Monday, May 08, 2017

Converting That Peasant Bread Recipe To Sourdough

I'm not sure if I saw this in my FB or my Pinterest feed, but figured I'd "math it out," and make the conversion necessary to make Alexandra Stafford's (mom's) No Knead Peasant Bread into a sourdough hybrid. 

The breakdown of ingredient list from the original recipe are:

4 C Flour
2 C Lukewarm water
2 1/4 Tsp Yeast
1 Tsp Sugar
1 Tsp Salt

The way I will approach this as a sourdough, for the next batch of bread I bake will be:

LEVAIN:

1 C Sourdough starter (unfed)
1 C Water
1 C KAF Sprouted Wheat Flour

Let this sit at room temp 12-18 hours until nice and active.

When ready to continue building the dough, I'll then bloom the yeast:

1/2 C warm water
1 Tsp sugar
2 Tsp yeast

I'll add the bloomed yeast to the levain, then mix in the remaining 1 1/2 C flour (I'll switch to bread flour for the remainder).

Let sit for 30 min to autolyze. Then add 1 tsp salt and mix well.

At this point, I *could* follow the remainder of the recipe as written, OR divide in two portions of dough (I'll use a digital scale to ensure equal amounts of dough in both bowls), put in a greased bowl and cover with wrap and put in fridge for 24 hours for a slow, cold bulk ferment as I do with nearly all my sourdough bread, and take it out of the fridge for about 1-2 hours before baking.

Bake temp and time is as stated in the original recipe:

Preheat oven to 425, and bake for about 15 minutes, then lower heat to 375 and bake for about 20 minutes more. And as the original recipe states, if the loaves look pale, bake 5 minutes more.  

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Multi-Taskers: Cheese Substitutions + Saag Paneer Recipe

More on "culinary zeitgeist."  

Much in my previous substitution post, it looks like substitutions come in threes:

India: Paneer
Italy: Ricotta Salata
Cyprus: Haloumi

(Possible addition to this discussion US: Cheese curds  I say possible because I do not know if cheese curds actually melt. I will experiment the next time I encounter cheese curds while shopping.)

I fully embrace what I call "multi-taskers" in the kitchen. They make life easier.  I've been cutting back on how many food stores I go to on my errand day, just to make my life easier, save time and effort. My local Korean grocer supplies everything I could possibly need--except paneer. 

The last time I went shopping, I was looking for paneer, none to be found. Same thing with Haloumi (which was out of stock at the Armenian market last time I went there). However, what H-mart DID have was Ricotta Salata. A hard pressed, dry, salty version of ricotta.

Remembering what I know of the paneer making process, I know it's got some similarities--though it's a smidge tangy and definitely saltier. I solicited the opinion of Niv over at Panfusine for her thoughts on cheese substitutions, as my discussion with her was regarding making saag paneer quiches with the leftovers. 

I had enough information from the chat to know the ricotta salata would work. Rather than saving it for the quiches, I used it for the saag paneer, and I will say that it did not melt, and I held off on adding any additional salt, as the cheese was salty enough!

Now to backtrack a bit...

While in India in January, Maharajah's cousin provided me with her recipe/formula for saag paneer which was so RIDICULOUSLY simple, I thought to myself, how could it possibly be tasty. Her version has something like 5 ingredients, thereabouts, and I felt as if she were playing a prank on me.

Her ingredients were:

Onion
Tomato
Chile pepper
Spinach
Paneer

That's it. Oh, and a little oil to cook the onion a bit. And no fancy techniques or spices. Not even turmeric. Grinds the onion with the chile and cooks that a bit in oil, then throws the washed spinach and diced tomato on top. Cover, and cook until spinach starts to wilt. Then puree that, put back in pan and toss in cubed paneer. DONE. Too simple. 

Anyway, here's my recipe for what I made this morning, however, mine is a bit more stripped down because I outright FORGOT about the onion. Oh, and no chile pepper in this, since Maharajah is preferring less heat these days (and I also forgot to mince it up). Kizmet!

