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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Open-Faced Hot Turkey Sandwich (aka Turkey Manhattan)

In my mind, open-faced sandwiches piled high with warm roast beef or turkey and a mound of creamy mashed potatoes that are drowning in complimentary gravy conjur up the formica table tops and vinyl seats of diners past.  Sustenance in the middle of a long road trip or after a night soaked in alcohol.  Comfort on a plate in my little booth of the ever-bustling diner.  Waitresses in comfy shoes and pony tails with pens tucked behind their ears, a coffee carafe attached to one hand, and a knack for calling every one "Hon".    I can't make a turkey or roast beef without finishing off the leftover meat inside one of these sandwiches.

They're also great for restaurant workers who are on their feet all day long cooking food or bringing it out to the guests.  In the midst of lunch prep, I used to make huge hotel pans lined with stacks of bread.  There always seemed to be leftover prime rib or turkey breast in the cooler that I could slice and throw into a pot of broth to warm up.  Maybe I had to make the mashed potatoes, but no biggie.  While everything was heating up, I'd bring a ladle into the cooler to extract some stock from the five gallon buckets that went in last night before closing to make a rich gravy.  And just in before family meal (employee meal), when everybody's station is stocked and set up, I'd pile up the meat down the line of stacked bread, scoop on some mashers and smother the whole thing in gravy.  Sustenance, quiet chewing and contemplation in anticipation of the lunch rush.

Some people call these sandwiches Turkey (or Roast Beef) Manhattans and they put the meat between the slices of bread, cut then on the diagonal and form them into a V on the plate.  Then put the scoop of mashed potatoes in the middle of the V and then pour gravy over everything.  I don't make them that way, but I'm sure they're just as good.  Although, I don't know why they're called Manhattans since I'm pretty sure they originated somewhere here in the Midwest and New Yorkers probably wouldn't know what you were talking about if you tried to order one there.  So, call 'em what you like, just be prepared for some bone-sticking comfort food!
Open-Faced Hot Turkey Sandwich
(Turkey Manhattan)
yield: 1 sandwich

2 slices bread
leftover sliced turkey
leftover mashed potatoes
leftover turkey gravy

Heat up the turkey, potatoes, and gravy.  Lay two slices of bread on a plate.  Place as much warm turkey on top of the bread as you want in your sandwich.  Place a big scoop of warm mashed potatoes on top of the turkey.  Smother the whole thing in warm gravy.  Eat with a knife and fork.
Remaining turkey broth from bottom of roaster after being refrigerated.
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
yield: 6-8 servings

2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes
3 oz. butter
3/4-1 c. buttermilk
sea salt
freshly ground white pepper

Peel the potatoes and cut any extremely large ones in half or quarters.  Put them in a medium pot and cover with water by a couple of inches.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer until tender, 20-30 minutes.  Drain water and return potatoes to pot.  Add butter and let melt, then add the smaller amount of buttermilk.  Whip with a hand mixer until smooth and creamy.  Add more buttermilk, if you like them looser.  Season to taste with salt and white pepper.  Serve.
This year I decided to roast a broken-down turkey, as opposed to doing it whole.  This method cooks a bit faster, and makes for very simple carving.  We never bring the whole bird to the table, I figured nobody would be the wiser (or care if they were).  I also used one of those big electric roasters in order to save oven space in my small kitchen with a small oven.  The only downfall (in my opinion) of using one of these types of roasters is that you don't get that awesome, golden skin on the breast.  This really bums my daughter out, as the skin is probably her favorite part of any roasted bird.  But it was a compromise I chose to make this year since I made the whole dinner myself.  You could just as easily do this in the oven.

Simple Roast Turkey
yield: ~8-10 svgs.

2 apples, quartered
1 large onion, quartered
1 lemon, halved
handful of fresh thyme sprigs
handful of fresh sage sprigs
few fresh rosemary sprigs
2 c. water
2 large turkey breast halves (~7 lbs. total), bone-in, skin-on
2 large turkey leg quarters (~4 lbs. total), bone-in, skin-on
4 oz. butter
salt & freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven (or roaster) to 350° F.

