Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

Welcome to part two of my spring holiday edition.  For those of you celebrating Easter this weekend, enjoy and happy cooking!

Brunch is the perfect meal for a family holiday when it falls on a Sunday.  Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day...they all work.  Entertaining in the morning is nice because you can pick and choose recipes to prep the night before and the whole meal always feels like less work than a big dinner.  In today's LA Times I was immediately taken by the photo of one of my all time favorite foods, cinnamon rolls.  I melt inside when I taste a good one...bad ones be damned.  Amy Scattergood's recipe warns you to be patient-this is a yeasted dough that needs time to rise.  She also references food scientist and writer Shirley Corriher.  Shirley says that small amounts of spices like cinnamon actually enhance the activity of the yeast-who knew?  Amy adds buttermilk, which gives dough just the right tang, along with a bit of baking soda, to react with the buttermilk for a balance of acidity & sweet.  I could go on and on about this recipe, my stomach is growling just writing about it.  Amy also offers a whole wheat version that would be a bit more toothsome but looks equally as mouth watering.  That said, if you're going to dive in, why not bite the bullet and just stick with the real deal?  Oh, and don't forget to invite me over when these are about to emerge from your oven.

I mentioned Darina Allen here a few weeks ago.  Being one of the foremost cooking teachers and food writers in Ireland, I'd have been remiss leaving her out of any mention of food and St. Patrick's Day.  But Irish food is not just for one day a year.  Darina's new book, Forgotten Skills of Cooking, is profiled, along with the legend herself, in today's NY Times.  Darina owns the Ballymaloe House  in Ireland and I've heard nothing but wonderful things about the cooking courses, gardens, and food there.   She's even been by Tante Marie's to teach a few classes.   Her new book is an off-shoot of a series of classes she teaches at Ballymaloe, "Forgotten Skills".  I love the idea of reintroducing traditional dishes to a modern audience and think Darina is absolutely the right person to do it.  Her Forager's Soup is a creamy dish of pureed springs greens topped with crispy chorizo or bacon.  I think it would be an excellent way to start off any holiday dinner.

Spring means artichokes and here in Northern California we get them as fresh as can be.  Did you know that if you gently rub together the leaves of an artichoke you should actually hear them squeak when it's fresh?  The leaves should be nice and tight too, not loose or pulling away from the base.  Once you pick out some good ones, you can always steam them and serve them up with drawn butter-that really is the best.  But, if you see baby artichokes at the market, buy them!  Because they are young, the fuzzy choke hasn't grown in so you can use a lot more of the vegetable and they're a lot less work.  In today's Washington Post there is a recipe for Fried Baby Artichokes, a Greek style dish that would work with any Easter menu.  These are not battered or breaded, just quick cooked in hot oil and drizzled with an olive oil/yogurt sauce.  They will be eaten at light speed, I'm sure.  However, if frying isn't your thing, you could also use your baby artichokes in a simple Salad with arugula, red onion, and dill.  Either way, if you find yourself at the farmer's market this wknd, be sure to add baby artichokes to your list!

Happy Holidays! 

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