Monday, June 29, 2020

Whole Wheat Honey Bread

It's been years since I've baked bread. I used to love giving away challah loaves and baking sandwich loaves, but I stopped when everyone started eliminating carbs and gluten from their meals. It's hard to eat an entire loaf by myself, although I have done that with a few baguettes in France :) 

Since I'm cooking and baking more lately, my friends have sent me lots of yeast and organic whole wheat flour, so it was time to revisit breadmaking. Like an old friend, it was a sweet warm reunion!

I used the AllRecipes whole wheat bread recipe which had over 2000 positive reviews. The online recipe allows you to decide how many servings you wish to make, so I halved it to make one bigger loaf (the original recipe makes 3 loaves). I didn't modify it much so here's the pictorial process:


The recipe didn't specify, but I warmed the water to body temperature (like a baby bottle), then dissolved the honey into the water before adding the yeast, stirring until everything was dissolved.
I added the unbleached white flour and stirred with a spoon until mixed.
 After covering with a towel and letting it rest for 30 minutes, it grew into this: 
I added the melted butter (I used salted Kerry Gold), honey (I used a local artisan raw rose honey), salt (Guerande fleur de sel), organic wheat flour flour, and kneaded in the bowl adding about another 1 cup of whole wheat flour as I kneaded for about 10-15 minutes until the dough was smooth and elastic. Then I placed it in the buttered baking pan.
 until it rose over the 1" above the baking pan that the recipe suggested.
I baked for about 50 minutes, not the 25 or 30 the recipe recommended, at 350, covering the top with foil to prevent over browning. All ovens vary and I had obviously set mine on a rack that was too high and next time I may turn off the convection feature so that it browns more evenly.
 But the loaf turned out to be quite good for a first try after over a decade :)
Bit of an air bubble was good nook to nestle some extra butter :)

Monday, June 22, 2020

Maya Angelou Quote


If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.

Monday, June 15, 2020

First Focaccia

Now that flour is finally back on the grocery store shelves and a friend sent me 2 lbs of yeast, my first foray was focaccia :) I followed Daniele Uditi's recipe with just two variations.

This is the active dry yeast and water dissolved and rested for 8 minutes.
 I added the flour and used a wooden spoon.
I miscalculated my start time, so after the 1st hour proofing at room temperature, I ended up letting the dough proof in the refrigerator for 24 hours (otherwise I would have had to wake up at 3 am to knead and proof for another few hours).
After taking the dough out of the fridge, I slowly added in the flour, salt, and olive oil, mixing by hand for 9 minutes. It was a work out! After proofing again, folding, and repeating 3 times, it was finally time to let it proof in the sheet pan with LOTS of olive oil!
As you can see there was a sea of olive oil in the pan which pooled a bit at the corners.
I used a spoon to scoop it up and sprinkle it over the top into my finger tip punches.
Because I had plenty of fresh rosemary from the garden, I chopped some up and sprinkled it on top along with the fleur de sel.
After all the time in preparation, the actual baking time was only 15 minutes!
My first focaccia was enough to share with two neighbors warm from the oven! It was wonderfully light, savory, and delicious!

Monday, June 8, 2020

Fudgy Brownies

Now that flour is back on the grocery shelves, I thought it was time to make some brownies :) It's been so long since I've made brownies, I went looking online for a recipe, and chose the one from Inspired Taste. I loved their blueberry muffin recipe and I liked this recipe, so I think they will be on my recipe search list now for anything sweet.

I followed their recipe exactly except for the amount of sugar (I halved it) because I generally like far less sugar than most recipes suggest. The batter was beautifully thick and looked good enough to eat unbaked!
After allowing it to cool completely in the pan then in the freezer, it was much easier to cut!
The end result was more like fudge than brownie, but the flavors were fantastic and I love fudge, so I consider this a lovely brownie!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Ricebox

The Stay at Home mandate for Los Angeles has some silver linings, like restaurants that are normally not delivering to West Los Angeles, making deliveries (and not via an app). I've been wanting to make a trip to DTLA to eat at Ricebox for some time, but did not have the energy to battle DTLA traffic and parking. 

