February 1, 2010


Mori-neko, 30 Jan 2010, from ‘Favourite Pancakes and Fillings’ in the PWYF forum

I do latkes from scratch

It’s more of a ratio than a set recipe, though.

Per 1 egg, 2 russet potatoes and 1 onion, grated. Add matzoh meal (or flour, if you don’t have any meal) until it looks right – you’re looking for it to have a little adherence and not a lot of liquid floating around in the bowl.

Then they get fried in pancakes in a pan of hot oil – preferably vegetable or canola oil, as they have fairly high smoke points.

Serve with applesauce or sour cream or sugar or whatever you feel like.

Salt-free pickles

Melissa Mead, Recipe Thread, 10 Jan 2010

One of the things I’ve really missed since I put myself on a reduced-sodium diet is pickles. (My mom makes the best sweet-and-sour pickles ever.) The salt-free pickles in stores contain potassium chloride, which isn’t safe for some people. And it has a nasty aftertaste, at least to me.

For Christmas, my husband and parents gave me a cornucopia of salt-free seasonings. One was Sauerbraten spice. I sniffed it and thought “This smells like pickles!” ( http://www.thespicehouse.com/spices/sauerbraten-spice-blend- I see they have “real” pickling spices too.)

Yesterday I tried the following experiment:

1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tblsp Sauerbraten spice
1 tsp dill weed
1 tsp garlic powder

Mix ingredients together, heat, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. (Don’t inhale the steam!)

Slice approx 2 cups of cucumbers into a glass bowl. (Our store’s pickling cukes didn’t look so great, so I used a bag of “snacking cucumbers” that looked like baby European ones. A bit pricey, but they had a nice crunch.) Pour the liquid over the cucumbers (is it called a brine if there’s no salt in it?) and refrigerate overnight.

Given my track record with cooking, I expected that today I’d find that I’d ruined some beautiful cukes. Nope. They were tangy, sweet, sour, crunchy… they weren’t as good as my mom’s, and they still had a note of raw cucumber, but they tasted like Real Pickles. And they have no salt at all. Wink


Dances-with-needles, 9 Feb 09

Son #2 is in culinary school and has shown me some good stuff. Over the holidays he showed me how to make Lox, fresh.
I cook by ratio because I often have to increase or decrease amounts depending on how many show up. So, for every pound of fresh salmon fillet you will need 1/2 cup kosher salt” and 1/2 cup sugar*, 1 tsp dried thyme, or dill or whatever herb you like with fish$. Use a glass or non reactive pan. Spread half the salt/sugar on the bottom mostly where the salmon will be sitting, lay the skin side down on the salt, sprinkle the thyme and other favorings over the flesh and spread the salt mix on top of that. Cover the meat as evenly as you can. Cover the pan, I use plastic wrap ( also known as dammit), and place in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours. The time depends on the thickness of the meat and the size of the piece. Check on it every so often and if all the salt had vanished from the top spread some more on. The salmon goes from limber like a washed sock to kind of stiff, like the one you wore for a week. My son says Firm. When past the 24 hour point and stiff enough for your sense of things, rinse the salt off, pat the slab dry and slice at an angle rather thinly cutting it away from the skin as you go. A pound of this will serve one person for three or four meals or big snacks, and two people will demolish it all in five minutes. It is especially good with boiled potatoes mashed with lemon and olive oil dressing on the nights where I am just too tired to cook a meal and too hungry to skip it. Keep it wrapped in the wrap that was on top of the pan, in the refrigerator.

” this is important, the salt needs to be not iodized and have large granules

*This can be raw, turbinado, brown, or nasty old white sugar. I haven’t tried honey yet, so if someone does, please let me know how much works

$Thyme, Citrus peel, Onion Powder, Garlic powder, Dill weed, Ginger root, Just not all at once.

Mrs Redboots’ Mother’s Savoury Bites

Mrs Redboots, Recipe thread, 27 December 08

These were new to me – my mother may be 80, but she is still capable of surprising me, on occasion. I haven’t yet made these, but she says they’re dead easy, and is making them every week during the shooting season, as apparently the guns all demand them with their coffee. And since people are probably rather tired of sweet Christmas food:

Equal quantities by weight of bread (any type!), grated cheese (any, but the stronger-flavoured the better), butter and flour.

Possibly a drop of Tabasco sauce, or a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes, or 1/4 tsp dry mustard powder, and maybe a pinch of dried mixed herbs.

