Friday, March 30, 2007

Cherry-Kirsch Lenten Cake And Challah (How's that for eccumenicism?)

So yes, being Friday in our multi-faith family I baked both a challah (to get rid of the last of the flour ahead of Pesach) and a Lenten cake.

This was the cake I started to bake last week before Danny broke out in hives. A few observations:

1) Use the chopped cherries as a topping-if you mix them into the batter you will have an unattractive, grey cake.

2) Go easy on the kirsch extract as it is more concentrated than the regular liquor.

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

2-3 drops of kirsch flavouring (available in European import shops)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup oil

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup cold water

5-6 dark cherries chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a loaf pan. Pour in batter, top with cherries and bake about 45 minutes (ovens differ, so check frequently) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes in pan, then turn out on cooling rack. Do not try slicing until completely cool. I'd serve it with additional cherries and whipped cream.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

How To Roast Garlic

I never realised so many people do not know how to roast a bulb of garlic. No, you need not purchase one of those silly terra cotta roasters-you need only some aluminum foil and a bit of olive oil.

Here's the deal:

Slice the top off of an unpeeled bulb of garlic, exposing the tops of the cloves (you may need to cut the side ones individually. Drizzle on a bit of olive oil. Enclose it in foil tightly and place on the middle rack of a 400 degree F oven for about 20 minutes or until soft.

Wasn't that easy?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Chocolate MAlted Milk Candy Squares

I married a malted milk addict. Whether in ice cream, or as a candy, he simply cannot get enough of the stuff. When I was deciding which candies to include in this year’s Easter baskets, he jokingly suggested I make malted milk candy.

It is more challenging than I thought it would be, yet with my second attempt pictured here, I believe I’m closing-in on the texture I want. The problem (I think) is in the amount of baking soda I’m using. The candy tastes wonderful, and if you hold a piece in your mouth a moment before biting, it does soften up considerably. As I plan to coat it in chocolate though, it needs to be a bit softer (maybe). I also need to stretch it much thinner when I pour. Still, it’s always fun to show a work in progress.

Over the next few days, I’ll try to perfect it (I really am awfully close) and post the eventual recipe.


Last evening, I noticed my husband defrosting some dark cherries and covering them in honey for a late snack.
“You know, granola would be great on that.” I observed .

So early this morning, I read a number of recipes and ended-up ignoring most of them and came up with this recipe. The framework came from The Prepared Pantry granola recipe, though mine took considerably longer to bake. I think the principles are all pretty much the same in most recipes-low heat, rolled oats, a sweetener, some oil and fruit. I opted to use shredded coconut and sunflower seeds in mine, though nuts would probably work fine.

I’m not sure why, but as it baked, there was a very distinct odour of Play Doh to it. The smell dissipated as it cooled, but for a few minutes there, it really reeked. I have no idea what caused it.

Due to the large amount of oil and lack of preservatives found in commercial granola, it is probably best to use it within a week or so, though one recipe suggested freezing homemade granola (which I will try). I would store it in an airtight canister.

You Will Need:

4 cups of rolled oats
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup honey
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup raisins
¼ cup dried currants
salt to taste (though if using salted sunflower seeds, remember to take that into account)

Preheat the oven to 345 degrees F. Mix dry ingredients except fruit together. Add oil, extract and honey. Coat well. Spread in a large jelly roll pan and bake for ten minutes. Stir. Return to oven until browned and mostly dried out. Remove from oven and add fruit. Let it cool completely before placing in canister as it will dry out more and become crisp.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Rosemary/Olive Oil Bread

Sometimes, I forget to make a preferment ahead of time, or decide I want a loaf on the spur-of the moment. This olive oil/rosemary bread can be made quickly and still has many of the qualities an “artisan” loaf would. While it does not have a chance to fully develop flavours an overnight preferment would lend, it is a pleasant enough loaf to accompany most meals. Grilled, it makes a terrific pannini bread. A word of caution-it tends to go stale quickly, so use it within a day or so.
You Will Need:

3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
2 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons granulated yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5-6 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 cups bread flour

Proof the yeast in a large bowl with the sugar. Add olive oil and rosemary. Add flour and salt until you have a rather wet, sticky dough. You should be able to work it, but take care not to add so much flour that it becomes stiff. Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise 1 hour. Gently de-gas and fold in 3rds like a letter. Then fold the sides in the same manner. Return to bowl. Repeat this again in another hour. Let rise additional 30 minutes or until just about doubled in bulk.

