Olives Plus Oranges Equals…Brownies?

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Last October I visited the Queen Creek Olive Mill just outside of Scottsdale, Arizona. I never knew this region could cultivate olives until I heard about the mill from a relative who lives nearby. After doing a bit of research on the place, I just had to see it before heading back to the Midwest. We sure can’t grow olives in Chicago!

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

I’ve always been interested to know how any type of Mediterranean food grows. I suppose I feel the need to learn so that one day I might be able to grow any number of them myself: olives, pomegranetes, lemons, dates, apricots, almonds. I’d probably need an orchard first, though. Right?

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

I really feel bad that for the number of times I’ve visited Sicily, I’ve never really gone to the olive groves to learn more about from where some of the best olive oil in the world really comes. I enjoyed eating- a lot– in Sicily, yet never really bothered to venture further than the wonderful jovedi (large Thursday market) where I could delight in the colorful produce and fresh, exotic Mediterranean seafood. There, things like olives and cheeses were very expensive, yet tempting enough to buy just a handful and be comforted to know that this land of olives would forever supply us with them.

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Needless to say, upon hearing about the Queen Creek Olive Mill, I was instantly interested in going there to see first-hand just how and when olives are hand picked and perfectly pressed to make the purest olive oil one can find in the U.S. Who would have known that in this little Arizona town one could grow olives when conventional thinking would lead you to believe that California is the only American place cultivating these precious trees?

1132553_olives_

Upon arrival, we decided to take the $5 tour of the mill where we would learn all about the process of olive cultivation, picking and pressing. We were first escorted out onto the terrace where a young employee of the company explained to us the very basics of how the Queen Creek Olive Mill was started and about the unique temperature here that makes it possible for these olives trees to flourish.

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

The business of producing olive oil for sale started just over five years ago here at the base of the San Tan Mountains, an area known for its fertile soil. In this micro-climate, the olive trees will amazingly not experience any mold or fermentation.

Harvesting goes from mid-October to mid-December, so our visit was just two weeks shy of the olive picking season. During the season, olives are harvested at this pesticide-free grove daily by raking and combing them off the trees. Fallen olives are never used because they are considered to be either over-ripe or invaded by pests.

Each olive tree will give anywhere between 50-200 lbs. of olives. One ton of olives will go on to produce 55 gallons of the extra virgin olive oil. Queen Creek’s trees include a variety of Italian, Spanish and Greek ones such as the Mission, Manzanillo, Sevillano, Pendolino, Grappolo, Lucca, Frantoio and the Kalamata.

Olive Fruit on the Tree

Olive Fruit on the Tree

During the harvesting season Queen Creek bottles their olive oil every three weeks and blends their oils every three to five weeks. Their base oil produced from these trees is made of a Tuscan style blend, from which they make some very interesting flavored and cold pressed oils (Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange were two of my favorites), all of which you can taste yourself before purchasing at the store.

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Back in the mill we learned more about the technicalities of the oil extraction process and the machines that make that happen. For example, the motors on the machines are all from Italy and preventative maintenance is done on them before and after the harvesting season. The owner even goes to Italy every summer to continue educating himself about olive cultivation and the oil-making process.

Before you can dip your tasty bread into a dish of golden olive oil, these tiny fruits must go through quite an ordeal for you. A defoliator will remove the stems and leaves and the olives will then get a two-stage bath. Afterwords, they must be put through the three main parts of the mill: 1) the mill itself, which pulverizes the meat, pit and seed into a paste; 2) the malixer, which without it there would be no oil; and 3) the centrifuge, where as the paste enters all the solids and water in the olives is extracted.

