Thursday, December 31, 2009

No Knead Bread Update

It's been months since we bought a loaf of bread.  No knead bread is now part of our regular routine.  I do still vaguely measure the flour and water but otherwise I mostly dump handfuls and dollops of ingredients in the pot. I've found that not preheating the pot avoids too dark a crust and we like to have something sweet in our bread.

If you need encouragement to try it, watch Jacques Pepin make what is the simplest of versions.  His requires a better no-stick pot than I have!

My basic formula is:
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups other flour or combination of flours
  • 1 envelope fast-acting yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar or other sweet ingredient
  • Other additions as desired
  • 2-2 1/2 cups water
 The basic method:
  1. Stir the chosen ingredients in a large bowl until moistened.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap.
  3. Ignore 6-10 hours.
  4. Stir down.
  5. Re-cover and ignore for another 1-3 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  7. Flop dough into a greased pot with lid.
  8. Bake 30 minutes with the lid on.
  9. Remove the lid and bake another 20 minutes.
  10. Remove from pan and let cool on a rack or stove element. 
  •  I use King Arthur bread flour.  Not only is it readily available in local grocery stores but it is bromate-free.
  • Whole wheat flour is easily obtained at the grocery store.
  • More unusual flours include semolina flour, rye flour, oat flour, potato flour, graham flour, buckwheat flour, and the like.  These are less likely to be found in grocery stores.  I order from Barry Farms which has an amazing variety of flours.  When I get my order, I transfer the flour from the plastic bags into disposable plastic containers.  I then cut the labels off the bags and tape them to the tops of the plastic containers with transparent packing tape. These stack well and, being translucent, make it easy to see how much I have left of each kind.
Other ingredients:
  • White sugar, brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, honey, etc.
  • Corn meal, rolled oats, wheat flakes, oat flakes, etc.
  • Dried or finely chopped fresh dill, rosemary, etc.
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, etc.
  • Chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, roasted sunflower seeds, etc.
  • Raisins, minced garlic, olives, etc. (Add these wetter ingredients at the "stir down.")
So, each time I make a loaf of bread, I improvise depending on what strikes my fancy.  We love variety.
  • Anadama lemon rye is 2 cups bread flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup rye flour, 1/2 cup corn meal, the zest of a lemon, and molasses for sweetening.  It's also good without the lemon.
  • Sesame seeds go well on a bread made of 3 cups bread flour, 1 cup semolina flour, and white sugar.
  • Dill goes well in bread made with 2 cups bread flour, 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup potato flour and white sugar.
  • 2 cups of bread flour, 1 cup of whole wheat flour, 1 cup of buckwheat flour, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and dark brown sugar makes a wonderful grainy bread.
  • Make chewy homemade hamburger rolls by using all bread flour and shaping the dough into rolls to rise after the stir down.  These take less time to bake.
  • Here's no knead cinnamon rolls.
Right now, there's a 1/2 bread flour, 1/2 rye flour dough rising with some spices in it (ground cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger), sweetened with honey.   This should make great toast for breakfast tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chorizo & Italian Sausage, Olives, Spinach, & Red Pepper Pasta

Our local grocery stores are starting to carry more of what are considered around here "ethnic" items.  In other words, venturing into extensive stocks of Latin American and Asian ingredients.  Yay!  Recently, the local Publix has started to carry fresh chorizo-flavored sausage in addition to their Italian-styled.  This recipe uses one of each to create a salty-peppery Mediterranean flavor akin to sugo alla puttanesca but with sausage instead of anchovies and capers.  It was great made with roasted red pepper sauce and orecchiette (AKA "little ears" pasta)

  • 1 6-inch link Italian flavored fresh sausage, removed from its casing
  • 1 6-inch link chorizo-flavored fresh sausage, removed from its casing
  • 10 oil-cured olives or other strong dark olives, pitted and cut in several pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch squares
  • 1 package of baby spinach, well washed
  • 1/2 cup roasted red pepper sauce, tomato sauce, or spaghetti sauce
  • 2 servings pasta, water & salt
  • 2-4 Tbl. olive oil
  • grated parmesan to garnish
  1. Start the pasta in boiling salted water
  2. In a large sauté pan or skillet large enough to hold all the ingredients (including the pasta), crumble and sauté the sausage.  If the sausage is very greasy, drain.  Otherwise, keep the sausage fat in the pan for flavoring.  If the sausage is very lean, add 1-2 Tbl. olive oil.
  3. Add the olives and red pepper and sauté 2-3 minutes
  4. Add the spinach and a ladle or two of the pasta water.
  5. Sauté until the spinach is wilted.
  6. Add the sauce and heat through.
  7. Drain the pasta and toss it with the other ingredients. 
  8. Drizzle 2 Tbl. of olive oil over the whole and lightly toss again.
  9. Serve with parmesan sprinkled on top.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Portobellos with Sausage Stuffing

We needed a smallish meal to place between the luscious carnivore extravagances of the holidays.  This recipe stretches one link of grocery store Italian sausage to flavor a great meal for two.

  • 2 portobello mushroom caps
  • 1 Italian sausage link (approximately 6" long by 1" diameter)
  • 1-2 shallots, finely minced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup Italian-flavored bread crumbs or plain bread crumbs and Italian herb seasoning
  • 1/2-3/4 cup grated parmesan, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 3-4 Tbl. olive oil, divided
  • romaine lettuce
  • salad dressing
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F
  2. On top of the stove, heat 2 Tbl. olive oil in a largish oven-proof skillet 
  3. Remove the stems from the portobello mushroom caps, taking care not to break the caps, and mince the pieces of stem
  4. Scrape the gills out of the mushrooms with a spoon and discard them
  5. Squeeze the sausage meat out of its casing and break into small pieces
  6. Sauté the sausage meat, onions, garlic, and stem pieces until the meat is done
  7. Add the parsley and sauté just long enough for the parsley to wilt
  8. Remove the meat mixture to a bowl large enough to mix the stuffing, making sure to get as much as possible out of the skillet
  9. Coat the portobello caps inside and out with olive oil and place open-side down in the skillet
  10. Bake for 8 minutes
  11. Let the meat mixture cool and then mix in the bread crumbs, half the cheese, and the egg to make a stuffing
  12. Remove the mushroom caps from the oven and flip them so that the open side is up
  13. Mound the stuffing on top of the mushrooms and top with the remaining cheese
  14. Bake another 15 minutes
  15. Make a salad of dressed romaine lettuce on each plate and place the stuffed mushroom on top.
A complete and satisfying meal!  And it dirties only one pot ... and a knife, the cutting board, a bowl to mix the stuffing and to dress the romaine, ...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Easy Almond Crescent Shortbread Cookies

My mom's recipe for almond crescents made a 5-dozen cookie batch and would require wrestling the stand mixer to the counter. So, I've experimented with 1/2 a batch using the food processor. Makes 1 cookie-sheet full of cookies (2 dozen + a couple).

  • 1/2 + 1/3 cups (5/6 cup)flour
  • 1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
  • scant 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (less if you use salted butter or margarine)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, slightly softened but still colder than room temperature
  • 1/2 cup or as needed powdered sugar
  1. Pulse flour, almonds, sugar & salt in the food processor until the ingredients are well mixed and the almonds are chopped.
  2. Add the stick of butter cut into pieces.
  3. Pulse and whir until it moves past the crumb stage and starts to form a dough.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F
  5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
  6. Using a knife, cut the dough into about 2 dozen small pieces and roll each into 2 1/2 inch logs and shape each into a crescent.  If some of the cookies are larger than others, pinch off the excess and form the scraps into additional cookies.
  7. Bake 15-18 minutes until golden with slightly browner edges.
  8. Let cool on the paper.
  9. When cool, roll each in powdered sugar.
Over the years, I've found that parchment paper is the solution for great cookies.  I have had lousy luck with cookie sheets and have scraped char off the bottoms of many a cookie.  A layer of parchment solves this problem!  Magic!  Golden brown cookie bottoms!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Haddock and Veggies with Crunchy Bread & Almond Topping

A tasty one-pot oven meal.  Fish with veggies & a tasty stuffing-like topping.

  • 2 haddock fillets
  • 8-10 large mushrooms, sliced
  • 2- 3 carrots, sliced
  • 1-2 shallots, chopped
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh dill, large stems discarded
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1Tbl. mustard 
  • 1 Tbls. olive oil + olive oil in a spritzer (or cooking spray)
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup bread crumbs, divided
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. In a food processor, whir the shallots, dill, yogurt, 1 Tbl. olive oil, and 3/4 cup bread crumbs to make a lumpy stuffing
  3. Lightly oil a glass lasagna pan or shallow roaster
  4. Layer the sliced mushrooms on the bottom of the pan
  5. Spread the carrot slices on top of the mushrooms
  6. Put the fish on top of the vegetables
  7. Crumble the stuffing and distribute it to cover the fish and vegetables
  8. Sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs over the top
  9. Spritz with olive oil to provide some fat to help the topping brown
  10. Bake 30-40 minutes until topping is golden brown, the fish is flaky, and the veggies are cooked.  
Serve with a slotted spatula to leave behind excess mushroom liquid.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Almond Crescents: Christmas Cookies My Mom Made

Tis the season for cookies!  But I think it would be healthier for me if I wrote about them more than making & eating them.  Everybody grew up with different Christmas cookies.  In some cases, the cookies were similar but the names were different.  My mom's Snickerdoodles were pretty much identical to my friend's mom's Snippernoodles.  (Snippernoodles!  Harrumph.  What a silly name.  Snickerdoodles is obviously a better name. ☺)

So, in the spirit of the season, thought I'd share some from my mom's recipe box. As she will want me to point out, she didn't invent the recipes but the sources are lost to history.

