Monday, August 31, 2009

Two Tuesdays in Bob's Kitchen

Last month my friend Bob's partner was in Brazil for a month visiting friends and family, so Bob kindly offered me the use of his kitchen. Isn't it beautiful? Look at all that wonderful counter space. My kitchen would fit in there four times over, I think. I got to use it twice and it was so nice being able to spread everything out without having to get creative with stacking dishes to make room for everything.

I had big dreams of making a French dinner using recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Julia Child's 97th birthday, but August 15th came and went before I could make a plan, so that never happened. It's interesting to note that this cookbook has sold out since the movie Julie and Julia came out and the publisher has rushed a new printing. I wonder how many people who are buying the book now will actually cook from it?

I didn't cook anything new the two times I made dinner for us. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to test dishes I had made before, and to make any adjustments or refinements to them.

For our first dinner, I made my Green Peppers Stuffed with Pork and Eggplant. Bob had expressed interest in it and it had been a while since I had made it so I was eager to see if it would taste as good the second time around.

It did. I thought it needed salt; Bob said it was fine the way it was. I realized, as we were eating together, that no matter how delicious I think something is that I have made, I get super-critical of it when I share it with others. Then, all I can taste is what's wrong with it, and how it could have been better. I need to get over that, I think.

On the side, I made fresh-from-my-new-boss's-garden kale, sauteed with pancetta, wholegrain dijon mustard, and balsamic vinegar. It was a touch more acidic than I like, but it complemented the pepper nicely and each dish lent balance to the other.

The next time I was in Bob's kitchen, he brought out Bamboo (the green one on the left) and Guayaba (on the right), and fed them a snack. They were so cute perched on mugs on the counter that I had to take a picture. Bob and I went to chat in the living room while they snacked. Not long after we left them alone, we heard a large noise coming from the kitchen. We looked over to see poor Guayaba hopping around the counter, his cup twirling on its side. Bamboo just kept eating his seeds, as if he had been there all the time and hadn't deliberately knocked Guayaba off his perch. Too cute.

I just had to make pizza my next time over. I'm so thrilled with the way it turns out that I am now making it on a regular basis, at least once a week.

This pizza has my by now usual green olives and garlic, along with some beautiful peppers I got at the green market. I had some hard sausage on hand from a different use that I also put on the pizza. A sprinkling of Italian Seasoning added a nice rush of flavor as well.

I thoroughly enjoyed my nights in Bob's kitchen. It was a bit of a challenge in some ways, even with all of that space. Different pots, different pans, different equipment, and a different array of knives threw me off of my routine just a bit, but I am pleased with how well I was able to adapt. I don't think I complained too much (although Bob might have a different opinion about that.)

But even with all of the good company and good food, I think the highlight of my times in Bob's kitchen was the beautiful sunset sky that graced our fair city the second night. I don't know that I've ever seen a sky like this in Chicago before. It's the kind of sunset you will see on occasion in Texas, like the one I was lucky enough to capture here on one of my visits home. It was awesome to see it here in Chi-town.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Black Mission Figs Simmered in Sherry with Creme Fraiche

Even when you are on a tight budget, it is important to splurge every now and then. And that's just what I did the other day when I was wandering through the produce section at Treasure Island. They had the most beautiful fresh black mission figs for a price that, while by no means inexpensive, was something in which I could indulge without spending all of my weekly allowance.

Once I got them home, I had to decide what to do with them. I don't have them often, and the few times I've eaten them I've just eaten them as is. They're such a rare treat for me that I enjoy them just as nature made them.

But this time I wanted to doll them up a bit. I recently learned how to make creme fraiche so I had some in the refrigerator. I thought a dollop would be nice over lightly poached figs, and the sherry I have on hand for Mexican Wine Cookies made the perfect poaching liquid.

These took just a few minutes to prepare, and they make a beautiful presentation. The perfect finish to a light summer meal.