Place apples, onion, lemon, half of the thyme and sage, all of the rosemary, and the water in the bottom of a roasting pan (or roaster).  Place a rack over them.  Place turkey parts on the rack, skin side up.  Cut the butter into pats or slivers and scatter over the top of the turkey.  Season generously with salt and pepper, then scatter remaining thyme and sage sprigs over the buttered and seasoned turkey parts.

Slide into oven (or put lid on roaster) and roast for ~2-2½ hours, basting with accumulated juices from time to time, until meat registers 165° on a thermometer.  Check dark meat first and remove to a foil-covered dish if any parts are done early.  Once all meat is done, transfer to a foil-covered dish to sit and rest while you make the gravy.  Strain liquid from bottom of pan into a fat-separating measuring should get about a quart once fat is removed.

To carve, carefully remove breast meat from bone, then slice against the grain as thickly or thinly as you like.  I usually just pull the meat from the thigh and serve the leg whole (what kid doesn't love eating like a neanderthal!?), but slice that meat as well, if you like.
Simple Roast Turkey and Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes with Herbed Turkey Gravy
Herbed Turkey Gravy
yield: 3-4 c.

4 Tbs. butter
4 Tbs. flour
3-4 c. Turkey broth from bottom of turkey roaster, de-fatted (or turkey stock/broth)
~2 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
salt & freshly ground pepper, as needed

Make a roux by stirring the flour and butter together over medium heat in a large skillet.  Let cook down for a few minutes, stirring while you do, until it colors lightly golden and smells wonderfully nutty.  Gently whisk in 3 cups turkey broth and cook for a few minutes to thicken.  Add more broth, as needed.  Stir in fresh thyme.  Taste and see if it needs salt and pepper (depends on your broth/stock)...season if it needs it.  Serve.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Caramel Éclair "Thingies" ...inspired by Simply Irresistible {food 'n flix}

Girl inherits quaint restaurant with an amazing kitchen (gorgeous ceilings to covet).

Girl does not inherit the skill needed to keep restaurant afloat.

Girl meets handsome guy, prophesizing older man, and silent-but-magical crab.

Girl transfers hope, sadness, lust, joy...emotion...into her cooking and food.  Mystical fog, floating, passing a tear drop...  Girl can cook.

Life takes a turn for the better for girl, handsome guy, and everybody in her path.

Fun, flirty, mouthwatering, and totally cheesy.  What more can a girl ask for?

I've freely admitted many times in the past that I love a good chic-flick.  Make it a good foodie chic-flick and two free hours, and I feel revitalized!  Plus, Patricia Clarkson is GOLD is this flick.  In my favorite scene, she is taken over by desire when eating one of Amanda's "Caramel Éclair Thingies".   From that moment on, I knew what I wanted to make when I finished Simply Irresistible.

As Tom so eloquently put it, "But these are amazing...  The way it starts in your mouth just travels to your brain and then shoots down your spine and just explodes out of your toes...!"
Caramel Pastry Cream
slightly adapted from Hungry Cravings 
yield: ~2 ½ c.

5 oz. sugar
¼ c. water
2 c. milk, at room temperature
1 ¼ oz. cornstarch
1 oz. sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
½ oz. butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Combine 5 oz. of the sugar and the water in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, brush down the sides of the pan with water, and boil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until caramelized. The sugar will be fragrant and a deep amber color when it is caramelized. Remove the pan from the heat and dip the bottom into an ice water bath for a second or two. Slowly stir in the milk. Return the pan to low heat and stir until smooth. Increase the heat to medium and heat to a simmer.

Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and remaining 1 oz. of sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk in the egg and yolks. Continue whisking while adding the hot caramel mixture in a thin stream. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat for 2 - 3 minutes, or until it thickens and just begins to bubble. If you see any lumps in the pastry cream, push it through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl.  Otherwise, just transfer to a clean bowl and stir in the butter and vanilla. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate until ready to use.
Pâte à Choux
(sweet or savory)
adapted from Alton Brown  
yield: ~4 dozen cream puff shells or ~2 dozen éclair shells

1 c. water
¾ stick (6 Tbs./3 oz.) butter 
1 Tbs. sugar*
⅛ tsp. salt 
5¾ oz. bread flour
1 c. eggs, (~5 large eggs; just whisk together, then remove tiny bit extra)

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Combine water, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add flour and remove from heat. Work mixture together, using a wooden spoon, and return to heat. Continue working the mixture until all flour is incorporated and dough forms a ball. Transfer mixture into bowl of a standing mixer and let cool for 3 or 4 minutes. With mixer on lowest speed add eggs, a little bit at a time, making sure each addition is completely incorporated before continuing. Once all eggs have been added and the mixture is smooth, put dough into piping bag fitted with a round or star tip. 

Pipe immediately into desired shape and place ~2" apart onto parchment (or silpat) lined sheet pans. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350° F and bake for 10 more minutes or until golden brown. Once they are removed from the oven pierce with a paring knife immediately to release steam.  Transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

*If making savory shells, replace the sugar + ⅛ tsp. salt with 1 tsp. salt total.

note: for éclairs, pipe ~5" x 1" / for mini éclairs ~2 ½" x 1" / for cream puff, pipe golf ball sized "rounds"
Now that you have the rich, seductive cream filling and the baked, eggy casing, it's time to get down to the business of making the "thingies"...
Caramel Éclair "Thingies"
...or Caramel Cream Puff "Thingies"
yield: 2-4 dozen

1 recipe Caramel Pastry Cream
1 recipe sweet Pâte à Choux

Make the pastry cream the day before you want to assemble the "thingies".  Once it is cool, pipe the pâte à choux into desired shape/size and bake.

Once the shells are cooled a bit, put the pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a small, round tip.  Stick the tip into the bottom or side of your shells and pipe as much cream inside each one as you like.  Enjoy!
Mi amiga Leslie of La Cocina de Leslie is hosting Food 'n Flix: Simply Irresistible this month!

I am also sharing this post with:
crazy sweet tuesday sweet treats thursday SweetToothFriday sweets for a saturday Tasty Tuesdays 33 shades of green TastyTuesdayBB
Monday, November 28, 2011

THANKSGIVING GUESTS ...a guest post from Jon Reiner author of The Man Who Couldn't Eat {book tour}

Dear  foodie, gastronome, culinaire, epicure, food-lover, voracious eater, gourmand, one-with-hunger pains...

...can you imagine smelling the scent of fresh baking bread as you walk past a bakery...inhaling the steam of a sausage as a vendor walks by at a baseball game...passing by a market stall full of succulent, gleaming dried fruits...being beckoned by the scent of buttery popcorn at the movie theater...the entirely consuming scent of greasy burgers and fries as you pass a diner after a long days drive...the joyful sound of dishes clattering in the other room as your family eats their dinner?  Now, can you imagine not being able to partake in eating during any of these situations- even if you're starving and the scent is like heaven on earth?  Not a choice...more of a "sentence"?  Insert the most fitting word to describe you and your passion for food...and then imagine "eating" all of your meals intravenously.  Sound unbearable?  That is just a hint into the life of Jon Reiner, author of the book The Man Who Couldn't Eat.  I'm honored to have a guest post by Jon today as a part of a BookSparksPR blog tour.  Jon's story is such a heart-wrenching one...and he tells it masterfully.  Please take a moment to enjoy his words.


(Adapted from The Man Who Couldn’t Eat)
By Jon Reiner

            There’s a stranger at the Thanksgiving dinner table. My sister has come in from London and brought her new boyfriend, a courageous guy with a ruggedly handsome face and the letter-perfect British name Simon Clarke. He's a foreign curiosity on display in our parents’ house, exposed to the twin stresses of introducing himself on their home turf and decoding holiday rituals that are bound like bark to a family history he doesn't yet know. “I'm sorry,” he says politely. “There must be a joke in there I've missed.” I pity the poor immigrant.

