Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Creamed Corn Rolls

This is what I get for gloating about my whopping two days off.  More people quit before the new hires were on the schedule, so I'm pulling 45 hour weeks in 6 days.  Everyone is, but the point is that none of us should be working that much.  Next week it should start to get a little better, unless someone else quits.

Oh, and I caught a cold.  So yeah, a couple of long weeks.  For once, I'm glad I'm not hosting Thanksgiving.  I made a big pot of Spice Soup, heavy on the ginger root.  After a week, I'm feeling mostly better, at least well enough to feed myself.  All that salt from drive-thrus and Chinese food was taking its toll.  So I threw a pot of Baked Beans in the oven and went shopping.

I didn't want to have regular cornbread with the beans, and got it into my head to have a yeast bread flavored with a can of cream-style corn.  Surprisingly few recipes exist for it, so I took the lessons of recipes that weren't exactly what I had in mind and struck out on my own.  What I ended up with does not taste heavily of corn, just as challah does not taste heavily of egg.  It's a subtle richness, not an attack.

1 15 oz can cream-style corn
2 Tb butter
1-1/2 tsp yeast
2 Tb sugar
3-4 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
more butter for brushing

1.  Warm corn, butter, and sugar to 100º.  Butter does not need to melt.  Stir in yeast and let sit until it starts to get foamy, 5 minutes.

2.  In stand mixer, combine 2 C flour and the corn mixture with the paddle.  Beat into a thick batter for 2 minutes.  Add salt and half a cup of flour and beat again.  If still too soft to knead, add another half cup of flour.

3.  Turn out dough onto a floured board and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes, adding as little flour as necessary.  Turn over in an oiled bowl and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

4.  Punch down dough and let rest 10 minutes.  With a scale, weigh out 2 oz rolls.  Round into balls and place in greased muffin pans.  I got 12 rolls and a mini-loaf out of my batch, which would have been 16 rolls.  Allow to rise again, 45 minutes.
5.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Brush tops with melted butter and bake for 20 minutes, until lightly golden and crust has started to set.  Remove from pan as soon as they're cool enough to touch and they won't stick.  Cool on a rack thoroughly before freezing, or serve immediately.  I do recommend freezing any leftovers.  They will spoil at room temperature within a day or two because of the corn.

Makes about 16 rolls

Difficulty rating  :)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Leftovers Salad

Admittedly, I had some pretty fantastic leftovers this day.  Pomegranate seeds, half a cucumber, green onion, and some sliced almonds.  I bought a small package of arugula on discount and cooked up some dried chickpeas from the pantry.  Drizzled with balsamic vinegar and grapeseed oil and rounded out with a bit of bread from the freezer, this main-dish salad cost me $2.50 for four servings.  Then I added a couple of pan-seared scallops on top because they were also on sale and I hadn't spent much on the rest of it.
I bring this up partly for a presentation topic and partly because most people are out spending a whole lot on groceries this week.  Using your leftovers to make salad, quiche, stew, soup, or casseroles will help you to recover from the spending spree.  Even those who aren't hosting tend to spend more because the sales are so good.

Just remember that any day can be "Thanksgiving" if you present the meal with care.  Even leftovers.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Pomegranate Bread

I really debated what to call this.  It's a naan bread recipe with a few additions, but baked in free-standing loaves instead of pan-fried.  It would have helped if the Internet was more forthcoming with a recipe to match what I wanted to make.  All of the pomegranate bread recipes I found were sweet quick breads.  Just because it isn't there doesn't mean it isn't worth trying.

These breads are tangy and lightly sweet, but the addition of rosemary keeps them savory.  I highly suggest them for Thanksgiving, if you have time to make a yeast bread on top of everything else.  They're definitely a step up from the butter rolls that grace most Feast tables.  It's just amazing to have a burst of juice come out of a bite of bread.  Slight warning, you don't get that pop if you freeze and defrost them later.  They taste the same, though.

