Simple, Perfect Bread

Simple Peasant Boule

I made cheese soup for Sunday Dinner this week, and baked a nice peasant boule to go with it.

The cheese soup recipe is one my sister gave me many years ago. It was one of the specialty dishes of a restaurant in the town where we grew up (The Brown Jug in Decatur, Illinois). It’s one of my favorites, especially during the autumn and winter, with cooler weather.

The bread is the master recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Claudia had requested the book for Christmas many years ago, but didn’t really get into it. At some point I became interested in trying to rely less on “manufactured food” and picked up the book, thinking that I would bake bread for us every day.

I haven’t picked up that habit yet, but I do love the way these loaves turn out, and nothing could be much simpler to make, once you get your hands on a Danish Dough Whisk, a wooden peel and a baking stone (which are all pretty necessary to the process).

I used 5 1/2 cups of all purpose flour and 1 cup of whole wheat. That gets stirred together with 3 cups of lukewarm water, and 1 1/2 tablespoons each of kosher salt and yeast. Once it rises overnight, I’m ready to bake, and the dough that’s left will keep in the refrigerator for a week or two. I usually get three or four nice sized boules per batch.

One of these days, I’d like to try my hand at sourdough. Claudia gave me a copy of the Tartine Bakery’s book, and I may delve deeper into it one of these days. But it is honestly hard to beat the AB5 bread for ease of preparation, time invested, and the simple, delicious beauty of the finished product. It has the combination of chewy crumb and crunchy crust that I adore, and the addition of some whole wheat flour, or whole wheat and a little rye, gives it just enough funk for my taste.

The bread board was my mother’s, and I believe that it had originally been her grandma’s, so it is likely over 100 years old. It’s something else that I love for its simple beauty.

Cedar Planked Salmon for Sunday Dinner

For Sunday Dinner this week we grilled Cedar Planked Salmon, Brussels Sprouts and baked potatoes. Claudia made a nice salad, and baked an incredibly delicious chocolate and peanut butter cake for dessert.

For the salmon, I simply soak the planks in water for a couple hours, then place them on the grill to char a bit before turning them over and setting the salmon on them to cook for maybe 20 minutes. The salmon had been seasoned with Pork Producers seasoning, Old Bay and a sprinkle of Turbinado Sugar. I did the Brussels Sprouts on the plancha with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

Claudia used a yellow cake mix, adding peanut butter and chocolate to some of the batter, and then drizzling Wilton PB melt over the chocolate frosting.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Potato Curry and Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage Sausages

Potato Curry, Puri, Field Roast Apple SageI’ve just begun to learn to cook Indian fare. Spicy, plant-based dishes seem to give my body what it craves, and I’m enjoying exploring a cuisine that I’d not spent much time with in the past.

I had made potato curry for a weeknight meal on the spur of the moment awhile back, and it turned out right, so I decided to make it this week for Sunday Dinner. Also, I wanted to try out some Field Roast sausages on the recommendation of my friend, Eban Crawford. I picked up a package of their Frankfurters (saving those for tomorrow’s Labor Day cookout), some Brats, and the Smoked Apple Sage Sausages at Kankakee Natural Foods Friday in anticipation.

I also wanted to try making puri, which is an Indian whole wheat bread that has been rolled thin and then deep fried to puff up. The potatoes and puri combination would have been standard prasad at Kainchi Temple in India where an entire generation of Westerners went to learn from the great Indian Saint Maharaj-ji Neem Karoli Baba in the 1960s and 70s. The vegan sausages would not have been served, but I figured they would make a nice accompaniment, and add a little protein to the meal.

Everything turned out right. The curry could have used a little more kick, as far as I’m concerned. The puri bread was good, though I think for the bother, I would just opt for store bought naan from here forward. Maybe it’s one of those things you get a knack for and can speed the process up with experience. At least I’m no longer afraid to deep fry things.

The sausages were outstanding. Texture was amazing – so very much better than TVP products, and no soy involved for folks who are watching their intake. They delivered on a beautifully balanced sage and smoke flavor. They were just a tiny bit sweet to my taste, but I think that’s because I wasn’t expecting it. I’m really looking forward to cooking the franks on the grill tomorrow.

