Things I Liked This Week

Another week, another edition of Things I Liked This Week, in which I share all the things I liked this week. So, here are some things I liked this week:

1. Wearing my jean jacket

2. Making this Baked Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage and then eating it all week

(Tangentially, I was just reminded of this one time an old co-worker pronounced broccoli rabe “broccoli rob-ay” and I was embarrassed for them but then had to frantically google the proper pronunciation to make sure I wasn’t the person who should be embarrassed about my pronunciation of “broccoli rabe.”)

3. “A Portrait of the Alt-Bro as a Young Dumbass” by Gavin Tomson (The Awl)

This was probably my favorite thing that I read all week.

4. “Exile On North Seventh Street” by Jason Horowitz (New York Times)

There are some really fantastic lines in this profile of Georgia’s ex-president.

5. A bunch of songs, which I’ve collected in one playlist:

6. Everything about the vote for Scottish independence

7. The recipe for Hangman’s Blood

(I’m currently rereading A High Wind in Jamaica.)

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Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I think I mentioned this last week when I wrote about making that banana cream pie, but I am ALL ABOUT baking with brown butter. Luckily, Joy the Baker had a great brown butter recipes roundup recently and I’m determined to bake my way through all of them. This week I tried her Brown Butter Banana Bread with Rum and Coconut. I changed the recipe up only a little, replacing coconut with chocolate chips. Not because I don’t like coconut – I actually love coconut – but because I forgot to buy some and I like chocolate chips in my banana bread almost always.

 

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

 

I thought it turned out pretty great, though I might have overcooked it a little. (The bottom was a smidge burnt.) There was a nice crust on the bread and the addition of chocolate made it a perfect dessert and afternoon snack.

 

Banana Cream Pie

I wasn’t planning on making a pie this weekend. I really didn’t think I’d feel like it. But I surprised myself by waking up at 11:30 AM on Saturday and having enough energy to get out of bed, go to the coffee shop, procure coffee, look through cookbooks at home until I found something I wanted to make, and then go back out to the grocery store to buy ingredients. Advil was instrumental in making all of this happen.

I decided to pick a recipe from James Peterson’s Baking. I’ve had this cookbook for a few years now and I will say that I’ve learned a lot from it, though I’ve found many of the recipes to be slightly imperfect. (I usually end up modifying the recipes I make the second time around.)  You just can’t beat a cookbook that has a recipe for anything you could possibly bake.

I only had a few hours to make a dessert because we were going to a farewell party that started in the early evening, so I settled on banana cream pie because 1) it’s delicious and 2) it doesn’t require TOO much work, I thought. As usual, it was a little more work than I’d bargained for, but the outcome made it all worth it.

Banana Cream Pie

I started with the crust, which needed to be pre-baked. I’m not a pie crust expert (yet) but I’ve gained a lot of confidence in this area recently, so I didn’t think it would be a problem. That assumption was incorrect. I used Peterson’s recipe for Basic Pie and Tart Pastry Dough. I followed the directions for making it in a stand mixture, which was supposed to be better for keeping the butter cold and kind of clumpy (as opposed to a food processor), but that did not work out so well. The dough came together very, very quickly and when I added the liquid, it was way too wet. I could tell it wasn’t going to roll out easily or turn out the way I wanted it to. Also, I got some nail polish flakes in it, so into the trash it went!

So, I started over – after taking my nail polish off – and this batch turned out A LOT better. I used less liquid this time and the dough rolled out very nicely. But my kitchen was very hot and even though I had put down a lot of flour on the butcher block, the dough stuck and I had to roll it back into a ball to roll out again. At that point, I realized I didn’t have a lot of time because I hadn’t even started on the filling, so I just pressed the dough into my pie dish. Not gonna lie, it didn’t look great. I used the end of a fork to crimp the edges and that made it look slightly less ugly. Before I threw it in the oven, I put a sheet of parchment paper over it and put some dry rice on top of that to weigh it down.

Once the shell was cooking, I started on the custard for the filling. First, I made the brown butter, which was to be added to the vanilla custard to give it a butterscotch flavor. I actually had never made brown butter until a few months ago. (I had to look up how to do it and found the directions on Simply Recipes to be much easier to follow than those in Baking.) It’s…not hard to make, like, at all. I feel like I thought it was going to be hard because people are always talking about burning brown butter (right?), but I haven’t burned any yet so…Anyway, After it was was finished, I let it cool on the counter while I got started on the custard.

I actually have never cooked custard perfectly. But I did it this time! I didn’t scald the milk and there were no burnt bits on the bottom of the saucepan. I literally felt like a genius after I realized this. (Very cool, I know.) I added the brown butter to the vanilla custard and put it in the freezer to cool down, because I am all about short cuts.

