Sunday, September 25, 2005

The dish was good. The dishes were horrible.

Ancho Chiles Stuffed with Potatoes, Cheese and Chorizo

How tough can cooking a dish with five ingredients be? That was the thought in my head when I read this month's Gourmet magazine "Five Ingredients" feature.

The five ingredients are: ancho chiles, potatoes, chorizo (soy chorizo, obviously in my case) cheese and tomatoes. The idea is that you soak dried chiles and stuff them with a variety of stuff, bake them with a sauce. Simple, non? Non! This recipe messed with my kitchen and messed with my day off. It did, however, have the virtue of tasting fabulous.

Let me give a dish count:
Bowl for soaking chiles
Plate for weighting chiles in the water
Cutting board for seeding chiles
Bowl to hold chiles
Baking sheet to toast chile seeds on
Pan to boil potatoes
Strainer to drain potatoes and rinse to stop cooking process
Measuring cup
Bowl to mix chiles, chorizo and cheese
Blender for making tomato sauce
Pan to reduce tomato sauce
Baking pan for assembled dish

5 ingredients, 2 pans, 2 baking pans, blender, spice grinder, 2 bowls, a strainer and a cutting board! Is there anything we forgot to get messy?

The dish was good, spicy and rich. But I am exhausted and there is still a pile of dishes in the kitchen. Next time I will make yet another quesadilla with some nice salsa and save a dish this complicated for a party, when I can at least impress someone other than just Greg & myself.

Chiles soaking (not something from CSI)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

American Swedish Limpa Bread

Ok, I promised that I would discuss the Swedish Limpa Bread I made with the wheatberry salad, and I know you have all been waiting on the edges of your seats to hear about is pretty good.

I made this from a James Beard "Beard on Bread" recipe, slightly modified for my American taste. The original recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups of rye flour. I'm not big on that sourish rye flour flavor, so I used a mixture of white and wheat flour. Beard's recipe says cardamom is optional. I wanted this because I LOVE cardamom - then I found out I was out of cardamom. Oh well. It turned out great anyway.

1 pkg yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 cups beer, lukewarm
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
3/4 tsp aniseed, lightly crushed
Grated rind of one large orange
5 1/2 - 7 cups flour, a mix of white and wheat

Put the yeast and sugar in a large bowl and add the lukewarm water. Let proof for 5 minutes, then add beer, then the butter, honey and salt. It will foam up some. Add cardamom, aniseed and orange peel. Mix flours together. Add 3 cups of flour to the liquid ingredients and beat hard with a wooden spoon til smooth.

Cover and let rise for 45 minutes in a warm place. Stir down and add enough flour to make a firm but sticky dough. Turn out on a floured board and knead, adding more flour, until the dough is tacky but much smoother, about 10 minutes. Shape into a ball, put in a buttered bowl, turn dough until it is coated in a thin layer of butter. Cover and let rise until doubled, 45 minutes to one hour.

Punch down and split in half, form two balls, and put on a greased baking sheet. Put baking sheet in fridge, covered, for 2-3 hours. Longer is better.

Bring out for 15 minutes, then put in 375 degree oven for 45-55 minutes, until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on bottom.

Limpa bread is slightly sweet and delicious toasted with a little butter.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Kitchen Sink Wheat Berry Salad

Wheat Berries make a good base for a cool end of summer salad when it is hot outside and the kitchen is full of ripe produce and fresh herbs. Making the berries takes a bit of forethought because they need to soak for 8 hours, but once they are prepared, pretty much any combination of vegetables, herbs and dressings can turn them into a meal.

Cooked wheat berries
1 cup wheat
3 1/2 cups water

Rinse the wheat berries and put them in a covered pot to soak in the water for at least 8 hours. Use the soaking water to cook them. Bring them to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, until tender, about one hour. Drain.

Kitchen Sink Wheat Berry Salad
Cooked wheat berries
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
About 3/4 cup each diced bell pepper (orange), Persian cucumber, zucchini
3 green onions, sliced into thin rings
A big handful each of chopped mint and parsley
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, sliced into thin strips
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup Bulgarian sheep's milk feta cheese

1/4 cup roasted walnut oil (I would use EVOO next time)
1 Tbsp champagne vinegar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt, Pepper

Smash garlic with blade of knife, sprinkle with salt, mince and smash with knife until mostly a paste. Scrape into a bowl, add mustard and vinegars, mix well. Drizzle in oil, whisking madly. Add pepper, stir. Pour over salad ingredients, stir well.

I served it with some homemade Swedish Limpa Bread from a James Beard recipe. I will talk about that more some other time.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Meme: Five food memories

Mika at The Green Jackfruit asked me to contribute to the Five Childhood Food Memories meme a while ago. I am finally getting around to it.

My five favorite childhood food memories:

I grew up in the 60s and 70s on the California coast about 40 miles north of Santa Barbara. The "town" we lived in til I was 6 years old had a population of 99, with telephones with party lines (more than 1 family sharing a phone line, imagine. You could pick up the phone and hear what anyone was saying, though that was considered quite rude). When I mentioned Chef Boyardee in my profile, my mom said "I wish you would have said it was 40 miles to town and sometimes we ran out of things." Hey, mom, I'm not complaining - I loved Chef Boyardee, especially Spaghetti-Os. They were as much a dessert as a pasta, they were so sweet, but I did love eating them.

My mother was unafraid to experiment with ingredients, maybe because we lived so far from the grocery store and she had to. I remember a snack of crunched-up saltines drizzled with maple syrup. Crunchy, salty AND sweet - as a kid, that was a perfect trio.

Mom was president of the parent-teacher association for a while. So on the nights she had to preside over meetings, Dad prepared dinner for us 5 kids. As a child, nothing was quite as thrilling as having dad make pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse's head, or my initials. He also did other creative things with Bisquick - tiny flat muffins with dabs of jam inside. Pure heaven, a fabulous change from those nutritionally balanced meals Mom prepared.

We lived near the ocean and dad had a little boat and some lobster traps. He would catch California spiny lobsters and bring them home. I remember them alive and terrorizing the cat on the back porch more than I remember eating them. We also had fresh abalone and big scallops. We all loved sitting around the kitchen eating little pieces of salty smoked bonito that came wrapped in thick waxed paper (maybe because of the way it smelled - really strong and fishy, LOL).

I remember when we moved to the big city (population about 50,000 back then). I was 12 and for the first time we had Chinese food. The whole experience was so new and exotic for us. It wasn't fancy Chinese food - it was a standard Chinese-American Cantonese family-run place. But I loved the food so much I wanted to eat there all the time. All those great flavors and textures and you shared the food. Wild! Anyway, that wonderful food opened my eyes to the fact that there were amazing things out there that I had no idea about, and I wanted to go try all of them.

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