Sunday, August 28, 2011

Appetizers from from the Oleana cookbook

I live too far from Oleana to go there for dinner, so the next best thing is to cook from Spices, chef Ana Sortun's cookbook.

We were having company for dinner on Saturday, so Friday I decided to make the Chickpea and Potato Terrine Stuffed with Pine Nuts, Spinach, Onion, and Tahini. Not having a terrine pan (I suppose I could have used a loaf pan), I decided to give the jelly roll variation a try. For the outer portion, I made everything exactly as she said except that I used 3 cups canned garbanzos instead of cooking my own, and I substituted 1 tablespoon olive oil for 2 tablespoons butter when mashing the potato.
I couldn't believe how easy the mixture was to work with! I was careful to keep it from being too wet, which was tricky since I didn't know what just-moist-enough looked like, so I was relieved when it was really easy to pat into shape on the plastic wrap I laid out on the counter.
Then I topped it with the spinach mixture. I used a 10-oz package of frozen spinach instead of fresh, and omitted the currants since I didn't have any. But I did add the chopped dried apricots -- yum! I had to make a batch of Middle Eastern Five-Spice just to get 1 teaspoon's worth (I probably could have substituted garam masala), but now I have about half a spice jar full to use for other recipes.
As Sortun suggested, I used the plastic wrap to help me roll it up. Worked like a charm! Really simple. Then I put it in the fridge until Saturday.
Meanwhile, I made the Whipped Feta. Oh, so good!!! Our guests thought it was outstanding, and Brian and I love it. I wasn't able to get Urfa chilies, so I just used all Aleppo chilies. The New York Times printed her recipe here.
Before serving, I sliced the loaf and drizzled muhammara sauce over it (she suggests chopped tomatoes), both for color and flavor. It was good (a couple people had seconds, and it was just part of the appetizer course) and looks pretty spectacular given how easy it was to make. I did feel I needed to warn people that the outside was not dough (it looks like it), and I think it could have been a little more flavorful. Next time I may try adding more flavor to the garbanzos (garlic olive oil instead of plain EVOO?) and I will add more chopped apricots to the filling. But it's good!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Challah, for everyday and challah-days

I made challah for the first time in August 2000, with help from Jocelyn and Valerie. We used Martha Rose Shulman's recipe from Great Breads. It is still our favorite challah for special occasions, although since that first time we have always made it with white flour. Normally I'm a fan of hearty whole grain breads, but somehow challah remains a white bread classic in my mind. Here's our adapted version:

Sabbath Challah

Mix together to dissolve yeast. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes until creamy looking (the yeast is working):
     1 Tbs active dry yeast
     1/2 cup lukewarm water

Beat in (easiest with electric mixer, but can do by hand):
     1 cup lukewarm milk
     3 large eggs (or equivalent)
     3 Tbs honey
     1/8 tsp turmeric (optional, for that zingy yellow)

Beat in, 1 cup at a time:
     2-1/2 cups white bread flour

Beat for 3 minutes with an electric mixer, or for a strong 100 strokes with a wooden spoon. Cover the sponge with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 1 hour, or until bubbly. It will rise well near a pilot light or an electric light, or in an oven that is barely warm (don’t leave the heat on!).

Stir down the sponge with a wooden spoon, then fold in:
    1/4 cup melted butter or liquid oil
    2-1/2 tsp salt (for proper rising as well as flavor)

    2 cups white bread flour

Stir in and turn out onto a floured surface to knead. You may knead in up to 1 cup more flour if necessary. Knead for 10 minutes, until dough is stiff, very elastic and somewhat silky. Rinse, dry, and oil the bowl; shape the dough into a ball and put it into the bowl, and turn to cover the whole ball lightly with oil.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a towel, and set it to rise in a warm place until double in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.

Oil  2 baking sheets. Gently punch down the risen dough and turn onto a lightly floured work surface (use no more flour than necessary). Divide the dough into halves, then each half into 3 equal balls. Keep covered unless you are working with them.

Take 3 balls and roll each into a 12- to 14-inch long rope. Place the three ropes parallel to one other, then pinch together the ropes at one end. Braid and then pinch the opposite ends together. Fold the ends under. Place the braided loaf on one of the sheets and brush it with oil. Repeat with remaining dough.

Brush the loaves with an egg wash made of:
    1 egg beaten with 2 Tbs water

Sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds, if desired, and brush again with egg wash. Cover with a dry towel and set in warm spot to rise for about 30 minutes, until they have risen by about 50%. Near the end of rising, preheat the oven to 375°.

Remove covering and bake loaves in preheated oven, with a rack in the middle and one in the upper third if baking both loaves. Halfway through, brush with egg wash again (and switch shelves if baking on two sheets). Bake for about 35 to 45 minutes, until loaves are golden and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from sheets and cool on a wire rack.

To make ahead: Freeze braided challah on cookie sheet immediately after shaping. Remove from sheet, cover in plastic wrap and freezer bag. Thaw overnight in refrigerator (or 5 to 7 hours at room temp), bake as usual. Do not freeze for more than 2 weeks. Baked challah may also be frozen.

Rosh Hoshannah Challah

Prepare the challah dough just as for Sabbath Challah, but make the following changes:

When you add the honey and eggs:
    use 1/4 cup honey (instead of 3 Tbs)
and also add at that time:
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1/4 tsp ground allspice
    1/2 tsp ground cardamom
    grated zest of one orange

Before dividing the dough for braiding, knead in:
    3/4 cup currants or raisins
(Plump them first by letting them sit a minute in hot water, then drain well.)

And don't forget -- challah tastes much better torn, not cut!

Bread Machine Challah

Laurie Goldwasser shared her quick and easy bread machine challah recipe with us -- it's delicious and fast! Let the machine mix the dough, then bake it in the oven.

1-1/2 tsp yeast
3-1/2 cups bread flour
2 Tbs sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/16 tsp turmeric (it's what we do)
2 eggs (or equivalent)
2 Tbs vegetable  oil
scant cup water (2 to 3 Tbs less than a cup)

Place all ingredients in the machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer.  Set dough only cycle.  When complete, divide dough in 3 pieces.  Roll strands and braid them.  Cover and let rise for approximately 45 minutes.  Brush top with beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, if you wish.  Bake at 375° for 30-45 minutes.