An Open Cookbook

An Open Cookbook


Herbed Wheat Crackers

A few weeks ago, I had plans of attending a potluck, so I whipped up my old faithful: Moroccan Carrot Dip.  My first instinct for the accompaniment was pita chips.  Instinctually I grabbed my keys to head to the grocery.  Then I stopped as I turned the door knob.  I could make my own crackers.  I had flour, dried herbs, olive oil and water.  Easy enough.  And I could make them whatever size and shape and thickness my heart desired.  What an empowering thought.  I would be using 100% of pre-stocked home ingredients for the dip and the crackers and 100% creative energy.

They turned out to be such a success that I have made them twice now.  Each time I experiment in an attempt to improve and make them a little different.  So the recipe below is Test #2.  I doubled the spices from the first time, and it seems to work out nicely.  Above is a picture of the dough taken right after thunking it onto the parchment.  The texture is not what I would expect dough to feel like, so keep that in mind.  This is probably because of the olive oil in it.  This picture makes it look almost like pearl couscous.  But once you start handling it, and form a ball, it is quite soft (and heavy).

I used a pizza cutter to slice them into shapes.  Cookie cutters would also be an interesting way to cut them.  So if you have some, experiment with different shapes.  A few of my crackers bubbled into pocket style crackers.  So I recommend taking a fork to poke holes into the dough before baking so that doesn't happen to you. 

It is worth experimenting with different flours too.  If you choose to use just all purpose, the crackers will probably be a little lighter.  Oat flour would add a nice grainy texture.  Or a blend of wheat and rice flour may be on the docket.  Making crackers is also an inspiration for other dip recipes too.  What a synergistic inspiration leading to another.  Watch out kitchen, we are entering a whole new territory...

Herbed Wheat Crackers
Yields 30-36 crackers depending on size of each

These nice little crackers look and taste pretty similar to Wheat Thins...not as sweet, because I didn't add any sugar.  But texture and color are quite close.  I added dried parsley and sage.  But you can add any type of herb like basil or rosemary or oregano.  Some Parmesan cheese sprinkled into the dough might be nice too.

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt + extra for sprinkling
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 Tbsp cold water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a food processor, pulse the two flours together.  Add the parsley, sage, pepper, and salt.  Pulse until blended.  While the processor is running, drizzle the olive oil and then the water through the feed tube.  The dough will look crumbly, but it isn't.  The oil holds it all together.

Plop the dough on a sheet of parchment paper that will fit onto a baking sheet.  Roll into a ball in your hands.  With a rolling pin (or pint glass if you don't have a rolling pin, like me) roll the dough as thin as possible.  Sprinkle with salt.  Give the dough about 10 minutes to relax after all the rolling.

With a pizza cutter, cut the dough into whatever shape crackers suits your fancy...squares, circles, triangles...what have you.  Bake in oven until crisp, about 10-12 minutes.  Turn off the heat, and let the crackers sit in the oven for another 3 minutes.  Remove and let cool completely.  Enjoy any way you like to eat crackers...or scrackers as my friend A says (crackers + made from scratch= scrackers).


Fresh Fava Bean Puree

I have literally been thinking about fresh fava beans for months.   They pop like popcorn into my brain every so often.  Last winter I was watching the Food Network and Giada had a recipe for pureed fava beans that really sang to me.  I used to avoid the gigantic pods at farmer's markets because I had no idea what to do with them.  But in the spirit of culinary adventures...Giada was my inspiration.  I find that the more adventuresome I am in the kitchen, the more I am in life.  So why not start with a green pea pod?  Who know what will happen next.

So yesterday morning I headed to the Ballard farmer's market in search of fresh favas.  I located a friendly stand and started slowly slipping pod after pod into my bag.  They were much softer and delicate than I expected.  They felt like they had just been pulled off the plant.  And an even bigger surprise was the fleece-like layer inside each pod, cushioning the beans. 

It was a beautiful sunny day, so I sat on the front porch carefully de-podding each bean.  What a brilliantly protective traveling case for the beans.  And every pod was different.  Some have four beans like the picture above.  A few had one giant bean next to a few tiny ones.  Others had three medium sized beans.  It was a little adventure seeing what each one would hold.

