English Muffins

When I woke up Tuesday morning, before I knew that there was a disappointing amount of snow on the ground, all I could think about was making eggs benedict with smoked salmon. My day had been cleared in prep for the snow storm and it felt like a weekend, which made me think of brunch, which naturally led to daydreaming about foods covered in hollandaise.

On Monday morning, in the middle of the first blizzard panic of the season, the supermarket lines were out the door. I found myself in the crowd at a Citarella picking up fresh fish for my client’s dinner. As the checkout line slowly wound its way to the registers, I got pulled in by all the delicious foods we were passing. At the last second I grabbed a package of smoked salmon. (As you might know, from the title of this blog, I have a thing for smoked and cured fish.) So, as I lay in bed on Tuesday, I was all ready to pull together my Salmon Eggs Benedict.

The plan was to use regular bread, but now that I had an empty day, I decided to spend the morning baking English Muffins and enjoy my eggs benedict for a late brunch. Thankfully, the ingredients are all household staples for us, so I didn’t have to venture out into the, uh, couple inches of snow and um, cleared sidewalks. Is it cool if I just pretend we were completely snowed in? Survival English Muffins!

After reading a dozen different recipes for English muffins, I learned that there are two common issues. 1. The dough can be super sticky and a mess to work with and 2. Cooking methods and times vary greatly, and it’s hard to tell when the muffin is done baking.

I pulled from different recipes and made the adjustments that I thought would help with the stickiness. It totally worked! The dough definitely pulled and stretched much more easily than other bread doughs, but it wasn’t a mess to transfer or handle.

For the cooking times, I found a recipe that combined both the stovetop and the oven, and the results were great! I will say that I had a minor panic attack when I opened a muffin and the inside was still kind of soft and doughy. The nooks and crannies were there, but it felt a little raw.

As I stood there trying to figure out what I’d done wrong, a memory from childhood surfaced. I haven’t bought English Muffins in a very long time, but as a kid I remember trying to eat a Thomas English Muffin right from the package and hating the mushy texture and sour taste. I had completely forgotten about the step where you toast the muffin! I popped my freshly baked muffin it into the toaster for a few minutes, and there it was! The taste and texture of spot-on English Muffin. Winning!

This recipe made SO many muffins, which are now mostly in my freezer. And that’s awesome because homemade English Muffins are ridiculously good. Now I can have them when the mood strikes.

The next time the snow comes down outside, make it rain flour inside. Or just block off a morning and get to work on these!

Oh you were wondering what happened to the Salmon Eggs Benedict on my homemade English Muffins?

Right about when I was going to make my late afternoon brunch, I planned a date with a friend who lives a couple blocks away and we ended up making beautiful Benedict’s for dinner. Here’s a photo I took on my phone before we inhaled them. They were so totally worth waiting all day for. Brunch: The good-for-all hours-of-the-day meal.

