Monday, June 28, 2010

A Mediterranean Feast

Joe and I were on the rooftop of the Met cerca 5 30pm when I threw out hummus as a dinner plan.  Then, the dinner menu turned into the pages of a children's book.  Because if you tempt Joe with hummus, he's going to want a pita to go along with it.  And if you suggest baking pita, he'll remember that he also fancies babaganoush on pita bread.  And with tabbouleh on the side.

And so, that is the beginning of a two hour journey to a Mediterranean Feast (Printable Recipes): Whole Wheat Pita, Lemon-Garlic Hummus, Babaganoush, and Tabbouleh.

Whole Wheat Pocketless but Puffy Pita Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Yields 8-10 pitas

2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat bran
3/4 cup garbanzo flour
1 1/4 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons vital wheat gluten

Combine the yeast, water, and honey.  Allow the yeast 10 minutes to bubble.  During this time, measure and mix the dry ingredients (except for the salt) in a large mixing bowl.  Then, add the salt and olive oil to the yeast.  Mix together slowly.  If it becomes to tough to stir, turn out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead gently.  I added about another 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour as I kneaded.  Place it into a oiled bowl and turn to coat evenly.  Let it be for about 50 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
Punch the dough down and divide it into 8-10 pieces.  Preheat the oven and baking stone to 475°F and roll the dough into disks no thicker than 1/4 inch.  Let them rest for 5-10 minutes and then bake for about 12 minutes until puffed and golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cover with a dish towel to help them deflate.

Lemon-Garlic Hummus
Prep time about 20 minutes if you are skinning the peas
Yields about 12 healthy servings

1 can chick peas
1/2 cup tahini
1/3 can of reserved chick pea water or tap water
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons garbanzo flour
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-4 cloves of garlic
salt and parsley to taste

Remove the skins and rinse the chick peas*.
Blend it all together.  Serve garnished with parsley.
*The skins are the part that make you fart.  So, removing them makes your digestive system quieter and the hummus creamier.  If you like the farting or just want to save time, leave them on.

Or babagannouj
Or roasted eggplant dip
Total prep time about an hour and a half
Yields about 10 servings

1 medium sized eggplant
1/4 cup tahini
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water
3 cloves roasted garlic
1 clove raw garlic
salt, pepper, and parsley to taste

Quarter the eggplant and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast the eggplant and whole garlic cloves for about 30 minutes.  Let it cool for at least 15 minutes.  Plop it all into the blender along with tahini, water, a little more oil, a raw clove of garlic and some parsley.  Blend until smooth.

Traditionally I've had tabbouleh with cous cous but in doing some light reading it is usually served with bulgar and lots of mint.  So, turns out what we made is a variation of a tabbouleh, but I can assure you that it was delicious nonetheless.  Without the grain, this dish is more of an Israeli salad and awesome.  Options include: diced red pepper, a clove of garlic, dash of cinnamon, coriander and mint.

1 cup (uncooked) quinoa
1 large cucumber
1 large (home grown) tomato
1/4 of your favorite type of onion
as much parsley as you can handle
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Start the quinoa in 2 cups of water.  Some leave the quinoa out until the water comes to a boil, some throw it in from the get go.  Either way, when your water is boiling and your quinoa is in there, turn down the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and let it cook for about 20 minutes or until all the water is gone.  It cooks very similarly to rice.
While the quinoa is cooking, chop your vegetables and juice your lemon.  Put everything into a big bowl.
Make sure the quinoa is cool before you stir it into the vegetables.  Season and serve!

And so that is how we got from 5 30pm at the Met to 9pm eating a Mediterranean feast!

I have some research to do on Pita pockets... I'll get back to you on that one.  With shakshuka and falafel and stuffed grape leaves.  Mediterranean feast round two is definitely on the to do list.  But first we need a break so that we don't turn into garbanzos.
- Sarah

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Egg Salad Should Not Be Feared

Egg salad just sounds weird. I'll admit - I hadn't tried it until about 6 years ago (yikes! okay so maybe it was a while ago, but now I feel old so lets pretend that's not so long) when miss Emily Ann, one of the most wonderful people on this planet, picked me up to go to a DMB concert in Saratoga.  We were rising seniors in High School.  This was going to be a great road trip.  And Em brought the snacks - they were typical high school fare: Cheetos, Tostitos, and...egg salad???!!!

It freaked me out.  Em was sitting there, happily dipping her chips in the egg salad, when I said "hm, if Em can do it, so can I."  And it was love ever since.

