Sunday, 24 June 2012

ROTW, Week 24 - Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme and Sea Salt

This one is straight out of Smitten Kitchen.  They were divine, and so easy to make!  Please try these, it will be worth it I promise.

Seriously, I just copied and pasted the whole recipe.  They were so delicious!!  I made a bowl of homemade hummus, and we just had that for dinner.  I might do it again next week :)

Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme, and Sea Salt - from Smitten Kitchen

Crisp Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme and Sea Salt
Flatbread base adapted from Gourmet; recipe inspired by Salinas

These crackers fit squarely between dinner and dessert. It goes well with a cheese course — oh, wait, you don’t have cheese courses with each meal at your house? Yeah, us neither, sigh — or at a cocktail party or maybe as a little summer afternoon something-something with a glass of wine or even as a dessert for people who do not throw themselves wholly into sweet things. The crackers play off the nutty cheese which plays off the slick of honey and faint crunch of sea salt with bits of thyme throughout and together they are even more than the sum of their parts. And they take no time to make.

As for the cheese you use, the restaurant uses a Mahon, which I was able to find, but I daresay you could try any other aged nutty cow milk cheese instead, or even a hard salty cheese like Romano or Parmesan instead. Yes, that’s a wide range. Mostly, it’s about a flavor you might enjoy here.
Makes about 16 flatbreads

1 3/4 cups (7 3/4 ounces or 220 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup (118 ml) water
1/3 cup (79 ml) olive oil
2/3 to 3/4 cup (about 3 ounces or 85 grams) grated Mahon cheese (see above for replacements)
1/3 to 1/2 cup (79 to 118 ml) honey
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Flaky sea salt such as Maldon

Preheat oven to 450°F with a heavy baking sheet or pizza stone on a middle rack.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Knead dough gently on a work surface 4 or 5 times. It will feel quite oily (but just think of how great your hands will look later!).

Divide dough into 4 pieces and roll out 1 piece at on a sheet of parchment paper into a longish irregular rustic shape; mine were about 12″x6″. The dough should be rolled thin and it be crazy oily and you’ll think I’ve lost my mind suggesting that it will make anything but a mess, but you’ll see in a few minutes how perfectly ungreasy it bakes up, promise.

Slide rolled out dough and parchment paper together onto the preheated baking sheet or stone, and bake about 5 minutes, until lightly golden. Leaving the oven on, remove tray from oven and quickly sprinkle with 1/4 of grated cheese. Bake an additional 3 to 4 minutes, until browned at edges and in thinner spots. Remove flatbreads from oven a final time, quickly drizzle each with honey (1 used about a tablespoon per flatbread, but the restaurant used more; they were truly flooded with honey and it was delicious), sprinkle with sea salt and garnish with thyme leaves. Cut each cracker width-wise into 4 sections (about 3″x6″ each) with a sharp knife. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. Serve warm.

Do ahead: Should you want to prepare these ahead of time for a party, I’d bake them including the cheese about 1 minute less than needed. Shortly before you’re ready to serve them, re-toast them in the oven and then drizzle on the honey/thyme/sea salt.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

ROTW, Week 23 - Crepes with Nutella

This Friday was Brandon's birthday, and though we didn't get to celebrate with proper enthusiasm on Friday night, we did try to do it justice on Saturday.  To finish off a delicious meal, I tried to make something fancy for dessert: crepes.

Crepes are one of those things that seem really hard (case in point, I walked around the rest of the night with a big grin on my face saying, "I made crepes!" every 5 seconds.) but that really?  It wasn't that bad.  I managed to make these 1/2 way into a bottle of champagne. (Or maybe I don't think they were bad because of the champagne?  God only knows.)

As I like to do in the case of food requiring precision, and where helpful tips are the difference between failure and success, I turned to Alton Brown for this recipe. He knows his stuff.

Crepes with Nutella, from Alton Brown.

I made a half-recipe, and even with 2 mistake crepes in the beginning (flipped too early) we had 2 halfsize ones each.  Which seemed just right.

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • Butter, for coating the pan

For the crepes:

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours.
Heat a small non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board. Lay them out flat so they can cool. Continue until all batter is gone. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months. When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling apart.
*Savory Variation Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, spinach or sun-dried tomatoes to the egg mixture.
*Sweet Variation Add 21/2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of your favorite liqueur to the egg mixture.

