Friday, September 13, 2019

Is It A Cookie Or A Tart?


Recently our local newspaper, the Press Democrat, has a delicious sounding recipe in the Food Section. It was for a Crostata with jam. A crostata is sort of a cross between a cookie and a tart. It's baked in a tart pan, but uses a dough for the base which is cookie-like and fluffier than a usual tart dough. The filling is usually jam. I used a combination of good quality apricot jam and fresh, cooked peaches, lightly mashed and scented and flavored with almond extract. It made for a delightful dessert which I served for afternoon tea yesterday. With a topping of pieces of some of the tart dough and a sprinkle of sliced almonds, it looks very pretty and tastes divine.

My health improves day by day, which is very encouraging. It's nice to finally have enough energy to try a new recipe. Sweetie is happy because I'm also cooking again. Mostly simple things like steamed corn on the cob and salads, but now and again a little more complicated like last night when I marinated some portabella mushrooms for sandwiches. Sweetie did the grilling. I'll try and post the recipe soon.

Back to the crostata. When you are putting the dough into the bottom of the pan, keep flouring your hands as they get sticky for the most even crust. Don't forget to set aside the 1/2 cup of dough for the top. You can chill it while you work on the tart. Do plan on enough time to also chill the dough-filled tart pan for at least 20 minutes.



If you are using some or all pre-made jam (as I did), be sure to taste it and add some lemon juice, as needed, to make it a bit tart. If you are making your own jam, you can taste it and add sugar if needed as you make it. You can also make the jam ahead of time, up to 1 week before making the crostata.

You'll only need small pieces of this crostata. Try it with a nice cup of hot tea and take a few moments to relax. If you used fresh, seasonal fruit, you can think of the wonders of harvest time, too.


Jam Crostata
based on a recipe originally in the New York Times, by Melissa Clark
Makes 8 servings

For the jam - use at least 12 oz. good quality pre-made jam, or make your own as follows:
3 cups blackberries
1 cup blueberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons minced fresh lemon verbena (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
topping:
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

In a medium saucepan, stir together the blackberries, blueberries, sugar and lemon verbena (if using). Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally at first, then more frequently as the mixture starts to bubble and reduce. When the mixture has reduced and looks syrupy (about 30 minutes), stir in lemon juice and zest. Taste and add sugar if necessary. This depends on how sweet your berries were to begin with.
Cook for 3 minutes longer, stirring frequently to prevent burning. When the jam is thickened and shiny but still slightly runnier than you expect jam to be, take it off the heat; it will continue to thicken as it cools.
Scrape jam into a bowl or heatproof container, stir in vanilla and let cool to room temperature.
Taste and stir in a little more lemon juice if jam is very sweet. At this point, the cooled jam can be chilled for up to 1 week.
Note: I used 10 oz. pre-made apricot jam and then used the instructions (but not the quantities) above to make a peach jam to combine with the apricot jam to make my crostata filling. I used a tiny bit of almond extract instead of vanilla and no extra sugar since my peach was quite ripe and sweet.

For the crust - allow time to chill
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
12 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours; set aside. In a second bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, lemon zest, vanilla, salt, and almond extract until combined, then beat in flour, only beating until flour is incorporated.
Scoop 1/2 cup of the dough into a covered container and chill. Transfer remaining dough into a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and use floured finders to press the dough into an even layer in the bottom of the tart pan and up the sides. Chill for at least 20 minutes
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread cooled jam evenly into the crust the, using your fingers, crumble reserved chilled 1/2 cup dough over the jam. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and Demerara sugar (if using).
Bake until golden, 35 to 48 minutes. Let cool completely to room temperature before serving.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Pleasures of Peaches and Raptures of Raspberries


The scent is what I first notice about a ripe peach...then how soft it is when the blossom end is lightly pressed. The colors are lovely, too. This morning I peeled some ripe white peaches and enjoyed both the fragrance and the softness while peeling. Once the pit was removed the delight was in the ivory flesh with a ruby tint where the pit had been.

For raspberries I admit the color and shape are what I first notice, followed by the delightful raspberry scent. There were just enough raspberries this morning to join with the peaches in a delicious and fragrant compote to top waffles from the freezer...no not Eggos, but waffles that I had baked a few weeks ago, then frozen the leftovers for just such a morning. The toasted waffle quarters were crispy outside and moist inside and went so well with the fruit mixture. Rapturous and pleasing!

