Friday, May 29, 2009

Toasted Oat Egg Bread

There's nothing more satisfying than making a braided bread. No matter how bad the braided dough looks to you, the baked-up loaf always comes out looking swell. My son (under the tutelage of his girlfriend Katie, who is a terrific baker) made his first braided bread a couple of weekends ago and I think he wowed even himself.

The braided bread pictured here, which I made earlier in the spring (round about Easter time), is an egg bread, but I threw in a little turmeric to give it more of an eggy golden glow.

Toasted-Oat Egg Bread
The toasted oats give the bread a nice rich flavor, but also--and the real reason I added them--a good dose of soluble fiber. Be sure to measure the flour by spooning flour into a measuring cup and then leveling off the top.

3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
5-1/4 cups flour*
2 tablespoons sugar
2-1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup very hot (120° to 130°F) water
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons water
*Flour measured by spooning and leveling

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the oats on a baking pan and bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted. Measure out a generous tablespoon of toasted oats and set aside to sprinkle on the loaves before baking.
2. In a food processor, combine the yeast, 2-1/2 cups of the flour, the remaining toasted oats, the sugar, salt, turmeric and butter, and process to distribute the butter evenly. Add the hot water and pulse to blend. Add 3 of the eggs, one at a time, pulsing to thoroughly combine. Separate the last egg. Add the egg white to the processor and set the egg yolk aside in a small bowl.
3. Add 2-1/4 cups flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough forms a rough mass. The dough will be soft.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using only as much of the remaining 1/2 cup flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking, knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Lightly grease a bowl. Add the dough and turn to coat. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and set aside until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
5. Punch the dough down and divide in half. Divide each half into 3 pieces and roll each piece into a rope 12 inches long and tapered at the ends. Lay the ropes parallel to one another and press together the points at one end. Braid the ropes and pinch the ends together. Tuck the pinched ends under. Transfer to a greased baking sheet.
6. Beat the water into the egg yolk. Brush the loaves with the egg wash. Sprinkle with the reserved toasted oats. Set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
7. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until nicely browned and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped. Cool on wire racks.

Makes 2 loaves

Thursday, May 28, 2009

K.A.T.E.S. Eggplant-Bacon Sauté with Kale

Kale Apple Tarragon Eggplant Smoked bacon

The second recipe from the Alphabet Challenge:
Come up with recipes using only ingredients that start with the letters that spell out my name K + A + T + E + S (the first initial of my last name to give me a total of 5). Oil, salt and pepper do not count.
So I made a little eggplant sauté that was surprisingly yummy (it got better and better as it sat). But in the interest of full disclosure, the next time I make it I will leave out the kale, which was really only there because it got me the letter K. Another bright green garnishy thing might be fine in its place, or nothing at all.

Eggplant-Bacon Sauté with Kale
Peel or don't peel the apple, your choice. I left it on for a little color,

5 large kale leaves, stems discarded
3 slices smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup water
1 eggplant (about 1-1/2 pounds), peeled and cubed
1 apple, cubed
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Generous pinch of pepper

1. In a vegetable steamer, cook the kale just until limp and bright green (to tenderize it). When cool, cut into thin shreds.
2. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium-low heat until crisp, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the water, eggplant, apple, tarragon, salt and pepper, and toss together. Cover and steam over medium heat until the eggplant is softened. Remove from the heat, stir in the kale, and let cool to warm.
4. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Makes 4 servings

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fun with Food: cuddly cream puffs

A bento artist named Anna the Red took a break from her lunchbox designs to come up with these cute little cream puffs (though I guess cream puffs are inherently cute, no?). Anna's post is quite detailed on how she set about making them.

The cream puffs are actually representations of an anime character named Totoro. You don't really have to know who Totoro is to want to make these cutie-pie pastries, but just for a frame of reference here is the real Totoro.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The pumpkin tree project

A couple of years ago I planted a type of gourd called a birdhouse gourd (well that's probably not its botanical name) that you can turn into a birdhouse: You dry it out so you can cut a small hole in it to act as a front door for the birdies.

The gourds I grew weren't quite up to snuff birdhouse-wise, but that's not the point of my story. The point is that the gourd plant decided it didn't have enough sun where I had put it, so it simply grew up a tree. It made lots of little gourd fruits, all dangling from the branches of an evergreen tree.

