Friday, December 31, 2010

Baking Taralli Pugliesi ...and a happy New Year!

I have a penchant for doing things backwards.  A quality I prefer to believe is endearing.  For example, when I dreamed of the glory that becoming a Bread Baking Buddy would bring me...and subsequently found out that I still had time to jump in on a December challenge...and to top it all off, realized that the challenge consisted of Italian bread...I dove in head first.  Have I ever mentioned that I was born to be Italian?  Of course I have.  Tuscany, take me away....  So, I made bedroom eyes with the photo and recipe...broke out my mammoth mixing bowl and my semi- trusty scale...and got down to business.  At risk of losing some of the romance, I'll tell you that they looked like little bagel bites.  Totally not as enchanting as taralli pugliesi sounds say it with me now...taraaaalli puglieeeeesi, but true never the less.  They do end up tasting vaguely reminiscent of a bagel, but more like a cracker scented with fennel.  Which brings back to the beginning (where I should have started...backwards, remember?)...after they were cooling and being monched on (everybody liked them, by the way), I decided to do a quick search to find out what Taralli Pugliesi were exactly.  Oh.  They're an Italian snack cracker.  No wonder.  Reminiscent of a breadstick or a pretzel or a bagel. I also read that sometimes they're made sweet and drizzled with a sugary glaze.  And often they're dunked in wine.  Ah, Italy...I love you so....

adapted from Food Bible Le Ricette Regionali Italiane by Anna Maria Gostii Della Salda 
via Lucullian Delights
makes ~90

1 kg (1000 g / 2.2 lb)  AP flour
200 g extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. (+ more) tepid water
11 g fennel seeds,bruised a bit (optional)
7 g instant yeast
1 tsp salt
2 eggs (or the equivalent of dry white wine)

Dissolve the yeast in 2 Tbs. of tepid water. Mix the yeast water with the lightly whisked eggs and the olive oil.

Mix flour, fennel seeds and salt and then add the liquid. Start working the dough and continue to add small amounts of tepid water until you have a firm but pliable dough (used 1¼ c. total).

Start rolling 2 - 2½" long ropes that are as thick as your little finger and pinch the ends together to make an oval. Put the taralli on a parchment paper, cover with a towel and leave them to rest ~20 minutes.

Turn on the oven to 392° F (converted from 200° just get it there-abouts, I suppose).

While the taralli rest, bring a fairly large pot of water to a boil.

Lower 15 taralli at a time (this really depends on the size of your pot...mine was big...don't over crowd or it will lower the heat) into the simmering water and as they surface, take them out and put them to dry on a kitchen towel or rack.

Transfer to baking sheets covered with parchment paper or a silpat.
 Bake until golden and cooked through, ~20 minutes.

Eating Italian crackers in a spattering of cool perfectly melancholy.
We have some surprising weather here in Northwestern Indiana on New Year's Eve...rainy and 48° 55° F!  I love it!  It feels cleansing instead of frozen... 

*This post is linked to:
*Bread Baking Buddies (in conjunction w/ Bread Baking Babes)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cookbook Review: More Make it Fast, Cook it Slow by Stephanie O'Dea

I love to cook.  I love spending time in the kitchen.  I love surrending all of my senses to food.  Okay...nothing new, right?  But sometimes...sometimes....I need a break.  We all do.  Don't get me wrong, Mexi is pretty rockin' in the kitchen, too...but there's times when neither of us feels like it.  So, in lieu of starving or expensive take-out, I dust off a slow-cooker.  Or two.  I'll be honest with you, though.  I don't normally pour over slow-cooker cookbooks the way I do "regular" cookbooks.  I mean, I own two.  And those are stuck in a sea of hundreds of others.  Literally.  That all changed when I added number three to the tide.  More Make it Fast, Cook it Slow by Stephanie O'Dea is different.  I actually found myself bookmarking pages.  Lots and lots of pages!  This book has over 200 recipes- all of which are gluten-free, by the way (if you follow her notes).  Something I love about this book is that it is divided into three sections: $7 and Under, $10 and Under, & $15 and Under.  Seriously.  Meals that feed anywhere from four to twelve people...require very minimal effort...and taste delicious.  I'm totally crushin' on this book and my slow-cooker right now.  I don't think I'm cheating on my love for cooking by breaking out my slow-cooker every now and again...especially not now that I have so many things I want to use it for!  I've tried four different things to date...all of which we really enjoyed...and have many more meals to share with you in the future, but I couldn't wait any longer to share what I've found so far with you.

