Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sourdough Starter

My friend Julie gave me some sourdough starter* which she got from a popular bakery which I can't remember the name of. I am extremely grateful to receive this gift. I made a boule, my favorite kind of bread. It is hearty and tasty. I love it toasted and slathered with butter. I was lazy and used my bread machine for making the dough. This is how I did it; I put about 2 cups of the sourdough starter and 1 cup of water in machine. I added about 2 Tablespoons vital gluten (I used my fingers, no measuring spoons) about 3/4 cup dark rye flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 2 cups all purpose flour, a small pinch of yeast and about a tablespoon of course grey sea salt. Set machine to dough only cycle setting. When cycle was done I removed dough from machine and punched out. I shaped into a round and place on a piece of parchment and covered with a floured towel. I left it for a few hours to rise again. (We went out to dinner) When we returned, I pre-heated the oven to 500 degrees with my le creuset dutch oven inside. When heated, I slashed the top of the bread and lift it up by parchment and dropped the whole loaf parchment and all, into dutch oven and covered with lid**. Baked 30 minutes. Then removed cover and baked 5 additional minutes.

This baking method is part of the Jim Layey no knead bread method as seen in the NYT. Baking in the covered pot catches the steam released from the bread and creates a crisp crust. I think my oven was too hot and next time will cook at 450 degrees as the bottom was quite dark. Other than that, the bread came out very good with good size bubbles and a nice chew.

*Not everyone has a Julie to gift them sourdough starters. You can look on the web for instructions to start your own or buy freeze dried starter. I have started several starters over the years, but I have to admit none have been as good as this one. Thanks Julie!!

**If your Le Creuset or dutch oven lid has a plastic handle on top cover the handle with foil to avoid melting/smoking of plastic. There is a metal substitute available. I covered mine with foil and it was fine.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Moqueca - Brazilian Fish Stew

I do follow recipes occasionally and this is one from a blog I subscribe to. It sounded so good and so easy that I followed it pretty closely (I don't measure except when baking) with the exception of the addition of mussels. One pot to clean, tasty and easy. Find the recipe here at Simply Recipes.

Eggs from my neigbor

Just some pictures of the beautiful eggs I purchase weekly from a neighbor.

Beef Shanks with Morels

The Beef shanks in this dinner are from the Black Angus cow I purchased in November. Shanks are very tasty with lots of gelatinous fat between the muscles, which adds richness and flavor, but they need to be braised till fork tender. The Morels were wild foraged by my friends Elizabeth and Danny. They were up in northern California in early winter and foraged a whole grocery bag of morels and boletes. The mushrooms were dried in a dehydrator and I received a quart of morels and a quart of boletes. Just for being me. Aren't I lucky to have such good friends.

I started by seasoning with salt and pepper browning the shanks in a little olive oil till nice and caramelized. While meat is caramelizing, cover a large handful or two of dried morels with boiling water. Once softened cut morels in half and rinse in cold running water to remove any grit. Strain soaking liquid and reserve. Alternately you can add fresh mushrooms of your choice to the pot after caramelizing the meat.

I added 1/2 chopped onion, a couple of crushed garlic cloves, 5 slender carrots halved, a bay leaf and a few sprigs thyme to pot. When the onions were soft I added 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and 2 cups red wine and reduced by about half. I added 4 chopped tomatoes from a can of whole peeled tomatoes, 1 cup of very rich beef stock, strained mushroom liquid and water to bring liquid level about 2/3 of the way up the side of the meat. Meat should not be completely immersed in liquid. Add cleaned mushrooms. Bring to a boil, cover with foil and pot lid and put in a cool (310 degree) oven for about 3 hours or till meat is fork tender. Remove meat from pot, skim fat from sauce and if desired separate meat from bones and gelatinous tendons/fat. I don't mind the fat in my dish but my husband and children don't like it. Served with wide noodles.

Enjoy! xo

Monday, March 8, 2010

Arroz Con Pollo with a mediterranean touch

My plan for tonight's dinner started with a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Oh what to do, what to do? I started going through the pantry and came back with this: rice, can of artichoke hearts in water, container of organic chicken stock, a can of whole, peeled tomatoes, kalamata olives and capers. Here is what I did.

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and Piment d'espelette, (ground chili pepper from Basque country) and lightly dust with flour. In a hot pan add olive oil and brown the chicken pieces. Remove Chicken and add a little more olive oil if needed, 1/2 diced onion and 4 cloves chopped garlic. Sweat till soft and just starting to brown. Chop and add 4 whole peeled tomatoes. Saute a bit then add 1 1/2 to 2 cups rice and saute. add drained and rinsed artichoke hearts, a handful of olives and capers 2 cups chicken stock and 2 cups water. Check seasoning and add salt if needed. Arrange the chicken on top, bring to a boil and simmer covered 30 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove the lid and let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Sorry no pictures again, but this was pretty delicious for being thrown together quickly and I loved that there was only 1 pan to clean. Or rather my husband loved that there was just 1 pan to clean.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Oldie but Goodie, My Favorite Asparagus, Quinoa

Here is one of the first restaurant dishes I put on the menu in the first restaurant I cooked at about 25 years ago. This was back before cooking school. The dish, Chicken Saute Sec was on a lot of restaurant menus way back when. It is simple and tasty and doesn't require a lot of ingredients. Tonight I served it with Red Quinoa with grated carrot, green onions and toasted almonds and Roasted Asparagus.

Chicken Saute Sec

Boneless skinless chicken breast
flour (white flour or whole wheat pastry flour)
shallots, chopped (I used a garlic clove and chopped green onions, because no shallots)
white wine
Salt and Pepper
butter and olive oil

Season the chicken with S&P and dust with flour. Heat a saute pan over high heat, add a little olive oil to cover and a knob of butter. When butter is melted add chicken. Depending on how many servings you are making you may do in batches, avoid overcrowding, brown and turn to brown on other side, reduce heat if necessary. As they are browned remove from pan. When all the chicken is browned, add a little more olive oil of necessary and add the shallots (or onions and garlic). Saute a bit and deglaze with a nice helping of white wine, about a cup. Reduce a bit then add chicken back. Lower heat and and finish cooking chicken turning over to coat and cook both sides. If you like a little more sauce you can add a little water. Done, easy peasy!


You can use regular or red quinoa. Rinse quinoa under cold water. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil on stove. Add a little salt and 1 cup rinsed quinoa. Return to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes. While quinoa is cooking grate a large carrot, slice a couple of green onions and chop a handful of toasted almonds and toss together in a bowl. When quinoa is done cooking (quinoa is done when a little spiral opens up and is tender) strain and add to bowl, toss with a little olive oil and season with S & P. Any leftovers are great served cold as a salad the next day. Toss with salad greens if you like.

note; I toasted the almonds over low heat in the saute pan I used later for the chicken. No need to wash before using again.

Roasted Asparagus

With spring coming and asparagus appearing in the market I would like to share my favorite way to cook asparagus.

Break or cut off bottom ends of spear. Soak in cold water to remove any grit. Drain and dry. Line a sheet pan with foil (for easy clean-up, not required) and line up asparagus. Pour on a few splashes of olive oil (I like to use lemon infused olive oil) and season with salt and pepper. You can also grate lemon zest over it. Put in a hot oven about 410 degrees for about 10 minutes. Best with a little brownage on the edges. You can put it under the broiler briefly if you like.

Oops, I forgot to take pictures.