English Muffins

Serves: Makes 16-18

Ingredients
  • 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
  • 1¾ cup whole milk, warmed (to take the chill off - I warmed it in a saucepan until it wasn't cold and I could put my finger in without it being hot)
  • 4 Tbsp butter, softened but not melted
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 4½ cups of all purpose flour
  • Cornmeal, semolina, or farina
Instructions
  1. I made this in a stand mixer. You can make it in a bowl by beating all the ingredients together and kneading it at the end but I don't have the exact specifications.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warmed milk for a couple minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the cornmeal, semolina, or farina) to the bowl and mix, with the flat beater, on medium-high for 4-5 minutes until the dough is smooth. I had to take breaks in the mixing to scrape down the dough as it creeped up to the gears at the top of the attachment. Keep an eye on it as it will move around. If the dough isn't where you want it, you can use the dough hook at the end for a couple minutes to finish the kneading, or knead it by hand just until it's smooth.
  3. Take the dough out and form it into a ball, or as close as you can get it, and place it into a lightly greased (canola or vegetable oil work great) bowl that has room for it to rise. Cover it with plastic wrap or a towel and let it sit in a warm place for 1-1.5 hours until it's at least doubled in size.
  4. Prepare 2 baking sheets. Cover one with parchment paper or a baking mat and set aside. On the other one, generously cover the surface in cornmeal, semolina, or farina.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl, gently pushing the air out and place it on a work surface. (Use a little flour if it's too sticky.) You can divide the dough into 16 pieces or weigh out the dough to about 60g per servings. Roll each serving into a ball shape and place it onto the grain-covered baking sheet. Gently press it into the grain and then lift it up and press the other side into the grain. This will help keep your muffins from sticking in the next steps. As you dip each muffin, line them up on the grain-tray so they are resting on top of the grains. Let the muffins rest, covered, for 20 more minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 300°F
  7. Warm a cast iron pan or griddle on the stove on medium-low heat. If you know your pan runs hot, lower the temperature even more. This should be done low and slow.
  8. Working in small batches, place your muffins in the pan or griddle and let them cook for about 4 minutes on each side. You don't want too dark a brown on them but you don't want them too light either. They will puff up a little as you go. When each side is complete transfer them to your second baking tray.
  9. Place the muffins in the oven for another 10-12 minutes to finish cooking the insides.
  10. Let cool slightly before diving in and remember to toast them! For optimal nooks and crannies make sure to split them with a fork and/or your hands - a knife cut won't give you the same result!

These keep 2-3 days before they start to harden or you can freeze the remainder for on-demand English Muffin eating!

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

Farro Risotto by Herring and Potatoes

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

The first time I heard about farro was on a cooking show like Chopped or Top Chef where the contestants are thrown unfamiliar ingredients for their challenge and have to create something brilliant. I remember googling farro then and not finding a ton of information about what it was. Now you can google “farro” and find out way more than a few years ago but it’s still not the most popular of grains.More and more I’m seeing it on menus and on shelves in grocery stores. In the past year, since I’ve started cooking with it, we’ve had it in stuffings, salads, and now (finally!) risotto. It’s a nutty grain that’s toothsome and hearty. It complements fall and winter flavors so well and I have a feeling it will do very well in the summer with light cheeses and fresh fruits. Farro is also high in protein, fiber, and iron, making it a great substitute for rices and other grains.

Most recipes will recommend soaking your farro before cooking it to help soften it and cook it faster. One night, in a stretch of being supremely lazy, I decided to try making a risotto without soaking it first. Not that I mind extra steps, but in order for it to qualify as a quick weeknight meal, it needed to have as few steps as possible. It took a few minutes more to get to the consistency that I wanted it at, but my supremely lazy self was victorious! And then, to celebrate, I ate too much risotto.

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

Risotto wasn’t a food I was familiar with until a few years ago. I honestly didn’t eat a lot of rice dishes growing up, mostly because I thought rice was super bland. This bizarre prejudice lasted many years, and carried over to Risotto. I thought, ‘Why would anyone want to eat a big bowl of mushy rice?!”. I can’t remember when I had my first taste but it immediately changed everything I thought I knew about the dish. It was cheesy, creamy, and perfectly filling.

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

The first time I made a risotto I was nervous about how it would come together. I labored over every step and double, then triple, checked recipes to make sure I was doing it right. Would it not get creamy? Would I add the stock too soon? How will I know when it’s done? The final dish was super delicious and since that first stressful experience, I’ve created many risottos on the fly, because as it turns out, risotto is a pretty easy dish to pull together.

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

Another bonus about making a risotto is that it’s a solid way to use up produce in the fridge. My other two favorite ways are frittata’s and big bowls of pasta. They make great ‘anything goes’ sorts of dishes.But this version – this is my ideal bowl of winter food. Portobello mushrooms, squash roasted until it’s spreadable, dark leafy greens, fresh herbs, and generous amounts of parmesan cheese make it what I want to eat too much of on a cold night.

