Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chicken on the Grill

 For roasted poultry, a nice, relaxing bath in salty and sugary water before it goes into the oven can do wonders for keeping the meat moist and flavorful. But why should the Thanksgiving turkey have all the fun? Couldn’t the chicken on a mid-summer grill benefit from a bit of brine as well?

I learned from a recipe in Cuisine at Home magazine that I clipped a few years ago, that a lazy brine of cola and salt is just what chicken on the grill ordered. The original recipe called for a whole chicken to be cut in half, but I thought I’d try quartering the chicken, partly to make it more easily servable and partly to practice my mediocre chicken dismantling skills. (I’ll spare you the photos.)

Of course, custom-cutting a chicken makes this a two-apron project, since raw chicken isn’t the kind of mess you want to keep around for long. If you don’t want to do it, you could buy a chicken already cut up. The second apron is required after the chicken has brined for a couple hours, when the gloopy rub of salt, brown sugar, spices and vegetable oil gets slathered on.

The rub is highly flavorful, but also highly flammable. I’ve charred the outside of more than one piece of chicken by neglecting to check on it often enough. It can easily drip down into the grill and cause flare-ups that you’ll want to pay better attention to than I did. Fear not, or at least less, however, because the charred skin does not make for a bad piece of chicken. The skin takes the brunt of the abuse and the meat stays flavorful and juicy.

You probably won’t taste anything like cola in your bite of chicken, but it will be moist and delicious. You might taste the extra salt that goes into this dish (I did), so I would suggest serving it with lower-salt side dishes to balance that out a little. Either that or serve plenty of beverages with your meal. Of course you’ll drink them responsibly, whatever they are.

Coke Brined Chicken
from Cuisine at Home June 2007

You could purchase a cut-up chicken (usually 8 parts) if you don’t want to quarter the chicken yourself.

I’ve only made this recipe using a gas grill.

1 whole chicken, cut into quarters
1 liter (about 1 quart) cola (I used Coca-Cola brand)
½ cup kosher salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon paprika

1. In a container large enough to hold all of the chicken pieces, combine the cola and ½ cup kosher salt. Add the chicken, making sure all of the pieces are submerged. Refrigerate at least 2 hours (I’ve brined up to 4 hours or so). Stir or shake the container occasionally if some of the salt remains undissolved.

2. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, combine the vegetable oil, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, garlic powder, black pepper, dry mustard and paprika. Place the chicken on a large platter or in a large bowl. Rub the chicken with the oil mixture getting as much of the skin covered as you can. Let stand 15 minutes.

3. Preheat a gas (or charcoal) grill. Adjust the grill to medium-low heat. If some pieces are much larger than others (for example, the chicken I grilled had large breast pieces) you might want to start cooking them sooner. Place the chicken on the grill and cook over the medium-low flame for 40-50 minutes, turning as needed. Test the chicken for doneness by some reliable method. I prefer to use a thermometer probe and allow the chicken to reach an internal temperature of 165 F.

4. When the chicken is done, remove it from the grill to a platter and cover with foil for at least 5 minutes, or to keep warm a little longer if desired.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Another recipe like this one: Chinese Style Barbecue Sauce and Marinade

One year ago: Rich Chocolate Ice Cream

Two years ago: Lemon Herb Potato Salad

Friday, July 22, 2011

Squash Flowers, Volume 1: Battered and Fried

Fresh and crisp summer produce grown locally and with minimal chemical interference is the epitome of healthy eating. Well, you can’t get much more local than the zucchini blossoms I’ve been growing in a container (that used to be a small trash can) on the patio attached to our apartment. The healthy eating part might not survive the battering and frying.

I read a long time ago that zucchini could be grown for their flowers in a container (I later learned you can grow them for the fruit that way as well, and I might be harvesting two or three soon.) Last year, I had a great deal of dining success with my zucchini flowers, thanks to a recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman for beer battered blossoms. I opted for the club soda variation to keep the flavor light and was on my way.

