Monday, February 12, 2018

Sweet Potato Hash Browns

We are buried under a couple of feet of snow here in Chicago and it is still coming down this cold Sunday morning.  It feels like the perfect time for an omelet and hash brown brunch, topped off with two slices of the Sourdough Whole Wheat Flaxseed and Sunflower Seed Bread that I have been working on and is just about perfect.  (But that is for a future post.)

I have also been working on hash browns.  A few years ago I wrote this post about my father's hash browns and how I never had the patience to make them myself.  Now I find that it is no trouble at all - it's funny how things change.

I had part of a sweet potato in the refrigerator so I decided to make my hash browns with those.  I don't really follow a recipe, but I thought I would share my technique with you.

This is about a third of a large sweet potato, cut into 1/4-inch cubes.  I wanted a smaller cut so they would cook faster.  I filled my non-stick 10-inch skillet with about 2 teaspoons of grapeseed oil and heated the oil over medium high heat.  When the oil was shimmering I added the potatoes and shook the pan to coat the cubes in oil and to get them as close to a single layer as possible.

I lowered the heat and let them cook for 10 minutes without touching them.

After that first 10 minutes I shook the pan to get the cooked sides up and then left it again for about 5 minutes this time.  I shook the skillet to redistribute the potatoes and then left it for another 5 minutes.  I tested a piece with a fork for tenderness and it was almost there.  I left it alone for another 3 minutes and the potatoes were perfectly tender when I did the fork test this time.
And then I added my spices.  I try to incorporate turmeric and cinnamon into my diet on a daily basis so whenever the opportunity arises I use those first.  Those flavors work well with sweet potatoes so I added about a fourth of a teaspoon each of turmeric, cinnamon, paprika, and cumin and cooked it for about a minute until the potatoes were well coated and the heat had released the oils of the spices.  I added salt at the end and then transferred the potatoes to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

I made the omelette while the potatoes were cooking.  I used the method that I wrote about here.  I will be posting my recipe for the bread soon.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Baking Class: Cilantro Mint Chutney Bread

I have been baking a lot of bread over these past few years when I was not posting much so I have a backlog of bread recipes to post.  I usually make my go-to Fennel Seed Bread for my own use as it is quick and easy and I can mix it up pretty much in my sleep.  But a couple of times a month I will take advantage of my spice group potluck dinner or my monthly bread group meeting to try something new.

One of the things I love about my spice group is that it encourages me to use different herbs and spices in my breads.  When the theme for one of our potlucks was mint I thought I went searching online and found this recipe.   I had made the Cilantro Mint Chutney for a previous potluck and I was eager to tr to incorporate it into a bread.

It came out better than I expected, especially considering the mistake I made of adding all of the liquid called for in the original chutney recipe.  I could tell as soon as I started to spread it over the dough that it was far too wet, even after I wiped as much excess off as I could with a paper towel.  As a result, the cut strips were slippery and hard to handle, which is why my bread looks so different than the one in the recipe.

But it tasted great and disappeared quickly.  So I adapted the chutney recipe to make it less wet and more spreadable on the raw dough.  It is show-stopping bread and not all that difficult to make.

Of course I adapted it from a commercial yeast bread to a naturally leavened one using Clotilde from Chocolate &Zucchini's method (found here).
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: Breads and Muffins
For the bread:
160 g (app. 3/4 cup) starter
250 g (280g) (app. 1-1/4 cups)water
520 g (app. 4-1/4 cups) flour
16 g (4 tsp) sugar
2 Tbsp oil
8 g (2 tsp) salt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk or water

For the Coriander Mint Chutney:
2 cups chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup chopped mint
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 serrano peppers, chopped
2 Tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice

Add water to starter and mix. Add about 120g of the flour, then add the sugar and oil and mix well. Add the remaining flour, half a cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is elastic, about 10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and put it in a greased bowl, turning it over to make sure the top is greased. Cover and let rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.

While the dough is rising prepare the mint chutney. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Do not add any more liquid or it will be too wet for the bread.

Once the dough has doubled, punch it down and turn it onto a clean surface, adding flour if necessary. Roll the dough into a 10 x 14-inch rectangle.

