Bread Project: Halusky

5 03 2011

The Bread Project continues to be so enriching and fun. These ladies know so much about feeding ourselves. I am grateful for the lessons I learned in the kitchen from my mom, grandma and baba growing up. It was like injecting me with a food gene. We take so much for granted when it comes to cooking. How do we learn to cook? I imagine kids and adults today that haven’t been around food, how would they know what to do? Following a recipe is one thing but the details that are left out can be disastrous. For instance, when a recipe calls for a soup to be blended and you don’t have an immersion blender, you naturally use your blender. If you don’t know to put a towel in between the lid and the blender or keep the lid loose and not air tight, there will be an explosion from the trapped steam (been there, done that). Recipes don’t tell you these things. I do think this is a benefit to cooking shows (the real ones where they cook, like Julia Childs back in the day). Cooks on shows like this tell you the inside scoop on how to do things, what’s not written down. How else do you learn unless you grew up in a kitchen? We talked about kids at school, taking home ec classes. I don’t think it is the recipes that are as important as becoming comfortable with food, and confident enough to experiment. Just knowing how to mix flour with a liquid is a skill that goes a very long way. If home ec isn’t offered anymore in our schools, this is a real problem for the future. The Bread Project is looking at ways to bring these lessons to schools and kids programs in the city, good work to be done.

 

That’s why this project is so important. We need to pass these lessons onto families and kids so they not only feel a connection to their food but confident to experiment, learn and feed themselves. We made a soup, Halusky (pronounced hal-oo-shkee) the other week with Vera, she is of Russian descent. It was the flavours of my baba’s kitchen. It was so easy and probably cost all of a dollar to make, just like the other recipes we are making. I don’t use a lot of flour in my kitchen, and I know that these recipes originated from stone ground grains that were much healthier for you. Something I will experiment with, replacing the processed white flour with whole grain. However, making this with all purpose flour is just fine. Families spend so much on packaged foods, some flour and eggs can get you a long way, much more healthfully. This soup is like a blanket, comfort.

Halusky

2-3 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp baking powder (but not necessary)
1 medium russet potato
2 green onions (scallions)
1 tbsp butter

  • Bring a soup pot of water to boil, 6 cups
  • While the water comes to a boil, peel and dice the potato, finely slice green onions
  • Add potato, onions and butter to the boiling water, turn down to low boil
  • Whisk the eggs, salt, pepper and baking powder together in a bowl
  • Add the flour, ¼ cup at a time, until the dough is sticky and a bit runny. If it gets too thick you can add a bit of milk or cream, a tablespoon at a time
  • With a teaspoon, scoop and drop small amounts of the dough into the water
  • The noodles cook very quickly, once they rise to the top and puff up, a few minutes, the soup is done
  • Interesting tid bit, in Hungary they use a grater type thing to run the dough through over the hot water and call the noodles Nokedli (pronounced no-ked-lee). Instead of adding to soup, you strain them and make a gravy for them. I love that our cultures are so connected.

How did you learn to cook? I would love to hear your experience.

Eat well, be well,

Nat

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Bread Project: Csiga Noodles

21 02 2011

This past week was an extra special Bread Project because my grandma Anne was sharing her recipe for Hungarian csiga noodles. Anne makes bread, lots of it, I have never had anything but homemade bread at her house my entire life (all 29 years :)). She makes the most amazing white and whole wheat bread the old fashion way. Kneading, letting it rise, kneading it again. It has a crusty outside and is best toasted in her toaster oven. It takes too long to make the bread with the Bread Project but sharing flour related recipes with the other members is just as important. The other thing that grandma has always made from scratch is noodles, a few different kinds, matched for the dish they are reserved for.

Csiga noodles, or csigateszta, are one of the finest of them all. Csiga (pronounced chee-ga) are a basic egg noodle, but with a very unique shape, a ridged spiral. Csiga in Hungarian means ‘snail’ and the csiga noodle has been traditionally linked to fertility. I am guessing that is the snail analogy??? Small squares of finely rolled dough are rolled into spirals on a specially grooved csiga board that are made from wood or even bamboo. Hungarian women roll csiga together or on their own, to add to chicken soup. This chicken csiga noodle soup is especially made for weddings. When doing research on csiga I found a few church and Hungarian groups in North America that meet weekly to make csiga. My grandma is a csiga-making-machine, but it takes a lot to feed a family, never mind a wedding! Growing up this is one of the many jobs we had in the kitchen as kids, rolling csiga. I hadn’t done it in many years, but it only took me a few minutes to get the hang of it again. One of the csiga boards that grandma has is over 100 years old, compared to the newest addition in her collection, ones that Tony made for her.

