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applesauce cake

adapted from Gale Gand's Applesauce Cake 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature 2 cups brown sugar (dark or light), ...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

baccalà fritto (fried salt cod)

 I have been searching high and low for this recipe for... oh, four or five years now. finally, here it is!* a fairly simple dish of battered and breaded salt cod, fried in olive oil and topped with a tasty sharp fresh salad of parsley, tomato and green onion, with fresh lemon squeezed over all. I love salt cod prepared almost any way, but this is easily my favorite; worth all the prep time, clean-up, etc. fresh fish would work for this recipe too, of course, but salt cod is so delicious, so perfect in texture for this. I've adapted the recipe a bit to my personal taste.

*had I realized this was a Mario Batali recipe, I'm sure I could have found it much more quickly. a friend used to make this for me and I never knew where he got the recipe (and he wasn't telling!).

2 pounds salt cod, portioned into approx. 8-ounce fillets, all bones removed
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 - 1 teaspoon kosher salt? (I'm guessing here; the recipe on foodnetwork.com doesn't include the measurement for the salt)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
cold club soda (enough to form a loose batter)
2 quarts olive oil for frying (pure olive oil works well here; you don't want to waste your good EVOO for the frying) (and wow, 2 quarts seems like a LOT to me; I may adjust this after I make it)
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped (loosely packed)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
lots of fresh lemon wedges for serving

rinse the salt cod in cold water, then soak in water (in your refrigerator) for 48 hours, changing water every 12 hours (so 4 changes of water total).

heat the olive oil for frying to 375 degrees F in a tall-sided pot, wok or deep fryer.

in a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, salt, 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and enough club soda to form a loose batter. place panko in a pie plate.

dip each fillet into batter, allow excess to drip off, then dredge with bread crumbs. when the oil reaches 375 degrees F, gently drop a filet or two at a time into the oil and cook until golden-brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. drain on paper toweling.

while fish is cooking, combine the parsley, tomatoes and scallions in a bowl, and toss with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice. season to taste with salt and freshly-ground pepper.

to serve, top each fillet with an equal portion of the parsley/tomato salad, and accompany with wedges of lemon to squeeze over all.

absolutely delicious! I can't wait to make this one.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

of course.

um, ahem. the reports of the Zojirushi bread machine's death were a little exaggerated. I managed to resuscitate it for at least one more loaf. but it's definitely time for it to live out its last days baking simple loaves while I quietly search for a worthy successor. so still looking for (Zojirushi only; I'm fanatically loyal to this brand) recommendations, but please keep them kind of quiet, in case the old bread machine reads this blog.

no, I'm NOT crazy. why do you ask?

the Zojirushi bread machine is dead. long live the new Zojirushi!

it seems that after my last post, I forgot to knock wood -- my good old Zojirushi seems to have been banished to the land of wind and ghosts. so now I can contemplate a NEW machine! one that won't make sideways loaves of bread! with a jam cycle! and a cake cycle!

it'll be a Zo again, of course. the only question is: which one?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

darned good sandwich bread

I have an ancient (well, at least 20-year-old) Zojirushi bread machine. I'd get a new one, with all the cool new features, but this one refuses to quit. so I love it, despite its funky-shaped loaves. when it's cooler out, I use it to knead the dough, and bake in the oven -- the best of both worlds. but it's still hot here, and I started getting tired of my usual bread machine recipe -- just wasn't doing it for me. I tweaked it and came up with something I really like. it has a nice, tight, fine crumb and tasty crust and works perfectly for toast and sandwiches.

1.5 cups milk (water's fine, too -- I just had some extra milk I needed to use up; buttermilk would also be good)

1.5 tablespoons sugar (or honey)
2 teaspoons salt
1.5 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil (sometimes I use butter)
3 cups unbleached white flour (currently liking Bob's Red Mill or King Arthur)
.5 cup whole wheat flour

dump it all in the machine in order, set machine for a 4-hour cycle (on mine, this is called "dry milk basic bread," for some reason). the extra kneading and rising cycle makes a difference here. next time, I'll try using a higher proportion of whole wheat flour.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

very decent arrabiata sauce

1/4 cup (or a little less) olive oil (but use more than you normally would -- it's what makes the sauce taste sumptuous)
6 cloves garlic, slivered
1.5 teaspoons red chile flakes (more or less, to your taste -- mine came out nicely hot, but not too hot)
28 ounces canned tomatoes (crushed or diced; doesn't matter, but get the best ones you can find)
a couple of handfuls of small, tender basil leaves, whole (or tear them in pieces if they're larger)
a healthy splash of sherry (first choice) or white wine or even white vermouth
2 teaspoons sugar (I used brown sugar, probably doesn't matter but I like how it colors the sauce)
salt and crushed black pepper to taste

small amount of good balsamic vinegar, to taste

this came out so good that I had to restrain myself from eating it all by the spoonful or on bread.

heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the garlic and chile flakes and cook for a couple of minutes (don't let the garlic brown or burn). add the tomatoes, 2/3 of the basil leaves and sherry, and simmer for about 20 minutes. add the remaining basil leaves and sugar, simmer for a bit, then add salt and freshly crushed black pepper to taste. remove from heat and season with balsamic to taste, starting with a little less than a teaspoon.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

waffles, waffles, waffles!

