Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category

Bruschetta.jpgJ. and I attempt, but don’t always succeed, to have a date night once a week. We usually head out to a nice restaurant or a movie but last week we were beat and just wanted to stay home. I had baked some wonderful crusty Italian style bread earlier in the day and we had found some beautiful tomatoes at the farmers market… Bruschetta was the answer.

I decided to make 2 different versions and after a quick trip to Wholefoods for some delicious meat we were set to go. I didn’t just want to make an ordinary tomato combination for the top. It was date night after all, I wanted something a little different and unusual. I went with garlic roasted tomatoes on Tomato and basilsoppressata or prosciutto with jalapeno lime white balsamic vinegar to finish it off.

First off I put the tomatoes into the oven to roast. I only wanted them cooked for a very short time with some garlic and olive oil to really bring out the sweetness in these gorgeous tomatoes we found. I wanted them to hold their shape and keep the firm texture, not go all mushy.

ProscuittoWhile the tomatoes were in a 350F degree oven for 10 minutes, I sliced some chunky bits of our Italian crusty bread and smeared them will olive oil. I heated up our grill pan and toasted these on both sides. I tried to get nice crusty grill marks on the bread. I did ok for the most part but there were some slightly crispier parts.Soppressata

Once these were grilled I just rubbed them with some garlic and set them aside to dress. I did a few of each meat for J. and I. Layer 1 being either soppressata or prosciutto. To be honest a few slices of each magically disappeared between the two of us… I love that stuff!

Basil leavesAfter the first layer of meaty goodness I added some fresh basil leaves. We had also picked the basil up at the market since our basil plant hasn’t survived it’s first (and only) Arizonan summer. By this stage the tomatoes were out and cooling down.

I cut the tomatoes in half and put them in a bowl, seasoned them with plenty of salt and pepper and then generously drizzled jalapeno lime white balsamic vinegar over them. I mixed them together and placed them on each piece of bread.

After pouring some wine J. and I sat down to a yummy, simple dinner. I had some goats cheese on the side as well for us to eat with the bruschetta. The creamy rich flavor worked so well with the freshness of the bruschetta. J enjoyed it so much we actually had something similar for dinner the next night. The tomatoes were extremely sweet and juicy. I was happy with how crusty and delicious the bread was as well. Such an easy, quick date night dinner. A good way of keeping my boy J. happy too!

Plum & Lime Jam.jpgWalking through one of our local supermarkets recently I had a flash back to childhood when I saw mountains of delicious red plums on sale… not just for sale but on sale for a ridiculously low price! J. watched with wide eyes as I kept adding more and more plums to my bag! I explained to him that mum used to make plum jam at home and nothing tastes quite as delicious as homemade jam.

The plums weren’t completely ripe so I decided to wait until the weekend to make my jam. During the week I kept trying to think of another ingredient I could put with the plums to make it a little more interesting and possibly even more delicious. It wasn’t until Saturday morning when I was getting prepared to start cooking that I looked down and saw some limes… Plum and lime jam – of course!

My mum’s recipe is 1:1 ratio of fruit and sugar… delicious, yes but high in sugar so I thought I would play with it a bit. I used 4 pounds of red plums that I cut in half and took out the seed. I didn’t cut them smaller because I wanted my jam to have some chunks of fruit in it. Plums and Sugar.jpg

My 4 pounds of halved plums went into a large. I had tasted the plums and they were really quite sweet so I decided to just add a single cup of sugar to the pot. I thought I could always add more later if it wasn’t sweet enough, but in the end I didn’t need to.

I put this pot onto the stove on a medium heat to start the stewing process. I added 1/2 cup of lime juice to the pot and stirred everything together. How easy is that! I just left everything to bubble away while I cooked some other things (fresh bread, triple chocolate marble mudcake – posts to come soon on those!)

Bubbling away.jpgI occasionally stirred the mixture to make sure it wasn’t sticking and also tasted it a couple of times to see if it was too tangy and needed more sugar. Once it was the consistency I wanted – jammy! I turned off the heat and let it cool. While it was cooling I sterilized a few jars.

I loved how this turned out, it was both sweet and tangy. The lime really gave the plums a zesty lift and made sure that the jam wasn’t just completely sweet. J. tried it out on some of the bread I had just baked and really enjoyed it. He like that it was tangy and tasted so purely of plum!

