Chinese Scallion Pancakes


Our favorite Chinese restaurant is The Tea House in St. Paul. I first heard about it years ago in a St. Paul Pioneer Press review. They gave it 4 out of 4 stars, something I hadn’t seen in any review before, so we had to check it out. We’ve been fans ever since.

I usually order their Szechuan Eggplant in Garlic Sauce—it’s amazing! My mouth is watering just thinking about it—spicy, sweet, and sour perfection. For a starter, we always get an order of their Shanghai Scallion Pancakes and they are delicious. Something made me think about them last week and I decided to see if there were recipes online for something similar. There were lots of recipes!

After perusing a bunch, I found they were all pretty similar. You make a dough of flour and boiling water, knead it, let it rest, and roll out your dough. Then you brush it with oil (or chicken fat—no thanks!), sprinkle with salt and scallions, roll jelly-roll style and then cinnamon roll style. After a final roll out into a round, you pan-fry them and serve them with a simple dipping sauce.

My first batch was made following an America’s Test Kitchen recipe found on The Splendid Table’s website. They were good, but I thought they would be better using less oil in the pan and more scallions in the pancakes.

For my second batch, in additional to using less oil, rather than rolling the dough initially into rounds, I followed directions from a recipe on the Omnivore’s Cookbook site to roll into a long, narrow rectangle, resulting in a longer coil that ultimately made for more flakiness in the pancakes.


In one of the many recipes I read, it mentioned that traditional Chinese flour results in flakier pancakes than regular all-purpose flour. They suggested using pastry flour or cake flour in place of some of the all-purpose flour, so in the second batch, I used one-third cake flour, one-third whole wheat pastry flour, and one-third all-purpose. I’m not sure how much it helped, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

The second batch was the definite winner. Crispy, flakey, scalliony, with no trace of greasiness. The dipping sauce added a salty, slightly sweet component to finish the dish and made it every bit as good as the Shanghai Scallion Pancakes from The Tea House. Enjoy!

Chinese Scallion Pancakes

Adapted from this Omnivore’s Cookbook Recipe and this America’s Test Kitchen recipe on The Splendid Table

Dipping Sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

1 scallion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon water

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons honey (use agave or maple syrup for a vegan version)

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Scallion Pancakes:
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided (or a mixture of all-purpose, cake, and whole wheat pastry flours—half cup each)

3/4 cup boiling water

5 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil or a neutral vegetable oil like grapeseed or canola, divided

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

6 scallions, thinly sliced

For the Dipping Sauce: Whisk all ingredients together in small bowl and set aside.

For the Pancakes: Using a wooden spoon, mix 1 1/2 cups flour and the boiling water in a bowl to form rough dough. When cool enough to handle, transfer dough to lightly floured surface and knead until tacky (but not sticky) ball forms, about 4 minutes Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

While dough is resting, stir together 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil, the sesame oil, and remaining 1 tablespoon flour into a paste. Set aside.

Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over low heat to preheat. Divide dough into three equal portions. Cover two pieces of dough with plastic wrap and set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the first piece of dough into a rectangle, approximately 12 x 8 inches. Drizzle with one-third of the paste and use a pastry brush to spread evenly over entire surface. Sprinkle with 1/3 teaspoon of the kosher salt and a third of the scallions.

On the long end, roll the dough into cylinder (jelly roll style). Coil the cylinder into a spiral (cinnamon roll style), tuck the end underneath, and flatten the spiral with your palm. Cover with plastic and repeat with remaining two pieces of dough, oil-flour mixture, salt, and scallions.

Roll each spiral into 7 or 8-inch round. Cover with plastic.

Place 1 tablespoon peanut oil in the skillet and increase heat to medium-low. Place one pancake in the skillet (oil should sizzle). Cover and cook, shaking skillet occasionally, until pancake is slightly puffy and is golden brown on the underside, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. (If underside is not browned after 1 minute, turn heat up slightly. If it is browning too quickly, turn heat down slightly.) Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon peanut oil over the pancake and use a pastry brush to distribute over entire surface. Carefully flip pancake. Cover and cook, shaking skillet occasionally, until second side is golden brown, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.

