Thursday, October 19, 2017

Bavarian Apple Fritters

I've been reading the Diary of a Mad Hausfrau blog.  Most of the recipes are German, but made familiar to an American audience.  She publishes about as often as I do, making it a reasonable rate of new ideas.  As much fun as it is to read a blog daily, the backlog of bookmarked recipes can get excessive, until you finally decide it isn't worth making any of them.

I have researched apple fritter recipes before, then decided not to make them for one reason or another.  Usually, that reason had to do with not having a deep fryer.  I think I'm going to break down this year and ask for one for the holidays.  A small one isn't expensive and ultimately saves oil because I'm not throwing it out after every use.

This recipe is not exactly like her ApfelKrapfen.  I tweaked it as I went along, mostly by simplifying the process, as well as cut it in half.  After the first four were frying, I decided that her idea of how big they should be was not what I had in mind.  The rest are half that size, meaning that my half recipe still makes 18.  Bear that in mind if you read both and can't figure out why they don't seem to match.

1-1/2 C flour
1/4 C milk
1 package (2-1/4 tsp) yeast
1/4 C sugar
3 Tb unsalted butter
1 egg
pinch of salt
1 Granny Smith apple
1/3 C golden raisins
3 Tb candied orange peel
oil for frying
1 tsp cinnamon stirred into 1/4 C sugar

1.  Warm milk to 100º.  Stir in sugar, butter, and yeast and allow to get foamy.  The butter does not need to melt.
2.  In a stand mixer, stir together 1 C flour and salt.  Add milk mixture and beat into a crumbly mess.  Beat in egg, and it will look more like a soft dough.  Add the other half cup of flour, and it's a real dough, but still on the soft side.  Allow to rest in the mixer while you start the next step.
3.  Core the apple and chop into itty bitty pieces.  I never peel apples unless truly necessary, but you can peel it first if you prefer.  I also chopped the raisins because they were big.  I couldn't find candied orange peel this early in the season, and substituted half the amount in candied ginger.  Stir all of that into the dough.  It's not going to look or feel like a bread dough, more like a yeast scone dough.  Allow to rise 45 minutes in a warm place.
4.  Heat 1/2" of oil to 375º.  I used a 6" skillet to make it easier to get them out.  You can use a deeper pot or, ideally, a deep fryer.  Set up a plate with paper towels to drain them.  The next plate is for the cinnamon sugar.  Then set up a rack over a sheet pan for the finished project.  It took up a bit of space, but each step made the process easier.

5.  Turn out dough onto a floured surface and lop off pieces about 1-1/2" to 2".  Make into balls and place in the oil.  Turn when the bottom is browned, about 2-3 minutes.  I got 4 of the large or 5 of the smaller fritters in the pan at once, which made the oil come up higher.  They do expand a bit as they fry.  When the other side is golden, remove with a slotted spoon to the paper towels to drip off most of the oil.  Then roll in the cinnamon sugar before placing on the rack to cool.  You may need to add more oil and/or let the temperature recover after each batch.

Makes 18

Difficulty rating  :)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Falafel Cups

For Sukkot's traditionally vegetarian/dairy meal, I made these variations of falafel pie.  Each one is filled with a dollop of baba gannouj  and topped with shreds of lettuce and diced tomatoes.  A little baguette and brie, plus a glass of wine, and you have an elegant picnic dinner under the sukkah.
These are also adorable appetizers or savory tea items.  You can make them with gluten-free flour if necessary.  The flour isn't for leavening, but for structure.

2/3 C dried chickpeas
*1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
*1/4 C fresh parsley leaves
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
*3 cloves garlic
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 C flour
olive oil for greasing pan

1.  The day before, soak garbanzo beans (chickpeas) in 3 C water.  Working from dried really makes a difference in texture, so it's worth planning ahead.  Let sit 12-18 hours, then drain.

2.  Place all the ingredients through the baking powder in the food processor.  Pulse at first, then let run into a grainy paste, about 30 seconds.  Add flour and pulse into a stiff batter.