I broke down (rather easily) and got a Presto 3510 FlipSide Belgian Waffle Maker at amazon.com (actually, someone else broke down and bought it for me. thank you!), and have been spending the past week making waffles in my spare time. first, a word about this nifty little device: people, you *need* one. not only does it make beautiful, round, huge, deeply pocketed Belgian waffles in about 3+ minutes each, it's very easy to clean and will make you instantly popular. *update: this little waffle iron is a star! it does everything I want it to do: not stick to batter, bake waffles that have the proper texture (a crisp, crackly crust enshrouds each waffle's tender, delicious interior.

instead of using regular cooking oil or spray to season the grids, I brushed them lightly with a mixture of canola oil and lecithin in a ratio of 3:1 -- this (or an olive oil version) is what I use to make all my cookware nonstick - more about it some other time. not a one of the waffles has stuck to the iron nor come apart -- they all release instantly and beautifully.

the first recipe I tried (one I found somewhere for buttermilk waffles that uses a popular baking mix) came out all wrong -- too eggy, too sweet, too soft. so I decided to go back to an older waffle recipe I used to bake in a regular waffle iron with great success, and it turned out great! here it is:

fabulous cornmeal waffles

1-1/4 cups all purpose flour (I used King Arthur unbleached white flour)
3/4 cup cornmeal (for extra yummy texture, I used Bob's Red Mill medium-grind yellow cornmeal, and no, I don't work for Bob's, I swear!)
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder (aluminum-free)
scant 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups buttermilk (I always have tons of real buttermilk in my freezer, as it's a by-product of making butter)
6 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs, separated

first, mix the dry ingredients: in a large bowl or jug stir together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. make a well in the middle of the dry mixture, and pour in the buttermilk, melted butter and egg yolks, stir to combine (but don't overmix). beat the egg whites to firm peaks, stir 1/4 of the beaten egg whites to the waffle batter to lighten it, then fold the remaining egg whites in. make sure to get your waffle iron clean, prepared and heating before beating the egg whites; by the time you're done with the batter, the iron should be hot.

to cook, pour a generous 3/4 cup - scant cup of this batter into the center of the iron and let it spread out a bit. set a timer (with my particular iron, I found these waffles took between 3 minutes 15 seconds and 3 minutes 30 seconds to cook completely without over-browning). I then flipped the waffle over -- it's fun, but I don't think it's essential to flip. if your waffle iron doesn't have have this feature (or you forget to flip), it doesn't seem to make much difference. cook the waffle just until the steam stops pumping out of the iron (it doesn't have to stop completely, but if you stop the cooking while the steam is still going strong, your waffle will be under-cooked). keep the finished waffles warm in a toaster oven or regular oven set at about 200 °F until they're all done, then serve.

I topped these with homemade butter, fresh raspberries and maple syrup. in the fall, I like cornmeal waffles as a side dish for roasted chicken or pork, served with sliced apples sautéed in butter, cinnamon and a little brown sugar. I'm sure there are many more variations; next time I'm going to omit the sugar and add shredded sharp cheddar and jalapenos to make savory waffles to serve with fried chicken.

this recipe made about 4-1/2 waffles, so I'll probably double it next time and freeze the extra to heat in the toaster oven for quick breakfast. and perhaps some day, my freezer will no longer be overflowing with buttermilk!

Friday, August 06, 2010

make your own crème fraîche and cultured butter

if you've already mastered making your own yogurt (which I posted about last month), you're ready to start making your own crème fraîche, and from that, cultured butter, which is delicious and surprisingly easy!

first, start by making crème fraîche:

1 quart heavy cream
2 tablespoons either buttermilk or live, active, plain yogurt (homemade or store-bought)

note: I use my homemade yogurt, and it works perfectly, though the buttermilk method also works quite well. if you start making your own butter, you'll end up with your own cultured buttermilk as well! my yogurt, crème fraîche, buttermilk (and to a lesser extent, the butter) all contain the same culture.

