Thursday, January 28, 2010

Italian Cheese Fritters with Spicy Tomato Sauce

We decided to create our own version of the cheese fritters served at New York's Landmarc restaurant.  It turns out the chef, Marc Murphy, has posted not only the recipe, but step-by-step instructions with photos.  There's even a video demonstration on-line.  So much for the challenge of re-creating a secret restaurant recipe.  It's so quick, it will take you longer to read this posting than to prepare the fritter batter.  If you have more batter than you need, refrigerate the extra for up to one day.

We prepared a spicy tomato dipping sauce to go with the fritters.  The sauce requires over an hour on the stove, so we suggest you prepare the sauce first.  You may have extra sauce, which stores well in the refrigerator for several days.

Italian Cheese Fritters


1           lb          fresh ricotta
1/4        lb          smoked mozzarella cheese, cubed
4           oz         parmesan, shredded
3/4        cup       whole milk
3                        eggs
3/4        cup       unbleached A.P. flour
1/2        tsp        baking powder
                          sea salt and black pepper to taste

  1. Combine cheese, milk and eggs.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.  Add to cheese mixture.
  3. Heat vegetable oil to 350° in deep pot.  Line some baking sheets with paper towels, and have some type of tongs or strainer ready.  We use a chinese wire mesh strainer.
  4. Spoon batter into hot oil -- a heaping tablespoon -- being careful to avoid splattering the oil.  Drop the batter onto the surface of oil.
  5. Fry until golden brown, 2-3 minutes, using strainer to cook fritters evenly on both sides.
  6. Remove from oil to paper towels to cool and dry about 5 minutes before serving. 

Spicy Tomato Sauce


3            Tbs          olive oil
1                            onion, chopped
6                            garlic cloves, minced
1/2         Tbs          marjoram
2 1/2      Tbs          oregano
2            Tbs           fresh basil
3/4         tsp            red pepper flakes
                              or minced dried chile pepper
4            lb             fresh tomatoes, skins removed, seeded and diced

1            cup          canned crushed tomatoes
1/2        cup           dry red wine
                              sea salt and black pepper

  1. Saute onion, garlic, and spices over medium until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add fresh tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and wine.  Simmer gently, uncovered, until sauce thickens, about 75 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Farro, Asparagus and Pea Soup

Farro is not always easy to find, but it is well worth the search. It is a hulled wheat imported from Italy with a nutty flavor and dense, chewy texture.  Farro holds up extremely well in soup, and combines well with many vegetables.  This soup has been a star at our restaurant this winter, selling out every day it's been on the menu.

At home, we make this soup with parsley and arugula from the garden.  You can use fresh or frozen peas, and the soup can be made as spicy or mild as you like by adjusting the quantity of red pepper flakes.  The first time we served  it, my mouth was on fire but most of our customers thought it was perfect.  This is Texas after all.   The recipe below is for a mild version, but feel free to adjust based on your heat tolerance.

Farro, Asparagus and Pea Soup


1/2            cup            farro
3               Tbs            olive oil
1/2            cup            Italian parsley
1/8            tsp             red pepper flakes
                                  or up to 1/2 tsp if you like heat
4                                 garlic cloves, choped
8               oz              new potatoes, peeled and cubed
4               oz              arugula, stemmed and chopped
1               cup            peas, removed from pods
3                                asparagus spears, thinly sliced crosswise
4               cups          vegetable stock
                                  sea salt and black pepper to taste
                                  optional:  parmesan or feta cheese

  1. Cover the farro with cold water and cook until tender.  This will take at least an hour.
  2. While farro is cooking, saute parsley, red pepper, garlic and potatoes in the olive oil until soft and golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add arugula, peas, and salt and pepper to taste.  Season with salt and pepper and saute a few minutes.
  4. Add cooked farro and stock and bring to boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for another 30 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper again, and (optional) serve topped with cheese and a pesto crostini on the side.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cherry Almond Loaf

This is truly a quick bread ready in a snap once the cherries are pitted and halved.  Save the prettiest halves to decorate the top of your loaf.

Cherry Almond Loaf


2          cups            unbleached A.P. flour
1          tsp               baking powder
1          tsp               baking soda
1/2       tsp               salt
                                dash of cinnamon
1/2       cup              unsalted butter, room temp
1          cup              sugar
1/2       tsp               almond extract
2                              eggs
2          Tbs              sour cream
2           cups            sweet cherries, stems removed, pitted and halved
                                set aside the prettiest halves as you do this, about 3/4 cup

  1. Preheat oven to 300° convection and place shelf in the middle of oven.   Butter a pyrex loaf pan.
  2. Combine dry and set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add almond extract.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping bowl each time.
  5. Add sour cream and mix well.
  6. Add dry and mix until fully incorporated.
  7. Fold in 1 1/4 cups of the cherries, reserving the prettiest ones for later.  Batter will be thick, so this isn't easy and some may get smushed up.  Don't worry.  Fill loaf pan and bang on counter several times to settle.  Smooth top with spatula.
  8. Lay pretty cherry halves, cut side down, on top of batter in rows.  If you don't have enough, cut a few more cherries in half to totally cover top of loaf.
  9. Bake until cooked through, about one hour.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cherry Almond Custard Pie

We have never acquired a taste for canned cherries, so we eagerly grabbed a big bag of beautiful sweet cherries when they appeared at the market last week.  We bought enough to make this pie, a spin on the classic French dessert, cherry clafouti, plus a lovely cherry almond loaf (recipe coming soon).  Sweet cherries baked in an almond custard, all surrounded by a flaky pie crust.  Definitely worth the wait for fresh cherries.

