Thursday, January 29, 2009

Anchovies and Bagna Cauda

Anchovies. It’s a food that can bring thoughts of revulsion to many, along with memories of bad pizza experiences and those smelly, brown, tinned things that bear no resemblance to actual fish. And yes – anchovies are actual fish. A fact that is, surprisingly, news to some. But served fresh or preserved properly, they are somewhat sweet and quite good in many applications.

I picked up a pack of white anchovies from Spain for my pressed baguette sandwich. They were not cheap and therefore I wanted to be sure to find a good use for the remaining filets.

Enter Bagna Cauda. It’s an Italian dip that is traditionally served with fresh vegetables. I added a loaf of homemade bread and sautéed shrimp to my Bagna Cauda platter and a light lunch was served. Interestingly, I found that the veggies were not a very good pairing for the dip. However, the homemade bread and shrimp were fantastic. Aside from anchovies, the dip is made up of butter, olive oil and garlic – always a delicious sauce for bread and shrimp.

I saved my leftover Bagna Cauda to toss with pasta. All it needed was a light sprinkling of parmesan and I had a great dish. Two dishes for the price (and effort) of one. Love that!

Bagna Cauda
Makes about 1 cup

1/2 cup good quality olive oil
4 – 6 cloves garlic
12 white anchovy filets
1 oz butter (1/4 of a stick)

Heat the olive oil in a small pan over medium heat and add the anchovy filets. Stir occasionally until the anchovies begin to dissolve in the oil. While you’re waiting for the filets to dissolve, use a microplane to grate the garlic cloves into the sauce. Let everything simmer together for 8 – 10 minutes and then finish by stirring in the butter. This sauce needs to stay hot so serve it in a butter warmer or other dish that has a heat source. Serve with what you like, but I recommend the shrimp and fresh bread.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Best New Food Blog of 2008

Wow. I am floored. Apples and Butter has been named the Best New Food Blog of 2008 by The Well Fed Network and all of you who voted! Thank you so much to everyone who voted for Apples and Butter over the past week. I am thrilled!

I started Apples and Butter last June simply because I had been thinking about writing a food blog for at least two years and on that one Sunday afternoon, was finally inspired enough to just sit down and start writing. If you're considering starting your own, stop waiting and do it!

It has been so much fun getting to know the blogging community and to read about your adventures in the kitchen as I post my own stories. Make sure to stop by the other four blogs that were nominated for Well Fed's Best New Food Blog. They are all great and deserve having you as readers.

Thanks again everyone and here's to a lot more food and fun in 2009!


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Homemade Cherry Compote

The St. Agur ice cream needed something sweet to offset the pungent blue cheese flavor. Much like you would serve fruit on a cheese platter, this cherry compote was the perfect accompaniment and very simple to make. A simple syrup is cooked and combined with the cherries and a little balsamic vinegar. Delicious.

I have not cooked with cherries very much in the past and actually only bought them because I thought the red color would be such a beautiful contrast to the blue flecks in the ice cream. Since I don’t work with them a lot, I don’t have a cherry pitter, but after some research online, found a very useful tip that works perfectly for me. So much so that I will not be purchasing a cherry pitter, even though I love any reason to at all to buy a new kitchen tool. It involves nothing more than the small end of a pastry bag tip and I believe (according to the conversation on Chowhound) that this tip originates from Martha Stewart. Check out the pictures below for directions.

This compote also would be great along side many other desserts as well as breakfast foods like pancakes and waffles.

Cherry Compote

2 cups pitted sweet cherries
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 T balsamic vinegar

Mix water and sugar together over medium heat until fully combined. Allow the syrup to simmer over medium heat until the sugar just begins to darken to a very light caramel color, about five minutes. Add the cherries and cook for two minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook until the cherries have softened and the syrup has thickened. Remove the compote from the heat and allow to cool slightly before serving with St. Agur ice cream.

Pitting Cherries with a Pastry Tip


Remove stem and place small end of pastry tip around the stem-base.

