Muir Glen Tomatoes: Product Review and a Giveaway!

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by the nice folks at Muir Glen tomatoes. They offered me a free sample of their 2009 Reserve Tomatoes to review on my blog. The nice folks at Muir Glen, are really nice folks: they also offered to let me give away the same nice box of goodies to one of my lucky readers. (I’ll give you more details at the end of this post).

When I was corresponding with the representative from Muir Glen, I tried to appear really casual. You know, really savvy and cool. I let her know that by sending me and my readers freebies, she was not guaranteed a good review! Little did she know  the reality of the situation:  I use their tomatoes every time I cook (so she was almost guaranteed a good review, in fact, I was trembling with anticipation about receiving this kit!). I came across their products years ago and in my opinion, the canned tomatoes are the best on the market. They taste good. They don’t taste like the can they come in. Not only do they have tomatoes of exceptional flavor, but the tomatoes are organic which is important to me. Why? Because not only am I concerned about the pesticide residues in my food and in the environment, but tomatoes have been one of those foods that have been genetically modified quite often in the past. Although there is no proof (yet) that GMO foods are harmful to us, I have a gut feeling that I should avoid them. Certified organic foods cannot contain GMOs. After the box arrived, I started pouring through the materials included in the shipment. I learned that the high quality of the tomatoes has to do with careful handling from the farm to the can. I also learned that these tomatoes are grown in California which for me, makes them a local food (yeah!).

Now, let’s talk about the box I received in the mail. It is gorgeous! You get a wooden crate filled with goodies.

Inside the box is a packet talking about the two cans of Reserve tomatoes included within. There are also two recipe cards. Now… I was promised recipe cards and at first I was a little disappointed because I saw only two recipe cards and I didn’t yet realize what the book underneath these materials was.

It turns out that the book is a gorgeous cookbook, with all of the information about how they grow and package the tomatoes, but…it includes 50 pages of delicious sounding recipes with full color photos of the food. This is a gorgeous book, and in my opinion. it is  worth as much as the tomatoes themselves if not more. After perusing this book, I decided I would use the four cans of tomatoes to make two of the recipes from the book so that you can get an idea of what the recipes are like.

Below the books, nestled away, were the four cans of tomatoes. There were the two cans of reserve tomatoes: Yolo Red diced tomatoes and Brigade whole tomatoes. Also included were Fire Roasted tomatoes and Adobo Seasoned tomatoes.

I used the reserve tomatoes to make Braised Tuscan Chicken with Fennel and White Beans. Upon opening the cans of tomatoes, I took a taste of each. I was disappointed with my choice in recipes for a minute, because the Yolo Red tomatoes where so sweet and delicious, they would have been wonderful used in something fresher such as a bruschetta or in a salsa. (If you win my contest, take note of that). The Brigade tomatoes had good acidity and tasted like they would be perfect for this slow braise. The only surprise I had, happened when I poured the Brigade tomatoes out of the can. If memory serves me right, a 15 oz can of tomatoes usually includes about 5 or 6 tomatoes. When I poured, three perfectly gorgeous round tomatoes popped out of the can. I had to laugh, I guess they didn’t want to smash them, so they only include enough tomatoes to not get smashed in transit. Luckily, the can of diced Yolo Reds where packed full, making it so that I had plenty of tomatoes for the recipe. The braised chicken came out delicious. The sauce begged for bread to sop it up and was loaded with chunks of vegetables and beans and a hint of herbs, the tomato flavor was outstanding. The chicken was falling off the bone tender. I’ll be making this chicken dish again!

The next day, anxious to taste the Adobo seasoned tomatoes, I decided to make the vegetarian chili recipe. I tasted the tomatoes upon opening the cans. The fire roasted tomatoes are familiar to me. They have a good roasted tomato flavor with a hint of smoke from the charred tomato skins you see floating among the diced tomatoes. I tasted the Adobo Seasoned tomatoes. The flavor was strange and familiar at the same time. I had to taste again before I realized that it is a light version of the super hot adobo sauce you find in a can of chipotle with adobo sauce. It is like they added just a hint of chipotle to their tomatoes. I had a really good feeling about cooking with these!! The chili turned out to be a smash hit. I followed the recipe exactly, using the prescribed amount of jalapeno and chili powder even though I knew that half my tomatoes had a good kick already. The chili came out spicy with a hint of that good chipotle flavor. It was wonderful. I’ll be looking for the Adobo Spiced tomatoes at my grocery store, I can think of many recipes that would be improved by using them.

