Fast and Easy No Knead Cast Iron Skillet Bread


I bumped into Artisan Bread with Steve on Youtube when I was looking for new bread recipes, and have been pretty addicted ever since. I am especially crazy about his turbo loaf that you bake in a cast iron skillet – since it’s ready in about 3 hours from start to finish – and has wonderful texture and flavor.

I love Steve’s videos: they’re very helpful, to the point and not video extravaganzas. He’s just a real guy baking great bread. Just look for Artisan Bread with Steve on youtube. He actually has a website, too: nokneadbreadcentral.com and has published couple of cookbooks that would be agreat Christmas gift for anyone who is interested in easy homemade bread.

I am including basic bread with sesame seeds that we really like, but you can add anything you like to the bread: chopped olives and rosemary, chopped walnuts and honey, or Feta with dill or whatever you can imagine*. I add lighter items like herbs and sesame seeds right at the start, and heavier things like cheese and olives after the first rise.

I also use Mel’s Kitchen Cafe’s trick of tossing in a handful of ice cubes on the bottom of the oven at the start of baking to add a little steam.

Ingredients:

13 oz warm water
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/4 tsp yeast
3 1/2 cups flour (Steve uses bread flour, but I’ve had great luck with AP flour, too)
1/4 cup sesame seeds divided (optional)

Warm a medium-sized metal bowl with fairly hot water for a few minutes. Then dump the water and add 13 oz. warm water, salt, yeast and about 1/2 the sesame seeds. Stir just a bit with the handle of a wooden spoon.

Add flour and stir with the handle of the wooden spoon until all the dry flour is gathered up in a nice shaggy mess. If you need to, add a spoon or so of water to help gather eveyrthing up.

Cover with a clean towel and put in the oven with the oven light on. Let rise for 90 minutes. Make sure your oven rack is in the middle.

Uncover and stir again with the wooden spoon handle to collapse the dough a little.

Once the dough is reduced, sprinkle the rest of the sesame seeds over the dough and around the edges. Turn the dough around to get sesame seeds everwhere. Then do the same thing with a spoon of flour if desired.

Spray your cast iron skillet with cooking oil, and place the loaf in the skillet. Cover with a cloth and let it rise for 15 minutes on the counter. After 15 minutes, start preheating the oven to 400 degrees. Let rise 15 more minutes.

Put skillet in hot oven, toss a handlful of ice cubes to the bottom of the oven and let bake for 40 minutes. So good and so easy!

*If you’re adding other ingredients, add them after the first rise. Just flatten the dough in the bowl and evenly sprinkle 1/4 of whatever you’re adding over it. Then just fold the dough over and repeat the process until you’ve used everything up.

Mexican Veggie Soup – Caldo de Res (Sorta)

There is a great Mexican grocery store near us and recently, I noticed a really interesting tray of veggies in the produce section, simply labeled “Mexican Soup Mix.”

Curiosity piqued, I brought them home, along with a ½ lb. of Chorizo. (Not sure if that’s traditional, but I love how Chorizo adds flavor. You could really probably leave it out, too.)

The closest recipe I could find is called Caldo de Res, so that’s what I based my recipe on. Though this is not a classic Caldo de Res, it is an easy and delicious soup, and makes a big batch – perfect for cool fall evenings.

Really almost everything you need is in the package, including about a million extra red chiles. I am not brave enough to use all those chiles, but maybe someday! Here’s all the veggies, in case you can’t find the mix.

The mix includes a Chayote Squash, which is the green veggie on the far left. I used it like any other squash, though I removed the pit, which oddly it has. I chopped all the vegetables in small bite-sizes like for soup, so not too finely.

