Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sasha's Kitchen: Rainbow Cookies

Rainbow cookies, my all time favorite cookie, were one of the first things I tried to make in the days prior to owning an artisan mixer. It was a complete and total disaster. Since acquiring the mixer, however, I have had considerable success with this recipe. The recipe I used, from Gothamist, can be found here. If you are not familiar with these cookies, perhaps you remember them as tri-colored cookies (always green, yellow and pink) flavored with marzipan. They are actually not made with marzipan at all, but with almond paste which is similar.

These cookies have long been my favorite dessert. I loved them as a kid. I've actually had two birthday cakes over the years that were simply an enormous unsliced rainbow cookie - one from my mom when I turned 18 and one from my husband when we were dating (my 27th birthday?)

To execute this recipe, I made a couple variations which basically allowed me to do it all in one day, and actually within a few hours. First, I broke up the almond paste in my cusinart miniprep food processor. Then in the artisan mixer, I combined the butter, almond paste, egg yolks and vanilla according to the instructions in the recipe (see link above). The I mixed the flour and sugar in a separate bowl and slowly added to the mixer. Then I set this aside and whipped the egg whites to form stiff peaks, as discussed in my previous post about souffles. This is actually relatively easy to do and I did not have the difficulty mixing them in as the recipe suggested that I should.

The next part, always done by my patient husband Brad, is to separate the mixture into third and dye one part green, one part red with food coloring. Leave the third part plain. The Brad uses a spatula to carefully spread into separate pans to make layers. The layers were pretty thin, but not too thin, and even.

Then we baked the layers at 350 F for 10-15 minutes until very VERY lightly browned. Then (and this is the hard part!), Brad somehow flips the pans to get each layer out while I spread the jams lightly between the layers.

I will press with a large book (in my case the Beatles Anthology) for about an hour, and this is usually sufficient.

The next step is to make the tempered chocolate in a double boiler. I do not have a double boiler, so I just boil some water and put the chocolate in a small mixing bowl and it melts just fine. Once this is complete, I spread it over the top and sides of the cookies.

The I refrigerate for about an hour and slice.

I was so happy when I figured out this recipe, as I had finally figured out my absolute favorite dessert since I was a little girl.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sasha's Kitchen: Caramelized Apple, Goat Cheese, Pecan Salad

I love making my own salad dressings. I can make a good Caesar salad (although the emulsification is a bit tricky with a creamy Caesar). But I am not an oil-and-vinegar kind of girl. I like unusual flavorful salad dressings. You can make a salad dressing with almost every kind of fruit - I've used strawberries, blueberries, oranges etc. One of my favorite salad recipes is one I developed as a variation of the "caramelized apple salad with blue cheese, black walnuts and spicy orange vinaigrette" in Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook. His version of this salad, which looks and tastes quite different from mine, is served at his restaurant Mesa Grill in Gramercy. They key to the dressing is a fruit juice reduction - the dressing uses orange juice in his salad, but requires that you boil away the juice for about 20-30 minutes until it is a thicker, stickier, reduced liquid.

Here's my adapted recipe for the caramelized apple salad that I love. This was our dinner tonight.

Spicy Tangerine Dressing (tangerine is much better than OJ - less acidic, as I discovered by mistake when I ran out of orange juice)

1/2 quart orange juice (reduce to 1/4 cup by heating on medium to medium high until thickened, about 20 minutes)
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T diced red onions
1 T ancho chile powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup canola oil (I prefer canola oil to olive oil in all of my dressings)
1 T honey

Then puree all of these in a blender to make the dressing. Add the olive oil slowly at the end and blend until emulsified.

Next peel 2 granny smith apples. Caramelize these apples by sauteing in about 1/4 cup of the dressing. The strain the excess liquid. Cool the apples before adding to the salad.

Add to the following

1/4 cup pecans
1 bag of romaine hearts
4 oz crumbled goat cheese

This salad should serve 2 as a dinner salad, or 4 as an appetizer.

