Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cookbook Review: The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

I love the concept of "Bread in 5" -- you mix up a big batch of dough, stash it in the fridge, and then bake off portions over the next couple of weeks whenever you like.  It's not quite five minutes a day, but it certainly makes it possible to have fresh bread or pizza for dinner without coming home early from work (or buying the dough at the store, which is my usual lazy technique!).  I got a copy of the "healthy" version a few years ago from the library, but was never totally satisfied with the flavor and texture of the breads I made - I'm not sure if this was user error, but in any case I mentally put this in the category of "nice idea, but..."

Still, when I got an email asking if I wanted to review the The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, the updated version of the original (i.e. non healthy) cookbook, I figured I would give this concept another try.  I've got to say, I'm now a convert - I'm not sure if it's just that the technique works better with 100% white flour, or whether I messed something up when I originally tried the whole wheat recipes, but either way the breads I made from this cookbook were fantastic!  My favorite part was just how many different things you could make with the master recipe -- which is just flour, yeast, salt, and water.  Over the course of about a week-and-a-half, I made ciabatta, three pizzas (one full-sized, and two mini lunch-sized), and naan, and they were all delicious.

Ciabatta with jam

Fair warning -- you're not going to get a perfectly authentic product.  Naan typically has yogurt or milk mixed into the dough, and my ciabatta definitely didn't have the big holes you see in the real thing, despite an extended rising time.  Still, there is zero chance that I would have mixed up three different batches of 'authentic' dough over the course of eight or nine days, and the results were super yummy.  I loved being able to bake fresh bread to go along with dinner, without feeling like I was spending the time to make an extra recipe in addition to my main dish.  Plus, the initial big batch of dough is super simple to put together - you don't have to pull out the stand mixer, and the rising time is very flexible.

Pizza topped with leftovers: BBQ sauce, roasted potatoes, bell pepper, sun-dried tomato chicken, herb goat cheese, pesto Jack, and scallions.

You can find the master recipe for this technique -- which is what I used to make all my breads this past week -- on the Bread in 5 website.  The cookbook provides some additional dough recipes (including whole grain, gluten free, and sweet doughs), as well as tons of different ways to shape and cook the bread.  I'm excited to try pita bread, crescent rolls, and pretzels next!


This book is perfect for: people who love fresh-baked bread but are short on time, people with a lot of fridge space (the bowl of dough takes up a fair amount of real estate), gluten-free bakers (there's a whole new chapter on gluten-free bread), and folks looking to save some money (the recipe is way cheaper than purchasing the same number of loaves/dough at the grocery or bakery).
Skip this one if: you'd rather spend more time to get the most authentic bread possible, you're on a diet (seriously - this stuff was delicious, but I ate a LOT of bread!).

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this cookbook for review purposes.  All opinions and recipe-testing are my own.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pumpkin Curry

We recently got sugar pie pumpkins in our CSA box, and I decided to go in both sweet and savory directions with them.  One pumpkin got made into ginger-pumpkin pie (yum!), and the rest went into this pumpkin curry.  Pumpkin curry is one of Tim's (and my!) favorite dishes to order at Thai restaurants, so it was fun try try and recreate it at home.  I didn't think the curry tasted quite like the restaurant version, but it was still really tasty.  Next time, I might steam the pumpkin and cut it into bigger chunks, which I think would feel more authentic.  In any case, this is an easy dish once you get the pumpkin peeled and cut up.  Have everything ready, because once you start the cooking process, it goes very quickly.

Pumpkin Curry (adapted from eat, live, run, original recipe here)
Serves 4

1-2 smallish sugar pie pumpkins
Vegetable oil
1 T coconut oil
3 T Thai red curry paste
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
1/4 cup water
1 T fish sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
2 kaffir lime leaves, torn into a few pieces
6 basil leaves, chopped
2 red Thai chilies, pierced several times with a knife
A large handful of green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1 bell pepper, diced
12 ounces thinly cut pork loin cutlets, cut into bite-sized pieces
Cooked rice, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Cut the pumpkin(s) in half, peel, and cut into cubes.  Toss with a little vegetable oil, and then spread in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Roast about 30 minutes, until tender.
3. In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat until melted.  Add the curry paste and whisk into the hot oil.  Let it sizzle about 30 seconds.  Then whisk in the coconut milk, until smooth.
4. Add the water, fish sauce, brown sugar, kaffir lime leaves, basil leaves, and chilies.  Bring to a simmer.
5. Add the bell peppers and green beans, and keep the liquid at a simmer.  After about 5 minutes, add the pork.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes more, until the vegetables are just tender.
6. Add the roasted pumpkin to the curry, and simmer for another couple of minutes until the pumpkin is heated through.
7. Serve with rice.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Baked "Risotto" with Roasted Cauliflower

