Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Spanish Tortilla

So I promised you a recipe to follow for using up my patio potatoes - and here it is (finally!). If you're not familiar with a Spanish tortilla, you might be expecting a flat roll-up bread recipe, like a Mexican tortilla. In truth, the 2 are nothing alike! A Spanish tortilla is closer to a frittata than to a Mexican tortilla - minus the cheese and plus potatoes. With chorizo sausage, it is absolutely heavenly.
(Spanish tortilla just pulled out of the oven)

Serve with a salad for dinner, or as an appetizer for a party. (It's great for parties because it can be served hot, cold or room temp.) Forgive me in advance for the amount of oil that gets used, but I assure you some of it will be drained off!

Spanish Tortilla
2 c. sliced potatoes (about 4 store-bought potatoes or 12 of the wee-ones I grew)
1/2 c. oil
5 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 link chorizo, cooked and sliced (or crumbled)
1 large roasted red pepper, sliced thinly

In an oven-proof saute pan, heat 1/2 c. oil over medium heat. Add potatoes in as close to a single layer as you can get (there will be some overlap). Cook potatoes for 10-15 minutes until cooked through, flipping often to prevent burning. Once cooked, scoop potatoes out onto paper towels to drain.
Reserve 2 Tbsp. oil and discard the rest.
In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Stir in chorizo.

At this point, start your oven preheating to 350 degrees.
Put the oil in the pan over medium heat again and add red pepper slices. Cook 2-3 minutes.
Add potatoes back into the pan.
Pour egg and chorizo mixture evenly over the top. Cook 5-10 minutes until mostly set.
Put into oven and cook another 8-10 minutes or until egg is fully set.
Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes.

To remove from pan to serve, run a spatula around the edges and underneath, then place a plate on top of the pan and flip the pan over so tortilla falls onto plate.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

40-Second Knead Bread

When my friend Prof. Kitty first posted about her discovery of a 40-second knead bread that turned out just as well as dough she'd knead for 30 minutes, I was a bit skeptical. But the concept behind it - essentially that the gluten just needs time to develop, not necessarily brute force - made some sense to me. And I'm not that big of a fan of kneading (is anyone really?), so I decided to at least it a shot.

I found the full recipe with a picture tutorial here. As long as you have a kitchen scale and can do a little temperature conversion, this recipe is super simple. I don't have any sourdough starter on hand, so I followed the instructions for making a basic sponge. A few seconds of kneading here and there... time to clean the house in between kneads... and a few hours later- voila! - an awesome loaf of bread!

I thought it came out not only just as good as other recipes I've tried that require 10-15 mintues of kneading - but perhaps even better. It has a nice chewy crumb and is soft on the inside, yet with a rugged enough crust to make for easy slicing. One tip that I really love from the tutorial is the one about putting the bread in a floured tea towel to rise. It's perfect for helping the loaf keep it's shape, rather than spreading and flattening out like so many other recipes I've tried tend to do.

The first time I made the recipe, I did it exactly as the instructions state. From start to finish, it takes about 5 hours, though most of that is just waiting. This last time, I decided to make the sponge overnight to cut a couple of hours off the wait time and found it works just as well. Plus, I got more of that sourdough flavor.

I am a definite convert to this method of kneading. The real test will be to see if it works on other bread recipes I have. I'll let you know!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Spicy Grass-fed Beef Fajitas

As a member of the Foodie Blogroll, I was given the awesome opportunity to try out some grass-fed steaks from Hearst Ranch. When I signed up for the opportunity, I figured I'd be getting a small sample, as has been the case with other similar opportunities. Imagine my surprise when 2 huge 20 oz. packages of beautiful, lean, vitamin-packed grass-fed flank steaks showed up on my doorstep! I did a little happy dance (no one was around to see or videotape it, so you'll just have to visualize for yourselves).

The flank steaks, like all steaks from Hearst Ranch, came frozen. They shipped overnight from California to Massachusetts and were still solid as a rock when I got home after 6 in the evening - which clearly says a lot about the care Hearst takes in its packaging. I stuck one in the freezer for another meal, put one in the fridge to defrost and eagerly started to plan a menu. I knew flank steak could be tough if overcooked or cut the wrong way, so I just wanted to do a simple recipe. I ended up deciding on spicy beef fajitas with corn & black-eyed pea salsa.