Raspberry Peach Compote
serves 1 but can be expanded

1 perfectly ripe peach, any variety, peeled, pitted, and sliced into wedges
1/2 cup raspberries, rinsed and dried with a paper towel (or leave wet...that's OK too)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
2 tablespoons water
(because fruit is ripe, no sugar needed)

In a small saucepan, combine the compote ingredients. Place over low heat and cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until raspberries have broken down. Uncover and raise heat. Cook until desired thickness is reached, stirring often. I like the sauce pretty thin, but if you cook the mixture longer, it will become thicker as the moisture boils off. Let cool at least 5 minutes so you don't burn your tongue. Serve over pancakes, waffles, ice cream, pudding, pound cake...you get the idea. Can also be eaten by itself, but it's kinda sweet for that.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Welcome September


It's Gravenstein apple time here in Sebastopol. The trees seem to be loaded this year, which is surprising since we had rain when the blossoms were heaviest in the spring. No complaints about the quantity, although I doubt that I will be able to use them all this year.

Just had some homemade Gravenstein apple sauce that I made yesterday. It only takes a short while to peel four apples, cut out the core and stem, and cut into wedges. Into a heavy bottomed pot they go along with cinnamon, a bit of vanilla sugar, some allspice and some nutmeg. Since they are ripe, they didn't need any added sugar. I only used the vanilla sugar for the flavor. You could sub vanilla extract...but just use a few drops. I added some water and lime juice for liquids and cooked them over slow heat, covered.

Gravenstein apples break down really easily, so you barely have to mash the finished product, especially if you like lumpy applesauce as I do. I'll make some applesauce with more readily available apples like Granny Smith later. This recipe works best with the slow food darling, the real Gravenstein.

It's fall, y'all!

Gravenstein Apple Sauce
two servings

4 medium to large ripe Gravenstein apples, peeled, cored & stem removed, sliced into wedges
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon vanilla sugar
dash allspice
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon lime juice

Place the apple slices and the rest of the ingredients into a heavy bottom saucepan with a lid. Stir to coat the slices with the spices and liquids, then cover and cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Check every 15 minutes to make sure there is still some liquid and stir to keep apples from sticking.

When cooked and soft, mash with a potato masher or a fork until desired consistency. Cool to eating temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Summer's First Tomato and a Dragonfly


For many years I planted at least a dozen tomato plants, most grown from seed. Last year it was just two - a cherry tomato and a Black Krim. This year it was just the Black Krim, which is my favorite. It has old fashioned tomato flavor and is nice and big, too.

Last weekend (not the one that just passed, but the previous one) the first Black Krim finally ripened and we enjoyed it with dinner. I sliced it, added pepper, minced fresh basil, a bit of good balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of excellent olive oil. A few flakes of sea salt went on top when I served it. Soooo good.


The same weekend I purchased a beautiful slumped glass dragonfly for my garden. The artist is Valerie Adams of Modern Fused Glass in Santa Rosa. She is an Art Trails and Art at the Source artist and I love her work! This gorgeous dragonfly has dichondric glass on the wings which makes it almost sparkle when the sun hits it. She attaches a brass fixture and includes a brass rod to go in the fixture so that the dragonfly can be affixed in your garden wherever you can poke in the rod. Mine is hovering over the lantana in a big pot and looks so pretty there.


Of course the morning glories continue to bring great pleasure each morning. Sweetie is watering the garden for me while I recover from the surgery, but I still go out and admire the flowers and help pick the ever producing zucchini and yellow squash. As we head into fall the annuals are starting to taper off and the green beans have finished, so squash and tomatoes are the harvest for now and to come.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Post-Surgery


Had gallbladder removed on Tuesday. Everything went well and I'm at home and healing, but this is the first time that I've sat down at the computer since Monday. Sleeping lots. Sweetie is doing all the cooking...and he is doing a great job.

Wishing you, dear reader, good times and a happy August! XO, Elle

Friday, August 16, 2019

Sunshine for the Babes


It's summer, so lots of sunshine, especially for the Bread Baking Babes. This month our delightful Kitchen of the Month, Cathy of Bread Experience has challenged us with a shaped bread that look like a sun. It uses sourdough starter and I changed things up by using freshly milled barley flour instead of the rye called for. The dough was easy to work with and shaping was fun. The bread was delicious, with both a nice crumb and great crust. I used bread flour, whole wheat flour and the barley flour and then kneaded in a mixture of seeds instead of using caraway. Caraway works well with rye, but since I wasn't doing rye, I went with mixed seeds. Delicious!



Be sure to visit the other Babes to see what they have done with this recipe. It's an easy on to make changes to, so I'll bet there will be variety!


If you would like to be a Bread Baking Babes Buddy...of course you would!...bake the bread, take a photo and email Cathy, including the photo and your experience and a URL if you have one. Deadline is August 29. She will do a round-up early in September.

In a few days I'll be having gallbladder removal surgery, so it may be awhile before I post again. I have a very good doc and lots of support, so I expect things will go well. Sweetie will be doing the cooking for most of a week. Maybe he'll want to guest post?

Be good to yourself until we 'meet' again...and wear sunscreen if you are going to be out in that summer sunshine!