So… you are probably wondering how you can get a box of these tomatoes and recipes for yourself.  Please leave a comment on my blog between now and Monday December 7th. I’ll hold a random drawing and one lucky Delectable Tidbits reader will receive a Reserve kit from Muir Glen.  Unfortunately, Muir Glen can only ship the reserve kit to people in the U.S., Sorry.

If you are not the winner, you can still get a Reserve kit. Muir Glen has these Reserve kits available for $7.00 at this link. By my calculation, that price barely covers the cost of the tomatoes much less the shipping and you get a crate to recycle for storing CDs and the cookbook and… Muir Glen will donate money to the charity Chefs Collaborative each time we buy a reserve kit. They are donating $2 for every Reserve kit they sell and $1 for each person who becomes a fan on their Facebook page (My friend Kevin is laughing at me right now because I am anti-Facebook, but hey, it’s for a good cause! So stop laughing Kevin!)

So, all of my friends and lurkers, leave me a comment.  Good luck everyone!!

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If life doesn’t give you lemons, use oranges instead

Oranges

Welcome to my pity party. My name is Mimi and I will be your hostess as well as the special guest of honor. Today was a bad day. It was what you might call a really bad day.

I’ve been laid off since the end of May and I’ve mostly been enjoying the boredom free time. This blog has never gotten so much attention ever from me. I have plenty of time to cook. I should be happy right? Well, wrong! Everyday, I look for a job online. Most days I find nothing in my field of expertise within a 250 mile radius. I try to find something to apply for but most of the job leads are in communities I have never even wanted to visit much less live in. So I’m never very excited about my prospects. It’s driving me crazy. Sure there were a couple of near hits. There was the university that has two job openings that I’d be perfect for but never called me back. Then there was the publishing company who put me through five interviews only to forget to let me know whether or not they have made a hiring decision. Those things made my days so much more exciting. I read the news. I know there are other people in worse situations than me, but this long drawn out waiting game is grating on my every last nerve and today I sunk into a deep and unending funk. It was really bad.

This morning, after I played my fifteenth game of spider three decks solitaire, I decided to move my depressed ass to the couch to watch the Food Network. (This was before the manic crying incident later in the afternoon). Giada was on. There she was in all of her buxom roman porn star beauty… making leftovers. Well, what she was doing was really what I call chicken evolution. She was taking leftovers and making them into something else. She made soup out of an old rotisserie chicken, crostini out of day old bread and cake out of old simple syrup (leave it to a food network star to keep simple syrup in the fridge and consider it leftovers). As I sat transfixed by Giada’s bouncing cleavage and her literally glowing teeth, I realized she was making a really amazing cake. Although I’m not always excited about the regular food she makes, I trust Giada when it comes to sweets. She has a sweet tooth and you can tell she loves to bake. If Giada didn’t come from a Hollywood family who prizes their looks we would probably mistake Giada for Ina Garten ’cause you can tell Giada likes to bake and she likes to eat!

Back to that cake. It was called Lemon Mint Cake with Lemon Syrup. It had all of the prerequisite cake ingredients but the eggs were separated and the whites were made into a stiff meringue which was folded back into the cake to make it light and fluffy. The promise of this cake was that it would have a crispy exterior, a light and fluffy interior and then a dousing of intense flavor from the syrup. As Giada cut herself a slice, I could see that her cake would live up to that promise. It looked so delicious. She took a bite and made that awful orgasmic cat call she makes when she bites into something that is supposed to be good…. But the sound was…somehow different. Perhaps genuine? Did I hear correctly, a genuine sounding orgasmic moan coming out of Giada and a pleased happy look of real contentment on her face? Rewind! Yes… I believe it’s true. I have to have this cake!!

But…Although I have a little mint in the backyard still, I have no lemons. Just a bunch of old neglected oranges. I am way to depressed to haul my butt to the store. But, orange and mint sounds great. I looked at my Boyfriend who has been giving me the look all day that a love one gives you when they wonder if they should call the suicide hotline on your behalf. I tell him, “I want to make cake will you have some?” He looks at me with a little smile on his face because he knows that baking will make me happy. (He tries to make sure I don’t see him wondering when I will go back on Weight Watchers and lose the five pounds I have managed to gain back). He says “yes, I would love some cake”.

I made that cake and it made me very happy. The crisp exterior does yield to a soft interior. It is like biting into a cloud. The syrup was heady with the scent of oranges. The whole cake was redolent of orange with just a hint of mint. Scrumptious. If I were a more outgoing person, a small orgasmic sound would have escaped my lips.

Sometimes it is the little things that keep you going.

