I Tried To Invent A Pudding

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Ok, the election is over, we can all breathe a heavy sigh of relief, and move on with our lives. What better way to move on than to try to invent a pudding?

After making Elise’s foolproof recipe for chocolate pudding (click here) several times–it’s become something of a staple in our home–I began to think deeply about the process. “Ok,” I thought, ” to make chocolate pudding you put milk in a pot with sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and a pinch of salt. You heat and whisk vigorously until it gets really thick, then you add an egg and some more chocolate and put in ramekins or mugs and refrigerate. That’s all you do.”

My thoughts continued: “So why can’t I just put anything I want in milk, add cornstarch and sugar and a pinch of salt, and make whatever kind of pudding I can dream up? Why can’t I invent my own pudding?”

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Seared Scallops with Citrus Risotto

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Visions of food sometimes arrive and you wave them away like an annoying fly. “Why am I craving lobster bisque right now?” you ask yourself while castrating a horse. “Get that craving out of my head!”

But what you don’t realize, person who is reading this, is that a craving is a gift, assistance from the great beyond advising you on what precisely you are crying out for in the deepest, most desperate part of your soul.

Take the experience I had yesterday. I was leaving work at Food Network (you have to call it Food Network, not “The Food Network” or you get fired) and I walked past the seafood store down there in the Chelsea Market and I had a vision of scallops on a citrus risotto. Was I craving this? Not necessarily. Did I really want scallops for dinner? Maybe, I wasn’t sure. But that vision was insistent. “You must make me,” the vision kept saying. “Scallops and citrus risotto is what you will eat.”

Finally, I caved and bought a pound of large, diver scallops which I brought back on the subway (my lucky subway neighbors!) and when I got off the train I hurried home to look up the citrus risotto from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook. I also read about it online and after reading my friend Heidi’s post on the recipe (a basic risotto recipe with grapefruit and lime segments added in) I took her conclusion to heart: “god, this would be great with oranges or lemons.”

I made a citrus risotto with lime segments, grapefruit segements and the segments and juice from a navel orange. I seared the scallops Batali-style in a non-stick skillet. And friends, believe me when I tell you, this dinner was a triumph.

I know it’s a triumph because Craig’s reaction to a pretty good meal is often a head-nod; his reaction to a triumph is: “Oh my God, this is so good. What did you put in this? I love this.”

Don’t thank me, Craig: thank my vision. What follows is how you can realize my vision at home….

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Is this better?

For those of you who told me to resize my pictures, my wonderful design team–Leah & Justin–walked me through the process and now we can compare the results. This is how a picture used to appear on my site:

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And this is what it looks like when I resize it in iPhoto to have a 425 width before uploading to Flickr:

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Is the second one better? To me they look exactly the same–but I’m not very image savvy.

And in case you’re wondering what you’re looking at–last week I made a vegetarian chili I found on Epicurious (recipe here) and served it with Dorie Greenspan’s magnificent cornbread muffins, a recipe I almost made again today (which you can find here on Serious Eats).

Cassoulet in 10 Easy Steps

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When Anthony Bourdain cooks with Michael Ruhlman on the Cleveland episode of “No Reservations,” he layers meat and beans together in a giant drum, tops the whole thing off with breadcrumbs and produces a dish most of us aren’t used to seeing on Food TV (and I say that as someone who now works for Food TV): a classic French cassoulet that’d put Julia Child to shame.

Cassoulet is a dish that just makes sense. Why does it make sense? You take fatty, flavorful meat, put it in a big pot with moisture-hungry beans and bake the whole thing until the beans are infused with all that fat and flavor and the meat is cooked. It’s not meant to be a fancy dish–this is the kind of food French people make at home–and it’s infinitely variable, as evidenced by the infinite cassoulet recipes you will find in my infinite cookbook collection, recipes that vary the type of meat, the type of bean, even the amount of time it takes to make the dish (Bourdain’s recipe, in his “Les Halles Cookbook,” calls for three days). I didn’t have three days to spare on Friday night when I set out to make my very first cassoulet. So I turned to an under-praised, underused book in my collection: Daniel Boulud’s “Daniel’s Dish: Entertaining at Home with a Four-Star Chef”.

It’s a great recipe for its simplicity (it’s called “Casual Cassoulet”) and yet the recipe has a serious flaw: it’s meant to be cooked in a 15-Qt Dutch Oven. I completely missed that part when I shopped for my ingredients, so I prepped enough food for a pot 3X bigger than the one I had. Therefore, the recipe that follows is my adaptation of Daniel’s recipe for Dutch Ovens of a more realistic size. Daniel’s recipe calls for lamb shoulder, but I left that out too: sausage + duck + bacon = plenty of meat for one dish, thank you very much.

Since winter’s almost over, this is the perfect dish to make on one of our last cold winter’s nights. I promise it’s easy and I promise the pay-off is big. And so, without further ado, Cassoulet in 10 Easy Steps.

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Homemade Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Rosemary & Gorgonzola

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Sometimes the name of a dish sounds so intimidating your immediate reaction is: “Pish posh! I can’t make that! And why did I just say pish posh?”

Such might be the case with the pizza you see above. You hear “pizza” and that doesn’t sound so difficult, but you add “caramelized onions, rosemary and gorgonzola” and you feel like you’re on Planet Impossible. Well come back to Earth, Earthling, and let me assure you: that pizza you see above may SOUND difficult, but it’s really a cinch. Here, let me convince you.

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Killer Salads

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I’ve been making some killer dinner salads lately and I’d like to share with you my technique.

I subscribe to the “stuff” philosophy of salad-making which is, essentially, that the best part of a salad is the “stuff,” not the lettuce. So my salads have no lettuce: just lots of stuff mixed together in a bowl with a homemade vinaigrette. The salad above, for example, has chopped up carrots, peppers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, bacon, avocado and blue cheese. The salad below, on the other hand, has peppers, carrots, onions, green beans, and chickpeas:

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So here’s how I make a great salad. Buy your ingredients–they don’t have to be fancy or even from the farmer’s market, I got mine from my crappy Key Foods–bring them home and wash them and dry them well. Then cut your ingredients into big pieces and throw them into a bowl.

In a smaller bowl, place an egg yolk (that’s my dressing secret), a big spoonful of spicy French mustard and about 2 Tbs of balsamic vinegar with salt and pepper and whisk together. Then, slowly, drizzle in–drop by drop–your favorite olive oil, whisking all the time. If you do it correctly, it’ll stay thick and emulsified and you’ll ahve a creamy, tangy, colorful dressing for which to dress your salad.

Then pour about half the dressing over the vegetables, crumble on some really good blue cheese (the kind that has a name–like Danish Blue, which I used), grind some pepper over the bowl and mix it all together with a big spoon. Taste a bite and see if it needs more dressing, if it needs more cheese. Adjust accordingly and serve with some crusty bread which you’ve heated in the oven.

It may not be the healthiest salad on the block, but its certainly a healthier alternative to that fast food burger you were thinking of scarfing down from immoral cows.

Bon appetit.

Orangette’s Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad with Tahini

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Going through old pictures, just now, I found the picture you see above and smacked my lips at the memory: “Hey!” my brain sang out. “That’s that delicious butternut squash and chickpea salad with tahini you made from Orangette’s website.”

According to the picture, I made this on December 19th. So please follow this link to Orangette’s recipe (it’s an adapted recipe, so lets not give her ALL the credit) and take a picture, date it, and bury it away so you can have the same experience I just had. Then make it again as I plan to make it again quite soon.