The Reason For Frozen Fruit

25 Jan

Years ago, a friend gave me this recipe, one she received from her German mother-in-law. She called it Kuchen, though I’ve never found a recipe for kuchen like it. Regardless, this Kuchen is delicious, adaptable for breakfast or tea, and super simple to throw together.

Breakfast

Here goes:

2 cups of flour (this batch was 100% whole wheat pastry) + 1/2 cup cold butter + 1/2 cup sugar (while this is original recipe, I always reduce to 1/3 cup, usually always use coconut palm sugar, and as this was for breakfast, reduced that to a little bit more than 1/4 cup) into the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to crumbs. Remove 1 cup of the mixture and set aside. Add to the food processor 1 teaspoon baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon or so salt + 1 egg. Process until combined. Dump the flour/egg mixture into the 9-inch fluted tart pan (or and similar sized oven safe dish, pan, or tin), then press the mixture evenly over the bottom and up the sides.

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Cover with a single layer of fruit, fresh or frozen. Berries are my favorite, but larger fruits work nicely when sliced thin and arranged artfully in a slightly overlapping single layer.

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Cover the fruit with the reserved flour mixture. Slide this pan onto a larger baking sheet, then slide both into the preheated 375F degree oven. Set the timer for 15-20 minutes. Remove when it looks something like this:

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If you want to use blueberries, add some lemon zest. If you’re doing an apple version, sprinkle some cinnamon over the fruit before the reserved crumbs. Use a variety of fruits, keeping it single-layer deep. Try this with different flours or combinations of flours. Reduce the sugar or use the whole original amount. In less than 30 minutes, you will fill your kitchen with amazing aroma, announcing to guests, or resident sleepyheads, that you’ve been thinking about them, that they’re special, that they are worth some delicious effort. You don’t have to tell them how much effort!

Cheers!

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The Library

4 Dec

I love the library. I love researching books, reading reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, then searching KCLS, placing holds, picking up books for free. After only 2 weeks since joining the Artisan Bread Bakers Facebook Group, sifting through millions of posts, I reserved Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish. A large portion of the posters among the 10,000+ members of this group think highly of Portland’s Ken Forkish of Ken’s Artisan Bakery. I had known about the Portland bakery for some time, but didn’t conclude, until after perusing Amazon’s Look Inside feature, that the Ken spoken of in the group and the bakery Ken were the same.

Stack of beauty

Stack of beauty

Now, I don’t particularly like Facebook. I periodically purge my activity log, removing likes and photos and comments, knowing any and all that I post are used to target me and my “friends” by the movers/shakers of our consumer-driven economy. After reading the new Terms & Conditions the other morning, I committed myself to another purge, to update my Ello account, and perhaps leave Facebook for good. This time. Really. I’ll do it. Except for 3 groups that I really like. Damn it.

New bread

New bread

I suppose if I’m to be hardcore, I would end all my friendships, keeping only the 3 groups and probably my *Like* of NPR and Anne Lamott, or I could hide all my friends to not see their posts, so then I wouldn’t accidentally comment on or like their posts, but could still peek once in a while….

Bulk rise, 3 folds total

Bulk rise, 3 folds total

Anyway, the Forkish book is good, I think especially good for those wanting to get started in artisan-style bread making. Flour Water Yeast Salt contains more information on the process of bread making, including more commercial yeasted recipes where the user can practice method, using higher hydration levels, longer proofing times than “regular” bread recipes call for.

Ready for pan

Ready for pan

I have made a few batches of The Whole Wheat Saturday bread, a same-day bake, tweaking the recipe by adding more whole wheat than the 50% required, and baked as sandwich bread. It turned out well, working nicely for sandwich and french toast, as well as pizza dough.

Good crumb, nice crust, and flavor

Good crumb, nice crust and flavor

Mushroom & basil

Mushroom & basil

The bread has many of the characteristics of the longer rise wild-yeasted bread I usually make, has the ease of active-dry yeast, a bread I can whip up on a much shorter notice. It doesn’t, however, have the soul of sourdough.

I began my relationship with sourdough in a class, 20+ years ago, simultaneously working my way through Nancy Silverton’s Breads of the La Brea Bakery. I used Silverton’s method for years, including the early posts on sourdough here, until I happened on Chad Robertson and Tartine. Tartine Bread changed everything I thought I knew about sourdough. Where Forkish’s book would have had more thorough explanation, I jumped into high hydration, long ferment, lactic versus acetic acid starters, creating the leaven/levain with a relatively tiny amount of starter, without water wings, nose plug, or goggles. Robertson’s story, the lay of the book, the not-dumbing-down-too-much captivated me. The learning process has been bumpy but satisfying, the experience now my benchmark for other methods.

All that to say, I’ll keep working through Flour Water Salt Yeast. This initial loaf is a keeper, and some cookbooks are worth the price for even just one good recipe. As for connection, when I read through the introductory section of Robertson’s next book, Tartine Book No. 3, showcasing the many ancient grains he has worked to incorporate, I cried. I cried because of Einkorn. While super useable and full of information, Flour Water Salt Yeast didn’t affect me this way. I don’t cook or bake based on emotion, but bread making is soulful and ancient, something created with hands, something to be broken by hand, and something to be shared. Connection.

Here’s how Junior and I make French Toast.

Breakfast

Breakfast

French Toast • serves 2

4 slices Whole Wheat Saturday Bread from FWSY

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons cinnamon

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon butter, for pan

butter & syrup for serving

Method

Preheat Griswold No. 8 cast iron skillet to medium.

Combine the eggs, milk, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk until well blended.

When skillet is ready, melt the butter in pan. Dip bread, 1 slice at a time, into the egg mixture. Let the mixture drip a bit then carefully lay the bread into the pan. Repeat with remaining slices. Cook a few minutes, then flip, cooking a few more. We like the outside slightly crisp, with the inside still soft but not raw.

 

 

Resolution

1 Dec

This may be a bit early. It’s only just December, but I do make resolutions for the New Year. I make them throughout the New Year. I made a new resolution on November 23, 2014: I will clear my counters before beginning any cooking or baking project. My kitchen is tiny. The counters are a flat surface that collect all manner of ephemera: recipes to try, Netflix to return, receipts waiting for transport downstairs, flyers to remember, shopping lists to add to, the grain mill hopper waiting for empty, baking pans, to-be-filed recipes, and other miscellaneous waiting for their transport downstairs, reading glasses, car keys, Lego sculptures, groceries to be put away.

This all came to a halt when I, frazzled from a late return home, rushed to get dinner biscuits into the oven. I scooted a free 12-inch area on the counter, got flour everywhere before getting biscuits into the oven, when I stopped to take in what I was doing. What a disservice to myself and my well-being! I, who love to cook and bake, barring any joy or pleasure from my kitchen time, increasing my stress and unhappiness, all because I hadn’t been taking a few minutes to tidy before starting/ending my kitchen projects. I put any perishables away, and did a perfunctory clean-up after dinner, but the next morning I moved everything from counters to table. The table could have all day to be sorted and cleared, if need be.

The notorious paper depot

The notorious paper depot

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The pasta machine stays put til we party

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Where things queue for basement delivery

I am by no means a hoarder, I just get distracted. I sit down at the computer and find I’ve started a blog post which always takes far longer than I imagine it should, then I rush upstairs to make breakfast and shower and rush out the door to Junior’s karate. I return home after the Post Dojo Friend Time, the dishes are in the sink, the dishwasher unemptied, the espresso area not tidied….

I am happy to report since 11/24/14 my counters have remained clear. After a project, after shopping or milling or washing, all put away-filed, pantryed, moved to the proper place. I purpose to take the few minutes needed. I keep my eye on my desktop clock!

Thanksgiving was at my sister’s, but I made bread, cake, mashed potatoes, and a roasted beet salad, cleaning counters after each before beginning the next. I cooked and baked, busy right up until Time To Go, but felt relaxed. I don’t have a photo, but here is the salad I made-it was delicious and held up well for leftovers. Cheers!

Roasted Beet Salad with Orange & Fennel

4 medium-large red beets

8 small golden beets

2 naval oranges

4 satsumas

1 small bulb fennel

1/2 medium red onion

1 lemon, juiced

Fresh cilantro leaves, optional

Olive oil

Gray sea salt & fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425F

Wrap the beets in foil, keeping different sizes separate, and roast until a knife easily penetrates to the center of them, about 1 hour. Remove from foil and let cool

Cut the ends from each orange and peel with a sharp knife, removing peel and white. Working over a bowl to collect juice, cut out each section of the orange from its surrounding membrane. When orange is sectioned, squeeze the remaning membranes over the bowl, collecting any additional juice.

Peel the satsumas in the same way, but slice the fruit into circles.

