Monday, May 2, 2016

Passover Mayonnaise

Even though I'm not much of a mayo person, I eat a lot of tuna salad during Passover.  The few KLP mayos available are very expensive and you have to brave the kosher markets to find them.

What makes a mayo kitniyot?  Usually, the oil.  Soybean is widely used, even in the ones "made with olive oil".  Cottonseed oil is ok for Passover if you ask the right person, and those are the $6 for a 12 oz jar mayos.  The other ingredient that renders a mayo kitniyot is mustard.  Seriously, someone decided that mustard seed looked too much like a chametz grain?  I get that legumes swell when soaked and therefore could be mistaken for something that rises, but a spice?  There are some rabbis who now have decided that kitnyot are ok for Conservative and Reform movements.  Since I don't change overnight, I'm going to be ok this year if there are trace amounts of extracts such as "soy lecithin" and stuff like that.  If the first ingredient is soybean oil, I'm not eating it.

There is a very easy way around this problem, and it's really cheap.  One egg yolk, a cup of olive oil, and a couple of KLP spices are all it takes.  About $1 per cup of mayo if you're a careful shopper.  The downside is that the shelf life is about five days to a week.  You don't get the long list of stabilizers and ultra-pasteurized ingredients found in commercial mayonnaise.

I don't remember why I got rid of my immersion blender.  Maybe I dropped it too many times and it cracked, or I decided I didn't use it enough.  If you have one, you can make a one-egg mayo in a pint jar or similar sturdy, small container.  Other options are with a whisk by hand, in a food processor, pulsing in a blender, or with a hand-held electric beater.  I did a large batch once in a stand mixer at school, but most households don't go through a quart of mayo in a week.  This time, I opted for the hand mixer.  I just didn't have the time for the whisk or the inclination to clean any more parts than I had to.

For taste, well, I'm not a mayo person.  They all taste like seasoned oil to me.  This batch came out kind of 1000 Island-pink because I used paprika.  Different spices and oils will create different colors.

As usual, when preparing a classic recipe from scratch, I'm basing this on Alton Brown's.  Yes, you're using a raw egg yolk.  There's a disclaimer on AB's version.  There are recipes out there for cooked mayonnaise if you're too squeamish.

1 egg yolk
1 C olive oil (not extra-virgin)
1/8 tsp salt
pinch of sugar
1/4 tsp paprika (or another spice)
2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tb white wine vinegar

1.  In a small container, combine lemon juice and vinegar.

2.  In a small bowl, whisk (or beat) together yolk, salt, sugar, and spice.  Add half of acid and beat to combine.

3.  Add oil slowly, drops at a time at first.  It's going to take at least five minutes to incorporate the first 1/4 cup, even with the beater on medium.  Once there's substantial volume to the mayo, you can pick up the pace a little.  At the halfway mark, add the rest of the acid.  It's going to make the mix lighten up immediately.  Continue to beat in a thin stream until all of the oil is incorporated.
4.  If the mayo "breaks", meaning it separates into oil and liquid, reduce speed on beater and add half a teaspoon of water at a time until the emulsification stabilizes.  You probably had a small yolk or didn't put in quite enough liquid, or maybe had an unsteady hand and poured too much oil.  It's fixable, but this sauce requires a lot of patience.  It's going to take 15-20 minutes, even if you're a pro.

Makes about 1 cup

Difficulty rating  :)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Cheddar Potato Gratin

After the success of my first potato gratin, I decided to invent one using what I had learned and what was on hand.  Passover is the only time of year I buy that five-pound bag of potatoes.  While it is inexpensive at any time of the year, I'm not a huge potato eater and don't want it to go bad because I hate wasting food, no matter how much money I saved.  If this didn't work, I still had about a quarter of the bag left.

I went light with this one, mainly because I'm saving the cream to make ice cream and didn't think to pick up more.  Regular milk won't leave the potatoes as creamy, but I did have some leftover Alfredo sauce to use up that I tossed over it after the photo.  The gratin itself is cheddar potatoes, which I have no problem with.

