Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Friday( but really Wednesday night )challah....

I have a confession to make. I've never made a challah before. Shocking I know, especially since I'm Jewish. I never really had to make it myself because growing up in Florida and then California, it was just too easy to go to the Jewish deli and pick one up. I even schlepped one back from Florida in my suitcase a few months ago.

I recently bought A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking by Marcy Goldman,a Canadian pastry chef who happens to write for the U.S. and Canada.

I am IN LOVE with this book. I want to make absolutely everything. I love it so much, I even bought one for my mom for Mother's Day. Anyway, I thought since I've never made challah before, I'd start with Marcy's recipe for Friday Night Challah. This recipe uses the bread machine to make the dough, but you bake it in the oven.

It was really easy, the hardest part was rolling out the strands and braiding it. I attempted a 4 strand braid, but that didnt work out so well. After this cooled, I tasted a piece and knew immediately I had to make french toast( aka pain perdu) for dinner tonight.

Friday Night Bread Macine Challah

1 1/4 c. warm water
1/3 c. plus a pinch of sugar
4 teaspoons dry yeast
2 eggs plus 1 yolk
2 tbl honey
1/3 cup veg. oil
approx 6 cups bread flour( I used Gold Medal that I bought in Michigan and I only needed 5 1/2 cups)
2 1/2 tsp salt

Egg wash
1 egg plus 1 yolk( I just used the white with a bit of half and half since I wasnt using this for sabath)
sasame or poppy seeds( optional)

In the bread machine, place the water and the pinch of sugar. Add the yeast. When the yeast starts to bubble, add the remaining sugar, eggs, yolk, honey and oil. Mix in 1 cup flour. Then add the salt and most of the remaining flour. Put the machine on the dough cycle. Watch to see if it forms a ball, if not, use a spatula to help it along. If the dough seems too wet, add a few tbls of flour.( I didnt need to). When the cycle is finished, remove the dough and divide into 3 sections for large loaf or 6 for 2 medium loaves. Roll into strands and braid together. Brush with egg
wash and sprinkle with seeds. Place the entire sheet pan with the two loaves into a large plastic bag and let rise again for 30-40 min. Brush again with eggwash and sprinkle with seeds. Preheat oven to 375f, reduce temp to 350 and bake for 30-35 min, until the crust is nicely browned.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Brown Rice Pudding( KA flour whole grain baking)....

I can tell I'm in a definate comfort food mood these last few days, I went looking for something to bake and the only thing that sounded good to me was rice pudding. I love rice pudding and I'll usually always order it from a Jewish Deli when we're in Florida. But, I feel guilty eating it because its white, so this brown version really struck my fancy. This was really simple to make. The recipe calls for 1.5cups of cooked brown rice which I didnt have leftover so I had to make some. Then you mix 2 cups of milk with 2 eggs, a small amount of brown sugar and maple syrup, some spices and dried fruit. Thats it. You bake it in a buttered casserole dish for 30 min and voila. I tasted it when it came out of the oven and I didnt like it as much as I did when it chilled.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Nutty for Oats Cookies( KA flour whole grain baking)...

I gave Robin the KA flour whole grain baking cookbook and asked her to pick something out. Big surprise that she picked out something with peanutbutter. She did also pick out a pear hazelnut cobbler, but my pears were not ripe. So, yesterday I made these cookies. There is actually no flour in these cookies. They do have whole oats and oats that you grind up into flour. They also contain peanutbutter and choc. chips. The recipe calls for 2 cups of chips, but next time I'd knock that back to one cup. Robin and I both felt there were too many chips. Nevertheless, these cookies are good, they have a really earthy texture and they arent too sweet. I used Hershey's special dark choc. chips that are from Canada.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Potstickers( Cook's Illustrated)......

