Monday, March 14, 2016

Semolina Bread


Based on a recipe by Mary Ann Esposito in her book, Ciao Italia, this bread is as delicious as it is mammouth!  And although it doesn't keep it's moisture well after the first few days, it makes excellent toast or is great for making toasted sandwiches.
  To achieve a nice crust, place a pan in the lower rack of the oven and use either a baking stone or baking steel or cast iron pizza pan.  These make all the difference in the world.  In addition, I use parchment paper instead of corn meal, a trick I learned from chef and cookbook author, Suvir Saran.  







Semolina Bread

1 1/2 cups semolina flour
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 package instant yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
About 2 cups of lukewarm water.  

Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add one cup of the water and the olive oil and mix.  Keep adding water just until you get all the flour wet but not saturated. (You may not need the entire two cups.)
Scrape onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough in soft and elastic, dusting the surface with a little more flour as needed if the dough is sticking.
Oil a bowl large enough to hold twice the amount of dough and place the dough inside the bowl turning it once to oil both sides.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
Once the dough has doubled, punch it down, form it into a loaf and place it on a peel that has been covered with parchment paper.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for about 45 minutes.
While the dough is rising, place a baking pan on the bottom rack of the oven and a baking stone or other baking heat condusive object on the rack above.
Preheat the oven to 425° F.
When the loaf has risen, make a few slashes on the top with a very sharp nice or razor blade and slip it onto the baking stone.
Pour a cup of hot water from the tap into the baking pan on the bottom rack and immediately close the oven door.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.  Remove to a rack to cool

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Bamboo Shoots


I had almost forgotten about this recipe until I was looking at some old Instagram pics the other day and then not only rememebered the dish but also how good it tasted.
Having thawed out some chicken thighs the other day, I decided to again make this Malay-Chinese dish based on a recipe in the book Southeast Asian Food by Rosemary Brissenden.  Even though I've made a few changes, the recipe is basically the same.
  In her book, Brissenden calls for dark soy sauce.  In its stead I use kecap manis, a sweet soy sauce also known as Javanese soy sauce. If you find it needs more seasoning, you can add a little regular soy sauce.  I prefer using Pear River Bridge light soy sauce but any good quality soy sauce will do.

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Bamboo Shoots

8 dried shitakke mushrooms, soaked and stems removed and chopped into large pieces
1 pound boned chicken thighs cut into 3-inch pieces
Unbleached all-purpose flour spead on a plate
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 thin slices of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 8-oz can bamboo shoots, drained
2 tablespoons Javanese soy sauce (kecap manis)
1/2 teaspoon sugar (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large pot.  Dredge chicken pieces in flour and fry in the hot oil until browned on all sides.  Removed and reserve.
Fry the garlic and ginger  (adding more oil if needed) until golden.  Add the mushrooms and fry a few minutes.  Add the reserved chicken and bamboo shoots and turn everything over several time to combine.  Add enough water to just cover along with the remaining ingredients.  Cook stirring from time to time until the chicken is cooked through and a gravy is formed.  Season with regular soy sauce if needed and served with steamed jasmine rice.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Chickpea and pasta Soup


As I type this it is -13°C and the snow has drifted into mountains which I don't feel like shoveling today.
In other words, it is soup weather and I can't think of one much heartier (and heathier) than this gem that I learned to make from a dear friend from Sicily.
  The surprize flavor in this soup is rosemary.  I'm lucky enough to have a plant that has survived inside.  But dried will certainly work too.
  My pasta of choice would generally be ditalini, but has you can see I had to settle for something much smaller.  But use whatever soup pasta you like as well as the chili flakes, which I omitted this time.






