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Not As Good As Pork Cracklins

misadventures in cooking

Monday, August 29, 2005

Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire

I had so much fun making marbled rye with Sheri that I knew I wanted to try more bread baking. She chose this recipe because it doesn't look too difficult. I mentioned it to Gary and he was much more enthusiastic about it than rye. He loves multi-grain.

I didn't think it was hard to do at all, but it scared me. I carefully weighed all my ingredients and mixed. The recipe says you should sprinkle in flour "if needed to make a dough that is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky." Uh, uh. I had a loose, sticky mess! I kept adding flour a little at a time. A little more, a little more. Repeatedly! I couldn't believe how much extra flour I needed! Anyway, it finally looked and felt like what I hoped was right. It took me a lot longer to knead than the directions suggested. I'm not a proficient, efficient kneader this early in my bread baking career. I could use a lower counter-top too. I might try a table next time.

As directed, I checked it after 40 minutes. I tapped the bottom. I don't know what hollow sounds like. It sounded like bread. I took it's temperature, just like Sheri showed me. The recipe says it should be between 180 and 190 degrees. It was immediately 180 and rising. Yikes. I think the thermometer finally quit going up at 195 or 196.

It's lovely and slightly sweet from the honey and brown sugar. It is a little doughy though, which makes me think that despite its temperature, it wasn't quite done. Odd. At any rate, the recipe says that it makes the best toast ever, and I suspect that toasting will improve the texture. I think we're having bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches for dinner!

  • Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire (The Bread Baker's Apprentice, Peter Reinhart, p. 187-189)

Friday, August 26, 2005

Snickerdoodle Cookies

The first snickerdoodles I remember ever tasting were at Helmet Starzacker's house. I don't know for sure if that's how his name is spelled. He was either a friend, or co-worker, or both of Dad's. His wife made them. I don't remember her name at all. I have a very poor memory in general. Anyway, I thought it was one of the best cookies I had ever had and I've liked snickerdoodles ever since.

I am keeping some for myself (and Gary), but taking some over to Jay and Julia tomorrow for having been so nice to me last weekend.

  • Snickerdoodle Cookies (Fine Cooking # 68, p.86D)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Risotto with Corn, Tomatoes, & Basil

Loved it! The whole time I was wishing that I was sharing a meal with Cheryl.

  • Risotto with Corn, Tomatoes & Basil (Fine Cooking #59, p. 82c)

Perfect Salsa

I have a subscription to a new magazine, Chow. It's only three issues old. It does have recipes in it, but it's not really a cooking magazine. I think it's still looking for its "voice", but generally I'd say it wants to sound young and track ingredient, beverage, and entertaining trendiness.

In a recent article, the author wants the recipe for the popular salsa at a Mexican grille in San Francisco called Papalote. The owner won't divulge the secret, so the author and her food editor go to great reverse-engineering lengths to recreate the recipe.

I like a lot of different salsas, different salsas for different occasions, so I'd have a hard time saying one or the other is the "perfect" salsa. Nevertheless, this one isn't it. It's okay. But "perfect"? Hardly.

The recipe says it makes 2 cups, but after pureeing, I realized that I had a lot more than that. I decided to cook it a little longer to reduce it more, but there's still way more than 2 cups and it's thinner than I'd like. Anyway, since Gary and I won't eat that much, I've decided to freeze half, but without stirring in the green onions and cilantro. Since it's a cooked salsa, not salsa fresca, I'm guessing that the texture won't be compromised.

Perfect Salsa
5 roma tomatoes, cored and halved
10 dried chiles de arbol, stemmed, halved and seeded
2 teaspoons ground dried pasilla peppers
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons shelled pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons white vinegar
3/4 cup minced green onions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1. Preheat broiler. Place the tomatoes skin side up on a baking sheet. When the broiler is hot, char the tomatoes until the skins are slightly burned.

2. Remove the tomatoes from oven and place them in a stainless-stell pot. Add the chile de arbol, pasilla, salt, sugar, and 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring often.

3. While the tomato mixture is cooking, turn the oven to 350 degrees and toast the pumpkin seeds until just browned. Remove the seeds from tray and cool.

4. After the 20 minutes, add the white vinegar to the tomato mixture and cook for 1 minute. Add the toasted pumpkin seeds. Place the mixture in a blender and blend until smooth.

5. Pour the salsa into a container and stir in the green onions and cilantro. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Rustic Fruit Tart

I made a blueberry tart on the fourth of July, but ever since I visited Sheri, I've been meaning to make another using my new silicone mat from Sur La Table to roll it out.

