Simple Roasted Curry-Flavored Okra

Who’s looking forward to the next couple of days off? Me! Last week was the kind of week, where I managed to get just enough sleep to stay sane, woke up, dashed in and out of the shower, grabbed some fruit and ran from train to work and class. I’d come home in the evening to a pile of clothes that eventually turned into a mountain and just pop some type of vegetable in the oven and hope for the best. I only have a cat, so chapeau and lots of respect to those with children, I don’t know how you juggle it all!

Any how, on my way home from teaching last week, I had a bit of time until my train arrived, so I popped into an African grocer near the train station. At the grocer’s I found okra, a staple vegetable from my childhood. I haven’t had it in years! Back then, I ate it battered and fried– no surprise there, what isn’t battered and fried in Alabama, hehehe! Anyway, this was one of my favorite childhood veggies.

In another attempt to just pop something in the oven and save time and stay healthy, I accidentally made the best okra I’ve ever had! It was tangy and flavorful, with a beautifully browned crunchy crust. Some people are turned off by okra because it can be a little slimy in texture. This recipe is really nice for those who avoid okra for this reason.

Roasted Curry-Flavored Okra

What you need.

  • Okra
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, curry to taste

How you make it.

  1. Wash your okra and pat it dry.
  2. Place okra in a bowl, add about 2 TBSP of olive oil (depends on how much you’re making), season with salt, pepper and curry.
  3. Roast on 425 for 15 – 20 minutes, or until browned and slightly crisp.

I served this with salad, fruits and cheese – as I was looking for a quick healthy lunch. Enjoy!

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Pain au Levain/ Sourdough Bread

LONGEST POST EVER:

A couple of weeks ago, I ate dinner at a friend’s. At some point during the evening she removed a loaf of bread from the oven. It was the most lovely shade of amber. She told it was naturally leavened bread that she made using a homemade starter (culture of yeast and bacteria). Me, being the curious cook that I am, and lover of anything natural and healthy, decided to make my own starter and try my hand at sourdough bread.

I won’t go into details about the chemistry of the process, I’ll leave that to the experts and will instead put some links at the bottom of the page. I will try to walk you through my process for creating a starter or levain to bake your first fresh loaf.

Starter/Levain

What you need.

  • Patience and faith that it will work out.
  • 1/2 c or 50 grams flour: I used a mix of rye (yeast apparently loves this stuff), non bleached all-purpose and wheat flour
  • slightly less than 1/2 c or 1.2 deciliters of filtered, bottled, or *tap water

If your tap water is drinkable, use it. Many recommend bottled water, because it could contain small levels of chlorine, which inhibit yeast growth. To remove chlorine, leave a glass of water out overnight and it should evaporate.

How you cultivate it.

  1. Buy or wash out a jar with a lid, that has about 1 L or greater capacity
  2. In a bowl mix 1/2 c of flour (50 grams) and a little less than 1/2 cup of water (app. 1 deciliter). Many bloggers use a total hydration method that entails mixing equal amounts of flour and water. Using slightly less water worked better from me, it stopped the mixture from separating. This could depend on the environment you live in. It’s all about trial and error.
  3. Pour the mixture into your clean jar. Cover partly. Do not close the lid completely, as the culture of yeast will produce carbon dioxide gas as they metabolize sugars. This causes the dough to rise, which is what we want to see, however the gases also need room to escape the jar. You can partially tighten the lid or punch a few small holes in cling wrap and cover it with this instead.
  4. About 12 – 24 hours later, on days  2 – 7 (or longer), stir the mixture, get rid of half. If you use a scale and when you weigh your original ingredients, it will be easier to know precisely how much mixture to remove. Otherwise, you can eyeball the mixture or pour out 1/2 cup. Place the rest in a bowl and add in a little less than 1/2 c water stir, stir in 1/2 c flour, partially cover and let it sit overnight. Repeat every day. By days 4-7, your mixture should bubble and rise consistently, if not, continue feeding it, until it does consistently.
  5. Every other day, clean your jar out. This is important to determine, whether your starter is rising. I put a sticker on my jar at the level of the starter to confirm that it has risen.
  6. Do not use the starter until day 7 or later.

