boards, fridge magnets, and all, was relocated to the Smithsonian-- you'll go home wanting turquoise walls and polaroid maps cataloging all your pots.

3rd slice. Mitsitam Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian. While you're on the mall, grab lunch at the Native Foods Cafe, featuring seasonal indigenous foods from 5 major regions of the Americas. It is SO good and an experience you can't get anywhere else.

The tasty crumbs. Rose's Luxury, Rose's Luxury, Rose's Luxury. Sure, it's gotten a lot of hype and I tend to consider hour-plus lines for food obnoxious, but Rose's is fully deserving of all the accolades and wait-times. The whole experience is incredibly delightful--hands down one of the best meals of my life.

If you're looking for more, check out this 24 Hour Guide to DC that Morgan and Elizabeth and I compiled for Design*Sponge last year. And you know, get in touch if you have questions. Enjoy your time in the district!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Grapefruit & Temple Orange Jam

I had already listened to the new Jake Xerxes Fussell album many times before the physical record arrived in the mail. I recognized a few of the songs as covers of traditional tunes, but I figured the rest were Fussell's own-- with their fresh melodies and original lyrics collaged with snippets of phrases from other old songs here and there.

When I finally inspected the back cover notes, I was surprised to find Fussell's attribution, "All songs are traditional;" the only personal credit taken for "performances & arrangements." He goes on to list extensive notes on the source recordings for each track, including musicians, locations, and dates, as well as other versions he draws from: "Rabbit on a Log, Adapted from George Daniel, Boromville, AL | See: J.W. Warren's version recorded by George Mitchell, Ariton, AL, 1981: Jimmy Lee Harris's version recorded by George Mitchell, Phenix City, AL, 1981; Prairie Ramblers, "Gonna Have a Feast Here Tonight," 1933."

My surprise was not in how these old songs could sound so fresh, but because in my mind they are so fully adapted into something different and new, so infused with Fussell's artistry that he could easily have claimed them-- but didn't. There's certainly precedence in the folk music world for the types of authorial assertions he could have made-- Bob Dylan, Gillian Welch, and countless others are notorious for essentially ripping the melody from a trad tune, changing the words (sometimes not much) and calling it their own with no allusion to the influence. Even in the non-commercial folk music world, old-time fiddlers often claimed suspect ownership over melodies that so clearly did not originate with them (access to recordings now make this even more evident). On Fussell's self-titled album, it is the pointed and rather humble decision to credit all of his sources and influences that is especially salient.

Folk songs and traditional recipes are clear analogues and both represent major veins in my life-- I think often about their similarities. Recently, this connection was brought to mind again, via my friend Lora, in Lesley Chesterman's article in the Montreal Gazette, "Plagiarism a Common Ingredient in the Wide World of Recipes." You should read it for yourself, but in short, Chesterman explores the frequent lack of accreditation (and sometimes pure lifting)-- from authors, cultures, and history alike-- in the food world.

In the article, Naomi Duguid makes the direct connection between traditional music and recipes, "A recipe is like a folk song. There are always fresh interpretations, but everything comes from somewhere." This, for one, is why I don't really believe in "secret recipes"-- recipes weren't invented out of thin air-- they are all adaptations and evolutions from generations of creativity and experimentation and work. Why should one person reign over what was really not theirs to begin with? However, this doesn't mean recipes or songs need not be attributed. In fact, it suggests the opposite. My disdain for the notion of secret recipes does not mean that I think everything is public domain, but rather says that we should give credit where credit is due, acknowledge those cultures and communities and individual brains that recipes emerge from, rather than portray that process and resulting work removed from its context, its humanity. As Duguid says, "Always ask where a recipe's from and be aware that you are standing on people's shoulders."

I realize I'm merely touching on what is a huge and complicated issue in the world of folklore, intangible cultural heritage, and intellectual property (and I'm saying nothing about the financial economics of this) but for now, I'll say what I know is rather idealistic-- credit your sources, do your research, and expect others to do the same. Know and be assured in the knowledge that what is always uniquely yours are the "performances & arrangements." I'm sure I'll be circling back to these ideas and I'd love to hear your thoughts below, on this, or just some fine citrus preserves.

