Tuesday, November 16, 2004


This is one of only two desserts I ever make. (I’m not really a desserty person; most of the time I’d rather have a piece of chocolate than a slice of cake or a cookie.) The other is caramel-chocolate-oatmeal bars, which I am only allowed to make on very special occasions because I am capable of eating the entire pan. Apple crisp is never as tempting or decadent for me, just a homey and wholesome old-fashioned kind of treat. In fact, I come to it relatively recently, having taken many years to get over my aversion to the texture of cooked fruit. I never crave it or gorge myself on apple crisp, but every now and then I make it and it’s good. If I dared to serve it with vanilla ice cream, it might become a vice.

This recipe is from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. It’s very easy. It claims you can substitute (with some adjustments) pears, peaches, blueberries, or cherries for the apples, but I’ve never tried this. If I do, I’ll let you know.

*Postscript: I later tried this recipe with home-canned peaches in place of the apples (eliminating the white sugar, since the peaches were already in a sugar syrup). It was squishy but great.

5 cups sliced, peeled apples
2 tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
½ cup regular rolled oats
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ginger, or cinnamon
¼ cup butter
¼ cup chopped nuts or coconut

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Peel the apples, cut them into fourths, cut off the core, and slice the flesh. Put the slices in a 2-quart square Pyrex baking dish. Stir in the granulated sugar.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, and spice (I use half nutmeg, half cinnamon). Cut in the butter—which, as near as I can tell, involves putting the chunk of butter in the bowl and using a knife or fork to break the butter into little bits, mixing the bits with the dry ingredients until the mixture “resembles coarse crumbs.” (Don’t worry too much about your technique here—I’ve never been too clear on how to do this, but my apple crisp turns out just fine.) Stir in chopped nuts or coconut and sprinkle the mixture over the apples.

4. Bake the apple crisp for 30-35 minutes, until the apples are tender and the topping is browned.

Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes


Sausage and squash go together like peanut butter and jelly as far as I’m concerned, not that I’d want to make a sandwich out of them. (Well, maybe...) But pasta, yes. This one is easy, straightforward, and colorful (the basil is a nice, bright touch). I particularly recommend following it up with Apple Crisp, as I did on Sunday night. It makes a fine fall feast.

1 pound rotini or other curly pasta
1 medium butternut squash (about 1¾ pounds)
¾ pound hot Italian sausage links, casings removed (I like chicken sausage)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Boil a large pot of salted water for cooking the pasta.

2. While the water heats, peel the butternut squash (this will be a true test of the quality of your vegetable peeler), trim off the stem end, slice the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Cut the squash flesh (there’s a great phrase for you) into ½-inch pieces and set it aside.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat (use one that has a lid; you’ll need it later). Add the sausage to the skillet, breaking it apart with the back of a spoon as they cook. Cook the sausage, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes until browned. Remove it from the skillet with a slotted spoon, onto a plate lined with paper towels. The recipe here says to “discard all but 2 tablespoons of drippings from the skillet,” but yikes, I’ve never had a measurable amount of drippings left over—more like an oily coating on the pan. What kind of greasy sausages are these people using?

4. Add the squash, salt, and pepper to the drippings in the skillet, reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan with the lid, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the squash is tender.

5. When the water boils, add the pasta. Cook it until al dente. Reserve ¾ cup of pasta water before draining the pasta.

6. Add the sausage, basil, Parmesan, pasta, and pasta water to the squash in the skillet and toss everything together well. Serve it topped with a bit more Parmesan, and freshly ground black pepper.

Serves: 6
Time: 40 minutes

Friday, November 12, 2004


I was craving a light pasta with a green vegetable; more specifically, I was craving asparagus. So I splurged and bought some, even though it’s out of season and $3.99 a pound at the grocery store. So as not to be totally extravagant, I decided to make a half-recipe so I’d only need one pound of asparagus. I’m regretting that decision a little this morning, with no nice asparagus leftovers to look forward to for lunch, but that’s how it goes in non-asparagus season.

This is a strong, simple recipe (probably from Pasta e Verdura, but I forgot to check) that brings together the tastes that go most naturally with asparagus: garlic, lemon, and parsley. It’s not hard to make, though it feels a little like you’re scrambling when you try to cook pasta, steam asparagus, and toast breadcrumbs at the same time. You can always separate these steps instead of trying to do them simultaneously (get the breadcrumbs toasted, then set them aside and start on the asparagus)—this is a forgiving recipe in which nothing needs to cook for very long. I was surprised by how quickly the food was ready last night; shockingly, we had finished eating dinner before prime time began.

