Monthly Archives: August 2016

Pesto … What kind do YOU make?

Nothing new about this post. I had intended to make a different kind of pesto but my poor basil plants have gone to flower, cause I’m neglecting them. The big leaves at the bottom are turning yellow and dropping off. At least I’m watering every day which is a necessity in this hot weather and a hot weather alert is coming up again. I made a couple of tasty things while dealing with the visit from the handyman (and his wife and daughter who help out) who is here to weed the worst of the back.

PS: They got 1/2 the lemon curd rolls, all the cherry braid and the rest of the ciabatta bread that I’d baked earlier that day.

* * *

Of course, the classic Genovese pesto of basil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmesan cheese with extra virgin olive oil is familiar to most people but you can mix and match your herbs, the nut used and even the oil.

Basil picked from my plants … FINALLY

For a strong tasting meat, like a leg of lamb, make a pesto with fresh parsley, toasted walnuts and walnut oil if you have it handy  … or just a nice neutral vegetable oil like canola. Butterfly your leg of lamb, spread the pesto over the meat, then roll it up, tie it and roast. The pesto will flavour the meat and keep it moist. If you put your leg of lamb on top of some potato wedges, the juices will flavour the potatoes. (Sorry, I dont’ have any pics to share.)

That reminds me. I really need to pick up a leg of lamb.

If you don’t want to buy a whole leg of lamb and butterfly it, pan fried lamb shoulder chops with a mint-cilantro pesto pasta is amazing.

Pesto garlic bread – Combine equal parts softened butter and pesto. Add some grated Parmesan cheese to the mixture as well, if desired. Spread over your favourite crusty bread and place the bread on a baking sheet under the broiler just until the bread is crunchy and the butter is melted

Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta

Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta – serves 2

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 3/4-1 inch cubes
1/4 cup whipping cream or chicken broth if you want to watch your calories
2-3 tbsp pesto
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
150-200 gm fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti cooked according to package directions

In a large saute pan, heat up the oil over medium high heat. Saute the chicken cubes until cooked through.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the pesto, whipping cream and cheese. Mix well and add the cooked pasta.

Add salt and pepper as desired.

Serve with crusty bread and a salad.

VEGGIE Add-ins: Steamed broccoli florettes or halved cherry tomatoes sauteed briefly in the same pan, after the chicken was browned. Sauteed pepper strips or sliced mushrooms would also be great.

No Knead Ciabatta Bread – Higher and Lower Hydration Levels

I’ve only made ciabatta bread successfully a few times, and that was in the days when I still had a bread machine, but no camera to immortalize my success. Since it died, my sole attempt was a dismal failure. Recently, someone posted pictures and a recipe for a “no knead” ciabatta, which, knowing how difficult that sticky dough is to work with, sounded too good to be true.

Well, it IS and it ISN’T.

No Knead Ciabatta Bread

NOTE: SKIP the next paragraph if you don’t want to be bored with minutia and just admire the pictures

For someone with patience and a  bit more experience, it’s easy enough to manage. My first attempt was equal parts fail and success. It was edible but a bit tasteless without help. (More salt needed in the dough.) The crumb was a bit gummy for my taste. (Bake longer at a lower heat and LET IT COOL, thoroughly.) It was REALLY sticky and hard to manage even compared to the poster’s dough. (Reduce the water used by 1/4 cup on the next attempt.) After 16 hrs, the half batch had I extended the proofing time for (12-18 hrs, or even 24 hrs proofing has been used) had liquid pooled at the bottom of the bowl under the dough. See previous sentence for possible solution.

The pairs of pictures represent the higher and lower hydration levels, respectively

Step 1 – After mixing the dough

Step 2 – 12 hr ‘ferment’ at the higher hydration level and 18 hr ‘ferment’ at the lower hydration level, respectively. I allowed half of the dough, at the higher hydration level, to continue fermenting for 19 hrs and it looked similar to the way it did after 12 hrs.

