Archive for September, 2009

Potato-Stuffed Indian Flatbread with Parsley Tzatziki

A dozen potato-stuffed indian flatbreads

A dozen potato-stuffed indian flatbreads

Last week’s bread-making adventure was inspired by the abundance of potatoes I had. I got some in my first LOVE Delivery veggie box, and then I got more in the second, so I figured I needed to do something with them. Looking through How to Cook Everything, I came across this recipe for potato-stuffed Indian flatbread, which came directly from a famous Indian chef with just a minor change in spices. I was intrigued, so I gave it a try.

I boiled 4 potatoes. I created the very simple white and wheat dough that didn’t have any yeast in it, though was flavored with some cumin. Then I mashed up the potatoes with lemon, cayenne, salt and pepper. I created 12 little balls of dough, rolled them flat, then put about 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture in the center, folded the edges up, flatted them out and rolled them even flatter.

On some the potato started peaking out the sides, mostly because I mashed them with a fork so there were still some rather jagged pieces, but in all, them came together easily.

The first few flatbreads got a little dark, but still tasted good

The first few flatbreads got a little dark, but still tasted good

I then cooked them in a pan, 3-4 minutes on each side over medium heat, similar to how I did the English muffins. Some of them puffed up a lot while others didn’t really puff, though in the end they all tasted about the same. The first few, just like pancakes (and the English muffins, for that matter), got a little bit dark, but still tasted fine.

Since potatoes and bread are both pretty dry, I decided to make a sauce/dip to serve these with, so I made a modified tzatziki. I used Greek yogurt, a few tablespoons of chopped onion, chopped cucumber, parsley, lemon, salt and pepper. It was simple and delicious, and worked well on the potato-stuffed bread.

Illustrator Final Project: Designing a Beverage Label

Click to view a larger version

Click to view a larger version

My Illustrator class ended a couple of weeks ago, but I realized I forgot to post my final project — a beverage label designed by incorporating the things we’d learned in class.

I decided to design a label for sparkling water as Evan and I drink it all the time and we’ve even purchased a Soda-Club Stream machine to make our own sparkling water at home. So I took the shape of the Soda-Club bottle and decided to put a label on it.

Click to see a larger view

Click to see a larger view

Taking a closer look, you can see the detailed background I created with star shapes, bubble patterns and a gradient mesh to give it some brightness. I liked the idea of knock-out letters on black that would show a window to the background. I also wrote some rather silly rambling copy, found some neat drink recipes, and created the martini graphic

Click to see a larger view

Click to see a larger view

Though I feel it looks rather simple in the end, getting the layers of depth and texture took a long time, as did figuring out exactly how to place all the information I wanted on the bottle. I did keep in mind things like a UPC code and the recycling copy, but I have seen that printed directly on bottles before, so I thought that would be a good place to put those items to keep the actual labels less cluttered.

To get the label on the bottle, I used a 3-D mapping process in Illustrator. It has a lot of glitches and made Illustrator crash multiple times, so I gave up on doing the back label. It also weirdly distorts the label. Still, it’s neat to at least sort of get a visual of what the label would look like on an actual Soda-Club bottle.

Making Montreal Bagels… In Southern California

Montreal bagels just out of the oven

Montreal bagels just out of the oven

I’ve been talking about making bagels for a long time. I’d read about making bagels in a Slate article about making staple foods from scratch (the article was also my inspiration for making crackers), and it was what initially inspired me to start making bread and baking more in general. In the piece was a link to a recipe for Montreal bagels in the New York Times.

Now, Montreal bagels are something special. They’re thinner and denser than bagels you get elsewhere. They only come in two flavors: sesame and poppy seed. They’re also slightly sweet because they have honey in them. And you can’t get them anywhere but Montreal.

I’ve brought Montreal bagels to relatives in Toronto on a road trip. I used to bring them back to camp in northern New York. My grandmother even flies with a few bags of them when she comes to visit us in California. For Montrealers, no other bagels can compare to the ones they can get at home.

I was worried that the recipe wouldn’t taste accurate. That something would be fundamentally different out here in Southern California that prohibits us baking these tasty breakfast treats. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded. Even without a wood-burning oven or Montreal water (they say the New York water is what makes the bagels and pizzas there so good… why not the same for their neighbors a few hundred miles north?), the bagels were delicious.

Best of all, these didn’t take that long to make — with a measly 20-minute first rise and a 15-minute second rise. All in all, from the start of making the dough to making the rings, to boiling and baking, the process took less than 2 hours. It would be even faster if my Cuisinart were bigger, I were faster at making the rings, or I could boil more than 3 at a time.

I found that my oven cooked the bagels a bit unevenly, with the ones toward the sides of the pan getting a bit darker, but in all, they turned out really well. All 18 of them. I was worried at first because they looked so tiny when I first made the rings, but they really expanded when I boiled them.

