pantry flatbread with arugula and aleppo pepper

autumn, breads, breakfast, dinner, lunch, main dishes, snacks, spring, winterRachel SandersComment

In the beginning of many cookbooks, there is a chapter with no pictures where the chef/author talks about the foods they like to keep on hand at any given time, how to stock a pantry properly, etc. Sometimes they'll go over unique ingredients - what they are, where to find them, why you should use them - or pieces of equipment that they can't live without that they've added to their finely curated list of kitchen gadgetry. Or maybe they'll talk a bit about their process - how they clean as they cook, or how they write out recipes on post-its that they stick on the counter while they work. The abundance of care and work that go into creating this pantry/equipment/process chapter is obvious. You know? Don't you usually read this section?

Yeah, me neither. I want to look at the pretty pictures already.

But when I went to see family for Thanksgiving, I ended up going to a spice shop I've been wanting to check out for a while and subsequently dropped a fair amount of cash on some spices I've been having trouble finding (and some that I have never seen before but am so excited to use). And then I came home to our hap-hazard pantry with its crazy amount of beans and nearly empty boxes of pasta, and thought "This is no place for my spices!" So I cleaned out the shelves, reorganized everything, and took note of stuff that was about to run out, and I now have a well-oiled pantry machine. I didn't expect that it would have a profound effect on my efficiency and enjoyment of cooking, but it did! It is crazy! I have joined the Clean Pantry Cult and I am going to prosthelytize to anyone who will listen!!

One of these days I'll write a post on the things that are in my pantry (there will be pictures, promise), but let's talk about this flatbread for a moment. I get most excited by foods with flavor contrasts (salty/sweet, rich/bright, etc.), and I wanted to bring that kind of excitement to this recipe so that it didn't feel like an "I don't know what to make for dinner" kind of a meal (which it most definitely was). It worked sort of like this:

If I ever publish a cookbook, there will be a lot of Venn diagrams (which will probably break up the text a bit in my pantry section, which y'all had better read).

There are so many ingredients that fall into each of these categories (I even listed a few more than I put on the flatbread), so don't feel like you have to limit yourself to what I did, especially because the whole point of this thing is to utilize stuff you have on hand! Just grab a prepared crust or some pizza dough and something bright and fresh on your way home from work, and you'll have a tasty, simple, and homemade meal in the time it takes to order a pizza.

(A quick pantry tip: buy things that you use frequently every time you go to the store, whether you need them immediately or not! I do this with onions, sweet potatoes, and lemons, because I use them multiple times throughout the week, if not every day. And I'll usually also buy some arugula or spinach every week because a pop of green easily takes something from blah to beautiful.)

pantry flatbread

Makes 1 flatbread; serves 4 as a light main, or 6-8 as an appetizer/snack

Aleppo pepper flakes are different from the standard red pepper flakes you can find in the spice aisle, and they are certainly different from the packets that come when you order a pizza to go. Instead of punching the inside of your mouth with heat, these flakes are bright, tart, and pleasantly warming. I don't know if this reflects a level of quality, but the flakes I purchased are also just pepper flakes, with no included seeds. You can find them at specialty stores or online, and a little jar will last you for quite some time.

Also, keep in mind that this is not a pizza, so there is no ooey-gooey-cheesy base holding all of the ingredients on board. Some things will bake together, and some things will be looser. If you want a more cohesive flatbread, omit the olive oil that you drizzle over the dough and replace it with a generous smear of creme fraîche.

1 pound pizza or flatbread dough (I grabbed a container of prepared dough at Whole Foods)
olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced from top to tail
1/4 cup white wine (optional) or water
kosher salt
4 oz bacon, sliced into lardons
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, torn in half with your fingers
4 oz feta cheese (I used goat's milk feta)
flaky sea salt (I used Maldon)
a couple of handfuls of arugula
Aleppo pepper or other red pepper flakes

About an hour before you want to bake the flatbread, remove the dough from the refrigerator to proof and come to room temperature (it will bake more evenly and be much, much easier to work with).