Whizz everything together in food processor until breadcrumby. Bring together with the hands into a dough; chill if necessary. Roll out to about 1/4″-1/2″ inch thickness, then stamp out rounds (or Christmassy shapes, if you have Christmassy cookie cutters!).

Bake on greased baking tray at 180 in a fan oven (Mark 5, 375 F) for about 15 minutes.

Battered sun-dried tomatoes (Liastes domates sto kourkouti)

Susan from Athens: comment to “Flat Tyre” on October 1, 2008

This is actually a traditional delicacy on the island of Tinos, where they traditionally sun dry their tomatoes (some of the best I’ve ever eaten), in order to preserve them for the winter months. This is a warming hors d’oeuvre or snack, or can be turned into the gluttonish main part of a meal. The quantities are deliberately vague and can be added and subtracted to, at will. Greek batter for frying in is simply a paste made of flour and water so this is unbelievably simple

sun-dried tomatoes (as many as you think you will eat)
enough boiling water to cover them
all-purpose flour
water to mix it to a paste
Olive oil (it doesn’t need to be extra-virgin or super-fancy) for frying

Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside to steep for half an hour. When about 25 minutes have passed, in another shallow bowl, mix half a cup of flour with enough water (added slowly) to make a not-too-thick but not-too-runny paste. This sounds vague but you basically need it to be sticky enough to coat the tomatoes on all side, but still runny enough that it can coat, so a consistently thicker than pancake batter but a lot wetter than a sticky dough.

Put about a half centimetre of oil in a frying pan and heat over a medium heat. As with all frying, you want it hot, but you don’t want it burning. Only experience and experimentation teach you the exact way to do this. If it is smoking it is too hot and you should take it off the heat.
Strain the tomatoes. You don’t have to get them super-dry. I keep the liquid for adding to tomato soup or to a stew, much as I would soaking liquid from dried mushrooms. Place up to ten tomatoes at a time in the bowl and turn them round a few times to coat with batter. I find my fingers are the best way to do this. After all batter does wash off. Then place them individually into the frying pan with some distance between them, as the batter will very slightly swell up. Ten is the maximum number because by the time you have put ten in, washed your hands and got your turning implement of choice (slotted spoon and fork, or tongs or fish slice or whatever you prefer) it is time to turn them over. Check to see if they have changed colour to golden and turn in the same order you put them into the frying pan. If you think they might need some more, turn once more after a reasonable amount of time. Once done (i.e. golden all over and not burnt) remove from the frying pan and place onto a draining plate covered with frying paper.

In my household these very rarely actually make it to table. They are eaten (with burned fingers and mouths) on the fly. But they are also very good if served with skordalia (Greek aioli like sauce, a recipe for which I have already given) or tzatziki (garlic mushed up with grated cucumber and strained yoghurt). If you want to get fancier (and you should) you can add salt and pepper to the batter. If you want to get even fancier, Hungarian smoked sweet paprika makes a fabulous addition. You can also sprinkle them with oregano, or freshly chopped parsley or mint when finished. But they are great in and of themselves. Not a diet food but most definitely a comfort food.

Kritikos Dakos

Susan from Athens: comment in “Horses and Mud” on 09/09/08

This is something that is also known in Greece as koukouvagia (which means owl) for reasons that remain unknown to me. It is a Cretan dish with variations arising throughout the Aegean Islands because it is a poor man’s food. In its basic form it consists of a paximadi – a common form of preserving bread in a twice-baked rusk, which can be made with any kind of sourdough bread: wheat, corn or rye being the most common and are easy to find in Greece, but very difficult to find abroad. A quick google search gives me:


which at least provides a visual, although I don’t know the specific make.

So a Dakos is something between a salad, a sauce and a salsa which you pile on top of the paximadi, and top, if you so wish, with crumbled anthotyri, a fresh crumbly sheep’s milk whey cheese. Sometimes you see it topped with feta cheese but this is not authentic. (You can also top it with crumbly chevre cheeses, which is also not authentic, but very delicious).

The ingredients then vary but most varieties have tomato, red onion, garlic (lots of people omit this but I love it), olive oil and oregano. Quantities depending on the people eating and their appetites and whether this is a main meal or a side dish.

The main ingredient is tomatoes and it has to be very ripe tomatoes. Not sugary, mushy tomatoes, but the kind of tomato that spills its juices out all over, and if cut for a salad is sitting in its juices within a couple of minutes. These can be treated in two ways, depending on preference and the actual state of the tomato. If you can cut it, dice it into a medium dice. If you have a food processor you can trust not to mush, cut it into chunks and pulse quickly a couple of times. If it cannot be cut at all, slice in half and use the thickest grater you have to grate all but the skin into a bowl.
Depending on how you have treated the tomato, treat the onion and garlic: Chop or grate.
Mix together, pour olive oil on top, season with salt and pepper and rub some nice oregano over the whole.

