Saturday, May 16, 2015

Radishes in Chili Oil

Mark your calendars for Sunday June 7th, which will be the first day of the sixth season of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, 10 AM - 2 PM on the corner of Agate St. and 19th Ave. Last year I marked the announcement of the market start date with a number of radish recipe ideas, and here's an addition to that list from Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice: radishes in chili oil.

In the same spirit of the French dish of radishes and salted butter, this recipe uses soy sauce and oil to both brighten and temper the radishes' bite, but in this case their mild spiciness is enhanced with fiery chiles. First, to release some of the radishes' liquid, you need to pummel them a bit (I tapped them with a meat tenderizer) and give them a coating of salt. While they sweat, mix up sugar, soy sauce, sesame and chili oils, then drain and toss them in this rich coating. For a root to shoot approach to our radishes, I blanched the greens and tossed them with a sesame sauce Dunlop uses for spinach, similar to this gomae recipe. These made delicious vegetable sides for Eric's famous Ma Po Doufo and our child labor-enabled cabbage and pork dumplings. You can look forward to lots more delicious spring vegetables at the start of the Fairmount Market June 7th.

Radishes in Chili Oil
from Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice
2 bunches small red radishes, trimmed, rinsed, and patted dry
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons chilli oil with its sediments
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1. Lightly smack the radishes with the side of a cleaver, a rolling pin, or a meat tenderizer; the idea is to crack them open, not to smash them to smithereens.

2. Pile the cracked radishes in a bowl, add the salt, and toss well. Set aside for 30 minutes.

3. Combine the sugar and soy sauce in a small bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the chili and sesame oils.

4. When you’re ready to eat, drain the radishes—they will have released a fair amount of water—and shake them dry. Pour the chile oil mixture over the radishes and toss to mix well and serve.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Kohlrabi Green Tart with Polenta Crust

A recent Good Food Easy CSA installment came with a hefty stack of kohlrabi leaves, an ingredient uncommon enough to render the internet at rather a loss for recipe recommendations. I decided to treat them like greens, but respect their cabbage-ness by pairing them with sweet cooked onions (like this favorite cabbage dish), and to nestle the whole mixture into a tart.

And because we have plenty of polenta from our Lonesome Whistle Farm CSA, I decided to make a polenta crust from this recipe from Maria Speck's Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. The tart crust is basically cooked polenta, with some grated parmesan cheese and an egg for extra integrity. The recipe calls for cooking the polenta in broth, so I made a quick broth with some leek greens and the kohlrabi leaf stems, but I think water would be fine as well. 

I made a couple of mini tarts for the kohlrabi leaf doubters in the house, one of whom opted for a parsley pesto topping while the other went with a take on the classic tomato and cheese pizza. For the rest of us, the kohlrabi green tart was a big hit, and I'm certain I will be making variants with other greens throughout the spring.

Kohlrabi Green Tart with Polenta Crust
Make one 10-inch tart

Crust from 
Maria Speck's Artichoke Tart with Polenta Crust
1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups polenta
1/2 cup (about 2.5 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese 
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring the broth and water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the salt. Slowly add the polenta in a thin stream, whisking constantly, and continue whisking for 30 seconds. Decrease the heat to low and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon every few minutes to keep the polenta from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring a few times. Stir in the cheese, egg and pepper.

2. Grease a 10-inch tart pan or cake pan with olive oil. Have a glass of cold water ready. Spoon the polenta into the pan and press it out, pushing it up the sides. Dip a wooden spoon or your hands in the cold water to help the polenta along. Set aside for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 375 F. Then form an even rim about 3/4 of an inch thick with moist fingers, pressing firmly. Don't worry if the crust looks rustic.

3. Prebake the crust for 20 minutes until it has started to brown on the edges. Meanwhile, prepare the filling

Kohlrabi green filling

6-8 kohlrabi leaves (or substitute collard greens or chard)
1 medium onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup ricotta (or use Greek yogurt like Maria Speck's original recipe)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese
salt to taste and plenty of freshly ground pepper

1. Cut the center rib from each kohlrabi leaf and cut the leaves into 1 inch ribbons. Peel and dice the onion. Heat a large skillet over medium low heat, then heat the oil and sauté the onions with a pinch of salt, until they are very soft and glassy, about 10 minutes. Add the kohlrabi greens and sauté with another pinch of salt for about 5 minutes until they have turned a darker green and started to soften. Remove from heat.