Preheat your oven to 425˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium low heat, and add a generous swig of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan). Add the onions to the oil and sauté, stirring frequently, until they soften and begin to become translucent. Add the white wine and a pinch of kosher salt to the pan and cook for another 2-5 minutes, until the wine has evaporated and the onions are quite limp, but not falling apart. (Note: you do not need to caramelize them to a darker color unless that is what you want; I happen to like some of the brighter purple on the flatbread, and they'll get a little charred anyway during baking.) Remove the onions to a small bowl and set aside.

Place the pan back over the heat and add the bacon lardons. Cook, watching closely (and occasionally stirring), until the lardons are just barely cooked and beginning to get crispy edges. Remove the lardons to a paper towel-lined plate and drain.

Remove the pizza dough from its container and stretch with your hands, pizza parlor style. Don't worry about it being perfect or crazy-thin! Rustic looks best here, so just stretch it as much as you can without tearing the dough.

Place the dough on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and drizzle the dough with a little olive oil. Spread the onions over the dough, and scatter with the bacon and olives. Crumble the feta cheese over the bacon and olives. Gently press the toppings into the dough, just enough to help them stick to the surface while baking (not so much that the dough envelops them and they cannot be seen).

Bake at 425˚F until the dough is fully cooked and the onions at the edge of the dough are crisp and a little charred, about 20-25 minutes (check after 20 minutes). Remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes, then top with a couple of handfuls of arugula, and some generous pinches of flaky salt and Aleppo pepper flakes.

ricotta tartines with peaches, basil, and piment d'espelette

autumn, breads, breakfast, desserts, snacks, summer, sweet, vegetarianFieldandForest2 Comments
ricotta, peach, basil, and piment d'espelette tartine

I don't know about you, but I have jumped hardcore onto the ricotta toast bandwagon. It is SO good! Why is it so good? Why can I not stop myself from eating ricotta toast? Seriously. After I took the above photo, I ate those two tartines, and then I wanted more, so I made two more. And then I ate those. And I am seriously considering toasting up some more bread and making another. Somebody come save me from myself, please! I will repay you with a tartine. And then someone else will probably have to come save you from eating tartines at some point, too, and if the cycle continues, we will have so many people at our place eating tartines, which means at that point we'll just have to have a party.

Which works out, since it's FRIDAY (yay!).

Happy weekend, all!

Ricotta Tartines with Peaches, Basil, and Piment D'Espelette
makes 4 tartines

Why call this a tartine? Tartines are often substantial, open-faced sandwiches, and are frequently eaten with knives and forks. The peaches here are cut into rather thick wedges, and the moisture from the ricotta can make the center of your toast a little soft, so these lack some of the structural integrity needed to lift the bread to your mouth (and are a little tall for you to take a bite directly out of one, anyway) and are best eaten with utensils. Hence, tartines! Shrink these down and make them with toasted baguette slices if you want something that lends itself better to finger food.

4 1/2-inch slices of crusty white bread, such as sourdough or ciabatta (do not use a soft, sandwich bread, as it will get mushy)
olive oil1/2 cup ricotta (whole or part-skim both work well)
1 ripe yellow peach, cut into 12 wedges (quarter the peach, and cut each quarter into thirds)
4 basil leaves sliced into chiffonade (ribbons)
honey, for drizzling (I used Tupelo honey, which I love as it is intensely floral and buttery, plus it never crystalizes) Piment d'Espelette, hot paprika, or a finely crushed dried red chile

Brush the bread with olive oil and toast under the broiler until browned and crispy (this happens quickly, so keep an eye on it as it toasts).

Spread about 2 tablespoons ricotta over each of the toasts. Lay three peach slices over each toast, and distribute the basil evenly among the toasts. Drizzle each tartine with about a teaspoon of honey (or more, if you prefer), and sprinkle with a small pinch of Piment d'Espelette. Serve immediately.

bittersweet chocolate things

autumn, breads, breakfast, desserts, spring, vegetarian, winterFieldandForest2 Comments

Zomg. You guys. YOU GUYS. Mrrgkjslkjglskfs.