I like to pick the squash flowers in the morning when they are wide open, which makes them easier to clean and stuff. And clean them you must. Lots of little bugs love the inside of these blossoms, and, unless you really want the added protein, I highly recommend rinsing them away. It’s also better to remove the stamen from the male blossoms (the ones that are attached to thin stalks) and wash away the pollen. I don’t tend to harvest any female blossoms (the ones that are attached to what look like baby zucchini). I try to get them pollinated so I can raise a few zucchini, too. (The fewer questions you ask about that, the better.)

I’ll often clean and save flowers and keep them in the refrigerator. They last a few days and give me an opportunity to fry up a modest-sized batch at one time. Since I haven’t been able to grow or eat enough for a full batch of the batter from the cookbook, I make half a batch, which will probably make about 15 battered blossoms. I’ve also kept the batter in the refrigerator for about a day and it still makes good food, but it really is best right after it is mixed together.

The battering and frying part of the recipe has always worked extremely well. What didn’t go so well were attempts to stuff the blossoms before battering and frying them. Fillings like ricotta mixed with herbs or a sliver of mozzarella or Gruyere cheese were hard to get into the delicate flower without tearing it and they melted and leaked everywhere during frying making for empty blossoms and messy, messy frying medium.

I finally got the idea -and I’m really proud of this one – to stuff a single sage leaf (or half of one if the sage leaves are large and the zucchini flowers are small) in each flower. They don’t have the capacity to melt or leak, they’re easy to stuff into the flower, and if a bit of it sticks out while frying, it just becomes a fried sage leaf. Nothing wrong with that.

And the flavor the sage leaf adds is fantastic! The zucchini flowers have a subtle flavor on their own, reminiscent of the scent of summer squash. The sage is strongly present in all its herby, dusty glory, but still doesn’t overpower the light taste of the blossom. The golden brown and crispy coating doesn’t need my endorsement. You already know that’ll be good. Caloric, yes, and doubly so since I tend to serve it with an aioli (like this one) for a dipping sauce, but oh so delicious. Delicious!

Fried Squash Flowers with Fresh Sage
Based on a recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

Since I cut a 1-egg recipe in half, I give instructions here for using half of a beaten egg, which are relatively simple. Discard the unused egg or use it in another dish (as egg wash, scrambled eggs, etc.) within a day or two. Keep it refrigerated, of course.

10-15 zucchini or other squash flowers
canola or vegetable oil for deep frying
10-15 small to medium-sized sage leaves, or fewer large leaves (a leaf or half a leaf for each flower)
1 large egg
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
a few grinds of black pepper
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup club soda or more if needed
additional salt (preferably kosher salt) for finishing

1. Carefully clean the flowers, especially the insides. Remove the flowers’ reproductive parts (you should be able to pull them off easily with your fingers). Drain well and pat very dry.

2. Insert one sage leaf or half of a large sage leaf in each flower. Gently twist the top of the flower petals closed over the leaf. Set aside.

3. Beat the egg and measure its volume. Pour half of the beaten egg into a bowl to use it in the batter. The large eggs I’ve been using are about 3-3 ½ tablespoons, so I’ve been using about 1 ½ tablespoons or a little more in the batter. Discard the remaining egg or reserve it for another use. Keep it covered and refrigerated for a day or two.

4. Add the flour, salt, pepper, baking powder and club soda to the egg in the bowl. Whisk together until all the dry ingredients are moistened. If the batter is very thick, stir in more club soda.

5. Pour about 2 inches of oil into a large skillet. I use cast iron. Warm on medium heat to 350 F or until a drop of the batter immediately sizzles in the oil.

6. When the oil is hot, begin to batter and fry the flowers. Hold the flower by the stem end and dip it into the batter. Drag it on the edge of the bowl to remove excess batter. Immediately (and carefully) place the battered flower in the hot oil. Repeat with a few more flowers at a time. Do not overcrowd the pan.

7. Fry the flowers at medium heat until they are golden brown on one side. If they seem to be browning too fast, reduce the heat. Carefully turn the flower in the oil and cook on the other side until brown. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle with additional salt while still hot. Repeat the battering and frying until all the flowers are cooked. Serve with Garlic-Parsley Aioli or similar dipping sauce.