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs, a good pinch of salt and pepper until well-combined. Fold in the sautéed greens. Pour the filling into the prepared polenta tart and spread evenly. Sprinkle with the swiss cheese.

2. Bake the tart until the top turns golden brown and the filling is set, about 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes. The tart can be prepared up to one day ahead.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Goodbye Bakery and Yogurt Scones

Sad news in the neighborhood: the much beloved Eugene City Bakery will be closing this Sunday May 3, having been evicted by a new owner of the building. DeeAnn Hall's bakery has been a cornerstone of the community and her neighborhood commitment was instrumental in launching the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market five years ago. The loss of this welcoming haven for morning rendezvous and afternoon pick me ups will leave a deep void in the neighborhood. And nowhere on earth could one find a better marionberry scone.

This Mother's Day, we'll be left baking our own scones, and so I'm sharing this recipe for yogurt scones that I tried recently from Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate and Zucchini (an authority on baking with yogurt). The dough is quite easy to work with, and I slipped in some Lonesome Whistle Farm corn flour for a bit of extra flavor. We made them plain, served with creme fraiche and jam. Maybe next weekend we'll try layering in some frozen berries, but it won't be the same as ECB's. Their departure is a sad loss for the neighborhood.

makes eight scones
220 grams (1 2/3 cup) flour (I used 1/3 cup corn flour)
25 grams (2 tablespoons) sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
55 grams (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and diced
125 ml (1/2 cup) plain yogurt (not fat-free)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon milk (not fat-free)
Your choice of flavoring (optional)
2 teaspoons homemade vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground spice of your choice
1 teaspoon finely grated citrus zest
2 to 3 tablespoons finely diced dried fruits
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped nuts
2 teaspoons orange flower water
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped or grated chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. If you're using vanilla extract, spices, or citrus zest, add them in now.

3. Dice the butter and blend it into the dry ingredients using a fork or pastry cutter, until no visible lump of butter remains.

4. Stir in the yogurt, 2 tablespoons milk, and any dried fruits, nuts, orange flower water, or chopped chocolate you want to use.

5. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead gently just a few times to form a ball. Handle the dough as lightly as you can and avoid overmixing, or the scones will be tough.

6. Pat the dough into a round, about 12 cm in width and 3 cm in thickness (about 5 inches in width and 1 inch in thickness). Brush the top with the remaining teaspoon milk and sprinkle with sugar.

7. Slice into 8 wedges with a knife or dough cutter.

8. Place the wedges on the prepared baking sheet, giving them a little space to expand.

9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the scones are set and nicely golden.

10. Serve warm, with an assortment of spreads, such as butter, clotted cream, jam, or honey.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Kale Salad with Roasted Carrots and Chickpeas

Here's a roasted vegetable salad for our off again, on again spring weather. Roast the carrots and chickpeas while it rains, and toss together the salad to enjoy when the sun peaks out. I roasted the carrots and chickpeas in an rich coating of cumin and smoked paprika, and spiked the tahini dressing with a good dose of lemon. The dressed kale will hold up well even if you have to wait a while for the sunshine. 

Kale Salad with Roasted Carrots and Chickpeas

1 bunch kale, ribs removed and leaves cut into 3/4 inch ribbons
2 large carrots, rinsed and sliced on the diagonal
1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt to taste

2 tsp tahini
1 tsp white miso paste
1/4 tsp honey
juice of one lemon
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare the roasted toppings. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. On a large rimmed baking sheet, dump the sliced carrots on a large rimmed baking sheet and toss with 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika and a good sprinkle of salt. On a second rimmed baking sheet, toss the drained chickpeas with the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika and a good sprinkle of salt. Spread out and roast for about 20 minutes, turning the carrots with a spatula occasionally, until they are soft and have started to brown around the edges, and shaking the chickpeas occasionally, until they have browned and crisped. When the roasted toppings are done, set them aside.

2. Prepare the dressing by mixing together all of ingredients until the dressing is emulsified. Taste and add more of any ingredient to adjust the flavor to your likening. 

