Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Overnight Buns

The really great thing about bread is that you can delay it, if need be, to fit your schedule. The even better thing about bread is that if give it a long, cool rest, the flavor improves. Win-win.

When I'm bringing buns to someone's house for dinner, I like to bring fresh buns. Baked that day. They don't have to be warm, but if I'm going through the trouble of making home made bread, I want it to be as good as it can be. And that means I don't want it to be a day old.

But sometimes the whole process of kneading, rising, shaping, rising, baking doesn't fit neatly into the hours before we're going out. What's a baker to do? Make an overnight recipe, of course.

I usually make small recipes - just one loaf or a dozen buns, but if I'm bringing them to a dinner or a party, I want to have enough for dinner and enough left so the hosts have some buns for themselves for the next day. So this one makes a whopping 24 buns.

For my own convenience, I baked these all on a half-sheet pan, so they snuggled together during rising and baking. If you prefer buns that remain separate, you'll need two baking sheets. I don't mind when buns have those soft - pulled-apart sides, but it's up to you.

Overnight Buns

1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3 cups bread flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons room temperature butter
White rice flour, as needed

Combine the water, honey, instant yeast, bread flour, semolina flour, dry milk, and potato flakes in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add the salt and butter and continue kneading until the salt and butter are completely incorporated and the dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 45 minutes. Line a half-sheet rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Divide it into 24 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Arrange the balls on the prepared baking pan, sprinkle the tops white rice flour. If you don't have rice flour, you can use bread flour or all purpose flour.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and put the pan in the refrigerator.

When you're ready to bake, take the buns out of the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Let the oven heat for 20 minutes.

Uncover the buns and bake until nicely browned, about 25 minutes.

Let the buns cool on a rack.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Breakfast nachos - what's not to love?

I love the combination of eggs with tomatoes - scrambled eggs with tomato wedges, or an egg sandwich with a slice of tomato. Salsa on eggs is great, too. And eggs in purgatory is a recipe where eggs are poached in a tomato sauce.

This recipe combines all those concepts. Fresh tomatoes with some spicy flavor, and an egg cooked on top. Not quite poached, but close enough.

And then we have nachos. This borrows the tortilla chips and cheese from that preparation.

The featured Fooducopia ingredient in this recipe is "The Hammer" Buffalo Wing Sauce from a company called Booya!

You could add extra ingredients like onions or peppers, but this is designed to be fast and easy. Just a few ingredients that work perfectly together.

The recipe makes one serving, but you can make a large pan of the tomatoes, top with as many eggs as you need, and divide it as needed.

Breakfast Nachos
Per person:

1 tablespoon butter

1 tomato
1/2 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon Booya! Buffalo Wing Sauce
1 egg
Hand full of tortilla chipes
2 slices of easy-melting cheese, like colby, American, or mozzarella

Dice the tomato (you can peel it first if you like). Heat a pan on medium heat, add the butter and let it melt, then and add the tomato and the wing sauce. If you're not sure how much you want to use, start with the smaller amount and add more after you taste it.

Toss the tomatoes with the sauce to coat. Taste them to see if you need more wing sauce.

Made a small well in the center of the tomato mixture and crack an egg into the well. Cover the pan and cook the egg to your desired doneness - I like mine when the white is cooked through, and the yolk is warm but still a little runny.

Note: if the tomatoes aren't very juicy, you might need to add just a little water to keep the tomatoes from sticking to the pan.

Meanwhile, arrange the chips on a plate, top the chips with the cheese, and melt the cheese in the microwave - about 15 seconds on high temperature for one serving.

Top the tortillas and cheese with the tomato and egg. Serve warm with extra chips, if needed.

For information about my relationship with Fooducopia (really, we're just friends - not dating!) see the tab at the top.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream

A while back I signed up for a Twitter party for a company called UNREAL that makes chocolate candies. MMmmm ... candy. And they were kind enough to send samples - peanut butter cups and candy coated chocolates.

Well, the candies arrived in the midst of a heat wave, so I chucked 'em into the refrigerator to get them to firm up again. Out of sight, out of mind. I completely forgot about the Twitter party and those danged chocolates. I was planning on sampling them during the twitter party, but there they were, uneaten. Glaring at me. Accusingly.

The peanut butter cups suffered the most from the heat, at least as far as shape. I cut them up, sampled a few pieces, and added the rest to a batch of ice cream.

The deal about UNREAL chocolates is that they're made with healthier ingredients - no corn syrup, no preservatives, and no hydrogenated oil. Then compared to standard brands, there's less sugar, more protein, more fiber. And more cacao.

Flavor-wise, I really liked them. The chocolate was smooth and very chocolaty, without that weird waxy flavor that's in some chocolate candies. The candy-covered chocolates had a really thin coating, which I liked.

As far as the ice cream, it was a very small batch - just perfect to use up two peanut butter cups ... minus just a few samples. You could easily double this to make a larger batch.

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream

1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla butternut extract
Pinch of salt
2 peanut butter cups

Combine the half-and-half, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, vanilla butternut extract, and salt. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.

Meanwhile, chop the peanut butter cups into small pieces. Stir them into the ice cream. For soft serve, eat it as soon as it comes out of the ice cream maker. Otherwise, freeze it until firm before serving.