1/2 C warm water
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 Tb olive oil
*1/3 C Greek yogurt
*1/2 C whole wheat flour
1-1/2 to 2 C all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
*1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crumbled
1 C pomegranate arils
1 tsp sesame seeds to garnish (optional)

1.  Combine yeast, sugar, oil, yogurt, and water and let sit until yeast starts to proof, about 5 minutes.

2.  In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, stir together wheat flour and 1/2 C of the a.p. flour.  Add liquids and beat into a batter, about 2 minutes.  Add salt, rosemary, and 1/2 C flour and beat again.  Beat in 1/2 C more flour to make a dough, then transfer to a floured board.
3.  Knead dough until it starts to get the smooth and elastic consistency, then very gently knead in the arils.  I kind of developed a kneading technique that pushed horizontally rather than down towards the board, but I could still feel some of the arils pop.  Knead only until arils are evenly distributed.  Let rest 10 minutes while you pan-spray parchment on a sheet pan (or use a silpat).

4.  Divide dough into 4 pieces for small loaves or 8 for dinner rolls, or bake as a full round loaf.  I have no idea if making this in a loaf pan or muffin cups is a good idea.  Round off dough pieces and transfer to prepared baking sheet.  For loaves, flatten slightly.  Allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled.
5.  Preheat oven to 375º.  Spray loaves lightly with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  You could alternatively sprinkle with more rosemary and/or a bit of kosher salt.  Bake 20 minutes for 4 loaves, about 30 for a single loaf, and maybe 15 for rolls.  Bread is done when lightly browned and crust has formed.  Remove to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Difficulty rating :-)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Mrouzia (Moroccan Honey Lamb)

I still haven't found anyone to go with for Moroccan, so I decided to try to make honey lamb at home.  This can also be done with chicken thighs if you're on a budget.  And I did kind of break the budget on this meal, even using cheaper cuts of lamb that were on sale.  Let's call this a weekend-company dish.  Not quite as all-out as a holiday, but definitely more work than you would want on a weeknight.

For the Ras El Hanout, I suggest looking for something labeled Tagine Spice if you can't find it by its original name.  Several national brands call it that.  Warning, you may end up at Whole Foods.  I got mine at Williams-Sonoma, but they don't seem to be carrying it at the moment.  It's basically a whole bunch of Middle Eastern spices all mixed up together with a touch of cayenne and probably something else hot.  My blend is pretty mild because it's W-S, but a more authentic version may be hotter.  If you have access to a Middle Eastern market, they'll definitely have a good selection.

In researching a recipe, I discovered Cooking with Alia.  She specializes in making Moroccan food easier to prepare, but still authentic.  That was exactly what I had in mind, so here it goes.

1 lb lamb stew meat (add 1/2 pound if bone-in)
*1/2 Tb Ras El Hanout
1/2 tsp ground ginger
generous pinch saffron
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 medium onion
1/2 C raisins
1 Tb oil
1 Tb butter
2 cinnamon sticks
*1/4 C honey
almonds for garnish

1.  The day before, combine Ras El Hanout, ginger, saffron, salt, and pepper.  Rub into meat.  Place in a large ziplock bag and add 1/2 cup of water, just enough to activate the spices and keep everything moist.  Refrigerate until it's time to cook.

2.  Ok, here's the thing.  I don't grate onions.  It's crazy hard to do, and risky to the fingers.  Go ahead and do it if you want, but I'm recommending either running the onion through the food processor's grating disc or mincing it.  I used the whacker-chopper, which practically puréed it in about a minute.  Oh, and start soaking the raisins in some hot water to plump them.
3.  Drizzle the oil and butter into a large saucepan over medium heat.  Cook the onions until soft, then add the meat and any spice juice in the plastic bag.  Cook until meat is browned on all sides, about 10 minutes total.  Add cinnamon sticks and water to cover and bring to a low boil.  Lower heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until meat is falling off the bones, at least 2 hours.

