Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

When I checked my twitter feed this morning and saw this recipe posted by Joy the Baker, my life was made complete, because now I had a reason to use this - 

And although her recipe used those little twiggy pretzels, I was aight because I had these -

I knew that all I had to do was bash them up some with this (I call it the widow maker) - 

Sorry for the black eye.  Please do not send the Amish Mafia after me.

I must say that it had tremendous promise, even before it was baked -

Lookin' foxy as hell after a 325 degree sauna.

Quick grilled cheese break to prevent consumption of entire pan.

This is the end result.  Family's reaction?  They were deemed "genius".  I guess there is no arguing with results.

 Does this recipe work to stretch my Pedestrian Palate in any way shape or form?  No.  Are they brag-worthy and insanely delicious? Yes.  My recommendation, link over and get the recipe. There are nothing but compliments and chocolate gluttony on the other side.  Do it! Go! 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturday Pizza Dough and Other Yeast Doughs

These two make a great couple.  Hoping to hear the pitter patter of little pizzas by tomorrow.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls.  What could be better for a Sunday breakfast?  This is Alton Brown's recipe - found here.

Followed by Sunday lunch.

Happy weekend!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Arthur Avenue Day Trip

For the longest time, I have wanted to make a trip into Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.  I have heard stories about it, good and bad but mostly good.  I was going to write a little story about my day there, but I think I prefer to show instead of tell.

The bottom line is that this is the real Little Italy.  Stores and restaurants are run by Italians and English is heard in about a 50% ratio to Italian.  We went to eat and shop and I have the full belly, bread, scamorza and burrata to prove that we accomplished our mission.

But, as a picture paints 1000 words, on with the show...

I bought that loaf on the right. Frikkin tasty, crisp on the outside and chewy inside. 

Some of the produce looked almost as good as what's in Campo de Fiori.  I said ALMOST.  Still a major compliment.

The cigar roller guy.  Not my cup o' tea.  I think cigars smell like fermented farts and sweaty shoes, but if that's your thing, smoke 'em if you got 'em. 

Seeds from Italy.   I actually bought three packs of these.  I can't keep a ficus alive, but I'm gonna grow my own vegetables from seed.  Delusional? Party of one.

At Cerini  Coffee and Gifts there is an adorable kitty policing the store and sidling up for a scratch behind the ears.
I bought an old school stove top espresso pot here and some of those jelly filled hard candies that every Italian grandmother keeps at the bottom of her purse.  I think it's a law or a birthright or something.

Off to Calandra Cheese Shop to get burrata and scamorza.  

They really shouldn't punish that cheese like that.  It's been so very, very good to me.  I hope this comes close to the scamorza that I had in Sorrento.

Arthur Avenue

A view of the NY Skyline coming over the Throgs Neck Bridge

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mighta choked Artie...

I make a mean Artichoke Dip.  I'm lot even going to waste your time with false modesty because this stuff is the shiz. So I am going to share it.

There are two schools of thought around recipe sharing. - one is to protect your creation at all times so that it builds an artificial anticipation and makes you the only person who can make it; thereby inflating your ego as the minions beg for a meager crust of the deliciousness that only you can create.  The second is to shout it  from the rooftops and share, share, share.  I am of the second school.  Now when I say share, I don't mean steal or republish as your own.  That would be dishonest and I hear that it makes your naughty bits dry up and fall off...and nobody wants that.

So, in the spirit of sharing and the hope that you value your reproductive parts, here's my artichoke dip recipe. It's actually pretty similar to a bunch of other artichoke dips out there, but I have tailored this to soothe my savage palate and it comes out perfect every time. Enjoy.

Artichoke Dip

Oven at 350.
8oz block cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup mayo
1 clove garlic grated or finely minced
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (Plus 2 tbs on the side for topping)
1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese (Plus 2 tbs on the side for topping)
Pinch salt
Fresh grated black pepper (to taste)
1 box frozen artichoke hearts microwaved for 6 or 7 minutes in a covered glass bowl with a tablespoon of water, cooled and chopped

Beat together all ingredients In the order listed. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your taste.  Spread in a greased baking dish (a pie plate works well) and top with reserved cheese.  Bake for 30 -40 to minutes or until golden and bubbly.  Serve with chunks of crusty bread, crackers  or an old pair of shoes.  It does not matter what you spread it on, that substance becomes exponentially better.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Apple Frangipane Tart - The Palate Goes Down

Your girl stepped out of her baking comfort zone this weekend and learned to embrace a once loathed food.

