Saturday, October 22, 2016

Standard Pumpkin Pie

As I've mentioned a time or two, I was a super picky eater as a child (wow I've got a lot of sympathy for my mom now that I'm a parent, too!). I liked things as plain and traditional as possible. And for the comfort foods of my childhood I'm still that way. Don't gussy up my French toast with Grand Marnier or (shudder) caramelized bananas. Stay far away from my Family Stuffing with your chestnuts and oysters or even fancy mushrooms. And don't bother making a pie with fresh ginger and lots of nutmeg or lovingly home-roasted squash or pumpkin. Well, you can make it and I'd eat it. But when it comes time for me to make pumpkin pie, I'm perfectly content using the same recipe I grew up with and pumpkin in a tin. At some point,  I'll probably ditch the evaporated milk in favor of cream, mainly because it's often the only thing preventing me from being able to make pumpkin pie on the spur of the moment, but for now, if it's Libby's Libby's Libby's on the (recipe) label label label, I will like it like it like it on my table table table.

Oh, I will say that I am not completely unwilling to change traditions or add new ones--my husband introduced me to his family's tradition of always having pumpkin pie for breakfast on the day after Thanksgiving, with a separate pie always made for that purpose. I think this is THE BEST IDEA EVER and adopted it immediately.

INGREDIENTS
One single pie-crust of your choice (some day I'll perfect the whole wheat version of the Never Fail Pie Crust I grew up with)

2 eggs
1 15 or 16 oz can of puréed pumpkin or squash, or the equivalent that you've roasted yourself
3/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 12 fl oz can of evaporated milk (absolutely not condensed milk)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare your pie crust and put in a deep dish pie pan--I use a Pyrex one and set it on a baking sheet just to make it easier to get into the oven without spilling. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. I do not use convection for this pie because that makes the top a bit leathery
  3. Mix all the pie filling ingredients in a large bowl. Because I started making this pie as an 8 or 9 year old, I tend to be a bit ritualistic about adding one ingredient at a time and mixing it in well--ah memories!
  4. If using, make sure pie pan is on the baking tray, then pour pie filling into prepared (but still uncooked) crust 
  5. Place in the oven and bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees F and back for an additional 40-50 minutes or until the filling is set and a knife is mostly clean. I also use one of those silicone pie shields to protect the crust edges from getting too brown 
  6. Remove from ovens and let cool completely. I personally feel that pumpkin pie is much better cold, so I usually make a day ahead and keep it in the fridge. Serve with lightly sweetened vanilla whipped cream

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Panko-Crusted Chickpea Sweet Potato Patties

So, I love the Serious Eats falafel recipe and make double batches of it to keep in the freezer for work lunches. (Perhaps this freezing business may be considered a travesty by some, but it works beautifully for me). Unfortunately, the kids have also decided that they like it and, to be perfectly honest, I'm not going to go to all that effort of deep frying only to have the kids devour them. Thus, when I saw these chickpea nuggets from The Kitchn, I was intrigued. Perhaps I could achieve the same vegan chickpea deliciousness for the kids' lunches with these, while keeping the falafel for myself. I made the recipe as written. I thought they were ok, my husband and younger daughter were not in favor, but my 4th grader liked them well enough to take them in her school lunch with some ketchup for dipping. This is a particular triumph because the youngest has been a pumpkin and sweet potato hater since about the 9-month mark (after loving them when starting solids).

As I was on the bus going to work, it suddenly occurred to me that adding mashed sweet potato in equal(ish) proportion to the chickpea and then spicing with garam masala could be just the oomph the recipe needed. And, indeed, when I made them this way, the votes in favor went from 1.5 out of 4 to 3.5 out of 4. More tinkering could always be done, but these are good enough that both kids are taking them for school lunch and I'll tray freeze the rest to pop into lunches over the next few weeks.

In case you're curious, I cooked the sweet potato in my Instant Pot on the steamer rack for 15 minutes at high pressure. The texture was perfect for this purpose and the skin came off quite well.

