Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thick Onion & Cilantro Roti

Evidently, "roti" is a kind of flatbread. I acquired this bit of knowledge from one of the fabulous cookbooks I received during the week that happens to include both my birthday and Christmas (an arrangement about which some similarly-birthdayed-and-religioned-and/or-cultured people complain but which I have always found kind of rad). The cookbook that inspired the recipe herein is called Warm Bread and Honey Cake: Home Baking from Around the World. Heidi at raved about it a while back but I'm pretty sure I would have put it on my wish list even without her recommendation. The title alone gets me. Warm and bread and honey and cake are excellent, enticing words to me no matter how they are arranged. Let alone the phrases "home baking" and "around the world." Title aside, the photos and recipes are wonderful, although so far I've started small, trying my hand at a simple flatbread leavened with baking powder rather than yeast (there are many yeasted bread recipes in the book).

I have two things to tell you following making these flatbreads:

1. Flatbread is v. easy to make.

2. My several-year-old (but quite teeny) cast iron skillet is finally, officially, perfectly seasoned. I love it so much that I am going to buy another, larger one and plan on getting it properly seasoned much more quickly than the last. It's less daunting the second time. Why do you care? Because cast iron skillets are ideal for making flatbreads. If you have one and it is at least preliminarily seasoned and you plan on making flatbread, use it.

Here are my four flatbread balls.

roti balls

Here are the fascinating bubbles that form during the cooking process.

bubbling roti

Here is a before and after comparison.

before after

And here is what I like to think is a v. professional shot of the finished product.

roti quartered

We ate it with the curry recipe I posted a while back.

Thick Onion & Cilantro Roti
Yield: 4 six-to-seven-inch rotis

1 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion*
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro or parsley*
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing before serving

Mix all ingredients with your hands or a wooden spoon to form a supple dough. Shape into a ball and put the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and allow to rest for 30 to 60 minutes. When it's time to cook them, preheat oven to 200 degrees and have an oven-proof dish ready that you can use to keep the rotis warm. Re-knead the dough and form four evenly-sized balls. Roll each ball into a 6 to 7" circle. Dredge with a bit of flour if the dough is too sticky to work with. Preheat your cast iron pan. Add one roti add a time and cook on each side until brown spots begin to form, about 4-5 minutes on the first side and a little less on the second. Brush immediately with oil (or butter or ghee or something else delicious) and place on a dish, cover, and put in preheated oven.

*These were v. mild flatbreads. Doubling (or, heck, quadrupling) the onions and/or herb of your choice would be fine if you wanted something more flavor-forward.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Potato, Tempeh and Chickpea Curry

It's been a while since I shared a proper recipe. Sorry about that. We've been doing a lot of experimentation here in the Cameron kitchen, and I prefer sharing tried-and-true recipes with you rather than random concoctions. Having said that, I fear that the recipe I have for you today might seem like a random concoction, plus it uses tempeh as a primary ingredient, which isn't so popular among the non-vegetarian food blogs.

It goes like this. We don't eat meat often in our home. I've been trying to incorporate more vegetarian protein into our diet: I'm supposed to have over 70 grams of protein a day while pregnant, and my daughter, so far a self-proclaimed vegetarian, doesn't get much protein that's not from cheese (the kid LOVES cheese), and she's been kind of phlegmy this winter, so I'm trying to find non-dairy options that she'll like as well. (There's a lot more to it but I am not here to externally process my food concerns and aspirations other than the one called MAKING DELICIOUS FOOD.)

So anyway, this dish was created more purposefully than randomly, and it is really really really tasty. If you are interested in vegetarian proteins (and especially if you don't care for tofu), give tempeh a shot. It's yummy and versatile and has a nice, substantial texture. It perfectly complements the potatoes in this curry. The chickpeas were thrown in because I wanted to use them up; they were good, but could easily be swapped for some peas or other vegetables if you aren't as obsessed as I am with having all your meals overflow with protein.

The recipe I adapted to make this curry is from 101 Cookbooks, which adapted and vegetarianized a recipe from Lora Zarubin's cookbook, I am Almost Always Hungry. I have never seen this book but am intrigued. (And jealous that Ms. Zarubin used that title before I got the opportunity.)

baby potatoes

Any waxy potatoes would be good. I used these ones, called gemstones (or gems or something like that). Pretty, eh?

chickpeas and onions
curry in pan
plated curry

The naan-like bread in the picture above is homemade too. I'll get the recipe for that posted within the week.

Oh and p.s. this isn't going to be a vegetarian blog any time soon. We just bought part of a cow. (Seriously.)

