Warm Artichoke Pasta Salad

I've fallen into the nasty habit of not making very many posts about light meals. That's the pitfall of the 50 Country Challenge--most everything is very fat bastardy (delicious, of course, but not good for you). Because I am getting married this weekend and am hoping to not bloat up too much with stress eating, I thought a calorically light vegan dinner was in order.

This is SO tasty. It's filling, healthy, and has a distinctive olive oil flavor mixed in with the lemon and mustard. Plus, it would be great to serve any of your vegan friends! They will love you for it.

Warm Artichoke Pasta Salad (modified from Cooking Light's "Warm Pasta Salad with Shrimp")
-3 cups uncooked farfalle (bow tie pasta)
-1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
-1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
-1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-Cooking spray
-1 14oz can marinated artichoke quarters, drained
-1 10oz package of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
-1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (I imagine any white bean would do)
-1/4 cup minced red onion

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

2. Combine juice, mustard, and garlic in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Gradually add oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in salt and pepper.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Saute red onion until slightly softened, 2-3 minutes. Add artichokes to pan; cook for 2 minutes or until warmed. Stir in spinach and beans; toss to combine and let cook a minute or two on low, until warmed. Add the pasta and juice mixture to artichoke mixture; toss and serve.

Calories: 487 (roughly thereabout, given the recipe originally had shrimp in it, not artichokes)

BBA: Marbled Rye Bread

You may think I'm a glutton for punishment, given that I made 4 recipes yesterday (and um...my wedding is in a week from yesterday). But honestly, it all would've been totally relaxed and enjoyable, had it not been for that damn finicky Mochi. But I'm over it (not really, but I'll pretend I am anyway).

I really wanted to make some rye bread. I love rye bread. When I go out for breakfast and am given an option of toasts, it's always rye bread. In fact, once I'm done posting this, I'm going to go eat some rye bread toast. Jealous?

The pull of marbled rye was too much for me to resist. Two colors! One bread! My god, the possibilities!

Marbled Rye Bread
(from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart)
Light Rye:
-1 1/2 cups white rye flour
-3 cups unbleached bread flour or clear flour
-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
-1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
-1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds (optional)
-1 tablespoon molasses
-2 tablespoons shortening
-About 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water, at room temperature

Dark Rye:

-1 1/2 cups white rye flour
-3 cups unbleached bread flour or clear flour
-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
-1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
-1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds (optional)
-1 tablespoon molasses
-2 tablespoons shortening
-About 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water, at room temperature
-1 tablespoon liquid caramel coloring OR 2 tablespoons of cocoa, carob, or coffee powder dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

Egg Wash:

-1 egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water until frothy

1. To make the light rye, stir together the flours, salt, yeast, and caraway seeds in a 4-quart bowl. Add the molasses, shortening, and 1 1/4 cups water. Mix until the dough gathers all the loose flour and forms a ball (or mix about 1 minute on low speed with the paddle attachment), adding the additional 2 tablespoons of water only if needed. Sprinkle a little flour on the counter, transfer dough to the counter, and being to knead (or mix on medium-low speed with the dough hook). Knead for 4-6 minutes (or 4 minutes by machine), adding sprinkles of flour if necessary. The dough should feel supple and pliable, a little tacky, but not sticky. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

2. To make the dark rye, stir together the flours, salt, yeast, and caraway seeds in a 4-quart bowl. Add the molasses, shortening, 1 1/4 cups water, and liquid caramel coloring. Mix until the dough gathers all the loose flour and forms a ball (or mix about 1 minute on low speed with the paddle attachment), adding the additional 2 tablespoons of water only if needed. Sprinkle a little flour on the counter, transfer dough to the counter, and being to knead (or mix on medium-low speed with the dough hook). Knead for 4-6 minutes (or 4 minutes by machine), adding sprinkles of flour if necessary. The dough should feel supple and pliable, a little tacky, but not sticky. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment both doughs at room temperature for approximately 90 minutes, or until each dough doubles in size.

4. Turn each of the doughs onto a lightly floured counter. Divide each dough into 4 pieces of equal size and weight (a total of 8 pieces of dough).

4a. For a spiral loaf, roll each piece with a rolling pin into an oblong about 5 inches wide by 8 inches long. Take a light rye piece and lay a dark rye piece on top--repeat once. Roll this stack up into a batard and seal the bottom. Place the loaf into an oiled or parchment-lined 8 1/2 x 4 1/2" loaf pan.

4b. For a braided loaf, roll out each of the pieces into strands about 10-12" in length, thicker in the middle and slightly tapered toward the ends. Braid 2 light and 2 dark pieces together, by doing the following:

Pinch the ends together and number them 1-4 from left to right:

Follow this pattern for braiding: 4 over 2, 1 over 3, and 2 over 3. Repeat until you run out of dough, pinching the tips together when you get to the end.

**NOTE: Lest you think, "Wow, Heather's so awesome at braiding," let me assure you: I'm not. I had to braid and unbraid this thing, like...4 times. And it still got all wonky at the end. See?**

From left to right: Wow...pretty braiding!...er...what...the hell??

Moving on..

5. Mist the loaves with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until loaves nearly double in size. Most ovens do not hold 2 sheet pans at once, so if you're using sheet pans, put 1 of them in the fridge instead of immediately proofing the dough. The dough can then be proofed and baked as much as 2 days later.