Here is what we started with from Cathy:
Here is the formula for the Sourdough Sunshine Loaf:

Adapted from: BREAD: the breads of the world and how to bake them at home by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter. 

Makes: 1 Large Loaf or 2 Smaller Loaves
The directions below are for shaping one large loaf. Adjust accordingly to shape 2 smaller loaves.

Starter:
15 grams / 1 scant Tbsp. active sourdough (100% hydration)
60 grams / 4 Tbsp milk, lukewarm
55 grams / 4 Tbsp water, lukewarm
125 grams / 1 cup all-purpose flour

Dough:
250 grams / 2 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour (I used stone-ground bread flour)
440 grams / 4 cups rye flour (I used freshly milled whole grain rye flour)
480 - 550 grams / 2 cups + water, divided (I started with 2 cups (480 grams) water and gradually added more as I was mixing the dough. The whole grain rye soaked it up.
16-18 grams / 1 Tbsp. salt
Caraway seeds, or the seeds of your choice, for sprinkling
Milk or water for glazing

Day 1Prepare the Starter
Mix the starter ingredients together in a medium bowl and stir thoroughly until there are no dry bits of flour. Cover and let rest on the counter at room temperature overnight until it is well risen, bubbly and starting to collapse; about 8 to 12 hours.  I mixed the starter at 10pm and let it rest at room temperature until noon the next day (14 hours) and it worked fine.  If your kitchen is hot, it may take less time to fully activate.

Day 2: Final Dough
The next day, when the starter is ready, add about half (1 cup / 240 grams) of the water to the starter and stir to break it up. 

Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour the starter over the dry ingredients and stir to incorporate.  Add in the remaining 240 grams of water and mix thoroughly to incorporate. 

Add in more water (or flour) gradually, if necessary, to achieve a workable dough. It is sticky dough so it’s best to use wet hands. I started the mixing process using a Danish dough whisk, and then switched to using wet hands and a bowl scraper.

Cover and let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes.  Stretch and fold the dough in the bowl using wet hands.  I added in a little more water at this point because the dough was tearing.

Cover again and let the dough rest at warm room temperature for 6 hours.  Perform stretch and folds every 45 minutes to an hour (using wet hands) for the first 4 ½ hours. Then let the dough rest undisturbed for the final hour or two. 

Continue with shaping the loaf or place it in the refrigerator overnight to cold ferment for 8-12 hours.  The cold ferment may not be necessary, but it worked better with my schedule.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface. Divide the dough into 5 equal pieces.  I had 1435 grams of dough so each piece was 287 grams.

Roll one piece into a 20-inch log. Then roll it into a spiral shape.  See notes on shaping middle spiral.

Divide the remaining pieces of dough in half (~143 grams each) and roll each piece into an 8-inch rope.

Place the ropes in a circle on a large baking sheet (See notes on using a greased baking sheet), spaced evenly apart. They should look like rays of sun. Curl the ends around, leaving a slight gap in the middle for the center spiral.

Place the center spiral on top.  Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap, bees wrap, or a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place, for 30 minutes.

While the loaf is proofing, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Brush the loaf with milk, or water, and sprinkle with caraway seeds. Bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  I brushed my loaf with melted butter after placing it on the wire rack. See notes about brushing with milk.

Notes:

I used 4 cups of rye, and it was really sticky.  So I plan to reduce the amount of rye the next time.  I liked the flavor of the rye, but I think 3 cups of whole grain rye and 3 cups of white flour will be easier to work with.  If you use a lighter rye, that will probably help as well.

This is a really big loaf.  I had a hard time figuring out how to fit it on the baking sheet which is why I rolled the rays tighter than the picture. Unless you have a larger baking sheet, I think 2 smaller loaves will be easier to shape. 

Shape it on a greased baking sheet. I tried shaping the loaf on parchment paper, but the dough stuck to it, and the rectangular shape of the parchment didn’t lend itself to the shape of the loaf.  It wasn’t wide enough for the rays to fit on.  I used a greased baking sheet instead and it worked much better. 

Work fast when shaping the loaf. I shaped the pieces straight from the refrigerator and had to work really fast so the pieces didn’t proof too much before I got the loaf put together.  I probably shaped and reshaped it 3 times before I got it right and onto the baking sheet.  

*Shaping the middle spiral. The directions said to shape the middle section first, but I ended up having to reshape it when I transferred it to the baking sheet because it had been proofing the whole time I was shaping the other pieces.  This piece goes on last so I would wait to shape this piece until after shaping the other pieces.