Makes 4 servings

1 pint black mission figs
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup sweet sherry
1 Tbsp butter
creme fraiche*

Wash the figs and trim the stems. Place in a three-quart saucepan with sugar and sherry over medium-low heat. Once the sugar has melted and it starts to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and poach for about 5 minutes. Remove the figs from the pan and add the butter, letting it melt into the sauce. Cook a few minutes longer, until the sauce has thickened.

To serve, place 3 or 4 figs on a plate and cut them into quarters, leaving them whole at the bottom. Open the quarters and drop a dollop of the creme fraiche over each fig. Spoon some of the sauce over the figs.

*To make creme fraiche: Add 2 tablespoons of buttermilk to 1 cup of heavy cream in a glass bowl or measuring cup and mix well. Let stand at room temperature until it thickens to the consistency of sour cream - anywhere from a few hours to overnight. Stir and refrigerate. Will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Baking Class: Pizza Crust

I'm ready to talk about pizza. I've been playing with it for a while now, but I didn't want to post about it until I was comfortable enough with the process to feel like I knew the subject well enough to discuss it. And that meant waiting until I had a finished product that was photo-worthy as well. And something that tasted good (and tasted like pizza). And while I still have a ways to go, I am quite pleased with one of my more recent creations, the Zucchini Blossom, Zucchini and Garlic Pizza you see above.

For this post, I'm going to start with the crust. What inspired me to make pizza was a recipe I found in the January/February 2009 edition of Tastes of Italia, a modest little magazine that I will pick up every now and then in the checkout aisle at Treasure Island, and in which I have found many ideas and inspirations. While they do have recipes for the kinds of dishes we think of as Italian, what I really like about this magazine is that they more often provide recipes using the ingredients that we think of as being Italian, but in a way that is nothing like the dishes we tend to think of when we think Italian cuisine.

This issue had a recipe for Pizza Margharita (basically tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil), that included a recipe for "Basic Pizza Dough." It seemed like a good place to start.

The instructions were simple and fairly straightforward. It tasted good, but it did not have that chewy texture that I like in my pizza. It also made enough for four pizzas, which is at least two more than I can deal with at one time.

I used whole wheat white flour, which may have accounted for the crust being less chewy and not tasting exactly like pizza crust should taste. But it looked pretty, as you can see. At first it was easier for me to roll out a rectangle than to try for the circle.

I had seen Sara Moulton pre-cook her pizza dough for five minutes before putting the toppings on it, so I did the same thing. It helps the crust stay crisp and crunchy under the fillings, so that has become a part of my regular pizza routine.

The topping was my own creation, utilizing whatever ingredients I had on hand that could be considered remotely Italian. I used ripe tomatoes, some ricotta cheese I had left over from an earlier use, a thinly sliced shallot and olive oil. I did not have any fresh basil, so I used dried thyme and basil. It did taste good, but I wanted to see if I could do better.

The next recipe that caught my eye was a foccacia recipe in Mario Batali's cookbook Molto Italiano. I also used white whole wheat flour, and I knew something was wrong the first time I made it. It was thick and dry, and barely rose. Luckily, it tasted ok so I was able to eat it, but it was definitely not foccacia. I thought maybe it was because I used the white whole wheat flour instead of the high-gluten bread flour called for in the recipe, so I moseyed on down to the grocery store and bought a bag of Bob's Red Mill unbleached white flour ("superb for bread baking") and tried again. And while better, it was definitely still too thick and dry. So I googled around and discovered I wasn't the only one having this problem. I changed the half cup of water to one-and-a-half cups, and lo and behold: I got foccacia, as you can see on the left. It was light and yeasty, and especially tasty with the pancetta and herbs, but it was no pizza.

