Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pullman Bread

My latest Pullman loaf, minus several slices for "testing."

Years ago, when I first started baking bread, the one I loved to make most was the Pullman loaf, named, perhaps, for the railroad car of the same name.  Baked with a lid on top, this is the perfect sandwich bread--square, mild but tasty, with crusts but not too crusty.  It's baked in a 13" x 4" Pullman loaf pan, which looks like this:
The lid keeps the dough from rising, so the bread has a great consistency for sandwiches.  Unlike a lot of other tasty breads, it doesn't have holes in it from which food drips nor is it soft enough to fall apart after a large bite.

I stopped baking bread for a long time, but when I started up again, this was the first bread I made.  At first I started it in a standing mixer to get the dough up and running.  But after a few times, I simply mixed the batter up as directed, and kneaded it all together by hand.  I proof it in the warming oven in my new kitchen, which makes me smile. 

So if you're so inclined to bake a loaf, here's the recipe:

Pullman loaf

1/4 cup granulated sugar or honey
1 c hot water
1 scant T or packet active dry yeast
5 (or a bit more) King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour
1 small can (5 1/3 oz) evaporated milk
1/4 c vegetable oil, margarine or butter
2-3 t salt

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve 1 T sugar or honey in the water and mix in 1 cup of flour.  Sprinkle yeast over surface and stir in until it is well distributed.  Let this sponge sit for 15-20 minutes until the yeast has dissolved and sponge is beginning to show signs of life.

Stir in evaporated milk, remainder of sugar or honey, vegetable oil and salt.  Add about 4 c of flour and stir until dough begins to behave cohesively.  Mix in enough more flour so it becomes kneadable.

Turn dough out onto a kneading surface and knead for 4-5 minutes.  Give dough a few minutes rest while you clean out and grease your bowl.  Continue kneading for a further 3-4 minutes until it is smooth and bouncy.  Shape dough into a ball, place it headfirst into the bowl and turn it over so top of dough has a thin film of grease on it.  Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise until doubled in bulk.  This will take approx 90 minutes. 

Knock dough down, turn out onto kneading surface and knead out any stray bubbles.  Give dough a short rest while you grease pullman pan.  Shape dough so it fills bottom of the pan and cover with lid.  It will take half as long to rise the second time.

About 15 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 350.  Bake 40-45 minutes.  Remove from oven, slide off lid, loosen bread and tip onto rack to cool. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

By request from Austin -- Mediterranean braise and Caesar-Roasted Swordfish

On Mondays I receive the week's fish list from Rubiner's--mostly I just drool while reading it, but now and then I order swordfish or calamari or shrimp.  You have to get your order in by Wednesday at 5, and can't pick it up until after 12 noon on Friday.   The prices are high, but the quality is higher.  Everything is as fresh as we can expect in the landlocked Berkshires.  And for chefs more adventurous than I, there's a huge selection of fish with beautiful names.

I had friends to dinner last night and planned to serve a Mediterranean calamari and shrimp braise.  On the page, it looked delicious, but one never knows, does one?  So last week I made a test run of the recipe.  I ordered the calamari and shrimp, picked them up Friday, and made the dish.  That night I served it over spaghettini, thinking that would soak up the delicious sauce.  The spaghettini was good, but it didn't turn the trick of sauce sopping.  So the next night I served it over rice.  Sure enough that soaked up the sauce, but simultaneously deprived it of the sharply delicious flavors.  So the third night, I simply served it sans sauce and that was the best. 

This Monday I ordered the same seafood again, and when I picked them up Friday afternoon, Austin--the organizer of all that beautiful fish--smiled, saying he gathered that my second order indicated that the recipe was a good one.  I couldn't help but to brag quite a bit, explaining how the citrus peels and juices, along with the Picholine olives and capers, ramp up the tomatoes and fish.  I must have been persuasive because he asked me to share the recipe with him.  So, Austin, here it is.  It's from Molly Stevens's book All About Braising. 

