Thursday, May 29, 2014

What I Knead

I had such a crash on a bread maker that I use to be a vendor of mine – his arms pulsed as he pushed a slightly sticky mass of dough forward, over and then back. I always hated to interrupt his work for the manual manipulation of the dough was so sensual to me – I felt like a peeping tom catching a moment of an intimate dance. Our relationship never moved beyond stalker and victim. I slowly let go of any fantasy of waking up in the pre-dawn to find him working a loaf for me. I was left with an urgent sensation to knead.  

I own a standing mixer, and have never worked in a place without one, but I always insisted on working any bread I was making by hand. Kneading a dough mass, for me, is a rhythmic flow where you and the dough keep it going to efficiently incorporate the flour and liquid until smooth and soft – I say, keep going until a trickle of sweat runs down your spine to the base of your back. Yes, this is a workout, oh the rewards.

Whole Wheat Flatbread – yields 12

16-ounces plain yogurt

2-cups chickpea flour

3-1/2 to 4 cups whole-wheat flour
2-teaspoons salt

Combine the yogurt, chickpea flour, whole-wheat flour and salt together in order to create a dense, but moist, dough mass. Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, and then rub with a bit of oil. Place in a bowl and cover, or into a plastic bag and allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

Cut the dough into 12 pieces, and form in a ball.

Flatten the ball of dough, and roll them out to about 1/8-inch thick rounds. Make sure to rotate the dough as you are rolling in order to prevent it from sticking to your work-surface. It is ideal not to flour the work-surface when rolling out the flat breads. Though if it is sticking to the work surface dust with chickpea flour.

Heat a cast iron skillet or flat top griddle over a high heat. Cook the flat breads for about 2-3minutes a side.

Store in the refrigerator or freeze.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Couldn't help myself

Wafting from a bowl
Heavenly scent fills the kitchen
Crimson sirens seduce

Strawberry Not-So-Short Cake – yields one 10-inch cake
1-cups sugar
½-pound butter
2½-cups flour
1-teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 eggs
1-can sweetened condensed milk
2-pints strawberries – hulls removed
2-pints whipping cream
2-teapoons vanilla extract
1-teaspoon rose water

For the cake:
Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the sugar and butter together until pale in color and very fluffy.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Add the eggs into the butter mixture, one at a time, beating them in thoroughly. Scrap the bowl down between each addition of eggs. Then add in the flour and 7-ounces of condensed milk, alternating between the two, ending with the flour.
Grease a 10-inch, and pour the batter in. Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden and a cake tester comes out clean.

Place a cooling rack allow to cool completely - un-mold.

Slice the cake into three layers about ¼-inch thick each.

Cut the strawberries in half or thirds, depending on their size, lengthwise.

Beat the vanilla, rose water and cream to soft peak. Then drizzle in the remaining 7-ounce of sweetened condensed milk, beating the cream back to soft peaks.  

Assemble the cake:

Place a layer of the cake on a plate cut side up and spread a third of the cream across its surface. Lay a single, but snug, layer of strawberries. Top with another layer of cake, and repeat the process. Finish the third layer with remaining cream and strawberries. Refrigerator for a few hours before serving.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

To serve and protect

Personally, I did not need the EPA’s report that climate change is here, and clearly, things will only to get worst if we do nothing. I cannot wait for the powers-to-be face deal with the fact that we are stressing our planet. I write my representatives, letting them know I do believe that we need to change before we find ourselves in a corner we cannot escape.

In the meanwhile, I make the changes I can. Our house generates but a bag of trash that cannot be recycled, composted or repurposed about every 10 days. And of course, I will run the dishwasher only when filled to over-maximum capacity and all the bulbs are LED. I am no only in an area that offers any kind of mass transit and try to bundle my errands. Then course, as I have been for years, I cook and eat foods that come from my immediately area – to the point where I could be considered militant. From this time of year into the first frosts I am working/eating with about 90% local foods. And, yes I am fortunate that much comes from my yard. Dream as I might not everything comes out of my yard: around me are strawberry fields and peach orchards allowing me to gather these beloved seasonal icons from just down the road. Strangely, right now, the impact of climate change has been a bonanza for this year’s strawberry crop – just enough rain in early spring with a sharp right turn into summer heat. Be warned though, they are also heavily sprayed, and I will only buy organic ones. Hot and dry those berries have ripened into sweet, deep-ruby red two-bite pleasures.  I have not has a strawberry in almost a year, and last year’s harvest offered just the opposite in satisfaction. Tossed with some chopped spearmint, and we are having sweet tooth seasonal satisfaction.

 I wonder how many more seasons I have I enjoy this splatter of crimson during an otherwise period of green, or when the day will come when the well that waters my garden runs dry?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fields of Greens

For years I have purchased bunches of lamb's quarters otherwise known as, wild spinach or pigweed, in the farmer’s market, $4.50 a bunch. I loved its more intense spinach flavor, and its tannic feel on the tongue when eaten raw. When I was a denizen of a more cemented over environment almost very plant was a wonder – I understood more innately feed a calf, it will grow up to be a steak. But the nurturing of a seed to dinner was further away for me as a concept, even though I loved to read gardening books and articles.

Now, having been able to augment my jaunts to farmer’s markets with culling from my own efforts I have a greater appreciation how a 5-degree dip in the temperature can change the course of your growing season. Though I have to say, that wild spinach is hearty. It took me awhile to risk eating this perceived garden weed. At first, I was in disbelief that I was truly recognizing it for what is and that was truly wild. I took a sample to the farmer’s market on a Saturday last year, and asked the vendor at the wild edibles table if I was really correct – and I was. I enjoyed harvesting leaves all summer long and as some of the plants started to go to seed I decided to expand my patch. I sprinkled them in a few bald patches, and spring has shown their heartiness. They have erupted in almost reckless abandon, and the late frost did nothing to those nascent seedlings. A few weeks hence, and I am eating wild spinach again. Though is year I might not play Johnny Appleseed with them for it does not look like they needed my help.

Meatballs in Peanut Sauce - yields 4 servings
1-pound ground pork
1-tablespoon ground coriander
1-teaspoon ground cumin
1-teaspoon ground anise seed
2-teaspoons ground turmeric
½-teaspoon ground black pepper
¼-teaspoon salt
2-tablespoons chopped loveage leaves
6 minced curry leaves
2-garlic cloves – minced
3-celery stalk – chopped
2-carrots – chopped
1-large onion – chopped
1-½ tablespoons tomato paste

¾-cup beef stock
2-cup wild spinach
2-tablespoons smooth peanut butter

In a work bowl mix together the ground pork, coriander, cumin, anise seed, turmeric, black pepper, salt, loveage, curry leaves and garlic to thoroughly combine. Refrigerate the mix for a few hours to 24.

Form the ground meat into 12 golf ball sized meatballs.

Heat a cast iron skillet over a high heat until very hot. Brown the meatballs, turning them in order to brown all around. Remove the meatballs and hold. Add the celery, carrots and onions cooking until they start to loose their raw look. Add in the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes longer. Add the meatballs back into the skillet along with the stock. Reduce the heat to low, and cover. Cook for 30 to 45 minutes, if it starts to look dry add some water or additional stock.

Swirl in the peanut butter and wild spinach. Season the dish with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes longer. Serve.