Wednesday, June 30, 2010


The first time I ever heard of Romanesco, it was on an episode of Numb3rs, a few years ago. I went online to look it up, and I was in love. It's such a pretty vegetable.

The local supermarket sells a green cauliflower that looks like it wants to be Romanesco, but it's not quite as pointy.

But today, I found it at the farmers market. Just a few small pieces.

I bought them all, then came home and started taking photos because I thought it was sooooo pretty. Every angle was different, and I thought that closeups would be pretty darned cool.

And, well, I have a new camera, so I wanted to play with all of the settings and see what sort of photos I'd end up with. So here are just some of the photos...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Optical Illusion Cracker

I was taking pictures of some crackers I just made, and through the lens of the camera, I saw a face in one of the crackers. Kind of like the man on the moon is made of shadows and ridges. So I took some photos of it, for the fun of it.

But here's the weird thing. When you look at it up close, it sort of looks like a face. Big deal. Sort of a stupid smiley face. But if you step back from your monitor, it changes. It looks like a bear's face.

No, really, I'm serious. Look at the photo, then step back and look again.

I didn't do anything to the cracker before or after I baked it, and I didn't do some sort of Photoshop magic on the photo. Heck, I don't even have Photoshop. The white stuff is a dust of flour that was on the cracker, but there was nothing artistic about that. It's just residual flour. And the image is in the cracker.

But here's the photo. You tell me.

You see it, right?

Could it be a message from Frosty the Polar Bear?

And yes, there is a recipe coming for these delectable crackers. They've got a kick of spice, so I named them Fire Crackers. Check back on July 4 for complete details.

Click here for the recipe that created these crackers.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.


Crispy Rye Breadsticks

I adore breadsticks. They're nice at the dinner table with just a touch of butter, and they're a great little snack. And they're a lot easier to make than most people imagine.

As a snack, breadsticks aren't the worst you could do. They're not as salt-laden as pretzels or chips, and they aren't sugary like cookies. And if you're making them yourself, you can opt for more whole grains, or top them with your favorite seeds or nuts.

For these, I used both caraway seeds and nigella seeds. Both are optional. I also added extra gluten, which is also optional. It makes these breadsticks easier to handle, but it's not critical if you don't have it on hand.

Another great thing about breadsticks is that the crispy version has an extremely long shelf life. Unlike a moist bread that can get moldy, these are dry, like crackers. And since they're already dry, they don't dry out and get stale. In theory, they can last a long time. In practice, they disappear pretty quickly.

Since I bake a lot of breadsticks, I have a breadstick pan with ridges that keep the breadsticks in place. That sort of pan isn't necessary; a standard baking sheet is just fine. You just need to leave enough room between them so they don't touch while they're baking.

These bake at a relatively low temperature for quite a long time, because you want them to dry all the way through. A completely cooked breadstick will be crispy and shattery. An undercooked one will be like I imagine those rawhide dog chews might be.

The only difficult part about making these is that there's a fine line between being completely cooked and being overbrowned. Once they start browning, don't walk away from them for too long.

Crispy Rye Breadsticks

1 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons gluten
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces)  rye flour
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Caraway seeds (optional)
Nigella seeds (optional)

Combine the sugar, water, yeast, gluten, and rye flour in the bowl of your stand mixer, and set it aside until it gets fluffy and bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Add the bread flour and salt, and knead with the dough hook until the dough comes together, cleans the sides of the bowl, and begins to become elastic. Add the olive oil and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic and is no longer sticky.

Form the dough into a ball, drizzle some oil into a bowl and put the dough back into the bowl, making sure it's coated all around. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until it doubles in size, about an hour.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Flour your work surface and knead the dough briefly. Unless your work area is huge, it will be easier to divide the dough in half.

Roll the dough so that it's 1/8 inch thick, or a little less, about 12 inches high, and as long as it needs to be to get those other dimensions correct. Try to keep it rectangular, but don't stress about it being irregular. If you're using seeds, sprinkle them on the dough before you finish rolling, so that the final rolling will embed the seeds into the dough. If you prefer, you can brush the dough with eggwash or water, but that makes them a bit stickier to handle.

Using a pastry cutter or pizza wheel, cut the dough in half lengthwise, so you've got 2 6-inch strips, then cut vertically into 1/4 inch strips. None of this needs to be precise. If you like longer or shorter breadsticks, adjust your cuts accordingly.

As you pick up each strip, twist it several times, so you have a spiral. The strips will stretch as you do this, so you'll end up with breadsticks that are about 9 inches long. Place them on a baking sheet, leaving at least an inch between them. They won't rise that much, but they tend to move around while they're baking.

