Wednesday, September 28, 2011

L'shanah Tovah!

 Have a sweet New Year!

Today, I’m a stress ball.  Rosh Hashanah begins tonight at 7:07. One of my dearest friends is (finally) getting married. And I’m not nearly ready for either. I’ve been going nuts—getting my glasses fixed, picking up my dress for the wedding, obtaining shoes, making a fascinator for my hair, figuring out hair/makeup, baking challah and making pie.

Every Rosh Hashanah, I bake an apple pie. My heathen prefers a traditional pie, but the one below just might be my favorite. I’ve been perfecting this recipe for years; it’s yummy warm, and even better cold for breakfast the next day.

Honey Praline Apple Pie
It ain't pretty, but once you eat it, you won't care :)

 First things first, you do not have to buy a pie crust at the grocery store. Pie crusts are not difficult. Don’t let anyone lie to you and convince you otherwise. Pie crusts are easily made. Here’s how I do it:
In a food processor, dump in
                1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
                1 stick cold salted butter, cut into cubes (or use margarine)

Pulse until it looks kinda like cornmeal.  Then drizzle in 2 tablespoons into the machine. Pulse until it just starts to turn into a ball. It should look a little dry. Take the mess out of the machine, moosh it together with your hands to form a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and sit it in the fridge for ½ hour or so (you can also freeze it, just thaw it overnight before rolling it out)

Meanwhile, mix up a praline topping for the pie. Get out a small bowl, or even better, the clean food processor bowl with the ‘S’ blade. Put into it
1 cup of walnuts
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tbs butter or margarine
2 tsp cinnamon
Blend until( the sound changes and) the mixture looks crumbly. Set it aside.

While it’s sitting, get out a large bowl (hello, Kitchen Aid Mixer!) and combine in it

                ¼ cup brown sugar
                3 Tbs unbleached all-purpose flour
                1 hefty pinch of kosher salt
Mix a little at a low speed (it spews up and covers the counter otherwise!) and run to the microwave to melt
                ½ stick butter (or margarine)
While it’s cooling slightly, grease a measuring cup and use it for
                ½ cup honey (I use a local raw honey, but it’s choice what you use)
Dump this into the mixing bowl, with the butter and
                1 shot of brandy (any type, apple included)
                4 whole large eggs
Mix away! (and clean up the little splash that missed your shirt but hit the counter. Whew! Close one!) Thinly slice up
                2 medium apples (any type, I use either Golden Delicious, Galas, or Fijis)
And no, I don’t peel them. Peel is good for you! Lots of nutrients and fiber and stuff…Oh yeah, and it’s pretty! While you're slicing, catch the slice that keeps trying to jump on the floor, and dunk it into what honey you have left. (hey, it IS Rosh Hashanah!)Put the apples into the mixing bowl’s slop. 
Mmm, tasty slop.

Pour the entire mess into a pie crust (you don’t need a primer to roll that out do you? Do you? Sigh, here ya go: 
Sprinkle on the praline mix you made earlier, 
tell yourself that if your heathen doesn’t like this pie, you’ll finish it yourself. :P

And try not to trip over the dog as you put it into a 350 oven for 45-50 minutes. Let it cool before you cut it, it's great with apple wine or brandy, or tea (you know how I love tea!)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

La La La La La La Labneh!

Ok, so the other day, I gave you a Turkish treat, and mentioned that it tastes great with butter, jam, pekmezi, and/or labneh. What’s labneh you say? It’s a soft cheese made from strained yogurt. You can buy it at good grocery stores or specialty markets, though it's a cinch to make. It’s tangy-er than cream cheese or Neufchatel, but still mild, and tastes yummy on baked goods. It’s also killer in sauces, or as a dip for veggies. Oh yeah, and it’s healthy.


1 quart plain yogurt (I make my own, but Stoneyfield Farm is a good alternative too)
1-2 sheets of cheese cloth
1 wire mesh strainer
1 bowl
1 chip clip
Salt (optional)
1 plastic container with a lid to store your labneh (not that it will last long anyway)

Take your sheets of cheesecloth and fold them to double the size of your strainer. Make sure the strainer is evenly covered.
Place this over your bowl. 
Dump in the yogurt.
Leave this alone for about 10 minutes. Go check the mail, play with the dogs, or fold laundry. Come back and take all the corners of the overhanging cheesecloth in your hand and twist them together and tie them, tightening around the center. Clip this, and leave it alone again. 
Do the dishes or something, your heathen is getting tired of being the only one cleaning the pots and pans this week.  Oh yeah, and make some tea. Isn’t it tea time? You like tea time…with a couple of crackers or cookies, or maybe fruit…mmmm fruit.

