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It's been about a year since the start of my plant based diet. As of now, I don't see turning back.

Hatch Chile Salsa Verde

August 23, 2015

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Have you seen “The War of the Worlds”,   the original 1953 “Golden Era” of sci-fi movies version?  It’s a big budget, Technicolor film that was quite a hit during it’s day.  In my view,  it’s very much an entertaining movie even for today’s era of special effects extravaganzas.   While watching a dvd of it recently,  I could imagine the blockbuster impact it had on audiences at the time.  It’s a great movie all around.  There is a scene early in the movie where the townspeople,  officials, and journalists are gathered around a smoky crater where what they think is a meteor has crashed.   The curious onlookers are discussing what do with the site.  Someone suggests turning the area into a tourist attraction.  A Mexican bystander exclaims enthusiastically that  ”…tamales,  enchiladas, and hot dogs” can be sold to visitors.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal today, but this was 1953 Hollywood,  decades before food channels and the internet.  What’s also interesting to me is that he wants to sell Mexican and American food.  He looked, spoke  and ate like he could be one of our neighbors.  Hotdogs are one of those foods that easily crosses cultural lines.  We might have put salsa on ours, or taken a jalapeno with the yellow mustard or relish, but it’s still a hotdog.  Fast forward 60 years,  you can be sure traditional and non-traditional food trucks would be vying for space around that meteor,  and if they’re selling Mexican food and hot dogs, imagine the fusion menu that might be offered.  The food world has come a long way in the past 10-20 years don’t you think?

Now on to the salsa.  The Hatch green chile buying season is winding down for us.   As I mentioned in my “Hatch Green Chile and Roasted Garlic Sourdough Bread” post, we  get them in our stores only 2 or 3 weeks out of the year.  These chiles, which are imported from New Mexico, are very flavorful and versatile.  I have been enjoying incorporating them into just about everything except my coffee.   For example I’ve been adding them to a quick vegan rice pilaf/stir fry type of dish I like to make. (There’s fusion for you.) I’ve also been topping my potato tacos as well as my lentils or beans with some of the roasted diced chiles.   Today I’m making  a salsa verde with the help of a molcajete once again.  See my previous post, “Salsa de Chile Pequin” for more photos.  You may use the similar looking Anaheim chiles as a substitute,  but it won’t be quite the same.  Jalapeno or serrano peppers are other options. Our stores had a mild variety as well as a hot variety of Hatch pepper.  I used hot chiles for this recipe.

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To roast or not to roast.   The Hatch chiles should be broiled or roasted.  Tomatillos are either broiled, oven roasted or pan roasted.  It’s nice to get the black blotches if possible.  The cooking brings out flavor and sweetness from them.   As far as the garlic and onion, you can do the same to whatever degree you want.  I did them both ways and prefered to keep them raw this time.

 

Ingredients:

4 medium garlic cloves

3-4 tablespoons roughly chopped onion

3 Hatch green chiles for a hot salsa (2 for mild)

7-8 small tomatillos

leaves from 4-5 sprigs fresh cilantro

salt to taste

a pinch or two sugar (optional)

fresh lime juice to taste (optional)

 

Broil the Hatch chiles and tomatillos until they have softened a bit and you have some darkened spots.  Turn them over from time to time to cook evenly.  The tomatillos will probably take longer. It may take about 15 to 20 minutes for them to be done. Don’t let anything turn to mush as you want substance to work with in the molcajete.  After the chiles cool, peel them and remove the seeds.

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Begin by grinding the peeled garlic cloves into a paste with the tejolote(pestle). Add the onion and continue working to a paste.  Next go in the chiles.  Give them a rough chop beforehand if you want.  No need to make a complete paste.  Leave a bit of chunkiness if you like.   Now work the tomatillos in one by one.  You can peel them before,  but the molcajete will take care of the peels if you keep at it.  I like to at least keep the darkened blotches in the salsa.  Careful not to squirt juice out while smashing!   The salsa should be somewhat chunky.   Add chopped cilantro and season with salt.  Sugar and lime juice are optional.  It’s really an easy salsa to make and the texture and flavor is distinct from those made with a blender.  This simple but tasty sauce will brighten up your taco.

