Friday, August 31, 2012

Sweet Potato Rolls

The sweet potato in these soft dinner rolls provides fiber without the crunch or dryness you think fiber adds.  So ease back into the rigors of school days without feeling like you are giving your family homework.  Made a little larger, these rolls are great for sandwiches in an enviable brown bag lunch.

Bake an extra sweet potato next time you are serving them at dinner or microwave one that is about 4 1/2 inches long to yield the amount you will need in this recipe.  These rolls are easy even without a bread machine since they need little attention after mixing.  Both methods are included here. 

Sweet Potato Rolls (Yeasted)
Adapted from

Yield: 12 large sandwich size or 16 small dinner rolls
1 small sweet potato cooked, peeled and mashed, about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup tepid water
2 egg whites
1 whole egg
3 tablespoons softened butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast

Bread Machine Method
  1. Place ingredients in bread machine pan in the order listed (or according to your machine’s layering instructions).  Use the dough cycle to create a light orange dough. 
  2. When dough cycle is complete, use floured hands to scoop out portions.  Roll and pinch onto round balls and place on a greased cookie sheet for separate rolls or 2 greased pie plates for rolls with soft, connected sides.  Make balls a little larger than the size of a ping pong ball for dinner rolls.  For sandwich or hamburger rolls, make balls about 1/3 larger.
  3. Cover dough balls with a clean dishtowel and allow to rise about 40 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375˚F while rolls rise to about double in size.  Bake at 375˚F for 15 minutes.  If you are using pie plates, you may need to bake an additional 2-3 minutes.  Remove rolls from pan and let cool slightly before serving.  Fully cooled rolls can be lightly toasted for sandwiches and hamburgers. 

Hand Method
  1.  In a large bowl combine water, 1 tablespoon of sugar and yeast and let stand 5 minutes to allow the yeast to bloom.  
  2. Add all ingredients except flours and mix well (by hand or with a mixer on low.)  
  3. Stir in bread flour and 1 cup white whole wheat flour.  With last cup of flour in reserve, turn dough out onto a floured board.  
  4. Knead dough 4-5 minutes working in remaining flour to form a soft, non-sticky dough.  
  5. Wipe out mixing bowl and insert dough ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a non-drafty spot for one hour.  
  6. Proceed from step 2, in bread machine instructions above to form and bake rolls. 

Fresh rolls that will not be enjoyed within a day or two can be frozen for up to three months.  For maximum freshness, freeze as soon as rolls are cool. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Summer Broccoli

The look of these delightful bright green shapes send a 60’s vibe to me.  They are the stems of broccoli, peeled and cut crosswise like tree trunks.  When lightly steamed and stir-fried with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and some baked tofu, broccoli becomes a summer meal with a whimsical flair.   

I learned about broccoli stem and sesame stir-fries from Kay Langan who I have admired for her cooking and general wisdom since childhood.  I think of Kay often when I cook and problem solve but I do not make her recipe for broccoli unless the vegetables are at their best. Gardens and farmers markets are delivering the most flavorful vegetables right now. Recipes like this will help you use every tasty morsel.

Baked tofu is a new addition to the recipe.  It seems Mark Bittman’s recipe for baking slabs of drained firm tofu basted with a little soy sauce and sesame oil is making the rounds in my food circle lately.   It is hard to mess up this simple technique.

The tofu is baked at 350˚F for 45-50 minutes until firm and a little crisped at the edges.  The result is a nicely textured and flavored firm tofu that can be sliced for a stir-fry or left in slabs for a sandwich.  Since it keeps well in the refrigerator and reheats quickly, it is worth baking a batch ahead so it will be ready and waiting when you are hungry. 

Delicious and groovy too, broccoli sesame tofu stir-fry.  Thank you Kay and Mark.  (Can I call you Mark?)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ricotta Salata on the Side

When fresh sheep’s milk cheese is salted, pressed and dried, it forms a chalk white sliceable block with a subtle creamy/salty flavor called ricotta salata.  Don’t mistake this for pressed and salted ricotta; the name in Italian refers to a process of making cheese—recooking and salting—rather than the base cheese it is made from. 

But don’t get caught up too much in the name’s true derivation.  It’s pleasant sponginess and fresh milk taste will remind you of the best fresh ricottas, if you’ve been lucky enough to have a homemade or deli-made version.  Ricotta Salata goes in many of the places feta cheese or Mexican cotija can go like the salad below.  It is also nice to crumble over pasta dishes and compliments grilled or roasted vegetables.  I recently found sliced wedges of it drizzled with a little honey and placed alongside some grilled peaches in an elegant dessert course. 

Cucumber Mint Ricotta Salata Salad
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut in chunks
2/3 cup cubed ricotta salata
5-6 fresh mint leaves, sliced or torn
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Toss the cucumbers, cheese and mint leaves together in a small bowl.  
  2. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper together in a small bowl and pour over salad.  Toss to just combine dressing.  
  3. Salad can be made up to an hour ahead of serving. 

Cucumber Mint Ricotta Salata Salad is a great side for grilled steak on summer nights.  Since it can be made ahead of time, the cook in charge of side dishes can get out of the kitchen onto the patio with everyone else. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Corn-Water Poached Salmon

 On hot nights one pot of simmering water is all that can or should be mustered for a simple summer meal.  Try this one: salmon quickly poached in the water fresh of ears of corn have just exited. The corn taste is not strong.  You will feel efficient. The kitchen will stay cool.  So will the cook.

This serves two and is easily doubled:
  • Simmer four ears of corn in a deep skillet until done.  Remove corn and set aside on a platter. Cover to keep warm.  
  • Turn down the heat, add the juice of one lemon and a few fresh sprigs of dill to the corn water.  When the water is barely moving, lay down a pound of salmon.  
  • The salmon should be about 1 inch thick.  Fold over thin edges and skewer or tie it in a roll to create pieces of even thickness. 
  • Poach (water barely bubbling) salmon for 2 1/2 minutes on each side.  By the time the salmon is ready, your corn will be cool enough to handle and serve alongside the salmon.  
  • Serve this dinner with a side salad of goat cheese, roasted beet and sliced apple decorated with more fresh dill. 
Note: A total of 5 minutes poaching time results in silky medium rare interior and gently flakable outer flesh of the salmon.  If you prefer your salmon poached to a firmer light texture, light pink through to the center, poach an additional 30-60 seconds longer.