Saturday, January 26, 2008

Schmarrn (Tyrolean Pancake)

Isn't it amazing how a seeming eternity of memories are built on the slightest sound or smallest taste? Maybe for my mom and sister the clank of cast iron skillets on the stove, or a gulp of orange juice made from frozen concentrate takes them back to Sunday mornings at our house. This may sound odd, but for me, the NPR Weekend Edition theme song brings back those endless Sundays. Just those few bold notes conjure up memories of my mom whisking batter in a stainless steel bowl as the heavy iron skillet heated on our electric stove. My sister and I set the table that butted up against the breakfast bar, while my dad lay on the old army cot in the living area with his legs propped up, reading the paper. After breakfast and clean up, my sister and I would lay belly-down on padded exercise mats, reading the comics and Dear Abby before our weekly walk in the neighboring glen.

Sunday brunches are among my favorite memories and continue to be one of my favorite meals. We couldn't always eat dinner together as my mom worked an evening shift at the local public library, but we were always together for Sunday brunch. In an article by Barbara Kingsolver (Good Housekeeping Jan 2008), she notes," Kitchen-based family gatherings are cooperative, and, in the best of worlds, nourishing and soulful." I couldn't agree more. Family meal times are the foundational plate onto which all of the spices and flavors of each family member blend, and sometimes compete! Though the meals varied--you might find our plates loaded with cream of chipped beef on toast, fried Spam and eggs, pancakes with honey and berries, or omelets--our routine never varied, giving me a profound sense of comfort.

One of my favorite dishes was schmarrn, a Tyrolean egg-laden pancake, topped with honey and cheddar cheese, that honored my maternal grandfather's heritage. I have yet to cook it myself. I think in part I am afraid that it will not live up to the memories I have of it. In a sense, I want that morsel of food to bring back those Sundays that are no longer possible. I also miss the comfort of having my mother cook for me. If I cook it myself, will it nourish me in the same way? My mom visited recently after the birth of my now 5 month-old daughter. I requested schmarrn. As I closed my eyes to take that first bite, the warmth of the rich and egg-y dough, mixed with the sweetness of honey and the sharp salty bite of cheddar cheese greeted me. I wondered if my fiance and son felt the same sense of satisfaction that I did. I suppose we are building our own memories now--ours include pumpkin waffles, whole grain pancakes, or sausage and eggs. But maybe it's time I include schmarrn in the repertoire. It may not take me physically back to those Sundays, but someday my children will hear the scraping of a spatula on the skillet, or taste a drop of honey on their tongues and will have memories of their own, and a taste of their family history. Guten appetit!

SCHMARRN

5-6 eggs
1 c. milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. white flour
Mix ingredients together whisking well to make a smooth batter, the consistency of a thin cake batter or heavy cream.

Heat a heavy, 12" skillet with 1/8th inch canola oil, or oil/butter mix.
When oil is hot pour in batter. Fry for a minute or 2 then lift frequently with a spatula to allow wet batter to run under. When there is no wet batter left on top, cut cake into 2 or 4 pieces and flip over. Brown lightly and then chop into small pieces, like scrambled eggs. Brown lightly all over. Serve hot with honey or sugar or syrup and swiss or cheddar cheese if desired.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Pumpkin-flax waffles




Today is the coldest day of the year so far. -8 degrees. Without the wind chill. I remember that in my high school year book, one of the notable things about me, according to my fellow high schoolers, was that I "loved winter." I was not winter that I loved, but the biting crispness of January air. The snow on the ground that gave way to the long blades of my cross-country skis. The flush of blood to my cheeks that warmed me for the rest of the day. That was winter in Ohio. This is Wisconsin. Winter is different here. The bite of cold does more than bring blood to your cheeks, but robs it from your hands and toes, leaving them senseless. The snow falls then freezes leaving you sliding and crunching through the thick crust. Some days are better left alone, viewed from a fogged up kitchen window where the smell of waffles and coffee envelope you and keep you warm for the rest of the day.
My favorite variation is Pumpkin-flax waffles. My son loves the golden color and doesn't mind the hidden nutrients. Guten appetit!


PUMPKIN-FLAX WAFFLES

2 eggs, separated
1 3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 3/4 cup flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp flaxseed meal
1/4 tsp salt

Mix egg yolks with other wet ingredients in medium bowl, set aside. In separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl and add wet ingredients to dry. Stir until large lumps disappear. Beat in egg whites. Cook according to your waffle iron directions.
Favorite toppings--blueberries, syrup, yogurt and whipped cream.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mom's yeast-based pie crust

Best for a shell to be baked WITH the filling in it.
(makes one generous bottom shell for 9-10 in pan
with some left over for decoration or cinnamon and
sugar cookies.)

