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me_in_paris_198That’s me, on a trip,  sitting in a Paris restaurant.
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Just finished reading Eight Hundred Grapes: A Novel by Laura Dave. I bought it because it’s about Sebastapol, a cute little town in California wine country, in Sonoma County, although it’s on the fringes of the more mainstream wineries. A daughter of a friend of mine recently moved there, and when I visited her a few months ago, I was charmed by the cute downtown and the small village feel to it. Anyway, although the backdrop of the entire book is about the winery, the wines, the fields, the processes of wine making, it’s more about the family relationships. It seems that everyone (mom, dad, 2 sons, wife of one, a daughter [who is the protagonist] and her fiance and his ex-girlfriend) is in the midst of extreme turmoil. I swear, when I think about authors as they toil away in their aeries writing, they compile a big long list on a huge whiteboard of all the different awful things (divorce, affairs, fistfights, love lost, love gained, screaming and yelling, public drunkenness) they can make happen in one book and they pick and choose, yet make every effort to pack in as many of them as they can. No one in this family is immune from high levels of emotion and action or acting out about something or many things. I enjoyed the book despite those character flaws which occur on nearly every page. You have compassion for each one of them. Yet they’re a close family nonetheless. I haven’t read any of Laura Dave’s other books, but I suspect this one will be a winner. It’s not on any best-seller lists, but amongst book club readers, I believe it’s a strong contender.

When one of my book groups gathered last week, we discussed a bunch of books that we might read for our next Sept-August “year.” We select them all, for the whole year, in advance. On the list of 18 possible ones (we’ll read nine only) was an old classic – I guess you could call it a classic – Plainsong – by Kent Haruf. Since it was published some years ago I dropped by the library, and sure enough, they had a copy. I came home and devoured it in one fell swoop. What a story. Tender, yet harsh in some respects. It tells the story of a group of small-town people (a teacher – a man separated from his wife, but he has the 2 boys who both play prominent roles in the book; a single woman caring for her aging and Alzheimer’s driven father; a young teenage girl who should have known better, but got pregnant; a couple of very old brothers, both single, struggling along with their ranch). All this takes place in a small town in eastern Colorado. I laughed. I cried. I wanted to reach through the pages to some of these characters to give them a hug. It’s a winner of a book. I may have to read more of Haruf’s books. The prose is spare, yet you can feel the anguish, the pain, the love, the caring. What a book!

You may have heard about this woman, Marina Chapman . . . she was kidnapped at about age 4 in Columbia. She was eventually discarded in the jungle. This, just a few days after her capture. No humans. No help. She learned to survive in the jungle and was taken in by a large Capuchin monkey family. She had no language, much, except sounds she learned amongst the monkeys. She lived for some years in the jungle, all alone. Eventually she saw some humans and followed them, was made a slave. Terribly treated, nearly starved, and was being primed as a prostitute, but she escaped that too. Her story is harrowing, and yet uplifting. She did escape eventually, in her mid-teens and grew up from there with a kind, loving family in Bogota. Her adult daughter helped her to write the stories – most of which she wanted to forget. The book is The Girl With No Name: The Incredible Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys by Marina Chapman and Lynne Barrett-Lee. National Geographic highlighted her story awhile back, and she appeared on some morning TV shows when the book came out in 2014. The author is writing a sequel, about Chapman’s life after she was rescued. I’ll be watching for that as this book leaves you hanging – only knowing that she was rescued and went to Bogota.

Just finished reading a very unusual book, certainly not on everyone’s radar – Once an Arafat Man: The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life by Tass Saada. It’s about an angry young Palestinian. He felt wronged; he felt despised; his father didn’t understand him. He escaped his family’s plan for his life and became a PLO sniper. He killed many people. He killed Israelis and was elated. He was sent to the United States and big plans were in store for him, he thought. And then he discovered a new life as a Christian. It didn’t happen overnight, and he had many questions along the way. His family disowned him, yet he persevered. He met an American woman, married her, and had children. And he became an activist for change. It’s a fascinating story. He now speaks around the world, for peace and understanding about the Palestinian problem(s). It’s quite a book, and I’m glad I read it.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Uncategorized, on June 30th, 2016.

spoon_tomatoes

 

My friend Darlene grows wonderful tomatoes every summer. She shared a little batch of these tiny guys. Aren’t they beautiful? They taste like sugar!

Posted in Appetizers, Desserts, Veggies/sides, on June 29th, 2016.

moms_pear_pie

It’s been decades since I made this pie. And it’s SO easy to prepare (well, IF you have frozen pie crusts standing by). You can buy Bosc pears year ‘round now, so anytime could be pear pie season.

A few weeks ago I made an astounding pear cobbler I wrote up about just a few days ago. I don’t exactly post my recipes in order as I make them, but that pear cobbler made me think about a recipe I hadn’t made for decades, my Mom’s pear pie. I had to go hunting for the recipe – it was in my little orange binder that I used when I first began to have enough recipes to save. Some of the recipes in there are in my mother’s handwriting, though this one was not – my mom must have kind of dictated it to me. It’s hardly a recipe, so I had to write it a bit better for posting here.

The pear cobbler is long gone – I served it to a group and it all disappeared except for one serving that’s in my freezer. But it certainly did resonate in my palate, telling me to eat more pears. Then, in the interim I either read or heard from somewhere that when you’re baking pears, the best ones to use are Bosc. Well, it was too late; I’d already bought 4 Bartlett pears with the thought that I’d make this pear pie. I also bought a package of 2 Marie Callender’s pie crust shells (frozen). I know they’re good; good enough for this pie, for sure. I don’t bake pies very often – always because making the crust is just such a nuisance. That will forever be changed now that Marie’s pie shells are available. Whoopee! I have a number of pies I’d like to make, some that date back to the 60s that I’ve never bothered to include here on my blog. I’d also like to update two pies that are old favorites.

crust_with_raw_pearsSo, this pie. I don’t know the history of it, other than I know it was my mother’s mother’s recipe. My grandmother’s name was Isis, and she was a very good baker. She and my grandfather lived all their lives on a farm in the central valley here in California – in Stanislaus (pronounced STAN-is-law) County, near Modesto. My grandmother cooked 3 meals a day for the entirety of their marriage, I imagine. There were years when there was almost no money (my mother went to junior college, then worked and HAD to send money home to her parents because they might have lost the farm altogether). She had 2 older brothers and 2 sisters, and I expect they may have sent money home too if they had extra during those skim depression years. I have a number of recipes from my grandmother Isis. I recently bought some apricots, thinking I’d make an old time recipe for an apricot cobbler. That recipe might have belonged to my great aunt. Not sure.

