Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Focaccia III

I love focaccia, and given that there are so many versions of it, I regularly give it a try. This recipe yielded a bread that was less oily than my first one, but less crusty than the second one. Kind of a magical middle. My husband still prefers the first :-)

0.5 cup flour
0.25 tsp yeast
1/3 cup warm water

2.5 cup flour
1 tsp yeast
1.25 cup water
2 tsp salt

4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tsp Kosher salt

Mix the ingredients for the sponge, cover and allow to sit for 8 hours at room temperature. If you refrigerate it, allow to equilibrate to room temperature for 30 minutes before using it.

Add the flour, yeast and water to the sponge. Mix and cover. Allow to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature.

Add 2 tsp of salt in two batches. Mix in thoroughly. Cover and allow dough to rise in bowl for 30 minutes.

Fold eight times and cover again. Allow to rest for another 30 minutes. Repeat so you rest the dough a total of 1.5 hours.

Pour dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cut in half and shape gently into two, 5-inch balls. Coat two 9-inch cakepans with 2 tbsp olive oil each. Sprinkle with salt.

Place the dough in it, folded-side-down. Flip so both sides are coated. Cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Press into shape and poke 30 times with a fork.

Sprinkle with rosemary and allow to rest another 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 500F, with a metal shape on the top one third of the oven. When the oven is nice and warm, reduce the heat setting to 450F and add the focaccias. Bake for 12 minutes.

Switch the position of the breads and continue baking for another 12 minutes. Remove from oven when golden brown.

Allow to rest in shape for 5 minutes, then move onto a cookie rack. Brush with olive oil from the pan. Serve after resting the bread for another 30 minutes.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mushroom wild rice

This was a quickly improvised recipe that turned out rather well. It's best served 1-2 hours after preparation.

10 oz small Portobella mushrooms
0.5 onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup wine
1 cup wild rice
0.25 cup parboiled rice
0.25 tsp cayenne
0.25 tsp black pepper
salt to taste

Melt the butter and add the olive oil and the onion, sautee until translucent. Add the garlic for 30 seconds.

Slice the mushrooms into circles. Add to the pot and cook on medium-low until the mushrooms brown. Add the wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the wild rice and the chicken stock. Cover and simmer until cooked (15-20 minutes).

Add the spices and rice. Cook until done and all the water evaporated. Cover and allow to rest. Serve.

Rum balls

These were quite tasty and super-simple to make. The inspiration came from Chef John, but then I played with the recipe, as always. These rum balls are thick, chocolatey and fudgy inside, coated with a thin layer of crisp chocolate outside.

4 oz Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate
8 oz dried brownies
1 tbsp Ghirardelli cocoa powder
0.25 cup dark rum
1 tsp Jamaican rum flavor
cocoa powder for dusting

Mash the brownies with the cocoa powder and the rum until a somewhat sticky, but still shapeable paste forms. Form into about 20, roughly 1-inch balls. Place onto a plate and cover with plastic foil. Put in freezer for 15 minutes.

Roll balls between your palms to get their surface smooth. Replace into freezer for 20 minutes.

Chop the chocolate and melt in a double boiler. Roll the balls in the chocolate until coated, then place onto a foil-covered plate. Put balls into fridge for 10-15 minutes, until they harden. Dust with cocoa powder.

These are much better if allowed to rest for 1-2 hours in the fridge. The alcohol will really extract that cocoa flavor in the center.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Swiss chard

I always look for ways to feed green things to my husband. I have to admit, this wasn't his favorite, but I did like it. A bunch of chard really only feeds two people as a side dish. The volume reduction is incredible. The chard has a mild taste, and with the lemon juice it worked very well as a side dish for teriyaki salmon.
Look for the fresh, non-wilted leaves. The quality of the chard I found was hugely different between the two supermarkets I visited. Even better, get this from the farmers' market, or your garden!

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch Swiss chard
2 cloves garlic
0.5 small onion
0.5 cup white wine
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan

Wash the chard and remove the leaves from the stems. Cut the leaves into 1-inch-wide strips. Chop the stems into 0.25-inch pieces.

In a large pan melt the butter and heat together with the olive oil. Add the onion and sautee for 4 minutes, add the garlic for 30 seconds, then stir in the chard stem pieces. Add in the wine and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the chard leaves and cook until wilted (this will not take long). Stir in the lemon juice and the Parmesan. Serve.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lentils with roasted peppers and meatballs

A quickly improvised variation on a Macedonian classic. Contributed in full by my husband. I love cooking, but I do so appreciate when he cooks something homey :-)

2 cups of lentils
4 cups of water
1 yellow onion
1.5 tsp paprika
2 tbsp flour
3 tbsp olive oil

0.5 lb ground meat
2 tbsp minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
0.25 cup breadcrumbs
0.5 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
black pepper

2 red bell peppers

Mix the ingredients for the meatballs. With wet hands, form small, 0.5-0.75-inch balls. Place onto an oiled baking sheet. Spray the tops lightly with vegetable oil.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 20-25 minutes (depends on the size of the balls).

Clean and slice the bell peppers. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium-high. Add a tsp of oil. Add the bell pepper slices. Cook, stirring occasionally, until you see significant browning. The peppers will smell and taste incredibly sweet.

Add the lentils, water, onion and salt to a pot. Cook until lentils are soft. This will take about 20 minutes (depends on your lentils). Add the peppers from the cast iron skillet.

In the cast iron skillet heat 3 tbsp of olive oil and add the flour. Remove from the heat, cook until very lightly browned. Add the paprika and mix. Do not overcook, as it will become bitter. Add a cup of the cooked lentils and whisk in immediately, making sure that no knots are formed. Pour this mixture into the rest of the lentils.

Add the meatballs as well, bring the whole pot to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.

Hungarian-style fried chicken

One of my favorite Sunday lunches was fried chicken. My mom and grandmother would busy themselves in the kitchen after we returned from church and had a big family breakfast. Us children would hang out and disturb them, unless my dad or my uncle gave us something to do in the garden.

On Saturday one of our hens would be slaughtered and prepared. I learned how to do this relatively early on, and I'm still pretty confident in my skills, though they haven't been put to a test in a long while.

The chicken was cut into pieces that would go into the soup, and more meaty pieces for frying. The breast was sliced thinly for the latter purpose. A proper chicken soup was prepared from the back, wings, neck, legs, gizzard, heart and liver of the chicken.
The soup was filtered and the broth was cooked up with thinner-than-angel-hair home made egg noodles and root veggies freshly on Sunday. At this time fries and fried chicken, as well as a variety of fresh green salads were prepared as well. Fried chicken was my favorite.

3 chicken breasts
3 eggs
0.25 cup milk
0.25 cup flour
1 cup breadcrumbs
0.5 tsp black pepper
oil for frying

Remove the chicken tenders from each chicken breast. Lay the remaining portions flat on a cutting board. Cut each into two thin slices. Season with salt and set aside for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the milk until smooth. Season with salt. Mix the flour with the black pepper. Spread out the breadcrumbs on a separate plate.

Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, dip into the egg mix and coat with breadcrumbs. Set aside on a plate.

When all the chicken pieces are breaded, in a large skillet preheat 1-inch of oil on medium hot. When very hot add the chicken pieces. Fry both sides until golden brown. Remove into a glass bowl. Eat while still warm.


I'm still experimenting to find a perfect focaccia recipe. The ones I've tried before made an amazingly delicious flatbread, but did not display the characteristic chewiness of focaccia. This recipe was my test for my new Kitchenaid, and while the dough hook did an amazing job, the recipe left some things to be desired. My primary issue was the hard outer crust. Yes, the result was finally chewy, but the outside was a little too hard.

1.25 cup water
1 tbsp yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cup flour
2 tsp salt

Dissolve the yeast in 0.25 cup water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow to sit for 3-4 minutes, until creamy. Whisk together the flour and the salt in a separate bowl.

Add the water and oil to the yeast mixture, whisk and add half of the flour. Stir until just mixed. Add the remaining flour.

Start mixing with the dough hook for 3 minutes on low. Add more water if the dough appears dry. Continue to mix for 10 minutes on medium-high. This should yield an extremely elastic dough.

Coat lightly with oil and transfer to a bowl. Allow to rise for 1-2 hours, until double in size. Fold and allow to rise again for one hour.

