Monday, November 28, 2011
Banh-Mi Style Turkey Sandwich
(these quantities make 2 sandwiches)
1 teaspoon finely minced, peeled ginger root
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white or rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely shredded
1/2 seedless cucumber, cut crosswise into lengths about the same as the rolls you are using, then sliced thinly lengthwise (this is best done on a mandolin)
2 generous tablespoons mayonnaise
1/8 -1/4 teaspoon sriracha or similar hot sauce
4-5 drops sesame oil
4 slices cooked and drained bacon
thinly sliced turkey (2-4 ounces per sandwich)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley and celery leaves
2 soft French rolls
To Make the Sandwiches
In a medium bowl, whisk together the minced ginger, brown sugar, vinegar, and salt. Add the shredded carrots and sliced cucumbers and allow to marinate for 20-30 minutes. In the meantime, blend the mayonnaise, hot sauce, and sesame oil together in a small bowl. When the vegetables have finished marinating, drain them in a sieve set over a small bowl.
Split the rolls almost all the way through and open them out. Slather the spicy mayonnaise on each side of the rolls. Layer 2 slices of bacon, the turkey, and the drained carrots on the bottom half of the roll. Lay the drained cucumber slices on the top half of the roll and sprinkle the chopped parsley and celery leaves over top of both sides and close the roll. Slice in half diagonally and serve with a cold beer or a cup of herbal tea.
*The newspaper article is titled "Sandwiches are perfect for day after Thanksgiving", and can be accessed by visiting http://www.jsonline.com/features/food/
Monday, November 21, 2011
It's always nice to have a basic sweet dough recipe in your files. This one is rich and buttery, but easy to work with, and lends itself to many variations. I used half of the dough to make a raspberry braid with a streusel topping and the other half for cinnamon rolls. Thanksgiving is only three days away; after which begins a month of cooking, shopping, socializing, gift-wrapping and decorating for the holiday season. A batch of sweet dough can come in handy when you need a freshly-baked bread for a breakfast or brunch table. In the preface to the recipe below, the author, Beth Hensperger, writes, "A good all-purpose sweet dough has a place in every baker's repertoire, as all sweet doughs are minor variations of the same basic proportions, though the fillings and shapes will vary. As this bread bakes, the kitchen will fill with a delicate perfume." Here are two variations of sweet yeast dough.
Sweet Yeast Dough ( from "Baking Bread: Old and New Traditions" by Beth Hensperger)
*(This dough requires an overnight rise in the refrigerator)*
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 F)
1 1/4 cups warm milk (105 to 115 F)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
2 large eggs
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon or orange
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 to 3 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces.
To prepare the sponge: In a large bowl, using a whisk, or in the workbowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast, sugar, water, milk, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat hard until smooth, about 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature 30 minutes, until bubbly.
Add the eggs, zest, salt, sugar, and 1 cup more of the flour to the sponge.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, shiny, and soft, about 2 minutes, adding 1 tablespoon of flour at a time to prevent sticking. It is important that the dough remain very soft and pliable.
2 cups fresh or unthawed frozen unsweetened raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or fruit liqueur, such as framboise
1/2 cup granulated sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
To prepare the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine all the filling ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the fruit juices are thick, stirring occasionally and gently to keep the berries as whole as possible. Take care not to let it scorch. The mixture will be quite thick. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
To prepare the streusel: In a small bowl, combine the sugar, zest, cinnamon, and flour. Cut in the butter pieces until coarse crumbs are formed. Set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out one 1/2 of the chilled dough to an 8 x 12 inch rectangle. Transfer to a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet and even out the rectangular shape. Spread half the raspberry filling down the center of the rectangle. With a sharp knife, cut diagonal strips at 2 inch intervals down the outside portions of the dough, almost through to the filling.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. (You can prepare both pieces of dough as Raspberry Braids or make twelve cinnamon rolls as you will see in the instructions below). Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350F. Sprinkle the surface of the plait(s) with the streusel. Bake in the center of the preheated oven until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the pan to cool completely on a rack.
Raspberry Braid ready for the oven.
Now for the cinnamon rolls: On a lightly-floured work surface, roll the remaining half of the chilled dough to an approximately 12x18 inch rectangle. Brush the surface of the dough with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle 2/3 cup lightly packed golden brown sugar, 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped, and 2/3 cup raisins or coarsely chopped dried cherries over the dough rectangle, leaving a small border at the sides.
Roll the dough, from the long side, into a tight cylinder. Cut with a sharp knife into 12 equal-sized rolls and arrange in a well-greased 9x13 inch pan.