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It went pretty good with the black bean nachos.

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Salsa de Chile Pequin

August 19, 2015

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I have these dried chile pequins that have been  around in my kitchen for awhile now.  They are usually a cook’s third choice after the more popular and accessible serrano or jalapeno peppers when making a salsa ranchera or salsa verde for example.  But I very often pick several from my pequin bush to accompany a meal.  The bush yields much more than I can eat  so I either give some away or pickle them.  That’s why I seem to always have a lot of dried ones to make use of. As you may know,  they are extremely fiery.  I love the burst of flavor and heat of the fresh pequins.  If you’re not careful, they can hurt,  especially if you chew slowly and deliberately or if you catch some in your throat.  Toasting  dried chile pequins bring out a wonderful nutty flavor which can best be appreciated by biting one on it’s own.  Because they are so hot,  a little to go a long way.  They  will not contribute as much flavor as other chiles like Anchos or Pasillas which need much more to get the same amount of heat.   Many times though, I want a less complex tasting salsa to top my taco or to dip my tostadas.

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I’m using a molcajete today to make “salsa molcajeteada”.  Before blenders were available to the public (1937 according to sources), this was the only way to make this type of salsa.  They lend your sauce a touch more of authenticity.  The texture that results from “molcajeteando la salsa” adds an enjoyment that’s a little hard to explain.  It’s a bit chunky,  maybe a little bit juicy, depending on how you roast the tomatoes and how long you grind down the ingredients. It looks and feels more natural.  A blender cannot duplicate a salsa made in a molcajete no matter how carefully you pulse.

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I was honored to have my grandmother’s molcajete passed down to me.  I remember years ago she told me it belonged to her grandmother’s grandmother.  I don’t have any reason to doubt her but that would mean it’s been in the family for 6 generations?!  That’s a little bit hard to imagine. I’m sure nobody has ever had to send it in for broken parts either.

I didn’t have to worry about curing the molcajete since it has long been prepared for use. (Well more than a century ago?)  I’ll only mention today that if you decide to get one, it needs to be seasoned before use to remove tiny lava particles.   Another important point is to never use soap to clean your molcajete.  Read up on types, care and maintenence before buying one.  There is a lot of info and video on the internet.

Dried chile pequins can be bought in many well stocked supermarkets nowadays.  If they are not available,  substitute with some fresh jalapeno or serrano pepper.

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Ingredients:

4 medium cloves garlic

3-4 tablespoons roughly diced onions

10-12 chile pequins (for moderate heat)

4 ripe tomatoes

5-6 sprigs fresh cilantro

freshly squeezed lime juice optional to taste

salt to taste

 

Begin by pan roasting or broiling your tomatoes.  To pan roast,  heat  a heavy skillet on medium and let the tomatoes roast until they have cooked and softened somewhat.  Avoid overcooking to a mush.  You can also broil the tomatoes for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning them over from time to time.  In a separate dry pan,  toast the chile pequins until they release their aroma and are lightly browned.  Try one if you like.

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Smash or grind the peeled garlic to a paste consistency with the tejolote(pestle).  Add the toasted chile pequins and grind well.  Next add the onions and grind everything into a paste.  You’re ready to add the tomatoes one by one, grinding or smashing well after each additions.  You can choose to remove the peel,  but I find that the molcajete helps pulverize them. The charred bits add flavor.  Add the chopped cilantro and optional lime juice and season well with salt.   Many cooks add some of the salt in the beginning to help smash the ingredients.

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The molcajete and tejolote will extract more flavor from your ingredients than a blender.  You can work the ingredients as much as you like,  making it chunkier or more blended to your liking.

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The simplest of salsas can be the most memorable.