Spread the mint chutney mixture evenly over the surface of the bread, leaving about an inch free on the short sides of the rectanble. Roll it tightly lengthwise, sealing the edges and placing the seamed edge on the bottom.

Starting about an inch down, cut a slit down the middle of the roll. Keeping the cut sides up, gently twist the two halves of dough together one on top of the other as tightly as possible, forming the dough. Pinch the ends together and transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours, until almost doubled in size.

After about an hour and a half, preheat the oven to 375° F. When the dough has finished rising, gently brush the top with egg wash, being careful to not drag the chutney onto the rest of the bread. Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate and bake for another 10 to 20 minutes, until the loaf is a dark golden brown on the top. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Adapted from the following recipes:
Thanksgiving Fennel Seed Gift Bread (Link no longer works)

Exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Monday, January 08, 2018

Baking Class: Sourdough Buttermilk Whole Wheat Biscuits

Once I got the hang of maintaining a sourdough starter I found myself with copious amounts of the discard.  What to do with it?  I did some searching online and after sorting through hundreds of sourdough starter pancake recipes I decided to try my hand at convering a conventional recipe.  The end result was a series of drop biscuit topped vegetable pot pies that were acceptable but had an odd aftertaste that I did not particularly like.

And then I wondered what would happen if I made biscuits with it.  I always have buttermilk in the refrigerator and I love biscuits so it seemed like the thing to do.  I played around with the ratio of starter to buttermilk and whole wheat flour and came up with a combination that works for me.

These biscuits are not exactly the same as my regular buttermilk whole wheat biscuits.  They are a little more crisp than those, and have a slight hint of the taste of saltine crackers which actually goes well with the crisper texture.  I actually find that I go to make these more often than the original version though, so go figure.

If you find yourself with extra starter hanging around and you do not want to waste it, give these biscuits a try.  They are quite delicious and no more trouble to make than regular biscuits.
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: Breads and Muffins
100g sourdough starter
200g flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into cubes and chilled
2 eggs
60g buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450° F.

Stir the buttermilk into the starter, then add the eggs and mix together.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Cut in the chilled butter. Make a well in the center and add the starter mixture. Stir until it just comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured surface. Knead a few times to bring the dough together. Roll the dough into a narrow strip aout 6 inches wide, then fold into thirds along the length. Rotate the dough 180 degrees and roll it out agai into a narrow strip, then turn and repeat one more time, rolling the dough out about 1/2 an inch thick. Cut out the biscuits and place them closely together on an ungreased baking sheet. Roll and fold the remaining dough and cut ito biscuits until the dough has all been used.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the biscuits are slightly browned. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

adapted from recipe found at

Exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Baking Class: Sourdough Pizza Crust

I have been working on pizza dough again.  I was quite happy with this basic recipe I had been using for years, but once I jumped on to the sourdough train I wanted to see if I could come up with a sourdough version.  I experimented with several combinations of flours and with different ratios of flour to starter to water, and I have finally come up with the formula that make a delicious crust that is crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside and is the right thickness for me.

I like a thin, crisp, crust but I have found that I am not a fan of the cracker-thin crust.  This recipe makes two 12-inch pies that allows for a crusty pillow of chewy dough around the edges, which is just how I like it.

I have also gone back and forth over whether or not to pre-cook the crust.  For this dough I have found that if I don't precook it the toppings are done before the crust has browned to my satisfaction so I now cook the crust for 7 minutes, remove it from the oven and put on the toppings, then return it to the oven to bake for another 20 to 25 minutes.  If you are a dedicated enough pizza maker that you have a pizza stone or a wood-fired oven, that may not be necessary, but this is what works best for me.

As I mentioned above, I have been playing with different combinations of flours and it all comes down to this:  as with most things in life, simple is usually best.  While bread flour works just fine for this, if you can get your hands on 00 flour you will get the perfect combination of crispy and chewy.  When I first started looking for it I could only find it at a specialty shop and it was quite expensive.  My local grocery store now carries two brands and it is available online if you can't find it locally.  I recommend that you try it at least once.

