February 24, 2012

whole wheat cast iron bread

When I finally got my copy of Michael Ruhlman's latest cookbook Ruhlman's Twenty, the first recipe I made was this beautiful cast iron bread. It is now my go-to bread recipe, producing a round loaf with a tender crumb, a chewy exterior, and excellent volume. This loaf also has a lightness you don't expect from 100% whole wheat bread. With only five ingredients (seven for my adapted version), the recipe is simplicity in edible form, and makes, as my husband says, an "amazingly good" bread.

Though the version in Ruhlman's Twenty is made with all-purpose white flour, I made a whole wheat version using freshly ground white whole wheat flour. For the most consistent results, I use a digital scale to measure the flour and liquids by weight. To reduce the kneading time for the whole wheat dough, I used the autolyse technique, mixing the flour, instant yeast and liquids together in the mixer bowl, then covering the mixture and letting it sit for an hour. This helps hydrate the dough and develop the gluten with less work. After the autolyse period, I worked the salt into the dough using my hands, and then kneaded the dough for ten minutes on medium speed in a mixer until the dough achieved a proper windowpane when stretched.

February 17, 2012

mojo criollo

Mojo (pronounced moho), is a generic term for many variations of a sauce that originally came from the Canary Islands of Spain. There are many variations used throughout islands in the Caribbean, including the island of Cuba. Mojo Criollo, used in Cuban food, traditionally uses olive oil, garlic, herbs and citrus juice. It's typically used as a sauce for pork or boiled yuca. The sauce also works well with chicken, fish, roasted potatoes and other cooked or roasted vegetables.

This version of Mojo Criollo is one that my husband's mother has used for many years when cooking for her family. It uses vinegar instead of citrus juice, so the acidity of the vinegar essentially substitutes for the acidity of the citrus juice. This version also uses parsley, which makes it very similar to the South American chimichurri sauce. I used white wine vinegar because I prefer its flavor and aroma in the mojo, and because it's a little more subtle than other vinegars such as apple cider. The large amount of parsley helps balance the amount of garlic used. The signature technique in making the sauce is using very hot oil to flash fry the garlic and parsley, helping create the characteristic flavor of the mojo. However you use it, this mojo is an easy and inexpensive way to add a little island flavor to your favorite meat, fish, or vegetables.

February 10, 2012

honey beet cake with ginger cream topping

For Valentine's Day this year, it's my turn to make dinner. At least at this point I know I've got dessert covered, and it's something I've never tried before. Made with honey, roasted beets, whole wheat flour, and soaked in freshly squeezed orange juice, it's a sweet little cake for two. For a compliment to the flavor of the beets I used a simple sour cream topping barely sweetened with honey. The final touch is the tiny, spicy crunch of crystallized ginger. It's my riff on one of Mark Bittman's soaked cake recipes from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. Who knew? You can eat your vegetables for dessert too.

February 3, 2012

onion sets, a dining table, and cookbooks in the kitchen

I still haven't planted the three onion sets, one yellow, one red, and one white (pictured above), that I bought last week from our local feed & hardware store. I'm not quite ready yet to shake off winter, but if I want to harvest full-sized onions in spring, I guess I'd better get cracking. Tomorrow, once today's storms have passed, I'll decide where to clear some of the mulch from the raised bed and plant the sets there, and maybe plant one of the sets in a container as well.

Inside, I've got several books, some rented and some newly purchased, sitting in stacks on the dining table. For some reason, I like to sit at the table in the kitchen to read. Even though the hard wooden seat of the old colonial captain's chair is not very comfortable, the warm light from south-facing window is nice. Sitting at the sturdy formica-topped table where I grew up eating, and where family and friends have sat for many years, holds the comfort of good memories for me.

The majority of the books stacked on the dining table are, of course, cookbooks. These days, the cookbooks I'm most interested in are the ones with more information on the how's and why's of cooking than just recipes. Along those lines, I'd like to share the three main cookbooks I've been reading through, learning from, and experimenting with lately. If you want to get better at feeding yourself, you cook as much as you can, but it's also helpful to feed your mind.