Sunday, November 20, 2011

What is it about Fall?

For whatever reason, the change in the weather from Summer to Fall puts me in the mood to bake bread. Lots of bread. So my house has been filled with that wonderfully homey scent of baking bread more often than not these days. I’ve been trying out new recipes and revisiting old favorites.

Bread making for me used to fall into the category of ‘too much to do and don’t have time to make it’, but really I think it’s more of a patience thing. Doesn’t require a lot of time to put a loaf of bread together, but the idea of waiting for several hours for dough to rise and for the bread to bake can just be… excruciating.

As I said, I have a short attention span.

And for that reason, I am thankful to have found a recipe that is versatile, relatively quick to make and SOO good. I made this once to go with dinner, then doctored it up another way (one of the beauties of making focaccia) and made a wonderful muffaletta sandwich out of it. The possibilities are endless here. The first time I made it, I drizzled it with garlic inflused olive oil and then topped it with roasted garlic and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. This time I went for a sun-dried tomato pesto made with walnuts.


1 package rapid-rise dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 Tbs sugar
3 cups bread flour
½ - 1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbs sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Semolina flour, for dusting pan
Additional olive oil

Assorted toppings (you choose):

Roasted garlic
Caramelized onions
Course salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh herbs

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast, water and sugar. Stir to combine a bit and then allow to rest for 3 minutes. Fit the mixer with a dough hook and turn mixer on low. Slowly add bread flour and ½ cup of all-purpose flour.

Combine salt and 2 Tbs warm water. Stir until dissolved. Add to dough along with olive oil and continue to mix until dough is smooth an elastic, about 5 minutes.

Turn dough onto floured work surface and knead a few times. Form the dough into a ball. Add about a teaspoon of olive oil to the mixing bowl, and add the dough ball, turning several times to coat with the oil. Cover with a cloth or plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm area until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Lightly sprinkle a baking sheet with the semolina (or you can substitute cornmeal). Turn dough onto pan and press into a rectangular shape, about 12” long, 8” wide and about an inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400º. After dough has rested, dimple the top of the dough using fingers. Drizzle with olive oil and add any toppings you’re using.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until bread is golden.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Er… Hello…

I know. It’s been a while. The last month has been just… busy. Mostly adjusting to having this little guy in the house…

Now, as long as I prefer pumps to orthopedics, I flatly refuse to be referred to as ‘Grandma’. Mostly because that term will always be reserved (in my mind) for my own dear grandmother, who I am so sad that I lost so early in life.

But because I really don’t feel like a ‘grandma’, I have coined the name ‘Amma’, a combination of my maternal great-grandmother, who was called ‘Avo’ and ‘Gramma’. My mother insists that I have no control over what I will be called, even though I pointed out that although her first grandbaby (O1) substituted ‘Bubba’ because she couldn’t say ‘Grandma’, the remaining three grandchildren have all followed suit and called her ‘Bubba’. Therefore, it’s just what the child hears.

And besides, he can call me Fred for all I care.

Anyway, most of the food I’ve been making has been revisiting old (and quick) recipes. That, and I seem to have developed some kind of mental block about taking food photos - probably because the camera is usually in his face and not in the kitchen.

But I did make these recently. Kind of an Asian take on meatballs. Didn’t really want to go the sweet/sour route with pineapple. Instead, these are infused with coconut milk, and they’re very tender. I served them with a ginger-scented rice and sautéed asparagus and bell pepper. They were both light and hearty.

Try ‘em.

Lion’s Head Meatballs

1 lb ground beef
1/4 cup coconut milk
2 Tbs soy sauce
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 shallot, finely minced
1 Tbs flour
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 Tbs sesame oil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Salt and pepper to taste

Remainder of the can of coconut milk (about 1 1/2 cups?)
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs cornstarch

In a large mixing bowl, combine the first 11 items.  Working quickly, mix the ingredients just until well combined.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add about 2 Tbs of cooking oil.  Roll the meat mixture into golf-sized balls and place in the hot oil.  Cook, turning to brown all sides until cooked through.

Combine the remaining coconut milk, soy sauce and cornstarch together and slowly add to the meatballs, cooking and stirring just until the mixture thickens.  Serve over rice.