Thursday, June 25, 2009

Latkes (Potato Pancakes)

When I was little, I loved to visit my grammie. And she would always make latkes at least one day for lunch while we were visiting. Now that I have found a recipe that compares somewhat to hers I am thrilled. We always at our latkes with a big dollop of cottage cheese on the side. Delicious! And it is super simple recipe. These have great potato flavor because of the use of the potato starch.

4-5 medium potatoes
1 egg
salt and pepper
canola oil

Peel the potatoes. Then line a bowl with the cheesecloth (if you don't have this I have used a thinner kitchen towel, just be sure to rinse it after so it doesn't get stained from the potato starch), and shred the raw potatoes into the bowl. When all of the potatoes have been shredded wring as much of the liquid out of them with the cloth as possible into the bowl. Let this liquid sit for 5 minutes in the bowl. While it sits, heat oil in a large frying pan, enough to cover the bottom of the pan, to med-high heat. Once the liquid sits for 5 minutes the potato starch in the liquid settles to the bottom of the bowl, pour off just the liquid and not the potato starch (the starch in the bottom kind of looks like elmers school glue). Whisk together the egg, salt and pepper to taste and the potato starch. Then add in the shredded potatoes and mix it all up with a fork. Fry them a couple at a time in the oil until golden brown. I hold them in the oven on a cookie sheet at 200 degrees until I am finished cooking all of them.

My hints:

I use a 1/4 cup measure to keep them all about uniform size.
To get that nice creamy consistency in the middle when you first put them into the pan smash them down with the underside of the spatula.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

When Kids Make Bread

I'm probably known as the 'Bread Lady', at least for a while, to the Malaysians in D.C., as a result of this particular filled sweet bread. One Ramadan, the Malaysians asked if I could make 'more' for post Taraweeh. In Malaysia, there is a post tarawih indulgence, called more, which is usually a sweet porridge caller Bubur Caca. When the Malaysian Students Department staff paid a visit to Columbus that year, as they usually do each Ramadan, the Malaysian Student Association here had asked if I could make something for the iftar or more. They were to pay me for the cost, as funding was already available for this. I decided to make 200 small individual cream cheese rolls. All praises to Allah, it was a hit. I received suggestions to open a bakery or business. But that was not all. The next year, we went to D.C. for a conference, and stayed over at one of the staff's house. Our visit also included a tour in the Malaysian Embassy. That was when I realized that it wasn't just a hit, it had become history.

"So when are you going to make us more of that bread?" they kept asking me.

Their wives also asked me or told me about my 'bread'. I was flabbergasted. Of course, I smiled it off and made some awkward replies. I have to say that this recipe is quite fool proof, and the proof lies in the rise of the 'Bread Lady'.

Truth be told, I don't remember where I garnered this recipe from, but it is one of the best bread recipes I have tried in my bread-making endeavors. So far, I have filled it with the cream cheese filling, savory sardine cooked in tomato sauce filling, and chocolate cheese filling and orange cheese filling. Cream cheese filling is the favorite though.

One day, the kids decided to make this bread, all by themselves. I was quite hesitant, well, more like lazy to make it, because due to Baby Zayoudee's allergies, and my nursing him, I couldn't eat it anyway. So they got the green light from me and with minimal supervision from me, they labored in the kitchen making this bread.
This bread dough is not the one intended for this recipe, actually. The original bread dough recipe uses sour cream, which produces a much much more softer bread. Since I don't usually use sour cream for anything other than baking, I don't usually have it in my pantry. Nevertheless, this particular bread dough recipe is versatile and in my humble opinion, works very well for this Cream Cheese filled bread.

There is just something about braids that appeal to me. And apparently the kids too. Thus they decided to shape the bread like a Challah. Shaping the bread as individual rolls filled with the filling works too. It's pretty much any shape you want it to be, though with the filling, it can get pretty messy if you're not used to it. The other loaf, I shaped (yes, I finally plunged into the bread making activity too) simply into a rectangle that I spread with the filling. I enclosed it, seaming all sides, and then snipped the edges lengthwise at an angle, just enough to produce the second fat loaf in the photo below.

2 packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 tsp)
2/3 sugar divided ; 1 tsp + remaining
1 c warm water (105 -115 F)
1 tsp salt
1/2 c butter/margarine, softened
1/2 shortening
1 c boiling water
2 eggs beaten
6-7 c all purpose flour divided; 3 c + remaining