OrangeMintCake

Orange Mint Cake with Orange Syrup

Adapted from Lemon Mint Cake with Lemon Syrup by Giada De Laurentiis

Cake:

3 eggs at room temperature, separated

1 cup sugar, divided

¼ cup olive oil

1/8 tsp salt

2 ½ tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves

3 tbsp orange juice

1 tbsp orange zest

1 cup all purpose flour

Syrup:

1 cup sugar

¼ cup water

¾ cup orange juice

1 tbsp orange zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9” cake pan.

In a bowl, beat olive oil and ½ cup of the sugar. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating as they are added. Add mint, orange juice and orange zest. Add flour and beat until just combined. Set aside.

Place egg whites in a separate large bowl. Beat them until they form soft peaks. Add the other half cup of sugar and beat until the whites form stiff peaks.

Transfer ½ of the egg white mixture to the bowl with the cake batter. Carefully fold the whites into the cake batter. Add the other half of the whites and gently fold them into the batter until well combined, taking care not to deflate the egg whites. Spread the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake the cake 40 – 45 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Move the cake from the oven to a wire rack and let it cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the simple syrup: Combine the sugar, water, orange juice and orange zest in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer for five minutes. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool for at least twenty minutes.

To serve, spoon syrup generously over each slice of cake.

More 2 for 1 Pizza Madness

2or1pizzabanner
I think I have mentioned it before but I am in love, simply in love with pizza. From the time I first tasted pizza as a tiny child it has been one of my all time favorite foods. I have eaten all sorts of pizza and this week I thought I would do my take on two gourmet restaurant favorites. Barbeque chicken pizza and a ham and fig pizza.

Before we get started, I just want to give a word of encouragement for anyone who has come to today’s post interested in pizza but intimidated by making a sourdough pizza crust. Although I think this is hands down the best pizza crust, you don’t have to go there if you don’t want to. If you bake bread and have a good recipe for a white or whole grain loaf, you can flatten that into pizza crust. Before I dabbled in sourdough, I used to make a whole grain dough in my bread machine and use it for pizza. Very simple! You don’t bake bread? If you have a Trader Joes, they sell a fabulous fresh pizza dough for pennies. Most well stocked groceries have frozen pizza dough. Better yet, there are precooked crusts such as Boboli. Pita breads, lavash breads, naan or even flour tortillas (just be frugal on toppings) can all be toasted lightly and then baked as pizza crust. But if you are with me on making the best crust, read on…

After looking back at my previous blog posts (Chicken Basil Sausage Pizza and the last 2 for 1 post about Salmon and Beet Greens Pizza and Canadian Bacon and Pineapple Pizza), I realized that my crust has slightly changed. Here is the current instructions for the crust which I am now rolling on the edges. A slight roll gives the crust a bready edge. If you just roll the crust flat, it will be more cracker-like which is also quite tasty.

Multi grain pizza crust for two pizzas:

1 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)

3/4 cup sourdough starter

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 cups unbleached white flour

1 cup stone ground whole wheat flour

1/3 cup rye flour

2 teaspoons salt

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Cornmeal for dusting peel

Mix first 3 crust ingredients in bowl of heavy-duty mixer. Add 2 cups unbleached white flour; stir to blend. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel. Let the sponge ferment in a warm draft-free area for about 1 1/2 hours.

Using a dough hook, mix in the stone ground whole-wheat flour, rye flour and salt at lowest setting. Increase speed slightly; knead dough 5 minutes, adding more whole wheat flour by the tablespoonfuls if the dough sticks to sides of bowl. Let dough rest 15 minutes. Knead on low 5 minutes. Scrape dough from the hook into the bowl. Remove bowl from stand. Coat a rubber spatula with nonstick spray. Slide spatula under and around dough, coating dough lightly. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise until doubled in volume, about 1-2 hours.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Flatten the dough into a rectangle and then fold it like you are folding a letter (be careful not to press too hard and deflate the dough). Divide in half. Roll each half of the dough into a ¼” thick round and transfer each round to a pizza peel or baking sheet coated in cornmeal. Roll the edges over once to create a crust. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise for at least a half hour.

An hour before making pizza, place a baking stone in your oven and preheat to 450°F.

Top the crusts with the toppings of your choice.

Bake pizza one at a time for 13 minutes each. Cool for a couple of minutes before cutting into slices.