3.  While oven is preheating to 375º, make the cups.  First, get as much oil to stick to the muffin pan as possible.  I was out of pan spray, so I can't vouch for its effectiveness.  Press the batter into the muffin cups, working it up the edges.  As for yield, I ended up with ten cups because that was how many I needed.  You can probably coax between 8 and 12 out of this, depending on how full you make the cups.
4.  Bake for 20 minutes.  The upper edges should turn darker brown and pull away from the sides.  Allow to cool slightly, then carefully remove from pan with a thin spatula.  It isn't a disaster if a hole tears in the bottom unless you plan for folks to eat them by hand.  On a plate, it's fine.

5.  Fill with a tablespoon of baba gannouj, savory yogurt, or another dip, then top with fresh vegetables.  Serve room temperature.

Makes 8-12

Difficulty rating. :)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Spice-o-Rama

Omg, omg, omg, Vons had a giant pile of spices on the half-off rack!  I was very good and only got items I needed, plus saffron.  Half-off saffron, hell yes!  All of the dates were fine, seals good, product not caky.  Sometimes, the manufacturer redesigns the labels or changes the size, so markets clear out the old lot.

Oh, then the lady next to me pointed to another bin of spices behind me of a different brand that was 75% off.  Found all the pumpkin pie spice that wasn't there the time I gave up and mixed my own.  Never mind, I'm good.
And the reason I went rooting through there in the first place, cinnamon for the previous two posts, wasn't as good a deal as the It's Delish brand.  It may be local in California, but they make inexpensive spices, nuts, and candies that are kosher and often kosher for Passover.  You can also order online, but shipping generally negates the advantages of a discount brand.
A couple of days later, I realized I should have bought paprika, so I headed back to the now severely decimated pile of jars, this time with my camera to get these photos.  (My phone's camera stopped working a couple of months ago.)  No paprika, so I bought It's Delish again.  We go through paprika in my family; 8oz will not go bad.  Techie Smurf keeps his next to the stove with the salt and pepper.  What got me mad was that someone in the intervening two days had opened the saffron and vanilla bottles and stolen the spices in them, then put back the empty jars.  Just the two most expensive spices in the world, nothing else.  They knew what they were doing, making off with about $200 of spices out of only ten jars.  People can be gross.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cinnamon Chip Muffins

One of our choir members throws an epic Break-the-Fast every year.  She doesn't provide dessert, though, so there's something for people to bring if they're not into bringing drinks.  I only drink water there.  For one thing, I'm driving home, and for another either alcohol or a sweet drink will hit the system very hard after a fast.

I also got to break out my new mini-muffin tin.  Two dozen cute, one-bite muffins on a single tray.  They're so poppable!  It also means that I have no idea what the yield on this recipe is for any other shape, except that The Bright Eyed Baker got 18 regular muffins out of her batch.  I got the two dozen minis and two mini loaves, because Yom Kippur morning services ran long and I only had enough time to throw in all of the batter at once, instead of the two bakes I had planned.

When you get down to the muffin ingredients, there's buttermilk listed.  Since there isn't any baking soda in this recipe, which requires an acid to activate, you can use regular milk.  To approximate the taste of buttermilk, add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to the milk and let it sit five minutes to sour up a bit.

Crumb Topping
3/4 C sugar
1 Tb cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
6 Tb (3/4 C) melted unsalted butter
3/4 C whole wheat flour

1.  Stir together sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Pour in melted butter and stir into a glop.  Add flour and it will become more crumbly.  If not using immediately, form into a ball and wrap in wax paper.  Refrigerate until half an hour before you need it, so it can soften a little.  Then you can break it into crumbs.  Also freezes for long-term storage.