After learning the delicate process of growing and pressing the olives into oil, who would want to spoil this healthy food? We were given additional tips on selecting the best oils and storing them properly that I’d like to pass on to you:

*There is no such thing as black olives- they are lye-cured and chemically-altered to turn black. Choose only naturally-cured olives (brine-cured)
*Never let your oil smoke
*Every oil has a regional flavor. For example, Tuscan oil is spicy; Spanish oil is fruity; and Greek oil is heavy.
*If you go away for a period of time, you can store your oil in the fridge for 2-3 months
*The shelf life is about one year, but olive oil prefers an ambient temperature- it can be safely kept at anywhere from 80-95 degrees farenheit

I learned many interesting things during my visit to Queen Creek, but the one thing I know will help me the most was this: you cannot change the nutritional value of oils. As a result, you must select your product wisely and in order to do that, you must know what all of the labels mean. The owner of Queen Creek explained the following:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil– means the oil is extracted without heat (all extra virgin olive oil is cold pressed, otherwise, it cannot be called ‘extra virgin’); 100% natural
Pomace Oil– 100% refined, with heat and solvents; made of olive pits and flesh after pressing; could be moldy
Extra Light Olive Oil– made with 95% Pomace oil and 5% Extra Virgin Olive Oil

So you may be wondering when I’ll get to the brownies- and what in the world is a blood orange? Well, you’ll be relieved to know there isn’t any blood in a blood orange, it simply refers to the noticeable red color that runs through this citrus fruit.

As far as where the blood orange comes into play in the brownie recipe, I was really surprised and impressed to see that someone came up with the idea of mixing chocolate with this unique citrus fruit in the form of a flavored oil.

I’ve known about blood oranges since I was a child because of my Sicilian heritage, as this is a popular fruit on the Mediterranean island, but it is virtually unknown in the typical American diet. I actually found the recipe at the Queen Creek Olive Mill store where they give away for free many recipes utilizing their olive oil products.

Blood oranges contain a high amount of vitamin C, potassium, carotene and dietary fiber. Use them in salads, to make juice or cut up as a snack like you would eat any other type of orange. They are a releatively recent crop for U.S. growers in Florida, California and Texas, so look for them in your grocery store. (obiolla.com)

Blood Orange (Stock.xchng Photo)

Blood Orange (Stock.xchng Photo)

In this particular recipe, you will not need to buy any blood oranges becauase the oil is already so aromatically flavored. Below are the ingredients and the instructions for the Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownies. Please see the resource list at the end of this post to find the special ingredients in this recipe.

You can also find the recipe online at http://queencreekolivemill.com/borangebrownies.jsp.

I have, however, made a few changes to the recipe by adding my personal suggestions for ingredients and instructions based on my experience making them. Feel free to take a look at this one and the original to see which works best for you. Buon Appetito!

Ingredients:
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (try 60-70% dark, organic chocolate)
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate (mine were orange-flavored, but yours definitely don’t have to be)
1 cup all-purpose flour, unbleached (I recommend King Arthur Flour brand products)
1 tsp. baking powder (try to find it without aluminum, as many baking ingredients contain it. I use the Hodgson Mill brand)
3/4 tsp. salt (if you are using sea salt or kosher salt, be sure it is finely ground before baking)
1-2 cups raw cane sugar (amount depends on how sweet you like your desserts & how sweet your chocolate is)
1/2 cup butter (measured before melted)
1/2 cup Queen Creek Olive Mill Blood Orange Olive Oil (you can also use grapeseed or sunflower oil, but do not use a very heavy extra virgin olive oil as the flavor will overpower the entire dessert)
4 medium eggs, preferably free-range
1 TB. vanilla (be sure to use either imitation extract or 1 real vanilla bean. Pure extract is normally obtained by soaking the vanilla beans in vodka)
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

Preparation:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and then measure all ingredients before beginning. It’s best if you have a digital food scale to measure accurately, especially for the chocolate. In baking, accuracy is a must!

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

2. Spray or grease a 9 x 12 baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper (can be found at such stores as Wal-Mart, restaurant supply stores or gourmet food shops). This helps prevent the batter from sticking when done.

3. In a small saucepan, melt all of the chocolate over low heat. Stir constantly. When completely melted, set aside to cool.

4. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Add the sugar to this mixture.

5. Melt butter. In a large mixing bowl, pour the melted butter, then add the Blood Orange Olive Oil or your oil substitute. Add one egg at a time to this mix, incorporating each one fully.

Copyright 2008-2008 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2008 My Halal Kitchen

6. Add the vanilla (extract or bean) to the cooled chocolate mixture and combine well. Add this mixture to the butter and olive oil mixture in step 5. Then, fold all of the dry ingredients plus the walnuts into your large mixing bowl with all of the previously mixed ingredients. Combine everything well, but don’t over mix the batter.

