Monthly Archives: October 2012

DAKOS AND OTHER GOOD THINGS

Have you ever heard of dakos?

I had never tasted this simple Cretan dish until very recently. With its blend of dried bread, chopped tomatoes, herbs, olives, and crumbled feta, Dakos reminds me of panzanella. But I prefer dakos even more, which features huge, crunchy lumps of dried barley rusk — way more fibrous and interesting than normal bread. (Though I would love to make dakos with a loaf of my own sourdough!) The rusk is soaked in a mixture of water and olive oil until it becomes tender, and then gets dressed with a mixture of vegetables and cheese. Magically, soaked rusk gets both mushy and crunchy. It’s insanely delicious. (We added fresh basil, dried oregano, and sun-dried tomatoes to our dakos, which is a little less traditional but no less tasty.)

We made a few other traditional Cretan dishes, like an addictive dip of pureed fava beans. Cretans like to pair the dip with finely chopped raw cipollini — so genius. They also tend to douse their pureed favas in a lake of olive oil, but we were a little more cautious. A little goes a long way.

(P.S. That slaw-looking thing at the bottom isn’t cabbage — it’s my new favorite vegetable in the world, white radicchio. It looks like chicory and tastes a little like Belgian endive. I love bitter, so it really, really hit the spot, especially when dressed up with a touch of Grecian honey, sunflower oil, and some Dijon mustard.)

GRECIAN BREAKFAST

I recently came upon a trove of Grecian goodies: honey, chestnuts, dried thyme (it has thorns and tiny purple flowers!), and liters and liters of olive oil. What better way to begin delving into their untold yumminess than with a simple breakfast — steamed spinach, a fried egg sprinkled with feta and parsley, and tomato salad, all drenched in the most gorgeous, supple olive oil I’ve eaten in a while.

P.S. The voyeur in me LOVED this food diary by Sam Sifton. Charming, honest, and delicious. There’s nothing I love more than reading a long list of dishes or ingredients (bedside reading is usually a cookbook), so stories like this are totally my internet catnip. [via Shoko]

SPROUTS IDEAS

Not sure what to do with this bad boy. Or rather, I have too many ideas. Isn’t he gorgeous? Also, did you know you can eat those huge cabbage leaves at the top? Maybe that’s obvious to you, but I had no idea! I was thinking of shredding everything up and tossing them with orange zest, sultanas, and pine nuts for a citrusy raw salad. How are you eating brussels sprouts this fall?

Of course, I could always put them on a pizza, where they belong…

A DOWNTON BIRTHDAY

For my birthday party this year (well, one of three parties… but more on that later!), Adam and I decided to throw a glorious Downton Abbey-themed dinner. The inspiration came from our friend Michelle — a die-hard Downton Abbey lover, just like me.

I can’t quite decide if I’m more upstairs or downstairs (which are you?), though I suppose working in a kitchen 10 hours a day lands me squarely downstairs. So we made our menu a celebration of both elements, with upstairs decadence like endless bottles of champagne and claret; roasted bone marrow with a simple parsley and caper salad; beautiful, soft French cheeses (I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the Tomme du Maréchal); and the crowning glory, an apple charlotte that Michelle made and brought to the party. Fellow Downton aficionados will remember this dessert from the infamous salty pavlova episode (one of my personal all-time favorite Downton moments). Michelle’s apple charlotte was so gorgeous and well-constructed I felt a little heartbroken cutting into it. But the pudding — just imagine warm, soft cooked apples incased in a crisp, buttery shell of brioche — was one of the most delicious and memorable desserts I have eaten in my life.

The main course — braised beef shin served over boiled potatoes with chives and tarragon — was resolutely downstairs. Adam bought over seven kilos (!) of beef shin from Marc at Lawrence (P.S., there’s a nice story on his remarkable butchery philosophy over here) which he slowly braised until tender. We served it with a jiggly Yorkshire pudding (Hugh’s recipe, the only one I’ve ever used), roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta, and glazed carrots, and ate it, naturally, with plenty of strong Claret.

This was the dinner party of my dreams, even if my imaginary t.v. boyfriend Matthew couldn’t make it.

A BIRTHDAY ZONE

So, yesterday was my birthday — which, of course, has prompted an undue amount of self-reflection. I worked a long 10-hour shift, but Adam made me a sweet, perfectly-me birthday breakfast of roasted brussels sprouts over eggs and some good, sour cheddar with toast.

If you had told me ten years ago, or even five years ago, that at age 28 I would be happily living in Montreal and working as a pastry chef, I would have stared at you in disbelief. When I graduated from college (was it already seven years ago?), I remember thinking that I would definitely be a music journalist, traveling the world and writing every day. I might still return to that, in fact I hope that I do. I often get anxious thinking that I haven’t done enough or accomplished that much. But where I am right now — I’m learning to see how it’s exactly right. Pastry may be a recent passion, but it already feels like it’s been a part of me forever.

My sweet friend Katherine gave me this book, written by an astrology-loving Jungian scholar, for my birthday, and I have been devouring it alive. Here’s to another year of Relating.

MORE VICTORY BREAD

You can’t quite tell in this photo, but buried under that mountain of delicious mashed avocado is another loaf of victory bread. Right now, this black bread is my favorite thing at Lawrence — it’s compact, hearty, and intensely savory, thanks to traces of espresso grounds, molasses, butter, chopped shallots, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, bran flakes, and rye flour. (If you’d like to make something similar, this recipe looks lovely). When our black bread comes out of the oven, the smell is really unbelievable. All this black bread really needs is a thick smear of salted butter, but in the morning I’ve been eating it with chopped avocado, lemon juice, and lots of black pepper.

Also, I know I’m so behind on the NYFW chatter, but I finally looked at Rachel Comey’s spring collection and I just can’t. It’s all so beautiful, especially those crop tops and that high necked chartreuse dress. I’ll just imagine that I’m wearing those breezy white numbers while lounging in Greece with Adam — lucky dude gets to go there in a few weeks!

SNAPS FROM PROVENCE

Flimsy scarves, sunny seaside mornings, fluorescent petals, citrusy cheeses, impromptu roadside picnics. We were in Provence three months ago but it still feels like yesterday. Already thinking about when we’ll go back – so much left to see.

BREAD VICTORY

If you had asked me one month ago if I could make a loaf of bread that tasted or looked as good as this, I would have laughed in your face. It would have been a a fantasy. A joke!

But I made this bread, last night, and the night before that, and the night before that. And I’ll continue to make this bread, and sometimes it will be worse, and hopefully someday it will get even better.

People often talk about the intimate relationship they have with their bread. (I once interviewed a breadmaker in Portland who had named his seven-year-old starter “Lulu.”) I always knew it to be true, but you can’t really know until you do it yourself. The bread that I make at Lawrence is very similar to Tartine Cafe’s pain au levain, which is tangy, sour, and emerges from the oven with a hard, caramel-colored shell and a sometimes-sticky interior, flecked by grains of whole wheat flour. On a good day, the crumb is light and fluffy and soft, like cotton candy.

I already call this bread my baby. It’s something I look after and care for, and I feel weirdly emotional about it. When things go well, I feel a swell of pride that’s greater than any article I’ve written or event I’ve organized. Creation is powerful, especially when it comes from the hands.