Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Serious Garlic Breath

Worried about these guys?
I have the ultimate defence. It involves four bulbs of garlic.. and serves four. That's right, one whole bulb of garlic each. I hereby guarantee that after consuming these breads you will be free from being pestered and tormented by the undead for at least 24 hours.

These breads are totally delicious and over the top garlicky. Perfect for dinner for two, providing you both love garlic!

Garlic and Parsley Hearthbreads
Nigella Lawson, How to be a Domestic Goddess

These are something between garlic nan and herby focaccia: dimpled, doughy and headily pungent.

500g strong white flour (I used 1/3 whole wheat and 2/3 all purpose)
7g (1 sachet) instant yeast or 15g fresh yeast
1 tablespoon salt
300-400 ml warm water
5 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing and pouring over the garlic
3 large or 4 small heads of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Bunch flat leaf parsley


Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl. Pour 300ml warm water into a measuring jug and stir in the olive oil. Mix the liquid with the dry ingredients to make a soft but firm dough, adding more liquid as needed, and knead by hand or keep in the bowl and use a mixer fitted with the dough hook and knead until smooth, supple, and full of elastic life. Form into a ball, wash out and dry up the bowl, oil it and turn the dough in it so it's lightly oiled all over. Cover the bowl and leave to rise for an hour or so until doubled in size.

While the bread is rising, trim the top off the heads of garlic, making sure they remain whole, sit them in some torn off squares of foil, dribble over some oil and wrap them loosely but with the foil tightly sealed at the edges. Cook the garlic packages for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, unwrap and let cool until you can handle them. Turn up the oven to 200c/gas mark 6. Put a good handful of parsley leaves into the bowl of the food processor and chop. Squeeze the soft garlic cloves out of their skins and into the bowl and process again. Pour some extra virgin olive oil to make a runny paste down the funnel.

When the dough's risen, punch it down and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough in 2, (I made four smaller ones and fit them onto one large baking sheet) and get out 2 sheets of baking parchment. Sit a ball of dough on each, and roll out to form a curved rectangle or a bulky oval. Then, using your hands, press out a little more. Transfer the breads on their papers to the baking sheets, cover with tea towels and leave to prove for about 25 minutes. Poke your fingers all over the tops of the breads to dimple them, and pour the parsley-garlic mixture all over the flat breads. Put the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the breads are cooked - becoming golden in parts. Drizzle over a generous amount of good extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle over some coarse sea salt.

Printed recipe found on Cookbook Addict and adapted slightly.

Garlic and Parsley Hearthbreads for I Heart Cooking Clubs *Baker's Delight*


Monday, 28 September 2009

Cookbook Review - Earth to Table

This month I had the pleasure of reviewing Earth to Table, Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm, by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann.
What first attracted me to this book was that the authors are local to me. Many of the books available that concentrate on local, seasonal foods are in climates that don't relate to me. Ontario has distinct seasons and the foods in this book are relevant to Canada (possibly excluding the far North) and the Northern United States. I figure it must be easy to eat locally and seasonally in California, doing it under a foot of snow takes some planning.
The authors have experience in some of the finest kitchens in the world and now work for the Ancaster Old Mill, where Jeff is the Executive Chef and Bettina is the Pastry Chef. They are both members of the Slow Food movement and pride their restaurant on its close connection to local and sustainable agriculture.
I love the fact that the book was written by both a chef and a pastry chef. This gives it a well rounded quality and also ensures a few wonderful bread recipes!
Earth to Table was originally a project to get all of the staff, including the authors, more interested and interactive with the food and where the food was coming from. They heartily volunteered to work at the farm that supplied the restaurant and literally got their hands dirty in their education.
The result is this gorgeous and colourful book, filled with striking photos, good humour, great recipes, and lots to think about.
I tried six recipes from Earth to Table, seasonable in the end of summer/beginning of fall time period, and all simple and delicious.

