Monday, May 30, 2011

BAKING BREAD FOR ONE

Freshly planted herb pots.  Too soon to harvest
anything yet.
It's finally getting warm enough to get my herb gardens back on track for summer. Two pots out in front of the garage are my typical kitchen herb garden. Each pot will hold rosemary, sage, and two types of thyme.  Extra pots by the back door hold basil and chives. These will provide for me all summer long.

In past years, it has been my habit to bring in a few herbs and keep them in the house during the winter for as long as they will live. I've been pretty lucky with my thyme and rosemary in particular. Some rosemary plants have overwintered twice for me, but the thyme generally dies off by January or February.

Last fall, however, I was too lazy to bring any of my herbs indoors and they all died outside in their pots. Consequently, when I found this recipe it looked so wonderful I had to take a trip to the grocer to find some rosemary. The only good thing about spending $2 on a few sprigs of rosemary is that if you tend it well, it will last for weeks in a glass on your windowsill. If you wait long enough, the sprigs will sprout roots and these are able to be planted come spring.

If you have an opportunity to plant some rosemary for yourself this summer, keep this aromatic recipe on hand.  Although this is not a typical "meals for one" recipe, it is the perfect size for one person.  Using my technique of making two small loaves rather than one larger one allows me to either share half with a friend or put one in the freezer for later.  Frankly though, once this bread comes out of the oven and the heady aroma of garlic and rosemary wafts through your house, chances are you might just eat this all in one sitting!

ROASTED GARLIC AND ROSEMARY BREAD
The aroma of this bread alone is well worth the making of it. Originally this was presented as a braided loaf, but I found that two mini loaves are easier to deal with and easier to share. To do this, divide your normal single loaf dough into two pieces, form as you would a single loaf, only now there are two smaller versions. Place side by side in the pan, let rise and bake as usual. The baby loaves are easy to simply pull apart so that you can share one with a friend or freeze it for later.

Starter
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup cool water
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

To make the starter: Combine the flour, water, and yeast in a small bowl until smooth. Cover and let rest at room temperature for at least 4 hours, or as long as overnight.

Roasted garlic
2 heads garlic
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

To roast the garlic: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Cut tops off the heads of garlic.  Place the heads, cut side up, into a piece of foil large enough to form a packet around the garlic.  Drizzle the olive oil over the garlic and fold up the foil as a packet.  Place on a small baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The cloves should be soft to the touch. Remove the cloves from the oven and cool to room temperature. When the cloves are cool, squeeze the heads to release the garlic. Mash the roasted garlic with a fork.


Dough
all of the starter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons potato flour or instant mashed potato flakes
1/3 cup mashed, roasted garlic cloves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups bread Flour

To make the dough: Combine the remaining dough ingredients in a mixer.  Use the paddle to begin the process of combining the ingredients.

Once combined, add the starter by bits until all is combined. 


Change to a dough hook and mix until you’ve formed a soft dough, then knead for 6 to 8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and springy.


Place the dough in a greased bowl after kneading, turn it over to coat all sides, cover the bowl, and let rise for 45 minutes, until doubled.

After the dough has risen, gently deflate it, divide it in half, and form each into a "mini-loaf." Place side by side in a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. You may also let the dough rise on a piece of parchment paper or on a baking sheet, for a free-form loaf.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and let rise until almost doubled, about 40 minutes. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top of the bread is golden brown and the center reaches 190°F with an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack before slicing. To keep a softer crust, brush the top with melted butter while still warm.

Yield: 2 loaves, 8 slices each.



Monday, May 2, 2011

PLEASE...NO MORE CHICKEN THIS WEEK!

Like many of of my friends, I tend to eat a LOT of chicken. Especially when eating out, chicken is usually the safer bet if you're finicky about your food. Beef can be tough, pork can be overcooked or tasteless, seafood can be expensive. But chicken is almost always tasty and affordable.

Same thing for eating at home. It's very easy to cook chicken, everyone does it, and if you don't feel like starting from scratch, it's so easy to find already pre-cooked in the grocery stores that meals practically make themselves.

Well, I'm tired of chicken. So no more chicken breasts in the shopping basket for this week.  In considering my alternatives, I readily admit that I like beef, but I REALLY like pork. I will acknowledge that pork can be difficult to cook so that it's edible. Pork roasts require long, slow cooking and work well over the winter months in the slow cooker. Pork chops can be really difficult since they quickly go from perfectly cooked to hard as stumps almost immediately. Modern pork has been bred to be very lean so that today it can be a very good choice for healthier eating, but unfortunately that means it's also lost a lot of it's flavor

To the rescue comes Pork Tenderloin. Unlike pork chops or pork loin roasts, pork tenderloins do not need to a brine to enhance their flavor and texture but they can do with a bit of jazzing up with a pan sauce or a spice rub. They can be cooked as one piece and sliced when done, or sliced and pounded thinly to form cutlets. Avoid the pre-flavored ones and go for the plain packages so that you can flavor them yourself.