And now for the ingredients we used this week. The lists below are in order of how they should be added to the pies:

Barbeque chicken pizza

BBQChickenPizza

This pizza is the best use for the small amount of leftovers from a homemade roasted chicken or a store bought rotisserie chicken. I removed the meat from a leftover leg and the carcass of our leftover chicken. I got around a cup or slightly more of meat which I chopped and then marinated in barbeque sauce. Both pizzas were delicious but we loved this one the best with it’s south of the border flavors. Top the pizza in this order:

Muir Glen cabernet marinara or your favorite pasta sauce (approx. 4 tbsp or more)

Chopped cilantro

4 oz mozzarella

2 oz Quattro Fromaggio four cheese blend (Italian 4 shredded cheese blend)

2 oz grated sharp white cheddar

Chopped fresh garlic (about a tablespoon)

Sliced zucchini

Red onions, sliced

Thinly sliced heirloom or beefsteak tomato

1-2 fresh jalapenos, dry roasted in a cast iron pan, peeled and diced

Sliced black olives

1 cup or more diced cooked chicken marinated in a couple of tablespoons of barbeque sauce (I used Annie’s smoky maple barbeque sauce)

Black Forest Ham and Fig Pizza

HamFigPizza

 Sautéed greens, earthy mushrooms, black forest ham and figs. It’s like a grown up version of Canadian bacon and pineapple but oh so very much more subtle and delicious!  Top the pizza in this order:

Muir Glen cabernet marinara or your favorite pasta sauce (approx. 4 tbsp or more)

Half a bunch of chard, triple washed, chopped and sautéed with garlic and olive oil

4 oz mozzarella

2 oz Quattro Fromaggio four cheese blend (Italian 4 shredded cheese blend)

Chopped fresh garlic (about a tablespoon)

Sliced red onion

½ cup sliced cremini mushrooms

½ red pepper, diced

Sliced black olives

8-10 fresh mission figs, sliced in half

9-10 deli slices of black forest ham cut in thirds

There you have it. Sophisticated pizzas that are so much better than takeout and cost so much less than takeout pizza. This makes two large pizzas so that you can eat to your heart’s content the night you make them when they are fresh and delicious and you’ll still have leftovers for breakfast (I know I’m not the only one guilty of pizza for breakfast!)

A new twist on breadsticks

 Twists1

Sourdough starter is a lovely thing. It sits in a jar and doesn’t talk back. All it requires is a little food and water. You may not be able to pet it (if you try, it won’t exactly be pleasant). You can’t teach it to talk, fetch or retrieve your slippers, but you can teach it to play dead. Through the thick and thin of aging parents, loss of love, and loss of work, a little flour and water is all that is needed to keep a constant friend ready to help you bake and forget.

 Several weeks ago, I went to Portland to visit my best friend. She is a loyal visitor to my blog and has followed my sourdough adventures. I suggested a couple of times that she might enjoy baking bread. I didn’t think she was very enthusiastic about bread making until she asked me to bring the starter with me on the plane. I have to admit that I am not a traveler. Travel makes me anxious. I fly so infrequently that I end up flummoxed by the changes in procedures that happen so often in this post 9/11 world. I packed a bit o’ Herbert in a leak proof plastic container nestled into a zip lock baggie with a cold pack to help keep the starter nice and sleepy. I didn’t really think about what was in my luggage until a man next to me in the lobby of the airport sat arguing with a security guard. As I eaves dropped, I came to realize the man was angry because they found a small vial of silicon oil in his luggage and airport security informed him they discarded it. I began to nervously think of the Turkish prisons in the film Midnight Express. Luckily, Herbert must have seemed strange but safe. I made it to Portland without having to explain what was sitting in my luggage.

 R. was tutored in the care and feeding of the starter that week and surprised me the week after with emails containing the most delicious pictures of pancakes, breads and pizza. She seemed to love her new toy! She also let me know that her starter has been named George and George has been “gifted” to several of her friends who are now baking all sorts of wonderful things.

 During that week in Portland, I only managed to bake one thing. I saw this recipe for sourdough grissini on Susan’s Wild Yeast blog and they looked like the perfect accompaniment to the yummy homemade dinners my friend treated me to during that week. I had never made bread sticks and I was pleased by the fact that the recipe was so fast and simple. The breadsticks turned out great and we gobbled them up in two days flat.

