21 March 2020: Tuscan Soup With White Beans

 

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Ever since we learned our granddaughter has an egg sensitivity, we have been eating more plant-based and vegan meals. Recently I discovered a really great website, A Couple Cooks. Sonja and Alex, the authors of this blog have some terrific ideas for meals – some vegan, some vegetarian, some whole food – as well as other information about travel and lifestyles.

As I write this post, we are feeling the beginning effects of the COVID-19 pandemic here in Massachusetts. We are hunkering down so as not to contribute to the spread of the virus, and so a little comfort food seemed in order. This tuscan bean soup was warm and comforting and easy to make. The only change needed was to substitute celery for fennel due to being unable to purchase fennel when I shopped. Still delicious!

Tuscan Soup With White Beans

Recipe from A Couple Cooks website

Ingredients:

  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 2 bunches Tuscan kale or other dark leafy greens
  • 2 15-oz cans cannellini beans
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes (San Marzano if possible)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (or canned broth)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Pecorino cheese to garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Chop the fennel bulb (reserve some springs for a garnish). Wash and roughly chop the kale. Drain and rinse the cannellini beans.
  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat, the saute the fennel for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juices and simmer for 8 minutes.
  4. Add the vegetable broth, water, and cannellini beans. Bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce to a simmer and add the red pepper flakes, dried basil, smoked paprika and kosher salt.
  6. Add the kale and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Serve garnished with grated Pecorino (if not going vegan) and fennel springs.

 


05 Jan 2020:Harvest Grain Bread

DSC_0041-1This year, my – or is it our – intention is to eat more whole grains. Since I’m mostly committed to baking my own bread as well, I’ve had to do some research into whole grain baking. It is different!

King Arthur Flour maintains a great source of recipes, supplies and tips for all levels of bakers. If you haven’t been on their site recently, take a look – there’s sure to be something you’ll be motivated to bake.  While this recipe calls for KAF’s Harvest Grain Blend, you certainly can blend your own concoction of seeds and grains according to taste.

This bread takes about 11 hours from start to finish, so mixing up the dough the night before and doing the bake in the morning is probably the most efficient way to make it.

No Knead Harvest Grains Bread from King Arthur Flour 

Ingredients

  • 3 1/4 cups (390g) High-gluten flour or King Arthur unbleached AP flour
  • 1 cup (113g) white whole wheat flour OR 100% whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup (149g) KAF Harvest Grains Blend
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 3/4 cup (397g) cool water

Method

  • Using your hands or a mixer (what I used) at slow speed, mix all the ingredients until the flour has been incorporated and a sticky dough forms. Continue to knead the dough gently for 2 to 3 minutes longer until it is somewhat smooth.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest at room temperature overnight, or for at least 8 hours; it’ll become bubbly and rise quite a bit.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and form it into a round loaf to fit a 9″ to 10″ round lidded baking crock. (I used my heavy dutch oven)

—— Here’s where I did things differently (my suggestions follow)

  • Place the dough in the lightly greased crock, smooth side up. Cover with the lid and let rise at room temperature for about 90 minutes. It won’t appear to rise upwards that much; rather, it’ll seem to settle and expand.
  • Put the bread in a cold oven, and set the oven temperature to 450°F.
  • Bake the bread for 45 to 50 minutes, then remove the lid and continue to bake for another 5 to 15 minutes, until it becomes deep brown in color, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers about 205°F.
  • Remove the bread from the oven, turn it out onto a rack, and cool before slicing.

DSC_0037-1So as it turns out, I’ve had good results baking the bread in the same way that I’ve baked the No Knead White Bread previously posted on this blog.  So if you are willing to trust the force, here’s how I finished things up:

  • Put a heavy enamel, lidded dutch oven into the cold oven (you may need to remove a rack to make sure things fit) and fire up the oven to 500 degrees F.  While the oven preheats, shape the dough into a 9″ – 10″ circle and, seam side down, place it on parchment paper. The paper will become a sling for lifting the dough into the dutch oven so it needs to be about an 18 inch square.  I usually put the dough/parchment sling in a fry pan just to help the dough keep its shape.
  • Once the oven reaches 500, turn it down to 425 degrees F. Remove the lid from the dutch oven, lower the parchment sling/dough into the dutch oven, replace the lid and bake for 25 minutes.
  • At the end of 25 minutes, remove the lid from the dutch oven. Continue to bake lid-less for 10-15 minutes.
  • At the end of THIS baking period, carefully lift the bread by the parchment and place it on a wire rack to cool. Good luck waiting until it’s cool enough.

