johnny cakes

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A johnny cake is fried bread eaten in Jamaica as an accompaniment to spicy dishes. Ackee and saltfish or bully beef (corned beef with tomatoes, onions, and scotch bonnet pepper) are even more satisfying eaten with a fluffy chewy and hot johnny cake.

Johnny Cakes (adapted from Food 52)
Prep time: 45 minutes (includes resting time)
Cook time: 4 minutes per batch
Servings: Makes about 30-36 cakes

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup water
vegetable oil for frying

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Cut in the butter until it is the size of small peas. Mix in the water and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and let rest 30 minutes. Roll out half the dough onto a lightly floured surface, about 1/4 inch thick, and cut into rounds. Repeat with the other half.

Meanwhile, heat about an inch of oil in a large skillet. Stick a wooden chopstick in the oil; when tiny bubbles gather round the stick, the oil is hot enough. Fry dough circles in batches of five. When one side is lightly browned, flip over on to the other side. Drain fried cakes on a plate lined with paper towels. Eat right away.

To reheat leftover johnny cakes put them in a 200˚F/100˚C oven for about 5 minutes. Never reheat them in a microwave as they become tough.

green skillet pizza

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I used the electric pan as a pizza maker and this is what I found out: the top griddle does not brown the top of the crust when it is closed, so I will have to flip the crust over to brown the top. Basically, the pan fries the bread, and in the absence of clear instructions of how to cook a pizza in the electric pan, I had to experiment. To those of you who have the Homemate brand Double Electric Pans/Pizza Maker, this is what you will have to do: roll out or pat the pizza as thin as possible–about 1/4 inch thickness. Put about 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet part to heat up (about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes) on maximum. Put the crust in and let it fry about 5 minutes. Flip it and let the top brown slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Then flip it back over, add the toppings and close the lid and cook for another 5 minutes on 180˚C. Pizza in ten!

Pizza Crust (from America’s Test Kitchen)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Proofing: 30 minutes

2 1/2 cups (312g) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package instant yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
3/4 cup (200ml) skim milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat the oven to 200˚F. Once it reaches the desired temperature, turn it off but do not open the door.

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, salt, and yeast in the mixing bowl. In a measuring cup, add the milk, oil, and sugar. Combine the flour, salt, and yeast on low speed, while it is mixing, add the milk mixture. Continue beating until just incorporated. Turn the speed up to medium low and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and shiny and comes together in a ball.

Baker’s note: I used a handmixer fitted with dough hooks. It takes longer to make pizza dough with a handmixer because it’s not as powerful. So when the recipe says low speed, use medium low speed, and so medium low becomes medium high. My arm got tired holding the motor so I had to use both hands to hold it!

Lightly flour a board and knead the dough two times and form into a ball. Put dough ball in a large greased glass bowl, turning it several times to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the warm oven to proof for 30 minutes.

By now the dough should have doubled in bulk. Take it out of the oven and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut it in half with a bench scraper.

Baker’s note: I wrapped both dough balls in plastic and refrigerated them to stop the rising process. This is because I didn’t want to make the pizza right away. If you refrigerate the dough, use it within 24 hours. If you want a thick crust you will have to make the pizza right away when the yeast is fresh. For a thin crust pizza, where very little rising is involved, cooking the crust later is no problem.

To make the crust, roll out one dough ball on a lightly floured surface. Or use your fingers to stretch and tamp the dough into a roughly 10 inch round. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet and add the pizza dough.  Prick the dough with a fork. Fry 5 minutes on one side, flip and fry 2-3 minutes on the other.

Green Skillet Pizza:
Prep time: 15 minutes (includes sauteeing the toppings)
Cook time: 10 minutes

1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oil
6 cups spinach, chopped
5 ounces arugula,any tough stems removed, chopped (about 6 cups)
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup green peas
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1/2 cup prepared pesto (I used basil pesto, recipe to follow)
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, lightly saute the mushrooms and garlic in oil. Add the spinach and arugula. Saute until wilted. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. In the pan add the water and heat to boiling. Add the peas and cook until bright green. Drain the peas and discard the water. Add peas to the cooked vegetables.

Baker’s note: Prepare the pizza toppings ahead of time and refrigerate.

When the top of the pizza crust is browned, spread half the pesto. Add half the toppings and half the cheese. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with the second crust.

Andy complained that the pizza was slightly bitter. I think the arugula and the spinach were not a good combination. I should have used broccoli with either arugula or the spinach, not both. He said the crust was excellent–it was fresh, slightly crisp on the bottom but soft on the inside.

