Saturday, November 20, 2010

bread matters

My newly-developed totally immature habit. Shaving my bread.

Oh OK, from the beginning. I'm thinking about not baking bread anymore, because I'm not good at controlling how much of it I eat when I have a beautiful sourdough loaf in front of me. But I thought another solution would be to bake bread that I'm not crazy about, even if it's pretty good. That would be rye bread. Besides, I had all this rye flour at home, and white whole wheat flour (which I still don't understand). I couldn't bring myself to throw them away, so I thought I'd bake with them and see what happens.

I used these two flours with some bread flour (lost my notes, don't remember proportions - but you wouldn't really want to duplicate this bread anyway), sourdough starter, and a soaker consisting of steel-cut oats and flax seeds. Of course, topped with sesame seeds before baking.

Looks pretty good, eh? The taste is nothing extraordinary, which I expected, and the mouthfeel is not great. But the crust is beautiful.

Here comes the really immature part. I found myself nibbling at the crust, 'cause toasted sesame seeds are always awesome. And I couldn't stop. But I didn't want to eat the bread, 'cause that wasn't as great. So I kept picking at the crust. It was not an efficient method. I took my bread knife and sliced off the crust very thinly all around. Now I had nothing but goodness. The loaf ended up looking like this:

It's completely acceptable if you toast it. Plus this way, I don't eat a lot of bread. I think it's a great solution, but I don't know if I can continue to bake bread which at best is OK. We'll see.

lacinato kale with turnips and yogurt

I stare at the vegetables, trying to decide how to satisfy my leafy green vegetables addiction, and I always go home with lacinato kale. This time I grabbed a bunch of greens I'd never seen before. They looked like gigantic dandelion greens, big but tender, their colour a light green. I had no idea what they were. Then this woman came up to me and said that she had asked and found out that they were a variation of kale. Didn't look like it, but what do I know. And she said she cooked them, and they were not good at all. She had the demeanor (and looks) of an old hippie from a commune from the sixties, and I figured I had to trust her on matters of green vegetables. So I dropped it and went home once again with lacinato kale.

I wanted to try something a bit different. I decided to continue my experiments with root vegetables from last winter and combine the kale with turnips. I also wanted to make a yogurt sauce, because I miss the Turkish spinach with yogurt. (I miss it because they don't sell washed, clean, mature spinach here, and I get a severe reaction if I wash the spinach by hand. I swear. So I never make spinach.)

Slice one onion thinly and saute in oil.
Add to it seeded and sliced Fresno peppers (1 or 2, depending on how hot you like it).
Add the washed lacinato kale, sliced into one inch strips.
Add the peeled turnips, cut into one inch chunks.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add a bit of stock or water, and braise until almost done.

Combine about one cup of plain yogurt with one tablespoon of flour.
Add two teaspoons of tomato paste.
Mix well with a whisk so there are no lumps.
Add a quarter cup of the liquid from the kale to the yogurt mixture, to temper it.
Add this mixture to the kale slowly, in a steady stream, stirring continuously.
Bring back to simmer and cook for another 15 minutes.
Adjust the consistency of the liquid in the pan by reducing it if too thin or adding more liquid if too thick.

You need to make sure that the flour gets cooked. Otherwise it'll be blecchy. Yup, that's a technical term.

So what do I think about the turnips in this dish? Meh. They had very little taste and no interesting texture. I think I'm through with my attempts to come up with something glorious with turnips. I don't mind eating them, but I haven't found a reason to choose them over something else when I'm cooking. I wouldn't crave them unless I was stranded on a turnip farm in the middle of a famine.

cauliflower with dried cherries

Trying to catch up here, so it'll be short and quick.

My favourite variation so far on roasted cauliflower, with dried cherries, walnuts and chipotle.

You can guess how it goes.

Separate the cauliflower into fleurettes on the smallish side.
Add salt and enough olive oil to coat.
Mix with your hands so the fleurettes are evenly coated.
Roast in a hot oven (about 400 F) until browned (20-30 minutes).
     roasted chopped walnuts
     a fair amount of chipotle
     dried, pitted tart cherries.
Drizzle a bit with fresh olive oil and lemon juice.

If you have the timing right, instead of roasting the walnuts separately you can add them to the cauliflower after about 20 minutes and they can finish roasting together. But be careful. If it takes longer than you thought for the cauliflower to brown, the walnuts may get burned.

If you're wondering why I'm adding walnuts to roasted cauliflower all the time, it's because of the texture. I feel like I need the crunch.

I used Trader Joe's Dried Pitted Tart Montmorency Cherries. The best ever dried cherries. I love them so much I use them on everything from salads to meats. And frequently, for a snack, I mix them with chocolate chips and nuts.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

bass with prosecco and roasted fennel

Good to be back cooking. I'm still trying to figure out how to juggle work, cooking, and blogging. Sure was nice when I was on leave.

Anyway, back to sea bass. (Sometimes I think this blog should be called 'the bass and me' - I can't get enough of this fish.) Some prosecco turned up in my kitchen. Who, what, when, how, I have no idea. But decided to use it for the bass with roasted fennel.

I cut off the fennel stalks and sliced the bulbs lengthwise into two. Added salt, pepper and olive oil. Roasted at 375 degrees until done. Timing will vary according to how fat your bulbs are, anywhere from 20 minutes to 40 minutes. I find it best to roast them with the cut side up.

I layed the seasoned bass on a bed of the fennel stalks, drizzled it with olive oil, and added the prosecco. Steamed until done.

Removed the bass from the pan. Removed and discarded the fennel stalks. Reduced the prosecco until thickish and brownish, and sauced the bass with it. Absolutely delicious. I must cook with prosecco more.