What is that?? Does seeing a salad here blow your mind just a little? Would you be surprised if I told you that I love veggies even more than sweets? My head is positively spinning seeing all things green popping up at the farmers’ market. I am snapping up asparagus while I can, and this raw salad is my favorite new thing to do with it. I know that raw asparagus sounds a little strange, but I have been eating up huge bowlfuls of this stuff all month long.
Take those skinny-minny stalks of raw asparagus, add red onion, sharp pecorino and a quick dressing and you get something super fresh, crisp, and snappy. Not to mention so easy…my only real advice is to use a big cutting board for prep, because otherwise those little coins of asparagus will want to go mobile all over your counter.
Raw Asparagus, Pecorino and Red Onion Salad- makes 6 to 8 servings
from a recipe by Anne Burrell
1 bunch pencil (the skinny stuff) asparagus, tough bottom stems removed
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 cup coarsely grated aged pecorino
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
extra-virgin olive oil
-Cut the asparagus, including the tips into very thin slices, crosswise and place in a medium bowl. Add the red onion and pecorino and toss to combine.
-Dress with the vinegar, olive oil and salt and toss again. This salad should be fairly heavily dressed. The vinegar will sort of “cook” or tenderize the asparagus. It is best to do this about an hour or so in advance to let the flavors marry.
I was thrilled to see that Bungalow Barbara chose a recipe for TWD that can swing sweet or savory– Sablés. Between all the junk I munch on at the bakery, and all the desserts I make at home, these days I need a salt fix more often than a sugar fix. I went with a parmesan cheese sablé, and since I had heaps of fresh herbs left from Thanksgiving, I threw some thyme in there, too. Cheesy, buttery and salty…with that perfect crumbly texture– exactly what I wanted with a glass of white wine.
My friend Min from The Bad Girl’s Kitchen (we were Taste&Create partners awhile back) invited me to her virtual housewarming extravaganza. I love a good party and checking out a new house, and I can’t say no to great food either (did I hear there will be southwestern tapas and homemade sangria??).
Of course I am a well-mannered guest and will bring along something yummy myself. When I think of southwestern food, I immediately think of chiles…and when I think of tapas, I immediately think of gambas al ajillo. I knew that punching up traditional Spanish gambas with some chiplotle in adobo and cilantro would make a great party appetizer (although you do have to make it last minute, so hope Min won’t mind if I use her oven!). Below, I’ve just given a recipe for two servings, but I’m pretty sure it can be successfully multiplied to feed a few more. Don’t forget a little bread on the side to dip in the garlic oil….it’s just as tasty as the shrimp!
I’m also bringing along guac with spicy toasted squash seeds and oven baked tortilla chips. Truth be told, I could eat the whole bowl myself, but it’s more fun to share. Congratulations, Min and family! Now, where’s that sangria?
Southwestern-Style Garlic Shrimp Tapas- serves 2 as an appetizer
6-8 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined
chopped canned chipotle chile and adobo sauce to taste (I used 1/2 of a chile and 1 t sauce)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/4 c olive oil
1/8 t salt
1 bay leaf
1 T chopped cilantro
-Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 500°F. In a bowl, combine the shrimp with the chopped chipotle and adobo sauce, about one third of the minced garlic, one tablespoon of olive oil and salt. Let shrimp marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature (this should be long enough for your oven to preheat).
-Once the oven is hot, pour the remaining three tablespoons olive oil into a small, shallow casserole or baking dish (or a seasoned Spanish cazuela). Add the remaining minced garlic and the bay leaf and bake until sizzling, about 3-5 minutes.
-Add the shrimp and marinade to the sizzling oil, and return the dish to the oven. Bake (stirring once) for another 3-4 minutes, or until the shrimp are cooked through. Throw out the bay leaf, season with additional salt (if necessary) and sprinkle over the chopped cilantro. Serve immediately, straight from your baking dish or cazuela (keeping in mind that it’s super-hot before you set it on your table!) .
After more than two years as a Daring Baker (it all started with a mirror cake…), I’m so excited that Liz and Ivonne have asked me to host a challenge! Woo-hoo! But oh no–what to pick?? Looking over past challenges, I realized that we’ve covered a lot of territory! One thing we haven’t made since I’ve been in the group, though, is our own puff pastry (aka pâte feuilletée). Puff is something most of us usually buy at the grocery store, but in order to be really daring, we should try to make our own at least once, right?
Puff pastry is in the “laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. (In fact, if you participated in the Danish Braid challenge back in June 2008, then you already know the general procedure for working with laminated dough.) A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the beurrage) that is enclosed in dough (called the détrempe). This dough/butter packet is called a paton, and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.
I picked a recipe for homemade puff pastry from Michel Richard, as it appears in the book Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. In order to showcase off the hundreds of flaky, golden, buttery layers in the homemade puff, we formed a portion of it into vols-au-vent– little puff pastry cases designed to hold a filling. They can be made large enough for a full meal, or made small for little one-bite canapés. Vols-au-vent are typically served hot and filled with a creamy savory filling (often poultry or seafood-based), but cold fillings, such as chicken or tuna salad, work, too. Whipped cream or pastry cream with fresh or stewed fruit often goes into sweet versions.
Sizes of and fillings for the vols-au-vent were left up to the individual baker. I made three types: a smoked salmon mousse canapé, a larger main course-size filled with tuna salad and a sweet version with vanilla whipped cream and bright red tristar strawberries.
As it’s a little long, here’s a printable link to the recipe for puff pastry, as well as instructions for forming vol-au-vents and some extra tips. Also, there is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). Dont’ be put off by the length of time it takes to make your own puff pastry (most of it is inactive, while waiting for the dough to chill between turns)…it really isn’t that hard to do! I encourage anyone who has never made puff before to take a look at the video, get some good butter, and give it a try!
Thanks so much to everyone who participated in this month’s challenge– I know it required a lot of time and a lot of butter, both of which are precious commodities. I appreciate your feedback and advice in the forums…not to mention your fabulous results!! Also, of course, great big hugs go to Liz and Ivonne, not only for starting this group, but for keeping it alive and fun and so well-organized! Check out the Daring Bakers’ Blogroll for more adventures in puff!
The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.
Something about pickling has always sounded so complicated to me…brines versus cures, acidity and fermentation, blah, blah, blah. I’ll just leave the mysterious intricacies of anaerobic fermentation up to Rick, and not clog up my own (much needed) personal brainspace, thanks very much. But a quick pickle…God, even I should be able to do something called a “quick pickle,” right?
A good place to start for beet-loving, picking virgins like myself is this recipe from last month’s Martha Stewart Living. Trust me, these are easy…so easy, in fact, that after making one batch, I considered myself expert enough to make a second! The first batch was made with red beets, and the second with the striped variety (although the stripes were basically washed away with the hot pickling liquid). Don’t fear the Thai chile…these are not spicy pickles; a gentle backnote is all you get from its heat.
Remember that these pickles are not canned and sealed in a water bath, so do get them into the fridge straightaway and store them there. Give the beets a day or two to relax in their bath before opening the jar. Then they’ll be ready to eat straight-up, to be made into a snappy salad with feta and mint, or to be put Aussie-style on a burger (and preferably enjoyed with a Coopers Sparkling). Supposedly they’ll keep for a month, but I can guarantee you that mine won’t make it a week.
Raw Pickled Beets- makes one jar
adapted from Martha Stewart Living, May 2009
2 red or golden beets
1 fresh Thai chile
1 cup rice vinegar (not the seasoned kind)
1/4 cup sugar
1 fresh bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
-Scrub, trim, and peel your two beets. Slice thinly (a mandoline works best), and transfer to a jar.
-Split the fresh Thai chile in half. Bring chile, rice vinegar, sugar, fresh bay leaf, and black peppercorns to a boil in a small saucepan.
-Pour hot mixture over beets. Seal jar and refrigerate. Beets will keep for one month.
Courtney of Coco Cooks and Linda of make life sweeter! picked a fantastic Daring Bakers’ challenge this month– strudel! Just thinking about strudel makes me long to re-visit Vienna and Budapest, cities that I travelled to long ago. At just nineteen, it was too bad I didn’t know then what I know now about pastries. Actually, maybe it was a good thing– I would never have seen the sights because I would have been sitting in coffee houses all day long!
Prior to this, the only time I’ve made true strudel dough was while studying at the FCI. I vividly remember my partner in strudel-making crime, S, and I struggling with a huge ball of dough, stretching it gently over our hands to eventually cover our entire worktable. I also vividly remember that taking more patience and concentration than I’m normally willing to put in, so whenever I’ve made strudel at home, I’ve gone the lazy route and used store-bought phyllo instead!