Chickpea and Pasta Soup

1/2 pound dried chickpeas
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 sprig of rosemary, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
3 medium roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Chili flakes (optional)
150 grams soup pasta of your choice
Parmesan cheese, grated

Soak chickpeas in water in the refrigerator overnight.  Next day, drain, rinse and put in a pot covering with several inches of water.  Simmer until just done, add salt to taste and simmer until finished.
Drain and reserve the water in which they were cooked.
In a pot large enough to contain all the ingredients, heat olive oil and gently saute rosemary just until fragrant.
Add onions and garlic and saute until golden.
Add chopped tomatoes and cook for a few minutes turning all the ingredients over from time to time until everything is mixed well.
Add cooked chickpeas, four cups of the water in which they were cooked and the seasonings.
Simmer for about 20 minutes and then remove half the soup and put through a food mill or puree in a food processor.
Return to pot along with the pasta and simmer, stirring to avoid sticking, until pasta is done adding more liquid if needed.
Correct for seasoning and let rest a few minutes.
Serve in individual bowls and top with raw olive oil and the grated parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Empadinhas de Palmito



I will never forget my first encounter with palmito (hearts of palm).  It was during my first trip to Brasilia where my dear friend, Erik (who was also my very first Brazilian friend) took me to what he claimed was the best place in the city of Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, to get a pastel, a fried pastry that can have any number of fillings.
Having sampled almost every sort of pastel the previous week whilst eating my way through Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais, I decided to try a filling I hadn't yet sampled. That is when I fell in love at first bite with palmito.  A revelation!
  I still haven't learned to make pastéís (the plural of pastel) yet.  But I did learn to make the wonderful little pies, empadinhas (em-pah-jeen-yahs) with the flakiest crust imaginable...  They also come filled with everything you could ever imagine... The most popular kind is a chicken filling which I will try and post on here at a later date.  In the meantime, try these out!
Note:  I use empadinha forms which I purchased in Brazil to make mine but you can also use mini muffin tins.  They work just fine.

Empadinhas de Palmito

Dough

600 grams regular unbleached flour
1 tablespoon salt
300 grams unsalted butter, softened
3 large egg yolks
50 ml water

Filling

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium roma tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped fine
1 14-oz can hearts of palm, drained well and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
1 8-oz tub mascarpone cheese
3 egg yolks, beaten, for brushing on the tops

To make the dough, sift the flour and salt together.  Work the butter into the dough with your fingers.  Beat the yolks into the water, add the mixture to the flour and mix well with your hands.  Divide the dough into two balls and wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for at least 45 min.

To make the filling, saute the onion in olive oil on medium heat until translucent.  Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds.  Add the tomatoes and saute until the oil floats free, about 20 minutes.  Add the hearts of palm and cook for about 10 minutes.  Add seasonings to taste.  Let cool and fold in parsley and scallions.  Set aside.

To assemble, cut strips of dough from the ball and press them into the forms trying to make them somewhat thin.  (Don't even think of trying to roll this dough out like you would regular pie dough.)
Place a spoonful of the filling in each form and top with another spoonful of mascarpone cheese.
To make the lids, put a piece of dough on a cutting board and spread in each direction using your thumb.  Place it over the empadinha and trim the edges with a small sharp knife.  Press the top dough into where the dough in the forms meets the edge.  Brush with egg yolk.
Place the finished forms on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or more depending on the size of your forms.
Remove from the oven and let rest a few minutes before running the blade of a sharp knife around the inside of the edges to release the pies.
Serve warm or let cool to room temperature and store in plastic bags.  Reheat just before serving.








Orange Cake (Bolo de Laranja)


  Out of all the Brazilian cakes I have made, this is the one I keep coming back to.  The ease of putting it together (all done in the food processor) and the intense taste of orange makes this a favorite for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
  For an over-the-top delight in the morning, toast slices under the broiler with butter and turbinado sugar and gild your orange lily with a dollop of mascarpone cheese.  Yes, it's decadent!
  This just in!!!!  I decided to substitute the orange for 1 and a half whole lemons (deseeded) and was very happy with the outcome!









Orange Cake

1 whole unpeeled navel orange, preferably organic, washed and quartered and each quarter cut in two.
1  2/3 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tbsp baking powder

Method..

Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C)
Butter and flour a tube or bundt pan and set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the sugar and orange pieces until thoroughly chopped.  (Do not chop too fine.  You want bits of orange in the finished cake.)
Add the egg and oil and process again until blended.
Add the flour and baking powder, processing again for the final time until well blended.
Scrape into the prepared pan.  Place pan in the oven and reduce the temperature to 400°F (200°C) for 30 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool on a rack and remove from pan.
Dust with powdered sugar is desired.