INGREDIENTS
1 c panko breadcrumbs, toasted and cooled
1/2 to 1 c rolled or pinhead oats, toasted and cooled if desired (am guessing that toasting the oats would add a welcome nuttiness but I haven't tried it)
1 large sweet potato, cooked with the skin removed (though you could probably leave the skin on, honestly--I don't peel them for sweet potato fries
1 15 oz can chickpeas with the liquid
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (or to taste; I used 2 tsp and felt they were slightly too salty)
1 tsp garam masala or to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. If you haven't already toasted your panko and oats, you could just use the same oven temp you'll be using later. Preheat to 375, then put the panko and oats on separate trays and toast until golden, then cool at least 5 minutes. Leave the oven on
  2. Drain the chickpeas, keeping at least 1/2 cup of the liquid to use in the recipe
  3. Put the drained chickpeas, the cooked sweet potato, the salt and garam masala in a food processor and pulse until well combined
  4. Once your oats are cooled, grinned them in a coffee grinder or grain mill until they're a flour. If you need to use your food processor for this, you'll obviously have to do that before putting the wet ingredients in it. Or just use already-ground flour.
  5. Whisk the chickpea liquid until foamy (not sure if this is strictly necessary since the original recipe doesn't tell you to make them anything near soft meringue) then start by adding about 1/4 cup to the food processor with about 1/4 cup of the oat flour. Pulse until combined and then adjust to make a not-too-sticky paste. Mine was still a bit sticky but I just used wet hands to form the nuggets and they turned out fine
  6. Using a spoon and your hands (or a scoop or whatever), shape a tablespoon or two of paste into a patty or a nugget or any shape you prefer
  7. Coat the patty with the toasted panko and place on a lined baking sheet (I'd use the same one I used for my oats) and repeat til you've used all the mixture
  8. Bake 15-20 minutes or until the panko coating cracks a bit
  9. Remove from oven and serve warm, cold or at room temperature with the dipping sauce of your (or your kids') choice



Sunday, August 21, 2016

Cucumber Tomato Salad with Walnuts

This is an invention of my husband's aunt Margaret. She made it for family dinner last summer and we all raved. It appeared again this year and I begged for the recipe. She kindly obliged and I promptly adapted it. There was nothing at all wrong with her version, I just tweaked based on our tastes and what was available. I could eat gallons of this salad and one of the best things about it is how well it keeps. I can make it at the beginning of the week and enjoy it in my work lunches til Friday (if it lasts that long).

We like the walnuts in the recipe, but I was thinking of adaptations for a friend of ours who is allergic and realized that toasted pine nuts would likely be really good. I'm going to try that version as soon as I get some pine nuts...

One of the great things about this recipe is that it's easy to scale it up and down if you think about it in parts: 1 part cucumber to 1/2 or 1 part diced or slivered tomatoes, 1/8 to 1/4 part nuts or other savory firm or crunchy ingredient of your choosing, then dressing to taste.

DRESSING INGREDIENTS
1-3 cloves garlic, finely minced or in bigger pieces if you've got people who want to fish them out
2-3 TBSP white wine or champagne vinegar
1-2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
Pepper if desired
2-4 TBSP olive or other oil (walnut oil, for example, could be really lovely to pick up on the toasted walnuts, or avocado oil if you want something more neutral)

SALAD INGREDIENTS
2 cucumbers, peeled if desired, and cut into half moons or diced
1 large handful (half a dry pint maybe) cherry tomatoes, any color, quartered
You're looking for about roughly equal parts cucumber and tomato once they've been cut up, but if you like tomatoes more, add more, if you want to favor the cucumber, add more of that
1/2 c walnuts or pine nuts, toasted and chopped
1/2 c chopped parsley (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Raw garlic gets stronger the longer it sits (thanks Cook's Illustrated), so if you're going to enjoy this salad over a few days, it's a good idea to let the garlic soak for five to ten minutes in the vinegar. The acid will help keep the garlic in its place. So, mince your garlic and place it in a small bowl with the vinegar and salt and pepper (the vinegar will also dissolve the salt). Leave for a few minutes while you cut up the vegetables or toast and chop the walnuts
  2. Prepare the veggies and nuts and place in a large bowl
  3. Stir the vinegar and garlic mixture and then whisk in the oil slowly to emulsify
  4. Pour the dressing over the ingredients in the large bowl and gently but thoroughly combine
  5. Refrigerate until needed, at least a half hour would be best to let the flavors combine. Adjust seasoning to your taste



