Thursday, May 13, 2021

Italian Sub Sheet Bake


One of my biggest concerns about moving up to the lakehouse here in the Keweenaw full time is grocery shopping.   I've been spoiled living in Ann Arbor for 30 years, pretty much you can find whatever food item you want within the 20 minutes it takes to drive anywhere in that town.   There's an old saw that says "Ann Arbor is 24.6 square miles, surrounded by reality" and that is definitely true when it comes to food.     Living up here can be a challenge if you are looking for ingredients to make some things spontaneously.   So it was with great trepidation that I set out to put together this Sheet-Pan Italian Sub Dinner Sam Sifton suggested to me via his "What to Cook This Week" siren song in NYT.  

We have the good fortune of having an excellent food co-op here in the Keweenaw, and I was inspired to run for its Board of Directors as my retirement volunteer gig.   Unlike some co-ops, ours (although small )  carries an impressive selection of food far beyond the typical co-op fare of carob chips and tempeh.   I saw that we were starting to carry some handcrafted salami from Driftless Provisions, a boutique salumeria from Wisconsin, so I thought I'd give it a shot.   

This finnochiona is definitely better served for a charcuterie board than a sheet bake, but I wanted to taste it.    I bought one link of it to try next to a more value priced salami available at the co-op..  Both were great, but I am still having dreams about the Driftless sausage.   So good!   This recipe could even be made with a whatever hard salami you might have available at your typical megamart.    I also added ham to my bake to make it be a bit more substantial than the original.   I could see even adding some mortadella to the pan some day, if  I could ever lay my hands on some here in the Keweenaw.   I only needed a small container of ricotta that the co-op deli clerk helped me get instead of buying and entire container.    

I made a few more tweaks to the original recipe because parts of it needed help, based on the comments in NYT plus my own personal preferences.  For example, if  you make it with the radicchio, plan on using 2 sheet pans or everything will just steam instead of browning.   It was a hit!   The other change I will make next time is to replace the radicchio with a couple handfuls of arugula after baking.   Here's how I did it:

Italian Sub Sheet Bake

4 garlic cloves minced
2 tablespoons dried oregano
 Kosher salt and black pepper
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and patted dry
5 ounces salami (casing removed if there is one), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 ounces cooked ham, diced
1 red onion, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch 
1 medium head radicchio (about 3/4 pound), sliced  (optional)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
8 pepperoncini peppers
½ cup ricotta
 Crusty bread and baby arugula, for serving

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Coarsely chop the garlic, then add the dried oregano and 2 teaspoons salt on top of the garlic and chop together until it forms a paste. Transfer to a mason jar with a lid,  add vinegar and olive oil, shake.  Pour half the dressing into a large bowl, then add the chickpeas, salami, ham, tomatoes, pepperoncini red onion and radicchio (if using).  Mix gently to coat in the dressing, and spread out on a sheet pan  (or 2, if you are using the radicchio) and bake 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.   Make until onions are slightly browned.    Meanwhile add salt and pepper to ricotta to taste.   

Serve on top of a bed of arugula, drizzled with remaining dressing and a dollop of ricotta and some crusty bread.   

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Fancy Focaccia

True confession:  I've never made focaccia before.   To be honest, I've never been great at making any kind of bread but thought I'd give it a try.   I was reading and enjoying Beatrice Ojakangas' great Soup and Bread Cookbook, and saw her recipe for rosemary focaccia.  Plus, I was inspired by a pretty focaccia I saw on the interwebs.  Why not give it a try?

Well, there were quite a few reasons.   First, I didn't have active dry yeast or bread flour; I only had instant yeast and all purpose flour.   Then, I misread the recipe and started with too much water.   So, I had to add much more flour than expected.   Oh well.     But then, miraculously, it seemed to have worked out!  

Rosemary Focaccia (my way)

1 cup AP flour

1 package instant yeast

1 t. salt

1 T. sugar

2 1/2 c warm water (110-120 F)

Mix dry ingredients in a stand mixer, then add water.   Mix until well combined, then add 4-5 cups flour until it forms a soft  sticky dough.   Then add: 

1/4 c olive oil

On a well floured countertop, knead for 15 minutes, adding enough flour until it stops sticking to your hands.    Put it on a greased cookie sheet with sides and let it rise for an hour, or until it's puffy.  Press the dough down and fit it into each corner and cover it with a towel and let it rest for 20 minutes.    Preheat oven to 450 F.  Then, decorate with vegetables!  I had red onion, yellow pepper, green onions, some olives and some celery.

Sprinkle with about 2 teaspoons rosemary and 1 teaspoon kosher salt and drizzle with more olive oil....about 3 tablespoons.   Bake for 25 minutes or so until brown, rotating pan halfway through.

