Monday, February 28, 2011

Whole Wheat Pizza Pasta

Saturday I was in a bit of a quandary. I had all of the fixings for pizza, including tomato sauce that really needed to be used sooner rather than later, but I haven't made pasta in a while and I really wanted pasta.

So why not use all of those pizza fixings with pasta? I couldn't think of any reason why it wouldn't work, so pasta won. I whipped up a batch and got to work on the sauce.

I chopped up garlic and onions and sauteed them in olive oil. Then I added a tablespoon of tomato paste from the freezer (once I open a can, if I'm not going to use it all I divide it up by the tablespoon and freeze the individual portions on a sheet of wax paper. Once they're frozen I cut up the wax paper, wrap it around each piece, and throw it all into a freezer bag so I can use it in the amounts that I want. I used to just use the whole can regardless of what the recipe stated, but when I was on a budget I got in the habit of doing this and it sure comes in handy. Wow - this parenthetical aside is actually longer than this paragraph is going to be!) and let it melt and start to brown in the pan.

Once the tomato paste was browned and the onions and garlic were soft, I added the tomato sauce and my pizza spices - two parts dried thyme and oregano to one part dried thyme. I add just a little bit of salt because I was planning to add green olives and I didn't want it to be too salty.

I added a little water to thin out the sauce and lowered the heat to a simmer while I cut up some frozen artichoke hearts and the olives. I added those when the sauce had simmered for a while and was ready. The artichoke hearts were still a little frozen so they thinned out the sauce some.

While it was thickening up again, I cooked the pasta. When it was ready I added chopped fresh parsley to the sauce and then I plated the pasta, sprinkled grated mozzarella over it, then spooned the sauce over the cheese. I added more mozzarella and some grated Parmagiano Reggiano, and then I sprinkled more parsley for garnish

Overall, the dish was a success, which is not really a surprise considering the ingredients.

What was a surprise was how well the pasta worked. I have been trying to re-incorporate more whole wheat into my life, and I decided that this was the time for me to start incorporating it into my pasta. I started with one-third white whole wheat to two-thirds all-purpose flour. White whole wheat comes from a different kind of wheat than the kind of whole wheat flour I am used to using, which comes from a red wheat. The white whole wheat is more delicate than the red whole wheat and the bran isn't as noticeable, so it doesn't break the structure of the gluten as much. It works more like all-purpose flour but it is sturdier.

And I have to say that I liked the flavor of the pasta with the white whole wheat more than the pasta made only with the all-purpose flour. I was afraid it would be harder to roll out, but it was about the same. Surprisingly, it was easier to cut and unroll than the all-purpose pasta was.

I have also started making all of my pasta in the food processor. It's faster and easier to clean up than mounding up the flour, making the well, dropping in the eggs and salt and mixing it up on the counter. Don't get me wrong - I'm glad I know how to do it and it helped me to get familiar with how the dough should feel, but it's a little easier on the shoulders and elbows to do the initial work in the processor.

All in all, a rousing success. I plan to keep raising the ratio of white whole wheat to all-purpose flour, but if you are just getting started and want to take it slowly like I did, here is how you start.

Makes 1/2 lb.

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour, separated
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs

Place the white whole wheat flour and 1/2 a cup of the all-purpose flour in the bowl of a food processor. Add the salt and pulse a few times to mix the ingredients together.

Add the eggs and pulse a few times, until the dough starts to come together. At this point it should still be sticky. Add the rest of the flour, about a third at a time, stopping when the dough is still tacky to the touch. Empty the dough onto a floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 20-30 minutes.

Roll out the pasta until it is about 1/16-inch thick. Cut it into the desired shape (instructions for cutting into noodles here) and cook it in salted boiling water for 3 minutes. You can either add it to the pan with the sauce, or put the sauce on after it is plated. Or, if you want to cook the cut pasta later, make sure it is well coated with flour and put it in a plastic bag, where you can store it in the refrigerator for a day or two or the freezer for a few months.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Status Update; Genetically Modified Organisms Update

I haven't really been in a blogging mood the past few days, but I have been cooking up a storm, including another round of FENI master classes that have once again inspired me (and wore me out, but in a good way).