Recipes

Potato and Vegetable Curry

Sauté two big onions, rough chopped, in olive oil with salt and pepper.

Add several cloves of garlic and a couple pieces of fresh ginger, minced, and cook until fragrant.

Add these spices and toast until fragrant and well distributed.

  • 2 t Garam Masala
  • 2 t Curry Powder
  • 1 t Mustard Seed
  • 1 t Ground Coriander
  • 1/2 t Chili Powder
  • 1/2 t Turmeric
  • 1/2 t Paprika

Add 1 Can diced tomatoes.

Add 1 package frozen mixed vegetables.

Add 3 pounds of potatoes, cubed.

Add 2 cups of vegetable stock.

Cover and cook on low simmer until potatoes are tender.

Make a slurry with one can of coconut milk and 3 T cornstarch, add it to the pot and cook uncovered until the curry thickens.

I think next time I would add some red pepper flakes at table to kick up the heat a bit.

Puri

I followed Swasthi’s recipe for these, as shown in the video below.

The frying was easy once I got the oil hot enough, and after the first two or three, the rest of the batch puffed up fine. It was pretty time consuming to prep and roll the dough out, though. As I mentioned above, maybe that’s a matter of experience. I’m glad that I tried them, but not sure I would invest the time again.

Another Rotisserie Chicken

Sunday Dinner- 31 March 2019

Rotisserie Chicken

This week we inaugurated the Weber Kettle Rotisserie for 2019, with a whole chicken and drip pan potatoes. It was a small fryer this time, a little less than four pounds. I used the Custom Culinary spice for dry brining, and chunks of cherry wood on the coals. I also cut up about four pounds of potatoes and par cooked them in the microwave for 15 minutes before putting them in the pan.

Because of the cold temperature, after an hour the interior of the breast was still only about 147 °F, so I moved everything to the Genesis gas grill, with the chicken on top of the potatoes, to finish.

We served this with one of Claudia’s lovely green salads and raided the freezer for some delicious local sweet corn that our brother-in-law, Jeff, had given us. Wine was Butter Chardonnay, and Aunt Pat brought a lemon meringue pie from Blue’s Cafe for dessert.

Pho

Sunday Dinner – 10 March 2019

Pho

I love the Pho from Koi Asian Bistro, and have thought about making my own for years, but was a little intimidated by the process. I actually bought a 12-quart stock pot more than a year ago, for the express purpose of making a batch, but didn’t get around to doing it until this weekend.

I used Chef Qui Tran’s recipe, from Nudo House in St. Louis. I followed the recipe to the letter, with the following exceptions. Not finding knuckle bones, I substituted soup bones and shanks. For the rock candy, I used Turbinado Sugar. Star anise wasn’t available in our town, so I used anise seed and fennel seed. Finally, in place of the flank steak, I used bottom round roast.

We served the broth over rice noodles and thin slices of the beef, with bean sprouts, scallions, red onions, Jalapeño slices, lime wedges, Sriracha and chiffonade of basil.

Claudia made an incredible lime and ginger dressed salad for the side, and a Vietnamese coffee mousse for dessert.

Coffee Mousse

Wine was a beautiful Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc from Franc Dusak, which paired perfectly. The other choices would have been rosé or Pinot Noir, but I can’t imagine those being any better.

I think the only change I would make next time would be to brown the bones and onions under the broiler a bit before starting the broth. The other note is that this should be served piping hot, which I was inattentive to because of the timing of the meal this time.

A little of the Sriracha goes a long way, by the way. I put some on every bite of meat, which was fine, but by the end of the bowl of broth, it had added quite a bit of spice. Caroline seemed to like it. A drop or two on a tiny slice of meat, and she said “Oooh!”

India in Kankakee

Sunday Dinner – 24 February 2019

This week, since the boys were with us and I’ve been telling Aunt Pat about it forever now, I fixed Indian dishes. It’s a a hearty way to eat vegetarian, and mix up the ethnic themes. As long as you have the spices, most of which can be found in your local grocery (I did have to get the Garam Masala from Amazon), there’s nothing unheard of in these dishes. It just takes a lot of chopping, and I’m thankful that Aunt Pat was here early to dice the potatoes and cut up the cauliflower!