Salad on Foodista


Sasha's Kitchen: Stone Soup and Thoughts on Hunger

The idea of stone soup comes from an old fairy tale or folk legend in which hungry strangers trick a small town into giving them food by making them "stone soup". Although I am not quite sure where this folk story originated from, I remember a book that my parents read with me as a child called Stone Soup by Marcia Brown. When I think of this story today, it reminds me that there are many people, including children, in the United States today who do not have enough to eat. Inspired by this story, I decided to write about the book and about hunger in general, while sharing my basic family recipe for chicken soup.

Pot for the soup
3 small round stones (more symbolic, if you are making this with kids)
1 small kosher soup chicken (get from a local kosher butcher)
fill pot with water -----------------use to make chicken stock
alphabet pasta letters
bay leaf

You are supposed to remove the entire chicken after making the stock, however, I prefer to leave in pieces of the chicken in the soup - gives it a more rustic feel for me.

Just remember when you're cooking that there are still a lot of less fortunate people out there, especially right here in New York around the holidays, so if you can donate to a good organization like City Harvest that can help.


Sasha's Kitchen: Apple Pie With Seasonal New York Apples

Apple pie. What's more American than apple pie? I've been making a lot of apple pies the last few months since autumn apples are in season. I went to middle school and high school in Rochester, NY and have always loved going apple picking (and picking various other types of fresh fruit) at a local family owned fruit farm called Hurd Orchards, in Holley New York. I went back to Hurd Orchards (which also makes the best jellies and apple butters ever) with my mom and husband over Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) in September when I was home visiting my family for the holiday so we could pick apples to go with the honey for a sweet new year, and have fresh New York State Apples for apple pie. (We picked two varieties - Macintosh and a Cornell-pesticide free variety).

Over the past year, I've studied many apple pie recipes (Brad's grandmother's, Martha Stewart and President Obama's baker, Bill Yosses [known by the President simply and affectionately as "the crustmaker."). Based on these recipes, and some trial and error, I think I have developed the perfect apple pie.

The first step, when thinking about apple pie is determining what kinds of apples to use in the pie. I believe that you should use the same types of apples, but there's quite a few varieties that will taste good. Personally, my favorite varieties to use in an apple pie are either Honeycrisp, Gala or Macintosh, but other varieties such as Empire, Cortland or Macoun will work just fine as well. Obviously apple pie is the best when you can get fresh farmer's market apples. Other than that trip to western NY, I am fortunate to have a great Sunday farmer's market across the street in Brooklyn that has provided with great local apples.

The first step in making a killer apple pie is making a killer crust. I have experimented with making crusts with butter and canola oil. Personally, I prefer an apple pie crust made with butter, even though obviously canola oil would be healthier. Bill Yosses, renowned New York City pastry chef, who is presently Obama's personal White House Pastry chef makes his crust out of a combination of butter and lard (which I believe is pig fat). I have not tried that, however, because I do not cook with pig products. However, upon doing a bit of research, lard is typically added by some pastry chefs to increase the degree of flakiness in the texture of the pastry. It is absolutely imperative to make the crust in an artisan stand mixer, so if you don't have one yet, now is the time to get one in the color of your choice (mine is mint green). You cannot make a good pie crust without one.

One further note with respect to sugar: Yosses uses 1/4 cup sugar; Martha Stewart uses none. I prefer just a tad of sugar, so I split the difference. However, if you don't want the sugar, you can leave it out and it still tastes great. Here is my recipe for the perfect apple pie crust (which is great for blueberry and cherry pies as well).

Sasha's Apple Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup very cold water or ice water (more if needed)
2 sticks unsalted butter broken into small pieces (it is very important that the butter be COLD and not room temperature)
1/8 cup sugar

Put the above ingredients in the mixer and add the cold water slowly while the mixer is running. Mix until forms an even dough, no more than 30 seconds. Separate the dough for two balls (one for the crust and one for the top) and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Next, roll out one of the balls on a floured surface to make fit a 9 inch pie pan and mold to fit the bottom and sides of the pie pan. Before doing this, you should grease the pie pan with PAM.