1/4 C. warm (85F) milk or water
1.5 tsp granular yeast; or one packet of yeast
Dissolve yeast in milk, covered in a large bowl for about 5 minutes

Then, mix in :
1 beaten egg
2
TBS. canola or other unflav. oil

Then add and mix in :
1/4 C. sugar
1.5 C. regular flour; plus more as needed.

Stir and mix all together lightly to form a soft ball.
Should not be wet or sticky. Add little flour if needed to 'gather' ball into nice
soft,mass. Knead for about 15 seconds in bowl(do not over knead or it will get tough.) and...

Place ball in an oiled bowl.
Let raise for 1 hour; or double in bulk, in warm place.

Punch down on floured rolling surface. Roll to 1/8 inch thick.

Place rolled shell in pie pan and let raise for 30 mins BEFORE putting in fillings.
Use scraps as desired to add a rim or make cookies.
(I found this puffs up good in baking , so a smaller 'rim' is fine, depending on
how much filling you put in.)

Bake pie at 425F for 10 mins., then 350 for 45 mins.if using fresh fruit
(like uncooked berries) or as your recipe suggests for various fillings. ENJOY !!

Ona's Chocolate Chip Cookies


My sister's awesome chocolate chip cookies!
Never out of season..

In advance: set out 2 sticks (1 cup) butter - left at room
temperature until soft.

Set oven to 375 degrees.

Get two bowls - a large one for wet ingredients, a medium one for
dry ingredients.

In the large bowl mix 1 cup butter with 1 1/2 cups sugar - use
approx. 1/2 brown sugar and 1/2 white sugar to make the total
amount of 1 1/2 cups, or adjust as you like. More brown sugar makes
the cookies chewier. You can do 1 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup
white sugar, even.

Mash the sugar and butter together until it is a smooth paste.

Beat two eggs, add to butter/sugar mixture. Stir until smooth.

Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir until smooth. Set this bowl
aside.

In the medium bowl (for dry ingredients) gently mix:
1 3/4 to 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour. If you are using the oatmeal
(which you will add later), use the smaller amount of flour so the
dough doesn't get too dry.
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 teaspoon baking soda

Now gradually stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Stir
gently, until mostly mixed. Then add chips, nuts and oatmeal:
2 cups chocolate chips (I only use dark chocolate chips, not milk
chocolate ones)
2 cups rolled oats (the kind that cook quickly, not the thick hard
ones. Quaker and McCann's make good ones)
1 cup nuts (walnuts are best, but I also like pecans or hazelnuts,
and you can experiment with others)

When evenly mixed, gently roll dough into walnut-sized balls and
set on a cookie sheet a few inches apart (they spread a little,
depending on wetness of dough). Bake 10-15 minutes per batch, until
the edges and bottom are golden brown.

Enjoy! Let me know if you make any interesting variations!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chile rellenos

My sister sent me this--

I just made chiles rellenos from scratch! Never-before attempted, and
they were amazing! Better than restaurant ones, I swear. And so much
easier than I expected (lots of prep though). Have you made them?

I did it this way:

6 fresh ancho chiles - charred to remove skins (this took forever. I
broiled them about 10 minutes each side, then wrapped them in a dish
towel and put them on the screen porch to cool. Then used a serrated
knife to mostly scrape the skin off (I think I should have broiled
them a bit longer). Then split them and removed the seeds (I had to
run them under the tap to get the seeds out - they were sticking to
my fingers). Try not to mangle them too badly.

Then make batter: 3 eggs whipped, then whip in some flour - I think I
used 1/4 cup - to make batter runny like pancake batter (maybe not
quite so thick). I would salt and pepper the batter next time.

Then make sauce - I used two cans of Old El Paso Enchilada sauce to
save time. It was spicy and pretty good. I added extra garlic and salt.

Then put a nice piece of Monterey Jack cheese inside each pepper.
Heat a large enough skillet with 1/2 inch corn/canola type oil. When
perfectly hot, dip each pepper carefully in batter, getting it all
over, and lay in skillet. LAY THEM WITH THE SPLIT SIDE UP FIRST, and
try to arrange them so the split is closed, not gaping open. Cook til
good and golden on the bottom, then carefully flip each one and fry
the other side. I thought the cheese was going to run out all over
and there was going to be a mess, but they fried up very neatly.

Serve 1 or 2 each onto each plate and spoon enchilada sauce on top. I
would warm our plates next time, as they got cold really fast, and
they are better piping hot.

We had some black beans on the side, too.

