Thursday, March 31, 2011

Butterscotch Cream Pie

My cousins, brothers and I all learned to drive on a tractor very similar to this one. Growing up on a ranch in Eastern Oregon meant we were all driving machines like this before we were in our teens. I remember being no more than five years old and the golden feeling of sitting on my grandfather's lap while he drove the tractor around the hay field.

This is my brother and his new toy. With our shared childhood memories, I know exactly why this old tractor puts a happy smile on his face -and I'm hoping he'll let me sit in its seat next time I visit him! I recently made Butterscotch Cream Pie (twice) and it reminded me of him as a kid. This pie was one of the things I would bake for my brothers where we were teens and it was one of his favorites.

Prebake a basic pie crust (click here). When I chill the dough for several hours before rolling it out, it always seems to result in a more tender crust, but my mom never does this step and her pies are always awesome!

Butterscotch Cream Pie Mix in top of double boiler: 1/4 c. brown sugar 1/3 c. flour 1/2 t. salt Gradually add 1/2 c. milk and stir to make a smooth paste, then add 2 c. more milk while stirring over boiling water. Cover and cook 15 minutes. I made this pie twice in one week. My son had requested a pie, any pie, and these photos my sister-in-law sent triggered thoughts of hay fields, teens and butterscotch cream pie. My recipe that I've used since high school, lists 1/3 c. flour OR 3 1/2 T. cornstarch and I chose cornstarch to make the first pie. Here's the thing with cornstarch: it results in a very silky texture, BUT the binding is very delicate (hence the silkiness), and if stirred as its cooling below a certain temperature (when the butter and vanilla were added in this case), it can break. As a result, the first of the two pies I made, was a pie crust with a really yummy tasting thin butterscotch sauce. He was perfectly happy to spoon the filling over ice cream with some of the crumbled up crust, but it REALLY TICKED ME OFF. The only way to redeem myself was to do it again -and I used flour for the thickener the second time. Beat 1/2 c. brown sugar into 4 egg yolks. Add, after lightening with some of the cooked custard. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1/4 c. butter and 1 t. vanilla. Pour into prebaked pie crust and cover with meringue -which technically speaking, makes this a Butterscotch Meringue Pie I suppose.

Meringue Beat 4 egg whites and 1/4 t. cream tartar until frothy. Add 1/4 c. brown sugar and beat to form soft peaks. Gently spread meringue on top of the butterscotch custard in pie crust, and bake 325 degrees until it browns nicely. I don't time it, I watch it because I have burned LOTS of meringues over the years by walking away for a few minutes.

This butterscotch pie is made of the simplest of ingredients, yet it's one of the tastiest pies you'll ever eat. I love the meringue swirls and the flavor of this pie, reminiscent of ranch life and driving old tractors.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jamaican Patties

My husband brought Wingless Angels home last night. It was recorded at Keith Richards' home in Jamaica and is him and these amazing Rastafarian drummers from Steer Town. With only shutters on the windows of his house there, the sound of crickets chirping can be heard throughout this album -I love it! The music is so genuine and true with a predominately African sound. I'm not much of a traveler, but I do like to explore other cultures' music and of course, foods! Over the weekend (and completely unrelated to why he bought this album), I made these Jamaican Patties, a popular street food and the 'hamburger' of Jamaica.

Jamaican Patties
Adapted from Lucinda's Jamaican Kitchen by Lucinda Scala Quinn
To insure success, make both the pastry and the filling separately well ahead of when you want to assemble them, allowing time for the pastry to chill (I made the pastry first) and the filling to cool completely. It takes a bit of planning, but both pastry and filling can be made hours to days ahead, and otherwise these are very easy to make. And, here's my favorite part -they freeze well. I had planned to freeze half of these, but my people insisted on me baking them all that night, instead. Makes 16 patties, 2-3 patties per serving.

Mix: 1 lb ground goat or beef
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2-4 hot peppers -Jamaicans use 2 Scotch bonnet peppers, I used 4 jalapenos from the freezer!
1 t. each dried thyme, curry powder and salt
1/2 t. black pepper

Heat 2 T. canola oil in a large skillet and add meat mix. Stir and cook until the moisture evaporates and the meat browns and forms a bit of a crust (10 minutes or so).