2 pounds asparagus
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs (I won’t lie; I sometimes use more)
½ cup olive oil, plus a little extra for toasting the breadcrumbs
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup minced fresh parsley leaves
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound spaghetti

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for cooking the pasta.

2. Meanwhile, heat a dab of olive oil (maybe a teaspoon?) over medium heat in a large skillet. When the oil is warm, add the breadcrumbs and stir them well until they absorb all the oil. Toast them, shaking the pan occasionally to stir them, until they are crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes.

3. Wash the asparagus, then snap off and discard the tough ends. Cut off (but keep) the tips, then cut the stalks in half lengthwise and slice them into 1-inch pieces. Steam about 2 minutes, until crisp-tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. When the pasta water boils, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente.

5. While the pasta cooks, remove the toasted breadcrumbs from the skillet and set them aside. Add the ½ cup olive oil to the skillet and put it over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the garlic and sauté until lightly colored, about 2 minutes. Add parsley, lemon juice, and salt to the pan and cook for 30 seconds, then add the asparagus and mix well.

6. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet, toss everything together well, and dish it into bowls. Sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs over each serving and grind on some black pepper if desired. (The recipe doesn’t ask for that, but it cuts the tartness of the lemon very nicely. The recipe doesn’t ask for Parmesan cheese, either, and it does just fine without it, but if you happen to be a cheeseophile, a small sprinkling can be nice. I do this on occasion—last night being one of the occasions, because I was feeling celebratory.)

Serves: 6
Time: 30 minutes


This has been a staple for me for at least four years, and it saw me through that long period when I never cooked meat but didn’t really like beans either (OK, I still don’t love beans). I eat it less often now, because we have discovered the joy that is steak tacos, but I still enjoy it on occasion—especially now that I’ve found the best salsa in the world, Trader Joe’s Salsa Especial, and am grateful for any excuse to consume it in large quantities. Plus, it is just good to eat big piles of vegetables. This recipe is a cinch for anyone to make, I promise. It may seem like a lot of ingredients, but all you need to do is mix them together right in the baking dish and then pop it in the oven. I was practically faint with hunger on Wednesday night when I made this, and I still managed to pull it together without incident. Oh, except the recipe says this makes 4 servings, but A and I ate most of it in one sitting, with only a small snack-size portion left over. So…be forewarned.

Also, sometimes when I feel like spending perhaps an extra ten minutes over the stove, I put the vegetable mixture into quesadillas and that is perhaps even more delicious.

2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 small zucchini, cut into sticks (2 cups)
1 yellow zucchini or summer squash, cut into sticks (1 cup)
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips (1 cup)
1 small onion, sliced (1 cup)
¼ cup salsa, plus extra for garnish if desired
8 six-inch flour tortillas
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1. Preheat the oven’s broiler and grease a 9-inch square baking dish with a little vegetable oil.

2. Put all the vegetables in the pan.

3. Mix the lime juice, cilantro, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, chili powder, oregano, cumin, garlic, and salt in a small bowl (I actually like to use a former Grey Poupon jar, because then I can just screw on the lid and shake it up), then pour this mixture over the vegetables in the baking dish and toss well. (It’s easier to blend all the seasonings together and cover the vegetables thoroughly if you do it this way, but believe me, I’ve had my lazy days of just throwing everything into the dish and it works just fine. If you don’t want to dirty a bowl, I say go for it.)

4. Put the baking dish in the oven and broil the vegetables for 5-10 minutes, “until tender-crisp or to desired doneness.” (Take them out of the oven once partway through to stir them around so they cook evenly.) When the vegetables are done, take the dish out of the oven. Add the salsa to the vegetables in the baking dish and toss well.

5. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees, wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil, and put them in the oven to heat, about 5 minutes. (You can heat them in the microwave too, but the texture is better if you do it in the oven.)

6. When the tortillas are warm, top them with vegetables and cheese (and more salsa if desired), roll them up, and eat them.

