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Weekday Lunch - Pizzich

Pizzich assembly copy

I am not much of a solo eater.. I mean, I really don't like it or see the point of it. These days, unfortunately, I am on my own at meal times, a lot more than I'd like. Mr.FSK is travelling most of the week, which, means I fend for just myself, which, not only is boring but downright inspiration-sapping...

I can easily get by the day with cereal, instant noodles or at the most, easy to make Indian snack items, which, really make quite a satisfying meal! But, this week, I really craved something more substantial. And, I didn't even mind putting in all that effort for just me!

So, I made a open face sandwich on a pizza style flat bread base; and hence, the name Pizzich! Over the bread, I slathered spicy aioli (made with spicy sundried tomato paste, mayo and lemon juice), smoked pepper turkey, arugula, more sundried tomato, red onion. Then, in the cooling oven (from the flat bread making), I melted provolone cheese and we were all set for a simple yet sumptuous lunch!

Pizzich assembly - side view



Flat Bread
(makes 2 sandwich bases)

1 cup all purpose flour + more for dusting
1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup warm water + more if needed
1 T olive oil

Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into a ball. Knead the dough for a minute or two until you get a nice elastic dough. Transfer the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat all over. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place till it doubles in size (one to two hours).

When the dough has risen, gently punch it down with the palm of your hands. Fold the dough into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under that plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.

Divide the dough into two parts. Stretch each part into an approximate oval shape of the length you would like. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake in an oven pre-heated to 450F for 10-15 minutes until a bit puffed and golden.

Remove and arrange sandwich. If you want to melt cheese, stick the assembled sandwich back into the oven for about 3-4 minutes, long enough for it to melt and you are all set with a scrumptious lunch!

This flat bread is being sent to my favorite Yeastspotting team!

Chocolate and Fruit Spiced Bread... And a Reminder

Choc fruit Spice Bread close up

The weather is rather unpredictable these days. One day it's bright and sunny and the next grey and snowy keeping one largely stuck indoors. Though I must say, I was rather proud of myself yesterday for having trudged through the city slush to the gym!! Anyway, such eccentricities aside, what I usually feel like doing is cuddling with a hot cuppa, reading food blogs and dreaming of all lovely things I can bake...

The aromas and warmth wafting from a fresh baked something can make even a dungeon feel comfortable! So it is natural that one's thoughts trend that way when the outside is muggy and dis-spiriting. Don't get me wrong, snow is beautiful and all that but I am not a winter person and add to that the city can make even beauty turn beast! So, after the first delusional joy that fresh snow brings, reality kicks in and you realize that reaching somewhere with wet sneakers is NOT cool..

Ah well! Clearly I can't wait for the weather to thaw. In the meantime, I am going to try to be shiny and sunny by popping things out of my oven!:) So yesterday, on one such day, I decided to bake bread. Trolling through the net, I came across a lovely recipe on Bon Appetit. It had fruit, chocolate and warming spices in it - So perfect!


And, it came to me just in time for Meeta's Monthly Mingle submission. This month's event is hosted by lovely Jamie and she chose the theme to be Bread and Chocolate. Not a surprise, given it's Jamie, non?! :) So anyway, the thought of the baking this made me happy.

I used dried cranberries and some diced candied pomelo peels that I had made earlier this month when I saw the pomelo on the grocery shelves and pounced on it. You see, so many people had been raving about the said fruit, it seemed a blasphemy that I hadn't tried it yet. Well, anyway, the fruit was consumed and not liked very much, I must add... It is TART!! For me, fruits need to be sweet. Oranges are the end of my sweetness rope.

Bread + cranberries + citrus peel + chocolate

In it's defense, the candied peels taste good. It's like eating a sour patch candy; you scrunch up your face, shake your head, swallow and then reach for more. They added a nice touch of tang to the bread. For the warmth I added fresh cinnamon and nutmeg - typical winter spices...

