Author Archives: Jeffrey Thal
Mushroom soup: love it or hate it. Me? LOVE IT!!!
So I just had a hankering. Did you ever have a hankering?
Something that happened today–I can’t even remember what it was–that reminded me of growing up. I got to thinking about some memories of when I was a kid in Philly. Ball in the street, summer or winter, sledding on the Weiner’s hill behind the house, smoking cigarettes in my friend’s garage–way too young. And soup. My Mom always had soup ready to eat.
Now I have to go on record here with full disclosure–my Mom was a lousy cook–until, that is, until she started taking cooking classes after I left the house; she couldn’t take classes when I was growing up because I was a handful, and she never seemed to have time.
But soup? She could keep soup on the table. Campbell’s was always plentiful–tomato, chicken noodle, vegetable beef, cream of mushroom. Always cream of mushroom. It was a comfort food for me.
Those chefs at the Campbell’s Soup Company in Camden, NJ sure knew the way to my heart. And my Mom was surely smart enough to know when to open a can of soup.
When I went to work in the big kitchen in South Beach, what I remembered most was soup, and luckily enough, the market was legendary for its soups–they always had fifteen or twenty different soups in the display cases for your dining pleasure. Matzoh ball, three kinds of vegetable, red and white clam chowders–if you could suggest a soup they didn’t make they’d have it for sale within a week.
So I decided to make the soup (not sous) chef my best friend. I watched. I listened. I learned. And it became a specialty for me (have you had the chance to attend one of our (alas, late lamented) annual soup parties? Maybe some day we’ll revive the soup party. We’re working on ideas.
Anyhow, I digress.
Mushroom soup. I had a hankering. So I cruised the Internet for a mushroom soup that struck a chord. And I found one (actually, I found many, but I chose one to make that wasn’t too labor-intensive and would strike just the perfect note on a fall afternoon.
I massaged the recipe a bit–as I am wont to do–and came up with a luscious, creamy, dreamy chilly afternoon mushroom soup. Try this one at home…
- 1 large white onion – diced
- 2 8-ounce packages white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 1 8-ounce package baby portabello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 10 stalks fresh thyme – leaves removed
- 2 cups vegetable broth–organic if you have it
- 1 tbs. AP or tapioca flour or potato starch – don’t use corn starch here
- 1 cup milk – if you want it vegan use almond, soy, or coconut milk
- 1 15-ounce can white beans
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1/2 tbs. fish sauce, or liquid aminos if you want it vegan
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- freshly ground white and black pepper
- In a large saucepan, over medium heat, add the diced onions. Allow to sweat while slicing the mushrooms. About 5-7 minutes.
- Move onions to the sides of the saucepan and add mushrooms, allow to cook 5 minutes uncovered.
- Stir the onions and mushrooms together. Add fresh thyme and allow to continue to cook, at least 10 minutes.
- You will notice a substantial amount of water has come out of the mushrooms, and they are reduced in volume by half.
- Add the bay leaf, the salt and the liquid aminos to the mushrooms
- Place the white beans and broth in a blender and liquefy the beans. Add the bean/broth and the milk to the mushrooms. Stir to mix
- Whisk the flour or potato starch into 1/2 cup cold water to completely dissolve the starch. Slowly add the starch slurry to the soup, stirring as you do. Mix well to combine the ingredients
- Reduce to a slow simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and add freshly ground black pepper to taste.
So let me tell you about making soup in August.
I mean, who makes—let alone eats—soup in August? Except that, in August the garden out back is simply bursting with wonderful stuff, more than we newly empty nesters can possibly consume in a year when home entertaining is pretty much taboo.
