Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Asparagus Bake

For Swapbot Baking Week #4 I made Asparagus with Couscous and Blue Cheese.  I was inspired by a recipe for Slow Cooked Asparagus in the New York Times.  It's an interesting recipe, wrapping the aspargus in parchment paper, baking in a 200 degree oven and making the couscous separately.  I'm tired and didn't feel like fussing, so I made up my own version using parsley, scallions and asparagus from the farmer's market.

Asparagus with Couscous and Blue Cheese

1 C couscous
4 scallions, sliced
1 bunch asparagus, in 1" pieces
1 t salt
1/2 C water
juice of 1 lemon
2 oz blue cheese, crumbled
olive oil

Combine couscous through pepper in an 8" square pan. Pour water and lemon juice over all.  Top with blue cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.  Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes.

What I Learned
This was pretty tasty, although the blue cheese was a bit overpowering and the couscous needed a bit more flavor.  I would make it with feta, parmesan or romano and use chicken broth instead of water next time.  A few sundried tomatoes would be nice.  Visually, the dish could be improved by laying whole asparagus on top of the couscous instead of slicing into pieces.

The Dish Bitch: Low
1 8" square pan
cutting board
wooden spoon

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Six Minute Chocolate Cake

As you may recall, I've been participating in 52 Weeks of Baking Swap on Swapbot.  I'm really enjoying this swap!  It's a great opportunity to sort through the pile of 'to try' recipes.  I've been intrigued by this recipe for chocolate cake.   It's vegan, thrifty, and made with ingredients that most people have in their pantry.  For those of you who share my dislike of dirty dishes: YOU MIX IT RIGHT IN THE PAN!  The recipe and my evaluation are below.

The recipe is included in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks At Home by Mollie Katzen, who credits a 1976 "House and Garden" magazine as the source.

Six Minute Chocolate Cake
1 1/2 C unbleached white flour
1/3 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 C sugar
1/2 C vegetable oil
1 C cold water or coffee
2 t pure vanilla extract
2 T vinegar

GLAZE (optional)
1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate
3/4 C hot water, milk, or half and half
1/2 t pure vanilla extract    

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

    Sift together the dry ingredients directly into an ungreased 8" square or 9" round baking pan.  In a 2 C measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, water or coffee and vanilla.  Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or a small whisk.  When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly.  There will be pale swirls in the batter where the baking soda and the vinegar are reacting.  Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Set the cake aside to cool, and if you choose to make the glaze, reset the oven to 300 degrees.

    For the glaze, melt the chocolate in a small ovenproof bowl or heavy skillet in the oven for about 15 minutes.  Stir the hot liquid and the vanilla into the chocolate until smooth.  Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake.  Refrigerate the cooled cake for 30 minutes before serving.

What I learned:

Instead of sifting, I whisked the dry ingredients together in the pan. It worked well. Just be gentle or you will have a cloud of flour. The batter came together easily. The weirdest thing was the yellowish streaks from the vinegar and baking soda reacting. It looked strange but posed no difficulties. The cake rose evenly in the oven, and kept it's nice high crown even though I accidentally slammed the oven door.

I did not make the glaze, although recipe is included below. The recipe suggests dusting with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, or your favorite frosting and to serve with whipped cream, ice cream, fresh fruit, or orange compote.

I am totally pleased with this recipe. It's a simple and elegant chocolate cake with a firm yet tender texture. It was delicious plain. Glazed or served with any of the above suggestions will make a fine choice for company. I plan to stock the pantry with bittersweet chocolate for the next time.

8" cake pan
2 C liquid measuring cup
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
thin bladed spatula to help release the cake from the pan

Herb Wreath Shepherd's Pie

Just after Thanksgiving, BB bought a beautiful rosemary and lemon thyme wreath.  Inspired by the vivacious scent of the herbs and a package of ground lamb from the CSA, I created this recipe for Winter Solstice dinner.  It turned out very well.

This week we spotted fresh ground lamb at the farmer's market, BB suggested we make "shepherd's pie with the wreath." 

Since this is the second time I've made the recipe, I've learned a couple of things: mince the rosemary; dot the potatoes with butter before baking for a nicely browned crust; and garnish with a spring of rosemary and a sprinkling of crushed thyme leaves.  For an elegant presentation, bake in (6) 1 C ramekins.  Enjoy!

