Sunday, June 28, 2009

Soft Pretzels

This one gets an Aaron made tag because it was his idea and he did about half the work. The normal Aaron made tag is when he does everything, but he definitely deserves some credit here.

When we came back from Germany, pretzels were on the mind. They are everywhere in Munich: with butter, with cheese, plain, the size of your head, whatever. Aaron had the idea of making our own and he searched out a recipe. This one comes from my FN buddy, Alton Brown. Who loves a food nerd? I do.

I loved this recipe. The dough came together so easily and only one step of it is harder than really easy. Plus, we got to use my beautiful new cutting board my folks got me for my birthday.

Soft Pretzels from Good Eats:

Makes 8 pretzels

1 ½ c. warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 Tb. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast (or 1 Tb. active dry yeast if you don’t buy packets…which I don’t)
22 oz. all-purpose flour, approximately 4 ½ c.
2 oz. unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 c. water
2/3 c. baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 Tb. water
Pretzel salt (I’m not sure what this is exactly, so we used coarse sea salt and it was delicious)

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. I pulled it sooner because I love to finish dough off by hand. Feel free to not do this. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap (or a towel) and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside. I accidentally skipped the brushing with oil part. Do not forget this part. Or, do like we did on the other pan because we ran out of parchment paper: just oil the sheet. I think it works out better.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan. I ended up making mine a little shorter and really wrapping the ends around to make them stick. The first couple came undone in the boiling water.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. (This is the slightly difficult part. Props to Aaron for doing it). Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

These are so, so, so delicious. We ate half of them before the day was out. See how happy Aaron is? It’s because he just finished a bite before I took the picture. I cannot wait to do this again.

To Market, To Market

This is an I love you to Portland. I love the farmer's markets here. They are so full of amazing produce and weird things you wouldn't have thought of ahead of time. I really enjoy looking at all the colors and shapes and think about how much hard work, time, and effort went into such tasty, tasty food. I think having parents who farm probably helps me in this regard.

Anyway, I went with Aaron last week (and I went again yesterday, but I'll be getting to that in a different post) and even though it was a bit cloudy and slightly cold, the place was packed and people were smiling. We sampled quite a bit (ILY Rogue Creamery) and picked up some produce. Something that is very important to me is not only supporting naturally grown/organic food, but also local farmers. I like that my food doesn't need to travel a zillion miles to get to me. It tastes better, fresher, and it's just good times.

I also picked up some starts from a farm in Forest Grove. They are currently living on my back porch area and (mostly) seem to be having a good time. We shall see.

Anyway, I love your farmer's market and I love you Portland.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I have mentioned before how much I like it when Aaron cooks. I recently started a new job and Aaron’s been getting creative in the kitchen (not that he wasn’t before). We had this dish the other night and it was fantastic. I love coming home to a husband cooking up a hot meal!

Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breasts:

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, flattened
6-ish garlic cloves, minced
A few slices fresh mozzarella cheese
Olive oil
Cooked ziti
Pasta sauce (TJ’s marinara is awesome and such a good deal. Add some crushed/minced garlic. Or use your own sauce.)

Flatten your chicken breasts until they are really thin. Wrap the chicken in plastic wrap and using a rolling pin. Cover one half of the chicken breasts with the minced garlic and mozzarella sliced. Fold the other half over.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Place the chicken breasts in the pan, wait until the cheese has melted and flip over. Cook through. This took about 10 minutes, on the high side. Place over cooked ziti and cover the whole thing with pasta sauce. Serve with your favorite mixed greens.

Aaron said the only thing he would change here would be to season the chicken more before cooking it. This is simple, tasty, and perfect for the weeknight, although I think it is nice enough for company, but the company I like to have over will eat anything. Well almost anything. They’re not that picky about fancy.

Roasted Carrots with Balsamic

I need to remember to write things down. Right now I’m looking at the pictures and I am struggling to remember what I actually did. It was tasty though. Clearly I like roasting things, as evidenced here, here, here, and here. And in some other, not roasted named files I’m sure.

Anyway, I was trying to get myself back into the cooking groove and wanted to do something quickly. I love roasted veggies and at the time carrots were the only really roast ready veggie I had in the house and they were baby carrots at that. I love baby carrots. I will tear through half a bag without even realizing it. So good. I also love balsamic vinegar. So that’s how we get this:

Roasted Carrots with Balsamic:

2 big handfuls of baby carrots or a few regular carrots
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Cut the baby carrots in half or peel the regular carrots and cut them into about that size. Toss with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper until all of the carrots are coated in oil. Place in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Add some generous lashings of balsamic and bake for another 3-5 minutes, until most of the extra vinegar has evaporated. Let cool slightly and go at it.