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

7. Pour the entire mix into baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until brownies pull away from the side of the pan.

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Buon Appetito!

Resources:
Queen Creek Olive Millhttp://www.queencreekolivemill.com/index.jsp
Viovi Organic Blood Orange Juicehttp://www.viovi.it/
Hodgson Mill– for all natural baking ingredients. http://www.hodgsonmill.com/
King Arthur Flour– for baking tools, ingredients and products. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/

You Can Serve a (Halal) Presidential Inauguration Luncheon, Too

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White House Lawn in Winter

White House Lawn in Winter

If you’re like many other Americans today, you’ve been keeping a close eye on all of today’s historic Presidential Inauguration events. For foodies like myself, what was being served up at this afteroon’s luncheon was of key interest to me.

I’ve heard the Obamas are healthy eaters who also like Mexican food (particularly that which is served up at Rick Bayless’ restaurant, Topolobampo, right here in Chicago). http://www.fronterakitchens.com/restaurants/restaurants.html

This made me wonder if there would be organic food on the menu. What about Mexican food? I was interested to know but never imagined that the menu, let alone the recipes, would be available online!

Served to the President, First Lady and Congressional Staff:

First course: Seafood Stew
Second Course: Duck Breast with Cherry Chutney , Herb Roasted Pheasant with Wild Rice Stuffing, Molasses Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Winter Vegetables.
Dessert: Cinnamon Apple Sponge Cake

Some tips for you to make these recipes halal:

-Leave out the vermouth (a type of alcohol) listed in the Seafood Stew recipe

-For the Duck Breast with Cherry Chutney recipe, substitute kosher grape juice for the red wine and do not use the Dijon mustard called for in the recipe, as most Dijon mustards have red wine vinegar in them. I would not substitute with any other kind of mustard, as they are mostly too ‘yellow’ and may discolor the end result. Just leave it out. And, If you’ve been a reader of this blog before, you know where you can find a halal duck, (http://www.midamar.com), or scroll down to find the article “To Roast a Duckling” where you can read more about halal ducklings.

-For the Herb Roasted Pheasant with Wild Rice Stuffing, if you can’t find a halal pheasant, try roasting a halal quail instead. They can be found, usually frozen and sold in packets of two, in most Middle Eastern or Mediterranean marts. Online they can be found at http://seattlediscountwarehouse.com/Quail%20page.htm, however, I have never bought from this merchant and cannot comment on their quality, taste or halal certification.

-The dessert calls for vanilla extract. Do not use the pure vanilla extract because it is stripped with alcohol, usually vodka, to bring out the extract of the vanilla bean. Instead, try using your own vanilla bean or an imitation vanilla extract- those usually don’t contain any alcohol at all.

Here’s the link to the pages where you can download the menu and the recipes listed above.

http://inaugural.senate.gov/documents/doc-2009-recipes.pdf

Duck Fat in a Roasted Red Pepper and Cheese Sandwich?

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Ok, I know this isn’t the most exciting notion of a sandwich, but scroll down and see the pics of this creation and you’ll at least wonder if it tastes as good as it looks.

Are you back?

Ok, give me credit- I creatively reused -instead of wasted-that plethora of duck fat that came from my duckling last week (scroll down to read my post, To Roast a Duckling).

Well, I don’t deserve a whole lot of credit. It really wasn’t my notion of ‘reusing’ that spurred me into this frenzy of finding dishes I could cook using it; it was more of my gourmet-obsessed mind to create dishes that look like they’ve come straight out of a (fancy) restaurant. I read about how all the best chefs in the world tout the incredible flavor that drips from this bird. I want to be like them, in my own kitchen (and without all the stress). Besides, did I forget to mention that Julia Child told me (not directly, of course) to use this fat, too?

You might be thinking that this fat isn’t very healthy, comparing its thick texture when cold to hydrogenated oils, hardened vegetable oils used to line your baking pan, or even lard, but duck fat doesn’t fall anywhere near those oils in comparison. In categories of taste, versatility and healthiness, it beats out all of them.