The recipe says that the dough for the crust can be made up to four days ahead, and I decided to have it ready so that I could finish it on Saturday. As things turned out, I wasn't able to, but I finally felt like it yesterday. Then neither Gary nor I was hungry for it for dessert last night. I did have some for breakfast this morning and it's yummy. I can't imagine that Katie doesn't care for the crust. It's the best part! The turbinado sugar is so crunchy and delicious, I probably wouldn't care what kind of fruit is in the middle. But for the record, it's Braeburn apples this time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


This got rave reviews, just in case you were wondering.

  • Lasagne: Make 3, Freeze 2 (Fine Cooking #44, pp. 34-37)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Mustard & Coriander Chicken

Who knew? I found I out that I adore crushed coriander seeds. I love this marinade so much, I couldn't care less about the vinaigrette. Gary felt the same way. Number 73 is an excellent issue of Fine Cooking.

I like the flavor of the pilaf, but like many Fine Cooking recipes, I would cut down on the fat next time. The rice had an oily feeling to it. I think one tablespoon would be plenty to sweat the aromatics and to coat the rice.
  • Mustard & Coriander Chicken Breasts with Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette (Fine Cooking #73, p. 86c)
  • Classic Rice Pilaf with lemon zest (Fine Cooking #57, p. 48-51)
  • Grape Tomatoes

Thursday, August 18, 2005


This is the second time I've used the recipe in this article to make lasagne. It's excellent. It makes three pans. The recipe says that each pan serves 4 people generously. That's a hoot. I'd say each pan serves 6 or 8, and still has leftovers.

Last time I froze all three to serve later. This time, two are going in the freezer to have this winter, and I am keeping one in the refrigerator for Gary to serve at his bridge party. All he has to do is cover it loosely with foil and reheat it for about an hour.
  • Lasagne: Make 3, Freeze 2 (Fine Cooking #44, pp. 34-37)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Bistro Salad with Warm Goat Cheese

My dear friend Sheri gave me a copy of Zingerman's and I've been studying it assiduously. I decided that whenever I'm just short of having enough groceries in my cart to use one of Central Market's coupons, then I'm going to splurge on some special ingredient.

I have been wanting some walnut oil. LeBlanc's is supposed to be incomparable, and when I saw the price it wasn't hard to imagine. As soon as I got home, I tasted a drop on the tip of my finger. I said "Wow!" out loud before I even realized it. I couldn't wait to try it on a salad.

I knew just the recipe. I've been making a warm goat cheese salad from Paula Lambert for a long time. When I saw this one in Fine Cooking, I knew I wanted to try it, but it calls for hazelnuts, which I'm not crazy about. Plus, walnuts and walnut oil are high in omega 3-fatty acids, which lower bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and raise good cholesterol levels (HDL).

I loved the flavor of the oil on the greens. But I think I like the goat cheese breaded with crumbs in the other recipe better than I like it coated with nuts. Either way though, warm goat cheese is just yummy. I like apples with it.

  • Bistro Salad with Warm Goat Cheese (Fine Cooking #57, p. 21)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Spicy & Citrusy Couscous Salad

I needed to take another side dish to another BBQ. I thought this was good, but it didn't wow me or anything.
  • Spicy & Citrusy Couscous Salad (Fine Cooking #73, p. 43)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Angel Hair with Arugula Pesto and Grilled Shrimp

I happened to see part of a show that I rarely watch, and I also happened to have a bit of arugula on its last leg. What makes this dish interesting is the lemon zest at the end. The recipe doesn't say what to do with it, other than use it as garnish, but on the show, she used a microplane and zested right on top of the shrimp just before serving. That made the recipe good. Without the zest, it was have been "just ok".

Crabmeat-Avocado Quesadillas

Sheri wrote about the little party we had for Jay's birthday and posted an absolutely gorgeous picture of the absolutely delicious cake.

The star appetizer of the night was the mini quesadillas, which were served with mango salsa. I promised the recipe to a couple of people. They are fabulous!
  • Crabmeat-Avocado Quesadillas (Fine Cooking #14, p. 56)
Crabmeat-Avocado Quesadillas
This recipe makes individual two-bite quesadillas, but you can make full-sized and simply cut into wedges after frying. Not as pretty, but much quicker.
Yields sixty 2-inch quesadillas

For the mango salsa:
1 ripe mango, peeled, diced into 1/4 -inch cubes
1/2 bell pepper, seeded, minced
1 large ripe tomato, peeled, seeded, minced
2 T. snipped fresh chives
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
2 T. lime juice
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
Let stand at least one hour so flavors can develop. Chill until ready to serve.

For the quesadillas:
Twelve 8-inch flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups cooked crabmeat, picked over to remove any bits of shell
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
2 ripe avocados, mashed
1/3 cup minced scallion
1/3 cup lightly packed minced cilantro
2 T. lime juice
s&p to taste
clarified butter for frying

With a 2-inch cookie cutter, cut out 120 circles from the tortillas (you'll get about 10 per tortilla). Gently mix together crab, cheese, avocados, scallion, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. Spread about 1 T. onto each of 60 of the tortilla circles and top with the remaining circles.

