Monday, December 10, 2018

Lentil Soup with Cauliflower and Cheese

Today is Terra Madre Day. It’s a day for celebrating good, clean, and fair food. This is a Slow Food celebration that focuses on protecting our environment and on the link between food and climate change. It’s a day to cook Food for Change. And, that can be one delicious way to work toward solving climate change. Full disclosure: I volunteer as the president of the Slow Food Austin chapter. Slow Food partnered with Camellia Beans and Meatless Monday to bring attention to vegetarian cooking for this occasion. After bringing home locally-grown cauliflower, onion, leeks, carrots, and thyme, a hearty soup with those ingredients plus lentils sounded perfect for a chilly night. I found this Lentil Soup with Cauliflower and Cheese on the Martha Stewart website. The broiled and browned parmesan on top made it comfort food in a bowl. I hope you’ll consider enjoying some Food for Change and Meatless Mondays or more days! 



Here’s a list of some of my other favorite lentil dishes: 
Lentil Croquettes with Yogurt Sauce 
Braised Root Vegetables with du Puy Lentils and Red Wine Sauce 
Lentils with Tomatoes and Gorgonzola 
Watermelon Curry on Black Lentil Cakes 
Bulgur and Green Lentil Salad with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon 
Lentil and Pickled Shallot Salad with Berbere Croutons 
Mushroom and Lentil Pot Pies with Gouda Biscuit Topping 

If you have a favorite lentil dish, please share a link in the comments.



Thursday, December 6, 2018

Broiled Black Cod, Muffaletta Style

How do you cook when you’re cooking just for yourself? Do you really cook a whole meal from scratch when it’s just for you? I actually do. One of the reasons I like cooking is because I’m picky. For me, getting to cook just what I want, exactly the way I want, is fun. So, I was already completely on board with the premise of Anita Lo’s latest book Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One of which I received a review copy. This book is devoted to cooking, and cooking really well, for one. It’s about taking care of yourself and making a great meal to enjoy on your own. And, the dishes have signature Anita Lo flavors with lots of Asian and French influences. There’s a nice focus on not wasting any part of the ingredients you use, and none of the dishes take too long to prepare. Of course, they all scale up easily and can be used to cook for more than one. The Shaved Root Vegetable Salad with Smoked Salmon, Capers, and an Egg sounds delicious and would be bright and colorful with a variety of vegetables jumbled together on the plate. For Fresh Pasta with Anchovies, Charred Lemons and Radish, you’ll spend a bit more time if you make homemade pasta, but the dish is made from pantry ingredients and could be whipped up without much planning. The Thai White Curry with Chicken is an adaptable dish that can be made with other proteins and whatever vegetables are in season. And, there’s a note with this recipe about using the remaining amount of coconut milk in Caramelized Banana with Coconut for dessert. Another waste-reducing dish is the Broccoli Stem Slaw that sounds delicious with an avocado and anchovy paste. I kept marking pages for salads, and one more that I want to try is the Kale Salad with Dates and Tahini Dressing. The complete instructions for this salad are: “Mix everything together. That’s it. Then eat it.” Love that. But, when I saw the Broiled Bluefish, Muffaletta Style recipe, I had to start there. I’m a sucker for a briny olive salad. 

For this dish, I cooked for two. Luckily, Kurt likes most of the things I like, and this was as easy to make for two as for one. We don’t get bluefish here, so I used black cod instead. The fish was simply broiled, after being brushed with oil and seasoned, skin side up. The olive salad was made with a mix of olives including Kalamata and pimento-stuffed, giardinera, garlic, minced anchovy or anchovy paste, capers, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and fresh oregano. I added some chopped artichoke hearts and skipped the cubed bread. I was happy to use some homegrown oregano since it’s still going strong and threatening to take over my herb garden. Chopped Calabrian chiles are suggested, and I wish I could have found some. I added crushed red chiles instead. The olive salad was mixed and placed in the center of the plate. The broiled fish fillets were placed on top. 