Cherry Almond Custard Pie

makes enough for 2 pies

2            cups             unbleached A.P. flour
1/4         tsp                salt
1            tsp                sugar
1/2         lb                 unsalted butter, cubed and kept cold
1/4         cup               vegetable shortening, cold
 1/4        cup               ice water


1 1/2      cups             sugar
3            Tbs               unbleached A.P. flour
1/4          tsp               salt
3                                 eggs
2             Tbs              unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2       cups             buttermilk
1             tsp                vanilla
1/2          tsp                almond extract
                                   zest of 1 small lemon
3             cups             fresh, firm sweet cherries, stems removed, pitted and halved

  1. Combine Dry.  Add half the butter and mix until resembles coarse meal.  Add rest of butter and the shortening and cut in, leaving larger pieces of fat (around 1/4").  Add ice water until dough forms a ball (you may not need all the water).
  2. Divide into two balls, wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Let dough rest at least 4 hours before rolling out, but will keep for several days in the refrigerator if you want to plan ahead.
  3. Roll out on a well-floured surface.  
  4. This recipe only uses one ball of dough, and requires an unbaked pie shell.
  1. Preheat oven to 325° convection (350°conventional) and place rack in middle of oven.
  2. Combine sugar, flour and salt.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well each time.
  3. Add melted butter, buttermilk, vanilla, almond extract, and lemon zest.
  4. Fold in 2 cups of cherries.
  5. Pour filling into unbaked pie crust.  Use last cup of cherries to make a decorative pattern, setting them into the custard cut-side down.  Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon all over the top.
  6. Bake until custard is firmly set, about 1 hour.
  7. Excellent served at room temperature or chilled.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fresh Chickpea, Bulgur and Mint Pilaf

A beautiful pilaf using fresh chickpeas and mint.   Cooking the bulgur in vegetable stock adds rich flavors to this filling dish packed with protein and fiber.  It's also an easy weeknight dinner ready in less than half an hour.

Fresh Chickpea, Bulgur and Mint Pilaf
serves 2 as an entree


1          cup            bulgur
2          cups          vegetable stock
1/8       tsp             black pepper
1          cup            fresh chickpeas, shelled
2                            bay leaves                       
4          Tbs            olive oil (divided into 3 Tbs and 1 Tbs)
1                            small onion, diced
2                            garlic cloves, minced
2          Tbs            fresh mint, chopped
                              plus more for garnish
                              juice of 1/2 lemon
                              sea salt

  1. Bring vegetable broth to a boil, the add bulgur and pepper.  Return to boil, then remove from heat and immediately cover with a dish towel.  Let sit 10 minutes, then uncover, stir, and re-cover first with a paper towel, then dish towel on top of that.  Bulgur will be ready in about 5 more minutes.
  2. Boil salted water with bay leaves, then add chickpeas.  Cook until starting to soften, 7-10 minutes.  Drain and discard bay leaves.
  3. Saute onion and garlic in 3 Tbs olive oil over medium heat until softened.  Add chickpeas and saute 3-4 additional minutes.  Remove from heat.
  4. In a bowl, combine bulgur and chickpea mixture.  Add mint and 1 Tbs olive oil.  Season with salt and lemon juice to taste.  Serve with more mint sprinkled on top.  Optional:  serve with Greek yogurt or feta.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Farinata (Socca) with Manchego Cheese

Farinata, as it's known in Italy, or Socca (the French equivalent), is a crispy flatbread made with chickpea flour.  In it's native lands, farinata is a quick snack sold by street vendors.  We first saw a recipe several years ago in the New York Times Minimalist column.  Recently, farinata popped up on David Lebovitz's website and My Man's Belly.    

If you're wondering why everyone's so excited about farinata, imagine a warm, crispy pancake full of smoky flavors that you cram into your mouth, oil dripping down your fingers and onto your chin.  This is comfort food Mediterranean-style, best eaten straight out of the oven.  Don't even bother with a plate, just wrap these in some napkins or paper towels and dig in.  Best eaten while standing.

