Friday, April 28, 2006

Italian bread

If you have a bread machine, give this recipe a try. It goes together super fast with just five ingredients, and makes a nicely-flavored loaf for toasting, sandwiches, or serving warm with butter at dinner time.

Italian Bread
(2 lb. loaf)

In your bread maker, combine
1 1/3 cups warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups aerated bread flour, spooned into measuring cup
2 teaspoons dry yeast

Set machine for 2 lbs, medium crust.

Let cool for about 45 minutes before serving (if you can wait that long -- I never can).

Buying info:
I like Spanish olive oil (but I'll still call this Italian bread); Walason's and Dollars have a good selection at decent prices. Extra virgin gives a nice flavor and aroma. New Zealand sea salt is available in several grinds at Dollars (on the foreign foods aisle, with the Japanese salts). Yeast is available at Walason's in vacuum-packed blocks; store in an airtight container in the fridge. Bread flour is also available at Walason's, in the bag with the blue label. I think it actually says "Bread Flour" in English on it now. As far as aerating the flour, I just give it a good stir with a wire whisk before filling up the measuring cup each time. Without this, you will end up with a larger quantity of flour per cup and probably a tougher loaf. Obviously, don't tap the cup to settle the flour; just run a chopstick across to even the top.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Savory French Toast

If you made the pizza recipe below, you might be saying to yourself the next day, "Hmm... now what do I do with all this leftover prosciutto?" I haven't made this recipe in Taiwan, but in the States it was a great brunch or late supper dish – very easy, good flavors, and super fast. I would use Trader Joe's Rosemary-Sea Salt bread, as well as their Quattro Formaggio cheese blend. No TJ's here, though, so I'll have to think about how to adapt it as I go along.

Savory French Toast

In a shallow bowl combine
2 eggs, beaten
Splash of milk
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of dried basil, rosemary or other herb (optional)

Dip into the mixture until soaked through
4 thick slices of bread, preferably homemade or rustic-style

In a large pan over medium heat, cook till golden brown on bottom; flip. On top of each slice place
1 slice prosciutto (whole or torn)
Sliced tomatoes (optional)
3-4 tablespoons shredded cheese: parmesan, gruyere, romano, or a combination of these

Cover pan while cheese melts and bread browns, 3-4 minutes. Serve hot, with fruit or a green salad.

Buying info:
Costco used to carry Pugliese bread, but I haven't seen it lately. They do sometimes have other hearty loaves. I'm always on the lookout for decent bread; most bakeries are disappointing in that department. The proscuitto, as I mentioned in the pizza recipe, can be found at Jason's Market or at Dollars (at the Bolker St. stand). All three cheeses are available at Costco, but to buy them all at once would be prohibitive. Smaller portions should be available at Dollars, Jason's, and other stores with a deli counter. The whole dish could be simplified by substituting sliced ham and cheddar, and it would probably be great, just not as dressy. Sounds good, though, especially with some eggs on the side. Mmmm... makes me hungry.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Pizza night

We had some friends over for pizza dinner last night. We topped frozen pizza rounds with ham and pineapple; sausage, onion, and black olives; and sausage, mushroom, and green olives. These all had red sauce & lots of mozzarella – really tasty. The fourth one was different, though, and went like this:

Prosciutto & Feta Pizza

Preheat oven to 425ยบ. Lightly brush
One large pizza round

Olive oil

Top with
1 or 2 slices prosciutto, torn
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
Fresh ground pepper

Bake on a pan or preheated pizza stone for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and sprinkle
One clove garlic, minced or pressed
over the top.

Return to oven for three or four minutes. Let sit briefly before cutting.

Buying info:
I get pizza rounds and feta cheese at Walason's, mozzarella at Costco (it's a giant bag, but you can freeze it), and prosciutto either at Jason's Market at Hanshin Department Store or at the Bolker St. kiosk at Dollars, right across from the McDonald's ice cream stand.

Other hints:
Fresh mushrooms and tomatoes give off a lot of moisture when they cook, and can make the pizza soggy. For the tomatoes, squeeze or pick out most of the seeds. For mushrooms, my mom came up with this solution: place sliced mushrooms on a paper towel in the microwave and cook at 100% power for 30-45 seconds. Much of the moisture will be drawn out.