I digress. Come back (again) and figure out a way to hang the drippy ball of cheesecloth and yogurt over the strainer/bowl.  Make sure it’s firmly secured. Last time, you spilled whey all over the floor and counters, much to the dogs’ joy.

Now go watch a movie. Or cook dinner. Or play Gardens of Time on Facebook. Periodically come back and carefully twist the cheesecloth to tighten the ball. Hehehehe, you’re torturing that yogurt. Heck you can even out the whole contraption in the fridge overnight. After a couple of hours, the bowl should have a LOT of whey (it's great to bake with), and the ball should be fairly tight (you didn’t allow the yogurt to goosh {yes, that’s a technical term} through the mini holes, did you?) Slowly and carefully untwist the ball. 
You should have a nice lump of cheese, the texture of ricotta or cream cheese. If you don’t, the yogurt gets the rack again. Once everything is strained and lovely, add a pinch of salt to the mess. Or don’t. Your choice. But do put it in the plastic container and refrigerate it. It tastes better cold. 
Eat with breads, fruits, well…whatever you please. It should last in the fridge for about a week. If it lives that long, mwahahaha.

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's not a bagel

Semit comes from the Arabic semiz, derived from the Greek word semidalis which translates to semolina, or durum wheat.  Simit was originally baked for Janissaries (Ottoman military elite) in the 14th century, and according to Evliya Çelebi, a famous Ottoman traveler and writer, during the mid-16th century there were seventy bakeries specializing in simit in Istanbul. Simit are part of a continuing festival tradition. The Mevlid-i Nebi Kandili, or Prophet Muhammad's birthday, is a minor Muslim festival is celebrated throughout Istanbul by illuminating candles in mosques and eating special foods, like simit (this year, it will fall on February 26). Simit are also enjoyed as breakfast or afternoon snack, served with butter, jams, syrups, or labneh (yogurt based cream cheese). Simit come in two varities in Istanbul, those bought in bakeries made with leavening (like yeast, lauvain, old dough, or fermented hummus)  and are risen for hours, and those bought from street vendors without leavening which are made quickly. Below is a recipe for leavened simit, which are similar to, but lighter in texture than, a bagel.

Leavened Simit

 Preheat oven to 375. Dissolve 3 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast and a small glop of honey in 1/4 cup warm water and let stand until frothy. Sift 3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon kosher salt onto the work surface
 make a well in the center
 and put in 2 tablespoons sugar,  1 egg, 4 tablespoons melted butter , yeast mixture, and half of 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
 Gradually work in the flour and the remaining water, to make a very soft and sticky dough.
  Or knead on a floured surface 10 or 15 minutes, frequently beating it against the surface, until smooth and springy. Sprinkle the surface with flour as needed. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rise 30 minutes. Divide into 12 equal pieces.Coat the work surface and your hands lightly with flour and roll each piece into a worm. Twist the worm around itself and shape into a ring pressing and rolling the overlapping ends on the work surface.
 Brush with pekmezi* (2-3 tbs. Middle Eastern grape molasses mixed with 1-2 tbs. water)
then sprinkle on sesame seeds.
Place them on a greased baking sheet and bake 20-30 minutes until they are golden brown.

 Me, with my tower of simit, at our Baronial Artisan Championship in 2010. These babies are winners!

“Islamic Holidays in Turkey” http:// . Accessed December 29, 2009.
Turquoise: A Chef's Travels in Turkey (2008). Malouf, Greg; Malouf,Lucy; and Cohen, Lisa. Chronicle Books, LLC.
“Middle Eastern Food--Simit” by Chef Saad Fayed. .Accessed December 29, 2009.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

I love breakfast. Of all types, all cultures. It’s the only meal of the day I never skip. That because I believe that breakfast truly means “breaking the fast” and whatever time of day my first meal is, it’s breakfast (contrary to my heathen's thoughts). By this logic, I’ll eat most anything for breakfast. In the past week, I’ve been too busy baking bread for an event that served 96 people (I’m in the Society for Creative Anachronism) to cook a proper breakfast. So I cheerfully employ my microwave to heat up leftovers. Here’s one of my breakfasts from this past week.

