Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chocolate crepes with fruit and yogurt

I got a crepe pan in November from an aunt. At first I thought it was kind of silly. I had never minded not making crepes. But it works really well, and I have had a lot of fun with it. I have made regular savory crepes, chickpea flour crepes, garlic scape crepes, regular sweet crepes, and now chocolate crepes. We had a lot of fruit salad left over from Jon's mom's visit, and I thought this would be a good way to use it up. I accidentally forgot to add the water, and the batter didn't spread as well in the pan as I would have liked, but they tasted pretty good anyway. Also, the recipe calls for 1/4 cup powdered sugar, and I used 2 tbsp regular sugar. It was not very sweet at all, which was fine with me since I was putting fruit in it.

Chocolate crepes, from Crepes by Lou Seibert Pappas
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp liqueur, optional (I used Grand Marnier, although I didn't get much of the flavor)
2 tbsp butter, melted.

Mix everything in a food processor. If you don't have one, mix the wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately and then whisk together. Cover and refrigerate 1-24 hours. (I don't know whether that is essential, but I always do it.) To make the crepes, stir the batter just to make sure nothing has separated. Then heat up your crepe pan over medium to medium-high heat. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan, tilting to let it spread. Cook until mostly dry on top, usually under a minute. Then flip over and cook for 15-30 seconds on the other side. Fill as you see fit.

In case you were curious, the fruit salad contained apples, bananas, clementines, pineapple chunks, strawberries, raspberries, and sliced almonds. I thought the almonds were a stroke of genius. It's nice to have that little crunch every once in a while. And of course, the yogurt I used was my homemade plain stuff. I added 1/3 cup of powdered milk to the last batch, and I think it helped make the yogurt nice and thick.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Curried carrot raisin salad

I don't have a picture of this because my camera batteries died last night and I couldn't find another charged pair. But it's not much to look at anyway. I have always quite enjoyed Luby's cafeteria-style carrot raisin salad (shredded carrots, raisins, mayo, maybe some pineapple). The latest issue of Bon Appetit had a more mature carrot-raisin salad recipe, and I really like it. First of all, I prefer raw carrots to cooked, but they can be hard on the jaw. Shredded carrots are the way to go. Also, the mint really makes it sparkle, and the yogurt and lemon juice balance the sweetness of the carrots and raisins. I used to be somewhat against mint in non-dessert foods, but I've been coming around (having a ton of mint in my garden doesn't hurt), and I really like it in here. I don't think the amount they recommend is enough. Maybe just add that amount and keep adding more until you're happy with it. I think this salad would also be good, albeit very different, with any fresh-tasting herb in place of the mint. Parsley and cilantro are the obvious choices, although maybe basil or Thai basil could work too. I would like to experiment with it, but I like the mint so much that I might not be able to bring myself to try something else. I added a sprinkling of whole cumin seeds because I love cumin and can't get enough. The first time I made it, I added a little too much curry powder, and I think I added too little this time. But it's easy to just sprinkle a little more on at the table.

Curried carrot raisin salad, with my modifications in italics:
3/4 cup plain yogurt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp fresh mint, minced (I would use about twice that much, or to taste)
3/4-1 tsp curry powder, or to taste
1 lb carrots, peeled and grated (food processor is best for this)
1/4 cup raisins, or more to taste
Healthy sprinkling of whole cumin seeds, maybe 1/2 tsp

Whisk first four ingredients together in medium bowl. Add carrots and raisins and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with cumin seeds and serve.

I served it with tortellini with a creamy, cheesy pea sauce. They didn't go together at all, but it was just what I wanted. That's why I love cooking at home. Restaurants would never serve curried carrot salad with tortellini and peas. They're bullies.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Herbed cream cheese

I have a garden on my balcony. I grow lettuce, tomatoes, eggplants, strawberries, peppers, and tons of herbs. The herbs are perfect for herbed cream cheese. There is really no recipe. I use a combination of dill, chives, and garlic scapes. Mince them finely and use a spoon to mix them into room-temperature cream cheese. It's hard to use too much of the herbs because you'll be putting the cream cheese on something (I hope), so get more herbs than you think you need. This is Jon's breakfast plate this morning. We also really love sandwiches made with a good layer of herbed cream cheese on each slice of bread and a thick layer of thinly-sliced cucumbers in the middle. It's divine.