For as long as I can remember, I have hated almond flavored baked goods.  Almond flavoring factors heavily into many French and Italian sweets in the form of marzipan, almond paste and almond flavoring. Blech is all that comes to mind when I think of these things... or it did at one time.

Fast forward to this weekend... I took a crossant baking class at Sur La Table.  One of the croissants that we were going to be making was almond filled.  I look at the almond paste sitting in the bowl and my sphincter seized.  Do I have to touch that or worse, eat it?

As we began the process of assmembling the almond filling -almond paste, sugar, copious amounts of butter, lemon zest, vanilla, I found myself intrigued by the creamy texture of the filling.  It seemed so rich and inviting.  I wanted to bathe in it.   Strangely enough, the croissants that I most eagerly anticipated were not the chocolate ones, but the almond ones.

The *kitchen bitches pulled the croissants from the oven and assembled them on plates for each baking team.  After the obligatory pictures were taken, I grabbed a golden brown horn of lusciousness and bit into it greedily.  It was heavenly and I was so taken aback by my own lust for it and how insanely delicious it was that I immediately announced to the teacher that she had converted me to an almond paste lover.  She then told me that that very filling is the basis for her Frangipane tart, which is her own favorite sweet.

So I ran home like a good little food geek, almond creme recipe in hand and I sought out a tart shell recipe. I I followed a Williams Sonoma crust recipe that Ifound online, googled Frangipane tart, got the basic idea and assembled one. The result is below.   What it lacks in apple symmetry, it has in taste.

Another victory against my pedestrian palate!

*Please note that the term kitchen bitch refers to the helpers that clean the dishes and help prep for the classes. It is not meant to be negative, it's meant to be dripping with jealousy (distinction here).  How does one get that sweet gig?  I would be a prep monkey for a pastry chef for free if someone offered it to me. Bitches.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Every 7 Seconds

It used to be that when I heard the theory about men thinking about sex every  7 seconds, that I felt incredulous.  How could anyone be so obsessive and out of control of their own thoughts?  I used to think that least I did before I went to Italy.  Ever since my first visit to Bella Italia, I am the proud owner of a once every seven second obsession.

The heart of my obsession is Rome.  The most amazing thing about Rome for me was how, even though I didn't speak the native language and I had no clue how to get around, Rome felt small and homey and easy to understand, almost immediately.  Every subsequent trip after the first, felt even more so.  I think that part of this immediate adoption came front the fact that on all three of my trips, we stayed in an apartment and lived like Romans.  This way of staying in Rome is spacious and relaxed and a bit less expensive than hotel living.  We could shop for groceries, do laundry and drink wine on our terrace, just like the locals.

Based on my personal experience, I like to say that it is virtually impossible to get a bad meal in Rome.  I am sure that there are many that would disagree with that assessment, but I would think that  you'd have to try very hard to to get a bad meal.  If you stay off the main tourist drags and piazzas, there is nothing but goodness.

The last time I left Italy, I sat on the plane and cried.  Leaving Rome is like leaving a lover at the height of a torrid affair.  There is no reason to leave your heavenly union except the earthly obligation of home, family and work.   And as I may or may not  have said after a few glasses of wine, it pained me to return to my job and to the disappointment that I would feel when I learned my boss did not meet a Julius Caesar style fate while I was away.

I wish I knew when my next return trip to Italy will be.  We had hoped to go back this summer, but it does not appear to be in the cards for 2013.   That means that I am going to spend the next 365 + days thinking of Italy some 75085 times.  Good thing I enjoy the subject matter.

Here are some favorite pics from my trips.

Pictures and text are copyrighted. No use without permission, please.

Lamps in a dress shop in Florence.
Gorgeous produce in Campo de Fiori in Rome.
The man, the master, Dario Cecchini in Panzano.
Dario's famous lardo and meats.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Gatto's Got My Tongue

Ever since I made my first trip to Italy in 2010, I have spent a majority of my waking hours thinking about the next time I will return.  I was very fortunate to have have gone back twice since that initial trip.  But like potato chips or if you're Liz Taylor, husbands, there is no such thing as enough.