I signed on for a 2 week free trial of America's Test Kitchen On Demand. The premise is that you can watch all the episodes from 2006-2007 whenever you want. Supposedly, all of 2001-2005 will also be added. I've watched everything so far and all of a sudden, I had an intense craving for these potstickers. They were very simple to make and the recipe makes an assload of them. This is a recipe that is perfect for freezing and pulling some out whenever the mood strikes. I turned some over so you could see the beautiful crispness on the one side.

2 kinds of pancakes for Shrove Tuesday.....

I know I'm late with this!! Yesterday, I cooked for the Seniors and the day before I went to MI for some errands.

Since Robin is still on South Beach, I made 2 different kinds of whole grain pancakes. I made blueberry cornmeal pancakes and instead of using blueberries, I made a quick sauce with blackberries. I also made some buckwheat pancakes. Both recipes were from The KA flour whole grain baking book. I enjoyed the cornmeal panacakes, but I felt the buckwheat ones were too heavy.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

My mojo is back......

Last week I was telling a friend that I felt like I lost my cooking mojo. I was just NOT in the mood to cook. I also had two failures( that I didnt blog about) and was feeling kinda down( I'm sure this horrible weather didnt help either). Friday brought more horrible weather and so much freaking snow that the boys could barely walk down the front steps. But as I always say, the weather here changes on a dime and by the afternoon, it was bright and sunny. I made a batch of Cook's Illustrated Multigrain bread and brought a loaf over to my neighbor who plows our driveway everytime it snows. He does it for free so I make sure to keep him and his family supplied with goodies.

The really bright and sunny continued yesterday and I was in a fabulous mood. ( A little sunshine will do that to me). I also had my hair highlighted and cut and was feeling very sexy so I decided to cook for my really sexy wife. She's been working her sexy ass off and I've been really slacking in the cooking department. The night I made the bread, I scrambled her some eggs and threw some Canadian Bacon( the stuff we Americans call Canadian bacon) on her plate.

As I was reading my favorite foodblogs, I came across this shrimp and gruyere pasta dish on Joe's blog. I had all the ingredients handy so I whipped that up. I added some chicken instead of using all the shrimp, I also threw in some frozen artichokes I had from Trader Joe's. Instead of using orichette pasta, I used Dreamfields Low Carb Penne since Robin is STILL DOING SOUTH BEACH. This dish was creamy and very yummy.

I wanted to bake something too, since its been ages since I've baked something at home. I pulled out the KA flour Whole Grain Baking Book and found some Cranberry Apricot Chocolate chews. I went with the variation at the bottom of the page using white chocolate, dried apricots and cherries and pistachios. The recipe using traditional whole wheat flour instead of AP flour. I was shocked to find I was out of WW flour so I used KA white whole wheat flour and it worked out really well. I used a combination of lindt and ghiradelli white chocolate for these. Robin cringed when I told her I was making a whole wheat cookie, but she seemed to enjoy them and really in the end, thats all that matters!!

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Coconut Cake( CI)....

It's not secret that I love cake. I would pick cake over any other dessert anytime. I even love the frozen Peppridge Farm cake that is full of high fructose corn syrup. Cake is a total redlight food for me. If its in the house, I want it everyday. For that reason, I try to bake portion control cupcakes or not bake cake at all. I especially love coconut cake. My mom was the one who introduced me to that evil Peppridge Farm coconut cake. I asked my boss if I could make this Coconut Cake for the brunch and she said sure. I baked it in a heart shaped pan in honor of Valentine's Day. The frosting is made with eggwhites, sugar and 1lb of butter( oh my). I was especially pleased that the frosting came together because I would have hate to waste a pound of butter. This cake was very good, moist and full of coconut flavor.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mexican ceasar salad.....

