Monday, April 29, 2013

Spinach and Ricotta Challah

Spinach and Ricotta Challah

I think this is the prettiest bread I've ever baked.  Honestly, though, I stood in my kitchen beaming like I'd sculpted some masterpiece.  This is a challah filled with spinach and ricotta and pine nuts, shaped into a mock braid, and sprinkled with black and white sesame seeds.  When I realized the method for braiding was the same I had used for my Braided Lemon Bread, I dove right in.  Here's a how-to guide.

Challah Collage

Before you assemble: Make sure your dough is on a parchment sheet or silicone mat.  Otherwise, it will be almost impossible after to move to the baking pan while keeping it intact.
1. Cut the rectangle of dough so there are tabs on the top and bottom, and evenly spaced strips on either side.  Spread the filling down the middle.  Try to avoid snacking on too many of the toasted pine nuts and depleting them, which is easier said than done.
2. Fold down the top tab, then fold over one side strip, followed by the one on the opposite side, repeating all the way down.  Easy!  So you're either folding left-right-left-right, or right-left-right-left.
3. Before you finish folding all the strips, fold the bottom tab up, then braid the remaining strips over it.  You might have noticed I don't have an even number of strips on each side -- don't repeat my mistake.  If you do, no big deal.  I just tucked the last extra strip under.  Brush on an egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds, and you're ready to bake!

Challah with Spinach and Ricotta

Joe loved the bread and devoured it.  I froze the second loaf, because he vetoed my idea of giving it away.  I have to confess, however, that I didn't love the bread as much as I thought I would.  I felt like the filling could benefit from a stronger flavor like goat cheese or feta.  Also, the dough was just too wet and I had to add nearly an extra cup of flour to make the dough come together, even though I weighed the ingredients so measurements should have been precise.  And as nice as the bread was, I found myself thinking the flaky phyllo layers of spanakopita were superior.  Still, all the while, I never got tired of marveling at how pretty my loaves were.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Boston Globe Review: Turkish Comfort Food


Turkish Desserts

Have you tried Turkish food?  Chicken Kabob in Stoughton offers more than kebabs: stuffed grape leaves, grilled whole fish, and these desserts.  I definitely indulged my sweet tooth with kadayif, sekerpare, and pistachio baklava.

Read my review at:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Italian Stuffed Cabbage

Italian stuffed cabbage

I had heard of Polish stuffed cabbage but not Italian, and when I first saw the recipe at Smitten Kitchen I knew I had to make it.  A meatball of Italian sausage is rolled up in savoy cabbage leaves, and slowly simmered in tomato sauce.  But the recipe wasn't exactly healthy, so I set about with some tweaks.  I swapped out the pork sausage for chicken sausage, low-carb whole wheat bread for white bread, and low-fat milk for whole milk.  But it wasn't right: the meat was too lean, so the texture and taste were a bit lacking.  I tried again and went halfway, using a blend of pork sausage and chicken sausage, and the result was healthier and heavenly.  

Cabbage rolls

Production and cooking do take time, so set aside a lazy Sunday when you'll want to putter in the kitchen.  You'll need to carefully peel and blanch cabbage leaves, make the filling, and then cook the parcels for about an hour.  Another error I made the first time was buying a small head of cabbage; the larger the head, the larger the leaves, and the more likely the leaves will fully envelop the filling.  The whole wheat bread also isn't as soft as white bread, and chicken sausage isn't as soft as pork sausage -- I used the food processor to blend them, buzzing the bread into crumbs and chopping the sausage up finer.  Finally, I did away with the toothpicks on the second try.  They're not necessary, and I don't like the idea of biting into a stray one.

Italian stuffed cabbages

The serving suggestion of mashed potatoes on the side is perfect.  Although it took a bit of work to put this together yesterday, all I've got to do tonight is reheat.  Joe really loved these, and I'm look forward to digging into the leftovers come dinnertime.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spring!! And Pork Belly Buns


By the time spring arrives, I've been feeling cooped up and in need of fresh air and growing things.  Summer has always been my favorite season, a time for vacations, beaches, and barbeque.  But living through New England's dark, cold winters has given me a real appreciation and love of spring.  Everything finally bursts into bloom.  I can't wait to see tulips, peonies, and alliums, and I've already had some daffodil sightings.  Tree blossoms are also my favorite, and I always get a little sad when they fade and get carried off by the wind.


I knew I was probably too early, but the day was warm and bright so I went for a stroll at the Public Garden in Boston this week.  About 3 percent of the place was in bloom, but I was so excited to see these magnolias.


I don't know the names of the ducklings, but this one and its siblings were dolled up for spring.


While the swan boats weren't out for the season yet, these ducks had plenty of watchers.

Pork Belly Bun

And since it was such a lovely day, I walked over to the Prudential Center for some lunch.  I got these steamed buns filled with pork belly at the food truck Fugu.  It was a tough call between these and the kimchee bulgogi panini, but the buns were really good.  Great way to cap off a spring walk.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Boston Globe Review: Harrows Chicken Pies

Harrows Collage
Photos by Shirley Goh/Globe Staff

If you live in Greater Boston, you've probably heard of Harrows.  The local chain has opened its first location south of Boston.  I'd heard about its chicken pies, and that they were "just different" from other pot pies.  And I set out to find out how.

Find out what I thought at: