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Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Nonetheless, I think the recipe is good enough for an initial post. I will make any necessary tweaks when I get back home. I ate quite a few the evening I made them and enjoyed them thoroughly. The only two issues I am not 100% happy with is the salt level and the best baking temperature and time. I started at 425 degrees and initially undercooked them as they did not get crispy. When I cooked them longer, they got too browned too quickly at 425. I think that baking them at 400 would alleviate this problem and allow them to stay in the oven long enough to get nice and crispy without over browning.
The recipe starts out just like making a pie crust. Place the flour, salt, and thyme in a food processor. Whir to mix briefly.
Add the Gorgonzola and butter and process briefly to make a coarse meal. Dump in the milk and process, pulsing, until it just comes together into a ball. Dump the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and mold into a disk. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
You can either make these all at once, or freeze some or most of the dough to make small amounts of crackers whenever you want them. I made one-quarter of the dough and froze the rest for later. Roll the dough out fairly thin, as thin as you can and still have the dough maintain its integrity. Use plenty of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the counter. Cut into small, one inch squares. I used a fluted ravioli cutter to make them pretty.
Transfer the crackers to a parchment lined baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a toothpick, cake tester, or fork, prick the top of the cracker. Brush with egg wash (one egg yolk and a tablespoon of water). Sprinkle with a little kosher salt or crushed sea salt, if desired. I like the little salty edge, so I used sea salt from a grinder.
Bake crackers until they are nicely, deeply golden. If you under cook them, they do not crisp up very well when they cool. Expect them to be in the oven at least 15 minutes. Look how flaky they turned out! Delicious!
Gorgonzola & Sun Dried Tomato Crackers
Yield: about 80 1"-crackers
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
2/3 cups crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/2 cup cold butter cut into small cubes
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil packed sun dried tomatoes (press to drain off excess oil)
Combine flour, salt, and thyme in a food processor. Process briefly to mix. Add the cheese and butter. Process until just resembles coarse meal with pea sized chunks. Add the milk and process just until the dough starts to form a ball. Dump onto a piece of plastic wrap, form a disk and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out however much of the dough you want to use at the current time. One quarter of the dough makes about 20 crackers. Cut into one-inch squares and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with kosher or sea salt. Bake at 400 degrees until nicely browned, about 15-20 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack until completely cooled.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Fried Potatoes and Hamburger
Yield: serves 2-4
1 TBS vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1 lb hamburger
2 TBS minced garlic
2 TBS vegetable oil
5 medium potatoes
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
shredded cheddar, for topping (optional)
Wash the potatoes and prick with a toothpick or cake tester. Microwave on high until they are almost tender through. Let cool until they can be handled. Rub off the peel and cut into small pieces.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions once the skillet is hot. Saute for 3-5 minutes, until the onions have browned slightly and are translucent.
Add the ground meat and begin to brown. After the meat has browned slightly, push the meat and onions to the side of the pan and add the remaining oil and let heat. When oil is hot, add the potatoes and garlic. Stir to evenly coat and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring infrequently, until potatoes are nicely browned, about 15-20 minutes.
Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
One of the best things about risotto is that it is truly the "make-it-up-as-you-go" dish. Because the main concern of consistency is taken care of with the gradual addition of broth until you reach the perfect point, most of the ingredient components can be changed on a whim.
There are, however, a few ingredients that are essential, I think, to good risotto. Broth is a must and the better the broth quality, the better your end result. I like to use both arborio (short-grain) rice and orzo pasta to achieve a nice balanced flavor and texture. Additionally, I'm not sure you can have risotto without a little cream and Parmesan cheese. Other than that, though, it's all fair game. My favorite combination is portobello mushrooms, onion, and herbs. I also really like the addition of green peas, but somehow I ran out the other night. But that's the great thing about risotto! It didn't matter... just use what you've got.
To get things started, you want to brown some of the ingredients to get the flavors going. Melt some butter in a large sauce pan and brown the aromatics (onions, garlic, mushrooms, and similar ingredients). When the are lightly browned, add the pasta and rice. Stir and brown for a few minutes more. Add any herbs or other flavorings that can take some cooking (for instance, don't add green peas until the last minute, but carrots, for instance, would be all right). Add enough warm broth to barely cover the mixture and simmer.
Keep an eye on it and add small splashes of broth as needed to keep things moist. Taste periodically to see where you're at. When the pasta and rice are nice and creamy, stop adding broth. Add a splash of cream, some Parmesan cheese, and any finishing seasonings that are required (salt and pepper especially). Serve and enjoy! It's that simple!
Saturday, July 25, 2009
The first step is to cut off the top. Cut off enough to reach the pinkish/purple portion in side.
