In the winter, I just don’t want to eat cold food. Coupled with the fact that I crave comfort food and I’m trying to cut down from the sugar insanity that is Christmas, it’s nice to have something semi-healthy to fall back on.
Speedy “Baked” Apple (serves 1)
- 1 apple, cut into 8ths and cored
- generous pinch brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. raisins
- a nice sprinkle of poudre douce
- 1 tsp. butter
Put the apple pieces in a microwave-safe bowl. Top with brown sugar, raisins, poudre douce, and dot with bits of butter. Microwave 3-5 minutes depending on the power of your microwave and how cooked you like your apple. Eat with care as it can be like flaming hot lava. Delicious flaming hot lava.
I really did honestly just throw these together out of what was in the house, so your version may not look like my version. That’s fine, it’ll be tasty, trust me. (: I would like these to have a bit more of a creamy filling, but they’re still pretty good just as they are. This makes enough filling for about 12 pasties, pocket-pies, calzones, whatever you call them.
Curry Chicken Pasties
- 1 to 1.5 recipes Sourdough Piecrust
- 1 lb. ground chicken
- olive oil
- 1 small-medium onion, chopped
- about 10 button mushrooms, chopped
- 1/2 c. celery or Swiss chard stems, chopped (I used reconstituted dried celery and chard from my stash)
- 1 hot pepper, minced
- 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric (if you’re using Penzey’s turmeric, use less — it’s strong stuff)
- 1/2-1 tsp ground ginger
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 c. raisins (or more)
- 1/4-3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (depending on how much heat you like)
- salt to taste
- juice of 1 lemon
- generous pinch sugar
- 1/2 tsp. garam masala
- 2 Tbsp. butter
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Saute the onion and celery in a generous splash of olive oil until they start to turn soft and tender. Add the mushrooms, hot pepper, and spices. When the mushrooms are beginning to get tender, add the garlic and the ground chicken. Chop and smash the chicken with a spoon as you cook it to get small pieces. Add a little water to loosen it all up if you need to (the mushrooms will release liquid as they cook, which may be enough), then add the lemon juice, sugar, and raisins. Let cook until the raisins are nice and plump and the chicken is fully cooked. Swirl in the butter, remove from the heat, add the garam masala, and stir well. Taste and add salt or more garam masala if needed. Allow to cool.
Make small balls of the sourdough piecrust, each a little larger than a golf ball. Roll one ball into a round, top half the round with chicken mixture, fold over the other half, and seal it shut with a fork. Cut a vent hole in the top of the pastie with a sharp knife and place it on a cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining pastry balls. You will get about eight pasties with 1 recipe of piecrust, and some chicken left over. You’ll get about 12 for 1.5 recipes of piecrust, and no chicken left over.
Bake the pasties at 350°F for 40 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. They can be frozen and re-heated in the oven to crisp them up — 20 minutes at 350°F for reheating.
I suppose technically, this is a quiche, since it involves eggs and leftover bits and pieces. But I like pie. Mmmm, pie.
Since my stovetop is currently unreliable for simmering, I’ve started baking for breakfast. Or more accurately, baking ahead of breakfast and reheating. Pies are easy to reheat — plop a slice or two on a pie pan, cover with tin foil, set your oven to 350°, pop the pan into the oven, and wait 10-15 minutes. Not quite as good as fresh, but way better than the microwave. The tin foil helps retain the moisture in the crust, so don’t go without it.
This week’s breakfast is using up some meat and mushroom crockpot ragu that I made last week; it’s a recipe from The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone. (By the way, it’s an excellent book. Everything I’ve made out of it has been dynamite.) This particular leftover includes ground chuck, Italian sausage, and mixed mushrooms. I’m also using up some poor zucchini that got left in the bottom of the fridge. Such a sad thing — try not to do that to your zucchini. (; The recipe is infinitely flexible; about six cups of cooked mixed meat and veggies, three eggs, some cheese, and a pie crust.