Makes 2-4 appetizer servings.

One year ago: Chilled Summer Squash Soup

Two years ago: Pain au Chocolate

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Baking with Basil, Volume 2: Citrus and Basil Cookies

The title of this post might lead you to believe that it is my second installment in praise of adding fresh basil to baked goods, despite the warm weather conspiring to keep you away from the oven.  I meant it to be something like that.  But then, I actually ate the shortbread cookies I made with citrus zest and basil.  This post is going to be about how great these cookies are.

I must admit that this recipe didn’t come to me as if in a dream.  It came to me from the pages of the July issue of Bon Appetit magazine. There wasn’t much hoopla on the page with the recipe.  Just something about the “unexpected – and delicious – note” that the fresh basil gives these simple shortbread cookies. The citrus flavors, the tender, crisp, not-very-sweet butteriness of the cookies and the ease, holy cow, the ease at which they can be thrown together got nary a mention. These attributes all deserve a shout-out highlighted with exclamation points!

And then, as if you could handle more, there’s the fresh basil, the one ingredient that makes these cookies deliciously seasonal.  I used a variety known as lime basil that I have growing in a pot on my patio.  It does have a wonderful citrus scent and went oh so well with the lemon and lime while adding just a faint herbal quality that’s not at all grassy.  Another variety of basil will probably yield a slightly different result. I find common Genovese basil to have just a bit of an anise note to it, and Thai basil to have even more.  I’ve also grown cinnamon basil (but can’t remember if it was cinnamon-y or not), and I think that all of the above varieties would be great in these cookies, but may not play off the citrus flavors quite as much as the lime basil did.

Now, here’s where I’m going to get into trouble with this recipe.  As long as I could substitute any kind of basil, what’s to keep me from substituting fresh mint instead? Or adding orange zest and/or juice? Or perhaps rosemary or thyme?  Do I dare take out the citrus and add grated chocolate or liqueur?  Since the dough is made in about a minute in the food processor and the batch is small, I could be trying new things on a continuous basis. Where will this end? 

Shortbread is easy.  Dieting is hard.

Lemon, Lime and Basil Cookies

Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, July 2011

For best results, remove the zest from the lemon and lime with a Microplane rasp-style grater. The zest will be finely grated and the pith will be left on the fruit.

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
1 stick (½ cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons sliced fresh lime basil leaves (or other variety of basil)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon grated lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
additional powdered sugar for pressing the cookies

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly spray cookie sheets with cooking spray, or lightly brush with oil or butter. Place all of the ingredients, except for the additional powdered sugar, in the bowl of a food processor.  Process in long pulses until the dough forms large clumps.

2. Measure a level tablespoon of dough for each cookie.  Roll the dough into a ball and place on a prepared cookie sheet.  Place the additional powdered sugar in a bowl or large measuring cup.  Press the bottom of a smaller measuring cup in the powdered sugar to prevent sticking.  I used a 1/3 cup measure, which happened to be about 2 inches in diameter.  Press each cookie ball into a 2-inch circle with the bottom of the measuring cup.

3.  Bake at 375 F for about 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned.  Cool the cookies on the pan for 2 minutes.  Remove the cookies from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes about 15 cookies.  Store leftovers in an airtight container for a few days (if they last that long without being devoured!)

Other recipes like this one: Lime Bars with Graham Cracker Crust, Chocolate Cinnamon Hazelnut Cookies (also a food processor dough)

One year ago: Grilled Green or Yellow Beans

Two years ago: Granola

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Baking with Basil, Volume 1: Whole Wheat Cornmeal Bread

I know what you’re thinking. It’s hot, the days are lazy, there’s grilling to do and salads to prepare. And you want to bake something. Are you crazy?

First of all, the answer to that question is beyond the scope of this cooking journal. Second, we’ve had a few cooler days recently, and I got in some baking while it was bearable to use the oven. And finally, but most importantly, those obligatory summer tomato sandwiches have to go on something. It might as well be a couple slices of whole grain bread laced with fresh basil.