Indian Meal Plated

I first fixed Indian food a few years back when our Girl Scout troop had India as our country for World Thinking Day. What an opportunity to grow as a cook. Just goes to show that it’s not just the kids who learn new things through scouting.

The salad dressing this week was also inspired by the cuisine. I had a very little bit of fresh ginger left from the main dishes, so I decided to make it into a vinegaratte, much like I did for the Chinese New Year. I used avocado oil, white wine vinegar, grated ginger, a little garam masala and agave to sweeten. It was absolutely delicious!

I started with the Indian Chickpea Curry with Spinach so I could put it in the crockpot since I was making two main dishes. Onions, garlic, ginger, chickpeas, tomatoes and a slew of aromatic spices are simmered, before adding to the crockpot. I doubled the recipe, so it was A LOT. To the pot I added about 12 ounces of spinach, and just stirring wilted it nicely. I added another 8 ounces of spinach later, once I had enough room in the pot again.

I prepared the Gobi Aloo last so I could serve it directly from the pan. Potatoes, cauliflower, coriander seed, ginger paste, turmeric, cumin, paprika and garam masala blend nicely together for a beautiful dish. I stumbled on this one awhile back when I had some cauliflower that I needed to use up, and remembered from my Sundays spent at the Hindu Cultural Center in Park Forest that we’d have something with that and potatoes. What did we ever do before Google?

To accompany the main dishes, we had Naan bread, which our local Aldi carries year round. You might wonder why we didn’t have rice as a side, but you’ll understand when you get to the dessert!

I’ve never been a fan of rice pudding. So much not a fan that I never tried to make it until the aforementioned World Thinking Day. Basmati rice (I use the white for visual appeal), coconut milk and cardamom really make this Indian Rice Pudding something special. Of course the whole milk, sugar and heavy whipping cream don’t hurt, either. The golden raisins add a nice sweetness and texture. The first time I made this, I didn’t use any nuts, but I also don’t think I used Alton Brown’s recipe. Thankful to Aunt Pat, Thomas and James for shelling all the pistachios (risking injury no less). I’m still not sure how I feel about having them in the pudding. Maybe I’ll have a more decisive feeling after I have seconds.

Indian Rice Pudding

Wine accompanying the meal tonight was a Shiraz from F. Stephen Millier.

Kudos to my family for being adventurous and trying new things. While nothing was “hot” spicy, the flavor profiles are certainly not something most of us are accustomed to.

One disclaimer…I do make Indian food more than once a year. It’s so quick and easy that I sometimes whip it up during the week. We always have chickpeas and frozen spinach (this was the first time I used fresh) on hand, so particularly during Lent on a Friday night, it’s a a hearty and comforting meal.

Busy Sunday – Crockpot Beef Stew

Sunday Dinner – 17 February 2019

Family Around The Table

Like the title of this post says, it was a busy Sunday, and apparently the week following was no less hectic based on how long it’s taken to get this blog post done! I have a much greater appreciation for my husband and how he wrote every single blog post last year. Why did I decide I should guest host again???

We had tickets to see the last performance of KVTA’s Little Women for the afternoon (fantastic production, by the way) so there wasn’t a lot of spare time for meal prep that day. What better tool to use than the handy dandy crockpot? In the winter we use it at least once a week. I know there’s all this talk about the Insta Pot, but really, both require preparation. It’s just a matter of when you want to do it, in my opinion.

We hadn’t had beef stew for a while, and I don’t think we had it for Sunday Dinner since we started documenting. I don’t actually have a written recipe for beef stew – I learned from my mom and have adjusted it a bit over the years. But I thought I should do a little research anyway. I normally don’t brown the stew meat first, but Brian does, as apparently everyone else that has a recipe on the internet. So after cutting the beef into bite size pieces, the meat was lightly flowered and browned, and then the pan was deglazed with some frozen red wine cubes (handy tip for left over wine, not that we have that occur very often!). Along with the beef, carrots, onions, potatoes and garlic were added to the crockpot along with some beef stock and bay leaves. The other thing that I did differently was to add some worcestershire sauce. About 2 hours before serving time, fresh mushrooms were added, and then 1 hour before serving, frozen peas. As soon as we got home, I made a quick slurry to thicken the sauce.

