Welcome to The Recipeless Cook



Saluté. I created this blog to document some of the meals I throw together for myself, on occasion. The focus is on simple, healthyesque, no frills meals that can made quickly and easily, at a low cost. I call this formula "Recipes for the rest of us". Because fancy meals that cost a fortune are a lot easier to do. Which must be why those recipes are much easier to find. So welcome to the new economy, in the new world order.

I originally conceived of sharing only recipes that have no recipe as such. The idea was to start with a base of what can be thrown together to make a meal, and encourage you to modify that to your heart's content, with suggestions to start you off. This way, it's easier to remember a recipe if it's built around a simple idea, and you don't have to remember specific measurements. Hence the name of the blog, The Recipeless Cook. 

By the time I actually started writing the blog, I realized this would be too limiting. Sometimes things can go wrong if measurements are not given, and I appreciate recipe measurements myself. I can't very well say "Throw in some rice and whatever quantity of water 'feels right' " and expect perfect results from those instructions. So I expect some recipes to be "recipeless" (categorized as such), and others will be traditionally structured. Above all, you are encouraged to change the recipes to suit your habits and tastes.

I warn you, I'm not big on red meat these days (especially as my girlfriend's a vegetarian). In fact, I don't often cook meat in general lately, so I probably won't have too many recipes featuring the stuff. It's not against my religion. It's just that I'm slowly starting to think about making healthier decisions in my diet, and red meat and related do much more bad for you than good (if any). I'll eat chicken if I need a meat fix, but I plan to forego including the skin or fat henceforth. So unfortunately, healthy biases might find their way into the recipes, but that shouldn't spoil much of the fun.

Happy Cooking,

Gilbert Grape
The Recipeless Cook.

Cast Iron Pizza



"One broccoli volcano with lava cheese coming up!"

What if I told you that "you could have anything in the world"? And what if I told you "so long as that thing is pizza"? What kind of pizza would it be? Gourmet pizzeria pizza from a restaurant that serves wood fired-pizza perhaps? What if I told you that you could make something like that at home? In under 3 minutes? Impossible, right? Well, in the kitchens of The Recipeless Cook... nothing is impossible!

This recipe is to pizza what the no-knead recipe is to bread. Not just a revelation, but a revolution. Using no special tools other than a vessel that was invented hundreds of years ago: a cast iron pan. You don't need a pizza peel, you don't need a pizza stone, you don't need a wood-oven, you don't need a Kitchenaid mixer... have you got a bowl, a spoon, a 12" cast iron pan and pizza ingredients? Then you're good to go, mister. Get ready for the revolution, we're gonna make making pizza exciting again!....

Ingredients

Dough

1 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 cup water (warm)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Topping

pizza sauce
cheese
etc.

CRUST

RISE: Mix all the dry ingredients for the dough in a large bowl, add the warm water, and mix with a spoon until combined. You can olive oil to the dough and/or inside of the bowl to help the rise. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour, until approximately doubled in size.

PREPARATION:  Punch the dough down, and flour a work board so the dough does not stick to it while you are working on it. You will be forming the dough roughly the diameter of the interior of your cast iron pan. Start by rolling it into a ball. (If the dough does not form into a smooth ball but shows cracks, you can smooth things out by kneading the dough a bit. Using the palm of your hand, mash and stretch the edge of the dough against the work surface, fold it back in, give the dough ball a quarter turn, and repeat the process until the dough is smooth enough to stretch into a pizza round).

To stretch it into a pizza round, start by pinching the edges and pulling them out (being careful not to stretch the center too much). This process goes faster if you hold the dough in mid-air by the edges, then turn it rapidly so that gravity causes the dough to stretch farther out. But once you have started to increase the size of the round, you should complete most of the stretching using this traditional method: place the somewhat-stretched dough over your two closed fists. Then give the round of dough a turn, repeating this motion. You can also separate your hands just slightly, to help the dough stretch a bit farther. This process will again cause the edges of the dough round to fall by way of gravity, and the center will stretch out. (Again, take care not to stretch the center too much, to avoid creating holes). You'll be finished when you have stretched the dough out to about or nearly the size of the interior of the pan. WARNING: Read the entire next section before you put the toppings on!

Making pizza dough is easier than it sounds, usually, but if it is not your thing, ok, just go out and buy a pizza dough!
 
