Vegetarian Concoctions

March 29, 2007

Bread sticks

Filed under: Basil, Breads, Cheese, Garlic, Snacks and Appetizers — Hema @ 11:04 am

Horrible horrible week. The past week was sick….literally. First the kiddo, then me and then H. The only silver lining was that all of us did not fall sick at the same time. Getting better was no fun either. Disinfecting three whole baskets of laundry and cleaning up the mess we called our home took up another 3 days. I was dragging myself to work in the morning. Getting back home in the evening was worse…just thinking of all the work that lay waiting. If this was not enough, TEAM-INDIA added to our misery*. We played against Sri Lanka and the rest is history that I hope will never be repeated again. It took me quite some time to digest the fact that we did’nt even make it to the top eight teams. Half way through our innings I switched off the TV. What a shame!

What better way to vent out my anger and frustration than cooking?…and thats what I did. Baking, actually. Since my sourdough bread success story, I have been tempted to experiment with various breads and bread sticks seemed to be the simplest to start off with. I had made some a week earlier and they turned out soft and delicious. Here is my second attempt captured for records:

img_2973.JPG

What you need:

All-purpose flour – 2 1/2 – 3 cups

White unsalted butter – 1/2 stick (4 tablespoon)

Commercial yeast – 2 tsp

sugar – 1 tsp

Salt – about 1 1/2 tsp

Water – as required

Cheese sticks:
Cheddar cheese – 1/2 cup

Garlic sticks:
Garlic – 1 clove
Garlic salt and dried basil to garnish

Combine sugar and yeast in warm water and let rest for about 10 mts till bubbly. Add the flour, salt and butter. The butter should be at room temperature and softned when added. Incorporate the butter into the flour with your hands and then add enough water to get a soft and workable dough but not sticking to your hands while kneading(see tip 1 below). Add extra flour if needed. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes while pushing the dough away from you with your palms. Brush some olive oil on it and let this rise for about 1 1/2 – 2 hrs in a warm place till it doubles in size (tip 2). Punch back the dough and now add your flavourings (tip 3). I made two kinds: cheese and garlic. To half the dough I added shedded cheddar cheese and to the other half minced garlic. Then I shaped them into sticks and garnished the garlic one with garlic salt and dried basil. You can really get creative with the flavors and shapes here. I placed the sticks on baking trays 3-4 inches apart and let the dough rise one last time – about 1 – 1 1/2 hrs (tip 4). This went into a 375 degrees preheated oven for about 25 minutes till the crust is golden brown. Brush some butter on the crust as soon as they come out of the oven (tip 5) and serve with your favourite soup or marinara sauce.

img_2973.JPG

With the few tips I learnt about bread making from an expert bread-maker, I guess I should send it to Sushma’s Monthly cooking tipology:

1. After the rise, the bread gets softer and hence stickier. So, the dough should not be too soft when you knead it in the first place.

2. If you don’t have a pilot lamp or a light in your oven or a warm corner in your kitchen to help rise your dough, you could place the dough in a small enclosure close to a saucepan with boiling water. This also helps in keeping the crust soft.

3. Some herbs and spices seem to inhibit growth of yeast. Hence, it is best to incorporate the flavors in the bread during the last rise.

4. The more number of times you punch back your bread and let it rise again, the finer will be the pores in your bread. If you want your bread to have big pores, just let the dough rise once and bake.

5. If you want a soft crust, like our bread sticks here, always brush the crust with molten butter as soon as they come out of the oven. If you want the crust to be hard/crisp, like in sourdough bread, skip the butter on the crust.

*CRICKET – the sport. The ICC world cup games are on in West Indies.

Advertisements

February 20, 2007

Vegetable pot? pie???

Filed under: American, Cheese, Mixed Veggies, Pie, Puff pastry and phyllo sheets — Hema @ 12:05 pm

What would you eat when hubby is not in town for a weekend and you are at home looking after your toddler? Left overs? Maggi noodles? Yeah, thats what I usually do especially since he does not travel that often. My attitude – ‘Why cook for one person?’. And then the little one keeps me busy. So, it is not like I have nothing to do.

This was one of those occasions, H was out attending a conference. (BTW, I have no idea why they need to start registration on a Saturday and have the key note speech on a Sunday. What are weekdays for?) Anyway, I was at home craving Italian and actually decided to make some pasta for myself.  But guilt pricked at the wrong time…how could I eat something he likes and then enjoy the meal? And worse still – I couldn’t believe I was thinking like my mother.  I had always made fun of her about being too sentimental over such things.

