27 March 2011

Oat and Brussels Frittata

There isn't much to share about this one but these salient details:

  • I have strange cravings for Brussels sprouts more often than not.
  • Brussels sprouts are best when cooked in a frying pan over high heat, either halved or shredded
  • Eggs are delicious
Taking these facts, I sauteed some sprouts in the usual manner. Then I had a craving for something like a pancake or quiche or frittata. So I threw in eggs, rolled oats, and a dash of cheese. Somewhat surprisingly, it was delicious.
Oat and Brussels Frittata
Feeds 1
2 eggs
1/2 cup rolled oats
Handful or Brussels sprouts, chopped into pieces
Some olive oil
Grated cheese of your choice
Probably addition spices

In a frying pan heat olive oil over medium/medium high. Throw in chopped sprouts, alternating between stirring and letting them sizzle every minute or so, until they have started to scorch. Turn off heat. In a small bowl, mix 2 eggs and oats thoroughly. Add in a bit of grated cheese, plus salt and pepper. Scoop in sprouts, which should have cooled, until you've got a somewhat good volume of green things. I leave this decision to the cook. Proceed to eat the sprouts that won't be cooked in. Reheat pan on low and pour in the mixture.

Cook, covered, until you think it only needs another minute or two. Sprinkle some cheese on top, flip it, and give it the minute or two it needed on the other side. Serve with ketchup because, honestly, I didn't use enough (or any) spices.

24 March 2011

Bagels Are Surprisingly Easy (An Ode)

Just sayin. Also, as the recipe was straight from a book and I don't feel completely comfortable just pasting that recipe here, this post will be more opining and bagel porn than anything else. Hopefully you've eaten recently, or you may find yourself getting very hungry. For reference, I cooked the bagels from my go-to bread book.
Just a disclaimer: I've never been to New York. I spent a few hours in the Newark airport for a layover. I've only had fresh-ish direct-from-New York bagels once in my life. But I did have the great luck to live near a monument to all that is crisp and moist and bagel-y in life, for the short time it was open - Roland's Bagels. I still have cravings for this place and it has been closed for over a year now. But nothing, and I mean nothing, can come close to it. I have, truthfully, had a dream about those bagels. Not a metaphorical dream, but a real one from which I awakened to realize my cravings could not be satisfied.
A good bagel is crisp and a brown on the outside and chewy on the inside. You don't toast them, because they are still warm from the oven. Maybe you put cream cheese on it but its really quite optional. The toppings are sparse - some poppy or sesame, maybe some sea salt, maybe a little bit of flavor inside (like olive, or pumpernickel dough). Definitely not one of those "everything" abominations. Preferably not onion, unless its a few days old and toasted. But, really, if its a few days old and toasted its not worth dreaming about. It is merely an object for conveying cream cheese into ones mouth, and an inferior one at that. I may be something of a bagel elitist, thinking on this now.
Also, there is a secret ingredient, at least one that I was unaware of. Barley malt syrup is a few things - somewhat hard to find (check bulk food stores or home brewing supply shops), delightful in odor, and a horrible substance that has the stickiness of maple syrup and the thickness of... well, barley malt syrup. Maybe melted sugar as it begins to thicken would be a good approximation. It is stringy and sticky and doesn't flow, until you've taken a spoonful of it and are waiting for the dripping tendril to stop dripping so you don't track it over the counter. Heres a tip: it won't. Cut your losses, twirl that spoon, and hope for the best.
Here the bagels boil after shaping. In the liquid are the three things pictured above - a dash of salt, some baking soda, and a spoonful of barely malt. Its a fun process - you drop them in. After 10 seconds or so, they bob to the top, merrily floating in liquid. You let them swim for a while, on both sides. Then you take them out and coat them in your toppings of choice. Then they bake. Simple. Delicious. There is a moment I haven't mentioned, when you've dropped them in but before they have bobbed to the surface. It is then you begin worrying - will they float? Have a I failed? Is it stuck to the bottom? Put your neuroses aside for a moment and let the bagels grow. Or poke them with a spoon because, yeah, one of them was stuck to the bottom.
The shaping was fun. I made one the "easy" way, by making a ball and working a hole through it. It sucked, don't do it. The rest I made the "real" way, according to my book, by rolling out a bagel's worth of dough and tapering both ends. One then wraps the cylinder around the palm of a hand, making sure the tapered ends meet in the palm and not on the back. And you roll on a dry surface, bagel wrapped around the hand, slowly working sideways so the entire circumference of the bagel has spent some time under the palm getting shaped.
These bagels were delicious, the second best I've ever had. I'm beginning to doubt anything will ever top Roland's, but these will do in his absence. And they are quick. 10 minutes of mixing dough, an hour of resting, a bit of shaping, fridge over night. In the morning another hour of resting, a quick 2 minute bath, and 15 or so minutes in the oven. I woke up at 7 and was in the office with warm bagels by 9. I was the hero of the moment.