This inspired me to make this happen on purpose. Today--Memorial Day--I planted two kinds of baby pumpkins at the base of the same tree (photo above). I'll report on the progress. I'm aiming to have a hilarious picture of the pumpkin tree in September.

For the record, I planted 2 pumpkins: one called Sweet Lightning, which produces 3- to 5-inch fruits, and one called Wee-Be-Little, which makes 3- to 4-inch fruits. They're both from Jung Seed.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Orange-Honeydew Licuado

The first time I went to Mexico I had been properly warned to not eat street food. It was a fear that I respected until I met the licuado, a blender fruit drink.

There was a little store (term used loosely) that was just a window onto the street with a counter. Lined up behind the serving guy was a cornucopia of tropical fruits. In front of him was a blender. You went up and asked for the fruit you wanted (which in my case meant pointing since I didn't know what a lot of the fruits were) and poof you had a licuado.

It became a minor addiction. Anyway, without further ado, here's a licuado I made the other day.

Orange-Honeydew Licuado
A licuado can also be called a batido, but I'm not sure if there's a distinction. It might be that a batido has milk and a licuado does not? If anyone out there is versed in the linguistic or culinary differences between the two, I'd like to know. Don't try to make more than 2 drinks at once. Just make multiple batches.

2 cups honeydew chunks
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon orange liqueur or honey (optional)
4 ice cubes

In a blender, combine all the ingredients and puree until thick and frothy.
Makes 2 servings

While I was looking around for pictures of honeydew melons (since I hadn't photographed the drink itself), I ran across a chef from Thailand named Krongjit "Kacie" Chatuparisoot (Thai names always make me laugh; they're so silly and jolly sounding) who specializes in carving food. Here's what she did with a honeydew melon.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Watermelon thoughts

Watermelon thought #1: The other day as I passed my local market, they were unloading crates and crates of watermelons. But it's only May?!? It's just plain discombobulating--not to mention the shipped-from-a-distance carbon footprint issue. Watermelon is supposed to be for hot summer days when you compete with your sisters to see who can spit the seeds the farthest.

Watermelon thought #2: The Agricultural Research Service arm of the USDA has discovered that the sugars in watermelon juice can be made into ethanol. Of the watermelons that are grown for human consumption, 20 percent of the total U.S. crop--around 800 million pounds--are left in fields because of external blemishes or deformities. Now these cast-off melons might find love as a biofuel.

Watermelon thought #3: Even though I liked watermelon as a kid (probably just so I could spit the seeds), I'm not a big fan as an adult. It's just a big slice of sugar water. However, I've had it in a couple of savory salads where it kinda won me over. On that theory, I tried pairing it with savory things to serve as an appetizer. I was looking for something rich and salty (like cheese) and something tart and crisp (like a pickle) to offset the sweetness of the melon.

Skewered Melon Appetizers
Sweet, tart and savory, all in one bite. Try it with watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe or a mixture of all three

3/4 pound goat gouda, provolone or fontina
About 40 bread & butter pickles, dill pickle chips or pickled jalapeño slices
2 cups melon balls or cubes (1 inch)

1. Cut the cheese into pieces about the same size as the type of pickle you are using.
2. Skewer one piece of cheese, one pickle and one melon ball on a toothpick.

Makes about 40 pieces

Random barley thought: Aren't you glad you don't work for something called the Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pig lid

Continuing with the theme of faces staring up at you from unexpected places, I like this little silicone pig cooking lid from Japan (where else?). It's only 7 inches across, and it's meant to sit right on top of the ingredients (not cover the pot itself). This keeps the heat in but lets steam escape—through the pig's nostrils (tee-hee).

It's $18 from the MoMA store and I just can't imagine buying one, though I can totally imagine wanting one.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fun with Food: potato portraits

Lebanese artist Ginou Choueiri paints portraits on potatoes. I love that she leaves in the potato "eyes" as part of the warty nature of the faces. As she explains:
I chose the potato to portray human faces because of the many striking parallels. Not only is their skin porous like ours, but their skin texture and color is very similar, and like us, they come in different sizes, shapes and forms.
The portraits are eerie, and especially so when you see all the potato faces staring up at you from market-style burlap bags.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Coconut-Peanut Chicken

The other day I was thinking about the foods that I didn't like as a child—pistachio ice cream, marzipan, coconut-covered cakes, Hershey bars with almonds—and I began to see a theme. I didn't like nuts when they came in a sweet package. (Now I love everything on that list...well, maybe not marzipan.)

