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