Category Archives: home cooking

Father’s Day Meal

Oy…… I can’t get back on the blogging train for some reason. I guess I don’t have much of an excuse for the last month or so but the last week has been absolute hell at work. The passing of MJ has rocked the world, and the entertainment news world has been in a frenzy. Since I live in both universes, it’s been bananas. And in this case, bananas is bad.

So even though Father’s Day was awhile ago, I am finally getting around to posting pics! My dad taught me to cook and instilled in me a love of good food and wine, so the only appropriate present is, well, food and wine of course! I invited my family over for a Mexican fiesta of sorts, and after much consulting with Homesick Texan, got to work on all of the dishes.

Two days before Father’s Day, I made a big ol’ pot of black beans. Actually I made two pots. Why? Well, I didn’t follow my instincts and decided to toss in the epazote (a Mexican herb I’ve never worked with) into the pot, despite its twiggy woodiness. I stopped and thought to myself, “maybe I should put it in some cheesecloth or whiz it in my spice grinder” but then talked myself out of it, thinking that the hours of slow cooking beans require would break down the fibers. I think you can probably figure out that the little twigs retained their twigginess after hours of simmering, and vain attempts to pick it all out were……uh, all in vain. So I packed it into a Tupperware and tossed it into the freezer (hey- I may come home from work starving one day and really want some homemade black beans, at which time little twigs won’t bother me) and promptly made another, this time putting the epazote into some cheesecloth. Crisis averted.

On the same day I made a paste out of guajillo and ancho chiles, cinnamon, coffee and other spices for a barbacoa- which is traditionally made with cow’s head but I went with a pork shoulder instead, slathering the marinade onto large chunks of meat and packing it all into a ziploc bag. After sitting in the fridge overnight, they went into a roasting pan lined with onions and carrots, covered tightly and placed into a low oven for several hours. The house smelled so good I think even my cat noticed!

After the main components were done, I just whizzed together some roasted tomatoes, onions, serranos, garlic and bunches of fresh cilantro into the blender for a quick salsa and made a basic guacamole. An entire head of red cabbage, green onions, cilantro, vinegar, sugar and olive oil made up a simple Mexican slaw. Then I started on the part I was most excited about……..making flour tortillas from scratch! I had seen this post on the aforementioned Homesick Texan site awhile ago and had always hoped for an occasion to make them for.

The dough came together quickly and easily, then after a short rest, I tore off 1 ounce balls of dough which, after another quick rest, were easily rolled out w/ a rolling pin and a touch of flour. 30 seconds on each side in a dry pan was all it took to turn into real, chewy, flavorful and toothsome flour tortillas! Some came out a bit thicker than others, and now I definitely have a better gauge on how thin to roll them out (since they get thicker as they cook). They reminded me a bit of Trader Joe’s Truly Handmade Tortillas since they were all slightly irregular in shape, but of course these were a lot better.

The meal turned out great- the meat was tender and flavorful, the beans rich and tasty….it was kind of nice to sit down to a make-your-own taco type of meal. Really casual, fun and interactive. We made a nice dent into it all but I packed my dad up with enough leftovers for one meal for him and my mom, plus I had lots of meat and beans for myself- I mean, this kind of food really does taste better the longer it sits.

A special thanks to Homesick Texan for helping and answering my incessant questions, and a shout-out to Papa, my dad, for being the best dad ever!

The rest of the celebration meal………….

As you saw in my last post, we spent Saturday evening at our house celebrating both my dad’s birthday and my parents’ 37th anniversary. I love cooking for others, but particularly my family since they are some of the biggest food lovers I know. In fact, food is the focus of most of our family gatherings, and last weekend was no different.

I’m happy to report that I’ve streamlined my process of cooking a meal for guests. In the past I would look furiously through almost every cookbook I own (and that’s saying A LOT considering how many I have!) trying to find the perfect appetizer, the perfect salad, the perfect everything- and by perfect I mean choosing recipes that required me to make everything from scratch- and I mean everything. I don’t know why I thought slaving all day and preparing no less than five intricate creations was the only way to achieve the Perfect Dinner Party. Luckily I’ve seen the error of my ways, and although I love cooking more than ever before, I have calmed down a bit and realized that a good dinner party doesn’t have to be so difficult. Hmm, I sound like the Barefoot Contessa, don’t I?? Look, I am never going to pull a Sandra Lee and open up a can of beans, toss in some hot dogs and call it dinner, but I’ve began to embrace the idea that buying a few pre-made items or keeping it really simple isn’t a sin.