3. In a large bowl, toss the chopped kale leaves with the dressing until well coated. Gently toss in the roasted toppings. The salad is nice served at once, but it can also stand for a few hours. Enjoy. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Chicken in Milk

With a steady supply of pastured chickens from our Fair Valley Farm CSA, I'm always on the look out for easy whole chicken recipes. Today I tried a one pot Jamie Oliver recipe, classified as genius by food52, with a surprising ingredient list: cinnamon stick, lemon peel, garlic cloves, sage leaves, and milk. The end result was fragrant and succulent, and will definitely be staying on our dinner rotation. You start by browning your chicken in a snug pot, then after decanting the browned butter (which I used in our mashed potatoes), you toss in the remaining ingredients and shove it into the oven for 90 minutes, occasionally basting the chicken with the sauce. The chicken browns but stays wonderfully moist (I positioned the breast side down to keep it submerged), the milk solids separate out, leaving a flavorful sauce, and best of all are the whole roasted garlic cloves to squeeze into your mashed potatoes. This is a perfect weekend afternoon dish because it requires little attention, while infusing the house with delicious smells, and leaving time for other kitchen puttering. As the chicken cooked, I prepared the mashed potatoes and used the lower rack of the oven to rotate through several baking sheets to roast: broccoli for a couple dinners, and cumin carrots and chickpeas for a salad later in the week. It's nice to start the week with a chicken in one's pot and several dinners already in the bag.

One 3-pound (1 1/2-kilogram) organic chicken
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces (1 stick or 115 grams) butter or olive oil
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 good handful fresh sage, leaves picked
Zest of 2 lemons, peeled in thick strips with a peeler
10 garlic cloves, skins left on
1 pint (565 milliliters) whole milk

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F and find a snug-fitting pot for the chicken. Season the chicken generously all over with salt and pepper and fry it in the butter or olive oil, turning the chicken to get an even color all over, until golden. Remove from the heat, put the chicken on a plate, and throw away the butter left in the pot (or save for another use). This will leave you with tasty sticky goodness at the bottom of the pan, which will give you a lovely caramel flavor later on. 

2. Put your chicken back in the pot with the rest of the ingredients, then cook it in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours. Baste with the cooking juice when you remember. (Oliver leaves the pot uncovered, but you can leave it partially covered if you'd like it to retain more moisture and make more sauce.) The lemon zest will sort of split the milk, making a sauce, which is absolutely fantastic. 

3. To serve, pull the meat off the bones and divide it on to your plates. Spoon over plenty of juice and the little curds. Serve with wilted spinach or greens and some mashed potato.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Hot Cross Buns

This Easter I decided to try my hand at baking hot cross buns, mostly because I noticed that this recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini called for two ingredients I already had fermenting in my refrigerator, bread starter and creme fraiche. I combined these into a wet dough that greeted me in the morning with happy bubbles.

Traditional hot cross buns call for currents, which I knew my daughter wouldn't like (she diligently picks out all the raisons from her stollen slices), but I noticed this BBC Good Food recipe included diced apples and cinnamon, which are always a hit in our household, so I folded some into the dough in the morning.

After the buns had risen, I decorated them with the traditional flour paste cross, following these instructions for making a parchment paper piping cornet, which was remarkably simple. One could also use a sugar icing for the crosses after the buns are baked, but then they won't survive reheating.  

Instead of icing, to give the buns a little sweetness I glazed them with apricot jam. We sampled one to determine that they tasted as nice as they smelled, and are saving the rest for Easter breakfast.

Hot Cross Buns
(adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini, makes one dozen)

for the dough
120 grams (4 1/4 ounces) ripe 100% starter
340 grams (12 ounces) all-purpose flour [if you don't use a starter, use 400 grams (14 ounces)]
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast [if you don't use a starter, use 2 teaspoons]
175 ml (3/4 cup) milk, at room temperature [if you don't use a starter, use 225 ml (1 cup minus 1 tablespoon)], plus a little for brushing
125 grams (1/2 cup) crème fraîche (or equal parts sour cream and heavy cream)
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

for the apple filling
1/2 apple, cored and cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

For the crosses:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water

For the glaze:
2 tablespoons apricot jam

Day one: Prepare the dough for overnight fermentation.
In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, starter if using, yeast, milk, crème fraîche, and honey to form a shaggy mass, making sure all of the flour is incorporated. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Mix in the salt. Fold  the dough for 4 minutes -- or set the stand mixer on low speed -- until the dough starts to get a little smoother.

3. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the dough, cover the bowl with a plate, and place in the fridge for 12 to 18 hours.