As someone who's keeping to a semi-vegetarian, mostly pescatarian (and sometimes just plain omnivorous, but that's only sometimes) diet, I love that egg salad is a viable sandwich option without being only veggies. It doesn't need to be creepy and smooth, either.  Celery adds a delicious crunch and keeping the mayo to a minimum lets the egg flavor shine - whatever that means.

Anyway, here's the recipe you'll need to make the perfect egg salad sandwich:

Egg Salad
Makes 2 sandwiches
(printable recipe here)

5 hard-boiled eggs (cold or room temp)
1 tablespoon mayo
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2-1 rib of celery, diced
salt and pepper to taste
optional (but recommended in any combination):
dash of curry powder
dash of paprika
dash of cayenne

Place the whole eggs in a mixing bowl.  I prefer to use 3 whole eggs and 2 whites  because the texture of hard-boiled yolks doesn't necessarily tickle my fancy, but that's entirely up to you.  Don't worry - when I'm at home I feed the yolks to the Boofer and the Doofer (my dogs, Breeze and Knight respectively), because yolks make their coat nice and shiny.  Here I feed them to the compactor, which is slightly less economical but it's two yolks, okay?  Give me a break.

Add in the rest of the ingredients and get to chopping and mixing with a fork.  Keeping the eggs whole at first allows you to keep chunks in the egg salad so it's not so smooth.  Refrigerate the salad until cold and then serve it on a slice of Sar's amazing sandwich bread (toasted if you're not bringing it to work!).  Adding a leaf of lettuce would complete the sandwich, but I ate all of our lettuce last night sandwich was 100% pure egg salad.  And, I'll say it.  It was "egg-cellent".

Disclaimer:  The egg salad sandwich photo is NOT of my case you were confused.  It's of a sandwich that Sar made weeks ago on another loaf of bread and with cucumbers.  But I'll have you know the egg salad was just as delicious that time as it was this time...and I gobbled it up so quickly this time there wasn't a moment free to take a picture.  I figured a Blackberry photo from work during lunch wouldn't cut it.


Loafing about...

Lil's egg salad is whipped up and only needs to be photographed and then posted.  Here is some light reading (Bubbles, Bread and Beer by Olivia Judson from for while you wait.
- Sar

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sandwich Bread Narrative

I have not been able to bake (nor post) much because of my summer class schedule.  This morning, I was in the middle of reading for my children's literature course and I decided to start some bread, even though I have enough reading and writing to keep me busy all weekend, why not break it up a little?  The thing is, I didn't waste time looking in any cookbooks.  I just took out the sourdough starter and got started.  This is what happened:

I measured 1 cup of sourdough starter and poured it into a bowl.  I looked at it.  The sourdough is not happy with our mistreatment lately.  Lil used it last week but I feel like it still knows that I neglected it a couple of weeks ago.  Maybe it's just my conscience.

So, I decided to get out the yeast too.  In a separate bowl I mixed 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon yeast, and 2 tablespoons warm water. While the yeast proofed I added 1 cup white whole wheat, 1/2 cup bread, 1/2 cup rye, 1/4 cup whole wheat flours along with 1 cup warm water.  Oh and 4 teaspoons of vital wheat gluten and 2 teaspoons salt.  The starter burped with delight.  This was getting exciting.

I added the yeast to the sourdough.  A tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, three tablespoons honey... and then I remembered something weird I had read in my dads "El Molino" cookbook.  In their basic sourdough bread recipe they called for some freaky things.  I figured, since I am not playing by any rules, I might as well try them.  They are the secret ingredients.  They are two things that I would never think to put into a loaf of bread.  In they went....

The dough was pretty wet but I waited about 1 hour before attempting to knead it.  I added in about 1 1/2 - 2 cups of white whole wheat flour in my kneading.  I am not kidding, the dough was real wet.  However, I didn't knead for more than 3-4 minutes until the dough was incorporated.  Then, I plopped it into a well-oiled bowl, did some more reading, went to yoga class.

Fast forward 2 1/2 hours.  The dough more than doubled.  I wasn't sure if I should make it into one loaf or two but I decided on going all in on one loaf.  That way, if it came out horrible it wouldn't feel like such a failure.  I oiled one bread pan let it rise again for about 45 minutes.  Then, I turned on the oven to 375 and put a cast iron pan of water in the bottom just as a brilliant idea struck me.  Why not a sweet honey-water wash to help some wheat germ stick to the top of our loaf?  I mixed up a little bit (but too much) water with some honey and sprinkled wheat germ on top.  I put the extra watered down honey into my Kava tea.

