13 October, 2011


Making bread is not a task to be entered into lightly. Until now I have shied away from making leavened bread, anything that needs to rise gives me pause. In my household we never used yeast, we used baking powder to make biscuits and cakes rise, but dinner rolls? They were always frozen.
Since I moved to Italy I have been forced to try new methods of baking; baking powder is no longer available and an oven is a rare commodity, this is limited baking taken to the extreme. What is available is yeast and loads of it, they even use it in cakes! So after much consideration, and an available oven, I tried my hand at bread baking, this is the day I made Challah!


¾ cup Water, Warm
1 tbsp. Sugar
1/3 cup honey
sprig of diced rosemary
1 package Active Dry Yeast
¼ cup Olive Oil
3 Eggs, Divided
¾ tbsp. Salt
3 cups All Purpose Flour

In a bowl, combine the warm water and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand for 5 minutes.
Do not stir the yeast for 5 minutes, just let it multiply.
Whisk in the oil, and then 2 of the eggs. Add 1/3 cup of honey, rosemary, salt, and whisk to combine. While stirring gradually add the flour and whisk.

Once the dough starts to come together, start kneading the dough, add as much flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking, it should become smooth in your hands.

Form the dough into a ball and place it a large greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a wet towel and let it sit in a warm place to rise for 2 hours.
I used the inside of the oven set on warm.

Now when it comes to braiding the Challah, that's where it gets a bit complicated. Now you can braid challah in several ways; you can opt for a simple 3 strand braid or you can do a more complicated 6 strand braid.
I have included a diagram from Krissy's Blog that explains the 6 strand braid extremely well. If you want to do the 3 strand, it's just like braiding hair, you girls know what I'm talking about.

The prettiest probably is the 6 strand, but make sure you pull all of the strands down as the braid will form on top of the strands going down. It's only decorative so have fun!
Divide the dough into 6 balls, and then roll each ball into a long 12-inch strand. You are now ready to braid the dough.

Continue the pattern until braided and then pinch the bottoms together.

Place bread braid on a properly oiled baking sheet or silicone matt, then beat the last egg and brush on top of the loaf.
Let the loaf sit out in a warm place for 1 hour, once again, the oven will work fine.
Preheat the oven to 375 F or 190 C.
Once the loaf it done rising again, brush the rest of the egg wash over the loaf and bake.
Be watchful that the bread does not burn, this process is very quick, around 20 minutes.

02 October, 2011

Market Day Pasta

Moving is never easy..

For the greater portion of my first month in Italy I was lost when it came to food. The grocery store across from my house left much to be desired, dusty cans and moldy produce made me dread my weekly shopping excursions. For 3 weeks I just chalked it up as a cultural experience and made the best of it because without a car my options were pretty limited. Then I found the market.
Mercato Trionfale is one of the biggest and cheapest markets in all of Rome, it also happens to be within walking distance of my house. The market boasts have dozens of stands selling everything from buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto, to fresh fruits and mushrooms. This is what shopping was meant to be.

One of my favorite meals I have deemed "market day pasta", it's a combination of the fresh pasta and vegetables that have become staples of my weekly market trips.

Market Day Pasta

2 tomatoes
2 japanese egg plants (or one medium eggplant)
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 pinches of dried red pepper flakes
1 cup of cauliflower
2 ounces smoked mozzarella
1/2 tablespoon rosemary
4-6 oz fresh fettucini

Place water to boil.

Using a cheese grater grate the egg plants and cauliflower florets, this makes almost a ground-beef like texture.
You may opt to slice some of the eggplant to add into the veggies for aesthetics.
Add to the pan with diced garlic, rosemary, olive oil, pepper flakes and diced tomatoes, sauté.

Once the water boils add the fettucini and leave in for one to two minutes.

Take two spoonfuls of pasta water and add to the vegetable sauté.

Drain the pasta and add to the vegetables.

Dice the mozzarella into small pieces and add to the pan, stir on medium heat until the cheese is melted.

Add salt and pepper flakes to taste.
Be careful adding salt, the smoked mozzarella can be very salty.

11 April, 2011


My refrigerator is full of condiments; marmalades, purees, curry paste, and homemade cheese- and there's a good reason for all of this, they can dress up the most modest of dishes. Smoked garlic puree and truffle oil elevate the simple grilled asparagus to addictive, Himalayan pink salt adds depth to popcorn or sweets, and nothing dresses up a meze platter of falafel and babaganoush like homemade marinated cheese.
Now nothing says, I have way too much time on my hands like "I make homemade marinated cheese.", and regardless of whether or not thats true, this dish simple to make and it's unique flavor and texture really add something special to platters and even simple sandwiches. The recipe allows for personal interpretations and tweaking, and though the process takes approximately 3 days, the actual assembly is extremely fast and simple.

