Monday, February 13, 2017

What to Do If You Forgot It’s Valentine’s Day
What’s cooking? Wild Mushroom Soup with Madeira

OMG – it’s Valentine’s Day! And you forgot?!! Okay, so don’t panic. How about making dinner for your loved one/friend/spouse/parent... whoever? Yeah, sure,... ok... dinner. What’s fast and easy but special? Steak? Right, steak. Get a couple of those little filet mignons and grill or broil them. That’s easy enough. Then... let’s see, ... salad. Yup. Just the thing – salad. Some nice lettuce, maybe a sprig or two of watercress, and a simple oil and vinegar dressing. Hmmm... but what’s going to make this dinner special?

Ah... So you turned to the Kitchen Goddess for help? Good thinking, because I have just the dish: Wild Mushroom Soup with Madeira. It comes from one of my old stand-by sources, The New Basics Cookbook from the Silver Palate ladies, Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

You will love this soup. The flavor is outstanding – nutty, earthy – the texture velvety, and the aroma will remind you of an early morning walk in the woods when the trees haven’t leafed out but the birds have arrived.

It’s a rich taste, but without cream, so not high calorie. Yes, there’s butter, but not so much. And it takes only about an hour to cook, if you start the mushrooms to soak first, then chop the onion and leeks, and quarter the criminis while the mushrooms are absorbing the wine.

In fact, the only real downside to this soup is the cost. Yes, you read this photo right: the dried morels at my grocer are $300 per pound. But you only need one ounce, which is less than $20. And if you’re cooking for two, you can halve this recipe and it’ll only cost $10 for the fungi. But they are soooo worth it. And after all, it’s Valentine’s Day!

A couple of short notes about the ingredients. (You didn’t think the Kitchen Goddess would be able to skip this part, did you?) Morels are pricey in part because the flavor is so distinct and intense, but also because no one has yet figured out a way to cultivate them commercially. They come out as the snow melts, and they’re not easy to spot. Morel fans have been known to travel hundreds of miles in the hunt.

And morels are famously paired with Madeira in cooking. Madeira – named for the Madeira Islands, where it’s made, off the coast of Portugal – is a fortified wine produced in a range of dry to sweet styles. The unique process involves repeatedly heating the wine, which gives it a mix of flavors including notes of roasted nuts, stewed fruit, caramel, and toffee.

This is a soup fit for a queen or a king, ... or a Valentine!

Wild Mushroom Soup with Madeira

Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

Serves 6.

½ cup medium-dry Madeira
2¾ cups good vegetable stock (can substitute good chicken stock)
1 ounce dried morel mushrooms (substitutes: dried shiitakes or dried chanterelles)
3 leeks (white part only), well rinsed
1 medium onion
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (bleached or unbleached)
2¼ cups good beef stock
1 pound crimini mushrooms (or white button mushrooms) with stems trimmed, quartered
kosher salt and white pepper to taste
Garnishes: crème fraîche, snipped fresh chives or sautéed sliced mushrooms

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the morels, the Madeira, and ½ cup of the vegetable stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes. (If it sits for longer than 30 minutes, that’s ok.)

While the dried mushrooms are soaking, dice the leeks and the onion. (You should end up with about 1 cup each of chopped onion and leeks.) In a larger soup pot, melt the butter then add the chopped leeks and onion. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not browned. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and continue to cook, stirring with a whisk, for 5 minutes more.

Add the remaining 2¼ cups of vegetable stock slowly, while stirring with a whisk to avoid lumps. Stir in the beef stock and the quartered crimini mushrooms. Add the morels and their soaking liquid to the pot, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Season the broth to taste with salt and white pepper.

Let the soup cool a little before transferring it to a blender and purée for at least a minute to make sure the soup is smooth. Depending on the size of your blender or food processor, you may need to do this in batches.

Serve hot, with a dollop of crème fraîche and either fresh chives or sautéed sliced mushrooms.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Football Party in the Year of the Rooster
What’s cooking? Asian Slaw

It’s that time of year again: Super Bowl Sunday. And Chinese New Year. What to do, what to do. Well, it may not surprise you to learn that the Kitchen Goddess has the perfect solution. A dish that’s not only Asian-inspired but is just the thing to serve to your football-obsessed friends.

