Sunday, February 24, 2013

Salmon for Lunch

Our local market had wild salmon at a very good price this week. I do love salmon and enjoyed some for dinner, but the piece was too large for one meal, so I found a way to use up the leftovers at lunchtime yesterday.

This is one of those recipes that don't really have precise amounts, especially since I was using up leftover rice, too. Amounts given are close to what I used. I decided to reheat the rice and add the parsley, tomato, and lemon juice so that all were not only warm, but mixed, when added to the wrap. I re-heated the salmon first, then the rice mixture, then added them to the warm tortilla that had the cheese already melted on it. I probably should have left out the smidgen of sour cream but it really added to the finished wrap's rich flavor.

Tortilla Wrap with Salmon, Rice, Tomato, and Jack Cheese
Serves 1

1 large flour tortilla
about 2-3 tablespoons shredded Monterey Jack cheese
leftover grilled salmon...about 1/2 cup flaked
1/2 cup brown rice, already cooked
1/4 cup diced fresh tomato
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sour cream (optional)

In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, warm the tortilla for 1 minute. Add the shredded cheese in a thick ribbon down the middle of the tortilla. Cover with a lid and turn off the heat.

In a small bowl, re-heat the salmon in the microwave. I usually use half power to reheat things and this is important with the salmon since you don't want to overcook it. Depending on your microwave, try about 1 minute at half power.

Remove the heated fish to a small plate and use the same bowl to heat the rice, tomato, parsley and lemon juice. Once warmed through, stir the mixture.

Remove the lid from over the cheesy tortilla, turn the heat to medium, and add the salmon, placing it over the cheese and a bit to each side, leaving sections on both sides of the tortilla uncovered. Repeat with the rice mixture. Add little dollops of the sour cream over the center of the rice strip if using. Replace the lid and let the whole concoction heat for 1/2 minute. Turn off the heat, remove the lid and fold in the uncovered sections of the tortilla. Remove to a plate and serve, garnished with a wedge of lemon, if desired.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Twist on Irish Soda Bread

It was rainy day before yesterday, the perfect weather for winter in Northern California. It's also good weather for baking. I have been trying to bake less because I'm reducing my caloric intake and Sweetie finds that when I bake less he weighs less, too. Tuesday all those thoughts went out the window because it was the perfect afternoon for tea and something baked. The questions was, what to bake? I have some new baking related cookbooks with recipes begging to be made...and I will. But sometimes the best thing to do is just to put a twist on an old familiar recipe. I discovered a few strips of bacon in the fridge, some pecans in the depths of the bottom shelf of the fridge and a nice jug of maple syrup from Costco that isn't getting any younger. Best of all I had a quart of buttermilk...more than enough for a nice loaf of Irish Soda Bread.

I love making Irish Soda Bread. It doesn't need any eggs, it goes together quickly, it is free form and looks very artisanal without trying, and it is delicious warm or cold. Fresh out of the oven (and cooled only slightly), it is heavenly.

So the twist this time was to make Pecan Bacon Maple Irish Soda Bread. Perhaps that makes it more Southern than Irish, but the original recipe is from my very Irish Aunt May, so I'm calling it that even with the additions.

The bacon was the star here, followed by the pecans. Who can hate bacon combined with pecans? The maple flavor was a harmonious background flavor, less assertive than I had thought it would be given that I used a full 1/2 cup! The buttermilk gave it moistness and a bit of a tang. I had to hide 3/4 of the loaf so that Sweetie wouldn't gobble it all up, it was that good! You don't need any additional butter, but it is hard to resist slathering on some. If you made up some maple butter that would be a grand addition.

The key to success with this recipe is to handle things gently, especially the dough once the liquid has been added. The mass of dough going into the oven looks like it barely holds together, but it bakes up as a nice craggy loaf with a tender interior. Too much or too firm handling will give you something more akin to a brick, so resist making a nice, neat loaf, OK?