Uncover skillet and continue to cook until bottom is deep golden brown and crispy, 30 to 60 seconds longer. Flip and cook until deep golden brown and crispy, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer to wire rack. Repeat with remaining pancakes.

Cut each pancake into 6 wedges and serve, passing dipping sauce separately. Makes 4 appetizer servings.

To Make Ahead: Stack uncooked pancakes between layers of parchment paper, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours or freeze for up to 1 month. If frozen, thaw pancakes in single layer for 15 minutes before cooking.

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Brussels Sprouts Elote-Style


Recently Pete and I crossed a “must-try” restaurant off our list. Pajarito, a St. Paul Mexican eatery, has been open a little more than a year and what a shame it took us that long to get there—the food was phenomenal! Everything we ordered, we’d happily get again, but the Brussels sprouts elote-style were change-your-life good. For reals!

Elote is Mexican street corn, but when Pajarito opened last winter, corn wasn’t in season, so they decided to give the elote treatment to Brussels sprouts. The flavors were amazing and as soon as we got home, I started googling to see if I could find a similar recipe. Lucky me, the restaurant’s actual recipe was written up by two local media outlets (that’s how popular these little nuggets of wonder are!).

Pajarito starts by deep-frying the Brussels sprouts, and because I refuse to venture into the land of deep-frying in my kitchen, I used their suggestion of oven-roasting as an alternative. Also, their recipe uses a homemade aioli. Being a little leery of making things with raw egg yolks and not wanting to buy a dozen pasteurized eggs when only one was needed, I simply added their seasonings to already-on-hand mayonnaise (Earth Balance’s Mindful Mayo).

Tajín is the brand of seasoning the restaurant uses to finish off this dish, along with a sprinkling of cotija cheese. After checking one store and not finding Tajín, I just went ahead and ordered it from Amazon. This mixture of lime, chilies, and salt really elevates the dish, so definitely use it if you can find it locally or have Amazon Prime.

The finished product was absolutely delicious—I thought it was just as good as the restaurant’s deep-fried version, minus the extra fat and calories. And by using vegan mayonnaise, all that’s needed if you want it completely plant-based is to skip the cotija. Enjoy!

Brussels Sprouts Elote-Style

Adapted from a recipe by chefs Stephan Hesse and Tyge Nelson of Pajarito in St. Paul, MN

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/8 cup Elote Aioli (recipe follows)

About a 1/2 tsp. Tajín brand seasoning (can be found in the international section at well-stocked grocery stores and from Amazon)

1 lime, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place Brussels sprouts in a medium bowl and toss with olive oil and salt & pepper. On a parchment lined baking sheet, place sprouts, cut side down. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.

Transfer cooked sprouts to a bowl and toss with 1/8 cup Elote Aioli. Place sprouts on a serving dish/plate, sprinkle with Tajín seasoning, cotija cheese, then garnish with lime wedges, and serve. Makes about 4 servings.

Elote Aioli

Note: This is basically a flavored mayonnaise. Crema is a more sour crème fraîche and is available in most supermarkets and Mexican specialty food stores. The recipe will make more Elote Aioli than needed for this Brussels sprouts recipe, but the leftovers are good on just about anything, including in place of plain mayonnaise in tuna salad—awesome! Refrigerate remaining aioli in a tightly sealed container for up to a week.

1 cup mayonnaise

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¾ teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon dried oregano

¾ teaspoon hot sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot)

1/4 c. crema (which I didn’t have so used a couple splashes of buttermilk)

½ to 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Salt, to taste

In a medium bowl, whisk together first 8 ingredients (through lime juice). Season to taste with salt. Transfer aioli into an airtight container and refrigerate. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Union Square Café’s Bar Nuts


Need a new recipe to include in your rotation of holiday munchies? I’ve got just the one for you! Union Square Café’s Bar Nuts are warm, healthy, addictive, and best of all, quick & easy to make. You will definitely impress your guests.