At a group dinner the other night, one of the men was willing to bet that I didn’t know either of the teams that will be playing next Sunday. So it is not a secret as to my level of enthusiasm toward football, generally speaking. As it happens, though, I know exactly which teams will be playing and what their team colors are, because I’ve volunteered to make rollout cookies for the party. Any excuse to play with sprinkles. Here’s what the KG delivered last year, when the Panthers played the Broncos.

At the same time, the Kitchen Goddess posted an excellent list of noshes appropriate to a Super Bowl gathering, so if the salad below doesn’t do it for you, look HERE. And for your added enjoyment, there’s an excellent discussion on the origins of the phrase “Hut 1, hut 2...” We set the bar high for entertainment around here.

But I do enjoy the Super Bowl party – it’s always a potluck dinner, and I love sampling what other guests bring. A couple of years ago, a friend brought today’s salad, and it was absolutely inhaled by the crowd. So of course I wrangled the recipe. (In fact, being a kind and generous friend, she was happy to give it to me.) I couldn’t resist tweaking it a bit – adding the bell pepper and carrot for color – but the bright Asian flavor is unchanged.

This is a great recipe for a day like Super Bowl Sunday, when people are jumping up and down to get food, some eating early and some eating late, and some grazing throughout. This salad doesn’t wilt over the hours of the game. The ramen noodles won’t stay overly crisp the entire time – they work a bit like croutons in a green salad – but they taste great even after absorbing some of the dressing. And mine still crunched after a night in the fridge.

Because I know that you all share the Kitchen Goddess’s love of knowledge, here’s a little known fact to amuse your friends during any less-than-sparkling ads on Sunday: The first mention of “cole slaw” in a recipe book was in 1770, where it appeared in The Sensible Cook: Dutch Foodways in the Old and New World, and was attributed to the author’s Dutch landlady. The name derives from the Dutch word “koolsla,” for “cabbage salad.” Having a strong streak of Dutch ancestry herself, the KG is thrilled.

Kitchen Goddess note: The KG begs you to use fresh, uncut produce versus the pre-cut, bagged stuff. Not only are pre-cut veggies often almost twice as expensive, studies show they lose significant amounts of Vitamin C. Most of the time, they’ve been washed in a chlorine solution to kill harmful bacteria, then rinsed in water before being packaged. Appetizing? If you decide to go the pre-cut way, please note carefully the sell-by dates on the packages. According to The New York Times, processors allow 12-14 days from the time of packaging to their use-by dates. So that cabbage you buy might have been sliced up two weeks ago. Two weeks?!! The Goddess feels faint just at the thought.

The Times had 14 packages tested, and found relatively high levels of bacteria – admittedly harmless – in 12 of the 14. “The high levels of harmless bacteria mean the contents must be handled with great care. If, for example, some form of protein, like grilled chicken, is combined with pre-cut vegetables, the resulting mixture should not be kept at room temperature for more than 20 minutes. High bacteria levels are an indication that harmful bacteria may also be present at low levels, and the combination of warm temperatures and protein could encourage those harmful bacteria to grow and cause food poisoning.”

Now, if you have a wide-mouth food processor, you can slice that cabbage up in about a minute. But even by hand, it doesn’t take more than 5 minutes. The Kitchen Goddess sliced hers by hand, then used the slicing disk on her processor to handle the bell pepper, and the shredding disk with the carrots. 

Asian Slaw

Serves 10.

Salad ingredients:
Half of a 2-pound head of cabbage, thinly sliced (or a 16-ounce package of shredded cabbage)
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, coarsely grated (about 1 cup)
2 packages ramen noodles (Oriental or Chicken flavor)
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup sunflower seeds
½ stick of butter
Optional: 1 cup shredded or chopped cooked chicken

Salad dressing:
⅓ cup rice vinegar
⅔ cup sugar
⅓ cup sunflower seed oil or other mild oil, like grapeseed or canola
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (can substitute sweet-and-spicy, if you prefer)

Make the dressing. In a small bowl or a 16-ounce jar, stir together the rice vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together (or put the lid on the jar and shake) until well blended – about 1 minute.

Before opening the packages of ramen noodles, use your hands to break the noodles into small chunks. Open the packages and set aside the seasoning packets.

