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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

…can you see my head shaking??   I forgot to add the friggin’ salt to my bread!  It’s not even humid today, so I can’t blame it on that.  Honestly!

I try not to use too much salt in cooking, but geez…you actually need it in baking, especially breads – salt is necessary to keep the yeast fermentation from running amok, and it sort of evens out the gluten so you don’t get all those nasty holes in the baked product.  I came across a recipe for “anadama bread”, something I vaguely remember hearing the name of but had never seen a recipe for – it’s apparently an American bread, the origin of which no one seems certain.  The most amusing story about it that I came across was of a Massachusetts fisherman whose wife, Anna, gave him nothing but cornmeal and molasses to eat every day.  One night he became so angry, he tossed the ingredients in with some yeast and flour and made a bread in the oven while muttering to himself, “Anna, damn her!”  Come on…you know you’re smiling! 🙂

Back to my bread:  So I’ve got two loaf pans sitting on the counter, just taking a few more minutes to rise again, and looking pretty darn good if I do say so myself!  Fingers crossed…I’ll know in about 30 minutes.  This is especially ticking me off because I was making it for my sister-in-law, who just had hip replacement surgery, and I wanted to bring her something warm and homey as she recuperates at home.

Here’s the recipe, which I came across at Simply Recipes (http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/anadama_bread).

1/2 cup cornmeal
2 cups water
1/2 cup molasses
3 tbsp butter (at room temperature)
1 tbsp salt
1/2 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups bread flour

Note:  I make bread the old-fashioned way, by hand, so don’t know how this would be done with a machine.  I use quick-rise yeast, and the directions for it are:  combine 1/4 cup warm water and 1 tsp sugar in a small bowl.  Add 2 1/4 tsp. yeast (equal to one 8g package); stir to dissolve.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes until mixture thickens and becomes creamy.  Then add to the cornmeal/water/molasses mixture.

To make bread:  In a large bowl add cornmeal and two cups boiled water, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.  Let sit for 30 minutes.

Add molasses, SALT, and butter; stir to combine.  (The warmth from the mixture should be enough to melt the room-temperature butter).  Add the yeast liquid, and mix everything.  Add the flour, one cup at a time, stirring after each addition.  It will become increasingly more difficult to stir the dough with a spoon, so eventually you may just want to use your hands (it’s also very satisfying to get your hands on dough!).

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.  (Kneading dough by hand is very pleasurable – physically it’s just fun, but it’s also meditative…there is something almost spiritual about it.)  Oil a large bowl and put the dough in it, cover with a dish towel, and let rise until it doubles in size…about an hour.  This is where more fun comes into it:  take your fist, and just let that dough have it…give ‘er!  It’s very satisfying!  Kerpow!  Splat!  Oomph!  Whack!  Whew…okay, it’s good.  Once you’ve calmed down…form the dough into two rectangles, turn the edges under, and place in the pans.  Let this dough rise again, until it’s peeking over the top of the pans about 1″…again, in about 1 hour.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until the crust, when tapped with your knuckles, makes a hollow sound.

POST-BAKING RESULTS:  It’s surprisingly good!  A nice subtle molasses-y taste, albeit a tad bland, but nothing butter or homemade jam couldn’t cure…hmmm…jam making tomorrow?  The bread itself is a bit dense, owing to the cornmeal, so it’s not as tall as I would have liked, but the texture is beautiful – even, cooked perfectly, and there are no holes.  I think it’s good enough to give away…phew!

Pass the salt, please. 🙂

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My Own Lentil Salad

I’m sitting at my dining room table, mortar-and-pestling (did I just invent a new verb?) cumin seeds for my lentil salad…my own lentil salad.  Cumin was a last-minute idea, and will join the rest of the salad waiting in the fridge.  This is a lovely cold salad with a Mediterranean touch.  I believe that must include wine, therefore I have a glass of very cold white wine conveniently at my left side.  Yum.

The recipe:

1 cup green lentils (cooked, yields about 3 cups)
1/4 cup each red onion and yellow pepper, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup chopped black olives (green or kalamata would also work…or, a mixture of all three, although green are fairly salty, and kalamata might be lost to sight against the lentils, which tend to have a brownish cast when cooked)
1/2 to 1 cup each chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley and cilantro (I love the intensity of these fresh herbs so tend to use the full cup)

Dressing:
3-5 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
dash of salt
1 tsp dried thyme (I would have used fresh, but didn’t have it on hand)
1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed

To cook lentils:  1 cup dried lentils to 6 cups water – bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20-30 minutes (taste at the 20-minute mark; I find lentils cook faster than the package instructions indicate, and I don’t like mushy lentils, at least not in this salad)

Let lentils cool.  Sauté garlic, onion, and peppers for two minutes on fairly high heat; allow to cool.  In large bowl, mix together lentils, onions/peppers, chopped herbs, olives, and tomatoes.  Toss with dressing.  Serve cold.

Notes:

1.  I use canned whole pitted black olives – I always keep them on hand, as they are perfect for adding to tuna salad and add a delicious saltiness to al dente stir-fried cauliflower, broccoli, and zucchini with garlic (all of which sop up olive oil and garlic intensely!).  Canned whole pitted black olives are also cheaper than those sold fresh, and they keep well in the fridge once the can is opened…no, I do not want to know that they maintain their freshness because of preservatives…!  They are not what I would want to munch on, however…they require mingling with other foods.

2.  Other vegetables that would work with this salad are fresh zucchini, finely diced; any fresh peppers, diced (red, green, orange, yellow); sun-dried tomatoes; and you could substitute green onion for the red, although I would not sauté the green as I think the crunch and bite of them would be lovely here (cooked, they tend to be wet and almost tasteless).

3.  Fresh chopped mint would add a really nice flavour and a summery freshness, although 1/2 cup would be sufficient as mint can be overpowering.  Not everyone likes cilantro (hard to believe, I know…to me, it is a food group in itself).  Flat-leaf parsley is just so much better than curly parsley, which tends to be woody.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

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Curried Apple Dhal Recipe

Be prepared to become addicted to this curried lentil dish with MacIntosh apples!  I have made it a few times now and, as I am wont to do, I never make it exactly the same way each time.  But one thing that has remained constant is the oohing and aahing from the mouths of people with whom I’ve shared this simple pleasure.  I love making recipes my own, usually by changing ingredients or amounts.  I love colour and flavour, and most of my meals contain a lot of both.  There are certain recipes that should never be altered, such as in baking…although, I have to say that my pound cake recipe is an integration of two other recipes I only “sort of” liked, but I dove in and changed them according to what I thought I would like, and it’s a beautiful thing.  But I digress…  Enjoy this!

Curried Apple Dhal

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp fresh minced ginger
2 medium apples, diced, peel left on (MacIntosh are good because they don’t get mushy when cooked)
1/4c to 1/2c of India House Biryani curry sauce (medium heat)
1 1/2 c red (orange) lentils
2 c vegetable broth

Directions:

In large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion, garlic, and ginger.  Cook until fragrant and onion has softened, stirring occasionally.
Add apples and curry sauce.  Stir.
Add lentils and broth and stir well.  LOWER HEAT to medium-low and simmer uncovered until lentils are tender – no more than 25 minutes.  Check before the 25 minute limit, as the lentils suddenly suck up all the liquid and soften in a rush, and you can end up with somewhat mushy lentils – don’t worry if they do get mushy; they will still taste delicious, but to avoid it, I remove the pot from the heat at about the 15 or 20 minute mark and let them finish cooking as they cool down a bit.  If necessary, add more broth or a bit of water if mixture appears dry or is too thick.

That’s it!  I like to toast na’an bread and spoon the dhal onto pieces of it.  Feel free to add or substract the spices – some like it hot!

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