The Union Square Café is a long-running New York City restaurant and the nuts they serve in their bar are famous. Google them and you’ll find the recipe on many different sites from Epicurious to Saveur, but only one, The Smitten Kitchen, has you return the nuts to the oven for a final bake after tossing with the butter-rosemary mixture. This makes all the difference!

Because I’m not a big rosemary fan, I was skeptical of this recipe at first, but Deb at the Smitten Kitchen assures that even the rosemary-averse will love it here and I wholeheartedly agree.

I’ve made these twice, the first time with all cashews and the second with cashews and almonds. I liked both equally well when they were warm, but when eating at room temperature, I prefer the cashew only version.

If you use mixed nuts, keep in mind some of the nut varieties will get over-toasted before other nuts are just right. That’s the reason I stuck to cashews and almonds, which take the same amount of time.

Stock up on nuts, you’ll be making these several times over the holidays for all your gatherings and you can also package them in small jars for gift-giving. Enjoy!



Union Square Café’s Bar Nuts

Slightly adapted from this Smitten Kitchen recipe

1 pound unsalted cashews or almonds or a combination (either raw or roasted)

1 ½ tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

¼ – ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending how much heat you’d like

2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread nuts on a sheet pan and toast for 7-15 minutes (raw nuts will require the longer cooking time, already roasted will take less). Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, and salt.

Once the nuts are toasted, dump them in the bowl and stir to evenly coat. Return the nuts to the sheet pan and spread in an even layer. Bake another 5-10 minutes.

Cool for a few minutes and serve warm. The nuts are also good at room temperature or reheated for 5 minutes at 350 degrees F. Store leftovers in an airtight jar. Makes about 3 ½ cups.

No-Knead Cinnamon Chip Bread

Bread
We recently hosted our friends Lori & Scott at the cabin for a fall color weekend, which was a great time and the leaves were gorgeous! Preparation for cabin trips is especially fun for me because it involves cooking and baking in advance so we have more time to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors once we’re there.

This trip, to go with our hearty cabin breakfasts, I made cinnamon chip bread with homemade cinnamon chips. Having made the cinnamon chips several times before (great in muffins and cookies!), I knew they would be good, but it was a first time for this bread recipe, which is adapted from one I got years ago from baker extraordinaire, Renee Saxman, a friend from my running days in Rochester.

A “Renee” recipe is always delicious when made by Renee. I just wasn’t sure if it would be as good when made by me. Hesitant to serve this untested to friends, I decided to cut off one slice of the finished bread to make sure it was “company-worthy.” Long story short, it was so good that Pete and I polished off the entire loaf. Fortunately, there was plenty of time to make another loaf and pop it in the freezer until the trip.

Why, you may ask, make homemade cinnamon chips when you can buy a good-tasting package at the grocery store? Most grocery store versions (Hershey’s, I’m talking to you) have some sketchy ingredients like partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, artificial colors, and natural & artificial flavors (but no mention of the word cinnamon—can you believe it?), so making my own was an easy choice. The King Arthur Flour brand, which has more natural ingredients, can be ordered online, but I’ve never seen it in stores.

The cinnamon chips are quick to make and once cooled and broken into pieces, will keep for several days in a covered container at room temperature. If you make them rather than using store-bought, you’ll be happy you did, plus, it will give you super-baker cred!
Home-made Cinnamon Chips

This is a perfect autumn and winter bread. Slightly sweet, with a crunch of cinnamon sugar on top, it’s delightful toasted or not. A little butter or jam, maybe peanut butter even, make for comfort-food bliss, and it’s a wonderful addition to breakfast—either at the cabin or at home. Enjoy!
Cinnamon Chip Bread

No-Knead Cinnamon Chip Bread

2 cups all-purpose or bread flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup warm milk (105-115 degrees F.)

¼ cup butter, melted

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup cinnamon chips (recipe follows)

Cinnamon sugar for topping (1/8 cup organic sugar mixed with ½ tablespoon cinnamon)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, yeast, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, egg, and vanilla. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, and mix until smooth (I used a stand mixer, which works better than a hand mixer).

