Chicago-Style Pan Pizza


Chicago-Style Pan Pizza

[Makes two, 9 inch pizzas or 5-6 small personal pan pizzas]

Dough

  • 2 T olive oil, plus extra for greasing the pans
  • 3/4 c plus 2 T skim milk heated to 110 degrees
  • 2 t sugar
  • 2 1/3 c all-purpose flour, plus extra for the work surface
  • 1 envelope rapid-rise or instant yeast
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 1/3 spaghetti or pizza sauce, your favorite
  • 3 c shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1. To make the dough: Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. When the oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. Lightly grease a large bowl with vegetable oil spray. Coat each of two 9-inch cake pans generously with oil. (I used 5 small cake pans that I have that are the perfect size for a personal pan pizza).

2. Mix the milk, sugar, and 2 T oil in a measuring oil in a measuring cup.

3. If using a standing mixer: Mix the flour, yeast, and salt in a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn the machine to low and slowly add the milk mixture. After the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium-low and mix until the dough is shiny and smooth, about 5 minutes.

4. If mixing by hand: Mix the flour, yeast, and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the flour, then pour the milk mixture into the well. Using a wooden spoon, stir until the dough becomes shaggy and difficult to stir. Turn out onto a heavily floured work surface and knead, incorporating any shaggy scraps. Knead until the dough is smooth, about 10 minutes.

5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, gently shape into a ball, and place in the warm oven until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

6. To shape and top the dough: Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, divide in half ( or fifths if you are making smaller pizzas, and lightly roll each half into a ball. Press the dough into a 91/2 round inside the oiled cake pan if making 2 pizzas. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot (not in the oven) until puffy and slightly risen, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees.

7. Remove the plastic wrap from the dough. Ladle about 2/3 c of the sauce on each round, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges. Sprinkle each with about 1 1/2 c of cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven; let the pizzas rest in the pans for 1 minute. Using a spatula, transfer the pizzas to a cutting board and cut each into 8 wedges. Serve.

Mac & Four Cheese Gratin with Truffle Oil in Le Creuset’s Mini Cocottes


I’ve been eyeing these beauties for years–these Le Creuset mini cocottes in red. (These are the enameled iron one’s, not the pottery versions). Perhaps I’ve been drawn to these beauties because of their diminutive size, or maybe it’s because of their name–cocotte. You do know what a cocotte is, right? Yes, one definition is ‘a shallow baking dish,’ but the other? Look it up. Meanings aside, it’s their impracticality that makes them so appealing to me–perfect for a Valentine’s Day meal.

What can you possibly make in these mini Dutch ovens, you may ask? The possibilities are endless. I imagine adorable little pot pies, souffles, soups, appetizers…and Mac & Cheese!

I chose to make Mac & Cheese in an attempt to recreate one of my favorite dishes from Cheesetique in Alexandria. This is definitely not low-calorie, but come on, Valentine’s Day only comes around once a year, so I splurged.

Macaroni and Four Cheese Gratin with Truffle Oil

Adapted from Le Creuset’s Mac & Cheese Recipe

This recipe serves 4, but I only have two mini cocottes, so I put the remaining mac and cheese in a small Le Creuset baker.

Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 18 oz winter durum wheat macaroni
  • 1 oz (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus 1 tbl
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 oz Gorgonzola
  • 2 oz Fontina
  • 2 oz Marscarpone
  • 2 oz Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 cup panko or bread crumbs
  • Truffle oil, to taste (I drizzled a teaspoon or so on each mini)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Tip: Cheeses with higher fat content melt better than those that with a lower one! So combine your favorites: creamy Fontina, Gorgonzola, buffalo mozzarella, Parmigano Reggiano.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly butter 2 mini cocottes (and the small baker, or ramekins) .
  2. Cook macaroni in boiling salted water for about 8 minutes; it should be al dente; not entirely cooked.  Pass the pasta under cold running water to stop them from cooking.
  3. Melt the butter in a small pan over a low flame. Add the cream, the Gorgonzola,
    the Fontina, the Marscarpone and the Parmigiano Reggiano (reserving 4
    tablespoons for the top). Stir the cheese until all are well melted. Add salt and
    freshly ground pepper to taste.
  4. In a separate pan, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Once it’s melted, add the panko or breadcrumbs to lightly coat.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and divide into 2 mini-cocottes and baker dish. Sprinkle the
    rest of the Parmigiano Reggiano over each cocotte along with a little bit of panko or breadcrumbs to your liking. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and crusty looking. On taking them out of the oven, let them rest for 5 minutes before serving. Drizzle a little bit of truffle oil on each, to taste.