All the assertive flavors in the olive salad paired so well with the flaky fish. I regretted not making extra olive salad to leave in the refrigerator for snacking with crackers or layering into sandwiches. This book offers a lot of great ideas for putting delicious food on the table in smart ways. Whether you’re cooking for one or several, you’ll be treating yourself and others well, cooking your own balanced meals, and keeping waste to a minimum. 

Broiled Bluefish Muffaletta Style 
Excerpted from Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One by Anita Lo. Copyright © 2018 by Anita Lo. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher

for the bluefish 
One 5- ounce filet bluefish, skin on 
1 teaspoon olive oil 
Salt and black pepper 

for the olive salad 
Scant 1/4 cup pitted Niçoise or Kalamata olives 
Scant 1/4 cup pimiento- stuffed queen olives 
Scant 1/4 cup giardiniera (Italian jarred pickled vegetables), drained and roughly chopped 
1/2 clove garlic, chopped 
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste 
1 tablespoon drained capers 
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar 
2 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil 
1/2 teaspoon chopped Calabrian chili condiment (optional) 
3 leaves fresh oregano, chopped (substitute a small pinch of dried oregano if you don’t have fresh) 
6 cubes day- old plain baguette (optional) 
Salt and black pepper to taste 

Preheat your oven or toaster oven to broil. Rub the bluefish with the teaspoon of olive oil on both sides and season both sides with salt and pepper. Place skin side up on an ovenproof tray, close to the heat source, and cook until skin is lightly browned and crisp and the fish is just cooked through, about 5 minutes, depending on thickness. Use a cake tester or thin knife to test doneness—insert it into the thickest part of the filet, hold there for a solid 3 seconds, then test immediately on your lip. If it is warm the touch, the fish is done.

To make the olive salad, mix the ingredients together, taste, and adjust seasonings. To serve, make a bed of the olive salad and place the fish on top.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tofu and Yellow Wax Beans with Chraimeh Sauce

What does cooking simple mean to you? It might mean something different to me depending on the day. Right now, I’m trying to make my Thanksgiving Day cooking as simple as possible this year, and that means getting as much done in advance as I can. I’m still making everything from scratch and shopping multiple times to make use of as many local ingredients as possible, but my goal is to pull it all together with less effort on the day of the feast. I was delighted to read the introduction in the new book Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook, of which I received a review copy, and learn of the intent to cover the bases for several different views of “simple.” The categories include recipes that work well if you’re short on time, if you prefer to use fewer ingredients, if you like to make things ahead, if you’d rather use pantry ingredients than shop, if you enjoy dishes that cook themselves with less hands-on time, and some that surprise with how easy they are to make. There’s even a code system to mark which category each recipe fits into, and most fit into more than one. It is an Ottolenghi book, and the style of cooking and flavors are just what we’ve come to expect. Here though, the ingredient lists are shorter, and there’s a bit less fuss with each recipe. The chapters cover brunch, raw dishes, cooked vegetables, grains, pasta, meat, seafood, and dessert. For brunch, I want to try the Scrambled Harissa Tofu and the Beet Caraway and Goat Cheese Bread. And, I’d love to sit down to a lunch spread of several of the vegetable dishes. Just because they’re simple, it doesn’t mean they lack big flavors. The recipe for Gary’s Stir-Fried Cabbage with Garlic and Chile sounds delicious with big, torn leaves of Napa cabbage, spicy chiles, green onions, and a squeeze of lime. Dishes with lentils kept catching my eye as well. There’s the Curried Lentil Tomato and Coconut Soup that I’ve made a couple of times, Roasted Butternut Squash with Lentils and Dolcelatte, and Puy Lentils with Eggplant Tomatoes and Yogurt. I could also happily work my way through the pasta recipes with Gigli with Chickpeas and Za’atar, Pappardelle with Rose Harissa Black Olives and Capers, and the Pasta with Pecorino and Pistachios. I got intrigued by a new-to-me sauce from Libya called Chraimeh and had to try the green bean and tofu dish in which it’s used. 

