My most dog-eared, splattered cookbook is Beth Hensperger's Bread for All Seasons. I don't bake much, but when I do, some great favorites come from this book. She has published many books about bread baking, and I have three of them. You simply can't go wrong with her recipes; this woman loves all that bread is about.
One thing about homemade bread is that it makes wonderful gifts, and is usually welcome at potlucks, alongside a dish of fresh butter. Not many people bake bread, and it's a joy to see faces light up when a homemade loaf is presented.
I love breads that are chock full of whole grains, nuts, seeds and such. This bread is versatile and hearty. Use it for grilled cheese or BLT (or BAT) sandwiches. Toasted, it's sheer bliss, especially with homemade jams made of summer fruits.
___________________________________________ BUTTERMILK SEED BREAD Adapted from Beth Hensperger's Bread for All Seasons
You can vary the combinations of seeds; I usually leave out the sesame seeds and increase the amounts of pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Toast seeds carefully--they're easy to burn.
Mix and set aside:
1/2 cup bulgur (or 1/2 cup barley flakes, oats, etc.) 1/2 cup warm water
Toast in medium-hot skillet, stirring, until golden, fragrant and popping:
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds 1 cup raw sunflower seeds 1/4 cup sesame seeds (these toast faster; do them separately)
Mix in small bowl and let sit 10 minutes or so until frothy:
1 tablespoon (or 1 envelope) active dry yeast a pinch of brown sugar or a dab of honey 1/4 cup warm water
Place in bowl of mixer with dough hook:
Toasted seed mixture Soaked bulgur and its liquid, if any 1-1/2 cups buttermilk (or 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup yogurt) 1/4 cup canola oil or melted butter 1/2 cup honey 1/2 cup wheat bran 1 tablespoon salt 2 cups unbleached flour
Beat hard with dough hook for about 1 minute. Add yeast mixture and continue to mix, gradually adding another 2 to 4 cups flour as needed until dough begins to clean sides of bowl. Knead for 3 minutes, then begin checking for a good stringiness to the dough when you pull a bit away.
Gather dough into a ball and place in oiled bowl, turning to grease top of dough. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
Punch dough down, shape into two round loaves, and let rise on Silpat-covered or greased baking sheet about 45 minutes. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Slash tops of loaves a few times and bake for 15 minutes, then check for browning and cover tops of loaves with foil if they are getting too dark. Bake about 20 minutes more or until loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Place on cooling racks and cool completely before slicing.
If using a baking stone, place it on bottom oven rack, and the loaves on the rack just above it. Preheat the oven at least 30 minutes before baking so the stone gets hot.
I don't necessarily care for the term "foodie." Shouldn't we all be interested in what we eat? With health news blaring from major headlines, and proliferations of willy-nilly what-to-eat-or-not guidelines clogging the air and e-waves, it's kind of hard not to think about what we're eating.
Michael Pollan says that decades ago, we started listening to scientists' incomplete data and food marketers' dollar-driven claims that this or that food will either make us a centenarian or drop us in our tracks. Instead of paying attention to what we see, and to our ancestors' wisdom, we trust the trumpeters of self-serving hype.
I say, calm down. Gather in local foods, and share them with friends and family. Eat your fresh, thoughtfully-prepared foods slowly and appreciatively in reasonable amounts. Enjoy the occasional treat. Listen to your common sense.
________________________________________________ BACON, ARUGULA AND TOMATO SANDWICHES
The arugula really adds a spicy touch that lettuce can't hold a candle to.
Four slices of really good bread Enough Dijon mustard to spread thinly on each slice Enough washed and spun arugula to cover the bread slices Enough tomatoes to slice thickly and put on top of the arugula Enough crisply fried bacon to put a couple or three slices on top of the tomatoes
Makes four extremely hearty servings. You won't want much else except a slice of fresh, local watermelon for dessert. Or a nectarine. Or cantaloupe ...
Cooking came to an abrupt halt while we were on the Oregon Coast for a few days. Once I figured out whether a Pasco nectarine is still local if you take it to Yachats (no), I had a great time.
