Archive for May, 2014

Cookbook Review: Dairy Made Easy & “180 Cal (or Less!) Cheesecake” Ramekins

May 26, 2014

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Disclosure: Artscroll provided me with a copy of this book to review. Opinions are my own.

Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek have released another book in their “made easy” series in time for Shavuoth. Like the earlier books in this series, Dairy Made Easy is a slim book, very attractively designed. The target audience for this book seems to be cooks who already have plenty of comprehensive, basic cookbooks and are looking to freshen up their dairy menus with recipes that are creative but not too much of a patchke.

The recipes in Dairy Made Easy are clearly explained and reasonably do-able for most cooks.  While most of them look fairly easy to make, not all of them are dead simple. Recipes that sound delicious but a little involved: Arancini (deep-fried cheese-stuffed rice balls), chocolate croissants, and cheese buns/babka.

This being a dairy cookbook, the recipes feature lots of butter, cream and cheese. Most don’t have over-the-top amounts, but some do. The Three Cheese Quiche has a pint of sour cream and almost two sticks of butter in the crust and over 2 1/2 lbs. of cheese in the filling. The Cajun Creamy Pasta, the Penne a la Vodka, the Pesto Cream Sauce and the Alfredo sauce all use about a pint of heavy cream.

The authors do include a “Make it Light” page that lists the lighter recipes in the book and provides tips for lightening up some of the richer recipes. A sidebar explains how to use Greek yogurt as a substitute for higher fat ingredients like cream cheese or sour cream. (Throughout the book, the authors suggest using a particular brand of Greek yogurt and another brand of hard cheese.) There is also a “Make it Pareve” page.

Another thing to bear in mind: the book emphasizes pasta and bread, not whole grains and legumes. The main dishes in this book are primarily divided between the chapters “Pizza,” “Pasta,” and “Soups, Salads & Sandwiches.”  There are ten pasta dishes, five pizza/calzone recipes and four sandwich recipes. Besides these bread or pasta main dishes, there is one fish recipe, one quiche recipe and one frittata recipe.

All that being said, the bottom line with any cookbook is whether or not the recipes are appealing and actually work. On this count, the authors definitely deliver. I have liked everything that I have made from this book and there are a number of other recipes I want to try. Here is what I have already made from this book:

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Cold Brewed Coffee

May 23, 2014

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I don’t know why it took me so long to try cold brewed coffee. It is easy to make, convenient to have on hand in the refrigerator and the taste is superior to regular brewed (less bitter). I started with a recipe from Dairy Made Easy (review of book to follow), but I then looked online for other recipes and tips on making this.

Here is the basic idea: mix coffee grounds with water, steep for 12 hours and then strain out the coffee grounds. It is kind of like sun tea.

The one thing that annoyed me about cold brewing was the mess of straining out the coffee from the water. I was taking out my coffee pot, putting a filter in it and then straining the coffee through that filter. It took more time than I would like and was messy.

Looking online, I saw that some people deal with this by using a nut milk bag to hold the grounds (kind of like a giant tea bag). You just pull out the bag with the grounds inside and discard the grounds. No filtering! You do have to clean the nut milk bag.

Here is my solution: fill a paper coffee filter with coffee grounds, staple the filter closed so that the grounds can’t escape and then brew. When the coffee is done steeping, just pull your homemade coffee pod out of the water and toss it.

I have played around a bit with how much coffee and water I use. I find that the most that the coffee filter can hold (and still be easy to staple closed) is between 6-8 tablespoons ( 1.5 to 2 ounces). I add 3 cups of water to this, but if you like your coffee stronger, you can add less (about 2 1/4 cups).

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Neapolitan Cannelloni (Manicotti)

May 19, 2014

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This is how I explained Neapolitan Cannelloni (also known as manicotti) to my son: “Imagine blintzes, but filled with a lasagna cheese filling and topped with tomato sauce and melted cheese. My son pondered this for a while and then said, “Okay, that sounds good.”

It is good. It tastes like lasagna, but with a more delicate texture because crepes (or, as they are called in Italian, “crespelle”) replace the usual pasta.