Add 2 cups water, stirring up the browned crust from the bottom of the pan. Stir in 1/2 c. bread crumbs to make a stew-like consistency. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cover and cook 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Remove lid and allow to cool completely.

2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. curry powder

Cut in:
1/4 c. vegetable shortening or lard (or all butter)
1/4 c. butter (or all vegetable shortening or lard)
Add 3/4 c. cold water, mix in and knead to hold together, but work as little as possible. Form two disks, wrap each in cling wrap, and chill 1 hour to 5 days.

To prepare patties, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut each disk into eighths, form 8 balls, and make patties one at a time. Roll each into an elongated circle. Spoon cooled filling onto one side, leaving room to fold over and seal edge. Moisten edge and crimp with a fork to seal.

Brush patties with 1 egg beaten with 1 t. water before freezing or baking. Oops! -I forgot to do this step! Ours were great without, but I think they would brown a bit better with an egg wash and will try and remember next time.

Place on a cookie sheet, eight fit nicely on one of my sheets, and then repeat with the second disk. OR cover with plastic wrap to freeze filled patties at this point, and then simply cook the frozen patties without defrosting. Bake patties at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown. I served these with Jamaican Red Stripe beer and a large fruit salad, but red beans and rice would also be very good.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Ultimate Meatball Experience

What is a burger but a large flattened meatball? In my opinion, a homemade burger is the ultimate meatball experience. Burgers are the quintessentially American food, and like it or not, our all-American beef patty served on a bun is the food poster child for our country. All too frequently there are troubling reports and concerns raised about the over 38 million American hamburgers eaten daily in our country, and as iconic as they are, I simply cannot remember the last time I ate a mega-chain burger. I do have a weakness though, for cheeseburgers served in small town cafes such as The Crow's Nest in Montesano. We stop there often when we're driving through, and of course, the Pioneer Farm beef burgers Judy Pederson cooked up at the Snohomish Farmers Market last summer were an almost weekly treat. I don't think that all burgers are all bad, but I do agree there are a lot of really bad burgers being sold and eaten.

Being a passionate home cook, with a special fondness for a good burger, and having worked in several small cafes that served good all-American burgers, I often make them at home. They are sometimes exotic, like the Banh/Bahn Mi Pork Burgers I made (and misspelled) last summer, or more often than not, I make a straightforward all-American-style burger. Just as a drive-through burger is a quick meal to grab when life is hectic, a burger made at home is one of the quickest and easiest thing in the world to cook. I learned this from my Old Granny (click here), who always kept on hand a stack of beef or elk burger patties in her freezer. As marauding teens we knew we could show up at her doorstep with any number of friends in tow, and she would make burgers for us all. Many adventures (and misadventures) began (or ended) with, "Hey, let's stop at Grandma's house!" At any time of day or night, if her lights were on and she was still up, we could stop by and she would always ask, "Are you kids hungry?" Buns from the freezer were quickly toasted, and frozen meat patties went straight onto the griddle. A patty of good quality ground meat, not too lean or too fat, served on a bun with various condiments pulled from the fridge, all ready to eat at her kitchen table within just a few minutes. Of course, she would invariably make up a salad or something else to have along with the burgers, and she always had ice cream in the freezer and a cake of some sorts under cover on her counter for us to polish off.

We made burgers twice last week -it was one of those weeks. I wasn't thinking 'blog post photos' when I was making them and didn't take any -everyone knows what a burger looks like anyway. I often portion and freeze individual patties, as my Old Granny did, when I'm not using all of a package of ground meat, or when I'm thinking ahead to having an answer for, "What can I make for dinner that can be ready in the next fifteen minutes?" I shape individual patties in a plastic sandwich bag and stack them in the freezer. If I have the time and plan ahead, homemade burger buns are absolutely heaven, but if not, my Old Granny's always-keep-some-buns-in-the-freezer trick is good for RIGHT NOW meals -or we simply use whatever bread is at hand. Burgers from different meats each have their own character and goat and lamb are both very tasty. I made this week's burgers with ground beef that was raised by my sister-in-law. Because I intimately know where the ground meat for our burgers comes from, I don't have to cook the living daylights out of them. Mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard (or a dollop of special sauce) are the usual requisite condiments, along with some lettuce, tomato and dill pickle slices -cheese and onions are optional- and Zucchini Relish. My cousin, Michelle says Zucchini Relish is the whole point to having a hamburger, which may be going a bit too far, but it is definitely an important part of a good homemade burger like those eaten at my grandmother's kitchen table.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Black-eyd Peas with Tomatoes

