Sunday, January 25, 2009

I celebrated the inauguration by:

Making cookies. However, when I made them this time, it was not because I was feeling sad. I was feeling more excited and hopeful than I have in awhile. I was rejoicing.

Then, on my Starbucks cup this past Friday (I count this as divine intervention):

"I have faith. Faith in our wondrous capacity for hope and good, love and trust, healing and forgiveness. Faith in the blessing of our infinite ability to wonder, question, pray, feel, think and learn. I have faith. Faith in the infinite possibilities of the human spirit." (James Brown)


For some more in depth thoughts on Jesus and the inauguration, see Ben's blog post, here.

Coming soon: Banana chocolate chip muffins, NY Times bread, chicken stock, chick peas.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Featherlight Yeast Rolls.

If Paula Deen is the queen of Southern cooking, then Edna Lewis is God. Edna Lewis ran Cafe Nicholson in New York--where greats such as Truman Capote, Harper Lee, William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams were frequent guests.

Her essay, "What is Southern?", the cornerstone of Gourmet's January 2008 issue profiling Southern cuisine, is only the beginning of our love affair. She says in the essay, "Southern is a great yeast roll, the dough put down overnight to rise and the next morning shaped into rolls and baked. Served hot form the oven, they are light as a dandelion in a high wind." Need I say more? The recipe--which calls for mashed potatoes--was intriguing enough to be my first foray into the kitchen this semester.

The dough (in the top photo), rose overnight in the fridge, completely filling the bowl which you see pictured there. Like the soft pretzel experience, I found myself completely inept at shaping the dough. The middle photo should show neat, even rows of six, four across. The good news is they still taste good, though they may not be aesthetically pleasing. It was the perfect recipe for the snowy day we had today, and a good excuse to blast the heat--the dough rises better when its warm.

Featherlight Yeast Rolls
Makes 24 rolls.
1 russet or baking potato (.5 lbs, or so), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 stick of unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 (1/4 oz) package active dry yeast
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1. Cover the potato with cold water in a medium saucepan (more than 2 cups for sure). Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until very tender (about 10 minutes). Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid (I used a ladle), then drain the potato well.
2. Melt 2.5 tablespoons butter. Mash 2 tablespoons of the butter with the potato. Stir in milk, salt, and sugar.
3. Cool 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid (I put mine in the freezer just after gathering it) and add yeast. Let stand for five minutes until foamy (you'll know). Stir into potato mixture.
4. Stir flour into the potato mixture with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.
5. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, dusting surface and hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes (This is a sticky dough, so keep the flour handy).
6. Brush a large bowl with the remaining .5 tablespoon of melted butter, then turn the dough in the bowl to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours.
7. Punch down dough (No--really--punch it down, it is so fun. Do not knead, punch) and halve. Roll each half into a 12 inch long log on a very lightly floured surface with lightly floured hands. Cut each log into 12 equal pieces and roll each into a ball. Arrange into rows of 6 by 4 in a buttered (I under-did the butter--really grease that pan. I'm thinking about trying parchment next time) 13x9x2 baking pan. Cover pan with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth, though).
8. Let rolls rise in a warm room until doubled (they will fill the pan), about 1 to 1.5 hours.
9. Preheat the oven to 375 with the rack in the middle.
10. Brush the tops of the rolls with the remaining 1.5 tablespoons of melted butter. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Loosen edges with a sharp knife, then transfer rolls to a rack to cool slightly.

Friday, January 16, 2009


The title of this blog is "Crashing the Last Supper". Aside from the witty play on religion and food, I also really like bread and wine.

I am the proud owner of a bread machine, but there's something more involved, maybe even sacred about kneading your own dough. This semester, I'm going to try baking bread, partly for the bread, and partly for the spiritual practice. I'll be testing a few different versions in the next few weeks--ones that don't require a machine, either. On the list are matzo, Algerian flat bread, Smitten Kitchen's wheat bread, brioche, and a version from Gourmet I picked up today at Reading Terminal (the Cookbook stall has back issues for 80 cents).

This past week, in terms of cooking, I have been a slacker. I cooked two favorites this week for Nina, Courtney, Gab, and friends--both of which have been posted before--a vegan version of the lentil soup (well, I added Parmesan to mine) and macaroni and cheese (with bacon!). I think its safe to say they were crowd-pleasers.

I'll be back in my kitchen on Sunday, with a new spice rack and a soup recipe, because it is too damn cold in Philadelphia.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lima beans?!

During finals week, I had two very good reasons not to cook. They were "Death and Dying" and "Christian History".

But, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, cooking helps me relax. I had all the ingredients for this dish already in the pantry (actually, in the pantry for weeks), and what could be more comforting on a snowy day than a bowl of soup?

There are only five ingredients in this soup. This is absolutely amazing to me, considering how ridiculously rich, filling and flavorful this soup is. Most of the flavor comes from the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (this is a small, canned good found by the tortilla chips and salsa in Whole Foods). Add in the aromatics--the garlic and the onions--and it is impossible to find these lima beans bland.

Oh, did I fail to mention this was a lima bean soup? I know what you're thinking. "Lima beans, Cody? Really?" Well, I'm a convert. I was a little cautious scooping out of the bulk bin at Whole Foods, but found them a perfect canvas for the adobo, garlic, and onion. The beans soak up the flavors and become rich and hearty.
You might notice the whole head of garlic bobbing in the pot. It seems weird, but trust me--lob off the top and bottom, remove as much of the papery outside as you can, and toss it in the pot. The water in which the beans boil gets infused with all that garlic flavor.

Lima Beans in Chipotle Broth
1 pound dried baby lima beans, picked over and rinsed
10 cups water
1 head garlic, top lobbed off to expose the cloves and loose skins removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, halved top to bottom and sliced into thin crescents
1 to 2 chipotles in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons salt

1. Rinse the beans in a collander. Throw them in the pot with the water and the garlic head. Let the beans simmer for 30-40 minutes. They should be "al-dente", not mushy. Taste them to check their doneness.
2. Saute the sliced onions (I used my mandoline slicer) with the chipotle peppers and two teaspoons of adobo sauce in the olive oil. I know it is tempting to put more in, because it doesn't look like much. But hold back. Try your best. Saute them just until soft, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the salt and onion mixture to the lima bean mix. Simmer for about five minutes.
4. Remove the garlic head just before serving.

I couldn't eat the whole batch myself, so I put some in the freezer to come back to next week. I am awful glad I did.

And sorry I didn't get a shot of the finished product. It is a beautifully colored broth. Check out Heather's shot (and original recipe) here.