Press pastry tip firmly into cherry and rotate to the left and right to loosen the pit.

Pull the pastry tip out, making sure the pit comes with it (if it doesn’t, rotate a few more times to make sure it is separated from the rest of the cherry). Let the pit fall out the back of the pastry tip into a bowl and discard.

Your cherry is pitted and ready for compote. Now all you have to do is repeat this process about forty more times!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

St. Agur Ice Cream and the Davids


Inspiration can come from many places. I find that most often, my inspiration comes from my fellow foodies: the journalists that cover the latest trends in food, the chefs who create the amazing foods we enjoy when dining out, and as of late, David, my cheese dealer* at Surfas.

David and I see each other at least once a week and always pause to talk about food. The other night he was regaling me with the story of the delicious Roquefort ice cream his co-worker Alyson recently made. I knew I had to have some. I also knew that I still had a wedge of St. Agur sitting in my fridge that David had made me try the last time I was at Surfas. It’s the creamiest blue I’ve ever tasted and while pungent, not overpowering. I knew it would be perfect for ice cream.

Not having worked with a lot of savory ice creams before, I turned to David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop. He was the pastry chef at Chez Panisse and his book is an amazing collection of ice cream, sorbets, sherbets and mix-ins. If you have an ice cream maker, you need this book. You also can check out his blog at David Lebovitz.

As I knew it would, David’s book has a recipe for Roquefort ice cream. I changed very little about the recipe aside from replacing the Roquefort with St. Agur and reducing the amount of honey. I wanted the cheese to be the star and was worried the honey would add too much sweetness. It was absolutely delicious. Not your typical ice cream by any stretch of the imagination and certainly something you would only want to serve to your more adventurous guests. I served mine with a homemade cherry compote (recipe forthcoming). The sugar in the compote adds some of the sweetness you expect from ice cream to offset the surprise you feel when tasting blue cheese.


St. Agur Ice Cream

1 cup milk
4 egg yolks
4 oz St. Agur, crumbled
4 T honey
1 cup heavy cream

Warm the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl. Slowly drizzle warmed milk into the yolks while whisking constantly to avoid cooking the yolks. Return the milk mixture to the saucepan and heat over medium-low, stirring constantly, until the custard cooks and coats the back of a spatula. Add about three ounces of the St. Agur to a medium bowl and place a mesh strainer on top. Strain the milk mixture into the bowl with the St. Agur and stir to combine. Add in honey and heavy cream and chill thoroughly. Once the mixture is chilled, stir in the remaining ounce of crumbled St. Agur and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s directions.

Note: If you can’t find or don’t have St. Agur, you can use any blue you like. Though the splurge on a good-quality blue like St. Agur will definitely make a difference here.

*The inference that David is somewhat like a drug dealer is not accidental. The first taste is free with David, but that’s how he gets you hooked and after that you’ll be back for more again and again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Well Fed's Food Blog Awards

Just a quick note to let everyone know that Apples and Butter has been nominated for the Well Fed Network's Food Blog Awards - Best New Food Blog. Thank you to everyone who participated in the nominations and to the judges who thought Apples and Butter deserved a spot in the running! If you want to vote, head on over to the Well Fed Network and check out all the different categories and vote for your favorite blogs. Apples and Butter is nominated in the Best Food Blog - New category. Thank you everyone for checking it out!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Soft Boiled Eggs

Now, this may seem like a very simple thing, and indeed it is, but I had wondered for years how to get that nice, runny yolk so that I could place the egg on top of a salad, break it open and let that gorgeous, rich yolk run all over. Perhaps you have too.

I poach eggs all the time for breakfast, but this is something all together different. Gently simmered in the shell, for just long enough to form a solid white, the yolk starts to come together, but is left very much liquid. The result is something magical that adds a richness to salads, is perfect over toast or on its own with just a sprinkling of salt.