While it is baking, make your filling. This is how I make my apple pie filling:

Sasha's Apple Pie Filling

2 1/2 pounds of apples (or slightly more or less, as you prefer), peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sugar [just a note - Yosses uses WAY too much sugar for me - he uses 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup honey which is just uber-sweet; maybe the President has a sweet tooth?]
1/8 tsp salt
2 T cornstarch

Yosses actually cooks the fruit at this point. I do not. I prefer to let the mixture cook in the oven. So, if you are following my recipe, mix the filling well and add to the pie crust, raw, without doing anything funky with it on your stove top.

The roll out the top and make the circular cover for the apple pie. Pinch the edges with your fingers, or crimp with a crimper if you have one (I don't have one yet).

Glaze - use a pastry brush to brush on the following glaze
1 large egg yolk
1 T heavy cream
sugar for sprinkling

The bake 20 minutes at 400 and reduce heat to 350 and bake for 40-50 minutes more.

An alternate variation, which I am going to try this weekend based on the Yosses recipe is to cook the bottom of the pie separately at 400 for 20 minutes (until it begins to turn golden) WITHOUT the filling. Then add the filling and the top and the glaze and cook at 350 for 40-50 minutes until done. This should increase the flakiness/crispness of the pie crust.

And this is my signature apple pie.

Apple Pie on Foodista


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Molly D.'s Kitchen in Seattle: An Introduction, and Oxtail Tacos

Introduction to My Kitchen

Hi from Seattle! I was all set to write my recipe for today, but as I thought about it I realized my cooking style needs a bit of an introduction:

I'm a lazy cook. I don’t want to plan my grocery shopping way ahead so that I can follow a recipe, and I don’t want to wash a mountain of bowls and measuring implements when I’m done.

I have a diverse background of food influences and I like trying new foods. My refrigerator door is full of Asian condiments, I have over 20 types of sweetener, and I’ll buy unfamiliar items because they sound interesting. But a home kitchen can only stock so much, and many items only stay fresh for so long, so I don’t count on having on hand standard recipe items like parsley and chicken breast.

I love understanding how techniques and ingredients work and what they do for a dish--what to put together and how to do it. In most cases I’m happier doing something on my own than following a recipe.

What this all adds up to is that my cooking tends to be thrown together based on what I have and what I feel like eating. Sometimes what I make works and sometimes it doesn’t, and I hope that as I develop my cooking sense, I’ll make fewer mistakes and more great meals! Today's post is one experiment that worked.

Oxtail Tacos

This afternoon I took the bus to Pike Place Market, one of my favorite places to find unexpected ingredients, and spent several hours wandering through the maze of little shops. By the time my feet hurt, my bag was full of chocolate bars, fresh corn tortillas, little bags of ground ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, a palmier, a jar of brined lemons, Turkish delight, ground chipotle and pasilla peppers, piloncillo, and a new-to-me hot sauce.

When I got home I was starving, and I figured I should start in on the huge stack of tortillas. I decided to combine them with the oxtails I’d been thawing in the fridge, and while I’d never cooked oxtails before, I had been told to go with braising, which was also perfect for chilly late fall. I know relatively little about Mexican cooking and even less about Latin America’s wide variety of peppers, so the pasilla was also an experiment. As usual, I put what I had on hand into the braising liquid. The combination and cooking method might not be authentic, but I chose flavors that would complement each other and taste good reduced into a rich, savory sauce.

Here’s the basic recipe; measurements are guesstimates.


3 oxtails
1 leek, cut into big chunks
2 or 3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 c rice vinegar
1 T ground pasilla pepper
1 T ground chipotle pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. salt
Corn tortillas

  1. Stand oxtails on their ends in a medium-sized pot/saucepan with a lid and put all other ingredients except tortillas into the spaces around them.
  2. Pour water into pot until it reaches halfway up the sides of the oxtails.
  3. Place on heat and bring to boil, then turn heat down to low and cover pot.
  4. Come back every so often to make sure water hasn’t all boiled out and to turn the oxtails over once or twice during cooking.
  5. After two or three hours (this recipe involves minimal work but a lot of waiting), the meat should be tender enough that you can push it off the bones into the reduced liquid.
  6. Spoon chunks of meat into tortilla. Dip each bite into a vinegary, spicy hot sauce to cut the richness and add heat. So good.
 Serves two.