We ate it soft-serve. Can you tell?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cucumber Salad with Corn and Cilantro

I've been devoting my Saturday blog posts to reviews, which usually means there's no recipe. But this week it's a two-fer. Review AND recipe. Lucky you, right?

Door to Door Organics is a local company, in more ways than one. For one thing, the company itself is home-grown. For another, it delivers a lot of local products including fresh product and some prepared foods.

But it's a growing company, so not only is it delivering to Colorado, the company has locations in Kansas City, Chicago, and the east coast including Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey.

But what does the company do?

It's like this. Suppose you like the idea of fresh, local, organic produce, but it's not convenient to get to the farmer's market. A CSA subscription is a possibility, but maybe that's not a good fit for family size or scheduling. Or maybe you want better control over exactly what you get.

Okay, you can buy produce at the grocery store, but then you might not get anything from the local farms.

Door to Door Organics fills that niche. When local produce is available in your area, you can get it from Door to Door. And you don't have to pick it up - they deliver right to your door. During the off-season, you can still get fresh organic produce, but it won't be quite as local. And of course, "local" depends on which of the Door to Door regions you live in.

And, well, you can also get non-local produce whenever you want it.

So how does this work?

To give me a customer's-eye view of the service, Door to Door gave me a gift certificate to go shopping. I started with the local box, then started swapping items. I didn't have a use for local rhubarb, but I knew I could use some obviously non-local avocados.

I actually had a lot of fun doing some swapping while trying to figure out what I'd make when the box arrived. But wait! What if you need help figuring out what to make? Door to Door has a recipe collection that you can use to figure out what to make with your purchases. Or you can start with a recipe, then buy the ingredients.

Besides produce, Door to Door also carries pantry items. Since I put the smallest local box in my shopping cart, I had cash left to spend, so I bought some more produce and then started wandering through the pantry items.

If I was a regular purchaser, I might have shopped a little differently, but since this was my first foray, I looked for brands and items that were a more unusual. It was a little more fun than it needed to be.

When I was shopping, I was thinking that I'd make a recipe right away from my box 'o goodies. I ordered avocados, tomatoes, and cilantro, thinking I might make a guacamole. But of course no one ships avocados that are completely ripe, so I had to change my plans a bit.

Of course if I was a regular buyer, I would have known that.

Instead of a guacamole, I decided to make a summer-y salad. It included a few things from outside the box, because I didn't buy items I already had.

Overall, the shopping experience was fun, and the delivery was easy. You can specify special instructions if you want your box placed in a special location, and you can ask that the driver does or doesn't ring the doorbell. And you're not locked into a contract. You can cancel or pause the deliveries at any time.

And now for a recipe. This is a pretty darned healthy creation. All vegetables and not even any oil.

If you want something spicier, you could use a serrano pepper - or even a hotter variety - or you could use more jalapenos.

Cucumber Salad

1 ear of corn
5 pickling cucumbers
1/4 of a red onion
1 tomato
1 jalapeno pepper
2 tablespoons cilantro
Pinch of salt
Juice of 1/2 lime

Cook the corn as you normally do, then let it cool and cut the kernels off the cob and put them in a medium bowl. Peel the cucumbers and cut them into a medium dice and add them to the bowl.

Dice the onion and tomato to a similar size, and add them to the bowl. Remove the stem and core from the jalepeno. If you prefer it spicy, remove the seeds and ribs. If you want it milder, remove the seeds and ribs. Dice the jalapeno finely and add it to the bowl.

Chop the cilantro, and add it to the bowl. Add the salt and they lime juice. Stir and serve. You can make this in advance and refrigerate until needed. The flavors will mingle and the onions will mellow if you let it stand for at least several hours before serving.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Whole Foods Friday: Wine and Fruit Sauce

When it comes to drinking wine, I usually choose a white unless we're talking about a fruity sangria or a port. But when it comes to cooking - I love cooking with red wines, and of course there's red wine vinegar that's so wonderful.

Not only do I like cooking with wine - like adding it to stews, tomato sauces, or chili - but I also love wine sauces.

The simplest version of a wine sauce is little more than greatly reduced wine. Adding sugar gives the sauce a bit more body and of course it adds sweetness.

This red wine sauce goes a step further and adds fruit to the wine and sugar. You can buy fruit specifically for this recipe, but it's also a great way to use up stone fruit that's just a little bit overripe. No one wants to eat that plum that's just a little squishy, but that doesn't mean it's bad. Softer fruit can be very sweet - even sweeter than the ones you'd say are perfectly ripe for eating.

Of course, you want to cut off any nasty bruises or bad spots. But don't worry if it's a little soft - it's still great for cooking - and sometimes it's even better. Of course, you can also cook ripe fruit - you don't have to wait for it to become overripe.

I used this wine sauce over ice cream and some more stone fruit. The fruit I used was mango nectarines, but peaches or standard nectarines would work, too.

While a sundae might not seem like a company-worthy dessert, when you've got a home made wine sauce, good ice cream, and some perfectly ripe fruit, it's just as good for company as it is for a simple family meal. This sauce can be made well ahead of time and refrigerated until you need it.

For the red wine, use anything you like to drink, but don't splurge on something expensive.

Wine and Fruit Sauce

2 cups stone fruit (cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines)
1 bottle red wine
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt.

Wash the fruit, remove stems, and trim off any bad spots. If you like, you can cut the larger fruits in half and remove the pits. You can also cook them whole, but it will take a little more time to break them down.