Serves: 3-4
Time: 30 minutes

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


The title of this dish is a total lie, making it sound as though I have systematically conducted a thorough scientific sampling of all the pasta salad recipes the world has to offer before carefully declaring a winner. A more accurate name would be "My Only Pasta Salad." I can’t even think of another pasta salad I like at all; cold food generally doesn’t charm me. And many of the pasta salads I’ve experienced have contained some ingredient I dislike (olives, artichokes, green peppers) or have had heavy, mayonnaise-y dressings. But this recipe (courtesy of my mom, who has made it for me often) is light and straightforward, full of good things that go together brilliantly, so that each bite I take I find myself analyzing the different combinations: broccoli with mushroom, tomato with mozzarella, mozzarella with summer sausage, summer sausage with tortellini. I can tirelessly eat massive amounts of this salad, as can A, who has been a fan ever since I introduced him to it. This is for the best, since this improvisational recipe tends to result (for me, at least) in massive amounts of pasta salad. I go adding a little more of this and a little more of that to even things out, I decide I might as well use the whole package of mushrooms or the whole bunch of green onions, and suddenly I need multiple bowls to hold all the salad. It’s never a problem, because the salad will keep for at least a week (the mushrooms will start to stain the other ingredients, but that’s all) and tastes even better a few days after being made. It’s great for summer, when you don’t feel like cooking too much and maybe want something to take on a picnic (we always bring it to Cinespia and the Hollywood Bowl). It's also my go-to dish for parties and potlucks. But there’s no time of year when I wouldn’t make this. (Personally, I prefer it not to be ice-cold, and will let my helpings sit at room temperature for about half an hour before I eat—if I can stand to wait that long.)

Make as much or as little as you like. There’s a lot of chopping involved, but otherwise no skill is required.

1 package cheese tortellini, cooked and rinsed in cold water (I usually use the boxed/bagged stuff you find in the dry pasta aisle, about 12 ounces, but the refrigerated stuff works OK too)
4-8 ounces rotini pasta, cooked and rinsed in cold water (I usually use the tri-color variety)
chopped tomato (cherry tomatoes cut in quarters work best; I usually use 1 pint container)
chopped broccoli (I usually use 1 medium head)
sliced mushrooms (I usually use an 8-ounce package of cremini or plain white buttons)
chopped green onion (I usually use 1 bunch, which is about 6)
chopped fresh parsley (I usually use 1 handful)
fresh mozzarella cheese, cut in small cubes (I usually use maybe 4 to 6 ounces)
salami or summer sausage, cut in small cubes (maybe 1/2 to 3/4 lb?)
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
a few dashes Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the rotini in it until al dente.

2. While it cooks, mix the tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, green onion, parsley, mozzarella, and salami/summer sausage in a large bowl (or you might need to divide it between two large bowls).

3. When the rotini finishes cooking, drain and rinse it until it's cool. Mix it into the bowl(s) of salad. Refill the pot with water and put it back on the stove to boil for the tortellini. When it boils, add the tortellini and cook it according to the package directions.

4. While the tortellini cooks, mix the remaining ingredients (oil, sugar, vinegar, Tabasco, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper) in a glass jar with a lid (a small bowl is fine too). Based on the amount of salad I've produced, I sometimes decide to go ahead and double the dressing quantities--do whatever feels good to you, but I say better to have too much than not enough.

4. When the tortellini is done, drain it, rinse it until cool, and mix it into the salad bowl(s). Vigorously shake up the jar of dressing (if you’re using a bowl, just whisk very thoroughly until the oil and vinegar blend) and pour it over the salad(s). Mix everything, grind on more black pepper because it makes everything better, and eat. (If you like a colder salad or want to eat it later, cover the bowl and throw it in the refrigerator, of course.)

Serves: as many as you like; with the quantities mentioned above, I can get at least 8 generous servings
Time: maybe 45 minutes

Friday, November 05, 2004


To be eaten in moderation, but very good. I don’t even like cream cheese all that much, but boy does it complement mushrooms and garlic. This dish comes out a bit like a mushroom stroganoff, but freshened up by the basil. It’s been a standby favorite of mine ever since I first made it about 5 years ago, in my first apartment after graduating from college. I was cooking with roommate K, who famously proclaimed while doing the prep work, “I feel like I’m a slave to these mushrooms.” (A phrase that inevitably pops into my head when I’m chopping them now. That’s definitely the most laborious part of this recipe—the rest is a cinch.)