Notes on the Ingredients
  • Vinegar: There wasn’t enough flavor initially, so, inspired by adobo, I added the vinegar. I’m sure it would be fine with a different type of vinegar or without any at all, but I wanted tang without extra flavors, and rice vinegar was the mildest I had in my pantry.
  • Pepper: At first I used only the pasilla, but I found it too mild so I added the chipotle for heat and smokiness. I’m sure other pepper varieties or Latin-American-inspired spices would taste great, just different.
  • Leeks: I had leeks on hand, but onions would probably serve just as well.
  • Cinnamon: I had just bought the cinnamon and remembered it from other Mexican dishes so I thought I’d throw it in, though I can’t tell if the amount I used made any difference.
  • Corn tortillas: I love flour tortillas, but I suspect they’d be a bit bland and doughy next to the deeply flavored oxtails. Also, I understand that there are several ways to soften tortillas, and I went with steaming because it was convenient. We ate our tacos over the still-simmering pot of oxtails, so I softened each tortilla one at a time by laying it over the little tripod of oxtail bones and covering the pot. Depending how much steam there was, the tortilla was tender but not yet gummy after anywhere between 30 seconds and a couple minutes. (This is also why there are no photos of the finished, plated dish--there were no plates!)
Notes on the Final Result:
  • The oxtails turned out great. The braising liquid reduced into an incredibly rich and savory sauce for the chunks of meat.
  • The best surprise was that the leeks totally collapsed into the richness of the sauce. I’ve never been a huge fan of leeks, but each time I picked one out of the sauce it felt like a treat.
  • The fat and long simmer really tamed the heat of the pepper, so the final product was way less spicy than when I tasted it earlier in the cooking process.
  • This recipe serves two, but it doesn’t make a lot of meat. Because it’s so rich you only need a couple tablespoons of meat per tortilla.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sasha's Kitchen: Carribean and Tropical Cooking - Two Great Fish Recipes

When I first started to cook, I took an old cookbook from my mom called "A Taste of the Tropics" by Jay Solomon. We got this cookbook at a restaurant we ate at in Ithaca, NY in the late 80s and early 90s. The restaurant is no longer there and I'm pretty sure the cookbook is out of print, but it is a wonderful book which taught me a great deal about Caribbean, tropical and pacific rim cooking, as well as many wonderful ingredients used in cooking from this region. In addition, it is from this book that I learned what a chutney was, how great chutneys are with almost any food and how the possibilities for making a chutney with almost any fruit are endless.

At any rate, some of my favorite recipes from this book are Jay's fish recipes.

On page 49 of this cookbook, Jay has a recipe called "mahimahi with papaya salsa." When I first made this, I could not find mahimahi, but made it with Chilean sea bass. I was sold - this recipe tastes perfect with the soft flakiness of a good Chilean sea bass. Plus, it is super-easy:

Chilean Sea Bass With Papaya Salsa
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup mirin or sake
2 T sesame oil
2 T lime juice
2 T minced ginger
1 T lemongrass
1 tsp red pepper flakes
several fillets of Chilean sea bass

Marinade from about 4 hours. Then top with papaya salsa:
1 ripe papaya, diced
1/2 Chile pepper
1/4 cup minced red onion
3 T lime juice
1 T cilantro
dash of salt

It's perfect. This dish is great when served with a nice homemade risotto, which is one of my husband's specialties.

Another great recipe from this book, which Jay says originates from the pacific rim, is red snapper with pineapple-tamarind salsa. Tamarind is such an interesting thing to cook with - I absolutely love it. In fact - it's so tangy and delicious that it's great to just nibble on. I once had a wonderful drink at an Indian restaurant (Indian cooking also often uses tamarind) that was a tamarind cocktail that was amazing. The recipe below is unchanged from the recipe in Jay's book, "A Taste of the Tropics."

