a baking catch-up

October 30, 2012 § 7 Comments

I missed both of October’s bake days for the Tuesdays with Dorie group baking its way through Greenspan’s Baking with Julia.  It’s not that I haven’t been baking, really I have! In fact, dozens of loaves in my Paonia baker, farmer and friend’s wood-fired oven. I wish I had one! That oven absolutely bakes the best bread I’ve ever had, pizza too! Hana agrees!

Baguettes are proofed on couche (the floured cloth). My favorite bake this day was the oversized sour dough white and whole wheat loaves.

We had pizza for lunch with chickpea socca (in the cast iron pan) for the gluten-free bakers. Even Hana got a personal-sized oatmeal loaf!

And although I didn’t get them done on the TWD schedule, here’s my not quick Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Loaves and Bagels. They were both fun to make and turned out pretty well. I get the feeling the pumpkin bread will make another appearance on Thanksgiving when my kids join us. And bagels are one of my favorite breads. I made some tweaks to the recipe because I think bagels need to be dense and chewy and never have enough sesame seeds. These were easy enough to make with the overnight rise, shaping chilled dough and immediately boiling and baking, so I hope to bake and not buy bagels from now on.

For the pumpkin bread start by roasting a pie pumpkin. I used a variety called Winter Luxury and got enough punkin’ purée for bread and a pie down the road.

I melted the butter to combine it with the pumpkin and sugar, rather than creaming it. Here’s the finished dough.

Instead of making three little pan loaves, I rolled out three strands of dough to braid. Here’s the braid before and after proofing.

The egg wash gives the bread a very dark crust. This particular pumpkin wasn’t very sweet, so next time I’ll be sure to adjust the sugar. Pretty slices though!

Onto the bagels. I substituted a 1/2 cup of rye and 1 cup of whole wheat for some of the all purpose flour, and added a little vital wheat gluten for some extra chew. I left out the shortening in the recipe as well. After an overnight rise in the refrigerator bagels were shaped from the still chilly dough and almost immediately went for a swim in the hot tub.

A brief drain on a rack, then the still wet and now poofy bagel gets lots of seeds on BOTH sides (I like sesame seeds).

Onto the sheet pan, into a hot oven for about a half hour. I barely let them cool.

Yum! Warm seedy buttery jammy homemade bagel. Wow!

Advertisements

summer-to-winter and learning about tagines

October 26, 2012 § 12 Comments

Can you believe that these pictures were taken just one day apart? Los Angeles is still enjoying mild summer-like days. I took picture #1 Wednesday morning in my folks’ back yard; can you see the fat praying mantis hiding in the shade of the pulmeria blooms? Flew back home to Colorado and awoke on Thursday to picture #2, this snowy scene in our back yard; first real snow of the season! Unfortunately the early heavy wet snow can be hard on trees that haven’t shed their autumn leaves yet and can result in broken branches.

Lamb Tagine with Potatoes and Chickpeas

This was the back drop to making a chicken tagine for FFwD. Tagine refers to both the North African cooking vessel and the dish itself, usually an aromatic braise of vegetables and meat cooked stovetop. A contemporary example above is from Williams Sonoma. Even if you don’t own a tagine (which I don’t) you can make a perfectly good tagine with a pot that has a tight-fitting lid and that distributes heat evenly. My heavy Le Creuset pot made of enameled cast iron made a fine substitute. Although pricey, it is multi-purpose and I’m lucky enough to have an outlet store nearby in Lakewood, one of Denver’s suburbs.

Moroccan tagines traditionally use a spice mixture called ras el hanout which means “top of the shop” in Arabic, indicating the best quality spices in the blend. Dorie used a simpler approach of just a few spices along with a pinch of saffron in her Around my French Table recipe. Unfortunately I learned that there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to saffron. I used a big pinch of some lovely Spanish saffron for a half recipe which completely overwhelmed all the other spices with a somewhat medicinal flavor. Sigh…

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world and comes from a fall-blooming purple crocus which I have tried to grow but with limited success. So what I use in cooking is a 1/2 ounce container of Spanish saffron. I just checked and saffron is around $100 for just 1/4 ounce now. Ouch! Since I didn’t have sweet potatoes handy for this recipe I substituted delicata winter squash from my winter CSA (community-supported agriculture) share.

Here’s the not-a-tagine pot I used for cooking. The chicken and onions are under the squash slices and prunes; the brown color is from cinnamon-sugar I sprinkled on the squash (it wasn’t very sweet yet).

We had cracked farro “polenta” along with the chicken tagine. My only make-up recipe this week were the  St.-Germain-des-Prés onion biscuits (March 2012) which were delightfully flakey, rich and savory.

stone soup ~ L.A. style

October 18, 2012 § 12 Comments

I flew into Los Angeles a few days ago to spend some time with my parents. When I arrived it felt like I had taken a short trip back in time from our coolish fall back to over-90 summer again, not exactly what I had in mind. But yesterday I awoke to a cool overcast morning and the clouds gave us enough shelter to make soup sound like a good idea for supper.

On Wednesday my sis and I had gone to the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, one of my must visit stops on almost every trip to L.A. The Wednesday market is even bigger than Saturday’s, since that’s the day many Los Angeles chefs shop for fresh local ingredients. Australian finger caviar limes or fresh figs, anyone? We didn’t buy anything too crazy on this trip since my parents like pretty simple food.