I had lots of nuts in my freezer, so I started with these Candied Nuts that are perfect to have on hand if anyone stops by for a drink or chat. They are addictive though!

This Wheat Berry Beer Bread was calling my name from the book. Flecked with whole, cooked wheat berries and made with dark ale, it is a hearty and thoroughly enjoyable loaf.

Our trip to the orchard last weekend proved to be extra bountiful as they had some fresh end of season corn which was perfect for the Corn on the Cob with Chili Lime Butter. Zingy and spicy and so flavourful, I'll never go back to plain butter on my corn!

People who know me know that I have a thing for beets. I don't know when it started, fairly recently I think. So of course I had to make the Heirloom Beet Salad with Feta and Pumpkin Seeds. Such a great combination of flavours.

I served the beet salad with this Peperonata, which I piled on the wheat berry beer bread, toasted, and smeared with a little cream cheese. Hubby just loved it. We are having the rest on poached eggs and toast tomorrow morning.

And of course I had to try a dessert! These Plum Tarts have a Frangipane filling and are wonderful warm, cold, or room temperature.

All the recipes that I tried were successful and delicious. They are simple and straightforward, designed to let the ingredients shine.

Earth to Table was fun to read and fun to cook from. The authors are very personable and make the reader feel excited to learn more about what is sustainable and local to them, and what is worth the extra miles. It is a wonderful book.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Meatball Subs on Homemade Kaisers

This weekend I made Peter Reinhart's kaiser rolls as part of The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge. These were a joy to work with as the dough was light and tender and not at all weighed down with the half whole wheat flour that I used. A preferment is made the night before and refrigerated overnight. The next day the rest of the dough is kneaded together, rises for two hours, and gets shaped into kaiser forms - in my case by rolling into snakes and knotting twice, there is actually a kaiser stamp but sadly I do not own one. Sniff.
Anyway, the knotted rolls now rise for 45 minutes, get flipped over and rise for another half hour and then bake until golden. They came out beautifully, I am so impressed with the lift I got from the dough. You can find the recipe here, on Google Books.
One thing I have noticed in the last few months of baking Peter's breads is that he uses a lot of spray oil. I am not against oil at all, but I don't like the taste of the stuff in the spray cans - which I have since learned is largely propellant. I have invested about ten bucks into an oil mister, in which I can pour my own pantry olive oil and just have to pump it a few times to get a nice mist. I am much happier with the flavour of it and consider it ten bucks well spent.

This weekend my son asked me to make him meatball subs, so I thought that would be a great way to showcase my kaisers. I know they aren't traditional sub buns, but one look at their gorgeousness and all is forgiven. I used a Rachel Ray recipe, below, for the meatballs, jarred marinara sauce, and a lovely topping of caramelized onions and beet greens.
I thought of this topping in the eleventh hour, it added a nice adult touch to our subs, very tasty indeed.

Caramelized Onions and Beet Greens - for 2
can be multiplied
1 white onion
1 red onion
olive oil
1 bunch beet greens, washed and sliced into a wide chiffonade
balsamic vinegar
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

In a well seasoned cast iron pan, plop in some olive oil and butter and heat on medium to medium low. Add onions and cook slowly until well caramelized and shrunken. Don't let them cook too fast. Just over halfway through, add beet greens, balsamic, salt and pepper. Continue to cook on low until soft. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Meatball Subs
adapted from Rachael Ray
30 Minute Meals, Classic Cravings, Food Network

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup (3 handfuls), Italian bread crumbs
1 medium onion, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons (several drops) Worcestershire sauce,
1/4 cup (a couple of handfuls) flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup (a couple of handfuls) grated Parmigiano or Romano
Coarse salt and black pepper

1 jar marinara sauce
4 large rolls
shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Place ground beef in a large mixing bowl and punch a well into the center of meat. Fill well with the egg, bread crumbs, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, Worcestershire, parsley, cheese, and a little salt and pepper. Mix up meatball ingredients until well combined, yet not over-mixed. Divide mix into 4 equal parts, roll each part into 4 balls and space equally onto a nonstick baking sheet. Place meatballs in oven and roast about 12 minutes. Break a meatball open and make sure meat is cooked through before removing from the oven.
I use a meatballer, and bake mine for longer - I like a firm meatball.
When the meatballs are cooked, throw them in a pan - like the one that had your onions in it - add the marinara and keep stirring until totally heated through.
Pile meatballs onto kaisers, toasted if you wish, and top with cheese and onion mixture. Delish!