20 March 2011

Herby Cooking (Chicken and Cauliflower, not Brownies)

Ridiculous snowfall this weekend led to calling off the drive to Tahoe, but our backup plan wasn't bad. Fancy cooking, from a cookbook no less. I've had The Herbal Kitchen for years and never once cooked from it; I've definitely browsed and salivated, and picked ideas from it, but never followed a recipe through. E and I changed that with not one, but two recipes from its pages. A pesto-stuffed chicken with cherry tomato topping and a cauliflower and apple bake with dill.
Having cooked these two recipes, I can't really fathom how I went so long without cooking from the book. Had we a food processor, it would have been an easy 40 minutes for a delicious dinner. Lacking one, but having a mortar and pestle, it was instead an enjoyable 40 minutes. I really like mashing things to a pulp. Also, this is probably one of the better dinners I've cooked and the ingredients were few and cheap. The recipes below are a little dicey on exact measurements, partly because I've left the book behind in E's kitchen and partly because you may not even need them - a description of approximate amounts should suffice. Especially for the chicken dish; it was fantastic.
I've never cooked chicken like this before - a quick 5-minute fry, followed by a lower heat cooking in the same pan, with lid, until the chicken is just finished. Allowing for thickness, this is between 5 and 10 minutes. You end up with one deliciously browned side and a very juicy cut, without worrying about overcooking; the chicken is already sliced in half so you can simply peek to see if it is done. The recipe recommended skin-on breast which may have catapulted the chicken from "well cooked with delicious accompaniment" to "delicious star of the plate."

16 March 2011

Scones Are Just Biscuits with Dried Things

On Saturday, Emily had a good friend in town that we spent a good part of the day doing stereotypical SF things with. Ferry Terminal for brunch, Dolores Park in the sun, Borderlands, seeing naked people (on bikes, not in the Castro). As we were walking to Dolores I had a craving for Tartine - and lo, it wasn't crowded. The line wasn't even out the door which I can (maybe) thank SXSW for. I got one of their scones; crispy on the outside, flaky on the outside. And then I decided I should make some.
Turns out, at least according to my bread book, that scones are just biscuits with fruit added. So I used the recipe I've used before for biscuits, with the addition of ~1 cup of assorted dried sweet things. Roughly 1/4 cup cranberry, 1/2 cup raisin, and 1/4 cup candied ginger. No additional sugar, which was a great idea. I did two things wrong but neither impacted the recipe much. I did one additional letter fold-and-roll (so 5 roll outs of the dough) - for scones, this didn't matter, but if you are cooking biscuits do not not not do that. It mostly god rid of the layering effect that was so prominent in the last batch.

I also maybe should have used a layer of parchment paper, or doubled my baking sheets. The bottoms were quite scorched due to how small I cut the scones and the heat of the oven. But the end result was still tasty - not quite at Tartine's level (I would need to add some large sugar crystals on top), but better than the dry scones you'll find at most places.

Also the recipe has almost as much dairy as flour. 1.75 cups of flour to 1.5 cups of dairy (1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1/2 cup butter). And I can't really say no to something that rich.

