Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers -- Lavash Crackers & Baba Ghanoush

Our DB hosts this month, Shel of Musings from the Fishbowl and Natalie of Gluten A Go Go, challenged us to make lavash, a type of flatbread, and a vegan dip of our choosing.

Although we were given the option of baking the lavash without gluten, I went for gluten. The recipe came together fairly easily, although I did have difficulty rolling the dough evenly, which resulted in the crackers browning unevenly. (Que sera, sera.) Still, the lavash was snappy (as it should be) and tasty with sprinklings of cumin and sesame seeds plus a bit of salt.

As for the dip, I've had a yen to make baba ghanoush all summer and it was great to finally have an opportunity to make it! It's an adaptation of the "Best Baba Ghanoush in the World" and the result really is fantastic.

Thank you to Shel and Natalie for a fun challenge!

Please visit Shel's blog for the lavash recipe, available both in gluten and gluten free versions!

Baba Ghanoush

1 large eggplant
2 to 4 Tbsp. tahini, plus more as needed
3 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of one or two lemons, plus more as needed
1 pinch ground cumin
Salt to taste
1 Tbsp.extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.
Place eggplant on baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Roast eggplant for 30 to 40 minutes, turning occasionally, or until soft. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, and peel off and discard the skin.

Place the eggplant flesh in a bowl. Using a fork, mash the eggplant to a paste. (If you prefer a smoother dip, puree in a food processor.) Add 2 tbsp. tahini, garlic, juice of one lemon, and the cumin and mix well. Season with salt, then taste and add more tahini and/or lemon juice, if needed. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and spread with the back of a spoon to form a shallow well. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve at room temperature.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Orzo with Chicken and Parmesan

It still may be too early for comfort food: the days are fairly sunny and warm, and it's still light out at 7pm. But when those cooler, darker days roll around (or if you just want a preview) this quick and easy recipe fits the bill.

My favorite part of this dish is the mouthfeel. It's like eating risotto but with only a fraction of the work. Even reheating it in the microwave the next day yields a fantastic creaminess.

Orzo with Chicken and Parmesan (adapted)

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
12 ounces skinned, boned chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
2 -3 cloves garlic, minced (or more, if you prefer)
1 cup water
1 (16-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 cups uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, basil, and oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

In dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until opaque; add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Add water and broth to the pan and bring to a mixture to a boil.

Once boiling, add pasta and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 9 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add peas, and continue to cook until the peas are heated through and the pasta has absorbed all the liquid, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup cheese, herbs, salt and pepper. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cinnamon Apple Cake

When September rolls around, I want apples.

I want to go apple picking. I want to drink apple cider. I want to eat caramel apples.

I want to bake with apples.

I stumbled across this recipe, which combines apples with my favorite spice, cinnamon. It’s very simple to pull together; the most complicated thing about it is needing a springform pan, and you could even do away with that.

The result is a tender, moist cake, almost like an English steamed pudding. It’s chockful of apple flavor and the cinnamon topping gives everything a nice lift. I wish the cake itself had more cinnamon flavor but a) that could probably be easily achieved by combining more cinnamon sugar with the apples and b) I always want more cinnamon, so this may be more of my personal taste rather than a fault of the recipe.

Cinnamon Apple Cake (adapted)

1 ¾ cups sugar, divided
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup), softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 ounces block-style fat-free cream cheese, softened (about 3/4 cup)
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsps. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
3 cups chopped peeled baking apples (about 2 large)

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Lightly oil a 8-inch springform pan* and set aside.

Beat 1 ½ cups sugar, margarine, vanilla, and cream cheese at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Toss two tablespoons of the cinnamon mixture with the apples in a bowl. Fold apple mixture into batter. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon mixture.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack, and cut using a serrated knife.

*You can substitute a 9-inch square cake pan or a 9-inch springform pan if you reduce the baking time by 5 minutes.