Archive for the ‘Vegetarian Cooking’ Category

Looking for different and delicious side dishes? Potato knishes might be the answer for the holidays

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

This post should begin with a picture of the finished product but I forgot to take a picture when they came out of the oven and I really wanted to get this information in your hands before it was too late…so…try and envision these little bundles baked to a beautiful golden color.

I’ll tell you why I love these knishes.  First of all they can be made ahead of time and I’m all about doing everything I can to simplify cooking the day of an event.  So that’s number one.  Secondly I love the concept of using them as a side dish for a holiday menu (they would be awesome with a rib roast or a beef tenderloin) plus they double beautifully as a hot hors d’oeuvre.  And lastly they are delicious, absolutely wonderful.  This is one recipe I had to share and actually I can’t take credit for it.  I discovered it by doing some work for the Idaho Potato Commission and they are constantly “commissioning/challenging” chefs around the country and the world to come up with their best potato recipes.  This is definitely one of them.

The first picture is of knishes in appetizer size and the one right above depicts the knishes in a larger, dinner portion suitable for an adult.  Basically these knishes are two part:  there’s the outside pastry (which is store-bought puff pastry..easy) and then there’s the filling that is made with Yukon gold potatoes, sauteed onions, cheddar cheese, blue cheese, parmesan and even a little goat cheese.  They are assembled ahead of time, brushed with a little egg wash and then baked to golden perfection.

Here are the little guys under construction and below is the sheet of puff pastry rolled out and ready to cut.

I’ve eaten these right out of the oven (of course they were heavenly) and I’ve even reheated them the next day in the oven and they were just as wonderful.  What I’m trying to say is you can’t go wrong.

Recipe developed by Sherry Yard, Executive Pastry Chef, Spago Beverly Hills

1 ½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (simmered, peeled and coarsely mashed)

4 ounces minced onion sautéed in 1 tablespoon butter

2 ounces cheddar cheese

2 ounces blue cheese

1 ounce grated parmesan cheese

1 ounce goat cheese

2 ounces heavy cream

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

egg wash (one beaten egg)

1 package frozen puff pastry sheets

In medium bowl combine all ingredients for potatoes and combine well with rubber spatula or wooden spoon trying to keep potatoes somewhat coarse. Mixture can be made one or two days ahead.

To assemble: take one sheet of pastry and roll out slightly until it measures an 8×12 rectangle. Cut sheet into 6 (4×4 inch) squares. Place a generous 1/3 cup of filling in each square. Bring corners of each square to the center of the potatoes and pinch and twist to secure.

Place on parchment lined baking sheet allowing enough room for knishes to puff a little while they bake. Then brush with egg wash and let chill in fridge for 30 minutes. If covered well, knishes can be prepared to this point and held a day ahead. Preheat oven to 400. Bake until puffed and quite golden (about 20 minutes).

You can also make appetizer sizes by cutting the pastry in smaller squares and spooning less filling onto each square.

Pot pie without the pot

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

I think everyone would have to admit that the best part of a pot pie is the pastry.  No matter how good the filling is.  And puff pastry is probably the most decadent and delicious pastry one could ever hope to pair with the creaminess of the comforting inside.  A few weeks ago I found myself with some 5×5 inch puff pastry squares leftover from a catering event.  I thought of using each square as a freestanding individual pot pie but I was worried that the filling might ooze out too much.  Then… I thought that if I made a think white sauce (the base for the filling) it might be alright.  So that’s what I did.  I made a batch of thick white sauce using 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter and one cup milk.  You can make the same base and then season it to your liking.  Thyme leaves are always a great place to start.

In my case I had leftover chunks of beef that I added to the base and an assortment of vegetables.  Everything got mixed together.  If you are using puff pastry or an ordinary pastry the procedure would be as follows.

Set your squares on the counter until somewhat pliable. 

Place a scoop of filling in the middle….

and then bring two opposite points together. 

If needed stretch the ends a bit to make sure that they adequately cover the filling.   

Bring the remaining ends together….pinch and twist. 

Set on a baking sheet and brush with an egg wash, if desired.  The wash provides a shiny coat to the pie. 

Bake at 400 until richly golden and bubbly.  As you can see there was a little oozing but it was minimal.