Herb Wreath Shepherd's Pie
1 1/2 lbs of potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 C water from cooking the potatoes
4 T butter

12 oz white button mushrooms, chopped
1T canola oil
1 t salt
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium onion chopped
1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
1 T flour
3/4 C water
1 t lemon thyme and rosemary from wreath, crushed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place potatoes in cold water and bring to a boil. Boil gently for 15 minutes or until easily pierced with fork. Drain, return to pan with reserved water, butter and salt and pepper to taste. Mash and stir vigorously until desired texture.

Heat 1/2 T oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and salt and cook unitl they start to brown. Add remaining oil, carrots, celery and onion, and cook until softened. Add lamb, and cook until browned and cooked through. Spoon off excess fat from the pan. Add 1 T flour and herbs to the pan, stirring until combined. Add water, and stir to deglaze the pan

Place filling in 8" square baking pan. Top with mashed potatoes, leaving a rough texture or raking with tines of a fork. Bake in oven 30 minutes or until bubbly and potatoes are browned.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

This week's share...

Somehow I neglected to post this last August.  So here it is, a reminder of Summer's bounty during the "cruellest month."

Yesterday, Bill and I went to the farmer's market. We were on a mission for bread, eggs from Tellos and wheatgrass from Evolutionary Organics (for our cat). Really, we werent going to buy anything else. We have a fridge full of CSA bounty. But it was the farmer's market. In August.

Let me tell you about the basil. It being August, basil was everywhere. My dear husband loves pesto, and was heady with the perfume of it floating in the air. Bill saw someone clutching a particularly wonderful bunch of basil. He asked the gentleman where he bought such a fine specimen. With determination, Bill sought out the stall. Near the register, there were buckets of beautiful, lush Genoese basil. He took his time, admiring the options, peering at the flowers at the tips. Soon, Bill was clutching his own ridiculously huge bouquet, with smile on his face.

So, with great restraint, we purchased a few tomatoes, bell peppers and basil to supplement this weeks share of corn, 3 tomatoes, peaches, plums, garlic, onions, kale, lettuce, 2 types of cucumbers, and summer squash.

This morning, Bill whizzed up a batch of pesto. And we enjoyed.....
The Perfect Summer Breakfast

Bread Alone San Francisco Sourdough

Bill's Pesto (basil, olive oil, walnuts, garlic, Locatelli Romano)

1 Ripe Tomato


Toast the bread, add a shmear of pesto and top with a slice of tomato.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Garlic in a Jar

A few weeks ago, I bought crushed garlic in a jar.  I know it's so wrong.  But bear with me and follow the logic.

We were out of garlic.  I haven't been able to get to the farmer's market.  I tried three different markets, including Fairway, but could only find garlic grown in China.  I just couldn't do it.  If you are interested in more information about the impact of garlic imports on US garlic production, click here.

I bought a bottle of Christopher Ranch crushed garlic that's grown in Gilroy, California.  It's convenient and has pretty good flavor.  It's mellower than fresh garlic, but has a sweetness and softness that reminds me of garlic that's been simmered or baked.

Soon farmer's markets will be extending their hours and the CSA season will begin.  There will be lovely garlic scapes, radishes and greens!  Happy Spring

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pantry Macaroni and Peas

Barnacle Bill is working late tonight so I made an old favorite for dinner: Macaroni and Peas.  It is inspired by peas my grandmother made every Thanksgiving.  She cooked canned peas with onion and oregano.  They came out mushy and delicious.   This is total comfort food. 

1 T olive oil
1 med onion chopped
1 can sweet peas
1/2 lb ditalini
1/2 t dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
grated locatelli romano cheese

Saute onion in the olive oil until soft and golden.  Add the peas with the liquid, and 1 can full of water.  Bring to a boil.  Add the ditalini, and stir well.  Let it simmer, stirring frequently.  If it seems very dry, you can add a bit more water.  When the macaroni is halfway cooked, and there is little liquid left, stir, turn off the flame and cover the pot.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  Stir the pot, then serve with grated romano cheese.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Modest Cinnamon Rolls

I joined the 52 Weeks of Baking Swap on SwapBot. If you are in need of inspiration for cooking, arts and crafts, I highly suggest checking it out.

For this project I decided to bake bread. Since we are a small household, I divided the dough, and froze half for baking later in the week. I divided the remaining dough in half.  Last night I baked a braided wreath. Of course I forgot to take a picture.  So this morning I used some of the remaining dough to make cinnamon rolls.

After checking The Pioneer Woman's glorious recipe, I came up with my own. Hey, I've nothing against butter, but DH and I do not burn the calories of a pioneer family.


