I’ve never been to Indonesia, but like many Asian places,  it fascinates me.   Way too long ago, David Rosengarten had a show on satays, in which he highlighted the variety of cooking styles in Indonesia, a reflex of the huge number of populated islands forming the country: more than 6,000!   It is hard to imagine! I would be thrilled enough to visit just one:  Java… 😉

The Barefoot Contessa was the inspiration for last Sunday’s dinner: Indonesian Ginger Chicken. I’m fond of poultry marinated in soy, so her recipe  got my full attention (even if I did roll my eyes  when I read her endorsement of it: “Lauren Bacall gets cranky if we are sold out….” )

(adapted from Ina Garten)

1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated ginger
1 chicken, quartered
Parsnips, peeled and cut in large pieces

Heat the honey, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger in a small saucepan, until the honey melts and the sauce is smooth. Let it cool, and pour over the chicken arranged on a baking dish, skin side down.  Cover the dish with aluminum foil and marinate overnight in the fridge.

Heat the oven to 350F.  Place the dish in the oven, still covered, and cook for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil, turn the chicken skin side up, add the pieces of parsnips around the chicken, making sure to coat them with some of the sauce forming at the bottom of the dish. Increase the oven temperature to 375F and continue baking for at least 30 minutes, until parsnips are tender, and the chicken is fully cooked.  The sauce should be very dark brown.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I modified the recipe  to increase the cooking time, add some parsnips and reduce the garlic.   I’m in the minority, I know,  but I dislike the over-use of  garlic.   And here’s another shocker, the parsnips were as good as the chicken itself.  We couldn’t stop eating them!  Lastly, the side portions of lemony asparagus brightened the whole meal,  to round out a delicious Sunday dinner.

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I live in a state of bread anxiety.  On Thursdays I revive my sourdough starters and begin the tortuous process of choosing the bread to bake on the weekend.  That evening you’ll find me on the sofa, surrounded by bread books,  notebooks, pens, pencils, stickers, and close to a  computer with multiple open tabs: The Fresh Loaf, Wild Yeast, Makanai, Dan Lepard, King Arthur, Northwest Sourdough… My beloved husband knows it’s useless to converse with with me when I’m in such a “bread daze,” and I can’t come out of it until I make my choice.

This weekend’s pick was an impressive loaf from Maggie Glezer’s book Artisan Baking. She ranks each of her recipes according to its level of difficulty, and this one forewarned  “advanced” at the top of the page.  But, that didn’t stop me, which ultimately resulted in quite a bit of pain  for this baker.

(from Maggie Glezer’s Artisan Baking)

Make the levain on the evening before baking by mixing:

25 g fermented firm sourdough starter

140 g lukewarm water

140 g bread flour

Allow it to sit at room temperature for 12 hours, or until it has expanded and just started to sink in the center.

(click to enlarge)

On baking day:

Prepare the whole wheat component, by measuring 350g whole wheat flour and sifting it with a  fine strainer. This will remove the large flakes of bran (you can use it to make muffins). Measure 250g of the sifted product, and start making the dough.

(click to enlarge)

250 g sifted whole wheat flour

750 g bread flour

30 g  rye flour

660 g water

23 g salt

all of the levain made the previous evening

Add the three types of flour to the bowl of a large KitchenAid type mixer. Mix the water with the levain to dissolve it, and add it to the flours. Using the dough hook, mix it for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is very smooth and almost cleans the bowl. Add the salt and continue mixing for 5 more minutes.

(click to enlarge)

Place the dough in a very large bowl and let it rise for 3 hours, folding three times (at 30, 60, and 90 minutes). After the final folding, just leave it undisturbed for the final 90 minutes. Remove the dough from the container, form it into a ball and let it rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten (that makes it easier to shape).

(click to enlarge)

Shape it into a large round loaf, and place it in a suitable container for proofing, lining it with a heavily floured linen, with the smooth side down. Proof at room temperature for 4 hours, or until an indentation made in the dough will not bounce back right away.

(click to enlarge)

Carefully transfer the bread to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, slash the surface and bake with an initial burst of steam, in a 450F oven. Bake it for 70 to 80 minutes, rotating the dough after 30 minutes, and reducing the temperature to 400F if it starts to get too dark. Allow it to cool on a rack for several hours before slicing it.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I had high expectations for this bread, because once the kneading was over and the fun part started (the folding!), the elasticity of the dough surprised me:  gluten development at its best!   The shaping went smoothly and the dough rose beautifully in my improvised banneton: a pasta colander, lined with my improvised baker’s linen.  However, improvised is a dangerous word to use  twice in the same description.

