Monday, November 27, 2017

Roasted Broccoli and Mushrooms with Lemon and Dill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Curried Hash Brown Potatoes with Shallot Greens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Monday, November 20, 2017

Baking Class: Lavender Soda Bread with Fleur du Maquis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bake for 40 minutes, turning halfway through.

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

Exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Baking Class: Sourdough Bolillos

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

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

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

1/4 cup cold water
1 tsp cornstarch

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

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

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

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

Heat the oven to 375°F.

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

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

adapted from a recipe found at

exported from Home Cookin 8.59 (

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 (
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