Noodle making is a lost art. Like pasta, it is so easy to make, inexpensive and goes a long way. While making csiga we talked about this and how far a dollar can go when it comes to food. A couple of eggs, cups of flour, water and a few extra moments can make noodles to feed an entire family. We spend so much on a package of noodles, literally and the expense and industry that goes into that package of noodles. I know it is a time thing but if we think about how much time we don’t spend preparing the most important part of our day, sustenance, it makes you realize how our priorities have shifted over the years. It is inevitable that food prices, quality and access will become an issue  in years to come. Peak oil, climate change etc will have an impact. Projects like this are critical to passing on a connection to our food to generations to come. Sounds dooms day I know. In the least, thinking about food and the ‘slow food movement’ that is making its way to mainstream, has so much benefit, to ourselves, our communities and will be a critical part of our healthful existence and survivability.

2 eggs
2-3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp water
pinch salt

  • In a bowl mix the eggs, water and salt with small parts of the flour until the dough is a soft but firm texture, not sticky. There might be flour left over. By using egg it keeps the dough together, if only water was used the noodles would fall apart in the water
  • Knead the dough for 15 min
  • Let the dough sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours, covered
  • Pinch off a golf ball size piece of the dough, flatten out by hand into a thick disc, but no wider than what can fit into the noodle roller
  • Using the noodle roller, roll it thin, with each roll adjust the roller to be a bit thinner, until the dough is thin, but not translucent and flimsy. If it feels sticky, then wipe a small amount of flour on either side of the dough before rolling
  • Cut into 1.5 cm strips and then 1.5 cm squares
  • Using a csiga board, roll each square using the csiga stick, going from one corner of the square to the other, ensuring the end is pressed into the noodle well, or they will unravel in the water when boiling
  • Dry the csiga well, over night, by leaving them on a cloth. They will shrink when dry. Csiga will keep in a container for months
  • The same dough can be rolled through the roller to make longer thin or thicker soup noodles. As well, the same dough is rolled out thin and cut into a 1.5 cm diamonds and even smaller squares for different types of soups.

Eat well, Be well,

Nat





KFM: Red Cabbage

8 02 2011

If you like red cabbage, you’ll really like this recipe, if you don’t, try it, it might change your mind about cabbage. Red cabbage is so sweet and in a Calgary winter it is one of the few ‘close to home grown’ veggies besides root veggies that you can find. We picked up this big delicious red cabbage at the Kingsland Farmers Market last weekend and last Monday, the New York Times health section printed this recipe (a good link to follow on Twitter). Match made in heaven. I usually saute cabbage in a bit of olive oil and butter and fresh ground pepper or use it raw in salads in the summer. The NYT recipe was easy, sounded good so we tried it. It was the perfect accompaniment to our dinner on Saturday night.

Red Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, and in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and radishes. It is high in vitamin C, fibre and phytochemicals, those chemical compounds found in fruits and vegetables that are cancer fighting. If I wasn’t so excited about the cabbage on Saturday night I would have remembered to take a photo of it :). It made for great left overs the next day, just warmed it up.

I have changed some of the ingredients based on taste. Next time I would use four eggs for that much cabbage. As well, I sprinkled some cheese on the top, or nothing would have ‘browned’ as it said. If you want the original recipe, it is in the NYT link above.

2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small – medium Onion, finely chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced small
6 to 7 cups shredded Red Cabbage (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tbsp chopped fresh Dill or 2 tsp dried Dill Weed
2 tsp sweet or smoky Paprika (I used 1 tsp of both)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp of Cayenne pepper (add this for some zip)
3 Free Range Eggs
1/2 cup organic Milk
1/2 cup Gruyère cheese, grated
1/2 tsp Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 2-quart gratin dish. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about five to 10 minutes. Add the red pepper. Cook, stirring, until the pepper is tender and the onion is beginning to color, about five minutes. Stir in the cabbage, dill, paprika and cayenne. Add salt to taste, and cook, stirring, until the cabbage begins to wilt, about five minutes. Cover the pan, turn the heat to low and continue to cook for another five to 10 minutes until the cabbage is tender. Remove from the heat.
***If you don’t cool this mixture  and add the eggs, the eggs will cook, not good. I put the whole pot outside to cool it down to avoid this. Something the recipe didn’t mention

2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, and whisk in about 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Whisk in the milk, and stir in the cabbage mixture and the cheese. Scrape into the baking dish.

