Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Goodbye Tessa, it's been a pleasure!  This is the last Tessa Kiros themed week at I Heart Cooking Clubs.  Although I jumped on the bandwagon only for the last several months, I have thoroughly enjoyed discovering the food of Tessa's family and ancestral heritage.  There are so many recipes that I have ear marked in her books that I own Twelve - A Tuscan Cook Book  and Falling Cloudberries.  These cookbooks won't be collecting dust on the shelf, trust me.

The final recipe I chose is Tessa's Hummus from Falling Cloudberries.  Hummus is one of those snacks you don't feel guilty about eating.  Once you learn to make your own you'll never spend money on it at the market again.  It's especially easy when you use canned chickpeas.

Here's what we start with:  chickpeas (that are in the bowl that I guess I thought everyone could see through), garlic, tahini, lemons, olive oil and paprika.

You can find prepared tahini at your market but I enjoy making my own.  Tahini is simply roasted sesame seeds and extra virgin olive oil.  It only took a couple of minutes to prepare the amount in the Mason jar that you see here.

I'm using canned chickpeas this time around (so much faster!).  Drain them but be sure to reserve the liquid; you may want to use some toward the end of the recipe.

Crush the clove of garlic and, using a little salt, create a paste.  I do this by mincing the garlic as fine as I can get it, sprinkling it with salt and then scraping and mashing it back and forth with the flat of my knife.

Put the chickpeas, tahini and garlic in a blender or processor.  I used the processor but a blender gives it a smoother texture.  I ended up going back with an immersible blender to smooth mine up.

Process until crumbly.  Season with a little salt and then add the lemon juice and process until nice and smooth.

Pour into a small bowl and thoroughly mix in the olive oil.  If it's a bit dry add a little of the reserved chickpea liquid.  Taste to determine if it needs more salt.  Sprinkle with the paprika.

There are so many ways to serve Hummus.  You're not limited to the traditional pita bread.  I like to eat it with crudites.  Sometimes I just grab and spoon and enjoy.  Tessa writes that she especially likes the hummus heaped onto some crusty bread together with slices of juicy tomato and an extra drizzling of olive oil and some salt. Y-U-M!!

Here's how I made my tahini:
On a jelly roll pan, in a 350°F. oven, roast 2 cups sesame seeds (you can find them roasted in the store as well).  Roast for about 5 - 10 minutes but watch that they don't get too brown.  Let them cool on the pan for about 20 minutes.

Pour the sesame seeds into a food processor bowl and add a little less than 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil.  Blend for 2 minutes.  The consistency you are after is a smooth, thick mixture but pourable.  Add more oil and blend if it is too thick.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  It should last about 3 months.

From Tessa Kiros' Falling Cloudberries'

1-1/4 cups chickpeas or 1 (16 ounce) can chickpeas
1 large garlic clove
3 Tbsp tahini
juice of 2 lemons
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sweet paprika

Mise en place:
  • if using dried chickpeas soak them overnight; if using canned, drain reserving the liquid
  • Crush garlic into paste
  • measure out tahini
  • juice the lemons
  • measure out olive oil
If you are not using canned chickpeas, drain the soaked chickpeas into a saucepan, cover generously with water, and bring to a boil.  Cook over medium-high heat for about 1-1/2 hours, until they are softened.  Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid.  Pass the chickpeas through a large-holed sieve to remove their skins.

Crush the garlic with a little salt until if forms a purée.  Put the chickpeas, tahini, and garlic in a blender, purée a little, and then season with salt.  Add the lemon juice and continue puréeing until smooth.  Scrape out into a bowl and thoroughly mix in the olive oil.  If it's a bit too dry, add some of the reserved chickpea liquid.  Check that there is enough salt.  Sprinkle with the paprika and drizzle with a little more oil if you like.  Hummus will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

I'm sharing this post at IHCC.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Classic White Bread

In the late seventies, my friend Tyra and I left the flatirons of Boulder, Colorado for the desert of West Texas.  There was an oil boom going on and we decided to get a little slice of it.  We traded the mountains for the flat, bare, dry, windy and dusty plains of the Permian Basin and experienced geographical and cultural shock.  Doesn't sound like a fair trade, but the experience we gained from it was worth it and I grew to appreciate it in many ways.

We opened a Tea Room in Midland, Texas which was actually a second location, as Tyra's mother owned the original in San Antonio.  We were just young ladies who didn't know what we were doing at the time, but we learned really quick.

