Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bourbon Bread

One of things I’m enjoying most about my new kitchen is the counter space on the island where I can work with dough. First, there’s plenty of room to knead and divide and roll dough. And, second, the smooth Silestone surface makes working with dough easier than ever. I use less flour than I did in the past because it’s so smooth. So, I was delighted to peruse all the bread recipes in the book Bien Cuit, by Zachary Golper and Peter Kaminsky, of which I received a review copy. After reading it, I wondered if I could take a hiatus from work and all other time commitments and just bake bread until I had tried everything in the book. Bien cuit, or “well done,” refers to a dark, lovely crust that’s not burnt but completely browned. It brings flavor and texture to a loaf. I became a quick fan of the book because all of the breads are made with a starter or pre-ferment. Not all of the starters are sourdough, some are made with commercial yeast, but they all involve stages of long, slow fermentation for flavor development. That’s how I love making bread. There are classic loaves and styles and also some reinterpretations and new inventions. The Portuguese Corn Bread, or broa de milho, is made with a cornmeal and rye starter and is baked into a pretty, round loaf. The Ciabatta, one of my favorite breads, is made a little differently than other recipes I’ve tried. It’s made with a yeast starter, and the completed dough is left to rest in the refrigerator overnight. I have to try it soon. There are variations on sourdough loaves and a Sourdough Rye Bread I’d like to try. Then, there’s a chapter just for rolls. Toasted Oatmeal Rolls, Late-Harvest Carrot Rolls with roasted carrots and carrot juice, Port and Fig Rolls, Kaiser Rolls, Sun-Dried Tomato Mini Baguettes, and all the others are calling my name. The Quick Breads chapter includes biscuits and scones, and the method for scone making involving layering the dough and baking the scones cut side up was very intriguing. And last, there’s a chapter with instructions and photos showing each and every step needed to create these recipes. I so wish I could just bake from page to page until I’ve tried everything. But, alas, I’ll have to work my way through the book when time allows. I started with the Bourbon Bread because I’d never seen anything like it. It’s a yeast-raised, cornmeal and flour bread made with bourbon in place of some of the water in the dough. 

As with all the breads here, you’ll need to plan ahead. This bread was started two days before it was baked. The starter was made with cornmeal, white flour, instant yeast, and water. It was mixed and left at room temperature for about 12 hours. The dough was made by combining the starter with water to loosen it from its bowl and then mixing it with more water and bourbon. A mixture of flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and yeast was added to the starter and water. The dough was mixed with a spoon and then folded repeatedly with a bowl scraper to incorporate all the ingredients. Then, the dough was rolled and tucked by hand and left to rest. During the next two hours, the dough was stretched and folded four times. During the third stretching, butter was spread over the surface of the dough before it was rolled up and left to rest before the fourth fold. To form loaves, the dough was divided into two parts, each part was shaped into a tube with slightly pointed ends, and the loaves were deeply cut with crossing lines to form diamond shapes. The shaped loaves were transferred to a flour-dusted, towel-lined baking sheet with the cut sides down, and they were refrigerated for 16 to 22 hours. The next day, they were baked on a baking stone with steam. I’ve mentioned before that every bread book I read includes a different technique for creating steam in a home oven. The technique suggested here is the cast iron pan with ice in the bottom of the oven approach which is easier than opening the oven repeatedly to spritz with a spray bottle. The loaves baked for about 28 minutes. 

The bourbon and cornmeal make this a fragrant, sweet-smelling bread. The crumb is tender inside the crunchy crown of a crust. In the head note, Kentucky ham is suggested as a perfect pairing with this bread, and that makes sense. I went with smoked chicken and blue cheese and can report they make an excellent accompaniment as well. I don’t think I’ll be making room on a shelf for this book just yet. I have lots more baking to do first. 