Locally Sourced Jordanian Olive Oil Factory Tour at Terra Rossa


Finding things to do and places to visit in Jordan on the weekends is becoming more and more tedious as we knock things off the list. We’ve already hit the major tourist sites, scoured the guide-book, and are now left to our own devices and suggestions from others for things to do. Luckily for us, a tour of an olive oil plant was offered so we took advantage of the opportunity. (In case you didn’t know (I didn’t), Jordan is known for its olive oil. Olive trees are everywhere here and are the known as the oldest trees in the world. We often see people collecting olives from the trees in the neighborhoods).

Had we not been part of a caravan to the factory, we would have passed it by, as we’ve already done on numerous occasions. The exterior of the factory is unassuming, like most buildings here, but once we entered, I was surprised to see such a large operation. We went on a brief tour of the factory, sampled a couple different types of olive oil, grabbed a snack, and then bought a few things in the gift shop.

[FYI: The name of the factory is Terra Rossa, or ‘Red Soil,’ named for the indigenous type of red clay soil produced by the weathering of limestone. Compared to most clay soils, terra rossa has good drainage characteristics making it a popular soil type for olive and wine production. The main types of olives used for the production of olive oil in Jordan are Nabali, Improved Nabali, Souri, and Roman.]

The process for olive milling (or pressing) is as follows:

Olives being fed into the machine to be washed
Olives moving up into the machine to be washed
Washing the olives

1. Washing: The first step is to clean the olives, removing stems, leaves, twigs, and other debris left with the olives. 

Grinding the olives with a millstone

2. Crushing: The olives are ground into a paste with a millstone to tear the flesh cells of the olive to facilitate the release of the oil from the olives.

Malaxing the paste

3. Malaxing: Mixing the crushed olive paste.

Separating the oil from the vegetable water and solid

 

4. Separation of oil from vegetable water and solid (done through centrifugation)

Huge canisters of olive oil ready for delivery
Olive pomace, the waste product of the industry (but it can be used for cooking if and heating if it's made into briquette logs.)
In front of an old millstone

After the tour we tasted a couple of olive oil samples and then were treated to manaeesh (dough topped with za’atar (thyme with sesame seeds and olive oil) or cheese), which were cooked over an open fire of olive pomace logs.

Preparing manaeesh

After our snack and tea, we made it to the gift shop to purchase a few bottles of sinolea olive oil and a couple of terra-cotta serving bowls to accompany the oil. I haven’t tried cooking with this gold standard of olive oil (and we’ll have to keep it in the food safe with our honey from Yemen), but I’ll let you know if I can detect any difference and if it’s worth it.  🙂

Store shelves lined in oils
The purchases...

[FYI: Sinolea is a method used to extract oil from the olives. Extra virgin olive oil extracted from this method is said to be the “flower of the oil” as there is minimal interference in the extraction of the oil because no heat is applied. In this method of extraction, polyphenols (the good for you stuff in EVOO) are concentrated 3X more than in regular EVOO.]

Homemade Membrillo or Quince Paste


While scouring grocery stores last week in search of pumpkin puree and figs (to make jam, but I’m too late; they’re gone), I came across quinces. Had these quinces not been labeled, I would have walked right past them, as I’m oft to do with some of the other exotic and puzzling produce that I come across. My only familiarity to quince is from membrillo, or quince paste, which often accompanies cheese boards. I love membrillo and have bought it from gourmet grocery stores, but it’s extremely expensive for a small container. I had no idea how to make quince paste from these large, lumpy, and furry massive fruits, but figured I’d find a recipe online.

