Monday, February 23, 2009

Yogurt Rolls

The main problem with recipes that I have memorized is sometimes I forget to add an ingredient. Someday I can post a chart here about every ingredient except flour and milk in my pancakes and what happens when you leave them out. I have my everyday bread recipe memorized and I rarely refer to the recipes it is based on. After all their ingredients and technique are wrong. On Friday I needed to make bread as we were all out, however I also had to leave the house at 10 A.M. and I was not going to be back until dinner time. No problem, my husband would be home by 12:30, so with a quick tutorial on loaf shaping, Lewis agreed to form and bake the bread. (He was a little apprehensive). For some reason the bread took a lot of flour and time to get to the right consistency, so I had to slap a lid on the mixer bowl, write 375° 40 - 45 mins on a scrap of paper and run out the door.

When I got home for Dinner Lewis told me he had no problems with shaping and baking the bread. Although, when he got home it had popped the lid off the bowl. So Lewis shaped the dough, put them in pans and left the kitchen. He has been around when I have made bread so he knew that the loaves would need to rise a little before the oven needed to be preheated, or so he thought... Apparently he walked in the kitchen after 20 minutes and they were already completely risen. As he told me the story I quickly began to review my dough making that morning. I was specifically trying to recall if I added salt. Of all the ingredients in my bread, salt is the one I have often forgotten. It has never really been a problem before, as I have always caught it when the bread has begun rising at an alarming rate. Salt retards the yeast action, so if I forget it the dough rises really rapidly. One taste of the loaves and their flat taste proved it, I forgot the salt. Sigh.

So I figured we could still use the bread for cinnamon toast with a little salt added and toast with jam, but we need a replacement for sandwiches. So rather then make more bread I tried the yogurt rolls my friend found on Baking Bites and raved about. The rolls call for all white flour but I substituted whole wheat pastry flour for some of the white flour. I discovered recently that we no longer like all white baked goods, finding them insipid and flavorless. Recently I made a batch of Touch of Grace Biscuits that none of us liked. I sent them in to my husband's office where they were devoured with rave reviews, so it is not that I messed up the recipe.

The rolls are wonderful, soft and fluffy with a delicate wheat taste that is perfect every way I have tried them: with butter warm from the oven, with tahini sauce and a cold black bean burger, toasted with jam... I cannot wait to try them with hamburgers and I will use this dough next time I want to make hot dog buns.

Soft Yogurt Sandwich Rolls
adapted from baking Bites

1 1/2 - 2 cups whole what pastry flour
2 - 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
3 Tbsp honey
1 cup tepid water (105° - 115° F)
1 cup yogurt (I used Greek style yogurt, the original says lowfat or non fat is fine but I would stick with whole milk)
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/2 tsp salt

In bowl of stand mixer combine 1/2 cup flour, yeast, honey and tepid water. Stir well and let stand for 10 minutes until bubbles form. (If you are sure that your yeast is still fresh you can skip this step).
With flat beater blade stir in yogurt, extra virgin olive oil, salt and 2 cups of the remaining flour. Gradually mix in remaining flour until you have a soft dough that pulls from the sides of the bowl. (This can be done in a bowl with wooden spoon or silicone spatula until this point and then turn out onto a floured counter and knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes). Change to the dough hook and continue to knead until smooth and elastic. Cover bowl with lid and let rise until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375° F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn dough out of bowl onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate, pressing into a rectangle. Divide dough into 10 equal pieces with a board scraper or pizza cutter. (Or totally mess up on making equal pieces and pull out your scale to divide the vastly different piles into even ones). Shape each piece into a round ball by taking the dough and pinching together the sides, giving you a smooth top. Place them on the baking sheet.

Once all the rolls are shaped, press down firmly on each one to flatten. Cover with a clean damp dish towel and let rise for 25 minutes.
bake for about 20 minutes, until rolls are a deep golden brown on the top and bottom. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 10 rolls

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Creamy Red Cabbage with Fennel and Mustard Seed

The other day I had some pork chops to prepare for dinner and I was bored by any of my usual recipes. So I pulled one of my favorite cookbooks, Molly Stevens' All About Braising, down off the shelf and immersed myself in the pork section. I found a recipe for pork chops with creamy cabbage, which was handy as I had half a head of red cabbage in the fridge, (the recipe calls for green cabbage). Wait I hear you crying, there is no mention of pork in the title of this post! Well, while I did find this recipe because I had pork chops, in the end the chops were not the star, and for this braise not essential. In most braises that include meat, there is a mingling of flavors from the meat and the vegetables, seasonings and liquid. Doing without any one element would defeat the whole purpose of the original braise and leave you with boring food. In this braise though the pork added little if anything to the cabbage.