As you fill each pan (you'll probably have four pans) put them in the oven. There's no need to let them rest or rise. Bake for 25-35 minutes. until they're lightly browned and crispy. Depending on how even your oven heat is, you may need to rotate the pans during baking, or move some sticks from the ends of the pan to the middle. If they brown too much on the bottom, you can flip them over.

Cool completely on a rack before you store them.

This was published on Serious Eats and has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Butterscotch Pudding

This is a recipe that I found handwritten in the back of a 1943 edition of The Joy of Cooking. Prior to this, I tried a salad dressing recipe written in that same hand.

As I was assembling my ingredients, I started wondering about the person who wrote the recipe. Was it her recipe? Or was it something that someone else gave her? If she got it from someone else, was it a complete, correct recipe? Had she ever made this dish?

Did the person who gave her the recipe like her?

As I started combining things, and I could almost feel her looking over my shoulder. When she wrote the recipe, did she wonder if someone else might see it and make it?

Imagine what she would have said if someone told her that people all over the world could potentially read her recipe some day in the future. There's no way she could have imagined anything like the Internet back in the 40's.

I started imagining her cooking with me. "Get the teakettle on the boil," she might have said. But I don't have a teakettle. I put 3 cups of water into a glass measuring cup and put it into the microwave, while she eyed me skeptically. Beep-beep-beep. Would she even know what those sounds were? If she had lived a long life, she would know about microwaves, but I preferred to imagine her at the time she was writing those recipes, and I was betting that she wrote those recipes shortly after she got the book.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Midwestern "Chop Suey"

When I was growing up, before the first Chinese take-out place opened in our little town, this is what I knew as chop suey. This is my mother's chop suey. Or, it was my mother's chop suey until I tossed out most of the canned goods and chopped up more vegetables.

And while mom's chop suey was something she made purposely, I make it with leftover roast pork. It's a great way to make a completely different meal, and it's something to look forward to when the roast is almost gone.

I usually put bok choy in my chop suey, but the bok choy I thought I bought at the farmer's market was actually napa cabbage, so I used that. It worked just fine. And I usually use fresh bean sprouts, but I couldn't find any, so I had to settle for canned. Yes, I could have grown my own, and I've done that before, but I thought I'd be able to buy 'em, and they weren't there. Sometimes you have to go with what's available.

There are other vegetables that I could have added (and often do) like snow peas, fresh mushrooms, water chestnuts, carrots or celery. As far as amounts, it's a leftover dish, so I always improvise. Use as much as you want or as much as you have. By the time I'm done, I usually have about 1/3 meat to 2/3 vegetables, but you can do whatever you like,

I cooked this in my slow cooker, but it works just as well in a pot on the stove or in a dutch oven in the oven.

Eh, might as well give you both recipes

Mom's Original "Chop Suey"

Pork, cut into cubes about 1-inch square
1 can bean sprouts
1 can chop suey vegetables
1 can water chestnuts
1 can bamboo shoots
1 can mushrooms
more soy sauce than anyone should consume in one meal
cornstarch for thickening

The pork was cooked first, possibly with some added onions and/or celery, and the vegetables were added towards the end, since canned vegetables are pretty much cooked. It was thickened with cornstarch and served over rice. And for no reason I can think of, it was also served with brown 'n serve rolls.

Mom's "Chop Suey" revised, fresher version

Leftover roast pork, cut into approx 1-inch cubes
1 onion, sliced
Napa cabbage, (or bok choy) fluffy greens separated from the stalk and all if it sliced
2 small zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 can bamboo shoots
1 can bean sprouts (I prefer fresh, but settled for canned)
Soy sauce and/or Braggs Amino Acids
Kitchen Bouquet (optional)
5-spice powder

Put a bit of oil in the bottom of your slow cooker and set it to brown (or the highest setting it has) and sweat the onions and napa/bok choy stalks until they are soft. (If your slow cooker doesn't get hot enough for sweating vegatables, you can do this in a pan on the stove, or skip this step, It's not crucial.)

Reduce the heat tbo low on the slow cooker. Add the pork and bamboo shoots, then add a teaspoon or so of Kitchen Bouquet, if you're using it. Add soy/Braggs and mirin to taste.

You need enough liquid for the meat to be able to braise, so if there's not enough liquid to cover about 1/3 of the pork/vegetable mixture, you can add water or stock, or even a bit of white wine to make up the difference. Add a teaspoon or two of the 5-spice, depending on how much you like it.

Cook on low until the pork is almost tender. Add the zucchini and continue cooking until the zucchini is tender.

Taste for seasoning and add more 5-spice and/or soy sauce, as needed. Add the bean sprouts and greens and cook until the greens are done.