That said, I went with a simple starter of Puree of Asparagus Soup which I made one day a few weeks back when I had an extra bunch of asparagus in my refrigerator. At the time I just made it up as I went along and was quite pleased with the results. It’s honestly one of the simplest things you will ever make (I posted the recipe below) but people seem to think you spent a lot of time on it. I topped each bowl of soup with tiny croutons made with 2 slices of multigrain bread that sat forlornly in the freezer- I just diced them up (still frozen- it’s much easier to cut) and tossed them with some olive oil, salt and pepper and baked them until they were golden.

The only thing I used a recipe on was the Young Onion Tart with Cantal, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, and Herb Salad from my trusty and well-stained Sunday Suppers at Lucques Cookbook. I can’t tell you how much I adore it….it’s like the favorite child of my cookbook collection! Every dish I’ve ever made out of Suzanne Goin’s beautiful book has been outrageously delicious. I bought the puff pastry (my dad asked if I made it which made me laugh….I’m afraid that making puff pastry before a dinner party is a quick way of going stark raving mad) and layered it with a creamy mixture of ricotta, crème fraiche and egg yolk, slices of both young and cave-aged gruyere (I couldn’t find Cantal), a smattering of sautéed young onions and thick slices of smoked bacon. I actually used half the amount of bacon the recipe called for –sorry Michael Symon!- I love it but this tart is rich enough as it is. I did sauté the onions in the rendered bacon fat if that makes you feel any better! A nice showering of fresh tarragon, chives, chervil and parsley plus a drizzle of fresh lemon juice finished off the tart.

While on an excursion to the local farmer’s market to pick up the aforementioned herbs and young onions, I spotted some gorgeous baby carrots with the stalks still attached. I try not to mess too much with such amazing produce, so after tossing the trimmed carrots with some good olive oil, sea salt and pepper, a quick roast in the oven was all it took to bring out their natural sweetness. I especially loved how the slimmer parts of the carrots turned golden and crunchy. I also picked up a bag of some beautiful mixed greens which only needed a quick toss with a vinaigrette made with lemon juice, olive oil and Dijon mustard.

Everything was quite easy to make, and since the tart can be assembled and the soup made completely in advance, I got to sit and sip champagne with my family before we sat down for the meal. No sweat, no running around…it was lovely!

Puree of Asparagus Soup

1 TBS olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 sage leaves roughly chopped – optional
2 bunches of asparagus- about 15 spears total (I prefer to use the fat, meaty ones for soup as opposed to the pencil thin ones)- cut into smaller pieces
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock- divided
Salt & pepper

Note: I purposely leave out carrots which are usually used as aromatics because I don’t want the orange of them to taint the pure, green color of this soup. I also do not use garlic since I really wanted the flavor of the asparagus to shine through. You can certainly add both during the sautéing stage if you prefer.

Heat the olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat and add the onions and celery; sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the sage leaves if you are using and heat through. Add cut asparagus and sauté about an additional 5 minutes. Add the chicken or veggie stock until it reaches about an inch above the vegetables, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15- 20 minutes or until everything is tender.

Transfer about 1/3 of the mixture to a blender, and, holding the lid with a thick towel, very carefully blend the mixture until smooth. Transfer the puree to a large, clean mixing bowl and repeat with remaining mixture until all of it is pureed. Return entire puree to the stock pot, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Heat through and serve. Garnish with croutons if you like.


Mika’s Doria

Doria. I’ve said that word to every food-loving friend multiple times in the seven years I’ve been back from living in Japan, and they all look at me with the same, Never-Heard-Of-It-What-Is-It look. I’ve spent time googling it and trying to find where the word originated from, only to be bombarded with endless pages of people named Doria Rice. What is doria, you ask? It’s just about the Greatest Dish On The Planet, my friends, and consider your taste buds sad from having to live without it for so many years.

Basically doria is a rice gratin. It comes in many flavors- sometimes it’s made with a béchamel-type sauce; other times it oozes piping hot marinara or even a demi-glace. It is extremely popular in Japan and found on just about every Italian or fami-resu (that’s Japanese slang for “family restaurant”…which, come to think of it, is ALSO Japanese slang- think Denny’s, Applebees, etc) menu in the country. Most coffee shops even make one version of doria. “A lot of countries have popular dishes that aren’t well-liked here,” you say. But what’s not to like about rice, sauce and cheese all baked together in a dish and served piping hot out of the oven? It amazes me this shoe-in for Best Comfort Food hasn’t made a blip on the food radar here in the States, where oozing cheese is ranked high on the list of Things People Want To Eat On A Daily Basis.