Anyway, this pear pie is just so easy to make. I had 4 Bartlett pears (use Bosc if you have them) and after peeling them I just sliced them directly into the frozen pie crust. See photo above. They were quite juicy – maybe too juicy. Then I mixed up the “filling,” which was merely sugar, a little bit of flour, an egg and a jot of vanilla. That was stirred up and topping_pear_piedrizzled all over the top of the pears. See photo at right. I used a spatula to kind of help the topping/filling to cover most of the pears. Then I dotted the top with butter and into a hot oven it went for about 10 minutes. Then the temp was turned down to 325° and baked for another 35-45 minutes, until the filling was golden brown and set.

Letting it cool was essential, and it held onto the heat for quite a while. My mother almost always served this with whipped cream, but you could also use vanilla ice cream. I intended to sprinkle the top of the pears with cardamom, but forgot in my rush to get the topping on the pears. I did use almond flavoring rather than vanilla, however.

Photo here shows the pie with butter dotting the top, ready to go into the oven. pear_pie_ready2bakeI thought this might have been a Betty Crocker recipe, but no. I just searched for it and this is nothing like any of Betty’s pear pies. I’d guess it’s a depression-era recipe because it calls for no other ingredients like sour cream or even any spices. The sugar mixes with the egg and the presumption is that any of the juices from the pears will firm up with the flour added into the filling/topping. The eggy mixture does slip down between the layers of pears and surrounds the pears.

I enjoyed 2 slices, then gave the rest of it to my neighbors, who have 2 little girls with hungry appetites. Both girls do swimming and water polo – the mom is a full time “bus” driver for the girls.

What’s GOOD: if you’re looking for straight-forward pear taste, this is it. Nothing else, really, to distract your taste buds – pears, sugar, a little flour, an egg, flavoring and butter dotting the top. That’s all there is to it. It’s very juicy – if you use Bosc they may not be quite so much so. I actually liked it plain with no topping at all.

What’s NOT: really nothing – it’s easy to make if you have already made pie  shells, or will buy frozen ones. It took about 10-15 minutes to put it all together and stick it in the oven.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Mom’s Pear Pie

Recipe By: My Mother’s recipe, handed down from her mother.
Serving Size: 8

1 pie crust (9 inch) — unbaked
4 whole pears — Bosc, preferably
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract — or almond extract
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Peel the pears (if using Bartlett it’s not necessary to peel, but it will look nicer if you do), quarter, core and slice the pears into the pie shell. The pears should gently mound the pie shell (they shrink during baking).
3 In a small bowl combine the sugar and flour, mix well with a fork. Crack the egg into the middle, add the flavoring (almond or vanilla extract) and mix well. Using a spoon or fork, dab the mixture all over the top of the pears. There may be a couple of spots where pears aren’t covered, but do your best. Using a spatula, gently try to spread it over all the filling.
4 Cut tiny pieces of the butter and sprinkle over the filling.
5 Place the pie on a metal baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to 325° and continue to bake for another 30-45 minutes or until the top is golden and the filling looks set. Cool. Serve warm or at room temp with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. If desired, add a tiny jot of almond extract to the whipped cream instead of vanilla. You can also sprinkle the top of the pears with about 1/2 tsp. of ground cardamom (not in my mother’s recipe).
Per Serving: 266 Calories; 9g Fat (30.4% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 32mg Cholesterol; 155mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on June 25th, 2016.

pear_cobbler_hazelnut_biscuits

Cobblers don’t always look sensational, but don’t let the appearance fool you. This is one fabulous, must-make-this kind of homey, comforting dessert. Get ye to the store for some pears and do it!

So, even though I promised myself I wouldn’t buy any more cookbooks, last year I succumbed to a fruit dessert one called Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, and More by Cory Schreiber. I think cobblers are just about my favorite dessert, so to have a cookbook that’s all about such desserts, well, I just couldn’t NOT buy it. I’ve posted two other recipes from this book already, a Peach, Blackberry & Almond Crisp, and a Stone Fruit Tea Cake made with peaches. The crisp was my favorite of the two, but now with this one, I’m not so sure.

My mother used to make a pear pie, a creamy filling (sour cream, I think) with fresh pears. I loved that pie. I should make it – I just don’t make many pies. Any day I’d prefer a cobbler or a crisp. I’m a sucker for ordering one at restaurants if they have it on a menu. But to tell you the truth, I think I’ve been disappointed with every one I’ve ever ordered out. They never use enough fruit. And, without fail, they make them too sweet for me. Anybody else noticed that? Some had good-enough toppings, but restaurants are in the business of making money, so they may cut corners (using a pre-made streusel, for instance, or just plopping a piece of flaky dough on top). But when you make it yourself, you know what goes into it and it’s made with love! Of course.

pears_sugaredI’d purchased a bag of 12 pears at Costco. What was I thinking? Oh my goodness. And yet, I needed to make a dessert for a gathering at my house, and it called for 10 large pears. Bingo! They’d ripened on my kitchen counter for a few days (and I lost one that had gotten bruised, I think). The day I needed this dessert the pears were to perfect ripeness. Yippee. That’s one of the problems with cooking/baking with pears – you can’t predict when they’ll be at their peak, because they’re almost never ripe in the bins at the grocery store. I used 11 pears – but I don’t think you’d want to use any less than 10 – pears wilt/sink/flatten when baked since they’re filled with some water/juice.