Clearly, making this dish was meant to be on the day I decided to make it. I was hoping I would get lucky and find some green beans at the Boggy Creek Farm stand. Instead of green beans, they had perfect, just-picked yellow wax beans, and I was thrilled to rush home with them and get cooking. To start, those fabulous beans were blanched, drained, and set aside. Next, the drained and cubed tofu was to be fried. I have an aversion to the mess that results from frying tofu on the stovetop, and I always use the broiler instead. I press the tofu to remove as much liquid as possible. Then, I cut it into cubes or whatever shape is needed. I toss the cubes with some oil on a sheet pan, and I place the pan under the broiler. Every few minutes, I turn the tofu to the next side and repeat until it’s browned and crisped all over. To make the sauce, minced fresh garlic, paprika, crushed caraway seeds, ground cumin, and cinnamon were combined. The spice mixture was fried in oil just briefly before tomato paste, lime juice, and salt were added. Water was added next to thin the sauce, and it was stirred until bubbling. The cooked beans were added to the sauce and warmed. Off the heat, the crisp tofu cubes and cilantro leaves were gently stirred into the mixture. 

I served the beans and tofu with brown rice to round out the meal. I also loved the suggestion in the head note to serve this sauce as a dip with bread. It was full of flavor but not too spicy. Now that I flip back through pages of the book, I see that this recipe has one of the longer ingredient lists. Still, it was quick enough to pull everything together, and the process was definitely simple. There will be lots more simple cooking like this in my near future. 

Tofu and haricots verts with chraimeh sauce 
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook.

This is a lovely veggie main, served as it is or with some rice. Chraimeh is a piquant sauce from Libya. It keeps well in the fridge for at least 1 week (or can also be frozen and kept for 1 month), so make double or triple the quantities. It also works as a sauce for chicken or fish or just as a dip with bread before supper.  

Serves four  
1 lb/455g haricots verts, trimmed  
1 tbsp sunflower oil  
14 oz/400g firm tofu, cut into 1-inch/2 1/2 cm cubes and patted dry  
Salt  
3/4 cup/15g cilantro, roughly chopped  
CHRAIMEH SAUCE  
6 garlic cloves, crushed  
2 tsp hot paprika  
1 tbsp caraway seeds, lightly toasted and crushed in a pestle and mortar  
2 tsp ground cumin  
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon  
3 tbsp sunflower oil  
3 tbsp tomato paste 
2 tsp sugar  
2 limes: juice 1 to get 1 tbsp and cut the other into 4 wedges, to serve  
Salt  
1 cup plus 1 tbsp/ 250ml water  

1. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and place over high heat. Once boiling, add the green beans and boil for 5–6 minutes, until they are cooked but still retain a slight bite. Drain, refresh with cold water, drain again, and set aside.  
2. Put the oil into a large sauté pan and place over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the tofu and a rounded ¼ tsp of salt and fry for 4–5 minutes, turning throughout so that all sides are golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.  
3. To make the chraimeh sauce, mix the garlic, paprika, caraway, cumin, cinnamon, and oil in a small bowl. Return the large sauté pan to medium-high heat and, once hot, add the garlic and spice mix. Fry for about 1 minute, then add the tomato paste, sugar, lime juice, and 3/4 tsp of salt. Stir to combine, then pour in the water to make a thin sauce. Once bubbling, stir frequently for about 2 minutes, until the sauce begins to thicken. Return the green beans to the pan and continue to cook for another 1 minute, until the sauce is thick and the beans are hot.  
4. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the tofu and cilantro. Divide among four shallow bowls and serve, with a wedge of lime alongside. 

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Zucchini Noodle Bowl with Green Onion and Miso