Bourbon Bread
Excerpted from Bien Cuit by Zachary Golper and Peter Kaminsky. Copyright © 2015 by Zachary Gopler. Excerpted with permission by Regan Arts. 

makes 2 medium loaves 

I am very excited about this bread, in part because I think bourbon is one of the most elegant beverages. It is simultaneously sweet and bitter, smoky and smooth, and graced with the subtle vanilla notes of oak. Because bourbon is a corn-based whiskey, I include corn in the bread—both in the starter and the dough. I had thought it was a nice accompaniment to a vegetable course or salad. Then Peter served it with a slice of Kentucky ham (which, like bourbon, is one of the glories of the Bluegrass State). It was off the charts! The only thing missing was a mint julep. My one caution in regard to baking with bourbon (or any whiskey) is that it has a bitter component that can overpower, so don’t be tempted to put in a touch extra for good measure. The choice of bourbon is up to you. Common wisdom is that when cooking with wine, it’s best to use a wine you would like to drink. The same holds true for baking with whiskey. My choice here is Ezra Brooks because it’s pretty mellow, not overpowering, and not super expensive. 

STARTER 
200 grams (1 c + 3 tbsp) medium-grind cornmeal 
100 grams (1/2 c + 3 1/2 tbsp) white flour 
0.2 gram (pinch) instant yeast 
260 grams (1 c + 1 1/2 tbsp) water at about 60°F (15°C) 

DOUGH 
380 grams (2 1/2 c + 3 tbsp) white flour, plus additional as needed for working with the dough 
120 grams (3/4 c) medium-grind cornmeal 
30 grams (2 1/2 tbsp) granulated sugar 
15 grams (2 1/2 tsp) fine sea salt 
1 gram (generous 1/4 tsp) instant yeast 
150 grams (1/2 c + 2 tbsp) water at about 60°F (15°C) 
60 grams (1/4 c) bourbon 
 25 grams (1 3/4 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature 

FOR THE STARTER 
1 Stir together the cornmeal and white flour in a medium storage container. Sprinkle the yeast into the water, stir to mix, and pour over the cornmeal mixture. Mix with your fingers, pressing the mixture into the sides, bottom, and corners until all of the flour is wet and fully incorporated. Cover the container and let sit at room temperature for 10 to 14 hours. The starter will be at its peak at around 12 hours. 

FOR THE DOUGH 
1 Stir together the white flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl. 

2 Pour about one-third of the water around the edges of the starter to release it from the sides of the container. Transfer the starter and water to an extra-large bowl along with the remaining water and the bourbon. Using a wooden spoon, break the starter up to distribute it in the liquid. 

3 Add the flour mixture, reserving about one-sixth of it along the edge of the bowl. Continue to mix with the spoon until most of the dry ingredients have been combined with the starter mixture. Switch to a plastic bowl scraper and continue to mix until incorporated. At this point the dough will be just slightly sticky to the touch. 

4 Push the dough to one side of the bowl. Roll and tuck the dough, adding the reserved flour mixture and a small amount of additional flour to the bowl and your hands as needed. Continue rolling and tucking until the dough feels stronger and begins to resist any further rolling, about 8 times. Then, with cupped hands, tuck the sides under toward the center. Place the dough, seam-side down, in a clean bowl, cover the top of the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. 

5 For the first stretch and fold, lightly dust the work surface and your hands with flour. Using the plastic bowl scraper, release the dough from the bowl and set it, seam-side down, on the work surface. Gently stretch it into a roughly rectangular shape. Fold the dough in thirds from top to bottom and then from left to right. With cupped hands, tuck the sides under toward the center. Place the dough in the bowl, seam-side down, cover the bowl with the towel, and let rest for 30 minutes. 

6 For the second stretch and fold, repeat the steps for the first stretch and fold, then return the dough to the bowl, cover with the towel, and let rest for 30 minutes. 

7 For the third stretch and fold, gently stretch the dough into a rectangle. Pinch the butter into pieces, distributing them over the top of the dough. Using your fingers or a spatula, spread the butter across the surface of the dough. Roll up the dough tightly from the end closest to you; at the end of the roll the dough will be seam-side down. Turn it over, seam-side up, and gently press on the seam to flatten the dough slightly. Fold in thirds from left to right and then do 4 or 5 roll and tuck sequences to incorporate the butter. Turn the dough seam-side down and tuck the sides under toward the center. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with the towel, and let rest for 30 minutes. 

8 For the fourth and final stretch and fold, repeat the steps for the first stretch and fold, then return the dough to the bowl, cover with the towel, and let rest for 20 minutes. 