Cut the top from the fennel, then slice the bulb in half. Slice each half into very thin half-moons. You can use a mandoline.

Clean the onion, cut in half from stem to root, and slice as thinly as you can.

When beets are cool to handle, peel/slip off the skins. Cut the large beets in thin wedges and the small beets into rounds.

Juice the lemon and combine with the orange/satsuma juice, along with the fennel and onion slices. Stir to combine.

Arrange the beets on a platter. Distribute the fennel, onion, and juice evenly over the beets. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt/pepper. Garnish with cilantro leaves if using.

 

In Season

27 Nov

I love my Farmer’s Market. My market runs year round and only supports first-hand food growers and producers. I don’t get there every week-I often work weekends with shifts that conflict with market hours. I don’t always have market money in my budget-but do try to go for the pre-freeze enormous bunches of greens, always better tasting and a better price than anywhere else, and the kombucha, not (yet!) available at my usual brick-and-mortar market.

More kale than the fridge could hold!

This is late sumer

Beside knowing the faces and names of the people I buy from, the thing I love best about the market is the grounding effect it has. If I only shop at a conventional grocery store, even if that store is a co-op, organic, with goals of supporting local produce and products, there will always be items on hand, far out of our local season, every day of the year.

Shop

This is beauty

Shopping in the grocery store vacuum, seeing 3 kinds of bell peppers, cilantro bunches, corn-on-the-cob, and strawberries during January in the PNW can start to seem “normal”. I begin to feel numb to the when and where and who of the food I buy. Bundling up with scarf, hat, gloves, and warm coat early on a January Saturday morning brings everything back to real: there’ll be root vegetables minus carrots, there’ll be some little bunches of always-hardy kale, there will still be apples, there will be fruit and chilis dried by the growers, there will be the bakers, the butchers, the kombucha, and cheese makers, but it will be slim. There will be camaraderie and smiles, the summer poet’s fingers perhaps too cold to type, but the tamales, salmon slider, or cup-of-soup will be warming.

This is Seattle

This is Seattle

I don’t have a root cellar or even a second fridge at my house. I store some squash and potatoes in the barely heated basement, but I will be buying carrots and kale from California.

This is Fall

This is Fall

I will buy Washington-grown fruit until it’s all gone, or too musty from storage, but won’t buy apples or pears from Chile or New Zealand or  whereever else they might come from. I will use the seasonal fruit captured in my freezer rather than that shipped fresh across the planet.

This is November

This is November

In January, I’ll be teaching new groups of kids how to make a soup and a few other things. I will be emphasizing ingredients that might still be available at a Farmer’s Market, though will be using some that won’t be. Things like celery, local only for a moment, are so integral to the flavor base of every soffritto or mirepoix. Celery seed can be used as a substitute, and I will include the seeds in our conversation, but first learners need to mess around with the whole food before experimenting with stand-ins. For this reason, I do buy celery out-of-season. I buy it intentionally. Having taken many road trips to central California, I can imagine the trucks, the stops, the last In-N-Out of Redding, the low water levels of Lake Shasta, the relief of Portland, the amazingly boring (no offense!) highway between Vancouver and Olympia. Yes it’s more than 100 miles away, but I can reasonably drive to celery. I know the trip it will take, and I will be grateful.

This is me

This is me

As for the soup, it’s a minestrone I’ve tweaked, and, yes, the celery makes a difference. I make this with Junior, both of us practicing our knife skills. The rosemary comes from my garden, nestled where it is, protected from the coldest our PNW Winter can muster. For economy, I usually use the small white beans available where I buy bulk, cooked, then frozen in recipe-ready quantities. If I cooked the beans, I add their liquid to the soup. Take care with canned tomatoes. Always buy whole, it’s good to know what really might be in the can, and buy from companies that care about canning practices, limit toxins whenever possible. Frozen vegetables are a good winter substitute for from-across-the-planet fresh. The green beans can be happily exchanged for strips of kale or any other vegetable you prefer. The touch of green makes me happy.

This is simple food. Each time I start a batch, I have doubts about the meal to come. But each time I sip a spoonful, I marvel that such few ingredients turn into something as comforting, satisfying, and tasty as I find this soup to be. Cheers!