Cooking with lots of different types of seasonal produce is exactly what interests me. So, when a book comes along that’s all about encouraging home cooking with healthful whole foods, there’s a very good chance I’ll like it. The Whole Foods Cookbook: 120 Delicious and Healthy Plant-Centered Recipes, of which I received a review copy, inspires nutritious cooking with unprocessed plant foods. The recipes here are created in collaboration with Chad and Derek Sarno who also wrote The Wicked Healthy Cookbook. There are tips for cooking big batches of beans and grains, suggestions for creating layers of flavor without added oils or too much additional salt, and overviews for steaming, sauteeing without oil, and grilling. The book gives you all the information you need for a fresh approach to cooking and stocking your pantry. For instance, I’m looking forward to trying the risotto. There are two different recipes in the book, one for spring and one with butternut squash for fall and winter. But, the approach for both is the same, and other variations are suggested. For these risottos rather than sauteeing rice and aromatics in butter or oil, the steps have been altered to result in a processed-oil free dish. Here, leeks or onion or other aromatics are sauteed in a dry pan, and vegetable broth is added to deglaze when the vegetables begin to brown and stick. Cooked rice is added and mixed with the vegetables, and the richness comes from a pureed cashew cream. Other interesting recipes include whole, roasted vegetables that look delicious like the Whole Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with a pureed tomato and red pepper coating and the Classic Celeriac Pot Roast that’s slow-cooked with potatoes and herbs. The guide to bowls includes options like a Citrus-Sesame-Glazed Tofu Bun Cha and a Chickpea-Nut and Broccoli Satay. There are also soups, sauces, salad dressings, dips, and sweets. I have some pears in my refrigerator that are now destined to become Riesling and Orange Poached Pears sweetened with orange juice and apricot paste instead of refined sugar. But first, I set out to make the Zucchini Noodle Bowl with Green Onion and Miso. My first instinct would normally have been to begin by adding oil to a pan to cook the vegetables, but here everything was cooked in vegetable broth with no added oil. 

To start, the big flavor of dried mushrooms was included to boost this dish. Dried shitakes were soaked in hot water while everything else was prepped. Grated fresh ginger was warmed in vegetable broth in a Dutch oven, and then miso, soy sauce, and rice vinegar were added and kept at a bare simmer. Chopped summer squash and zucchini were added to the simmering broth. Meanwhile, zucchini noodles were made with a spiralizer, green onions were chopped, and I had a pretty orange sweet pepper that I decided to add. The zucchini noodles were divided among the bowls, the rehydrated and drained shitakes were placed next to the noodles, and I added the sliced sweet pepper. The cooked squash was spooned into the bowls, and the broth was ladled over everything. Green onion, sesame seeds, and sliced hot chile garnished each serving. 

I’m delighted to report I didn’t miss the oil in this dish at all. The fresh flavors of the vegetables, the mushrooms, and the miso broth were fantastic just as they were. There are a lot of great ideas in this book that can be applied to other dishes. I love learning these little things to change up recipes I’ve been cooking the same way for years especially when the changes bring about a more healthful result.


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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Loaded Black Bean Dogs

I’ll start with a disclaimer: I’ve always been a tree hugger. I stopped eating red meat because of information I learned at an Earth Day event decades ago. I reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost. And, I’m worried about what could happen to our planet as soon as 12 years from now. Have you seen the latest climate change news? We’re currently at 1 degree Celsius warmer than Earth was during the pre-industrial era. The latest report warns that we’ll be at 1.5 C above that level in only 12 years. The article points out that a change of “both 1.5C and 2C would take humanity into uncharted and dangerous territory because they were both well above the Holocene-era range in which human civilization developed.” But the difference is “1.5C gives young people and the next generation a fighting chance of getting back to the Holocene or close to it. That is probably necessary if we want to keep shorelines where they are and preserve our coastal cities.” So, we need to act quickly to slow the warming trend. I just read an article listing five things to do now for positive change. The fifth on that list includes some lifestyle changes. And, that brings me to the book I want to tell you about today: Food Is the Solution: What to Eat to Save the World--80+ Recipes for a Greener Planet and a Healthier You of which I received a review copy. The introductory sections of the book explain in length the problems with concentrated animal feeding operations and encourage plant-based eating for the health of the planet and the individual. But, the message is to “do what works for you – what tastes good and is attainable and sustainable in your daily life.” Giving up some meat and going plant-based even occasionally is helpful. It also gives everyone an opportunity to explore a more varied diet and discover some new and different dishes you maybe hadn’t tried in the past. Following the pages of information about air, soil, and water pollution with handy charts showing water use and emissions caused by the production of different foods, comes the fun part—recipes. Rice Pudding with Coconut and Cranberries sounds perfect for fall weather, and it’s made with coconut milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. I soak and puree cashews for lots of things lately, and that’s my current preferred way to make a Caesar dressing with no egg or cheese. But, I’ve never gone that route for mac and cheese. The Cashew Cream Mac ‘N’ Cheese recipe is about to change that. I also love the idea of Creamy Basil-Chickpea Lettuce Cups with capers and cucumber. Since I jumped on the carrot dog bandwagon over the summer, I’ve had plant-based hot dogs on my mind. I couldn’t pass up the chance to try the Loaded Black Bean Dogs. 

