Friday, May 23, 2008
The best resource on this bread is a video I found on YouTube, so thank you MayaSophia! She gives a great visual as to how to braid these loaves, otherwise my explanations would just be confusing.
The first step for me was to sponge the bread. I took a photo to show what sourdough sponge should look like:
The next step was to mix the dough and let it rise. I then divided it into six parts and rolled each into a snake, pinching them together at the top:
Then comes the braiding, which is demonstrated in the video:
Continue to braid until the entire loaf is finished, then pinch and tuck each end over. Set it on your floured peel and allow to rise for 1 hour.
Brush the loaf either with egg or olive oil (used here) and allow to bake at 400 for 30-45 minutes, or until golden brown. These loaves typically take longer since they're more dense. What I love about braided breads is that you can break them apart and dip the little sections in oil or sauce, so this is pictured next to spinach dip (see Spinach Artichoke Dip Rediscovered for recipe).
Bamboo Cooking Utensils:
Bamboo is an extremely eco-friendly product; since it's technically a grass, you're sparing some lucky trees too! They also perform incredibly well. Dishwasher safe, lightweight yet strong, these also do not scratch cookware. Ideal for any kitchen, they're also a bargain at a few bucks per utensil.
Silicone Cookie Sheet:This thing is perfect for baking cookies -- it completely eliminates your need for evil cooking spray! It keeps your baking sheets clean so you don't have to wash them nearly as much. It requires minimal maintenance in and of itself, just a rinse with some hot soapy water after use. My only caution is to not use it in temperatures over 450, or you'll wind up with a crunchy plastic sheet.
These containers are absolutely central to the organization of my kitchen. They're airtight, so almost anything can be stored in them. You know how there's always a sprinkling of flour or sugar that falls out when you're measuring ingredients from the bag? That's not an issue with these. I label them and use them to store different kinds of flour and sugar. I'm sure my kitchen would be a much messier place without these guys to help me keep things in order.
Oxo Good Grip Knife Set:These knives are like none I've ever used. They're sharp as a razor, but because of the soft grip they have a safety aspect as well. The set contains 14 knives so you don't have to worry about buying anything else. Worth every penny, these should last forever if you take care of them.
Microplane Zester Grater:
This item completely lives up to its reputation -- lightweight, dishwasher safe, it grates through hardest cheeses like butter. You can usually come by them for under $10 at kitchen supply stores. This is absolutely essential if you grate your own cheese; it leaves piles of feather light shavings instead of chunky slices like a traditional grater. It doesn't work particularly well on soft cheeses, but that's what regular graters are for.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Baked Garlic Dip
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1/2c cooked spinach
3-5 artichoke hearts, chopped
~2tsp fresh oregano, chopped finely
7 oz fage (Greek low fat yogurt, use plain regular yogurt otherwise)
3/4c light mayonnaise
1c shredded cheddar
1/4c shredded parmesean
salt to taste
Heat the mayonnaise and fage in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Preheat oven to 450. Add garlic, oregano and artichoke hearts; stir occasionally until simmering. Add cheddar and stir until melted, add spinach and salt. Pour into a baking pan or small casserole dish and sprinkle parmesean over the top. Bake for 10 minutes or until bubbling and beginning to brown. Allow several minutes to cool before serving.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
1/2c room temp butter
1/2c white sugar
1/4c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2c quick cooking oats
1 c raisins, nuts or chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugars together, add egg and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients (no oats) and combine with creamed mixture. Add oats and raisins. Pour into a greased baking pan, and cook for 10-15 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into bars or squares.
Southwest Black Bean Salsa:
15 oz kidney beans
15 oz black beans
15 oz fresh or canned corn
1/2c chopped onion
2 tbsp finely chopped jalapenos
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 chipotle pepper, very finely chopped (one can usually contains 4-5 peppers)
15 oz diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp salt
Combine all ingredients. Allow to chill overnight. Who knew it could be this easy?!
Honey Cinnamon Challah:
7c bread flour
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2c agave nectar (low glycemic sweetener, check health food stores or well stocked grocers)
2 packets of yeast dissolved in 1/3c warm water
1/2c veg oil
2 tbsp apple pie spice
1c boiling water
1/2c cold water
1 egg + 2 tbsp honey + 1 tbsp water (set aside)
Beat eggs in a bowl. In separate large bowl mix oil, nectar, spices, salt and add boiling water. Stir until completely dissolved. Add cold water, stir, and add yeast water -- keep in mind that the mixture should be warm, not hot, before the addition of yeast. Add eggs to the large bowl. Combine flour 1/2-1c at a time, as certain climates require more or less of it. If you're kneading by hand, knead for about 15 minutes or until smooth and elastic; if you're using a bread hook it takes around five to ten minutes. Place loaf into a greased bowl and let rise, covered, in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size.