Emboldened by my foccacia success, I decided to find another recipe to try for pizza crust. As luck would have it, there was a recipe on the side of the Bob's Red Mill flour bag. I thought they were awfully confident to call it "Perfect Pizza Crust," but the ratio of ingredients looked consistent with the other recipes at which I had been looking, so I decided to give it a try. And it worked out beautifully, so beautifully that I don't think I need to look any more. To the left is the first pizza I made (each recipe makes two pizzas). The crust was crunchy, crisp, and chewy all at the same time, which is my preferred pizza crust texture.

I got a little carried away with the toppings, though. I loaded up on the tomato sauce and cheese, so the bottom was just the slightest bit soggy. The red peppers and the beet greens were a good match, though, and I knew I was on the right track.

I took what I learned and maximized the flavor for my next effort, up there on the top. There's a new sustainable farmers' market on Wednesday evenings up in Andersonville and I just started working in the neighborhood so I stopped by on my way home from work and saw the freshest, most beautiful zucchini blossoms I've ever seen, much prettier even than the ones at the green market. I had to buy them and, having bought them, knew they were destined for that night's pizza. It was even more fitting that I had already planned for the zucchini. A liberal sprinkling of chopped garlic over the whole thing has become signature on pretty much all of my pizzas. It takes it from merely delicious to sublime.

I know my pizzas will only get better with practice, but I consider this pizza to be my first real authentic pizza pie. The crust was perfectly browned and there was no hint of soggy. The toppings were perfectly cooked and in perfect unison with each other. I can't wait to play around some more.

If you've never worked with yeast, but have been wanting to try, pizza is a good place to start. There is less rising and kneading time involved, and it doesn't take as much time. You can work up the dough one night and throw it in the refrigerator for as long as two days before you have to use it, or you can even store it in the freezer to have on hand on a night when you're craving a pie but don't have the time or energy to start from scratch. One recipe makes two pies, so you can feed a larger group, offer more choices, or make them at different times.

I used the unbleached white flour all by itself the first few times I made the pizza because I wanted to be sure I understood how the dough should look and feel as I was working with it, so I could be more confident experimenting. I have since substituted white whole wheat at a 30 percent ratio (one-third the total amount of flour), and will continue to increase the amount of whole wheat. I don't know if I can achieve the same crisp, chewy texture with 100 percent whole wheat, but that's my goal.

You don't have to use Bob's Red Mill unbleached white flour, but you want to make sure the flour you do use is high-gluten, or says "bread flour" somewhere on the package.

As far as toppings go, the sky is pretty much the limit. You can go the more traditional route, with a scant cup of your favorite tomato sauce as the base, followed by about one-and-a-half cups of mozzarella cheese and then whatever other ingredients you want, or you can be bold and play with whatever wild and crazy combinations present themselves to your eager, experimental mind. If you find something amazingly good, please let me know.


Makes 1 large or 2 small pizzas

1 cup warm water (105 - 115 deg. F.)
1 Tbsp active dry yeast (or two 1/4-oz. packets)
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour*
1-3/4 cups unbleached white flour, plus more for kneading*
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
Scant tsp of cornmeal, for dusting the baking sheet

Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a small bowl and whisk together to mix well. Place warm water in a large bowl and add the yeast, whisking it together. Add the oil, and then the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.

Turn the mixture onto a floured surface and set the bowl aside, pouring about 1 teaspoon of olive oil into it. Bring the dough together into a ball and knead, sprinkling more flour over the dough if necessary, until the dough is smooth and elastic and is just at the point where it is not sticking to your hands. Try not to add too much flour. Form into a ball and put it in the bowl with the olive oil, turning it to make sure the entire surface is coated with the oil, adding more oil if necessary. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise until it doubles in size (between one and two hours).

Turn the dough out of the bowl and divide it in half. At this point you can either make both pizzas, make one pizza and put the rest of the dough in the refrigerator for two days, put both balls of dough in the refrigerator for up to two days, or freeze one or both balls for future use. If you put the dough in the refrigerator or freezer, let it come up to room temperature and then proceed with your pizza.

