Friday, December 28, 2012

No Knead Bread

This recipe has been making the rounds for ages. I've seen it on several blogs and in the New York Times.  Love freshly baked bread as much as I do? As lazy... um.... wait, as busy as me? No kneading! Lasts two weeks in the fridge!! Tear off only and bake only as much as you need!!! Brilliant.

No Knead Bread
Recipe courtesy of vanilla bean blog (with gorgeous photos and other tips)

3 cups water, lukewarm
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

In a 5 quart plastic container or bowl [preferably a resealable plastic container], mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water [about 100 degrees]. Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours.

Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks [It's best to let dough refrigerate at least three hours - it is less sticky and easier to work with. Also, more flavor will develop if it sits longer].  When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on the dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife [about 1 pound]. Sprinkle flour on work surface and lightly knead dough 5-6 times to form a ball, adding flour as needed so it won't stick to your hands. Put dough on a piece of parchment paper, and let rest 40 minutes. Refrigerate the rest of the dough.

About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to the upper middle position and place the Dutch oven (with lid on) on the rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Bake covered for 25 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 450, remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and/or instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 12 to 15 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Image by Sharon Pruitt, Flickr

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mongolian Beef & Eggplant

If you are like me, you might be spending some time alone over the holidays. And who would cook a turkey for one? For me, holiday treats include tasty morcels of meat, something I don't usually eat. And this dish hits all the right savoury, rich, wintery notes for me. The original is a beef only dish, but I add veggies to everything, I'm just wired that way! So if you don't like eggplant, don't worry, just leave it out. 

Mongolian Beef & Eggplant
Adapted from Just a Taste
Serves 2

veggie oil
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 red chili peppers, whole
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 japanese eggplants (the long, skinny, bright purple ones)
1 (1-pound) flank steak
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 scallions (green parts only), sliced into 1-inch pieces

Heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a small saucepot over medium-low heat. Add the ginger, chili peppers and garlic and sauté until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce and water, stirring to combine.

Stir in the brown sugar and increase the heat to medium. Bring the sauce to a boil for 3 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and set aside.

Slice the flank steak against the grain into 1/4-inch pieces, then toss it with the cornstarch. Place the coated pieces of steak in a sieve and shake off any excess cornstarch. Allow the steak to sit 10 for minutes.

Slice the eggplant on the diagonal, about every 1/4 inch.

Place a large sauté pan or wok over medium-high heat and add 2 T vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot (but not smoking), add the beef to the pan and sauté for 2 minutes until it is seared on all sides but barely cooked in the center. Remove the steak from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer it onto a paper towel-lined plate. Add more oil if needed and stir-fry the eggplant for 3 - 5 minutes, until tender. Blot on paper towels. Pour any excess oil out of the wok.

Place the sauté pan back over medium heat. Add the prepared sauce to the hot pan (it should come to a boil almost immediately), then add the reserved steak and eggplant and cook at a boil, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Add the sliced scallions, stirring to combine.

Serve with white or brown rice. 

PS The chili peppers are there for flavouring, so you can pick them out before nomming down on this.

Image by Thomas Hawk

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Some Ideas for Party Nibbles, on a Budget

In the Pink, over at Nod if You Hear Me, is having a party.  She expects about 15 guests, and has a budget of $35 including wine. Here are some of my suggestions for her, with the idea that she can pick and choose knowing what's on sale locally and existing items in her pantry:

No time to cook
Oven baked tortilla chips and salsa
Spicy Popcorn
Fresh fruit wedges

I have a bit of time
Sausage Bisquick Balls
Homemade Humous and Pita wedges
Herbed Ricotta Bruschetta
Rachel Ray's French Onion dip, with Veggies

Let's Cook!
Pesto Pasta Salad
Potato Salad

Oven baked tortilla chips
It is much cheaper to make your own tortilla chips: It costs about $1.50 for a family pack of corn tortillas (versus $3.49 and up for one bag of premade chips).

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  Lay the tortillas out on a cutting board, spray with the nonstick olive oil spray on both sides. If using a seasoning, sprinkle on both sides now.
3.  Stack the tortillas in piles of eight (8) tortillas. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut through the pile of tortillas, cutting into 4 equal triangles.
4.  Arrange tortilla triangles in a single layer on baking sheets. Bake for approximately 6 to 7 minutes until crisp and the edges start to curl and turn lightly brown. Watch the chips carefully after 5 minutes, as they can burn easily. Once the chips are done, remove from the oven to cool. Chips will continue to crisp as they cool.
6. Serve with jar of chunky, hot salsa ($1.99 for large jar at No Frills).

Spicy Popcorn
From Rachel Ray

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup popping corn kernels
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Heat oil in deep pot over medium high heat. Add corn. Cover pot and pop the corn, shaking pan often. Remove from heat when pops stop. Drizzle with melted butter. Combine spices in a small dish and sprinkle the blend over hot corn. Serve.

Fresh Fruit
Look for what's on sale.  Recently I found a whole pineapple for 99cents at No Frills, and a large  watermelon was 2.99 in chinatown. Slice into wedges and serve on platter.

