Wednesday, March 25, 2009


As a late addition to the channa masala meal, I decided to make naan. With the help of the food blog search Firefox addon, I found two promising recipes: from a nice lady named Andrea, and this one from a nice lady named Stef. In the end I used Andrea's ingredients (halved) and Stef's cooking method. It worked, I suppose. It's super tasty, to be sure, but I'm not sure if it tastes of naan. Unfortunately the channa masala leftovers had already been put away, so I didn't taste the two together, but I'll report back after lunch tomorrow.

about 1 1/2 cups AP flour (start with 1 1/4 c. and increase as needed)
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. sugar
1 t. yeast
1 small egg
1/4 c. plain yogurt
1/4 c. milk (Andrea's recipe called for skim milk, but all we had was 2%, it seemed to work fine)
1-2 t. canola oil

Stir together dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and wet ingredients in a small bowl (or measuring cup). Add wet to dry, stirring to combine. Add more flour as needed until you reach dough. Knead for a few minutes-- it's not a lot of dough so you can just do it in the bowl or your floured hands, no board required. Lightly oil the bowl, plop the dough into it, swirl it around and flip it to cover it with oil on all sides. Cover with a damp towel, and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled. (In this cold and rainy weather I put it in the oven with just the light on.) When risen, lightly knead/punch down. Heat a lightly oiled cast iron skillet to medium. Pull off golfball-sized lumps of dough and flatten/stretch it between your hands as thin as you can get it-- it'll shrink and plump up as soon as you let go, like pizza dough. Plop (that word is so perfect for this dough!) the stretched bits into the skillet. Let them fry for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until they reach desired brown-ness. Eat.

Channa Masala

In case you're wondering, Megan does exist, she's just been busy. So have I, but I seem to end up making dinner more often because I don't have afternoon class... Anyways, onto today's dinner!

This is actually an adaptation of a delicious chicken tikka masala recipe I got from Cook’s Illustrated. Without the chicken and with chickpeas instead it becomes more like channa masala, so that’s what I’m calling it. I almost completely re-wrote the chicken tikka masala recipe after I made it the first time, quadrupling the garam masala, using tomato paste instead of tomato paste and crushed tomatoes, adjusting the cream, adding more cayenne, etc. (That’s why I have no qualms about re-posting a recipe that you’d have to pay for online—trust me, this version bears relatively little resemblance to the original.) It’s fairly quick and easy, aside from cooking the brown rice, which takes about 45 minutes. If you have chicken legs/thighs (or lamb!) on hand, marinate it in some yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and ginger, then bake it until cooked through and throw it in instead of the chickpeas. (Then it’s chicken tikka masala again…) Either way, this is scrumptious. Makes the house smell amazing too!

2 T. canola oil

1 small onion

2 medium garlic cloves, chopped finely

3-4 T. garam masala

2 t. grated fresh ginger

1 t. cayenne (omit for the faint of heart)

1 t. dried cilantro

3 T. tomato paste

1 1/2 c. water or low salt chicken broth and omit salt

1 T. sugar

1/2 t. salt

1/3 c. heavy cream

1 can chickpeas, drained

2 c. cooked rice

fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)

In a medium saucepan, heat canola oil, then add onion and garlic. Cook over medium-low heat until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add garam masala, ginger, cayenne, cilantro and tomato paste, and stir to combine. Continue stirring and cooking for 2 minutes. Add water, sugar and salt and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Stir in heavy cream and return to a simmer, then add chickpeas. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then serve over rice (long grain brown or basmati). The longer the chickpeas are in the sauce the better they'll be, and the leftovers are excellent the next day.

For a nicer presentation, omit the dried cilantro and send the sauce through a blender before adding the chickpeas. Garnish each plate with fresh cilantro and decorate with a sprinkling of cayenne.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Oui, oui, le quiche!

I wanted to make something tasty with some spinach that's beginning to think about getting soggy in our fridge, and after I remembered a bag of dried forest mushrooms in the cabinet quiche seemed like the obvious choice. When I've made quiche with fresh mushrooms in the past it always turns out soggy, no matter how long I cook the mushrooms down first! Hopefully the dried ones will solve that problem. (Post-baking edit: it did!) I used 5 eggs this time because although they are supposed to be "medium" they were quite tiny! Gruyere or Swiss are traditional cheeses for quiche; I used a small block of Gruyere and a small block of Jarlsberg, which is a Norwegian Swisslike soft cheese. I don't have a tried and true recipe for homemade crust yet, so I used one from our local co-op-- no hydrogenated oils and no ruined quiche either! You can use the basic porportions of this recipe to make any kind of quiche, just remember to cook down water-heavy veggies first or go for dried versions instead.