You can thicken the sauce with some cornstarch mixed into cold water. Add add the mixture the chop suey and heat and stir until it thickens.

Serve over rice.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Visit with The Bald Brewer

This was published in the July, 2010 issue of the Left Hand Valley Courier as part of my Vicinity and Beyond series.

I was pretty excited when I saw a new brewing store that opened up in Longmont. Not that I'm about to start brewing beer and wine at home, but I figured it there would be at least a few interesting things I could use for regular cooking.

The Bald Brewer didn't disappoint. Although it's a tiny building, there are plenty of interesting grains along with some specialty sugars and flavorings that could be very interesting to experiment with. But brewers will find even more, including specialty hops, yeasts, and hardware needed for brewing and bottling.

Miesel said that not only is beer brewing an inexpensive hobby, it can be economical. The cost of ingredients for making 5 gallons of beer is about $35-$45, "and after equipment, it's 30-40 percent cheaper than [buying beer] in the store," Miesel said.

Before opening the store, Miesel’s career had been in psychology, but he said, "I needed a break." So he looked at other businesses. "I looked at coffee before I decided to do brewing." Miesel said. "I brew, myself." Miesel hasn't left his previous career behind, though, since he teaches a master's course online.

Part of the decision to open a brewing store was that he wanted to "do his own thing" and meet interesting people."It's a very unique business," he said. "It generally draws scientifically-minded people."


Friday, June 25, 2010

Napa Cabbage Salad

I decided that the cooked salad dressing that I made recently would make a great slaw dressing. I tempered the tartness with some sugar and thinned it with some buttermilk

As far as the salad, it was:

Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
Onion, thinly sliced
Carrot, shredded
Hakura turnip, quartered and thinly sliced
Frozen peas

And that's it. I dressed it lightly, mixed it up, and served it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

BOTD: Spelt Pull-Slice-Apart Bread

Farro is probably my new favorite grain for cooking, and I was considering grinding some up to make bread. But...but...I read from one source that farro is the Italian name for what we call spelt. And spelt flour is easy to find. In fact, I've made spelt bread before, and I have a spelt sourdough culture started. So no need to waste my whole grains.

Like any alternate grain, I still use some bread flour in the dough because I like the structure it provides.

The form of this bread was a little different. This was first attempt at a different sort of pull-apart loaf, and to be honest, I was being a bit sloppy about it. It was more about the experiment than about getting it perfect. It's still a nice loaf of bread, and it's tasty. But it's not the prettiest thing I've ever made.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Leftover Bread - Crispy Toasts

What do you do when you've got a really great bread, but you know you won't finish it? For a plain bread, breadcrumbs or croutons are a good choice,

But my tomato-cheese bread was so tasty, it deserved a better fate. So I sliced it thin, cut it into squares, and toasted the squares in the oven until they were dry and crisp.

Serving them with cheese seems redundant, but they were really nice with a smoked chevre.

Or, with a bit of butter, a thin slice of radish, and a few flakes of a nice salt.

You can see the bits of cheese better now that they're toasted than you could in the original bread. Of course, they're fine for snacking all by themselves. too. And hey, why not some closeups?


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

BOTD: Tomato-Cheese Bread

My inspiration for this bread was my favorite grilled cheese sandwich, which includes a slice of tomato and a sprinkle of dried oregano. And if fresh tomatoes are out of season, that grilled cheese sandwich with a sprinkle of oregano pairs perfectly with a bowl of tomato soup.

This recipe uses tomato powder, which can be found at some spice shops and online. Or, if you have a food dehydrator, you can dry tomatoes then grind them to a powder.

If neither of those options are available, I'd suggest using tomato paste. You might need to add a little more flour or reduce the water a bit to compensate for the moisture in the paste.

My favorite cheese for grilled cheese is colby, but I used a sharp cheddar for this to boost the cheesy flavor.

This bread exceeded all of my expectations. The bits of cheese that were close to the crust browned nicely, just like those bits of cheese that drip out of the sandwich and get a little brown and crunchy in the pan, or like the browned bubbles on a broiled open-faced sandwich. The tomato flavor was definitely there, and the hint of oregano was perfect.

I'm usually patient about waiting for bread to cool before I cut into it, but this one was trying my patience. I didn't cut it, but I kept going back to inhale the amazing scent. Once I cut it, the color was just as enticing. It was a beautiful orange, almost the same color and the cheese that disappeared into it.

Tomato-Cheese Bread

1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 cups (11 1/2 ounces) bread flour, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 generous cup (4 ounces) coarsely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine water, yeast, sugar, and one cup of the bread flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.

