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Daring Cooks make Sushi 寿司…….I make it Vegetarian

Posted by vivnidhi on November 18, 2009

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Top: Caterpillar Rolls , Bottom L: Nigiri Sushi and Bottom R : Spiral Roll

I have not been able to post earlier about the fabulous sushi Daring Cooks made this month. I love sushi and really had my fill making vegetarian sushi. I couldn’t say enough of ” This is so much better than store bought and I made so much so cheap” I found this month’s Daring Cook challenge the best so far. The instructions are quite precise so no chatter in this post.  I was supposed to post on the 14th, ah well here I am …………

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.

Sushi (寿司 or 鮨 or 鮓) is much appreciated for its delicate taste and exquisite appearance. Sushi actually means vinegared rice, which is the essential ingredient in every sushi recipe. Sushi is simple and cheap to make at home, needs no special equipment and is an excellent way to use left overs.

Although sushi in various forms has been around for fourteen centuries, the modern version was invented in Japan in the 1800’s where a ‘hand-formed’ sliced fresh fish and vinegared rice ball was eaten as a snack food. Nowadays, sushi is made with various seafood, meats and vegetables, raw and cooked.

PART 1 : SUSHI RICE (makes about 7 cups of cooked sushi rice)

Preparation time: 1¾ hours consisting of :-
Rinsing and draining rice: 35 minutes
Soaking rice: 30 minutes (includes 5 minutes making the vinegar dressing)
Cooking and steaming time: 25 minutes
Finishing the rice: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2½ cups uncooked short grain rice
  • 2½ cups water
  • For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water

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Sushi Rice

Optional Ingredients

  • 3 inch (75mm or 15 grams) square dashi konbu (or kombu) (dried kelp seaweed) wipe with a damp cloth to remove white powder & cut a few slits in the sides of the kelp to help release its flavors  (I used Shimaya Instant Dashi Konbu powder …..I used only 1 tsp. in the water given……that’s what I got)
  • 2½ teaspoons (12.5 mls) of sake (Japanese rice wine)

Sushi vinegar dressing

  • 5 Tablespoons (75 mls) rice vinegar
  • 5 Teaspoons (25 mls or 21 grams) sugar
  • 1¼ Teaspoons (6.25 mls or 4.5 grams) salt

DIRECTIONS:
Rinsing and draining the rice

  1. Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don’t crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle.
  2. Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.

Soaking the rice

  1. Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminum foil to make the seal tight).
  2. Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu. (I used 1 tsp. instant powder)
  3. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.

Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing

  1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
  2. Heat on low setting.
  3. Stir until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
  4. Set aside at room temperature until the rice is cooked.

Cooking the rice

  1. After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using) to the rice.
  2. Bring rinsed and soaked rice to the boil.
  3. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat.
  4. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.

Finishing the rice

  • Turning out the rice

  1. Moisten lightly a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bowl. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
  2. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice.
  3. Use the spatula to loosen gently the rice and invert the rice pot over the bowl, gently causing the cooked rice to fall into the bowl in one central heap. Do this gently so as not to cause the rice grains to become damaged.

  • Dressing the rice with vinegar

  1. Slowly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the spatula onto the hot rice.
  2. Using the spatula gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting action to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don’t stir or mash rice.
  3. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.

  • Fanning & Tossing the rice

  1. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don’t flip the rice into the air but continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavor, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice. Using a small electric fan on the lowest speed setting is highly recommended.
  2. Stop fanning when there’s no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.

  • Keeping the rice moist

  1. Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator leave on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature.

* Tip: To make sushi rice: for each cup of rice use 1 cup of water, 2 Tbs rice vinegar, 2 tsp sugar, ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp sake. For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water when cooking the sushi rice since the weight of rice can vary. Weight of 2½ cups of uncooked rice is about 525 grams or 18½ ounces.

* Tip: While the rice is draining, soaking and cooking prepare your rice vinegar dressing, sushi fillings and toppings.

* Tip: Photo series on How to Cook Rice with a Pot
http://www.sushiencyclopedia.com/how_to_make_sushi/how_to_cook_rice_with…

* Tip: Photo series on How to Make Sushi Rice with Tools You Already Own
http://www.sushiencyclopedia.com/how_to_make_sushi/how_to_make_sushi_ric…

NOTES:
Sushi Rice – choose a short or medium grain rice. Do not use Arborio, long-grain, or parboiled white rice. Medium-grained calrose is a suitable rice. Rice expands (about 3 times) when cooked so make sure your pot is large enough. Washing the rice removes the rice flour that coats the rice and gives a fresh flavor and scent to the cooked rice. Look for rice that is labeled ‘sushi’ rice. Cooked sushi rice can be placed in plastic bags and frozen for 3 months, microwave when needed. Cooked sushi rice should be sticky, shiny and the individual grains of rice can been see. Price: AUS $4/KG.

Dashi konbu – or ( dashi kombu) – dried kelp, it looks like broad, leathery, wrinkly greenish ribbon often coated with a white powder. The darker green the leaves, the better the quality of kelp. Dashi konbu adds a refreshing light ocean taste to sushi rice. Price: AUS $1.50 for ten 3”(75mm) squares.