Making the hot dogs themselves is the focus of the recipe. They’re made by pureeing cooked black beans with cilantro, olive oil, tomato paste, onion and garlic powder, smoked paprika, and nutritional yeast. Vital wheat gluten is added to bind the mixture. This was my first time using vital wheat gluten, and I had no idea how good of a job of binding it does. It’s very sticky once it becomes wet. The mixture held together perfectly. It was divided into four portions, and each was shaped into a hot dog. The dogs were wrapped in small pieces of parchment paper and then rolled in foil. The foil-wrapped dogs went into a steamer basket over simmering water and steamed for 40 minutes. After cooling, they were unwrapped and browned in olive oil in a skillet. Browning them on a grill pan would be great too. In the book, tomato and corn salsa is recommended for topping the dogs. I used some sauteed sliced sweet peppers, sliced jalapenos, avocado chunks, sprouts, and cilantro. 

Knowing that beans require a fraction of the amount of water used to produce meat and cause far less pollution from emissions made these hot dogs even more delicious. Of course, the toppings here made the hot dogs amazing, but the texture and flavor of the dogs themselves were great too. I have a lot of fun experimenting with new-to-me plant-based recipes, and the reduced environmental impact of avoiding meat is a bonus.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Angel Biscuit Breakfast Sandwich

Back when I began learning to cook, which was way before I developed an addiction to cookbooks, I realized that I needed a basic baking book. I wanted a handy guide for making muffins, pie dough, cookies, and cakes. I wanted a greatest hits of general baking recipes with straightforward instructions that didn’t overcomplicate the process. If Rose's Baking Basics: 100 Essential Recipes, with More Than 600 Step-by-Step Photos had existed then, it would have been exactly what I needed. This new book, of which I received a review copy, is perfect for a beginner baker. It’s also an excellent reference for experienced bakers who want a book with all these classics in one place along with troubleshooting tips and “Baking Pearls” for each recipe. Each chapter begins with helpful solutions for common baking issues. For instance, I didn’t know that if your cupcakes turn out too flat, you should try resting the batter for 20 minutes before baking. The “Baking Pearls” give you specific information like the importance of weighing egg yolks and whites to be sure you are using the correct amount since their size can vary more than you might think. There are also all those step-by-step photos so you can see just what each step should look like along the way. This book gives you all the tools you need to succeed with baking projects. The yellow, white, and chocolate cake recipes are each offered in sheet cake and layer cake form and then in cupcake form. The leavening differs slightly for the cupcake versions. To top it off, there are some very tempting recipes to try. The Apple Cider Cake Doughnuts baked in a doughnut pan, The Glazed Mocha Chiffon Cake, and the Chocolate Cream Pie with a chocolate crumb crust are all on my to-try list. But when I read about the Butter Biscuits, I had to start there. They’re made with hard-cooked egg yolks which was a biscuit recipe secret from James Beard. I've heard this before, and I've made cookie dough before with sieved hard-cooked egg yolks. But oddly, none of the biscuits in his Beard on Bread book are made with eggs so I don't know where the idea was first published. In the head note for this biscuit recipe, there’s a suggestion for using the biscuits for breakfast sandwiches, and I love breakfast sandwiches. If all of that wasn’t reason enough to try this recipe, there’s a side note for turning these into Angel Biscuits by adding some yeast to the dough. That was all I needed to form a plan. 