Day two: Divide and shape the buns for the second ferment, decorate, bake, and glaze.
4. The next day, remove the dough from the fridge, remove the plate, and let rest for 30 minutes; it should have risen moderately, not quite doubled. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

5. Core and dice the apple into small pieces and toss with the cinnamon and ground ginger.

6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured working surface -- the dough will be fairly sticky, but if you work quickly while it is still cold from the fridge, you will be fine. Flatten it out, dump on the spiced apples, and fold the dough over itself. Fold it several more times until the apple pieces are incorporated. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (about 90 grams or 3 1/6 ounces each), and shape each piece into a squarish bun (the dough is a bit sticky, just do your best) and place them on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2.5 cm (1 inch) of space between them: you do want them to touch as they rise and bake.

7. Cover with a clean, floured towel and let rest for 2 1/2 hours, until they've risen to about 1.5 times their original size.

8. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the buns lightly with milk (this will foster browning).

9. Prepare the flour paste for the crosses: in a small bowl, place the flour and water and whisk with a spoon until smooth; it should have a consistency a bit like face cream, spreadable but not too thick. Spoon this mixture into a small paper cone (a cornet) assembled from parchment paper as demonstrated here. Snip the tip of the cone to form a 3-mm (1/10-inch) opening and pipe the flour paste over the buns to form a cross.

10. Insert the baking sheet in the middle of the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until browned. Transfer to a cooling rack.

11. To prepare the glaze, heat the apricot jam carefully in the microwave, and add a tablespoon of water if it seems to thick. You can strain it if you like, or just avoid transferring apricot bits on your brush. Brush the buns with the glaze while they're still warm. Once cooled, hot cross buns should be split in two horizontally and toasted.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tahini and Miso Dressing

Salad dressing has been a contentious topic in our household for many years. My daughter seemed to have been born with hypersensitive sour receptors, rejecting anything with vinegar, whereas my son tended toward flighty fickleness with most flavors. But somehow, while tinkering with a dressing inspired by this recipe, I've hit upon our family's secret sauce: a dressing with just the right balance of creamy (tahini), salty (miso), sweet (honey), and sour (sherry vinegar). It seems to go with everything (above, red lettuce with pears; below, bell peppers with baby bok choy). Best of all, both kids love it so much that they sneak spoonfuls of it straight. I'm happy to turn a blind eye to stealthy salad eating.

Tahini and Miso Dressing
enough for one salad for four
1 tsp tahini
1 tsp white miso
1/4 tsp honey
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
3 Tbsp olive oil

Combine all of the ingredients into a well-mixed dressing. Taste and adjust flavors with additional tahini, miso, honey, vinegar, or oil to your preference.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

One Egg Omelette with Radish Microgreens

The official first day of spring has arrived after many spring-like winter days. Among our spring treats in our Good Food Easy CSA, we've been enjoying their various microgreens.  I've found that these delicate bites of spring are especially tasty in micro-omelettes: a single beaten egg cooked like a crepe, with some sharp cheese to complement the slightly spicy greens.

These make a perfect weekend lunch, individualized to each person's taste. I like to eat mine on a toasted, buttered multigrain bagel, with a dollop of harissa.

One Egg Omelette with Radish Microgreens

1 egg
1 pad butter
salt and pepper
1 slice sharp cheese
1 handful radish microgreens

1. Beat the egg and season with salt and pepper. 

2. Heat a 9 inch crepe pan or cast iron skillet over medium low heat. Put in a pad of butter and let it melt. Off the heat, pour in the beaten egg and tip the pan around so that the egg coats the bottom of the pan. Return the pan to a low heat and cover the egg "crepe" with cheese pieces. Allow the cheese to melt for a minute. Then place the radish greens in the center of the pan and fold over the edges of the omelette to make a square.

3. Serve the omelette immediately. It's very tasty sandwiched between the halves of a toasted, buttered bagel with a dollop of harissa. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Prune and Almond Pie

I couldn't let today, Pi Day (3.14.15), go by without baking a pie. 

I'd recently remembered an old favorite recipe from Patricia Wells' Bistro CookingTart aux Pruneaux et aux Amandes. Technically a tart, but certainly in the phylum pie. Prunes are soaked in strong black tea (I used the dregs of a pot of this), and then bathed in a ground almond and creme fraiche filling. Wells spikes hers with plum eau-de-vie, which I didn't happen to have on hand (mon dieu!), so I added a bit of vanilla extract, for a more kid-friendly version. A lovely way to celebrate this memorable, once in a century day.

