How green was my shakshuka

I was looking for another savory breakfast food when I was reminded that for years I’ve thought about making the Middle Eastern egg and sauce dish called shakshuka.

There were no hard-to-find ingredients; it just never quite made the cut when I was looking for something new to try. Until this week.

Green shakshuka ingredients.

My now-beloved Cook It In Your Dutch Oven cookbook even had a recipe all ready for me. Sure, it’s a different take than the traditional — it has a green sauce rather than a red tomato-based one. But that sounded even better. I can always use more greens in my diet.

The recipe turned out fine, if not my favorite. It calls for adding herbs in at the end, though I think adding them to the base sauce and then again at the end would be better — so that more of their flavor seeps into the sauce but also has the fresh zip that their late addition adds. (I should add that my sweetie quite liked the dish so maybe I just don’t appreciate greens as much as I should.)

Other than that, be prepared to buy a lot of Swiss chard, and preferably the kind without red stems if you want it to look vibrant green rather than my brownish-green.

Look at all those beautiful herbs. Noms.

Here’s what I did, roughly following the recipe (though changing some proportions):

Ingredients 

  • 3 bunches Swiss chard, stems removed and reserved and leaves chopped
  • 12 oz. baby spinach
  • ¼ c. olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 t. ground coriander
  • ½ c. vegetable broth
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 T. chopped dill (I recommend more for sauce)
  • 2 T. fresh mint (I recommend a little more for sauce)
  • 1 t. dried Aleppo pepper, optional (I had on hand but it’s a mild crushed pepper so regular crushed pepper isn’t a good substitute unless you want to add a little spice)

Directions

Chop chard stems to yield 1 cup. Discard the rest or save for another use.

Heat Dutch oven on medium heat. Add 2 T. olive oil. Add the chard stems, onion, and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened and lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and coriander, and cook for about another minute.

Add the chard leaves and spinach (I had to do it in batches so they would wilt down), and cook until wilted but still green, about 3 to 5 minutes. Here I’d recommend adding some herbs for more flavor, to taste. Remove the mixture from heat and add 1 to 1 ½ c. of the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, about a minute. Stir the blended mix back into the Dutch oven.

Add lemon juice and peas, and stir.

Place back on heat, medium to medium-low. Make 4 indentations in the mix and crack 2 eggs into each indentation. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper, if using, and more salt as desired. Cover the pot and cook until egg whites are just set, 5 to 10 minutes (You have to keep a close eye on it). Remove from heat and let sit, covered, until the whites are fully set, another 2 to 4 minutes.

Add the herbs, feta, and drizzle with more olive oil.

Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

Ratatouille any which way

I’ve talked about my love of Ratatouille before, both the movie and the food item. The movie has the message of “Anyone can cook,” which is to say not everyone can do it but that one’s station in life — even as a rat — can’t dictate whether one is a great chef.

Ratatouille ingredients.

A great chef I am not but I take comfort in that, and many other, life lessons offered by the Pixar classic.

As I’ve come to love the French dish almost as much as the move, I’ve also come to realize it’s an appropriate recipe to highlight the movie’s message and theme. The dish is a humble stew that also can be made to be served at the top restaurant in Paris.

If anyone can can cook, ratatouille shows that simple ingredients can make for an impressive meal no matter which way you make it.

I found last year that I loved making this traditional stew-like dish as a tian on a sheet pan. But in making it in my Dutch oven this year, I was reminded that it also works really well in its stew-ish form. While it mirrors a hearty stew, it is still exclusively vegetables and herbs and spices, with a little bit of (OK, a lot of) olive oil, which makes it light even on a summer night. Also, it doesn’t need to cook for hours upon hours. It’s a half hour or so in front of a stove top, not bad in the air-conditioned house.

It’s practically perfect, especially for the upcoming Bastille Day!

So healthy and yet so scrumptious.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 5+ T. olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 7 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 to 2 medium), chopped
  • 2 medium zucchinis, chopped
  • 2 medium summer squash, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 T. thyme (the recipes often recommended whole sprigs to be removed; I just used dried)
  • 2 T. dried basil  (I’d prefer fresh but I had some dried on hand)
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • ½ T. red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 to 5 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 T. tomato paste

Directions

Add about 2 T. of oil to a large Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until beginning to turn translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add another about 2 T. of oil and the eggplant. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 to 10 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add another about 2 T. of oil, the zucchini, summer squash, and bell pepper. Cook, continuing to stir occasionally, for another 5 to 10 minutes until the zucchini and squash are mostly cooked through. Add the tomatoes, herbs and spices, and tomato paste, and cook for another 5 minutes, covered, until all the vegetables are cooked through and the mixture looks stew-ish.