Cover the bowl and let rise at room temperature for about an hour. Stir in the baking powder and cinnamon chips.

Scrape batter into a greased 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar (you probably won’t use it all). Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45-50 minutes (it should read 200 degrees on an instant read thermometer when done).

Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. This freezes well, so is ideal to make ahead. Makes 1 loaf.

Cinnamon Chips
From this All Recipes post

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon non-hydrogenated shortening (I used Spectrum Organic Shortening)

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees F. Mix together all ingredients in a medium bowl to form a dough. Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll dough to 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet and remove top layer of parchment. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until bubbly.

Transfer, on parchment, to a wire rack and cool completely. Break into pieces. Makes about 1 cup.

Buffalo Cauliflower with Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce

Buffalo Cauliflower with Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce
Even though Buffalo wings had become bar food standards before I turned vegetarian, I’ve never had them. The smells of blue cheese dressing (I can’t stand blue cheese) and Buffalo sauce combined turned me off completely, as did chicken wings in general.

Then 25 years or so after I’d written off Buffalo anything entirely, a recipe for veggie balls in Buffalo sauce, served with ranch dressing instead of the dreaded blue cheese, popped up in my newsfeed. The recipe’s Buffalo sauce had a high butter to hot sauce ratio and I ended up not liking the butter overload and upset stomach that resulted.

Resolved to avoid Buffalo sauce for the rest of my life, I reluctantly decided to try it again after reading rave reviews of the Buffalo “wings” at a newly opened vegan restaurant in St. Paul. Having a few days left of our recent vacation, Pete and I enjoyed a weekday lunch date at J. Selby’s, which as far as I know, is the only vegan St. Paul restaurant. Based on those reviews, we started with the Buffalo “wings,” which were made from cauliflower. So delicious, and we both had to exercise restraint in order to not finish the entire order before our entrées arrived. With vegan meaning no “real” butter, there was neither a butter overload nor an upset stomach—yay!!

"Cheddar" Cauliflower

Battered Cauliflower

At home in my fridge’s crisper was a head of orange, also called cheddar, cauliflower and thoughts of making my own version began to percolate (the color doesn’t change the taste–it’s the same as white cauliflower). After looking at several recipes, I adapted one from the Frank’s RedHot Sauce website, mainly because their hot sauce was supposedly the secret ingredient in the first ever Buffalo Wings to come out of Buffalo, New York.

Baked Cauliflower

This recipe called for less butter than the ill-fated one referred to earlier, and to make it vegan like J. Selby’s, I replaced that butter with a combo of vegan margarine and non-hydrogenated shortening.

White or brown rice flour could be substituted in place of the wheat flour for a gluten-free option. I include a recipe for ranch dipping sauce, but if you want traditional blue cheese, go for it (while I stifle a gag).

Of course, these crispy, spicy, cauliflowery nuggets will make an awesome appetizer at your next party, but they also will stand in just fine in place of dinner while you absent mindedly eat the entire batch you made to test the recipe on a Tuesday night after work. Don’t ask me how I know. Enjoy!

Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower

 

Buffalo Cauliflower with Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce

Adapted from this Frank’s RedHot Sauce recipe

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (substitute brown rice flour for gluten-free)

½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (substitute rice flour for gluten—free)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup water

1 medium head white or orange (also called cheddar) cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets

½ cup Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce

2 tablespoons vegan butter, such as Earth Balance, melted

1 tablespoon non-hydrogenated shortening, such as Spectrum Organic, melted

Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly oil a large baking sheet or line it with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Whisk in water and continuing whisking until very smooth. Dump in your cauliflower florets and stir until evenly coated.

Using tongs, move cauliflower pieces to prepared baking sheet, shaking off excess batter into the bowl as you do so (I had some batter left over). Make sure florets are evenly spread out on baking sheet, in a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes, until coating is golden, rotating baking sheet at about the 10-minute mark for even browning.

Meanwhile, mix Frank’s RedHot Sauce together with the melted butter and shortening.