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

If you’ve never made a risotto, I’m here to tell you that it isn’t difficult. You will not mess it up. It will be delicious. You don’t need fancy one-time-use ingredients to win at this dish and it won’t take up hours of your time. Once the farro exists in your cupboard start browsing online for all sorts of recipes and tips on how to dress it up differently, or just swap it out where you would normally use rice or barley. I’m seriously crushing so hard on farro these days. After you make this, let me know if you want to start a farro fan club….I have this idea for T-shirts…

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

Serves: Serves 3-4

Ingredients
  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (1 for roasting, 1 for the risotto)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • ½ cup white wine (a dry wine, like a Pinot Grigio)
  • 6 cups of stock, I used all vegetable stock for this but a mix of mushroom and vegetable is delicious too
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ¼-1/2 cup roasted squash (if using a sweeter squash like a Butternut use less, I also recommend a less sweet Delicata squash for this!)
  • 1 Portobello mushroom cap, roasted or grilled and sliced into small cubes
  • ½-3/4 packed cup of shredded kale
  • 6-8 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • Red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Halve a squash and place on a lined baking sheet, skin side down. If roasting the portobello, clean and place on the baking sheet as well. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over them. After 20 min check on your vegetables- the mushroom will cook faster. Depending on the squash you are using it can take anywhere from 25 min - 1 hr to fully roast. You want the flesh of the squash to be like a puree, and spreadable. You will be mixing it into the risotto later and it needs to be completely soft. You can also blend it up to give it that consistency.
  3. Pour your stock into a pot and get it hot. Once heated through, lower the heat to a simmer and ;eave it on the stove. You'll need your stock hot as you add it to the risotto.
  4. Place a pan (sauté or cast iron or any large pan with higher sides) on medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the minced onion and garlic and sauté 3-4 minutes until slightly softened and fragrant.
  5. Add the farro and continue cooking 3 minutes, stirring constantly. The goal is to lightly toast the farro. If you were using Arborio rice you would keep going until the rice became translucent, but the farro won't do that.
  6. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until most of the wine evaporates.
  7. Now you can begin adding your stock. Start with 2 cups of stock added to the pan. Keep stirring constantly until most of the stock is absorbed. Going forward add an additional 1 cup of stock at a time, stirring until mostly absorbed between additions. This is a great time to call your parents. It will take 35-45 minutes of stirring and adding stock.
  8. Taste the risotto towards the end of the stock in the pot. Farro will not lose it's bite entirely, but it will soften a lot. When the consistency is where you want it, lower the heat. I usually have about ½ cup of stock left but it's not an exact science.
  9. Stir in the cup of cheese until it is well incorporated. Add the squash and do the same. It will take a little careful maneuvering but the squash should distribute nicely, and just sort of melt into the risotto.
  10. Add in the kale and carefully mix it in, allowing it to wilt into the risotto. Stir in the mushrooms and sage. Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes to your liking and salt/pepper to taste.
  11. Serve and eat immediately; risotto is best when eaten right away. (Which is great if you're like me, and aren't very good at waiting!)

Clementine Olive Oil Cake

Clementine Olive Oil Cake by Herring and Potatoes

Clementine Olive Oil Cake by Herring & Potatoes

Just about now, when the selection of fresh fruits and vegetables dwindle or feel uninspiring, and I start craving warmer-weather flavors, big boxes of these perfect little oranges start showing up.

Very quickly there’s a crate of clementines sitting in our fridge. We eat them for days and the pile somehow doesn’t grow smaller. It’s not a bad thing, but after a while I start to wonder what else I can do with all this citrus goodness. This year there were about 1/3 left when I committed to baking a cake. After days of brainstorming I came up with a way to say “I love you” to clementines, and used them in three ways in one cake: candied, juiced, and as zest.

Clementine Olive Oil Cake by Herring & Potatoes

The cake itself is bold but simple, and as a bonus, it’s dairy-free! Putting the cake together isn’t a long project but it does take some time to candy the clementine slices. Yes, you could skip them but they are a beautiful addition both visually and texturally to the final product. You can also make them ahead of time and have them ready to go for last minute decorating.