The unbaked biscuits can be stored in the freezer and baked just when needed. Or, if going the Angel Biscuit route, after the dough rises it’s then stored in the refrigerator for up to three days before being flattened, cut, and baked. Flour, baking powder, and salt were combined, and cold butter pieces were worked into the flour by hand. Hard-cooked egg yolks were pushed through a sieve and added to the flour mixture. The cooked yolks contribute to a more tender result since they mix into the dough without causing it to become gummy or possibly overworked. Cream was added next, and I added yeast as well. The dough was stirred together and left to rise for an hour and a half. Then, the covered bowl was placed in the refrigerator until ready to bake. I always get greedy when I make biscuits. I cut them into squares with a knife rather than using a biscuit cutter. I don’t want to waste any dough or have to handle it more for re-rolling. In this case, I got extra greedy because I wanted the biscuits to be wide enough to make a good breakfast sandwich. I rolled the dough a little thinner than I normally would and ended up with slightly shorter biscuits. I brushed the tops with extra cream and sprinkled on some flaky sea salt. To make the breakfast sandwiches, I made a vegetable frittata with local sun gold tomatoes and squash. I cut the frittata into squares and topped the squares with basil pesto and arugula in each biscuit. 


I loved the texture of these biscuits with the lift from the yeast and the tenderness from the hard-cooked egg yolks, and I’d love to keep trying new and different fillings in them for breakfast sandwiches. Although I started by saying this would have been the perfect book for me when I first started baking, I also think there’s always more to learn—especially with all the information packed into this book. And next, I’d really like to learn more about the Milk Chocolate Caramel Tart. 

Butter Biscuits 
BUTTER BISCUITS is excerpted from Rose's Baking Basics ©2018 by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Photography © 2018 by Matthew Septimus. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. 

These biscuits are exceptionally soft, tender, and velvety. The secret ingredient is from James Beard, with whom I studied fifty years ago: hard cooked egg yolk. These are the biscuits I choose when I make strawberry shortcake or cobblers (page 250). They are also wonderful for breakfast, especially sandwiched with sausage patties. They are great to have on hand in the freezer, unbaked, because they can be ready for breakfast in under a half hour.

MAKES NINE 2 1/2 INCH BY 1 1/2 INCH HIGH BISCUITS 

37 grams or 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons, lightly packed 3 large eggs, hard cooked, yolks only
85 grams or 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
182 grams or 1 1/2 cups (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) bleached all-purpose flour 
86 grams or 3/4 cup (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) bleached cake flour 
13.5 grams or 3 teaspoons baking powder, only an aluminum free variety
6 grams or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
50 grams or 1/4 cup sugar
174 grams or 3/4 cup (177 ml) heavy cream OR 181 grams or 3/4 cup (177 ml) buttermilk OR a combination of the two
Topping (optional):14 grams or 1 tablespoon/15 ml melted butter, cooled 
about 1 teaspoon sugar for sprinkling