The next step is to trim the prickly ends of the leaves off. The best tool for this task is a kitchen shears or scissors. Oh, and this is important. See that bowl in the upper right hand corner of the following picture? That bowl has some acidified water in it. Artichokes, like so many other types of produce, oxidize and turn brown when exposed to air. Be sure to have this bowl ready to dip the artichoke in periodically to prevent browning. You can acidify the water with lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid.
While some recipes require the artichokes to remain whole, I prefer to cut them in half. I think it makes them steam more evenly. It's also much easier to remove the choke if they are in half. If your recipe needs them to remain whole, skip this step.
Now pare the tough outer layer of the stem off with a paring knife. This step may involve removing some of the lower leaves to reach the tender inner stem. Notice that I am keeping the spare half in the acidified water.
Artichokes brown very quickly. It doesn't look very attractive all browned, does it? So be sure to have the water ready and dip frequently.
Here's the choke or the "thistly" part that needs to be removed. As you can see, it wouldn't be good to eat.
Use a large spoon to scoop the choke out, scraping to clean it out thoroughly. If you are keeping your artichoke whole, this can be tricky. Peel back the leaves enough to access the center and scoop out. You may need to cut the tops back more when preparing them whole than when you are halving them.
And that's it! Now they are ready to use in your favorite recipe.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Goodness gracious, what a week! Between an 800 mile drive on Tuesday and two tow truck calls, I've not had much time left over to drool over some good recipes. Fortunately, that has all changed now. My truck is fixed and the peaches are ripe. I bought a bag of them at a farmers' market in the middle of Alabama before I broke down.
I spent some time pondering how I wanted to use those peaches. After much debating, I decided on a cake. This dessert involves a simple cake with peach slices dropped on top. Lastly, it involves sanding sugar sprinkled over the top which bakes into a lovely browned, sweet crust. Look at that!
Yield: One 9" cake
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cups whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 peaches peeled and sliced
2 TBS sanding sugar (or granulated if it's all you've got)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, vanilla, egg, yogurt, oil, and lemon zest together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir completely. Spray a 9" round pan with oil. Pour the batter into the pan. Place the sliced peaches on the top of the batter. You don't need to press them in; the batter will rise up around them. Sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake at 350 for 60 minutes or until the cake is nice and golden and a tester comes out clean. Let cool slightly before serving.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
If you don't have much experience with cutting boules, I'd like to share some of my trial and error experience here: the best way to cut and serve bread from a boule is to cut it in half (ending up with a right and left) and then place the halves cut side down on your board to cut slices. It's embarrassing to admit, but it took me a while to figure that out. For some reason, I kept trying to cut the bread like a pie or cake and it doesn't work very well!
Yield: one 8" diameter boule
For the pre-ferment:
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup lager beer (I used Yuengling)
1/2 tsp instant yeast
Mix all pre-ferment ingredients together in a bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter for 6-12 hours. Then place the bowl in the refrigerator for 1-3 days.
1 tsp yeast
1 cup warm water
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
Remove pre-ferment from the refrigerator an hour or so before continuing to allow it to come to room temperature. Transfer the pre-ferment into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast, water, and flour. Mix together and then knead with a dough hook for 6 minutes. Let dough rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the kosher salt over the bread and then knead with the dough hook for an additional 4 minutes. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double.
Prepare a sheet pan with parchment. Gently deflate the dough and shape into a boule by pulling the edges of the ball underneath to form a nice round shape. Place shaped dough on the cooking sheet. Spray with oil and cover with plastic wrap or a barely damp flour-sack towel. Let rise until nearly double.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Before baking, with a very sharp knife or razor, cut an 'X' in the top of the boule about 1/2 an inch deep. When the oven is preheated, place the loaf in and let bake until golden. Shoot for an internal temperature of 200 degrees. It took about 30 minutes in my oven.
Remove bread from oven and let cool slightly before breaking into it. Very yummy with butter melting all over it.
Monday, July 20, 2009
- Nothing manages heat better. If you want to pan fry something, nothing beats cast iron. Looking to roast something in the oven? Nothing keeps moisture in the meat better.
- It's the original stove to oven cookware.
- If your cast iron is well seasoned, it allows you to enjoy non-stick cooking at high temperatures without having to worry about toxic materials leaching into your food like is believed to be possible with Teflon pans. In fact, cast iron contributes iron to your food!
- You don't have to break the bank to buy a good cast iron pan.
- You don't have to worry about using special utensils when cooking.
As you can see, cast iron has a lot of benefits. Sure, there are a few draw backs, namely - it's HEAVY! But, heck, you can get a workout while you cook! The only other potential drawback I can think of is that it really requires you to clean the pan immediately. You shouldn't use soap on cast iron (it tends to remove the pan's seasoning); salt and hot water is all you need to keep your cast iron in tip-top shape.
