Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Oat Bread

I made oat buns a while back, and really liked the flavor that oat flour added to a mostly-wheat dough. This time I decided the up the ante by increasing the proportion of oat flour, adding quick-cooking oats AND sprinkling some oats on top.

That triple-dose of oats made the bread a little denser and not as fluffy as the oat buns I'd previously made, but that's just fine. Every bread doesn't need to be a fluffy sandwich loaf. Sometimes a heartier loaf is just what you need.

To be honest, I made this bread because I was craving a peanut butter sandwich, but the only bread I had on hand was a loaf with feta cheese and herbs, and that certainly wasn't going to work with peanut butter. The heartiness of the oat bread - and the extra whole grain goodness it provided - made a perfect canvas for my peanut butter.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Poppy Seed Hot Dog Buns

I've been fiddling around with some different techniques for speeding up the breadmaking process without losing too much flavor, and hot dog buns are the perfect victim for that treatment.

The timing for the first rise is very flexible. Thirty minutes is enough, but if you have more time - or if you get delayed - you can let it rest for up to 90 minutes. The flavor will be better with the longer rest, but c'mon, these are hot dog buns. They'll be better than anything you can buy, even with the short rest.

While I'm calling these hot dog buns, they're sturdy enough and they've got enough personality to stand up to something with a little more heft, like a bratwurst, or something a little wet and goopy like a chili dog.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Technique: Cooking Surfaces for Pizza (Part 10)

With most baking stones, you get what's available - a particular size and thickness. Maybe there's a choice of round and rectangular. Maybe there are a couple of standard sizes. But you're still limited by what's available.

A huge benefit to the Fibrament stone is that you can specify exactly the size you want. There are several standard sizes, but if want something different you can order whatever you like. Perfect if you've got an odd-sized or custom oven.

The stone I have is 15x17 x 3/4 inches thick. It's obviously not the same material as the standard stone. It's a greenish-colored stone and feels a little slick to the touch, although it's also bumpy.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ham, peas, and cheese

Here's another spur-of-the-moment dinner that worked out really well. I had left over ham and plenty of cheese after winning some from the nice folks in Wisconsin who make and market and promote cheese.

I didn't measure anything as I made it, but this is the kind of dish where you make it to taste, anyway.

I started with elbow macaroni. I was thinking about spaghetti, but I didn't have any, but I had half a box of elbow mac. I cooked that in boiling salted water.

Meanwhile, I made a roux with about 2 tablespoons each of butter and flour, and added milk to make a sauce. I added a generous amount of white pepper, then I added some processed brick cheese spread. I added the drained noodles to that.

I diced some ham and some Swiss cheese and added some frozen peas, and I added all that to the macaroni and sauce. I put all than in a baking dish - actually a ceramic pie dish. Then I topped that with some shredded cheese (are you seeing the cheese theme here) then I baked it until it was bubbling and it was browning a bit on top.

Okay, it was like mac and cheese with ham and peas. It was pretty good for not having a recipe or a clue before I started.

Friday, May 27, 2011

It's Pizza

Making your own home made pizza-is not a daunting task. You can prep everything a day in advance, so all you have to do is assemble the pizza before baking.

The dough needs an overnight rest, but it can spend an extra day in the fridge, if that works better, and some might say that it’s even better with the longer rest.

The dough is easiest to make with a stand mixer or food processor, but you can also knead it by hand. Since the gluten develops as the dough rests overnight, you don't need to knead it a lot - just enough for it to come together well.

Even better, pizza can be customized to suit different tastes without making it seem like everyone's eating a different meal. Add meat, vegetables, different sauces, cheese ... the variations are endless. Or keep it simple with a red sauce some simple toppings and cheese. My favorite is a sausage and mushroom pizza., but the sky is the limit - it's up to you.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mustard Greens and Mushrooms

I picked up some young mustard greens at the Ollin Farms stand at the farmers market. And here's a confession. I don't think I've ever eaten mustard greens before. I can guarantee that I've never cooked with them before.

I like mustard. Okay, to be truthful, I have a bit of a mustard habit. Take me to a store that has a big selection of mustard, and I can stand there agonizing over which one(s) I want to buy, just like some folks get all woozy and happy trying to pick an ice cream flavor.