Spoon the mixture over the paximadi (making sure the juices soak into the hard rusks) and crumble the cheese on top of that and/or add olives, the small tiny Cretan ones, that are the size of your smallest fingernail.

That is the basic dakos. There are variations. My latest variation, for the end of summer harvest tomatoes we currently have, with quantities for two people as an evening salad (which I have accompanied by a hard boiled egg or some cold cuts or leftover ratatouille) is as follows:

2 large paximadia or six bite-size ones
1 large very ripe tomato
6 tart cherry tomatoes
½ a small red onion
1 clove of garlic
4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil or more
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon sweet smoked Hungarian paprika
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon thyme

Dice the onion and finely chop the garlic (don’t use a garlic press – the taste is different). Place into bowl, add the olive oil, salt and pepper and paprika and allow to marinate while you cut the tomato (and a bit longer if you can – I find Greek onions much milder than those in the UK and much more flavourful than those in the US. Marinating them takes a bit of the bite away). Dice the large tomato and cut each cherry tomato into sixths, cutting once in half and each half into thirds. The cherry tomatoes add a pit of texture.

Mix into the onion. Rub the oregano and thyme over the mixture and stir (rubbing the herbs makes sure there are no little tough bits but also helps release their essential oils). Let it sit for five minutes and then pour over bite-size paximadi portions (or if, like me, you’re lazy just dip the paximadi bits into your bowl). I am currently not using cheese, but you can.

Alternative Ginger Persons

Robin, 18 August 2008

These are absolutely not gingerbread.  They’re also not necessarily persons.  They can be animals, vegetables or minerals, and a bad batch might make quite a good game of this.* 

            They are also what I would have made yesterday, if I’d either had the time or could afford the calories.  Or both, of course, but to hope for such a concatenation would be greedy.  The original recipe came out of a newspaper when I was a teenager, but I’ve copied it over at least twice since then, and even so the page is rather brown and spotty.  It is however very easy to find in the sweet-baking notebook because there is a slimmish plastic bag slipped in next to it, containing the surviving highlights of forty years of ginger cookie templates.  I’ve done horses, dogs, cats, birds, reindeer, hedgehogs, sailboats, convertibles (classics only), wedding cakes (sic), books, houses, ball gowns, washing machines . . . okay, sometimes my friends and I have celebrated some rather odd things.   I’ve also done roses, but the stems are the very devil.  You’re better off doing a bouquet, which you will have to sort with lines of frosting, but you still have to do a cut out thing with leaves and at the end you want to lacquer it and submit it to the Tate Modern, not have someone eat it in ten seconds, however many times they say ‘ooooh delicious.’**  Stems, which is to say tails, is my excuse for never having essayed a sighthound of any variety.  And all those long skinny legs.  And the ears.  Ugh.  But now there’s only one dog birthday a year instead of three I may have to try it, some 17 August.

            They taste delectable, they make excellent funny shapes***, people are usually thrilled with them† . . . and the dough is a sod to work with.   But I like them so much I keep making them.  Although not very often.  When there’s something really important to celebrate.

1 c butter

1 ½ c white sugar

1 egg

Grated rind one orange

½ tsp orange essence

2 T molasses

3 c sifted all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger††

½ tsp cloves

Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg, beat fluffy.  Add orange rind, essence, and molasses, and beat till fluffy again.  Mix flour and spices, stir in thoroughly.

            Chill dough at least two hours, four is better.  If you can remember, make the dough the night before.†††  Then slice bits off and roll them to about 1/8th inch–certainly less than a quarter inch.  I roll it out on the cookie sheet (therefore you don’t want one with tall sides) to save wear and tear, and then plonk my patterns down, cut around them, and peel off the scraps.  This dough is, as you will have noticed, very buttery, and your cookie sheet doesn’t need greasing, although I usually use parchment paper so later on in the process the new cookies aren’t picking up a thin veneer of old crumbs–it also means you can leave the cookies in situ on the paper till they cool enough to solidify and are safe to move, but can keep the cookie sheet in action.  10-12 minutes 350°–or possibly 8-15, depending on your oven and how crisp you like them.  You don’t want them soft, or they’ll break (especially if you’ve done something foolhardy with a pattern), but I personally feel you don’t want them to brown either. 