Let cool slightly (it stays hot for awhile), and enjoy with some fancy bread!

The best rice casserole

I love the boxed Rice-A-Roni mixes as much as the next person who has little time and a desire for calories. But I love even more the absence of guilt when I home make a similar recipe.

This is how I came to create my own broccoli cheddar rice casserole.

Broccoli rice casserole ingredients.

Sure, recipes abound for throwing together cooked rice, a pre-made cheese sauce, and some microwaved broccoli, but with slightly more effort, you can enjoy baked, cheese, rice, and broccoli that doesn’t feel quite as bad for you.

Though it wasn’t hard to find either kind of recipe online, there was nothing I found that quite suited my tastes. So, I did what I usually do, I mixed and matched to make it suitable for my Dutch oven dreams.

All the recipes of any kind called for mushrooms but I just about refuse to eat them. If they’re tiny and hidden, I may be able to handle some. I can kind of do raw ones, sometimes, if I have to, but as much as I try to keep an open mind about foods, I just can’t do it with mushrooms. So, if you like them, feel free to remove one head of broccoli from my recipe and substitute with 8 oz. mushrooms, or do both and have an extra vegetable-y recipe.

With my changes, and thanks to mostly Southern Living and a little Serious Eats, and I had the perfect recipe, and even better, it came together quickly and deliciously. I loved it.

Nom nom noms.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 6 T. butter, divided
  • 1 c. panko
  • 2 c. cheddar, divided (I like extra sharp)
  • 1 c. Parmesan, divided
  • 3 c. broth (I used homemade; the recipe calls for chicken)
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 t. thyme
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes (optional but I liked the kick)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ c. flour
  • 1 ½ c. uncooked long-grain rice
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 3 heads fresh broccoli florets, chopped to stems

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 2 T. butter, and combine it with the panko and ½ c. of the cheddar, and ½ c. of the Parmesan, and toss together. Set aside.

Melt remaining 4 T. in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the broccoli (and mushrooms if using), the salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes, and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes until the broccoli has started to turn bright green. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the flour until combined.

Add the rice, and stir for another couple minutes. Stir in the broth and milk, and bring to a boil. Add the remaining cheeses, and the sour cream, and mix until well combined. Cover with Dutch oven lid or aluminum foil.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the rice is tender, the liquid is nearly absorbed, and the broccoli is cooked through. Add the panko mixture on top, and bake for another 10 minutes until the top is browned. Let cool slightly, and enjoy!

Fitting vegetable gratin for mediocre fowl dinner

My sweetie and I had what we thought would be a fun idea when we were ordering meats earlier this year. We should try all these random non-chicken birds available from our favorite sustainable meat supplier, we thought. How bad could they be, we thought.

Well, I am here to tell you that there’s a reason we as meat-eaters dine on chicken more often than wild game birds. There’s the buck shot for one, and the feathering, but mostly it’s the strong and not altogether pleasant taste.

We made it through the birds, but in the future, I’m probably not going to eat too much partridge, wood pigeon, or pheasant. Unless the apocalypse comes sooner than I hope.

But to go along with these fowl, I thought I’d make a nice vegetable gratin to go with our meat-heavy dinner.

Vegetable gratin ingredients.

While the preparation went more smoothly than for the birds, the end result was a similar level of meh. It was easy but at the cost of being pretty bland.

It was less offensive than the birds to my taste buds but it also made a lot more and we’re still slowly going through the leftovers. I much prefer the similar vegetable dish I made last year on a sheet pan — marinated artichokes add so much, I guess (probably mostly salt) — than this Dutch oven gratin.

It looks pretty good, but it’s just not bad.

If you’re looking for a plain dish, or have ideas of sprucing up my adaptation of a The Kitchn recipe, here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 small fennel bulbs, sliced*
  • 3 medium leeks, halved and thinly sliced
  • ¾ to 1 lb. potatoes, sliced*
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced*
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (I used the jar stuff, and didn’t measure)
  • 1 ½ c. sour cream
  • 1 ½ c. Parmesan
  • ½ t. ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • *Note: A mandoline is recommended for slicing these vegetables, so they can be evenly thin. I used ⅛ inch.

Directions

Heat an oven to 400 degrees.

