Buckwheat Whole Wheat Blinis

on dish.jpgBlini are Russian crepes. They can be made full size and wrapped around sour cream, lox, and if you have the money, caviar. You can also make them silver dollar size for canapes, and top them with piped sour cream and lox (and if you can afford it, caviar.)

I love the yeasty taste and spongy texture of blini. I added whole wheat flour to the traditional mix of buckwheat flour and all purpose flour for extra nutrition. The sugar helps offset the bitterness of the buckwheat.

Makes about 40 small blinis or 10 large crepes

Have ingredients at room temperature

Sponge:

1/2 cup warm water. Be sure it’s not too hot to kill the yeast!

2 tsp sugar

1/2 cup active dry yeast (not instant yeast)

1/4 cup all purpose white flour

Batter:

1 cup milk (I used 1% but most recipes call for whole milk)

2 Tb butter

2 eggs, separated

1/2 cup all purpose white flour

1/3 cup buckwheat flour

1/3 cup finely ground whole wheat flour

3/4 tsp salt + a few shakes to add to egg whites

2 Tb sugar +a pinch to add to egg whites

Directions:

Stir 2 tsp sugar into warm water until it dissolves. (I found that 20 seconds in my microwave heats the water). Sprinkle in yeast and stir again. Let it proof for 10 minutes.

sponge

Then whisk in 1/4 cup white flour. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let the sponge rise for an hour until bubbly and doubled in size.

While sponge is rising,  prepare the ingredients for the batter:

milk n butter unheatedPour milk into a heatproof container, such as a Pyrex measuring cup. Add chopped butter.

heated milk and butter Microwave for a minute and stir until butter melts and milk is warm, but not hot.

Separate eggs, pouring whites into a mixing bowl. Stir egg yolks into milk.

After the sponge has risen and is bubbly, whisk in milk mixture, flours, salt and sugar until smooth. Cover with parchment paper and a clean dishtowel and let rise in a warm place free from drafts for an hour.

egg whitesBeat egg whites with a few shakes salt and a pinch of sugar until stiff.

batter with egg whitesFold them into the batter.

fryingHeat a cast iron skillet and wipe it with oil on a paper towel. To double your production, use two skillets (if you can keep up and not let the blinis burn!) With stove on medium, pour spoonfuls into the pan to make silver dollar sized pancakes.

flippedWhen holes form, flip them over and cook until they are golden brown.

Alternatively, you can pour enough into a pan to make a full sized crepe, turning the pan until it is covered with batter. Wipe the pan with the oiled paper towel between batches.

many

Put blinis on parchment paper and place a piece of parchment between the stacks of blinis.

Spread crepes with sour cream and a few slices of lox. Roll them up and serve.

servingOr pipe sour cream over the pancakes with a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and top with a piece of lox (and or caviar) and sprinkle with dill weed.

 

 

 

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Avocado and Lox Crackers

cropped crakers

Here’s an hors doeuvres take on the trendy avocado toast. It’s super simple:

Just spread a piece of avocado on a cracker (I use sesame rice crackers)

then top with a piece of lox and a couple of capers.

Do they look like little eyes staring at you?

 

Or you can make Avocado Toast with the lox and capers

Avocado Lox toast

Caprese Fruit Salad

Caprese Fruit Salad

This is a delicious summer fruit salad masquerading as a caprese salad.

I got the idea when I visited the SF Giants Baseball Stadium (AT &T Park) Organic Garden with our CHEFS students. After the garden tour, they gave each of us a delicious strawberry wrapped in a basil leaf.

Cut summer fruit: Strawberries, stone fruit such as plums, apricots and /or peaches. Mix in ciliegine, little balls of fresh mozzarella. Tear basil leaves and sprinkle over the fruit and mozzarella. Drizzle a little olive oil over the fruit and cheese.

caprese fruit appetizers

Make caprese salad appetizers by threading a piece of fruit, basil and half a ciliegine on a toothpick. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. I mixed in a bit of blood orange infused olive oil with the regular oil.

 

Roasted fingerling potatoes with garlic and thyme

roasted fingerling potatoes

Springtime brings new potatoes, and they are addictive when roasted in a bit of olive oil with fresh thyme and garlic and sprinkled with salt. I like to roast these miniature potatoes which are called fingerlings, ’cause, well, they look like fingers! The yellow ones are Russian fingerlings and the red ones are French fingerlings. These French ones here are freshly dug new potatoes that I got at the farmer’s market and their skin is very thin.

garlic and thyme in pot

I adapted this recipe from Alice Water’s wonderful cookbook “Chez Pannisse Vegetables”.

