Home Education

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spring Is Here Orzo Salad

We had two inches of snow on Monday, but today it is 80 degrees. The sun is fabulous, and my legs are happy to be wearing shorts. I wanted something summery for lunch today, but since it's early March, the produce hasn't quite caught up with my gustatory desires. So, I made this orzo salad with packaged/preserved items in my refrigerator and pantry. It was very tasty and really hit the spot.

1 cup orzo pasta
1 15 oz can chickpeas
2 green onions, chopped
15 kalamata olives, chopped
8 slices refrigerator pickles, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tsp dried oregano

Cook orzo according to package instructions; salt water generously. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Rinse and drain chickpeas; add to hot skillet. Season with kosher salt. Shake occasionally to avoid burning.

Meanwhile, add crumbled feta to a medium bowl. Chop onions, olives, and pickles, and place in the bowl.

Drain pasta and add to bowl along with the browned chickpeas. Sprinkle oregano and 2 tbsp olive oil over the mixture, then stir to mix everything together. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and possibly more oregano or olive oil if it's dry.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sugar pumpkin

This chocolate chip pumpkin bread is very, very yummy. I made it with a sugar pumpkin I got at the farmer's market. One sugar pumpkin will get you enough puree to make two of these loaves, and you'll have a little left over.

To get the puree, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut your sugar pumpkin (or pie pumpkin, as they're sometimes called) in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Reserve seeds for pumpkin seed-roasting! Oil a cookie sheet and place the pumpkin halves cut-side down. Bake for about an hour or until the skin appears to be bubbling up from the pumpkin meat and the cut sides are browning. Allow to cool until you can stand touching them and peel off the skin. Run the pumpkin through the food processor, and then pour into a fine mesh strainer. Allow to strain for as long as you can stand. The more liquid you get out, the better it will be.

Chocolate chip pumpkin bread
from Kitchen Sink

1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree, homemade or canned
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup sour cream (full or low fat)
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup semi- or bitter-sweet chocolate chips
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, stirring just until moist. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into prepared loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

Last rites of summer pasta

This very tasty pasta represents the last throes of summer produce here at Chez Bogas. A few weeks ago, faced with an empty Saturday, a half-pint of my beloved sungold tomatoes, and a pot of squirrel-eaten, freeze-shy basil on the porch, I decided to make a pesto carbonara. Accompanying the eggy pasta were slow-roasted tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, and fresh basil.

The tomato-roasting method I used came from Smitten Kitchen. The tomatoes were chewy, acidic, and delicious, and the slow-roasting made the house smell wonderful.

Slow-roasted tomatoes
from Smitten Kitchen

Cherry, grape or small Roma tomatoes
Whole gloves of garlic, unpeeled
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 225°F. Halve each cherry or grape tomato crosswise and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the cloves of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake the tomatoes in the oven for about three hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but with a little juice left inside–this could take more or less time depending on the size of your tomatoes.

Pesto carbonara with slow-roasted tomatoes and pine nuts

8 oz spiral pasta
4-6 tbsp pre-made pesto
1/2 cup slow-roasted tomatoes
1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1 egg
Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil
Salt and pepper

Cook pasta per directions. Drain, but reserve pasta water. Fill a heat-proof bowl with hot pasta water to warm it. Dump water, then crack egg into the bowl. Add the hot pasta immediately and stir well. Mix in pesto and add a little pasta water. Then mix in slow-roasted tomatoes and pine nuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with fresh basil and parmesan.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Extraordinary pizza dough!

This was my first month participating in a new online community I've joined called Daring Bakers. Every month, we're assigned a new baking challenge, and everyone posts about it on the same day. They don't seem to care much about skill level, otherwise I wouldn't have gotten in. It's just a nice way for me to cut my teeth on some new baking techniques.

