Sunday, October 10, 2010

Citrus Sponge Custard

Family dinner time again and I was searching for a gluten-free lemon dessert that didn't call for nearly a dozen eggs (sorry, lemon curd tart, I'm sure you're delicious). Though I am not a fan of the layout and certain other aspects of The Joy of Cooking, it is certainly a valuable resource when Fanny Farmer doesn't quite do the trick.

After much deliberation, I decided to try the Lemon Sponge Custard recipe, figuring that making it gluten-free would be a snap--anytime a recipe calls for mere tablespoons of flour, I know it's a good candidate. If you don't need a gluten-free recipe, just use regular wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour.

The neat thing about this dessert is that it separates into two layers. The top is like a very soft sponge cake and the bottom is silky custard. Hard to go wrong with that! We were debating over dinner why the separation occurs and concluded that it has something to do with the water bath, but it's still kind of mysterious (in a good way).

The Joy says that you could either serve in its pan or unmold to have the custard layer on top. Ha! I flipped my cake pan and there was no movement, so I just served from the pan as-is. I didn't have enough ramekins to make individual desserts, but the family chimed in that they thought someone might be willing to gift some to me for Christmas if desserts like this one were to be the pay-off. Because it is a bit messy to remove from one large pan, I think that individual servings would be the best route.

The Joy also says that the recipe serves six. We were having a heavy main course, so I decided to risk spreading across nine enthusiastic dessert eaters and it was fine, particularly since we served it with pistachio gelato (made by Costco, as it happens--quite delicious and not fake green). If I did cook in ramekins, then, I would spread over nine of them. If that seemed skimpy, you could always do a 1.5 batch or a double.

This dessert would also be great with orange, so I'm providing the Joy's suggestion on how to do that. You could even mingle orange and lemon zests, I am sure.

If making gluten-free, use any GF flour combo you like. As always, my standard is 2 c brown rice flour, 2/3 c potato starch, 1/3 c. cornstarch. I pre-mix and keep in the freezer.

INGREDIENTS
2/3 c. evaporated cane juice
2 TBSP softened unsalted butter
1/8 tsp salt
4 eggs
3 TBSP whole wheat pastry flour or gluten-free flour
2-3 TBSP grated lemon zest, or the zest of one orange
1/4 c. strained lemon juice or 2 TBSP lemon juice plus 1/4 c. strained fresh orange juice
1 c. whole or 2% milk

Super-hot tap water for the water bath

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 and make sure you have a pan that will hold all of your custard cups or a 9x2 inch round cake pan. To fit the latter, I needed to use my roasting pan. The Joy recommends putting a rack in the pan so that your custard cups/ramekins or cake pan do not touch the bottom of the pan
  2. Lightly butter your cake pan or six to nine 6-ounce custard cups/ramekins
  3. Separate the eggs. Eggs separate most easily when they're cold, but egg whites whip better when they're at room temperature, so do this part early and leave the egg whites out on the counter. You'll only need 3 of the yolks--save the remaining one for another purpose
  4. Combine the citrus juice and zest in a bowl and let sit for 5-10 minutes. This is a Cook's Illustrated tip to help soften the texture of the zest
  5. In a medium bowl, mash the butter, sugar and salt together with the back of a wooden spoon
  6. Then beat in the 3 egg yolks. I used a hand mixer
  7. Add the flour and beat until smooth
  8. Slowly beat in the citrus juice and zest
  9. Stir in the milk and set aside
  10. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry (firm peaks)
  11. Gently whisk the whites into the other mixture until no large lumps of white remain. Apparently, if you save 1/4 c. of sugar to beat in with the whites and then fold them in, you'll get more of a meringue effect. I'm not a meringue fan so didn't try this.
  12. Ladle (the Joy specifically cautions against pouring) the mixture into your one cake pan or several custard cups/ramekins
  13. Place the cake pan/cups/ramekins into the pan you've selected and put the pan in the oven
  14. Now pour the scalding tap water into the pan until it reaches about halfway up the cake pan/cups/ramekins. Ideally the sides of the sponge custard dishes will not touch the sides or bottom of the water bath pan
  15. Bake until the sponge custard(s) is/are puffed and golden, about 30-40 minutes regardless of the size of dish you use. They're done when the sponge on top springs back when pressed lightly with a finger. Remove from oven
  16. Let stand 10 minutes in the water bath once out of the oven
  17. This dessert can be served warm, at room temperature or chilled, it's particularly delicious garnished with fresh or frozen raspberries and you can throw in some gelato on the side if you like

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cornbread

We have been having lots of family dinners lately, gathering to remember one of Elspeth's great-grandmas who died this week. I lost my grandparents years ago, before I ever met Evan. It's been a blessing that Elspeth has spent so much time with Evan's grandmothers, Nana Ellen (92) and Grandma Julie (94). I know that Elspeth has given them much joy, as well. Grandma Julie was quite a character and we will miss her greatly.

Family dinner means offering gluten-free options. The family member with celiac never expects the rest of us to bend over backwards for him, but I love being able to serve something tasty and then add, 'Oh, and it's gluten-free'.

Tonight, Evan's mom is making chili, so I thought I'd do a gluten-free cornbread. I had referenced cornbread in my Southwest Shepherd's pie recipe, but never did a stand-alone recipe for it. I am pretty sure that I can just swap out the wheat flour for the GF flour mix (2 c. brown rice flour; 2/3 c. potato starch; 1/3 c. tapioca flour) and add some xanthan gum.

This recipe is adapted from Deborah Madison's basic cornbread recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

INGREDIENTS
A knob butter for the pan
3/4 c. corn flour (not cornstarch)
1/4 c. cornmeal
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour or GF flour mix
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp xanthan gum (omit if using wheat flour)
1 c. milk
2 eggs
3 TBSP agave nectar (or honey or sugar)
1/4 c. butter, melted and slightly cooled

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  2. Put a knob of butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or an 8x8 square pan. You could also just use a bit of nonstick cooking spray--there's plenty of butter in this cornbread. You may also make this into muffins. If doing muffins, use nonstick cooking spray if needed
  3. Let the butter melt in the oven and swirl around in the pan to coat. Do not leave the butter in the oven too long or it will burn
  4. Mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl
  5. In a larger bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, and agave nectar/honey together
  6. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just moistened
  7. Stir in the melted butter. Try not to overmix
  8. Pour into prepared pan or muffin cups and bake 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bee-Bim Bop

Elspeth gets to choose her own books at the library, and we came home with Linda Sue Park's Bee-Bim Bop. It's a fun read, made even more fun when you use the recipe included in the book.

My version of the recipe is not meant to replace Linda Sue Park's. She does a great job of providing instructions for the child and the adult. I'm not going to bother doing that. However, I want a record of the recipe here, as I know we will turn to it again and again.

