Tag Archives: Dorie Greenspan

Pretzel Rolls and BBQ in St. Louis, Louie

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Pretzel Rolls inspired by dinner at Weber Grill STL.

St. Louis, Missouri, is not known as a food destination city, per se, but it is known for, among other things, very meaty and fatty St. Louis spare ribs and St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake, which became a legend after a local baker mixed a cake in the wrong proportions. Or so they say.  St. Louis also has its own style of pizza that sounds even worse than Chicago-style pizza, if that’s possible. In St. Louis, mozzarella is replaced by something called “Provel,”  a white processed cheese formed by a fusion of Provelone, Swiss, and white cheddar. One of these days, I will stop being a snob and I’ll try it.

Weber Grill at the St. Louis Galleria opened about seven months ago, and even though it is tucked into a forgotten corner of the mall and hidden by construction, you can see it from a mile away because of the bright red outsized Weber grill that sits on top like a gigantic fire hydrant with a dog whistle. I have zero knowledge about BBQ, so I cannot speak to its authenticity, a subject that I understand is hotly debated at every roadside BBQ joint, but the meat and fish here were delicious. Just for context, however, remember that our dining experiences in St. Louis have been limited to chain restaurants in the mall:  Enough said? But no; it really is good!

This is the fifth of the Weber Grill Restaurant franchise (three in Illinois, one in Indiana), and I would be very happy indeed if they opened a location on the Upper West Side! As they themselves say:

Sit back, relax, and let Weber do the grilling tonight. Join us at the Weber Grill Restaurant where there’s no mosquitoes, tiki torches, or chance of rain. Just delicious grilled food from the folks who really know barbecue—Weber.

Most of what we ate at Weber Grill was really excellent. Mr. Darcy loved the pretzel rolls that they bring to the table,  which inspired me to make them at home. I found two recipes, one from Fleischmann’s Yeast, and the other from King Arthur Flour.  I opted in favor of the KAF, because it had fewer ingredients, but they both looked good, and they both involved giving the dough a bath — so much fun!

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Caesar salad with grilled salmon at Weber Grill.

My Caesar salad with grilled salmon was perfect, but the “grilled rustic flat bread” was supermarket pita with some herbs thrown on it while someone whispered, “Grill.” Mr. Darcy’s baby back ribs and  crab cakes were both delicious, but the “roasted garlic mashed potatoes” had no garlic, much less roasted garlic. The lemon grilled shrimp appetizer was very nice, but the four grilled shrimp came upon a huge pile of greasy fried onions, and the lemon aioli dipping sauce was devoid of both lemon and garlic.  Just plain mayo.  I do not care for coleslaw, and the blue cheese and pecan coleslaw did not change my mind, much as I love both blue cheese and pecans.

The staff was very pleasant and the service was quite good. Our iced tea and water were constantly being refreshed. Oddly, the check was presented without our being asked if we wanted dessert. I really wanted to try the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake. Sniff. Oh well. Maybe next time.

The room is attractive with several separate seating areas. It is child-friendly, and the noise level is comfortable even when the restaurant is crowded. The booths are unusually comfortable. This was the first booth in living memory that didn’t make me feel like I was sitting in a high chair. Sweet!

The restaurant was busy the night we went, but I understand that Saturday nights are impossibly crowded and very hard to get into.  Make reservations.

Weber Grill offers grilling classes in a large and well-appointed classroom-kitchen, and I have convinced Mr. Darcy that we should take a class the next time we are in STL. I went to the website hoping to sign up for e-mail notifications, but found nothing. It would be good if they would provide e-mail information about their class schedule.

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Pretzel rolls about to go into the oven.

Speaking of cooking classes, Kitchen Conservatory, just up the street from the St.Louis Galleria, offers over 800 cooking classes a year, and the schedule for the year is right there on line. Right now. The classes are very reasonably priced and clearly delineated as “demonstration” or “hands on.”

