Monday, June 27, 2011

Here's an Idea: Rosemary and Garlic Flatbread with Cherry Tomatoes

For easy and delicious summertime flatbread, prepare dough, let it rise until doubled, form into a round, and brush generously with extra virgin olive oil. Top with lots of freshly minced garlic, shredded mozzarella, chopped fresh rosemary, and several hearty pinches of coarse sea salt. If the cherry tomatoes are producing, halve some and pile them on, too! We ate this a lot last summer. *Sometimes, I knead minced garlic and chopped rosemary into the dough, as well.

Can you tell I'm ready for our garden to drip with goodness? The plants are spindly and timid, but I hope still. Eggplant-topped pizza, here we come!

Basic Pizza/Flatbread Dough (This is a thicker/puffier crust than this dough.)
The recipe calls for all-purpose flour, but I often substitute whole wheat for half of the flour, and the addition of a little gluten will increase the chewiness of the crust .
-2 and 1/2 cups flour (*More if desired; see below)
-1 tsp. salt
-1 tsp. sugar
-1 tbsp. yeast
-1 cup warm water
-1 tbsp. oil

1. Combine salt, sugar, yeast, then add water and oil. Let sit for proofing ('til frothy on top).

2. Mix yeast mixture with flour. Turn onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. (*At this point, I sometimes work more flour--around 1/2 cup-- into the dough as I knead.)

3. Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise in warm place until doubled in size. *If desired, the dough can be placed in the refrigerator at this point for a few hours or up to 24 hours. The flavor and texture improve, but I generally don't plan ahead enough for that these days. It's delicious enough as is, anyway.

4. Punch down and shape into a round, as thin or thick as you like, on a cornmeal-dusted baking stone or cookie sheet.

5. Top with desired toppings and bake in a preheated 450-500 degree oven until golden brown and crispy. (Use your judgment here. I always crank up the heat as high as my oven allows for pizza, but just bake it how you normally bake your dough.)

Streusel-Topped Rhubarb Cake with Vanilla Sauce

I am a lover of rhubarb.

There, I've said it.

Instead of applesauce, every spring I'd eat fresh rhubarb sauce that my mom would spoon steaming into bowls and onto plates. She made rhubarb crisp and rhubarb pie and rhubarb this and rhubarb that, and I loved them all. I'd even munch it plain with a puckered mouth.

This, though, even non-rhubarb lovers can enjoy, 'cause the rhubarb is mixed with enough Other that it loses some potency. And can I just say how weird it is to post pictures I took two summers ago?


My mom made this for us when we were living in the off-grid trailer for the summer, so I couldn't immediately make it myself, but if we'd had a wood cookstove at that point, I would have tried. The cake itself is standard-- sweet cake, tart rhubarb, and moist-- but the streusel topping pushes it up a notch, and then the vanilla sauce pushes it right over the edge.

Oh, and the best part of this recipe is its original name-- Special Rhubarb Cake. There's rhubarb in the fridge, and I think I'll make some tonight. Go and do thou likewise. Serve it to someone special today!

Special Rhubarb Cake
adapted by my mother from an unknown (to me) source

-2 tbsp. butter, softened (no substitutes)
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 c. buttermilk (Again, I'm cheap resourceful and always use sham buttermilk. Add 1 tbsp. vinegar to enough milk to equal one cup, let sit for five minutes, and use as you would buttermilk.)
-2 c. chopped fresh or frozen (and thawed) rhubarb.

Streusel Topping
-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
-1/4 c. sugar
-2 tbsp. butter, melted

Vanilla Sauce
-1/2 c. butter, melted (no substitutes)
-3/4 c. sugar
-1/2 c. evaporated milk
-1 tsp. vanilla extract

*When my mom gave us some of this Special cake, she was out of butter and substituted cream cheese for the butter and some of the evaporated milk, with stellar results. I usually do the same.
Mom's version of "vanilla sauce":
-4 oz. cream cheese, softened
-1+ cup confectionery sugar
-1/4-1/3 c. evaporated milk
-1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating just until moistened. Fold in rhubarb. Pour into a greased 9" X 9" pan.

Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

For sauce, melt butter in saucepan. Add sugar and milk. Bring to boil, and cook for 2-3 minutes while stirring until thick. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and drizzle over servings of cake.

