Sunday, October 17, 2010

All Greek to me

I love Greek food. I especially love pita bread and tziziki sauce. And rotisserie chicken. And roasted veggies...and potatoes...

I found a great recipe for pita bread and tried it for the first time a few months ago. That time, they came out good, but not knowing what I was doing, I over baked them a little bit. Not so this time...they came out perfect!

I made the dough by hand by hand mixing 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour with 1 1/2 c. unbleached all purpose flour, 1 pkt. rapid rise yeast, 1 T. honey, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 2T olive oil and about 1 1/4 c. lukewarm water. Mixed that by hand until it came together, then kneaded it by hand for 10 minutes. It's possible to do this in a stand mixer, but I did it by hand. After 10 minutes, it was nice and smooth, and I put it in an oiled bowl, covered it with a towel and let it rise for 90 minutes.

After it was nicely risen, I took it out, and cut it in 8 equal portions. Next I rolled these into little balls by sort of cupping my hands over them and rolling them lightly on the board. These got covered with a towel and allowed to rest for 20 minutes. You can see how much they rose in just 20 mintues!

While they were resting I put a cooking sheet upside down on the middle rack of the oven and  heated the oven to 400 degrees. Then the pitas were rolled out to about 1/8 in. thick. When they were all rolled out it was time to bake them. I did them two at a time right on the inverted cookie sheet. About 30 seconds before I put each pair in to bake, I spritzed the oven and the sheet with a few sprays of water. Not exactly sure why, but the recipe said to do it, so I did. I put two of them on the inverted cookie sheet and baked them for 3 minutes.

It amazes me how much they puff up in only 3 minutes! If you want them crispy you can flip them over and let them bake another 2 or 3 minutes. As I said, I did that last time, and they were good, but I like a soft pita so I prefer to take them out after 3 minutes.
These got served with rotisserie chicken, homemade tziziki sauce, roasted fingerling potatoes and veggies, and homemade herb butter.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chicken stock

If it's Sunday, and I don't have a million other things to do or places to go, and we happen to be out of stock, I love making stock! We've used up all the chicken stock we had in the freezer, and it's a beautiful fall day in central Florida (highs in the low-mid 80s), and I don't have to be anywhere at all, so there is stock on the stove. It makes my little 2nd day gourmetish heart smile to use this stuff up!

OK,  I admit. We use a LOT of stock. I make chicken, vegetable and beef stock. We use it in gravies, sauces, casseroles, rice, prima vera, even egg drop soup! In fact, we're out of veggie stock too, so I'll be making more of that fairly soon too.

Whenever we have chicken, whether it's fried, wings, rotisserie, whatever, I always throw the bones and the "extra bits" in a freezer bag and put them in the freezer. When we're out of frozen stock or I have 1 or 2 full bags of bits, it's time to make more.

Get your biggest pot and a collander. I put the goods in the collander so that when it's time to remove the bits from the stock, it's really easy. No fishing required! Put the collander in your stock pot. Dump most of your chicken bits in the collander. Grab some leftover raw onion and toss that in on top of the chicken. Get those inner stalks of celery you weren't going to use for anything else. Also get the leafy tops or the big tough bottoms you weren't going to use either. Put them in with the chicken and onion. Got baby carrots or regular carrots taking up space in the produce drawer? In they go. Now put in the rest of the chicken bits. Add some salt and pepper.

Pour enough water over the bits and pieces in the collander to come about halfway up the stock pot. You can pick up the collander to see how much water you've got in there. I tend to over fill the pot and then when it comes to a boil it runs over a bit. If that happens to you, no big deal, just wipe it up as best you can and clean it up later.

Turn the burner to high heat until it comes to a boil, then turn it down and simmer for about an hour. I like to stir things around once in a while, turning things up from the bottom just to make sure everybody gets some time in the spa. Enjoy that lovely smell wafting thru the house!!!

We have some great herbs growing in pots out on the patio, so while the stock is cooking, I'm going shopping in our own herb garden! Whoo! I cut some parsley, some thyme, some sage and some rosemary. After giving them a good wash, I tie them together with some kitchen string, making a "bouquet garni" and set them aside. Don't put them in yet!!

After about an hour, remove the collander and place it to drain in a small bowl or pie pan. After it's drained, you can add the stock in the bowl back to the pot. At this point, I like to turn up the heat and vigorously boil the stock for a while to let it cook down and condense some. Use your judgement as to how much you want it to cook down. The longer you let it go, the stronger and richer the flavor but you may need to use some extra water later when you use the stock in your recipes.

When you're satisfied with how condensed your stock is, turn off the heat. Now drop in your bundle of herbs and let the stock sit for a while. You don't want to put the herbs in while you're cooking the stock at high boil or the poor little guys will be destroyed and the flavor won't have a chance to develop. Just let the whole thing cool. The residual heat will be enough for the herbs.

Once it's cool, take out the bouquet garni and set it aside. Strain your stock into a medium sized bowl. Now put your little herb bundle back in and place a paper towel over the top. Put the bowl in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight to really let everything blend together and devlop flavor. When you're ready to use or freeze the stock, remove the paper towel, which will help you to remove the chicken fat that has risen to the top of the stock.