            Simon’s alert presence in the spindle-back chair beside my sister’s is having an unexpected go at my nerves, however. Not about their compatibility – Lisa’s radiant smile makes honeymoon blossoms seem inevitable – but his being here has me scrutinizing our celebration of the holiday. Frankly, he must think we’re a pretty dull bunch. This improvised scene can’t be the grand ceremony Americans claim as nourishment for the national soul.

            I’m becoming aware how much this house works against the pleasure of cherished customs. A few days ago, my parents drove down to open the place, but the seat cushions still carry the residual musk of bedsheet covers. My folks live here only a few months a year, proudly investing most of their energy in their retirement house, so this is not so much a living home as convenient seasonal shelter. The kitchen is minimally stocked – one stick of butter, short on spices – and doesn’t beat with the nerve-center pulse that thriving Thanksgiving kitchens do.

            On its skin, this is very much the ranch house of my childhood, a relic that hadn't troubled me before, but, today, under a stranger’s inspection, now appears to lack the vitality that the holiday is owed.

            “We used to roast chestnuts,” I say to Simon, pouring out glasses of the pricey red he brought.

            For a while now, we’ve drifted from the food rituals – loony as they were – that so vividly embodied Thanksgiving from my childhood on until age and death forced a change of place. Since Sid and Marly, my grandparents and the annual hosts, died, we’ve been hungry for something lost, as though we buried the meal with them.

            Their tract house was the setting for a bizarre menu of cultural schizophrenia that might have baffled Simon but would not have bored him. With an electric knife bleating over family gossip, my grandparents took ethnic stabs at Currier and Ives assimilation, serving up oddball mutts on the table pads: A loaf of seeded rye that Marly chainsawed, beside a cut-glass bowl of half-sour pickles, a tray of conventional sweet potatoes, and two dozen bitter yellow grapefruits topped with Maraschino cherries tied in wax paper babushkas. Following the plentiful, dissonant meal, gift boxes of Italian bakery cookies were unstrung and piled on an engraved silver platter, a prize from a horse race. Then came the traditional chestnuts.

            Sid and I roasted them in crowded tins, and the smoky aroma infused the cramped, chaotic kitchen. We’d wedge around the overloaded table, slitting small “x”s on the nuts’ brown bellies and spreading concentric circles of beauties in the dented pans. Sid captivated me with spiels about cars and cameras and bouncy versions of “My Blue Heaven” and “Mairzy Doats” whistled through his teeth. The air turned warm and fit me like dried laundry, and I had the best seat in the house. In those moments, the harsh, linoleum-floored kitchen felt like a concert hall. Truthfully, no one besides the two of us ate the chestnuts. They were inedible, the shells peeled open to ridges of dry, fuzzy meat. It was like eating a burnt spider, but that didn’t really matter. We knew there was magic in the air.

            “The roasting was like . . .” The stranger is looking jet-lagged, and both my kids have disappeared from the table. How can I make them understand what those lousy nuts meant?

            Dinner ends and Simon dutifully clears the dishes. My wife plates a pecan pie that looks tasty, better than burnt spider meat for sure, but it doesn’t scent the kitchen air. I find our kids in my old bedroom vacantly absorbed by a cartoon and announce the imminent dessert to lure them back to the meal before time runs out. The day is getting late. We’ll have to rush out the door soon to get ahead of the traffic. It doesn’t seem enough, like there should be another course. Maybe chestnuts?


about the author (from the dust jacket):  Jon Reiner won the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for Magazine Feature Writing with Recipes for the collaborative Esquire article "How Men Eat."  His memoir, The Man Who Couldn't Eat, is based on an acclaimed article of the same name he wrote for Esquire in 2009.  He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

To read more about Jon, please visit his website, blog, Facebook page, or find him on Twitter.

