Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In Instagram: Coffee & Pie (Ottolenghi and Tamimi's Jerusalem Herb Pie)...and link love!

It's been almost 15 years since my mother escorted me on a 3-day road-trip from New York City to Madison, Wisconsin, which is where I originally started law school (this was long before I realized that I did not actually want to be an attorney). And it was on that road-trip that I figured out just how different we sounded from some of our Midwestern countrymen. Less me, more my mother. 
My mother's accent is 100% pure Bronx. She grew up in the 1950s and 60s on the Grand Concourse (which if you're wondering, does have the second largest collection of Art Deco architecture outside of Miami). The accent is very particular and it's distinct from its more popularized Brooklyn counterpart. As for my accent, I like to think that I don't really have one. Maybe it's slightly more pronounced if I drink a few glasses of wine, or right after I've talked with my mother on the phone. But for the most part, I think that I can 'pass' as someone who is generally from the Northeast, or mid-Atlantic...unless I say the words dog, ball or coffee...
..which brings me to Novo Coffee. They're one of the top 10 roasters in the country, and they happen to roast right here in Denver. Their coffee is served at some of the city's top restaurants, but there aren't too many places where you can buy their beans retail. So I was happy to discover that their warehouse is open on Friday between 1 and 3 pm for retail purchases. (I'd call before you go- just to confirm.)
Last month I finally found some time to check it out. I was greeted by Herb Brodsky, a co-founder of Novo. And it took me less than a minute to peg his accent... 
This Bronx-born coffee roaster relocated to Denver back in 1995 and started his business shortly thereafter. But geographic kinship aside, Novo roasts some of the best beans I've ever tasted- thanks in part to their master-roaster Erich Rosenberg. My boys and I toured the facility and I schmoozed with Herb. And for a brief moment he suspected that he had dated my mother. But there were lots of ladies with the surname Goldstein in the Bronx in those days, so it was an easy mistake to make. It turns out they never dated.
On the hunt for more good coffee and/or cappuccino, I also found The Humble Pie, which is located in the Baker Historic District of the city. In addition to great coffee, they also have some of the best pies around. There are savory and sweet options, so obviously I got one of each.
Feeling inspired by both coffee and pie, I decided to drink a nice cup of joe while scouring my favorite blogs and cookbooks for some pie ideas. I found an herb pie recipe from Jerusalem that looked so good, I just had to make it...even though it's a bit different from the pies that originally inspired me at The Humble Pie.
I hope you like this pick. It reminds me (a bit) of my favorite Moosewood Spanakopita...just with more herbs. 
Notes on the pie: I couldn't find the right kind of ricotta (the one that crumbles, not the one you use in baked ziti), so I used Myzithra-- a Greek substitute that I think worked really well. Also, and I can't really explain this one, I couldn't find any arugula at the supermarket. I went to two grocery stores, and they were both sold out. (Does Colorado have an obsession for arugula that I don't know about?) A man stocking the produce section told me to come back on Monday. And I was thinking, "Are you kidding, me? I can't wait three whole days to make this pie!" So I went ahead and substituted fresh spinach for the arugula. 
Due to a 'situation' with my youngest son Theodore, the pie got baked a bit too long (the recommended time of 40 minutes is probably perfect), but it was still really good. I'm now 3-for-3 with Yotam and Sami's new cookbook.
And here you go...

Herb Pie (adapted slightly from Yotam Ottoleghi and Sami Tamimi's Jerusalem)
Serves 4
This pie can happily sit at the center of a vegetarian meal.