And greens? I've loved spinach since I was a kid. Weird, right? I love all kinds of green things - broccoli, kale, lettuce, chard, asparagus, lime. Okay, maybe that last one doesn't fit. But you get the idea. I like mustard AND greens.

I have no idea why it took me this long to try mustard greens.

I got a fairly small bunch of young greens, so I knew this wasn't going to be a meal of greens. A quick Internet search for cooking directions showed that they're cooked pretty much like spinach or kale. Nothing fancy - just cook until they're as tender as you like.

I tasted a bit raw, and for sure it had a mustard taste. Not a big bite, probably because they were pretty young. They also didn't seem as bitter as some greens. I don't mind bitter, but I figured that the mildness would give me a little more leeway in my cooking.

I almost added lemon to the greens, but after tasting them, I thought that sour cream would make an interesting addition. It was a great decision. I could eat this as a main dish, but this time I served it as a side.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Swai with Tomatoes and Capers

Does anyone poach any more?

I like poached fish. You can add a lot of flavor through the poaching liquid, but you don't have to add a lot of fat, like when you fry. And let's not talk about fish on the outdoor grill. Yeah, I've done it. Sometimes successfully, and sometimes not.

Sometimes a pan-fried fish is great. No doubt there. But poaching offers a lot of benefits. Like, if you need a few extra minutes, you can turn the heat off and let the fish rest in the poaching liquid. It will stay warm without overcooking to the point of dry chewiness.

And did I mention that you can add a lot of flavor in the poaching liquid? I usually add a bit of white wine, at minimum, and then I go from there.

I found Swai fillets on sale, and since I'd never tried them (that I know of) I decided to see what they were all about. They're a white fish, fairly firm, with a nice texture. After poaching, they were moist and tender and flavorful. Maybe next time I'll throw caution to the wind and see how they behave when they're fried.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sesame and Flax Flatbreads

Most of the time when I make flatbreads they're made entirely from white flour. Sure, I add flavors and herbs, but I don't usually don't get too creative with the flour-like components. I don't know why that is. But this time I decided it add flavors via seeds - specifically flax and sesame.

To me, flax and sesame have similar flavors, so I thought that adding flax meal and whole sesame seeds would add more flavor without having those flavors compete with each other.

The additions also added color and texture. There were flecks of dark bits in the lighter dough, and when it was cooked, there were pockmarks rather than a smooth texture. It resembled some sort of stone or maybe a nubby fabric rather than the typical smooth-surfaced flatbread.

The flavor was slightly nutty from the seeds, but not overwhelming. These are great with hummus, or for wraps, or just as a bread to go with dinner. And, like any pita-like flatbread, you can cut them into triangles and bake them on low temperature until they're completely dry and crisp to make chips for snacking or dipping or topping with interesting things.

For a change, I decided to make these in the food processor. Of course, you can use your stand mixer or knead by hand.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wheaty-Flaxy Bread

How do I come up with bread ideas? Oh, I don't know. Some days I start with a flavor profile, sometimes I start with an ingredient I'm anxious to use ... and sometimes it's random gathering of ingredients.

I didn't want plain white bread, but I didn't want to something with strong flavors. I just finished two cheesy-herby loaves and I wanted something that was "just bread." Something that would go with anything. Because, to he honest, I had no idea what this bread was going to go with.

White whole wheat falls into my breads quite often. Recently, I found some flax meal on sale. It's supposed to be really good for you, but I like it because it adds a nutty flavor. It sort of reminds me of sesame seeds, and I love those. So that went into the bread as well

This makes two loaves - one to keep, and one to give away. Or one to eat and one to freeze. Or one to eat today and one to eat tomorrow.

Honey crystals are a product I found at an Asian grocer. You can substitute honey or sugar.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bloggers: Have you been copied? What can you do?

Not long ago, I wrote a little rant about bloggers who copy from other bloggers. I got a few nice responses and thought I'd follow up with a few tips on finding out if you've been copied, and what to do about it.

