Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pecan Barley Bread

As a cook I'm very lazy. I've learned to live with this truth. Okay, all these truths: 1) I don't like following recipes while I cook, 2) I hate measuring and 3) I rarely write down what I've cooked. 

Except of course when it comes to baking. There's just no way around it... I can't be lazy when baking. The science of just the right amount of ingredients for the desired chemical reactions has always mystified me. Then again - like I just said, I'm lazy and haven't studied either! 

So long story short, I have to break all three rules here because I'm so... well... disgusted with store bought bread! It took about 3 times to perfect this, but this is what my welsh husband would call a 'stodgy' bread. In other words, you know you've had a piece of bread when you've had one. Great for sandwiches, awesome for toast, fantastic with soups or stews. 


1 1/2 cup water 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 1/2 cup barley flour (Yay Alaska Flour Company!) 
1 1/2 cups bread flour 
1 cup whole wheat bread flour (I just used regular 'ol whole wheat flour
2 teaspoon active dry yeast 
2 teaspoon honey 
1 teaspoon sea salt 
1/4 cup chopped pecans 

Place all ingredients into your bread machine in the sequence recommended by your manufacturer. Select the cycle on your machine for dough. 

When the dough cycle is complete, remove the bread to a floured surface and punch it down. Shape it to fit into an oiled loaf pan. 

Let it rise for 45 minutes. Ideal rise temperatures are between 80°F - 90°F. Living in Alaska my house is always a tad chilly, but I'm lucky and have a proof cycle on my convection oven. A pan filled with 1" of boiling water put into a cold oven works well I've heard. 

Slit the crust and dust with flour. Let it rest 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 425ºF. 

Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 400ºF and bake for an additional 20 minutes. I've never had to adjust the time but check by tapping the bread. It should sound hollow. 

Let cool slightly, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling and have butter nearby!

This recipe was adapted from about four recipes, mostly from Barry Farm's version at:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chicken and Fennel Tagine

So I'm back from vacation and needed a fix of 'home' cooking!

Chicken and Fennel Tagine
Yes, another tagine dish... you'll just have to tolerate me for a bit while I rant and rave about this cooking method.

But really, after being in 'steak and potatoes' country for a couple weeks, I am definitely ready for some flavor. 

Is it 100 degrees where you are?  Try this dish as you won't have to turn on the oven, and you can go play in the sprinklers while it cooks.
Chicken and Fennel Tagine with
Turkish Dates and Almonds

Serves 4-5 people
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion - chopped fine 
  • 1 large onions - chop in half then in 1/4" strips
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic white pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons organic ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon organic ras el hanout (optional)
  • 1 1/2 lbs chicken (I used chicken tenderloins)
  • 8 each organic Turkish figs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon organic lemon peel
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 Tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro or Italian parsley
Note: If you have access to preserved lemons, use those and omit the lemon juice and the lemon peel.  More on preserved lemons in a later post!

Mix the salt, white pepper, ginger and ras el hanout, then pour over the chicken pieces in a bowl. Add 1/2 the olive oil, lemon peel, lemon juice and minced garlic. Stir and coat the chicken in the seasonings.

Let the meat sit in the seasonings while you cut the onions. Add the finely diced onions to the chicken.


Cut off the green tops of the fennel, wash the bulb, then quarter it.  Halve the quarters so you'll have 8 pieces. Some people discard the outer layer of the fennel as it may be tough. I didn't.  ...I regretted that.

Snip the tops off the figs so there are no twigs in your teeth later. 

Turn on the burner or hotplate to medium-high, set the tagine bottom on it then add the rest of the olive oil.  When the oil is warm, add the sliced strips of onion and cook until slightly browned.

Add the seasoned chicken to the tagine in a single layer on top the onions. Pour in about 1 to 3/4 cups water. Next, arrange the fennel on top the chicken and tuck dates in between each piece of fennel. 

When the liquid starts bubbling, put the lid of the tagine on and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for 2 hours.

Heat the the butter in a small pan. Stir in the almonds and cook until they begin to brown. When the dish is finished, sprinkle the nuts and chopped parsley over the dish just before serving. 

Serve over couscous or quinoa. Enjoy!!