So, here's the first in a series of Christmas cookie recipes: Almond Crescents!  This results in a very short, rich, small but satisfying cookie.  I can smell and taste them as I type.  Such memories!

Ingredients (to yield about 5 dozen cookies):
  • 1 2/3 cups sifted flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup shortening (The recipe, in handwriting that might be my paternal grandmother's, specifies 1/2 Spry shortening, 1/4 butter, and 1/4 margarine but we almost always made them using all margarine.)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup ground blanched almonds
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  1. Sift together flour and salt
  2. Cream shortening (butter, margarine) with the granulated sugar
  3. Add almonds and flour, mixing well
  4. Chill the dough for 30 minutes or more
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F
  6. Roll the dough into 1/2" diameter rolls, 2 1/2 inches long
  7. Place the rolls on an ungreased cookie sheet and bend to ressemble crescents
  8. Bake 15 minutes and allow to cool on the sheet
  9. When cool, roll in confectioner's sugar
Yummy.  Maybe I will make 1/2 a batch before the season's over ...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ground Nut Soup: Vegan Peanut Butter Soup

Ground nut soup is to grandmothers across Africa what beef stew is across the US.  Every family has its favorite.  Every country from Ghana to Sudan has local variations.  When the ground nut came across the Atlantic, the dish became a Southern classic, peanut soup.  There are no real rules except for the presence of the ground nuts which, in the US, are easily obtained in the form of peanut butter.

Yesterday my vegetarian and vegan friends were here for lunch so I threw together some warm and tasty soup from what was in the cupboards.  I had store-brand all-natural peanut butter on hand, making the flavor a bit milder than soup made with the national brands of peanut butter.   In fact, it didn't taste like peanut butter but rather like nuts.  As with most soups, the proportions are up to you based on taste. 

  • 2-3 Tbl. olive oil
  • A large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 stalks or inner stalks & heart of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, washed & trimmed but not peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 2"-3" knob of ginger root, peeled, trimmed, & finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 4-6 cups water, divided
  • 1/2 cup catsup
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 can beans (e.g. kidney beans), drained and rinsed
  • Several springs cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons cumin
  • Sea salt to taste
 Note: if you use sweetened peanut butter or tomato sauce instead of catsup, you may want to skip the molasses.

  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy soup pot.
  2. Over medium heat, sweat the onion, carrots, celery, ginger root, and garlic until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add half the water and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  4. With an immersion blender or in the food processor or blender, lightly whir the vegetables and water until thick with some chunks of vegetables remaining.  If you don't have the equipment for this step, chop everything more finely at the outset.
  5. Add the remaining water, catsup, molasses, and peanut butter.
  6. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to meld flavors.
  7. Add cilantro, cumin and salt, adjusting the seasonings to taste.
  8. Simmer another 5-10 minutes.
  9. Serve.

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    5-Minute Pork Cutlets for a 10-Minute Meal

    Here's a very easy and quick meal.  Pork tenderloin can be very dry and bland but cooked quickly it's flavor is enhanced with the butter, salt & pepper.  You could certainly dress this up with a dollop of something.  Roasted red pepper couliFig balsamic sauce?  A dill mustard from the Mustard Museum?  Whatever's at hand.

    • boneless pork tenderloin
    • steam-in-bag frozen vegetables
    • 1-2 Tbl. butter or olive oil
    • Salt & pepper
    1. Cut 1/2-3/4" slices off a boneless pork tenderloin or get boneless loin chops.  
    2. Remove the "silver skin" or other membranes surrounding the pork.  
    3. Pound lightly to make 1/4" thick cutlets.
    4. Preheat a skillet with a bit of butter or olive oil on medium high heat.
    5. Start a steam-in-bag of veggies in the microwave.
    6. Salt & pepper the cutlets
    7. Sauté the cutlets about 2 minutes per side.
    8. Remove the veggies from the microwave.
    9. Serve.
    Ta da! About 5 minutes to prep and 5 minutes to cook.

    Lightweight Jiffy Mix Soup Dumplings

    Having not grown up with dumplings in soup, I'm not really in favor of gummy dumplings.  But after many pleas from hubby, I decided to try a two-step cooking process.  It worked!  The dumplings were moist yet fluffy!

    • Hearty soup.  I used leftover ham & pea soup that I didn't whir with the blender so it had nice chunks of carrot in it. Most any stew will do.
    • Jiffy buttermilk biscuit mix.  Of course you could do homemade biscuits but why when these are so easy and fairly inexpensive?
    • Water for the biscuit mix.
    1. Preheat the oven as indicated for the biscuit mix.
    2. Bring the soup to a boil on top of the stove.  Use an oven-proof pot with enough room to add the dumplings.
    3. Mix the biscuit mix & water as instructed on the box.
    4. With floured hands, roll the dough into 16 balls (similar in size the smallish meatballs).
    5. Flatten each ball to a small 1/2" thick disk.
    6. Drop the disks, one at a time, into the boiling soup, distributing them throughout the surface.
    7. Carefully move the hot pot into the oven and cook as indicated on the biscuit mix box.
    As you drop the disks of dough into the soup, they will sink.  Almost immediately, they will start to float.  By the time you take the soup out of the oven, all the dumplings will have floated and the soup will be covered with a soft layer of light dumplings!

    With preheating & preparations, this takes just 20 minutes to prepare.  Allow a little extra if you need to thaw the soup.  Stick to your ribs good!

    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    A Sweet Vegetarian Curry over Brown Rice

    My vegetarian dinner guests came back for more. One had three helpings and I liked it, too. A tasty, sweet, and not very hot curry.  If you like it hotter, add a hot pepper or two.

    • 2 cans chickpeas, drained
    • 1 can  coconut milk
    • 1 cup vegetable broth
    • 1 large, sweet onion, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
    • 1 large parsnip, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
    • 1-3 carrots, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
    • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch pieces
    • 2 white potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch pieces
    • 2 bell peppers, 1 green and 1 red, cut in 1/2 inch squares
    • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 Tablespoon honey
    • 1 Tablespoon garam masala
    • 2 teaspoons cumin
    • salt & pepper to taste
    1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet with a cover.
    2. Sauté the onion until translucent and slightly carmelized (about 10 minutes).
    3. Add the rest of the vegetables, including the garlic, and the vegetable broth.
    4. Cover and steam until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork (about 20 minutes).
    5. Add the chickpeas, coconut milk, honey, garam masala, cumin, and ground pepper.
    6. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
    7. Adjust the taste with the salt.
    8. Serve over brown rice.

    Friday, November 27, 2009

    Alton Brown's Baked Brown Rice to the Rescue

    As much as I like the flavor and chewiness of it, I've mostly avoided cooking brown rice.  I just don't like feeling strapped to the stove for 45 minutes to an hour, making sure it neither boils over or scorches. I usually ended up serving it before it was really done or adding too much water, resulting in a mushy mess.

    But I needed brown rice to go under the vegetarian curry to serve my non-carnivorous friends. So, to the internet to find an easy and fool-proof way to make brown rice, one that needed little or no attention as the rest of the last minute Thanksgiving dinner preparations were underway.

    Alton Brown's baked brown rice recipe to the rescue! For once I followed the recipe pretty closely with the exception of using olive oil rather than butter to avoid animal products for my vegan friend. I just made another batch using butter to go under tonight's leftover turkey & gravy. Yummy.

    My method varies from Alton Brown a teeny bit, for example, using the microwave to heat the water in the dish I will cook the rice in.  You need steady hands to get the shallow dish of hot water out of the microwave without sloshing. So use your best judgment and avoid getting scalded!

    • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
    • 1 Tablespoon butter or olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 1/2 cups water
    1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
    2. In an 8-inch square glass baking dish, microwave the water, butter or oil, and salt until hot.
    3. Stir to assure the salt is fully dissolved.
    4. Add the rice and distribute throughout the pan.
    5. Cover tightly with foil.
    6. Bake for one hour.
    7. Remove foil and fluff the rice.
    No watched pot.  No boiling over. No clumping.  Just perfect brown rice. 

    Thank you, Alton!  Brown rice will now be a frequent player in my cooking!

      Wednesday, November 25, 2009

      Easy Baklava made with Walnuts, Sesame Seeds & Olive Oil

      Making baklava is surprisingly easy.  When made with olive oil, it's also vegan, which is important for one of tomorrow's guests.  Although often made with butter, making baklava with olive oil instead is also traditional because it is in line with religious eating traditions in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East from whence it comes.