I served the subs with a simple salad of mixed greens, little garden tomatoes and a buttermilk blue cheese dressing from Mr. Tyler Florence. It was a nice foil to the richness of the sammies.

Cherry Tomatoes with Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing
Tyler Florence, Tyler's Ultimate, Ultimate Fried Chicken, Food Network
I served my garden baby tomatoes on a bed of greens with this light and delicious dressing.

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch fresh chives, minced
2 pints yellow cherry tomatoes, or red grape tomatoes, or both
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

To prepare the dressing, place the blue cheese, buttermilk, and olive oil in a medium bowl and stir together with a fork, mashing a little to break up the cheese. Season with the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and chives. Set aside.
Wash the tomatoes, and pat dry with a paper towel. Slice each tomato in half lengthwise and season with a pinch of salt. Add the tomatoes to the dressing mixture and toss to combine then garnish with freshly ground pepper, to taste.

You are going to need napkins... lots of napkins.
Sammies and salad for Souper Sundays!
These kaisers have been Yeastspotted!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Further Adventures in Cheese

Yes our adventures in cheese continue this month with cream cheese! My cheesemaking partner Heather of Girlichef and I have been concocting that gloriously creamy spread for what I have to think is only a little more money than buying it in the store. Ok, homemade cheesemaking won't make us rich, but knowing that you have crafted the cheese in your own kitchen with pure ingredients is immensely satisfying, and you can't put a price on that, can you!

For those of you without your cheesy scorecard, I failed twice at mozzarella, made lots of great ricotta, queso blanco, and other fresh cheeses, and now present cream cheese - which I found to be especially delicous on toasted dark rye bread.

My cheesemaking tips
*I use a slow cooker to heat my milk, it is more gentle than a pot and you don't have to babysit the stove.
*I use a probe thermometer with an alarm to let me know when it has reached temperature.
*I bought some plain cotton napkins for straining - multiple layers of cheesecloth is expensive!
*Yogurt must have live cultures
*Raw milk is best... but impossible for me to find here. (I am considering starting up an affair with a dairy farmer so that I can get some...)
Make sure you are aware of health safety dangers if you buy raw milk.

Homemade Cream Cheese
The Home Creamery, Kathy Farrel-Kingsley

6 cups whole milk
4 cups heavy cream
1 cup plain cultured yogurt
1 rennet tablet
1/4 cup cool water (55-60F)

This method for making cream cheese is very easy and relatively quick and gives you creamy, rich-tasting results.

1. Combine milk, cream, and yogurt in a large pot and stir well. Warm to 100F over low heat. Check temperature with thermometer. Remove pan from heat.

2. Dissolve rennet tablet in the water in a small bowl. Add to warmed milk mixture, and stir thoroughly for 3 minutes. Cover and let stand for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until curds are firm and break away from the sides of the pan. The temperature should drop no lower than 85F. If the temperature does drop below 85F, slowly reheat to correct temperature.

3. Cut curds into 2-inch cubes. (I had nothing to cut, no firm curds - but it turned out great anyway) Let stand 15 minutes undisturbed. Line a colander with a double layer of butter muslin. Pour or, using a perforated shallow ladle, spoon the mixture into a lined strainer. Fold the excess cloth over the curds and set the colander in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate to drain 8 hours or overnight.

4. Transfer the drained cheese to a clean bowl, season to taste with salt, and stir well. The cheese is ready to be used in flavoured cheese spreads or for cooking.