6. Preheat the oven to 350 with rack in the middle. For the egg wash, whisk together the egg and water until frothy. Brush the loaves evenly and gently with the mixture.

7. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. You may need to rotate pans 180 degrees after 20 minutes for even baking. The internal temperature of the bread should be 190 degrees, and the loaves should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.

8. When the loaves have finished baking, remove them immediately from the pans (if using) and cool on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours, before slicing and serving.

-Make 2 loaves (or 4 smaller loaves)

Verdict: Epic noms. Very crusty, but not difficult to cut through. Tender inside. Great rye flavor. As an added bonus: Two colors!

Japan: Mochi

So, I was all, "You know what would go really good after two types of barbecued meat? Ice cream! No...Mochi! That's so brilliant! Three countries, 1 day! BAM!"

I still contend that it was a brilliant idea...in theory.

25% success rate.

Let me detail some things that I think led to my failure:

1) It's hot outside, and we didn't have our AC on.
2) The recipe did not specify how large you should make your dough circles. Mine were too small.
3) My ice cream was (apparently) too soft to use. I didn't really think about the fact that some ice cream brands are just naturally softer than others. Soft ice cream will melt all over the place in approximately 3 seconds. Seriously.
4) My conversion from the metric system was approximate and not spot-on. Seriously--who can measure .4225 cups of water?

But mostly it was the ice cream. What a flipping disaster. Albeit a completely delicious disaster. Therein lies "the thing" about Mochi. Even if you screw up utterly and it looks awful, it will still taste AWESOME. So...I guess what I'm saying is that I had a 70% failure. A couple mochi worked out okay, most did not. But all were tasty.

Mochi Ice Cream (a very detailed, step-by-step recipe can be found here)
-50g Mochiko (Sweet Rice Flour) ~ 3 1/2 tablespoons
-100g sugar ~.435 cups
-100ml water ~.4225 cups
-150-200g ice cream ~.87 cups
-Cornstarch as needed

1. Spread cornstarch onto a cutting board. Use plenty so that the mochi dough does not stick to the cutting board.

2. Place the sweet rice flour in a microwave safe bowl. Add the water a little at a time, stirring until mixed well. Then, add the sugar and mix it well again.

3. Next, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a breather gap. Cook on medium in the microwave for 2 minutes. Dip a wooden spoon in water and mix the dough. Cook for about 1 more minute. You will be able to tell the dough is done when it turns shiny and smooth.

4. Dip your spoon in water and spread the dough onto the cutting board as flat as possible. The dough is HOT, so take care. (**Seriously. They are not screwing around. If you've ever been burned while melting sugar/making caramel, this is the type of hot burniness to which they are referring. It sticks to you and keeps burning. Yowza.**)

5. Cover the dough with corn starch and flip it over. Then, pull and stretch the edges to make the dough thinner.

6. Keep pulling and stretching until the dough is around 2-3 millimeters thin.

7. Leave to cool a little. When the dough is cool enough, cut it into rounds. This leaves you with nice, round mochi sheets.

8. To freeze the dough, cover each layer of mochi sheets with plastic wrap, dusted with cornstarch. Freeze.

9. To make into mochi, place ice cream onto the center of each mochi sheet. For a nice round mochi, use an ice cream scoop.

10. Fold and join the edges to wrap up mochi. Place in the freezer until eating time. After re-freezing and before eating, thaw a little bit--otherwise, it will be rock hard and difficult to eat.

One in four times, it works every time.

Obviously, now that I have a box of Mochiko and a brand new box of cornstarch, I will try to make these again. If anyone knows of a particularly hard brand of ice cream, send the suggestions this way! I think that upon retrying, I will spread the ice cream in a uniform manner onto a sheet pan and refreeze. I will then cut it into cubes and freeze again. THEN, I will make the dough and try wrapping them. I have a feeling cubes will be easier to wrap than mounds. But who knows.

Mozambique's "Peri Peri" Chicken vs. China's "Char Siu" Pork

Friends and relatives have been good to me during my 50 Countries Challenge. They regularly offer up recipes from countries they've visited, tasted cuisines from, have neighbors that originated there, or are from that country themselves. I welcome these recipes with open arms, because god knows it gets tiring trying to suss out recipes on my own all the time.

I found it very amusing that friend TJ (a scholar on all things South African) sent me a South African BBQ chicken recipe, and that my (VERY soon-to-be) sister-in-law, Angela, who hails from Taiwan, sent me a recipe for Chinese BBQ pork. As summer is winding down and my friend Gus (a grill master) just moved to town, I figured there would be no better time to have a barbecued meat SMACKDOWN.

China versus Mozambique! *ding ding*

Angela is an amazing chef. She's one of those whirlwind types who can manage 7 dishes at once without breaking a sweat--and then everything tastes great. Oh, and did I mention she's also brilliant and beautiful? I am lucky to be marrying into a family with that type of lady. :)

Anyway, knowing this about Angela, I was very excited to receive this recipe. I'd heard about Char Siu before on various cooking blogs, and thought it looked great. It has such a beautiful dark red hue, and shines in a way that you know the outside is crunchy, but the inside is tender and melty. Mmm.