After many fruitless years of searching, I decided that if I wanted doria, I’d have to make it myself. I’ve made ones with tomato sauce, eggplant and mozzarella; others with Mexican rice, a spicy tomato salsa, white sauce and cheddar. Want steak doria? Just combine some rice with diced steak and maybe mix it up with a deep, brown demi-glace, chopped parsley and grated Gruyère and then top the whole thing off with grated parmesan! It’s a great way to use up leftover rice and pretty much anything else you may have in the fridge. The basic elements are simply rice, some sort of sauce, and cheese. Add whatever else you like.

Doria, just before a sprinkling of parmesan and a trip to the oven

Well, meet Mika. Mika is my best friend, soul sister and a fellow doria fanatic. She and I used to go to a little spot near my Tokyo apartment called The Apple Pot (oh, how I miss you!) that made the BEST chicken doria ever. It was a tomatoey rice mixed with lots of chicken, those frozen mixed veggies that we all ate as a kid (carrots, peans, corn) and drenched in the tastiest béchamel which bubbled out from a mountain of melted cheese. YUM! Mika resides here now and feels the pain of the non-doria culture we live in, so we’ve had numerous conversations about our beloved baked rice dish. When she and I planned to watch the Super Bowl together, I decided to surprise her with a custom made doria just for her.

Hot and bubbling out of the oven

One thing you should know about Mika is that she loves anything cheesy, creamy, rich and decadent and lists Kewpie Mayonnaise as her Favorite Food Ever. It hardly seems fair that she has a waist the circumference of a Frisbee since she puts extra mayonnaise (ONLY Kewpie brand though- she knows what she likes!) on any vegetable she consumes and orders spaghetti alla carbonara every time we go to an Italian restaurant. Luckily she’s one of the coolest girls I know, so although I’d love to envy her speedy metabolism, I love her dearly and am happy to contribute to her mayo/cream/cheese habit anytime.

I wanted to make her a doria that had all of the flavors she loves the most (sans mayo, which I knew she’d put on the salad I was planning to serve with it). So I decided on a sort of carbonara doria. After rendering down some pancetta I sautéed some onions in the fat, then tossed them in a bowl with the pancetta, diced roasted chicken, brown rice, green peas, grated Asiago and a creamy cheese sauce made with milk, asiago and a bit of egg mixed in to thicken it. After adding LOTS of black pepper (another Mika staple) I poured it into a baking dish, topped it with a nice grating of parmesan cheese, covered it with foil and baked for 20 minutes. After 5 minutes without the foil, the top was golden and it was ready to serve.

Creamy rice with crispy pancetta, tender chunks of chicken and cheeeeeeeeeeeese!

Mika loved the doria (I’d made myself a Mexican doria since I had leftover beans I had to use, plus my waist isn’t the size of a Frisbee!). I’ll definitely be making more dorias in the future, but if you get a chance, I hope you try this one. It’s made a bit healthier with brown rice and milk for the cheese sauce (instead of cream) and sure to please anyone who has a weakness for cheesy baked dishes.

Mika’s Doria

Makes 1 serving…if you’re really hungry:)

1 ounce pancetta or bacon, diced
½ of a medium onion, diced
1 cup cold white or brown rice
½ cup cubed cooked chicken breast
¼ cup frozen green peas
Chopped parsley
Salt & pepper
Creamy cheese sauce (see below)

Creamy cheese sauce:

1 pat butter
1 garlic clove
½ cup whole milk
¾ cup grated Asiago cheese
¼ cup egg beater or 1 large egg, mixed
Salt & pepper

½ ounce finely grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Sautee the pancetta in a pan over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is slightly crispy. Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and add the onions, sautéing until they are translucent. Combine in a large mixing bowl along with the pancetta, rice, chicken, peas and parsley and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter under low heat, add the garlic clove and swirl it off the heat for about a minute to impart the garlic flavor; discard garlic. Add milk, heat under low heat until hot but not boiling, then add cheese, whisking constantly until cheese is melted and combined with the milk. Put your egg or egg beater into a small bowl, then add about ¼ cup of the milk/cheese mixture while stirring, then add it back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk/cheese mixture. Whisk over low heat until thickened, then add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over other ingredients in the bowl and mix well to combine. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Pour into an 8 x 8 baking dish, or an 8 inch (roughly) round baking dish if you have one, patting the mixture down slightly. The doria will fill the dish about an inch high. Cover with grated parmesan, then cover the dish tightly with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then take the foil off and bake for another 5, or until cheese on top turns golden brown.