Shape loaf (or make two smaller ones) and place on a cornmeal dusted pan. Set timer for 30 minutes. When 30 minutes are up, place a roasting pan in the bottom shelf of the oven and pre-heat to 450 degrees F. Set timer for another 20 minutes. Check loaf and if it is nearly doubled in bulk, score the loaf and toss a cup of water quickly into the oven (stand to the side as you do this. Place the loaf in the oven and set timer for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, rotate the pan, and bake another five to ten minutes or more until an internal temperature of around 200 degrees F. The loaf should be quite dark, and sound hollow when rapped on the bottom with knuckles. Cool completely before slicing.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Oh, ugh. My son developed hives last Friday morning on day nine of ten days of penicillin. He's still breaking out with new ones as of this morning. I'm told it will take a while for the antibiotic to work out of his system, and to expect them to look a bit on the scary side. Not that I panicked or anything when I saw them multiplying by the minute across his belly. Oh no, not I. I was perfectly calm as I raced him to the pharmacy twenty minutes away (we live in a rural area), and didn't freak out on the pharmacist or anything...not too much anyway. In fact, I was so calm that the paediatrician wrote an Rx for an Eppi Pen-not because my son would need it, but because it was obvious that Mummy would not be able to sleep worrying "what if?" I thought I did a fine job of staying just this side of hysterical.

Thankfully, the hives don't itch. We did learn something else about our son-Benadryl makes him bounce off the walls. We sat there Friday evening watching him run laps around the dining room table singing "I'm a Little Teapot." I'm told that is also quite normal in young children.

Needless to say, I haven't been spending much time in the kitchen. I did however, bake Danny some blueberry muffins on Saturday as they are his favourite. When I was a child and ill, my mother would make me soft-boiled eggs, which I loved. I would also get comic books, though we lived near a newsstand that sold them. I don't know where a child would go today to get comic books. Soft-boiled eggs are of course off the menu these days as the health department claims they are bacterial breeding grounds.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Cook's Night Out

No cooking posts this evening as we are dining outside of the home. I expect to continue tomorrow with the Friday Lenten cake series, though truth be told, I'm getting a bit sick of eggless, butterless cakes. As we are a multi-faith family, the Lenten cakes will be interrupted for Pesach (Passover) where I will be unable to bake with regular flour. That ought to be challenging (it is amazing what you can do with potato starch and matzo meal). I'll likely have posts detailing my very likely disastrous attempts at gefilte fish and borscht. I was hoping the sorrel in our garden would be up by now so I could make Schav (cold sorrel soup) but it is only just beginning to peek through the soil.

I'm devoting this weekend to making various stocks. The weather is expected to be stormy, so what better way to spend an afternoon indoors than reducing beef and bones to the point where they become gelatin? Well fine, you have your idea of fun, and I have mine. Seventeen years as a vegetarian shot to hell…

I'm making my own candy for the Easter baskets this year. As the weather is getting a bit too warm for shipping chocolate safely, I'm making sanded (sugared) hard candies of citron, clove and anisette. I've also worked out a malted milk candy (sans chocolate coating) that is strangely addictive. I might make some macaroons and of course, the ever popular graham crackers as well. Maybe some variations on my butterscotch recipe-using heavy cream instead. I'm at a loss beyond that. I like the idea of pulled mints, but the thought of all the things that could go wrong is enough to keep me from attempting it. I'd better get my show together soon. I'm making giant lollipops for my son Daniel, though I think when he sees all the exciting non-edibles like liquid bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and stuffed animals, he will lose interest after a few seconds.

On the garden front-every sunny window in my house has a tray of seedlings before it. This year (in addition to what we have as perennials) we are growing vast quantities of sweet basil, sunflowers, mint, sage, Brussels sprouts, yellow onions, rosemary, oregano, and edible nasturtiums. I should have about 30-40 basil plants after the less hardy ones sink or swim when replanted. For the months of July and August we are typically overrun with basil, which is, frankly, heaven.

See everyone tomorrow for (ugh, not another) Lenten cake. I'm thinking something with Kirsch.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fish With Soubise and Glazed Carrots and Turnips

I don’t know what possessed me to make soubise (braised rice and onions). I don’t particularly care for this sort of thing. It turned out beautifully, and with a bit of planning required very little effort (other than slicing 2 lbs. on onions). It was a nice accompaniment to the broiled fish and glazed carrots and turnips. Both the soubise and carrot/turnip recipe are from Mastering the Art Of French Cooking, which I seem to be returning to over and over of late. This was about as excited as I’ve seen my typically indifferent to food two year old over a dinner. If only photographs could capture the smell of onions and rice cooking in butter.

