Dinner with Michelle Bernstein at Sra. Martinez in Miami!

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Michelle Bernstein chef/owner of Sra. Martinez and Michy’s in Miami was kind enough to spend some time with us at Sra. Martinez.

Bernstein was previously a co-host of the Food Network series Melting Pot and was once in a battle on Iron Chef America versus Bobby Flay, from which she emerged victorious. She has since appeared on numerous shows, including as a guest judge on Top Chef.

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Going over the menu was serious business. The birthday girl ordered for all of us…she’s a pro!

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Beautiful and simple. The most delicious olive oil and warm bread…some of the best bread all weekend.

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Long Stem Chokes, Lemon-Coriander Dipping sauce was fantastic; crispy, flavorful and delicious!

046Martinez Manchego and raisin walnut bread

I had my doubts about the raisin bread with Manchego. I was pleasantly surprised. The best combination ever.

The bread and cheese were irresistable.

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Yellowfin tuna and this amazing Cuban toast. Something like a savory doughnut is the best way that I could describe this incredible dish.

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Crispy Eggplant Miel, Sea Salt. Tasty! Delightful and addictive!

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Ciabatta, Fresh Tomato, LEstornell . Crazy great! Michelle can get the most amazing flavor from the simplest of foods.

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The cauliflower steak with Marcona almonds and raisins…..Inspired! I have a whole new love for cauliflower!

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Of course, there was dessert! Bannana, ice cream, Churros, chocolate sauce; Girl Heaven!

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The chocolate sauce was spicy and creamy. The churros were fried to perfection.

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This was one of the most memorable and wonderful dining experiences of all time.

It was the friends, the love and Michelle Bernstein’s genius.

A perfect storm for a perfect night!

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Easy and Delicious No-Knead Walnut Raisin Wheat Bread!

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I came across this recipe on The Huffington Post.

The photos, the raisins, the nuts! I just had to try it.

I am also convinced that I desperately need a Le Creuset baking dish!

I used 2 cups of whole wheat flour in this easy and delicious no-knead bread recipe.

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Walnut-Raisin
Recipe Courtesy of
Big Girls, Small Kitchen

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup Thompson raisins
1 2/3 cups water
Cornmeal or more flour as needed

Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add the walnuts and raisins and stir to distribute. Pour the water over the flour mixture, then use a rubber spatula to mix them together and form a soft, ugly dough. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise for about 12 hours, until there are bubbles across the top.

Dump the dough out onto a floured, non-terrycloth dishtowel. Let it rest for 15 minutes. Then, using as little flour as possible, shape the dough into a ball by folding the ends in. Turn onto a cornmeal-dusted non-terrycloth dishtowel, seam side down. Dust with more cornmeal, then cover with another towel. Leave for two hours. (That’s Santa’s rise.)

When there’s a half hour left to go of this rise, preheat the oven to 450F and put a covered, heavy pot in the oven.( I use my 5.5 quart LeCreuset to achieve a well-proportioned loaf.) When the dough is ready, carefully take the pot out of the oven. Dump the dough, seam side up, into the pot and shake it to spread evenly. Cover and bake for 20-30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15-30 minutes, until deeply brown and crusty. Let the bread rest as long as you can before slicing into it.

I store my bread in an airtight baggie, even though this makes the crust soft. To “re-crust” a whole loaf, you can dab it all over with water and bake for about 10 minutes in a 450F oven. If you’re going slice by slice, just toast to rectify the crust.

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This bread was hearty and delicious on a long ski week in Steamboat Springs Colorado and travelled well in ski jackets for mountain top noshing!

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It toasted up so nicely.

Warm bread and cold butter on a snowy mountain morning!

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Good-Bye to Summer

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It seems as though my summer came and went without much of a fuss. Like many people this year, I planted my first garden and had high hopes of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash to spare.

I imagined myself giving them to friends and neighbors and freezing the extra to serve during winter. I was so naive! I barely grew enough to make one salad. But that’s fine with me. I learned alot and hope for a better yeild next year; with much less going to the deer who were not at all afraid to jump over the little fence I put up and enjoy my garden for themselves!

Here is the lion’s share of tomatoes which just came in. The plants quickly withered and turned brown and I feel lucky to have these.
Some went right into a basil, tomato salad with olive oil and the rest I ate on bread with a bit of homemade mayonnaise. I went “old school”. I made Depression Era sandwiches with my Recession Garden !

Courtesy of Julia Child, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Julia Child’s Hand-Beaten Mayonnaise

The following directions are for a hand-beaten sauce (using a wire whisk). For electric beaters, use the large bowl and the “moderately fast” speed for whipping cream. Continually push the sauce into the beater blades with a rubber scraper.

