Saturday, March 28, 2015

What's for lunch? A Refridgerator-Clearer Frittata

Frittatas are a go-to leftover clearer in my house.  Leftovers present a challenge to cooks that have finicky eaters in the house. I happen to love finding things to do with them, but I have run across finicky eaters that don't like leftovers, or anything do to with them.  Frittatas, which are essentially a baked omelet, are a great disguise for anything that you need to rid of in your fridge. 

Last night was a "Wii Kirk" at our little Presbyterian church in Arlington, VA. WE have about one a month in the cooler times of the year.   The pastor's wife, St. Cheryl of Shirlington, and I bake a total of about 20 to 30 pizzas for whoever shows up, we set up a big screen with a Nintendo Wii attached for the kids or whomever to play.  People bring things to share, like salads, dessert, wine, home brewed beer, etc.  It's a grand way to start the weekend!

Anyway, I found myself looking for something to make on Saturday for lunch.  These were the things that fell out of my 'fridge, some were left over from the Wii Kirk ...

 So above we have, clockwise from the far left in the rubbermaid plastic bowl - sauteed peppers and mushrooms, in the small container above there's about 5 cloves of roasted garlic from something I made last week, in the center is a single carrot, above that 1/2 a yellow pepper, then 10 spears of asparagus, at the top there's a small container of leftover roasted potatoes, on the right that's about a single onion, thinly sliced, 3 eggs, and finally at the bottom fresh basil.

 Above are these things all prepped - from lower left, those roasted potatoes, 1 shredded carrot, those peppers and mushrooms, the green stuff next to the carrots is the basil, between the carrots and basil is that roasted garlic minced, next to that is the yellow pepper, and in the ramekin in the upper right is the asparagus.
To start I added 1 Tbls of olive oil to a saute pan and heated for a couple minutes over medium heat:

Add, and saute until the onions are translucent:

 Add, and saute for about 3 minutes, do NOT overcook the asparagus, or it will get stringy and gross [bleah]:

Roasted garlic
roasted potatoes
sauteed peppers and mushrooms

At this time also add whatever herbs/spices you'd like:
I added about 1/2 tsp of salt, some freshly ground pepper and a sprinkling of Italian Seasoning.

 Break the 3 or 4 eggs into a bowl and scramble well, pour over the vegetable mixture and make sure that it's well incorporated throughout the dish.  Allow to cook on your stove top for about 2 minutes so the eggs are starting to set.

Remove from the cooktop, and place under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes. Don't let it burn, it can happen quickly, so you need to watch it.  You can't walk away or you can have a disaster on your hands.  Voice of experience here...

SO this is the finished product, this was enough for the two of us, but if you have smaller appetites you could stretch this to feed four - add a salad and some bread, maybe. That's dinner!  I served this with my Faux-oli - Mayo, dijon mustard and horseradish and a slice of my Knearly Kno-Knead Bread.  It was pretty choice, and my 'fridge is cleared of a LOT of stuff!

You can really put anything you can imagine in a frittata,

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Clark's Knearly Kno-Knead Artisan Boule

Several years ago, the NY Times Mark Bittman, published a  No-Knead artisan bread recipe that launched thousands of youtube and blog posts. It's really simple - flour, water, salt and a lot less yeast than you think you'd need, bake it in a cast-iron dutch oven in a 500 degree oven for 30 minutes with the cover on, 15 minutes with the cover off.  The result is a lovely, round "store bought" appearing loaf.  The crust is crunchy and the inside is moist and chewy.  A long rise time gives it a tangy, sourdough flavor. The magazine Cook's Illustrated, tweaked this recipe a year or so ago, adding beer and a some vinegar - allowing for a shorter rise time and a more pronounced sourdough flavor.

Mark Bittman's recipe never worked right for me, the bottom was always burned.  Also, because it was no-knead, I often found streaks of unincorporated flour in the boule - not cool.  Kneading for just about 2 minutes, will ensure this doesn't happen.  I have made several changes to his basic method that work for me and my oven and kitchen - YMMV (ye olde geeketh-speaketh for "your mileage may vary").  I reduce the temperature to 450 degrees, and decrease the final "un-lidded" baking is 10 minutes instead of 15.  I add 1 cup of whole wheat flour with 2 cups of all purpose or bread flour, instead of all white flour  - NOTE: I have tried all wheat flour and it was a door-stop - dense, dry, heavy, I tried 1/2 WW Flour and 1/2 unbleached AP, and it was okay, but I prefer 1/3 WW/2/3 AP flour best, I keep the addition of vinegar from the Cook's method, but left out the beer because it's too fussy.  I also use parchment paper to add and remove the boule to the pot, and it also protects the bottom from getting too browned.  Which probably sounds fussy, but I wouldn't bake bread without it. I might get into that in a future post. Parchment paper is God's gift to bakers.