Enjoy these sweet treats with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Friday, November 18, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
After a run of sunny, 55+F days, it is distinctly chilly today. Root and cruciferous vegetables, along with winter squash, sturdy apples and pears, and citrus fruit will be abundant now in the supermarket displays. I have three salads that use some of this produce to make easy, colorful, and healthy side dishes for autumn menus. The first is Chickpea and Carrot Salad with Feta Cheese. This salad combines chickpeas with carrots and parsley in a lemon scented dressing. The salad can be spooned into a lettuce-lined pita pocket for an easy, portable lunch. Here is how to proceed:
In a medium bowl combine 1 14-16 ounce can of drained and rinsed chickpeas with 2-3 slim, peeled and grated carrots. Add 2-4 tablespoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley. Season with about a 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander. Add a pinch of salt, but be careful, you can adjust the seasoning after the feta cheese is added. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the bowl and the juice of half a medium-sized lemon. Toss it all together and add 2-4 tablespoons of crumbled feta cheese. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and lemon juice as you desire. This amount will serve 2-3 people.
Next is Fennel and Pear Salad. Fennel tends to be a "love it or hate it" vegetable and I love it. Crisp and refreshing raw, mellow and aromatic cooked, it is a versatile and unusually flavored vegetable. It combines beautifully with sweet pears, crunchy almonds and shards of Parmesan cheese in this salad. Quantities can be adjusted to suit the number of people you are serving.
Prepare a quantity of vinaigrette by combining 1-2 tablespoons of freshly-squeezed lemon juice, a scant 1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard, a pinch of salt, and 4-5 tablespoons olive oil (or a combination of olive and grapeseed oil). Slice a medium fennel bulb thinly (this is best accomplished with a mandolin). Transfer to a small bowl and dress with a little of the lemon vinaigrette. Half and core a small firm but ripe pear. Slice it thinly lengthwise and dip each slice in the remaining vinaigrette.
Now compose the salad. Lift the sliced fennel out of the dressing and place it on a serving dish. Sprinkle over the fennel a generous tablespoon of sliced, toasted almonds and a little salt and pepper. Arrange the pears slices atop the fennel and garnish with shavings of Parmesan cheese and a few wisps of fennel fronds. This amount will serve 2-3 people.
The last of my salad trilogy is a red cabbage salad with a warm bacon dressing. Colorful, crunchy, sweet and sour, it is a perfect side dish for a hearty autumn meal.
Red Cabbage Salad with Warm Bacon-Balsamic Dressing (adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2011)
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish
1/4 cup dried currants
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
6 cups thinly sliced red cabbage, (about 1/2 a medium head)
3 ounces of bacon, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Place the currants in a small bowl. Heat the vinegar in a saucepan over medium heat until hot (do not boil). Pour the vinegar over the currants; let soak until the currants soften, 15-20 minutes.
Place the cabbage in a large bowl; set aside. Put the bacon in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute until browned and beginning to crisp. Add the shallot to the pan and saute for about 1 minute or until softened. Remove from the heat. Stir in the currant-vinegar mixture and the olive oil. Pour the bacon mixture over the cabbage and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand 5-10 minutes. Add the hazelnuts and parsley and toss again to blend. Serve immediately.
Monday, November 7, 2011
It's that season when pumpkins and winter squash of all descriptions are featured in just about every food blog, cooking magazine and newspaper food section. I have succumbed to the allure of pumpkin desserts and here are two recipes for your consideration. Several years ago I taught a class titled "Holiday Desserts". It was essentially a pie-making demonstration, but I included Pumpkin Semifreddo as an alternative to traditional pumpkin pie for a Thanksgiving dessert. The beauty of semifreddo is its simple preparation (no ice cream maker required) and its do-ahead versatility. And just so there is no question about what to do with the remainder of that can of pumpkin, I have included a pumpkin bread embellished with the addition of Nutella. Enjoy!
Pumpkin Semifreddo (adapted from a basic method by Sherry Yard in "The Secrets of Baking")
1 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon rum*
2 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 cup mascarpone
1 cup whipping cream
Heat the milk to simmering in a medium saucepan. Whisk the egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar and salt in a large bowl. Temper the yolks by whisking in about half of the hot milk. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and combine well. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring all the while, until the custard coats a spoon thickly (an instant-read thermometer will be about 170F). Do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat and strain into another bowl set over a container of ice and water. Add the pumpkin, spices, and rum and blend together. Stir periodically until cooled to room temperature. In the meantime, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl to soft peaks. Gradually add the 2 tablespoons of sugar and beat until the whites form medium peaks. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside. In the same bowl you used to whip the egg whites, combine the cream and mascarpone. Beat to a soft peak consistency. Using a large whisk or spatula, fold the meringue into the cooled pumpkin custard. When partly blended, add the cream mixture and finish folding the mixtures together. You can now freeze the semifreddo in a loaf pan, a decorative mold, or individual molds.