The first time we made it, we followed the recipe completely. The second time, we just added whatever vegetables we felt like. We never have green onions or bean sprouts on hand, and I would hate for that to stop us from making the dish. This last time, we sauteed up some onion, mushroom and red pepper and included that in our toppings. The recipe is versatile enough to allow you to throw in whatever you've got in the fridge.

The marinade for the beef is delicious. I'd be interested to try it with chicken or even tofu.

I find that the greens work best when ground finely in the food processor, steamed, and then mixed in with the rice. Elspeth still doesn't like to eat big pieces of cooked greens--I don't think I was fond of that texture myself until my mid- to late- 20s!

Try this recipe and you'll find yourself "hungry, hungry, hungry for some bee-bim bop". Don't forget to "mix like crazy"--that's Elspeth's favorite part!

INGREDIENTS
1 c. rice (we like to use brown, often short-grain)
2 c. water
1 bunch greens, cleaned, steamed and finely chopped or processed

1 lb beef (she recommends sirloin tip. We used chuck steak last time. Any somewhat tender cut should work)

MARINADE
2 cloves garlic
2 green onions or 1/4 of an onion
5 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP sugar (I bet you could use honey, as well)
2 TBSP vegetable oil
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 TBSP sesame oil
1/8 tsp black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste (optional)

TOPPINGS
2-3 eggs
2 carrots, shredded or cut into the shape you like best
Assortment of other cooked vegetables such as peas, peppers, onions, broccoli, mushrooms, blanched bean sprouts, etc all in separate bowls for letting people choose their own toppings
Kim-chee or other spicy sauce/condiment as desired

DIRECTIONS
  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together in a medium bowl
  2. Cut the beef into thin strips and add to marinade bowl. Smoosh the beef around in the marinade really well and let sit for half an hour while the rice cooks
  3. Rinse the rice well. Put in a medium pot with the water and a pinch of salt if desired. Bring water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook white rice for 20 minutes, brown rice for 40 minutes or until water has been absorbed and rice tastes cooked
  4. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk with a fork. Add a touch of soy sauce or sesame oil, if desired
  5. Using a preheated, small saute pan or skillet coated lightly in oil, spread about half the egg in the thin layer over the bottom of the pan. Cook over medium heat until the egg is set and then flip over (in one piece if possible) and cook the other side for a moment. Take out of pan and repeat with remaining eggs. When cool enough to handle, stack the egg pancakes one top of one another and roll them into a cigar. Cut crosswise into strips. Put in a small bowl to offer for toppings
  6. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Pour the marinade and beef into the pan all at once. Stir the meat to cook evenly. Cook for a few minutes or until the meat is no longer raw. Put the meat with all of its delicious juices into a bowl for serving
  7. Mix the greens into the cooked rice and put in a serving bowl
  8. When all of the parts of the meal are ready, bring everyone to the table. Everyone should take some rice, meat and gravy and then add the other toppings as they wish
  9. Mix it, mix like crazy and enjoy the bee-bim bop

Stone Fruit Upside-Down Cake


Every year we do a peach and nectarine CSA share with RAMA farm (named after the farmers, Rick and Marilyn). These are the best examples of these kinds of fruits we've ever had, plus Marilyn and Rick are really nice people.

This year, instead of sharing a box with Evan's parents, we decided to go for it and get a whole box per week of our own (18-24 peaches or nectarines). Three weeks of peaches, two of nectarines. Well, even with our impressive stone-fruit-eating abilities, we've had some left over. Some of it I've turned into freezer jam. I've got 9 jars of peach already (at a ratio of 6 c. fruit to 2 c. sugar) and figure I'll have enough nectarines for a few jars, as well.

Evan and I got to have our first trip away from Elspeth this August and I wanted to leave a little something nice for her and my in-laws. I made the peach upside down cake shown.

Evan loved it so much that he requested it for his birthday cake. I made a gluten-free version which was slightly tougher than the one with wheat, but was still devoured by everyone. As a reminder, the gluten-free flour mix I use is 2 c. brown rice flour, 2/3 c. potato starch, 1/3 c. tapioca (not the pearls).

The only part of this recipe that confuses me is the part about melting the butter and brown sugar in the skillet. The butter melts just fine, but Madison says that the sugar should be 'melted and smooth'. The problem is, the brown sugar doesn't have time to melt all the way before the butter starts to burn. I had expected that the mixture would look like caramel, but it didn't either time I made it. Instead, I left it as long as I could and when I smelled the butter starting to burn, I just turned off the heat and spread the brown sugar-butter slurry as evenly over the bottom of the pan as possible. The good thing is, the end result is still delicious. The juice from the fruit mixes with the sugar and butter and makes a loose caramel. The edges of the cake are especially yummy, much like a pecan caramel sticky bun.

INGREDIENTS
5 ripe peaches or nectarines
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
3 TBSP butter
1/3 c. toasted chopped pecans or almonds

1/2 c. unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 c. evaporated cane juice
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs at room temperature
2/3 c. almond meal
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour or GF flour mix
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  2. Melt the butter and brown sugar in a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. As noted above, you may not get a fully liquid caramel. Take the pan off the heat if you smell the butter start to burn
  3. While the butter and brown sugar are melting, quarter the peaches or nectarines, removing the pit and the skins if using peaches
  4. Set the fruit quarters decoratively in the skillet, making a concentric circle from the outside edges to the center
  5. Sprinkle the toasted nuts into the gaps between the fruit pieces. Set aside
  6. In a medium mixing bowl, cream the butter and evaporated cane juice until fluffy
  7. Add the almond and vanilla extract and beat in
  8. Beat in the eggs one at a time until the mixture is smooth
  9. Stir in the almond meal and then the rest of the dry ingredients
  10. Spoon the cake batter over the nectarines and use an offset spatula or butter knife to spread evenly
  11. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is golden and has started to pull away from the sides of the skillet
  12. Remove from oven and let sit a few minutes. Then loosen the cake edges with a butter knife along the sides of the pan
  13. Hold your breath and invert the skillet onto a large plate. If any fruit bits stay in the pan, just put them back on top of the cake. I've been pleased with how easily this cake has released from the pan. I haven't even lost any fruit!
  14. Serve warm or cold, with or without ice cream

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Homemade Pizza

This is less of a recipe and more of a general guideline and cooking instructions to follow up from my previous post.

We like to prep all the topping possibilities and then let each person make her own pizza. Alternatively, we cook our daughter's little pizza first and then combine the remaining two dough portions to make one large pizza so that the whole family can eat together at the same time. (By the time our pizza is cooked, our daughter's is cool enough to eat).

We tried to cook pizza on the grill this summer when we didn't want to heat the house. It was good, but because we just have a Weber Q rather than a full-sized gas grill, we don't have as much control over the temperature and method (direct/indirect) as we would really require for the optimum crust texture. By all means, use a grill in the hot months and then switch to the oven in the cooler time. Just know that your crust results may vary from method to method.