The cabbage however was delicious, creamy as the name implies and subtly flavored. The flavors would have been more aggressive if I went with the spicing Molly used. The original calls for caraway seed and yellow mustard seed. However I was not in the mood for the caraway cabbage combination that is so common. I love the flavor of the pork loin braised in milk from the same book, that uses fennel seed. Fennel seed does not add a strong licorice flavor here, so please try this even if you don't like licorice. In fact the fennel here is even more subtle than it is in sweet italian sausage.

This recipe is a great discovery for me as we have a winter CSA, (Community Supported Agriculture) at the Intervale Community Farm that unmercilessly gifts us with a head of cabbage every other week. Slowly I am learning how to prepare the cabbage so we actually want to eat it, the 2 butternut squashes every other week are still a challenge. So in the future I will be making this without the pork chops as a side dish. I have included the chops in the recipe because they were tasty, just not amazing, and there is a lot to be said for one pot meals. I am thinking in the future I will also try this with my hand formed lamb sausages in place of the pork.

Creamy Red Cabbage with Fennel and Mustard Seed
With or Without Pork

4 1 inch thick pork chops (try to buy pork that has not been enhanced with water and chemicals)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup flour
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 large shallot
2 cloves of garlic, germ removed if any, smashed
1/2 head small red cabbage (about 1 pound), cored and thinly shredded
1/2 cup riesling wine, or your favorite white wine, not too dry
2/3 cup water
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 small chicken bouillon cube crushed (or use a veggie cube if you are making this for vegetarians, leave out the pork too)
1/4 cup half and half

Make sure the pork chops are dry and season on both sides with salt and pepper and then dredge in the flour on both sides. Heat the oil in a shallow 10 - 12 inch braising pan (I used my 12 inch Le Creuset deep saute pan) over medium high heat. When the oil is hot tap the excess flour from each chop and place as many as will fit without touching. Cook without moving them about 4 minutes until browned, turn and cook on the second side until well browned, 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a large plate, pour of any remaining oil and wipe out any flour from the pan.

(Start here if you are making the cabbage without the pork) Melt the butter over medium heat and add the fennel and mustard seed, Cook stirring with a silicone spatula until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the shallot and sauté until the shallot has softened, approximately 2 minutes. Add the cabbage and smashed garlic cloves and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium low. Cook the cabbage, stirring often until it is wilted.

Add the wine and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the water, vinegar, and bouillon cube and stir to dissolve the bouillon cube and blend the flavors. Bring to a gentle simmer and then lay the pork chops on top of the cabbage (if using pork). Cover tightly and reduce heat to low and simmer gently. Check after a few minutes that the liquid is simmering very slowly, if not reduce the heat or use a heat diffuser. Turn the chops after 10 minutes and braise until the chops register 150° on a meat thermometer. this should take about 20 minutes, if omitting pork, braise for 20 minutes.

Transfer the pork chops to a serving dish and increase the heat to medium high to bring the liquid to a boil. Stir in the half and half and boil gently to thicken the liquid. Taste for salt and pepper and serve, spooning cabbage over the chops if serving chops.

Note: Since posting this I have made the cabbage without the pork chops. My husband said it was better without the pork. Although in all honesty i have to say I changed it slightly because i did not have any riesling on hand. I used water with a splash of cream sherry for the riesling.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Black Bean Burgers

Last spring in preparation for going to hear Michael Pollan speak, I read, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto I realized that many of the veggie meat substitutes we ate were highly processed, with all the implications to the planet and our health as a Twinkie. So while it may be lower in fat then the real thing, the ingredients are shipped all over the country and many of the ingredients are not possible to make in your home kitchen. You can make them but you need chemicals and chemical reactions to produce them. So gone are the veggie bacon, veggie sausage and veggie burgers from my freezer. Sigh. We aren't vegetarians but these products were so convenient.

I tried to make veggie burgers last spring. My 6 year old was so excited for a "homemade veggie burger", right up until the moment he tasted them. Well this months Gourmet has a black bean burger recipe. It looked so appetizing in the photo and the recipe was easy, so I decided to try again to make veggie burgers.

The recipe called for 2 cans of black beans, however I used dried. Dried beans are cheaper, tastier, lower in sodium and are not mushy. I have figured out 2 tricks to make cooking with dried beans easier. The first one is, just go ahead and soak and cook up some beans. Once they are done look up recipes and cook with the beans now residing in your fridge. Cooked beans in the fridge are like beautiful produce you found at the farmer's market that you bought on a whim. (No, this doesn't mean you should leave them there until they become compost). Once it is lounging in the fridge you have to be creative and use it.