Step 3 – Dough shaped and allowed to proof for 1-2 hrs

Step 4 – After proofing, 1 and 2 hrs, respectively

Step 5 – Baked at 475 deg F for 22 min, and at 450 deg F for 30 minutes, respectively

Oven Spring – 2 inches tall, and 1 1/2 inches tall, respectively

Crumb – higher and lower hydration, respectively

No Knead Ciabatta – enough for a large loaf or 2 smaller loaves or 8 buns

3 cups (400 gm) all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/4 US cups (300 gm) cool water

Mix flour, salt, dry yeast, and sugar together in a bowl large enough to allow the contents to at least double in size.

Add the water and mix well with a large spoon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature (75-80 deg F) for 12 to 18 hrs.

Scrape out the dough onto a floured board. Do an envelope fold and then flip or transfer the dough out onto a baking sheet. You may line the sheet with parchment paper, drizzle it with some corn meal or not as you prefer.

Stretch out the dough a bit so it’s a rough rectangle shape.

Scatter some flour over the top of the dough, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. (The flour will help prevent the dough from sticking to the plastic though you may have to repeat every half hour. Or you could oil the plastic.)

Bake the bread at 425 to 475 degrees Fahrenheit until the top is browned and the bread gives a hollow sound when you knock on the bottom of the loaf with your knuckles. At 425 deg F, it took 35 minutes before the bread was done. At 450 deg F, it was done in 30 minutes.

At 475 deg F, it took about 22 min for the top and bottom to get browned and for the dough to sound hollow, but after cooling for 30 min, I thought the crumb looked a bit moist. It might be a good idea to cover the loaf with a sheet of aluminum foil, after 20 minutes, and let it bake for another 5-10 minutes.

NOTE: I spritzed some water into the oven every 5 minutes for the first 10 minutes as it was supposed to promote oven spring but that was only partially successful … and at the highest temp. It was also the one where the dough had only been allowed to sit (ferment?) for 12 hrs. The dough that had been allowed to sit for 18 hrs didn’t have a lot of oven spring.

In conclusion, I had the best results from the ‘lower’ hydration ciabatta dough. It is called LOWER but at 75% hydration it’s still higher than regular bread levels of hydration. The ‘higher’ hydration was about 90%. That was an estimation based on equivalent conversions since I didn’t weigh the flour and water that I used in the first attempt to make the ciabatta.

International Cooking

What country/nationality’s cooking, other than your own, do you enjoy?

I live in Canada and other than poutine and butter tarts, I can’t really claim that I cook anything that is particularly CANADIAN. Throwing maple syrup into a dish doesn’t make it Canadian, does it?

I enjoy a variety of national cuisines. This past week … I made Chinese (kale and white miso soup), Japanese and Tex-Mex dishes.

Donburi, or Japanese rice bowls, are a great way to use up leftover sushi rice. Chicken is one of my favourite proteins to top the rice bowl. The beef version was a new one for me though I didn’t have the paper thin fatty beef that is usually used and ended up with some chewy strips of sirloin steak. It still tasted good, though.

Chicken katsu (cutlet) with scrambled egg poached in the simmering sauce …

… and gyudon (beef) with egg. In Japan a raw egg is broken over the hot rice bowl but our eggs aren’t safe to eat raw so I poached mine. Paper thin cut fatty beef is preferred for quick cooking time and flavour. I garnished the rice bowl with shredded pickled ginger and green onion. And the pink, white and green colours looked pretty too.

I made a half dozen crab stick and avocado hand rolls with the rest of the sushi rice.

As for Tex-Mex … well, it’s better than going to Taco Bell. (Even if it IS an occasional guilty pleasure.)

Beef fajitas

Tamales are more Mexican than Tex-Mex but I’m going to throw them into the mix.

And, lest I forget … an iced Thai coffee to beat the heat. One of these days, I’ll make a more expansive Thai menu.

Iced Thai Coffee

Make double strength coffee and let cool to room temperature. If you like cardamom, a pinch or two added to the coffee while you’re brewing it is tasty.

In a tall glass, add a few ice cubes, 1-2 tbsp of sweetened condensed milk depending on how sweet you like your coffee. Pour the coffee over the ice cubes.

