Archive for July, 2009

Call it “cliche”, “preaching to the choir”, “screaming from the pulpit”, or any other number of aphorisms, but once again, please let’s hand it to Michael Pollan in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine

As Matthias edits Nom! I can’t help thinking that maybe we can all do this – maybe as food enthusiasts, activists, and brave, young, culinary spirits, we can be the ones to rescue cooking from shopping.

Cutting tagliatelle


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This weekend, we’re testing out new recipes and have lots of good things to make. And so, here’s the list of awesome summer things that we’re going to be making in the next two days:

* Pickles

* Cherry Preserves

* Sour Cherry Syrup

* Beignets

homemade tortillas
* Flour Tortillas

* Frozen Peas

homemade lemonade
* Lemonade

CSA corn fritters and greenmarket salad (close)
* Corn Fritters

english breakfast
* English Breakfast (bangers, eggs, toast, roasted tomato)

First up: Breakfast.

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You sit and you sit and you wait around for water to boil and for the San Georgio pasta to finish cooking to a point where it’s no longer a moderately hard, possibly still slimy, wholly inedible mess, and you think to yourself, My God, there must be a better way.

You think that when you pour your pasta sauce on top; a thick mess, with the same flavor as last time, with the expected sweetness of King’s Table Syrup and the richness of a penny.  It has an odd greasiness, the source for which you just can’t place and it just sits there on top of your not quite fully cooked pasta and looks back at you.  You’re vaguely reminded of the Nietzsche quote about the abyss looking back at you.

The cheese, for so it is called on the plastic container, is pulverized; a dairy blizzard contained in the petrochemical container.  You shake it onto your pasta with sauce and winter comes to Pastaland.

And then, in a flash, you are transported.  The world is new, your kitchen is bright.  You have in front of you, a pile of flour and a carton of eggs.  You have the makings of a dough, and inexplicably, you begin to put it together:  flour, eggs, elbow grease.  The dough, a thick, plastic substance in a lump, looking at you, expectantly, like an ominous sort of nineteen fifties B-movie monster baby, that looks cute, but will kill you at a moment’s notice!

Relax, that’s not the case!  You don’t need the fire extinguisher, Steve McQueen.  Just let it sit for a bit.  You’ll see.

After it has melded and you’ve finished your drink (because that is important while cooking.  Be sure you’ve gotten some whiskey or some wine), you get up, fire up your pasta press and you run your pasta dough through it, a very zen action.  In.  Through.  Fold.  In.  Through.  Fold.  In.  Through.  Fold.  When it’s smooth enough, you turn it down, to a smaller setting, and smile devilishly, as you begin to consider your pasta as the Chief guard from the Temple of Doom.  He doesn’t have a chance!


Thinner and thinner the pasta gets.  You have some problems here and there, but it gets easier and it gets smoother and it gets better and better and soon, you have an edible curtain of egg and flour.


What to do with it though?


You have fresh, local, organic zucchini and garlic scapes in the refrigerator and a jug of olive oil on the counter.  Some salted water, two minutes and a quick saute of the veggies later, you have an amazing new meal that will fill you up, help you sleep and give you some vegetables.  You shave a bit off the block of Parmesan that materialized on your table and as you take a bite, the crisp scapes snapping under your teeth and the zucchini, soft and a bit salty from the cheese, with a touch of oil to smooth it all out…

Homemade tagliatelle with zucchini and scapes

You wake up and look at your plate of industrially manufactured “pasta sauce.”  It was all a dream, there was no such experience.

But there could be.

serves 2 generously

2 cups of flour
2 large eggs

Pour flour into large bowl (if you’re ambitious and have no fear of insane messes on your counter, pile it up on your counter).  Make a well in the center.  Add your eggs.  Use a fork to gradually incorporate eggs into flour.  When it becomes too thick, switch to a wooden spoon or your hands.

Form dough into a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap, rest in fridge for 30 minutes.

Break dough into quarters to run through your pasta maker (note:  if you don’t have a pasta machine or want to be like the Italian mamas, slap that thing on the counter, and use a rolling pin.  That’s called doing it old school.) Be sure to have plenty of flour around, in the event that your dough is a little too sticky.  Thickness and width of noodles should be to your own preference.

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Matthias grew up with pancakes the thickness of three sheets of stacked phyllo dough, so light, etheral, and delicate that they made paper snowflakes look clumsy. They were perfectly suited for buttering, stacking, and ever-so-slightly dressing with a thin veil of syrup (though not in the case of his brother who preferred the drowning, to the veiling method). In a word, this cherished breakfast item is: inimitable.

By this, I mean only his mom is capable of making them to perfection. A fact that I wholeheartedly agree with, and see absolutely no reason to challenge. Especially because pancakes at the Brehm house came from a box, and were, at their best, served and then coated in a chemical concentration of agricultural biproducts that came in a plastic container with a bizarre thermometer that would tell you how long you should microwave the “syrup” according to the amount remaining in the vessel.  Yum.

It will suffice to say that at the Brehm-Sundberg house for the reasons outlined above, pancakes rarely grace the menu.

Although, this morning as the sunlight streamed through our windows and we took our time waking up, Matthias looked at me and said, “What is wrong? You have a worried face.” To which I replied, “Oh. Nothing. I was just thinking about how sad I was that we don’t have syrup.”*

I desperately wanted pancakes. But not ones that would melt in my mouth like a flattened tuille, or ones that could actually double as biscuits. They needed to be more than just flour, but not too sweet, not too thick, not too buttery, and somehow be perfectly suited for the beautiful pint of blueberries waiting in our refrigerator.


We turned to the always superlative A Homemade Life and chose to make Molly Wizenberg’s Buckwheat Pancakes. They called for a standard flour base bolstered by nutty buckwheat flour and laced with sugar to be bound with buttermilk and butter that had been emulsified with the egg yolk to ensure an even distribution of richness and texture throughout the batch.

Cooked on one side until gasping bubbles rise to the surface and distinct edges begin to develop, these generous little cakes suited our blueberries impeccably. Just prior to the crucial flip, I carefully placed 4-6 violet berries on the wet side, slid the silicon spatula between the pan and the cake, and quickly turned my wrist 180 degrees. The sizzle of the batter gave way to the muted popping of the berries, a step i repeated 7 more times until our stack warming on a plate in the oven was complete.

The only problem now was the syrup. Basing the taste off of the classic Breton buckwheat crêpe kissed with lemon, I combined the juice of 1.5 lemons with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, and mixed with a fork to dissolve the tiny lumps.

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

One teaspoon drizzled over each slightly puffed, nubbly pancake was all it took as we cut in, watched the magenta juices from the blueberries puddle on the plate, and ate them with glee. The satisfaction that Matthias could reconcile his relationship with stockier pancakes, and that I could encapsulate a range of flavors and textures in a revised version of the cardboard weekend staple of my childhood made the wait, and the syrup sacrifice, entirely worth it.

Lemon Syrup

Desperation Lemon Syrup

Yield 1/3 cup

Juice from 1-2 freshly squeezed lemons

1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar

Combine ingredients, wisk to combine and dissolve lumps. Adjust sweetness if necessary.

Serve over buckwheat pancakes, pound cake, or to brush the tops of madelienes.

*It has been a long while since we have been able to make it to the Greenmarket. Hence, no syrup. Thank you, L train.

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