Rice Vinegar – this gives prepared sushi rice its unique clean, crisp taste. Do not use bottled “sushi vinegar” as it is too harsh and has a bitter after-taste. Look carefully at the label of the rice vinegar it should have NO SALT and NO SUGAR in the product. Apple cider vinegar is a good substitute if rice vinegar is not available. You can use mild white wine vinegar or mild red wine vinegar if you cannot find rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar. DO NOT USE NORMAL WHITE VINEGAR it is too harsh. Price: AUS $4 /500ml bottle.

Sake – Japanese rice wine. Do not use cooking sake or Chinese cooking rice wine, look for a reasonably priced drinkable sake. Refrigerate opened sake & use within two months. You can use vodka or a mild tasting gin if sake is not available. Price: AUS $10/500ml bottle.

Sugar – you can use mild honey or any other vegan substitute to give the equivalent sweetness.

 

PART 2 : Dragon Rolls (also called Caterpillar Rolls)

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
Cooking time: about 5 minutes (grilling the eel)

Yield: 2 inside-out (uramaki) sushi rolls

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 sheet 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm) of toasted nori (dried seaweed sheets), cut into halves
  • 1/2 Japanese cucumber
  • 2 cups of prepared sushi rice
  • 3 slabs tofu (sliced, seasoned with salt & paprika and baked at 400 F for 20 minutes) 
  • 1 Avocado
  • 1 Red onion thinly sliced and broiled for 7-8 minutes
  • Vinegared Water – ½ cup of water combined with a dash of rice vinegar
  • Various small amounts of sauces to use as the flames of the dragon (or legs of a caterpillar)

Optional

  • A mix of crumbled toasted nori, toasted sesame seeds and sugar and salt

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Japanese Cucumber and salt paprika seasoned baked tofu

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Oiled & Broiled thinly sliced red onions

DIRECTIONS:
1.Cut cucumber into strips ¼ inch (6mm) x 7” (175mm) long, then salt, rinse & dry the strips.
2.Grill (broil) the red onions for about 2-5 minutes until bubbling. Bake sliced seasoned tofu. Apply or spray some oil before baking.

3.Halve, pit and peel the avocado. Cut the avocado halves into thin even 1/8 inch (3 mm) slices. Fan out the cut avocado into a 7 inch (175 mm) overlapping pattern.
4.Cover bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Place a sheet of nori shiny side down, lengthwise, on the edge the mat.
5.Moisten lightly your hands in the bowl of vinegared water.
6.Place one cup of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
7.Flip the rice-covered nori over (so the bare nori is now on top) and place on the edge of the mat closest to you.
8.Slice tofu again in slices. Arrange sliced baked tofu across the length of the nori, not quite centred on it but a little closer to you. Place half the cucumber sticks & grilled onions next to the tofu.
9.Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands, keeping your fingertips over the fillings, and roll the mat and its contents until the edge of the mat touches straight down on the nori, enclosing the fillings completely. Lift up the edge of the mat you’re holding, and continue rolling the inside-out roll away from you until it’s sealed. Tug at the mat to tighten the seal. If the rice doesn’t quite close the roll add more rice in the gap and re-roll using the mat to completely cover the inside-out roll. Place the roll on a damp, clean smooth surface.
10.Spread about 1 tablespoon of the optional sesame mix along the entire top of the rice-covered roll. Using the plastic covered mat gently press the fish roe so it adheres to the rice.
11.Slide a knife under one fan of avocado and transfer it onto the top of an inside-out roll. Gently spread out the avocado layer to cover the entire roll. Lay the plastic wrapped mat over the avocado-covered roll. Squeeze very gently to shape the roll.
12. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the roll. Slice the roll into 6-8 equal, bite-sized pieces, wiping your knife with a damp towel before each slice. Discard the plastic wrap. Repeat the above to make one more roll.
13.Arrange the cut pieces on a serving plate with the sauces so the finished dish appears as a dragon breathing fire and flames (or a caterpillar with many legs).

* Tip: The most common mistake is having too much filling the golden rule is less is more when it comes to making sushi it is easier to roll an under-filled roll than an over-filled roll.

* Tip: Dampen your knife with a moist lint-free towel before every cut – this prevents the sushi rice from sticking to your knife.

* Tip: Excellent videos on making Dragon Rolls
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQZGRohVNFQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fo55iBN9FQs&feature=related

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Caterpillar roll

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Caterpillar rolls with pickled ginger and wasabi

NOTES:
Bamboo mat (makisu) – A 10 inch (25cm) square mat made of thin slates of bamboo tied together with string.
Substitutes: a thin magazine cut to size wrapped in plastic wrap or a few layers of parchment paper cut to size about 10 inch (25cm) square.

Nori – Sheets of seaweed (laver) processed into thin sheets about 7 inches x 8 inches (17.5cm x 20cm) in size. Always re-toast the nori sheet over a gas stove on low flame for 5 to 10 seconds, or place nori on a clean oven rack and bake it in a preheated 350F-degree (180C) oven for 30 seconds. Nori should be sealed tightly in a plastic bag and used within a few months. It can be stored in the freezer. Nori will deteriorate if left out of its sealed package so use quickly.
Substitutes: Thin cooked egg omelette cut to same size as a nori sheet (7 inches by 8 inches or 17.5cm x 20cm). Also soya bean wrappers, rice paper, tofu wrappers, dosas, crepes or an overlapping layer of thinly sliced cooked vegetables.