Trouble shooting:

  • If your starter is not doubling, place it on top of a warm appliance or in my case on a heated floor.
  • If you experience a layer of separation between the liquid and the starter or water on the surface, try reducing your amount of water.

Pain au levain/ Sourdough bread (1 loaf)

What you need.

For starter: a little less than 1/2 c water and 1/2 c flour

For sponge: a little less than 1 c  water and 2 c flour

For the dough: a little less than 1 c water mixed with 1 TBSP of honey, 2 c flour, 2 tsp salt

How you make it.

  1. Day 1. Starter/Levain. After your starter is established on day 7, maybe later, remove half and place it in a jar or a large bowl. Note: After your starter is established, you can use the 1/2 that you remove to make pancakes, as scraps in biscuits, pass it along to a friend, etc.
  2. Pour in water (slightly less than 1/2 c), mix, add in 1/2 c flour. Cover with cling wrap and let this mixture sit over night or 12 – 24 hours, until it has doubled in size.
  3. Day 2. Making the sponge: In a bowl, add a 1 cup of lukewarm water to your levain, mix until slushy, then add 2 c. (100 grams) flour. Cover with cling wrap and place in a warm place. Let this mixture sit 6 -8 hours or overnight.
  4. Day 3. Making the dough: In a separate  bowl, pour in 2 cups of flour. In a cup, mix water in a cup with honey (optional). Mix this in with your flour, until it forms a rough ball. Let the dough sit for about 15 minutes so the flour can absorb the water.
  5. Sprinkle 2 tsp of salt over the dough and combine this with your sour dough sponge until incorporated. Don’t be afraid to get a little messy. You could use your kitchenaid to do this, since I don’t have one I did it with a spoon and by hand. Do not knead. Shape as desired and place it in a lightly oiled baking dish and allow it to rise in an oiled bowl for 4-7 hours. If you do this in the morning, you’ll have bread for the evening.
  6. 30 minutes before baking your bread, preheat your oven to the about 440 F / 230 C. Boil about 3 cups of water and place in an ovenproof dish. Place this dish on the bottom shelf of your oven. This will help the crust turn a nice amber brown and provide a moist baking environment.
  7. Place the dough in the oven and bake for 50 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped. Half way through baking, reduce the temperature to about 400 F / 200 C. Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack. Try your best not to slice the bread until it’s cooled.

There are tons of creative ways to shape and form the dough. Since this was my first attempt, I wanted to start simple.

This bread tastes remarkable, slightly acidic, with a nice crunchy exterior and moist and airy inside. I would like to work on getting more air bubbles in my dough, practice makes perfect.

Please note: Store starter in glass, plastic containers or stainless steel. Clear containers make it easier to observe your starter.

I will warn you, you will become obsessed with your starter. It looks likes a creamy blob of water and flour, but somehow you will regard it as beautiful. Like me, you may come home and instead giving your husband a hug as soon as you walk in or feeding and cuddle your cat, dog, what have you not, you will run to your starter and observe it. Somehow, it will become part of your family– just be sure you don’t neglect your family members.

Another warning, making naturally, leavened bread is not a time-consuming or arduous task, the yeast and the bacteria do most of the work, you just have to mix here and there. However, it is a long process that requires a lot of patience. Especially, if you decide to make your own starter, you’ll have to wait 1 to 2 weeks until you taste the fruits of your labor. Let me tell you, it is SO worth it.

Have you made sourdough bread? Any tips/tricks, recipes you’d like to share?

Links:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/

http://eattheroses.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/sourdough-focaccia-and-what-sourdough-is-and-is-not/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sourdough

http://sourdough.com/recipes/home-bread

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/keyword/gerard-rubaud

Potato Frittata with Scallions and Cheese

My good friend Kate and I both heart  Deb Perelman’s food blog, Smitten Kitchen. I was thrilled when Kate gave me The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for my birthday!

