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Showing posts with label easy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label easy. Show all posts

Friday, August 14, 2020

Sourdough English Muffins

I've had various phases of my life in which I've made a sourdough starter, all of which have either died or been neglected to the point of molding. I'd love to be this kind of person that just has a sourdough starter to give away, to use, to pass on to the next generation. Even the community pressure of being a chef to have a sourdough or ginger bug starter is ever-present! (Can you imagine how embarrassing it is to be the only chef in your city to not have a sourdough starter?) The fact of the matter is that I just don't eat bread enough to justify keeping a sourdough starter around. Rice is the preferred starch in my home, and we so seldom have bread with our meals that I frankly would forget about it when I was working 10-hour shifts.

Nowadays, since we're in a quarantined state of emergency, there's not much else to do than to maintain a lovely sourdough bread starter. I am a very fortunate person because my partner works a good job that he's able to maintain remotely while I occupy my time with volunteering, studying, and writing. There's lots of time for me to experiment with sourdough, and an English Muffin is a great way to use up some of it without heating up your whole house with a hot oven!

Sourdough English Muffins

yields 12 large square muffins

  • 600 g flour
  • 12 g yeast
  • 100 g sourdough starter
  • 40 g olive or grapeseed oil
  • 50 g sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 310 g water or soy milk, body temperature
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • Semolina, as needed

Mix your flour, yeast, sugar, sourdough, liquid of choice, and eggs together to create a soft dough in the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a hook attachment. You aren't kneading at this point, just mixing so everything is homogenous. The idea of this stage is to hydrate the flour and activate the yeast. Let this all sit for 20 minutes, and then turn your mixer back on. Add in your oil and salt while this mixes at a low speed for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, turn the mixer on to high and knead the dough until it's smooth and silky, which shouldn't take more than five minutes.

Scrape your dough into a plastic container that has been well-oiled and cover. Let this beautiful concoction sit in a warm place for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. It's summer right now where I am, so I love to let this sit in the shade outside for that time. In the winter, I like to set my proving doughs atop my fridge to rise. While we wait, I'd like to discuss some technical stuff!

First of all, n English muffin isn't exactly English, but an American invention. An immigrant known as Samuel Bath Thomas created the original "nooks and crannies" muffin - then called "toaster crumpets" - in the 1880s. A crumpet is very much like the bread that we all call and English Muffin, but the holes are on the top instead of being sandwiched and hidden within. These little lovelies seem simple enough to make, but there are a few tricks to them in order for them to be just right.

  1. The dough is soft, so don't try to add more flour to make it stiffer.
  2. Your griddle must be of an even heat before you start
  3. Don't rush; patience is a virtue!
The idea of a well-done English muffin is to have those big, beautiful, deep, craggy bubbles. These big bubbles only occur in the first stage of the fermentation process, so you don't want to handle this dough too much. A gentle hand is a real key here! If you knock out too much air, those big bubbles will pop and be replaced by small bubbles in the second proof, which is not what you want.

It is a gentle hand that will make your English Muffin perfect!

Another thing you need to know about this item is that it is not baked but fried on a griddle. You can use a frying pan if that's all you have, but a good cast iron griddle is a multitasking item that you should have at your disposal. It's great for searing steaks, cooking pancakes, and - of course - making the perfect English Muffin. No matter what you use, you'll want a thick-bottomed cooking apparatus that will help thoroughly cook your muffin at a low enough heat to not burn the surfaces. 

Time to cook!

Your dough won't take very long to prove, as there's quite a bit of activity happening in the yeast department. My sourdough is quite active so it only took my dough 45 minutes to double in size. This is the tricky part!

Flour your rolling surface quite thoroughly with both all-purpose wheat flour. Prepare a sheet pan by dusting it with plenty of semolina or cornmeal. Use either a rolling cutter or a large, floured cleaver to gently cut your dough into shapes. As gently as you can, move your cut pieces onto your sheet pan and dust with semolina. Cover with a clean tea towel and set aside to rise. I much prefer to cut my muffins into squares instead of circles because I don't waste any dough. This dough is not like biscuit dough where you can rework the scraps. The inner shape of the finished product won't be proper if you reuse uncut dough to rise later, so I think it's much better to simply pull your dough into a large rectangle and cut squares accordingly. I cut 12, but I could have gone as small as 18, as these will puff up to be rather large. 

My cleaver is the workhorse of my kitchen, and it's perfect for cutting dough!

I usually turn my cast iron griddle on to the lowest possible flame and let it all heat for about 15 minutes before I cook, so now is the perfect time to heat your chosen cooking apparatus. I don't let my muffins puff for more than 20 minutes at the absolute most, otherwise, the bubbles risk collapsing when you move the muffins to cook. 

