Bread! (and so many other things)

Peter has been branching out with his bread baking.  It all started with the purchase of a small kitchen scale, and with the scale, some form of regularity in bread composition (whereas I just like that I can now use Nigel Slater’s recipes from Tender without having to guess how many cups of cut up vegetable weighs 100 grams).  After baking through the usual suspects, Peter started experimenting with things like rye bread, and more recently, San Francisco Sourdough.  Although really it’s Santa Barbara Sourdough, since I’ve read that no matter where your yeast colony starts out, it always ends up succumbing to the local yeast population.  And oh man, this sour dough is good!  So good that my friend Anna (I know, I accumulate lots of these) spent the first part of my birthday party writing down the rather long recipe for it.

There are quite a few dishes I wish I could share with you, but either due to business, ravenous hunger, or laziness, no pictures were taken.  And who would read a recipe without pictures?

  • We made a rather enormous pot roast using the recipe for Stracotto (Italian Pot Roast) from the Joy of Cooking Cookbook.  It’s always a bit of a shock to go from a vegetarian diet to a large piece of beef (somehow chicken is not so offensive in this way).  Maybe it’s the rich savoriness.  Or the heavy meatiness.  In any case, I have found that tomatoes make this transition much easier.  Not only with pot roast, but also with an Italian-inspired beef stew.
  • Chocolate chip biscotti!  Peter’s mom makes my favorite biscotti, but the recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything isn’t too bad.  I realized as I was eating my chocolate chip version that it’s the toasted nuts and almond or anise seed extract that really make them om-nom-nomable for me.  Just putting it out there for those of you interested in a mildly sweet cookie involving only 1/2 stick of butter (for a normal sized batch of cookies).
  • Eggs poached in a pepper-tomato sauce.  In the books Plenty and Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi, this delicious dish is called Shakshuka, but whenever I call it that Peter is confused.  So I stick to “eggs in tomato sauce” most of the time.  My favorite is a simple variation on this that replaces the spices and herbs with oregano and black pepper, omitting the sugar as well.  This is a very easy way to include vegetables in breakfast and could be infinitely varied.  I enjoy putting in a couple green beans (my garden only seems capable of producing a few at a time now that the voles destroy nearly one green bean plant per day) or a few tiny shoots of swiss chard or beet greens.
  • A chickpea, tomato, and bread soup, with the sourdough bread Peter made.  This is the ultimate cool-weather soup: tomato broth and hearty chickpeas, with the occasional tangy burst of soggy sourdough.  I may bring the cookbook Plenty home for the holidays just for this recipe (of course I could just write it down, but where’s the fun in that?).
  • And finally, just to keep you on your toes, how about a spiced beet cake?  Think carrot cake, zucchini cake, or even pumpkin bread.  The spices are warm and the batter is pink.  Then somehow the cake becomes yellow after baking.  I’m still not sure how.  Still on the docket is the rich and oh so moist-looking chocolate beet cake also in the beet chapter of Tender (of course first I need to grow more beets — stupid voles!).

In case the Western New York blizzards keep me from the interwebz, I had better wish you all a Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays) now!  Stay safe, sane, and most importantly, well fed!  I promise to try to do the same (especially that last part).


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