Bring a small pot of water to a bare simmer. Lower the eggs into the pot gently with a slotted spoon. You can cook as many eggs as will fit in the pot in one layer. As soon as you see the first bubble come up as the water returns to a simmer, start timing. Five minutes was perfect for my rather large eggs, but if you have smaller eggs, or if you're cooking a lot at once, start taking them out a bit sooner. Immediately plunge the eggs into cold water and let the water run over them until the eggs are cool, to ensure they have stopped cooking. Peel the eggs, very gingerly, and serve as desired.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Making ricotta at home is something that never really occured to me, but I have fantasies about raising goats and sheep in my backyard to make my own cheese. So, when I saw Bon Appetit's article on making ricotta, I knew I had to give it a try. Perhaps I would find something to quell the at-home cheesemaking craving until I can buy that farm in Oregon.

Ricotta isn't technically a cheese. Literally translated to mean "recooked," ricotta is made from whey, the by-product of cheese-making. Since I am still without that backyard herd and as such, whey-less, I used Bon Appetit's method of adding salt and lemon juice to milk to create the curds that form ricotta.

If you're going to try this at home (and by all means, you should), unlike me, make sure you pay attention to Bon Appetit's recommendation that you only drain the ricotta for a minute or two and cover it when you put it in the fridge to cool. Although it looked moist to start, my ricotta ended up drier than I would have liked. It still tasted great and worked well with the pesto and broccoli that I served it with.

This may not take the place of having my own farm where I can raise goats to make my own cheese, but it sure tastes good in the meantime. Enjoy!

Homemade Ricotta
As laid out in Bon Appetit, January 2009

8 cups whole milk
1 t salt
3 T lemon juice

Bring milk and salt to a simmer in a heavy bottomed saucepan. While milk is heating, place four layers of cheesecloth in a colander over a medium bowl. When milk comes to a simmer, pour in lemon juice and continue to simmer until curds form. Use a metal skimmer to lift the curds out and transfer to the prepared colander. Let the curds drain for just a minute or two (really - they will dry out more as they cool) and transfer them to a small bowl. Cover with saran wrap and place in the fridge to cool.


Serve ricotta on freshly made bread with a drizzle of honey or in place of the goat cheese in this simple dessert. The day I made the ricotta, I had just brought home some broccoli rabe. I steamed the broccoli and tossed it with a mixture of the fresh ricotta and leftover arugula pesto.


Monday, January 12, 2009

At Last - Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day


I consider myself a modern woman. I live alone and work hard to pay my rent and all of my own bills. I have found that where my true passions lie are in the kitchen and the modern work schedule certainly doesn't allow for days spent there, slow simmering and prepping everything from scratch. While I get to fill my weekends with long, drawn-out preparations and cooking the way I would cook every day if I had time, I wish I could do that more often during the week.

I've found one way to bring the feeling of cooking all day to the weeknights, in one of my most treasured Christmas gifts, the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It gives readers a chance to have the pleasure of homemade, prepared-from-scratch bread, while taking into account the limited time most of us have to spend in the kitchen. I know this book is not news to most of those in the food blogging community, but it has been such a delight in my kitchen, that I had to share it here, just in case you have not heard of it or have yet to pick it up.

I have barely scratched the surface of this marvelous book and already I am in love. Before getting this book, I had made a number of bread recipes at home and none turned out as well as even the first loaf I made from the master recipe. I have already blown through the first batch of dough and the second one is sitting in my fridge at this very moment. I'm trying to wait as long as I can to let the flavors develop, but the desire to use it all immediately is strong.

If you want more information on the book go to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes Day. The authors share great recipes and tips on how to get the most out of the book. I'm not comfortable sharing their master recipe (as it is one of the main points of getting the book), but trust me, you will not be disappointed if you make this purchase. In lieu of the master recipe, I'm posting the pressed sandwiches I made with my first batch of baguettes. If you're not interested in baking, by all means, pick up a baguette at the grocery store and be done with it, but you'll be missing out on the satisfaction that baking your own bread from scratch can give.