After glutenifying overnight, shaped into a log this morning (I woke up early.. Not for this purpose, I swear!) and rising to double, the dough went into the oven. As soon as it hit the heat, the aromas arose like ghosts in the dark. Ah! such heartwarming smells filled my apartment.. Sweet, spicy, warm, enveloping.. I could just picture it like in cartoons; the tempting swirls of aromas intoxicating me with optimism. I was doing taxes while it was baking. It made even that seem not so bad! :)

Choc Fruit Spice Bread Slices

So there, I am happy the day was snowy, I got to make this bread (not to mention give cause to take pride in myself)... Because, it's awesome!!! It has a nice cake like texture which makes it perfect tea accompaniment. Now that I mention it, am off to have a slice with my tea now.. ciao people! :)

Oh and before I sign off, I just wanted to leave a gentle reminder about the FSK Cafe event - Same Notes, Different Highs. This month's ingredients to highlight (in two distinct flavor profiles) are Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil. The deadline for submission is March 15, 2010. For details about the event and how to submit an entry please visit my original announcement here.

Also, sending this bread to our friendly, neighbourhood Yeastspotting team!


Chocolate and Fruit Spiced Bread
(adapted from
Bon Appetit)

1/2 cup warm whole milk
1 envelopes active dry yeast
1/4 tsp plus 1/4 cup sugar (add more if you like it sweeter)
1- 3/4 cups all purpose flour + more for dusting and while kneading
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
3 T unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup mixture of dry fruits (I used cranberries and diced pomelo peel)
1 1.2 oz bitter sweet chocolate, rough chopped

Stir milk, yeast, and 1/4 tsp sugar in small bowl and let stand until mixture bubbles, then stir.

Meanwhile, keep ready flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Add the yeast mixture whisking (I used a wire whisk. If you have a Kitchen aid then use the paddle attachment) the liquid around until dry shaggy mass forms, scraping down bowl occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and whisk until incorporated and it comes together into a moist soft dough that.

Add butter by 1 1/2 tablespoonfuls and incorporate fully before adding more. This was a bit tricky. I had to use a bit more flour so the dough did not keep slipping out of my hand. But persevere and it'll know who is boss!

Let dough rest in bowl 10 minutes (dough will become less sticky). Mix chocolate and dry fruits in a bowl. Place the dough in large bowl. Sprinkle chocolate mixture over dough and knead just until incorporated. Transfer dough to a large buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise at room temperature until almost doubled in volume. Punch dough down; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Butter a 9x5-inch metal loaf pan. Turn cold dough out onto work surface. Form dough into a log about 9 inches long. Place the logs in prepared loaf pans. Cover pans with plastic wrap. Let dough rise until almost doubled in volume.

Position the oven rack in center of oven and preheat to 400F. Brush tops of risen bread loaves with butter. Pop into oven and lower the heat to 375F. Bake until top crust is deep brown and tester inserted into center of each loaf comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven; let loaves rest in pans 5 minutes. Cool on rack to room temperature.

Dust with powdered sugar, slice and enjoy!

Greek Mezze for Daring Cooks February 2010

Greek mezze

I am a variety person and much prefer nibbling on many different things than just indulging in one. You can call me flighty all you want, but I say, my way is more fun! So, I was super excited when I found out we were to make Mezze Table for the Daring Cooks February edition.

The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

Here are a few words from our hostess about the concept of Mezze -

The challenge is to prepare a Mezze (pronounced “mez-ay", although many people seem to pronounce it as "mezz”) Table including, but not limited to, homemade Pita bread and Hummus. If you’re not familiar with mezze, it’s more of a style of eating than a specific recipe or recipes. Mezze is a bunch of small dishes served all at once—sort of like the Middle Eastern version of Spanish Tapas. It can be served as appetizers before a meal, or as the meal itself.

Pita Bread

As soon as it was announced on the 17th, I started researching on Middle Eastern Tapas ideas. The mandatory part of the challenge included the pita bread and hummus made from scratch and the rest of the table was left to our imagination. As you know, that last part runs really wild in my case. So, I spent hours poking around the internet and reading recipes and had drafted a sample menu in my head by midnight.