Last week, I baked for the first time in weeks. I made pizza. Making pizza made me feel like I am getting my baking mojo back. I began to be on the lookout for something else to bake.  I was thumbing through the latest issue of Cooking Light magazine and there was a suggestion for an accompaniment to a pasta dish. The suggestion was to take frozen breadstick dough and brush it with olive tapenade, twist the breadsticks so that the tapenade gets folded into and around the bread. Since I am never one to do things the easy way, I knew a sourdough version of these breadsticks was inevitable! I made a wheatier version of Susan’s grissini and covered them in tapenade. These breadsticks are mellower than I would have expected them to be with so much olive paste, but the flavor is delicious and the texture is chewy and with a slight crunch to the tips of the bread. The baking time is a bit longer for these due to the fact that I added extra water before I really checked on the texture of my dough and the tapenade may have made them a little moister too.

 This is my submission to this week’s YeastSpotting event on Wild Yeast. Please visit Susan’s blog for more adventures in bread!

Twists2

 

Tapenade Twists

 120 g white bread flour

220 g stone ground whole wheat flour

200 g water

1 ½ tsp salt

23 g olive oil

230 g well fed, 100 % hydration sourdough starter

4 – 6 oz olive tapenade

 Combine all of the ingredients except for the tapenade in a bowl and mix well. You may need to add extra water by the tablespoon until it forms a medium soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 5 to 10 minutes to form the gluten. (You should be able to stretch the dough without it breaking apart). Transfer your dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough ferment for 2 – 3 hours with a fold at 40 and 80 minutes (Fold: Pat the dough into an 8” x 4” rectangle and fold it like a letter. I usually do this a couple of times. Do not pat it roughly, you want to form air pockets and stretch the gluten but you don’t want to abuse the dough).

At the end of the fermentation time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Meanwhile, divide the dough into 3 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, flatten each piece into a 6” x 4” rectangle. Brush the rectangle liberally with olive tapenade. Cut the rectangle into long strips. You should be able to cut about 8 strips from each piece of dough. Move the dough strips one at a time to the cookie sheet. Pull the dough gently to stretch it to the length of the cookie sheet and then twist the dough into a loose coil from top to bottom. Repeat until all three dough pieces are flattened, brushed with tapenade, cut and twisted. Bake the breadsticks for 30 – 40 minutes, until browned. Remove from the oven and transfer the bread to wire racks to cool completely before enjoying.

Pure comfort food

baked-penne

I have a recipe I love for baked penne.  It is loaded with three kinds of cheeses and these ethereal chicken meatballs that you fry in olive oil until they have a brown crunchy crust.  It is wonderful and when I make it, it takes hours to prepare and I always feel vindicated to have an especially massive piece of it after such hard labor.  Since I embarked on my weight loss journey, I have been terrified to make this particular dish because I know it is loaded with fat and calories and I know that I can’t be trusted to eat a tiny portion.  In fact, I have been known to dig cold meatballs out of the casserole and pop them into my mouth at a moments notice.  Not a good thing to have in my house, no.

 

I love Italian food and I especially love all of the baked dishes.  I didn’t think I could indulge in such cheesy, saucy fare so I have seriously been depriving myself for so many months now.

 

Recently, I have expanded my usual magazine fetish due to finding out how great Cooking Light and Eating Well have become.  As a matter of fact, I can’t get enough of Cooking Light magazine.  During the holidays, I noticed a special edition Meals in Minutes issue of Cooking Light at the store and took it home.  There was a baked pasta dish included in this issue.  It sounded sort of pedestrian.  Not so special as the baked penne I love so much.  However, looking at the nutritional information, it looked like it would fit nicely into my allotted food for the day.  I decided to give it a try.  The original recipe called for spicy Italian turkey sausage, regular white pasta and full fat mozzarella.  I switched these ingredients for chicken basil sausage, whole-wheat penne and part skim mozzarella.  I used a really full flavored parmesano reggiano.  What came out of my oven last night made me want to weep.  Nothing can replace my original favorite recipe but this was so very good, so healthy and so simple to make that I am very happy indeed.

 

Baked penne with sausage

Adapted from the best of Cooking Light meals in minutes

 

1 pound whole-wheat penne rigate

1 pound chicken and basil sausage

1 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves

1 tbsp tomato paste

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp fresh ground pepper

2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes (with basil and garlic if available)

¼ cup fresh basil, chopped

1 cup shredded part skim mozzarella

1 cup grated parmesano reggiano

Olive oil cooking spray

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

 

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and return to the pot.  Cover and set aside.

 

Remove the casings from the sausage.  Heat pan over medium heat and spray liberally with cooking spray.  Add onion, garlic and sausage.  Cook until sausage is browned.  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 

Add the fresh basil and sauce into cooked pasta and mix well.   Oil a 9”x13” pan.  Pour half of the pasta mixture into the prepared pan.  Top with half of the mozzarella and parmesan.  Pour the other half of the pasta mixture on top of the cheese layer and smooth with a spoon.  Top the pasta with the remaining mozzarella and parmesan.  Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly.  Makes 8 servings.