Ingredients

Round-bottomed, 2½ to 3-quart glazed pottery, glass or stainless steel mixing bowl. Set it in a heavy casserole or saucepan to keep it from slipping.
3 egg yolks
Large wire whisk
1 tablespoon wine vinegar or lemon juice (more drops as needed)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dry or prepared mustard
1½ to 2¼ cups of olive oil, salad oil or a mixture of each. If the oil is cold, heat it to tepid; and if you are a novice, use the minimum amount
2 tablespoons boiling water
Directions

Warm the bowl in hot water; dry it. Add the egg yolks and beat for 1 to 2 minutes until they are thick and sticky.
Add the vinegar or lemon juice, salt and mustard. Beat for 30 seconds more.
The egg yolks are now ready to receive the oil. While it goes in, drop by drop, you must not stop beating until the sauce has thickened. A speed of 2 strokes per second is fast enough. You can switch hands or switch directions, as long as you beat constantly.
Add the drops of oil with a teaspoon, or rest the lip of the bottle on the edge of the bowl. Keep your eye on the oil rather than on the sauce. Stop pouring and continue beating every 10 seconds or so, to be sure the egg yolks are absorbing the oil.
After 1/3 to 1/2 cup of oil has been incorporated, the sauce will thicken into a very heavy cream and the crisis of potential curdling is over. The beating arm may rest a moment. Then, beat in the remaining oil by 1 to 2 tablespoon dollops, blending it thoroughly after each addition.
When the sauce becomes too thick and stiff, beat in drops of vinegar or lemon juice to thin it out. Then continue with the oil.
Beat the boiling water into the sauce. This is an anti-curdling insurance. Season to taste.
If the sauce is not used immediately, scrape it into a small bowl and cover it tightly so a skin will not form on its surface.
Tips For Making Mayonnaise
Julia Child’s tips for homemade mayonnaise:

Room Temperature: Have all ingredients at room temperature. If they aren’t, warm the mixing bowl in hot water to take the chill off the egg yolks; heat the oil to tepid if it is cold.
Egg Yolks: Always beat the yolks for a minute or two before adding anything to them. When they are thick and sticky, they are ready to absorb the oil.
Adding The Oil: The oil must be added very slowly at first, in droplets, until the emulsion process begins and the sauce thickens into a heavy cream. Then, the oil may be incorporated more rapidly.
Proportions: The maximum amount of oil one large egg yolk can absorb is six ounces, or ¾ cup. When this maximum is exceeded, the binding properties of the egg yolks break down, and the sauce thins out or curdles. If you have never made mayonnaise before, it is safest not to exceed ½ cup of oil per egg yolk.

  

Focaccia Bread Magic!

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I tore this page out of a House Beautiful magazine about a year and a half ago and it has been like a sacred document in my house ever since.
I now know the recipe by heart but always pull it out to keep my eye on this familiar page and to refer to Devon S. Frederick’s notes which are helpful.
I did not make mine with the onion tomato topping suggested but I made two variations with tomato, basil and parmesan, and tomato and parmesan. Both with coarse sea salt and lots of really good olive oil.
You can vary the toppings just get the bread recipe down to a science. Once you do, well , you will always be able to pull fresh bread out of the oven for snacks, entertaining, or just plain eating! This is so good that you could just top it with olive oil and dried herbs from your pantry. I think rosemary, garlic and coarse sea salt is perfect. (done it, love it!)
HINT I line my baking pan with parchment paper as I have had “sticking” issues. On the stone it is not as big a problem but it has happened here as well.
There is nothing as wonderful as bread fresh from the oven.