What would Sunday dinner be without the salad? I dressed it this week with a raspberry vinegarette, and we served Hawaiin rolls.

My inbox is regularly spammed by Betty Crocker, and it turns out that they had an interesting cake that I thought I’d try out.  This Chocolate Chip Cake doesn’t use actual chocolate chips. Instead it requires lots and lots of grating of semi sweet chocolate. Thank goodness Thomas was willing to help me out with that task. The marshmallow butter cream frosting in the recipe is to die for. I was afraid it was going to be way too sweet, but everyone seemed to like it.

We had an unusually full house for dinner this week as dad’s youngest sister, my Aunt Mary Lou, joined us for the musical and dinner, and the boys were here for a visit as well.  It was hectic and loud with lots of laughter and talking over each other, but it was wonderful to have everyone around the dinner table. It reminds me of Sunday dinners at my Grandma Wulff’s house.

The wine that accompanied the meal was a 2015 Le Grand Chai Médoc, at the request of the boys, and there may have been after dinner drinks of Rumchata and Kahlua by some of the adults around the table.

Chinese New Year 2019 Celebration

With Chinese New Year coming up on Tuesday, February 5th (Year of the Pig, if anyone is interested), this Sunday was our New Years celebration.

I tend to maybe go a little overboard when I do themed meals…I always want to make sure there is something for everyone, and that no one walks away hungry. Although, really, I’m not sure anyone leaves our house hungry!

Details are important to me, and we usually put on background music that is appropriate for the cuisine. Brian asked if I’d like to listen to Chinese music, and at first I was like, “Ugh, no”, but then I said “You know, if you can find some relaxing Chinese music, like if you go to a nice Chinese restaurant and you hear it in the background.”  He found just the right channel and it reminded me of being in a spa. Louie seemed to like it…

Louis Relaxing

Place settings that I bought in Chinatown in San Francisco in probably 2009 created just the right tablescape.

I started planning the meal probably in the middle of the week. Lots of research and figuring out what to fix. I knew I would make Crockpot Beef with Broccoli because it’s good, easy and I’ve made it before. I always seem to Google for a recipe whenever I make it, and I’m not sure I’ve made the exact same recipe more than once. But, I found this recipe at Damn Delicious, and it’s a keeper.  Couldn’t be easier, and I had all the ingredients on hand anyway. Hardest part was slicing the chuck roast, and that was a cinch after having been gifted some proper chefs knives from a very dear friend. Recipe can be found here – seriously, super easy. And if you don’t have oyster sauce in your fridge, you totally should! At all times!!!

Broccoli Beef

Because one entree didn’t seem to be enough, I started thinking about other options. I’ve made fried rice, but figured with the jasmine rice, we didn’t really need more rice. I’ve also made vegetable lo mein, but for some reason, I was thinking about chicken. I don’t know that I’ve ever had cashew chicken before, but I like chicken and cashews, so what could go wrong? It didn’t take long before I settled on this recipe from Ree Drummond. She’s never led me astray before, and this time was no different. I did substitute red and yellow pepper for the green that the recipe called for. After I completed the recipe, I put it in the crockpot to keep it warm as I worked on other things. I did wait to put the cashews in until about 60 to 90 minutes before serving. The cashews held their shape but were tender. Sliced scallions and sesame seeds served as garnish.

Cashew Chicken

I love Chinese appetizers, and knew I was going to get egg rolls from the store, and thought about crab rangoon or shrimp toast (YUM!). But a person has to know their limits, and I wanted to make a dessert instead.

