Easiest French Bread Ever!

French-BreadThis bread recipe is from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and is the easiest and most consistent bread recipe I’ve ever used. It uses a clever proofing method, where you don’t even take the dough off the mixer, and you use ice cubes to create steam while it’s baking.

We love toast and jam and this simple, delicious bread is perfect for that and for sandwiches. I made two loaves yesterday with a cup of whole wheat flour substituted for a cup of the white flour, and I really liked the flavor and texture.

I’m sure you could add Rosemary and chopped olives, or other herbs and interesting things, but this bread doesn’t really need it.  But who knows?  Now that I’ve found a good recipe – I may experiment!

INGREDIENTS

2 1/4 cups warm water
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp kosher Salt  (Mel uses a little less)
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 1/2 – 6 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup whole wheat flour and 4 1/2 -5 cups regular flour)

Mix water, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl. If you have a stand mixer, use the mixing paddle to mix it.

Cover the bowl and/or mixer with a clean dishtowel and let the yeast get bubbly for 5 or so minutes.

Add the salt, oil and 5 cups of flour. Mix with a dough hook, or spoon for 6 or 7 minutes, adding flour as needed- 1/2 up to 1 cup flour, until dough is forming a nice solid mass. It will hang onto the dough hook and then flop back in the bowl occasionally. Only add flour if the dough is really sticking to the side of the bowl.  If kneading by hand, knead for several minutes until it’s smooth and elastic.

Leave the dough in the bowl and the dough hook in the dough. Cover the stand mixer and bowl with the kitchen towel again and leave it to rise for 15 minutes. Uncover the bowl, run the dough hook for 30 seconds or so and cover again. Repeat this process 3 more times. (You can also just leave it to rise, covered for one hour.)

Remove the dough from the bowl, split it in half, and spread it out into a sort of rectangle.  Roll it along the long end and pinch the ends and bottom so the dough holds together. Lay the loaves side by side, seam side down on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

Slash the dough with a very sharp knife at an angle 2″ apart. Cover again with the kitchen towel and leave to rise for an hour.

Preheat oven to 375. Just before you put the bread in the oven, throw a few ice cubes in a metal oven proof dish and put it in the oven, on the lowest shelf.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating pan half way through. It should rise up and get nice and brown. Check it for doneness by turning the loaf over and knocking on it. If the loaf sound hollow, it’s baked.

Let cool before slicing. Slather with butter and call it a day.

 

Borracho (Drunken) Beans

I’d never heard of Borracho (Drunken) Beans until just a few days ago. This recipe is from Kiki810 on Allrecipes – with a few minor changes.

Kiki uses two cans of tomatoes and 1/4 cup of pickled jalapenos. Being as there a quarantine and all, I didn’t have that but thought a can of diced tomatoes and one of Rotel might do. I also added a little cumin and bacon for a more smokiness. The beer cooks out for the most part, but leaves a nice complex flavor.

You honestly don’t need to soak the beans overnight, and there is some consensus that the beans taste better if you don’t.

Ingredients:

1 pound dried pinto beans, washed
2 quarts chicken stock or water
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle dark beer (can also use  light beer)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (10 oz.)can Rotel tomatoes with jalapeno peppers (regular or mild)
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, chopped or 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ Tbsp dried oregano
1 ½ cups chopped fresh cilantro (I used stems also, roughly chopped.)
1 strip of bacon, chopped or 1 Tbsp bacon drippings

Wash beans and put in a large pot, covered 1″ deep with boiling water. Simmer 2 hours, stirring from time to time to prevent beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot and add water as needed.

Add all other ingredients, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally for another 1 1/2 hours. Liquid should reduce quite a bit – so it’s not soupy, but more stew-y.

Mash a few beans to thicken the sauce. Makes a great side dish, topped with a little cheese, more cilantro and sour cream. It’s also great as a taco with with cheese, sour cream, chopped fresh tomatoes and salad greens.

Leave out the bacon drippings for a great vegan version.

Thai Salmon Red Curry

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Salmon by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

We love the Mae Ploy Curry pastes, and the red Curry Paste is used in one of our favorite Thai dishes from a wonderful local Thai restaurant, Red Salmon Curry.  Salmon works out beautifully in this curry, but you could really use any firmer fish.  The Red Curry Paste is pretty spicy – so go easy on it the first time.  Love the heat?  Go for the full 1 1/2 Tablespoons! Serve with rice.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 cup chopped red pepper
1 cup mushrooms, halved
1  to 1 1/2 Tbsp Mae Ploy Red Curry Paste (use less if you don’t like it too spicy!)
1 cup cauliflower florets
1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut in slivers
1 can coconut milk
1/2 can water
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach
1/2 to 1 lb salmon fillet, skin removed and cut into 1″ pieces
Fresh lime juice (1/2 lime)
toasted cashews (optional)
fresh basil (optional)

In a large, deep frying pan, heat oil and saute onions for 3-4 minutes until softened.  Add peppers and saute another couple minutes.  Add mushrooms and continue sauteing 3-4 minutes until the water has released and partially dried up.