 

 

Ciabatta!!

ciabattaroll1

Either it was all my fault or Daniel Leder lied to me.  It was probably my fault.  You see I didn’t use his recipe, just his technique.  Well, as usual, I didn’t really follow the recipe either. But… he said in his book Local Breads that you could turn the ciabatta loaves into rolls that would be perfect for sandwiches.  Well maybe Daniel Leder has been through Weight Watchers because these rolls came out dinner roll size.  Not at all what I would have thought of as sandwich size at all.  Unless you are still after six months reducing your portion sizes like a good little girl and eating the exact proper serving of bread.  Yep, my delusions of grandeur were yet again reduced to… well… propriety.  Good for me I guess, since I am still trying to lose weight, grumble, grumble, grumble…

 

Perhaps I am complaining for nothing.  What these rolls lack in size they make up for in flavor.  I used whole-wheat flour for the sponge and although this is probably a tactical error when it comes to ciabatta (you see, you want big holes and whole-wheat flour is a dense and wily beast), it sure gave my rolls a wonderful nutty flavor.  I’m thinking that I’ll probably double the size of the rolls next time, take the hit for a double serving of bread, and have the sandwich rolls of my dreams.  For now, I have wonderful dinner rolls.  Now if only I had some soup.

 

Oh, and by the way, if you love bread, check out YeastSpotting on Susan’s Wild Yeast blog.  It’s funny.  Embarrassing story, but true:  when I first saw YeastSpotting I actually wondered how Susan was finding all of these great bakers writing about their bread each week.  My thought was Susan has a lot of time on her hands.  Well duh!  It would help if I would read the blogs I visit instead of just looking at the pretty pictures.  So Susan, per the instructions on your blog, I submit my ciabatta rolls for this week’s yeast spotting!

 

ciabattaroll2

Ciabatta Rolls

Adapted from Williams Sonoma Essentials of Baking

 

Sponge:

½ cup 1% milk, warm (about 105 degrees)

1 ¼ cups room temperature water

1 cup well fed sourdough starter

2 cups whole-wheat flour

 

Dough:

2 cups white bread flour

1 tbsp kosher salt

1 tbsp olive oil

Extra flour for dusting the work surface.

 

The night before you plan to bake, Stir together milk, water, starter, and whole-wheat flour in a large bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the sponge sit out at room temperature overnight (at least 8 hours).

 

The next day, transfer the sponge to the bowl of your stand mixer.  Attach a bread hook to the mixer.  Add bread flour, salt and olive oil.  Run the mixer at the lowest speed until the ingredients are combined then raise the speed a notch and let the dough knead for 7 minutes.  Cover the mixer bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to ferment 3 hours or until the dough doubles in volume.

 

Flour your work surface liberally (the dough will be wet and sticky).  Line two baking sheets with parchment.  Pour the dough out onto the floured surface and pat it into a 10”x12” rectangle.  Using a pizza cutter cut the dough into 2”x3” rectangles.  Use a bench scraper to carefully scrape up and move the rolls to a parchment lined baking sheet.  These rolls should be rustic but be careful as you move them.  They will stick to the work surface, push in on themselves and stick to you.  The nicest rolls I made were the ones that I was carefully able to pick and move in a rectangular shape.  Once the rolls have been moved to their new parchment lined home, cover the baking sheets carefully with a clean dishtowel and allow the rolls to rise 1 ½ – 2 hours until puffy.

 

Prepare your oven:  Make sure the racks are in the middle and lower thirds of the oven.  While the rolls are rising (maybe a half hour before baking time) preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  When the oven is hot, add the sheets of rolls and a custard cup full of water (for steam) to the oven.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the rolls from the oven and cool completely before enjoying.

 

 

 

 

 

A most excellent soup

I love fall.  Where I live, it is still clear and warm during the day but the air gets a definite bite at night.  When the evenings get cool, my thoughts turn from salads to warm food.  I want things that cook on the stove top for extended periods of time, food that roasts in the oven, perfuming the air with the scent of good flavors.

