26 September 2010

Lemon Ginger Cookies

With the extra lemon syrup that was generated by making the limoncello, I was searching for an interesting use for it. As it so happened, I also ended up using some ginger a bit ago, and happened to have some left. Thus the idea of making lemon ginger cookies.

Alas, no one seems to make them with lemon syrup and fresh ginger. I did eventually find a recipe that used a syrup, if not lemon syrup, so I adapted it a bit and came up with the following. It's a bit softer and cakier than the cookies I usually make, but very nice for having with tea.

Lemon Ginger Cookies
adapted from Coconut & Lime
makes 18-20 cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup lemon syrup
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced fine
9-10 ounces (~2 cups) flour
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

1. Cream butter and sugar

2. Add egg, syrup, minced ginger; stir until combined

3. In a separate bowl, mix flour, ground ginger, baking powder and salt

4. Gradually add flour mix to wet ingredients--this should come out so that you can roll it in your hand

5. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls (optional: roll balls in sugar to coat)

6. Place on baking sheet and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand

7. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until golden

Catching up with Ketchup (And Other Tomatoey Goods)

Did you know that the idea of ketchup started off as a salty, vinegary fish paste? At least according to the book Salt: A World History. Thank goodness for New World Tomatoes, huh? Not that I have anything against fish or paste made from them after they're dried and salted, but it's not what I want on top of my burger.

As you might suspect by now, I got a lot of tomatoes and processed them into a bunch of interesting forms; ketchup, salsa, sauce, paste, diced and quartered. Let me tell you, it was a lot of blanching and peeling. Fortunately, that gets quicker with only a bit of experience. The thing to keep in mind, of course, is that you want both the boiling pot and the blanching pot to be big, and if you have to choose, make the blanching pot the bigger of the two. After all, waiting for the stove to heat your water is a bit quicker than freezing enough ice to blanch with (unless you go buy some from the store...cheater).

The latter three on the list above (paste, diced and quartered tomatoes) are extremely easy. The paste is helped by having a blender, but dicing quite fine and mashing as they boil work equally well. And the diced and quartered need to be just covered with water, heated for five minutes and have 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon lemon juice added per pint when you go to can them. The processing is as all other tomato products--bubble the jars, and 35 minutes in a boiling water bath for pints (45 for quarts, 25 for half-pints).

Salsa is equally worry-free. As long as you top everything up with enough vinegar, you can put nearly anything in there. I forget our exact proportions, but I know we added garlic, onion, tomato, hot pepper, cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper. If you're canning properly, you'll want the vinegar to be hot when you add it to the jars so that you can put everything in the hot jars that have just been sterilized. Otherwise, you do run the risk of either the jars be contaminated as they cool or cracking under the thermal shock. Don't worry too much, though, as long as everything is at least room-temp when adding it the jars, there shouldn't be any of that thermal shock, but definitely don't add anything that's just been in the fridge!

So, now to the stuff that needs a recipe: ketchup and sauce. As these two products usually have many more ingredients and/or are less based on an acid, the proportions must be kept fairly close. Most spices can be done to taste, though garlic should be kept decently close as it has a bit of a different ratio of bulk to taste. Unless of course you want to use the ground dehydrated stuff. But that's up to you. Anyway, the recipes I used are as follows.




    Ketchup
adapted from a lot of different recipes

3 pounds tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 large (or 2 small) clove garlic, diced
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt

Spices:
cloves, a small pinch
nutmeg, a pinch
cayenne pepper, pinch or so
peppercorns, some (to be strained out of vinegar after infusion)

Bring the vinegar to a boil, then take off heat, add the spices, cover and let steep for at least 10 minutes. (Alternately, you could put the spices in the vinegar to infuse a few days before at room temperature.)

Strain the vinegar, then add it and all other ingredients to a pot or slow-cooker and cook down until you reach your desired consistency. If you don't like chunky ketchup, you can blend this either at the beginning or end of the process.

Process as any other tomato product.