The second and often harder approach for me, is plan ahead. Cooking dried beans is really not that time consuming in a hands on way. So if you want to cook with beans for dinner, remember to soak the beans the night before.

So for these burgers I rinsed, sorted and began soaking the beans before going to bed the night before. Cooking them for dinner took about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. If you cannot do that the night you need them soak them overnight and while making dinner on the second night cook them until tender. Then put them in the fridge for the next nights dinner prep. You can also just used canned beans, I give you permission.

The first time I made the Black Bean Burgers my 3 year old was in the kitchen watching, snacking on black beans. His brother was not much of a bean eater so I swore him to secrecy, and went ahead and prepared the burgers. At dinner that night 3 out of 4 of my family members loved them. Surprisingly the 3 year old bean lover is the one who would not eat them. However I think that is related to the 3 bowls of beans he had snacked on during dinner preparation.

I prepared them again last night, making even more changes to the recipe based on the first attempt. One of the changes is because of my new jar of Smoked Spanish Paprika that I got from a Penzy's order that Cheryl of Cranky Cakes and I split. They were even better last night with the new additions and are now firmly part of my repertoire. Last night my 6 year old even figured out they were made with beans and now says he loves beans because "they are so yummy". The 3 year old again opted for the bowl of plain beans, because now he remembers refusing them the first time. If I come up with any other great changes I will let you know.

Black Bean Burgers
Adapted from Gourmet, February 2009

1 cup dried beans
1 bay leaf
1 onion chopped
1 tsp butter
2 garlic cloves, germ removed if any, and minced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp smoked paprika (If you don't have smoked use regular sweet paprika)
1 tsp dried mixed herbs (I used a mix of thyme, marjoram, and basil. Oregano would also work well, stay away from dill, and sage).
1 tsp tomato paste
2/3 cups bread crumbs lightly toasted in a 350° oven or toaster oven, divided use
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 Tbsp Olive Oil

addition 8-19-09
(adding tsp of powdered egg whites to the mix makes the burgers hold together better)

Pick over and rinse the dried beans and then soak in 6 cups water at least 6 hours. Drain and rinse the beans and place in a large pot with 6 - 8 cups water and add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. After about 45 minutes add salt to taste, continue simmering beans until they are tender. Cooking time varies based on the type of bean, their age and quality. In this case total cooking time was approximately 1 1/2 hours. While the beans cook melt the butter in a pan and add the onion. Stir the onion to coat with the butter and sprinkle lightly with salt. Lower the heat to low and cook stirring occasionally until light golden brown. When the onion has reached the desired color add the garlic and cook briefly.

After beans are tender put 1 1/4 cups drained beans in a food processor with mayonnaise, cumin, soy sauce, paprika, dried herbs, tomato paste, 1/3 cup toasted bread crumbs and pulse until a coarse purée forms. Empty into a bowl and stir until well combined with the cilantro and 1 1/2 cup cooked black beans. It is helpful but not essential to place in the fridge for 30 minutes before forming. To form burgers place remaining bread crumbs on a plate. Form mixture into 4 - 6 burgers with wet hands. When shaped coat both sides of patty with bread crumbs.

To cook, heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a large non stick skillet until hot but not smoking and cook until golden brown on each side. If desired put sliced cheese on the top after flipping.

Why Hippo Flambé?

A title like Hippo Flambé deserves an explanation. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, I do not intend to post a recipe for hippo, flambéed or otherwise. I also do not plan on feeding my children hippo. However in my house when my children ask what is available to eat or what is for dinner I often say a hippo dish. My children then say, "Noooo," and I suggest another hippo dish. My favorite one to offer for their culinary enjoyment is, "rancid pygmy hippo." However that one seemed a little off putting for a food blog. Hippo flambé is my second favorite, and much more appealing for a food blog.

I also think hippo flambé says a lot about my sense of humor and my family culture. We often get into verbal sparring around here. As an example of this sparring, once when looking at a LEGO® catalog (crack catalogs for my children), we noticed a Luke Skywalker model. The description read, not to be played with. Well, we had a very enjoyable dinner that evening with everyone coming up with item descriptions as ludicrous as a toy you are not to play with. Sink: don't get wet, chair: not for sitting, pencil: not for writing, bathing suit: not for use in water... One day several months later my 6 year old and I were at a friends house and he spotted the Luke Skywalker Model. He could hardly contain his excitement and amusement at seeing it.