When I lived in California, I ate a lot of Mexican Food. Next to Italian, its probably my favorite food. Believe it or not, I wasnt as big of a foodie as I am now. I was so busy with college and then law school, that I didnt have a lot of time to read cookbooks, watch cooking shows, troll the internet food boards or even cook for that matter. I wasnt familar with which hole in the wall Mexican restaurant wouldnt make me sick so I stuck to the tried and true. I ate at El Torito a lot!! It was cheap, reliable and good. One of my favorites was their Mexican ceasar salad. The salad starts with the typical romaine but then adds crunchy fried corn tortillas, salty cojita cheese, toasted pepitas( pumpkin seeds) and slivers of sun-dried tomato. They top this crunchy, salty, cheesy salad with a wonderful cilantro-pepita dressing. If you live in California, you can find this dressing for sale at Ralphs, Von's and other area markets. I once did a trade with Nicole of Baking Sheet. I sent her the LCBO Food and Drink Magazine and she sent me the dressing. I guarded that dressing with my life, I got 3 salads out of it that I served to guests. I wondered how I could get more dressing, then a thought came to me. I'll ask my ex. Well, she said NO( can you believe it?) so I went looking on the internet and found a copycat dresssing. But, no anaheim chilis were to be found in this small community. No problem, I hopped the border and bought them in MI. I peeled them and froze them and chucked them in the freezer.

When we were planning the brunch menu at work, I mentioned this salad to my boss. She was all for it. She tried to order the cheese and chilis too, but she couldnt find them either( why oh why do I have to live in such a small town). Anyway, I brought her my chili's and a bag of corn tortillas and I made this dressing on Saturday. It smelled so good!! We ate a bowl of it for lunch with avocado( my addition) and some really big shrimp that my boss boiled up for the classic shrimp cocktail( for sunday's brunch). The salad has everything you could want, salty, crunchy, creamy and just really freaking good. Both of us could not find Cojita cheese( and I looked in MI and so did she) so we subbed out Feta that we grated on a box grated and drained on paper towels).

Robin stopped by my work on Saturday to bring me something( the subject of another post) and I gave her some salad. She said she thought the homeade dressing was better than the bottled( and I'd have to agree).

When Sunday came, I was nervous because the salad is very different from what ppl around here are used to. I cut up 12 romaine hearts but held back some just in case. I ended up having to make more salad because ppl just ate it up. I was so proud. I spoke to my boss yesterday and she asked if I could give her the recipe again. She is teaching a salad class and some of the ladies that are attending that class were at the brunch and want to learn to make that salad. * big grin*.

If you try it, please let me know how you like it.
Yield: Makes 1 quart

2 medium Anaheim chiles, roasted, peeled
and seeded
1/3 cup roasted pepitas
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt( I left out the salt since the feta was salty)
1 1/2 cups salad oil (or mild avocado oil)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
5 tablespoons grated cotija cheese
2 small bunches cilantro, stemmed
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup water
I also added a lot of fresh cracked pepper.
Place all ingredients except cilantro, mayonnaise and water in a blender or food processor. Blend about 10 seconds, then add cilantro little by little until blended smooth. Depending on the size of the blender/processor, it may be necessary to do in batches.

Place mayonnaise and water in a large stainless steel bowl and mix with a wire whip until smooth. Add the blended ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Place in an airtight container and refrigerate.

I added avocado to the actual salad. I cut up the tortillas and fried them at work. My boss bought the raw pepitas at Trader Joe's so I pan toasted them for a few minutes.

I like to cook fresh ravioli ( either chicken or cheese) and toss them into the salad for a nice main dish meal.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Multigrain pancakes( Cook's Illustrated)....

I've been doing a lot of cooking lately but unfortunately most of it hasnt been at home. Today was our Sunday brunch at work. One of the things I really love about this job is that my boss gives me a lot of freedom with menu planning. So when I want to try something new, we usually put it on the brunch menu. I've had my eye on these multigrain pancakes for awhile now. Like all CI recipes, it was very well tested. This recipe uses museli that is ground into flour along with AP flour and whole wheat flour. You'll also sour your own milk with lemon juice instead of using buttermilk. I doubled the batch and after it was all mixed together, the batter was rather thin. My boss noticed too and said " Have you ever made these before" and I said " Nope, but I totally trust CI". I said " they've never let me down and I dont expect they ever will". Thankfully, I was right. They cooked up light and crisp. Robin came to the brunch today and said she thought they were the best item there, my boss's husband who is notoriously picky ate them without syrup and raved. So, I was very happy. Thank you CI!!