Copyscape

This site is simple. Plug in your site's URL and Copyscape will find content that matches what's on your site. It won't crawl your entire site looking for copies, so you'd need to type in URLs for individual pages that you think might have been copied.

This tool also works in reverse. If you happen upon a site and you think you've seen the content before but don't remember where, you can type in the offender's URL and see if you can find the original source.

TinEye

TinEye searches for photos on the web. Depending on the browser you use, there's an add-on that lets you right-click on a photo and go directly to the Tin Eye search. Not only does it search for an exact match, but it can find photos that have been cropped or adjusted.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Technique: Cooking Surfaces for Pizza (Part 9)

During this series, quite a few people commented about the value of using parchment paper to transfer pizza to the oven, so I figured I’d give it a try before I moved on to more stones.

Since I used the King Arthur Flour baking stone for the test with the pizza screen, I figured it would be fair to use that same stone with the parchment paper as well.

As usual, I heated the stone for 1 hour at 550 degrees before I slid the pizza, with the parchment paper under it, into the oven.

To get the pizza into the oven I still used my peel, since moving a floppy pizza on a flimsy piece of parchment paper would be silly. It all worked well enough, except that I’m used to a peel with cornmeal and pizza on it rather than a peel with a parchment paper on it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chicken Breasts - Stuffed! Grilled!

I've launched a little food-related project in conjunction with the folks at Fooducopia, a site where small food producers sell their products. My part in this is that I'll be creating recipes specifically for products sold on the Fooducopia site. This is one of those recipes.

One the the items I got from Fooducopia was a bottle of wing sauce. Booya! Buffalo Wing Sauce, to be exact. So, of course I wasn't going to use it for wings. That would be too easy.

I sampled it and lemme tell ya, it's pretty darned hot. I had the version called "sorta hot," which isn't the spiciest they sell - so you can choose the heat level you prefer. I thought the Sorta hot would be perfect for buffalo wings and a big pitcher of something cold to wash them down.

Working this into a new recipe proved a little challenging, though. I'd already made a few spicy recipes for other Fooducopia products, and I didn't want to revamp any of those. This stuff deserved something that would both showcase and harness that heat.

Dairy products cut the heat of pepper, so I decided to use cream cheese mixed with the peppers. But that wasn't enough. I also added caramelized onions. You can caramelize onions just for this dish, or make a big batch of crockpot caramelized onions and freeze them for other dishes. They take a while to cook, but it's mostly unattended and the result is pretty darned good.

The resulting mixture would have made a great cracker spread, but I wanted to do more with it, so I used it to stuff some chicken breasts that I grilled. The taste of the onions and hot sauce seeped into the chicken and the cream cheese added a nice richness.

This recipe makes enough to stuff 4 breasts, I made extra and served it with the chicken. It's good cold or you can warm it up a bit if you prefer. My suggestion is to make extra. Serve some with the chicken, and if you have any left, serve it on crackers or use it as a chip dip. You'll be making more. I promise

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Almond Shortbread Refrigerator Cookies

These cookies are incredibly easy to make in a food processor. I haven't tried them any other way, but you could mix the dough in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or by hand with a bit more effort. The dough is pretty thick, so I don't think a hand mixer would be able to handle it.

The almond flavor in these cookies comes from almond meal. If you want more almond flavor, you could add almond extract instead of some or all of the vanilla. Personally, I like it more subtle.

You can buy almond meal at the grocery store, or make your own by chopping almonds in your food processor until you have a very fine meal. You don't want an almond butter, but you don't want chunks, either.

But here's the deal, you want blanched almonds which don't have the dark skin. For me, it's easier to buy almond meal than to hunt for blanched almonds, since they can be a little bit hard to find. And once you have the almond meal, you'll find all sorts of uses for it, I'm sure.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hon Tsai Tai

An interesting farmer's market find. It seems like this year there are a lot of unusual things showing up. Someone online compared this vegetable to bok choy, but it certainly doesn't look anything like it. Maybe it's a distant cousin.