Patricia Wells has a great suggestion for any ingredients that might dry out in the oven such as mushrooms or prosciutto--coat them lightly with olive oil and let rest for a few minutes before using. She also notes that a marinade of olive oil, rosemary and hot pepper flakes used on thin slices of red onion at least an hour before using can help both the texture and flavor of onions used on pizza. We tried this and the onions definitely had less of a bite and were not too crispy.

INGREDIENTS
Individually-portioned pizza dough, thawed
Fresh or thawed pizza sauce
Desired toppings (such as cheese, chorizo, capers, olives, peppers, mushrooms, pine nuts, greens, onions, etc)
Flour or cornmeal as needed for dusting

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. If using the oven, preheat at 500 degrees for at least 40 minutes before you want to cook your pizzas. Ideally you'll have a pizza stone in there that also preheats. This will ensure the crispiest crust. If using a grill, you will want to preheat but we found we couldn't use such a high temperature. We cooked the pizza directly on the grill grates--you could also try preheating and using your pizza stone on the grill
  2. On a clean counter or board, sprinkle flour liberally and put one of the dough portions on it. Try to get the dough as thin as possible, slightly thicker around the edges. Depending on how sticky, firm, or relaxed your dough is, you might want to use a rolling pin or use your hands and gravity to get the dough spread out. You're aiming for the 'window pane' effect, where the dough is so thin you can almost see through it. Even if you don't get it this thin, it'll still be delicious
  3. Transfer the rolled out pizza crust to your pizza peel or whatever you're going to use to get the pizza into the oven. (I love my Super Peel which makes it a breeze to get the crust from the counter to the peel and the peel to the oven. You may wish to dust your peel with cornmeal to help sticking. If you don't have a peel, you could always just put the crust on a baking tray
  4. Use a light hand to apply the sauce and toppings. If you use too many toppings, the pizza may get weighed down and become soggy. Leave about 1/2 inch perimeter all around with no toppings so nothing leaks out onto the stone (and you get a lovely, puffy crust)
  5. Transfer the pizza to the hot baking stone (or put baking tray in the oven or on the grill)
  6. Set the timer for about 8 minutes as an initial guess. After the 8 minutes, check to see if the crust has risen and appears fully cooked. If using cheese, it should be melted and bubbly. Cook longer if necessary
  7. Remove from oven and serve immediately for best crust texture

Pizza Dough

As much as I love the long-storage method for bread dough that is our winter staple, I find the dough too wet to make pizza crust easily. Instead, I turn to one of my favorite cookbook authors, Patricia Wells, for her recipe found in her Trattoria cookbook. I've been making this pizza dough for years, pairing it with her pizza sauce and a variety of toppings.

With parenthood, I haven't found as much time for pizza-making as I once did. However, I was inspired by Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to consider planning ahead to make a weekly pizza night for the family. It just took me a year to do anything about it.

Being the (over)conscientious parent that I am, I've been concerned about using canned goods in our family meals because most can linings have BPA in them. So, I've been trawling the farmers' market looking for tomato seconds and roasting them up to use in the pizza sauce recipe with good results. I buy as many tomatoes as I can each week and freeze the sauce we don't use in baby cubes (which are about the right portion size). I bought some shredded mozzarella and divided that into packets, as well. The goal is to be able to reach into the freezer and pull out exactly what we'll need for pizza night and expend minimal effort.

To that end, I made a triple batch of pizza dough, let it rise overnight, punched it down and divided it into individual pizza-sized lumps. I then wrapped up the lumps in waxed paper (since I'm trying to avoid as much throwaway plastic as possible-you could use plastic wrap) and froze them. Some Internet sources suggested doubling the yeast for frozen dough, but the dough I defrosted didn't need any more oomph. It turns out that our daughter doesn't need a full portion of dough to herself, so I just pull out two lumps of dough and steal a bit from each for her little pizza.

Though I normally like kneading dough by hand, because I was making such a big quantity, I pulled out the dough hook and the stand mixer. A double batch fit perfectly in the bowl--it would have been pushing it to do all three batches in one go.

My recipe only differs from Wells' in that I use a large proportion of whole wheat bread flour instead of only white bread flour. I find that I don't need to add extra gluten to achieve a nice texture as long as I don't go above about 2/3 whole wheat to 1/3 white.

The below recipe is for one batch, enough for four adult-sized individual pizzas.

INGREDIENTS
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/3 c (330 ml) lukewarm water
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP olive oil
2-3 c. whole wheat bread flour
1- 1 3/4 white bread flour

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook). Stir or mix until dissolved. Let sit for 5 or so minutes until it gets foamy (if it doesn't, the yeast may not be at its best)
  2. Add the salt and the olive oil and stir or mix to combine
  3. Add the flour, one cup at a time, starting with the whole wheat. Do not add the next cup until the previous has been well absorbed. If using a mixer, the stir setting works well
  4. Continue adding flour until the dough forms a ball, at least 3 cups
  5. Either transfer the dough to a clean counter or board to knead for 4-5 minutes or turn the mixer to a higher setting and let it go for a similar amount of time. Add flour as needed if it gets to sticky (you may end up adding all of the remaining 3/4 c. flour)
  6. If using a mixer, turn the dough out at the end of the kneading cycle and knead a few times by hand to get a sense of the texture. The dough may be a little sticky, but if you have wet or oiled hands it should be quite easy to work with. If it's not, you might need a bit more flour
  7. Wells' suggests transferring dough to a clean bowl, but I tend to re-use the mixing bowl unless it's really icky
  8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, a lid or a tea towel and let rise in the refrigerator 8-12 hours until it has doubled or tripled in volume
  9. The dough will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge. If you wish to do that, just punch it down every 8-12 hours as it doubles or triples
  10. Use to make pizza or freeze as desired
FREEZING INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Divide dough evenly into four pieces
  2. Wrap well in plastic wrap or waxed paper (I do a light coating of oil on the dough if using waxed paper), then put the bundles in a larger freezer bag or container
  3. Freeze well (we use our outside freezer for storage)
THAWING INSTRUCTIONS
  1. The night before you want to have the pizza, remove the appropriate number of dough bundles from the freezer and put in the refrigerator to thaw. If you don't have that much notice, just defrost the dough all at room temperature.
  2. The next morning or sometime the next day, bring the dough out and let rise again at room temperature. Punch down if it gets really fluffy
  3. Proceed with pizza recipe as normal

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Summer Corn and Pepper Salad

We are on salad duty tonight for family dinner, and I wasn't sure that everyone in the family would love cucumber salad as much as I do, so I decided to offer an alternative. The first corn of the season showed up at our farmers' market today and I had two pepper halves from last summer still in the freezer. I remember making something similar the summer I was pregnant--not sure if I replicated that tasty recipe or not, but I'm happy with how this one came out.