9 Line a half sheet pan with a linen liner and dust fairly generously with the dusting mixture. 

10 Lightly dust the work surface and your hands with flour. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Press each into a 7-inch (18 cm) square, then roll into a loose tube about 7 inches (18 cm) long. Let rest for 5 minutes. Press each piece out and then shape into a very tight tube 9 to 10 inches (23 to 25 cm) long. Using a bench scraper, make 3 to 5 cuts on the diagonal down the loaf. Then, make 3 to 5 cuts in the opposite direction, crossing the first set of cuts, to make diamonds. 

11 Transfer to the lined pan, cut-side down, positioning the loaves lengthwise. Dust the top and sides of the dough with flour. Fold the linen to create support walls on both sides of each loaf, then fold any extra length of the linen liner over the top or cover with a kitchen towel. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill for 16 to 22 hours. 

12 Set up the oven with a baking stone and a cast-iron skillet for steam, then preheat the oven to 480°F (250°C). 

13 Using the linen liner, lift and gently flip the loaves off the pan and onto a transfer peel cut-side up. Slide the loaves, still cut-side up, onto a dusted baking peel. Working quickly but carefully, transfer the loaves to the stone using heavy-duty oven mitts or potholders. Pull out the hot skillet, add about 3 cups of ice cubes, then slide it back in and close the oven door. Immediately lower the oven temperature to 440°F (225°C). Bake, switching the positions of the loaves about two-thirds of the way through baking, until the surface is a deep, rich brown, with some spots a long the scores being very dark (bien cuit), about 28 minutes. 

14 Using the baking peel, transfer the loaves to a cooling rack. When the bottoms of the loaves are tapped, they should sound hollow. If not, return to the stone and bake for 5 minutes longer. 

15 Let the bread cool completely before slicing and eating, at least 4 hours but preferably 8 to 24 hours. 
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Friday, April 15, 2016

Strawberry Coconut Cake

I’m a believer in cakes for birthdays. A candle in the middle of a brownie or a set into a scoop of ice cream doesn’t work for me. I appreciate all sorts of sweets on other days or for other occasions, but on my birthday, there needs to be cake. Even if I bake it myself as I usually do. And, luckily, I had just read a review copy of Grandbaby Cakes by Jocelyn Delk Adams right before my birthday. I had several new cakes to consider making. Both the book and Jocelyn’s food blog of the same name came about from memories of her grandmother’s made-from-scratch cakes and kitchen lessons. The cakes in the book include options for every level of baker from beginner to experienced, and each one comes with a story about the recipe’s origin. There are basic layer cakes, pound cakes, sheet cakes, baby or mini-size cakes, celebration cakes, and seasonal cakes for holidays. In the Pound Cake chapter, the Apricot Nectar Cake is a recreation of a recipe from the author’s aunt and sounds delicious with the nectar in both the cake and the glaze on top. The Peach-Raspberry Cake has a pretty ombre effect in frosting that changes hue as it moves down the layers. Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is reinterpreted as cupcakes, and they’re decorated with dried pineapple slices that look like flowers. The Mango Swirl Carrot Cake with mango puree added to cream cheese that’s baked into the top of the cake is a carrot cake variation I need to try. A serious contender for my birthday cake was the Strawberry Sundae Cake with the alternating layers of vanilla cake and strawberry ice cream. But, in the end, I chose the Strawberry Coconut Cake with strawberry puree mixed into the vanilla cake layers and shredded coconut covering the cream cheese frosting. 

I’m not sure when it happened but at some point in the last 20 years or so, the standard for layer cakes seems to have become three layers rather than two. For a household of two people, that’s a lot of cake. I almost always reduce the quantities of ingredients and only bake two layers, and that’s what I did here. The cake batter is made with sugar, butter, pureed fresh strawberries, eggs, flour, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and sour cream. Strawberry extract was suggested, but I didn’t locate any at the grocery store and left it out. Red food coloring is also an option, but I skipped that as well. The result was just barely pink cake layers, but the flavor from the fresh berries was the most important part. The frosting was made with cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla extract. I added extra confectioners’ sugar to firm it up a bit. For the coconut flakes, my favorite is the unsweetened kind. The flakes are smaller, but the flavor is all coconut without any extra sweetness. 