Clementine Olive Oil Cake by Herring & Potatoes

To candy the slices, it takes about 4.5 hours of cooking- first on the stove, then in the oven. Transforming this fruit is a low and slow process.

It is so worth it. I candied three clementines and carried them with me throughout the week sharing slices with friends who were so surprised at how good they were. Truthfully, I was really surprised at how good they were! I am not a fan of candied oranges and the only reason I convinced myself to make this was because I’ve never tried them homemade, and my curiosity won out. They don’t compare to store bought. The sweetness is deep but not cloying. Isn’t it great when things taste real?!

Clementine Olive Oil Cake by Herring & Potatoes

Next, I needed to decide on the cake itself. I waffled between pound cakes, white cakes with chocolate frosting, and Sephardic almond and orange cakes (Ottolenghi has an incredible recipe I’ve made before) but ultimately decided on one of my favorite citrus cake recipes to edit.

The cake is an olive oil lemon cake and I make it a few times a year. It’s a perfect end to a big meal. It’s not a heavy dessert, but still has all the qualities I love in an after-dinner sweet. It also pairs so well with homemade whipped cream. Mmmwhippedcream.

Clementine Olive Oil Cake by Herring & Potatoes

If you’re looking for something to brighten your winter this might just be it.
Also, if you’re slowly making your way through boxes of clementines consider this recipe to shake things up!

Clementine Olive Oil Cake by Herring & Potatoes

Clementine Olive Oil Cake with Candied Clementines
Ingredients
Candied Clementines
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 clementines sliced very thinly with the rind still on
Olive Oil Clementine Cake
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp clementine zest
  • 4.5 Tbsp clementine juice
  • Powdered sugar for serving
Instructions
Candied Clementines
  1. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Add the clementines and reduce the heat to a simmer.
  2. To help keep the clementines submerged place a piece of parchment paper over the clementines and liquid. Let it simmer for 2 hours.
  3. After 2 hours, remove them from the heat.
  4. Preheat oven to 250°F
  5. Remove the clementines from the syrup and reserve the syrup for other uses (mixing drinks, baking, etc..). Place the orange slices, in a single layer, on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat (or other mat) or parchment paper. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the orange slices and, on top of that, place a second baking sheet. The pressure from the second baking sheet on top of the clementines will help with the candy process.
  6. Bake for 2 hours. Remove from oven and when cool enough peel the slices off the sheet. Store in airtight container - I found lining whatever they were in with parchment paper helped reduce the sticking to things part.
Olive Oil Clementine Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Grease and flour a 9" cake round and set aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer, or a hand mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar together on a high setting. Keep going until the mixture is pale, fluffed up, and thick - about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Slowly pour in the olive oil and clementine juice and mix it in with a rubber spatula.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and zest. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until it is all well incorporated.
  6. Pour batter into the greased and floured cake pan and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the edges aren't too browned. My oven cooks it quickly and I start checking around 35 minutes.
Assembly
  1. Let cake cool in pan slightly before inverting onto a plate or serving dish. Dust with powdered sugar and top with the candied clementine slices. I served it with a homemade almond whipped cream which was pretty amazing but this cake is also wonderful all on its own!
Candied Clementine Recipe from the NYTimes 

Soba Noodle Soup with Miso Dashi

Coming home to cold NYC from beautiful New Zealand, with temperature highs near 70° and sunset after 9pm, was a little hard. We had the most amazing time and filled our days with exploring, hiking, biking, and, of course, eating. It was wonderful and relaxing, but boy did I miss my kitchen! Sometimes when we travel, we’ll have a “home base” apartment and a complete kitchen. It’s fun to hit the markets and cook in a new place with unfamiliar ingredients. This trip we drove around the country packing up every couple of days to see something new and so it was a few weeks without chopping, roasting, sautéing, or baking for me.