Tart aux Pruneaux et aux Amandes
from Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking

2 cups brewed strong black tea
1 lb (500 g) prunes, pitted
1/4 cup (35 g) whole unblanched almonds
1 large egg
5 Tbsp (60 g) granulated sugar
2 Tbsp plum eau-de-vie or brandy (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
3/5 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
1 Pate Sucre shell (recipe below) partially baked and cooled
1 Tbsp confectioners' sugar to garnish (optional)

Pate Sucre
1 1/4 cup (175 g) all purpose flour
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
~4 Tbsp ice water

1. Make the dough. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter pieces and pulse about 20 times until the butter is in pea sized pieces. Add the ice water and pulse about 8 more times until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a silicone mat or work surface and shape into a disc. Wrap in the silicone mat or saran wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

2. Shape the tart shell. Lightly flour the dough and roll it out on the silicone mat or a floured work surface, rotating to ensure the dough is not sticking, into a 12 inch wide disc. Transfer to a 10 1/2 inch loose-bottomed black tart tin and gently press the dough into the corners. Trim the overhang, leaving one inch of dough. Tuck the overhand inside and fortify any thin parts with the trimmed dough. Shape the edges and prick the bottom all over with a fork. Chill the shaped dough for at least 20 minutes. 

3. Partially bake the shell. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the shell with aluminum foil and some pie weights (some rice or dried beans that you can reuse for years). Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake another 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Prune and Almond Tart
1. At least 1 hour before preparing the tart, pour the hot tea over the prunes and set aside to marinate.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

3. In a food processor, grind the almonds to a fine powder. Add the egg, sugar, liquor (or vanilla extract), and creme fraiche. Process until very smooth.

4. Thoroughly drain the prunes, discarding the soaking liquid. Carefully arrange the prunes in the cooled tart shell. Pour the almond filling over the prunes.

5. Place the tart in the center of the oven, and bake until the filling is set and the tart shell is nicely browned, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven. If you like, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Simple Miso Soup for a Cold


Being at the tail end of my second nasty cold in the past month, I've been craving nothing much but soup. Steaming pots of long simmered chicken broth are wonderful, but when cold viruses have sapped every last drop of energy from your body, such a broth can seem like a mirage. In contrast, a restorative miso soup, prepared with a quick kombu broth, is well within reach. 

As described in Elizabeth Andoh's Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen, Japanese broths made with kombu, or dried kelp, takes just as long to prepare as to bring water to a boil. I've shared both her dashi (made with bonito flakes) and a vegetarian version made with shiitake mushroom. These broths can be the backdrop of a flavorful soup when you layer in greens and mix in miso paste (avoid cooking, to preserve the full benefits of the fermenting microbes). A few bowls of this soup (with any number of variations in vegetables and protein) can do wonders for restoring one's spirits and health. 

Dashi (basic sea stock)
12 square inches kombu
2 cups cold water
1/4 cup loosely packed dried shaved bonito flakes (katsuo-bushi)

Place the kombu in a pot of cold water and heat over medium heat. When small bubbles begin to break the surface, remove from the heat. Sprinkle over the bonito flakes. Allow the flakes to settle, and then remove the kombu and strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer. You can scale up this recipe for more stock,which can be stored for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, but the flavors will not last if frozen.

Kombu Jiru (basic vegetarian stock)
12 square inches kombu
1 dried shiitake mushroom
2 cups cold water

Place the kombu and mushroom in a pot of cold water and heat over medium heat. When small bubbles begin to break the surface, remove from the heat. Allow to sit 3-4 minutes, remove the kombu and mushroom, and then strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer. Reserve the mushroom cap for cooking. You can scale up this recipe for more stock,which can be stored for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, but the flavors will not last if frozen.

Simple Miso Soup for a Cold
makes 1 large bowl
2 cups broth
1 rehydrated shitake mushroom cap, sliced
1 slice baked tofu, rinsed and diced
1 handful tender greens like baby spinach
1 Tbsp miso

Heat the strained broth to a simmer. Add the sliced mushroom cap and tofu to the simmering broth. Place the greens in a large soup bowl. In a small bowl, mix the miso and a ladle full of the broth. Pour the rest of the simmering broth into the soup bowl and mix in the thinned miso. Eat right away.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Strawberry Pancakes

Orders were placed last night for heart shaped pancakes for Valentine's Day breakfast. I added a handful of frozen strawberries from this week's Good Food Easy CSA share, which gave the resulting cakes a faint pink hue and a pleasant berry flavor.

