When I was a kid, my summers were filled with books and lots of time running in the sun dappled yard. My mother would us strap us into our trusty red Volvo, and drive us to the library with the windows down. We’d sneakily stick our hands out the window to feel the wind push our hands back. My sisters and I would quiet the minute we go to the library, solemnly picking out our books and propping ourselves on the stacks to read the interesting ones right away. And after the air-conditioning had sufficiently seeped into our bones, we would pile back into the car with our stacks of books. We would spend the rest of the afternoons with our piles of books in the yard reading. I remember sitting on blankets on the deck reading books until the sun set. The soft breeze rippling through the grass and the shade on the deck lulling me into the books.
Well, other than wishing that these huge tomes of law books were nearly so fun to read and that I was still in my backyard plastered to my books like I was as a kid… I remember reading a story that talked about cheese straws. It sounded so glamorous and delicious. The main character was in London, and her friends were visiting and she scraped together these cheese straws with “just a bit of butter, cheese, flour, and water.” I wanted to feel as glamorous in my chic apartment munching on cheese straws… so I obviously tried my hand at it. My mother’s the forgiving sort that let us experiment with all of the kitchen supplies, and would patiently watch while we insisted we knew what we were doing. After mushing together an extraordinarily expensive chunk of cheese with some flour, water, and butter… I baked my little straws. They were actually just awful. I was just a kid, but the cheese straws I imagine in my head were light and crunchy and melted on your tongue. The ones that I had made were heavy blocks of floury cheese.
Needless to say, I never looked at another recipe for cheese straws again. I just wasn’t interested in baking blocks of disappointment. But, then two years ago when I started law school, I was actually living alone in my chic little apartment with my equally chic little puppy. I felt that it was time to try my hand at cheese straws again. I followed the recipe on smittenkitchen, which was delicious, but the dough was just a bit too substantial for me. I wanted little straws that were meltingly lovely and that were equally pretty. So, I tweaked. Just a bit. And discovered that a combination of cheddar and the best Parmesan (that my teensy grocery carries) made all of the difference. A generous sprinkle of crushed red pepper made them just spicy enough, and of course, all food must be pretty… so I used the teensiest fluted cutter I have.
Cheese Circles (Adapted from smittenkitchen, who references Lee Bros. Southern Cooking)
1 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, grated finely
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated finely
4 tablespoons of good butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon of flaky sea salt
3/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, I whizzed mine through a food processor to get smaller flakes
1 to 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
In a large bowl, mix together the cheeses, butter, flour, salt, and pepper. Work the mixture together until the dough is crumbly and well incorporated.
Slowly drip the cream into the bowl, stirring until the dough comes together into a cohesive ball.
On a lightly floured table (or counter) roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch. Cut with a 1/2 inch cookie cutter. Or whatever size you desire.
Bake at 350 degrees Farhenheit for 10-15 minutes. The circles should be golden and have poufed up a bit.
Note: In one of my runs, I sprinkled a little Parm over the tops of the circles and that was delicious also… but I prefer mine without.
Has anyone been to Lebanese Taverna? It’s my grandmother’s favorite restaurant because of the cute puffy little pitas that are served. The pitas are white, soft little pillows of bread that are served piping hot. She loves these pitas.
(^Whole wheat dough)
A few days ago, I was making pizza, when I just tossed the leftover dough into the oven, and it ballooned into a little pita. It was delicious! So I tried it again, and then again with whole wheat flour. And then again with some honey. I ate these little pitas with cheese and some avocado…. but then I wanted more! So I made more. The water added to the dough fluctuates depending on the type of whole wheat flour you use. Keep in mind that whole wheat dough requires just a bit more water than regular dough to keep the bread soft.
(^ Whoops! A plain dough picture… hehe)
Whole Wheat Pitas (Kaprise Kitchen, adapted from a cookbook, which I don’t remember the name of (and I’ll promise to update, but inevitably forget))
1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups of bread flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 teaspoon of active dry yeast
1 cup of warm water
3 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon of olive oil
In a mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast over the warm water. Allow the yeast to soften and bloom for about 10 minutes
Sprinkle the whole wheat and bread flour over the water. Sprinkle the salt over the flour (salt can kill yeast, but I find that this method works best.
Drizzle the honey over the flours and salt and begin to incorporate all of the ingredients into a shaggy ball
Using your hands (washed first!!), knead the dough to combine all of the ingredients. Add another tablespoon of warm water if the dough is stiff and hard to work with.
The dough should be supple and warm to touch. It should be just a bit more moist than regular bread dough.
Add the olive oil to a clean bowl and roll the dough in the oil to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a dish towel.
Allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 3 hours, or until doubled.
Once the dough has doubled, knead the dough for 10 minutes to redistribute the yeast.
Allow the dough to rise again, this time in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, but overnight is best.
Allow the dough to come to room temperature before kneading and dividing into 16 equally sized balls
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit
Roll the dough into ovals, about 1/2 inch thick.
Sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet before placing the dough on the sheet (this helps prevent sticking)
Bake the pitas for 8 to 12 minutes, until puffy and golden.
(The next two pictures are plain dough pitas)
(I forgot to take pictures when I rolled the whole wheat ones out)
There is a commercial on TV right now that says “there is nothing more therapeutic after a long day of work than chopping and cooking… NOT” but for me? That is exactly true. I sharpen my knives, set my cutting board on the counter and chop. I like the evenness. I like the systematic chops.
This potato salad is heavy on the chopping, but the end result is thoroughly satisfying and filling.
Kaprise Kitchen Summer Potato Salad
3 large Yukon Gold potatoes – steamed, cooled, and chopped in 1 inch cubes
2 large carrots – steamed, cooled, and chopped into 1/2 inch coins (feel free to leave these raw if you like more crunch)
1 bunch of crisp radishes – stemmed and chopped into coins and halved
1 bunch of basil leaves – stemmed and chiffonaded
2 celery stalks – cleaned and 1/4 inch diced
1/2 small onion (or a small shallot) – finely diced
1 tbl of grainy mustard
a splash of red wine vinegar
Prepare the ingredients
Mix in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper accordingly.
* Makes about 6 servings. Store in an airtight container for no more than 2 days.