recipes at random

Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Give him ramen noodles, and you don’t have to teach him anything. - Lawrence Downes

Monday, December 18, 2006


"Amazing" toffee thins

I've swiped this from the Washington Post's impressive holiday cookie guide. OK, I'm not swiping it, I'm just publicizing it. How's that?

Anyway, this is a cookie that anyone, of any religion, can enjoy at any time of the year. I'm happy to post recipes for chocolate cookies, too, but I really am a brown sugar/caramel/toffee kind of gal at heart.

1 1/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting your hands

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine the flour and salt on a large square of waxed paper.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and brown sugar for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla extract, mixing to combine. Add the dry ingredients in 2 increments, incorporating after each addition. Divide the dough in half and place each half on a large square of waxed paper. Form each half into a log, wrap loosely in the waxed paper and refrigerate for about 45 minutes or until firm enough to shape.

When the dough is firm, lightly dust your hands with flour. Roll each log of dough under the palms of your hands into an 8-inch-long cylinder (if the dough becomes sticky, refrigerate it briefly), then roll it up tightly in waxed paper or plastic wrap, using the paper or wrap to help make a smooth, compact log. Refrigerate for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until quite firm.

When ready to bake, position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line several large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Work with 1 log of dough at a time, keeping the second one refrigerated. Using a sharp, heavy knife, cut the dough into 1/4 -inch-thick slices and place them about 2 inches apart on ungreased heavy baking sheets (if you don't have heavy baking sheets, reduce the baking time by a minute or two). Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking, until the cookies are golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 60 cookies. Per cookie (based on 64): 39 calories, 0 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 2 g fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 1 g saturated fat, 10 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Mary Pat Flaherty; e-mail questions

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Caribbean latkes

OK, this is what I was looking for. Haven't cooked it, but I'm not tweaking the content at all. There, I've said it.

I was about to say that I like plain old Ashkenazi latkes just fine, and will be eating plenty over the next few days, but I've enjoyed experimenting with different potatoes, other vegetables (carrots, zucchini, etc.), and spices. This one sounds like a lot of fun.

Servings: Varies

1/2 large boniato (Cuban white sweet potato) or yam, peeled, about 3/4 pound
1/2 medium Spanish onion, peeled
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1/8 teaspoon crushed dried hot peppers
2 teaspoons matzo meal
Peanut or vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup sour cream
3 to 4 scallions, chopped


Grate the boniato and onion together on the large holes of a grater into a bowl.

Stir in the eggs until well blended.

Add the orange zest, cumin, salt, pepper, ginger, cilantro, dried hot peppers and matzo meal, stirring to mix.

In a large heavy frying pan, heat about 1/2 inch oil over moderate to high heat.

Drop the boniato mixture into the oil 1 heaping tablespoon at a time, being careful not to crowd the pan.

Pat down the batter in the center with a wooden spoon, and fry the pancakes until golden brown on one side, turn and brown the other side.

Drain on paper towel and keep warm. Mix the sour cream and the scallions in a small bowl. Serve with the hot boniato latkes.

Recipe from Gannett News Service, via Is that my buréka?.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Latke recipe - to come

This is what happens when you get too dependent on other people's recipes.

I found a recipe from the Forward for Indian sweet potato curry pancakes, thought I'd just tweak the spices a bit, drop the sugar, and then I noticed it had milk in it. Mmm, no. In my book, it's no longer a latke at that point.

So I found another recipe for Sephardic pumpkin pancakes from the Salt Lake Tribune and started to modify that for sweet potatoes, since I have been leaning a little too heavily on pumpkin stuff so far. But since I'm starting with raw, shredded sweet potatoes instead of boiled pumpkin, I've decided I really need to actually cook the darn things before I ask my readers to do the experiment for me.

I will try and do that sometime this weekend, with my sincere apologies for not having something in time for the beginning of Hanukkah. Do, though, check out Bureka Boy's gorgeous and encyclopedic post on latkes.

Hag sameach!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Chai tea

I like the way she set it up, so I'm just going to link here to Jane's chai recipe, rather than steal outright as I usually do. I haven't tried making the mix yet, but I have accumulated all of the ingredients but the bulk (green) tea and the star anise, and I'm picking those up during my wanderings tomorrow.