Mediterranean Squid and Shrimp Braise

1 1/2 lb cleaned squid
2 T evo
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 c finely chopped yellow onion (about 1/2 small onion)
1/2 c finely chopped celery (1/2 stalk)
1/2 c finley chopped carrot (1 small carrot)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c dry white wine or dry white vermouth
2 strips orange zest, removed with a veg peeler (each about 3" by 3/4")
1 strip lime zest, removed with a veg peeler (about 2" x 1/2")
1/4 c freshly squeezed orange juice (Blood Oranges if possible)
1/4 c freshly squeezed lime juice
One 14 1/2 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped)
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 c chopped flat leaf parsley
3/4 lb small potatoes, preferably fingerlings or white creamers
1/4 c Picholines (or other small green olives), not pitted
2 T capers, rinsed and drained
3/4 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 T unsalted  butter (cut into 4 pices)(optional)

Fill a bowl w/cold water and soak squid for 5 minutes to freshen it and rid it of any of the slime that tends to develop as it sits.  Drain and rinse.  Slice the bodies into 1" wide rings and chop the tentacles into 1/2" pieces.  Lay the cut-up squid on a towel to dry.

Heat the oil in a large deep lidded skillet (13" works well) over high heat until shimmering.  Add squid, a handful at a time (adding it all at once would lower the heat of the pan).  Stand back a bit, since squid releases an impressive amount of liquid when it comes into contact with a hot pan and therefore splatters wildly.  Immediately add garlic.  Saute squid, stirring and shaking pan frequently, until it turns opaque and shrinks up, about 2 minutes.  W/slotted spoon, scoop squid out of pan and transfer to a bowl.  There should be a fair amount of liquid remaining in the pan.

Lower the heat to medium-high and add onion, carrot, and celery to liquid in pan.  Season w/s&p, stir, and return to a vigorous simmer.  Add white wine, orange and lime zests, and orange and lime juice, and let the liquid simmer vigorously until reduced by half, 7-10 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and 2T of parsley.  Return to a simmer.

Add squid to braising liquid, turn heat to very low, cover, and simmer gently for 30 minutes.  Check on squid after the first few minutes to make sure the lqiuid maintains a lazy, not a rollicking simmer. 

After 30 minutes, add potatoes, olives, and capers.  Stir so potatoes are evenly distributed, replace cover; and continue to simmer until the squid is tender and potatoes are easily pierced with tip of a knife, another 35-45 minutes.

Add shrimp, leave pan uncovered and adjust heat so the liquid simmers gently.  Simmer just until shrimp are cooked through, 4-5 minutes.  Stire in remaining 2 T parsley and taste.  If sauce is too acidic or too sharp, stir in the butter.  It will soften the acidity nicely.  Taste again for salt and pepper.  Remove zests if you like and serve in shallow  bowls. 

Serves 4

Caesar-Roasted Swordfish

When I chatted with Austin about this braise, I also told him that the 4 pounds of swordfish I had bought a few weeks previously went to make the Caesar-roasted swordfish recipe from Ina Garten's latest cookbook How Easy Is That?  I don't think she's ever written a bad recipe, and many of them are actually inspiring.  This is one of them.  The instant I read it, I called my friend Eric Shamie, one of south county's best chefs, and said we HAD to make this RIGHT NOW. After reading it to him, he agreed.  I bought the swordfish (don't ask the price) and Eric made it, with me peering over his shoulder.

I plan to make this when my son and his family come up in late December.  But my daughter-in-law Naomi doesn't eat mayo, so I'll just up the ante with the olive oil.  This is unconsciousably good.  And wildly simple.

2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1 T anchovy paste
2 t Dijon
1 T good lemon zest (2 lemons)
3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 lb center-cut swordfish steaks, 3/4-1" thick, cut into 6 portions
1/2 c chopped scallions, white and green parts (4 scallions)
2 T evo
3 T drained capers
Lemon wedges for serving

Preheat oven to 500.  (Be sure your oven is very clean.)  Line a sheet pan with foil.