Put the fruit, wine, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Heat to a simmer and cook, stirring as needed, and mashing the fruit as it softens, until the liquid has reduced to about 1/4 of the original amount. Strain the liquid through a fine strainer and refrigerate until needed.

Besides using this sauce on ice cream (or pie! OOooh, PIE!!!) it would also work for savory recipes - brushed on chicken or pork for grilling, or added to a salad dressing. Or added to a braised dish. Sure, it's not the right weather right now for a braised dish, but I can plan ahead, right?

Or mix it with a sparkling wine, a sparkling soda, or lemonade or iced tea.

Or drizzle it on steak. I'm sure you can think of even more ideas.

For info about Whole Foods and what Whole Foods Friday is all about, check out the tab at the top.

Stone Fruit & Wine Sauce on Punk 

Whole Foods Friday: The Wedge ... and pasta, too

If you came here looking for a post about an Olympic skater's haircut, you might be in the wrong place. This isn't about the Olympics, ice skating, sports, or a perky haircut.

Nope, this is about salad. The Wedge Salad.

The first wedge salad I ever saw was when I was in grade school and visited a friend down the block and she was eating this fascinating salad that didn't have the lettuce cut into small pieces. It was a whole WEDGE of iceberg lettuce.

It seemed so ... alien.

I have no idea what dressing was on that salad, or if it came with anything except lettuce and salad dressing, but it impressed me. It must have, if I still remember it after all these years.

Since then, the wedge salad disappeared from the culinary front page. Iceberg lettuce is no longer king. But recently I've seen the wedge reappearing on restaurant menus. I decided to take the wedge and twist it a bit. It's more of a half than a wedge, though. But that's okay.

The Wedge, Revamped

For the dressing:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons stone ground or Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
Pinch of salt
Grind of white pepper
For the salad:
1 romaine heart
1 tomato
Blue cheese, crumbled

Combine the mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard, rice vinegar, blue cheese, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, Stir to combine, mashing the blue cheese as you go. It's fine if there are some small bumps, but you want to mash the bigger pieces. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if desired.

Remove any tough or damaged leaves from the romaine. Trim the bottom and cut the romaine in half lengthwise. Remove the core. Place the halves on plates.

Core the tomato and cut it into wedges. Arrange it on the plate with the romaine. Drizzle the romaine with the dressing (you can reserve some to serve on the side, if you like) and sprinkle with as much extra crumbled blue cheese as you like.


And now for some pasta

I've made linguini with clam sauce from canned clams and clam juice, but when I saw fresh chopped clams at Whole Foods I had to buy them.

This is not a complicated dish. It takes less time to make the "sauce" than it does to cook the noodles, so you can whip this up in no time, add a salad, and have dinner on the table in so fast, everyone will think you're a magician. 

For the wine, I used an un-oaked chardonnay, which is what the ever-so-helpful folks at the Whole Foods liquor store suggested. Some went into the clam sauce, and most of the rest of it was served at dinner. I mean, a cook's got to sample the ingredients, right?

Linguini and Clams

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 pound fresh chopped clams
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine 
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Juice of 1 small lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound linguini, cooked to al dente

Heat a the oil and butter in a pan until the butter melts.

Add the onion and cook on medium heat until the onions soften.

Add the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic is fragrant. Don't let it brown. Add the flour and cook until the flour browns very slightly. We're talking a pale creamy color, not khaki.

Add the clams, pepper flakes, and white wine and cook for just a few moments. add the salt, stir to combine, and add the lemon juice and pepper, and stir to combine again.

Add the linguine to the clam mixture and stir. Add some of the pasta cooking water, if necessary to moisten the mixture. You don't want this swimming in a sauce, but there should be moisture clinging to the pasta.

If you added too much liquid, let it cook out a bit. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if needed.

Serve hot. Garnish with lemon wedges, if desired.

For more information about Whole Foods Friday, see the tab at the top.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Toasted Walnut Ice Cream

This ice cream is similar to butter pecan, but with walnuts.

My secret ingredient here is the vanilla butternut flavoring. It's one of my favorites. It adds a vanilla flavor, but it's also very buttery and nutty.

The vanilla butternut extract is a dark brown, so it darkens the finished product a bit, so keep that in mind if you're using it for something like a frosting. In this ice cream, it looked perfect.

The walnuts get a little toasting to bring out their flavor, and then a little coating of sugar that coats them with a thin, crisp layer. It's not like biting into peanut brittle - it's just a small coating.

The salt sprinkled onto the sugar gives you little bright bursts of flavor when you encounter them.

Toasted Walnut Ice Cream

For the ice cream base:
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla butternut extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the walnuts:
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt

Combine the milk, cream, sugar, and salt in a heavy bottomed pot. Heat until barely simmering. Meanwhile beat the egg yolks in a small bowl.

When the milk is heated, add some to the egg yolks, slowly, while whisking the yolks. Add about 2 cups of the hot milk to the eggs, and then add the egg mixture to the hot milk in the pan, whisking as you add it. This will help keep the eggs from scrambling.

When the eggs have been added to the milk, continue cooking and stirring until the mixture thickens - you'll feel a drag on your spoon and if you run your finger across the back of your stirring spoon, the line will remain.