Before punching the dough down, remove from the bowl and slice into thirds with a sharp knife. Knead each round for 2-5 minutes and use the sharp knife to divide each into thirds again. Roll each section into a "snake" about 1-2 inches in diameter. Pinch the top ends together and braid down the loaf, then pinch the bottom ends and tuck under. Repeat this with the 2 remaining rounds and let each rise on a greased baking sheet for 30-45 minutes. Right before the loaves are ready to go in the oven, take a pastry brush and coat each with the egg and honey mixture. Make sure to cover all exposed areas of the loaf except for the bottom. Sprinkle seeds if desired.
Preheat the oven to 450 with your baking stone, and reduce to 350 for the actual baking time. If you're operating with a baking sheet only, flour with cornmeal or semolina and allow it to preheat. Place the loaf on a greased large plate or a floured peel and slide it onto the baking stone or sheet. Allow to bake for 20-30 minutes or until loaf is a deep golden brown.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
~2 tbsp butter
1/8tsp kosher salt
Grease cake pan with butter. Combine remaining butter with other ingredients, and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
4 oz container vanilla yogurt
4 oz can white peaches (check Asian markets)
2 tbsp peach preserves
a few drops rosewater if desired, use sparingly
1-2 tbsp confectioners sugar
Heat peaches, rosewater and preserves over medium-low heat. Spread vanilla yogurt over tart crust. Once fruit begins to simmer, remove from heat and pour evenly over yogurt layer. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar and either serve hot or chill until ready to eat.
This can be made with or without rice. I definitely wouldn't advocate making a fresh batch of it just for this recipe; it can spruce up the texture if you have some leftovers though.
Vegetable Sai Fun:
3 nests sai fun (apx. 1 1/2c cooked)
1/2 lb extra firm tofu, cubed
2tbsp olive oil
1/3c chopped water chestnuts
1 grated carrot
1c raw chopped cabbage
4 oz can bamboo shoots
1/4c chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1/2c cooked rice (optional)
Boil sai fun for 3-5 minutes or until soft. Strain and remove from heat. Steam cabbage and onion until softened, apx 5-10 minutes. Saute tofu with olive oil, garlic and tamari until lightly browned in a large skillet or wok. Add cooked sai fun and all other ingredients over medium heat, toss with spatula every few minutes until noodles start to become crispy and brown, apx. 15-20 minutes. Serve hot with tamari or schezuan sauce for a spicier taste.
1 (8 oz) package neufchatel cheese or low-fat cream cheese
3 finely chopped garlic cloves
1/2c skim milk
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp basil
1/2tsp ground black pepper
1/3c grated asiago or other hard cheese
salt to taste
Heat all ingredients over medium-low heat until cheese melts and sauce begins to simmer. Remove from heat immediately.
1 box linguine (I like spinach linguine, but any kind works)
1 tbsp butter
~1 lb portobello mushrooms
1/2c finely chopped asparagus stems
Boil pasta and drain. You may use whole asparagus or just the stems, they should be chopped so finely that the fibrous texture is broken up. Heat the butter over medium in a skillet. Remove stems from portobellos and chop into as large or small pieces as you desire -- I prefer to chop them quite finely, but many people enjoy a "chunkier" dish. Saute the asparagus and mushrooms in the butter for 5-8 minutes and add to cheese sauce. Serve hot over linguine.
The chicken isn't pictured due to my vegetarianism, but thanks to my fellow Shebrews I wasn't allowed to leave the seder kitchen without learning how to cook chicken breast. I'm including this recipe as well because it seems like it would go with the rest of the meal.
I ran across some gorgeous purple cauliflower at the grocery store and had to try it. In fruits and vegetables more color usually means a higher level of antioxidants and vitamins, so there seemed to be no harm. Sure enough, when I researched it later, anthocyanin is the antioxidant present -- the same as in red wine and red cabbage.
photo thanks to Wikipedia
Back to the meal. It's high in fiber, high in vitamins, and relatively low in calories while retaining LOTS of flavor!