    Chunky Basil Pasta Sauce
Adapted from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving
via Just the Right Size
Yield: 8 cups

8 cups (2 L) coarsely chopped, peeled tomatoes (about 9-12 tomatoes)
1 cup chopped onion
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup red wine
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
6 ounces (~3/4 cup) tomato paste

Add everything to a pot and cook down to the desired consistency.

This ends up being almost completely chunky, so if you want something that has a decent base of smooth sauce, but still with chunks, I found that pureeing about 2/3 to 3/4 of the tomatoes works beautifully. Also, the yield for me was dramatically lower when I did this the first two times (once when I didn't blend any of the tomatoes, once when I blended 3/4 of them). The third time, though, I let the mixture (with 3/4 of the tomatoes blended) sit in the fridge for a couple days (though I had only intended to let it sit overnight), and I got a much better yield. I don't know exactly why this happened, but that was my experience.

22 August 2010

Sausage, Potato, and Pepper Bake

Chris and I have had this dish a few times, and every time it is amazing. As with any casserole, the exact proportions are forgiving, as long as you keep it mostly right. As it happened, I had some delicious sourdough of which I had baked up two loaves, and the second loaf was going stale. Knowing that, and having plenty of bell peppers and potatoes, I went and picked up some hot italian sausage to make this casserole.

I really only have a word or two of caution for this dish. Make sure your potatoes are browned, as this is essential for the right texture and taste for the 'taters. And, less importantly, if your bread is very crusty, either let it soak or remove the crust before cubing it (the pieces on top will get a new crust when baking, and this prevents burning and chewiness). I did the latter this time, and it turned out wonderfully.

Sausage, Potato, and Pepper Bake
adapted from King Arthur Flour
yields 10 servings

1 pound sausage, crumbled
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced red bell or green peppers
3 to 4 medium Red Bliss or Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, wedged
6 cups sourdough bread, cubed
2 cups milk
6 medium eggs
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Brown the crumbled sausage in a cast-iron pan, remove from the pan, and set aside.

3. In the same pan (with the sausage fat) sauté the onions and peppers until just tender; remove from the pan and mix with the sausage.

4. Place the potatoes in the pan and fry until browned and tender (even with the sausage fat, I find this still takes an extra tablespoon of butter so that the potatoes don't stick badly).

5. Mix the sausage, vegetables and bread back into the pan with the potatoes.

6. Mix the milk, eggs, cheese, salt and pepper; pour over the ingredients in the cast-iron pan. (At this point, the dish may be refrigerated for several hours, or up to overnight.)

7. Bake the casserole for 40 to 50 minutes, until golden brown and puffy. Remove from the oven, and let sit for 10 minutes or so before serving.

29 July 2010

Wild Blueberry Pie

On our way back from Chris's conference on Prince Edward Island, we drove along 9 in Maine. If I might say, it's so much more fun than 95 (though neither pass much in the way of towns), and the best feature of all is that there are wild blueberry farms that you can stop at.

The one we chose to go to was Beddington Ridge Farms. Ron was pretty cool, his berries are delightful, and his price is phenomenal. It was $1.75/lb for self-picked berries. Given that a quart weighs a pound and a half, we made off with four quarts for just over $10. Really, really awesome. The only annoying part is how much debris you get with the low-bush blueberries. I spent a good 3 hours sorting those four quarts when we got home. Admittedly, we didn't have Ron run them through his berry cleaning machine, but that's as is. Completely worth it.

Now, for eating out of hand, low-bush blueberries actually aren't quite as good as high-bush, in my opinion. However! Wild blueberry pie is indescribably delicious. I am not joking. Not a bit. In fact, I'm filching all the blueberries I had in mind for jamming for more pie. So, here's the recipe.

