Monday, January 25, 2010

Herbed Spaghetti Squash

So, it is January and in the wake of my holiday-fueled love affair with heavy cream and sugar - to say nothing of my obsession with bread-baking - the time has come to start up the South Beach Diet again and lose some of my "winter coat."

Yes, this means that I am low-carbing it for a few weeks.

Phase 1's strict rules, like the severe limitation of carbs, does not mean that food has to taste horrible. People! Eating low-carb can be satisfying and delicious!

Herbed Spaghetti Squash

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T basil
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • parmigiano reggiano
  • salt to taste
  • cracked black pepper to taste

  1. Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scrape out the seeds and tough fibers.

  2. Place, cut side down in a large baking dish. Add water to a depth of about 1 inch.

  3. Cover with foil and then bake for about 45 minutes in a preheated, 375-degree oven.

  4. Take out of the oven and let cool. Take one half of the squash out and set it on the counter (this recipe only uses one half of the squash)

  5. With the tines of a fork, scrape the flesh of the squash separating it into strands.

  6. Dump into a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss in the chopped tomato, sprinkle with basil and shave fresh parmigiano reggiano on top. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Spicy Lentil Soup

This totally fulfilled my craving for something warming, earthy and spicy. If I skipped the sour cream at the end, it would have been totally vegan. But sometimes, things call for sour cream.

Same rules apply to bacon.

Oh, and it's ready to eat in less than an hour and a half, and that does account for the time spent on a mad scramble for ingredients.

Note: I snapped the picture of this before I put any sour cream on it and by the time I started digging into it, it was gone about 4 bites later. Then I had another bowl, but the bowl was too messy to take a nice picture, so... next time, I'll not be so hasty. :)

Spicy Lentil Soup

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 1 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes with green chilis (like Ro-Tel) – drained, and with the juice reserved
  • 1 cup dry brown lentils
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • sour cream

  1. In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat.

  2. Add onions, carrots, and celery; cook and stir until onion is translucent and soft.

  3. Stir in garlic and cook for 2 minutes.

  4. Stir in lentils, add broth, drained tomatoes & chilis and bay leaf, and oregano.

  5. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for at least 1 hour.

  6. Stir in the reserved juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

  7. Top with a generous dollop of sour cream.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Scrambled Tofu with Mushroom, Onion and Bell Pepper

Poor tofu gets such a bad rap from its bland flavor, sometimes spongy texture and its soy origin. I say that its blandness only means that it won't compete with other strong flavors in a dish. It literally soaks up marinades, so with a wonderful mixture of spices and seasonings, you can have a dish that is every bit as flavorful as any meat-based dish.

Be sure to choose the right kind of tofu for your task: Japanese-style Silken tofu is an excellent choice in blended smoothies and desserts, while Chinese-style extra firm varieties make the best stir-fries and baked dishes. You can further affect the texture by pressing out the excess water and even freezing it.

As for the stigma of its soy roots, I have yet to see good evidence that it causes cancer or makes you gay.

This recipe gives you a double-shot of umami goodness with the wild mushrooms and nutritional yeast.

Scrambled Tofu with Mushroom, Onion and Bell Pepper

  • olive oil
  • ¼ block of extra firm tofu (I like nasoya organic tofu best)
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ½ orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 (½ oz) packet dried mushrooms, rehydrated to make 2 oz. mushrooms
  • ¾ t onion powder
  • ¾ t garlic powder
  • ½ t turmeric
  • 2 T nutritional yeast
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Put the olive oil in a pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the rehydrated mushrooms and cook until nicely browned and they release no more moisture. Set aside.

  2. In another skillet, pour in about 2 T olive oil.

  3. Drain the tofu and blot it with a paper towel. You can even squeeze it a bit to release more moisture.

  4. Crumble the tofu into the pan and saute until it's nicely golden-brown.

  5. Push the tofu to the sides of the pan and add the chopped onion and saute until translucent.

  6. Add the orange bell pepper and stir the mixture together.

  7. Stir in the onion powder, garlic powder and turmeric and mix well.

  8. Dump in the cooked mushrooms and mix well.

  9. Fold in the nutritional yeast, making sure that everything is well coated. Let it cook for about a minute more, then plate.

  10. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

See the steam rising? Hot and tasty.

  • This dish works well with almost any combination of vegetables. I often use chopped tomato in it, added just before the nutritional yeast goes in. Sometimes I cook up a separate skillet of diced potato and fold that in once the other vegetables are done, before seasoning with the spices.