It was tummy heaven.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chocolate Guinness Cake


There's been a lot of Guinness in my life lately. That flavorful foamy drink makes regular appearances in our house, though recently wheat beer has been making appearances in its stead. My fiance is a Cassidy. Though his family has been in the US for many generations, they celebrate their Irish heritage with great enthusiasm. Last summer we joined 30 of his closest relatives (hey--they're Irish!) to return to the "old sod" for a family vacation. We stayed in a town called Clifden, nestled snuggly in rolling coastal hills. By day we visited the luscious green countryside, and masterfully built abbeys, and by night we visited the local pubs to check out the "craic" (live music).
Ireland is not heralded for its culinary prowess. The food is often bland, featuring meat, potatoes and a vegetable. However, the addition of Guinness can turn even a basic stew into a flavorful experience. Relying on the robust taste of stout is not limited to main dishes. In the following recipe, the flavor of Guinness stout peeks out from behind the rich chocolate cake, complementing it with a slightly bitter note. This cake is very moist and is super-easy to make.
The original recipe is from Feast by Nigella Lawson. I copied this rendition from here.

Chocolate Guinness Cake

Cake Ingredients

  • butter for pan
  • 1 cup Guinness Stout
  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups superfine sugar
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking soda

Topping Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine Guinness and butter. Place over medium-low heat until butter melts, then remove from heat. Add cocoa and superfine sugar, and whisk to blend.
  3. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture. Add flour and baking soda, and whisk again until smooth. Pour into buttered pan, and bake until risen and firm, 45 minutes to one hour. Place pan on a wire rack and cool completely in pan.
  4. Topping: Using a food processor or by hand, mix icing sugar to break up lumps. Add cream cheese and blend until smooth. Add heavy cream, and mix until smooth and spreadable.
  5. Remove cake from pan and place on a platter or cake stand. Ice top of cake only, so it resembles a frothy pint of Guinness.

Makes one 9-inch cake, 12 servings.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Peanut sauce/Groundnut stew


We waited impatiently for lunch, trying to keep cool. Some of us sat on the hard tile floor of the large front room fanning ourselves, while others tried to catch a breeze on the wrap around porch. Our bodies shined with sweat that seemed to only vary from slight to prolific rather than disappear all together. When the breeze did provide sweet relief, it came with a price; the putrid smell of exhaust and fish permeated the air, followed closely by a handful of red dirt. We knew that our wait would be rewarded; we were having peanut sauce, or kansi as it is called in Guinea, for lunch.

Just a year ago my partner, son and myself traveled to this coastal West African nation along with about 20 other drum and dance enthusiasts. We stayed in the capital city, Conakry, in a three-story house that towered above the other structures in the neighborhood. This was my 4th trip to West Africa, where the food had ranged from incredible to nauseating. In Cameroon, the Ndole, a green leafy stew, and Bongo Chobi, a delicious fish in basil sauce, stood out, while the Ba Kungolo-fermented goat head- that I tried in Mali didn’t make it past my lips. This time around, in Guinea, our hosts had regularly dished out a thin, salty fish sauce flavored with palm oil and tomatoes, and fish bones. Well, most of us survived. A variety of stomach ailments were cropping up and my son pronounced himself allergic to Guinea fish. By this time we were begging for something else, and frequenting neighborhood restaurants. Those of us who had been to West Africa before craved peanut sauce. We craved vegetables and ice cream, too, but that’s another story.

Peanut sauce usually induces love-at-first-taste, a rich broth of ground peanuts and spices, surrounding some kind of meat—fish in Guinea, beef or lamb in Mali. Peanut sauce can be bought on the cheap—about .25 cents per plate from a street vendor, but you will taste the most basic version—thin sauce with a very tough chunk of meat (for .25 cents extra). The addition of vegetables, such as spinach, eggplant or pumpkin, and tender cuts of meat results in a much tastier, but more expensive, meal. The best peanut sauce I ate was in Mali where the tigedigena included tender lamb, pumpkin and bitter eggplant simmered in a sauce of ground peanuts, tomatoes and spices, served on a bed of hot rice.

Peanut sauce has become a staple in our house. My permutation varies a bit from the recipe I learned in Mali, but still evokes wonderful memories of West Africa. Feel free to experiment with different vegetables and meat, such as okra, carrots sweet potatoes, beef or lamb. I make this household favorite about every 2 weeks, and here, as in Guinea, it is well worth the wait. Guten appetit!