Store the cheese in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Three little pots of cream cheese are we!
Check out Girlichef's cream cheese post here!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Tempura Green Beans with Chili, Garlic, and Sesame Aioli

This week for Tyler Florence Fridays, I made his Tempura Green Beans with Chili, Garlic, and Sesame Aioli. After just sitting there all summer, my green and yellow beans have finally started to produce and I thought it would be lots of fun to batter them up for this dish. Yes, I broke out the deep fryer, fall is officially here.
I love the light texture of tempura batter, it doesn't overpower what's inside. These beans were tender, crispy and delicious, and lots of fun to dip into the aioli.
For the aioli itself, I have written a half portion recipe here. The original was very tasty indeed, but made far too much, I would have had to put it on everything for days if I made that much!
Our one year of cooking from Tyler's recipes ends at the end of October, but there is still lots of time to cook along.

Tempura Green Beans with Chili, Garlic, and Sesame Aioli
adapted from Tyler Florence, Stirring the Pot

2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp minced red chili
1/4 cup store bought mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
squeeze lemon juice to taste
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tempura Green Beans
1 bunch green beans (about 1 pound), root-end trimmed
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup club soda, chilled
vegetable oil, for deep frying
kosher salt
1 lime, cut into wedges, for garnish
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro (about 4 sprigs), for garnish

For the Aioli, heat sesame oil in a small pan over low heat. Add ginger, garlic and chili and saute until fragrant and crispy. Let cool.
In a blender combine mayonnaise, sour cream, and the seasoned sesame oil. Add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Set aioli aside.

For the Tempura Green Beans, in a large bowl combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and the 1 tsp salt. Make a well in the center and add yolk. Gradually whisk in club soda, slowly working your way out from the center to form a smooth batter.
Pour 2 to 3 inches of oil into a large heavy pot and heat to 375F. Dip green beans into batter, shake off excess, and fry a few at a time for 4 to 5 minutes, until golden and puffy. Drain on paper towels; garnish with lime wedges and cilantro and serve with Aioli.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Nice and Steamy Does It.

I don't want to alarm you, but this month the Bread Baking Babes decided to bake - not with hot air, but with hot water. Yes, it's getting hot in here my friends. Steamy in fact. You are definitely going to need your bamboo steamer for this one.

Baking Soda of Bake My Day challenged us to make Chinese Flower Steam Buns this month. This was a new one for me, but I was happy to give my steamer a workout.
(And by steamer I mean this bamboo one that I got for $10 at the grocery store. I have a fancy electric one too - that I have no end of trouble with. Anyone have good luck with electric ones? Why don't they make the baskets so that you can switch them around like you can with bamboo ones?)

I would say that my buns were semi-successful. I am still new to steaming breads and pastries, and in fact have never had steamed breads and pastries anywhere else either, so I have nothing to compare them to.

The dough reminded me a bit of pasta dough. I subbed in 1/3 rice flour to 2/3 all purpose, I was pleased with the lower gluten results. I used Thai dragon chilies from my garden, with the scallions, green peppers, kosher salt and toasted sesame oil. I had a bit of a hard time getting the filling to stay inside the buns, and ended up piling some on top. No problem. I set them on wax paper trays that I punched with a hole punch, but they did stick a bit to the buns and next time I think I will use parchment. (I confess, I was being cheap!)

I served them with a dipping sauce of soy sauce mixed to taste with sweet chili sauce. The taste was very good and very hot! It turns out my garden chilies pack quite a punch. The buns were somewhat firm and chewy, and I am not sure if that is how they are supposed to be or not. Let me know if you have experience with steamed buns like these.