I roasted the corn first since I needed to roast the pepper halves, but I think you could just take the corn from the cob along with the scrapings and cook directly in the pan if you wanted. In that case, you would want to add earlier than the roasted pepper. In fact, if you didn't want to turn on the oven at all, you could add the pepper to the pan raw. I thought that as our pepper had been frozen, it would be tastier to roast it first. Of course, you could go the other direction entirely and roast the onion and then omit the saute pan. The options are many!

INGREDIENTS
4 ears corn
1 red, orange or yellow pepper or combination of the three
1-2 TBSP olive oil
1/4 large onion, diced (I like a fine dice for this recipe, about the size of a corn kernel)
Generous sprinkle of salt and pepper
Small dash of champagne vinegar (optional)

DIRECTIONS
  1. If you wish to roast the vegetables, preheat the oven to 450 degrees
  2. Place the corn (husks and silk still attached) on a baking tray, along with the pepper, halved (open sides down)
  3. Roast for 15-20 minutes
  4. Remove husks from corn and then use a knife to remove the corn kernels from the cobs. You can press the back of the knife on the cobs to make sure to get all the corn goodness (scrapings)
  5. Peel the pepper if desired and dice
  6. In a medium frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium and add the onion
  7. Cook the onion until soft and starting to brown
  8. Add the corn and pepper and cook for a few minutes
  9. Season generously with salt and pepper
  10. Taste and add a small dash of champagne vinegar if needed for brightness

Cucumber Salad

I love the sunomono at our local, now-sustainable sushi place and I tried to re-create it at home. The first time I made it this summer, I used the food processor to slice the cucumber, just because I already had it out. This time, I remembered that we actually have a mandoline that was given to us last Christmas. What a joy to use! The slices are wafer thin. As an added bonus, I'm taking the salad to the house of those who gifted us with the mandoline and will happily tell show them that it is used and appreciated.

I could eat piles of this salad every day in the summer, especially when it's hot.

INGREDIENTS
3/4 to 1 Asian cucumber (or any cucumber you like)
1/4 c. mirin
1/4 c. rice vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP gomashio with seaweed (we have Eden organic) or
2 TBSP toasted sesame seeds ground in a mortar and pestle with 1-2 tsp salt or to taste

DIRECTIONS
  1. Peel the cucumber in stripes, leaving a little of the dark green skin for contrast
  2. Slice the cucumber very thinly using a knife, mandoline or food processor
  3. In a flat-bottomed bowl or dish, mix the mirin, rice vinegar and salt. Taste and adjust ratio to your preference
  4. Toss the sliced cucumber in the marinade until well coated (the object behind the flat-bottomed dish is that more of the slices will be in direct contact with the marinade)
  5. Sprinkle generously with gomashio (you could also wait and do this right before serving)
  6. You can serve right away, but it tastes best if left to marinade for an hour or more. The cucumber will get less crunchy, but it is still delicious that way

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cucumber Collins


We are big fans of Pimms No. 1 cup and sparkling lemonade in our house during the summer, but we now have a rival in our affections. A local company called Dry Soda produces a cucumber soda. We thought we'd see what it was like to mix it with gin and lime. Success! I am pretty sure it's the first cocktail I've ever invented. It's less sweet than Pimms, but just as satisfying as a thirst quencher. We've been trying to figure out a good name for it and Cucumber Collins seemed somewhat appropriate as it involves gin and a type of soda. A traditional Tom Collins uses lemon, but we've opted for lime. We also like to serve it in Tom Collins glasses, in particular these very 70s glasses that my parents were shocked I wanted to adopt when they decided to downsize. I have very fond memories of these glasses and always have an internal laugh whenever I use them for guests. If I can combine it with the similarly-styled chip and dip bowl, all the better.

If you can't get cucumber soda, I guess you could try making your own--maybe even making a kind of cucumber simple syrup. I'm glad I don't have to go to such effort.

INGREDIENTS
Ice
1 shot gin
Juice of half a lime
1/2 bottle of cucumber soda

DIRECTIONS
  1. Take a Tom Collins glass or other tall, straight-sided glass, and fill halfway with ice
  2. Add a shot of gin to the glass
  3. Squeeze in the juice of half a lime
  4. Fill to near the top with cucumber soda
  5. Give a stir and serve, garnishing with cucumber or lime, if desired

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cold Sesame Noodles with Grilled Tofu and Asparagus

We've had a fantastic time the last week or so, catching up with visiting friends and then visiting in our turn. Today was our down-time day and we managed somehow to rest well and to get a lot done. Bliss. It was also our first opportunity to break out the Weber Q and eat outside.

Canales Farm comes to our farmers' market in late summer with gorgeous watermelons, and in Spring with asparagus. I've never been a huge fan of asparagus, but when it's this fresh and tender, even I have a hard time resisting. This year is the first one that Elspeth has really decided she's a fan. (I got a big kick out of her eating an adult-sized pile of them and calling them 'fat minnows', quoting Beatrix Potter's Jeremy Fisher).

The sesame noodles recipe comes straight from Cook's Illustrated September/October 2004, though we doubled the recipe and will freeze any leftovers.

The marinade for the tofu comes from our friend Melanie. I've never had much success with tofu marinades, but this one will be repeated. It's very simple and I'm sure we'll change it over time, but it is nicely salted and I think that the nutritional yeast adds just the right savory note. The tofu could also be baked if you don't want to use the grill. After the tofu had finished marinating, we rolled the asparagus in the sauce and it worked very well. That's the nice thing about using a vegetarian protein source--the marinade isn't contaminated.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE SESAME NOODLES
1/2 c. sesame seeds
1/2 c. crunchy peanut butter (we like Woodstock Farms)
4 cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press
2 TBSP minced fresh ginger (the ginger made it a little too spicy-hot for our toddler, so I'd reduce in future)
10 TBSP soy sauce
4 TBSP rice vinegar
2 tsp hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)--we omitted
4 TBSP packed light brown sugar
Some hot water
2 TBSP toasted sesame oil
8 scallions , sliced thin on diagonal
4 medium carrots, grated
Enough Asian noodles (we used Trader Joe's udon noodles) for your family

DIRECTIONS
  1. The sauce can be made as much ahead a time as you wish, which is handy. Toast sesame seeds in a skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Set aside 1 TBSP for garnish
  2. In a blender, process the remaining sesame seeds, the peanut butter, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, and sugar until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  3. With the blender running, add 1 TBSP of hot water at a time until the sauce has the consistency of heavy cream (about 5 TBSP)
  4. Set sauce aside
  5. Set a pot of water to boil when you are getting ready to cook the tofu and asparagus
  6. Once it's boiling, add some salt and follow the package directions to cook the noodles
  7. When done, drain the noodles and run under cold water until cool to the touch
  8. Toss with the sesame oil
  9. Use the reserved sesame seeds, the grated carrot and the scallion as a garnish. We used lots of extra carrots because we like them
  10. Serve with grilled tofu and asparagus (below)
INGREDIENTS FOR THE TOFU/ASPARAGUS
One block firm tofu
1 one-pound bunch of asparagus, washed and snapped
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. olive oil
1 TBSP nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic, grated or put through a press
1/2 tsp curry powder or other spice
2 TBSP sesame oil