This was a rich and tender cake with the butter, oil, and sour cream, and it didn’t stand a chance of being dry even the next day. The strawberry puree gave it great flavor too. Cream cheese frosting is always a winner, and the coconut flakes dressed it up a bit. This was everything I wanted in a birthday cake. And now I want to bake all those other cakes for other occasions too. 

Strawberry Coconut Cake 
Recipe reprinted with permission from Grandbaby Cakes by Jocelyn Delk Adams, Agate Surrey, 2015. 

SERVES 18-22 

Big Mama's Coconut Cake is famous. You may think this is a tall tale, but people would literally line up in front of her home just to get one for the holidays. Her cake’s highlight is a heavenly meringue frosting, which she whips by hand. I adore her classic, just like its legions of fans do, but I had a bit of fun updating it. The cake now has an exciting strawberry flavor; the pink layers burst against a bright white frosting with a tangy cream cheese accent. It is such a fantastic way to liven up a coconut cake recipe that has not only been around the block but looks mighty fine for her age, too. 

CAKE 
2 cups granulated sugar 
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature 
2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled 
3 large eggs, room temperature 
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour 
3 teaspoons baking powder 
1 teaspoon salt 
3/4 cup sour cream, room temperature 
1/3 cup vegetable oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon strawberry extract 
3–4 drops red food coloring (optional) 

COCONUT FROSTING 
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature 
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar 
1 cup heavy cream, cold 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (optional) 
Pinch salt 
3/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes, for garnish 

FOR THE CAKE 
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Liberally prepare 3 9-inch round pans with the nonstick method of your choice. 

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream together the granulated sugar and butter on medium-high speed until nice and fluffy, about 6 minutes. 

Meanwhile, place the strawberries in your food processor and puree until smooth. Set aside. 

With your stand mixer running, add the eggs 1 at a time, combining well after each addition and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Change your mixer speed to medium-low and add the strawberry puree slowly into the batter. Continue mixing while you tend to the dry ingredients. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add 1/2 of the flour mixture to your stand mixer bowl. Continue to mix on low speed to combine. 

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and oil and add to your stand mixer bowl. Pour in the remaining flour mixture and continue to mix on low until well incorporated. Add the vanilla extract, strawberry extract, and food coloring, if using. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix the batter until just combined. Be careful not to overmix. 

Evenly pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 23 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a layer comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire racks. Let cool to room temperature. Lightly cover the layers with foil or plastic wrap so they do not dry out. 

FOR THE COCONUT FROSTING 
Clean your stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment. Beat the cream cheese on high speed until it begins to thicken and become fluffy. 

Turn your mixer down to low speed and carefully add the confectioners’ sugar. Once the sugar is fully incorporated, turn your mixer speed back to high and continue whipping. 

Add the heavy cream; vanilla extract; coconut extract, if using; and salt and continue to mix until a smooth, light, and fluffy frosting is achieved. 

TO ASSEMBLE 
Once the layers are completely cooled, place 1 layer on a serving plate. Spread just the top of the layer with 1/3 of the frosting. Add the second layer and spread with another ⅓ of the frosting. Add the final layer, bottom-side up, and spread with the remaining frosting. Frost the top and the side of the cake. Gently pat the side and the top of the cake with coconut flakes. Serve at room temperature. 