It's looking like my next trip to the motherland will not be until some time in 2014.  Until that time, I will cook and bake and surf the internet until my head is about to explode with Italian imagery.

Today, I found myself yearning for Campo De Fiori, the market and the neighborhood.  There are several great bakeries in the area. Some make spectacular bread (Roscioli), others make insanely good pizza by the inch (centimeter?) (Forno) and still others make great cookies (Il Fornaio).  Il Fornaio is the bakery that was featured in today's Italian daydream.

Every time that I have visited Rome I have made a stop at Il Fornaio.  I must admit, the thing that initially attracted me was the giant mortadella in an acrylic case at the front door.  It is displayed kind of half in the door and half out, as if it had burst out of the bakery in an attempt to be free of it's carbohydrate laden surroundings.  Freakish imagery aside, the baked goods inside were nothing to run away from.  It was in fact, the first place that ever got Cat's Tongue cookies.

Cat Tongue cookies or Lingue di Gatto are a very simple butter cookie with a crisp exterior, a tiny bit of interior chew and gorgeous brown edges.   Neither overly sweet nor adorned in any way, this cookie may be the best friend a cup of coffee ever had.  Today, my own tongue told me that I had to have some. Stateside, this means - bake 'em yourself, which is what I did.  I found a recipe in Italian here and I fired up the oven. Thankfully, my scale can measure in grams, because I can't. 

Here's how they came out.  A little bit of Rome in every bite.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

Should I throw out the mayo? I fear it may be ruining my street cred.

V-Day Delay

Happy Valentine's Day everyone.  Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm late.  However, as much as I would like to view myself as omnipotent, I can't be everywhere at once.

What did I serve for Valentine's dinner, you ask?  Oh, we'll allow me to share my menu with you -

Grilled sirloin steak with chimichurri sauce
Creamed cauliflower
Pan roasted garlic potatoes
Peanut butter & chocolate pot de creme

The pot de creme recipe was an adaptation from another recipe that needs some tweaking. It was yummy, but there were textural issues that I need to work out. Once I get it where I want it, I will share the recipe, cause it was mad tasty.  In the mean time, I will share a pic to whet the appetite for all things creamy and chocolatey.

Hope your Vday was wonderful and full of tasty adventures!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Crack is Back

Hello? Are  you listening? Because I'm about to get all confessional up in this bitch.

Thanks to a trip to the Tuscan Hills last year, I have developed a jones so powerful that nothing, not distance, not practicality, not plain old common sense can keep me from my drug of choice.  The drug that keeps me warm at night is Profumo Del Chianti.

Profumo Del Chianti is the product of Meat kingpin Dario Cecchini.  Cecchini, the famed Tuscan butcher known for his spectacular Bistecca Fiorentina and his evangelical dedication to all things Tuscan, turns out a small number of spectacular products.  These products are available in his Panzano butcher shop and at a small number of online retailers.  Thanks to, I got my fix in the mail a couple of days ago.

Profumo Del Chianti (aka my crack) is a finely ground blend of tuscan herbs and sea salt and although the label is not specific as to what the herbs are, a little investigation as well as my own taste buds tell me that it's bay, fennel pollen, rosemary, thyme, sage and probably a few other addictive substances, expertly blended into a fine powder.   This has become my go to seasoning for all meats as well as the best friend that olive oil ever had for dipping bread and raw vegetables.

Cecchini himself is as compelling as his products and is written about in fabulous detail in the fascinating book Heat, by Bill Buford .  At some point, when I have a little more time, I will dedicate a post to Cecchini and will post my pictures from my visit to Panzano.  In the mean time, you can get a taste for his intensity and the vibe of his shop here and here.  While you do that, I need to slip into the dark recesses of my kitchen and get my fix.  If I don't emerge by Wednesday, send a search party, because I'm in deep.

You can find this and other this and a host of other deliriously  delicious products at this location:

Via 20 Luglio, 11, Greve In Chianti, Province of Florence
+39 055 852020

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pot Roast Fra Diavolo

Welcome to the Pedestrian Palate.  This blog is all about my attempts to become a better cook and a more adventurous eater.  I will be writing about the restaurants and bars that I visit and I will be  cooking and sharing recipes that I come up with.  In addition, I will write about my experiences cooking recipes that I find in books and online.   All of this is aimed at upping my game as a home cook and broadening my palate, which, I'm not gonna lie, would have been very happy if Hostess never went out of business.