      The phyllo:
      • "No one" makes phyllo dough from scratch.  For fun, check out this video showing how it's made. Widely distributed brands like Athens Fillo are found in the freezer aisle of the supermarket.  This recipe calls for half a 1-pound box (1 sleeve of 2) which means we will have the other half to make savory turnovers with some leftover Thanksgiving turkey later in the weekend. The other sleeve of dough will keep a good long time in the freezer if we eat all the turkey first.
      The Olive Oil Pump:
      • I find the easiest way to distribute oil on the phyllo sheets is to use a sprayer.  I have a Pampered Chef kitchen spritzer I've nursed along for years but there are also lots of similar beasts on Amazon.  Don't expect an oil pump to make a fine aerosol but they do a good job of making a little oil go a long way.  I keep mine filled by the stove and use it whenever I want to keep things from sticking.  When it clogs, I soak its parts in hot water and detergent and then run them through the dishwasher.  
      Ingredients for the base:
      • ½ pound of phyllo dough, thawed as explained on the package
      • 1 pound shelled walnuts
      • 8 ounces sesame seeds
      • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
      • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
      • ½ cup sugar
      • olive oil to moisten phyllo
      Ingredients for the syrup:
      • 1 cup honey
      • 1 cup water
      • ½ cup sugar
      • 2 cinnamon sticks
      • juice of one lemon
      1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.   
      2. Finely chop the walnuts (about 20 brief pulses of a food processor)
      3. Mix walnuts, sesame seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and ½ cup sugar in a dry bowl.
      4. Lay a sheet of phyllo on the floor of a 9"x13" glass baking pan.
      5. Spritz with oil.  You needn't soak the sheet with oil -- just a light spritz.
      6. Repeat until your have a base of 4 spritzed sheets.
      7. Cover with 1/3 nut mixture.
      8. Repeat 4 sheets of phyllo, spritzing each, and 1/3 nuts twice more.
      9. Cover with and spritz each of the remaining sheets of phyllo.
      10. With a very sharp knife, cut into 1½" squares or diamonds.  It is important this be done before baking.
      11. Bake 40 minutes.
      12. As the phyllo and nuts finish baking, simmer the syrup ingredients for 10 minutes in a non-reactive pan.
      13. Discard the cinnamon sticks and spoon the hot syrup over the hot baklava in its pan, making sure to cover the entire top.
      14. Let rest to stick together.
      This baklava is drier and crumblier than others you might have had.  I find it less cloying than some.  You may want to make more syrup to have a wetter pastry.

      You can easily replace the walnuts and/or sesame seeds with other nuts, seeds or dried fruit to your taste.

      And, of course, you could gild the lily by serving it warmed with vanilla ice cream ... but not tomorrow.  Our guest is vegan and it's bad enough we're going to eat turkey in front of her!

      Saturday, November 21, 2009

      No Knead Cinnamon Buns with Laughing Cow Icing

      A friend called recently to wax rhapsodic about the cinnamon he ordered from Penzey's.  Being about out of cinnamon myself, I decided to place an order.  We're celebrating the arrival of the box with cinnamon buns made using the no-knead bread method to start.  Yummy!

      • 4 generous cups bread flour, all-purpose flour, or a combination
      • 1 ½ tsp. salt
      • ½ cup granulated sugar, divided
      • 1 envelope rapid-rise yeast
      • 2 cups water
      • ¼ cup butter (sweet or salted according to your taste)
      • 1 Tbl. cinnamon.  I used Penzey's Korintje Indonesia Cinnamon.
      • 2 wedges Laughing Cow Light Swiss Original cheese (or 1½-2 ounces cream cheese)
      • 2 Tbl. milk
      • ¾-1 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
      1. Combine flour, salt, half the granulated sugar (¼ cup), and yeast in a large bowl.
      2. Stir in the two cups water to make a ragged dough.
      3. Cover and let sit 4-6 hours to rise.
      4.  On a slick, well-floured surface with a well-floured rolling pin, shape the dough into a rectangle and roll until ¼" thick.
      5. Melt the butter and brush it on the dough rectangle.
      6. Sprinkle the cinnamon and the remaining ¼ cup of granulated sugar on the rectangle.
      7. Starting with the edge closest to you, roll the dough up as you would a bedroll.
      8. Slice the rolled dough into 1-1½" slices.
      9. Arrange the slices cut side up in greased 2-3 inch deep baking dishes. You can either space them or place them next to each other depending on whether you want them flatter and crisper or soft and pull-apart.
      10. Let rise 1-2 hours until doubled in size.
      11. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until golden, 30-40 minutes.
      12. Mix the cheese, confectioner's sugar, and milk to make a loose icing and distribute this over the still hot rolls.  
      13. Let cool in the pans.
      This makes a light, tender cinnamon roll.

        Tuesday, November 17, 2009

        Lemon Pepper That Doesn't Taste Like Lollipops

        I was just discussing some turkey meatballs with a young friend.  When I said I used nutmeg and lemon pepper to give them flavor, she looked dubious.  You see, her previous experiences with lemon pepper tasted more like pepper and lollipops.

        I've had that experience, too.  And it's not a pleasant one.  Too many lemon-pepper mixes anymore seem to be flavored with whatever they use in lemon drops rather than having that nice lemon rind taste.So, I've taken to ordering Alessi Lemon Pepper online, six bottles at a time.  I just gave her one because six bottles will last me months!  (Years?)

        She and I then looked at the ingredients, the first being salt.  So it's really "lemon salt & pepper."  Hmmm.  Salt is a preservative. So, would microplaned lime zest with salt & pepper be a handy thing to have in the spice cabinet?  And orange rind?  Clementines when they come in season?  Hmmm.  I think I am building up to an experiment or two or three.

        Sunday, November 15, 2009

        Perky Turkey Meatballs

        Here's a formula for turkey meatballs with sufficient flavor and bite to stand up against most any sauce you put with them. Tonight, we had them with peas and rice flavored with mushrooms, shallots, curry powder and yogurt. I'm looking forward to having them over dilled carrots in a paprikash sauce. Ooh, they'd also be good in a wedding soup. Yum. Luckily, I made enough for several meals.

        • 1-1½ pounds ground turkey
        • 1 egg
        • ½-¾ cup bread crumbs, optionally use seasoned bread crumbs
        • 1 tsp. salt
        • 1 tsp. lemon pepper
        • 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
        • 2 Tbl. olive oil
        • ½ cup chicken broth
        1. Thorougly mix turkey, egg, bread crumbs and seasonings. This is most easily done with your bare hands although a potato masher will work, too.
        2. Roll the mixture into ¾"-1" balls
        3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet with a lid
        4. Brown the meatballs on at least two sides but do not worry at this stage on cooking them all the way through
        5. Pour the chicken broth into the pan and cover letting the meatballs steam to finish cooking all the way through
        6. Remove the meatballs from the pan and drain.
        7. Use immediately or store for later use.
        When you remove the meatballs from the pan, you can start your sauce in the pan. For example
        1. Sauté finely chopped mushrooms and shallots
        2. Add frozen peas, rice, water and curry powder
        3. Simmer until the rice was done
        4. Stir in some plain yogurt
        5. Add turkey meatballs and warm through
        Add the peas later if you want them bright green.

        Friday, November 13, 2009

        Quick Ham and Beans Inspired by Fannie Farmer

        I've had a facsimile edition of Fannie Merritt Farmer's Boston Cooking School book for many years. It's pages are yellow and brittle not much fun to page through anymore in it's awful condition. So I was very happy to find that makes it available online!

        In her recipe for Boston Baked Beans, she says, "The fine reputation which Boston Baked Beans have gained has been attributed to the earthen bean-pot with small top and bulging sides in which they are supposed to be cooked. Equally good beans have often been eaten where a five-pound lard pail was substituted for the broken bean pot." [emphasis mine]

        Well, if that isn't an invitation to flexible cooking, I don't know one! So, last night, a can of navy beans and some ham turned into a quick and delicious one-pot meal.

        Ingredients for two servings:
        • 1 can of beans — I used navy beans but you could use another kind
        • 6-8 ounces of ham — I used leftover picnic ham AKA smoked Boston butt AKA shoulder ham
        • Several stalks of celery — enough that this will be your prime vegetable for the meal
        • 1 large sweet onion
        • 2+ tablespoons mustard
        • 2+ tablespoons ketchup
        • 2+ tablespoons molasses
        • 2+ tablespoons broth or water
        1. Cube the ham
        2. Coarsely slice the celery and onion
        3. Drain the beans
        4. Put the ham, celery, onion and beans in a covered oven-proof casserole
        5. Mix the mustard, ketchup, molasses and broth (or water) as a dressing
        6. Pour the dress on the other ingredients and stir to mix thoroughly.
        7. Bake, covered, at 350°F approximately 1 hour or until the flavors have melded and the vegetables are soft.
        With such a simple recipe, you can adjust the ratio of ingredients to suite your taste. Want some bite? Add a little horseradish, use a hot mustard or add a little hot sauce. Like it sweet? Increase the molasses. Last night, I "leaned heavy" on the mustard using AJ's Walla Walla Sweet Onion Mustard with Smokey Bacon that I got in our most recent order from the Mustard Museum.