Freeform hearts didn't work so well (I am not a pancake art master), but an aluminum foil mold managed to produce a few passable hearts. While I wrestled with the pancakes, my husband prepared fruit toppings: sautéed cinnamon apples shaped in an onigiri mold and banana hearts. Breakfast served with love.

Strawberry Pancakes
makes about 20 small pancakes
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 handful strawberries, thawed if frozen, and mashed
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 cups flour (I used Lonesome Whistle Farm's soft white wheat)
1 tsp baking powered
1/4 tsp baking soda
butter for greasing the pan

1. Make the batter. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just to combine.

2. Heat a large griddle on medium low until the temperature is stable. Grease with a pad of butter. Spoon on the batter with a soup spoon to make silver dollar sized pancakes. To make heart shaped pancakes, you can form a mold out of aluminum foil folded several times into a strip and formed into a heart. Cook the pancakes until stable bubbles form in the batter and the edges take on a more yellowish hue. Flip and cook briefly on the second side. If using the aluminum mold, peal it away from the pancake after flipping. When both sides are nicely browned, transfer to a warm plate. Grease the pan again and cook the next round of pancakes. Serve with fruit and maple syrup.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Satisfying Loaf of Bread

The winter break is now a distance memory, but I didn't want to let it slip away entirely without reporting on a triumphant reunion of the Bread 101 team. This past spring, we co-taught a course on the science and culture of bread. We’d learned alongside our students how to corral wild yeast into leaven and we’d experimented with different flours (establishing beyond any doubt that dough made with 100% barley flour is best used for construction). The following summer we’d had the privilege of visiting the Bread Lab, described by the New York Times as "a Wonka-esque wonderland for crusty, airy-crumbed experimentation",
where we’d had an immersive course in whole wheat bread baking from the master baker, Jonathan Bethony. Since then, we’d each been rousing our bread starters on occasion and attempting to recreate Jonathan’s loaves. With practice, I felt that I’d mastered his method for folding high hydration dough to build up its gluten network while trapping its flavorful fermentation fumes. But then once I’d achieved the pillowy mound of dough from the first ferment, I would be flummoxed as to how to proceed. The correct method for shaping the dough eluded me, and even after rereading the lengthy master recipe in Chad Robertson's Tartine 3 many times, I was uncertain. Then, inevitably after I had left my somewhat mangled packet of dough in a cloth-lined bowl for its second ferment, the final transfer to a searing hot Dutch oven would be a fiasco, with a deflating flop into the pot and sad tendrils left clinging to the cloth. The bread was still delicious, but only a pale mirage of Jonathan’s masterpieces.

When the bread coven gathered in my kitchen in early January, somehow our collective wisdom freed me from puzzling over cryptic instructions and allowed my hands to recall the feeling of shaping the dough. After the first ferment, the dough simply needed to be shaped by a circular rocking movement, lifting the back of the ball, rocking forward, and allowing gravity to pull the forward edge under the ball, then rotating and repeating to create a round dome with a taut top surface. Once our loaves had been shaped, the next steps seemed natural. There was no doubt that this domed surface would become the top of the final loaf, so clearly we needed to flip the dough to letter-fold it into a bundle. As for the cloths, my friend Judith confidently dumped on such copious amounts of rice flour and rubbed it in with such vigor that the transfer to the hot pots went without a hitch.

Because none of us can resist carrying out experiments, we tried various receptacles for baking our breads, including Dutch ovens and ceramic cloches. All worked well and produced loaves that were the closest any of us had come to the the Bread Lab's exemplars. Below is the recipe we followed. We each left, loaf in hand, emboldened to keep tinkering with this recipe.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
recipe for 2 loaves (we made 4, I often make just 1 loaf)

1. First thing in the morning, mix together:
200 g leaven (fed the night before, mine is made with white flour)
800 g water (the leaven should float if actively fermenting)
700 g whole wheat flour
300 g while flour

2. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes to hydrate flour. Then add:
20 g salt
50 g water

3. Mix the dough well with your hands until it feels smooth and elastic. Cover to start the first ferment. Every approximately 30 minutes for the next 3-4 hours, fold the dough onto itself four times, once from each side, and then flip, following these instructions. For the last hour, we gave the dough a boost by transferring it to a slightly warm oven.

