Thursday, February 28, 2008
I don't know about everyone else, but I'd have to say that I'm pretty spice obsessed. My cabinets are stuffed full of jars and canisters, filled to the rim with beautifully colored powders, exotic seeds and tiny leaves. Although they are beautiful to look at, it's the smells and flavors that I love. Spices enable you to travel to exotic destinations and faraway places.
One of my favorite places for spice hunting is Penzey's Spices. I first discovered them online, where I became impressed and obsessed with the fresh, vibrant flavors. These are not your mother's spices.
Yesterday I found myself stopping by Penzey's, to quickly replenish my dwindling supply of cumin and dill (yes, we now have a store in Portland). Of course once I got there, I realized that it would be a good idea to pick up a few other herbs and spices, just because. Then there was the urgent phone call from my daughter "mom, don't forget the sumac, I've had a craving for it and you always forget to get it when you're there" (no, I really didn't make up that part about my daughter. She loves sumac sprinkled on her salad, with a little lemon juice and olive oil). So needless to say, I have a lot of spices in my kitchen.
After my "quick" run yesterday, it made me think about herbs and spices, and how much flavor they add to cooking, especially vegan and vegetarian cooking. They add so much depth and color to a dish, layering and enhancing flavors to take it from ordinary to extraordinary.
It would be hard to pick one or two favorites, so I thought I would make a list of the spices and herbs that I reach for most. Here you go:
Oregano and thyme.
There are many others too, but these are the ones that I find myself reaching for, time and time again.
Here's a picture of one of my cabinets, filled to the rim with spices and tea (I'll leave the tea to another post).
So that's my little ramble on spices. I'd love to hear what your favorite spices are and what dishes you like to use them in.
Monday, February 25, 2008
I loved it! How cool to be able to grab bread dough as you need it straight from the fridge. I loved that the dough mixes together so quickly, without any kneading involved. I decided to follow the recipe to a tee, so that I could get a good feel for the dough as the authors intended. The tinkering will have to wait for subsequent batches.
It was crazy busy last week, so I didn't get a chance to use the dough until Saturday. From what I read in the book, the extra time in the fridge would only add more flavor to the dough. It was nice to be able to bake off a loaf of bread while throwing our dinner on the grill. We had an awesome feast with very little effort, and the bread had a fantastic crunchy crust.
I had planned to bake another loaf on Sunday, but my kids wanted Pizza for dinner. Guess what we made pizza with? That's right, the nice, flavorful bread dough sitting in my fridge. I tried to take pics, but the lighting was terrible. So trust me when I tell you that it worked well and the kids gobbled up the entire pizza.
I'm sold on making bread this way and will stir up another batch tonight. This doesn't mean that I'll never make other bread recipes, but it does mean that I will thoroughly enjoy knowing that I always have a regular stash of dough in my fridge, ready to bake at a moments notice. I can't wait to try some of the other bread recipes in the book too.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
As you can probably tell, I love to make homemade bread. As far as I'm concerned, nothing beats the wonderful, home-baked flavor, let alone the delicious aroma that fills the house. Even my dog goes crazy and starts whimpering for fresh baked bread.
I have several tried and true recipes that I rotate for our weekly loaves. A wonderful oatmeal loaf, fresh herb and whole wheat, but sometimes I find myself longing for something new. So this week I'm on a bread baking mission to find some new favorites.
The first step is with a new book that I picked up last weekend. It's called Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. What you do is make up a big batch of dough (which is stirred, but not kneaded), and refrigerate it for up to two weeks. When you want a loaf of bread, you pull off a portion of the dough and shape and bake it (hence the "five" minute part). The no knead idea is not new, but I really like their idea of bulk dough and I'm excited to try some of the great looking recipes in the book. With a busy schedule, it's a dreamy thought to be able to just grab some dough out of the fridge and bake away. Lately I've even resorted to buying bread, as I think about making it too late in the day (and we're already out of bread at that point). We go through a lot of bread in our house, and it's almost blasphemous if we don't have it in the morning for school sandwiches.
Jay and I have tried the Cook's Illustrated version of the NY Times No-Knead Bread, and although fairly easy, there are a lot of steps and you have to plan a day ahead of time to make it. I'm thinking that the recipes in this new book might work well combined with the baking method from the NY Times (cast iron Dutch oven in a really hot oven). Needless to say, I've got lots of ideas.
I'm going to put up a batch today of the basic bread recipe in this new book, and I'll be sure to post my results. Although I want to first try the recipe as written, I'm kind of tempted to tinker with it a little bit, possibly adding a bit of beer as part of the liquid (like the Cook's Illustrated recipe), some white wheat flour and maybe some chopped fresh rosemary and garlic to the basic dough. Here is the basic recipe, which I found on the New York Times website. Hopefully it's alright to post it here.
Another thing that I really like about this book is that it also includes many other doughs with this same technique, like bagel and pretzel doughs, whole grain, wheat, etc... How cool would it be to just bake off a few fresh bagels on the weekend as you need them. I am very excited about the possibilities. Oh what will I do with all of my extra free time?
Simple Crusty Bread (as printed in the New York Times)
Published: November 21, 2007
Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)
Time: About 45 minutes plus about 3 hours’ resting and rising
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.
3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.
4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.
Yield: 4 loaves.
Variation: If not using stone, stretch rounded dough into oval and place in a greased, nonstick loaf pan. Let rest 40 minutes if fresh, an extra hour if refrigerated. Heat oven to 450 degrees for 5 minutes. Place pan on middle rack.
Edit to add: I stirred up a batch of the basic dough, and resisted the urge to tinker with it. I thought that I would have a better feel for this recipe if I followed it to a tee. Then next time I can tinker away.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
I've been cooking up some new recipes for the show. We'll probably start filming again next week, which will be fun in the newly yellow and cheery kitchen. If anyone has ideas of segments that you would like to see or find useful, please don't hesitate to share.
Has anyone checked out the lovely looking cakes on Joni's Just The Food blog? I know I'll be baking up a batch, though I can't decide between the lemon poppyseed and the espresso (really how could you go wrong with either?). Being the cool person that Joni is, she even included a beautiful label that you can print out for the cakes if you plan on giving them as gifts.
Although I often forget to snap a picture of the different meals I make, here's one that I remembered to take. It's Melisser's Jackfruit Carnitas, which were awesome. This dish is so good, and I love that something as simple as fruit can cook up into a lavish looking dish. I've noticed a few bloggers cooking the jackfruit with BBQ sauce too, which is next on my list to try.
Thanks for everyone's awesome comments on the kitchen.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
I'll start with an interim shot, which is what the kitchen looked like for a good week. I just love cooking with plastic draped all over everything.
And, the finished kitchen...
And a pic of my cluttered counter... various flours, sugar and cocoa for baking, hot water dispenser for my tea habit, notebook filled with recipe notes, toaster, coffee maker... The usual suspects.
I haven't been cooking as much over the past couple weeks, but plan to be back in the grove ASAP. I promise some recipes soon.