Peanut sauce/Groundnut stew

1.5-2 lbs chicken breast or thighs, chopped into 1”pieces
2 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp ginger
1-2 clove garlic
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tsp tomato paste
8 oz peanut butter (unsweetened. salted is okay, just reduce salt elsewhere)
6-8 cups chicken stock, (or water with bouillon)
1 large yellow potato peeled and cubed
½ pound broccoli cut small
2-3 WHOLE habanero peppers
salt and papper to taste
1 tbsp hot sauce, or to taste

Heat oil in large cooking pot. Sautee onions and chicken over medium heat until chicken is mostly cooked. Press garlic clove, stir, and quickly add can of diced tomatoes. Add tomato paste, habaneros*, stock or water, peanut butter and stir. Let simmer for a few minutes (10-12) until peanut butter disperses evenly. Add potatoes other vegetables that need longer cooking times, and broccoli if you like it well-cooked (my son will eat it if it disintegrates into the sauce), otherwise add it later. Add other ingredients except for salt. Simmer on low with lid mostly on. Stir occasionally. Cook sauce for a total of about 45-60 minutes, adding water/stock if it becomes too thick. It should be the consistency of pancake batter. Add salt to taste. Serve over hot rice. Enjoy!

* Do not chop or cut habaneros. Cook them whole in the sauce--they do not add significant spice. If you like your food hot, remove one pepper from the pot when the sauce is cooked and pass it around on a plate. You just tap the side of the pepper with your spoon and then take a bite of your food. Habaneros are VERY hot, so only a drop of juice is needed, unless you like it HOT!

Chicken Peanut Stew on FoodistaChicken Peanut Stew

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Pesto Pizza

It’s one of those embarrassing family traits. The kind my partner and I joke about, but a therapist might link to a long-forgotten wound inflicted on my inner child. Take a peek in my freezer, fridge or cupboards and you will find bags and containers encasing tiny portions of food. Some are leftover, some not yet tasted. I assure myself that these bites will be part of a perfect meal someday. You might find the spoonful of curried chicken, and a half of a yogurt in the fridge. A few remaining tortilla chips in a bag in the pantry. Most of the time those bits get thrown out, rotten or stale, the perfect moment to indulge never seized. Or they remain unused, the perfect meal never realized. In tonight’s case I reluctantly pulled out a frozen Ziplock bag of pesto, the last of three small bags that I filled this summer as basil soared skyward in my garden, and overtook tabletops at the farmer’s market. It’s January, and my craving for summer is stronger than my desire to save a piece of it in my freezer.

Frankly it’s no wonder I want to save the pesto—ration it throughout the long Wisconsin winter. Winter has hit hard this year, dreams of a white Christmas fulfilled long before the holiday itself. The joy of batting eyelashes bejeweled with glimmering snowflakes has dwindled as we watched snowplows push mounds of snow up into our freshly shoveled driveway, our backs aching, through those now tired eyes.

What food is deserving of this fleeting taste of summer? Organic penne pasta? No, too boring. Lasagne? How unfair to hide pesto in all those layers. Eggs and toast? Again, not quite special enough, though spinach, pesto and asiago omelets were a postpartum staple of mine. Pesto pizza? Yes, that’s it! The bold flavors of garlic, basil and cheese perfectly complement fresh baked crust. The toasted pine nuts exude a smooth, and slightly sweet oil that blends perfectly with olive oil, coating the crust. I considered what ingredients might top this pizza. Red or white sauce would certainly diminish the exquisite taste of the pesto. Olives would add too much salt, as would artichokes. I finally settled on sauteed mushrooms and sweet onions with small hunks of goat cheese nestled throughout, adding an earthy and salty bite now and then. Top with mozzarella and fresh parmesan and bake. Nothing beats a warm slice of summer. Sound good? There’s a small piece left over in my fridge. I was saving it for the perfect moment. Guten appetit, let’s eat.

Pesto Pizza (all measurements approximate)

1 recipe crust (I used pre-made dough from Trader Joes)
2-3 Tbsp basil pesto
½ sweet onion, sliced about ¼ inch thick, then sliced in half
½ cup sliced mushroom
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp goat cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Preheat a skillet on stove, medium heat, and put about 1 tbsp olive oil in it. Make crust and roll or press out to about 12-14 inch diameter. Don’t worry about circles or squares, pizza tastes best when irregularly shaped! Sautee onion and mushroom slices in heated skillet until soft. You can flavor with a pinch of salt if desired.
Sprinkle about ¼ cup mozzarella over crust and stick in oven for about 4 minutes until cheese melted. Spoon pesto onto crust and spread somewhat evenly over warm crust. Scatter sautéed veggies over pesto layer. Place small chunks of goat cheese around pizza. Top with remaining mozzarella and parmesan. Bake at 425 for 12-14 minutes until cheese is golden around edges. EAT!