• Russian Gourmet: Roasted Bell Peppers With Garlic

    I haven’t done a recipe for some time so here is an easy one for the roasted bell peppers with garlic.

    Sweet bell peppers are delicious and good for you, but most of the time they are not cheap. You can usually find them at the grocery store in three colors – yellow, red and orange (green is not sweet and doesn’t work in this recipe) but they almost never cost lest than $1 a piece. That’s why I usually buy them at the City Market where they are sold anywhere from 2 to 4 for a dollar. Today I got 8 peppers for 2 bucks. Pick the peppers that are not wrinkled without discolorations and soft spots. There is a reason why they are cheap so make sure to inspect them before paying. Anyone knows that a soft and wrinkly pepper is no good.

    Wash your peppers and remove soft spots. Place in a 375F oven on a foil-lined sheet.

    After a few minutes roasting pepper aroma will fill your house. Every 10-15 minutes turn peppers 1/4 turn. You will notice the pepper skin starting to look burned in places. Don’t worry, skin peels off anyway and that’s the way it’s supposed to look like.

    The peppers will eventually lose their shape and will turn brown on all sides. Some amount of liquid is normal. 45-50 minutes should be plenty, after that the peppers may start drying out.

    Let the peppers cool down, then remove the skin, seeds and separate peppers into medium-sized strips and pieces. Occasional seed or a piece of skin is perfectly normal.

    Discard the rest.

    In the meantime, peel some garlic and round up some oil, vinegar and salt. Do not use olive oil or fancy vinegar, olive oil solidifies in the fridge; any corn or vegetable oil will do. The amount of garlic, salt and vinegar depends on you. I did go slightly overboard with garlic but you can’t ever have too much.

    Press the garlic and mix with oil, salt and vinegar. You should have about 4-8 tablespoons of the mixture. Just mix it wit peppers and adjust to taste. Store in the fridge.

    Warning: If there is any chance of you making out (with a person), this will definitely ruin it, unless your partner eats the peppers too. Not recommended for work lunches or when you are around other people and pets.

    Here is the rest of my photos:

  • Bread Follow-Up

    Since the subject of bread caused a mild interest I’d like to share a short list of bakeries that sell the real stuff.
    In Kansas City:
    Hen House at Deer Creek – I can’t find the article about the oven but if I remember correctly they invited a specialist from Europe to build a real brick oven. The bread is under Farm To Market brand but it’s baked right at the store. Fresh bread is on and behind the counter usually in open paper bags. Farm To Market bread is sold elsewhere but if you want it straight from the oven you’d have to drive to the Overland Park location. Farm To Market Cafe was recently reviewed by DLC.
    Artisan Francais is a French Bakery in Overland Park where the bread is fresh, tasty and of many varieties. It may be a little overpriced, but consider the location. Sandwiches and French pastries are “oh so good!”
    Fervere is close to downtown and if you live and work there make a note to stop by and get a loaf. They don’t serve sandwiches but you will be able to try some samples. Owner of Fervere was one of the founders of Farm To Market. Pay attention to the hours of operation, they are not open every day.

    In Lawrence:
    Wheatfileds Bakery And Cafe has a great variety of the freshest, tastiest bread around and makes a trip to Lawrence worthwhile. I went there few years ago and picked up 2 or 3 loafs or really good bread.

    If you can’t make it to any of these places, and if you name starts with H. invite yourself to my house for a cup of tea and a slice of bread. Otherwise, with just a few simple ingredients and a cast iron pot you can have the tastiest bread you have ever tried.

    Almost No-Knead Bread
    (from Cook’s Illustrated)

    An enameled cast-iron Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid yields best results, but the recipe also works in a regular cast-iron Dutch oven or heavy stockpot. Use a mild-flavored lager, such as Budweiser (mild non-alcoholic lager also works). The bread is best eaten the day it is baked but can be wrapped in aluminum foil and stored in a cool, dry place for up to 2 days.

    Makes 1 large round loaf

    3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces), plus additional for dusting work surface
    1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
    1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
    3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces), at room temperature
    1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild-flavored lager (3 ounces)
    1 tablespoon white vinegar

    1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

    2. Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

    3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

  • Here Chef, There Chef, Everywhere Chef, Chef

    The second most annoying trend in food writing after using the repulsive word “foodie” is overusing the word “Chef”. If everyone who just happened to be in a kitchen is considered a chef, then real chefs need to come up with a different work description. Apparently I am in a minority with this opinion and here is the proof – a screenshot of a recent episode of Hell’s Kitchen.

    Introducing J – the Food Court Chef:

  • Behind The Iron Curtain: Stalin’s Corpse Moves Out Of The Tomb

    When Stalin died in 1953, his body was placed into the Tomb where he played Felix Unger to Lenin’s Oscar Madison for the next 8 years.

    They spruced up the front with Stalin’s name:

    May Day Celebrations in Moscow.1961. The front of the tomb still has both names.
    © Time Inc. James Whitmore

    Continue reading →

  • A Flash Of Life

    No place makes life seem so short like a cemetery. Birth, childhood, first steps, first words, school, first love, family, kids, work, feelings, thoughts, achievements, joys, tragedies – everything that makes up a person’s life becomes just a dash between the two dates. Most of the people will never have anything named after them, will not be a subject of a documentary or even have their own article on Wikipedia; no one will want to dress up like them, sell their costumes or posable figures. At the cemetery we promise not to forget, but to the next generation a person becomes just an image on strangely colored photos, a subject of nostalgic anecdotes and a name on a small gravestone. Their children will wonder about the origins of their foreign-sounding middle names, tracing them on a family tree compiled by an aging relative, trying to capture the memories before they are slowly dissolved in time. The only difference between us and our ancestors is that we leave more proof of our existence – photos, videos, blogs, facebook profiles – these things will probably float around somewhere long after the end date is stamped on our gravestones.

    No place makes a person want to live like a cemetery…