Muffins
1-1/2 C All-purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat flour
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C sugar
1/3 C oil
2 eggs
1-1/4 C buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 C cinnamon chips

1.  Preheat oven to 375º.  Grease or pan-spray nonstick muffin pans for 18 muffins.  You could do liners, but these came out of the greased pan pretty well.  The mini-loaves put up more of a fight, so I'd hesitate to use a patterned cake pan.

2.  Combine both flours, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  That's the dry team.  The wet team is the buttermilk and vanilla.

3.  In mixer, beat together sugar and oil until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time until uniform and a little fluffy.

4.  Alternating dry/wet, add flour mix and milk, beating just until combined.  Stir in cinnamon chips.
5.  Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full.  Top with crumb.  Bake 15 minutes, then lower oven to 350º and start checking for doneness at the 18 minute mark.  Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling before storage.

Makes 18 muffins

Difficulty rating  :)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Cinnamon Chips

I've had these from the Bright Eyed Baker bookmarked forever, but never got around to them.  Part of the problem was that my Vons apparently only buys one case of Karo syrup a year.  As early as March, they didn't have any.  Finally thought to check on a visit to Target, and here we are.

I didn't know that cinnamon chips existed until we started using them at work.  The grocery store didn't have them.  Same store that didn't have corn syrup, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised.  I could have bought them online, but it wasn't worth the shipping.  I went looking online for a recipe, and of course found one.  It's very rare not to find something online, but it does happen occasionally.

This is a very simple recipe, up to the point of cutting out thousands of chips.  It isn't difficult to cut through the slab, just time-consuming.  I was also in a rush to get to Kol Nidre, so there wasn't a lot of patience to be had.  A lazy day off, when you're looking for projects to keep you from watching yet another Hallmark movie, is a good time to do these.  They keep.

2/3 C sugar
3 Tb cinnamon
2 Tb shortening
2 Tb light corn syrup

1.  Preheat oven to 200º.  If you have a Silpat to place on your baking sheet, it works great.  If not, pan spray a piece of parchment.
2.  In a bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon.  Cinnamon tends to repel wet ingredients, but sugar absorbs them, so it's like tricking the cinnamon into softening.  Stir in shortening and corn syrup until everything becomes crumbly.
3.  Spread mix on prepared sheet.  I used an offset spatula to press it into a flat-ish, sort-of rectangle about 1/4" thick.  At some point, I realized I could use the rolling pin with thickness guides, but the mix stuck to the pin quite a bit and I almost had to start over.

4.  Bake for 35 minutes.  It isn't going to look hard, but it will firm up as it cools.  You're not making bark, where you crack it.  This has to be soft enough to cut.
5.  When cooled, transfer to a cutting board.  I tore mine into several pieces to make it easier to do straight lines.  Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut into 1/4" cubes.  Thousands of them.  It's going to take about ten minutes.  If not using immediately, store in a sealed container.  They should keep for at least a month.  I used mine the next day, so I can't vouch for it.

Makes about 1 cup of chips

Difficulty rating. π

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Seared Scallops with Mixed Vegetables

The scallops I wanted last week were finally a reasonable price, so I started looking for something to have with them.  There was the last fennel in the pond, which was starting to bolt, some celery, a bit of onion, and half a can of sauerkraut.  A serving size of kraut in someone's mind is a lot more than I put on a Reuben.  I had considered using cabbage in this anyway.  Having it pre-fermented just meant I didn't need to add any lemon juice or vinegar.  I picked up a carrot for color, and a meal was begun.

Slicing and shredding the veggies took the longest, even with the V-slicer.  Maybe ten minutes.  The veggies steamed for another ten while the scallops were cooking and the toast was toasting, and the whole thing was photographed and on the table a few minutes later.

You'll notice that this also has an appetizer tag.  Even with a bruschetta on the side, this was more like a spa lunch than a proper dinner.  There was pie an hour later.  On the other hand, if you're dieting, it's very nutritious and pretty fancy for a weeknight dinner.