For Mom's version of vanilla sauce (a.k.a. Cream Cheese Sauce), beat together cream cheese and confectionery sugar until blended. Beat in evaporated milk and vanilla extract and drizzle over cake.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Eggplant (or Zucchini!) Parmesan & Pasta

This lackluster snapshot is from last summer, but don't let it keep you from making the dish!

Dude has made this for us for the last two summers, and he learned how to make it from a bonafide Italian friend, about whose culinary talents an entire blog could (nay, should!) be written.

I've made it with both eggplant-- which is more typical and with which you may be's the great part...ZUCCHINI! Any gardener knows why I'm ecstatic that this can be deliciously reproduced with zucchini. I love zucchini- love it- but even I reach the point when I look at overachieving zucchini plants and am tempted to just throw some of the baseball bat suckers in the weeds and be done with it. Since my pitiful eggplants are still more seedlings than plants, I'm afraid the zucchini version is most prominent in my future.

Here's a vague ingredients list. (Sorry, this is a whip-together meal. No precise measurements needed.)

You'll need
-Eggplant or zucchini
-A few eggs
-Some milk
-Bread crumbs and spices of your choice
-Parmesan cheese
-Shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese
-Fresh basil leaves
-Red sauce/spaghetti sauce of your choice
-Pasta of your choice
-A pot
-Some water to boil in your pot

If you make your own pasta sauce, it might serve you well to make it first. I usually fly by the seat of my pants with sauces, but my red sauce is a similar version to this pizza sauce, only with more garlic and less (or no) red pepper, and I use home-canned tomatoes in indiscriminate amounts, sometimes adding tomato paste for thickness.

Take eggplant or baseball bat zucchini and slice into 1/4- 1/2-inch thick coins. Place in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with about a teaspoon of salt. Let sit for an hour to draw out excess moisture. (I usually skip this step with the zucchini. Horrors!) Pat dry and dip in an egg wash. The amounts will vary according to how much eggplant/zucchini you want to bread, but a rough rule is a few tablespoons of milk for each egg. Whisk together in a small bowl.

Take the egg-dipped vegetable slices and dredge them in your choice of bread coating. I usually use plain homemade bread crumbs mixed with a bunch of Parmesan cheese, along with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning, to taste. To up the ante, if it's summertime, and you've got fresh herbs growing, chop those and add them in place of the dried Italian seasoning (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, basil, etc.).

To save time, at this point preheat the oven for broiling.
Also, begin boiling water in a pot in preparation for cooking pasta.
Add pasta as soon as the water is ready, and drain it when it is cooked al dente.

Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed frying pan, fry the vegetable slices in a few tablespoons of olive oil until crisp-tender and golden brown, flipping once. Drain on paper towels before placing on a cookie sheet. Spoon some sauce over each slice, layer with shredded mozzarella cheese (or, if you're fancy, mozzarella slices) and top with a large basil leaf. Place in oven and broil until cheese is melted.

Place a mound of your desired pasta on a plate, top with breaded eggplant/zucchini slices, and spoon red sauce over all. Eat, eat, eat. EAT!

I cannot begin to tell you how much I am craving this right now.
Zucchini plants, hurry up!

Dorothy Golden's Potato Latkes (Potato Pancakes)

The Owens love potatoes.

The King of the House spearheads this love and prepares potatoes in every possible incarnation of deliciousness, but I am proud to say that I, along with the help of a sweet woman named Dorothy Golden, introduced him to one of his favorites.

Seven years ago, living with our children in this little apartment, I read the newspaper and clipped an unassuming recipe. Observe:

Latkes are traditionally prepared during Hanukkah and often are served with sour cream and/or applesauce. If, like us, you are not Jewish, you eat them as the most delicious cousin of hash browns in the universe, whenever you choose. (And if you are Jewish, you think I'm a dummy for not knowing about these exquisite potatoes until I was 25 years old.)

Also, contrary to appearances and despite the fact that this is the THIRD recipe in a row that features frying something edible, our family doesn't eat fried food often. We eat the following about four times a year, but if I made them every week, we'd eat them every week. (Do I sound defensive? Sigh. I know.)

Without further ado, may I introduce you to Dorothy Golden's potato latkes? Please give her a round of applause! (Out of respect, her original recipe is listed first. Please see my personal notes below.)

