March 6, 2014

Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

This vinaigrette is a nice way to dress up simply prepared whole grains like wheat berries and is easy to make with ingredients we generally have on hand in the fridge and cupboards.

Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

Combine the ingredients in a small mason jar, shake and serve. Stash the jar in your fridge to store leftovers and shake before each use.

1/3 Cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
pinch of pepper
1/2 teaspoon rosemary (dried or fresh)

Variations: The original recipe called for 1/8 teaspoon salt, which I omit. 
Using honey instead of syrup will produce a thicker sweeter dressing with more body.


January 2, 2014

Soda Bread

Although I bake regularly, I never used to bake soda bread. It wasn't that familiar to me and I suspected that it must be complicated.  I was wrong.  

Soda bread is not at all complicated. It won't even require a trip to grocery store if you have a jar of buttermilk lurking in your fridge (which I always do now that I have realized how easy it is to culture buttermilk). The taste is quite familiar, somewhat like buttermilk biscuits, with less fat. 

I like this recipe because I always have these four ingredients handy and it produces a hearty, tasty quick bread that works well as a sturdy side for savory soups or as support for sweets like jam.

Basic Soda Bread

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
pinch salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk

How to:

Preheat oven to 375 and oil a loaf pan.
Stir the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. 
Add buttermilk and mix into a soft dough.
Transfer to loaf pan and cook in the center of your oven for 35 to 40 minutes.
Turn out onto a wire rack or plate to cool.

Notes and variations:

There are lots of soda bread recipes and variations, including double-sized recipes cooked in cake pans or on parchment on a cookie sheet for a round loaf and mixing up the ingredients with whole wheat flour, rye, raisins or currants, caraway seeds, butter, wheat germ, brown sugar, other sweeteners, eggs, sour cream instead of butter milk, etc. 

I have made round loaves on parchment by doubling the recipe, kneading the dough briefly to get it into a smooth ball, and then once the ball is on the parchment doing a few quick slits into the top, brushing with a little extra buttermilk and baking at 400 to get a very nice crust.

What all of these recipes seem to have in common is something close to a ratio of 2:1 dry to thick wet ingredient and a teaspoon of baking soda for every 2 Cups of flour. 

So my advice is to feel free to freestyle different flours, or sour cream instead of buttermilk, etc. but try to preserve those basic ratios.

December 26, 2013

Pound Cake

This variation on the Butter Pound Cake recipe in Bakin' Without Eggs has a wonderful texture.

Pound Cake

1 Cup butter (room temperature)
2 Cups sugar
1 1/2 Cups buttermilk
1 Tablespoon vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/4 Cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
handful of mini chocolate chips (optional)

How to:
Preheat oven to 325 and prepare a Bundt cake pan. 
Cream the butter and sugar. 
Beat in the buttermilk, vinegar, and vanilla.
Sift in the flour, leavening and cinnamon. 
Beat until completely smooth.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Bake for 55 to 65 minutes.
Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes or so and then turn out onto plate.

Notes and variations:
I added the cinnamon and chocolate to jazz up the original recipe. I use the Enjoy Life brand chips which are small enough to not sink too much in the dough. Other mini chips would work equally well. 
For more classic pound cake flavor, scrape in a vanilla bean instead of cinnamon and chocolate. 
For more zing, use ginger instead of cinnamon and small chunks of crystallized ginger instead of chocolate 
Citrus zest, lemon or orange or both, would also be a nice variation.

November 28, 2013

Eggless Pumpkin Pie

Eggless Pumpkin Pie

This originates from a recipe on cooks.com, which I am not linking to because it didn't work very well for me. After repeatedly baking and tweaking the liquid and starch ratios in this pie, we are now pretty happy with the results. 

Start by stashing a pie pan in your freezer to get it nice and cold. 

Make a single-crust pie crust from any basic recipe. I typically use my food processor and make half of the basic crust recipe from Joy of Cooking, using 1 Cup flour, 1/3 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon of butter for the fat, 2 Tablespoons of liquid plus just a little more if necessary. I use whatever neutral or fruity hard alcohol we have handy in lieu of water (which makes for a more tender crust). Or use the Pillsbury premade dough if that's your pleasure. Chill the dough a little if you are making your own crust. Roll it out. Put it in your pie pan and pretty up the edges. 

Then stash the pie pan with raw crust in your fridge and preheat your oven to 450 degrees while you make the filling.

1 can pumpkin puree (15 or 16 ounces)
1 tsp cinnamon *
5 Tablespoons corn starch
1 1/2 Cup milk
2/3 Cup brown sugar

Add cinnamon and corn starch to the pumpkin. Stir in the brown sugar. Stir in the milk. 
Bake in an unbaked shell. 
Start for 10 minutes in a 450 degree oven. 
Then reduce to 350 for an additional 1 hour. 
Check it and it may need 5 minutes more. 
Mine often does.