Farinata (Socca) with Manchego Cheese


1          cup              farina (chickpea flour)
1          tsp               sea salt
1          tsp               ground black pepper
3          Tbs              olive oil
1/2                           white onion, chopped
1/8       tsp               cumin
1/8      cup                Manchego cheese, grated
                                well-seasoned cast iron skillet


  1. Combine farina, salt and pepper.  Slowly add 1 cup lukewarm water and whisk constantly.  Whisk until there are no lumps.  Mix in 2 Tbs olive oil, then cover bowl and let sit for at least 3 hours or up to 12 hours.  Batter will thicken to the consistency of heavy cream.
  2. Preheat oven to 450°, and move shelves to top and second levels.  Place cast iron skillet in oven to heat up for about half an hour.
  3. Add onion, cumin and cheese to batter.
  4. Thinly coat bottom of hot cast iron skillet with olive oil, about 1 Tbs, then pour in batter.
  5. Bake on the second shelf until farinata is starting to firm in the middle, about 15 minutes.
  6. Raise temperature to 500° and move skillet to top shelf and broil until edges are crispy and top is starting to brown,about 5 minutes.
  7. Remove immediately from skillet to stop the cooking process. Serve slices on paper towels or napkins to absorb the oil.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    Blueberry Pound Cake

     This is a classic southern pound cake made with Texas blueberries.  We like our pound cake extra moist, so we pull it out of the oven when there's still a "sad" streak of batter in the middle.  Some may call that underbaked, so feel free to bake the cake a few minutes longer if you lean towards "happy" pound cakes.

    Blueberry Pound Cake


    1            cup            butter
    2            cups          sugar
    4                             eggs
    1            tsp             vanilla
    2 3/4     cups           flour
    1            tsp             baking powder
    1/2         tsp             salt
    2            cups           fresh blueberries
    1/4         cup            flour for blueberries
    1/4         cup            sugar for the pan
                                    butter for greasing pan
                                    10" tube pan or similar

    1. Preheat oven to 325°.  Grease pan and dust well with 1/4 cup sugar.
    2. Combine 2 3/4 cup flour with baking powder and salt.
    3. Dredge blueberries with the 1/4 cup flour and mix well to coat.  We use fresh blueberries, but frozen work well too. 
    4. Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time.  Mix well each time.  Add vanilla and mix well.
    5. Slowly add dry.  When fully incorporated, fold in blueberries.  Batter will be very thick so some of the blueberries may get mashed up in the process. 
    6. Bake until golden brown on top and cooked through, 75 minutes in our oven.  It's ok to have a bit of a moist, "sad" streak in middle of the cake when you remove from oven.
    7. Cool, then dust with powdered sugar.  Serve at room temperature or toasted with some lemon curd or blueberry preserves on the side.
    8. Store well-wrapped at room temperature.

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Flatbread with Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) and Manchego

    This flatbread can be made as spicy or mild as you like.  The strong flavors of manchego and broccoli rabe lend themselves to the addition of red chile flakes (or finely chopped dried chile peppers if you have some left from last summer).   If you follow the recipe as written, the flatbread won't be spicy at all, just full of bold flavors.  But if you want some heat, adjust accordingly.  The recipe also prepares more broccoli rabe than required for the flatbread.  We served the extra on the side, but you could always cook less if you only want enough for the flatbread.

    Flatbread with Broccoli Rabe and Manchego


    1                     flatbread dough
    1                     garlic clove, sliced thinly
    1/4      tsp        red chile flakes, plus more to taste
    1                     broccoli rabe (rapini) head, cut into florets
    2        oz          manchego, sliced with peeler
                           olive oil
                           sea salt and black pepper

    1. Heat oven and pizza stone to 500° for 1 hour.
    2. Remove flatbread dough from refrigerator to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
    3. Blanch broccoli rabe in salted boiling water, then drain.
    4. Heat 2 Tbs olive oil over medium, add garlic and chile and cook for one minute.  Add broccoli rabe and cook until starting to soften.  Add sea salt to taste, cook one more minute, remove from heat.
    5. Roll dough out on well-floured surface to 8" across.
    6. Spread thin layer of olive oil on flatbread dough.  Add cheese, then broccoli rabe (you may have extra), then more cheese.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and a little more red chile flakes.
    7. Bake until done, about 5 minutes.
    If you like this, try our other flatbread recipes:

      Monday, January 18, 2010

      Flatbread with Sauteed Brussels Sprouts, Walnuts and Shaved Parmesan

      Another flatbread idea using walnuts, here surrounded by plump Brussels sprouts and gorgeous slices of parmesan cheese.  The Brussels sprouts are sauteed in brown butter before loading them onto the dough.  They're so tasty that any extra that you can't cram onto the flatbread make a perfect side dish.