In the picture above, you can see the finished product (click picture for a larger image). The top 4 rolls are bottom side up and the other 2 show the naked tops. Feel free to glaze with powdered sugar mixed with milk, maple syrup or orange juice. Since the dough is not sweet, glaze will provide you eye candy and a sugar rush.

Take the dough (see recipe for challah below: I used 1/4 batch for 6 rolls, full batch will make 24) out of the refrigerator and let sit for 1/2 hour. Roll out to a rectangle, and fill with 1 T butter, a handful of brown sugar, sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp cinnamon then roll into a log, pinching the seam to seal. A little water will help this. Cut into 6 pieces, and place in a 6 cup muffin pan (or a round cake pan). Cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. Bake at 375 until you can smell it (15-20 minutes). Let stand 5 minutes then remove from pan. If you wait longer, the filling will cement the rolls in the pan...not good!

What I Learned:
-Powdered sugar is excellent to use when rolling out cookie dough, but changes yeasted dough into a slimy blob. I do not recommend it.
-You may store the dough in the refrigerator and bake up to one week later.  Just take it out, bring to room temperature before shaping.  The let the shaped dough rise before baking.

Challah (adapted from The Art of Jewish Cooking by Jennie Grossinger)
1 package of yeast (used Red Star)
2 t sugar
1 1/4 C warm water
4 1/2 C flour (used high gluten)
2 t salt
2 eggs
2 T oil
1 egg yolk + sesame or poppy seeds, non pareils, fancy sprinkles whatever.

Combine 1/4 c water, yeast and sugar in a 2 c measuring cup.  Meanwhile, combine eggs, salt and oil in the bowl of stand mixer using paddle attachment.  Add yeast mixture to bowl, and measure 1 c of warm water in cup, swirling to rinse out all yeast residue, and add to bowl.  Set mixer to low speed, and let mix while you measure flour.  Add about 1/3 of the flour, then change to dough hook.  Add remaining flour, and let mix for 5 minutes. 

Shape into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel.  Let rise til doubled about 1 hour.  Separate dough into 2 pieces.  Wrap one well, and freeze.  Divide remaining dough ball in half.  Wrap half loosely and place in fridge.

Shape remaining half into a braid, ring loaf whatever.  Cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let rise x 1hr.  Brush with egg yolk (give leftover to A Most Grateful Cat) and sprinkle with seeds of your choice. Bake 350 about 30 minutes.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Passover began last Monday at sundown. DH was raised Jewish, and gets excited about seasonal foods and traditions around this time of year. He loves matzoh and we usually get a 5 lb (yes that's FIVE pound) bundles of Streit's every year. All of the local grocery stores have crazy specials, like spend $25, get FIVE pounds of matzoh free.

We celebrate Passover with his family on the day before Easter, then Easter with my family. It's a trip (Kosher Saturday, Italian Pork Fest Sunday) but that's our multi culti life.

Since Passover is also the first full moon after the vernal equinox, celebration is in order. We usually have a simple dinner at home, that gives a nod to Jewish traditions, and avoid leavened products for the week. It's a challenge to try new things, and incorporate our own habits and favorite meals. On Monday, I made Cabbage Borscht with Beef and Matzoh Balls. On the second night we had Matzoh Crusted Chicken Cutlets with Butternut squash. Both nights we had Seder Plate Salad (my creation of romaine, parsley, apples, walnuts, hardboiled egg and horseradish dressing).

Last night we had Matzoh Lasagna. It sounds weird, but when you consider no boil lasagna noodles, it makes sense. It was delicious, was easy, and we will definitely make it again.

Matzoh Lasagna
4 matzoh
1 jar of marinara sauce (we used Trader Joe's Tomato and Basil)
16 oz of ricotta
1 egg
3 T pesto (used Bill's homemade)
8 oz shredded mozzarella (Haolam Kosher for Passover)
grated pecorino romano to taste (Haolam Kosher for Passover)
black pepper

Set oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8" square baking dish with non stick spray. Mix 1 egg, pesto and ricotta until well combined. Cover bottom of baking dish with some sauce, top with 1 matzoh, 1/3 of ricotta, 1/4 of mozzarella, some romano, a sprinkle of black pepper and a bit more sauce. Repeat layering 2x more, then finish with 1 matzoh, the remaining sauce, mozzarella, romano and black pepper. Bake x40 minutes, turn off the oven, and go watch the sun set. When you return, remove the lasagna from the oven and serve.