Add all the sliced vegetables to a large Dutch oven. Add in the sour cream, Parmesan, nutmeg, and salt and pepper, and stir well to lightly coat the vegetables with the cream mixture.

Bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Carefully remove the lid/cover, and bake for another 15 minutes uncovered so the top can brown. Cool for about 10 minutes, and (try to) enjoy!

I made ghurma aloo and you can too

There’s nothing like traveling for a weekend to make me crave home-cooked, healthy fare. A weekend of eating fast food had me suddenly wishing for a big bowlful of vegetables.

But exhaustion from sleeping in unfamiliar environs and a late-night concert also meant I wanted something easy and stress-free.

Thankfully, I remembered the ghurma aloo recipe I came across sometime last year. Aloo is apparently Persian for potato, and ghurma is stew, so it’s definitely simple and easy with few ingredients.

Ghurma aloo ingredients.

However, I wanted a little more than potatoes — and tomatoes, onions, and spices. So, I added some peas and chickpeas, and skimped on a few of the potatoes. I served it over rice, and in all, it was ready in about the time it took to watch a “Psych” episode.

Aside from simple, it’s also just delicious.

If you cook Middle Eastern food at all, you’ll also have most of the spices on hand. The least likely is cumin seeds but we’ve kept those in our house for years. The others are turmeric, cayenne, and cilantro; plus, a little salt (and I threw in pepper).

It’s amazing what a handful of spices and time can do to vegetables.

So many wonderful veggies!

Here’s what I did, adapting a recipe on Epicurious:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes (I used Yukon Gold but any will work)
  • 2 T. canola oil
  • 2 T. cumin seeds
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 t. ground turmeric
  • 1 t. salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Cayenne, to taste (I used about 2 t. and it was surprisingly spicy for my moderate palate)
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas
  • 1 to 1 ½ c. frozen peas
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped, to taste
  • Rice for serving, optional

Directions

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they turn reddish brown, about 10 seconds. Add the potatoes, onion, and turmeric, and fry for about 5 minutes, until the onions and potatoes are lightly browned, stirring frequently.

Add the salt, pepper, and cayenne, and give it another quick stir to mix together. Add the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the chickpeas, peas, and tomatoes, and cook covered for another 5 minutes until the peas are cooked through. Add the cilantro, and give the mixture another stir. Mash the potatoes slightly, if desired, and enjoy with rice!

Poland, pickles, perfection

Monday marks my favorite holiday, Casimir Pulaski Day. Growing up in Illinois, we had two unique school holidays, and this was one of them thanks to a large Polish population. The other, of course in the Land of Lincoln, was that we celebrated Lincoln’s birthday specifically not Presidents Day generally.

I have written in the past about how awesome Pulaski was (while making Polish foods) and how he warrants recognition for his role in the Revolutionary War.

Especially in these times, it’s important to remember and recognize that immigrants were playing a role in this country going back to literally its founding.

If you want a refresher about the “Father of the American Cavalry,” check out his Wikipedia page.

To celebrate the man, his contributions, and my own (one-quarter) Polish heritage, I try to find something to make from his home country each Pulaski Day. This year was no exception, and I’m rather proud of this one.

A unique Polish pickle soup to recognize a unique Polish man.

Polish pickle soup (aka zupa ogórkowa) ingredients.

There were several recipes online for zupa ogórkowa, which actually seems to translate as cucumber soup but most called it either sour cucumber or simply pickle soup. None of the recipes perfectly suited what I was picturing so I melded them all together.

I won’t lie, this soup will not be for everyone. But if you like dill pickles, and me and my sweetie do, boy is it great. It also all comes together relatively quickly.

For my tastes and sensibilities, it’s an awesome winter soup, featuring heavily those ingredients that in times past (and in lean times now) that keep well throughout a long winter and are easy enough to come by. We, in fact, had most ingredients on hand except not quite enough of them. And I did get fresh dill but the dried stuff would do just fine.

The results were pure perfection, particularly for this time of year and this holiday.

What lies beneath is an abundance of pickle flavored perfection.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 4 T. unsalted butter
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2-3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2-3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 4 T. all-purpose flour
  • 6 c. broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • 2 t. dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 medium russet potatoes, chopped
  • 1 c. pickle juice
  • 1 c. dill pickles, grated
  • Dill, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Sour cream, for serving (optional)

Directions

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and saute for 5 to 10 minutes and vegetables are softened.

