Monday, November 26, 2007

Daring Bakers-Potato Bread with a Bonus-Green Olive Focaccia

Baking bread is probably the most enjoyable experience that I have in my kitchen. There is nothing more satisfying than a freshly baked homemade loaf of bread, so I was elated when Tanna of mykitcheninhalfcups chose potato bread as the November Daring Bakers challenge.Since I normally used my bread machine's dough cycle to mix and knead, I was especially thrilled to see that one of the rules required hand kneading the dough. I missed feeling the bread in my hands transform from a shaggy mass to satiny elastic dough ready to be shaped for baking.

Tanna's recipe worked quite well with the 16 ounces of potato and made a soft, but manageable dough. I used King Arthur European Artisan Flour suggested as an alternative to all-purpose flour. The finished loaf made great toast and even good French toast, but my favorite part of the challenge was making the Green Olive Focaccia. The potato dough was perfect for the focaccia!

If only the photograph session had been as easy! I realized I had left my trusty Bogen-Manfrotto tripod in Atlanta while visiting my daughter. In a frenzy, I rushed to the local camera store to buy one and although there was a poor selection of sturdy ones, I found one that could possibly support the weight of my hefty Canon 5D and 100mm Macro lens. Halfway through photographing, my Yorkie, Razzle prances in with the body cap for my camera in his mouth and partially chewed. Was I ever going to get this done! Finally, after chasing the dog around the house for my cap and before I lost my light, I got the photos.
A good thing I did for we demolished the focaccia before dinner!

Looking forward to the next Daring Bakers challenge.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Chicken Coconut Curry With Scallion Pancakes

Like everyone who is busy preparing for the Holidays, I need a dish that takes minimal time and effort , but has loads of color and flavor and warms the body on crisp Fall nights. Donna Hay's "New Food Fast" features a great chicken poached in coconut curry that fits the bill. Ingredients such as red curry paste and coconut milk are probably already in your pantry if you are a Thai food aficionado. Sweet potatoes added to the curried chicken adds another flavor element and also, gives color to the dish. The scallion pancakes are simple to prepare and is a nice complement to the coconut curried chicken sauce. Wonderfully fragrant jasmine rice makes this a complete meal. Golden Phoenix is a good brand of jasmine rice from Thailand.

Chicken Coconut Curry

1-3 tablespoons red curry paste (red curry paste is quite hot-I used 1 1/2tablespoons)
6 chicken thigh fillets, halved (if large, quartered)
2 cups chopped (3/4 inch pieces)
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (I used light coconut milk)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Fry the curry paste in a pan over medium-high heat until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken and sweet potato to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock and coconut milk and reduce heat to low. Do not boil the coconut milk as it will separate. Allow to simmer gently until the chicken and sweet potatoes are done, about 20 minutes. Serve over jasmine rice and garnish with cilantro leaves.
Serves 4.

Scallion Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour, extra for rolling out pancakes
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup boiling water
4 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sesame oil

Place flour and salt in bowl of food proccesor, process briefly to mix. Add boiling water. Process until dough forms a ball. Remove from processor, cover and let stand for 30 minutes. When ready to make pancakes, divide dough into three pieces. Roll each into a circle about 7 inches in diameter. Sprinkle one-third of the onion slices over the dough, roll to flatten into dough.Brush with sesame oil. Roll into a cylinder, coil into a circle and roll again into a flat cake about 1/4 inch thick. Repeat with remaining dough pieces. Cook on a gas or charcoal grill or cook in a lightly greased pan about 3 minutes a side. Cut into wedges to serve.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Apples and Thyme -My Mother's Kitchen

I am happy to be writing this post for the blog event Apples and Thyme hosted by Jen of passionatepalate and Inge of vanieljekitchen. What a great idea to write about memories in the kitchen! I have many with my mother.

My Mother

She took a forty year old alligator purse with her to the hospital for evaluation and transition to an Alzheimer's unit as her disease had been hastened by emergency surgery which the doctors had given her a 5-10% success due to her age and the seriousness of the condition . My mother came through the surgery very well, but grew worse mentally. Somehow, while in the hospital for evaluation, she managed throw away not only the empty alligator purse, but her wedding rings, robe and slippers. I remember the day she bought the purse and regret that it and the fun-loving mother I knew were gone forever. However, she has adjusted well as can be expected in her new home. My sister and I visit her regularly and were joyous when just recently she asked for writing materials and books to read saying she was bored. Alzheimer's is a debilitating disease with no good prognosis, but we are taking one day at a time.