TOPPING: I don't like to put too much on pizzas, because the ingredients won't cook properly, and they'll make the pizza too mushy. So put your favorite ingredients, but don't go crazy with that! I consider pizza sauce and cheese, and perhaps olive oil as necessary base ingredients. For the pizza pictured above, I used an usual pizza sauce: roasted red pepper spread (aka vegetable spread).  I like to smear olive oil all over the naked dough before placing the rest of the ingredients. Possibly dried herbs as well. Then the pizza sauce, then the vegetables, then a generous amount of cheese (the pizza pictured is swiss cheese and broccoli).

You are now ready to dress your pizza. But do not add any "hard" ingredients yet. You can start with the base of pizza sauce, oil, herbs (as shown in the picture). But you should wait until the pizza is in the pan before you add the rest of the ingredients. If you add everything at once, then when you try to put the pizza into the pan, everything will roll off and create a big mess! So get the rest of the ingredients completely ready and be prepared to add them very quickly! Timing is very important in this recipe!

COOKING

The blob that ate San Francisco,
when it was only 6 1/2 months old.
Heat the cast iron pan (dry) on your biggest stovetop round at medium high heat. (Placing the palm of your hand a couple of inches above the pan to feel the heat will let you know when it is ready). While you are waiting for the pan to heat up, turn the broiler on (high), making sure the oven rack is in the top position ( a few inches below the broiler element). Now you will need a way to slide the pizza into the pan. You can use a wooden, glass or plastic cutting board (as I did, shown), the back of a jelly roll pan or similar, or if you have it of course, a wooden pizza peel. Whichever tool you use, make sure the surface is well floured, to make the pizza easier to slide. Remember the pan will be hot, so you must not touch it! Now slide the pizza dough into the pan by shaking the board it is on over the pan. If the edges fold after it enters, you can leave it as is or try to flip them back over. To avoid burning the bottom of the pizza, remove the pan from the heat and place it on a heatproof trivet. Then working quickly, toss in the rest of the ingredients you made for your pizza, and top it off with cheese. Then quickly place it under the broiler. Now the fun begins!

Leave it under the broiler for one minute, turn the pan 180 degrees, and let it cook for another minute, watching carefully. Take it out and have a look. It will be done just as it is starting to turn dark brown, and/or slightly scorched (black) in places. Be careful to use oven mitts to remove the pan from the oven, and then remove the pizza from the pan with a metal spatula. Cut and enjoy!


Vegetarian Stuffed Cubanelle Peppers with Baked Rice




If you bother yourself thinking about it, there are a lot of dangers in travelling to Mexico these days. Particularly small towns in deep in the heart of the land. Between the drug warlords, the stinging fire ants, the scorpions, the scorching heat, the lack of potable water, the careless disregard for refridgeration, and not to mention confusing wastepaper baskets for toilets..... there's a lot to be concerned about. So one might ask themselves "why would anyone visit the place?"

...For these little black pearls. They were brought back from a trip to Nayarit.They look like large peppercorns, but they're not. The package says they are "Azafrán", which means "saffron" in English. But they're not saffron either. Not even close. This hard to come by spice also goes by the name of "Azafrán bolita" or "Azafrán de bolita". Far as I know, it is only cultivated in certain regions of Mexico. They may also be known as "faux saffron", as safflower products are. But they are related neither to saffron or safflower. However, like saffron, they are used to color rice (but they do not have the flavor of real saffron). Put a few pods in the boiling rice and there you go. (Like nutmeg, azafrán pods are said to be mildly hallucinogenic if eaten straight. I'm not going that route, however). First time out trying them, I'm throwing a couple in with the rice, and we'll see what's what.....

Mexico is also a country that is very fond of peppers, and it's not unusual to find them being served on the street as street fare food. They have mastered the art of stuffing peppers, and what follows is my crude interpretation of what might more or less resemble a stuffed pepper. That is, if you weren't in Mexico and didn't quite have all the ingredients or time that you needed.

The Peppers

We start this business with a few peppers, and I'm going for Cubanelle peppers. A mid-mild pepper which is perfect for this dish. But you could use any pepper you fancy. After cutting the tops off, I tried stuffing them whole, but found that didn't work too well. So I cut a slit lengthwise (without completely separating them), opened them up, and stuffed them like that.