For The Soubise:

½ cup rice
4 quarts rapidly boiling water
1 ½ tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons butter
2 lbs (6-7 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
¼ cup whipping cream
¼ cup grated Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons softened butter
1 tablespoon minced parsley

Pre heat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Drop the rice in boiling water for exactly five minutes. Drain immediately.

Place butter in a three quart casserole dish in the oven. When foamy, add onions and rice. Coat well and cover. Cook about 1 hour or until soft. The rice and onions should be very tender and have a yellow appearance.

Just before serving, add the cheese and cream and then the butter. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot.

I made the first part ahead and re-heated it before adding the cream, butter and cheese.

For the Carrots and Turnips:

1 ½ lbs. carrots, peeled, quartered and cut into 2 inch lengths
3-4 large turnips, matchsticked
1 ½ cups brown stock
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of pepper
6 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper

Boil slowly in a covered saucepan for 30 minutes or until the stock has reduced to a syrupy glaze.

*The recipe did not call for turnips, though I had them on hand and was eager to use them. Interestingly, both my husband and son claim these were the best vegetables they’d ever had. In my son’s words;
“Those are tasty carrots mama.”

*Also pictured-broiled fish with butter and lemon pepper.

Apple "Tart"

I like to show my less-than-perfect results. I knew I should have used bottomless rings for the tart. Instead, I was able to salvage the broken pieces and fit them into a pie pan. The tart didn’t suffer any for it (it was delicious) but the appearance was unimpressive.

The recipe for the apple tart comes from Mastering The Art of French Cooking by, Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck. I’m not going to re-post it here as the book offers very detailed directions over multiple pages and has helpful illustrations. The book is widely available in libraries and used bookstores. If you simply must have the recipe right away-drop me an email and I’ll try to talk you through it.

A few observations (other than the obvious one of using the correct pan for the job). Store-brand (in this case, Hy-Vee) apricot jam put through a sieve will work, but good quality jam will taste better. Likewise for the butter. I served it with a dollop of crème fraiche.

The filling of this tart is more like a thick, chunky applesauce with brandy and apricot jam to bind it. It is absolutely unlike anything I’ve ever made. My boys really liked it, though it was for my taste, far too sweet. It is not the sort of thing you’d want more than a small slice of. I also served it still slightly warm, which I think helped it considerably. Would I make it again? I suppose I would, though I really would seek out a less-sweet apricot jam for the recipe. Even with the crust mishap, it was still a lovely ending to an unusually nice dinner.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lahma bi Ajeen (sort of)

I say “sort of” because I’ve omitted the pine nuts and added quite a bit of cumin to the mixture along with a few other minor changes. The basic recipe comes from Beard on Bread.

I wanted to set an Eastern looking background for them so I grabbed a caftan and some earrings I’ve had for many, many years. The caftan is interesting in that it is made from very old (a few hundred years) textiles that have been cut and re-inserted into new fabric. The photograph does not show it, but along with the intricate brocade and embroidery there are tiny bits of coloured glass and mirrors affixed to the fabric. The Earrings and necklace are made from old glass and beads. They are from Afghanistan prior to the Soviet invasion. The person who acquired them (before myself) would tell all these fantastic stories of having travelled through some of the world’s most dangerous places without a care, yet he adamantly refused to take the El through Hyde Park in Chicago as it was too risky. Anyway, I figured this was an opportunity to share a photograph of these beautiful works of art along with a recipe.

You Will Need:

2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
pinch of sugar
1 cup warm water
3 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 finely chopped onion
olive oil for frying
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ lbs. ground lamb
3 oz tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons cumin

Dissolve the yeast in ½ cup of the water and sugar. Let proof ten minutes. Sift flour and salt and place in a large bowl. Make a well and add the yeast and oil. Add the other half a cup of water slowly until you have a soft dough. Work it until it is elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, oil the top and then cover with a damp towel for two hours or until doubled.

Make the filling by sautéing the onion until soft in olive oil. Mix the rest together.