DIRECTIONS
  1. If you have time, you can drain the tofu and then press it to remove even more liquid. We didn't bother but still found that the tofu really took on the flavor of the marinade well
  2. Cut the tofu into triangles or squares. I cut mine into 16 pieces
  3. In a medium dish (8x8 works well), mix all the remaining ingredients (except the asparagus, of course)
  4. Lay the tofu pieces in a single layer in the dish and then turn over so each side has touched the marinade
  5. Leave the tofu for at least a few minutes, or even better, half an hour
  6. Turn the tofu and let rest for another period of up to half an hour
  7. If oven-baking the tofu, preheat the oven to anywhere between 400 and 450 degrees (this allows you to be flexible if you need to cook something else along with the tofu). If grilling, preheat the grill
  8. Remove the tofu from the marinade and place in a single layer on a baking tray if using the oven, or put on the grill. Roll the prepared asparagus in the marinade and cook along with the tofu.
  9. Bake the tofu for 30 minutes--if baking the asparagus, I think it wouldn't take that long--or cook on the grill, turning once or twice, until it has a nice crust and until the asparagus is cooked
  10. Serve alongside or on top of the sesame noodles

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Improved Delicious, Crusty Bread

I had no complaints about my Delicious, Crusty Bread recipe, and I still think it makes a damn fine loaf. However, I got a few tips from Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day book by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois--the successor to their artisan bread book.

I learned two signficant things that changed my base recipe. One is that whole wheat flour is not 5 ounces to the cup, as I had been using. No, it's only 4.5 ounces per cup. That made a big change in my bread texture. The other is the use of wheat gluten to give a boost to a loaf that uses as much whole grain as I like to use. I had experimented with wheat gluten before, thanks to an old Alton Brown episode, but hadn't bothered to stick with it. While I think that a good largely whole grain loaf can be produced without extra wheat gluten, it does enhance the texture and give the dough more staying power in the fridge (since using the starter can make the dough more temperamental than when using yeast). I have made it a regular addition to my new everyday loaf.

I also switched up the order of the wet and dry ingredients, as Hertzberg and Francois do. I make sure to mix the warm water and starter together before adding to the flour, though, to ensure it's evenly distributed.

This same basic dough also works beautifully for bagels.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb 9 oz whole wheat flour
2.5 oz rye flour
7.5 oz all-purpose white flour
1/4 c. or 1 3/8 oz vital wheat gluten (it's a powder and I don't think you could buy an un-vital kind)
2 TBSP kosher or Maldon salt
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup sourdough starter (the batter-like kind)

DIRECTIONS
  1. You'll need a clean 6 qt container that is not absolutely airtight. I use a Rubbermaid 'Servin' Saver' 6 qt square container and have been very happy with it
  2. Put the container on your scale and zero it out
  3. Add the flours, wheat gluten and salt each in turn, zeroing out the scale after every addition
  4. Give the mixture a good whisk to distribute the gluten
  5. In a large measuring cup, mix the warm water (be sure it's not too warm or it'll kill the starter) and the starter
  6. Pour into the dry ingredients
  7. Use a large wooden spoon to mix the flours into the water. You are not aiming to knead the dough and you should expect a pretty wet dough. After I mix as much as I can with the spoon, I went my hands and mix the dough with them until the flour is incorporated. Again, you're not kneading, you just don't want dry and wet patches
  8. Place the lid on the container loosely and put the dough in the fridge for a day. Using the starter makes the rising take longer but the flavor is superb. You can speed things up slightly by leaving the dough out at room temperature for 8 hours.
  9. You know your dough is active when you see air bubbles in it and it has risen. I almost never try to make a loaf until the next day
DOUGH PREPARATION
  1. Grease a medium bowl (ideally with a flat bottom that doesn't slope too much--I use a large souffle dish that looks like an oversized ramekin). You can use oil, but I've started using cooking spray as it is so much easier than fiddling with a pastry brush or paper towels.
  2. Then sprinkle cornmeal in the greased bowl and shake out the excess into the sink.
  3. Remove the dough container from fridge and sprinkle with all-purpose flour
  4. Grab a grapefruit-sized chunk of dough from the container
  5. Working quickly, shape into a flattened ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you do this (that's nearly verbatim from the book but is still hard to explain until you've done it)
  6. Place in the greased bowl
RISING DIRECTIONS
METHOD ONE--Cold rise all day
This method is great when you have a few minutes in the morning before leaving the house for a long time
  1. Following the steps above, put the dough in the fridge for at least 6 hours and up to a day (or even two--we've been very lax about the baking and it's been fine). Go to BAKING steps below
METHOD TWO--Quick Rise
This method works well when you're pottering around the house and forgot to shape the loaf earlier. The whole-wheat gluten-enhanced loaf works particularly well with this quicker method.
  1. Following the steps above, leave the dough out at room temperature for at least 1 1/2 hours. Go to BAKING steps below

BAKING DIRECTIONS
  1. Thirty minutes before you want to bake the bread (but at least an hour before you want to eat the bread), preheat the oven to 450 degrees. You want the rack in the middle, preferably with a baking stone on it (hence the preheating for so long). A second rack should have a broiler tray or something that can hold water.
  2. Boil 1 cup of water or have really hot water from the tap and have it ready by the oven.
  3. Right before you want to put the bread in the oven, get out a baking peel. Sprinkle with cornmeal and turn the dough out onto it.
  4. Alternative: turn dough out onto a baking tray with Silpat or baking parchment on it. The crust won't be as nice, but it's foolproof in terms of getting the loaf into the oven intact.
  5. Sprinkle the dough with all-purpose flour and slash it a few times (in an X pattern or a # pattern--whatever seems appealing to you)
  6. Working quickly, slide the loaf onto the hot baking stone and then put the hot water onto the broiler tray. The steam will help to create a crackling crust that will 'sing' at you when you remove from the oven. Close the oven.
  7. Bake loaf for approximately 20-25 minutes or until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Depending on the size of your loaf, you may need to adjust baking time.
  8. Allow to cool as long as possible before eating (we try to wait half an hour at least if we can--the internal texture is much nicer if you wait; if you rush it, it just gets gummy)
  9. Serve and enjoy. We like it plain or with French cultured butter. I love buying local foods, but I have not found a US butter that can remotely compare with Celles Sur Belle French butter.