I loved this. It makes for a great side or snack. I’d go a little easier on the balsamic next time, but it was still quite delicious. Just eyeball the ingredients to your preferences and you’ll be golden!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Baking Powder Biscuits

This is something else I did shortly before I left, but this is also ones of those things I make all the time. Baking powder biscuits are one of the easiest, and best tasting, things in the world. I remember helping my mom make them before Thanksgiving dinner as a kid. Although my last batch was slightly over baked, this is quite the solid recipe and the whole process takes about 30 minutes. It’s an easy thing to do in the morning and who doesn’t like warm biscuits for breakfast?

Baking Powder Biscuits from Beard on Bread:

Makes 6-12, depending on how thick you want them

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tb. double-acting baking powder
½ tsp. salt (kosher)
½ stick (¼ c.) butter or other shortening (I always use butter and I always cut it up into little bits beforehand)
¾ c. milk

Mix the flour in a mixing bowl with the baking powder and salt. Then, using your fingers or two knives (Mr. Beard used a heavy fork. I use my fingers) blend the butter and the flour into very fine particles. Add the milk and stir into the dough just enough to make the particles cling together. It should be a very, very soft dough.

Turn out on a floured surface and knead for about 1 minute, then either pat or roll out. If you want very high, fluffy biscuits, the dough should be ½” to 3/4” thick, and if you want thin, crusty biscuits, make it about ¼” thick. Cut into rounds or in squares. This is always my favorite part. Take a small drinking glass, dip the top into flour, and use that to cut out your rounds. They are always the perfect size. I, and my mom, usually get about 6 biscuits out of this dough.

For crisp biscuits, place far apart on an ungreased cookie sheet; for fluffier biscuits, place close together on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a preheat 450 degree oven for about 12 to 15 minutes, and serve piping hot.

These are fantastic. Go make them now.

Chicken with Lemon Vinaigrette

Just before I left on my trip, I made dinner for my friend David. I felt bad that I was going to miss his birthday, so I thought I’d do something nice. So I cooked. This recipe isn’t an old stand-by, yet. This is, however, what I made the first time Aaron and I had Carrina and Mike over for dinner. It’s pretty good.

The original recipe, here, is for whitefish and involves a bunch of stuff I don’t use here. Basically, it’s the technique, transferred to chicken, and the vinaigrette, which is fantastic. I may bash the Food Network, which they often deserve, but this recipe is solid. I’ve mentioned Giada’s recipes before and other then the minor show-based complaints I mention there, I have none. She makes good stuff.

Chicken with Lemon Vinaigrette modified from Whitefish with Lemon Vinaigrette from Everyday Italian:

Serves 3

3 chicken breasts (make these fairly thin, they cook better)
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
All-purpose flour for dredging
¼ c. fresh lemon juice
¼ c. lightly packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil

Prep the vinaigrette first. Blend the lemon juice, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper. Set aside.

Flatten chicken breasts if necessary. Heat a bit of olive oil in a medium size saucepan over medium high heat. Sprinkle both sides of the breasts with kosher salt and pepper. Dredge the breasts in flour to coat completely. Shake of the excess flour and fry in the pan until they are golden brown and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side, possibly more, depending on how thick your breasts are. Ours were a little too thick, so I cut them into smaller pieces to cook faster.

Spoon vinaigrette over chicken and serve with your favorite sides and beer. We had steamed broccoli, mashed potatoes, and Portland microbrews, as usual.I was too hungry to take pictures of the final product combined. Sorry folks! All in all, a pretty decent birthday dinner that translates to a fairly easy midweek dinner as well.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Travel + Food: Bavaria

Oh sweet, sweet Bavaria. Bavarian food is fantastic for meat eaters and pseudo-vegetarians and even real vegetarians. It's a nightmare for your health, but a delight for your tastebuds. Eat, drink, and be merry!

My first experience in Bavaria (this time around) was in Vienna, land of the cafes. We went to a traditional Austrian restaurant that night and ohhhhh goodness. I got to have delicious Bavarian beer and more importantly spätzle. More specifically, spätzle covered in cheese and crispy onions. This picture is total cheater because it's from my last trip with Aaron and it was taken in Munich. I forgot to take a picture of mine before I scarfed it down. It is just that good. If you have a chance, go and find it. Other dishes consumed included schnitzel and more schnitzel.

We had a lame lunch the next day, but then it was cafe time. Vienna is well known for its cafe scene and it deserves the rep. We had far too expensive hot cocoa (but so worth it) and various delicious cakes. We lingered, as is custom, and felt delicious as pure chocolate began to flow through our veins.