Spinach and Forest Mushroom Quiche
1 pie crust
1 handful dried forest mushrooms, snipped in small pieces
3 large handfuls fresh spinach, braised in garlic and olive oil*
1 3/4 c. shredded cheese
3 large eggs (or 5 small!), beaten slightly
1 c. milk
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Sprinkle veggies and cheese in your crust, then combine the egg, milk, and s&p and pour it over top.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, turning once, or until golden brown on top and a knife inserted in the middle leaves a clean slit. Easy!

*To braise: Heat about a t. of olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add thinly sliced garlic (1 or 2 cloves) and cook on medium heat for a couple minutes. Then add spinach, a handful at a time, and stir occasionally until it is wilted and dark green, a few minutes. Remove from heat. Salt lightly if desired, and try not to burn your fingers sampling it from the hot skillet like I did.

Braising is my absolute favorite way to prepare spinach. So, my afternoon snack was an egg over easy with braised spinach on toast. Yum!

Stew and Soda Bread

Happy belated St. Patrick's Day! I made the soda bread from an Epicurious recipe (where else?), link at the bottom. And stew is Irish, right? I made this up as I went along, threw it all in the Crock Pot, and it was delicious! There's nothing like a wonderful meal that cooked all day while you're in class. Perhaps we'll move on soon from winter comfort foods to spring foods, but for now I'm still enjoying casseroles and stew! (Besides, who wants to eat stew in August when it's 95? Not I.)

Irish-inspired Beef Stew
1/2 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
dash of olive oil

2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 large button mushrooms, chopped
3 cloves garlic, whole or halved
2 dashes of olive oil (and/or bacon grease and/or butter)

4 red-skinned potatoes, chopped
2 or 3 bay leaves
a few heavy pinches of dried thyme
black pepper to taste
enough water to barely cover

2 forkfuls AP flour

Brown the first two ingredients together, add to Crock Pot. Brown next group of ingredients, add to Crock Pot. Add everything else except the flour, and cook until potatoes are soft-- a few hours. A few minutes before serving, ladle out some of the liquid into a cup, mix in the flour until no lumps remain, and stir the flour mixture back into the stew. Allow to cook for 5 minutes more, or until stew has thickened. Serve with Brown Butter Soda Bread and a good stout (more details on the beer end soon, I think).

(Blogger's being weird with the pictures today, I don't know why this one is rotated...)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Red Sauce

Warning: A wonderfully fragrant kitchen will result from this recipe. Do not attempt if you fear the adoration of your family and friends.

This is essentially the tomato sauce that my parents make, but it is one of those "little bit of this, little bit of that" recipes that will never be the same twice. I've noted approximate amounts for the ingredients, but I never measure them. It's easy to scale up or down with the tomatoes you have available, and it's great as a pasta or pizza sauce, or for anything else you need a tomato-base for, like veggie soup. I often make a large pot of it and freeze the rest to use later.

The Basics:
  • olive oil (1-2 T.)
  • minced or sliced garlic (3+ cloves)
  • oregano and basil (a big handful of each dried, or about 2-3 times as much fresh)
  • good tomatoes-- about 12 fresh paste/plum tomatoes (skinned, seeded and chopped or blended), or a large can of crushed or diced tomatoes. We like the Muir Glen canned tomatoes-- both the fire-roasted and the basil-added.
  • a splash or two of red wine or 1 grated carrot (for sweetness)

  • minced onion (about 1 small)
  • rosemary (fresh herbs are best but dried are fine)

  • chopped mushrooms, bell pepper, summer squash/zuccinni, more carrots (a handful or two added to the sofrito turns this basic marinara into a hearty meal of a sauce)
  • red pepper flakes (for an arrabbiata sauce)
  • a few rashers of bacon, cooked and crumbled (If it's not too salty, reserve a few T. of the bacon grease to use instead of olive oil for the sofrito.)

Step 1: Sofrito
Heat the oil over medium-low heat, add the garlic/onion and optional carrot/veggies, and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Crushed garlic burns easily, so add it with the herbs or stir constantly. When veggies are softened, add the herbs and cook and stir a few minutes longer, until fragrant--the sofrito, not you.