        Wednesday, November 11, 2009

        No-Knead Anadama Lemon Rye Bread

        Anadama bread is a New England recipe including cornmeal and molasses in the dough. Optionally, rye flour is added to the white flour.

        One of the folks who turned me onto cooking is my friend Jaylyn. Back when I was serving boiled meals to my guests, she had already conquered bread making. Every weekend she'd make what she called "Anadama Lemon Rye." It was a wonderful dark, moist bread.

        Here's a formula for a no-knead anadama lemon rye.

        • 2 cups bread flour
        • 1 cup whole wheat flour
        • 1 cup rye flour
        • 1/2 cup cornmeal
        • zest of one lemon
        • 1 1/2 tsp salt
        • 1 envelope rapid rise yeast
        • 1/4 cup molasses
        • 2 to 2 1/4 cups tepid water
        Follow the basic no-knead bread procedure:
        1. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl
        2. Stir the molasses into the water to make it easier to distribute
        3. Stir the water and molasses into the dry ingredients
        4. Cover and let rise approximately 8 hours, give or take a few hours
        5. Stir down, cover and let rise again for 2 hours, give or take an hour
        6. 30 minutes before you plan to cook the bread, preheat a covered pot for baking the bread in a 450°F oven.
        7. Lightly oil the hot pot and flop the batter into it.
        8. Bake 30 minutes, covered, at 450°F
        9. Remove the cover, lower the oven temperature to 440°F and bake an additional 20 minutes.
        10. Remove the bread from the pot and cool on a rack.

        Thursday, November 5, 2009

        Chicken & Rice Base: A Pre-Cooking Shortcut

        I'm still on the hunt for meals that can be thrown together on "teaching nights." A few weeks ago, boneless chicken breasts were on sale so I decided to try a pre-cooking experiment.
        "Chicken & Rice Base" is a meal-sized bag of frozen, pre-cooked chicken and rice waiting for veggies & flavor. It can serve as the base for soup, a casserole, or what we call "glop" around here, too thick to be called a soup or stew.

        • Boneless chicken breasts or other raw chicken
        • Rice
        • Chicken broth or water
        1. Steam the chicken until thoroughly cooked but not tough.
        2. Cook the rice in broth or water.
        3. Let both rest until cool enough to handle.
        4. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
        5. Freeze together in meal-sized portions for later use.
        Some uses for chicken and rice base:
        • Simmer it in chicken broth until hot. Add lots of diced roasted red peppers and sundried tomato pesto in a jar. Simmer a bit more. Finally, add some freshly grated parmesan or other hard cheese.
        • Sauté mushrooms, onions and garlic in olive oil. Add baby spinach and a bit of broth. Cover and let the spinach soften. Add thawed chicken and rice base, salt, pepper & nutmeg and heat through.
        • Sweat chopped carrots and celery in a little olive oil, add chicken broth and chicken & rice base. Throw in fresh parsley, salt & pepper. Voilà, chicken & rice soup!
        • Thaw the chicken and rice base in the microwave. Add plain yogurt flavored with some garam marsala, curry powder or just cinnamon. Finally, add golden raisins and slivered almonds. Vaguely south asian chicken and rice. With cucumbers and onions in vinegar as a side, you have a meal.
        There are unlimited possibilities. Homemade convenience food without the salt and mystery ingredients of store bought.

        Sunday, November 1, 2009

        Onion-Free "Cream" of Chicken-Mushroom-Spinach Soup

        Nothing like hot creamy but low-fat soup for a cold and rainy day. This soup is allium-free for those of us who have onion allergies but is still tasty and satisfying. Where did the cooked chicken come from? It's out of the freezer from the 10 lbs. of chicken legs that were on sale.

        If you don't have a stash of meal-size bags of pre-cooked chicken in your freezer, cut some off a pre-cooked chicken from the deli counter at the grocery store. In a pinch, you could use the bagged, pre-cooked chicken breast or even canned chicken.

      • 2-3 cups chicken broth
      • 1 pkg. baby spinach leaves or julienned larger spinach leaves
      • 1 can fat-free evaporated milk
      • Salt and white pepper
      • Optionally, a dash of nutmeg or other preferred spice

      • Procedure:
        1. Place the flour in a small bowl or mug and mix in 2 Tbl. water until a smooth paste is formed. Slowly add up to 1 cup of water mixing slowly to prevent lumps as much as possible. Let this sit while you prepare the vegetables. Most of the lumps will disappear by the time you are ready to use this flour and water slurry.

        1. In a large soup pan, sauté the diced carrots and celery in the olive oil until the celery is translucent and the carrots are soft, about 5 minutes.
        2. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for an additional 5 minutes, covered, or until the mushrooms release some of their liquor.
        1. Add the flour and water mixture and bring back to temperature for another minute until some of the rawness is removed from the flour.
        1. Add chicken and chicken broth to cover.
        2. Bring back to temperature and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
        1. Add spinach, bring back to temperature, and simmer another 2-3 minutes, until spinach reduces.
        1. Add the fat-free evaporated milk.
        2. Season to taste with salt and white pepper and optional seasoning.
        3. Bring back to temperature and simmer slowly for another 5 to 10 minutes, being careful not to scorch the soup on too high a heat.
        4. Serve.
        This results in a relatively thin soup base. To make a thicker soup, skip the flour and water step but add raw rice or noodles when you add the broth. Simmer longer until the starch is cooked. Then add the milk. Cornstarch can also be used to thicken soup but it tends to get gummy when you reheat leftovers.

        Yummy, warm, with green leafy veggie and little fat. What's not to like.

        Saturday, October 31, 2009

        Onion-Free Cooking

        My sister called the other night, complaining that so many of my recipes, especially the soups, start by sautéing onions in olive oil. I should be sympathetic. She, my mother, and I share a list of food allergies including onions, tomatoes, chocolate, etc. Each of us reacts differently or more or less severely to our allergens but my sister reacts most to members of the allium family (onions, garlic, etc.)

        So, this is the first posting with information about onion-free cooking. First, a replacement for the first step in so many recipes, the sautéing of onions.

        Suggestion #1: substitute sautéed carrots and celery (or parsnips and celery for a light-colored recipe)

        The French start many classic recipes with a mirepoix. A mirepoix is minced and sautéed onions, carrots, and celery. Some cuisines use variations of this. For example, the "Holy Trinity" of Louisiana cooking is like a mirepoix except that the carrots are replaced by bell peppers.

        As Julia Child said in her The Way to Cook (Knopf, 1994), “The mirepoix is one of fine cooking’s great inspirations, an all-purpose flavor enhancer made of finely diced and sautéed carrots and onions,and often celery and ham. Used in sauces, with braised vegetables like celery, or with chicken breasts poached in butter, it imparts that real ‘je ne sais quoi’ of sophistication to anything it is associated with. You may want to triple or quadruple the recipe,since a mirepoix keeps nicely in the freezer.”

        Oh, bless Saint Julia! It hadn't occurred to me that I could pre-make the base sautéed vegetables for a recipe and save valuable weekday evening time!! Gotta try that.

        Meanwhile, back to onion-free cooking. Since a mirepoix is adjusted for different recipes, why not substitute the other two members of the mixture if you must avoid the onions. You are not trying to make fake onion flavor rather you are using slightly carmelized carrots and celery to perform a similar task. If you want to preserve the whiter color for your recipe, replace the carrots with parsnips.

        Suggestion #2: Use parsley by the bunch

        Both flat-leafed parsley and curly parsley can add flavor to recipes when used in bulk. Like many green vegetables, their flavors mellow with cooking. So, if you are making an onion-free soup, put a finely chopped whole bunch (minus the thicker stems) of parsley in it.

        Flat-leafed and curly parsley have two very different flavors. Flat-leafed parsley is the milder of the two and is a staple of Italian cooking.

        A lot of grocery stores shelve the two parsleys with the cilantro so be careful to know which you are buying. Cilantro can also add a wonderful flavor but it is very different from either parsley. If your grocery story is bad about labeling, just sniff the bunch. If it's cilantro you will know it by its pungent aroma.

        Cilantro is also known as coriander leaves, or Chinese parsley. It is used in many cuisines and provides the aromatic flavor in a good restaurant salsa.

        The next batch of soup I make will be without onions to provide "proof of concept." There's a head of cauliflower in the fridge needed to be roasted for soup.

        Saturday, October 24, 2009

        Oven Flank Steak without Marinating

        Flank steak is really tasty. Of course, often it's because of the marinade. I've been wondering what a plain flank steak would be like and decided to make as plain and easy a flank steak as possible. Just salt and pepper and a hot oven. That's it.

        I already had the oven at 450°F for a loaf of bread. During the last 20 minutes of the bread cooking I threw in the iron grill pan to heat it up. When the bread came out, I cooked the steak.

        • 1 flank steak
        • Enough olive oil to lightly coat the pan
        • Salt and pepper
        1. Salt and pepper both sides of a flank steak and let it come to room temperature.
        2. Preheat the oven to 450°, placing an iron grill pan in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a grill pan, use a broiling pan with a rack.
        3. Lightly oil the hot pan with a brush.
        4. Cook the steak for 5 minutes on each side (total 10 minutes).
        5. Remove the steak from the pan, tent with foil, and rest an additional 10 minutes.
        6. Slice thinly across the grain.
        This results in a medium rare steak that tastes of beef. Beef. Plain beef. A nice treat. We had it in sandwiches on the freshly baked and still warm bread. It was white bread with some dill in it.