1 lb russet potatoes
*1 C milk
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 C fresh parsley, chopped
1 C shredded cheddar cheese

1.  Grease an 8"x8" casserole and preheat the oven to 375º.  Thinly slice potatoes.  Arrange half on bottom of casserole.

2.  Sprinkle potatoes with paprika, parsley, half of the cheese, and a light sprinkling of salt.  Top with remaining potatoes and the rest of the cheese.

3.  Pour milk over all.  Cover casserole with foil tight enough to make the dish steam itself.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes to crisp up the top.  Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

German Corned Beef and Cabbage

Going through the freezer before Passover, I found the last pound of corned beef.  I used mustard in the brine, so it isn't KLP.  Deciding what to do with it, I suddenly realized the problem with my mom's annual torture session for St. Patrick's Day.  We're German and Russian stock, and she was forcing an Irish dish on us.  What this really needed was vinegar, mustard, and a beer.  This came to me as I was reading a post my cousin put on her blog about finding a jar of pickled cabbage and apples in her pantry.  I'm not brave enough to ferment sauerkraut from scratch, but cooking down a cabbage with apple cider vinegar could make a quick substitute in 20 minutes.

I had this as it was on a plate with a side of potatoes.  You could put it on rye for a sandwich, on a pretzel bun like a hot dog, or stuff it into a baked potato.  It could also work as the basis for a soup, and a carrot in the mix wouldn't be questioned.

1 medium cabbage
2 Tb apple cider vinegar
1 cooking apple like Gala
*1 lb corned beef
salt to taste
*1 tsp horseradish (optional)
mustard for serving

1.  Thinly slice cabbage, avoiding the core, and place the shreds in a large pot.  Sprinkle lightly with salt, add the cider vinegar, and cover with a lid.  Put it over medium heat and stir it periodically until it has cooked down to about half of its original volume.  This takes 10 to 15 minutes.

2.  While the cabbage is cooking, dice the apple and cut the corned beef strips into bite-sized pieces.  Toss them into the pot and cook until apples are soft and beef is heated through, about 5 minutes.  Serve hot with a side of some interesting mustard and maybe a beer for the adults.

Difficulty rating  π

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Bread with Butter Substitute

Let's see, why haven't I been posting?  It started with a lot of meals out for my birthday, and their leftovers.  I also wanted to get my laundry room repainted before the new washer & dryer arrived.  Then I was cleaning for Passover and was too tired to do any elaborate cooking, or to write about it.  Then I was just making random stuff to use up the chometz and kitniyot so I wouldn't have to stash as much of it, most of it on greens from the garden as a cobbled together salad.

But I did find the last of the can of prune filling from the hamantaschen, which contains corn syrup.  For the heck of it, and because I'm out of molasses, I decided to make some bread using it as a substitute for both butter and sugar.  What resulted was slightly sweet, yet somewhat savory from the buckwheat, and actually did taste slightly of the prune.  The touch of fruity aroma made this a good bread to have with a mild white cheese like brie, or slathered with real butter (totally defeating the butter-free aspect).

*1/2 C milk
*2 Tb prune butter substitute
1 tsp yeast
*1/2 C buckwheat or whole wheat flour
*1 to 1-1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

1.  Warm milk and prune purée to 100º.  Stir in yeast and allow to sit until foamy, about five minutes.

2.  In mixer, combine buckwheat flour and 1/2 C white flour.  Pour in milk mixture and beat into a batter on medium for 2 minutes.  Add salt and another half cup of flour and beat again into a thick batter or light dough.

3.  Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface.  Knead until smooth, adding as little flour as possible.  Because of the purée and buckwheat, it's going to be sticky longer than usual.  The dough almost behaves as though it had egg in it.  Place into a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat all sides.  Set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.

4.  Punch down dough and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Either form into a round loaf or cut into pieces for rolls.  Place on baking sheet and allow to rise for another 45 minutes.