This can be a somewhat rich and heavy meal, but it’s easy to adjust the amount of cheese to suit your tastes. The proportions of the recipe (wherever I got it) were very unbalanced, so I’ve restructured it after extensive experimentation. It originally called for one 12-ounce package of tortellini, but all the prepackaged refrigerated fresh tortellini I see at the store (DiGiorno, Buitoni, etc.) comes in 9-ounce packages. A ratio of just 9 ounces of tortellini to 6 ounces of cream cheese is grossly overcheesy (believe me), so I got in the habit of using two packages of tortellini (18 ounces). Last night, in fact, I used a “family pack” of 20 ounces of tortellini, because that was all I could find at the store, and I used even less than 6 ounces of cream cheese (maybe 4-5 ounces). I upped the mushroom amount slightly, too—the “baby portobellas” I like to use come in 6-ounce packages, so I bought three and used all 18 ounces instead of 16. I also put in more than the required 1 tablespoon of basil, because I like basil. And everything turned out great. The very health-conscious among us could probably use even less cheese, but I prefer to just eat small servings of the final product and then have a green salad on the side.

Note: I always try to use brown mushrooms, like cremini—it adds more mushroom flavor and prevents the cream cheese from dominating, and it also makes this a slightly more sophisticated dish and less like something made with a can of Campbell’s cream-of-mushroom soup.

18-20 ounces fresh cheese tortellini
1 tablespoon butter
1 to 1¼ pounds mushrooms, finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
3-4 ounces cream cheese (reduced-fat is OK here), cubed
¾ cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil a large pot of salted water for cooking the tortellini. When it boils, add the tortellini and cook according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, heat the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. When it's melted, add the garlic and mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are soft and all the liquid they release has evaporated (recipe says 10-12 minutes).

3. Add the cream cheese (add it gradually, to avoid using too much), milk, and basil to the skillet, and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce comes to a gentle boil. It should definitely be liquid and saucelike (if it’s not, you’ve used too much cheese), but not runny and watery (if it is, you don’t have enough cheese). Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper.

4. When the tortellini is done, drain it, add it to the skillet with the sauce, and toss everything together well. Serve garnished with additional basil and black pepper if desired.

Serves: 4-6
Time: 30 minutes

Thursday, November 04, 2004


This is what you make for dinner when your candidate is looking likely to lose the most important presidential election in your lifetime. It takes a long time but does not require a lot of work, so you have ample opportunity to glue yourself to the television, or to flee the television and walk down to the video store to rent a movie starring Bill Murray. It involves a lot of vengeful stabbing and violent mashing of potatoes with forks. It contains a lot of cheese, which most sane people find extremely delicious and reassuring. It is warm, hearty, familiar, and comforting. You are treating yourself. You are keeping your strength up. But you also eat a big green salad or a large helping of steamed green vegetables, because you know you do not need to feel any more guilty, depressed, and ashamed the next morning—the newspaper headlines will make you feel quite bad enough.

4 large baking potatoes, well scrubbed
1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into small bits
½ cup sour cream (you could probably also use yogurt; I go with the light sour cream)
1 cup finely cubed Muenster cheese
½ cup finely cubed cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
paprika to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the potatoes under cold running water, prick them with a fork in a few places, and place them in the oven directly on the rack to bake for 1 hour, or until the skin is crispy and they're tender throughout.

2. Remove the potatoes from the oven (leaving the oven on), slice them in half lengthwise, and let them cool for a few minutes. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, scoop most of their flesh out with a spoon into a large bowl, leaving ¼-inch-thick potato shells. Place a few butter bits into each of the shells.

3. Mash the potato flesh in the bowl with a fork, then stir in the sour cream, cheese, and parsley. Spoon the mixture into the potato shells, then sprinkle each one with paprika.

4. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet. Return them to the oven and bake them for about 20 minutes, or until they're hot and bubbly.