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Hatch Green Chile and Roasted Garlic Sourdough Bread

August 14, 2015

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If you want sourdough bread bursting with a southwestern flair, you have it right here.  Packed with flavor,  ingredients include the Hatch green chiles,  freshly toasted and ground pasilla chiles and cumin, and of course the roasted garlic.   The overall flavor turned out nicely balanced.  The cumin is roughly ground so that every now and then you catch a  little burst of its flavor.  The pasilla chile, paprika and oregano are just barely in the background. Not one of the ingredients overpowers any of the others.  Many times I’ll  make a regular bread version first to get a rough idea of how much of each ingredient to use.   Sourdoughs take at least 2 days while the simpler breads only take a few hours.  Since I can only make sourdough bread on weekends, it saves me from going  weekend to weekend  coming up with a good recipe.  For instance,  I knew I had to make changes on the amount of green chiles and comino after I tried the tester.

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Hatch green chiles make their way to Austin during August for a couple of weeks.  Roasters that look like giant bingo cages are brought in to roast hundreds, probably thousands of pounds of chiles. The green peppers are grandly promoted in some of our supermarkets with all kinds of products featuring the chiles.  You’ll find tortilla chips,  all kinds of salsas,  breads,  dips,  beverages, and much more proudly displayed for sale.  What’s the big deal about these chiles?  Because of the unique growing conditions, authentic Hatch green chiles are distinct in flavor and quality and must come from a certain area around Hatch, New Mexico.  The small town in New Mexico has a festival devoted to the famed chile every year around Labor day.  I’ve never been to it,  but a friend co-worker who lived in New Mexico talks enthusiastically about it and the chiles.   Do you see fresh Hatch green chiles in your town during this time as well?  I wonder how far they travel in the U.S.

 

Instead of presenting a detailed step by step recipe,  I’ll just list the ingredients and give a general description of the procedure.  I’ll be happy to go over it in more detail if someone is curious.

 

This will make 2 medium size loaves

Levain:

1 1/2 teaspoons starter refreshed 8 hours before

100 grams bread flour

100 grams water (70 degrees F.)

Final Dough:

All of the levain

600 grams bread flour

200 grams whole wheat flour

400 grams water (78 degrees)

2 garlic bulbs

5 Hatch green chiles

1 tablespoon pasilla chile powder

1 teaspoon comino powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

18 grams salt

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The night before I baked,  I made the levain.  I also roasted the green chiles  and garlic bulbs to have ready the next morning.

On the morning of the baking,  I peeled the green chiles and removed the seeds.  I also toasted a pasilla pepper and some whole comino to grind. This could be done the night before as well.

I prepared the dough adding all the ingredients except salt. The levain is dissolved in water, the flours are mixed, then the rest of the ingredients are added except salt.  The dough is left to autolyse for 30 minutes.  I then added the salt and let it ferment for about 4 hours in a plastic container, giving it turns every half hour for 3 hours.  For some reason this dough took longer to smooth out and become airy. It might have to do with all the diced green chiles that were in it.

I divided the dough into 2 portions and shaped them.  I placed them in bannetons and gave them about a 4 hour final proof.  They are placed on parchment paper and scored.

I baked them at 475 degrees in a convection oven for 10 minutes, misting them with water 3 or 4 times during this period.  I then lowered the oven to 405 degrees and continued to bake them for about 20 minutes.

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Notes: I took cloves from 1 1/2 of the 2 roasted garlic bulbs and mashed them before adding them to the dough.  I added the remaining cloves whole.

You can substitute all the spices in the recipe with your favorite chile powder.

You can substitute the Hatch green chile with Anaheim peppers though it probably won’t taste the same. Poblano peppers are another option.

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Besides croutons, this loaf makes great sandwich bread.

I’m going to take this to Angie’s Fiesta Friday and share this.  I’m very sure I’ll find a lot of tasty food over there.