So, first you cut up the pears and combine them quickly in a bowl with brown sugar, cornstarch and spices. Don’t go off to talk on the phone – you don’t want the pears to turn brown . . . then they were turned into a large greased baking dish (9×13). Do use ceramic or glass, not metal. Then you mix up the biscuits.

What can I tell you – oh gosh, these biscuits are divine. First you whiz up some toasted and skinned hazelnuts (along with sugar, flour, baking powder and salt) in the food processor until it’s a fairly fine meal. I used the processor to add the butter (the recipe says to use your fingertips or a pastry blender) but I took the lazy way out. Just don’t over-process it once you add the butter. The dough was crumbly and even though the recipe indicates such, I added another tablespoon of cream so it would barely come together. It’s really a very dry looking biscuit. Then you roll it out to a rectangle, cut it into 10 square shapes. Those are slightly overlapped (that’s what the “shingled” means in the recipe title) in the baking dish. The biscuits do completely fill the baking dish with only a tiny bit of fruit peeking out around the edges. See photo. pear_cobbler_biscuits_unbaked

So there, at left is the photo of the cobbler before it was baked. The biscuits are brushed on the tops with a tablespoon of heavy cream. You could add a sprinkling of crystallized sugar on top if you’d like that look. It’s baked (partly with foil on top) and is done in about 55 minutes at which time the biscuits are gloriously golden brown and the filling is bubbling around all the edges. You remove the baking dish to cool, but serving this warm is just about heaven-sent.

pear_cobber_bakedThe book’s author says this is best eaten the day it’s made – but if you absolutely must have some left overs, have it for breakfast, she says. Okay, I did that. It’s not overly sweet, so with a bit of half and half poured over it, oh gosh, it was delicious for my breakfast. If you do have any of it left over, leave it out at room temp (in other words, do NOT refrigerate it) and just cover it with a tea towel. You can also bake this some hours ahead, reheat it in a 300°F oven for about 15-20 minutes. There at right is a photo of the baked cobbler, all golden brown. My mouth is watering since I made this a couple of weeks ago and it was completely gone the next day – I gave some to friends and kept ONE serving which is now in my freezer. Although you have biscuits for 10, when I put it out for people to serve themselves, nobody took a whole biscuit – so you could make the biscuits smaller, or just know that it will likely serve more than 10 people.

What’s GOOD: everything about this cobbler is good. Absolutely everything – the pears, the bubbling sauce, the hazelnuts in the biscuits, the texture of the biscuits. Oh my. It’s a keeper. Do save this recipe, my friends, and make it soon. If you use Bartlett pears, you don’t have to peel them, by the way.

What’s NOT: only that she says it’s not good to keep it past the day it’s made. I thought it was pretty darned good the next day, but that’s what’s in the recipe. Just so you know. Make a half a recipe in an 8×8 pan if you don’t want enough to serve 10-12.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pear Cobbler with Shingled Hazelnut Biscuits

Recipe By: Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson
Serving Size: 10-12

1 tablespoon unsalted butter — to grease the baking dish
PEAR FILLING:
2/3 cup light brown sugar — packed
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
10 large pears — ripe, but firm (see notes)
HAZELNUT BISCUITS:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup hazelnuts — toasted and skinned
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 ounces unsalted butter — cold, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon heavy cream — to glaze the top of the biscuits

NOTES: All pears require peeling, unless they’re Barlett. If your pears are small, use more. The pears reduce at least a third during baking.
1. Preheat oven to 375°F and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Grease a 9×13 baking dish (not metal pan) with the butter and set aside.
2. FILLING: Rub brown sugar, cornstarch, salt and cardamom together in a large bowl (pressing any lumps).
3. Peel, core and slice the pears (or you may cut the pears into small chunks) into the sugar bowl and add the lemon juice. Stir periodically as you prepare the pears so the flesh doesn’t turn brown. Pour the fruit into the prepared baking dish, scraping out all the juices.
4. BISCUITS: Combine flour, hazelnuts, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely chopped. Then add the butter and pulse until the butter is the size of peas, then transfer to a bowl. (Alternately, you can chop the hazelnuts by hand and combine with the dry ingredients, then use your fingertips or a pastry blender to cut in the butter until the size of peas.) Pour in the cream and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened. (I had to add another tablespoon of cream to the dry mixture in order to get it to come together.) The dough may be crumbly and appear very dry, but it will come together.
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently press the dough together to form a rectangle, then roll out in a rectangle measuring 8 x 15″, adding more flour to the board as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, each measuring 4″ x 15″, then cut each long piece into 5 rectangles (to equal 10 altogether). Just slightly overlap the biscuits on top of the pear mixture in a shingled pattern. The biscuits should completely fill the 9×13 pan. Brush the tops with the 1 T. of heavy cream.
6. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 35 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden and the filling is bubbling all around the edges. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or just unadorned.
7. STORAGE: This cobbler is best eaten the day it’s made, but leftovers can be covered with a tea towel to be eaten the next day. Reheat in a 300°F oven until warmed through.
Per Serving: 430 Calories; 25g Fat (49.6% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 49mg Cholesterol; 306mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Veggies/sides, on June 21st, 2016.

roasted_carrots_platter

Can I just say, this was one of the best-est dishes I’ve eaten of late. I feel like I’d like to devour that entire platter. What is it? Multi-colored carrots roasted, then tossed with a unique kind of dressing that contains raisins, hazelnuts and thyme. It’s serve with Greek yogurt and sumac flecked pita chips (at left on the platter).

Some weeks ago I attended a cooking class where this was prepared. I took pictures, but they didn’t come out all that well, so lo, and behold, another blogger, Adde of thisishowicook.com made this lovely dish and kindly has let me share HER photo she took when she made it. I’ll be making this sometime soon, then I’ll take my own photos. Thanks, Adde.