Then, the next part was to figure out whether I should make this a party and share the creations with friends or take the safe option and make a couple's meal. Mr. FSK has this notion that it isn't polite to make my friends guinea pigs, so it's usually the tried and tested when we entertain. But the serious cook in me would really like some variety (there I go again!) in taste-testers!

Olive Sesame Humm

Anyway, I thought about it for a bit and then pushed it all to the back burner as life and its business (not to mention the cold bug in between) took me by a storm. Suddenly, it was three days to day of posting and I wasn't any close to creating the Table as when we had the initial discussion a month back! :OO

I panicked! I had too much to do on my plate - the velvet cake for the Velveteers challenge and then the mezze. As it usually happens though, things just worked out and I even got my wish for a non-hub person pass verdict.

Mezze collage - Spicy sausage, falafel, Tzatziki

I created the mezze dishes today for lunch. A friend of ours who recently moved to the city, gallantly volunteered to be the other sampler. Although, we had a somewhat late lunch, it was all done and done well. For my table, I made the pita bread and hummus as required, also cucumber Tzatziki, Falafels and my version of Spetzofai (spicy sausage with peppers and onions)

Mezze in plate

The Verdict: It was rather easy to put together the table and indulge your fancy as well. The falafels came out well as did the bread (although, it did not puff up as elegantly as it is supposed to). I loved the Tzatziki but would skip the garlic in it next time. I think the one item, I would include the next is a Greek chopped salad. I like it when they fill a pita sandwich with it and then top with the other stuff.

Nevertheless, I do believe I enjoy the Table at a restaurant a lot better than at home.... It's more relaxing and things stay warm! :)

Also, sending the Pita Bread to our friendly,neighbourhood Yeastspotting team!



Tzatziki

2 cups strained yogurt (I strained overnight)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup grated or finely chopped cucumber
2 tsp lemon juice
pinch salt

Fold in the cucumber and garlic into the thick yogurt. Sprinkle salt and stir in the lemon juice. Chill until serving time


Falafel
(Adapted from
Epicurious)

1 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
2 T chopped fresh coriander
2 T chopped mint
1/2-1 tsp dried hot red pepper
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp baking powder
4 T flour + more if needed
salt to taste
vegetable oil for frying

Soak the chickpeas in a large bowl in enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let them sit overnight. Pulse together the drained, uncooked chickpeas, onions, mint, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic and cumin. Process to a meal like consistency.

Sprinkle in the baking powder and four tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. Add enough flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands (I didn't have to). Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.

Form the chickpea mixture into one-inch balls. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry the balls three at a time till golden brown.

Spicy Sausage in Peppers and Onions

3 chorizo sausage links
1/2 large red onion, julienned
1/2 large green bell pepper, julienned
1 tsp dried oregano
salt to taste

Saute the sausage in a non-stick pan until cooked. Remove the sausages and let cool. Meanwhile, saute the onions and peppers in the sausage drippings until soft. Cut the sausages on a diagonal bias and add to the onion-pepper mixture. Sprinkle salt and oregano and cook for a few minutes.


For the Pita Bread and Hummus recipes, please click
here.

Mushroom Focaccia

Whole Mushroom focaccia

What do you do when you go to a book store? Do you go with a plan and a list of titles that you want to look up/buy? Do you go there with a vague idea of browsing around, have a cup of coffee, bite a sample off a few a books, while your time and just you know, spend a lovely afternoon in the company of words?

Well, I belong to the latter (clearly there was no doubt of that given the previous sentence!!:D). So, yeah, I am guilty of thumbing through quite a few intoxicating fresh with ink pages and walking out happy without having bought a single thing. In my defense, I almost always buy coffee and snacks, I am not much of the crouch in the corner kind....Anyway, I find it so much more satisfying to turn pages than click away on sites. So libraries and book stores are my happy places.. :)

cartoon credit: cartoonstock.com

A few days back, Melody of the gorgeous Gourmet Fury, had shouted out the theme for the latest version of her Beet 'n Squash You series - Battle Mushroom! Mushrooms are one of my favorite ingredients to play with. So, I was looking forward to creating something for the battle!