The whole plant is supposed to be edible, and it's supposed to be good raw or cooked. Raw, it was a little sweet when tasted alone, so I thought it would be interesting in a salad

The purple stems and the flowers were really pretty, so I chopped the tops off of a bunch of them and used that part in the salad. Once they were combined with the rest of the greens, no strong flavor stood out, but that's not always a bad thing.

But then again, the yellow and purple added a lot of color and the stems added a bit of crunch that was nice in a salad full of soft spring greens. I'd get them again, just to toss some into a salad.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Feta and Herb Bread

Before I knew anything about real Greek food, I was introduced to the Greek salad, which featured feta cheese and oregano. At that point, my cheese universe consisted of supermarket standards like cheddar, Swiss, and American. The crumbly texture of feta was completely new to me.

Now my cheese universe is much larger, but feta still has a special place in my heart, because it was an early experience with food that I hadn’t grown up with. I still love feta cheese on salads, but I’ve expanded its uses.

And now it’s in bread.

Depending on the feta you use, it might disappear completely into the dough, or it you might end up with visible pieces. Either way is fine. The feta adds moisture to the dough, as well. So you might need to add a bit more flour if yours is particularly wet.

Marjoram is an herb that seems to have lost its popularity, but I still use it quite often. If you don’t have it, you can omit it or use thyme instead. I added just a teaspoon of garlic oil to this bread for a little extra flavor punch. I didn’t want garlic bread, though – just a slight garlic flavor in the background. The teaspoon was just enough to give that hint.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Oaty Buns

Yeah, okay, whole grains are good for you. I get it. White bread is ... fluffy filler.

But after a while whole wheat - even white whole wheat - gets just a teeny bit ... boring. It's the same flavor. You can add herbs or cheese or anything you like, but it's the same basic flavor. Wheat and more wheat.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like wheat. But there are plenty of other whole grains out there. If you're buying bread in the grocery store, your choices for whole grains are probably whole wheat or rye. But if you're making your own bread, you can play a bit. Find other grains and experiment with other flavors.

I'm not saying that this is the ultimate whole grain recipe because realistically it's not ALL whole grain. It's mostly white flour with a small percentage of oat flour. But it's probably better than a lot of product at the grocery store that scream "Whole Grains!!!" at you when they've got a small percentage of whole grains.

My theory when it come to dietary fiber (and a whole lot of other things, as well) is that as long as you get enough during the day, you don't have to stuff the maximum amount of fiber into each bite you take. I eat plenty of vegetables, so I don't feel guilty about the bread I eat.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Technique: Cooking Surfaces for Pizza (Part 8)

Last week, I tested a pizza screen. Although it made handling the pizza a lot easier, the bottom of the pizza didn't crisp very well.

Since the easier handling is such a huge plus for people who aren't adept at getting a pizza off of a peel an onto a hot stone, I decided to give the screen another chance. But this time, I also used a baking stone.

For this test, I used the King Arthur Flour baking stone I tested previously, and preheated the oven to 550 degrees for 1 hour, as usual. I assembled the pizza on the screen and slid it into the oven on top of the pizza stone. I baked it for exactly 8 minutes and it looked nicely done on top.

When I cut into the pizza, it obviously wasn't as crisp as I expected. There was no crackle before I hit the cutting board. Hmmmm....

Saturday, May 14, 2011

About Blogging, Stealing, Fair Use, and Copyright

I have to interrupt this blog about food for a little rant about blogging.

The really cool thing about blogging is that anyone can start a blog. You don't need to find a publisher or an agent who will print your words. If your topic is obscure, you can draw from a world-wide pool of readers and maybe find an enthusiastic audience.

The bad thing about blogging is that anyone can start a blog. A blogger doesn't have to have a solid grasp of spelling or grammar. Worse yet, a blogger doesn't have to understand the rules of copyright and fair use.

If you've worked in the writing business, you've learned - through schooling or experience - what constitutes a good quote and what is too long or too short. You've learned what fair use means. You've learned what your words are worth, and you've come to respect other people's work the way you would hope other people respect the time and effort that has gone into your own writing.

But bloggers - sigh. Bloggers start blogs and have a dozen great ideas and when they can't think of anything else, they go looking on the web to see what they can use. No one's stopping them from simply copying what they find, whether it's a whole recipe, a pretty photo, or half of an article. There are no editors who will say, "this isn't legal" or "I'm not paying you per-word to copy someone else's work."