3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until the top is lightly browned. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for 10 minutes or longer before serving. Add fresh cracked pepper to the top to serve.

Yield: Serves four to six.

Advance preparation: You can make this through Step 1 hours or even a day before assembling and baking. The baked gratin will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, and it can be reheated in a medium oven.

Eat well, Be well,

Nat





Walnut Kifli

22 12 2010

‘Kifli’ is a very common Hungarian yeast dough pastry, cut into triangles and rolled up into a crescent shape. There are savoury ones and sweet ones. I grew up with a sweet one made with a walnut filling. Kifli are a staple during the holidays and I recently made kifli with my grandma Ann. When I first got the recipe for kifli from her she explained the dough needed to rest in the fridge overnight. I thought, great, i’ll make the dough and come by the next day and learn how to roll the cookies. Before the plans were solidified she says to me ‘I think you should come here and make the dough, I don’t trust you’ll know how to do it right’. She was right (head hung). When it comes to cookies, these are a bit labour intensive, but once you get the hang of it, and are well supervised :), time flies. I’ll do my best to explain, but I agree that it takes practice, a trained eye and taste experience to know what is a ‘good’ dough, filling and end product.

***Warning, these are not my typical no sugar, whole grain treat. The experience of learning tradition and spending time with a grandparent is the treat. And besides, these are simple ingredients, low in sugar and considering the recipe will make 85-95 cookies…well, do the math, you’ll live if you eat a few of them.***

Dough:

  • 2 cups Regular Flour
  • 1 cup Pastry Flour
  • 1 – 1/4 cup regular Butter
  • I tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 2 Egg Yolks (save the whites for egg wash)
  • 1 package of Dry Yeast, dissolved in 1-2 tbsp of warm milk
  • 1/2 – 1 cup Sour Creme (buy a small 250 ml container)
  • 1 tsp Salt

Filling

  • 1 lb Walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Rinds of 2 Lemons, grated

Sift the flour and salt together (that sifter of grandmas is older than ME!). With a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture. Mix the sour creme, yeast mixture, lemon juice and eggs together. Add the wet to the dry, mix with a spoon, folding over until it is blended. Then with your hands form it into a ball. On a floured surface, kneed a few times to incorporate all the ingredients, not too much or it toughens. Cut into two pieces, put in fridge over night.

For the filling, grind the walnuts, check out that old grinder. A food processor will work, but be careful not to pulverize them into powder, they need to be a course grind. Mix in grated lemon rind and sugar. The cookies call for the evil white sugar – now i’ll experiment with alternatives one day, but 1/2 cup of sugar for 85+ cookies, i’ll live. My grandma makes them low in sugar because her mother watched her sugar intake. Nice.

After the dough has sat in the fridge overnight, no longer than 12 hours, take out and let rest at room temperature for a couple of hours so you can roll it out. Roll out on a dusting of flour, turning and flipping over until dough is about 2mm in thickness? Cut into triangles 3.5″ across and about 45 degrees. Again, this isn’t going to be easy to explain here. Fill the base of the triangle with a spoon of filling, tuck the corners in a bit, roll, stuffing the filling as you go, brushing extra aside. Tip of triangle needs to be on the bottom of the roll so it doesn’t unravel while baking. Brush with egg white and bake for about 20 min in 375 degrees until golden brown. To serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

That doesn’t do it justice but I don’t expect a pastry beginner to give this a shot. If you do, let me know how you do. By the way, and although she might not admit it in public, grandma said (sipping her tea and watching me) that my kifli were perfect, like i’d been doing it my whole life. Perfect. That’s right, must be in the genes.

Eat well and Be well over the holidays,

Nat





Plum Clafoutis

12 09 2010

We have this amazing plum tree in our yard, a Brookred we think – it is like 40 years old. Because it is so old, we have been taking better care of it the last few years. Trimming out the dead branches, using fruit tree fertilizer on it in the spring and the plums are amazing. We usually lose most of the plum buds to the spring hail storms, but this year, we had stronger plums and not as bad storms. In our backyard that is, other people in Calgary, not so lucky. In previous years the hail has shredded our BBQ cover, so the plums didn’t stand a chance. In the past I would be lucky to get a bowl of plums to eat, this year, we are on the second big bowl and still picking! I picked a bucket yesterday.