For textural interest, layer crushed amaretti cookies, ginger snaps, or nut brittle through the mixture as you place it in your molds. As you can see from the photo, I layered crushed gingersnaps in the middle of my semifreddo. Semifreddo will store, tightly wrapped, in the freezer for two weeks.
* If you choose to add amaretti cookies to your dessert, flavor the custard with amaretto or a few drops of almond extract. When using a loaf pan, line it carefully with plastic wrap, leaving sufficient overhang at each end to enable you to lift the frozen dessert out of the pan. Semifreddo requires about twenty minutes standing time out of the freezer to allow it to soften sufficiently to unmold. You can also wrap your mold in a hot damp towel or wave a hairdryer, set on warm, over the mold to hasten the process. I served my semifreddo with a little drizzle of rum-flavored caramel sauce, but chocolate sauce would be good as well. This recipe will serve 6-8 pumpkin dessert lovers.
Pumpkin Nutella Bread (from the blog "Two Peas and Their Pod")
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup water
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons Nutella (2 per mini loaf)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray 4 mini loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, water, pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and combined. Slowly stir in the flour mixture. Mix until ingredients are combined. Pour the batter into the mini loaf pans, dividing it evenly. Drop 2 tablespoons of Nutella onto each loaf. Swirl the Nutella into the pumpkin batter with a knife.
Place the loaf pans onto a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Place the loaf pans on a rack. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then carefully remove the loaves. Cool completely before slicing.
* You can make regular size loaves. This recipe should make 2 8x4 loaves. Adjust baking time to about 60 minutes.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
It's been a long time since I visited Banff and an even longer time since I've eaten fondue. But last week I did both and had a lot of fun in the process. It would be a spa weekend, as my sister-in-law described it when she invited me. It turned out to be three days of shopping, eating, drinking, and reconnecting. There was lots of conversation, philosophizing, and enjoying the autumn beauty of the landscape. We stayed at the beautiful Rimrock Resort on Mountain Avenue in the town of Banff. My photo (above) doesn't do it justice. The hotel is set into the side of a mountain and the views from the rooms are spectacular. The afternoon we arrived, we settled in and enjoyed a cheese plate and drinks in the lounge.
The next day we spent five hours wandering in and out of what felt like every shop in Banff. Several of us got some Christmas shopping done. Fortunately we had a early dinner reservation at The Grizzly House restaurant. This is Banff's famous fondue restaurant. In business since 1967, the Grizzly started as a dance and social club. Originally the food was passed through a hole in the wall from an adjoining Chinese restaurant. But when the Chinese restaurant went out of business, Grizzly's owners brought in their fondue pots, and a concept that has endured all these years was launched. The menu has every kind of fondue you could imagine. We chose a combination of seafood, game, beef, chicken, and duck. You could also have ostrich and rattlesnake, if you were so inclined. The cooking is done with traditional fondue pots and flat hot stones. It is a lively place with a retro sound track playing at high volume and energetic, friendly staff. One caveat worth mentioning: if you go to Grizzly House wear clothing that is easily washable. I had to take the clothes I wore that evening to the dry cleaner when I got to Kelowna. And what I thought was blurry vision due to fatigue and one too many cocktails was actually a thin coating of cooking oil on my glasses. What fun! The next day we drove to Lake Louise to have lunch at the Chateau Lake Louise. There had been snow the previous night but the day was clear and sunny. The lake, surrounded by the mountains, sparkled a brilliant blue. It was just the way I remembered it.
At lunch, in a lovely room overlooking Lake Louise, we chose traditional afternoon tea. The highlight of the tea service was the scones. Served warm with thickened cream and strawberry jam, they were light and flaky. The crumb was fine and tender and the tops just browned and crisp enough to provide the right textural contrast. I have been instructed by my travel companions to try and recreate these scones. It will be a tall order and perhaps I'll call the pastry chef at the Chateau for some helpful hints. They were the best I've ever eaten.
Back in Calgary on Monday we enjoyed one more lunch together and a quick shopping trip at Holt Renfrew. Then it was off to the airport for a forty minute flight "over the hill", as the pilot described it, to Kelowna. Once a sleepy town known for apple orchards and retirement communities, Kelowna has grown to a city of over a hundred thousand. It's a beautiful spot, located by a deep glacial lake and surrounded by mountains. The orchards are still there but vineyards line the landscape in many areas. The wine industry is producing some very good products. My sister had decided we would go to dinner at Raudz's Regional Table, a restaurant known for it's dedication to locally sourced foodstuffs and seasonal cooking.