Form a well in the middle of the veggies and add a little more oil.  Add the curry paste and saute lightly for a minute or so.  Stir to combine with all veggies.  Add cauliflower and ginger and stir again. Add coconut milk, water and fish sauce.  Bring to a simmer and let cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add spinach and salmon and cook 3-4 minutes, or until salmon pieces are pink through.
Serve with rice, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice on top.  Sprinkle with cashews and fresh basil if using.

Skip the salmon for a vegan version.  You can use other vegetables if you have them.  If using a stiffer veggie like carrots or potato, cook them in boiling salted water for several minutes until they are just about done, and then add them with the baby spinach.

So, so good!

Kale, Apple, Cabbage, Carrot and Goat Cheese Salad

This is based on a recipe from the Pioneer Woman and Natalie Perry, but features substitutions based on what I had in my pantry. It’s a really substantial and flavorful salad that was very satisfying as a main dish. Lots of bright flavors and colors!

Salad ingredients:
6 oz. baby kale
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 ounces grated cabbage and carrots – about 3 cups? Can also use brussel sprouts
2 medium apples, cored and diced
1 cup candied pecans (see note #1)
4 oz. goat cheese
1 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash or baked sweet potatoes (see note #2)
handful craisins

Dressing:
1/2 red wine vinegar
4 tsp whole grain mustard
4 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 olive oil

In a large salad bowl, add kale, lemon juice and first Tbsp of Olive Oil. Gently massage the kale for a minute until it has softened a bit and started to turn a little darker green.

Add the shredded veggies, chopped apples and candied pecans.

Make the dressing in a mason jar, shaking vigorously for 30 seconds until well combined. Add to the bowl, and mix gently until everything is coated.

Drop goat cheese, sweet potato (or butternut squash) and craisins on top and serve.

Note #1: To make candied pecans, in a small frying pan add pecans, 1 Tbsp maple syrup and 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard. Cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has dried up. Be careful – it burns easily!

Note #2: peel and dice butternut squash into 1″ squares, toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Or, do the same for sweet potatoes. Roast at 425 until browned and soft about 15-20 minutes. Poke with a fork to make sure they’re done. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Vegetable Paella

I’ve had my eye on Caroline’s Vegetable Paella recipe from TasteLoveandNourish.com for a long time, and I finally decided to give it a go.  She has wonderful plant-based recipes with tons of flavor.  Here is a link to her completely vegan original recipe. Caroline adds artichoke hearts to her, but I think it was fine without them.

Fortunately, I had almost all the ingredients in my pantry, and was able to make a few substitutions that worked well.  I don’t know about you, but during this time of social distancing and staying home, I’m learning to be much more creative!  I roughly halved her recipe since I’m only cooking for three right now.

Ingredients

1/2 tsp saffron threads
2 Tbsp hot water
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil or bacon drippings (to add smokiness)
1 large onion, diced
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used half regular button and half baby bellas)
2 big cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 very small zucchini, halved and sliced

1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 1/4 cups short-grain rice (I used Arborio)
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
14.5 ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes (or regular diced tomatoes), drained
1/2 cup frozen green peas
2 Tbsp capers, drained
1/4 cup big green Italian olives with pimentos,halved

handful fresh parsley
drizzle extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, pour hot water over the saffron. Set aside for at least fifteen minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Move a rack to the bottom third of your oven.

Keep the onion, mushrooms, zucchini, garlic, spices (see below), rice, white wine, broth and saffron/water in bowls near the stove – you’ll be adding them separately and cooking them fairly quickly.

Heat the olive oil in a large oven safe skillet over medium high heat.
Add the onion and cook for just two minutes.
Add mushrooms and cook without stirring for about two minutes. Stir and cook for two more minutes or until just beginning to brown.
Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
Add the zucchini slices and continue cooking for three minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the spices: paprika, smoked hot paprika, cayenne, thyme and bay leaves, salt and pepper. Add to skillet, stir and cook for a minute or two.

Add the rice and stir to coat.
Add the white wine. Simmer until reduced by about half.
Add the vegetable broth and the saffron with the water. Stir gently and bring the pan to a simmer. Cook for a couple of minutes.
Scatter tomatoes over the top.
Transfer the pan to the bottom third of the oven, and bake for 15 minutes.
Scatter the peas, capers and the olives over the top.
Continue baking the paella for 10 minutes or until the rice is tender.
Remove the bay leaves.
Garnish with fresh parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Warm Cabbage with Apples and Bacon

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image by Isara Somboon at Unsplash.

Love this recipe that came from a local grocery store around St. Patrick’s Day!

So much so that I’ve made this beautiful, colorful dish twice in the last three weeks.  It’s delicious but also such great comfort food – which is something we all need right now.  I serve it with a cheddary sausage and they’re really good together.

The lovely thing is that cabbage is so hardy – you can use half the cabbage now, and then make this again in a few weeks.