I am glad to have tried them, and look forward to trying them again soon.
Xiang Cong Hya Juan Bao
(Chinese flower steam buns)
Global Baker by Dean Brettschneider
makes 10 buns

"Everywhere you go in China you see people eating steam buns, also known as mantong. Typically Chinese, a sweet bread is combined with a savoury filling, such as red bean paste and barbecued pork, but take care and avoid using too much filling or the bun will fall apart during the rising and steaming stage. The baking powder helps to open up the texture and gives a little tenderness to the eating quality of the buns. If you can, use imported Chinese flour from a specialist Asian food market or store".

300 g Chinese flour (use low gluten flour such as cake flour)
15 g sugar
15 g butter
good pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
150 ml chilled water, placed in the refrigerator overnight

rice bran oil, for brushing on dough
40 g finely chopped spring onions or chives
25 g finely chopped red chillies
salt to taste

To make the dough, place all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and, using your hands, combine to form a very, very firm dough mass. Don't be tempted to add any water or the steam buns will be flat after steaming.
Place the dough on a work surface and, using your rolling pin, roll out to a thin strip, fold this in half and roll again. Repeat this 10-15 times with a 30 second rest in between each time. This is a way of mixing a very firm dough, the dough will start to become smooth and elastic as a result of the rolling process.
Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warmish place (23-25C) for 15 minutes. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece to a 25cm square. {{this is strange...he never states that you divide the dough in this stage, so use and roll the one ball of dough you have}}
Brush the dough surface lightly with oil and sprinkle the chopped chives and chillies evenly over the dough. Season with salt.
Fold the dough in half and then cut into 2.5cm strips so that you end up with 10 folded strips. Stretch each strip and, starting at the folding edge, twist the two pieces of each strip over each other to form a rope.
Take the twisted rope and tie into a double knot, tucking the loose ends underneath. Place each bun with ends facing down on a 5cm square of non-stick baking paper** and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Proof for approximately 30-45 minutes in a warm place.

Bring a wok or saucepan of water to the boil with a bamboo steamer sitting on top. Remove the bamboo steamer lid and place the buns on the paper in the steamer 3-4 cm apart to allow for expansion during steaming. Replace the steamer lid and steam for 20 minutes. Repeat until all the buns have been steamed and are firm to the touch.
Note: you might want to adjust the steaming time from 10-20 minutes, keeping the water at a low blub.

If you haven't visited already, please drop in and see Baking Soda's Chinese Flower Steam Buns!
If you would like to bake steam along with us this month and earn a Bread Baking Buddies badge, the Buddy date is set for Monday 5 October, please leave Baking Soda your link through email (bakemyday AT gmail DOT com) or in the comments on her site here, and she'll be happy to visit and send you your badge.

These buns have been Yeastspotted!
The Bread Baking Babes

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Banana Breakfast Ring

One of the benefits for a Canadian cooking from Nigella Lawson's cookbooks is the fact that the measurements are in metric. Ever accommodating, we tend to just use whatever is put before us, but it is nice to actually be able to use our own national system of measurement.
One of the best ways to cope with juggling the two systems - and yes, I know there are more than just imperial and metric but those are the main ones in North America - is to have a good quality digital scale that will read one or the other or both. In fact, I have become so enamoured of scaling my ingredients that I prefer it to dealing with cups and such. Less to wash too.

My scale was put to good use, as were my spotty bananas, with this simple and delicious Banana Breakfast Ring. I love how light it is, and only mildly sweet. I subbed about one third of the flour for whole wheat pastry flour and was rewarded not only with the virtuous feeling that such subs offer, but a light and tender crumb.

Banana Breakfast Ring
Nigella Lawson, Feast

Almost all you need for this is a bowl, a fork and some nearly gone-off bananas.
There's just something about this gently fragrant, very plain pale cake that makes it the perfect breakfast slice. Eat still warm, with maybe some maple syrup drizzled over or smeared with Nutella if you must, but there's no need to add anything other than a mug of tea or coffee or, indeed, glass of milk. - Nigella

450g (3 medium) bananas
60ml corn oil or other oil
3 eggs
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp real vanilla extract
200g caster sugar
325g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180C and oil a 24cm, 1.5 litre ring mould. (I used a Bundt pan)
Mash the bananas, and add the oil, eggs, lemon juice and zest, vanilla and sugar. Whisk everything together and then fold in the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Pour into the oiled tin and bake for 40 minutes. Let the ring sit for about 5-10 minutes before turning it out.