While I was doing all of the filling stuff, I didn’t realize the pie shell was sort of burning. Oh, well! No one was going to see it anyway and I don’t mind a well-done crust, so I got over it pretty quickly. I left that to cool as well and went to get ready for the evening. I assembled most of the pie right before I left, except for the top layer of bananas. A layer of custard went on the bottom, followed by a layer of bananas (I used 3), followed by another, thicker layer of custard. Because my shell shrank in the oven, I didn’t end up using all of the custard, so I put it in the freezer so that I could eat frozen custard later!

I served the pie after dinner that evening and it seemed that everyone who tried it liked it just fine/maybe a lot! (Somehow, I managed to bring a banana cream pie to a party where only half of the people liked bananas.) I certainly thought it was very good and would definitely, definitely try this again.

Banana Cream Pie

BANANA CREAM PIE
by James Peterson

Basic Pie and Tart Pastry Dough

 

Ingredients:
1 cup cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold butter, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
7 tablespoons water or heavy cream, or 2 eggs, lightly beaten (Note: I used slightly less because I actually found the dough too wet.)
2 tablespoons additional liquid, or 1 egg white, if dough is too dry
Directions for the easiest method – making the dough in a food processor – can be found here.

 

Filling

 

Ingredients:

3 cups milk (Note: I used whole milk.)
1 vanilla bean split lengthwise, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (Note: I definitely didn’t bother with the vanilla bean and just used extract.)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons melted butter, lightly browned and strained (Note: I didn’t strain the brown butter, because who cares?)
3 ripe bananas (Note: I ended up using 5 1/2 bananas, I think because I made this in a slightly larger dish, and my bananas were small, I guess.)

Use a 9- to 10-inch pie pan. Roll the dough into a round about 2 inches larger than the pie pan. Line the pie pan with the dough, fold under the edge to make it a double thickness, and make a fluted edge. Place a square of parchment paper or aluminum foil over the dough, making sure it is large enough that it’s easy to pick up by the ends when you remove it. Cover the parchment paper with about a pound of dried beans to keep it from puffing up in the oven. Bake the shell for about 15 minutes, until the edge of the tart turns pale brown. Remove the paper or foil and beans and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the bottom of the shell is golden brown.

In a saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer with the vanilla bean or extract. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. Pour half of the milk into the egg mixture, stir to combine thoroughly, and pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk. Stir the mixture over medium-high heat with a whisk for about 5 minutes, or until it bubbles and thickens. Remove the vanilla bean, if using. Transfer the custard mixture to a bowl, whisk in the brown butter, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to cool to room temperature.

Cover the bottom of the pie shell with one-third of the pudding. Slice 2 of the bananas between 1/8- and 1/4-inch thick and place one half of them over the pudding in a single layer. Spread half of the remaining pudding over the banana slices. Place the remaining sliced bananas on top of the pudding, then cover the bananas with the remaining pudding.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving, but serve at room temperature. Shortly before serving, slice the remaining banana and arrange on top of the pie.

Recipe Test: Lemon Frittata with Leeks and Goat Cheese

It’s been really gross in New York this week. REALLY gross. Like, I’m sitting in an air-conditioned room right now and I’m still sweating. Also, I have Hermione hair. But really, my main problem with the weather is how much I’ve been sweating. Making this frittata the other night did not help the situation. Why? Because I ended up having my oven on BROIL for at least an hour before I actually needed to broil the frittata for three minutes. (I always forget to preheat the oven, so I was being proactive here, by preheating the over long before I needed to.)

Despite turning me into a melting mess, this frittata ended up being a pretty good learning experience. And pretty good, to boot.

Lemon Frittata with Leeks and Goat Cheese

On Tuesday night, I wanted to make something simple because I also had a lot of laundry to do and knew I would be running back and forth between my apartment and the laundry room in the basement. I was doing my usual frantic search around the internet for “weeknight recipes” when it hit me — I would make a frittata! I’ve actually never made a frittata from a recipe before but I thought this time I would give it a try. I found this one on The Kitchn. It looked simple enough. And I was craving breakfast for dinner. Perfect.

I did my grocery shopping and purchased leeks for the first time ever. It didn’t occur to me until that moment that I had never handled leeks before. When I got back to my apartment, I threw in my first load of laundry and then got right to cooking. First order of business (i.e. first mistake), I preheated the oven just as the recipe stated. Then, I started prepping everything else. I cleaned the leeks, which took me pretty much forever because they had dirt on them and I started freaking out about eating dirt that’s been sitting on vegetables that have been sitting in a grocery store that’s next to a combination KFC/Taco Bell and I wanted to make sure they were super clean. But then I remembered that good things come from the earth and that if I got sick, I could just go to the hospital, I guess. (I think I’ve covered this here before, but I am a raging hypochondriac.)