Tyra's mother Helen taught us a thing or two; and one of those things was a Ribbon Party Loaf.  Classic ladies' luncheon fare, it is a loaf of white bread, crust removed and sliced horizontally in thirds.  The loaf was assembled with a base of white bread, layer of filling (chicken salad, egg salad, ham salad, pimiento cheese, et al), layer of white bread, an alternate filling and topped with the top layer of white bread.  All of this was encased in a spreadable cream cheese mixture then refrigerated for several hours or overnight.  Sliced up, it produced a striking and feminine sandwich on the plate.
Now that I have your curiosity all a-buzz, I'm sorry to tell you this post is all about the bread.  I promise to bring you the Party Loaf in the near future.

I haven't made a Ribbon Party Loaf in 20 years and I want to make several this summer so my first order of business is to select a good, basic white bread recipe that won't fall apart, yet have a nice crumb and flavor.  The big test is how it will hold up with fillings and how it will slice.

All of that said, the clipping for today is a classic white bread recipe that I tore out of a King Arthur Flour catalogue many moons ago.

It's an easy bread to prepare by mixing all of the ingredients in the order they're given in the recipe (water, honey, yeast, salt, butter, flour and nonfat dry milk) and knead (with the dough hook or by hand - I did a little of both) until you have a nice smooth dough that is elastic.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl - I used a large 8 cup measuring cup.  Cover with a tea towel and let it rise for 60 - 90 minutes until it is puffy.  It doesn't have to be doubled in size.

Gently deflate the dough.  Wow, my hands are getting old.  Oh wait, could that be because I'm getting old??

Shape it in a log 9" long

Place in a 9" x 5" lightly greased loaf pan.

Cover and let rise 60 - 90 minutes

until it's crowned 1" to 1-1/2" over the rim of the pan

Bake for 20 minutes.  The crown of this mass of dough is ripply; like my thighs; not really; I'll never tell.

Tent with foil and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown or an instant-read thermometer reads between 195°F & 200°F.

Turn out onto a rack and let completely cool.

For what it's worth:  I am please with this bread.  It smells great, tastes great (especially with slathered with soft butter) and has the texture I'm looking for.  A test on how it holds up with fillings will be the next step in deciding if this will be the bread to become a party loaf!
Classic White Bread
Yields 1 large loaf; about 18 servings

1 cup + 2 Tbsp, to 1-1/4 cups lukewarm water*
1 heaping Tbsp honey
2-1/4 tsp instant yeast
1-3/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp soft butter
4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup Baker's Special Dry Milk or 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk granules
*  Use the lesser amount in summer or humid climates; the greater amount in winter or drier climates.
(I used the lesser amount because it is raining cats and dogs this evening)

Mise en Place:
  • measure out all ingredients and allow to come to room temperature
  • lightly grease a large bowl (I use Crisco)
  • lightly grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan
Mix all of the ingredients in the order listed, and mix and knead to make a smooth dough, one that feels bouncy and elastic under your hands.  Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, or large (8-cup) measuring cup.  Cover it, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it's become quite puffy, though not necessarily doubled in size.

Gently deflate the dough, and shape it into a fat 9" log.  Place it in a lightly greased 9" x 5" loaf pan.  Cover the pan, and let the dough rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it's crowned 1" to 1-1/2" over the rim of the pan.  Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 20 minutes.  Tent it lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until it's golden brown.  An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read 195°F to 200°F.

Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out onto a rack to cool.  When completely cool, wrap in plastic, and store at room temperature.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Herbed Olive Oil

In honor of St. Patrick's day this week, the theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs is Go Green.  I wanted to make something that I can definitely use in my kitchen and that would be herbed olive oil.  I chose this recipe from Tessa Kiros' cookbook Twelve, A Tuscan Cook Book.  In Tuscany they call it Smicca; olive oil infused with fresh rosemary, sage and garlic.

Tessa suggests that it is worth making a large amount as it keeps for a long time if the herbs remain covered with the oil.  Since it is only Lovey and myself at home, I halved the recipe (as I do with so many these days).  Smear it all over a nice chicken for roasting and you can jazz up your roasted potatoes as well by giving them a nice toss with the oil before placing them in the oven.  Spread some of the oil mixed with diced tomatoes on some toasted ciabatta bread for a nice bruschette.  You can get really creative with this stuff.

Wash your rosemary and sage and leave to dry overnight on some paper towels.

Remove the leaves from the rosemary sprigs and remove any tough stalks from the sage sprigs.  Peel your garlic and coarsely chop (if you go the blender route).  Drop them into your blender and pulse-chop.  My blender didn't do as good a job as I would have liked on the rosemary leaves but it chopped most of them fine and the leaves left whole were at least bruised and beat up enough to release their essence.  If you do this by hand, chop them very finely.