Ingredients:

1 T Neutral oil
1 tsp Jeera 
2 tsp garlic paste
1 Big bag fresh spinach (pureed with enough water to make it loose, but not watery)
20 Grinds black pepper
1 package Ricotta Salata (roughly 6-8 oz?)
Half and Half
Butter

How-To:

I fried up the jeera until it was starting to turn golden brown and fragrant in the oil. I then added the garlic paste, and cooked about a minute until it started to turn golden. I then added the spinach puree, and lowered heat to a simmer, while I diced up the ricotta salata. I stirred the cheese cubes into the gently bubbling spinach sauce, and then added, like I said, about 20 grinds of black pepper. I let it cook maybe if that, 5 minutes more, and added a pat of butter (like the French chefs do to finish a sauce), and about 1-2 T of half and half to round out the saag mixture.  

Thinking it needed something "more," I took my ginger root out of the freezer, and shaved a bit of it into the sauce with a microplaner (thank you, Chef Roger, you ENABLER, YOU!). I also like a particular consistency to my sauces/gravies/curries, and there is a magical thickening agent I use, which I'll keep to myself, but use your judgment and add your thickener of choice (or none, YMMV!)

The lack of excessive spices accomplishes a couple of things:

1. Keeps the recipe SIMPLE.
2. Keeps the vibrant green of the spinach in tact. (Sorry, no photo this time!)
3. Keeps the recipe from tasting like EVERYTHING ELSE.  

Sometimes, I think, when you intensely season EVERYTHING, then EVERYTHING you cook tends to get lost--but if you have one intensely seasoned thing, and another item seasoned more subtle, there's a nice interplay, where both items you serve can shine in their own right.  

I made this up first thing this morning before leaving for work, as the Maharjah is working from home--so let's see what he thinks of it! 

ETA: 
Final analysis: Delicious but the ricotta salata adds an obvious tangy aspect to the saag, which in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you are expecting ultra smooth, luxurious on the tongue saag paneer, you might be surprised by the tang, so in hindsight, perhaps the haloumi would have worked better.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Not Sour (Yet!) on Sourdough: Sourdough Paratha

Sorry! (Not sorry! No time!) No photos!

Not much commentary here, to be honest.

I have yet to convince myself that I am good at Indian breads, though I did make some nice naans from Sarah Owens' Sourdough book, and I did manage to follow Tracy's paratha recipe, both with good results. And after making Tracy's parathas, I decided the next thing I would do would be to convert that recipe into a sourdough recipe due to health concerns for the Maharajah, as well as a curiosity to see if improves texture and taste--which is already quite good with Tracy's recipe.

What follows is what I threw together last night (and cooked off this morning before work--since his majesty is working from home and I wanted to provide sustenance). I used Tracy's recipe as a guide.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 C KAF Sprouted Wheat Flour (if you have whole wheat or atta, use that)
1 T white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 C Sourdough starter (this time, mine was freshly fed)
Drizzle olive oil
2-3 T warm water
Room temp butter
Oil spray

How-To:

Mix everything together, and add just enough water to make the dough come together. Let it autolyze/rest about a half hour before handling further.

On a floured surface, knead the dough a bit to build up the gluten. When dough is somewhat stiff, cut into four pieces. Roll them into balls. Flatten with palms of hand and roll out thin. 

"Shmear" (yes, shmear) the surface with butter and a very light dusting of flour. I didn't get fancy with rolling it up. Tracy employs a "pac man" type cut and then rolls it up. I'm lazy. I just rolled it up what I would call "flauta style," (only I rolled a bit tighter than an actual flauta),  pinched one end, then rolled that into a pinwheel, tucking the other end under, pressing down slightly to secure. Repeat process with remaining three balls. 

I set these in a covered dish in the fridge to rest until I am ready to cook them off.

As my nonstick pan was warming up, I rolled out the first paratha. Thin, but not too thin. Thin and as big as you can, but not so thin it rips when you pick it up is the overall guideline I'll give. Sorry, no photos. No time this morning before work! I was going to cook these off before making a batch of saag paneer (recipe to follow in another blog post).