I also use this bread for toasted cheese sandwiches and thick slices are good alongside soups and, especially, chili. It’s a little coarse and a bit nutty from the whole wheat flour and cornmeal and the flavor of the basil is in every bite. Whether you’ve got a field of basil or just a few sprigs, this is a good place to put it.

The recipe is adapted from The Complete Guide to Bread Machine Baking published by Better Homes and Gardens. I wore out my bread machine years ago, and have been re-adapting my bread machine recipes back into mix-by-hand-and-bake-in-the-oven recipes ever since. The dough for this one, as with many bread recipes with whole grains, is kind of stiff to knead by hand. It might be a good candidate for a heavy-duty mixer with a dough hook, and that must have been how I made it in years past, because I didn’t remember it being such a workout.

I guess if I’m going to make tomato sandwiches slathered with homemade mayonnaise, or toasted cheese (that’s Monterey Jack with buffalo sauce in it in the photo above) I need to find a way to work off those calories anyway. It may not be baking season, but it is basil season. As far as I’m concerned, the great flavors and aromas of this bread are worth getting my apron a little sweaty as well as messy in a hot July kitchen.

Whole Wheat Cornmeal Bread with Basil
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens: The Complete Guide to Bread Machine Baking

I have given directions for mixing and kneading by hand. You could use a heavy-duty mixer and knead using the dough hook.

¼ cup warm water (about 100-110 F)
1 tablespoon sugar
2-2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (about 1 envelope-style package)
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon sunflower or canola oil
¾ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon gluten
2 cups bread flour, divided
1 teaspoon fine salt
2 tablespoons finely sliced or torn basil

1. In a large bowl, mix together the water, sugar and yeast. Let stand about 5 minutes or until the yeast appears foamy.

2. Warm the milk to about 100-110 F. (I microwave cold milk about 30 seconds. Be sure to test it to make sure it’s not too hot). Add the milk, oil, whole wheat flour, cornmeal, gluten and about half of the bread flour to the yeast mixture. Stir together to make a batter-like dough. Cover with a towel and let stand 15-30 minutes.

3. Stir in the salt, basil and enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff dough. When the dough becomes difficult to stir, turn it out on a kneading surface. Knead until the dough is smooth and only slightly tacky, adding in as much of the remaining flour as you can (or more if needed). If the dough is already stiff and you have more than about ¼ cup bread flour left, add a small amount of water to the dough, 1 teaspoon at a time, and continue kneading in the remaining flour. Kneading should take about 10 minutes.

4. Shape the kneaded dough into a ball. Spray a medium-size bowl with cooking spray or brush it with oil. Place the dough in the bowl and spray or brush the top of the dough. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the dough. Cover with a towel and let rise about 1 hour or until roughly double in size.

5. Spray an 8 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray or brush it with oil. Gently deflate the risen dough and let stand for a few minutes. Shape the dough into a loaf and place in the prepared pan. Cover with a towel and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until about double in size and a gentle press with the finger leaves an indentation without springing back.

6. Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove the towel from the risen loaf and bake at 375 F for 30-35 minutes, or until the bread is done. (It should sound hollow when tapped, or have reached an internal temperature of about 200 F.) Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Makes a 1 ½ pound loaf.

Other recipes like this one: Multigrain Baguette, Wheat Sandwich Bread

One year ago: Cherry Clafouti

Two years ago: Sauteed Cabbage with Caraway and Cider Vinegar

Monday, July 11, 2011

Potato Salad Goes Green

In a bowl of potato salad there was some green. Not a nasty, dirty, wet green with the fuzz of mold and an oozy smell, nor a dry, pretentious green, not worth sitting down to and not fit to eat: it was potato salad, and that means comfort.

And those of you who haven’t committed the first lines of The Hobbit to memory can enjoy this potato salad, too. It’s just as easy as any other potato salad, but can help you use up some of the other stuff you have languishing in the refrigerator..er..um…has more healthy and delicious green vegetables than you might typically see in this summer staple food.

