Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stuffed Focaccia Bread

     The other night my wife and I adapted a recipe from the cook book Vegetarian Food for Friends . The time it took to prepare the dough and the veggies may have seemed endless because we were starving but this recipe yields a full cookie sheet of goodness that we've enjoyed for the past few days.
     This dish is as versatile as pizza and could be likened to a calzone, but what sets this apart from those is the salty and crunchy and at the same time soft focaccia bread. It's an easy bread to make that is basic and only requires sea salt in terms of any special flavoring. However, we chose to throw in a generous amount of rosemary.

This is adapted from the book Vegetarian Food For Friends.

Focaccia Bread:

3 1/3 Cups White Bread Flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 oz. package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil 
 1 tablespoon dried rosemary (optional) 
or fresh small sprigs of rosemary.


1/2 red bell pepper; halved, seeded and sliced
1/2 orange bell pepper, halved, seeded and sliced
1 red onion sliced
olive oil for roasting
8 oz. mozzarella cheeze 
large handful of fresh basil, chopped
8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, sliced
handful of pitted black olives
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

(This might seem like a lot of expensive ingredients, but it's not too bad considering the amount it yields. Some ways to cut cost is to:
  • only buy 1 red bell pepper, or even a green one instead
  • skip the sun-dried tomatoes for well drained- stewed can tomatoes
  • skip the cheese. This can be a wonderful vegan dish! besides cheese is too expensive.
put the flour salt and yeast in a large bowl, stir in olive oil and 1 1/2 cups of water. Be sure to heat the water to the temperature specified by the yeast packet. Mix dough with hands , then start to knead dough until it is smooth and springy (about 10 minutes) or take out the stand mixer like I did and slap that dough hook on. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl and lightly oil the top of the dough to prevent it from drying out. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp dish towel and let sit in a warm place for about 30 mins. The dough should double in size.

While you let the dough rise, let's prepare the veggies. Preheat oven to 350ˆF. Put the bell peppers and onion on a roasting pan and sprinkle with olive oil and salt. If using fresh or canned tomatoes let those roast as well with the bell peppers and onion for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Mix in the mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, oil, olives, salt and pepper.

Back to Dough:
Transfer to lightly floured surface or Baking Mat and cut in half.  Using a rolling pin or a glass jar or anything cylindrical, roll out dough so that it is about the size of the baking pan. If you use this piece as the bottom shell make a little larger so that it curls up the pan a bit. Lay it down and spread the veggie mixture on top so it is rather evenly distributed. Roll out the other half of dough and make a similar rectangle piece, this time placing on top of the veggies, kinda like tucking them into a bed. Press the edges of the dough together so you seal them in.

Ensuite, brush with the 2 teaspoons olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and dot with fresh sprigs of rosemary (or dried). Set aside tray and let rise for 30 mins. Just before you place the tray into the oven make plenty of indentations in the dough. (I forgot to do this, but be sure you do).  Then, bake in oven at 350`F for 40 minutes, or until lightly golden.

Oh my it smells so good and taste even better.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Baking Mat

      I do not plan on turning this blog into a product review, but after using the Baking Mat a few times, I am very excited to tell people about it. If you work with dough, you need this. I remember the days of using the kitchen counter as a work surface and then spending lots of time after baking trying to clean up a counter that was left with small residual spots of dough. It was no easy task. Then one day I found this silicone mat. It rightfully claims that dough does not stick to the surface, making it perfect for kneading and rolling dough out on it. Also, it has the ability of withstanding lots of heat, thus it is possible to line a baking sheet and actually bake right on it. I haven't tried this because I purchased the larger mat, and it wont' fit in my oven. But they do come in a variety of sizes, including a common pan size. I highly recommend this product if you like making any thing with dough, even just occasionally.

Here's a link to my particular mat: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?order_num=-1&SKU=14294074

Other similar items: Silpat Baking MatMatfer Exopat

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mom's Lentil Slowcook Delight

     In honor of labor day, I thought I would share with you a nearly laborless dish. Here in Portland, it is starting to feel like Fall already, the leaves are starting to change and cooler temperatures are here. This  lentil dish will surely warm you up on a cold gloomy day.  As you can imagine, I eat this a lot during Portland's long gloomy winters.
     The best part of this dish is that you can prepare it in the morning by cutting up all the ingredients and throwing them into the slow-cooker. When you get home after work,  you'll have a hot pot of lentils that have slow-cooked to perfection.

The base of this dish is just regular brown lentils, but I encourage you to throw in whatever you like. I almost always use an equal mix of split green peas and lentils. In the picture on the left, I tried a second type of lentils (red lentils) to give the dish another dimension in taste.

