Garlic Pull-Apart Rolls

These rolls are baked in a Bundt pan (or any other round ring you have) and are best served warm.  Just in time for Thanksgiving.

  • 4 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 2 cups very hot water
  • 5-7 cups flour, as needed (I suggest half whole wheat and half white)
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt plus extra for sprinkling
  • ½ Tbs ground black pepper
  • ½ cup butter or margarine
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • garlic powder for sprinkling

Put the very hot water, the yeast, the sugar, and 1 cup flour in a large bowl.  Mix together then add the garlic, 2 Tbs butter or margarine, 1 Tbs salt, the pepper, and another 2 cups flour.  Add the rest of the flour, kneading it as you go.  Dough should be firm but not dry.  Knead for at least 5 minutes then put back in a large lightly greased bowl, turning it over so all sides are oiled.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise an hour.  Punch down the dough and knead in the bowl for a minute or two.  Repeat this process (rise, punch down, knead) at least twice more.  The more you do this the smoother the rolls will be.  When you are ready to bake it, heat oven to 350 and melt the rest of the butter with the olive oil.  Pinch off egg sized balls of dough then roll and pinch them into balls.  Dip each ball in the butter/oil mixture then sprinkle each with garlic powder.  Put the balls in the pan, squeezed in so they are tight.  You should get two layers of rolls in the pan.  Sprinkle the top of each layer with some kosher salt.  Bake until the rolls start to lightly brown on the top, it can be 1-2 hours – just keep checking it.  Allow them to cool in the pan for 15 minutes then turn the pan over onto a plate and tap the bottom to get the rolls to drop out.  They should separate easily.  Serve warm, fresh from the oven if possible.

A Short Restaurant Review and a Little Ditty on Bad Service

My mom, my sister, and I have a little tradition: once a year we have dinner out together at a fine restaurant during First Bite Boulder week.  (www.firstbiteboulder.com)  Each year we choose somewhere we haven’t been together, that has a good reputation, and where the menu appeals to all of us.  This year we ended up at Arugula (http://www.arugularistorante.com/).  I had heard only good things about it from several people and was eager to try it.  Alas, my disappointment far outweighs my pleasure on this one.  I want to start by giving the following disclaimer.  There is never an excuse for bad service.  Never.  But there are things that make it harder.  Our dinner party did not present any of them: no small children; we arrived on time for our reservation; we had a reservation; we were not drunk, too loud, badly dressed; we did not have a list of dietary requests or problems; we did not ask to substitute or leave out any ingredients; we were not difficult.  And yet, we got bad service.  The ambience, menu, prices, decor, ingredients, attitude, and service ware all would suggest and imply that you should expect great service.  And I did expect it so was doubly disappointed when our server tried to take my order first.  Seriously?  Did no one ever train him on service etiquette?  I was the youngest person at the table, and although it might not be clear which of us, between my sister and me, is younger, I am clearly CLEARLY younger than my mom – and the waiter heard me refer to her as the give-away clue name, “Mom”.  So when he tried to take my order first I replied that I would rather if he took her order first.  Well, clearly that upset his mojo because he entered our orders into the kitchen in the wrong order so that as each course was brought to our table by the runners (whose one job it is to get food to the right people, based on the servers’ instructions) our dishes were mixed up and served incorrectly.  The same waiter forgot to bring us bread, forgot a soup spoon, little things like that.  So, one strike against Arugula. 

As for the food – it ranged from amazingly delicious (the mahi-mahi entrée, the heirloom mushroom caprese, the Hazel Dell mushrooms with gorgonzola) to pretty good (the vegetarian lasagne, the gnocchi with pear and gorgonzola) to poor (the lamb stew with soft polenta).  I cannot believe that a restaurant whose kitchen can produce a simple, elegant, delicious little salad like the above mentioned caprese can also turn the out the plate of tough gristle, hard vegetables, and congealed polenta.  Strike two against Arugula. 