This masterpiece isn’t hard. But it does take a bit of time to do – the carrots need to be prepped (easy) then tossed with oil and spices and they’re roasted for about 30 minutes. Also not hard, but then you want to make the pita chips slathered with some oil and peppered with sumac and baked/toasted in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Then, the mixture you eventually toss with the carrots must be prepped – raisins, nuts, thyme, sumac cooked in a bit of butter. Once the carrots are done, you toss them with this raisin mixture and you platter them. Now, I think Adde did it according to the original Sunset recipe – yogurt on the bottom, then the carrots and pita chips. Our instructor put the carrots down first, then plopped Greek yogurt on top. Your choice as to how you do it.

spiced_carrots_yogurt_pitaWhat I will tell you for sure – this dish is off the charts. The carrots become soft and succulent and take on such a lovely sweetness from the caramelization going on during the roasting. The combo of raisins and hazelnuts is brilliant – I’d never have put those two together, nor combine them with carrots! Then you complement them with the yogurt and pita chips. Oh yum.

This can be served as an appetizer, using the sumac pita chips as your scoop, but it would be best to have small plates and forks as the carrots might be a bit difficult to eat. Or, in the class I attended, the chef served it as a side dish with chicken, which was also very lovely.

What’s GOOD: Oh my gosh. I just couldn’t get enough of this – probably it’s the sugar/sweet taste of the carrots, but complemented by the raisins and hazelnuts just makes this dish unctuous.

What’s NOT: well, you can’t throw this together in 30 minutes – it takes a bit longer. Hopefully you have hazelnuts on hand, and Greek yogurt AND the sumac. And pita bread rounds and multi-colored carrots. For me, this will require a special trip to the grocery store to make sure I have everything.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Roasted Carrot Platter

Recipe By: Sunset Magazine, 12/2014
Serving Size: 8

5 tablespoons olive oil — divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt — divided
2 1/2 teaspoons ground sumac — divided
4 pita bread rounds — 6″ across
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound carrots — medium sized, peeled and sliced diagonally 1/4″ thick and 2 to 3″ long
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup hazelnuts — very coarsely chopped roasted
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves — divided (fresh)
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt, full-fat
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley — coarsely chopped

NOTES: Buy the multi-colored carrots if you can find them – they make for a beautiful platter.
1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, combine 3 tbsp. oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. sumac. Cut pitas in half and split them horizontally. Brush all over with sumac oil. Stack, cut into 4 wedges, and arrange on 2 rimmed baking sheets.
2. Bake pita chips, turning once, until deep golden and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool.
3. Increase oven to 450°. In bowl used for pita oil, combine 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. sumac, the lemon zest, coriander, cumin, and remaining 2 tbsp. oil. Add carrots; toss to coat. Spread evenly on 1 rimmed baking sheet. Roast carrots, stirring once, until browned at edges, 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool.
4. Cook butter in a medium frying pan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, 5 to 8 minutes. All at once, add raisins, hazelnuts, 1/2 tsp. thyme, and remaining 1/2 tsp. sumac. Cook, stirring, until raisins puff, 45 to 60 seconds. Let cool.
5. In a bowl, combine yogurt, 1/4 tsp. salt, and remaining 1/2 tsp. thyme.
6. Spread yogurt on a platter. In another bowl, toss carrots with nut mixture and parsley. Spoon over yogurt and serve with chips. Add more salt to taste. Or, alternately, spread the carrots on the platter and then spoon the yogurt on top, sprinkling a little zaatar on top, and surrounding the edges with the zaatar pita chips you’ve made.
Make ahead: Through step 5, up to 5 hours; chill yogurt and carrots separately. Bring carrots to room temperature, about 1 1/4 hours, before continuing.
Per Serving: 332 Calories; 21g Fat (56.1% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 25mg Cholesterol; 568mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, on June 17th, 2016.

roasted_chickpeas_zatar

Oh, I want to just reach right into that picture and grab a small handful. Don’t you? They look oiled and maybe even mushy, but trust me, they’re crispy and just tossed with a tiny bit of oil and all the spices just before serving.

A few weeks ago I went to a cooking class – with a French chef – although she made a dinner of what she called Mediterranean food. Mostly I’d say the dinner was Moroccan. She cooked with a lot of zaatar, sumac, baharat and a tiny bit of fennel pollen. And one dish that was accented with apple cider molasses, which I’d never even heard of before. You’ll have the recipes eventually. All except for the pilaf she made, which was okay, but I think my own recipe, for Mujadara is better. Mujadara is a Lebanese version of pilaf. Hers was called a lentil pilaf with baharat (an herb & spice mix) and then she sprinkled some very pricey fennel pollen on top. I don’t think I got any on my portion – at least I couldn’t see any.

So, back to these chickpeas. Start off with 2 cans of garbanzos (chickpeas), drained, rinsed, and then you must let them rest and dry for an hour or so on paper towels – to DRY. Then the beans are spread out onto rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment – don’t crowd them – you’ll need at least 2 trays to do this right. They they’re roasted for quite awhile. If you’re using both trays in one oven then switch them back and forth and front to back so they all get dried and toasty. It takes about 35-45 minutes depending on your oven. Taste one now and then – you don’t want to to taste like corn nuts – that’s too much baking. But you definitely want them crispy all the way through. I’ll try this on convection bake and see how they do. Definitely don’t let them burn – that would be a total waste of them! Once they’re finally done, you need to remove a few of the skins that will have fallen off – you don’t want to serve those. The roasted beans are then tossed with a tablespoon or two or three of extra virgin olive oil and some Zaatar.

zaatar_componentsNow then, the Zaatar. I think I’ve posted a recipe for it before, but I can’t find it, if I did. At this class we got Caroline’s recipe for it, which is in the recipe below. It’s a combination of sumac, dried thyme, dried marjoram, dried oregano, roasted sesame seeds and salt.