-5 russet (baking) potatoes, peeled and grated
-1 large onion, grated
-2 eggs
-a generous quarter-cup matzoh meal or flour
-dash of salt
-oil for frying

Combine potatoes, onion, eggs, matzoh meal, and salt. The mixture should have body but add more meal if necessary. Heat about one inch of oil in a skillet until it is hot.

Using a tablespoon, spoon mixture into the oil to make pancakes, leaving any liquid in the bottom of the bowl. Be careful. Pancakes will spatter when they hit the oil.

Fry pancakes until they turn brown and look slightly dry on the edges. Flip them and brown the other side. Pancakes should be crisp. Remove from oil and drain quickly on paper towels. Serve hot with applesauce, yogurt, or sour cream. Serves about eight.


Alrighty, here's what I do.
Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with several inches of canola oil. Turn on the heat.

Scrub lots of potatoes. LEAVE THE SKIN ON! Using a hand grater, grate into a large bowl along with one or two giant onions.

Add a few eggs, some salt, and enough flour to make the mixture thick enough to shape into patties. USING YOUR USEFUL HANDS, shape the potato mixture into patties while at the same time squeezing out any excess liquid.

Drop the patties into oil that is hot enough to make a pinch of flour sizzle, and fry until golden brown and dry on the edges. Flip over and brown the second side before draining on paper towels. At this point, salt heavily.

I usually place them on a wire rack on a rimmed cookie sheet and put them in a slightly warm oven (about 200-250 degrees) to stay warm and crispy while I fry up the remaining latkes. (This has the added benefit of keeping them out of easy reach. By the time I'm finished, I've usually already eaten my fair share of the product. Testing it, you know...)

You may add any additional spices to the potato mixture that you see fit.
Thank you and you're welcome.

Cabbage Kofta

The majority of the dishes I've made in the last two years are meatless. If you see non-tasty recipes with meat on buildabelly in the future, you should know it's because I like meat, and its small presence in our house means that just about any meat tastes grand. This hasn't been an entirely deliberate decision and came by degrees. John didn't eat meat for a six-month stretch two years back due to several reasons, and since we normally didn't eat mounds of it anyway due to its cost, it was pretty easy to phase it out entirely for that time. Our health did not suffer, and we still ate like kings. Good things!

Many meals I make in the winter months feature beans and rice or are soups (some featuring beans...and rice), so Indian curries are a refreshing change. I usually wing curries, throwing vegetables in at random and adjusting spices as I go, but they all turn out too similarly for me to feel like I'm doing anything special.

For this curry, though, I followed a recipe, and I loved it. The star of the show is....cabbage balls! Don't worry, cabbage haters. Cabbage balls don't taste much like cabbage. They're savory and sweet and crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and really, really good. (Did I sell you with that "really, really good" description? Good.)

Who knew they existed, or, if Who did know, did Who know they were so delicious? Who, this one's for you!

Recipe butchered greatly adapted from this wonderful blog, which I really should visit again sometime. (The recipe's adapted because I didn't have all the fancy ingredients and had to improvise. I give you permission to do the same; my changes are marked with annoyingly bold font.) Oh, and if you do go to that wonderful blog, be assured that I don't know much about Indian cuisine. I usually look for recipes that include vegetables we have, which in winter months are carrots, onions, potatoes, and frozen spinach, as well as last summer's green beans, corn, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes frozen and canned for keeping, and then I wing things. This makes for some weird curries, and sometimes some yummy ones. My family loves me.

Cabbage Kofta
(Makes about 30 koftas)

Serve over rice with naan.


1 pound tomatoes, 2 tbsp coriander seeds, 2 tbsp cumin seeds, ½ tsp poppy seeds, 1/2 tsp saunf seeds, 1/2 tsp anardhana powder, 2 tbsp minced/grated ginger, 2 medium green chillies, 3 dried red chillies, a large handful of cilantro, 1 medium onion, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 clove garlic minced (optional)

1. Grind all the ingredients for the gravy together into a fine paste, adding about 2 cups of water. 2. Sauté the gravy with 2 tbsp. butter letting it thicken. Bring this to a boil, seasoning with salt.