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Black Sesame Noodle Bowl

A book about noodle, rice, and dumpling dishes reconsidered from an entirely vegetarian perspective was something I knew I was going to like. After reading my review copy of Bowl: Vegetarian Recipes for Ramen, Pho, Bibimbap, Dumplings, and Other One-Dish Meals by Lukas Volger, I couldn’t wait to try several things. Dishes like ramen and pho have always presented a stumbling block for me both at restaurants and in cookbooks because although they often include lots of vegetables, the broth is usually red meat-based. Here, at last, is an entire book devoted to making meat-free versions. For the brothy dishes, there are recipes for vegetarian dashi, vegetarian pho broth, and vegetable stock. There’s also a recipe for vegetarian kimchi since it traditionally contains fish sauce or dried shrimp. In fact, there are recipes for every component of the dishes like pickles, flavored oils, chili-garlic sambal, and even homemade ramen noodles. The chapters are organized by type of starch. So, there are wheat noodle bowls, rice noodle and rice bowls, other grains bowls, and dumpling bowls. The Vegetarian Curry Laksa looks delightful with the spicy broth with coconut milk, the fresh green beans and cherry tomatoes, the shredded cabbage, and hard-boiled egg. There are bibimbap versions for every season, and they all include instructions for making a crispy base that mimics the results of the bottom layer of crusted rice when served in a traditional dolsot. The Grilled Vegetable Couscous Bowl with tofu, eggplant, corn, and tomato looks perfect for summer, and I’m looking forward to trying the Black Rice Burrito Bowl with black beans, chiles, lime juice, mango, and avocado. I didn’t mark pages in the dumplings chapter because I want to make them all. Chickpea Potstickers, Kabocha Dumplings, Rich Lentil Dumplings, and all the rest sound delicious. Right away, I set about making the Black Sesame Noodle Bowl because it incorporates radishes, and this is the height of their season. 

Black sesame seeds were toasted in a dry pan and then coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle. After transferring them to a mixing bowl, canola oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, wasabi powder, and salt were whisked into the mixture. Eggs were hard-boiled, and tender greens like spinach leaves, radish leaves, and some pretty mache I found at Boggy Creek Farm were prepped. Soba noodles were cooked, rinsed, and drained. The drained noodles along with some minced shallots were added to the mixing bowl with the sesame mixture. To serve, greens were placed in bowls and topped with the noodles followed by sliced avocado, radishes cut into matchsticks, sliced green onion, shredded hard-boiled egg, and the top was drizzled with a little soy sauce rather than the kecap manis suggested. 

I loved the flavors of the dressed noodles which got even better as the noodles sat. The egg and avocado added richness, and the green onion and radishes made it fresh and spunky. This was quick and easy to prepare, and the leftovers were a treat for lunch the next day. There are so many great ideas in this book, I might need to buy more bowls since I’ll be using them even more often. 

Black Sesame Noodle Bowl
Recipe excerpted with permission from BOWL © 2016 by Lukas Volger. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.  

For this noodle bowl, I took inspiration from Heidi Swanson’s Black Sesame Otsu in Super Natural Every Day, in which a blanket of black sesame seeds is toasted until it smells heady, then pounded with a mortar and pestle and combined with some Asian pantry staples to make a thick, savory, and tangy dressing, here given a bit more punch with wasabi. Like other cold noodle dishes, this is a good dish for packing up, and in my experience has been wonderful on the beach. The shredded egg and wisps of radish incorporate into the noodles, the shallot brings crunch and zing, and the final drizzle of kecap manis—the Indonesian soy sauce— brings the whole bowl together in the most satisfying way. 

SERVES 4 

1/4 cup black sesame seeds 
2 tablespoons neutral-tasting oil 
5 teaspoons soy sauce 
1 tablespoon rice vinegar 
1 tablespoon brown sugar 
1/2 teaspoon wasabi powder 
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt 
3 bundles (about 11.5 ounces) dried soba, udon, or somen noodles 
2 medium shallots, minced 1 avocado 
2 large boiled eggs, firm yolks 
 8 small-to-medium radishes 
4 cups tender greens, such as watercress, upland cress, baby arugula, or tatsoi 
2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced 
Kecap manis (Indonesian soy sauce), for drizzling 

Place the sesame seeds in a dry skillet and set over medium-low heat. Toast, swirling the pan frequently, until fragrant—90 seconds to 2 minutes. Watch and smell carefully so that they don’t burn. Transfer to a mortar and coarsely grind, then transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, wasabi, and salt, and whisk until thoroughly combined. 

Bring a saucepan of salted water to a gentle boil. Add the noodles and cook until tender, usually 4 to 7 minutes or according to the package instructions. Drain, rinse thoroughly under cold running water, then drain again thoroughly. 

Add the noodles and shallots to the bowl with the sauce and toss well, until the noodles are thoroughly coated. At this stage, the noodles can be transferred to an airtight container and kept in the fridge for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving. 

Quarter the avocado around the pit. Remove and peel the segments, then slice into thin strips. Peel the eggs and grate them using the large holes of a box grater. Slice the radishes into thin rounds. Stack the rounds on top of each other and slice into thin matchsticks. 