Chilled Potato and Poblano Pepper Soup

August 11, 2015

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You know that Salvador Dali painting “The Persistence of Memory”(I looked it up),  the one with the melting pocket watch? I’m always reminded of it during these blistery hot Texas summers.  The streets look and feel hot enough to melt your shoes and time seems to be stuck at high noon.  A good chilled (vegan) soup is always a welcome meal for me at this time of year.  Gazpacho, chilled carrot and coconut, chilled tomato,  or beet are just a few that I enjoy.   Now,  to describe some foods,  there is “sweet and sour”,  “hot and sour”,  “chaux froid”,  and maybe “sweet and spicy”.  These are used in names of foods that have 2 seemingly opposing,  or at least distinct,  elements in the flavor or making of.  Can you think of any others?   This potato soup could be described as “hot and chilled”,  “spicy and chilled”, “spicy cold”, or perhaps “fiery chilled”.  Traditional vichysoisse is off my vegan diet of course,  so I left out the cream and added a couple of Mexican ingredients.  This full flavored sopa has a few distinct elements going on,  the earthy taste of potatoes, the hot spiciness of the Poblano peppers, the herbal green taste of the cilantro, thyme, bay leaf, and peppers,  and the cold temperature of the soup itself.   By adding a garnish of your choice, you can further enhance the flavor. Now that I think of it,  a melting pocket watch has 2 distinct qualities going on,  a solid object and its softening as it melts.

For about 2 quarts of soup:

2 Poblano peppers for a mild soup,  3 for a hotter flavor

1 3/4 # to 2# potatoes peeled and cut into chunks

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves roughly minced

1 small leek (white part only with some green) sliced

1 small bay leaf

Pinch of dried thyme

4 cups vegetable stock (plus more as needed for consistency )

4 to 5 sprigs of fresh cilantro

Salt to taste

Black or white pepper optional

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Broil the Poblano peppers for about 15-20 minutes on low to blister them.  Turn them over from time to time to broil evenly.  Remove from the oven and let them cool.  Peel,  cut them open,  and remove the seeds and stem.  Roughly chop the peppers and set them aside.  Two peppers will give a mild pleasant spiciness, three gives more kick. I used three but used part of one to garnish with.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks.

Heat the olive oil over low-medium heat in a pot and saute the (well washed) leek a couple minutes to sweat. Add the garlic and saute a minute or two.  Add the thyme and bay leaf and continue another minute.  Don’t let anything brown or burn. Add the potatoes and stock.  Bring to a simmer and cover.

Cook the potatoes until they are tender then add the roasted peppers and cilantro to simmer for just a couple of minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Let the soup cool down a few minutes to puree.  A hand immersion blender works really well.  Otherwise take your trusty processer and puree in batches.  I left the bay leaf in there since I was using a blender.  If you are processing it,  you probably want to remove the bay leaf.  I don’t think you’ll be able to get it completely smooth with the leeks and garlic as well. Season to taste with salt and optional pepper.

Put the soup in a container to chill down in the refrigerator. The soup will thicken up as it cools so you may need to add more stock.  The soup tasted great when hot, so I couldn’t wait for it to chill down.  Have you noticed that hot food seems to bring out spiciness but will temper down when chilled? Serve very cold in chilled cups or bowls.  This soup lends itself to many different kinds of garnish to add another layer of flavor.  Roasted corn kernels,  red bell pepper,  fresh oregano, basil or cilantro,  or croutons are a few examples.

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As I discovered, it’s also very tasty served hot as a fall or winter soup.

 

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Let’s see,  there is also “Baked Alaska”,   “iced coffee”,  “fried ice cream”….