I bought four quinces, figuring that would be enough to make something and headed home to my computer. I found hundreds of recipes, all slightly different. Some called for peeling, then poaching the fruit, while others recommended roasting it. From what I read, the fruit is quite worthless unless you cook it first. I opted for the roasting method, hoping to avoid the peeling step, and modified a recipe from Gourmet (January, 1998). 

My only alteration to the recipe below is that in step six, you wait until the liquid has turned a deep reddish hue. My quince paste is a little on the pinkish side as opposed to the deep, dark red that it should be. Regardless of the color, it tastes fantastic and was a hit at our Thanksgiving.

In addition to finding lots of recipes, I also found the history of quinces interesting. Here’s a snippet of quince trivia, which might come in hand if you’re ever playing the game Foodie Fight.

http://stores.renstore.com/-strse-template/0810a/Page.bok

INGREDIENTS

4 medium quinces (about 2 pounds total)
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
2 to 3 cups sugar

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly oil a 1-quart terrine and line with buttered parchment. (I used a mini loaf pan instead.)

Mini loaf as a terrine (I only needed one)

2. Scrub quinces and pat dry. (My quinces had a strange, furry coating that I rubbed off). In a small roasting pan bake quinces, covered with foil, in middle of oven until tender, about 2 hours, and transfer pan to a rack.

After quinces have roasted

3. When quinces are cool enough to handle, with a sharp knife peel, quarter, and core them.
4. In a food processor puree pulp with 1/4 cup water until smooth (if mixture is too thick, add remaining 1/4 cup water a little at a time, as needed). Force puree through a large fine sieve or cheese cloth into a liquid cup measure and measure amount of puree.

Into the food processor

5. Transfer puree to a 3-quart heavy saucepan and add an equivalent amount of sugar.

I ended up adding 2 cups of sugar

6. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Cook quince puree over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until it is thickened and begins to pull away from side of pan, about 25 minutes. (Keep stirring until the liquid has turned a deep reddish color).

I should have waited until the color was a deeper reddish

7. Pour puree into terrine, smoothing top with an offset spatula. Place in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes to further dry the quince paste. Cool and chill puree, loosely covered with plastic wrap, until set, about 4 hours.

Paste in the terrine

8. Run a thin knife around sides of terrine and invert quince paste onto a platter. (Quince paste keeps, wrapped well in wax paper and then plastic wrap and chilled, 3 months–I’ve also read that it keeps indefinitely. The sugar works as a preservative).

After 4 hours in the refrigerator
Finished product

9. Slice paste and serve with cheese and crackers.

The cheese board
Served with homemade crackers

Makes about 2 1/4 pounds quince paste.

Pop-Quiz: How Do You Convert a Stick of Butter to Tablespoons?


 Pop quiz of the day: 

Background to the problem

You’re living in Jordan. You like to bake and are used to using unsalted sticks of butter like the one below. Notice anything different about the stick of butter? The size? The width? The package?

Say you want to make chocolate chip cookies for your STARVING and sweet-deprived husband. You need 10 tablespoons (or 1/2 cup of butter, plus 2 tablespoons). Normally, you’d use one stick of butter (equalling 8 tablespoons) and cut two additional tablespoons from another stick, right?  You buy what look like ordinary sticks of unsalted butter at the grocery store, but…there’s always a but here….you open up the packaging and are puzzled. There ARE NO TICK MARKS on the packaging to indicate the measurement of butter. What do you do?

a. You get out a tablespoon and manually measure the butter (all 10 of them, what a waste of time and end up making a BIG mess–remember, you don’t have a dishwasher, either).

b. You make an estimate, knowing full well that you may have wasted PRECIOUS ingredients that are hard to come by here (chocolate chips) and are insanely expensive (pure vanilla extract–kept in the safe next to the salami).

c. You attempt to get resourceful and create your own measuring device.

d. You cry and get upset that your husband made you come here to the land of butter without measurement.

e. You _______________ (fill in the blank with your own response).

I’m sure there’s some logical explanation for how people here measure butter here, but I’m fresh out of ideas…

My answer?