Add the remaining flour, oregano, tomato powder, and salt. Knead with the dough hook until the dough cleans the side of the bowl and starts becoming elastic. Add the olive oil and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic and is no longer sticky.

Add the cheese and knead just until it is incorporated. You don't want to knead so much that the cheese disintegrates into the bread. It it's a little unevenly distributed, that's fine.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled in size, about 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet.
Flour your work surface and knead the dough briefly before you form it into your preferred shape. Put it on the baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

When the dough has risen, slash it as desired, then bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, until nicely browned.

Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

This appeared on Serious Eats and has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chocolate Pots de Creme

I know I'm a little late in reading How to Read a French Fry by Russ Parsons since this book came out in 2001. But when I found it at a garage sale I figured it was a deal I couldn't pass up.

Subtitled "and Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science" this book is part of that genre that explains the science of how something works in the kitchen and then follows with recipes that use the scientific principles that were just explained.

I have other books of this type, but there's always something new. Or something that's explained better. Or something that I need to be reminded of.

And of course, there are the recipes.

What I found interesting was that there were three different pastry crust recipes. One was for a flaky crust, one was a shortcrust, and one was called a rustic tart crust. I've bookmarked that one to try later, but first I had to have some chocolate.

This recipe was from the book's section on eggs, and demonstrates how eggs set softly to become a custard.

Chocolate Pots de Creme
Adapted from How to Read a French Fry by Russ Parsons
Parsons' recipe was adapted from Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Combine chocolate, milk, and cream in a small pot and heat to just below the boiling point, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, lightly beat the eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl, just to combine. It should not get light or frothy.

When the milk mixture has heated to just below boiling, take it off the heat and whisk it to make sure it's smooth, then dribble about 1/4 cup of the hot mixuture into the eggs while whisking the egg mixture. Keep adding the hot mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly.

Pour the mixture through a strainer into a measuring cup for easy pouring, then divide the mixture equally into eight 1/2-cup ramekins. Put the ramekins into a baking pan, place the pan in the oven, and fill the pan with very hot water to about half way up the sides of the ramekins.

Cover the pan with foil and bake until the edges of the custard are set but the center still jiggles when shaken, about 30 minutes.

Remove the ramekins from the pan and let cool. Then cover with plastic and refrigerate until chilled. Top with whipped cream for serving, if desired.

Or, top with a lot of whipped cream, if that's what you want.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chocolate Ice Cream

This recipe is from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, and if I never made any other recipes from this book, this recipe would be worth the cost of the book. This is a rich, luxurious, decadent ice cream.

I've made this several times, using different types of chocolate and cocoa. This time I used a black cocoa and Guittard semisweet chocolate. Next time I'm sure I'll use something else, because there's always another chocolate around.

The only thing I changed when I made it was that I used 1 teaspoon of vanilla instead of the 1/2 teaspoon. Bad habit. I have a vanilla problem.

I use an attachment for my Kitchenaid stand mixer to make ice cream. The paddle stalls when the ice cream gets thick, and that's when it's done. Some ice creams take a long time for that to happen and a lot of air gets mixed into the ice cream. Every time I've made this one, it quits early, before a lot of air has been incorporated. But that's okay. The denseness is nice. And since the recipe says that it makes about a quart, I guess I'm doing it right, since that's about what I got from the last batch.

Chocolate Ice Cream
Adapted from A Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

2 cups heavy cream, divided
3 tablespoons unsweetened dutch-process cocoa powder
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Warm one cup of the cream with the cocoa powder in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisking to thoroughly combine the cocoa. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 seconds, whisking constantly.

Remove the milk from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir to combine, then add the remaining 1 cup of cream and stir to combine completely. Pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl and set a strainer on top of the bowl.

In the same pan that you heated the chocolate in, heat the milk, sugar and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and set aside while the milk heats up.

Slow pour the milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. When it is completely combined, pour it all back into the pan and cook it over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.

Pour the egg mixture through the strainer and stir it into the chocolate mixture until it's completely combined, then stir in the vanilla. Stir until the mixture is cool, over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture completely in the refrigerator before freezing it according to the instructions for your ice cream maker.

Salad Dressing - Handwritten in a 1943 Cookbook

In the back of a well-used copy of the 1943 edition of The Joy of Cooking, I found this handwritten recipe.

Considering it looks like it was written with a fountain pen, it's probably from the same generation as the book. If you can't make out the writing, this is the recipe:

Salad Dressing

2 eggs, well beaten
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash of red pepper
1/2 cup vinegar
Piece of butter the size of small egg

Put on stove in double boiler and stir until it thickens.

And that's it. No other instructions, and no hints as to what sort of salad this is supposed to dress.