I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, so I can’t give you clinical study results or medical advice, but I can suggest you read more about what the experts have to say about it. There is a long, but particularly interesting article about saturated fats by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon in the link below. They mention duck fat by name in their reference to how the French have a ‘lower rate of coronary heart disease than many other western countries’. http://www.health-report.co.uk/saturated_fats_health_benefits.htm

I also really love a book called Real Food by author Nina Planck. The information she provides in her book really helped me to release my fear of eating butter, cheese, whole milk and animal fats (halal only, of course). In fact, she provides solid and clear arguments about why you shouldn’t choose otherwise. Foods that are processed, chemically altered, genetically modified, unnaturally preserved, and even some that are pasteurized really come into question in her book. I suggest anyone interested in getting healthy or responsible for feeding and raising young children should read this book cover to cover.
http://www.ninaplanck.com/index.php?page=real_food_book

Ok, so I got off topic for a minute- but found a great opportunity to share one of my favorite authors with you….

Back to the roasted peppers.

I had an enormous bag of ‘Mysteriously Sweet Red Peppers’ from Mexico- yes, that was on the label- that I had to do something with. They were nice enough to stay firm in my refrigerator’s crisper until I could figure out what I wanted to do with them for a week or two.

I decided on roasted vegetables- an easy dish because all you have to do is spend a few minutes to loosely chop your items, throw on some salt, a bit of sugar, any seasoning you like and add some fat. Put them in an oven-safe dish and throw them in the oven at 350-375 degrees and wait for your nose to tell you they’re done, not burnt. Mine took about 40-45 minutes to get really nice and brown.

In this particular dish, I added red onions and whole, peeled garlic cloves to add flavor. I used about 4 TB. of the cold duck fat, but a great alternative is extra virgin olive oil. You could add eggplant or zucchini- any type of vegetable with a similar cooking time. Carrots or potatotes would need longer to cook unless they are blanched, so don’t use them unless they are.

When your dish is done, serve with French, Italian or pita bread and dip your peppers into them. You could also serve as a side dish to chicken, or top a pasta dish that needs a bit of jazzing up.

Copyright © 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2009 My Halal Kitchen

One thing I must say is that this dish is even better the second day when the flavors have married.

That’s where this sandwich comes in.

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

I didn’t want to eat it in the same way the next day, so I got out a sandwich bun and toasted it. Meanwhile, I warmed up my roasted peppers in the microwave with a slice of Tillamook swiss cheese on top. When everything was ready, I ate it with pure delight, realizing I couldn’t have gone out and had a better sandwich elsewhere.

It’s not only the gratification of making your own food, without difficulty or waste, but the gratification of knowing that home really is the best place in the world to eat, making a mini meal like this worth the effort.

So, are you convinced yet? Make this sandwich yourself- or just the peppers as an appetizer with bread- and you’ll become a sort of taste believer.

And, umm, you don’t really have to use duck fat- unless of course you roast a duckling, too.

A Sundae to Ease into Sunday

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Copyright My Halal Kitchen 2009

Copyright My Halal Kitchen 2009

On a cold winter day, what excuse can we give ourselves that a homemade sundae isn’t a great idea?

I don’t want to think about it.

They say ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and we needed this.

Ok, we didn’t need it but we wanted something to accompany our Saturday evening movie night and the thought that tomorrow would seem like it’s really Monday.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Trader Joe’s products, so need I say more about where I got the ice cream for our sundaes? (No, they do not pay me to write about their products– but hey, if somebody out there from TJ’s wants to hire me to do that, I’ll give it some thought).

Ok, back to serious business: ‘Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream- Super Premium’ was the main ingredient. And, since I’m not trying to be over-complicated or wasteful here, I only used two other ingredients lurking in my cabinet and fridge: Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup and Salerno Butter Cookies.

All three ingredients were layered in a plastic, hand-me-down parfait cup and on top a finale of the chocolate syrup was drizzled. If I had any more whipped cream left over from last month’s pumpkin pie fest, you bet I would’ve topped it with that, too.