A Tribute to Selma: Wholemeal Sourdough Loaf

July 22, 2015

I was saddened to hear about the passing away of Selma,  a very dear friend to many in the blog world.  Her enthusiastic and engaging spirit leaves a deep and  positive impression on all who came to know her through Selma’s Table.  Even though I didn’t get to know her as much as others did,  I was still a receiver of her warm and friendly thoughts on some of my posts.   She was quite versatile in the kitchen,  cooking up a wide variety of delicious looking foods from around the world.  She also had a visual knack for photographing her food.  Though the photos looked spontaneous and as if the food was on the verge of being devoured,  you could tell she put some thought into it.  I had the impression that she had been blogging for years.  But when I went to her “Archives”,  I saw that she had only been going since August 2013.  When I read her “About”,  I saw that she had lived and cooked on 3 continents, an experience that gave her a very knowledgeable and unique perspective to cooking.  Most  important perhaps is that she was a big contributor to the camaraderie that was created among the circle of bloggers she was a part of.  Please visit Angie’s very Special Fiesta Friday Tribute to Selma where you’ll find more about her.

I was impressed with her bread baking skills.  Anyone who keeps a sourdough culture going very likely has an “all in” attitude with bread making.   I enjoyed reading about her “Wholemeal Sourdough Loaf” .   The process is an involved 3 day affair.  It was a very beautiful looking loaf.  In her honor,  I made a wholemeal sourdough loaf very close to her version.  My schedule doesn’t let me work it over 3 days,  so I adapted it to a 2 day process.  I followed her 50-50 ratio of  bread flour to wholemeal flour to get the flavor as near hers as possible.  I also used a generous amount of poppy seeds as she did to garnish the crust.

The result was excellent bread,  with a tasty,  full flavored,  slightly tangy crumb.  I also very much liked the flavor and appearance the poppy seeds gave the crust.  If she had tried it,  I bet she would have enjoyed it and given me good positive comments and suggestions.  Coming from a fellow bread maker,  I would have been all ears. We would have then struck up a nice conversation about our bread making processes,  our sourdough culture,  feeding schedules,  our influences,  and so on.   I would have eventually told her I never thought of naming my sourdough culture.   I wonder if someone took on to take care of her “Twinkle”.

 

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Levain:

1 1/2 teaspoons sourdough starter (refreshed 8 hours before)

100 grams water (at 78 degrees Fahrenheit or 25.5 Celcius.)

50 grams bread flour

50 grams wholemeal (whole wheat)flour

Final dough:

All the levain

675 grams water (at 78 degrees F. or 25.5 C.)

500 grams bread flour

500 grams wholemeal flour

20 grams salt plus 40 grams water

 

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Make the levain the night before you plan to bake.  Dissolve the sourdough starter in the 100 grams of water.  Add the 50 grams each of wholemeal and bread flours and mix well until it is all wet. Cover with a wet kitchen towel and let it sit overnight on the counter. At a 78 to 82 degree Fahrenheit (25.5-27 degrees Celcius)environment,  the levain should take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours to ferment properly.  Take a spoonful of levain and drop it in a bowl of water. If it floats, it’s ready to use. Time your process so that you begin the bread making at your convenience. I make my levain around 9 or 10 pm so that I can start early the next morning.

To make the dough:  Put the 675 grams of water in a large bow.  Add the levain and disperse it.  Mix the two flours together until it looks uniform.  Add the flour mixture to water/levain solution and mix well until it is all moistened.  Cover with a wet kitchen towel and let it autolyse for 20 to 30 minutes.

Dissolve the salt in the 40 grams of water as best as you can.  Squelch ( I like the word Selma used in her instructions) the salt solution into the dough.  Place your dough in a lightly oiled container for fermenting.  Cover with plastic.

After 30 minutes, give the dough a “turn”.  Grab a lower portion of the dough and stretch it over the top. Do this another 2 or 3 times. Cover the dough once again. In another 30 minutes, repeat the process. You’ll continue the turns at half hour intervals for 3 hours.  During the last hour, handle the dough gently so as not to break up the tiny holes that are beginning to form.  After 3 hours the dough should be airier, and about 20 to 30 percent larger in volume. It also depends on the temperature of your kitchen. If you need more time, continue the process a little longer until the dough is ready.