So, okay, I figured it was worth a try.

I wasn't sure exactly what sort of red pepper was required, so I took the mild way out and used paprika. I figured I could spice it up later. And I wasn't sure how small that small egg of butter was, so I just used up what was left in the butter dish. That's about as vague as the small egg. Maybe 4 tablespoons.

I put the resulting mixture through a strainer to catch any coagulated bits, the same as I would any other stovetop custard-like item.

Right off the stove, it was very vinegary. I used white vinegar because I figured that would be most common type of vinegar back then. After it cooled, it was still pretty vinegary. I probably would have been fine as a base for some sort of dressing, but on its own it was too tart. And I like tart. It needed a bit of adjusting.

So I added more butter and sugar, and beat up another egg. I heated the mixture a bit, tempered my new egg, put it all back in the pot and let it thicken again. For the fun of it, I added a bit more paprika, too. And let it cool.

Now, it's a lot thicker; just about the same thickness as mayo. The flavor reminds me of a honey-mustard dressing. This stuff would be great on a ham sandwich. As far as putting it on a green salad, it will need to be loosened up a bit for it to to work well, but that's easy enough.

Next time, I'll use a milder vinegar or maybe cut the amount in half. But it's an interesting recipe.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

The weather was unseasonably cold and rainy. I didn't need another loaf of bread, but turning on the oven sounded appealing. Might as well make a treat, I thought. And might as well make something fun, quirky, unfussy.

And the fact that it's nibble-able makes it even better.

The honey powder I used in this recipe is a fine powder that's coarser than powdered sugar, but finer than granulated. It's available from Savory Spice Shop, and probably other sources as well.

If you can't find honey powder, you could substitute sugar without any problem. Or, if you have honey powder and you want a stronger honey flavor, use all honey powder instead of sugar with the cinnamon.

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

1 cup lukewarm whey (water is fine, too)
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) bread flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon honey powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Mix the whey, yeast, sugar, and one cup of the bread flour in the bowl of your stand mixer. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.

Add the rest of the bread flour and knead with the dough hook until it starts becoming elastic.

Cut 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) off the butter into small pieces. Add that butter to the mixer, along with the salt and vanilla, and continue kneading until the butter is completely incorporated and the dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic.

If the dough is still a little sticky, add a bit of flour, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough is tacky, but not sticky.

Drizzle some olive oil over the dough to coat it lightly on all sides, then cover the dough and let it rest until doubled, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and spray some cooking spray into whatever pan, bowl, Bundt pan,or baking dish you plan on using. I used a round ceramic casserole.

Mix the sugar, honey powder and cinnamon in a bowl.

Flour your work surface and knead the dough briefly.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces, then divide each of those into 4 pieces. Now you have 16 pieces of dough. Divide each of those into 2, 3, or 4 pieces, however you choose; it's fine to have different-sized pieces. In fact, I think it's more interesting.

A few at a time, put the pieces into the bowl with the cinnamon-sugar mixture and roll them around to coat, then put the pieces into your prepared pan. Don't press them down, just pile them in.

Continue rolling an piling until all the bit are in the pan. Sprinkle any unused sugar-cinnamon mixture over the top.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Cut the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter into pieces and drop them onto the top of the risen dough.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 60 minutes, until nicely browned.

Remove the bread from the pan and set on a rack to cool.

Oh heck, forget the cooling. Pick away at it. You won't be able to stop yourself.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Farro Salad with Feta

If farro was easier to find and cheaper to buy, it would probably be my favorite whole grain. Maybe it would be my favorite grain or any type, if it was cheap and easy enough to experiment with, but for now it's a special item in my kitchen.

Cooked,  farro has a nice chew, but it doesn't harden up when it's cold like some rices do. It's got a nice flavor, but it also plays the background role nicely.

Dried farro reminds me of really plump wheat berries, and they look tough. They look like there might be a nasty husk to deal with, but that isn't the case. The outer portion isn't tough or husk-like at all after cooking, and the cooked farro reminds me of popped popcorn, with the white interior burst outward.

If you can't find farro, this makes a nice pasta salad with orzo pasta.

I started with 1 cup of dry farro, cooked with 3 cups of water in my rice cooker, set on the "brown rice" setting. Or just follow package direction for stovetop cooking. Then I chilled it in the fridge before mixing, but in retrospect, I could have assembled it when it was warm, and chilled it all together.

The measurements are approximate, and you can certain increase, decrease, add or eliminate ingredients as you desire. If you prefer fresh herbs, feel free to substitute fresh for the dried, but since this is something that will be hanging in my fridge for several days

If you don't have meyer lemon olive oil, regular olive oil is fine. You could add some lemon zest or a squeeze of lemon, if you prefer.

