I’ve always been someone who enjoys a great salad, so it should be no surprise that I’ve become quite comfortable working my way through Mark Bittman’s 101 Simple Salads for the Season. The 12-page print out is showing signs of wear with jottings of ingredients I’ve added, dates I prepared each that I’ve made, and stars to denote the direction I may next take. Oh, the possibilities. Of course, that would depend on the condition of the veggies I purchased when my eyes were bigger than my ability to follow through in an organized manner.
Let’s face it — mushrooms only last so long if one doesn’t push the idea that they prefer the open air to being wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge. Or consider the Jerusalem artichokes that met an untimely demise because I didn’t have one of the ingredients I needed to make Salad No. 5. And then there was the jicama that had seen better days long before I cut into it, surprised that it’s possible to find jicama in San Diego in that condition. Perhaps salad No. 9 wasn’t meant to be on that particular day.
Honestly, I’ve grown to enjoy “The List” as it promises so much as long as I’m prepared, and goodness knows when it comes to food, I’m usually prepared. The salads are so easily made and adapted that reviewing a section prepares you for the shopping and if the ingredients are remotely connected to what Bittman suggests, then I say fair game and a salad is born.
This past Sunday, I enjoyed salads No. 14 and 26 respectively; one for lunch and the other shared for dinner with grilled beef. Each was so different, yet delicious, and that is what has kept me interested. You just never know when you may find the opportunity to pair fennel and prune plums again in your lifetime, right?
Bear with me as I continue this exploration of textures and flavors — baked goodies will always be on the horizon.
Today is all about nuts. Lots and lots of nuts — which is perfect for me about now as I listen to the painters downstairs finally, finally ripping the paper off the floor which has been taped on for more than a week. I thought yesterday they’d be done, but they’re putting finishing touches here and there. Clearly, they’re very thorough, which I’m grateful for. I’m so ready to roll up my sleeves and rearrange my things again.
Dust. Vacuum. Hang pictures. Tackle the pile in the garage to unbury my books. Gather things for one last big donation of the year…
…then decorate for Christmas.
Like I said — NUTS! Or in this case, Biscotti Quadrati al Miele e alle Noci: Honey Nut Squares, Gourmet’s Favorite Cookie from 2003. These are a delightful bite of flaky cookie crust, creamy honey caramel and three kinds of nuts. You can’t get much easier for something pleasant, crunchy, and surprisingly, not too sweet.
That makes eleven cookies with one left to go. Here’s nuts to you!
I already wrote this once today. You know, when you sit down and immerse yourself in a post, wallowing in the moment of getting everything just right, choosing the perfect photos, and salivating all over again over what you made. No, not on it. About it.
And then your browser shuts down. The post is lost, and your motivation to begin again is just not there.
That would be me, now. And the feeling overshadows the fun I had this morning making these lovely muffins. So I’m trying to suck it up and get rolling once more.
You’ve already looked at the photo and are wondering where I could have come up with this one. Or maybe you’re not wondering and you just want me to stop blathering and get on with it. I don’t blame you.
So here’s the short version: We’re going to Italy this summer. Although some of the time will be spent near Florence, the bulk of our time will be spent in Rome and Sorrento near the Amalfi coast where lemons are everywhere. So I’ve had citrus on my mind and when Helene of Tartelette chose citrus as the featured flavor of Sugar High Friday #43, well, I surprised myself by choosing not lemons as I’d been planning, but oranges.
And I just happened to have these cute little Italian terra cotta pots…
*** Someone brought it to my attention that I left out an ingredient quantity — 1 tsp. baking soda. Thanks!
- The terra cotta pots hold exactly 8oz. or 1 cup. Comparatively, large muffin cups also hold 8 oz. and the more standard 12-muffin pans hold 4 oz. or 1/2 cup.
- I used a convection setting at 375 degrees F and checked the muffins at 10 minutes, then in 3 minute intervals until they were nicely golden brown, no longer wet-looking on the top, and a wooden skewer inserted in the center came out clean. I am still not buying the often described 20 percent reduction on heat and time for convection ovens. I think it depends on what I’m cooking. At most, I keep an eye on the food, and reduce the temp if things begin to get brown too fast, but rarely by more than 5 or 10 degrees. Not very scientific, but I’ve been experimenting with my oven for 3-1/2 years, and nothing’s completely conclusive, just with any other oven you have to get to know.
- I’m thinking you could add 50 percent more rosemary to this and pine nuts that are more coarsely chopped so there’s more of a crunch in every bite. The flavors are very nice together.
- The muffins are excellent without the glaze that we just drizzled on after removing them from the pots, and I had the juice from the orange, so why not?The crema fresca natural is a very thick, but pourable table cream that has the slightest bit of sourness, but nothing near to our sour cream or even creme fraiche, which would work fine in this recipe. It can be located in the deli case at your grocery store along with other Mexican creams and cheeses if you’re lucky.
- The texture of these muffins is fine, and extremely moist. The top and sides have a nice crunch which presents a great contrast. The fragrance is lovely.
- I wish I could take credit for the terra cotta pots, but I saw the idea in a Jamie Oliver cookbook in a cheese bread recipe and actually bought them for that. They worked so well, expect to see more later. I’ve got requests from family about what comes next.
- And I’m already wondering whether some extra virgin olive oil instead of all the butter would work with these muffins. A little less saturated fat never hurt anyone. And it’s more…Italian. Ciao!