When the dough is properly fermented remove it from the container and place it on your work counter.  A marble pastry board works nicely for this.  With a pastry cutter,  divide the dough into 2 or 3 portions.  Shape each portion into a round.  With the help of your pastry cutter,  gently work the portions so that you create good surface tension.  This helps create a condition for good oven spring.  Lightly flour the dough with flour and cover to let rest for 20 or so minutes.

Carefully turn over one of the portions upside down. Get a hold of about 1/3 of  right side of the round,  stretch it to your right, and pull it over the middle.  Do the same with the left side, the side closest to you,  and the side furthest from you.  Turn the dough over so that the smooth side is once again on the top.  Repeat with the other portions.  Selma also used this technique for shaping.

This dough is wet enough to require bannetons or proofing baskets.  Without them,  the dough would flatten out during the final proofing.  Line your baskets with a smooth kitchen cloth.  Dust them with flour so that the dough does not stick to them.  Place the dough in the cloth-lined basket upside down.  Again, lightly flour the top and cover with plastic.  Now cover with the overhanging cloth.  Repeat with the other portions.  Let them proof for about 3 hours.  They will have increased in volume by about 30 percent.  If not, let them proof longer. It depends on the ambient temperature.  The warmer it is, the faster the proof.

About 30 minutes before baking,  pre-heat your oven to 500 degrees Fahenheit (260 Celcius).  Put your baking stone in if using one.

Cut out a piece of parchment paper slightly larger than size of the dough. Uncover the dough from the cloth and plastic and place the parchment paper on top.  Place a pizza peel on top.  Carefully turn the whole thing upside down.  Remove the basket,  then the cloth.  You now have the dough sitting on the parchment paper and peel.  Sprinkle the dough with poppy seeds or topping of your choosing and score the dough.  Your are ready to slide it onto your stone or baking sheet.

With a water mister or spritzer, mist the oven 3 times during the first 7 or 8 minutes of baking, then lower the oven to 450 degrees F. (232 Celcius).  The loaves should be done in about 20 minutes.  Rotate them about halfway through baking to insure even baking.

Remove from the oven and place them on a rack to cool completely before slicing.

 

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I made a simple hummus to go along with the bread though I bet her “Roast Fennel and Cannellini Bean Puree” and “Roast Aubergine w/miso &Harissa”  would be perfect.

Thank you Selma for sharing so much.

 

Roasted Tomato and Jalapeno Bread

February 4, 2015

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What is “Southwestern Cuisine”?  Some food history enthusiasts see it as a particular culinary movement influenced by Native American, Mexican, Spanish, and cowboy food  that began during the 1980’s. Other may view “Southwestern” food as the fusion of the food of these cultures that has been developing into regional traditions throughout states like Texas,  New Mexico, Colorado, California for at least a couple of centuries.  Either way, the food is characterized by bold, rustic flavors with  chiles, corn, tomato, beans, and of course meat and poultry faring prominently.  Trying to define “Southwestern”  food  has had me looking down a wormhole that I’m not ready to go down yet.  Is Tex-Mex considered Southwestern food?  This bread, though not traditional,  includes  jalapenos,  tomatoes, and  cornmeal in addition to  wheat flour.

The reason for this bread really is to celebrate the One Year Anniversary of “Fiesta Friday” ,  a virtual potluck of foods hosted by Angie of “The Novice Gardener”.  This brilliant idea of a virtual weekly event has brought together many food bloggers together to share their labor of loves.  The passion and creativity behind the food is always truly inspiring.   There are usually  vegan and vegetarian options as well,  so there is something for everybody.   I bring this bread to acknowledge Angie’s  tremendous hard work and commitment it takes keep this weekly event going.  I’ve seen that it has added much fun and joy to blogging for so many.  This simple bread is not a tour de force appetizer, entrée,  or dessert you’ll regularly see at Fiesta Friday,  but I think it’ll make a decent accompaniment.