This all started with a creamy tarragon dressing recipe for potato salad that I think I clipped from Martha Stewart Living Magazine ages ago. My tarragon plant survived the winter and has been growing nicely on my patio, so it was time to use some. I also had lots of broccoli and green beans from the CSA (the potatoes, creamy and sweet Yukon gold new potatoes with very thin skins, were from there as well.) Those greener things were destined to supplement the potatoes in a nice and tasty salad.

I steamed the beans and broccoli just a bit. I still wanted them to have some crunch and still taste like vegetables and not boiled green mush, but I also wanted to take the harder raw edge off of them so they would be more pleasant to eat in the salad. I used to microwave to steam them, much like I did for the asparagus in this recipe, then shocked them by running them under cold water, drained them well, and chilled them until I was ready to finish the salad.

The potatoes I boiled in their skins until cooked through, which, to me, is the only way to prepare them for salad. I let them cool, then chilled them as well. I find that cooked potatoes slice much more neatly when they are completely cold. You could peel the potatoes after cooking them, but since mine were organic, I left the very soft and thin skins intact.

The dressing started out as a simple vinaigrette laced with tarragon and thickened with sour cream. I let it stay pretty creamy, but I really bumped up the Dijon mustard content considerably and cut back the sour cream. The result was nice and tangy and the Dijon goes well with the tarragon, which is present but not overwhelming. You could use more if you love it, or replace it with another herb if wish. I think thyme would be good, and so might basil, thinly sliced, or chiffonade if you cook with your pinky finger extended.

I suppose the flavors and style of this salad might be considered French-influenced. Really for me, it was influenced by the fabulous fresh and green summer vegetables I happened to have on hand. That and a love of new potatoes in salads. I could eat potato salads every week and they’re so easily variable, who knows what I’ll be able to try next…. Spuds “go ever ever on.”

Potato, Broccoli and Green Bean Salad with Tarragon Mustard Dressing

1 pound boiling potatoes (I had Yukon gold new potatoes), about 4 medium-size potatoes
8 ounces broccoli crowns, cut into bite-size florets
4 ounces green beans, stem ends trimmed, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon

1. Scrub the potatoes clean. Place them in a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook, boiling moderately until the potatoes can be pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes (but rely on tenderness more than time). Cool the potatoes, then chill completely.

2. Place the broccoli and beans in a microwave-safe container. Add a splash of water. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Punch several holes in the plastic with a knife. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Carefully remove the plastic wrap, avoiding any steam. Plunge the broccoli and beans in ice water or run very cold water over them to stop the cooking. Drain well and chill.

3. To make the dressing, combine the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking until well-combined. Stir in the sour cream and tarragon. Set aside.

4. Peel the potatoes if desired (I didn’t). Quarter them and cut into about ½ inch slices. Place in a large bowl with the broccoli and beans. Add the dressing and toss well to combine.

Makes 6-8 servings. Leftover salad will keep for a few days refrigerated.

Other recipes like this one: Lemon Herb Potato Salad, Broccoli and Chickpea Salad with Mustard-Pepper Dressing

One year ago: Turkey Burgers with Cilantro Lime Aioli

Two years ago: Pickled Sugar Snap Peas

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer Squash in a Pie

Do you need another summer squash recipe? Sure, we all do. That is if we are going to treat summer squash overflow as seasonal bounty to be savored and appreciated rather than as a locust-like invasion, something to be feared and lamented.

I used the latest offering from the CSA squash fields to make a savory galette (somewhat like this one at smitten kitchen) with ricotta and feta cheese. To keep the pie relatively light and crisp, I made just a thin layer of garlic-spiked ricotta. The squash was tossed with olive oil and fresh thyme and layered on top of the ricotta, then sprinkled with a bit of feta. The resulting pie, though it looked just as rustic and lumpy as most of my messes do, was delicately flavored. The subtle taste of the squash was not overwhelmed by the mild ricotta and the feta gave everything just a little punch.

I used my decision to make a savory pie as an opportunity to make the Yeasted Tart Dough with Olive Oil from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. I think I’ve made this recipe before (in the dark ages before I began this blog), but I may have made the version with butter that is on the same page in the book. Whatever. I decided to try it with some whole wheat flour this time, to bump up its WFQ*.

