Monday, September 28, 2009


Delicious! Remember when I got all excited about frittatas and the possibilty of party sized eggs for dinner? This is like that in heaven. I'm trying to make all my own bread here to avoid sesame scares, save money and structure my seemingly endless "down time" -- I'm two for two weeks, more on that later, but the last loaf got stale before I could eat infinity smoked salmon sandwiches from impossibly cheap trader joes salmon. Damn, and now I want more. Anyway, strata! They use up stale bread and are also so filling and delicious, I am now convinced they will become a fixture of my new Californian cookery. Also that you can throw some "what do i do with these veggies?" veggies in the mix, or a not so healthy version with cream and sausage, if you want to go the heart attack be damned church social type route. The NYTimes first gave me the idea here- and this is basically the recipe I used. Lemme break it down for ya.

1 lb fresh (by the way, the la jolla farmers market was described to me as small and it's basically the size of union sq, I guess there's some farmland in between
those strip malls after all) tomatoes
Half a loaf of stale bread or a stale baguette
4 eggs
2 cups milk (skim worked fine)
Molto thyme and basil and garlic
Whatever cheese you have kicking around- I had mozzarella, times guru recommends gruyere

Slice the bread- if it's too hard to get a knife through, soak it in water and wring it out. Holy great recession, batman! Wringing bread??? It works, near with me.

Now toast the bread and rub both sides with a raw clove of garlic. Slice the tomatoes into, uh, slices.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Layer bread and tomatoes in a bakin sheet of pan or what have you, throwing some cheese and the leftover garlic in there, also salt and pepper, naturally.

Beat up the milk and eggs and herbs in a bowl, then pour that on top. Make sure it's all covered and kind of dense, especially if you are weird about eggs. Get all artistic with the top layer of tomatoes, while youre at it.

Pop that baby in the oven for 40-50 minutes, when it's done, it should be custardy and much more than the sum of its parts. My computer is in the shop so photo evidence forthcoming, but I've been chowing down in this for the past 4 meals and I'm ready to go back for a midnight snack... Now.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

basic sandwich bread

Holy free time, batman! First the crackers, which only take a few minutes but seem like they are an afternoon project. Bread, though, is for the truly "carless in southern california". Instead of figuring out the bus system or exploring the joys of walking next to the freeway, I made some bread. And lo! It is cheaper (provided that you buy a bunch of yeast and flour, it comes out to like 1.50 a loaf) and better (but don't take my word for it!) than bread from the store.

I'll give bootleg instructions here... if you really want to become a weekend breadmaster, I suggest you find a copy of BEARD ON BREAD. This is the book that my friend who taught me to make bread used, and it really is great.

1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 to 2 cups warm water
a spoonful of sugar or honey
3 3/4- 4 cups flour (baker's, all purpose, half whole wheat, some oats... you can go nuts)
1 t salt
some butter or oil

(for one loaf)

First, proof the yeast-- that is, rejuvenate the little guys by giving them a bath and a snack. Stir the yeast and sugar into 1/2 a cup of warm water. Too hot and they die, too cold and they can't relax. Let it sit around for a few minutes, should become kind of brown and frothy. Dr. Frankenstein, we have created life! Bwahaha. Making bread is great.

Add the salt to the 3 3/4 cup flour, then pour in 3/4 cup warm water. Stir it with a spoon. Now add the yeasties and stir until the dough comes together. If it is too stiff, you can add some more water, but try to knead it out first. Now knead! Punch and fold, turn and fold, turn and fold! The dough should become kind of elastic (hello, gluten!) and when you poke it, it should spring back.

Now rub the dough and your bowl with butter or oil and plop your ball of dough in there to rise. Cover it with a towel and keep it somewhere warmish-- an unheated oven is good for a drafty apartment.

2 hours or so later, it should have doubled in size and when you poke it it shouldn't spring back. Inexact science.

Now punch it down and knead it again for a few minutes. Prod it into a bread-like shape, then toss it in a greased loaf pan to rise again. Preheat the oven to 400.

When the bread has risen again (1 hr? do the poke thing) rub some cold water on top and cut some decorative slashes in the top. Bake for about 40 minutes. It should be brown and, when you take it out, sound hollow when you knock on it.

Let it cool before you slice it (I KNOW! but do it) then store it in the fridge.

Friday, September 18, 2009

rosemary crackers

I'm back! I'm in California! ...I know!

It's been crazy busy, then it's been crazy slow, the sun has been shining pretty much all the time, my room is all set up, most importantly, the leftovers from the last dinner out with dad are gone. Game on.

My inaugural culinary adventure was-- what else?-- crackers. I've already justified my love of making crackers on here, but there is no better evidence than that I whipped these out at the beach today and everyone I was with was all, "I didn't know that it was possible to make crackers! Send the recipe over the grad listserv!" Got it? These crackers are potentially mind-blowing. A note for cracker fans from the Barnard years, these aren't the same ones I used to make... they're a little more toothsome and little easier.

via smittenkitchen

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
some rosemary, fresh or chopped (or not, or another spice)
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil

--Throw all the dry ingredients into a bowl then mix in the wet ingredients.
--Mix it into a dough and knead it a little if you want.
--Roll it out onto a baking sheet and pop it into a 450 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until it is brown and crispy. Undercooked is no good, but (unlike the butter crackers of yore) they don't need to be totally brown the whole way though.

Store the crackers in tupperware and pat yourself on the back for spending less than 4 dollars on a box of snack crackers, then eat them all and realize that you're back to square one.