Ingredients:

6 slices bacon, chopped into 1/2″ pieces (if using turkey bacon, add 2 Tbsp Olive Oil)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 cups chopped green cabbage (1″ pieces are fine) about 1/2 medium cabbage
1 apple, cored and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup dark beer (or the equivalent in cider, plus a Tbsp of cider vinegar)
1/4 cup apple cider (or apple juice)
2 tsp brown sugar or honey
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp butter (optional)

In a large cast-iron skillet, cook bacon sprinkled with black pepper until crispy. Remove from pan, but leave drippings. Add onions and cook for a couple of minutes, then add cabbage and apples. Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, mix beer, cider, brown sugar, caraway seeds and salt. Add to cabbage mixture and cook 5 minutes more until everything is soft the liquid has reduced a bit. Drop bits of the butter on and give a final stir.

Serve as is on a baked potato, or with a lovely cheddar-ry sausage! (If you start pan-frying the sausage at the same time, the sausage should be done when the cabbage is.)

For a vegan version, leave out the bacon, and add a bit of chipotle pepper for that smoky flavor and a bit more salt to make up for the saltiness of bacon.

Vegan Parmesan

Even if you aren’t vegan, you’ll flip over this vegan parmesan recipe from Minimalist Baker.  It’s  so delicious I can’t stay away from it – I’ve literally been stealing spoonsful from the container!  It’s super easy to make and keeps for a couple of weeks, if it lasts that long.

3/4 raw cashews
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (I used Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast.)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt

Buzz all in a food processor until mixture is in small crumbles. Be careful not to overprocess, or you’ll end up with cashew butter.

This is wonderful in all the places you might use Parmesan, but is also tasty on top of any veggies.  Enjoy!

Perfect Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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Beautiful Brussels Sprouts by Keenan Loo on Unsplash.

This recipe from Mark Bittman is a really delicious way to prepare Brussels Sprouts.  It’s perfect for big events like Thanksgiving, because you can get it totally prepped the day before and then roast it the day of. It’s also vegan and gluten-free!

Mark made it slightly differently – he browned the brussels sprouts in a cast iron skillet first, but I wanted to make a larger batch, so I just roasted them in the oven.   The key is to let them get so dark they appear to be burning.  But that just brings out the sweetness that makes them so delicious.

2 lbs brussels sprouts, washed and halved
1/3 cup olive oil
5 big cloves of garlic, cut into thin slices
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional – I forgot it and the dish was still delish!)

Mix oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a ziploc bag. Add brussel sprouts and shake well to coat the sprouts.

At this point, you can refrigerate them until you’re ready to bake or go ahead and roast them on a rimmed baking sheet at 450 for 30 minutes.  You may want to go in halfway through and shake them up a bit.  Check seasoning and serve. They will literally disappear.

Potato Poblano Bundles

There is something about a potato that’s been baked in a buttery, spicy sauce that is incredibly warming and satisfying.  This dish is easy and cooked in little foil bundles that are super fun to open at the table.

The recipe is from The Pioneer Woman magazine with slight variations.

2 lbs. thin skinned potatoes cut into 1″ chunks
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 large poblano peppers, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
1 stick of butter (or 1/2 cup Olive Oil for a vegan version)
1/2 cup half and half (or veggie broth for vegan version)
2 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley or 2 Tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, mix butter, half ‘n half and all seasonings. Mix well, and add the potatoes, onions and peppers.

Take aluminum foil and cut off 8 18″ pieces. Place 1/8 of the mix in the middle of each foil square and fold up the edges to create a pouch.

At this point, you can grill them for 25 minutes (you’ll have to turn them so make sure they are tightly sealed.) If you prefer you can also bake them at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Check one for doneness – the potatoes should be super soft.

Serve right in the foil packets.

 

Grilled Flank Steak with Charred Eggplant and Mint

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Eggplant by Deviyahya on Unsplash

This is another great recipe from the Slow Food Fast column in the Wall Street Journal,  from chefs Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hersheimer.

We made this with the last of the eggplant from the garden tonight and it was easy and good. It’s also a great way to use mint before the first freeze.  Makes enough for 4 hungry people.

Ingredients:

2 lbs. flank steak
6 tbsp Olive Oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 small globe or Japanese eggplants, halved. (If you use regular size eggplants, cut them into 1″ slices, lengthwise.)
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, smashed or 1/2- 1 tsp garlic powder (use more if you love garlic!)
a good pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

Pat steak dry and use a sharp knife to lightly cut a crosshatch pattern on both sides. Drizzle with Tbsp olive oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper on both sides.

In a big bowl, mix lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the eggplants and stir until everything is well coated. Remove the eggplants to a plate and to the remaining sauce in the bowl, add garlic, red pepper flakes and mint leaves. Stir gently to blend.

Grill steak on high heat until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side, then remove from heat, cover and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

While steak is resting, lay eggplants cut side down and grill 4-5 minutes. Then flip and grill 4-5 more minutes. Remove from heat and add back into the bowl with mint sauce. Toss gently to coat.

Slice steaks thinly across the grain, and serve with eggplants and mint sauce. So delish and so fast!

Note: this recipe would also be wonderful with lamb, or for a vegan version, with cauliflower steaks!