      Flatbread with Brussels Sprouts, Walnuts and Shaved Parmesan


      1               ball                  flatbread dough
      12             oz                    Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
      1/2            cup                  walnuts
      1               oz                    parmesan, shaved with a peeler
      1               cup                  vegetable stock
      1                                       lemon
      2               Tbs                  butter
                                               olive oil
                                               sea salt and black pepper
                                               bread flour for dusting

      1. Heat oven to 325° and toast walnuts until fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Remove and set aside.
      2. Raise temperature to 500­° to heat oven and pizza stone.
      3. Heat butter in saute pan over medium until browned.
      4. Add Brussels sprouts and saute briefly, about 1 minute.
      5. Add stock, toasted walnuts, a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until just tender.
      6. Roll out dough on well-floured surface (after letting it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes).  Lighlty brush all over with olive oil, then add a layer of shaved parmesan.  Top with Brussels sprouts mixture, then another layer of shaved parmesan (make a decorative pattern if you're so inclined).  Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.
      7. Bake until done, about 5 minutes.  Watch closely to prevent the walnuts from burning.
      If you like this recipe, check ot our other flatbread recipes in the series:

      And coming soon:
      • Flatbread with Broccoli Rabe and Manchego
      • Flatbread with Chickpeas, Tomato and Feta

      Saturday, January 16, 2010

      Flatbread with Gorgonzola Dulce, Grapes and Walnuts

      Walnuts are one of the superfoods for 2010, promising to "lower your cholesterol, boost brain power, help you sleep better and cope with stress. Walnuts may also prevent heart disease and fight cancer."   They're also loaded with protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.   Most important, walnuts taste great whether raw, baked, toasted or sauteed. 

      With walnuts, grapes, and a thick port reduction, this flatbread straddles the line between sweet and savory. We served it for dinner, but it could just as easily be a dessert or appetizer.  Regardless of its place on the menu, this is our hands-down favorite flatbread recipe (so far...).
      Flatbread with Gorgonzola Dulce, Grapes and Walnuts


      1                                Flatbread Dough
      3/4           cups           cheap port wine
      1              Tbs            butter
      1/2           cup             walnuts
      1/2           tsp              black pepper
      1/2           tsp              sea salt
      2              tsp              sugar
      2              oz               gorgonzola dolce
      1              cup             seedless red grapes, halved
                                        olive oil
                                         bread flour for rolling out dough

      1. Preheat oven and pizza stone to 500° for 1 hour.
      2. Bring wine to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook until reduced to 1/8 cup, about 15 minutes.  Cool.
      3. Melt butter over medium until it sizzles, then add walnuts, pepper, salt and sugar.  Saute until well coated and lightly toasted, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat to cool.
      4. Remove dough from refrigerator and leave at room temp for 15 minutes before rolling out on well-floured surface.  Roll to a thin round about 8" across.
      5. Spread a thin layer of olive oil on flatbread.  Add about half the gorgonzola in small pats, then grapes.  Top with more cheese, then drizzle port sauce on top (you will probably have extra sauce -- you don't need to use it all).  Bake for 5 minutes or until done.  
      6. As soon as you remove from oven, sprinkle walnuts on top and serve immediately.  If you're feeling bold, you can add the walnuts before baking the flatbread.  But they burn quickly at 500° so you have to really watch them closely.
      If you like this, check our our other flatbread recipes:

      And coming soon:

      Friday, January 15, 2010

      Potato Chip Shortbread Cookies

      We first read about potato chip cookies several years ago in the Washington Post's annual cookie round-up.  If you haven't seen these articles, we highly recommend them.  The reporters take their cookies very seriously, going so far as to trash noted chef Michel Richard for a cookie recipe that doesn't produce perfect results and independently testing every recipe several times.  Only the best make the cut, and the recommendations are always interesting.  We filed the Post's recipe and forgot all about it until reading Mother Rimmy's and Brie's posts last month about their potato chip cookies.  What could be a better baking project for kids than cookies which include greasy, old-fashioned potato chips, a snack that is contraband in our house.  The fact that the recipe requires smashing the chips to smithereens first makes this recipe even more fun, and with only 5 ingredients, young children can easily take charge of this baking project.  The results really do taste like shortbread, with a bit of potato chip crunch here and there.    Admittedly a bit odd, but what can we say, the kids loved these from start to finish.

      Potato Chip Shortbread Cookies 

      produces 16 big cookies
      recipe adapted from Washington Post


      8           oz                 unsalted butter, room temp
      1/2        cup               sugar, plus more for rolling
      1 3/4     cup               unbleached A.P. flour
      1           cup               coarsely crushed potato chips
      1            tsp               vanilla

      1. Preheat oven to 325° convection (350° conventional).  Combine flour and potato chips.
      2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then add vanilla.  Add dry and mix just enough to combine.
      3. Form balls of dough by hand about 2" across (or to suit your preferences).  Roll in granulated sugar, then place on sheet pan with silpat or parchment paper.  Flatten cookies with your hand (they won't spread much in the oven) and smooth edges if they crack a bit when flattened.
      4. Bake until golden and just starting to brown around edges.  Our cookies were big and fairly thick, so they took a while to bake through.
      Lindsay recommends adding chocolate chips
      Molly suggests adding pecans and drizzling chocolate on top

      Thursday, January 14, 2010

      Flatbread with Roasted Beets, Texas Goat Cheese and Chestnut Honey

      Beets originated somewhere along the Mediterranean and have been known to offer health benefits since ancient times.  In fact, beet juice was considered an aphrodisiac by the Romans and beets have been dubbed nature's viagara.  Recent studies have shown that beets may inhibit tumor growth, and that they are high in antioxidants, folate, vitamin C and iron.  Beet greens (which include Swiss chard) are even more nutritious than the roots which we use here, but both are on Jonny Bowden's list of 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.  We are growing several beet varieties including Bull's Blood, which is primarily grown for its leafy greens, Golden and Detroit Dark Red.  If you're choosing based on nutritional considerations, red are best, but we love the look and taste of golden beets.