This baked rice dish is total comfort food.  Although it's called a 'risotto,' and although it uses Arborio rice, don't make it expecting the real deal - because the rice isn't stirred constantly while cooking, it doesn't have that risotto texture.  Tim and I both thought it was more similar to 'cheesy rice' that we both remembered from our childhood. Of course, this version is a bit fancier with Gruyere cheese, roasted cauliflower, wine, and panko.   And, because the rice is baked, this dish is a lot easier and more hands-off than a traditional risotto.

You'll need to plan a fair amount of time to make this dish, as it involves roasting the cauliflower, sauteing the onions and rice, and then baking everything together.  That said, each step is easy and can be done mostly unattended.  And, the results are fantastic -- creamy, cheese rice with tender, roasty cauliflower and crispy breadcrumbs!  It's the perfect way to warm up on a chilly evening.

On the side: We served sauteed spinach with red pepper flakes for a little spice, but any type of green vegetable or salad would be great.  Just don't go too rich so that you balance out the rice.

Baked "Risotto" with Roasted Cauliflower (adapted from Home Made Winter)
Serves 4

1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
Salt and pepper
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
7 ounces Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry blush or white wine
2-1/4 cups chicken broth
7 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 cup panko

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Toss the cauliflower florets with  oil, salt, and pepper.  Spread in an even layer on a foil-lined baking sheet, and roast until browned and tender, 10-15 minutes.  Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
2. In an oven-safe skillet, heat a swirl of oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until softened and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the rice and turn the heat up to medium-high.  Saute for another few minutes, until the rice starts to become slightly toasted.
3. Pour in the wine and broth, and bring to a boil.  Stir in the cauliflower and cheese, and put a lid on the skillet.
4. Pop the skillet into the 350 degree oven, and bake 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and sprinkle the panko over the rice.  Return the skillet to the oven, uncovered, and bake for 5 minutes, until the rice is tender and the panko is slightly browned.  Serve hot!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pear-Delicata Squash Soup with Ginger and Goat Cheese

This soup screams 'autumn' to me -- it's full of warm fall flavors and will make your kitchen smell amazing.  This is one of those recipes with few ingredients but a big impact.  Probably the first thing you taste is the ginger -- there's a lot of it in here, and it provides an awesome spicy kick.  The squash and pears add sweetness, while a sprinkle of goat cheese on top contributes a creamy tang -- whole-milk yogurt would also work well in this role.  This soup is the perfect way to warm up on a chilly autumn evening - serve with crusty bread and a salad for a complete meal.

Pear-Delicata Squash Soup with Ginger and Goat Cheese (adapted from Dinner with Julie, original recipe here)
Serves 4

1 large delicata squash
3 small pears
1 T butter
1 small onion, minced
1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and chopped
3-4 cups chicken stock
Crumbled goat cheese, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Quarter the pears and cut out the cores.  There's no need to peel either one.  Coat the baking sheet with a light layer of oil to prevent sticking, and then place the squash and pears cut-side-down on the foil.  Roast about 15 minutes, and then test to make sure everything is tender.  Let cool for a few minutes, and then peel off the skins - they should slip off the pears easily, and the squash flesh should scrape off the skins with a spoon.
3. Meanwhile, make the soup base.  Heat a soup pot over medium heat.  Add a drizzle of oil along with the butter, and let the butter melt.  Cook the onion for 7-8 minutes, until soft, stirring often.  Add the ginger and cook for another minute.
4. When the squash and pears are ready, add them to the soup pot with the aromatics.  Add 3 cups stock.  Bring to a boil, and then puree with an immersion blender (or, let cool slightly and puree in a blender in batches).  Add more stock if you prefer your soup to be thinner.
5.  Add salt to taste, and then serve hot with goat cheese crumbled on top.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Carrot-Beet Slaw with Golden Raisins

I like lettuce-based salads as much as the next person, but I get bored with them pretty fast.  Plus, they don't keep - you either eat it the night it's made, or it pretty much has to go in the trash.  That's why I'm a huge fan of salads made with sturdier veggies -- kale, carrots, fennel, raddichio, and others.  Although they sometimes require a bit more up-front work in terms of slicing, shredding, and peeling, a big batch will have me covered for dinner plus a few lunches.  This particular slaw is full of beets and carrots, and I was a huge fan -- even my beet-skeptical boyfriend liked it!  I love the way the shredded beets dye everything a hot pink color; the juicy, plump golden raisins, and the sharp bite from a bit of minced fresh garlic.  Since I was already peeling and shredding the beets, I used pre-shredded carrots from the grocery, but I think this would be even better with freshly grated carrots if you have the time.  Overall, this slaw is colorful, fun, and flavorful - a real winner!