Wild Blueberry Pie

6 cups fresh wild blueberries, rinsed and sorted
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup flour, for thickening
2 tablespoons butter, for dotting on top

1. Roll out some pie crust for a deep-dish pie

2. Pre-heat oven to 425°F

3. Pour half the berries into the bottom crust

4. Mix half the sugar with all the flour and sift evenly over the first layer of berries

5. Drip the lemon juice evenly over as well

6. Add the rest of the berries, then the rest of the sugar

7. Dot with the butter

8. Add the second pie crust, trim, flute, and score

9. Bake for about 30 minutes, turning at 15 min if necessary

This turned out just a bit runny for me, so I'm going to use 3 tablespoons cornstarch instead of 4 tablespoons flour next time, but other than that, it's just so amazing that my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

14 July 2010

Venison Curry

It sounds a bit untraditional to me, since I've not heard of too many deer in India (though I'm sure there are), however I adore venison. Luckily for me, I was recently organizing my freezer and happened across some small venison steak strips. I recalled that this batch was a little on the chewy side, and what better way to tenderize some meat than stewing it in a curry?

For those of you who are still skeptical, let me wax a bit poetic. Venison is gamey and thus laced with the flavor of the land, it has the delightful mouth-feel of well worked muscle (think beef shank or goat or what-have-you), it's delightfully lean, and (and!) I get it free from my dad or one of his friends. Really, what more could I ask for in a curry meat?

As for the curry itself, I keep it pretty simple. Onions, spices, meat, yogurt. With a side of rice. And some naan. Delightful.

Venison Curry
serves 3-4

1/2 to 1 lb venison strips (depending on how much meat you like in your curry)
1 tablespoon of oil
1-1/2 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ginger
extra chili powder (or fresh spicy pepper) to taste
salt to taste
2 to 2-1/2 cups yogurt

(0. If you so desire, you can marinate your meat. I do this in one cup of the yogurt and some of the spices)

1. Sear the meat, then reserve.

2. Add the oil to the pot, then sauté the onions.

3. Add your spices and stir until the onion is well coated with the mixture.

4. Add the meat back in, as well as the yogurt (or the yogurt and marinade).

5. Let simmer partially covered until the yogurt sauce has reduced to a pleasant consistency, stirring occasionally. I know this is vague, but it really does have more to do with personal preference than anything else. I let it simmer for about 45 minutes.

Notes:

--You always want plenty of carbohydrates with curry. This could be a side of rice (white or brown), or you could put in potatoes, or some mostly cooked chickpeas. Really, curries are quite flexible. You just have to push the envelope and experiment.

--Another delightful thing to add to curries is fruit. Mango, especially. In this case, you want to divide the cut up fruit into two batches. Add one batch at the beginning. This will quite likely dissolve into the curry. Then, at the end add the second batch and cook until just soft (as in, not at all for mango, but longer for things like apple).

Naan

Flatbreads are fun. I really quite like a bit of a sour bite in mine, though, as you can tell from my previous Sourdough Pita. So really, aren't naan and I destined to be together? Well, perhaps not, but I am a fan. And it's quite simple.

What's not quite as simple is cooking it in the bottom of an oven, right next to the element, and keeping things going so that the oven isn't on any longer than necessary. Fortunately, that's easily solvable by having two sets of hands. One person rolls and brushes on the butter while the other keeps the one in the oven from burning. Then one rebutters and folds while the other is putting the next naan in the oven. Rinse and repeat. Very nice.

But don't let me keep you waiting.

Naan
makes 4

2 cups ap flour (I've found that I like to use about 10 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/8 teaspoon yeast
4 tablespoons melted butter, divided
3/4 cup yogurt

1. Mix together flour, salt, yeast

2. Pour in 2 tablespoons butter and yogurt

3. Mix until it comes together in a ball

4. Knead for 10 minutes on a floured surface, adding flour as necessary (don't shortchange the kneading)

5. Let rise for an hour and a half in a lightly greased bowl, covered

5.5. Put a baking stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat to 500°F

6. Divide into 4 balls and let rest and plump for 20 minutes

7. Roll out the naan one by one into 8" ovals

8. Brush with melted butter (side note, you can put herbs or garlic into the butter, yum!)

9. Bake for ~3 minutes, give or take, until beginning to brown

10. Brush with a titch more butter, fold and put in a towel lined basket

10 July 2010

Limoncello

So...there are a lot of recipes out there for limoncello. A lot. Not to mention, I'm only doing a small batch to test my method, as it were, so which one do I choose? So far, I'm not really going with any of them, but some amalgamation. I say so far, because I've only done the first couple of steps and now it has to sit. Some say that it only has to sit 10 days per waiting period, but closer to 45 days each supposedly produces a better, smoother flavor. I lasted 28 days for the first wait, and am now on the second.