To make the red snapper basically only requires making the tamarind-pineapple sauce, which is really no more than a chutney. First you must extract the substance from the tamarind. Tamarind can be bought in blocks, generally at an Indian market or specialty grocery store. First, take an 8 oz block of tamarind and combine with 1 1/23 cup water and simmer for 5-10 minutes, breaking apart the tamarind pulp. This will make a tamarind-juice which you will keep, and discard the remaining pulp.

The add the following ingredients to a saucepan with the tamarind:

Red Snapper With Pineapple-Tamarind Chutney

tamarind juice (see above)
2 cups diced pineapple
2 T butter
1 onion, diced
3 scallions
1 tomato, diced
2 T brown sugar
dash of pepper and salt
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice

Cook for about 15 minutes over medium to medium-high heat until it thickens to the consistency of a chutney (very jam like). The add about 1 T of cilantro, or leave it out if you don't like cilantro.

Now all you need to do is cook the red snapper and top the fish with the chutney and your trip to the pacific rim is complete.

These recipes are great because they do remind me of trips I have taken to the Caribbean and to Hawaii and I love the tropical and exotic flavors. Perhaps they are not 100% authentic (one of the contributing bloggers grew up in Hawaii and may write about some traditional Hawaiian cuisine at some point) but I love them and they do transport me to a wonderful, tropical place. Which reminds me - I so need a vacation.

Chilean Sea Bass on Foodista


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sasha's Kitchen: Simple (And Easy) Fall And Winter Dinner Souffles

Souffles are often confused as simply being for dessert, such as the standard chocolate souffle. However, souffles make great non-sweet dinners that are surprisingly easy to make. They are particularly well-suited to fall and winter vegetables and fruits, such as parsnip, potato, squash, apple, pumpkin and spinach. As crazy as it may sound, this is a good recipe to make during the busy work week, as neither really takes that long.

I have recently made two dinner souffles, both with good results. The first is a Martha Stewart recipe for a spinach-Gruyere souffle, which got me started on the souffle kick. The second used my own recipe - for a sweet potato, parsnip, apple souffle. While easy to make, souffles are also reasonably healthy, in that they do not contain a lot of sugar (for a vegetable souffle) and only use the whites of eggs. They key to getting the souffle to rise properly is beating the egg whites to the right consistency so that they form stiff peaks, before folding into and baking the souffle.

Sasha's Sweet Potato, Parsnip and Apple Souffle
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 medium parsnips
1 large apple
1/8 tsp salt
3 T sugar
1/2 tsp allspice
1 egg yolk plus 5 egg whites
2 T flour

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Peel potatoes and parsnips and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Peel the apple and cut into pieces and add apple. Wait another 20 minutes before removing vegetables and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Keep the oven on at 400 as having the right temperature at the right time is key with this recipe. Puree all vegetables in a food processor or blender. Add a small amount of water if needed. Mix in allspice, salt and 1 T of the sugar. Mix in the egg yolk and the flour. Set aside in a bowl.

Next put the egg whites in the bowl of a food processor (I used my artisan mixer) and beat at a very high speed until the egg whites form stiff peaks. As you beat, gradually add the remaining 2 T of sugar. Don't overbeat but you will have stiff peaks when the egg whites are fluffy and kind of foamy and form a peak when you test with a fork. Then gently fold the egg whites (Gently! don't beat) until mixed in. Then add to a souffle dish (spray with Pam first) and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Spinach Gruyere Souffle - from the December 2009 Issue of Everyday Food

2 T butter
1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 bag of fresh spinach
2 T flour
3/4 cup plus 2 T whole milk
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese (I am sure this would also taste great with cheddar)
2 large eggs, separated plus 2 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 275 F. Melt butter in a pan on medium heat and add flour to form a paste and cook for a few minutes. Add milk and cook 3-5 minutes. Take off heat and mix in the shredded cheese of your choice. Transfer to a bowl. Cook spinach in a few T of water until wilted on med-high for about 5 minutes. Blend in a food processor with the egg yolks. Add the cheese-flour mixture. Then beat the 4 egg whites as above (to make stiff peaks) and fold into the souffle. Bake at 375 for about 35 minutes.