I didn’t like the look of the milk-brushed loaf. I brushed the loaf with milk and sprinkled it with caraway seeds before baking, as the recipe suggested, but it looked pale once I removed it from the oven. So to give it some color, I brushed the warm loaf with melted butter. It looked much better and didn’t affect the flavor.   I used almond milk so perhaps regular milk would work better, but I’ll probably just use water next time. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Sweet Little Party Cookies


Last Saturday we had the second annual Scholar's Social for the winners of Chapter AJ P.E.O.'s local scholarships. The young women who attended are awesome, with various educational goals including a freshman whose long term goal is to be a medical doctor. One will be studying in Italy this year. Another is not only attending college, she is spearheading an effort to form a non-profit to assist women who have escaped human trafficking. Two others will be continuing their education toward degrees in biology and environmental sciences. These women are intelligent, articulate and altogether wonderful. So glad that we can assist them in furthering their education through scholarships.


For the party, which was an afternoon gathering with finger foods and iced tea and lemonade, I made a recipe that was new to me from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts. The results were little pastries that not only were delicious, but that looked impressive. The truth is that they were fairly easy, but that is often the way with impressive looking food. In the photo above, they are the cookies on the small plate by the napkin stack. The dough is made from almonds, sugar and egg whites, rather like marzipan. It's shaped into a long strip and a trough indented into it, while keeping the sides high. The shaped dough sits out overnight and then the indent is filled with apricot jam and sprinkled with sliced almonds. Bake until golden brown, cool, and slice on the diagonal and you have a yummy cookie that looks like something from a pastry shop.


I also tried making a tart with the cookie dough, baking it partway, then adding jam and raspberries and baking it a bit more. Unfortunately, the jam turned to liquid and soaked the pastry overnight, so they were tasty but no longer finger food. If you decide to make them, just be sure to serve them as soon as they are chilled.

Almond Macaroon Slices - a two day recipe
from Maida Heatter's Best Dessert Book Ever (slightly changed)
Makes about 12 slices

7 1/2 oz. (1 1/2 cups) blanched almonds
2 3/8 oz (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
2 egg whites graded 'large' or extra large', separated from each other
About 1/3 cup apricot preserves
sliced almonds (for topping)
confectioners sugar - optional - (for topping)

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat and set aside.

Place the blanched almonds and granulated sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade. Process until fine and powdery. Through the feed tube add one of the egg whites and process briefly. Beat the remaining white slightly since you will only be adding part of it, Gradually add the second egg white, just a bit at a time, until the mixture holds together and forms a paste firm enough to hold its shape...but better too wet than too dry. You will most likely not use all of the second egg white.

Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface, form it into a ball, turn it over to flour all sides. With your hands mold it into a sausage shape about 11 inches long and about 1 3/4 to 2 inches in diameter.

Carefully transfer to the prepared cookie sheet. To form the trench down the middle, dip your middle finger in water and with the wet fingertip, press a trench in the dough. The long sides and the ends of the strip much remain high or the preserves will boil over during baking. The trench should be about 1 inch wide and about 3/4 inch deep. As you are shaping, support the outside of the strip with one hand while you shape the trench with the middle finger of your other hand.

Let stand uncovered overnight.

The next day, before baking, adjust the oven rack to the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Stir the preserves well to soften. With a small spoon, place the preserves in the trench. The preserves should just about fill the trench but should not be higher than the sides anywhere or they will run over during baking. Too much preserves will also be too runny/sticky.

With your fingertips, placed a generous layer of sliced almonds all over the preserves, placing them casually every which way.

Bake for 25 to 28 minutes until the macaroon mixture is lightly colored and the preserves start to bubble. Keep an eye on them for the last few minutes to avoid having the preserves run over the sides.

Remove from the oven. Run a long, thin spatula under the whole cookie to loosen the bottom. Let cool completely. Cookie will firm up some as it cools.

Transfer carefully to a cutting board. If desired, lightly sprinkle confectioners sugar through a fine strainer on the top. Then, with a sharp knife, cut the strip on an angle into slices a scant 1-inch wide.

To make the raspberry tart variation: make the macaroon dough as described above. Flatten it into an even layer in a rectangular tart pan. push the dough up the sides of the pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. When cool, spread about 1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam over the bottom of the tart. Cover surface with fresh raspberries. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes until tart dough is golden and jam bubbles. Remove from oven and let cool. Cut into squares. Eat the same day!


Monday, July 29, 2019

Changes and Eleven Cloves Chicken


In the thirty plus years we've lived here on Humminbird Hill, the road that runs by the farmhouse and down to the highway has never been re-paved. One time the county did a chip seal on it, but the rest of the time it was pot hole city. Some pot holes eventually were holding the other pot holes together.

Late last week county trucks showed up in the back of the parking lot of the fire station and that day they trimmed the weeds by the side of the road. What is funny about that is that the county had parked that same kind of trimming vehicle on the parking lot for at least four summers in a row...and never used it to mow anything. Change was coming!


