Saturday, April 27, 2013

Potato Stuffed Paratha


Paratha is an Indian flat bread and this one has a wonderful, spicy  potato pancake element to it. I borrowed liberally from this recipe making whatever substitutions I had to along the way. My search for methi leaves (fenugreek) was a dead end, ditto for garam masala. I used celery leaves and chunky chat masala instead, and switched out the red chili for a Serrano. I'm no expert on Indian food but these came out pretty darn tasty. Kenny loved 'um and he's no fan of this particular cuisine, so if he likes them they must be good.

You can't have Paratha without tziziki, or maybe you can but I can't. This recipe is a breeze and I followed it to the tee so I won't bother putting it here. Enjoy! 

potato stuffed paratha

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water, give or take
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for cooking paratha
2 teaspoon chunky chat masala
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped celery leaves
1 teaspoon thinly sliced  Serrano chili
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger  
1 cup russet potato, boiled, peeled and mashed

Whisk salt into flour; add water and stir to form dough. Knead until smooth. Cover and let rest while you make the filling.

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium high. Add everything except potatoes and saute until leaves are wilted, one or two minutes. Transfer to a bowl and when cool add mashed potato.

Divide dough into 6, roll one at a time keeping the others covered with plastic wrap. Roll each to about 3 inches, using only as much flour as you need to keep the dough from sticking. Take a large spoonful of potato filling and place it in the center of the dough. Carefully pull the dough up and around the filling and pinch the dough together to completely cover the filling; flatten slightly and keep covered. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet or cast iron pan, on medium high heat. Roll the paratha, one at a time, to about 6 inches across, being careful not to tear or expose the potato filling. Drop in hot pan, cook for 2 minutes. Brush the top with a bit of olive oil and flip to cook the other side. 

You want to get into a good rhythm so you can roll the next one while the previous paratha is cooking. Make sure to add a bit more oil if necessary and get it hot before adding the next one. Keep the cooked paratha covered until all are done. Serve immediately with a side of tziziki.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie

We're starting a new walking program at work and I should be out there right now walking in the breezy Spring sunshine. The magnolias are in full bloom and the cheery trees and the dogwoods are starting to come in, it's stunning, I don't want to miss it. And I promise to go out and walk right after I finish this pie. Finish photographing this pie, that is. Even this time of year the light coming in the back window has a peak time and I don't want to miss that either.

Then I'll go out and walk, maybe take a dog or two. No, they'll just slow me down. I want to get out there and really walk, fast. Maybe do some hills. Maybe work up to a couple of sprints, you know to get across a busy street.

Of course I'm going to have to cut the pie to really show off it's glistening ruby innards. And I got some ice cream, just as a prop of course. And it wouldn't hurt to show a fork full of ice cream and pie. I should probably cut two slices, I always love when there's two of something in a photograph.

Then it's sneakers on and out the door. I can cover a good amount ground in 30 minutes. Should still be light out. I get a lot of great ideas for the garden walking around the neighborhood. 

Oh, this pie looks so good. Three pounds of juicy sweet tart rhubarb and strawberries, a brown sugar crumb topping, flaky crust, did I mention the ice cream?! Well, the ice cream's starting to melt and mix with the pie juices. Take. The. Picture. Take the picture! Sweet fancy Moses!!! 

Yes, as soon as I finish this pie, these two pieces of pie with ice cream, I will go for a walk. I promise.

strawberry  rhubarb pie


2 cups whole wheat pastry flour plus some for the bottom
1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
1/3 cup cold butter, cut up
1/3 cup vegetable shortning
ice water as needed

In a large bowl whisk together flour and sugar. Cut in butter and shortening until mixture is crumbly. Add just enough ice water to form dough. Knead together until smooth and divide into two. You'll only need on pack of dough so wrap the other and freeze for later use.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough about 1/8 inch thick and fit into 12 inch pie pan. Roll the edges and crimp as desired. Blind bake pie shell (top with another pie pan, or tin foil filled with pie weights or beans) for 10-15 minutes or until edges are golden.


3 cups of diced rhubarb
1 cup raw cane sugar 
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup of water
4 cups strawberries, cut in half

In a large saucepan combine diced rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch and water. Bring to a simmer on medium heat and cook until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Cool completely before using.

topping and assembly

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut up
vanilla ice cream

Combine all dry ingredients and cut in butter until crumbly. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle a little flour in the bottom of the shell to soak up extra juices. Fill baked pie shell with fruit filling and cover with crumb topping. Put pie on a baking sheet. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until topping is browned and fruit juices are bubbling. Cool completely before cutting. Serve with vanilla ice cream then go for a walk. 8-10 servings.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sourdough Pasta

As you may know I'm Italian, so I think I know a little something about pasta. 

Eating pasta, that is. 

Yes, the fact of the matter is that while I've eaten a lot of pasta and cooked a lot of pasta and even watched a lot of pasta being made, I myself have never taken a ride on the fresh pasta merry-go-round.

Until now.

April's Sourdough Surprises is pasta. Pasta was the subject of the very first Sourdough Surprises one year ago so it seemed fitting to revisit the subject and I'm so glad for that. I kinda knew that I would really love this one. Pasta, as I've mentioned, is in my blood. But I didn't know just how much fun I would have. Once I got started it seemed I couldn't stop.