I can't even write real words right now, I am so excited.

Because Cheese Board Chocolate Things. In Salt Lake City. In our kitchen. That came out of our oven. If you know what the Cheese Board is, then I know you're excited, too. If you don't know what the Cheese Board is, I hope you are at least intrigued by the sheer volume of chocolate folded into this ball of dough. If you know what the Cheese Board is, but you currently live in Berkeley and are thinking "Whatevs, I can get Chocolate Things whenever I want," then shut it. We don't want to hear about it.

(That's a lie, please tell us everything, because goodness knows we're dying over here without our zucchini-corn pizza and oatmeal scones.)

So anyway. What is this Cheese Board thing. Well, it is one of the many magical places in that mystical land known as the Gourmet Ghetto, and it makes amazing breads (and its next-door sister restaurant, Cheese Board Pizza, makes some of the best pizzas in town) and has a crazy cheese selection sourced from all over the planet, and it is one of THE foodie destinations of Berkeley (and it is across the street from Chez Panisse, so you can ogle another institution while you eat your pizza!). Both the pizzeria and the bakery are part of the same collectively owned business (together they are known as the Cheese Board Collective) and they have a pretty unique story of how they've worked to support other collectives/co-ops, and a number of years ago they did everyone a solid and made a cookbook.

And it is glorious.

Everything I've made out of that book is pure gold and tastes almost exactly how I remember Cheese Board pastries and pizza. Sure, I don't have a deck oven or a proofing cabinet, but the essence of every baked good is there. Ownership of this book (and therefore access to all of its secrets) is enough to make a Bay Area expat plant roots in a red state and say "We're good here."

At least for the time being.

And now a few words from the Voice of Experience to help you achieve your Chocolate Thing dreams! One, do not get super nit-picky about keeping all of the chocolate pieces in the dough when you first mix them in. Some of them will fall out. I'll give you a cheat for working them back in later. Two, use a wire or a floured piece of baker's twine to cut the rolled dough into rounds. This applies equal pressure on all sides of the roll so you end up with neat, photogenic little buns instead of rolls that are all smushed into ovals. Not that there is anything wrong with ovals! We are accepting of all shapes and sizes of rolls over here.

Finally, invite over some friends to help you eat the rolls, because these truly are best eaten warm from the oven while the dough is tender and the chocolate is slightly melty (and this way it saves you from eating all of the rolls yourself in one sitting, though you could probably have worse things happen to you, let's be honest).

Chocolate Things
adapted from the Cheese Board Collective Works cookbook - Makes 12 things

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into 1-inch pieces

In a small saucepan, heat the cream and buttermilk over low heat until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Pour into a bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl (if mixing by hand). Let cool until just warm, then whisk in the yeast until dissolved. Let stand for 5 minutes.

If using a stand mixer, add the flour, butter, sugar, 1 of the eggs, and the salt to the bowl. With the paddle attachment on medium speed, mix until the ingredients are combined, about 2 minutes. If the dough is too soupy, add extra flour by the tablespoonful until the dough forms a loose ball around the paddle. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed for 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, silky, and elastic. Add the chocolate and knead just long enough to incorporate it (do this step as quickly as possible, as overmixing will result in broken pieces of chocolate and discolored dough).

If making by hand, add the flour, butter, sugar, 1 of the eggs, and the salt to the bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until combined. If the dough is too soupy, add extra flour by the tablespoonful. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for 10 minutes or until it is smooth, silky, and elastic. Flatten the dough into a 1-inch-thick round and place the chocolate in the center. Gather the dough around the chocolate and knead just long enough to incorporate it.

A quick note: I did a stand mixer/hand mix mash-up where I made the dough with the stand mixer, but kneaded in the chocolate pieces by hand. That seemed easiest to me (and kept chocolate pieces from ricocheting out of my mixer). Just FYI!

