Friday, August 21, 2009

Pasta with Easy Summer Sauce

After eating rich French foods (I served the ratatouille with a hollandaise type sauce and chicken sauteed in butter) and lots and lots of chicken (the afore mentioned plus barbecue chicken and rotisserie chicken) for several days, I was in need of some simpler, lighter meals. One night we had the Nicoise Salad again (which I still LOVE!!). Last night, I wanted pasta and rediscovered this recipe.

I thought it was fabulous and Curtis liked it pretty well too. M and J wouldn't eat it. I think the raw red onions had a little too much "bite" for them. Next time I make it, I will leave the red onions and I suspect they will eat this just fine. This follows the Nicoise Salad well because any unused (uncooked) green beans and black olives from that dish are used in this dish. Yet it's different enough you don't feel like you are eating the same meal two days in a row. This recipe will serve 4 - 6.

Pasta with Easy Summer Sauce
either from a Moosewood Cookbook or Cooking Light Magazine...

2 c cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 c fresh parsley, minced
2 T fresh basil, micned
1/2 c red onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c black olives, chopped
1 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
2 t balsamic vinegar
1 lb farfalle (or other chunky pasta--I used fusilli)
2 c green beans, cut into 2" pieces
1/2 c feta cheese, crumbled

Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling water for 2 - 3 minutes (just long enough for the water to return to a boil). Add the green beans to the pasta and cook 8 - 10 minutes, until the pasta is al dente and the green beans are tender. Drain well.

While the pasta and beans cook, combine the tomatoes, parsley, basil, red onions, oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar in a large pasta bowl. Add the cooked pasta and green beans to the bowl with the seasoned tomatoes. Sprinkle the feta cheese over top (and gently toss everything together if you would like...I didn't). Serve hot or at room temperature

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Julia Child's Ratatouille

I think for every cook inundated with eggplant and zucchini there is a unique ratatouille recipe. I decided to give Julia Child's recipe a try, but with a few changes. I cut the recipe in half because I knew it would just be Curtis and I eating it. I also had to finish it in the oven instead of the stove because I had no casserole dishes that can also go stove top ( for my Christmas a Le Crueset enameled cast iron casserole dish).

As I admitted before, I am on the Julia Child bandwagon. I am learning some different cooking techniques and finding some good recipes. Does this mean I am straying away from the whole local thing? Absolutely not. In my opinion, most other ethnic (as in other than "American"-- French being ethnic as well) recipes do a much better job of incorporating local, in season ingredients than we do. To quote Julia Child in Mastering the Art of French Cooking "Any fine, fresh vegetable in season will taste just as good in America or anywhere else if the French vegetable-cooking techniques are used." (bold is my emphasis). She, like most chefs and good cooks, recognized seasonal, local vegetables (and fruit) make the best tasting food. My Julia Child bandwagon is just a way of increasing my collection of recipes and the repertoire of skills.

As far as the results (the picture is the before cooking picture). Curtis and I loved it. It had the seemingly silly technique of patting each piece of sliced vegetable dry before frying, but from what I understand, that step is what allows any cooked food (meat, vegetable, whatever) to brown. So, I did it and the vegetables looked beautiful. I think I like almost any's just a great side dish. I am listing the proportions for a full recipe.

adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

1 lb eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into 3/8" slices, 3" long, and 1" wide
1 lb zucchini, cut similarly to eggplant
1 t salt
4 T olive oil (or more, if needed)
1/2 lb (1 1/2 c) thinly sliced yellow onions
2 (1 c) sliced bell peppers
2 - 3 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and juiced**
3 T parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Place eggplant and zucchini a bowl and toss with 1 t salt. Let stand for 30 minutes (to drain the liquid from the vegetables). Drain and dry each slice with a towel. One layer at a time, saute the eggplant and then zucchini in hot olive oil (4 T) for about a minute on each side to brown lightly. Remove to side dish. Cook the onions and peppers slowly in the olive oil from about 10 minutes or until tender, but not browned. Stir in the garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste. Slice the tomatoes into 3/8" strips. Lay them over the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until tomatoes have released their juices. Uncover, baste the tomatoes with the juices, raise the heat, and boil for several minutes, until the juice has almost entirely evaporated.