Caveat: I have my doubts about Stevia. I've heard that the manufacturers haven't submitted safety data to FDA for classification as a sweetener, so I'm sticking with sugar for now.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Burmese ginger salad (gin thoke)

I had ginger salad at lunch today (at Spices in Washington, DC's, Cleveland Park) and thought it might be easy to make. Here's a recipe that seems about right, though the version I had might have been a more traditional not-quite-vegetarian version. According to the recipe I picked, "ginger salad is often served as an appetizer in the United States but as a dessert or palate cleanser in Burma. Select the youngest and freshest ginger possible, avoiding any dried or discolored pieces. For a different, sweeter taste, try substituting red pickled ginger." I'm going to try it with the pickled ginger.

1/2 cup very thinly sliced fresh ginger
3 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 Tbs. sesame seeds
2 Tbs. peanut oil
2 Tbs. sliced garlic
1 small tomato, coarsely chopped
1 cup diced cabbage
3 Tbs. ground roasted peanuts
2 Tbs. low-sodium or “white” soy sauce
1 Tbs. chickpea flour
Hot green chilies, minced, optional

1. Combine ginger and 2 tablespoons lime juice, and set aside to marinate for a minimum of 2 hours.
2. Dry-roast sesame seeds in large skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Remove from heat, and set aside. Heat oil in same skillet over medium heat, and sauté garlic slices until brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside.
3. Squeeze lime juice from ginger. Combine ginger, tomato, cabbage, peanuts, garlic, remaining oil and sesame seeds. Add soy sauce and remaining lime juice. Sprinkle with chickpea flour, and toss. Garnish with finely chopped chilies, if using.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


More on no-knead bread

A follow-up article by Mark Bittman, who wrote the original (posted by me here). My own thoughts: I disagree with Bittman (and others) about the salt; half a tablespoon is probably enough for me. True about rye - one third rye flour was tasty but it didn't rise well (though it may also have been too wet). Regular whole wheat flour was wonderful (one cup wheat to two cups white bread flour), but I had to add a bit more water as the wheat flour was "thirsty." Speaking of water, I think Bittman's suggestion of "almost too wet to handle" sounds right, though it may only become apparent after rising, which may be too late. A Silpat mat is a good idea, instead of a towel (though I don't have one); I learned to put the towel and dough on a plate, because it soaks right through. Re. baking - I started using the crock of my crock pot, but the oven spring is not so great, so I may try preheating it longer.

And yes, this bread did change my life.

New York Times
December 6, 2006
The Minimalist
No Kneading, but Some Fine-Tuning

LAST month I wrote about Jim Lahey, the owner of Sullivan Street Bakery on West 47th Street in Manhattan, and his clever way to produce a European-style boule at home. Mr. Lahey’s recipe calls for very little yeast, a wet dough, long rising times and baking in a closed, preheated pot. My results with Mr. Lahey’s method have been beyond satisfying.

Happily, so have those of most readers. In the last few weeks Jim Lahey’s recipe has been translated into German, baked in Togo, discussed on more than 200 blogs and written about in other newspapers. It has changed the lives (their words, not mine) of veteran and novice bakers. It has also generated enough questions to warrant further discussion here. The topics are more or less in the order of the quantity of inquiries.

WEIGHT VS. VOLUME The original recipe contained volume measures, but for those who prefer to use weight, here are the measurements: 430 grams of flour, 345 grams of water, 1 gram of yeast and 8 grams of salt. With experience, many people will stop measuring altogether and add just enough water to make the dough almost too wet to handle.

SALT Many people, me included, felt Mr. Lahey’s bread was not salty enough. Yes, you can use more salt and it won’t significantly affect the rising time. I’ve settled at just under a tablespoon.

YEAST Instant yeast, called for in the recipe, is also called rapid-rise yeast. But you can use whatever yeast you like. Active dry yeast can be used without proofing (soaking it to make sure it’s active).