To cook, heat a little clarified butter in a frying pan and cook until lightly browned and cheese is melting, about 2 minutes per side. Serve hot with a bit of salsa on top.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Seared Scallops with Jalapeno Cream

I thought this sounded intriguing when Sheri made it and I'm on a scallop binge right now, so guess what's for dinner?

Rick Bayless is famous for regional Mexican cuisine. He has a show on PBS in addition to his restaurants and cookbooks. You could definitely make this recipe using your own favorite salsa, but I thought I'd like to try it using his, and fortunately Central Market carries it.

Gary and I both really liked it. We think it's "company worthy".

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Marbled Rye

I've been making "quick breads" pretty much all my life. Quick breads use baking powder and/or baking soda for leavening. Real bread uses yeast and I've always been too skeered to do it. I have made yeast rolls before, but not very successfully.

I bought this book last year and found out later that Sheri had it too. So when I visited her in California, one of the things on my to-do list was bake bread. She kept telling me it was easy, but I needed for her to hold my hand. The recipe makes two loaves, and we decided to put one in a loaf pan and make one free-form.

I loved the bread and it really wasn't so hard after all, so I had planned to try baking more. But now that I'm home, I'm skeered again.

  • Marbled Rye (The Bread Baker's Apprentice, Peter Reinhart, p. 183)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Grilled Salmon with Wasabi-Ginger Mayonnaise

My pictures keep coming out blurry. Sorry.

Love this dinner, love it, love it, love it. And sometimes I really do love having a grill on my cooktop. Spreading a little bit of the wasabi-ginger mayonnaise on the salmon before cooking makes a beautiful crust. Gary and I both love wasabi, so I increased it just a bit, but not too much because I didn't want it to overpower. We both thought it was perfect.
  • Grilled Salmon with Wasabi-Ginger Mayonnaise (Fine Cooking #73, p.86c)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Lemon Oil

Jealousy can be highly motivating.

Sheri made lemon oil for Katie, so of course I had to have some. The recipe makes a cup, which seems like a lot for one person to use in a week, so I picked up a couple of cute little bottles from the World Market and am giving one to Cheryl.

Suggested uses: drizzle on grilled fish, shrimp, asparagus or zucchini or use in vinaigrette or marinades.
  • Lemon Oil (Fine Cooking #73, p. 10b)

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Orzo with Everything

I needed a dish to take to a friend's birthday BBQ. This got great reviews on epicurious, may as well try it. The supermarket down the street didn't have raddichio, so I used part baby spinach, part arugula.

I heard at least one person, maybe two, who thought it was lentils, because the balsamic vinegar turns the orzo brown. I also heard several people commenting that they liked it. I did. When I got home I realized that I forgot to add the garlic.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Spiced Nectarine Cake

This is another recipe I marked while I was in-flight to visit Sheri. The nectarines I bought when I got home needed a day or two to ripen, so I finally got around to making the cake tonight. It isn't very hard to make, it's beautiful and it tastes good. Nice when warm, with some ice cream maybe. Homey. I'd make it again.

As for dinner, I had been wanting to make this recipe from Fine Cooking's Quick & Delicious section. Gary liked it more than I thought he would. I think it's good, but not fabulous.
  • Pan-Seared Scallops
  • Broiled Tomatoes with Feta & Herbed Couscous (Fine Cooking #58, p. 86c)
  • Riff Pinot Grigio
  • Spiced Nectarine Cake (Bon Appetit, August 2005, p. 105)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Sauteed Haddock with Shallot-Lemon Vinaigrette

I've been at Sheri's house for a week. On the flight to California, I read my latest issue of Bon Appetit. There is an article on entertaining, but the entree is exactly something that Gary and I would typically eat every night. So I made a grocery list right then and there on the plane, planning to make it on the day I got back.

I stopped at Central Market on my way home from the airport. My favorite fish monger Mario was not there. The little boy child in his place gave me odd-shaped fillets, something Mario would never have done. I guess it doesn't affect the flavor, but still. It doesn't matter anyway, since Gary fell asleep the minute he got home from work. I waited an hour and a half and then cooked dinner for myself.

This is extremely easy and an excellent combination of flavors. I would make the vinaigrette any old day for any old salad, especially arugula.

Monkey Bay is a mass-produced, inexpensive wine that I keep around exactly for nights like this.
  • Sauteed Haddock with Shallot-Lemon Vinaigrette and Fresh Herb Salad (Bon Appetit, August 2005, p. 26)
  • Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, NZ)
Shallot-Lemon Vinaigrette
6 T. olive oil
1/3 cup minced shallots
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. sherry vinegar
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
s&p to taste