My dessert schedule is rather full on at the moment, so I thought something savory would be the smartest way to get this challenge done. Mushrooms immediately came to mind as a tasty strudel filling, and here I used a combination of crimini, shitake and trumpet. I sautéed them first, mainly so I knew they would be cooked through and seasoned properly, but also to release their liquid so the pastry wouldn’t turn soggy. Caramelized onions, garlic, pine nuts and goat cheese all sounded like good things to add to ‘shrooms, and went into the mix. I have to say that I just winged my filling measurement-wise, and was quite please to have a bit left-over…it will make tomorrow morning’s omelette that much better.
There are only two of us here at home, so I just made a half-recipe of the dough. It was a really easy amount to deal with, and I stretched it solo on a clean tea towel with no problems at all– very little patience and concentration required, thank you! My strudel-for-two was a cinch to fill and transfer as well. The mushrooms and goat cheese made a wonderful, hearty filling…perfect for a cool spring day like today. A glass of red wine and some asparagus on the side…much to R’s dismay, I was belting out “I am Sixteen Going on Seventeen” at the dinner table (OK, so that was probably just the wine)!
I had only planned to make the mushroom strudel, but I had the teensiest bit of dough left after rolling it, so I made a couple of two-bite apple strudels as well. Since they were so small, to make the filling, I just grated half an apple, squeezed most of the liquid out, and tossed it with dark brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped pecans. And the only way to eat apple strudel? Mit schlag, of course!
This was a really fun recipe to make, and it’s very adaptable. Sweet and savory possibilities are limitless, although I’m sure you’ll find heaps of inspiration on the Daring Kitchen site. I’m listing the recipe for the dough below, but you can find more information on Coco Cooks and make life sweeter!
from Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers
1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
your prepared filling of choice
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
-Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary. Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.
-Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).
-It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can. Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.
-The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it’s about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.
-Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Spread about 3 tablespoons of the melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread your filling about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip.
-Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit, if necessary. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.
-Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.
The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.
The Daring Bakers did something a bit unusual this month– we baked lasange! Our hosts Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande chose Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s (from The Splendid Table) Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna. This rich lasagna has layers of homemade spinach pasta, country-style meat ragù, béchamel and Parmigiano-Reggiano. OK, I know that photo is of my unbaked lasagna, but I confess to only having assembled it this afternoon. By the time we sat down for dinner, it was too dark for pictures, so this will have to do.
I make lasagne frequently, and I’ve made my own pasta on occasion, but I’ve never made spinach pasta (what makes this a “lasagne verdi”) before. Since I’ve already confessed to procrastination, I may as well get it all out in the open and also confess to laziness– I used some shortcuts when making the pasta. First, I used frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed well). Next, I made my dough in the food processor and then finished the kneading by hand. Finally, I rolled it with my pasta machine (taken to the thinnest setting) rather than with a rolling pin. Hey–it’s still handmade, if you ask me. The dough came together nicely in the processor. The egg alone wasn’t quite enough liquid to bind it, so I added a couple spoonfuls of the spinach-squeeze water. Let me tell you, the dough was a gorgeous green!
I went with four layers of pasta in total, but I still had several sheets left over. There are so many things that can be done with extra pasta sheets (and I’m sure you’ll see that other DBers have made raviloi, manicotti, etc with their leftovers), but I’m lazy, ya know, so I just took a knife and cut them into thick “rags.” I’ll cook them up like regular fresh noodles and toss them with sauce later in the week.
I’ve made béchamel (white sauce) a thousand times, and can probably do it in my sleep. It’s my go-sauce for things like mac and cheese and pot pies, so I had no problems there. I’m not one for making meat ragù, though, so this was new to me. I don’t eat red meat, and usually go vegetarian with pasta sauces. Here, I decided to swap out the veal, pork and beef in the recipe for a combination of spicy Italian chicken sausage (the raw kind for the butcher) and mushrooms (crimini and reconstituted dried porchini). I minced my onion, carrot and celery base in the food processor, and then did the same with the mushrooms. It made a delicious, thick ragù, and my husband, who certainly is a carnivore, thought it tasted great.
This was such a fun challenge. Silky fresh pasta layered with béchamel, cheese and a tender ragù cooked down in milk, made for a very decadent, lush lasagna. Even though I made just a half-recipe (in an 8″ x 8″ baking dish), between the lasagna and the leftover pasta, I have a few nights’ worth of dinners for my efforts. That’s not bad at all! Visit Beans and Caviar, Melbourne Larder or Io Da Grande for the recipe. And check out the brand spankin’ new Daring Kitchen site– it’s gorgeous, and has lots of fun features to keep you entertained for hours! Thank you, Lisa and Ivonne!!
The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.
Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake chose Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins for TWD this week. I love months where we get a savory or breakfast recipe…one less dessert to squeeze in. I made six muffins. We had a couple for breakfast with scrambled eggs, and a couple with a Mexican-ish tortilla casserole I made for dinner. They were the perfect accompaniment for both.
These muffins are wonderfully spiced from the chili powder, and have lots of good add ins, like corn kernels, jalapeños and red pepper. While I know some people can’t stand the stuff, I am a cilantro fiend and always use a heavy hand with it. If you’re a cornbread purist, you may not go for these. I’m not, so I did…I thought they were best warm.
October’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge is hosted by Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums, and it’s the third recipe the group has made from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart. Judging from the other two, we will all have had spectacular results with this month’s PIZZA! I completed the recipe so early in the month (which is quite unusual for me), that I’ve actually had too long to think about what I’d say. In my head, this became quite a long, rambling post…sorry…I understand if you don’t have the patience!
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like pizza. I do have a couple of good friends who don’t eat cheese, but they still love cheese-less pizza. As a New Yorker, I prefer pizza that has a chewy, puffy, nicely browned and slightly salty outer crust. I think the crusty edge part is just as good as the topping part– you’ll never see me leaving a heap of chewed-around crusts on my plate! I had a bit of a hard time with pizza in Sydney, where the preference seems to be an ultra-thin crust, with really no outer edge to speak of. Eventually, we found Pizza Mario in Surry Hills (it’s an accredited member of l’Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana), which gets my vote as Sydney’s best!
I make pizza often at home, but I’ve had mixed results. My best work came out of the oven in my last apartment in Brooklyn. It was an old gas Magic Chef with a bottom heating element (I could see the flames under the oven floor) that got my stone ripping hot. The bottom crust was always brown and crisp. In Sydney, we had electric ovens with top heating elements in all three apartments, and no matter how long I preheated my stone, or where I placed it in the oven, I could never get the bottom to brown nicely. It became quite frustrating, and I tried many dough recipes and little technique modifications along the way. (It may also be the stone itself, as my old one went into storage accidentally and I had to get a different one in Sydney. I’ve read about making pizza on the bottom side of a super-hot cast iron skillet under the broiler…sounds promising, but my skillet is kind of small.) I’m definitely crossing my fingers for a gas oven in the future!
I made half a recipe of dough, from which I formed two largish pizzas. This is a well-hydrated dough, and requires an overnight rest in the fridge. I can be held for up to three days, though, so I decided to make one pizza for dinner one night, and the other the next night. I know that Rosa wanted us to shape the dough by tossing it “like a real pizzaiolo,” but mine was much too sticky. I had a hard time even with just the hand-stretching. Despite the stickiness, the dough had a wonderful, soft feel, and I could tell by touch that the recipe would be a good one.
As far as pizza toppings go, I am a minimalist…I don’t like too many different things, or too much of any one thing, either, to weigh down or sog out the crust. I usually do tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil– black olives, too, if I’m feeling crazy– so I thought I’d try a couple of “unusual” topping combinations for my challenge. Inspired by a favorite at the aforementioned Pizza Mario, I made a pizza topped with potato, rosemary and Maldon salt with the first night’s dough. Before baking, I simply sliced a red-skinned potato super-thin with a Japanese mandolin, spiraled the slices on the dough, sprinkled on the rosemary and salt, and drizzled olive oil all over it. The next night, I slowly caramelized a sliced onion in a little olive oil and butter to top my second pizza. Then I scattered on bits of gorgonzola picante and some more rosemary.
I just realized, looking back at the DB details to type up this post, that we were supposed to use both toppings and sauce. Well, we can just consider olive oil to be the sauce on these, because I used copious amounts of the stuff on both pizzas!
The pizzas were a hit! Potato pizza may sound like starch on starch, but it’s really so delicious. If you’ve never tried it, I recommend giving it a go sometime. The sweet onions with the sharp gorgonzola was a perfectly balanced match on the second pizza (and, in the oven, some of the onions got a little crispy on the edges– the best part!). And the dough was wonderful– just the kind of bready crust I like! I unfortunately had the same problems browning the underside, but I expected that, and I’ll try it again when I’m settled in New York.
Rosa was originally to host this challenge with Sher from What Did You Eat?, and it was Sherry’s idea to make this recipe. Sherry passed away in July, but Rosa decided to go ahead with her choice, honoring her friend and her accomplishments as a cook and baker. So don’t call for pizza delivery this weekend! Make your own instead, and get the recipe on Rosa’s site. Don’t forget to check out the DB blogroll!