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 (

Monday, November 13, 2017

Roasted Tofu and Peanut Noodle Salad

I had three quarters of a head of napa cabbage left over from a batch of okonomiyaki so I decided to try this recipe I found a few years ago in Eating Well magazine.  It was quite tasty and I especially liked the roasted tofu.  I did not have enough lime juice so I added some sweet sherry to round it out and that worked quite nicely.  Rice vinegar would have also done a nice job, I think.

This would make a lovely lunch for family or friends.  It is light and refreshing and comes together fairly quickly.

If you are planning on leftovers, I would recommend that you add the pasta and the tofu to each serving and then store them separately from the cabbage and vegetables.  The first time I made it I added everything together and because the dressing is so wet the pasta had disintegrated by the next day.
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: Beans and Vegetables
1/4 cup lime juice 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 14- to 16-ounce package extra-firm water-packed tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
6 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti
1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
6 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage
1 medium orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup thinly sliced trimmed snow peas
sesame seeds for garnish

Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 450°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Put a large pot of water on to boil for spaghetti.

Combine lime juice, soy sauce and oil in a large bowl. Stir in tofu; marinate, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tofu to the prepared baking sheet; reserve the marinade. Roast the tofu, stirring once halfway through, until golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain.

Whisk peanut butter, 3 tablespoons water, garlic and ginger into the reserved marinade. Add the spaghetti, cabbage, bell pepper and snow peas; toss to coat. Top with the tofu and sesame seeds.

from Eating Well August 2013

exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Fried Eggs with Polenta and Chives

Here is a lovely breakfast to make when you don't have any bread or potatoes in the house and you want something to go along with your eggs. Although I grew up in Texas, I rarely encountered grits outside of literature.  I had a vague idea of what they were but no idea how they tasted.  On the rare occasion that I ran across them on a breakfast menu my eyes skipped right past them, not even considering them as an option.  I believe I finally tried them at some greasy spoon and they were runny and tasteless so I never bothered with them again.

And then I discovered polenta.  And oh my, was it delicious! It was cheesy and buttery and had a mild undertone of corn.  I fell in love with it and made it fairly often to go with eggplant and tomato sauce and later, black beans.

It was not until quite a few years later that I finally decided to try grits again (here in Chicago, ironically enough) and ordered the cheesy grits to go with my fried eggs at a known "southern" brunch place (Wishbone North, if you must know, which apparently is a separate entity from the Wishbone in the south loop, judging by the separate wesites - I am sure there is a story there).  And imagine my surprise as I realized that grits and polenta are essentially the same.  Cornmeal and water.  The difference is in how much water to cornmeal you use and what else you put in with them.

But I continued to cook and eat polenta to go with lunch and dinner dishes and only had grits occasionally when I was out to brunch.  And then one time I was at my brother's in Austin looking for breakfast and there was nothing to go with the eggs I was craving.  And that is when it hit me that I could make a single serving of polenta and have my own version of grits and eggs.  It worked well and I have since made it several times out of choice rather than out of desperation.

And even though I am really making grits, I still call it polenta.

The chives are completely optional and I used them because I had some in the refrigerator, but it would be worth it go get them just for this purpose.
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: Grains Pasta and Potatoes
1/4 cup coarse cornmeal/polenta
1/2 cup water plus more as needed
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp minced chives, plus more for garnish

Bring water to a boil over high heat in a small saucepan. Stirring the water around to form an eddy, slowly add the cornmeal so it does not clump. Stir once more and turn the heat as low as it will go. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, adding more water if necessary, until the polenta is thick and you can no longer see the individual grains. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.

Add the cheese and the chives and stir everything together to combine. Remove from the heat and transfer to a plate immediately and let set for at least ten minutes before serving, about the time it would take to fry your eggs.  Slide the fried eggs onto the polenta and top with additional chives before serving.


Exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Monday, November 06, 2017

Baking Class: Fennel Seed Bread

This Fennel Seed bread is the first recipe that I converted from commercial yeast to a starter following Clotilde from Chocolate and Zucchini's method found here.  It was wildly successful and the bread was a big hit at my spice group's Fennel Seed Potluck.  It was also my first ever braided bread.  The texture is dense and firm, while still being light enough to form yeast holes, and surprisingly flavorful.  The fennel seeds give it an extra oomph that goes well both with butter and with any kind of sandwich filling you want to use.  I use it most often for my peanut butter and banana breakfast sandwiches but it makes a great cheese, ham, or tuna salad sandwich as well.