To enjoy the full benefits of cast iron requires the pan to be well seasoned. This involves wiping down the inside surfaces with vegetable shortening. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees F for about an hour. While Lodge is the most common new cast iron available, if you can find a Wagner pan at an antique store that is in good condition, you should grab it. Wagner pans have a smoother interior surface that I find forms a better non-stick surface when seasoned properly.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
If you are just making cookies, you can simply use a disher to make perfectly round cookies. If you are making ice cream sandwiches, I find it helps to flatten them before baking. Dampen your hand so that the dough doesn't stick and press them until they are about 3/8 inch thick.
This cookie dough freezes well. Simply freeze the dough balls until hard and then transfer to a zip-top bag. When you are ready to bake them off, place the frozen balls on a cookie tray and let thaw before baking. Again, if making them for ice cream sandwiches, press them flat with a damp hand.
Yield: 28 - #24 disher size cookies
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cup flour
1 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp table salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
Cream the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla together. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix thoroughly. Add the chocolate chips and mix to evenly distribute.
Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 8-10 minutes or until the center is set.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
The first step is to slice up some summer squash. Yellow crookneck is my favorite, but you can also use small zucchinis or a mix. I slice them about 3/8 inch thick.
This is one of those dishes that involves no measuring. Slice up as much squash as you think you need to feed everyone. Mince up a few garlic cloves, however much you want based on how well you like garlic. If you're trying to keep the vampires away, use a bunch. If, on the other hand, you are planning a romantic evening with your sweetie, maybe use a little less.
Get your saute pan heating over medium-high heat with some butter. You can use olive oil, but I really like the flavor that browned butter imparts to this dish. Don't use too much. You don't want the butter flavor to overpower the flavor of the squash. Saute over relatively high heat, stirring occasionally to keep things from getting too dark. You do want the squash to caramelize a bit, so let it sit as long as you can before stirring. You may need to turn the heat down if it is blackening too quickly. There is no need to cook the squash completely through, either. If you cook it too much, it just ends up getting all limp and floppy, which - in my book - just isn't that appealing. Don't forget to add some salt and pepper for seasoning. Right when it's about done, splash a little (again, not too much) white wine to deglaze the pan. Remove from the heat and serve hot.
Friday, July 17, 2009
The great thing about this "salad" is that it's a go anywhere, do anything dish. I usually make it with dinner when I want mashed potatoes that aren't mashed potatoes, but it also makes a great potluck take along. I like it because it doesn't need to be steaming hot when it is served. In fact, room temperature is just fine.
Baked Potato Salad
Yield: 6 servings
6 cups scrubbed, cubed potatoes (about 3/4 inch chunks)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk (adjust as necessary)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup bacon bits/lardons (optional)
Place potatoes in a large pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool down. Adding the cheese and sour cream when the potatoes are hot simply leads to a melty mess. Make sure the potatoes are no longer hot before proceeding.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix thoroughly. The great thing about this recipe is that the proportions of all ingredients can be altered to suit your taste. Do you like a little more sour cream tartness? Add an extra dollop. More onions? Throw them in! You get the idea. One of the joys of this dish is its flexibility.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
For those of you that stop by here regularly, you've probably gotten sick of me raving on about Afghan cuisine. And - possibly - wondered if I was ever going to post this recipe. I think I've talked about it multiple times now. Well, here it is! And you should try it. Soon.
It's a pretty straight-forward dish. Kofta refers to a Middle Eastern meatball dish while the challow refers to the rice. So, what you're seeing is basically a meatball and rice dish with wonderful Middle Eastern seasoning and LOTS of onions (which is lovely because onions are so good for you!).
The meatballs contain a fair amount of onion and garlic. Therefore, you want them to be grated or processed into very small pieces otherwise your meatballs will just fall apart.
Here's what my onion/garlic mixture looked like after processing:
Mix together the remaining meatball ingredients in a bowl and then form 2" meatballs. These meatballs are pretty loose, so you'll have to be somewhat careful with them. I lined the pan with some foil so that I could get them up easily since I freeze them briefly before cooking. Chilling them before cooking helps to hold them together in the initial stages of cooking.
Look at all those onions! Yum! Saute until they are slightly browned.
Then push the onions toward the outside and start sauteing the meatballs in the middle. Again, the meatballs are quite fragile until they get cooked through a little bit, so turn them very carefully. Turn regularly to brown all sides. Once they are nicely browned, add the remaining ingredients to make the sauce. This is a good time to start the rice since the dish is about 20-30 minutes from being done.
Lastly, about 15 minutes before serving, add the cauliflower. Strictly speaking, the cauliflower is optional, but it is so wonderful with this dish that I would never consider making it without.