C

Here’s my first attempt at creating my own measuring guide.  It worked for the single-wide sticks, but threw me off on the BIG-DADDY, double-wide sticks.

Option C.

The next conundrum: how to measure a double-wide stick of butter.

Luckily for me, my sister had forwarned me prior to moving (and based on her experiences cooking in Italy) that I’d need a scale for measuring ingredients. I bought the scale a while ago, threw it under a cabinet, never to be seen, until the butter threw me for a loop!  As I was unpacking the scale I discovered, to my utter delight, a conversion booklet for all sorts of things. I flipped to the page titled  “fats” and hit pay dirt. OMG! Hallelujah! Now I’m able to accurately measure my butter (along with other “fats” using the scale).

Problem solved, for me at least, so I suppose the real pop-quiz here is: How do Jordanian’s convert their sticks of butter into tablespoons?

Love! Love! Love my scale!!!

Anniversary Dinner In: Grilled Basil Chicken, Orzo Salad & Cocoa Cake


Anniversary Flowers from Raj

Today is our seventh wedding anniversary. Normally, we’d go out, exchange gifts, cards, go away for the weekend…but not this year. Dinner out during Ramadan means buffets for iftar, and I DO NOT DO buffets, especially on special occasions. So, to avoid the buffet bar, I’m cooking our meal tonight, which isn’t a problem, except for the ingredient thing that keeps getting in the way of good food. I searched through my paltry shelves of cookbooks last week, which prompted my previous post, and found a few things to make tonight that I’d normally not consider special:

  • Grilled Chicken with Basil Dressing
  • Orzo with Garbanzo Beans, Red Onion, Basil, and Mint
  • Rich Cocoa Cake
I went to Miles, the closest thing we have here to Balducci’s or Whole Foods, and bought most of the items off my list with the exception of  sour cream (is it really that exotic?). I was able to find sour cream at another store and you would have thought that I bought gold! It was about $3 JD’s for an itty bitty little plastic container–the size of a container of sour cream that you get at Mexican restaurant. The only basil I could find was brown and spotty, but I bought it anyway to avoid having to go to another store this morning. When I looked at it this morning it was beyond repair and smelled terrible. As a result, I had to practically strip my sole living plant–a basil plant–of almost all of its leaves. There was no alternative though. The basil was rancid!
Practically 'naked' basil plant
Here’s the recipe for the Chicken:
2/3 cup EVOO
3 tbl plus 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds (lightly crushed)
1 1/3 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
6 boneless, skinless breast halves
1 cup lightly packed basil leaves
1 large garlic clove
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
In a resealable plastic bag, combine 1/3 cup of the oil. 3 tbl. of the lemon juice, the fennel seeds, 3/4 tsp. of the salt, and 1/2 tsp. of the pepper. Add the chicken and seal the bag. Massage the marinade into the chicken. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours, turning the chicken occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a blender, blend the basil, garlic, lemon zest, remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper until smooth. Gradually blend in the remaining 1/3 cup oil. Season with salt and pepper until smooth. Season the basil sauce to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired.
Prepare a grill for medium high heat (or a grill pan over medium high-heat). Grill the chicken until just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a platter and drizzle with the basil sauce and serve.
The Pasta Salad:
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups orzo
1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups mixed red and yellow teardrop tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
3/4 cup red wine vinaigrette (below)
salt and pepper
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy sauce pan over high heat. Stir in the orzo. Cover partially and cook, stirring frequently, until the orzo is tender but still firm to the bite, about 7 minutes. Drain the orzo through a strainer. Transfer the orzo to a large, wide bowl and toss until the orzo cools slightly. Set aside to cool completely.
Toss the orzo with the beans, tomatoes, onion, basil, mint, and enough vinaigrette to coat; you may not need all 3/4 cup. Season the salad to taste with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.
For the vinaigrette:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (* called red grape vinegar here–no drinking!!!)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup EVOO
Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
Rich Cocoa Cake:
1/2 cup cold water
2 tbl. (heaping) cocoa powder (I use Penzeys)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
3 tbl. unsalted butter
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups sifted flour
Icing:
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup cocoa powder
dash salt
6-8 cups powdered sugar (I only used about 3 cups)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2-3 tbl. hot water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 8-inch cake pans and set aside (I used 4×2 cake pans and it made 4 little cakes. I froze two for a later date). In a small saucepan, mix together the cold water and cocoa powder. Heat over medium, stirring constantly, until the mixture starts to boil. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. The mix should be paste-like. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the sugars and butter. Add the eggs, salt and vanilla extract and mix well. Add the cocoa mixture and beat well. In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, milk and baking soda. Gradually add the sour cream mix to the batter, alternating with the flour. Beat well after each addition. Pour into pans and bake at 350 degrees for 22-26 minutes. Use a toothpick to test or note that the cake is fully risen and pulling away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Remove from the pans and let cool thoroughly before icing.
For the icing, cream together the butter and cocoa powder until fluffy. Add the salt. Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating well. Add the vanilla extract and mix well. Add just enough water to reach your desired consistency.
The consistency of the batter is like caramel
Aren’t these the cutest little cakes!

