Breads, Pastry, Pasta
Sweets & Breakfast Treats
Chicken or Turkey
Vegetarian & Vegetables
Roasted Tomatoes (oven dried)
Sauces, Dressings & Condiments
Make It With Milk
Breads, Pastry, Pasta
Sweets & Breakfast Treats
Chicken or Turkey
Vegetarian & Vegetables
Roasted Tomatoes (oven dried)
Sauces, Dressings & Condiments
Make It With Milk
At this point week 48 is a blur. When you’re in a job where you can’t pass your work on to anyone else, preparing to take a vacation means you will really need it when the week is over. And so we move on to week 49.
From my experience a vacation in the southwest, specifically the mountains of New Mexico, is a total sensory overload. From the heat and flavor of New Mexican red chilies to the sweet smoky of the green, the clear blue sky in the daytime to the star-studded sky of the evening, the unmistakable aroma of the piñon fires to the short-term effects of the altitude – my senses were definitely on overload.
We began our adventure in Santa Fe at the local farmer’s market, with the purchase of red chili powder, fresh goat cheese with green chili, German butter potatoes, farm fresh eggs, a giant bunch of rainbow chard and multi-grain bread. I was having a blast. My last visit to a farmer’s market was this past summer when my biggest concern was how many fresh tomatoes could I buy in order to get me through the winter. But this time it was about the food and more importantly the food already made by others. My vacation rules allow for the convenience food already prepared by someone other than myself, so I pretty much had to contain myself from purchasing every roll, cookie or bread in sight. The market in Santa Fe was one of the better ones I’ve been to – very well organized, a great variety of options, and to carry on with my theme – total sensory overload (which believe me was a really good thing).
This vacation was yet another art retreat unlike any other I’ve taken or written about. The ten of us, all women (mostly retired) stayed in the Taos home of a local artist whose colorful artwork filled the walls of most every room, and whose sense of style created an atmosphere of curiosity and wonder. It was the perfect setting for creativity, in both art and food and as one of the designated cooks for the week I saw the opportunity to let my food love shine using the foods I purchased from the market. Leading with the two pounds of granola I baked before the trip (which our instructor joyfully claimed as her prize), I decided I would bake us some bread.
From my year’s experience so far I’ve learned enough about baking to know that things like heat, humidity, or even altitude can have a serious impact on the results. With iPad in hand, Lisa researched any potential precautions I should take in baking bread in the thin and dry air at 7,000 feet. Breads rise quickly at high altitude and the dough needs to be adjusted for moisture. Yes indeed, my English muffin bread that typically takes sixty minutes to rise took only 30 minutes to get to a stage of puffiness that kinda’ scared me a bit. The dough was beautiful and it filled the loaf pan looking like a professional had their hand at forming it. Ha – was I going to impress everyone with this bread! My next challenge was adjusting the baking time, not only for the difference in altitude but because I was using a convection oven. Okay, that meant I should lower the heat by twenty-five degrees and shorten the amount of baking time. Piece of cake… er bread. If I thought this bread looked beautiful before it went into the oven it looked even more amazing coming out of the oven. I couldn’t figure out what was the big deal about altitude adjustment? I was totally for this high altitude baking.
Well as you may have guessed that feeling of amazement and success of was pretty short-lived. The next morning I put on the pots of coffee and started to slice into my perfect loaf, setting up my cinnamon raisin “toast bar” for breakfast. The first slice was beautiful although not quite the usual texture. The second slice was equally as enticing to the on-lookers now forming over my shoulder and I couldn’t have been more proud of the treat I was getting ready for them. Onto the third slice, and the fourth which started to be a bit more crumbly with a slight hole in the middle. Well take a look at the photo because it wasn’t just a slight hole that had formed, it was a giant cavern right through the center of the bread. Needless to say we got a laugh out of it and toasted each slice in several pieces. Ah, my little lesson on baking in high altitude.
One meal that did go well was one I made using the fresh rainbow chard and potatoes from the farmer’s market. Fortunately for me I had convenience foods on hand, my first encounter with canned beans and a carton of chicken broth since last April. I served the beans and chard directly over the steamed German butter potatoes for a quick, simple, and delicious meal.
And what would vacation be without souvenirs? Many of mine, were of course, food related from sun-dried red chilies to smoky chitpotles. I plan on recreating the flavors of New Mexico at home, but I might wait until using canned beans are ‘legal’ after the year is through!
Rainbow Chard With White Beans
1 large bunch (about one pound) red chard or rainbow chard, rinsed well
½ cup shallots, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup white wine
¼ to ½ cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 can (15 ounces) white beans, great northern, navy, or cannelinni (drained)
Salt and pepper to taste
Remove a good portion of the stems from the chard, reserving as much as you might enjoy in the dish. (The reason you’re removing them is that they cook slower than the leafy green part, so they need to be cooked separately.)