Maple Pecan Bacon Soda Bread
Makes one large loaf

4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 oz. (2 sticks) cold butter, in thin slices
½ cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup cooked, crumbled bacon
½ cup maple syrup
2 cups buttermilk

Sift the dry ingredients over the butter and cut in well with a fork or pastry blender. Add nuts and bacon; mix in gently but well. Add the maple syrup to the buttermilk and make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour in the buttermilk mixture, then mix just until moist - don’t over handle.

Some dry stuff is OK but the dough should be sticky.

Pat into a round on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Cut a cross on top. Bake 45 minutes at 3500 F. Cool a bit before slicing.

Good with a spread made of softened butter and maple syrup, whipped together.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Another Kind of Pie

This month the Bread Baking Babes' Kitchen of the Month is Tanna's My Kitchen in Half Cups. She has gathered us around her virtual table with a delicious recipe to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the Bread Baking Babes. The official Syrian name is syrian sabanrhiyat and they are delightful spinach pies, but with bread dough, instead of pastry, holding the spinach filling together. The combination of mahlab, pomegranate arils and feta cheese certainly give them a Syrian flavor. Unfortunately I neglected to purchase the mahlab, and the arils, plus my spinach was frozen, chopped, instead of fresh. The good news is that they were wonderful little pies even without those goodies!

My dough was really sticky, so it was a bit of a challenge to roll out. If you read the directions, you'll see that we were not supposed to roll it all out as a sheet of dough, but roll out 24 pieces of it, each to about 6 inches in diameter. In my defense, the video that showed how to shape them used a rolled out sheet of dough. A large round cutter was used to cut the dough into circles. I liked that the circles were then, mostly, even. That should make the shaping easier, right? So that's what I did. I had a nice 4-inch in diameter cutter, which made for smaller pies, but they were also easy to handle.

I cupped each dough circle in one palm, added about a tablespoon of filling, then smooshed the edges of three places on the outer diameter (about even from each other) into the middle and together. That left three openings, which I pinched together, one by one, in a more-or-less straight line. That gave me the 'Y' shaped closure. My dough was so soft that it didn't hold any shape very well, so the pies were a bit rounded 'Y's after they baked as you can see in the photo at the top of the post.

The filling included the sautéed onion, the feta cheese, the chopped walnuts, the lemon juice, and spinach from the freezer (which I thawed and then put in a wire mesh strainer, which allowed me to push out a lot of excess liquid. Since the finished filling was plenty moist, I'm glad I did.) I added some freshly ground nutmeg to the dough since I know that spinach and nutmeg are great together. I also cut the recipe in half. Even then I had more little pies than I wanted, so I did a crescent with the leftovers, kind of like the Yule Wreath that the Babes did a few years ago.

I highly recommend that you make these yummy pies. I'll bet that the ones with the pomegranate and mahlab are even better, and with fresh spinach the absolute best. Do be sure to check out the other Babes' sites since some of them have come up with different fillings!

Check out Tanna's site for the recipe and tips and gorgeous photos. If you want to be a Buddy (of course you do!) e-mail her with your story about baking these beauties and a photo.

I'm sending this along to Susan at Wild Yeast for her weekly wonderland of bread baking links, Yeastspotting. Check it out, too, to be inspired and to find great recipes.

Now, I'm going to go eat a couple of the spinach pies that I saved. I noticed that when I do my write-up that I really, really want to have a taste by the time I'm done. Don't you? Well, get baking!

Here is Elizabeth's version of the recipe (for mine, omit the mahlab but add 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg for it, also omit the pomegranate seeds and use frozen, thawed, drained spinach...and cut amounts in recipe by half since I only made half the recipe - see notes in italic for my changes) :

Assyrian Spinach Pies

1 tablespoon active dry yeast, (2 1/4 teaspoons) = 1 package
2 cups warm water (105° to 115°)
1/2 teaspoon ground mahlab, I'll use 3/4 to a full teaspoon next time
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for kneading, use some white whole wheat next time
1 tablespoons granulated sugar, I cut this back from 2 tablespoons
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup olive oil


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, cut this from 1/2 cut
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 pound cleaned baby spinach, coarsely chopped
160 grams chopped walnuts, I increased this from 4 oz.
1 cup pomegranate seeds, increase these from 1/2 cup
2 cup crumbled feta cheese, increased from 1 cup
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 - 1 cup lentils, optional but this was nice
Olive oil cooking spray
Plain yogurt for serving

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients: yeast, flax, mahlab (or nutmeg for Elle), flours, sugar, salt.