Japanese Cucumber – Japanese cucumbers are thin-skinned, seedless and contain much less water than normal cucumber.
Substitutes: English or hothouse cucumbers which have been peeled, de-seeded and salted as above. If not available try matchsticks of your favorite crisp vegetable.

Avocado
Substitutes: If not available use slices of roasted capsicum (bell pepper), slices of roasted tomatoes, lightly cooked whole snap (snow) peas, slices of Japanese daikon radish or other cooked thinly sliced vegetables, or slices of ‘sushi’ grade fish such as tuna, yellow tail and red snapper; smoked salmon, pastrami, salami, various colour’s of fish roe, or various colour’s of sesame seeds.

PART 3 : Spiral Sushi Roll
This is easiest ‘decorative’ sushi roll.

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

Yield: One Roll, cut into 8 pieces

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2½ cups prepared sushi rice
  • 2 sheets of toasted nori, each sized 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm)
  • Six assorted fillings, each filling should be the size of a pencil (see note below)

DIRECTIONS:
1.Join 2 sheets of nori by moistening the adjacent edges and overlapping them about ½ inch (12mm).
2.Place this double sheet shiny side down on a rolling mat, part of the nori will extend beyond the mat.
3.Using moist fingers place 2½ cups of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly, leaving ¼ inch (6mm) nori showing on the both ends of the sheet. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
4.Using your fingers form six grooves (in the same direction that you will be rolling the mat) at even intervals across the bed of rice. Make the first groove about 2 inches (50 mm) from the edge of the nori sheet. Form the grooves by pushing the rice away, do not mash or squash the rice, leave a loose one grain layer of rice in the bottom of the grooves. Level the areas between the grooves where you have pushed the rice.
5.Place your fillings in the grooves. Fill the grooves a little higher than the surrounding rice bed.
6.Then roll the sushi up from the edge closest to you, this will form a spiral pattern of nori, rice and fillings inside the roll.
7.Slice into 8 pieces with a very sharp wet knife, wiping the blade with a damp cloth after each cut.
8.Place the pieces on a platter and garnish.

NOTE:
Make each groove about a finger-width wide they will hold about 1-2 tablespoons of filling. Use fillings that compliment each other and are highly colored. Use parboiled vegetables cut into strips, seafood, left over eel, smoked fish or chicken, whole cooked beans, edible flowers etc….

I used baked seasoned tofu, roasted red bell pepper, carrots, salted and drained Japanese cucumbers, omelette and grilled onions. Grilled vegetables in sushi is absolutely fabulous. Take my word and try it.

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Spiral Roll

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Spiral Roll

 

PART 4 : Nigiri Sushi
Nigiri sushi is the type of sushi most often made in sushi bars. In Japanese, nigiri means “squeeze”.

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

Yield: 14-16 pieces of sushi

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups prepared sushi rice
  • 8 pairs of assorted toppings, 200 gms/7 ozs total of fish, meat or vegetables (see note below)
  • 1 tablespoon Wasabi (paste, reconstituted powder) or any other paste to adhere topping to rice

Optional

  • Garnishes such as Ginger (pickled), chilli strips, vegetables flowers etc
  • Thin strips of nori or vegetables (for tying topping on)

DIRECTIONS:
1.When handling sushi rice, make certain your hands are very clean. To keep the rice from sticking to our hands moisten your hands with vinegared water.
2.Form nigiri sushi by scooping up a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of rice with your forefinger and second finger of your right hand and placing it in your cupped left palm.
3.Use the fingers and thumb of your right hand to form it into a long, narrow mound (about 2 inches x 1 inch wide or 50mm x 25mm) in your cupped palm.
4.Press enough to make the rice hold firmly together. Place the nigiri on a damp cutting board flat side down. Don’t let sushi touch or they’ll stick to each other. At this point, you can cover the sushi with plastic wrap, and they’ll keep at room temperature (not the refrigerator) for several hours.
5.Smear a thin line of wasabi on top of the rice and place the topping piece on it. You may need to press the topping down lightly with your fingers and adjust the shape of the rice accordingly to form an attractive piece of nigiri sushi. If your topping is very loose like fish roe you can place a strip of nori (higher than the rice) around the nigiri and form ‘battleship’ sushi. The cavity that the nori forms holds the topping so it does not fall off.
6.Garnish as desired and use strips of nori (or vegetable) to tie the topping to the nigiri if needed.
7.It is customary to make nigiri sushi in pairs, so make two of each variety.

* Tips: A great video on making nigiri sushi
http://www.howcast.com/videos/270-How-To-Make-Sushi
A great web page on slicing fish for nigiri
http://www.sushilinks.com/sushi-recipes/how-to-buy-fish/index.html

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Nigiri Sushi topped with vegetables

NOTES:
Seafood nigiri must use sushi grade (sashimi grade) fish. Try tuna, red sea bream (red snapper), yellowtail or salmon. Cooked shrimp, cooked crab, cooked meat can also be used! You can use any vegetable you wish try asparagus, pumpkin, carrot, avocado, cucumber, shiitake mushroom, tofu, thin sliced egg omelette, etc… Thinly slice or julienne vegetables, parboiling if necessary tie on with a thin (1/4” or 6mm) strip of nori or vegetable strip wrapped around the whole sushi if needed..

*MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE YOU MUST READ THIS* – If you are using raw fish or raw meat it must be ‘sushi’ grade (sashimi grade) ask your fishmonger or butcher for advice and if in doubt don’t use. Find your local Japanese market and ask them where the best sushi (sashimi) fish is. Maybe you can buy sushi grade fish at your local sushi bar. Purchase flash-frozen sashimi grade fish which is guaranteed to be free of all parasites. Only salt-water fish and shellfish should be consumed raw. Crab and prawn (shrimp) should always be cooked. Sashimi grade fish should have a clean cool smell if it smells fishy it is a sign that the fish is old and cannot be used. If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system only use cooked ingredients. There is no need to use raw fish or raw meat in sushi.

Resources
Written instructions on making various forms of sushi can be found here http://homepage3.nifty.com/maryy/eng/sushi_roll.htm
http://www.sushiencyclopedia.com/index.html

 

Expenditure:

Sushi Rice………………………….$6.49 for 5 lb……………….HuaXing Asia Store ……….plenty left

Sake……………………………….$2.32 for 300 ml…………….HuaXing Asia Store………..plenty left

Instant seaweed powder……………$2.59 for 64 g……………….HuaXing Asia Store……….plenty left

Japanese Cucumber………………..$0.5 for 2 ………………….HuaXing Asia Store………..gone

Tofu……………………………….$2.49 for 2.65 lb……………HuaXing Asia Store………..plenty left

Sesame,nori mix……………………$2.49………………………HuaXing Asia Store………..half left

Wasabi powder…………………….$1.69………………………HuaXing Asia Store………..half left

Pickled Ginger……………………..$2.99 for 12 oz…………….HuaXing Asia Store…………half left

—————————————————————————————————–

Total………………………………$21.56

Now you know why sushi is so expensive. Anyway this much money will make many many servings till you really get your fill of sushi like me. And yes, this was not all, I bumped into another car on my way out of the store and so this sushi turned out really really expensive.

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Puff Pastry……..Just Chill!

Posted by vivnidhi on September 27, 2009

Puff pastry is the most delicious thing to eat….all the buttery goodness and crisp flaky layers…..I can always drool. I would not have imagined making those in this life if it wasn’t the Daring Bakers……..prompting, coaxing, luring, guiding and what not. This bunch is really out there to make you daring in life.

In India, puff pastry with spicy potato & mixed vegetable filling were called patties and they were the most delicious things you could lay your hands on. It would always be the first item to finish in a get-together. Even the soggy ones would be gone before the rest of the stuff. These are usually bought from either a canteen or a local bakery and I somehow associate it to my college days. For some strange reason (maybe the egg wash) I never remember eating it at home. Those are my memories associated with the puff. After coming to the US, a friend of mine told me how easy it was to get frozen puff pastry here and make patties. Well! when I got shopping, I bought phyllo dough :-). No matter how hard I tried …….I would not be able to make patties…..whatever I made was delicious but not THAT. I do not even remember if I made the real thing for my in-laws when they were here (or maybe I did on my last trip) …..they too are very fond of it like me… But some years back, I discovered the puff pastry in the grocery store and I attained the joy of finally making Patties at home. I have a killer filling recipe (Thanks to my Mother in law) who taught me the Samosa filling and I use a similar method for this filling. My Dad was really pleased when I made it for him and it’s no easy job pleasing him, he has a very keen sense of taste.

BUT I hardly ever make it……..all that butter…..I think my life is more precious than patties. OK, haven’t I been talking a bit too much of patties? Obviously doesn’t end here……the saga continues…….

The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ Challenge has been chosen by Steph of a whisk and a spoon. Steph chose Vols-au-Vent, which we are pretty sure in French means, “After one bite we could die and go to heaven!” 😉  These are pronounced “vo-o-voh” (Let me make use of High School French 🙂 )…….it’s ok to not pronounce “Hors-de-oeuvres” correctly for the longest time ;-). The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

No dessert vols-au vent here, masala filling as always 😉 .

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Spicy Vegetable filling Vols-au-vent

The Recipe:

Equipment:
-food processor (will make mixing dough easy, but I imagine this can be done by hand as well)
-rolling pin
-pastry brush
-metal bench scraper (optional, but recommended)
-plastic wrap
-baking sheet
-parchment paper
-silicone baking mat (optional, but recommended)
-set of round cutters (optional, but recommended)
-sharp chef’s knife
-fork
-oven
-cooling rack

Prep Times:
-about 4-5 hours to prepare the puff pastry dough (much of this time is inactive, while you wait for the dough to chill between turns…it can be stretched out over an even longer period of time if that better suits your schedule)
-about 1.5 hours to shape, chill and bake the vols-au-vent after your puff pastry dough is complete

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent

Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent

In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need:
-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d’oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.

Fill and serve.

*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to “glue”). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.