I love making pie crust by hand, but the high around here has been in the 90°s (that’s about 33° for you Celsius people) for the past week, and it’s going to continue for the rest of the week. So hand-making the crust is not very practical right now. Too melty. Fortunately, the food processor is a great tool for making pie crust in the heat, so I’m including the recipe for that as well. Make the pie crust first, and let it chill while you put together the rest of the ingredients.
Food Processor Pie Crust
- 1/2 c. whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/2 c. white flour
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- generous pinch salt
- 1/4 c. butter, cold
- 1/4 c. bacon drippings, cold (you can use all butter, but I like bacon drippings for meaty pies)
- 2-3 Tbsp. milk
Put the flours, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and process just to combine. Cut the butter and bacon drippings into chunks and add to the food processor. Process just until they are incorporated into rough pea-sized bits. With the motor running, add the milk slowly through the feed tube, stopping immediately when the dough gathers itself into a ball. You may need to whip the dripping feed tube out of the processor. Remove the dough from the food processor, wrap it in plastic wrap, and tuck it in the fridge for at least half an hour to chill out.
Leftovers for Breakfast Pie
- 3-4 c. zucchini, small dice (about four small zucchini)
- olive oil
- about 2 c. leftover cooked meat and mushroom ragu, or whatever meaty thing you have left over, well drained
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 c. milk
- 1/2-3/4 c. shredded cheddar, or whatever cheese you like (cheddar was just what I had on-hand)
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
Saute the zucchini, seasoned with salt and pepper, in a generous splash of olive oil until nicely browned.
Add the drained ragu and set aside to cool.
Beat the eggs well with the milk, season with salt and pepper, and set aside. Shred the cheddar. Check your pie crust and see if it’s firm enough to handle.
When the pie crust is firm enough to handle, roll it out, dusting with extra whole-wheat flour to prevent sticking.
Scoop it up with the rolling pin and drape it into the pie pan, and flute the edges however you like. I used a fork because to be honest, I didn’t wait long enough to roll the crust out and it was sticking.
Fill the pie with the zucchini-meat mixture and top with half the cheese. Pour the eggs over, then top with the remaining cheese.
Bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes, until a sharp knife stuck in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes and serve, or let cool completely, cover, and store in the fridge for breakfast.
I bragged about making these on Facebook, so of course then I got a request for the recipe. It is really easy! I got the recipe from one of Peter Reinhart’s bread books. I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t recall which one, but all his books are good.
Homemade Ritz Crackers
- 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 c. cake flour
- 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus additional for garnish
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 10 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus an additional 4 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter for garnish
- 1 egg for the dough, 1 egg beaten with 2 Tbsp. water for egg wash
- 6 Tbsp. cold milk (any kind – I used nonfat)
Combine all ingredients except butter for garnish, salt for garnish, and egg wash. Mix for one minute by hand or with a paddle attachment on your mixer. The dough should form a firm, non-sticky ball. (This will be an unusual dough – it should be pliable and smooth, and absolutely not sticky at all. It may feel somewhat greasy to you.)
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 30 seconds to make sure it is well-mixed. Dough should be slightly tacky, but not sticky. Adjust with flour or water as needed.
Preheat the oven to 400F and line three baking sheets with parchment paper. You do not need to grease the parchment paper, but do use it – otherwise the crackers may scorch.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface to 1/8″ thick. I do this in several batches because that is really thin and requires a lot of space. Prick the rolled-out dough all over with a fork. Cut the dough with a pizza wheel or with cookie cutters (I have a cute tiny fall leaf set that I used), and place on the cookie sheets. If you are feeling fastidious, you can cut the dough first and then prick, so that the docking is pretty. I will admit to doing that. ^_^; The dough will not expand as it bakes, so go ahead and cram them close together on the sheets.
Brush the crackers with the egg wash, sprinkle with salt, and bake two pans at a time in the preheated oven, for 16-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the bake time. At the end of the bake time, brush the crackers with the remaining melted butter and return them to the turned-off oven for 3-5 minutes. They should be a rich golden brown, and crisp. If you find they are deep golden brown when you pull them out of the oven the first time, just brush on the butter and get them out of the pan quickly so they don’t overbake.