Basil Pesto (adapted from Skinnytaste)
Prep time: 10 minutes

1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

The easiest thing to do is to process all ingredients in a food processor. Since I’m in Salaya and not in my kitchen at home, I had to make the pesto by hand. For this, I needed one sharp santoku knife.

southwestern cheese panini

I adapted this recipe from Eating Well. It takes about 25 minutes to prepare and cook. According to the website, one panini sandwich serving contains 330 calories. I imagine that if you use cooking spray instead of oil, the calories may be even less–how much, I don’t know, but hey, every little bit counts! What I also liked about it was that it was flavorful without having to use additional salt. I recommend serving it with a salad, such as strawberries, baby spinach, dried cranberries, and almonds.

Southwestern Cheese Panini
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

4 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese or Pepper Jack cheese
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion (or a combination of onion, scallion, and chopped cilantro)
1/4-1/2 cup prepared salsa, drained of excess liquid, if chunky salsa
1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeño pepper, (optional)
8 slices whole-wheat bread or multi-grain bread
2 teaspoons canola oil or cooking spray

Preparation

  1. Have four 15-ounce cans and a medium skillet (not nonstick) ready by the stove.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cheese, zucchini, carrot, onion, salsa, jalapeño (if using). Put one slice of bread on the work surface. Scoop about 1/2 cup of the zucchini mixture on the bread. Top with another slice of bread. Cook’s Note: I used Pepper Jack cheese and multi-grain bread which I think add more flavor and texture to the panini.
  3. Heat 1 teaspoon oil, if using, or spray a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray, over medium heat.  Place the panini in the non-stick skillet. Weigh it down with the medium skillet with the 4 cans. Cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove the top skillet with the cans. Reduce the heat to medium low and flip the panini. Replace the top skillet. Cook until the second side is golden, 1-3 minutes more. Repeat with another teaspoon oil, if using, and another panini.

poached egg on arugula

It’s been hard to keep up with blogging, dissertation-ing, and a full time job. And as if I don’t have enough to do, I also signed up for a course this summer on teaching reading. So I’m definitely  in the mood for some baking therapy. I just borrowed a cookbook from the NYPL about baking cakes from scratch.  To keep myself sane, I’ve been indulging in some of my food cravings. After all, how can I live in New York City and not eat a bagel, especially a bagel from Absolute Bagels. The people behind the counter are Thai and they make the best Jewish bread, in my opinion, on the Upper West Side. But this is New York. And  I digress. Here’s something healthier… a poached egg “hat” on fresh arugula.

I had some arugula (organic, what a splurge), that spicy green leaf that tastes like black pepper, and is it ever so yummy! I dressed it up with a poached egg. And for a non-vegetarian variation, I put in some sliced pepperoni. The saltiness of the pepperoni is the perfect complement to the sharp flavor of the arugula. Delicious. This is a great, simple, and easy to make breakfast.

How to poach an egg

To poach an egg, boil three inches of water in a small saucepan and add about a teaspoon of white vinegar. Bring to a near boil–the water should have big round bubbles. Crack open an egg into a small bowl. Stir the water and slip the egg into the center of the whirling water. Cook 5-7 minutes; 5 minutes for runny yolk, 7 minutes for barely runny.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the poached egg and place it on top of a cupful of arugula with a few slices of red onion. If desired, add some slices of pepperoni on top of the arugula and serve with toasted cheese on top of a slice of multi-grain bread.

third time’s a charm!

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I took Andy and AJ to Jing Fong in Chinatown for Father’s Day. Jing Fong is at 20 Elizabeth Street near the corner of Canal, and it specializes in Dim Sum. Dim Sum is a meal that consists of small dumplings, steamed and fried, savory and sweet. I prefer the steamed to the fried, and I love both savory and sweet dumplings! Dim Sum is served from steam carts  and trolleys wheeled from table to table, where you just point and it is put before you in these bamboo baskets, straight from the kitchen. There’s nothing fancy about Dim Sum; it’s all about the different ways rice flour can be rolled, molded, and shaped around a delicious filled center. Dim Sum is best eaten before noon, in my opinion. In any case, it’s seldom served in the afternoon. So Dim Sum filled us up for most of the day. For dinner, I made Misty’s Vegetarian Lasagna, my third try. They say the third time’s a charm. And so it was.

crunchy vegetable slaw

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I didn’t like the green bean casserole recipe I tried in the Carb Conscious Vegetarian cookbook. Why blanche the green beans to set the bright green color then bake the heck out of it for 50 minutes until the poor things are mushy and olive drab? Sam, my nurse practitioner at Columbia Health, recommended the books of Robin Robertson because I told him I like to cook and eat healthy meals. I also love to try out new cookbooks. This recipe is one I adapted from  Carb Conscious. I liked it. It was slightly pungent because of the raw broccoli and cabbage, and I loved the sweet crisp taste of the bell pepper in it. The dressing was bland so I dressed it up with some red pepper flakes, and it was slightly sour, so I added a little stevia.