Ta da!!! Fancy focaccia!  I will actually try to make this again, it was super easy.  Except next time, I'll cut the recipe by  25% to make a chewier, more dense bread.  Probably closer to what Beatrice had in mind!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Knight's Steakhouse Style Firehouse Vinaigrette


It's official!  We have left Ann Arbor for good and have moved to our lakehouse in the Keweenaw.   Right before we left, our neighbors had us over for Buddy's Pizza and they brought out a bottle of Firehouse Vinaigrette they picked up at Knight's Market for the antipasto salad.   In all my years of living in A2, I had never tried this dressing.   We never really ate often at Knight's Steakhouse, but sometimes went there for happy hour (their stiff pours are legend!).   I really liked this dressing.    I'd describe it as a spicy French dressing.   After reviewing the ingredients, I attempted to make it.    I'm quite satisfied with my results!  I added some additional spicing options to give it even more zip.

Knight's Steakhouse Style Firehouse Vinaigrette

1/4 c cider vinegar

2 T ketchup

2 T olive oil

1 T sugar

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 T minced onion

1/2 t kosher salt

1/2 fresh ground pepper 

optional (not found in Knight's ingredients but makes it even extra delicious!)

1/2 t paprika 

dash cayenne

Put all ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake until mixed thoroughly.   

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Whole Wheat Quinoa Bread


We are in the final countdown before the big move to the lakehouse for good!  I can't wait!!! It's been a real challenge figuring out what I want to keep and what I need to let go.    For example, I am downsizing most of my cookbook collection.  Check out what I have for sale in my Etsy shop     I am also trying to draw down my pantry staples.    In the height of the pandemic, I hoarded yeast and then never really made too much bread.   Also, I had a lot of whole wheat flour, and some quinoa from a long ago recipe experiment.   Time to use it up!

I found a recipe in NYT for a quinoa bread, but it needed a lot of help to make it better.   Here's how I made it:

Whole Wheat Quinoa Bread

two loaves, about 16 slices in each loaf

for the sponge

2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast

3 cups lukewarm water

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups whole-wheat flour

for the bread

2/3 cups  quinoa

1 1/3 cup water

¼ cup canola oil

1 scant tablespoon salt

3 to 4 cups whole-wheat flour, as needed

1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons water for egg wash

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

In a large bowl, combine the yeast and water and stir until dissolved. Stir in the honey and molasses. Stir in the flours, 1 cup at a time, until well combined Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, cover the bowl with plastic and leave to rise in a warm spot for one hour, until bubbly.

Meanwhile, make the quinoa.  Rinse the quinoa: Pour the quinoa into a fine mesh colander and rinse under running water for at least 30 seconds. Drain well. This step removes any bitterness on the outside of the quinoa (caused by naturally occurring saponins). Combine the rinsed quinoa and water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat a bit to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water, about 10 minutes Reduce heat as time goes on to maintain a gentle simmer. Remove the pot from heat, cover, and let the quinoa steam for 5 minutes.  Allow to cool

Add the oil to the sponge and fold in, using a large spoon or spatula. Add the salt and fold in. Fold in the quinoa, then fold in 2 cups of the whole-wheat flour. Place another 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour on your work surface, then scrape out the dough. Use a bench scraper to help fold the dough over while kneading until it has absorbed the flour on your work surface. Flour your hands, and knead the dough for 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until it is elastic and springs back when you press it with your finger. It will be dense and sticky. Shape the dough into a ball. Rinse and dry your bowl, and coat it with oil. Place the dough in it, then flip the dough over so that it is coated with oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and set in a warm spot to rise for one hour or until doubled.

Punch down the dough, cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise again for 45 minutes to an hour.

Divide the dough into two parts, and shape into loaves. Place half of the sesame seeds on your work surface, and gently roll the rounded side of one loaf over them so that they stick. Repeat with the remaining sesame seeds and the other loaf. Oil two 9-by-5-inch bread pans, and place the loaves in the pans, first seam side up, then seam side down. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until the surface of the loaves rises above the edges of the bread pans.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Gently brush the loaves with egg wash. Using a sharp knife, cut two or three 1/2-inch-deep slashes across the top of each loaf. If this causes the loaves to deflate, let them sit for another 15 to 20 minutes. Bake 50 to 55 minutes, The bread is done when it is golden brown and responds to tapping with a hollow sound. Remove from the pans and cool on a rack.

Monday, January 18, 2021

I'm selling my Junior League cookbook collection

Yes, it is time! I don't have space in my lakehouse for my >1000 vintage cookbook collection.    It makes me sad but it is time.  They are priced to sell and offer media mail shipping.  

Here are my current Junior League Cookbooks available

San Francisco a la Carte - Junior League of San Francisco

RSVP - Junior League of Portland Maine

You can check out all my listings here


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Library Bar Chili


Years ago, a blog reader asked me if I could track down the Library Bar in Houghton's vintage recipe for chili that was served in the 1980s during the MTU Winter Carnival All Nighter Statue building competition.   It was served all night out of the back of a van by the original owner of the place, Jon Davis.  (to read a little more about him and also check out my version on their famous recipe for Swiss Onion Au Gratin soup, click here).   I kept asking around and old Library Bar employees didn't remember much except "it was a lot of cans".   I finally was able to track it down from a Copper Country fb group member who was a student at MTU and a member of the Undergraduate Student Government in the 1990s.   She was given the recipe after the bar burned down and they were unable to make it for the all nighter contest, so the USG stepped up and made it in the student union kitchen that year.  