*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Steph’s note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book. http://video.pbs.org/video/1174110297/search/Pastry

Ingredients:
2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that’s about 1″ thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10″ square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with “ears,” or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don’t just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8″ square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24″ (don’t worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24″, everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24″ and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you’ve completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

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Puff Pastry dough……..before rolling out & 1/4 of the dough rolled out

Steph’s extra tips:

-While this is not included in the original recipe we are using (and I did not do this in my own trials), many puff pastry recipes use a teaspoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, added to the ice water, in the détrempe dough. This adds acidity, which relaxes the gluten in the dough by breaking down the proteins, making rolling easier. You are welcome to try this if you wish.

-Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.

-Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don’t want the hard butter to separate into chunks or break through the dough…you want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.

-Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don’t roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.

-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.

-Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.

-Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.

-When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.

-Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.

-You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.

-Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent).

You can find lots more general tips for making puff pastry on-line, including here:
http://www.baking911.com/pastry/puff.htm

I encourage everyone to watch the on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book:
http://video.pbs.org/video/1174110297/search/Pastry

Spicy Filling Recipe:

  • Potatoes 1 or 2 (depends on your inclination) chopped in small cubes 
  • Mixed Vegetables (carrots, green beans, peas ..) 1 1/2 cups (I used frozen mix as I was in a rush)
  • Fresh Ginger washed, scrubbed and minced  2″ piece
  • Green chilli minced 1 (optional)
  • Canola Oil 2 Tbsp. (Vegetable oil is fine too)
  • Cumin seeds 1 tsp.
  • Asafoetida 1/4 tsp.
  • Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp.
  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander seeds dry roasted and ground coarse 2 Tbsp.
  • Amchur/Dry mango powder 1 Tbsp.
  • Garam Masala 1/2 tsp.
  • Cilantro leaves torn 1/4 cup (optional)

Heat oil in the wok. Add cumin seeds & asafoetida. When the spices seem to sizzle, add half the ginger and green chilli (if using). These do taste good when a little spicier than usual. Add the potatoes and mixed vegetables. Reduce the heat to medium low and cover the wok.

When the potatoes & the vegetables become tender, add all the remaining ingredients. Mix well and cover again for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and finally add the cilantro leaves and mix well. The filling’s ready!

The video is a must watch. I can’t call my tryst with puff pastry a complete success. You must check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see the real stuff. But this has tons of potential. I need some more practice and better butter 🙂 to make the perfect puff pastry. So, you can see I do not have high standards for myself on this one. I am quite pleased. I took some at my Son’s preschool potluck (oh yeah 😉 ) and they were very well received. I brought none back. I made a crude galette with spicy peas …of the leftover dough scraps for  friends…….again everything was gobbled leaving none for me..(everybody forgot :-)) ) Anyway, I couldn’t be happier…..not being able to taste the final product gave me the kind of joy that eating the whole thing wouldn’t have.

Expenditure is left for tomorrow …….I need to sleep.

Tomorrow is here already!!

Expenditure:

Cake Flour………From Kroger……………………….$ 3.14

Butter…………..From Walmart……………………..$ 1.98

———————————————————————————

Total…………………………………………………..$ 5.12

Posted in -All Purpose flour, -Asafoetida, -Butter, -Cake Flour, -Canola Oil, -Carrot, -Cilantro, -Coriander, -Cumin seeds, -Dry Mango Powder, -Garam Masala, -Ginger, -Green Beans, -Peas, -Red chili powder, Eggs | 13 Comments »

Daring Cooks # 2 Potstickers / Gyoza

Posted by vivnidhi on July 21, 2009

July1_21

Yaay! I can make neat Potstickers  too!

Those who have read my earlier post know that I am late in posting about practically all the posts for the past two months. OK, enough of apologizing. Lost time can’t be brought back again but I can try to learn (Oh yeah………. 😉 )

The reason these potstickers are late is that I experimented a lot with these. Since I first ate the vegetarian gyozas that Trader Joe’s sells, I have been hooked. I remember telling the husband very comfortably……I can make these as he was trying to pick up the last TJ’s one off my plate too. I generously handed the last gyoza to him and said to myself, “shouldn’t be a big deal really”. Before I could fully make a plan about these gyozas, Jen from use real butter announced that the Daring cook challenge as Potstickers. I was very excited (shows when I don’t post on time, right 😉  ).

Anyway, the bigger challenge these days is posting , not making.

Let me start with saying, I have made it four times now (very unusual for me, I hate repeating) and don’t think my stint with gyozas ends here. I only repeat recipes which I am trying to master…….say Idlis………and now potstickers :-).  How do people write recipe books, how many times do they test?

Round 1: Stuffed whatever I had on hand, forgot soy sauce and cornstarch. You bet………..it tasted great…….I was the only one who ate 🙂 .

Round 2:  A planned visit to the Asian store, bought garlic chives, tofu etc…….pantry equipped. Even though I baked the tofu and drained it well, I found the end stuffing mixture to be quite wet. This resulted in not well shaped gyozas. Anyway, tasted great, got a pat on the back 🙂

Round 3: Cooked the stuffing up, mixed it with some finely chopped veggie burgers (this was for something else) but ended up in potstickers. Husband said, I liked round 2 better.