Gluten-Free Cornmeal Waffles

We're hosting Easter brunch for the family next week and I was shopping around for a gluten-free waffle recipe that could rival Evan's Waffles. I wasn't that optimistic since his waffles are so fantastic, but I hit gold on the first try. These are light with a nice corn flavor and slight grit from the cornmeal.

The recipe is a slightly-tweaked version of this one from the Gluten-Free Gourmand, which is, in her turn, a tweaked version of the regular Joy of Cooking cornmeal waffle recipe. I used my go-to wheat flour substitute mixture adapted from Hey, that tastes good!, which is 2 c. brown rice flour, 2/3 c. potato starch, 1/3 c. tapioca. I immediately decreased the melted butter in the Gluten-Free Gourmand's recipe from 5 TBSP to 4. I mean, really, five would have been overkill. While my husband loves the sweetness in these waffles that comes from the 1/4 of sugar, I think I'd be even happier with 2-3 TBSP instead.

When pulling the first waffle off the iron, I was dubious. It had a sheen to it, almost like it was wet. I thought it would be limp and mushy. Not at all. I let it rest a moment on a cooling rack and then bit into it. There was a slight crunch and a delightfully airy texture along with that cornmeal grit. We have a winner! I'll be proud to serve these to family.

The waffles do soften when left at room temperature, but they're not bad this way, as evidenced by the fact that Evan and I have been picking at them for hours.

One note to the reader--too much time in the UK had me confused when I saw the call for corn flour. While in the UK, this term is interchangeable with cornstarch, I had to look it up to make sure that here in the US there is a big difference. Corn flour is more like masa harina and is key to enhancing the corn flavor in the waffles without making it like eating sand.

INGREDIENTS
1 c. gluten-free flour mixture (see above or use your own)
1/2 c. corn flour
1/2 c. cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
2-4 TBSP sugar
2 eggs, separated
Pinch of cream of tartar
2 c. milk
4 TBSP butter, melted

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat your waffle iron according to instructions
  2. Mix dry ingredients (from flour mix through sugar) in a large bowl
  3. Put the 2 egg whites in a small bowl and add the pinch of cream of tartar
  4. Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then set aside
  5. Mix the milk and egg yolks together (I did this in the large measuring cup I used for the milk)
  6. Pour the egg and milk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir well
  7. Stir in the melted butter
  8. Fold the egg whites into the batter, doing about 1/3 of the whites at a time before adding the next dollop. Fold until there are no large streaks of egg white
  9. Depending on the size of your waffle iron, put about 1/2 c. of batter on the hot iron
  10. Cook until most of the steam has dissipated. I put our waffle iron on the highest setting--you want the waffles to be a deep golden brown to maximize crispness
  11. Remove from iron and set on a cooling rack. If you need to keep them warm, put the rack in a 250 degree F oven
  12. Serve with syrup, jam or other toppings

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lentil Barley Soup with Italian Sausage

This is rather a cheat, as I've simply updated an existing recipe, but I would hate for March to go by with no posts!

Our preschool is a maternity ward this year, with lots of second-time-around parents who are happily accepting meals from their cohorts. This time, the family I'm feeding is not vegetarian so
I decided to try something different with my standby Hearty Lentil Soup. We had some sweet chicken Italian Sausage from the farmers' market. I browned that up and then proceeded with the recipe as written. For my grain, I did one pot with brown rice and the other with pearl barley. As a unifying touch, I crushed up about 1 tsp of fennel seeds and added when the soup was done--to echo the flavors in the Italian sausage. I also put in a teaspoon or two of sherry vinegar for brightness. I'm really pleased with how it turned out and will definitely try this variation again.

For convenience, I used the food processor for the onion, carrots and greens.
Because I dislike recipes that refer to other recipes, I'm re-posting the whole recipe again with the new ingredients.

INGREDIENTS
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 to 1 lb bulk sweet or hot Italian sausage (as opposed to links) OR same amount ground beef
2 cups onion, finely chopped
2 TBSP tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 garlic cloves, chopped or put through a press
3 carrots, diced
1 cup diced celery or celery root (celeriac)
2 tsp salt
1 cup French (Puy) lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 cup brown rice or barley (quinoa might work, or kasha could be really good if you like it--I've discovered that I don't; I think it tastes dusty)
1 bouquet garni of 2 bay leave, 8 parsley branches (I often omit these), 6 thyme sprigs
9-12 cups water or vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
1 bunch greens, washed and chopped
1-2 tsp sherry, balsamic or red wine vinegar or to taste (optional)
1/2 to 1 tsp crushed fennel seeds or ground fennel
Mushroom soy sauce to taste (we got our at 99 Ranch Market, but I'm sure regular soy would work; I bet that some brewer's yeast might be nice, too, actually)

DIRECTIONS
  1. In a large soup pot, heat the oil and add the Italian sausage. Cook over medium- high heat (I think I do medium-high) until the sausage is no longer raw.
  2. Add the onions and continue cooking until the onion is soft and slightly browned, stirring often, about 10 minutes. The onions should be slightly browned.
  3. Add the tomato paste, garlic, parsley, vegetables and salt and cook for 2 more minutes
  4. Add the lentils, bouquet garni, rice, barely, quinoa or kasha and water/stock. Because I recommend that you add the grain uncooked instead of adding cooked pasta, you may need to increase the amount of water/stock. My general rule is to add water to cover the ingredients by 1-2 inches. You can always add more water/stock if it seems that the grain doesn't have enough liquid to soften
  5. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Madison recommends cooking for 30 minutes, but your grain may take longer--the barley certainly will. The good news is that Puy lentils hold their shape beautifully and won't disintegrate even with a longer cooking time. If using a grain, I'd recommend checking for tenderness at 30 minutes and then add time accordingly.
  6. When the grain is nearly done, taste for seasoning. Add the ground fennel and then salt, pepper and vinegar as needed. You could also add some mushroom or regular soy sauce or brewer's yeast. Madison cautions that the flavors will meld and get nicer over time--the soup tastes better the next day.
  7. Add the washed, chopped greens and let them cook for 10 minutes or so. They might not be as bright green, but it saves a step and a pot and has always worked well for me.
  8. Serve with Delicious, Crusty Bread or Drop Biscuits

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Crêpes

It's Pancake Tuesday, aka Shrove Tuesday, aka Mardi Gras today. I had never heard of such a thing as eating pancakes to mark the occasion until I lived in the UK. I did a semester abroad just outside of London in 1993 and my host mother was a wonderful cook. She introduced me to homestyle French cooking and the concept of eating a three-course meal even on an ordinary night. I learned to make béchamel from her and how to eat pancakes the Tuesday before Lent.

I also learned that it is possible for a married couple to huck mini mince pies at each other at the dinner table on occasion with no hard feelings, which was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. I've stayed friends with Sue and Tony for well over 15 years now and they came to my wedding.

