Saturday, January 28, 2012

No-Knead Bread

I posted last week about my views on the relationship between soup and bread.  To reiterate: I think soup should be eaten with bread as the primary utensil, rather than silly things like spoons.  It's nature's way.

In general, my love of bread with my soup is easy to fulfill.  However, when I made last week's Tomato-Vegetable Soup with Turkey, I realized that I had forgotten to buy any bread to accompany it.  Worse yet, the weather was gross, so I really didn't want to leave the apartment and go to the store.  The solution: make some bread!  It's super easy, cost-effective, and way better than anything the Meijer bakery could have offered me anyhow.

This bread is incredibly easy to make, and - for bread - very quick.  It's about 5 hours from raw ingredients to finished loaf.  It's not exactly lightning fast, but you don't need an overnight rise or lots of kneading - any kneading at all, in fact!  I like to to mix the ingredients and let things rise before work, then bake once I get home.  Give it a try!

This is a very simple recipe: you probably have all of the ingredients on-hand!  All you need is flour, yeast, salt, a bit of olive oil, and water.  Seasonings are optional, but some herbal action makes this bread an even better match for soup.  I particularly like some coarse-grained salt, oregano, and basil.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 packet).  Next, add 1 1/2 cups of warm water and mix until the dough is "shaggy."  That's a technical term, believe it or not.  The dough surface will be rough and very, very sticky.

It's rising time.  Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and leave it alone someplace warm for 4 hours.

Four hours later, it will look something like the above.  Behold, the power of yeast!

Of course, you can let the dough rest considerably longer if you like.  Consider four hours a hard minimum, though.

Here's the only slightly tricky aspect to this bread.  When it's time to bake, you need to get the dough from bowl to pan.  Here's how to do it in a way that results in a crusty bread with a fluffy, soft center.

First, spread about a tablespoon of olive oil over a baking sheet.  Dump the dough out of the bowl and onto the oiled baking sheet.

Now give that dough one thorough smooshing.  "Smooshing," unlike "shaggy," is not yet a technical term - but it probably should be.

Your smooshed dough should be somewhat flattened-out like so.

Now gather up the dough from the edges and fold in and upward, so that the oiled surface is all on the outside, and the un-oiled surface is all on the inside of a sort of packet.

Place dough in a loaf pan, smooth side down.  Cover again and let rise 30 minutes before baking.  It's very, very important to let it rise again, otherwise you'll end up with very sad bread.

Now is also the time to add any seasonings you want to bake into the bread.  Sprinkle them directly on top of the loaf before you let it rise the second time.  I add some extra salt every time at this point, and sometimes various other herbs (Pictures for this post will be un-herbed so that the appearance of the dough and finished product itself is easier to see).

While things are rising, become a Dough-Monster and attack your camera-wielding fiancee.  After that, pre-heat your oven to 450.

30 minutes later, the dough will have risen slightly, and will be ready to bake!  Cover the loaf pan and bake 25 minutes at 450 degrees.  If you don't have a cover for your pan, you can just put a baking sheet or appropriately-sized pan lid on top.  You just need something to keep the top of the bread from burning before the rest is done.

Uncover the bread after 25 minutes and bake another 3-5 minutes to finish off the top crust - this makes it extra crusty and crispy and wonderful.

Voila, bread!  Cool the loaf on a wire rack for a few minutes before slicing.  You can also sprinkle additional herbs, salt, or other seasonings on top of the loaf at this point for a bit of extra color and flavor.

Cut into nice, thick slices serve while still warm if at all possible.  Eat with or without butter, dunked in soup, or make some fantastic grilled cheese.  The possibilities are endless!

Recipe: No-Knead Bread
Prep Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes (10 minutes hands-on) | Cook Time: 30 minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 8-12 thick slices.