I really enjoyed making this. I haven’t ever made jam by myself and have only watched my mum do it when I was really young. I really only remember licking the spoon. For a first time effort I think I did well. We have a large supply of plum and lime jam now so I won’t need to make any for a while. I might even give some away as edible gifts… always a yummy present. It might make a great Christmas gift in a few months since it is such a fabulously festive color.

Now I just need to think of some other interesting jam combinations!

Tortino Pasta.jpgMy final night in Washington DC, I took a gamble and went to Founding Farmers, hoping that being by myself I could get a seat. Unfortunately the gamble didn’t pay off. They were booked out and there was also a line out the door. Never mind, I had a back up.

On my walks around the neighborhood near my hotel I had spotted a small, Italian trattoria that intrigued me. Tucked into the basement of a brownstone, in amongst residences, Tortino just looked like the perfect neighborhood restaurant. Inviting, small and fingers crossed, delicious!

I took a seat at the bar to eat and also because it was still happy hour, I ordered myself a bellini (prosecco with peach puree). The bellini was delicious and I had to make sure I didn’t drink in a few seconds.

I chatted with the bartender about football (NFL… GO BEARS!) for a while and then asked him to recommend a pasta dish Bellini.jpgfor me. After making sure I liked seafood he suggested the pasta special. Handmade spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, mussels, and broccoli in a garlic butter sauce! I went with his recommendation!

While waiting for my food to arrive I sipped on a second bellini – I couldn’t help it, they were just too delicious!

My pasta arrived! A large bowl filled with spaghetti and a surprisingly huge amount of mussels. The pasta was good, al dente, just how I like it and how it should be. The mussels were perfectly cooked and smothered in the garlic butter sauce. The crusty bread was great dipped in the sauce. And even though I am not a big broccoli fan, I ate every bite.

This was a lovely, intimate little restaurant – it would be perfect for a date night. The food was good Italian comfort food and they had lovely, friendly staff who chatted to me and kept me company at the bar. Oh, and the bellinis were yummy.

I was happy with my random choice, even though it wasn’t Founding Farmers. I will go back to this restaurant next time I am in DC and will also hopefully make it into Founding Farmers too!

Mussels.jpgLast night I walked around downtown DC and worked my way towards another delicious dinner, recommended by Everyday Sarah Jane.

St Arnold’s Mussel Bar on Jefferson Street was my final destination and it was worth the walk. I arrived at a great, but small basement bar. There was a line out the door but the one benefit of eating alone is getting to skip the long line, and be seated immediately.

Though there are other delights on their menu I was always going to have mussels, it Pilsner.jpgwas just a matter of choosing what flavor to go with. In the end I chose to have the House Specialty, forgoing the Thai curry mussels and the Mexican inspired mussels. The specialty is Mussels St. Arnold’s – Mussels cooked in a house beer sauce with caramelized shallot, garlic and thyme and finally… wait for it…duck fat! Seriously, who cooks mussels in duck fat!

After ordering my mussels, my beer arrived. They have a fantastic selection of beers to choose from and I am sure if J. was here we would have made a night of it. When i say we, imean me and J. would get me home… Traveling alone I settled for a single beer, a Bavik pilsner. Yum!

Frites and bread.jpgThe mussels arrived accompanied by frites and bread… Carbs, seafood and duck fat – I was in heaven!

The frites were crunchy and perfectly cooked, not too oily. Dunking the bread into the beer sauce seemed incredibly decadent. The mussels themselves were perfect. The steaming cast iron pot was filled with plump juicy mussels, all open, which I think is the mark of a good seafood restaurant.

The broth was sweet and savory at the same time. Not oily or fatty at all. If I hadn’t Duck fat broth.jpgbeen bursting by the end of the meal I would have asked for the broth to go and had it as soup today. So deliciously good. They were some of the best mussels I’ve ever had.

It was a good thing I had a 2 mile hike back to the hotel to work dinner off. Thank you fellow bloggers, we’re two for two on restaurants! Being seated quickly also meant I got happy hour food prices with the mussels and frites costing less than $10!!!! Love it.

Friday night I am going to try Founding Farmers, I wasn’t able to get a reservation but thought I might try walking in, even though it is incredibly popular. I have a back up if necessary. Wish me luck!

J’s Second Contribution… and his relationship advice!