Cooking & Living on a Deserted Island


I realized yesterday that I’ve been here now for TWO months (and only have 20 months left of my sentence, j/k) and have cooked only a handful of meals. Why? I’ve determined this is for three reasons:

  • Firstly, Raj severely limited the number of cookbooks (ANY books for that matter) that I could bring with me. He scared me into thinking that my books would fall off of a container and into the water, never to be seen again (where is the water he was speaking of?). Back in February when I was struggling with which books to bring, Raj asked, “How would you feel if your signed books were lost, or stolen, or fell off a ship?” (Note: most of my books and cookbooks are signed by the authors and have been collected over years and Raj was playing on my sentimentality.) Can you believe this logic worked on me? (What’s worse, this logic worked for just about every item in the house, which is why there’s so little sense of home here.) I remember thinking that this all sounded logical, as if book bandits would be searching though our containers for autographed Brian Selznick books or Julia Child’s cookbooks.  He had me so concerned that I agreed to his mandate, which limited me to TWO boxes, which is NOTHING and I’m realizing that I’m not very fond of many, strike that, ANY of the cookbooks that I’ve brought. (I’m making a case to buy more cookbooks.)
                                                                                                                                  Here are what the contents of two boxes of cookbooks look like on my sad and lonely bookshelves.
  • Secondly, I HATE grocery shopping here! The stores aren’t that far away, but with the few cookbooks that I have, I can’t find the ingredients that I’m looking for. Yeah, I know, the solution is to improvise, explore the local foods, but I don’t feel like it…not now anyway. Further complicating matters right now is that it’s Ramadan for the entire month of August. What does this have to do with anything? Well, since everyone fasts all day, they feast at night and pillage the grocery store shelves leaving little by way of stock.
  • Lastly, as I’ve complained all along, my kitchen is not functional. I was making pizza dough last weekend and plugged in my Kitchen Aid to the electrical circuit, which is an extension cord that goes up to the converter box (you know the 1970s contraption that I had to hide from my line of sight?). (FYI, in case you’re worried, pizza night has not suffered. It’s still going strongly, every Friday, despite the cooking downturn.) As I was adjusting the speed, I kept feeling a tingling sensation. It took me a few more adjustments to realize I was getting shocked. Now, in order to use ANY of the small appliances that I brought, I have to disconnect everything in order to plug one thing in at a time. You’re thinking ‘what’s the big deal,’ right? The big deal is that the plugs are ALL above the cabinets so that I don’t have to see them. The issue is that unplugging everything requires me to get out the step-ladder, adjust the cords, re-hide the cords after I’m finished…it’s too much work. Did I mention that I’ve gained weight since I’ve gotten here too? Another reason not to cook!!!
So what’s my point? Long story long, I have a question to pose:
If you were moving abroad and were told that you could only bring ONE cookbook with you, which cookbook would it be and why?
When answering this, don’t take into account any of my gripes. Assume you don’t know what type of kitchen you’ll be cooking in and you’re not sure what types of food are available. Just choose your favorite, most indispensable cookbook and tell me why it’s so wonderful. Let’s see how many of your suggestions I’ll be placing in my next Amazon shopping cart.
Prior to arriving, my go to book was this one:
I still love this book, just not here. Most of the ingredients of my favorite recipes are nowhere to be found.