Once pan was warmed up sufficiently (medium heat), I spritzed some oil spray and placed the paratha in. I let it cook, IDK! roughly a minute or two, and then I flipped it. I then took a clean dish towel and started to press down lightly on the edge all around the circumference of the paratha, and then press down in the middle. Flip again. repeat the dish towel routine. A rough estimate of time was about 2 minutes each side, and I flipped it about three times to ensure the paratha was cooked through.

I then did Tracy's bit after removing the paratha from the pan, where I take the edges and kind of, what I would say "rumple" the paratha to kind of open up the flakey layers.

I will know by lunchtime the results of this experiment!  

ETA:
Final analysis: Definite winner. Maharajah said the bread was, and I quote, "Nom nom." I didn't get any more specific data on it (i.e. if it were flakier, chewier, etc), before he dove right in and started devouring his lunch.  

ETA:
I did get more conclusive feedback. Maharajah said they were a bit more flakey than the previous batch I made (which was Tracy's recipe--not a sourdough recipe). So there is an added textural benefit to the sourdough!

Monday, May 01, 2017

CHALLAH-sal!

This is actually the second permutation of my sourdough hybrid challah recipe.

1. Warm milk & dissolve a nice pinch of saffron in warm milk: 
65 gm Warm Milk (I used 1% Lactaid) *OR* Apple Cider 
50 gm Sugar 

2. Then add these ingredients to milk solution: 
130 gm Sourdough Starter 
10 gm Yeast (granulated, commercial)

3. Then add and let sit five minutes: 
190 gm KAF Sprouted Wheat Flour *OR* APF 

4. Then add more wet things to the dough: 
3 Eggs 
3 Egg yolks (I saved the whites for some palaak paneer quiches to be made later in the week)
80 gm Margarine 

5. Then slowly incorporate the flours—then knead about 10 minutes to a tacky dough: 
170 gm APF 
300 gm Bread flour 

6. Let dough autolyze 30 minutes then add salt: 
10 gm Salt 

7. After adding salt then let sit for 1 hour.

8. Dust work surface with flour, knead for 12 minutes, then divide into two portions. Let rest 5 minutes. 

9. Cut each into 3 to 6 equal pieces, roll into long tubes and braid dough (on parchment paper) and into baking pans. Put in fridge for (a minimum) 24 hours.
 



10. Heat up oven to 400 (preheat clay baker). Egg wash loaves and p; sprinkle with salt or seeds of choosing. Place dough in clay baker covered.
 
11. Place in oven. Reduce temp to 350. Bake 30 minutes covered, then rotate pan, remove lid, and bake for another 20-25 minutes until golden. Let cool in clay baker.

I weighted this monster after baking, and it was 2 lbs 8 oz. More than ample to make two loaves no doubt, but my clay baker accommodates enough dough to make a monster loaf.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Multi-Tasker: Gesaria Spice Blend (Making Spice Blend Substitutions)

What Spices Are In Wat Spices? ...Wat, as in Doro Wat, that is!

Last week, I was in the process of making a batch of Doro Wat as the husband was working from home and I wanted to provide him something unusual for a hot, healthy lunch. So, imagine my surprise to realize I did not possess any Berbere spice. I thought I picked some up during my last trip to Kalustyans.  Weirdly, I had Shiro (which was also Ethiopian) but no Berbere. I decided to make do with the Shiro, and buy some Berbere for future batches.

So I bought a bottle of Berbere spice the next time I went to Whole Foods, and read the ingredients, and got ticked at myself, as the blend has so many familiar ingredients that are in Gesaria and Tandoori spice.

This then got me thinking about this Gesaria spice blend I get at my local Armenian shop.

Here's a contrast/comparison of what spices are in "wat" spices:

In conclusion:

I would substitute Gesaria for Berbere (and adjust with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger); or I would substitute Gesaria for Tandoori (or visa versa, and add allspice and black pepper, if I used Tandoori spice in lieu of Gesaria).  