Round 4: This time, I was dead sure of what I wanted to do………everything in place……….yet the husband said…….round 2 was better…………and boo hoo hoo ……..he is right.

Round 5: Got filled with coconut fudge and some also had chocolate ganache filling , and topped with powdered sugar…Yes, I was cleaning the freezer which is filled with small tit-bits.

Here’s the recipe with my vegetarian filling and the best proportions *(these matter….all I had wrong in round 4 was a little extra daikon radish ):

Jen says “It’s a basic concept: a filling inside a dough wrapper, sealed, and cooked. This delicious theme runs through many cultures and is among the more popular bites at Chinese restaurants – especially dim sum. “

The process goes a little like this:

You can (and should) reference instructional photos and discussion on Jen’s blog post here.

Wrappers: Well yes, you could purchase pre-made dumpling wrappers at the store (NO WONTON WRAPPERS – they have egg), but they are inferior compared to homemade. The whole point of this challenge is to make the dumpling wrappers by hand. So here is the one requirement: the dumpling wrappers must be made by hand. It isn’t all that hard, it just takes a little time and practice. People usually get the hang of it after making about a dozen.

Fillings: the beauty of the Chinese dumpling/potsticker is that the filling is very versatile. That’s why there are so many different kinds of dumplings when you go to dim sum. The two most common are pork and shrimp. You can make them with other ground meats (beef, chicken…) or vegetarian (tofu, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, glass noodles, Chinese chives – oh yum!). The important thing to keep in mind is that the filling needs to “stick” to itself or else you will make your life incredibly miserable wrapping up filling that keeps falling apart. I think if I were to make vegetarian dumplings, I would sauté the cabbage and mash up the tofu for a better cohesiveness. It’s up to you how you want to fill your dumplings and I say – run with it! Just keep it cohesive and no big chunks of hard ingredients (they poke through the wrapper dough = disaster). I realize it may be tempting to dump all of the vegetables into a food processor and give it a whir, but I caution against it. You don’t want a slurry, you want a mince. Practice your knife skills and be careful.

Special Equipment: A rolling pin – preferably not tapered. (see blog pictures for the type I use).

Time: Prep for the filling takes me 30 minutes – longer if peeling and de-veining shrimp. It will depend on your proficiency with a good sharp knife. Rolling and wrapping several dozen dumplings takes me 1 hour by myself. My parents can crank through it in 30 minutes when one person is rolling wrappers and the other is wrapping dumplings. Might be fun to get a second person to help! Cooking: I have to cook mine in batches. When steaming, I can cook a dozen at a time in about 10 minutes. Potstickers: 15 minutes per 2 dozen determined by the size of your pan. Boiling – 6 minutes per dozen or so depending on size of pot. My own personal preference is for potstickers – mmmmm! But they are ALL good.

The Recipe:

Dough:

  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup (113g) warm water
    flour for worksurface

Make the dough, Method 1: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).

Make the dough, Method 2 (my mom’s instructions): In a large bowl mix flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.

Both dough methods: Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking – about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side (see images in Jen’s post for how to fold pleats). Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

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The dough, even though feels very dry….just let it rest ;-)…..this is after the rest

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Dough cut into 5 pieces

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The cut portion of the dough is rolled into a thinner round and cut further. Good idea to cut it bigger than I am showing here. This was my first attempt.

  • Vegetarian filling:
    2 carrots minced
  • 4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
    3 stalks green onions, minced
    6 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 bunch Chinese chives/garlic chives minced
  • 1 medium red onion minced
    1/2 cup Daikon radish peeled and minced (lesser than shown in picture below)
    1/4  cup ginger root, minced
  • 1 cup tofu (baked in oven at 400F for 15 minutes) mashed (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
    3 Tbsp (40g) soy sauce
    2 Tbsp (28g) sesame oil
    6 Tbsp (16g) corn starch

July1_18

Finally some color……spring onion, carrots, napa cabbage, garlic, garlic chives, red onion,ginger and daikon radish

Even though Jen asks to mince  the veggies by hand, I chose to use the food processor………and was I glad I did ;-). Mince these veggies and drain the water by pressing with hands. Add the sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil and corn starch.

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Vegetarian filling

  • dipping sauce:
    2 parts soy sauce
    1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
    a few drops of sesame oil
    chili garlic paste (optional)
    minced ginger (optional)
    minced garlic (optional)
    minced green onion (optional)
    sugar (optional)

To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.

To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of napa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes.

To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.

To freeze: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. It helps to rub the base of the dumpling in a little flour before setting on the baking sheet for ease of release. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in ziploc bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.

To serve: Serve dumplings or potstickers hot with your choice of dipping sauce combinations.

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Pan fried is the way to go for us: these look  darker than they actually were ….trust me, these are delicious

June1_47 July1_28

Ah…..my black background

One more pic and the one with the coconut fudge filling (tasted like modaks :-)) )

Posted in - Napa Cabbage, - Red onion, -All Purpose flour, -Carrot, -Daikon Radish, -Garlic, -Garlic chives, -Ginger, -Sesame oil, -Soya Sauce, -Spring Onions, -Tofu, Corn Starch, Sugar | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Lasagne Time

Posted by vivnidhi on March 28, 2009

ninja_w180x180 100_3193

Here’s Chopping Ninja …..just being “DARING”

Soon, all the chair backs were also covered! not a pretty picture I know

The husband thanked me first for not growing my own spinach and grinding flour at home (also with a look that said “I know what’s on your mind 😉 ” ) I have been pestering him about CSAs but I know…….one day……..that too will happen 🙂 .

