Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Dried Pepper Family

George Santayana said, “The family is one of nature's masterpieces.” It wouldn't surprise me is he was talking about peppers. It's certainly a family that warms my heart.

Dried peppers make there way into our kitchen most commonly through the spice rack, although dried hot peppers can be found if you cruise the Mexican food aisle. Many peppers are made from dried capsicums. This is different from the more conventional black or white pepper, ground from peppercorns. Different pepper products vary wildly in the amount of heat they have so, it's a good idea to know which is which.

Hot Pepper Flakes
Their flavor is quite fiery and there can be a lot of seeds in with the flakes. Use with caution. Sprinkle sparingly over foods before, during, or after cooking to add a kick to almost any dish. Adding a touch to a tomato based pasta sauce, or sprinkling over pizza slices is a great way to spice things up. You can buy them already prepared or you can my your own by grinding dried red peppers in a mortar.

This is the mildest of all peppers in the family and can be found in sweet (mild) and hot (Hungarian) forms. Most times the sweet versions are the most versatile, but I favor the hot because of the more intense flavor. Spanish paprika is smoked and they prefer to call it pimentone. Commonly used in Hungarian and Spanish dishes it adds subtle heat and complexity to food.

Made from one of the hottest varieties of chilies (that are edible, anyway), cayenne is used frequently in Mexican and Cajun foods. It adds real heat and flavor so, use cautiously. It is also sold as red pepper.

Chili Powder
Chili Powder is actually a blend of chilies, garlic, cumin and oregano. Different brands will differ in heat, but most are relatively mild. Chili powder adds authenticity and piquancy to Mexican, Indian, and Southwestern dishes.

Photo by Irina Ignatova

Monday, March 23, 2009

How to Make Spaghetti Pie

spaghetti pieWhen my wife cooks spaghetti, she cooks spaghetti. Lots of spaghetti. Enough to last for a week spaghetti. She mixes in canned spaghetti sauce with all of it so we can't re-purpose it with different sauces.

I don't like eating the same thing day in and day out so, I needed a solution. This recipe for Spaghetti Pie, adapted from Best Recipes Magazine, helps me add variety to our left over spaghetti, and saves me from boring food.

The fact that it's delicious doesn't hurt, either.


3 cups cooked spaghetti (left overs are acceptable)
1/2 pound mild Italian sausage, casings removed if any (or use ground beef)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (I used button mushrooms, but crimini's would be great)
1 green pepper, chopped
3/4 cup canned marinara (spaghetti) sauce
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 eggs
1 tablespoon butter, melted.
1 cup Ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons dried parsley (or 2 tablespoons, freshly chopped)
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Olive oil


Grease a 9-inch pie plate with olive oil and set aside.

Heat more olive oil in a large skillet and saute the sausage, crumbling it, the onion, mushrooms and pepper until the sausage it cooked and no longer pink. Spoon off the fat and remove from the heat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Reheat the leftover spaghetti in the microwave, removing excess sauce if needed. In a large bowl combine 1 egg with 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and the melted butter. Add the spaghetti and toss to mix well. Spread he spaghetti mixture in the bottom of the pie plate, making a 1/2-inch thick rim up the sides of the plate, like the crust of a pie.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining egg, remaining Parmesan cheese, parsley, and Ricotta cheese. Spread over the bottom of the crust. Top with meat mixure.

Place on the center rack of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese and bake for 5 minutes more to melt the cheese. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Newman House Breadmaker Wheat Rolls

wheat dinner rollNow that I've gabbed about soft dinner rolls, it's time to put my dough where my mouth is and give you a recipe for a good dinner roll.

Inspired by the Lion House in Salt Lake City and the Parker House in Boston, I wanted to give dinner roll making a try. Seeing as how I'm on a semi-conscious health kick, I also wanted to increase the fiber content and replace some of the saturated fats with the unsaturated variety for my rolls. I didn't want to give up any of the soft texture and flavor, though. I can't exactly call these rolls “healthy,” but compared to the recipes that inspired them, I'd like to think of them as “less unhealthy.”

I'm also lazy. My rolls would start life in the breadmaker.


1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon wheat gluten
1/4 teaspoon dough conditioner
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons non-fat dry milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast

olive oil as needed, before cooking
melted butter as needed, after cooking


Put the first ten ingredients in your breadmaker in the order listed. At least, that's the order for such things in my bread maker. Set it to the “dough” cycle and let it run.

At the end of the cycle, remove the dough from the pan and put it into a bowl that has been greased with olive oil, turning to coat with oil evenly. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size (about an hour).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

how to cut dinner roll dough While the oven is warming up, dust a large cutting board or counter top with flour. Punch the dough down and roll out on the dusted board into an 18 inch by 8 inch rectangle. Cut the rectangle into eighteen pieces as shown in the diagram on the left.

Drizzle olive oil over the dough, and roll each piece up, from the short end. Transfer to a floured baking sheet, cover, and let rise again until double in size. Place on the center rack of the oven and bake for about 12 or until golden.

Remove from the oven and brush the tops with melted butter or more olive oil.

Makes 18 rolls.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tips for Making Soft Dinner Rolls

Soft rolls are a Sunday dinner staple all over America and Utah is no exception. New Englanders may enjoy Fan Tans. Those in Boston have a particular claim to fame with the Parker House roll, coming from the Parker House Hotel. Such rolls are dangerously delicious. Salt Lake City has a famous soft roll as well - the Lion House Roll.