Monday, August 8, 2016

Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats

I've been making steel cut oats for breakfast for me and the girls since Elspeth was old enough for oats and dairy. My fail-proof method has always been to use a double-boiler, an idea I got from The Fanny Farmer Breakfast Book. However, that takes at least an hour, making it a necessity to plan ahead the night before.

When I got my Instant Pot, I knew I wanted to try steel cut oats in it. There is no shortage of recipes on the Internet, but they all call for using water and I like to cook my oats in milk. I had read that dairy under high pressure could be a bit of a no-no but I didn't understand why until I read an explanation noting that, not only does milk have a tendency to scorch easily, but the milk steam generated when releasing the pressure could be messy and horrible to clean up. So I put the idea aside for a while until I came across an Instant Pot rice pudding recipe using milk that used low, instead of high, pressure. This seemed like it could be the solution. The first time I tried it I cooked it for way too long, doubling the amount of time in the water-based recipes because I was using low pressure, not high. I also heated the milk first using the sauté function because I read another recipe where that was recommended. It was horrible, overcooked and unappetizing.  But the milk didn't scorch... The second time I hit the jackpot. I cook at low pressure for 5 minutes and then let it rest at least ten minutes. If you use the keep warm setting you might get a little browning on the bottom of the pot, but the cereal didn't taste scorched at all and it came right off. To avoid this, I would guess that all you need to do is turn off the keep warm setting after the 5 minutes and then wait 10 minutes or more. It might not even take that long for the low pressure to drop naturally.

While I think the oats and milk integrate more silkily using the double-boiler method, the comparative speed of the Instant Pot method is compelling and I will definitely use the technique again (and again).

INGREDIENTS
1 c. steel cut oats
3 1/2 c. milk, any kind
1/2 tsp kosher salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place all ingredients in the insert of the Instant Pot
  2. Close the lid and make sure the valve is set to Sealing not Venting
  3. Select the Porridge setting, adjust the pressure to Low and adjust the time to 5 minutes
  4. Once the 5 minutes is up, turn off the Instant Pot if desired and wait until the pressure releases on its own
  5. Serve with mix-ins of your choice. We like dried fruit, coconut, slivered almonds and flaxseed

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Cucumber-Lime Margarita

I hardly ever post drink recipes so it's a sign of my love of cucumbers that one of the few others was a Cucumber Collins.
We had a version of this drink at a great Seattle restaurant called Fonda La Catrina. I failed to completely replicate their drink, but I came up with something that I really like. While I can appreciate a "traditional" margarita (if such a thing exists), I find that I really love a longer drink. I want a pint glass of goodness without getting hammered. That's where the cucumber juice comes in. I blend up cucumbers with a bit of water and then strain it. Mixed with lime juice, simple syrup and tequila it's a refreshing, not-too-sweet drink.

INGREDIENTS
2 oz tequila of your choice (Fonda La Catrina uses a blanco but we only have reposado and it was fine)
2 oz freshly-squeezed lime juice (you can do that ahead but don't use RealLime or the like)
4 oz cucumber juice
1 to 1 1/2 oz simple syrup

INGREDIENTS
Cucumber Juice
2 cucumbers
1/2 to 1 c water
Liquefy in a blender then strain

DIRECTIONS

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker about 1/2 with ice (or more if you like it super cold)
  2. Add all other ingredients
  3. Shake and pour (without straining) into a pint glass

Instant Pot Carnitas and Beans

This is a bit of a cheat since it just translates the carnitas section of the Chile Verde Stew recipe to the Instant Pot, but I know I wanted a dedicated Instant Pot version to return to again and again and, after all, this blog is really for me, and so there is no such thing as cheating.
The Instant Pot shaves a bunch of time from this recipe because, although you have to wait for it to come up to pressure, the original calls for you to heat to simmering on the stove before 2 hours in the oven.
My inspiration since getting the Instant Pot is to take half the cooking liquid from the pork and then use it to cook beans. Oh, is it good! And you stretch your meat because you can use a bunch of the meaty-tasting beans in your tacos.

INGREDIENTS
BRAISED PORK
3 1/2-4 lb boneless pork butt, well trimmed and cut into 2 inch chunks
Salt and pepper to taste (at least 2 tsp kosher salt)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander (Cook's didn't call for coriander, but I love it)
1 small onion halved and peeled
A few cloves garlic, peeled, optional
2 bay leaves
2 TBSP juice from one lime
1 medium orange halved and juiced (keep the halves)
2 c. water

BEANS
2 c dry beans (pinto or black beans)
Cooking liquid from pork plus 1-2 c water as needed
1 tsp kosher salt or to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place all the braised pork ingredients into the Instant Pot. Make sure the vent is closed and use the Meat setting, adjusting so that the time is 60 minutes
  2. When the meat is done, let the pressure release naturally. Hip Pressure Cooking says you should do this with the keep warm setting off, but I had it on and it caused no issues
  3. Put a large colander over a large bowl and strain the meat
  4. Clean out your Instant Pot insert a bit
  5. Take half of the cooking liquid and put in a large saucepan. Reduce over medium-high until it becomes a syrupy glaze. Hold tight, you'll use it in a second
  6. Take the other half of the liquid and put it in the Instant Pot insert
  7. Rinse and pick over 2 c beans and add to the Instant Pot with the kosher salt, make sure the liquid level looks right (about an inch over the beans). Top up with water as needed
  8. Making sure the valve is closed, use the Bean/Chili setting and adjust so that the beans cook for 45 to 50 minutes
  9. Now shred your pork with two forks and once you're done, pour over the syrupy glaze. When I tasted the carnitas pre-glaze and they were fine, if a bit pot-roast-like, but post-glaze they are a thing of glory
  10. If you like, you can then fry up your carnitas or broil them to make them crispy. Our family has decided we like them soft to put into tacos with the beans
  11. When the beans are done, let the pressure release naturally (at least 10 minutes). Taste them and if you need to, cook them an additional 5-10 minutes. I like to mash half the beans to get a very thick liquid but you do it as you prefer





Richer Berry Ice Cream

I still love and use the Fruit Gelato recipe I posted back in 2011, but for today's family dinner I wanted something a little richer. My lovely aunt went blackberry picking and generous gifted us two gallon-sized bags of blackberries. With such a (free) bounty, it didn't feel extravagant at all to use a bunch of it for ice cream. I thought that a more supple texture would be nice, since I feared the berries could make the ice cream quite icy. That means more eggs. Many recipes call for five egg yolks and I just won't do that, but, having a bunch of phenomenal Green Bow Farm eggs in the house, I figured I spare four.
I mashed up (as it were) two recipes, taking the sugar amount, cooking and straining from The Pioneer Woman and the fewer egg yolks from White on Rice Couple. Of my own volition, I used 2 c heavy cream to 1 cup 2% milk because I never have half and half or whole milk around. This worked just fine.
I'm so glad I strained out the seeds from the blackberries! The girls loved eating the leftover mash, and the ice cream is silky smooth yet full of blackberry flavor. It will be paired up with Nectarine Upside Down Cake to finish up an all Instant-Pot meal of carnitas, black beans and corn on the cob (the rest of the family is bringing other sides). Mmmmmm.