I put my herbs in a Mason jar (because I love storing all things in Mason jars) and added a good pinch of salt.

Add a good quality olive oil and stir it up.  Let it settle overnight then check to make sure all of the herbs are still covered.

Store in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator.  I'm keeping mine on my pantry shelf with it's cousins.

Smicca - Herbed Olive Oil
From Twelve by Tessa Kiros
Makes 1litre (4 cups)

4-1/2 ounces rosemary sprigs
3-1/2 ounces sage sprigs
4 garlic cloves garlic
about 3 cups olive oil

Mise en Place:
  • rinse rosemary and sage and allow to dry, preferably overnight
  • strip leaves from rosemary and sage sprigs
  • peel garlic
  • measure olive oil
Chop the sage, rosemary leaves and the garlic very finely by hand, or pulse-chop in a blender.  Place in a jar, lightly salt and cover with oil.  Stir through.  Leave it overnight to settle, then check that the herbs are completely covered with oil.  Add a little more oil if necessary.  Store in a closed jar in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator.  This will keep for several months - just keep topping it up with olive oil.

I'm sharing this at IHCC

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Moroccan Preserved Lemons

I started making my own preserved lemons after watching an episode of Ruth Reichl's Gourmet’s Adventures with Ruth which ran on our PBS station a few years ago.  It was during the episode where she traveled to Morocco that I was schooled on this tangy condiment.  I use them a lot in salads and in chicken dishes.  They are so easy to make and it's nice to have them at your fingertips.

This is how I learned to make them.

The containers.

Select your container or containers, depending on how much you plan to make.  I prefer glass jars (clamp/gasket or Ball jars).  Wash and sterilize them.  I scrub mine by hand then boil them in a large pot of water for about 10 minutes.

Unless I am making gifts, I make just one jar to keep in the fridge.  Once my jar is clean and dry I toss a little kosher salt into the bottom of it.

The lemons.

Any lemon will do.  I prefer Meyer Lemons with their deep yellowy-orange skin that's thin and fragrant.  It's juice is also a little sweeter and less acidic than a true lemon.  Select enough lemons to cram the jar full.  You'll want to buy extra lemons for juicing as well. 

Scrub your lemons clean.  I'm going to slip in a plug here for a product I use in my kitchen daily.

This is Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Soap.  I use the peppermint but it comes in Almond, Spearmint and I believe one or two more fragrances.  I wash my vegetables and fruits in this stuff.  It even removes the slimy what-ever-it-is that they slather on cucumbers.  You can also bathe in this and brush your teeth with it, but I relegate it to the kitchen.  The label also makes for some interesting reading.

Cut each lemon through the center 3/4 of the way through making sure to keep intact.  Turn a half turn and make another slice 3/4 of the way through the lemon.

Your lemon should look like this.  You'll have a quartered lemon that is still attached at the base.

Have a bowl full of kosher salt hand and start packing your lemon with the salt.  As you finish packing a lemon, place it in the jar.

Repeat with the rest of the lemons until you have crammed your jar full.  As you stuff the lemons in the jar, you will want them packed in really tight and compress them so you release juices.

Over time, juices will naturally begin to release themselves but you will want to juice several lemons and pour the juice into the jar.

I also added a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme I had on hand.

Some people like to store theirs on a shelf in a dark cook closet but I prefer the refrigerator.  Every two to three days for the first week, open the jar and compress the lemons, releasing more juice.  After a week, if the lemons are not completely submerged in the juices , juice another lemon or two and add the juice to the jar.

Walk off and forget about your lemons.  I don't even think about them for at least two months.

How to use your preserved lemons
  • remove the soft rind and mince it to add to salads
  • separate the rind and pulp and smear all over a roasting chicken and throw some inside the chicken too.
  • the rinds can be used in sauces (whole or chopped up)
  • you can use your lemons to flavor any savory dish
  • decorate your jar with a pretty ribbon and a homemade label and give a jar as a gift
I'd like to know how you use yours!

Moroccan Preserved Lemons
Your ingredients will vary depending on the size of your jar, the size of the lemons and how many jars you plan to make.  For the sake of giving you a guideline, I'm giving you the ingredients I used to fill a 2 cup gasket and hinge jar.

8 Meyer Lemons, divided
1 cup Kosher Salt (you won't use all of this but it's better to have alot on hand than not enough!)
Fresh herb sprigs (optional)

Mise en Place:
  • Scrub jar and boil (without the gasket on) in a large pot of water (enough water to cover jar) for about 10 minutes - dry thoroughly
  • wash lemons and set aside
  • squeeze lemon juice from 2 of the lemons
  • pour salt in small mixing bowl
Drop a good pinch of salt in the bottom of the jar.