Out back I have five varieties of tomatoes, both heirlooms from the Landis Valley Farm Museum Seed Project, and Camparis and San Marzanos I started from saved seeds. We simply can’t consume all these tomatoes ourselves as they ripen, so I have to be creative and productive, and be ready to squirrel away tomatoes for the winter months, when the tomatoes at the grocery store come from South America. Yech! Plus, there’s the herb garden—thyme, sage, oregano, parsley, chives, sweet and Thai basil…
Okay, okay. So I made copious quarts of sauce last week (recipe here: https://jeffskitchen.net/2013/08/25/canning-a-fabulous-marinara-sauce-quickly-and-simply/). And a batch of chutney. And admittedly, I will harvest, roast, peel, and can the last of the San Marzanos and Amish Pastes when the chill arrives—if it ever arrives—so that I have them to cook with in late fall and winter. And there is panzanella (recipe here: https://jeffskitchen.net/2018/07/02/authentic-tuscan-panzanella/ ) to be enjoyed while the big slicers are around.
This here recipe is about as good as soup recipes can get, especially if you like tomato soup. It’s not that “just-add-water-and-serve-with-grilled-cheese” creamy stuff from concentrate (although I have to admit, that’s pretty good too). And it’s not cold summer Gazpacho (although that’s pretty good too if you like cucumbers (recipe here: https://jeffskitchen.net/2013/07/16/cheffzillas-gazpacho-with-a-kick/).
But it’s a warm and flavorful chunky Mediterranean-style garden soup that tastes great, is completely vegan, freezes beautifully, and is even good cold.
So, if your garden is overflowing with tomatoes, if a bunch show up in the break room at work, if you can’t resist the huge piles of giant fresh tomatoes at the farmer’s market, or if you just want something sweet and swell, try this soup. It’s even one of the easiest soups you’ll ever make.
• 3 lb Roma tomatoes, halved, or whatever assortment you have on hand
• 2 to 3 carrots, cut into small chunks
• 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (I used home made garlic-infused EVOO)
• 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
• 5-10 garlic cloves (to taste), smashed (I used a whole head of garlic)
• 1 14-oz can crushed tomatoes (Muir Fire-roasted, if you can find them)
• 1 cup packed, fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
• 3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
• 2-3 sprigs fresh oregano, or 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1 tsp sweet paprika (you could use smoked paprika if you like, but I think it’s one too many flavors)
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
• Juice of 1 fresh lime
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
• In a large mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, and carrot pieces. Add a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Toss to combine.
• Transfer to a large baking sheet and spread well in one layer. Roast in heated oven for about 45 minutes. When ready, remove from the heat and set aside for about 10 minutes to cool.
• Transfer the roasted tomatoes, garlic, and carrots, and all the juice to a food processor fitted with a blade, and blend till just barely chunky.
• In a large enamel or stainless (NOT ALUMINUM!!!) soup pot, heat 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add onions and cook for about 3 minutes, then add salt and pepper and cook briefly until golden. Don’t let the onions burn.
• Pour the roasted tomato mixture into the cooking pot. Stir in canned tomatoes, vegetable stock, basil, thyme, and spices. Season with a little kosher salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover part-way. Let simmer for about 30 minutes or so.
• Remove the thyme springs, squeeze in the lime juice, and transfer tomato basil soup to serving bowls. If you like, add a generous drizzle of olive oil. Serve with your favorite crusty bread or grilled pieces of French baguette. Enjoy!
It’s almost summer.
My favorite time of the year. Yes Friends, I am a summer animal. There’s not much that I can think of that I enjoy more than a great summer day with my feet in the sand, the ocean pounding in my ears, and an outrageous mystery thriller or six to put my brain on pause (well, there IS one thing, but hey, this is a family website).
Summer means fresh produce growing in the garden—we’ve got sugar snap peas; three kinds tomatoes (who doesn’t); three kinds peppers (two hot and one sweet); eggplants; lots of romaine lettuce; scallions; and herbs, herbs, herbs. The rose bushes are in full bloom, the grass is growing way too fast (so are the weeds); and the air conditioners have been put in place for the ladies of the house.