Fellas… let me tell you about one of the greatest pasta dishes you need to memorize. Keep it as an ace in the hole, or use it as a pulled rabbit from the hat when you need to impress your lady. It’s so versatile that you can even use it to say sorry, make up for not putting the toilet seat down, or to barter out of doing the laundry for a while. Pasta Carbonara has to be one of the easiest but most delicious pasta dishes out there… the ultimate comfort food.

You’ll need:

-1lb of spaghetti (I used the whole wheat kind)

-1 cup of grated parmesan

-several cloves of garlic, chopped

-2 eggs

-several strips of pancetta (I live in AZ, so that’s not exactly readily available as I have no idea where the nearest Italian grocery/deli is, so bacon is completely acceptable)

-olive oil

-ground black pepper

-chopped parsley for garnish

Render down the pancetta (or bacon) in a pan with olive oil. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil to cook the pasta, making sure to salt the water as it begins to form a running boil. As the pancetta/bacon begins to crisp up, add the chopped garlic cloves (I use about 4) watching it to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Cook the pasta al dente since you’ll be finishing it in the same pan the garlic and pancetta/bacon are in. In a small bowl, mix together two eggs and a cup of parmesan and make sure there aren’t any lumps. Add some pasta water (very little by little since you don’t want scrambled eggs) to get the egg/cheese mixture to the consistency you like. I like mine to be about the same consistency as rice porridge.

Drain the pasta thoroughly and add it back to the pan with the pancetta/bacon and garlic, mixing together thoroughly to make sure the rendered fat and olive oil cover the pasta completely. Remove from the heat and mix in the egg/cheese mixture, tossing the pasta for an even coating. Be sure to add plenty of fresh cracked black pepper along with some dried parsley for garnish.

C. made some amazing garlic bread to go with this which went great to balance things out along with a glass of red wine. I unfortunately don’t drink rotten grape juice so I stuck with iced tea. There were a few servings left over for lunch at the office which were consumed with much satisfaction.

So fellas… the next time you need something pulled out of thin air to save your hides, whip this up in the kitchen and you can thank me later. Trust me with this, C. is half Italian and is as fussy about Italian food as I am about Korean and she loved this so much I haven’t had to do laundry for weeks.

Sunday last weekend we had so many leftovers from the dinner the night before I figured we would just eat a plate of that for dinner. After cooking a big dinner Saturday the last thing I wanted to do Sunday was cook. So J. and I cam up with this amazingly delicious sandwich. Gravy soaked pork with cheese and giardiniera on toasted bread. And so begins my Ode to the Pig Part III.

I grabbed the left over roast pork out of the fridge, along with the left over gravy. I sliced thin strips of the pork and put them in a small saucepan, covering with the gravy. I then just let this warm slowly. I also heated up some of the roasted veggies we had to use as a side to our sandwich.

J. in the meantime cut four thick slices of semolina bread and started toasting them under the broiler. He flipped them over and topped each side with some grated sharp cheddar cheese before putting them back under the broiler to melt.

Now it was time to assemble. On one side of the toasted bread and cheese we heaped large amounts of the gravy soaked sliced pork. On top of this we added heaped spoons of giardiniera. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it is a spicy pickled vegetable mix with carrots, pickles, peppers. So tangy and spicy it is fabulous on sandwiches. Lastly we just put the second piece of toasted bread and cheese.

These sandwiches were piled high but with some difficulty I managed to cut them in half. We sat down and bit into them and we were in porky, spicy, heaven!!! Amazing how great such a simple dish can taste and with no cooking at all. Cold pork turned into such a delicious dinner… the giardiniera add just the right amount of tanginess and spice. It was the perfect sandwich.

The pig did it again!

This morning J. and I had a free Saturday morning. We weren’t meeting friends to run, we didn’t have a million chores to do and we weren’t too exhausted to leave the house. This combination rarely occurs so we thought we would go out and explore Gilbert Farmers Market, not far away from our place.

Anyone who knows Melbourne, knows that we are completely spoilt with one of the best markets in the Southern Hemisphere, the Queen Victoria Markets. These open air markets are hard to compete with and I knew I wouldn’t find anything similar here in Phoenix but I was hoping the Gilbert Markets would offer some farm fresh fruit and veggies and other goodies.