Since the change in how restaurants do business, many are now offering curbside pick up and/or delivery with their own staff (in this case for no extra charge on orders over $50), so when I saw I could get delivery not having to use an app, I immediately DM'd them on Instagram and placed an order for delivery! They take Venmo, but will also take a CC# over the phone, which is what I did. I ordered one of every rice box (except the duck which is only available for pick up or app delivery on Sat). They deliver to the West side, SF Valley, and SG Valley about once a week, although the day may change.

They use Duroc pork so I had to get the triple roasted porchetta crackling with five spice for $12.75, served over jasmine rice with a side of steamed vegetables and pickles. You can sub brown rice, quinoa, salad, or fried rice for slightly more. It was still a bowl of crunchy crackly deliciously spiced pork belly after it was delivered! I think this was my favorite, but since I haven't tried the duck yet, I will reserve that designation until I have eaten their duck!
The soy sauce chicken for $11.95 is made with Mary's chicken and comes with the usual sides, and the ginger scallion sauce was fantastic!
The OG pork char siu for $10.95, again made with Duroc pork had the perfect tenderness, char, and sweet savory glaze.
The mapo eggplant for $10.50 was just the perfect balance of spice with tender eggplant and the usual accompaniments.
I also ordered the beef curry for $11.50, but I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture of it before I ate it! It was the perfect comfort curry with chunks of carrot, potato, and a warm curry that was not spicy at all.

After tasting all their rice box offerings, I can't wait to try their duck, made with Mary's duck (of course) so a trip to DTLA may be in my future...

Monday, May 18, 2020

Garlic Eggplant

The first time I tasted garlic eggplant was at a vegetarian restaurant in Santa Cruz. Even though I had grown up eating Chinese food, this particular dish was never made either at my house nor in any of the places where I had eaten all over NYC. The version I tried was tasty enough that I started ordering it more often in places where it was offered, but it never had quite enough garlic for me, so I started making my own and adding a few twists :)

I start by browning on medium high heat about 1 tsp chopped fresh ginger in some oil (use a high smoke point oil use grapeseed or peanut, but olive will do if you watch the heat).
I add one whole medium sized chopped onion and one head of garlic (peeled, ends cut off and any root in the center removed). You may of course use less, but then I would just call this an eggplant recipe;)
If you want to add some heat, add in either your favorite dried chili or pepper flakes to taste at this point. 

Once the onions are translucent, add 1 large peeled and chopped eggplant. You don't have to peel your eggplant, but I find the skins can be tough unless you are using Japanese eggplants (if you are, use about 6 instead of 1 large one). Stir and lower heat to medium.
I love the organic vegetable better than Bouillon, so I add about 1 tbsp dissolved with 1/2 to 3/4 c of hot water to the cooking vegetables.
Let the vegetables cook until soft and the eggplant becomes soft, stirring and adding salt and white pepper (black is ok if you don't have white). When the eggplant is fully cooked (taste one to know for sure), add 1 tsp of premium oyster sauce and stir thoroughly.
Just before serving add in some chopped scallions or chives for color and freshness. Served with any grain like kasha, rice, or quinoa, this is a great vegetarian meal :)

Monday, May 11, 2020

Quick and Easy Blueberry Muffins

I found a simple and very tasty blueberry muffin recipe on Inspiredtaste.com that may now be my favorite variation of this classic treat. I changed it slightly (of course), but you may enjoy the original, so the link to it is here.

It really only requires the ingredients, one big bowl, a whisk, a fork, some measuring spoons and cups, and an 1 or 2 cup liquid measuring cup.