The day after the trimming, different equipment showed up early in the morning and they began laying asphalt on the road. The next day they did the other lane. Temporary striping was added. It was an amazing transformation...it is now almost pleasant to drive on the road. There are still other sections to pave, but it's great to have any smooth road. Of course we have to be careful now crossing the road...we used to be able to hear cars coming as they bumped along. Now the oncoming traffic is relatively quite...and they drive faster. Guess you get the good and the bad with change.


Other changes include drywall being installed on the area around the window in the farmhouse bedroom. Sweetie did the taping and mudding and I sanded it this morning. Still lots of work to do with more compound and sanding and new trim and paint, but it's looking good.

Very grateful for my wonderful neighbors. Various of us collaborated today on fruit and jam, picking out paint colors, and getting garbage cans to the road. Very lucky to live in this great neighborhood.

I bought a braid of fresh garlic at the farmstand we visit once a week, so yesterday I used a head of it to make chicken and garlic. The full recipe uses something like two pounds of chicken and 40 cloves of garlic but I only had three boneless, skinless chicken thighs, so I just used one head, which came to eleven cloves. With some shallots, thyme, pepper and chicken broth along with the chicken and garlic, it makes a delicious entree. We had peas and baguette with it. The bread is good because you can spread garlic on it and use it to mop up the delicious juices.


Eleven Cloves Chicken

3 -4 chicken thighs
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
1 head garlic (about 11 cloves), cloves separated and peeled, skin discarded
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon freeze dried shallots (I use Penzey's), reconstituted in a little water
1 can (about 12 oz.) chicken broth

If they are wet or damp, dry chicken thighs with paper towel or tea towel. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken, turning at about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the dried thyme, turning the chicken over to cook that side until golden. Remove the chicken to a bowl and set aside.

In the same skillet and oil, brown the whole garlic cloves, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Add the fresh thyme and reconstituted shallots and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth and stir, scraping any browned bits from the skillet.

Return the chicken and any juices that collected in the bowl to the skillet. Cover and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Check to see that chicken is cooked...juices will run clear when center is pierced with a sharp knife. Serve a spoonful of juices, including cooked garlic cloves with each serving of chicken.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Shrimp and Stir Fry



Sweetie has an unusual way to do stir fry meals. He steams some of the veggies in the microwave to keep them from being overcooked (broccoli for instance) and then just stirs them in at the end.

Last night we took advantage of summer bounty by having a veggie stir fry, accompanied by some Trader Joe's shrimp that I had thawed and rinsed and then dredged in a melted margarine/roasted garlic mixture, then cooked briefly in the microwave. I often do fish fillets this way and it really allows you to cook the fish or shrimp just enough but not overcooked.

We served it over steamed rice and it was a delicious repast for a warm evening since the cooking was done on the stove top and in the microwave.

The garden is just so beautiful at this time of year. This year I planted a number of wild flower seed packets, so there are more flowers than usual. The green beans are producing like crazy right now and the yellow squash and zucchini are also quite productive. It will be a while before we have ripe tomatoes, but they are setting up nicely. Hope your garden, if you have one, is also giving you pleasure and bounty.

On the home front, we just had a great visit from K and her beau, Aaron. First time meeting him and we were sorry when he had to leave. Great guy! Had fun going to Iron Horse Winery, to Armstrong Redwoods, and to the Bale Grist Mill. Also discovered Les Claypool's (Primus) winery on Hwy 116. Fun!


Sweetie's Stir Fry

1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (he uses olive oil)
1 clove garlic, minced (or more to taste)
6-7 cups assorted raw veggies, cut into pieces that are similar size - we used:
      1/2 red pepper, sliced in pencil thick slices, then cut crosswise
      1 small yellow squash, ends removed, cut into bite sized pieces
      1 small to medium zucchini squash, ends removed, cut into bite sized pieces
      1 cup snow peas, strings removed, but into bite sized pieces
      1/2 cup sliced carrots
      1 cup green beans, cut into bite sized pieces
      1 small to medium crown broccoli, but into florettes

Sauce 
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground ginger, or 1-2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger (to taste)
1 teaspoon lemon zest (yellow part only)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup water or chicken broth
Stir all ingredients for the sauce together until well combined. Set aside.

In a large wok, stir fry the onion in the vegetable oil until translucent. Add the garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add veggies like the pepper, carrots and squashes and stir fry until almost tender. Add the veggies like the snow peas and beans and stir fry for about 30 seconds, or until tender. When you add the pepper and carrots, microwave the broccoli for 90 seconds, then drain and add to the stir fry.

With heat on medium, add the sauce and stir continuously until all the veggies are coated and sauce thickens. Serve at once.