Challenge #1: Peter Reinhart's Basic Pizza Dough, which is not so basic and involves letting the dough rest for 24 hours and tossing the dough like a real pizzaiolo. I was able to handle the 24-hour rest like a champ but the pizza tossing was a little more challenging. :)

As you can see, I'm not actually tossing it. Katherine was there to help; she was a better pizza-tosser than I was, but I must admit that neither of our pizzas really ever got airborne.

I chose to top the pizza with a ricotta mixture made with homemade cheese, cream, and parsley (first time making ricotta; it turned out okay) and roasted beets. It wasn't the most delicious combo in the world (not to mention the fact that Katherine doesn't really like beets, and I had wooed her over to the house to take pictures of me tossing dough by promising her delicious pizza), but the crust really shone through. Just like the New York Times chocolate chip cookies, this pizza dough is worth the effort.

I did have a little trouble. Having followed the flour and liquid measurements to a tee (or so I thought), I was surprised that my dough turned out unworkably sticky. I had to add at least an additional cup of flour to even work the dough. This doesn't seem to have affected the outcome, but it was kind of frustrating at the time. I wish I had seen 101 Cookbook's post on this same recipe, as she features weight measurements, which are more precise for baking. I'll use those next time. I'm also now realizing that I may have used Active Dry Yeast instead of Instant Yeast. Woops.

The good news is I have three extra dough balls waiting for me in the freezer!

Here is the word-for-word recipe, for posterity.

Basic pizza dough
Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Katherine and I proudly displaying heart-shaped pizza #2.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Noodle kugel

Noodle kugel
from Smitten Kitchen

1 pound wide egg noodles
8 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 pounds full-fat cottage cheese, creamed or large curd
1 1/2 sticks melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
Dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Parboil the noodles (five to seven minutes).

In a very large bowl beat eggs until fluffy. Add the sugar gradually, then the cottage cheese, butter and vanilla. Stir in the drained noodles.

Pour into a 9×13-inch pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until kugel is set.

Honey-roasted winter root vegetables and pot pie

My parents were visiting last weekend, and most of our activities centered around eating, as usual. We made a big break-the-fast dinner the first night, as my dad observed Yom Kippur, that included chicken, kugel, green beans, corn, and brownies. We ate at Margaret's Cantina and Neal's Deli for lunch, Crook's Corner for dinner, and Weathervane for brunch. And we made a big farmer's market meal featuring roasted pork shoulder with apples and turnip greens, purple hull peas, pumpkin bread, and honey-roasted winter root vegetables.

We had tons of leftovers, and I used the extra root veggies to make a vegetarian pot pie with whole-wheat biscuit dough. It was delicious!

Honey-roasted winter root vegetables
Adapted from Cooking Light

3 medium-size sweet potatoes
1 bunch turnips
1 medium butternut squash
1 medium yellow onion
1 daikon radish (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup honey
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel and coarsely chop all vegetables so you have approximately one-inch chunks. Place in a large bowl and add olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Coat a lipped cookie sheet with non-stick spray. Bake for 35 minutes or until vegetables are soft, stirring every 15 minutes to cook evenly.

Vegetable pot pie
Adapted from Vegetarian Times

3-4 cups leftover vegetables (I used winter root vegetables)
1/4 cup white wine
1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup milk
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper
1 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp butter
3/4 cup buttermilk (I used one tbsp vinegar and enough milk to make one cup)
2 tsp honey

Coat a pie plate with non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large saucepan, heat the wine over medium-high heat. Add vegetables. Simmer for three minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add 1/3 cup whole wheat flour, and stir constantly for two minutes. In glass measuring cup, combine stock and milk. Add slowly to the saucepan, stirring constantly, until you get a thickened mixture. (You may not use all of the stock/milk mixture.) Add parsley, thyme, salt and pepper, and combine. Remove from heat and pour into prepared pie plate.