I think the chic-flick I made my husband watch tonight was a bit easier for him to get through…

Where to find these products:

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream-Super Premium: http://www.traderjoes.com/

Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup– any retail grocer should have it, but if you happen to be in a remote location or somewhere outside of the U.S. (or on another planet), you can go to the Hershey’s website and they will ship it to you: http://www.hersheygifts.com/?sc=WG959&HG_ID=HG_Google:30860

Salerno Butter Cookies: These cookies aren’t just for adults with a sweet tooth, like us. They are particularly good for teething babies. I buy mine at Jerry’s Fruit and Garden in Niles, IL (located at 7901 N. Milwaukee Avenue. 847-967-1440) for 99 cents a box! They’re hard to find for a decent price online, but you could try to contact the company that manufactures them: Archway and Mother’s Cookie Company, PO Box 762, Battle Creek, MI 49016, United States, (269) 962-6205, (269)962-8149 fax, http://www.cpequity.com

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are entirely based on my own personal tastes, which may obviously be different for others who try the same product(s). The reviewer also declares that she has not received any monetary or non-monetary compensation from the restaurant or food product company for writing this review.

Copyright © 2009 My Halal Kitchen. All rights reserved. The information contained in this blog may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of My Halal Kitchen.

To Roast a Duckling

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To roast a duckling is an endeavor not meant for the faint-hearted of the kitchen. I’ve cooked duck in the past and it was disastrous- tough, pan-seared breast that I never researched how to make in the first place. How hard could it be, really?

It was the early years of marriage and my sweet husband ate every tough-to-chew last bit of it, while I looked at my plate deciding not to finish the ‘mistake’ on my plate. I knew then he was much too nice- or much too hungry. He argues that a person can be both, and that I must agree with.

Well, that was seven years ago and I have since broken down and learned that it doesn’t mean I’m not a natural in the kitchen if I have to read a recipe or study particular cooking techniques, especially in preparation for roasting poultry and game that are not regulars at our dinner table.

While recently shopping at our favorite Mediterranean grocery store, I scanned the frozen food aisle just to see if anything was new in prepared foods such as pizzas and falafel and meats like halal burgers and sejouk, or spicy sausages. I’m not a fan of frozen foods, but once in a while I do find something useful, especially at this store, which sells only halal products- very exciting in its own right.

Much to my surprise, sitting right next to the halal turkeys, I spotted a smaller frozen bird of some sort. I thought it was probably just another whole chicken but it seemed a tad bit larger so I turned it around to look at the label, not expecting it to be anything I would actually purchase (we already had an entire lamb being prepared for us as we shopped). Sure enough, it was the first frozen halal duckling I had ever seen before. I plopped it into the cart and hoped for the best, hoping I wasn’t kidding myself into thinking I could actually make up for the last bird.

At the checkout, the store clerk commented that the roast duckling would be ‘an extravagant meal’. “Great,” I thought. Just what I needed- not only to mess up the duck, but to waste money and ‘extravagant’ food in the process. “I’m in trouble now,” I murmured to myself.

I spent a couple of weeks letting the little duckling continue its destiny deep in the depths of my standing freezer. I thought about it often, trying to come up with my own recipe in my head, and then came to my senses: “NO! Not again, I will ruin the reputation of roast duckling for my husband forever if I do THAT again! I need the perfect recipe.”

Once again, Julia Child came to my rescue, renewing my hope in ever being able to successfully bring a duck to an edible level. My husband’s only preference this time around was not to make the orange sauce that traditionally accompanies this bird dish. “No problem, I’m sure Julia has a recipe for that,” I thought.

Life has a way of allowing you to surprise yourself once in a while. It just so happens that my newfound love of all things Julia Child ever created has brought me to remember the poultry pages of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Fortieth Anniversary Edition.

Simply put, “Caneton Roti”, or Roast Duckling, had real instructions I could follow on two pages (274-275), and I had all the ingredients in tow.

I followed the recipe exact, like an apprentice following a master chef in hopes of earning a Le Cordon Bleu diploma at the final exam. If I messed this one up, I would be traumatized. That’s why I chose the easiest of all the duck recipes, and the only one listed for roast duckling, not duck- aren’t they older, anyway?

I trussed it, cut off the wing tips and stuffed its cavity with fragrant herbs, just as instructed. I poured cut onions and carrots at the bottom of the roasting pan and laid him down gently out of the way of the vegetables. No water or broth needed for this baby- it would generate more fat than I could ever imagine. No need for basting, just keep removing the fat.

