Monthly Archives: February 2016

A New Project Afoot: Winter Salad {CtBF}


Last June, I finished a multi-year project of cooking through a cookbook (Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table).  Through the process, my cooking skills and recipe repertoire expectedly expanded.  Unexpectedly, as I compared notes with the other participants week after week about the recipes we prepared, my circle of friends expanded.  Through our shared experience, I met others from around the world who shared my passion for cookbooks and food and home cooking.  Even more unexpectedly, we found occasions to meet in person, bringing these friendships from the virtual world into the real one.

It’s been more than seven months since that project ended.  The friendships continued.  A handful of us joined Andrea, the Kitchen Lioness, in her Cottage Cooking Club, but many of us found that we missed sharing a common project and cooking together more regularly.  As 2016 kicked off, Katie, the Prof Who Cooks, jumped in to lead the charge and rally the troops to embark on a new project this week.  With “Cook the Book Fridays”, this group of cooking friends will start working our way through David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  I am thrilled to have a regular date scheduled with my blogging friends again.

This week, we start off with a Winter Salad.  For this simple recipe, bâtons of Belgian endive are tossed with a thick Roquefort dressing.  Roquefort, a sheep’s milk blue cheese, has a strong yet smooth flavor.  It lacks the metallic aftertaste I find with many blue cheeses.  The bitter greens contrast with the creamy dressing for an interesting salad for this time of year.

I had some trouble envisioning how to cut the endive.  Cut it lengthwise, then lengthwise again?  I was assuming that all the layers would have fall apart with the first set of cuts. Fortunately, it made more sense as I went along.  Even with the root trimmed off, the first cut yielded slabs that could be cut lengthwise again to create the requisite bâtons.  Voilà!

Belgian Endive Batons

For the dressing, you mash the Roquefort into Greek yogurt, adding some zip with fresh lemon juice and some color with minced chives.  The recipe makes a generous amount.  I halved the entire recipe and still had half the dressing left over.

Roquefort Dressing

You really need to make this salad right before you eat it.  We didn’t finish it all, so I ate the rest for lunch the next day.  Not so good.  The endive became soft, and without its crisp texture, didn’t have the same appeal as the freshly made salad.

It might be sacrilege to suggest it, but this salad (and/or the leftover dressing) would be perfect alongside Buffalo chicken wings to enjoy while watching Sunday’s Super Bowl:  a French twist to an all-American event.  (Admittedly, the game won’t be tuned in at our house, though we will be enjoying chili and other Super Bowl appropriate snacks.  It’s not because the New England Patriots aren’t playing.  I’m just anti-football.)

If this salad sounds good to you, check out what my friends thought of it here.  Stay tuned every two weeks for my experience with another new recipe.  Due to copyright considerations, I don’t share the recipe on my blog.  You can find it on page 98 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  Or feel free to drop me a line and I’ll share it with you.

A Slice of Memories

Sliced Cheese Bread

One of my husband Howard’s best memories is living around the corner from the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley, California back in the eighties.  The primary fixture in that food lovers’ neighborhood was (and still is) The Cheese Board, a cheese store/bakery cooperative that sells an amazing array of cheese and bakes fabulous breads and pastries.  Howard’s favorite thing to come out of the bakery was the cheese bread.  Whenever we pass through the area, we stop for a fix of cheese bread and cheese.

Because we live on the East Coast, stopping by The Cheese Board isn’t a frequent occurrence.  To satisfy the cheese bread craving, I’ve come up with a homemade version that Howard says comes close to what he remembers.  It’s easy enough that I try to make at least once a month.

This time of year, slices of cheese bread are the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of soup for lunch or dinner.  The crusty outside, speckled with flecks of almost-burnt cheese, contrasts with the soft inside, studded with more pockets of tangy cheese.  The floral aroma of marjoram adds a lovely savory element.

Give it a try.  If you ever visited Berkeley, you might be transported.  If you didn’t, I still guarantee you a bread you’ll want to eat again and again.

Baked Loaf

No-Knead Cheese Bread, inspired by the Cheese Board in Berkeley
Adapted from Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread and The Cheese Board’s cookbook.

(Note that I use a scale, but I’ve included approximate volume measurements.)

400 g (about 3 cups) bread flour
½ – 1 tsp fine sea salt (depending on how salty the cheese is)
¾ tsp yeast
2 tsp dried marjoram
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, diced
200g Asiago cheese, diced into ½-inch pieces
About 360 g (about 1-5/8 cups) water
2 Tbsp sesame seeds (to top the loaf before baking)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, marjoram, and pepper.  Add onion and cheese and stir to evenly distribute them throughout the dry mixture.

Slowly add water, stirring to combine, until you have a fairly wet dough where all the water is incorporated.  You might not need all the water, or you might need a little more.  I stir in about half of the water, then another half of what’s left, then judge how much more I need.

If the bowl is really sticky, transfer to a clean bowl.  Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and set in a draft-free spot.  (I sometimes use my microwave or the oven.)  Let it rise 12-18 hours.  It can go a little longer if that suits your schedule better.  The dough will rise, get bubbly, and remain very sticky.

First Rise Done

After the dough has risen, generously sprinkle the counter with flour.  Also, lay a dish towel (I use the same one that was covering the bowl) across a baking sheet with the ends hanging off the sides.  Sprinkle the center of the towel with corn meal or more flour and gently rub it into the towel.

Turn the dough out onto the floured surface.  Flour your hands, then make two folds.  First, fold the left and right sides towards the center.  Then fold the top and bottom towards the center.  The folding action is similar to folding a letter to put in an envelope.

Transfer the dough, seam side up, on to the dish towel.  Fold the ends of the dish towel over the dough to cover it.  Set it aside to rise for another 1 to 2 hours.

Second Rise Done

Thirty minutes before the end of the rising period, place a large and heavy covered Dutch oven or bread dome or cloche (I use this one) into the oven, and preheat to 475F.  After 30 minutes, carefully remove the hot vessel from the oven and transfer the dough to the pot, keeping the seam side up.  If the dough doesn’t land neatly, using potholders, shake the pot to even it out.  Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.

Replace the cover and put the pot back in the oven for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until very brown.  You don’t want it to burn, but the longer you go, the crisper the crust will be.

Transfer the loaf to a rack to cool.  You should hear it singing as it cools.


p.s. Now that I feel like I have my feet under me in 2016, I’m aiming to share one non-cooking-club-related post with you every week.  Let’s see how I do!

Cooling Loaf