Whole wheat pumpkin seed bread

I made a third loaf of bread in the bread machine the other day: whole wheat pumpkin seed bread. Once again, I increased the yeast, and it rose a lot more than the first loaf. It wasn't as tall as the white loaf, and I think next time I make it, I'll add some gluten. I have heard that just adding a couple tablespoons of gluten to wheat bread dough can make it a lot lighter. This bread was delicious, especially fresh from the machine slathered in butter. Most of the pumpkin seeds were ground up pretty well, but there are enough to give a little texture to the bread. It is slightly sweet but would probably still make good savory sandwiches. I haven't tried yet. I've just been toasting it and spreading some butter on it. Predictable but delicious. It uses milk instead of water, and I have whole milk in the fridge right now, so it's not a low-calorie bread by any stretch, but it's probably just as good with skim milk. The recipe came from the instruction manual for the bread machine.

I'm having one problem with homemade bread. Well, two problems. The first is that it's so delicious that I'm eating way more bread than I usually do. But that's not a bad problem. The second is that I'm terrible at slicing it. That's the reason I haven't made sandwiches with it yet. I end up with a lot of slices that are too thin to have any structural integrity and a few that are way too thick to use for sandwiches. I've just been slicing as I go along, and I wonder if it might be better to slice it all at once when it's cooled most of the way. Is that a good idea? Any slicing tips?

Whole wheat pumpkin seed bread:
1 3/8 cups milk
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp dry milk
1 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp yeast (I increased to 2 tsp)
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Put it in the machine and cook on the large whole wheat loaf setting.

The mixing paddle got stuck in the loaf.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rosemary-olive oil crackers

In my ongoing quest to make more things at home, I decided to try making crackers. This is my third batch, and they have all gotten good reviews from Jon. The recipe, which I got again from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, is infinitely variable, as are many of his recipes. The essential ingredients are flour, fat (butter or oil), salt, and water. Beyond that, you can add cheese, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, etc. Since it's a flatbread, it doesn't need the gluten found in wheat flour, so you can use any flour you want. I "accidentally" bought spelt flour about three years ago (I misunderstood a recipe; it was calling for whole spelt) and have had it in my freezer ever since, so I've been using half all-purpose flour and half spelt flour. I like the result, so I plan on doing that until I run out of spelt flour. I might go to all-spelt. The recipe calls for a 400 F oven. The first two batches burned on the edges before they were all the way hard in the middle, so I decreased it to 385 this time. I think it would have worked great if I hadn't forgotten about them. They got a little burned on the edges anyway. I love the rosemary-olive oil Triscuits, although they're a bit salty, so with this recipe I was going for that flavor. It smelled fantastic baking, but the flavor wasn't there quite as much when they came out. They're still good, though. This is my recipe, which differs slightly from Bittman's.

Rosemary-olive oil crackers:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Place first five ingredients in food processor. Pulse until well-mixed. Add sunflower seeds and pulse until mixed. Add 1/4 cup water and pulse. Continue adding water, about a tablespoon at a time, and pulsing until dough sticks together in a ball. Roll ball out on a floured surface until it's 1/8-1/4" thick. Place onto floured baking sheets (one if you roll in a more rectangular way than I do, two if your dough is rather irregularly shaped), score lightly with a knife if you want it to break apart easily, and bake at 385 F until brown and crispy. Check after 8 minutes and watch closely after that.

Gordon's cup

I'm not a big drinker, and I mostly drink beer, but we recently acquired the start of a liquor collection, and I enjoy trying new things. Jon has made me a couple Gordon's cups, and I must say I like them quite well. We got the recipe from an issue of Bon Appetit. The first time, he went by the recipe. The second time, he increased the simple syrup just a little and added a splash of club soda. The first one was a lot stronger, both in alcohol and the herbal, almost peppery taste of gin. The second one was less intense, and I really liked the slight fizz. We will be making these again. Here is the recipe, with our changes in italics.

