Basic Sandwich Bread

This makes the kind of sandwich that’s obviously homemade – a soft, tender bread that almost melts in your mouth. Is also very good toasted, in a strata, or used as french toast.

1 cup warm water
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon yeast
1 cup wheat flour
3 – 4 cups white flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 eggs
1 stick butter, softened

Mix the water and cream, then whisk in the honey and yeast. Allow to foam up a bit while you gather the other ingredients. To the yeast mixture add the wheat flour, about half of the white flour, the salt, eggs, and butter. Mix together, breaking up the butter. Add the remaining flour gradually until the whole mass of dough scrapes away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. The dough should be semi-firm, with a tacky texture (think the back of a Post-It note). Knead about 10 minutes, adding small amounts of flour as required. Place in an oiled bowl and allow to rise until double in size, 1 to 2 hours. Punch down, divide, briefly knead and place into two oiled loaf pans, or shape into two peasant-style loaves and put on a baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 350. When hot, add the loaves and bake about 40 minutes or until dark golden brown. Do not over- or undercook! Allow to cool a bit in the pans before turning out on a rack. Can be eaten hot or saved.

You Can Do It Dolmas!

We all know dolmas – in America we come across them bottled or canned or in salad bars, grape leaves wrapped around spiced rice often redolent of dill. I’ve never cared for them much but of course, when you can make them yourself you’re much more likely to find the mix you like.

This lovely entree – which can easily be made ahead, or in stages – comes to us by my standby favorite cookbook, Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. The original recipe is on page 394 and is called “Swiss Chard Leaves Stuffed with Sweet-and-Sour Rice”. I don’t know – the title wasn’t catchy to me. However, in reading the recipe I knew I had to try it. I made a few changes and they were delicious – although I am not nearly as good at rolling items like this as my husband is!

For the filling:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup short grain rice
2 large whole allspice
1 teaspoon dried mint
10 pink peppercorns
2 tablespoons dried cranberries, diced small
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 chive, diced small
1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

About 12 ounces fresh Swiss chard
A few lettuce leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Set the oil over medium-high heat in a saucepan. Add the rice and stir until just beginning to toast. While you are waiting, take the allspice and grind using a mortar and pestle; add the mint and pink peppercorns; crush. When rice is ready, add cranberries, pine nuts, chives, and sugar. Cover and cook for 10 to 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. Set aside to cool.

Wash the chard leaves. Cut the stem off (you can save for later use), and split the larger leaves, cutting out the vein if necessary. Blanch these in hot water until just wilted. Roll about 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice filling in each leaf, ideally about 2 1/2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

Line a cast iron pan with lettuce leaves and arrange the dolmas, packed tight. If necessary, pile a second layer on top of the first. When all dolmas have been rolled, mix the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, and salt; pour over the dolmas carefully. Place a lid or plate on top of dolmas to keep them from moving, then simmer about 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature or in the fridge. Optionally, serve with lemon wedges.

Cabbage Rolls, Part Deux

I believe these are slightly easier to make than my other cabbage roll recipe. I can never roll the leaves nicely for the others – my husband does this for me. Rather than leaves, the following are wrapped in a dough similar to calzones and the rice is omitted.

You can make the dough and tomato sauce ahead. After kneading the dough, cover and place in the fridge for four hours to overnight. Remove it a few hours before you want to bake the cabbage rolls and allow to return to room temperature. Then proceed with the dividing and shaping.

You can also skip the tomato sauce and serve with ketchup instead.

I plan to try a vegetarian filling next. Ideas are welcome!

For the sauce:

2 cloves garlic, small diced
2 15 oz. cans whole tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons brown sugar
2 bay leaves

For the dough:

4 teaspoons yeast
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons salt
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I often substitute a cup of wheat)
2 tablespoons oil


1/2 head cabbage
1 lb. natural beef
juice of one lemon
garlic powder to taste
salt and fresh ground pepper

In a medium stockpot, saute the garlic in oil briefly. While the garlic cooks, coarsely chop the whole tomatoes and add them and their juice to the pot, along with the salt, sugar, and bay leaf.