Transfer your muffins with a spatula onto your hot surface and set the timer for 6 minutes. Do not, under any circumstances, touch these muffins until that six-minute timer is up! Your bubbles will rise and form and puff, and the dough will cook on this side. Once your timer is finished, flip the muffins as gently as you can to cook for another six minutes on the other side. If you don't flip it gently, you risk breaking the big bubbles that form the signature nooks and crannies of a proper English Muffin, which is not what you want.

A good cast iron griddle will last you generations. Mine is from Crate and Barrel!

When finished with your total 12 minutes, remove your muffins from the griddle and continue to cook all of your muffins in batches until done. This is a time-consuming process and does require a little bit of extra attention to heat management, but it will well be worth it in the end. 

I love this recipe because it's a quick way to use sourdough without the effort of making a whole loaf of bread. You can use English muffins for sandwich bread for an easy lunch. Best of all, English muffins freeze perfectly when wrapped properly, therefore making it a great project to wrap yourself in for an afternoon. Even The Kitchn agrees that the freezer is your best asset for the year!

I hope you've enjoyed learning all about English Muffins! Did you make them? Tell me in the comments below! I hope you're staying safe and healthy in this trying time. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Mulberry Lemon Muffin Loaf

So easy!
I love this recipe because it's consistent and easy to pull together with any soft fruit you have lying around, and you can easily modify to fit your tastes!

Mulberry Lemon Muffin Loaf
adapted from On Baking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals

  • 7 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz tapioca flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 5 oz granulated sugar
  • 2 oz vegan butter, coconut oil, or lard (solid fat only please)
  • Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • 8 fl oz (1 cup) oat milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • A fat pinch of kosher salt
  • Last year's mulberries from the freezer 
    • Or whatever small round fruit you have that's frozen; 5 oz of blueberries will do

Prepare a loaf tin by buttering and flouring or lining with parchment paper. I am the proud owner of a sort of funny "ridged" loaf tin that I had acquired from a garage sale before the Plague hit us all, so I decided to use that for this endeavor. If you are like me and collect random tins from thrift stores and garage sales, fooling yourself by saying "Oh, I'll use this for X Y Z applications", I should like for you to take this opportunity to prepare that special tin for this endeavor. After all, when else have you ever used that thing? If you do have your heart set on muffins, however, this yields a dozen large muffins, that should be filled in paper cups lining your standard muffin tin.  

Combine both flours in a medium bowl with the baking powder, granulated sugar, and salt. Chop the butter into cubes and dump it into the flour. Using your fingertips, pretend you're making a pie and rub the butter into the flour. I like to do this until the butter is quite small, almost like little rice granules are hiding in the flour mixture. I then add the lemon zest and do the same thing. I like to do this because I think it helps release the essential oils of the lemon into the flour, which will permeate the entire batter. 

Wash your hands now, starting by wetting with hot water and lathering separately with soap. Scrub between the fingers, under the fingernails, and then the top of your hands, all the way up to your wrists. Look out the window over the yard, or parking lot, and have a quick daydream about lounging around your living room in a long gown, telling everyone who'll listen that you used to be beautiful once. Rinse your hands thoroughly and pat dry. 

Combine the oat milk and eggs in a large measuring cup using a pair of chopsticks or a fork. Stir in the vanilla paste and lemon juice and mix until everything is mixed well. Make a deep well in the middle of your dry ingredients and add your liquid ingredients. Make sure you scrape the edges of the measuring cup with that spatula!

Next, stir gently three times clockwise, then three times counter-clockwise. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl all the way around, and then repeat that same method of stirring. You should have a loose and lumpy batter that everything has come together for, without dry spots. Take this now and add in the frozen mulberries, as many as you want, and fold in gently. I only had a cup and a half left, so that's what I used. 

It's not gonna look cute at this stage.
Pour your muffin batter into your prepared molds of choice and then let sit on the counter, undisturbed, and covered with a loose and clean tea towel. You're now going to want to preheat your oven to 350 degrees and let the muffin batter rest until the oven gets hot. While we're waiting, let's learn a thing or two about different mixing methods for any quick bread recipe you may find.

As mentioned before, this recipe is adapted from a textbook I bought in culinary school. My own copy of the textbook is now a tattered mess, but it's gotten me through the baking portion of culinary school and talks about mixing methods. In this recipe, it says right up top that this is the muffin method, and I will tell you now that yielding entirely to the muffin method will yield tasty results. 

The muffin method is simply sifting all dry ingredients together (flours, baking powder, salt, sugar) in a large bowl and then separately mixing the fats (which are usually either melted butter or oil) with the milk, extracts, eggs, etc. in another separate bowl and then dumping the liquid into the dry. Simply mix until just barely combined, fold in the soft fruits and whatnot, and bake. Why have I changed the method for this application?