Use the stock as you'd like, either now or put it in the freezer for later. I like to freeze my stock in plastic ice trays so that they're easy to use later. Ladle the stock into your ice trays and put them in the freezer overnight. Label a freezer bag with Chicken Stock the date,put in the frozen stock cubes and stash in the freezer for another day. In this pic, I'm using 2 cups of the stock in the brown rice we're having for dinner. The rest is freezer-bound.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Kiwi Bread

Every other week, we get a produce delivery from a great company, "Orlando Organics". It's great because they deliver right to your door, and they have a number of options for you to choose from. The really great thing, in my opinion, is that they very often include things either I like and don't get a lot, like kiwi, or things I've never even seen before, like persimmons. This week we got about 4 kiwis in our delivery and we still had one in the fridge from last time. Now, I like kiwi as much as the next person, and I've made my share of kiwi smoothies, strawberry kiwi jam and used kiwi in salads, but I needed to find a diferent way to use up these kiwis.

So a web search turned up this recipe for Kiwi Bread. I made just a few changes along the way.

I peeled 5 kiwi fruits, and using my hand blender, pureed them. Recipe called for a cup, and I got about a cup and a half out of them.

In my stand mixer, I combined 1/3 c. vegetable  oil, 1/4 c. honey and 1 egg. Then I added 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour with which I had sifted 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. baking powder, about 1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg instead of cloves called for in the recipe, and 1/4 tsp. salt.

At this point, the batter was looking pretty dry, but that's ok. To that, I added the kiwi puree, 1 c. of chopped pecans (a replacement for the walnuts in the recipe. I hate walnuts too.) Since I had added more kiwi, it was now a little on the wet side, so I added about 3/4 c. of rolled oats to the mix.

All this went into a 9 in. loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray. Again, the recipe called for an 8" pan, but I'd added enough stuff that I thought I should use the bigger pan.  Then I sprinkled some oats on top and put it in a 350 degree oven. Checked it at 45 minutes, but it wasn't quite done yet, so I put it back in for another 10 minutes.

Pulled it out and let it cool for a few minutes. Couldn't resist trying a slice with my last cup of coffee...

Not bad!


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Proscuitto and Provolone Wrapped Pears and Asparagus

Ever since I made the Provolone and Proscuitto Wrapped Figs and Pears, I've had it in mind to do it again with a few different ingredients. Thanks to the Beef Wellington, I had some proscuitto in the fridge, so why not now? In addition to the leftover proscuitto, I also used leftover asparagus.

Here it's plated with a leftover stuffed chicken breast from Stefanos, my favorite restaurant.

I steamed some of the asparagus in the microwave oven for about 3 minutes.

Take two ripe pears (a pair of pears if you will), halve them and remove the core with a spoon.

Spread a slice of proscuitto and place half a pear on it. Top that with some asparagus. Lightly salt and pepper the stack. Go easy on the salt...the proscuitto is salty already. I used ths really excellent oak smoked pepper I got at the Tea and Spice Shop in Winter Park.

Wrap the proscuitto over the asparagus and pears. Place a slice of  provolone over the proscuitto  wrapped pear and put them in a shallow baking pan.

Put the pan under the broiler for about 3 or 4 minutes until the cheese is melty and brown.



Sunday, October 3, 2010

Simply Beef Wellington

I am a big fan of the Simply Recipes blog. One of my favorite meals is Beef Wellington, and Elise's recipe for it gave me the inspiration and courage to try it for myself. Instead of one big Wellington using beef tenderloin, I've had great results using top sirloin filets at a fraction of the price to make individual Wellingtons.  I don't know if Gordon Ramsay would like it (Beef Wellington is one of his favorites and he's famous for his version) but we sure do!

Remember Mike's empanadas earlier in the week? Turns out he bought pie crust for it, and there was still one crust in the fridge from it is!

1. Chop a pound of mushrooms (this time I just used white mushrooms...last time I used baby portabellas. Use what  you have or what's on sale or what you like.) Then process them in a food processor and put them in a saute pan over medium high heat until most of the water cooks out. They'll cook down to about half their volume. Put them aside to cool.

2. Sear your sirloin filets over medium high heat for about 2 - 3 minutes a side. Let them get a good sear on them until they're nicely browned and carmelized. Put them aside to cool. When cool, spread some dijon mustard on all sides.

3. Spread out some plastic wrap and place a few slices of proscuitto on it, overlapping slightly. Spread the mushrooms on the proscuitto and place one of the filets on the mushrooms. Using the plastic wrap, roll the mushrooms and proscuitto around the filet, getting it as tight as you can. Twist the ends to seal. Place the rolls in the fridge for 20 minutes.

4. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

5. Roll out the pastry dough or pie dough so it's big enough to wrap around the filets. (If you're making one big Wellington to slice, use the whole crust. If you're making individual Wellies like I am, cut the crust into two pieces.) Place the unwrapped filet roll on the crust. Brush some egg wash (beat an egg with a little bit of water) around the edges, and wrap the dough around the filet roll, sealing the edges. Put the wrapped filets in the fridge, seam side down, for about 10 minutes.

6. Place them on a baking sheet, seam side down, and brush the exposed surfaces with the remaining egg wash. Score the top of the crusts with a sharp knife, but try not to cut all the way thru. If you do, don't worry about it. It will be fine! You're just making a few vents for the steam to escape. Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes for medium rare, longer for more done.The crust will be nice and golden brown from that egg wash. Take them out and let them rest for 10 minutes. Carry over heat will cook them a bit more.

7. Plate and enjoy!