So, there it was, in the back of my mind; I had promised her an entry this month. And, I wanted to do something with bread (Yeast is a heady culinary aphrodisiac, don't you think?!). So I mulled over breads with mushroom inside or outside and finally settled on focaccia. Why?! Just because it's one of my all time favorites, Mr. FSK simple loves it, it was the first ever bread I made (so has that sentimental pull ;-)) and for some odd reason I was seeing a lot of focaccias in the food blogosphere and that peer pressure is simply hard to resist! :D

Focaccia collage

I have heard much about Peter Reinhart and his book The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Not owning a copy, I skipped off to nearby B&N, to do some research and yes, shamelessly copy the recipe! In passing, I found another book on breads whose name I have honestly forgotten. So, I took down both recipes. Peter's needed a bit more mothering than the other and since I was running a bit short on time, I chose the mysterious other recipe with a few suggestions from Peter's. I promise to make a note of the name next time I scrounge around in B&N and update you guys.

So, anyway, I made a simple, no-frill focaccia topped with lightly sauteed mushrooms. Clean flavors, letting the mushrooms play the dominant flavor, as was intended for the contest. The thing about this recipe is that its starts of with a base for making ciabatta and then modifies it for focaccia. Which is kind of good value - two birds with one stone and all that. Anyway, my point was that the bread comes out denser than usual in looks but still as light as air. Ofcourse, you can also spread it thinner, it get the more traditional look!

Mushroom focaccia sliced

Also, sending this our friendly,neighbourhood Yeastspotting team!


Mushroom Focaccia
(makes one 10 inch round)

Biga
1/2 cup (2.13 oz) bread flour
1/6 cup (1.3 oz) warm water
pinch of instant yeast

Dough
Scant 2 cups (1/3 lb + 3.2 oz) bread flour
5/6 cup water
1/3 T salt
5/12 tsp instant yeast
Biga (from above)

1/2 cup sauteed mushrooms
1/3 cup olive oil

To make the biga:

Disperse the yeast in water, add flour and mix until just smooth. Biga should be stiff and dense but add a few drops of water if too stiff. Cover twith plastic and leave for 12-16 hours at about 70F. When ready, the biga will be domes and just beginning to recede in the center.

For the dough:

Add all the ingredients to mixing bowl except the biga. Mix to incorporate. As the dough starts coming together, add the biga in chunks. Dough will be sticky and slack. Continue mixing till there is some gluten developed but the dough is still loose and sticky. Internal dough temperature should be 75F.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and gently pat into a rectangle. Fold the dough business letter style along the long edge. Spray the top with oil, dust with flour, cover with wrap and let rest for another 30 minutes. Repeat process 2 more times.

After the final 30 minutes of bulk fermentation, above, transfer to a 10 inch cake pan that has been generously oiled with olive oil. Dimple the dough lightly with finger tips (only!) to spread the dough to the shape of the pan. Don't worry if it doesn't fit exactly; it will after rising.

Spread the sauteed mushrooms lightly over the focaccia. Pour 3/4th of the remaining oil evenly over the top. Cover with an oiled wrap and allow to ferment for an hour and a half until doubled in size. About 15 minutes before it is ready preheat oven to 475F.

Pour the rest of the oil over the top. Pop the pan into the oven, reduce heat to 450F and bake for 25 minutes until the sides and bottom are browned and crusty.

Transfer to rack and cool for a few minutes. Slice into a still warm focaccia, dip in fruity olive oil and relish!

Milk Bread and a touch of Nostalgia, Awards and Honest meme..

Bread sliced

When you live away from your childhood home, inevitably nostalgia hits you once in a while. And, then it isn't about "Oh I miss the sights of my beautiful country and all its exotic splendor (most of which, we took for granted while we were there and hence are still on the to-visit list!)" but silly stuff like the smell of sun dried laundry, some vague breakfast item mom made (and only the way she made it!), etc...

