Apr 26, 2010

No Knead Multigrain Bread - you can do it!

I've been meaning to post this for a while, but there's a lot of pics and I think that a video would be better.  I'm too busy planning my vegetable garden and volunteering at a farm to make cooking videos right now, so this'll have to do...

you will need: 

1 cup all purpose white flour
1 cup wheat flour
1 cup rye flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1 T kosher salt
1 3/4 – 2 cups water
about 1/2 cup whole grains, flax seeds, etc.
A cast iron or enameled Dutch oven
In a large bowl mix flours, vital wheat gluten, yeast and salt.  Add 1 3/4 cups of water and mix.  If the dough is too stiff to mix with a wooden spoon, add another 1/4 cup of water.  Cover loosely with a plastic bag and let ferment at room temperature for about 24 hours (18 hours will do if it’s warm, 24 if it’s cool.) 
Prepare a mixture of seeds, grains, etc.  I had a whole multigrain mix and flax seeds on hand, so I used 1/3 a cup of the whole grains and 1/4 cup of the flax seeds. 
After dough has fermented for about 24 hours scrape it out onto a well floured surface.  Sprinkle a layer of grains over the dough.  Fold in half, flatten, and sprinkle on more grains (you may work in extra flour if your dough seems to wet at this stage).  Continue this way until you’ve incorporated all the grains.  You can knead the bread a few times just to mix the grains in well.
Shape into a ball and let rest on a well floured surface for two hours.  Cover with a towel.
At least 20 minutes before the two hours is up, begin to preheat your dutch oven to 450 degrees. 
Transfer the dough to the preheated dutch oven and bake, covered, for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes. 
Try to wait a few minutes for it to cool before you butter up a hunk of hot n’ hearty whole grain bread!
To see the full instructional photo album, please go to:  frankie makes multigrain bread on facebook.

Apr 23, 2010

Smoked Salmon, West Coast Style

In New York, if you buy smoked salmon what you will get is Lox.  Because the fish is salt cured without heat, it retains the appearance and texture of raw fish, and the flavor competes with an acute saltiness.  The fish doesn’t taste particularly smoky, and I’m not sure it even is, technically speaking, smoked salmon.  Nevertheless, I’ve come to love raw salty salmon as a topping for bagels, hors d’oeuvres, omelettes and more.     

I grew up in Oregon, where most smoked salmon is heat cured and so more closely resembles fish jerky.  It has a dark, leathery skin encasing firm, intensely smoky and often sweet flesh.  You can enjoy this style of smoked salmon in the same ways you might enjoy lox, and it also lends itself to other culinary realms. 

Heat-smoked salmon imparts its awesome smokiness to anything you add it to.  I recently used a hunk of it to make smoked salmon chowder.  You can make a dip your friends will go ga ga over just by blending it with sour cream.  And you know what I’m thinking?  White cheddar or maybe dill Havarti mac n’ cheese with smoked salmon cooked into it.  Oh yeah!  So many recipes and not enough people in my house to eat everything…

To see how I made the smoked salmon, go to:  frankie makes smoked salmon on facebook

Apr 18, 2010

Building a Better Cookie - and a better world.

I recently found myself wandering around lower Manhattan in search of a big, soft ginger cookie to accompany my four dollar latte.  You know the one – that deep auburn disc with a rustic crackled surface all bedazzled with sparkling sugar crystals.  I love you, ginger cookie. 

I didn’t find one that day, but I did resolve to learn to make them at home.  I’m not much of a cookie baker.  As much as I crave sweets, there’s only myself and my husband here and the last thing we need is three dozen sugar bombs lazing around the house.   