The markets were fun, they were small but there were a couple of fresh fruit and vegetable stalls where we got somegreat produce. There were places selling meat (organic, grain fed), cheese, pickles and pastries. We stopped at one place and bought a quiche for a us to nibble on. J. bit into it and realised we really needed to heat it up, so that will be a snack for us later on today. We bought some loose leaf tea, jasmine oolong tea. We have a nightly routine in winter of finishing the night off with a pot of tea and had run out of supplies brought from Australia. I was really happy to find that stuff. There was also an Italian bakery stall where we bought a loaf of semolina bread, to see if I have found another place for us to get delicious bread.

Our favorite stall was Grandma’s Kitchen. This stall had an assortment of “jellies” or “jams”. We taste tested nearly all of them but were incredibly impressed with the habanero jam. Sweet and spicy all at the same time, it will be a great accompaniment with cheese and crackers. We actually went back to this place and bought a couple of extra bottles for gifts.

After the markets we wanted to get some lunch. None of the stalls or food trucks at the markets really had anything we craved so we thought we would just stop by Tortas Ahogadas on the way to do our grocery shopping. This plan was changed when we drove past a park with signs saying “Art & Vintage Car Show with Gourmet Food Trucks”. We thought we would give it a go, plus J. got to look at some Ferraris.

There were a 7 foodtrucks to choose from… icecream, crepes, philly cheesesteaks, burgers, hawaiian food, soba noodles, fry bread… we chose what we thought would have the most interesting and tasty food. Since J. said Philly steaks were boring I went with the fry bread truck, Emerson Fry Bread and he went with the Hawaiian food, Island Loco.

Fry bread is an Artisan Native American fried dough, I found it similar to a tortilla or pita bread. There were lots of options to choose from and I decided I would go with the one they were promoting as a “healthy choice”, the Daisey. This meant my fry bread was actually not fried but rather what they call dry. I thought this was a better option. The Daisey was grilled steak, cheese, spring mix, cucumber, tomato & creme fresh on the flat bread. The server handed it to me and told me to eat it like a taco.

The steak was marinated beautifully, with such amazing flavor. The fry bread was soft and delicious and all the topping were fresh and crunchy. For a quick lunch from a food truck I was really happy. Fresh, delicious and filling … the best things.

J. couldn’t order anything but the Kalua Pork Plate lunch at Island Loco. We loved this stuff when we were in Hawaii and it isn’t something you find very often. The pork came with rice and macaroni salad. There is something about Hawaiian style macaroni salad that takes us back to the beaches of Kauai. It is one of those strange comfort foods that reminds you of awesome vacations and delicious lunches by the beach. J. has had his share of Kalua pork and he said this was as soft, tender and flavorsome as any he has had. If they had have had ahi poke it would save us our next trip to Hawaii.

After we had lunch we wandered through the vintage cars and art. The cars were pretty cool and I know J. enjoyed looking at them. This was a great and unexpected little detour but we got food and that always makes us happy. We then headed off to do grocery shopping with our bellies full and a new market to visit once in a while.

On lazy nights, when neither of us want to cook and we just want to grab something quick, we have so many choices it is dizzying. Close to us we have Wendy’s, Burger King, Carl’s Junior, McDonald’s and In & Out Burger. This is just the fast food burger places without even touching on the others like Filiberto’s or KFC. As much as I may crave and want these choices I prefer to make a healthier, fresher choice and more significantly a cheaper choice, Lee’s Sandwiches.

Lee’s is a Vietnamese restaurant/bakery/cafe/take out place just around the corner from us. They do a huge menu of sandwiches and baguettes as well as croissants. It is a great place to pick up some crusty baguettes for home made garlic bread or just for dipping in soup. However J. and I have taken a liking to their banh mi (Vietnamese rolls).

There are 18 different kinds of banh mi on their menu and we are working our way through them. Though it is alittle difficult for us to stray from any of the pork options. The pork is just too good to pass up.

My favorite and the one I keep going back to is the #6. This is their BBQ pork roll which is so refreshing and delicious. Thin strips of BBQ pork , carrot, cucumber, onion, topped with chillies and cilantro. All of this goes on their freshly bake baguettes. They bake them right there, you can sit and watch the baguettes go around. They have the perfect crusty outside and soft fluffy inside and are the best vessel for the deliciously fresh vegetables and pork.

J. recently tried the #18 which is pork and cured pork. Of course he chose a pork on pork sandwich! He was really happy with it and said it was just as good as all the others we had tried. The meat filling changes in each sandwich but you still get the carrot, cucumber, onion, chillies and cilantro no matter what. That freshness is what makes them so good.