weekend cooking
Sunday, November 27, 2011

Apple Cider Pie

I have a scar tissue on the tip of my middle finger on my left hand.  It's been there for about eleven or twelve years.  You know what it makes me think of each and every time I see it?  Apple Pie.  Well, apple pie and Parmesan cheese, to be precise.  Yeah.  I sliced off the tip of that finger on a box grater...the part on one of the thinner sides that has three long, horizontal slicers.  I had an Apple Crumb Pie earlier that day.  It was about 10 o'clock p.m. or so and I had the urge for a slice.  And you see, a slice of apple pie just isn't the same without some (okay, a lot) of Parmesan shards to eat with it.  That pungent saltiness is the perfect accompaniment to the sweet, warm fruit blanketed by a cinnamon crumb.  So anyway, don't ask me why I like to do things the hard way.  I could have very simply shaved some off with a vegetable peeler, but since I like them a big thicker with my pie, I decided to use the box grater.  Somehow my hand slipped and I sliced the tip of my middle finger off instead.  And I'm not talking a sliver, I'm talking the tip!  I couldn't get it to stop bleeding for the life of me.  Only my oldest (who was a wee man of one or two at the time) and I were there, so I called a couple of friends to come over.  Jen stayed with the little man and Ben drove me to the emergency room.  The tip of the finger is an awkward place to try to stop bleeding.  Eventually, all they did was put a little spot of this foam-like sheet on the open skin.  It sort of expands and soaks up any further bleeding.  You just leave it there until it falls off...which is when you're skin grows back.  When all was said and done, he drove me back to the house and we all had a slice of apple pie.  With Parm.  I still have that same box grater.  And I also have matching scar tissue on the top of my left hand ring finger.  A story for another day...

When I saw this recipe for Apple Cider Pie, I knew without question that I'd be making it soon.  The already fabulous taste of cinnamon and apples is accelerated about ten notches with the addition of a concentrated apple cider syrup.   It's an apple pie-lover's version of paradise on a plate.  Especially when served with Parmesan shards.  Minus fingertip.
Apple Cider Pie
adapted from Sweet Auburn Desserts
yield: 1 pie (~8-10 svgs.)

2 c. apple cider
6 c. (6-8) apples, peeled, cored, & sliced
1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
⅔ c. sugar
2 Tbs. flour
½ tsp. ground cinnamon

to finish:
1 oz. butter, melted
1 Tbs. sugar

Prepare the double crust pastry and after chilling, pull out one disk.  On a lightly floured surface, roll it large enough to fit in to a 9" pie plate.  Trim edges, leaving a half an inch or so of overhang.  Put in fridge until ready to use.

Bring apple cider to a boil over high heat.  Cook until it has reduced by half (leaving you about 1 cup), 30-45 minutes.  Set aside and cool completely.

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon until well combined.  Toss apples and lemon juice together, then sprinkle dry mixture over them and toss to coat.  Remove pie shell from fridge and pile the apple mixture into it, scraping everything out of the bowl.  Pour the cooled apple cider reduction over everything.  Roll out remaining disk of pie dough to about an eighth inch thickness.  Gently set on top of pie and tuck overhang under bottom crust.  Crimp edges to seal.  Cut a couple of slits in the top of the crust and then brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.

Slide into preheated oven and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until golden.  Cool on a wire rack.
Serve...preferably with fat Parmesan shards for ultimate enjoyment.