Remove florets from the oven and drizzle with sauce mixture and toss with a spatula to evenly coat. Return to the oven for about 10 more minutes, until cauliflower begins to crisp.

Remove cauliflower to a platter and serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing. Makes about 6 appetizer servings.

Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt, regular or vegan

1/3 cup mayonnaise (I use vegan Earth Balance Mindful Mayo)

¼ cup milk of choice (skim, almond, soy, etc.)

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (I used a combination of chives, garlic chives, and parsley)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk yogurt, mayo, milk, lemon juice, and mustard together in a small bowl. Stir in herbs, salt, and pepper. Chill until ready to serve.

Hotel Donaldson’s Signature Lavosh ala Suzanne


I’ve made a lot of pizza crusts in my life. Sometimes thick, sometimes thin, and all sorts of in between. But until a few days ago, I had never made a cracker thin crust or anything resembling lavosh (an Armenian cracker bread or flatbread, either yeasted or unleavened). Never really thought about making it either until I was inspired by the always inspirational Sarah Nasello. She and her husband Tony write a weekly food column in the The Forum, and this week it included a recipe for the Hotel Donaldson’s Signature Lavosh.

The Hotel Donaldson (HoDo for short) is a trendy boutique hotel in cool downtown Fargo, North Dakota (yes, I said cool and North Dakota in the same sentence!), that is home to both a great casual restaurant/bar and wonderful fine dining restaurant. No visit to Fargo is complete without a visit to HoDo.

After reading Sarah’s column, my mind immediately thought of combining the recipe with yummy Shaved Asparagus Pizza from the super talented Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook—one of the most used in my collection.

With it being asparagus season, I just made the pizza a few days ago and used smoked mozzarella for the first time, along with the addition of shaved fennel. Wow, did that rock! Figuring if I lightened up the topping volume and added some spring color from shaved radishes, this would make the perfect “Suzanne” version of Signature Lavosh.

I made the dough exactly as the recipe was written, with the exception of adding ½ cup whole wheat flour in place of some of the all-purpose flour—I just feel less guilt about anything in the pizza family if I can say, “But it’s whole grain.” And even though this is a yeast dough, there’s no need to let the dough rise when using instant yeast.

This is a really nice dough to work with, but not having a pasta roller, I was a bit worried about getting it rolled thin enough. No need—it rolled out beautifully. It’s probably not quite as thin as it would be through a pasta roller, but it’s darn thin and got nice and crispy like lavosh should be. My mom offered to bring the pasta roller they haven’t used in years when they come for Easter, and I think I will take her up on that. The difference will be interesting to see.

Sarah’s recipe also mentions running a dough docker, which I had to google to find out what it was, across each rolled out piece of dough. It’s a spikey roller thing that will help keep air bubbles from forming as your lavosh bakes. Instead I poked the dough all over with a large meat fork and it seemed to do the trick.

The cheeses you top the lavosh with can be switched up to your liking and/or what you have on hand. Directly on top of the flatbread I used a mixture of half smoked mozzarella and half regular, plus I sprinkled a little fresh parmesan over the vegetables.

Speaking of vegetables, you could vary them as well. Any spring veggies that can be shaved super thin with a mandolin or vegetable peeler would work. The combo of asparagus, fennel, and radish was delicious and pretty, and I could see carrot or red onion put in the mix as well. Just keep in mind not to top this like a more heartily-crusted pizza. The lavosh is light and somewhat delicate, so you don’t want to weigh it down with heavy toppings.

Another change from Sarah’s original recipe I made was to increase the oven temperature. I used half the dough the first night following the 350-degree instruction for convection ovens (375 for regular). When I made the remaining dough into lavosh the next night, I increased the temp to 400 in my convection oven, so non-convection would be 425 degrees F. My results were better with the higher temperature. And I did use a pizza stone.

This light, cracker-crisp lavosh with wisps of spring veggies and a light sprinkling of cheese is the perfect first-peek-of-warm-weather supper accompanied by a nice glass of rosé. Enjoy!