I really could never have envisioned myself making lasagne…….ever…….and that too with home made pasta!! I heard of it only after coming to the US. The husband is not particularly fond of any form of noodles and while I enjoy pasta , I have never quite liked lasagne. Even the ones with eggplants  in them!! While I can say that this Daring Bakers challenge tasted quite good (EVEN the Hubby ate it and said “it’s fine, it’s good, don’t worry, I can eat it :-)” ), I doubt that I will be remaking it.

The husband chose to eat this instead of the “rajma Chawal (kidney beans-rice) back-up was satisfying enough for the amount of work that went into making it 😉 . Though , I did not stop my nagging here. Since I could not believe that he was eating lasagne…….

Me : ” You don’t have to eat it, you know, you just are eating it cause I put in efforts” .

Him : ” This is good, don’t worry, rajma Chawal is too ordinary” .

Me : “Ah, then I should make this a weekly affair”.

Him : (with a smile and a look that said “I mean this!!!!) ” I like it irrespective of who made it and how much effort went in it  Let’s keep it like a once in a decade…..or lifetime experience…..you know me & noodles”

Oh yeah, I got it, I said it in the second paragraph” I won’t remake this lasagne” but will certainly make individual components like the sauces or even the pasta. Heh heh …In the kitchen, the chopping Ninja rules!!

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna – Daring Bakers March 2009 Challenge

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

I try to listen to “The Splendid Table” every week on NPR. I am a radio buff and absolutely love the show!

 

All recipes below from The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (published by William Morrow and Company Inc., 1992).

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Method
Working Ahead:
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

I made the ragu a day earlier and bechamel before assembling the lasagne.

 

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

I baked in my 10″x 10″ square pan and it worked well. Three layers of pasta.

#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:

Equipment

A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

Kneading:
With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

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Pasta dough

Till here it was fine, no problems. I washed fresh spinach and drained it in a colander. Mixed it with 2 large eggs in a blender to get a uniform color. I think some water was retained in spinach leaves, the dough just turned out beautiful, quite supple.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colors. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

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Here , I thought I lost track of what I was doing……..

#2 Bechamel

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

You bet, the usual white sauce but nutmeg made it fabulous. Oh well , mine was a generous hint of nutmeg 😉

#3 Country style Ragu’….Vegetarian  (Ragu alla Contadina……vegetarian)

Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours

Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 ml)
    2 ounces/60g nutrela (textured vegetable protein granules (TVP) )
    1 medium onion, minced
    1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
    1 small carrot, minced
    12 ounces/125g firm tofu
  • 4 ounces/125g  Vegetarian sausage
    2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
    1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) vegetable stock (homemade if possible)
    2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) fat free milk
    3  tomatoes, peeled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Bring a sauce pan of salted water to a boil and add the TVP/nutrela to it. Put the heat off. Remove from from heat and drain after 5 minutes. Press with hands to remove as much water as possible as it cools.

Browning the Ragu Base:
Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the nutrela and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind the sausage and tofu, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the stuff is a deep brown. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

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Chopping & TVP in salted water

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Drained TVP and here’s my soy stew

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Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

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Here’s a piece!

Half of the lasagne is in the freezer now for rainy days and the rest is waiting for us to devour. By the way, the husband took some left overs as well to work the next along with his usual fare………..Now, whatt d’ya call that ?

Check out what other fabulous Daring Bakers have baked at Daring Bakers Blogroll . Egg less, gluten free, SWEET lasagne all there!

Expenditure:

Spinach (1 bunch)………………….$0.79 from Randazzo……..finished

Parmigiano-Reggiano 5 oz ………….$4.99 from Trader Joe’s ….some left

Nutrela 100 g……………………….$ 1.99 from Indian store…..little left

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Total ………………………………$ 7.77

Posted in -All Purpose flour, -Boca Burger, -Butter, -Carrot, -Celery, -Cheese, -Nutmeg, -Nutrela, -Olive Oil, -Onion, -Spinach, -Tofu, -Tomato, Eggs, Milk | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

Baked Rice Wrapper Rolls with Peanut Wasabi Sauce

Posted by vivnidhi on June 24, 2008

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Baked Rice Wrapper Rolls with Peanut Wasabi Sauce

No, I have not told you the entire recipe in the title:). More to it;) , I am telling you…..you will have to read the whole post for the recipe. OK, on to the topic, fresh spring roll wrappers are widely available at Oriental stores. These are predominantly Vietnamese & Thai, I believe. These use the rice based wrapper (Banh Trang: Vietnamese) and it is served fresh and generally not fried. There is a tapioca variety as well and well! I ended up with one which had both rice and tapioca starch:). So these rice wrappers do not need a lot of cooking , just slip in hot water and they are ready. 2 good recipes I found for them are Vegetarian and with shrimp. BUT, in our house, the husband is not particularly fond of the fresh ones.