You can see the parts of the mixture at left – Caroline made a big batch of it because she used it in several dishes. You can buy already-prepared Zaatar (also written as za’atar and zatar). Penzey’s has it, and at some better markets you’ll likely find it. You DO need sumac, though, and that’s not exactly something everyone has. In the photo, the sumac (the red stuff) is the largest component. You may find some zaatar without sumac, but I truly don’t think it would be authentic. Sumac has a kind of lemony taste – tart – but altogether delicious. It’s used in lots of Mediterranean cooking, but mostly from the southern side, like Syria, Morocco and Egypt. I’d guess sumac bushes must grow profusely in that climate.

The recipe below makes more than you’ll need for this appetizer – you can halve the recipe, or just use the rest of it for something else within a few months. You can prepare the zaatar a few days ahead of time.

What’s GOOD: loved the crunchy texture and the combo of the zaatar on them. They’re addicting, just so you know . . .

What’s NOT: nothing other than you’ll need to source the zaatar somewhere or make your own, in which case you’ll need sumac. Don’t try to make this without the sumac.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Roasted Chickpeas with Zaatar

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Caroline C., Califrench Cuisine
Serving Size: 6

28 ounces chickpeas, canned — rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons Zaatar — (see recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon salt — plus a little
ZAATAR:
1/4 cup sumac
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, roasted
2 tablespoons dried marjoram
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon sea salt

NOTES: The Zaatar recipe makes more than you’ll need for this recipe – make half a recipe if you don’t think you’ll use it for other things.
1. Spread rinsed and drained chickpeas on paper towels to dry for at least an hour.
2. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place the chickpeas on the pan.
3. Bake in the center of the oven for about 45-50 minutes, stirring and rotating them every 10 minutes. Taste a chickpea to see if it’s drying enough. If they’re crunchy, they’re done, but they should be crunchy all the way through. Do not over bake, however. Taste as you go.
4. Remove from oven and remove any loose skins that have broken loose during roasting.
5. Place hot chickpeas in a bowl and drizzle with the oil, Zaatar and salt. Serve hot or warm.
Per Serving: 197 Calories; 6g Fat (27.1% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 575mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, on June 13th, 2016.

edamame_hummus

Healthy, but you’d never know it. Rich and creamy. Slightly green because edamame are green. No dairy in it at all – just oil and seasonings. Divine.

A few weeks ago I spent Mother’s Day with son Powell (and family) at his wife’s sister Janice’s home. They did a fabulous full-on Indian dinner catered by a great restaurant here in my neck of the woods called The Royal Khyber. Janice’s husband, though English by birth, is Indian and he’s on a first name basis with all of the staff and owners at the restaurant. When we go there we usually just tell Julian to order for us. He always orders lamb vindaloo (one of his favorites). I was particularly enamored with the ground lamb appetizer skewers. Am not sure what they were called, but they were tender, juicy and fabulous. I ate some of everything.

Janice had made this hummus with edamame which she served with a variety of fresh vegetables for dipping. She said she’d tried several similar recipes and finally settled on this one – I think it may have come from the food network, though I’m not sure. In any case, I really, really liked it, so asked Janice for the recipe, which she kindly sent.

I made this in the late morning and had that little plate full for my lunch, though I didn’t quite finish all the hummus in that bowl. I have heaps left for another day. I particularly liked it with the Persian cucumber slices, and with the more tender interior of the celery hearts. The last few bags of celery I’ve purchased have been particularly chewy and stringy. I buy organic celery because the stuff contains so much water and I want it to be non-influenced by pesticides, etc. I had to de-string several of the outer stalks and even then they were tough. Throw that bag out except for the very center.

The hummus – well, just to recap – usually it’s made with garbanzo beans – and it would be yellow. This, made with edamame was made from cooked and frozen beans (Trader Joe’s), merely defrosted and plopped into the blender along with all the other ingredients and whizzed up. I added more oil and water, and more salt and lemon juice, so I added those notes to the recipe below. I didn’t exactly measure the edamame – I think the 12 ounce bag contained about 2 cups, so I used most of it. A half a pound of cooked edamame is about 1 1/2 cups, exactly what was needed for this recipe.

I’m sure that tomorrow it will taste better once the flavors have melded together. It was so refreshing and filling. Amazingly filling, I thought. It probably would freeze okay too, just in case you need to do that. This is a really great recipe and it makes me feel good to know that I ate a very healthy lunch today. Thanks, Janice!!

What’s GOOD: the flavor, first and foremost. Very clean, tasty, creamy and filling. I particularly liked it with the cucumbers, but any veggies would be fine, even cauliflower. I don’t know about broccoli, but maybe. Carrots for sure, and celery. It might even be good in a sandwich with some lettuce, tomato and sliced mild, white cheese. It might ooze, however, just so you know.

What’s NOT: nothing I can think of – easy to make, healthy for sure. It makes a lot, so reduce the quantity if you are feeding a small group or your small family. Am sure it will keep for a several days.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Edamame Hummus

Recipe By: From a family member, Janice G
Serving Size: 10

1 1/2 cups edamame — (green soy beans), 1/2 pound = approx 1 1/2 cups
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest — freshly grated
3 tablespoons lemon juice — or more if needed
1 clove garlic — smashed
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil — or more if needed
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley — chopped fresh
2 teaspoons flat-leaf parsley — for garnishing the serving bowl
Suggested serving: Sliced cucumbers, celery, carrot sticks and olives

1. If the edamame is raw, cook it in boiling water for about 4 minutes.
2. In a blender combine the tahini, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt, parsley, spices and the edamame.
3. Drizzle in the oil and continue to blend until it’s the consistency you prefer. Add more water or oil and/or lemon juice to taste. The mixture should be soft, not overly thick. Taste for seasonings [mine needed more lemon juice, salt and oil].
4. Sprinkle with more parsley when serving with vegetables of your choice.
Per Serving: 117 Calories; 9g Fat (66.6% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 151mg Sodium.