        We now have half a flank steak left over that is not already flavored with a marinade. This means some of it can become fajitas while the rest becomes Chinese stir-fry. No pre-set flavors to worry about. We could be really bad and make sandwiches of slices fried in butter. No, no, that would be really bad. Steak and eggs for breakfast? Hmmm. So many possibilities.

        Potato Leek Soup, Vegan Style, Garnished with Roasted Red Peppers

        A couple of friend were over here today, he's a vegetarian and she's a true vegan. So, vegan soup was on the lunch menu. This potato leek soup was nice and creamy despite its no-animal-products condition. It takes about 1/2 hour total to make this soup.

        • 4 well-scrubbed, thin skinned potatoes
        • 4 cups vegetable broth (I used 1 container of Swanson's veggie broth but you could use homemade stock or veggie bouillon.)
        • 3 large leeks, white parts only
        • 2 Tbl. olive oil
        • several sprigs curly parsley
        • 3-4 cloves garlic
        • salt
        • pepper (I used Alessi lemon pepper)
        • roasted red peppers to garnish
        1. Cube the potatoes and put in a large soup pot
        2. Cover the potatoes with the broth and boil until the potatoes are soft
        3. Cut the ends off the leeks, slice in half lengthwise and then slice into 1/2-3/4 inch slices. Wash thoroughly.
        4. Sauté the leeks in the olive oil until soft.
        5. Add the leeks to the potatoes & broth
        6. Using an immersion blender (or in a blender or food processor) whir until smooth
        7. Finely mince the parsley and the garlic and add to the soup
        8. Simmer slowly until the garlic loses it's raw bite
        9. Serve hot or cool.
        10. Garnish with a spoonful of coursely chopped roasted red peppers

        Friday, October 23, 2009

        Roasted Red Peppers on Homemade Bread: Easy You Say?

        Yup, I do say easy. We haven't bought bread since I found the wildly popular no-knead bread formula and with locally grown red peppers so cheap in the grocery store it'd be a crime not to roast them.

        So, in the picture is my bag of a dozen roasted red peppers and some fresh oat bread. We've ordered oat flour and other goodies from Barry Farm Foods in Ohio. Hubby Bill first discovered them when looking for rye flakes and wheat flakes as alternatives to oatmeal.

        I've been alternating oat bread with rye bread using their flours. The special flours seem expensive until you compare the price to buying bread in the grocery.

        The basic formula I use for the bread is:
        • 2 cups bread flour
        • 2 cups oat flour, rye flour, or whole wheat flour
        • 1/2 cup rolled oats, rye flakes, or wheat flakes
        • 2 Tbl. brown sugar or molasses
        • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
        • 1 envelope of rapid rise yeast
        • Optionally, add a flavoring like caraway seeds to the rye, sunflower seeds to the whole wheat, etc.
        • 2 1/4 cups water
        1. Mix the dry ingredients (including sugar if using) in a large bowl
        2. Stir in the water (with the molasses stirred into it if using)
        3. Cover and let rise approximately 8 hours, give or take a few hours
        4. Stir down, cover and let rise again for 2 hours, give or take an hour
        5. 30 minutes before you plan to cook the bread, preheat a covered pot for baking the bread in a 450°F oven.
        6. Lightly oil the hot pot and flop the batter into it.
        7. Bake 30 minutes, covered, at 450°F
        8. Remove the cover, lower the oven temperature to 440°F and bake an additional 20 minutes.
        9. Remove the bread from the pot and cool on a rack.
        Voilà! Bread.

        For the roasted red peppers:
        1. Preheat the oven broiler to high and move a rack to the top-most position. Keep the oven door ajar to make the broiler element stay on.
        2. Halve and remove the seeds and white membranes from the peppers.
        3. Place, open side down on a foil lined cookie sheet and flatten with the palm of your hand.
        4. Broil the peppers 10-16 minutes until the skins are black. Don't panic. You indeed do want almost all of the skin to be black and brittle.
        5. Remove from the oven and let the peppers steam in their own heat by bunching the foil.
        6. When cool enough to handle, slough the skins off the peppers.
        Voilà! Roasted red peppers.

        See? Easy peasy. The bread measurements and rising times need not be precise. The peppers will look ugly when they come out of the oven. They are supposed to. You can't lose.

        Monday, October 19, 2009

        Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

        Peeling and seeding a butternut squash is a lot easier after it's been roasted. And just as roasted cauliflower makes a wonderful soup, roasted butternut squash is a great base for soup.

        1. To roast a butternut squash, leave it whole but poke a few holes in the skin with a fork. Put it in a shallow pan and roast at 400°F for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the squash is very soft. When the squash has cooled, remove the stem, skin, seeds and "strings."
        2. In a soup pot, sauté a chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil until translucent.
        3. Add the roasted squash and cover with fat-free chicken broth.
        4. Use an immersion blender to purée the mixture.
        5. Optionally add a can of fat-free evaporated milk.
        6. Add ground or rubbed sage, salt and pepper to taste.
        7. Heat through.
        So warm and creamy you just want to float away in a pool of it and yet, except for the olive oil, fat free.

        Wednesday, October 14, 2009

        Faux Cassoulet: Quick & Low Fat White Beans & Sausage

        A real cassoulet is made rich with duck confit. Made by salting duck leg meat and then submerging it in duck fat, confit is one of those things I read about, nod, and then decide is never going to happen in my kitchen!

        A low-fat, quick faux cassoulet is a good supper for a cold and rainy night. It's also a one-pot meal.

        • 2-3 Tbl. olive oil
        • 1 large onion, chopped
        • 2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced
        • 1 heart of celery, sliced (about 1 cup)
        • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
        • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
        • 6-8 oz. fat-free turkey kielbasa, sliced
        • 1 can white beans
        • 2-3 Tbl. sun-dried tomato pesto or tapenade
        • 1/2 cup white wine
        1. In a large saucepan, sauté the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in the olive oil until the onions are translucent
        2. Add the parsley, kielbasa, white beans, pesto or tapenade, and wine
        3. Simmer slowly for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
        And, yes, that's all there is to it.

        Tuesday, October 13, 2009

        Roasted Cauliflower Soup for a Rainy Evening

        Roasting vegetables really brings a depth of taste to them. Roasting cauliflower before making soup results in a deep, rich taste to the soup that can't be beat.

        You can roast the cauliflower ahead of time while cooking other things in the oven and save it in the fridge for several days, making the soup when you are ready for it. I have not tried freezing the roasted cauliflower but that might work as well.

        To roast the cauliflower:
        1. Cut a cauliflower into flowerettes, discarding the leaves and the toughest part of the central stem.
        2. Toss the cauliflower in olive oil, salt and pepper.
        3. Roast until brown around the edges.
        Note: I didn't list a time or a temperature. That's because you can roast the cauliflower while you are cooking other things. For example, I roasted it the other night while cooking a sirloin tip roast, some potatoes, and mushrooms. The cauliflower was in the oven at 375°F for about three-quarters of an hour.

        A higher or lower temperature, what else is in the oven, etc., will affect the time needed. This is not rocket science. You are going for slightly toasted but still moist cauliflower. It does smell like cabbage as it cooks so I am not sure I'd roast it while baking an angelfood cake. You wouldn't want the cake to smell like old socks!

        To make the soup:
        1. In a soup pot, sauté minced shallot and garlic in olive oil.
        2. Add a peeled and cubed potato and the roasted cauliflower.
        3. Cover with chicken broth.
        4. Simmer until the potato is cooked.
        5. Purée until smooth.
        6. Optionally add a can of fat-free evaporated milk.
        7. Adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper.
        Using an immersion blender to mix in the evaporated milk results in a very thick and creamy soup. The roasting of the cauliflower adds a real depth of flavor. I'm going to have the leftovers right now.

        Thursday, October 8, 2009

        Whole Grain No-Knead Bread for Sandwiches

        Bill requested a bread more suited for a peanut butter sandwich to bring to work. No-knead bread with added grains and more yeast forced to cook in too small a pot resulted in a tall, dense, moist, whole-grain bread great for sandwiches or the toaster. The Queen of Hearts is there for scale.

        • 2 cups bread flour
        • 2 cups whole wheat flour
        • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
        • 2 Tbl. brown sugar
        • 2-4 Tbl. roasted unsalted sunflower seeds, roughly chopped
        • 1/4 cup rye flakes
        • 2 1/4 cups water (the rye flakes will soak up the extra water)
        • 1 envelope rapid-rise yeast
        • oil for greasing the pot

        Procedure (basic no-knead bread method)
        1. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
        2. Add water and stir to make a sticky dough.
        3. Cover and let sit 6-8 hours to rise.
        4. Stir down.
        5. Cover and let sit 2 hours for second rise.
        6. Thirty minutes before the second rise is finished, preheat a covered pot or casserole in a 450°F oven.
        7. When the second rise is finished, remove the hot pot and oil lightly to prevent the bread from sticking.
        8. Flop the bread into the hot pot, cover.
        9. Bake 30 minutes at 450°F.
        10. Uncover and bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes until the interior of the bread reaches 210°F.
        This recipe filled, some might say "overfilled" my 1970s Copco iron casserole. My intention was to force the no-knead bread into the shape I wanted for sandwiches. It worked fine. I did need to remember to grease the inside of the lid as well as the pot because the rising bread came right up to it but this forced the top of the loaf into a nice, flat shape, waiting for ham and cheese or PB&J.