sterilize your equipment: thermometer, pot in which you're heating the cream, whisk/or spoon used to add the culture (buttermilk or yogurt). most of the recipes I've read instruct to warm the cream to 110 F first, then to innoculate with culture (whisk in the buttermilk or yogurt) and allow to stand, covered, in a warm spot for 8-12 or more hours. ***yet another "do as I say, not as I do:" I've found that when using UHT (ultra-high temperature) pasteurized cream (which is ALL I can find around here), I don't have to bother with heating the cream at all to start it, so I skip this step.*** I like using my heavy Le Creuset dutch oven for this, even if I'm not heating the cream. my gas oven, which has a pilot light that's constantly on, keeps whatever I'm culturing right at the perfect temperature (about 110 F), and when I use store-bought yogurt, or my homemade yogurt or buttermilk to culture it, it's always nice and thick (like sour cream) and perfectly tangy at 8-10 hours (it seems to take a few hours longer when I've used commercial buttermilk). if I want it more liquid and only slightly tangy, I make sure to check it at 6 hours. any way you like it, culture to your taste, then pack into sterile containers (I use glass canning jars) and refrigerate. it keeps for about a week.

the above recipe makes a LOT of crème fraîche; more than I'd ever use in a week! it's easy to make a half recipe or even a quarter the volume; I make a whole quart so that I can take about 3/4 of it and make my own cultured butter:

3 cups of chilled crème fraîche
salt to taste, if desired

get your equipment set up before you start whipping the cream. you'll need either a food processor or electric beaters and a bowl, a quart or more of ice water in a pitcher, a large clean jug or measuring cup (one that holds 1 quart or more) into which you'll strain the buttermilk, a medium-large fine strainer/sieve and a large bowl in which you'll clean the butter (using the ice water). if you want to add salt to the butter, you'll also need a clean cutting board to knead it in.

I use my food processor to make butter, fitted with the "s" blade. put all of the crème fraîche into the food processor bowl and process for several minutes OR put all of the crème fraîche into a bowl and start beating it with your electric beaters. whichever method you use, be sure to listen to the sound of the cream being beaten. there will be a significant change when it breaks down into butter and buttermilk, and the buttermilk will start to splash around. at that point you will see clumps of pale yellow butter floating in white buttermilk. stop processing, place the strainer over the jug (or large measuring cup) and pour the mixture in. the strainer will catch the butter, and the buttermilk will flow into the jug. pour the buttermilk into a clean jar (3 cups of crème fraîche will yield about a pint of buttermilk) and use in pancakes, waffles, or any other recipe for which you'd use regular buttermilk. you can also freeze it for later use. keep the strainer over the jug and pick up the butter, squeezing out as much liquid as possible, then place it into a bowl and pour ice water over it. knead the butter in the ice water for a few minutes, then pour off the water. add more ice water and knead again; continue pouring off, adding fresh ice water and kneading until the liquid you pour off is clear. at that point, the butter has been cleaned of all buttermilk and will keep well. if you want to add salt to it, you can knead in a small amount (to taste) on a cutting board. shape the butter however you'd like: you can press it into ramekins, or form it into sticks or logs. cover ramekins with plastic wrap, and wrap sticks or logs first in wax paper, then in foil or plastic wrap. I usually keep one stick in the fridge to use and freeze the others until I need them. use the butter as is, bake with it; whatever you'd like. it's heavenly.

I have found that I like to use crème fraîche on my toast instead of my usual butter, especially on good, crusty sourdough bread. the rich, tangy taste is just a tiny bit better on toast than my gorgeous homemade butter, and I figure over time, maybe I'm saving my body from having to deal with a few more grams of fat (not much, but what the heck). the cultured butter I make is even better than cultured butter I've bought at the store (and of course it costs much less to make it at home), and it's also excellent on toast, so if you prefer, make *all* of your crème fraîche into butter.

now I need to find or develop a truly excellent recipe for buttermilk bread, so I can use mine up! the buttermilk that results from making cultured butter is delicious; slightly tangy and very refreshing. I can actually understand why people drink buttermilk now! I usually drink a small glass of it each time I make butter. enjoy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

the best homemade frozen yogurt

this will be easiest with an ice cream freezer (I have a small Cuisinart that's ideal, but for the life of me, I can't locate the freezer bowl, darn it!), but can still be made without too much work using a food processor and, of course, a freezer. the following recipe is for the flavor I happen to like best (lemon), but feel free to vary it by leaving out the lemon zest/juice and adding vanilla or any other flavor you desire. I occasionally reduce the amount of lemon, and add 2 pints of washed, hulled, pureed strawberries -- use/add whatever sounds good to you.