Adapted from "Moroccan Tagine of Chicken with Fennel" by Christine Benlafquih

ahem - the advertising part: Check out our Moroccan spice section at available at Red Onion Spice & Tea Company!  


Monday, May 28, 2012

Lamb Tagine with Dates, Almonds, and Pistachios

My first tagine. I fell in love.  What can I say. 
Lamb Tagine with Dates, Almonds, & Pistachios

If you want a dish that's sure to wow your friends, this is it. This is a very traditional tagine and it is so easy to prepare.  You need to allow time to cook this dish, but preparation is a snap. As with any tagine, part of the secret is slow cooking. 

Let's face it - I love any dish that gets me out of the kitchen to have cocktails with my guests.
Lamb Tagine with Dates, Almonds, and Pistachios
Serves 4-5 people

  • 2-3 Tablespoons ghee (Or use 1 Tablespoon olive oil & 1 Tablespoon butter)
  • 2 onions - chop in half then in 1/4" strips
  • 2 teaspoons organic ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon organic ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons organic ground ceylon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon organic ras el hanout (optional)
  • 2 1/2 lbs lean lamb from the shoulder next or leg cut into 1-2" pieces
  • 8 oz pitted dates
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 Tablespoon butter
  • 2-3 Tablespoons slivered almonds
  • 2 Tablespoons shelled pistachios
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro or Italian parsley
Mix the turmeric, ginger, cinnamon  and ras el hanout, then pour over the lamb pieces. Add some salt and pepper. Stir and coat the lamb in the seasonings. Add the honey and stir more to coat the meat. 

Let the meat sit in the seasonings while you cut the onions. 
Turn on the burner or hotplate to medium-high, set the tagine bottom on it then add the ghee.  When the ghee is warm, add the sliced onions and cook until slightly browned.

Add the seasoned lamb to the tagine in a single layer on top the onions. Pour in about 3/4 cups water. When the liquid starts bubbling, put the lid of the tagine on and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Add the dates then cover again and let simmer for another 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil with the butter in a small pan. Stir in the almonds and pistachios and cook until they begin to brown. When the dish is finished, sprinkle the nuts and chopped parsely over the dish just before serving. 

Serve over couscous or quinoa.

Adapted from "Tagine Spicey stews from Morocco" by Chillie Basan

Saturday, May 26, 2012

How to Season a Tagine

Clay or glazed tagines require a one time preparation called 'seasoning' before the first use. Seasoning your tagine strengthens it and removes any flavors from the clay. Your tagine should come with instructions, so I would follow those closely. If you're still thinking of purchasing one, this article is FYI so you don't plan a big dinner party for the day it arrives!

Remember also that clay tagines are sensitive to heat changes. Never plunge a hot tagine in cold water or expose it to high heat.

photo © Jules Kitano - Moroccan cooking pots, via Shutterstock

1. Soak the entire tagine in water at least 2 hours or overnight. I had a very large stock pot which it fit into, but you  may need two containers or bucket to do so. 
2. After the soaking period, let it dry for about 30 minutes, then rub the interior and exterior with oil.  My instructions said not to rub the bottom of the base in oil.

3. Place the tagine in a cold oven and turn the oven on to 300 F.

4. Leave in the oven for 2 hours, then turn the oven off and leave the tagine in it until cooled completely. 

Finally, Wash the cooled tagine by hand, let dry and coat the interior (not the exterior) with olive oil. It is suggested to coat the interior with olive oil before each use. Store a tagine with a bit of paper towel wadded up under the lid on one side so that air circulates in it.

Your tagine is now ready to party!!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tagine Tangent

So, I'm the type of person who is adverse to kitchen gadgets, but when I first saw a tagine I just knew I had to have one! I'm also really bad at spending money on myself so for months I just looked at it online and sighed. Long story short, my wonderful husband surprised me with one and I am now totally addicted.

Okay - so what's a tagine?  It's one of those words that can mean multiple things really.  It can either describe the meal itself, or the cooking vessel in which it is prepared or served. It is primary associated with Morocco or the North African region known as Maghreb. 

Le Souk Tagine
A tagine produces a gloriously tender, moist, succulent dish due to the shape of the cooking vessel.  Recipes only call for a small amount of liquid as the steam rises to the tops of the cone then slides back into the dish, so the slow cooked meat is nothing like from the oven or a crock-pot. 

