Peach muffins extend summer into school year

The Whole Dish podcast: Make, freeze frittata ‘muffins’ for speedy breakfasts

Old hat for so many households, back-to-school weeks signifies my family’s induction into the fairly inflexible academic calendar.

It’s bound to be an adjustment after the vagaries of infancy and toddlerhood and discretionary preschool attendance. My older son’s Kindergarten year also sees my younger in preschool several mornings per week, granting me recurring, regularly scheduled slots free from child care for the first time in five years!

As I’m selfishly planning to reestablish an exercise routine, I’m also less selfishly vowing to expend more effort on family meals, namely breakfast. The boys happily eat breakfast cereals, albeit the least sugary, least expensive versions I can conscience purchasing. But I know that I can do breakfast better — and for a better price. So I’m earmarking recipes to assemble over the next few weeks and stash away in the freezer and pantry.

Aiming for ready-in-minutes, grab-and-go fare, I’ve been revisiting past posts to this blog for hearty, healthful ways to start the day. On my list to make are: frittata muffins, breakfast bars, homemade granola and muesli. I’ve also been mining muffin recipes for those that incorporate extra veggies or calcium-rich dairy without too much sugar, such as Herbed Goat Cheese and Fig Muffins.

Although these peach muffins have a bit more sugar than I prefer, it’s still a vast improvement over a full cup or MORE of sugar. Extending summertime flavors for a few more weeks, the recipe achieves moisture with a cup of yogurt, which I always have on hand. I’d choose plain, rather than vanilla-flavored, to cut back on some sugar. Any neutral-flavored oil, such as grapeseed or avocado, would work well, too. For extra fiber and to reduce quantities of oil in quick breads, I always add at least a tablespoon and up to ¼ cup of flaxseed meal per recipe.

Tribune News Service photo

Peach Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup vanilla yogurt

5 medium to large peaches, cut in cubes

Heat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and baking soda; stir in the sugar.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, olive oil and yogurt, until smooth.

Slowly stir yogurt mixture into dry ingredients in large bowl until just combined. Do not overmix, as it will make muffins too dense. Gently stir in the peaches, with just a few turns.

Grease a standard-size muffin tin, then fill wells with batter. Bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until golden-brown. Let cool before serving.

Makes 9 medium to large muffins.

— Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from

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Peachy ‘panzanella’ repurposes cakes, biscuits

Fall’s first apples and pears are popping up in grocery stores, whetting my kids’ appetites for fruit they haven’t eaten in several months.

But as the biggest, locally grown peaches I’ve ever seen confirm, it’s still time to enjoy this singular summer fruit before they disappear for another 10 months or so. This week’s food section offers plenty of ideas, from classic cobbler to a play on caprese salad to peach “potpie” (see the e-edition)

Softball-sized peaches I purchased this week at Medford’s Food 4 Less are so impressive that they could constitute a dish practically on their own. I’m thinking “peach sundaes” composed of a halved peach cradling a scoop of ice cream, drizzled with fudge and caramel sauces, crowned with a maraschino cherry.

The dessert may materialize if we can keep ourselves from devouring the peaches out of hand. I’ve laid in a supply of whipping cream with the intent to serve it with fresh peaches, only to have the fruit consumed with breakfast cereal, at lunchtime and as snacks.

This whipped cream enhanced with fresh lemon zest and juice would be lovely atop a peach sundae, or arranged as a riff on panzanella, the Italian tomato salad that repurposes day-old bread. This recipe from Tribune News Service even could breathe life back into leftover biscuits, shortcakes or angel food cake, as suggested. It also could feature a variety of berries, including Southern Oregon’s still-ripening blackberries.

Tribune News Service photo

Peach-Blueberry Panzanella With Lemon Whipped Cream

4 cups leftover pound cake, or 1 (10.75-ounce) frozen pound cake, thawed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

4 tablespoons melted butter

4 ripe peaches

3/4 cup blueberries

2 teaspoons sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Lemon Whipped Cream (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Toss the pound cake cubes with the melted butter. Spread cubes on a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Let cool.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Prepare a bowl with water and ice. Score bottoms of the peaches with a paring knife. (Basically, this means drawing an X with your knife on bottom of each peach.)

