Monday, January 23, 2017

Shallot Vinaigrette

For the past ten years or so I have used my trusty "Vinaigrette for the Week" recipe as my go-to salad dressing.  And for good reason, as it is versatile and delicious.  I have used different vinegars, added various herbs and spices, and changed up the combinations of oil and every single one of them has made for a tasty salad.

During that period I have also earmarked several new vinaigrette recipes that I have stumbled across that have variations I have not tried but seem interesting, but it has been such a habit and by now no-brainer to just keep making my usual dressing whenever I make a salad that I never think to try any of the new ones.

So I am especially happy that my New Recipe Project has caused me to go back and look over all of those recipes that I have been collecting over the years with the specific intention of putting more of them to use.

Add to that the lack of attentiveness at the grocery store that led me to pick up the container of baby spinach and greens instead of just the baby spinach I was intending to buy and throw that in my cart.  I was not really planning for salad but I did not particularly care to saute the spring greens mix (although the thought did occur to me), so salad it was and I picked up some radishes, and tomatoes the next time I was at the store.

Which meant I needed to make a dressing.  Eager to make as many new recipes as possible for my project I went through my new recipes and found this Shallot Vinaigrette recipe I found in Bake from Scratch magazine.  I always have shallots on hand for various uses and sherry vinegar for my favorite gazpacho so I decided to give this a try.

And I think I may have found a new go-to dressing.  The sherry vinegar has a more mellow profile than other vinegars to which the shallots provide a refreshing bite.  And thyme enhances just about everything.  A good fruity olive oil rounds out the flavor, and the ratio of oil to vinegar is than the vinaigrette for the week and that is an added bonus, as it is not lacking one bit in flavor.

And this is one of the reasons I have been so eager to start using some of those hundreds of recipes I have been collecting over the years.  Meet my new go-to salad dressing.
Home Cookin v.9.69 Chapter: Spices Spreads Dips Sauces
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
3 Tbsp minced shallot
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine the vinegar and shallot in a small bowl and let sit for at least 20 minutes. Add the mustard and honey and whisk to combine.

Stir in the thyme, salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil, making sure it is well combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using.

adapted from Bake from Scratch, Spring 2016

imported from Home Cookin v.9.69 (

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Apple and Ginger Lentil Salad

This lentil dish was a pleasant surprise.  When you have been cooking legumes for as long as I have now been cooking them it is easy to get into the habit of combining them with the same flavor profiles until you are basically always making variations on the same dish.  If it is a dish that you like there is nothing wrong with that, but every once in a while it is nice to pair things up in a new way so that your taste buds are surprised.  The ginger and apple provided a sweet and pungent kick that jump-started my taste buds and gave me a new appreciation for lentils.  Which is a good thing, because they are a powerhouse of nutrition and I try to eat them often.

Toasted sunflower seeds add a nice crunch and some body, but I made the mistake of mixing them all into the salad rather than keeping them on the side.  As a result, they soaked up the dressing and lost their lovely toasty texture in the refrigerator and the leftover servinsgs were not quite as tasty as that first serving.  So in the future (and as I have indicated in the recipe) I will keep them separate and add them as a garnish just before serving.

If you are looking for a new way to prepare lentils that will wake up your taste buds, then this Apple and Ginger Lentil Salad is definitely for you.

This was a new recipe, but I made it before I started my New Recipe project so I am not counting it as such.  (Just in case that matters to anyone but me.)
Home Cookin v.9.69 Chapter: Beans and Vegetables

Serves 10

2 cups French green lentils
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup lime juice
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons honey
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 apple, finely diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup toasted unsalted sunflower seeds

Cover the lentils with about 2 inches of cold water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer the lentils until they are tender, about 25 minutes. Drain.

Whisk together the oil, lime juice, ginger, honey, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the hot lentils and stir to coat well. Refrigerate for at least two hours.

Add the apple and cilantro just before serving. Garnish each serving with about one-and-a-half tablespoons of the sunflower seeds.

Serve at room temperature or cold.

Source: Eating Well

Exported from Home Cooking v.9.69

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Baking Class: Sourdough Sandwich Bread

I have been making bread with sourdough, or natural, starter for a few years now but since things have been so crazy the past year or so I have not posted much about it.  There are several recipes that I make frequently and it is past time that I shared them with you.

I will start with one of the first recipes I tried.  I wanted to find something to replace this whole wheat sandwich bread that was my standby bread, and I was looking for something that looked straightforward and not too threatening for my first attempt.

