My Motto

May the muffin rise to greet you, may your friends be always at your door, and until we meet again, warm a single-malt in the palm of your hand and make something homemade for someone you love.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sausage and Lentil Soup with a Vegetarian Option

"Lentils are friendly-the Miss Congeniality of the bean world."
~Laurie Colwin

Here's one for The Mister.  It's his favorite, and the belated cool weather here in New England was calling for something warm and hearty.  This is a basic and fun soup to throw together that makes a thoroughly satisfying meal, requiring only some good bread to mop up juices.  It is easily adaptable to vegetarian palates as well.  Simply substitute vegetable broth for the beef and chicken broth, add two teaspoons of onion powder and 1/2 teaspoon of hot pepper flakes for a flavor boost, and substitute cubed roasted root vegetables or butternut squash for the sausage.  The addition of some chopped fresh spinach half an hour before serving is great too.
Since we get at least two meals out of this, on the second night I add some cooked mini egg bows (or other tiny soup pasta) to the reheated soup for variety.  It really is delicious.  Everyone loves it, even those who are not enthusiastic about soup.

Sausage and Lentil Soup
Serves 6-8

1 pound hot Italian sausage (or cubed root vegetables or butternut squash)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion
1 shallot
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces dry lentils, any variety
3 14.5 ounce cans chicken broth
1 14.5 ounce can beef broth
4 cups water
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning - or a blend of parsley, oregano, basil and thyme to equal 1 teaspoon dry or 1 tablespoon fresh
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup dry small egg bows (cook before adding) - optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Poke each sausage a few times with a fork.  Place in baking pan and bake for 30 minutes (if you are making the vegetarian version, toss cubed root vegetables or butternut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake 25 minutes).  Set aside.  

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add shallot, onion, celery and carrot.  Cook until onion softens.  Add garlic and cook about 2 more minutes, being careful not to let garlic brown.  Stir in lentils, broths, tomatoes, water, sliced sausages and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for at least an hour, until lentils are tender.  At this point, the soup is ready, but can tolerate simmering a couple more hours if that would be convenient, or hanging out in a crock pot on low for a few hours.  A half hour before serving, add the chopped spinach if you are using it (or roasted root vegetables for vegetarian version), and ten minutes before serving, add the cooked pasta.

Serve with some good crusty bread and Parmesan cheese.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Brown Butter, Ginger, and Sour Cream Coffee Cake

"If toast always lands butter-side down, and cats always land on their feet, what happens if you strap toast on the back of a cat and drop it?"
~Stephen Wright

I'm a sucker for coffee cake.  So when the November Bon Appetit arrived in the mail two days ago, I did not get past page 56, where this recipe resided.  It was a "must make" find.  This is unlike me.  Usually the recipes I see in magazines sit around for months or years until I stumble across them again.  The really, really good ones get ripped out of the magazine and placed in a file folder in the kitchen.  Those are the short-list ones that I might actually get to before I forget about them.  

In this case, the recipe pushed all the right buttons.  It's COFFEE-CAKE, with brown butter, actually done on purpose, haha.....and toasted almonds, my favorite.  There is wheat flour in it (fits my new whole grain kick), and I had all the ingredients on hand, including a large bag of crystallized ginger that I need to use up before it becomes petrified ginger (if you have a recipe for that, let me know).

I ran into a couple minor problems with this cake.  First, the batter was a bit loose, so the filling sank and the topping started to get swallowed up by the batter as it baked.  Half an hour before it was done I sprinkled a little more chopped nuts and sugar on it, so it would still look good.  Next time, I'll omit the half cup of milk so that the batter is a bit thicker.  Second, it called for a 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom.  I only have a 9-inch one, so I used it and crossed my fingers.  The batter filled it right up so I put a cookie sheet under to catch any spillover, which by the way, baked into cookie/muffin-top-like things that the Mister ate the minute he walked into the house after work and said "OMG, this is so friggin good, I could chew the (burnt) stuff off the pan."