When I pick plums I think of my friend Dani, a pastry chef and supermom extraordinaire. I remember the first time she came over when the plums were ripe and was eating and thinking out load about all the things you can do with the little plums. This post is for you Dani, happy birthday my friend.

So what to do with little Calgary plums? Compote? Cake? Stewed plums? Off to google I go in search of a recipe that I can doctor into being on the healthful side. I love the challenge of removing sugar and white flour and turning the recipe into something better. Found it, Plum Clafoutis. Clafoutis is a traditional french dessert that was made with cherries. The batter is flan-like, using eggs, sugar, milk and flour. I found lots of versions of it using plums but they all included a lot of sugar too. Eh, I can do better. I replaced the sugar with honey, milk with almond milk, flour with spelt and sprinkled sliced almonds on top of the batter. It was delicious and I have enough plums to make a dessert every weekend in September!

Plum Clafoutis

Sliced or halved plums to cover the bottom of 8-10″ baking dish

1/2 cup Spelt flour

6 tbsp of Honey

1/2 tsp Cinnamon

Dash Salt

2 large Eggs

1 large Egg Yolk

1 tsp Vanilla Extract (invest in some good vanilla, not the alcohol based one)

2 cups unsweetened Almond ‘Mylk’

2 tbsp Sliced Almonds

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and butter the baking dish. Place the plums on the bottom of the dish. Mix the flour, cinnamon and salt together. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, honey and almond milk together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, whisking to blend well. Pour the mixture gently over the plums, sprinkle the sliced almonds over the top and bake for 50-60 min until golden. Let cool, but serve warm with a dollop of yogurt and a drizzle of honey (or frozen yogurt as preferred by Tony).

Eat well, Be well,

Nat





Zucchini Blossoms

5 09 2010

We have huge zucchini plants and some great sized zucchini’s growing. Zucchini is a popular squash good for grilling, salads, sauteing, curries, baking and more. You can freeze it to use through the winter it is so versatile, but more on that another day. If you have grown zucchini, or other vegetables like tomatoes, you would know that eventually you have to sacrifice the new blossoms for the advancement of the ones already established. Zucchini has two types of blossoms, girls and boys. The boys do not grow up to be zucchini, but long stems with a blossom on the end and the girls, once pollinated, turn into zucchini’s, also with a blossom. As I was doing the sacrifice of blossoms and stems I asked myself, what can you do with the blossoms?

Most of the recipes out there are for stuffed zucchini blossoms, usually lightly battered and fried. What’s the point? The blossoms are basically used as a vessel for a cheese like filling. There are lots of amazing recipes but sounded like to much work and not really about the blossoms. I thought, I bet they would be nice to add to sautéed vegetables, right-o. A favourite so far is mixing them with sautéed mushrooms for scrambled eggs. Saute the mushrooms first in butter or olive oil, remove the stamens and add chopped blossoms and cook until soft, add the eggs, salt and pepper. Cook till eggs are done. Serve warm with slices of avocado, grainy toast and choice of fruit. How’s that for a <rainy> long weekend breakfast?

Happy long weekend. What kind of cooking are you doing?

Eat well, be well, Nat





Dani’s Egg Salad

8 03 2010

My friend Daniella ‘the pastry chef’ and Super Mom in Arizona (whose pastries you might have heard me boast about) gave me an Egg Salad recipe years ago. It’s been awhile since I made it, but we are going to Mexico and I wanted to use up the eggs in the fridge and a few other things, de-licious.

Dani’s Egg Salad:
6 hard boiled eggs, diced

1 small onion, diced and sautéed in a bit of olive oil. Cool off and mix with the rest of the ingredients

3 Tbsp Mayo

Salt and Pepper

Mix and mash all the ingredients together.

What I added/changed looking in the fridge:

2 Tbsp Mayo instead of 3 (I use this organic ‘real mayo’ that doesn’t have much zip and can seem eggy)

1/2 Tbsp Prepared mustard (bit of a kick to compensate for the eggy organic mayo)

I used scallions instead of onion (left over from Wagamama night, see earlier post), sautéed them

1/2 Tbsp of chopped cilantro also left from Wagamama night

Mix and mash the ingredients all together, serve on toasted grainy bread with sliced tomatoes on the side. Lunch is served!

Thanks Dani 🙂

Eat well,

Nat