Late summer…on a plate

September 4, 2009 at 3:53 am | Posted in savory things, veggies | 12 Comments

tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella salad

Raw Pickled Beets

July 2, 2009 at 4:59 pm | Posted in pickles, savory things, veggies | 13 Comments

raw pickled beets

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

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.

Daring Bakers in May: Strudel, Two Ways

May 27, 2009 at 2:23 am | Posted in daring bakers, groups, other savory, other sweet, savory things, sweet things, veggies | 43 Comments

mushroom and goat cheese strudel

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!

apple strudel

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!  

Strudel Dough
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.

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