If you are making the pizza right away, move the oven rack to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 475 deg. F. and sprinkle some cornmeal on your baking sheet (you can use a round or rectangular sheet). Roll out or pat out the dough until it fits the contours of the baking sheet, pinching out the dough to make it slightly thicker around the edge.

If your crust is ready before the oven has preheated, cover it with a towel while you wait for the oven to reach 475 degrees. You do not want to put the crust into the oven until the oven has reached the proper heat.

Place the empty crust on the rack at the lowest position in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with your ingredients. Bake for an additional 12-18 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the toppings are cooked.

adapted from the recipe on the package of Bob's Red Mill Unbleached White Flour.

*updated 12/12/09: It works just as well to use 1 cup white whole wheat flour and 1-1/2 cups bread flour.
*updated 10/19/11: I now use 1 cup white whole wheat, 1 cup bread flour, and 1/2 cup semolina flour.
*updated 06/08/14: I probably should have mentioned from the beginning that you can use any kinds and any amounts of flour, as long as the total comes to 2-1/2 cups.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Baking Class: Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

I have been baking with a lot of fruit this summer. It is not something I usually do, but I have been enjoying it immensely. Maybe it's because I'm baking more in general, so it is only natural that fruit would find it's way into the batter, given how bountiful it has been.

I stumbled across this recipe in the June issue of Gourmet magazine. It was the buttermilk that caused me to tear the page out of the magazine and stick it on my big old recipe pile. For some reason I am fascinated with buttermilk. I didn't grow up with it, although I do have at least one memory of my father chugging down a nice cold glass of it. It looked nice and refreshing, but I have since taken a taste of it straight out of the carton and I can tell you that refreshing is not the word I would use. Tart? Yes. Thick? Yes. Refreshing? Not so much.

But I love to cook with it. I have finally found a buttermilk pancake recipe that is within a stone's throw of perfect. I am thinking of making my flaky biscuits flaky buttermilk biscuits. I have used it to moisten my potato and onion galettes (of which more later).

And add two tablespoons of it to a cup of heavy cream, let it sit out for a few hours until it has thickened, and you have creme fraiche, which has certainly made my life a better place.

But in this instance, buttermilk gives you a rich, moist, delicate cake that has a light crumbly texture and almost melts in your mouth. The original recipe calls for raspberries, but blueberries are so abundant and inexpensive around here right now (at least at the grocery store - they're more than twice as much at the green market I am sorry to say), that I have been using them in all kinds of recipes that call for other fruits.

And it works beautifully in this recipe.

I healthied up this recipe by using half white whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour. It stayed light and moist, but there was just the slightest hint of backbone that in my opinion held up quite well against the blueberries.
Home Cookin Chapter: Cakes and Pies


Serves 8

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1-1/2 Tbsp large-crystal decorative sugar (can substitute regular sugar)

Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. with the rack in the middle, then butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together the first five ingredients, then set aside.

Beat together the butter and sugar with the hand beater on medium high. Add the vanilla and mix it in. Next add the egg, making sure to beat it in completely.

With the beater on the lowest setting, add a third of the flour mixture and just beat it in. Add half of the buttermilk and just beat that in. Repeat with another third of the flour, the rest of the buttermkilk, and the rest of the flour, beating just enough to mix it in after each addition.

Spoon the batter into the cake pan. Smooth the top, then spread the blueberries over the batter.

Sprinkle the large-crystal decorative sugar evenly over the top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake is golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Let cool for about 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack and let it cool another 15 minutes or so more.

Invert onto a plate before serving.

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, June 2009 issue

Exported from Home Cookin 5.9 (

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dill Rice

There is a local chain of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurants in Chicago that serves the best dill rice I have ever tasted. Large, individual grains of rice infused with the fresh grassy flavor of the fresh dill, with an occasional lima bean thrown in for that extra bump of texture and earthiness.