Potato, Tempeh and Chickpea Curry
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Yield: 4 servings

1 pound small waxy potatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder (I used a sweet curry)
1 teaspoon amchur powder (optional)
1 cup cooked, drained chickpeas
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
8 ounces tempeh, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/2 cup water
Juice from one lime

To serve: heavy whipping cream or plain yogurt, chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse potatoes and halve them so that they are chunks about 1" thick in diameter. Toss potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a roasting pan. Place pan in the oven (you can do this while it's still preheating) and roast for about 20-30 minutes, flipping once after about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over low heat. Add the onions and saute for about five minutes, until they are transparent. Add the ginger, curry powder, amchur powder, and chickpeas. Stir for about a minute. Add the tomatoes and remaining teaspoon of salt. Stir until the tomatoes come to a simmer. Add the tempeh and roasted potatoes, and stir until tempeh is heated through. Add 1/2 cup water, give or take a bit, if the curry sauce is drying out. Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes, then stir in the lime juice. Serve hot over rice or with some pitas or other curry-friendly bread. Garnish each serving with a drizzle of whipping cream or yogurt and fresh chopped cilantro.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Following Up on A Tangent

Other suitable titles for this post:

"On Bread"

"Why I Am Getting Fatter (and it's not the fetus)"

"Artisan: The Man Behind the Bread Sticking to My Behind"

There's no recipe today. (Sorry, Charlotte!) (You probably don't want the recipes we've made this week: lentil sloppy joes and vegan fettucini alfredo with Italian-marinated tempeh crumbles. Both meals were pretty good actually, but, let's be honest, we all know you're about as interested in my vegan experiments as you are in my hot dog + cream cheese dinners.) Anyway, I just wanted to get back to you, kind readers, in case you were as concerned as I was last night (or less concerned, even a little concerned, barely concerned, not concerned at all but curious nonetheless) about what happened with my second - my freestyle - attempt at making bread.

Granola Bread

There it is. Hi, bread! Well, aren't you just adorable?

The good news is this: it turned out quite tasty. It wasn't a waste of ingredients (thank heavens, since they included pretty effing amazing homemade granola). It is soft, has a nice chew, and is just sweet enough - not hard, dense, and flavorless, as I had feared. It rose decently in the oven and filled the loaf pan, if not quite uniformly, and it turned a nice golden brown. (We did resort to using an internal thermometer to gauge when it was done baking though.)

The bad news, which is not really bad news so much as a set of observations all of which deserve a response along the lines of, "duh", goes like this:

1. Precise bread recipes provide more reliable results than imprecise bread recipes.

2. Precise bread making leads to bakery-quality bread, while imprecise bread making leads to "homemade"-quality bread (not a terrible thing, but not bakery quality).

3. My husband is an artisan, or is at least well on his way. I am a rookie.

4. MC's bread is easier to slice than mine. That there loaf featured above is a little, well, squishy.

I think the best way to illustrate the difference between my husband's supremely successful journey as a baker, as a Bread Baker's Apprentice, if you will, under the tutorage of none other than the guru himself, Peter Reinhart, and my own journey - granted, a journey of which we are only in the v. preliminary stages - is to show you some pictures of MC's handiwork. Before you look through these beauties, feel free to look again at the photos of my bread above. Then compare. And laugh a little. With me, not at me.

All the breads featured below are from the following books, both by Peter Reinhart:
These books are exceptional. If you want to master the art of baking bread, I recommend the former as a primer, the latter as an additional challenge, particularly if you are interested in working with whole grains. (Note: whole grains require a little more finagling in order to achieve a tasty, nicely-textured bread.) If you are already an expert, or if you are simply adventurous and prefer a more rustic, arts-and-crafts-like bread, this is the book for you:
Okay. Now to business. Introducing

"MC's Handiwork: A Gallery of Bread."
Edited and curated by Cake and Edith. Dot com.

Middle Class Brioche
Middle Class Brioche, Spring 2010

Cinnamon Rolls
The Best Cinnamon Rolls on Earth, Thanksgiving 2010

Cornbread with Crisped Bacon, December 2010

Casatiello 1
Casatiello 3
Casatiello 1 (minus one slice) and Casatiello 2 (toasted with butter), December 2010

Multigrain Sandwich Bread
Multigrain Sandwich Bread, December 2010

Portuguese Sweet Bread
Portuguese Sweet Bread, December 2010

Ciabatta, January 2011

And it all tastes even better than it looks, if that's possible. He's quite talented and obviously dedicated, isn't he? I am quite lucky and steadily thickening around the middle.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pea and Parsley Soup