Divide the greens among four bowls, then top with the dressed noodles. Fan the avocado over the noodles in each bowl, then add a pile of the shredded egg, radishes, and scallions to each serving. Drizzle a bit of kecap manis over the avocado and serve. 

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Poppy Seed Danishes with Cherry-Cream Cheese Filling

One of my favorite things about Easter is choosing a sweet bread or pastry to bake for the occasion. Over the years, I’ve made various coffee cakes and filled, yeasted breads. I’ve made hot cross buns and other sweet rolls. And, this year, I pulled out a recipe that had been waiting in the files for a few years. The recipe for these danishes is from the May 2011 issue of Living magazine. I do love finding a gem like this in the files. Of course, the day couldn’t be about sweets alone even after weeks of Lent with no sugar. I also revisited a quiche recipe I made a couple of years ago and this time served slices of it with roasted asparagus. It’s a tall, grand quiche with a light and fluffy texture. I feel like it deserves a special occasion but would enjoy it on the menu regularly. But, back to the danishes. They were just rich and indulgent enough. The pastry dough is easy to shape, and the cut and folded corners were to make each one look like a flower with curved petals. They’re made with two fillings. First, a cream cheese-poppy seed filling was spread in the center and then a little dollop of cherry preserves was added on top of that. I found some cherry preserves made with apple juice rather than sugar and that helped keep the overall sweetness in check. 

The dough was started with warm milk, butter, and sugar. Yeast, flour, and salt were added, and the dough was mixed with a dough hook in a stand mixer. Eggs were added, one at a time, followed by more flour. After kneading the dough a bit more by hand and forming a ball, it was left to rise for an hour. The first filling was made by mixing room temperature cream cheese with confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. An egg yolk and poppy seeds were added and mixed to combine. The dough was then rolled into a big square and trimmed to 15 inches on each side. That square was cut into nine smaller squares. Each square of dough was then cut with a two-inch line from each corner toward the center. The cream cheese filling was spread on the center of each, a spoonful of cherry preserves was added on top of the filling, and the corners were folded up and into the center of each. The folded dough was brushed with egg wash, and the danishes were baked for about 18 minutes. After cooling for a few minutes, they were drizzled with a confectioners’ sugar glaze. 

The cream cheese filling with the spoonful of cherry preserves made these irresistible. And, the tender pastry dough bakes into a golden, puffy, light, delightful treat. This is going to be a hard one to beat next Easter. I might have to start repeating myself rather than trying something new each year. 


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Mixed Dal, Marwari-Style

Over the last year or two, I’ve been craving Indian food more and more often. When I heard about the new title from Madhur Jaffrey, Vegetarian India: A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking, I was excited to add more Indian dishes to my rotation. By the time I arrived at page 15 of my review copy, I had already marked four recipes I wanted to try immediately. In this book, Jaffrey explores all of India and shares regionally distinct dishes from homes, cafes, and special occasions. I was interested to learn about the tradition of mushroom foraging in Coorg and how those wild mushrooms are cooked over a fire and dressed with chopped green chiles, lime juice, and salt. There’s also an introduction to the Marwari community made up of strict vegetarians with a revered cuisine that makes ample use of ghee. Jaffrey also writes about specific ingredients that she hadn’t included in previous books because they were difficult to find. Now, there are more Indian markets and online sources available to make including these items possible. One of those is poha or flattened rice, and it can be eaten with milk or yogurt or crisped and combined with peas and potatoes. It’s also sometimes made into a risotto-like dish called upma. It was a delight to learn more about this varied cuisine, and it inspired me to do a quick ingredient search at a local Indian market to get me cooking from the book as soon as possible. Two of the pages I marked right away were the one with Cabbage Fritters because of the crispy, frilly-looking patties made with strands of cabbage, chickpea flour, spices, peanuts, cilantro, and curry leaves and the page for Spiced Potato-Ball Fritters. There are also several okra recipes I want to try as soon its season arrives. I love the thought of tangy amchoor powder sprinkled on fried okra. The Eggs in a Hyderabadi Tomato Sauce looks delicious with the spicy sauce of tomato puree and tamarind concentrate. There are appetizers, dals, rice and other grain dishes, breads, chutneys and relishes, and drinks and dessert. First though, I had to try something from the Dals chapter, and I found most of what I needed on my shopping trip. 