Making soft rolls isn't always just making tiny bread loaves, although many of the things that make good soft breads are the same as for soft rolls.

Light rolls needs soft doughs. When mixing the dough, always add the flour gradually, keeping the dough as soft as you can handle. It's never necessary to use the entire amount of flour listed in the recipe – you just want to add enough to make a manageable dough.

In these busy times, even on Sunday (if you have a lot of church meetings to go to), you don't have a lot of time to wait for the dough to rise. To shorten rising time, try this technique:

When the dough is completely mixed, oil the bowl, turning the dough to cover with a thin layer of oil, and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Put the bowl in the sink (or in a larger bowl). Fill the sink with enough hot water to come up about halfway along the outside of the bowl. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size.

You can also try putting the bowl in an oven set to the lowest temperature, along with a bowl of hot water. Turn off the oven, shut the door, and allow the dough to rise.

You can also use these methods for the second rise, after you've formed the rolls. Put the baking sheet over a sink filled with hot water and cover. Just make sure the sheet will fit across the sink without falling in.

If you're using the oven method, reheat the oven while you shape the rolls. Place a fresh pan of hot water in the oven when you return the rolls. Remember to turn the oven back off and shut the door.

I prefer the sink method. I've never been able to get the oven method to work without ruining the dough by prematurely cooking it. It also works well if you have a cold kitchen.

Picture by Craig Jewell

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to Make Borscht

I've never made Borscht before. Mostly because I'm not a huge fan of beets, so I rarely buy them. When a friend gave us a few though, I had to find something to do with them. Having been disappointed by my previous attempts at making Harvard beets (a sort of sweet-and-sour beet dish) I was in the mood for something else. The only recipe in my Nintendo DS Personal Trainer: Cooking program that included beets was Borscht, so I thought I'd give it a try. Then I modified it to make it easier to actually cook.

Borscht is a traditional Russian beef and vegetable soup with a bright red broth, courtesy of the beets. It's flavors are subtle, and it can take a couple of hours to make, but I was pleasantly surprised. It's surprisingly filling and my eight-year-old declared it to be delicious, finishing it to the last drop in her bowl.

The original recipe calls for beef shank. This is a tough, but inexpensive cut, containing a lot of connective tissue. It does have a rich and distinctive flavor when slow simmered, however. Still, other cuts could easily be used.

1 pound beef shank, cut into 1/2” pieces
1 beet, peeled and cut into 1/4” sticks
1 small potato (or 1/2 large one), peeled and cut into 1/4” sticks
1 medium yellow onion, cut in half and then into 1/4” slices
1/2 celery stalk (or 1 small one), cut lengthwise, and then into 1/4” thick diagonal slices
2 cabbage leaves, cut into 1/4” strips
1 medium tomato, cut in half and then into thin wedges
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 1/2 quarts water
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper (to taste)
2 tablespoons cooking oil
4 tablespoons sour cream
additional salt (as needed)


Cut the beef and vegetables, preparing them to easy add to the dish, later.

Bring the water to a boil in a large pan. Add bay leaf and beef and bring it back to a boil. Skim off any foam from the surface. Add a pinch of salt, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for at least 1 hour.

While the beef is simmering, heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the onion, celery, garlic and beet. Stir the vegetables to coat with the oil, add a pinch of salt, and saute until tender. Remove from heat and wait for the beef.

When the hour is complete, add the sauteed vegetables to the pan with the beef. Add the tomato, potato, cabbage, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Return to a boil, reduce to medium low, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes become tender. Add additional salt, as needed, to tatste.

Transfer the soup into serving bowls and drop 1 tablespoon of sour cream into the center of each bowl. Sprinkle on coarsely ground pepper, to taste.

Stir the sour cream into the broth before eating. It makes all the difference.

Makes 4 hearty servings, or 6 normal ones.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Beets are Murder

Vegan's have it all wrong. Beef isn't murder any more than beets are. They're both equally ghastly. Don't believe me? Just look at this grisly scene of root vegetable carnage left when I made Borscht for dinner, tonight.

I'm just sorry the picture didn't show the beet blood all over my knife.

Yes, that's right. The Mormon Foodie is confessing to beet murder. My kitchen certainly looked like a crime scene. Better call in CSI: Utah.

I think the beets deserved it, but that's up to a jury to decide. My lawyer is trying to work out a plea deal - temporary insanity.

After all, I was seeing red.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Indian Lassi Yogurt Drink

I've been trying out some Indian food recipes lately. (That's Indian as in India, not American Indian.) Mostly for the curry. The fact that my wife loves curries, too, doesn't hurt. So, tonight I cooked up some tumeric rice and a Chicken Tikka Masala dish.

Okay. Tikka Masala was actually invented in Great Britain, but hey. The spices came from India.

Lassi, a refreshing yogurt drink enjoyed in India an all across western Asia, is the perfect foil for a curry or other spicy foods. When served with food, it's made slightly saltier. This version is sweeter and is meant to be served after the meal. Feel free to add pieces mango, bananas, or other fruit it you desire.


2 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 cups water


Put the yogurt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add the sugar and salt (just a pinch!) to the yogurt and mix completely. Stir in the water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator. Stir the lassi and pour into glasses for serving.

The addition of salt actually emphasizes the sweetness, but be careful not to add too much. Vary the amount of sugar according to your tastes.

Makes four servings. This recipe can be easily adapted to any number of servings.

Photo by Steve Woods.