Farro Salad with Feta

1 cup dry farro, cooked to yield about 3 1/2 cups cooked
1/4 medium onion, finely diced
1/2  large tomato, diced
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1/2 roasted red pepper, diced
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons capers
meyer lemon olive oil, to taste
red wine vinegar, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix it all together and let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

I think it's better the next day, and when I make this it usually lasts several days for lunch and/or as a side dish with dinner.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

BOTD: Peanut Butter Bread

The first time I made this bread, I tossed the peanut butter in on a whim. I didn't know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Since then, I've made this several more times, sometimes with variations. But this is the orgininal and most basic version. It has a nice peanut flavor, but it's not a sweet bread, unless your peanut butter of choice happens to be sweet.

You could add in all sorts of things: chopped nuts or dried fruit would be nice. Or you could add flavorings like vanilla or cinnamon.

It's a soft, fluffy bread that's fantastic when it's toasted. Or with a smear of jelly. Or, if you're being decadent, butter.

Peanut Butter Bread
1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 package) yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 1/4cups (11 1/4 oz.) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine water, yeast, sugar, and one cup of flour. Set aside for an hour until it's vigorously bubbly.

Add the rest of the ingredients, and knead with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Form the dough into a ball and put it back into the mixer bowl. You can use a little oil in the bowl if you like, but it's got enough oil from the peanut butter to keep is from sticking too badly.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Sprinkle some cornmeal on the bottom of a loaf pan (or you can make a free-form loaf, if that's what you prefer). Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

When the dough has doubled, take it out of the bowl and shape it into your preferred shape (or put it into the loaf pan). Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled again, about 40 minutes.

Slash the loaf as desired and bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.

Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

If you want a soft crust, wrap the loaf in a clean kitchen towel as it's cooling.

This loaf has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rhubarb Chutney

Recently, I signed up for a cooking class at a Williams Sonoma store. The few people I told about it were a little surprised that I was taking that sort of class, but I had my ulterior motives.

First, I had my eye on an item that was a Williams Sonoma exclusive, and members of the class got a 10 percent shopping discount.

Second, the price of the class included a cookbook the meal that was being cooked from the book, so once I added it all up, the class was free.

Third, and possibly most important, I wanted to see how the class was run to help me with the demos I've been doing lately. I figured I might pick up a few tips about that, even if I didn't pick up any cooking tips.

The meal was a salad with a breaded and fried round of goat cheese, pork loin with a rhubarb chutney, and ice cream. Honestly, I didn't learn anything new, but I had fun. It's not that often that I hang out with a dozen people who like cooking, so that was definately fun.

The book is nice. It's a Williams Sonomo book called Cooking from the Farmer's Market, and it focuses on using fresh ingredients, which is great. The meal was nice. The fried goat cheese was a nice touch. I might pull that trick out once in a while.

The pork tenderloin was nice, but not amazing. The ice cream was okay, but I'm used to making my own, so I'm pretty hard to impress. Everyone else seemed to like it a lot, though. The rhubarb chutney was my favorite bit though, probably because I don't use rhubarb much. I've had it in pies and cobblers, but usually it's the secondary flavor. It was nice to see it playing a starring role in the chutney.

So when I saw rhubarb at the farmer's market I had to pick some up. And of course, I had to mess with the recipe.

The original recipe required the ever-so-vague 3-4 stalks of rhubarb, which is a pretty useless measurement. Rhubarb stalks can be huge or small, so that made all the rest of the measurements pretty useless as well. But with a recipe like this, you make it to your taste, anyway.

Rhubarb Chutney
Adapted from Cooking from the Farmer's Market

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3-4 stalks of rhubarb
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup walnuts
1/8 teaspoon salt

Or at least that was the original list of ingredients.

I don't like raisins, so they went out the window, and I skipped the nuts as well. I cut the brown sugar and vinegar in half, and eyeballed the rest of my ingredients.

The lemon zest turned into lime zest, because I had lots of limes on hand. The cinnamon stick turned into ground cinnamon. The fresh ginger turned into candied ginger. And I added a small golden mango, chopped, and about 6 dried apricots, chopped.

Basically, the sugar and vinegar gets heated until the sugar melts, then the rhubarb goes in until it starts softening, and then the rest of it goes in until the liquid is mostly gone and it's all nice and soft, but not mush. This is a nice sweet-sour chutney that would fit nicely next to a piece of meat, and it might find a home in a dessert as well, maybe on top of vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Banana Cinnamon Bread

It happens to everyone. You buy a bunch of bananas, and inevitably a few of them get a little too brown. Banana bread is the easy answer, but sometimes the response is, "Banana bread again?" You could make banana muffins, but who are we fooling? That's just banana bread in a different form.