The problems were not insurmountable and the resulting cake was really delicious and different, reminding me of salted caramel with a kick of ginger.  It's a keeper.

Brown Butter, Ginger, and Sour Cream Coffee Cake
from Nov '11 issue of Bon Appetit

Brown Butter
2 cups plus 2 T unsalted butter [I used salted  butter and liked the result]

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream  
1/2 cup milk [next time I will omit this]
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup almonds with skins, coarsely chopped [I used roasted almonds]

Special equipment: A 10" tube pan with removable bottom.

Brown Butter:  Simmer 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until browned bits form, 6-8 minutes.  Pour into a 2-cup measuring cup.  If needed, add more butter to measure 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons.

Topping:  Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.  Stir in 3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons brown butter (reserve remaining butter for cake); stir until moist clumps form.  Stir in ginger.  Set aside.

Cake:  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter pan generously.  In a medium bowl, whisk all-purpose flour and next 7 ingredients together.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat remaining 1 cup browned butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and thick, 2-3 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions.  Beat in sour cream, milk, and vanilla.  Stir in flour just to blend.

Spoon half of the batter into prepared pan; smooth top.  Scatter 1 cup of topping over.  Spoon remaining batter in dollops over; smooth.  Add almonds to remaining topping.  Sprinkle evenly over batter in pan.

Bake until a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Let cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around pan to release cake. Remove side pans; let cool completely.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Multigrain Bread

Alte brot is nicht hart.  Keine brot, das is hart.
Translated: "Old bread is not hard.  No bread.  That is hard."
Old German Proverb

I started this blog to share recipes I'm excited about and I am very excited about this one!  When the invite arrived to participate in a "Handmade Loaves" blog event, I knew this was the one to share.

The idea to develop a multigrain bread recipe was spawned when my favorite loaf went up to $5.99 at the market. Initial investigation revealed that trying to buy all the grains separately could really add up.  For a home cook like me, it made more sense to pick up a good hot cereal mix that contains all the elements.  Not instant, and no sugar or additives. There were many out there, all different combinations, but I settled for Bob's Red Mill Organic Whole Grain Hot Cereal mix.  You can pick one with a combination that you like.
I also add this to my granola now too!
It contains whole grain oats, wheat bran, flaxseed meal, oat bran and wheat germ.  Now, if you have these things in your pantry, feel free to make and use your own mix.  To my local friends, I found this at Ocean State Job Lot, but they have it at the Natural Food Store in Niantic, too.  Right before the kneading stage, I added roasted unsalted sunflower seeds, but you could add wheat berries, sesame seeds or even raisins if you wanted.
If you've never made bread before, this may not be the recipe to start with.  Not that it's difficult, just that whole grain breads are less forgiving then their white counterparts.  There are a couple steps that can't be skipped.  Trust me, my first attempt resulted in two inedible bricks that I had to toss.  When you put a loaf of white bread in the oven, it continues to rise, but a whole grain loaf stays put, so you have to let it rise completely before you bake it.  
Also, after the grains and liquids are combined, they need to sit for 20 minutes to thoroughly absorb the moisture, otherwise you risk adding too much flour, resulting in a dry, crumbly loaf.  Lastly, it takes a lot more effort to develop the gluten in whole grain dough, so I found it needs a full 15 minute vigorous knead.  I'm a proponent of hand kneading, but for this bread I used my electric mixer with the dough hook attachments.  If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, that would be the easiest.  You can hand knead it, but it may not rise as high.  I also drew elements from two of my favorite bread recipes, challah and my Grandma's rolls, to add richness and flavor that was lacking.
The effort is worth it.  The bread turned out delicious and was great straight up, toasted or for sandwiches; a delicious, just slightly sweet and nutty flavor with a soft texture.  Audrey said it was better than our store-bought favorite.  I will now be making it weekly.  One loaf to eat, one to freeze for later.  Bread baking is really satisfying.  One of my son's house-mates has taken to it, and once in a while turns out some artisan bread that Curt says they literally could cry with joy while they eat it.  You really can't ask for more than that!  I hope I can convince you to give it a try!