In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the slivered almonds, sunflower seeds, ramen noodles, and one seasoning packet. Stir together and cook for about 12 minutes or until the nuts turn golden brown. (The noodles won’t change color much.) Be careful that the ingredients don’t burn. Once the mix has reached as deep a color as you’d like, remove them from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, stir together the raw ingredients and the toasted mixture. Add the chicken, if desired. Pour the dressing – sparingly! – over the salad and mix well. [Kitchen Goddess note: This will be more dressing than you need, so pour a bit and taste as you go. I used about ½ cup.] Cover the bowl with cellophane wrap and refrigerate. Serve chilled.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Happy New Year! Kitchen Tips from the Kitchen Goddess
What’s cooking? Cranberry-Apple Cobbler

Did you think I’d forgotten about you? Never. But I’ve been crawling through my research – trying desperately as I do every year to get my *&#@ together as a nod to the “fresh start” mentality of early January, and it’s been slow progress. As you know, the Kitchen Goddess is a relentless reader of cookbooks, food magazines, newspaper articles about food, and various online food-related newsletters. As a result, she accumulates a treasure trove of tidbits about cooking, kitchen equipment, and food itself.

So here we are, past the midpoint of January, and I’m still clearing the piles from my desk. But I’ve come across many of these gems – on sticky notes, as sidebars to other writing, at the bottom of grocery lists,... pretty much everywhere. And it occurred to me that I could rid myself of some of these random pieces of paper by passing along the information in a post. That way, at least I’ll know where they are when I need them for reference.

Some of this may not be news to you. Or not interesting to you. In which case, you can skip down to today’s recipe for a dessert that will be just the thing on a cold winter evening. But for the rest of you who, like the KG herself, never tire of kitchen arcana, here goes.

1. Eggs separate more easily when they are cold, because the proteins in the whites hold together more tightly when cold. But whites whip higher and firmer at room temperature. So if you have a recipe that calls for separated eggs, make that the first thing you do when you start the recipe, then you can let the whites sit in a bowl on the counter until it’s time to whip them. If you’re putting the whole egg into a recipe, like for cake batter, it makes no detectable difference (according to the friendly folks at America’s Test Kitchen) in the taste if the eggs are cold or room temp, although some pastry chefs claim that room temp eggs produce a lighter texture.

2. And while we’re on the subject... If you’re boiling eggs – hard or soft – you’ll find that the shells come off easier if you bring the water to a boil before submerging the eggs. Also, older eggs don’t stick to the shell as much. So if you’re buying your eggs from the farmstand, hang onto them for a few days before you try boiling them or whipping the whites. According to food scientist Kenji López-Alt, for perfectly cooked eggs, plunge the eggs into boiling water for 30 seconds, then reduce the temperature to a simmer for 11 minutes. (Six minutes for soft-boiled eggs.) [Kitchen Goddess note: López-Alt says 11 minutes, but I found that not to be quite enough. And then I ran out of eggs. So I will get more eggs and try again at 12 minutes and let you know. At dinner tonight, my friend, Elaine, said she does all this and cooks them for 13 minutes.]

Remove the eggs immediately into an ice water bath – which will keep that dimple from developing in the round end of the shelled egg, and helps with the shell removal. Chill eggs completely – 15 minutes at least and maybe even in the fridge overnight – before peeling. Peel under running water.

Now there’s no perfect method for achieving perfectly cooked, perfectly peeled eggs, but apparently – and the Kitchen Goddess is waaay too lazy to conduct all these tests herself – the factor that López-Alt (who does have the patience for testing) found made the most difference in how cleanly eggs released from their shells was the temperature at which they started: “A hot start produces easier-to-peel eggs.” And that goes for cooking the eggs in boiling water or in a steamer.

3. Potatoes, on the other hand, need to be started in cold water. Why? Because potatoes are very dense,  so they need long, gradual heating to cook evenly.

4. How long have you had that tin of baking powder? Ever wonder if it’s still good? Most sources will tell you that six months is the limit, but I think that may vary depending on where and how you store it. Worry no more. Take a small bowl with ½ cup of very hot water (tap water is fine), and stir into it about ¼ teaspoon of your baking powder. If the powder bubbles up immediately, it’ll still make your cakes and cookies rise.  If your baking powder doesn’t fizz, toss it and get a new can.

To test baking soda, you needs to add an acid to get a reaction, so use the same method as for baking powder but add ¼ teaspoon of vinegar to the water before adding the soda. As before, vigorous bubbling tells you the soda is fine to use. Even if it’s flat, you can still use it to clean your kitchen or brush your teeth.