Add the flour slowly and stir until combined. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the thyme, oregano, and bay leaves. Then, stir in the broth.

Bring mixture to a boil, and then add the potatoes. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 to 25 minutes until the potatoes are just softened.

Add the pickle juice, pickles, salt and pepper to taste, and cook another 5 minutes, covered.

Stir in the dill, and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Serve with sour cream and any additional dill as desired, and enjoy!

There will be bread

I love me a recipe that offers shortcuts and still tastes amazing. So, even though I don’t mind kneading bread, I still eagerly bookmarked the no-knead recipe from Jim Lahey as soon as I came across it.

No-knead bread ingredients. No, the Sodastream water is not bubbly.

Then, I discovered the caveat. There may not be kneading, but it still takes time and a little bit of getting your hands dirty (with sticky dough).

After going through it the first time, I shrugged and said I wasn’t really saving all that much so I wouldn’t make it again. That is, until I tasted it. Readers, it’s worth the time and effort.

And the more I’ve made it, the less the time and minor effort bothers me. I just plan better.

This is also a quintessentially Dutch oven dish.

Part of why the crust crunches so well is you preheat the Dutch oven for long enough that your dough goes into a nice and hot container. (I will admit, however, that I have used this recipe to make a couple of baguettes and it turns out well, just not as crunchy.)

It’s also pretty hard to mess up, since there are so few ingredients. The key is using bread flour, but I have — and I did this time on a whim — thrown in some amount of wheat flour and it’s worked. It’s not quite as fluffy but fiber does a body good.

Now, you can time things out how you want, but with a 12 to 18 hour rise time on the first go, my planning schedule is this:

*Before bed: Mix together the yeast, salt, water, and flour, and stir until blended.

*The next day/evening: When I get home from work, or the afternoon on a weekend, scrape the edges of the mixture and ensure it’s risen; then, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a boule, and wrap in a well-floured or cornmeal-coated towel, and let rise another 1 to 2 hours, before preparing to bake.

If you’re an early morning riser or an insomniac, a different schedule may work for you. But I’d rather get it started before bed and then deal with it later in the day. And a few hours extra rise time, if it’s a work day, hasn’t made a difference.

Again, it’s pretty hard to mess this up, even if there is an optimal way to make it that will maximize its awesomeness.

My boule isn’t the prettiest and it didn’t rise as much as I thought it would, but it tastes forking great.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • ¼ t. active dry yeast
  • 1 ⅓ c. cool water
  • 1 ¼ t. salt (I estimate)
  • 3 c. bread flour (OR, 2 c. bread flour, 1 c. wheat flour — which may require slightly more water)
  • Bran, cornmeal, or additional flour, for dusting

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast, and then add the water. Use a wooden spoon, rubber dough scraper, or your hands to mix together until a wet, sticky dough forms, about 30 seconds. If it’s not wet and sticky, add more water or flour as necessary.

Cover the bowl — either a tea towel or plastic wrap or a loose lid will work. Let rise in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, for 12 to 18 hours.

When small bubbles dot the surface of the dough and it’s at least doubled in size, dust a work surface with additional flour. Scrape the dough onto the work surface. Use your hands — lightly floured — to shape the dough into a round.

Dust a (non-terry cloth) tea towel with flour or cornmeal, and then place the dough, seam-side down, in the towel, and then gently wrap together. Let the dough rise for another 1 to 2 hours. (It’s ready when it has almost doubled and/or you can poke it with a finger and it holds the impression.)

About a half-hour before the second rise has finished, heat the oven to 475 degrees with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Place the Dutch oven, covered,  in the center of the rack.

When the dough is ready, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven. Uncover it, and add some cornmeal or wheat bran if desired, to the bottom of the pot. Then, unfold the dough and quickly but gently invert it into the pot with the seam-side up. Cover the pot again.

Bake the dough for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue to bake until the bread is browned but not burnt, another 15 to 30 minutes.

Once the bread is done, carefully remove the loaf from the Dutch oven, and place it on a rack to cool. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing, and enjoy with soup, butter, or all by itself!

So long, see ya, 2018 sheet pan scalloped potatoes

I’ll be honest, there’s not much I’m going to miss about 2018. It was a long slog of a year. But I am a bit disappointed to be leaving sheet pan recipes behind. It turned out to be more challenging and have more variety than I even imagined going in.

And that was delightfully true with my final sheet pan recipe of the year.