Black-eyed peas are pretty as far as beans go, they cook quicker than many other legumes, and they are quite taste. Despite all these wonderful attributes, I seldom cook them. When I do, I use this seemingly odd, but perfectly balanced, combination of black-eyed peas, tomatoes and soy sauce.

Black-eyed Peas with Tomatoes

Put in pressure cooker:
1 c. dried black-eyed peas
4 c. water
1 T. canola oil
1 garlic clove
Bring to high pressure and cook 9 minutes. Use the quick-release method; OR cook peas in a medium pot on the stove top with water to cover until tender; OR use 2-14 oz. cans of black-eyed peas.

In 1 T. canola oil, saute:
1/2 diced onion
1/2 diced red or green bell pepper, or 4-5 jalapeno peppers
1 diced celery stalk

14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 T. soy sauce (or more to taste)
Add drained black-eyed peas and cook a bit. Add 1 c. cooked rice (or not) or serve along with. Douse with Frank's Red Hot Sauce, Tabasco Sauce, or any favorite hot sauce.

Today is Aretha Franklin's 69th birthday! Happy Birthday to the Queen of Soul! I think these black-eyed peas would be great served alongside her Queen of Soul Ham (click here) with a few other soul food favorites, and followed by her Peach Cobbler (click here) for dessert. We had them with cut corn, ham slices and homemade bread for a simple country dinner, but these black-eyed peas are satisfying enough to eat all on their own.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Chickens

The signs that Spring is a reality are everywhere. Daffodils are blooming...

...and the pussy willows and other early flowering trees are blossoming.

Our old hens are seriously producing eggs again,

and our rooster, Taj Mahal is pleased to welcome eight new hens into his harem. These are ones we hatched and raised last year and they should begin laying eggs sometime soon. We begin producing food in the Spring and despite all the growth that starts, foodwise this time of year can be the stodgiest. There is no fresh asparagus -yet; no crisp garden greens -yet; no berries -yet; no early peas -yet...and I'm looking forward to all of these coming from the garden to the table in the next few months. Until then, while we await the fulfillment of the promises of Spring, few foods are nicer or more comforting in March than a genuine chicken pot pie. I make Chicken Pot Pie at other times of the year, but it is especially welcome now. This was made with the last few leeks remaining in the garden that my husband dug up before planting the early spring stuff: spinach, fava beans, peas, and...??? I pay more attention when it all starts growing into foods!

Chicken Pot Pie
2-4 c. cooked, cubed chicken meat, pressure cooked 9 minutes, quick-released and cooled.
1-2 c. potatoes, cubed and cooked separately just till done
Melt: 2 T. butter
2-3 leeks or 1/2 small onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
Cook a bit. Add:
1/4 c. flour
Stir and cook for a few minutes.
Stir in:
2-3 c. chicken broth
1 c. milk
Cook until smooth.
1 pkg frozen peas and carrots
1 t. salt
1/4 t. each poultry seasoning and white pepper
cubed chicken meat
drained potatoes
Pour into a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish. Top with dollops of damp biscuit crust:
2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 T. baking powder
1/3 c. butter
Stir in:
1 -1 1/4 c. buttermilk or milk
Blop on top of casserole. It won't completely cover and it will "grow" a bit, plus the individual biscuits makes serving it easier.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Back when my now young adult children were flaxen-haired wee tots, I bought a box of English Muffin/Crumpet Rings at a yard sale. I used them a few times soon after buying them to make English muffins for the kids -and they were a big hit with them- but I haven't used them since. I recently have been pondering the different possible ways for making breads without an oven. On the heels of my (relative) success with cooking pita breads on a griddle, and remembering my dusty box o' rings, I decided to take a bash at making crumpets. If anyone reading this KNOWS HOW TO DO IT PROPER, if you learned to make crumpets from a mother or grandmother, I'd sincerely love to hear from you. As it was, armed only with my good intentions, a box of rings, and a crumpet recipe in James Beard's Beard on Bread, but lacking grandmotherly guidance or ANY actual experience in the crumpet arena, I forged/fumbled ahead. What does a proper crumpet really look like? Well, I actually don't know. These may or may not be real crumpets, but they were real good, and they disappeared in a flash.