Additionally, I would not substitute Berbere for Tandoori spice, given Berbere has more sweet smelling aromatic spices in it.

Gesaria spice seems to be the happy middle ground, and the spice to have on hand in bulk, a spice blend that can do (at a minimum as I can see it) TRIPLE DUTY, and can be used in Indian, Ethiopian, and Armenian recipes. 

Sy Syms used to say, "An educated consumer is our best customer." I wish I did this comparison before I bought my Berbere spice! I could have easily used my tandoori spice which I have on hand, and made additions of cayenne, cinnamon, and cloves.

ETA:

Perhaps at the time I deconstructed each spice blend, I should have put Garam Masala in the first column--as it appears that Berbere is a hybrid of both, Tandoori spices and Garam Masala.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Dim Sum & Then Some

This is a long overdue post. Overdue partially due to being sick upon arriving home, and partially procrastination/life gets in the way. And today I decided to finally put the finishing touches on this post, and upload photos from my phone, and finally send this off to the internet.

January provided me the opportunity not only to visit India again, but also to have a three day get away in Hong Kong before landing in Chennai. 

(I fell in love with this fruit plate our hotel provided for us.)

To say it was heaven, would be an understatement, and yet, it reassured me that the quality and diversity of Chinese food available to me, both, local near home, as well as in NYC, are both more than adequate facsimiles of food in Hong Kong. 

I had reservations/concerns about the quality of food I'd encounter in Hong Kong. If the food was TOO FABULOUS, I'd never want Chinese food in NY again; and if the food was UNDERWHELMING, I'd never want to return to Hong Kong

Our first meal was dinner at Hoy King Heen (located within the old Intercontinental Hotel on Mody Road). The food was delicious. Presentation lovely, and flavors so subtle, reminding me A LOT of French food I've had, both near home as well as in Paris itself. Global flavors, presented in a French manner. Just lovely.

What I ate that first meal was at, what I would call, a fancy place.  My meal consisted of hot and sour soup, and there was curried brisket stuffed inside of a pear, poached and presented with its own au jus. Subtle. Sweet. Meaty. It made me very happy--so happy, I might dare to attempt this at home. 

 

And then there was a terrine of sorts, that we shared, layered veggies and bamboo pith, an island of a terrine, served with a consomme and slivered asparagus. 

There was another meal, which was more casual, which we had at Dim Dimsum Dim Sum, and sadly no photos were snapped there. But we had an assortment of things ranging from mei fun noodles, to turnip cake, and dumplings, and two different variations of rice crepe, one stuffed with crunchy chicken, and the other (my favorite) stuffed with black mushrooms.

Another night we had dinner at  Yau Yuen Siu Tsui, a noodle shop, where we had BiangBiang Noodles, broad noodles with a chili oil type sauce, fatty pork belly, some sort of greens. Tasty, and a bit complicated to eat with the slippery plastic chop sticks they provided. We ended up seated at a table with a couple (Ray and Savita)  who actually live in Hong Kong, and we ended up having a lovely meal. Totally lost in the moment, I didn't think to either photo our meals or Ray and Savita, or friend them on social media. In India, there is this concept of "train friendships," where you hop on a train and become friends with the person sitting next to you, sharing a meal and conversation, and when you hop off at your destination, you never hear from them again. This was the Hong Kong noodle shop equivalent of that!   

Another day, we had a fancy lunch at Yan Toh Heen, located in the Intercontinental. The harbor view was lovely, the staff was attentive, friendly and helpful, and the food far exceeded our imagination. 

Items we had were:



Yan Toh Heen Superior Dumplings (Steamed scallop w/black truffles & vegetables; steamed lobster & birdsnest dumpling w/gold leaf; and steamed king crab dumpling w/green vegetables);


Baked Conpoy, Iberico Ham, and Turnip in Puff Pastry and Baked barbecued pork buns;

Roasted pork belly with crispy crust (truly remarkably crispy!);


Fried rice, wrapped and steamed in a lotus leaf;

The tea they served was very special, and floral: Osthmanthus, I believe. 