        Wednesday, October 7, 2009

        What's a Daisy Ham? A Boneless Picnic.

        Now, is that a strange post title or what?

        Well, a bit of research finds "the etymology of daisy ham" in the Dictionary of American Regional English, findable via Google books.

        It seems Daisy wasn't a brand name, although it was coined by an Armour employee after watching the boneless picnic ham rolls being made in Boston's Faneuil Hall. He thought a cross section of the roll looked like a daisy. I imagine this was because the ham was not ground but instead was simply boned and shaped into a roll.

        In the 1970s, daisy hams were commonly in Southern New England grocery stores. They weighed about two to five pounds and were three to four inches in diameter. They were wrapped in a plastic tube. All you had to do to fix one was open up the plastic, dump the ham into a pot, cover it with water, and boil.

        It was the perfect meat for my earliest entertaining. It was cheap. It was boiled, a culinary talent I had mastered at that point. It was boneless so you didn't need a good knife or carving skills to serve it.

        Click here for how to cook a picnic ham AKA smoked Boston butt AKA shoulder ham.

        Tuesday, October 6, 2009

        Picnic Ham for a Connecticut Yankee in the South

        Our local grocery stores are suddenly full of picnic hams! This Connecticut girl is thrilled! I grew up eating picnic hams. A New England boiled dinner of picnic ham, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots was the meal I made for my first "dinner party" in my tiny first apartment with the 6' x 3' kitchen!

        A picnic ham is a pork shoulder, smoked to make it taste like ham. It may also be called a "daisy ham," but I remember that Daisy was the brand name of a boneless picnic ham roll available in the 1970s, though I haven't found confirmation of that memory yet.

        So what did we do with picnic ham this week? We're getting multiple meals out of it. It may be a cheap piece of meat with a good deal of bone and fat to throw away, but it is inexpensive and flavorful and goes a long way.

        1. Rinse off the picnic ham to remove any residual bone "saw dust."
        2. Place in a covered roaster.
        3. Pour in water to about 1 inch deep.
        4. Cover and roast at 350°F for 25-30 minutes a pound.
        That's all there is to it.

        Meal #1: Freshly cut ham, warm from the oven, a frozen veggie.
        Meal #2: Left over ham, nuked with red potatoes
        Meat for meal #3: Awaiting its turn in the freezer
        Meal #4 with enough left over for lunch: Pea soup

        No Knead Bread Experiment #6: Bread Flour

        Bread flour has more gluten than all purpose flour. Gluten is the elastic that gives bread toothiness. I like a slice of bread that you have to chew! So, I broke down and bought a bag of bread flour. I felt a little like I was disappointing an old friend.
        You see, I had a dear departed friend who was a great bread baker. Julie told me firmly that there was no reason not to use all-purpose flour for bread. Her bread was wonderful. You know, some people just have a way with bread. But I never had her talent.
        And besides, the whole idea behind no knead bread is its laziness. You don't need to knead. You don't need to have the loving touch for the dough of a bread baker like Julie. So, bread flour and time. A poor replacement for watching my late friend work the dough as she would spout off to me about what was up in library-land.
        Back to the results: the bread flour resulted in a very chewy bread with a solid crust across it's top. It is darn good but I think it would have been further improved with a scissor-cut or two to shape the top and maybe a bit hotter oven. I think I've gone too far in my effort to avoid the slightly singed taste of my first loaf of no-knead bread. This last one could have used a bit more char.

        But it's darned good bread!!

        Saturday, October 3, 2009

        No Knead Bread Experiment #3-5: Ways to Make it Not Work

        Okay, like I often do, I leapt to the conclusion one could do anything to the no knead bread recipe and still get a great loaf of bread. Wrong. I got too enthusiastic adding stuff to the basic formula and have ended up with three less-than-satisfactory but informative results.

        Experiment #3: Yogurt-Dill Attempt

        With this experiment, I replaced about 1/3 cup of water with chopped-dill-in-a-tube and plain Greek-style yogurt. The dough did not rise as much as previously and the resulting loaf was heavy and a little gummy. Ugh. The taste was fine so I think this still deserves some experimentation. I think I went overboard with the yogurt.

        Experiment #4: Olive-Garlic-Rosemary Attempt

        You want to kill it? Try this method. Add finely chopped kalamata olives, minced garlic, and minced fresh rosemary to the basic mix. It looked great when I went to bed, rising nicely with the usual holey look. Next morning, it had turned into a batter. Not a dough, a batter.

        I decided it wasn't really going to turn into a risen loaf of bread so spread it in a preheated lasagna-style pan with the intention of seeing if it could be turned into savory biscotti. After the first half hour of baking, I cut it with a pizza wheel into strips and tossed the strips back into the pan for the second baking. Passable biscotti resulted. Again, fine flavors but not real bread.

        To correct this one, I think I will try what some recommend which is not adding things to the dough until after the long rise.

        But the savory biscotti have definite potential! This deserves more exerimentation.

        Experiment #5: Sweet Cinnamon Bread

        To this recipe, I added about a tablespoon of brown sugar and about 3/4 tsp. cinnamon. It was okay but not great. It needed some whole wheat flour to improve its flavor.

        I am also guessing that my recent attempts were affected by using a different flour brand, one light for biscuits without enough gluten for bread. The next grocery trip will bring home different white flour, some gluten powder, and something more flavorful like whole wheat flour, rye flour, etc.

        Still-in-all, no-knead bread is so easy and so inexpensive that I see no reason to abandon it. We like good, chewy bread and in lieu of easy access to a great Italian bakery like one finds in Boston's North End, this will have to do.

        Friday, October 2, 2009

        Food History Time Sinks

        I've been having fun lately reading such titles as The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken (Laura Schenone), Risotto with Nettles (Anna Del Conte), A Thousand Years over a Hot Stove (also Laura Schenone), and, of course, My Life in France (Julia Child). I'm on the look out for another good foodie memoir. Meanwhile, hubby found me this great web site and evil internet time sink! Hey, it's lifelong learning so it can't be all bad, right?

        "The Food Timeline" is just that, a timeline of food events each linked to either a page about the topic with links or directly links to another great site. Not only is this a wonderful, wonderful site but the icing on the cake is that it is a librarian who made it! That makes this librarian feel all warm and fuzzy.

        I cannot do better than to quote from her site:

        "Who is Lynne Olver? A reference librarian with a passion for food history. She works at the Morris County Library, Whippany, NJ. Since March 1999, she's welcomed 15 million customers and answered 20,000 food history questions. Free. Why? Because public librarians are dedicated to connecting people with information.
        [emphasis added] From elementary students seeking recipes for state reports to master chefs recreating historic menus."

        So, take a chance to enjoy Lynne's labors and click to learn about the origins of italian sausage with a link to the
        Istituto Valorizzazione Salumi Italiani's history page or be led to ...

        Where was I? I was trying to choose another link to show you and got lost in the wealth of it all! That was quite a while ago ... Yup, a time sink but, oh, such a tasty, wonderful time sink! Go to and enjoy!

        Tuesday, September 29, 2009

        No Knead Bread Experiment #2: Better Results

        I couldn't believe the coincidence last night! There was Alton Brown on "Good Eats" throwing together a loaf of no-knead bread as I had loaf number two sitting on the counter begging me to have another slice.

        Unlike the last one, this loaf practically flew out of the pan (as opposed to being stuck like concrete) and has a wonderful golden bottom crust (as opposed to a slightly singed, thick brown bottom). I also made this one a bit bigger to have a loaf that would be taller and last for a few days of lunch sandwiches. It still has the wonderful chewy crust of the original with no real effort.

        • 4 cups flour
        • 2 cups tepid water (boiled and cooled to remove chlorine)
        • 1/2 tsp rapid-rise yeast
        • 1 rounded tsp salt
        • 2 tsp sugar
        I used less salt and the bit of sugar to satisfy our preference for a less salty, slightly sweeter bread.

        Follow the preparation procedures previously posted here. Basically:
        1. Mix the ingredients
        2. Let them sit, covered for about 18 hours
        3. Flop out onto a board and use a spatula to bring the bottom around to the top
        4. Let sit 15 minutes
        5. Flop into a foil hammock.
        6. Let sit 2 hours
        7. Flop into a preheated pan and bake, first covered, then uncovered.
        The chief variation I tried here was adjusting the temperature, time and the pot I baked it in.

        This time I tried a combination of a spring form pan and a larger covered pot. I was not going to have to chisel this one out of the pan! I preheated the covered iron pot but not the spring form pan. I lined the spring form pan with parchment paper brushed with olive oil.