Summer means the kids are off from school and home all the time…oh, wait…
And for me the summer means pickles. I mean to say I make pickles. By the bushel full. If you know me at all, you likely know that pickles means kosher-style, vinegary and garlic-laden, salty, spicy, dilly, genuine New York deli-style pickles. I have been getting my cucumbers, Kirbys and baby English cukes, from our favorite neighborhood farmer’s markets, Brook Lawn Farm Market in Neffsville and Harvest Lane Farm Market, on Oregon Road in Manheim Township. I make them all summer long, as long as the Kirbys are available, because they’re a great low-calorie snack, and because they replace some of the salt I lose when walking Stella the dog in the summer heat.
I’m following my mother’s recipe—about the only thing she made in the summertime, because it doesn’t require cooking—and the pickles are every bit as good as the ones we got at the Epicure or from Murray’s in Merion, and way better than the ones I get now at the grocery store. Because I can determine just how much garlic, just how much vinegar, just how much spices. I did riff a bit on Mom’s recipe, because she didn’t like them as spicy as I do. But when you read the recipe you can back off on the heat or the vinegar if you wish, but they will be…well…different.
But as I always do, I’ll share the recipe with you here as I make them—no cooking required, just patience. And I promise that if you like real New York-style kosher dills, you’ll get them.
Here’s the road map:
New York Deli-style Straight Outta’-the-barrel Kosher Dills
- 8-9 Kirby cucumbers
- 2 Tablespoons pickling or kosher salt (pickling salt is better)
- 24 ounces BOTTLED water (DON’T USE LOCAL SINK WATER—IMPORTANT!)
- 8 ounces white vinegar
- 4 (or more or less—you get to decide here) cloves fresh garlic, smashed, skins on
- 4 Tablespoons pickling spice
- 2 teaspoons dill seeds (you could use fresh dill, but trust me, the seeds are a better option—you will be fermenting, and fresh dill could be a problem)
- 2 dried Thai chili peppers (optional, makes the pickles spicier)—I grow my own and dry them; you can get them at the Asian market.
- Wash the cucumbers well and cut off both ends—just barely nip them—about ¼ inch, but this is important.
- Stir the water, vinegar, and salt together until the salt is completely dissolved.
- Place 2 cloves garlic, 2 Tbsp pickling spice, 1 tsp. dill seeds and 1dried pepper in each of 2 quart-size containers. I use plastic containers I’ve saved from buying dill pickles from the refrigerator case at Aldi (see photo)—they’re the best I’ve found—or restaurant take-out quart-size soup containers (also saved). Wide-mouth canning jars are okay too, but it’s harder to get the pickles out later
- Cut the cucumbers in half or quarters lengthwise and pack them the into the containers. Pack them as tight as you can, so they won’t float when you add the brine. You could do them whole, but you’ll get fewer pickles per batch. If you like your pickles whole, use a half-gallon or gallon wide-mouth container, and keep the ingredient ratios exactly the same; if you make a gallon at a time, double the ingredients. The important thing is the salt-to liquid ratio—it must be 2 tablespoons salt to each quart of liquid.
- Add the brine to each container, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Make sure the cucumbers are completely submerged in the brine. They will want to float to the surface. Try getting another quarter cucumber in to make them tighter, or weigh them down with a fermenting weight or a small zipper-close bag with water in it. It’s important that they stay submerged, or the exposed ends will mold, and ruin the whole batch.
- Place the lids LOOSELY on top of the container, so the jars can breathe and the pickles can ferment. You don’t want to close the lids, as this will prevent the fermenting process from happening.
- Store the pickles in a cool dark location for anywhere from 24 hours to 7 days, depending on how crunchy or soft you like your pickles—the longer they ferment, the softer they get, and also the more intense the flavor. I ferment mine for 48 hours; I like the crunch and the flavor of 2-day pickles. Remove the weight, close the lids tight, and place them in the fridge.
The pickles will keep in the fridge for about a month, but they’ll never last that long. They will continue to get more flavorful as they sit in the brine.