Wood-fired pizzas (or the next best thing)

Monday, October 31st, 2011

I think it would be awesome to have a wood-fired pizza oven but the reality is…I will never have one.  But here’s a technique that will get you close.  It involves a pizza stone, a paddle, fresh dough and toppings.

Purchase the largest stone you can find or maybe it’s a combination of two stones. 

Place the stone(s) in the oven on one of the center racks and remove the other racks so you have room to maneuver with the paddle.  Turn the oven on to its highest “bake” setting, usually around 550 degrees.  HOWEVER, I noticed in the directions that came with my stone that it recommended that the temperature be introduced gradually.  So what you can do is set it to 350, let it preheat…take it to 400, let it catch up and then finally take it to 550.  The whole warming time might be close to 20 or 25 minutes.

Have some freshly made dough…

that has been rolled out and docked (poked with a fork throughout).  Set that on top of the paddle but make sure there is plenty of cornmeal sprinkled on the paddle to keep the dough free and loose once it is set on the paddle.  The size of the pizza round should not exceed the width of the paddle or the width of the stone.  You might need to experiment a bit so you get just the right amount of dough to match your equipment.  The crust should be very thin for best results. 

Once the dough is on the paddle, add your toppings and then take to your super-heated oven. 

With quick jerking motions transfer the pizza to the stone.  This will take a little practice but will come in time.

Set your timer for 10 minutes and allow pizza to bake. 

Check it after that and if the edges are brown and crusty and the cheese is bubbly, your pizza is ready and can be removed from the oven with the paddle.  If you are going to be eating right away you can cut and serve from the paddle but if you are holding it for any length of time transfer the pizza to a baking rack to prevent the crust from sweating and losing it’s crispiness.

AND….if you have a barbeque you can duplicate this entire process by putting a stone in there, cranking it up to it’s maximum heat and then baking inside with the lid down.  The BBQ gives it a nice flavor but generally does not accomodate a very large pizza.  Very fun to try, though.  Give it a try, fine tune as you need and you will have added a wonderful item to your cooking repetoire!

Tofu – give it a try!

Monday, October 10th, 2011

pressing tofu

If you are trying to minimize the use of meat in your cooking you might want to consider tofu.   Most people just roll their eyes when they hear the word tofu but I’ve recently learned a few things about working and cooking with this Japanese food.

First let me explain quickly that tofu is made from unfermented soy bean curd.   It’s creamy colored, has the texture of baked custard and can range from being soft to firmer.  The appeal of tofu is that it is completely tasteless which makes it a food that pairs well with about anything you choose to cook it with.  Also, because of its bland taste, it becomes the perfect host for all kinds of marinades.

What seems to turn people off is the texture.  Tofu tends to be so watery that even the firmer tofu can squish and mush up real quickly in your mouth.  Well here’s a trick that helps get rid of that problem and just makes tofu it easier to use and enjoy.  In my quest to learn how to make the perfect Pad Thai I came across a recipe that incorporated the use of tofu.  Up until that point I had always used tofu directly from the carton it comes in.  This recipe recommended a simple technique for pressing the tofu to extract all that unnecessary and unwanted liquid.  Here it is…

Tofu is typically packaged in small square containers with water.  When you open your carton of tofu you should first drain off all the liquid you can.  Then set the square of tofu in the center of a pie plate.  On top of the pie plate set a regular dinner plate and then weigh the plate down with a heavy object.  You should try and find something that weighs about three pounds (see picture above).  Use objects that aren’t too tall because as the plate presses down on the tofu it may tip to one side or another causing whatever’s on top to fall off.  So choose a heavy object that isn’t too tall and set it on top of the plate.  The weight needs to rest on the tofu for one to two hours.  What works best is to set everything in the fridge in the morning and by dinner time it will be ready.

Drain off the liquid from the pressing and then cut the tofu in either ½ inch slices or cubes.  And at this point, because you’ve pressed out most of the internal liquid the tofu will more readily accept a marinade, should you choose to marinate it.  The marinade  can be something Asian like a ginger and soy marinade or any of the bottled marinades will work well. After an hour of marinating it’s ready to be cooked.  Tofu can be steamed, grilled, pan-fried, added to casseroles or included as part of a stir fry.  It is truly versatile and much better tasting when pressed and prepared this way.

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