I had to make some adjustments to the recipe. Namely, once I got the idea in my head to grill both meats, I couldn't be shaken. But then I read the recipe, and found that you're supposed to use a pork tenderloin and roast it. Well, that didn't work with my plan at all! I read up and found you could use pork spare ribs on the grill, but you had to use indirect heat and cook them for an hour. ....That didn't really work either, as I was trying to cook two things at once. So, I settled on 'country-style pork ribs'--boneless. Just like chicken breasts! I said a hail mary and hoped everything would work out.

Chinese BBQ Pork - Cha Shao Rou (from Angela)
-1 pork tenderloin, with a few very light cuts made, taking care not to cut through the meat (**Or, if you're feeling crazy and non-traditional like me, you can use the country-style pork ribs.**)


-3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
-1/4 cup Chinese soy sauce
-2 tablespoons brown sugar
-4 slices fresh ginger
-2 sticks of green onions, smashed and cut into long pieces
-1 tablespoon rice wine (you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon brandy or whiskey)

Sauce for brushing pork during grilling/roasting:
-1/4 cup Hoisin sauce
-1 tablespoon honey or blue agave

1. In a sealed ziploc bag, place pork and all marinade ingredients. Mix well. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 350. Place pork on a rack sitting in a baking pan with some water and a few drops of liquid hickory smoke. The water should not reach the rack. Bake the pork for 20 minutes. Brush the pork with the sauce on both sides and flip the pork. Continue to bake for 20 minutes. Turn the oven to 400 and bake for 15-20 minutes until the pork is well done. It may take more or less time, depending on your oven and how thick the pork is. You will need to check to make sure it's not bloody or pink. The surface should be shining and sizzling.

2a. OR, if you're grilling, build a medium-heat charcoal fire. Cook over direct heat for about 30 minutes. Gus says to put the back of a bent finger on the meat--if the meat is unbearably hot to the touch, it's done.

3. Cool the pork for 10-15 minutes. Slice and serve. Enough for 2 adults and 2 kids. :)

Peri Peri Chicken (see also "Piri Piri") - from TJ / Allrecipes.com
-1/4 cup paprika
-2 tablespoons hot chili powder (**NOTE: I wasn't sure what this meant, so I used 1 tablespoon cayenne, 1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper, and 1/2 tablespoon chili powder)
-1 cup fresh lemon juice
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger, chopped
-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
-4 bone-in chicken breast halves (**NOTE: I used boneless-skinless. It was fine....and probably a lot easier to eat.**)

1. In a large bowl, stir together all marinade ingredients. Rub chicken with the mixture. Place in a dish or a large ziplock bag and marinate 3 hours.

2. Preheat a grill for medium heat.

3. Place chicken onto the grill and discard the marinade. Cook about 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until the skin is slightly charred and juices run clear.

I know you're all on the edge of your seats. Our very clear TKO Black Belt Champion was.... CHINA! Man. That recipe was a complete and utter WINNER. The flavor was complex, tantalizing, and addictive. The boneless pork ribs worked really well on the grill. Oh! And the best parts were the ends of the ribs...so crunchy and packed with flavor. Dear lord. Anyway, it was a unanimous vote for China. Angela, we thank you for your delicious recipe that so sated our bellies.

This is not to say that Mozambique's recipe was without its merits. We all agreed that if China's recipe hadn't been present, there would be no argument that it was tasty barbecued chicken. We also thought that it would be best served shredded, in some sort of delicious fried (or otherwise flavorful) rice.

A very special thanks to our Grill Master Gus. He presided over that grill like a referee presiding over Ali and Frazier.

BBA: Focaccia

If you've been actually reading this blog, you'll know that during my Italy challenge, I attempted making focaccia. The recipe I had was terrible. The dough was a hard, dry mass, as the recipe had a very high bread-to-liquid ratio. Everything I did (like add more liquid) somehow only seemed to make matters worse. I kneaded until my arms ached and matters didn't improve. So, I did the only thing I could do while throwing a dinner party--toss it into the oven and hope for the best. Epic fail, y'all. It was more like a super-dry pretzel than focaccia. I was very disappointed.

Fortunately for my relationship with focaccia, I began hearing all about this book "The Bread Baker's Apprentice." It's supposed to be the end-all be-all of bread baking technique books. A carbohydrate bible, if you will. I (kind of accidentally) made one of the recipes when I made English Muffins a month or two back. THOSE turned out great, so I figured, why not check this book out from the library and see what the fuss is all about?

THAT. THAT is what all the fuss is about. Look at that golden color! The crisp, crunchy crust! The salty, herb-infused olive oil coating! The airy, tender crumbs! This is what focaccia should be.

Focaccia (from the Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhardt)
-5 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
-2 teaspoons salt
-2 teaspoons instant yeast
-6 tablespoons olive oil
-1/4-1/2 cup Herb Oil

1. Stir together the flour, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and water, mixing with a large metal spoon until all the ingredients form a wet, sticky ball. If you are mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the metal spoon into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook, to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand. Reverse the circular motion a few times to develop the gluten further. Do this for 3-5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed. If you're using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5-7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl, but stick to the bottom of the bowl . You may need to add additional flour to firm up the dough enough to clear the sides of the bowl, but the dough should still be quite soft and sticky.