For the starter, I start with 30 grams of my usual bread-flour starter and then start building it with the 00 flour.  Ideally, I would start with 10 grams of the original starter and use the 00 flour to build to the 30 grams, but that is one feeding more than I like to do if I can help it.
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: My Recipes
Makes 2 pizzas

This pizza dough improves with age. Make it the day before you plan to make your pizza and keep the dough in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. It will keep for three days.

100g starter
240g water
390g 00 flour
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Add the water to the starter and mix well, then the oil, mixing again. Add the dry ingredients and mix until a dough forms, adding more flour if necessary. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

If using right away, form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled.  Divide dough in half and pat with floured fingers or use a rolling pin to form two 12-inch circles. Pinch an edge around the crusts and place on cornmeal-dusted baking sheets

Preheat the oven to 475° F. with a rack on the lowest slot.  Bake the crust for 7 minutes, then remove and top as desired.  Place the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until top is bubbling and browned and the crust is well browned.

If making the dough the night before you plan to use it, divide the dough in half and knead each piece briefly and form them into balls.  Coat each ball with flour and place in a plastic bag, leaving room for the dough to rise, and put them in the refrigerator.  When ready to use, remove the dough and let it sit for half an hour, then pat or roll out the dough and place on the cornmeal-dusted baking sheets.  Prepare and bake as above.

Adapted from Bob's Red Mill Organically Grown and Certified Unbromated Unbleached White Flour package.

Exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Monday, December 11, 2017

A New Way to Cook Mushrooms

Since reading about the benefits of cooked mushrooms a couple of years ago I try to eat them daily.  I would usually roast them along with broccoli and red onions or saute them in a skillet with a little olive oil and I was relatively happy with those methods.  When I sauteed them I would cook the whole batch and keep it in the refrigerator to throw into whatever dishes I was making where it seemed like they would be a good match.

But I was never all that thrilled with the flavor of the sauteed mushrooms and they would sometimes be rubbery.  And then I stumbled across this new (to me) method of cooking mushrooms at The Spruce a few weeks ago. The first thing that interested me about the article was that they debunk the myth that mushrooms absorb a lot of water and should only be delicately brushed off and not washed.  I was really happy to read that because I have always been a little skeeved out at the thought of how dirty the mushrooms must still be.  I cannot tell you what a relief it has been to me to thoroughly clean those mushrooms under running water!

And then I tried this new method of cooking.  And had the best mushrooms I had ever produced in my kitchen.  Ever.  Who knew?  They are the essence of mushroom with a great texture.  I make a big batch weekly and add them to whatever vegetable dish I am making, or salads, or weekend omelet or frittata.  It is a delicious way to make sure I eat them regularly.

The secret to the flavor is that you cook them in water with a little olive oil.  A lot of water.  And you cook them until the water is all gone and then season them and add any flavorings you want and let them sear in the oil once the water is gone.  The end result is loaded with flavor.  I was a little skeptical the first time I made them, so I thought I would provide a photo  demonstration of the process.

Cut the mushrooms about twice the size that you want them to be and place them in a pan that allows for them to stack up about three-high. You want the pan to be relatively full.

These are crimini mushrooms, which are baby portobello mushrooms.  They are also the same species as the white button mushrooms that are so common, but I like that little bit of color the brown ones have.  But I use whichever kind looks the best when I am at the store buying them.

Fill the pan with water until the mushrooms are almost totally covered.  This can be a little tricky because mushrooms float (more evidence that they do not absorb all that much water) so they don't really get submerged at all at first.  What I do is I pour the water in and as soon as the mushrooms start to rise I will pour another inch or so and that usually does the trick.

Add a generous tablespoon of olive oil.
Turn the burner as high as it will go and bring to a boil.  Once it is boiling, lower the heat just a little and let the water continue to boil until the water has boiled off.  This will take about half an hour.  You can leave it untended for the first twenty minutes or so, and then you should move close to the kitchen so that you are there when the water is gone.  You will know when that has happened because you will hear the mushrooms sizzling.