All the dry ingredients get whisked together; I adjusted the sugar down to 1/2 cup instead of 3/4 cup (I used my vanilla bean infused raw sugar).
 The wet ingredients go into a liquid measuring cup (I used oat milk)
 that you whisk together
 then you add the vanilla to the whisked wet ingredients and use a fork to combine with the dry ingredients, being careful not to overmix.
 Fold in the blueberries, either fresh or frozen (I used ones I had frozen myself).
 The only other variation I made was I coated the blueberries with some flour so they wouldn't sink to the bottom of the muffins.
The finished product was absolutely FABULOUS! Crunchy top with the light sprinkle of sugar, and very tender crumb from the oil. Since they freeze well, I may have to make a double batch next time :)

Monday, May 4, 2020

Ratatouille

Going grocery shopping only once every 10-14 days now, so cooking up fresh vegetables that will last for a few meals has meant substituting some ingredients for classic recipes when there aren't good fresh choices. 

Cooking one big pot that lasts for several meals is also a great timesaver, especially since the flavor gets better the next day. The following recipe serves 4-6 depending on whether you are eating it as a side dish or a main course.

Ratatouille has always been a classic when tomatoes are season, but I found that using canned San Marzano tomatoes makes for a great substitute when the only fresh ones have no aroma and are as hard as a rock. All the other ingredients were available, so that was the only substitution I made :)

I always salt my cut up my eggplant in a colander in the sink for about 30 minutes before cooking to alleviate any bitterness. Always rinse thoroughly before using!

Equal amount of chopped zucchini, cut into equal sized pieces; for a large eggplant count on 2-3 large zucchini.
 Depending on your love of onions, 1-2 onions also chopped to similar size.
I always use a minimum of 4 cloves of garlic, but of course you can adjust to your preference;)
I use one red/orange/yellow bell pepper for a bit of color and slightly different texture in the finished dish. 
I add one can of San Marzano tomatoes (about 1.75 lbs) if great fresh ones are not available. I would say if your choice is mediocre fresh or San Marzano canned, go for the canned. I usually cut in half or quarters before adding to the pan.
Sauté the onions in olive oil until translucent over medium heat in a big 6-8 quart stock pot. Add in the garlic and red bell pepper, stirring until softened. 

Add your preference of 1 tb dried herbs, e.g., herbs de Provence, thyme, marjoram, and a bay leaf or two. It may seem like a lot but there are many vegetables in this dish and the tomatoes will become a tomato sauce during the cooking process to absorb the flavors.

Add the zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes, one at a time in that order, stirring and cooking a bit after each addition. Once all the vegetables are in the pot and softened, you may lower the heat to medium low or low and simmer for about 1 hour. If you have Pernod, you may add a tablespoon ;)

Add salt and pepper to taste after the hour because the acidity of the tomatoes will change as they cook down. If it is slightly too acidic, add 1/4-1/2 tsp of sugar (no sugar substitutes!) 
The bubbling pot of vegetables will make you want to eat it all at once, but it gets better the next day, and is great over pasta, rice, in an omelette, or as a side dish to any protein.

Bon Appétit!



Monday, April 27, 2020

Eric Ripert's French Toast

Learning how professional chefs make meals at home has been one of the bonuses of the California Stay Home Order. One of my favorite chefs is Eric Ripert, and one of my favorite breakfast treats is French Toast so of course I had to try his method!

I started with organic thick sliced gourmet white bread from Trader Joe's. Since it was fresh, I dried it out in a toaster oven set at 150 F for about 15 minutes, so that it wasn't toasted, buy had a slightly "dry" top texture like stale bread.

I spooned oat milk all over the slice
then I spooned a beaten egg over the milk 
(it takes about 1 beaten egg per 2 slices of bread)
 then I spooned some raw vanilla sugar over the egg.
I melted butter in a nonstick pan over medium low heat and placed the prepared bread slices face down in the pan. While you are cooking the prepared side, repeat the mild, egg, and sugar process on the exposed side. Turn over after a few minutes.There is no need for syrup since the sugar caramelizes, but you may want to add some fresh berries or a side of bacon or sausage :)

Bon appétit!