You could make banana cake, but that's a different column.

Instead, you can bake those bananas into a yeast bread, roll it up with some sugar to sweeten it and some cinnamon to give it a little kick, and you've got a completely different kind of banana bread. Perfect for breakfast or brunch. Or a snack.

If you don't have Greek-style yogurt, you could use regular yogurt. But since regular yogurt has more moisture you might need to add a bit more flour to compensate. The dough should be soft and supple, but not sticky when you're done kneading.

The scent when this bread is baking is amazing, with the banana and the cinnamon mingling with the sweet yeastiness. The only thing better is eating it.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Key Lime Pie

The recipe is from Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies, via this post at Serious Eats. I bought a bag of key limes at the grocery store and grabbed some regular limes since I wasn't sure if I'd get the required 1/2 cup of juice from all those little lime.

Silly me, I had key limes left over. But no problem, I like lime.

I juiced the limes using my Mexican-style lime squeezer, which worked really well to extract a lot of juice,

The only problem was that the seeds are pretty small, so some of them snuck through the holes of the squeezer. No big deal, since I noticed one or two.

I strained the juice before it went into the pie and there were a lot more seeds than I noticed. So that's something to consider when you make this.

Also, the finished pie is more yellow than green. While I usually don't add coloring to foods, if you want this to be green, then a drop or two of food coloring is probably the only way you'll get that color.

Taste-wise, though, this was a really nice pie. A lot of lime flavor, good tartness, and enough sweet. I'd suggest a whipped cream garnish to finish it off.

Key Lime Pie

Adapted from Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies by Mollie Cox Bryan

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups fine graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
4 egg yolks
1 rounded teaspoon grated lime zest
1 (14-ounce can) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

First, make the crust.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Put the crumbs in a small bowl and stir in the sugar. Pour the melted butter over the crumbs and mix thoroughly. Press the mixture evenly into a 9-inch pie plate.

Bake the empty crust for 8 to 10 minutes, until a dark golden brown. Cool the crust on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before filling. You can also make it a day ahead, and store it in the refrigerator.

Next, make the filling:

Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Whisk the egg yolk and lime zest together in a bowl for about 2 minutes, until a light greenish yellow color. Whisk in the milk, then the lime juice, and set aside at room temperature for about 5 minutes, until the filling thickens, and the whisk leaves tracks in it. Spread the filling evenly in the crust.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until almost completely set. The filling should wobble a bit when the pan is jiggled. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before slicing.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What is Black Garlic?

When I saw Korean aged black garlic at Savory Spice Shop, I had to give it a try.

It's definitely black inside, and it's soft and smooth.The flavor has a hint of garlic, but it's also sweet. It reminded me of dried fruit, with a hint of raspberry..

The garlic starts out like a normal head of garlic, but then it's fermented at high heat, which turns the cloves black. According to wikipedia, it's rich in antioxidants.

Since the flavor was so mild, I decided to keep the first experiment fairly simple, and made a salad dressing. I blended one clove with some mayo and yogurt, then added a bit of salt. Surprisingly, the dressing was a pale pink, with a few flecks of darker bits. It still had a tiny hint of garlic flavor, and the sweet fruitiness also came through.

I'm looking forward to more experiments with the rest of the head.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Quick-Pickled Bell Peppers

Pickling is usually a fall activity, but bell peppers go on sale randomly at all times of the year so you can make these almost any time you want them.

I've only made these with green peppers, but there's no reason you couldn't make them with red, yellow, orange or purple peppers.

Since these are a quick pickle, and not sealed and processed, you probably only want to make a jar at a time. But that's fine.

They're easy to make.

Quick-Pickled Bell Peppers

For a quart of peppers, combine...
2 cups of white vinegar
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon of pickling salt a saucepan and heat to boiling.

Meanwhile, remove the stem, ribs and seeds from your bell peppers and slice them lengthwise into strips about an inch or so wide, and pack them into a quart-sized canning jar.

How many peppers you need will depend on the size of your peppers and your packing skills. Figure 3-4 peppers per jar, but you could use more or less.

Pour the hot liquid over the peppers. Adjust the peppers to let out any trapped air. You want the peppers completely covered with the liquid.

If you don't have enough liquid, add hot water to top it off. Put the cap on the jar and let it sit until it's cooled, then refrigerate it. The peppers are ready to eat as soon as they're chilled.

