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 two red or golden beets. Slice thinly (a mandoline works best), and transfer to a jar.
-Split 1 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!
This month we had our first “Alternative” Daring Bakers’ Challenge! Natalie from Gluten A Go Go and Shel of Musings From the Fishbowl teamed up to bring us a two-part challenge. The first part involved making homemade lavash. Lavash are thin Armenian-style crackers. They are very popular here in Australia, and packets go for big bucks in the gourmet stores. Funny how easy it is to make them yourself! Lavash are great with cheese, but the second part of this challenge was to concoct a vegan and gluten-free spread or dip to go with them.
Lavash dough is a simple yeasted dough, rolled out thin and often sprinkled with a seedy topping. We were allowed to flavor the dough itself if we so desired, so I subbed a couple of tablespoons of the bread flour for wheat germ. This gave the baked crackers a subtle, almost Wheat Thins-like flavor. I made a full batch of the dough and divided it into two pieces–one to use straight away, and one to park overnight in the fridge. I used different toppings and made a different spread for each.
When it came time to roll the dough, I busted out my pasta machine (for the first time since moving to Sydney, so I was glad to actually have used it and justified its move). I’ve made some form of cracker in every restaurant I’ve worked in, and have always used a pasta machine to roll them out. It makes such quick work of it and is the easiest, least frustrating way to get your crakcers paper thin. Use the lasagna sheet section, work with one bit of dough at a time, and take it down to the thinnest setting.
For my first batch of cracker, I rolled out long, wide pieces that I sprinkled with black and white sesame seeds, cumin seeds, cayenne pepper and Kosher salt before baking (brushing on a little water first acts as glue for the topping). I simply broke these big pieces into more manageable shards after baking. I served them with a chunky avocado relish with heaps of cilantro, lemon juice and spices.
For my second batch of cracker, I got a bit more fussy. Instead of just baking off big pieces in whatever form they took when rolled, I used a pastry wheel to cut them into rectangular crackers. I sprinkled them with poppy seeds and Maldon salt. I had a huge bag of fava beans (a.k.a broad beans) from the farmers’ market, so I took about half of them and whizzed them into a dip for this batch of lavash.
I was really pleased with challenge! The lavash and dips made perfect pre-dinner snacks (with a glass of wine, not too shabby!). And how impressed would your friends be if you served them homemade crackers at a dinner party?
Check out the DB blogroll! And visit Gluten A Go Go or Musings From the Fishbowl for the lavash recipe (which was adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart). I made my two spreads pretty much freehand, but the basic procedures are below.
Chunky Avocado Relish
leafy green herb (such as basil or cilantro)
juice of half a lemon
olive or avocado oil
ground spices to taste (I used garam masala, cayenne, and cumin)
salt and black pepper to taste
-Scoop out the avocado and dice into chunks. Chop your herb. In a small bowl, make a dressing from the lemon juice, a slight splash of oil, the spices and salt and pepper. Add the avocado and herb to the bowl and toss gently to mix.
Fava Bean Dip
1 1/2 cups fava beans, shelled from the outer pod
1 clove of garlic
leafy green herb (such as basil, parsley or cilantro)
squirt of lemon juice
salt and black pepper to taste
-Bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Blanch the fava beans for about thirty seconds, remove with a slotted spoon and shock in ice water. Pop the garlic clove, peeled or unpeeled, into the boiling water and blanch for about 1 minute (this just helps take the edge off the raw garlic).
-Pop the papery outer skins off the blanched fava beans and discard. Peel the garlic clove if you haven’t already, and rough chop.
-Put the fava beans, garlic, lemon juice, herbs, splash of olive oil, salt and pepper into a mini food processor. Pulse until it’s the consistency you like (you can use a couple tablespoons of water to thin out, if needed). Taste for seasoning.
With pita or raw veggies, in a fried egg sandwich on Turkish pide, or on a bagel…hummus if so good. I know it’s ridiculously easy to make, but it’s something I never do myself. You know, I make my own baba ghanoush, and opening up a can of chick peas is certainly less involved than roasting an eggplant, so what’s the excuse? In Brooklyn, it was perhaps understandable because I was spoiled by having Sahadi’s and their amazing hummus practically around the corner (then I would skip up the block to Damascus Bakery for fresh pita!). Now there’s no Sahadi’s, so there’s also no excuse.
Min from The Bad Girl’s Kitchen is my partner in crime for this month’s edition of Taste&Create. I’m making Middle Eastern food for dinner tonight, and I found a great, lemony hummus recipe on her site. Made in the food processor, it’s done in under five. Needing something to go with my/her hummus, I also made Min’s pita chips. They were salty and crunchy and a perfect companion to my bowl of hummus.