James Beard's Crumpets

1/2 c. boiling water
1/2 c. milk
1 T. yeast
1 t. sugar
Allow to get bubbly. Add:
1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 t. salt
Beat several minutes with a spoon, then allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk -about an hour.

Mix and beat into dough:
1/4 t. baking soda
1 T. warm water
Allow again to rise until doubled.

Butter rings, place on medium hot griddle (350 degrees) and ladle in batter to 1/2 inch thickness. Cook until bubbly and dryish. Remove ring, turn and cook on second side until browned.

Lacking genuine yard sale crumpet rings, tuna cans with both ends cut out will work perfectly instead. I either did something a bit WRONG or my rings are a bit oversized, as I only got six crumpets when James' recipe said it should make 8-10. I used bread flour instead of AP (oops!), which may have changed the texture of the batter a bit and explain the difference.

Even if these weren't proper crumpets, they were pretty 'yummy little griddle cooked bread things' and next time I make them I'll be more careful about which flour jar I scoop from, and I'll double the recipe.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March Lambs

Smart Duck supervising one of the ewes returning from taking all four lambs out for an early morning graze, and leaving the other adults to enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet without the wild ones.

The lambs and the lone ewe stuck with childcare duty return to join Paris, the hulking ram beast, and impatiently wait for their morning alfalfa hay just outside the barn door.

The lambs are so incredibly cute now, midway between baby lambs and not yet sheep. They are out grazing everyday now -and I can't wait until we can stop buying and feeding alfalfa hay. Several wool producers have told me they fed alfalfa pellets instead of alfalfa hay this winter -more expensive, but less waste and less mess- and I'll mull that option over in my brain between now and next winter. For now, I'm simply willing the grass to grow, and gearing up for spring barn cleaning.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Egyptian Kufta

"The world's most ephemeral art form -even worse than magazine writing. What kind of life would let dinner pass in a tenth the time of its preparation? This kind. The kind we're built for." -Richard Powers, generosity

With the title, My Egyptian Grandmother's Kitchen -Traditional Dishes Sweet and Savory -how could I not be immediately and completely enchanted by this cookbook? It is the traditional home cooking an Egyptian woman learned by watching her grandmother cook, and she dedicates this book to her three daughters "so that it may be an aid in the preparation of all the foods I made that you loved so much." My son bought this for me for a gift last year, and it is absolutely fascinating. While at college, he got to know an Egyptian student he met in one of his classes there, and he told me he'd never met anyone so incredibly proud of their country as this young man was. On Saturday, the Egyptian people held their first free elections after ousting Mubarak last month. Like all politics, the choices they were given to vote on are far from ideal, but it was a free vote and is one more thing for Egyptians to be proud of. Yesterday, I was thinking about this historic vote in Egypt, which led me to looking through this cookbook (with me, it always comes back to food), which led me to making these Egyptian kuftas for my weekly meatball recipe.

I first made this Yogurt-Tahini Sauce to serve with the meatballs. Very tasty and super easy -the most difficult part was that I was opening a new can of tahini, which has to be stirred forever to re-emulsify the oil which separates out as the tahini sits on the shelf. I found my wand blender to work really good for this -in the past I simply arranged to have a long phone conversation while stirring it with a spoon.

Yogurt-Tahini Sauce
Adapted from Flatbreads and Flavors

1/3 - 1/2 c. plain yogurt
3 T. tahini
1/4 - 1/3 c. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. cayenne
Makes 1 cup and stores in the fridge for one week.

Pita bread is now commonly found in most grocery stores these days, but I made homemade pita breads with half whole wheat and half white flour, using the recipe in Flatbreads and Flavors for this meal. I followed their directions for cooking pitas on a griddle on top of the stove, rather than baking them in the oven, as I usually do. They were good enough, but I think they would have been better if I'd rolled them out a little bit thinner.