The rest of the food at Reza's is quite good, too, but it is the dill rice that stands out. I know I'm not the only one who thinks so, because many people find their way to my little ol' blog in search of the recipe. They end up here because I wrote a post back when this was still a knitting blog, when my friend and I stopped at Reza's for dinner on the way to a knitting guild meeting, and I mentioned the dill rice. I can only imagine their disappointment at getting to my knitting post and finding no recipe. I have felt bad about that, but what could I do?

Ok . . . wait for it . . . why, I could take a stab at making some dill rice of my own, natch. So I bought some fresh dill at the green market and went to work. And hit the jackpot on the first try.

Dill rice adds a fresh dimension to just about any main dish you serve. It's a no-brainer with salmon and peas, but it adds an unexpected dimension to Spicy Indian Channa Dal Curry and other Indian dishes. It's the perfect foil for skirt steak. And it's just as good all by itself.

This is really more of a method than a recipe. It works well with my brown basmati rice, but you could make it with whatever form of rice you are most comfortable using.

Serves 4

1 cup rice
Water per package instructions
2-3 Tbsp fresh chopped dill
1 - 2 Tbsp olive oil
garlic powder (or 1 clove garlic, mashed into a paste)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook rice according to package directions. When the rice is finished, add the dill and replace the cover, letting it sit for five minutes. Remove the cover, add the olive oil, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir everything together before serving.

  • Add 1/2 cup of frozen peas along with the dill.
  • 1/2 cup of corn along with the dill
  • Add the zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Add the zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Use your imagination!
  • Thursday, August 13, 2009

    Baking Class: Sand Tarts

    I got the recipe for these gems from one of my co-workers at the library in Austin many years ago. So many years ago, in fact, that I no longer remember who it was that gave me the recipe.

    Which is a shame, because they are spectacularly delicious, and are fancy enough to be taken to the poshest places. They have earned their name - they are light and sandy and melt in the mouth.

    And best of all, they are ridiculously easy to make, and don't take too much time. The most time-consuming part is rolling them in the confectioner's sugar. Don't let the cookies cool for more than a few minutes before you start rolling them. It's the heat that makes the sugar stick.

    I have made these successfully with pecans, walnuts or almonds, but I have to say that the pecans are my favorite. They are more dense, and their rich subtle flavor floods each bite.

    I have made these cookies in half batches, but I have almost always regretted not having more. They disappear quickly.
    Home Cookin Chapter: Cookies

    Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies

    1 cup softened butter
    1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
    1 tsp vanilla
    2-1/4 cup flour
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 cup pecans, walnuts or almonds
    approximately 1 cup additional powdered sugar for finished cookies

    Cream the butter and confectioner's sugar together. Add the vanilla and stir it in. Add the salt, flour and nuts and mix well.

    Chill the dough for at least two hours, or overnight. Roll into balls or crescents and place on an ungreased baking sheet (parchment optional).

    Bake at 350 deg F. for 20 minutes, until the cookies are just lightly browned. Remove from the oven and, while still hot, roll them in a soup bowl filled with powdered sugar.

    Exported from Home Cookin 5.9 (

    Monday, August 10, 2009

    Chicken Soup with Barley and Kohlrabi

    I believe I may have mentioned that I bought two beautiful bulbs of kohlrabi a while back at the Green Market. While they are apparently quite common here in the midwest, they were not something we saw much of down in Texas. I knew of them, but I did not know them. I had no idea what they tasted like, or how to use them.

    The first time I saw them at the Green market, they were big and round and beautiful, and I just had to bring them home with me. These had the most gorgeous greens attached to them, which I steamed with turnip greens from the Clapshot. That left the kohlrabi itself, which I was not sure how to prepare.

    After a little investigation I discovered that kohlrabi is another member of the cabbage family, and that it tastes something like broccoli. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and is most reminiscent of the broccoli stem.