Being that this is my first introduction to you, I figured that I'd start off with a recipe of my own.  As a somewhat improvisational cook, I am learning to stop and write things down so that they become repeatable.  My first public offering of one of my written recipes follows below.  Please read on as I share my adventures in Pot Roast. There's always room at my table.

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Adventures in Pot Roast:

Today is my brother's birthday, so I am making him a Pot Roast for dinner.  For as long as I can remember, we have had Pot Roast on my brother's birthday as it is indeed one of his favorite meals.  Unfortunately, it is not one of mine.  Because of this, I have been tinkering with my recipe to address the things about i that I don't like.  I belive that this recipe addresses those things.  These are some of my changes:

1) No Carrots - sacriledge, I know.  Every Pot Roast recipe has carrots.  Well, guess what? Not mine! I have removed them from the mix.   Carrots add a sweetness and flavor to the gravy that I just don't like.  If I want sweetness, I will get it more directly from maybe a shot of golden syrup, a little aged balsamic vinegar or a spoonful of brown sugar.  Carrots can bite me.

2) I have sometimes skipped the browing step -  Why would I do this? I dunno, I have in the past out of pure laziness or stupidity, but no more.  There will be fond.  Oh yes there will.

3) Savory flavors - Pot roast has never satisfied that craving for something deeply rich, savory and flavorful.  I have set out to inject as much flavor into the mix as I can.  I do this with a combination of dried and fresh herbs and a gaggle of tasty liquids in the pot.  What?  You don't like the word gaggle?
Not unlike the carrot, you too can bite me.

This recipe can scale as necessary and if you feel strongly about it, add some carrots. What the hell, it's your roast (I will, of course make fun of you behind your back.  Live with it.).

Fra Diavolo Pot Roast

Serves 8
Oven at 275 degrees

1  4 - 5 lb bottom round roast
1 1/2 teaspoons * Profumo Del Chianti  - or 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 a large red onion -medium dice
2 or 3 ribs of celery (enough to be equal with the amount of onions) - medium dice
3 medium to large garlic cloves, crushed under the blade of a knife
2 Tablesoons Tomato Paste
1 cup of a hearty red wine.  I like Chianti, you can use any dry red that you like to drink, drunkie
1 25 ounce jar prepared fra diavolo sauce (or make your own if you insist on showing off)
1 14.5 ounce can beef broth (refer to snide remark above)
1 4 inch sprig of fresh thyme
1 6 inch sprig of fresh rosemary
1 dried bay leaf
2 teaspoons of an Italian Seasoning Blend
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (Or to taste.  Heat is a very personal thing.)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a dutch oven over medium high heat. Season the roast on all sides with the Profumo Del Chianti or salt and pepper.   Sear the meat on all sides being sure to develop a nice brown crust around the roast.  Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and celery.  Saute until the veggies soften and the edges start to turn golden brown.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant (about 30 seconds), then add tomato paste and cook that for another 30 seconds or so.

Deglaze the pot with wine, scraping all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return the roast to the pan and fill up with the fra diavolo sauce and broth until the meat is aprox three quarters of the way submerged.  Add the remaining ingredients and bring the pot to a gentle simmer.  Once the pot comes to a slow bubble, cover the pot and put it in the pre-heated oven.

Cook for 5 or 6 hours or until the meat is tender.

Remove the meat to a platter and tent it with aluminum foil.  While the meat is resting, skim the fat from the gravy and pass it through a strainer.  Return the strained gravy to the heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce the gravy by half and taste for seasoning.  Adjust as necessary.  You can thicken the gravy with a slurry if you want it thicker or use it as is if the thickness is to your liking.  There will be plenty of gravy, so slice the roast and serve it with mashed potatoes or egg noodles or anything that will sop up the tasty gravy. 

*Ok, so what is Profumo Del Chianti?  My short answer is - it's a miracle.  A revelation. It is the most spectacular tasting, perfectly balanced salt and seasoning blend, made by this brilliant madman.  It is a tiny little jar of genius.  A blend of fennel pollen, sea salt, bay, rosemary, thyme and who knows what else, ground to a fine powdery consistency.  It is so fine and powdery that you may be tempted to snort it.  Resist this temptation at all costs as it burns like a mother...or so I've been told.