Hotel Donaldson's Signature Lavosh ala Suzanne

Adapted from the Hotel Donaldson’s Signature Lavosh and the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook’s Shaved Asparagus Pizza

Lavosh:
1 cup water, lukewarm (not hot)

1 teaspoon instant dry yeast

1 ½ teaspoons honey

1 ½ teaspoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

2 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute up to ½ cup with whole wheat flour)

½ cup semolina flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. (400 for convection ovens). If using a pizza stone, place it in the oven now. Otherwise, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl, place the yeast on the bottom and then add the water. Allow the water to fully saturate the yeast, then add the honey, followed by the melted butter (make sure it is not hot).

Add the dry ingredients one at a time starting with the flour, then the semolina and adding the salt and pepper on top. Use the dough hook attachment to knead the dough until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough becomes soft and pliable, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Portion dough into desired serving size (I portioned it into 4 servings, about 8 oz. portions each, and used 2 for the toppings below and refrigerated the other half to make more the next day). (The Hotel Donaldson uses 4-ounce portions to create a single serving approximately 4 inches wide and 12 to 14 inches long, and you can vary the size according to your needs.)

Gently knead each portion into a ball, then lightly flatten into a disk. Use dough immediately or wrap each portion in plastic and refrigerate for up to one week. To freeze, place wrapped disks in a plastic freezer bag or airtight container and freeze for at least one month. Allow dough to thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

If using a pasta roller, the dough performs best when chilled first, so refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. If rolling by hand with a rolling pin, room temperature dough is best.

To make the lavosh, run each disk of dough through a pasta roller, starting on the #3 or #4 setting, and then decrease the setting and run through again until it is thin enough to run through the lowest setting, until the sheet of dough achieves a desired thinness of 1/8-inch or lower.

If not using a pasta roller, generously flour your counter (or a silicone baking mat) and use a floured rolling pin to roll dough super thin, no thicker than 1/8th inch, into the desired size. While you’re rolling, check occasionally to make sure dough isn’t stuck to the floured surface.

Place each dough sheet on pizza stone or baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between each. Before placing in the oven, run a dough docker across each sheet, or use a fork to gently create holes evenly over the dough.

Bake for 6 to 9 minutes until lightly golden on the edges. Remove from oven to a cooling rack until ready for your toppings.

Toppings for half a batch of the lavosh dough made into 2 flatbreads:
1/2 to 1/3 pound of asparagus spears, thicker stalks work best

½ a medium fennel bulb, trimmed

About 4 larger radishes

A couple teaspoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil (the kind you reserve for drizzling or bread-dipping)

A pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Three scallions, white and green parts, sliced

A total of about 6-8 ounces shredded mozzarella, smoked mozzarella, and parmesan (or other cheese(s) of choice)

Using the end of each asparagus spear that you would normally trim off as a handle, lay the asparagus flat on a cutting board and peel off thin “shavings” with a vegetable peeler. Once the spear gets too small to continue peeling, cut the rest of each spear into super thin strips, discarding the tough “handle” end.

Slice fennel and radishes a little thicker than paper thin on a mandolin, or if you don’t have a mandolin, use a sharp knife. Place all veggies in a medium bowl and toss with olive oil, red pepper flakes, if using, and salt & pepper.

Top each lavosh with a light layer of shredded cheese(s) (reserving some for sprinkling over the veggies). Place a layer of veggies (dividing evenly between the two flatbreads) over cheese and sprinkle with reserved cheese (I used freshly grated parmesan).

Bake 5-8 minutes, until cheese is melted and lavosh crisps a bit more. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with scallions. Slice and serve. Makes 2-4 servings.

Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Quesadillas with Homemade (or not) Corn Tortillas

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After a weekend of pain from an abscessed tooth and then a soft foods diet the following weekend (because of stiches from a surgical root canal), I’ve finally been able to enjoy eating again. Real food, not mush. Oh, the simple pleasures in life we take for granted!

Ever since I bought my tortilla press last fall, I’ve been wanting to incorporate homemade corn tortillas into a blog post. Looking through the archives, I found more taco recipes than I realized, so that led me in the quesadilla direction instead.