I absolutely love this cookbook, it’s wonderful and so refreshing. It includes wonderful tips, cute and funny personal stories about the author and her family. It’s written in a very intimate way. At times, you feel as if you’re sitting at a bar stool in her tiny Manhattan kitchen, while she walks you through the recipe step by step. This books gives me a case of teeny-tiny kitchen envy– I love small spaces, but that’s a story for another day! My favorite part of the book is the simple, colorful and vibrant pictures, the images just pop right off the pages.

Last week, I adapted her recipe for Potato Frittata with feta and scallions. She listed this recipe under breakfast and I made this for dinner. This would definitely be a big hit at brunch. It’s very filling, so have your appetite ready or a few hungry stomachs around the dinner table, if you try this recipe. The original recipe calls for bacon and since I don’t like bacon, I excluded it. Additionally, she used feta, but I used Gruyère, a little ricotta and added mushrooms.

You can totally make this without meat and use vegetables and cheese. I actually was going to make it without any meat, but my husband suggested throwing in the leftover ground beef we had in the fridge. The final result was a rich, protein packed frittata with lots of flavor. I paired it with a salad to lighten things up a bit. My husband loved this dish, I think it had all the makings of Swiss food that he’s used to: potatoes, cheese, eggs, and meat.

Serves 3 – 4

What you need.

  • Olive oil
  • 4 medium large potatoes, diced
  • salt, black pepper
  • 1/4 lb or 115 g rams of cooked ground beef (optional)
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • 5 -6 mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c of Gruyère or cheese of choice
  • 1/4 c of ricotta (optional)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 – 2 TBSP of milk or cream

How you make it.

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 F/ 200 C.
  2. Peel and dice potatoes into small cubes.
  3. Pour about 1 – 2 TBSP of olive oil into a baking pan or oven proof skillet.
  4. Toss the potatoes in the oil and season generously with salt and pepper (and a pinch of nutmeg if you like).
  5. Place in the oven and roast for about 25- 30 minutes or until they’re almost cooked.
  6. While your potatoes are cooking, chop up your vegetables and prepare your cheese (and prepare your meat if you’re using it. I had a small amount of day old ground beef, so just put it on the side).
  7. Beat eggs, ricotta and cream, season lightly/to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. When your potatoes are light brown and almost done roasting, take them out of the oven and cover with your vegetables and cheese.
  9. Pour eggs on top, cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until the eggs set in the center.

Remember, bring your appetite for this dish, because it’s very nutritious and filling! Enjoy!

Roasted Potato Medley

There’s one vegetable that I miss a lot from home and that’s sweet potatoes. Actually, you can find sweet potatoes in Switzerland, but the trick is finding good ones. A couple of years back on Thanksgiving, I desperately tried to recreate my Aunt Henrietta’s sweet potato pie recipe. Major fail! The potatoes at the grocery store were long, thin, frail remnants of sweet potatoes.

Today, while picking up some veggies at the grocery store I happened to come across lovely sweet potatoes– jack pot! I made one for lunch and the taste was absolutely wonderful!
I imagine this recipe would work well as a healthy alternative to fries and would complement a hearty salad or grilled meat. I just ate it as a meal and enjoyed every bite.

What you need.

  • Potato of choice,  I used Russet
  • Sweet potato
  • Carrots
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika

How you make it.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 (app 200 C)
  2. Cut  thin/medium (app 1/4 in, .60cm) potato slices
  3. Cut medium slices of carrots
  4. Oil the bottom of a baking dish, places veggies on the bottom of the pan and drizzle oil on top
  5. Season slices.
  6. Bake for about 30 – 40 minutes or until roasted, golden brown and tender.

I used the grill setting on my oven, perhaps this would work nicely in a broiler as well.

Enjoy!