15 March 2011

Lazy Spanish Rice

Spanish rice is one of those dishes I grew up with that I don't like cooking due to time involvement, but would love to eat every day. And the few times I've tried it recently have ended in scorched rice, or worse. The proper way, or at least the way I learned, is to replace 1/2 cup of water with 1 cup of tomato paste when cooking rice, and to cook it very slowly. Think an hour or more. Plus seasonings, etc, but the important part is cooking it covered for an hour. Stirring - that is the hard part for me to remember.
I was feeling a little lazy about my dinner plans; I had wanted to do an oven-bake involving butter beans, tomato paste, and cauliflower, but work interfered and I had about 30 minutes to cook dinner before I began gnawing off my arm. So, lazy dinner. I ended up creating a very hearty thing - it was somewhere in the spanish rice/jambalaya family, but could have easily moved in the direction of a soup. And it was pretty damn tasty.
Lazy Spanish Rice
Feeds 2 (great for leftovers)
~40 minutes
2/3 cup uncooked rice
1 can butter beans
1 red onion, chopped
Enough water for the rice + 2/3 cup additional
8 oz can of tomato paste (not sauce, paste)
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp + splash olive oil
Dash of cumin
Dash of dill weed
Dash of chili flakes (optional)

Start cooking the rice, adding 1 tsp of olive oil and 1 tsp of white wine vinegar to the water. Assuming your rice takes 30 minutes to cook, 15 minutes after starting it place the red onion in a large frying pan with a splash of olive oil and cook for 5 minutes. At this point, I added the 2/3 cup water and steamed cauliflower in the pot (which I removed before adding the rest). If you don't want to steam a veggie, you can add the water and let simmer over low.

Once the rice is about to finish, add the tomato paste, spices, and second tsp of vinegar to the onion and water mixture, stirring to mix it all together. Add the rice and beans and cook on medium-low until you either think it is done, or get too hungry and just call it done. This varies, but should take about 5-10 minutes.

08 March 2011

Stubborn Biscuits

A somewhat frequent morning tradition of mine is to stop by one of the many Blue Bottle locations on my morning commute (Original or Mint Plaza if by bike, Ferry Plaza if by MUNI/foot) and get two things: a soy mocha and a biscotti regina. There is a proper order to this: wait for the drink. Bite the biscotti; chew and swallow. Talk a small sip of the mocha. Repeat until biscotti is gone. The combination of the sesame and slight anise in the biscotti pairs with the bittersweet mocha. So I want to re-create that. Except I'm a stubborn one, and I refuse to look up a recipe for bisoctti regina because it looks and tastes very much like a shortbread. So I experiment.
Looking at the picture, and having eaten on of these biscottis yourself, you may think: success! That is, until you bite it and are greeted with... a thick shortbread. Very much a dessert, not an almost-savory pairing for a liquid one.
My thinking was this: take a shortbread. Add baking powder to give it some fluff. Add some olive oil to give it some air. Coat it in milk to both soften it when it cooks and to also get the seeds to stick. Lessen the amount of sugar to cut the sweetness. So I did all of these things, but it was not enough. The inside is still far too dense, and I refuse to increase the batch size so I can include egg. I will find another way. Next up: adding a little more liquid to the dough itself (milk or water or more olive oil, I don't know) and playing with the butter : flour ratio. Recipe follows, if you want it for reference.

07 March 2011

Dinocrackers (Crackersaurus? Velocicracker?)

Revisiting a previous recipe although this time correctly. And using my dinosaur cookie cutters again! These crackers are delicious, crunchy, and fairly easy to make if you have access to something that can grind seeds into flour. They were delicious topped with all manner of things, including spicy hummus, salmon pate, and marmelade. If you eat a lot of crackers, you can safely stop buying them and start making them instead.
Crispy Rye and Seed Crackers
Makes ~20 crackers
15+ minutes prep, 30 minutes bake, 10 minutes cool
a little less than 1 cup (125g) rye flour
6 tbsp (85g) room-temperature water
2 tbsp (21g) sunflower seeds
2 tbsp (21g) pumpkin seeds
3 tbsp (56g) sesame seeds
1.5 tbsp (14g) flaxseed meal
1 tbsp (14g) vegetable oil
0.5 tbsp (10g) honey
extra honey, water, and toppings (sliced almond, sesame seed, and poppy seed in this version)