(For me, the devil is in the details--look at this generous dish of candied walnuts we were provided while we enjoyed cocktails.)
 
Everything was a delight, and it makes me sad that we are not local, as I would love to work my way through their entire menu of items. 

At some point during our trip (I lost track at this point), we were in a pinch to find a place for lunch, so we stopped in the local outpost of Saravana Bhavan for lunch. We had sambar vada, chole w/batura, and some paneer and gobi pakoras. All delicious, and exactly the same, whether we are eating this in Madras or NYC or London. Funny thing is, later on in our trip while we were in Madras, we ate at a Saravana Bhavan THERE, too, as it is our family tradition to eat there as a family once while we are visiting.
 
 

On our last day in the city, when we checked out of the hotel (our flight to India wasn't until later in the day), we went to an Indonesian restaurant for a riffstaffel--so much deliciousness, and fairly inexpensive, too.


Pictured above is what was the top tier contents of our high tea we enjoyed at the Peninsula. The experience was everything you'd expect, and the live musicians who were there were doing a classical sounding version of the theme from MASH "Suicide is Painless." (Interesting musical choice, eh?)

 Our time in Madras is very family oriented, and pictured above is the first breakfast my mother-in-law provided for us, which was (if I remember correctly) iddli upma, and it was homey and delicious.  

We managed to go out to one very fancy dinner out with my brother-in-law at a Peshawari restaurant located at the Grand Chola Hotel in the center of Chennai. The food, cocktails and wait staff were lovely--including the kitchen staff, as I was able to go in and take a tour and see my food being prepared. Beyond this, I'll reserve any further commentary about my enjoyment (or lack thereof) of what I'll call "dinnertime conversation."  I get glimpses of reality during these trips every two years, and let's just say I'm glad we don't live in Chennai, I'm too strong willed of a woman to sit and listen to someone let's just say be an unsophisticated misogynist, on a regular basis.

We left Madras around 2 a.m., back to Hong Kong, where we had a lay over long enough to have one more meal, and we managed to have a lovely lunch of egg drop soup, and this great platter of BBQ pork and goose. 

The jury is still out on what ultimately made me sick. At first we thought it was this delightful BBQ platter pictured above, but I suspect it was whatever I had on the flight home, since that was the only time in the preceeding 24 hours that I managed to eat two whole meals DIFFERENT from what my husband ate.

WIthin one hour of returning home, I commenced getting sick, and continued to be sick for the next three weeks and two different courses of antibiotics, with a total weight loss of about 13 lbs. The entire sickness baffled even my mother-in-law who commented about how careful I had been while I was in Madras--but it wasn't Madras that was kicking my ass; what DID kick my ass were the two meals I had on my Cathay Pacific flight home.


One final photo, depicting a bevvy of comestibles we procured for home. Sweets from a friend; Karela chips & appams; Bourbon creams; assortment of teas and biscuits from Hong Kong. It was a delight--and to be honest, I squirreled away the last of the Bourbon Creams--and managed to eat them last night. It is now precisely three months since returning home, and it seems like a lifetime away.  

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Prelude to a Big Cook

I've been a bit uninspired lately and doing the bare minimum for meals the last few weeks. Ive been anxious and distracted.

Anyway. Today I had the start of a root canal, and immediately after, we went grocery shopping to kill some time until I could eat. We had a nice dimsum lunch after grocery shopping, a reward for me powering through two hours and 15 minutes in the endodontist's chair.

I got home, and promptly put away groceries, decided to dispatch the packages of meat into several ziplock bags and different marinades.

 


One bag was for Tandoori chicken (which the leftovers can do double duty in a chicken curry the next day).