Come join Love the Pie with TidyMom  sponsored by Whirlpool and enter to win a new Whirlpool Range

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pumpkin Pie w/ Sesame Snaps

What are your must-have pies for Thanksgiving?  For me, it's just not the same if there's not at least a Pumpkin Pie and a Pecan Pie.  I like to add one or two extras to the mix every year, as well...just for variation.  Sometimes it's Bourbon Sweet Potato.  Occasionally it's a form of Apple (Crumb, Cheddar-Crust, Upside Down).  Once I made a killer Cranberry Tart.  Sometimes we do the Chocolate Pecan (...though, I prefer my Pecan to be left alone.  OH!  Unless it's the Rum Runner Pecan Pie I make sometimes.  That I'll take).  I've even done Buttermilk Pie in the past.  And every couple of years, some sort of harvesty cake makes its way into the mix.  I mentioned before that this is the first year that we didn't meet up with the extended family for our Turkey Day dinner...and in turn, I didn't need to make so many desserts.  The two pies that I did make were even a bit much.   But something inside won't let me make just one.  The one thing I'm bummed about is that I didn't make or even eat a slice of Pecan Pie this year.  Pecan prices are just too steep for me right now.  So I stuck with a Pumpkin and a fantastic Apple Cider Pie (watch for it...). I don't think I've ever made the same version Pumpkin twice.  I like mine thick and heavy on the spice, so I added some cardamom, allspice, and cloves in with the other spices.  I really enjoyed this cream cheese crust.  It didn't get soggy and it had a nice snap to it.  The fun part, though?  Definitely the shards of sesame seed snaps (brittle) strewn across the top.  It added a contrast in texture and a great hint of nuttiness to each bite.  This one will appear in the rotation quite often, me thinks.
Cream Cheese Crust
yield: 1 (9") pie crust

1¼ c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. sugar
½ tsp. salt
3 oz. (6 Tbs.) cold butter, cut in pieces
2 oz. cold cream cheese, cut in pieces
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2-4 Tbs. ice water

Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor.  Add butter and cream cheese and pulse until pea-sized.  Add vinegar and 2 Tbs. of icewater; pulse until dough holds together.  Add a bit more ice water, as needed until you can press dough together.  Gather into a ball, wrap in plastic and pat into a disk.  Chill at least 4 hours.
Sesame Seed snaps

½ c. sugar
1 Tbs. water
1½ Tbs. sesame seeds, toasted
big pinch sea salt

Cook sugar and water over medium-high until amber, ~7 minutes.  Stir in sesame seeds and salt.  Immediately spread on a silpat, sheet of parchment (or greased foil); let cool completely, then break apart.  Store in a cool place in an airtight container until ready to use.
Pumpkin Pie w/ Sesame Snaps
yield: 1 (9") pie

1 recipe cream cheese crust
flour, for dusting
15 oz. pumpkin puree
1 c. evaporated milk
⅔ c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cardamom
⅛ tsp. ground allspice
small pinch ground cloves
a few good grates of nutmeg
1 recipe sesame seed snaps

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled dough into a 12" circle.  Gently drape it over a 9" pie plate.  Fit it in and tuck the overhand under itself.  Chill for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350° F.  

Prick bottom of crust with a fork.  Line with parchment, and fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake until edges are golden, ~20 minutes.  Remove beans and parchment and bake 10 minutes more.  Cool on a wire rack.

Whisk pumpkin, milk, sugar, eggs, and spices in a bowl; pour into par-baked shell.  Bake until center is just barely set, ~1 hour.  Cover edges with foil if they begin to get too dark.  Cool on a wire rack.

Sprinkle the shards of sesame seed snaps over the pie just before serving.  note: If you don't think the whole pie will get eaten right away, then I recommend only sprinkling them on the individual slices.  If you sprinkle it over the whole pie, then wrap up the remainder for later, the shards will turn back into a syrup that sits on the top of the pie and eventually sinks in.

*This pie was adapted from 50 Pies insert of Food Network Magazine (Nov. '11)
I am sharing this post with:
weekend cooking SweetToothFriday sweets for a saturday
Friday, November 25, 2011

50 Women Game-Changers (in food): #25 Paula Wolfert - Poor Man's Bread, Kale, and Black Pepper Soup

the "Gourmet" prompt...
25. Paula Wolfert- The guru of the Mediterranean, Wolfert writes a clinically precise, exuberantly flavorsome recipe, and had a hand in bringing couscous, braised lamb shanks, ratatouille, tapenade, and a bunch of other things to your corner bistro.