We saw several farmers' market signs in coastal towns we passed through, though we didn't arrive at times when they were being held. While I always hope the seafood we're eating is local, and therefore really fresh, one never really knows.
I do know that Yachats is a wonderfully refreshing place to stay and explore, and that we're grateful to our friend Holly for introducing it to us.
Now I must empty the sand from my shoes and get back in the kitchen. Maybe tomorrow ...
This week, things got a little sparse in the vegetable department between farmers' markets. I looked at a motley collection of vegetables in the fridge and could only think: Soup. Why not? But it had to be a summer soup, and stand up to rigorous criteria: Distinct from winter soups, and delicious.
Starting out with delicious homemade chicken broth is definitely an advantage. I decided to de-winterize the soup with a fresh basil-mint pesto, and to add summer whimsy with a tiny tomato garnish. The alphabet noodles were another whimsical touch, and though I'd hoped words would appear, Ouija-like in the soup, none did. It was, however, truly delicious.
_________________________________________ SUMMER VEGETABLE SOUP WITH BASIL, GARLIC AND MINT
4 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade 1 large carrot, sliced
4 or 5 spring onions, white parts only, sliced 2 savoy cabbage leaves, sliced 1 long, mild pepper, sliced 1 little serrano pepper, seeded and sliced (take care; if pepper is really hot, use less) 1 cup fresh corn kernels (I used some I'd previously taken from the cob and frozen)
2 cups loose basil leaves (principled ones won't do) a sprig or two of mint 1 garlic clove 1 tablespoon olive oil generous pinch of salt
1/2 cup alphabet pasta, cooked separately in water and drained
Little cherry tomatoes to scatter on top
Salt and pepper to taste
In small food processor, blend basil, mint, garlic, olive oil and salt into a pesto.
Place broth and carrots in a kettle and bring to a simmer, cooking until carrots are beginning to get tender, about 5 minutes. Add onions, peppers and corn, and simmer for about 10 minutes more. Taste for salt and pepper. Add pasta. Heat well and ladle into bowls.
Top each serving with a blob of the basil mixture, and top with a few cherry tomatoes (or diced tomatoes if you don't have little ones).
It is appropriate that this, the finest fresh tomato dish in my repertoire, comes from Marcella Hazan, one of the most respected Italian cooks of all time. The discovery of this dish in one of her cookbooks was a sublime moment. Little did I realize at the time that this recipe would for years enrich many a summer evening meal with the sweet, bursting, just-picked-ripe taste of tomatoes and a restrained touch of basil, garlic and Parmesan.
The key to this dish is the tomatoes. They must be perfect. As well, one must refrain from "Americanizing" it; the temptation is to load it with pesto, more olives, more garlic ... but this is a true Italian dish whose tastes need to be experienced intentionally, slowly. It has deep character to be unfolded and discovered, like watching a Merchant-Ivory film, rather than the blatant in-your-face obviousness of a James Cameron film.
But I digress. Do pick up some of the wonderful fresh tomatoes at our local farmers' markets and try this dish.
Tonight, I discovered I only had rigatoni pasta on hand, and it worked fine.
Here's a funny interview conducted with Marcella as she tastes Olive Garden's "Tuscan" fare. __________________________________________ SARDINIAN-STYLE RAW TOMATO SAUCE WITH PASTA Adapted from Marcella Cucina by Marcella Hazan
The original recipe called for parsley, not basil, and did not call for crushed red pepper. Tonight I forgot to add the olive oil entirely, and we didn't miss it at all. If you're watching calories, just leave it out!
1-1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes 10 Kalamata olives 3 tablespoons olive oil (optional) 1/2 cup Parmesan or other aged hard cheese, such as Asiago, plus some for sprinkling 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (this will create a noticeable heat) 1 teaspoon salt A few grinds of black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced
1 pound dried pasta such as fusilli, rotini, farfelle, or penne
Wash and stem cherry tomatoes, and cut in half, or in four wedges if they are large. Put them in a large mixing bowl.
Slice olives into quarters, and add to the tomato mixture along with the olive oil, cheese, garlic, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper.
Stir the tomato mixture well and let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and preferably 2 hours.