This is the kind of recipe you can tweak to your liking. Adjust the ratio of water to vinegar to get the tartness you like, or use cider vinegar instead of white, if you prefer. Garlic would be a nice addition. If you prefer something spicier, add a hot pepper or two to the mix.

If you want to make preserved pickled peppers, use a tested recipe from a canning/preserving book, since the acid level and amount of salt are critical when you're trying to preserve foods.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Potato Leek Soup

I’m a big Alton Brown fan and I was pretty excited to see that he had a cookbook that recreated the recipes from some of his Good Eats shows. Almost as good as the recipes are some of the snippets from the show.

But of course, it’s a cookbook. While these recipes are probably all available on the Food Network website, the great thing is the additional commentary that the book provides. Besides comments about the production, there’s a bit more detail about the recipes themselves.

It’s pretty rare for me to make soup from a recipe, but this had ingredients that I’d never thought of adding to a potato-leek soup, so I decided to follow it from start to finish. The only thing I changed along the way was that I pureed the soup at the end for a smoother finish.

Brown suggested using leftover baked potatoes for the recipe, but I baked them specifically for this recipe and used them warm rather than cooling them.

This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Potato Soup
Adapted from Good Eats, The Early Years by Alton Brown

4 baked potatoes (about 10 ounces each), peeled and riced or mashed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups finely chopped leeks
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 quart hot chicken stock
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
6 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/4 cup minced chives

In a large saucepan, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and garlic and cook until soft. Add chicken stock.

Whisk the riced potatoes, buttermilk, sour cream and cheese together and add to the soup, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and add vinegar. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chives.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pepper and Egg Bread (two ways)

I've been puttering around trying to incorporate scrambled eggs and peppers into bread. My first version was pretty good, but not exactly what I was dreaming of. So it was back to the drawing board for two more tries. Actually, the recipe ingredients in these two are the same, but the technique is different.

I'm actually pretty happy with both versions, but neither are the perfect reproduction of the bread that I envisioned when I started this quest. I'll be tweaking this recipe some more, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, both of these were interesting.

The first version has the eggs kneaded into the dough, so the pieces broke up during the kneading, leaving small bits of egg in the finished bread. It also required quite a bit more flour kneaded in at the end since the eggs contributed a bit of moisture to the dough. The finished bread spread out more than up; in retrospect, I probably should have baked it as a focaccia-style bread.

The second bread, with the eggs rolled up jellyroll style, held its shape better, and the big chunks of egg were more visible in the finished loaf.

When I made my first attempt at a pepper-egg bread, I didn't want to knead the peppers into the dough because I was concerned that the finished bread would be a pale green. However, it ended up being a golden yellow instead, which was quite acceptable.

Both breads were really tasty, with a nice kick of heat from the pepperspread.

So, with no further ado, here are the breads:

Pepper and Egg Bread
3/4 cup water
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup (5 1/2 ounces) semolina flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour (plus more as needed)
1/4 cup Hotheads Pepperspread
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil.
1 fire-roasted pepper, peeled, seeded, and diced (about 1 cup)
6 eggs

Put the water, yeast, sugar, and semolina in the bowl of your stand mixer and set aside to let it get foamy.

Meanwhile, scramble the six eggs. Try to scramble them so that they're in large cohesive chunks rather than smaller bit. Don't overcook them - they'll be cooking more when they're in the bread. Move the scrambled eggs to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator.

Add the bread flour, pepperspread, salt, and olive oil to the stand mixer bowl and knead with the dough hook until the mixture is smooth and elastic. It will seem bit dense, but that's fine.

Add the diced fire-roasted peppers to the dough and continue kneading. The peppers will exude moisture and make the dough wetter. At first, it will seem too gloppy, but continue kneading until all the moisture has been incorporated into the dough. You may need add a little bit of flour at this point. The dough clean the sides of the bowl and be elastic, but not sticky.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest until doubled, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet.

Lightly flour your work surface. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it a bit, then pat it out into a rectangle about 12x16 inches.

This is where the two recipes diverge. You now have the choice of spreading the eggs out on the rectangle and rolling it up jelly-roll style, or kneading the eggs into the dough. If you knead the eggs in, you'll probably need more flour, since the eggs will give up moisture to the dough; how much you need depends in part on how wet the eggs were to begin with.

If you've kneaded the eggs in, form the dough into your preferred shape, or pat it into the pan like a focaccia; if you've rolled it up, make sure the seams are pinched shut and put it on the prepared pan.

Let the dough rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake for 35-55 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your loaf, until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

One downside to this bread is that since it has scrambled eggs in it, you should store it in the refrigerator instead of at room temperature.

On the other hand, it's darned tasty, and the eggs add an interesting texture and a bit of coolness.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.