Slice 6 of the lemons in quarters 3/4 of the way through - all 4 sections should stay intact.

Take fingerfuls of salt and pack into the lemon.  Place into the jar.  Repeat with each lemon and as you pack them into the jar, use pressure to compress the lemons together and exude juices.  Once you have packed your jar full (I packed 6 lemons into my jar) slip in whatever herb you like (if you choose to use an herb at all).  Pour the lemon juice that you squeezed from the 2 lemons into the jar.

Replace gasket onto the jar lid the clamp the jar closed.  Place in refrigerator.  Every 2 to3 days, open the jar and give the lemons a squeeze to exude more juice.  After a week, if the lemons are not submerged in juice, add more freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Forget about your lemons and a couple of months and let nature take its course.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


It's all about citrus at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week.  I selected smooth, puckery and yummy Avgolemono; that's chicken soup with egg and lemon.  The first time I ever tasted this soup was in 1982.  Lovey and I were visiting a high school friend, Victoria, who was living in Monument, Colorado.  The grandmother of the man she was married to at the time was from Greece and she showed Vicki how to make this soup.  We were sitting in her kitchen watching her create this soup and I had never seen or heard of anything like it.  It was so tasty we could have eaten the whole pot!  Actually, I think we did; in that one sitting.

I've had Avgolemono many time since and although Vicki gave me the recipe way back then, this is the first time I have ever made this soup.  And I'm not using Vicki's, but Tessa Kiros' recipe from her Falling Cloudberries cookbook.

The main work, time and effort is to poach your chicken.

Rinse your chicken and place it in a large pot with and onion, celery stalk that has lots of leaves, a carrot, salt and a couple of peppercorns.  These vegetables are going to be tossed so there's no reason to peel the carrot or onion.  You do want to make sure they are clean though; and I do slice off the ends of the onion.

Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer and about an hour and a half.  With a slotted spoon, skim the surface periodically.

When the chicken is done, remove to a plate and set aside.

Strain the broth through a sieve then press the vegetables with the back of a spoon so you don't miss all the yummy flavor the vegetables have to offer. 

Return the broth to the pot and add the rice.  Cook until the rice is done. 

Lastly, you add the magic.  But it's simple magic.  Just whip two eggs in a small bowl until they are light and fluffy.  Add the juice from two lemons and whisk together.  Temper the egg mixture by drizzling a ladle full of the hot broth into the eggs while whisking.  When I'm tempering an egg mixture like this I usually use several ladlefuls to make sure the mixture is warmed up enough to add to the pot.

Stir the tempered egg mixture back into the pot and enjoy the creaminess of this rich, delicious soup.  I put some shredded chicken in the bottom of our bowls then ladled the soup on top.

Tessa comments that you could easily add some thyme sprigs or other herbs to inauthentically infuse the broth of this classic Greek soup.

Avgolemono (Chicken Soup with Egg and Lemon)
Adapted from Tessa Kiros' Falling Cloudberries

1 (3 pound) whole chicken
1 white onion
1 celery stalk with leaves
1 large carrot
a few parsley stalks
a few black peppercorns
1-1/2cup long-grain rice, rinsed
2 eggs
juice of 2 lemons

MIse en place
  • rinse chicken
  • clean vegetables
  • measure out rice
  • crack eggs into small mixing bowl
  • juice 2 lemons
Place chicken in a large stockpot with the onion, celery, carrot, parsley stalks, peppercorns and a good sprinkling of salt.  Cover with about 14 cups of cold water and bring to a boil.  Skim the surface with a slotted spoon, decrease the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for about 1-1/2 hours, skimming occasionally.  Lift the chicken out onto a plate with a slotted spoon.  Strain the broth through a sieve, pressing down lightly on the vegetables with your wooden spoon to extract the flavor.  You should have about 6 cups of broth.  Return this to the saucepan, add the rice and cook over medium heat for another 15 minutes or so, until the rice is cooked.

Whisk the eggs until they are fluffy.  Add the lemon juice.  Add a ladleful of hot broth to the egg, whisking to stop it from scrambling.  Whisk in a little more broth, then add the entire egg mixture to the pan.  Return the saucepan to the lowest possible heat for a few minutes to warm the egg through.  Add some salt and pepper and serve immediately.  If you like, shred one of the chicken breasts and scatter over the soup.  Serve the rest of the chicken as a second course.

I'm sharing this at IHCC.