Mostly I was just looking for something that would be versatile for the many smoked meats my sweetie made over the Christmas holiday, but I was delighted at how tasty my scalloped potatoes were. Especially for my first time and really fudging the recipe.

Sheet pan scalloped potatoes ingredients.

They also might have the distinction of being one of the fattiest things I’ve made this year. Helped by the fact that I added more cheese and more cream because that’s what I do.

My fudges — I chose to do a bechamel sauce instead of just heating cream because I also wanted to add leeks. Then, because it was thicker, I added more cream than the recipe called for. And as usual, I added more cheese.

But despite all that, it worked. It was — much like my lasagna — quite crusty but in the most delightful way.

My only note: Don’t be lazy like me, and instead, put it in Tupperware or storage containers while it’s still warm/room temperature; otherwise, you’ll be scraping at the pan to get all the potatoes and solidified fat off your sheet pan.

So much fatty goodness. Just look at it.

Here’s what I did, tweaking another Food Network recipe:

Ingredients

  • 4 T. unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 T. flour
  • 2 ½ c. heavy cream
  • 1 large leek, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used more)
  • 1 T. dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 ½ lbs. Yukon gold potatoes (or similar), scrubbed and thinly sliced (a mandoline works best)
  • ½ c. grated Parmesan
  • 2 c. shredded Gruyere (about 6 oz.)

Directions

Grease a large rimmed sheet pan (the recipe calls for 18 by 13 inch, but mine is 15 by 12, and it was fine) with 1 T. of butter. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Melt the remaining butter in a medium saucepan. Add the sliced leek and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until the leeks are softened. Meanwhile, mix the flour with the thyme and salt and pepper. Slowly add the flour mixture to the leek mixture.

Stir for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly browned.

Add the cream slowly and stir in. Thicken slightly but not too much. Set aside.

Arrange half the potato slices in a single overlapping layer on the prepared sheet pan. Add half the grated Parmesan (and some of the Gruyere if desired). Arrange another layer of potatoes using the remaining slices. Spread the sauce mixture on top.

Cover the sheet pan with foil and bake the potatoes for about 20 minutes.

Carefully remove the sheet pan from the oven and remove the foil. Top the warmed potato mixture with the remaining Parmesan and Gruyere. Cook uncovered for another 15 to 20 minutes until the top is brown and crusty on top, the potatoes are cooked through, and enjoy!

Happy New Year, dear readers, and I’ll be back with in 2019 with a new plan for a new year.

My favorite mistake

I’m going to say right up front that I forked this one up royally from beginning to end. So, I can’t say that it was a great recipe, but I do think that it’s salvageable, as in, the blame lies with me.

And, to be honest, I still had a lot of fun making it.

It’s been a stressful week, and I came home grumpy. But once I started to make this week’s poppy seed streusel and listening to podcasts about “Doctor Who” (*nerd alert*), I felt immensely better. I didn’t even really care that I was forking up.

Streusel ingredients. Notably not pictured is the milk I should have used.

I have loved my Amy Thielen “The New Midwestern Table” cookbook, so the fact that this recipe didn’t turn out I think is a fluke. I have made a lot of things from it, including hand pies this year.

And, seriously, it has a butt-ton of butter, sugar, and flour, so it should have been perfect.

Also, while her recipe said to bake for a half hour, I knew it looked done about 7 minutes early, and instead of trusting my gut, I let it go for another 5.

So, the fact that it’s hard as a rock, is on me.

Then, the second page of the recipe really spends a lot of time on the importance of grinding the poppy seeds well. This was after I had, uh, not done that. See, I bought a bunch of cream and figured there was not harm in replacing whole milk with cream. Except that, obviously, cream whips quite quickly. So, when I mixed them together in the blender, there was whipped cream well before poppy seed broke and bruised.

I made up for it by adding water instead of more cream later … but the damage (or lack thereof to the poppy seeds) was done.

So, the fact that the poppy seeds are intact and the innards of the streusel didn’t turn out as expected, is also on me.

Again, though, it was an adventure to make, and I’m pretty sure if I follow the recipe, and trust my gut, I’ll nail it next time.

It doesn’t look that bad until you noticed the blackened edges and that that ain’t *lightly* golden.