Fold over itself to deflate, then coat with oil and place into a Ziplock bag. Store in the fridge for 36 hours.

Remove from the fridge and place the dough onto a floured surface. Allow to rest, covered with plastic foil, for 1.5 hour. Place on a cornmeal-dusted baking shape and stretch gently. Preheat the oven to 450F.

Brush the focaccia with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary and coarse sea salt. Bake, spraying the oven with water three times in the first eight minutes. Remove when the bread is golden brown, about 15-20 minutes later.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Spicy shrimp sandwich

Partly inspired by shrimp po'boy sandwiches, this creation is a hearty dish made wholesome by the addition of some fresh cabbage slaw. The lemony, fresh flavor of the slaw is crucial here. A southern-style, sweeter slaw would not work as well. Choosing the bread is tricky, a fresh artisan sub roll is ideal, but rosemary focaccia worked out wonderfully.

1 pound of medium shrimp
0.25 cup cornmeal
0.25 cup flour
0.5 tsp cayenne
0.5 tsp cumin
0.25 tsp black pepper
0.25 tsp oregano
0.25 tsp garlic powder
0.25 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp buttermilk
2 tbsp Frank's hot sauce
oil for frying
4 rolls
4 large scoops of fresh cabbage slaw

Clean the shrimp. Mix the spices with the flour and corn meal in a large bowl that comes with a lid.

Toss the shrimp with the buttermilk and add to the breading mixture.

Cover and toss the bowl until all the shrimp is coated. Fry until crispy in hot oil. Drain on paper towels. (Don't drain them too well, part of the magic is the slight greasiness of the shrimp.)

Slice the rolls in half, distribute the shrimp onto them. Sprinkle with Frank's hot sauce. Add the slaw and voila. Dinner is served!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chocolate mousse

This was super-quick to prepare with the help of a stand mixer. An easy way to turn a simple dinner into something special.

8 oz Ghirardelli dark chocolate
3 tbsp butter
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites
17 g icing sugar

Melt the chocolate with the butter in the microwave. Do short time periods (15-20 seconds) to ensure that the chocolate doesn't burn. Wait 30 seconds between periods of heating, to allow the heat to distribute.

Meanwhile, add the egg whites to a stand mixer and beat on progressively increasing speeds. Add the sugar when the egg whites are still not foamy. Beat to hard peaks, but do not overbeat. it shouldn't crumble.

When the chocolate is evenly melted with the butter, stir in the egg yolks, after you remove the white stings attached. These normally serve to suspend the yolk in the middle of the egg.

Finally, fold in the beaten egg whites with the sugar in three smaller portions. Be sure to fold them in evenly, but not to break them up.

Cover the mousse and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Goat cheese and bacon panini

I just had to try my favorite garlic flatbreads in my panini press. There was some goat cheese and purple onion in the fridge, and I craved some bacon...and thus this panini was created. The flavor combination turned out well, at least both of us liked them. More importantly, these flatbreads are the best I've tried for a panini so far.

4 garlic flatbreads
3 oz goat cheese
3 oz jalapeno jack cheese
4 strips of thick-cut, applewood smoked bacon
purple onion slices

Preheat the panini press. Spread the goat cheese on one bread, then add the cooked bacon slices, the purple onion and the pepper jack. Toast until crisp and brown outside and the cheese is bubbly inside. Serve after allowing it to cool a few moments.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chicken tetrazzini

I roasted a chicken recently, and as usual, the meat turned out to be too much for two people. This recipe is a simple way to diversify the breast meat...not my favorite cut.

1 pound roasted chicken breast
1 pound spaghetti
0.5 cup sour cream
0.25 cup heavy cream
3 cups chicken broth
10 oz sweet green peas
8 oz cheddar cheese
1/3 cup flour
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
10 oz mushrooms
0.5 cup white wine
8 oz bacon
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp black pepper
0.5 tsp paprika
0.25 tsp cayenne
0.5 tsp oregano

Grate the cheddar. Dice the chicken. Mince the garlic. Slice the mushrooms into thick slices. Cook the bacon and crumble.

To a large saucepan add the butter and olive oil. Heat until hot and add the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the white wine and the spices (paprika, black pepper, cayenne, oregano). Continue cooking until wine is completely reduced.