For Caesar sauce, place garlic, parsley, anchovy paste, and mustard in bowl of food processor fitted w/steel blad and pulse until garlic is minced.  Add mayo, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 t salt, and 1/2 t pepper and pulse to make a smooth sauce.

Place the swordfish steaks on the pan and sprinkle both sides generosly w/s&p.  Set aside 1/3 of sauce to serve w/cooked fish.  Spread fish on one side with half remaining sauce, turn fsh, and spread remanng sauce on second side.  Sprinkle w/scallions and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

Roast fish for 10-12 minutes, until center is just barely cooked.  Cover fish w/foil and allow to rest on pan for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in small saute pan until very hot, add capers and cook for 30-60 seconds, until they start to pop and are a little crips.  Serve swordfish hot w/lemon wedges, frizzled capers, and reserved Caesar sauce.

Mighty yummy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Barbara's Turkey Wraps

Me and Barbara at an opening at Suky Werman's gallery

I love cooking with ginger.  I love eating food flavored with gnger.  I have several cookbooks with the word "ginger" in their title, bought primarily because of that.  So imagine my delight when I was at Barbara Zheutlin and Jonathan Hankins' one night for dinner and she served the most amazing turkey dish!

She opened her copy of Nina Simonds' "A Spoonful of Ginger" so I could read the recipe after thoroughly enjoying every bite.  It's a variant on Chicken Soong that I used to order every time we went to Shun Lee.  The prinicple is chopped chicken or turkey (or even beef or pork) served in lettuce leaves.  The cool lettuce leaves temper the heat from the ginger so the taste is utterly refreshing and delicious.

An added bonus to this dish is that children love it.  They grin as they stuff the lettuce with the meat.  I think they feel they're taking part in the cooking.

Saucy Ground Turkey Wrapped in Lettuce Leaves

1 ½ lb ground turkey
3 ½ T minced scallions, white part only
1 ½ T minced fresh ginger
1 T minced garlic
½ T toasted sesame oil

2 bunches Boston lettuce, rinsed, drained and stems trimmed
1 T canola or corn oil
2 c canned water chestnuts, blanched in boiling water for 10 seconds, refreshed in cold water and drained
3 c scallion greens cut into 1” sections

Spicy sauce (mix together)
5 T Chinese sweet bean paste or ground bean paste
2 T sugar
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 ½ t hot chile paste

Put the ground turkey I a bowl, add the seasoning, and mix together.

Lightly flatten the lettuce leaves with the flat side of a cleaver or knife and arrange in a basket or bowl for serving.

Heat a wok or a heavy skillet, add half the oil, and when hot, about 30 seconds, add turkey and stir-fry over med-high heat, mashing and breaking it up.  Cook until it changes color and separates.  Drain in a colander and wipe out the pan.

Reheat the pan, add the remaining ½ T oil, and when very hot add the water chestnuts and scallion greens, tossing them over high heat about 1 minute.  Add premixed spicy sauce and stir, letting it thicken.  Return the cooked turkey to the pan and toss to coat with sauce.  Scoop the mixture onto a serving platter.  To serve, pass the platter and basket of lettuce leaves; each diner spoons some of the cooked meat onto a lettuce leaf, rolls it up, and eats it.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010


This past January my friend Amy Rudnick and her then 12-year old daughter Maizy Hillman provided a "blintz seminar" for me and our friend Rean Zurofsky.  Neither of us knew how to make them and both of us thought the time had come for us to learn.  We spent an enjoyable morning in their kitchen, and then ate the blintzes with suitable accompaniments for lunch.  Our textbook was Ben Hillman's underground classic "The Devil Ate My Blintzes."  The book's back cover boasts his grandmother Goldie's blintz recipe.