Friday, May 13, 2011

Shrimp with Baby Bok Choy

This isn't a very precise recipe, since it's something I threw together from things I had on hand. The baby bok choy came from the farmer's market, and I made the rice to go along with the dish, but everything else was based on what I had on hand. The carrot were a last-minute addition, and not only did they add a nice bright color, but they also added a sweetness that was a nice counterpoint to the lemon.

I wasn't going to bother writing it up as a recipe, but it worked to well to not write it up.

Amounts are rough guesses, but this is the kind of recipe where you can adjust to your taste anyway. No baby bok choy? Regular bok choy would be fine, or onions and spinach. Or fennel. Or celery.

Since everything I had was already cooked (except the bok choy) this came together in no time. Okay, I had to cook the rice, but that's mostly unattended. The actual cooking took very little time after the bok choy was as done as I wanted it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cuban Sandwiches

It seems a little strange to write a recipe for a sandwich, but the classic Cuban sandwich is special. This is an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. It's not just another sandwich, it's a Cuban sandwich.

To be clear, I'm not Cuban, and I've never been to Cuba, although I did see it in the distance from a ship. So I can't tell you that this is what's served in Cuba, but it's a good representation of Cuban sandwiches in America.

The very first Cuban sandwich I heard about was when I lived in Chicago. My husband told me about the sandwiches that one of his co-workers brought in from a Cuban restaurant, and he was raving about how good they were.

I was a little skeptical I mean, a sandwich is a simple thing. What's the big deal? Later, we went to that restaurant, and I got to eat a sandwich instead of just hear about it. I was hooked.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Big Burger Buns

You might have noticed the large burger buns I used for the gyros burgers. Of course I made them.

Honestly, they grew a little larger than I expected during baking. Next time, I'd make maybe 10 buns instead of 8 from this recipe. Or, if I was feeling particularly petite, I might even make a dozen.

These buns weren't super-humongous, but they were a bit larger than average buns you'll find in grocery stores. They do sell buns this size, though, so it's not like they were ridiculously oversized. Just not petite.

That's sort of an average-sized patty there, and you can see bun around it. Normally, there's be a bit of burger overhanging the bun, right? So, yeah, a little big, but not outrageous.

The nice thing about making your own buns and your own burger patties is that you can make them match, both the quantity of each and the size of each. I guess I was hungry.

As far as texture, these are fluffy without being gummy or squishy. They have enough heft to stand up to the juicy burgers and the globs of tzaitziki sauce that I put on each burger, and they held together nicely without being too dense. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Long Loaves - Perfect for Sandwiches

I'm not going to call these French bread or baguettes, because they are neither.

What they are, though, is good. My secret weapon, semolina flour, adds a richness to the bread that I love.

These are softer loaves. Still substantial, but also a bit airy. They're perfect for sandwiches - soft enough to bite into without breaking teeth or gouging the roof of your mouth with sharp crusty shards, but hearty enough to stand up to whatever fillings you choose.

Or, you could slice them and serve them with your favorite pasta dish.

Since these loaves are so airy, it's best to slash them about 20 minutes into the rise. You can slash them later if you're really confident, but it's a little tricky since the loaves are so soft by then.

The soft dough also makes these tend to stick to the plastic wrap you use to cover them. A little flour sprinkled on top will solve that problem.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Serious Sandwiches: Smoked Pork and Pickled Peppers

Over at Serious Eats, there's a daily feature called A Sandwich a Day. This is one of my submissions for that feature.

The smoked pork and pickled pepper sandwich ($9) at the Dickens Tavern in Longmont Colorado isn't the prettiest girl at the dance, but looks are deceiving. The menu describes it as "smoked pork, pickles, hot peppers, melted cheese, all grilled on super toast with chipotle aioli," but it looks a lot plainer than that.