  • I prefer to cook the mushrooms in a separate skillet because, even over high heat, they give off moisture. Dried, reconstituted mushrooms give off less moisture than fresh, but still I don't like adding any extra water to tofu when it's browning.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mushroom Onion Quiche with Bacon

Quiche is one of my favorite lighter meals, though it seems absurd to call something made with heavy cream, eggs, and cheese then folded into a rich, buttery pastry crust "light." A little of this dish goes a long way, however, especially when accompanied by a large green salad.

This quiche can be served warm or cold.

Mushroom Onion Quiche with Bacon

  • 1 pastry crust for 9-in pie*
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 pound assorted mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 (½ oz.) packet of dried porcini mushrooms - reconstitutes to 2 oz.
  • sherry
  • 4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 ounces cheese, grated (1 ½ cups) - traditionally, this dish would call for Gruyère, but a nice sharp cheddar also works nicely in this dish


  1. In a small bowl, pour boiling water over the dried mushrooms to reconstitute them. Let them sit for 30 minutes, then strain and chop them coarsely. Set aside.

  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12-inch circle, or, press the pastry dough into a tart pan or 9-inch pie plate, pressing the dough into corners.

  3. Transfer to the fridge to chill for 30 minutes if the crust seems to be oily or greasy. We want the fat in the crust to be cold when it goes into the oven.

    If you do put the pastry in the fridge to chill, be sure to take it out and let it sit on the counter so the dish can come to room temperature. Putting a cold dish into a hot oven spells disaster.

  4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line the pastry with a circle of parchment paper or aluminum foil, pressing into the corners and edges.

  5. Fill at least two-thirds with baking weights - dried beans, rice, or ceramic pie weights. Bake first for 10 minutes, remove from oven and let cool a few minutes.

  6. Carefully remove parchment paper and weights. Poke the bottom of the pie pan with the tines of a fork and return to oven and bake an additional 10 minutes or until lightly golden. (Fork holes are for any air to escape.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool while making filling.

  7. Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and shallot and cook, stirring, until translucent but not brown, about 1 minute.

  8. Add the chopped, fresh mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms first release their liquid.

  9. Add the rehydrated porcini mushrooms and continue to cook over medium high heat until all the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms are dark golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

  10. Add a dash of sherry and cook until that evaporates as well.

  11. Place tart pan on a baking sheet to catch any run-off there might be. Sprinkle half the cheese evenly over the bottom of the crust. Spread the mushroom and onion mixture over the cheese, crumble some bacon on top of that, top with remaining cheese and bacon.

  12. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, cream, and eggs. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Pour over cheese.

  13. Transfer to oven, and bake until just set in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before slicing.

* Pastry Crust for 1 9-inch pie

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (½ cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
  1. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt and butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

  2. While the blade is running, add only enough of the ice water until the dough begins to form a ball. You can test this by grabbing a small handful (when the food processor is turned OFF and unplugged) and squeezing it: If it doesn't hold together, then add more ice water, ½ tablespoon at a time, pulsing until it is just incorporated, then test again.

    Be sure not to overwork the dough, or pastry will be tough. We don't want to build up the gluten in this dough, we just want the fat evenly distributed and the dough to hold together when we roll it out.

  3. Once the dough holds together well, take it out of the bowl of the food processor and shape it into a compact ball. Then, flatten it into a round disc. Wrap the disc of pastry in plastic wrap and put that into a plastic bag and chill it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

  4. When you are ready to roll out the dough, take it out of the refrigerator and, on a well-floured surface, roll it with a floured rolling pin until it is approximately 1/8 inch and 12 inches in diameter.

  5. Transfer it to your pie plate or tart pan.

  • This pastry crust recipe is a basic, all-purpose crust which can be used interchangeably between dessert pies like apple or pumpkin and quiches.

  • Here is an easy way to transfer a pastry crust to the plate without it ripping:

    • Starting with one outside edge, roll the crust onto the rolling pin until it is all curled around it.

    • Unroll it into your tart pan or pie plate.

    • Trim off the edges and you're ready to blind-bake the pastry

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Crab-stuffed Mushrooms

These make a nice appetizer if you use the smaller cremini/baby bella mushrooms, but I like to make these with large portobello caps and have them for dinner with a green salad.