Tangent: (I think I'd call it a tangent anyway, though it raises the question: can a tangent come before anything else? (I think it can in this case because by definition it is merely "a sudden diversion or change of course" and I am diverting and changing course from at the v. least the title of my post.) More importantly, is it grammatically appropriate, albeit slightly deficient as far as style-and-form are concerned, to have two colons in what looks like one sentence? But back to my tangent, which I feel is appropriate to throw in here, even though it doesn't relate to the actual recipe you'll find if you skip all this mumbo-jumbo and scroll down a ways, because it relates to food and this is my food blog.) I am baking bread right now and I am terribly nervous about how it will turn out. It's my first go at a less-than-absolutely-terrifyingly-and-yet-also-comfortingly-reliably-perfectly-precise bread recipe. It's from this little gem, a Christmas present I got for my husband, the certified perfectionist breadbaker in the household. The point of the book is to sort of debunk the myths associated with artisan bread baking, make it more casual and less labor intensive. I thought it would be a good complement to MC's other resources, which are wonderful but rigid. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day is, frankly, more my style than the Peter Reinhart books, and what kind of wife would I be if I weren't constantly attempting to make my husband a little more like me? But anyway. Here's the deal: this book is stressing me out! I've gotten quite used to measuring with a scale rather than cups and spoons, and relying on internal temperatures rather than vague, arguably subjective descriptions (e.g. "nicely browned and firm") to test for doneness. Moreover, the room for error intrinsic in the lax character of the recipes has been quadrupled by the fact that I cannot leave well enough (vague enough?) alone. I went ahead and decided that a 1.5 pound loaf was too big, so I made a 1 pound loaf instead, and now I'm trying to shape and adjust baking time to accommodate my recklessness and, well, I suspect disaster on the horizon. Or a hard, dense, flavorless excuse for a loaf of bread anyway.

The silver lining: this is a learning experience. I don't learn the way my husband does. To get better at something, I usually have to royally eff up first.

So about that soup!

peas and parsley

Look, it has peas and parsley in it!

Which brings me to a disclaimer before I even get to the recipe: nothing about this soup is going to knock your socks off. This soup is not like my seed burgers or pumpkin mac & cheese or even that damn good chili I mentioned last week, foods that end up so remarkably and unexpectedly greater than the sum of their parts that you are blown away with every bite. Here, with every, um, slurp, you taste merely the freshness and healthfulness and greenness of the ingredients - ingredients which are combined nicely and which prove refreshing even in the coldest part of winter (here's hoping). It is a soothing, nourishing, seemingly detoxifying soup - something that you might like after the holidays or after your birthday dinner at your favorite restaurant where you perhaps inhaled, in the span of ninety minutes: a bowl of green olives; fresh French bread with butter, ricotta, and chestnut honey; a heavily dressed, heavily salted duck and radicchio salad (BEST. THING. EVER.); housemade stringozzi with lamb; a sweet-and-sour duck banh-mi sandwich; a brie-topped burger; french fries; and a quince tarte tatin with salted caramel ice cream. Or maybe that was me, not you. Don't judge me. I don't get out much. And MC and I split everything. Even going splitsies, though, homemade Pea and Parsley Soup really hit the spot in the days following our decadent night out. Maybe it sounds good to you too. Maybe you ate too many cookies in December.


Before I stop rambling and get to the recipe, I just want to make a note about the vegetable broth I used. More specifically, I want to recommend it to you. I know nothing about the company and its practices - maybe it's owned by Kraft or something, in which case I'll be a little embarrassed about my recommendation - but, seriously, this broth is so good. Because it has WINE in it. And lemon juice. So if you are using water or a more traditional broth than the one I used, feel free to up the amount of lemon juice you use. (And a little wine probably won't hurt either.)

The recipe is more inspired by than adapted from a recipe called "Cheating-in-winter Pea Soup", from one of my new cookbooks - we acquired eight new cookbooks between Christmas and my birthday, two of which are not featured in the photo - specifically, Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table. It's popular among the food bloggers, and this dinky (but lovely!) soup recipe is no reflection of the bulk of the book, which is beautifully photographed and includes fancy, luscious recipes for things like coddled eggs with foie gras; chicken, apples, and cream a la normande; and "cafe salle pleyel hamburger", which would probably go great with some pea and parsley soup if you're out of french fries and beer. You will most certainly be hearing more about Ms. Greenspan's influence on my cooking throughout the remainder of the year. I just have to figure out where to start.

soup in progress

Pea and Parsley Soup
Yield: 6 servings
Inspired by Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table

1 tablespoon olive oil
Half an onion, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4-6 cups water, vegetable broth, or chicken broth*
1 pound frozen peas, rinsed
1 large bunch of curly parsley, rinsed well and chopped in half lengthwise
Zest and juice of one lemon

To serve: crumbled feta cheese, homemade croutons, and a drizzle of good olive oil; for a thicker, heartier soup, add some cooked bulgur or rice after you've blended the soup.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and stir for about 3-5 minutes. Pour in the broth or water and bring to a boil. Stir in the peas, parsley, and lemon zest. Bring to boil again and then lower the heat and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Using an immersion blender or working in batches using a regular blender, puree the soup until it's as smooth as you'd like. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve while still hot.

* Six cups of liquid makes for a v. brothy soup. If you are like me and like something a little thicker, start with 4 cups of liquid and add more as you see fit.