Makes 1 quart ice cream

INGREDIENTS
1 lb blackberries
1 1/4 c sugar, divided
Juice of a lemon
2 c heavy cream
1 c milk (any kind)
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. Put the blackberries in a medium to large saucepan with 1/4 c of the sugar and the juice of a lemon. Cook over medium heat until the berries have popped and it looks and smells great (15-20 minutes)
  2. Purée the berries in a food processor or blender and then pour through a fine mesh strainer. Set the liquid aside. You can save the mash and use it for another purpose (folded into Greek-style yogurt or as a surprise for the middle of a muffin, perhaps). You're looking for about 2 cups liquid, so if you have extra just use it for something else. I suspect you'd be fine if you had a bit less, as well
  3. Rinse out your fine mesh strainer. Put the heavy cream in a bowl (I set that bowl in my ice bath at that time just for convenience) and set the strainer over it (so you can strain your custard into it later)
  4. Rinse out your pan and use it for the milk and remaining 1 c sugar. Heat over medium until around 180 degrees
  5. While it is heating, whisk the egg yolk in yet another bowl (sorry about that). Once the milk and sugar is the right temperature, temper the egg yolks by putting a spoonful of the hot milk/sugar mixture into the bowl of yolks and stirring well. Do this a few times
  6. Now add that yolk mixture to the saucepan of milk and sugar. Heat over medium, stirring constantly, until your custard thickens. Because I only used 1 c of milk as opposed to the 1 1/2 cups liquid in the original recipes, my custard got very thick. Not to worry. It took about 5-8 minutes for my custard to thicken
  7. Strain the custard into your bowl of heavy cream over its ice bath, then stir in 1 tsp vanilla extract. The fun part is stirring in the strained blackberry juice until it's all a gorgeous purple
  8. Let chill in fridge for several hours or overnight, then churn according to your ice cream maker's instructions


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Simplest Everyday Pan Sauce

My family loves pan sauce and gravy. I think they're good, but the rest of the family is passionate about them.
I've read all sorts of ways to approach them, but this is the one I use almost exclusively. Why, you ask? Because it is easy and I don't have to think about it.
I always add a little bit of water to my roasting pan to ensure that my drippings don't burn. Though that puts me at risk of steaming the meat, I haven't yet had a negative result.
This pan sauce assumes that you have a roasting pan that you can use on the stove. We have an induction stove top and I now have a small and a large roasting pan that work with it.
All I do is put the roasting pan over two burners, crank the heat up to high and throw in 1 cup each of chicken stock and dry vermouth (or dry white wine). I let that reduce and then add a scant teaspoon of cornstarch mixed with cold water. There are many cooks out there who would reject the cornstarch in favor or butter or beurre manié or some other thickener or no thickener, but I find that just a touch of cornstarch makes the sauce coat the spoon without turning it into jello and it's been more reliable for me than butter. Of course, if I taste it and think the sauce needs something, I never hesitate to add a knob of butter, too...

INGREDIENTS
Drippings from some kind of roasted meat (chicken, pork, beef)
1 c. chicken stock
1 c. dry vermouth or dry white wine
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tsp cold water
1 TBSP butter, optional
Salt, pepper and herbs to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Take meat out of roasting pan and set on a cutting board. Cover it with foil
  2. Set the now-empty roasting pan over two burners, turn heat to high on both
  3. Add the wine or vermouth and stock and whisk constantly
  4. Let reduce until it's somewhat syrupy and starts to coat the back of a spoon
  5. Add the cornstarch/water mixture, whisking vigorously
  6. Add butter if needed. Taste and adjust seasoning
  7. Remove from heat and strain into a serving dish (if there are bits in there that you don't think would be tasty, if not, then don't bother straining it)
  8. Serve

Friday, June 3, 2016

Instant Pot Clotted Cream

I haven't posted any other Instant Pot recipes, I don't think, but it's only a matter of time. Or at least I'll give the IP variation on my regular recipes. I got this gem for my birthday and fell immediately in love, so much so that my ravings inspired at least three other friends to buy them! The Instant Pot, for the uninitiated, is a pressure cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, rice cooker and more. I can do gorgeously soft pinto beans from dry with only 45 minutes at pressure. I've been making yogurt like a fiend. And the rice it yields is great.