Of course we still have a few more to try but so far we haven’t had a bad one. Even the night we went and they had run out of baguettes and we had the croissants instead, we couldn’t complain.

The thing that amazes me about this place is that it is so cheap. Banh mi for the two of us costs a little more than $6.00 and that is a meal for us! You just have to love that. Lee’s is a chain and there are locations in California, Texas, Nevada, Oklahoma and of course Arizona.

I am so happy they are literally just around the corner.. it definitely helps me make a healthier fast food choice. Not  that I will stay away from other options completely but it is great to have a fast, fresh and completely yummy choice too! All for a bargain price of $6!!!

I was doing some cooking today of things to freeze for dinners and lunches over the next couple of weeks. I had made and frozen some meatballs and thought with the remaining ground beef I would make some burgers for J. and I for dinner tonight. This was a great idea except I didn’t want to go out and buy bread rolls. I thought why not make my own!

Well the difficulty here comes when I realise I don’t actually have any yeast. This is going to limit what bread I can make. I have previously made soda bread and thought I could do this but make rolls instead of one big loaf. This is fast and easy and I really love the crunchy crust on the outside. It is a heavier bread inside though so I will have to see how it works with burgers.

The recipe I use for this is an adaption or amalgamation of several different recipes I have used over the years.

My oven is preheating to 425 F (it takes a while so I did this before I even started on the dough). I a large bowl I put 4 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of sugar and I whisk it all together. In another small bowl I beat an egg and then add 1 3/4 cups of milk and 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar.

I form a well in the dry ingredients and then add the wet. Using the whisk I start to bring the dough together. It is really difficult to combine so I always end up using my hands. It doesn’t have to be a completely smooth dough, it is rough and rustic looking which I also like.

When it has formed a dough I cut it into 4 even pieces (this will make 4 large rolls) and shape them so that they are roundish. I grease a square cake tin to bake them in. If I use a flat tray the dough will spread too much and won’t keep the shape I want. Into the oven then for 35 minutes. I turned them around after 20 just so that they browned evenly.

The smell in the house is fantastic when they come out of the oven and they are delicious with butter and honey while still hot. I haven’t made the burgers yet so I will do a post about them later, fingers crossed the rolls work. If J. happens to read the blog this afternoon before getting home I guess dinner won’t be a surprise anymore. Oh well… the bread will be yummy though, let’s hope the burgers are too!

I love bread! It is probably my favourite comfort food and something I will often crave. There are a great many things that I love about my new home but unfortunately the bread isn’t one of them. Since moving to the US I have been on a search for what I like to refer to as “real” bread.

My search became necessary when I started noticing a strange aftertaste when eating my morning toast. The sweetness that “American” bread has is overwhelming and even came through my slatherings of butter & vegemite. Now, I know I can go to Wholefoods and get sourdough or baguettes but for an everyday bread I am after a wholegrain sliced loaf that goes great as toast, sandwiches, with eggs, however I want to eat it.

Finally after extensive research and a lot of unsuccessful taste testing we have found a bakery with “real” bread. Now, this isn’t like a bakery at home but is a close approximation compared with other bakery chains I have found here. Great Harvest is actually a franchise but the bread is delicious.

J. and I went by the bakery one Saturday afternoon, they had closed so we were just peaking in the window to see what they had on offer. As we had our noses pressed up against the window, two people in the back waved at us and came and unlocked the door to talk to us. They turned out to be the incredibly friendly owners and bakers. They asked what we were looking for and I got into my whole spiel about my search for unsweetened bread. They generously gave us a bag of rolls and said try these on the house and let us know what you think.

We couldn’t believe the generosity! Not to mention the taste of the bread when we finally made it home to taste the rolls. They were Honey Oats rolls so they were slightly sweet but certainly not the artificial sweetness with a horrible aftertaste that I had been experiencing.

Those rolls won me over and I have been slowly working my way through their different varieties of bread. Our current favorites are the jalapeño cheddar garlic loaf, which is only baked made on Thursday and we get occasionally because it is amazing as toast under eggs for breakfast. The other is more of an every day bread… the High 5 Fiber loaf which was exactly what I was searching for.

So my search has come to an end… I have a found my “real” bread substitute and even J. can taste the difference. We still have others to try but we definitely have our everyday loaf choice… Now time for a sandwich!!