When baking the third sheet, check them at about 14 minutes – they will cook faster if it’s just one pan. Let cool and enjoy!
Several years ago, when my mother-in-law told me that she rarely got potiça for the holidays, and no one made it any more, I vowed to find out what this mysterious substance was and make some for her as a surprise. Only I didn’t know how to spell it. It took a while for me to find out, because potiça is actually pronounced “poe-TEETS-ah”. Yeah, not what I’d call obvious. At least, not if you’re not Slovenian. (:
So, what is this mysterious potiça? It’s a Slovenian yeasted bread, stuffed and rolled with a walnut-honey mixture. Some people add raisins. I think it’d be good that way, but I haven’t done it that way yet. It’s time-consuming to prepare, because of the double-rise and the rolling, and because I have to make two batches, or we don’t get any!
I use a recipe from a Slovenian cookbook entitled More Pots and Pans, put out by the Slovenian Women Union of America. My mom-in-law gave it to me. It’s a pretty cool book — I’ve made some other recipes out of it. I make a variant on the “especially for beginners” recipe. This is my version.
- 4 1/2 tsp. rapid-rise yeast
- 3 1/2 c. white flour
- 3 c. whole-wheat flour (not traditional, but I find that it really complements the filling well)
- 4 Tbsp. sugar
- generous pinch salt
- zest of 1 lemon, grated (I like Meyer lemons)
- 1/2 c. milk
- 4 egg yolks, well beaten (reserve the whites for the filling)
- 1 c. sour cream
- 1 stick (1/4 lb) butter
- 1 c. half-and-half
Mix the beaten egg yolks and sour cream. Set aside. Melt the butter with the half-and-half and set aside to cool slightly.
Combine the white flour, whole wheat flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and lemon zest in the bowl of a large stand mixer. You can also knead this by hand, of course. I have shoulder problems, so the mixer is a big help for me, and it makes it go quickly. Add the egg yolks and sour cream, the butter and half-and-half, and the milk. Mix until the liquid is absorbed. You should have a nice soft dough. If you don’t, add more milk.
Knead in the mixer or by hand until you have a smooth and elastic dough. It will take about 10 minutes by hand, 4-5 in the mixer.
Place the dough in a large greased bowl (I use spray oil), turn the dough upside-down to grease the top, and cover with a damp towel. Set aside to rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half, or until the dough is doubled in bulk. Meanwhile, make the filling, and grease four bread pans and a pie pan for the ends.
- 1 stick (1/4 lb) butter
- 1 c. half-and-half, heated
- 1 1/2 lb. ground walnuts (a nut grinder is traditional, but I don’t have one. I grind mine in the food processor. You do get a slightly different texture if you use a nut grinder, but the potiça is equally tasty either way.)
- 1 1/2 c. sugar
- 3/4 c. honey (I use California wildflower honey, which is my favorite. Different honeys will give the filling different flavors — use what you like best.)
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract (I use Penzey’s double-strength vanilla)
- 4 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks
Heat the butter in the half-and-half until melted. Pour the hot mixture over the ground walnuts. Add the sugar, honey, and vanilla and mix well. Fold in the beaten egg whites.
Assemble the Bread
When the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a floured cloth or sheet large enough to roll the dough to 30 x 40″. A table pad or quilt under the sheet will make rolling easier. Roll the dough out into a 30 x40″ rectangle from the center, using only enough flour to keep it from sticking.
Spread the walnut filling evenly over the dough, covering the entire surface except for 1″ on the wide end to be rolled last. I usually spread the filling with my hands. It’s sticky, but faster and you get a smoother coat.
I don’t usually bother to trim the dough to shape, because everyone likes the little gooshy edges where the filling has escaped. But if you want to make it look a little more even, you can square up the dough and trim the edges off. Roll these up like cinnamon rolls and put them in the greased pie plate to bake off.
Start rolling the dough with your fingers, tightly at first and tugging and stretching lightly as you roll. Try to keep the side edges as even as possible.