Crunchy vegetable slaw

2 cups peeled, shredded broccoli stems (about 3 medium stems)
2 cups shredded red cabbage (about 1/4 of a large head)
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into thin slivers
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro (or flat leaf parsley)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (or lemon juice), (juice of 1 large lime)
red pepper flakes to taste
salt and pepper to taste (celery salt in the original recipe)
1/2 packet of stevia, about 1/4 teaspoon, optional

Shred the broccoli stems in a food processor.

In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, cabbage, pepper, and cilantro. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lime juice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and stevia, if using.  Pour olive oil mixture over the broccoli mixture. Toss. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serves 4

Per serving: 169 calories, 14g fat, 3g protein, 9g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 0mg cholesterol, 123mg sodium.

with the wildman in central park

This is Steve Brill aka The Wildman, a self taught botanist and forager. For three hours on Saturday, he taught me and 34 other people to appreciate the plant diversity in Central Park here in New York as delicious dinner accompaniments or herbal remedies for ailments. We learned to pick out sassafras and juneberries, jewelweed and field garlic, among others, from a green blur of trees, hedges, and undergrowth. Steve is a storehouse of plant lore, a storyteller, joke teller, painful punster, and as if all that isn’t enough, he is a human beatbox. While we were there, Yahoo’s Blue Ribbon Hunter  Chef Alison Fishman  was filming Steve for an upcoming show.

I’m not terribly adventurous when it comes to food. I am no Anthony Bourdain though I like to watch him and experience the tastes vicariously. I once accidentally ordered sweetbreads in a restaurant, and it wasn’t what I thought it was. My husband has teased me about it ever since. Normally I stick to more conventional cuts of meat–what I know. So that I should go on a foraging expedition for food is truly adventurous. I timidly tried the tender cattail stalk–it tastes like cucumber–and though I love garlic, I rejected the field garlic because it was too pungent. But I did savor the sharp mustard taste of Poor Man’s Pepper and the Sour Kids’ lemon flavor of sheep sorrel. However, I was reluctant to dig up any of these plants, though Steve insists they are sustainable so it’s okay to take them out of the Park. No, my reason for not taking them was more pragmatic–how would I use them in my cooking? So rather than waste them, I nibbled and crushed leaves and smelled them, then I decided the only one I’d try at home was the Northern Bayberry. I will put the leaves in a Jamaican pepperpot soup.

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buckwheat noodles with beef and sweet ginger scallion sauce

Okay, okay, it’s not vegetarian! That is beef sitting on top of the noodles.

Buckwheat noodles, also called soba, are delicious, as I discovered last week when I added them to the Thai beef soup kao lao. Since I had an extra packet, I decided to try this recipe from a1dente.wordpress.com. I made two tiny adjustments. Instead of chili oil, I substituted vegetable oil and added 1/4 teaspoon chili paste, and I used maple syrup instead of honey.

I also made up my own beef marinade, but you can substitute soy sauce or teriyaki sauce for my marinade, and you can use chicken instead of beef, and firm tofu instead of any kind of meat at all. I spooned the noodles on top of chopped romaine lettuce. It’s delicious, trust me!

Buckwheat Noodles (Soba) with Beef and Sweet Ginger Scallion Sauce

8-9 oz. dry soba/buckwheat noodles
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 1/2 cup scallions, chopped fine
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons chili oil (I used 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and 1/4 teaspoon chili paste)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey (I used organic maple syrup)
Coarse salt
Fresh ground black pepper

2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

For meat lovers:
1 lb beef sirloin steak sliced into 3 inch strips across the grain
1 tablespoon hoi sin sauce
1 tablespoon soy-ginger sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

  1. Mix all the scallions, ginger, cilantro, sesame oil, chili oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and honey in a bowl. Set it aside for 10 -15 minutes to let the flavors meld.
  2. For Meat Lovers: Skip this step if you want the vegetarian version. Season the steak strips with hoi sin and soy-ginger sauces and the cornstarch. Chinese cooks often use cornstarch as a binder and thickener. According to America’s Test Kitchen, a little cornstarch seals the marinade to the meat during cooking. Chinese cooks have known this all along! Let sit 10-15 minutes while the noodle sauce flavors are developing. Heat 2 teaspoons oil on medium high heat and stir fry the beef until it just turns brown. Even though a little red streaks remain, stop. Do not overcook the beef.
  3. Boil the soba noodles per the package’s instructions and drain. Toss the noodles with the sauce and sesame seeds. Serve noodles hot on a bed of romaine lettuce. Spoon beef strips on top of noodles.

misty’s vegetarian lasagna

I’m not a vegetarian. I’m an unabashed omnivore. On a sliding scale from meat lover on one end to veggie nibbler on the other I’m probably a seven. A little more than half way. But I do enjoy a hearty vegetarian meal–if it makes me forget it’s meatless. Taranee’s friend Misty has this recipe for vegetarian lasagna that does that. It’s satisfying without being heavy. I had a Senior Moment while I was assembling the pie and now I have leftover lasagna noodles! Oh well. I’ll just cut them up and put them in some chicken vegetable soup.