So, in honor of Sue, I post a pancake recipe. That was another surprise, of course--British pancakes are nothing like American pancakes. What's more, when I got to Scotland I learned that flapjack is also something else again entirely. (Note to self: refrain from making comment about being divided by common language now). Though there may be some minute differences, to my palate, British pancakes are crêpes.

I use a recipe from Fanny Farmer and the only change I made was to use 100% whole wheat pastry flour. Much to my surprise, once I had it hot enough, my 6-inch enameled cast iron skillet worked beautifully for the crêpes. I served with huckleberry sauce for Evan and Elspeth, though I like mine with just a little sugar. Traditionally, you would serve with a squeeze of lemon and some icing/powdered/confectioners' sugar.

INGREDIENTS
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 TBSP butter, melted
More melted butter for brushing skillet (approx 1 TBSP)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Place all ingredients in the blender and mix until well incorporated
  2. Pour batter into a liquid measuring cup or some other container with a spout (this is my preferred method, anyway)
  3. Let mixture sit, covered, at least 30 minutes
  4. Heat a small skillet over medium heat until quite hot
  5. Brush the skillet with melted butter
  6. Lift the skillet in one hand and tip it to an angle
  7. Pour a few tablespoons of batter onto the skillet, keep the skillet at the angle and use a circular motion to help distribute the crêpe batter evenly. If you have never done this before (or even if you have) it may take a few tries to get the motion down. In theory the crêpe should be very thin, but I never mind too much if some are a bit thick
  8. Allow the crêpe to cook until set (a couple of minutes). You'll know that it's ready to flip when the sides pull away from the pan and the top of it no longer looks wet. You can use a spatula to flip up an edge; the bottom should be lightly brown
  9. Turn the crêpe over. I like to loosen it with my spatula and then flip it by jerking the pan, but you can also just loosen and then use a spatula/your fingers to turn it over
  10. Let cook for a minute or two on the other side. It will not get as uniformly golden as the first side. Instead, it will likely have some darker brown dots on it. No need to overcook
  11. Remove crêpe from pan and set on a plate to warm while you cook the rest
  12. Serve with the topping of your choice. Leftovers keep well in the fridge for a day or so, or freeze nicely

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cinnamon-Sugar Encrusted Popovers

If you have a craving for something akin to a cinnamon-sugar doughnut or elephant ear but you don't want to do any deep frying, this is the recipe for you. I loved David Lebovitz's The Sweet Life in Paris and started following his blog. Recently he posted on Sugar-Crusted Popovers, which I am shamelessly re-posting here. This is a fantastic recipe to make with kids, as well. Though I know that Evan and Elspeth could have made a more complicated birthday dessert for me, this is the one I requested and I'm so glad I did. I see this recipe becoming a regular in our repertoire.

The only changes that I would make to the recipe based on Evan's and Elspeth's experience is that I would not bother melting nearly as much butter or making such a big bowl of cinnamon sugar. Neither can be reused after this application and our popovers were so well coated with both that I can't imagine needing more than half of what Lebovitz suggests. I also might even halve the recipe since it's tough for our family, despite being somewhat gourmande, to eat 9 popovers at a sitting and they are best the first day. Another option would be to make a full batch of batter but only cook half the popovers at a time. I think the batter would keep fine in the fridge for a day, covered tightly.

These popovers popped-over quite dramatically but then settled down nicely. The surprise is that when we ate them the day they were made, they had much more the texture and flavor of a doughnut than, say, a Dutch Baby. The second day (when we reheated in the toaster oven), they had a distinctly eggier flavor, which was also quite nice.

Now that we've got a baby in the family again in 2013, I've simplified this recipe to make it an easy favorite for our Friday breakfast for dinners. I follow the recipe as-written except that I use one 9-inch glass pie plate. I often add a fourth egg, as well, which changes the texture from light and airy to more clafoutis-like. Especially when it's breakfast for dinner, we like the more substantial version. I brush the melted butter on the pan and then sprinkle with half the cinnamon-sugar mixture. The rest I sprinkle over the batter just before it all goes in the oven. I start checking for doneness at 25-minute mark and voila! We like to eat our huge popover with pear-clove sauce or apple butter with a side of apricot sausage or pepper bacon if we need a bit of extra protein.

INGREDIENTS

For the Popovers
2 TBSP butter, melted
3 or 4 large eggs (Lebovitz suggests room temperature eggs but I'm pretty sure ours were cold; I have been known to bring eggs to room temp in a bowl of warm water)
1 c. whole milk (we had 2%)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 c. unbleached flour (we used white but would be interested to try whole wheat pastry flour)

For the cinnamon-sugar coating
1/8-1/4 c. evaporated cane juice/sugar
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 TBSP melted butter

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 9 cups of a popover tin or muffin pan, ideally with butter but you could also use cooking spray. We coated ours even though it's silicone just to be safe
  2. Put 2 TBSP melted butter, milk, eggs, salt and sugar in a blender and mix until combined
  3. Add the flour and mix for about 10 seconds, just until smooth
  4. Divide the batter among the 9 cups, filling each 1/2 to 2/3 full of batter
  5. Bake 35 minutes or until popovers are a rich golden brown
  6. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes until you can handle them without burning yourself
  7. Meanwhile, mix the cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl and get the melted butter ready
  8. Set popovers on a cooling rack
  9. Brush each popover with melted butter and then dredge in the cinnamon-sugar until well coated all over
  10. Set back on the rack and cool (if you can manage to wait before diving in)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Spinach Salad with Candied Pecans

I was quite proud of my made-up salad for family dinner and it was so simple to put together. As I had hoped, Clementine Aioli worked just great as a dressing. If you wish a slightly sharper dressing, add 1-2 tsp champagne vinegar. I'm not a huge goody-in-the-salad person, but if you are, I suspect there are lots of other things you could add in here to round it out further.

INGREDIENTS
1 bag young spinach, washed and spun
1/2 recipe Clementine Aioli or to taste
1/2 to 1 recipe Candied Pecans
1/2 c. dried tart cherries or cranberries

DIRECTIONS
Toss spinach with dressing, then toss again with pecans and cherries.

Candied Pecans

Unusually, I was on salad duty for family dinner. I knew that I wanted to make a spinach salad because the spinach has been looking really great at the farmers' market. Other than that, I wasn't sure. Evan's mom makes a salad we all like that has nuts and a poppy seed dressing. I remembered having seen a candied nut recipe in Dana Jacobi's Natural Health Cookbook and thought that they might be nice with spinach. Her recipe calls for walnuts, but I thought pecans would be nicer for spinach. I recommend this recipe highly for its ease and tastiness, but be aware that the nuts stay quite sticky. If you prefer less-sticky nuts, you should probably use an equivalent amount of sugar and cook the whole thing on in a pan on the stove.

The possibilities are myriad in terms of the spices you add to the syrup.