Carefully place peaches in boiling water. After about 40 seconds, remove peaches from hot water and place immediately in ice-water bath to shock them. After about 1 minute, remove peaches from ice water. Peel peaches, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Place peaches in a bowl with the blueberries. Add the sugar and lemon juice to fruit and stir thoroughly. Place fruit in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes until you are ready to assemble dessert.

Divide pound cake cubes between 4 dessert bowls. Spread fruit over pound cake, then topped each serving with some of the lemon whipped cream. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

LEMON WHIPPED CREAM: Place a metal mixing bowl and beaters in freezer. Once you are ready to serve dessert, combine in chilled bowl: 1 cup chilled, heavy whipping cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest and 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice. Using chilled beaters, beat to soft peaks. (May be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Rewhisk before using.)

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Sweet corn kernels intensify summer polenta

The Whole Dish podcast: Polenta adapts easily to special dietary needs

Butter on corn. Salt on corn. Maybe chili powder on corn. Gloriously sweet corn practically stands alone so long as summer keeps the crop coming.

Corn on corn is a preparation that I love almost as much as stripping husks from a silk-clad, milky moist ear. That’s right: Fresh kernels in polenta is a delightful textural deviation from on-the-cob servings. I serve polenta all year in all kinds of ways, but seeding it with sweet corn kernels takes its blank-canvas potential to the next level.

Highly versatile, polenta can be flavored with just about any type of cheese or dairy product. Luxurious mascarpone is a family favorite. When all else fails, we usually toss a Parmesan rind into the simmering pot.

But we skipped creamy enhancements this past weekend in deference to my sister-in-law’s exclusion of dairy from her diet. Griddling the cooled and cut polenta and serving it with a sweet and tangy tomato chutney imparted plenty of flavor. I could have simmered the polenta in homemade stock if we didn’t have the savor of smoked chicken to go with it.

Indeed, adjusting one’s recipes to accommodate guests’ nutritional requirements is well within reach. And for those who still wanted cheese, we just served it on the side. Had the polenta been soft, we could have passed around butter, sour cream or the small mozzarella balls cited in the following recipe.

This one can easily be made dairy-free, or even vegan, by substituting oil for butter to saute the onion, vegetable or mushroom stock for chicken and forgoing the cheese garnish. Instead, add savor with nutritional yeast, finely crumbled nori seaweed or smoked paprika, which lends another bright color.

This recipe, from the Chicago Tribune, was devised to accompany Whiskey-Brined Pork Chops featured in Sunday’s Savvy Living (see the e-edition). Because the polenta was omitted from that spread, I’m offering it here.

Look for instant polenta in the imported foods aisle of large supermarkets, or order it online. Using regular polenta approximately doubles the cooking time.

Tribune News Service photo

Sweet Corn and Chive Polenta

1/4 cup butter

1 small sweet onion, such as Vidalia, peeled and finely chopped

3 cups fresh sweet corn kernels, from 5 to 6 small ears corn

4 cups chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1 cup instant polenta

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Chopped fresh chives, for garnish

Small pearls of fresh mozzarella (optional)

Crispy cornbread croutons, optional (recipe follows)

In a small skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and saute until golden-brown and soft, for about 5 minutes. Stir in half of the corn kernels; set aside. Puree remaining corn kernels in a blender or food processor until very smooth.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine the broth and salt; bring to a simmer. Whisking continuously, add the polenta in a slow, steady stream until mixture is smooth. Reduce heat to very low. Cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until mixture is thick and creamy, for about 5 minutes. (Use a splatter guard to prevent getting splashed with hot polenta.)

Stir corn puree into polenta. Cook and stir on low for 2 minutes. Stir in onion-corn mixture; simmer for a few minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with plenty of chives. Top with the mozzarella and/or cornbread croutons, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

CRISPY CORNBREAD CROUTONS: Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut 8 ounces (about 4 large baked squares) into 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until edges are golden-brown, for about 10 minutes. Cool completely. Store wrapped in foil for a day or so.

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A spot prawn by any other name tastes as sweet

Seafood’s origins and questions of sustainability are complexities I’ve attempted to unravel over the years.