Anyway, here's the mini-batch recipe that I've worked out.

3 large lemons, zested
250 mL (1/3 of a fifth) 80 proof vodka (and yes, that's a bit low, but I decrease the water in the simple syrup to make up for it)
7 ounces sugar (a bit less than a cup)
3/4 cup water

Once you've zested your washed lemons, stick the zest in a glass jar large enough to hold all your liquid, such as a pint-jar. Add to that the 250 mL vodka (I am using Svedka--relatively cheap but decently smooth). Then put it in a dark cabinet and let it sit. And sit. And sit. For hopefully 45 days. If you can. Certainly no less than 10, but the longer the more lemon-y it gets. And some people recommend shaking it every 2 or 3 days for the first week to week and a half.

For the second part, you put the water and sugar in a pan on the stove, bring to a boil (not too hot, lest you caramelize your sugar), and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. While this is cooling, strain the zest from the liquor. When the syrup is mostly chilled, add it to the liquor and put it back in the dark and let it sit again for just as long. Again, the longer the better, because it's supposed to produce a smoother flavor.

Honestly, our vessel of choice for the limoncello wasn't large enough for the whole amount of syrup. Instead of choosing a bigger bottle, we chose to do half the syrup into the lemon vodka and let the other half steep with the strained out lemon zest in the fridge (note that! unless you want to seal the jar, the syrup must be kept in the fridge!). As it happens, I used the syrup was used for other things (aka, lemon ginger cookies). The end result is certainly more similar to limoncello than lemon vodka, and it isn't ridiculously sweet, so that's nice.

At this point, you will filter the limoncello...or at least that's what they say. We actually didn't, and it doesn't taste like bath water as everyone seemed to be saying. It's a little rough, but that could be just because we didn't leave it alone in the closet long enough. I don't know why everyone seemed to be so against this, but some of the options that come to mind are that they didn't let the sugar dissolve properly in the syrup, or using all the syrup makes a significant difference, or even perhaps they let the syrup sit long enough to be contaminated and things tried growing and/or fermenting in their limoncello.

That said, there is another property that filtering might effect--ability to store in the freezer. Ours froze. Like I said, this may be because of not filtering, or it might be that we didn't choose a vodka with a high enough proof, or it may have been the recipe we followed. Regardless, it seems to be just fine chilling in the fridge.

08 June 2010

Nöckereln

Chris and I have been back from visiting family for all of two days now, and neither one of us has gone to get groceries. So I was thumbing through the cookbook to see if there was something pancake-y/soufflé-y like that I could make with just eggs, flour, and very little else. (I don't like griddle cakes with no milk, or else those would have been just the ticket.) Soon enough, I came across Nöckereln, which just sounded like souffléd  eggs in pancake format.

Wrong! Pure dessert, I assure you.

So, while I was surprised at the outcome (and it didn't make a great meal), it was still pretty tasty. It has the sweet aroma that's all dessert, but with an egginess that I never really do expect...which probably means I need to make soufflés more often...hehehe...

Nöckereln
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Serves 1

1 large egg, separated
1 tablespoon + 3/4 teaspoon sugar, divided
1/16 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon flour (I used pastry)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Separate the egg, putting the yolk in one bowl and the white in another.

Beat the white 'til almost stiff, then slowly beat in 1 tablespoon of sugar 'til very stiff and shiny. Add the vanilla extract, and beat that in.

In the bowl containing the yolk, add 3/4 teaspoon of sugar, as well as the almond extract. Beat until light and smooth.

Sift the flour over the whites and fold in, then gently fold in the yolk mixture as well.

Over a low burner, heat a small, oven-safe skillet with just enough butter to coat the bottom. When the butter becomes fragrant and begins to brown, pour the batter into the pan.

When the bottom of the Nöckerel begins to brown (it said three minutes, I found it to be 1-1/2), place in the oven. Leave there until the top browns lightly, 5-10 minutes. It should still be soft inside.