Once the stems are removed, roughly chop the leafy green portion of the chard and set aside. Now dice up some of the stems, along with the shallots and garlic.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan, and add the shallots and diced chard stems. Sauté the mixture until the shallots begin to caramelize, about 8-10 minutes. The chard stems should begin to soften at this point. Add the minced garlic and stir for about one minute to release the flavor.
Add the white wine to the pan to deglaze it of any browning from the vegetables, and slowly add your chard greens allowing each addition to cook down a bit before adding more greens to the pan. Cook the greens stirring frequently for about 10 minutes.
Now add the white beans to the mixture, along with the chicken or vegetable stock. Cover the pan and let simmer on low heat for another 10 minutes, allowing a good portion of the liquid to absorb into the dish. Season with salt and pepper.
This can be served as either a main dish or a side dish. Serves 4.
What does a middle-aged German girl like me know about bagels? Well I know they were a childhood favorite of mine growing up in the 1960’s in a community with one of the first bagel shops in the area. Bagels and lox were a treat in our house and I learned to appreciate both the appropriate texture and flavor at a very young age. We didn’t have the Brugger’s or Einstein’s shops known today – no these shops were small local bakeries that perhaps learned the craft of bagel baking in New York or Chicago – and opened up in my neighborhood I’m guessing on the demand from the Jewish community.
What do I know about bagels today? Well first of all I haven’t eaten a bagel in more than 46 weeks. Prior to my voyage into the from scratch food routine, I had avoided bagels for a couple of years because of the calorie content – a whopping 72 calories per ounce – or about 364 calories for an average size bagel. Spread on the cream cheese and we’re talking 1/3 of the calories I might consume in an entire day. But I got a craving for bagels this week and naturally if I wanted them, I would have to make them myself.
Research led me to the particular recipe I’ve included in this post – not too technical for my abilities – but descriptive of what I remembered about the texture and flavor of a really authentic bagel. A bagel by definition is known as dense, chewy and rather doughy with a nicely browned and crispy crust. That’s the bagel I was in search of!
Naturally I wanted some kind of cheese spread to go along with my bagel. Since I didn’t have the necessary mesophilic starter for cream cheese, and since I was hoping to do something low-fat, I decided to use this recipe that I’ve had my eye on since getting my cheese making book for Christmas. It’s super simple to make, and since you add your own salt and/or herbs, it can take on whatever flavor profile you love. I was happy to see Meyer lemons were in season, as they tend to be a bit sweeter than regular lemons (they are a cross between a lemon and either a mandarin or common orange).
While these two recipes took up a big part of my Sunday time (ie: I prepared no other food for the week), they were really worth the effort. I brought the majority of them into work today at the delight of my co-workers, or at least that’s what they tell me. Enjoy!
Meyer Lemon Cheese
½ gallon milk (I used 2%, you need a little milk fat)
¼ cup lemon juice (I used Meyer Lemons)
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or other herbs
Heat the milk on the stove in a large pot, stirring frequently until it reaches 185-195°. Remove from the head, add the lemon juice to the milk, and stir. Cover the pot immediately and let rest for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes check you curds and whey. The whey should be clear and not milky. If it’s milky, add a little bit more lemon juice to the pot and wait a few minutes more.
Pour the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth. I save the whey from both the curds dripping through the cheesecloth as well as from the rest of the cheese-making process. (see week 41)
Tie the corners of the cheesecloth and hang the curds over a bowl to drain for about an hour. Remove the curds from the bag and add the salt and herbs. My cheese was a bit dry, so I just added back some of the whey I had saved to make it creamier.
Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks, if it lasts that long.
Bagels (from the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day, by Hertzberg and Francois)
For The Dough
3 cups lukewarm water (100°F)
1 ½ tablespoons active dry yeast (2 packages)
1 ½ tablespoons Kosher salt
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
6 ¼ cups bread flour
Extra flour for dusting
Sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds
For The Boiling Pot
8 quarts water
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
This dough mixes best using a 14-cup capacity food processor with dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer with a dough hook. Mix the yeast, salt, and sugar with the water in the bowl of your mixer or food processor. Add the flour to form what will become a very sticky dough. If you don’t have a machine to use, keep your hands wet to incorporate all of the flour.
Cover the dough and allow it to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on the top), approximately 2 hours. You can use the dough immediately, but it may work better refrigerated for a few hours. I also read in Mark Bittman’s book, that refrigerating or resting the dough for several hours will also contribute to a more developed flavor.
Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat your oven to 450°F, with a baking stone (preferably) in the middle rack and an empty broiler tray or cast iron pan below. You will use the second pan to create steam. If you don’t have a baking stone, a lightly oiled baking sheet should work.
