Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas dinner

This year, I wanted to make something special but not difficult. Turning holiday meals into an ordeal inhibits enjoyment for me and for my family. Everyone wants to help and I just want them to go away so I can work work work, which is not at all the spirit I like to cultivate at this or any time of year. With my mighty principles in mind, I had no idea what I wanted to cook for our Christmas meal and waited for inspiration. It came on December 22nd during a trip to the local upscale grocery store. I spied a bottle of pomegranate molasses on the shelf and remembered coming across a fabulous-looking recipe that called for it once while I was living in The Hague. At the time, I had no clue where I might find pomegranate molasses (I struggled to find baking soda!), so I dismissed the recipe...but the ingredient name stuck. And here it was. Of course I bought it and brought it home, where I turned to epicurious to find what I could do with it. I came across this recipe, and Christmas Eve dinner was planned! I served it with baby spinach tossed in balsamic vinaigrette with sultanas and cashews and we enjoyed some local cleanskins Classic White wine. This was definitely fancy enough for a special occasion without being painful in the least to prepare. My only suggestion is go easy on the pomegranate molasses. It has quite a tangy bite, which some may love but others may not.

Crisp Cheese-Filled Eggplant Sandwiches with Pomegranate Molasses
Bon Appétit | September 2003
by chef Brenda Langton
Cafe Brenda, Minneapolis, MN

Pomegranate molasses is sold at Middle Eastern markets and some supermarkets; panko is in many supermarkets' Asian foods aisle.
Yield: Makes 4 servings

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
5 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup all purpose flour
1 large egg
1/4 cup water
1 large long eggplant, cut crosswise into sixteen 1/3-inch-thick rounds

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
4 ounces coarsely grated sharp provolone cheese (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Pomegranate molasses

Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick spray, then brush each with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Mix panko, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl. Place flour in another medium bowl. Whisk egg and 1/4 cup water in shallow bowl. Coat each eggplant slice with flour; shake off excess, then dip into egg mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Coat with panko. Place on prepared sheets. Bake until bottoms are golden brown, turning once, about 12 minutes per side. Cool slightly on sheets. Maintain oven temperature.
Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Cool slightly. Mix in both cheeses, parsley, and basil. Season with pepper.
Divide cheese mixture among 8 eggplant slices on 1 baking sheet; spread to cover. Top with remaining eggplant, pressing to compact and making 8 sandwiches. Bake until eggplant is crisp, about 15 minutes. Divide sandwiches among 4 plates; drizzle with pomegranate molasses.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I've been a bit of a pancake connoisseur lately, sampling the pancakes at various local cafes. Brekky is a popular meal to eat out, and many cafes serve breakfast all day. I had been in raptures over the pancakes at Vans in Cottesloe. Those are served with slices of banana between the warm pancake layers...but the real key is the citrus butter melting over the top. This weekend, I tried eat cafe's crepe-like pancakes, topped with toasted coconut and maple syrup and served with thinly sliced fruit salad (strawberries, bananas, pears, and melon) in between the layers. Look at how beautiful:

I ate every bite! And I am taking notes, adapting my own pancakes at home to reflect the deliciousness I find while out. Citrus butter is super easy! Just mix freshly squeezed orange juice with melted butter and let the butter re-solidify in the fridge, stirring occasionally so they won't separate. Give it a try, and I promise you will be happy you did!

Sunday, December 7, 2008


I am immensely proud of having made bagels, and good bagels too! These take more time than the bread, but if you like bagels, I say it's worth it! Both of our girls are big bagel fans, so this recipe is a great discovery for us. Bagels are good on the go, and they are extra-handy for a baby who wants to feed herself (and wants to eat constantly). In fact, we read once in a bagel place that bagels were created as bread for babies, because the ring shape is easy for them to grasp. Who knew?

Again, I followed a recipe from Feed Me I'm Yours by Vicki Lansky, and again I added wheat germ and dry milk. My biggest tip is add the flour carefully! I mixed the dry ingredients in a bowl (4 cups of flour plus the add-ins) and planned to add them gradually to the wet, only to have the whole contents shift half-way through my "gradual adding" and slide right into my other bowl...creating a very hard, very lumpy wad-o'-dough that went in the bin. Sigh. Lesson learned! You'll also see in the photo that some of the bagels got quite brown. The ovens here are TINY, and the baking sheet you see goes from wall to wall. One dozen bagels is all I can make in one go, but lemme tell ya...they're almost already gone!


