Archive: Jun 2011

  1. Fig and Anise Seed Bread

    15 Comments

    “The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight… [Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.”  — M.F.K. Fisher (The Art of Eating)

    For a girl whose happiness owes a great deal to the likes of yoga, games of rummy over coffee, and a good concert; I find myself starting a lot of these posts peddling the benefits of meditation by cooking and baking. There really is something uniquely therapeutic and recharging about directing our thoughts and energy to the instructions of a recipe. Washing, mincing, shucking, stirring… suddenly, we’ll have realized we’re breathing again. Ms. Fisher says it beautifully of bread-baking in particular; how the business of measuring, kneading, and letting rest can help us slow down, pay attention, and actually wait for good things to unfold.

    Waiting. What a concept. How often do we really have to wait for anything, anymore? Many have labeled ours the generation of instant gratification; and although Shaun and I would like to think ourselves excluded from the categorization, we do fall into the trenches of haste from time to time.

    You can’t rush bread. Measuring. Kneading. Resting. Rising. Second rise. Baking. There aren’t any shortcuts or many special tricks, there are just a few simple ingredients, and time.

    Successful loaves, I realized during the process, are like successful relationships. They can be attributed to attentiveness, patience, and our full presence – the trifecta of mindfulness. Don’t rush the process, don’t try to force it be something it doesn’t want to be, keep it simple, and savor the hard work. Give it some TLC and you’ll feel so proud that you didn’t take the easy way out (as in, buying it from the supermarket). Start a relationship with bread-making and you’ll start to understand more about your own, I guess.

    This bread is well worth the wait. Inspired by a variety we’ve always loved from a local vendor at the Farmers Market, it’s sweet, savory, and will disappear right before your eyes. Fresh figs are just starting to arrive at the markets, but dried ones will turn out just as swell.

    Fig and Anise Seed Bread, built from Best French Bread by Mark Bittman in How to Cook Everything

    • 3 1/2 cups organic bread flour
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
    • Scant 1 1/2 cups water
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons anise seed
    • 1 cup chopped black mission figs (I use dried)

    In the bucket of a food processor with the steel blade attachement, add the flour, salt, and yeast and process for 5-10 seconds. While the machine runs, pour the water through the feed tube and mix for 30 seconds to a minute, or until the mixture becomes a sticky ball. Add a teaspoon or two of water if it seems too dry. Scoop the sticky ball out of the container,and as Mark says “dump” into a large bowl. Add the anise seed and chopped figs, and knead together until well spread throughout the dough. Shape into a ball. Cover with a clean towel and let sit for 3 hours. Wait. Patience.

    Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour and give the mound a second light knead, and back to a ball. Pinch together the seam that forms at the bottom of the ball. Place a clean kitchen towel in a colander and sprinkle well with flour. Place the dough ball, seam side up, in the towel and sprinkle with more flour. Fold over the towel, and let sit for another 3-6 hours. Wait. Patience.

    Preheat the oven to 450′ with a baking stone on the bottom shelf. When the oven comes to temperature, remove the ball from the colander and slash the top with a sharp knife. Be vigorous about it, it takes a bit to break the gluten. Transfer to the baking stone. Bake for 30(ish) minutes. Remove and let cool on a wire rack. 

  2. Traits From Dad

    5 Comments

    Although we would like to believe that many of our better qualities have been independently developed through time, growth, and experience; I think that our parent’s unconscious role-modeling profoundly influences (for better or worse) how we decide to live out our own lives. From the day we enter the world we are watching, observing, and absorbing information from our surroundings and constructing our own sense of self and character. The in-between moments, the day-to-day transactions and behaviors of our closest human contacts, our parents, were (and for many of us, still are) making a mark on our own disposition and decision making.

    This can be a scary thought for parents and adult children alike. No, you are not your mother or father. But his and/or her tremendous qualities and frustrating blind-spots have forced a response to change or emulate. The older I get, the more realizations I have about how my behaviors have been shaped by family. In lieu of Sunday’s passed celebration of Dads, here is my public thank you to my own, whose traits I am happy to share.

    Dad, I’m so glad you’ve rubbed off on me over the past twenty-one plus years. Your love, encouragement, and support have meant more than words can truly express. Thank you for consistently modeling patience, leadership, and how to ride the waves of change as they come in and out of life. You’ve helped shape me to be a fearless opportunity seeker,  showed me how (and how not) to work with challenging colleagues, and at the end of the day laugh it all off over a game of Liars Dice and an oatmeal rasin cookie. When my handwriting gets wonky I practice the curly-cue technique, and I always lean forward and try to “chi it” while running downhill. And like you, I also receive great satisfaction from fixing things, getting my hands dirty, and being the first one up in the morning.

    But seriously, Dad. You’ve been a role model through your intentions and actions, but also by just being yourself. Without trying, your fearless and adventurous nature has helped fuel my own fire for travel and exploration in the world. As a child, watching you pack on a dime and jet around Asia, Europe, and South America for work encouraged me to not fear the diversity and grandiosity of the planet, but to take it by the reigns. You planted a seed, without knowing it perhaps, that would later grow into a confidence* that I was meant to travel and explore without fear. Thank you for sharing this quality with me. In every sense of the phrase, it has given me the world.