Generously dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 3-ounce piece of dough about the size of a small peach. Dust the piece with more flour (on your counter top as well) and shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. (Tuck and spin, tuck and spin. You’re creating elasticity in the dough.) Set the dough ball on a floured surface and keep working the rest of the dough. Cover the balls loosely with a towel that has been lightly floured (you’ll use this towel again in a bit). Let the balls rest for 20 minutes.
Start you water boiling (don’t forget to add the sugar and baking soda once it begins to boil).
Next, punch your thumb through the dough ball to form the hole. Hold the dough in your hands and ease the hole open with your fingers as you rotate the dough in a circle. Your dough should look like a fat bicycle tire. The hole will get smaller as the dough rests, so don’t worry that it’s too big.
Drop the bagels into the simmering water one at a time, making sure they are not crowding one another (3-4 at a time). Let them simmer for 2 minutes, then turn them over to cook for one more minute. (I was so busy dropping bagels into the water and shaping the others that I forgot to take pictures. Whoops!)
Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and place them on a clean kitchen towel (the one you used to cover them) that is lightly floured. This will help absorb some of the excess water and keep them from sticking.
Place the bagels on a well-floured peel if you’re using a baking stone, or on a lightly greased baking sheet if you’re not using the stone. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and/or sesame seeds. Yes they looked funny, I was worried.
Slide the bagels directly onto the hot stone or baking sheet onto the middle oven rack. Throw 2 ice cubes into the broiler pan or cast iron pan and quickly close the door to keep the steam inside. Bake for about 20 minutes until brown and firm. Repeat process with the rest of the batches.
Oh and if you find my description or process to not be helpful, take a look at a post by the authors of the recipe.
It’s Valentines Day and while many people will have their hearts set on chocolate or cake or other sweet delectable’s of the day, I say there’s no better way to celebrate with your sweetie than with sushi.
Sushi is something I had given up for the year (the sushi made at my co-op), although I have been invited out to celebrate special occasions with friends where local sushi was the destination. Sushi also has a special place in my heart for Valentine’s Day. I met my sweetie for the first time about 16 years ago while I was sampling homemade sushi at one of our stores and she was sampling apple cider as one of our sales reps. It’s unfortunate I don’t have a strong recollection of the day or event – but that doesn’t mean a lasting impression wasn’t made – or that it was the beginning of the best of the rest of the years of my life!
To many people sushi means “raw fish” and if that were the case I would avoid it like the plague. My very first sushi experience was in 1983 when I went to a natural products trade show and was introduced to the great folks at Eden Foods. I was invited to a party they were sponsoring after hours at the show, and it was there I learned how to roll my first sushi roll. (Yes, it was sushi I was rolling.) It was filled with fresh vegetables, daikon radish, umeboshi plum paste – all flavors I had never had before that day. I instantly became a sushi convert.
So this year I made sushi for Valentine’s Day. And Lisa found another vintage garlic keeper on Ebay to replace last week’s unfortunate mishap. Life is really great!
1 package Sushi Nori
2 cups sushi rice or short-grain brown rice
¼ cup brown rice vinegar
Fresh vegetables like avocado, cucumber, carrots, watercress, or lightly steamed asparagus
Cream cheese, smoked salmon, steamed shrimp
Wasabi (a spicy hot green Japanese mustard)
Cook the rice, 1 cup of rice to 2 cups water. If cooking brown rice it will take twice the amount of time as white sushi rice. Sushi rice cooks in about 25 minutes. Brown rice will take about 40 minutes.
Allow the rice to sit covered for 10 minutes after it is cooked. Remove the cover and empty into a large bowl to cool down. After it has cooled a bit (15-20 minutes), add the brown rice vinegar and stir, careful to not over-mix and make the rice too sticky.
Prepare your vegetable or fish fillings. I cut veggies into thin matchstick size pieces. If using shrimp or smoked salmon, make sure those pieces are also long and thin, rather than diced. They will stay together in the roll much better.
Lay a sheet of sushi nori on top of a dishtowel that is folded in half. Line up the end of the nori with the end of the dishtowel closest to you. You will use the towel as a rolling mat.
Crumble 1 cup of cooked rice over the top of the nori, leaving about two inches at the top of the sheet uncovered by rice.
Moisten your fingers with water (I keep a small bowl next to me) and press down on the rice until it holds together (it will be very sticky). Make a groove in the rice near the center and arrange your veggies and fish across the rice inside the groove.
Moisten the 2-inch edge of the nori with water so it becomes subtle. This will help seal the roll at the end of your rolling.
Using the edge of your dishtowel as your guide, begin rolling the nori roll away from you, pressing firmly like rolling up a jellyroll. Keep rolling using the towel as a guide around the roll until it gets going, then lay the end of the towel down and finish the roll by sealing the nori to itself.
When I have all the rolls rolled up, I like to wrap the roll in plastic and refrigerate for a bit to firm it up. After it has chilled, slice the rolls carefully into eight or more pieces. Serve with the accompaniments.