4.  Drain raisins and add to pot.  Stir in honey.  Fish out cinnamon sticks.  Leave off lid, raise temperature to medium, and allow sauce to cook down and thicken by half.  Move meat to a serving platter, spoon sauce over, and garnish with almonds.  Whole almonds are traditional, but I prefer sliced or slivered because they're easier to chew.

Difficulty rating. :)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Homesteading Weekends

After a couple of months of split days off, I'm finally back to two consecutive days.  It involved training a new baker and losing my baking shifts, but I'm so tired that I'm ok with it.  Not much point of earning a fantastic paycheck if you're too tired to do fun stuff.  I'm still working a lot of overtime, just on different days.  Oh, and our new delivery driver can't find her way out of a paper bag, so I'm doing the vast majority of deliveries until another new driver can be trained.

And what did that rant have to do with this blog, you may ask?  With two days off in a row, I had time to do some home improvements that I'd been postponing because I just wanted to sit around on my split days off and do as few projects as I could get away with.

First up was yet another rearranging of the spice cabinet.  I finally realized that I can't get everything in there neatly because some containers are quite large.  I bought some wedding favor jars that look like Weck canning jars, but they're only 2oz.  Spices that I usually spoon or pinch went in those, while shaker types stayed in the manufacturer's container.  I ended up with far more going in the overflow spice box in the main pantry than expected.  I also finally admitted that I was never going to finish the tiny container of cayenne because I'm allergic to it and threw the thing out.  I haven't given up on some other items that I probably should have tossed long ago, but an allergy is a legitimate wake-up call.  I also rubbed the dried fennel seeds off their stems, which is why this whole thing was happening now, and one plant's worth nearly filled a jar.  I'm going to have to start using fennel seeds.

Once that was done, I planted the Pond.  Two rows each of carrots, beets, and radishes.  The shallow sides have cress.  The starters I made failed their first round, so I may just have to do some direct sowing.  I'll give it one more try before letting nature have a crack at it.  Since five different kinds of seeds failed, I'm pretty sure it's something I did.

I also went to a couple of estate sales.  It always feels a bit like grave digging, or those scavengers out of "A Christmas Carol".  But I also feel like I'm rescuing items that meant something to someone.  Not sure if the half-cup plastic containers were all that loved, but I'm making a home for the non-stick egg pan.  The rubber grip is gone, so I need to use a towel over the handle.  Still means I can finally have round over-easy eggs.  I also got a havdalah plate that was missing its assorted pieces, but I have the cup, candlestick, and spice box.  I just needed a better plate.  I also got The Book of Garnishes, from the same series as The Book of Afternoon Tea.  Lots of cute ideas to go with the current presentation theme.  In the non-food-related category, there was a record of the music from the movie "Mary Poppins".  We never had that, just a story version with Marni Nixon singing Mary.  Pretty good haul for $5.  More important, I've already used everything.  It isn't just going to a shelf or my next garage sale.

The next "weekend", which is really Wednesday and Thursday, I picked the last watermelon and cleared out the patch in the front yard.  20 lbs 5 oz.  Everyone I knew got some.  It probably could have spent another week on the vine, based on the thickness of the white, but I didn't want to leave it out over Halloween.  The ripened parts were delicious.

On cue, the weather turned cool enough to sow greens.  After some soil conditioning and yet more water, I planted the lettuces.  The radishes and beets in the pond were already coming up.  I'm still hoping for a home-grown salad next month.

I'm catching up on other projects, too.  I've had time to go to the mall.  A big cooking afternoon doesn't make me feel like I've wasted a day.  I was able to stay up a bit on Halloween to give out candy, but I did fall asleep before the end of Game 6.  I could still use a staycation, but this is the next best thing.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Chicken Quinoa Lettuce Wraps

I was torn between my desire for harvest-y foods and 100º weather.  So I invented a hearty stuffing and turned it into a lettuce wrap.  This can count as a casserole without the lettuce, and nutritionally is a full meal.  Or you could put it on top of torn lettuce and make it a salad.  If your traditions allow quinoa, it's KLP.  Any of these ways are low-effort and take maybe half an hour to make.