So, now I had rice wrappers AND Wasabi paste ( about to expire in August, cause I got it at Thanksgiving;) ) and I had to make something before all of this went waste…………I KNOW. Then Kay announced Think Spice, think Wasabi event, brainchild of Sunita. I knew I was going to make something sooner than later. My first stint with wasabi were the wasabi peas which I fell in love with. Then I first used them in these won tons…………of course mine were filled with Tofu and the Husband’s were imitation crabmeat.

I have not had the courage to make sushi yet……..looking forward to some great ideas at the Think spice event. So, to make full use of the stock in my pantry, I baked the rice wrapper rolls and made a sauce with wasabi.They turned out deliciously crunchy , heavenly with the peanut wasabi sauce.

The Recipe:

For the Rice Wrapper Rolls:

  • Rice wrappers 25 sheets
  • Nutrela granules 1 cup, soaked in salted water and drained
  • Garlic 2 cloves minced
  • Ginger 1″ piece minced
  • Green beans 1/2 cup french cut or julienned
  • Carrot 1 cut lengthwise matchsticks
  • Red bell pepper 1 julienned
  • Napa cabbage 1/4 cup sliced thin
  • Cilantro/ coriander leaves 1/4 cup
  • Oil 2 tsp.
  • Soya sauce 1 Tbsp.
  • Rice Wine Vinegar 1 Tbsp.
  • Black pepper powder 1 tsp.
  • Salt to taste

For the Wasabi Peanut Sauce:

  • Garlic 2 cloves minced
  • Peanut butter 2 Tbsp.
  • Soya Sauce 3 Tbsp.
  • Sugar 1 tsp.
  • Wasabi 2 tsp.
  • Sambal Oelek/ red chili paste 1 tsp.
  • Water 2 Tbsp.

Since I made this recipe up, the vegetables can be varied as per one’s liking.  Heat the oil in a wok and add ginger and garlic. Saute for 30 seconds and then add the carrot, green beans and bell pepper. Saute further for a couple of minutes and then add cabbage. Stir fry further for a minute and then add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Preheat the oven to  400 degrees F.

Heat 2 cups of water in  pan and put off the heat. When the water temperature becomes tolerable, dip each rice wrapper in it , turn and dip the side you were holding and spread it on a plate.

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Then put  about 1 Tbsp of filling and fold and roll as shown below.

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Spray a little oil on aluminum foil and place the rolls on them. Spray some oil on the rolls as well and they all go in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes and then broil for another 2-3 minutes. When they are crisp all over , take them out of the oven.

Mix all the sauce ingredients and the peanut wasabi sauce is ready. Tastes great with the rolls. In fact, the sauce is so good, tastes great on plain rice noodles or even boiled eggs.

This recipe is on its way to Sangeeth for the eat healthy….. protein rich event as well. Rice vermicelli could also be used in  the rolls but I chose nutrela cause it’s full of protein and delicious too.

Posted in -Cabbage, -Carrot, -Cilantro, -Garlic, -Ginger, -Green Beans, -Red Bell Pepper, -Wasabi, Rice | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Here’s Hot and Sour Soup

Posted by vivnidhi on May 31, 2008

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This is a big favorite in  the house with “Indian Chinese” food. So, here’s a soup- Chinese but completely Desi. Credit for this recipe goes to Mrs. Minocha of Aurangabad, India who taught us to cook Indian Chinese food. A lot of my friends and I have learnt some good cooking from her.

The Recipe:

  • Green Bell Pepper 1 chopped coarse
  • Cabbage 1/2 cup chopped thin
  • carrots 2 cut into cubes
  • Green Beans chopped into 2 ” lengths 1/2 cup
  • cauliflower 2 flowerets broken into smaller pieces
  • garlic 6-8 cloves minced
  • Soya Sauce 4 Tbsp.
  • Vinegar 1 Tbsp.
  • sugar 1 tsp.
  • Black pepper powder 1/2 tsp.
  • Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp.
  • Cornstarch 3 Tbsp.
  • Vegetable Oil 1 tsp.
  • Spring onions 1 bunch chopped fine
  • Boiled egg whites 2 chopped (optional)
  • Salt to taste

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Getting ready for the soup

Heat the oil and fry garlic for a minute.

Add cauliflower, french beans and carrots. Fry a little more till they soften a wee bit.

Add red chili powder and 6 cups of water. Let the water come to a boil and then add soya sauce, sugar, vinegar, bell peppers and cabbage. Boil the soup for a couple of minutes more.

Lastly add spring onion and black pepper powder. Make a paste of cornstarch in cold water and and add to the soup. Taste for salt and vinegar. Add more if desired and serve hot.

Bow when you are praised;)

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The soup’s hot!!

I would like to send this as an entry to Eat Healthy – Fiber Rich, an event hosted by Sangeeth.

And yes, this is also my entry to Fortune Cooking Contest hosted by Nithu & Shriya. It is dedicated to my mother whose sun sign is cancer, hence she qualifies with the cauliflower entry and she loves the soup too.

Now, are there any other events missing my entries??

Posted in -Cabbage, -Carrot, -Cauliflower, -Garlic, -Green Beans, -Green Bell Pepper, -Spring Onions, -Tofu, Eggs | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »