Saturday, May 31, 2014

Week 19: 5-Minute Herbed Focaccia

Back in 2012 I did a post on 5-Minute Artisan Bread. I had my disbelievers, but once they made the bread, they were hooked. It really was that simple. This recipe, for Italian focaccia, is even easier and also lends itself to a variety of flavors, depending upon what you have on hand in your garden or pantry.

You don’t need anything special to make this tasty treat, just the basics will do. But I like to dress mine up, usually with fresh herbs from the garden, but I think some kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes would work nicely as well.

The base of the bread is flour, sugar, salt, yeast, egg and butter. It all mixes up easily in a bowl and then you just let it sit for an hour to let the yeast do its magic. Then you knead it a few times, throw it in a greased pan, sprinkle it with some salt and herbs (dry or fresh) and shove it in the oven. I like to chop fresh herbs and use half inside the dough (which I add while kneading) and the rest sprinkled on top with the salt.

This focaccia can be served on its own, piping hot from the oven, with a meal, or let it cool and use it as a base for a sandwich.

It literally takes 5 minutes of your time, with an hour to rise and about 20 minutes to cook. I suggest you double the recipe, because it won’t last long once it comes out of the oven. I even served it with some of the leftover chimichurri sauce from last week’s tri-tip recipe and it was beyond good. A little schmear went a long way.

So what are you waiting for? 

Recipe after the jump

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Week 18: Tri-Tip with Chimichurri

This week for Sunday dinner I rummaged through all the recipes I had torn out of magazines to find something a bit different. The family doesn’t mind being guinea pigs and this week they were more than happy after trying this unusually cooked but flavorful offering.

The recipe, originally published in the June 2013 issue of Sunset magazine, called for either bison or beef tri-tip cooked on a barbeque with a cast-iron pan. While bison is a nice lean meat, it isn’t widely available (although Butcher Son could obtain some if I had so desired), so I tested it with the more standard beef.

The method used to cook the meat is Argentine in origin and is called a la plancha—requiring a cast iron grill pan, skillet or griddle and cooked in a barbeque.  According to the recipe, this method creates an even quick sear that leaves a crusty exterior while staying moist and juicy on the inside.

I found this to be an easy to prepare dish, suitable for weeknight dinners but fancy enough to serve to guests. What puts the dish over the top is the huge amount of flavor garnered from the rosemary-parsley chimichurri sauce. In fact I wanted to ladle to sauce onto the roasted fingerling potatoes as well. Or maybe just drink it with a straw, it was that good, and the family wholeheartedly agreed. A winner recipe that is sure to make its way into our rotation this summer. And there is no reason that I shouldn’t keep a jar of the chimichurri sauce in my refrigerator, as it will be great on most any kind of meat, as well as roasted potatoes and maybe even some select vegetables.

While the recipe called for an overnight marinade, it isn’t strictly necessary. If you remember to do it the night before great; if you have time in the morning before work, that works, too. I only had 4 hours of marinating, but in actuality an hour or two will do the trick, primarily because the sauce is so excellent that any flavor is overwhelmed by it. And if you have no time to marinate….no problem. 

Recipe on next page

Monday, May 19, 2014

Week 17: Summer Cauliflower Salad

I love roasted cauliflower. In actuality, I love pretty much any roasted vegetable. Such an easy dish to make: just cut up the veg, sprinkle with olive oil, and bit of salt and pepper, and roast at 400-450 degrees until done (turning once or twice). Some times I even get creative and add in some sliced onion, maybe chopped fresh herbs from the garden, or small slivers of lemon. Ups the taste quotient and they are all things I have on hand. But with summer coming, serving hot vegetables just doesn’t work. We do a lot of grilling to avoid heating up the house and while you can certainly grill cauliflower in a basket, I was feeling like something a bit different, hence my search for a salad version of roasted cauliflower.

I found a basic recipe on Tori Avey’s site, which I modified slightly. I roasted the cauliflower early in the morning, to avoid heating the kitchen during our mini heatwave. While it roasted I prepped the remaining items, so the process took about 30 minutes and then once the cauliflower was cool, it was a simple toss, put the fridge and it was ready for dinner later that day.

It was a bit disappointing that he family didn’t rave about this recipe. Even after marinating in the dressing all day, the salad was a little flat. Although it was better on the second day, it definitely needs a bit of adjustment.

First, after roasting the cauliflower pieces, I would cut them in half. (Yes, you could just cut them up smaller to begin with, but then they would be cooked before getting properly caramelized, which lends a marvelous flavor.) By cutting the in half, more surface area would be covered by the dressing. Secondly, I think that making slightly more dressing would help in marinating the vegetables, so I have increased the ingredients accordingly. You could also allow it to sit overnight and serve the next day, to allow for more flavor to permeate the cauliflower.

Overall, with adjustments, I think this is a good dish and a way to enjoy cauliflower during the summer months.

Summer Cauliflower Salad

1 large head cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1/2 lemon

6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
16 pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
3 tablespoons capers

Preheat to 425 degrees and set out a rimmed baking or cookie sheet.

Pull the leaves off of the cauliflower base. Cut off the lower part of the stem. Quarter the cauliflower and then slice each quarter into 8-10 pieces. (Flat surfaces are best as they will caramelize better.0 Place the cauliflower in a large bowl and drizzle them with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the minced garlic florets to the bowl. Cut your lemon half into 3 long pieces and then slice them thinly and add to the bowl. Toss the mixture until thoroughly coated with the olive oil.

Spread the mixture out in an even layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Place baking sheet into preheated oven and let the cauliflower roast for 10 minutes. Turn the slices and return to the oven for 10-20 minutes, until tender and browned. Remove from oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, prep your salad dressing and ingredients. In small jar, mix 4 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Shake well.

Once cauliflower is cool, add to bowl with the flat leaf parsley, olives and capers and toss gently with dressing. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Chill.

Yield: 6 servings