Tuesday, February 23, 2010

TWD-Honey Wheat Cookies

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I'm very late for this Tuesday posting of TWD, hosted by Michele of Flourchild. I usually do my baking on Monday and have ample time to post on Tuesday morning, but yesterday came and went, so tackled the cookies this afternoon. They are wonderful-not real sweet and have that healthy taste, even though there is a stick of butter in the ingredients. No matter! I used ginger honey that I have on hand and made a ginger honey tea to go with the cookies. Michele has the recipe for the honey wheat cookies on her site and the ginger tea is below. Be sure and check out all the TWD bakers to see their version of the honey wheat cookies.

Ginger Tea
Original recipe here.

4 cups water
2-inch piece of fresh ginger root
optional: honey and lemon slice

Peel the ginger root and slice it into thin slices. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Once it is boiling, add the ginger. Cover it and reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain the tea. Add honey and lemon to taste.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Italian Meatballs with Spaghetti

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We love Spag Bol as my British friends call Spaghetti Bolognese and I make a big pot at least twice a month, then freeze the sauce in 2-serving size containers for quick tasty meals. Lately though, for some strange reason, I have been craving spaghetti and meatballs. It's basically the same thing, except you use eggs, bread crumbs, and Parmesan cheese to bind the ingredients that you would saute in a pan for the spaghetti sauce.

I wanted a spicy meatball so used part lean ground beef and part hot Italian sausage. The traditional Parmesan cheese I reserved to sprinkle on top of the finished dish. The tomato sauce is made from canned San Marzano tomatoes proclaimed to be the best tomatoes on earth. I wholeheartedly agree! I now use them for my pizza sauce as well as my tomato sauce.


1 pound lean ground beef
8 ounces hot Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, minced
1 medium onion, small dice
4 slices day-old bread, ground into crumbs
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 large egg
olive oil

For Meatballs
Combine all ingredients by hand in a large mixing bowl. Shape into desired size-I made larger meatballs, so got about 16. Place on a baking sheet;drizzle with olive oil, roll to coat,then refrigerate covered while making tomato sauce.

Tomato sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-15.5 can San Marzano tomatoes
1 cup purchased bottled pasta sauce with basil
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed, dried chile peppers, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

8 ounces dried spaghetti
salted boiling water
Grated Parmesan cheese to garnish

For Tomato Sauce
Heat olive in a medium saucepan, saute onions over medium until tender, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, saute an additional minute. Add San Marzano tomatoes, pasta sauce, parsley, bay leaf, dried oregano and crushed dried chile peppers, if desired. Simmer over low heat about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat to low while preparing meatballs.

To Cook Meatballs
Heat some olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add meatballs in a single layer. Cook, turning frequently, for 8-10 minutes until done. Add meatballs to sauce to heat through while cooking pasta.

Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain. Place pasta in bowls or plates. Top with meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serves 4 generously.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

TWD-My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

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To rephrase Forrest Gump-Chocolate chip cookies are "like a box of chocolates-you never know what you're gonna get". Everyone has a favorite chocolate chip cookie, whether bought from a bakery, grocery store or homemade. It seems that Dorie's version of her best chocolate chip cookie wasn't some of the TWD bakers' idea of a perfect chocolate chip cookie judging from the comments on the TWD site. Although they did spread out while baking, (refrigerating the dough for one hour seem to alleviate some of the spreading) they were just as Dorie described-"thin and crisp, and a bit chewy in the center from just the right mix of sugars-granulated sugar for crispiness and brown sugar for deep caramel flavor".

While I agree chopping your own quality chocolate as opposed to buying "big name supermarket chocolate chips", my chopped chips had too many pulverized bits that when baked in the cookie almost gave them a marbled look. Next time, I will try shaking out the bits using a sieve or colander. The pecans give the cookies a nice toasty crunch and is a great complement to the rich chocolate chunks.
Thanks to Kait of Kaitsplate for her pick this edition of TWD-be sure and check her blog for the recipe and also, the TWD bakers' to see other variations of this cookie.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

February Daring Cooks Challenge-Mezze

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Michelle of VeggieNumNums hosted this edition of the Daring Cooks and our challenge was to prepare a mezze table including required dishes authentic pita bread and hummus, but also included as optional dishes, cucumber raita, falafel and preserved lemons. I have Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's book, "Flatbread and Flavors" and have made the pita bread recipe many times, but have had better luck cooking them on a griddle as opposed to baking them in the oven. I enjoy seeing them puff up and in the oven I don't get that opportunity. For my mezze table, I made not only the pita bread and hummus, but also the cucumber raita and the quick preserved lemons. Thanks, Michelle for such a tasty challenge.

Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook

2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)

1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

To cook the pitas on top of the stove:Preheat a 9-inch or larger griddle or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot,lightly grease the surface of the griddle with a little oil. Punch down dough as above-. When skillet is ready, gently put one bread on the griddle. Cook for 15-20 seconds, then gently turn over. Cook for about one minute, until big bubbles begin to appear. Turn the bread again to the first side, and cook until the bread balloons fully. To help the process along, you can press gently with a towel on those areas where bubbles have already formed, trying to push the air bubble into areas that are still flat. The breads should take no more than 3 minutes to cook. Wrap the baked breads in a towel to keep warm. You may need to oil griddle after about 4 or 5 breads.

Hummus – Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste

1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

*Optional Recipe: Cucumber Raita – Recipe adapted from The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm
Prep time: Approximately 15 minutes

1 medium cucumber, peeled and most of the seeds removed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (.1 ounce/3 grams) OR use a small pinch of dried cumin—to taste
2 cups plain whole milk or Greek yogurt (17 ounces/473ml)
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
fresh coriander or mint, chopped, a couple pinches or more to taste
cayenne pepper or paprika, just a pinch to use as a garnish (optional)

1. Peel cucumber, de-seed, and dice. Blot off moisture with paper towels.
2. Toast cumin seeds for a few seconds in a small, heavy frying pan over high heat.
3. In a bowl, stir yogurt until it is smooth.
4. Mix it with the cumin, garlic and coriander or mint leaves (I used some grated radish instead).
5. Stir in the cucumber and sprinkle with cayenne or paprika, and chill before serving.

Optional Recipe Quick Preserved Lemons

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Our Man in Havana

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My second posting for Food for Thought, created by Jain of Once in a Blue Moon and Food with Style. My love of reading, food and photography led me to participate in these edible reviews.
Our Man in Havana****

Just recently, my husband and I had lunch at a Cuban restaurant in Savannah, Georgia. I was so impressed with the quality and authenticity of the Cuban food that I dug out my tattered copy of Graham Greene's, Our Man in Havana, to read again,-- my mind on Havana Club rum and black beans and rice. I read Greene's book among others in preparation for our trip to Havana and Varadero a few years ago. Cuba still falls under the United States 1917 Trading with the Enemy act (TWEA) which restricts travel to Cuba from the United States with certain exceptions-ours being a group of medical professionals.
Our Man in Havana, published in 1958, just before the Cuban Revolution, is Graham Greene's brilliant satire of international intrigue and deceit. Jim Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman in Havana, is comically recruited as a British spy by a fellow countryman, Mr. Hawthorne. Wormold, whose wife has left him for another man has an expensive 17 year old daughter, Milly, so badly needs the money. He's instructed by Hawthorne to recruit sub-agents sending reports to the home office in London. Without a clue on how to be a spy, Wormold begins fabricating reports of military construction sites using diagrams from vacuum cleaner parts. His sub agents are fictitious people he meets at the country club Milly has encouraged him to join. Things get very complicated when the London office is so impressed with his reports that they send him a secretary and a radio agent.

An admirer of Milly, Captain Segura, the chief of police who is reputed to specialize in torture grows suspicious, his good friend Dr. Hasselbacher has his residence ransacked and if things couldn't get worse; Wormold barely foils an attempt on his life. His cover blown; he's sent back to England, slightly reprimanded and awarded an Order of the British Empire. Sounds like a spot of embarrassment for the home office.

Greene wanted a light-hearted comedy and while he made some references to the bloody violence going on at the time, mainly focused on making fun of the British Secret Service. I recommend this book and any other book by Graham Greene as he was a brilliant writer. There weren't many specific food references; but quite a few cocktail ones-Wormold's customary morning daiquiri with Dr. Hasselbacher at the Wonder Bar, his trading card collection of different kinds of Scotch whiskey and the whiskey that nearly poisoned him. The black beans and rice dish is a typical Cuban dish, one served at the Rancho Alegre in Savannah and one of my favorites.

Black Beans and Rice

2 - (15 oz.) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2-1/2 cups green peppers, small dice
1/4 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
1/2 cup sofrito
1/2 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
2-1/2 cup long-grain white rice
5 cups chicken stock
Salt and Pepper

In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute the onion and green pepper in the olive oil until tender. Add the garlic and sofrito and saute another 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato paste, black beans, oregano, cumin and bay leaf. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring gently taking care not to mash the beans.

In a large saucepan, add the rice and chicken stock. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until rice is fully cooked.