Marinated Cheese
1 pint of plain greek yoghurt (I used Fage 2%)
2 or 3 kebab skewers
6 coffee filters
6 rubberbands
1 large mixing bowl with the kebab skewers can span the width of

Mix yoghurt with salt and desired spices (such as dill, garlic, or paprika). Use a spoon to dollop even amounts into the center of the coffee filters. Twist the tops of the coffee filters squeezing the yoghurt into a ball. and tie off with the rubberbands while using the slack of the rubberband to hang 3 coffee filter pouches on each skewer. Suspend the skewers across the bowl and leave refrigerated for three days (pouring out the water which collects in the bowl periodically).

2 small wide mouth jars
2 cups of olive oil
desired spices

Fill the bottoms of each jar with desired spices. Below to the left we used smoked paprika, chili flakes, salt, oregano, and cayenne pepper. Below to the right we used dill, thyme and herbs du provence. Fill the jars to half full with olive oil. Remove the yoghurt from the coffee filters and divide the cheese into balls of the desired size. You may roll the cheese in herbs or spices like the below right, or for a more mellow flavor leave them plain. Carefully place the balls into the middle of the jars. Fill the remainder of the jar with olive oil. You may seal these by boiling the cans but this will solidify the cheese for a more feta like flavor and texture. For a more spreadable cheese do not seal the cans, but ensure the cheese won't got bad by keeping it fully submerged in olive oil.

01 December, 2010


It's November 25th and I'm elbow deep in the cavity of a turkey that smells like whiskey, an appropriate introduction to the holidays. How I got here, I'll never really understand; a week ago Alin and I were discussing what we would do for the holidays and I suggested a full Thanksgiving meal for just the two of us and my pet dachshund. Apparently a full Thanksgiving meal seems to suggest a turkey. Now I'm never one to step down from a culinary challenge, but I admit, I flinched.

I decided to brine the bird; Alton Brown did it, and what the hell did I know about making a turkey? Brining a turkey involves emerging the bird in a salt water solution overnight (or longer) so that the turkey retains its moisture. Normally brines involve about a cup or so of salt; the turkey Alin bought was injected with a saline solution of 8% and I had read somewhere that brining turkey that already had been injected could make it too salty, so I erred on the side of caution and used only 1/4 cup or so of salt. From what I could tell of turkey brine recipes, they're kind of like pickling brines, as long as you have the basics, the rest is up to you. So I just threw together a quick brine that seemed like it would work.

1 cup white vinegar

1/4-1/3 salt

1/2 cup whiskey

2 tbsp dried rosemary

2 tbsp peppercorns

water to fill the rest of the pot.

Maybe I'm a child, but preparing the turkey was one of the most challenging activities I've ever taken part in. The turkey kept leaking red liquid, and I couldn't gather up enough courage to actually reach into the turkey to remove the "giblets". Morbid images of turkey organs being torn away from bones floated through my mind. Were they just floating in there? Of course as I found myself in the midst of a turkey crisis the boyfriend wouldn't answer his phone and I was on my own. Eventually shaking the bird in the sink rendered a small paper bag of, what I assume to be the giblets and also the source of the red leaking. Proud of my heroic removal of the turkey guts I quickly grabbed the turkey and shoved it in my stock pot with the brine, of course it didn't fit. The lid wouldn't go on, and the more I shoved the turkey, the more gross the whole situation became. Brine was sloshing everywhere, and as hard as I tried to be conscious of the health risks associated with raw poultry bacteria, everything in my tiny kitchen soon became covered in smelly turkey/whiskey juice. At one point I pushed the bird down and one of the bones made a popping noise, I admitted defeat and just conceded to put a bowl over the top in the refrigerator and rotate the turkey every 12 hours.

Check the pot size before adding the brine.

The big day was just as trying. After removing the turkey from the brine and washing it in the sink, I became aware of another problem, the neck. Why they include the neck of the turkey with the package, I couldn't possibly tell you. What I can tell you is it looks like something that could have been used as a prop for staged alien autopsy. Sadly the shaking technique didn't render the same results as with the giblets, so here I am, probing a turkey, and crying out of sheer exhaustion. Martha Stewart must have nerves of steel.

Buy tongs.

Alin finally called, and alarmed by a panicked girlfriend made his way to my house. Everything went much more smoothly with support. We inserted butter and rosemary just under the skin like I'd once seen Martha Stewart do to a chicken, and I filled the cavity with the leftovers from making the dressing, celery, garlic, and an onion half. With the turkey finally assembled, we could finally relax. I periodically basted the top with a mixture of honey, whiskey, garlic, and olive oil. After 2 hours of cooking at 325F I covered the turkey in foil and let it cook the remaining hour until the red button popped up. We walked it to my mother's house who "just had to see this", and though I didn't eat any, I beamed with pride from my accomplishment. Everyone enjoyed the turkey and no one came down with food poisoning; I consider this a success.

Whitney's Thanksgiving Menu

Mulled Cider

Drunk Turkey

Jalapeño Cornbread Dressing

Green Bean Casserole

Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes with vegetarian gravy

Handmade Cranberry Sauce

Cheese Cake

22 November, 2010

Can it.