This recipe for Grapefruit & Temple Orange Jam-- essentially a rind-less marmalade, comes from Marisa of Food in Jars' Grapefruit Jam, by way of Yossy of Apt. 2B Baking's Grapefruit Bergamot Jam. I had a surplus of both oranges and grapefruit, so decided to bring them together here. The recipe could really work with any variation of citrus-- grapefruit, orange, tangerine, even Meyer Lemon. The result is a not-too-sweet jam, with a slight marmalade bitterness-- really an ideal combination.

Grapefruit & Temple Orange Jam
Adapted from Food In Jars via Apt. 2B Baking

Yields 2 pints

4 lbs. grapefruit & Temple oranges (about 6 grapefruit & 4 oranges, depending on size)
2 1/2 cup granulated white sugar

1. Supreme the citrus by cutting the top and bottom of the rind with a sharp knife, then cut off the rest of the rind and pith and discard. Once the rind is removed, cut the fruit sections away from the membrane, saving the membrane and seeds. Though labor intensive, this will make your jam much less bitter.

2. Put the naked fruit sections into a large pot and stir in the sugar until it begins to dissolve. Tie the membranes and seeds in a cheesecloth and toss into the pot-- these will add natural pectin while you cook the jam. 

3. Place pot over high heat and bring fruit mixture to a boil. Cook at a simmer, stirring regularly, until jam reaches 220 degrees F or passes the "wrinkle test" i.e. its set point. Once your jam is ready, remove the cheesecloth bundle and ladle it into sterilized and prepared jars, leaving 1 cm, of head space. 

4. Place lids on top and screw bands "fingertip tight". Process jars in water bath canner (or follow instructions for whatever canning method you are using). Remove and let cool completely until jar tops pop. Jam keeps at room temperature for up to one year. Refrigerate after opening.

Related recipes:
Grapefruit-Ginger Marmalade
Meyer Lemon-Honey Marmalade Linzer Torte
Satsuma Orange Galette with a Cream Cheese Crust
Shaker Orange Tarts

Friday, March 13, 2015

Pi(e) Days Past

This is the first time in 5 years that I'm not putting on a big Pi(e) Day party, and though I've always had fun, I have to say it's a relief to not have to do all that planning, hosting, and baking! I'll likely still make a pie though, and in lieu of a major 2015 event here's a look at some Pi(e) Days past, with favorite recipes from each.

Pi(e) Day 2014 - The Dollhouse, Washington, D.C.

Apple Pie with Salted Caramel Glaze
Tarheel Pie (pictured)

Pi(e) Day 2013 - The Dunes, Washington, D.C.

Bourbon Bacon Pecan Pie (pictured)
Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie

Pi(e) Day 2012 - St. Stephen's Church, Washington, D.C.

Banana Cream Pie with Pecan Crust and Salty Bourbon Caramel
Gorgonzola, Pear, and Balsamic Honey Galette

Pi(e) Day 2011 - Johnny's, Carrboro, NC

Date-Butter Pie
Avocado Pie (pictured)

Pi(e) Day 2010 - Celebrity Dairy, Siler City, NC

Lemon Goat Cheese Tart with Blackberry Preserves (pictured)
Pimento Cheese & Tomato Pie

You can see more Pi(e) Day documentation and ephemera here, and as always, find many more recipes via the Recipe Index. Have a happy Pi(e) Day-- and a very special one at that!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Puff Pastry Hand Pies with Goat Cheese & Hot Pepper Jelly

 Last night I got pretty deep into some historical research-- about hot pepper jelly. After making the stuff last weekend, I was curious where it came from--its roots, history, and past uses. I looked in two Oxford food reference books, The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, and multiple cookbooks, and found next to nothing in terms of background. Nathalie Dupree's Southern Memories, she calls it a "Southern pantry staple" and in Heritage, Sean Brock says it's "pretty common to the south, appearing on the table alongside just about anything fried." But other than those brief references and some internet claims that it was invented in Fort Jackson, Texas 1978, I didn't find much.

So naturally I turned, as one does these days, to Twitter. I wasn't tweeting into the void, however. I called upon those I consider Southern food and preserves experts-- Nancie McDermott, Ronni Lundy, April McGreger, Marisa McClellan, and Travis Milton. Granted, most of them were likely not online at such a late hour, let alone worrying themselves about the origins of spicy preserves, but Travis and I ended up getting into a good discussion. He said he's also been curious and suspected the pepper variety was likely related to Corn Cobb Jelly-- a "making do/not wasting" sort of food. We both balked at the Texans' origin story, I suggested the potential influence of British aspics, and a friend from Louisiana chimed in, saying he thought pepper jelly originated in his home state.