The dough is fairly easy to make, but it will require the cook to plan ahead, since it does need to rise for about an hour before it can be rolled out for your pie. The addition of whole wheat flour did not seem to negatively affect the texture. The dough is smooth and easy to work with and I could easily roll it out very thin. The baked crust is pleasantly crisp and sturdy, but tender, since it puffs nicely in the oven. The pie slices very neatly and the slices hold up well enough to consume in a casual summer dining environment, sans flatware if desired.

This was really a test of two recipes: the squash galette and the yeasted crust, and both get top marks. I hope to make many more pies with this crust recipe (there’s a sweeter version in the book as well), and the galette is a great new addition to my growing archive of summer squash recipes. At the right, I’ve added a link to a list of summer squash and zucchini recipes that I’ll keep up during the squash-flood season. I hope you’ll find inspirational if you’ve got plenty of squash to “savor and appreciate.” Now, what to do about those two big zucchini in my refrigerator…

Yeasted Tart Dough with Whole Wheat Flour
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

My directions are for stirring and kneading the dough by hand. You could also use a heavy-duty stand mixer and knead with the dough hook.

2 teaspoons yeast (or about 1 envelope-style package)
½ teaspoon sugar
½ cup water
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
1 egg
3 tablespoons olive oil

1. In a large bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and water. Let stand about 5 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.

2. In a small bowl, beat the egg with a whisk or fork. Whisk in the olive oil until well-combined. Add to the yeast mixture.

3. Add the salt, whole wheat flour and about half the all-purpose flour. Stir to form a sticky dough.

4. Turn the dough out onto a kneading surface with some of the remaining all-purpose flour. Knead the dough about 4 minutes, until the dough is smooth, gradually adding the rest of the flour (or more as needed). Add just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the kneading surface. The dough should only be slightly tacky when kneading is done.

5. Form the dough into a ball. Spray a medium-size bowl with cooking spray or brush it with oil. Place the dough ball in the bowl and spray or brush the top. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the dough and let rise 45 minutes to 1 hour or until about double in size. Dough can be used for one 9-11 inch tart or galette.

Summer Squash Galette with Ricotta and Feta
Based on a recipe at the blog smitten kitchen

You could probably use another pastry recipe that makes a similarly sized pie if desired.

about 8 ounces summer squash (about 1 medium-large or 2 small)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon coarse salt, divided
½ cup ricotta cheese
1 medium to large garlic clove
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 recipe Yeasted Tart Dough with Whole Wheat Flour (see above)
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
egg wash (egg beaten with water or milk), optional

1. If you have one, place a pizza stove on the middle rack of the oven. (If you don’t have a stone, you can bake the galette on a large pan.) Preheat the oven to 400 F.

2. Trim the ends away from the squash. Thinly slice the squash and place the slices in a medium-size bowl. Add the olive oil, thyme and ¼ teaspoon salt. Toss together to coat the squash with oil. Set aside.

3. Place the ricotta in a small bowl. Finely chop the garlic. Add the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and work together to form a paste. Add the garlic-salt paste to the ricotta along with the pepper. Stir to combine. Set aside.

4. Punch down the tart dough and roll it into a thin circle about 14 inches in diameter. Transfer to a parchment lined pizza peel or to a baking pan.

5. Spread the ricotta mixture over the dough in a thin layer, leaving about 4 inches on the edge of the circle. Arrange the squash (as neatly as you wish) over the ricotta layer. Sprinkle the feta cheese on top of the squash layer. Fold up the edges of the dough all around the galette. Brush the dough with egg wash if desired.

6. Slide the galette with the parchment from the peel onto the preheated pizza stone (or if using a pan, simply place it in the oven). Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes, or until the crust is brown and crisp. Remove the tart from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes or so before slicing and serving.

Makes about 6 servings. You can wrap and refrigerate leftovers, which can be reheated in the microwave. The crust on the leftover tart may be softer, but mine did not get soggy.