I have to admit though that this recipe needs tweaking.  The crumb was tighter than I would have preferred and that was no doubt caused by the use of cornmeal and whole wheat flour.   Leaving out the cornmeal I think would give it a more airy and tender crumb.  The cornmeal didn’t add much flavor either.  I think I would prefer a simpler flavored dough to let the roasted tomato and jalapeno flavor come out more.  This bread deserves an updated and revised recipe.  I may include the new improved version at this post.

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For 2 large or 3 medium size loaves.

Pate fermente:

3 cups bread flour

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups water

Cornmeal soaker:

1/4 cup cornmeal

1/4 cup water

Slow roasted tomatoes:

3 # ripe tomatoes or 3 pints cherry tomatoes

Olive oil to drizzle

Fire roasted jalapenos:

1 to 2 medium size jalapenos depending on how spicy you want the bread

Final dough:

All of pate fermente

All of cornmeal soaker

2 cups bread flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 3/4 teaspoon yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

All of the roasted tomatoes

The fire roasted jalapeno pepper

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To make the pate fermente mix the bread flour,  yeast, and salt together in your mixing bowl.  Add the water and stir to form a loose shaggy dough.  Mix on the recommended speed for your mixer until it is smooth and elastic,  about 5 to 7 minutes.  Shape into a ball and place in an oiled bowl.  Move the dough around so that all sides get oiled.  Cover with plastic and let it sit to ferment until it is about 1 1/2 times larger in volume.  Carefully degass the dough to reduce it to the original size.  Cover it again with plastic and store overnight in the refrigerator.

For the cornmeal soaker mix well together the cornmeal and water in a small container. Cover with plastic and let it sit at room temperature overnight.  This helps soften the cornmeal and develops a little flavor.

To roast the tomatoes,  slice them in half,  place them cut side up on an oiled baking tray, and drizzle lightly with oil.  Put them in an oven preheated to 225 degrees and roast for 5 to 6 hours.  Cherry tomatoes will take less time,  maybe 3-4 hours,  so watch them carefully.  Sometimes I prick the tomatoes with a fork from time to time to help evaporate the liquid.  The tomatoes should shrink, lose most of their moisture,  and develop a more intense flavor.  You can do this the night before and then store in the refrigerator.

To fire roast the jalapenos,  place them above a flame on your stove top and char them slightly.  If you don’t have gas flame,  you can also roast them in your oven.

On baking day,  remove the pate fermente from the refrigerator about an to 1 to 1 1/2 hours before you begin to allow to get to room temperature.   Rough chop the tomatoes and allow to reach ambient temperature.  Finely chop the jalapenos as well.  Include most or all the seeds depending on how spicy you want the bread to be.

When the dough is ready,  cut it into about 10-12 pieces with a knife or pastry cutter.  Put the pieces in your mixing bowl along with the bread flour,  yeast,  salt, and cornmeal soaker.  Mix everything together well with a spatula to form a loose dough.   If the dough seems too dry, add some water it get it manageable enough to knead.  Now mix with the paddle attachment for 3 to 4 minutes.  Begin adding the chopped tomatoes and jalapeno.  Depending on how moist they are,  the dough may get wetter.  Add bread flour as necessary as you continue adding the rest of the tomatoes. Continue mixing until the dough is smooth and elastic. This should take abut 5 more minutes.

Remove the dough from your mixer,  form it into a ball, and place it in an oiled bowl.  Roll the dough around to get it oiled on all sides. Cover with plastic and let it ferment until it doubles in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl,  lightly degass it,  and divide it into 2 or 3 portions.  Form them into a  round shape.  Put each on parchment paper (if using a baking stone),  lightly oil them with spray oil,  and cover with plastic.  If not using a baking stone,  put them on an oiled baking tray. Let them proof until just about twice in volume.  While they are proofing,  pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees.  Be sure to put your baking stone in place if you have one. The parchment paper makes it easy to transfer the dough from your counter to oven.