I put the bread in before the oven was up to temperature and let it warm with the oven.  I only left the water in there for 20 minutes.  It baked for a total of 40 minutes.  It cooled.  I ate a slice.  Success!  The secret ingredients are phenomenal!  So good, in fact, that I made a little peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
My dad eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch everyday.  Alongside a tall glass of coffee and a cup of yogurt.

This is what I made:

Happy Father's Day (and thanks for the El Molino cookbook) Dad.


P.S. Stay tuned for Lily's famous egg salad sandwich recipe!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Whole Wheat Rye Pizza Crust

It was Sar's birthday a few weeks ago (I KNOW I'm a terrible post-er...I'm busy...please try not to judge me) and, although I didn't make her a birthday loaf, I gifted her something a bit more lasting and still bread related, obviously.  I gave her a pizza stone! I'll be honest - I'm definitely going to enjoy the pizza stone, too, especially if we continue to make delicious pizzas like the one we made May 22nd.  Please do not check your calendars and think about how long ago that was.  Please.

This pizza was epic.  The battle we fought against the smoke detector - also epic. For some reason our smoke alarm detects not only smoke, but also heat in general and apparently our frustration, as well.  The worst part is that the alarm is 9 feet up on the ceiling and Sar and I are both short individuals.  There was no getting up there to dismantle the thing, so we had to resort to swatting at it with a towel while jumping wildly in the air.  Eventually I defeated the alarm by rigging a fan on high stacked on top of R2D2, our human-sized, portable pseudo-AC.   He's yet to pay rent, but he certainly played a solid role in defeating the smoke detector.  Anyway, the battle was won, but I'm guessing the war is not over.

Back to the pizza.  The pizza stone really made the difference in the crust - it was both crunchy and chewy, and it held up against the toppings even after sitting on the counter for a bit.  Dennis, Sar, and I downed a whole pizza - not too shocking, but definitely a positive indicator.  The combination of whole wheat and rye flours in the crust was fantastic.

Here's the recipe:

Whole Wheat Rye Pizza Crust
Makes 2 medium sized pizzas

1 cup dark rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon maple sugar (which we actually had! if you don't, syrup is fine)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

What to do:
In a large bowl, combine the water, maple sugar or syrup, and yeast and let sit for about 10-15 minutes until the yeast gets foamy and active.  In the meantime, mix the flours and salt in another bowl until they're evenly combined.  When the yeast are nice and lively, mix in oil and then start adding the flour a bit at a time until you can no longer mix the dough in the bowl.  Stop adding flour if you notice the dough is getting dry or stiff - it should be soft, but not quite sticky.

Turn the mixed dough and any loose flour that hadn't quite combined onto a clean surface and knead for 5 minutes until the dough is well combined and elastic.  If it still feels dry while you're kneading, drip (and I mean one drop at a time) some water onto the dough and knead it in.

Once you're done kneading, clean out one of the bowls and oil it lightly.  Place the dough into the bowl and cover with a towel.  Allow the dough to rise until doubled.  This took about 45 minutes for me in a warm kitchen - it could be a bit longer, depending on the kitchen temperature.  After it's doubled, dump the dough onto the kneading surface again and gently deflate it.  Knead again for 1 minute and then return the dough to the bowl to double again.  Bread is a waiting game, what can I say?

After the second rise, you can then turn the dough out onto a surface and get it ready to be topped.  It's pretty easy to handle, as pizza dough goes, so be careful not to stretch it too thin.  That's exactly what I did here and we had to split it into two halves and then halve one of the halfs and make an accidental calzone.  I'm telling you - things get weird when it's too thin.

[Bigger than our oven]

While you're shaping your pizzas, pre-heat the oven (with the pizza stone in there if you have one!) to about 525 or 550 degrees F.

Top the pizza with our red or white sauces (recipes here ) and some fresh mozzarella, basil, or any other toppings you'd like.  We used broccoli florets sauteed with minced garlic.

[Half of that beast being topped by Sar's beautiful hands]
Transfer directly onto the pizza stone as best you can.  Having a pizza peel would make this a million times easier.  It would have also helped us avoid this:

[Strangely-shaped blob]

Or this...

[Accidental, yet delicious, calzone-ish thing]

Bake for about 15 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges, as seen above.

Warning: I suggest having at least 4 people around to eat this pizza because you will finish it.  Or maybe make sure you don't have anyone around, if you're feeling greedy :) 

Happy birthday, Sar.  You ask for it, you get it.