Other recipes like this one: Chard Tart with Feta Cheese and Olives, Corn and Green Onion Tart with Bacon, Roasted Cherry Tomato and Olive Galette

Other summer squash and zucchini recipes on this page.

One year ago: Pasta Salad with Cauliflower and Mustard Lemon Dressing

*WFQ = Whole Food Quotient

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Corn Tortilla Compromise

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with a store-bought tortilla. Sane people buy them all the time. They make a taco or fajita dinner into a quick and easy summertime staple. If you like to mess up your kitchen, however, a simple meal of Tacos with Sauteed Greens and Fresh Cheese means planning ahead, making time for homemade tortillas.

So far, homemade tortillas in my kitchen mean exclusively flour tortillas. I’ve tried making corn tortillas. I acquired a big bag of masa harina, purchased a corn tortilla press, read the experts and studied the process. I made mediocre corn tortillas.

And so, when I set out to make my tacos with greens, I went to the supermarket to buy packaged corn tortillas. The designated zone on the shelf was empty. I was beginning to panic get disappointed. A check of one more store also left me empty-handed. Instead of burning even more gasoline in search of some imagined authenticity, I was prepared to fall back on some packaged flour tortillas. I even had the package in my hand.

Now there’s a little something you should understand about me. I actually feel guilty about buying something in a package that I know I could make myself. Since I really enjoy my made-from-scratch lifestyle, this guilt might be triggered by a few too many things (yogurt, granola and granola bars, pizza, most breads, desserts and sweets) with more being added to that list all the time (fresh cheese, rustic crackers, vinegar). Guilt was going to make my 10 minute tacos of sautéed greens into an hour-long adventure. So be it.

Anyway, it wasn’t such a big deal, since I was armed with Gourmet Tortillas by Karen Howarth. The recipes in this book are all for flour tortillas, but there are two recipes for tortillas that contain some form of corn. Perhaps this could be as satisfying compromise, some corn-ish flour tortillas.

I simplified the recipe that seemed closest to what I wanted, and made some mighty fine tortillas. They were soft and a little fluffy with just a hint of cornmeal flavor from the really nice, fine-ground, locally produced cornmeal (made here) that I used. In the end, they definitely weren’t authentic corn tortillas, but with their delicious, mellow flavor and soft, pliable texture, I’d hardly call them a compromise, either.

Flour Tortillas with Cornmeal
With lots of guidance from Gourmet Tortillas by Karen Howarth

1 cup cornmeal (I used finely-ground)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup water

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt and baking powder. Add the butter and work it into the cornmeal mixture with your hands (or with a fork) until it is well-distributed in small, flour-coated pieces.

2. Add the water and stir together to form a soft dough. Knead a few times to pull it all together into a ball that is only slightly tacky. Add flour or water as needed to achieve the correct consistency.
3. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover the dough balls with a towel and let them stand for 15 minutes.

4. Preheat a cast iron griddle (preferred) or a frying pan on the stove over medium-low heat. Take one ball of tortilla dough and flatten it slightly. Place on a well-floured surface. Roll the dough into a circle (or as close to one as you can) about 6 inches in diameter and about 1/8-inch thick.

5. Place the tortilla on the preheated griddle and cook for about 1 minute or until it is beginning to get a few browned spots and the top looks bubbly. Carefully flip the tortilla and cook on the other side about 1 minute more or until just beginning to brown. Repeat with the remaining dough. You can roll out the next tortilla while one is cooking, but be sure to keep an eye on the stove. Stack the tortillas on a wire rack as they are done. Wrap them in a towel to keep them warm until ready to serve.

Makes 12 6-inch tortillas. Keep leftovers in a zip-top bag for a day or so. Reheat in the microwave to serve. Tortillas can also be frozen if well-wrapped.

Other recipes like this one: Yogurt Tortillas with Whole Wheat Flour, Rustic Homemade Crackers with Thyme, Naan with Whole Wheat Flour

One year ago: Sausage and Spinach Soup

Two years ago: Chinese Style Barbecue Sauce and Marinade