The Mixed Dal, Marwari-Style recipe includes four types of dal. I always have chanda dal on hand since I use it often for a different dish. And, I found split urad dal and split mung beans at the Indian grocery store. I wasn’t able to locate plain toovar dal, so I used a little more of each of the other types. The dals were rinsed and then left to soak for a couple of hours. Then, they were drained and placed in a large pot with water and brought to a boil. I took Jaffrey’s advice to place the bay leaves, cloves, and cardamom pods in a piece of cheesecloth and tied it closed. That made it easy to remove after the dal was cooked. Turmeric was also added at the beginning of the cooking time. Once the dal was tender and most of the water had been cooked off, salt was added and the dal was mashed with a potato masher. Last, the dal was flavored with a tarka which in this case was heated ghee with asafetida, cumin seeds, and dried red chile. The spice and ghee mixture was poured over the dal, the pot was covered, and the flavors were left to mingle. Before serving, the dal was stirred and fresh cilantro was added. A yogurt relish was suggested as an accompaniment, and I went with the Fresh Cilantro and Yogurt Chutney. I also made the Puffed Fried Leavened Breads. This thick dal is perfect for scooping onto breads as you eat it. 

I’m still not completely confident about choosing and mixing spices for Indian dishes without a recipe to guide me, but I love learning more all the time. And, dals are becoming a favorite comfort food for me. So, it’s great to have more recipes to try. I’ll definitely be trying more breads from the book too. My only disappointment is that there isn’t a recipe for naan in the book, but there are plenty of others to keep me busy. I predict I’ll be using this book frequently. 

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Shrimp Pot Stickers

A few years have gone by since I first made dumplings from scratch with Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More by Andrea Nguyen. It’s such a great book. The instructions guide you so well through each step of making the dough, portioning, flattening, filling, and shaping. The pot stickers were in the back of my mind since I first read the book. It was one of those recipes that I was a little anxious about and imagined all the ways I could end up with a failure. Would they hold their shape while frying and steaming? Would the dumplings stick to the bottom of the pan and not come loose? Would the texture and thickness of the dough turn out right? I wanted to wait until I was in my new kitchen with plenty of space for rolling and filling lots of dumplings. And so, at last, I gave it a go and couldn’t have been happier with the process. I’ve realized that working with dough and seeing the transformation from mixture to final product, whether dumplings, pastry, or bread, is always fun for me. I haven’t met a dough I didn’t like. The Basic Dumpling Dough used for these is a simple one made with all-purpose flour and just boiled water, and it was easy to roll into little circles to be filled. In the book, the filling is a mixture of pork and shrimp with finely chopped cabbage and seasonings, but I chose to use only shrimp with the cabbage and other ingredients. A vegetarian filling would have been a great option too. 

I started with the dough because it needs to rest after kneading and can sit at room temperature for a couple of hours. Two cups of all-purpose flour were placed in the food processor while water was brought to a boil. Three-quarters of a cup of boiled water was measured and poured into the food processor through the feed tube with the machine running. In a few seconds, the dough formed a ball on the blade and was done. The water cools enough during that time to be able to handle the dough. Next, the dough was kneaded on a work surface until smooth, and then it was placed in a plastic bag to rest. For the filling, I cleaned and chopped some shrimp, finely chopped some savoy cabbage, chopped some homegrown Chinese chives, and minced garlic and ginger. Black pepper, soy sauce, and sesame oil were also included in the mixture. The cabbage was lightly salted and set aside in a colander to drain for 15 minutes before being rinsed, drained, and squeezed to remove moisture. Then, all of those filling ingredients were combined and mashed together. The rested dough was divided in half. One half was portioned into 16 pieces. Each of those was flattened with a tortilla press and then rolled with a small dowel to flatten the edges more until each circle measured about three and one-quarter inch across. A tablespoon of filling was placed on each dough circle, and then they were closed and crimped. I went with the pleated pattern at the top of each dumpling. The filled dumplings were placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and the process was repeated with the second half of the dough. To cook them, two tablespoons of canola oil was added to a large skillet over medium-high heat. The dumplings were set into the hot oil, sealed edges up, and were left to fry for a couple of minutes. The next step is a little scary because water needs to be poured into the skillet with the oil. There’s a great tip in the book for holding the skillet lid close to the top of the pan while pouring the water to prevent it from spattering out too much. One-third cup of water was added, the skillet was covered, and the dumplings steamed until the water mostly bubbled away for about eight minutes. The lid was removed, and the dumplings continued cooking for another minute or two. They were served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chile oil. 