1.5 cups warm water (105-110F)
1 package dry yeast
1 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp sugar or honey (I used super-fine raw sugar)
4-6 cups flour (white, whole-wheat or a combo)(I used all whole-wheat)
1 egg
poppy or sesame seeds (optional)(I omitted)

In a large bowl, mix warm water with yeast. Add salt and sugar (or honey). Cover bowl with a damp cloth and let stand 5 minutes. Gradually add flour until a soft-to-medium (but not stiff) dough is obtained. Knead on a lightly floured board (5-10 minutes) until shiny and smooth, adding a little more flour as necessary for kneading. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until dough is doubled (about 30 minutes). Punch down and knead lightly.

To form into bagels, roll out approximately 1/4 cup of dough into a strand about 7 inches long and pinch the ends together firmly. Place bagels fairly close together on a floured board or baking sheet. Cover and let rise again (about 30 minutes) in a warm, draft-free place.

Bring about 5 inches of water to boil in a fairly large, open pot/kettle. Turn the heat down to simmer. When bagels have risen, gently lift one at a time and drop into simmering water. Turn them immediately and simmer for about 2 minutes until puffy but not disintegrating. Several bagels may be put into the water at one time, but do not crowd the pan. Remove the bagels to a towel-covered rack to drain and cool while you boil the next batch.

Place the cooled bagels on a greased baking sheet. They can be close together. Beat the egg briefly with 1 Tablespoon of water and brush the mixture over the tops of the bagels. Sprinkle with seeds if using. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Honey-Wheat Bread

Having rediscovered the joy of homemade bread, I doubt we'll be going back anytime soon. It just takes time, and most of that time is hands-off waiting for it to rise while you do other things. You have to be mindful of the clock, but the only real requirement is you stick around to see the whole thing through. I'm hoping to be together enough to bake two loaves in the evening twice a week. One loaf can be fresh; the other can wait in the freezer. When supplies dwindle, it's time to bake two loaves again. Easy-peasy. And this bread is DELICIOUS! The recipe is "Basic Whole-Wheat Bread" from Feed Me I'm Yours by Vicki Lansky. She recommends adding a measure of soy flour, nonfat dry milk and wheat germ to each cup when using white flour. I went ahead and added what I had (no soy flour) to the whole wheat. We can always use the extra nutrients, and it certainly doesn't compromise the taste!

Homemade Honey-Wheat Bread

2 packages yeast
1 cup warm water (105-110F)
1 Tbsp honey
2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter, margarine or vegetable oil (butter!)
1/3 cup honey
1.5 Tbsp salt
5 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ (optional)
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk (optional)
3 cups white flour (or as needed)

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in 1 Tablespoon of honey. Set aside for 10 minutes.
In a saucepan, combine milk, butter (or margarine or oil), honey and salt. Heat to lukewarm--do not scald.
Pour warm milk mixture and dissolved yeast into large mixing bowl. Add the whole-wheat flour, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Be sure to use all the whole-wheat flour. Add wheat germ and dry milk if desired. Add enough white flour to make a soft, yet manageable dough.
Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (approx 8-10 minutes). Place dough in a greased bowl, turning it to grease the top. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in bulk (40-60 minutes).
Punch down, divide in half, and knead each half for about 30 seconds. Shape into 2 loaves and place in greased loaf pans.
Cover and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400F and bake 40 minutes or until done.
Turn out loaves onto rack and cool.
Slice, eat, enjoy, and wonder how you will ever eat store-bought bread again.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Free-form apple pie?

Recently, I made strawberry-rhubarb hand-pies again and (once again) ate them all in less than 24 hours. They are that good. And I have that little restraint. Following the same recipe for the crust and only slightly amended recipe for the filling, I made what angry chicken (recipe source) called "apple galette". My crust was extra generous, so I folded it completely over for an enclosed free-form pie. Oooooooo....De. Li. Cious! We already ate half. I'm sure the rest will be gone before dinnertime tomorrow. Sad, sad, sad...but oh so good!

p.s. (especially for gail) Inspired to reduce refined sugars by a certain healthy eater I know, I used super-fine raw sugar in this recipe, and it was perfect! I think any added honey-type flavor from the sugar only enhanced the recipe. Highly recommended! And try those handpies too. Uh. Maze. Ing!