Add the flour and brown. Stir in the cold stock in small portions. Add in the cream, chicken, bacon, green peas and the sour cream. Cook for 15 minutes. Fold in two thirds of the grated cheese.

Cook the pasta al dente. Mix with the sauce. Distribute into a large lasagne dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and the remaining cheese. Bake at 350F until top is browned and pasta is bubbly. Serve.

This turned out to be much tastier on the second day, upon reheating. Highly unusual for spaghetti dishes...

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Gerbeaud, or zserbo, is a Hungarian classic. Chocolate, apricot jam and walnut flavors meld into a perfect combination in this elegant dessert. It is named after Emil Gerbeaud, the chef who made the Cafe Gerbeaud of Budapest famous for its high quality products and bakery art. In fact, sampling cakes and candies at Cafe Gerbeaud is a must for anyone visiting Budapest.

But the cake didn't remain in the professional realm, and versions of the recipe circulate in every Hungarian household. I recall eating half a platter as a young child, in spite of my mild walnut allergy. My grandmother always scolded me for it. But it was my favorite cake, and thus irresistible.

200g flour
100g butter
20g powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
25 mL milk
1 tbsp water
small pinch of salt
1 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp baking powder

450g homemade apricot jam
200g ground walnuts
100g sugar
zest of one lemon
1 package vanilla sugar
small pinch of cinnamon

4 oz Ghirardelli dark chocolate
2 tbsp cream

Line the bottom of an 11-inch springform pan with baking paper. Spray the sides with vegetable oil.

Mix the yeast with the warm water and allow to dissolve. Add the warm milk and mix all other ingredients until it comes together into a buttery dough. Cut into four equal pieces, cover with foil and refrigerate.

Mix the ground walnuts with the other fillings, with the exception of the jam. Distribute into three equal portions.

Take out the first dough ball and roll into a large enough disc to cover the bottom of the springform pan and go 1-inch up the sides. Spread 150g of jam on it, all the way to the edges. Sprinkle with a third of the filling.

Repeat with the other three balls of dough, cutting them so they fit exactly into the pan.

Trim the excess side dough from the sides after the last disc is in place. Prick the top with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake the cake for about 50 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool in the shape overnight.

The next day cut the cake from the edges of the pan. Flip onto a flat, smooth cutting board (make sure it's one devoted to sweets, not veggies and definitely not meat).

Chop the chocolate and add the cream, microwave until cream is hot and after allowing it to sit for 1 minute, mix until smooth. Spread the chocolate on the top of the cake (which was originally the bottom during baking).

Allow to set and slice into small slices. It stores well at cold room temperature, in fact, it's better on the second day. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 3, 2011


These were simply amazing. It's very important to use the ground chipotle chili powder here. The unique smoky flavor is essential for the success of this dish. Also, a lean cut of pork is not the best here, for optimal outcome buy good, marbled meat.

12 corn tortillas

Feta cheese
minced purple onion
1 can re-fried beans

initial cooking:
2.5 lb pork butt
6 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp thyme

1 cup of reserved liquid from cooking
14 oz tomato sauce
1 tbsp chipotle chili powder
0.5 tsp dry oregano
1 minced yellow onion
2 tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
black pepper

Dice the pork into 1.5-inch cubes. Cook in the water with salt, thyme, a quartered onion and mashed garlic cloves. Skim off any foam that comes to the surface as you bring the meat to a boil. You will need to fish the onion, thyme and garlic out at the end. Simmer for 90 minutes, until very tender.

Drain and reserve one cup of the liquid. Remove spices and mash the meat with a potato masher, until it falls apart into 0.5-inch pieces.

To a large skillet add the olive oil and heat on medium-high until very hot. Add the meat, oregano and the onions. Cook stirring until pork pieces are crispy outside.

Add the minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the tomato sauce, chipotle powder, ~1 tsp sugar, the bay leaves and the reserved pork stock. Cook until sauce thickens. Remove bay leaves, discard.

Fry corn tortillas on both sides in hot oil until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Salt lightly.

Serve topped with refried beans, the meat sauce, diced avocados, minced purple onion, crumbled Feta and a lime wedge. Drink a good beer :-) Amazing!