To make the biscuit topping, in a large bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, and whisk to combine. Cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. In a measuring cup, combine milk and honey. Add liquid to the flour mixture and stir until it forms a stiff dough. Knead lightly in bowl until dough is no longer sticky. Roll out on lightly floured surface to the shape of your pie plate. Lay topping gently over vegetable filling. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until vegetable mixture is bubbling and biscuit topping is golden brown

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Apple tart

I love gala apples! They are by far my favorite kind of apple, and at this time of year, it is not normal to come across a mealy, bruised apple. For the most part, the apples at the grocery store are tight-skinned, shiny, juicy and crisp when bit into. BUT. I got a little over-zealous a few weeks ago and bought an entire bag of gala apples, only to find that they were mealy.

Incredibly, this great recipe for apple tart was posted on Serious Eats the day I purchased the offending apples. And I just happened to have heavy cream on hand from the disaster of a cake I made for Lanae's taco fiesta. I've made this tart one time since, with a homemade pie crust.

Apple tart
adapted from Serious Eats

6 apples (or so -- it doesn't really matter, I used gala)
1 prepared pie crust
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 pinch apple pie spice
1 pinch salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut the apples into quarters along the core, and slice thin so that each slice is about 1/8 inch. Arrange apples in pie crust. Place water and sugar in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high. Do not stir. When sugar just begins to turn amber, remove from heat and add cream, apple pie spice, and salt, and stir. Pour over apples. Bake for about 30 minutes or until apples are soft and caramel is bubbling.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Baked pesto pasta with tomato sauce

This recipe is great for a quick easy dinner and is a great way to use up pesto in an interesting way.

Baked pesto pasta with tomato sauce
Halved from RecipeZaar

8 oz corkscrew pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
14 oz can crushed tomatoes
Pinch Italian seasoning
1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade (nice touch, but optional)
1/2 cup prepared pesto
1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I used torn string cheese!)

Prepare pasta per package directions.  Preheat broiler, and spray casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and let simmer for two minutes.  Add onion and cook until soft.  Add tomatoes and Italian seasoning.  Bring tomatoes to boil, then turn down heat and add basil.  Simmer for five minutes.   Drain pasta, and toss with pesto, ricotta cheese, and parmesan cheese.  Add pasta mixture to casserole dish, then pour tomato sauce over.  Top with shredded mozzarella.  Bake under the broiler for five minutes or until cheese begins to brown.  Top with left-over fresh basil.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lemon and ricotta pancakes

These pancakes are so fluffy, tender, and delicious, it is really hard to believe that they have hardly any flour in them! I served them with maple syrup, but they really didn't need it. In the future, I might drizzle just a bit of honey over them. Lavender-flavored honey would probably be wonderful.

Lemon and ricotta pancakes
from Cooking with Amy

2/3 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 tsp grated lemon rind

Blend egg yolk and ricotta cheese, then add milk, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon rind. Blend until combined. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff (but still moist) peaks form. Fold gently into batter. Heat griddle over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Drop batter onto griddle using tablespoon measure. Cook until golden brown on bottom, and then flip until cooked through. This won't take long!

Best black bean soup!

I first made this black bean soup when David had his wisdom teeth out and needed soft foods aplenty. The soup was easy to eat, not to mention delicious and filling. I'll eat this for lunch with a whole-grain roll, and be full until dinner time. Excelente!

Vegetarian black bean soup
Adapted from RecipeZaar

1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 celery ribs, chopped (the celery is what makes it extra-delish, IMHO)
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
2 cups water
2 large cans black beans
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 lemon, juiced
3 tbsp cornstarch

In a large pot, combine first five ingredients. Simmer until onions begin to turn translucent. Add black beans, cumin, and oregano, and cook for five minutes. Puree soup with immersion blender. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with three tbsp cold water. Add to pot, and stir well. Squeeze lemon into soup, and heat until thickened.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Baked eggs

As much as I can see the beauty in getting up early and having a nice relaxing morning at home before the work day, I just can't get out of bed. I'll set the alarm at night with the intention of waking by 7, allowing me enough time to take Charlie on a long walk, or to make a hot breakfast, or to drink a cup of coffee and watch CNN. But I do a lot snoozing, sometimes for 45 minutes or more. This leaves me with only enough time to take poor Charlie on a short walk, take a shower, and get out the door.