Months went by and nary a blintz did I make.  But on the off-chance that I'd instruct my grandchildren on blintz making when they visit in late December, I decided to make the crepe just to see if I could remember how Amy and Maizy did it.  As happens all too often with my cooking experiences, I didn't remember so the crepes were too fat.  But Joan Nathan's book on Jewish cooking saved the day--she recommends using a "half ladle" of batter per crepe.  That led to exactly the right texture.  So here's Ben's Grandma Goldie's recipe with the addendum of using a half-ladle worth of batter. By the way, Ben recorded his grandmother reading the recipe, which is why it reads so beautifully.

2 cups of milk
A cup and a half flour
Three eggs.
And if you have a blender…a blender
A pound of pot cheese or a pound of farmer cheese
Salt or pepper
An egg
You put your eggs and your milk in the blender; you blend that, and then you put your flour in gradually.  And, if you like salt, you can add a little salt.
You take a frying pan and you take a piece of paper towel.  You wet the towel with oil and wipe the pan—don’t make it too wet.
Make the pan warm and then your pour in your batter.  Swish it around and pour it back whatever’s extra.  You keep it on the fire for about a minute.  You see…you judge… then it’s finished, you turn your pan over a big plate and the pancake falls out.  How do you know when it’s done?  That you get with experience.  Then you do it again until your batter is used up.
For the filling, you take a pound of cheese.  You put an egg in it and you mash it up.  Pepper and salt is optional.  Then you put a tablespoon or more of the filling into the pancake.  You fold it over a little bit this way and a little bit that way…Then you roll it up.
(diagram showing a pancake with a spoonful of cheese mixture in the middle.  Fold from bottom, then right side, then left side, finishing with top so that it’s all wrapped up)
You put the oil in the frying pan—enough to fry the blintzes.  You put your blintzes in and you fry it and turn it over until one side is brown and the other side is brown.
Then you take it out and eat it!
But wait!  There's yet another blintz recipe from the Hillman-Rudnick household.  Several months ago Amy brought a blintz casserole (not kidding) to a "break fast" dinner at Rena's.  Amy's mother used to make it in a pink casserole, a la early 1950's, which Amy now uses when she makes this dish.

This is not a recipe you'll turn to often, but when the occasion calls for something really really rich and really really delicious and really really old-fashioned, this is what you'll make.  And enjoy.

Blintz Souffle

8 frozen cheese blintzes cut in half
1/4 lb butter melted
6 eggs, beaten
1 pint sour cream
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla

Grease a deep casserole dish with some of the melted butter. Place the blintzes in the casserole and put the remaining butter over them. Beat together the remaining ingredients and put on top. Bake uncovered in a 350 oven for 1 hour.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Deborah Madison rocks!

For years now I've been a guest at Thanksgiving dinners.  Sometimes it's fun, sometimes not.  This year's dinner was deliciously enjoyable.  Hootie and I took the train to NYC where we had turkey and the fixings at my son Greg's inlaws.  Luckily his mother-in-law Renee is a terrific cook, so we ate well (Hootie likes white and dark meat alike).  But not having particpiated in Thanksgiving cooking, I didn't post anything this week.

Today, however, my kitchen jumped back to life as I started experimenting with dishes I want to make over the holidays.  My repertoire this afternoon included sauteed garlic, focaccia, broccoli/scallion puree, and braised leeks.  The sauteed garlic is delicious, the focaccia and braised leeks were super,but the broccoli/scallion puree was merely okay.  Interesting conceptually but sorta dull by mouth.

Although there are probably dozens of good focaccia recipes out there, I chose one from John Ash, whose cookbook ("From the Earth to the Table") I used frequently in the mid-1990's when northern California cooking was tres chic. I find myself going back to it lately, and am happy to report that his focaccia recipe is both easy and delicious.  I like his method of incorporating fresh herbs in the dough itself, as well as using them on top halfway through baking.  I threw in fresh thyme, fresh chives, and dried rosemary.  I'd have liked some marjoram in there but the grocery store didn't have any and my spice rack is mysteriously missing dried marjoram (why?).