Here’s what I did. Actually, scratch that, here’s what I should have done:

Ingredients

  • ¾ c. poppy seeds
  • ¾ c. whole milk (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE)
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 3 c. sugar, divided
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • 2 t. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ t. sea salt
  • 3 sticks butter (the recipe calls for salted; I used un- so hopefully that didn’t mess things up), and more for coating the pan, all at room temperature

Directions

Combine poppy seeds and MILK in a blender and process on high until the poppy seeds have broken down down. Add the raisins, 1 c. sugar, the cream, and the vinegar. Process until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a medium skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir often to prevent it from sticking, and continue reducing heat to keep the mixture at a slow bubble. Keep cooking until the mixture thickens to like jam, about 30 minutes. I’d say a little less but that might just be because I overcooked the thing from top to bottom in the oven.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees, and lightly butter a 9-inch by 13-inch sheet pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, the remaining 2 c. sugar, salt, and the butter. Use your fingers to work the butter into the flour mixture until well combined, and the mixture holds its shape when squeezed together.

Scoop 5 loose cups of the butter mixture onto the sheet pan, and use your hands to spread evenly, and then gently press down. Bake for about 10 minutes, and then let cool for about 10 minutes.

Then, pour the poppy seed mixture on top, and spread until smooth. Then squeeze the remaining butter mixture on top of the poppy seed mix to make decorative nuggets, leaving some space for the filling to show through.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until LIGHTLY golden brown, *checking often*, and then cool in the pan before cutting into squares. Enjoy, if you got this far and succeeded!

 

Beautiful briny bread

The checkout girl at Target told me not to tell anyone that the bread I made this week had anchovies on it. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d be telling everyone through this blog post. So, let me get it out of the way at the front.

This bread is not for the faint-hearted.

If you can think of everything flavorful and potentially off-putting, this bread has it. Anchovies. Capers. Kalamata olives. Onions (lots of ‘em). Garlic.

Briny bread* ingredients. *Actually called “pissaladiere.”

It’s also got tomatoes, a butt-load of olive oil, and a no-knead yeasty bread.

Basically, me and my sweetie thought it would be perfect. And the recipe didn’t let us down. It’s been amazing.

The recipe comes from the cookbook my brother turned me on to about bread: “Bread, Toast, Crumbs” by Alexandra Stafford. I finally got myself a copy.

Unlike last time, my deviations from the original recipe worked just fine. I mostly stuck to it — including all those delicious toppings — but I have regular yeast, not instant, and I figured there was no harm in swapping. Especially since I spent a year making bread.

To correct, I just upped the amount of yeast and added a little honey to get it kickstarted, but otherwise I stuck close to the original.

My only complaint — and it’s expected — is that it took a long time and dirtied quite a few dishes, including the pain-in-the-ass-to-clean food processor. But I knew all that going in, and a lot of the time is pretty passive and a great time to rewatch this amazing season of “Doctor Who.”

It looks so pretty, and it’s tasty too.

Here’s what I did (with notes to use instant yeast):

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 ½ t. active dry yeast (1 t. If using instant)
  • 2 c. lukewarm water
  • 1 T. honey, optional

For the bread

  • 6 T. olive oil, divided
  • 3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 anchovies
  • 1 T. capers (I didn’t measure, I love capers)
  • ½ c. kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Directions

Make the dough. If using active dry yeast, mix together the yeast, warm water, and honey, and let sit for about 10 minutes before stirring in the flour and salt. If using instant, the recipe says to mix together the dry ingredients, and then add the water (and honey). Either way, use a rubber spatula to stir until the mixture combined and you have a sticky dough that’s sort of ball-shaped. Cover the mixture with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise for about 1 ½ hours until the dough has doubled in size.

Just before the dough is ready, heat a large pan on high heat. Add 1 T. olive oil, and then add the onions. Cook on medium heat, stirring every few minutes, until the onions are golden, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

In a food processor, mix together the garlic and anchovies with 2 T. olive oil until pureed. Add the capers and pulse till chopped. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees, and set the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper, and pour on the remaining 3 T. olive oil. Use two forks to deflate the dough by releasing it from the sides of the bowl and pulling it toward the center until you get a rough ball. Lift the dough with the forks or pour it onto the oiled sheet pan. Roll the dough ball in oil to coat it all over, and then let it rest for 20 minutes.

With greased hands, push the dough to stretch it to the edges of the sheet pan, and use fingers to dimple it. When the dough resists stretching, let it rest for about 5 minutes and then stretch again until it fits most of the sheet pan.

To assemble, spread the anchovy paste on the dough. Scatter on the olives, and then the carmelized onions. Top with the tomatoes. Use fingers again to dimple the dough and stretch more if necessary.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the underside of the dough is golden and crisp. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into squares, and enjoy!