Mother’s Day 2020. I’ve been craving apple fritters. Like the ones I get on Friday mornings at Shady Maple Bakery in our wonderful Central Market.
But alas, it’s still “stay-at-home” here in south central PA.
And I don’t deep-fry (it’s a choice, not an inability).
So I spent an hour cruising Pinterest for an apple-fritter recipe I could love, that my family would appreciate, and that would make a perfect Mother’s Day treat for my favorite mother—my wife, Ellen.
Apple fritters hold a very special place in my heart (there are a couple of different takes on apple fritters further on down this site), as a special southern cook from my childhood whipped up a batch in her cast-iron skillet every Sunday morning. Never had better fritters in my life, but the general desire for them is stamped into my DNA.
Okay, I know that for a seventy-something like me they are probably poison, but still…there isn’t much better on a Sunday morning than a still-warm apple (or as I grow older, blueberry) fritter. To be fair, I used almond milk instead of whole milk, Earth Balance instead of butter, and I skipped the glaze (the ingredients for which are in the recipe–mix them up and glaze the top of the bread–I won’t tell). But please feel free to make the full-rich version if you wish.
Still, the craving is strong, and with the current lock down I’m fast walking close to four miles a day (rationalization, I know, I know…).
So, how do I satisfy that craving, stay within my dietary lane, and make everyone in the house happy? I give you…
Country-style Apple Fritter Bread
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
- 2 large apples any kind, peeled and diced small, but not fine
- 2/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or butter substitute, softened
- 2 large eggs, room temp
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup whole, almond, or soy milk, room temp
- For the glaze:
- 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
- 1-3 tablespoons milk, half-and-half, or cream, depending on thickness of glaze wanted. For more apple fritter-style—like apple fritter donuts—use more milk for a thinner glaze that you can pour over the whole loaf.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a 9×5-inch loaf pan and spray with non-stick spray or line with parchment and spray with non-stick spray to lift the bread out of the pan to cool.
- Mix 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon together in a small bowl, and set aside.
- In another small bowl toss the apples with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside.
- Combine & whisk 1 & 1/2 cups flour and 1 & 3/4 teaspoons baking powder together in a medium bowl and set aside.
- In large bowl, beat 2/3 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup softened butter together using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
- Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time until blended; add the vanilla extract and mix in.
- Add the flour mixture into creamed butter mixture and mix until blended.
- Mix 1/2 cup milk into batter and continue mixing until smooth.
- Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan; add half the chopped apple mixture.
- Sprinkle 1/2 of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture you set aside earlier, on top of apple layer.
- Pour the remaining batter over apple layer and top with remaining chopped apples, then sprinkle the remaining brown sugar/cinnamon mixture over the top.
- Lightly pat apples into batter; swirl brown sugar mixture through apples using knife or spoon.
- Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, approximately 60-70 minutes.
- To make glaze, mix 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 to 3 tablespoons milk or cream together until well mixed. (Place mixture in microwave for 10 seconds to make it easier to pour, if necessary).
- Let loaf rest in pan for about 15 minutes before removing from the pan; then let it cool completely (OR NOT!) on a cooling rack. Drizzle with glaze.
- If you want more glaze, make a double batch. 🙂
Friday in the Quarantine Kitchen…
Okay, this one’s easy, it’s really good and hearty, and it’s made from found stuff in the fridge, freezer, or cupboards. I should point out that the base of this is a stock that I made back at Thanksgiving. On Black Friday, when the fam all headed out at 5 am to the outlets I a) slept in; and b) threw the turkey bones, and other leavings in a pot with lots of water, an onion, a celery stalk, a carrot, and some garlic. I do this every year—you should, too (I also do that with all my vegetable peelings and scraps to make a veggie stock). I simmer the stocks until four quarts of water are reduced to two, then pour the strained stock into Chinese-restaurant soup containers and freeze them. So I always have “no-sodium stock on hand when the need arises.