When you’re halfway through rolling, take a skewer or cake tester (you can see mine in the picture above) and prick the roll about every two inches, going about halfway through. This helps release air bubbles. Continue to roll until you’re at that 1″ you left bare. Paint that with egg white to help the seam seal (I find that the filling always tries to squish out into that area), and finish rolling up. Prick the dough again about every 2 inches.
When the dough is rolled up, you’ll need to cut it to fit. Their recommendation is a plate, which works fine — I’ve done that before. I also have a bench scraper, which is what I’m using in this picture. Whatever you’ve got will work.
Trim off the ends and put them into the pie plate, then cut each loaf to fit your pans. Place them in the pans, cover with a damp towel, and set aside in a warm place to let double in bulk, about 1 hour. Preheat your oven to 325°F.
When the dough is fully proofed, you can brush the top with a mixture of cream and sugar, but I always forget. My potiça never gets a glaze. Oops. I actually don’t think it needs it; it’s plenty sweet on its own. Bake the loaves and the ends at 325°F for an hour and 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the ends, but they’re usually fine.
Remove from the pans and let cool for 20 minutes, then remove from pans and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
So much work, right? Wouldn’t you say the results are worth it, though? And this is just one of the end bits.
I love cranberry sauce, but Uncle Pasto, who is a supertaster, basically can’t eat more than a bite of it before declaring it “too sour”. He likes cranberry bread, though. So when I brought home two cups of the family cranberry sauce, I knew I’d have to do something with it, rather than just serve it plain.
The cranberry sauce we make is one that came up years ago in the San Diego Union-Tribune: Chef Katie Sutton’s Spicy Cranberry-Pear Relish. It’s great — a sweet and savory combination. I took the leftovers we had and made it into these:
- 2 c. chunky cranberry sauce, preferably homemade, drained of liquid
- 2 1/4 c. white whole-wheat flour
- 1 c. white flour
- 1/4 c. mesquite flour (or just use more whole-wheat flour)
- 2/3 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- pinch each of cloves and salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 c. canola oil
- 1 1/2 c. milk
Preheat the oven to 400 °F. Set the cranberry sauce in a strainer to drain the juices away. While the sauce is draining, make the batter.
Combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in the bowl of a mixer. Mix to combine. Beat the eggs and add them to the bowl along with the milk and canola oil. Mix to combine, then add the drained cranberry sauce, and mix again. The batter should come together very quickly.
Scoop the batter into greased muffin tins or muffin cups, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Bake about 20 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes about 20 muffins.
These are pretty good on their own, but can be made decadent with the addition of a little cream-cheese icing. For a quick and easy cream-cheese icing, whip cream cheese in a mixer with maple syrup and powdered sugar to taste. Start with just a little maple syrup, add more as needed, and when you hit the consistency you like, use powdered sugar instead so that the icing doesn’t become too thin.
I make extensive use of my library system. Mostly, this is because if I bought every book I wanted to read, my house would be overflowing with books and I’d be broke!
This week’s library food-related selections are:
- Farm To Fork, Emeril Lagasse
- Why Italians Love to Talk About Food, Elena Kostioukovitch
- The Art of Eating In, Cathy Erway, of Not Eating Out in New York
This wasn’t initially supposed to be a book review post, but what the heck. Quickie reviews.
Farm To Fork: Hey, y’know, I know people who despise Emeril. Not me. I love the way he cooks. His dishes pack a wallop of flavor, and there are a bunch of recipes in this book that I can’t wait to try out. In fact, I couldn’t wait on one of them long enough to write this review. You can see my kicked-up version of his kicked-up scones at the bottom of this post. This is really a book of recipes, though it does include some discussion on local-and-organic issues. The seafood recipes in it look delicious, but they feel tailored for an East Coast / Gulf Coast fish market, instead of a West Coast one. Lots of shrimp and shellfish recipes, and a couple for finfish that aren’t regularly available here. Which, ya know, doesn’t mean you can’t substitute. The pictures are pretty and the food, by and large, is actually pretty simple to prepare. He also includes a small section in the back on canning and preserving, which is nifty. Other recipes I want to try: Buttermilk Candy (have I mentioned I love buttermilk?); Tomato Tartare and Microgreens with Shallot Vinaigrette; Braised Apples, Roasted Acorn Squash, and Fresh Thyme; Roasted Garlic Soup; and several of his sauces.