5. Something new on the sugar front: toasting sugar. Take a cup of sugar, spread it out in an ovenproof skillet, and bake it for 2+ hours at 300º. For the photo here, I roasted mine for 2½ hours. What happens is magic: through a process called thermal decomposition, the sugar caramelizes without melting. As a result, the toasted sugar tastes less sweet, but takes on a subtle, slightly caramel flavor that’s like sugar umami. I haven’t used it yet in anything but my coffee, where it totally took the edge off without making it terribly sweet. Mmm-mm. Stella Parks, professional baker and delightful blogger (, stumbled on this idea by accident, and says it’s terrific in meringues, berry pies, banana bread,... She says you can substitute it 1:1 in any recipe. Try it and let me know how you use it.

Toasted sugar after 2½ hours. With a small bowl of untoasted sugar for contrast.
Parks also writes for the Serious Eats website, where the original – and much longer – explanation of the toasted sugar phenomenon is here. And as a side note, the toasted sugar is not only less sweet, it has fewer calories, less sucrose, and a lower glycemic index.

So aren’t you glad you kept reading?

And now for today’s treat, which I made before I learned about toasting sugar. You can be sure I’ll be trying it that way next time.

* * *

My book group meets once a month, and because most of the others are working professionals, no one has time to eat dinner beforehand. So we structure it as a potluck. No assignments, no agreements as to who’s bringing what; so you can never tell what the mix of dishes will be. But no one seems to care, and most of the time it’s a pretty even distribution of protein, veggies, and dessert.

This month, though, we got salads and desserts. Which also didn’t bother anyone, since more salad means you can enjoy more dessert. The Kitchen Goddess took this cobbler – it’s winter, after all, and what better time for apples and cobbler – and while she doesn’t see these evenings as competitive events, she was pleased to note that this dish appeared to be the favorite dessert. (FYI, what you see in these photos is a doubling of the recipe.)

Cranberry-Apple Cobbler

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library: Fruit Desserts

Serves 6.

For the filling:
1½ pounds tart, firm apples (I recommend Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch dice
8 ounces (about 2 cups) cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons candied ginger, chopped

For the biscuit topping:
1¼ cups (163 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup milk (whole, low-fat, or skim – your choice)
grated zest of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 375º.

Combine the apples and cranberries in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar and candied ginger, and transfer the mixture to a large frying pan. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until the juices come to a boil, which should take about 10 minutes.

While the fruit is heating, make the biscuit topping. Place the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, and salt – in the bowl of a food processor, and give it 5-6 good pulses, to mix and aerate the ingredients. Add the butter and continue to pulse the mixture until it takes on the consistency of coarse meal. Add the milk while you continue to pulse, until the dry ingredients have been completely absorbed, but do not overmix. The dough will be wet.

Remove the fruit from the heat and scrape it into an oven-proof casserole. Drop the dough by large spoonfuls on top. Don’t worry if there are spaces between dollops of dough, as these will allow the fruit to bubble up and create a nice mosaic pattern.

Kitchen Goddess note: If you have a nice large cast iron skillet – or something like a Le Creuset braiser – that can go from cooktop to oven, there’s no need to transfer the fruit mixture to a casserole. Just make the entire recipe in that pan.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Party On! Three Easy and Elegant Hors d’Oeuvres from the Kitchen Goddess
What’s cooking? Spiced Plum Soup, Parmesan Gougères, and Salmon Rillettes

And after the gift buying and the gift wrapping comes the gift exchanging. Which is when someone either comes to your house or you go to theirs. Now I’ll admit that it doesn’t have to go that way – I’ve been known to drop my gifts off on someone’s front porch – but it’s a lot more fun to gather together this time of year, exchange wishes for all good things, and congratulate ourselves on having made it to a new page on the calendar.

This sort of hosting doesn’t necessarily mean giving people a meal, but you want to have something to go with that glass of wine or champagne. Those people shouldn’t be heading back out onto the road without something to muffle the alcohol. So the Kitchen Goddess has three treats you can make – ahead of time! – and have your friends and relatives thinking that you, too, must have Kitchen Royalty in your blood.