However back to the blog, Welcome to Hippo Flambé!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

"If you don't come to eat dinner now daddy and I will eat all the brussels sprouts." This is the threat/promise I used the other night to get my children to stop playing with their LEGO® and come to the table. Here is the amazing thing that I have to mention only among select groups of parents, or duck... It worked. Granted the brussels sprouts were not boiled into a sulfurous mess, instead they were served after roasting in the oven until they caramelized a little. The threat might have actually been a promise if I had not made enough of them for us to have for dinner two nights in a row, just warming them in the oven the second night. They were nutty, sweet and crunchy in spots, basically they were delicious. A smaller quantity my husband and I could have easily finished. Last night we had broccoli instead and my 3 year old complained about their absence. Mind you he still ate his weight in broccoli.

I feel that before I share the recipe for roasted brussels sprouts, although some might just say it is a method, I should write about why I believe my children eat vegetables. The first one I alluded to when I mentioned that I did not boil the brussels sprouts. When I prepare vegetables I make them taste good in whatever method appeals most to me. So for example I am not afraid to add butter, salt, pepper, other seasonings and even in some cases, gasp a pinch of sugar. I don't overcook them and I don't boil them.

One of my goals is to raise my boys to enjoy good food, even to be food snobs. I don't really care all that much what they do for a living when they grow up, but when I get invited to their houses for dinner I want to eat well. Before either one of them was born I knew that parents have a lot of power in a child's relationship to food as my mother had me brainwashed. She would make these proclamations about some foods in this horrified voice and I would agree. I was 18 before it dawned on me that, without the scornful tone, fruit yogurt being nothing more then "yogurt with jam added," sounded pretty tasty. I am still afraid of cotton candy because it is "just straight sugar with food coloring added." Somehow when I said this to my boys they were even more excited at the prospect. Sigh, I am not as persuasive as my mother.

However I still try to follow my mothers lead when it comes to feeding my children. Not that she was a great cook, or even someone who enjoyed it. However she believed in real food. (I won't hold it against her that she insisted on margarine instead of butter, the health experts in the seventies were pretty good at brainwashing as well). My mother also refused to cook a special or different meal for the kids. If we did not like what was served we could have cheese or cereal, or make something ourselves. When I went through a phase in 3rd grade of not wanting tomato sauce on pasta I made my own sauce with butter (actually margarine, but as I already alluded to that was not my choice), garlic and lemon juice.

My brother and I were some of the most adventurous kid eaters I knew. Actually I really enjoyed the sport element of ordering spinach, broccoli or liver as a restaurant when I was a child. To be honest I was not a huge fan of liver, but occasionally I would eat it just for the joy of ordering it in a restaurant and seeing the look on the waitresses face. Before I had children I believed our eating habits were a result of not being forced to eat anything.

Then when my oldest was 2 he became picky, refusing foods he had previously loved. As any mother who loves to cook and eat would do, I panicked. Dinner time became a battle ground with him yelling yuck over the food I had taken so much time to prepare. He was refusing foods he had previously loved: tomato sauce, beets, eggplant... I would argue with him, try to negotiate that he take one bite, changing menus to appease him, once even telling him we would not go out for some fun activity if he did not try his dinner. The gagging response meant I only tried that once.

Then I came to my senses, albeit probably slowly, and went back to what I had done before. I prepared food that I wanted to make and eat. I made sure I felt good about every item I placed on the table so I would not freak out when he chose to make his dinner of only one thing on his plate. Once I stopped freaking out and letting his comments get to me, I began to enjoy my meal again. Eventually he also learned not to say cutting things about what I prepare and is slowly developing the palate I had hoped for. So is his brother, although his brother also puts my childhood vegetable eating to shame, and to be honest my adult vegetable eating as well. They still have some kid food pickiness, but now I have faith that this too shall pass. So last year as I chopped and sauteed, preparing chicken roasted on fennel dressing to go in the oven, the boys stood on step stools watching and one of them stage whispered to the other one, "That looks yucky to us, right." I just laughed and told my husband the story later. The fact that currently neither one of them will eat tomato sauce on pasta just means I buy Barilla Plus, which does not use vitamins to make it more nutritious but actual real food like beans, spelt and flaxseed. I feel like I get the last laugh here as they like their pasta plain with Parmigiano-Reggiano grated on top, not exactly a kid friendly cheese.