2. Sprinkle enough flour on the counter to make a bed about 6" square. Using a scarper or spatula dipped in water, transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour and dust liberally with flour, patting the dough into a rectangle. Wait 5 minutes for the dough to relax.

3. Coat your hands with flour and stretch the dough from each end to twice its size. Fold it, letter-style, over itself to return it to a rectangular shape. Mix the top of the dough with spray oil, dust again with flour, and loosely cover with plastic wrap.

4. Let rest 30 minutes. Stretch and fold the dough again, mist with spray oil, dust with flour, and cover. After 30 minutes, repeat this one more time.

5. Allow the covered dough to ferment on the counter for 1 hour. It should swell, but not necessarily double in size.

6. Line a 17x12" sheet pan with baking parchment. Drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil all over the paper and spread it with your hands. Lightly oil your hands and, using a plastic or metal pastry scraper, lift the dough off the counter and transfer it to the sheet pan, maintaining the rectangle shape as much as possible. Spoon half of herb oil all over dough. Use your fingers to dimple the dough and spread it to fill the pan simultaneously. Try to keep thickness uniform as you do this. Don't worry if you can't fill the pan 100%--the dough will spread out naturally. Use more herb oil as necessary to ensure the entire surface is coated with oil. (**NOTE: The book was really unclear to me on whether you're supposed to do the oil & dimpling now or in Step 8--it's written differently in the book, because there are diagrams. I let it spread almost all the way out before oil & dimpling, which worked out fine, though the bread may have ended up a bit taller as a result. Who knows? Use your best judgment here.)

7. Loosely cover pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 3 days). (**NOTE: I didn't do this. I don't know exactly what refrigerating the dough accomplishes, but my bread was just fine without this step.)

My dough rose like CRAZY, so watch out for that.

8. Remove the pan from the refrigerator 3 hours before baking. Drizzle additional oil over top and dimple it in. This should allow you to fill the pan completely with the dough to a thickness of 1/2". Again, cover the pan with plastic and proof the dough at room temperature for 3 hours, or until dough doubles in size, rising to a thickness of 1".

9. Preheat the oven to 500.

10. Place pan in the oven. Lower the oven setting to 450 and bake 10 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking for 5-10 minutes or until it turns a light golden brown. The internal temperature of the dough should register 200".

11. Remove from oven and immediately transfer out of the pan onto a cooling rack, removing the parchment.

12. Allow focaccia to cool at least 20 minutes before slicing or serving.

Herb Oil
To make Herb Oil, you can really just follow gut. Pour 1/2-2 cups olive oil into a sauce pan, then toss some herbs in. Obviously, if you only have dried herbs, only put 1 tablespoon or less of each, depending on how much olive oil you started with. If you have fresh herbs, it can be more. For my recipe, I used about 3/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt, 1/2 tablespoon black pepper, 4 cloves of minced garlic, and 1/2 tablespoon basil. It was DELICIOUS.

By the way... after making both the English Muffins and the Focaccia, I'm officially throwing my hat into the BBA Challenge. This challenge group is informally structured. You get the BBA book and work your way through every recipe in it on your own time frame. I love it. And I'm so doing it.

Poland/Daring Cook's Challenge: Brew City Pierogi

I am from Milwaukee. I was born, raised, and publicly educated there, and was a resident there until 2003. There is not a day that goes by that I don't wish I was in Milwaukee (whether living there or just there for a visit)--taking a walk out onto the lake to see downtown (that's right, you heard me--walk out onto!), enjoying a coffee at my old eclectic haunt Fuel Cafe, taking in a Brewers game, eating Cream Puff and drinking root beer-flavored milk at the State Fair, or simply just enjoying conversation with friends at one of Milwaukee's many, many fantastic eateries (Beans & Barley, Acapulco, and Palms Bistro, I'm looking in your direction). I love how diverse the city's residents are, and the way it celebrates that diversity through many culture-based festivals during the summer. I love its vast art and music scene. I love its distinctive old buildings with ornate architecture. I love that it's a big city--but it's not TOO big. I feel a deep connection to power ballads and mullets, and I'm pretty sure that's because I grew up in Milwaukee.

Damn. Now I've made myself all nostalgic. Let's just take a look at a Milwaukee photo or two, shall we?

Why, hello, beautiful.

Water, water, everywhere...but you probably shouldn't drink it.

ANYWAY. It was not until a year or two ago that I learned something about the ancestry from my father's side of the family. I knew I was German--but then, if you're from Milwaukee, everyone seems to be German. I found out that I'm also Polish, which is the other cultural heavy hitter in Milwaukee. What was even more surprising and fascinating, is that my family has (apparently) been in Milwaukee since Milwaukee became Milwaukee. In sum: My love for and my deep ties to my city have a genetic root! It is no wonder, then, that I sigh with relief when I see the Milwaukee skyline. Now I know I can't help it--it's been bred into my bones.

I'd been coming up with this post before I knew about the Daring Cook's Challenge for August. I planned on making pierogi sometime in the fall, since they're such a hearty foodstuff. But then, the Daring Cooks went and read my mind again, and here we are. I was thrilled to death that I had an excuse to make these. I decided to make pierogi that would serve as a tribute to Milwaukee, and to both my Polish and German roots.

Are you ready for this? Okay, check it out: Pierogi stuffed with Bratwurst and Sauerkraut, topped with a Mustard-Beer Cream Sauce. Oh, hell yes.