I will probably go back and give them a second shot – someday.  But considering that my husband and I very rarely spend that kind of money on a meal out (think an easy $50 for two before looking at wine, dessert, extras) we will go somewhere we know we can get great food and, at least, good service. 

As for bad service, why is there so much of it in Boulder?  Seriously, I don’t understand why restaurant owners and managers don’t spend more time vetting and training front-of-house staff.  First of all, I am not a guy.  If I am with my husband, we are not guys.  My mother and I are never guys.  You probably don’t really even want to refer to a group of men as guys if you are trying to effect fine dining service.  Second, if someone pays with cash do not ask if they want their change.  Give them their change and let them choose to leave you a tip.  It may seem like a minor thing but, believe me, it is better this way.  Third, fess up if you mess up.  If the food is delayed, if there is a mistake, if you brought the wrong thing – acknowledge it, accept responsibility, apologize, move on.  Do Not Ignore Your Customers if something is wrong.  Fourth, learn the etiquette of who orders/gets served first.  In a bar, in a burger joint, in a casual place this is not as important (although it goes a long way to making people think you are paying attention) but in fine dining it is essential.  I could easily go on and on but will stop here. 

Thanks, Mom, for dinner.  It is really the company that matters and tonight that was 5 star.

Tropical Banana Bread

If you’ve got bananas hanging around make some banana bread.  If you’ve also got coconut and limes, make this banana bread.  It is delicious and there is nothing like a fresh baked sweet bread on a cold snowy day.

Tropical Banana Bread

  • 1/2 cup soft butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 bananas
  • juice and zest of 1 large or 2 small limes
  • 2 cups flour (you can use half whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
  • granulated sugar for sprinkling

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream the butter and sugar together.  Beat in the eggs.  Mash the bananas and beat them in with the lime juice and half the zest.  Stir in the dry ingredients.  Put dough in a greased bread pan, sprinkle with 1-2 Tbs of sugar mixed with remaining zest.  Bake until knife comes out clean, 45-60 minutes.

Frittata with Gruyere and Almonds

Ok, it’s been a while since I wrote anything here as I am trying to write a novel for National Novel Writing Month.  It’s going ok, the story and the protagonist are still appealing to me so I keep writing.  In the story one of the characters makes this interesting and delicious frittata so, why not, here it is.  It is unusual and tasty – you can eat it freshly made and hot or eat the leftovers cold plain or heated with a dollop of spicy chunky tomato sauce.  We ate it for dinner last night at my house with pink and purple roasted cabbage, yum.

Frittata with Gruyère, Almonds, and Fresh Herbs

  • 1 dozen large eggs
  • 1 Tbs cold water
  • 1 Tbs amaretto
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 lb potatoes (any kind are fine, Yukon gold are very  nice)
  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 packed cup grated Gruyère cheese
  • 2 Tbs fresh chopped herbs (chives, basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, or mix – you choose)
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Peel or scrub the potatoes and cut them into small dice.  Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet then put the potatoes in the pan.  Cook over medium high heat, stirring often, until the potatoes start to brown.  Meanwhile, quarter the onion then slice thinly then add to the potatoes.  Cook another couple minutes as onions and potatoes brown slightly.  Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the water and the amaretto until slightly foamy.  Stir in the grated cheese and herbs.  Add half a teaspoon of salt and several grinds of the black pepper to the potatoes.  Turn heat down to medium low and pour the eggs over the potatoes, which you have evenly distributed in the pan.  Make sure the eggs, cheese, and potatoes are even in the pan.  Cook until bottom starts to set, lift around the edges a couple times to allow raw egg to run under the cooked.  Put pan in the hot oven and cook until the egg is mostly set, about 7-10 minutes.  Sprinkle the ground almonds evenly over the top of the frittata and put under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until the almonds start to brown lightly.  Watch carefully, as they will go from nicely brown to burnt black very quickly.  Remove from oven and slide onto a plate to serve.  Eat.  Yum.