Garlic Shrimp 

12 oz. raw shrimp, cleaned, tails left on, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
waxed paper and a microwave safe dish (I use a glass pie plate)

Dry the shrimp on paper towels. Set aside
Take the microwave safe dish and add the butter. Cover with the waxed paper (or parchment paper) and microwave on high until melted. Add the garlic, stir, cover with the waxed paper, and microwave on high for 30 seconds.
Take each shrimp by the tail and coat it lightly with the garlic butter, then lay on its side in the dish. Repeat until the dish is covered with shrimp, but keep it to one layer. If you have more shrimp, save them for a second round of microwaving. Cover the dish with waxed paper.
Microwave on high one minute, then uncover and move shrimp around in dish so that more cooked ones go to the middle and less cooked ones to the outside. Cover and microwave again for 30 seconds. Check. If needed, microwave another 30 seconds and repeat as needed until shrimp are cooked through and pink. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Rosemary For Remembrance - Again



Five years ago I baked a lovely rosemary bread, Panmarino, for the July Bread Baking Babes challenge and this month I made it again (photo above), but made only 1/4 of the recipe and shaped it as a baguette. Our challenge this month (with no Kitchen of the Month to choose something new) is to choose one of the July breads from years past and bake it. Since both Sweetie and I are eating less bread these days for our health, a fraction of the recipe seemed like a good idea. As is often the case, my timing was flawed, so we had our first bites at a little after 10 p.m. I decided that I like this bread best with a small amount of olive oil on top of the slice and a few grains of sea salt added.

July is always a month for remembrance for me and Sweetie, and rosemary is the traditional herb for remembrance...at least according to Shakespeare. Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of our son's fatal accident. In 20 years we have learned how to live without him and how to live with each other and with what the days bring, but a day doesn't go by without our remembering him in some way...no rosemary needed.

Still, with a huge rosemary shrub on the property, it's easy to enjoy recipes using fresh rosemary and this bread is a winner. I used some sourdough starter in addition to the pinch of yeast in the biga. I let it sit longer than the recipe called for (overnight and then some), so I used 40 grams of the flour and the water, mixed together, to add to the biga for an additional hour and then I followed the recipe to make the dough and then the bread. I think that the added time, plus the sourdough starter, gave the finished bread a wonderful depth of flavor.

Use good quality olive oil for the dough and be generous with the fresh rosemary. Your kitchen is going to smell wonderful while this bread bakes!



Be sure to visit the other Babes to see which July bread they've made. If you want to be a Buddy, I guess you send an email to the Babe whose bread you make. If it's mine, send me an email at elle dot lachman at gmail dot com and include a photo of your bread and a short description of your baking experience. You have until the 29th of July and I'll try and send you a Buddy Badge, if there is one.

We have quite a few Babes who are sitting out the bread baking right now, for various reasons. We do have a Kitchen of the Month for next month and I know that the Babes who are baking right now are enthusiastic about it, so join in if you like. You might discover a recipe that becomes a standard for you!

Panmarino (Note: I made 1/4 of this recipe for one loaf)
Makes: 4 Loaves  Original Panmarino created in Ferrara near Venice

Biga (which I made exactly as described):
Bread flour 143 grams/  5 ounces
Water 122 grams/  4 1/4 ounces
Pinch of instant yeast

Final Dough:
Bread flour 884 grams/  1 pound 15 ounces
Water 487 grams/  2 cups
Milk 2 ounces/ 1/4 cup
Biga 265 grams/  9 1/3 ounces
Salt 1/2 ounce/ 2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon instant yeast
Olive oil 88 grams/  3 ounces
Chopped fresh rosemary 9 grams/  1/3 ounce


Preparing the Biga:
Combine the bread flour, water and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until well blended.  Scrape down the edge of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest at 75 degrees F. for 14 to 16 hours.

Making the Final Dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, milk, and biga. Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until blended.

Add the salt and yeast to the bread flour in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add bread flour mixture a cup at a time and mix on low speed until incorporated, then add more. When about half the flour is added, add the olive oil, mix with the dough hook to combine, then continue to add the flour mixture. You may need to add by tablespoonfuls at the end. Mix with dough hook on low for 5 minutes.  Increase the speed to medium and mix for about 7 more minutes, or until the dough is smooth.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Scrape the dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment for 45 minutes.

Remove the dough to a lightly-floured work surface and knead in the fresh rosemary. Divide the dough into four 450-gram /16-ounce pieces (or divide into three pieces to shape as desired, as I did). Shape the dough pieces into rounds. Cover with plastic wrap and let them bench rest for 15 minutes.

Place two couches on a separate work surface or bread board and dust them with flour.

Uncover the dough and, if necessary, lightly flour the work surface. Gently press on the dough to degas and carefully shape each piece into a tight and neat rounds (or into rolls or loaves, as I did. I also shaped my round loaf in a heavily floured brotform).  Place one loaf on one side of the couche, fold the couche up to make a double layer of cloth to serve as a divider between the loaves, and place a second loaf next to the fold.  Repeat the process with the remaining two loaves and the second couche.  Cover with plastic wrap and proof for 1 hour.