Crab-stuffed Mushrooms

  • 1 8-oz container crabmeat
  • 1 package of shallot and chive flavor Boursin® cheese
  • 2 T mayo (or more to achieve the desired consistency)
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • Old Bay® seasoning
  • ½ cup of soft bread crumbs or cracker crumbs (Ritz or saltines work well)
  • 6 large portobello mushroom caps or 20 smaller cremini/baby bellas
  • Panko crumbs
  • freshly grated parmesan or romano

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together the crab meat, Boursin® cheese and mayo. Mix well.

  3. Fold in the diced onion and cracker or bread crumbs, stirring until everything is incorporated well.

  4. Clean the mushroom caps by removing the stems and gills and brushing off any accumulated dirt.

  5. Place the caps on a baking sheet.

  6. Put a healthy dollop of the crab mixture in the cavity of each mushroom cap and sprinkle generously with Old Bay®. Top with grated cheese and panko crumbs.

  7. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the tops are nicely browned and the filling is slightly bubbly on the sides. The larger portobello caps take longer.

  8. Serve hot.

  • If watching carbs is a concern for you, omit the bread crumbs or cracker crumbs to the crab meat mixture in the bowl and top the mushrooms with just the freshly grated parmesan and no panko bread crumbs.

Raw Apple Breakfast

In keeping with my attempt to eat many more light & healthy meals throughout the week to balance out the times when I indulge in full-cream, full-fat decadence - and believe me, I do indulge - here is a fiber-rich, deceptively filling, delicious breakfast that may have you thinking, "Hey, some of these raw vegan dishes are pretty damned tasty!"

Unlike many raw dishes which require some fancy footwork with a food dehydrator, the only pieces of equipment you need here are a food processor and a coffee grinder.

Raw Apple Breakfast

  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds
  • 2 T pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

  1. Peel, core and cut the apple into quarters.

  2. Process it in a food processor along with the almond butter until it is in small pieces - you don't want to make a puree.

  3. Grind up the flax seeds in the coffee grinder until they've become powdery.

  4. Serve in a bowl topped with pepitas and the ground flax seeds.


  • This filled my cereal bowl pretty well, so it was a good portion for one person.

  • Next time, I may drizzle some honey or agave nectar over the top for a teeny bit of extra sweetness.

  • Other additions which might be nice:

    • chopped almonds or walnuts
    • chopped dried fruit
    • untoasted sesame sees
    • unsalted sunflower seeds
    • maple syrup
    • wheat germ
    • a dollop of Greek yogurt
    • blueberries
    • cinnamon

Friday, January 8, 2010

Red Lentils over Quinoa Pilaf

I love red lentils in soups, stews and dhals. Just as the various spices that accompany them lend heat to the dish, so does the vivid color of the lentils perk up the dish. On this frigid day I have been looking for a comforting dish to warm me up, so I tossed some things together and served it over the leftover Quinoa Pilaf from last night's dinner.

Red Lentils over Pilaf

  • 1 stalk celery, diced finely
  • 1 medium onion, diced finely
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced finely
  • 1/2 cup of diced carrot
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped (about 2 T)
  • 1/4 cup diced tomato
  • 3/4 cup red lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • chili powder
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • turmeric
  • hot sauce

  1. Heat 2 T olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.

  2. Add the chopped onion and celery and saute for 2 minutes.

  3. Add the bell pepper, carrots and garlic, stirring well.

  4. After 5 minutes or so, when the vegetables have softened significantly, add the tomato and stir well.

  5. Add the red lentils, turn the heat to high and add the water, the tomato paste and the spices.

  6. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, keep covered and let simmer for 30 minutes.

  7. Taste and adjust seasoning. Here's where I add the hot sauce.

  8. Simmer uncovered another 15 minutes until the lentils are no longer crunchy. You may add more water if you prefer a more stew-like consistency, but I prefer it with a texture more like dhal. I even sometimes use a potato masher and smash the lentils a bit.

  9. Serve over rice or pilaf of your choice.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

No-Knead Bread: Why Bother?

For some reason, the past few months, everywhere I go on the internet I see some reference to the Bittman/Lahey No-Knead Bread which Mark Bittman originally mentioned in a 2006 article, and this youtube video clip:

As a bread-lover and long-time home baker, the phrase "no-knead bread" gives me a visceral twinge, and not a pleasant one. Now, I don't always knead my doughs by hand: In the past, I've relied heavily on my Zojirushi bread machine, Kitchen Aid mixer and even my food processor to work the dough, but some breads I save for 100%-by-hand manipulation.

Kneading a large mass of dough just feels great.