Because of the morning rush, I tend to get stuck with quick and easy breakfast habits. For a few months last winter, I ate two hard boiled eggs and a string cheese every morning. Then I moved on to a cup-full of Kashi Go Lean Crunch and plain Greek yogurt. Now that it's fall, I'm starting my day a Lemonzest Luna Bar, a string cheese, and Gala apple from Weaver Street Market.

So, on the weekends, I really try to mix things up. I thoroughly enjoy a hot breakfast, and I like to partake of this luxury on Saturdays and Sundays. Recently, I was searching for something new to do with eggs, and I came across a baked egg recipe in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. It was delicious, but the portions were a little small. I wonder if it would be okay to cook multiple eggs in each ramekin.

Baked eggs (also called Shirred eggs)
from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Butter as needed
2 eggs
2 tbsp bread crumbs
2 tomato slices
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter two ramekins, and place tomato slice at bottom of each. Break one egg into each dish, and cover each with 1 tbsp of bread crumbs. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the eggs are just set and the whites solidified. Season with salt and pepper.

I served with toasted French bread spread with honey.

Sauteed radishes

We've gotten quite a few radish bunches in our CSA box this season. I have what I call a "sensitive palate," and I don't really like spicy foods. Believe it or not, the CSA radishes were mostly too spicy for me! I'd cut them up and try to eat them raw, or add them to a salad on the rare occasion that I make a salad, but I just knew there had to be a better way to eat radishes.

There is! You can sautee them! And they are delicious!! Heating them takes away some of their bite, but they still taste like radishes. Here is what I did to mine:

Sauteed radishes

1 tbsp butter
2 bunches radishes (I had "easter egg" radishes, which is why they are so many different colors)
1/2 tsp thyme (I had lemon thyme which adds a very nice touch)
Salt and pepper

Cut off radish tops and scrub to remove dirt. Cut into even pieces -- try to aim for 1/2 inch chunks. Heat butter in a medium saucepan. Add radishes and thyme. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring often, until radishes are soft and can be easily pierced with a fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Lunch for the week: Tomato, mozzarella, and salami pasta salad

One of my favorite food blogs is The Kitchen Sink -- the food photos are scrumptious, the writing is unpretentious, and I end up starring a lot of the recipes in my Reader to try later. One such recipe was Tomato, mozzarella, and salami pasta salad. Since it's best eaten cold, I thought that it would be perfect to make on Sunday night and eat for lunch the rest of the week.

The dish turned out really well. The vinegar-based dressing is tangy and tasty, and all of the elements go together nicely. I got to feature my favorite tomato -- Sungold -- plus one of my favorite pork products -- Salami. One change I'll probably make next time I fix this dish will be to use thicker slices of salami. The meat I used was very thinly sliced which caused the pieces to stick together, resulting in clumps of salami throughout the salad. I'd also like to find pearl-sized mozzarella, but I had to make do with larger balls that I tore apart by hand.

Tomato, mozzarella, and salami pasta salad
from The Kitchen Sink

1 pound whole wheat short pasta (I used penne)
1 pint cherry tomatoes (I used sungold)
1 cup pearl-sized mozzarella
1/4 pound salami, cut into strips
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, julienned
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt

Boil the pasta according to directions. Meanwhile, whisk together the vinegar, oil, mustard, and salt. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, mozzarella, salami, onion, and basil. Add drained pasta, mix, and serve warm or chilled.

Making and freezing pesto

We bought a big bag of basil last week at the farmers' market and got another big bunch in this week's CSA box, the last of the season unfortunately. So we made pesto using a fine recipe from Epicurious.com. There isn't much to making pesto except getting the proportions right. We had a little over eight cups of basil, so we doubled the recipe, and then used this awesome ice tray trick to freeze the basil in perfect little portions.