They look suspiciously similar to lima beans.  So if you can't find fava beans, frozen limas would be a close second for this spread.  I made the crackers pictured above, which will be the next post.  They are super easy, and very satisfying to make.  I also think a little bit of bacon might add a nice salty hint to this spread too.  So if you have some, try it and let me know if I need to make it again.

Fresh Fava Bean Puree
Adapted from Giada At Home and The Book of Tapas
Yields about 1/2 cup

I did a combination of Giada's recipe with another one from the The Book of Tapas.  I wanted a little more flavoring than the mint.  So a combination of sauteed onion and fresh garlic really upped the ante.  Her recipe called for boiling the beans in chicken stock.  I didn't have any on hand, so I just used the pan from the sauteed onions for the boiling water, and it flavored the beans quite nicely.  Mint seemed to be in every recipe with fava beans, and I happened to have some from a fruit salad, so that worked out just nicely.  But feel free to experiment with other fresh herbs.

1 tsp olive oil
1/3 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup water
~ 15 fava bean pods (1 cup shelled fava beans)
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp fresh mint, minced
Salt and pepper
Remaining water from boiling (1-2 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp olive oil

Heat a medium saute pan on low to medium heat.  Add 1 tsp olive oil to pan and heat for a few minutes.  Scrape the onions into the hot pan and saute until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. 

Remove onions from pan and transfer to a food processor bowl.  For added onion flavor, use the same pan for the rest of the recipe.  Add water, a sprinkle of salt and fava beans to onioned pan.  Bring to a boil and cook beans until tender, about 10 minutes.  Do a taste test to determine doneness.  With a cup placed under a strainer, pour beans out of pan.  Keep the onion enhanced water for the puree.  Rinse the beans with cold water to cool them off a bit. 

Add the beans to the food processor along with the garlic, mint, salt and pepper.  Pulse until blended.  Scrape sides.  Drizzle the 1-2 Tbsp reserved water and 1 Tbsp olive oil through the feed tube while processor is still on.  Blend until smooth.  Adjust any seasonings.  Serve on top of chicken or fish, as a dip for crackers or as a spread on a cucumber sandwich.


Curried Kale Chips

This recipe was such a crowd pleaser on the Fourth of July, that I decided to write about it.  The party took place on a boat, so I wanted to contribute snacks that were easily portable and even easier to eat with minimal mess.  I thought and thought all day about what to bring.  I scoured through cookbooks.  I debated on homemade beet chips.  But I am still trying to perfect that recipe.  I wanted to bring a tried and true recipe that was sure to please a variety of palates.  It had to a be a flavorful, salty snack that tasted like a snack food, but was secretly healthy.  Kale chips fit the criteria perfectly.  Crispy little treats that have the crunch of a potato chip, but the vitamins and nutrients from a vegetable.  I decided to jazz them up a bit by adding curry spices, which makes this an evolved version of the Kale Chips Post from last fall. 

As you can probably tell, I have been using green kale pretty frequently these days.  It seems to be popping up at every farmer's market I attend, and am immediately drawn to it.  But I encourage you to play around with other types of kale or other sturdy greens.  I had dinosaur kale chips at a restaurant before, and they made for a different texture.  I am not sure how collard greens would turn out, but that may be worth a try.

But among all the great qualities these little chips provide, one of the best is the portability factor.  I let them sit out on the baking sheet for probably 30 minutes so they were completely cooled and crispy.  Then I popped them in a zip lock bag and was on my way.  They would be great for a lunch bag treat, party appetizer or popcorn replacement for movie time.  And always opt for more rather than less when deciding how many bunches to buy.  They act like Shrinky Dinks in the oven.

Curried Kale Chips
Yields 1 appetizer plateful

You really can spice up your kale chips with any type of flavoring.  Below is what I did to create a curried version.  One important note:  no matter what spices you choose, really dig in with your hands when blending the oil and spices into the kale leaves.  Make sure every little leaf get attention.  Otherwise you will have some really spicy bites, and really dull other bites.

1 bunch green kale, washed, de-stemmed and cut into big chunks
1 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Gather all of your kale and drop into a large bowl.  In a small bowl or ramekin, mix all the spices (curry through salt) together.  Drizzle 1 tsp of oil onto the kale.  Pour about half of the spice mixture on top of that.  With your (clean) hands, thoroughly massage the oil and spices into the kale leaves.  Pour in the other teaspoon of oil, with the rest of the spices following suit.  Repeat the massage until every leaf seems to have gotten enough attention.