The dumpling dough really was surprisingly easy to work with, and rolling the edges a little thinner made closing and sealing each dumpling a breeze. I followed the suggestion in the book and had a small wood dowel cut to about twelve inches long to use for rolling the little pieces of dough. The end result from the crisp bottoms to the steamed tops turned out great, and there were no problems with them sticking in the pan or falling apart. Now I’m ready to face my fears with another new-to-me dough recipe. 

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Speaking of my new kitchen, here's another look at it now that more details have been completed. The wood on the bar, island front, and kitchen desk side was saved from our old house and whitewashed. 


Monday, March 7, 2016

Black Bean Cakes with Guacamole, Salsa, and Fried Shallots

I love a good cocktail party, of course, for the cocktails themselves but maybe even more for the little servings of food that go so well with a drink. Cocktail party food is always fun food, and that certainly applies to the offerings you’ll find in Mary Guiliani’s new book The Cocktail Party. I received a review copy. She shares stories from her years of catering along with ideas for parties for every season of the year and every time of day. I caught the episode of Barefoot Contessa when she showed Ina how to make her mini grilled cheese sandwiches which is one of her signature party menu items. After cooking, the sandwiches are cut into cute, bite-size, tiny triangles. There are several versions found throughout the book for different themes. The Mini Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese and the Mini Sausage and Egg Grilled Cheese were two of my favorite ideas. Another one of her popular menu items is pigs in a blanket, and there are multiple versions of it as well. I need to find a good chicken or seafood version of a mini sausage to try wrapped in puff pastry. The book is organized by party theme, and there are menus and planning ideas for each of them. In addition to a basic party menu, there are also suggested “Snacktivities” for each party, and these are actually buffet options for guests to build their own snacks. I loved the idea of a Mozzarella Bar with fresh ricotta, burrata, and mozzarella along with breads, and toppings like eggplant caponata, roasted peppers, roasted tomatoes, and olive tapenade. Some other party dishes and tips that caught my eye were Mini Banana Pancakes with chocolate chips for a breakfast party; the bottles of tequila hanging on strings from a tree branch for a tasting event; the deviled egg bar with various spices and toppings for sprinkling on top; and the big bowl of Buddha Punch made with wine, champagne, orange juice, lemon juice, rum, and club soda. In some cases, the photos are styled a little differently than the recipes or ideas are described in the text, but that leads you to more ideas for making your party your own. Also, there are suggestions for which items can be purchased rather than made from scratch to let you decide how much time to spend on each part of an event. The first dish I tried was the mini Black Bean Cakes from the Cinco de Mayo party theme. 

These are little, crispy, vegetarian cakes that can be formed in advanced and cooked just before serving. Optionally, they could be cooked in advance as well and reheated in the oven before serving. The cakes are made by pureeing rinsed and drained black beans in a food processor with salsa, cumin, and coriander. That mixture was transferred to a mixing bowl, and panko breadcrumbs, finely chopped green onions, cilantro, and salt were added. You should consider the texture at this point. The salsa I used was a bit runny, so I added some extra breadcrumbs to bring the mixture together better. Next, a baking sheet was lined with parchment, and little cakes were formed by using a mini ice cream scoop. I flattened out the cakes by hand. The sheet of black bean cakes should be refrigerated for about 30 minutes before cooking to firm them up a bit. They were cooked in olive oil in a big skillet for a few minutes per side. I made some guacamole for topping, and I opted to fry shallot rings rather than garnish with store-bought fried onions. 

At this size, each bean cake worked perfectly as one bite which is just what you want when you have a cocktail in one hand. In the head note in the book, it’s pointed out that these bean cakes would also be great as vegan sliders on mini buns. With all the great ideas I’ve just learned here, I need to get to work on a guest list and pick some dates for parties. 

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