About an hour before you plan to bake the loaves, place a baking stone (or tiles) into the oven along with a steam pan (underneath) or iron skillet (on the top rack) and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Uncover the dough and score the top of each loaf in a star pattern using a lame or sharp knife. This particular formula doesn't say to do this, but you can sprinkle sea salt into the crevices as the original baker did to make it "sparkle with diamonds."

Carefully transfer the loaves to the preheated baking stone using a peel or the back of a baking sheet. To make the steam, add 1 cup of ice to the iron skillet or steam pan.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the crust is light brown and crisp and the loaves make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.

Remove the loaves from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

July Doings


A wise and wonderful friend told me a few days ago that she keeps up with what I'm up to through this blog. I know that Sweetie's sister does the same and worries when no posts go up for a while. I always think of this as a food blog, but I guess it's also a log of current happenings in my life, so today I'll do some updating. Sorry that it's been over a week.


The garden gladdens my heart, which is important because July is probably my least favorite month of the whole year. The zucchini and yellow squash are finally producing. We had yellow squash cooked in a cast iron skillet with caramelized onions a few nights ago with our dinner. Delicious! No photo because Sweetie finished them off before I could take a photo. I had the first green bean this morning, right off the vine. More are coming. The first tomato has set up, but it will be late August before we eat any of the tomatoes.


The flowers are amazing...I have lilies and roses and similar long term flowers, but also wildflowers and morning glories and nasturtiums that will be gone come winter. The mix of colors is wild and wonderful. Deadheading every morning is a goal that sometimes is met, but not always. Watering happens each morning and I get in some weeding when I can.


I have been painting. I finished a painting of a bird of paradise flower, with an interesting composition of leaves behind it and I'm working on another painting with flowers now.


The downstairs bathroom in our home was updated in the spring with new wall and trim paint, but I never painted the trim around the door. Now that Sweetie is working at the farmhouse I've been able to remove the door and paint that trim so now it all is an intense deep turquoise with sandy colored walls. Soon there will be trim and walls to paint in the farmhouse, too. The sitting area also has a turquoise theme...guess I like that color.

We installed new blinds on two of the windows in the farmhouse the other day. The seating area has a sort of tropical vibe and the tatami mat style blinds tie right into that, while providing a bit of room darkening and privacy. Mostly I leave them up so that we can enjoy the sunshine and the fuchsia blooming right outside.

Sweetie continues to amaze with his Tetris skills as he repairs a window wall without removing the window. He is also very involved with a parcel tax measure that will be coming up for a vote in November.


We took a ride on the SMART train from Cotati to San Rafael, had lunch and a look around, then took the train back. It's a great ride and as seniors our fare is very reasonable. In San Rafael we found the most interesting Electronics store and a great bookstore which is about ten or so blocks from the train station. Had some great Thai food for lunch and bought crusty sourdough rolls from a bakery that has been baking for over 100 years in San Rafael. The photo is of the wetlands that the train passes after it leaves Petaluma, heading south.

My older brother is between trials and doing pretty well, but not as well as he hoped. I'll be visiting him and the family late this month for some fun times! My own surgery for gall bladder removal will be late August. The gall bladder is mostly non-functioning and I might even have more energy once it's gone.

Our darling daughter is doing well both with her career and with a kind man in her life. We hope to meet him soon.

Pi is as sweet and wonderful as ever and really appreciates his walks at the Laguna de Santa Rosa.

That's probably all the news for now. Sounding too much like a Christmas letter! Hope y'all had a great 4th of July!

XO, Elle

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Out Of The Oven


Father's Day seems like a long time ago. Since then I've had a couple of weeks of very low energy and have taken some medication to help with an infection that was part of the cause. Feeling much more like my usual self the last few days, enough so that I baked a cake...and enjoyed doing it. Prior to that, for a while, I'd do some stuff, but it was a struggle to get my brain working on whatever it was and, truly, all I wanted to do was sleep. Scary feeling. Glad that it seems to be in the past now. Sweetie is glad, too...he was pretty worried.

The cake, out of the oven just long enough to cool before being iced with ganache, was a 6-inch version of the Queen Mother flourless chocolate cake that Maida Heatter made famous quite a few years ago. If you know how to fold beaten egg whites into a thicker batter and still retain most of the air in the egg whites, this cake will become a favorite! If you don't know how, just be patient and give it a try. Even if you knock some of the air out the first try, you will still have an awesome, delicious chocolate cake that will impress your family and friends.