We left it at that, but the next morning Nancie McDermott and Miriam Rubin both piped up, saying they figured hot pepper jelly to be a modern invention-- from the 1970s or 80s. Miriam said she remembered it from her days at Redbook magazine-- when the preserve was suddenly trendy, deemed Southern, and became all the rage to serve at dinner parties over saltines with cream cheese. We didn't end up verifying a true origin store with anything conclusive, but, like another contemporary Southern classic-- Pecan Pie-- I suspect both the "modern invention" and "old Southern roots" claims to be true, in a sense. Perhaps some Texans did invent the stuff in '78, but unless you're working in a chemical laboratory, food items don't generally appear out of thin air. There's always a precedent, a precursor, an aspic or a Corn Cobb Jelly to lay the foundation. Maybe we'll turn up some evidence of the real history eventually, but for now I'm content with that.

Either way, those Redbook gals from the 80s were right-- hot pepper jelly IS great with cream cheese and saltines, and these hand pies are a variation on that truth. Goat cheese lends a little more tang than cream cheese (and is better for those lactose-precarious folks like me!) and of course, puff pastry always takes things up a notch. You could use a regular pie pastry dough if you're pressed for time or don't want to mess with all that butter layering.

Pastry Pastry Hand Pies with Goat Cheese & Hot Pepper Jelly

Half-batch quick puff pastry (I used Ashley Rodriguez's recipe via Food52 but you can use store bought puff pastry, or your favorite pie crust recipe for 1 double-crust pie)
Hot Pepper Jelly (you'll use about 1/2 cup)
4 oz. soft, spreadable goat cheese
1 large egg, beaten + 1 Tablespoon whole milk or heavy cream (for brushing)
Coarse sea salt, for dusting 

1. Prepare quick puff pastry as per the directions. Roll out on a clean, floured workspace and cut into squares (I used a 2-inch square cookie cutter).

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread about 1 Tablespoon goat cheese on half of all of the squares. Top goat cheese with a dollop (about 1 Tablespoon) of hot pepper jelly). Place empty dough squares on top of those with goat cheese and jelly. Seal edges with a fork and poke a hole in the middle for steam to escape.

3. Place hand pies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush tops of hand pies with egg and cream wash. Dust with coarse sea salt and bake at 350 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes, until pastry is puffed, flaky, and golden brown.

4. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve just warm.

Hot Pepper Jelly
Adapted from Preserving Made Easy via The Tiffin Box

Makes 2.5 cups

1 red pepper, deseeded and finely diced
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and finely diced
1 orange pepper, deseeded and finely diced
4 hot red peppers, deseeded (I used Thai chillies)
(Peppers should measure a total of 2 cups)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3 cups granulated sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin

1. In a large pot, combine diced peppers, cider vinegar, and sugar. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, boiling hard for 1 minute. Stir in half-pouch liquid pectin, then boil again for 1 minute.

2. Take off heat and let cool completely, stirring occasionally. Cover and leave for 4-6 hours or up to overnight. This will keep the peppers from floating to the top when canning.

3. When ready to can, sterilize your jars (refer to proper canning guidelines, as in the Ball Blue Book) and lids. Bring the pepper jelly back to a boil and add the remaining half pouch of pectin. Boil for one minute, remove from heat, and stir constantly for 1-2 minutes.  Ladle into sterilized hot jars, leaving 1 cm, of head space. 

4. Place lids on top and screw bands "fingertip tight". Process jars in water bath canner (or follow instructions for whatever method you are using). Remove and let cool completely until jar tops pop. Jelly keeps at room temperature for up to one year. Refrigerate after opening.

Related recipes:
Cranberry Goat Cheese Tart with Almond Shortbread Crust
Cranberry Hand Pies
Gordy's Cherry Pepper Spread, Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Galette
Spinach and Feta Fried Pies
Tomato Jam

Monday, March 02, 2015

Jam Cookies

This time of year can be hard in these climes, when it comes to local, seasonal baking. Storage fruits like apples and pears are reaching the end of their viability and the warm weather berries and stone fruits are still a ways off, as much as we want them to appear. Even southern citrus is at the tail-end of its reign. 