Posted in Lamb, on June 9th, 2016.

quick_easy_lamb_moussaka

Do you happen to have a package of ground lamb in the freezer? Here’s a quick and easy dinner if you’ve also got some zucchini and cottage cheese. Oh, did I lose you there at cottage cheese? You’ll never know, hardly, that there’s cottage cheese in the topping. I promise.

If you’ve ever had moussaka, made the long, laborious way (making a sauce and with a lamb stew kind of thing, plus eggplant), then you know the deliciousness of it (and it’s a lot of work). It’s kind of like Moussaka is to Greece as lasagna is to Italy. They’re similar, although lasagna has pasta in it. This dish has almost no carbs, just meat, vegetables and cheese and dairy.  The limited carbs come from the cottage cheese (some), the yogurt or sour cream (some) and the tomato sauce (which is pure carbs because tomatoes are a fruit), though there’s only an 8-ounce can of the sauce in the whole casserole.

The other day I was looking up a recipe I did for my blog when it was brand-spanking new in 2007. And I started off the first paragraph talking about the dish being a casserole. And then (9 years ago) I swear the word casserole, in food circles, was an anathema. As if it was something bad that only your ancient great grandmother would make. I’m glad to see that casseroles are making a comeback – in fact I bought a cookbook a few years ago all about new-fangled casseroles.

zucchini_layer_moussakaThis casserole is a revision of a recipe I posted here, years ago also – Easy Ground Beef Moussaka. It’s a winner of a quick recipe, and one that I’ve made dozens of times over the years. You briefly cook the zucchini and put it in the bottom of a 9×9 baking dish, then you cook meat with onion, garlic and spices, then add in some canned tomato sauce. That goes on top of the zucchini. Then you make the super-easy topping (cottage cheese, yogurt or sour cream, egg, Feta, and Parmesan) and it’s spread on top with another sprinkling of Parm on the very top.

meat_cheesy_layer_moussakaSo THIS RECIPE, I just revised it a bit by using ground LAMB. The zucchini is the same (see picture above), the filling is the same (although I added in some different herbs and spices – I added some dried mint to the meat mixture which is different) and the topping is identical (see the uncooked dish at right). I should have invited somebody to come for dinner, because it made plenty for about 5 people, I think. A salad on the side and maybe some bread is all you’d need for a complete meal. I didn’t make a salad or have bread – the serving of this dish was ample for my dinner.

easy_moussaka_bakedThere at left is the dish just out of the oven. I actually turned on the broiler element for about 3 minutes to get those nice crusty bits on top. But the topping is all composed of dairy and a little bit of cheese, so you don’t want to overdo the broiling.

The dish comes together in about 30 minutes, I guess, maybe a little bit more, and it bakes for 30 minutes, so you could have it on the table in about an hour.

The lamb I had was not very lamb-y tasting. Why is that? I think it was Colorado lamb, not New Zealand. I don’t know if there is a difference. But the casserole was just wonderful anyway. Maybe it’s because I grew up on casseroles. My mother used to make them frequently. The original recipe for this came from one of my mother and dad’s friends, so it’s a old-old recipe.

What’s GOOD: well, I like casseroles to begin with. This is an easy one-baking-pan dish, though you will dirty up a couple of pans doing the prep for this. I love the combo of the ground meat layer, the zucchini and then the Feta-salty-creamy topping with the melted Parmesan on top. It’s comfort food, I’m sure. And I liked this one made with lamb rather than ground beef.

What’s NOT: if you don’t like lamb, well, you won’t like this. Most people like Feta. And I promise, even if you’re a cottage cheese hater, I doubt  you’d notice. You can barely see the curds of cottage cheese in the topping, but it’s blended in with crumbles of Feta and you could easily think that’s what you were eating.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Easy Ground Lamb Moussaka

Recipe By: one of my own, old recipes, revised
Serving Size: 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large zucchini — cut into 1/4″ coins
LAMB LAYER:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion — finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic — minced
1 pound ground lamb
1 tablespoon oregano — Greek if available (don’t use Mexican)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dried mint flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt — or to taste
8 ounces tomato sauce
2 tablespoons red wine
Salt and pepper to taste
CHEESE LAYER:
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese — use full fat
1/2 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or sour cream
1 large egg
1/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — for sprinkling on top of casserole

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a large skillet heat the olive oil, then add the finely chopped onion. Simmer for 4-6 minutes until the onion is wilted. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute. Scoop the onion mixture out and set aside.
3. To the same skillet add the ground lamb (usually there is sufficient fat – add a jot of oil if it’s particularly lean) and break up as it cooks through. Spoon out any fat and discard. When all the pink is gone, add the onion mixture back in, then the seasonings, tomato sauce and red wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.
4. Meanwhile, in another skillet, heat olive oil. If the zucchini is really large, cut each one in half lengthwise and then slice. Add to skillet and cook over medium heat until the zucchini has taken on some golden color, stirring occasionally. Do not cook the zucchini through as it will cook further during the baking. When it’s cooked enough, pour the zucchini into 9×9 square baking dish (ceramic or glass).
5. Pour the lamb mixture over the top of the zucchini and spread out, completely covering the zucchini.
6. In a medium bowl combine the cottage cheese, yogurt, Feta, egg and one portion of the grated cheese. Stir vigorously until the egg has completely disappeared in the mixture. Carefully pour this mixture over the meat mixture, trying to get it all the way to the edges – but without picking up any of the meat. Use an offset spatula if you have one.
7. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top of the dish is golden brown. You may use a broiler at the last if you’d prefer, but watch it carefully as it will burn quickly.
8. Allow to cool at least 5 minutes, then serve portions, trying to keep the square portion intact. Serve with a green salad and bread on the side.
9. As it sits, the zucchini lets loose of some of its water, so If you have leftovers, try to drain off that liquid so the casserole isn’t water-logged. Reheat in a low oven for about 20 minutes, or heat individual servings in the microwave, but cover it as it will spatter.
Per Serving: 314 Calories; 23g Fat (65.8% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 77mg Cholesterol; 533mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on June 5th, 2016.

cheesy_cauliflower_soup

If you’ve never made cauliflower soup, maybe this will entice you to try it. The recipe came from Pioneer Woman, on one of her recent shows. I think she suggested it be served with a toasted cheese sandwich, or maybe that’s what I thought about as I was making it. But no, I didn’t make a sandwich, as much as I would have liked to!