Place the dressed kale on a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Evenly distribute the leaves throughout the pan.  Roast in the oven for 10 minutes.  When this time is up, open oven, toss the leaves with tongs.  Roast for another 3 minutes.  They should all be crispy and slightly darker in color.  Pull out of oven and let sit for a few minutes for them to do their last crisping.


Artichoke and Black Olive Spread

Back in the day when I used to work at the Maple Leaf Grill, one of my favorite sandwiches was the Vegetarian Muffaletta Sandwich.  This seems to be somewhat of an oxymoron because every muffaletta recipe I come across has substantial portions of meat on the sandwich.  But at that (vegetarian) time of my life, I didn't mind.  And from what I have read, it is the 'olive salad' portion of the sandwich that makes a muffaletta and muffaletta...that's just the word on the street. 

But back to the Maple Leaf sandwich.  The chef replaced the meat with a pureed artichoke heart salad and then slathered it with a thick layer of olive tapenade and Gouda cheese.  Pure salty heaven on a ciabatta roll.  So over the years I have played around with re-creations of the dreamy sandwich.

A few weeks ago, after a long staring contest with my kitchen cabinet, I realized all the ingredients to make a combined version of the artichoke spread and olive tapenade were there.  It started with a can of artichoke hearts.  Then a squeeze of lemon.  Then a chop of garlic.  An opened can of black olives.  A bunch of fresh parley in a water glass in the fridge.  Music to my ears.  I painted some Trader Joe's lavash with olive oil and popped it in the toaster oven. 

This was so satisfying and easy, that I have made it three times since then.  You likely will too.

Artichoke and Black Olive Spread
Inspired by the Maple Leaf Grill's Muffaletta Sandwich
Yields 1-1 1/2 cups

This dip is so versatile.  It can be a spread on a wrap.  Or put on bruschetta with provolone melted on top.  Or like me, you might be so enticed that you eat it by the spoonful.

1 can artichoke hearts, drained and throughly squeezed
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup canned black olives, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced

Pile the artichoke hearts, garlic, salt, pepper, mustard, lemon juice and olive oil into the food processor.  Pulse several times until it is blended, but not completely pureed.  Transfer to a medium bowl and toss with the black olives and parsley.  Adjust any seasonings.  Enjoy immediately.


Cinnamon Stick Skewered Chicken

Holy Toledo...or in this case, holy Cincinnati Enquirer.  For at least two years now, my kitchen has been decorated with this recipe clipping sent from my mom.  I have intended to make these interesting skewers for years...and to no avail.  The poor little clipping has hopped all around the refrigerator door in hopes of catching my eye.  For awhile it was in the top left corner next to another recipe for Cheddar Pumpkin soup (which WILL get made next fall).  Then it migrated to a bulletin board stabbed with dozens of 'To Make/Made' recipes.  Then it was clipped with a clothespin to my spice rack.  And then finally, the last place was right at eye level next to the freezer handle. 

Finally finally finally today was the day to pull the almost yellowed newspaper clipping from under the magnet.  I had a thawed piece of chicken in the fridge, and this afternoon was trying to figure out what to do with it.  I was at the CO-OP shopping for some bulk spices, and remembered my friend the cinnamon chicken recipe.  So I hurried home to acquaint myself.

This was one of those times in my life where I realized how much I have been missing out.  This recipe was a gigantic crowd pleaser tonight...for the one dining guest in my house: me.  I was giving the chef rave reviews. 

I realized that there were a few ingredients on the original recipe that I didn't have and didn't want to go buy because I probably wouldn't use them within the next year.  So I ad libbed...which is always fun to get the creative energy flowing.  So instead of plum sauce, I swapped in tamarind paste and maple syrup.  Instead of dry sherry, I popped open a bottle of Vinho Verde (white wine).    So if you have either of the original ingredients, by all means, use them.  Or swap in a similar ingredient.

A little side note...threading the chicken onto the cinnamon sticks mildly reminding me of changing my earrings for the first time after getting them pierced.  You have to pave the way through each chicken piece with  a wooden or metal skewer so that the cinnamon stick can go through.  So if you've never pushed a pointed piece of metal through a piece of flesh, here is your chance.