30 Dec 2019: Back to Basics: No Knead Bread

DSC_0022-1I used to bake bread all of the time and, for a while, I was the proud owner of a bread bucket courtesy of my mother-in-law which we used to turn out several loaves of bread at a time.

While bread-making doesn’t intimidate me, I fell out of the habit sometime when I went back to school and only occasionally made bread until I discovered this recipe for No Knead Bread which was originated by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery. And while the original is delicious, the improved loaf suggested by Cook’s Illustrated in this post on Epicurious is genius. Who knew adding beer and vinegar would make bread better?

This is not a recipe that can be rushed. I usually start the dough about 18 hours before I’d like to bake, which can be a challenge for busy schedules! But trust me, the end result is well worth the planning.

Cook’s Illustrated Almost No Knead Bread

Downloaded from Epicurious.com (October 1, 2015)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (15 ounces) all purpose or bread flour (I used King Arthur unbleached)
  • 1/4 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (7 ounces) water at room temp
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (3 ounces) mild flavored lager (Budweiser for the win)
  • 1 Tbs. white vinegar

Method:

  1. Whisk flour, yeast and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms.
  2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.
  3. Lay 12- to 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.
  4. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch long, 1/2-inch deep slit along top of dough.
  5. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer.
  7. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

A Quebecois Treat for Christmas

DSC_0017-1Baked from “Sap Happy” written by OLIVER SCHWANER-ALBRIGHT. New York Times, March 2, 2008

I’m sure there are other more traditional sweets from my husband’s Québécois heritage that we could roll out for the holidays, but this one was a special family request: Sugar Pie (always Maple) or Tarte au Sucre.  It ticks all of the boxes for Québécois delights – maple sugar and fat, in this case butter and cream.

While we’ve both enjoyed my mother-in-law’s recipes for sugar pie – she had two – but this one from Chantal Séquin seems to be more a more traditional take on the tarte au sucre we’ve sampled in Montréal, so we went with that this holiday season.

Joyeaux Noël!

Tarte au Sucre (Maple Syrup Pie) based on a recipe by Chantal Séquin

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 5 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup maple syrup, preferably medium dark

Crème fraîche, for serving.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Make the crust (we’ve also used a good quality pre-made crust, especially handy for those who are pastry-challenged) by combining the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Cut the butter into the flour with a fork or pastry blender until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Sprinkle a tablespoon of ice water at a time over the dough, lifting and tossing it with the fork. When it begins to come together, gather the dough, press it into a ball and then pull it apart. If it crumbles in your hands, it needs more water. Add a teaspoon or two more water, as needed.

2. Flatten the ball of dough and roll between two sheets of plastic wrap into a circle 10 inches in diameter. Remove the plastic and lay the dough into a 9-inch tart pan, press into place and remove excess dough. Place in the freezer.

3. Meanwhile, make the filling by beating the eggs in a bowl. Gradually whisk in the flour. Add the cream and maple syrup and whisk until combined.

Pour into the crust-lined pan. (Helpful hint: protect the crust edges with foil to prevent burning). Cook until the middle still jiggles but is solid, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with crème fraîche.

Serves 12.

 

 


05 December 2018: More Classic Holiday Cookies – Natale Cookies

2018-Dec-05_stuff_2793Unbelievably, this year, I’ve been drawn away from chocolate cookies toward citrus-y cookies! I know, there are Peanut Butter Blossoms in my (baking) future, but so far I’ve been working on something entirely different.

Again, The Boston Globe’s Classic Holiday Cookie article is my source. Three bakes in and every single one has been a winner!  Today’s recipe for Natale Cookies comes from Linda Marino and is a great nod to my ethnic heritage. Can Feast of the Seven Fishes be far behind?