Kitchen Conservatory has been here for 30 years and is an independent, locally-owned enterprise. It is housed in what looks like a small house from the street. Once inside, however, it feels huge. There are quite a few clearly designated and easy to navigate selling areas with an astronomical amount of top quality kitchen equipment. Everything you can imagine is displayed attractively — over 6000 items —  from huge Le Creuset Dutch Ovens to tiny little piglet cookie cutters. You can also shop on line. There is an informative blog, and they even offer an Ask The Chef feature to e-mail your cooking and baking questions. I haven’t tried it yet, but if it’s anything like King Arthur Flour’s Baker’s Hotline, we are in luck!

There are two kitchen-classrooms: one appears to be for demonstration classes while the other looks to be for participation classes. Definitely on the agenda for our next trip.

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Dorie Greenspan’s long-awaited cookie book. Three dozen chocolate chip cookies did not survive three days in Mr. Darcy’s cookie jar!

Waiting for me back home was Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful new baking book Dorie’s Cookies. First out of the box, so to speak, were My Newest Chocolate Chip Cookies — to which I added espresso, of course — for Mr. Darcy. Clearly a winner, this is a hefty volume and I will be reporting back on it. Frequently!

Baking in a Blizzard or on a Snow Day: Baking with Dorie and Maida

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5:30 a.m.   24 January 2015.  Westchester County, New York.

New Yorkers know  to take any weather forecast with a grain of salt.  Hey, it’s Noo Yawk. We can get through anything.  The authorities, on the other hand, are way too quick to shut things down. Tuesday could have been a perfectly good business day, but everything was closed, and we were left with a snow day.  A boon for the salaried.  For the self-employed, not so much.

But, for baking, oh yes!  I was a good sport and made the best of it *hahaha* by baking all day long  — except for the 15 minutes that went into 2014 tax prep. Ugh.  I turned to “my friend Dorie Greenspan,” who is my latest baking idol.

When Popeye was in pre-school and applying to first grade, his best friend was accepted at  JFK Jr.’s alma mater.  As a result, the boy’s mother was very impressed with herself.  She was even more impressed with herself when she met one of the school parents, actress Kate Burton, who  told her to call if she had any questions.  In fact, she was so impressed with herself that, for the remaining months of pre-school, she began every sentence with “My friend Kate Burton,” to the great amusement of one and all.

Unlike my social-climbing acquaintance,  I’ve never actually met Dorie Greenspan, but she has been very generous on Twitter in response to my Tweets and photos of her recipes.  OMG. How stupid does that sound?  Can’t you just hear my voice go up at the end of every declarative sentence.  Valley Geezer.

To get back to baking:  Dorie Greenspan has a recipe for the most incredibly delicious banana cake ever.   I added a cappuccino glaze, and it was beyond words. Mr. Darcy, the banana’s best friend and biggest fan, was beyond happy. IMG_4621I made it a second time using some of the batter for a small kugelhopf, and the rest for six large cupcakes.  This time, I didn’t glaze it at all, and it was still perfect.  The cupcakes were wonderful, too.

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The outside has a light, buttery crunch, and the inside is soft and luscious. Here is a shot of the cake sliced.  Look at that crumb!

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Now, if Julia Child taught me how to cook, Maida Heatter taught me how to bake. IMG_4617 This is Maida Heatter’s wonderful East 62nd Street Lemon Cake.  It is a lemony pound cake that I glazed with a lemon glaze and grated orange zest.

Could I go a day without baking bread?  Certainly not, especially when the new King Arthur Flour Baker’s catalogue just arrived with a new (to me) recipe for Swedish Limpa, one of my all-time favorite breads.  Gorgeous!

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The second time around, I didn’t fare so well. The dough never came together to begin with.   As a result, the rise was off, and crust was wonky and the crumb was not quite right. Not so gorgeous.

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Maybe I was thrown off by another kitchen disaster.  After cooking the rice for  Rice Pudding with Caramel Apples (my friend Dorie Greenspan again), I discovered that the rice was infested with creepy little crawly things. Ugh.  Briefly, very briefly, I considered pretending that the little black flecks were vanilla pod scrapings, and eating it anyway.  Bugs are protein, after all.  But I’m no outdoor girl, and I couldn’t do that to myself or to Mr. Darcy.

They are predicting another snow storm.  As long as I have the ingredients for Dorie Greenspan’s Rice Pudding with Caramel Apples, let it snow!