Here's my take on my mother's classic recipe:

1 Cup Lentils
1 Cup Split Green Peas
5 Cups Water
1 Bay Leaf (optional)
6-8 quartered cut Potatoes
Handful or more of frozen mixed veggies (carrot, peas, corn, green beans)
1/2 Onion chopped
 Pinch of Salt and Pepper- Optional: Garlic Powder, Basil 
2 Tea Spoons of Olive Oil

Place in crockpot in this order, no need to mix ingredients. Set the temperature from low to high depending on when you want to meal to be finished cooking.
Low- All Day
Mid – 5 Hours
High- 4ish hours

5-10 minutes before serving
Add 2 cans of diced tomatoes (14 oz.) (I recommend trying the various seasoned quarter cut stewed tomatoes).

Realize that this recipe serves probably, about 6 people. It can be cut in half easily. When I was living alone, I would cut this recipe in half and eat it over a couple days. Don't be afraid to make the full recipe, because the dish becomes even tastier after it the flavors have marinated in the fridge for a day or so. The left-overs will not let you down!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Apple Masala

      Indian food has long been friendly with vegetarians and friendly to the palate in general. Someday I hope to master a wonderful dal dish, yet until then here is a recipe that might satisfy some of the craving for Indian spices. With that said, I don't want to claim that this is an Indian dish. About the only thing Indian is the rice and the masala. And what's more is that the masala is from a jar. Bare with me. This is a simple to make dish that is easy on the pocketbook, like all the recipes I try to present here. The advantage of using Trader Joe's masala is of course the price. Indian dishes require a lot of various seasonings that can get pricy if your market does not sell them in bulk. Note: a major disadvantage is that the masala contains light creme, therefore not making it a vegan recipe.
      When I first experimented with this dish, I was trying to think of ways that one could combine a serving of fruit, vegetables and grains all in one mouthful. I feel that this is a good strategy when planning a meal. Surprisingly, apples go very well with broccoli and the mildly spicy masala. 
What you'll need:
1 pot, I prefer a medium size Le Creuset french oven cook pot. 
1 cup of short grain brown rice (cooked) 
1/2 cup of water
a couple cups of broccoli florets. 
1 large apple. 
2-3 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 cup of Trader Joe's Masala Simmer Sauce

     Begin by adding water into your pot over the stove. Just put enough so that the water only fills the pot about an 1/2 inch. Turn heat to Medium High or High while you thinly slice the apple (about 1/8 inch thin slices). When water reaches a boil add the apple slices. About half the apple slices should be submerged. Toss in some broccoli florets and allow them to steam while the apple cooks a little. 
Cover and cook until broccoli is well steamed. This will be when the broccoli is very vibrant in color before it starts to loose color. The goal here is to break down some of the cell walls making the broccoli more tender but not to overcook it to the point where the broccoli begins to lose some of its nutrients. It varies, but the apples should be tender as well at this time. Remove from heat. Before adding the masala gauge the liquid level in your pot. Too much water will make for a soupy dish. Some can be drained but try to avoid this, as some nutrients will be lost of drained after cooking. Combine masala with a wood spoon. Add cinnamon. This is a lovely addition, but can easily be left out also. Finally serve over brown rice. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

oh, hey sprouts.

Also take for yourself wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread of them for yourself. Ezekiel 4:9

I promised I would explain in greater details the sprouting process. My sprouts are just about ready  for harvesting. They have only been sprouting for a couple days but already have small tails about a centimeter long. 

As evidenced by the Ezekiel text, sprouting of grains has been a practice that dates far back into history. The reason it was popular then and growing in popularity these days, thanks to bread companies like Ezekiel Bread, is because of the the nutritional benefit of the sprouts. 

According to isga-sprouts.org: researchers "have found that sprouts retain the B-complex vitamins present in the original seed, and show a big jump in Vitamin A and an almost unbelievable amount of Vitamin C over that present in unsprouted seeds. While some nutritionists point out that this high vitamin content is gained at the expense of some protein loss, the figures are impressive: an average 300 percent increase in Vitamin A and a 500 to 600 percent increase in Vitamin C. In addition, in the sprouting process starches are converted to simple sugars, thus making sprouts easily digested.   http://www.isga-sprouts.org/history.htm
 So what you'll need:

a jar
a cheesecloth or similar screening material to allow drainage.
a rubber band
a drying rack or something to put the jar on and allow to drain

In my current batch of sprouts I have used wheat, lentils, and quinoa. You should be able to find lentils and quinoa at the grocery store no problem. Many markets in the Northwest have bulk sections where wheat is likely to be found. Keep in mind that wheat is sometimes referred to as wheat berries.

The amount of grains that you use depend on the size of the jar. Just keep in mind that the goal is to provide adequate rinsing and draining of the seeds - so don't make it too cramped.

After placing the grains in the jar. Fill it up with water and let soak over night or about 8 - 12 hours.
After this initial soak, all you will have to do is attach the cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar with the rubber band and rinse the grains and let them drain by leaving the jar inverted until next rinse. I recommend that the grains be rinsed three times a day. And keep them in a dark area at room temperature. Just repeat the process for a couple of days and you'll begin to see the sprouts start to germinate.

After a couple days, they should look something like this:

I'm going to stop the sprouting process right about here so I can make bread. But if you are planning on eating the sprouts let them grow a bit so that the roots are an inch to 2 inches long.