In this time of “Love in the Time of Corona,” E wanted to use up old stuff to make room for the restock we were about to do because of the “stay-at-home” thing. So a-hunting we did go.
She found stock in the freezer and a bag full of undetermined turkey things (they ended up being a whole thigh and some bits picked from the backbone—including the “oysters”), and asked me to do something with them, something the kids might like (have I mentioned that we currently have two college kids attending school while they are living in our “empty nest?”).
Most everything in the soup is “found;” I simply used up stuff. It’s the best way to go. Here’s what I did:
2 Tablespoons garlic-infused olive oil (I make it myself–see NOTE*)
1 medium onion
2 celery hearts (leftovers from something else)
2 large carrots
1 teaspoon dried thyme (from last summer’s patio garden)
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed (ditto)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 bag of turkey remains (also previously discussed—about 2 cups diced)
1/2 cup elbow macaroni (the bottom of a box—too little for a normal recipe). Any noodle will do, even lasagna noodles, broken up.
1 cup white beans (left over from last week’s amazing bean/pizza casserole—March 23, two posts previous).
1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat; add the olive oil to the hot pot.
2. Halve then onion, cut 1 inch from the top of the carrots, and remove 1 inch of the celery from the root end (shave off the brown end). Place them all, cut side down, in the hot oil and cook, unmoved, until they begin to brown.
3. Remove the vegetables from the pot and chop them—and the remaining carrots and celery—into bite-size pieces and return them to the pot. Cook them, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften, 7-10 minutes.
4. Add the flour to the oil in the pot and cook, stirring constantly, until it begins to brown. Add the thyme and dill and stir one more minute.
5. Add the stock (mine was still somewhat frozen), stirring until the flour is incorporated—about two minutes. Then add the turkey, cut into bite-size pieces. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer
, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.
6. Bring to a rolling boil and add the noodles (I used elbow macaroni—it’s what I had in the cupboard), stirring occasionally to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot, and cooking to the time recommended on the box.
7. Place the beans in the cup of a blender; Add 2 cups of the hot stock and blend until completely mashed up (or do it in a bowl with an immersion blender—I did). Return the bean/stock mixture to the pot and simmer 15 minutes, mixing well.
8. Serve with crusty bread.
This soup stores well in the fridge for about three days (no longer!), and gets better as it sits. And, it’s creamy, but the kids won’t know that it’s from the beans (plus, it’s a little extra protein).
*NOTE: Garlic-infused olive oil: peel and smash the cloves from one head of garlic. Place 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil and the smashed garlic cloves in a saucepan. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until the oil begins to bubble. Turn the heat down to a low simmer and heat for 30 minutes, turning the garlic cloves once, until they just begin to brown; don’t let them burn. If they are browning too quickly turn the heat down a bit. After 30 minutes, turn the heat off and let the oil cool for another 30 minutes. Funnel the oil through two layers of paper towel (or a coffee filter) into an opaque or dark colored glass bottle. Close the bottle with an air-tight lid. Light and air are the enemies of good olive oil.
Thursday in Jeff’s Quarantine Kitchen…
In today’s episode I will compete my onion trilogy—caramelized red onion chutney. So far I’ve done a sweet-onion jam and a shallot marmalade. To complete the circuit, I think a chutney is called for, so here is the one I’ve chosen, mostly because this is what I have on hand. Chutneys like to have a fruit base—mango or peach or pear—but it’s not the season for those things, and I do have a bunch of Granny Smith apples in the fridge and lots of red onions, ergo…
I’ve been making chutney for several years now, and they’ve been met with some amount of positive feedback. Additionally, I really do like the flavor of sweet and savory condiments—oyster and hoisin sauces being among my favorites—and chutney is a wonderful extension of those culinary favorites.
This one is a simple spread, delicious on meats, fish, and cheeses, mixed into a savory crepe (I just got that idea the other day from a Facebook post), or just about anyplace where a flavorful dollop of goodness will make a sandwich taste better. The trick with this recipe—as with most things onion—is to go low and slow; be patient with the process. Burnt onions are no one’s favorite flavor.