Mix together water (I usually "warm" it by microwaving it about 15 seconds, it's just above room temp then) and olive oil.

2. Pour water, olive oil into dry ingredients and mix together until the dough gathers into a rough ball. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes letting the flour absorb some of the water.
Knead the dough on a lightly floured counter until the dough becomes smooth, elastic, soft and slightly sticky dough ball - mine took about 6 minutes.

3. WASH AND DRY THE BOWL - now ain't that a kick in the pants, how many Babes are going to follow that directive. We know Elizabeth will. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! and rub it lightly with olive oil Elizabeth won't do that part (but Elle will!).

Place the dough ball into a rising container … I have a wonderful straight side clear 4 qt container with lid: I can easily see when the dough has doubled in volume. The lid means I don't have to use plastic or even a shower cap.
Allow the dough to double in volume - mine took about 90 minutes: if you press a finger into the dough and release it, a depression should remain.

4. If you follow the recipe directions and divide the dough into 24 pieces (about 2 oz each) you'll get what I consider a reasonable portion size hand pie although we were all eating at least one and a half each. I actually weighted the balls and they ranged from 50 to 60 grams each. I might have enjoyed them more made slightly smaller say weighting closer to 40 grams.

When the balls are formed, allow to rest so they will be easier to roll out.
If you've made the full recipe and don't want to make them all at one go, my suggestion here would be to immediately cover however many you want to bake tomorrow or the next day and retort the balls in the fridge.
Allow the dough balls you plan on baking to rest for the 30 minutes before rolling them out.
Elle: I didn't make balls, but did let the dough rest before rolling it out.

5. Saute the onion in the olive oil, they should be nicely caramelized. Allow to cool.

6. Chop the spinach and mix with chopped walnuts, pomegranate seeds, feta, lemon juice and the olive oil. Mix all with the sautéed onions.
Elle: I left out the pomegranate seeds.
Good ideas for alternatives: pine nuts, dried cranberry, dried cherry, goat cheese, small cubes or large grating of any cheese you like, lentils I added one night to some of the filling was a real winner.

7. Preheat the oven.
Elle: I lined the cookie sheet with a Silpat but parchment paper would equally as well.

8. With a light to good dusting of flour on your counter, roll the dough ball into a thin 6-inch circle. I tried to really fill these and used at least 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the filling for each one.
Elle: I rolled out the dough and cut 4-inch circles with a round cutter, then filled them and sealed, pretty much like the recipe description below.

Pile 1/2 cup of the filling, loosely measured, onto the center of the circle, leaving about 1 inch of dough exposed all around. Brush the exposed dough lightly with water. Imagining the circle to be a clock, lift up the edges of dough at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions to cover the top part of the filling and pinch firmly to seal, going all the way to 12 o’clock. Lift the 6 o’clock position of dough to meet in the center and pinch the two edges firmly to seal. The seams will look like an inverted Y. Set the pie on one of the prepared sheets.

9. Before putting into the oven, rush the pies with olive oil before baking.
Elle: I forgot to brush mine with anything.
10. Preheat oven.
11. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 375° to 380° depending on your oven.

Leftover pies can be frozen. When cool, arrange them on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer them to heavy-duty re-sealable plastic bags and freeze for up to 1 month. To reheat, thaw the pies in their wrapping, then set them on a baking sheet and pop into a preheated 350°F oven for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Pie in Petaluma

As you might have guessed, I have a weakness for baked goods. I can drive by a bakery I'm familiar with and there is a tug drawing me to turn in and park and go buy one of their delicious goodies...even if I just ate and have no room for such a goody. My solution has been to avoid going in the first time. If I have no idea if anything delicious is inside there is no tug...or not much of one.

I've been to downtown Petaluma a few times since Petaluma Pie Company opened their doors, but I kept telling myself to not go in. Today Sweetie and I were at Copperfields on Kentucky St. in Petaluma and as we left the store I saw a round sign that said, 'Pie' and there was an arrow pointing toward the shop where they sell their pies. It was lunch time. We followed the arrow, went down a couple short flights of stairs to a nice pocket park and found the Pie Company open for business. Now I'll be getting tugs every time I'm in Petaluma.