Serves: 4
Time: 1½ hours

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Faithful BookCook readers will have realized by now that I possess an endless parade of recipes for pasta with vegetables, so the name “Spaghetti With Lots of Nice Vegetables” seems incredibly undescriptive and unhelpful—at least until you consider that its original name, in whatever cookbook I found it in, was “Ligurian-Style Spaghetti.” I can’t in good conscience go around using the word “Ligurian” when I don’t even know what it means, particularly not to describe a simple pasta dish. If A were to ask, “What are we having for dinner tonight?” and I answered, “Ligurian-Style Spaghetti,” that would be no help to anybody. In comparison, the new name I’ve come up with is a miracle of clarity. I have, by the way, consulted the American Heritage Dictionary on this, and it turns out Liguria is “A region of northwest Italy on the Ligurian Sea, an arm of the Mediterranean Sea between northwest Italy and Corsica. Named for an ancient pre-Indo-European people, the Ligurii, the region was subdued by the Romans in the 2nd century b.c. and was later (16th–19th century) controlled by Genoa. A small section of the coastline surrounding Genoa formed the Ligurian Republic from 1797 until 1815.” This is enlightening, but my dinner doesn’t need quite so much provenance. The new name sticks.

Although I don’t ever exactly crave this meal, it’s in the regular repertoire because it’s colorful, fresh, light, and complex-tasting. There aren’t a lot of surprises here (except possibly the carrots), but everything comes together exceptionally well. There are no difficulties in the preparation, beyond the large variety of ingredients (lots of chopping and slicing). I cooked it without incident last night and we both wolfed down our portions. A especially enjoyed it and declared me to be “on a roll” in the kitchen.

4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into small julienne strips
1 small zucchini, cut into small julienne strips
1 small yellow zucchini or summer squash, cut into small julienne strips
1 tablespoon salt, plus extra for seasoning
1 pound spaghetti
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Mix tomatoes, 1 tablespoon basil, 1 tablespoon parsley, and 2 tablesoons oil in a small bowl.

2. Put 1 tablespoon salt into a large pot of water and put it on the stove to boil for the pasta. Heat the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it's fully warm, add the garlic, onion, and carrot, season them with a little salt, and cook them, stirring frequently—the recipe says for 5 minutes, but I do it for longer, at least 10 minutes, until the onions and carrot are quite soft, because that is how I like them. Add the zucchini and summer squash, again seasoning with a little salt, and cook until they're tender (again, the recipe says 5 minutes; again, I probably do it longer). Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining basil and parsley.

3. Meanwhile, when the water boils, added the spaghetti and cook it until al dente. Drain it, add it to the skillet, and toss with the vegetable sauce. Serve each portion topped with some of the tomato mixture, Parmesan cheese to taste, a little pepper.

Serves: 6
Time: 30-45 minutes

Monday, November 01, 2004


My nose has been hideously runny lately, so I thought some medicinal food might do me some good. And can you believe I’ve never made chicken noodle soup before? It’s a pretty improvisational business—when I went to consult my mom’s recipe, I found it didn’t contain any measurements, so I lifted some from my Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook; this represents a combination of the two versions. The result was supremely easy, and very tasty. Combined with homemade rolls, this represents the most fully from-scratch meal I’ve ever attempted. I could just feel the wholesomeness oozing out of it.

My mom’s recipe suggests you take a whole chicken, cut up, boil it with vegetables and water to make the stock, and then strain out the chicken and pull the meat off the bones for this soup. This is an efficient method and will result in the best-tasting soup. But I had already made my stock last week, with a chicken carcass, so that wasn’t going to work for me. Instead, I took a boneless chicken breast and some boneless chicken thigh meat, poached them in a covered pan with a little water until they were cooked through, then cubed them and added them to the soup. You can do whatever suits you better: this recipe is very flexible. It will also be just fine if you use frozen vegetables and dried herbs—but make every effort to use fresh, and you’ll be abundantly rewarded.

4½ cups homemade chicken broth
½ cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil, or ½ teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, or ½ teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, or ½ teaspoon dried
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 bay leaf
10 ounces fresh or frozen mixed vegetables, or more to taste (I usually use fresh carrots, celery, corn, and green beans, eyeballing the quantities)
1 cup egg noodles
2 cups cubed or shredded cooked chicken
chopped fresh parsley to taste

1. Place the vegetables, onion, basil, oregano, and rosemary in a large soup pot along with the pepper, salt (you’ll have to adjust this depending on the saltiness of your broth), bay leaf, and broth.

2. Bring the soup to boiling, then stir in the noodles. Return the soup to boiling, reduce the heat, and simmer it for about 8 minutes, until the noodles are al dente. Discard the bay leaf, add the chicken to the soup, and cook for a few more minutes until everything is heated through. Add some fresh parsley and serve.