Serve the souffles right away, so they will not fall. Also, it is important not to open the oven during the cooking process if you want them to rise properly. If you get too curious, like me, then you can turn on your oven light while the souffle cooks.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Sasha's Kitchen: Napa Valley Salmon

About a year ago, my husband and I took a wonderful two week trip to California. We started in San Francisco, and travelled to Sausalito, Sonoma County, Napa Valley, Fresno and Yosemite National Park. This was as much a culinary adventure as it was an immersion in beautiful natural surroundings. We went to Napa and Sonoma during crush, the wine harvest, which was an amazing experience in and of itself. Although we did not make it to the world-famous French Laundry, we did eat at some of the best restaurants I've ever been to using wonderful local California produce. In addition, we visited 10 wineries, which were as remarkable for their wines as for their natural beauty and abundance of fresh organic vegetables and fruits.

Many of these wineries have websites that showcase both their wines and foods that pair nicely with the wines. In addition, many even have recipes that they suggest for with the wines. Three wineries that we visited which have great recipes on their websites are Cakebread Cellars (Napa), St. Francis Vineyards (Sonoma) and Round Pond Estate (Napa), which also produces delicious olive oils that I use in my cooking.

The recipe I made tonight can be found on the Cakebread Cellars website, and pairs nicely, in my opinion, with either a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Cakebread's Reserve Chardonnay is heavenly and personally one of my favorite wines we tasted on that trip.

The recipe is very simple, fresh, and herbal and incorporates the fresh flavor of cucumbers:

The recipe is found on Cakebread Cellar's website (

However, here's how I make it, with my own variations:

2 cucumbers - diced
1 tsp salt (the original recipe suggests 2, but I always prefer to cook with less salt)
2 T rice vinegar (their recipe suggests using 1 T but I prefer more)
1 tsp horseradish
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 T dill, diced
1 T chives, diced
1 tsp tarragon
1 tsp thyme (my addition, instead of the parsley)
1 tomato diced

I mix this and then put on top of 2 pieces of cooked salmon

In addition, I like to add a bit of fresh lemon or lemon juice when serving. I absolutely love the creamy flavor of the creme fraiche with the freshness of the cucumbers, the herbal medley and the tartness of the lemon.

Enjoy with a glass of white wine.

Subjects from upcoming posts by me to look forward to: Apple and blueberry pies, rainbow cookies, dinner souffles, ice cream, and southwestern chicken.

Salmon on Foodista


Michelle's Kitchen in Toronto: Root Vegetables

Michelle (known on this blog as Mixeuur) is a former cooking school student who decided to ditch the sweat and heat to move to China where she lived for a year and a half. When not traveling to find new foods and adventures, Mixeuur can be found experimenting in her kitchen in Toronto, Canada. Her posts will periodically add some additional flavors to this new blog.

A bit about me: I’m a former cooking school student who decided to globetrot instead of slaving in a professional kitchen for a living. Thankfully, my two passions of travel and food pair together nicely! Within the last six months, I joined an internationally known weight loss program and have lost 50 lbs so far, so I’m always looking for healthy and flavorful things to make. I rarely follow a recipe unless baking so my dishes are very adaptable to many different ingredients.

In my savory cooking, I tend to be extremely seasonal in what I buy and make. I feel that if it grows together, cook it together! The season for root vegetables is upon us, and I must say that this is my favorite time of year in terms of veggies. The bounty of spring and summer are delicious, but if you’re looking for homey, warm you to your toes dishes, fall and early winter are where it’s at!

I love fresh beets and was trying to find more ways to use them in my cooking – which is where this recipe came from. Add a sweet potato and a parsnip and voila! I now make a version of this all the time and it’s always a crowd pleaser! A tip: chop all the veg as close to the same size as you can so they cook evenly.