Egyptian Kufta
Adapted from My Egyptian Grandmother's Kitchen by Magda Mehdawy

Blend in food processor:
1-2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 onion, grated
1/2 c. cooked white rice
1/2 T. each minced parsley and mint, dried -or use double the amount of fresh herbs
1/4 - 1/2 t. each salt and black pepper
1/8 - 1/4 t. each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cumin, or 1/2 - 1 t. Buharat or 'mixed spice'
1/2 - 3/4 lb. ground beef ("Note: ground camel meat can be used instead of beef.")

Form 20-25 meatballs. Chill. Deep fry in oil, or brown them in 1-2 T. ghee. I then popped them into the oven alongside the egg dish, Shakshuka, I was also making for dinner. I don't know if an Egyptian home cook would serve these two dishes at the same meal, but I thought they were great together.

Shakshuka is eggs poached in a tomato sauce, either on the stove top or baked in the oven. It is one of those easy comfort dishes that seems to be claimed by multiply groups of various nationalities and ethnicity. I followed Magda's recipe and now understand its universal appeal. It is a quick, satisfying comfort food, the sort of thing to whip up for a quick meal, when the cupboards are almost bare, or when you don't want to make a big production out of cooking.

Brown in 1-2 T. ghee:
1/2 diced onion
2 minced garlic cloves
1-2 minced hot chili peppers
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 T. minced dried parsley
salt and pepper
Bring to a simmer and cook a few minutes. Pour sauce into a baking dish, make a hollow, and add 3-4 eggs. Bake 15 minutes. Serve with pitas.

Since there were only three of us for dinner, I simply rounded out our meal by putting jars of pickled beets and dilly beans on the table, but if we'd been more, I would have included some couscous, an eggplant dish, and one or more of the simple Egyptian salads in this cookbook. I loved this egg dish -seasonally appropriate with our egg production in full swing and the equinox making it officially Spring. I like the subtle and unique spicing of the kuftas, and how all this came together to make a simple, yet exotic, home cooked meal made from what we had on hand.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Breadcraft Cookbooks

"This has been a happy occupation looking through one hundred year old cook books and learning how grandmother and great grandmother baked bread; seeking out breads wherever we traveled and returning home to try our hand at recreating the best tasting, the most imaginative; exchanging bread recipes with new friends and old; crossing cultures and sharing bread traditions with people from backgrounds different from our own; and experimenting with many kinds of bread stuffs and devising new recipes." -Charles and Violet Schafer, From the Foreword in Breadcraft

I recently finished reading Joyce Carol Oates' novel, Missing Mom. She dedicated the novel, 'In memory of Carolina Oates (1916-2003).' It is the story of a not-so-young woman, who's mother is murdered, and how she adjusts and copes during that first painful year of living without her mother. She takes up bread baking, using her mother's recipes and sharing the breads she bakes, as her mother had always done. This little cookbook, Breadcraft is the book referenced for the bread baking in the novel. Of course, I don't really need another bread book, but how could I resist? I bought it on-line after finishing the novel, and it is terribly charming, in a very 1974 sort of way.

I always love reading Joyce Carol Oates' writing. As shocking and disturbing as her writing often is, I admire the deftness and boldness with which she writes, without being gratuitous, about brutality and sexuality -this novel is much milder in that respect than many of her other books.

"last time

Last time you see someone you don't know it will be the last time. All all that you know, if only you'd known then. But you didn't know, and now it's too late. And you tell yourself How could I have known, I could not have known.
You tell yourself.

This is my story of missing my mother. One day, in a way unique to you, it will be your story, too. " -Joyce Carol Oates, Missing Mom (2005)

When I began making bread, I turned out some rather dismal bricks. After many years of practicing the craft of bread baking I've finally learned how to produce a decent loaf of bread. Besides all the bread recipes and instructions for baking bread included in all sorts of cookbooks, these are my bread baking cookbooks, bottom to top, I use. I've learned a bit from each of them along the way, and/or I simply read them for bread baking inspiration.