I went to Sprouts to get the chicken apple sausage for this, and they had pumpkin spice chicken sausage.  If I was using squash instead of an apple in this, I probably would have gone for it.  Even the butcher confessed he hadn't tried it, and his boss was ready to chuck the rest of the batch if no one bought it.  Maybe there's a limit to what people will buy Pumpkin Spiced.

At least I finally made a quinoa dish that doesn't smell and taste like a freshly mowed lawn.  I know it's a grass seed, but does it have to taste like it?  The tricolor I'm calling for is to give the mix some color contrast.  All of the ingredients are off-white, and plain white quinoa would make for a boring mass inside a leaf of lettuce.

60¢ of pine nuts, 75¢ of pintos
3/4 C tricolor quinoa
*1 Gala apple, diced
1/2 tsp dried sage
salt and pepper
1 lb chicken apple sausage, or ground chicken
*1/2 C diced onion
*1 rib celery, diced
2 Tb pine nuts
Lettuce leaves to serve

1.  Stir together dry quinoa, 3/4 C water, sage, and a dash each of salt and pepper.  Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat, lower to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, by which time everything else is going to be done.
2.  Heat a 10" skillet over medium heat.  Put pine nuts in the dry pan and sprinkle salt over them.  Shake every couple of minutes, while you're dicing the apple, onion, and celery and checking to see if the quinoa is boiling.  Once pine nuts are starting to brown, remove them from the heat and transfer to a container so you can use the skillet.
3.  Put chicken sausage in the skillet and brown, crumbling as you go.  Once mostly cooked, add onion, celery, and apple.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the quinoa is done.  Add to skillet and stir to combine.  Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.  Toss nuts in at the last moment.
4.  Arrange large leaves of lettuce on plates and top with the stuffing.  Serve with the filling warm and the lettuce cold.

Difficulty rating  π

Friday, November 3, 2017

Cheeseburger Macaroni

We never had Hamburger Helper when I was little.  My mom tried not to use processed shortcuts, with varying degrees of success.  As a result, I've never had tuna casserole or cheeseburger macaroni.  When I came up with this recipe idea and started googling around, I found out the whole subculture I've been missing.

To be fair, this isn't the HH version.  I layered mac'n'cheese over ground beef and veggies.  It's more like shepherd's pie with pasta on top instead of potatoes.

1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 C diced onion
1 C frozen mixed peas and carrots
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
*8 oz (half a box) macaroni or other short pasta
1-1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
1 Tb butter
1 Tb flour
*2 C milk
*1/2 C panko bread crumbs
*1/4 C grated parmesan

1.  Start boiling water for the pasta.

2.  Brown the beef in a large skillet, adding the onion as soon as there's enough fat to cook it.  Add the vegetables and seasonings and stir together.  Keep warm.

3.  Cook and drain the pasta.  You can leave it in the strainer in the sink while you make the sauce and save a dish.

4.  Melt the butter in the empty pasta pot over medium heat.  Stir the flour into it to make a paste.  Slowly add the milk, allowing it to thicken between additions.  Stir in cheddar and allow to melt.  Add pasta to it and stir to coat.
5.  Preheat oven to 350º while you assemble the casserole.  I used an oval dish, but a 9x13 should be big enough.  First put in the meat mixture and spread evenly.  Then pour the mac and cheese on top of it.  Sprinkle top with breadcrumbs and parmesan.  I dusted the top with a little more paprika.  Bake until heated through and crust is lightly browned, about 15 minutes.  Allow to sit 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4 to 6

Difficulty rating. :)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pear and Blueberry Pie

So of course, once I'd made a new pie crust, I had to come up with a pie to try it out.  I had a pint of blueberry pie filling in the freezer and chose to mix it with pears to make enough for a pie.