Farmed versus wild shrimp were discussed in this blog’s previous post. But the topic gets even trickier when misnomers, often used as marketing, come into play. Take “prawns,” for example. My mom spent a good part of the past weekend in pursuit of restaurants’ preparations of “prawns,” actually large shrimp, either wild-caught or farmed but probably the latter.

So why call a species by another’s name? To avoid the oxymoron “jumbo shrimp,” perhaps? Or to appeal to prawns’ regard worldwide (both Brits and Aussies refer to shrimp as “prawns”). In reality, when we’re talking about farmed specimens, prawns almost exclusively inhabit fresh water (including giant tiger prawns) while shrimp need saltwater.

Even in the Pacific Northwest, where seafood misnomers seem less common, a large species of shrimp has been gaining a steady following under the moniker “spot prawn.” I acquainted myself with this delicacy last summer upon purchasing 3 pounds of live crustaceans at my favorite Charleston fish market (see photos on my Facebook page). Then I had to dispatch the still-wriggling shrimp by separating heads from tails. The tails I sautéed in plenty of butter while the heads flavored a superb stock for bouillabaisse.

Although this recipe calls for aforementioned spot prawns, large shrimp of any species — but preferably wild-caught — could be substituted. To most closely replicate the recipe, absent spot prawns, consider springing for shell-on, frozen and defrosted langoustines.

This dish was developed by Bellingham, Wash., resident JoAna Phillips to celebrate the overlap of spot-prawn and tomato seasons in the Pacific Northwest. It was a finalist in the Washington Post’s 2015 Top Tomato recipe competition.

Photo by Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post

Thai Spot Prawns With Tomato

3 tablespoons corn or neutral-flavored oil

1 medium white onion, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch-thick wedges

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch half-moon slices

5 medium ripe tomatoes, preferably a mix of colors, cut into 3/4-inch wedges (2 1/4 pounds)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1-inch square piece palm sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

8 jumbo spot prawns cooked with shell on; leave intact including any roe that may be attached (may substitute langoustines or extra-large shrimp)

1 large top sprig Thai basil

Lime wedges, for serving

Cooked rice, for serving

Preheat a wok or large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat, then add the onion and stir-fry/cook just until it begins to soften. Add the zucchini and stir to coat, then add the tomatoes and garlic; cook just until juices they give off start to bubble.

Meanwhile, in a heatproof container in the microwave or in a small saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the palm sugar in 1/3 cup water. Stir that into wok or skillet, along with the fish sauce (to taste), toasted sesame oil and crushed red-pepper flakes, stirring until well-incorporated.

Nestle the prawns into onion-tomato mixture; cook, undisturbed, for 3 to 5 minutes, until just warmed through, turning them as needed so they’re evenly cooked. (Tomatoes should still be intact.) Pluck leaves and any flower tops from the sprig of basil and add them to mix, gently working them in and turning prawns once more. Turn off heat.

Divide among individual wide, shallow bowls. Serve hot, with the lime wedges, over cooked jasmine rice.

Makes 4 servings.

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Mint-chili butter fittingly accents ‘special’ shrimp

Yes, shrimp are special.

It’s an opinion on which I agree — sort of — with Daniel Neman, whose story got front-page placement in the current food section (see the e-edition).

“Sort of,” I say, because low-fat, quick-cooking shrimp are becoming almost as popular — and commonplace — as boneless, skinless chicken breast. Chicken of the sea, if you will. So they’ve been farmed on a widespread scale, namely in Southeast Asia, and offered — peeled and deveined — to the American masses as a convenience food.

But whenever a food is marketed for convenience, flavor usually takes a back seat, in my experience. Like the aforementioned chicken breasts, farm-raised shrimp can be significantly lacking in flavor, compared with their wild-caught counterparts. I’ve blogged before about my practices for buying shrimp and the reasoning behind them.

Shrimp also share chicken’s reputation as an easy protein addition to just about any dish. But when you spend the extra money for good-quality shrimp, and the time to peel and devein them, ensure their “special” status by keeping other ingredients low-key.