King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking (2006)
Bread for All Seasons by Beth Hensperger (1995)
The Garden Way Bread Book by Ellen Foscue (1979)
Bread, Time Life Books-The Good Cook Series (1981)
Leslie Mackie's Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook (2003)
Country Baking by Ken Haedrick (1990)
The Complete Book of Breads by Bernard Clayton, Jr. (1973)
English Bread and Yeast Cookery by Elizabeth David (1977)
The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book by Laurel Robertson (1984)
Homemade Bread by the Food Editors of Farm Journal (1969)
The Home-Baking Cookbook by Natalie G. Sylvester (1973) -This is actually my daughter's book and it is absolutely charming -it is all written by hand with kitchen drawings by the author.
Beard on Bread by James Beard (1979)

Not pictured are the following publications:
Fleischmann's Yeast Best Ever Breads (This is really good!) (1993)
Miriam B. Loo's Fresh-From-The-Oven Breads, Published by Current, Inc. (My copy is falling apart I've used it so much!) (1982)
Fisher's Blend Baking Book (This was my grandmother's book) (1941)

When taking the above photo, I missed this book, hiding under the couch where I'd slid it after spending an entire evening reading it. This book is a jewel and a delight to read, as well as being an excellent and enlightening cookbook. The authors describe their fascinating trips and adventures all around the world, eating and exploring the flatbreads of many different cultures, and the people they encounter on their journeys -I love this book!

Flatbreads and Flavor, A Baker's Atlas by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Thursday, March 17, 2011

At the Wheel Again

I haven't been spinning lately, but spinning is like that for me. I'll spin for several hours almost every day for months on end, and then have periods of weeks to several months, without spinning at all. Before starting my next spinning project, I gave my wheel a coat of linseed oil, moved it upstairs into my fiber room, and then last night, for the first time in months, I sat at the wheel and spun...

...this royal blue fiber. My current project is to spin this fiber into a yarn to knit my son a sweater with. It's a white lamb fleece from last year, processed and dyed a mix of two blues to create this lovely color. Spinning all this will take awhile, which is fine with me. Spinning is a process thing, and I'm fully enjoying my return to the craft.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sugar-Frosted Cardamom Braid

"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight...Suffice it to say, then, that in the truest and least dialect way, good fresh bread and chuckling fountains are soul food." -M. F. K. Fisher

I had been thinking about cardamom bread for the past several days when I saw Nicole's post for the cardamom bread, Nisu at Arctic Garden Studio (click here). Her beautiful loaves were the inspiration for me to finally bake the cardamom braided bread I'd been thinking of. I wish I could remember where this recipe came from, but I have been making this bread for many years now, and I think all the different versions for this bread make a lovely loaf.

Sugar-Frosted Cardamom Braid

In microwave in a Pyrex measuring cup heat:
1 1/3 c. milk
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. butter -cut in pieces
Do not overheat (115 degrees). Stir to dissolve sugar and melt butter.

Place in bread bowl or stand mixer bowl:
4 1/2 c. bread flour
1 T. yeast
1 t. ground cardamom
1/2 t. salt

In a small bowl beat:
1 egg
1/4 - 1/2 t. lemon extract
Add lukewarm milk mixture and egg to flour mix. Beat with dough hook or spoon until it comes together. Continue kneading, adding 1 T. at a time of flour or water as needed, 5-10 minutes to make a smooth dough. Cover bowl with cling wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size. Punch down and divide into three equal balls. Rest 5 minutes. Roll each ball into a long rope (about 20 inches). On lightly greased sheet, braid ropes together, pinching ends and tucking under loaf ends to secure. Let rise until doubled. Mix 1 egg white + 1 T. water and gently brush onto loaf. Sprinkle with 1 T. coarse raw sugar and bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Slices of this cardamom braid with Pear Vanilla Jam for breakfast this morning was a good breakfast for those I love, and definitely food for my own soul. Ruth Reichl's reminder of why food matters (click here), reinforces my own belief of why baking bread is so important to me right now -it is a big yes in a world filled with no.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Meatball Mole

My weekly meatball recipe I'm sharing today is for beef meatballs cooked in a mole sauce. I made slightly larger sized ground beef meatball for this easy and authentic Mexican-style family meal.

