Thursday, January 27, 2011

Whole Wheat Bread


This recipe has its roots in my American upbringing. It is quite different from the flat Middle Eastern bread that best accompanies many of the dishes on this blog, and I'm proud to include it here as one of the many delicious and healthy foods my mom made for us. It also marks a significant shift in the direction of this blog. My curiosity about and need for more Iraqi and Middle Eastern family recipes has not abated, and I will continue to both refine previously posted recipes and blog new ones. Nonetheless, I find myself longing to juxtapose and meld them with the food I loved as a child, and which I am now working to include in my family's day-to-day routines. So now I will be including the best and most enduring of my American family recipes, too. This is exciting to me because it more accurately reflects a marriage as the melding of two pasts into one present, with the daily endeavor of embodying one's best and (hopefully) shedding of one's worst.

My mother, who is a fantastic cook and surely the reason I am so curious about food today, got this bread recipe from a friend, adapted it to our family's preferences, and made it often. I've changed it, too. It was an important staple in our home during a vegetarian (and nearly vegan) phase in our history. It's a stacked deck of very good stuff, and becomes a bigger winner as fresher ingredients are used. Lately for convenience I haven't used freshly milled whole wheat flour, but I know from first-hand experience that doing so bumps the flavor up a major notch. As many of the seeds and nuts called for are expensive and prone to go rancid quickly, why not be choosy? Include only your favorites and freeze what's left for later.

It's worth noting that I prefer this bread toasted unless it is made with fresh milled whole wheat flour, making it an ideal breakfast choice. As it's already full of rich ingredients, rather than slathering on butter (which is not a bad idea, by the way), we smash a banana or a couple of strawberries into the bread after toasting for a fresh and delicious taste surprise. Almond butter is another very nutritious spread (although densely caloric) that pairs well here. The Scientist favors white bread so this isn't a favorite for him, but our baby loves it, and I feel good giving it to her.

So, with pleasure and without further ado...the first American recipe of the new Marriage of Taste, Whole Wheat Bread.


Whole Wheat Bread
Makes three loaves
(8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 pans)

2 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. very warm water
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup brown sugar or honey
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. yeast
1 cup either uncooked quick oats or cooked old fashioned oats, cooled to lukewarm
1/2 cup rye flour

Bonus optional ingredients (use the absolute freshest possible)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds or pine nuts
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/2 chopped walnuts or pecans

Obviously not optional
7 cups total whole wheat flour and/or white whole wheat flour, freshly milled if possible.

Butter the bottom and corners of pans, sprinkle some cornmeal over the butter. Tap out the excess cornmeal.

In a large bowl on a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment on the lowest setting, mix the first 8 ingredients well. Add the nuts and seeds and combine. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, switching to the dough hook after the 4th cup. Continue on the lowest setting for 1-2 minutes longer. The dough at this point will be dense, sticky, and difficult to handle, and the gluten strands will be clearly visible and clinging to the sides of the bowl. Form into 3 loaves, place into pans and let rise for 70 minutes in a warm location. The dough will have expanded to the edges of the pans and domed prettily.

20 minutes before baking time, pre-heat oven to 350°F. Bake for 35 minutes, rotating pans after 25 minutes to promote even browning.

Remove bread from pans right away and cool on racks to allow air to circulate all around the loaves. It's best to allow bread to cool completely before slicing.