Recipe courtesy of Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
ONION-TOMATO FOCACCIAFocaccia d’Altamura
MAKES A LARGE ROUND FOCACCIA, SERVING 10 OR MORE
2 packets active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
5 1/2cups all-purpose flour, plus more for handling the dough
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water, or as needed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil for the bread bowl
FOR THE TOPPING
1 large onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced (about 2 cups slices)
2 cups ripe cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half
1/2cup extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or as needed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1. To make the dough, dissolve the yeast in G cup warm water and let it sit for several minutes, until it begins to bubble. Put the flour and salt in the food-processor bowl.
2. Stir together the active yeast and 2 cups lukewarm water in a spouted measuring cup. With the processor running continuously, blend the flour and salt briefly, then pour in all the liquid through the feed tube and process for about 30 seconds. A soft, moist dough should gather on the blade, with some sticking to the sides of the bowl. If it’s very sticky and hasn’t come off the sides at all, incorporate more flour, a tablespoon or two at a time, to stiffen the dough and bring it together. If the dough is dry, process in more water in small amounts.
3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, scraping the bowl and blade clean. Knead by hand for a minute, using as little flour as possible, until the dough forms a smooth round, still soft and a bit sticky. Coat a big bowl with the tablespoon of olive oil, drop in the dough, and turn it to oil it all over. Seal the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.
4. While the dough is rising, toss together the sliced onion, cherry tomato halves, 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, and H teaspoon salt in a small bowl, and let them marinate.
5. Coat the baking dish or pan, bottom and sides, with 2 tablespoons or more olive oil. Deflate the risen dough and lay it in the pan. Gently press and stretch it into an evenly flat round that fills the pan. If the dough is resistant, let it relax for a few minutes before stretching it again.
6. Lift the marinated onion and tomatoes out of the bowl with a slotted spoon, draining off the juices. Scatter the vegetables all over the focaccia, and lightly press in with your fingertips, creating dimples in the soft dough. Finally, drizzle the marinating oil over the top.
7. Let the focaccia rise, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Set a baking stone, if you have one, on a center oven rack and heat to 425°. Just before baking, gently dimple the dough again with your fingertips, and sprinkle another H teaspoon coarse salt all over.
8. Bake the focaccia for about 20 minutes, rotate the pan back to front for even cooking, and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, or even longer, until the bread is golden brown and the onions and tomatoes are nicely caramelized.
9. Remove the pan, drizzle another tablespoon or two of olive oil over the focaccia, and crumble the dried oregano, scattering it on top. Let the focaccia cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve it warm or at room temperature.

I am including Devon’s notes as they very helpful to me and may well be to you, too.

DEVON MAKES THE FOCACCIA
A home run here. This is a great, easy to make, not messy- to-clean-up-after recipe for bread dough. You’ll love being able to use it when good bread isn’t available—a Wonder bread–infused vacation on the coast of Maine comes to mind. Simply whip up this dough, top it with whatever you’re in the mood for, and serve it warm from the oven.
You make the dough in a food processor. The flour filled mine to the very top, and I was dubious about whether there was enough room for the two cups of water. But within seconds the whole thing had formed a very malleable dough and was ready for quick kneading.
The tomato and onion topping was very tasty, but so was a topping I made with sautéed onions and dried thyme. For that matter, when you have focaccia this good, a topping of nothing more than coarse salt and a drizzle of olive oil is wonderful.
I had a little trouble timing this to come out of the oven for dinner. The first time I made it, we all had a snack at 10 P.M. I would advise leaving 2H hours from start to finish.

  

Ode to Betty

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This page of my Betty Crocker cookbook, which my mother gave to me when I was in college, is ridiculous! It is covered in crusty splotches and is unreadable in spots due to dried cake batter and greasy spots from butter spills.

Although I‘ve had this book for more than 20 years it is only within the last 10 or so that I have grown to truly appreciate the beauty and simplicity of “Betty”.

As a budding gourmand in college this book was a guide to cooking basics and old standbys. Basic cakes and bread recipes taught me techniques that would serve me well into the future. I learned how to truss chickens and beef roasts. I learned how to blanch stuff.

The biggest bang was this Banana-nut Bread. Everyone loves it. Some like it cold, some like it hot. I often make this for gifts at holiday time.

I have adapted this recipe over the years and experimented with healthful whole grain ingredients, and turbinado sugar. I’ve tried vegan versions and lo-cal substitutions. The best recipe is the one which I will present here and it seems to be everyone’s favorite. It is basically Betty Crocker’s recipe with a few minor tweaks which have made this perfect for my 2 loaf pan preparation. I have created a highly portable Banana Bread type treat which can be toasted and carried on the way to school or eaten cold with a cup of coffee or a glass of ice cold milk.

Banana-Nut Cake

(Adapted from Betty Crocker)

2 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup sugar ( I sometime use turbinado which can add moisture so I then add 2 tbs flour)
5-6 medium sized mushy bananas
2/3 cup finely chopped nuts
½ cup butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
3 eggs
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips ( or your desire)
Method
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 2 8 ½” x 4 ½” x 2 ¾” loaf pans.

Mix eggs, sugar, buttermilk, and butter until creamy. Sift together dry ingredients, add chocolate chips and slowly add to the wet mixture. (Hand held mixer produces the best result) Beat on high speed for 3 minutes scraping the sides of the bowl. Pour into pans.

Bake until wooden pick comes out dry, about 40-45 minutes.

Remove from pans immediately and allow to cool on cooling rack.
I like to wrap mine in aluminum foil at once and place in the fridge. This ensures that the loaves are moist and delicious!

  

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