This straightforward presentation, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune, imparts a slightly crunchy coating on large, succulent shrimp. The mint-chili butter is a seasonally appropriate condiment, evoking the jalapeno mayonnaise highlighted in a previous post and companion podcast.

For best results, allow frozen shrimp to thaw completely in the refrigerator and pat them very dry before tossing in the cornstarch. Serve these shrimp with plenty of bread to soak up the butter. Or pile them over cooked rice, or onto grilled bread, top with shredded cheese and broil to melt the cheese for an open-face treat. There will be leftover butter; spread it on bread or stir it into mashed sweet potatoes.

Tribune News Service photo

Pan-Roasted Shrimp With Mint-Chili Butter

2 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped, plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh mint leaves

1 small garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

1/2 medium jalapeno chili, stemmed, halved lengthwise, seeded and finely chopped, to measure 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 count per pound), peeled leaving last part of tail intact, deveined

3 tablespoons expeller-pressed canola oil, safflower oil or sunflower oil

Thick slices toasted sourdough or country-style bread, for serving

In a small bowl, combine the scallions, mint, garlic, jalapeno and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Add the butter and mix well. Use at room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch, sugar, black pepper and remaining salt.

Pat the shrimp very dry with toweling. Add to cornstarch mixture, tossing to coat.

Turn on kitchen exhaust fan. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium-high heat until hot (when a drop of water sizzles on contact). Add half of the oil and half of coated shrimp. Cook, continuously moving shrimp around in pan with metal tongs, until they turn pink, for about 2 minutes. Immediately remove to a serving platter and dot tops with some mint-chili butter.

Repeat to cook remaining shrimp. Serve hot, sprinkled with more scallions. Pass napkins. Serve with toast to mop up soft butter. (Refrigerate leftover butter up to a week or freeze for several weeks.)

Makes 4 servings.

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Lamb, eggplant a power couple in this casserole

The Whole Dish podcast: Slow simmer also suited to lamb stew meat

Less than two months after purchasing a whole lamb from a local 4-Her, I’m already rationing the ground meat.

Summer’s burgers and all manner of stuffed, garden-fresh vegetables are putting a major dent in the ground lamb supply that I’ll also tap this winter for cabbage rolls, shepherd’s pie and our family’s favorite meatballs. And I haven’t even made the season’s first moussaka with our rapidly ripening eggplants.

So I’m challenging myself to use the cubed shoulders, packaged as “stew” and “kebab” meat, for more than my favorite summer souvlaki with the garden’s zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers. Slow-simmered, this casserole isn’t my typical idea of warm-weather fare, yet it’s in the same vein as moussaka and eggplant Parmesan, which won’t wait for cooler evenings when there are now so many eggplants to use.

The casserole comes on the recommendation of food writer Daniel Neman, who dubbed this dish his favorite in a group of recipes tested last August for a story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He calls the marriage of lamb and eggplant “special” and this casserole, in particular, “almost unworldly.” Well, if a 3- and 5-year-old will eat it, that would truly make it a special addition to my repertoire.

Hailing from the south of France, the casserole has been likened to the iconic French dish cassoulet, considered by some gourmets the epitome of comfort food with peasant roots. “If they made cassoulet in Provence, it might taste like this,” said cookbook author Jane Sigal.

Or if you made it in Southern Oregon with lamb raised a few miles down the road, the garden’s new-crop garlic and sweet onions and just-picked eggplant, it would taste like home.

Tribune News Service photo

Casserole of Lamb and Eggplant With Garlic

2 3/4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces, or lamb stew meat

Salt, to taste

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed, divided

2 medium onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

2 pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup chicken stock

1 bouquet garni (1 branch fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 6 parsley stems and 1 bay leaf tied in a bundle with kitchen string or cheesecloth)

Black pepper, to taste

3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

3 large garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Sprinkle the pieces of lamb with some salt. In a cast-iron or heavy skillet, heat 1/2 cup of the oil over medium heat. Add lamb pieces to oil in batches, brown them all over, 5 to 7 minutes per batch, then transfer to a large casserole.

Add the onions to same pan and cook, stirring, until they are tinged with brown, for 8 to 10 minutes. Add them to lamb in casserole. In same skillet, brown the eggplant in batches with a little salt and add it to lamb. Add oil while cooking eggplant if it looks too dry.