            There’s also the question of adding more flour to make the dough easier to work.  I don’t find that the second batch, made out of the first batch’s scraps, are noticeably tougher for having been smushed together and rolled out again, although I tend to save the third go out from any dramatic presentation, in case they’ve begun to feel a little tired and emotional by then.  I also don’t think a little flour on your hands and your rolling pin ever dimmed any cookie’s brilliance, but if you find yourself having to coat everything with flour you might be better off to put the rest of the dough back in the refrigerator again to recongeal.  It does get sticky as it warms up.

             And you really should decorate these.  My books, ball gowns and washing machines certainly would have been a lot harder to identify without a few piped icing pages, frills and control panels.  I use a slightly thinned down basic vanilla buttercream frosting, and I try to use it fairly liberally because the frosting goes a treat with these cookies.  Raisins are traditional, but I feel they’re superfluous in this case.  Oh, and if you break any legs, stems or tails, you can sometimes glue them as it were gingerly back together with frosting.  But treat any such wounded veterans tenderly.


Orange, Cardamom and Rosewater Sorbet

Susan from Athens, 6th June 2008, comment to Kitchen toys

The following recipe started life as for use with tangelos, which I personally dislike. You can substitute very happily with oranges, or grapefruit and lime (in the latter case delete the rosewater) (The original recipe from damm fine food catering and event management, Melbourne in From Australian Vogue Entertaining + Travel Christmas 2000)
(Makes about 1 Litre)

750ml orangejuice
zest from 3 oranges
200 gr caster sugar
a pinch of (hopefully freshly) ground cardamom
1 tablespoon rosewater (or orange flower water) or else 1 rose geranium leaf

To serve: rose petals (optional)

Place the tangelo juice and zest, sugar and cardamom in a non-reactive saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves (If you are using the rose geranium leaf add here for one minute – no more and remove). Allow to cool and add the rosewater. Refrigerate until chilled, then churn in an ice-cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Store in a freezer in a covered container until ready to serve.

No dairy in sight and lots of fruit – even limes: life is good.

Melon Ice

Susan from Athens, 6th June 2008, comment to Kitchen toys

An ice / sorbet recipe garnered long ago (i.e. Christmas 2000) from the Vogue Australian Entertaining and Travel and suitably altered for use by me. This publication has a great variety of recipes on ices, including alcoholic ones, unfortunately they are always published out of season for us. Luckily for me, I always keep my food mags for way too long (currently in a drive to comb through a few years worth and pass on to worthy recipients).

1kg piece of melon
250g caster sugar
150ml water
juice of 1-2 limes, to taste
2 teaspoons orange flower water

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Discard the melon rind and seeds. Put the flesh into a food processor and process to a puree. Stir in the lime juice and orange flower water into the syrup you have made and combine with the melon puree. (Here you can use your ice-cream maker, otherwise:) Refrigerate until chilled, then pour into a shallow container and freeze overnight.
To serve, cut the frozen mixture into small chunks, process until just broken up and serve at once spooned into (preferably frozen) glasses. You can sprinkle with a chiffonade of spearmint leaves or ginger (Serves 6).

Today’s Hummus

Susan from Athens, 12 May 08, comment on “Recipe Thing”

Today’s Hummus

1 tin chickpeas
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tablespoon soy sauce
juice of two lemons
olive oil

Place all the ingredients except the last two in a blender or food processor, add about two tablespoons of the lemon juice and an equal quantity of olive oil. Pulse together. Add some more lemon juice and olive oil. Pulse. Continue adding till all your juice is taken up. Check texture. If cement-like, add some more oil and some water (if you were virtuous and had the time to boil dried chickpeas use the water you boiled it in). Let sit for a while to let the flavours blend.

Yes neither the paprika or the soy sauce are traditional but the former adds a pleasant tang and the latter gives the smokiness a greater depth.
You can cover the lot with chopped parsley if you want (it’s good), or cilantro (if you fancy a change). You can add toasted pine nuts *yum*, or toasted sesame seeds on top and it only adds to the experience. You can serve as part of a meal or hors d’oeuvres platter, or on fresh bread. There is a dastardly combination of fresh bread, spread with baked garlic and heaped with hummus. For gorging by yourself or sharing with company. What more can you ask of a convenience food? (This version has its faraway origins in Claudia Rodin’s Book of Jewish Cooking, via Jane Brody’s Good Food and a long detour through a large number of Middle Eastern restaurants).

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