So, caramelized red onion chutney with apples is just the ticket. Here’s how it goes:
4 large red onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, minced
1 fresh or 2 dried red chili peppers (I used dried Thai chilies), sliced and seeded
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 bay leaves (from my very own bay laurel tree) ——- >
2 sprigs fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
A few turns or 1/4 teaspoon finely ground WHITE pepper
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1. Slice the onions and chili peppers thinly.
2. Place the olive oil, onions, pepper slices, bay leaves and thyme in a large, heavy non-reactive pot and mix well to coat with the olive oil. Bring to a slow boil, then cover the pot, reduce the heat, and cook at low temperature for 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes to prevent the onions from sticking. Remove the lid and cook for 30 minutes more, stirring frequently—again to prevent sticking.
3. Remove the bay leaves and the thyme stalks, and add the vinegar, sugar, white pepper, and mustard seeds; stir well to mix thoroughly, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a thick, syrupy consistency.
4. Spoon into sterilized jars and lids, leaving a half-inch headspace, and remove the bubbles from the product. Either process in a water bath for 15 minutes or cool completely and refrigerate. If you process the jars in a water bath, after the 15-minute process time turn off the heat and allow the jars to sit in the water for five minutes undisturbed, then place on a wire rack or a towel and allow to sit undisturbed tor 24 hours. Canned chutney will keep about a year, but it won’t last that long.
You may be tempted to open and use the chutney immediately, but it will be much, MUCH better if you allow it to sit in storage for a month before opening. this allows the flavors to marry, and the product will be way better
Today in Jeff’s Quarantine Kitchen…
The New York Times Cooking section (@NYTCooking, recipe by Ali Slagle) calls this dish “Cheesy White-Bean Tomato Bake.” So I gotta’ tell ya’ folks, that title just doesn’t grab my attention.
Nope! Not even a little bit.
Let’s be honest here. If you saw that title on a recipe, would you be compelled to make it for your family? The same night you stumbled across it on someone’s Pinterest page? Not me.
What caught my attention was the photo, proving once again that a picture is worth…well, you know.
What it looked like in the photo was a bubbly, crispy, pebbly, yummy-looking pizza. And who can’t resist reading a recipe that is topped with a beauteous picture of a steaming-hot, bubbling mass of mozzarella? Certainly not me.
But reading further, what I discovered was that this dish looked like it might be the best-looking white-bean stew I have ever seen; it was, after all, white-bean stew that had me browsing all those Pinterest pages in the first place. But I just couldn’t find one that would suit the dreadfully picky tastes that are currently taking up residence and space in our empty nest.
But this dish looked so good in the photo that if it had been topped with pepperoni or caramelized onions and peppers, I might have been tempted to break out an actual Corona or two (see what I did there?). In fact, it looked so good that I decided right then and there that it was going to be dinner tonight; I already had the white beans soaking on the stove top and I had been, so far, uninspired.
So, cheesy white-bean pizza.
It’s not really a pizza; there isn’t a beautifully thin and crispy crust—actually, it’s more like a protein-laden, gluten-free, deep-dish thing, a pizza in name only. Rather it’s a casserole masquerading as a pizza-flavored white-bean stew. Plus, if you make it right the bottom just might get a crispy crust anyway.
And it’s delicious. You can make it simple—just the base ingredients, or add whatever toppings and fillings that suit your whimsy; I’m thinking next time I might go Tex-Mex-style, adding a can of chopped green chilies to the tomatoes or replacing the tomatoes with salsa, adding a jolt of cilantro and using Jack cheese instead of mozzarella. Just imagine the possibilities.