First I made a hand rolled and hand cut batch that became Fettuccine with Pesto. Then I got out the pasta machine and did some egg noodles which became Chicken Noodle Soup. Then I jumped in the deep end and made Cheese Ravioli. And then I wondered why I'd never tried this before.

I arrived at a formula after visiting a couple of sites like this and this

sourdough pasta

1 & 1/2 cups semolina flour
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup sourdough starter
olive oil for the bowl

Stir the salt into the flour. On a wooden board or other clean work surface, make a well with the flour. Add the yolks and starter in the center of the well and slowly work the flour into the mixture until a firm dough forms. Only use as much flour as you need.

Knead the dough until it is smooth. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover and let it rest for 20 minutes (this is key, you must let the dough rest).

To roll by hand:
If you have a large enough work surface and the arms of an Italian grandmother, you can roll the dough out all at once. But to make it easier I cut it in half. Roll the dough to the desired thickness depending on the kind of pasta you want. I rolled mine to about 1/6 the of an inch.

Once the dough is the desired thickness start folding it in from each end by the inch and then fold one end on top of the other. At this point you can hand cut the pasta into capellini or pappardelle or anything in between. I cut mine into fettuccine, cooked it for 2 minutes and tossed it with some pesto sauce. Mama mia!!

Using a pasta machine:
Again I would cut the dough in half. Roll the dough into a flat rectangle and start with the rollers on the largest setting. Pass the dough through a couple of times to get it conditioned. Keep lowering the roller setting, passing the dough through twice each time. As the dough gets thinner it gets longer and will fold in on itself as it comes out of the rollers. Make sure you keep the dough dusted with a little flour so it doesn't stick to itself.

By the time you get to the last roller the dough will be very long and thin. Cut it in half and set up the pasta cutter of your choice. My machine only has linguine and fettuccine. Run each length of dough through and you  can either cook it immediately, it will cook in a couple of minutes, or hang it to dry and save it for later. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Meyer Lemon and Lavender Tartlettes

This post is all about Spring and renewal, or how you  can take something you've made before and make something new. Read on...

Nothing like Spring to bring out the flower elements in baking. Flowers are popping up everywhere, especially in desserts. I recently made a batch of lavender shortbread and thought the dough would make an excellent tart crust. Paired with a Meyer lemon curd what better garnish than a perfect little candied violet

The violets start to make their appearance all over the back yard this time of year. A little egg white and sugar will keep them preserved for a week in an air tight container. And yes, they are edible assuming you do not use pesticides, herbicides or any other kind of cides on you grass.

Meyer lemon curd is a bit less tart than regular lemon curd making these super sweet, on a couple of levels, also twee, precious and squeal inducingly darling.

lavender tartlette dough

14 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour 
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons culinary lavender flowers, finely ground

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar; add vanilla extract. Combine flour, cornstarch and ground lavender, add to butter mixture and beat on medium speed until dough forms.

Divide dough into equal portions. Press dough into tartlette molds, trim any excess around the edges and prick the bottoms with a fork. Place another mold on top to keep the dough from puffing up in the oven. 

Bake for 15 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool, remove tops and gently unmold by nudging a knife between the crust and the bottom mold. Makes roughly 12 two inch tartlettes.

Meyer lemon curd

juice and rind of 2 Meyer lemons
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons butter

Whisk together everything, except the butter, in a medium heat-proof bowl and place on top of a pot of simmering water.  Whisk occasionally until mixture thickens. Turn off the heat, stir in butter and carefully remove from pot (watch out for the steam). Cover and cool before using.

To assembly, fill tartlettes with curd and top with candied violets. Will keep 1 day in the fridge, but best to keep the violets off until ready to serve as they do not hold up in the cooler.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lavender Lapins

When it comes to shortbread the less ingredients, the better. Butter, good butter, sugar and flour- that's really all you need. Oh yea, and lavender. 

Lavender is one of the most, if not the most, fragrant herbs  on the planet. The scent has a calming, tranquil effect. One whiff of lavender and all your worries seem to be forgotten. I never got my Hogwarts's letter so I can't say with much authority, but in my humble muggle opinion it definitely has magical properties. So why wouldn't you use it in shortbread?

These shortbread cookies are simply exquisite. Buttery, sweet and delicately perfumed. Not to mention the hypnotic aroma that fills the kitchen when they are baking. 

I employed my trusty rabbit cookie stamp and I like to think these were the cookies served at the Mad Hatter's tea party.  Or maybe these lavender lapins are friends of the Velveteen Rabbit. All literary references aside, between the magical lavender and the adorable bunny stamp, they're just the most deliciously whimsical cookies you may ever taste.

lavender lapins

3/4 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons culinary lavender flowers
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon vanilla 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar and lavender flowers and process in a food processor until the flowers are finely ground; set aside 3 tablespoons.

In an electric mixer cream butter and the rest of the lavender sugar on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the vanilla, and mix to blend. Whisk together flour and corn starch. Turn the mixer down to low and add the flour a bit at a time.

The dough may not come together like other cookie doughs, however once you start forming it with your hands it'll come together just fine.

Form dough into walnut sized balls; coat in reserved lavender sugar and place on cookie sheet. If you are using a cookie stamp, press the stamp firmly into the dough, flattening it until it peeks out from the edge of the stamp. Otherwise use the bottom of a juice glass to flatten shortbreads.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges are golden. Makes 24 cookies.