When ready to serve, cook pasta. Drain pasta and put it into the mixing bowl with the tomato mixture and stir sauce and pasta together.
Stir in the basil. Sprinkle the pasta mixture with a little more cheese, and serve.
For a smooth, mellow, almost sweet glass of iced coffee, this is the way to go. When I know I'll be at home for the morning, I try to remember to start some cold brew the night before. Technically you can heat cold brew for a hot cup of coffee, but I prefer it iced.
There are lots of formulas out there, but this is the one I like best.
For serving, the formula calls for mixing your cold-brewed coffee with an equal amount of water. But full strength is darn tasty!
Locally-roasted beans include Buzz Joy, Highpockets, and (well, roasted in Coeur d'Alene) Doma. If you like the taste of a certain coffee bean hot, it will most likely please you cold.
Well, who could resist trying this recipe? My stepson told me about the Whole Health Source website, and as I have an interest in baking with sourdough, this naturally-yeasted pancake recipe, and the information about buckwheat's nutritive values, caught my eye. That's a pretty impressive amount of complete protein.
The batter produces neat little pancakes and plenty of bubbles so that they cook through. I used a little ghee on the griddle for each batch and I do recommend that to prevent sticking.
Mr. Eating the Scenery ate these for breakfast and pronounced them tasty. They are sturdy (as any whole grain bread should be!) and a tad bit chewy, but all in all quite satisfying. Next time I'll try making a thin "crepe" version to use for savory wraps.
FERMENTED BUCKWHEAT PANCAKES From wholehealthsource.blogspot.com
This recipe, with quantities and alterations I give below.
You'll need raw, untoasted buckwheat (I found it at the local health food store), distilled or other non-chlorinated water, and salt.
Two cups of buckwheat made 18 four-inch pancakes.
I followed the instructions given, using 2 cups of buckwheat, distilled water to about 2 inches over it for the first soaking, and 1-1/4 teaspoons salt at the batter stage. (Author called for 2/3 teaspoon salt per cup of buckwheat, a very uncommon measurement! I adapted as best as my non-mathematical brain could.)
The first "fermenting" (for 12 hours) didn't produce any fermenty fragrance, but after washing the buckwheat thoroughly, making the batter, and fermenting it at room temperature for 24 hours, I did get a little tang.
It's not every day that one's stepdaughter graduates with a Bachelor's Degree in Dental Hygiene. We are so proud of her! This weekend's barbecue in her honor included these delicious sugar cookies ... the ONE time when the bright yellow color of our local eggs may not play to best advantage! Still, these probably look better than chocolate teeth cookies would have, an idea nixed by Mr. Eating the Scenery.
Actually, the title of this blog came from my stepdaughter. Years ago, when her brother was eyeing the kale garnish on his plate in a restaurant, she told him, "Don't eat that--it's just scenery." Thus are family legends, and blog titles, born.
_________________________________________ TOOTH COOKIES Adapted from Epicurious.com
This dough really rolls and re-rolls nicely.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup organic sugar (original called for packed brown sugar; not a tooth color, I thought)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add 2-1/3 cups of the flour, then scatter the baking powder, salt and nutmeg over the flour. Beat until mixed.
Spread 1/3 cup flour over a kneading surface, and knead it into the dough for about 1 minute. Add flour if the dough is too wet. The dough will be soft.
Flatten dough into a 1-inch thick rectangle. Cut into four equal pieces, wrap, and chill for at least 2 hours. If chilled longer, let soften a bit at room temperature.
Roll one piece of dough 1/8-inch thick, making sure to dust the dough with flour and turn it a time or two. Cut cookies, place on baking sheets (I used a Silpat; otherwise you may wish to use parchment) and bake for 10-11 minutes at 350 degrees or until cookies begin to show a little browning. Remove from oven, and let rest on baking sheets 5 minutes before placing cookies on cooling racks or paper towels.
Reroll scraps, blending them in with new dough you take from the fridge one piece at a time. Roll, cut, repeat.
When cooled, cookies may be stored between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container at room temperature.
Made about 16 4" x 6" cookies; will make more if the cookies are smaller, obviously!