In these in-between moments, especially in spring when we’re craving the taste of fresh fruit, I like to opt for desserts made with jam. This genre of cookies, tarts, and pies offer a great opportunity to use up the stock of preserves you may have put up or accumulated over the winter, they work well with frozen berries, and if you are lucky enough to get your hands on some fresh spring fruit, you can make them into a quick jam.

The featured dessert of Purim— hamentaschen— also features the pairing of pastry and preserves, and baked goods with jam are also perfect for the weather-breaking tea party occasions early-spring offers.

I made these Jam Cookies, the dough recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan, with some fig and apricot preserves I had in my fridge, as well as a quick frozen strawberry jam I whipped up while the cookies were in the oven. They would also be great with marmalade, apple butter or jelly, or any other preserves you have in your fridge or pantry.

Jam Cookies
Sugar cookie recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 stick + 2 Tablespoons (10 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioner's Sugar
Various jams

1. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, nutmeg, and orange zest.

2. With a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for 1 minute, until smooth. Beat in the sugar and continue to beat for 2 more minutes, until light and pale in color. Add the egg and yolk and beat for 2 minutes more, then add vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add dry mixture, just until incorporated.

3. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Once chilled, roll out on a floured surface and cut circular cookies. Cut holes in the center of half of the cookies and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

5. Bake for 9-11 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half-way through. The cookies will feel firm, puffed, and just slightly golden when done. Remove pan from oven and let sit for at least 1 minute before moving to a cooling rack.

6. Once cookies are cool, spread jam on the circular cookies and top with a hole-cut cookie. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve. Keeps in a tin or Tupperware up to 1 week.

Related recipes:
Almond and Grapefruit-Ginger Marmalade Crostata
Apple Butter
Bakewell Tart with Apple Rosemary Jelly
Joulutorttu or Finish Jam Tarts
Meyer Lemon Honey Marmalade Linzer Torte

Friday, February 20, 2015

Corn and Black Pepper Crackers + The Quintessential Cheese Plate

I never really think to make crackers. I had made them once long ago-- I must have been in high school. My mom had a Pampered Chef cookie press, and the only other recipe included in the box aside from sugar cookies, were cheddar spritzer crackers. They turned out similar to cheese straws, but for the amount of effort they took, I was largely underwhelmed.

Last week, though, I was gifted a goodie bag of cheese samples and other hors d'oeuvres fixings, by the good folks at Whole Foods P Street. That prompted my goal of creating THE QUINTESSENTIAL CHEESE PLATE, which I figured must surely include something homemade-- whether crackers, pickles, or preserves. I went the baked goods route (surprise, surprise), making Melissa Clark's Corn and Black Pepper Crackers. Essentially savory cookies--both soft and crispy, these could be easily adapted to include a variety of different nuts and seeds. I'd keep the black pepper, though-- it adds a great spice.

Along with including something homemade, here are my other suggestions for that perfect fromage spread. This is essentially the simplest of dishes-- you're basically setting the stage for others to create their own pairings. Of course cheese boards are ideal for party snacks and appetizers, but they're also great for a weekday meal that's super fast yet feels decadent.

• Cheese (obviously): I like a good variety-- soft and hard, mild and piquant. Some of my favorites pictured here: Sartori Balsamic Bellavitano (hard white), Neals Yard Dairy's Borough Stilton (soft blue), and Reserve UnieKaas Gouda.

• Charcuterie (if you're a meat eater): Now this isn't a charcuterie plate, so the fromage should be the star, but it's nice to add a little salami or prosciutto to the mix. I opted for Creminelli's uncured bacon salami, which paired well with, well, just about everything.

• Nuts: Marcona almonds are the standout choice in my opinion, but any nuts will do. Chili or maple-spiced pecans or cashews are also a favorite.

• Fruits & Preserves: Fresh apples or pears, dried figs or dates, and/or any kind of preserves add a sweet compliment. Here I kept the Mediterranean theme going with an Adriatic fig preserves; this Apple Rosemary Jelly is also a cheese plate star.

• Honey: Another option for a sweet touch. Use orange blossom, lavender, or your local favorite.