Never the less, for the sake of science, I began baking ginger cookies yesterday.  I started the way I usually do, by looking for recipes online.  The first three recipes I found all called for shortening rather than butter.  Using vegetable oil instead of butter immediately ran against my cooking intuition, but hey, what do I know?  So I looked in my trusty dusty betty crocker cookbook and it said you should use at least 65% vegetable oil in ginger cookies.  Didn’t say why, but fine.  So I used a modified version of a shortening recipe, which yielded perfect looking cookies, but they were NOT the ginger cookies of my fantasies.  I could totally taste that they were made with shortening.  Gross.  And they were only soft in the middle, and crunchy at the edges.  Not good.  And the color wasn’t right.  Me and the hubbs ate a couple and the rest went to the birds.  Literally.  (The crows don’t discriminate, it seems.)

I conferred with my brother and a friend about the failed cookies.  Independent of one another, they both suggested I try a Martha Stewart version.  This time, I decided to indulge my home chef’s intuition as I worked with the recipe.  I made at least two significant modifications to the technique, and the big, soft ginger cookies were a success. 

You can do it!

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
2 tablespoons baking soda, dissolved in 1 T hot water
a couple tablespoons large grain sugar (for tops of cookies)

Sift flour, cocoa powder, and spices into a medium bowl.

Cream butter and brown sugar together in a large bowl.  Add grated ginger and molasses and blend well.  You can use a hand mixer if you like. 

Add about a third of the flour mixture and blend.  Add about a third of the baking soda mixture and blend.  Continue alternating flour mixture and baking soda mixture.  The dough will be very stiff.  I picked it up and kneaded it a few times.   

Refrigerate cookie dough for at least an hour. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Shape dough into golf ball sized orbs, flatten and space about an inch and a half apart on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle granulated sugar on top of the cookies.
Bake for about 15 minutes.  What you should observe is that the cookies rise a bit at first, but eventually flatten out. 
I sprinkled a little more sugar on top right when they came out of the oven.
Let the cookies remain on the cookie sheet for about five minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. 
Allow cookie sheet to cool off before you start adding more dough, or it will start to melt before you put it in the oven, and you don’t want that. 

To see more photos of how to make these cookies, go to:  frankie makes ginger cookies on facebook

Apr 14, 2010

Green Eggs and Kale

Chickens really do lay green eggs!  Okay, they’re more blue than green, Sam I am.  Consumers (that massive demographic that buys organic, free range, grass fed poultry ova) are fond of the blueys, thus the farm is mindful to put a few in every carton.  So I was surprised when I got home to find a number of blue eggs in a box I grabbed from the reject pile.  Maybe someone was a little sleepy at the egg sorting table today?  Lucky me.  I was also fortunate enough to receive some kale (that survived the northeast winter!) we pulled up in preparation for this year’s planting.  Now, you might think I eat gourmet meals every night – but one of my favorite breakfasts is simply soft boiled eggs with steamed kale.

Sadly, the kale won’t be around tomorrow morning.  I decided to make “kale chips” I’ve seen recipes for while I wrote this, and now most of the kale has been consumed.  The kale chips were a smash hit, with me at least.  But then, I love kale.

To make crispy kale:  Toss kale with a little olive oil, salt, and whatever seasonings you like.  Spread out on a baking sheet and bake at 300 for about ten minutes.  

Apr 13, 2010

Operation Taco Sauce

My brother Andy worked for a mid-size industrial chicken farm for many years until it was bought out by a Gargantuan Farm.  He started at the bottom, catching chickens and tossing them into metal crates in preparation for delivery to their final destination, so to speak.  My bro gleaned a lot from his colleagues during that time.  Not only did he become fluent in Spanish, he also learned to prepare truly authentic Mexican food.  He’s been sharing those culinary principles with my sister and I, and we’ve been facebooking them for you!

The following recipe is for one version of Salsa Taqueria, also known as taco sauce to us gringos.  It incorporates the smoky garlic chili paste I demonstrated in an earlier post (frankie makes smoky garlic chili paste on facebook).  I’m using tomatillos in this version, but you can also use juicy red tomatoes.  

You will need:
1/4 cup of smoky garlic chili paste
6 – 8 whole tomatillos
1 jalapeno (optional)

Slice tomatillos in half and lay, cut side down, in a baking dish.