After a few hours (much longer than the recipe suggested, due to the funny temperament of my oven), it was finally done- successfully. Served with a side of garlicky mashed potatoes, it was worth the wait–and the work–and the need to follow a recipe, at least once in a while.

If you’d like to try this recipe, you can find it in Julia Child’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 40th Anniversary Edition, Volume One. Alfred A. Knopf. 2001. http://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Art-French-Cooking-Fortieth/dp/0375413405

To find your own halal duckling, check out Midamar’s website at: http://www.midamarhalal.com/scripts/products.asp?C=Halal+Chicken. Each duckling costs $15.00.

If you live in the Chicagoland area and want to take a drive out to the western suburbs to buy your halal meats, including a frozen Midamar duckling, check out our favorite spot: Mediterranean Oasis Mart Inc., 357 E Bailey Rd., Naperville, IL 60565; Telephone: (630) 420-9507. Ask for Abu Shoosha- he’ll take great care of you.

Keeping Warm, French Style

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This winter, I’ve snuggled up to more than my fair share of Julia Child cookbooks and DVDs of her cooking shows, “The French Chef”. So far I’ve seen countless hours of her slapping dough around to make croissants and French bread, demonstrating brutally tedious sauce-making techniques and offering 1960’s style video of her own shopping tours around Paris and the south of France. Nevertheless, I’m addicted to learning from this woman.

As a result, for the first time I’ve made homemade French Onion Soup, following Julia’s recipe verbatim. It turned out perfectly. Even my husband was “warmed” up to the idea of eating enormous amounts of onions and butter and cheese in this hearty dish. He even warmed up to the idea of learning a little something from Julia. I think he’s enjoying himself, ever so slightly, because Julia was a practical woman and a wildly demonstrative teacher who made it easy for us to understand and learn from- something all teachers should be, in my opinion.

One thing I’ve learned from reading other books and blogs about French culture, cooking techniques, style and form is that the French, particularly Parisians, really love to warm themselves up with a hot bowl of soup during the chilly winter months. Check out David Lebovitz’s blog about living in Paris and his article about celery root soup at: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2008/12/celery_root_soup.html

Here’s a quicker version of French Onion Soup than in Julia Child’s book I used (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Fortieth Edition, Vol. 1 by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, p. 43-45). It’s Emerille Lagasse’s recipe found on the Food Network website:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/french-onion-soup-recipe/index.html

Substitute ½ cup red grape juice for the sherry and remember to use only your own homemade chicken and veal stock, made from dhabiha halal animals. If you don’t have that, use a halal canned or carton broth (let me know if you see that in any stores), or a can or carton of kosher stock or broth.

You can also use beef stock instead of chicken or veal stock but the taste will be a bit more “meaty”. And you can also just use one type of stock (i.e. only chicken as opposed to the combination), just make sure the stock is dark. Don’t make this dish if you will only be able to use water- it just isn’t worth sacrifice in taste.

Bon Appetit! Let me know how your soup turns out…

Yvonne

King Arthur Flour comes to Chicagoland

Scanning through the local paper can prove to be a rewarding endeavor for the thrifty cook these days. I found myself lucky to see a tiny ad in the Chicago Tribune about the King Arthur Flour Company coming to Palatine, IL for a free baking class, one of their many free national classes!)

There were actually two classes taking place in the Hotel Indigo that day (Thursday, November 13)- one in the early afternoon called “Sweet & Savory Yeast Breads”, the one I attended; and another in the evening called “Festive Cookies & Pies”. I was fortunate to see the ad Wednesday night, sufficient time to plan my day around this opportunity.

I arrived at the Hotel Indigo early enough to get a good seat near the front where I could clearly see and hear our baking instructor. I didn’t want to miss a thing- sort of a deja vous of my college days attending lectures by famed authors or politicians.

I was kindly greeted by a friendly, slender young woman in a black fleece vest who handed me a booklet entitled “Baking with King Arthur Flour”. At my seat, I perused the book for a few minutes, skimming through the various bread recipes. There were tips and hints on baking and on the last page a valuable coupon towards the purchase of any variety of King Arthur Flour. I made a mental note to hit my local Shop ‘N Save on my way home, knowing full well they carried this brand of flour—and it was on sale this week.