This is what they look like when the water has boiled off of them.  You can see how much they have shrunk - they are about half the size as when I started.  That is why you want to start with them about twice as big as you want the finished product.

At this point I will add about 1/4 cup of sherry or white wine and a little salt, and then let the liquid cook off again.

The end result is the photo at the top of the post.  I added sherry and a touch of salt to those.  They are packed with that lovely umami flavor that makes mushrooms so darned tasty.  I make them once a week and keep them in the refrigerator so I always have them around when I need them.  Although they do take some time there is minimal prep and very little maintenance.

The next time you are at the grocery store pick up a package and give it a try.  I am sure you will love them as much as I do.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Roasted Broccoli and Mushrooms with Lemon and Dill

I was gifted with a home-grown lemon a few months ago.  The first thing I noticed was how dry and soft the peel was.  That may have been partly due to the particular type of lemon, but I suspect it had more to do with it being unwaxed.  It did not have that shiny, plastic look that the lemons we buy in the grocery store have.

My first thought, therefore, was that I must use all of the zest.  That night I had planned to roast my usual broccoli, red onion and mushrooms so I decided to slice the zest and add it to that dish.  I also made a quick whole-grain Dijon mustard vinaigrette to use with the vegetables instead of just olive oil and herbs.  I thought it would pair nicely with the lemon zest and used the juice from the lemon instead of my usual white wine vinegar.  Then I finished it off with some fresh dill I happened to have from a dish I had made earlier that week.

I was not sure how strong the zest would be so I sliced it super thin.  You can hardly see it in the finished dish but in this photo I took before adding the vinaigrette and the red onion you can see how beautiful it looks.

But how did it taste is the question, right?  The end result was so much more flavor than I was expecting.  It may have been psychological since I knew this was no ordinary lemon but the flavor was intensely lemony without being overly acidic.  My only regret is that I sliced the zest so thinly.  I wanted more of that intense flavor in every bite!  But that did not detract from my enjoyment of the dish, and I know if I am lucky enough to ever get another one I will be more generous with my slicing.

I loved the flavor of this dish so much that I have made it since with plain old store-bought lemons.  It is quite delicious that way as well, which is a good thing since I don't know when another home-grown lemon will cross my path.  So I hope you will make this dish and I am sure you will enjoy it.

I recently posted my easy roasting method here.  Instead of pouring olive over the vegetables before baking, sprinkle some sliced lemon zest and this vinaigrette and you will have a super special side dish on your plate.

And I just realized that this would make a killer side for that Thanksgiving table.  I am late to the table again, I guess.

Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: My Recipes
Makes approximately one-third of a cup

1 Tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
1 Tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the mustards and vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk until they are well incorporated. Add the olive oil gradually, whisking continuously, until you have an emulsion. Add the crushed garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

Can be made ahead of time and stored for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.


Exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Curried Hash Brown Potatoes with Shallot Greens

One of the nicest things that I have learned in my years of cooking is that if you add curry powder to an old favorite dish it becomes a new favorite dish.  I had scored some fresh shallots with their greens at the Green City market along with some beautiful new potatoes (Kennebec - also a new favorite) and I was looking for a way to use the shallot greens.

It was a Sunday morning so naturally my thoughts turned to hash browns.  And I thought maybe adding the shallot greens would be a good thing.  And I thought maybe adding curry powder would be another good thing.

And I was right on both counts.  The curry powder adds another layer of warmth to one of the most comforting dishes on the planet.  The shallot greens added a hint of brightness without softening the potatoes, as can sometimes happen with regular onions.

This is a good dish to tackle on a lazy Sunday morning when you have nothing more pressing to do than catch up on the week's news.  It can be easily adjusted to feed two or a large crowd and it will ramp up your bacon and eggs to something truly special, something we all need every now and then.
Home Cookin Chapter v9.70 Chapter: My Recipes
Servings: 4

2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 lb small potatoes, quartered and thinly sliced or evenly diced
3 bunches of shallot greens or scallions, chopped
1-1/2 to 2 tsp curry powder, to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and spread out into as close to one layer as possible. Cook without stirring until they are browned and release from the bottom, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the browned sides up and cook another 5 minutes or so until the other sides have browned. Lower heat if necessary to keep the outsides from burning while they cook on the inside and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, checking and stirring every 5 minutes.