This is the one and only picture that turned out even halfway decent. Sorry, folks.

Brew City Pierogi
(adapted from the recipes provided by the Challenge Hosts)
-2 to 2 1/2 cups (300 to 375 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
-1 large egg
-1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
-About 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water

-2 bratwurst, skin removed
-2 cups (500 g) sauerkraut
-1 big carrot, grated
-1 shallot, chopped and fried with a tablespoon of butter
-Few (about 3) wild mushrooms (I used dry ones, you can use fresh but chop them and fry on some butter before adding to the sauerkraut cabbage)
-Salt, pepper and cumin

1. Saute all the ingredients together until soft, cool before filling pierogi.

1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling (it’s best to use one’s hands to do that) put into the bowl, cover and set aside in the fridge until you have to use it.

2. Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time (in my situation 1/2 cup was enough). Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. You’re aiming for soft dough. Let it rest 20 minutes.

3. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 millimeters) cut with a 2-inch (5 cm) round or glass (personally I used 4-inch/10 cm cutter as it makes nice size pierogi - this way I got around 30 of them and 1 full, heaped teaspoon of filling is perfect for that size). Spoon a portion (teaspoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.

4. Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop in the pierogi, not too many, only single layer in the pan! Return to the boil and reduce heat. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more ( usually about 5 minutes). Remove one dumpling with a slotted spoon and taste if ready. When satisfied, remove remaining pierogi from the water.

5. Serve immediately preferably with creme fraiche or fry. Cold pierogi can be fried. Boiled Russian pierogi can be easily frozen and boiled taken out straight from the freezer.

Mustard-Beer Cream Sauce (from Epicurious)
-1 12-ounce bottle lager beer
-1/3 cup chopped shallots
-3 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
-1 1/2 cups whipping cream
-1/4 cup Dijon mustard
-2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

1. Boil beer and shallots in heavy medium saucepan until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 12 minutes.

2. Add stock and boil until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 10 minutes.

3. Add cream and boil until reduced to 2 cups, about 10 minutes.

4. Stir in mustard and mustard seeds. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat before serving.)

Verdict: These were rich and delicious. I loved the filling. The sauce was incredibly rich, but added a great flavor dimension to the pierogi. Greg loved the sauce to pieces, and wanted for me to make it again so he could dip pretzels in it. The pierogi making was a bit of a bitch, really. I found them really difficult to make for a variety of reasons. A lot of them fell apart during boiling due to inadequate sealing, which was because they were all too small to hold much filling, and the filling was all wild and loose and getting all over the dough. It was kind of a disaster. Fortunately, some of them held up. Also fortunate was the fact that I wasn't serving them to company, so looks didn't matter.

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

Ethiopia: Doro Wat, Injera, and YeGomen Kitfo


My favorite restaurant in all of Madison is called Buraka. Buraka serves east African fare. There is no restaurant that has held my fancy for so long. In fact, in 2008, Buraka became my very first Yelp review. In case that link doesn't work, I will reprint most of the review here:

"This has been my favorite Madison restaurant ever since I walked in 7 years ago. Their menu hasn't changed in all that time, and I don't mind at all. Their salad dressing is magical in its deliciousness. All of their entrees are simple, hearty comfort food--serious meat and potatoes kind of fare! I took one of the pickiest eaters I've ever met there (she was scared of the place), and she walked away proclaiming it to be "delicious." Try the Coconut Curry Chicken or the Lamb Tibs--they're the shit. I would also recommend a refreshing 'Gin & Ting.'"

Allow me to summarize: I love Ethiopian food. Love it. It sits on a tall, ivory pedestal among Indian food and Thai food, and is lavished with praise and exotic flowers. I may or may not pray to it twice a day.

So. Yes. My friends Lauren and Becca were making a long journey from Minnesota to Ohio this weekend, and stopped over on Sunday night. Lauren, living in Minnesota as she does, has not had the chance to partake of any of the 50 countries--a fact that seemed to upset her (particularly where German dumplings were concerned). I made sure to save our friendship by making her Doro Wat and Injera (she, too, loves Buraka).

Because I cannot just make things easy on myself, I also decided to throw YeGomen Kitfo (spiced collard greens) into the mix. In hindsight, it was brilliant--we had just enough food to feed the 5 people that came for dinner. However, I put quite a bit on my plate (in the metaphorical sense) that day, didn't prepare the injera dough immediately upon coming home, and we ended up eating after 9pm. Oh well. It was worth it. I have witnesses that can testify to the deliciousness.

I think that part of the reason that all of this came out so mindblowingly delicious, is that I made two Ethiopian essentials: Niter Kibbeh (spiced clarified butter) and Berbere (red pepper sauce). There are many recipes for Doro Wat that either do not use these two things, or will tell you it's okay to substitute butter/olive oil. My advice? DON'T LISTEN TO THOSE RECIPES! Making these two things was the best decision I've ever made. I think they added an incredible depth of flavor that would be noticeably absent. So, the best plan of action I can suggest is to make these a day or two (or week) ahead of time and store them in the fridge. As such, I'm going to give those recipes first.

