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Archive for the ‘kitchen accessories’ Category

My trip to Kalustyan’s motivated me to get my spices organized. I have collected several different ones over the years (yes, I know, I shouldn’t keep spices for years), and had them all on a rotating two-tiered spice rack. 

This is what my countertop used to look like:

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This is what it looks like now:

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(On the left, is my cookbook stand. I was finally able to find a great place for it.)

How did I achieve this, you ask. Well, I went to The Container Store and bought myself an amazing Elfa wall-mounted spice rack unit.

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Now, all of my spices are easily accessible and organized in alphabetical order. Every time I go into the kitchen and see the rack, it makes me so happy.

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Despite the fact that this is the second time in one week that I am writing about making pancakes, the truth is that I’m not a huge pancake person. I’ll take french toast or waffles over pancakes any day. That said, the pancakes I made yesterday morning might have converted me. 

I awoke with a grumbling stomach and my thoughts immediately ran to what I could make with the ingredients in the fridge. Then I remembered the half-used container of ricotta that was left over from my carbo-loading dinner. I immediately thought of lemon ricotta pancakes, and found this recipe, which I halved since I was just cooking for two.

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First, I made the sauteed apples that go with the cakes. I didn’t have Granny Smiths in the house, so I used the Galas I had and they tasted great. To cook the cakes, I used my double griddle, which is one of my favorite pieces of cookware. It goes across two burners and allows you to make 6-8 pancakes at once.

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I made the batter with whole wheat pastry flour (which I use in the place of all-purpose flour for virtually everything), but otherwise followed the recipe as is. Due to the egg whites, which are beaten to stiff peaks and folded into the batter, the pancakes are incredibly airy and puff up beautifully.

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The finished cakes, which we ate with maple syrup and the apples, were delicious. They were light and lemony and just what I was craving. My only regret was not having made the full recipe so that I could have had seconds.

Weekend brunch is my favorite meal, and I have to say that after eating these pancakes I don’t think I can justify paying $10+ for less tasty fare at any of our go-to brunch spots. I might have to keep ricotta in the fridge more often.

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The night before the Brooklyn Half-Marathon, which I ran yesterday, I had some friends who were also running the race over for a carb-heavy meal.

The most labor-intensive thing I made was a caramelized onion focaccia.

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It’s actually much easier than it may seem, you just need to set aside enough time for the dough to rise. You start out by making a sponge (a mixture of yeast, sweetener, water, and flour that is fermented for a short period of time) and ricing a potato which gets mixed into the dough.

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The sponge after 30 minutes

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I use my food mill to rice the potato that I have cut up and boiled in well-salted water. If you have a potato ricer (which I don’t) you can use that instead. If you don’t have either (which I didn’t until very recently) you can use a fine metal strainer and simply push the soft potato through the holes with the back of a wooden spoon. The potato should come out looking something like this:

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You then mix the potato into the sponge along with warm water, olive oil, and sea salt. Once you have a well incorporated mixture you want to start slowly adding the flour (I use three different kinds: unbleached bread, semolina, and whole wheat pastry), stirring with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.

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At this point you can turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead it, adding extra flour as necessary until you have a nice smooth ball of dough. This dough will be slightly stickier than most bread doughs, that’s okay.

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Place your dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise. While your dough is rising you can caramelize your onions. I used the same technique I used when I made my tomato and onion tart, but this time I diced the onion, and added some balsamic vinegar at the end to enrich the flavor.

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Once the dough has risen, punch it down and spread it out onto a piece of parchment paper placed on a half sheet tray. Use the pads of your fingers to give the focaccia its distinctive divots. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel and let it rise again.

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After the second rise, brush the dough with oil, sprinkle with salt, and cover with onion. Bake, cool, cut, and serve.

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Along with the focaccia, I made some chicken basil meatballs and baked whole wheat penne with homemade tomato red pepper sauce.

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It was a very satisfying meal, and we all ran well the next day.