Ingredients:

½ lb. Chorizo
1 tsp olive oil
½ onion, rough chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 long red chiles, whole
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp cumin
2 carrots, diced
½ small cabbage, rough chopped
1 Chayote squash, pit removed and rough chopped
2 potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled and rough chopped
1 small zucchini, rough chopped
1 small tomato, chopped
1 ear of corn, cut into 4-5 sections, or corn kernels removed
4 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup fresh cilantro chopped
Juice of one lime

Serve with:
Sour Cream
More chopped Cilantro
Grated mild cheese
warm corn tortillas
lime wedges
Jalapeno slices

Add oil to large Dutch oven and add Chorizo. Cook a few minutes until lightly browned. Add onion and cook for a few minutes until onion is softened, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and chiles and cook for a minute or two.

Add seasonings and all veggies, except for cilantro and lime. Add chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes, covered.

When Chayote Squash and potatoes are soft, gently stir in Cilantro and Lime juice.

Serve in a wide bowl, topped with sour cream, chopped cilantro, mild cheese, lime wedges and Jalapeno slices.

Warm corn tortillas are delicious too, especially dipped into the broth. You can easily heat corn tortillas in the microwave.

Just lay 5-6 tortillas on a small plate and cover with another plate. Microwave for 30 to 60 seconds, until nice and warm. Keep covered when you serve.

So good!

Napa Cabbage & Noodle Salad

This is a tangy and delicious cabbage and noodle main dish salad, based on Hannah Che’s recipe from The Vegan Chinese Kitchen Cookbook. It’s perfect for a late summer evening supper, because it’s easy, super fast and has a dressing that is unbelievably good – plus it’s gluten-free and vegan. If you can’t get Napa cabbage, Romaine lettuce works, too.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 head Napa cabbage, cut in half lengthwise
1 small cucumber, julienned
1 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 cups fresh rice vermicelli noodles (Pho noodles) or Mung bean vermicelli noodles.

1 medium carrot, julienned
1 scallion, cut into 1/8″ rounds (both white and green part)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 chopped cashews or peanuts

Dressing:

2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
3 Tbsp rice vinegar (cider vinegar would also be fine, I think)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 large garlic cloves, crushed

DIRECTIONS

Cut cabbage lengthwise a few times, then cut very thin slices. Add cabbage and and cucumber into a colander and toss with the salt. Leave to drain.

Start water boiling in a small saucepan, add noodles and cook 5-10 seconds. Drain and rinse with cool water. Cut noodles into smaller sections with a scissors. If you are using other noodles, cook as directed on the package, then drain and rinse with cool water. You want to end up with about 1 1/2 cups cooked noodles.

Mix dressing ingredients well in a small bowl. Taste and add more soy sauce if you think it needs it.

Gently press cabbage and cucumber to remove some of the water. You can also squeeze it gently in your hand. Place in a large bowl, and add noodles, carrots, scallions and cilantro. Pour dressing over and toss to coat Toss into a large bowl, and top with nuts.

Serve immediately. Yum.

End of Summer Pasta with Zucchini and Spinach

Last night, as I started making Mushroom Ravioli with Spinach from JuliasAlbum.com for a potluck at a friend’s house, I realized that what I thought was ravioli in the freezer was actually Chinese Dumplings and the mushrooms were sludge.

But I did have some nice pasta, fresh spinach and a giant zucchini from my neighbors Amy and Steve, so I switched it up and made Pasta with Zucchini and Spinach. It was delicious and bonus point: another way to enjoy excess end-of-summer zucchini!

Ingredients:

1 lb Trottole or any other nice chunky pasta, cooked al dente
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp butter
a sprig of Rosemary and a few sprigs of Thyme, or a generous pinch of dried Rosemary and 1/4 tsp dried Thyme.
4-5 cups thinly sliced Zucchini (If really large, cut into quarters first.)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
5 oz. spinach (I’d be happy doubling this.)
4 cloves of garlic, smashed or 1 generous tsp garlic powder
1 large pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Cook pasta in salted water until al dente stage and drain, saving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

In a large frying pan, heat butter and olive oil on medium heat with Rosemary and Thyme. Add zucchini and sun-dried tomatoes with the oil they came in. Sauté for several minutes, until the zucchini have broken down quite a bit and are mostly translucent. They will reduce a lot in volume. Remove herb stems.