Now with the pasta plan ruled out, I was still craving something interesting. I did what was most logical under such a circumstance. Cook something that I love and hubby detests. And, that was easy – eggplants, paneer(yes, paneer! can you believe it?), molten cheese, white sauce…..I had quite a few options. I was not in the mood for Indian food. The thought of having white sauce as a base made my mouth water…that day. Right now, as I write this sentence, I am thinking paneer…yummmm:)

I always wanted to make my own vegetarian version of chicken pot pie and this was the day! I scrambled through each shelf in the refrigerator and brought out some veggies, including eggplant. Milk, butter, cheese and a pack of puff pastry sheet came out too. I did not have an oven safe circular bowl of the right size to make it look like a pot pie, but this is what I ended up doing:

img_1707-2.JPG

Mixed veggies – eggplant, shredded carrots, onions, bell pepper, celery – about a cup

Milk – 1 cup

Shredded pepper jack cheese – 1/4 cup

Butter – 1 tbsp

Olive oil – 2 tsp

All-purpose flour – 1 tbsp

Puff pastry – 1 sheet

Salt and pepper to taste 

Start with the veggies. Add the olive oil to a pan and then the veggies. Saute for 3-4 minutes and transfer it to a bowl. In the same pan, Add the butter and once it melts the flour goes in. Roast it till the raw smell goes and then add the milk. Let this thicken up and then add the cheese, salt and pepper to the simmering white sauce. Add the veggies, give it a stir and switch off the stove.

img_1705.JPG

Let this cool down and fill it into a puff pastry sheet. Poke some holes on it and bake according to manufacturer’s instructions on the puff pastry carton.

img_1706.JPG

What I made was actually nothing close to the classic pot pie. The pot pie usually has a biscuit crust and I substituted it with a puff pastry sheet. There was no cream, mushroom or potatoes in it. It was something I seeked refuge in for the day but I did have a meal that was not just delicious, but utterly filling too! I loved it and now, I am waiting for my husband to attend another conference:) The next time, I would cut the quantities in half and also use the oven-safe bowl that I bought soon after.

August 29, 2006

Ravioli

Filed under: Cheese, Italian, Mushroom, Pasta, Spinach, Sundried Tomatoes — Hema @ 3:32 pm

Last week when we were at our local grocery store, my husband complained that they had stopped selling his favourite sun-dried tomato ravioli that used to be one of his staple meals before marriage. I guess the store decided that since he was now married and had a wife who could cook, they didnt need to make his favourite ravioli anymore. Blame it on me or on the store, the most obvious thing to do was to make my husband say ‘I dont miss the store bought ravioli anymore’. I remembered one of the episodes of Everyday Italian on Food network, in which Giada made spinach and sausage ravioli with wonton wraps. Ah! brainwave!!! Back home with a packet of wonton wraps and my brain loaded with brilliant ideas, I opened my pantry to find I was out of sun-dried tomatoes!! I should have thought about that. The closest thing to sundried tomatoes was a bottle of sundried tomato pesto that I use in pastas. I found my imagination at work again and came up with very simple ‘can do this after work’ recipes for two kinds of raviolis – Sundried tomatoes and Spinach-mushroom. Here are the recipes:

Sundried tomatoes filling

Sundried tomatoes pesto                      4 tbsp

Grated Cheese any kind (I used cheddar + mozzarella)        3/4 cup

Mix the above 2 ingredients and that’s that!

Spinach – mushroom filling

Basil pesto                                          3 tbsp

Spinach cooked, chopped and drained   1/2 cup

Mushroom                                          1/4 cup

Crumbled paneer or riccotta cheese       2 tbsp

Make sure all the water is drained from the spinach. It should be nearly dry. Mix the above ingredients.

rav1.jpg

Preparing the ravioli:

Lay a wonton wrap on a cutting board. Place a spoonful of filling in the centre. Place another wrap on top of it and press it in lightly. Make sure the filling doesnt creep out of its designated area. Add about 2 tbsp of water to 1 tbsp of all purpose flour. Use this to seal the edges (you could also use eggwash). Press edges tightly and make sure there are no gaps. You could use a ravioli cutter and trim the edges for a store made finish. I just pressed the edges down with a fork.

rav2.jpg

Boil water in a big pot and drop in the raviolis 5-6 at a time. It takes about 4 minutes to cook up a batch. Once you take them out, rub some olive oil on each of them, else they tend to stick together.

rav3.jpg

Mix this with your favourite pasta sauce and you are done!

rav4.jpg

Blog at WordPress.com.