Cauliflower and cheese sauce:
1 head cauliflower
1 1/2c milk
1/4c olive oil
2 tbsp flour
1/2c sharp cheddar
salt to taste
Chop the clusters from the cauliflower, and boil them until as soft as you desire. Heat the olive oil and milk on medium low, when hot add flour. Stir constantly while adding cheese unti2l melted and no chunks remain. Set aside to cool and thicken.
1 small head cabbage, chopped or shredded
2 tbsp vinegar
salt to taste
Boil a large pot of water. Add vinegar and cabbage, allow to boil for 15-20 minutes or until desired softness. Add salt.
1 lb small Yukon potatoes or other small heirloom variety (do NOT use baking potatoes)
1 tsp thyme
1tbsp kosher salt
~1/4c olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp paprika
a few grinds of black pepper
1/4c grated hard cheese
2 tbsp bread crumbs
Boil potatoes until soft enough to poke with a fork (apx 20 minutes). Preheat the oven to 450, and slice larger potatoes into bite sized pieces. Place into casserole dish. Add salt and spices, drizzle with oil, and toss to coat each piece. Top with cheese and bread crumbs, bake until brown and bubbly.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Combine spices in a small bowl. Rub each chicken breast with the mix. Put olive oil in a skillet (cast iron is my hands-down favorite) and heat on medium. Cook until each side is browned, about 7 to 8 minutes on each side. Serve with a lemon wedge if desired.
Voila! Dinner is served. This is a relatively quick meal, if you're using multiple burners and maximizing your time it can be done in 30 minutes.
Anywho. Back to Ms. Chesman. One of the things about this book that caught my eye is that it has a section for each vegetable, and one of those veggies is asparagus. I've always (well, in my adult life) had an appreciation for asparagus but the vegetable itself seemed a little...intimidating. I had tried a few methods of cooking and while they turned out fine, I felt I must have been doing something wrong since I wasn't getting the "tender and sweet" vegetable these books were raving about.
I ran across a recipe for Asparagus Sticks. This was intriguing; a new way to make asparagus?! Considering I had two bunches in my refridgerator haunting me, I decided to give it a whirl. I used white asparagus because it's what I had, but either type will do.
A few notes on this recipe -- panko is a Japanese style bread crumb. I bought them because it's what the recipe called for, plus they were cheap and on sale. If you can't find them I see no problem with using regular bread crumbs, the panko is mostly for texture (as photos will demonstrate). It's similar to gratings you get from a Microplane zester, which is a must-have for any kitchen aficianado! I used mine to grate the parmesean for this recipe, which definitely assisted in the texture.
Chesman says that the lemon juice is essential and brings all the flavors together. I agree, but I also think the end flavor might be a little intense for some people. The kid in me enjoyed these sticks dipped in marinara sauce, so don't be afraid to branch out. Speaking of which, this would probably be a successful way to sneak vegetables into your kids' diets ;]
Panko Asparagus Sticks
1/2tsp Dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste
1/2c shredded parmesean or other hard cheese
15-30 asparagus spears (this number is based more on how much you want to eat, batter is flexible)
1. Trim or snap asparagus. If you're unsure how to do this, hold each end of the spear and bend -- it will always snap in the right place, where the fibrous stalk ends and the tender veggie begins. For most cuts of spears at the store, this is around halfway. Note that you can still keep the fibrous portions to flavor other dishes, so don't throw them away just yet! (recipe coming soon)
2. In a shallow bowl, whisk the egg, mustard, pepper and salt together. On a plate, combine the panko and cheese. Preheat the oven to 400, and lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil.
3. Dip each spear into the egg mixture, then roll in crumbs to coat. Place on the baking sheet.
4. Bake for 12-15 minutes, then flip to the other side. Bake for another 12-15 minutes or until fully browned. Serve with a lemon wedge.
In terms of taste, these were pretty darn good. They were messy though. Something I would suggest is slicing the asparagus you plan to use in half once more to create smaller pieces -- the fibers were the main culprit for the mess, but on some pieces that snapped on their own it wasn't a problem.
The little balls you see are makeshift hush puppies. Thanks to my Southern upbringing, nothing in my kitchen goes to waste! I even have tiny tupperware containers for storing leftover eggs or whites from recipes calling for yolks-only. I still had a good bit of panko and egg mix left over, so I mixed them and rolled them into balls. I baked them with the spears and they came out just fine, very close to "real" hush puppies.