Divide the dough into a dozen pieces and let rest ten minutes. Roll into balls and then roll flat with a pin. Top with the lamb mixture, place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake at 475 degrees F. for about ten minutes or until lamb looks done. The dough should remain light coloured.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Rosemary Grape Focaccia

I found this recipe in the November issue of Gourmet magazine from 1994. I have copies going back to the early 1980’s and sometimes when I’m bored, I re-read them to see how our ideas about cooking have changed over the years. This particular focaccia reflects the beginnings of good bread coming back into fashion in the US-but not quite. It is still a very fast rising bread (5 teaspoons of yeast!) that does not really leave the dough much time to develop character. Of course, it could be argued that with a half pound of grapes and two tablespoons of fresh rosemary-character is the last thing it needs. It certainly makes a pleasant enough bread, and I certainly wouldn’t turn my nose up at it as a gift. The kitchen smelled wonderful as it baked away this morning. A word of caution-our bread flour today is much different than the bread flour in 1994 and depending upon your brand, you may need to adjust and use less. Add it slowly-a good rule of thumb anyway. I also found that mine was fully baked after 40 minutes, though the recipe calls for an hour-so keep an eye on the oven.

You Will Need:

½ lb. seedless red grapes
5 teaspoons active dry yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
1 ½ cups lukewarm water
4 ½ cups bread flour
1 teaspoon table salt
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
coarse salt to taste
pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a large baking dish, spread the grapes in a single layer and cook in the middle shelf of the oven until soft and sticky (about 30 minutes). Cool slightly.

(Here the recipe calls for a stand mixer but I did mine by hand with little difficulty)

In a standing electric mixer, combine yeast, sugar and water and let stand 5 minutes until foamy (in other words, proof the yeast). Add flour, table salt, and oil and combine well. With a dough hook, knead two minutes or until soft and slightly sticky. Form dough into a ball and let rest on a floured surface covered with a bowl for 10 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into an 18x8 inch oval (I just rolled it out-I’m not that particular). Arrange on a greased baking sheet and sprinkle with rosemary, grapes and coarse salt. Let dough rise, covered lightly with plastic wrap in a warm place for about an hour or until almost doubled in bulk. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake in the centre rack of the oven for 1 hour (I’d start checking at 30 minutes) or until golden brown. Cool in the pan on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Spinach Calzone

Since I had leftover Feta from the asparagus pizza, I decided to make spinach calzones the following day. My husband took two of them to work this morning to share with the people in his department-a sure way to make friends at work.

Follow the dough recipe for the asparagus pizza, except quarter it after the hour rise and let sit another ten minutes. Then roll out and use as calzone dough. If you like, a tablespoon of olive oil can be added to the wet ingredients-after the yeast has proofed. Then proceed as before. If you have a pizza dough recipe that you use and like, there’s no reason it cannot be applied to this recipe-just roll it out thin.

For the filling:

2 packages frozen spinach (leaf or chopped) cooked and squeezed dry of any liquid
1 cup parmesan cheese
½ mozzarella
1 cup provolone
1 cup drained cottage cheese or ricotta
feta cheese (as much as you have/like)
1 egg for mixing
1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water for wash

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal. Roll out the dough, fill and pinch together into pouches. Slit top to let steam escape. Brush with egg wash and then bake until golden brown (about 45 minutes). The calzones may leak a bit, but that should not take much away from their appearance.

Particularly good cold at three in the morning (or so I’m told).

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Asparagus/Feta/Potato Pizza

I suppose calling this a “pizza” is a bit of a stretch, but other descriptions are eluding me. I bought a large quantity of asparagus today, as I often do when the first Spring “grass” as we call it shows up. The Spring when I was expecting, I couldn’t get enough of asparagus sandwiches (on white bread with mayonnaise and vegetarian bacon strips-don’t laugh, it tastes great even if you’re not pregnant). The first weekend that the Farmer’s Market was open, I dragged my husband down to Lincoln, Nebraska to the very busy, crowded market to load up on asparagus. We arrived home noting that the sky was looking a bit odd. The weather radio went off, and the next thing we were in the storm cellar taking cover from a funnel cloud that had been spotted nearby. As I sat on the dirt/mud floor watching creepy beetles make their way through the puddles filling around me, all I could think of was that asparagus and how awful it would be if the house blew away taking all those fresh stalks with it. As quickly as it began, it was over and we brushed ourselves off, went upstairs and made dinner-as though the whole experience were the most ordinary thing in the world. Unfortunately, for the people in Hallam, they were less fortunate as the town was literally taken out that evening.