Niter Kibbeh
-1 lb unsalted butter
-1/4 cup onions, chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2 teaspoons fresh ginger, chopped or pureed
-1/2 teaspoon turmeric
-4 cardamom seeds, crushed
-1 cinnamon stick
-2 whole cloves
-1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (this is me guessing, because the original recipe had a question mark where the amount should've been)
-1/4 teaspoon fenugreek
-1 teaspoon dried basil

1. In a small saucepan, gradually melt the butter and bring to a gentle boil. When the top is foamy, add all other ingredients and reduce heat to a simmer. Gently simmer, uncovered, on low heat. After 45-60 minutes, surface will be transparent with milk solids on the bottom (**NOTE: My spices rose to the top, so it wasn't 'transparent' per se, but if you poked a hole in the spices, it was.**).

2. Pour liquid through cheesecloth into a heat-resistant container. Discard spices and solids. Cover tightly and store in fridge. Will keep for up to 2 months.

-2 teaspoons cumin
-1 teaspoon fenugreek
-1/2 teaspoon allspice
-1/2 teaspoon coriander
-1/2 teaspoon cardamom
-1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
-2 tablespoons cayenne (**NOTE: Okay. So, 2 tablespoons is a LOT of cayenne. Unless you know you can handle a crazy-hot amount of spice, start with 1-2 teaspoons, taste it, and go up from there. I used juuust under 1 tablespoon, which was plenty for all but the most heat-loving of us.**)
-2 tablespoons paprika
-4 dried chiles without stems (**I used Japones**)
-4 cloves garlic
-1 tablespoon fresh ginger
-1 small onion, chopped
-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. Toast peppercorns for 1 minute, then crush with a mortar and pestle or back of your knife.

2. In a food processor, puree onions, garlic, ginger, and a 1/2 cup of water.

3. Add spices, chiles, and oil. Puree until smooth.

4. Transfer to a saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.

5. Put in a jar and store in the fridge.

Doro Wat

-2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks
-2 teaspoons lemon juice
-2 teaspoons salt
-2 onions, finely chopped
-1/4 cup Niter Kibbeh
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
-1/4 teaspoon fenugreek
-1/4 teaspoon cardamom
-1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
-1/4 cup Berbere
-2 teaspoons paprika
-1/4 cup dry red wine
-3/4 cup water
-4 hardboiled eggs
-Black pepper to taste

1. Rinse and dry chicken pieces. Rub them with lemon and salt. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. In a heavy stockpoit, cook onions over medium heat for 5 minutes--do not let burn or brown. (**I felt it necessary to add a little oil while heating.**)

3. Stir in Niter Kibbeh. Add garlic and spices. Stir well.

4. Add Berbere and paprika. Saute for 3-4 minutes.

5. Pour in wine and water; bring to a boil. Cook briskly, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

6. Pat chicken dry and drop it into the simmering sauce, turning pieces until coated on all sides. Reduce heat, cover, simmer 15 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, pierce the peeled hardboiled eggs with a fork 1/4" into the egg, all over the surface.

8. After chicken has cooked for 15 minutes, add the eggs, turning them gently in the sauce. Cover and cook 15 minutes. Add pepper to taste before serving.

YeGomen Kitfo
-1 pound collard greens
-2 teaspoons Mitmita (**I used 1 teaspoon cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg**)
-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil OR 1 1/2 tablespoons Niter Kibbeh
-1/2 teaspoon cardamom
-1/2 teaspoon garlic
-Salt and pepper to taste
-Water as needed

1. Separate leaves, cut and discard the ends. Wash well in cold water. Finely chop the leaves. Soak in cold water.

2. Boil 8 cups of water. Add greens. Cook 20 minutes or until tender and leaves absorb all the water. (**NOTE: Yep. Mine definitely cooked for 30 minutes, and while they were pretty tender, there was a lot of water left over. Oh well. Toss the water and enjoy!**)

3. In a medium pot on lower heat, melt the butter. Remove from heat and add in all spices, stirring until combined.

4. Combine collard greens with butter mix. Mix with a fork and spoon until completely combined, adding salt and pepper to taste.

-3 cups self-rising flour
-1/4 cup whole wheat flour
-1/2 cup teffa (african flour), cornmeal, or masa harina (**I used masa harina**)
-1 package active dry yeast
-3 1/2 cup warm water

1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients. Let sit in a bowl, covered, an hour or longer until the batter rises and becomes stretchy.

2. When ready, stir batter if liquid has settled on bottom. In a blender, whip 2 cups of butter at a time, thinning with 1/2-3/4 cup water. Batter will be quite thin.

3. Heat a skillet without oil over medium-high heat.

4. Use 1/2 cup butter per injera for a 12" pan or 1/3 cup for 10" pan. Pour batter in heated pan and quickly swirl the pan to spread batter as thin as possible.

5. Batter should be no thicker than 1/8". Don't turn over. Injera doesn't easily stick or burn. It's cooked through when bubbles appear all over the top.

6. Finished injera will be thicker than a crepe, but thinner than a pancake. Lay injera on a clean towel for 1-2 minutes . Then stack on a covered dish to keep warm.

Verdict: Definitely one of the best 50 Countries feasts so far! I would make it again and again, despite all the effort it took. I also think I would try making this vegetarian by substituting extra-firm, pressed tofu for the chicken.