        I flopped the dough into the line spring-form pan and then plopped that into the hot covered cast iron beast in the oven. This was probably overkill. The bread wasn't stuck at all to the paper or the pot. So I think the next time will see me going back to the original cast iron pot but oiled with a disk of parchment thrown into the bottom.

        To try to take care of the over browning, I set the oven to 430°F instead of 450°F (my oven has digital controls). I set the initial covered baking for 40 minutes instead of 30 followed by the fifteen minutes uncovered. The thermometer showed the interior of the loaf to be over 210°F at that point.


        So, next time I think we are about ready for another loaf of bread, I will do experiment #3. And this time it will get some flavoring added to it. Dill, ya think?

        Just a little geographic fun ...

        I'm fascinated to see where folks are who visit this blog and thought you might be, too. So far, visitors have come from 21 countries (listed at right -- when the novelty wears off I'll move it to the bottom of the page). The web really has made the world a seamless place!

        Sunday, September 27, 2009

        Lahey/Bittman's No-Knead Bread: Experiment #1

        We have been Panera addicts but, sadly, they recently decided to fluffy-fy their bread and remove the flavor from their other baked goods -- at least it seems that way to us. I guess they are chasing the market that likes supermarket baked goods. Meanwhile, our local Publix (supermarket) is starting to have more "artisan breads." So we are not totally in the wilderness when it comes to good bread -- but almost.

        I'd heard rumbles of a "no knead" bread recipe and decided it was time to do research. The recipe now in wide distribution was initially published in 2006 in the New York Times in a column by Mark Bittman. Bittman had gotten the recipe from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery. Many have tried it and claimed it fool-proof so I thought I'd give it a try.

        People experimenting with this recipe have developed all sorts of variations and recommendations. Although said to be "fool-proof," flour, ovens, pans and the like vary. I decided to try a loaf sticking pretty closely to the original recipe.

        The bread produced by this recipe is a boule with even holes throughout and a wonderfully crunchy, toothsome crust. It wasn't perfect but after the recipe I will tell you why and will suggest what my next experiment will be with this WONDERFUL, MAGIC, NO WORK recipe!

        • 3 cups flour
        • 1/2 teaspoon double-acting yeast
        • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
        • 1 1/2 cups water (boiled and cooled to tepid if your tap water is heavily chlorinated like ours is)
        1. In a deep, large bowl, mix the dry ingredients thoroughly and stir in water until all flour is moistened. The dough will be a shaggy mess at this point.
        2. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 18-24 hours. The dough will slowly grow until it more than doubles. The dough will be a sticky, hole-filled, bubbly mess at this point--and remains so until you bake it.
        3. With a wet spatula and wet hands, flop the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Use the spatula to fold in the edges of the dough. This breaks up some of the larger bubbles and pulls the dough bottom around to the top.
        4. Cover lightly and let sit on the board 15 minutes to rest.
        5. Place a length of foil across a large salad bowl as one would a hammock between two trees. Flatten the foil against the bottom and sides of the bowl leaving the ends of the foil draped over the bowl edges. You have now made a hammock for the dough.
        6. Flop the dough into the foil-lined bowl and cover loosely, leaving plenty of room for rising.
        7. Let the dough rise an additional two hours.
        8. About 1 1/2 hours into this last rise, set the oven to 450°F and put a covered casserole or dutch oven in to preheat.
        9. When the dough is done rising and the oven and pan are hot, use the foil hammock to flop the dough into the pan, wiggle the pan to center the dough, cover and bake for 30 minutes.
        10. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes.
        11. Take the loaf out of the pan and cool on a rack.
        Evaluation of Exeriment #1
        • Yum! We've gotta do this again! It's as easy as it seems.
        • The loaf was a bit salty for us since we eat few prepared foods and don't use much salt. Next time I will use less. This is a bit of a surprise since others have said they needed more salt in theirs.
        • It stuck to the pan and took some serious convincing to get out. Next time I will follow the recommendations of some and put a sheet of parchment in the pan or I might even experiment with putting a spring form pan in a larger cast iron pan.
        • The interior was just a smidge underdone. I didn't believe my old thermometer which said the internal temperature was only 200°F. Some of the web pages said to make sure the interior reaches 210°F. Next time I will increase the length of time in the oven to make sure the inside gets done.
        • The bottom crust was just a bit dark and too thick. I think my oven may run a bit hot and so, after reading about the effect of temperature on crust in Bernard Clayton's The Complete Book of Breads, next time will see me setting the temp a bit lower. I may also deflect some of the radiant heat by putting a cookie sheet on the lower shelf an inch or two under the dutch oven.
        And then I will report back with experiment number two. Word on the web is that you can use different flours and other additions and get variations that work wonderfully. I'm anxious to try the version that says replacing some of the water with a bit of plain yogurt results in a slightly sour bread with a better texture for sandwiches.

        Some folks cook it in cast iron, others in glass or pyrex. All that matters is that the pot is covered. It is being covered that makes the wonderful crust.

        I'm headed back in the kitchen for another slice. It really is a wonderful way to have fresh bread without much work or flour flying all over the kitchen.

        Saturday, September 19, 2009

        Tzatziki, Raita, Maast-o Khiar, Jajik: Cucumber & Yogurt is a Good Idea

        Cucumber in yogurt is a salad staple in many cuisines, from Greece, across the Middle East and on to India. Each country has its own favorite way to make this creamy, cooling side dish.

        The basics:
        1. Pare a cucumber
        2. Add flavorings
        3. Dress with plain yogurt
        4. Chill to let flavors meld
        The flavorings:

        Every culture and seemingly every family has favorite flavorings for cucumber yogurt salad.
        • Garlic and salt are almost ubiquitous additions.
        • Green ingredients include chopped dill weed, cilantro, parsley, mint, or scallions.
        • Very thinly sliced onions add bite.
        • Spices such as pepper, cumin, turmeric or other spice may be added.
        Simple or complicated?

        The choice is yours.
        • Peel the cucumber. (Or not.)
        • To assure the yogurt does not get watery, remove the seeds from the cucumber, salt and let drain for 30 minutes before preparing the salad. (Or not.)
        • Use good quality Greek yogurt that has been drained. (Or not.)
        • Stir some flavorful olive oil into the yogurt. (Or not.)
        For a quick, weeknight sauce to serve with rice and chicken, I like to
        1. slice a peeled and seeded cucumber,
        2. add store-brand plain low fat yogurt, chopped fresh dill weed, finely chopped garlic, salt and white pepper
        3. Stir.
        I tend to make this first so that by the time the rest of supper is ready it has sat long enough for the flavors to meld a bit. No, this doesn't result in the most scrumptuous tzatziki/raita/maast-o khiar/jajik you ever had, but it's a great quick side dish!

        Fresh Refrigerator Pickles: One Cucumber at a Time

        The inventory of the roadside veggie vendor near here depends on what his farming friends in the low country of South Carolina have. This past week, he had pint baskets of cucumbers and one of them came home with me. I like cucumbers but who wants to eat the same veggie several days in a row? Small, one-cucumber batches of fresh pickles to the rescue, each with different flavors.

        This recipe needs no canning and can be done at the drop of a hat. It is completely flexible.

        Step 1: Make brine for the pickles.

        The sweetness and sourness of the pickles depends on the brine. If you look at recipes in books or online, you'll find great disparities among the ingredient ratios.

        You can choose how to proportion
        • Water
        • Vinegar
        • Sugar
        • Salt
        I am happy with
        • 2 cups of water
        • 1 cup cider vinegar
        • 1 cup of sugar
        • 2 tsp. salt
        This is about enough to cover 2 separate 1-cucumber batches. This makes a sweet but not cloyingly sweet pickle that is tangy without being too sour.

        Bring the brine to a boil and stir to fully dissolve the sugar. I do this in the microwave.

        Step 2: Prepare the vegetables

        Slice, cube or other wise cut the cucumber into pickles shapes. Layer in a covered dish with the flavors you have chosen for the pickle.

        Consider the following combinations:
        • sliced cucumber, sliced yellow onion, chopped garlic, fresh dill
        • cubed cucumber, sliced red onion, cinnamon stick, peppercorns
        • Slice cucumber, squares of red bell pepper, slice sweet onion, whole coriander seeds
        Step 3: Pour brine & refrigerate

        Pour the hot brine to cover the vegetables and spices. Cover with cling film and refrigerate.

        These pickles can be eaten as soon as they are cold but they improve in flavor over the next few days, by which time they will probably be gone.

        This recipe can serve as the basis for pickling other vegetables, e.g. zucchini, summer squash, sweet potato slices, cauliflower, etc. Have fun experimenting!

        Tuesday, September 1, 2009

        Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

        Phew! I found that little slip of paper I had written the roasted red pepper sauce formula on! Red bell peppers were 89¢ each at the Piggly Wiggly today so it's time for another freezer-stocking project!

        Freshly roasted red peppers are one of life's great pleasures. They are smooth and sweet and bear absolutely no resemblance to jarred red peppers. And they go on or in anything! Fish, pasta, potatoes, chicken, you name it! Frozen, red pepper sauce keeps that wonderful flavor around to be used at a moment's notice.

        The pictures are from an 8-pepper (quadruple) batch.