Carrot-Beet Slaw with Golden Raisins (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Serves 4-6

3/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound beets (about 3 small), peeled and grated
10 ounce bag shredded carrots (or 1 pound carrots, peeled and grated)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 minced fresh mint
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

1. Combine the raisins, vinegar, and garlic in a bowl, and stir to combine.  Let sit for 30-60 minutes.
2. Combine the beets, carrots, parsley, mint, and crushed red pepper flakes in a serving bowl.  Add the raisin-vinegar mixture.  Toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper, and toss again.
3. Add about two-thirds of the olive oil and toss to combine.  Taste, and add more salt, pepper, and/or oil as needed.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Secret Recipe Club: Chicken 'Fajitas' in the Slow Cooker

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Anna of bcmom's kitchen.  When I saw her recipe for chicken fajitas in the slow cooker, I knew I wanted to make it - I love using my slow cooker, and I hadn't made Mexican food in a while. As Anna points out in her post, these aren't really fajitas -- fajitas would be cooked quickly over hot heat, while this dish cooks low and slow in the Crockpot.  That said, this dish does have all the components of fajitas - chicken, peppers, and onions - and it tastes awesome all wrapped up in a tortilla!  It will look like you have way too many veggies and too little chicken, but don't worry - the veggies really melt down over the long cooking time, and I thought the balance at the end was perfect.  I do think you could get away with a shorter cooking time (maybe 4-6 hours on low), but 8 hours works as well -- I was worried the chicken was burned when I peeked in the Crockpot, but it was just fine.  This dish isn't very spicy, so if you like your Mexican food on the spicier side, be sure to add something spicy on top (we used pepper jack cheese) or add some chilies when you start the dish.  Yum!

Chicken 'Fajitas' in the Slow Cooker (adapted from Stacy Makes Cents, via bcmom's kitchen)
Serves at least 4

1 yellow onion, thickly sliced
3 bell peppers, thickly sliced
1 pound boneless chicken thighs
2 T cumin
1-1/2 T chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chicken broth
Juice of 1 lime

1. Layer the ingredients in your crockpot.  Start with the peppers and onions, and then lay the chicken thighs on top in a single layer.  Sprinkle the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt over the chicken.  Finally, drizzle the chicken broth and lime juice over everything as evenly as possible.
2. Cook on low for 8 hours.
3. Shred or chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Stir back into the crockpot.
4. Serve with tortillas and fixings (we used sour cream and pepper jack cheese).

Friday, November 1, 2013

Pesto Chicken Quesadilla with Seasonal Produce

This is one of those "let's see what's in the fridge" lunches that made me incredibly happy to have a well-stocked fridge full of yummy leftovers.  I combined a bit of leftover pesto chicken from Trader Joe's with some roasted pumpkin and fresh basil leftover from making pumpkin curry, a pear from our CSA box, and pesto cheese that we picked up at the farmer's market last weekend.  These made a divine (if totally non-Mexican) filling for quesadillas.  You could replicate similar flavors by combining regular leftover chicken and cheese with a generous layer of pesto.  And, don't be afraid to switch up the produce for whatever you have around -- braised fennel and thinly sliced apples would also be awesome, as would a match-up of thinly sliced figs and spinach.  Get creative - your fridge is your oyster!

Pesto Chicken Quesadilla with Seasonal Produce
Serves 1

1 small piece of pesto chicken, cooked and thinly sliced
A scoop of leftover roasted pumpkin
2 medium-sized flour tortillas
1 ripe pear, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
5-6 leaves of fresh basil
A generous sprinkle of grated Pesto Jack cheese (such as Spring Hill)

Heat up the chicken and pumpkin until warmed through.  Warm the tortillas on both sides.  Then, layer your quesadillas in a hot, non-stick skillet.  Start with a tortilla, and then add the chicken, pumpkin, pear slices, basil, and cheese.  Finish with another tortilla.  Cook for a couple of minutes on each side, until the tortillas are crispy and the cheese is melted.  Slice into quarters and eat right away!