Yield: 2-4 servings
adapted from the recipe on Afghanistan Online
For the kofta:
1 lb ground meat (beef or lamb)
1 medium onion
2-3 garlic cloves
1 whole egg
3 tsp ground coriander
1 TBS beef bouillon granules/powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Process the onion and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped, or grate onion on a box grater. Press the onion between your hands to press out some of the water. Combine onion, garlic, and meat in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and shape into 2" diameter meatballs. I use a #12 disher to size them. This recipe makes approximately 8 meatballs. Set meatballs onto a lined tray or plate and place in the freezer to firm up for 10-20 minutes.
For the sauce:
2-3 TBS vegetable oil
2 medium onions chopped
1 TBS tomato paste
1 TBS beef bouillon granules/powder
2 tsp paprika
3 tsp ground cumin
3 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 cups water
Half head of cauliflower, cut into pieces
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until they are slightly browned. Push the onions to the sides and add the meatballs. Brown the meatballs on all sides. Be gentle when turning them, until they are partially cooked, they are very fragile. When the meatballs are browned on all sides, mix the remaining sauce ingredients in a separate bowl and then pour into the skillet, mixing gently. Reduce heat and simmer meatballs in sauce for 10-15 minutes uncovered. Add the cauliflower and cover, cooking until tender, about 10-15 minutes more.
For the challow:
1 cup aromatic rice (Basmati or Jasmine)
1 1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cardamom
Bring water and spices to a boil. Add rice, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve. Begin rice while meatballs are simmering uncovered.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I've been wanting to post this recipe for some time. I just had to wait for the right moment to be able to make them. I needed to make sure I had an outlet lined up for the largest part of the batch. See, I just can't have this sort of thing sitting around the house. I have will power at the store but none at home. Once the food is in my house, I have no power to keep myself from eating it. This recipe makes three of these gorgeous tins of rolls and I simply cannot allow more than one to stay here.
The military is very good at taking care of their own. Yesterday, I put together a dinner delivery for a family that recently had a new baby and I thought, "Ah ha! I can make cinnamon rolls and send them along." And I knew a neighbor down the street would appreciate the other. Phew! All right! I am now cleared hot for cinnamon roll making.
Making cinnamon rolls is pretty simple, I'm almost sad to say. If they were more difficult or time consuming, maybe I wouldn't be so tempted all the time. As you can see, I make mine in the disposable 8-inch square aluminum pans with plastic lids because I have to deliver most of them elsewhere, but you can make them any shape or size and in any type of pan that suits you.
They start out like any bread dough. Mix the dough and knead it for a couple of minutes. This dough is pretty darn sticky, so if you have a mixer, I strongly advise using it! Let the dough proof in a oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap until it doubles. Knock the dough down and pour out onto a very well floured board. Trust me, don't skimp on the flour here or you'll be scraping dough off your counter for the next ten hours! Roll out into a roughly 18 x 12 inch rectangle.
Monday, July 13, 2009
I can't remember when I last ran out of pesto. But I've been out now for months. Oh, the shame. See, the nice thing about pesto is that it keeps perfectly in the freezer. In the freezer, it stays the most glorious shade of green forever. I'm not kidding! I've had pesto in the freezer for over a year before with absolutely no degradation in its color or taste. And when it thaws, it tastes like you just picked the basil five minutes ago and whipped it up. You can't beat that!
But here's the problem. Basil, despite being an easy herb to grow, can be hard to come by in large quantities sometimes, and to make a lot of pesto you need a LOT of basil. I know where we live now, I could search until I fell off the edge of the earth and never find anything but those silly plastic containers of herbs you get in the grocery store. Yeah... great, I could make one tablespoon of pesto. In fact, the only time I actually had more basil than I could use was two years ago when I planted a forty foot row of it in my garden. Now that's what I'm talking about! .:sigh:.
Well, until I can get back to the wide spaces of dirt, a couple of basil plants will have to do. I'll just have to be a little stingy in my use of it.
Here's how I make traditional, classic basil pesto:
Take a pile of basil. I picked all that I could without hurting my plants. I got about four cups of loosely packed basil out of this bunch once the leaves were stripped from the stems.
Classic Basil Pesto
Yield: one cup of pesto
Process the basil, garlic, salt, pepper, and pine nuts until well ground together. Add the cheese and then add the oil while pulsing the mixture. Add oil until you get a loose paste. You can add more oil until it gets to the consistency you like. Freeze immediately into ice cube trays for long term storage or use fresh immediately. If you must store in the refrigerator for a bit, be sure to cover with a generous skim of olive oil or add some lemon juice to the pesto to prevent browning.