Spaghetti and Meatballs

Sometimes, a photo can just jump out, grab you by the stomach and make your taste buds go bonkers. As a food blogger who reads TONS of food blogs, I’m constantly exposing myself to these types of photos. It’s a dangerous thing, but like any drug, the more I’m exposed to it the more I want. Gorgeous food photos are as addictive as crack- not that I know firsthand how addictive crack is…..but I watch Intervention so I have a good idea….! (Ok, that was meant to be a joke). Foodgawker exists for a reason- people love to see photos of delcious food.

Well, looky here at a perfect example of food porn/crack photo:

The minute I saw the gorgeous cover of January’s Gourmet Magazine, all plans to make gnocchi for supper went out the window and I knew I had to have spaghetti and meatballs. I mean, would you just LOOK at this?? How can anyone resist, especially with the chill outside (the Los Angeles chill, which I know you’re all laughing at but 45 F is bone chilling to us wimps)? I grabbed two containers of homemade marinara out of the freezer and dashed off to the store to buy everything I needed.

I did tweak the recipe a bit- instead of using veal, pork and beef I just used beef and turkey. Otherwise I was pretty faithful, cutting the recipe in half because the original recipe makes enough to feed a small army. It’s a classic recipe, and although I’d made similar versions in the past I had never added lemon zest to any meatball until this one.

I formed the meat into ¼ cup balls………

Browned them in a hot pan……………

Then drained the fat and poured my marinara into the same pan, loading it up with the browned meatballs and letting them simmer for 20 minutes………

OY, how good did the house smell?!?!?! SO GOOD!

I boiled up some whole wheat spaghetti and tossed it with some of the marinara that had been stewing with the meatballs, then topped the pile of pasta with a few of them and finished it all off with a grating of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano and basil.

It was everything I’d hoped for and more. The meatballs were tender, juicy and flavorful, and the lemon zest really added something special. Eaten with some crusty bread, a salad and a glass of red, it was the perfect supper on a cold evening.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Arrivederci Supper

In a strange stroke of coincidence, everyone in my family is leaving this week- everyone, that is, except for me! My sister left for Italy yesterday, J leaves for Texas today, and my parents are also traveling to Italy on Wednesday. Basically everyone decided to desert me at the same time! Of course I’ll be fine, and my best friend M and I do have some fun plans up our sleeves during the coming two weeks, but it is odd to think that everyone is gone all at once. So, in a nod to the Italian vacations of my sister and parents, plus the fact that I know poor J won’t get a decent meal over the next three weeks (he’s working on a project that will involve long hours and little free time) I decided to whip up an Italian meal for J’s last night at home.

I’d seen a dish on Everyday Italian awhile back that I had wanted to make, but kind of forgot about it. When I discovered a repeat of that episode on my Tivo, it reminded me how appealing the dish seemed and I decided to go ahead and try it. It’s a dish called Lasagna Rolls, and I loved the idea of having a small roll or two of lasagna as opposed to a big slab of it. I knew I wanted to play with the recipe a bit to make it lighter- the days of J and I eating giant bowls of pasta and polishing off an entire baguette are long gone- so I printed the recipe and made some changes.

First of all, I left out the prosciutto and replaced it with sliced crimini mushrooms sautéed with garlic, thyme, olive oil and vermouth. I did keep the one box of squeezed-out, thawed spinach but only used 1/2 cup of ricotta, which I combined in the Cuisinart with one ounce of grated parmiggiano reggiano, one egg, salt and pepper. I then mixed the pureed mixture with the sautéed mushrooms. For the béchamel sauce, I used only 1 tablespoon of real butter, then 1 tablespoon of Smart Balance spread with the 4 teaspoons of flour called for in the original recipe. Instead of using whole milk, I used fat free half and half, plus the fresh nutmeg and salt/pepper. I know a lot of cooks insist you don’t use fat free replacements in recipes, but the resulting béchamel was smooth, creamy and thick. I wanted to get whole wheat lasagna sheets but couldn’t find them (anyone know of any??) after going to three stores, so I bought regular ones which I boiled for eight minutes- which is about two less than called for. You want the pasta to be a bit more al dente than al dente;) since it will finish baking in the oven. After spreading my spinach/mushroom mixture onto each lasagna noodle, I rolled them up, set each seam-side down in a baking dish filled with béchamel, topped each roll with a bit of homemade marinara and grated parmesan, then baked, covered, in the oven for 20 minutes. After another 15 minutes of baking, uncovered, the dish was done. I could hardly wait to sink my teeth into it!!