Preheat oven to 400

Soak potatoes in salt water for about 10 minutes or so, then scrub the skins. Dry with paper towels.

garlic thyme in olive oil

Select a shallow baking dish that the potatoes can fit  snugly in one layer, Cover bottom of the baking dish with 2 Tb olive oil. Sprinkle about 8 small sprigs of fresh thyme leaves. Halve a bulb of garlic crosswise and separate the cloves, (you don’t need to peel them), and place them in the dish.

fingerling potatoes before roasting

Toss the potatoes in the oil then sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Arrange the potatoes so they fit snugly in the dish in one layer, and the garlic and thyme are evenly disbursed. Add 1/4 cup of water for a 8″ square baking dish, less for a smaller one. Tightly cover with a lid or foil.

Bake at 400 for 40 minutes. Uncover dish and bake for another 5 minutes or so until potatoes are dry and a fork easily pierces them. Sprinkle with more salt and serve hot.

Marinated Eggplant

eggplant saladThis delicious Italian-style eggplant is marinated in olive oil, Meyer lemon and a touch of balsamic, with garlic and oregano. It makes an excellent side-dish for Italian food.

Make the dish a day before serving and marinate overnight in the fridge. Serve at room temperature.

eggplants3 medium or 4 small globe eggplants or 3 long eggplants

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 leek

1/4 cup plus 2 Tb garlic infused olive oil

1 cloves garlic, minced fine

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 Tb balsamic vinegar

Juice of Meyer lemon

Several grinds black pepper

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives

12-oz jar Italian-style roasted red bell peppers

14-oz can of artichoke hearts in water

10 fresh basil leaves

2 slices Meyer lemon (from blossom end)

chopped eggplant with leeksCut the eggplants at different angles into 2 inches pieces. Each piece should have skin on it. If using long eggplants, slice lengthwise, then cut crosswise into half coins. Put them on a rack above a rimmed baking pan, such as a jelly-roll pan. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the eggplant. Let it sit for 30 minutes. You will see it sweat. This improves the texture of the eggplant and is supposed to make it less bitter.

While eggplant is sweating, heat the oven to 350º F. Cut the white part of the leek length-wise and then crosswise into 1 ” pieces. Soak in a salad-spinner, then rise thoroughly. Spin until dry.

After eggplant sweats for 30 minutes, briefly rinse the pieces in the basket of the salad spinner, then spin, and pat dry with a paper towel. Grease a roasting pan with 2 TB garlic infused olive oil and add eggplant. Pour in the rest of the garlic oil and toss so that all the eggplant is coated with oil. Bake for 10 minutes at 350º F. Add the leeks to the roasting pan and roast an additional 15 minutes. Mince the garlic and add to the hot pan. Turn off the oven and let the baking dish sit in the oven until it is cool, about an hour. The eggplant and leeks should be very tender.

Cut two thin slices of lemon from the blossom end (opposite the stem end), then cut each in half and set aside. Juice the lemon and pour it into in a deep casserole dish. Whisk olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and oregano with the lemon juice.

Transfer the eggplant and leeks to the casserole dish. Stir in the Kalamata olives.Pour the jar of roasted peppers into the eggplant, then fish out the peppers and slice  into strips and stir into the eggplant. Drain the artichoke hearts and quarter them lengthwise and stir into the eggplant. Place the lemon slices on top.

Let the eggplant sit at room temperature. Adjust seasonings. Refrigerate for about 24 hours, and fold in the fresh basil leaves. If you have time, let it sit until it is room temperature before serving, but if not, it’s delicious cold as well. Serve as a side dish or over a lettuce and tomato salad.

American Flag Salad

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Cut red bell pepper into 7 strips

Peel jicama and cut into rounds, then square them and cut into 7 strips. Cut one of the strips into little chunks for the stars

Wash blueberries.

Trim 4 red bell pepper strips and 3 jicama strips to fit around the star square.

Assemble the flag: Start with the red bell pepper, alternate with the jicama, so that the last stripe is red (13 altogether).

Put the blueberries in the square and sprinkle in jicama stars

Summer Rolls Gỏi Cuốn

DSC00905

Now that summer is officially here and we finally had a nice hot summer’s day, it’s time to make Summer Rolls. They are sometimes called Spring Rolls, although the Spring Rolls are often fried. Summer rolls are made with fresh, raw vegetables, with or without boiled shrimp. Gỏi Cuốn translates literally as salad rolls, which is pretty much what they are: a shrimp salad in a roll. I’ve always loved these for their burst of flavor from the fresh herbs inside heightened by the sweet spiciness of Hoisin (WHO-zjen) sauce and sweet chili sauce.