Friday, May 2, 2008
Note that the wine in the final step is critical -- quality doesn't necessarily matter, but the type you use will affect the end product. White wine tends to create a mild orange marinara, comparable to a lean vodka sauce. Red wine will produce a deep burgundy or bright red spicy sauce depending on which you choose; zinfandel produces the darkest sauce, while pinot noir creates a zesty "summertime" marinara.
The first step is roasting the tomatoes. To pit them, slice each in half and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
3 lbs roma tomatoes, pitted
1/2c olive oil
1 bulb garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp thyme
2-3 tbsp oregano
3 tbsp basil
1/4 tsp chili powder
2 tbsp kosher salt
Preheat oven to 300. Place tomatoes pitted side-up in a large baking pan, combine garlic onion spices and salt and sprinkle over tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover the pan with tin foil and let simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Crank the heat up to 500 for 25 more minutes, and remove to cool.
1/2c wine of choice
2 tbsp tomato paste
Take roasted tomatoes and blend in a food processor for 15-30 seconds, or until pureed. Note that there should be some olive oil and spices left in the pan; these are great served with fresh bread, so don't blend them in or chuck them out. Simmer the processed tomatoes in a saucepan with paste, add wine and stir often for 20-30 minutes. Serve fresh.
This is the second time I've made these, my roommates and friends seem to like them a lot. They would be a huge hit at any party or get together; the perfect cookie bar to pair with a glass of milk.
Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies
2c cake flour
1 stick butter, room temp
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4c granulated sugar
1/2c brown sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1-12oz package of milk chocolate chunks
3 egg whites
3/4c brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 350. Cream the butter and sugars for the crust together, add egg yolks and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Note that this will be a crumbly, somewhat dry mixture. Add chocolate chips. Spread into a brownie pan and tap down with the back of a wooden spoon.
The meringue takes several minutes of mixing, this is one thing I did note. Combine the sugar and egg whites, beat on high until glossy and "soft peaks" form. Spread over cookie crust. Bake for 25 minutes or until top of meringue begins to brown, let cool for at least 15 minutes. Serve and indulge.
I use olive oil in this dish, but a lot of people don't like the flavor of EVOO. Feel free to substitute vegetable oil or, God forbid, butter.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
2c lowfat milk
1/4c olive oil
1/2c shredded sharp cheddar
2 tbsp all purpose flour
salt to taste
Heat the milk and oil in a double boiler or over low heat in a small saucepan. When hot, add flour and stir well. Continue stirring and adding cheese and salt. Set aside to cool.
1 box (12 oz dry) penne pasta
1c shredded sharp cheddar
1/4c bread crumbs + 1 tbsp melted butter (optional)
Boil and drain penne. Combine with sauce, and spread in a "9 x "9 baking pan or casserole dish. Top with cheddar and bread crumbs if desired. Bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes or until golden and bubbly; set aside to cool for 20 minutes. Cooling is important, as it makes the macaroni "scoopable". Enjoy!
Although making these was lots of fun and they turned out fine, my craving had been satisfied after eating a few and I was left with a plate of leftovers. These would be perfect to bring to a barbeque or party, so I'm keeping this recipe around.
Pink Lemonade Cupcakes
1c cake flour
1/2tsp baking powder
1/4tsp baking soda
pinch of kosher salt
1/4c veg. oil
2 egg whites
1/3c thawed frozen pink lemonade concentrate
pink food coloring
3c confectioners sugar
1 stick softened butter
2 tbsp lemonade concentrate
pink food coloring
1 tsp rosewater (check among the spices in the baking aisle)
Heat the oven to 350. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. Cream the oil, egg whites, sugar, concentrate and milk in a bowl. Add the dry ingredients gradually, finishing with a few drops of food coloring. Fill liners about 3/4 full and bake for 25 minutes or until tops of cakes spring back when touched.
Cream the butter together with the confectioner's sugar. Add the concentrate and food coloring, mix well, and finish by adding the rosewater. Beat until smooth and set aside.
Top the cupcakes with frosting when cool, and sprinkle with pink sugar. I added a rosebud on top of each cake as well. These are perfect served with a fruity summer tea; bon appetit!
Every great loaf of bread begins with a starter. Many people choose to make their own, but seeing as even I have time limits in my kitchen, I decided to order a fresh starter. King Arthur Flour, who publishes an awesome catalog and makes great bread flour, sells a fresh starter that's been kept alive for nearly 300 years! This guarantees a distinctive, fully developed taste -- I highly recommend giving theirs a try. They also include some great recipes and detailed instructions on how to care for your starter.