Hot, bubbling and golden brown……..yum

I wanted it to rest for a bit so I roasted some asparagus and zucchini, warmed a mini baguette in the oven and whipped up a simple dressing of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, fresh garlic, honey and black pepper for a mixed green salad. We popped open a bottle of Grand Archer 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon and sat down for our meal.

How were the lasagna rolls? They were so good that I’m actually craving one right now as I write this at 9:00 AM in the morning! In all honesty- you do not miss any of the extra cheese or fat in the béchamel. Each roll was crisp on the cheese-coated tops, and the ricotta/spinach/mushroom filling was just creamy enough. The béchamel soaked into the bottom of each roll and the touch of marinara really tied the dish together. Any sauce left on the plate was quickly sopped up with our slices of warm bread. I rarely make baked pastas, but this will definitely be making an appearance on our dinner table often, especially during the cooler months. We really loved it, and I can think of lots of delicious variations (salmon and chive filling w/ béchamel, roasted eggplant instead of mushrooms, etc) that will work with the basic concept of the rolled lasagna.

You can find the original recipe here.

Japanese dinner: Unagi brown rice

To celebrate J’s return from Japan, I made a simple Japanese dinner. Even though he had three days of Japanese food, I knew he’d want more as it’s pretty much his favorite cuisine of all time. He told me that he had some good yakitori, lots of Japanese yogurt (which is, in our opinion, the best yogurt ever!) and even a dinner at the Shibuya branch of Gonpachi! So I guess he and I were at the same restaurant on the same night, but he was in Japan and I was in Los Angeles. Oh- and his food was far superoior to the just ok meal that I had. At least I could console myself with the various Kit Kats he brought back (I had requested he pick up any different flavors he saw). The macha/milk flavor was my favorite, but the chocolate banana and the chestnut flavors were good as well.

I read a few Japanese cooking blogs and am always inspired by the recipes and ideas on them. When I saw Naoko’s Unagi Onigiri, I remembered that I had some unagi in the freezer and decided to make the rice.

I pretty much followed her recipe but used Japanese brown rice instead of white. After washing the rice I added the soy sauce, sake, sansho pepper and multigrain mix to my rice maker and set the timer for it to be ready when I got home from work. About 20 minutes before the rice was done, I added sliced unagi to the pot, then mixed in some mitsuba at the very end. The whole house smelled like unagi and sansho……..YUM.

I didn’t make onigiri out of it but instead piled the rice into bowls and topped it with some nori seaweed. A salad tossed with wafu (Japanese style) dressing, hiyayakko (cold tofu) topped with ginger, scallions and katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and some spicy eggplant suzuke (Japanese pickles) completed our meal. Oh, that and a glass of cold sake of course;).

By the way, the food came out way better than these photos!

No, I Didn’t Fall Off The Ends of the Earth…….

Things have been absolutely bonkers at work, thanks to the drunken escapades of some people I wouldn’t mind never hearing about again. One night you go to bed with the knowledge that things are good, then you wake up to breaking news on your Crackberry about some young starlet boozing and driving. Great, I think. There goes my week.

One does have to eat, however, no matter what nutty thing is happening in the media. Unfortunately working late doesn’t really give a girl a lot of time to make elaborate meals (or proper meals, for that matter) and I didn’t think you’d want to see photos of a tuna sandwich or crackers with cheese.

I did manage to make a semi-decent meal the other night, thanks in large part to the art of rubbing down a large piece of meat with garlic, herbs and olive oil and promptly tossing it in the fridge for a day, and my trusty propane grill which cooks everything in no time flat. The lamb came out nice and just pink in the center, and, served with a couscous salad and green salad (hey- I like my salad ok?!) it made for a nice dinner on the patio.

I definitely need to get back in the kitchen since I start to feel a sort of emptiness when I don’t cook enough, so I am hoping to have some better posts for you all soon! A company bbq on Friday may prove to be an interesting entry, depending on good the food is.

Let’s hope nothing drastic happens overnight!