Pour the mixture through a fine strainer into a storage container. This will catch any bits of egg that got lumpy. Add the vanilla butternut and the vanilla extract and stir to combine. Refrigerate the mixture until it is completely chilled - at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan. Crush the walnuts in your hand so you have smaller pieces. You don't want them to be crumbs, but a little smaller that halves is nice. Add the walnuts to the butter and cook, stirring as needed until the nuts are warmed and toasted  a bit. Add the sugar and cook, stirring as needed, until the sugar has melted. stir to coat the nuts.

Sprinkle the pinch of salt over the nuts, stir one final time, then turn off the heat and transfer the nuts to a plate to cool.

When the ice cream base has chilled completely, churn it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. When it has finished churning, stir in the nuts by hand (if you let the machine churn in the nuts, you could damage the machine), then transfer the ice cream to a storage container. Freeze until firm.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fire on Ice Soup (with chilly chiles)

Flames shooting up, icicles dripping down. Fire on Ice.
When I saw the announcement for the Marx Foods Fire on Ice contest, I hesitated for longer than usual. The theme was to make something cold that was hot. Errr ...

English is a funny language.

Hot can be cold, if the heat is about spice instead of temperature. And that's what we were supposed to do. Make a dish that's served cold. Not necessarily frozen, but at least chilled. Not room temperature.

But whatever we made, it had to be spicy, using at least one of the peppers that Marx Foods provided for us.

I hesitated because the first thing I thought was was ice cream. Chocolate. With cinnamon and pepper. But that's been done before. I wanted to be just a little more creative, but I had that ice cream stuck in my head.

It took a while before I came up with another idea, and this time I took the Fire on Ice theme all the way through the design of the finished product.

Out of all the peppers that came in my spicy little box of incendiary goodness, I chose the mulato. I'd worked with it before, and I liked it. To my taste, it's similar to an ancho pepper. Not massively throat-burning hot, but with a nice warmth and a slightly fruity taste. I thought it would be great in a soup where you'd be likely to eat a whole bowl full. Or two.

The contest is now over (and I didn't win) but I still love this recipe.

Fire on Ice Soup

For the potato soup:
1 quart milk
2 corn cobs, stripped of corn, but not "milked"
1 onion, peeled and diced
4 cups mealy white potatoes peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

For the squash soup:
1 butternut squash, halved, seeded, and roasted until soft
1 quart water (more as needed)
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
Several grinds white pepper
Pepper puree (to taste)

For the pepper puree:
3 mulato peppers
Water, as needed

To make the potato soup:
If you think it's odd to have corn cobs without corn ... well, it's summer and I usually buy more corn than I'm reasonably going to eat. So I use some for salsas and salads, and that leaves me with the corn cob. Often, I toss them into soup stock, or whatever else I'm making. They add a nice sweet flavor.

Put the milk, corn cobs, onion, potatoes, and salt into a large pot. Heat to a simmer and cook, stirring as needed, until the potatoes are soft and falling apart. Remove the corn cobs, and when they're cool enough to hand, run the back of a knife (or a spoon or dull knife) over the cob to extract the last bits of corn and the juice. Discard the cobs and return the corn bits and liquid to the pot.

Using a stick blender, puree the soup until it is smooth. Taste and add more salt, as needed. It will get thicker as it cools, so add more milk if you think it's too thick. You want a spoonable soup, not loose mashed potatoes. You can also add more liquid after it's chilled, so don't fret too much about exact thickness.

Transfer the soup to a storage container and refrigerate until cold.

To make the squash soup:
Remove the flesh from the squash and discard the skin. Put the flesh in a bowl and add the salt, pepper, and about half of the water.

Use a stick blender to puree the mixture until it is smooth. Add more water and continue pureeing until you have reached a soup-like consistency. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, as needed. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until cold.

To make the pepper puree:
Tear the mulato peppers open and place them in a bowl. Add boiling water just to cover the peppers, and set aside until the peppers soften - about 20 minutes. You can leave them longer if you get distracted. Who, me?

Remove the peppers from the liquid and discard the stem, seeds, and soaking liquid. Place the peppers in a blender or food processor and add just enough fresh water to get them to blend. You're looking for a thick puree, not a thin sauce.

Place a fine strainer over a bowl and dump the puree into the strainer. Use a spoon or spatula to press the mixture through the strainer. You should end up with nothing but pepper skin, tough bits, and random seeds in the strainer.

Transfer the pepper mixture to a small storage container and refrigerate until cold.

To assemble the soup:
Remove the potato soup, squash soup, and pepper puree from the refrigerator. Stir the soups. Your goal is to have them be approximately the same thickness, and you want a fairly thick soup - not a broth. But not so thick that you need to chew.

We like thick soups, but the final texture is entirely up to you. The thicker the soup is, the better you'll be able to keep the soups separate in the bowl.

If the potato soup needs to be thinned out, add milk, cream, or cold water. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if needed (the flavor will be different when it's cold.)

If the squash soup is too thick, add a little water. Again, taste for seasoning and adjust, if needed.

Transfer about 2 cups of each soup into separate measuring cups or other containers that are easy to pour from. For each cup of the squash soup, add 1 tablespoon of the pepper puree. Taste and add more puree if you want it spicier. (Reserve the rest of the puree to go with the rest of the soup).

Now comes the slightly tricky part. Pour both soups at once into your individual soup bowls, pouring on opposite sides of the bowl, trying to pour both at an equal rate.