As I write this, I’m making a mental note to go check the batteries in the weather radio and open up the storm cellar for a good pre-season airing out. As I mention to just about everyone I know-a weather band radio with an alarm is an investment that is worth every cent. You simply cannot count on hearing the sirens, particularly if you live well outside of town as we do. I suppose I’ll forever associate asparagus with tornadoes and pregnancy, but that’s life in the country, I guess.

You Will Need:

For the crust:

1 cup lukewarm water
2 ¼ teaspoons granulated yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups white bread flour (or more)

In a large bowl, combine water, yeast, salt and sugar. Stir to dissolve and let proof 15 minutes. Add the olive oil and wheat flour. Slowly add the bread flour until you have a dough that is smooth and elastic-you may need more or less so it pays to add slowly. Place in an oiled bowl and let rise 1 hour. Punch down and let rest half an hour before rolling out.

For the Pizza:

1 bunch asparagus-trimmed, steamed
1 bulb roasted garlic (see post on Brussels sprouts for garlic roasting tips)
¼ cup chopped olives (black, green, Kalamata, oil cured, etc.)
1 potato, diced small
olive oil for cooking
3-4 generous stalks fresh rosemary
1 small package feta cheese, cubed
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup provolone cheese
1 cup mozzarella

Sautee the potato in olive oil with the chopped rosemary until soft. Roll out dough and place on a baking sheet that has been lightly tossed with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Brush lightly with olive oil. Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees F. with one rack in the lowest position and the other in the centre. Assemble the pizzas and place on the lowest shelf for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 450 degrees F and move to higher shelf. Bake another 5-7 minutes until done. This recipe will make two thin crusts or one thick. Thick crust will obviously take much longer, though if the toppings begin to burn, the heat can be further reduced to 400.

Brussels Sprouts With Garlic, Olives and Balsamic Vinegar

A simple enough approach to Brussels sprouts, but one that I only thought of last year. I used frozen sprouts for this batch, but obviously fresh would be nicer.

You Will Need:

1 bag frozen Brussels sprouts
1 bulb garlic, roasted
2-3 tablespoons chopped Kalamata olives
olive oil for sautéing
salt/pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated
Balsamic vinegar

Cook the Brussels sprouts in as small an amount of water as possible until softened. I use the microwave for this as a couple of tablespoons water does the trick. You could also steam them. You want them soft, but not completely cooked. Drain and slice them each in half.

Roast the garlic for 20 minutes in a 450 degree oven. Carefully slice the top off the bulb, pour on a bit of olive oil, and then close tightly in foil. Place in middle rack of the oven. When soft (it may take a few minutes more depending on the size of the bulb) remove the cloves with a butter knife.

In a deep skillet, sauté the sprouts, garlic and olives over very low heat until quite soft. Just before removing from the pan, toss with about a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with cheese, adjust salt and pepper, and serve hot or cold.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Applesauce Gingerbread Lenten Cake

This week’s cake is really very quick and simple. You might want to take more care decorating it than I did though. If using unsweetened applesauce, you may wish to add ¼ cup granulated sugar.

You Will Need:

½ cup molasses (I used light)
1 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ¾ cups flour
more sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine molasses and applesauce in a large bowl. Sift dry ingredients together in another and slowly add to liquid. Add more applesauce if it seems too thick to pour. Bake in a greased 8 inch pan for 20-30 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test. Don’t overbake it. Cool in pan 15 minutes, then transfer to rack. Dust with powdered sugar.

This Week's Rye Breads

That large loaf is a five pounder!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

St. Patrick's Recipes

I wanted to offer a few of my favourite Irish recipes ahead of St. Patrick's Day:

Brown Soda Bread

Potato Leek Soup


Treacle Farls

For Brown Soda Bread:

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cups whole-wheat flour
3 tablespoons toasted wheat bran
3 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1-teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ stick chilled butter cut into pieces
2 cups buttermilk (add slowly-you may not need it all)

Preheat oven to 425. Butter a 9x5x3 loaf pan. Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter until you have a fine meal. Add milk slowly until there is soft dough. Do not knead-you do not want to develop gluten in the bread. Place in pan and bake until it tests clean (about 40 minutes). Cool in pan five minutes then turn out on rack and cool completely before slicing.

For Treacle Farls
(If you cannot locate treacle, use dark molasses).