At the end of 4 hours, the dough was all airy, absolutely perfect!  The oven was ready, with baking stones blazing hot,  and I was on top of the world!   As I inverted the dough on the parchment paper,  I could not help but day dream…  “When I submit this masterpiece to Susan for Yeastspotting, she’ll call me on the phone to personally compliment me!” ….  “The Fresh Loaf will feature this bread on their  front page, and leave it  there for a year or two“….  “I’ll have my own show on PBS: Bread Baking with Sally“….

Then, reality interfered.   The improvised baker’s linen  would not peel off.   It was stubbornly glued to my beautiful, airy, gorgeous dough.  I screamed and howled in pain!   As I was wrestling the fabric off,   my beautiful, airy, gorgeous round loaf began to spread sideways and collapse right before my eyes!    It was horrible:  no glory for me, no phone call from Susan, no highlight on The Fresh Loaf, and definitely no show on PBS.  Finally, with the dough threatening to slide off the baking sheet the linen came free and I rushed the loaf into the oven, without  slashing, without steam,  with just frantic moves and a few well chosen words that are unfit to print.

A major lesson learned:  a 4.6 pound dough demands a perfect proofing environment, particularly for a 4 hour rise.  Now, after helpful advice from the crowd at The Fresh Loaf, I’m seriously considering one of these.

Back to Thom Leonard’s country loaf.  Aside from the top crust of my bread , which looked like the aftermath of Freddie Krueger,  the crumb was open and the bread was incredibly flavorful.   It’s a  bread that begs to be in a Croque Monsieur!  We shall comply shortly.

A bread that can survive the abuse I inflicted on this dough is worth saving in your personal repertoire.   Try it.  But do yourself a favor, and use the right tools for the job.   You might just get that phone call from Susan….

I am submitting this post to Yeastspotting

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For a long time certain of my favorite dishes (for example souffles and risottos) were restricted to restaurants, because I felt intimidated to make them myself. I lost my souffle-phobia thanks to my friend Vanda, who kept sending me e-mails about the broccoli or spinach & cheese or other tasty spur-of-the-moment souffle that she was serving for dinner. Indeed, she can whip up a souffle in her sleep…   but because she was 6,000 miles away in Brazil, I resorted to Julia Child in order to Master the Art of Souffle Cooking.

Risotto took a little more time. I had some failures that slowed down my learning curve. Then it hit me: my main problem was lack of patience. You can’t rush it, and you can’t be completely sure how long it will take. Risotto takes however long it needs to reach the stage of perfection, and that is its Zen beauty.

This recipe reinforces the Zen of risotto with green tea as the cooking liquid. I found it in a nice food blog years ago, and made it several times. It’s lighter than traditional versions, and a perfect dish for Spring!

(adapted from Cooking Books blog)

1 quart water
4 bags green tea
oil for the pan
3/4 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup Arborio rice
1 small shallot, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated parmeggiano-reggiano cheese

Bring 1 quart of water to a near boil, then pour it over 4 bags of green tea in a pot, allowing to steep for 2 minutes. Remove the bags and place the pot over low heat to keep it warm.

Blanch the peas in boiling water for one minute, then drain and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Warm the olive oil in a large pan or heavy-bottomed pot and sauté the shallots until they soften. Add the rice, season lightly with salt, and cook, stirring, for 4-5 minutes, then begin adding the tea, one ladle at a time. Stir constantly until all of the tea has been absorbed by the rice and add another ladle. Continue this process, adding tea and stirring to incorporate. The rice will take at least 20 minutes to be ready, check it from time to time.

Stir in the grated cheese and peas until the cheese is melted and incorporated and the peas are warmed through. Remove the risotto from the heat, and begin adding the lemon juice, tasting, until it has a bright flavor. Then stir in the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with a few shavings of parmiggiano over the top.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Most recipes for risotto start with some white wine and end with quite a bit of butter. You can modify this basic recipe to take it in that direction, or try this lighter version, that is still very satisfying. It is important to avoid over-brewing your tea, because green tea can quickly become bitter. I used this tea from Peet’s, a favorite of mine. The original recipe called for mint, but our mint was not growing yet, so I used parsley instead. I think fresh tarragon will be excellent too.