Place 1/3 of the tomato mixture in the bottom of casserole dish (2 1/2 quart) and sprinkle over it 1 T parsley. Arrange 1/2 the eggplant and zucchini on top, then the half the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini, and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Cover the casserole and bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 10 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to 375 degrees and cook, uncovered, for 15 - 30 minutes, until juices have mostly evaporated. Serve hot or set aside and reheat (or even serve cold) slowly just before serving.

**To deal with tomatoes, drop in boiling water for 10 or so seconds, remove, and the skin will slip right off. Cut the tomato in half when it is cool enough to handle and gently squeeze out the seeds (and some juice as well). The process is much easier than it initially sounds.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pissaladiere Nicoise

On Saturday, I did something I would recommend strongly for others to avoid doing. I made four dishes for the very first time. To top it off, they were all out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I decided to attempt to make an entirely Julia Child meal to celebrate her birthday. We had tried to invite friends over, but they weren't available and for that I was thankful. By the time I was done cooking, I was exhausted. I never finished making the chicken (the hollandaise type sauce never got made).

Everything was fabulous though and I learned a lot (like only attempt one new dish for a meal), found a killer pie crust recipe, made a cake that is divine, and discovered that a tart made out of onions, anchovies, and black olives is actually really good. (I can imagine my redheaded cousin cringing as he reads that last sentence because I am sure that breaks so many of his food rules!).

The tart isn't a main course, but more like an appetizer or a side. Because the onions are slowly cooked for an hour, they are very tender, mild, and slightly sweet. The anchovies and olives provide nice flavor to an otherwise uniform tasting tart. I will definitely make this again, especially when my onion basket is overflowing like it currently is (one medium sized bag of onions is way more than I can use in a week). The most time consuming, hands on part of this is chopping the onions. However, if you want practice chopping onions, this recipe is the perfect recipe to attempt it. I feel like I am much quicker at it now than I was three days ago!

Pissaladiere Nicoise
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

one 9" pie crust, put inside a tart pan**
2 lbs onions, chopped
4 T olive oil
1 medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley springs, 1/4 t fresh thyme, 11/2 bay leaf tied in a washed cheesecloth
2 cloves unpeeled garlic
1/2 t salt
1 pinch of cloves
1/8 t pepper
8 - 12 canned anchovy fillets
16 pitted black (Nicoise is preferable) olives
1 T olive oil

Cook the onions very slowly in the olive oil with the herb bouquet, unpeeled garlic, and salt for about an hour, or until very tender. Discard herb bouquet and garlic. Stir in cloves and pepper, and taste carefully for seasoning. Meanwhile, in a 400 degrees preheated oven, partially bake pie crust for 8 minutes. Be sure to line the pie crust with foil and weight down with pie weights, dried rice, or dried beans to let pie crust hold it's shape and not puff. Remove crust from oven, remove foil and discard, and prick pie crust with fork. Spread the onions in the pastry shell. Arrange anchovy fillets over it in a fan-shaped design. Place the olives at decorative intervals. Drizzle on the oil. Bake in the upper third of a preheated 400 degrees oven for 10 - 15 minutes or until bubbling hot. Remove tart from pan and serve.

**For what I think is the perfect pie crust, check out Julia Child's pastry shell recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I am not going to attempt to put it here, because it is very detailed and has some awesome illustrations. Go ahead, reserve and check out the cookbook at the Public Library, don't be scared of Julia any longer!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Shortcut Moussaka

This dish brought on a debate about food between Curtis and I. Curtis was sure moussaka had mashed potatoes. I thought very otherwise. I looked up moussaka on wikipedia and learned all sorts of interesting things about moussaka (it traditionally doesn't have any sort of potatoes) and Greek cuisine (such as the name of the Father of Greek chefs whose name is now synonymous with cookbook). Authentic moussaka would contain lamb instead of beef, but I have a quarter cow in my freezer, so beef it is!