In short, I like to do a combination of muffin and scone method for this loaf, because I think this makes this particular recipe just that much more versatile, and you can bake in big loaves as well as small cups. Muffins wrapped in paper cups are a joyful staple in the breakfast world, but few things are more satisfying to me than slicing into a big cake-like loaf and enjoying that slice with coffee in the morning. It only feels like I'm having cake for breakfast, which is enough to get me through my day.

The scone method might also be called the biscuit method if you live in the United States, where we love our buttermilk biscuits. To the rest of the world, however, our biscuits are versions of scones, and the method we use to make them is a classic method for making good quick bread. Simply take all of your flours, leavening agents, etc., and sift them all into a big bowl. You can cut in the fat with biscuit cutters, knives, or your own fingers until the butter is quite piece-y and pea-sized. Mix in your liquids, roll out onto a floured surface and cut into shapes before either freezing or baking. This method is done this way instead of the muffin way because this method desires one thing above muffins:


You get a "layer" in a baked good by having a solid, chilled fat sort of hanging out in pockets, between little blankets of dough. You'll want this chilled and solid because when this cold item hits a very hot oven, it'll melt quickly and the water in this butter will boil and therefore create steam. The steam shoots upwards and forces the flour to rise up, too. As the oven continues to cook, the heat solidifies the structure that the butter has made the flour create, and you get layers as a result when they come out. 

Since we've been reading this, you might want to check your oven and see if it's hot enough. If it has reached its desired temperature, pop your muffin loaf in on the middle rack and bake the loaf for 45 minutes at 350, rotating once halfway through to ensure even cooking, or until it's golden-brown and delicious. While you're waiting, would you like to hear why the heck I want to put the "layers" principle in my muffin loaf in this way? 

When you're baking a larger mass like this and you want the muffin texture to remain, I think it's important to give your leavening a little bit of extra help. Cool-ish, tiny pockets of fat will result in larger bubbles in this loaf, but I personally like that because I like to slice the loaf and sometimes toast it under the broiler. These tiny extra 'pockets' of air where the fat once was are quite pleasant for an extra smear of butter, jam, or cream cheese. It's also nice because when you bake in a long loaf, you get that glorious crack all down the top, and that crack is the extra texture that I simply adore. Better and better still, I personally have found that baking them this way helps them last a day or two longer than the kind of muffins I bake with the butter being in a more liquid state. I have a lot of theories as to why, but I also am a person that says "who am I to argue with consistent results?"

Some might also be wondering why I let my muffin batter rest instead of just baking it. I like to let my muffin batter rest for two reasons, the first of which being gluten. Gluten is a great thing for baking, but too much of it will result in a bread-like texture for your muffin, which is not exactly what I want for this. Think of gluten as a net, trapping the air and fat and all the other goodies into a solid mass after baking, but we don't want too much because gluten results in chewiness instead of the cake-adjacent texture that someone would generally shoot for in a muffin. For all of these reasons, the muffin batter resting means the gluten will relax, and the acid in the lemon juice will have some time to snip away any excess gluten we might have lying around wanting to thwart our muffin's efforts at perfection. 

The second reason I like to do this is because of moisture. If one were to let the muffin batter go straight into the oven without a rest period, they would still get a muffin, but I don't think that the end result is as nice as letting it rest for at least twenty minutes in a cool space before baking. This is not an absolutely necessary step, but I do think that anything worth doing is worth doing well. 

After your 45 minutes has passed, peek into the oven to see how your loaf is looking. This all should look like you have a shiny, golden-brown top with a little crack running down the middle and the surface should spring back when touched. If these parameters are met, feel free to evacuate your loaf from the oven and allow to cool for at least ten minutes, in the tin, before removing to a cooling rack. If they are not met, then you likely only need another 5-10 minutes in the oven.

Dust with powdered sugar and serve with coffee! 
This muffin loaf can easily be modified with any soft fruit you may have in the freezer and is designed to let you bake something quick and simple without dirtying up too many bowls. I love this muffin loaf recipe because it's versatile, consistent, and - above all else - easy to whip up in an instant. I think that the humble quick bread should be a part of every good cook's repertoire and I call on you, dear reader, to take up your wooden spoon and claim this skill for your own. When the Plague has left this land, we will be armed well with basic baking skills, and hopefully, the confidence to make our own continental breakfasts at home. It is my sincerest of hopes that once we all are safe enough to leave our homes, we'll have a renewed sense of ability and confidence in the kitchen.

Good luck, everyone! I hope you're all staying safe, staying hydrated, and staying a safe distance apart from everyone else. Don't forget to wash your hands often and wear a face mask every time you go outside of your own home.  

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Veggie Frittata

Is the struggle real? It doesn't have to be. 
Keeping my promise, here's the recipe for the frittata, before the anecdote.