      For this flatbread we used an artisanal goat cheese, CheesyGirl's Plain Jane, made just outside of Houston in Sealy, Texas.  We love discovering a local cheesemaker, and the musky flavors worked well with the sweetness of the beets and honey.

      Flatbread with Roasted Beets, Texas Goat Cheese and Chestnut Honey


      1                     Flatbread Dough
      2                     golden beets
      3         oz         goat cheese
      1/2      Tbs       chives, chopped
      1          tsp      red wine vinegar
      1         Tbs      olive oil
      1/4       tsp      sea salt
      1/8       tsp       black pepper
      1          tsp       olive oil
                             chestnut honey

      1. Preheat the oven to 350° and put pizza stone in to start warming up.
      2. Wash the beets and trim the stems to about 1 inch. Place them in a small baking pan and toss with 1 Tbs olive oil, 1 Tbs water, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
      3. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for about 50 minutes, or until there is no resistance when the beets are pierced with a sharp knife. Remove from oven and let cool. 
      4. Turn up temp on oven to 500°.
      5. When the beets are cool enough to handle, place on a paper towel and rub gently with the towel to remove the skin. Repeat with the second beet. Trim away and discard the stems and any roots. Slice beets to 1/4" thin,  place slices in a bowl, and toss with a pinch of salt and pepper, 1 tsp olive oil, and the vinegar. 
      6. After dough has rested at room temp for 15 minutes, roll out on well-floured surface to an 8" circle.  
      7. Spread a thin layer of olive oil, then add goat cheese and beets.  Add more goat cheese on top, chives, sprinkle with sea salt, and then drizzle with chestnut honey.
      8. Bake until done, about 5  minutes, drizzle with a little more honey, and serve immediately.

        Wednesday, January 13, 2010

        Flatbread with French Sorrel, Roasted Cauliflower and Crumbled Goat Cheese

        Sorrel has been used since the days of the Egyptian pharaohs and later the ancient Greeks and Romans. It is rich in potassium, vitamins C and A, and believed to aid in digestion.  Common sorrel, rumex acetosa, has thick oblong leaves while French sorrel, rumex scutatus, has smaller, sword-shaped leaves.  Both are high in ascorbic acid, which accounts for their sharp, lemony flavor, although French sorrel is subtler and less pungent than common sorrel.  Sorrel doesn't dry well, but it may be stored in the refrigerator or frozen.  Our sorrel has perennialized in the garden, and seems to grow well in both hot and cold weather.  The plants are well-behaved, forming a clump which increases in width rather than spreading.  Here, the tart lemony flavor of French sorrel combines perfectly with roasted cauliflower and goat cheese.

        Flatbread with French Sorrel, Roasted Cauliflower and Crumbled Goat Cheese


        1                           Flatbread Dough
        1/4          head      cauliflower, broken into florets
        5-6                       large French sorrel leaves
        2              oz         crumbled goat cheese
                                     olive oil
                                     sea salt, black pepper
                                     bread flour for rolling out dough

        1. Heat oven to 420° and put pizza stone in oven to start warming up.  Toss cauliflower florets in olive oil and sea salt to lightly coat.  Roast on a sheet pan until golden and dark on edges, about 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to cook evenly.  Remove from oven to cool.
        2. Raise temperature of oven to 500°.
        3. Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to relax at room temperature for 15 minutes.
        4. Boil water and blanche sorrel, no more than 1 minute, then drain.
        5. Roll out dough on well-floured surface to an 8" circle.  Spread a thin layer of olive oil on dough, then add goat cheese, cauliflower, and sorrel.  You may have extra cauliflower, which you can serve on the side.  Add more goat cheese on top.
        6. Bake until done, about 5 minutes.

        Tuesday, January 12, 2010

        One Flatbread Dough, Infinite Possibilities

        What is the difference between flatbread and pizza?  Somehow, flatbread seems less fussy to us.  No sauce, and a blank canvas for any number of toppings.  But really, they are quite similar.  Both doughs require a rest period in the refrigerator before baking, a process known as retarding the dough.  By reducing the temperature of the dough, fermentation of the yeast is slowed to enhance the flavors.   Both pizza and flatbread doughs are rolled thin, then quickly baked at a very high temperature.  And both bake best using a pizza stone, an inexpensive yet invaluable investment if you plan to bake flatbreads or pizzas often.  Use a peel to slide the dough in and remove it a few minutes later and you'll feel like a real pro.