P.S. This challenge is dedicated to our friend Sabrina and Aram's adorable baby, Desmond. Desmond was adopted from Ethiopia. So, not only does Ethiopia produce the most delicious food, it also produces the sweetest and cutest babies. Kudos, Ethiopia!

Tarte au Citron


One benefit to making a recipe for Pate Brisee awhile back was that it made two crusts. A crust has been sitting in my freezer for over a month, sad and alone (and cold). Yesterday's visit was the perfect opportunity to warm up the shortcrust pastry and make something om nom nom-worthy.

Tarte au Citron (which, very obviously means "Citrus Tart") is popular in French bistros, and it's not hard to see why. This is a superb summer treat. It's mouth-puckering in its sourness, but has a sweet, creamy, custardy finish. Pair it with the flaky, buttery shortcrust, powdered sugar, and fresh raspberries....and well, the result is addictive.

Needless to say, this dessert is really not good for you. So, make it for company and enjoy it in blissful moderation.

Tarte au Citron
(from "The Complete Book of Desserts" by Martha Day)
-12 ounces shortcrust pastry (one such recipe is found here, under the part about Tarte au Pistou)
-grated zest of 2-3 lemons
-2/3 cup freshly squeeze lemon juice
-1/2 cup sugar
-4 tablespoons heavy cream
-4 eggs, plus 3 egg yolks
-Confectioners sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Roll out the pastry thinly and use to line a 9" tart pan. Prick the pastry with a fork. (**NOTE: You could roll it out thinly if you're good at baking. But, if you suck at pastry dough like me, you can just plop it into the tart pan and smoosh it evenly into a tart-pan-like-shape. No one will ever know...unless you're like me, and you blog about it.**)

2. Line the pastry shell with aluminum foil and fill with baking beans (**or rice or dried beans or whatever you have on hand**). Bake for 15 minutes, until edges are set and dry. Remove the foil and beans, and bake another 5-7 minutes, until golden.

3.Place the lemon zest, juice, and sugar in a bowl. Beat until combined, and then gradually add the heavy cream and beat until well-blended.

4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the egg yolks and pour the filling into the pastry shell. Bake 15-20 minutes until the filling is set. If the pastry edges begin to brown too much, cover them with aluminum foil. Let cool. Dust with a little confectioner's sugar before serving.

-Serves at least 8

Vietnam: A Vietnamese Appetizer Buffet

We had visitors last night! My future sister and brother-in-law and their beyond adorable baby came through on their way back home from Wisconsin. We had a great visit with them. I was happy to cook for people I adore--and even happier to hear yummy noises instead of gagging. ;)

This will sound like I'm switching subjects, but I'm not. I was at the library last week, browsing through the three aisles of cookbooks, when I happened upon what seemed to be an ethnic cookbook section. Well. I don't know how it hadn't occurred to me before then that the library would have lots of cookbooks detailing ethnic cuisine, but it hadn't. Even better, there was a Vietnamese cookbook! A few, actually. I've had a hell of a time finding reliable sources online for Vietnamese recipes. I grabbed one full of pretty pictures and ran home squealing with delight.

And this is how the idea of making a Vietnamese appetizer buffet for the big visit came to be. Aren't you glad that you know? Now! Let's see some crappy flash photography of the spread once it's all laid out:

Vietnamese Buffet: More effort than the recipes would lead you to believe.

Mmm...piles of tasty.

All recipes from this buffet came from the cookbook "Quick & Easy Vietnamese: 75 Everyday Recipes" by, Nancie McDermott.

Lemongrass Shrimp
- Tom Nuong Xa
-3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh lemongrass
-1 tablespoon chopped garlic
-2 tablespoons fish sauce
-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
-1 tablespoon soy sauce
-1 tablespoon vegetable oil
-1 tablespoon brown sugar
-1 tablespoon sugar
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
-About 30 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes (I only needed 8-10 large skewers)

1. In a food processor, combine the lemongrass, garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, soy sauce, vegetable oil, brown sugar, sugar, and salt. Blend until fairly smooth, adding water if necessary to move the blades. Transfer the marinade to a medium bowl, add the shrimp, and toss to coat well. Allow to marinade 20-30 minutes.

2. Build a hot charcoal fire, preheat a gas grill or broiler, preheat the oven to 425, or lightly oil a skillet or grill pan and heat until very hot. Thread the shrimp onto skewers, 2 or 3 per skewer, and cook on the hot grill, turning once, until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, 2-4 minutes. Or, place in a lightly greased pan and cook under the broiler for 2-4 minutes, or roast in the oven 3-5 minutes. Or, saute quickly in the skillet or grill pan for 2-4 minutes. Serve the shrimp, hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Grilled Leaf-Wrapped Beef Kebabs - Bo La Lot
-1/2 pound ground beef
-2 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass
-1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots or onion
-1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
-1 tablespoon fish sauce
-1 tablespoon vegetable oil
-1 teaspoon sugar
-1 teaspoon black pepper
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
-30-40 la lot leaves, grape leaves, flat spinach leaves, large basil or perilla leaves
-10 long bamboo skewers, soaked in water at least 30 minutes
-Everyday Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

1. In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef with lemongrass, shallots, garlic, fish sauce, vegetable oil, sugar, black pepper, salt, and turmeric; mix well. Divide the mixture into generous tablespoons of meat. Shape each portion into a plump cylinder about 2 inches long. (**NOTE: In order to save counter space, I just formed the cylinders on each individual grape leaf.**)

2. Place a leaf vein-side down with the stemmed edge toward you. Place a meat portion at the edge nearest you. Roll it up in the leaf and place it, seam side down on a platter. Leave the ends open, unless you're using grape leaves, which need their sides tucked in due to width. Continue rolling until all the meat is wrapped in leaves.