Cindy with shrimp rollMany thanks to chefs Cindy Hay (pictured above), Wyn Ha and Jenny Inpraseuth; my Southeast Asian colleagues who cheerfully and patiently taught me to make these.

Ingredients:

Asian ingredients are available at most Asian markets and Berkeley Bowl

You can make these Vegetarian/ Vegan with just the salad ingredients (skip the shrimp and just use Hoisin Sauce with a bit of lime juice and peanuts).

Shrimp:

About 2 1/2 cups of medium shrimp. If you buy shrimp in their shells, they make a lovely broth.

3 cups water

1 slice of fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic

1 tsp salt

Hoisin dipping Sauce

Cindy told me that the sauce needs to have sweet, sour and salty flavors:

1 cup bottled Hoisin sauce (tương ăn phở)

1 Tb chopped peanuts

juice from 1/2 lime

Wrap:

1 package rice paper rounds

I shallow bowl or pie pan with warm water

Filling:

You can vary the salad ingredients, but always include mint and basil leaves and rice noodles.

Rice vermicelli noodles (rice sticks)  size medium Jiang Xi Bún Giang Tây.

1 large peeled carrot (or about 8 peeled baby carrots)

3 Persian cucumbers (no need to peel)

1/4 jicama

1 red bell pepper

½ cup cilantro leaves

½ cup mint leaves

¼ cup Thai basil (you can substitute regular basil if you can’t find the more aromatic Thai basil)

4- 6 green leaf leaves lettuce. Use the upper part of the leaves.

1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed and cut in half

chunks of 1 avocado

You can make the shrimp and Hoisin dipping sauce ahead of time.

Defrost shrimp in a colander under cold running water for 7 minutes. While shrimp is defrosting, fill a medium pot with 3 cups water and add 1 tsp of salt, ginger and garlic, and bring to a boil. Bring shrimp to boil over high heat, then boil for 3 minutes. Drain shrimp into a salad spinner or over a sieve into a bowl, reserving cooking liquid. Pour the liquid back into the pot. Cool shrimp until you are able to handle them. Peel the shrimp and cut in half lengthwise. Return the shells into the reserved liquid. Boil the shrimp shells, garlic and ginger uncovered for 10 minutes until reduced. Pour over a sieve and set aside to cool.

Making the Hoisin dipping sauce:

DSC00591Combine ¼ cup reserved shrimp broth with Hoisin sauce. Top with crushed peanuts.

Prepare the noodles:

Boil 12 cups water in a a saucepan. Break off about 4 oz  rice vermicelli noodles, also called rice sticks – Jiang Xi Bún Giang Tây (about 1/4 of a 14 oz package). Be sure they are size medium, not the very thin vermicelli.

rice sticks bun giang tay

Cook the noodles for 6 -8 minutes in boiling water, stirring occasionally.

DSC00596Cool them by rinsing them in a sieve under cold water for one minute. Stir and separate the noodles with a fork or chopstick so that they don’t clump up. Let them drain over a bowl.

Salad Filling:

DSC00894Cut the vegetables very thin and small, especially hard veggies like carrots and jicama.

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I use a special Asian vegetable shaver to shave thin slices of carrots, cucumber and jicama. Halve the bean sprouts so they don’t poke through the rice paper. Tear herbs into small leaves.

Assembly:

Summer rolls are not too hard to make, but the trick is in rolling the sticky rice paper. It comes in a hard, almost plastic-like wafer.

3 ladies rice paperI couldn’t believe it was the same thing as the soft wrapper. Magically it transforms when dipped in warm water. It softens and becomes thinner and pliable. If you dip it flat, it wants to curl up.

The trick is to hold it by the edges and rotate it through the water, then give it a quick dip in the water to wet the middle.  The whole process should take about 5 seconds. If it stays too long in the water it will become too thin and tear easily, and stick to itself.

dipping rice paper

Place the rice paper on a dry plate. It will soften within seconds.

DSC00601Put a lettuce leaf and a tablespoon of noodles first to add a cushion for the vegetables.

DSC00625Then add a few vegetables, and a few mint, basil and cilantro leaves. Avoid over-stuffing the roll. I got excited by all the wonderful ingredients and wanted to add it all in as much as possible. My rolls became bulky and torn. Moderation in all things I remind myself.

rollingRoll wrapper halfway, and then fold left and right sides over the filling. Lay 3 shrimp halves, cut side down, with several cilantro and mint leaves along the edge of the cylinder.  Finish rolling up the summer roll.

shirmp on roll

Dip your summer roll in Hoisin Sauce or sweet chili sauce.

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