Friday, May 27, 2011

Raisin Pecan No-Knead Bread (and a blog name change)


Alfred is a huge fan of bread, so (being the loving wife that I am) I bake him a loaf once a week. His favorite bread is a wheat loaf based on Jim Lahey's famous no-knead recipe. It happens to be the easiest bread recipe imaginable. The dough's long rise yields a slightly sourdough like flavor with an airy, chewy crumb. He loves this bread plain, with jam or honey, and he uses it to make sandwiches. Recently I tinkered with it by adding some raisins, cinnamon, and toasted pecans to the dough. He enjoyed it for breakfast and dessert everyday until it was gone - it seems this new version was pretty tasty. So, whether you are new to baking or an old pro, I encourage you to give this simple bread a try (with or without the raisins and nuts), I think you will really enjoy it.

I also want to share a great quote I recently came across in the revised edition of Amy's Bread Cookbook:
Bread goes to the very roots of life, and its ingredients are the most elemental. Rain, sunshine, and healthy soil to grow the wheat; human hands to harvest, mill, and turn the grain to flour; water captured in reservoirs, which moistens the flour; yeast, which occurs naturally around us fermenting fruits and starches; and salt from the earth and the sea are the basic ingredients. These along with the warmth of the bakers hands, his or her strength, skill, and passion, and a fiery hearth, are all that are needed to make this simple yet incredible food. (From the Preface)

Raisin Pecan Bread
2 Cups Unbleached Bread Flour (you can also use all-purpose, but it won't be quite as chewy)
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 teaspoon active dry Yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons Sea Salt
2 teaspoons of Cinnamon
1 1/2 Cups of Water
1 Cup of Raisins
1/2 Cup Pecans, chopped and toasted

Oil and wheat bran or cornmeal for coating the pan.

1) In a large glass bowl, combine the flours, yeast, salt, cinnamon, and water (a sturdy wooden spoon is good for this). Once the ingredients are thoroughly combined, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for 12-18 hours - I mix it up the afternoon before I want to bake it and the dough is ready to go the next morning.

2) After the 12-18 hours has elapsed, uncover the dough and stir in the raisins and nuts (you make need to use your hands). Cover it again and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours.

3) 30 minutes before you are ready to bake the bread, place an 8-10 inch cast iron skillet in the middle of the oven (cast iron is best, but you can use a metal cake pan if you don't have cast iron), place a small baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven, and heat the oven to 450 degrees.

4) After 30 minutes, remove the hot skillet/pan from the oven, brush it with oil and coat it thoroughly with wheat bran or cornmeal. Pour the dough into the hot skillet/pan, if need be shake the skillet/pan a little so the dough is evenly distributed. Return the skillet/pan to the oven and pour 1 cup of hot water into the baking sheet at the bottom of the oven (be careful it will instantly produce very hot steam). Quickly close the oven and let the bread bake 30-35 minutes, until the loaf is lightly golden on the top.

5) Remove the bread from the skillet/pan and let it cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing. Enjoy!



*I also want to acknowledge that this is the blog formerly known as "The Delshad Duo." For a number of reasons we decided to change the title (and correspondingly the URL), but you can expect the recipes and style of the blog to remain the same. We hope you will continue to follow us, your support is a great encouragement to us!

As usual, I've included this post as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays , Making Monday Marvelous, Just Something I Whipped Up, My Meatless Mondays, Just Another Meatless Monday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays , Tuesdays at the Table, Real Food Wednesdays, Whatcha Makin' Wednesdays, Full Plate Thursday, Friday Foodie, Friday Favorites, Foodie Friday, Funky Fresh Friday, Sweet Tooth Friday, Sweets for a Saturday, and Nifty Thrifty Sunday.Check out all the great recipes other bloggers have contributed!

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Simple Formula for DIY Granola


Granola is one of my many foodie obsessions. I have a couple of recipes on the blog already. For years I've been tweaking my approach. I've tried many different ingredients and different proportions of oil, liquid sweeteners, fruit purees, oats, nuts, and seeds. I've finally settled on a formula that produces a granola that I absolutely adore. It's crisp, flavorful, and lightly sweet. It is great by the handful, on top of yogurt, or eaten as a breakfast cereal.