TIMING About 18 hours is the preferred initial rising time. Some readers have cut this to as little as eight hours and reported little difference. I have not had much luck with shorter times, but I have gone nearly 24 hours without a problem. Room temperature will affect the rising time, and so will the temperature of the water you add (I start with tepid). Like many other people, I’m eager to see what effect warmer weather will have. But to those who have moved the rising dough around the room trying to find the 70-degree sweet spot: please stop. Any normal room temperature is fine. Just wait until you see bubbles and well-developed gluten — the long strands that cling to the sides of the bowl when you tilt it — before proceeding.

THE SECOND RISE Mr. Lahey originally suggested one to two hours, but two to three is more like it, in my experience. (Ambient temperatures in the summer will probably knock this time down some.) Some readers almost entirely skipped this rise, shaping the dough after the first rise and letting it rest while the pot and oven preheat; this is worth trying, of course.

OTHER FLOURS Up to 30 percent whole-grain flour works consistently and well, and 50 percent whole-wheat is also excellent. At least one reader used 100 percent whole-wheat and reported “great crust but somewhat inferior crumb,” which sounds promising. I’ve kept rye, which is delicious but notoriously impossible to get to rise, to about 20 percent. There is room to experiment.

FLAVORINGS The best time to add caraway seeds, chopped olives, onions, cheese, walnuts, raisins or whatever other traditional bread flavorings you like is after you’ve mixed the dough. But it’s not the only time; you can fold in ingredients before the second rising.

OTHER SHAPES Baguettes in fish steamers, rolls in muffin tins or classic loaves in loaf pans: if you can imagine it, and stay roughly within the pattern, it will work.

COVERING BETWEEN RISES A Silpat mat under the dough is a clever idea (not mine). Plastic wrap can be used as a top layer in place of a second towel.

THE POT The size matters, but not much. I have settled on a smaller pot than Mr. Lahey has, about three or four quarts. This produces a higher loaf, which many people prefer — again, me included. I’m using cast iron. Readers have reported success with just about every available material. Note that the lid handles on Le Creuset pots can only withstand temperatures up to 400 degrees. So avoid using them, or remove the handle first.

BAKING You can increase the initial temperature to 500 degrees for more rapid browning, but be careful; I scorched a loaf containing whole-wheat flour by doing this. Yes, you can reduce the length of time the pot is covered to 20 minutes from 30, and then increase the time the loaf bakes uncovered. Most people have had a good experience baking for an additional 30 minutes once the pot is uncovered.

As these answers demonstrate, almost everything about Mr. Lahey’s bread is flexible, within limits. As we experiment, we will have failures. (Like the time I stopped adding flour because the phone rang, and didn’t realize it until 18 hours later. Even this, however, was reparable). This method is going to have people experimenting, and largely succeeding, until something better comes along. It may be quite a while.

Saturday, December 02, 2006



My friend Aaron asked me for a guacamole recipe, so here it is. (Hey, Aaron! You're famous!) I confess that I've been lazy lately (well, disorganized anyway) and have been bringing Trader Joe's guac to potlucks, but this is the real deal. At least in my book...

There's an art to gauging the ripeness of an avocado, and you definitely want Hass, which are smaller and wrinklier than the Florida ones (which are OK but sort of watery, not as rich). It's rare to find them in the store at the right point, so buy them when they are green and let them sit with onions or bananas outside the fridge for a few days. They should be almost black, and slightly soft but not mushy. When you cut them in half, the flesh should be pale green and it should fall away from the pit.

As for the rest of the recipe, the quantities can be varied to your taste. (But no mayo or sour cream, please; that's just wrong.)

2 ripe avocadoes
lime juice: somewhere between a half and a whole lime, to taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely (or pressed)
1 small tomato, diced, on-the-vine or Roma type; you may want to take out the juice and seeds
dash Tabasco sauce or Mexican hot sauce in a bottle (not salsa), optional
salt (if you're not using hot sauce)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

Cut the avocadoes in half lengthwise. Put aside the pits. Scoop out the flesh with a table spoon, and mash it in a bowl with a fork, leaving some small chunks; you don't want it too smooth. Mash in the garlic, lime juice, tomatoes, hot sauce, and salt. Stir in the cilantro at the end so it doesn't get too bruised, or just sprinkle it on top as a garnish (so that the squeamish can pick it off). Serve with chips.


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