Form the dough into a ball and place it in a large oiled bowl. Turn the dough over to cover it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for one hour, or until doubled in size. Alternatively, refrigerate the dough to rise slowly overnight. The next morning, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand in a warm place for at least an hour before proceeding.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll it out into a 10 by 12-inch rectangle. Don't worry if pieces of chocolate fall out of the dough, just set them aside for the time being. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with a whisk. Using a pastry brush (or your fingers, which are easier to clean!) brush a stripe down one of the long edges (and save the leftover egg! You'll use it later!). Take all of the pieces of chocolate that fell out of the dough earlier and scatter them across the dough rectangle. Starting with the non-egg-wash coated edge, roll up the dough lengthwise into a jelly roll shape (rolling up the loose chocolate pieces as you go), using the egg-washed edge to seal the dough roll together. See what we did there? Sneaky, sneaky!

Using a sharp knife, a bench scraper, or a piece of wire or floured baker's twine, cut the roll into twelve 1-inch thick slices and place them on the prepared pan, cut side up, about two inches apart. Cover them with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until the rolls are increased in size by one-third.

Fifteen minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Using a pastry brush (orrrr your fingerssss), brush the sides and tops of the each roll with the beaten egg. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, or to your face to be eaten.

weekday morning sufganiyot

autumn, breads, breakfast, desserts, snacks, spring, summer, vegetarian, winterFieldandForest7 Comments
field + forest | sufganiyot

This post came about weirdly. It began with me wanting to bake something and it ended with me making sufganiyot (also known as Israeli doughnuts, also known as one of the top ten most delicious things on the planet), but somewhere in the middle there I spent 45 minutes standing over the vent in the oven door while it "preheated," flipping through cookbooks in an under-caffeinated haze and wishing that something bread-like and cakey would magically appear in front of me. Every day, lately, has had enough cloudiness and post-holiday malaise to be a potential baking day, albeit one where I am always out of something where 99.9% of the time something = buttermilk.

Note to self: buy buttermilk always. Every time you go to the store. No more of this faking it with milk and lemon juice. Buy buttermilk. BUUUUY IIIIIIIT.

And when you don't buy buttermilk, buy yogurt so you can make sufganiyot.

If you haven't made sufganiyot before, there is no time like the present. Seriously. It will take you 5 minutes to make the batter, and a minute or two of panfrying on each side to get you straight to Doughnutland. Or Sufganiyotville. Or wherever you want to go so long as it is crispy and covered in powdered sugar.

Weekday Morning Sufganiyot (Israeli Doughnuts)
recipe courtesy of my mom <3
I would take these little fritters over raised glazed doughnuts any day. If someone tells you they are having a bad day, make them these; they will feel better. If you are having a bad day, make them for yourself; you will feel better. If you or someone else is having a good day, make them anyway! You have to eat breakfast, right?

1 1/2 cups flour
1 t. baking powder
1 T sugar
1 egg
1 cup yogurt
canola oil or ghee

Mix all ingredients together.  Heat oil or ghee in frying pan (enough to completely coat the bottom of the pan).  Once the oil is hot, drop tablespoons of batter into the pan.  Carefully flip when brown.  Briefly (for 5-10 seconds) rest cooked sufganiyot on a paper towel, roll in powdered sugar, and serve immediately with jam.

persimmon and spelt waffles

autumn, breads, breakfast, vegetarian, winterFieldandForestComment

It started snowing last night shortly after we went to bed. There is a narrow gap between the curtain rod and window frame in our bedroom, through which we can see the sky as we fall asleep; when it snows, occasionally a fat flake will fall in front of the sensor on porch light, startling it awake and illuminating the thousands of snowflakes slowly falling outside. I love watching the snow through my slice of a window while snuggled in bed. Having grown up on the west coast and having lived for years as an adult in a climate supportive of banana trees, I never thought I would love living in the snow, but I do, I really, really love it.  I am a Pacific Northwesterner at heart, and snow is usually the closest thing we get to fog and rain in the high desert. It helps me rationalize my wintertime yearnings for baked goods, braises, and beverages served in mugs (which, to me, are not the same taken on cloudless, sunny days).