Here's how I made mine, enough for 2-4 people


  • 5 large eggs from a local farmer
    • They're going for $4/dozen out here, but trust me, they're worth it
  • A heaping spoonful of mayonnaise
    • Use a soup spoon 
  • 1 tsp horseradish, ground
    • You can get these at most grocery stores that have a Jewish section
  • Half of a red bell pepper, left over from some other dish, diced fine
  • 3 scallions, sliced fine, all the way up to the greens
  • A good handful of diced up cheese
    • I used a vegan parmesan that I love - but you use whatever you have around
  • 1 Tbsp butter (or vegan solid fat) plus 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper
    • Pro-tip: mix it up with your peppercorns! Use half black peppercorns and half sichuan peppercorns in your pepper mill. Trust me, you'll thank me later
  • Any fresh herbs you've manager to procure
    • I have a sage plant in the garden that I snagged a few leaves off of
Preheat your oven to 400. Yes, preheat. This is very important to the dish that it goes in to a hot oven, otherwise your frittata won't be right. Heat is a factor for maximum fluffiness, which is exactly what you want. 

Invest in some good metal chopsticks - especially good for cooking and carrying around with you to eat with! Seriously, you want to avoid using single-use plasticware as much as possible anyhow.

Beat your eggs using a pair of chopsticks. Add your mayo, horseradish, and season with salt and pepper. Dice and slice your veggies, cheese, and whatever else you've decided to put in there. Think of your dish as a song that you're writing, and make decisions as to where things should go. Would you stick an oboe next to an electric guitar? You might, but what would the point be? The idea of the frittata is to use what leftover veggie scraps you have lying around and to transform it into something great. Make good decisions, especially when considering the size of your knife cuts. Everything should be the same size, so that way it all cooks evenly.

Speaking of knife cuts, have you ever done a chiffonade of fresh herbs? It's easy! Just take flat-leaf herbs, such as basil, mint, or sage, stack them up atop one another and roll them, as if you were rolling a cigar. Slice across as thin as you can, et voila! There we have a beautiful chiffonade, ready for garnish. 

Fresh herbs are cheap, but growing your own is cheaper. Use an egg carton to grow some in your kitchen window!

If you do buy herbs, however, keep them in the fridge standing in a tall glass of water, like you would keep flowers in a vase. They'll last for days and days longer!

Heat your butter and oil in a nonstick or cast iron pan until sizzling hot. Add your veggies and season heavily. Cook these on a high heat until soft and the color has just dimmed, about 1 minute or so, and add your egg. Use a spatula to stir in the middle, just so, and scrape once around the edge. The idea is to equally distribute the veggies, but quickly. Turn off your flame and add the cheese all around. Pop in your very hot oven and cook for 15 minutes. 

Once it's all done, run your spatula around once again to loosen it and it should slight right on to your cutting board. Cut into wedges, garnish with herbs and the scallion greens, and serve with some toast. Want to know how to make your own bread from scratch? I've written a few pieces on it here.

Don't let your stale bread go to waste, either! Chop it up, douse it with olive oil, and roast them at 300 degrees F to make croutons, which are wonderfully shelf-stable.
I love a good frittata because it's a perfect meal for a family on a budget that's been stuck inside during a global pandemic and that need to make every scrap of everything last. You can put just about anything in a frittata and have it still come out. The biggest factor you should consider is moisture - as in, please control how much you put in. 

I wouldn't use a big heaping spoonful of marinara in my frittata, nor would I put dry pasta. I might, however, put in the last few bites of lo mein from my takeout, or some taco meat and veggies. The only thing I have to do is to saute it first until I'm sure that there's at least not sopping moisture in the item. You can put cheese, veggies, meats and fish into a frittata so long as you keep ratios right.

The best part about this dish is that you can very easily save it for later, as it reheats well enough. In fact, you can chop up a leftover frittata, fry it quickly in some oil or butter, and serve it as a warm crouton in a garden salad. May I suggest a raspberry vinaigrette? If you don't have any vinaigrette, but have some last bits of jam in a near-empty jam jar, simply dump in some vinegar and oil in a 1:3 ratio and shake briskly. Yes, straight in the jar! You have an instant vinaigrette that's fancy and will save for later.

I hope you're all keeping your spirits up and staying strong during this global pandemic. What you can do now, since many of you are likely working from home or gainfully unemployed is find some good side hustles. You can also use this time to write or call your representatives for your local government and tell them exactly how you think they're handling this health crisis in your area. There's also a wonderful app and website called NextDoor, and if you feel like helping, they have a feature where you can tag your home - in your own neighborhood - to help out your elderly neighbors. 

The world is watching us. It'd be a very classy move if we used our spare time to show each other that community is a priority and that we are going to be there for each other in times of crisis. I'd also like to remind you to please not hoard things, especially for your elderly neighbors that may not be able to get to the grocery store. Old people need things like toilet paper and soap as well.