Anyway, I cleaned the leeks. I whisked the eggs. I grated the lemon. And then I realized I forgot parsley and was just like, “Whatever, fuck it. I don’t even LIKE parsley.” That’s not actually true but it helped quell my perfectionist anxiety in the moment.

I got to the point where everything was together in the pan – after I had cooked the leeks for about ten minutes – and I remembered that I was supposed to crumble the goat cheese into the egg mixture before everything was in the skillet. So then I frantically had to crumble goat cheese into the frittata, which was already cooking at that point. This was difficult because I couldn’t get the goat cheese packet open and also, it was literally 200 degrees in my kitchen so the goat cheese was melting. By the time I had “crumbled” it all into the mixture, I had it all over my shirt and pants. I also found some in my hair later.

Anyway, I let the frittata set. And then I broiled it for about 4 minutes. And then it was done. It was maybe a little too lemony tasting for me. But it was good, nonetheless.

Lemon Frittata with Leeks and Goat Cheese

RECIPE

Lemon Frittata with Leeks and Goat Cheese
By Faith Durand

makes 1 10-inch frittata

Ingredients:

7 eggs
1 Meyer lemon, zested (Note: I used a regular lemon because I couldn’t find Meyer lemons – are they ‘in season’? is there a season for Meyer lemons? – and honestly it was probably fine.)
3 ounces goat cheese
Olive oil
2 large leeks, cut lengthwise and rinsed
1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped (Note: I didn’t use this because I forgot it. And I didn’t really miss it!)
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Pre-heat the broiler. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until slightly bubbly and well-mixed, then stir in the lemon zest. Crumble in the goat cheese. (Note: Definitely maybe wait to preheat the broiler. Also, remember to crumble in the goat cheese!)

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. It can be cast iron or another metal; just make sure it can go in the oven. Trim the leeks of any dry or browned edges on the green tops, then slice the remaining stalk into half moons. Toss everything into the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, for about ten minutes or until the leeks are softened. Stir in the parsley and cook just until wilted. Remove from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool for just a minute or two, then pour the cooked leeks into the bowl with the eggs and stir.

Put the skillet back on the heat and film lightly with just a bit more olive oil. Pour the egg and leek mixture in and cook over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until the frittata has mostly set. Use a spatula to lift up the edges and make sure it’s cooking evenly, letting the uncooked eggs run down into the bottom of the pan.

When the frittata has set, put under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and slightly puffy. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Flip out onto a platter and serve immediately.

Recipe Test: Fancy Tuna Melt

Since Summer is not-quite-officially over and Fall is not-quite-officially here and my apartment is still hot but not hotter than hell, I searched around the internet for a good in-between-seasons recipe to make yesterday. Also, I wanted something that easy to put together since I had some errands to run and a few other things to get done last night (like watching the US Open). I was browsing Leite’s Culinaria – one of my favorite places to find recipes these days – and I found this recipe for a Fancy Tuna Melt from Clodagh McKenna. Tuna salad always reminds me of Summer and, to me, there’s nothing more comforting and Fall-ish than a grilled cheese. So, this seemed perfect.

 

Fancy Tuna Melt

This sandwich totally hit the spot. It was quick and delicious. And I have leftovers that I can’t wait to eat tonight.

Not Your Mom’s Tuna Melt by Clodagh McKenna
Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 9 ounces canned tuna (preferably packed in oil), drained
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 celery stalk, finely sliced
  • 1/4 small (about 2 tablespoons) red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 medium (about 2 inches long) cucumber, peeled, if desired, and finely diced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 baguette, cut crosswise into 2 portions, or 4 slices bread, such as sourdough or multigrain (Note: I used multigrain.)
  • 4 slices tomato (optional)
  • 2 slices cheese of your choice, such as Gruyère, Swiss, or white Cheddar (Note: I used Colby Jack because…it was on sale at the grocery store.)

Directions:

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 400°F
  • 2. Using a fork, flake the tuna into a bowl. Stir in the mayonnaise, celery, onion, cucumber, and lemon juice and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix again.
  • 3. Cut the baguettes in half lengthwise and divide the tuna mixture between the bottom pieces. Place 2 slices tomato on each sandwich, if desired. Top with a cheese slice and the baguette lids, pressing down gently to settle the filling.
  • 4. Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until the sandwich is warmed through and the cheese begins to melt. Alternatively, you can warm the sandwich in a griddle or sandwich maker.
  • 5. Serve the sandwiches immediately.