Serve immediately, and with warmed preserves (preferably a stone-fruit jam, i.e., cherry, brandied apricot, or ginger peach).

04 June 2010

Strawberry and Rhubarb in Many Ways

Oh goodness! Strawberries! Strawberries! Strawberries! We picked nine quarts of strawberries on Wednesday. Nine! And thus there was Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, Rhubarb Jam (well, sort of, it was supposed to be butter, but the rhubarb was too fresh for butter making--but the week old rhubarb was perfect for that application), Strawberry Jam, and for good measure some Orange Rhubarb Butter with fruit in the fridge that hadn't been eaten before we picked. And we have at least five cups of strawberries frozen. Oh, and might I say, the food processor that Chris's mother has was key in making this go quickly.

So let's get right to the onslaught of recipes.

    Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Yields: 6 to 6-1/2 cups

2 cups thinly sliced rhubarb (~6 stalks)
2 cups thinly sliced strawberries
(optional) 1/4 cup lemon juice
5-1/2 cups of sugar
1 box pectin

General jamming directions apply (and will follow).


    Strawberry Jam
Yields: 8 cups

5 cups thinly sliced strawberries
7 cups sugar
1 box pectin

General jamming directions apply (and will follow).


      Rhubarb Jam/Butter
    Yields: 3 cups for jam, 2 cups for butter

    4 cups thinly sliced rhubarb
    2 cups sugar

    For this recipe, you mix the sugar into the rhubarb and macerate overnight in the fridge.

    Dump it all in the pot, bring to a full rolling boil for at least one minute (until it reaches the jamming point [222°F]) or, if doing a butter, until it reaches an appropriate consistency.

    Then you jar as normal.

    What makes this a jam versus a butter is the variety and freshness of the rhubarb. For instance, the rhubarb that I had picked only the day before (processed that same day, macerated overnight, and did up) turned into a jam.  The same variety of rhubarb, picked the week before (and buried in the fridge) turned into butter.


      Orange Rhubarb Butter
    Yields: 1 cup
    Adapted from FoodinJars

    2 cups thinly sliced rhubarb
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 cup (fresh-squeezed) orange juice

    Mix everything together, bring to a simmer, and let butter. Or, if you're impatient and like a darker butter, turn up the heat and stir constantly 'til it reduces into a butter. This is particularly pretty if the rhubarb is more red than green or if you have some honey tangerines to squeeze in there (if you didn't know, these are nearly fluorescent orange).

    And, of course, jar as normal.



    General Jamming Directions

    1. Wash and rinse the jars, rings and lids

    2. Place the jars and accessories into your water bath canner (aka, a really big pot), make sure the water comes to about 1 inch above the top of the jars and bring the pot to a boil

    3. While that is coming to a boil, measure the fruit into your jamming pot (I use a 1.5 or a 2 gallon pot) and your sugar into a separate bowl

    4. Stir the pectin into the fruit

    5. Bring the fruit to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly

    6. Dump the sugar into the boiling fruit all at once and stir quickly until it is all incorporated

    7. Bring back to a rolling boil, stirring constantly, and hold it there for one full minute

    8. Pull off the heat, and take a spoon to skim the foam off the top (to eat with ice cream later)

    9. Pull the jars from the boiling water, pour the hot jam into them, cap tightly, and place back into the boiling water canner (be careful not to overflow it if you poured the water from the jars back into the pot like I do) for 10 minutes (assuming you're using half-pint or pint-sized jars)

    10. After that, pull them out onto a towel covered counter and leave them alone for 24 hours

    01 June 2010

    Cherry Pie

    While I was visiting my family, my sister wanted me to make some cherry pie for her boyfriend. I was thinking about getting frozen cherries, since it was a little early in the season round my hometown for cherries just now, but my hometown is also pretty much an armpit of the state, there was nowhere to buy frozen cherries either. I ended up making the pies with cherry pie filling--alright, but far from amazing. I made it up with using my lovely pie crust with a half substitution for butter and double sugar.