3. Build a hot charcoal fire, preheat a gas grill, or preheat the oven to 400. To grill the kebabs, thread 3-4 rolls onto each skewer, bunching them up near the pointed end and taking care to pierce each roll through the seam. Place the skewers on the oiled rack of the hot grill and cook until done 2-3 minutes per side, turning once or twice. To bake them, place the rolls (without skewers) seam side down in a 13x9" baking pan. Bake until done 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, with dipping sauce.

Pork Meatballs with Fresh Herbs and Rice Noodles in Lettuce Cups - Nem Nuong
-1 pound ground pork
-1 tablespoon vegetable oil
-1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
-1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
-2 tablespoons fish sauce
-1 tablespoon soy sauce
-1 teaspoon sugar
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon black pepper

-1/2 pound thin dried rice noodles, softened in warm water for 15 minutes
-About 36 small, cup-shaped lettuce leaves (**I used green Boston lettuce**)
-1 1/2 cups fresh chopped cilantro, mint, or basil leaves--or a mix of all three
-1 cup thinly sliced green onion or chives cut into 1" lengths
-Everyday Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)
-12-15 bamboo skewers, soaked in water at least 30 minutes

1. To begin the meatballs, combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well with your hands. Cover and chill for a few minutes while you prepare the accompaniments.

2. to cook the soaked rice noodles, drain them, drop them into boiling water, and immediately remove from the heat. Let stand 10 minutes, and then drain well. Pile the noodles on a large serving platter, and place the lettuce leaves beside them. Put the herbs and green onion in small bowls and arrange them on the platter. Place a bowl of dipping sauce in the center of the platter, leaving room for the meatballs.

3. Shape the meat mixture into meatballs, using about 1 tablespoon each for large, walnut-sized meatballs.

4. If grilling, build a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill. Thread 3-5 meatballs on each skewer, and place them on a plate. Cook on the hot grill, turning now and then, until nicely browned and cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. To pan-fry the meatballs, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the pain is hot, add the meatballs and cook, shaking the pan now and then to brown them evenly and cook through, 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and thread onto skewers if you'd like, 3-4 per skewer.

5. Transfer the grilled or pan-fried meatballs to the prepared serving platter and serve hot or warm. Make little packets by tucking a meatball, a small tangle of noodles, and a pinch of herbs and green onions into a lettuce leaf and rolling it up. Dip the bundle into the sauce as you eat.

The photo is crap, but I was trying to show you an assembled product. Oh well.

Everyday Dipping Sauce - Nuoc Cham
-1 tablespoon chopped garlic
-2 tablespoons sugar
-1/2 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce, finely chopped fresh hot chiles, or 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
-3 tablespoons fish sauce
-3 tablespoons water
-2 tablespoons freshly squeeze lime juice

1. Combine the garlic, sugar, and chili-garlic sauce in the bowl of a mortar and mash to a paste. If you don't have a mortar, combine them on your cutting board and mash to a coarse paste with a fork and the back of a spoon.

2. Scrape the paste into a small bowl and stir in the fish sauce, water, and lime juice . Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Transfer to small serving bowls for dipping. Or transfer to a jar, cover, and refrigerate up to 1 week.

Verdict: This was one satisfying and yummy buffet. Everyone oohed and aahed over its prettiness and deliciousness, myself included. I think the winner may have been the Grilled Leaf-Wrapped Beef Kebabs. They were SO GOOD. I would totally make them again for dinner (perhaps with some lemony rice). Ultimately, I don't know why I underestimated the amount of work that would go into this dinner. Everything looked so quick and easy (like the book's title promised)...and while it was technically easy, there was a lot of chopping, mixing, wrapping, washing, grilling, baking, and boiling to do. Live and learn (and eat noms).

Adobo-Flavored Almonds


I would go there and try to pretend like this is my entry for Filipino cuisine...but I feel too sleazy about it. This isn't even an actual Filipino recipe--it's just inspired by the flavors. So, I won't. Instead, I will tell you that this is AWESOME snack food. It's savory with a tangy, salty bite. I love it, and I'm sure you will, too.

Adobo-Flavored Almonds
(from "The Filipino-American Cookbook" by, Jennifer Aranas)
-2 cups pecans, almonds, peanuts, cashews, or walnuts
-3 tablespoons brown sugar
-4 teaspoons soy sauce
-2 teaspoons vinegar
-1 teaspoon lime juice (or calamansi juice, if you can be authentic)
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/2 teaspoon pepper

1. Preheat oven to 325.

2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until the nuts are well coated. Pour the nuts onto a parchment-lined or lightly oiled baking sheet, separating the nuts as much as possible into a single layer.

3. Bake for 15 minutes or until nuts are golden brown. Cool 10-15 minutes before handling. They will be crispy with a brown, shiny glaze. Store in your cupboard in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Enjoy with a cold beer. I imagine (but haven't tested yet) that this Bell's Two-Hearted Ale would go nicely.