In fact, it looks like shredded meat with cheese sauce on a large slice of bread. One bite, though, tells a different tale. The there's the smokiness of barbecue followed by the heat of peppers, the creaminess of cheese and aioli, and more smokiness from the chipotle. I had to peek inside again to see where all the flavor was coming from, but no, there was nothing hiding, It looked like shredded meat with a melty cheesy sauce and bits of green that must have been the pickled peppers. The server that brought the sandwich said it was his favorite, and I can see why.

Sandwiches at the Dickens Tavern are served with skinny fries, and this one came with a pickle spear as well. You can substitute salad for the fries for no charge, or opt for soup or onion rings for an extra dollar, or sweet potato wedges for an extra $2.

My dining companion opted for the sliders (3 for $9), which he was really happy with. Thin-sliced pickles made the sandwich, he said, and the melted cheese on top looked good. I snagged a bite, and it was a tasty little burger. They also came with fries and a pickle spear.

Dickens Tavern
300 Main Street
Longmont CO
(map)

303-834-9384

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Review: Quick Shine

In some of my recipes, I've mentioned that you can use Quick Shine instead of an egg wash when you want to adhere seeds to a loaf of bread. So what is this stuff, exactly?

The first ingredient is water. Well, okay. The second is sodium caseinate. Sounds scary, but it's really just the protein that's in milk. After that comes some food-safe mumbo-jumbo that sounds spooky, but after looking up a couple of them, I figured that they sound worse than they are.

The interesting thing is the note on the can that because so little ends up on a loaf of bread, bakeries don't actually have to change their labeling if they use this on their bread. Interesting. So if you're buying bread from a bakery, they could use this stuff, and you'd never know.

If you're baking your own bread, you can decide if you want to use this or not. If it's not your thing, that's fine. Egg wash works.

On the other hand, if you're making one loaf at a time - or even two - you can end up wasting a lot of egg if you don't have another use for it besides the egg wash. That's where this product starts making a lot of sense. It sits in the cabinet and you spray a little on, and your seeds stick like crazy.

The one downside to this product is that not only does it make things stick to your bread, but the overspray sticks pretty well to your baking sheet. Using parchment paper under your bread will avoid that issue.

Also, some people on the King Arthur Flour site have complained about the nozzle getting clogged. Okay, I've got to say that this is something I appreciate about the company. They don't delete or hide the negative comments.

I had the clogging issue a couple times when I hadn't used the product for a while. To fix the problem, I've just pulled the spray thing off the can and rinsed in in hot water. That's worked for me so far. Turning the can upside-down and spraying until the product stops spraying is the proactive way to solve the problem, if you remember to do that.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Technique: Cooking Surfaces for Pizza (Part 7)

Here's me, still testing different ways to cook pizza. This time I decided to try a pizza screen.

If you haven't seen one, a pizza screen is just what it sounds like. Mine is exactly 14 inches in diameter, and is made from expanded aluminum.

The theory is that it allows the heat of the oven to hit the dough directly. I've made pizzas on the grill - directly on the grates - and I liked the result. I figured this would be similar.

As usual, I preheated the oven for an hour before baking, and I baked the pizza for exactly 8 minutes. When I took it out, I smelled a slight burning odor. When I peeked under the pizza, I saw a bit of char.

I sliced the pizza and didn't hear the distinct crunch that I'd grown used to with my most recent tests. The bottom of the pizza wasn't soggy, but it wasn't crisp, either. Slices were just a little limp.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Morel Frittata Bites

When I got a package of dried morels from Marx Foods for the Third Annual Morel Recipe Challenge, I kept going back to the same note. Citrus. There had to be citrus involved.

Now, I love mushrooms. I love 'em raw, stuffed, in pasta, soups, rice dishes, gravies.

And there sat that package of morels, staring at me accusingly because I was having trouble thinking of what to do with them. Maybe it's because I use mushrooms so often that I couldn't decide what to do with these. Everything I thought of, I'd done before. I wanted something new, inspired, different.

With citrus.

Yeah, that's where I was stuck.

I wanted to add the morels to a fish dish with citrus and capers. Or maybe with some chicken. But this was an appetizer contest, and I didn't want to simply make a teeny entree and call it an appetizer.

I pondered soups and salads, but those seemed so un-fancy. I wanted something that would be a one-bite appetizer that made you reach for another one.

