Cuban Bread (or Bread Rolls)

Bread Rolls

2 packages of dry yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water
4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal

Combine warm water, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top. Let stand a few minutes until yeast begins to foam. Stir in flour to make a stiff dough. Knead dough well, until it is completely smooth and elastic, adding more flour if necessary.

Place dough in bowl sprinkled with flour. Dust top of dough with flour. Cover bowl with a dish towel. Let rise in a draft-free place until dough has doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes.

Punch down dough. Divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Shape by stretching and rolling each piece of dough into a long sausage about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place loaves on ungreased baking sheet which has been sprinkled with cornmeal.

Slash each loaf diagonally across top 3 or 4 times. Brush with water.

Place on lowest rack in a cold oven. Turn oven on and set to 350 degrees. Bread will rise in oven. Bake 1 hour or until bread is a deep golden brown.

Makes about 2 medium size loaves.

Note: To make rolls, roll pieces of dough into long snake like logs after dough has risen once. Bring ends together and twist. Tuck ends under. Allow to rise again until doubled. Bake on a baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden on top.

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Heavenly Chocolate Cubes

Heavenly Chocolate Cubes close up

Adapted from “The Art of Fine Baking,” bite size chocolaty sponge cake sandwiches filled with mocha buttercream. Need I say more?

1 recipe prepared Chocolate Pastry
1 cup Speedy Mocha Buttercream
unsweetened cocoa powder

Divide pastry in half to make two equal layers. Spread one layer with buttercream. Carefully place remaining layer on top. Chill until buttercream is very firm (about 1 hour).

Dust top heavily with cocoa powder. Cut cake into 1 inch cubes, wiping knife off after each slice.

 

Dip sides of each square into cocoa, coating them well.

Yield: approximately 80

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Zucchini Stuffed with Tuna

Tuna Stuffed Zucchini

I know what you’re thinking, canned tuna? Stuffed in zucchini? This can’t be worth making unless you happen to have leftover zucchini and canned tuna you don’t know what to do with. Even when my mother said she tried this recipe years ago and highly recommended it, I was skeptical. It really is delicious though…no really. Garlic is cooked with the zucchini flesh, mixed with tuna and parsley, then kept moist by soaked bread (what? Bread soaked in water doesn’t sound appetizing? Well once you see how moist it keeps the filling, it just might be). Baked in a mushroom tomato sauce until the zucchini is soft, all of the elements come together in this bright clean tasting dish. You could use fresh tuna, but why bother when canned tuna does such a terrific job that after the zucchini is baked, it tastes a lot like Tilapia or any mild fish. With little carbs and little fat but both protein and vegetables, this is also a perfect dish for the supposedly “healthy” month of January.

Other than converting the size of the zucchini and canned tuna, I really didn’t need to change much in this recipe. Of course, a little sprinkle of Parmesan on top never hurt anyone… but this dish is perfectly tasty as is.

3 medium zucchini
3 cloves garlic minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 slices bread, soaked in water, then squeezed dry and crumbled
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 can (5oz) tuna, mashed
1/2 pound small white button mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups tomato puree or sauce
1/2 stock
grape tomatoes (optional)

Cut zucchini into 2 inch pieces. Scoop out centers using a sharp knife or melon baller. Chop zucchini centers coarsely. Mix bread, tuna, parsley, and pepper.

Combine zucchini centers with garlic and saute in half the oil till soft. Combine with tuna mixture.
Sautee mushrooms in remaining oil until soft. Add tomato puree/sauce, a little salt and stock. Simmer 15 minutes.
Stuff zucchini shells with tuna fish combination. Place into tomato puree mixture.

Bake until zucchini are very tender. Top with half a grape tomato, if using.

Serves 4

From “The Art of Good Cooking,” by Paula Peck. Adapted by Megan Peck.

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Chicken Paprikash

Chicken Paprikash

3 chicken thighs, skinned
3 chicken legs, skinned
3 scallions chopped
1/2 tablespoon salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1/4 cup tomato purée
1/2 cup sour cream

Place chicken in a low, wide saucepan which may be covered. Add scallions, garlic, dill, chicken stock, and white wine.

Bring to boil over high heat. Lower heat and simmer chicken 20 minutes or until cooked through. Remove chicken pieces from liquid.

Optional: place in baking pan in 300 degree oven while preparing the sauce.

Skim off fat from liquid in pot. Reduce the liquid over high heat by half. Stir in paprika and tomato puree. If sauce is very thin, continue to cook it down until it thickens slightly. Remove sauce from stove and stir in sour cream.

Pour over chicken.
Sprinkle with any leftover dill and serve.

Serves 3.

Adapted by Megan Peck

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Creamed Oyster and Noodle Casserole

Creamed Oyster and Noodle Casserole

When I first came across this in the stack of unpublished recipes my grandmother left behind, I thought it was somewhat of a waste of perfectly tasty fresh oysters and the flavor could be savored more appropriately by eating them on the half shell. To be honest, the idea of a casserole made with any form of seafood mostly reminded me of the somewhat frumpy old fashioned tuna casserole. With such a strong emphasis on fresh oyster flavor, this dish is far from a waste or old and frumpy. The oyster liquor (a fancy word for the juice of the oyster) provides an ocean freshness like the smell of salty sea air at low tide (cliche enough?). Chunks of oyster complete the dish and who doesn’t love noodles!

The original recipe called for poppy seeds, which I left out because it just doesn’t seem to add anything to the dish. I did, however; add lemon juice, which cuts nicely through the fat of the half and half. And if used, grated Parmesan sprinkled on top with bread crumbs complements the saltiness of the oysters.

I made this for Christmas Eve this year and was pleasantly surprised that my 12 year old cousin took both seconds and thirds – proof of how delicious this casserole really is…

1/2 a 16oz package broad egg noodles
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups hot half and half or heavy cream mixed with
1/2 cup hot oyster liquor
1/2 lemon juiced
pinch cayenne or 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)
salt and white pepper to taste
2 dozen raw oysters, cut in quarters
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
3/4 cup fresh white bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs mixed with
1/4 cup melted butter and sauteed until just golden
grated Parmesan (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter a casserole dish (roughly 1-1 1/2 quarts)
Cook noodles in plenty of boiling, salted water until just tender. Drain and place noodles in a bowl.
In a heavy pot, melt butter. Stir in flour, and cook for about four minutes, stirring constantly. Add combined cream and oyster liquor, again stirring constantly. Use a small wire whisk when adding liquid to butter flour mixture to break up any lumps. Add lemon juice and cayenne or Tabasco (if using). Season well with salt and pepper. Add quartered oysters, tarragon, and chopped parsley. Add this mixture to noodles in bowl and toss gently together.
Pour into buttered casserole. Sprinkle golden bread crumbs and Parmesan over top. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until very hot. Serve at once.

Note: Casserole maybe prepared ahead and refrigerated up to the point of sprinkling bread crumbs. Remove from refrigerator at least an hour and half before baking.

Serves 4 – 6.

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