3/4 c sugar
2 16 oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla

1. Dissolve yeast with 1 tsp sugar and 1 c warm water2. Let stand 5 minutes
3. Combine remaining sugar, salt, butter, and shortening
4. Add boiling water, stirring till the butter and shortening melt
5. Cool slightly
6. Add dissolved yeast, eggs, and 3 c flour and mix till smooth
7. Gradually add enough remaining flour to make soft dough
8. Knead until surface of dough is smooth, and when poked with a finger, the indentation bounces back
9. Place in a greased bowl (oil is ok)
10. Cover and let rise 1 - 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size
11. Punch dough down to get rid of air pockets
12. Knead lightly, not too much, or the bread may not be as soft
13. Divide the dough into four portions.
14. As you work with one portion, keep the rest under the shelter of a clean towel.
15. Shape each as you like, filling it with the filling. For the Challah shape roll out the dough into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick and cut into three strips. Make sure each strip is wide enough for you to spread the filling and fold the seams closed. Braid these ropes into a Challah. Finish shaping all the portions and place them on greased baking sheets/pan, leaving enough room between them because they will double in size.
16. Cover and let rise 30-40 minutes or till doubled. Preheat oven to 325 F.
17. Brush the tops with egg wash (one egg yolk with a little milk, beat to combine) and sprinkle with sugar
18. Bake 20-25 min or till golden

One thing is for sure. Whatever shape you make them, when you sink your teeth into the fluffy softness followed by sweet yet tangy creamy filling, you're going to want to savor it for as long as you can.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Easy Crispy Baked Eggrolls

I made these tonight because I didn't want to pull out the fryer. And this way is healthier any way. They tasted delicious. I need to start keeping my camera in the kitchen while I am cooking to take pictures. I went out to take some pictures of the ones that were leftover only to discover that they had all been eaten, so next time insha'Allah. These were nice and crispy and the filling was just right.

1 package of egg roll squares (usually can be found in most supermarkets by the fresh veggies or organic sections)
1 bag of coleslaw mix (cabbage and carrots, shredded)
1 tablespoon of canola or other vegetable oil
some toasted sesame oil
hoisin sauce or my fav Soy Vey Hoisin Garlic

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Saute the coleslaw mix in the tablespoon of canola oil and a tablespoon of the toasted sesame oil. Drizzle some of the hoisin sauce over the coleslaw mix while it is sauteing in the pan. Once the mix is soft, place it in a mesh strainer to remove most of the liquid. Assemble the egg rolls according to the egg roll package. (I use a cornstarch slurry to dab on the edges of the egg roll squares as I roll them, this helps them to hold together and not separate while frying or baking.) Once they are assembled brush all sides of the egg rolls with the toasted sesame oil. Then place them on a cookie sheet and into the oven. Let them brown for 10 minutes, then flip and let them brown for another 10 minutes. It is very important to flip them after ten minutes, otherwise they will burn on one side and not be crispy on the other. I take them out and place them on a plate with paper towels and let them sit for 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Friday, June 12, 2009


Lasagna is a favorite in my house, we usually eat it about once a month. Since summer is coming I probably won't make it as much, but I usually get a request from those who do not have to stand in the hot kitchen and make it, heehee... And it is a good follow up to the tomato sauce recipe, since I use it in this recipe.

1/2-3/4 of the basic tomato sauce recipe (depending on how saucy you like it and if you like extra sauce on the side, my clan does :-)
16 oz container of ricotta cheese (if you are a traditionalist), or cottage cheese (if you are like my mom)
1 box of no boil lasagna noodles (I prefer Barilla)
1 pound of ground meat (beef, turkey, or lamb)
1 pound of mozzarella
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon of dried basil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Olive oil a 9x13 pan. Brown the meat in a skillet. Once brown add the tomato sauce and bring to a bubble then let simmer. In a bowl mix together the ricotta (or cottage) cheese, the Parmesan cheese, the egg and the basil. In the olive oiled pan place a small amount of the sauce in the bottom. Lay three noodle sheets on top of the sauce. Ladle some of the meat sauce onto the noodles. Take small spoonfuls of the cheese mixture and scatter them around the sauce. Then a layer of the mozzarella cheese. Continue layering until you have about 4-5 layers, ending with mozzarella with some additional Parmesan cheese if you like. Cover with foil sprayed with olive oil spray (any oven non stick spray will do)(this is so the cheese doesn't stick to the foil while baking). Put it in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Then take the foil off and return to the oven for an additional 20 minutes. After you pull it out for best results let it sit for 10-15 minutes to set.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Basic Tomato Sauce Recipe

A quickie introduction for me, since Em (my 3 yo daughter) is calling me, lol. I am a mom, daughter, wife and all around busy body. I love to cook, mostly traditionally American dishes. Right now I am learning to cook Indian food and loving it. This is a basic tomato sauce I use for many different things. It freezes great, and doubles fine. Usually I get the enormous cans of crushed tomatoes at Costco and make a large amount at one time and freeze several containers. I have also given it away to friends as it makes a quick meal for a new mom, new house, and newlywed couples :-)

3- 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons of fresh basil chopped
1/4 cup of minced garlic
2-3 red onions chopped
1/4 cup of good olive oil
salt, pepper and sugar to taste

saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil. add basil right at the end of the saute. add all of the tomatoes. add about a tablespoon of salt, some cracked black pepper, and a teaspoon of sugar (it will keep it from getting bitter). Stir to combine. Bring it to a bubble, and then reduce the heat and simmer for 3-4 hours.

I use it for spaghetti and lasagna (which, insha'Allah, I will be posting a recipe for soon :-)