    I also learned that it is not necessary to peel them; if they're young enough it is thin so peeling is unnecessary. These felt a little on the thick side to me, so I trimmed the ends and ran the peeler over it gently, just to get rid of the outermost layer. They were more white inside, with just a hint of green.

    They sliced up just like broccoli stems. For the sake of research, I tasted it raw, and it was crisp and tender, and it did indeed taste like broccoli. But it was milder, with a sweeter undertone.

    They cooked up nicely, too. They were the perfect addition to this lighter, more summery version of chicken soup.
    Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

    Makes 6 servings

    2 chicken breasts, bone-in, with skin
    2 cups chicken or vegetable broth, plus 1 cup water (3 cups total liquid)
    2 Tbsp oil
    1 medium onion, chopped
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    2 large carrots, chopped
    salt and pepper to taste
    1/2 cup barley, rinsed well
    1 tsp tarragon
    1/2 tsp thyme
    2 large kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
    1 14.5-oz. can kidney beans, drained (and rinsed, if non-organic)
    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

    Poach the chicken breasts in water to cover for about 25 minutes. Remove the chicken and and let cool. Add the cooking liquid to the 3 cups of the broth and water mixture.

    In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Do not let the onions brown. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Add the carrots and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. Add the broth and water mixture. Add the tarragon, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the barley. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes, until the barley is just tender.

    While the barley is cooking and once the chicken is cool, remove the skin and remove the meat from the bone, then chop the meat into 1-1/2-inch pieces.

    Add the kohlrabi and cook another 10 minutes, until the kohlrabi is tender. Add the kindney beans and the chicken and cook until just heated through.

    Remove from heat and add the lemon juice. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

    Created 6/19/09

    Exported from Home Cookin 5.9 (

    Thursday, August 06, 2009

    Baking Class: Blueberry Muffins

    Blueberries are in season, and are ridiculously cheap at my local grocery store, so I have been buying quite a few of them. There's only so much cobbler a gal can make, and I don't always have yogurt on hand (which is actually one of my favorite ways to eat them - sprinkled on top of French Vanilla yogurt), so I needed to find some new uses.

    My sister suggested that I look into cookies, but I'm not sure the berries can hold up to a cookie. Maybe a bar of some kind? Oooh, I think I have just given myself an idea or two. I'll have to work on those.

    In the meantime, I remembered a recipe for blueberry muffins that I made once or twice from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. Not really being a muffin lover, I find it interesting that I thought of these, having so recently made the strawberry yogurt muffins, but my memory of this recipe is that I'm always surprised by how good the muffins are. They are sweeter than I remember, and the blueberry really shines. They're not humongous like the ones you get in coffee shops, so there's less guilt in eating one.

    These days I'm all about playing around with recipes, and adapting what I've learned from one recipe to another, so I made a couple of changes to this recipe as well. Nothing major, but I think they are improved. I added lemon, and sprinkled decorative sugar crystals on top before baking (something I've been wanting to do for a while in my baking but keep forgetting until after the batter is alread in the oven). I also tossed the blueberries in flour before adding them to the batter, which helped keep them suspended in the batter rather than settling at the bottom of the muffin. One good thing I learned from watching The Food Network.

    I used all-purpose flour for this recipe, but I think it could easily be adapted to at least half and half all-purpose and whole wheat flours. Now that there's the softer white whole wheat flour available, I think the shift to whole wheat can be made without sacrificing texture or flavor. It's still not as fine as all-purpose flour, but it's definitely softer than regular whole wheat.

    I don't know if it's because we've had such a relatively cool, wet season, but the blueberries seem a little more tart this year. That tartness balances well with the sweetness of this batter. These muffins are easy to make and disappear quickly. There are few better ways to use the season's bounty.
    Home Cookin Chapter: Breads and Muffins

    Makes 12 muffins

    2 cup flour, with 1/4 cup reserved
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 Tbsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    zest of 1 lemon
    1 egg
    1 cup milk
    1/4 cup oil
    3/4 cup blueberries
    large decorative sugar crystals (optional)

    Preheat oven to 400 deg.