Not only is there therapy to be had in sometimes-brute pounding, the rhythmic knead-turn-fold-knead-turn-fold technique required in some breads' longer kneading time is downright meditative. Each stage of bread baking brings along with it its own special pleasure, whether it's the physicality of the kneading, the warm, earthy smell of proofing yeast mixture, the sensual attraction of shaping the dough, or that final shudder of anticipation when you pull a fresh, nicely browned loaf out of a blazing hot oven.

So why would anyone forgo some of these pleasures by creating a no-knead bread?

Also (for the bread freaks out there): Can a long, slow rise with a very wet dough really build the same essential structure out of the flour's gluten molecules as we get from the traditional kneading process?

Fans of the No-Knead bread claim that the proof is in the final taste, crumb and crust.

I have to admit, it's intriguing, if only in an "I'll try anything once" way.

Despite the wave of ecstatic reviews (many by acknowledged first-time bakers), I have read a few reviews of this bread which are less than rhapsodic: loaves stuck to the pot, burned bottoms, wet interior, insufficient rise, and a flat taste.

To be fair, there's no way to be sure that these posters followed Jim Lahey's instructions exactly. Plus, as with any bread-baking adventure, we should account for any number of variables: the ambient temperature during the 12-hour rise, the ratio of liquid to dry ingredients, the type and liveliness of the yeast used, and the true temperature of the oven during baking, and over-hasty slicing while she bread is still warm.

I imagine I may have to put this on my to-do list of breads, which is not a short list.

Mmmm... bread.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Russian Black Bread: An Ongoing Odyssey

Russian black bread (черный хлеб/ chorniy khleb) is a dark pumpernickel-like, rye bread which is more than just pumpernickel. I know, you would probably never think of a hearty, delicious pumpernickel bread from a deli to be qualified as "just" anything, but you'd understand if you ever tasted Russian black bread. It's pumpernickel, yes - but deeper, richer, darker than you could ever have imagined.

Bread at its most basic is an alchemical mixture of flour, yeast, water and salt. Pumpernickel ups the ante by adding molasses, caraway seeds, and rye flour among other ingredients. Russian black bread takes the German pumpernickel to new heights of aroma and depths of flavor than you would believe.

When drinking vodka with Russians, you'll have yummy snacks, or zakuski, to accompany each sip. This black bread is definitely on the table, sometimes topped with butter, caviar, sliced cucumber or pickles.You'll love this as the base for a sandwich, topped with cream cheese and smoked salmon or - my favorite - toasted and slathered with butter.

Russian Black Bread

  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 ½ cups bread flour
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seed (optional)*
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • coarse cornmeal

  1. Add the ingredients in the order recommended by the manufacturer and put it on dough cycle.

  2. When the dough has finished with the first rise, take it out of the mixing pan and on a counter covered liberally with cornmeal, knead the dough briefly.

  3. Shape it into a round or a large, long loaf and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

  4. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for an hour or until it has risen to 1 ½ times its original size.

  5. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until loaves are well-browned.

  • First, this is an excellent loaf of bread.

    I scarfed down two pieces of it toasted with butter for breakfast this morning. However, this bread was slightly sweeter than the black breads I remember eating in Leningrad & Moscow, or even in Estonia, and believe me, like kimchi in Korea, this bread was a daily staple.

    More than anything else, this strikes me as a very good American-style pumpernickel bread.

    I may try a bit less molasses and a bit more cider vinegar next time. The bread I remember had a distinctly sour taste. Also, the texture is lighter, not as dense. Perhaps using all rye flour makes the difference. The gluten in rye flour is weaker than in wheat, making for a denser, heavier loaf.

    Alternately, I could begin with a sourdough starter. In my research of pumpernickel and black breads, I recall reading that traditional Westphalian pumpernickel uses a sourdough starter to counteract the strong amylases in rye meal; also, the bakers use a very long baking time to give it the dark color which many other recipes achieve through darker ingredients like molasses, coffee granuules and cocoa powder. Also, it is an all-rye loaf, whereas many other rye breads use a mixture of flours to improve the gluten and structure.

    I don't know if I've ever had the traditional German pumpernickel or if it tastes anything like Russian black bread. I have a sneaking suspicion that this may be my next task: finding an authentic recipe, baking it and see how close the taste comes to my memory of those unforgettable black breads.

  • Ah-ha! I just found a recipe for Russian black bread which uses a starter.

    I also found, on some of the recipes (like this one) which make use of ingredients (cocoa, coffee, molasses), comments from people saying that this bread just isn't quite the same as the beloved chorniy khleb that they recall. So, yay, I'm not the only one! Once I'm done with this loaf, I am making this other Russian black bread recipe, or I could make it today so I can do a side-by-side taste test comparison.