-In the wintertime I place the loaves in the oven to rise, turn it on for just a minute or so, then turn off the oven and let the bread rise for 50 minutes. I remove the loaves to the stove top to rise the last 20 minutes while the oven pre-heats.
-I use whatever yeast I find at Costco in the enormous bag (currently Red Star), because it's super economical and works beautifully.
-My bread pans are not all the same size, but I've never had a problem with the loaves coming out over- or under-baked, although it does affect the height of the slices.
-I do like to rotate the pans part-way through baking to brown all sides equally.
-Once it's cooled completely, I slice the loaves and freeze them in Ziplocks (awkward but effective), then remove and toast up a slice whenever the baby needs a quick bite.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Creamy Shallot Dip from Sevan


As a kid, sour cream and onion potato chips were one of three absolute favorite grocery store snacks, beef jerky and dill pickles being the other two. As I got older, I was gradually awakened to the deflating reality that those powdery green-flecked slivers of potato-esque goodness weren't as transcendent as I had once believed. Fast forward through 20 years of relative snacking disappointment until last year when The Scientist's cousin-in-law made us this dip. Sour cream n' onion is back, only now it's genuinely tasty. Of course this recipe isn't Iraqi, but it is a family favorite, so enjoy!


Creamy Shallot Dip from Sevan
2 cups plain strained yogurt (Greek or lebne)
1-2 Tbsp. finely diced shallot, to taste
1/2 - 1 tsp. kosher salt, to taste

Stir to combine and refrigerate 1-4 hours before serving to allow flavors to develop. It's good the next day, too!

This recipe is a welcome and additive-free addition to party trays. Serve with potato chips (of course) or cut veggies such as carrots, celery, sweet peppers, broccoli, cherry tomatoes or mushrooms, as a sandwich spread, on baked potatoes or chili, or anywhere you'd like a cold and creamy punch of rich oniony flavor.

The richness of this dip can be adjusted easily by which yogurt you choose. I prefer whole milk Greek yogurt, but 2% or fat-free could be subbed in. The texture and mouth feel would be affected, but if you'd like to reduce fat content, they are acceptable alternatives to whole milk yogurt.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tabbouleh: Better, Faster, Stronger


Recently I re-read my tabbouleh recipe from back in the day. While heartfelt, it was verbose, unnecessarily long, replete with strange suggestions and unimportant details. That was the first recipe I ever blogged, and while I am certainly not the world's authority on recipe writing, I'm starting to do things differently. And as the photo suggests, these days I need things to be faster, more reliable, and less fussy.

So, take two. But much better tasting, for our money. The Scientist likes his tabbouleh bracingly acidic, so this recipe tends to be quite lemony. Sometimes I serve extra lemon wedges alongside so those who wish can turn up the tart even higher!

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. water
1/3 cup #1 bulgar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 dashes cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. ground coriander (my optional 'secret' ingredient)
1 tsp. dried mint or the leaves from 3 stems of fresh mint, finely chopped
4 cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, packed (about 2 big bunches)
2 medium-sized vine-ripened tomatoes, diced, about 1 cup
1 cup white onion, finely diced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, the best you have (I like California Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Trader Joe's)

Squeeze the lemons and pour juice and water over the bulgar and seasonings. Stir. Set aside for 10-15 minutes until the bulgar softens.

Meanwhile, triple-wash the parsley and place in a colander to drain for a few minutes.

Chop parsley, onion, then tomato and place in a medium/large salad bowl.

Once the bulgar has softened and absorbed the lemon juice, add it to the parsley mixture and gently toss to combine.

Finish with olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Most importantly, enjoy!


-It's a matter of personal taste whether to use flat or curly-leaf parsley. We've tried both, and as it never lasts long enough at our place to get soggy (a common complaint about flat-leaf), we prefer Italian.
-I used to carefully remove the stems from the parsley leaves before chopping it up. Since then, my eyes have been opened to the crunchy deliciousness of finely chopped parsley stems in tabbouleh. So while I don't include all the stems, I do chop the bunches all the way from the leafy tops to the point where there are no more leaves left, inevitably getting plenty crunchy bits of stem.
-It's important to slice through the parsley only once so the leaves don't get chewed up by the knife. Which also means the food processor is not ideal here (sorry).
-The parsley doesn't have to be completely dry before use. The water droplets left on the leaves after washing help cut the acidity of the lemon juice.
-Bulgar #1 can be found in some international and all Middle Eastern groceries. Larger grinds of bulgar will take much longer to soften.