When you've got enough soup in the bowl, use a skewer or other thin implement to create your flames and icicles in the soup. Keep in mind that flames are wispy and wavy, while icicles tend to flow straight down. Get decorative, if you like.

If the soup is super thick and your decorating has raised some bumps on the surface, gently tap the bowl on the table and those bumps will smooth out.

Serve cold.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Flour Tortillas - with a secret ingredient

I love fresh flour tortillas, whether they're home made or purchased from one of the local tortilla shops. But tortillas on day two are never as good. Either they get brittle or they get rubbery. But they never stay nicely flexible.

Sure, you can reheat them on a hot griddle to soften them a bit for your taco dinner, but it would be nice to grab a day-old tortilla and make a quick cold wrap without having it crack.

I decided to soften some flour tortillas by adding one of my favorite fluffy-bread ingredients - instant mashed potato flakes. The tortillas weren't weirdly soft or fluffy when I made them, but they did stay more pliable than usual after the first and second day.

Unlike most breads I make, these don't have any yeast or other leavening, but don't worry about that.

Since there's no rise time, these cook very quickly.

Flour and Potato Tortillas

2 cups (9 ounces) all purpose flour
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes

Combine al ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer and knead with the dough hook until the dough is mixture is smooth and elastic.

Flour your work surface and divide the dough into 8 even pieces. Form each piece into a ball. cover the dough balls with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let them rest for about 10 minutes. This isn't about rising - it's just to let the gluten relax to making rolling easier.

You can start rolling the tortillas right away, but in the end, it will take you about the same amount of total time.

Heat a cast iron frying pan, comal, or griddle on medium-high heat.

One at at time, roll the dough balls to between 6-8 inches in diameter, adding flour to the work surface as needed to keep the dough from sticking.

Brush the flour off the dough as much as possible and lay the tortilla on the heated pan. Cook until there are browned spots on the bottom of the dough about a minute or two, then flip it and cook on the second side for another 30 seconds or so, until you have lightly browned spots.

Remove the finished tortilla from the pan, lay it on a clean kitchen towel, and cover the tortilla with the ends of the cloth.

If you have a large enough pan or a large griddle, you can cook several tortillas at once, which will speed up the process.

Continue the process until all the tortillas have been cooked.

Serve warm.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Chocolate Espresso Pudding

I've been making a lot of ice cream lately - I mean, it's been blazingly hot here - but pudding is just as good for a cool dessert. And pudding can be even more chocolate-y than chocolate ice cream. This one is has a lot of chocolate flavor, with espresso making an appearance as well.

Pudding is easy to make, too. There's a little bit of cooking, but it's not that tough. And there's something magical about throwing a bunch of common ingredients into a pan and ending up with a thick, rich dessert.

Speaking or rich, this one pushes the boundaries of sanity. Most puddings include milk. This one has both milk and heavy cream. It's rich. But rich doesn't necessarily mean sweet. This pudding isn't crazy sweet.

If you want to cut the richness, you can layer this with yogurt to make a parfait. If you want to lighten it up a bit, layer it with fluffy whipped cream.

This pudding is made with Green and Black's chocolate. A while back the company send me a variety of their chocolates to sample. I was planning on creating recipes with them, but the mint chocolate ... uh .. disappeared. Things like that happen, right?

But that's okay, that left me with plenty of flavors, including 2 different dark chocolate, the disappearing mint, expresso, ginger, and Maya Gold that includes orange and spices. For this recipe, I used the 85% dark chocolate and the espresso. It's interesting how much of that coffee flavor came through in the pudding.

When I've made puddings before, I usually start with 1 quart of milk - it's an easy, logical measurement. But then I end up with more pudding than will fit in a standard 4-cup (1 quart) storage container. That bugs me. This recipe fits perfectly into a 1-quart container when it's done.

Chocolate Espresso Pudding

1 3.5-ounce bar Green & Black's 85% dark chocolate
1 3.5-ounce bar Green & Black's Espresso dark chocolate
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Break the chocolate into pieces and put it in medium bowl.

Put the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan and whisk to combine. Add the milk and cream slowly and whisk to combine well. Add the egg yolks and whisk to break up the yolks and combine everything.

Turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens - right about the point where it just begins to come to a boil.

Pour the cooked mixture through a fine strainer into the bowl with the chocolate. In theory, you don't have to strain, but this will catch any small bits of egg that might have overcooked and scrambled. I find that you'll have fewer bits if you do a good job of just putting yolk in the pudding - the more bits of white that snuck in, the more bits you'll end up with in the strainer.

Add the vanilla extract and stir or whisk until the chocolate melts and you have an even-colored mixture. Transfer the mixture to a storage container, cover, and refrigerate until fully chilled. This pudding sets up pretty thick, so stir or whisk it before serving to loosen it up just a bit.

If you want something with less body, whip some cream and fold it into the pudding.

Serve cold.

I received chocolate from Green & Black's at no cost, but I was not required to write about them.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Another bread machine recipe - soft whole wheat

This is a soft, fluffy whole wheat bread, well-suited for sandwiches, and just as good as toast.

As usual, add the ingredients to your bread machine in the order recommended byt the manufacturer.

Whole Wheat Bread
a bread machine recipe

1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) whole wheat flour
2 cups (9 ounces) all purpose flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/4 cups water

Add all ingredients to your bread machine. Set the machine for a regular loaf, light crust, medium size.