Add garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Then add spinach in batches, continuously stirring and folding so the spinach wilts.

Add in the pasta and 1/4 cup of pasta water to start and stir to coat the pasta with the veggies. Add more pasta water if it seems too dry. Check seasonings and serve immediately.

For a vegan version, skip the butter and just use olive oil.

Quick & Easy Raspberry Jam (No Pectin)

Is there anything better than the sweet, tart flavor of fresh raspberry jam?

I picked up some gorgeous raspberries and decided to make jam, but didn’t have any pectin. A quick online search turned up a super-simple recipe from Camilla on FabFood4All.com. She measures ingredients by weight and makes a larger batch.

Costco sells raspberries in 12 ounce packages, so that determined my batch. I do often weigh ingredients, but have included volume measurements as well, since some people prefer that.

This recipe is so easy – and even without pectin, it gels really well.

Ingredients

340 gms / 12 oz. / about 3 cups fresh raspberries, washed and gently dried
297 gms / 1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp and 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan on medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring gently from time to time. Keep on heat for 7 minutes, stirring constantly. I use a flat edged wooden spoon to keep scraping the bottom so it doesn’t burn or stick. In the meantime, put a small saucer in the fridge to chill.

Remove from heat and put a few drops on a the chilled saucer. Put back in the fridge for a minute. Remove and nudge the drops with a spoon or your finger. If the jam is ready it will wiggle a little and have a jammy consistency. If it is very runny, put it back on the heat for another couple of minutes. Remember, it will also thicken a little as it cools.

Pour into clean, sterilized jars (read my Simple Canning post for help) and seal. Mine made enough for one and a half jars. We’re just keeping it in the fridge since we know we’ll eat it soon.

Just writing about it made me hungry, so I had to have a slice of bread with butter and jam. So good!

Salad with Warm Pasta and Balsamic Vinaigrette

With all the great fresh veggies available right now, we’ve been eating lots of salads. Having a warm element in a salad some how makes it feel like a main dish, and tonight it was Spinach and cheese Tortellini.

That contrast of temperatures, textures and colors takes an ordinary salad to something really quite amazing. I also had some lovely baby radishes from my friend Gene, so with a good drizzle of my favorite balsamic vinaigrette, it was a perfect summer supper!

Ingredients

1/2 lb. fresh Tortellini (any kind)
1 tsp olive oil
Good pinch kosher salt
Few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
pinch of garlic powder

1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes (about 1/4 cup)
8-10 baby radishes, halved (if larger, quartered)

Balsamic Vinaigrette

3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar (Costco’s is amazingly good)
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2/3 tsp dijon mustard
1/3 tsp honey
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Cook Tortellini as directed on package.

Chop lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and radishes, and mix gently in a large bowl.

Mix all ingredients for vinaigrette in a mason jar and shake like crazy.

When Tortellini is cooked, drain water and toss pasta in a little olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

To serve, place salad in a wide flat bowl, sprinkle with several warm Tortellini and drizzle everything with dressing.

Yum!

Spring Roll Peanut Sauce

I am practicing making Vietnamese and Thai Spring Rolls and once I’ve got it truly mastered, I’ll add the recipe. But I have to share this Peanut Dipping Sauce now, because it is just so good.

We’ve been using it as a dipping sauce for baby cucumbers and carrot sticks and it is absolutely irresistible.

Ingredients:

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
2 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar (apple cider vinegar would probably be fine, too)
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
3 pieces of palm sugar (about 2 1/2 Tbsp) or 2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1/3 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy – both are fine)
Warm water as needed

In a large mortar and pestle, start by smashing the garlic cloves. Add vinegar, soy suce and palm sugar, and stir, crushing the palm sugar until it’s mostly broken down. Or just add the brown sugar.

