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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Greek Tomato Pie

Suddenly I am finding myself too busy to post my whole Mediterranean lunch series quickly. Mediterranean food is absolutely tasty, colorful and inviting. Most of these recipes call for the most basic spices, easily available in the market. They aren't too hot nor to bland. The salt is usually the star and flavor enhancer while other spices like black pepper and oregano lift the flavor profile of the food to higher levels.


Greek Tomato Pie  is kind of a Mediterranean pizza but in a pie crust. This pie is very light, since the main ingredient are ripe, fresh and juicy tomatoes. It is orginaly made with tofu. I made it with Soft Cottage Cheese, since I didn't have tofu and it is not easily available in my part of the city. Cottage Cheese is a substitute for tofu because of its creamy texture. You can add black or green olives to add crunch and flavor to this pie. I made it with tomatoes and green coriander only.

Cottage cheese does not melt like Mozzarella or Cheddar cheese. It just gets warm and slightly browned. When you eat the pie, you will feel it has become creamier. It offsets the tanginess of tomatoes beautifully. The crunch from the pie, the slightly soft tomatoes, the creamy cottage cheese with a healthy sprinkling of green coriander is just what one would want on a summer afternoon. 

I used the basic pie crust recipe from How to Build a Better Pie: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Flaky Crusts, Toppers, and the Things in Between. This is an amazing book that teaches everything about pies. I might do a review of the book on my blog.

It is necessary to have the butter and water cold for this recipe. And never use salted butter as we are adding salt to the mix. This pie crust is enough for one 9 inch open pie.


Recipe

Ingredients

Pie crust
1 cup and 3 tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp granulated sugar
112 gm unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp iced water

Filling
5 - 6 medium tomatoes, ripe but firm ones
1/4 cup green coriander
1 cup soft cottage cheese
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste

Method

Pie crust

Put flour, salt and sugar in a wide bowl and mix with hands. Cut cold butter into cubes. Scatter over the flour. Incorporate the butter into dry ingredients by pinching each piece. Do not break butter beyond this. Quickly incorporate all the butter into flour, with light hands so that warmth from the hands does not melt too much butter.

Sprinkle the 1/4 cup cold iced water (without ice) on the sides of the flour. Incorporate the water with a fork. Add the rest of the 2 tbsp water , if the dough does not come together. DO not knead the dough , just gather and squeeze it and it should not fall apart. Shape the dough in form of a disc, plastic wrap it and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and upto 3 days.

Remove pie dough from the refrigerator. Sprinkle the work surface with flour and place the dough on the flour after removing the plastic wrap. Hold the dough, barely touching it and give it a full turn in the flour. Give the dough a few whacks with the rolling pin. Then start rolling.

Roll once up and down and the give the dough a quarter degree turn. Do not flip over the dough. Keep doing so until the dough is big enough for a 9 inch pie plate. Fold the crust over the rolling pic and lay it down in the pie plate. Adjust the crust in the pie plate.

For this pie, the crust has to half baked before hand. Preheat the oven to 220C / 425F. Prick the crust with a fork. Line the crust with a foil so as not to expose the crust to direct heat and put baking beads or prewashed tamarind and date seeds in the foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 180C/375F and bake for another 10 minutes for a partially baked pie crust. The pie crust will look slightly raw. This is called blind baking.

Remove the crust from the oven, let it cool to touch and then assemble the pie.

Assembling and baking

Preheat the oven to 180 C/375 F.

Cut tomatoes into long stripes , removing the seeds. Layer the tomatoes in concentric circles in the pre-baked crust. Sprinkle some salt and black pepper. Sprinkle green coriander and the cottage cheese over the tomatoes. Drizzle some olive oil.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the pie is golden and tomatoes are soft. Serve warm. Happy baking!!!



Sunday, April 20, 2014

Greek Baked Chicken


I like planning the whole lunch and making things that pair well. Last time I did a whole lunch planned around Roast Beef. This time I picked the Mediterranean theme and made everything Mediterranean. So our lunch table was decorated with Greek Baked Chicken, Greek Tomato Pie, Pita Bread and Hummus. The meal ended with Egyptian Basbosa , which is a Mediterranean semolina pudding,  as dessert. (Will be updating recipes soon updated).


Mediterranean food is light and refreshing and there is much use of olive oil, which in turn makes the recipe healthy as well. While the lunch is usually low calorie, the desserts make up for it and are laden with sugar, and thus they are very high calorie. The lunch should suffice, but all of us have a sweet tooth and cannot fathom a meal without a dessert, hence my plan had to include a Mediterranean dessert as well.


Greek Baked chicken is cooked in yogurt, not cooked , rather baked. I used slightly more yogurt than the recipe called for. Also, after baking until chicken was tender, there was a lot of water leftover, so I reduced it on stovetop and then put the chicken again in the oven, this time with the griller on to give it those tell tale brown spots of being baked. Chicken is a difficult ingredient to bake as it dries out if over baked, therefore you have to keep an eye on it while baking.


Recipe

Ingredients

500 gms chicken pieces
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup green coriander, finley chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp oregano powder
1 tsp garlic paste

Method

Put all ingredients except chicken in a bowl. Mix thoroughly and add the chicken. Mix to coat. Cover and put in the refrigerator to marinate, for at least 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F. Grease an oven and fireproof dish. Metal works fie, but glass makes a dish that can be presented right out of the oven. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until chicken is done. If there is water in the dish, reduce on stovetop. Then grill in the oven for 5 minutes.

Serve warm with pita bread. Happy baking!!!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Rolled French Toast

First of all, I have made slight changes to how I edit my pictures. I have started adding the name and I kind of like the professional feel it adds to the image. I hope readers like it too.

French toasts have been an integral part of my life. Mom used to make these for us on Sunday mornings as a weekend treat. I remember a fun incident from my childhood. Mom was ill with high fever and could not go in the kitchen to make some snacks for me and my brother. Baba, my dad, offered to make us French toast. He painstakingly made these delights after confirming each step with mom, but he missed a patch on the toast uncooked. I feel sorry for him now when I remember that both me and my brother rewarded him with a "ammi ziada acha banati hain" (mom makes it better) sentiment.

Anyways, I was surfing Pinterest , and found a pin showing many rolled French toast ideas. One f them involved fruit and Nutella. Since, it is hard to go wrong with chocolate, I decided to give it a try. I did not have Nutella, but some other chocolate hazelnut spread. These rolled delights have banana rolled in them.



Recipe

Ingredients

5 - 6 slices white bread
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
4 tbsp sugar
Nutella (or any other chocolate hazelnut spread)
1 banana, sliced
Butter or ghee for frying

Method

Dissolve sugar in milk. Beat the egg and beat in the milk. Set aside

Take bread slices and thin them using a rolling pin. 

Spread 1 tbsp of Nutella on the thinned slices. Place slices of banana along the edge nearest to you. You will need 4 - 5 banana slices.

Start rolling the bread slice from the end where bananas where bananas are places. Roll and set aside. 

Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a frying pan. Dip the rolled bread slices in the egg mixture and place in the frying pan. Allow the toast to cook and brown on one side on medium high heat. Turn over and cook. Cook similarly on all sides. Remove from the frying pan and serve warm.