Beep-beep, boop-boop. Press appropriate buttons.

When the bread is done baking, remove it from the breadmaker, remove it from the pan, and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What I'm Reading: Catching Fire

For a change, I read a book that wasn't a cookbook. Crazy wild, huh?

But it is about cooking. Subtitled "How Cooking Made Us Human," the premise of the book Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham is that cooking played a big role in the evolution of early humans into ... well, human humans.

It's an interesting idea that, of course, can't be proven. But a lot of it makes logical sense. Cooked food is easier to chew and easier to digest. And when we're talking about easier to chew, we're talking about a lot of time spent chewing uncooked foods.

Imagine how much less you'd get done every day if you had to spend six hours a day eating. That's about how long it's estimated would take to gnaw through enough food back then. These days, folks on raw diets can mechanically grind or chop tough foods, but back then, it was all about teeth. A lot of chewing of whatever food was available.

Yeah, all that chewing would seriously cut into my Facebook time.

Sure, we can all probably walk and chew gum at that same time, but that's not quite the same thing as needing to eat for 6 hours.

There's more to Wrangham's theories. Lots more. I thought it was pretty compelling. But then again, I love reading about prehistoric stuff and science-y stuff. Even if the theories are proven wrong, they're interesting to ponder.

Wrangham says that since cooking made chewing easier, our ancestors had more time for other things. Well, that makes perfect sense. He also also suggested that since cooked food was easier to digest, our guts shrunk because we didn't need all that food processing power. Having a smaller gut made it easier for early humans to stand upright. And while we're at it, since cooked foods are easier to digest, those ancients didn't need to eat as much cooked food to get the same amount of nutrition. So less time was needed for hunting and gathering.

And, according to the author, cooking also changed family structure. Or, really, it created the concept of family. Cooking required a hearth, so it made sense for some people to stay with the fire and stir the risotto and bake pies, while others went out and hunted for steaks and sausages. Or whatever.

Because there were two different food-related functions that brought different types of food to the table, the humans began to share food between husband and wife. Or that's what they author says. But as far as we know, there are no other species that share food in quite this way. Mothers quite often feed their babies, but the adults don't share with each other regularly, no matter whether they raise the babies together or not.

And here's a weird thing. In most known cultures today - and in the past - the women provide and cook the staples and feed the family on a daily basis, but men hunt for the more elusive foods (hunting big game wasn't always successful, but it was highly prized).

That's why food-sharing was so important. When the hunt didn't go well, men still needed to eat, and it was the women who had the staple foods. When the hunt was successful, the husbands needed to share that coveted meat with the wife, or she might not share the staples on the many days when the hunt was a bust.

And while men don't cook the daily staples in those many cultures, they often cook for celebrations.

When I read that, the first thing I thought of was how a guy who never cooks anything else will work the barbecue grill. He's not the one making the potato salad or cole slaw or baked beans. He's cooking the meat.

Hmmmmm... curious.

Of course there are exceptions, but I thought it was interesting that the cliche of the guy at the grill for the big summer party is similar to what other cultures do across the world and and what has been done across the centuries.

Whether Wrangham is correct on not about any of his theories, the book is interesting, and what he says seems so darned logical. And because I like to cook so much, I like the idea that cooking could have played such a huge part in our pre-history.

And now I think I'll light the grill. Mastodon ribeye, anyone?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Whole Foods Friday: Shrimp, Scallops, and Shrimp-and-Scallops

I like fish well enough, but given a choice between fish and other seafood, the "other" will usually win. When it comes to cooking that "other" seafood, shrimp and scallops are both pretty non-intimidating to cook and serve, as opposed to, let's say, lobsters or crab that have those tough shells you have to deal with.

Scallops come ready-to-cook, and if you're really time-challenged, you can buy your shrimp cleaned, cooked, and shells removed.

And like most other seafood, shrimp and scallops cook quickly. You can have dinner on the table in very little time, unlike that roast that needs to cook for a long, long time.

Scallops and Corn

This dish would make a lovely appetizer or it can be a full meal - the difference is portion size. If you want to serve it as an appetizer but want the scallop portion to look more generous, slice the scallop in half, horizontally. Present it with the seared side up.

The only minor detail you might need to take care of before cooking the scallops is to remove the tough bit that might still be attached.

You'll see it - it's a separate bit and it's usually a slightly different color. That piece is edible, but it's chewy. Remove it and discard it. Or, if you like to make stock from leftover bits, you can those bits to the seafood stockpile.

The avocado for the corn salad can be a little firmer than what would be ideal for guacamole - you want the pieces to hold their shape rather than immediately collapse. You still want a ripe avocado - there's not much worse than a chewy, rubbery unripe one.

Seared Scallops on Corn Salad

Kernels from 2 ears corn
1 medium or large tomato
1 avocado
Juice of 1/2 lime
Pinch of salt
Several grinds of black pepper
6 large sea scallops

Place the corn kernels in a medium bowl. Dice the tomato, and add it to the corn.

Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Cut a crosshatch pattern in the avocado flesh all the way to the skin, but not going through it. Use a spoon to scoop out the avocado flesh. It will break up into pieces.

Add the lime juice, salt, and pepper. Stir gently to combine, trying not to mash the avocado.