    However, toward the end of my visit (and after the second rendition of cherry pie filling pie, I was looking through the freezer for something to put in the small pie I had made of the leftover crust. What should I happen upon, of course, but cherries! Needless to say, I made up another cherry pie, and it did not go to my sister's boyfriend!

    The cherries had to be pitted, and I could tell that they had some sugar before freezing, though I didn't have a clue how much. But this is what basically went into the pie:

    Cherry Pie
    ~2-1/4 cups cherries + juice
    scant 2/3 cups sugar
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    3 tablespoons cornstarch

    I heated it all in a pan on the stovetop so that I could taste the end filling to make sure the acid/sugar ratio was appropriate. And boy! was it ever! I don't think that I ever had such an amazing cherry pie. I just wish that I knew what kind of cherries they were. My dad thinks that they were black cherries, and I tend to agree, but whatever they were, it was certainly a heavenly pie!

    Never-Fail Pie Crust

    So, I'm surprised that I haven't posted this before now. It's really the only pie crust recipe that I have ever made. It just works so wonderfully: It's not fussy, you can use a number of substitutes, and it always turns out nice and flaky. Here's the basic incarnation.



    Never-Fail Pie Crust

    4 cups flour
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 cups shortening
    1 large egg
    1/2 c cold water
    1 tablespoon vinegar

    1. In mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt

    2. Cut in shortening until crumbs are pea-sized or smaller

    3. In smaller bowl, mix egg, water, vinegar until in a single phase

    4. Mix wet ingredients into dry until most of the flour is incorporated. Toward the end, you might need to gently knead the dry ingredients into the dough.

    5. Separate into 4 balls, then roll on lightly floured surface (I like to use wax paper for ease of transportation to pie pan) and use as any pie crust

    Now, for notes.

    While this pie crust is supremely unfussy, in a warm kitchen, it's still nice to put it in the fridge for 10 minutes or so if it's a bit sticky. Alternately, you can use a bit more flour (it can stand it, but it's better to just fridge it).

    For substitution on fats, you can use all butter, but it's quite sticky. If I did that again, I'd cut by 1/4 cup-ish. I much prefer substituting only half of the shortening for butter if I want a butter-y crust. I also know that my great-grandmother used lard, but the closest I've gotten to that is using the animal fat based shortening (pretty close, but I don't know how close for handling purposes). Honestly, that was the easiest fat to work with that I have ever used in this recipe.

    When halving this recipe, still use 1 egg, but reduce the water to 1/8 cup instead of to 1/4 cup.

    If I know that all the pie crust is going to dessert pies, I like to double the sugar. I've also accidentally doubled the salt (when doing a half recipe), and that's perfectly fine. It doesn't help anything, but if you do have a brain-fart like I did, it really is fine to go ahead with the half recipe.

    For flour, I've not done a lot of substitutions, but I know that if you're using pastry flour, only substitute half! Otherwise it turns out very wet. It's salvageable by throwing in more flour (at that point I used whole wheat flour), but it made a bit of a mess. I haven't tried completely using whole wheat flour, but substituting up to a quarter is excellent.

    25 May 2010

    Sourdough Pita Bread

    2-3/4 c (5:6--water:flour) barm
    10 oz flour (6 oz in barm)--separated: 1 c, unsifted + 1 c, sifted if working without kitchen scale
    2 teaspoons salt
    2 teaspoons yeast
    2 tablespoons oil

    1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for a scant 1/4 cup of the flour. With a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until all the flour is moistened. Knead until it comes together.

    2. Dust the counter with a little of the reserved flour and scrape the dough onto it. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding as little of the reserved flour as possible. Scrape the dough with bench scraper and gather it together as you knead it. At this point it will be very sticky. If it is too sticky to work with, cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 5 to 20 minutes. Then knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes until it is soft and smooth and just a little sticky to the touch. Add a little flour or water if necessary.

    3. Let the dough rise in bowl, lightly greased with oil. Press the dough down and lightly oil the top of it. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. (At this point, you can refrigerate the dough overnight or up to 3 days.)