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing the pastry
1 large onion, diced
1 lbs. Swiss chard, stems and leaves finely shredded but kept separate
3-4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
4 scallions (green onion), chopped
1 large bunch fresh spinach (The original recipes uses 1 3/4 ounces of arugula, which I think the British call rocket.)
1 ounce flat-leaf parsley, chopped (I used between 1/2-3/4 cup)
1 ounce fresh mint, chopped (I used between 1/2-3/4 cup)
2/3 ounce dill, chopped (I used about 1/2 cup)
4 ounces of anari or ricotta cheese, crumbled (I used about 3/4 cup of Myzithra)
3 1/2 ounces aged cheddar, grated (I used about 3/4 cup)
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (I used about 2 small, but full, handfuls)
the grated zest of 1 lemon
2 medium free-range eggs
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of superfine sugar

9 ounces filo pastry 
  • Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Pour the olive oil into a deep frying-pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 8 minutes without browning. Add the chard stems and the celery and continue cooking for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chard leaves, increase the heat to medium-high and stir as you cook for 4 minutes, until the leaves wilt. Add the scallion/green onion, spinach (or arugula) and herbs and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and transfer to a colander to cool. 
  • Once the mixture is cool, squeeze out as much water as you can and transfer to a mixing bowl. (I didn't have much water to drain-- probably because I'm at altitude and the water evaporates more quickly.) Add the three cheeses, lemon zest, eggs, salt, pepper and sugar and mix well.
  • Lay out a sheet of filo pastry and brush it with some olive oil. Cover with another sheet and continue in the same manner until you have 5 layers of filo brushed with oil, all covering an area large enough to line the sides and bottom of a 8 1/2-inch pie dish, plus extra to hang over the rim. Line the pie dish with the pastry, fill with the herb mix and fold the excess pastry over the edge of the filling, trimming the pastry as necessary to create a 3/4 inch border.
  • Make another set of 5 layers of filo brushed with oil and place them over the pie. Scrunch the pastry a little to create a wavy, uneven top and trim the edges so it just covers the pie. Brush generously with olive oil and bake for 40 minutes, or until the filo turns a nice golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.
* * *
link love...
an interesting read on buffalo mozzarella. 
discovery of the week. and they run a fabulous company.
another new-to-me food blog.
ordered this
time is up!
building that bridge... 
on the book shelf (thanks Jo Ellen for the recommendation).
a fabulous looking winter salad (thanks, Yana).

Please note: These are heart-felt recommendations. I have no business relationship or sponsorship with Novo Coffee, The Humble Pie or any of the links mentioned on this blog. 
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pistachio-Rosewater Meringues (and another year on Earth)

I'm hooked on the (relatively new and critically acclaimed) HBO show Girls. The younger-me identifies with the show's main character who lives a post-college life in New York City and grapples with life's ebbs and flows, self-doubt, job insecurity and budget crunching. And while the show takes me down memory lane just a bit, as I watch it I find myself being thankful that I am, in fact, a little bit older. I occasionally grumble about moving out of the 25-34 age demographic, but I wouldn't want to go back (not that you can anyway). I like this station of life.
I've thought long and hard about my politics and core beliefs. I've considered (at great lengths) what's important to me and what really isn't a priority anymore. I've re-evaluated and re-assessed. Emotional stability and self-confidence, which eluded me somewhat in my twenties, I've been able to find in my mid-(ahem, late) thirties.  
I'll admit that every now and again I'm stuck by the desire to hunt down some one from my past and shout out, "Hey, remember me? I'm not a mess anymore! I've got it together! I'm an adult!" But those moments are few and far between, as I'm not looking for anyone's validation in the way that I might have been a decade ago. That's the benefit of age. 
Which brings me to my birthday meringues...
I first tasted these Pistachio-Rosewater Meringues at a dinner party a few years ago. My friend Yana had us over for an Ottolenghi-Middle-Eastern-inspired feast. The meal was spectacular and it was capped off by these little beauties: sweet, light, delicate and delicious, meringues.
I'd always wanted to make them at home, but I didn't know the first thing about baking. And I was certain that I would mess them up if I even tried. So I never did. 
But several years have passed and I'm a bit older and a bit wiser. I'm also fairly confident in the kitchen. When I saw rosewater at my local market, I decided to pick up a bottle. I knew then and there that those meringues were getting made in the not-so-distant future.
I made them last night and they came out perfectly. I also discovered that while they might appear challenging to make, the ingredients are simple and the preparation is straight-forward. 
My take-way from the meringue success, and using it as a metaphor for the next year of my life, is this: Have the confidence to try new things and don't let prospect of failure stop you in your tracks. You've got it together. You know who are. That is the gift of age. Enjoy it and happy birthday (to me). 