5.  Preheat oven to 350º.  If desired, brush tops with butter.  I misted the rolls with water to delay crust formation.  Bake until hollow when tapped, about 15 minutes for rolls and 20 to 25 minutes for a loaf.  Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Difficulty rating  :)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Pineapple Chicken

This is proof that you can make something special with almost no effort.  I chose to use a fresh pineapple because they were cheaper than canned, and got lucky with a very ripe, sweet, juicy one.  Since chicken takes at least 45 minutes to cook, you'll get about the same consistency whether you use fresh or canned pineapple.  This takes less than 5 minutes to prep if you use a can, maybe 10 if you're cutting up a fresh piece of fruit.  It produces a juice-braised chicken with just a few interesting spices.

1 whole cut-up chicken, or 8 assorted pieces
1 medium pineapple or 2 large cans pineapple chunks
*2 stalks green onion, chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes or sriracha if you want some kick
1 Tb cornstarch

1.  Start preheating oven to 350º.  Arrange chicken in a 9x13 (or larger, if necessary) baking dish.

2.  Peel and cut pineapple into chewable chunks, discarding woody core, or open cans.  Place in a bowl, including the juice.  Toss with onion, cornstarch, and any hot spices you choose.  Pour the juicy mess over the chicken.

3.  Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, until juices run clear and a thermometer in the thickest piece registers 160º to 165º.  Let rest until the juices stop boiling and serve pieces topped with the pineapples and syrup.

Serves 4 to 6

Difficulty rating  π

Monday, April 4, 2016

Hot Cross Buns

This isn't just a leap year on the Gregorian calendar.  It's a leap year on the Jewish one too, which means that there is an extra month.  I don't understand why, but it also means that Easter did not fall during Passover.  Some weird lunar-calendar thing.  And it means I could have hot cross buns for Easter breakfast.

Yes, of course I can make them any time I want, but it's like having a whole roasted turkey not in November.  There are some things that seem proper at their holiday.

These start with a half-batch of the Bible's standard sweet bread dough.  It's just a rich yeast dough with an egg and raisins in it.  The result is similar to a Hawaiian roll with icing.  These are a lot lighter than the Stollen, despite being similar in construction.  And they're kind of addictive.

1/2 C sugar
1 Tb (1-1/2 packages) yeast
4 C flour
1 C milk
1/2 C butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C raisins, currants, or similar dried fruit
1 tsp orange zest
egg wash or cream for brushing

1.  Warm milk, butter, and sugar to 100º (about 1 minute in the microwave).  The butter does not need to melt.  Stir in yeast and allow to sit until foamy, five minutes.

2.  In a stand mixer, combine 1-1/2 C flour and the salt.  Stir in milk mixture and beat into a batter for two minutes.  Add egg and 1 C flour and beat again until smooth.  Add raisins, orange zest, and enough flour to make the dough stable and stir to combine.

3.  Turn dough out onto a well-floured board and knead until smooth, adding just enough flour to get there.  An egg dough will absorb a lot more flour than is good for it.  Turn over in an oiled bowl to coat all sides and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

4.  Grease a 9x13 baking pan.  Punch down dough and separate into 12 pieces (mine were just under 3 oz each).  Roll into balls and arrange in pan in 3x4 rows.  Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or cover and refrigerate overnight and let rise in the morning for 30 minutes.

5.  Preheat oven to 350º.  With a sharp, floured knife, cut crosses in the tops of the rolls.  Brush tops with cream or an egg yolk beaten with a tablespoon of milk.  Both will make them dark, but egg will make them shiny.  If you're making your own royal icing for the decoration, do the egg yolk so you have a white left over.  Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on the tops, but still visibly soft where the rolls meet.

6.  For the icing, I just used leftover cream cheese icing out of the can.  You can make a simple fondant icing with powdered sugar, milk, and a touch of lemon juice.  Substitute egg white for the milk to make royal icing.  I never pay attention to quantities of the powdered sugar; I just start at 1/2 cup and keep going until it's the consistency I want.  Drizzle or pipe icing following the crosses you already cut in the rolls.  Serve hot.

Makes 1 dozen

Difficulty rating :)

Friday, April 1, 2016

Meyer Lemon and Lavender Jam

I made this recipe from Marisa of Food in Jars the day after she posted it.  I didn't make as much as she did, but I easily could have.  I have a lot of lemons, and the recent weather made the Meyer and Valencia branches bloom up a storm.