When the dough is ready,  lightly top with cornmeal, and slash them as desired.  Place them in the oven.  Spritz with a water mister to simulate steam.  Do this 2 more times,  within 10 mintutes and lower the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake until they reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees,  about 20 to 25 minutes.  Put them on a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Notes:  The trickiest part about mixing the dough is keeping it from getting too wet while adding the tomatoes.  If you didn’t fully roast them,  they will release much of their juice,  requiring an addition of flour.

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Baby lima bean soup w/chipotle pepper

January 12, 2015

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This soup falls under the category of “Soups made several times the past 2 weeks”.  What makes it for me is the great natural pairing of  the creamy “sweet”  baby lima beans with the smoky spicy flavor of the chipotle pepper.   I keep the ingredients for this soup to a minimum to let the two main components shine.   I didn’t know this,  but lima beans are native to Peru.   I always associated lima beans with southern U.S. cooking so I never made the connection of the name to the country of origin.   They are nowhere to be seen in Tex-Mex cuisine and I couldn’t tell you how pervasive they are in Mexico.  What’s confusing are the various names it is called in Spanish.   I’ve come across a couple of Mexican soup recipes using “habas”,  which they translate into “favas”.  Yet a bag of “Baby Lima Beans” I bought  also had “Habas Pequenas” in the title.  Fava beans I’m familiar with are a different shape,  have a much “meatier” flavor to them,  and sometimes require removing the skin.  Among other names,  lima beans are known as Judias Blancas,  frijol blanco,  and frijol de media luna.

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1 # dry baby lima beans

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium size carrot peeled

1 medium size celery stalk

1/2 medium size yellow onion

3 cloves garlic

8 cups vegetable stock or water (or a combination of both)

1 bay leaf

1/8 heaping teaspoon dried thyme

1 tsp. salt

1 to 3 seeded chipotle peppers in adobo (to taste)

 

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Wash and sort through the beans.   Dice the carrot,  celery,  and onion into medium dice pieces.  Mince the garlic cloves.  Get your soup pot hot over medium high heat and add the olive oil.   Saute the vegetables for a minute or so to sweat.  Add the vegetable stock and/or water along with the baby lima beans.  Bring to a boil,  lower to a good simmer and cover the pot.   Cook until done.  This will take at least 2 hours but check from time to time to see how they are coming along.  They should be just tender.  Add more stock if necessary during the cooking.

When the beans are done,  remove the bay leaf.  With a hand immersion blender,  puree the beans until the soup is smooth.  A food processer will also work.  Add the 1 or 2 seeded chipotle pepper with some of the adobo sauce and puree.  You may choose to remove some of the beans during the pureeing and return them to the puree to give some texture to the finished soup.  Adjust with stock  if necessary to reach your desired thickness.  You may also wish to blend in more of the chipotle pepper.  Season with more salt to taste.

Notes: Because I didn’t give the beans an overnight soak, or a quick soak,  they took a while to cook. Just be sure to adjust your cooking time if you soak the beans.

For more smoky flavor, I remove the seeds of the chipotle so that I can add more of the chiles.  If you are unfamiliar with chipotle peppers en adobo, you can find them canned in many supermarkets nowadays.  The above photo shows the chipotle pepper along with a fresh jalapeno pepper,  its raw counterpart.

Using all vegetable stock gave the soup a richer taste, while using water allowed for the flavor of the beans to come out more.  I also liked using 4 cups of each.  Flavoring with vegetable bouillon is another option.

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This bowl was garnished with fried tortilla strips,  epazote,  and pan roasted and ground dry chipotle pepper.  The added dry chipotle gave a little more heat but also a more intense smoky flavor.  The gorditas (at left) made a great accompaniment.  Of course,  gorditas are normally stuffed with various ingredients but these simple plain ones went just fine with the soup. Stay tuned for an upcoming recipe.

 

 

 

 

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