1 lb scallops
1 large carrot
*1/2 cabbage or small can sauerkraut
*1/2 C diced onion
*1 small fennel
*2 ribs celery
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tb butter
2 Tb lemon juice if not using sauerkraut

1.  Shred, or at least very thinly slice, all veggies.  You can use a V-slicer with julienne attachments or the grater on a food processor to speed things up.  Place in a large pot with about 1/2" of water.  Cover, bring to a simmer, and allow to steam while you make the scallops.
2.  Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Melt butter and swirl to coat bottom of pan.  Before butter burns, drop in scallops.  cook until the bottoms get golden, about 4 minutes.  Flip and sear other side.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3.  If you used fresh cabbage, now is the time to add the lemon juice, plus a little salt and pepper for either ingredient.  I used tongs to put the veggies on the plate, so any excess water would drip off.  Top with several scallops and serve.

Difficulty rating  π

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Harvesting Fennel Seed

It took a few months, but the fennel bulb I let go to seed is finally finishing the process.  Santa Ana winds helped.  I hardly ever use fennel seed (anise) in cooking, but I believe that's because I wouldn't buy it for one recipe and would just substitute some other kind of seed.  Now that I have some, I'll put it in stocks, pickles, and stews.

The process for harvesting the seed from an herb is pretty similar for any herb.  You get the best results when you let them dry on the plant, then place the flower head in an open paper bag for a couple of weeks to dry even further.  At that point, the seeds fall off the stems and you can seal them in a container.
It is critically important that the seeds be completely dry before sealing the jar.  Any moisture will cause them to get moldy.  I left my coriander seed on the plant until the whole thing shattered when I pulled off the seeds.  This is the nose-to-tail version of growing herbs, since mine seem to keep bolting in region 11a.  A few more weeks, and it will be cool enough to start my winter herbs and greens, just when pretty much everyone else is planning for a first frost.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Roasted Acorn Squash Soup

It's Fall, dammit, and I want to have 18th century American foods.  This usually lasts until Thanksgiving, when my tastes transition to Dickensian England through Christmas.  Unfortunately, the weather in Southern California does not always accommodate my moods.  Never mind the heat, I'm making a thick, hot soup anyway.

I had a pint of vegetable stock left from the paella and chose to make soup with the squash I picked up at the market.  This is a very simple project.  Roasting the squash brings out a richer flavor than simmering, plus it's a whole lot easier to peel after it's cooked.

1 medium acorn squash, about 2 lbs
*1 C diced onion
*1 rib celery, diced
2 Tb olive oil
*2 to 3 C chicken or vegetable stock
salt and white pepper to taste
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1.  Preheat oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with foil.  Cut squash in half across the equator and scoop out seeds and strings.  You can roast the seeds for garnish if desired.  Rub inside and out with 1 Tb olive oil.  Place cut-side down on baking sheet and roast until easily pierced by a fork, about 45 minutes.  Allow to cool until you can easily handle it, then peel off skin and break into 1" pieces.

2.  While the squash is baking, heat other Tb of oil in a medium saucepan.  Sauté onion and celery until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add 2 cups of stock and the nutmeg and simmer until the squash is ready, at least 30 minutes.

3.  In batches, purée squash with stock.  If too thick, keep adding stock or water until desired consistency is reached.  I ended up using close to 3 cups, but it's going to depend on how big your squash is.

4.  Return soup to medium heat.  When warmed, taste and add salt and white pepper as desired.  I found this to be creamy enough without adding anything, but you can make it "cream of" by stirring in half a cup of heavy cream, or even drizzling it on as a garnish.  Serve hot.

Difficulty rating  :)  (use a sharp knife on that squash!)

Monday, September 25, 2017

Vegan Quinoa Paella

I've never had paella before, and this kind of isn't really it either, but the seasonings are the same.  Basically, I wasn't in the mood for meat, and scallops were $15/lb.  You could throw sausage, shrimp, or another seafood in this and it would be closer to paella, but slightly more nutritious than the rice version.  For a vegetarian - but not vegan - version, top each serving with a poached egg.  They're both still gluten-free.