Pour the stock into lamb casserole and tuck in the bouquet garni. Transfer casserole to oven and bake, uncovered, until lamb is tender, for about 1 1/2 hours. Stir mixture 2 or 3 times while cooking. Discard bouquet garni. Add pepper and taste for seasoning. (Casserole can be cooked to this point a day or two ahead and chilled. Reheat, covered, in a 350-degree oven before proceeding).

While lamb cooks, make topping. Add the breadcrumbs to bowl of a food processor and slice in the garlic. Pulse until garlic is coarsely chopped. Add the parsley and pulse until everything is finely chopped. In a pan, melt the butter with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add breadcrumb mixture and stir until evenly coated with butter.

Heat oven broiler. Sprinkle topping over lamb mixture. Put casserole on an oven rack so topping is about 2 inches from heat and broil until lightly browned, for 3 to 5 minutes. Watch carefully and turn casserole as necessary so topping browns evenly and doesn’t burn. Serve as soon as possible.

Makes 6 servings.

Adapted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from “Backroad Bistros, Farmhouse Fare: A French Country Cookbook,” by Jane Sigal.

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This roasted eggplant luxuriates in tahini, yogurt

My accidental neglect for one of the season’s first eggplants prompted this blog’s previous post.

While roasting and pureeing salvages eggplants a bit worse for the wear, those perfectly portly specimens deserve the spotlight. We love eggplant Parmesan for its rich, comfort-food flavor, but the eggplant’s aesthetic is lost under all that breading, sauce and cheese.

Halving the fruits and stuffing them may be a tougher sell, where the kids are concerned. But they surprised me recently by eating their way around a roasted eggplant, presented as a rotund receptacle for ground, seasoned and browned lamb, combined with chunks of garden-fresh tomatoes and feta cheese. Only the eggplant skin — a tough sell, even for some adults — gave them pause.

Flavors of lemon, yogurt and honey may go farther in this presentation of roasted eggplant, billed as “carpaccio.” I find the recipe title a bit confusing, given that the eggplant is sliced only once, lengthwise, rather than thinly sliced, as the term “carpaccio” implies.

Because the fruit luxuriates in so many distinctive and indispensably Mediterranean flavors, I may rename it something like “smothered eggplant supreme.” Whatever the name, it’s bound to be delicious, maybe a new family favorite.

Consider serving this with warm flatbread and a side of sheep-milk feta.

Tribune News Service photo

Eggplant Carpaccio

4 medium eggplants

4 tablespoons tahini

4 tablespoons yogurt

4 teaspoons honey

8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tomatoes, halved

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

1 teaspoon chopped hot green pepper

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 small bunch of fresh hyssop or oregano leaves

Roast the eggplants by placing them on a grill or on a cooking element over a gas burner, turning frequently until charred and softened all over. Or, poke holes all over with a fork and broil them in oven about 8 inches from heat source. Turn frequently until softened all over.

Cool slightly and cut open. Place each eggplant on a plate and flatten slightly with a fork.

Pour small puddles of the tahini, yogurt, honey, olive oil and lemon juice over eggplant. Spoon out contents of 1/2 of 1 of the tomatoes over each eggplant. Season with the garlic, hot pepper, salt and pepper. Garnish with the hyssop or oregano and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from “The Book of New Israel Food: A Culinary Journey,” by Janna Gur.

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Peppers, tomatoes switch up eggplant spread

A nice bit of planning, I thought, to have polished off a batch of baba ghanoush made from last year’s frozen eggplant — just as this year’s fresh specimens were sizing up.

Then I let the garden’s first gloriously shiny, richly purple globe languish a bit too long in the refrigerator. Pocked and puckered, its color dulled by cold, this eggplant was good only for … baba ghanoush. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer the Mediterranean eggplant spread to hummus. But I thought I’d get at least one eggplant Parmesan under my belt before the roasting and freezing of extraneous eggplant flesh commenced.

With my taste for baba ghanoush so recently satisfied with my freezer stash eggplant, an alternative with this summer’s first fruit is in order. And this recipe, which makes such a sizable batch, also seems appropriate for freezing in preparation for the cold season, when sun-soaked, garden-fresh flavors are much harder to come by.