When Life Gives You Lemons (or there are protests going on so you can’t go out), Make Non-Fat, Greek-Style Yogurt in a Crock Pot


For weeks now, I’ve been pestering Raj to take me to the Citadel. Unfortunately, due to protests going on downtown, we were unable to go (safety first), again, resulting in house arrest. What else is there to do when you’re out of Netflix DVD’s, it’s too hot to lay out, and there’s nothing to eat? Make yogurt.

Now you might be wondering why I’d bother to make yogurt when it’s so plentiful in grocery stores, right? Around here, yogurt is NOT real yogurt, at least not by my standards (Raj might disagree with me and he’ll point out that I’m petrified of FULL-FAT anything, so the real challenge, I suppose, is finding HEALTHY, nonfat yogurt). Dairy products here (yogurt, eggs, whipping cream, heavy cream, milk, etc.) are bought on shelves, not refrigerated,
and mostly U.H.T., or ultra pasteurized. The shelf life of these products is YEARS (I find this frightening and disconcerting to see milk and eggs in the aisles of the stores!!!). Ultra pasteurization essentially kills everything, leaving the these products less than nutritional. It’s just not right, so I sought out an alternative to the tasteless yogurt that I’ve been eating.

I scoured the Internet for recipes to make my own yogurt, which wasn’t difficult given the ‘slow’ food movement of the hour. I found a lot of recipes calling for the use of a crock pot, which I didn’t have, but quickly ordered on Amazon. When the crock arrived, I thought I was set to venture into the world of homemade yogurt until I realized that in order to make yogurt, I’d have to find milk that was pasteurized, not ultra pasteurized. Raj and I spent a couple of days in the dairy sections of the grocery stores looking for REAL milk and finally hit pay dirt.

Here’s the recipe that I followed. It’s a synthesis of of the recipes that I found online. They all varied a little, but I had great success with this one.

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups (1/2 gallon) non-fat (skimmed, as it’s called here) milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (with active, live cultures) [After this first batch, you save 1/2 cup of your own yogurt to put into each subsequent batch]
  • optional: vanilla extract for flavoring
Make sure the milk is pasteurized, not UHT or Ultra
Directions:
  1. Place the milk into the crock pot, cover with lid and set on “Low” for 2.5 hours.
Cook on "Low"
Place the lid on the crock
Set the timer for 2.5 hours
2. Unplug the crock after 2.5 hours and let the milk sit in the crock for 3 hours.
After 2.5 hours
Unplug and let sit for 3 more hours

3. Take 2 cups of milk and stir in 1/2 cup of yogurt with ‘active/live cultures.’ Stir back into milk mixture. Replace lid on crock.

Add 1/2 cup of yogurt with 'active/live cultures'

 

4. Wrap the crock (still off and unplugged) in a large towel to insulate it from drafts and leave overnight (at least 8 hours, untouched).

5. Place cheese cloth over a colander and drain for a couple of hours in the refrigerator, to the thickness of your preference (I was going for Greek-style thickness).

 

Use cheese cloth to drain the whey

 

It's the thickness of regular yogurt now, but I want it THICKER

 

Straining. It looks really lumpy.
About 2 cups of whey
6. Optional: Add flavor and/or sweetness.
Adding vanilla extract and honey for flavor
7. Don’t forget to save 1/2 cup for your next batch.
The finished product. Perfect!!!
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this yogurt. It was thick and tangy. It didn’t even need the vanilla extract. I served it with walnuts, honey and a banana. It’s so worth the effort, even if you have Greek yogurt readily available to you because it’s so cheap (okay, maybe not, but I’ll pretend that I’ll keep making this when I go home. The truth is, I can’t wait to get back to Whole Foods to buy my favorite brand, but meantime, it’s a good replacement).