  • 3 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp. Yeast.
  • 1 tsp. Salt.
  • 1 1/2 cups warm Water.
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Optional: Additional salt and herbs to taste.
  1. Combine flour, yeast, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add warm water and mix until dough is "shaggy."
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm location at least 4 hours.
  3. Spread olive oil on a baking sheet.  Empty dough from mixing bowl onto baking sheet and flatten slightly.  Pick up dough from edges to form a "packet" with oiled side out.  Place in loaf pan, smooth side down.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.  Let dough rise a second time, approx. 30 minutes.  Add additional salt and herbs to top of dough if desired.
  5. Bake covered in loaf pan 25 minutes at 450 degrees.  Uncover and bake an additional 2-5 minutes until surface is cracked and golden-brown.
  6. Cool on a wire rack 3-5 minutes before slicing.
  7. Serve warm.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tomato-Vegetable Soup with Turkey

Generally speaking, I think soup is best used as a condiment for good bread.  A lot of the time, I can take or leave a bowl of soup - it's okay for one night now and again, but I generally want a meal with a little more substance.  This left me in a difficult position shortly before Christmas, when I had a wisdom tooth out and couldn't eat any solid food.

I needed a soup that I could put up with nearly every meal for days on end.  My thoughts immediately went to a tomato soup made by Kristin's brother in law, adapted from Pioneer Woman's Sherried Tomato Soup. I made some changes to that recipe to add a little spice and complexity, cooked a big batch, and pureed it down to be thin enough to eat without risk to my dental health.  It was fantastic!

That post-wisdom-tooth soup was tasty, but I still prefer not to eat as if I've just had oral surgery whenever possible.  This further adaptation of my first attempt adds some meat and many more vegetables.  The result is a complex, hearty dish with definite roots in tomato soup, but enough interesting elements to eat as a main course - accompanied, of course, by some good bread.

Here's what you'll need: ground turkey (not too lean), tomato juice, canned diced tomatoes, frozen corn, bell pepper, sweet onion, carrots, sherry, Worcestershire sauce, heavy cream, basil, cayenne pepper, and paprika.

First, dice up all of your vegetables in a manner that inadvertently honors your Irish heritage.

Brown the ground turkey with a bit of salt and pepper in a large stock pot or dutch oven.  Take care not to overcook it - remove and set the turkey aside as soon as all of the pink is gone from the meat.

There should be just a little bit of fat left in the bottom of the pan from the ground turkey.  If there's not much, consider adding just a tiny bit of butter.  Cook all of the vegetables over medium heat until tender.

When the vegetables are tender, return the ground turkey to the pot and add the tomato juice, diced tomatoes and their juice, frozen corn, Worcestershire sauce, basil, paprika, salt, pepper, and cayenne.  Be conservative with the seasonings for now - you can add more at the end once the cream has been incorporated.

Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes to marry the flavors.

After that half-hour has elapsed, shut off the heat and add the heavy cream and sherry and stir well to mix.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed - you may want more paprika and cayenne if you like a bit more kick.

Serve hot with crusty bread.

Recipe: Tomato-Vegetable Soup with Turkey
Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 45 minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 10-12

  • 1.5 lbs Ground Turkey (pref. 90/10 or 93/7)
  • 46 oz. Tomato Juice
  • 1 28 oz. can Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 large Sweet Onion
  • 1 large Green Bell Pepper
  • 10 oz Frozen Sweet Corn
  • 3/4 cup Shredded/Diced Carrot
  • 1 cup Cooking Sherry
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp Basil
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

  1. Finely chop sweet onion, bell pepper, and carrots.
  2. In a large stock pot or dutch oven, brown ground turkey over medium-high heat.  Remove and seat aside.
  3. Reduce heat to medium.  Cook vegetables in remaining fat until tender.
  4. Reduce heat to low.  Return ground turkey to pan.  Add tomato juice, canned tomatoes, corn, Worcestershire sauce, basil, paprika, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper and simmer 30 minutes.
  5. Turn off heat.  Add heavy cream and cooking sherry.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
  6. Serve hot with crusty bread.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chicken Cacciatore

My original exposure to Chicken Cacciatore came from a short-lived brand of simmering sauces called "Chicken Tonight."  You may not remember them, but I bet you remember the jingle.  Play the video below and it'll all come rushing back.

Remember now?  The advertising obviously worked on my family, as we would often proclaim "I feel like chicken tonight!"  I think the only one of their sauces we tried was the cacciatore, but it was actually pretty tasty.  Chicken Tonight brand is now gone (though apparently quite alive and quite successful abroad), but chicken cacciatore remains delicious.  It's also quite easy!  This recipe made enough to feed Kristin and me for almost a week, so it's a great way to eat for a while or entertain company on a small budget.

This recipe makes great use of chicken thighs.  They're cheap, and both absorb a lot of flavor from the sauce in which they simmer and lend some nice meaty flavor of their own.  You'll also need bell peppers, sweet onion, button mushrooms, canned tomatoes, garlic olive oil, butter, flour, white wine, thyme, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper.

It sounds like a long list, but when the long list is mostly vegetables and seasonings, life is good.

First, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Season your chicken thighs all over with salt and pepper, then dredge in a thin coating of flour.

In a large dutch oven (or other pot capable of moving from stove to oven), melt a tablespoon of butter in a bit of olive oil.  Brown the chicken on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side.  Do this in batches, setting the chicken aside afterward.  You don't need to cook the chicken completely through, as it will finish in the oven, but do get it nice and brown.

While the chicken is cooking, chop the onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms into large-ish pieces.  They'll be cooking for quite a while, so keeping pieces large retains some texture.

Pour off most of the remaining fat once the chicken is browned, keeping a tablespoon or two in the pan.  Add all of the vegetables to the pan - onions, peppers, mushrooms, and minced garlic.  Cook just a couple of minutes until they're starting to soften.

After a couple of minutes, add a cup of decent white wine and your seasonings - thyme, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper.  A dry white is probably ideal, but all I had on hand was a Riesling, and that worked really nicely.  Drink the rest of whatever you use with dinner - it'll pair nicely.

Cook the vegetables and wine another minute or two until the wine starts to bubble.  This ensures that you avoid that edgy, "raw wine" taste.

Once the wine is bubbling, open and add your two large cans of diced tomatoes, juice and all.  Your dutch oven will be getting quite full at this point.  It should also be smelling better and better.

Reintroduce the chicken thighs to the magical mixture in the dutch oven.  At least partially submerge the chicken so it can absorb plenty of saucy goodness.

Now into the oven!  Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

By about 30 minutes in, your entire home will smell amazing.  Hang in there to finish the hour before pulling it out and uncovering the dutch oven.  Distract yourself in the last 10-15 minutes by cooking some pasta according to the directions on the box.  When the timer finally goes off, the cacciatore should look more or less like the photo above.

Devour promptly over noodles.

Recipe: Chicken Cacciatore
Prep Time: 15 Minutes | Cook Time: 90 Minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 8-10

  • 16 oz Pasta, cooked according to directions on package.
  • 8 Chicken Thighs
  • 1/3 cup Flour
  • 1 large Sweet Onion
  • 2 large Red Bell Peppers
  • 8 cloves Garlic
  • 12 oz White Button Mushrooms
  • 2 cans (28 oz) Diced Tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup White Wine
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1 tsp Ground Thyme
  • 2 tsp Oregano
  • 1 tsp Basil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Roughly chop onions, peppers, and mushrooms.  Leave pieces fairly large.  Mince garlic.
  3. Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Dredge in flour.
  4. Melt butter in olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Brown chicken on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side.  Set chicken aside and discard all but a small amount of fat.
  5. Saute onions, peppers, mushrooms, and garlic in remaining fat 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften.  Add thyme, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and wine.  Cook another 1 minute until wine bubbles.
  6. Add canned tomatoes (with juice) and mix well.
  7. Return chicken to dutch oven, partially submerged.  Cover and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.
  8. Serve hot over pasta.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Savory-Sweet Tuna Salad

I'm not sure when I had my tuna salad epiphany, but I'm glad that I did.  As a kid, I wasn't a big fan of tuna in general, let alone in tuna salad.  At some point, I came to my senses on both accounts.  It may be all the fault of a breakfast place and a different sandwich entirely.