Minestrone • Serves 4-6

Preparation time: 15 minutes • Cooking time: 30-40 minutes

 Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 large celery stalk, diced

1 pinch of red pepper flake

1 garlic clove, minced

1 ½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 large potato, diced

1 14.5-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained (save liquid) and finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

About 5 cups of water

1 10-ounce bag frozen green beans

Optional: ¾ cup grated Parmesan for serving

Method

Place a large pot onto the stove. Turn the burner onto medium. Pour the olive oil into the pot. When the olive oil is warm, add the onion, carrots, celery, red pepper flake, and garlic.

Stir the vegetables to coat with oil. Stir in the salt and pepper.

Cook for 5-8 minutes, until the onion begins to turn golden.

Add the tomatoes, potatoes, cannellini, rosemary, the saved tomato liquid, and about 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Let soup cook for 15 minutes, gently boiling. Test the vegetables for tenderness.

During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the frozen green beans. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. While the soup is cooking, grate the Parmesan, if using, and set aside.Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan, if using

Cake Plate

20 Nov

Last year I gave a Green Cameo Depression Glass Cake Plate to my mom for Christmas. With the plate, I gave instructions that the green beauty be returned to me 5 times during the year, wherein I would send it back burdened with cake.

Vintage

Vintage

My mom was remiss until sometime in October, when her obedience to the gift instructions was speedily rewarded with a most delicious apple cake, a cake I have no pictures of, and whose recipe I am now unable to locate, but it did exist, the small kitchen sample being gobbled up quickly.

When the plate returned to my tiny kitchen, I was awash in pumpkin and found a pumpkin cake recipe on Food52. I did my usual alterations, combining different flours and reducing sugar, the result worthy of the delicate support.

The usual suspects

The usual suspects

The egg whites, separated from the yolks, are only whisked until white and frothy.

White and frothy

White and frothy

Folding

Folding

The finished cake requires candied pumpkin seeds for the garnish: lightly toasted seeds coated with caramelized sugar and a little butter. This was easy to carry out while the cake was in the oven.

Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds

Can I get a "Yum?!?"

Can I get a “Yum?!?”

The cream cheese icing was a snap, the whole project straightforward.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

With anything in the kitchen, nothing should be served without being tasted first. I mean, what if I had mixed up the salt and sugar or the pumpkin had turned or …? In any regard, I have 3 more cakes to go and not much time. Need to get that plate back!

So good.

So good.

Hamburger Helper

20 Nov

When my mom returned to nursing two days a week, my sisters and I received the commission to make dinner. We loved our New Boys and Girls Cookbook from Betty Crocker. It was chock full of hints for making mealtime memorable.

Yes, the marveling female

Yes, the marveling female

Helpful tips

Helpful tips

It was also sprinkled with testimonials from other Real Life kid cooks, offering opinions or encouragement to their non-published peers.

Real life kids!

Real life kids!

The recipes were basic and worked hard to be appealing to young cooks-we did make the bunny-shaped canned pear salad with cottage cheese tails:

Bunny goodness!

Bunny goodness!

When we weren’t using a cookbook, we turned to the pantry for assistance. Mom kept a supply of Bisquick, those little blue boxes of cornbread or pizza dough mix, the brand I don’t remember, hard taco shells along with packets of seasoning, and boxes of just-add-meat convenience, Hamburger Helper.

Ground beef was the meat of economy. Finding new ways to funnel ground beef into our dinner menus was tricky. God bless the food industry for making life easier! Hamburger helper was a favorite of ours, all of those flavors scientifically engineered to please each and every sensor of the human tongue, a kind of meaty creamy pasta-y mess. An almost instant hotdish, the memory of which makes me shudder. When my dad developed colon cancer, red meat disappeared from our home. It would be years of remission later before burgers and beef tacos returned to the dinner table.

These days, Marcella Hazen’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is my hamburger helper. Better yet, it is my local, grass-fed, definitely not economic, chuck-roast-ground-as-needed helper. I love making her version of Bolognese. Beef with some vegetable simmered in milk, then wine, then tomatoes, cooked slow for over 3 hours, finishing with a little butter and hand-cut tagliatelle. Sometimes I make the sauce a day before, letting the flavors mingle and mellow, before marrying it with pasta.

My mom, growing up in a time where those in the kitchen produced everything by hand, from scratch, appreciated the time and money-savers provided to her in almost every aisle of the grocery store. A Hamburger Helper dinner would be ready in 20 minutes. This Marcella Hazen version takes significantly longer with its “just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface” simmer, but it doesn’t need attention during the entire cooking time. The shortlist of simple ingredients requires careful choosing for quality. The slow cooking process brings out all that the whole food, real ingredients have to offer. With the comfort of time-taken, a unrushed cook can bring a meal for savoring to the table, connecting participants to the ingredients, to the process, to the person who brought the process to light. Gracie Mille, Marcella!