I woke up this morning to some good news: my Rhubarb-Filled Yogurt Cupcakes won Cupcake Hero’s Earth Day event! I’m so excited, and not to brag (hahaha), but it’s actually my second CH win! Thanks so much to Laurie, Tempered Woman, Joy and Leigh, who collect, bake and round-up the CH entries each month. That takes not only heaps of ingredients, but lots of time, effort and witty paraphrasing skills as well. Definitely check out the round-up to see all the Earth loving cupcakes they received last month.
Now, onto the bread. I have some bread baking experience, but it’s pretty limited. I’ve made zillions of batches of brioche, bagels and English muffins through my various jobs, and I make my own pizza dough all the time at home, but I never bake my own baguettes or dinner rolls, and I rarely even make a simple loaf bread.
What brought this on then? Laziness may sound like a weird reason to bake your own bread, but that’s what it was, pure and simple. I was too lazy to walk the 25 minutes down to the grocery store (I don’t drive). R has been in Malaysia on business the last couple days. If I were in New York and R was away, I’d likely use that freedom to go and get bombed with my single friends if it weren’t a work night (you can keep that on the down-low), or at least order some yummy delivery if it were. Since I don’t know too many people in Sydney to go boozing with, and there aren’t really any delivery options where I live, it was a tuna sandwich and the company of Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style for me last night. I can’t manage a whole can of tuna myself, so I still had half my salad to eat for lunch today. But…you guessed it…no bread.
Being lazy today, I’m lucky that making this type of bread is so freakin’ easy. I had originally wanted to use a recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum, but it required making a sponge starter and then it needed three rises for the dough. While it would have had great flavor, it also wouldn’t have been ready by lunch-time, and that was the whole reason for getting the yeast out! Then I remembered a recipe that I’d torn off a bag of King Arthur flour a couple years ago. It only takes about two hours of total rising time, and if you use a stand mixer, measuring out the ingredients is really the only work there is. It’s baked in a loaf pan, so there isn’t even any tricky shaping to do. And I don’t know if it was because the bread was so fresh and soft, or if it was because I was so antsy after waiting for it to cool down, but that was one tasty tuna sandwich!
In true lazy fashion, I’ll just show you the way to King Arthur’s recipe, rather than type it myself. I made mine in my stand mixer, using the dough hook. I know that King Arthur’s AP flour has a higher protein content than most. Since I can’t kind KA flour in this neck of the woods and I have no clue as to the protein content of the flour I buy here, I substituted 1/4 cup of the AP flour in the recipe with bread flour. I substituted another 1/4 cup with whole wheat flour, just for fun. Be sure take your baked bread out of the loaf pan and cool it on a rack for about an hour before slicing into it. This rest period helps set the bread’s texture and crust.
For Taste&Create VIII, I was hooked up with Teresa from I’m Running to Eat. Teresa is an avid runner and cooks healthy meals for her family. I had no problem finding something from her blog to highlight here, but I cringe to think of Teresa’s reaction to the billion-calorie sweets I post– sorry Teresa!
From Teresa’s site, I chose Greek feta and tomato pasta, a recipe that she says is a favorite, and although it’s vegetarian, even the carnivores in her family love it. Since I eat a mainly vegetarian diet, but R could live off steak, that sounded perfect for us.
This came together in a snap. It’s one of those dishes where the sauce is basically made in the time it takes the pasta to cook–I love that! Rather than the thin spaghetti the recipe calls for, I used farfalle here. I wanted to take advantage of the last hurrah for fresh tomatoes before the cold sets in in Sydney, and used cherry tomatoes on the vine, cooked just until they burst. And since I had a giant bunch of basil on the counter, I tossed some in at the end. My favorite part of this dish, though, was the feta, which just barely melted from the heat of the pasta, and turned really creamy.
For this month’s Taste&Create Nicole from For the Love of Food matched me up with Nic from Cherrapeño. Nic has a lot of good-looking sweet treats on her blog (I have all the ingredients to make one of them and if I’m able to this weekend, I will), but for events like these, I often like to branch out to the savory side of the cooking world. Nic grows her own chilies and herbs and puts them to good use on the dinner table.
I decided to make Nic’s roasted tomatoes with basil. I thought they would be perfect with what I was already making for dinner– broccolini and a vegetable lasagna without tomato sauce. These were so easy to make, it almost felt like a cop out, but let me tell you, they are super flavorful and just burst in your mouth. No wonder she says they are one of her favorite dishes..now they’re one of mine, too.
You can find more detail on Nic’s site, but essentially tomatoes, basil and garlic are slow-roasted in the oven with a little olive oil. Then balsamic is drizzled on top before serving. I used some large-sized cherry tomatoes I had and sprinkled on a little sea salt, black pepper and more fresh basil when they were out of the oven. It’s really a beautiful end of summer side dish.
Thanks Nic and Nicole for a great event!