Raudz's was great. Carol and I had their signature seasonal fruit martinis; hers was grape, mine plum. Our entrees included wild boar scallopini and a lamb special. We started with Raudz's famous poutine, which consists of their infrared cooked french fries, squeaky cheesecurds, chicken confit and chicken gravy. Very good indeed.
The photos above show the open kitchen and the chalk board with various food-related witticisms. Another feature of the decor at Raudz is the artwork depicting the food suppliers and their products. The people are photographed in black and white and juxtaposed with their products which are shown in color. Very clever, I think.
For the remainder of my visit, my sister and I cooked together in her kitchen. We made some terrific shortribs braised with Asian flavors and glazed with hoisin, orange, and ginger. What a pleasure it was to sit at the dining room table, enjoying dinner, good wine, and hours of conversation together. My last day in Kelowna we drove through the orchard areas and I took some photos of the autumn foliage.
When I arrived home, I found myself with no appetite. A week of over-indulgence of food and wine will do that. I was craving something light and fresh, something restorative. And I kept going back to the flavor memory of those shortribs Carol and I had made. As I sat at my kitchen table, sorting through the accumulated mail, I found the new issue of Fine Cooking. An article jumped out at me as I paged through the magazine: "Soul-Warming Chicken Soup". So I made chicken soup using the Asian flavors we had incorporated in the shortrib braise. It is warming and spicy, but light and fresh tasting. Here is what I did:
Chicken Soup with Baby Bok Choy, Mushrooms, and Soba Noodles (adapted from Fine Cooking, Vol.114)
If you choose to make your own chicken broth these are the proportions of ingredients and the general method. (If you are not able to make the broth, substitute three quarts of the best quality chicken broth/stock you can find in your supermarket. For the cooked chicken, purchase that ultimate supermarket convenience food: rotisserie chicken. Remove the skin from a three pound chicken and shred the meat. Set this aside to add later).
In a large Dutch oven or stock pot place a 3 pound chicken from which you have removed the skin ( this ensures a cleaner, less fatty broth). Cover with cold water, approximately 5 quarts, and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until foam no longer accumulates on the surface of the liquid. Skim the foam often during this time, the broth will be much clearer if you are diligent with this step. This will take about 20 to 30 minutes of simmering and skimming. At this point add 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks, 2 medium celery stalks, cut into 2 inch pieces, and 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2 inch wedges. Add about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon white pepper and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through. Remove the chicken to a rimmed baking sheet and cool for 10 minutes. Continue simmering the broth with the lid ajar. Pull the meat from the chicken and shred it into bite size pieces, discarding any fat and gristle as you work. Set this aside, covered, to add to the finished soup. Return the chicken carcass to the pot and continue cooking at a gentle simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are soft and the flavor has intensified, about 30 minutes. Avoid boiling the stock as this contributes to a cloudy finished product. Remove the carcass from the pot and discard, then strain the broth through a fine sieve into a large container. You should have about 3 quarts of broth. You can now refrigerate the broth for up to 3 days. Remove any solidified fat from the surface before proceeding.
To Make the Soup
In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add 2-3 cups of 1/4 inch diced carrots and 1 cup 1/4 inch diced onion. Sprinkle in 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt and saute until lightly browned. Add 1 small jalapeno chile, thinly sliced and a 2 inch knob of peeled ginger root, thinly sliced. (Be careful with these strong aromatics. If you want only a moderately spicy broth, use half the amounts suggested. But don't be too shy, the flavors will moderate once you add the noodles and vegetables.) Stir the mixture for a few minutes longer until it is fragrant. Add 3 quarts of chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the aromatics have flavored the broth to your liking. Keep tasting and checking the level of spiciness; I removed the pieces of chile after 10 minutes and left the ginger in an additional ten minutes. When the broth is flavored, remove the pieces of ginger and chile and discard. Stir in the reserved shredded chicken, 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms, and 8 ounces of thinly sliced baby bok choy. Add about 4 cups of cooked soba noodles ( you will need 8-10 ounces of dried noodles to yield this amount. Cook them only until just barely tender, then drain and rinse before adding to the soup). Simmer the soup for about 10 minutes to meld the flavors.
Finish the soup by adding the following salty, sweet, and sour seasonings.
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Keep tasting and adjusting the flavor of the soup to your liking. If you like even more spice add a few drops of hot sauce such as sriracha to each individual bowl. Serve the chicken noodle soup garnished with thinly sliced scallions. You can refrigerate the finished soup for up to 3 days. This recipe yields about 6-8 servings.