This weekend, I decided to try recipes from my two new cookbooks: a carrot and chickpea tagine from the book "Tagine: Spicy Stews from Morocco" by Chillie Basan, and homemade bread from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian."
The two cookbooks are different in many ways -- "Tagine" is a slim volume with both veg and nonveg recipes which focuses specifically on the cuisine of Morocco, while "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" is really more of an encyclopedia of vegetarian cooking, outlining basic principles and then encouraging readers to experiment with different variations. Yet, both books have an emphasis on simplicity, which is something I really appreciate when I'm working my way through a new recipe.
The carrot and chickpea tagine begins by sautéeing onion and garlic, then adding carrots, honey, and spices and simmering them in a tagine (I used a chef's skillet with a lid) until the carrots are soft. Canned chickpeas are then added and, then, after the mixture has cooked a bit more, salt, rosewater and cilantro finish the dish. (I had rosewater on hand, but I think the recipe would still work without it.) The result is a spicy-sweet stew that was really good with a scoop of Greek yogurt and fresh lemon slices.
"Tagine" recommended serving the stew with bread, so I decided to attempt Bittman's Fast French Bread. While I watched my mom knead many a loaf while I was growing up, this was my first attempt at making my own bread. The recipe is very similar to the no-knead recipe that other bloggers have covered: flour, yeast and salt are combined in a food processor, and water is then added to create a ball of dough.
I was convinced that the salt was going to kill the yeast before it had a chance to work its magic, but, after letting the dough sit for two hours, I was pleased to see that it had nicely doubled. I kneaded a little additional flour into the dough and formed a round loaf, which I placed on a lightly greased pizza pan that had been sprinkled with cornmeal. After allowing the dough to rise for another hour, I topped it with sesame seeds and placed it into the oven for about 40 minutes. Per Bittman, I slid a cooking thermometer into the center of the bread to be sure it had reached 210 F before turning off the oven.
The result was a nice crusty loaf with good flavor, and an apartment full of fresh-baked-bread smell. While the recipe took several hours from start to finish, there was very little hands-on time. I suspect I'll be making homemade bread more often.