The homemade tortillas are extremely easy and bring a fresh aspect that I’ve never experienced in a corn tortilla before. But by no means do you need to make homemade tortillas to enjoy this recipe. Good quality, fresh store-bought tortillas will work just fine, as will fresh flour tortillas.

Corn tortillas are made with masa harina, which looks similar to corn meal, but is not the same thing. Do not substitute corn meal or regular corn flour—they’re produced from different types of corn and are processed differently and won’t produce the same results.

I’ve seen masa harina in the international section and the baking aisle of large supermarkets in 8 pound bags. Knowing it would probably take me years to use that much, I ordered a 24-oz. bag of Bob’s Red Mill organic masa harina from Amazon. With organic, you can be assured it’s made from non-GMO corn.

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For a time-saving convenience, I used a pre-shredded bag of slaw (Trader Joe’s organic), but if you have the time, by all means, shred your own. The slaw can be mixed up the day before (I think it tastes even better after a day in the fridge) and the caramelized onions and the mushroom mixture can all be made a day or two ahead of time as well. With all the bold flavors in this recipe, if you choose to go vegan by omitting the cheese, you’ll still have a delicious meal. Enjoy!
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Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Quesadillas with Homemade (or not) Corn Tortillas

Slaw:
One 9 oz. bag pre-shredded coleslaw (green cabbage, red cabbage, carrot), or shred your own

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon celery seed

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon orange juice, preferably fresh-squeezed

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk together vinegar, mustard, maple syrup and orange juice. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, while whisking, until fully incorporated.

Place coleslaw mixture, scallions, and celery seed in a large bowl and toss to combine. Pour some of the dressing over and mix. Add more dressing as desired (you probably won’t use all of it). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill while you make the filling and tortillas, or overnight for even better flavor.

Tortillas:
1 cup masa harina (see my babbling above for more info on masa harina)

Pinch of salt

¾ cup hot, but not boiling water

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the masa harina and salt. Stir in the hot water until combined. Knead with your hands for about a minute. It should feel smooth, but not sticky, and easily form a ball. If dough feels dry and crumbly, add a tablespoon of water. If too sticky, add a tablespoon more masa harina.

Cover the bowl and set aside for about a half hour while you make the filling (recipe below). After the dough has rested and your quesadilla fillings are made, divide dough into 8 pieces and roll each into a ball (they will each be about the size of a ping pong ball).

Cut the sides open of a quart sized zip-lock bag. Open your tortilla press and lay open bag on press. Place a ball of dough in the center of press and fold the other side of the bag over the dough. Close the top of the press over the dough and push down the handle to flatten the ball.

Heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, lift the top half of the bag off the flattened dough and peel the dough off the other layer of plastic and place in the hot pan. Cook a minute or two and flip, cooking another minute or two more. Transfer to a clean tea towel and fold up to close.

Repeat with remaining dough, keeping cooked tortillas wrapped in the tea towel.

Filling:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 large onion, thinly sliced

½ tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

8 oz. cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ jalapeño pepper, minced (use as many of the seeds you’d like to get desired amount of heat)

Shredded cheese of choice, I used a Swiss/gruyere mixture, or omit cheese for a vegan version

Heat one tablespoon oil in a cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Stir in brown sugar and cook another minute or two. Add balsamic and cook for another 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Transfer onions to a plate and set aside.

Wipe out pan and place over medium heat and add second tablespoon of olive oil. When hot, add mushrooms and cook for several minutes, until they start releasing a little moisture. Stir in garlic and cook a few more minutes. Add minced jalapeño and cook another couple of minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

To assemble quesadillas, heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat, brush with a little olive oil. Top one tortilla with some of the onion mixture, followed by mushroom mixture, and then cheese, if using. Place in pan and cook several minutes (I cover the pan to help the cheese melt). Once cheese is melted and bottom of tortilla is getting a little crisp, place another tortilla on top and press down. Carefully flip quesadilla and cook other side for another several minutes.

Transfer cooked quesadilla to a plate and cut into wedges. Serve topped with chilled coleslaw. Makes 4 quesadillas.