You’ll note as you gather your mis en place for the lasagna that you must use Italian seasoning. You can use store-bought but even better, make your own. Here is a great recipe for Italian seasoning. It is by Dean Ornish and it’s called

A Little Italian

2 tablespoons each of:
dried basil
dried marjoram
dried oregano
ground coriander
dried thyme
dried rosemary
dried savory
1-2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes, optional
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

The method is very simple. Process all the spices and herbs until well blended. Store in a jar in a cool dry place and use as needed in pasta sauces and salad dressings.

Vegetarian Lasagna (serves 10-12)

Ingredients:
2 eggs
2 cups reduced fat cream style cottage cheese
15 ounces reduced fat ricotta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons butter or margarine (I substituted olive oil for 1 tablespoon)
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups skim milk
2 (10 oz) packages frozen chopped spinach or broccoli, thawed and drained thoroughly (I used 2 x 7 oz bags fresh baby spinach. If you use fresh spinach, increase the flour to 3 tablespoons.)
1 medium carrot, shredded
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
salt to taste
9 oven ready lasagna noodles (I used cooked noodles and they tasted better)
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (oops. Forgot it, but didn’t miss it)
1 cup marinara sauce 1 18oz jar marinara sauce

Preparation
Beat the eggs lightly in a medium bowl. Stir in the cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and Italian seasoning. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Sauté until tender. Stir in the flour and pepper. Add the milk. Cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in the spinach, carrot, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, and salt. [Cook’s Note: If the sauce starts to thicken too quickly, remove it from the heat.]

Now here’s the part where I got mixed up:
1. Layer 1/3 of the spinach mixture and 1/3 of the noodles into a greased 9×13 inch baking dish.

2. Layer half the cottage cheese mixture, half of the remaining spinach mixture, half the mozzarella cheese, half the cheddar cheese, and half of the remaining noodles.

3. Layer the remaining half of the cottage cheese mixture, the remainder of the spinach mixture, the cottage cheese, the cheddar cheese, and the last of the noodles.

4. Spread the marinara sauce on top. sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

5. I recommend putting the lasagna on a baking tray to catch the spills. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Cook’s Note: you may assemble the lasagna, cover with foil and chill for up to 48 hours before baking. To freeze, wrap the unbaked lasagna tightly with foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. To serve, bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 35 to 40 minutes longer or until hot and bubbly. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

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pappardelle with mushrooms, rosemary, and tomatoes

Looking for a quick and easy pasta dish for a weeknight dinner? This one is perfect! However, the dish came out drier than expected. I prefer a more sauce-y product and if you do too, then double the sauce recipe. It is mild and very flavorful. For more bite, add red pepper flakes to taste. This is a vegetarian dish but don’t let that stop you from trying it!   The guys in my family object to eating their vegetables without some protein, so I added a cupful of slivered turkey ham to the pasta.

Pappardelle with  mushrooms, rosemary, and tomatoes
(from DanaSlatkin.com)

Serves 8 as a side dish or 4 as a main course

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra ­virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, minced 2 garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine (I substituted 1/2 cup apple juice. White grape juice is fine too.)
1 (15­ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice (I recommend any flavored diced tomatoes.)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup low ­sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half (optional. Using it will result in a pale sauce.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound homemade or store ­bought pappardelle, or other wide pasta (I used garlic and herb pappardelle)
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms, washed well
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Preparation:

1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over low heat and sauté the shallot and garlic until fragrant and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine, increase the heat to medium, and simmer until the wine has reduced by three ­quarters, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and rosemary and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes. Add the broth and cook until thickened slightly, about 10 more minutes. Stir in the cream, if desired; simmer for one more minute, and season with salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
3. Transfer the sauce to a blender and blend the sauce; keep warm.
4. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until it is tender but still al dente; drain (do not rinse) it and set aside.
5. While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat and sauté the mushrooms until they are golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season them lightly with salt and pepper. Cook’s Note: I added a cupful of slivered turkey ham slices to the mushrooms.
6. Add the tomato sauce and pasta to the skillet, tossing to blend. With a large serving fork, twirl the pasta and transfer it to serving bowls. Top each portion with extra sauce [Cook’s Note: if there is any!] and grated Parmesan cheese.

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