So when I read a Kitchn post about a woman who makes clotted cream by bringing the cream to 180 degrees, my antennae went up immediately. After all, the Yogurt Boil setting on the IP brings the milk to 180 and then you cool to 115 before adding the starter. So I figured there must be a way to bring the cream to 180 in the IP and then keep at that temp for the recommended 8 hours.'

I had a look on the web and didn't find any IP-specific recipes, but this slow cooker recipe https://fearlessfresh.com/make-clotted-cream/  was a great baseline, not that making clotted cream is at all tough if you have an easy way to reach and then keep the desired temp.

I was a bit worried about yield, so I kept warm for 10 hours but I think 8 would be ideal. I had no issues with burning, the IP kept a perfectly fine temp the whole time and I got over 2 cups clotted cream from 4 c. originally and that is enough for me. Even with guests helping us, who really needs more than 2 cups of clotted cream? I'll use the leftover whey to make cream scones. And top them with clotted cream and strawberries and possibly some ganache. How decadent is that?

INGREDIENTS
4 c. heavy cream, not ultra pasteurized

DIRECTIONS

  1. Pour cream into Instant Pot insert and close lid. Doesn't really matter if it's on Venting or Sealing since you're not bringing it to pressure, but I leave on Sealing
  2. Set Instant Pot to Yogurt Boil (press the Yogurt button, the hit Adjust till you see the word Boil)
  3. When Instant Pot beeps that boil setting is done, press Keep Warm button
  4. Leave at Keep Warm for 8 hours
  5. Turn off Instant Pot, remove lid and remove insert to set on a cooling rack
  6. Let cool an hour or so at room temp so it doesn't heat up your fridge too much
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and put in fridge for at least 8 hours. I did 12
  8. Remove Instant Pot insert from fridge. The clotted cream will have thickened a bunch. Make a little hole at an edge so that the whey can get out
  9. Pour off the whey as best you can and then scoop the clotted cream out into a jar or bowl. I got more than 2 cups worth, so judge your bowl size by that
  10. Stir back in some whey if you want a looser texture. You can use the whey to make more clotted cream if desired, or use it it cream scones, biscuits or anything else you fancy
  11. Spread on anything or top your oatmeal with it. The possibilities are endless. Use up within 3-4 days. You could try freezing it if you can't finish it--you wouldn't want to waste any and it may work

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Whole Grain Sandwich Bread

I had never made a 100% whole grain sandwich bread before, so I was excited when I saw Smitten Kitchen's Oat and Wheat Sandwich Bread recipe this past fall. I made the recipe as-written and was delighted except that I felt it used way too much yeast--the resulting bread was almost boozy. However, the texture was perfect: light without being wonder-bread squishy and tasting pleasantly of wheat. I really think that home-grinding the wheat berries to order makes a huge difference in flavor. I sniffed my last remaining cup or so of storebought pre-ground whole wheat pastry flour the other day and it smelled rancid and bitter. With freshly-ground flour, this bread is sweet and nutty.
To fix the boozy quality, I reduced the yeast to 1 TBSP. I rearranged the recipe a bit to suit the order of how I make it, but mostly it's the same as smitten kitchen except the yeast reduction.