What piqued my interest, other than having all the ingredients on hand, was that it isn't marmalade.  You put the whole lemon, minus the seeds, in the blender.  You still get the pectin properties of the rind, but in a puréed form.

I did process these for the pantry, but I'm scaling it down here for a batch that's both cheaper and something you can go through in a few weeks for refrigerator storage.

*1 lb Meyer lemons
*scant 1 tsp dried culinary lavender
1 C sugar

1.  Thoroughly wash lemons and trim off the stem and bottom ends.  Place in a saucepan in one layer and just cover with water.  Place lavender in a cheesecloth or tea ball and dangle into the water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower to medium and cook until lemons are soft to the touch but not mushy, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool until easy to handle.
2.  Remove tea ball, but don't throw out the water.  Set a sieve over a shallow skillet.  In the sieve, cut the lemons in half and discard the seeds.  Dump contents of sieve and anything that ran out into the pan into a blender.  Add 1-1/2 C of the cooking liquid and purée until fairly smooth.  A few chunky bits are ok for character.  Pour everything back into the skillet.  It's going to look foamy from all the air whipped into it.  That settles out as it cooks.

3.  If you're going to process the jam, now is the time to start boiling water for it and sterilizing the jars. Bring jam to a boil over high heat.  Lower heat to medium-high and continue to boil until thick, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching and skimming off any scum spots.  It will take at least 20 minutes.  When you get hit by a lava spit, it's probably done.  Check to see that it coats the back of a spoon.

4.  If processing, fill jars, wipe rims, set lids, and tighten bands finger-tight.  Process in boiling water bath for ten minutes.  If not, allow to cool to room temperature, place in a sealable container, and refrigerate.

Makes about 1 pint to 3 cups, depending how far you let it boil down

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Carrot and Beet Slaw

For this year's Purim vegetarian meal, I raided my very productive garden and used the other half of the cabbage from St. Patrick's Day.  It was my first beets, and a way to use another carrot.  I love how awesome the carrots are coming out, but I need to get them pulled and eaten so I can plant the next round that I have starting in seed trays in the kitchen window.

I'm finding more and more recipes on The Chew.  Maybe it's because they've been around long enough to start popping up on searches.  I don't seek out their recipes, but this one happened to use ingredients I had on hand or could come up with an equivalent.  Not having to shop will always move a recipe to the top of my list.

I was a bit skeptical about a slaw without dairy or mayo.  This turned out to be a lot like sunomono, and very refreshing.  The sugar comes from the beets and carrots, so you don't have to add anything other than a little honey, which is more for flavor than sweetness.  I ended up with a higher proportion of cabbage and less beets, but that worked because the beets didn't bleed all over everything until it was one uniform color.

And the V-slicer attachments made it super easy to make beautiful julienne slices with the beets and carrots, as long as I had it out for the cabbage anyway.  A box grater or the shredder on a food processor would be just as good if you don't feel like using knife skills.

*1/2 medium cabbage
*2 medium carrots
*2 beets
*zest and juice of 2 lemons
*2 Tb rice vinegar
1/4 C vegetable oil (not olive oil, because it solidifies in the fridge)
*2 tsp snipped chives or minced onion
*1 Tb honey
*1" fresh ginger, peeled and grated, or 1/2 tsp ground ginger
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp chili flakes (optional)

1.  Thinly slice cabbage and discard core.  Peel carrots (peeling beets optional) and slice carrots and beets into a julienne, or matchsticks if you want more crunch.  Rinse beets in a strainer to get out some of the juice.

2.  Toss together cabbage, carrots, beets, lemon zest, and onion in a large bowl.

3.  In a separate bowl, whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, oil, honey, and ginger.  Taste and add salt, pepper, and chili flakes to taste.

4.  Pour dressing over vegetables.  Toss to coat evenly.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight to marinate before serving.

Difficulty rating  :)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ranch Dressing

This idea was born of my ongoing problem of having planted too much lettuce, plus the new problem of buying a quart of buttermilk for the Irish soda bread and only using half of it.

When I was trying to figure out how to use the buttermilk, I realized that I had no idea what goes in ranch dressing.  Buttermilk, and um… green herbs of some kind.