This is a recipe I happened upon while experimenting with breads to go with pasta and Italian dishes, but it's delicious enough to eat on its own. Never underestimate what you can do to a basic recipe with a well stocked spice cabinet!
There are a few pointers I can give for turning out your best, most stress-free loaf. The first is to get a baking stone; you can either purchase one at a cooking store or make do with some unfinished quarry tiles. Especially if you're like me and operating with a gas stove, this is an investment that can last a lifetime if you care for it. Remember to preheat the oven to 450-500 degrees at least an hour before baking, that way the stone can get fully heated. In addition to this is a pizza or bread peel, which you can find at restaurant supply stores. You powder it with cornstarch, stick the loaf to it and slide the bread onto the stone -- easy as pie!
Another piece of equipment that is vital to my kitchen is my countertop Kitchen-Aid mixer. I'm not sure where my culinary skills would be without this! They tend to be a bit pricey, but are worth every penny. They can handle most doughs with ease where a regular mixer would combust. They're also great for multitasking, as you can let things knead or mix while working on another aspect of the recipe. I keep three different attachments for mine -- a whisk for general mixing, a bread hook, and a flat attachment that works wonders for meringue and whipped cream.
Rustic Italian Sourdough
1c fresh "fed" starter
3c bread flour
1 1/2c warm water
Combine these ingredients in a large, non-reactive bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to "sponge" for 6-12 hours. I tend to let mine sponge overnight, so begin this recipe the day before you plan to serve it.
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 c finely grated hard cheese (Asiago works well)
2 tbsp oregano
Garlic olive oil
Knead or mix your sponge with the remaining flour. Add the salt, herbs, and cheese, and knead until smooth and elastic. Grease a large bowl with garlic oil, place and turn the dough into it. Cover and allow to rise for around an hour.
Splice the dough into two loaves. Knead each into a round and allow to rise for 1-2 more hours, until doubled in size. Slice the tops of each loaf and place on cornstarched peel. Slide onto baking stone, and bake for 20-25 minutes at 450. Serve hot.
I like to hand shape my loaves to maximize the "crustiness" of each piece. If you want an even thicker crust, mist the loaf with water midway through baking. I like to serve this particular loaf with cream cheese. Enjoy!
I'll start the spring/summer food season with a fresh classic: spring rolls. In my egg roll adventure, which I'll elaborate on soon, I had a crisis in the grocery store. There were no egg roll wraps to be found. I wasn't going to let that defeat me, so in scouring the Asian foods section, I found "spring roll skins". Needless to say, I couldn't wait to get home and try them out!
Spring roll skins are interesting things. They come in a plastic round container and reminded me a bit of those big lenses we would play with in science class. In my initial attempt, I tried to fry the spring rolls. It wasn't a complete disaster but came close -- because the skins are so fragile and damp, they tend to bubble and pop in oil. I wound up double wrapping my rolls, which tasted fine but had a rather sticky texture.
Speaking of which, these skins can be super adhesive, so work with them with wet hands. The best way to prepare them is to get a cake pan or large skillet with hot (not boiling) water, and immerse the skins individually for about 15 seconds. Take them out, and you're ready to roll!
BASIC VEGGIE SPRING ROLLS:
1/2 small head cabbage, chopped
~ 1/2 lb of tofu, cubed
1 grated carrot
1 nest mung bean threads (also known as sai fun, check Asian markets or the Asian foods section of your grocery store)
1c cooked sushi rice (optional)
1-2 tbsp salt to taste
*note - I like to keep some filling in a tupperware container ready-made, so chances are good you'll have some leftovers here. They can be frozen if you don't plan to use it up within a few days.
Take the veggies and bean noodles and lightly steam for a few minutes to soften. Combine your filling ingredients in a large bowl with a fork, you may want to chop the noodles into 3-4 sections to make this easier. With your prepared spring roll skin on a flat surface, put a few tablespoons of filling in the center of the skin. Take the left edge of the skin and fold over to the right -- imagine the filling is a "baby" and you're tucking it in. Fold the top and bottom ends toward the center, and roll the rest of the skin to the right.
photo courtesy of Jolinda Hackett
I recommend serving these fresh with tamari on the side, but any kind of sauce will do. Photos and nutritional info coming soon!