Refrigerate until needed. The lime juice will help keep the avocado from browning too quickly, but you don't want to make this too far in advance. If you prefer, you can make this while you're cooking the scallops.

Heat a pan on high heat with just a touch of oil. Pat the scallops dry and add them to the pan. Cook until well-browned on one side, then flip and cook on the second side.

The scallops should be cooked through in the time it takes to sear both sides, and they should be opaque all the way through - you don't want to overcook, or they well get tough and rubbery.

Serve the seared scallops on top of the corn salad.

Shrimp Meets Artichoke

I love artichoke hearts, particularly when they're marinated and they've got that slightly acidic pickled flavor. But marinated artichokes usually come packed in oil. Probably healthy olive oil, but still, that's a lot of oil coating those artichokes.

Not long ago, I wrote about a cookbook recipe for making marinated artichoke hearts. They weren't really like the ones you'll find in jars - these were cooked with a bit of olive oil and lemon, but the resulting product wasn't swimming in olive oil.

Since then, I've made a few different versions of those artichokes. Variations piled on top of variations until the recipe is only vaguely related to the cookbook recipe, Like, there are artichokes that get cooked in olive oil, and there's lemon.

Lately, I've been eating artichoke hearts as a hot vegetable and a cold salad. I mean, without all that oil the hearts are much more versatile. Instead of being treated like a pickle that you eat just a little bit of, they become a serving of vegetables.

This time, I paired the artichoke hearts with roasted red peppers and shrimp. It makes a pretty plate, and it can be made well in advance. You can serve the artichokes warm or cold. For that matter, you can serve the shrimp warm or cold.

Just like the scallop dish, this could be a small appetizer, a salad, or a main dish, depending on how you portion it.

Shrimp and Artichokes

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cans artichoke hearts, drained
1 red pepper, fire roasted and cleaned (or the equivalent, jarred)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 pound shrimp, cleaned, cooked, and shells removed

Heat the olive oil on medium heat. Depending on what size artichoke hearts you bought, quarter or halve them. Put the artichoke heart in the pan and cook until the hearts brown slightly. Add the peppers, lemon juice, and oregano, and cook another minute or two.

You can serve these warm, or refrigerate them until chilled.

Arrange the artichokes, peppers, and shrimp on a plate to serve. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil or squeeze  on some extra lemon juice, if desired.

The artichokes also make a great chilled side dish, even without the shrimp.

Shrimp and Scallops and Pasta, oh my!

And now, how about a heartier dish with shrimp and scallops? This is a great dinner, but it's still a relatively light dish. A smaller portion would make a nice lunch.

I used both shrimp and scallops, but this dish would be fine with just one. Or, if you have crab or clams, or lobster, those would be great additions, as well.

This is a great use for cooked, leftover seafood, or you can cook some specifically for this dish. The seafood is folded into the pasta at the last minute, so it won't overcook.

Shrimp and Scallops with Linguine

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon dry thyme
1 pound baby portobella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
6 large scallops, seared and cooked through
6 medium shrimp, cooked
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 pound linguine, cooked

Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan until the butter melts. Add the onion  and thyme and cook on medium until the onions soften.

Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms lose their water, and continue cooking until the water evaporates and the mushrooms begin frying in the oil left in the pan. Add the shrimp, scallops and cooked linguine, along with some of the pasta cooking water.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook just long enough to warm the pasta

Serve warm.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pickled Chard Stems

I like Swiss chard - it's like two vegetables in one - the leaves have the texture of spinach, and the stems have the texture of celery. Since chard is in the beet family, it tastes like beets, but a little muted. I know people who hate beets who love chard because it doesn't have the "muddy" taste that some people find in beets.

A lot of chard recipes I've seen are all about using the leaves. The leaves cook so quickly that many recipes tell you to remove the "tough" stems and larger veins and get rid of them. Even when the stems are used, they're a second-class citizens. Maybe they're sliced thinly and added to the leaves, but they never seem to get the spotlight.

I thought it was time to change that, and decided to create a recipe just for the stems. Pickling seemed ideal. The result was interesting - the stems had the shape and texture of celery, but the flavor of pickled beets. There are a perfect, weird little pickle that will leave people guessing. They'd be great on antipasto platter or perched in a bloody Mary.

I used rainbow chard, but regular chard would work just as well. The bright stems of the rainbow chard faded quite a bit during the cooking and pickling, ending up as delicate pastels.

As for the leaves - of course I used those, too. I'm sure you'll find plenty of recipes for those.

Pickled Chard Stems

Stems and large veins from 2 bunches Swiss chard
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Trim the green leafy bits off the chard stems and cut them to a length that will fit, standing up, in a pint canning jar - 4 inches or less is perfect.

Cook the chard stems in boiling salted water (or steam them) until fork tender, but not mushy - you want them cooked through, but still a little bit crisp. Drain. put the cooked chard stems in a pint canning jar or similar container.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pour over the chard stems in the jar. If there's not enough liquid to cover, add hot water. Cover the jar, let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

The chard stem pickles are ready as soon as they are chilled.

Pickled Chard Stems on Punk 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer Ceviche

I love entering contests over at Kitchen Play. It's pretty simple. Recreate one of the dishes posted on the menu (with whatever modifications you want to make) and post about it. Then go back and comment on the site with a link to your post.

This month's menu is sponsored by Cutco. You know, knives.