I found this article on sourdough written by an Austin (now Denver, apparently) gamer.  It has really good information (and the FAQ page, while closed, is super helpful as well).  The recipe seemed straightforward enough and similar to my whole wheat bread recipe so I did not feel quite as intimidated as I might have felt had I decided to tackle San Francisco sourdough or some other more artisanal-style loaf.

The result was quite tasty, and this became my weekly bread for a while, until I got comfortable enough with the sourdough to start to branch out and try other recipes.  Although I now make many different sourdough breads I will still make this one when I am in the mood for peanut butter sandwiches for lunches and toast for breakfast.  The crumb is soft but holds up to spreads and toasting.  It is an all-around versatile thing of beauty and will get you lots of compliments.

A few notes:
  • In the original recipe he does not preheat the oven; instead he turns the oven on and then puts in the bread and cooks it 15 minutes to half an hour longer.  He makes a good case for why it should be done that way and I did do it that way a couple of times but old habits die hard and I found myself preheating the oven about half an hour before baking time without even thinking about it.  Either way will work just fine.
  • The only problem I currently have with my sourdough is that I do not care for the way it interacts with whole wheat flour.  I can't even pinpoint exactly what the issue is for me but I find myself using regular bread flour much more often with my sourdough breads although I would much prefer to work with whole wheat.  Through experimentation I found that adding 1 cup of whole wheat flour to the recipe was the perfect combination for both flavor and texture (texture being my main issue with sourdough and whole wheat) for me.  You may not have the same issues with it as I do, so feel free to substitute as much or as little whole wheat flour for the bread flour as you would like.
  • The ratio of starter to dough is pretty high in this recipe.  That means that it will rise pretty quickly; much closer to the rising time for commercially yeasted bread.  For this recipe I was looking more for a natural leavening agent than for sourness.  If you are looking for a true sourdough loaf, this is not the one you want to make.  This recipe is for a plain old-fashioned loaf of sandwich bread.
You can find information on how to build your own sourdough starter here.
Home Cookin Chapter:  My Recipes

Makes 1 loaf

160 g starter
210 g water
120 g unbleached bread flour
Total:  490 g

490 g sponge
2 Tbsp olive oil
16 g sugar
8 g salt
120g whole wheat flour
240 g unbleached bread flour (depending on how much is needed)

1 egg
2 Tbsp milk or water
sesame or poppy seeds (opt)

Combine the starter, water and flour to make the sponge and let proof from one hour to overnight.

When ready to make the bread add the oil, sugar and salt to the sponge and mix well.  Add the flour a half cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon after each addition until you have a shaggy dough.  You may not need all of the flour.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and start kneading it, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.

Knead for 10 to 20 minutes to develop the sourdough flavor and the gluten.  When it is smooth and elastic and passes the windowpane test* it is done.

Form the dough into a ball and place it top side down in a lightly oiled bowl, then turn it over to make sure it is completely covered with the oil.  At this point you can cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator overnight to further develop the sourdough flavor, or you can cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise until doubled in size, anywhere from one hour to overnight depending on the strength of your starter.   If you put the dough in the refrigerator, let it sit out for half an hour to an hour to come to room temperature before the following step.

Punch down the dough and knead it about 6 times.  Form it into the desired loaf shape and place it either on parchment paper on a baking sheet (for a free-form loaf) or in a greased bread pan. Cover and let it proof until it has at least doubled in size, about an hour to an hour and a half.  About half an hour in, turn on the oven to 350° F.  Combine the egg with the water and beat well.

When the dough is ready, score it if necessary (depending on the shape of your loaf).  Brush the top of the loaf with the egg wash.  Lightly sprinkle with the sesame or poppy seeds if you are using them.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the top is golden and the bottom sounds hollow when you tap on it.  Remove from the oven and take the bread out of the pan and let it cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before serving.

*Take some of the dough and stretch it between your fingers until it is thin enough that you can see through it.  If it tears, it is not ready.

adapted from recipe found at
Exported from Home Cookin v.8.58 (

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Butternut Squash and Greens Kuku

Kuku is a Persian egg-based dish that is traditional New Year's fare, according to Wikipedia.  It's another Vegetarian Times recipe which means it is light on the spices, but in this case it works. 

It is basically a frittata and the main reason I used the recipe was to try a different flavor combination and a new technique.  Both were successful, with one exception.