4. Once the dough has risen to about twice its starting volume, it is ready to shape for its second ferment. Lightly flour a clean work surface. Divide the dough into two with a dough scraper. Place one piece of dough on the floured surface and shape into a boule by gently but firmly lifting the back end up, rocking the ball forward, and letting the force of gravity tuck the front edge under as you rock the ball back, rotate it, and repeat again. Once you've rotated the boule 360 degrees, it should have a taut top surface. Leave it resting on the work surface (seam side down), to rest for 30 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, prepare your proofing baskets. Generously dust two muslim clothes or dish towels with rice flour and rub into the fabric. Drape the cloths over two round bowls or colanders. The cloths need not be washed between baking sessions and will become better with age.

6. Once the boules have rested, you can shape your loaves. Dusk a bit more flour on your surface. Flip the boules, seam side up. Fold each by first taking the edge farthest from you, pulling it up and over 2/3 of the rest of the dough. Repeat this with the bottom and then the left and right edges. Gently transfer each loaf, seam side up, into the prepared floured baskets. Cover with a floured cloth and let rise 3-4 hours. An hour into this second ferment, you can transfer one or both loaves to the refrigerator to bake the following day.

7. 30 minutes before you will bake your loaves, start preheating the oven to 500 degrees and place in two Dutch ovens.

8. Take one hot pot out of the oven, sprinkle the bottom with polenta, then gently flip the loaf from the proofing basket, seam side down, into the pot. Use a sharp razor or knife to slash several cuts across the top of the loaf. Cover and transfer to the oven. Repeat with the second loaf.

9. Bake for 20 minutes at 500 degrees. Turn down the temperature 450, bake another 15 minutes. Remove the top, then bake another approximately 15 minutes until the loaf is a very dark brown.

10. Transfer the baked loaf to a rack and allow to cool for as long as you can stand. Jonathan recommends 24 hours, but you will probably want to enjoy it with dinner.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Toad-in-the-Hole and Minty Peas

Getting back into our regimented school routine has been a bit rough after a couple of weeks of winter holidays with lazy mornings spent curl up together reading. Over the break, I read my kids one of my favorite childhood books, Roald Dahl's Danny the Champion of the World (above is an illustration by Jill Bennett from the original edition). We were all especially captivated by Danny's father's description of his favorite childhood meal: "My mum could make toad-in-the-hole like nobody else in the world. She did it in an enormous pan with the Yorkshire pudding very brown and crisp on top and raised up in huge bubbly mountains. In between the mountains you could see the sausages half buried in the batter. Fantastic it was." We tried recreating the dish, based on this recipe from Five and Spice and it was a big hit. For a thoroughly British accompaniment, I made these minty peas from Nigel Slater. Although the dinner didn't involve any pheasant poaching, my son and I did venture down the dark and drizzly alleyway with a feeble flashlight to filch some unsuspecting mint.

adapted from Five and Spice
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 lb breakfast sausages

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a blender, combine the milk, eggs, flour, and salt and blend until smooth. You could also whisk these together in a bowl. Allow the batter to rest while you heat the oven and cook the sausages (ideally 30 minutes).

3. In a ovenproof pot, such as a cast iron Dutch oven, cook the sausages until they are browned on all sides. If there is a lot of fat release, pour some off, but you want about 2-4 Tbsp coating the pan. While the pot is still very hot, pour the batter over the sausages and immediately transfer the pot to the preheated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes (meanwhile, make some minty peas). The toad-in-the-hole is done when it is puffy and golden and crisp around the edges. Do not open the oven before 20 minutes or the popover might deflate. Serve right away with mustard on the side and minty peas.

Minty Peas
adapted from Nigel Slater
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 package frozen peas
2 or 3 sprigs fresh mint
salt to taste
1 Tbsp water

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When warm, add the olive oil, then the shallots and stir for 30 seconds, then the peas, mint, salt, and water. Cover and cook for four minutes. Remove the top and simmer another 2 or 3 minutes, allowing the liquid to evaporate. Serve warm.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Coconut Kale Chips

A New Year's resolution of mine is to be more adventurous about cooking new foods. Case in point: on a whim, my husband purchased my son a fresh coconut at the market. "How will we open it?" my son asked later that evening, holding it high above his head in the kitchen. "We'll have to look it up on Youtube" my husband answered from the living room. But just then we heard a crash and "oops" and "it's leaking!" Problem solved.