And try this one at home. Here’s the plan…
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 (15-ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup boiling water
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 2 cups washed baby spinach
- 1 8-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- A few fresh basil leaves
- ⅓ pound mozzarella, coarsely grated (about 1 1/3 cups)
- Very thin slices of red onion, or Caramelized onion jam for topping (see recipe from 3/17)
- Heat the oven to 475 degrees. In a 10-inch ovenproof (I used cast iron) skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Fry the garlic until it’s lightly golden, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste (be careful of splattering) and fry for 30 seconds, reducing the heat as needed to prevent the garlic from burning.
- Add the beans, water, tomatoes, spinach, and generous pinches of salt and pepper and stir to combine. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top, spread the onion jam (or thinly sliced red onions) over the cheese, then bake until the cheese has melted and browned in spots, 5 to 10 minutes. If the top is not as toasted as you’d like, run the skillet under the broiler for a minute or 2. Serve at once.
PS: and by the way, we fed the sourdough starter again this morning, with three tablespoons of flour and two tablespoons of water (dechlorinated, remember?). It’s growing. In fact, it looks like any day now it might take over the kitchen.
So someone on Facebook posed a request for a foolproof bread recipe.
Now, I can’t take credit for this; Ellen found and made this recipe (three times so far, and another batch is in the fridge even as we speak) while I was in California a few weeks ago, and I got none of the first batch, but I did get some of the second, which included fresh rosemary and was fabulous.
I watched her make the last batch, and I can attest to A) the fact that it is delicious; and B) it’s foolproof.
The recipe comes from https://sallysbakingadiction.com. I suggest you check this site out. I should also point out, as I have recently discovered, that this recipe is fundamentally the legendary New York Times No-Knead bread, with a couple of small tweaks.
I won’t bore you with a long and dragged out essay for this recipe; it’s long all by itself, and I know you simply can’t wait. So here it is:
Homemade Artisan Bread in a Dutch Oven
3 1/4 cups bread flour (spoon and level), plus more for hands and pan
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 cups cool water
Optional: cornmeal for dusting the pan
1. In a large ungreased bowl, whisk the flour, yeast, and salt together. pour in the cool water and gently mix together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. The dough may seem dry. Stick with it. Keep mixing (use your hands if you must) until all the flour is moist. The dough will be sticky. Do the best you can, and shape it into a ball. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or foil and set aside at room temperature; allow to rise 2-3 hours. It should about double in size, stick to the bowl, and be full of bubbles.
You can proceed immediately, but it is better if the dough rests in the fridge for at least 12 hours, and up to three days. We usually rest the dough overnight. After a couple of days it might begin to deflate. That’s okay.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and using floured hands shale into a ball as best you can; doesn’t have to be perfect. Transfer the dough onto a large piece of parchment paper, large enough to fit into a Dutch oven using a sharp knife, score an “X” into the top of the dough, about a half inch deep. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and leave it alone for about a half hour.
During the resting period, preheat your oven to 475 degrees F., with the Dutch oven and the lid inside the oven. After the 30-minute rest, takethe Dutch oven out of the oven (BE CAREFUL; IT’S VERY HOT!!). Carefully lift the paper and place it into the pot—paper and all—and cover it. Bake for 25 minutes with the lid on. Then remove the lid and continue baking 8-10 minutes longer, or until the bread is golden brown. Remove the pot from the oven and carefully remove the bread from the pot. Allow to cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes.
In reality, you shouldn’t cut into the bread until it is completely cool, but no one I know can wait that long, and besides, what’s better than warm bread slathered with butter or some fresh jam?Store loosely covered at room temperature for 4-5 days (like it might actually last that long??? or in the fridge for 10 days (Yeah, Right!!!).
If you don’t have a Dutch oven, or would rather bake the bread in loaves on a baking sheet, go to Sally’s website (link above) and follow the instructions for that variation.
The bread also freezes nicely; allow to cool completely and wrap air tight and place in a freezer container before freezing.
Yesterday we discussed the approach we are taking with our attempt at making a sourdough starter. As we discussed, we started with three tablespoons of a 50-50 mixture of organic bread and whole-wheat flours, two tablespoons of pineapple juice, and a pinch of active dry yeasts.
