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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Summer White-Wine Deals

For a couple of years it's been very easy to fine red-wine bargains for less than $10 in just about any wine shop or supermarket in the U.S. But a good white — a quality white you'd serve to a large dinner party without breaking the bank — has been elusive.

We've been collecting some examples of good white wines for less than $10, but we'll wait a bit to drop that list into Eat Well, Eat Cheap.

Today we'd like to tell you about two or three whites that are on sale at ridiculously low prices, and yet they're very tasty wines and fit for a summer meal.

At least two of our local supermarkets have some version of this sale, so we assume the two companies that make these wines have reduced prices to push these bottles while the summer heat is driving us all to our wine cellars or refrigerators.

The first is Barefoot Chardonnay, a good white for this hot summer, that is being offered for $5.50 a bottle. That's a wonderful price for a drinkable Chardonnay.

The second, and our favorite of the three is Flip Flop's Chardonnay. It's an even better wine for an even better price: $5 a piece. And besides drinking very good bargain wine, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that Flip Flop donates money from all sales to Soles4Souls, which buys shoes for poor kids around the world.

This Chardonnay is not oaky or overly dry, but it's a great before-dinner or deck wine for wine snobs like us who want to save a little money.

The last wine we'll mention is Flip Flops Pinot Grigio, also offered at $5 at our local supermarket. We're not big Pinot Grigio fans, but we know a lot of you are, so this one is definitely worth picking up if you're a PG lover.

Little Lettuce Cups: Big Burst of Flavor

Traditional Thai restaurants often serve a tasty offering that is part salad, part grazing buffet and part appetizer. Those three parts equal a whole lot of flavor in your mouth, and a great way to turn on your taste buds.

It's a very simple idea: some sour, some sweet, some salt, some fruit.

For our cups we used baby romaine leaves, but any green will do. We've had them in cabbagey Asian greens, Boston lettuce leaves and green leaf lettuce.

The idea is to put a little of each of seven ingredients into the leaf along with an Asian sauce, then roll it up and pop it in your mouth. A wonderful, before-meal treat.

The sauce can be sweet or savory. For ours, we mixed two Tablespoons of Hoisin sauce, two Tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter and one Tablespoon of soy sauce. If you want spicy, add a teaspoon or less of rooster paste or srirachi sauce.

The seven tasty ingredients:

Coconut, sweet or savory, toasted in a small dry pan
Peanuts, not salted, toasted in a dry pan
Ginger, chopped
Lime, chopped into small pieces, skin included if you want
Peppers, chopped, any degree of heat from jalapeƱo to bell. We used banana pepper
Onion, either raw or toasted
Shrimp, either cooked or dried. If you're vegetarian, keep the sea taste by including dried seaweed used for sushi rolls.

When we make ours, we smear the sauce on the lettuce to act as a kind of paste. Then we add about a half teaspoon of coconut, a couple of peanuts, a pinch of onion, a pinch of peppers and one piece each of ginger, lime and shrimp.

Roll it up and pop it in your mouth for a fresh and wonderful burst of flavor.

A nice crisp wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Grigio, or unoaked Chardonnay is a nice accompaniment.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Danny Redlin's Foolproof Bread

Tim and Ruth are still flailing around and unable to post, but luckily our much-appreciated guest bloggers are stepping up! Ro Ann Redlin's son, Danny, appears to following in his mom's footsteps as a fine cook, and he offers this recipe for what he swears is foolproof bread. The recipe comes courtesy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.

The Master Recipe: Boule  (Artisan Free-Form Loaf)

Makes four one -pound loaves

3 c. lukewarm water
1 1⁄2 T granulated yeast (1 1⁄2 packets)
1 1⁄2 T coarse kosher or sea salt
6 1⁄2 c. unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour
Cornmeal for pizza peel

The artisan free-form loaf called the French boule is the basic model for all the no-knead recipes. The round shape (boule in French means “ball”) is the easiest to master. You’ll learn how wet the dough needs to be (wet, but not so wet that the finished loaf won’t retain its form) and how to shape a loaf without kneading. And you’ll discover a truly revolutionary approach to baking: Take some dough from the fridge, shape it, leave it to rest, then let it bake while you’re preparing the rest of the meal.
Keep your dough wet — wetter doughs favor the development of sourdough character during storage. 

1. Heat the water to just a little warmer than body temperature (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit).

2. Add yeast and salt to the water in a five-quart bowl or, preferably, a resealable, lidded container (not airtight — use container with gasket or lift a corner). Don’t worry about getting it all to dissolve.

3. Mix in the flour by gently scooping it up, then leveling the top of the measuring cup with a knife; don’t pat down. Mix with a wooden spoon, a high-capacity food processor with dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook, until uniformly moist. If hand-mixing becomes too difficult, use very wet hands to press it together. Don’t knead! This step is done in a matter of minutes, and yields a wet dough loose enough to conform to the container.

4. Cover loosely. Do not use screw-topped jars, which could explode from trapped gases. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flatten on top), approximately two hours, depending on temperature. Longer rising times, up to about five hours, will not harm the result. You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period. Refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and easier to work with than room-temperature dough. We recommend refrigerating the dough at least three hours before shaping a loaf. And relax! You don’t need to monitor doubling or tripling of volume as in traditional recipes.

5. Prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent the loaf from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven. Sprinkle the surface of the dough with flour, then cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-sized) piece with a serrated knife. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on four “sides,” rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go, until the bottom is a collection of four bunched ends. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it doesn’t need to be incorporated. The bottom of the loaf will flatten out during resting and baking.

6. Place the ball on the pizza peel. Let it rest uncovered for about 40 minutes. Depending on the dough’s age, you may see little rise during this period; more rising will occur during baking.

7. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on another shelf.

8. Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour, which will allow the slashing, serrated knife to pass without sticking. Slash a 1⁄4-inch-deep cross, scallop or tick-tac-toe pattern into the top. (This helps the bread expand during baking.)

9. With a forward jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the baking stone. Quickly but carefully pour about a cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is browned and firm to the touch. With wet dough, there’s little risk of drying out the interior, despite the dark crust. When you remove the loaf from the oven, it will audibly crackle, or “sing,” when initially exposed to room temperature air. Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire rack, for best flavor, texture and slicing. The perfect crust may initially soften, but will firm up again when cooled.

10. Refrigerate the remaining dough in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next two weeks: You’ll find that even one day’s storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread. This maturation continues over the two-week period. Cut off and shape loaves as you need them. The dough can also be frozen in 1-pound portions in an airtight container and defrosted overnight in the refrigerator prior to baking day.

Ro Ann notes: It takes a few minutes to stir. It rises and you 'cloak' it (get it in an acceptable round shape by pulling the edge over the whole round in a continuous motion.) Then shove it in the oven. Voila! I have watched him make it a lot and I continue to be amazed.  

Ruth and Tim note: We can't wait to try this. Will it displace Mark Bittman's No-Knead Bread in our affections? We'll find out. Thanks, Danny!