        Our recipe couldn't be simpler, and is ready in a snap.  Let the dough rest overnight in the fridge, and then get creative with toppings.  One recipe makes enough for three flatbreads, each of which produces a filling meal for two when served with a little something on the side.  The possible toppings are almost infinite.  We'll be posting several of our recipes over the next few days:
        Flatbread Dough


        1/2         tsp        active dry yeast
        3/4         cup       lukewarm water
        1/2         tsp        sea salt
        2            cups      bread flour, plus more for dusting

        1. Combine yeast and water in the bowl of your mixer.  Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
        2. Add salt.
        3. Using dough hook, add flour all at once and mix on medium high.  First, a ball will form after a few minutes.  Continue until dough is smooth and satiny.
        4. Remove from mixer and work by hand for about a minute, until dough springs back quickly when you press on it with your finger.
        5. Flour the ball of dough to prevent sticking, then place in a large bowl.  Cover well with plastic wrap, then refrigerate.
        6. Dough will be ready in about 12 hours (it should have doubled or tripled by then).  It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days but punch it down after the first day.
        7. Remove dough from refrigerator and divide into three equal pieces.  Roll each into a ball, then allow to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before using.  If you're only using one ball, return the other two to the refrigerator in an airtight container.  When you later use the extra dough, allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling out.
        8. On a floured surface, roll out dough to an 8" circle.  It will be thin.  We use a peel to place it directly on a pizza stone, but you can also roll out the dough on parchment paper and then place on a sheet pan before baking.
        9. Pre-heat oven and pizza stone to 500° for an hour.  Flatbread bakes in about 5 minutes.
        One Flatbread Dough, Infinite Possibilities made the Foodbuzz Top 9 today! The Foodbuzz Top 9 is a photo-driven collection of top-buzzed posts within the Foodbuzz community. Congratulations again, and thanks for being a part of Foodbuzz!

        Cheers, The Foodbuzz Editorial Team

        Monday, January 11, 2010

        Fig and Walnut Loaf

        This is one of those recipes that we totally forget about until the temperatures drop, and then it's all we can think about.  We normally only eat sweets after dinner, but this bread makes a wonderful afternoon snack when served with honeyed cream cheese and a pot of tea.   Yes, thanks to the chill in the air and frost on the ground, Anglophilia is alive and well in Texas.

        Fig and Walnut Loaf


        4           oz           (one stick) unsalted butter, room temp
        1 1/2     cups        unbleached A.P. flour
        1           tsp           baking soda
        1/2        tsp           baking powder
        1/2        tsp           salt
        1/4        tsp           cinnamon
        1/8        tsp           allspice
        pinch                     nutmeg
        7           oz             dried Mission figs, stems removed and diced
        1          cup            packed light-brown sugar
        2                           eggs at room temp
        1/2       cup           sour cream
        2          oz             walnuts, chopped

        1. Heat oven to 300° convection (325° conventional).  Butter pyrex loaf pan.
        2. Combine dry (flour through salt) and set aside.
        3. Heat 1/2 cup water in the microwave until starts to simmer.  Add a third of the figs to the water and leave to soften, about 10 minutes.  Puree in food processor until smooth and thick.
        4. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time and mix well each time.  Scrape down a few times.  Add dry ingredients and mix on low until just combined.  Add sour cream and pureed fig and mix on low until just combined.  Add chopped figs and walnuts.
        5. Fill prepared pan and bang on your counter a few times to level.  Bake until cooked through to center and top is springy, about 1 hour.
        6. Store at room temperature.  Keeps several days.
        7. Serve plain, or with honeyed cream cheese.

        Saturday, January 9, 2010

        White Cheddar Shortbread Biscuits

        These savory shortbread biscuits will disappear so quickly that you may consider doubling the recipe.  They have an excellent shelf life, so you can bake them the day before your next get-together, although they're so quick and easy you need not plan ahead at all.  This is an excellent recipe for kids -- just be sure to supervise if you let them shred the cheese using a microplane as we did.  Our older son ate these with barbecue sauce during the Texas Alabama game, but if you're not a crazy Texan, serve with soup or better yet chili, a fruit plate, or your favorite dip. 

        White Cheddar Shortbread Biscuits
        recipe from Epicurious
        makes 28 biscuits


        1/2          cup           unsalted butter, room temp
        1/2          tsp            salt
        1/4          tsp            black pepper
                                       pinch of cayenne pepper
        8             oz            extra-sharp white Cheddar, finely shredded
                                       (we used a microplane)
        1             cup          unbleached A.P. flour
        1. Combine butter with salt and both peppers in mixer on low until combined.  Don't over-mix.
        2. Add flour and cheese and mix on medium-low until well combined and a ball forms.  Again, don't over-mix.
        3. Wrap ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  If you want to use the slice and bake method (so you don't have to roll out your dough), shape dough into a log before refrigerating.
        4. Heat oven to 325° convection (350° conventional).  Line two sheet pans with silpats or parchment paper.
        5. Roll out dough to 1/4" thick on a lightly floured surface, or slice rounds from log that are 1/4" thick.  If rolling out dough (which is what we did), use 2" round cutter and place each biscuit on sheet pan as you cut them out.  Biscuits hold shape well when baked, so you can use any cookie cutter you like here.  You can re-roll dough scraps.
        6. Bake until puffed up, golden on top, and browning on edges, about 18 minutes in our convection oven.  Store at room temp in a ziploc or airtight container.