Granola 101:
6 Cups of Old Fashioned Oats
3 Cups of Nuts/Seeds (My favorite combination is 1 cup each of pepitas, sunflower seeds, and finely shredded unsweetened coconut)
1/4 Cup Oil, plus extra for pans(I use olive oil)
1/2 Cup Liquid Sweetener (My favorite is carob molasses,* but honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar all work well)**
2 Tablespoons of Spice - optional(I like 1 Tablespoon each of Cinnamon and Ginger)
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
2 Cups of Dried Fruit - optional

*Carob molasses imparts a wonderful, complex, slightly chocolately flavor to the granola. I think it makes the granola extra-special and and extra-cravable! You can find carob molasses at Middle Eastern markets or online.
**If you like a sweeter granola, add additional sweetener, up to another 1/2 cup

Preparation:
1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat two large sheet pans lightly with oil.
2) In a large bowl, combine the oats and nuts/seeds.
3) In a small bowl or large measuring cup, combine the oil, sweetener, spices, and salt.
4) Add the wet mixture to the oat mixture and stir (or use your hands like me) until the oats are evenly coated - the oat mixture will only be slightly "wet"
5) Spread the granola evenly on the two baking sheets.
6) Bake the granola for 15 minutes, remove the sheets from the oven, stir the granola. Return the sheets to the oven, rotating them so the one previously on the upper shelf of the oven is now on the lower shelf and vice versa. Cook the granola another 15 minutes. Turn the oven off, leaving the door closed for 30 minutes.
7) Remove the sheets from the oven and allow to cool completely (if the granola is not crunchy bake another 15 minutes). After the granola is cooled you can add dried fruit if you like. I prefer to eat mine with fresh fruit, especially this time of year when berries are abundant!

As usual, I've included this post as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays , Making Monday Marvelous, Just Something I Whipped Up, My Meatless Mondays, Just Another Meatless Monday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays , Tuesdays at the Table, Real Food Wednesdays, Whatcha Makin' Wednesdays, Full Plate Thursday, Friday Foodie, Friday Favorites, Foodie Friday, Funky Fresh Friday, Sweet Tooth Friday, Sweets for a Saturday, and Nifty Thrifty Sunday.Check out all the great recipes other bloggers have contributed!

I am also including this as part of this month's SOS kitchen challenge - the secret ingredient is carob! I can't wait to see all the other entries, because I'm still a bit of a newbee when it comes to cooking with carob.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dessert From The Grill: Stuffed Bananas!


Today we'll be continuing with the theme of the last few posts - grilling! When the sun is shinning we just can't keep ourselves indoor, even to cook and bake. Stuffed bananas have become one of our favorite easy outdoor treats. The "recipe" is super easy and super tasty. It's especially great for cookouts, camping trips, and is certain to be loved by adults and children alike!

You will need:

1 banana per person
Assorted goodies for stuffing
*We like chopped dark chocolate and toasted sliced almonds. Other tasty options include: peanut butter (or other nut butters), marshmallows, cinnamon sugar, chips (chocolate, white chocolate, peanut butter, cinnamon, butterscotch, etc.), nuts/seeds, and shredded coconut.

Here's how you make them:

1) Use a sharp pairing knife to slice about halfway through each banana lengthwise, leaving the banana in the peel. Since you will be placing the bananas on the grill once you stuff them, it's best to slice them on the concave side so the cut/stuffed part will face directly up when place on the grill.

2) Stuff the banana with desired goodies. It's nice to set up a little buffet of options and let everyone create their own customized treat.

3) Place the bananas directly on the grates of a warm, but not hot grill. *We typically make these for dessert after we've cooked dinner on the grill, so the coals are still warm, but not blazing hot.

4) Place the lid on the grill and let the bananas cook until the filling is nice and melty (5-10 minutes). Use a spoon to eat the banana and the goodies straight out of the peel!

Warning - the melty chocolate can be a bit messy, but that's part of the joy of this simple dessert!

As usual, I've included this post as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays , Making Monday Marvelous, Just Something I Whipped Up, My Meatless Mondays, Just Another Meatless Monday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays , Tuesdays at the Table, Real Food Wednesdays, Whatcha Makin' Wednesdays, Full Plate Thursday, Friday Foodie, Friday Favorites, Foodie Friday, Funky Fresh Friday, Sweet Tooth Friday, Sweets for a Saturday, and Nifty Thrifty Sunday.Check out all the great recipes other bloggers have contributed!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sweet and Savory Plantains


Plantains - those huge "bananas" often located near other tropical fruits such as mangoes and coconuts in the grocery store - are not only tasty, they are incredibly nutritious. They are high in fiber, potassium, and Vitamins A and C. Unlike bananas, plantains cannot be eaten raw, in other words they must be cooked. Green, unripe plantains are very starchy, much like a potato. As they ripen, the fruit becomes much sweeter, though it remains quite firm. The flavor of a cooked, ripe plantain tastes kind of like a banana, but it also has a special tropical taste, a hint of pineapple flavor perhaps. Our favorite way to cook plantains is to season them lightly with cinnamon and cumin and then saute or grill them - it is super easy! Their sweet and starchy qualities make them an excellent accompaniment to spicy Latino food. If you've never tried plantains - I strongly encourage you to add them to your repertoire!

Sweet and Savory Plantains (Serves 3-4 as a side):
2 Large Plantains (we prefer the sweeter ripe ones)
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1) Remove the peel from the plantains - they don't peel as easily as bananas, you will need to cut a slit all the way down the length of the plantain to remove the peel. Cut the plantain on the diagonal into slices 1/2 inch thick for sauteing, 1 inch thick for grilling.