 

I have been intending to make Lentil Minestrone for weeks.  I got a dutch oven for my birthday last month and I have wanted to try it out but soup just wasn’t meant to be until today.  I stumbled onto the recipe while looking up something entirely different.  The soup makes good use of pantry items and staple veggies.  The only problem I had is that the dutch oven I got turned out to be a bit small for this particular soup recipe.  I have a three and a half quart dutch oven.  This recipe makes more like four or five quarts of soup.  The soup should have been brothier than it turned out, but I was determined to use my new pot so I used much less vegetable stock than called for.  I enjoy a thick lentil soup anyway.  I also traded out some of the herbs and flavorings called for in the original recipe with items I already had.  The herbs seemed a little more French inspired so I went with Italian herbs instead.  It was a good choice.  Redolent with parsley, rosemary and fresh bay leaves, this soup was delicious!

 

Lentil Minestrone

Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

 

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 tbsp tomato paste

¼ cup chopped parsley

4 large garlic cloves

3 carrots, diced

1 cup celery, diced

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup French lentils, rinsed

3 fresh bay leaves (or 2 dried)

8 branches parsley

2 branches fresh rosemary

6 cups vegetable broth

Soy sauce to taste

1 bunch chard, washed thoroughly and chopped

1 cup dry pennete (or any small pasta of your choice)

Optional toppings:  drizzle of olive oil, shredded parmesan

 

Heat the oil over medium heat in a dutch oven.  Add onions and saute for ten minutes until lightly caramelized.  Add tomato paste, chopped parsley, garlic, carrots, celery, salt and pepper.  Cook for another three minutes.  Add lentils, bay leaves, parsley branches, rosemary branches and vegetable broth.  Bring to a simmer and cook thirty minutes.  Meanwhile, boil water for pasta in a small pot.  Boil water for chard in a large pot.  Boil pasta according to package directions until al dente, drain and set aside.  Cook chard for three to five minutes, drain and set aside.  When the soup has cooked for thirty minutes, season the soup with soy sauce to taste.  Remove the parsley branches, rosemary branches and bay leaves.  Stir in the cooked pasta and chard right before serving.  If you would like, serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan.  The soup is wonderful without these condiments.

 

The color red

I’m very blue.  I can’t discuss why but my blue demeanor is why there has been no activity on this blog for a while.  I’ll just leave it at that. No sense making everyone sad and worried.

 

Let’s talk about red.  Red is happy.  I made a sanguine risotto tonight.  I also sort of messed up on the recipe.  I bought the ingredients last Tuesday(!) and I was too upset to cook all week.  I didn’t grocery shop this weekend and when I went to figure out what there was to eat, I was amazed that the beets and basil I bought almost a week ago were in really good condition.  I was so excited that I didn’t let the food go bad that I didn’t follow directions.  I was using the recipe for Beet Risotto with Greens from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.  When I went shopping I made my first mistake.  I read the recipe as needing chard or the greens from the beets (I read an “or” not an “and”).  I was going to get both anyway but the chard looked bad.  I decided that the bunch of beets I got had more than enough greens for the recipe.  Then tonight, I misread that I was supposed to add chard (or ½ of those beet greens) with the rice and the rest of the beet greens towards the end.  The beet greens cooked down to a silky soft consistency that was really a pleasure to eat, but I can see where she was going with the recipe.  It might have been nice to have some greens with a chewy texture too.  Either way, this dish was super healthy and really satisfying to eat.

 

Beet Risotto

Accidentally adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

 

5 ½ to 6 cups vegetable stock

 

1 tbsp butter

 

2 tbsp olive oil

 

½ of a large yellow onion, diced

 

1 ½ cups Arborio rice

 

½ cup dry white wine

 

2 tbsp chopped parsley

 

2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

 

3 – 4 medium beets peeled and grated in a food processor (about 2 cups)

 

4-6 cups beet greens (washed well to remove sand), chopped finely

 

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Grated zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon

 

½ cup parmagiano reggiano

 

Chive blossoms (optional)

 

Bring the stock to a boil and then leave simmering on the stove.  Heat the oil and melt the butter in a deep, wide pot.  Add the onion and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes until softened.  Add the rice.  Cook for one minute stirring to coat.  Add the wine.  Simmer until the wine is absorbed.  Stir in half the parsley, the basil, the grated beets and the beet greens.  Add 2 cups of stock.  Simmer, stirring until most of the stock is absorbed.  Add more stock ½ cup at a time stirring until the stock is absorbed.  Repeat the adding of stock, stirring and absorbing until you use up most of the stock.  When ½ cup of stock is left, taste the risotto to see if the rice is al dente.  If so you may not need more than 5 ½ cups of stock total.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the juice and zest of the lemon.  Serve dusted with cheese and garnished with the remaining parsley and chive blossoms if you have them.

 

Pizza madness – 2 pizzas for the price of one!