    4. Preheat the oven to 475°F one hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level with a baking stone.

    5. Cut the dough into 8 or 12 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the rest covered with a damp cloth. On a lightly floured counter, with lightly floured hands, shape each piece into a ball and then flatten it into a disk. Cover the dough with oiled plastic and allow it to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature. Roll each disk into a circle a little under 1/4 inch thick. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes before baking.

    6. Quickly place 1 piece of dough directly on the stone and bake for 3 minutes. The pita should be completely puffed and just beginning to brown. The dough will not puff well if it is not moist enough. See how the pita puffs, then, if necessary, spray each remaining piece with water before baking.

    7. Once the pita has puffed, you can flip it to lightly brown the other side.

    8. Proceed with the remaining dough, baking as many at a time as can fit on the stone without touching. After they are baked, transfer the pita breads to a clean towel, to stay soft and warm. You should allow the oven to reheat for 5 minutes between batches, but it isn't completely necessary.

    The pitas can be reheated for about 30 seconds in a hot oven before serving, if needed.

    21 May 2010

    Rhubarb Hibiscus Butter

    I wanted to do a rhubarb jam or something, and the recipe I found went something like the following:

    1/2 lb rhubarb, sliced (~1-1/4 c?)
    3/4 c sugar
    2 T lemon juice
    2-3/4 T dried hibiscus flowers, minced

    1. Macerate rhubarb in sugar >6 hr, 'til most of the sugar has dissolved
    2. Add lemon juice and hibiscus
    3. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly for ~10 min that it takes to thicken
    4. Remove from heat, let sit ~5 min, ladle into jars
    5. Process 15 minutes in water bath

    Yields...Well, I don't know actually. First off, the recipe didn't say, and second off, I ended up stealing some of the rhubarb (+sugar) for a batch of scones. I ended up with exactly one cup, and I stole about 1/3 c macerated rhubarb, so I'd guess 1-1/2 c. otherwise.

    The person that posted the recipe said that the result would be jammy, but it's certainly more of a butter. But my! It isn't shy about taste. It's more like POW! RHUBARB! ...and hibiscus. It's quite tart, so if I do something like this again, I'm going to drop the lemon juice entirely I think. I do, however, like it as a butter instead of a jam, so no added pectin.

    21 April 2010

    Lentil Salad

    So, last night Chris and I were looking for something to eat with bratwurst and bread, and upon seeing lentils in the back of the pantry cupboard, we decided that we needed to do something with them. Chris proceeded to find the following recipe somewhere, and it was amazingly delicious.

    The vinegar helped it stand up to the big taste of the brats, and the onions helped the salad stay complementary ('cause who doesn't like some onions with their brats?). The carrots didn't stand out too much, but they were very pretty and certainly worth adding. Not to mention, I think they were hold more of their own when I eat the leftover salad for lunch today.

    Without further ado, here's the recipe.

    Lentil Salad

    1/2 c. lentils, cooked (and drained if necessary)
    1 carrot, minced, sauteed until tender
    1/2 medium red onion, minced, sauteed until tender
    glug of EVOO
    1 T red wine vinegar (or 1/2 T each red wine and white vinegar)

    Mix it all together and serve at room temperature.

    10 April 2010

    Orange Marmalade

    Oh, oh, oh! I almost forgot. We eventually got some temple oranges instead of the navel oranges (which apparently the one company was out of stock, but never felt the need to tell anybody on our end...but the new company that Chris's mum ordered from--The Orange Shop--is grand). Anyway, we ate the vast majority of the oranges, but the last five I turned into a bit of marm...or, well, orange jelly with orange zest might be more accurate...but anyway, it was with the following recipe:

    juice of five orange (1 1/2 c)
    minced zest (I minced 3 or 4 of the oranges, but ended up using less--just eyeball it, whatever looks like enough)
    1 c sugar
    part of a pack of pectin (1/2 - 3/4)

    The marm turned out deliciously, if a bit zingy. The set was loose, which I don't mind, and the recipe is a bit iffy, but the result stands for itself. Next time, though, I might try something more like everyone else's marm recipes--that is, cut the juice with water (I could also use more zest in this case, I suppose), and simply cut the fruit up instead of juicing it. Oh, and they suggest using more sugar, which I know would improve the set, but I think the sugar to acid ratio with this recipe is just so grand, it would be hard to justify. Maybe I could up it a titch, but we'll see. That's all the way 'til next December or January anyway.