Whisk the yeast in the warm water. In a separate bowl, add 5 or 5 1/2 cups flour and salt. After the yeast proofs (it should froth and smell great), add the oil and flour / salt to the yeast mixture. Mix in bowl, adding small amounts of flour until you can scrape the bowl more or less clean. Turn out to a lightly floured surface and knead 5 to 8 minutes. The dough should be relatively firm but still “heal” easily as you knead. In the empty flour bowl, add about a tablespoon of oil. Add the dough ball, turning to coat. Place in a warm, draft-free place and allow to rise 1 to 2 hours.

As the dough finishes its first rise, turn the oven to 450. Wash and dice the cabbage. Add with a bit of oil to a roasting pan and cook, about 15 to 20 minutes until part of the leaves are crisping. While this cooks, brown the beef in a skillet and drain. Mix cabbage and beef, then add garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Set aside.

When the dough is done, divide it into 12 equal portions. Form each portion to a ball, then roll out into a circle about 7″ in diameter. Add 1/12th of the filling to the center of the circle and fold up edges, twisting closed. Set on a baking sheet. Preheat oven to 425 and let rolls sit for 20 minutes or so while oven heats. Bake 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with sauce on the side or poured on top.

(Simple) Mexican Rice

I love the rice at so many of the restaurants around here. It’s fluffy and tasty, something warm and fragrant to stuff into steamed tortillas. My other Mexican Rice recipe is a little less of a “comfort food” item, a little more impressive for guests, and a little more time-consuming to make.

If you like you can add some blanched and diced veggies when you add broth and tomato sauce, or some frozen vegetable mix. Adjust water accordingly.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
12 ounce can tomato sauce
14 ounce can broth

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown. While rice is cooking, sprinkle with garlic salt and cumin. When rice is brown stir in tomato sauce and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Deep Chocolate Brownies

This is Epicurious’ recipe, unaltered. They make a very chewy, dense brownie, and with the size of the pan, rather thin.

I believe there’s no point to owning a double-boiler. I use a mixing bowl over one of my soup tureens.

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
8 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked)
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 large eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 13- by 9-inch baking pan.

Melt butter and chocolate in a 3-qt heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm. Whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time until mixture is glossy and smooth.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt, then whisk into chocolate mixture until combined. Spread in pan and bake until middle looks just wet – before the edges are crispy – about 25 to 35 minutes.

Barbecue Tofu Sandwiches

No really. These are delicious, crazily-so.

1 pound extra firm tofu
1 egg
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
1/2 cup broth (veggie, chicken, or beef)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 fresh sage leaves, snipped very small

canola oil
peanut oil, butter, or extra virgin coconut oil

For barbecue sauce:
1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Hamburger buns
lettuce & tomato

Slice the tofu to resemble patties – about 3/8″ thick. Combine the egg and yogurt and whisk; add the broth. Marinade the tofu patties for 2 hours or overnight.

Mix up the barbecue sauce ingredients. Heat on the stove to a boil, then turn heat off.

Combine the flours, yeast, salt, parsley, cayenne, and sage. Heat the oil(s) in a skillet on medium to medium high heat. Fry the slices of tofu until golden on each side; drain on a paper towel. Smother with barbecue sauce and serve immediately on fresh buns with lettuce, tomato, and sauce of choice.

Dinner Rolls (or Hamburger Buns)

I couldn’t come up with a name for how delicious these rolls are. I mean they are so incredible. Let’s put it this way: last year I made this huge Thanksgiving meal, the works, and everyone talked about the rolls.

Tonight I made these for barbecue tofu burgers – delicious!

1 cup milk
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup honey
1 medium egg
2 teaspoons salt
3-1/2 to 4 cups white flour
2 teaspoons yeast

In a saucepan combine the milk, butter, and honey. Heat and stir, allowing it to get pretty warm but not hot. In another bowl put all but about a half cup of the flour. In separate “corners” of the flour pile, add the egg, salt, and yeast. When the milk is ready, combine all and stir. Mix in flour until it pulls off the side of the bowl.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 8 to 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Cover the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes. This relaxes the gluten, and allows it to rise slightly.