Caroline took a bite and said “This is the best bagel I’ve ever eaten.” For me, it was like taking a nibble out of my childhood. We ate the bagels with some cream cheese, tomatoes, salt and pepper, and capers. Caroline also put honey on hers (not the same part as the cream cheese).

I only wish I knew I could make these sooner… like when my family moved here 17 years ago.

My bagel with cream cheese, tomato and capers

My bagel with cream cheese, tomato and capers

Photoshop Final: Reworking the Towards Darkness Poster

towards darkness poster

For my Photoshop class final, I had to create a movie poster, real or fictional. If it was for a real movie, I had to make sure it was entirely original. The project was supposed to show a range of techniques we learned in the class.

I chose to rework the Towards Darkness poster — the film Evan edited a few years ago. I used images that I got off IMDb and the film’s site, as well as a few other images for textures. I then created a number of different layer masks to remove the images’ backgrounds, used lighting effects to bring out more detail and make the piece feel more coherent, created a custom textured background with layered images and lighting effects, and added text with various text effects to the poster.

I spent a lot of time playing around with the poster, and though I was working with a really limited number of images, I think I captured some of the essence of the film and created an interesting poster.

I really enjoyed learning more about Photoshop. Even though I was already using it daily, I learned many different ways to improve my workflow, create more sophisticated effects and manage my images more efficiently. I’m trying to decide what classes to sign up for this next quarter (starting in a week or so), and Photoshop II is high on the list of what I’d like to take. And if not this quarter, I’ll certainly take it sometime soon.

Fantastic Foccacia, a Roasted Beet Salad and Sicilian Pasta

Focaccia bread with rosemary and sea salt just out of the oven

Focaccia bread with rosemary and sea salt just out of the oven

This week’s bread experiment was my very best yet. I made focaccia bread with rosemary and sea salt, and we ate it hot out of the oven with olive oil. The bread was simple to make, and the secret was dousing it in a good deal of olive oil — and adding generous amounts of sea salt and rosemary to the top before baking.

I found this recipe in my Burgers book again. It’s definitely a winner in the bread category.

To go along with the focaccia, I created a dinner using a number of vegetables I got in my first-ever delivery from L.O.V.E. Delivery — an organic food delivery service that I signed up for. I got my first box on Wednesday, and I’ll be getting one every other week.

Roasted beet salad with walnuts and goat cheese

Roasted beet salad with walnuts and goat cheese

I made a salad with the beets — oven roasted at 400 degrees in foil for an hour, then cooled, sliced, and marinated in mustard, vinegar and olive oil — lettuce, walnuts and goat cheese. I’d never cooked beets before, but roasting is simple enough, and they turned out perfectly. The combination of flavors with the mustard, walnuts and goat cheese worked really well. I did try to toss the salad, though, instead of serving it individually, and the whole thing turned magenta.

Sicilian Broccoli and Cauliflower Pasta topped with parmesan and toated pine nuts

Sicilian Broccoli and Cauliflower Pasta topped with Parmesan and toasted pine nuts

For the main course, I made a Sicilian Broccoli and Cauliflower pasta from the Oxbow School that I found on the 101 Cookbooks blog. I got to use some more of the veggies that were delivered this week (broccoli, cauliflower, onion), as well as saffron, garlic, red pepper, rosemary, pine nuts, golden raisins and parsley. It was pretty simple to make and was unlike any pasta I’d ever made before, with its nutty and slightly sweet taste and rustic feel.

Focaccia Bread with Rosemary and Sea Salt

Focaccia Bread with Rosemary and Sea Salt - just drizzled with olive oil

Recipe: Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse sea salt
  • rosemary

Instructions

Combine flour, salt, yeast, water and 2 tbsp olive oil. Mix until well blended and knead the dough until smooth and elastic.

Let the dough rise in a greased bowl for an hour.

Knead the dough for a few minutes longer, roll it out into a rectangle/oval about 1/2 inch thick, and leave to rise on a greased baking sheet for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Use your fingers to make indentations in the dough about 1/4 inch deep and drizzle about half the remaining olive oil over the dough. Sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt and rosemary on top, then bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.

When out of the oven, drizzle or brush the remaining olive oil over the top of the bread. Leave to cool for a few minutes, and serve warm.

Four of us ate half the loaf with dinner.

Thanks, Kacie and Rachael, for coming over, helping me cook and taking photos!

France and Ev’s Vegas Vacation

Over Labor Day weekend, Evan and I went to Vegas. It wasn’t a party-and-gamble type trip — in fact, neither of us gambled a cent. We were there for an occasion — Evan’s best friend Adam’s wedding.

Adam and Evan

Adam and Evan

When Evan headed to Vegas on Thursday for the bachelor party, I didn’t quite know how to picture his group of friends. A huge contingent from his high school in Syracuse was there — so much so that everyone was calling it their 10-year reunion. I had a great time meeting all of them — we live pretty far away from where Evan grew up, so it’s really interesting to see glimpses into that part of his life.