With lemon.

I love the combination of mushrooms and lemon. The lemon brightens the earthiness of the mushrooms and makes them more interesting.

After a lot of hemming and hawing and soaking of morels and tasting and fiddling, this is what I ended up with. It can be served hot, warm, or at room temperature. I don't think I'd actually serve it cold, but sneaking chilled leftovers from the fridge is completely understandable.

Morel Frittata Bites

8 medium-sized dried morels, soaked in hot water to soften
Butter, as needed, for cooking
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 potato, thinly sliced
1/2 medium onion, large dice
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat about a teaspoon of butter in a frying pan. Slice two of the morels in thin rings, and fry them in the butter until they become crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Note: you'll need to test these as they cook to make sure you've reached the proper level of crisp. And then you'll snack on them absent-mindedly as you're making the rest of the dish. And then you'll think they'd be great on a salad. I'm saying you'll need about 2 for the recipe, but you might want to make more to account for, uh ... disappearances.

Chop the remaining morels roughly and add them to the pan (add more butter, if needed) cook until the morels soften to your preferred texture, then add the lemon juice. Continue cooking until just about all the moisture cooks off, then add the sour cream, a pinch of salt, and several generous grinds of black pepper. Stir to combine an cook just until heated through. Give them a taste. If you'd like more lemon, add it to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and have a rack in the upper third of the oven.

Meanwhile, in an ovenproof skillet on medium heat (I used a 10-inch cast iron skillet) melt about a tablespoon of butter and cook the onions until they begin to soften. Add the sliced potatoes and a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until the potatoes soften but still are holding together.

Turn the heat to low.

Add a small pinch of salt to the eggs, beat to combine, and add this to the potato-onion mixture in the pan and stir to make sure the potatoes are coated in the egg, but making sure they stay at the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to medium and continue cooking until the bottom is browned and the mixture is almost set. Place the pan in the oven to finish baking and to brown a little on top.

Remove the pan from the oven and use a small knife or spatula to loosen the edges of the frittata. Flip the frittata out onto a plate.

With a small biscuit cutter, cut small bite-sized circles from the frittata. (You can choose the potato side for the top, or the eggy side for the top - whichever looks more attractive to you) Top each circle with a small dollop of the morel/sour cream mixture, and garnish each with a bit of the crisp morel pieces. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunny Cranberry Loaf

Here's another bread I entered in the 2011 National Festival of Breads contest. One of the "special" awards was for the best use of cranberries. Since fresh berries were out of season - and since the season is so short, anyway, I decided to use dried cranberries. I really liked the result.

The lemon oil was a last-minute idea. Originally, I was going to use butter, but then decided to add a bit more flavor with the oil. I like the result. If you don't like lemon, you could use a plain olive oil instead.

The resulting bread is interesting. A little sweet, a little tart. Nice for toasting, and it makes an interesting French toast as well.

If you're not fond of dried cranberries, substitute any dried fruit you like. Dried apricots or apples would be a good choice.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Nick Malgieri's Strawberry Cream Cheese Crumble Tart

After trying Nick Malgieri's Lemon Crumb Bars from his book Bake!, I decided to make his Strawberry Cream Cheese Crumble Tart for Easter. The photo in the book was enticing. And strawberries at the store looked good.

This tart uses a cookie crust, but you could use a graham cracker crust as well. Pastry might work, but only if you're not planning on a lot of leftovers. The cookie crust got softer on the second day, but not in an unpleasant way. I think pastry might just get soggy.

I made the cookie crust, of course. The great thing about a cookie crust is that you can roll out the left over dough and cut out some cookies. And yeah, that's what I did. They're pretty good all on their own.

But I don't want to give away the whole recipe here - you really need to buy this book, even if it's just to drool over the photos. So I'll let you contemplate your own crust, whether it's crushed graham crackers or shortbread cookies, or whether it's a baked cookie crust.