I expect to be posting again soon; I am hoping before the week is out, but next week for sure.

In the meantime, you might be interested in this article of Mark Bittman's in last weeks NYT regarding GMOs.

I'm still not sure how I feel about genetically modified foods, but I do believe we have the right to know what we are eating. I was especially gratified to see the article link to this site that lists companies who are participating in the Non-GMO movement and have made the commitment to not use GMOs (to the best of their knowledge, I guess - the insidious thing about this issue is that once they are introduced, it is impossible to completely monitor them). Most of the brands that I buy are on that list.

And to learn more about how to get GMOs out of your diet, check out this online article from Urban Garden Magazine.

Brave New World, we are here!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Brown Rice with Curried Lentils and Swiss Chard

The third time is the charm. At least the most charming this dish is ever going to get, I guess. It's the return of the infamous Brown Rice with Curried Lentils, but with a twist.

The twist is not evident, at least not in the photo, but it's a little more visible in the flesh, so to speak. And if you click on the picture, enlarge it, and look closely enough, you can just make out the little bits of red from the stems of the Swiss chard. The Swiss chard has been looking quite lovely at the store, so I have been bringing it home with me on a somewhat regular basis.

I have been on a baking kick these past few months - cookies, pizza, bread, and cakes. Some of it you've seen, some you will see soon. Because of that, my healthy eating has been suffering somewhat, and I haven't been as creative in that area as I usually am. I am also in a mood for comfort foods, or at least familiar foods, so I am making a lot of dishes about which I have already posted, and I don't think there's much need for me to re-post a recipe, even if I have made changes.

But there are a few things about this recipe that prompted me both to make it, and to write about it again. The first is that it is a really tasty recipe, even though it really does not photograph well. In all honesty, it doesn't look all that great in person (although it is not nearly as bad as the photo), but it is really delicious and quite good for you, what with the brown rice and lentils and spinach and all.

The next reason is that Swiss chard makes an excellent substitution for the spinach, and adds much needed color. You can use the same recipe, just separate the leafy part of the chard from the stems, chop up the stems and saute them along with with the onion and celery, and then add the leaves when you would add the spinach. It's as good as, if not better than, the spinach.

Third reason: even though the spices seem more appropriate to Indian food, the base is very similar to a Middle Eastern dish called Mujadara, and someone on a news group suggested making it in honor of Egypt's new-found voyage towards democracy. Mujadara is basically rice cooked with lentils and topped with caramelized onions (which has just given me A VERY GOOD IDEA for this dish!). I already make a version of it called Imjadara (Which I posted about here), that uses bulgur and which I absolutely love.

The final reason I am posting about this dish again is more because of the posting than the dish itself. Specifically, it revolves around attribution and plagiarism. When I first wrote about this recipe, I had just stumbled across a website that had over 200,000 recipes posted on it, from all over the world. It was a wonderful database. You could search by location or by ingredient. I found several good recipes there, and posted about a few. I was very careful to attribute the site, as I try to reference all of my sources.

And then I found a recipe that seemed awfully familiar to me. I no longer remember what it was, but at the time I went to the copy of the recipe that I had and it was, indeed, identical. I'm a little chagrined that I hadn't thought about this sooner, but I began to wonder from exactly where this web site was getting its recipes. I went back to the recipe and saw no reference whatsoever as to the original source. Then I started noticing that the wording of a lot of the recipes was personal, and chatty, and that maybe they were coming from different places. And it started to look like maybe this site was just pulling recipes from all over the internet without indicating their source.

So I sent them an email asking them where they got their recipes. I never heard back. So I stopped using them, and I stopped citing them. (It looks like they are no longer around, so maybe I'm not the only one who finally noticed what they were doing.) And eventually forgot about it.

Until I decided to make this recipe again, and saw that the only source of which I knew was the site where I had originally found it. So I did a little searching on the internet and discovered that the recipe actually came from a book called Pilaf, Risotto, and Other Ways with Rice by Sada Fretz (Little Brown, 1995). I think it is out of print, although I did find used copies available at Alibris and other websites.