        • 2 red bell peppers, roasted and peeled
        • 1/4 cup white wine
        • 1/4 cup chicken broth
        • 1 medium red sweet onion, roughly chopped
        • 1 Tbl. olive oil
        • 1 Tbl. minced garlic
        Procedure for roasting the peppers:
        1. Preheat the oven broiler and move a rack to within 4 inches or so from the element or flames
        2. Line a cookie sheet with foil.
        3. Cut the red peppers in half and remove the stem, seeds, and whitish membranes.
        4. Place the pepper halves skin side up on the foil and press them with the palm of your hand to flatten them. They will break a bit as you flatten them and will not lie completely flat.
        1. Broil the peppers until the skin is almost totally black char but the meat is still moist. Keep the door of the oven ajar so the broiler element will stay on. These were broiled for 10 minutes, turning the tray half way through.
        1. Remove from the oven and gather the foil up around the peppers to form a sealed sack to steam them.
        1. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, remove the skin from the meat of the pepper. At this point, the roasted peppers are ready for use. I usually slice them into narrow strips. If moved to a sealed plastic bag, they will keep in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days.
        Procedure for the coulis (sauce):
        1. Sweat the chopped onion in olive oil until translucent and starting to carmelize.
        2. Add the garlic and sauté another minute.
        3. Pour the wine into the pan and stir to deglaze.
        4. Simmer to reduce the wine by half.
        1. Add the roasted and peeled peppers and stock.
        2. Simmer 10 more minutes to thicken.
        3. When cool enough to do so, purée
        The red pepper sauce can be served hot or cold. It will keep refrigerated for several days. It can also be frozen in meal-sized amounts for later use.

        It's bright red and pretty and tasty and will impress the heck out of your friends.

        Roasted Red Peppers on Foodista

        Saturday, August 29, 2009

        Ceci con Tonno -- Chick Peas and Tuna

        Before summer comes to an end, there are more opportunities for salad-centered suppers. Ceci (garbanzos) con tonno is my favorite variation on fagioli (cannellini beans) con tonno. Both are very simple and flexible dishes.

        A purist would start with dried beans but it's much faster to start with a can of beans. Try different brands of canned beans until you find your favorite. Each brand is quite different. For this recipe, I prefer Bush's Garbanzos because they are crunchier and drier than other brands but you might prefer another brand.

        • 1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
        • 1 can tuna, drained
        • Chopped celery, onions, bell pepper, sweet pepper or other vegetable to taste
        • Italian dressing
        1. Toss the ingredients and and serve or let sit for the beans to soak up a bit of the dressing.
        Easy peasy. Use whatever kind of tuna you prefer. Use any beans you like. Vary the veggies. Vary the dressing. This is an extremely easy main dish salad.

        Tuesday, August 25, 2009

        A Word About Rosemary

        Growing up, the ancient jar of dried rosemary came out once a year to flavor the creamed onions for Thanksgiving. Oh, we loved the flavor of those dry, prickly little pine needle pieces! Of course, we had no idea that fresh rosemary was so much better or so easy to have at hand. Fresh rosemary is actually soft! Not at all like eating pine needles!

        This, I learned from my dear friend, Jaylyn. Jaylyn, a great cook who serves dinner for 12 at the drop of a hat, has had a rosemary shrub-let growing in her Boston kitchen window for years. This way she can grab a fresh spring whenever she needs one. Here in South Carolina, I have my pot of rosemary out on the front steps year-round.

        It's as easy to grow as a cheap shrub. Give it occasional water and its happy. If you live far enough south to leave it outside, you may not even need to water it. Nothing beats being able to pop outside and grab fresh rosemary whenever I want it.

        Now, if only dill and basil were that easy ...

        Monday, August 24, 2009

        Slow Cooked Salmon for a Busy Weeknight

        During the semester, I teach online several times a week at dinner time. Bill works a more normal schedule. He can't wait until I'm done to eat or he's up too late. This makes it difficult to cycle enough fish into weekday meals. I'm always on the hunt for ways to have fish ready for him and waiting for me. So, with a bit of hunting on the web, I found the solution: bake frozen salmon slowly!

        • Frozen salmon fillets for two, partially thawed if they need to be cut to fit the baking dish
        • 1 large Vidalia (sweet) onion, thinly sliced
        • 3-4 sprigs rosemary
        • 1/4 cup fig balsamic sauce*
        • oil to grease the baking dish
        • salt and pepper
        *You might substitute for the fig balsamic sauce:
        • cranberry sauce cut with some balsamic vinegar
        • a flavored mustard
        • pesto
        • red pepper coulis
        • olive tapenade
        • or anything else that strikes your fancy
        1. Oil the inside of a covered baking dish
        2. Line the dish with half the sliced onion
        3. Lay the salmon on top of the onion
        4. Salt and pepper the fish
        5. Lay the rosemary on the fish
        6. Cover with the rest of the onion and the sauce. To more heavily flavor the salmon, put the sauce directly on the salmon and the onion on the very top.
        7. Cover and bake in a 225°F oven for about 1 hour.
        The salmon is well done but still moist. I wouldn't cook fresh salmon this way but it's a great way to cook frozen salmon that doesn't need watching at all while it cooks.

        Tuesday, August 18, 2009

        Honey Lemon Chicken with Yogurt and Cucumber Salad

        This is a vaguely Eastern Mediterranean meal and a fine way to use some pre-cooked chicken. It has three parts: lemon zest rice, lemon-honey chicken, and yogurt-cucumber salad. The rice is aromatic, the chicken is sweet, and the salad has a kick from raw garlic.

        Ingredients for two servings:
        • 8 oz. pre-cooked chicken
        • 1/2-2/3 cup rice
        • Juice and zest a lemon
        • 2-3 Tbl. honey
        • 1-2 tsp. cumin
        • 1 cucumber, seeds removed and sliced
        • 1 small container plain yogurt (fat free okay)
        • 1 Tbl. fresh dill, chopped fine
        • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
        • salt & white pepper
        • water or chicken broth to cook the rice
        1. Rinse the rice in a colander with running water and set aside, covered with water to soak for 10 minutes
        2. Zest the lemon and set aside
        3. Squeeze the lemon juice into a bowl big enough to hold the chicken.
        4. Add honey and cumin to the lemon juice and stir.
        5. Adjust the lemon juice : honey : cumin proportions to balance the flavors.
        6. Toss the chicken in the mixture and set aside
        7. Pare, seed and slice the cucumber
        8. Toss the cucumber with the yogurt, minced garlic, dill, salt and white pepper. Set aside to meld the flavors.
        9. Rinse the rice one more time, drain and cover with water or chicken broth so that the liquid is about 1/4 inch above the rice.
        10. Cover and bring the rice to a boil and then reduce to low and let simmer about 10 minutes, until the liquid disappears.
        11. Turn off the heat but keep covered and let steam until the rice is done, about 10 minutes.
        12. Warm the sauced chicken in the microwave.
        13. To serve, pile rice in center of plate, spread chicken over the rice, and spoon the cucumber salad around it.

        Tzatziki on Foodista

        Monday, August 17, 2009

        Caesar salad with Crisp Shredded Pork

        This is something different to do with shredded pork, something that doesn't involve any barbecue sauce. Imagine that!

        This has three basic ingredients:
        1. Shredded pork
        2. Romaine lettuce
        3. Caesar salad dressing
        • Fry the shredded pork in a dry fry pan. Add a little olive oil if you must but the object is to make the pork a bit crispy. Watch it carefully so it doesn't burn and stop before it is all crisp; leave some soft and juicy.
        • Cut the romaine leaves into crosswise strips
        • Toss the hot pork, romaine, and dressing.
        That's it. Now, if you, like me, don't happen to have Caesar dressing in your fridge, you can create a reasonable substitute by cutting mayonnaise with bottled Italian dressing and adding some good grated cheese. Tonight's salad dressing included:
        • Mayonnaise
        • Bottled red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing
        • Some jarred basil pesto
        • Freshly grated Asiago cheese
        Easy & yummy!

        Caesar Salad on Foodista

        Sunday, August 16, 2009

        Chicken Leg Quarters: True or False Economy?

        If 10 pounds of chicken leg quarters yields 3 pounds of meat (skin, bones & fat removed), is it as economical as it seems?

        The 10 pounds of chicken was 59¢ a pound or $5.90 for the bag of leg quarters. So that means the resulting 3 pounds of chicken meat was actually $1.97 a pound cooked.

        Now, let's see how that compares to the cost of boneless white meat chicken. Boneless skinless chicken breasts lose 1/4 to 1/3 their weight depending on how they are cooked. So, pound for pound, they would need to be somewhere between $1.32 and $1.48 a pound to equal 59¢ a pound leg quarters.

        But is this comparing apples and oranges? Probably. White meat is healthier for you. Dark meat makes tastier salads and soups. Some recipes only work with one or the other so I will always be buying both. Still in all, I feel better about the time and mess of skinning and boning all those leg quarters if they really are cheaper per pound than boneless skinless breasts would be.

        Imprecise & Inexpensive

        Two themes predominate in my approach to cooking. 1. Daily cooking of flavorful food need not be a precise art. 2. You can be an adventurous cook on a budget. Cooking and eating should be fun for both cookers and eaters.