Before the class started, an employee, baker and editor of King Arthur’s bimonthly baking newsletter, The Baking Sheet, Susan Reid, warmed up the crowd by testing our knowledge of baking and even telling a personal story about how she joined the 100% employee-owner company of King Arthur Flour, located in Norwich, VT. She also explained the interesting history behind this company, which dates back to Boston in 1790.

Once the actual program began, all eyes were on the instructor, Carolyn Hack. Her gentle and inviting presence seemed to make everyone comfortable. As planned, she began to introduce the Sweet Bread Dough recipe she was to prepare.  Her witty humor about dough, baking and life garnered everyone’s attention, even the latecomers that filled up the back rows quietly. From Carolyn we all shared in the experience of learning valuable instructions about yeast, water temperature, flour and eventually kneading the dough. Here are just a few of the things I was surprised to learn:

  • Water to proof the yeast should be like the temperature of warm bath water
  • When putting water in your yeast, if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your yeast
  • Yeast is a living thing. You “proof it” in order to see if it’s viable
  • Once the yeast is in water (proofing), you don’t have to get all the lumps out, just get everything wet
  • If your yeast doesn’t proof properly, it could be due to one of the following reasons: the yeast was improperly stored; maybe there was soap left in the container you used to proof; there could be too many chemicals in your water; perhaps the water used was too hard or too soft.
  • It’s very important to measure ingredients properly when baking.
  • If you bake a lot it might be a good idea to get a kitchen scale, for accuracy.
  • Sprinkle flour into your measuring cup- don’t pack it in, otherwise you’ll be using more flour than necessary
  • Don’t sift flour unless your recipe calls for it.
  • Cake yeast has a very short shelf life.

When the dough was finished but not yet baked, she explained some creative ways it could be used. One idea was to make an almond-filled braid out of the dough; another to make a batch of cinnamon swirls. Both ideas sounded delicious. Ms. Hack made these seem so easy to make, I thought even I (the lazy baker) would be willing to give a try to the braided dough recipe.

At the end of the program, the company gave out door prizes to many lucky winners- dough whisks, aprons, and gift cards among them.  Although I wasn’t too disappointed that I didn’t win any of these, my heart broke when I didn’t win the only King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book given away. And then, just as if the employee-owners read my mind, they wouldn’t let us leave empty-handed. Everyone- yes, everyone- was given a $10 King Arthur Flour gift card, a ¼ oz. package of Red Star Active Dry Yeast and a King Arthur Flour  labeled dough scraper. We even got free samples of whole grain bread on our way out.

A free program, door prizes and even more gifts upon leaving, made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Red Star Yeast company. I must say, not only was I impressed but it made me want to give my business to Red Star Yeast and of course to this quality company, King Arthur Flour, made up of nice people who love to bake, love to educate and are generous with their knowledge and time.  Needless to say, I immediately used my gift card to purchase a King Arthur dough whisk, a tool Ms. Hack taught me was an important baking tool and one that would probably last me a lifetime.

(For a complete list of King Arthur’s free national baking classes, go to: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/baking/national-baking-classes.html

For information on their free online baking classes, visit: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/baking/online-baking-classes.html

If you’d like to order their newsletter, “The Baking Sheet”, go to: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/bakingsheet/bakingsheet.htm

For more information about the King Arthur instructor at this program, go to:

Carolyn Hack: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/baking/national-baking-classes.html#nbc-instructor

Yeast products recommended in this program can be found at:

SAF Yeast: http://www.safyeast.com/

Red Star Yeast: http://www.redstaryeast.com/products.html

 

Breakfast to Go

In a rush to get out the door in the morning, it’s often difficult to make something portable, easy to handle and tasty, all in one. I came up with this very simple and quick breakfast sandwich and would like to share it with you busy (or not so busy) folks out there.

Here’s what you need (per person):

  • 2 bread slices- any of your favorite. I choose Trader Joe’s Italian Loaf, which arrives pre-cut
  • 2 small pats of softened, real butter for each slice of bread (no margarine, please!!)
  • 1-2 tsps. creme fraiche (French style cultured cream) for each slice of bread. I like to use Vermont Butter & Cheese Company’s Creme Fraiche, sold at Trader Joe’s
  • 2 Tb. of your favorite jam for each slice of bread. I love the Organic, Reduced Sugar Raspberry Preserves sold at Trader Joe’s

Preparation:

Toast your bread, or warm to preference. Then, spread the softened butter on each slice of bread, followed by the creme fraiche and then finally the jam or preserves you’ve chosen. It’s that simple!