On our way through Southern Germany on toward Munich, we stopped in a small town and had a seafood lunch, which, unfortunatly, I did not take any pictures of. I'm forgetful, it's true, and being crammed into the middle backseat of a car can turn your focus on just food. Aaron and I split some garlic soup and a delicious piece of pike-perch. We also had a fabulous roulade and Aaron had the traditional Bavarian specialty of weisswurst, which he missed the last time around. As it turns out, it's pretty fabulous, according to Aaron.

When we finally reached Munich, Aaron and I directed the family back to one of the Augustiner (my favorite Bavarian beer) beer halls that we loved the last time around. I had convinced myself that they had käsespätzle so that Becca and I might gorge ourselves on it once more. As it turns out, when I had it before (from the picture), it had been the vegetarian special of the day, which was Monday. We were not there on a Monday. Fortunately they did have other dishes with spätzle. We ate, drank gigantic beers, and were merry.

For my second to last dinner in Bavaria, we had Greek. I know, I know, a lot of various ethnic foods have appeared on this trip review. I wouldn't even be mentioning it if it weren't for this Greek salad which was amazing! We were in Starnbergersee, which is about 12 km outside of Munich and is beautiful. Delicious, light, fresh food near a lake are a perfect way to unwind before having to fly for a million hours.

So that's it! I have a dish from before I left plus a couple from since I've been back that I will be updating soon. The weather is getting pretty nice and sunny here and I hope to be hitting the farmer's market with more regularity. Hopefully this summer will see some fun, interesting dishes.

Or maybe I'll just be so overheated that I'll only be making gelato and sorbetto.

Travel + Food: Hungary

This is going to be a short one because:
a) I didn't eat any authentic Hungarian food
b) I didn't take many photos
c) It just wasn't that interesting a food adventure

So Hungary, or really for us, Budapest, was an experience. It was cloudy and rainy the whole time and I didn't eat any Hungarian food, so clearly I need to go back.

Our first day in Budapest involved this strange, Turkish(?) lunch. I had the bizzaro pizza because they didn't have fried cheese and I guessed at this being vegetarian pizza. I was right. I just didn't know it would come with corn, pineapple, mushrooms, tomatoes and some odd peppers, none of which really went together. But the crust was decent and I was hungry. I believe what Aaron and Becca split was translated as meatballs in English. They were apparently odd.

That night we had Italian when choosing between Chinese buffet or more kebab.

The next day, after a super relaxing afternoon at the thermal baths, we wandered through the park and some sort of carnival business. And Becca accidentally ordered an entire fried fish. It tasted okay at the time, but did a number on some stomachs later on.

PS: Traditional Hungarian food includes the fantastic chicken paprikash and goulash.

Next up (my favorite): Bavaria, Sweet Bavaria!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Travel + Food: Poland

Poland was all about pierogies. In fact, that's pretty much all I know about Polish food other than a very strange chicken dish I had.

So we started out in Oswiecim, Poland (better known from the German name of Auschwitz). After a long, sad day at the camps, we went to get lunch at a place recommended to us by the woman at our hotel. We get there and things go slowly, but then we get to our pierogies.

Oh my pierogies! These are the potato ones and they were so good. SO GOOD! I wanted to eat all of them, but I did share. After that, our main dishes started to arrive and I bumped the candle on our table, in it's low, uncovered container, into the cutlery basket and set the napkin and subsequently the basket on fire. Yeah, that was fun. So we got moved to a new table after dumping water all over the basket and I had my main dish, which I unfortunately neglected to take a picture of. It was a chicken breast topped with fruit (like kiwi) and then covered in cheese. It is probably one of the oddest things I have ever eaten in my life. I can't think of anything weirder.

Anyway, after that I knocked my water bottle over all over the floor and made a huge mess and a million hours later, we finally left. So if you're ever in Oswiecim, Poland, this is the place. Delicious pierogies. Just don't try to burn it down or flood it.

Later we were off to Krakow where we had mushroom and cabbage stuffed pierogies on the street and this fantastic falafel. The next day we drove all the way to the Slovak Republic border where we had some more super delicious potato pierogies at a gas station/truck stop restaurant. No pictures on those, but you know what pierogies look like.

Next up: Hungary!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Travel + Food: Czech Republic

Before my trip, I knew little to nothing about Czech food. I still don't know a whole lot now, other than potatoes are heavily involved. It's Eastern Europe, that's what they do. As my family background is a mishmash of Eastern European Jewry, I knew at least that much.

So our first night in Prague involved us going to the Czech Beer Festival. It operates like most beer festivals: you buy tokens and that allows you to drink, eat, and be merry. I tried a variety of beers based on picking one at random as I don't know Czech and enjoying some of them. We also ordered a variety of food.

