Friday, January 21, 2011

Really Easy and Good No-Knead Bread

I'm about six or seven years behind on this trend, but I just recently received a beautiful Le Creuset dutch oven for Christmas and the first thing I wanted to do was make this bread. I've always wanted to make really good bread at home but I have no room (and no interest, really) in a bread machine. So when I first heard about this method, I really wanted to try it.

There are a lot of ways to do this--some take less time--but after a few tries, I've decided I like this bread so much that this is my preferred method.

Easy No-Knead Bread
adapted from the recipe of Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery

1½ cups warm water
¼ teaspoon yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoon salt
additional flour for dusting

Special equipment
5 to 8 quart pot with lid (Le Creuset enamel cast iron dutch oven, Pyrex glass, or ceramic) that can withstand 500°F (if you have a Le Creuset or similar dutch oven, you will need to get a stainless steel replacement knob; the cool-touch knob will not work).

Dissolve yeast in the water in large bowl (preferably glass or metal). Add the remaining ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon (about a minute). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest 12-18 hours (overnight) at room temperature (at least 65°F). The dough will have bubbles on the top and be stringy when ready.

Generously flour your work surface and hands and pour the dough from the bowl and fold twice (add flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to the surface or hands). Let the dough rest 15 minutes. Then shape the dough into ball by folding side to side and end to end and place on a cotton towel (not terry cloth or waffle weave) that is generously covered in flour with the seam side down. Dust with flour, cover with another towel and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size. It must rise to the desired level during this stage as it will not rise much further during cooking. If necessary, place in a toaster/convection/traditional oven that has been heated to "proof" the dough during this time.

When your dough is ready (or shortly beforehand), preheat oven to 500°F (remove dough if you're proofing it in your large oven) for 30 minutes with the dutch oven inside. Remove the pot from the oven and flip the dough from the towel into the pot with the seam side up. Cover and bake for 30 minutes and then 15 minutes (or longer) uncovered until the loaf is golden brown.

The result of all this time is a really nice, thick crust that is not too hard, but still toothy and satisfying. And the inside is light and airy. It really is fantastic.  I've tried to use whole wheat flour and I have to say it's just not as good. Just plain ol' white flour is the way to go. It's quite a treat!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Nashville's Restaurant Week

It's time again for Restaurant Week here in Nashville. Each participating restaurant has a special price and often a special menu for the occasion. The Nashville Originals website has links to all the specials and menus available this week.  It's a great way to get some affordable introductions to the city's best locally-owned restaurants.

So far, I've made a reservation at Cha Chah with some friends and Mr. Eats and I may get out to Allium, Flyte, or Cafe Nonna later in the week (if reservations are still available!). Those are just a few of the restaurants that understand that vegetarians like good food, too. I just wish more restaurants were open Monday this week!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Restaurant Round-Up: Mad Donna's, Smiling Elephant, NY Pie

I'm busy perfecting a bread recipe/technique so in the meantime I'm happy to share that I've finally gotten the chance to get out to eat in the last month.

Mad Donna's
I was fortunate enough to attend a special tasting event at Mad Donna's and it's a good thing because it's never really been on my radar. And that's too bad because there are a few reasons it should've been and is now:

1. Macaroni and cheese--several kinds to choose from!

2. Crispy sweet potato fries

3. A huge menu with lots of vegetarian options (as well as gluten-free options)

4. Brunch! (Wish I'd known this during the many times I've waited--and waited and waited--for a table down the street at Marche).

Mad Donna's is kid-friendly downstairs and has a pretty cool space upstairs. Check their website for their awesome daily specials and events. If I lived in the neighborhood, I'd be a regular.

Menu sampling!

A group of us digging into some fried ice cream
Mad Donna's
1313 Woodland Street
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 226-1617
Open every day except Monday; brunch on Saturday and Sunday

Smiling Elephant
I'd heard about Smiling Elephant for a while but I figured that it'd be just like all the other Thai restaurants in town. They're all good so what's the point in driving all the way over to 8th Avenue South? But one night, we had some time and we stopped in.

Let me sum it up this way: Smiling Elephant will change your life.

Wow, so good. And different! Not the standard pre-fried tofu splashed in some sauce (not that there's anything wrong with that). And not the standard dishes either. A smaller menu than some places but all dishes thoughtfully prepared. And fresh. I got the dinner "set" which included soup, entree and dessert (and a bonus ginger tea!). The soups are vegetarian and just about any entree can be made with tofu so you can imagine I was quite pleased. Mr. Eats actually ordered vegetarian food, too so that we could share! And everything was fantastic.

Smiling Elephant is a small space. Even at 8pm on a Monday, it's busy so plan your first visit for an off time so you can really enjoy it.
Vegetarian lemongrass soup

Tamarind tofu and ginger tofu--couldn't decide which I liked better!
Smiling Elephant
2213 8th Avenue South (across from Fiddlecakes and just south of Wedgewood and Zanie's)

Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 891-4488
Closed for lunch Saturday and all day Sunday

NY Pie
It's no secret to friends and family that I love New York style pizza. I like Neapolitan, too but I really love good NY style slice that you can fold and eat. House of Pizza in the Arcade and Joey's House of Pizza in Brentwood are my favorites locally but are nearly impossible for me to get to due to my West Nashville location.

So I was pretty excited to see the sign for NY Pie go up over in Nashville West. Though I was a bit skeptical. I've had some pretty mediocre pizza in Nashville and Porta Via has been my go-to pizza since it opened. It's great, but it's Neapolitan.

So on a chilly Tuesday night, my friend and I and Baby Eats stopped in around 6pm to try it out. First things first, the place is BUSY and small. They could easily fill up a space twice the size they have now. So when you want to try it, you may be best off getting takeout.

Now the important part. The pizza is great! Very reminiscent of my favorite pizza, John's of Bleecker Street. The only thing they lack is RC on tap (no, really--RC on tap at John's--YUM!). There are a lot of specialty pizzas on the menu, but I got the basic cheese and really enjoyed it. My friend got the margarita and let me have a slice and it was good as well--a slightly sweeter and thicker tomato sauce to make it different from the standard slice (along with the chopped basil and fresh mozzarella).

Speaking of slice, the menu indicates it's available by the slice, but I didn't see any pricing. I just got the 10 inch for $6.50 and though I shouldn't have, I ate the whole thing. The edge of the crust was a bit thicker and fluffier than a real NY slice, but it worked out well for me because I shared it with Baby Eats. Not all pizzas are like that--each pizza is hand-tossed (right in front of you!) and different from the last, so some pizzas may have a thicker edge. Small price to pay for a great hand-made pizza.

NY Pie is locally owned and operated and really care about the pizza they're making (asking each customer what they thought about the pizza once the crowd slowed enough for them to breathe). Sorry--no pictures; tight squeeze in the place and I didn't want to be too conspicuous. But trust me--it's a great-looking and authentic New York style "pie."

NY Pie
6800 Charlotte Pike, Suite 105 (Nashville West in the middle section, Charlotte side of the street)
Nashville, TN 37209
(615) 915-1617