Wolfert is another "game-changer" who I will admit...I knew nothing about.  At least I'd heard of her, though. Since I frequent the cookbook section at my local library, I've cozied up with a few of her books in the past.  That said, I don't think I've ever brought one home with me or cooked from one before.  But now that I've had an enormously heavy and precariously teetering stack of them hanging around at my "work station" for a couple of weeks, I don't want to give them back.  This happens more often than I'd like to admit.  Though I almost went with some homemade Harissa this week...and longed to have stacks of clay pots in different shapes and sizes for making one of her tempting clay pot meals...I decided to go with a simple soup.  It was a delicious escape in the midst of Thanksgiving dinner preparations.
photo by Sara Remington

Since I'm writing this in a bit of a rush...and her story is long, endearing, and worth checking out, I'd like to direct you over to Paula Wolfert's website to read an article about Wolfert originally written by Josh Sens for San Francisco magazine.  How can you resist a story with this opening paragraph...

"On a sunlit afternoon at her home in the Sonoma hills, Paula Wolfert surveys the collection of clay pots that colonizes her kitchen so completely, the overflow spills into every corner and closet. Moroccan tagines crowd her shelves and cupboards. Turkish guvecs adorn her counters. Small earthenware vessels,stocked with aromatics, occupy the spice drawers across from her six-burner stove."

It's not something I could resist.  And neither was this simple rustic soup chock-full with ribbons of lacinato kale, the hint of porky goodness, and a toasted country bread rubbed with garlic that sucks up the flavorful broth like a brand new sponge.
Poor Man's Bread, Kale, and Black Pepper Soup
"In Florence they put bread in their soup and here we put soup on our bread."  ~from a waiter in Siena to Wolfert
slightly adapted from The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen
serves: 3-4

1 lb. Tuscan kale
1¼ oz. pancetta, chilled or frozen
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. minced onion
2 large garlic cloves, peeled & smashed
5 c. water/broth/stock
6-8 slices of dense, dry country-style bread + 1 garlic clove
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated Parmesan
Stem, wash, and finely shred the kale to make ~5½ cups.  Use a large-hole grater to shred the pancetta to make ~3 Tbs.

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the pancetta, onion, and garlic and cook until soft and golden, ~5 minutes.  Add the kale, turning to mix, and cook for a few minutes more.  Add 5 cups water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook slowly for ~20 minutes, or until kale is very tender.  Season to taste with salt.

Toast or grill the slices of bread and rub with the cut side of a garlic clove.  Divide among bowls.  Ladle the greens and liquid into each bowl and garnish with a generous drizzle of olive oil, ¼ tsp. black pepper, and as much freshly grated Parmesan as you like.  Let settle for ~10 minutes and serve with extra cheese and pepper.
In May '11, Gourmet posted a list of 50 Women Game-Changers (in Food) that runs the gamut from food writers to cookbook authors to television personalities to restauranteurs to chefs to food bloggers.  Some are a given.  Some are controversial.  Speaking the names of some brings fond childhood memories.  Speaking the names of others will make some readers cringe.  And of course, some of our favorites were not even included.  We food-lovers are a passionate bunch of people and whether we agree or disagree, every woman on this list has earned her place for a reason.  Being a woman who is passionate about food (cooking, eating, talking about, writing about, photographing), when I caught wind of Mary from One Perfect Bite's idea of cooking/blogging her way through each of these 50 per week...I knew I wanted to join her.  Many of these women paved the way for us in culinary school, in the kitchen, in cookbooks, in food writing, and on television and I think it is a fabulous way to pay tribute to their efforts.  Some of the women on the list have been tops with me for years.  Some I have heard of (perhaps even seen, read, or cooked from) before.  And there are even a handful that I am not familiar with at all.  I excited to educate myself on each of these women game-changers and hope you look forward to reading along.  We are going in order from 1 to 50.
Who is cooking along with these 50 Women Game-Changers?

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