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

South Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce....

About a year ago, I stopped buying commercial BBQ sauces. I never realized how much high fructose corn syrup they contain. In fact, it is often the first ingredient. I made this South Carolina Mustard BBQ sauce for the ribs we ate on Sunday. The sauce is very simple to prepare and contains no HFCS. Everything is mixed and cooked in one pot on top of the stove. It takes a mere 10 minutes. The sauce is different from tomato based sauces, but is still very tasty.

The recipe is courtesy of Egullet member =Mark.
2/3 c yellow prepared mustard
1/2 c white sugar
1/4 c light brown sugar
1 c cider vinegar
2 T chili powder ( I used ancho chili powder)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
(I add crushed red pepper and if I want it even hotter I use fresh ground pequins)
4 drops Tabasco
(I use Louisiana style hot sauce and lots of it instead)
1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 T butter

Combine all ingredients except the soy sauce and butter in a saucepan and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in soy sauce and butter. May be used as a basting sauce for barbecue meat or as a condiment.

Experiment and enjoy. =Mark adds the juice of 1 lime and more spice.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Superbowl party that didnt happen......

Yesterday Robin and I went to the butcher and picked up 11lbs of ribs @ 5.99lb. Robin painstakingly removed the silverskin and I mixed up a rub. We wrapped them up in heavy duty foil and chucked them in the fridge. I made up my famous 7 layer dip this morning. Layers of refried black beans, sourcream mixed with taco sauce, guacamole, cheddar and jack cheese, green onions and olives( missing because Robin hates them). I was so looking forward to eating that dip this afternoon at the superbowl party we were invited too.

But, many roads are closed, its freezing outside with major snowsqualls so it looks like we'll be having our own little party.

Btw, the dip was yummy.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Cubano.....

Roast Pork loin was served at the wedding last Saturday. There was so much left over so I took a few slices home and made one of my favorite sandwiches, The Cubano. I used portegeuse bread instead of Cuban Bread( not availble here)

The Cuban sandwich, also known as the cubano, is a popular meal in south Florida where many Cubans have settled since the early 20th century. These tasty, toasted Cuban sandwiches are definitely Tampa and Miami, Florida's favorite snack. These treats can be found in most restaurants in these cities, but the best places to buy them are from the street corner-snack bars, called loncherias.

Every Cuban sandwich aficionado believes in their own version of this sandwich. In fact, they're usually passionate about this and will readily debate among themselves the finer point of how to make a Cuban sandwich. No visit to Tampa would be complete without sampling the city's claim to fame - the Cuban sandwich.

The sandwiches have a submarine-style layering of ham, roast pork, cheese, and pickle between a sliced length of Cuban bread. The key to a great, versus a good, Cuban Sandwich lies in the grilling. A great Cuban sandwich is grilled in a sandwich press (called a plancha) until the ham, pork, and pickles have warmed in their own steam (the steady application of heat and weight fuse the meat, cheese, and bread into a delectable and compact treat). One of the greatest sins in Cuban sandwich preparation is too light a press. A heavy hand on the press pushes all the juices and flavors together while still achieving the desired crunch crust. These sandwiches use no mayonnaise, lettuce, onions, bell peppers, or tomatoes; however, butter and mustard are optional. Cuban sandwiches are sold hot (pressed) or cold (room temperature).

The most important part of a Cuban sandwich is the bread. It is not ordinary bread, but Cuban bread. Believers say that true Cuban bread cannot be found outside of Tampa or Miami. Italian bread or French bread are acceptable substitutions in other parts of the country, but they are not the same. Cuban bread is best when it is eaten on the same day that it is made, as Cuban bread contains lard. After a day or so, the lard hardens, and the bread gets dry.