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6 a.m.  24 January 2015. Westchester County, New York.

 

Healthier Eggplant Parmesan: Comfort Food without the Calorie Overkill

IMG_4612Healthy Eggplant Parmesan, adapted from Melissa D’ Arabian

Here’s a healthy and satisfying alternative to the standard  breaded, fried, cheesy, and sinfully delicious eggplant parm.  It’s adapted from a recent Melissa D’Arabian’s recipe.  It’s a simple dish that requires just a little planning.  Assembly is a snap.  I’ve tweaked her recipe a bit to bring out the flavors and textures that I prefer.

Ingredients:

For the sauce*:

1 can or tetra-pak tomatoes, 28 oz.
1 onion, cut in half
½ tablespoon dried tarragon (or basil, oregano, dill, or nothing at all)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
salt and pepper to taste

*Or, use 2 cups prepared tomato sauce and skip this step.

For the rest:

1 large eggplant
1 ½ cups ricotta cheese or cottage cheese, if you prefer a lower calorie version.  As a                     general rule, however, stay away from low- or non-fat versions of either, because when the       fat is reduced, too much salt and sugar are added to make up for the loss of taste.                     Remember:  “Fat carries the flavor!”
1 whole egg
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano** cheese (I know it’s eggplant PARM, but the Pecorino Romano gives it a sharper and saltier bite —  and more flavor).
½ cup mozzarella cheese

** Pecorino Romano is a very pungent cheese that is not to everyone’s liking, probably because it’s made of sheep’s milk.  If using PR, make sure that you like its aroma and flavor, and go easy. Remember, you can always add more, but you can’t subtract!

Directions:    Spray a rectangular baker with olive oil spray.  Preheat oven to 400°

Step 1: Skip this step if you are using prepared tomato sauce.  Combine ingredients for the sauce in a large enough pot with a lid.  Bring to a boil, cover and lower to a low simmer for 45 minutes. When cooked, remove the onion.  Taste for black pepper and salt.

Step 2:  While the tomato sauce is cooking, slice the eggplant into thin rounds, leaving the skin on. Spray the eggplant slices with olive oil spray on both sides, and place them on sheet trays lined with parchment paper.  Bake from 5 to 10 minutes, watching carefully that they don’t burn.

Step 3:  Mix ricotta with the egg very well, and set aside.

Step 4:  Lower the oven to 350°.  To assemble and bake, layer the eggplant slices and cheeses as follows:  1/3 eggplant, spray with olive oil spray, half the ricotta and egg mixture, 1/3 Pecorino Romano cheese, 1/3 cup tomato sauce; 1/3 eggplant, spray with olive oil spray, half the ricotta and egg mixture, 1/3 Pecorino Romano, 1/3 tomato sauce; 1/3 eggplant, spray with olive oil spray, 1/3 Pecorino Romano, 1/3 tomato sauce, mozzarella.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, and serve with a simple green salad.

The eggplant layers are crunchy and chewy and creamy, all at the same time.  Even without the traditional stretchy ropes of cheese, it’s cheesy enough to satisfy.  Comfort food with [almost] all the bells and whistles without the regrets.

You may now reward yourself with a luscious custardy apple dessert by the remarkable Dorie Greenspan.  Lacy caramel apple and vanilla sweetness.

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Mr. Darcy is in love — and not with me!  And who can blame him?  Dorie Greenspan is the new Maida Heatter.  Like Maida, Dorie’s recipes always work and they are always delicious, but unlike Maida, she does not use prodigious amounts of sugar and there is no need to own shares in a tin mine in Bolivia!  Is anyone else old enough to remember the tons of aluminum foil? Don’t get me wrong, I will always love Maida Heatter, but Dorie Greenspan’s lighter and more modernized recipes are a godsend.  The first time I made this, I was having a stupid day, and I forgot to add the flour!  So, halfway through baking, I pulled it out of the oven, added the flour, mixed it back up, put it back in the pan, smushed it down, and it was still delicious.

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I suspect that this would have been delicious even without the flour.  Isn’t it great to have recipes that work no matter what?