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When we’re seeking something decadent, but don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen, beef stroganoff is a perfect option: it’s quick, simple, casual, yet delicious. I’ve heard people say that the dish is dated or old-fashioned, but a classic never loses its charm. Maybe thirty years ago it was overused and abused at dinner parties. Forget about that. A well prepared beef stroganoff (or stroganov, strogonov) is completely satisfying:  succulent meat and mushrooms, cohabiting in a wonderful creamy sauce and served over noodles.  What’s not to like? Among the many recipes I’ve tried, I recently settled on this one from Ruth Reichl’s Gourmet.

(from Ruth Reichl)

3 + 1/2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs flour
1 cup beef stock (homemade if available)
1 pound filet mignon, cut in 1-inch pieces
salt and pepper
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 cup shallots, thinly sliced
3/4 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered
3 Tbs sour cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbs fresh dill, minced

Make a roux by melting the butter and whisking in the flour, cooking for 2 minutes, stirring. Slowly add beef stock, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve, keeping it warm.

Dry the pieces of beef with a paper towel, season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbs olive oil on a large skillet and brown the meat on both sides, but do not try to cook it completely. Transfer the meat to a plate and reserve. Add remaining tablespoon of oil  to the skillet and cook the shallots, cooking for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for 8-10 minutes, until all the moisture evaporates, and they start to brown.

Return the meat with its juices to the pan. stir to combine and transfer to a serving plate. Reheat the reserved sauce over low heat, add the sour cream, mustard, dill, season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over beef and serve over noodles of your choice.


Comments: Almost every recipe for stroganoff uses beef tenderloin, a cut that benefits from fast cooking, but doesn’t have much flavor. Since the sauce contributes most of the flavor for this dish, tenderloin has a chance to shine.   However, when we lived in France, we frequented a small, inexpensive bistrot where stroganoff - one of their specialties - was made with a stew-beef, almost along the lines of  beef Bourguignon.  It was still delicious, but to me, a bit unusual.    Fast forward a few years, and reading Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc, I noticed  that his stroganoff uses braised beef short ribs!  Well, that settles it:  I will have to try his method, because it may just bring those memories of Paris, which are always welcome, back to our table!  😉

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I’ve never had a bialy until today.  But, ever since I first saw a picture of a bialy  in cookbooks and all over the net I wanted to try one, or even better, to make one!

Many weekends I was ready to give it a go, but things came up and… bialy was postponed until next week.   And the next… and the next…and the next.  Then I saw Dan Lepard’s recipe for black olive bialy and I couldn’t wait any more.   Black olive bialy.    Three simple words that made my heart jump with joy.  I’m a Kalamata-cheerleader…

(from Dan Lepard)

1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
150 g pitted Kalamata olives, diced
25 mL olive oil
1 tsp salt
550 g bread flour
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 Tbs poppy seeds

Pour 250 mL warm water and yeast in a bowl then add the minced olives, olive oil and salt. Add the flour, mix forming a firm dough, and refrigerate for 24 hours or more (up to three days).

Dry fry the onion a few minutes on a non-stick skillet until soft but still pale, scrape into a bowl with the poppy seeds, and leave in the fridge.

Heat the oven to 450F.

Divide the dough into ten pieces (use a scale to get equal pieces) and shape into balls. Leave covered for an hour to rise at room temperature. Pat the balls out to about 4 inches diameter, and firmly indent the middle area, leaving a very thin and wide skin of dough in the center. Cover a tray with parchment paper, and lay five bialys on it, well spaced. Press 1 tsp of onion/poppy seed mixture in the center, with wet fingers.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until puffed and just beginning to get dark, then repeat with the remaining five pieces.


Comments: If this recipe didn’t have Dan Lepard behind it, I probably wouldn’t have tried it, because it’s essentially a no-knead bread.  Quoting Seinfeld, “not that there’s anything wrong with that,”  but I prefer recipes that involve kneading and/or folding the dough.   This was one of the easiest breads I’ve ever made, that’s perfect for a dinner party or brunch:  once the dough is in the fridge it takes just a little over 1 hour to enjoy the fruits of your labor (i.e., the bread!).

Two important remarks:
1. Use Kalamata olives  or another good quality black olive that’s high in moisture.  Avoid the black olives sold in tins, that are brine-free and have almost no olive flavor.

2.  Don’t be shy when pressing your fingers into the dough to make the depressions.  Try to leave a very thin skin in the center. My second batch was better than the first, because I was too delicate in shaping the first five.

The flavor of the olives as you bite into the soft bread, mixed with the onion filling, is just dreamy!  I’ll revisit this bread again and again.

I am submitting this post to this week’s Yeastspotting….

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