French Onion Dip
From Rachel Ray

3 tablespoons EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons thyme leaves, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups sour cream, low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt (use whatever combo you like, just make the total quantity 1 1/2 cups)
Chopped veggies, such as celery, cucumbers, bell peppers, or carrots for dipping

1. Place a medium pan over medium-high heat with 3 turns of the pan of EVOO, about 3 tablespoons. Add the onion, thyme, some salt and pepper to the pan, and put a lid on it.
2. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove the lid and continue cooking the onions until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. (If the onions begin to stick to the pan too much, add a splash of water and scrape up any bits that are sticking.)
4. Turn the cooked onions out into a medium mixing bowl and stir in the sour cream and/or Greek yogurt (whatever you’re using). Serve the dip up with chopped veggies and crackers alongside.

Sausage Bisquick Balls

1 lb. pork sausage
1/2 lb. cheese (grated)
3 cups Bisquick

1. Place the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
2. Work with hands until completely blended.
3. Shape mixture into balls the size of walnuts.
4. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 10 minutes on greased cookie sheet.

Homemade Humous and Pita

1 clove garlic
1 (19 ounce) can garbanzo beans, half
the liquid reserved
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. In a blender, chop the garlic. Pour garbanzo beans into blender, reserving about a tablespoon for garnish. Place lemon juice, tahini, chopped garlic and salt in blender. Blend until creamy and well mixed.
2. Transfer the mixture to a medium serving bowl. Sprinkle with pepper and pour olive oil over the top.

Herbed Ricotta Bruschetta
Makes 20-25 bruschetta

2 cups ricotta cheese
3 tbsp minced scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
2 tbsp minced fresh dill
1 tbsp minced fresh chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sourdough baguette
Good olive oil
1 whole garlic clove, cut in half

1. Prepare a charcoal grill with hot coals or turn a gas grill to medium-high heat. (I used a grill pan over medium high heat)
2. Combine the ricotta, scallions, dill, chives, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and set aside.  Cut the bread in rounds about 1/2 inch thick. You should have about 20-25 total.
3. When the grill is hot, brush the bread with olive oil and grill on each side for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from the grill and rub each slice of bread with the cut side of the garlic clove.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spread the herbed ricotta.  Serve warm.

Pesto Pasta Salad
Source: Food Network

1 pound pasta (farfalle or other small noodle)
3/4 cup pesto from jar
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, as needed

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Stir in the bow ties and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and run it under cold water just until it stops steaming. Bounce the pasta around to get rid of as much water as you can.
2.  Dump the pasta into a large serving bowl. Stir in the pesto until the pasta is coated. Toss in the cherry tomatoes and the crumbled feta. Taste the salad and season it as you like with salt and pepper. You can make the salad up to about 1 hour before you serve it.
3.  Check out the salt and pepper just before you serve the salad. If it's looking a little dry, add some olive oil and stir it around.

Simple Southern Potato Salad

8 -9 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup chopped pickle
2 medium onions, chopped
5 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped
salt and pepper
2 cups mayonnaise
3 -4 tablespoons mustard

1. After peeling and dicing potatoes place them in a large pot to boil until tender.
2. Drain the potatoes, add pickles, onions, and eggs then mix in mayo until its the desired consistency.
3. Mix in mustard.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt, Flickr

Monday, December 3, 2012

Armenian Red Lentil-Apricot Stew, with Sesame Rice

So, so, so busy with school... which means cooking big vats of stew and soup on the weekend and eating it all week. One and a half weeks left, and then I'm off for three weeks. Woohoo!!!

Last weekend I made this stew. It was so good, and is totally affordable! I didn't buy a big thing of tahini, just about 1 cup from the bulk store. The recipe comes from the Big Vegan cookbook, and I pretty much stuck to it as written, except for boosting up the spices (it seemed a bit bland without any heat). I'm a heat fiend, I guess you could say.  The fresh mint and parsley really make the dish, so don't leave those out. 

Armenian Red Lentil-Apricot Stew, with Sesame Rice

1 cup red lentils, rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
14 oz tinned diced tomatoes 
1 small eggplant, peeled and diced
½ cup dried apricot, chopped 
2 tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp cayenne 
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup fresh mint, chopped

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted
1 ½ cups long-grain brown rice
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp tahini paste
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. In a large pot, combine 1 qt water, the lentils, and onion. Bring them to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add the spices, salt, eggplant, tomatoes, and apricots and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Add the parsley and mint just before serving. Keep the stew warm while cooking the rice.

4. To make the rice: In a 2-qt/2-L pot over medium heat, sauté the onions in the oil . When the onions are clear and soft, add the sesame seeds and sauté for 5 minutes.

2. Add 3 cups/720 ml water, the rice, and salt. Bring them to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover. Check after 35 minutes. When all the water has been absorbed, remove the pot from the heat and let it sit, covered, to finish steaming the rice, 5 to 10 minutes.