Why Italians Love To Talk About Food: Written by a Russian in Italian, then translated into English, not only does this book cover the specialties of each region in Italy, it relates Italian cultural nuances about foods. For example, do not diss the tortellini in Emilia-Romagna. It’ll get you in trouble, especially if you’re running for office. (There’s a story there, but it’s a long one. You should go read the book. (; ) It also talks about Italian food-related phrases, like “Parla come mangi!” (speak like you eat) and “buono come il pane” (it’s as good as bread), which share similarities to English phrases like “cool as a cucumber” or “it’s a piece of cake”. After each section, there’s a wrapup that discusses typical dishes, products, and beverages of the region. Pretty cool. This is not a cookbook. This is a book about how food is an integral part of the culture in Italy. It’s really neat.
The Art of Eating In: This is a slice-of-life book about what Cathy was doing while she was doing her two-year no-eating-out challenge. It also contains recipes — a few at the end of each chapter — but to be honest, I didn’t find them as compelling as her narrative, which kept me page-turning far into the night. I hadn’t actually read her blog before finding the book, so it was an interesting overview of what had gone on with her life during the process. It’s amazing how one seemingly-small project can have a profound influence on one’s life, and her book definitely demonstrates that.
Now, on the subject of those scones. I had buttermilk in the fridge and an intense desire to bake last night, so while Uncle Pasto was writing up his Dai Smoked Chicken post, I decided to bake something. I’d initially been thinking muffins, but wasn’t finding something that fit the bill for what I wanted to make, so I decided to experiment with Emeril’s rosemary scones instead. I wanted something a bit fruitier, though, and had no oranges, and also didn’t have enough butter. (Well, I did, actually, but it was in the freezer, and my microwave does not properly defrost things.)
Well. One of the things I’ve learned is that if you’re up for a little smokiness in your baked goods, bacon drippings substitute just fine for butter. This recipe in particular looked like it’d be good with a bit more savory flavor, since it was already packed with rosemary and black pepper. I decided to upgun it by replacing 1/2 of a stick of butter with 1/4 c. bacon drippings. I also added minced dried pears that I’d picked up when we went to Bates Nut Farm this past weekend for our annual pumpkin-picking. No oranges? No problem. I had lemons, and I thought that making it a touch tarter would probably point up the savory taste as well.
Truth be told, if I’d had any actual bacon in the house, aside from just the drippings, I’d have been inclined to add that to the recipe as well. Notes on that are detailed below.
By the way, I recommend that if you need to chop up dried fruit, it’s usually much easier to do it with scissors than with a knife. Ditto things with a similar stiff-jelly texture, like candied ginger.
Rosemary-Buttermilk Scones with Pear and Pig
Adapted from Farm To Fork, by Emeril Lagasse
- 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- pinch salt (optional if you are using bacon drippings)
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced (about four or five smallish sprigs)
- zest of 1 lemon, minced
- 4-6 dried pear halves, snipped with scissors into small pieces
- 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks (or 1 1/2 sticks if you are not using bacon drippings)
- 1/4 c. cold bacon drippings
- 1 c. plus 2 Tbsp. cold buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set it aside while you make the dough.
Combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt if using, black pepper, rosemary, and pear bits, stirring to combine. Cut the butter and bacon drippings into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in 1 c. of the buttermilk with a fork until just moistened.
Gather the dough into a rough ball, dump it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly, about six to ten strokes. Split the dough into two balls, and pat each into a circle. Slice each circle into 6 scones and place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Brush each scone with some of the remaining buttermilk and bake for 12-15 minutes, until puffy and golden.
For a more savory variation, add 3-4 strips of cooked-crisp crumbled bacon to the dough when you add the pears.