Whenever I want to make interesting vegetable dishes, the first books I turn to are those by Deborah Madison, surely the most prolific and outstanding vegetarian writer around.  The broccoli/scallion dish sounded delish, and while it wasn't bad, I don't think I'd make it again (although it's so easy it's a shame to throw it away).  She has several braised leek recipes in "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone," and I chose the one labeled "Braised Leeks" (duh).  She recommends saving the broth to use for risotto or soups, but since neither is on my immediate cooking horizon, I didn't,  I tasted it, though, and see what she means.

So, here are the recipes.  I hope you enjoy them.

Sauteed Garlic:  take about 50 garlic cloves, clip off the root end, put them in a saucepan, cover them with vegetable oil, and simmer for 40 minutes or so.  Keep the heat low for they're to simmer, not fry.  When they're finished cooking, let them cool and then put in a jar and refrigerate.  Add them willy-nilly to whatever seems appropriate...or just eat them.  They're mellow and delicious.

Focaccia (from John Ash)

1 T plus 1/2 t active dry yeast
1 1/2 c warm water (100 degrees)
1/2 c fruity olive oil (divided)
3 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t salt
1-2 T fresh herbs (optional)
Optional toppings:  thinly sliced red onions, seeded slivered tomatoes, grated cheese

In large bowl, stir yeast into warm water and let stand approximately 10 minutes.  Stir in 1/4 c oil, then flour, salt and herbs, if desired.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 8-10 mintues.

Lightly oil a large clean bowl and add dough, turning to coat it.  Cover bowl tightly w/plastic wrap and let dough rise until doubled, 1 - 1 1/2 hours.

Lightly oil a 12 x 17 inch jelly roll pan.  Flatten and stretch dough to cover as much of the pan as possible, then dimple the top quite vigorously with your fingertips to stretch it some more.  Cover w/towel and let it relax for 10 minutes.

Dimple and stretch dough again to completely cover the pan.  Cover w/towel and let it rest another 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 425.

Brush dough w/remaining 1/4 c olive oil and bake on the upper rack until it just starts to turn golden, 12-15 minutes.  Scatter whatever toppings you desire over the top and continue to bake until golden brown, approximately 10-15 minutes longer.  If desired, remove focaccia from pan at this point and finish cooking it directly on the oven shelf for a crisp bottom crust (I didn't do this).

Braised Leeks (from Deborah Madison)

Aromatics (parsley, sprigs of thyme,  several bay leaves) and 1/2 t peppercorns
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 celery rib, sliced
4 leeks, trimmed, halved, and rinsed
Butter or evo
Chopped herbs--fines herbes, chives, marjoram, tarragon or parsley

Bring 3 qts water to simmer in a deep skillet or Dutch oven w/2 t salt, the aromatics, carrots, and celery.  Slip leeks into pan and cook gently until tender when pierced w/a knife, 15-25 minutes.  Lift them out and arrange them, cut side up, on a platter.  Glide a piece of butter over the top or drizzled w/olive oil, then cover lightly w/herbs and season w/salt & pepper...The cooking liquid makes an excellent broth for risotto or soup.

Broccoli and Scallion Puree (from Deborah Madison)

1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 - 1 1/4 lb broccoli, stems peeled and chopped, florets separated
1 bunch scallions, including an inch of the greens, chopped
2 T butter
Pinch grated nutmeg
2 t lemon juice
2 T cream or creme fraiche (optional)

Bring 2 qt water to a boil w/bay leaf in saucepan.  Add 1 t salt, then broccoli and scallions.  Cook until stems are tender, 4-6 minutes.  Scoop out the vegetables, discard bay leaf, and reserve the water.  Puree in food processor, leaving a little texture.  Add a little of the cooking water if needed to loosen the mixture.  Stir in the butter, taste for salt, and season w/a little pepper, the nutmeg, and lemon juice.  Seasonings should be lively.  Stir in cream, if using.