2 1/2" slices of cucumber, peeled
Juice of 1 lime (we decreased to 1/2 lime)
1/4 cup gin
1 1/2 tbsp simple syrup (we increased to 1 3/4 tbsp)
splash of club soda

Muddle the cucumber with the lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Add gin, simple syrup, and ice. Shake, then strain into glass. Add club soda.

Monday, April 20, 2009

My homemade breakfast

I had an excellent breakfast today, and it was almost all homemade:

1 slice of homemade yogurt bread with (not homemade) butter
Fresh homemade yogurt with homemade granola and (not homemade) dried raspberries
Homemade fruit smoothie: banana, orange juice, carrot, frozen strawberries, frozen raspberries, and frozen pineapple.

In case you're wondering, yogurt is easy to make. Heat 1 quart of milk on high heat, stirring constantly, until it gets really steamy and foamy. When it comes down to about 110 F, add it to a bowl with a couple spoonfuls (spoonsful?) of yogurt with live cultures (Dannon has worked best for me) and keep in a warm place 8 hours or so. I kept mine in the oven with the oven light on, and by the morning, the temp in there was 116 F, which is a temperature that makes the little lactobacilli very happy. Homemade yogurt is super-delicious just after you make it, before refrigeration, so it was a real treat to have some of that this morning.

My granola contains: oats, dried cranberries, dried cherries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, and honey. I'm not going to put up the recipe because, although it's pretty tasty, I am still trying to figure out an ideal cooking time/temperature. My oats didn't get very cooked when I made it, so it's somewhere in between granola and muesli.

2nd bread machine loaf: a success!

Yay! My second loaf of bread machine bread rose and tasted fantastic! I made a white yogurt bread. Because I am ridiculous and cheap, I elected not to buy new yeast and instead increased the yeast. I used 2 3/4 tsp instead of the 2 tsp in the recipe. In order to increase my chances of success, I also decided to go with a white loaf and didn't use the delay timer. I will branch out a little more now that I know that success is very possible. I may have used too much yeast, as the bread is a little spongy, but it really is delicious, so I am not at all disappointed. The recipe is from the instructions that came with the bread machine (Hitachi D-102).

1/2 cup tap water
1 cup plain yogurt
3 cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp dry yeast (I increased to 2 3/4 tsp)

Put ingredients in breadmaker in the order suggested by the manufacturer (in my case, in the order shown above). Press "Start".

Miso soup

I made miso soup for the first time on Friday. It was raining cats and dogs, so soup seemed appropriate. Plus, I had bought miso a while ago and hadn't gotten around to using it yet. I threw in some extras to make it a little more substantial than your standard Japanese restaurant miso soup. Beyond the dashi and miso, everything else is optional, and you can add any other fun extras you want. I don't know very much about miso, and I forgot to write down the kind I used. It was a light brown color. I know each kind has its own flavor but are to some degree interchangeable. Dashi is Japanese kelp stock. It traditionally has bonito fish flakes in it, but I didn't add them. This was my first time making or using it, and I also added some other seaweed to the soup itself. I had only had seaweed in the form of Japanese restaurant seaweed salad, but I bought a bunch of dried seaweed in Chinatown a few months ago and have decided to explore a little bit. So far, so good.

Miso soup (adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman):
1 quart dashi (see next recipe)
1/3 cup miso
8 oz firm silken tofu, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup frozen edamame
1 carrot, cut into small rounds
1/4 cup dry hijiki seaweed, rehydrated in about 1/3 cup warm water for a few minutes

Heat the dashi in a saucepan over medium heat until it's almost boiling. Then scoop out about 1/2 a cup and mix it with the miso. Then add the miso mixture back to the dashi. Toss in the rest of the ingredients, including the water used to rehydrate the hijiki. Let it cook without boiling until the edamame is cooked to your taste.

Dashi (also from Bittman):
2 quarts of water
1 piece of kombu (kelp), about 4-6 inches (I'm a seaweed newbie, and the whole piece looked awfully big to me (about 4x10 inches or so), so I cut it in half, and it seemed to work fine.)