Serves: 4-6
Time: 30 minutes


That’s what I used to call them when I was a kid, because of their cloverleaf shape. My mom would make them often, and I’d eat a lot of them. As far as I’m concerned, the only way to eat a bumpy roll is to pull the three sections apart slightly (leaving them connected at the bottom), spread them with butter, and microwave them for 30 seconds or so until the roll is hot and tender and the butter is molten. I’m sure they would also be good with honey. They’re really the perfect basic wheat dinner roll, and fun to eat at that.

I’m not much of a baker, but I thought it would be fun to give breadmaking a shot yesterday. I wouldn’t say it was the easiest thing I’ve ever made, but I also think it would be much easier with practice, when one wasn’t so concerned about the potential to mess things up at every turn. I did have a good time—the chemistry of baking is always interesting (though yeast freaks me out somewhat—those little crumbs are alive), I do love the feeling of kneading dough, and the entire apartment still smells of fresh bread—I dare you to name a cozier smell than that. It was a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, as I could do one of the recipe steps, go do laundry or cleaning or an errand while the dough rose, and then come back and do the next step. Despite my fears, the rolls turned out tasting nearly as good as mom’s (Me: “They’re not quite the same.” A: “Maybe you forgot to add love.”), though the first batch I put in the oven got a bit dark on the bottom. Excessively pleased with myself, I proceeded to eat about four of them, with chicken noodle soup on the side. A happily devoured a few as well, and I froze the remaining two dozen for later. Now I’m eagerly eyeing the bread recipes in my books—we’ll see what comes of that, if anything.

2 packets (2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2½ teaspoons salt
4 cups white flour
¼ cup instant nonfat dry milk or 1¼ cups milk
¼ cup honey
2 cups wheat flour
3 tablespoons soft shortening

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast with 1 cup warm water, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ cup white flour. Beat this with a whisk until it's smooth, and then cover the bowl with a damp dishtowel and let it stand in a warm place for about 15 minutes (other recipes I consulted suggested the warm place should be about 80-85 degrees, so I put my bowl in the bathroom with the door shut and turned on the odd little heating unit on the wall; it seems a more conventional method is to put the bowl in the oven—which should be turned off—and put a pan of hot water on the lower rack).

2. When the 15 minutes are up, heat 1¼ cups milk almost to boiling in the microwave, let it cool until you can stick your finger into it comfortably, then add it to the bowl (you can use 1¼ cups warm water with ¼ cup instant nonfat dry milk, if you prefer). Add the honey, the remaining 2 teaspoons salt, the wheat flour, and the shortening, and then beat the mixture for 2 minutes with an electric mixer. Gradually stir in (by hand, with a wooden spoon) about 3½ cups white flour to make a very stiff dough. (This was probably the most laborious part of the process—I kept thinking the dough wouldn’t possibly take any more flour, but it always would, after I expended a lot of arm power stirring it up.) Next, spread a little flour on the counter, dump the dough out of the bowl, and knead it until it was smooth. Wash the bowl out, grease it lightly with shortening, place the kneaded dough inside, cover it with the damp dishtowel again, and let it rise until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

3. When the dough has risen, lightly grease muffin tins with shortening. (You’ll want three if possible, as this recipe makes about 36 rolls.) Uncover the dough, punch it down, and begin pulling off little bits with your fingers and rolling them into small balls. In each muffin slot, you want to place three balls of dough, each about one inch in diameter, touching one another at the edges like the leaves of a clover. Fill your pans, cover them with the damp dishtowel, and let the rolls rise until they have doubled in size, about 30 minutes. (Because I only have two muffin tins, I had some dough left, so I just kept that in the bowl, covered it, and let it rise again as well, figuring it couldn’t hurt--and it didn’t.)

4. Near the end of the 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the rolls have finished rising, put them in the oven for 15 minutes, until the tops are light brown. Remove them from the tins and cool them on wire racks. (At this point, if you have remaining dough as I did, wash out one of the muffin tins, regrease it, punch down the remaining dough, shape it into rolls, let it rise 30 minutes, and bake it as well.)

Makes: about 3 dozen rolls
Time: about 2½ hours, but only 30 minutes of that is actual work