    * … so, looks like really it was your fault that I trekked Vietnam by myself (wink wink)

    Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I’m proud to be your girl.

    My dad loves pea soup. I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan, but then again I’ve only encountered it in shades of grey thanks to my grandma’s copious post-Easter ham bone batches. Time for a remodel. I used a homemade mineral and marrow broth as the base, and added fresh spring peas from the market, a squeeze of lemon, garlic, and a little salt and pepper to make this a bright and nutritious alternative. Don’t hesitate to use quality, grass-fed animal bones in your broth, take note from Rebecca Katz: “Beef bones are filled with collagen and minerals the body uses to build connective tissues, such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus,” making them ideal substances to expedite the natural healing process from a range of abuses from exercise to chemotherapy.  This recipe can be easily made vegetarian, omit the bones, but increase healthy fats with more olive oil when sautéing the peas or adding avocado while blending.

    Pea Soup, featuring Mineral and Marrow Broth adapted from Rebecca Katz

    Ingredients

    • 1 large beef shank with bone and marrow
    • 1 large stalk of celery,
    • 6 large carrots
    • 2-3 sweet onions
    • 3-4 red potatoes
    • 1 large head of fennel
    • 1 bunch of Italian parsley
    • 5 cloves of garlic
    • 1 strip of kombu seaweed
    • 2 Tbs juniper berries
    • 1 Tbs peppercorns
    • 1-2 bay leaves

    Roughly chop all ingredients, leaving on the peels and skins. In a large stockpot, combine all ingredients. Fill the pot to two inches below the rim with water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, remove lid, and let simmer for 2-3 hours. The longer the simmer, the more flavor and minerals the broth will develop. As water evaporates, add about two cups, and allow to simmer for another hour.

    Strain stock into a large bowl or glass storage container using a large colander – it would be helpful to have an extra set of hands, as the transitions are heavy and quite hot!

    As the broth rests, prepare:

    • 3-4 cups of fresh peas, shelled from the pod (frozen is okay too)
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • salt/pepper
    • 1 Tbs olive oil
    • 1 lemon

    In a small saucepan simmer garlic and olive oil for a minute over medium heat before adding the peas. Stir until just tender and still bright green. Add a Tsp of salt (or Herbamere) and pepper at the last moment. In a blender, combine half of the peas and 3 cups of the hot broth. Blend for 2-3 minutes until pureed. Pour into a large serving bowl straight from the blender, or through a fine mesh sieve to ditch the pulp (I’m a pulp person, but to each her own). Repeat process with the second half of the peas. Add a cup of plain broth to the mixture, then squeeze in the juice of one lemon. Take a taste test. What does it need? More salt? A little red pepper? A quick hit of apple cider vinegar? Use your gut, and serve as you like. Mark Bittman says a few crusty garlic croutons wouldn’t hurt, just sayin’.

  3. Simple Brown Rice Milk

    33 Comments

    My kitchen is a few things, but sophisticated is not one of them.

    Most of my dishes, pots, pans, and silverware are hand-me-downs from friends and family. I bought my Kitchen Aid stand mixer on craigslist three years ago for $50, and except for a few pieces of glass Tupperware and a purple Le Creuset cast iron pan that were gifts from my Mom, everything else was acquired on the cheap. Wooden spoons, a spatula, and a few good knives go a long way in preparing a wholesome and heartfelt meal.

    My kitchen is not sophisticated, but it is enough. Everything has a story, and they fill the space with a tender and humble energy that I think makes everything taste better. When I think about it, the basic and eclectic contents of my cupboards model the minimalism and contentment I am seeking, practicing, and striving for in all aspects my life.

    Accordingly, it was a rare occasion last week that I found myself in need of a specific gadget for a new recipe. I recently learned that I am intolerant to dairy products and (quite oddly) almonds; meaning the almond milk I’ve been drinking for the past five years hasn’t actually been a healthy alternative after all.

    A fine-mesh sieve (strainer) is required for rice milk, and it’s a lovely (and still humble) addition to my collection that I think will be put to good use for years to come.

    All you’ll need to make your own dairy-milk alternative is a strainer, a pot, blender, brown rice, and water. Simple, delicious, affordable, and tummy-happy.

    Homemade Brown Rice Milk (makes one liter)

    • 3/4 cup brown rice
    • 7 1/2 cups of water, divided
    • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

    In a saucepan, bring rice and 3 cups of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes, adding water if the pan dries out. When rice is soft, remove from heat and add 4 1/2 more cups of water and the vanilla. Stir, then let sit for an additional 45 minutes. Transfer soaking rice to a blender or food processor to mix for 3-4 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth into a mason jar or pitcher, and enjoy for 4-5 days.

Let's get in Touch

I wish I could make coffee dates with you all. In the meantime, feel free to drop me a line with questions, comments, concerns, or just to say Hi. I like that. There is nothing more uplifting than an email from a a fresh contact or kindred spirit.

I can be reached through this contact form and at happyolks [at] gmail [dot] com.