Big note here - if you are going to purchase a tagine, there are TWO types! One type is for cooking in and other other is only used for serving. Pay close attention when you purchase or you could end up with the wrong type. I have a cooking tagine which is also beautiful to serve in. 

A second note is regarding your cook-top. If you have a gas stove-top, you will probably find it necessary to purchase a single burner hotplate as this is a slow cooking process and most tagines are not made to sit on a flame. Even with electric burners you may need a diffuser in order to minimize hotspots. Some tagine dishes may call for finishing in the oven to finish off or brown. Read your instructions that come with your tagine to determine the maximum temperature.  Mine is 350 degrees and no broiling. I have never had to use the oven yet for a dish. 

Over the next few posts I'll share some tried and true recipes for cooking with a tagine. Lush spices combined with lamb, chicken or pork are combined with other foods such as dates, pistachios, honey, and almonds.  Once you have a dish cooked in a tagine you'll truly become addicted! 

ahem - the advertising part: Check out our Moroccan spice section at available at Red Onion Spice & Tea Company

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Greek Hay?

A friend of mine asked recently what Fenugreek seed was used for. I wondered the same thing years ago when I got a spice set that included fenugreek. I think it sat on my shelf for 10 years..unopened! I'm so ashamed! Now this is one of my staples in my spice cabinet.

Fenugreek is used a lot in Indian cooking, and is often toasted, ground and blended with other spices. We use it in our custom blend Garam Masala. You'll also see it in pickling spices and curry blends. They are also used throughout Middle Eastern, North African, and even East African cooking.

Artificial maple syrup depends on it's smokey, caramel-like finish. When toasted, it is more like a burnt sugar flavor. I recently tasted some cheese with fenugreek seeds in it and it was lush! It's very unique and I don't know how I lived without it before!

The name?  Well you can blame Latin for that! The species name for fenugreek means "Greek Hay" - which refers to the smell of the green of the plant and it's Eastern Mediterranean origin. There - more than you ever wanted to know about Fenugreek! Hey - does that make me a Fenu-GEEK? hehe

ahem - the advertising part: Both Organic Fenugreek Seeds and Organic Fenugreek Powder are available at Red Onion Spice & Tea Company

Monday, February 6, 2012

Spice Up Your Life!

There’s a new trend in the country of cooking more at home and eating out less. Perhaps inspired by the economy, or just our ‘do it yourself’ attitude, there is an enormous collection of ‘closet cooks’ in Alaska.  We each have that special, closely guarded recipe received from a friend, who got it from their neighbor, who received it from a friend...and somewhere down the line was the actual artist who may have been lost in the chain.

But the most amazing part of these recipes are the overall increased use of spices and understanding that these ‘treasures’ are no longer under lock and key. We no longer limit ourselves to follow a recipe exactly – preferring instead to make a creation our own by adding a bit more of this or that.  Coupled with the increased awareness of ethnic foods, and decreased use of salt, spice consumption has increased dramatically in the US. A whopping 877 million pounds in the year 2000 showed an overall increase of 8% from the previous decade, and subsequent years show similar increases.

We’re also getting hotter!  Reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture say that compared to the 1970s, Americans now consume 600 percent more chili pepper, 300 percent more cumin, and 1,600 percent more ginger.

Most of us consume over 3 pounds of spices annually!  Many have noted this trend as we turn from meager grocery store offerings and search out ‘gourmet’ spices, blends and the newest trend – organic spices.  Why organic?  Well, if you are trying to cook healthier, why not?  Many non-organic spices and herbs are treated with pesticides, exposed to gamma radiation and can contain fillers or additives of lesser quality.  According to the FDA, food products using irradiated spice as an ingredient do not have to be labeled!

Of similar concern is tea.  Buying bagged tea may seem more convenient, but did you know that typically, tea bags use fannings which are the left-overs after larger leaf pieces are gathered for sale as loose tea? Purchasing organic, loose leaf tea means you are getting the whole, unadulterated taste of the tea – not just the left over dredges!

So whether you’re preparing that fresh King Salmon or creating some other culinary masterpiece, thinking twice about the quality of your seasonings and spices can add to the overall success of your final product. Oh, and remember that spices DO expire! Time to clean the cupboard?