Sunday, February 22, 2009

Carrot Slaw (and the case of the missing tahini jar)

After spotting a recipe for tahini ginger slaw on kickpleat's (of Everybody Likes Sandwiches) blog, I immediately developed a hankering for some.

I knew that I had NO cabbage in my fridge, but I did have two jumbo carrots. And, I knew that I had an unopened jar of tahini, which my mother had brought back from Greece last year. The question was, where did I stash the tahini jar?

After spending 10 minutes peering into every possible cupboard and pantry in the kitchen, I came to the (premature) conclusion that my dear husband has thrown it out! Grrr! Now, don't get me wrong, my husband will ask first before he disposes of something, but on occasion he will toss something if he is convinced that (a) the item has gone bad or (b) we do not need it.

Months ago, when I had brought the jar of tahini home, J had questioned me about whether we needed such a large jar of tahini. Are we really going to consume all that tahini to warrant having it take up space in our cupboard. My answer was yes!

Well, here I was, with shredded carrots in a bowl and the lemon juice and ginger and oil in another bowl, eagerly waiting for the creamy tahini to bind it all together. There was NO tahini in sight.

I called J at work. He said he did not recall tossing out the jar of tahini. I pushed on...blaming him for my current distress at not being able to complete my salad recipe. "That is your style," I argued. You're always tossing things out without asking me first!"

I was livid and wasn't thinking straight. I was also PMS-ing.

To make a long story short, I found the tahini, 5 minutes after I got off the phone with my husband. It was in a place where it should not have been...stored in a pantry drawer with my selection of teas and hot chocolate mixes. How it got there, I do not recall. Perhaps I put it there in a haste and forgot all about it. That is probably the case.

I felt so horrible afterward for blaming my husband over the MIA tahini. I sent him three e-mails at work apologizing profusely and yes, of course I blamed PMS. Wouldn't you?

So, here is what I did differently from kickpleat.

I used only carrots.
I added a handful of golden raisins.
I made her tahini dressing without the sweetener since the raisins add sweetness.
(I got angry at my husband)

dressing (adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches)
1 T tahini
juice of half a lemon
1 t minced fresh ginger
1/4 c olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

This carrot slaw was wonderfully ginger-y. If you enjoy the robustness of ginger then this salad offers the perfect balance by combining both the sweetness from the chewy raisins and the kick from the fresh ginger. The creamy tahini offers the slightest hint of sesame aroma. Quick, simple and flavourful!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rolling out the dough: Roquefort and Pear Strudel

I seldom make time-consuming foods but on occasion I will break from tradition and try something new and different. This past week I made a strudel. No not an apple strudel...a pear strudel. With blue cheese and pecans. It was good! Quite good that I ended up eating pretty much all of it by myself.

Pears are a fruit that I rarely desire. So when I spotted this recipe for pear, pecan and Roquefort cheese in this months issue of Bon Appetite magazine, I knew this was a good way to eat pears.

1.5 tsp unsalted butter plus 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1.5 pounds firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled, halved, cored, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
(about 3.5 cups)
6 ounces Roquefort cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/3 cups)
1/2 cup chopped and toasted pecans
1 tbs all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs plain dried breadcrumbs

Melt 1.5 tsp butter in a heavy large skillet over high heat. Add pears and saute until soft, about 4 minutes. Strain pear mixture, discarding juices, then transfer pears to rimmed baking sheet, spacing apart; cool completely. Transfer cool pears to large bowl. Add cheese, pecans, flour, and lemon juice to pears and toss gently to combine.

For the strudel I did not use the recipe in the Bon Appetite magazine and instead I used Kickpleat's recipe for cornmeal pate brisee. I have included the original strudel pastry recipe from Bon Appetite at the end of this post.

cornmeal pate brisee
2 c flour
1/2 c cornmeal
1 t salt
1 t sugar
1 c unsalted butter, frozen cut into small pieces
1/4 - 1/2 c ice water

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, salt and sugar. Add the butter and use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles oatmeal. Slowly sprinkle in the ice water, a little at a time and use your hands to mix the dough until it holds together.

2. Divide the dough in half and place each lump on a piece of plastic wrap. Flatten to form a disc and then wrap tightly and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 1 day before using.

Place 36x24-inch cotton cloth or some parchment paper on your work surface. Secure corners with tape. Sprinkle some flour onto the surface. Using rolling pin, roll out one of the dough balls as thinly as possible and create a long thin rectangle and dust dough lightly with flour as needed to prevent sticking. Trim the irregular edges. Rolled them up into a smaller ball and used the extra dough to patch up cracks or holes in the existing rectangle. Believe me there will be cracks and crevasses in the dough.

Brush the dough with some melted butter. Sprinkle 1 tbs sugar and 1 tbs breadcrumbs on the dough before you add the filling.

Take your filling and fill the centre of your pastry, creating a 1.5 -inch wide log and leaving a one inch border all around. Using the parchment paper or the cloth as an aid, life edge of paper and start rolling up strudel dough over filling, enclosing filling completely. Tuck in short ends of dough and pinch to seal.