Grind the sunflower and pumpkin seeds into a flour. Combine the seed flour, flaxseed meal, sesame seeds, and rye flour in a mixing bowl, stirring to get an even mix. Add in the liquids (honey, vegetable oil, and water) and mix with a spoon for a few minutes until everything is incorporated. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a floured work surface, flour your hands and knead to dough for 30 seconds more, making sure the consistency isn't sticky. Add more flour if it is. With a rolling pin, carefully roll out the dough as thin as you want your crackers. You will probably want to split the dough into a few chunks and roll each separately as they take up a lot of space. Cut the crackers however you want, then transfer them to the baking sheets.

In a bowl, squeeze a little honey and about three times as much warm water, and mix with spoon until dissolved. Brush on crackers, then cover with toppings (immediately so the seeds stick). Place in oven for 10 minutes, rotate, give it 10 more minutes, rotate again. Then up the temperature to 325 degree and cook for 5-10 more minutes until they are golden brown-ish. Let cool on the sheets for at least 10 minutes.

03 March 2011

Something Like Rugelach

I found myself flipping through a bread book, as usual, deciding what to bake and bring in to work. I've done a lot of bakery-style bread recently, and wanted some a little less healthy. Scratch that, a lot less healthy. Full on dessert. I saw a beautiful picture of bread - babka it would be! Then I read the recipe. Egg yolks? Egg white wash? 3-4 hours of proofing/shaping/baking/cooling with fridge time? Blech. But, hey, I like that it was covered in chocolate. I can take that and run with it.
I decided to take the general idea of melting a bunch of chocolate and butter, covering dough in it, then rolling it up and shaping it. For dough I took a much simpler dessert dough - cinnamon roll dough. With none of the annoying rising, really. I prepped it, left it in the fridge for two nights, and gave it maybe an hour in the morning to rise (covered in warm chocolate for part of the time, which I'm sure helped).
The flavor/texture was most similar to rugleach (think of something like a chocolate strudel). Now, rugelach has a special place in my stomach. The best I've ever had was in Israel, purchased at a shuk in Jerusalem for practically nothing - I believe we got enough rugelach to make 3 people feel somewhat sick for ~5 shekels (around a dollar at the time). There is a delicate balance between making a soft-but-crispy dough, filling it with a mixture that is both crunchy and sweet, and covering it in a good streusel. Wikipedia says the secret is cream cheese, but I doubt that because I didn't use any and mine came out great. I've eaten attempts at it in Chicago (the filling was too dry), Vancouver (pretty good actually), and Mountain View (overall too dry), but never anything as good as the fresh stuff from the market.

02 March 2011

Experimenting (But Not With Shortbread)

So my last post I mentioned adding cornmeal to the vegan pancake recipe. It wasn't corny enough - I had a 1:3 cornmeal-to-flour ratio and suggested a 1:2 or even 2:3 ratio. Well, in my finest tradition of doing things wrong, I said "lets take the cornmeal to eleven". I used a 4:3 ratio. Yeah, thats right, more cornmeal than flour. How you like dem apples?

Personally, I didn't much like dem apples. You might, but I'd recommend sugar. For reference, I used the previous recipe linked with 1/3 cup cornmeal and 1/4 cup flour. It made... a crepe? I guess we can call it that. I also crushed blueberries into it, then topped it with a few more for good measure. I think adding either a teaspoon+ of sugar, or doubling the amount of crushed blueberries, would have greatly increased the edibility.

For figuring out these ratios, I looked at a recipe I had for savory cornbread (2:3 cornmeal-to-flour ratio) and the cornbread muffin recipe on the box of cornmeal (1:1 cornmeal-to-flour, plus lots of sugar). Could stand to improve my recipe-reading skill, but that only comes from trying and failing, I guess. At least it was edible if the bite contained a blueberry.