Sunday, August 25, 2013

Soft Pretzel Dinner Rolls

Costco has great pretzel rolls, but they come in this huge bag which you are guaranteed to eat in two days and get all fat. Instead, just make eight of them and mitigate the weight gain. I don't know what their recipe is, but mine is kind of awesome.


For the dough:
1 packet Rapid Rise yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup melted lard (just do it)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 2/3 cups flour (if you're flour isn't as dry as mine was, you might need almost 3 cups, you just want the dough to come away from the sides of the bowl easily and not be too crazy sticky.)

For the tops of the rolls:
1 beaten egg, to brush on, plus a little kosher salt for sprinkling.

For "bath" water:
 5 cups water
1/3 cup baking soda

In a bowl, mix up the yeast, warm milk and sugar, then add the rest of the ingredients making sure that the baking powder is distributed evenly in the flour first. Knead the dough for a bit, you don't need to do it for a long time. Separate the dough into 8 even rolls. Let them rise uncovered on your cutting board for 30 minutes. Meanwhile bring to a boil the water and baking soda in a medium saucepan and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 

When the  rolls have risen, use a slotted spatula to carefully lower each roll into the boiling baking soda water, one at a time, face down. Let each one go for about 30 seconds, then flip it over and let it boil on the underside for about ten seconds, then move it to a small oiled cookie sheet, putting them all fairly close together. If you don't have non-stick pans, you might want to line the pan with oiled parchment paper. Brush each roll with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

Bake the rolls for 11 minutes, until they're dark brown like a pretzel.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Roasted Chicken with Moscato Peach Sauce and Black Rice

First of all, you don't have to use black rice. I just happened to see a giant bag of it at Costco and decided to try it. It looks really pretty (if you compare them in your brain to shiny black pebbles instead of bugs) and it tastes sweeter and nuttier than regular white rice. Don't follow the water amounts on the bag though, I noticed that it needed the standard 2 cups water to 1 cup rice just like any other kind, but you do need to cook it for 30 minutes like it says, I didn't add anything fancy to the rice, just salt and butter at the end. 

Now to the chicken. I use chicken thighs- they cook quickly and they stay moist no matter what. If you absolutely insist on using chicken breast (because you're a weirdo like my husband) then at least use the breast with the bone and skin still on.  I'm yawning just thinking about chicken breast. For this recipe, you want 8-10 chicken thighs (two per person). 

Season the thighs first with:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 heaping tablespoon (or more) of dried herb, I used thyme, but you can do sage or marjoram, or whatever strikes your fancy.
The peach sauce:

2 cups of fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup Muscat wine (Moscato) cheap stuff is fine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or white pepper
1 tablespoon of cornstarch diluted in a little bit of water

Bring the ingredients to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.

To cook everything in order:

-Preheat the oven to 375 for the chicken. 
-Get your peach sauce going on the stove.
-Start the water boiling for the rice. 
-Put the seasoned chicken in a roasting pan in the oven. 
-Pour your rice into the boiling water, cover, turn down to simmer and set your timer for 30 minutes. 
-At the end of that time, pour peach sauce over the top of the chicken and put the chicken back in the oven another 15 minutes. 
 -After pouring the sauce on the chicken, turn the heat off of the rice and let it sit there covered until the chicken is done.

Serve the chicken with the buttered and salted rice and lots of the pan juices poured over the top.

Obviously you could serve white wine with this, but a cold beer and biscuits would be good too.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tomato 'Relish' and Tomato Jam

I had a bit of a disaster yesterday. I tried to make tomato jam, but no one ever told me that if you don't put massive amounts of sugar in with your fruit, the regular pectin doesn't work right. I have read tons of recipes where I thought to myself, "that's a freakin' lot of sugar," but I never knew the reason for it. I guess I should say "skimmed", I skimmed tons of recipes. I mean, sure, the pectin directions stated the sugar to fruit ratio facts very clearly, but by God who would have thought you would need to read a giant double-sided fold-out insert just to use a pouch of pectin?

So here's my recipe for, uhm, chunky sweet and sour ketchup salsa relish...stuff. It's not gross, I swear. In fact with some chicken stock and a splash of cream it would make a good tomato soup. I spooned some of it over an Italian sausage in a bun for dinner tonight and it was pretty damn good, so it would probably work as barbeque sauce too.


5 pounds of fresh ripe tomatoes, at least half should be paste tomatoes like Roma or San Marzano. Mix it up with different varieties though, it will look cool.
1 large sweet onion
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon fresh thyme 
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
 2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pouch of Certo pectin. But regular doesn't work here, so buy a low sugar kind instead if you want this to be jam instead of sauce/relish.

Chop up all of the fresh ingredients in a food processor, but not too much- leave it chunky. Put that chunky mess in a pot with the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn it down a bit and cook for thirty minutes then add pectin. Turn the heat back up and boil one more minute, then pour in sterile jars. 

I think instead of screwing it up like I just did, you really could make tomato jam by adding 2 more cups of white sugar and cooking it down a little longer before adding the pectin. Then you could actually spread it on crackers and cheese like I originally planned. When I get more ripe tomatoes I'll try it and let you know how it works out. I actually tried to save mine after it was too late by adding an extra cup of white sugar, but one more wasn't enough, I think you would need four cups of sugar total for jam. 