Dessert was much harder to decide on, as we don’t live in a metropolitan area and the Chinese section in our local groceries is somewhat limited. Some of the recipes were intimidating, others I would’ve needed to plan farther ahead so I could order ingredients from Amazon. I thought about egg tarts, but the last time I made them was a little frustrating. Almond cookies were also a consideration, but I knew I’d be picking up some Fortune Cookies (next time I might try making those myself!). Chinese donuts found on a buffet would’ve been OK if I weren’t scared to death of deep frying things. Then I stumbled on these Easy Chinese Moon Cakes from a link to 10 Easy Desserts on Yummly. Sounded a lot like a thumb print cookie, and bonus, I had all the ingredients (although I did pick up some higher quality strawberry preserves to use). I think this is completely Americanized (no offense to Shirley the contributor)…if I’d had access to some red bean paste, I would’ve been happier. But, they turned out well and were tasty. The only think that I would change in this recipe is to use the egg white that was left over from the yolk in the dough. Wasn’t really impressed with using a yolk for the egg wash, just not visually appealing.

Moon Cakes

Because it just wouldn’t be Sunday dinner without a green salad for me, I decided on Spring Mix (because I always have some on hand anyway) with Mandarins and chow mein noodles (instead of croutons). But what to use for dressing, that was the question. I was inspired by the other flavors in the main dishes so I started with a base of avocado oil, used rice vinegar, adding a dash of soy sauce, fresh minced garlic and ginger, and agave to balance the sour. I wish I could give measurements, but the only one I know for sure is that I used 2 small cloves of garlic. What can I say – some of my best cooking is completely impromptu. Added some scallions and chopped red pepper for color, and I must say, it was pretty darned good!

Salad with Ginger Dressing

I wanted something special to drink, and love the Lychee martinis from Koi Asian Bistro, so I set out to find canned lychees. But absolutely no place had them. Even Koi didn’t have any to spare to sell me. However, Jewel had fresh lychee nuts, so I picked up about three quarter of a pound and hoped we could figure it out. Brian, being the cocktail master and ever inquisitive being that he is, found a recipe to make the lychee simple syrup, and peeled and pitted them. Aunt Pat, mom and I had the lychee martinis with the first course (mom even let dad eat the lychees that were the garnish in her drink), while Brian had his usual martini. And because we were uncertain how the martinis might turn out, Brian picked up a bottle of Sake and Plum Fu-Ki wine, just in case. We had the wine with the main course, and it was a hit! It was on the sweet side, which for Brian and I is unusual, but it was very pleasant. We saved the sake for a digestif, served at room temperature. Bracing would be an understatement. So we heated it in a carafe submerged in hot water. Better. Warming it even more was even better. Brian was ready to dump the rest of the bottle out, but I’m thinking I could use it still to deglaze while cooking. At any rate, if I never drank sake again (and this was our second attempt), I wouldn’t be upset. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste, or our selections have been limited. I can’t even come up with adequate words to describe it…pure grain alcohol is the only thing I can think of!

Here is the menu, just to recap:

Appetizers: Chicken and pork egg rolls, Lychee martinis

Salad: Spring mix with mandarins, red peppers, scallions and chow mein noodles dressed with a ginger and garlic vinegarette

Entrees: Beef with Broccoli and Cashew Chicken, both served with jasmine rice. Plum Fu-Ki wine made a nice pairing

Digestif: Sake

Dessert: Easy Chinese Moon Cakes and Fortune Cookies

It’s a good thing that Chinese New Year only comes around once a year. While none of the recipes were particularly difficult, there was a lot of preparation involved. I’m thankful that I have a husband that also likes to cook and help out in the kitchen. Having someone clean up my messes is so very nice! Not to mention having my own personal bartender. I think I’ll keep him.

Kung Hei Fat Choy, everybody!

Another Detroit Pie and Some Old School Cheese Soup


Weekend of January 5th and 6th, 2019

We had dough left over, so I had another run at Detroit Style Pizza for supper on Saturday Night. I picked up a cheap steel cake pan at the dollar store (made in the USA, yet) earlier in the day, browned some Italian Sausage, and made the sauce.

For the sauce, just crush everything together with a potato masher.