Spiced Plum Soup – Note the absence of a temperature descriptor in the name of this item. That’s because you can serve it hot or cold. Either way, it’s elegant and equally delicious. And you can make it days ahead. You only want to give your guests a small serving, as this soup also has alcohol in it. In fact, it starts with a full bottle of red wine, but the alcohol from that cooks away; the smidge of alcohol from the Cointreau (or other orange liqueur) does not. This soup looks and tastes more holiday-spirited than any other item in my repertoire. Sophisticated, simple, and sublime. It’s the little black dress of holiday hors d’oeuvres.

Gougères are traditional cheese puffs, usually made with either Emmenthal, Comté or Gruyère cheese. The great French chef, Daniel Boulud, makes his with Parmiggiano-Reggiano, which I think gives you license to use whichever cheese you prefer. And you there in the back of the room, shaking your head that you’ve never made French pastries and don’t intend to start now? Get a grip – these are easy to do. The Kitchen Goddess would not steer you wrong. You can make these delicacies and freeze them raw or cooked, so you’ll always want some in your freezer. The Kitchen Goddess served them in lieu of rolls at Thanksgiving – so chic. They’re unbelievably light and airy – barely crunchy on the outside, mildly eggy on the inside. Your guests will devour these little luxuries, so have plenty on hand.

✸ Classically speaking, Rillettes is a preparation similar to pâté and originally made from pork confit. Then some genius adapted the process to seafood, and everything about the presentation changed. So why is this luxurious spread called rillettes? I don’t know. Poached salmon puréed with creme fraiche and perked up with some tangy, herby, lemony flavors, it’s divine, and simplicity itself to prepare. Creamy and light, it works equally well on crackers, crostini, or piped into endive leaves.

Kitchen Goddess note: If those ideas don’t float your boat, take a look at a couple of past Kitchen Goddess hits that can be made ahead and are also sure to please.

✸ Those leftover bits of cheese hiding in your deli drawer? Put them to work in a batch of Fromage Fort – an anything-goes cheese spread that just needs about 20 minutes to come to room temperature.

✸ Any kind of pesto is great to have on hand, and they all freeze really well. But for the festive season, the Kitchen Goddess likes Artichoke Pesto, which will also last at least several days in the fridge. Of course, you’ll have to keep yourself from noshing on it, but that’s the risk you take...

Spiced Plum Soup

Adapted from The Silver Palate Basics Cookbook.

Serves 8-10 as a first course; 25-30 as 2-3-ounce “tastes.”

4 16-ounce cans of plums in syrup
1 750-milliliter bottle of Pinot Noir
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup triple sec (Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur)
grated zest of 2 lemons
Garnish: crème fraîche, light sour cream, Greek yogurt, or some combination thereof; mint sprigs

Drain the plums, reserving the liquid. Use your fingers to remove the pits, then transfer the pitted plums to a medium saucepan and add back the canned syrup.

Stir in the wine, spices, and sugar, and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer the mixture, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a blender and purée 1-2 minutes, until quite smooth. If you worry that any bits of plum remain unblended, strain the mixture through a sieve.

Add the liqueur and lemon zest and stir well. Refrigerate – if serving cold. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche, light sour cream, Greek yogurt, or some combination thereof, and a sprig of mint (if you have it).

Serving suggestions: To up the elegance factor, the Kitchen Goddess likes to serve this soup as a first course in balloon wine glasses. When it’s an hors d’oeuvre, she passes it in 2-ounce shot glasses on a tray.

Kitchen Goddess note: And now... It’s not hard to make gougères. Maybe you’ll be nervous the first time. The KG was – the first time. The second time? Piece of cake... er, pastry. But it takes the KG a long time to explain because she really wants you to be successful at it. So be patient, read this recipe all the way through, and give it a try.

Parmesan Gougères

Adapted from Daniel Boulud’s Cooking in New York City.

Makes 6-7 dozen.

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into eighths, then each of those into quarters
1 cup cold water
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
1½ cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted
6 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon paprika
dash of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 tablespoons milk

special equipment: wooden spoon, pastry brush, baker’s parchment

Preheat the oven to 400º. Move a rack to the center of the oven. Cut parchment paper to fit two half-sheet rimmed baking pans.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the water, salt, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once it boils, immediately remove the mixture from the heat and add the flour all at once, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Return the pan over high heat and continue stirring vigorously for about 2 minutes as the dough cooks. (This 2 minutes is the hardest part; try to find someone who will relieve you in the vigorous stirring after one minute.) After 2 minutes, the dough should come together in a smooth mass and the bottom of the pot will be coated with a thin crust.