Or just get the Pomona stuff that works with low-sugar recipes, which, now that I know about, I will purchase ASAP.

Update, Day 2: Successful tomato jam has happened, and I tried a simpler flavor approach too. I'm going to make a bacon, cheese and tomato jam sandwich for lunch, yay me.

3 pounds tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 cups white sugar
1/8 cup apple cider viegar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 rounded teaspoon dried savory
Pomona Universal Pectin

I simmered the ingredients about 20 minutes, then added 3 tsp. calcium water, turned the heat up and added 4 teaspoons pectin mixed with 1/8 cup sugar, and stirred while it boiled for about one minute, then filled the jars. (Both the calcium and pectin come in the box together.) 

I found a few good jam recipes online, but none that looked just right. In my search I found some great blogs, but also some of the cheesiest food blogs that made me cringe. I don't mean like, "a blog about cheese," I mean like cheesy. I read one where in order to find the recipe from the title I had to slog through paragraphs of the author raving on and on about his upcoming honeymoon overseas (gag me) and another where the author went on and on about her adorable little boy who just loves his vegetables (double gag me). If I ever sound that insipid (and way off topic,) for chrissake someone just break my laptop and put me out of my misery. 

So I promise, if the title implies that a recipe is forthcoming, I will give you the goods up front and put my off-topic ramblings at the end. Like this. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Roadside Fig Preserves


First, find yourself some figs.

You could go buy some at the store, or if you live in California you can tool around the back roads, preferably near old farms and river levees, and look for huge out-of-control fig trees that grow on the side of the road. 
 My rule of thumb for scavenging figs is that if the tree is not obviously part of someone's yard, and has a large amount of figs on the ground, you can bet that no one will care if you take some. 

If it's part of an orchard, that's pretty much stealing. 

Although having said that, I did take some pears from an orchard that had already been harvested and only had a few banged up stragglers left that were obviously going to be allowed to fall on the ground. I feel no guilt.
This is what I mean by out-of-control fig trees.
After you've collected your loot, you will want to eat a bunch of them in the car. Judging the ripeness of figs is a little different from other fruit. You don't want them firm, although for preserves or jam it's okay if they're not quite ripe yet. Ripe figs feel soft to the touch and come off the tree very easily. If it feels like a firm tomato, it's not ready. If it feels like an over-ripe slightly squishy tomato, it's just right. If they look like they have cracks, that's fine. 
Our Fruit Haul
To make about two big jars of preserves, you need:

Two of the larger sized canning jars and lids
3 pounds of fresh figs 
2 1/2 cups of sugar, or 3 cups if the figs aren't super sweet
1/2 cup water
Zest and juice of one large lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Boil your jars and lids to disinfect. Meanwhile, slice your figs into discs, about four slices per fig. Put them all in a big pot with the rest of the ingredients, and simmer on a brisk med-low simmer (I set the stove top on 3) for about 30-40 minutes uncovered, stirring gently and occasionally, it should look all thick and chunky and syrupy when it's done. 

Fill the jars, leaving just a bit of room at the top. Screw on the lids really well and them put the jars back in the pot of bubbling water that you used to disinfect the jars, for about five-ten minutes. 

Remove and let them cool. I store them in the fridge, but you should be able to store them in a cool dry cabinet until they're opened. 

Serving suggestions-

Obviously you could serve this with good old bread and butter, but fig preserves go really well with goat cheese, and other cheeses (I'm sure you've seen fig and goat cheese recipes all over the internet) and it's also great with Greek yogurt or ice cream. Add a 1/2 cup of it to your favorite beef stew recipe along with some coriander, or use it to glaze a roasted chicken about ten minutes before you take the chicken out of the oven.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Jeannie's Crunchy Custard Lulu's

I promised I wouldn't post another summer squash recipe, so then, of course, I had nothing else to write about. Thank God my sister came to town and dragged me out of my squash rut. We made many non-squashy dishes which I will soon share. 

This first dessert she made for me was so good I ate a whole plate of them- yes, all the ones in the picture. Don't judge me. They're crunchy and creamy and glazed with wildflower honey. What would you have done? We called them lu-lu's because the Greek word for donuts similar to these are called loukoumathes...which is kinda hard to say. And to spell.

Jeannie's Recipe:


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1 T. dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 T. sugar
Oil for frying (vegetable, corn, sunflower, etc.)
Honey for drizzling

Whisk dry ingredients, add water and whisk until smooth.  Cover and let rise in a cool/dry place for about 45 minutes.  Heat vegetable or corn oil in a sauce pot or fryer to 350 degrees.  Drop by the spoonful in the hot oil and flip after about a minute - should be deep golden color, but not too dark (dark will mean bitter to your tongue).  Drain on paper towels and drizzle honey over the pastries before they cool.


It's a great idea to make the custard first, let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate it while you are making the pastry.

1 cup whole milk
2 T. corn starch
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 T. real butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Whisk all ingredients in a sauce pan.  Turn on heat to medium or medium high and continue whisking until smooth and thickened.  Remove from heat and keep whisking.  Transfer to another bowl and whisk again.  The more you whisk, the smooth and fluffier your custard will be.  Cool to room temperature and refrigerate.


Pipe the cold custard over the cooled pastry and serve.