Danish Pastry Creations … something old, something new

Some time ago, I used an easy danish recipe (no knead) found on my friend Zsuzsa‘s blog to make a cherry braid. I made the braid again recently, but with a frangipane (sugar, softened butter and ground almond meal) base for the home made cherry filling, rather than the previous cream cheese.

I’m especially proud to say that both these pastries were made with items already in my fridge and freezer and nothing was bought specifically for them. Now what do I do with all the stuff in my pantry?

Cherry-Frangipane Braid

The braid ended up looking pretty good, but then it WAS my second one and I learned a few things.

 

Once the glaze is set, I’ll wrap it up for gift giving. Though I may trim off the top and bottom to square if off. (And so I can taste it.)

Frangipane Filling

4 tbsp/1/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 tbsp ground almonds
2 tbsp (25g or 1oz) butter, softened to room temperature

Combine sugar, ground almonds and softened butter, and beat together with a wooden spoon until soft and creamy.

And for something new … I adapted a sticky lemon curd roll with a cream cheese glaze recipe I found on line to use the mixed citrus curd I had in my fridge.

Sticky Lemon Curd Rolls

The pastry is not kneaded, just mixed together and then refrigerated until the next day when it will be firm enough to be rolled out. Flour the pastry and your working surface well and if it softens too much while shaping, return to the refrigerator for a  half hour or so. After rolling the pastry out and trimming it to the correct size, a lemon-butter filling is spread on the pastry and then lemon curd is spread over the top. I had a mixed citrus curd in the fridge so that’s what I used.

The rolls were placed in a buttered baking dish, covered and allowed to rise for about an hour in a warm place until doubled and then baked.

Instead of using the cream cheese glaze for the rolls, I went with a simple, tangy lemon (lime, in this case) butter version

Lemon-Butter Glaze

1 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 tbsp lemon juice

Combine the above in a small bowl until smooth, and then add water, about a tsp at a time  (~1 tbsp or so needed) to thin the glaze enough to drizzle over.

NOTE: I poured the glaze into a small freezer bag, cut off the corner and squeezed it over the top.

Buttermilk Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

The dog days of summer … when you need to make something to eat but can’t motivate yourself to try a new recipe so you go back to the old favourites.

I bought a liter of buttermilk cause I had some vague idea of making buttermilk marinated friend chicken but after the frying that I already did … cannoli and arancini … the thought of doing any more frying is making me nauseous.

So, I made buttermilk cheddar biscuits with some of the buttermilk. You can also make ice cream or pancakes with buttermilk. (Click on the LJ ‘buttermilk’ tag to see the posts.) But I wasn’t inspired to do so this time.

They’re great, because you can just eat them on their own, with a piece of cheese, slather them with butter or jam, or drizzle honey over the top or dunk them into a bowl of soup. You can even stick a chicken or sausage patty inside for breakfast. And everyone should know how to make biscuits, whether or not you use buttermilk instead of regular milk.

Cannoli with a Cannoli Cream Filling

I’ve made cannoli several times and not had any issues. Of course, on this attempt, everything that could go wrong did. I really HAVE to get a good thermometer for deep frying and I should have a better fryer as well. It’s just that I hate to fry and do so SO rarely, that I don’t really want the added expense. But throwing away those burnt cannoli shells, that took me ages to make, is depressing.

Most turned out though and I filled them with a different ricotta filling than I’ve used in the past. This one uses whipped cream to ‘lighten’ the ricotta. 🙂

Making cannoli shells – you can make the shells differing shapes (oval and rectangular) and sizes, but the oval shape is best for displaying the filling on the ends in the most attractive fashion. Blunt edged cannoli shells, whether shaped from positioning small shells on the metal tubes horizontally, instead of lengthwise, or from using rectangular shells, just aren’t as pretty looking.

 

 

Rectangular cannoli shells – I used the mini oval pattern as a rough guide for cutting rectangular shells

 

Cannoli Cream

1/2 cup whipping cream
1 15-ounce container whole milk ricotta cheese, strained
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Place the cream into a small bowl and set aside.

In the same mixing bowl, add the ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Mix on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Fold in the whipped cream and chocolate chips.

Chill the cream for at least 2 hours before filling the cannoli shells.