Natale Cookies

adapted by Linda Marino

Ingredients for cookies:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract

Ingredients for Icing

  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons milk (I used Flor d’Sicilia in place of OJ – about 1/2 tsp; and substituted the other tsp of OJ with milk)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons rainbow nonpareils or sprinkles or colored sugar, for decorating

Method

  1. In a bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder to blend.
  2. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese at medium speed until well combined. Add thesugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla and orange extracts.
  3. With the mixer set on its lowest speed, blend in the flour mixture just until no white patches show. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours or until the dough is cold.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. On lightly floured counter, pinch off a generous teaspoon of dough. Roll it under your palm into a rope about 6 inches long. Gently knot the rope to create a round. Set knots on the baking sheets with the ends tucked under, about 1 inch apart. Continue rolling and shaping knots until all the dough is used.
  6. Bake the cookies for 20 minutes, or until they are set and starting to brown. Transfer the parchment sheets to wire racks; leave the cookies to cool.
  7. Make the icing: Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of the milk and 1 teaspoon of the orange juice and stir until the mixture forms a smooth icing. Add the remaining milk and orange juice and stir until the icing falls easily from a spoon.
  8. Remove the parchment sheets from the wire rack. Set 1 rack on a rimmed baking sheet.
  9. Pick up a cookie, turn it upside down, and dip it into the icing. Set it right side up on the wire rack. Continue until all the cookies are dipped. Sprinkle with nonpareils, sprinkles, or colored sugar. Leave to cool completely

29 November 2018: Laura Raposa’s Coconut Orange Macaroons

2018-Nov-29_Fournightsaweek_2767In general, I don’t keep a lot of home-baked sweets in our house. I do so, not as a lofty statement against sugar consumption. I do it because I love them too much! But after Thanksgiving has gone by, there is some strange phenomenon that occurs: I feel the need to bake cookies.

I like to make something either from my heritage or childhood, or something that might not be the usual. Oh, I like sugar cut-outs (and I do have my Aunt Eleanor’s killer recipe for cut-out cookies using Jello as one of the sugars), and I enjoy decorating, but I love to find a cookie with an unusual taste or texture.

Sheryl Julian, the Boston Globe’s excellent food editor, recently published this article about Classic Holiday Cookies in the Sunday Globe magazine. So far, I’ve made 2 of these recipes and plans are materializing to bake the others. Today I made Laura Raposa’s Orange-Coconut Macaroons and promptly froze them for our holiday dessert plate.  The fragrance of orange completely blew me away.

Laura Raposa’s Orange Coconut Macaroons (as adapted by Sheryl Julian)

Makes about 22

Ingredients

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Grated rind of 1 navel orange or scant 1/4 teaspoon or orange oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flaked, unsweetened coconut
  • 3 1/4 cups flaked, sweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) bittersweet chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (Either my oven is too hot or this temperature was a bit too much for the cookies to bake 18 minutes; monitor and turn down as needed)
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In an electric mixer, combine the condensed milk, egg whites, vanilla, orange rind or oil, salt, and unsweetened and sweetened coconut. Beat on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, until thoroughly incorporated.
  4. Scoop 2 tablespoons of the batter (a small ice cream scoop works well) onto a baking sheet, and continue making mounds, leaving 1 inch between them. Dip your fingers into a bowl of cold water and shape the dough into mounds, smoothing out any feathery edges.
  5. Bake the macaroons for 18 to 20 minutes, or until they are light golden brown. Let them cool on the baking sheets.
  6. Meanwhile, fill a saucepan with several inches of water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl that will fit neatly into the pan without touching the water. Melt the chocolate in the bowl, stirring occasionally.
  7. Remove the chocolate from the heat and wipe the bottom of the bowl dry. Dip a fork into the melted chocolate and drizzle it over the macaroons in a crisscross pattern. (I skipped this, but for gifting or to be fancy, it sounds delicious).
  8. Let the chocolate cool on the cookies. Use a wide metal spatula to remove the cookies from the baking sheet.
  9. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

31 October 2018: Exploring Apéritif

2018-Oct-30_FourNightsAWeek_2704_edited-1Apéritif – just the word by itself sounds elegant and refined. We could all use a little elegance these days, so after discovering an entire book dedicated to this (nightly) ritual in a recent New York Times article (The 19 Best Cookbooks of Fall 2018), it was time to start expanding my pre-dinner horizons. 

The book recommended in the Times, Rebekah Peppler’s Apéritif: Cocktail Hour the French Way, suggests pre-dinner cocktails according to the seasons. As it is Autumn here in New England, we’ve started to work our way through beginning with this delicious drink named “Adonis”.

À ta santé!

Adonis

  • 1 1/2 oz. dry, light sherry (I used Fino)
  • 1 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • orange peel

In a mixing glass or shaker filled with ice, combine the sherry, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Use a cocktail stirrer to stir for 15 seconds until the cocktail is very cold. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and pinch the orange peel to express the citrus oils. Discard the orange peel (or use it as a decoration, as I did).


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