Gifting Bread

I was chatting with my dad last weekend and already being caught up on my news, he asked what was new with my friends. I went through one by one, telling the updates of my different girlfriends that are now collectively spoken about with their boyfriend or fiance, the weddings that are fast approaching, the move ins that are happening, and the new jobs being learned. It was nice to get my dad up to date, but at the same time there’s something a little sad in talking about all the things that are moving forward with your friends, yet realizing that you are pretty much in the same place that you’ve been for the past couple of years.

I think that’s part of why I’ve been trying something new every day the past couple of Junes, the reason I got a cat and the reason I look at buying a house (well let’s be clear – it would actually be a small condo)… At the end of the day, I am not the same person I was a couple of years ago either, there’s just not a big life moment to show for it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m terribly happy with my life and am confident that I have made all the right choices for me, but I have to admit that growing up is sometimes kind of a lonely process.

So what do to about this feeling of disconnect? Go forth. Continue doing things that excite me, challenge me, engage me, and make me happy. Continue finding new things to try, continue spending time with my closest friends (and their partners), continue traveling, dating and cooking.

There is something immensely comforting and homey in the smell of fresh-baked bread, which I think also makes it a very appropriate moving day present. I helped my friend and her boyfriend unpack their kitchen in their first shared apartment this weekend and arrived with half a loaf of bread and a bottle of champagne in hand – my kind of housewarming present! This bread is good! I’ve been wanting to make a no-knead bread for a while and finally got around to it this weekend. This one is just a little sweet and chewy because of the oats, but it makes great toast and I’d definitely recommend giving it go. It’s so easy and how could you not want to make your house smell AMAZING one weekend morning.

It was a perfect something new to help me realize that at this point in my life, my days are filled with simple pleasures and little new things, rather than one big thing on the horizon. Eventually I’m sure I’ll be caught up to the other people in my life, and until then I’ll continue to find joy in sharing their joy and find joy in my own little moments.

IMG_4830IMG_4829IMG_4837IMG_4844

Maple Oat Breakfast Bread recipe here

Advertisements

Cook the Book: Brown Barley

Chapter: Cereals – Recipe: Brown Barley

Oh, Marion. She so crazy. Before browsing through this book, I would have never attempted, or even thought of barley for breakfast. My inital reaction was “Really? Isn’t it kind of like farro?” But, it’s in the book, there must be something breakfasty about it. And let me be the one to tell you that yes, it is like farro, and yes, with sugar, milk and butter just about anything can be breakfasty.

Most of the things in this chapter were dishes I’d made or had before: granola, grits, oatmeal, cereal in its many forms. Seeing as that I had never had or prepared barely, I was intrigued. I went to my local co-op, my go-to stop for anything bulk, and sure enough they had several varieties for me to choose from. Marion says she had “always cooked pearled barley, which is pallid in comparison” so I knew it wasn’t that, but then there was this purple kind and another hulled barley. Ends up that pearled barley has had many of its outer fibers and bran stripped away, making if faster to cook, but less flavorful with less texture – so which one? Purple? Tan? Well, purple just seemed much more fun.

Not to my surprise, the barley indeed does cook up as any other whole grain, as individual pieces rather than developing a creamy consistency like oatmeal. It is rather plain, but brown sugar, a dot of butter, almond milk and fresh fruits brought it to life. I scoped out the perfect peach at the farmers market and the strawberries are in the height of the season now. The barley itself is a bit nutty and chewy, so while Marion suggests a dash of cream, I actually thought the almond milk was the perfect liquid for this combination. Always a fan of trying new things, I am very happy to have chosen this random, yet pleasantly delightful, hot morning cereal.

As part of ‘cook the book’ Rachel, Aimee, Natasha, Sammy and Claudie have more cereals to share with you!

Brown Barley*

  • 3 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup whole grain barley

Bring the water to a boil and add salt. Stir in the barely, turn the heat to low, and cover the pot. Cook over low heat for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking for doneness. It should be tender but chewy. Serve hot with desired toppings. Recommended brown sugar, butter, milk and fruits.

* Recipe from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham, 1987

Cook the Book: Bran Muffins – A VIDEO!

Chapter 3: Quick Breads – Recipe: Bran Muffins

When I was in college, my friends and I were obsessed with Mimi’s Cafe bran muffins. Mimi’s for those of you who don’t know is a super kitschy chain restaurant whose food is nothing to write home about, but whose bran muffins, on the other hand, are to die for. They are huge, light, and soaked with a honey syrup on the bottom. They are served warm with a whipped butter that melts all over and balances out the sweetness in the muffin.

Given these very fond memories, I had always wanted to attempt bran muffins at home, so this chapter and Marion’s recipe were the perfect start. They aren’t quite like Mimi’s but they are still great. These are dense and slightly molasses-y without being too sweet. I substituted currents and cranberries instead of the 1 cup raisins, and served with a whipped honey butter, which absolutely made the dish. Simply whip a stick of butter and add honey to taste – probably a couple of tablespoons.