It is equally delicious toasted.  The outside gets crispy and the inside stays soft and chewy.  I will often cut a thick slice to take to work with some hard boiled eggs and make toast in the toaster oven and have that for breakfast.  My co-workers are envious when they see me eating that.  On weekends I will toast it to eat with an omelet or frittata.

It is hands down the best bread that I make, in my opinion.  And I make some pretty good breads if I do say so myself.  And with few ingredients and minimal fuss it is an easy bread to make.  I make it almost every week and it is a simple thing to mix the dough, let it rise for anywhere from one to three hours, form the loaf and let it rise again for anywhere from one to two hours, then throw it into the oven to bake for another hour more.  Sometimes I will mix the dough the night before I am going to bake it and throw it in the refrigerator overnight then take it out, let it come to room temperature, shape it and bake it.  Or sometimes I will make the dough, let it rise, shape it, and then throw it into the refrigerator to bake the next day.

I took this picture of the first loaf that I made with a 12-inch ruler to show the length of the dough before proofing.  It looks better than the many braided breads I have made since, I am a little sad to say.  The recipe makes a larger than usual loaf.  I have kept it that size because it is just that good.

But I can only eat a loaf worth's size in week, so I usually cut off a big chunk to give away to a friend or co-worker.  Or I will cut off a piece of the dough before I bake it to make a mini-loaf to give away to someone.  It makes me a very popular person around the office.
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: My Recipes
Fennel Seed Bread
160 g (app. 3/4 cup) starter
250 g (app. 1 cup) water
520 g (app. 4 cups) flour
2 Tbsp oil
16 g (app. 4 tsp) sugar
8 g (1 tsp) salt
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed

1 egg white
2 Tbsp water

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.

Punch down dough and turn it onto a clean surface, adding flour if necessary. Knead a few minutes to get rid of any bubbles that formed during the rise. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces and preshape for baguettes. Place the pieces seam side down, cover, and let sit for 20 minutes.

Roll each piece into a strip about 10 to 11 inches long (be sure not to make it any longer than your baking sheet). Braid the three strips together. Pinch the ends together and turn them down under the loaf and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes, or until doubled in size. After 15 minutes, preheat the oven to 350° F.

Combine the egg white with water and whisk together. Brush the egg white over the top of the loaf and put it in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and sounds hollow when the bottom is tapped. Let the loaf cool completely on a wire rack.

adapted from recipe found at: ing-Fennel-Seed-Gift-Bread.htm

Exported from Home Cookin 9.70 (

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Quick Ketchup

Now that I am making my own ketchup I keep it in the freezer as I don't use it very often.  I mainly use a tablespoon or so at a time for cooking and it is easy enough to chip it out of the jar.

I used up the last of it a while ago, though, and have not needed it during the summer so I decided not to make more right away.  And then I decided to make Okonomiyaki over the weekend and I needed ketchup for the sauce.  I had neither the time nor the inclination to make a batch so I decided to try to make just what I needed with tomato paste and spices, figuring it would be fine for mixing with mayonnaise and soy sauce.

And you know what?  I think I like this better than the other version.  And I can whip up as much as I need whenever I need it.

I used this Tomato Powder from the Spice House to make my tomato paste.  It provides for a deeper and fresher tomato flavor than the canned tomato paste, and I can make as much or as little as I need so I don't have to try to figure out what to do with the rest of the can after I have spooned out the one or two tablespoons that I usually need for a recipe.  It also makes a flavorful thickener when you have a little too loose of a sauce for your sauteed vegetables.

If you ever find yourself in need of a little ketchup and you just squeezed the last little bit out of the bottle, this quick fix will come to your rescue.  And you might even find that you like it better than store bought.
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: Appetizers Spreads Dips Sauces
2 tsp grapeseed oil
1/2 cup tomato paste, preferably made from tomato powder
1/4 cup water, or more as necessary
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground allsplce
1 tsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp cider vinegar

Heat oil over medium heat in small skillet. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for a minute. Add the water and blend well. Add the spices, brown sugar, and vinegar and mix well. Lower the heat and let the mixture simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes, adding water as necessary.


Exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Monday, October 30, 2017

Baking Class: Poppy Seed Cookies

When we were young we spent a lot of time over at the house of one of my mother's closest friends.  Her mother lived with the family and often when we walked in the back door into the kitchen there she would be cooking up something special.  One of the things she made fairly regularly was poppy seed cookies.  I was not particularly fond of them, but my older sister liked them and asked her for the recipe one day.  Grandma Specter looked over at her as she was rolling out the dough and said:
"Two big scoops of flour, a heaping spoon of baking powder, half a heaping spoon of baking soda, a pinch of salt, a spoonful of sugar, a handful of poppy seeds, 3 eggs, and half a small cup of oil."
My sister and I, brought up in a world where recipes were more precise and used standardized measuring devices and were written down with instructions on 3 by 5 index cards, stared at her with our mouths open until my sister came to and ran to get a pencil and paper.

Even though I did not particularly care for the cookies I copied the "recipe" from my sister and carried it with me all these years.  I even tried making them once, which reinforced my original opinion of them.  There was nothing wrong with them; they were just . . . boring.

I find myself using poppy seeds regularly these days with all of my bread baking so I am always looking for ways to use the extra I always seem to have on hand.  So when I ran across this recipe for poppy seeds in the Penzey's Spice catalog I decided to try them, especially since I also had ground almonds in my pantry that I was looking for ways to use.

These cookies are light and delicious and melt in your mouth, thanks in a large part to the ground almonds.  The almonds also add a nutty undertone that rounds out the flavor.  The cookies were a big hit at work and with friends.

These cookies can be made ahead of time.  The logs can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for months without affecting the texture or flavor.

These days I am happy to have so many poppy seeds in my pantry.
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: Baked Goods (Sweet/Savory)
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1/2 cup whole blue poppy seeds
1/4 tsp salt

Cream the butter. Add the sugar, egg and vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, almonds, poppy seeds, and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture and beat well.

Divide the dough in half and roll into logs. Wrap in waxed paper and chill for a few hours.

Preheat oven to 325° F. Slice the logs about 1/4-inch thick and bake for about 12 minutes, or until the edges start to brown. Makes 42-50 cookies.

from Penzey's Holiday 2008 catalog

Exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Sweet Potato and Zucchini Frittata

It has been a while since I have made a frittata and last weekend I found myself with little bits of this and that:  half a sweet potato, a bag of baby kale, one small shallot and a zucchini.  I decided to indulge myself and made this delicious version of one of my favorite breakfast treats.

What I love about frittatas is how versatile they are.  As long as you have the eggs you can throw pretty much anything into them and they always come out delicious.  If you want more ideas, click on the Frittatas label link to the right.

For this particular frittata I quartered and sliced the sweet potato and sauteed it in a twelve-inch skillet over medium high heat in olive oil for a few minutes before adding some chopped shallots.  When the sweet potatoes were just getting tender I added the zucchini and cooked that for about five minutes, and then I threw in the chopped baby kale.

While the vegetables finished cooking I cracked 8eggs into a bowl, added some salt, and whisked them together.  When the vegetables were done I added a small amount to the eggs and stirred to temper them, then dumped in the rest.  I wiped out the skillet and returned it to the medium-high heat.  I added a tablespoon of butter (for flavor).  Once it had melted and was foaming I poured in the egg mixture and lowered the theat to as low as I could get it.  I cooked it for about 20 minutes, checking after the first 10, until the eggs were just set and still wiggly on top.  I grated about 2 ounces of provolone cheese while the eggs were cooking.

I slipped my super duper aluminum handle over the skillet handle and sprinkled the grated cheese over the still wet top of the frittata.  I put it under the broiler for about 2 minutes (checking after the first minute and every 30 seconds after that), until the frittata was set and the cheese had browned.  I removed it from the oven and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.

The next time you want to treat yourself to a beautiful breakfast take a look through your refrigerator for vegetable odds and ends.  I think you will be surprised at what you find, and you will be eating a delicious frittata in no time.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Baking Class: Mallorcas

I came across the recipe for this Puerto Rican bread several years ago in Saveur magazine and saved it because I was intrigued by the idea of rolling the dough into long strips and coiling it into a spiral to shape the rolls.  When I made them, I was pleased at how soft and moist they were, with just the right hint of sweetness.  They reminded me of hamburger buns.

The recipe included the makings of the ham and egg sandwich that apparently goes by the same name in Puerto Rico.  I made the sandwiches with just eggs for the first two that I ate but I was not all that impressed and the powdered sugar was too much for just the egg.  To be fair, I think they would have been delicious with the ham and I would still make them that way.