I’ll likely have to wait another month or so for enough garden peppers to ripen to ruddiness. In the meantime, I can hoard roasted eggplant flesh in the freezer and process enough garden tomatoes to round out the ingredients. Perish the thought of using canned produce amid the current bounty.

Tribune News Service photo

Pepper Spread

4 pounds red bell peppers, roasted and peeled (see note)

1 large eggplant, about 1 pound, roasted and peeled (see note)

6 to 10 small thin hot peppers, such as serranos, seeded and finely chopped

2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup olive oil, divided

6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/2 cup finely chopped, fresh parsley

Salt, to taste

NOTE: To roast the red peppers, place on a foil-covered baking sheet in a 425-degree oven. Cook until charred and softened all over, for about 25 to 30 minutes. Place in a paper bag and close bag or wrap individually in plastic wrap (after first allowing to cool slightly for a few minutes). Let sit for 15 minutes. You should be able to pull off skins easily with your fingers. Remove stem and discard all seeds.

To roast the eggplant, place it on a grill or on a cooking element over a gas burner, turning frequently until charred and softened all over. Or, poke holes all over with a fork and broil it in oven about 8 inches from heat source. Turn frequently until softened all over.

Puree the hot peppers in a food processor, then add roasted bell peppers and eggplant and continue processing until smooth.

In a large pot, combine puree and the crushed tomatoes; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring continuously, until thickened slightly, for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and cooks down, for about another hour.

Add remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, the garlic and parsley; season with the salt and continue to cook, stirring, until all liquid has cooked off, for 15 minutes or so. Let cool slightly and spoon into a large, clean glass jar. Let it cool in jar, cover tightly with lid and store in refrigerator. Pepper spread will keep indefinitely.

Makes about 6 cups.

Recipe from “The Glorious Foods of Greece,” by Diane Kochilas, tested by Tribune News Service.

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Brioche buns more than burger-patty bookends

The Whole Dish podcast: Shrimp burgers luxurious match for brioche buns

Brioche hamburger buns, mentioned in my latest podcast, recently vied with pretzel buns for my affections while shopping at a locally owned grocer.

I’d noticed Franz’s brioche buns sometime this past spring, but now an artisan brand, St. Pierre, had debuted at Medford’s Food 4 Less. Quel joi!

And St. Pierre’s pack of four buns is perfect for my family. I admit it’s something of a pet peeve to buy a package of hamburger or hot dog buns, only to have a few left over that either have to be frozen, or fed to the chickens.

So I didn’t hesitate to add the package of buns to my cart with little consideration for what type of burger they would bookend. Salmon, turkey, lamb, even eggplant. Whichever patty materialized, I was romanticizing the sensation of first biting into a pillowy bun rich with buttery, eggy flavor.

Of course the crème de la crème of brioche is the dough you make yourself and eat straight out of the oven. These hamburger buns require a bit less time than the pretzel version I posted, about an hour plus rising time, according to the Los Angeles Times, which tested the recipe.

Tribune News Service photo

Brioche Buns

3/4 cup milk, divided

1 package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast

1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided

3 eggs, divided

10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature

3 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a small pan, heat 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of milk over medium heat, just until warmed. Remove from heat, and pour milk into a small bowl or measuring cup. Stir in the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar, then set aside until milk is foamy and yeast is activated, for about 10 minutes.

Crack 2 of the eggs into bowl of a stand mixer and whisk, using the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), until light and fluffy, for about 1 minute. Stir in yeast mixture and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until fully incorporated.

If using a stand mixer, switch to paddle attachment. With mixer running, add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until incorporated.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. With mixer running, add flour mixture, a spoonful at a time, until fully incorporated.

Remove dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until it is soft and somewhat silky (it’s a rich dough and won’t be entirely smooth), for 5 to 7 minutes. Place dough in a large, oiled bowl and lightly cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (Alternatively, you can refrigerate dough overnight, then take it out the next day and wait for it to come to room temperature.)

Meanwhile, make an egg wash: Beat together remaining egg with remaining 2 tablespoons milk.