I grew up on a farm where we always had a garden teeming with fresh corn, tomatoes, green beans, okra, watermelon and cantaloupe. It was here that I learned that produce picked fresh from the garden was so much healthier, not to mention tastes better. My mother made use of all this bounty by canning and freezing so we could have good food for the winter. I remember a soup mixture full of tomatoes, corn, butter beans and okra that was a mainstay for Saturday lunch. A large chunk of hot, crispy cornbread cooked in a cast iron pan made our soup lunch complete.When harvest season for soybeans or cotton was in full swing, my mother would work all morning cooking a lunch of fried chicken ,fresh vegetables and frosty ice tea served in Mason jars for the field hands. It was a feast! We lived the original slow food way.

My Family, Circa 1953

On summer days, she would pile us all in the car to go wild plum picking and afterwards, we would have a hot dog and marshmallow roast nearby, careful to extinguish the fires afterwards . I don't think I have ever had plum jelly as good as my mother's was and I don't see the wild plum bushes anymore besides country roads.

Thanksgiving is still my favorite holiday and I cook the same foods my mother cooked, but I have fine-tuned them to my family's tastes. One dessert that I haven't had since I was a child is my mother's 24 Hour Salad. I guess I thought it old-fashioned and I wasn't even sure that the recipe was still around. After talking with my sister, Martha of crossing stitches, who remembered exactly what ingredients made up the dessert, I came up with a recipe. Memories flooded my mind when I tasted this heavenly concoction! It's decadence is enhanced by serving it as a topping for pound cake. An easy dessert to make ahead for the busy holidays.

24 Hour Salad


20 ounce can pineapple tidbits
15 ounce can mandarin oranges
15 ounce can dark sweet cherries
3 eggs
3 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
Toasted coconut for serving

Drain juices from the pineapple tidbits and the mandarin oranges and set fruit aside. Add water to the juices, if necessary, to make 1 1/2 cups. Drain cherries separately, blot on paper towel. Reserve and refrigerate.

Combine eggs, flour, sugar, and 1 1/2 cups juice in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until thick and boiling. Remove saucepan from heat, stir in lemon juice, transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until very cold.

When custard is cold, fold in drained fruits, except dark cherries, and miniature marshmallows. Fold in whipped cream. Pour into serving bowl and cover. Chill 24 hours. Just before serving, fold in dark cherries. Top with toasted coconut. Serves 8-10.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Roasted Forelle Pears in Red Wine

Pears with Custard Sauce

While doing my weekly grocery shop, I stopped short when I saw some lovely little pears I thought were a variety called Seckel, but had lovely reds and greens with loads of tiny speckles called lenticels. I was familiar with Comice, Anjou, Bosc and Bartlett pears, but I had never heard of Forelle pears. After some research, I found that the Forelle pear is a very old variety brought to the United States by German immigrants in the 1800's and is grown in Oregon and Washington in small crops. These little beauties turn golden yellow as they ripen and their small size makes them wonderful snacking pears, but in cooking the flavor excels.

Pears make very good still life subjects with their beautiful shapes and colors so I had the best of both worlds; I could photograph, cook them and then photograph them again in another state.

Susan Spungen's book, "Recipes, a Collection for the Modern Cook" has a wealth of simple, fresh and flavorful food to serve to family and friends. I chose Roasted Pears in Red Wine, a light but robust dessert that goes well with Fall and Winter dishes, especially Italian. Ms. Spungen suggests serving the Roasted Pears with ricotta cheese, but I had leftover custard from the Bostini Cream Pie, a Daring Bakers challenge from October. The custard poured over the individual pears was not only lovely to look at,
but it's smooth creamy texture went well with the tangy pears.

Pears Ready For the Oven

Roasted Pears With Red Wine

10 Forelle pears,just beginning to ripen and stems intact (you may use 6 Bosc, Bartlett, or Anjou pears instead)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup currants
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups dry red wine, a good Italian Chianti (I used a Red Zinfandel)
1 bay leaf
2-3 cinnamon sticks
Finely ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Trim the bottom of the pears slightly so they will stand upright in your baking dish. Peel the top halves with a vegetable peeler. Core the pears from the bottom with a melon baller, then stuff the bottoms with the raisins and currants. You will have some leftover to sprinkle on top before baking.

Arrange the pears in a tight fitting dish. Rub the top of each pear with about 1/2 teaspoon butter. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the pears and pour the wine into the pan. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, a large pinch of freshly ground pepper, and the remaining raisins and currants and place into the oven.

Roast 30 minutes to an hour, basting every ten to 15 minutes, until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. The liquid will become quite syrupy. If the pears are cooked before the syrup thickens, remove the pears to a plate and reduce the liquid in a saucepan over medium heat until it thickens. Once the syrup has thickened, return the pears and syrup to the baking pan. Continue to baste the pears with the syrup as they cool, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer pears to a serving dish and pour the syrup over. Serve warm. With the small pears, serve one or two with the custard sauce poured over.