Pantry Enchiladas

In a sauce pan, combine
1 can tomato soup (it doesn’t matter what brand, but I usually don’t waste my $$ on the expensive Campbell’s, I’ll buy the cheap-o store brand instead)
½ can Chicken broth (or 1 cup of leftover chicken stock from when you made matzo ball soup)

Then add
1-2 Tbs chili powder (you can add more to make the sauce the same color as the powder)
½ tsp granulated garlic
½ tsp onion powder (optional)
¼-1/2 tsp each cumin and coriander (your choice of amount)
½-1 tsp smoked paprika (plain is okay also)
¼ tsp black pepper
1/8-1/2 tsp cayenne (depends on how hot you want it)
1 tsp Mexican oregano
Stir to combine, and simmer over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally to work in the skin that will try to form.

1 medium-large onion
1 green or red bell pepper (or a bit of both)
1 jalapeno (optional if you’ve a heathen who hates spicy)
3-4 cloves garlic
Dump in a large skillet and saute with a smidge of oil (it doesn’t matter what type) and add
1 lb ground turkey (ground beef or ground soy will do)
Salt, pepper (to taste)
½ tsp each cumin and  granulated garlic.
1 can corn (drained—try to use low sodium or no salt corn)
1 can black or kidney beans (drained)
1 Chinese takeout box of leftover rice—about a cup (if it’s around from the other night)

Brown the turkey with the other ingredients, turn off burner and rummage in the fridge to find
1 package of flour tortillas

Remark to your heathen  husband that your father thinks that the flour tortillas make this recipe a wet burrito, not an enchilada. Stir the sauce as he says he doesn’t care, he loves this dish. Then put your hubby to work spooning turkey filling into each flour tortilla and rolling them, as you taste the sauce and locate some
½ -3/4 cup shredded cheese (Colby, cheddar, CoJack, Monterey Jack, Mozzerella, Chihuahua, whatever)
½ can olives (black, or green, sliced or whole---your choice)
2-3 stalks green onion (scallion)—that you then chop
When he’s done (he was standing in the kitchen, he deserved to be put to work, LOL). Douse the enchiladas with the sauce and cheese and top with the olives and green onion. Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes.  Meanwhile, chop
1 tomato
Handful of leftover cilantro you forgot was still in the fridge
Pull out the bubbly enchiladas, shout at the dog to get out of the way before you burn yourself.

She wants your food. And she'll use her powers of cuteness to get it.

Top with tomato and cilantro. And then serve with a dollop of
                Plain, unflavored, low-fat yogurt (or sour cream, if you must)

Unadorned, yet still perfect
Enjoy for breakfast the next day either cold or warmed in the microwave.  Top with a fried egg (yum!). And remind yourself of you father’s maxim “If it’s not good cold, it wasn’t good hot to begin with”.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gettin' Loaded

 I’ve been invited to several barbeques lately. Okay, that’s a misnomer. Several ‘Cook-outs’.  Anyway, I’ve been bringing a super-easy, tasty side dish to them (that’s been creating lots of fans).  It’s not the least bit difficult. Actually, it’s stupid-easy. But I get the kudos, and that’s what I like :)
 Looks like a dog's breakfast, and tasty as hell :)

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

Chop into bite size pieces:
1 lb. of each—
                Peruvian Purple potatoes
                Yukon Gold potatoes
Remind your sous-chef husband what size a bite actually is. Toss them into a large sauce pan or dutch oven and add cold water, covering them only by about ½”. Add
 2-3 tsp. kosher salt
Now is the only time you can season those potatoes, so be liberal. Boil until done (slightly softer than fork tender), usually about 15-20 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, dice
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
Again, remind the hubby what diced means. Realize that he means to help, and needs to learn to cook anyway. Chop
                5-6 tbs. chives (about a handful)
And shred
4-6 oz sharp cheddar (if you didn’t simply buy a bag of pre-shredded cheese).
Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. While they are steaming up your glasses, attack them with a good dousing, or about
3-4 Tbs. red wine vinegar
Marvel at the fact that the potatoes sucked up all the liquid, and try to remember where you poured the vinegar in, so you don’t overdo it. Curse as you hurt your hand on the hot pot, and ignore the little dog  who came running in to clean the floor as you cursed. Dump in the vegetable matter, except the chives. And set aside to cool.

