Friday, November 28, 2008


While working on my contributions to Thanksgiving dinner yesterday I got a mad hankering for bagels. Nice, chewy, highly imperfect but always satisfying homemade bagels.

I first made bagels eons ago while in college. Our chilly little apartment grew warm and steamy as we boiled then baked our first attempts. They were ugly: dimpled and deflated and a little bit clammy to the touch. But the taste was great and they had a wonderful chewiness to them.

Once I was given my bread machine I decided that it was perfect for bagels. The dough is much stiffer than for regular loaf bread and very heard to work by hand so I was happy to let the machine do the work for me. The resulting bagels were a bit nicer to look at. There was still the dimpling problem but they did rise better. And they tasted great.

I'd been wanting to try the no-knead bagels in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I got the book back in June and quickly became hooked on the dough for baguettes and pizza. I confess I haven't done much else but the standard baguette recipe alone was worth the price of the book.

The bagel recipe, as it turns out, is almost exactly the same dough as for the pizzas and baguettes I've made. It is much softer than other bagel doughs I've worked with but it has the same relaxed timetable as other doughs in the book. I mixed it up last night, let it sit at room temperature for a couple of hours, and then put in the refrigerator overnight. This morning I got up, put a big pot of water on to boil, preheated the oven and began shaping bagels. Because the dough is so soft, it's a bit tricky to handle, especially given the need to boil before baking. The bagels were quite floppy after boiling and getting them onto the baking stone in the oven was no picnic, but in the end they were fine.

Having the dough ready to go shaved a good 90 minutes off the process which was a big help in terms of eating before noon. They still came out dimpled and funny looking but with a good dusting of poppy or sesame seeds, who's to know? They were devoured before they even reached room temperature so I think the flavor made a stronger impression than looks.

I'm posting the recipe here, but I really do encourage you to get your hands on the book as it is a wealth of information on this easy, low stress form of bread baking.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Amazing Potatoes

I think I've mentioned here my undying love for potatoes. I can eat them baked, boiled, fried, roasted, and mashed and never ever get tired of them so it's a wonder I ever come up with anything new in the potato department. Why bother when there are already so many fine ways to cook a spud?

The other night I came home from work to a small pile of baked potatoes awaiting me. Normally I would have been happy to eat them just like that. I love to make hash browns with leftover baked potatoes, too. But I was craving something complex and spicy and thus a new dish was born. Actually, it's probably not a new dish at all. I imagine there are variations of this all over India and they're probably even tastier. Nonetheless I'll call this my own creation since I was improvising away with nary an Indian cookbook in sight.

And I have to say--I struck gold! This is one of those dishes that has everything I need: heat, color, and a savory blend of spices that's hard to resist. But it's not a long simmered curry with multiple steps and stages. If you have baked potatoes on hand you can have this on your plate in under half an hour. And oh how happy you'll be.Two slightly odd ingredients which I hope won't put you off. First: tamarind concentrate. I have something called Tamicon which isn't hard to find in Asian groceries. It's thick like molasses but with a serious tang to it. If you can't find any near you, I imagine a good squeeze of lemon would give you the sour you need for this dish. Or you could just quickly order a jar from Amazon!

The other thing you'll need is fresh curry leaves. Or fresh curry leaves that have been frozen. Any Indian market should have them and here in Portland I am delighted to report that they can be found on the east side at Fubonn on SE 82nd. I am so happy to have these available a few blocks from where I work as before I had to make a 30 mile round trip journey in search of curry leaves. Which actually seemed quite reasonable. Once you start cooking with then you'll find them irreplaceable as they add a distinctive savory flavor to any dish. Buy a bunch and when you get home, rinse the leaves, shake them dry, then strip the leaves from the stems. Packed in a heavy ziplock bag they'll keep in the freezer for months.

You'll find the recipe here. I have eaten these heavenly potatoes twice this week with a big dollop of good yogurt. And I've been very happy. I hope you love them, too.

Let me know. Please? There has been rather a dearth of comments here at Magpie Eats and I am wondering if anyone is out there and trying my food.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Warming Soup for a Cold, Wet Day

It occurred to me that this blog has gotten really dessert heavy. It's not so much that all we eat are desserts but more that my kids are likelier to try new desserts than anything else. I can safely experiment in the world of sweets but deviating from the few savory foods they like seems to get me in no end of trouble.

But sometimes I just don't care. Which is why today I made up a simple, spicy soup which they will likely deem unfit for consumption. Too bad for them--more for me!

It's gray and soggy here in Portland, entirely typical for late November. Just the kind of day that makes a person want something hearty and warming and this soup is just the thing, thick with potatoes and a bit spicy from chorizo.

For those who think I've given up kashrut--fear not. It's a meatless chorizo I found at Trader Joe's and while I generally avoid soy based meat analogs, this seems like just the way to use such things. Of course I'm sure it would be delicious with pork based chorizo as well. I think I've seen chicken chorizo though if it's stuffed in a pork casing I won't be trying it.

As far as I can tell, this is a vegetarian version of the classic Portuguese dish caldo verde, but I only realized that after putting everything together. In any event, it is rich and spicy enough to take the chill off a cold November evening.

Do give it a try and let me know what you think. The recipe is here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Carrot Halvah

Yikes! It's been a little while since I've shared anything with you, hasn't it?

I had a number of things I wanted to write about but (and this is going to sound so lame) all my photos were stinky. The dishes I'm thinking of were not exactly photogenic and on top of that, the lighting was horrible. Really. We've had lots of dark skies and rainy days lately and none of my photos were remotely appetizing. I so want one of these in my kitchen for the cloudy days but I can't exactly call it a necessity.

Anyway--the sun came out again today just in time for me to show you one of the most brilliantly exotic dishes I know: carrot halvah. It's not halvah in the Israeli sesame seed sense, but a dense, sweet, highly flavored delight which makes a perfect ending to an Indian meal with a cup of spicy chai. Also, it's not bad for breakfast.

Long, gentle cooking is the key here so while it's not a complex recipe, do make sure you can pay attention as it's cooking. You will be rewarded with a sweet, buttery delight absolutely bursting with the flavor of freshly crushed cardamom.

If you ignore all the sugar and ghee, and focus on the many benefits of carrots, you can really feel good about this one. The recipe is here. Enjoy!