If you're not a fan of anchovies, substitute 3/4 cup good quality, Italian tuna packed in olive oil. If you want to use the anchovies, make sure you splurge on the good quality white anchovies found in gourmet food shops or from your deli counter. Do not settle for the over-salted, low-quality product found in tins in your grocery aisle. They are completely different in flavor and you would be better off using tuna instead.

Pressed Baguette Sandwiches
Inspired by and loosely based on Amy Scattergood's article in the LA Times

1 baguette, approximately 1 1/2 feet in length
10 - 12 white anchovies
1/2 cup arugula walnut pesto (recipe follows)
2 soft boiled eggs
4 slices of bacon, fried until crispy
1 medium boiling potato
1 T lemon juice
1 T red wine vinegar
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
2 T olive oil
Handful of arugula leaves

Cut the baguette in half lengthwise and scoop out some of the crumb (interior) to make room for all of your fillings. Spread the pesto on the bottom half of the baguette and lay the anchovies on top. Slice the potato thinly and layer across the anchovies. Depending how softly your eggs were boiled, slice or crumble the eggs and yolk and lay them over the sandwich. Cut the bacon slices in half and place them over the eggs.

Whisk the lemon juice, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper together in a bowl, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking to emulsify the dressing. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the sandwich and finish with the arugula leaves. Top your sandwich with the other baguette half and wrap with plastic wrap. Put the baguette on a half sheet pan and place a baking dish over the sandwich. Weight the baking dish with canned food and place the whole thing in the fridge to sit over night.

A few hours before eating, remove the baguette from the fridge and let come to room temperature. Cut the baguette in half and serve wrapped in parchment paper.


Arugula Walnut Pesto
Makes 1 1/2 cups

2 + cups of packed arugula
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1 t salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup + 2 T parmesan romano blend, grated

Place first five ingredients in a food processor and puree until creamy. Stir parmesan romano in by hand and serve.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Vinegar Cucumbers - Homemade Pickles

It may be my southern roots or the food that I was raised on, but there is no doubt, that I am a sucker for salt. I had the opportunity to take a great cooking class for amateurs and the chef was always reminding the other students to season their food - this was not something I had a problem with. And while I think proper seasoning is one of the fundamentals of good cooking, I always try to stop just short of where I think the salt level should be. I can always add more at the table and I want to be sure I don't over do it.

So, it should be no surprise that I've been doing some salt-focused dishes lately. The salt-cured salmon is a definite keeper, as are these vinegar and salt-cured cucumbers, aka pickles!

These could not be simpler and the flavor is great. If you don't love rice wine vinegar, experiment with other varieties and let me know how it turns out. Seasoned rice vinegar is simply rice wine vinegar that already has sugar mixed into it. It's commonly used in sushi preparation to season the sushi rice. If you can't find it, grab a bottle of rice vinegar and stir in about 2 T of sugar before pouring over the cucumbers.

Vinegar Cucumbers

4 lebanese cucumbers
2 t kosher flake salt
2 cups seasoned rice vinegar

Slice cucumbers thinly. Place the cucumbers in a small bowl and add the salt, stirring to combine. Let the salted cucumbers sit for 20 minutes and then rinse thoroughly. Cover with boiling water, then drain. Place cucumbers in a mason jar or other storage jar and cover with seasoned rice vinegar. These will keep for a week or two in the fridge.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Lemon Thyme Sorbet

A frozen dessert is not the obvious choice to end a dinner served in January. Living in the moderate climate of Southern California had something to do with it, but the main reason was trying to find a lighter finish to a rather heavy meal and I think this was the perfect end to our dinner. For me at least. You can ask my dinner guests for their opinion. 

We paired the tartness of the sorbet with raspberries and blackberries and to add a hint of sophistication, thyme sprigs are steeped with the lemon zest and sugar before the sorbet is frozen. The herb flavor is very light and I will steep more sprigs the next time I make this dish. If you're up for it, go heavy on the thyme. For a moment I considered leaving thyme leaves in the mixture to complement the beautiful flecks of yellow you get from the lemon zest, but ultimately decided against it. Let me know if you go for it. I'd love to know how it tastes!

Lemon Thyme Sorbet
Makes 1 pint

2 1/2 cups water
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup sugar
zest from 2 lemons
4 thyme sprigs

Mix water and sugar together and bring to a simmer with the thyme sprigs. While the water and sugar mixture is warming, zest two lemons and add the zest to the pot. Simmer very gently until the thyme is fragrant. Chill mixture thoroughly (with the thyme sprigs still in the mixture). Juice enough lemons to get one cup of lemon juice (about six lemons depending on size). Add the lemon juice to the chilled syrup, remove the thyme sprigs and freeze according to your ice cream makers instructions.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Beef Wellington

It's hard to believe that the holidays have already passed us by. I tried to hold onto them as long as I could by hosting a dinner party on January 1st to celebrate the new year. Special occasions like this call for once-a-year special dishes and for me, Beef Wellington is definitely a show-stopper. Aside from the exceptionally expensive cut of meat the dish calls for, you can spend an entire afternoon going through all of the steps. Of course, that's often a positive for me. I love the whole process. The step by step of putting together an elaborate dish is my happy place. For a brief afternoon, there is nothing else going on in the world other than what's happening in my kitchen and I love that.

It's been almost three years since I last made a Beef Wellington and I needed a new recipe. I settled on Tyler Florence's "Ultimate" recipe. I have yet to be disappointed by a dish in that series and I did not want to risk this three-pound beef loin on an unknown. He did not disappoint this time around. I will keep this recipe exactly as is the next time I make it. If you're cooking for less than eight people, by all means, save some money and get a smaller beef loin.

Beef Wellington
Serves 8
Adapted from Tyler Florence

1 1/2 pounds button mushrooms
2 shallots, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
leaves from 8 thyme sprigs
2 T butter
2 T olive oil + more for loin
3-pound beef loin
10 - 12 slices prosciutto
2 T dijon mustard
1 pound puff pastry + flour for rolling out
1 egg for an egg wash
salt and pepper for seasoning to taste

Place shallots, garlic, mushrooms and 1/4 of the thyme leaves in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Heat butter and olive oil in a pan large enough to hold your beef loin and add the mushroom mixture. Saute until most of the liquid has evaporated (this took me more than 20 minutes). Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

Secure the tenderloin with kitchen twine in a few places, to help it keep its shape. Rub with olive oil, salt and pepper. Remove mushroom mixture from the pan and heat a small amount of olive oil in the same pan. Sear the tenderloin on all sides until starting to brown. Remove from the pan and let cool slightly. 

While the tenderloin is searing, set out a large piece of saran wrap and shingle the prosciutto into a rectangle large enough to wrap around the whole tenderloin. Spread the cooled mushroom mixture over the prosciutto and season lightly with salt and pepper and the remaining thyme leaves (see photo below). Cut the twine off the tenderloin and rub with the dijon mustard. Lay the beef in the middle of the prosciutto rectangle and roll up to cover the beef. Place the whole roll in the fridge for 20 - 30 minutes to help the mixture hold its shape.

Preheat the oven to 425*. Roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle large enough to fully encase the beef. If you're working with smaller sheets of pastry, you may need to overlap them. Remove the beef from the fridge and remove the saran wrap. Place the beef in the puff pastry and roll up, using some of the egg wash to seal the bottom as well as the ends. Place the roll on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat, seam side down. Cut four small slits in the top to help release steam. If you have extra pastry from the ends of the roll, you can cut out decorative pieces to place on top. Brush the puff pastry shell with the egg wash and place the beef in the oven for 40 - 45 minutes until an thermometer registers at least 125*. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before slicing so the juices can redistribute. Enjoy!