The Tandoori chicken marinade:

1C plain yogurt
2T tandoori spice
2T neutral oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch red food coloring

The next bag was for Teriyaki bbq pork skewers:

1T garlic paste
2T Kentuckiyaki
2T Whole Foods Pineapple Moonshine BBQ Sauce

The third bag was for Thai garlic-peanut pork skewers**:

1T garlic paste
2T chunky peanut butter
1T Gojuchang
1T Nam Pla
2T coconut milk powder
1T maple syrup
Juice of one lime

The fourth item to be prepped was ground chicken which I got to make use of some left over mushroom stuffing from a stupid easy meal I made in my slow cooker.  

The leftover mushroom stuffing was mixed with the ground chicken for what will become a Chicken Marsala Meatloaf.    The prelude to the meatloaf of course is the stupid easy slow cooker meal. Don't judge! It uses cream of mushroom soup.

Into the slow cooker, layer these items in the order indicated:

Four chicken thighs, skin-side down
One package sliced shitakes or criminis
Black pepper--liberal amounts
One can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 C dry marsala
1 Box Stovetop type stuffing
Several pats of butter or margarine on top

Lock lid, and slow cook 4.5 hours. BOOM. Delicious.

**So about those asterisks... The pork cubes will be then tossed in a zip lock bag to be coated with this product (not the Kentuckiyaki--the other stuff!):

 
I love Amazon, as I never know what items I'll encounter. And I found this product and decided to give it a try. It comes with this bland white goo you smear on your meat and then coat with The Good Table Crunchy Thai Peanut Sauce & Crust Mix for Chicken(kit).

I would think the white stuff would smell or taste coconutty or even have ANY taste at all--it was weird. So rather than use the goo (or as they say "sauce") for my pork skewers, I'm going to use just the coating--and instead marinate my pork cubes with what amounts to a satay dipping sauce.  To each their own. Eventually I'll write a review on Amazon to this effect, but thereyago. 

Note: A Taste of Thai makes a similar product (though I believe theirs doesn't have a sauce packet).

Since today was food prep day--tomorrow is the cook day. I need a nap now.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Spitzad

My cousin and I go back and forth, texting each other photos of the most-delicious thing we've created recently. And since it's Easter, he's reminding me to make a family favorite, "Spitzad". He's also making a traditional "wheat pie," but that wasn't something my grandfather was known for making--he was more well known for his rice pie. Spitzad is something my grandfather's mother would make.

Apparently, my great-grandmother would use dandelion greens in it in lieu of parsley; and my permutation on this is to use mint, as I think it pairs nicely with the lamb and the lemon juice.

A fine recipe that was my jumping off point was this recipe for Agnello Brodettato.


Here is my version:



Ingredients


1 lb lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 oz Bacon, prosciutto or pancetta, chopped
2 T Olive oil
Flour for dredging
(About) 1/4 Cup Dry Vermouth
Salt and pepper
Optional: 2 T garlic paste (for marinating)

For the egg and lemon finish:

2 whole eggs
Juice of one freshly squeezed lemon (I even used the zest of the lemon, too)
12 nice sized, fresh mint leaves, shredded

Procedure:

1. Marinate lamb cubes overnight in garlic paste.
2. Dredge cubes in flour, set aside.
3. Render out bacon in 1 T olive oil and about 1/4 cup water. Add onions, sweat them and let them cook until golden, then set aside.
4. Add 1 T olive oil to pan and start to brown lamb cubes. Once they are nicely browned, add onion mixture back to pot, then deglaze pot with vermouth, stirring up brown bits stuck to bottom of pot.
5. Add about 1 cup of water and put in a 300 degree oven (*covered*) for 2 hours -OR- cook in electric pressure cooker on high pressure for 25 minutes (letting the pot depressurize on its own).
6. Once lamb is thoroughly cooked, scramble eggs with the lemon juice, then slowly drizzle a little bit at a time, stirring constantly to keep eggs from setting, continue this process until all the egg mixture is incorporated--this helps fortify and thicken the gravy.
7. Add the mint leaves.
8. Taste. Adjust salt, and apply black pepper liberally, a nice fat pinch or a dozen twists on the pepper grinder should do it.