Also, because I am slightly obsessed with developing my new-found video skills, I am happy to present this recipe to you as my second ever video:

As this is part of our ‘Cook the Book’ series, don’t forget to check out the other quick bread chapter recipes here:

Tomato Jam BLT

So at this point I hope you all are familiar with my ‘cook the book’ project. As I mentioned in this post, I met my SF food blogger friends through a variety of events, one of which was an evening with Michael Natkin to celebrate his new book Herbivoracious. Michael is a vegetarian food blogger turned author and we noshed on a few of his dishes, including his signature Chevre with Sauteed Grapes – so good and so simple, while getting to know him and become familiar with the book. He’s are really nice guy and took the time to chat with each of us, listening to our passions while sharing his for vegetarian cooking. The event was held at Cookhouse, a spectacular kitchen space for rent in North Beach, which I would highly recommend for hosting your next culinary event. I went to the event with Natasha and Claudie and we met Rachel and Aimee there, and before we knew it, we were planning our next get together and the cook the book idea was born.

Cookhouse

Having tried some of the his dishes at the event, I couldn’t wait to flip through Michael’s book and decide what to make next. There were so many tempting options, it took me a while and some inspiration from Food Loves Writing, to finally land on tomato jam. My dad grows tomatoes among other things and as summer rolled around it was the perfect match.

This jam was just delightful. Akin to a sweet bruschetta, I’ve been eating it with cheese on bread, on sandwiches, with eggs on toast – there are so many options. The essence of the tomato remains, but it’s sweetened and spiced up a bit with herbs and pepper flakes. I think next time I would definitely use less sugar and add more herbs/pepper flakes, but it was definitely good as is and was a crowd pleaser as an appetizer on Saturday night. I served it on  sourdough with cheddar, and I think it would have been really amazing with goat cheese on crackers. The tartness of Chevre with the sweet jam would be amazing.

Of all the ways that I’ve used this jam, I enjoyed this grilled BLT the most. Sharp cheddar and salty bacon balance out the sweetness of the jam and I used fresh spinach instead of lettuce – yum! I basically made grilled cheese then opened it up at the end of cooking and inserted the bacon and greens, but really you could do whatever kind of BLT you like, and I’m sure you will love this ‘tomato’ on your sandwich.

Tomato Jam from Herbivoracious*

  • 1 1/2 lbs tomatoes, cored, peeled, diced
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • pinch red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a simmer and continue to simmer until reduced, thick and syrupy. Cool and serve at room temperature. Will store in the fridge for about 3 days. You can peel the tomatoes easily by lightly scoring an X in blossom end of the tomato and soaking in boiling water for 10 seconds.

* I omitted the saffron in the original recipe – my budget has to draw the line at $18.00 spices 🙂

Cook the Book: JB’s French Toast

Chapter 2: Toasts, French Toasts, and Breakfast Sandwiches – Recipe: J.B.’s French Toast

With a name like James Beard associated with this French toast, how could I not try it? While this chapter is chock full of random things, like sausage and applesauce toast, Welsh Rabbit and strawberry sandwiches, I do love French toast and was drawn to the crunchy exterior of this recipe. Marion says that is her favorite French toast recipe and that James Beard once told her they used to serve it in the dining cars on the Santa Fe Railroad – I was sold.

I actually made this recipe in the Mile High City of Denver with my friend Kendra. She was good enough to put up with me for a whole week over the 4th of July, and I absolutely loved it. It was my second trip out there, and I do love the charming brick houses, the laid back feel and the heat of their summer vs. my blustery SF one. We did a breakfast for dinner one evening with one of her girlfriends, complete with mimosas and breakfast casserole too.

I liked this toast! It had a great crunch on the outside from Corn Flakes, and I especially loved the bites with a lot of sugar that had accumulated in the crevices. Her recipe does state to use a dense white bread – and I wish mine had been denser. I used a loaf of French bread that was just a bit too light resulting in a super custardy center. Not always a bad thing, but I do like a little more solidity to my french toast. Also, be warned that there is a lot of nutmeg in this one! Kendra loved it. Me, not so much. I’ll definitely balance with some cinnamon next time. But overall a nice variation on a classic, great texture, simple to make and paired with some berries, just right for summer.

Be sure to check out the other toast recipes here:

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that Marion Cunningham so unfortunately passed away last week at 90 years old. This New York Times article is a nice snippet of her background and this piece by Michael Bauer is very touching about her, and their relationship. I had no idea she was from the SF Bay Area and had such a hand in the progression of home cooking. To be honest, I didn’t know too much about her before we started this project or her passing (it was all a little before my time) but I am now so happy that we have decided to test out this book and help bring some of her to life.

J.B.’s French Toast* (4 servings)

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups cornflakes
  • 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter
  • 6 slices dense white bread
  • 6 tbsp sugar

Stir the eggs, milk, nutmeg, and salt together in a bowl until well blended. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a shallow bowl in which you can dip the bread easily [I skipped this step and it was just fine]

Crumble the cornflakes slightly (to make each flake about half its original size) and spread them on a piece of waxed paper [I used a shallow bowl, again, just fine]

Dip (don’t soak) both sides of each slice of bread into the milk batter. Then press each slice of bread on both sides into the cornflakes to coat the bread well.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat and fry 3 slices of bread until golden on each side. When done, sprinkle about 1 tablespoon sugar on top of each slice and keep warm in a 250 degree oven while you fry the other 3 slices in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Serve hot.