Transfer the dough to a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat at medium-low speed, adding the eggs one at a time (!), and beating well after each is added. Stir in the grated Parmegiano-Reggiano, nutmeg, and paprika, and add a dash of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Kitchen Goddess note: For any pastry, the most important element is the ratio of flour to moisture. I find that the trickiness factor is almost eliminated if (1) you can find a scale and get the exact amount of flour measured, and (2) use large eggs – not medium, not extra-large. And for this pastry dough, it’s important to be sure that each egg is fully incorporated into the batter before adding the next one. At first, the batter will tend to separate and look curdled as each egg is added. Relax and keep beating – it’ll come back together.

You have three choices for forming the gougères: (1) If you have a pastry bag and are accomplished at using it, pipe the dough into ¾ round mounds, using a ½-inch round tip. (2) If you want to pipe it but don’t have a pastry bag, spoon the dough into a zip-lock baggie with a half-inch corner cut. Or (3), go the Kitchen Goddess way – because piping is not a KG talent – using 2 spoons. Use the first spoon to dig out a blob of dough about the size of a walnut; take the second spoon to roll the blob gently onto the baking sheet (covered with parchment, of course!). In all cases, your aim is to get little ball-shaped mounds about ¾ inch in diameter, set 2 inches apart. Then with wet fingertips, lightly smooth away any points on the tops of the mounds. Before putting the pans in the oven, brush the tops with milk and sprinkle on additional grated cheese.

Bake in the center of the oven at 400º for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375º and bake another 20 minutes. The little puffs will get over-brown if given the chance, so until you know how your oven performs, keep an eye out for the last 5 minutes. The gougères are done when they are puffed and golden brown. Transfer the finished puffs to a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Yes, these are small sheet pans. The KG uses them because they allow her to bake her gougères a dozen at a time and thereby keep a constant supply of warm puffs emerging from the kitchen.

Storing Gougères

The best way to store gougères is to form the raw mounds on a baking sheet and stick the sheet into the freezer. Once the dough is frozen solid, lift the mounds off the sheet and pack them airtight in plastic bags. And there’s no need to thaw them before baking; just add an extra couple of minutes in the oven.

If you have leftovers, lay them out on a baking sheet; cover the sheet with plastic wrap and freeze until the gougères are firm. Store the frozen gougères in sturdy plastic bags, where they’ll keep  for several months. Reheat them at 350º on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 6-8 minutes.

Salmon Rillettes

Adapted from Gourmet magazine, December 2004.

Makes about 1½ cups.

1 cup dry white wine
2 cups water
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 leek, rinsed well and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 lemon, sliced
6 ounces king salmon filet
2 ounces crème fraîche (can substitute sour cream, light sour cream, or a crème fraîche/sour cream combo)
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 mounded teaspoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the wine and water in a deep skillet with a lid. Add the celery, onion, leek, peppercorns, bay leaf, and lemon. Simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

Add the salmon, cover the pot, remove it from the heat and let it stand for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the salmon from the marinade and chill it in the refrigerator. Discard the marinade.

Transfer the salmon and remaining ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with a basket of crostini or crackers, or pipe into trimmed endive leaves with a garnish of dill sprig.


And in case you are curious as to how the KG makes her crostini, here you go:

Slice a baguette of French bread in pieces about ⅜ inch wide. (The Kitchen Goddess likes to slice hers at an angle to the loaf, but that’s just for show. No one – least of all her husband, who is frequently tasked with the slicing – knows why.) Place them on a large, rimmed sheet pan, and run them under the broiler for about 1 minute. Turn them over and run them under the broiler for about 30 seconds. Take a large clove of raw garlic and rub it lightly across the surface of the half-cooked side, then lightly brush olive oil across that side as well. Return the crostini to the broiler for 25-30 seconds, depending on how dark you like them to be. Let them cool, then store in large zip-lock plastic bags. They should keep for at least a week.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Jingle Bells, Ice Cube Shells, Cookbooks by the Yard...
Gift Ideas for the Foodie in Your Life

It’s that time again, and I’ll bet you haven’t done all the shopping you need to do. How do I know? Because there’s a whole week and a day left before Christmas, and a week before the first night of Hanukkah. And we all know how frantic that week always is, in spite of all our best intentions.