INGREDIENTS for 2 loaves
1 1/4 c milk
1 1/4 c water
3 TBSP white or brown sugar or honey (I use regular raw sugar)
1 TBSP instant yeast
1 large egg
1/4 c oil (I use vegetable or avocado oil since I find that olive oil dominates in this recipe)
635 g hard red wheat flour (freshly-ground or storebought)
160 g rolled oats
1 TBSP kosher salt

DIRECTIONS
  1. Heat the milk and water together (I use a large Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave) until the mixture is between 102-115 degrees
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the regular paddle, combine warm liquid, sugar/honey and yeast
  3. You can re-use the same measuring cup to whisk the egg and oil together. Then add to ingredients in the stand mixer bowl.
  4. Mix together
  5. Add flour, oats and salt. I usually grind my wheat berries right into the mixing bowl, then add the oats and salt
  6. Mix for one minute and then let stand five minutes. It'll be super sticky
  7. Switching to the dough hook, mix on medium-low for two minutes. The dough will still be sticky, but it will be starting to come together a bit. If it's still extremely wet, you can add a bit more flour but I've never had to
  8. Mix a further four minutes or a bit more, until the dough has pulled away from the sides and formed a ball. Once it reaches the ball stage, you want to knead a bit more. For me it's between 4-5 minutes
  9. Flour your work surface and turn the dough out. Knead by hand a few times
  10. Oil the same mixing bowl (I use cooking spray) and put dough in it. Cover with a tea towel and let rise at room temperature for about an hour until it's well puffed in the bowl. You could do a cold ferment overnight in the fridge, but I prefer the shorter rise
  11. Once the dough has risen, turn out onto your re-floured counter and divide into two lumps. I actually weigh my dough but that's not required
  12. Roll out the dough into a rectangle that is roughly the width of your loaf pan and then fold up tightly like a letter, tucking in the ends. The tighter your parcel the better, otherwise you can get air holes. Place in a greased loaf pan and repeat for the other dough lump
  13. Cover the loaves with your tea towel and let rise again until they reach over the sides of the pan, about an hour. 
  14. About halfway through the second rise, preheat the oven to 350F
  15. Bake the bread for 35-40 minutes. You can rotate halfway through for even color but I mostly don't bother
  16. The bread is done when it reads 190F on an instant-read thermometer
  17. Remove from oven and from loaf pans and let cool on a rack. The texture will be better if you let it cool fully before cutting
  18. Slice into whatever width you like. I slice and then freeze my loaves
Not only does this make delicious sandwich bread, but I feel it also makes superlative toast

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Sesame-Marinated Asparagus

Sacrilegious as it is, I have never been fond of asparagus. The rest of my family loves it, so many a special family dinner had asparagus front and center. Sigh. The first time I can remember liking it was when I was in the UK and my host dad came home with a bag of it fresh from a farm and they steamed it lightly and we ate it by the stalk with no adornment. My suspicion is that the freshness mitigated that very special asparagus tang or funk that I've never enjoyed. The second time I found myself liking it was when my mother-in-law brought this sesame marinated asparagus to family dinner. I always take a stalk or two when it is offered both as politeness to the contributor of the dish and also to make sure that I still don't like it all that much. Lo and behold, I took seconds. The sesame and rice vinegar marinade is so simple and satisfying. My asparagus did turn a bit yellow after sitting overnight in the fridge so I'm not sure if I did something wrong or that's just how it goes. We all still ate it happily, however.
The original recipe calls for seasoned rice vinegar, which we never have around. We always have plain rice vinegar and mirin, however, so I did half and half of each of those instead. If you find you're out of sesame seeds, I'm sure the dish will be edible without them. Taste the marinade carefully before adding to the asparagus and adjust it to your flavor profile preference. We use a mirin with no added sugar, which will make a very different dish than with a sweeter mirin.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb asparagus, washed and trimmed--I like to soak the asparagus to really dislodge any grit
2 TBSP plain rice vinegar
2 TBSP mirin
OR use 1/4 c seasoned rice vinegar
1 TBSP sesame oil
1 TBSP toasted sesame seeds (optional)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Bring about 1 inch of water to boil in a wide frying pan or skillet
  2. Add asparagus, cover, and cook for 3-5 minutes until it is your desired tenderness
  3. Plunge the asparagus in an ice and water bath until fully cool (a few minutes)
  4. Drain and then place asparagus in your serving bowl/dish
  5. Pour over the dressing and stir gently
  6. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally
  7. Sprinkle over the sesame seeds when ready to serve