Nearby there’s some good Japanese shopping and dining in West L.A. We found lunch at a Japanese food court inside of a Japanese market – a big bowl of shrimp and anago eel tempura over rice. It came garnished with a shishito pepper and a poached egg, both also tempura deep fried. It was messy and delicious! Living in Colorado, I do miss the breadth and depth of the L.A. food scene. Onto our own food scene in my parents’ kitchen last night…

Do you remember the story of Stone Soup? This is the edition I remember reading many times in my childhood. To me it’s the story of creating a delicious meal and community seemingly from nothing, and discovering the bounty of food and camaraderie that people once strangers can share.

We started with some gems from the farmers’ market, the last of the season’s corn and a small kabocha winter squash (Japanese pumpkin), two of my mom’s favorite vegetables and a perfect transition to fall. Most of the other vegetables were household pantry and refrigerator staples that provided the classic French base for stocks, soups and stews, mirepoix. This is just a fancy word for two parts onion and one part each of celery and carrot which I cut into a small dice to cook evenly and look pretty in the finished soup.

To get the most flavor from the ingredients, I grated the ginger, minced the garlic and added the corn cobs after cutting off the kernels which I set aside. There were a couple of small tired wrinkled tomatoes from the garden; I peeled, cored, crushed and then added them to the soup base too. A sprinkling of salt and I had a true stone soup approach to using everything available.

After adding water and a touch more salt and removing the corn cobs, I had a flavorful and aromatic broth that did not need the addition of chicken stock. In fact I think chicken stock would have masked the light flavor of the vegetables and background notes of the ginger. For the same reason, I omitted adding the herb sprigs of thyme and rosemary Dorie called for in her Around My French Table recipe. While the vegetable base had been cooking, I prepared the kabocha squash for it’s starring role by first removing the stem (either cut just underneath, or struck with the back of a heavy knife).

The hard part is splitting hard winter squashes open, so be patient, use a large heavy and sharp knife and watch those fingers! You can easily scoop out the seeds and pulp with a big spoon. I cut the squash into big wedges as they’ll break down into smaller pieces as they cook and get tender and soft.

Everyone into the jacuzzi! Another 10-15 minutes of gentle simmering and we have a be-ooo-ti-ful soup! Taste for flavor and seasoning.

I added a spoonful of white miso for some salt, sweet and umami. I had baked a loaf of sourdough for my dad before leaving Colorado, so that and butter were the only additions our soup dinner needed.

My version of spur-of-the-moment vegetable soup, aka stone soup a la SoCal Japan garnished with some cilantro and scallion.

And here are my make-up FFwD dishes from the last couple of weeks…

Last week’s crispy crackly apple almond tart was a big hit at our annual Oktoberfest pot luck, a perfect finish to the hearty celebration dinner of sauerbraten and red cabbage that our friend Paul has perfected over the years.

I contributed eggplant caviar (August 2011) prepared with end of the season eggplant and tomatoes to another potluck, this one at Cure Farm’s fall CSA pig roast party. The tiny glistening bits of vegetables coated with the olive oil and lemon juice did remind me of caviar, but I forgot to take a picture of the final dish, whoops!

Braised cardamom curry lamb (November 2011) made a warming meal for one of the below freezing nights we had at the beginning of October, a warning of winter’s approach.

Creamy cheesy garlicky rice with greens (September 2011) was an easy fun spin on classic risotto and let me use just picked kale from the garden and whatever rice and cheese was handy. We had a couple of weeks of good eats, just too busy to write about it!

party food

October 5, 2012 § 3 Comments

I just spent ten days in Colorado’s North Fork Valley on farms, vineyards and orchards. When I wasn’t out in the fields, I was in the kitchen cooking for a couple of farm dinners or baking bread at an outdoor wood-fired oven. It was a wonderful way to end the summer, feeling pretty healthy again, enjoying the outdoors and sharing good food and wine with my western slope friends. Cause to celebrate!

This iPhone photo doesn’t begin to show how beautiful parts of the drive back to Boulder was. Fall colors this year are earlier and more vibrant oddly due to this year’s drought.

This week’s FFwD recipe is hummus, the Middle Eastern rich garlicky lemony chickpea purée I tend to associate with a Greek luncheon plate, vegan sandwich spread or better yet, a party dip with vegetable crudité or pita crisps. Dorie Greenspan’s recipe provided the structure for my version using what was currently in the pantry and refrigerator, which did not include chickpeas or tahini. It was a delicious spread that we enjoyed as part of last night’s party ah, Mediterranean meal.

I had some beautiful heirloom beans called Snowcap. I pressure cooked them a few nights ago for some chili, but saved some for the hummus recipe. Give these beans plenty of time to cook, even under pressure; they get BIG.

Last night I reheated the beans as they still needed more cooking time. I toasted whole cumin seeds until fragrant and then ground them to add to the hummus. To the base mixture I added a handful of parsley from the garden, and some slow-roasted cherry tomatoes I had saved in olive oil from the refrigerator. Since I don’t keep tahini on hand, I used the last of a jar of homemade hazelnut butter.

Hummus takes center stage on a plate of fresh mozzarella with garden tomatoes and basil in a salad caprese. I had forgotten how tasty it can be singing of garlic, herbs and lemon, since many times store and café versions tend to be bland and dry.

There was a recipe for sweet and spicy cocktail nuts (December 2010) on the page opposite the hummus recipe in Around my French Table. They’re not too hot, so party animal Hana gets to enjoy a couple too.

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for October, 2012 at cook reach grow.