Is there something you'd like to see covered? Do you want help live for a certain something you're just not sure of in the pantry? Is your cupboard looking like an episode of "Chopped"? DM me on Instagram! I do 5 mins for $5, which is all I need from you to help get your a meal going. I do live chats, facetime, etc., any way you need help for your problem, right now.

Thanks so much for spending some time with me. Make sure you get outside and walk around your block at least once per day. Remember that exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. Let's not let this disease ruin us. 

Happy cooking and happy eating. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Easy Potato Latkes

You can practically hear the sizzle, can't you?
I go to the Brookside farmer's market every Saturday during market season and always get produce from my favorite vendors is Urbavore Urban Farms, run by Brooke Salvaggio, who has become a friend. In the early seasons she has plants as well as produce, but she always has something that I want to buy, usually the eggs from the heritage breed chickens. That being said, I'm a big fan of the later season, when potatoes come up.

While only 200 different varieties of the noble potato grows in Northern America(yes, I did say 'only'), over 4,000 different varieties grow in Bolivia. Potatoes, like tomatoes, pumpkins, avocados, coffee, and chocolate, are an American crop. Why? Because they originate in South/Central America!

Image result for hot tea
This tea is BOMB
Yes, yes, you hear about the miracle crop being tied to Ireland all the time, but a little digging in the world of culinary anthropology will tell you that potatoes originate right here in the Americas. Pumpkins, corn, tomatoes, coffee, and chocolate - yes, chocolate, are categorized under all-American treats. In fact, the only reason that Italy has tomatoes, and therefore marinara sauce, is because of its expeditions to the Americas.

I'm sure that there are some among us that would like to believe that America itself was cultivated from all over the world, but the truth is that they had their own culture and unique biodiversity before Europeans came to colonize and spread syphilis and smallpox and introduce slave labor to the indigenous peoples. But I digress, this blog is not about tea.

This is about potatoes, and specifically the brand/breed of potato called purple viking. Yes, potatoes have different breeds. We've established this, please keep up.

It kind of looks like a dinosaur egg, don't you think?
This is a purple viking potato. It can grow to be nice and large, and has a creamy white flesh. I love the color, of course, and am always a big fan of unusual things. Did you know that the best way to  be healthy is to have a diverse diet? This doesn't always mean entirely different things every day - sometimes it's just trying a different variety of a vegetable/root you already love! Do you love orange carrots? Try white ones, roasted. Try purple ones, steamed. Eat the entire rainbow without every changing around.

Generally, potatoes can be set into two categories: starchy and waxy. A starchy potato, such as a classic Idaho/baking potato, will have a thick skin and will go a sort of pinkish brown if peeled and left out. They're high in starch but quite low in moisture, and are rather fluffy when cooked.

The starchy potatoes are considered to be the best for making french fries and - by some schools - mashed potatoes. The trouble, though, is that from starch comes glue if over-agitated, which is why sometimes your mashed potatoes might go gloopy if you stir them too much. The skin on said starchy potatoes, as well, are best for doing twice-baked potatoes and, in general, being vessels for other things. They don't exactly hold their shape well, however, so it's best if you do not use them for gratins, casseroles, or potato salads. For some reason, however, they're considered to be a classic for latkes by many.

The waxy potato is it's thinned-skined brethren, which are very low in starch and generally hold their shape quite well when cooked. When it comes to nearly every application, I'll take a waxy over a starchy any day of the week. I think that they're much more versatile, and I can whip the ever-living bejeezus out of them when making mashed potatoes and they won't go gloopy unless I screw something up. They're suitable in gratins, fries, and - of course - latkes.

See? CREAMY white flesh!
There are many schools of thought when it comes to these classic Ashkenazi potato fritter, and some will swear that a starchy potato is the best. I assume that this is because it's the tradition, but I find that this isn't true.

When you grate the potatoes, you must soak and rinse them to get rid of as much starch as possible, otherwise the latke will go gloopy. Now, why in the world would I start with an already-starchy product that might not hold its shape so well were I to use a not-so-starchy product in its stead? I tell you, dear reader, that I wouldn't, especially because the purple viking potato only needs one good rinse to get rid of the starch versus the four or five that your standard Russett or Idaho might need.

Many say you can grate in lots of other flavors into the potato - and you can! You can grate in half an onion, some garlic, plenty of herbs, and more. This is your latke and you can decide what to do with it. Yes, it was created by the Ashkenazi peoples (or so I'm told) but everybody can agree that these are delicious and that deep-fried potatoes can and should be for everyone. I like to use a 2:1 ratio if I'm adding in white onion to the fritter. Say, I do two large purple viking potatoes and one medium white onion with just a touch of salt and pepper - delicious! But this is the basic recipe, so just do what you like after you've tried this one.

Nowadays, you would mostly eat this around Hanukkah and serve it with apple sauce and/or sour cream. I like them with breakfast, any day of the week. Sue me.