Place oven rack about 6 inches below broiler element and broil tomatillos until they begin to blacken - a few minutes.

Transfer tomatillos to a food processor and add 1/4 cup of chili paste.

Blend.  Add some salt (and maybe some of that jalapeno) to taste. 

To see the full instructional photo album, please go to:  frankie's taco sauce on facebook

Apr 12, 2010

Lemon Lovers Unite! Try this easy luscious lemon curd recipe!

Are you a lover of lemon desserts?  And did you just score three dozen farm fresh eggs that you need to use?  Well, I am and I did.  Here is one of the delightul food items I made with some of those eggs.  It’s really easy and amazingly delish!

You will need:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 T grated lemon zest

In a large bowl, blend the butter and sugar together.  I usually start with a fork, then switch to a hand blender.  Gradually add the eggs and yolks while beating, then beat in the lemon juice.  The mixture will look curdled at this point.  No worries, it’ll all smooth out during cooking. 

Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and cook on low heat until the butter melts, stirring constantly.  You’ll see the mixture become smooth and darker yellow as the butter melts. 

Once all the butter has melted, increase the heat to medium and cook until the mixture thickens, stirring constantly.  It should take about 10 more minutes.  Be careful not to overheat the mixture or let it boil. 

My experience with the thickening step goes like this:  I’m standing over the stove stirring and stirring and nothing seems to be happening, and I’m thinking did I screw it up?  Should I turn up the heat?  Then all of a sudden, it thickens.  In like, a few seconds. 

Once thickened, remove the curd from the heat and stir in some lemon zest.

Carefully pour the warm curd into jars and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.  The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. 

Put lids on jars.  Give one jar to a friend. 

This luscious lemon curd will keep in the fridge for at least a few days.  If you’re not ready to part with it, you can freeze the second jar for up to a couple months. 

How might you enjoy this wonderful treat?  Put it on your waffles, pancakes, scones, toast, on shortbread cookies, in a layer cake, on top of cheesecake, in yogurt, on ice cream…or just plop yourself down in front of the teevee and spoon it right out of the jar and into your happy mouth. 

To see the full instructional photo album, go to:  frankie makes lemon curd on facebook

Later this week, I hope to show you how to make a couple things I think this lemon curd would be great with:  angel food cake and (true) Belgian waffles.  

Apr 9, 2010

All Creatures Great and Small

My husband is a lover of all creatures great and small.  After finding a mouse’s cache inside one of his speakers and repeated ‘leavings’ in empty coffee mugs, he determined to relocate the offender(s).  He purchased a humane mouse trap and left it on his desk overnight.  Didn’t take long to get one!  We took the little guy for the thrill ride of his life this morning.  Hope he likes his new lake front parcel.  The rest of his family will be joining him shortly…

Apr 8, 2010

Grill Woks Are Cool!

Have you tried one of these? It's called a "grill wok" and it's perfect for grilling veggies or a mess o' potatoes.

I tossed the asparagus in a little olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Then I put them in the grill wok, placed that on top my grill, and closed the lid.  I turned them once about five minutes later and closed the grill again for another five or so. Nice!

I think this thing works so well because the veggies when piled up this way do a little steaming while they grill, so you get some good searing without the veggies drying out.

I was really impressed with the potatoes a neighbor did in his grill wok.  Gotta try that next…

Dad's Salmon Cakes

When we'd get sick of eating fish as kids, dad could always persuade us with these delicious, crispy, fried  fish-and-potato patties.  Now that I've grown to appreciate the wild-caught fish I grew up eating, I think these salmon cakes are pretty special.  They're easy to make and taste great warm or cold - the Panko crust retains its crunch even after refrigeration.  They make a great appetizer or main course.  You could even throw one on a bun and call it a salmon po' boy!  

I made a ginger mango chutney here - just 'cause it looks pretty in a photo.  Sometimes I make a kind of tartar sauce by blending a little lemon juice and a lot of herbs into mayonnaise.  But to be perfectly honest, I prefer my dad's salmon cakes cold, with no condiments whatsoever.  [I can't believe I just said that.  I usually pile every sauce available on whatever I'm eating.]    