We all loved this. I was worried about what it was going to taste like because I was cooking under much duress--two children crying at all times (which two alternated) or screaming at each other as loud as they could (this is why I have no process pictures.....ever). By the time we sat down and ate, finally, we all gobbled up the meal. I halved it because the recipe serves 12, but splitting 3 eggs in half is always a little tricky (I used 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk). I also used a 6 oz can of tomato paste plus 1/2 c of water instead of the tomato sauce (I didn't think I had any sauce). Another great way to eat eggplant.

Shortcut Moussaka
from Bon Appetit
serves 12

1/4 c olive oil
2 lbs ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
3/4 c dry red wine
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 t dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 c butter
1/4 c flour
2 c milk
3 eggs
1 c Parmesan cheese, grated

1 lg eggplant (about 1 1/2 lbs), peeled and sliced into thin rounds

In a large saucepan over medium high heat, heat olive oil and add ground beef and chopped onion. Cook until beef is browned. Mix in tomato sauce, red wine, parsley, oregano, and cinnamon. Simmer until mixture thickens and is almost dry, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir constantly 1 minute. Gradually add milk, whisking until smooth. Boil until thick, stirring almost constantly. Beat eggs in a small, heatproof bowl. Whisk small amount of milk into eggs. Pour egg mixture into saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking almost constantly. Remove custard from heat. Stir in 1/2 c Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange half of eggplant in buttered 9 x 13" baking pan. Season with salt and pepper. Spread meat mixture over. Top with remaining eggplant. Pour hot custard cheese sauce over eggplant. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 c Parmesan. Cover loosely with foil and bake in preheated 350 degrees oven for 1 hour. Uncover and continue baking until golden and bubbling on the edges, about 10 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving to allow to set up.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Salade Nicoise

Happy Birthday Julia Child!! To celebrate, find some old episodes of the French Chef from PBS and learn the difference between the types of chickens. (Man, could she ever throw around a chicken. Curtis and I laughed so hard at the chicken episode a couple of weeks ago...). Then, once you've been motivated, make this Salade Nicoise for dinner. It's not too complicated and a wonderful summer salad. It features summer vegetables--tomatoes, potatoes, green beans--and is very refreshing on a hot summer's day. For the kids, put the toppings on a plate on the side if they won't eat lettuce. M and J had a wonderful meal of deviled eggs, tomatoes, black olives, tuna, green beans, and potato salad. (a picture of their plate is included)

The most time consuming aspect is blending the oil into the dressings. This needs to be done very slowly (either a very slow stream or in droplets) so the oil emulsifies and creates a creamy dressing that doesn't quickly separate. Before putting the salad together, have the eggs hard boiled, potato salad made, and green beans blanched. Then the salad goes together in a snap. (You could even do these things hours before you were going to serve the salad). Don't be scared of the anchovies. The saltiness adds a nice flavor to the salad. I chopped the anchovies so they weren't too overwhelming (especially since I am just starting to cook with anchovies).

This recipe serves 6 - 8 people---however, as a meal, Curtis and I ate half a recipe all by ourselves.

Salade Nicoise
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

French Potato Salad
1 lb boiling potatoes
2 T dry white wine
1 T wine vinegar
1/2 t prepared mustard
dash of salt
3 T olive oil
1 T parsley, chopped

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water to cover, and boil until the potatoes are jsut tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into slices 1/8" thick. Place in mixing bowl. Pour wine over warm potato slices and toss very gently. Set aside a few minutes until the potatoes have absorbed the liquids. Beat the vinegar, mustard, and salt in a small bowl until the salt has dissolved. Beat in the oil by droplets. Season to taste. Pour dressing over potatoes and gently toss to blend. Sprinkle parsley over top. Yields 3 cups.