Easy Latkes
yields 6 fritters
  • 1 large Purple Viking potato
  • 1 egg
  • A touch of salt
  • Neutral oil to fry in, such as canola or grapeseed 
Grate the potatoes using the largest side of your box grater and pop them into a mesh strainer. Rinse them quite thoroughly until the water runs clear, and then ring out the water in small handfuls to get them as dry as you can. Pop these in a medium bowl and season generously. Crack in one fresh egg and mix well, breaking up the yolk and white and coating absolutely everything in that bowl. As mentioned previously, you can add fresh herbs to this - I like parsley and dill, personally, but that's me.

Heat a thick yet shallow skillet with about an inch of oil to medium-high heat. Test the heat by dropping in one or two shreds of the egg-potato mixture. If it floats and sizzles, you're good to go. 

Gently lay in heaping spoonfuls of the latke mixture into your oil and press gently down in the middle to create a flat pancake. Swirl it carefully to just make sure that it didn't stick to the bottom, and then add in another. I can fit up to three latkes at a time in my pan, but don't you overload your oil because it lowers the temperature. 

Protip: You want the oil to be rather hot because things only get greasy when the oil is too cold and the oil seeps in. If it's hot enough, the water on the inside of the item you're frying will turn to steam and create a barrier for the oil to not get into, kind of like it when the footballers of the sportsball team do that head-butt thing at the beginning of the plays. 

Flip them gently with a fork or a pair of chopsticks, taking care not to splash yourself wit hot oil, and cook on the other side. The entire process shouldn't take more than two minutes in total, and the finished latkes can hold in a warm oven while you cook the rest. 

Please also make sure that you save the fat in a jar or a metal can and allow to cool before disposing of. Please don't throw it outside as it's bad for your homestead/garden, and please don't dump it down the drain. You can strain it and reuse it once or twice, but you can just pitch it in your can safely in a garbage bag once it's all used up. 

Serve these with breakfast, lunch or dinner! Latkes are truly a diverse food item and I encourage you to try them using all potatoes. (Just maybe not all at once.) Please also be sure to make an effort to get down to the farmer's market! This is, of course, to get better food, but it's also to get to know your growers. I'm going to let you in on a little secret...

The people that are making an effort against big chain grocery stores and taking food back to basics are the people you want to have a conversation with. Ask them questions, have them tell you the story of that crop. Connection with your fellow human is what the world needs right now, and the fellowship over food is truly what can unite us, instead of divide us.

Here in America, we are dealing with political turmoil unlike any in recent memory. If I have any international readers, I want them to know that we all want this to end, and that we are not horrible bigots. We Americans are loving and welcoming and we believe that immigrants make America great. As someone who's worked in the culinary industry her entire professional life, you would be starving were it not for immigrants and migrant workers. They cook your food, they harvest your crops, they do all of the hard jobs that you don't want to do, often with a smile. I welcome the immigrants and I want them to know that I'm an ally. I am an American, and hatred has no home in my backyard.

Happy cooking and happy eating! 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Beet-Dyed Deviled Eggs with Mint and Curry

This post has been blowing UP on my Instagram! Apparently, purple deviled eggs are a revelation, and I coined it. Yay, me!

Early in my culinary training, I worked in an upscale French bistro establishment that did beet-pickled quail's eggs for an amuse bouche. I remember it so clearly, and how it looked so beautiful and pink. When I volunteered to make deviled eggs for a summer solstice celebration, I couldn't resist going a little overboard with it and giving it a twist.

I've had a change in employment recently, which has allowed for more money and more flexibility on my end, so my quality of life has definitely had a shift. That being said, I can't help but feel a little gutted at not cooking high-volume every day. I think I've more-recently realized that I'm quite blessed to have a fiance that is an adventurous eater and is so good-tempered that he'll eat just about anything that I put in front of him. I also have some awesome friend that'll try anything once.

Anyway, here's how to make these awesome deviled eggs! I made this for a party of 14 friends, assuming that each friend was going to eat more than one.

Devil-Red Eggs with Mint & Curry
yields 36 individual deviled eggs, so like 12 servings

  • 18 eggs (mine were from the farmer's market so they were ungraded - I'd say medium is fine, though)
  • 1 cup red wine, leftover from last night is fine
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 medium red beet, chunked
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c mayo (sour cream works, too)
  • 1 Tbsp spicy mayo
  • 2 Tbsp hot curry powder
  • Plenty of mint sprigs, fresh from the garden
We'd like a red beet for this application, please!
Take your eggs and pop them in a sauce pot with just enough water to cover. Bring them to a boil, turn the water off, and cover it with a lid. Set your timer for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, take your beet and chop off the greens. Combine the water, wine, chopped beet, and the cinnamon and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let cook for about 15 minutes and turn it off. You can add in a pinch of salt at this point, then add the vinegar. Let it hang out on the back burner.