  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 T tomato paste
  • 1 pressed clove garlic
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T basil
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes

I use the Basic Artisan Pizza Crust Recipe for the dough.

  • 3 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 to 1 1/2tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 7 1/2 cups (scoop and sweep) unbleached all-purpose flour

This makes enough dough for several pies. I had just enough left to cover the bottom of the pan when stretched. It was much easier to stretch this time, after having rested in the fridge for nearly a week. This is one of the things that I love about the AB5 dough.

I sprayed the bottom of the cake pan, then drizzled olive oil and coated it well. I also sprinkled it with a little corn meal to add to the buttery taste, and pressed dough over bottom of pan. The Monterray Jack cheese (an 8 ounce block, grated) went on next. I got the tip on that from Cook’s Country. They did tests and it came closest to the characteristics of the Wisconsin Brick Cheese that would typically be used in Detroit. The sausage crumbles went on next, then the three iconic stripes of tomato sauce. The pie baked at 500 °F until the cheese was bubbly and brown, about 17 minutes this time.

I was amazed at how easily and quickly this pizza came together, and at how delicious it was. Our grilled pizzas are still my favorite, and we’ll continue to make the Malnati style deep dish from time to time, but I think the Detroits will be our go to, especially to use up leftover dough, and for a quick weeknight meal. I’m anxious to taste a slice of Chef Garibaldi’s again one of these days to see how ours stacks up to the authentic.

For Sunday Dinner, I made cheese soup. The recipe is one of my favorites, and comes from a restaurant in Decatur from the old days, called The Brown Jug. My Sister Marge gave me the recipe years ago and it was one of the first things I ever learned to cook.

Brown Jug Cheese Soup

I sautéed some diced celery and onion, then added them to a crock pot with some veggie and chicken stock (maybe a quart and a half altogether), and a couple 12 ounce bags of frozen mixed vegetables. Once that all got warmed up, I added 5 diced potatoes and 2 diced carrots. Finally, after all of that was cooked through, I added two cans of cream of celery soup and a pound or so of Velveeta cheese. Once everything is melted and combined, it’s ready to serve.

I baked a largish peasant boule with the leftover dough from earlier in the week. Again, the AB5 dough that’s been resting in the fridge for a few days takes on some great characteristics. It almost tastes like a sour dough.

Claudia made a nice salad, and we had Wisconsin Supper Club relishes, including marinated olives, marinated mushrooms and cornichons. The wine was Sharon Weeks’ Cattoo Red, which was just perfect. Later on, Aunt Pat and Caroline picked up some soft serve from DQ to go with Christmas cookies for dessert.

My sons were with us for a little while in the afternoon, and had their soup with a bit of hot sauce. 🙂

From Chicago to Detroit


Sunday Dinner – 30 December 2018

Chicago and Detroit Pizza

For our last Sunday Dinner of 2018 we made pizza two ways, with a Lou Malnati style Chicago deep dish and our first run at a Detroit style pie.

Inspired by Chef Garibaldi, I’d been wanting to try my hand at Detroit pizza for awhile now. I used my usual dough recipe from AB5. Lacking one of the typical high sided 13 x 9 pans, I used a square cake pan, coating it with cooking spray and olive oil before stretching out the dough. I covered that with shredded Monterrey Jack, and then put the three iconic stripes of sauce across the top.

The sauce was a can of diced tomatoes, some olive oil, two pressed cloves of garlic, a little sugar, salt and pepper, and some oregano and basil – all smashed up with a potato masher. It went into a 500 °F oven for 15 minutes.

The other pie was an old favorite alla Lou Malnati’s, baked in a cast iron skillet.

Malnati Style

Claudia made a marvelous Wulff salad with Balsamic vinaigrette. Wine was a 2016 Sangiovese, for those not drinking Newcastle Ale.

We’d definitely make the Detroit style pizza again. In fact, Claudia said that she actually preferred it today. The sauce was just a bit too garlicky for her taste, and we’ll likely add some Italian sausage next go ’round. It’s nice to add another pizza to our repertoire, and particularly one that is so easy to prepare and quick to bake. I can see this becoming our go-to for weeknights.