Pork tenderloins are often sold two to a package but for the single cook, even one tenderloin is too much for one meal. I bring mine home, cut the tenderloins into halves and freeze them individually for future use.

This recipe was inspired by a recipe from America's Test Kitchen. It is easy to make and the glaze is delicious served over the carrots I cooked with my meal.  The glaze is a bit sweet, so if you prefer plain buttered carrots, they will help to cut the sweet of the meal.


ROAST PORK TENDERLOIN WITH APRICOT-ORANGE GLAZE
Pork Tenderloin
  1/2 pork tenderloin (about 5-6-ounces), silver skin removed
  1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Apricot-Orange Glaze
  1/4 cup apricot preserves
  2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Carrots with Glaze
  3 thin carrots, cleaned and cut
  2 tablespoons of glaze from the pork pan
  1 teaspoon chopped chives

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Pat the tenderloin dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 6-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown the tenderloin on all sides, reducing the heat if the fat begins to smoke, about 10 minutes. Transfer the tenderloin to a small baking dish, just a bit larger than the pork.

Pour off the fat left in the skillet. Add all the glaze ingredients to the skillet, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, and simmer until slightly thickened and fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Brush all but 2 tablespoons of the glaze over the tenderloin and roast until the thickest part registers 135 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes, flipping the tenderloin over halfway through the roasting time.  Keep the remaining glaze in the skillet on low until the carrots are ready.

Meanwhile, put the carrots in a small saucepan.  Cover with water, add about 1 teaspoon salt and cook over medium-high heat until done to your liking, 10-12 minutes. 

Transfer the tenderloins to a carving board, cover with foil, and let rest until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 to 150 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, drain the carrots and toss in the glaze, adding the chopped chives.  Slice pork into 1/2-inch-thick pieces, serve with glaze.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A FRENCH CLASSIC

Springtime can't come any sooner for most of us here in Ohio.  It's been cold, raining and dreary for weeks now and although the calendar says it's been spring for a while, the weather still suggests tummy-warming comfort foods for dinner. 

As today was a little nicer, I opted for a lighter meal.  At the grocer today I ran across a fish I'd never seen before called Basa.  It was half the price of the catfish or cod, so I selected a filet and brought it home.  On the way home I thought over some of the recent food programs I'd been watching considering how to best prepare the filet.  There has been a cluster of shows preparing Sole Meuniere (or Chicken Meuniere) and it inspired me to try this French Bistro dish for myself. 

It's been said that plain, simple food, well cooked, is always the best.  A classic meuniere is the perfect example.  A simple filet of Sole, very lightly floured, cooked in butter and served with lemon is very simple and very easy.  These days there are as many recipes on the web for the same method in a chicken version and it sounds equally delicious. 

I made my meal complete with a couple of new potatoes and some broccoli, cooked and served with a bit of the lemon from the fish and it created a well rounded dinner.

FISH MEUNIERE WITH BUTTERED NEW POTATOES AND BROCCOLI

Seafood:
  1 fish filet such as Sole, Talapia or Basa
  sprinkle of salt
  2 tablespoons flour 
  1/2 tablespoon butter
  1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  2 slices lemon

Vegetables:
  2-3 small new red-skin potatoes, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  1/2 cup broccoli florettes
  1 tablespoon butter
  sprinkle of dried parsley-garlic powder


In a small heavy saucepan, add the potatoes and just cover with water.  Turn heat to medium-high and simmer potatoes 5 minutes or until nearly done.  Add the broccoli to the pot, cover and continue to simmer until done to your liking. 

  Meanwhile, blot the filet dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle lightly with salt and dredge very lightly in the flour. Preheat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and oil to the pan. When the butter has melted, add the filet and cook 3-5 minutes until lightly browned on the bottom.


Flip the filet and add the lemon slices to the pan.  While finishing up the vegetables, rotate the fish pan a little to allow the lemon juices to flow around the fish.

Once the vegetables are done, drain the water from the pan and put it back on the burner to a medium heat while you finish the fish dish.  Add the butter and parsley-garlic powder to the pan, cover and keep warm.  Shake the pan to cover the vegetables with the butter. 

When the fish tests done (it will begin to flake if prodded with a fork), serve on a warmed plate with the lemon slices and vegetables.  Squeeze a small splash of lemon juice over all, garnish with fresh parsley or chives and serve.