For Mr. FSK, it is Amul butter toast dipped in chai! :) Whenever we visit back home, he has it every morning; almost burnt toast slathered with salty Amul butter, dipped in hot lemon grass tea that my PIL makes (oh that tea!! Sighhhhh). The pure joy that spreads on his face when he takes a bite of the tea soaked crust is a sight to cherish! And oh! It has to be Amul butter! The brand is infamous for their catchy cur ads with the omnipresent "utterly-butterly" girl dishing out a thick slab of the salty deliciousness!


So, on a recent trip to the Indian grocery store, I spied a packet of the said butter and promptly picked it up. And, to complete the India reminiscence, I started hunting for a milk bread recipe because that is the bread that you invariably get in stores there. I still remember the "Milka" bread (South Indian brand) ads. I happened upon Smitten Kitchen's white batter bread and it looked so like what I wanted that I decided to try it out!

Bread and Amul butter

Bingo! The bread was almost close to home.. The texture fluffy and light, almost cake like but not quite. It doesn't make great sandwiches but is fantastic when slathered with butter and dipped in hot milky chai! :) And, yes, he had it that way and for the sake of humoring him, I did too..! Although, I will never develop a deep love for consuming it his way, it does make a great butter-toast bread!

I am also taking this bread to Jamie's birthday party! Ok, perhaps not for the party itself, but the morning after! :)). Jamie is hosting Bread Baking Day #26 and inviting breads for her birthday party. Here is wishing wonderful Jamie a fabulous year ahead with lotsa perfect bakes and more happy Mac Attacks!

Milk Bread Toast

Also, sending this our friendly,neighbourhood Yeastspotting team!


Milk Bread
(adapted from
Smitten Kitchen)
makes one 8x4 inch loaf

2 cups flour
1-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup milk
1/2 T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2-1/2 T canola oil

Warm milk to 110F. Dissolve yeast in the warmed milk and let sit for a few minutes. Whisk together the salt, sugar and oil. Add the yeasted milk to this mixture. Beat the flour in to make a smooth batter. Note, emphasis on smooth. It take a few minutes and best done with a hand held whisk.

Pour into an oiled loaf pan. Cover with a oiled plastic wrap and let it rise to double in volume. When it's almost there, preheat oven to 425F. When ready, pop the pan into the oven, lower the temperature to 400F and bake for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature registers 210F.

Remove from oven and immediately unmold to cool on rack. If you leave it in the pan for too long, the bread steams on the sides and sogs up (no good!).

Slice, be generous with the butter and enjoy!


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I also wanted to thank lovely Renee of Flamingo Musings for giving me a couple of lovely awards!! She is soo sweet!! And, I am going to pass it to a few of favorite bloggers. But before that I must apparently share a few honest things about myself, in no particular order. So here they are -

  1. Books are my other passion. If you are ever wondering what to gift me, books are always perfect!
  2. Ideal dinner dates would be hub, P.G Wodehouse and Hugh Laurie (if anyone knows him, set me up on a date puleeez!!)
  3. Favorite meal course - dessert.
  4. Love big dogs like labs and golden retrievers. Not a fan of the teeny breeds
  5. Love greenery, hiking, mountains and large water bodies
  6. Greatest inspiration - my late maternal grandfather
  7. Tennis is my favorite sport
  8. Favorite color - Red
  9. Former Coffee addict
  10. Don't want to change anything that has happened in my life so far :-)
And I am passing on these awards to these wonderful people I met and have gotten to know recently. They all have fabulous blogs that have provide a ton of inspiration!

Aparna of
My Diverse Kitchen
Pam of
The Cooking Ninja
Trissa of
Trissalicious
Alessio of
Recipe Taster
Mowie of
Mowielicious
Hilda of
Saffron and Blueberry
Meeta of
What's for Lunch Honey
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