The recipe I settled on seemed harmless enough, and rather forgiving.  I used all the chives on my lone plant and only had half as much as the recipe directed.  I subbed in some cilantro and yellow onion to make up the rest.  You could use fresh parsley if you have it.

All of the online recipes were rather snobby about using "good quality" or "real" mayonnaise.  I used my vegan mayo and couldn't tell the difference.  The buttermilk was the lower-fat option because I don't like super-thick, chunky milk.  I also used fat free Greek yogurt for sour cream, as is my usual substitution.  As a result, I'm assuming my version is much lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol than the original recipe.  Oh, and I used half as much salt.  I didn't set out to make "Lite Ranch", but that seems to be what happened.

A brief word of warning about the yield.  Unlike store-bought dressing, this batch is going to spoil in about a week.  Between the fresh dairy, fresh herbs, and lower salt content, you shouldn't make a giant batch to keep around.  This is about the largest amount you're likely to go through unless there's a party.

1/2 C Nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
*1/2 C buttermilk (or more to thin)
*1/4 C mayo
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
*1-1/2 tsp dried dill
*1/4 C fresh chives, finely chopped
*2 tsp lemon juice
drops of tabasco or a shake of cayenne if you like spicy

1.  Place all ingredients in a bowl.  Whisk until smooth.  If thicker than you like, add buttermilk to desired consistency.

2.  Chill until ready to use.  Keeps about 1 week refrigerated.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

Difficulty rating  π

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Corned Beef and Cabbage Potato Gratin

This is why I made the corned beef.  This recipe aired on The Chew last month as ham, to celebrate "The Martian".  As they were putting everything together, I realized this would be perfect for St. Patrick's Day if you used corned beef.  It's a Reuben sandwich with potato instead of bread, and potatoes are an Irish flavor.

There were some differences between what was on the show and the published recipe.  I made it more like the show, including the larger pan.  I don't know who thought you could get this in an 8" square casserole.

All of the work in this is the prep.  Slicing the cabbage and the potatoes takes the most time.  I did get gorgeous potato slices off the V-slicer, but I'm assuming a food processor's slicing blade would do just as well.  It was nerve-wracking watching the show, with Daphne not looking at her hands as she sliced the potato on the V-slicer without a cut glove.  I don't care how good a cook you are, that is a dangerous piece of equipment.  But the slices are so pretty.

1/2 medium cabbage, thinly sliced
1 Tb butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 C chopped corned beef
2 medium russett potatoes, very thinly sliced
1 C heavy cream
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp pepper
2 C shredded Swiss cheese (about 8 oz)
salt to taste
parsley and chives for garnish

1.  Grease a 9" x 13" casserole (I used butter).  Melt butter in a large, deep skillet and add garlic and cabbage.  While that's cooking down for about 5 minutes, slice potatoes, chop corned beef, and shred cheese.

2.  Taste a bite of the corned beef and the cheese before proceeding.  Both cream and potatoes dull the sense of salt.  If the ingredients seem okay or bland, you'll need to add salt.  If your corned beef is a bit on the salty side, you can skip it.

3.  Preheat oven to 375º.  Add corned beef, pepper, and paprika to the cabbage and continue to cook until cabbage is thoroughly wilted and beef is warmed.  You don't want the cabbage giving off too much liquid when you get this thing in the oven.  Add up to 1/2 tsp of salt at this point if you think you need it.

4.  Arrange half of the potato slices on the bottom of the casserole, overlapping slightly.  Pour half of the cream on them and sprinkle with half of the cheese.  Cover with all of the cabbage mixture.  Top with the other half of the potatoes, the rest of the cream, and the remaining cheese.

5.  Cover casserole with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  This will allow the potatoes to steam.  Remove foil at that time and bake an additional 15-20 minutes to brown the cheese.  Remove from oven and sprinkle top with chopped parsley and chives as garnishes.  Allow casserole to cool for about 10 minutes before trying to serve.

Serves 4-6, depending how many sides you have.  I had half of one of my awesomely huge carrots with mine.

Difficulty rating :-0  (for the slicing)