It's a small shop and I suspect that a large portion of their business is take-out. We decided to go with two different types of hand pies; a mushroom with goat cheese and a spinach with feta cheese.

Both were delicious, especially the pie crust, which is very flaky and delicate with just the right amount of flavor. The mushroom filling was  a little smoother than the spinach and it had a wonderful earthy taste from lots of quality mushrooms. I had the spinach one and it was just perfect with lots of spinach and feta cheese and probably some onion.

Sweetie finished his and still looked a bit hungry. We could have had some lovely side salad but chose to try another pie instead. We shared one of the 6-inch coconut cream pies which again had a high quality and delicious crust. The filling had a nice hit of vanilla and coconut and meringue on top in a decorative pattern, plus a bit more coconut. I prefer a filling that is creamier but this was like a firm pudding and it was quite good.

We both had hot chocolate with the pie and you should consider having it, too. A full mug is served of piping hot chocolate that tastes like it is made from scratch with excellent quality cocoa or maybe even chocolate. It isn't as rich as French hot chocolate, but is much richer than what is usually served in most places around here when I order hot chocolate. UPDATE: The nice folks at the Pie Company let me know via Facebook a little more about the hot chocolate:  "FYI our hot chocolate is made with Tcho drinking chocolate and organic Straus milk. See you soon!"

There were many other pies on offer, including the day's special which was pear, ginger and cardamom pie with a double crust. A full size Shaker lemon pie looked good. There were smaller sizes of chocolate cream, banana cream, apple, lemon meringue, sweet potato and an Elvis pie which I think had chocolate, peanut butter and, maybe, banana. The savory offerings included a chicken empanada handpie, one with potato and peas, a chicken pot pie and more.

All in all, I encourage you to visit if you are ever in downtown Petaluma, CA. They do take orders online, but only for pick-up, not to mail to you. Guess I'm going to have to drive a bit away from downtown when I'm in Petaluma to avoid that tug, or else just enjoy the calories and eat pie first!

Petaluma Pie Company
125 Petaluma Blvd. N. Suite B, Petaluma, CA 94952

(Inside of Helen Putnam Plaza behind Starbucks)
Mon - Thr 11am - 7pm
Fri - Sat 11am - 9pm
Sun 10am - 6pm

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Fantan Round-Up

I really enjoyed the Jam Fantans I made, but when I saw the beautiful and drool worthy ones made by this month's Bread Baking Buddies, I wanted at least one of each to enjoy with some hot tea. These women are clearly excellent bakers since they were able to figure out my slightly wonky recipe and to make rolls with a variety of fillings. My hat is off to each of you! Thanks for baking with the Bread Baking Babes this January. The year is off to a good start! Don't miss our Anniversary recipe which will be posted on Feb. 16th.

In alpha order by first name:

Carola of Sweet and That's It
Carola baked gorgeous fantans which included maple syrup, apricot jam and mixed toasted chopped nuts. The nuts made these look even more delicious than ones without, but maybe that's because I love nuts.    

Cathy of Bread Experience
Cathy filled her delicious looking fantans with lemon jelly and strawberry vanilla jam She also used her own sourdough starter.

Connie of My Discovery of Bread
Connie created stunning fantans with lychee jam and marmalade for a friend. Wish I had a friend like that!  

Gilad of Especially Sweet
Gilad's stunning fantans were made with beautiful handmade strawberry jam giving bright red spot to the rolls. I can imagine the wonderful flavor, too.

Kate of FoodBabbles
Imagine how delicious Kate's fantans were since she filled them with either cinnamon sugar or peach lavender jam. Lovely to look at, too, almost like flowers.

Sandie of Crumbs of Love
Sandie made speculaa flavored fantans for a wonderful spicy treat. I have a huge sweet tooth, so I also love the icing.

Again, thank you all for being Bread Baking Buddies this month! Hope you'll bake with us next month, too.
XO Elle