Today–and every day hereafter–we will feed the starter with three more tablespoons of flour and two tablespoons of dechlorinated water. As I mentioned yesterday, dechlorinated water is merely water that is sitting in an open container on the kitchen counter–in this case a pint-size ale glass.
I wanted to show you the video of E. doing the feeding, but because I am a technological dolt, the video won’t transfer from my phone to this computer. In the meantime, she simply added the two ingredients to the jar on the counter and mixed them well to incorporate all the flour to the mix we made yesterday.
After sitting on the counter overnight, the mixture had begun to bubble, and when opened, the jar emitted the most wonderful “yeasty” fragrance of rising bread. The brew was bubbling nicely; it was clearly working.
So today we fed the beast. After four hours, here’s what it now looks like: Look there: there’s bubbles and the volume has increased more than the earlier photo (by a little bit, but still…)
Tomorrow (Sunday) we’ll feed it again, and once a day the rest of the week. Hopefully by next week some time we’ll make our first sourdough bread. Can’t wait. Stay tuned.
Today I’ve turned the reins of Jeff’s Quarantine Kitchen over to the boss (I surely have come to understand which side of the bread is buttered), because she is the baker extraordinaire in this confederacy of equals. When it comes to baking I am truly only the woke little sous-y (see what I did there?).
For several years we’ve entertained the notion of doing a sourdough, but because none of us REALLY need all the bread we’d have to bake to keep a sourdough starter alive and productive, and the thought of discarding food is inherently foreign to my training and my sensibility, we’ve never really considered it seriously.
In my constant quest for the next new and different cooking challenge—the latest, greatest take on mac and cheese holds absolutely no interest for me—I stumbled across a take on a small-batch sourdough starter that seems to be both workable from a task standpoint (we surely didn’t wish to become slaves to the idea of keeping yet another creature alive) and manageable in terms of quantity (and really, could this sentence be any more complex and befuddling? I’d like to see Miss Appleby try to diagram this baby).
But I digress (I hate when I do that). Sourdough!
The guy calls himself “The Pressured Prepper,” and he has a whole YouTube channel chock full of ideas for when the SHTF (google it). I haven’t located a web site for the guy, but his videos are, to say the least, entertaining. He posits that a credible sourdough starter can be made and maintained with just a tiny bit of flour and water and no added yeast. I showed the video to E., and she was intrigued. So we’ve tried it. I did find that (and he did reference) a similar idea on the King Arthur Flour (heretofore referred to as KAF) web site, so it really must be a thing.
So here’s the scoop: The Pressured Prepper says to combine three tablespoons of flour—he suggests a mix of bread and whole wheat flours, and a bit of rye flour if you have it on hand— with two tablespoons of dechlorinated water, and mix well in a pint-size canning jar, cover and set it on the counter at room temperature (dechlorinated water is just really tap water that has sat overnight in an open container, so that the chlorine gas evaporates). The mix of flour—it doesn’t want any all-purpose flour—provides the starter additional capabilities for capturing wild yeasts that are in the air. The Prepper goes on to say that you can speed up the process by using pineapple juice instead of water, and adding just a pinch of active dry yeast.
This morning E opted for the quick-start method, and made her original starter (pictured above) using three tablespoons of a 50-50 blend of bread and whole-wheat flours, two tablespoons of pineapple juice, and that pinch of yeast (she said that it felt a bit like cheating, but wanted to give it every chance of succeeding). Now we’ll let it sit on the counter in the jar. The directions say to feed the starter three tablespoons of flour and two tablespoons of water once a day.
So that’s what we’ll do.
My plan is to try to blog something every day here in the JQK, so the likelihood is that you will get daily updates on the progress of this small-batch sourdough starter.
Here’s hoping, and we’ll see you soon. Stay well, be careful, and WASH YOUR HANDS!!!