I think it was just the taste disconnect between something that seemed fundamentally savory (nuts) and the sweet environment they were in. You know, like why jam made from tomatoes doesn't quite work.

Anyway, this week's recipe puts one of those ingredients—coconut—back into the savory environment it belongs in, if you ask me. I used it in a coating mixture for chicken tenders that were pounded into a flat strip, like for satay. I used supermarket coconut flakes, which means they were sweetened, but it wasn't a bad counterpoint to the chicken and the salted peanuts (also in the coating).

Coconut-Peanut Chicken
I was wondering what would happen if you took some of the flavors of the peanut sauce used for chicken satay and just applied them right to the chicken. Thus was this recipe born.

2 pounds chicken tenders
1-1/2 cups dry-roasted salted peanuts
1-1/2 cups coconut flakes
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons teriyaki sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Hot sauce, for serving
4 limes, cut into wedges

1. Soak 32 wooden skewers (8 or 10 inch) in water for at least 30 minutes.
2. With the flat side of a meat pounder or the bottom of a small heavy skillet, pound the chicken tenders 1/8 inch thick. Cut the tenders in half lengthwise.
3. In a food processor, pulse the peanuts until they form a fine meal (be careful not to turn them into peanut butter). Add the coconut flakes and pulse to combine.
4. Preheat the broiler. Lightly coat a broiler pan with cooking spray. (Note: You will have to cook the chicken in two batches, so reapply cooking spray if you think the pan needs it.)
5. Put the coconut-peanut mixture in a shallow container long enough to hold the skewered chicken. In another shallow bowl or pie plate, beat the egg whites, teriyaki sauce and sesame oil together. Dip the chicken in the egg white mixture, then thread onto the skewers. Dip the skewered chicken into the coconut-peanut mixture, pressing the mixture onto the chicken.
6. Place on the broiler pan and broil 6 inches from the heat for 3 minutes. Turn the chicken over and broil for 2 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through but not dried out.
7. Serve with hot sauce and lime wedges for squeezing.

Makes 8 servings

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Koziol napkin ring

This is a completely self-indulgent post. I saw this napkin ring from a German company called Koziol and I want it. Koziol's kitchen products are mostly mundane gadgets (bottle openers, pancake turners) designed as whimsical creatures, usually animals. I'm a sucker for that. I would buy this if I could figure out where it's sold (other than Germany).

Ever since I lived in France years ago, I've been a fan of the cloth napkin and napkin rings. My son was raised that way. We used our napkins for a week and then they were committed to the laundry. I've found that most other people of my acquaintance find the idea of using a napkin more than once disgusting. They would rather use paper napkins and then throw them away (!?!?!?). On behalf of the environment, I object.

Now, I'm just waiting for someone to tell me that the laundry detergent I use to wash the cloth napkins is as bad as throwing away paper (paper, by the way, that I had to pay $ for just for the privilege of throwing away). But since I just add the cloth napkins to my regular wash, it doesn't really compute.

Sorry, rant over. But this is why I love napkin rings, and I want this one. It comes in 6 colors.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fashionably dressed wine bottles

I've never quite figured out the wine tote. Where am I going when I'm carrying a bottle of wine like a handbag? Maybe to someone's house for dinner?

Well, I'm sure the reason will come to me, because I really want an excuse to own this Fishnet Wine Tote from Built NY (in Manhattan's SoHo district). This cool looking wine tote carries two bottles (now we're talking) and is made of neoprene, the spongy material wetsuits are made of. It's $17 from Built and it comes in 3 colors: the multi shown here, red and black.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Great recipe search tool

It's in beta, but you should definitely take the recipe search for a test drive. It searches across all the big recipe sites—Recipezaar, Epicurious, Food Network—and tons more, and aggregates the findings into one list. If there happens to be a photograph of the dish, it shows that in the search results, too. It's really one-stop shopping. Go here to sign up.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fun with Food: mock lobster

Last April I wrote about a book called Face Food, the art of making bento boxes (Japanese lunch boxes).

I recently stumbled across a Flickr gallery of a bento artist named Sakurako Kitsa and found the same bento I had used to illustrate the blog post. What made this fun was that now I could see how she had constructed the bento (which she calls spa bento). Kitsa has installed little hyperlinks in the photos so that when you mouse over parts of the bento box, a little caption box pops up to explain what was used in the construction.