All the work in most pies is the crust.  Even a custard pie comes together pretty quickly.  In this case, using half pie filling meant there was less fruit to cut and fewer ingredients overall.  You get the homemade label with half the work.  I'm conveniently ignoring the work to make the can of filling.

crust for double-crust pie
*1 can (15 oz) blueberry pie filling
1 lb (3 or 4) pears, ripe but still a little firm
3 Tb sugar
1 Tb cornstarch
1 Tb lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
egg white or milk for brushing crust
sanding sugar for decorating

1.  Roll out bottom crust and place in fridge.

2.  Peel pears if desired.  Cut in half and remove cores and stems.  Chop into bite-sized pieces.

3.  In a bowl, combine blueberry filling, pears, sugar, and cornstarch.  Stir in lemon juice.  I didn't add any spices, but half a teaspoon of ginger or cinnamon would be a nice addition.  I was just in the mood to let the fruits speak for themselves.  Get the crust out of the fridge and fill with the mixture.
4.  Roll out top crust and cut vent holes or slits.  You'll see how much bubbled out.  Place on top and create a sealed border.  Trim off excess.  Chill filled pie for at least half an hour.

5.  Preheat oven to 375º.  For a glossy look, brush crust with egg white.  I opted for a matte finish and used milk.  Avoid brushing the edges, or they'll darken too quickly.  Sprinkle top with sugar for a sparkly look and added flavor.  Place on a baking sheet, to catch anything that boils over.  Bake until crust is golden, about 1 hour.  If it still isn't darkening at that point, raise oven to 400º and check after 10 minutes.
6.  Cool pie on a rack for at least 30 minutes, and preferably to room temperature.  The filling takes a while to set up.  Meanwhile, all that goo on your baking sheet will come right off if you start soaking it as soon as the pie pan comes off.  To store the pie past the first day, refrigerate.  Just pull it out half an hour before serving so it isn't so cold.  It can survive 15 seconds in the microwave without changing texture.

Makes 1 pie, about 8 servings

Difficulty rating. :)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Pie Crust #2

There was a new pie crust recipe in the L.A. Times that was substantially different from any I've made, so I had to give it a try.

This recipe follows the basic concepts of using cold ingredients to prevent the fat from melting prematurely.  It merely adds every special, secret ingredient that bakers use.

The recipe also allows you to use the food processor if you want, and that's the version I'm posting here.  The trick with that is to put in the liquid when the fat pieces are twice as large as when you would have done it by hand.  As the liquid is incorporated, the processor is still cutting the fat smaller and smaller.

I liked the result.  I think I processed the dough a few pulses too long.  It wasn't very flaky, but it wasn't tough either, which is how my crusts usually end up.  I got a crispy crust which stayed that way even a couple of days later.  It was very easy to roll, and transferred from the board to the pie pan without ripping.  I used the rolling pin method for that, where you dust the top of the rolled crust with a bit of flour, wrap it around the rolling pin, and unroll it over the plate.
The recipe did make a bit more crust than I ended up using, even for a double-crust pie.  I'm saving the rest to see how a re-rolled pie ends up.  Maybe I'll use it for mini tarts or something.  The beauty of the freezer is that you can take your time figuring out that part.

Speaking of the freezer, the best way to prep the fats for this is to cut them an hour ahead of time, then put them in the freezer.  You can stick the flour in there, too.  Especially when it's 100º out, only a week before Halloween.  So hot.  Not fair.

1 Tb sugar
1/4 C water
*2-1/4 tsp cider vinegar
2-1/4 C flour, chilled
1 tsp salt
*4 Tb (1/4 C) cold shortening or lard
1/2 C (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
ice water as needed
egg white if blind-baking

1.  In a small bowl, stir together water and sugar to make a simple syrup.  Stir in vinegar and chill until ready to use.

2.  In food processor, pulse together flour and salt.  Pulse in shortening until flour resembles moist sand.  Pulse in the butter until you get pea-sized pieces, maybe five pulses.
3.  Sprinkle the chilled syrup over the flour and pulse several times.  Transfer the crumbly mixture to a bowl and squeeze a handful together.  It will stick, but if it crumbles apart too quickly, knead in ice water a tablespoon at a time.  I needed two tablespoons on a low humidity day.
4.  Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.  This allows the glutens to rest and the moisture in the dough to permeate every bit of flour that might have been left out.