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie


  When I lived in Battle Creek, Michigan, a summer destination was The Turkey Farm, a restaurant in the country that served various kinds of turkey dishes made from the birds raised on the premises.  But my favorite item on the menu was the peanut butter pie, a dessert that I had never heard of before going there but one that I quickly became fond of.
   Over the years I found various recipes but never any that I really liked all that much.  But that changed when a family friend, Marjean, brought her version to my dad's memorial service. (Yes, we are all about food in my family and when my dad died, we did all the cooking for the guests who showed up at the service.)
The taste and the texture were almost perfect...
   One thing that I find boring is a graham cracker crust.  Easy to make and done to death, it shows up in places where it should never have been invited.  And store-bought ones are the worst offenders unless you call a box of Jello pudding and a carton of Cool Whip baking..... I don't.  But I did like the recipe and thought it deserved something better than graham crackers and butter so I went online and in no time at all was greatly rewarded for the small effort.
  Anyone who worships desserts knows that Rose Levy Barenbaum is the queen of tarts.  Her strawberry cheese cake, which calls for lady fingers instead of the graham cracker crust, is a fluffy taste of heaven in each bite.  So, when looking for a peanut butter crust for this pie and coming across her recipe, I knew I was in for a scrumptious treat and I wasn't disappointed!
 
Marjean's Peanut Butter Pie

Filling:

6oz Philadelphia cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 pint whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Chopped roasted peanuts for garnish
Tart pan with removable bottom
1 recipe peanut butter pie crust (see below)

Add sugar to whipping cream and whip until firm peaks are formed.  Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar and peanut butter until fluffy.  Add the milk and beat until well incorporated.
Fold in the reserved whipped cream and pour into prepared crust.
Garnish with chopped peanuts and freeze until solid.

Crust:

1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 large beaten egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor using the metal blade, process the brown and granulated sugars until they are powdered.
With the motor running, add the butter cubes.  After, add the peanut butter and process until creamy. With the motor running, add the egg and vanilla extract and process until incorporated.
Scrap down the sides of the bowl and add the flour, pulsing until just incorporated.
Remove the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Press the dough into the bottom and sides of a tart pan with a removable bottom.
Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Bake in a preheated 375° F oven for 10 to 12 minutes.
Remove and allow to cool.
Remove baked shell from tart pan.








Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sweetened Condensed Milk Cake (Bolo de Leite Condensado)

When I was a kid, sweetened condensed milk rarely made an appearance in my mother's kitchen. In addition to a Christmas confection, there was also an overly sweet dessert that called for a can of it plus one of cherry pie filling if I'm not mistaken,  Needless to say it was overly sweet and is nothing from my childhood that I ever crave.                                                                                                        It wasn't until I delved into Brazilian cooking that I discovered sweetened condensed milk to be a staple in many households.  Of course, the national confection, brigadeiro ( Brazil's version of the truffle), uses sweetened condensed milk as the main ingredient.  I have yet to master this simple candy that uses just a few ingredients.  Luckily, the cake in this recipe goes together fairly quickly and resembles a pound cake in texture.  The only trick is using the right pan or improvising.

There is nothing worse than using the wrong vehicle for an unruly recipe.  Take a loose batter, for instance.  Use a two-piece tube pan and chances are. you will spend the next afternoon bent over a baked on mess in your oven.  I speak from experience!  I do not own a Brazilian tube cake pan and paid the price of using a loose batter for a Brazilian cake when it leaked out through the bottom all over the floor of my oven.
As you can see from the illustration, the Brazilian tube cake pan comes in one piece (much like a bundt pan which you could also use), allowing it to hold batter of any consistency.  But lack of  this should not deter you from making this delicious cake.




If you only have a two-piece tube pan, you need only tightly secure the bottom with aluminum foil, before pouring in the batter and placing it in the oven to bake.


Sweetened Condensed Milk Cake
1- 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
14 oz whole milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup sugar
2 cups, unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350° F
Butter and flour a tube pan and set aside.
In a blender or the bowl of a food processor, add the ingredients (except for the powdered sugar) in the order listed.  Blend until completely incorporated.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Remove from pan when cool.
Dust with powdered sugar.
Serve with berries and whipped cream if desired