This will all become clear if you check out her gallery. I was especially fond of this lobster, which is made of plum tomatoes.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fun with Food: pink pasta

OK, now I'm on a playful pasta roll. How about if you used beets to dye pasta pink?

Easy-peasy, as Jamie Oliver would say. The result is this pasta salad. (I took the photo before I tossed all the ingredients so you'd get the full impact of the pinkness.)

Rosy Pasta Salad
This serves 6 as a side dish, but it could serve 4 as a main dish if you threw in some goat cheese, feta cheese, diced ham or shredded cooked chicken or turkey.

10 ounces linguine, broken into thirds
2 medium beets (about 3/4 pound), peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 cup frozen green peas
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 large carrots, shredded (2 cups)

1. In a medium pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to package directions. Add the beets for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
2. Meanwhile, place the peas in a colander. When the pasta is done, drain over the peas. Transfer the pasta and vegetables to a serving bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Let cool to lukewarm.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper.
4. Add the dressing to the bowl along with the carrots and toss well. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fun with Food: sausage spiders

When Joyce Maffezzoli used linguine in place of toothpicks (see yesterday's post), she said she didn't think she'd invented the idea and felt as though she'd read it somewhere. So I did due diligence and searched on "pasta as toothpicks." I found quite a few tips on using linguine to truss poultry, but then I stumbled on an idea that produced these cute little spider guys.

The suggestion I read called for hot dogs, but I'm not a fan so I used mango-chicken sausages instead. I stuck in 4 lengths of linguine (for 8 legs) and cooked it in boiling water for the amount of time needed to make the pasta tender.

I didn't take it to the next step--how to serve them--because I was amused enough by their cuteness. But since I don't see an adult struggling to eat a whole plate of sausage spiders, this is probably just a fun dish for kids.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Fun with Food: linguine picks

About 2 weeks ago I went to a dinner party at my sister's house. The guests/participants were all members of a group (I was just auditing) that gets together regularly to hang out and eat good food. The rules of the get-togethers are that no spouses or significant others are invited, the hosting duties rotate, and if you are a guest—i.e., not the host—then you are not allowed to help clean up (love that one).

The dinners are always collaborative, with everyone bringing a dish and/or wine. I asked them if they planned ahead who was bringing what and they said no, they just let chance dictate, but that somehow it always worked out. Which, in fact, it absolutely did that night: prune-stuffed pork loin, rich scalloped potatoes and jerk-spiced vegetables.

But before the meal we had appetizers, which brings me to the point of this post. One of the club members—Joyce Levowitz Maffezzoli (who said that since this is a food blog I could refer to her as Juice Liverwurst Mostaccioli)—brought bocconcini but she had forgotten to bring the toothpicks. My sister had no toothpicks, but she did have linguine, so Joyce improvised. Genius.

Friday, May 1, 2009

K.A.T.E.S. Avocado & Bean Salad

Kidney beans Avocado Tangerines Evaporated milk Salsa

On March 30, 2009, I issued a recipe challenge to myself:
Come up with recipes using only ingredients that start with the letters that spell out my name K + A + T + E + S (the first initial of my last name to give me a total of 5). Oil, salt and pepper do not count.
Here's the first recipe in the challenge:

Avocado & Bean Salad with Creamy Salsa Dressing
It's important to use shelf-stable bottled salsa for this, because the refrigerated salsas are too watery.

And if I hadn't set this challenge for myself, I probably would have used sour cream, yogurt or mayonnaise instead of evaporated milk in the dressing.

2 cups dried kidney beans, soaked overnight if possible
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup bottled medium salsa
3 tablespoons canned evaporated milk
4 tangerines
1 Hass avocado, cut into cubes

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the beans, salt, pepper and water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low-boil, partially cover and cook until the beans are tender (40 minutes to 1 hour plus, depending on if you've soaked ahead or not).
2. Meanwhile, in a blender or mini food processor, puree the salsa. Grate the zest from half of one tangerine and stir into the salsa.
3. Drain the beans and transfer to a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the salsa mixture to the hot beans and stir to coat. Let cool to room temperature.
4. Stir the evaporated milk into the remaining salsa, add to the beans and toss to coat.
5. Peel the tangerines and cut into 1/2-inch chunks. Add the tangerines and avocado to the beans, and toss to coat. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Makes 4 servings