5.  When ready to bake, break dough into approximately 2/3 by 1/3 pieces and put the smaller one back in the fridge.  That's for the top crust.  Reshape dough into a disk, then roll out into a circle on a lightly floured surface, about 1/8" thick.  Always start from the middle and roll outwards.  You get a better shape, and when the crust inevitably shrinks back a bit, it's shrinking towards where you started the roll.

6.  Transfer dough to pie plate.  If blind-baking, make your decorative edge, trim off the excess, put it in the freezer for 20 minutes, and skip to the next step.  If baking filled, fill it now and roll out the top crust.  Make your decorative edge once the top is on, then trim off the excess.  The method I learned for that is to squeeze the pie plate between your hands.  Your hand makes a natural break on the edge of the plate as you turn it, until you lift the plate and all the scraps are left behind.  Bake according to your recipe.
7.  For blind-baking, preheat oven to 400º.  Either line with parchment and fill with baking beads (beans) or prick all over to prevent bubbles.  Bake for 20 minutes and check on it.  Either remove the beads and prick crust sparely or re-prick any bubbles if you didn't weigh it down.  Bake until as done as you need it for your recipe.  If you want to reduce the sogginess of the finished product, brush the hot crust with egg white to form a waterproof finish.  Cool and fill.

Makes 1 double crust pie

Difficulty rating  :)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Salmon with Basil Sauce

I was too lazy to get out the food processor to make pesto.  As a result, this turned into a presentation dish.  You can't really blame me; I was already going to have to wash a hell of a lot of dishes.  The processor was more than I wanted to clean.

This got started a few ways.  Salmon was on sale.  It was time to trim the basil again.  When I finally pulled that last bolted fennel, I had forgotten there would be an edible root attached.  And Vons was rotating their Kosher section, so the large container of Israeli couscous was half off.  So were Shabbos candles, which is ridiculous because a candle takes decades to deteriorate, but I bought some for half off anyway.

There were a few ways I could have assembled the finished product, but I opted for a round version to show you how to make cooked spinach look like more than it is.  A thin ring of it kept the couscous in place, topped with the baked salmon and a bit of fresh basil sauce on top.  It's so unfair how a full pound of spinach leaves cooks down to practically nothing.

1 lb salmon fillet, deboned
salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

1.  Preheat oven to 325º.  Lightly drizzle oil in a baking dish.

2.  Rub flesh side of fish in the oil, then flip it up and settle skin-side down in pan.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Put in to bake while you make everything else, about 20 minutes.

3.  Cut into portions, making sure center isn't raw.

1 C Israeli couscous (or rice, quinoa, or your favorite grain)
olive oil

1.  Lightly salt 1-1/2 C water and bring to a boil.

2.  Stir in dry couscous and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook until water is absorbed, about 8 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in 1 tsp of olive oil, just enough to keep the pearls from sticking together.

1 lb spinach, cleaned, stems removed.  Chopping it optional
*2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tb margarine

1.  Melt margarine in 10" skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

2.  Add spinach and stir to coat with margarine.  Allow it to cook about halfway, then remove from heat.  The residual heat in the pan will cook it the rest of the way while you finish the dish.

*1/2 C fresh basil leaves
*1/4 C diced onion
2 Tb pine nuts (this is where I subbed in the fennel root)
2 Tb butter or margarine

1.  Melt the butter in a small skillet.  Add onion and cook until soft.  Add in pine nuts until warm.

2.  Remove pan from heat and stir in basil leaves until wilted.  If you want more sauce, add some olive oil.

This can be on a platter or individually plated.

1.  Make a ring of spinach slightly inside plate rim.
2.  Fill center with couscous.
3.  Place a salmon portion on top of the couscous.
4.  Spoon sauce on top.

Difficulty rating. :)