3. In a small cup, stir together the tahini and lemon juice, then fold them into the rice. Serve the rice hot with a ladleful of stew on top.

To refresh the stew the next day, squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the stew before serving.

Image by alemdag, Flickr

Monday, November 26, 2012

In Search of General Tso

I was telling my friend Felix about my "made up Chinese supper" last night, and he recommended this video.  Very funny, and you will learn something, too! Oh, and he said the most Chinese thing about my dinner was the spaghetti noodles as they are actually Chinese in origin, from the north he says, where it is too cold to grow rice.  I looked this up online, at, and they say that the Chinese were making noodles as far back as 1700 BCE. But nibbler gives Arab traders credit for dried pasta (taken with them along the Silk Road), and the Italians still claim pasta comes from the ancient Etruscans. So who knows.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

General Tao's Red Pepper and Broccoli Stirfry

Tonight I was busy working on homework (if you can call it that), with my friend Paul. My assignment was to shoot a photo that must include "red string" and uses the string to convey meaning. Take in any direction we like.  We had fun exploring this theme.

Paul... being a good sport...
Anyhoooo, I thought I might share with you one of the many ways of making a meal using spaghetti noodles, beyond adding a tomato or meat sauce. Noodles are always cheap, even when they are not on sale. Another time I will try and make this sauce from scratch, but for now I used sauce that I found in the dollar store.  I have absolutely no qualms about shopping at the dollar store, although I wish we had the kind of selection that I read about on the 99 cent Chef's site.

General Tao's Red Pepper and Broccoli

Serves one tired and hungry photography student

2 tsp oil
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 cup broccoli, sliced into small florets
1/2 red pepper, sliced into skinny strips
2 T sesame seeds, toasted
2 T VH General Tao's sauce
1 small squirt hot sauce
1 tsp black pepper
2 cups spaghetti noodles, cooked
1 spring onion, sliced


Toast the sesame seeds on the stove top, shaking and flipping. Should take no more than 2 to 3 minutes.

Cook spaghetti noodles in salted water as usual (or reheat leftover spaghetti in the microwave, as I did).

In a large frying pan or wok, stir fry the onion, broccoli and red pepper, on high heat.  If you eat meat, stir fry your chicken or beef strips separately, until no longer pink.  Remove from pan, then carry on with veggie instructions. After about 4 minutes of mad tossing, add 1/4 cup of water and plop the lid on to allow for a little steaming (maybe another 2 minutes).  Remove from heat when veggies still have some crunch.

Stir in General Tao's sauce, hot sauce, black pepper, and cooked (or reheated) noodles.  Toss madly.  Garnish with sesame seeds and spring onion.  Enjoy!

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt, Flickr

Friday, November 23, 2012

Martin Yan's Scallion Pancakes

My dear friend Felix introduced me to scallion pancakes about 20 years ago. I love them so much, but don't get out to eat much these days (no time and no money).  There are many recipes for scallion pancakes on the web, but I like this one, and mostly because I love Martin Yan.

I highly recommend you watch Martin Yan's video here, you will get good tips on how to knead and roll the dough properly, plus he is hilarious!  And if you don't have a food processor just follow along with his "make it by hand" instructions.

Today is supposed to be our "Black Friday" recipe, featuring a "black" ingredient. Well, just look at that dipping sauce! Totally black. Hah hah, I know it's a bit of a stretch, but these are just so good.

Scallion Pancakes
Source: Saveur Magazine

4 cups flour, plus more
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. kosher salt
⅓ cup canola oil
2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 ½ cup thinly sliced scallions
1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
½ tsp. ground white pepper


1. Process 2 cups flour and baking powder in a food processor. With motor running, add ⅔ cup cold water; process until dough forms, about 40 seconds. Transfer to a plate; set aside. Add remaining flour and salt to food processor, and with motor running, add ⅔ cup boiling water; process until dough forms, about 30 seconds. Return reserved dough to food processor; pulse until both doughs come together, about 35 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface; knead until smooth, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a greased bowl, cover; let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

2. Halve dough; using a rolling pin, roll 1 dough half into a 10" x 20" rectangle. Brush with 1 tbsp. canola oil and half the sesame oil. Sprinkle with half the scallions, half the chile flakes, and half the white pepper. Beginning with one long side, tightly roll dough like a jelly roll. Cut roll crosswise into 3 pieces, slightly stretch each piece, and starting from one edge, coil piece horizontally, tucking the end underneath. Using your hand, gently flatten coil into a disk; using a rolling pin, flatten into a 5" circle. Repeat with remaining pieces and second dough half, 1 tbsp. canola oil, remaining sesame oil, scallions, chile flakes, and white pepper. Let pancakes sit for about 10 minutes.

3. Heat oven to 200°. Heat 2 tsp. canola oil in a 10" nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 pancake to skillet; cook, swirling skillet and turning once, until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil and pancakes; cut into wedges to serve.

Dipping Sauce
1 tablespoon sambal oelek chili paste
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce

Combine and serve in a little dish for dipping.

Image by Thomas Hawk, Flickr