My mother doesn't have a garden, she doesn't knit, and I've yet to see her can anything. I have grown up in a generation where I know at one point people did these things, but that was a long time ago. Perhaps that is why I look to these antiquated chores as demonstrations of domestic mastery and overall productive uses of time; I'd like to call this the Modern Female Fallacy; welcome.

Step one: Canning.
Canning is a way of preserving organic material by creating a vacuum within a can. In this case, mason jars. You can can many things, but while creating the vacuum the cans must be heated and thus the insides of the can will be heated also, so don't add anything that would ruin once heated.
What you'll need:
Something to can..
Jars with two piece lids
large pot or canning pan

Step two: Pickling.
Pickling is a way of using salt and vinegar to preserve organic matter. Pickling allows for improvisation, as long as you have the basics of white vinegar and salt the rest of the seasonings are up to you. You can really pickle anything, limes, okra, pigs feet, but lets not sink into vulgarity, here's a recipe for pickled okra.
4 canning jars
2lbs of fresh okra
1 cup white vinegar
2 cups water
1/3 cup pickling salt
1 tbsp dill
1 tbsp peppercorns
4 chilies
1 tsp mustard seeds (or powder)
Using mustard powder instead of seeds will cause your pickling brine to be cloudy, which is apparently undesirable, but I don't really mind either way.
Arrange the okra, pepper, peppercorns, and mustard in the sterilized jars. Boil the vinegar, water, and dill for 5 minutes. Once finished fill the jars with the vinegar brine, fill up to 1/8 inch below the lip. Carefully apply the lids and tighten. Wipe the jars and place in a large pot, fill the pot with water so that the lids are submerged by at least an inch of water.
This is easier accomplished by adding the water with the cans already in the pot, so that you don't heat more water than you need.
Boil for 5-10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars and let sit. If the lids dimple in the canning has worked, if the lid puffs, then you need to refrigerate the cans and eat the contents within the week.

Up next, marmalade.

19 August, 2010

Senorita, Margarita?

There are some people who "can't do tequila" a statement often accompanied by a horror story involving an "insane night" where things went "so wrong so fast"; I am not one of those people. I would go so far as to say I like tequila. It's a versatile liquor; you can spring for expensive tequila like Patron or 1800 to sip or grab a mid-range Tequila which will prove a flavorful addition to a number of tequila based mixed drinks. But lets just be honest here.. there is only one tequila mixed drink, the Margarita, because there doesn't need to be anything else (okay so maybe that's not true, there are other tequila based drinks, but this blog entry isn't about them and there's a reason for that).
The International Bartender's Association lists a margarita as a 7:4:3 ratio of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice, but a more common ratio is 2:1:1.
Often the lime juice is replaced by sour mix which is a mix of lime juice and sugar which, in my opinion, is never a good idea. Sour mix is cheaper and often on a bar tap where as squeezing limes by hand might just be a little too time consuming for some places.
The margarita, in its purest form is an elongated tequila shot. As anyone who's ever been to Mexico or college can tell you, a shot of tequila is normally accompanied by two things, a lime and salt.
This tradition came from Mexicans using salt and citrus juice to dilute the after burn of the tequila.
By adding sugar and mixing the lime juice into the tequila the margarita became the modern man's sip-able tequila shot.
Now where the margarita comes from is a bit of a mystery; most stories concur that a bartender (somewhere in Mexico) was inspired by an actress or otherwise beautiful woman and thus created this cocktail in her honor, sometime in the early to mid twentieth century. One story even suggests that the cocktail was invented in Galveston, Texas (which is upsetting on several levels). Though the romanticism of it all is appreciated I would venture to say that there is no real story of the invention of such a cocktail. Much like inventing the sandwich or buttered bread rolls; how can one claim responsibility for a combination so natural?
Margaritas come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. There are the traditional lime margaritas, which come frozen, on the rocks, or straight up (without ice at all). Flavored margaritas are also offered at many places and usually are the product of frozen fruit being added to the margarita when blended with ice. In places like Texas there have been many deviations in the margarita front, due to the large number of Mexican restaurants all hoping to offer something unique. Here are a few of my favorites:
    The Margatini (Orlando's)
    • 2 parts tequilla
    • 1 part amaretto
    • 1 part olive juice
    • 1 part sweetened lime juice
    • touch of vermouth
    • olives
    Served shaken from a martini shaker into a martini glass with salt on the rim.

    The DosaRita (Ruby Tequila's)
    • A traditional frozen margarita with a DosXX's beer turned upside down in the glass.
    The Pineapple Infusion Margarita
    • 2 parts pineapple infused tequila (where pineapple has been left in the tequila for an amount of time)
    • 1 part grandmanier
    • piece of vanilla bean
    Served on the rocks with salt (or sugar) on the rim.

    The Purist Margarita
    • 2 parts 1800 tequila
    • 1 part fresh lime juice
    • 1 part Grand Marnier
    • lime wedges squeezed and left in the glass
    Served on the rocks with a salted rim, on the beach, with a smile.

    03 August, 2010

    Name that cookie...

    Bored in the bakery and started a new trend of decorating; name that cookie!!
    Because sometimes spinning on the big wheeled drums of powdered sugar gets old.