After resting the dough, form it into small balls (this recipe makes about 8 hamburger buns). Flatten slightly and arrange the balls on a oiled baking sheet or a baking stone. Cover them with a cloth and allow them to rise in a warm place for about an hour. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Chicken Tetrazzini with Broccoli

I have a reputation for always cooking from scratch Рbut in this case, naughty-like, I use the outr̩ yet very common kitchen shortcut: condensed soup. I should point out this meal has tons of sodium, is high fat, and likely bad for you.

1 pound spaghetti or long pasta
2 heads broccoli
2 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream soup (celery, broccoli, asparagus, mushroom, chicken – whatever your bag is, baby)
2 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup butter
2 cubes chicken bouillon
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cook and drain the spaghetti according to directions; set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and boil broccoli for five minutes; drain, shock in ice water bath, and drain again. Set aside.

Put cooked spaghetti into 9×13-inch baking dish. Place chicken and broccoli on top of spaghetti.

Preheat oven to 350. In medium saucepan heat together soup, water, butter, and bouillon. Bring to a boil and then pour over the pasta and chicken. Put shredded cheese (to taste) on top and press down a bit.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. You can also make this ahead and cool in the refrigerator. Increase baking time until hot and bubbly all the way through.

Pork Tamales ala Amore

Kelly adds: you can make a vegan / vegetarian version of these. For the filling, use jack cheese (or vegan cheese substitute), brewer’s yeast, and rinsed and drained corn.

From the chef:

“I make a large pork roast and use some of the meat for tamales instead of starting with raw pork. If you do start with raw pork, you can brown it, then add it to the sauce for the entire 1.5 hours of simmering time. I also make the filling the day before and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. This is a pretty lengthy process if you do it all at once, but most of it can be done in advance to make the final assembly and steaming time go very smoothly. It is great to have people help assemble the tamales!”

Boil a large pan of water and layer about 20-25 cornhusks in the water. Weight with a plate so they are completely submerged and allow to rehydrate for about 1 hour.

4 dried ancho (pasilla) chiles
chili powder (optional)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 inch thick slice white or yellow onion
1/2 pound cooked pork cut in 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoon salt (approximately)
olives (optional)

Toast chiles in dry skillet over high heat until fragrant and barely smoking and cool. Remove stems and seeds. Cut chiles in large pieces and cover with hot water. Allow to rehydrate for about 30 minutes. Place chiles, garlic cloves, onion, pepper and enough chile liquid to cover everything in a blender or food processor. Blend thoroughly. Press mixture through a strainer into a medium saucepan to remove any seeds or skin. Add 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer over low heat for about 1 hour (if you are using raw pork, brown it and add it at this time).

Add cooked pork pieces and simmer for about 15-30 minutes more until meat has soaked up some liquid and is falling apart tender. Add about 1/2 – 1 more teaspoons salt to taste. I sometimes add some additional chili powder at this time if the chile taste is too mild. This filing should be very flavorful since only a small amount of it will go in each tamale.

1 3/4 cups dried masa harina
1/2 cup shortening or lard
1 t. baking powder
1/2 to 1 cup beef broth
salt to taste

Reconstitute 1 3/4 cups masa harina with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water. This mixture should be barely moist and still crumbly (you may need to add more water). Cool. In a large mixing bowl beat together the shortening and baking powder until fluffy. Alternate adding 1/3 of the masa with 1/3 of the beef broth and continue beating. Add more beef broth if necessary to make a batter that is similar to a thick but soft cake batter. Try the raw batter and add salt to taste.

Cut two or three of the cornhusks into strips about 1/2 inch wide to use as ties. Dry the remaining cornhusks with a towel. Assemble tamales; you may need to use two husks on one tamale if they are small. Add about 1/4 cup masa, 1 – 2 tablespoons filling (and olive if you choose) to a cornhusk. Tie with strip of husk. Place open end up on a rack in a pan of boiling/steaming water. Steam steadily for 1 hour. If the water is not very deep, add a little water a few times during steaming process, but do not allow the water to stop boiling.

Enjoy as-is or with sour cream and salsa.

Meatball In Every Pot

My friend Abi and I for years loved to cook the Escarole and Little Meatball Soup from The Sopranos Family Cookbook. Easy, rich, and tasty. If you have extra greens from your garden (and if you have a garden, you often get a lot of them) you can use almost any of them. One time Abi brought me over a big batch of it, frozen. I’ve never thought frozen soups were that appetizing. Nevertheless, a couple weeks later when I cooked it up it was fabulous – better, even, than a fresh batch.

My experience was confirmed a few months ago when my family and I had leftovers of soup I’d made the night before. My husband and I decided this soup really should set at least a day before eating.

By this time I’d made my own changes to the original recipe. I like turkey meatballs a lot (from ground turkey breast) because you can add herbs, spices, and small-dice vegetables and the turkey will not overwhelm these flavors the way beef does. I thought it might make sense to make a large batch of the soup, put a pot of it in the fridge for the next day, and date and freeze the remainder – so that’s what I did. The recipe below is a big recipe and makes four family-sized servings (well, depending on your family size!)

Furthermore, I think it’s almost a crime to make meatballs without a flavorful shredded Parmesan cheese.

1/2 cup oil
4 49 oz. cans chicken (or vegetable) stock, or equivalent
8 cloves (1/2 head) garlic
2 pounds carrots
4 pieces stale bread (if you only have fresh bread, toast it and let cool)
3 eggs
2 tablespoons salt, divided into 1 and 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fennel
2 tablespoons dried parsley (or 1/4 cup fresh, small dice)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3 pounds ground turkey breast (or ground turkey)
1 pound spaghetti or similar pasta
2 large or 3 medium bunches greens – spinach, kale, romaine, escarole, or a combination
3 gallon freezer ziploc bags, or equivalent

Heat oil on medium heat in the bottom of a very large stock pan. While it’s heating, peel garlic cloves and put in a food processor. Process until small-dice (between 1/4″ and 1/8″) and remove half of the garlic. Saute in the oil until soft. Add the stock or broth to the pot. Cover and turn to high.

While the stock heats up, wash and peel all carrots. Coarse chop three large or four small carrots and put in the processor with the garlic. If you have fresh parsley, wash and chop or put in food processor. Pulse. Add bread slices and pulse.

If you do not have a food processor or do not want to use one, dice the garlic and parsley, grate the three carrots and tear up the bread into 1/4″ pieces then proceed.

In a large bowl whisk eggs, then add mixture from food processor, 1 tablespoon of the salt, the pepper, fennel, and dried parsley. Mix up. Toss in milk. You want the mixture the texture of uncooked stuffing, not to have liquid. Add more or less milk accordingly. Add the parmesan cheese and finally, the three pounds of turkey. Mix with hands until uniform.

By this time the stock should be boiling. When it does, take lid off and add the remaining 2 tablespoons salt. Form meatballs either small or size of a ping pong ball and drop in (careful! Don’t get splashed). Do not add meatballs all at once, but if you have a friend to help, that’s good (It’s a lot of meatballs!). When the meatballs have all been added, add lid and reduce heat slightly to an active simmer.

Wash and slice the greens. Greens should be no larger than the head of a large spoon. Slice the remaining carrots into 1/4″ coins. Break the spaghetti into thirds.

Ten minutes or so after the last meatball was added, add the spaghetti, bring to a boil. Add the carrots. Bring to a boil and cook for the pasta directions. Lastly, add the greens and stir until wilted.

The soup is now ready to be eaten, cooled, or frozen. I usually put a dinner sized serving in a small pot in the fridge. I cool the rest in the fridge and then later divide to be frozen. Bon appetit!