Okay. Big changes. Saunf? Anardhana? Don't I wish.
I used the following:
-one medium onion, diced
-@ 1/2 inch fresh ginger, minced or grated
-5 smallish cloves garlic, minced
-one and a half tsp. ground coriander (I now have seeds, but ground coriander worked well)
-1 and 1/2 tsp. ground cumin (ditto)
-1 tsp. poppy seeds
-1 tsp. turmeric
-1 tsp. dried cilantro (If it had been summer, I would have snagged the fresh stuff from the garden and used more.)
-ground cayenne, to taste (Again, in summer, I would have snagged fresh hot peppers from the garden, instead.)
-@ 5-6 tbsp. plain yogurt
-1 quart canned tomatoes with juice
-one pinch of sugar
-salt, to taste
-a few tablespoons of ground cashews (I was given some cashews, so why not?)

I sauteed the onion in a bit of olive oil until soft and translucent and added the minced garlic and ginger for a minute or two at the end. I added all remaining ingredients, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon (home-canned tomatoes easily fall apart; store-bought would have to be smushed in a food mill or whizzed in a food processor). Let simmer over low heat for the flavors to meld while you make the koftas.


1 small head cabbage, 1 carrot shredded or finely minced, 3/4 cup besan* flour, 1 tsp garam masala, 2 tbsp red chilli powder, Salt, oil to deep fry.
*Nope. Sorry. This is what I used.
-1 small finely shredded cabbage (@ 4 and 1/2 to 5 cups)
-Did I use carrot? Had we run out of carrots? I can't find "carrot" on my scribbled notes. Will someone please tell me? (Add it if you want it; omit it if you don't.)
-2 finely minced medium onions
-1 tsp. garam masala
-1/2 tsp. ground cayenne
-3/4 tsp. salt
-garlic powder, to taste
-I added about one cup of regular flour until the texture was right for frying instead of besan (chickpea flour). I plan on grinding some besan to have on hand, though, because enough interesting recipes include it.

Mince the cabbage (best done with a food processor). I grated mine with a hand grater. Add salt and leave it for a few minutes, then squeeze as much of the water out of the cabbage as possible.

Add the besan (or regular flour) to the cabbage, along with the rest of the kofta ingredients, and knead it together.
Form this mixture into small balls, and fry them in hot oil until brown. Add the balls to the gravy, and let it soak for about half an hour (we ate it immediately, without the soak).

Her tip: Squeeze as much water out of the cabbage as possible so the balls will absorb less water while frying. Add the carrot after you squeeze out the water in order to squeeze out the maximum amount of water.

My tip: Wait until a pinch of flour sizzles before frying the kofta, otherwise they'll soak up a bunch of oil.

My second tip: Don't eat all the kofta immediate after frying them. I had to restrain myself.

Hehe. He.

Millie and I were just chuckling over this picture.

This is one of the BAD curries. Spinach, tomato, and potato. I'm sure an Indian chef could make this scrumptious, but I sure didn't. The only thing that saved it was the whole wheat poori I made to accompany it. Poori is unleavened flatbread, so it's faster than naan. I prefer naan, but poori's good in a pinch, especially if you deep fry it. (I didn't deep fry it. Maybe I should have. It may have distracted us from the potato/spinach masala.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

You Bet! (Potato Chips.)

I'm on a short break from weeding the flowerbeds, long neglected and pitiful. The only places clear of weeds are those spots where the hens have raked dirt into soft hollows perfect for dust bathing.

So, up to my neck in weeds, I felt the urgent need to put up a post about potato chips. That's me. Saving the world one outdated recipe at a time.

Since I can't justify spending more than a few minutes in Procrastinator's Paradise, here's a no-brainer "recipe" for potato chips.

These are so easy to make and much better than plain chips from a bag. I have yet to experiment to make Salt & Vinegar chips, but if I succeed, I'll feel like a culinary goddess.

First, find some potatoes.
Scrub them, but don't scrub off the skins.

Second, slice the potatoes as thinly as you can. I've done it in the past with a sharp knife and my very own butterfingers, but this time, I realized how dumb I was for forgetting I own something that looks similar to this. John bought a clearance slicer for me many years ago, and I don't use it as often as I should. It slices the potatoes in uniform, extremely thin slices. Consumers, go buy one today!

Okay, step number three. Fill a heavy-bottomed pot (or a fryer) with several inches of canola oil* and heat until a pinch of flour sizzles when you drop it in. If the flour doesn't sizzle, the slices will soak up oil and be soggy, so wait for the sizzle! (*It doesn't have to be canola oil, but canola oil has a high burn point and it's high in monounsaturated fats, so win-win.)

Step four. Fry potato slices in sizzling, sizzly oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels or a wire rack, or on paper towels on a wire rack.