French Dressing
4 T (1/4 c) wine vinegar (or a mixture of white vinegar and lemon juice)
dash of salt
12 T (3/4 c) olive oil

Beat the vinegar in a bowl with the salt until the salt is dissolved. Beat in the oil by droplets and season with pepper. (Alternatively, place all ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds to blend thoroughly. This method worked great for me). Yields 1 c

The Salad
3 c cold, blanched green beans
3 or 4 quartered tomatoes
1 c French Dressing (see above)
1 head Boston Lettuce (I actually used mixed spring greens--I am not sure how much)
3 c cold French Potato Salad (see above)
1 c canned tuna chunks, drained
1/2 c pitted black olives (preferably Nicoise olives)
2 - 3 hard boiled eggs, cold, peeled and quartered
6 - 12 canned anchovy fillets, drained
2 - 3 T fresh green herbs (thyme, parsley, etc), minced

Just before serving, season the beans and tomatoes with several spoonfuls of vinaigrette. Toss the lettuce leaves in a salad bowl with 1/4 c vinaigrette and place the leaves around the edge of the bowl. Arrange the potatoes in the bottom of the bowl. Decorate with the beans and tomatoes, interspersing them with a design of tuna chunks, olives, eggs, and anchovies. Pour the remaining dressing over the salad, sprinkle with herbs, and serve.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Porcupine Balls

My husband and I have a deal. One night a week we each get an evening off. That means one night a week I find something to cook that I think the kids will love and Curtis won't be too sad about missing (as in, I don't cook his favorite meals or meals I know kids will hate). This week's meal was porcupine balls, a favorite of mine growing up, partly because I loved the name. My kids love meatballs so I thought this would be a hit. Did I mention these are super easy? I served these with peas and applesauce.

I overestimated M apparently. I am going to blame it on her current mood (I am convinced the body snatchers have replaced my daughter with a freaked out, moody version). She refused to eat it because it had finely chopped up onions. J, on the other hand, absolutely loved it and ate 1 1/2 meatballs (the meatballs are larger than golf ball sized). Curtis also liked them when he had them for leftovers. I did change the recipe a little in order to let them bake while we went to the pool. It worked out just fine.

Porcupine Balls
from Mennonite Country-Style Recipes

1 lb hamburger
1 1/2 c bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1 c milk
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 t chili powder, optional
1 t salt
1/4 c uncooked rice
1 1/2 c tomato juice
2 t sugar

Mix together hamburger, bread crumbs, egg, milk, onion, chili powder, salt, and rice. Shape into 8 balls. Place in 9 x 13" casserole dish. Pour 1/3 c water in the bottom. Gently pour tomato juice over balls. Sprinkle sugar over juice. Bake in preheated 350 degrees oven for 60 - 75 minutes or put balls in a skillet and simmer, tightly covered, on the stovetop for 45 minutes. You know they are finished when the rice is tender.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Granola Bars

This is the second recipe I've tried for granola bars and I think it is a keeper. Everyone loved them and consequently, they went rather fast.

Granola Bars
adapted from Alton Brown and the Food Network

2 c rolled oats
1/2 c raw sunflower seeds
1 c sliced almonds
1/2 c wheat germ
1/2 c honey
1/4 c packed brown sugar
1/2 T unsalted butter
2 t vanilla
1/2 t salt
6 1/2 oz dried fruit (I used dried cherries...mmmm...but anything will do)

Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds and wheat germ onto a jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with sides). Place in preheated 350 degrees oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, combine the honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has dissolved. Once the oats, et al, are done, add the oat mixture to the liquids. Decrease the oven temp to 300 degrees. Add the dried fruit to the oat mixture. Press mixture into a buttered 9 x 9" baking pan. Bake at 300 degrees oven for 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches

I remember eating pimiento cheese sandwiches in the cafeteria during elementary school. The sandwiches I remember were neon orange and always served with tomato soup. They were nasty. Always, always, someone threw up on pimiento cheese and tomato soup day (I am not kidding--I remember!).

