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Friday, September 19, 2014

Frugal Foodie Friday - Mlinci (Croation Baked Noodles)

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...While this Croatian side dish is a great addition to any cook's repertoire, it will be especially helpful to those who need budget dishes to round out family meals. Made with nothing more than eggs, flour and water, this simple dough can can be made more substantial with the addition of aromatics, vegetables and cheese, but in Croatia, this noodle-like flatbread, is dressed with meat or poultry drippings and served in the same way as we serve mashed potatoes here. The dish is an important part of Croatian Christmas dinner, and the noodles, coated with turkey drippings, are given a place of honor alongside the bird. While mlinci are served throughout the Balkans, the dish originated in Croatia. The noodles are actually made from a very thin, dried flatbread that is torn, re-hydrated and then baked for serving. Similar dishes can be found throughout the Middle-East where flatbread has long been known as a practical way to store perishable flour. Unlike pasta. which is made from hard wheat flour and can be stored for long periods of time without losing nutritional content, the soft wheat flour from which mlinci are made, is more likely to degrade, however, once it is baked it, too, can be stored for long periods of time as long as it is kept dry. While the noodles were once considered to be special food and, as such, they became associated with holidays and special occasions, that is no longer the case and they have become an everyday dish.They are actually quite easy to make and while I approached making them as a novelty, they are definitely worth making again. As I didn't have a turkey or the requisite drippings lying around, I dressed my noodles with a light roux based gravy. I could also have used a butter and parsley combination, but I thought the gravy would be a bit more figure friendly. If you are looking for an economical side dish that is a bit different, I hope you'll give these noodles a try. Here is how they are made.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Table for Two - Chicken Cutlets with Lemon Caper Sauce

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Rather than tell you what this dish is not, I thought I'd start my post by giving this recipe a thumbs up and telling you that this chicken dish is fast, easy, and delicious. It has the added advantage of being scaled to feed just two people and it will make a great addition to your personal Table for Two recipe collection. The original recipe, a riff on Chicken Piccata, was created by Haylie Duff for her book The Real Girls' Kitchen, and while I've made a few changes to it, it stays true to her intent. The recipe makes a really special weeknight meal and you can have dinner on the table in 30 minutes, if you give some advance thought to the sides that will accompany it. I love to serve this with pilaf, and, if you start the rice before you start the chicken, they'll both be done at approximately the same time. As you read through the recipe, you'll see I use an instant blend, or quick mixing flour, for browning the cutlets as well as thickening the sauce that is used to nap them. I learned about the flour from Julia Child who suggested it be used to get that gorgeous color we often see on chops and cutlets prepared in restaurant kitchens. You can, of course, substitute all-purpose flour for the quick blending type, but it will make for more work when you go to prepare the sauce. Instant or quick blending flour is heat treated to produce a flour that can be directly added to liquids without lumping. It is a fail safe way to make gravy and sauces and its low gluten content makes it ideal for making crepes and popovers as well. Here, I use it for browning cutlets and making a thin sauce that barely naps a spoon. Save for overcooking the chicken, not much can go wrong with this recipe. I do hope you will give it a try. Here is how the chicken is made.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Midweek Musings - The Cardamom Kitchen

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I have had in my lifetime, the good fortune to include in the circle of my cherished familiars, two women whose powers of observation gave them the uncanny ability to see what others could not. One was a constant figure in my childhood and I spent many hours sitting at her table, absorbing by osmosis the lessons she chose to share. Her roots were Swedish and, as the mother of five, four of whom were boys who ranged in age from 10 to 41, I was taken under her wing because she missed having a girl to teach. She was a tall, raw-boned woman with a keen and empathetic eye. Her appearance was imposing and her demeanor, while often stern, hid a shyness that she spent a lifetime trying to conceal. She fascinated me because her 10 year old boy was uncle to her daughter's 12 year old son and things like that really messed with my 6 year old mind. My uncles all had beards and here was a family where an older child called one younger, uncle. I inched my way into her affection with questions about that relationship, and I was slowly welcomed into the belly of her kitchen where I began to learn the glories of the Swedish table and the hospitality it offered. My keenest memories of her home and kitchen are triggered by certain smells. While the house smelled of starch and Murphy's flax soap, the kitchen was awash with the fragrance of cardamom, which back in the day, at least on the south side of Chicago, was considered to be an exotic spice. I learned how to make bread and pastries in that kitchen, and when I was troubled or overly thoughtful, which she could determine with a glance, I was plunked in a chair and given a cup of tea that was sweetened with cardamom sugar and we would have a "talk". We talked over bread and meatballs and the embroidery she tried to teach me, and while my house would never be as clean as hers, my pastry is a near match, as is the love of cardamom I carry to this day. I've chosen a simple cardamom cookie to share with you tonight. It's meant for the cookie jar rather than the tea table, but it shows what this spice can do to something as homely as an oatmeal cookie. These are large chewy cookies that have crisp edges and I really think you'll like them. The recipe, which I found in Food and Wine magazine, is truly simple and the cookies, which are deliciously sweet, come together easily. Here is how they are made.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Zlevanka - A Dessert Cornbread from Croatia

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Every so often, I feel the need to escape what's become familiar in my kitchen and give something completely different a try. Several weeks ago, I bookmarked a dessert recipe I found on a site called Kitchen Nostalgia, and I had the opportunity to give it a try last weekend. The recipe was for an unusual sweet and dairy rich cornbread that originally came from Croatia. It sounded offbeat enough to be interesting, so I pulled out my bowls and whisk and gave it a try. I liked it and I think some of you will, too. I did make some minor changes to the recipe because, despite a google search, I was not able to verify that cornstarch and corn flour are the same thing. I just couldn't imagine making a cake with that much cornstarch, so, I took the coward's way out and decided to use a really finely ground cornmeal instead. I also have a suggestion to make regarding its preparation. This is a very moist cake and the next time I make it, I will let in cool in the pan for the standard 10 minutes, but then turn it out to cool on a rack, so the bottom has a chance to dry. I try not to do this kind of recipe too often because I know not all you share my passion for the different and unusual. That aside, I hope some of you will give this simple recipe a try. I  think you'll be pleasantly surprised. It is a great way to end a barbecue and it would not be out of place on a brunch table. Here is how the cake is made.


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