Step 2: Deglaze
At this point add the wine (if using) and stir to deglaze the pan of any browned bits. Add the tomatoes (they work for deglazing too if you left out the wine).

Step 3: Simmer
Simmer for a minimum of 10 minutes, but longer is better. Adjust herbs to taste if needed.

To thicken a thin sauce in a hurry, throw in a spoonful or two of tomato paste. Otherwise, simmer with the lid off to reduce. When using diced tomatoes you may want to blend the sauce, otherwise it will remain chunky.

Penne Bake

It's been cold and rainy here for the past four days, so casseroles have been the meal of choice. We wanted something with pasta and sauce, but baked, and so Penne Bake was born. On a related note, check out: for a scientific discussion of tubular pasta behavior (thank you Google).

1/2 lb. whole wheat penne pasta (or other tubular pasta such as ziti or rigatoni)
approx. 2 cups pasta sauce, homemade or from a jar (my recipe is here)
1/2 lb. ground beef, thawed
1 sm. onion, finely diced
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1/2 lb. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1-2 T. olive oil
Optional: a handful of mushrooms, 1/2 bell pepper, a few cloves of garlic, a couple zucchinis, a small head of broccoli, a handful of spinach, or other seasonal veggies*, in bite-size pieces

Cook noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 and:
  • Saute onions in approx. 1 T. olive oil over medium heat until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add ground beef and brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. (If you're using frozen beef, just use lower heat and a lid to help the beef thaw in the skillet as you go.)
  • For veggies: In another skillet heat another T. of oil and saute veggies until softened or browned, as you like. Garlic is recommended here. I used mushrooms in ours, which I sauteed in olive oil and a little butter until they had lost most of their moisture and were slightly browned.
  • Heat pasta sauce over gentle heat until hot.
Multitasking makes this recipe go more quickly:

Layer ingredients in a large casserole dish, lasagna-style. Don't forget a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the dish to help prevent sticking. The order we used was (sauce), pasta, meat, mushrooms, ricotta, mozzarella, sauce, repeat. End with a cheese layer on top.

Cover your dish with a lid or aluminum foil so it doesn't dry out. Cook until the edges of the casserole are bubbly, about 20-30 minutes. (Less if all of your ingredients are still hot.) If desired, remove the cover for the last 10 minutes to brown the cheese. Enjoy! (There'd be a picture of the finished product if it hadn't been devoured so quickly...I think we all burned our tongues.)

*A short note on eating in season: In the US you can look up what veggies are in season in your state here: . It all depends on climate; in NC we get the best vine-ripe tomatoes in August, while in CA they can grow them almost all year. Eating in season makes it easier for you eat locally-grown foods and support your local farmers and economy. Many farmers' markets run year-round, and you may be surprised how many things grow even in winter! (Google "farmers' market" and your town to find one in your area.) Our local farmers' market has lots to offer, and you can find local and seasonal produce at any grocery store if you look carefully. Enough from my soapbox...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Chicken Pot Pi

Happy Pi day everyone! We thought we would celebrate this gloriously geeky day with none other than chicken pot pi. As you can see it turned out beautifully and tasted even better. The recipe I used was loosely based on the one found here. The changes I made are as follows:

-About 1lb chicken thighs were instead of breasts
-I didn't have any Sherry so I cut it out (though some white wine would have been nice)
-I used a pre-made pie crust
-Since I like more crust in my pie I baked it in two layers, there is a middle layer of crust that I let get nice a crisp before adding the top layer of filling and crust

Well there you have it. Here's hoping your pi day was as fulfilling as ours!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Bastard Baguette

So with a little help from Epicurious, I made my favorite-savory-bread-yet today. (Favorite sweet bread is cardamom; I'm sure I'll make that again soon too.) It was easy and quick in actual prep time (a total of 2 hours rising time, which isn't too bad either). So, without further ado:

Epicurious' One-a-day Baguette, plus or minus a bit:
  • 1 heaping teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt

In a large bowl sprinkle yeast and sugar over warm water and let stand until foamy. Stir in 2 cups flour, then salt and remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding flour as needed to keep from sticking. Oil a large bowl, roll the dough around in it to coat, and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes.

Punch down dough and form into two long slender loaves, about 15 inches long each. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and let rise again, this time for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 475 F and fill a pan on the lowest oven rack with boiling water. The steam from the pan will help the bread develop the characteristic crunchy crust.