Add sesame oil and peanut butter and mix in the mortar bowl, until smooth and creamy. Add warm water a teaspoon at a time until the consistency is a thick but smooth sauce. Check flavorings and add a little soy sauce or sesame oil if it’s tasting too sweet.

Can keep refrigerated for a week. You may need to add a little more warm water to loosen it up after it’s been in the fridge overnight.

If you don’t have a large mortar and pestle, you can always crush the garlic and just mix everything in a small bowl.

Palm sugar adds a wonderful flavor, but if you can’t get it, just use a little less brown sugar. (Brown sugar is sweeter than palm sugar.)

Baked Eggplant & Tomatoes with Pesto

This is a delicious dish that looks gorgeous, but is very easy and really ticks all the boxes for me! The eggplant gets all creamy and the cheese gets all melty, and the pesto gets all… pesto-ey. Well, you get the point.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant, stem end removed and sliced lengthwise in 1/2″ slices (save end pieces for another use)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
2 Tbsp Pesto
4-5 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/2″ slices (Any tomato is actually fine.)
1/2 cup grated Mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper the sliced eggplants and place in a bowl, leaning on the edge so the water can run off a bit from the eggplant. Let drain for at least 15 minutes.

Lay the first slice of eggplant in a 9×12 baking dish. Spread about 2 tsp of Pesto on the first slice. Top with a layer of tomatoes, and sprinkle on a spoonful each of Mozzarella and grated Romano. Slide the layer over until it is at an angle leaning on the side of the dish.

Repeat for the second layer, sliding eggplant over to partially overlap the first layer.

Continue with all remaining slices of eggplant. Sprinkle any remaining cheese on top.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove foil, and bake another 20 minutes.

Serve hot – it’s so good!

French Toast with Sautéed Blueberries

I love French Toast. Don’t know why I don’t make it more often. Probably because Kumy is such a pancake guy. French Toast is honestly so easy that I’ve never written it down until now.

I also like using fruit with just a bit of of sugar, maple syrup or honey for sweetening. If the berries are really sweet, you may not need to add all the sugar. You can also substitute eggnog for the milk – it’s delicious – or you could just as easily use Oatmilk if you like.

Ingredients:

French Toast
3 1″ slices of bread (mine was a flatter loaf)
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/8 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Vanilla
Pinch of salt

Berries
1 Tbsp butter
2 tsp brown sugar or 1 tsp honey
1/2 cup blueberries or any other fresh berries

Mix eggs, milk, cinnamon and vanilla in a flat bowl or pie pan. Lay bread slices in the mixture, and flip them over. Let soak in for a few minutes, pushing down on them once in a while to make sure they soak up as much of the milk mixture as possible.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. You can add a little butter to the pan, but you really don’t need it with nonstick.

Place soaked bread in skillet, drizzling any leftover milk mix over. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until it’s starting to get a bit golden underneath. Flip over and cook another 2 minutes, until it’s golden on the bottom and starting to get a little brown.

Remove French Toast to a serving plate.

Quickly add the butter and let it melt. Toss brown sugar over and stir for 10-15 seconds. Add blueberries and sauté blueberries in the sugar butter mixture for a minute. Pour berries and everything over the French Toast.

Delish!

Roasted Eggplant

Eggplants by Rens on Unsplash

Here’s another glorious roasted Eggplant recipe, where the addition of one secret ingredient (okay, it’s dried onion flakes) truly takes it to the next level. It’s delicious fresh out of the oven, but honestly even better warmed up the next day. We like it on pasta, or steamed rice.

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/2″ squares
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 heaping Tbsp dried onion flakes
2 Tbsp olive oil
grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425.

Mix seasonings, onion flakes and oil in a medium bowl, Add eggplant and toss well to coat. Pour onto a baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove and flip eggplant over. Bake 5 more minutes. Remove and serve over rice or pasta, with some fresh, grated Romano cheese.

Would also be amazing in a wrap!