These sandwiches taste nothing like that. They shouldn't even share a name with the sad, excuse for a sandwich we were served. These are great, especially when prepared like a grilled cheese sandwich when everything gets all melty and gooey. The original recipe recommends putting bacon and fresh tomato slices on the sandwich as well. I didn't do that, but I can imagine it would be divine.

I don't know what my family members think of these. I haven't shared. These have been my own personal lunch this week, except for one bite I had to share with J whose begging I couldn't resist. His response was Mmmm. I didn't offer him a second bite. I wanted to keep my sandwich.

Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches
from Bon Appetit

2 c coarsely grated sharp Cheddar cheese (a combination of white and yellow cheddar is recommended, I didn't have both so I just used yellow).
1/2 c drained pimientos, finely chopped
1/4 c mayonnaise
whole wheat bread

Mix cheese, pimientos, and mayonnaise in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Butter one side of two pieces of whole wheat bread. Put bread butter side down on a frying pan or griddle. Top with a liberal layer of pimiento cheese. Put other piece of bread, butter side up, on top. Grill until bread is browned and cheese is melted, flipping once.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sicilian Stir Fry

I was craving some stir fry yesterday. The thought of a nice dark sesame beef and broccoli stir fry made me happy. However, it is over 100 degrees out (again and again and again) and no sight of fresh broccoli to be found anywhere. Thus I thought of the recipe for Sicilian Stir Fry--a recipe using lots of summer vegetables and not as heavy as a dark sesame sauce.

Like many stir-fry's, you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Add green beans or asparagus if you have want more green. Just have 5 - 6 c of raw vegetables to put in. I didn't have the celery or fennel and left that out. I can just imagine that ingredient would have made everything even more tasty. The combination of ingredients reminds me a little of caponata.

We all enjoyed it. Curtis and I ate all the veggies. J and M didn't eat the eggplant, onions, or peppers, but they did eat the tomatoes, squash, and mushrooms. It's pretty quick and easy summer meal. The most time intensive part was chopping the vegetables, the rest went quickly. I had all my ingredients in little bowls before hand so when I started cooking, I could be like a TV food show host---just dumping little bowls of food into the skillet. I think cooking is so much more fun that way!

Sicilian Stir-Fry
adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

1 T olive oil
1 c sliced onions
1/2 c celery or fennel, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c sliced mushrooms
1 c sliced zucchini or summer squash
1/2 c sliced bell peppers
1 c diced eggplant
1/2 t fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 t salt
2 T dry red wine
1 c fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 T fresh basil, chopped
1 T capers
1/2 lb chunky pasta such as farfalle

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet on med-high heat. Add onions and cook 2 - 3 minutes. Add celery, garlic, and eggplant and stir-fry for 4 minutes (but do not brown). Add mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers, rosemary and salt and continue to stir-fry 2 -3 minutes. Stir in red wine, tomatoes, basil, and capers. Continue to stir fry another couple of minutes until every things hot and vegetables have released their juices. Serve over hot pasta and top with grated Parmesan if desired.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gratin de Pommes de Terre et Saucisson

I don't even pretend to pronounce the name of this dish. I just whip out my fake Texas accent and say we're have Potato, Onion, and Sausage Gratin for supper. As you probably can figure out, this was another recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I think I am finding all the easy recipes. :)

We all enjoyed it. Despite Julia instructing us not to, I think next time I make this I will try substituting milk for cream to cut down a little bit on the calories/fat. The filling was very, very light and the consistency was wonderful, which I suspect will change with milk. I probably didn't use the sausage she had in mind either (she suggested Kielbasa/Polish sausage). I had philly cheesesteak sausage on hand, so that's what I used (and man was it yummy!).