Tip: 
For flaky tender crust, keeping the dough cold at every step is important. As is starting with a hot oven. If your oven isn't fully up to temperature by the time you have the filling prepared and in the crust, you can stash the unbaked pie (filling and all) in the fridge until the oven is hot enough.

Flavor options: 
If you aren't a cinnamon hound like me, you can use just 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.
For more complex flavor, use your favorite "pie spice" blend instead.

Or if you don't have that handy, wing it with any or all these additions:
Scrape in a vanilla bean with the sugar or a splash of vanilla extract with the milk. 
Grate in a little bit of nutmeg.
Add just a little ginger or a very small pinch of cloves. 
Add a bit of zest from a lemon or orange. Cooks.com called for 1/2 tsp lemon extract. I never buy that. So I omit or add zest from fresh fruit instead. 

Combinations work nicely. For example, making pie Thanksgiving dinner tonight, I made the crust using orange cordial as the liquid. With the filling I used the full dose of cinnamon, a vanilla bean, just bit of nutmeg, and a the zest from one mandarin orange.

Making it vegan: You can use other liquids instead of milk to make the filling vegan. 
And shortening or coconut oil can be used to make vegan crusts. 

August 22, 2013

Simple Slurpies

Sometimes simple hits the spot. 

This summer, Anchorage broke records for consecutive days with temperatures above 70. degrees. All that gorgeous heat stretched our imaginations for more refreshing warm weather treats (after all the Popsicles, sorbets and ice creams that we had already eaten). We have moved well past that now to the cold rains of August, but for those of you who still have hot sunny days ahead:

This recipe comes from my son who first called the results Slushies and then renamed it Slurpies once he got a straw into the action.

How to do it:

Throw a tray full of ice cubes in your food processor and pulse until they are reduced so those ice-y granules that he calls snow. 
Use your favorite ice cream scoop to transfer some "snow" to a juice glass. 
Pour some juice over the top. 
Slurp away.

We like cherry juice. Or to really pucker up try pure cranberry. Something with bold color makes it more fun. 


Fig Jam

Fig Jam

Figs really don't grow here in Alaska. But I ordered fresh figs as an add on to my produce order from Full Circle this week. They were incredible, sweet and tender and so luscious that I could easily have eaten lots and lots of them plain as hand fruits. Instead I ate some and put the rest up as this fig jam. It tastes great. Looks lovely in the jar. And has definitely turned me on the to concept of balsamic adding a depth of flavor to other fruit jams. 


What you need:
2 pounds figs
1 Cup water
1 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup balsamic vinegar (you don't need super fancy aged sipping balsamic)
1/4 Cup bottled lemon juice

Important Note: Do not squeeze lemons for juice. 
You need the reliable acidity of bottled for safe storage.


What you do:
Stem and quarter the figs.
Bring water and figs to a boil in a large nonreactive pot.
Simmer for 5 minutes, smashing the fruit a little to soften and break it up.
Add the sugar, vinegar and lemon juice.
Return to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for about 20 minutes until thick and jammy.
Remove from heat.
Wait 5 minutes.
Stir to remove air bubbles.

How to store:
Then either ladle into jars to keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
Or use the boiling water bath canning method to preserve for up to a year. 

The specs for canning:
Use four ounce or half pint jars.
Leave 1/4 inch of headroom.
Processing time at a rolling boil is 10 minutes. 
Then turn off water and let rest for 5 minutes before removing to a kitchen towel on the counter to sit for 24 hours. 

How much?
For me, this produced a little less than the 4 Cups predicted in the original recipe from Put 'em Up! But start with sufficient clean hot jars to handle that quantity. I may have reduced it a little too much and you might get slightly more. Better to have the jars ready and need them, then to find when you are almost done that you are short a jar. If you do end up with a partial jar, pop it in the fridge and use it within 3 weeks. 

February 25, 2013

Asian Slaw

This variation is based on the slaw recipe presented as the companion for Marinated Flank Steak in The Essential New York Times Cookbook. The two foods echo each other with similar flavors and good texture contrast.

Asian Slaw

Foods to cut:
3 Cups thinly sliced red cabbage
2 carrots peeled and thinly sliced
2 shallot minced
2 scallions thinly sliced
1 Cup thinly sliced Thai basil leaves (the original recipe would have used sweet basil)

To measure for the dressing:
2 Tablespoons oil (we use canola, the original recipe called for peanut oil)
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (the original recipe called for 3/4 tsp but we cut it back a little)

How to: This dish is really all about the prep work and measuring. Just get it all in a bowl and toss well so the veggies are well coated with the dressing.

Variations: The original recipe also called for 2 small hot chiles, seeded and minced.