*Recipe copied from The Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham, 1987

Cook the Book: English Muffins

I am so excited to announce a fabulous project that I am collaborating on with some of my food blogger friends. Together we are working out way through cooking (almost) an entire cookbook – The Breakfast Book to be exact.

The six of us have met through various blogger events, cook book launch and the such, and have found I them to be kindred spirits through food, writing and photography. We’re still getting to know each other, but when Rachel suggested this project, we all jumped on board as a way to expand our own culinary horizons and build a little community amongst ourselves. I couldn’t be more excited to be collaborating with them, so please be sure to check out all of them as well:

So here we are, chapter 1, recipe number one of a project that will take us into 2013! Every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month will bring you new posts from each of us about a different recipe from the same chapter. I hope y’all will get excited to learn all there is to know about breakfast.

Chapter 1: Yeast Breads – Recipe: English Muffins

Let me tell you, after attempting this recipe, I have a new found respect for Thomas and his nooks and crannies. The first time I tried them, my math was off and when I split the recipe in half, I didn’t add enough flour. And the second time, only a couple came out truly muffin-y. That said, they did taste good! I just had to eat two at a time though because they were pretty small.

The special thing about English Muffins is that they are cooked on the stove top in metal rounds or biscuit cutters. The metal ring is essential so that they cook up rather than out, giving them the air pockets which become the nooks and crannies after they are toasted. All good in theory, right? Well yes, except that this recipe has you make a dough and cut out the rounds, let them rest, then place them back in the rings. Which got a little complicated. Also, because it just says to flatten the dough, rather than roll it out, I had some pieces that were too pinched together in the middle to rise. I found that if I took the rounds I cut and placed them in the ring one size smaller for cooking, they puffed up much better and actually rose, yielding a true muffin, albeit a little bit smaller one.

I checked out some other recipes, and the muffins were made from more of a batter, rather than a dough, which is something I think I would attempt next time. Nonetheless, I did love this experiment and the way they tasted. I can officially check it off my bucket list and possibly attempt some eggs benedict next time!

Be sure to check out the other yeast bread recipes in the links above.

English Muffins*

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup milk, warmed
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil or melted shortening
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal

Pour water into a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over, and stir. Let stand for 5 minutes to dissolve. Stir in the salt, sugar, warm milk, 2 cups of flour and the oil. Stir briskly with a spoon for a minute to mix well. Add the remaining flour and stir to blend smoothly. This dough will be very soft. Cover and let the dough double in bulk (it will take about an hour)

Flour a board and your hands. Put the dough on the board and add a little flour if it is too sticky to manage. Knead dough three or four times. Pat and push the dough out so it is about 1/4 inch thick [I would recommend using a rolling pin, so parts of the dough are not too pinched, and rolling it a bit thicker than 1/4 inch, up to 1/3-1/2 inch]. Using a 3 inch ring (or tuna can with top and bottom cut out) as a cutter, cut the dough out and place the muffins 1 inch apart on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with the cornmeal [I used flour, didn’t seem too terrible]. When the muffins are all cut, cover them lightly with a towel and let them rest for 30 min. [I have qualms with this whole step. I might roll it out and let it rest, then go from cutting directly to the cooking. It was a bit of a hassle for the next step to put the muffins back in the rings…]

Heat Griddle until medium hot and film it with grease. Grease the inside of the rings and place on the griddle [I recommend using one size smaller than you initially cut, to make sure they grow up]. Put the muffins in the rings and cook for 10 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other [use your judgement, it may not take this long]. Before serving split the muffins in half with a fork and toast them. Butter generously and serve warm.

*Recipe copied from The Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham, 1987

Mushroom Polenta with Zucchini, Crispy Shallots and an Egg

The Italians sure like to take a lot of time with their grains. Risotto. Polenta. Need I say more? I’ve actually made versions of this dish with the quick ‘cornmeal mush’ recipe on the back of the cornmeal box, and dare I say, it’s not that bad! But in one of my last Foodzie boxes, I got mushroom polenta and made it with the real thing this time – man, was it tasty.

The polenta ended up not being a huge deal. Yes, you have to stir it frequently, but it was easy, and I was multi tasking, so I didn’t really feel like I was slaving away. And of course, the finish of parmesan and butter made it ultra creamy at the end. Though I will say that polenta sure firms up as it cools down, so I can see why there are all the ‘day after’ preparations of polenta ‘cakes’ etc.

Normally I make this with asparagus, because asparagus and eggs are BFF, but this time I had squash so I crisped up a shallot in the frying pan and added the zucchini til cooked through. And because I’m not really into poaching eggs yet, I just made a soft boiled one. My fool proof recipe is this: boil water, slowly add the egg (so it doesn’t crack under the temp change) cook for 6/7 min, remove from water, submurge or run under cold water and crack. Yum yum yum, I loved this combination.