27 February 2010

Overhaul...and let's try a poll

Dear readers,

This blog may have a lot of interesting recipes and decent food photography - but the layout is pretty plain. I'm working with a friend to spice it up a little bit, so expect to see some major updates in the coming days/weeks.

I've also decided to start polling my loyal readers (and random visitors) on various things. First up: what would you like to see more of on the blog? The poll is on the right, and I'll listen to your answers. If you want to comment specifically, let me know in this post, or any random post!

25 February 2010

Tuna Salad

The title of this post should probably have been "Tuna Salad Salad" since that is technically what I made, but the second "salad" part was pretty much just lettuce and some cheese, so I'll stick with the part that actually requires a recipe to make.

There's a Swedish saying - nöden har ingen lag - which basically means "necessity has no law" or something like that. The necessity, in this case, was for food and there was nothing directly unlawful with what we did to stifle our hunger, but the saying came to mind anyway. We were hungry and didn't have the energy to go grocery shopping, so we checked what we had in our fridge and pantry, found some tuna and other delicious ingredients and made tuna salad!

Tuna Salad

1 6 oz tin tuna in water
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 stalks celery
1/2 small yellow onion
15 red grapes
1 clove garlic
1/2 apple (whatever kind you like)
1 tsp lemon juice

Start by draining the tuna thoroughly. I emptied the tin in a strainer/sifter and applied a little pressure with a fork to get rid of the water. Put the tuna in a medium bowl and set aside. Finely chop the celery and onion. Finely mince the garlic. Halve the grapes and cut the apple into small pieces. Add everything but the lemon juice to the tuna and stir thoroughly to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and place the salad in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, to chill. Remove from the fridge and stir in the lemon juice.

Serve on fresh bread (preferably whole wheat) or on top of your favorite kind of lettuce. If you do the salad option, sprinkling some form of shredded cheese works great (I recommend Monterrey jack or mozzarella).

23 February 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

There's a pretty major difference between the cinnamon rolls I remember from my childhood in Sweden and what I'm used to seeing in bakeries or, for that matter, in U.S. homes. Not that I've been offered cinnamon rolls in any U.S. homes lately, but I've just never seen the smaller Swedish version anywhere else. We call them kanelbulle, which means "cinnamon bun," more or less.

These cinnamon rolls are, as the picture may have already told you, more in the style of what you'd find in a bakery (or a U.S. home, I guess). Either way, they are delicious and I recommend you go make them right now!

Cinnamon Rolls

28 oz (roughly 6 cups) unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup + 6 tbsp sugar
5 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups + 2 tbsp whole milk
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar

Start by heating the milk until it is about 100 degrees F. Combine the flour, salt and 6 tbsp sugar in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yeast and the milk until the yeast is completely dissolved. Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients together with the 1/2 cup of melter butter, then stir - use the paddle attachment if using a stand mixer, or a large spoon if you don't have the mixer (and if you don't, get one - seriously, best piece of kitchen equipment I've ever owned). Mix for about a minute, until the dough forms a ball.

If using the stand mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix for another five minutes, on medium speed (if you have no mixer, now is the time to switch to using your hands and kneading for five minutes instead). Add milk or flour to create a soft, tacky dough - not sticky.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the dough from the fridge about 3 hours before it's time to bake. Once the three hours have passed, divide the dough in two equal pieces and let rest, loosely covered by plastic wrap, for 20 minutes.

Next, place one piece of dough on a floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12-by-15 inch rectangle (30x40cm, roughly). Melt the remaining butter (2 tbsp), and brush it evenly over the dough - you may end up using more than 2 tablespoons for the two pieces of dough. That's fine, just don't put so much butter on the dough that you create pools of the stuff! Whisk together the cinnamon and the remaining sugar (1/2 cup), then evenly sprinkle the mixture over the dough, making sure to leave about 1/2 inch (about 1.5 cm) around the border.

Next, roll the dough lengthwise like a rug, as tightly as possible. Once you have a "log" or "rug" ready, cut 1-inch pieces and place them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Make sure you leave about an inch of space between each roll, as they will expand greatly while rising and baking. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel, then leave to rise for two hours. Repeat with the other piece of dough.

When you're almost ready to bake, turn the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake the rolls in the center of the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the pan 180 degrees and bake another 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown and delicious.

In the meantime, make some topping!

Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/2 cup of milk, then whisk until smooth. You may need to add a little more sugar if the glaze is too "watery" (milky?) - it should have the same consistency as pancake batter.

Once the buns are ready, let them cool for about five minutes, then drizzle as much glaze as you want over them. Let cool a little longer before eating, if you can manage. Once the buns are cool, make sure you place them in an airtight container as soon as possible to prevent them from drying out.

Oh, and enjoy them with a glass of milk. It's the only way! (I generally drink coffee with the buns, but that's because coffee is awesome and fantastic and the best.)

22 February 2010

Bread and Blogs and Booty (in the pirate sense)

I just put two batches of dough in the fridge to rise overnight: one to make ciabatta, the other to make cinnamon rolls. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, I'll tell you that much. Cinnamon roll recipe to follow, of course.

A cool thing happened today: A good friend of mine was reading an old high school friend's "tweet" (he hates that word) about a food blog she enjoys reading. It just so happens that the blog she was referring to is this one, and it's purely coincidental. She originally came upon it searching for a tzatziki recipe. Pretty cool!

This does make me curious, though! I know I have a pretty steady stream of new readers every day/week/month, yet the comments sections of these posts are pretty empty. Maybe I should just offer a prize - a randomly chosen reader who comments during the month of March gets a...batch of cookies? A cool kitchen gadget? A couple of original recipes before everyone else? We'll see, suggestions are welcome. You may post them in the comments section below (and you won't be winning a prize for it, because it ain't March yet)!

18 February 2010

Vegetable Soup

I wasn't feeling all too well tonight (sore throat), so I decided that soup was the way to go. This one is simple, quick (apart from preparing the vegetables themselves, takes a little while), and much more filling than I thought. I have about two quarts left of it after dinner last night, some of it in the fridge and some in the freezer.

I served this with some grilled cheese sandwiches, but it'd go great with just some freshly baked bread and maybe a little sharp cheddar cheese. Or, if you want it to be even healthier, serve it with nothing but a spoon!

Vegetable Soup

3 medium leeks
2 cloves garlic
2 medium potatoes
3 medium carrots
2 cups green beans
8 tomatoes
1 can corn (or 2 ears fresh corn)
2 tsp lemon juice
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
black pepper

Start by preparing all the ingredients: slice the leeks (white part only), mince the garlic, peel and cube the potatoes (1/2 inch cubes), peel and slice the carrots (make "coins" of carrot), cut the green beans into 1 inch pieces.

Peel the tomatoes and remove the seeds: boil enough water to cover a tomato, make a small incision (an X) at the very bottom, then place in the hot water for 30 seconds. Transfer to an ice bath and peel off the skin (it should come right off at this point). Cut open, remove the seeds, then chop the tomatoes. If using fresh corn, I prefer it roasted. Set the oven to 350 degrees, place the cobs on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes - you should obviously do this well in advance and not after you start making the actual soup.

Once you're ready, put about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium-low heat. Add the leek, garlic and a pinch of salt, and cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes and beans and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the stock and turn the heat to high. Once the liquid starts to simmer, add the tomatoes, corn and about a half teaspoon of black pepper. Stir the soup, then turn the heat to low and cover. Let cook for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are entirely cooked through and tender. Add the lemon juice and salt to taste, then serve immediately.