I teach high school seniors who are in the 2nd year of a two year culinary program at a career center. This means they spend half their school day at their traditional high school and half the day with me. About two-thirds of my students will go on to culinary school, while the remaining students will decide that food service is not the career path for them. I consider both outcomes as positive. Sometimes knowing what you don't want to do is as important as knowing what you do.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Let's Go On a Picnic!

Getting back my blogging mojo is challenging.  It's very hard going back in time, so I think I'll continue interspersing current and past assignments.

This last week was a very unusual week at school. We were up for accreditation review. This meant a group of administrators from various schools in the state would come visit, go through our records, interview administrators, teachers, staff, students, parents, and other stakeholders to determine if we were doing all we should and whether or not we should be re-accredited. 

It was a small team, only 5, but my students catered a lunch and a couple of coffee breaks for them. The lunch was a working lunch, so we went with a picnic theme.

The menu was a pressed sandwich on ciabatta with ham, provolone, roasted red pepper, and pesto, steamed asparagus couscous salad, and a raspberry cheesecake in a jar.

Bon Appetit - January 1999
Yield: Makes 2 loaves
For biga
1 c plus 1 T room-temperature water (75°F to 80°F)
1 ¼ oz dry yeast
3 1/3 c bread flour
For dough
Biga (starter dough; see above)
3/4 c plus 2 T room-temperature water (75°F to 80°F)
Pinch of dry yeast
½ c plus 3 T semolina flour*
2 ½ t salt
Additional semolina flour
Make biga:
Place water in mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast over. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 8 minutes. Add 1 cup flour; blend. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add 1 cup flour; repeat processing and scraping. Add remaining 1 1/3 cups flour. Process until small moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball (dough will be firm); place in large bowl. Cover; chill overnight (biga will soften, resembling thick oatmeal in texture).
Make dough:
Pull biga into walnut-size pieces; place in a clean large bowl. Add water, yeast and 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons semolina. Using 1 hand, squeeze ingredients together 2 minutes. Work dough 4 minutes by scooping sections from sides of bowl and pressing into center, blending into very soft, shaggy mass. Using spatula, scrape dough from sides of bowl into center. Let dough rest in bowl, uncovered, 10 minutes.
Sprinkle salt over dough. Using 1 hand, knead dough by rotating bowl 1/4 turn at a time, scooping dough from sides and folding down into center until dough starts to come away from sides of bowl, about 5 minutes. Scrape dough from hand and sides of bowl. Cover bowl with towel; let dough rest 20 minutes.
Rotating bowl 1/4 turn at a time, fold dough over onto itself 6 times; turn dough over in bowl. Cover with towel and let dough rest in bowl 20 minutes.
Bake bread:
Preheat oven to 425°F. Sprinkle work surface with additional semolina. Turn dough out onto semolina. Using pastry scraper, cut dough in half; keep halves separated. Let stand, uncovered, 20 minutes.
Sprinkle peel with additional semolina. Transfer each dough half, semolina side up, to the peel. Stretch each dough half to 16x4-inch rectangle. Press fingertips into dough in several places to dimple surface (characteristic of this bread). Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool. (Can be prepared 2 weeks ahead. Double-wrap in aluminum foil to freeze.)

Asparagus, Feta, and Couscous Salad

1 box couscous
1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
8 oz grape tomatoes, halved
6 oz feta cheese, crumbled
3 T balsamic vinegar
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
Black pepper, to taste
Cook couscous according to package instructions. Put aside and allow to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, place asparagus in a steamer over 1 inch of boiling water, and cover. Cook until tender but still firm, about 2 to 6 minutes. Drain and cool.
Toss the asparagus, tomatoes, and feta with couscous. Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper and toss to incorporate.

Raspberry Cheesecake in a Jar
Adapted from Use Real Butter

2 c graham cracker crumbs
6 T sugar
6 T butter, melted

40 oz cream cheese, softened
14 oz sugar
5 large eggs
2 oz  milk
3 T flour
2 large egg yolks
grated peel of 1 lemon

Raspberry topping:
4 c raspberries, fresh or thawed
½ c water
1 t orange zest
1 c sugar
2 oz butter
4 T cornstarch
4 T cold water
12 8-ounce jars
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter together. Press enough crust into the bottom of each jar about a half-inch thick.
In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth and slowly beat in the sugar. Beat in the eggs, milk, flour, egg yolks, and the lemon peel. Continue beating until uniform and smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Pour the batter into each jar about 2-3 inches deep. Gently tap the base of the jars on a counter or table to get the air bubbles out of the batter. Place the jars in a hotel pan and carefully pour hot water into the pan avoiding getting any water into the cheesecake jars. The water should come up to an inch below the shortest jar. Place in oven and reduce heat to 300°F. Bake 30 minutes then turn off the oven and let the cheesecakes sit in the oven for another 20 minutes. Centers should jiggle while the edges should be slightly firm. Remove from oven, remove from water bath and let cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Place raspberries, water, and orange zest in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Purée the berry mixture in a food processor and press through a sieve. Pour the berry liquid back into the saucepan over medium heat. Stir in 1 cup sugar and 2 ounces butter. Mix the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl. While whisking the berry mixture, pour the cornstarch into the pan. Stir until thick and bubbly and stir for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour the contents into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let cool.
Before serving, spoon raspberry topping on top.

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