Once that 15 minutes for your eggs is up, drain the water and dump on quite a bit of ice. Ice will make the eggs easier to peel once cooled. Don't you dare throw away those egg shells, though! Chuck them outside for birds in need of calcium, or to give your garden a nice boost. You can also keep them in a jar and use it with a scouring pad to really scrub cast iron pots and be a nice abrasive for burnt-on stuff. There are about a million different uses for egg shells, and we are in a time of 'waste not, want not.' Don't you think?

Cut each of the peeled eggs in half. Put the yolks in a medium bowl and put the whites in a large bowl with high sides. You can also put them in a high-sided sauce pot for this next step, or a large pitcher or jar that will fit in your fridge. Cover the whites with the red wine liquid, adding a little water if you need it to cover them. You're going to now leave them for at least two or three hours, ideally overnight to really allow the color to penetrate.

"That's not a good enough reason to use the word 'penetrate.'" - Name that movie.

Use a fork to smash up the yolks and mix with the mayo, garlic, curry powder, and mustard. Taste for salt. If you feel that you need to add a spoonful or two of mayo to get the consistency you like, go right ahead. Taste it, of course, to make sure it's got enough salt, curry powder, mayo, etc. If you feel it's a bit thick, add a drop of vinegar. If you feel it needs a little more of an aromatic touch, add a pinch of ground coriander. Either way, you're going to scrape all of this into a piping bag (or a large ziploc bag) and set in the fridge. 

Tomorrow morning, put together a platter to present. I used kale and large mint sprigs from the garden, trimming off the smaller leaves to garnish my eggs. You'll want a nice full-looking presentation, especially if you don't have a serving dish with divets on it for deviled eggs. If you do, good on ya. If you don't, no big deal. You just don't want to let these things slip and slide around and fall onto the floor. Arrange the larger mint leaves here and there, and keep the smaller mint leaves aside. 

Cut off the tip of your piping bag or cut a corner in your ziploc bag and pipe in the filling with a firm hand. You ought to have plenty, so be sure to fill it up nice. Garnish each one with a small mint leaf and arrange accordingly. I have apple mint growing in my front garden, but I used the peppermint that grows in the back. 

Please note that peppermint is sometimes seen as a weed. It's not, even though
it grows like one. It will be prolific, and it will spread everywhere, but responds
just fine to pruning and harvesting. It's an extremely versatile plant and I, for
one, love it. I think you should love it, too!
Sidebar on why you should grow peppermint:

Not only is it a perennial herb that spreads EVERYWHERE, you can use it in just about everything...and I do mean everything.

I've used it in foods, ice creams, soaps, and more. I will also hang it by the windows in the spring and summer, as it repels many biting bugs. You can even use their nice scent against a pesky mosquito by crushing up fresh leaves and rubbing it all over your skin. You'll smell minty fresh and be mostly bite-free throughout the day! (It works for me for about 3 hours; results will probably vary.) Either way, I highly recommend growing mint in your garden. Peppermint, which is the kind that I grow in the back, repels fleas, moths, ants, mosquitoes, and most flies. Snip sprigs and hang it by your door in warmer months. Word is you can even toss mint sprigs in with your clothes in the clothes dryer in lieu of buying dryer sheets. Granted, this is only practical if you actually grow your own and have a surplus of it, like yours truly. Please don't buy fresh mint sprigs in neat little plastic containers for $3.49 at the grocery store just to toss it in the dryer. Buy fresh mint sprigs to put on these deviled eggs, if you're not growing your own, and prepare to wow your friends and family with this show-stopper.

Thanks so much for reading. I hope you try this recipe, and hope that you let me know if you do. It's so easy, you're able to make it ahead, and so beautiful to look at. Totally #InstaWorthy. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Quiche - Not Quickie (But Fairly Quick)

Personalized cutting board not included
I was promised a Snowpocalypse. I was promised an Ice-pocalypse. I was also promised a regular apocalypse back in 2012. It was supposed to be over already; but it's not. The world is still here and we're still in it. If you're reading this now, that means you made it, too. Lucky you!

I've already made my New Year's Resolution to be more impactful. What does this have to do with quiche? Not much, unless you count "learning a new recipe that's easily customized to suit many different tastes and easily made ahead and kept all week" being impactful. It'll have a great impact on your life to learn a simple dish like this, and I promise you that you'll not regret learning it.