If you want to make this recipe gluten-free, you can use a crepe recipe based on potato starch instead of flour. I have made this on Passover with Passover crepes with huge success.

If you are already making blintzes for Shavuoth, make extra crepes. Once you have the crepes made, this recipes is a complete snap to make (especially if you use bottled tomato sauce instead of homemade marinara).

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Note: If you google manicotti and cannelloni, you will see that there is some confusion as to the difference between the two dishes.  Some say the two are interchangeable, some say that the difference is that cannelloni have a bechamel sauce instead of marinara on top, and some say that cannelloni are properly made with pasta sheets while manicotti are made with crepes.

My recipe is based on two similar recipes, both from Italians, one of whom calls the dish cannelloni and one of whom calls the dish manicotti. I went with cannelloni because I made Delma Kelechava’s recipe first (before adding some changes from Stephanie Rhode’s recipe), and Delma calls this cannelloni.

What do the experts say? Well, Lucinda Scala Quinn has a recipe for cannelloni that is similar to this recipe. Mario Batali has a cannelloni recipe that is pasta sheets rolled with cheese filling and topped with bechamel and marinara. Lidia Bastianich has a cannelloni recipe that is stuffed pasta topped with bechamel and a manicotti recipe that is crepes filled with cheese and topped with marinara.

So, it is probably more accurate to call this manicotti (maybe), but since most people associate manicotti with pasta tubes, I still prefer cannelloni.

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Cheese Blintzes

May 19, 2014

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Blintzes are not really all that hard to make. A blintz is just a thin pancake (crepe or bletlach) wrapped around a filling and then sauteed in butter until golden brown on the outside.

There are two aspects that intimidate people: (1) making the crepe and (2) wrapping the crepe around the filling.

Mostly, making crepes is a matter of practice and adjusting your standards. You are rolling the crepes up, so they do not need to look perfect. A tear here or there can usually be worked around. As you make the crepes, you will improve your technique, figuring out how much batter you need for your pan and the best way to swirl the batter around to evenly coat the pan. You will fall into a rhythm, with each succeeding crepe looking nicer and being easier to make.

Rolling up blintzes is the same as rolling burritos. You put a line of filling on the bottom of the crepe, fold over the bottom of the  crepe to cover the filling, fold in the sides, and then roll it up.

 

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Cheater’s Tartine’s Country Bread

May 14, 2014

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The New York Times recently featured a simplified recipe for Chad Robertson’s sourdough bread (Tartine’s Country Bread) as well as a speedier version of Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread. Combining the two recipes, I came up with a yeast-based version of the Tartine bread that comes together in a few hours. The flavor is not the same, obviously, but it is very good, with a subtle sourdough flavor, a crackling crust and an open crumb.

The basic idea is that you substitute the sourdough starter with extra flour, water and a little yeast. The dough is given a stretch and fold every half hour for three hours as in the original recipe. The dough can then be shaped and given a 1 to 1 1/2 hour rise before baking (or you can refrigerate the dough overnight before or after shaping).

 

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Chunky Chickpea Guacamole

May 14, 2014

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Chickpea guacamole is everything that is good about guacamole, but with an added extra satisfying heft to it. Serve this with chips as a snack or spread this on whole wheat toast (maybe sprinkled with a little crumbled feta) as a light lunch.

The proportions are not set in stone. You can increase the amount of avocado or increase the amount of chickpeas.

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Swiss Chard, Chickpea and Tamarind Stew

May 2, 2014

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This recipe, adapted from Ottolenghi’s Plenty, is very much like the Tunisian ragout of Swiss chard and chickpeas called Morshan. The Swiss chard gets meltingly soft and gets infused, along with the chickpeas, with tangy, hearty flavors that are completely unexpected.  Morshan is heavy on the garlic and coriander. Here, coriander is still dominant, but caramelized onion replaces garlic; caraway and tamarind form an intriguing undertone.

The caraway most surprised me because I associate it with rye bread, but it is a spice used in the Middle East. Ottolenghi calls for caraway in a few of his recipes, including his barley risotto (Jerusalem).

 

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