It's a small thing, but I feel a little better.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Baking Class: Glazed Lemon Poppyseed Valentines

Valentine's Day is just around the corner. If you are looking for something different to make this year, try these Glazed Lemon Poppy Seed Hearts. They are sweet, crispy, and delicate, with just the slightest hint of lemon, and they absolutely melt in your mouth. They are a little time-consuming, but what better way to show your love than with just a little more labor than usual? And these are well worth the extra effort. As much as I love chocolate, these make a nice little surprise of a difference.

These are the fourth cookies I have made from Tish Boyle's The Good Cookie. I have to say, I am really liking this cookbook.

So do something different this year from the usual chocolate. You won't go wrong with these.
Home Cookin Chapter: Cookies

makes 3 dozen cookies

For the cookies:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
3/4 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
pinch of salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup poppy seeds

For the candied lemon garnish:
1 lemon
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/3 cup water

For the glaze:
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
pInch of salt

Cream the butter and sugar (on medium speed if using a hand or stand mixer) for about 1 minute, until combined. Add the egg yolk, lemon zest, vanilla and lemon extracts, cardamom, and salt and mix until
combined. Add the flour and the poppy seeds and mix until combined. Turn the dough onto plastic wrap and pat it into a rectanble. Wrap and refrigerate the dough for no less than one hour and no mor than three days. (The dough can also be frozen at this point for later use.)

While the dough is chiling, make the garnish. Peel the zest off the lemon lengthwise into strips. Slice them thinly crosswise. Combine 2/3 of a cup of the sugar and the water in a small heavy saucepan and
bring to a boil. Place the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small bowl and set aside. Add the lemon strips and boil them for three minutes. Remove the peels with a slotted spoon and toss with the reserved sguar until coated. Transfer them to a plate and let them dry for at least 30 minutes. Transfer them to a sieve and shake out the excess sugar.

For the glaze, place all of the ingredients into a medium bowl and mix until just combined, about 30 minutes. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. and place the racks near the center. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough in half. Roll out one half on a lightly floured work surface to a 3/16-inch thickness. Using a 2-1/2-inch heart-shaped cutter (or any cutter of a similar size), cut out as many cookies from the dough as possible and place them on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Reroll the scraps of dough and cut out more hearts, continuing until the dough is used. Repeat with the second
half of dough.

Bake the cookies for 14 t 16 minutes, until they are pale brown around the edges. Turn the pans and switch their positions halfway through. Place the baking sheets on wire racks. Glaze the cookies while they are hot.

Spread a teaspoon of the glaze evenly over each cookie, and then garnish with a piece of the candied lemon peel. Transfer the cookies to the wire rack and let them cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

from The Good Cookie: Over 250 Delicious Recipes, from Simple to Sublime, by Tish Boyle (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2002).

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Big Snow: The Blizzard of 2011

This is what my street looked like this afternoon after the Great Blizzard of 2011 hit Chicago. We're looking East toward Lake Shore Drive, where about 100 cars were abandoned down by North Avenue Beach last night. It snowed until about 3:00, and when it stopped I went outside to take a look. This is definitely the most snow I have ever seen.

And here we are looking at the end of my driveway, out into my street. Our sidewalk and driveway were shoveled earlier this morning - my building is really good about that. Not that it did much good, in this case.

This is the bus stop going north on the inner drive. I am glad I won't be taking this bus to work tomorrow morning. It was weird that there was no traffic on the drive - I have never seen the drive empty. I did not take a picture of the police car that was blocking access to my street; it was just to my right.

This is why the police car was blocking access to my street. This is the other end of my street. I'm standing on Broadway, again looking east toward the lake. The darker snow at the bottom of the photo is actually vertical; it's where the snow plow piled up the snow from Broadway. That woman is walking about 3 feet off the ground. There is no way a car could get through that. I had a hard time getting through it myself.

And that's it. The great storm is over. Now we just have to deal with the aftermath.
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