The next question: what to do with all the fresh coconut meat? Much experimentation ensued, with our favorite outcome being these coconut kale chips. We love plain Jane kale chips in our household, but this version makes them even more addictive. I tossed the kale pieces and grated coconut in coconut oil and added a splash of soy sauce for saltiness. They were a fun vehicle for fresh coconut, but I'm sure they would work with unsweetened, dried coconut on a day when one wasn't able to commit to a whole fresh coconut adventure.

Coconut Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 cup shredded coconut (fresh or unsweetened dried)
2 tsp soy sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and place two rimmed cooking sheets in the warming oven.

2. Rinse the kale leaves, shake dry, remove the stems (I've found that the fastest way to do this is by running my fingers down the stem), and tear into bite sized pieces. Remove all moisture from the kale leaves with some more shaking, or in a salad spinner.

3. Remove the hot pans from the oven and place a Tbsp of coconut oil on each pan, sliding it around to allow it to melt. Then put half the kale and half the coconut on each pan. Drizzle each with a tsp of soy sauce and then toss the leaves on each sheet well to mix and coat with the coconut oil.

4. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes until the kale leaves have crisped and started to brown and the coconut has toasted. Remove and serve at once or store in an airtight container.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

New England Spider Cake

Christmas brought a few unexpected delights this year, including discovering this decorated tree during a stroll through Hendrick's Park. Another treat was this New England Spider Cake that we had for a late Christmas breakfast (after fortifying ourselves earlier with stollen). I adapted this recipeusing corn flour, polenta, and soft white flour from our newest CSA installment from Lonesome Whistle Farm, and we ate it topped with poached quince. This cake is just the thing to slip in the oven, along with a tray of bacon, to bake while opening presents. The final dish is a kind of cornmeal spoon bread, and apparently gets is name from the spidery cracks emanating from the center of cream, which is itself an unexpected custardy treat.

New England Spider Cake
1/2 cup corn flour (I used Lonesome Whistle Farm's corn flour)
1/2 cup coarse corn meal (I used Lonesome Whistle Farm's polenta)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used Lonesome Whistle Farm's soft white wheat)
1/2 cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place a 12-inch cast iron skillet in the oven to warm.  Combine corn flour, cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Whisk eggs into the buttermilk. Stir into dry ingredients and set batter aside.

2. Remove the skillet from the oven and melt the butter in the hot skillet. Pour in the batter. Pour the cream into the center, slide the skillet into the oven and bake until golden brown on top, about 45 minutes. Slice into wedges and serve warm.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Marbled Birthday Cupcakes

This year, my Winter Solstice seven-year-old son was eager to help bake his birthday cupcakes. We decided on chocolate and vanilla marbled ones (no need to give a bunch of bouncing seven year olds too many choices). We adapted this marble cake recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini, and my son laboriously transcribed the ingredient list, increased by 50% to ensure sufficient cupcakes for his party.

He distributed the first layer of vanilla batter,

helped mix in melted chocolate for the top layer,

and marbled the two with a skewer. 

The resulting cupcakes were just big enough to hold seven candles for the afternoon festivities, and just plentiful enough for a second afterdinner wish.

Marbled Cupcakes
adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini, makes 18-24 cupcakes

150 grams (7 ounces) good-quality bittersweet chocolate
6 eggs
330 grams (2 cup plus 4 tablespoons) sugar
3/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk
330 grams (3 1/3 cups) flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
180 grams (a little less than 13 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 330°F.

2. Melt the butter in the microwave, and set aside to cool. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, and set aside. 

3. Combine the flour with the baking powder and pinch of salt and set aside.

4. By hand or in a mixer, beat together the eggs and the sugar until frothy. Add in buttermilk and whisk to combine. Combine in the flour mixture and then incorporate the melted butter and the vanilla, without over mixing. 

5. Line 18 to 24 muffin tins with paper muffin cups. Scoop a soup spoon of batter into each cup, using half of the batter. Mix the melted chocolate into the remaining batter. Scoop a soup spoon of the chocolate batter into each cup. The cups should be about 3/4 full. Using a skewer, pierce each mound of dough and give it a quick swirl to create the marbling.

6. Bake for 25-28 minutes until a clean skewer comes out clean.

Note: we made 18 cupcakes (our household's muffin tin capacity) and had batter leftover for a mini cake, so I think one could stretch this recipe to 24 cupcakes.