I took the recipe off Simply Quinoa, but - as she suggested - made it my own.  I've been looking for a use for my last two carrots in the pond, so I made one the garnish on top instead of bell pepper.  I also had celery in the fridge, which went into the mix instead of green beans.  Really: green beans, chickpeas, and quinoa?  Sure, I eat more fiber than the average American, but this could hurt a person.
This is never going to be as creamy as a rice paella, so I didn't stress about the constant stirring thing. There just isn't enough starch in quinoa to stick to anything.

You'll notice the scarcity of stars on major ingredients, although I did have all the necessary spices.  At least it gave me a chance to find out how much four servings cost.  $7, with nothing on special but buying store brands or bulk.  Oh, and making my own broth.  Now, if you have to invest in saffron, it's going to more than double that.  This is why I pick up expensive items when they're on special.  They will come in handy eventually.

2/3 C dry quinoa
1/2 onion, diced
*2 ribs celery, diced
*2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tb olive oil
1 C chopped baby Bella mushrooms (about 6)
1 15 oz can diced low-sodium tomatoes
1 15 oz can artichokes, either quartered or hearts
1 15 oz can low-sodium chickpeas
Salt and pepper to taste
*1/4 tsp saffron threads
*1/4 tsp turmeric
*1 tsp paprika
1 C low-sodium vegetable broth
*2 medium carrots: 1 petite diced, the other one thinly sliced
*Juice of half a lemon to finish

1.  If you like to rinse and/or soak your quinoa, give it a 2-hour head start.  If not, don't drain the artichokes and that should provide enough liquid.

2.  Drizzle oil in a 10" skillet.  Over medium-high heat, sauté onion, celery, and garlic until softened.  Stir in (drained) quinoa and saffron, turmeric, and paprika.  Allow it to toast lightly, like a pilaf.

3.  Drain and rinse chickpeas.  Drain artichokes if pre-soaking quinoa.  Add to skillet, along with tomatoes in their juice, mushrooms, the diced carrot, and 1 cup of broth.  Stir to combine, lower heat to a simmer, and cover.  Simmer until quinoa is cooked, about 15 minutes.

4.  Remove lid and taste.  Add salt and pepper if necessary.  This is why I specifically put "low-sodium" on all the canned ingredients except the artichokes.  You're opening four cans of various items, and canned food can be very high in sodium.  Rinsing the beans and artichokes helps to reduce it, but I still only added maybe 1/8 tsp to the entire skillet.  If too dry, add a little more broth or water.  Stir again after these additions.  Top with sliced carrots, recover, and simmer for 5 minutes, to soften carrots a little without cooking them all the way.

5.  Serve hot, after letting everyone see the pretty skillet.  In a mixed group, you can top the non-vegan servings with poached egg, shrimp, or sausage.

Difficulty rating. :)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Pork Chop Experiment

Thick-cut, boneless pork chops were on sale.  I hadn't had them in a while, but really didn't feel like frying anything.

That got me to wondering why we cook pork chops over high heat and coated in bread crumbs.  I think Shake'n'Bake is to blame.  They gave us the idea to bake chops with high heat to get dinner on the table quickly.  It does help to seal in the juices the way they do it, but I know I've had pork cooked other ways.

I also had a couple of tablespoons each of beer mustard and cranberry sauce.  After I pulled them out of the oven, I realized I should have stirred them together for a really nice glaze, but this was good too.

4 boneless pork chops (a little over 1 lb)
1/2 C leftover jam, mustard, or sauce of some kind

1.  Preheat oven to 300º.  Smear both sides of pork chops with glaze and place on a shallow rack in a baking dish.

2.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Turn and cook another 20 minutes.  Unless the chops are super-thick, this should be long enough.  Use a food thermometer if you're nervous.  They only have to get to 140º.  That 160º stuff was when food wasn't as safe as it is now (or for any ground meat).

3.  Let chops rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Difficulty rating  π