When the potatoes are tender inside add the shallot greens and cook, stirring frequently, until the greens are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the curry powder and stir to coat the potatoes and greens. Cook an additional 30 seconds or so to make sure the spices have had a chance to release their fragrance. Turn the potatoes out onto a large paper towel-lined plate and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.


Exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Monday, November 20, 2017

Baking Class: Lavender Soda Bread with Fleur du Maquis

We have wandered into the wonderful world of herbs in my spice group and the theme for our potluck this month was lavender.  I have never cooked with lavender and in all honesty never had much desire to do so, but I must admit it is an interesting herb and I have found myself playing with it since then.

I was pretty sure I wanted to put it into some kind of bread for the potluck but I have been busier than usual lately and did not have time to play with my sourdough or any other yeasted breads.  I thought about scones or cookies but I also wanted to stay away from sweet.

And then I thought about soda bread.  I usually make this savory version I got from the Food TV Network website.  It is a fast, easy, delicious recipe but the whole wheat combined with the soda is a flavor that I was afraid would clash with the lavender rather than be enhanced by it.  So from there I thought about this first soda bread recipe I ever made that was delicious but on the sweet side and not as healthy for daily consumption.

I thought it would be the perfect foil for the lavender.  I wanted it to be more savory than sweet so I omitted the sugar and the raisins.  It turned out exactly as I hoped it would, with that slightly sour flavor the baking soda imparts layered with the floral tones of the lavender.  I went to Pastoral with the hope that they might have a goat cheese with lavender but alas, there was not a bud of lavender to be found on any of their cheeses.

So I opted for a beautiful French soft herb-covered sheep's cheese called Fleur du Maquis (pictured above next to the bread).  When I sampled it I found that the herbs were flavorful but subtle and I decided that the cheese would be a good match for the lavender in the bread.

And it was.  They were a big hit.  If you are looking for something simple but sophisticated (and dead easy to make) that will feed a large group, you can't go wrong with this combination.

Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: Breads and Muffins
Makes 1 large loaf

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 scant Tbsp culinary lavender, lightly crushed
4 Tbsp butter
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and lavender. Cut butter into flour mixture with pastry cutter. Add buttermilk until dough is soft.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 5 minutes or until smooth. Form dough into a 9-inch round. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Score with a cross 1/2-inch deep on the top.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning halfway through.

adapted from Larissa's Bread Book: Baking Bread:  Telling Tales with Women of the American South, by Lorraine Johnson-Coleman (Rutledge Hill Press, 2001)

Exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Baking Class: Sourdough Bolillos

I found a recipe for bolillos online that I adapted to sourdough.  I was disappointed that they did not come close to what I think of as a bolillo, but they were quite good.  I might be able to get them closer to the real deal if I play with the crust.  I just could not get them crusty enough.

But I will have fun trying.  Either way, these make for good eating.
Home Cooking v.8.59 Chapter: My Recipes
Makes 6 small or 8 large bolillos

120g starter
230g water
120g whole wheat flour
240g bread flour, plus more if necessary
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp butter melted and cooled
1-1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup cold water
1 tsp cornstarch

Add water to starter and mix well. Stir in the melted and cooled butter and the honey and then add about 300g of the flour about a cup at a time (starting with the whole wheat flour) and the salt. Mix together until a soft dough is formed, gradually adding in as much of the remaining flour as necessary to keep it from sticking.

Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled.

Punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it briefly and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 to 10 equal pieces. Preshape them into balls and let them rest for 20 minutes, then shape into batards, about 4 to 5 inches long. Place the rolls on a parchement paper-lined baking sheet. Slash the rolls and let rise until doubled in size.

Heat the oven to 375°F.

Combine the cold water and the cornstarch in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Let it boil for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Brush the rolls with the warm cornstarch mixture. Bake until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, 30 to 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and take the rolls off of the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack

adapted from a recipe found at

exported from Home Cookin 8.59 (
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