When the steak was fully defrosted, I cut open the package and rolled out this HUGE piece of meat. I mean seriously - I felt like Fred Flinstone for a minute.

(This is 1 steak cut in 1/2!)

Then I covered it with the spicy marinade (recipe below) and refrigerated for about 6 hours. When it was time to cook, I did what I thought was a quick grill (about 4-5 minutes per side) aiming for medium-rare, but the meat still came out medium. I was a little nervous that I might have overdone it - but the meat was still tender and juicy - not one bit tough or stringy like I'd feared.

The beef was very good, though I will say it didn't have quite the exceptional flavor like the aged-beef we normally buy locally (though that beef is also grain-finished, so not 100% grass-fed). All in all, I was impressed and am looking forward to trying another recipe with the other flank steak I have in the freezer. Got any good flank steak recipes? Leave me a comment if so!

In the meantime, here's my Spicy Grass-fed Beef Fajitas recipe:


1 20-oz. grass-fed flank steak

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. ancho chili powder
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. lime juice

Corn & Black-Eyed Pea Salad:
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. salt
2 c. cooked & cooled corn (fresh or canned)
1 1/2 c. cooked & cooled black eyed peas
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced

Flour tortillas
Hot sauce, if desired

To make the marinade, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add chili powder, stirring constantly. Cook for about 30 seconds, then add 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1/8 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. sugar and 1 Tbsp. lime juice. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes until chili powder is a deep reddish-brown. Set aside and allow to cool 10 minutes.

Once cooled, spread marinade (it will be thick and more like rub) over both sides of steak. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours.

In another saucepan, combine 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1 tsp. olive oil, 2 tsp. sugar, 1/8 tsp. garlic powder and 1/8 tsp. salt. Heat over low heat until sugar is fully dissolved. Allow to cool.

In a small glass bowl, combine corn, black-eyed peas, jalapeno and tomatoes. Pour cooled red wine vinegar dressing over top. Cover and refrigerate 6 hours to allow flavors to meld.

When ready to cook the steak, bring it out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, start heating the grill to medium-high heat. Place steaks on grill and cook 3-4 minutes on each side for medium rare (I'm shaving a minute off each side from what I cooked it at). Once done, remove from heat and allow to rest 5 minutes. Cut in strips running perpendicular to the grain of the meat.

Serve on tortillas with corn salad and hot sauce, if desired. (We like sriracha - yum!)

Note: Hearst Ranch provided me with free grass-fed flank steaks to sample; however, the views expressed above are my own.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Patio Potatoes

In the spring, my friend Jenn gave me some seedling potatoes that she had left over after planting her garden. I brought them home unsure of exactly what I was doing, but figuring I'd give it a go. Normally, you plant potatoes in long rows in the ground. But Mr. ValleyWriter wasn't too keen on the idea of digging up the lawn. So, I decided to try planting potatoes in pots.

I had 2 larger pots (18" x 18") leftover from some shrubs we had bought last fall, so I figured I'd just use those. I put about 6" of soil in each pot, added about 5 seed potatoes (eye side up) on top and then topped with another 6" of soil. Once the potato plants sprouted, I kept adding soil on top until I reached the top of the pot (this equates to "hilling" your potatoes if you plant them in the ground).

I gave them the most basic care possible - essentially just daily or almost daily watering - from mid-June through this weekend. They flowered a few weeks ago and the plants started to die off this week, which is supposedly the signal that it's time to harvest. Now, I have to admit - the potato plants got HUGE, so I was thinking maybe they were putting all their energy into growing green stuff rather than growing tubers. But, when I tipped the pots over - out came tumbling potatoes!

I have a mix of red, white and fingerling potatoes. And it's admittedly not a bumper crop - but I did get about 20-25 small potatoes for the 10 seed potatoes I used, so I'd say that's not bad. I'm sure their growth was restricted by the small pots I had them in, but I'm still excited to say that YES! Patio Potatoes can be grown!

Now the real fun starts - deciding what to make with my lovely little taters. Stay tuned!