Heat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease parchment.

When dough is doubled (it will be very smooth and elastic), punch it down and divide it into 6 pieces, each weighing about 5 ounces. Form each piece into a ball, pinching seams together at base of each one. Flatten ball so it’s about 1 inch thick and place on prepared baking sheet; continue until you have 6 rounds evenly spaced on sheet.

Lightly brush each round with prepared wash (for deeper coloring, brush rounds a second time after first wash has dried), and set aside until rounds are puffed and almost doubled in size, for about 15 minutes.

Bake rounds until they are puffed and a rich golden color, for about 20 minutes, rotating halfway for even coloring. Cool completely on a rack before slicing and serving.

Makes 6 buns.

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Pretzels even better as breads, burger buns

Pretzel bread has caused some swooning in a few past posts to this blog. And as mentioned in my latest podcast, pretzel buns for hamburgers have finally found their way into Southern Oregon’s supermarket mainstream.

I urged the purchase of pretzel buns for summer’s bountiful burgers. We all know, of course, that packaged buns, rolls and other breads are poor imitations for fresh-baked counterparts. After all, if you’re going to spend time perfecting your burger recipe, you should serve it on the very best bun, according to a recent story in the Los Angeles Times.

Try to approach this with the same enthusiasm as mixing up the patty, rather than thinking about the additional time in the kitchen. Recipe testers even sanction skipping the lye wash, brushing the buns with egg for coloring and sheen, then topping the finished product with coarse sea salt.

For fresh-baked pretzel buns, I would be much more likely to consider it time well spent. The Los Angeles Times estimates an hour and 20 minutes for these buns, not including rising time. If you’re a baking enthusiast, that may seem like very little. If you’re crazy for pretzel bread, like I am, better make it a double batch.

Tribune News Service photo

Pretzel Buns

1 (1/4-ounce) package active-dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

2 teaspoons light-brown sugar

5 cups bread flour, divided

1/2 cup rye flour

2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Pretzel wash, such as lye (see note) or beaten whole egg

Coarse sea salt, for topping

In bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over 1 3/4 cups warm water. Stir in the sugar and 1/2 cup of the bread flour. Set aside until yeast begins to bubble, for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together remaining bread flour with the rye flour and salt.

Beat the melted butter into large bowl with yeast. Using dough hook (if using a stand mixer) or a fork or wooden spoon (if mixing by hand), slowly mix in remaining flour mixture, a spoonful at a time, until all flour is added and a firm, thick dough is formed.

Move dough to a lightly floured board. Knead dough until it is smooth and elastic, for 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove dough to a large, oiled bowl. Cover and set aside in a warm place until dough is almost doubled in size, for 45 minutes to an hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the pretzel wash and heat oven to 375 F.

Divide risen dough into 8 pieces, each weighing about 5 ounces. Form each piece into a ball, pinching seams together at base of each one. Flatten each ball so it’s about 1 inch thick.

Coat dough with wash. If using lye, dip roll in wash (wear rubber kitchen gloves and goggles) for 15 to 20 seconds, turning roll over halfway to coat evenly. Remove round to a greased, nonreactive baking sheet and top as desired (if using an aluminum baking sheet, line sheet with parchment before greasing). If using the beaten egg, brush egg over buns.

Use a serrated knife or razor blade to make a crosswise slit into top of each roll about 1/2 inch deep. Sprinkle over the coarse sea salt. Set rounds aside until puffed and risen, for about 15 minutes.

Bake pretzel rounds, 1 sheet at a time, in center of oven until puffed and a rich golden-brown (color will vary depending on wash), for about 20 minutes. Rotate sheet halfway through baking for even coloring.

Remove baking sheet to a rack, and set aside until pretzel buns have cooled completely before slicing and serving.

Makes 8 buns.

NOTE: Food-grade lye is the classic wash for pretzels. It can be found at some cooking-supply stores and online (do not use common lye; it is not food-safe). To make enough wash for one batch of buns, dissolve 1 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) food-grade lye in 1 quart warm water (add lye to water, not the other way around) in a glass bowl. Wear gloves and goggles while using this wash; lye can burn if it comes into contact with skin or eyes.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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