          Friday, January 8, 2010

          Pasta with Fresh Chickpeas and Basil Sauce

          Fresh chickpeas have a familiar flavor, but taste "beanier" than canned or dried chickpeas.  They also keep their green color when cooked, making this pasta with basil sauce particularly beautiful.  This is a quick recipe perfect for a weeknight dinner, but the chickpeas and basil sauce still provide plenty of flavor.

          Pasta with Fresh Chickpeas and Basil Sauce
          serves 2 as entree portion


          Basil Sauce

          4                           garlic cloves
          1/2       tsp            sea salt
          4          cups          fresh basil leaves
          6          Tbs           olive oil

          Pasta with Fresh Chickpeas

          12         oz              dried penne pasta
          1 -2       oz              freshly grated parmesan cheese
          2           cups           fresh chickpeas, removed from pods


          1. Puree basil, salt and garlic in food processor.  Slowly add olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.
          1. Boil big pot of water, add 1 Tbs sea salt.  Blanche chickpeas until starting to soften, about 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
          2. Cook pasta in salted boiling water.  Drain.
          3. Immediately combine pasta with basil sauce and chickpeas.  Combine well, then add 1 1/2 oz cheese and mix again.
          4. Serve warm topped with more grated cheese.
          Pasta with Fresh Chickpeas and Basil Sauce made the Foodbuzz Top 9 today! The Foodbuzz Top 9 is a photo-driven collection of top-buzzed posts within the Foodbuzz community. Congratulations again, and thanks for being a part of Foodbuzz!
          Cheers, The Foodbuzz Editorial Team

          Thursday, January 7, 2010

          Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

          Our boys love to bake, so we try to find a project for them at least once a week.  This week, we gave them Carole Walter's Great Cookies and told them to pick ten recipes that looked good.  After heated negotiation to narrow down the choices and a controversial vote that required multi-variable calculus to tally, the winner was the Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.  These cookies are dense and fudgy, and should be served with a warning label that reads "must love chocolate".  That being said, this is a great recipe for kids, requiring very little parental assistance.  And the dough keeps well in the refrigerator, so you can bake just a few at a time if (like us) you need to have fresh-baked cookies every night before going to bed.

          Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
          adapted from Carole Walter's Great Cookies


          1              cup        unbleached A.P. flour
          2              Tbs        Dutch-processed cocoa powder
          1              tsp          baking powder
          1/4           tsp          salt
          8              oz           bittersweet chocolate (we used El Rey Bucare)
          1/2           cup         butter
          3/4           cup         sugar
          1/2           cup         dark brown sugar
          2                             eggs
          2               Tbs         hot water
          1 1/2         tsp          vanilla
          12             oz           semisweet chocolate chips

          1. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
          2. Melt chocolate in the microwave.  Go in 30-second increments, stirring after each cycle.  As chocolate gets closer to being totally melted, use 15-second blasts, stirring after each cycle.   Don't overdo it or the chocolate will burn.
          3. Cream butter until smooth.  Add sugar and combine well.  Add brown sugar and combine well.
          4. Add eggs one at a time, scraping sides and bottom of bowl each time.
          5. Add melted chocolate and just combine.  Then mix in hot water and vanilla.
          6. Add half of the dry, beat until just combined.  Repeat with other half.  Add chocolate chips and mix on low until evenly distributed.
          7. Wrap and refrigerate dough for several hours.
          8. Scoop out balls of dough (which will be really hard to do -- the kids will need help here).  Dough will be crumbly and messy, but form balls by hand and place on silpat-lined sheet pan.  When all the balls are formed, flatten well with your hand -- they won't spread much.
          9. Bake in convection oven at 350° until cookies are no longer shiny and lightened in color, about 12 minutes.
          10. Our boys don't like nuts in their cookies, but we do.  You can add chopped walnuts to some of the dough for the grown-ups.

          Wednesday, January 6, 2010

          Tuscan Barley and Chickpea Soup

          This soup is another wintery recipe that relies heavily on pantry items (here chickpeas and barley).  The only contribution from the garden is our Italian parsley which is thriving in our cool weather.   This is a filling vegan soup that is loaded with protein and fiber.