1 quart (give or take -- this isn't exact science) greek-style yogurt
zest and juice of 3 lemons (again, more or less is fine)
1/2-2/3 cup sugar (you know the drill here by now)
(optional: 1-1/2 - 2 cups pureed fruit, lemon and sugar adjusted as desired)

combine the yogurt, zest, juice and sugar (and optional fruit) in a food processor fitted with an s-blade and check for flavor. remember, freezing will reduce the flavor levels somewhat, so make it just a little too lemony and a tiny bit too sweet -- when frozen, it will be PERFECT.
1. if you have an ice cream maker, dump it in and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.
2. if you don't, scrape the yogurt mixture into a plastic container that's large enough to leave plenty of room for expansion, and also for you to get in there and stir it around a lot as it freezes (to break up ice crystals as they form). stir it with a heavy spoon or a sturdy whisk every 30 - 60 minutes, until well frozen. beat it well, then leave it to freeze for several hours. when you come back to check it, it will be frozen a bit too hard, so break it into chunks and puree it in the food processor until creamy and smooth (you can add a little extra un-frozen yogurt to facilitate this; it's also the ideal time to adjust the flavors). re-freeze for a few hours and it's done.

it's hard to think of anything more refreshing than creamy, tart, lemony frozen yogurt. I hope you all enjoy it!

p.s. it's also really good with NO flavoring other than sugar, and maybe a tiny pinch of salt. Japanese matcha tea powder is another fantastic addition -- have fun with it!

best greek yogurt ever

this is so easy it's ridiculous! this method makes rich, creamy yogurt that you'll want to consume in outrageous quantities. when I was a kid, my dad went through a yogurt-making phase, but we never knew to strain it to make this wonderful greek-style yogurt. I happen to think my method's a bit easier (the hubris of a child!). here it is:

1 gallon whole milk (or other, depending on your needs/taste; this is just what I prefer)
1 cup fresh, unadulterated yogurt (when I first started making my own yogurt, I used my favorite brand of greek-style yogurt, but now I just save a cup of each batch I make to innoculate the subsequent batch of yogurt)

heat the gallon of whole milk to 175-185 F (***do as I SAY, not as I do: I find that milk tastes too "cooked" for my taste at 185 F, so I heat to about 150 F without problems***) -- use a food thermometer for this -- DON'T GUESS! heat it slowly, so it won't get scorched on the bottom
fill your sink with ice water and plunge the pot into it to cool the milk to 110 F (again, use the thermometer for accuracy), making sure the water level is appoximately equal to the level of yogurt in the pot
add the cup of yogurt to the cooled milk, whisking thoroughly
cover up the pot and place it where it will maintain its temperature for 6-8 hours (I use my gas oven, off, but with the pilot light on, and it works perfectly)

after the time is up, check the yogurt: it should be thickened and somewhat tart (leave it another hour or two if you want it thicker and/or more tart). it will be NOWHERE near as thick as the final product we're making, though; first we have to drain off about half of the whey. to do that:

sterilize ALL the following equipment, including the cheesecloth (or other fabric used to strain the yogurt): colander, cheesecloth, large glass bowl, large plate
line a metal colander with a large cheesecloth or other fine, smooth fabric (I use a pillowcase that I wash with detergent and bleach each time before use), and place that lined colander in a larger glass bowl. pour the yogurt into this contraption, fold the fabric over loosely over the top of the yogurt, and cover it all with a large plate, then place this in the refrigerator. drain the yogurt for 1-3 hours, until thickened to your preference. SAVE THE WHEY! it has many many uses (my friend Charles says "SAVE THE WHEY!" would make a great bumper sticker).

scrape the thickened yogurt into sterile containers, label with the date and refrigerate. this IS the same as the yummy, thick greek-style yogurt you can buy at the store -- but now, you can control how tart it is (longer fermentation = more tart yogurt), the fat content (obviously, by choosing skim, lowfat, reduced fat or whole milk) and the thickness. it's good stuff, PERFECT for my favorite frozen yogurt recipe (that's next)!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

strawberry/greek yogurt granita

1 quart best, ripest, reddest organic strawberries, washed, dried and hulled (green tops removed)
juice and zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup or more sugar, to taste (I like it pretty tart, so use a little less)
tiny pinch of salt

blend it all together in a food processor fitted with an s-blade. freeze it, taking it out every 45 minutes or so to beat it smooth (I use a flat whisk for this). eat it up. heavenly.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

out-of-town prep cooking for the next few days

I’m out of town for a few days and am notoriously finicky about my food (wow, what a surprise), so went shopping late this evening and have been cooking up what I (and the folks I’m staying with) will be noshing on the next few days. at some point tonight (when the chicken’s done roasting), I’ll take a break and go to sleep so I can finish up tomorrow. so far I’ve made:

homemade ranch-style beans (SO good)
roasted chicken, pretty simply done with olive oil, salt and pepper
crème fraîche (may use part of it to make a simple ice cream/sorbetto with puréed strawberries)

still need to make:

potato salad
chicken-noodle soup out of the chicken remainders

what else should I be making? I’m only here for a few days, but it’s always nice to leave one’s hosts with food.