• Pickles/Olives: As the Gordy's Pickle Jar gals pointed out, this cheese plate is devoid of any pickled goods. How could I forget?! Any and all olives are great in this context, as well as cornichons, pickled okra, green tomato pickles.... you really can't go wrong.

• Crackers or Bread: Make your own (recipe below) or use store-bought. I became a fan of Raincoast's Fig and Olive Crisps and also wondered what a puff pastry-esque cracker might be like?? Stay tuned...

Arrange everything on a cutting board, slate, or plate, using ramekins or jars for preserves, nuts, and pickles if desired. Set out some knives and cheese spreaders et puis voilĂ ! Let the pairings begin.

Corn and Black Pepper Crackers
Adapted from New York Times Cooking

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted + more for greasing
1/2 cup cornmeal (I used Kentucky Heirloom Cornmeal)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
3/4 teaspoon herbs and/or seeds, if desired (rosemary, sesame seeds, etc.)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup milk
1 large egg

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper and butter parchment (or use a Silpat).

2. Sift cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, pepper, salt, and any additional herbs or seeds into a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, beat milk with egg. Add to dry ingredients all at once and mix with a wooden spoon until no lumps remain. Stir in melted butter. Batter will be quite wet.

4. Drop batter by the tablespoonful onto prepared baking sheets. Bake until edges are a dark golden brown and crackers are quite crispy, 13-18 minutes.

Related recipes:
Apple Butter
Apple Rosemary Jelly
Grapefruit-Ginger Marmalade
Rosemary-Raisin Bread

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


The history of doughnuts is intrinsically linked to the celebration of Mardi Gras. "Fat Tuesday" -- the Christian day of revelry and indulgence before the austere season of Lent -- features dough deep-fried in fat as its main staple.

Among the first foods to be fried were Roman scriblita, a precursor to today's doughnuts and fritters. Originating in the medieval era, most Christian European traditions have developed a version of fried dough for Shrove Tuesday (another name for the day before Lent starts). The rich treats presented a way to use up all of the butter, sugar and fat in the house prior to the self-denying diets of Lent. Traditionally it was an opportunity for indulgence, a day when, once a year, communities would go through the labor-intensive and expensive process of deep-frying in order to partake in a luxurious treat.

Beignets are the most widely known Mardi Gras doughnut. The recipe for the light and eggy pillows of fried dough was brought to Louisiana when French Acadians were deported there in the 18th century. But there is another, lesser-known Carnival doughnut in New Orleans — calas. Sweet, fried rice dumplings, calas originate from the West African enslaved people who were brought to the area in the late 1700s. The recipe was passed on among Catholic African-American families who served them at Mardi Gras and other celebrations, and they're making a comeback in New Orleans restaurants, where they're offered as both savory and sweet dishes.

As it goes with traditional recipes that have undergone many relocations, transitions and generations, there are many variations and not one definitive source for all of these varying Carnival delights. Whichever variety you choose, celebrate Mardi Gras the way it's supposed to be — with a hearty helping of dough and fat.

A longer version of this post was originally published on NPR's Kitchen Window

Adapted from What's Cooking America 

I recommend making the dough the night before so you can fry and eat them fresh first thing the next morning. 

Makes 18 to 24 beignets 

1 cup lukewarm water 
3 teaspoons active dry yeast 
1/4 cup white sugar, plus a pinch 
4 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 large egg, beaten 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 
1/2 cup evaporated milk 
Vegetable oil for deep-frying 
Powdered sugar for dusting 

1. In a medium bowl, place water, yeast and pinch of sugar. Whisk together and let sit to dissolve yeast, 5 to 10 minutes. 

2. In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine flour, 1/4 cup sugar and salt. Add yeast mixture and stir until incorporated. Add egg, butter and evaporated milk and mix until well combined and dough is smooth. 

3. Remove dough from bowl and roll out onto a lightly oiled surface. Form dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, 3 to 4 hours or overnight. 

4. Once chilled, remove dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into squares and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a cloth and set aside while you heat the oil. 

5. In a deep heavy saucepan with high sides, heat 3 inches of oil to 360-375 degrees F. Working in batches, fry the beignets for 2 minutes on each side, until puffed and golden brown. Using a wire skimmer or slotted spatula, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Transfer to a baking sheet and let cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.

Related recipes:
Apple Cider Doughnuts
Cardamom Doughnut Muffins