I woke up early-ish (is 10:00am on a Sunday early?) this morning and made these waffles with the persimmons that have been slowly ripening on our counter for weeks.  They are reminiscent of one of Richard's mom's holiday cookie recipes, which are made with puréed persimmons mixed with cinnamon and cloves and flecked with raisins; the mounded batter bakes into tiny, delicate cakes which are best eaten straight from the oven with a tall glass of milk.  These waffles, too, are spiced and have a cake-like texture that nicely bridges Richard's love of waffles with my preference for pancakes.

Persimmons are a strange fruit, and normal logic doesn't always apply when using them in recipes. While Fuyu persimmons may be eaten at any stage of ripeness (and are especially good in salads when still firm), you should only eat a hard Hachiya or American persimmon if you are looking for an in-depth experience in astringency. It is when they look their worst that they are at their best, and their wrinkly skin hides flesh so sugar saturated that it has the translucence and sheen of warm apricot jam. Ripening the persimmons to this stage is called "bletting," and refers to the sweet spot in time between just-past-the-moment-when-you-think-they-are-ripe and decay, when the tannins normally present in the fruit have been almost completely replaced by sugars.  If you barely poked one of the persimmons I used with your finger, you would have left a permanent dent in its surface. You can leave hard persimmons on your counter to ripen; it may take anywhere from a few days to two weeks, so I would imagine that you could use pumpkin purée in their place in this recipe should you need instant waffle gratification.

Side note: Wikipedia has a fascinating paragraph about unripened persimmons, which will make you more comfortable with consuming both the off-looking fruit and Coca-cola; neat!

Persimmon and Spelt Waffles
adapted from Betty Rosbottom's buttermilk waffle recipe

1 cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
3/4 cup spelt flour or whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
generous 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 ripe Hachiya persimmons Milk (whole cow's milk or nut milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled (v option: replace with coconut oil)

Preheat a waffle iron; if you plan to make all of the waffles before serving time, preheat your oven to 200˚F.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs to break up the yolks and the whites.  Set both bowls aside.

Peel the persimmons using your hands; if the fruits are ripe, the skins should easily come away from the flesh.  Don't get too broken up about some flesh sticking to the skins, as you can gently scrape it off once the fruits have been peeled.  Discard the skins, or give them to your chickens (who will loooove you). If you have an immersion blender, place the persimmon pulp into a measuring cup which holds at least two cups of liquid, and purée the mixture thoroughly.  If you are using a stand blender, blend the persimmon pulp thoroughly, and pour into a measuring cup which holds at least two cups of liquid.  Add enough milk (cow or plant) to the measuring cup so that you have two cups liquid in total, then pour back into the blender (or use your immersion blender) to briefly blend again.

Pour the persimmon-milk mixture into the eggs, add the vanilla and melted butter, and whisk to blend.  Add the flour and spice mixture, and whisk just until the ingredients are combined and you no longer see any flour streaks.

Pour about 1/3-1/2 cup batter (depending on the size of your waffle iron) into the waffle iron, and gently spread the batter to within 1 inch from the edge.  Close the cover and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.  Serve the waffles immediately, or place them in a single layer on racks in the preheated oven while you finish with the remaining batter.

Topping ideas: If you told the six-year old me that I would ever like topping my waffles with something other than straight maple syrup, I would have thought you had a bat in your attic. But these days I'm really liking the fruit/syrup or fruit/nut/syrup combinations.  Keep in mind that persimmons are mild in flavor, so you'll want to use fruit that is equally mild (such as... more persimmons).  The pecans were from my never-ending quest to crack the code behind this pecan recipe, but it's your call whether you choose to include something similar.