Clean up your mess, go get ready for the cook-out, find the ice packs, and ask the husband to pack the cooler, leaving space for your potato salad. Check the temperature of the potato/ veggie mixture.  Add
1 16 oz. container low fat sour cream (or plain yogurt, or a mixture of both)
6 pieces turkey bacon or soy bacon (Bac-Os), cooked and crumbled
5 tbs. of chives
And the cheese you shredded. Fold to combine. Be gentle to not break up the potatoes. Get out a large bowl that you wouldn’t be too embarrassed to let out of the house, pile in the salad and garnish with the last tablespoon of chives you have left. Cover with lid, plastic wrap, or press-n-seal (which I adore).

Open cooler to put bowl in, find that it is too full. Remove the stupid Coke from the cooler, and magically wedge the bowl in. Keep the salad cold at the picnic (those icepacks are hardy huh? :) . Smile, and let on that this is a hard recipe with a dozen ingredients, none of them mayonnaise.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

More Pain*

I got up this morning at an unprecedented 5:30 am, thanks to my little furry alarm clock.
He’s cute so you don’t kill him.

So I made an omelet. And tea.  And started a poolish for bread later today.
For those who don’t know, a poolish is a pre-ferment. Or, in non-baker terms, it’s a gross primordial soup that sits on the counter for hours and allows yeast to grow and burp and reproduce until it’s a mass of bubbles on bubbles that starts off a bread dough. And it gives you a lovely softly soured dough flavor. Tasty stuff from that goo, I tell ya.

I dunno why I decided to start a bread loaf pre- seven a.m. this morning.  Maybe it’s because I gave a loaf away yesterday to a dear man I don’t get to see often enough.  It’s not that I need to replenish my supply—I’ve two loaves (wheat and focaccia) on the bread board right now.  But started I did, and there’s no going back.
Screwed up Poilane (Pain sur Poolish)

Flour   7 oz     200 grams
Water  7 oz     200 grams
Yeast   ½ tsp  2 grams

Let sit for 5 hours at room temp, then refrigerate overnight. Remember you put the silly mess in the fridge, and pull it out to come to room temperature. Then,
Add to poolish
Water              17 oz                480 grams
Bread Flour    31 1/2                         890 grams
Dry Yeast        1 Tbsp             15 ml
Salt                  1 Tbsp                         22ml
Malt syrup      1 Tbsp              15 ml
Put the poolish, water, sugar, yeast, oil, malt syrup and milk powder in the mixer bowl. Add half the flour and mix for two minutes. Switch to the dough hook, add the rest of the flour and salt and mix for two minutes. Then let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Clean up your mess, put away stuff, play on Facebook. Then,  add the salt and knead for 10-15 minutes. Set a timer, so you don’t forget.  The dough will become smooth and not very sticky. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let ferment for 1 1/2 hours. Sit on your tookus, do some laundry, and then come back to fold the dough, and then let it ferment back in the bowl for 30 minutes more.  When that’s done, divide the dough into two pieces. Let the pieces rest, covered, on the counter for 10 minutes. Shape each piece into a tight log about 3 by 6 inches / 75 x 150 mm (or make into two round loaves and ignore the stretching). Let the loaves relax on a well-floured surface and covered by a damp towel, for 15-20 minutes. Gently stretch the loaves to a length of between 12 and 14 inches / 30 to 35 cm. Place the loaves on either a lightly oiled baking sheet or parchment paper and let them rise for 1 1.2 to 2 hours. They should double, or so. Slash in a tic-tac-toe  (if round) or in slashes every 4 inches (if baguettes) and bake in a dry oven at 425 F / 220 C for 15 minutes, then throw in ice at the bottom of your oven to create steam. Cook another 20-30 minutes, turn and finish baking, or until the loaves sound hollow when rapped on the bottom.
Alright, this was hit with egg wash....notice the shiny exterior
The internal temperature should be 200F / 93C. Let the loaves cool on a rack before eating.

 *BTW--pain is bread for those of you who don't do French.