I love to pair this breakfast with a homemade cup of cappuccino made my way. Here’s what you need:

  • Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Organic Bolivian Blend Medium Dark Roast, Sweet Caramel Flavor, Medium Body Coffee. It comes whole bean in a 14 oz. container.
  • Whole milk
  • a pinch of ground cinnamon
  • organic raw cane sugar, to taste.

Preparation:

Grind the coffee in a coffee grinder. If you have whole cinnamon, just put about 1/2 cinnamon stick in the coffee grinder at the same time so the flavors mix well.  The amount of ground coffee that you put in your coffee maker depends upon the size of your coffee maker and the amount of coffee you would like to prepare. While my coffee is heating up, I put my milk in the microwave (1/3 of the coffee cup I’m going to drink out of). When both the coffee and milk are done, I add about 2 tsps. of sugar and enjoy it with my breakfast, nice and warm.

Resources:

As you can see, I am a fan of Trader Joe’s. They have a great variety of healthy food choices with fewer and less complicated ingredients in their products than I have found elsewhere. Their prices are not unreasonable and often times cheaper than the large supermarkets in my area. Their excellent customer service should not go unnoticed- it really is the best around. Here’s how you can find a Trader Joe’s in your area:

http://www.traderjoes.com/locations.asp

If you’d like to order creme fraiche from the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company, visit their website. You can also see that this product is kosher-certified and their site has a downloadable pdf document you can view as proof. It also lists eight other products that are kosher, which should reassure us that there are no pork by-products in these items:

http://butterandcheese.net/cremeFraiche.html

If you’d like to read more about Fair Trade and Fair Trade coffee specifically, please see this website:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_trade

http://coffeeonlinemagazine.com/buying-fair-trade-coffee-why-its-important-where-to-get-it/

And, as always, please let me know how you’ve enjoyed this post.

Asalaamu’laikum!

Update on Cabot Cheddar Cheese (Halal)

In response to the message posted from Jen at Cabot (in my original post about Cabot’s Cheddar), I just wanted to make a special post for those who don’t read the comments.

Jen says that Cabot does, in fact sell their products online. I’m sorry I missed that link previously somehow. Here it is:

https://www.shopcabot.com/

What a great resource for those who don’t live close to a source that sells the Halal-Certified Cabot Cheddar Cheese! Thanks, Jen!

Published in: on November 17, 2008 at 4:52 pm  Comments (1)  
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Halal Certified Cheddar Cheese

Shopping at Costco is both exciting and overwhelming. I always worry that I’ll miss something and equally worry that I’ll buy something in my excitement for the variety and quantity that is not actually halal. 

With regards to one product, my worry was replaced with delight when I was studying the cheese aisle. Which flavor should I choose for the meals I plan to create this week? Should I experiment with European varieties or stick to the American varieties I already know? Should I buy slices, blocks or cubes?

I stumbled upon a Vermont brand I’m familiar with from shopping at Trader Joe’s- it was the Cabot brand of Vermont. When I turned it over to search for the ingredients, I discovered a Halal certification symbol right next to the Kosher certification symbol. I had to blink to make sure I wasn’t just seeing what I wanted to see. Sure enough, it was real, but on only this type of cheese made by Cabot, not the other varieties at this particular Costco (Mt. Prospect, IL).  

Here are the details of the cheese:

Sharp Classic Vermont Cheddar Cheese made by Cabot of Vermont. Net wt. 2 LB. Ingredients: Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes. Manufactured by Cabot Creamery, Cabot, VT 05647. http://www.cabotcheese.com/  They even have a Cabot blog! http://www.cabotblog.com/products/. It appears you cannot buy their products online, but the website does have a store locator and a host of recipes and other information about cheese that is quite thoghtful of its consumers. No wonder, it’s dairy-farmer owned, since 1919.

For the Costco warehouse nearest you, click on: http://www.costco.com/Warehouse/locator.aspx

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please let me know!

Published in: on November 14, 2008 at 8:19 pm  Comments (10)  
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