To make the crepes with Nutella, simply spread nutella on the warm crepes, and fold them in half.  I sprinkled with powdered sugar, which was completely gratuitous.


Sunday, 10 June 2012

ROTW Week 22: Spicy Black Bean and Jalapeno Salsa

Its summer time!  That means at least 50% of my cooking for the next 4 months will involve an avocado (and by default therefore not involve much actual cooking.)

This particular salsa was my first try cooking with jalapenos.  I have used cayenne peppers in my cooking in the past, but have never felt the urge to try a jalapeno.  First time for everything!

Black Bean and Jalapeno Salsa with Roasted Sweet Corn and Tomatillos

1 tin black beans, drained and rinsed
1 jalapeno, sliced
2 ears of fresh sweet corn, husk removed
2-3 tomatillos, diced
2-4 radishes, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 avocado, cubed
1tsbp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Using a grill pan (or a grill over lower heat), roast the corn over high heat.  It takes a while, and needs a bit of nursing, but hopefully you can get some nice black marks on the corn.

In the meantime, add the olive oil to a saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped jalapeno, and cook for 1-2 minutes.  You should be able to smell the pepper releasing its heat.  Add the black beans and cook until the jalapeno is softened.  Add the tomatillos and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the radishes and corn cut from the cob.  When the salsa has cooled slightly, add the cilantro, red wine vinegar, and avocado.  Add salt and pepper to your liking, and serve over polenta (or rice), alongside grilled chicken or seafood.

next week: Nutella Crepes!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

ROTW, Week 21 : Steak-Frites with Goat Cheese and Red Wine Reduction

Ah steak-frites.  In my top 10 meals out there, probably (along with moules-frites - anything with frites is just delicious.  That's french fries for you heathens.)  To celebrate Memorial Day romantically, since no one else wanted to hang out with us, Brandon and I enjoyed this classic, with a steak sauce I had never made before.*

Steak-Frites with Goat Cheese and Red Wine Reduction.
The steak part of this recipe is adapted from

  • 4 beef steaks, such as porterhouse, sirloin, rib eye, shell or filet mignon (1/2 pound each and 3/4 to 1 inch thick), or one 2-pound steak
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 3 tbsp goat's cheese
  • 3 large russet potatoes, washed and cut into french fry-size sticks

Preheat your oven to 450F.

Spread the potatoes out over a large baking dish, endeavoring to keep them on a single layer.  Spray lightly with spray olive oil or regular cooking spray (canola oil) and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Toss to coat, and pop in the oven to cook for 25 minutes minimum (probably closer to 35).  Just keep an eye on them, tossing occasionally, and they'll be done when the steak is done.  If they finish earlier, just turn off the oven and keep em in there, staying nice and hot.  Cold french fries are a waste.

Trim the fat around the outside of each steak, and reserve.

Begin the pan sauce by melting 2 tbsp of the butter over medium heat in a saute pan.  Add the steak fat and render over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for 3 minutes until they are just turning golden, then add the red wine.  Increase the heat to medium high, and let the wine reduce while you prepare the steaks.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large heavy skillet or sauté pan over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the steaks and sear for 1 minute on each side. Reduce the heat to medium. Season the steaks generously with salt and pepper and continue cooking, turning the steaks every other minute, until you see little pearls of blood come to the surface, about 6 to 8 minutes. The steaks should be cooked rare to medium for juicy, tender meat.

With about 1 minute left to cook on the steaks, remove the leftover steak fat bits from the pan, and add the goat's cheese.  Stir until it is completely incorporated, and then turn off the heat.  Ad salt and pepper to the sauce as desired.

Remove the steaks and place them on warmed plates. Serve with a generous helping of oven fries and a large ladle of delicious steak sauce.  Enjoy.

*Steak sauce is a relatively new concept to me.  We ate a lot of steak growing up, because my dad enjoys both grilling it and eating it.  But we rarely had it with sauce of any kind, because he really enjoys it au naturale.  Experimenting with steak sauce/ steak butter has become an enjoyable hobby for me.