For this easy quiche recipe, which can be a breakfast, lunch, or dinner item, you'll need a pie crust, ideally of the 8"/9" variety for your 8"/9" pie tin. Make your own? Of course. Can you do store-bought? Of course. Why is the "of course" included in either one? I'd rather you have a fake n' bake quiche than no quiche at all. Just in case, though, here's my basic pie recipe:

Basic Pie Crust
yields 3 8" pie crust

  • 10.5 oz All-purpose flour(2 cups and 1 Tablespoon)
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) butter OR organic lard(1 cup)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 egg 
  • Vodka A/N
  • Parchment paper 
  • Pan spray
  • Bench scraper/Dough scraper
In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine your flour and sugar. Cut your fat into small pieces and pop in your mixer. Using a paddle attachment, stir your mixture until it comes together in fatty sort of crumbles/pea-sized bits. Add the egg. If this egg is not enough moisture to bring it all together in a dry sort of ball, add a drop or two of vodka until it does.

Why vodka? Simple!

The enemy of pie crust is: gluten. Gluten is the reason your crust shrinks from overworking. Gluten happens when wheat meets water, and that's a bad thing for your pie crust! Another reason you want vodka instead of water? The low boiling point!

See, alcohol boils/evaporates at a measly 90 degrees F while it takes a whole 212 degrees F to get water to boil! This is why your pie crust remains with a soggy bottom with your fruit pie, which is likely already chock-full of water as it is! See? Science is cool. Use that vodka...or any spirit you have. I hear Wild Turkey is great for using a crust to make apple pie...

So, now that you've made your dough, turn it out on to a liberally sprayed parchment sheet and smear the dough all across the paper, folding it up and over again, and smearing again, until everything is nice and uniform. This technique is called "fraiser", and it's my absolute favorite to boot! 

It's a short video, but you get the idea of smearing with the heel of your hand...right? Totally.

So, for your pie dough, simply roll it out into a nice circle to overlap on your chosen vessel. Instead of pressing the dough into the shell, may I suggest simply laying it down and letting it settle for itself(about 5 minutes) in the pan, so any glutens that may have formed can relax a bit? This extra step will prevent shrinkage, and that is a good thing.

Now that you've trimmed your shell, you can decorate the crust ring. You can pinch, use a fork, or use a spoon to create scalloped edges, like this one here. No matter what you do, though, make sure that your crust goes immediately in to the freezer. You'll want your dough frozen(or near-frozen) for this application, if you can at all help it (which you can).

Now that we've discussed crusts, let's move on to filling. A basic quiche custard is simple, and this amount is perfect for a single 8"/9" pie. What you put in it is up to you! Try not to go overboard or too complex with your fillings, and choose lightly cooked items as well. For example, do not put raw bacon in these quiches, as the results will end up greasy and gritty. I also suggest lightly sauteeing any vegetables you may put in there, as you don't want to ruin the pretty, light custard when you cut into it by hacking a hard carrot or stiff pepper. Remember, this dish cooks in the oven for 30 minutes, and that's it. The custard is not going to suffer because you need to make sure that ham is hot. Understand?

Alright. Here's the filling.

Quiche Custard
adapted from Pies & Tarts 

  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt
  • 4.5 oz sour cream OR plain yogurt(just dear God not vanilla)
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk(cashew milk works as a dairy-free alternative)

That's it. That's literally it. Beat your eggs with the salt, then whisk in the sour cream until it's thick and evenly all come together, and then whisk in your milk. Isn't that crazy? Add your fillings to the shell, then pour the custard over, and put it on a sheet tray(just in case it spills).

This one has Hen of the Woods mushrooms and gruyere cheese in it with fresh herbs!
Pop this into the bottom half of a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes. Do you read? 30 minutes. It should take at least this long, but don't pull it out if the middle isn't set, with just a hair of wobble.

Let this cool for at least 15 minutes before you cut into it. The bubbles in this are rather fragile, and if you poke them too soon, the quiche will rupture and a ridiculous amount of water from the eggs will all come spilling out and you'll be left with a gross, goopy mess by the end of it. So, for real, patience is a virtue.

I personally like quiches to be served at "body temperature"(about 90 degrees) with a nice rocket salad and a light vinaigrette, perhaps for lunch. Quiches are great for light dinners, too, when you don't feel like eating a whole plate of spaghetti and meatballs or an entire rotisserie chicken. They're cheap, they're relatively easy to put together, and they can feed a whole family, if need be.

Still need some guidance? Here are my favorite quiche flavor combinations:

This one was smoked gouda with lots of black pepper

  • Corn and white miso
  • Bacon and cheddar
  • Chorizo and green tomatoes
  • Sauteed leek (just by itself!)
  • Spinach with white cheddar and black forest ham(spinach down first, then ham, then cheese on top, all finished with the poured custard...this weighs the spinach down and allows for nice cooking!)
  • Dandelion leaves and havarti (No really. This was an experiment and it worked out NICELY.)
  • Leftover roast beef with bleu cheese

Go nuts with the flavor combinations and make sure you let me know if you come across any great ones on your travels... Happy cooking and happy eating!

Poached chicken and sauteed wild mushrooms filled this little beauty...