    Grease muffin tin (or insert a paper wrapper in each muffin cup).

    Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, combine the reserved cup of flour and the blueberries, and gently stir to coat all of the blueberries. Shake off the extra flour into the bowl of dried ingredients.

    In a small bowl, beat the egg slightly, then stir in the milk and oil. Add to the flour mixture, along with the flour coated bluegerries, and stir until just moistened.

    Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. Sprinkle the sugar on top of each muffin.

    Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the muffin tin and let cool on a rack.

    Adapted from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, edited by Zoe Coulson (Hearst Books, 1980)

    Exported from Home Cookin 5.9 (

    Monday, August 03, 2009

    Cooking on a Budget: Masoor Dal

    A couple of weeks ago a friend emailed me that she was thinking of making a dal from a recipe she found on Live Journal. It looked pretty good, and I just happened to have, oh, about four pounds of red lentils in my pantry from my last trip down to Devon Avenue, so I decided to take a stab at a dal of my own.

    A dal is a stew that can be prepared from any number of pulses, or lentils. Because I have so much masoor dal (red lentils) on hand, that is what I decided to use. I am somewhat proud of myself, because this is my first solo flight with Indian cuisine. Up until now, I have always followed a recipe because I was not sure enough of the flavors and techniques to be confident of a happy ending. But as I have been cooking more Indian food, I have noticed some patterns. With dal, one of the patterns is that you might cook the lentils in one pot, and then you saute the onions, spices and other vegetables in a different pot and add them to the lentils at the end.

    That is what I did here. I cooked the lentils in some of my homemade vegetable stock. While they were cooking I sauteed the other ingredients, and then combined them at the end. For such a quick, simple dish, the flavors are complex, and the spices provide layers of subtlety that tease the tastebuds.

    This is fast and easy to make, and it travels well for lunches. When you've just gotten home from work and need a quick dinner that will work as well for next day's lunch, this is a real winner. It's also versatile. You can pretty much use any combination of vegetables and spices - whatever you have on hand.

    And it's super easy on the budget as well.

    Total Cost: $1.19
    Cost per Serving: $0.30
    Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes
    Serves 4

    1 cup red lentils, sorted, rinsed and drained
    1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
    salt and pepper to taste

    1 tsp ghee or oil
    1 tsp brown mustard seeds
    1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp cumin
    1/2 tsp turmeric
    1/4 tsp ajwain, optional
    1/2 medium onion, but into thirds lengthwise and thinly sliced
    1 tomato, diced
    salt and pepper to taste
    1/2 cup coconut milk, optional

    yogurt for garnish

    In large saucepan over high heat, bring broth to a boil. Add lentils,reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    While lentils are cooking, heat ghee in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds. When seeds start popping, cover the skillet until the popping stops. Remove the cover, lower the heat, and add the red pepper flakes, letting them cook for about 30 seconds. Add onions and saute until they are translucent. Add the spices and cook for one minute, being careful not to let them burn. Add tomato and cook until the tomato breaks down, 15 to 20 minutes. Add coconut milk and cook until just heated through.

    Add tomato mixture to lentils. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Serve warm with a dollop of yogurt for garnish.


    Exported from Home Cookin 5.9 (

    Saturday, August 01, 2009

    Well Lived, Indeed

    Screenwriter Aleksandra Crapanzano has written a beautifully moving piece in this month's Gourmet about summers in Nantucket with childrens' book publisher Margaret K. McElderry, great-aunt to Crapanzano's husband, novelist John Burnham Schwartz. Crapanzano writes of ritual, rigidity, and regret. I'm no softy, but it brought tears to my eyes. Pretty embarrassing considering I was in the jury pool at 26th and California at the time.

    Check it out if you have a chance.
    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...