Banana Breakfast Ring for *Family Favourites* week.


Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Jalapeno Mint Jelly

Every year I promise myself I will be a better gardener. I faithfully read gardening magazines, and plan my future crops while the snow is still piled up on the windowsills. Come May, I am raring to go and plant up herbs and tomatoes and hot peppers to keep my gardens of evergreens company.
Something happens between spring and autumn though. I don't know if it is the mosquitoes of July, the high heat and humidity of the dog days of summer, or just plain laziness. (I am thinking it's likely a combination of the three) But at some point I slow down on the weed pulling, the plant trimming, the care and attention that other gardeners seem to find great pleasure in. I have no excuse, my property is tiny and my gardens even more so.

By the end of the summer the mint has laid any and all of its neighbours to waste (yes, I know, I should have put it in a pot - but that ship sailed years ago) and now sports fuzzy flowers that the bees seem to love. Ok, at least I make someone happy. I do feel obligated to use some of my bounty though, more than for garnishing plates, if only to justify its existence.

That's why I was so excited to find this recipe for Jalapeno Mint Jelly on my friend Pam of Sidewalk Shoes's site. I can bottle up some of my summer bounty and nibble on it when snowbound and dreaming of the next far-away summer.

Jalapeno Mint Jelly
The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving: Over 300 Recipes to Use Year-Round
as found on Sidewalk Shoes
Makes 4 cups

1 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint, divided
1 1/2 cups water
3 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
1 pouch liquid fruit pectin

Bring 1 1/2 cups mint and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 30 minutes to steep. Strain through a lined sieve pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible; discard mint.
Combine mint liquid, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice and peppers in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a full boil over high heat and boil hard for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in pectin and remaining mint.
Ladle into sterilized jars and process in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes. (There's more to processing than this, so please read complete canning instructions!)
Mmm, sweet and utterly delightful on crackers with brie. I wonder what I will grow next year?

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Buffalo Chicken Caesar Salad

This salad has classic pub flavours of buffalo chicken and a lemony caesar vinaigrette. My recipe serves two dinner sized salads, but can easily be multiplied. Perfect with a cold beer!
Cook up a couple of extra chicken breasts at the same time, they are handy to have in the fridge for quick sammies, salads, pizzas or pastas.

The Big Buffalo Chicken Caesar Salad

Two pasta bowls or plates
Romaine or baby greens, two nice big piles
One chicken breast, roasted or grilled and cooled, shredded and tossed in your favourite wing sauce - I like Frank's Red Hot.
4 pieces of bacon, sliced into 1" pieces and crisped
Parmesan cheese, grated
Green onion, sliced
Handful of baby cherry tomatoes
Croutons, homemade or store-bought
Dressing, below

Lemony Caesar Dressing

Juice of one lemon
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
couple of dashes hot sauce
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Blend lemon juice, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce in a blender. Slowly add olive oil with blender running. Season to taste with S&P. Store any leftovers in the fridge.

Pile some greens up in each bowl or plate. Sprinkle with green onions and cherry tomatoes. Add grated Parmesan and then layer on chicken pieces. Drizzle with dressing and scatter on bacon and croutons. Garnish with parsley.