    My, it would be handy to have some Russians nearby to get their opinion. I do know an older Russian lady in the neighborhood: she's the grandmother of one of my older daughter's classmates. We've chatted in Russian from time to time, and she's a common sight walking down the road in her traditional Russian babushka outfit: housecoat, cardigan, woolen socks, tufli (slippers) and scarf. I know that there are several other Russians in that retirement home. Would it be weird of me to drop by with a few loaves of chorniy khleb? Probably.

  • Since I was elbow-deep in pirozhki-production when I started this yesterday, I decided to use my bread machine.

    To make this bread by hand:

    1. Proof the yeast with the sugar and warm water for 5 minutes or until the yeast gets foamy.

    2. Melt the butter, let it cool and add the molasses and cider vinegar to the butter. Mix well.

    3. Toss the salt into the yeast mixture, add the butter mixture to it and stir well.

    4. Start adding the dry ingredients, stirring well after each addition.

    5. Knead, let rest for an hour and a half or so, then shape, rest again and bake.

    6. Presto.

  • I know I have fennel seed somewhere, but I tore my spice cabinet apart looking for it and I simply could not find any.

    I mean, I can't tell you how many times have I been looking for cardamom pods, cumin seeds or mustard seeds only to find the jar of fennel seeds and ask myself, "Why the hell did I buy this? I never use it!"

  • I wonder what difference using Dutch-processed cocoa powder (DPC) would make.

    DPC is treated with an alkali agent to neutralize its acids so unlike regular old cocoa powder, it does not react with bases. Since this recipe calls on yeast for leavening, I wonder if switching out the regular cocoa for DPC would make any difference.

    I think that I read that DPC tends to make foods darker than the regular cocoa. Russian Black Bread is very dark, darker even the pumpernickel.

    Something to think about for the next time I make this.

  • And just because I mentioned babushki in this post, I give you Babushka Cat:

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Potato Pirozhki

Well, winter has really come to Central New York. Bands of lake effect snow have covered the area in unending drifts of snow. I woke this morning at 5, looked out the window and saw unplowed roads, and new mounds of snow piled on all the shrubs and thought to myself: "It's a good day to be inside drinking coffee."

It's also a good day for comfort food, specifically Eastern European dishes. Yesterday I got to thinking of haluski (or noodles with cabbage), which naturally led me to golubtsi or gołąbki (golumpki) those divine stuffed cabbage rolls; Russian Black Bread; and pirozhki: a bun or dumpling of yeast dough, stuffed with a variety of fillings, from meat, to mushroom, to my favorite, potato and cheese.

I have an insane weakness for street vendor food (I should blog about the bout of food poisoning that I got from street vendor food when I was in Korea...) and my favorite spots when I was studying in the USSR were the Armenian and Georgian vendors selling huge rounds of fresh lavash, and the ubiquitous pirozhki stands where you could get a paper cone of freshly deep-fried meat-filled pirozhki for mere kopeks.

Back to reality: I have everything I need to make the Black Bread and a batch of potato pirozhki today, but as for the golubtsi, I only have a head of red cabbage. Now I've wracked my brain and can not think of a valid reason not to use the leaves of red cabbage instead of the green. I searched out red cabbage recipes and for the most part only found the usual German side dishes of sweet and sour braised cabbage, stewed red cabbage with apples and chestnuts, cole slaw, and a few soups. If only I had beets I could use some of the cabbage to make a killer borschch!

I may end up making the stuffed cabbage rolls with the red cabbage over the next few days, if only to see if it makes a difference of you use green or red cabbage; in the meantime, we have potato pirozhki (the Russian Black bread is still on its second rise):

Potato Pirozhki


For the Dough:
  • 2 ½ teaspoons yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup lukewarm milk (105 - 115 F)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and at room temperature
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ¼- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

For the Filling:
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (about ¾ cup)
  • ¾ cup of sour cream
  • 2 T horseradish
  • 1 T dill
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the wash:
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon milk

  1. Make the filling:

    1. Boil the potatoes, skins on, until a knife slides in easily and the potato falls off the knife back into the water. Let them cool a bit

    2. While the potatoes are cooling, saute the onions in olive oil until translucent, soft and shiny, not browned.

    3. Peel potatoes, and cut into chunks into a large bowl.

    4. Mash. Add the sauteed onions, mixing thoroughly.

    5. Add sour cream, mix well.

    6. Season to taste with salt, pepper, horseradish and dill. - I like enough horseradish to get my sinuses open, but not so much that my eyes water.