Step five. SALT HEAVILY. QUICKLY!!! I love salt, though, so use your judgment here.

Step six, the most important and complex of all of these complex instructions...

Eat them all before your husband comes home.
Or save five or six for him, like I did.

Insert bland snapshot here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Re-resurrection. A Gift of Chocolate.

The new witching hour for buildabelly seems to lie somewhere between 10:30 p.m. and 12 o'clock midnight. I don't know why this is, and I wish it were not so. I should be sleeping! I like sleeping! I don't sleep enough.

Since the grand re-opening of buildabelly three months ago, I've posted two recipes. Yes, you read that right.


I was given a Fancy Camera for my April birthday but have yet to take a single picture of buildabelly food with it, so the lackluster posts to come will be illustrated by the Not-As-Fancy Camera of the last four years.

Without further ado (trumpets, please):

Recipe... Number... THREE!

Courtesy of Christmas Afternoon Dessert-- The Best Brownies Yet

I purposely added "Yet" because there's always room for improvement. I've said this before, but brownies and cheesecake are two foods that please me eternally. Even when botched, they're still good. These brownies have five essential ingredients:

#1. Chocolate
#2. Fudgy-ness
#3. Chocolate
#4. Cream cheese
#5. Yet more chocolate

#6. And heavy cream.

Not so difficult, eh?

But for the sticklers among us, I offer an extended recipe list:

Brownie Layer
- 1/2 cup butter (BUTTER), cut into slices
- 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped (I always substitute baking cocoa and oil for baking chocolate because I'm cheap resourceful, with no ill effect)
- 1 and 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt

Cream Cheese Layer
- 8 oz. cream cheese, room temp. (I use neufchatel- light cream cheese- because I'm...something, with no ill effect)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 egg

Chocolate Ganache Layer

 1/2-3/4 cup heavy cream
 12 oz. semisweet chocolate

I always wing the ganache topping. More cream and less chocolate makes for a thinner ganache. More chocolate and less cream makes for a more solid ganache. Take your pick!

For brownies, melt butter and unsweetened chocolate together. (If you're cheap resourceful, stir melted butter & oil together and add baking cocoa to the flour mixture). To butter mixture, add sugar and vanilla. Stir well before adding eggs, one at a time. In a small bowl, stir together flour and salt (and baking cocoa, if using) before beating into the butter mixture. Stir until smooth and glossy and spread into a 13" x 9" baking pan.

For cream cheese layer, mix cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and egg until well-blended. Spread evenly over the brownie batter.

Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until brownie just begins to pull away from the edge of the pan. (Do your brownie a favor and don't overcook.)

Meanwhile, place semisweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Then heat heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until boiling. Pour hot cream over chocolate and let sit for a minute. Stir until smooth and glossy and spread over cooled brownies.

Let the ganache layer cool before eating. (Put the pan in the freezer already!)

I triple-dog dare you to eat just one.

Bonus: Sauteed Kale & Beans with Onion and Garlic

...because I still have seven minutes until midnight arrives. (The post title doubles as a simple recipe.)

I discovered a few years back that kale is magic. The girls and I love it, John likes it, and it's extremely versatile. Plus, it's green!

We oven-roast it with olive oil and salt until it's crispy and irresistable, we toss it in soups, we add it to curries, and when we rejoice to find it growing in our not-yet-cleaned-out-from-last-fall-garden, we saute it like this

Loose ingredients for the above dish, which we ate as a meal.

- Onions, lots and lots of onions, diced and sauteed in a mixture of butter and olive oil until soft and translucent
- more fresh garlic than you think you should add, finely minced, added to the onions at the tail end for a minute or so (I probably used 7-8 cloves?)
- beans (your choice; we like pinto or white or kidney), added after the garlic is heated
- kale, torn into pieces, added last with some water, and sauteed/steamed until beginning to soften but not yet limp
- one slice of ham, leftover from the scalloped potatoes (that Papa baked) diced into tiny pieces
- salt and pepper, liberally shaken

(This is probably too obvious to mention, but by all that's good, if you've got bacon, USE BACON, too!)

Not to be a garden snoot, but a friend told me a few days ago that kale from the store tastes far different than home-grown. I've never had it from a store, but if you can, grow your own. Sow some today! It's easy and hardy and so, so delicious. Plus, it's green!