-Into a small bowl, press the egg yolks through a medium-mesh strainer and cover.
- Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or freeze for 10 minutes.
PREHEAT THE OVEN
- Thirty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack at the middle level. Set the oven at 375ºF/190ºC.
MAKE THE DOUGH 
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and cake flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and, with your fingertips, press the cubes into small pieces until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (Alternatively, use a stand mixer, fitted with the flat beater, on low speed to blend the butter into the flour mixture, and then proceed by hand.)
2.Add the sieved egg yolks and whisk them in to distribute evenly.
3.Stir in the cream just until the flour is moistened, the dough starts to come together, and you can form a ball with your hands. For angel biscuits, add 2 teaspoons (6.4 grams) instant yeast to the flour mixture.
4.Empty the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead it a few times until it develops a little elasticity and feels smooth. Dust the dough lightly with flour if it feels a little sticky. Pat or roll the dough into a 3/4 inch high rectangle. For angel biscuits, place the dough in a bow and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for about 1 1/2 hours. Then, refrigerate the dough for a minimum of 4 hours or up to 3 days.
SHAPE THE DOUGH
- Have ready a small dish of flour for dipping the cutter.
5.Dip the cutter into flour before each cut. Cut cleanly through the dough, lifting out the cutter without twisting it so that the edges will be free for the maximum rise; twisting the cutter compresses the edges, which keeps the biscuits from rising as high. Use up the remaining dough by re-kneading it only briefly, so it won’t become tough, and cut out more biscuits.
6.For soft sides, place the biscuits almost touching (about ¼ inch apart) on the cookie sheet. For crisp sides, place the biscuits 1 inch apart. Brush off any excess flour and, if an extra crisp top is desired, brush with the melted butter and sprinkle lightly with the sugar.
BAKE THE BISCUITS
7.Place the biscuits in the oven and raise the temperature to 400ºF/200ºC for 5 minutes. Lower the temperature to 375ºF/190ºC and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a biscuit should read 200ºF/93ºC. If baking frozen biscuits, bake them at 375ºF/190ºC for the entire time for a total of 20 to 25 minutes.
COOL THE BISCUITS
8.Remove the biscuits from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool until just warm, top side up.
SERVE THE BISCUITS
9.Split the biscuits in half, preferably using a 3-tined fork.
STORE: Biscuits are at their best when baked shortly before eating. They can be stored, tightly covered, for up to 1 day. To reheat, it works well to cover them with a lightly moistened paper towel and heat for a few seconds in the microwave. The unbaked biscuits can be frozen, well wrapped, for up to 3 months. Bake them without thawing.


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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Portobello Shawarma and Quinoa Tabouleh

I’m always drawn to the flavors of Levantine cooking and the generous use of vegetables in varied dishes. A new book starts with those flavors and adds new ingredients to open up the possibilities of this style of cuisine. The book is Levant: New Middle Eastern Cooking from Tanoreen by Rawia Bishara, and I received a review copy. Her first book, Olives, Lemons, and Za’atar, stuck more closely to traditional recipes, but this time, she explores some new directions as she does at her New York restaurant Tanoreen. What I enjoyed about this book is that it gives you freedom to roam about a bit with traditional dishes. Rather than sticking to how a dish has always been made, new discoveries are celebrated and encouraged. The recipes are still inspired by Middle Eastern cooking but with a new perspective. For instance, the Shakshuka is a green version made with tomatillos, poblanos, and summer squash. Although hummus literally translates to chickpeas, here the concept is expanded into four variations, none of which include chickpeas. And, I can’t wait to try the Avocado Hummus. The Fall Fattoush is a twist on the familiar pita bread salad made with red cabbage, radicchio, and shredded beet. There’s a vegetarian Kibbie made with potatoes and spices that’s served on a lentil stew that looks perfect for a cold, fall day. There are meat dishes too like Harissa Baked Chicken, Tanoreen Spiced Cornish Hens, and Grilled Fish Kabobs. But, I got sidetracked among all the vegetable options and had to try the Portobello Shawarma and Quinoa Tabouleh first. 

This vegan shawarma starts with chopped Portobello mushrooms and lots of spices. The chopped mushrooms were combined with black pepper, ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, nutmeg, chopped fresh garlic, olive oil, and white vinegar. The mixture was cooked in a heated skillet until the mushrooms were tender. I was surprised at the amount of vinegar but found that it gave the mixture just the right added flavor. The cooked mixture was intended to be served on fresh pita with sandwich toppings like cucumber, tomatoes, pickles, and tahini sauce. I went in more of an appetizer direction and served the mixture on homemade, baked pita chips, and topped it with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs. The Quinoa Tabouleh is a lot like the traditional dish only with quinoa used in place of bulgur wheat. Diced fennel is suggested along with tomatoes and cucumbers, but since that’s not in season here I used chopped yellow zucchini instead. Lots parsley, cilantro, mint, green onions, and lemon gave it the expected flavors of tabouleh. 

I always like vegetarian dishes like this Portobello Shawarma, but these mushrooms actually caught me by surprise. The spices, garlic, and vinegar gave the mushrooms incredible flavor. They would have made a fantastic sandwich filling and were a fun topping for pita chips. The tabouleh was as fresh and bright as ever but just a little different with quinoa instead of bulgur wheat. It’s inspiring to see new takes like these on traditional dishes, and the results are delicious.

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