4 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1-teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
½ stick chilled butter cut into pieces
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons treacle or dark molasses

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Flour a baking sheet. Combine dry ingredients and then cut in the butter until a fine meal is had. Add the buttermilk and molasses slowly-you may not need it all. Shape into an 8 inch round about 1 ½ inch high. Cut into 4 wedges. Transfer wedges to the baking sheet spaced apart and bake until well browned-about 30 minutes. Cool on racks

Leek and Potato Soup

3 tablespoons butter
3 large leeks (white and pale green parts only) halved lengthwise and then thinly sliced
2 large russet potatoes peeled and diced.
4-½ cups (or more) chicken or vegetable stock

Melt butter in a heavy pan over medium heat. Add leeks and coat with butter. Cover and cook until tender-about 10 minutes. Stir often. Add potatoes. Cover and cook until potatoes soften but do not brown-again, keep stirring. Add stock and reduce heat. Cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender (about 30 minutes).

Puree soup in a blender or food processor (in small batches, please) until smooth. Return to pan. Thin with additional stock if needed. Season with salt and pepper.


Mine is so simple it is absurd. Make mashed potatoes. Mix in spinach (I cannot stand kale, but if you prefer to be traditional, go right ahead). Serve mounded on plate with a well of melted butter at the top. See, I told you it was simple.

Have a lovely St. Patrick's Day

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Salmon Pie

My salmon pie is slightly different than the one associated with Quebec, yet it has many of the same elements. Instead of flavouring it with savoury (which is traditional) I use chervil and a bit of dill as well as a product called “lemon pepper” (dehydrated lemon, pepper and salt). I also omit the onion as I don’t think it works well with the dish. Mine is a two-crust pie whereas the traditional one has only a top crust. Certainly, you could prepare it without crust at all-I have seen some that resemble “cobbler” with dollops of batter and I would think Vermont Common Crackers (they look like giant oyster crackers) would make an excellent topping as well.

You Will Need:

1 15 oz tin of salmon
2 ½ cups mashed potatoes prepared light with three tablespoons butter and enough milk or cream to keep them from being leaden.
½ teaspoon lemon pepper (or ¼ teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper and a small squeeze of lemon juice)
¼ teaspoon chervil or savoury
Crust for double pie
1 egg + t teaspoon water for optional wash.
Serve with crème fresh*

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Drain and break up the salmon. In another bowl, combine the mashed potatoes and spices. After fitting the bottom crust into the pie plate, smooth in a layer of mashed potatoes. Then spread the salmon on. Top with the remaining potatoes and remaining crust. Cut to vent. I prefer to brush my crusts with an egg wash of 1 yolk plus 1 teaspoon water. Then I sprinkled extra chervil on for appearance.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until browned.

I served mine with crème fresh that I made yesterday from 1 cup heavy cream and ¼ cup sour cream. Shake well in a glass jar and let sit at room temperature anywhere from 5-24 hours (depending on the room temperature) until thick. Shake well again and refrigerate. Keeps ten days.

Rye Crackers

I’ve been interested in making my own crackers for some time now but have had difficulty finding a recipe I liked. What I ended up with here is a combination of many recipes and a technique (using the food processor) that I apply to making graham crackers. The results are quite satisfying. I do think that they could withstand a bit of onion powder, if you like an onion rye flavour, and perhaps even a bit of coarse salt sprinkled atop before baking. When I make these again, I’ll roll them out much, much thinner-1/16 inch would be about perfect.

I prefer “rustic” looking crackers and breads, but if you are inclined, use a ruler to measure out squares and then use a pizza cutter to get a smooth looking cut. I tend to eyeball most things and if I’m using a paring knife for something else, I’ll wipe it off and use it for crackers-I don’t have a dishwasher and I’m not going to dirty another piece of cutlery without good reason.

You Will Need:

1 cup rye flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon dry cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons caraway seeds
½ cup water (you may need more)
1 tablespoon molasses

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of a food processor (or a large bowl if working by hand) combine the flours, cocoa and salt. Cut in the butter until you have a coarse meal. Add the caraway seeds. In a measuring cup, combine the water and molasses and add it slowly to the flour until the dough comes together in a ball (about 30 seconds at high speed. If it seems dry and there is quite a bit left in the bottom of the bowl that is crumbly and will not pick up, go ahead and add water-s-l-o-w-l-y. You only want it pliable.

