Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Multigrain Bread

French bread is awesome, but sometimes you want a loaf bread. There’s a ton of different types out there. I’m just starting to make some forays in the bread realm, and this book is a great bread baking primer:

The multigrain bread recipe in here isn’t perfect—it makes a small loaf. Sometimes I double the recipe and split it among 3 loaf pans to get a larger loaf. But since I hadn’t made this in a while, I figured I’d just make a single batch to make sure I still had the multigrain mojo.

It calls for a soaker of cornmeal, wheat bran, and rolled oats that soaks overnight in about ¼ C of water. Then it’s added the next day to bread flour, yeast, honey, brown sugar, cooked brown rice, salt, water, and buttermilk. I didn’t have buttermilk so I mixed yogurt with milk to get something of a similar consistency.

Mix it up and knead it until it’s pliant, sprinkling in more bread flour as needed.

Then let it rise. Form into loaves in greased loaf pans and let them rise again.

Then bake in a 350F oven for 30-40 min, rotating pans after the first 20. Once they’ve baked up golden brown, tap them to make sure they sound hollow. Take ‘em out, depan and cool on a cooling rack.

The crumb came out pretty good, and it had a mellow crunch to the crust. It makes great toast—probably because of the grains and the honey and brown sugar, it browns up really nicely. I bet it’ll make good BLTs, even though the bread is on the small side.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cocktail Hour

Yes, finally, a non-tomato oriented episode!

I’ve dabbling in cocktails, mostly when I get home from work and want to have something a little interesting to sip on. So far I’ve been sticking with the classics or variations thereof—although I’ve made a few gin-or-vodka plus seltzer and blackberry syrup drinks…sometimes spiked with a little gingercello.

But as the herbs in various pots are starting to founder or bolt, I figured I might as well make some use out of them—so I tried a couple of herbal syrups.

The first is a rather standard mint syrup using a recipe from a former managing partner of Gramercy Tavern. I cut his recipe in half, using 1 cup sugar, ½ cup water, and as much of the mint as I could salvage from a struggling plant. I used some of the flowers as well—I did that in the past when I made chocolate mint chip ice cream a couple summers ago and it worked out just fine.

Simmer for 5 minutes stirring frequently, then let cool for an hour and strain into a container.

The second was a lemon-basil syrup from David Lebovitz, using basil leaves, the zest of a lemon, and equal parts sugar and water. The larger amount of water makes for a lighter, less viscous syrup. More subtle and quirky. I doubled his recipe except for the lemon, because the lemon I had was pretty large. I figure this’ll be good with almost any spirit, as well as a prosecco or seltzer-based cocktail.

Simmer until it comes up to a boil, cool for an hour just like you do for the mint syrup, then strain through some cheesecloth into a jar or bottle.

Enjoy either of these with tea (iced or hot), seltzer, or any cocktail you choose.

This is a down-and-dirty mint julep. That’s my Grandma De Nys looking on. Don’t know if she ever had a mint julep, but since she was born in 1905, she most likely had a fair amount of cocktails in her day. This was pretty easy: a shot of Bulleit bourbon, a tablespoon of mint syrup, ice, and filled to the top with seltzer. I could’ve gotten away with a little less syrup, but it was pretty tasty nonetheless. I’d have garnished it with mint, but all the garnishable leaves were already used in the syrup.

Now these syrup efforts have me wondering what other ones I could make. Thyme could be good. Cilantro? Maybe, although a sweet cilantro syrup might be kinda weird. I’ll need to think about it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

“Salsa is now the #1 condiment in America.”

I finally made the lazy cherry tomato salsa today. It worked out pretty well. I had 3 types of tomatoes to work with—the chocolate cherry tomato which is herbal and intense, the green zebra which is more delicate in its herbal flavor, and the Japanese black, which has turned out to be a more standard red tomato.

The recipe calls for 12 cups of chopped tomatoes. I had no idea what that translated to in pounds/ounces. I posted a comment on the recipe post, and one commenter thought 12 cups would translate to about 4 ½ lbs. I’d already done a general google search that stated that 4 cups translated to about 2 lbs of chopped tomatoes. I did a relatively fine chop, and it consistently came out to 2 lbs of tomatoes for every 4 cups. So that’s what I ended up going with.

I also used 4 different chilis: a fresh habanero, 2 dried cascabels (they had an amazing smoky scent), 2 dried anchos, and a canned chipotle with the adobo sauce rinsed off. The rest of the recipe I kept as written. Gotta say when I put it all together and started cooking it up it smelled awesome almost immediately.

After 20 minutes of cooking I pureed it. I cooked for 20 more minutes as stated in the recipe and then started ladling it into the jars. It was really runny. I had a few moments of intense fretting where I struggled to decide whether to keep going or transfer the salsa back into the pot for more cooking. But I’d already tasted the salsa and really liked the flavor—I didn’t want it to end up tasting too “cooked” during the thickening process. So once again I just grit my teeth, finished portioning out the product, and canned those little bastards.

I gotta say I really like the flavor on this. Has some bite that creeps up on you, and a nice rounded tomato flavor that stands out on its own. I’ll be interested to see how it ages as the different pepper tastes integrates. It ended up making 6 ½ pints, so I have a half pint in the fridge I’ll eat through. I agree with the original blogger who posted the recipe—I think it’s gonna go great with eggs. But it’ll also do great with corn chips and on enchiladas. It’s good enough that I’ll consider making another batch—if I don’t find other purposes for the tomatoes to come.

Because I still have 3 lbs of tomatoes waiting for something. And a lot more on the plants.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Some say Tomato, some say Toh mah to.

I’ve been “collecting” all of the tomatoes I can so I can have a stash for canning projects for my weekend, which starts on Monday. (I work rotating shifts so my weekends rotate too).

We’ve had a lot of rain, 2-3 days of consistent thunderstorms and rain showers, which made me a bit nervous for the tomatoes, but overall they seem to be producing and ripening at a pretty steady pace.

These were picked from the plants this morning

And these are from previous picks

Some of those are also from today’s stash, but you get the idea.

And I have ones that have split too much to leave out. They are currently in that flavor graveyard known as the fridge. But since they’re going to be the first to go into my canning projects, and I’d rather halt their flavor progress than have ‘em rot and thrown away, I’ve made my peace with it.

Tomorrow, plans permitting, I’ll make a batch of lazy cherry tomato salsa (obviously with all-kinds-of-sizes tomatoes since that’s what I’ve got to work with) and maybe some more jam. We’ll see. It’s kinda pathetic how excited I am about this, but there you go. I just love the fact that all this bounty is going somewhere with a sense of long-term benefit.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pizza Party

The tomatoes are doing pretty well. But oftentimes I don’t get them off the vine before they start to split on me.

So I figured I’d make a sauce out of them and use it on some pizzas. I drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled liberally with salt and pepper, and roasted them in the oven at 400F for about 30 minutes. Then I pureed it with a hand stick blender. I love that thing.

Then I thought it’d also be good to do a batch of pesto. I usually make it by hand with however much basil I can reasonably get from my flowerboxes without decimating the plants.

That’s basil, garlic, a few walnuts, olive oil, and pecorino romano cheese. Pignoli nuts and parmesan cheese are more traditional, but I use whatever I have in the house. I chop up the basil and mash the hell out of it in a mortar & pestle with the minced garlic, broken apart walnuts and a bit of salt and pepper.

Then I mix in some olive oil, add however much grated cheese seems to make sense taste-wise, add more olive oil to make it spreadable or sauce-able.

I made another batch of French bread dough to use as a pizza crust. This time I let the second rise happen in the fridge overnight so I could take it out the next morning when I had the time to make the pizzas.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take pictures of me pulling the dough into pizza shapes, as I need both hands to pull the dough! This link shows kinda-sorta-a-little bit of what I do—I haven’t formed a lip like he does before, but will definitely try that next time. And of course his technique with his hands helping gravity to pull the dough out is infinitely better than mine.

So after the crust is formed and put on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and the ingredients are all prepped.

That little dish on the upper right is a few cloves of garlic I roasted and mashed into a paste. That lump of cheese below it is goat cheese. I love goat cheese on pizza. All the tomatoes are from the garden. So pretty!

I assemble the pizzas. Always go on the light side with the ingredients.

Then bake in a 450-500F oven until done.

Yum! Cool them on a wire rack. I slice it up and take it to work for a quick and tasty lunch. The sauces can be made days ahead, dough is also made ahead. So day of it’s pretty easy to assemble and bake. I usually put prosciutto or pepperoni on these as well, but I had enough tomatoes and cheeses from the garden to not feel the need to bother with those. This time.