On a lighter, less gruesome note, you'll be gifted with the best part of this recipe as well, which is a warm cinnamon scented kitchen.  While the chicken was baking, I stepped outside for a few minutes.  When I stepped back inside, was pleasantly greeted with a spiced aroma wafting from the oven.  I could almost see the streams of cinnamon coming out of the door.  This may not sound so appealing to those of you who are living in warm climates currently.  But for a Seattle dweller, it was lovely.  So make them on the grill instead!

Cinnamon Stick Skewered Chicken
Adapted from Cincinnati Enquirer recipe
Yields 1 appetizer plate

This is a brilliant and healthy way to serve chicken so that you feel like you are eating wings.  As an added bonus, you get the fragrance of cinnamon steaming from the center of chicken with each bite.  The original recipe was to grill the skewers, which is great too, if you are a grilling type.  Either way, you will be smiling with every bite.

1 medium chicken breast (boneless, skinless, free-range if possible)
6-8 cinnamon sticks, carefully sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 tsp tamarind paste (or 1 tsp plum sauce)
1/2 tsp pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp white wine (I used Vinho Verde)
1 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 scallions, very thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Prepare the sauce next, by whisking the tamarind paste, maple syrup, wine, hoisin and soy sauce in a medium bowl.

Prepare the chicken skewers next by cutting the chicken into two inch cubes.  Using a wooden or metal skewer, make a hole in each chicken cube.  Make sure it is big enough for the cinnamon stick to fit through.  After making the hole, thread one cinnamon stick into each cube.  This should produce between 12 and 16 individual skewers.

Dip each piece of skewered chicken into the sauce so that it is fully covered.  Save any extra sauce to baste the chicken.  Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake for 8 minutes.  While they are baking, prepare the scallions and sesame seeds.

Take the pan out of oven, flip each piece of chicken over.  Pour any extra sauce over each piece to baste.  Bake for another 8 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked.  Depending on the thickness of each piece, you may have to bake a little longer.

Take out of oven.  Place each skewer on a serving plate in a creative display.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions.  Serve immediately with the white wine you used in the sauce.


Almond Poppy Seed Bread with Lemon Curd Filling

I am excited for this post because it is the Recipe Swap through Christianna's Burwell General Store Blog again with all the lovely food bloggers around the country!  Last month was so much fun seeing how everyone altered the Potato Donut recipe.  So this month we were given a Jelly Cake recipe that we had to alter in some way to make our own.  This is what the original recipe was:

I pondered for weeks on how to put a spin on jelly cake.  So the other day I opened my cabinet full of goodies from PFI and saw the bag of poppy seeds.  Yes.  This was a promising start.  I originally thought of lemon poppy seed.  But I had two reservations with this.  1) What sort of filling could I put in it that would freeze well?  You see, I am multi-tasking here and making this for M's baby shower taking place in a few weeks.  So I want it to be freeze-able.  2) I wanted to take it a step further than traditional lemon poppy seed.

So I consulted with my mom the other morning.  She is the creative baker in the family and always has good ideas.  Lemon curd, she suggested.  Yes.  The next step was completed.  So why not just use a poppy seed bread base and lemon as the filling.  I just needed one more flavor in the bread.  Berry?  No.  May make the bread a weird color.  Just poppy seed?  No.  Too boring.  Almond?  Yes!  Subtle. Simple. A nice perfume for the poppy seeds.

So I opted for making one pan's worth of bread and very carefully sliced it in half after refrigerating over night.  And to my pleasant surprise, when I cut it open, there were little holes that the lemon curd nicely filled in.  But you can also bake the batter in two pans and then just sandwich them together.  Either way will work.  Also feel free to use any type of filling.  Raspberry jam would be colorful and tart.  Whatever you choose, slather on a healthy's worth it. 

 I am just one of many many other recipe swappers.  So go to Christianna's Blog and check out the jelly cake project!

Almond Poppy Seed Bread with Lemon Curd Filling
Adapted from Gourmet magazine August 1995 recipe on
Yields 8-12 servings

The original recipe that this came from is actually for a lemon poppy seed bread.  I opted to keep in the lemon zest for some continuity with the lemon curd.  I swapped out the vanilla extract with almond extract and replaced some of the flour with almond meal.  If you are a poppy seed lover and need a few more polka dots in your bread, by all means tip the bag a little more than two tablespoon's worth.