My strudel dough was too short and did not cover up the entire span of the filling so I improvised and stopped rolling halfway across the strudel. Then I took hold of the opposite side and rolled towards the centre. I rolled up the ends too. If you have a look at the photo below you will see what I mean. Not the most attractive looking strudel but good enough for a newbie.

Transfer strudel to baking sheet. Brush some melted butter all over the surface of the strudel. Chill at least one hour. Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat oven to 375 F . Bake strudel until golden brown for approximately 40 minutes. . Cool strudel on baking sheet for 30 minutes. Cut strudel crosswise in 1-inch thick slices eat warm or at room temperature.

The finished product looked and smelled great! The taste was a combination of sweet from the pears, tangy from the cheese. The cornmeal brisee was crispy and buttery.

Overall the strudel was pretty good and it tasted even better the following two days where I continued to eat it up all by myself. My husband only sampled a slice of the strudel because he is cutting back on his wheat and dairy consumption lately so there was more than enough strudel for me to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner until it was all gone.

In case you are interested in using the original dough recipe from the Bon Appetite magazine here it is:

2 cups all purpose flour plus additonal for dusting
3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt

Combine 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup warm water, oil and 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes. Dough will be sticky. Remove strudel dough from bowl and divide in half into ball. Wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate one ball overnight for strudel; freeze second dough ball for another use.

The one ball of dough will create a large rectangle sheet of rolled out dough (34x18-inch). With a sharp knife, trim edges to form 33x17-inch rectangle. Cut dough rectangle lengthwise in half, forming two 33x18.5-inch rectangles. Proceed with brushing butter and sprinkling sugar and breadcrumbs on the surface. Add filling and begin to roll. See above for complete instructions.

pizza breakfast of champignons

Breakfast is one my favourite meals of the day but lately I've been getting quite bored with just the old standby: cereal, oatmeal or fried eggs. I was thinking what to make for breakfast one morning this week when I was inspired by a leftover tortilla I spotted lingering in my refrigerator.

At first, a traditional pizza came to mind...with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese and some mushrooms. Simple enough, right? Well, I also felt that I needed something more breakfast-y to add to this dish. Something with a bit more protein other than just cheese. So I decided an egg would satisfy my quest .

I should also mention that the progression of this dish came to me as a flashback to a Jamie Oliver cooking episode where he made an authentic Italian pizza and cracked and egg (or two) onto the pizza, added some cheese, anchovies and capers called it a meal. Jamie's pizza seemed like an incredibly easy and tasty twist on traditional Western style pizza. I bet if smell-o-vision was available through my laptop, it would have smelled great too.

So that is basically what set the wheels in motion for me to make this "breakfast tortilla pizza".

Putting this dish together was very easy. The cheese was grated first and a well was formed in the middle of the "pizza" with the cheese, so that it would contain the raw egg without allowing it to run all over the place.

After this, it was just a matter of what kind of extras to add. I love mushrooms, so I knew they had to be present in this dish. Some spring onions were also added for a bit of colour and a flavour boost. And of course salt and pepper to taste.

Since I had the oven preheated, the "pizza" was ready in less than 15 minutes. The cheese had melted and the egg had firmed up. (No runny yolks for me, but feel free to bake your pizza for less time, if you like the runny yolk effect. Likewise, if you are bold and can handle anchovies at 9 a.m. then be my guest and add them to this dish as well.) The tortilla (my favourite part) was toasted and crispy and had developed a cracker-like crunch.

In the end, this pizza addressed all of my breakfast needs and gave me just the right amount of energy to tie me over until lunch. A perfect pizza breakfast of champignons and champions!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Speedy Gonzales Savoury Rice

You remember him don't you? Speedy Gonzales - the fastest mouse in all of Mexico? Well, I'm him. I mean, I'm fast like him. In the kitchen. My husband says so. Take it up with him if you don't agree that I'm fast...because I am!

I've been finding lately that I'm always in a hurray and don't have enough time to make a time-consuming meal so this week for lunch I made this rice dish. And I'm telling you, it was so good! Savory from the onion, sweet from the currants and crunchy from the cashews. Need I say more?

The total number of ingredients you will need are minimal. I didn't even refer to a recipe and I certainly did not measure anything. I just started adding things to the plain rice and shazaam, perfect Middle Eastern-style rice.

Having pre-cooked rice helps speed up the preparation time otherwise you will need to add another 15 minutes to the cooking time, unless you have a rice cooker. I had my rice stored in the refrigerator from the previous day which cut down on prep time significantly.

Here's what you will need:
About a cup or two of plain cooked rice (depending on how many people you plan to feed), a handful of cashews, a smaller handful of currants, 3 stalks of spring onions, some olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

There's no sequence to this meal. Just dump everything in the pan at once. Saute ingredients in the frying pan until well combined and piping hot. Serve immediately. Garnish with avocado if desired.

My lunch was ready in 10 minutes.

30-minute meals? Bah! Rachel Ray has nothing on me.