The sugar began to caramelize pretty quickly, so I had to start again. I've since learned from a CCN contributor that Denverites (or those cooking at altitude) should use a thermometer and heat the oven 10 degrees lower than the suggested temperature, as Denver's boiling temperature is 10 degrees lower than what you'll find at sea level.

Pistachio-Rosewater Meringues 
Inspiration and combination from Yotam Ottolenghi's eponymous cookbook, Ottolenghi. With some adaptions from the Joy of Baking and the Guardian UK. See additional links below.
Yields 12-16
1 cup of granulated sugar (I used white, not caster)
4 egg whites (Cold eggs are easier to separate. Once they are separated, cover the egg whites and let them come to room temperature before using, about 30 minutes.) 
*In general, the ratio for meringues is 1/4 cup of sugar/per egg white. 
1 1/4 teaspoons of rosewater or orange blossom water
A big handful of pistachio nuts, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Spread the sugar evenly over a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Put the tray in the oven for 8 minutes or until the sugar is hot and starting to dissolve at edges, but not caramelized. (See photo note above if you live in Denver.)
2. While the sugar is in oven, put the egg whites in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk. When sugar is almost ready, turn mixer on high and let it work for a minute or until the egg whites start to froth.
3. Carefully pour the sugar into the whisked whites (I used the parchment paper as a funnel and poured the sugar in that way). Add the rosewater (or orange blossom water) and continue whisking on high for 10 minutes or until the meringue is beautifully smooth, and holds a shape.
4. Reduce the oven temperature to 225F** Important step. 
5. Line a baking tray or two with parchment paper (the one you just used for the sugar is fine). And spread the pistachios on a board and finely chop them.
6. Get two big kitchen spoons. Use one spoon to scoop up a big ball of the meringue, and use the other spoon to scrape it off and gently roll the ball into the pistachios. Place the meringues nuts-up on the baking tray. Repeat this step.
7. Place the meringues in the oven and bake for 2 hours. Rotate the baking sheet every 1/2 hour. Check to see if they're done. They should be dry on the outside and soft on the inside.  
Store the meringues in a dry place at room temperature. 
Note: Some recipes suggest that you leave the meringues in the oven for another 4 hours--with the temperature off (this is after the initial 2 hours of baking is complete). I didn't do this (I baked them for 2 hours at 225F) and I thought the texture was spot-on.
I came across this Guardian link on "How to Make Perfect Meringues" which offers up some more guidance on all things meringue. 

The Daily Dish/LA Times weighs in on the subject. 

And some notes from The Joy of Baking (though I didn't use cream of tartar): 
There are a few things to keep in mind when making meringue cookies. The standard ratio when making hard meringues is 1/4 cup (50 grams) of granulated white sugar for every egg white. This amount of sugar is needed to give the meringue its crispness. Adding the sugar gradually to the egg whites ensures that the sugar completely dissolves and does not produce a gritty meringue. Cream of tartar is used in the whipping of egg whites to stabilize them and allows them to reach maximum volume. Also, it is a good idea to use parchment paper or aluminum foil to line your baking sheets, not wax paper, as the meringue will sometimes stick to wax paper.
Baking the meringues in a slow oven allows for gradual evaporation of the moisture from the meringues. If the oven temperature is too high, the outside of the meringue will dry and set too quickly. You will also notice that the outside of the meringue separates from the inside. Another indicator that your oven is too high is when the meringue starts to brown which causes the sugar to caramelize. If this happens, lower the temperature about 25 degrees F. If you decide to make meringues on a rainy or humid day, you will probably have to bake the meringues longer (could be up to 30 minutes more) than on a dry day. Lastly, to prevent cracking of the meringues, do not open the oven door during the first half of the baking time.
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