Cheddar Jalapeno Bread

I have a gazillion cooking magazines. I’m not sure if a gazillion is an official number, but that’s the number that J would probably say if you asked him how many Gourmets, Bon Appetites and Food & Wine issues I have. Every time a new issue comes in the mail, I get so excited like a kid on Christmas Day. I’ll save it until I know I have enough time to sit and really relish each and every beautiful photograph and carefully read every recipe. Sunday mornings are best spent with a big pot of coffee and one, or even better, two, new cooking magazines.

Now actually trying out each and every recipe is something I have yet to accomplish, and will probably not even live long enough to actually do. Of course when I see the gorgeous layout of daikon cakes and spicy noodles, I daydream of having an Asian-themed dinner party…….until I see the spread on Spring’s Most Gorgeous Cakes which takes me to the next fantasy of piping a perfect row of icing onto a cake for a tea party. I’ve bemoaned this fact before and I’ll whine about it once again- but there are simply too many recipes and too little time. Now I’d be dishonest if I didn’t admit that yes, I could certainly devote more time to making a dent into my arsenal of recipes……it’s a promise I’ve made to myself again and again but life’s distractions often get in the way.

There are some recipes, however, that demand your immediate attention, and I came across one the other day. Cheddar Jalapeno Bread. Let’s take a second here. I love cheese. I love jalapenos. I LOVE bread. This is one recipe that had to be tackled now! It also reminded me of all the wonderful savory breads I’d buy at the many lovely bakeries in Japan. You see- here in the U.S. you think of a bakery, you picture cupcakes, donuts and other sweets filling the shelves. In Japan, there are equal rows of savory goodies like kare-pan (deep fried curry bread), rolls filled with ham and mayo (it’s GOOD, trust me), shiny hot dog buns filled with warm potato salad and fluffy buns stuffed with yakisoba. Cheese bread comes in various flavors and shapes, and it was always one of my favorites. The crusty cheddar crown in the photo in Gourmet magazine reminded me of that, so I knew I had to make it right away.

This bread was relatively easy to make and requires no kneading. The extra-sticky dough takes a bit of a light touch to handle, but the results are worth it. I started with 3 large jalapenos which I sliced with a mandoline. I wanted to be able to see the round slices of peppers in my bread, although the end result didn’t have a strong jalapeno flavor and no heat. Next time I will leave the veins in and slice them a lot thicker. I didn’t think about slicing the finished loaf, so I was worried about the bread being too spicy but since you slice the large loaf in order to eat it, you’ll never end up with too many jalapenos in your once slice. After grating some cheddar in my Cuisinart, I went ahead and make the dough, added the cheese and peppers and let it rise in a warm place.

I made sure I didn’t peek at the dough so it could get it’s time to rise……and 90 minutes later it had swelled above the rim of my mixing bowl. I’m going to dork out here for a minute so please forgive me, but there are fewer more satisfying experiences in the kitchen than to see dough that has swelled to double its original size. Why? I can’t explain it but it’s very exciting. Yup. Me = nerd alert nerd alert!! Anyway, after weeping at the beauty of my puffy dough for a minute, I dumped it out of the bowl, divided it in half (I doubled the recipe to make two loaves) and very gingerly folded each half three times, like a letter. After another rise in the bread pans, the puffy delights were brushed with egg wash, topped with grated cheddar and parmesan and popped in a nice, hot oven.

I don’t know if I can even find the words to describe the aromas which floated through the house as the bread baked in the oven. The scent of meat braising in red wine is probably the only other smell that I love as much as that of bread baking. This particular bread warmed the house with scents of rich, sharp cheddar cheese mixed with the yeasty aroma that most breads have. After about 50 minutes, I took the loaves, popped them out of the pans and began the excruciating process of waiting for them to cool. Anyone who’s tried to cut into a loaf of bread fresh from the oven knows that your impatience is punished with sticky, doughy and dense slices. You must wait for the bread to cool and dry out a bit before diving in. *sigh*

After a good two hours, I finally cut through the crusty outer layer, revealing a nice, soft bread. After a light toasting and a minimal swipe of butter, I took a bite. It was very cheesy and the olive oil in the recipe really kept the bread nice and moist. There was only a hint of jalapeno, so, as I stated earlier, I will definitely add larger slices to my next batch. I took one loaf to work and sliced the other one up to store in the freezer for J’s return this Friday. I think this bread is eaten best by itself with a bit of butter, but I may top a slice with some smoked turkey and tomatoes for a nice tartine. It’d probably be a bit too heavy to make a sandwich with.

Hope you get a chance to try it! I’d highly recommend using a good, sharp cheddar as it will come through in the bread.

You can find the recipe (for a single loaf) here.