Take about a third of the mixture and roll it out quite thin, keeping the other dough covered with a damp towel. I roll out dough on flexible plastic cutting boards that eliminate the need for extra flour when baking (they act as a sort of peel). After cutting the crackers on the same board, I pry them loose carefully with a very thin metal spatula. Again, this works well for me (I also use this technique for pie crusts) but if you decide to work on a counter or table, use enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. Place on a pan lined with silicone pads or parchment. I went ahead and punctured mine with a fork just to be certain they wouldn’t puff too much. Bake in the centre rack of the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until crisp and edges are browned. Keep an eye on them as they can burn quickly. Remove to racks where they will harden as they cool.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Irish Style Lenten Cake

Another Friday, another Lenten cake. This one is really more of a cross between soda bread and cake. A bit of strawberry jam at serving time wouldn’t hurt any. I also suspect (given the lack of butter and eggs) that it won’t be a very good keeper-so slice it up and eat it fresh (but wait until it is cooled to slice or it will crumble rather badly).

You Will Need:

½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk (I used reconstituted powdered milk due to fridge issues)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup raisins (or currants, if you prefer)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift dry ingredients, add liquid slowly until batter is thick, but able to be stirred (you may need to add as much as a half a cup of milk or water for this to happen, depending on your brand of flour, humidity in the room etc). Do NOT over-mix as you don’t want the flour to begin developing gluten and really turning into bread. Spread into a 9x13x2 pan that has been well greased. Bake for 30 minutes and then begin checking for doneness with a toothpick. Mine took a total of 45 minutes, but you really want to watch it to avoid over baking (or under for that matter).

Cool before serving.

Substitute ½ cup melted butter for oil
Reduce sugar to ¾ cup and add three tablespoons molasses
Substitute 3 teaspoons allspice for cinnamon

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Squash, Sweet Potato, and Carrots With Ginger

I came up with this dish basing my decision on ingredients I had on hand that did not require refrigeration (long story, new fridge). It does remind me a bit of the squash chowder I make in the autumn without being pureed. I served it over tri-coloured angel hair pasta which worked well though I’d guess any pasta (or rice for that matter) would do. Were I to make it again, I might add some spice or a dash of Asian chilli paste and perhaps a bit of coconut. All in all, it was well received and is probably something I would make again.

For the sauce:
4 tablespoons chunky natural peanut butter
1 cup vegetable stock reserved from main dish (you may not need it all-you just want to have enough to thin the sauce if it sits too long before serving).

You Will Need:

1 butternut squash cut into small cubes
4 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
a good sized hunk of ginger, matchsticked thinly
1 sweet potato cut into matchsticks
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
chopped cilantro for topping
2 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
Olive oil for sautéing

Place a generous amount of olive oil to cover the bottom of a heavy pot or deep frying pan. Set to low and sauté onions and garlic for about ten minutes. Add the other vegetables. Cook over medium heat adding more olive oil if it begins being absorbed too quickly. Cook the vegetables until they are softened, but not soft. Add the stock and poach until the cubes of squash are fork soft. Drain over a bowl reserving liquid to thin the peanut butter for sauce. Serve hot over pasta or rice and top with chopped cilantro.

*Yes, that is THE rye bread in the photograph (attempt #3, featuring first clear flour)…and yes, it was really delicious.

Accidental Loaf

This bread looks much better in person as the photograph does not do justice to the size of the loaf (it is huge). I was distracted (with a two year old? Gee, I’ll be that never happens to most mothers) and scored the loaf before it went through the full second rise. It did not seem to harm the loaf any and made the design a bit more interesting.

I’m not convinced that dusting the loaf with flour added much to the overall appearance of the bread-matter of taste, I suppose. The loaf did get a substantial spring in the oven, which was satisfying. It is a very simple wheaten loaf made with a sponge that sat for eight hours before being incorporated into the dough. The “recipe” is quite similar to the “Rustic Loaf” I posted a few months back. Instead of making two loaves from the recipe, I ended up with a rather large single loaf.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Lenten Cake II-Sans Eggs, Milk, And Butter

I admit, this is a rather dry cake, though it can be helped along considerably with some non-dairy whipped topping or, if you’re inclined, a bit of brandy poured over it. Given that the cake is made without eggs, butter, or milk, it is sort of amazing that it turns out as well as it does. I did not add chopped nuts (I’m allergic) but it would certainly be fine to add a cup of chopped pecans to the batter. When adding nuts or sticky glaced fruit, it helps to toss them first in a bit of flour to keep them separated and from sinking to the bottom of the cake.

You Will Need:

1 cup water
1 cup raisins
1 cup dried cherries
4-5 pieces crystalised ginger, chopped
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon all-spice
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped nuts (I substituted some green glace cherries I’ve had in the back of the icebox since Christmas).