After watching Ree Drummond make this soup, I immediately bought a fresh cauliflower and then something came up and I didn’t end up making the soup that day. Or the next. Or the next. But a week later the cauliflower was still in perfect condition so I made the soup – it makes a LOT – and froze about 5 single portions and still have two containers in my frig to have this coming week.

The soup does dirty-up two pans – one for the soup and one for the cream sauce. I considered just thickening the soup in the big pot with the cauliflower, but there IS a reason you don’t do that – milk doesn’t like to be boiled – it separates. So, you prepare a cream sauce that’s on the thin side, but still it is a thickened base, and it gets poured into the already cooked and pureed soup and at that point the soup is done. You simmer it for just a very few minutes – not enough time for the milk to separate.

cauliflower_cajun_seasoningBacon features in this recipe – chopped up and rendered, then reserved to be sprinkled on top when it’s served. That’s what’s visible, barely, in the middle of the soup bowl in the photo. There’s onion in there too. The cauliflower is chunked up – you don’t have to be meticulous about it – you could cut it up if you’d like, rather than bothering with florets. Most of it gets pureed anyway, so the shape doesn’t really matter here. Cajun seasoning is needed – in fact I think the soup would be a tad bland without it – I used Slap Ya Mama brand. Now I can buy the seasoning at my grocery stores, but back a few years ago it wasn’t available in the West, so my friend Joan bought some when she visited family in Texas. See photo at right.

It may be hard to see, but I liberally sprinkled the seasoning all over the raw cauliflower – you could just as easily add it into the cooking pot – I don’t think it matters. If you don’t have Cajun seasoning, you can use this recipe from the Food Network – it’s a combo of a bunch of herbs and spices. Just don’t make a lot of it unless you plan to use it up – I’ll never use up that can before the flavors are shot – you just use a bit more once the mixture is 6-8 months old. That’s what I did here. I know I used more than 1/2 teaspoon, but use your own judgment. There was some heat in the soup, but not very much – just enough that you knew it was there!

As for the pureeing – Ree likes chunky soup, so she uses an immersion blender, but only whizzes it a little bit so it leaves plenty of texture. I mostly pureed it but left just a little bit of texture. You can also pour it all into a blender – it will take several batches as this makes about 15-16 cups of soup. The cream sauce is made and poured into the simmering soup, then you add the Jack cheese, parsley and sour cream and cook briefly – just enough to heat it through and it’s done. Ready to be scooped into a serving bowl with the bacon, more cheese and parsley added on top. As always, the soup is enhanced if you make it, cool it and chill it overnight. When reheating it, be gentle – don’t let it boil.

What’s GOOD: What can I say about cauliflower soup?  It’s not going to knock your socks off, but it’s delicious. Creamy, and even though it has a bit of half and half in it, it’s not all that unhealthy – 24 grams of fat in an ample serving. I had it for dinner, nothing else with it, just the soup. It was very satisfying and the bacon hits a nice note of texture and saltiness. It’s not overly thick, but it does have some little bit of texture to it. Altogether good soup.

What’s NOT: nothing, really – you do dirty two pans – that’s about the only down side I can think of!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

Recipe By: Ree Drummond, 2016
Serving Size: 10

4 thin slices bacon — cut into small bits
1 white onion — finely diced
1 head cauliflower — broken into pieces or chopped
1/2 teaspoon Cajun spice — or more to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth — (2 quarts)
4 tablespoons butter — (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup sour cream
3 cups Monterey Jack cheese — grated, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley — plus more for serving

1. In a large pot, fry the bacon pieces over medium-high heat until crisp. Drain the bacon on a paper towel and set aside. Pour off the grease and return the pot to the stove.
2. Add the onions to the pot and cook over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cauliflower, sprinkle with the Cajun spice and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and cook, stirring, until the cauliflower starts turning golden brown, another 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
3. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture slightly, or all the way if you prefer. (Or use a regular blender; just don’t fill too full.)
4. In a separate saucepan or skillet, melt the butter. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk to form a paste. Pour in the milk, then continue cooking until it thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the half-and-half.
5. Pour the white sauce into the soup. Turn the heat to medium high and bring back to a simmer for just 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, stirring in the cheese and sour cream until the cheese is fully melted. Stir in the parsley.
6. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve with a little extra cheese, a sprinkle of bacon and a sprinkle of parsley.
Per Serving: 298 Calories; 24g Fat (63.8% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 63mg Cholesterol; 352mg Sodium.

Posted in movies, on June 4th, 2016.

The Man Who Knew Infinity (film).jpg

This might just be the first time I’ve ever written a blog piece about a movie. And I suspect that this one won’t be around all that long as it may not appeal to many. Hence I’m telling you you just have to see this movie.

It’s a biography about a real-life man, Srinivasa Ramanujan, born in southern India in 1887, who had a gift of math, theorums, formulas, but had very little training. Dev Patel (what a fabulous actor he is) plays the part. Here’s just one small part of the body of his work.

