Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Paella Como Dios Manda

I suppose paella is a casserole. I was just thinking that "paella" is the name of the pan whence the dish gets its name, much like the "casserole." But, really, casserole is American English for paella. How 'bout that?! 

I created this beauty on the grill, como Dios manda (as God commands). You will see no mussels because I don't believe in them. I refuse to be a barber and a cook; I will not trim their beards. No, I won't. Besides, you never get them all off. And, they are gross. Everything you can do with a mussel, you can do with a clam. Which are delicious and not hirsute in any way. I used spicy chorizo - not authentic Spanish, by any means, but definitely delicious. And I didn't get the socarrat right - that is, the crusty, brown bottom. Still working on that. It's good to have paella as a work in progress. It looks so intimidating, but, since it is a one-pot meal, it's quite easy, actually. Really. I swear.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bless the Swedes

Someone has been keeping the one copy of Kitchen of Light for-ev-er. I have been #4 on the library waiting list for, like, ev-er. 

There is a nifty feature on the library website that allows a patron to "browse the shelf." Since I was going to have to put off my Scandinavian cooking agenda for a while, I browsed and happened upon Sweet and Savory Swedish Baking. I would only rate this book overall as okay. The author's sins are dual: 1. The instructions are lacking and vague at times, e.g. In one recipe, step one says to cream the butter and sugar, then step two says to melt the butter. There are several such errors, forcing me to come up with my own method, which worked out fine because I am somewhat experienced, but would have been a disaster if I were a beginner. 2. The title is not apt in that there are a bunch of Italian and French recipes, and even an American cheesecake (insert editorial yuck). And yet there are no cream or jam-filled sweet breads (wait, not the meat kind of sweetbreads, but the bread kind) and no lefse. Perhaps these are attributed not to Sweden, but at least they are Scandinavian and surely belong in this book much more than focaccia. Anyway, I don't object to these foreign recipes, per se, but rather to the misleading title. 

Aside from the sins, then, it's a good book. I have made a few things and plan to make a few more. I like how the author gives a basic recipe, then a few ways to vary it, e.g. spongecake, saffron spongecake, apple spongecake. 

What I like most about the seemingly Swedish recipes is the use of unfamiliar flours - unfamiliar, that is, to American bakers who are heavily influenced by France and England, perhaps Scotland, where the use of white flour and oats prevail. But bless those Swedes and their rye, spelt, molasses, and caraway seeds. (I had to look up rye grits.)

The loaf below is my new go-to morning loaf. It has all sorts of goodies in it: molasses, rye flour, flax seeds, hazelnuts, golden raisins. It's hearty, sweet, earthy, even a little spicy and chewy. Perfect with a wee bit of butter. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Best Breakfast Ever

I think I need carbs in the morning. I'll eat a piece of fruit and an egg, maybe some yogurt - that's a lot - but if I don't have a piece of toast or something, I just don't feel done, and I am ravenous within an hour. Knowing this, and wanting to use up our buttermilk, I recently made oatmeal scones. These are the real deal, i.e., they do not use rolled oats, but rather steel cut oats soaked in buttermilk. The scones come out crumbly and chewy and are delicious. I sprinkle the top with a little cinnamon sugar and then serve with jam. Awesome.

Funny, though, because I recently saw an episode of America's Test Kitchen and they used the word "chewy" as a slur when describing an oatmeal scone. Ah well. I like it.
The chocolate beauty with the scone here is my version of a Bixit, aka digestive biscuit. I have been searching and searching for a Bixit approximate here in the States. J and I discovered or, rather, were introduced to these cookies in Norway (skoal!). They are wheaty and crunchy, and when you get the chocolate ones, they go perfectly with morning or afternoon tea. I like to dip a chocolate cookie in tea so that it gets a little melty. Excellent technique that I highly recommend. But there just is no approximation here in the States of this cookie. I bought a box that were similar in Canada, but just not the same. AND everyone seems content with milk chocolate on their digestive-type cookies. No, no, no. Dark chocolate is the only way to roll. Please. 

So, one day, I was thumbing through my enormous cookie cookbook - given to me by my old friend Jackie, who now lives in the 'burbs and I cannot recall the last time I saw her. I wonder if it will be one of those relationships that I pick back up when the kids are older. I recall driving out to Novato to see the Walshes when I was a kid - that was my mom's good friend - and we saw them once a year. That's what happens. Anyway, Jackie got me this book for my birthday ages ago and it has provided me with a couple solid cookie staples. there are still plenty of recipes that i haven't tried yet and i stumbled on one a few weeks ago that sounded a whole like Bixits. They are made with whole wheat and oat flour. Awesome. And there is  wee bit of sugar and butter to hold them together. I feel absolutely fine called this a healthy cookie. And absolutely fine dipping my homemade Bixit in dark chocolate. 

So there you have it. A breakfast not to be missed: oatmeal scone with homemade Bixit. Or a tea time not to be missed. I like a scone for breakfast and two cookies for tea.

Homemade Bixits
adapted from The Colossal Cookie Cookbook
2 cups whole wheat four
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
4T brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350. Put flour, oat flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse twice to blend. Pulse in butter until you get coarse crumbs.  Add egg and pulse in. Then, with processor running, pour in milk (you might not need all of it) until the dough just forms a ball. Knead for a couple seconds to get it smooth, then roll it out to 1/8 inch. Cut it however you like - circles, triangles, etc. Prick the cookies with a fork to avoid puffing. You can also brush on milk and sprinkle oat flour. Bake for 13-20 minutes, depending on how crunchy you like your cookies and how thick you rolled them. I like to melt dark, bittersweet chocolate and brush it on one side after they are baked and cooled. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I have made my fair share of pizza, using store-bought doughs as well as a variety of homemade ones. I had recipes I liked, but not one was truly great. Until now!  

The source of the great dough was most unlikely: Earth to Table. I got this cookbook as a gift a few years ago and promptly made a few recipes ... that were total dogs. Just awful. Recipes that make you wonder if the author actually made them, or if he lacks taste buds. Who likes crunchy cippollini? Gross. And, no, it was not me; it was definitely the recipes. So, I set the book aside. Recently, I decided to give it another shot, steering well clear of the recipes with little frowny faces, and quickly found several fabulous recipes and ideas. Like this dough. 

And this topping. I brushed the dough with olive oil, then spread mashed delicata squash, sprinkled rosemary and cheese, and tore prosciutto on top. Wonderful!

My other two topping combinations were also winners: olive, artichoke heart, marinara, roasted pepper, and anchovy; and caramelized onion, potato, roasted garlic, and rosemary on an olive oil base. 

Best Pizza Dough (from Earth to Table)
3 cups AP flour
2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups water, divided
1 T ev olive oil
1 tsp honey

In a stand mixer, combine the flour with the yeast and salt. Add the oil, honey, and one cup of water, stirring either with the paddle attachment or a wooden spoon until pretty much incorporated. Change to the dough hook and start on low speed, gradually adding the remaining 1/2 cup water until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and hangs on the hook, approximately 5 minutes (you might not need all the water).

Turn the dough out and knead until elastic and smooth, about 3 minutes. Place in a large greased bowl and roll the dough around to coat with oil. Cover with a clean, damp cloth and allow to rise for about an hour, until doubled in size. (If it is cold in the house, you can place the bowl in an oven with the light on.)

Divide the dough into four balls. Roll them, tucking the edges under, into small balls. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 15-20 minutes.