Here's what the finished loaf looks like.  Pretty, right?  This too can be yours!

I usually bake it in the winter months, when I don't mind heating up the kitchen.

NOTE: You need a cast-iron dutch oven with a secure fitting lid for this recipe. Mine is a Lodge #10 1/4. It holds about one gallon. I bought it at Walmart sometime in the 1980s after the earth had cooled, but the dinosaurs were not yet wiped out by the massive asteroid - but I digress. The idea is that when the dough it cooking the steam is captured in the closed vessel - mimicking a commercial bread oven that injects steam during the baking process.  This makes the crispy, crust and chewy interior.

Clark's Knearly Kno-Knead Artisan Boule

In a large pyrex bowl dry-wisk together(you can see in the pix, that I used an 2 quart mixing bowl - Pamper Chef's finest!):

2 cups unbleached flour or bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp of instant yeast (use a 1/2 tsp measure, and don't fill it all the really don't need as much yeast as most bread recipes call for, I have found)

When these ingredients are completely mixed together, stir in with a rubber spatula:

1 1/2 cups of warm water (it doesn't have to be hot, it just needs to be warm to the touch)
1 Tbls of distilled vinegar

Mix these together, adding more warm water if it's too dry.  Pour out on a lightly floured surface.  Knead for about 1 - 2 minutes, until the ball of dough is smooth and all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Put the ball back in the glass bowl (you don't need to clean it out, it's unnecessary).  Put it in a warm space (I put it in my microwave), allow to rise undisturbed (well, if you need the microwave for something, go ahead and use it, just replace your boule when you are done) for at least 18 hours - longer is ok, though.  I made this one at noon on a Friday, and baked it at 9am the next morning, so it was something like a 21 hour rise.

Here's the ball of dough after 21 hours, it's roughly doubled in size and it's beautiful!  You wouldn't believe the wonderful, yeasty smell!

Put the lidded dutch over in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. 

Pour out on a floured surface (just a little), and form the dough into a ball.  Put the round on a piece of parchment paper, about 10 inches wide, and long enough to hold both ends with the boule in the middle. Score the boule with a sharp knife, however you'd like. This pattern makes an interesting design when it's baked. Scoring helps keep the boule in a uniform shape.

Cover this baby with a clean cloth towel and allow to rise for about 30 minutes or so, while the oven and the pot are pre-heating.

Remove the lid from the dutch oven, and use the ends of the parchment paper to place the boule in the middle of the pot.  Replace the lid, and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. This is hard, because the boule looks done at this point, but resist temptation and bake it 10 more minutes uncovered anyway.

Then you're done!  Allow the boule cool, until it's not to hot to handle, and enjoy! You have a perfect loaf of artisan bread to serve with whatever your heard desires!  Hmmm, beef stew sounds perfect, right? How about a hearty, black bean soup with sausages...the possibilities are endless!


Friday, March 13, 2015

Garden Season is Nigh!!

ZOMG!!!  It's getting near to garden season!!!  I cannot wait!  Are you with me??

Vegetarian "Pizza" Soup

Ok, it's not pizza, but it's really tasty. This is how this soup came about, it's one of the few recipes that I made up all by myself [preens a little :-)],  We do this thing out our Presbyterian Church called Wii Kirk every month or so.  Wii Kirk is on a Friday nights and the pastor's wife, whom I will always refer to as Saint Cheryl of Shirlington, bake an assortment of pizzas from scratch for whomever shows up.  The kids play Wii on the big screen, the parents have a glass of wine or two and have a nice start to their weekend.  It's become a mostly secular tradition at our little church. Saint Cheryl and I have a good time doing it, and it brings people to the church that might not attend a Sunday service.

Last year my spouse and I were doing this 28 day diet called Shred, and a Wii Kirk happened in the middle of this program.  I created this soup so that we wouldn't be tempted by the luscious pizzas- it didn't work, but it's a really amazing soup, with everything you'd put on a veggie pizza - plus cannelli beans for added protein. It was lacking in cheese flavor, but that's to be expected. If you weren't watching calories and fat you could add some Parmesan cheese to the top....ooooh!  A 1 cup serving will set you back about 170 calories (without cheese, of course).

So here it is:

ADD, 1 Tbls of olive oil to a stock pot, and sautee over medium heat the following, until the onions are translucent, about 2 - 3 minutes:

1 onion chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped (not mashed, it's nice to have the little chunks of garlic in the soup)

ADD, and sweat for about 2 - 3 minutes:

1 lb. of mushrooms, diced
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes


1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes
1 6-oz can of tomato paste
2 cups of water

SIMMER, until the mushrooms are fully cooked, about 10 - 15 minutes

ADD, and simmer an additional 5 minutes.