Classic pesto
from Epicurious.com

4 cups basil, washed and trimmed
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp kosher salt

Combine basil, oil, pine nuts, and garlic in food processor. Blend until paste forms. Add cheese and salt and blend some more.

To freeze, spoon pesto into ice tray compartments. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze. Once solid, transfer pesto cubes to a freezer bag and use as needed. Be careful though; the cubes will melt very quickly (and then stick together) so take what you need from the bag and get it back in the freezer as quickly as possible.

Very fudgy brownies

I found this recipe awhile back on Recipe Zaar. In my personal opinion, these are the best brownies ever -- made from scratch, dense, fudgy, and very chocolatey.

I started making them not realizing I was almost out of granulated sugar. So I used about 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, and 1 cup brown sugar. It was good.

Very fudgy brownies
from RecipeZaar.com

3/4 cup butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, broken into small pieces
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cup flour (I used cake flour)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x9 pan with cooking spray (I used a 9-inch cake pan because it was all I had, and it worked well). Over low heat, melt butter and chocolate in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Stir in eggs, vanilla extract, and sugar. Stir in flour, and mix well. Pour into baking dish, and bake for 20 minutes until a fork inserted into the center comes out clean. The brownies will rise (up out of the pan in some cases) but will settle as they cool.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor day!

Like I said earlier, David and I had a very lazy Labor Day weekend, but we did manage to get our butts in gear to make a pretty nice Labor Day dinner.

David has made hamburgers in the past, but these came out the best ever. The burgers were tender and juicy, and he adorned them simply with mayo and mustard, plus some mizuna greens from our CSA box. In the past, the bun had been his burgers' downfall, so we took care with the bun this time, using some toasted ciabatta rolls from Whole Foods.

We accompanied the burgers with greek salad and my beloved oil-and-vingear potato salad.

I'm going to go eat the leftovers now!

A real Greek salad

David and I recently got back from a 10 day trip to Greece. We visited Athens, Santorini, and Naxos, and we soaked in a lot of sun and a lot of food memories. The strongest memory is of the Greek salads. I had always thought that Greek salad meant a combo of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, olives, crumbled feta cheese, and a tangy balsamic vinaigrette. However, that's not really what the Greeks have in mind. A real Greek salad is daring. It has no lettuce. It has a huge steak of feta cheese on top. It is sprinkled with fresh chopped oregano, doused in olive oil, and sprinkled with a tiny bit of vinegar. On the islands, you get a special treat -- sundried tomatoes and fresh capers that grow and are produced on the islands.

I was so taken with this last ingredient that I bought two jars of Santorini capers to take home. I cannot explain to you how different these capers are from the capers I was used to. They are briny and big, some three times the size of grocery store capers. I have been using them in my own Greek salad, without feta cheese only because I didn't have any in the house. Here's a basic recipe for Greek salad, inspired by our trip to Greece.

Greek salad

Two tomatoes, seeded and chopped
One medium cucumber, chopped (peeling optional)
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
4-6 Kalamata olives
1/2 tbsp capers
1 tbsp fresh or dried oregano
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Place cucumbers in bowl, then place tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with red onion and capers. Place olives around edges of bowl. Pour olive oil and vinegar over salad, then salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Lazy Sunday: Soft pretzel making

I was reeeeeeally lazy this weekend. I didn't put my contacts in until 4 in the afternoon yesterday (a bad sign -- I can't see more than five feet in front of me with my glasses on). David and I watched a total of three episodes of Mad Men, five episodes of Weeds, and at least two episodes of The Simpsons. I can count the number of times I left the house the entire weekend on three fingers.