The chocolate is a really big part of this cake and icing, so be sure to use chocolate that you would enjoy eating by itself. Save your small change if necessary until you have enough to purchase good chocolate. I used Scharffenberger for the cake and a combination of Scharffenberger and Lindt for the ganache. The sprinkles on the birthday cake are just for fun...and color. I also substituted 6 oz. of Bob's Red Mill almond flour for the whole almonds, using the 1/4 cup sugar for the butter mixture (along with the 1/4 cup called for) instead of using it to grind up the almonds. Otherwise I followed the recipe for the cake. I used butter for the cake and soy creamer instead of whipping cream for the ganache...I never have whipping cream in the house these days. Here is a good tip: Separate your eggs while cold, then allow them to come to room temperature.


This is most easily made in a 9-inch springform pan. I used two 6-inch springform pans (one with tall sides) because I was making a small cake, by request, for our friend AM. The second one was for Sweetie, but he ended up taking 3/4 of it to our friends and sharing it with them...and they still had the birthday cake to enjoy the next day. They claimed it would be breakfast, and why not? There are plenty of eggs in it!


Queen Mother's Cake - serves 12
From Maida Heatter's Cakes

6 oz. (scant 1 1/2 cups) blanched or unblanched almonds
6 oz. Semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
6 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Toast the almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan in a 350 degree F oven for 12-15 minutes, shaking the pan a few times, until the almonds are lightly colored and smell deliciously of toasted almonds. Set aside to cool.

Adjust a rack on-third up in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 3-inch springform pan and line the bottom with a round of baking-pan liner paper cut to fit (I used parchment). Butter the paper. Dust the pan all over with fine, dry plain bread crumbs, inver over paper, tap lightly to shake out excess. Set prepared pan aside.

Place the chocolate in the top of a small double boiler over warm water on moderate heat. Cover until partially melted, then uncover and stir until just melted and smooth. (I find that using a silicone spatula works well for stirring the melting chocolate.) Remove the top of the double boiler and set aside until tepid or room temperature.

Place the cooled almonds and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade. Process very well until the nuts are fine and powdery. Scrape down the sides at least twice. Process for at least a full minute. The finer the nuts are, the better the cake will be. (Or use almond flour that is finely ground already.) Set aside the ground nuts.

If at all possible, have two clean large stand mixer bowls and a stand mixer, plus a regular beater and a whisk beater ready.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer eat the butter until soft. Add 1/4 cup of the sugar (or 1/2 cup if using pre-ground nuts), reserving the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Beat to mix. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary until smooth. On low speed add the chocolate and beat until mixed. Then add the processed almonds (almond flour) and beat, scraping the bowl, until incorporated. You will have a thick batter.

Now beat the whites in the large bowl of a mixer. If you only have one bowl, transfer the chocolate batter to any other large bowl. Wash the bowl and beaters carefully.

In a large bowl of the mixer, with clean beaters (preferably a whisk beater), beat the egg whites with the salt and lemon  juice, starting on low speed and increasing it gradually. When the whites barely hold a soft shape, reduce the speed a bit and gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Then, on HIGH speed, continue to beat until the whites hold a straight point when the beaters are slowly raised. Don't overbeat.

Stir a large spoonful of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to soften the batter a bit.

Then, in three (3) additions, fold in the remaining whites. Do not fold thoroughly until the last addition & don't handle the batter any more than necessary. (Streaks are fine until the very end...the goal is to keep as much air as possible in the egg whites).

Turn the batter into the prepared pan. Rotate the pan briskly from left to right in order to level the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees F, then REDUCE the temperature to 350 degrees F and continue to bake for an additional 50 minutes (total baking time is 1 hour and 10 minutes). Don't overbake...cake will remain soft and moist in the center...and the top might crack a bit...that's OK.

Let cake rest on a wire rack for 50 - 60 minutes, then undo the spring catch to release the sides. Let the cake stand until completely cool, or longer if you wish. The cake will sink a little in the middle with slightly higher sides...that is OK. You can trim the top level if you like (I left mind as is), and brush away loose crumbs.

Invert the cake onto a board or cake plate and remove the bottom and baking paper. Place strips of waxed paper or parchment paper under the edges of the cake. Ice with the ganache icing.

Icing
1/2 cup whipping cream (I used Silk soy creamer)
2 teaspoons powdered espresso coffee (Medaglia D'Oro instant espresso powder works well)
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces (I used part Scharfenberger semi-sweet and part Lindt salted bittersweet dark)

Heat the cream and espresso powder in a small saucepan over moderate heat until small bubbles form around the edges. Add the chocolate and stir occasionally over heat for 1 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir until the chocolate is all melted and the mixture is smooth.

Let the icing stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes, until the icing starts to thicken.

Stir then pour slowly over the top of the cake, pouring over the middle. Use a long, narrow metal spatula to smooth the top and spread so that a little of the icing runs down the sides. With a small narrow metal spatula, smooth the sides.

Let the icing set for 10 minutes. Remove the papers by pulling each one out toward a narrow end. Decorate as you see fit...or not at all.