  2. Make the dough:

    1. Combine the yeast, sugar and lukewarm milk in a large bowl and let sit until the yeast gets foamy, about 5 minutes. It should smell nice and yeasty and look brown and puffy.

    2. Add the melted butter, salt and beaten egg to the yeast mixture, stirring very well to incorporate all that butter.

    3. Add 3 ¼ cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring very well after each addition. You should have a pretty rough dough by now.

    4. Turn out the doughy into a well-floured board and knead for 5 minutes or so, adding more flour as necessary to keep it from sticking.

    5. Cover with a tea towel and let rest for 10 minutes. Use it now or refrigerate it for up to 24 hours.

  3. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat baking mat.

  5. With a pastry scraper, divide the dough into thirds. With a rolling pin, roll out one third of the dough about 1/8 inch thick.

  6. Using a round biscuit or cookie cutter (or the top of a drinking glass), cut out rounds of dough.

  7. Place a fairly heaping spoonful of filling in the center of the circle, then fold the dough over, so it makes a plump semi-circle.

  8. Press the edges together firmly and crimp closed with the tines of a fork.

  9. Place on the baking sheet.

  10. Mix together the egg yolk and milk, and brush the pirozhki with the egg wash.

  11. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and delicious.

Caramelized Onion & Shallot Dip with Bacon

I made this dip when I was at my parents' for Thanksgiving. We all fell in love with it, practically licking the bowl clean. I made it again for Lucy's birthday party and then one more time for New Year's Eve.

This dip really thickens up on sitting, enough to break even a hearty potato chip, but the flavors meld and intensify so nicely that I think that it's worth it. If you really wanted to thin the consistency, you might want to add a teeny bit of water.

After a few days in the fridge, this spread is delicious on toasted bread.

Caramelized Onion & Shallot Dip with Bacon

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon brown sugar (optional)
  • 6 medium onions, sliced crosswise, ¼ inch thick (about ½ pound) - I like a mixture of red and white onions
  • 2 shallots, sliced thin
  • ground black pepper
  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 3 scallions , minced
  • ½ teaspoon cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup creme fraiche (optional) - you can use more sour cream if you don't have any creme fraiche

  1. Heat the butter in a large nonstick skillet over high heat; when foam subsides, stir in salt.

  2. Add onions and shallots and stir to coat; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften and release some moisture, about 5 minutes.

  3. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are deeply browned and slightly sticky, about 40 minutes longer.

    If the onions are scorching, reduce heat; we don't want blackened, crispy bits of onion. If onions are not browning after 15 to 20 minutes, raise heat or add a bit of brown sugar.

  4. Turn off the heat; season to taste with pepper.

  5. Fry 3 slices of bacon, in small skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes; remove with slotted spoon to paper towel–lined plate and set aside. Crumble when cooled.

  6. Combine caramelized onions, cider vinegar, scallions, sour cream, creme fraiche and bacon in medium bowl.

  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

The bread is the photo is the second batch of my french bread from The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

As you can see from the picture, it split in a funky sort of way when it was rising, but it's very tasty.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Maple Wheat Dinner Rolls

Since Thanksgiving and Christmas were just upon us, and sometimes that means cooking a dinner (if you're crazy enough to be hosting,) or bringing a dish (if it's pot-luck), I thought I'd share my favorite dinner roll recipe. I found this recipe in a magazine ages ago; I believe it was the now-defunct Veggie Life.

I usually double this recipe and make and herbed popover too because the family gatherings tend to be large and people like their food. :)

Maple Wheat Dinner Rolls

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 pkg. dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Oil for brushing

  1. Combine the warm water and maple syrup in a large bowl and stir. 
  2. Add the yeast and stir the mixture well with a fork to dissolve the clumps.
  3. Cover and let sit until the mixture gets foamy, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the oil, whole-wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour, and salt to the yeast mixture in the large bowl. Stir until well mixed.
  5. Dust a work surface with some the remaining flour and place the dough on it. Knead the dough for 10-12 minutes, adding extra flour as you go. - This dough will be slightly tacky, but it should not stick to your hands.
  6. Cover the dough let rise until doubled, 30 to 60 minutes.
  7. Lightly oil an 8 by 8-inch baking pan. Divide the dough into 16 balls. Brush the tops with oil, and place in the prepared pan. Cover and let rise again until until the rolls have doubled, another 30 to 60 minutes.
  8. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.
  9. Serve warm with butter.
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