Gratin de Pommes de Terre et Saucisson

from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

2/3 c onions, minced
2 T butter
1/2 lb raw potatoes, thinly sliced
1 sausage (about 4- 6 oz)
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c whipping cream
1/2 t salt
1/4 c Swiss cheese, grated

Cook the onions slowly in butter for 5 minutes or until tender, but not browned. Meanwhile, cook the sausage (grill or in pan) and slice once cooked. Drop potatoes in boiling water and cook for 6 minutes or until just tender. Drain. Butter the bottom of a 9" pie plate. Spread half of the potatoes on the bottom, then half of the cooked onions. Over them spread the sausage, then the rest of the onions, and finally the remaining potatoes. Beat the eggs, cream, and salt together. Pour over teh potatoes and shake the dish to send liquid to the bottom. Spread on the cheese. Bake for 40 minutes in a preheated 375 degrees oven on a rack in the upper third of the oven, until top is nicely browned.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cherry Clafouti

Clafouti is just plain fun to say (it's one of those strange French words that is actually pronounced like it is spelled). I had never heard of it before I found it in my new Julia Child cookbook--Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Yes, I jumped on the bandwagon thanks to the hype of the new movie coming out. I decided it was time to try Julia Child--I've done other recipes, now I wanted to try the master's.

I found cherries on sale for 88¢ a pound this week and looked for a recipe that used cherries. Cherry clafouti looked simple enough (Julia Child translated clafouti to be flan---it reminded me a lot of a flan or simple baked custard). I cooked it in my black skillet because it was the only pan I knew I could use on both the stove and the oven.

The recipe was great! Everyone loved it and it was simple--the most time consuming part was pitting the cherries. I love pitting cherries. There is just something about seeing streaks of bright red cherry juice spreading across the counter that makes me happy. Next year, when there are cheap cherries again (meaning somewhere they are in peak season), I will definitely make this again.

from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

3 c pitted black cherries (about 2 lbs)
1 1/4 c milk
2/3 c sugar
3 eggs
1 T vanilla
1/8 t salt
1/2 c flour

powdered sugar to sprinkle on top (optional)

Place the milk, 1/3 c sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour in the order listed into a food processor or blender. Cover and process for 1 minute (at top speed). Pour 1/4" layer of batter in 7- 8 c lightly buttered baking dish (I used my cast iron skillet). Set on stove on moderate heat for a minute or two until a film of batter has set in the bottom of the dish. Remove from heat. Spread the cherries over the batter and sprinkle remaining 1/3 c sugar over top. Pour the rest of the batter and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon. Place in the middle of a preheated oven and bake for about an hour (mine took closer to 45 minutes). The clafouti is done when it has puffed and browned and a knife plunged into the center comes out clean. Sprinkle top of clafouti with powdered sugar just before bringing to the table. Serve hot or warm (but not cool).

Monday, August 3, 2009

Whole Wheat Bread

The other day, I needed bread. I decided it was easier to make homemade bread than to load up and coral three children through a grocery store on not a good's night sleep (and thus, not much patience). In the process, I think I may have finally found my whole wheat bread recipe. (By the way--This is not a 100% whole wheat bread recipe, but a mixture of white flour and whole wheat flour.) I have tried a variety of recipes over the past few years, but haven't been convinced to repeat any of them. This one I liked. The texture was good---not too dense, but with dense enough to support jam. The flavor was great. It is nice to finally have that "go to" whole wheat bread recipe that was missing from my collection.

I did use bread flour for this--we somehow ended up with 3 partially opened and 1 unopened bag of bread flour in our pantry and I wanted to start using it up. It worked just fine.

Whole Wheat Bread
from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

3 - 3 1/2 all purpose flour
1 pkg (1 T) active dry yeast
1 3/4 c water
1/3 c brown sugar
2 T butter
1 1/4 t salt
2 c whole wheat flour

Combine 2 c of all purpose flour and the yeast. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat water, sugar, butter, and salt just until warm (you should still be able to comfortably put your finger in the mixture--hotter than that and you will kill the yeast--120 - 140 degrees F) and the butter is melted. Add water mixture to flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in whole wheat flour and as much of remaining all-purpose flour as possible.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 6- 8 minutes, adding enough additional flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Shape into a bowl and place in a lightly greased bowl, turning ball to grease surface. Cover and let rise until doubled in size (1 - 1 1/2 hours). Punch down dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and divide in half. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape halves in loafs and place in lightly greased 8 x 4 x 2" loaf pans. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled in size, about 30 - 45 minutes. Bake in preheated 375 degrees oven for 35 - 40 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove bread from pans and cool on wire racks.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tuscan Panzanella

This is one of those recipes that can occasionally frustrate me--more than anything because it calls for mixed greens, asparagus, tomatoes, and zucchini. In what area (except maybe California) can you find all of those things in season at the same time? I went for it this time though because I love the recipe and I've been off the local wagon a little more lately.