In an attempt to wake from our Labor Day weekend stupor, we set about making the soft pretzel recipe I'd read about recently on Joy the Baker, one of my new favorite blogs now that I'm interested in baking. Unfortunately, we ran into some problems. The initial dough was incredibly sticky, and we ended up adding at least an additional 1/2 cup of flour so that we could knead it. The final product tasted okay, but not as good as homemade pretzels I'd made in the past with my grandparents. They actually tasted more like bagels than pretzels. It turns out bagels and pretzels are made of the exact same ingredients, so I'm not really sure what makes a pretzel taste like a pretzel.

In any event, we covered ours with kosher salt and cinnamon sugar and ate two straight out of the oven. The cat got one before we could put them away. Today (as Joy the Baker warned) they're pretty chewy, but they're still made with flour and yeast and they still have salt or sugar on top of them, so how could they really be bad?

Weekend dinner: Baked eggplant parmesan

On the whole, our first CSA experience has been wonderful. It has taught me the true meaning of "The Omnivore's Dilemma:" when faced with thousands of out-of-season, shipped-across-the-country options, how would anyone be able to decide what to have for dinner? But when faced with a few in-season, at-their-best local ingredients, the choices become a whole lot easier. I find that I waste less, and I eat better food. Not to mention the reduction of stress when presented with the question of what to eat. The weekly CSA box has also introduced me to some new favorites (beet greens! turnips!), heightened my admiration for old ones (tomatoes! snap peas! potatoes!), and forced me to eat some veggies I used to say I didn't like (peppers, radishes, eggplant).

To deal with the four small Japanese eggplant we got in last week's box, I decided to make eggplant parmesan. It seemed the safest route -- I'd never had it before, but I'd heard that the eggplant is so disguised by all the breadcrumbs, tomato sauce, and cheese that you could be eating styrofoam and you wouldn't know it. I searched for a baked version, primarily to avoid the mess of frying, secondarily to make it a tad bit healthier. Martha's version did quite well. While I don't know that I'll be purchasing eggplant on my own free will any time soon, I will definitely make this again next year when the eggplant turns up in the CSA box.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan
from MarthaStewart.com

Olive oil, for baking sheets
2 large eggs
3/4 cup plan dry breadcrumbs (I used panko)
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (I accidentally left this out!)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
Salt and pepper
2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced
6 cups tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella (I used fresh; I learned a good trick recently. Before grating or slicing fresh mozzarella, which often tears, freeze it for about 15 minutes before using. It's a very moist cheese, so it will get a little bit hard and be easier to work with.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 baking sheets with oil; set aside. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and 2 tbsp water. In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, oregano, and basil; season with salt and pepper.

Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture, letting excess drip off; then dredge in breadcrumb mixture, coating well. Place on baking sheets. Bake until golden brown on bottom, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn slices; continue baking until golden brown on other side, 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove from oven; raise oven heat to 400 degrees.

Spread 2 cups sauce in a 9x13 baking dish. Arrange half the eggplant in dish; cover with 2 cups sauce, then 1/2 cup mozzarella. Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella; sprinkly with remaining parmesan. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Nighttime chocolate craving: Vegan cocoa cake

Last night, I wanted chocolate. But this wasn't any normal chocolate craving. No, last night my tummy demanded warm chocolate. Warm chocolate mixed with flour. And sugar. Sweet bready chocolate was the only satisfaction I could get. I have been feeling a little guilty about my eating and exercise habits lately. I've basically forsaken my entire cardio routine with the excuse that it's too hot outside; the truth is, I'm lazy. And my newfound interest in baking has completely nixed the calorie-counting diet I'd been trying out (and losing weight on, actually). So what did I do, faced with this warm bready chocolate craving? I baked a cake sans egg, milk, and butter! A cake without animal products famous for their fats must be healthy, right? Probably not, but this cake got by on vegetable oil and a splash of vinegar, and boy was it good. If you have leftovers, be sure to warm them in the microwave before eating. This cake is definitely best hot.

Vegan cocoa cake
Recipe here; I halved it.

1 1/2 cups flour (I used cake flour)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup water

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking dish with oil. Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla extract. Stir until clumps have smoothed out. Pour batter into pan and bake for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.