Put the water and dashi in a saucepan over medium heat until almost boiling. Bittman says it takes about 15 minutes. I wasn't paying attention to the time when I made it, so I don't know. I used one quart immediately in the miso soup and froze the other quart for the next batch of soup.

The next day for lunch I had leftover miso soup with spring rolls. I made a dipping sauce for the spring rolls this time: peanut butter, orange juice, rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, and srirachi (Thai chili sauce), all to taste. I also tossed a couple leftover leaves of lacinato kale (aka dinosaur kale) into the soup. Both were good choices.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring rolls

Since the blog is just beginning, I think I should have a post about something that went right: spring rolls! These were for a special dinner for Jon when he got back into town after being gone for a whole week.

First, I dry-fried some firm silken tofu. I just used a nonstick pan and cooked it until it was brown on each side. I had never tried that technique before, but I was really pleased with the texture.

Next, I laid out the other fillings: apples, carrots, kohlrabi, cucumber, lettuce, asparagus, herbs, and (self-sprouted) bean sprouts. To make each roll, we soaked a wrapper in warm water until it was pliable. Then we filled it the way we wanted to and rolled it up like a burrito. It was fun because each one was different. Jon made a little dipping sauce with Hoisin sauce, Sriracha, and some other stuff. I might try a peanut-based sauce next time.

To round out the meal, I served hot and sour soup, seaweed salad, and leftover mung beans in coconut milk with jasmine rice. It was a good way to welcome him home.

1st bread machine loaf

My mom let me have her old bread machine when I went back to Dallas last weekend. Yesterday it was time for the first batch of bread. Jon and I both thought the onion dill rye bread sounded easy and good, so I decided to make that. I bought bread flour and rye flour at the store, read and reread the bread machine instructions and recipe, and finally assembled the bread. Since it was 8:30 by that time and I was not going to stay up until after midnight for the bread, I put it on a delay so it would be ready at 8 this morning. I didn't sleep all that well because I was so excited about the bread, and around 7:40 I could smell the bread. When I went to the kitchen to peek in, I was a little surprised by how short the loaf was. And when it was done cooking and I took it out, it was clear that it hadn't risen nearly as much as it should have. It is pretty dense, although definitely not inedible. I am disappointed in the rise, but now I can have fun figuring out how to make the next one better.

Here are some theories I have, from most to least likely:
1) Maybe the yeast isn't fresh enough. It says best by January 2009, and it also says to use it within four months of opening. I probably bought it in 2006 or 2007, so clearly it is expired on two counts. However, it appeared healthy when I proofed it in some warm water this morning. Proposed solution: buy new yeast. Alternate proposed solution: increase the amount of yeast since it doesn't appear to be completely dead and may just be a bit less effective. I might try the alternate solution first so I don't have to buy new yeast.
2) Maybe the yeast didn't stay dry long enough. If the yeast touches the water too soon, it will start to bubble and give off gas before it's supposed to, and it won't get trapped in the gluten and make my bread big and strong. Even though I carefully put the yeast on top of the dry ingredients, which were on top of the water, maybe the delay was too long and the yeast got wet. Proposed solution: don't use the delay setting.
3) I used the whole wheat setting, which has an extra rise cycle in it. The recipe didn't come from the bread machine manual, and while the rye is a whole grain, it also white bread flour. Maybe the second rise isn't good for that recipe. I don't know whether having the second rise for whole wheat bread is standard. Proposed solution: use the white bread setting.
4) Maybe the room was too humid. I hope this is not the case because I don't want to have to modify all my recipes for humidity. I will only entertain this option if the first three fail. Proposed solution: Decrease water slightly.
5) The bread machine hasn't been used in at least five years, so maybe it isn't calibrated right or had trouble adjusting to being used again. Proposed solution: make more bread?

The scientist in me wants to try each solution separately and then combine them if results look promising, but the person in me who doesn't want to waste a lot of ingredients on inferior bread wants to try all the solutions at once to give herself the best chance of success.

The bread is tasty, especially toasted with butter. Then again, what isn't?