Big Buffalo Chicken Caesar Salad for Souper Sunday!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Steak, Chimichurri, Salsa, and a Frog

This week for Tyler Florence Fridays, I made his Argentinian Gaucho Steak with Chimichurri Sauce and Salsa Criolla. His recipe calls for skirt steak, which is grilled and then sliced thinly and fanned out for presentation. I found a couple of rib steaks on sale and used them, leaving them intact. The steak is also served with grilled red peppers and rustic bread. The whole meal was delicious, and I served it on a bed of greens to absorb the wonderful juices and sauce. For me, the star of the dish was the chimichurri sauce. I don't think I have had one before and we just loved it. Definitely worth having on hand in the fridge, I imagine it would go great with any number of grilled meats and veggies.
The meat, peppers and bread were just drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper before grilling to taste.
Chimichurri Sauce
Tyler Florence, Eat This Book

6 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt
1 jalapeno, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 handfuls of fresh oregano, finely chopped
Juice of 2 limes
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp crushed black peppercorns

Combine the garlic and the salt on a cutting board and grind together to a paste with the back of a chef's knife. Put the paste into a bowl and stir in the jalapeno, vinegar, parsley, oregano, and lime juice. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and the crushed peppercorns. Set aside at room temperature to allow the flavours to marry. (I blitzed it in the food processor)
Salsa Criolla

2 medium onions (I used 2/3 of a big sweet onion)
3 ripe tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 handfuls of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Chop the onions and tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and put into a bowl, add the garlic and parsley and season generously with salt and pepper. Pour in the vinegar and oil and mix well to incorporate the ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Serve at room temperature.
Who goes there?
I must confess, I have a little help in the garden. No, no lawn service, no eager young student making topiaries out of my boxwood, not even child to pull the occasional weed. What I do have is a green frog who sits on guard in my herb pot. Never again will my small leaf basil and French tarragon be plundered while I am unawares. This little guy has taken it upon himself to see that these herbs get the respect that they deserve. Who guards your herbs?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Peter Reinhart's Italian Bread

This week I baked Peter Reinhart's Italian bread from The Bread Baker's Apprentice. The bread was gorgeously light and fluffy in the center, and crusty on the outside. The recipe can be found on pages 172-174 of his book. If you haven't picked it up already - it is a staple book for anyone interested in bread baking.
Like most of his recipes, this takes two days to make, but the time is largely unattended.

I find the two day recipes actually easier than the one day, as time is doing much of the work for you.
We are about one third of our way into the BBA Challenge, lots of great breads to go!

I love a fluffy white bread like this as a comfort food. What is your favourite kind of bread?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Nigella's Trashy Watermelon Daiquiris

I love to read Nigella Lawson's cookbooks. She writes like she speaks and you can hear the singsong cadence of her voice in every paragraph. The books can definitely be read like novels, and I am thrilled that Nigella was voted to be the first cook that we feature in our new cooking group, I Heart Cooking Clubs.
The theme of our first week is Party Treats, I decided to bring on the booze. And there is some serious booze in these cocktails. No wonder Nigella always looks so happy.
Why do I refer to them as trashy? They are in the Trashy chapter of the cookbook, I kid you not. Anyway, they are tasty and pack a punch. What else could you ask for?
Watermelon Daiquiri
Nigella Lawson, Nigella Bites
The trashy cook should not be stoveside too long without a drink in hand. And preferably this drink. You don't have to go overboard with the postmodern, anxiously ironic bit: this is ambrosia for even the good-taste gods.
But if on the other hand you're concerned that commendation might detract from its vulgar charm, just make it and drink it, wearing mules to match.
The watermelon doesn't come frozen, by the way, engaging thought though that is: just buy it, slice it, chunk it, stuff it into suitable bags and stash them vibrantly in the freezer.

Per Drink:
100 ml (or to taste) white rum - Nigella lists Bacardi. I used the gigantic jug of Havana that my daughter brought back from Cuba for me. By the way, this is an enormous amount of rum!
1 heaped tablespoon icing sugar
approx. 10 x 5cm cubes of frozen watermelon
Put all the above ingredients in a blender and blitz to a pinkly foamy puree. Pour into two waiting marguerita glasses - and tip back, bangles jangling.
Remember the rules here at Casa des Puppies. No driving, not even after one drink.

It is perfectly acceptable, however, to dance barefoot in your backyard and sing Peggy Lee's Is That All There Is. Not that I do that...