In the recipe as written you add the cheese after the bottom has barely set and then you put it in the oven to cook.  I usually let it set on the stove top and then add the cheese and finish it under the broiler.  Now the original recipe called for feta, which is not a melting cheese, but I am not a fan of feta so I used cheddar, which is a melting cheese so I am willing to concede that might be a significant difference.  But when the eggs had set and I pulled it out of the oven there was no browning on top and I like for the cheeses to get a little browned.  So I put it under the broiler for a couple of minutes and that did brown the cheese, but most of it had cooked into the kuku so it was less defined than I am used to and I missed that slightly crisp layer of cheese on the top.

But cooking it in the oven made it rise more than the stove-top version and I did like that.  It was softer and less dense and the flavors seemed to blend together more.  So the next time I made it I put it in the oven without the cheese, cooked it a few minutes less, then added the cheese and put it under the broiler and that made it perfect for me and from now on I plan to make all of my frittatas this way.

The other thing I really like about this version is the lemon zest.  It is not so pronounced that when you taste it you can tell it is there, but it adds an overall brightness to the overall flavor, like adding lemon to any dish would do.

When I was looking it up online, I found some recipes that added a lot of herbs.  The next time I made it I had some parsley, cilantro and dill that I needed to use up so I added those.  It was delicious as well.

Like the frittata, the variations on this dish are endless.  I'm not sure you can still call the end result a kuku, but it will be mighty tasty.

(Disclosure:  I only had 5 ounces of baby kale on hand when I made the frittata pictured above, so if you make yours from this recipe there will definitely be more greens in it.  That is the beauty of most recipes though - you use what you have and don't sweat it too much.)
Home Cookin v.9.69 Chapter: Meat Fish and Eggs


3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
8 oz butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 medium leek, thinly sliced
5 oz each of baby kale and baby spinach, or any combination of greens
8 large eggs
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
2 oz crumbled feta or other grated cheese
1 oz grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat a tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the squash. Cook 4 to 6 minutes, until the squash starts to soften, stirring occasionally.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the leek. Cook another 4 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until the leek has softened and become translucent, adding more oil if necessary.

Add the greens, in batches if necessary, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the leaves are wilted.

Crack the eggs into a large bowl and add the lemon zest and salt to taste. Whisk together. Add a small amount of the squash and greens mixture to the eggs to temper them and mix well. Add the rest of the greens.

Return the empty skillet to the burner and heat a tablespoon more of the oil. Gently pour the egg and greens mixture into the skillet. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the eggs are slightly set on the bottom. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, then transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the top is set, then place under the broiler for a minute or two to let the cheese brown.

Slide the kuku onto a large plate and let cool about 10 minutes, then cut and serve.

adapted from Vegetarian Times

Exported from Home Cookin (

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Chickpea Masala

The original name of this dish was Chickpea Tikka Masala.  As a Western aficianado of Indian cuisine I have long been famliar with the Chicken Tikka Masala that is offered on just about every Indian restaurant menu in the United States and I have enjoyed it when I have had it, but as I have gotten more familiar with Indian food and more adventurous in ordering new and different items from the menu it has fallen by the wayside.

When I saw this recipe for Chickpea Tikka Masala in Vegetarian Times, I had three almost instantaneous thoughts:
1) This could be good,
2) Why are they calling it tikka masala? and
3) It's a Vegetarian Times recipe so it will not be spicy enough
But it looked like it might have the base for a really tasty dish so I marked it for future use.

I came across it in my big unplanned recipe reorganization a couple of weeks ago and decided to make it one of my first New-Recipe-a-Week-Project dishes, mainly because I already had most of the ingredients on hand, and also because I am so fond of Chicken Tikka Masala.

The one ingredient that I did not have was garam masala, which is the main component of this dish and what makes it Indian.  I usually make my own, but to be honest these days I have found it easier to just add the spices individually.  My garam masala always seems to go stale on me before I can use it all, whereas the spices on their own stay fresh longer.  Perhaps it is because I grind them in small quantities and use them more frequently than I think to use the garam masala

And because it was a Vegetarian Times recipe I was pretty sure it would need some spice help anyway, so I put together my own spices and was lucky enough to hit it out of the park, if I do say so myself.

I remember reading somewhere that tikka means chunks or pieces, which makes sense because all of the Chicken Tikka Masala that I have seen has cut up chicken pieces in it.  But the chickpea is whole, and since I made enough changes to the original recipe to make it my own anyway I decided to rename it as simply Chickpea Masala.

If you do not have all of the individual spices on hand, then you can certainly use an equivalent amount of garam masala or even sweet curry powder to the individual spices, adjusting to your own taste, of course.