Serve the beans over the rice and top with a little sofrito, cilantro and lime slices.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chicken Tagine with Apricots, Pine Nuts and Quick Preserved Lemons, plus How to Cure a Terra Cotta Tagine

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Cinnamon, ground ginger, turmeric and black pepper come together as a flavorful rub for browning drumsticks in this spiced Moroccan tagine dish. The drumsticks are simmered in a sauteed red onion, garlic, cilantro and parsley mixture with orange marmalade glazed Turkish apricots added near the end of cooking. Toasted pine nuts, slices of quick preserved lemons and cilantro garnish. Couscous, the traditional accompaniment, is a very fine pasta made from semolina. Israeli couscous has larger pellets. often called pearl couscous. Both are delicious with this tagine meal. Don't have a tagine-this dish can be easily made in a skillet. More on how to cure a tagine following recipe.

Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Pine Nuts
Adapted from Epicurious.

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt, plus 1/4 teaspoon extra
3 tablespoons, plus 1 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds chicken drumsticks or 1-3 pound chicken, cut into pieces-wings and backbone discarded
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large red onion, halved, then sliced 1/4 -inch thick
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 sprigs fresh cilantro
5 sprigs fresh Italian or flat-leaf parsley
1-1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons bitter orange marmalade
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1/2 cup dried Turkish apricots, separated into halves
1/3 cup pine nuts
Quick preserved lemons, pulp removed and thinly sliced
Additional cilantro for garnish

Combine ground cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, 1 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat well.

Heat butter and 1 tablespoon oil in the base of a tagine or skillet over moderate heat until hot, but not smoking. Brown chicken in batches, turning over once, 8-12 minutes. Transfer to plate.

Add onion and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to tagine or skillet and cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally an additional 3 minutes. Tie cilantro and parsley into a bundle with kitchen string and add to tagine or skillet along with 1/2 cup water, chicken and any juices accumulated on the plate. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.

While chicken cooks, bring orange marmalade, remaining 1-cup water, cinnamon, stick and apricots to a boil in a 1-2 quart saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until apricots are very tender. Once apricots are tender, simmer until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 10-15 minutes.

While apricots cook, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet over moderate heat. Cook pine nuts, stirring occasionally, until golden 1-2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Ten minutes before chicken is done, add apricot mixture to the tagine or skillet. Discard herbs and cinnamon stick, then serve chicken sprinkled with pine nuts, preserved lemon slivers and cilantro. Serve with couscous.

Quick Preserved Lemons

Tagine, a North African cooking vessel made of terra cotta is constructed of two pieces:a round base and a cone-shaped top with a small hole to allow the heat to escape while the stew, also called a tagine, simmers yielding an intensely flavorful and tender dish. The conical lid is usually unglazed on the inside while the bottom can be glazed or unglazed. Traditional tagines need to be cured before using or they will crack under the heat. Serving tagines need not be cured and are for serving only and not for use on the stove top or in the oven.

To Cure a Traditional Tagine

1. Soak both pieces of terra cotta vessel in cold water for at least two hours or overnight.

2. Remove the tagine from the soaking water. Dry thoroughly and rub the entire vessel inside and out with olive oil.

3. Place the tagine on a baking sheet in a cold oven. Turn the oven temperature to 300°F. Set the timer for 2 hours.

4. After the two hours, turn off the heat, but leave the tagine in the oven to cool.

5. When cooled, wash the tagine by hand and rub an additional coat of olive oil before storing or using.

To maintain the integrity of the tagine, hand wash with mild soap or baking soda after use. Always place a tagine in a cold oven and never add hot liquids to a cold tagine. Maximum oven temperature is 325°F as high heat can cause the tagine to crack. A heat diffuser or flame tamer is recommended when using the tagine on the stove top. Source

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

TWD-Rick Katz Brownies for Julia

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Rick Katz, a Boston-based pastry chef served these brownies to Dorie, Julia and the crew of visiting chefs working on the PBS series and companion book, Baking with Julia. His luscious dark, fudgy brownies success was attained by mixing in half the sugar and eggs in the melted chocolate mixture, while beating the other half egg sugar mixture until doubled in volume and very light. Perfect accompaniment to a strong dark cup of espresso. Added decadence-a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Just when I think my chocolate stores are up to date-71% cacao, 50% cacao, chocolate chips-and so on, I find I have no unsweetened chocolate! How did that happen when I have an assortment of chocolate falling out of my pantry? Well, at the eleventh hour, I wasn't going to the grocery store. Brownies are easy to make, depending on what texture you like; fudgy or cake-like and are one of the most forgiving of recipes. With that in mind, I decided to use a combination of Scharffen Berger 71% cacao and Ritter Extra Fine Dark chocolate, also 71% cacao. But they would be way too sweet; so I decreased the sugar from 2 cups to 1 cup and kept my fingers crossed. Voila!

Thanks to Tanya of chocolatechic for her TWD pick this week. I think she likes chocolate! Check out her blog for the recipe, or you can find it in Dorie Greenspan's book, "Baking from My Home to Yours", available nearly everywhere.
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