This recipe makes about a dozen salmon cakes
Dad’s Salmon Cakes:
1 cup coarsely mashed potatoes
2 cups cooked salmon or steelhead, cooled and flaked
1/4 cup chopped green onion (parsley and dill are other good herbs for this recipe)
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
about 2 cups Panko bread crumbs
canola oil for frying the salmon cakes

Apr 6, 2010

From the Growing up Kimm Files: A Bittersweet memory

The year is 1984.  I am thirteen years old.  My four siblings and I are living in utter squalor in an old farmhouse in a shitty little redneck town in Oregon.  My mother left my father – and her five offspring by sheer coincidence – a year earlier.  Dad is out drinking, wallowing at the bottom of a pit that would be a ten year long drunken spell.  Tomorrow is thanksgiving.  Dad will come home long enough to roast a turkey and we will have a Kimm family dinner.  It’s late at night, and I am making pies.  My four-year old sister, the youngest of my siblings, is sitting on the counter next to where I am rolling out a crust.  She is desperately trying to stay awake.  Her bare feet dangle over the counter and her little hands grasp the edge as her eyelids slowly droop shut…and pop open again!  In this manner The Keez, short for Keezer, short for Mckenzie, manages to stay up until I slide the pies into the oven and carry her off to bed.

My kid sister, now 30 years old, spends even more time and energy in the kitchen than I do.  She is committed to preparing the highest quality food (her mantra is all organic all the time) and is excited to learn everything.  We recently spent a couple days together, during which she taught me:  how to bake the best angel food cake I’ve ever tasted, how to create an entire Jamaican style dinner of grilled jerk chicken with dipping sauce, fried plantain and spicy slaw, and how to make hollandaise for eggs benedict.  I showed her how to bake bread and make corn tortillas.

I left home for good in 1986, so The Keez and I didn’t have much of a chance to grow up together.  These days, I find it deeply heeling - and a whole lot of fun - to spend time with my adult sister in the kitchen, our hearts at home.   

To see more photos of cooking with my sister, go to:  Cooking with The Keez on facebook

Apr 2, 2010

Oh No, Fish Again?!

My dad has always been a hardcore, though not professional, fisherman.  He was a “professional” musician, which did little to put food on the table for his five children.  Let's just say that we ate a LOT of fish growing up.  I was so sick of fish/rice/salad dinners that I didn’t eat fish for at least ten years after I left home (I still hate salad).  The concept of paying to eat fish in a restaurant was absurd to me.  I suppose that unconsciously, I considered fish to be poor people’s food. 

I’ve completely flip-flopped.  There are now few food items I hold in higher esteem than a nice fresh piece of fish.  And rather than not eating fish in restaurants because I think it’s gross, I now find myself apprehensive about ordering fish because I’m afraid it won’t be fresh or properly prepared!  It seems that I’ve returned to my culinary childhood with an adult foodie’s snobbery.

Here is what I prepared for dinner this evening:  ling cod I caught in Alaska, with veggies sautéed in home made red curry paste and Thai sticky rice. 

I guess I’m pretty fortunate that my childhood meal wasn’t mac n’ cheese with hot dogs, because it easily could have been. 

I Like It Fried: The Hawthorne Fish House in Portland, Oregon

Man I’ve been eating unhealthily of late!  I fully intended to sauté some veggies tonite, but the curry I made included shrimp paste, which contained gluten, which would surely cause a grievous reaction in my dining companion’s protoplasm.  So it seemed serendipitous when she suggested we go to the Hawthorne Fish House, it being on my list of restaurants to try while in Portland. 