Pears After Roasting

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Pistachio, Mango and Blood Orange Terrine

This is from an earlier post.
Entry for Hay, Hay It's Donna Day hosted by Tami of runningwithtweezers.

Terre cuite, French for terracotta, a glazed earthenware container with straight sides and a tight fitting lid, generally oblong or oval is also the name for certain dishes prepared in such a vessel. Terrine's can be sweet or savory, cooked or frozen and with them creativity has no end. This dessert can also be called a Cassata, an Italian term for a rectangular-shaped frozen dessert made with layers of fruit, ice cream or whipped cream. Cassata means "little cases", a reference to the brick type shape of the dessert. It doesn't matter what term you use for this dessert-it's fabulous!

Regarding the two identical photos-the top one I played with in Photoshop wanting to impart a feeling of coldness-any comments, negative or positive appreciated.

Recipe From: Tropical Desserts, Recipes for Exotic Fruits, Nuts, and Spices by Andrew Maclauchlan A marvelous book with top notch photos.

Pistachio, Mango and Blood Orange Terrine


1 1/4 cups pistachios, shelled
1 ripe mango
4 blood oranges
3 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread pistachios in a single layer on a cookie sheet and toast for 14-16 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

Peel the mango and cut the flesh from the pit. Puree in a food processor, and transfer to a bowl. Trip the tops and bottoms of the blood oranges, then cut all the peel and pith from the the flesh. Section the oranges by cutting between the membranes and removing the wedges of fruit. Puree the sections in a food processor and transfer to a second bowl. Clean and dry food processor and process the pistachios until very fine. Transfer to a third bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the cream and sugar until it forms stiff peaks. Divide the whip cream between the three bowls, containing the mango, blood orange and pistachios. Gently fold in mixture with a spatula until combined.

Prepare an 8x4x4 loaf pan by oiling the interior, then line with plastic wrap, pressing into the corners to avoid any air bubbles. Use a large piece of plastic wrap so it can fold over the top of the pan when layers are completed. Pour the blood orange mixture in the bottom and spread with a spatula. Place in freezer for 1/2 hour. Store remaining mixtures in refrigerator while in the layering process. Remove from freezer and repeat with mango mixture. Return to freezer for another 1/2 hour. Repeat with pistachio mixture. Fold the extra plastic wrap over the top of the terrine and freeze at least 2 hours.

To serve, remove terrine from freezer and peel the plastic wrap off the top. Invert terrine on a chilled plate and carefully remove all of the plastic wrap. Dip a sharp chef's knife in very hot water and then slice the terrine into crosswise slices. Rinse knife and repeat until all slices are cut. Serve slices on a well-chilled plate.

Serves 8.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dried Cranberry, Grape and Pine Nut Salad

I adore dried cranberries! They have the concentrated sweet flavor of fresh cranberries, but with less of the lip-puckering sourness. I have used them in biscotti, relishes, quick breads and many more recipes as they are always available. A recipe for a dried cranberry, green grape and toasted pine nut salad caught my eye in an Italian cooking magazine that I had recently bought. However, as I have reading material with me when I have any appointment that would require my sitting and waiting, I managed to leave the magazine at my exercise class where it disappeared over the weekend. I remembered all the ingredients for the salad, but drew a blank when it came to the dressing. Racking my brain for a suitable dressing, I remembered that I had oranges and I knew they went very well with cranberries. Here is my version of the salad I saw in the magazine, but first, a little bit of information on cranberries.

Drying cranberries is just one way to preserve the very perishable once a year crop of fresh cranberries. Cranberry juice is a very popular drink and is touted to prevent urinary tract infections. A white cranberry juice is made by harvesting the cranberries about three weeks before they turn red, but are still mature. Commercial sweetened dried cranberries are made using food processing methods not available to the home cook. A big surprise to me when I began researching dried cranberries was that Wisconsin, not Massachusetts produced about one half of the United States annual crop of fresh cranberries.

Whether or not, this tasty little berry was served at America's first Thanksgiving in 1621 will never be known for there is no record of what was served at the actual feast. However, the Native Americans ate many different berries, so the cranberry could have possible been on the menu. I would like to think so. For more information on cranberries, go here

Salad Ingredients

6 cups mixed baby greens
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup halved green seedless grapes
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

Combine greens, dried cranberries and seedless grapes. Toss with small amount of dressing just to coat leaves and top salad with toasted pine nuts and the crumbled goat cheese. Pass remaining dressing at table.

Orange Honey Dijon Salad Dressing

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
2/3 cup olive oil

On cutting board, mash garlic and salt together. Place in bowl, whisk in orange juice, Dijon mustard, honey and orange zest. When combined, whisk in olive oil until dressing is emulsified. Whisk in zest. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Salad serves six. Thinly sliced red onion would be a great addition to this salad as would segmented orange slices.