Well, if there’s a foodie on your list, this is your lucky day. Once again, the Kitchen Goddess has put together a list of items – from stocking stuffers to really swell gifts – that should amuse or excite the food lover in your life. And if this list doesn’t do the trick, check these links to Spoon & Ink for ideas from holiday seasons past:

Spoon & Ink Gift Guide 2015
Spoon & Ink Gift Guide 2014
Spoon & Ink Gift Guide 2013

I should add that the 2013 guide features my coolest gift idea ever: a designer cheese grater that doubles as kitchen sculpture.

And in case you’re wondering, the Kitchen Goddess has not received as much as a sprig of holly for these recommendations. She is a wonder of ethical virtue.

Stocking Stuffers

The Kitchen Goddess loves champagne. But once you open a bottle, you face that tricky issue of how to store any that doesn’t get consumed that night. Admittedly, it doesn’t happen often that there’s champagne left over, but now there’s a solution: the Cilio Stainless Steel Champagne Sealer (online for $8.95 at either or Kitchen Universe). This attractive little gadget was actually given a “highly recommended” status from none other than America’s Test Kitchen, which as you know has fairly demanding standards. According to the ATK folks, “This inexpensive sealer attaches with an easy one-handed motion and an affirming click. Wine saved with it was just as fresh as a newly opened bottle for two full days (a full week if left undisturbed) and still drinkable on day three.... Once on, it was almost flat against the top of the bottle and fit easily in the fridge.” The Kitchen Goddess bought two of them.

When’s the last time you pulled the package of dark brown sugar out of your pantry and discovered that it was a solid brick of sugar? It has happened to me too many times. So I was intrigued to find The Original Brown Sugar Bear, this darling little reusable terracotta bear that, when soaked in water for 20 minutes, will maintain the right moisture level in a package of brown sugar for up to three months. It’ll do the same for other sugars, cakes and cookies, or raisins and other dried fruit. (Though if you have cakes and cookies hanging around long enough to dry out, I’d like to speak to you about this problem.) Alternatively, you can dry it out in the oven and use it to absorb moisture around crackers and chips, or salt and spices – even around cameras and other electronic equipment. And they’re only $3.99 on

As long as we’re talking whimsical, here’s a fun but very useful tool: the Oven Pull Monster. Especially if, like me, you’re always struggling with a potholder in order to maneuver a hot oven rack. Well, struggle no more. This heat-resistant (to 530º) silicone grabber makes it easy to pull a rack out of a hot oven or push one back in. At Bed Bath & Beyond or The Container Store for $2.99.

Is there a cheese lover on your list? You probably think “cheese bags” sound like a ridiculous waste of money. Hah. You would be wrong. Because cheese – even the relatively inexpensive stuff – will quickly dry out in your fridge if you have it wrapped in butcher paper, or get slimy and smelly (bad-smelly, not good-smelly) if wrapped in cellophane or a plastic baggie. Formaticum Cheese Bags (15 to a box) will extend the life of your cheese until you can actually finish it! The polyethylene and wax-coated paper helps regulate humidity and allows cheese to breathe. The bags are large enough to hold a couple of decent-sized pieces, reusable until they fall apart, and even then can be effective if wrapped around a piece of cheese with a rubber band or tape. $8.99 for a package of 15, from Bed Bath & Beyond or N.B. These little bags have garnered 579 reviews on amazon, and have a 4.6 rating out of 5 stars. That’s a lot of fans.

With the increasing popularity of cocktails, many people neglect the importance of the ice. A classic cube will improve not only the look of a mixed drink, but also the flavor because it doesn’t melt quickly. I got these at a food bloggers’ conference a year ago, and I love them. These Silicone Ice Cube Trays will seriously up the game of the cocktail maker on your list. Make the cubes with filtered water only, and store them in a Ziploc Freezer bag. These three trays for 1-inch cubes are $9.97 at; or you can get a single tray for 1.25-inch cubes for $6.95 at Cocktail Kingdom.

Serious Gifts

The Kitchen Goddess was in Sicily this year, and had a chance to sample the local fresh pasta. Oh, my. If you’ve ever had fresh pasta, you know the difference in that and the dried stuff is legion. Now, even the Kitchen Goddess admits: (1) dried pasta is still perfectly fine; (2) we can’t make fresh pasta every time the mood strikes us; but (3) if the mood strikes, it’s not hard but you have to have the right equipment. Here it is: the Kitchenaid Pasta Extruder (best price by a long shot was $129.59 at And yes, you have to own a Kitchenaid stand mixer to start with. But what a fun way to spend a winter afternoon.