Once risen, make 3 or 4 diagonal slashes on loaves with a sharp knife and place on upper or middle oven rack, above the water. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a cooling rack. Do not cut for at least 10 minutes.

These loaves turned out amazingly. Perfectly golden brown, wonderful soft and fluffy interior with a crunchy crispy baguette crust. Simply heavenly. Okay, that's enough text, time for more pictures!

Just out of the oven...

And another close-up because I just can't resist...

Technicality note: because my loaves were not super-long and skinny they are actually more of bâtards, which are wider than baguettes. (Bâtard is French for bastard or hybrid.) Random historical linguistics factoid: The circumflex (e.g. â) in French orthography denotes that in an earlier incarnation of French spelling there was an s following that letter.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Church of Nutters

We believe in Jesus Crisco, who sits at the right hand of Our Lard the fatter.

Lemon Meringue...Cookies?

Face it, you thought I was going to say pie, right? Well that's exactly what I was thinking when I came up with this crazy idea. Let's start at the beginning shall we? Back before Valentines day I was scoping out cookie recipes (to make for V-day for all my friends/loved ones) and I came across a nifty idea on a random food blog page that taste spotting had suggested. The idea was this: take a box of cake mix, forget the directions on the back, add one stick of butter and one egg and voila you have cookie dough! What an awesomely cheap way to make a ton of cookies to give out to everyone! What's better is that I was stuck with the idea to make red velvet cookies with cream cheese frosting for the ultimate in heart-felt (and shaped) cookie goodness. Well, upon purchase of my red velvet cake mix I had to get a box of lemon cake mix too as there was a buy-one-get-one-free sale at the Teeter. The red velvet cookies were wonderful and until this past week the lemon cake mix box sat alone just begging to be made into something tasty. I got to thinking that though lemon cookies would be good they needed something...more. Lemon meringue pie is a classic diner delight not to mention one of my Dad's favorite kinds of pie, so why not make lemon meringue cookies? (I asked myself). Why not, indeed! And so began the great cookie experiment. Below you can see the results and they were quite successful if I do say so myself.

For cookies:
1 Box lemon cake mix
1 1/4 Stick butter softened
1 Large egg

Mix all of the above together and let chill till firm and rollable. Other recipes only call for 1 stick of butter but I found that the dough is a bit too crumbly for my liking so I upped the butter and this seemed to give me the kind of dough I wanted.

For Meringue:
(note, this is my take on 'soft meringue' from my Betty Crocker cookbook)

4 egg whites
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. water
4 tsp corn starch

1. Put sugar, corn starch and water in a sauce pan over medium heat.
2. Stir constantly until it thickens.
3. When it begins to boil, let it do so for about a minute then take it off the heat and stick it in the fridge.
4. When your stabilizing agent (what you just created with the corn starch) is cooled put your egg whites in a medium bowl with the salt.
5. Whip egg whites until soft peaks form.
6. Spoon in what now looks like thick syrup a little at a time and continue beating your eggs until you have nice stiff peaks.
7. Spoon into piping bag with whatever tip you feel like using.

When this is all said and done things should look something like this:

Now for the actual baking.
1. Preheat oven to 300°F
2. Roll out dough and cut cookies in whatever shape you fancy
3. Decorate with meringue. Feel free to pile them high as the meringue will shrink a bit when it cools.
4. Bake cookies for 15 mins or until meringue turns nice and golden brown and cookies look done on bottoms.

If you end up with extra meringue (like I did) you might want to try this:

1. Line baking sheet with parchment(like you don't do that anyways right?)
2. Spoon out meringue into a nice thick circle onto the sheet
3. Bake at 250°F for about an hour, turn off oven and let the meringue cool completely.
4. The result is something akin to a sponge or angel food cake that is oh so delicious topped with some warm berries.

Other thoughts/notes:
The reason that these are cooked 'low and slow' is because the meringue is rather delicate and will burn. I have to say I was surprised how well this all turned out as everything from the temp to the bake time was just guess work on my part. If I were to make these again I would love to line little mini muffin tins with the cookie dough and fill them with the meringue. I think the effect would be something like a cookie-tartlet crossed with mini lemon meringue pie. If you end up trying this recipe or get inspired by it please feel free to post your thoughts and ideas. Feedback is always welcome.