Add first nine ingredients together in a saucepan and bring slowly to a boil over medium heat. Boil for three minutes and then remove from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm.

Sift the flour with the powder, soda and nuts. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (moderate) and grease a tube pan. Stir the liquid mixture into the flour and beat until smooth. Pour (it will be thick) into pan and bake for about 1 hour taking care not to overbake. Cool slightly before removing from pan. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.


I have not made mine yet this year, but I wanted to post the recipe ahead of Purim in the event anyone wishes to whip up a batch for Sunday.

I use tinned poppyseed, apricot, and plum filling in mine. Solo brand makes a filling as good as any that I've cooked and frankly, I'd rather devote my time to more interesting things.

This recipe will make Hamentaschen that are more bread/cake like than cookie.

You Will Need:

4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1/2 cup salad oil
1/4 cup orange juice

Sift flour with sugar, baking powder, orange zest, and salt. Make a well and break eggs into it. Add oil and mix well. Gradually add orange juice until absorbed. Knead dough until smooth. Shape into balls about 1 1/4 inch in diameter. Roll out on well floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Place a small bit of filling in centre and pinch edges together into triangles. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes or until browned. Cool on racks. Makes about 5 dozen. You can of course, make them much larger if you prefer.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Adventures With Sourdough Rye Bread

I completed my second attempt at sourdough rye bread today and the results are promising. My first attempt followed the same basic recipe though this time I added vital wheat gluten to the dough. That seemed to help with colour and giving the crust better development. I will try the recipe again in three days (with a new starter) using First Clear flour which is a very high protein flour used for whole grains. I ordered it from King Arthur but given that we are in the throes of a blizzard at the moment, it is taking much longer than usual to get six lbs. of flour from Vermont to Nebraska. Hopefully it will be here for my last try with this recipe.

I will provide the recipe with the ingredient requirement for Clear Flour though omitting it and using a high protein bread flour and vital wheat gluten ought to provide a passable loaf. After my third attempt, I’ll focus on sourdough rye that uses a starter free of commercial yeast-that ought to be challenging.

Sourdough Rye Bread

You Will Need:

For the Starter:

1 cup warm potato water (water left behind after boiling potatoes)
1 cup rye flour
1 tablespoon dry active yeast

Stir well and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit in a warm place for 3 days (65-70 degrees F).

For the Dough:

2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
Starter from above
2 cups rye flour
2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
4 ¾ cups first clear flour
(If using regular bread flour add 9 teaspoons vital wheat gluten)

For the Glaze:
3 tablespoons corn starch mixed in ¼ cup cold water until dissolved. Add 1 cup boiling water and stir until thickened. This will provide much more than you need but half ratios of the mixture do not seem to come up well for me.

Here’s How You Do It:

Combine the yeast and sugar with warm water and let proof in a large bowl for 10 minutes. Add the starter and everything else. You may not need all the flour called for-see what the dough will absorb. This is stiff, difficult dough to handle and if you have a stand mixer-by all means use it. I made this by hand as my mixer is awaiting repair, but it was very difficult to manage. The dough should be tacky but not wet to the touch. Place the bread in a buttered/oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for two hours or until doubled in bulk.

At the end of two hours, gently de-gas the dough (please, no punching around here) and shape into either one large loaf as pictured above, or as many as three small ones. Place on a baking sheet tossed with cornmeal (some people swear by dusting sheets with semolina but I have not tried it-do at your own risk). Cover with a damp (not wet) towel and let rise another 45 minutes atop the pre-heating stove (for extra help rising). Oven can now be-pre-heated to 375 degrees F.

Place an old pan on the lowest shelf of the oven. Let it pre-heat in the oven. Before placing laves in oven, score to prevent splitting and toss 2 cups of water into the pan (stand back to the side when you do this). Quickly place the loaves in the oven and set the timer for ten minutes. At the end of ten minutes, remove the pan of water and rotate the baking sheet. At this point you will want to give it another ten minutes before checking again. The loaf should register 180 degrees in the middle of the loaf. The large loaf needed a total time of forty minutes but your oven and size of loaves may require different times. The key is to keep watching it. Rapping knuckles on the bottom of the loaf for a hollow sound is useful in the absence of an instant read thermometer, but really, if you plan to bake a bit, it is a sound investment.

Cool completely before cutting. The taste will change quite a bit as it sits so really, don’t cut into the warm loaf as the flavours of the sourdough will not have fully developed.