Winter Carnival All Nighter in the 1980s was a bit different than it is in current times.   Pre pandemic, campus now has tons of activities besides and lots of student groups selling food and refreshments and campus police busting anyone drinking alcohol.   In my day, I can remember my sorority using our dogsled to pull around a half barrel of beer through town for "refreshment".   Here's a cool picture of MTU students from the 1960s using their dogsled as intended.

The only food available was the Library Bar's chili, if you were lucky enough to catch the van cruising around serving it.    The chili was also on the menu as "Chili with Onions" and it was a great way to warm up on a cold night.   

This year's Winter Carnival is still happening, despite the pandemic, but student groups aren't allowed to sell food during the all nighter to minimize crowds.  Also, there is a first ever alumni statue building contest!  So I figured it was time for me to figure out the chili recipe so students and alumni can make it for themselves.    The recipe I got was institutional sized, I had to scale it down for individual use.   Also, we like our food spicy, so I felt some cayenne pepper was in order.  Leave it out if you would like! I think what makes this recipe unique was the use of green peppers and celery salt, two ingredients not often seen in most red chili recipes.  And yes, it is a lot of canned goods! Here's my take on it:

Friday, January 01, 2021

Hoppin' John for 2021


Not leaving anything to chance for this new year, I actually stayed awake until midnight last night: and made the family eat a spoonful of Hoppin' John. to make sure we have good luck this year.   We are at the lakehouse, so I got some black eyed peas the Keweenaw Coop, which I just joined in preparation for our move north for good in March.    Besides the usual coop stuff, members are able to order in bulk of items they want, even if the store doesn't carry them.   I realized I had to join if I was going to be able to find what I need locally here in the Copper Country.   For example Nueske's bacon.   I've been spoiled by having Nueske's bacon at the ready anytime I want in Ann Arbor.   I was thrilled to discover the Keweenaw Coop carried it.   I also got some dried black eyed peas and the texture was great.   I'm sure they go through their stock quicker than the regular grocery store.   I also added some kale this year because if there was ever a need for kale in the world, now is the time!  And since I had some red onion and hothouse tomatoes, I decided to top it with some fresh vegetables.   My New Years Resolution this year (as it is every year, I think) is to EAT MORE VEGETABLES.  

2021 Hoppin' John 

1 lb. black eyed peas

1/2 lb. bacon, diced

2 large onions, diced

8 cloves garlic, minced

1 t. cayenne pepper (more or less depending on your spice tolerance, we like things spicy)

Ham bone or a smoked ham hock (I used the last of the Dearborn Ham I made for Christmas)

1 bunch (or more) of kale, stemmed and cut into 1 inch  pieces

kosher salt to taste

Optional garnishes:  diced tomato, red onion, bell peppers, etc

Soak beans overnight in enough water  and a couple tablespoons of kosher salt to cover then by a couple inches. In a dutch oven, brown bacon and drain off fat, add onions and saute until soft. Add garlic and saute further until fragrant. Don't burn it. Add cayenne . Add ham bone, beans, and  water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil and then turn stove down to low and cook beans until tender, 1-2 hours.   Remove ham bone or hock and dice up meat and add back to pot along with the kale.   Heat until kale is tender.  Season with salt as needed. Garnish with vegetables.

The start of 2021 is going to be a different one for me.  Usually I spend New Year's Day trying to dig out of work email and getting ready to head back to the office.    I also used to bring leftover Hoppin' John to work for lunches.   But this year, today officially marks the first day of my retirement!  I'm happily free of that typical New Year's Day dread, thinking ahead of all the work that needs to get done.   I would count the days (and they seemed to crawl) until the long MLK weekend.    January was always such a busy time at work because we had to performance reviews and the auto show and getting back to it all.   

It feels odd that there is no longer a winter auto show!  For an automotive engineer, going to the industry preview was the equivalent of attending your high school reunion.  The industry preview days were for us to go in and benchmark the competition.   There was no fancy cocktails and entertainment and tuxedos like the glamorous Auto Show Preview (aka the "Auto Prom"):

Andy and me at the Auto Show Preview aka Auto Prom

Instead it was a lot of laying on the ground under vehicles and taking pictures for us chassis engineers.    It was where you run into everyone you've ever worked with over the course of your career.   It was a nerdy "Old Home Day" for automotive geeks like me.  The auto business gets to be a rather small world after you've done it for 30+ years

Me proud of my work on tires and wheels on the 2015 F150

We'd all end up going out to lunch or a happy hour downtown after and get to hang out with people we don't get to see very often.    Time to catch up and find out who is doing what?  I am wondering now that the Detroit Auto Show is moving outside and in the summer if that will happen anymore?  Regardless, it wouldn't be a part of my life anymore anyway.   

Today's New Year's Day lacks the usual dread!  I've got plans to do a little snowshoeing with old friends and then a New Year bonfire with our lakehouse neighbors.  Happy 2021!