2) Coat the plantain slices in a olive oil. Sprinkle them evenly with the spices. For grilling, thread the slices onto bamboo skewers

3) For sauteing: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, coat the pan with a bit of oil. Cook the plantains 3-5 minutes per side until well browned.
For grilling: Cook the plantain skewers over medium-high (direct) heat 3-5 minutes per side until well browned. Serve warm.

*We served our plantains with a chunky avocado salsa - 1 large tomato diced, 1 avocado diced, 1/2 red onion diced, 1 jalapeno minced, a handful of cilantro minced, juice of 1 lime, and sea salt to taste.

As usual, I've included this post as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Making Monday Marvelous, Just Something I Whipped Up, Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays , My Meatless Mondays, Just Another Meatless Monday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays , Tuesdays at the Table, Real Food Wednesdays, Whatcha Makin' Wednesdays, Full Plate Thursday, Friday Foodie, Friday Favorites, Foodie Friday, Funky Fresh Friday, and Nifty Thrifty Sunday.Check out all the great recipes other bloggers have contributed!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Grilled Spring Veggies


As soon as the weather starts to warm up Alfred goes grilling crazy. As long as it's not raining, most everything we cook from May to October we cook on the grill. Fish, chicken, lots and lots of veggies, even pizza, and fruit for dessert. Right now, spring veggies are ideal candidates for grilling, and recently we cooked two veggies on the grill that turned out particularly well: Artichokes and Vidallia Onions.



We had actually never cooked artichokes (either on or off the grill) - something about their spiny leaves always intimated us. Preparing them and eating them took a bit of effort, but it was well worth it, because they tasted great! We'll certainly be grilling them again soon.

On the other hand, onions are one of our favorite veggies - grilled, raw, sauteed, caramelized, pickled - we eat them with nearly every meal (we go through about 5 pounds of onions a week)! But, this week we grilled them in a slightly different way than we have in the past. Inspired by king of the grill Steven Raichlen, we made onion lollipops - we loved them so much we made them 3 times this week. They are also super easy to prepare!

Grilled Artichokes: (Serves 2 as an appetizer or side)
2 Large Artichokes
1 Lemon, zested and juices
1 Handful of Flat Leaf Parsley, minced
2 Large Garlic Cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Sea Salt

1) Fill a pot large enough to hold the artichokes half way full of water, add half of the lemon juice.

2) Cut the top third of the artichoke off, discard. Trim the pointy tips of the remaining outer leaves (scissors or kitchen shears are handy here), and use a vegetable peeler to peel the stems. Cut the artichokes in half, and remove the purple and fuzzy parts. Place them in the lemon water as soon as your done with each one to prevent them from browning.

3) Bring the artichokes and lemon water to a boil, cook for 10-15 minutes until the stem is tender - use the tip of a pairing knife to check. Drain.

4) Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the remaining lemon juice, the lemon zest, parsley, garlic, olive oil, and sea salt. Add the artichokes to the bowl and coat them thoroughly with the dressing. Let marinate at least 30 minutes.

5) Grill the artichokes over medium heat for about 5 minutes per side, until they are slightly charred.

*In case you are a newbie to eating whole artichokes: You can eat all of the stem, the meaty portion above it (the heart), and the inner leaves. The tougher outer leaves are a bit trickier - you will need use your bottom teeth to scrape out the layer of soft flesh in each one.

Vidallia Onion Lollipops (Serves 2 as a side):
1 Large Vidallia Onion
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper
Fresh or Dried Herbs (Basil, Oregano, Marjoram, etc)
Bamboo Skewers

1) Peel the onion, and cut it into 1/2 inch thick slices - keep the layers together.

2) Insert the pointy end of a bamboo skewer into the side of each onion slice, work slowly and push the skewer through each layer stopping when you get to the last layer - so that you end up with what looks like a lollipop!

3) Brush each lollipop with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herbs.

4) Grill the onions over medium heat for about 5 minutes per side. It works best if you place the onions on the grill so that the end of the skewer is hanging in the air - that way the skewers won't burn, and you can use them to turn the onions over!

*These taste great on their own, or tossed with a bit balsamic vinaigrette post-grilling.

Happy Grilling Season Everyone!
P.S. Alfred is heading out to grill some asparagus and green onions as I type! My mouth is already watering :)

As usual, I've included this post as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Making Monday Marvelous, Just Something I Whipped Up, Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays , My Meatless Mondays, Just Another Meatless Monday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays , Tuesdays at the Table, Real Food Wednesdays, Whatcha Makin' Wednesdays, Full Plate Thursday, Friday Foodie, Friday Favorites, Foodie Friday, Funky Fresh Friday, and Nifty Thrifty Sunday.Check out all the great recipes other bloggers have contributed!