Focaccia
Ingredients
:
Sponge:
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon agave syrup (or honey, or sugar)
2/3 cup warm water (110-130 degrees F)
1/2 cup unbleached bread flour

Dough:
1 small potato, cubed, boiled, and riced
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing dough
1 tablespoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling onto dough
1 cup semolina flour
Mixture of 1 1/2 cups bread flour plus 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

Topping(s) of your choice*

Procedure:
1. Whisk together sponge ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free spot for 20-30 minutes. (You know the yeast has been activated if you begin to see bubbles form.)

2. Add potato, water, olive oil, and salt to sponge and stir with a wooden spoon. Add semolina flour. Add flour mixture in 1/2 cup increments until dough begins to come together (you may not need to use the entire mixture).

3. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead, adding more of the flour mixture as necessary (if you use up all 3 cups and you need more, keep adding small handfuls of whole wheat pastry flour) until you have a smooth ball of dough that is slightly sticky, about 5-10 minutes.

4. Place dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to rise in a warm draft-free spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down dough and spread onto a half sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Use the pads of your fingers to created depressions across the surface of the dough. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise for an additional 15-20 minutes.

5. While dough is rising for the second time, pre-heat oven to 475 degrees F.

6. Brush dough with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Cover with the toppings of your choice.

7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until slightly puffed and golden. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Slide focaccia off pan onto rack and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.

* You can top your focaccia with whatever you like. Two of my favorites are chopped fresh rosemary (simple, classic) and balsamic caramelized onions (a little more labor, but well worth it).

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Moffle party

Two days ago, I fulfilled one of my goals for this trip: I bought a moffle maker.

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Many of my relatives here had learned of the appliance for the first time through me, so I decided what better time to first use it than at a family brunch. Yesterday, Kuri and Seri were in from Yugawara visiting my mom and her two sisters, and we convinced my dad to come over to my grandmother’s as well, giving us a critical mass of nine people.

By the time Dave and I arrived (two big bags of mochi and the moffle maker in hand), my mother and aunt had everything set up. All I had to do was cut up the mochi (each moffle is made using one and a half pieces of standard-sized mochi), and fire up the moffle iron.

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The very first moffle! Seri ate it with anko, sweetened azuki bean paste.

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Each one takes about five minutes to cook, so I just kept making them and everyone was eating in stages and sharing the ones that we ready. We had three different kinds of mochi to choose from: plain, green kusamochi (made with mugwort), and mochi with black beans in it. My mom chose a kusamochi moffle (cut in half below) which she ate with nori and soy sauce.

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My aunt had wheeled in a wooden stand and I had my own little station right next to the dining table.

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After I mastered the plain moffle, I began experimenting with some moffle sandwiches, which require cutting a piece of mochi in half crosswise to create two thinner pieces and using them above and below a given filling. Dave and my dad were huge fans of the mini-hot dog and cheese moffle sandwiches.

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My final experiment: the tri-colored moffle. I made it using one small piece of each kind of mochi.

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From left: mugwort, bean, plain

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Heading east

On Saturday morning Dave and I will board a plane to Tokyo. 2008 marked only the second year since I was born that I didn’t make it to Japan, so I am very excited. This will be Dave’s second trip. Since we did a lot of the touristy things on his first trip, next week we can focus on what I do best in Japan: eat. I plan to consume my weight in sushi and glutinous rice-based desserts.

Today, as I was leaving Savoy, the guys in the kitchen started shouting out their requests for things they want me to bring back. They ranged from powdered caviar to “anything cool that’s fermented.” This will be my first trip to Japan since graduating from culinary school, so I am very excited to explore the various ingredients not available here in the US, as well as peruse all the amazing knives. That said, there is one thing that I must find: a moffle iron.

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All the rage in Japan right now, this ingenious invention takes mochi (a rice cake made of glutinous rice), and makes it into waffles. Seeing as mochi and waffles are two of my favorite things, after discovering the moffle I now know what the person who invented the peanut butter and jelly sandwich must have felt. You can even make stuffed moffles by stacking two pieces of mochi on top of each other with something in the middle. I’m thinking chocolate.

If you aren’t going to Japan any time soon, you can try your hand at making moffles in your waffle iron (thanks to the folks at Serious Eats for figuring that one out for us). I’m holding out for my moffle iron (they say it’s better than a regular waffle iron for mochi as it gets hotter). It even comes in pink.

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