One other thing that I think really helps is I cook and I don't hide what I am doing. My boys and I have had many discussions about ingredients. So while I agree with them that I would never willingly drink fish sauce on its own, or even buttermilk, we like them as ingredients. As a mater of fact when I made a dipping sauce for spring rolls the other night with fish sauce they both gleefully stood next to the finished product dipping anything I would let them have into it. And yes, they do know that fish sauce is made by letting anchovies rot in the sun and collecting the liquid that comes of. This is why we use it as an ingredient and do not drink it!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 large bunch fresh brussels sprouts
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 - 45o degrees. Basically if you are making something else in the oven the sprouts can adjust. The other day I was making braised turkey in the oven at 300 degrees, I still tossed in the sprouts early on, no reason to waste the oven space, and when the turkey was done I turned the temperature up to 400 with convection.

Trim the stem pretty close to the leaves and then pull off any leaves that look unappealing. If the leaves are bruised deeply you can also trim off the area in question. For smallish sprouts cut them in half lengthwise, for larger ones cut them in fourths.

Place the brussels sprouts on a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on kosher salt and freshly grated pepper. Afterwards toss them around with your hands making sure that the sprouts are well covered in oil. roast in the oven, shaking the pan occasionally, until the sprouts are nice and caramelized (brown) over much of their surface area and tender but not mushy when pierced with a fork or knife. I am afraid I have no idea how long this takes, especially as I gave a range of temperatures. I just check them when I go to shake the pan. I will have to pay better attention the next time I make them. (since originally posting this I actually paid attention once and cooked them for 45 minutes at 400°)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Everyday Bread

To introduce myself I thought I would share my everyday bread recipe with you. I make this bread at least once a week. The recipe makes 2 loaves of bread and we have no trouble using both loaves before they go bad. When I bake this bread I use local whole wheat flour and often local cracked wheat. For white flour I use King Arthur All Purpose, while it is not grown here it is a local company. Local is my first level of concern when I go shopping, although for some items price elbows the local aside. For meat I don't stray.

Years ago we used to buy Cracked Wheat Bread made by a local bakery. Everyone in the family loved it, then the bakery went out of business. I tried many other breads, none of them satisfied us and I resented the money I was spending on them. Well after fiddling with other recipes I came up with this one. It makes great toast, wonderful french toast and if I time it to be ready for dinner we can eat a whole loaf fresh out of the oven. When I have nubbly ends left it also makes great bread crumbs.

There is one problem with this bread, my children often snub bread at other people's houses. Ahh well, if I want to raise food snobs, I appear to be well on my way.

A note on ingredients, I use carob molasses when I have it. We go to Truro, Massachusetts in the summer and when I am there I make a pilgrimage to the Atlantic Spice Company. They carry the carob molasses. Last year I bought 4 jars, I might run out before the summer. If I don't have carob molasses I just use regular molasses, or honey, or grade b maple syrup. Most of the time I use cracked wheat, however I have made this bread with 7 grain cereal, oatmeal, leftover rice, and later this week I will probably use the polenta leftover from tonight. Other cereals need a different quantity of water, I believe oatmeal is 2/3 of a cup of water to 1/3 cups of oatmeal, same for 7 grain. Basically use the standard ratio for the grain in question. I do think the cracked wheat is the tastiest though. I have even made this with plain milk when I was out of buttermilk. We still ate it all.

Everyday Cracked Wheat Bread

1/2 cup cracked wheat (plus an optional 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup warm water 110 - 120 degrees
2 packages active dry yeast (1 package is 2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tsp salt (I use kosher)
1/4 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp carob molasses (or use molasses or honey or real maple syrup)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

Cook 1/2 cup cracked wheat in 1 1/2 cups water over low heat until the water is mostly absorbed. Remove from the flame and stir in remaining 1/4 cup of cracked wheat if desired (the last 1/4 gives the bread a little crunchy chewiness which is really nice, although it makes slightly inferior toast this way), add the butter in 4 slices to melt. Place the 1/4 cup warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer with the yeast and stir to blend.

After the butter is melted add the buttermilk to the cracked wheat and butter and stir so everything is warm. Add cracked wheat, butter, buttermilk, salt, sugar and molasses to bowl of mixer and mix well with the beater blade. Add all of the whole wheat flour and mix well. Switch to the dough hook and add the white flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and is not sticky to the touch. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover with the bowl lid or a damp cloth. Allow to rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size. Punch down the dough and butter two 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 inch loaf pans well. Form 2 loaves and place in pans. Cover the pans with a damp towel and allow to rise until the dough is just cresting the top of the pans, approximately 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool on a rack before devouring.