Multigrain Bread
A recipe by The Irish Mother

1 1/4 cup mixed grain hot cereal mix
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup evaporated milk
4 cups bread flour (plus another 1 or 2 cups for kneading)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 packets fast-rise instant yeast (2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1 egg white
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Measure cereal mix into a large bowl (or bowl for stand mixer).  Pour boiling water over, then let it sit about 15 mins.  Add evaporated milk, honey, molasses, butter, salt and vital wheat gluten.  Touch mixture.  If it is very warm, but not hot (not over 115 degrees), add yeast.  If it's too hot, wait a few minutes and do the touch test again.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes to proof the yeast.  It should begin to bubble in a few minutes.  In the meantime, in a medium bowl, stir together 4 cups bread flour and 1 1/2 cups wheat flour.

By hand, stir 2 cups of the flour mixture into the wet yeast mixture.  At this point, attach dough hooks to your mixer and start adding flour 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough starts to separate from the sides of the bowl and forms a rough dough.  Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.  This is important; it allows the dough to absorb moisture.
Using your mixer with dough hook(s), start kneading dough, adding the sunflower seeds (or wheatberries, sesame seeds, or raisins).   Add 1-2 tablespoons of flour mixture (or extra bread flour) if it looks ragged, or is sticking to the sides of the bowl.  Knead like this 10 minutes.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead five minutes more.
Pour 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil into a large bowl.  Place dough in bowl, turning to coat with oil.  Cover bowl and place in a warm, draft-free room.  Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours.  

Grease 2 loaf pans.  Cut dough in half and shape into loaves.  If you've never done this before, you pat it into a rectangle and then roll up, tucking ends under.  Lightly beat egg white with a fork.  Using your fingers, rub egg white on loaves.  Sprinkle oats onto a clean cutting board.  Roll loaves in oats.  Place seam side down in the pans.  Cover pans with a damp tea towel.
Let rise until double in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours.  

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes.  Let sit for 5 minutes, then remove from pans onto cooling racks.  Cool completely before slicing (if you can wait that long!)  This bread freezes well. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Artichoke and Mushroom Lasagna

"When the lasagna content in my blood gets low, I get mean."
I'm always thrilled to meet someone who loves to cook.  I get all excited to talk cooking, share tips and swap recipes and ideas, so when I met Curt's future Mother-in-Law and she presented me with a cookbook she made from this blog and shared that she had one of her own (which I promptly purchased,) I knew I did not just meet a new family member, but a friend as well. 

She sent me this recipe a few weeks ago.  It was really scrumptious and we all loved it.  I was delighted to have another meatless dinner I could serve to the resident vegetarian, without leaving the  carnivores wanting.  
Have you ever had hot artichoke cheese dip?  It reminded me a little of that.  Rich and cheesy, yet elegant, with layers of earthy, meaty mushrooms, for substance.  I loved the addition of dry white vermouth to the filling, it elevated the whole dish.  Since there are only 3 of us these days, I cut the recipe in half and made it in a casserole dish.  
The recipe calls for the no-boil noodles, but since I had the old fashioned ones on hand, I par-cooked them and used them instead.  Will definitely add this one to the rotation for those times I need a lasagna fix.  Thanks Deb!
nom nom nom

Artichoke and Mushroom Lasagna
8 servings
from Deb Hilmer, by way of Epicurious

2 Tablespoons butter
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
3 garlic cloves
2 8-ounce packages frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, coarsely chopped
1 cup dry vermouth

Bechamel Sauce
4 1/2 tablespoons butter
4 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 1/2 cups whole milk
2 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 7 1/2 ounces)
ground nutmeg

1 9-ounce package oven-ready (no-boil) lasagna noodles
1 pound whole-milk mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

For filling:
Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms and garlic; saute until mushrooms release juices and begin to brown, about 7 minutes.  Add artichokes and vermouth.  Cook until liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

For bechamel sauce:
Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add flour; stir 1 minute.  Gradually whisk in milk. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until sauce thickens and lightly coats spoon, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.  Stir in 1 1/2 cups Parmesan.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg.

Spread 2/3 cup bechamel sauce over bottom of 13x9x2 inch baking dish.  Top with enough noodles to cover bottom of dish.  Spread 1/4 of artichoke mixture over.  Spoon 2/3 cup bechamel sauce over.  Top bechamel with 1/4 of the mozzarella.

Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons Parmesan.  Top with enough noodles to cover.  Repeat layering 3 more times, finishing with a layer of noodles, then remaining bechamel.  Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.  (Can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Cover with foil and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake lasagna covered with foil 1 hour (or 1 hour 15 minutes, if chilled).  Remove foil.  Increase temperature to 450 degrees.  Bake lasagna until golden on top, about 10 minutes longer.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Favorite Old Fashioned Gingerbread

"And had I but one penny in the world.  Thou shoud'st have it to buy gingerbread."
~William Shakespeare, Love's Labours Lost

This treat was a last minute thought.  I brought salads home for dinner and figured a dessert was in order.  Can't be TOO good, after all.  These first few chilly days of fall have got me thinking of comfort food, and gingerbread came to mind as it was something my mother often made.  Always, and this is important, served with home-made whipped cream, which I had a ritual of spreading down all sides of my square of cake, until it was fluffy white cloud.  
Some habits die hard
This cake is really, really easy and comes together quick.  I even switched out half the all purpose flour with wheat pastry flour and you couldn't tell at all.  This recipe came from Allrecipes and it was perfect.

Favorite Old Fashioned Gingerbread

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9-inch square pan.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Beat in egg and molasses.   In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and spices.  Blend into the creamed mixture.  Stir in hot water.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake for 55-60 minutes until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cheddar Chive Souffle

"The only thing that will make a souffle fall is if it knows you are afraid of it."
~James Beard

With the ranks of vegetarians growing in my family, I've found the need to dust off my Moosewood cookbook and get creative in my offerings.  After all, I want everyone's bellies to be happy!

The first time I made cheese souffle was in 1977.  I was eleven years old and had been reading my mother's Fanny Farmer cookbook.  Yes, even as a kid I was a little dork who read cookbooks cover to cover.  The souffle was a success; savory and of the confidence boosters that launched my love of cooking.   

This makes a great dinner.  Three of us split it with a salad and bread and there was nothing left.   If you serve it to guests, you just need to make sure that everyone is seated at the table before the oven timer dings. You only have about one and a half minutes before it starts to fall.  Of course, it's just as delicious fallen, but visually,  much more appetizing to serve in full "poof."

This time I used the recipe from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook and added chopped fresh chives from the garden.  There are a few steps involved, but it is not difficult and success is assured if you just keep in mind a few things:

1. Follow the directions exactly.
2. Make sure your eggs are at room temperature.
3. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff, but not dry.
4. Fold beaten egg whites carefully into batter with a rubber spatula.
5. Use a straight-sided souffle dish and butter the inside thoroughly.
Cheddar and Chive Souffle

6 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 1/4 cups milk, brought to a boil and still hot
1 1/2 packed cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1.  Separate the eggs; put both yolks and whites in large bowls, cover them and let them come to room temperature. 

2. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter.  Sprinkle in the flour and dry mustard, whisking constantly as you sprinkle.  Cook over low heat - still whisking - for a solid minute. 

3.  Slowly pour the hot milk in, whisking vigorously as you do, so that the mixture stays smooth and uniform.  Keep this mixture over low heat, stirring constantly.  As soon as it starts to bubble, remove from heat, stir in the grated cheese, and season with salt and peppers.  Let this mixture cool to room temperature.

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Beat the egg yolks, then beat them into the cooled sauce, then return the mixture back to the egg yolk bowl.

5. Beat the whites until stiff.  Fold them swiftly and adeptly into the first mixture.  Transfer batter to prepared souffle dish and place it in the preheated oven.  Bake for 40 minutes, undisturbed, and serve it posthaste to your already seated guests!