    Homemade noodles

    So I've made noodles before, but they never turn out quite right. Dry or chewy or just plain wrong. My mother has  recipe for egg noodles that always turned out well with just ap flour, but I never had it on hand when I was experimenting with homemade pasta. Now that I'm out Boston-way, though, there are more specialty shops and/or specialty items (and, yes, I am enough of an American country girl that semolina counts in this category) that Chris and I decided to try out semolina flour. Here's the recipe we ended up using:

    3 medium eggs (4 1/4 oz), beaten
    6 ounces semolina flour
    2 ounces bread flour (we were out of ap)
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    We mixed the solids, formed them into a bowl, poured in the eggs and slowly mixed in the flours with a fork until it came mostly together (you won't incorporate all the flour mix). Then we kneaded it until smooth and elastic (adding in the extra flours as necessary so that the dough isn't sticky). Right now it's resting for its half hour. Hopefully this turns out well. *crosses fingers*


    So, to get it thin enough when rolling by hand, you have to divide the ball of dough into at least quarters. Our first quarter ball ended up a little thick, but the next two were gorgeous (still on the thicker side of noodles, but perfect for the application we put them to). The last quarter is in the fridge, where it can apparently stay for up to 24 hours--well wrapped, of course.

    A good trick is to roll them out on a piece of wax paper, lightly floured with the leftover semolina/bread flour mix, and turn it 90° while flipping it over occasionally. Soon enough it will get thin enough that you're worried about tearing it (unlikely; or at least it never happened to me), and you want to go even just a bit thinner.

    Then pop them into some boiling water, and wait for them to float. If you got them thin enough, they'll be done now, but if they're on the thick side, it'll take a minute or two more. My batch took about a minute after floating to finish cooking the inside.

    I'm certainly looking forward to eating more fresh noodles tomorrow!

    08 March 2010

    pickles?

    I was rather hesitant about the carrot challenge from Tigress in a Jam/Pickle because I'm a little weirded out by carrot jams and jellies, and I've never liked a pickle in my life. However, I've only had pickled cukes (and I'm very particular about cukes anyway), so I decided I might as well pickle my carrots ('cause I do adore vinegar). I followed a very basic recipe and did a ridiculously small batch.

    1/2 lb carrots, quartered and cut to fit in a 1/2 pint jar and blanched for 5 minutes
    1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
    1/2 cup water
    3/4 tablespoon salt
    a few peppercorns, some nutmeg, a small pinch ground cloves

    The carrots and spices got packed in the prepared jar. The liquids and salt was brought to a boil and poured over the carrots. I made sure there were no air bubbles, and I boiled the result for 10 minutes in the canning pot. I'm still waiting on the results...

    Early April, after I opened the jar--
    So...I don't like them. Cloves were a bad idea, but just in general I think I'll stay away from pickling anything. Maybe it's more of an acquired taste, anyway.

    25 January 2010

    Canning Citrus: Lemon Curd

    This month was going to be terribly exciting because I was going to be able to try my hand at a marmalade. Alas, the shipment of citrus Chris and I were supposed to get two weeks ago has still not arrived. Fortunately, while we were visiting Stosh, he had a couple extra lemons and some tasty eggs, so I was able to whip up a batch of a different citrus preserve, lemon curd. I've never had any sort of fruit curd before, so I was operating with no idea of the outcome--but what an outcome it was! Silky, smooth, tangy with a hint of sweetness! It was Yum. Here's the basic proportions I used:

    3 egg yolks, beaten until lightened
    1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
    zest of 1 lemon (on a small-holed grater if you don't want to strain before jarring)
    1 fl oz limoncello, added after you pull it off the heat

    It was suggested that I cook the beaten yolks with the zest first, but I thought that was silly, so I put everything together (except the liquor, of course) on the stove and cooked until it thickened. The recipe above gives about 3/4 c. of product, and a relatively thin set. I think I'll up the egg yolks to four when I do this again, but I still call it a wonderful success.