INGREDIENTS
1 TBSP brown rice syrup or agave nectar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
1 c. pecans

DIRECTIONS
  1. Mix first four ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl
  2. Toast the pecans until they're golden (for us, a medium toast in toaster oven is perfect if using frozen pecans)
  3. Toss the warm nuts into the syrup mixture and stir to coat
  4. Spread the coated nuts onto a baking tray (preferably an oiled one or one with a silicone mat on it)
  5. Store in an airtight container, though at our house these don't last long

Naan

I am a big fan of naan, and so far this is my favorite recipe. I tried using the recommended doughs in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day for both naan and pita and was disappointed in both. I don't think that cooking method alone is what makes these breads stand apart--I think that the doughs should differ from regular bread dough, too. This recipe is from The Dance of Spices by Laxmi Hiremath. All of her Indian bread recipes sound wonderful, but I haven't managed to try that many of them yet.

I don't make naan often, but it's not really that difficult. I suspect that you could make the dough and freeze it after its first rise. Most often I make it because I'm going to use it to top the Indian Vegetable Bake.

I simplify this recipe by omitting to brush the finished naan with ghee, but go ahead and do this if you like it. I also don't put any sesame, poppy or nigella seeds on the naan before baking, but I'm sure that would be tasty too. If you want to make garlic naan, she recommends mixing 2 TBSP minced garlic with salt and pepper and then putting a pinch of this mixture in the center of the dough ball before rolling it out.

It occurred to me that a fabulous use of the naan dough and that delicious stew-like concoction would be to make an Indian-inspired pasty. Roll out a standard-size piece of naan dough and put a few tablespoons of the stew into it. Then fold over and bake (I'm guessing 350 for 15 minutes as a start would be a good guess). I think it would make just about a perfect lunch.

INGREDIENTS
4 c. flour (I used half whole wheat pastry flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 c. plain yogurt (if using strained yogurt, you might need a bit of extra water)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 TBSP vegetable oil
1/2 c. warm milk (not skim, she says, but I would guess I've used skim in the past)
6 TBSP warm water

DIRECTIONS
  1. Place the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times
  2. Add the yogurt, egg and oil and pulse until the mixture is crumbly
  3. With the food processor running, slowly add the milk and then the water through the tube
  4. Mix until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl and forms a ball
  5. Place the dough on a clean, floured surface. Coat your hands with oil and knead the dough for 6-8 minutes. For some reason, the last time I made this recipe, I really had to fight with my dough for the first 5 minutes or so and was worried that it wouldn't turn out well. Hiremath says that the dough should be neither stiff nor sticky and mine seemed to be both! I persevered, however, and the dough did become smoother and less sticky. In the end, I think it turned out just fine
  6. Place dough in a large bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let rise 4-6 hours or until doubled. I put mine in the fridge for an overnight rise and then let it rest for a couple of hours at room temperature
  7. Using oiled hands, lightly punch down dough and then divide it into 12 balls
  8. Place the dough balls on an oiled baking tray (or one with a silicone mat on it). Let rest for 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 500 degrees, preferably with a baking stone on the lower third of the oven
  9. Roll each ball of dough into a 5 inch circle or oval (approx) and then lightly pull one side to form a teardrop (I didn't do that part)
  10. Place several naan on a baking peel (I could get three on mine) and then lower carefully on the baking stone
  11. Bake 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned. Some of the naan might puff dramatically
  12. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter or ghee, as desired

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Indian Vegetable Bake with Naan Crust

I did not intend to take such a long break from EATS! Life just gets away from me and I find myself making and re-making old favorites that I've already published or if I try something new I don't have the time to type it up.

However, this recipe is so tasty that even if it takes me several weeks to make this entry, I want to share it. I was a very short-lived contributor to a food blog at one point and reviewed Laxmi Hiremath's The Dance of Spices and tested her recipe for Fragrant Dum-Style Lamb. The major draw for this dish, to me, was the fact that you top it with naan dough and bake it. MMMMM. Indian pot pie! Or, as I suggested in the naan post, Indian pasties!

I took huge liberties with Hiremath's recipe in this most recent making, and they were a huge success. The header notes of her recipe say that it's filled with cauliflower, but no cauliflower appears in the ingredients. I added some and also added peas. I omitted the mushrooms as unnecessary. Probably the biggest change is that instead of using lamb, I used Quorn tenders instead. They were perfect. If you are a meat-eater, lamb would be nice, but you could also use chicken breast. If you are a vegetarian who shies away from fake meat, you could use chickpeas as a protein.

While this dish was wonderful with the naan topping, we felt it would be nearly as good as a topping for basmati rice cooked with a few cardamom pods.

Though there is a certain amount of chopping involved and using a naan crust makes it more labor-intensive, it ended up being a reasonable amount of effort. Play around with the vegetables and proportions of things. Spinach might be a really nice addition. Or you could increase the amount of cashews.

INGREDIENTS
1/4 c. vegetable oil, divided in two portions (I think I used less than this)
1 large onion, sliced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
3 large cloves garlic, put through a garlic press
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves (she called for 10 but that seemed extreme to me)
4 allspice berries
6 green cardamom pods
1 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne (I used only about 1/8 tsp in deference to Elspeth)
1 package Quorn tenders
1/2 head cauliflower cut into small florets and pieces
3/4 c. peas (I used frozen)
1/4 c. carrots cut into rounds (1/2 c. or even 3/4 c. would be nice)
1 c. pureed tomatoes (I used canned and ended up using more like 1 1/4 cup)
1/4 c. plain yogurt (I used strained yogurt)
1/2 c. water
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 c. whole roasted cashews (or up to 1 cup)
1/4 recipe naan dough

DIRECTIONS
  1. Heat 2 TBSP of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  2. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion is nicely caramelized (12-15 minutes)
  3. Remove the onions from the pan and puree them in a mini food processor or blender, then set aside
  4. Add the remaining oil to the pan and add the ginger and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until the paste starts to brown slightly
  5. Add the whole spices and cook until they're plump, about a minute
  6. Add the remaining spices and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds
  7. Add the Quorn tenders and the onion paste and mix until the Quorn is well coated with onion-spice paste
  8. Cook for 5-6 minutes, then add the pureed tomatoes. Continue cooking 6-8 minutes until the tomatoes have lost their raw smell
  9. Add the vegetables and stir to coat them with the onion-spice-tomato mixture. Cook for a minute or so
  10. Turn the heat to low and stir in the yogurt. Then add the water, salt, sugar and cashews. Simmer until the sauce is nice and thick, around 20 minutes (30-35 minutes if using raw meat)
  11. While the stew is simmering, preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  12. Take the 1/4 of naan dough and roll to the correct size and shape to cover your baking pan (9x13 Pyrex or a ceramic oval dish or the equivalent)
  13. Place the fragrant stew mixture in the baking dish and cover with the naan dough
  14. Bake until the naan is golden and the filling is bubbling, about 20 minutes
  15. Serve with the remaining naan