The nice thing about this recipe is that while it looks impressive, it's actually very simple. And you can make the ingredients in advance and assemble them before your guests arrive. So even if you are baking your own crust, you don't have to worry about oven space on the day of an event.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Pair of Medium Ryes

Late last fall, I was chatting with a local farmer about all the bread I make and how sometimes I end up with more than I can use. He said that if I wanted to trade bread for vegetables, he'd be all for it. Well, that's a deal, hmmm? A win-win for both of us.

Last fall, I didn't get around to doing any trading, since I'd already stocked up on fall vegetables. But this spring when the farmer's market opened up, I was there, bread in hand. And I walked out with a greens - or more accurately, lettuce and spinach.

The next week I showed up with buns and made another trade.

This time, I needed bread for myself, so I made a larger than usual batch so I could have two loaves. I decided  to make a light(ish) rye. Seedless. Yum.

Light Seedless Rye Loaves

1 cup (4 ounces) rye flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) bread flour
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

In the bowl of your stand mixer combine rye flour, yeast, water, sugar and gluten. Stir to combine and set aside for 15 minutes - it will be very bubbly.

Add the salt and bread flour, and knead with the dough hook until the mixture is smooth and elastic. Add the olive oil and continue kneading until the olive oil is completely incorporated.

Form the dough into a ball, drizzle with a bit of olive oil to coat, and return it to the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Flour your work surface and preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle 2 small baking sheets (or one large one) with cornmeal Turn the dough out and knead it briefly. Divide the dough into 2 pieces and for each into a ball or log (your choice). Place the dough on your prepared pans, seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

When the loaves have doubled, slash as desired and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.

Let the loaves cook completely on a rack before slicing.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gyros Burgers

Let me tell you, when you buy a whole lamb every year, you start getting creative with recipes. It used to be that lamb chops were a luxury item, and a leg of lamb was company dinner. I went with foolproof recipes because I didn't want to mess up something that was so special.

Now, lamb is a lot less special. It gets experimented with a lot more.

This time, I pulled out a couple packages of lamb stew meat, which is really just the little bits that are trimmed from the roasts and chops and other parts.

I divided the meat in half and ran the meat through my grinder and seasoned that first half with the same spices I use when I make gyros meat. I made patties, cooked them in a cast iron pan, and served them on buns with tzaitziki sauce and chopped tomatoes and onion, just like regular gyros.

They were good, but they weren't spiced enough, so I went back to the drawing board for the second batch. This time, I ran the onion and the garlic and spices through the grinder along with the meat the night before I cooked it. I figured that the bashing the spices up and grinding the onion and garlic would disperse the flavor through the meat even better, and the overnight rest inside the meat would hydrate the dry herbs and bring out more flavor. I also added a little more of the herbs than what I had in the first batch.

In the summer, I'd be more likely to make this with garden-fresh herbs, but this time of year, the dried herbs had to suffice.

No doubt about it, the second batch was better, so that's the recipe you're getting here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Honey Hedgehog Bread

I created this bread for the 2011 National Festival of Breads. Not only did I enter it in the bread category, but I also entered it in the "bread sculpture" category.

Needless to say, the hedgehog did not come home as a winner. But that's okay. It means I can share it here with mad abandon instead of making it hang around a contest venue.

The snipping technique I used on the hedgehog is one I use a lot, but this time in a more whimsical way. The egg-washed face makes a nice contrast with the non-washed and not-shiny body. I like the way it turned out.

Honey adds a nice rich sweetness to this bread, but it's not overly sweet. It would be fine for sandwiches and it's perfect for toast.

And, not, it's not too cute to eat. It's too good NOT to eat.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mixing it up - King Arthur Flour Biscotti

I'm a big fan of King Arthur Flour's online catalog. There are always new gadget and pans, and a huge selection of flours and add-in for all kinds of baking.

Besides products, though, the service is really good. The few times I've had questions or problems, they've handled it promptly, and with a smile. It's a great company to work with.

Needless to say, I'm on the mailing list for their paper catalogs, and I'm on the email list as well. I'm on a LOT of food-related email lists, but many of them are useless.

The King Arthur Flour email list, though, is constantly offering specials. Sometimes it's free shipping and sometimes it's free products with a purchase.

Sometimes I'll wait for a good special to come around when I order, and sometimes I take advantage of whatever is being offered.
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