1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp almond meal (ground almonds)
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter, unsalted
1 cup milk (I used 2%, but any kind will do)
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 large egg
Sliced almonds for sprinkling on top
1 jar lemon curd

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare the baking pan (either a 9'' round springform or 9x9'' square) by buttering and lightly flouring the inside.  Shake out all the excess flour.  Set aside for later use.

In a medium bowl, combine the almond meal, flour, sugar, cornstarch, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt.  Cut the butter into small little cubes and incorporate into the dry ingredients, using your hands works best.  In a separate small bowl, whisk together the milk, lemon zest, almond extract and egg.

Slowly pour liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients bowl.  Mix just until fully blended.  Pour the batter into your prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with the sliced almonds.  Loosely cover with a piece of foil.

Bake for 30 minutes with foil so the almonds don't burn.  Pull off the foil after 30 minutes and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool fully on a wire rack.  Pop out of the baking dish and wrap in plastic wrap on a plate.  Refrigerating for at least an hour will help make the cross-sectional cutting much easier.  Overnight is fine too, that is what I did.

Unwrap the bread, and with a serrated bread knife, slowly and carefully slice the bread in half so you can put a layer of lemon curd in the middle.  Slather generously.  Put the top of bread back on, and slice into 8 (or more) triangles.  Serve with coffee and fruit.


Rapini and Creamy Parmesan Fusilli

Well sometimes you have to look life in the eye and say 'Why Not?'  A made T-shirts for S and me and herself in college.  They all had personal sayings on them that represented each of us.  S's said 'Who Cares?'.  A's said 'Whatever'.  Mine said 'Why Not?'   All of these quotes still hold true for each of us.  At least once a week I say either to myself or someone else...'Why Not?'  It just makes you feel good to say it. 

That was the motto when it came to this meal.  Saturday afternoon we celebrated M's birthday at Steelhead Diner and T's kids got the cheesiest, most decadent-looking macaroni and cheese I have seen in a long time. Over the rim of my wine glass with my peripheral vision, I was jealously eyeing T's little girl casually scooping up forkfuls of cheese sauce.  So I promptly marched myself home and pulled out the pasta.

As a little aside, I recently found myself in South Seattle, and had reason to direct my car to Big John's PFI...which in turn enhanced my pantry.  A little jar of creme fraiche was my most exciting purchase, next to the bright green olives and fancy olive oil...ok, and poppy seeds, sesame seeds and canned tomatoes.  I have been waiting for a special occasion to use the creme fraiche, and then remembered many-a-recipe in Amanda Hesser's book 'Cooking for Mr. Latte' that included this treat in a jar.

Besides being audibly pleasing, this recipe is incredibly quick to make.  One point she makes is to make the pasta water salty, which is a direction I don't usually take.  But when in Rome...and when using 'Why Not?' as the evening's motto, I went for it.  I thoroughly sprinkled the water with salt to mimic the taste of the ocean.  And wow.  It makes a tremendous difference in taste.  So try out the carefree attitude...and the recipe.  You won't be sorry.

Rapini and Creamy Parmesan Fusilli
Adapted from Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte
Yields 2 servings

The original recipe calls for arugula as the bitter green.  But I wanted to experiment with the rapini from last week's farmer's market excursion, which turned out to be a colorful and nicely bitter substitution to the recipe.  But feel free to sub in any type of green you have on hand or want to try.  I also swapped in fusilli pasta for the original linguine.  But use whatever style pasta you wish.  Whole wheat or gluten-free would work just fine if you are so inclined.

1 cup fusilli (or any type of pasta), dried
1/2 cup Parmesan
1 lemon, zested and juiced (separately)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bunch rapini, roughly chopped
4 Tbsp creme fraiche
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, adding a substantial amount of salt so the water is like ocean water.  Pour the pasta and cook according to the container's instructions for al dente...mine took about 10 minutes.  While this is going on, pull out a serving dish.  Sprinkle the Parmesan, lemon zest and garlic into the serving dish.  Using a small coffee or measuring cup, ladle out about 1/2 cup of the pasta water and set aside.

Once the pasta is cooked, strain and then pour into the serving bowl...reserve a little extra pasta water just in case you may need to freshen the sauce.  Toss pasta with the Parmesan and zest.  Add the reserved pasta water, creme fraiche, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Gradually add in the chopped rapini.  If you need to add more creme fraiche, pasta water or Parmesan do so.  Toss until every ingredient is fully incorporated.  Indulge immediately with a smile, nice white wine and slice of bread.