During his short life, Ramanujan independently compiled nearly 3,900 results (mostly identities and equations). Nearly all his claims have now been proven correct, although some were already known. His original and highly unconventional results, such as the Ramanujan prime and the Ramanujan theta function, have inspired a vast amount of further research. The Ramanujan Journal, an international publication, was launched to publish work in all areas of mathematics influenced by his work. (from Wikipedia)

Finally, Ramanujan is invited to go to Trinity College (part of Britain’s prestigious Cambridge University) to study. He thinks he’s there to get his works published, but soon he has to confront the staid, old-school professors who insist he must do the “proofs” (remember that from algebra?) to prove his formulas. He’s snubbed because of his cultural differences, and he’s not treated very well. Jeremy Irons plays his mentor at Trinity and he’s a curmudgeon. Ramanujan doesn’t understand him and vice-versa, yet they develop a relationship anyway.

G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons) was considered a math genius himself and he went out on a limb to invite Ramanujan to England. I think both of these men deserve an Oscar. At the end of the movie there are a few short lines that explain what happened later on – one of them is that Ramunajan’s theories are still in use NOW to work on black holes. Imagine!

I don’t want to give away the story. I cried at the end – you may do so also. Just won’t you please, go see this movie.

Posted in Breads, on June 1st, 2016.

provencal_olive_fougasse

Know how to pronounce it? Foo-ghass. A bread. A sort of chewy flatbread – not the thinnest type, as we often see in restaurants as a base for a semi-pizza kind of thing. No, this is an actual bread, maybe about an inch thick. This one studded with black olives (cured type).

When my friend Joanne invited me for lunch a few weeks ago I didn’t know she was going to prepare lunch at her home, so it was a special treat when I spotted this bread sitting on her kitchen counter and learned we would have some of it for our lunch. Oh, was it good. Chewy, still almost warm from the oven.

The recipe came from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, Around My French Table: More than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. The dough is mixed (preferably with your stand mixer and the dough hook – makes it really easy). The batter/dough is allowed to rise for a couple of hours, then you turn it over inside the rising bowl, stirring and deflating it, cover, then you simply put it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, or the next day, you kind of pour it out onto a work surface, roll it out into 2 rectangles, put them on rimmed baking sheets, sprinkling it with flour as you move it. You cut those holes into the dough (all the way through) and allow the bread to rise again out on your countertop (covered). They’re glazed with a bit of oil and sprinkled with kosher salt and you poke it all over with a fork. Then bake it in a hot-hot oven for 10 minutes, turn it and reverse the baking sheets, and bake another 10 minutes and it’s DONE. How easy was that?

The original recipe called for both oil packed sun dried tomatoes, rosemary and olives. Joanne only used the olives plus rosemary from her garden. I read that bacon is a very common addition to fougasse when you eat it in France. But, you can also use some dried fruit and nuts (not with the olives) to make it a bit different. What’s really nice about this is you make enough for 2 breads – you can bake one and leave the other one for another day or so in the refrigerator and bake the 2nd one later. Joanne and Larry had taken the first loaf to a neighborhood gathering and she said everyone raved about the warm bread. I raved too when she baked the 2nd one for our lunch. It was wonderful with the Nicoise salad. You need only plan to let it rise the 2nd time for about an hour or so and bake for 20 minutes. Again, thank you, Joanne!

What’s GOOD: what’s there NOT to like about freshly baked yeast bread. I’m a sucker for fresh bread anytime, anywhere. This one was lovely with the salad lunch. My friend Joanne made this one, but it’s easy and I’ll definitely remember this for some upcoming evening when I’m entertaining. It’s so EASY!

What’s NOT: well, you do have to plan ahead – this needs to be refrigerated at least overnight and allow for two rising times. One at first when you mix it up, then again before you bake it. That’s the only down side to making any kind of yeast bread. But this one’s worth the effort.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click on link to open recipe)

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Fougasse

Recipe By: From Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, Around My French Table
Serving Size: 12

1 2/3 cups warm water — plus 2 teaspoons, divided (105°F to 115°F)
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
5 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil — divided, plus more for brushing
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup oil-cured black ripe olives — pitted, quartered
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed — drained, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary — minced
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
Coarse kosher salt

1. Pour 2/3 cup warm water into 2-cup measuring cup. Sprinkle yeast, then sugar over; stir to blend. Let stand until yeast dissolves and mixture bubbles, 5 to 7 minutes. Add 1 cup warm water and 4 1/2 tablespoons oil.
2. Mix flour and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt in bowl of heavy-duty mixer. Pour in yeast mixture. Attach dough hook; beat at medium-low speed until flour is moistened but looks shaggy, about 3 minutes. Increase speed to medium; beat until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and climbs hook, about 10 minutes (dough will be like sticky batter).
3. Mix olives, tomatoes (if using), rosemary, and lemon peel in medium bowl. Add to dough and beat 1 minute. Using sturdy spatula, stir dough by hand to blend.
4. Lightly oil large bowl. Scrape dough into bowl. Brush top of dough with oil. Brush plastic wrap with oil; cover bowl, oiled side down. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled, 1 to 2 hours.
5. Gently turn dough several times with spatula to deflate. Re-cover bowl with oiled plastic; chill overnight (dough will rise).
6. Sprinkle 2 large rimmed baking sheets with flour. Using spatula, deflate dough by stirring or folding over several times. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Place 1 piece on floured work surface; sprinkle with flour. Roll out dough to 12×8- to 12×9-inch rectangle, sprinkling with flour to keep from sticking. Transfer dough to sheet.
7. Using very sharp small knife, cut four 2-inch-long diagonal slashes just to right of center of rectangle and 4 more just to left of center to create pattern resembling leaf veins. Pull slashes apart with fingertips to make 3/4- to 1-inch-wide openings.
8. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover dough with towel. Let rest 20 minutes. Beat 2 teaspoons water and 1 tablespoon oil in small bowl to blend for glaze.
9. Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 450°F. Brush fougasses with glaze; sprinkle with coarse salt and pierce all over with fork.
10. Bake fougasses 10 minutes. Reverse position of baking sheets and turn around. Bake fougasses until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to racks; cool 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Per Serving: 244 Calories; 10g Fat (37.0% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 591mg Sodium.

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