Quick Fix Meal after a Day in Madaba: Moroccan Chicken Skewers with Couscous with Currents, Mint, and Parsley


Moroccan Chicken Skewers with Couscous with Currents, Barberries (if I could find them), Mint, and Parsley

We came home exhausted from our excursion to Madaba yesterday afternoon, but I’m not sure why because we didn’t really do much or even walk that far. Lucky for me, I had prepared the marinade Friday afternoon to let the chicken marinate overnight and only needed to prepare the couscous, which only took about 30 minutes.
I love this recipe from Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes because it’s quick (with some advance planning), doesn’t require the use of my propane oven (it’s grilled) and it’s always good.
We sat on the back patio, enjoyed the cool breeze, and drank some excellent, inexpensive Rose (only $4 JD’s).

Moroccan Chicken Skewers

Marinade:

  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbl. ground cumin
  • 1 tbl. caraway seeds
  • 1 tbl. sambal oelek (or ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes)
  • 1 tbl. paprika
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 pinch saffron threads

Chicken:

  • 2.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken cut into 1.5 in. pieces
  • Salt & pepper
  • chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

Marinade: Puree the marinade ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Thread the chicken onto bamboo skewers and place in a large baking dish. Pour marinade over chicken and turn to coat well. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

To make the chicken: Preheat the grill to medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and grill until no longer pink and cooked through, turning frequently, abut 10 minutes.

Transfer the skewers to a platter. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Couscous with Currents, Barberries, and Mint

  • 3 tbl. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 2 cups couscous
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup currants
  • ¼ cup barberries (optional; found at Persian stores)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tbl. chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp. grated orange zest
  • Salt and pepper

Combine the olive oil, garlic, salt, turmeric, and 2.5 cups water in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the couscous. Cover and let stand 5 minutes.

Fluff the couscous with a fork and transfer it to a large bowl. Cool slightly.

Stir in the green onions, pine nuts, currants, barberries, mint, orange zest, orange juice, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Channeling My Inner Domestic Goddess with Friday Night Pizza


Getting used to doing NOTHING is difficult. There’s only so much running (in a not so nice gym and on a treadmill to boot) and lonely yoga one can do before insanity sets in. I’ve organized the home as much as possible, I have nothing to buy (and have shopping issues–see post 1 number 9 on the list), and no friends. What’s a girl to do? Cook.

Friday night pizza has been a tradition of Raj and mine for years. I’ve been sick of it for years because there’s no deviation from the type of pizza that is served. It’s always the same: whole wheat crust, tomato sauce, pepperoni on his side, and mozzarella (barely any on my side). I’ve occasionally and unsuccessfully tried to slip in a fig and prosciutto pizza with arugula, or even a white pizza, but Raj always insists on what he considers the gold standard–pepperoni. [If you’ve ever been invited to our home for dinner, you’ve most likely had THIS pizza. It would seem to most that this is my ONLY recipe. I only make pizza. Not true. I love to cook, but this is the dish Raj wants to share with EVERYONE.] If you’d like to see an homage to Raj and HIS pizza, here’s a link to Penzey’s catalog. The recipe was featured last fall: http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/recipes/JenniferPalumboMaan.html

Similar to the eggplant caponata of the previous post, there’s always a Middle Eastern snag. Here in Jordan (as you might have guessed) pork products are nearly impossible to find (and I’ve scoured three grocery stores thus far).  What we’re left with is  “beef” pepperoni and it’s not pretty. In fact, it reminds me of bologna. Yum.

Despite my trepidation to return to the kitchen with the lack of ventilation and the propane burning oven (you can see the blue flame burning brightly inside the oven where the heating element is usually housed), I gathered up my strength and courage and mightily slew the culinary dragons lurking in the open cabinets to prepare a feast like none other.  Here’s the menu (keeping in mind that everything is made from SCRATCH):

  • Focaccia with rosemary and sea salt served with caponata
  • Breadsticks and marinara sauce
  • Raj’s Pepperoni (bologna) Pizza
  • Pine nut and rosemary biscotti
It was a beautiful spread and I congratulated myself mightily. Raj commented that the crust on the pizza wasn’t as good as it was back home. I pushed. “What?” He claimed it must be the oven or the water. He still LOVED it, but it’s different, like everything else here. A taste of home, but with a Middle Eastern slant.