Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pantry Pita Pizza

Put together from ingredients on hand. Wonderfully musical when spoken, this dish was COVID-inspired on the Ides of March, 2020.
2 pita loaves
1 T olive oil
2 T olive tapenade
1/2 c hummus
1/2 c diced tomatoes, canned or fresh, drained
1/4 c ripe black olives, coarsely chopped
1/4 c feta cheese, crumbled
onion powder
crushed red pepper
Steam the pitas until soft in the microwave under a moist paper towel or cloth. Preheat toaster oven to 400 F. Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into the oven pan and use it to coat both sides of the pitas. Divide the ingredients on each loaf. Spread tapenade on each, then the hummus thickly, and then distribute the cheese, tomatoes, olives, and the seasonings to taste. Bake 12 minutes or until thoroughly heated through. Serves two.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Beef Vegetable Soup

Developed February, 2020 as a blending of familiar ingredients enriched with beef left over from an earlier meal or purchased at the deli.
2 T vegetable oil
1 c coarsely chopped green cabbage
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 c diced celery
1/2 c diced carrots
1 c diced potato
2 T tomato paste
1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped
4 oz white or brown mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 t minced garlic
2 c hot water
2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 c beef stock (Better than Bouillon™ is good)
1 14.5 oz can seasoned black beans (Bush's Cuban™ is good)
2 green onions, sliced
1 T porcini powder
1/2 t fish sauce
4 oz cooked lean beef
Spread potato, carrots, cabbage, celery, and onion on a large plate. Salt lightly, cover and microwave on high for 5 minutes or until noticeably softened. Vent carefully. Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium high and add the tomato paste. When darkened, stir in the garlic and, after 30 seconds, add the blanched vegetables, the tomato, and the mushrooms. Cook until reduced and colored. Stir in the beans, stock, and the water. Heat to a fast simmer for 20 minutes, with occasional stirring. Stir in the beef and heat through. Serves four. Ripped and torn croutons make a nice side.

Beef Shank Braised in Red Wine with Root Vegetables

Developed March, 2020. This hard-to-find, economical cut was purchased at La Superior Carniceria, a Mexican supermarket in Durham during an OLLI 'Foodie Field Trip, an activity now on hold until the pandemic is brought under control.

Beef Shank Braised in Red Wine with Root Vegetables
4 cross-cut beef shanks
1 large onion sliced through the root into eighths
2 ribs celery, cut obliquely into large pieces
4 carrots, roll-cut into large pieces
1 T minced garlic
3/4 c red wine
1/4 c ketchup
2 T tomato paste
2 c hot beef stock
2 bay leaves
8 peppercorns
3 allspice berries
2 T paprika, divided
1 lb thin-skinned potatoes, quartered lengthwise
Preheat oven to 340 F. Salt shanks well, dust both sides with flour, and snip the outside fascia to prevent curling. Arrange meat in the bottom of a covered roaster and top with vegetables, wine, ketchup, spices, and stock. Dust generously with paprika. Roast 25 minutes. Turn meat and vegetables, cover, lower heat to 315 F, and roast for 30 minutes.  Turn, add the potatoes, dust with paprika, and continue roasting covered until the meat is fork tender, about another hour. Replace water as it's lost. Variations: Omit potatoes and serve over egg noodles, or substitute beef cheek or shoulder for shank.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Broccoli Steamed in Soy-Sesame Sauce

This dish is an adaptation of the same technique first applied with tender vegetables. Simply put, freshly-cut vegetables are seasoned, sauced, and steamed in a one-dish process. From improvised steamer to the table in a few minutes.
8 oz (250 g) broccoli crowns, cut into large florets
2 green onions, cut into 2 inch lengths
1 T soy sauce
1/2 t dark sesame oil
1 t chicken stock concentrate
1 T water
1 t tapioca (or corn) starch
Arrange the vegetables in a flat bowl. top with seasonings, add water, and sprinkle on the starch. Hint: tapioca or corn starch in a shaker jar facilitates this step. Place into an active steamer. After 4 minutes, with tongs, cautiously toss the ingredients together. Continue steaming another 5 minutes or until tender. Toss again and serve. Optional: Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

No-Knead Bread in a Dutch Oven

This fail-proof recipe is a direct knockoff of one published by Mark Bittman in the NY Times Cooking section. I assert that placing this useful recipe outside the NYT paywall is fair use, as justified by the present National Emergency. Follow this recipe and virtually anybody can bake a loaf of delicious bread from flour, yeast, water and salt.
3 cups (385 g) all-­purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1⁄4 t instant yeast
1-1⁄4 t salt
1-5/8 c (385 g) water
Cornmeal as needed  
Step 1
In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest about 18 hours, at room temperature, about 70 degrees. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.
Step 2 
Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 15 minutes.
Step 3
Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a plain cotton towel with flour or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
Step 4
At least a half-hour before dough is ready put a 6- to 8-quart covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven and preheat to 450 ºF (230 ºC). When dough is ready, carefully remove HOT pot from oven. Remove the top towel, lift the dough from below the bottom towel and turn the dough into the pot, seam side up. Shake HOT pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and return to oven for 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is nicely browned. Cool on a rack. Yields a 1-1/2 lb (680 g) boule with a firm crust and a tender crumb.