Being in the wedding party, Evan had a lot of different responsibilities while we were in Vegas, so while he was busy rehearsing for the wedding, getting his tux and running other errands, I spent my time sitting by the pool and wandering around the casinos and malls, feeling pretty overwhelmed by how large and noisy everything was. I’ve been to Vegas quite a few times, but its immensity always seems to get to me.

Evan toasting the bride and groom

Evan toasting the bride and groom

The rest of the weekend seemed to be a blur of dinners, drinks and dancing. The wedding was nice, and Evan gave a very sweet toast to Adam and Rosie, where he talked about growing up with Adam. He made everyone laugh when he shared that Adam had asked him for something sexy to say in Spanish to his bride when they were first dating. Who knows, maybe the cheesy Juanes song lyric Evan gave him was what brought them to their wedding day.

Adam getting a little surprise on his way to find the garter

Adam getting a little surprise on his way to find the garter

Rosie also surprised Adam by blindfolding him before the garter toss and letting their roommate Bucky toss her train over his legs and take her place. He wasn’t expecting that one at all.

Feeling the updraft at the Hoover Dam

Feeling the updraft at the Hoover Dam

On Sunday, about 10 of us went to visit the Hoover Dam. It’s really massive, and creates a rather wild updraft. We all spent time hanging our heads over the side and feeling the wind, and I spent a lot of time trying to prevent a wardrobe malfunction with my dress. I was only partially successful, and ended up having a Marilyn Monro moment mid-dam. Thankfully some of the girls had hair clips, and we tried to tighten up and weigh down the skirt.

Sunday night, Evan and I got tickets to see Santana at the Hard Rock. Boy, does he put on a concert! It started with a ton of energy that lasted for 2 hours straight — they really didn’t take any breaks between songs. Lots of people were dancing, and we really enjoyed all the amazing music.

In all, it was a great weekend. Evan got to catch up with old friends and I got to meet most of them for the first time. We did some typical Vegas things, going to clubs and casino bars, and we also got away from the madness at least a little bit by going to some off-strip restaurants and the Hoover Dam. We also got our room at the Luxor upgraded to a suite, which was quite cool.

You can check out more photos from the wedding and Hoover Dam on Evan’s site.

Thanks, Adam and Rosie, for having us be a part of your wedding and helping us have a great time in Vegas!

Black Bean Veggie Burgers on Homemade Buns

Black bean veggie burger on a homemade bun with corn on the side

Black bean veggie burger on a homemade bun with corn on the side

Last week I decided to try a new veggie burger recipe. I love the feta cheese burgers that I’ve been making for a few months, but I wanted to try something a bit healthier, with more veggies and fewer breadcrumbs. I did some recipe searching in my Burgers book and online, and I ended up finding a nice simple recipe on AllRecipes.com that incorporated a lot of ingredients I already had. I’ve posted my variation on it below.

I also decided to try making buns from a recipe I found in my burgers cookbook. I mixed together a pretty stiff flour with lots of yeast, and the buns got enormous. But when it was time to start baking, I again found that my pilot light was out, and I had to relight it and start preheating all over again. I guess I didn’t let the oven preheat long enough because I thought it was just a little cold (we only have a very approximate temperature knob, so I bought an oven thermometer). In any case, I turned up the oven a tad, put in the buns, and 30 minutes later, when it was time to take them out, I found out that the oven had gotten too hot.

Slightly cripsy buns cooling on the stove

Slightly crispy buns cooling on the stove

Nothing burned, and the buns did look pretty, with their shiny milk and egg wash, and their sesame seeds, but they were way too hard. We ate them, but I’d definitely need to be much more careful with the over if I make these again.

The veggie burgers, however, were delicious. The first time I made them, I served them with guacamole and cheddar cheese, the second time, I served them with hummus, ketchup, mustard and cheddar cheese — both were very tasty. The recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 onion, cut into wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin (I liked it a little lighter than this on the cumin)
  • 1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce or hot sauce (or more if you want it spicy)
  • 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (the recipe only said .5, but I needed much more to make these firm)
  • Handful of fresh cilantro if you have it (also not in the original recipe)

Directions:

In the food processor, finely chop the garlic, onion and bell pepper. Mash up the black beans in a bowl with a fork, but don’t mash too much — you want this to be a bit chunky so the burgers have a good texture. Combine all these veggies in a bowl. Mix the spices with the egg, then combine with the vegetable mixture, then add bread crumbs until the mixture firms up and you can form patties. If you have time, place in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up more, and make 4-6 patties.

I didn’t have much luck cooking them on foil on the grill, like the recipe suggested, but they were perfect cooked in a pan with a bit of vegetable oil, for about 8 minutes on each side, or until firm on the outside. They reheated really well in the oven at 350-400 degrees.

cooking the veggie burgers in a pan

cooking the veggie burgers in a pan -- they turn nice and brown when done