Tonight was sourdough pizza night.  I love making pizza at home.  The way I do it is a lot of work but the end product is truly worth it.  The pizza crust I work with makes enough dough for two pizzas.  What I try to do is make the starring ingredients things that are very different from each other.  The supporting players can be the same to help cut down on the work.  This strategy gives us two very different pizzas to choose from

.

If you want to make my pizza, go here to read an earlier post that will give you the crust recipe and a general idea of what to do.  Make sure all of your ingredients are as dry as possible.   Cook any extra liquid out of your sauce and drain then squeeze excess liquid from all canned ingredients such as olives or artichokes.  Here are the ingredients lists for tonight’s featured pizzas:

 Salmon pizza

Salmon and beet greens pizza:

Pizza sauce (this was merely a can of whole roma tomatoes cooked down with fresh garlic, onion powder, oregano, basil, salt and pepper)

 

Beet greens (sautéed in olive oil, fresh garlic, green onions and red pepper flakes.  This mixture was then braised in red wine until soft and all liquid was evaporated)

 

Shredded mozzarella cheese

 

Shredded Quattro Fromaggio (four cheese blend from Trader Joes)

 

One can of boneless, skinless pink salmon

 

Chopped artichoke hearts (canned, packed in water)

 

Sliced black olives

 

Sliced red onions

 

Sliced roasted red peppers

 

Chopped fresh garlic

 Canadian Bacon Pizza

Canadian Bacon and pineapple deluxe:

Pizza sauce

 

Canadian bacon

 

Pineapple, (canned and packed in it’s own juices)

 

Sliced black olives

 

Sliced roasted red peppers

 

Chopped fresh garlic

 

I hope you’ll try to make your own pizza.  The sourdough crust is wonderful but if you need to use store bought pizza dough, it will still turn out better than anything you can buy!

    

Sometimes only a large sausage will do

Sausage Sandwich

Cravings.  I don’t have those serious I have to have (fill in the nasty fast food blank) cravings I used to have.  Those: I don’t want to cook and I have to have this specific cheesy, salty, greasy, smelly, sweet, sour whatever it is from (fill in the nasty fast food place blank) sort of cravings.  I don’t want hamburgers any more at all.  I still want pizza quite often.  I still love Mexican food.  I don’t necessarily crave this stuff but every once in a while, something fast food like sounds really good.  The thing that is good about cooking something that would fit right into a fast food venue at home is that it is quick to have at home but it will taste a hundred times better because you made it at home and you are in control of the quality of the ingredients.

 

Sausages are often a bargain at my local market and they are really good quality.  I can pick from many different varieties from not so healthy pork or lamb to very lean, healthy poultry versions of the same thing.  Pair these delicious meaty morsels with fresh veggies and really good sourdough bread and you have something that transcends the pedestrian sum of its parts.

 

I made a couple of changes to the sausage sandwich recipe from a back issue of Gourmet and I like the results a lot.  One reason to try this recipe is for the onion and pepper mixture.  I made my own version a few times prior to finding this recipe and the sandwiches turned out ok.  Good but nothing special.  I stumbled onto this recipe, which calls for a garlic paste and fennel seeds, and it is nirvana.  The fennel seeds impart a sweetness to the caramelized veggies that is divine.  I hope you try it.  I think you’ll agree that this is one mighty fine sausage sandwich.

 

Sausage, Bell Pepper and Onion Sandwiches

Adapted from the December 1991 issue of Gourmet Magazine

 

3 Bell Peppers, preferably red, sliced thin

 

2 large onions, sliced thin

 

2 large garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle

 

¼  tsp whole fennel seeds

 

¼ cup olive oil

 

6 hot Italian sausage links (or mild Italian sausage or mixture of both)

 

2 good quality, crusty, sourdough baguettes

 

In a large skillet, sauté the bell peppers, onions, garlic paste and fennel seeds in the oil over medium to medium high heat.   Sauté, stirring until the veggies are softened, and slightly browned.  Season with salt and pepper.  This should take five to ten minutes.

 

While the veggies are cooking, Heat a lightly greased cast iron pan over medium high heat.  Cook the sausages on all sides until cooked through about six to ten minutes.

 

Cut the bread into 5”-6” lengths to match the size of your sausages and split the bread down the middle.  If you prefer warm toasted bread, pop the bread into the oven for a few minutes to lightly toast.  Cut the each sausage lengthwise down the middle.  Insert a sausage into the bread so that it lays flat over the bread (that way you get a bit of sausage in every bite, yum!).  Generously spoon the onion/pepper mixture over the top of the sandwich.  Enjoy!

 

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