The original recipe calls for cilantro and not dill, but dill was what I had on hand so dill was what I used.  I love cilantro, but every once in a while it is nice to highlight with a different herbal profile, and dill worked beautifully in this dish.  And it matched perfectly with my dill rice.
Home Cookin version 9.69 Chapter: Beans and Vegetables

Serves 4 - 6

3 Tbsp grapeseed oil

1/2 large red onion, diced
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 serrano chili, minced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp coriander
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 lb cooked drained chickpeas
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, for a minute or two then add the ginger and serrano pepper and cook until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes more. Make a space in the skillet and add the tomato paste, stirring it around for about 30 seconds and slowly incorporating it into the onioins. Add the spices and cook for another minute until they are fragrant.

Stir in the chickpeas and tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the tomato mixture has reached the desired thickness. Remove from the heat and stir in the dill. Serve over dill rice.

adapted from a Vegetarian Times recipe for Chickpea Tikka Masala (

exported from Home Cookin v.9.69

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Oregano and Eggs (Uova all'Origano)

Happy New Year!  I'm back.  Let's not make a big deal about it.  Things have settled down some at work and I am making it my goal for 2017 to start posting regularly again.

I have been cooking all this time but I have been sticking to tried and true old favorite comfort foods, and with notable exceptions most of my forays into the world of experimentation have not been overly successful.  Edible, but not successful.

I did learn a valuable lesson, though - sometimes you need to just go back to those old favorites and recipes you can make with your eyes closed so you can continue to nourish yourself when you have neither the time nor the inclination to spend your energies in the kitchen.  In the beginning of this period I would continue to buy new foods with little plan as to how I was going to use them, but by the time I got them into my kitchen I had no idea what I wanted to do with them and less inclination to try to figure out something.  Once I accepted that this was not going to be a creative period for me things got easier and I did not end up eating ice cream and cheesy popcorn for dinner more than just a few times.  And that is no small miracle, let me tell you.

But an unplanned rearranging of my recipe files accompanied by a less crazy life have inspired me to get creative in the kitchen again and to share my adventures.  And the sheer volume of recipes that I have collected over the years that I want to try has given me a shocking awareness of my mortality.  Ignoring my initial intimidation at the thought of how much there is, I have decided that I will make at least one new recipe a week.  So I went through my recipes yet again, this time pulling out all of those that seem realistic for me to make now and leaving all of those fancy, intimidating, pull-out-all-the-stops-to-impress-your-company dishes for those times when I am truly feeling courageous and creative and have the time to step out on that culinary limb.

I found a dead easy recipe for my first effort.  I am fortunate that my manager at work enjoys food and cooking as much as I do and she came into my office the week before Christmas with Lidia Bastianich's Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking and offered to lend it to me for a few days.  I eagerly took it home and looked through it over the weekend and found some more new recipes to try.

My workday breakfasts usually consist of oatmeal or hard boiled eggs and toast that I take in to work with me so I like to splurge a little on the weekends.  But I don't always want to take the time involved to make a frittata or omelet.  So when I saw this recipe for Oregano and Eggs it looked like the perfect compromise between little effort and big reward.

And it was.  This recipe takes no time to prepare and very little effort.  And given that the eggs are cooked in a covered pan I was surprised that they did not get that filmy coating over the yolks that usually happens when I cook eggs this way.  I am thinking maybe it's because the eggs are cracked into a cold pan so there is time for the whites to settle around the yolks before they harden.

Whatever the reason, I am hooked.  The oregano and cheese lend a beautiful, subtle flavor to the eggs that could easily be replaced with different herbs and cheeses for more variety.  And you can just as easily cook two eggs as you could a dozen.  This is a perfect dish for company brunch when you need something fast and easy that is impressive and delicious.  This is about as close to set-it-and-forget-it as you can get with an egg dish.

I only used a scant tablespoon of olive oil and a smaller skillet when I cooked my two eggs.  All you really need is enough oil to coat the bottom of the skillet.
Home Cookin Version 9.69 Chapter: Meat Fish and Eggs


2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
8 large eggs
1/4 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup grated Grana Padana or Parmigiano Reggiano

Pour the olive oil into a cool large 12-inch nonstick skillet and swirl it around to create a film over the surface. Gently break the eggs into the pan and sprinkle with the salt, pepper, oregano and cheese.

Cover the skillet and set it over a medium-low flame. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes, until the whites are set and the yolks are the consistency that you want.

from Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013)

exported from Home Cooking v.8.67 (
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