You know what else will chase away the winter blahs? Candles. All by themselves, they add a warm and friendly atmosphere, regardless of what food is being served. But for her hubby’s occasional protests that she’s trying to burn down the house, the Kitchen Goddess would have candles at every meal. Some of the most beautiful votive holders come from a company called Glassybaby. You may remember my praise of these glass holders last year, and this year, the company has been especially thoughtful and creative with new versions. They’re boxed so beautifully that you don’t even need extra trimming, and the two here come with a note that 10% from the sale of each will be donated to Conservation International to protect carbon-rich forests.

"Mother Earth"
“Home” and “Mother Earth” are $75 each; other, simpler designs are $44. The company has retail stores in Washington state and California; otherwise, shop online at

Good Food and Good Reads

When Gourmet magazine shuttered its doors in the fall of 2009, Ruth Reichl found herself without a job for the first time in 40 years. So she did what she’d always done in times of stress – she disappeared into her kitchen. She roamed ethnic neighborhoods in New York City to discover new styles of cooking, and from her house in rural upstate New York, she explored farmers’ markets for unfamiliar foods. The cooking itself became a form of meditation. And then she wrote a book about the experience: My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life ($22.75). Like many of her books, it’s a mash-up of memoir and cooking, so it’s a good read, even if you don’t cook the recipes, and the photography is lovely. A New York Times bestseller.

At the other end of the age spectrum is Justin Warner, the 30-some-odd (and “odd” is a good choice here) wunderkind, best known as the winner of the eighth season of the Food Network series Food Network Star. His book, The Laws of Cooking: And How to Break Them ($23.07), offers a playful, non-traditional approach to food, focusing on why certain tastes go together and how to make use of that understanding. It’s not a huge book – but of the 110 recipes, I’ve already tried or bookmarked as must-tries 11 of them. And that’s saying something. It’s a fun read, youthful and irreverent, with unusual combinations – like his Smoked Oyster Caesar Salad (from The Law of Bagel and Lox) and the Pepperoni-crusted Cod with Pineapple (demonstrating the Law of the Hot Dog) – but all so far delicious, and I’m happy to have them in my repertoire.

“What’s better than sandwiches?!?! Falling in love, action movies, nephews, Led Zeppelin, becoming super good friends with Tom Cruise to name a few.” That’s the opening salvo in Tyler Kord’s delightful book, A Super Upsetting Book about Sandwiches ($14.69). It’s not really upsetting – unless you want your sandwiches to be BLTs or grilled cheese. But if you’re willing to try a sub roll with roasted cauliflower and raisin-scallion relish and smoked French dressing and potato chips, then this might be the book for you. Also Chef Kord is clearly onto something successful because he is also the owner of the lauded No. 7 restaurant and No. 7 Sub shops in New York. And New Yorkers know something about sandwiches.

Actual Food – or at Least Chocolate

One of my favorite places to visit in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan is Vosges Chocolates. I started going there because the woman who built the company went to Vanderbilt, my alma mater. But it happens that she knows a lot about chocolate, and I’ve been a fan ever since. The company makes gorgeous gift boxes, with delicious and exotic assortments of truffles, in prices that range from $22 to $250. So something for everyone.

A Gift with a Personal Touch

Fresh spices and freshly dried herbs are a welcome gift for anyone who enjoys cooking. This summer, I put together a spice package as a gift to a friend who had moved from New York to Florida and would be setting up a brand new kitchen. The gift was so well received that I replicated the concept for a bride-to-be. First, I purchased quantities of several unusual spices, along with a few of my favorite spice mixes from Penzey’s. I bought spice jars from, and filled them with the spices and mixes, and added labels to the jars. Then I included a note with a list of the spices and how I would use them. It’s a fun way to share the cooking experience.

In my gift package:

■ Aleppo Pepper (from Penzey’s)
■ Texas Bay Leaves (from a friend with a bay tree)
■ Fennel Pollen (from My Spice Sage)
■ Ground Dried Lemon (from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern products)
■ Whole Dried Limes (
■ Florida Seasoned Pepper (Penzey’s)
■ Fox Point Seasoning (Penzey’s)
■ Sunny Paris Seasoning (Penzey’s)

Happy holidays, everyone!