Oh, we did just fine on the food front. So. Much. Good. Food. (And wine!) But towards the end of our trip I was already making grocery lists and planning meals. Now I’ve been back a week, am finally past jet lag, and very happy to be back on the blog.

Right before we left I decided to try my hand at making a soba soup with a dashi base. It’s definitely not hard to make but because I hadn’t ever tried to do it before, it was daunting. I’ve tried my hand at miso soup before but because I didn’t make a dashi it always lacked the depth that I’ve tasted (and crave) at Japanese restaurants.
Dashi is typically made of kombu (dried kelp) and dried fish. Once that broth is prepared it can become the base for tons of Japanese dishes and soups. It has an umami flavor that’s unique to Japanese cooking.

Our kitchen is kosher and it was hard to find a package of kombu that I could use, let alone the bonito, dried fish. After reading a ton about kombu and making dashi I decided to leave off the fish and make it only with the dried kelp. I made the dashi by soaking kombu in water and simmering it with a few pieces of ginger and garlic. After the broth was strained, the miso paste was whisked in and transformed it into a deep, flavorful broth.

Picking out the toppings was loads of fun and this is really a dish that you can tailor to your tastes. I went with shiitake mushrooms, scallions, bok choy, sesame seeds, tofu, seaweed, some Japanese yams that were steamed and sliced, and the all-important soba noodle – star of the dish.
Soba noodles are made from buckwheat and there are many different varieties you can buy. They can range in thickness and sweetness but I prefer a simple, thin noodle. I love the nutty texture and heartiness. It’s filling, warm, and does wonderfully in a big bowl of soup. The noodles are cooked beforehand and added to the bowl at the end with the soup poured on top.

I’m so happy to have learned how to make this because I often crave soba soup and usually have to venture far to get a fix. While these aren’t ingredients you might have in your kitchen right this minute, once you buy them they last a long time and will make for many warm bowls of soup this very cold winter.

Soba Noodle Soup with Miso Dashi
Ingredients
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 piece of kombu (You can probably find kombu at your local health food store and it runs about $10 for a bag of around 10 pieces or more)
  • 2-3 pieces of ginger/garlic cut in large pieces
  • 2-2.5 Tbsp of miso paste
  • Soba noodles (or your noodle of choice)
  • Toppings: Whatever you like (I used bok choy, japanese yam, scallion, shiitake mushroom, tofu, seaweed, and toasted sesame seeds)
Instructions
  1. Kombu needs to be gently wiped off before using it. Take a damp paper towel and run in across the top and bottom. Do not scrub or press too hard - you don't want to wipe off all the white powdery stuff. Place your strip of kombu, along with the garlic and ginger, into a pot with 4 cups of cold water and let it soak for an hour.
  2. Turn a burner to a medium-low heat and place the pot. Let it come very slowly towards boiling but immediately remove it as the water starts to boil. If the kombu sits in boiling water it will make your broth bitter.
  3. Strain the kombu broth into a clean pot. I used a cheesecloth for a very fine strain. This is now your dashi.
  4. Prepare your noodles. Cook them according to the package directions, and if you're using soba noodles follow this next step! As your noodles cook, set a large bowl of cold (not ice) water on the side. Once your noodles are done, drain them, and immediately slip them into the bowl of cold water. Now wash your noodles! (Yup!) Using both hands, gently rub the noodles together to help remove excess starch and providing stickiness prevention. This step should take a minute or two at most.
  5. To add your miso, whisk the 2 Tbsp first with a small amount of the kombu dashi in a separate bowl to make sure you won't have clumping in the big pot. Once it's all blended and broken down, add the contents of miso/dashi bowl into the larger pot and stir it together. Taste. If you need more miso add it now by using the same small bowl to big pot method.
  6. Now you can begin adding your toppings. Things like boy choy and mushrooms can go in raw and wilt/cook in the broth.
  7. When you're ready for a bowl of soup, add the noodles first and then pour/ladle soup over. Artfully sprinkle some sesame seeds on top. Admire it. Eat it.