20 Kalamata Olives, chopped
6 Oil-packed Sun Dried Tomatos, diced
8 Artichoke hearts, halved or quartered depending on size (optional)
1 14-oz can of Cannelli Beans

All done!  Top with parmesan cheese if your are feeling reckless!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Spinach-Cannelli Bean Soup

I have made a version of this before with chicken and chicken stock, but this version is vegan and 'fasting-day' friendly.  I think a serving (a heaping cup) would probably be around 150 calories.  The two cups of pureed beans for the 'Bean Broth' add a creaminess to the soup that "almost" makes it seem like there is dairy in it.  I believe that this was adapted from a Lynne Rossetto Kasper (the host of that awesome public radio show, The Splendid Table) recipe, hers had chicken in it, I am pretty sure.

ABOUT THESE BEANS:  I prepared one pound of cannelli beans according to package directions, but they came out mushy. I am not sure what I did wrong.  I boiled them for a minute, then allowed to soak for an hour, then cooked for about 40 minutes (the package said to cook for ONE HOUR(!)).  One pound of dried cannelli beans yeilded between 5 and 6 cups of mushy beans.  They taste fine, it's just the texture.


PUREE in a blender, and set aside:

2 cups of prepared beans, or 1 15-oz can Cannelli Beans (or other white bean)
4 cups of water

Set aside the rest of the Cannelli beans, there should be between 3 - 4 cups leftover.


Bring to a boil in large pot or sauce pan,

6 cups of water,
1 Tbls salt

ADD, all at once or in batches, cook a couple of minutes until wilted (all that spinach cooks down to about 2 cups):

1 20-oz bag of fresh spinach

REMOVE THE Spinach and strain in a colander, when cool enough to handle, chop the spinach into smaller pieces.  Set this aside.

SAUTE in a large stock pot, in one Tbls of olive oil, until the onions are translucent:

2 medium onions, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped,
4 cloves of garlic, chopped (not minced)

ADD, the spices and saute for about 2 minutes:

1 tsps salt ( more or less to taste)
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp dried Italian Seasoning

ADD, and bring to a simmer:

The Bean  Broth you previously set aside,
The chopped spinach you set aside.
The other 2 + cups of Cannelli beans that was also set aside (or 1 15 oz can of Cannelli beans)
1 - 2 cups of water, if the soup is too thick, it should be the consistancy of cream soup/chowder
(NOTE: I also added 1 TBLS of a vegetable broth concentrate, called "Better Than Broth" that I bought at our Safeway)

Cook at a simmer for about 20 minutes.  You are all done! Buon Appetito!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew

I am still looking for low fat, vegan soup options for our two 'fasting' days. I combined two different recipes, that I found out on the intertubes and the results were WONDERFUL, you have the black beans with a with savory spices and big chunks of sweet potato that add a subtle nutty, sweetness. It's hearty enough to stick with you for a while.

About The Beans:  this recipe uses one whole pound of black beans.  I made them from dried beans, because I had the time and it's no big deal, they take approximately a couple hours ( pick through for small stones, add a tsp of salt, cover with water, bring them to a boil and remove from heat, soak for an hour, then cook until they are tender - black beans take about 30 - 40 minutes).  You don't don't have to babysit them, which makes it easy if you work-from-home.  One pound of dried beans yields about 6 - 7 cups of cooked beans.  If you don't care to cook your own beans, use three 15-oz cans of canned black beans (I usually use Goya brand).  Rinse them first, they have a lot of added salt.

In a big stock pot:

Heat 1 tbls of olive oil until shimmering

ADD and saute, until the onions are transluscent (about 3 minutes):

1 onion, chopped,
3 - 4 stalks of celery, diced
1 red pepper, diced

ADD, your spices and sautee for about a minute until fragrant

1 tsp garam masala or curry powder (optional, I know some don't like this)
2 tsps salt or more depending on taste
1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
1 tsp Spanish Smoked Paprika


7 cups of water or vegetable broth
3 sweet potatoes, diced into 3/4 inch cubes

Bring to a rapid simmer, and cook until the potatoes are done, 20-30 minutes

PUREE in a blender, with some of the liquid from the stew and add to the soup:

2 cups of black beans (or one of your cans of RINSED black beans)

[this black bean puree adds a richness to the stew]


the rest of the Black Beans, or 2 cans of RINSED canned black beans.

That's it!  It actually was better than I thought it would be.  Let me know what you think!