Bolognese Meat Sauce

Marcella Hazen, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

Yield: 2 heaping cups

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta

1/2 cup chopped onion

2/3 cup chopped celery

2/3 cup chopped carrot

3/4 pound ground beef chuck

Salt & pepper

1 cup whole milk

Whole nutmeg

1 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta

Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at the table

Method

Put the oil, butter, and chopped onion in the pot, turn heat onto medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables to coat them well.

Add the ground beef, a large pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well, and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.

Add the milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating-about 1/8 teaspoon-of nutmeg, and stir.

Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, continue the cooking, adding 1/2 cup water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.

Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.

Note: Once done, you can refrigerate the sauce in a tightly sealed container for 3 days, or you can freeze it. Before tossing with pasta, reheat it , letting it simmer for 15 minutes, stirring it once or twice.

A Whole Cookie

19 Nov

Junior loves pumpkins. He began carving them for Halloween the day they hit our local grocer-mid September maybe?

Junior's effort!

Junior’s effort!

Along with carving pumpkins, he wanted me to buy Sugar Pumpkins for decorating in the house, and eventually use for food. Rent’s Due Ranch included both Sugar and, the newer, slightly larger variety, Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkins in the box of mixed winter squash I bought from them. I baked one of the Luxury pumpkins.

Baked Luxury

Luxury

The squash baked beautifully, giving a good portion of dense, not-to-watery flesh. I whiz the pulp in the food processor to have a uniform texture, eliminating any stringy strands. From here, the pulp can be used or frozen. I made pumpkin bread, two times, two versions, two different days.

Fancy meez!

Fancy meez!

I didn’t have two eggs for the first batch so used some soaked Chia as a replacement. I used part coconut palm sugar, part evaporated cane juice. The recipe I have uses a small bit of applesauce, only 1/4-cup. I also used a smaller, stoneware loaf pan, baking the extra batter in custard cups. The resulting bread was dark, dense, and very moist.

Batch A

Batch A

For the second batch of bread, I increased the applesauce, reduced the sugar, using only ECJ as I was out of the darker coconut palm, had two eggs, and baked the entire recipe in a standard-sized, metal loaf pan. The resulting loaf was a bit more applely, and while still moist and less sweet, it didn’t have the dark, open-crumb mystery of the first. A third batch is due, wherein I will use Emmer, coconut palm sugar, very little ECJ, the same amount of applesauce, a bit more pumpkin purée, repeat the chia, maybe a little smidge of clove, and bake in the stoneware. I’ll let you know.

Batch B

Batch B

On a tangential note, I doubt I am the only one who lives with embedded Momisms, those phrases heard repeatedly during childhood, only to pop into one’s consciousness as an adult. The most common Momism for me in the kitchen is “Oh Honey, there’s a whole cookie left in there!” Originally heard when scraping cookie dough from a mixing bowl, I now hear it whenever there’s anything edible or usable left on a spoon, spatula, the bowl of a food processor, or the skin of a baked pumpkin. I don’t really hear it as judgement, more a reminder, a reminder sometimes answered by frugally gathering every remaining bit, other times whisking marked bowl or spoon to the sink, no further thought given. On this day, I took the reminder.

A whole cookie

A whole cookie

Pumpkin Bread (Version A)

Makes 1 standard loaf•10 minutes to assemble•30-45 minutes to bake

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup coconut palm sugar

1/4 cup non-gmo canola oil

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 egg

1 tablespoon chia seed + 3 tablespoons water (let sit!)

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup pumpkin purée

1 1/2 cups + 3 tablespoons (7.6 oz) whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup water

Method

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter or oil the loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the sugars, oil, and applesauce. Whisk well.

Add the eggs, one at a time, to the sugar mixture. Whisk each addition thoroughly, then add the spices, vanilla, and pumpkin. Mix thoroughly, again.

Sprinkle 1/3 of the flour over the wet ingredients and fold gently together. Pour in 1/3 of the water and fold again. Repeat with remaining flour and water.

Fill the prepared pan up to 2/3 full. If you have extra batter, use any appropriately sized, buttered ovenproof dish to bake it in.

Start checking for doneness at 30 or 35 minutes. This bread is best if not over baked.

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