Noodling Around

2011.May.23 Monday · 1 comment

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

“A separate pumpernickel tradition has developed in North America, where the loaf color approximates the dark color of traditional German pumpernickel by adding molasses, coffee, cocoa powder, or other darkening agents. In addition to colouring and flavour agents, North American bakers often add wheat flour (to provide gluten structure and increase rising) and commercial yeast to quicken the rise compared to a traditional sourdough. Because of the ways in which North American bakers have changed the original German recipe, and for economic reasons, they tend to eschew the long, slow baking characteristic of quality German pumpernickel. The result is a loaf that resembles commercial North American rye bread – a bread made with a mix of wheat and rye flour – but with darker colouring. Many bakers also add a significant amount of caraway seeds, providing an alternate flavour that is now characteristic of many North American commercial pumpernickel and light rye breads.”

– Wikipedia

‘Twas a weekend of playing around in the kitchen, presenting some ideas that I’ve been working on, with no particular theme – told you awhile back that I’d be starting to do that a bit more, and I think we’re finally moving into that phase of things. Let’s see how it went and how it goes!

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

First up, it’s brussels sprout season here – the little globes are everywhere. And I’m a big fan, so I’ve been working on a warm salad presentation. Here, a swish of reduced balsamic vinegar on the plate, a bocconcino of buffalo mozzarella, some cracked pepper, pink sea salt. Then, to top it, dry toasted some whole almonds and then tossed them with sweet paprika, then crisped up some slices of serrano ham, and added some pre-blanched and shocked brussels sprout leaves, finishing that little mixture off with green lemon oil. A very tasty little salad.

Mushroom Soup with Potato Dumplings

Originally inspired by a couple of different Thai soup recipes, I’ve made this mushroom broth before, though in the past, it’s included shreds of smoked fish. I’ve removed the fish, though left the fish sauce (however, for a veggie version, one could substitute soy), other than that following the recipe that I linked from a previous dinner. Into that, potato dumplings that I’d cooked off in mushroom stock – the dumplings a mix of mashed potato, pastry flour, potato starch, salt and egg.

Pumpernickel Linguini with Deli Bolognese

When I posted up “Pumpernickel Linguini, Deli Bolognese”, I was surprised to get quite a few notes from people, including a good local friend, that I’d screwed up my Italian. I may not be fluent, but I thought that people might connect the pumpernickel and the deli, and not assume that the latter was a misspelled preposition. What can I say? The pasta, based on a traditional North American style pumpernickel loaf – a mix of rye, whole wheat and soft white flours, flavored with molasses, cocoa and caraway, and bound together with eggs – pretty much the recipe I’d use for making the bread, just substituting egg in for what would have been yeast and water. It makes a beautiful caramel colored pasta that rolls out smoothly and cooks up with a delicate flavor of dark rye bread. For the sauce, I went with my classic bolognese recipe, but instead of my usual blend of pancetta, veal, beef and pork, I used… well, deli meats. To whit, smoked and cured beef, poached veal tongue, pastrami (well, the local version anyway), and roast beef – all coarsely ground together, but other than that, proceeding as I normally would. Personally, I loved it, and for the most part it seemed like everyone else did too – though interestingly, a couple of people both nights ate the sauce and left behind the pasta – don’t know if it was the flavor or if it was a carb thing.

Roast Chicken, Polenta Fries, Garlic Green Beans

This was my hands-down favorite course of the evening. It’s pure comfort food, but with some twists. Chicken that’s been rubbed with coarse salt, cracked pepper and smoked paprika before being simply roasted in the oven. The accompaniments – polenta fries – magic as far as I’m concerned – I make polenta with chicken stock (vegetable stock works too), add in butter and smoked mozzarella, smooth it out in a plastic wrap lined baking pan and let it cool until nice and firm. Flip it out and cut into large “fries” – the size of steak fries basically – roll them in flour and fry them up until lightly golden and just a thin, crispy skin on the outside. They’re very delicate to handle, and absolutely delicious. For something green on the plate, garlic green beans – I cut the beans into very small pieces, basically pea-sized. Into a pot some chopped red onion and garlic, lots of the latter, sauteing in peanut oil until nicely colored, then added the beans, tossed them together, covered the pan and let them steam to cook through, stirring them up every now and again – about 15 minutes of cooking all told. Finally, finished with a good glug of mushroom sauce (vegetarian oyster sauce), which gives a rich sweetness to the dish. A little salt and pepper and done. And, finally, those little red “flakes” are actually dehydrated radish chips – a fun little process – I sliced the radishes and then put them in a bowl covered with a paper towel – into the microwave on medium power for 5 minutes to steam. Then tossed them with shichimi (Japanese five-spice), salt, garlic powder and sweet paprika – spread them out on a baking sheet and into a hot oven for ten minutes, stirred them up, flipping them over, and back in for another ten, and then repeat once more, though checking them at this point so they don’t burn.

Chocolate Chip Mint Cheesecake

And, finally, a chocolate chip mint cheesecake. Our classic cheesecake recipe with homemade cream cheese, blended with a handful of fresh mint leaves, poured over a cocoa crust, and then a couple of handfuls of dark chocolate chips swirled in. Baked, chilled, and then served with a grating of dark chocolate over the top. Yum!

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