There's a local chain in Chicagoland called Egg Harbor.  They mostly serve really fantastic breakfast, but they have some lunch items, too.  Their chicken salad sandwich is really fantastic.  It was my first experience with a sweet chicken salad.  It has lots of good stuff in there beyond just chicken and mayonnaise: I remember pecans, dried cranberries, and apple in particular.  It's quite sweet, but really very tasty.

Out here in Ohio, there's not an Egg Harbor to be found, but that's hardly going to stop me from working to recreate that flavor profile.  This recipe works just as well with chicken, but I think it really shines with tuna.  I think tuna demands a bit more of a savory touch than chicken, so I've forgone the apple and added some savory spicing for this tuna salad recipe.  It's an easy standby to make with ingredients that I almost always have in the cupboard.  I really suggest you give it a try!

Our salad is composed of tuna, mayonnaise, mustard, slivered or sliced almonds, sweet or red onion, and dried cranberries.  The flavors are boosted by seasoning with Herbes de Provence, coriander, salt, and pepper.  That's it!  The seasonings can be adjusted, but I find that they work nicely to balance out the sweetness of the cranberry and add some nice complexity.

To serve the salad, you can use as little as a couple of slices of bread, or you add cheese for a tuna melt.  Topping things off with some greens or sprouts is particularly nice, too.

First, toast up some almonds.  For a large can of tuna, use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of almonds depending on how much crunch you want in your sandwich - I prefer more like 1/2 cup.

Finely dice a sweet onion.  Again, the amount to be used can vary depending on your taste.  I used about 2/3 of a large onion.

Open and drain your tuna.  If you have a cat, no doubt he or she noticed this and came running.  Be nice and offer a bite or two.

Combine the tuna and onion in a bowl.

Now add the toasted almonds and dried cranberries - again, 1/4 to 1/2 cup depending on your taste.  As usual, I go for the higher amount.  Give everything a quick mix and judge your ratios, adding as needed.

When it looks like you've got about the right amount of stuff in with your tuna, it's time to dress it up.  Add about a tablespoon of mustard and 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise, and mix well.

Once the salad is nicely mixed, add more mayo if necessary to reach your desired texture.  When you're there, it's time to season.  Add about a tablespoon of Herbes de Provence (or other similar herbs) and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of coriander.  A pinch of salt and pepper should finish things off.  Give it a taste and adjust as necessary.

Ideally, now is the time to cover the bowl and let it rest in the fridge for a while.  The flavors really come out if you give things a little time to meld.  Of course, it's no disaster if you just want to dig in, either.

When you're ready to serve, you have plenty of options.  If you prefer your tuna cold, I like it topped with sprouts and just a smidge of extra mustard.

If you're more a fan of the tuna melt, toast the bread and top your tuna with some good melting cheese - I prefer provolone.

However you eat it, enjoy!

Recipe: Savory-Sweet Tuna Salad
Prep Time: 10 Minutes | Cook Time: 2 Minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 6-8

  • 1 12oz can Tuna in water
  • 3 tbsp Mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp Mustard
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Slivered Almonds
  • 1/2-2/3 large Sweet Onion
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Dried Cranberries
  • 1 tbsp Herbes de Provence
  • 1 tsp Ground Coriander
  • Salt and Pepper to taste 

  1. In a skillet over medium heat, toast almonds 1-2 minutes.
  2. Dice onion finely.
  3. Drain tuna.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine tuna, onion, toasted almonds, and dried cranberries.
  5. Add mayonnaise and mustard and mix well.  Add more mayonnaise to reach desired texture.  Mix well.
  6. Add seasonings and mix well.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  7. Serve on a cold sandwich with mustard and sprouts, or as a warm tuna melt on toasted bread with melted cheese.