          Tuscan Barley and Chickpea Soup


          1 1/2          cups         canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
          3/4             cup           hulled barley
          1/2             tsp            sea salt
          2                                 bay leaves
          3                Tbs           olive oil
          1/2             cup           onion, chopped
          1                Tbs           celery, minced
          1                 qt             vegetable stock
          1/2              tsp           dried marjoram
          2                                 pinches dry nutmeg
                                             black pepper
                                             Italian parsley, chopped
                                             optional:  feta, flatbread

          1. Place chickpeas in saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil, add salt and bay leaves.  Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until very soft (about 1 1/2 hours).***
          2. Gently saute onions and celery in olive oil until soft.  Add stock, barley, marjoram and nutmeg.  Simmer, partially covered, for about 1 hour.
          3. Drain chickpeas but RESERVE THE COOKING LIQUID.  Discard bay leaves.  Puree chickpeas with 1 cup of reserved liquid.  If too thick, add more of the reserved liquid to get a thick paste.
          4. Add pureed chickpeas to the barley and stock.  Soup should have a thick, creamy texture.  Add more of the reserved chickpea cooking liquid if the soup is too thick.  Season with salt and pepper, and let soup simmer on very low for about 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld.  Serve with chopped parsley on top, and a drizzle of olive oil. 
          5. We added a dollop of feta to each bowl, and served with thick flatbread.
          *** We've received several questions about the cooking time for the chickpeas.  We really did cook them this long, on a low simmer.  You could probably cook for a shorter time -- just taste for flavor and softness to determine when they're done.
            Tuscan Barley and Chickpea Soup made the Foodbuzz Top 9 today! The Foodbuzz Top 9 is a photo-driven collection of top-buzzed posts within the Foodbuzz community.  Congratulations again, and thanks for being a part of Foodbuzz! 
            Cheers, The Foodbuzz Editorial Team


              Tuesday, January 5, 2010

              Blog Bites

              Many of us were saddened by the demise of Gourmet magazine.  Beautiful recipes and pictures for food-obsessed people like us.   Of course, news of declining ad revenue and reduced circulation is familiar.  But we attribute Gourmet's failure in large part to the internet.  To us, the most interesting recipes, content and photographs these days can be found on food blogs.  Bloggers are the new food journalists, intrepid, creative and free of advertisers' requirements. 

              We have tried many recipes developed by fellow bloggers, and discovered amazing food as a result.  Sometimes we adhere strictly to the recipe, other times we use the original as inspiration.    We would love to hear about your experiences doing the same, so we are starting a monthly event, Blog Bites, to give everyone an opportunity to post their take on a recipe they've made that originated on a blog.  This will be an opportunity for all of us to find recipes we may have missed, discover new blogs, and to share ideas.

              We find Sundays are a great day to get caught up on reading, so Blog Bites will be posted on the first Sunday of each month.  We'd love volunteers to host in future months -- drop us an email if you're interested.  And if you're technical (we aren't), feel free to send any suggestions on how to best display all contributions.

              A few requirements:
              • Any recipe is welcome as long as it's vegetarian -- sweet, savory, dessert, bread, salad, entree, beverage, soup, etc.  Nothing against carnivores (our restaurant serves meat, and our son eats pepperoni pizza for breakfast), but this site presents only vegetarian recipes so we want to remain true to our focus.  Future hosts can eliminate that restriction.
              • Submit by January 31st
              • To participate, just post a comment here with the following:  Name of Dish, Brief Description, Name of original blog site, link to your blog entry AND the link to the blog entry from which the recipe originated.   If it's easier, you can e-mail us all the info at
              • Include the tag "Blog Bites" in your post
              • If you don't have a blog, we would still love you to participate.  Just send us all of the above (without a link to your own blog) and add a sentence or two about the dish.
              • We'll post everything on the first Sunday of each month starting in February.
              • If you have a picture of your dish that you'd like to include with the link, send that in jpeg format (less than 500 kb) to, referencing your recipe title and blog site.
              • Remain true to the original recipe, or use it as inspiration.  Also feel free to include your improvements or modifications of the original, but please avoid being negative or nasty.  If a recipe just doesn't work (it happens), try a different recipe for this event.


              Monday, January 4, 2010

              Brussels Sprout Salad with Manchego Cheese and Marcona Almonds

              Peel off Brussels sprout leaves and lightly blanch them to create the perfect winter salad green.  With marcona almonds, dried blueberries and cranberries, and manchego cheese, this salad makes a gorgeous side dish or a filling meal.

              Brussels Sprout Salad with Manchego Cheese and Marcona Almonds
              serves 2 as an entree


              1         pound          Brussels sprouts
              1         Tbs              dried cranberries
              1         Tbs              dried blueberries
              2         Tbs              whole Marcona almonds
              1         oz                Manchego cheese, shaved using a peeler
              3         Tbs              olive oil
              1         Tbs              white wine vinegar
                                             sea salt and black pepper to taste


              1. Whisk together all ingredients and set aside.
              1. Peel leaves off the Brussels sprouts, discarding the core.  Blanch leaves until barely tender, but still bright green.  Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well and dry.
              2. Toss Brussels leaves with the cranberries, blueberries, and almonds.  Very lightly coat with dressing (there may be some extra dressing).
              3. Plate and top with cheese shavings. 
              4. Eat immediately.
              Brussels Sprout Salad with Manchego and Marcona Almonds made the Foodbuzz Top 9 today! The Foodbuzz Top 9 is a photo-driven collection of top-buzzed posts within the Foodbuzz community.  Congratulations again, and thanks for being a part of Foodbuzz! 
              Cheers, The Foodbuzz Editorial Team