Much of what we ate wasn't very memorable, but this garlic soup was. Oh my gosh, it was delicious! I wanted to eat it forever. I wiped up the bottom of bowl with bread and wasn't really into sharing it. Num num num! There were also potato pancakes (no picture, sorry!) that tasted almost exactly like the ones my dad and I make. I've never had ones that tasted THAT similar. Maybe we're Czech?

One of the highlights of the beer festival is the roasted bull. They roast an entire bull. It creeped me out a bit. Aaron said it was quite tasty.

Our other day in Prague involved more potato pancakes, fried cheese (yummy, but not super noteworthy), and accidentally missing dinner to go on a pub crawl. (oops!)

Up next: Poland!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Travel + Food: Berlin

So I've been to Berlin before (I know, I'm sooooo well traveled. Please say this in your head with a fake snobby voice or else I just sound like a jerk) and wasn't really sure what I was going to do this time around as the last time I was there was the end of October. The first night we were in town, Aaron, Becca, Becca's friend Cayleigh, and I headed off by ourselves into town (we were staying out by the airport) in search of dinner.

We left the S-Bahn at Frederichstrasse because we saw a bunch of restaurants by the river. We walked by and because Europe is awesome like this, all of their menus were out front for perusal. As an added benefit, Cayleigh is fluent in German, so no phrasebook diving for us. As it turned out, these places were spendy, so we turned the corner and saw Kartoffelkeller (there's an English version of the website, with a menu). I only know a few words in German and one of those words is kartoffel, which means potato. Obviously you can see my priorities when learning a new language. Seeing a restaurant with potato in the title, I was immediately intrigued. As the prices were not outrageous, we went in.

Oh. my. god. Seriously! A potato restaurant. They even have potato desserts. Becca got the Schiffbauer’s Potato Soup, which was phenomenal (sorry about the bad picture).

I had a large potato pancake with veggies and cheese. So, so good that even when I was full, I kept trying to eat it. Mmm.

Aaron and Becca split two entrees, Schnitzel for the Gentleman, which came with a ton of tasty sauerkraut and fried potatoes, and Bavarian potato dumplings filled with sauerkraut and smoked pork served with German knuckle of pork (this is the English translation from the website). Since I'm still not much of a red meat eater, I only snuck some of the fried potatoes, which were absolutely fantastic. Mmm...potatoes.

We went back on our last night as Aaron's folks hadn't been and things were a little less stellar for everyone else. My potato casserole, the Canada, was fantastic (no picture for this one though). It's a potato casserole with salmon, sour cream, dill, onion, and Gouda. So, so good. Again, I kept trying to eat more before I finally pushed it away.

The rest of Berlin was some pretty fantastic sushi, some eh falafel, more potato pancakes at a different place, a bit of ice cream and cake, and everyone else eating wurst. Nothing else really of note or with pictures. Ah well.

Up next: Czech Republic!

Travel + Food: In The Beginning or On the Way There and Northern Ireland

Dear, lonely, lonely food blog:

I am so sorry I abandoned you for lands afar. I had meant to update whilst away, but had much more limited internet access than I had anticipated. I do have lots to tell you now that I am home, though, and I hope you will forgive me.

So hi everyone! I've been home since Friday eve and I've been getting my life back in order since and waking up insanely early (for me). Today is the first day that I've been back and have woken up and not felt totally dead already. Progress!

My food adventures in (mostly) Eastern Europe can pretty much be summed up with one word: potatoes. But not really in the beginning. Anyway, here we go:

Aaron and I left Portland on May 17. We had a long, boring flight to Atlanta where we didn't have seat assignments and stood on a long line to find out we needed to go sit back down and wait until we were called. After about an hour of stress, we got seats and somehow, through the magic of it all, got bumped to first class.

Clearly, I am very excited. We got sparkling wine, a three course meal, more wine, and then breakfast. For dinner (sorry, no photos), I had Greek salad, Moroccan crab salad, cream of asparagus soup, butternut squash ravioli with browned butter sauce, and a cheese platter. It was fantastic! Breakfast was a little less so, but I did get a fruit cup, which was awesome.

After landing in Dublin, we rushed to take a 4 hour bus ride up to Derry, where Aaron's sister Becca was doing a semester abroad. She had her going away party that night and made tons of tasty food, including some incredible guacamole. The next afternoon we took a bus down to Belfast to hang out with her friend Conor and fly out to Berlin. My last meal in Northern Ireland was at a Spanish tapas restaurant, which involved this drink (whatever it was) because they didn't have white wine sangria.

Becca poured me my last cup. It was tasty, but hard to drink.

My next posts will have more pictures. Promise!

Up next: Berlin!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...