Michelle’s Roasted Root Vegetables

1 medium sweet potato (6 oz) peeled and cubed
1 parsnip (3 oz) peeled and cubed
3 beets (8 oz) peeled and cubed
2-3 garlic cloves cut in large pieces (in half or quarters at the largest)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups chicken broth
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
2 bay leaves

Preheat oven to 375F. Put all the ingredients in a 9x11x2 inch pan and mix together so the vegetables are coated. Bake in the oven for 1 hour, mixing once or twice during cooking so they cook evenly.

Substitutions are encouraged with this dish! For example, instead of brown sugar, maple syrup is also delicious. Use vegetable stock instead of chicken (just don’t use beef stock. It imparts an odd flavour to this dish), or more of the cinnamon and cardamom if you like it more pungent. Don’t have cardamom? Use nutmeg or allspice.

Serves 4 as a side dish.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sasha's Kitchen: Baking Challah . . . and Challah French Toast

About 6 months ago, I decided to try making Challah in my artisan stand mixer. I was pretty confident at the time that I could do this, as long as I carefully followed a recipe. I had never made bread before, but this was shortly after the rainbow cookie success, so I was up for a challenge.

I decided to use the recipe in a Kosher cookbook that my Dad and Kim had given to Brad and I as a housewarming gift. It seemed logical to use a kosher cookbook for this recipe, since it was Challah, after all. I had all the ingredients except for dry active yeast. I followed the recipe to the letter. When I used the dry active yeast, I followed instructions suggesting that I add a teaspoon of sugar to the yeast, activated in warm water, and then put it in a bowl in the oven on warm for 10 minutes. Although I didn't realize it at the time, the yeast did not activate and the dough did not rise. My husband, not realizing that something had gone terribly wrong, insisted that he would eat it anyhow if I braided and baked it. So I did. In the oven it went. When it came out, it was heavy as a boulder. The bread, according to Brad, who tasted it true to his word, was dense and heavy.

I decided to try again with a new recipe that same evening, frustrated. I had enough eggs, and bought some more dry active yeast, and began again using Martha Stewart's Challah recipe from her "Baking Handbook." I highly recommend this book as a baker's bible to anyone interested in teaching themselves how to bake, as long as they have an artisan stand mixer.

This time, I activated the yeast in warm water, with a teaspoon of sugar and let it sit on the counter top for 10 minutes. The yeasty water became frothy and foamy, a sign that it truly had activated. I added the yeasty-water with the rest of the ingredients (flour, egg yolks etc . . .) as specified to the mixer. The I let the dough rise in a covered bowl for one hour. Sure enough, this time it doubled in size. Then I braided the Challah and let it rise for another hour. Then I painted the Challah with a brush using a mixture of egg yolk and heavy cream (which gives it its beautiful glow when baked) and baked it in the oven as recipe required until it was golden brown. Beautiful. I should add that this Challah makes wonderful french toast that will completely wow your brunch guests.

I should add that I've made a couple other kinds of bread as well - pumpkin bread, brioche, and beer bread (see my earlier blog entry).

The brioche was another interesting story. This time I used a King Arthur recipe for chocolate cherry brioche, a dessert bread. King Arthur Flour is the best bread flour to use in any bread-making adventure. This particular recipe called for instant yeast. I followed the instructions, which were not clear about what to do with the yeast. My husband was not especially enthusiasic about the cherries in this recipe - Brad refuses to eat cherries because they remind him of an unpleasant scene from a movie called "The Witches of Eastwick." This is why I generally do not make cherry pie. But this time, the cherries were in. I figured the instant yeast did not need to be activated because that was the definition of the word instant, right? Well, this brioche did not rise. A few weeks later I made brioche again using a different recipe (no chocolate or cherries and using regular dry active yeast in water) and it worked perfectly. I still have not figured out how to use instant yeast. However, next time I have a recipe that calls for instant yeast, I plan on substituting dry active yeast in warm water. We'll see if that works.

I was thinking of making ice cream again - this time rocky road. However, I'm kind of tired and recovering from a cold right now - my husband is helping prepare our dinner tonight (southwestern chicken with a spinach-cilantro sauce). I'll get to it when I feel better. Nothing like ice cream to deal with life's normal frusterations, right?

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