It's not just about contest-winning. Okay, I like winning. But it's also about the inspiration. I've made things for those contests that I might not have made otherwise.

In this case, I made something that's not all that uncommon around here - ceviche. This is  a slightly different twist, with radishes to add a little extra color and crunch

Summer Ceviche

1/4 medium onion, diced
2 radishes, diced
1 large sea scallop, diced
6 shrimp, peeled, cleaned, diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 small tomato, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
Juice of 1 lime
Tortilla chips for serving

Combine all the ingredients (except the tortilla chips, of course) in a small, nonreactive bowl. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

The seafood will change color and texture, "cooking" by the action of the acid in the lime juice. It will turn from a translucent color and soft texture, to opaque white with a firmer texture..

It's ready to serve as soon as it becomes opaque, but it can last a while in the refrigerator.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Braided Bread

It's fun to make bread in shapes that make people wonder how it's done. A braid is a fairly simple shape, but this one looks a lot more complicated because of the multiple strands - 18 in a all. But don't worry, you're really only braiding three strands.

The sesame seeds are optional. I like the flavor, but the braid design is a little more obvious without them. You can still see the multiple strands when you're up close and slicing the bread, but the far view isn't as dramatic.

Chances are that you won't have a precise rectangle of dough when you roll it out, and that's perfectly fine. When you're done braiding, you'll be trimming the end, anyway, to even up that end.

You can use those leftover pieces to make a roll or two so you can sample your bread without cutting into the pretty finished loaf.

Braided Wheat Loaf

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons honey
2 cups (9 ounces) all purpose flour
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup instant mashed potatoes flakes
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Eggwash (1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
1/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)

Combine the water, yeast, honey, flours, potato flakes, and dry milk in the bowl of your stand mixer. Knead with the dough hook until the mixture is smooth and elastic. Add the salt and olive oil an continue kneading until the salt and oil are incorporated and the dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size, about an hour.

Flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Form it into a rough rectangle, then use a rolling pin to roll it out to about 14x18 inches. Using a pastry cutter, pizza cutter, or sharp knife, cut it into thirds, lengthwise, then cut each of those 3 pieces into 6 18-inch long strips.

Gather each group of six strands together loosely and pinch one end of each group together. Make a braid, treating each group of six as if it's one strand.

Keep the strands loose and try not to stretch the dough. When you get to the far end of the braid, trim off any long pieces, pinch the ends together, and tuck it under. Tuck the other end of the dough under as well,

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center of the oven.

Transfer the braid to the backing sheet and straighten it and make it as even as possible. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.

When the dough has doubled, remove the plastic wrap and brush the dough with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake the bread at 350 degrees until it is nicely browned, about 25 minutes.

Let the loaf cool completely on a rack until completely cool.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Unchained Cheddar Biscuits

When a friend proposed a little food challenge to remake a dish from a chain restaurant, the first thing I thought of was cheddar biscuits from a certain seafood restaurant. To be honest, my choices were pretty slim. We don't go out to eat all that much, and when we do, we tend to go to a few local places that we like a lot.

So, when I was thinking of dishes to remake from a chain, there wasn't much that was particularly memorable.

But those biscuits are famous. There are bazillions of copycat recipes. But I didn't want to make my biscuits exactly the same way, I wanted to make my own version. Better, maybe.

Definitely not the same.

The first thing I changed was that these are cut biscuits instead of drop biscuits. So instead of looking like lumps, these are tall, layered, and proud.

And then I had fun with the flavor. I added plenty of cheese flavor, and some dried chives as well. And then - for the bit of bayou, I sprinkled the finished biscuits with just a little bit of Slap Ya Mama seasoning.

I got my cheese powders from Savory Spice Shop; I'm sure there are other sources.

Cheddar Bayou Biscuits

1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) self-rising flour
2 tablespoons cheddar cheese powder
2 tablespoons romano cheese powder
1 tablespoon chives
4 tablespoons cold butter
2/3 cup cold milk
Additional butter for brushing the biscuit tops
Slap Ya Mama spice mix

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the self-rising flour, cheese powders, and chives. Whisk to combine.

Cut the butter into chunks and drop it into the bowl with the flour. Cut the butter in with two knives or a pastry cutter until the largest bits are no bigger than a pea. Add the milk and fold gently to moisten all the flour. The dough should be a little bit wet. If it's dry and thick, add a bit more milk. If it seems too wet, don't fret. You can make up for that when you roll the biscuits.

Flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Dust the top with flour. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle the dough and your work surface as needed to keep the dough from sticking. You'll need more at the beginning and not much later.

Fold the dough in thirds, like a letter. Roll the dough again, this time to 1/2 thick. Fold in thirds again, like a letter. Roll it to 3/4 inch thick. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, dip the cutter in flour, then cut as many rounds as you can from the dough. Try to keep from twisting the cutter as you cut.

Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet leaving space bewteen them.

Gather the scraps, piling them on top of each other, trying not to turn them sideways - you created nice layers with the folding, you want to keep them running horizontally. Roll the dough again to 3/4 inch thick and cut as many more biscuits as you can.

You can re-roll a third time, if you need to, or just gather the scraps and make one last hand-formed biscuit.

Bake the biscuits at 400 degrees until nicely browned, about 18 minutes.

Move the biscuits to a rack. Brush the tops with butter, then sprinkle with as much of the Slap Ya Mama seasoning as you like.