I wasn’t aware of the mostly gluten free menu, my primary interest was in seeking out good fried seafood, which I think is pretty much an oxymoron in these parts.  Let’s face it, most fried seafood is crappy for at least two reasons:  the fish is past its prime and no longer tastes of the sea in a good way, then it’s over battered and saturated with grease.  Okay, three reasons.  Still, I’m a sucker even for low quality fish and chips, so when I spied the Hawthorne Fish House on my daily jog around southeast Portland, I added it to my agenda.   

You’ve probably deduced that I found the experience worth writing about.  It was Good Fried Fish!  Really good.  I ordered the Tug Boat, which included oysters, halibut, walleye and catfish [I swear I got cod instead of catfish - a bonus for me].  When the waiter asked, “which sauce would you like?” he read my face and brought me all three. 

I’m sure you’ve had a fish basket in which it was impossible to discern the different types of fish visually, much less through flavor and texture.  That was not the case with tonite’s meal.  The fish was fresh and so delicately breaded and fried (with brown rice flour!) that I could easily differentiate each species and even taste where they came from.  That’s the pleasure of eating fresh fish.  The golden nuggets were succulent and almost greaseless.  I’m not kidding.  The combination of fresh, lightly fried seafood and a tall glass of sparkling pear cider transported me back to my best dining experience in Barcelona. 

I’d like to recommend the Hawthorne Fish House for an additional reason: the casual vibe.  How can a great restaurant so close to 39th and Hawthorne be so utterly devoid of hipsterism?  I gotta tell you, it was kind of a relief.  Don’t get me wrong, I love hipsters.  I’m a hipster.  I married a hipster.  But sometimes I just want to sit down in a comfortable, unpretentious place and have a tasty meal without feeling pressured to relinquish my table or be blasted away with cool tunes.  The Hawthorne Fish House feels just like a casual restaurant on the Oregon coast, except the food is ten times better.  And just to further encourage you to try it, there are plenty of non-fried choices on the menu.  I can’t wait to go back and try the halibut tacos with pineapple-chipotle salsa.

Apr 1, 2010

The Pizza Revolution from New York to Portland

I don’t want to annoy you guys with my constant comparison of Portland things to New York things, but the fact of the matter is that I live in both Portland and New York, so I can’t help it.  I’ll admit that as a person who loves the outdoors, fresh produce, beautiful houses and nice people, I am biased towards my west coast home.  But a city as culturally diverse, economically competitive, and rife with egomaniacs and big spenders as New York is necessarily going to cultivate some high quality eateries.  I can’t afford most of them, but I did recently dine at two of Brooklyn’s new brick oven pizzerias – Motorino and Roberta’s.

They were both terrific.  The crusts at the two restaurants were similar – slightly blackened at the edges, where they were crisp and chewy, but a bit soggy and floppy in the middle (c’mon New York, you can do better!).  The generous use of fresh herb toppings at Motorino blew my mind, but the Portlandy vibe at Roberta’s felt like home.  And when I learned about the rooftop garden they started to provide fresh veg for the restaurant…I was moved enough to donate some cash to the farm fund.  It’s inspiring to encounter people in New York City who care just as much as Portlanders do about where their food comes from - to the point that they will take on the rather extreme challenge of starting an inner city farm.  Amazing!

So I wore my (invisible) New York Pizza goggles when I met up with a group of friends at Ken’s Artisan Pizza in Portland this evening.  I was thinking no way the toppings at this place are gonna be yummier than those at Motorino.  And they weren’t, but they were pretty incredible in their own right.  I mean, roasted oyster mushrooms with bra tenero cheese, fresh basil and chiles?!  So good!  But here’s the kicker:  the pizza crust at Ken’s totally blew New York out of the water.  It had the same lovely char at the edges, both crispy and chewy…but unlike the New York version, it maintained perfect crust consistency across its diameter.  No floppy slices!  I tried six different pies and am confident that I ate more than anyone else at the table.  For research purposes only, of course.  When I asked our waiter if I could keep a menu, he gave it with the caveat that changes are frequent.  I can see this research project won’t be completed for a while.   

To see more photos of Ken's Artisanal Pizza, go to:  frankie's photos of Ken's on facebook