I'm going to start with my absolute favorite thing I've made from the book so far.  I love it so much that I want to marry it.  But that would make me a bigamist, and I'm not down with that.  Peperoncini Beef Sandwiches were in the $10 and Under section...and they may be the easiest thing on the face of the earth to make.  I'm not going to share all of the recipes in the book with you...but I am going to share this one.  It serves ~6...Place 2 pounds of beef chuck roast in a 4 qt slow cooker.  Pour 1 (16 oz) jar of peperoncini peppers over it.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  Uh yeah.  That's it!  When you remove the lid from the slow-cooker...the smell that assaults your senses makes you want to bury your face in the resulting beef and shake your head back and forth. Would it not ruin the beautiful work your slow-cooker did over the course of the day.  Or your skin.  Seriously, stick in a fork and move it around and the meat just shreds apart.  Chuck has long been one of my favorite cuts of shreds so nicely.  I piled it on a toasted bun and it was love at first bite.  O'Dea suggests serving it with sliced mozzarella or swiss...I think provolone would rock it, too...but it doesn't need it.  And that's big words coming from a cheeseslut like me.
In a second slow-cooker...that's right, I had some simultaneous slow-cooker action going on that day...I had some Creamy Ranch Mashed Red Potatoes going.  These were in the $7 and Under section and served ~6, as well.  As expected, they were awesome.  We love potatoes.  We love ranch.  We love not having to do anything except hitting them with an immersion blender just before serving.  And by we, I mean me.  O'Dea also throws in a great recipe for Homemade Ranch Dip Mix at the end of the recipe.  Awesome. No MSG!
Also in the $7 and Under section and serving 6 was this Lemon Pudding Cake.  I was a bit apprehensive about how it would turn out, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results.  It set up nicely after letting it sit for a while.  The top was more custardy than cakey...and the bottom was very pudding-like.  The lemon flavor shown through beautifully, as well.  It's not going to win any beauty pageants any time soon, but it definitely gets my vote for Miss Congeniality.  I'm not sure I'd make it very often, but I'm glad I tried it.
The last thing I made...which scented the whole house magically for hours and made our bellies scream in anticipation...was "Real" Pork and Beans.  Not anything like you imagine when you think pork and beans...but absolutely tasty!  I thought it was basically like a southwest-style chili.  It fell in the $15 and Under section...mainly because it uses pork tenderloin as the meat...but that's still a pretty inexpensive meal for 6 in my book.  I actually made it into a meal for at least 8 by cooking up some elbow macaroni on the side and tossing it together for a chili mac that I developed a must-satisfy craving for while it was cooking.  Totally.  Awesome.
I have everything ready to make O'Dea's version of Hoppin' John this New Year' peas, smoked sausage, collard greens...oh yeah.  I'll be updating you on how it was after we've tried it. (*Update: 1/1/ on the name Hoppin' John above to see my results. Mmmmm.) Also on my to-try list from More Make it Fast, Cook it Slow...go figure...two different version of my obsession  TORTILLA SOUP. So, take it easy on yourself every once in a while...break out the slow-cooker.  And check out a copy of this book for some fantastic ideas! 

*I received a copy of this book free for review from the publisher, but the thoughts expressed in this post are all my own.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hearth and Soul Hop vol. 28

Welcome to the Hearth 'n Soul Blog Hop Volume 28!


Food from your hearth, to feed your soul. Food that follows your intuition. Preparing food from scratch to nourish your family…body, mind AND soul! Food made with your own hands…infused with energy and passion and intent. Real food made by real people to feed real families (big and small, in blood or spirit). Ingredients from scratch, be it something grown in your garden or raised on your land…food foraged in the field or woods…food from local farms, farmers, or farmers markets…or even ingredients chosen by you from your local market that will be turned into something that feeds your soul. Tapping the food memory that each of us has stored inside; letting it guide and influence our own time in the kitchen.

We hope to embrace not only the “expected” areas of real food, but also those who want to incorporate healthier choices without sacrificing their love of food…how it tastes, the memories it conjures up, the comfort it brings. Yes, we’re trying to steer clear of packaged, processed, and boxed foods in favor of real foods….without absolutely excluding the sometimes frowned upon white sugar or flour (because the body craves what it craves…and sometimes things just don’t taste the same when you replace these). Making conscious choices and being present in the now with what your body needs…and taking steps towards exploring and enjoying healthier choices. If you take the time to listen, your body will tell you what it needs.

The warm comfort of the home hearth…stories, anecdotes, lessons, adventures, journeys, recipes, meals, beverages…we want to share the “why” of how food feeds more than just our bodies…how it also feeds our souls. After all, aren’t these the essential ingredients in defining real food? Please share links from your Hearth ‘n Soul with us each week.

*As hosts, we will try our hardest to visit as many of the links each week as we can.  We guarantee that at least one of us will stop by each week...and tweet your link, as well.  As much as we'd love to be able to comment on every post, every! Ya know?  We all enjoy your links and look forward to reading what you've brought to the table every week.  So please know, that if there's a week that one or two of us don't drop's not because we don't care, it's because our plates are overflowing that week!

*The Hearth and Soul Hop's Twitter hashtag is #hsoul .  Feel free to leave your twitter handle in the comments, as well.

Rules for linking:
  • One link per week, please
  • Must include a link back to one/any of the host sites (through worded link or badge) in individual post, not on sidebar…although we love having links on your page, as well (this benefits all of us). You will be sent a gentle reminder if no link is added to your post, we understand that sometimes people forget…but if it becomes a regular occurrence, (even though we don’t like to do it) your post may be removed. It’s just not fair to those who do take the time and show the grace to link back.
  • Try to link a post that you think fits into the mission of Hearth 'n Soul. You don’t have to link up every week…link up when you can. We welcome posts that are shared in other events. If you have an older, archived post that you want to add, we welcome that…as long as you go in and add a link back to Hearth ‘n Soul

Linky will stay open from 10 pm Monday to 11:59 pm Wednesday (Eastern time).

Your Hosts:
Hunger and Thirst
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Please feel free to ask questions at any time through either comments or email at any of the hosting sites and we will answer you as soon as we possibly can.  I'm really looking forward to reading everybody's links. Thank you!

This linky list is now closed.

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