It's a good recipe. Curtis and I really enjoyed it, as did our guests. The garlic parmesan dressing was great. I think I'll try the process differently next time....maybe add the olive oil last instead of the milk. The dressing separated quickly and the oil wasn't emulsified, so I would like to try adding it very slowly at the end, like in mayonnaise, instead of at the beginning. I grilled the vegetables and bread, but you the original recipe calls for them to be roasted in a 450 degrees oven.

Tuscan Panzanella
from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook

Creamy Garlic Parmesan Dressing
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 c cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 t ground black pepper
1 t salt
1/2 c whole or 2% milk

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4" thick slices
1 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1/4" thick slices
2 large bell pepper, halved and seeded (assorted colors are nice)
1 T olive oil
12 - 16 fresh asparagus, stemmed and cut into 2" pieces
2 c tomatoes, chopped
8 c mixed field greens
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
salt and black pepper to taste
2 t minced fresh basil, parsley, or thyme
1 large loaf of crusty French or Italian bread

Combine the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor, adding the milk last while you puree or process. Whirl for 30 - 45 seconds, until the dressing is the consistency of a light mayonnaise. Set aside.

Lightly brush the zucchini and squash slices and bell pepper halves with olive oil. Place bell pepper halves, zucchini, and squash on preheated grill. Roast until bell pepper halves are charred on the skin side and zucchini and squash are beginning to brown and are tender. Place roasted bell pepper halves in a covered bowl or plastic bag for 10 minutes to steam. Meanwhile, blanch the asparagus for 2 minutes in a boiling pan of water. Drain and plunge into cold water to cool. Drain again and set aside. Place the tomatoes and greens in a serving bowl. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and herb and set aside.

Peel the charred skin off the peppers and cut them into 2 inch pieces. Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise and place on hot grill for 5 - 10 minutes to crisp. Add the vegetables to the bowl of tomatoes and greens. Just before serving, toss the salad with reserved oil and vinegar mixture. Cut the bread into 1" cubes and add them to the salad. Serve with a generous spoonful of the creamy garlic parmesan dressing.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Smashed Potatoes

This recipe reminds me a lot of Tostones--the twice fried plantain dish common in Puerto Rico and Cuba. Instead of frying the potatoes, they are first cooked to soften, and then grilled to add crunch. The potatoes were good. Be sure to use small potatoes. I learned that using larger potatoes and cutting them in half didn't work very well--the potatoes tended to break apart, making grilling quite difficult. These were good as they were, but would have been even better with some Parmesan or Asiago cheese grated over top while they were right off the grill. Make as many potatoes as you have. According to the original recipe, 16 small potatoes will yield 8 servings

Smashed Potatoes
from Bon Appetit

16 small red-skinned and/or white skinned potatoes (about 2 inches in diameter or less)
olive oil
fresh rosemary leaves

Cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just tender, about 25 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to a kitchen towel. Cool potatoes to lukewarm, about 20 minutes. Using another towel, gently press each potato until split open and flattened to a scant 1" thickness (taking care not press too hard and break potatoes apart). Brush large baking sheet with oil. Transfer potatoes to prepared sheet. Brush potato tops with oil; sprinkle with salt, pepper, and some rosemary leaves. (Can do this step 2 hours ahead and let stand room temperature). Prepare grill (medium-high heat) and place potatoes, oiled side down, on grill. Brush with oil. Cook until crisp and beginning to color, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to platter, sprinkle with cheese and more rosemary leaves. Serve hot.