I made a wonderful discovery for the rest of the rolls (pictured to the left without powdered sugar all over them).  I made a batch of these Sloppy Joes right after I made the mallorcas and that was a perfect match for these babies!

They work well with hamburgers and vegetable burgers as well, and make a beautiful presentation that is sure to impress.  (But that's not why we do this, right?)
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: Breads and Muffins

Makes 6 large or 8 small rolls

1-1/4 oz package active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk
6 Tbsp butter, melted
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2-1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp kosher salt

Combine yeast and 1/4 cup water heated to 115° F in a bowl; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in milk, 4 tablespoons butter, and egg yolks until smooth. Add flour, sugar and salt; stir until dough forms. Transfer to a work surface; knead until smooth, about 8 minutes.

Transfer to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Transfer dough to a floured work surface and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 18 x 8" rectangle. Brush with 2 tablespoons butter; starting at one short end, roll into a tight cylinder. Cut cylinder into 6 equal pieces; transfer, cut side-down, to a greased 9 x 13" baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap; let sit until doubled in size, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Heat oven to 375 deg. F. Bake until lightly browned, about 18 minutes. Let cool completely.

from Saveur Magazine, Number 143 (

exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Last Minute Sweet Potato, Broccoli and Mushroom Fried Rice

I took a couple of days off before Columbus day last week and mostly hung around the house catching up on cleaning and some other projects that I had neglected for too long.  I am pleased to say that it was a productive weekend for me, but by the time Sunday night rolled around I had not really given much thought to dinner and I had not gone to the store since I had been off.  As a result I did not have much in the refrigerator and by the time I realized I did not have anything ready I was hungry.

What to do?  I thought about ordering for delivery but did not want to wait.  Desperate, I went back to the refrigerator for one last look.  What I found was a half full container of steamed rice from a Chinese restaurant delivered earlier in the week (and another reason I did not want to order in again), half a sweet potato, broccoli florets in the crisper I had completely forgotten about, and half a container of sauteed mushrooms (I almost always have those in the refrigerator these days; more on that in another post).

I realized I had the makings of a simple fried rice dish.  It took a second to chop the sweet potatoes.  I did not bother with garlic or ginger and did not want to take the extra time involved to scramble an egg first, so I just heated the wok, added the oil, cooked the potatoes and then the broccoli, added the rice and the mushrooms and finished it off with a quick stir fry sauce of soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce and sweet sherry.  I topped it off with toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds.

The whole thing was done in less than half an hour and it was surprisingly delicious and made enough for my dinner that night and lunch the next day.  And although it was one of those last minute things that get thrown together out of desperation, it was tasty enough to make again when I do have the time to take the effort to chop up some garlic and ginger, scramble an egg and throw in chopped scallion at the end for an even tastier version.
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: My Recipes

Makes 2 to 3 servings

2 Tbsp peanut oil
1/2 cup chopped raw sweet potato
1 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sauteed mushrooms
1/2 cup to 1 cup leftover cooked rice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sweet sherry
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1/4 tsp garlic chili paste
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 tsp sesame seeds (optional)

Heat wok over high heat until it is just starting to smoke. Add one tablespoon of the corn oil and gently swirl it around the bottom of the wok.

Add the sweet potato and stir quickly to coat all of the pieces. Continue to stiry fry for about 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water by pouring it around the edges of the wok to create steam. Continue to stir-fry, stirring regularly, until the water has evaporated and the sweet potato is just tender. Let them brown and then remove to a serving bowl.

Return the wok to the bowl and add the second tablespoon of oil. Add the broccoli florets and stir to coat, then stir fry for 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water and continue to cook, stirring regularly, until the water has evaporated and the broccoli is just tender. Cook another minute or two to let them brown.

Add the mushrooms to the broccoli and let it cook just long enough heat the mushrooms thoroughly. Add the sweet potato back and stir everything together.

Add the rice and cook it for a minute or two, then add the soy sauce, sherry, hoisin sauce and garlic chili paste. Cook until the liquid has evaporated a bit and everything is well coated.

Remove from the heat and place everything into the serving bowl that was used for the sweet potatoes. Add the toasted sesame oil and stir it into the rice. Top with the sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Created 10/8/2017

exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (
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