The Stuffing

I was going to use masa harina to stuff the peppers. Which is a type of Mexican corn dough, often used to make tamales. But, it was too cold outside to get this, so I decided to make some polenta. (You might also try a stuffing of seasoned bread, such as used for turkey). Polenta is just corn meal that you cook to create a stuffing out of. The one I used was an Italian mix that had truffles in it, so it certainly provided enough flavor for the peppers. It's very easy to make. Boil about 800ml of water, tossing in a tablespoon of butter. Then slowly add about 175g of corn meal in several spurts, until all the corn meal has been added. Other recipes call for a whisk, but while I have many, I can't be bothered. A wooden spoon and some quick stirring each time you add the cornmeal is all that's needed. Stir constantly and lower the heat way down when the polenta starts to bubble and boil and spurt all over the place. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally, scraping the bottom, until it is thick and firm. (Remember, the more you cook it down, the more flavour you get). 

Finally, when the polenta is cooked, mix in about a quarter pound of your favorite grated cheese.



The Rice

Set a skillet on medium heat, add some vegetable oil (I used avocado oil, but you can use olive or other), and a chopped onion or two. I like to throw in some seasoning here (I used about a teaspoon of "Adobo seasoning with cumin") for flavour, but you can just add salt if you want. Mix the seasoning in well as the onion fries, until it starts to brown. Then add a cup of rinsed rice, stir that around, and you are ready to add water. Add enough water to cover the rice about a half inch. (Here is where I tossed in the azafrán pods!). Let the rice boil, then when most of the water over the surface has begun to evaporate, reduce to low and cook covered about 15 minutes, until tender. 

The Assembly

Cut the peppers as described above, stuff with the polenta, then place the rice in a shallow baking tray.  Place the peppers over top of that and cook in a 350F oven for an hour or so. We want the rice to be crunchy with some brown edges, the peppers to be soft and changed in color, and the stuffing to be firm. Now, dig in! Serve with salad if desired.



Green Curry Vinaigrette





Need a quick fix to dress your salad tonight? How about something a bit off the beaten path? I decided to get a little creative this time with the salad dressing, and thought I would try throwing in some green curry paste, that I had in my fridge. It looks like this, the kind you use in Thai or perhaps Viet Namese dishes.

You can find it in the international foods aisle, or at your Asian grocers. But look, this is the way of the Recipeless Cook. So don't marry yourself to green curry paste. Use red curry paste if you have it! Ok, you probably don't have that either.... well, let's have a look-see... what do you have? Indian style curry paste? No? How about just curry powder then? Whatever it is, the idea is to spice things up a little! (Not too much, just a little....)





Ingredients
 1/2 t. Green curry paste
1 T. soya sauce
1 T. lemon (or lime) juice
3 T extra virgin olive oil
a few cloves of garlic, mashed with salt (see "How To Mince Garlic" on these pages)


Instructions

After you have nicely minced and mashed your garlic, throw it in a small mason jar, add the rest of the ingredients, and... rock n' roll!


Végé-pâté Supreme




This is my third végé-pâté (aka "veggie paté") spread recipe. It's the latest and greatest, and the last. Of the three, it is closest to the "Classic Végé-pâté" recipe found on this blog. But it's a bit more ambitious than the other two, so after you've tried the "Classic Végé-pâté" recipe, this is a good one to move on to. Although a bit more laborious, it's an attempt to make a vege-paté of perfect taste and texture. Light, smooth, creamy and flavourful, reminiscent of liver paté, and comparable to store bought versions. It's the one you'll want, if you could only choose one...

Ingredients

    1 1/2 c raw unsalted sunflower seeds, soaked in water
    3/4 c ground flax seed (substitute: whole wheat or spelt flour)
    3/4 c nutritional yeast (I used redstar yeast flakes)
    1/2 t sea salt
    1/2 c vegetable oil (I used cold-pressed sunflower oil)
    1 lemon, juice of
    1 potato, peeled and chopped
    1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
    1 onion, chopped
    1 stalk celery, chopped
    1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed
    1/4 c tamari (substitute: soy sauce)
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
    1/2 teaspoon dried sage
    1/2 teaspoon dried savory
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/2 teaspoon ground basil
    1/2 teaspoon oregano
    1/2 teaspoon ground dry mustard (substitute: wet)

Sunflower seed paste
Sunflower seed mixture
(added yeast, spices, etc.)
Instructions:

Soak the sunflower seeds in cold water overnight if possible, otherwise soak for however long possible. Drain and transfer to bowl of a food processor, with a bit of water - enough to make a wet-ish paste when the seeds are chopped up by the processor. Process until you are able to achieve a relatively smooth, creamy, fairly thick paste. 

Végé-pâté mixture
(fully combined, ready 2 bake)
Toss in the nutritional yeast, ground flax seed (you can substitute flour if you don't have or won't get flax), and all the herbs, mustard and salt. Process until these are mixed, then remove the mixture from the bowl. Throw in the chopped onions, garlic and tamari sauce, and process until liquified (add a bit of water if necessary). Throw in the vegetables, oil and lemon juice. Process further until it is all homogenous and liquified; about a minute or so. Combine this vegetable mixture by hand with the sunflower seed mixture you set aside. Mix well until both mixtures are fully combined. The resulting mixture should be wet-ish and fairly thick. If it's overly dry, slowly mix in some water. 

Végé-pâté spread fully baked
Grease a 7" x 11" x 2" baking pan with olive oil. Pour in the combined mixture. Bake at 350F degrees in the middle or high rack of your oven, for about 55 minutes, until top is dry, brown and the edges are dark brown and crispy. Check that a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Let cool, cut in equal pieces and keep in refrigerator.



Green Tea Cookies



"It pairs equally well with game, foie de gras, Neufchâtel, and green tea cookies".

What cookies could be better with tea, than cookies with tea?!  These are not your usual butter/sugar cookies, because they employ the use of green tea leaves, to add an unusual twist on a popular and fundamental cookie recipe. You're more likely to find something like this in Asian cuisine, in the style of Chinese or Japanese deserts. But they might often use Japanese "matcha powder", which is a type of green tea in powdered form, that is used in many ways, including as an ingredient in recipes. This is what can give such deserts a green colour. Matcha powder however, is very expensive to produce, and even more expensive to buy. Not to mention not easily available outside of specialty shops outside of Asia. So instead, I use what I already happened to have in my cupboard: green tea bags. You cut them open, add them to the flour, and away you go. That's why these green tea cookies are not green. They're "green tea" cookies. Not "green" tea-cookies. Get it? Sure you can make them green by adding food color. Please don't. Food coloring is gross and best left for making Play-dough or fake food in your child's Easy Crocker Bake n' Shake Oven. 

These cookies have a nice flavour, and are a good option, I think, for a party. I made small squarish ones on this batch, my first time out making these things. I watched them carefully as they browned, but they still turned out a little dark, because they were unevenly cut, and I wanted to be sure none would be underdone. Depending on the sturdiness of your baking tray and eveness of your oven heat, it may also be important to turn the tray every few minutes, to ensure even baking.  The next time I would try a more traditional form, a larger, round cookie (or perhaps a larger square). Of course, a larger size would necessitate a longer cooking time, and vice versa. They're a bit on the sweet side, so I think I would also avoid dipping them in sugar, for my second attempt.
  

Ingredients

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 bags green tea
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or peppermint extract liquid)
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chopped into small cubes
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar for coating (optional)

Preheat your oven to 375F. In a food processor, mix the dry ingredients on pulse. Add the vanilla, water, and butter. Pulse just until a dough forms. Roll the dough into a log onto a piece of wax paper. Wrap the paper around and shape the log until it is smooth (round or squarish, , long or short, whichever your preference.) Chill for 30 minutes before baking (cookie dough can be frozen up to a few months ahead, for later baking).

Slice the log into 1/3" thick pieces. Dip each cookie in a bowl of sugar to coat the top. Place on baking sheets and bake at 375F until the edges are just brown (about 10 minutes). Let cool on wire rack.




Kiwi Custard Pie





The story is, I had some kiwis lying around, that really needed tending to. Besides eating them straight, there are few things you can do with a kiwi, that are worthwhile. Putting them on a tart is probably the best one. Kiwis already have a "tart" flavour, so they make a great match. But rather than putting them on any tart, I decided to try them on a French style custard tart. And you're not married to the kiwis, either. This is the recipeless cook, so you can substitute many other types of fresh fruit here. This recipe is a bit more work than my usual fare, though for what it is, it's still relatively easy. I won't have you fuss with separating egg yolks from their whites; just throw everything in there. All told, it's (almost) every bit as good as those delicate little custard tarts you find in the French patisseries. Well, let's just say it's very reminiscent of that....

Ingredients

Pâte Brisée Pie (or tart) Shell

1 cup flour
6 T cold butter
1/8 tsp. salt
1 T (full rounded) plain sugar
1/4 cup ice cold water
1 egg, beaten

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Put flour, salt and sugar into a food processor. Pulse very briefly a second or two to mix the ingredients. Add the egg, pulse briefly a couple of seconds to mix. Now take the butter out of the fridge, and scoop 6 tablespoons into the food processor (dropping them in separate areas of the processor bowl). Pulse briefly again, just until the mixture starts to clump up to one side of the processor bowl. Working quickly, empty the processor bowl into a pie plate, and press the dough around the bottom with the underside of your fingers, then work the dough up the sides of the pie plate, until it reaches the top. (Alternatively, you can use a metal tart shell if you have one). If you are not immediately ready to bake the pie shell, leave it in the fridge so that the butter does not melt. Otherwise, bake the shell for 20 minutes.

Custard Filling

2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. milk
2 eggs
2 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. vanilla


Instructions

Fill a small pot halfway with water, and put it to boil. Meanwhile, pour the sugar, flour and salt in a small metal or heat resistant glass bowl, and stir well with a heavy spoon. Stir in a portion of the milk, and stir around in the centre, to incorporate the liquid, until you get a smooth thick cream like consistency. Repeat with another portion of milk, and again, until all the milk is incorporated. Lower the heat to medium-medium high, to bring the pot to a slow boil. Place the bowl with the milk mixture over the pot, and using a wire whisk, whisk the mixture, particularly at the bottom, to prevent the flour from clumping up.  Continue whisking constantly about 10 minutes, until well thickened. During the latter half of this, when it starts to get too thick, use a metal spoon instead to stir the mix. Remove from the heat when done.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. Take a couple of spoonfuls of the heat milk mixture and stir well into the beaten eggs. Then off the heat, scrape the egg mix into the bowl with milk mixture and stir well with the spoon. Return the mix over the pot of slowly boiling water and continue to stir over the heat, until the egg has set and the mixture well thickened. Remove from heat, stir in the butter and vanilla, and let cool a bit, then fill the pie shell with the custard.



Topping

Ingredients

3 kiwis

n.b. Your kiwis should be ripe, and not too difficult to peel. This ensures they'll have some sweetness). Peel and slice the kiwis and cover the surface of the custard pie in a spiral pattern, or otherwise. (Alternatively, use strawberries, blueberries or other berry fruit, mangos or peaches, or simply no fruit. It's also delicious as is!).

Serve at room temperature or, better, chill in refrigerator and serve.

n.b. You can also try making this in a muffin tin, as individual "tartelettes". Just remember to adjust the baking time for the crust.

Bánh mì (Vietnamese Fried Egg Sandwich)



"Eat quick, before more vegetables escape!"

The bánh mì (pronounced "bun me!") sandwich is Viet Nam's answer to the Subway chain. Actually, it dates back to the 40's, and the influence of Viet Nam's French colonialists, among others, is clearly seen in this dish. The sandwich can be found in hawker stalls all over the streets of Viet Nam. It's popularity has seen it spread to Western countries as well, who often don't make it to code. The bánh mì  is normally a meat-filled sandwich, and the meat usually revolves around twenty thousand variations of pork. I'm porky enough as it is, so I'm not about to pork things up any further. This variation, with eggs, would be more considered a breakfast bánh mì. But unless you're planning on plowing the fields yourself because the ox have taken ill, this would be considered a pretty heavy breakfast. I made it for supper, instead.

Another way I did not follow tradition, is by using an Italian ciabatta bread for the base. It is chewy and flavorful, with a soft crust. The opposite of a vietnamese baguette, which is drier and has a thin crispy crust. I did so because it had simple ingredients, without the usual fillers and junk the local French versions carry. To more closely follow the bánh mì, you'll want a nice, large, short, fat, French baguette. Which more closely resembles the Viet Namese baguette. (The viet namese baguette is actually made of a combination of rice and wheat flours, and may or may not be found at asian shops in your area). 


Ingredients

crusty (ie. French) bread (short baguette)
2 eggs
carrots
celery
cucumber
coriander (cilantro), fresh (not chopped)
mayonnaise
salt, pepper

Vinaigrette

soy sauce (or Maggi sauce)
rice vinegar
sesame oil
chili oil

Julienne (or shred) the vegetables. Toss the vegetables in a large bowl, and sprinkle over top with the various vinaigrette ingredients (in the quantities you desire for each ingredient). Mix.  In a non stick pan, fry the eggs sunny side up until they are crisp around the edges (I prefer to turn them over at the end of cooking and fry a minute or two, to set the yolk). (n.b. You can add onions here, if you like. Also, I sprinkled my eggs with a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil). Remove. Cut the baguette in half (ensuring you do not cut too close to the bottom). Spread mayonnaise on the bottom half. Then the vegetables, then eggs, top with cilantro. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

"Waiter! More napkins please!"
Vary the vegetables, if you like. Green peppers can be added, or more exotic ingredients like daikon or jikama, if you can find it (or store purchased pickled vegetables). The eggs can be scrambled or omelet-style if you prefer.  They can be substituted entirely for fried tofu or seitan. The acid can be red wine vinegar, if you don't have rice vinegar, or prefer otherwise. The soy sauce can be Maggi-brand sauce. I used chili oil, because that's all I had that would work. But the hot stuff can be anything hot (particularly asian) that can be mixed or better still, spread on the bun. Sriracha or garlic-chili sauce would work well, for example. You can also add in some cold rice vermicelli noodles. Finally, you can drizzle the vinaigrette ingredients on the bun directly, as many "banh miers" do, instead of mixing it with the vegetables.

The one thing I would maintain is the coriander. Without the fresh coriander, it's just a submarine sandwich!

Half and Half No-Knead Bread (50% Whole Wheat)




This is the latest and perhaps greatest, if not last, variation on the theme of no-knead "breading" for The Recipeless Cook. It is the coup de maitre of taking one half quantity of all purpose flour, and one half whole wheat (stoneground organic no less), and making the perfect bread out of the perfect compromise. It's one of my best variations. Why do this? Why not go all the way, with one flour type or another? Well....

Simply put, I got tired of having doorstops for supper. It's certainly healthier to go 100% whole wheat on the flour, and particularly so if using stoneground organic. But no matter what you try, you will end up with a much flatter, more dense and harder bread, than you otherwise would. Since all white flour is not a very healthy diet, I decided something healthier, and more challenging was in order. Look at the photo above and see if you agree. It is a bread made with half stoneground, organic "integral wheat bread" flour (aka whole grain whole wheat), half plain all purpose white flour (you could certainly use purpose-built white bread flour). It's a slow rise of about 18 hours, as described in my other no-knead recipes. To keep the bread fluffy and the crust soft, I add more yeast than prescribed, and throw in some gluten flour and (soya) milk powder. These last two are optional if you don't have them, but recommended for best results.

Keep It Simple

The no-knead bread recipe is more than a recipe. It's a lifestyle. It's taken a lot of the cachet out of artisan bakery bread and put it back in the hands of home cooks, where it belongs. It's made having fancy gadgets, like puce-colored stand mixers, unnecessary. It's simple enough to be understood by a 5 year old girl, powerful enough to change lives and their diets. It's a panacea in these economic times, where room to manoeuver is getting tighter all the time. Which is why, while it works, it works best if you create the bread on an ongoing, regular basis. Make it a permanent part of your routine, and you will likely benefit in spades. When you see you're getting down to a few slices, sometime before bedtime, prepare a new bread for the next day. It only takes five minutes. Ultimately, you can control what you eat by controlling what goes into your bread, and control costs by chopping your bread budget to a fraction of what it might have been, if you buy commercial.

By all means, experiment with the variations of the no-knead I have written about on this blog. But keep in mind that the simpler, is usually the better. Less things to go wrong. Example... creating a faux sourdough, as I write about in another recipe, can give a nice sour flavour and chewiness to the crumb and crust that a regular recipe won't produce. But it interferes with the rising process, and eventually creates a much more dense bread that can come out with a terribly glutinous core.


Ingredients

2 c all purpose (or bread) flour (aka white flour)
2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 t yeast
2 t salt
2 T gluten powder
2 T soya milk powder
2 1/4 c water

You can find more details on the ingredients (ie. gluten powder and soya powder) and the preparation for this bread in my other no-knead recipes (ie. 100% whole wheat no knead). The principle is the same, just the ingredients change. Some basic rules to go by:

  •  You use 1/2 c of tepid water per cup of flour. (n.b. The addition of the gluten and milk powder requires an additional 1/4 c)
  • You mix the ingredients first, in a large bowl. You can use your hands, a spatula, or as I currently prefer, a sturdy metal flatware spoon. (Hands can help you feel tiny details, like where the flour clumps. But I prefer a spoon, as it is more hygenic and gives greater control). Start in the centre, mixing vigorously, and allowing the edge flour to automatically blend in. Then scrape along the edge of the bowl to blend in the remaining flour, turning the bowl as you go. Then (ie. using the spoon), turn the entirety of the dough as many times as necessary (avoid mashing it if possible), to allow the wetter parts of the dough to absorb the stray quantity of flour. Do this until all the flour is absorbed.
  • Squeeze a plastic bag tightly over the bowl, and place it in either the microwave oven (with a glass of hot water), or better still, your regular large oven (along with a pot full of boiling water). This will increase the humidity in the oven environment, to allow a fuller rise. Let sit 18 hours in the oven, then proceed as instructed in the above (whole wheat) recipe. (As described, you will be baking it in a covered pot at 350F for about 1 1/2 hours).


Broccoli & Cheese Potage




It's a lazy summer afternoon.... no, it's a busy summer night. You don't have the time, the ingredients, or the inclination to make anything too fancy or involved. But you want to eat healthy. You want a potage. Which in my view, is a creamed vegetable soup. It doesn't have to be thick as porridge. In fact I don't try to make it too thick here. I made mine medium, with a bit of body, and a consistency about that of somewhat thin applesauce. But it should have good, healthy ingredients. You keep all the vegetables in the pot, so the soup retains their nutrients. This recipe is both quick and easy to make; all you basically need is an appropriate vegetable. I had a broccoli that needed eating, so it's a broccoli potage. If you just have a cauliflower, make it a cauliflower potage. It could be cabbage, could be a squash. Zucchini might work. I add cheese and herbs for flavour, because it would be bland without it. The cheese I chose for this soup was "Oka" type; one of the stinkiest cheeses ever made, I think. Fortunately, it doesn't taste like it smells. If you want a richer meal, you can add cooked chicken, after processing the soup at the end.

Ingredients

8 c cold water (or chicken broth)
1 broccoli (including stems)
1 lg onion, chopped
2 cl garlic (opt)
1 T powdered chicken stock (if not using chicken broth)
1/2 t mint
1 t dill
Cheese, to taste (recommend fine soft cheese; ie. Oka, blue cheese, swiss, camembert. Could also be orange cheddar, brick, etc.)
2 potatoes, diced (about 1 cm)
salt and pepper, as necessary

Instructions

Cut the broccoli florets from the stalk (wash in cold water). Cut about 1/2" off the bottom of the stalk. Peel the remaining stalk to remove the thick outer layer of skin (with a paring knife, you can peel it like a banana, if you start at the bottom of the stalks). Cut the skinned stalks into about 1" pieces. In a large soup pot (preferably enamelled cast iron), sauté the chopped onion and garlic at a low-med heat, until softened, but barely browned. Add the diced potatoes, sauté for a bit, then add the broccoli florets and stalk pieces. Sauté a minute or two, then add the cold water or chicken stock. Let the water come to a boil on high heat. Add the powdered chicken bouillon (if you started with cold water). Reduce the heat to medium; or whatever is enough to maintain a strong simmer. Simmer uncovered until the water has reduced by about anywhere from 2/3 (recommended) to 1/2; depending on how thick you prefer. At this point, the vegetables should no longer be hidden under the water, they'll be closer to the surface. This could be about 30 minutes or so of simmering. Once the soup has reduced enough, remove it from the heat. Add the cheese, stir with a spoon.

Insert a hand blender into the pot (or pour into a regular blender or food processor), and blend until the vegetables are homogenous and no large bits remain. You can also blend until some large bits remain, if you wish to have more textures (at the expense of a bit of flavor). Add the dried mint and dried dill (or fresh dill/mint is better, if you have it. Use 3x more if using fresh). Also, sprinkle a bit of pepper, if desired. Check if it needs salt, but careful not to oversalt if you're using powdered stock and salty cheese. Stir and serve with good, crusty, artisan made bread; such as one of the no-knead recipes.

 
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