Mexican-style Beef Meatballs
1 beaten egg
1 lb. lean ground beef -ground goat would also be good
1/2 t. Mexican oregano
1/4 c. masa harina
1/3 c. milk
1/3 c. minced onions
Form into plump meatballs using about 1 1/2 T. meat mix each, to make about 22 meatballs. Chill several hours. Brown meatballs in an oiled skillet. Meanwhile, cook 2 c. sorted pinto beans in a pressure cooker with 2 qts. water, 2 T. vegetable oil, and 2 dried chilies for 30 minutes on high pressure, then allow the pressure to drop naturally.

During the three years Marilyn Tausend traveled across the United States and Mexico, talking to hundreds of Mexican and Mexican-American cooks and compiling the more than 200 recipes from their home kitchens found in her cookbook, Cocina de la Familia, she says, "Meatballs in one form or another -tiny meatballs in broth, bite-sized ones in party appetizers, and to my delight, glorious plump balls of ground meat in some sort of enriching sauce -were served to me more often than any other meat or chicken dish." Mexican cooks, Marilyn Tausend, Diana Kennedy, and Rick Bayless all give recipes for richly flavored, complex from-scratch mole sauces -usually used for saucing some type of poultry- and I hope to actually make one of these someday. Instead, this is a much easier version of 'some sort of enriching sauce.' It is probably quite authentic, in that I suspect a majority of busy Mexican-American home cooks make mole this way, rather than the more time consuming from-scratch way.

Mix 1 part commercial Rogelio Bueno Mole Sauce (I have it on good authority that this is the best commercial mole sauce to use) with three parts water or chicken broth in the unwashed skillet that the meatballs were cooked in. Stir until smooth, adding 1/2 - 1 t. to taste of each salt and sugar.

Pour the mole sauce over the cooked meatballs -I transferred mine to my Dutch oven- and simmer 10-20 minutes. Meanwhile in the washed skillet, refry the tender, drained pinto beans in 2 T. vegetable oil or lard, adding salt and cumin to taste. Mash, cook, and mash some more, until desired consistency is achieved. Cook separately 2 c. white rice.

Serve meatballs in mole sauce with plain white rice, refried beans, a garden vegetable -I cooked some of our frozen corn- and a bit of pickled carrots and/or pickled jalepenos.


Blogs have followers, and surprisingly, besides supportive family members, I have followers who are people I have never met! It is a fact of our ever-shrinking, wired world, that even someone like myself, living on a small farm and not getting out much, will be connected to people all over the world, and will see the devastation of a disaster as it happens in another part of the world. The rest of the world is closely following the struggle of the people of Japan -strangers we see in video clips, as well as those we know and love- as they deal with their losses and reestablish order from the mayhem. These past few days, as my heart goes out to all the people in Japan affected by this, I can't help but worry about my follower, Chihiro. Chihiro, are you safe? My thoughts are with you and your family.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Solstice Loaf

On the calendar we are currently almost smack dab BETWEEN the solstices, and yesterday the weather was about as unencouraging as it is possible to be for going on a picnic, yet there was a small clamor in my family for a Solstice Loaf. When the kids were tots, before they became the young adults they are now, I ritually baked this loaf for family picnics celebrating the summer solstice, hence its name. Instead of making sandwiches, I would make this loaf, wrap it in foil, and then we would gather the kids and their STUFF (there's always a shocking amount of stuff required for taking kids of any age, anywhere), and a blanket or two, and we would go to a park on the river and revel in the afternoon light of the longest day of the year. Besides toting along for picnics, this loaf is also great for potlucks, New Year's Eve noshing, and for any make-ahead-take-along-type meal. Despite it's versatility and overall appeal, I only make it a few times a year, though it is simply scrumptious and my family loves it. I suppose by only making it once in a great while, I keep it special.

It is not that difficult to do, but it takes planning and a few ingredients I seldom have on hand, and I think it was the salami leftover from making the muffaleta sandwiches that prompted the request for making this solstice loaf in March. I make a dough for a single pizza crust (1 c. water, 1 T. yeast, 1 t. salt, 2 T. olive oil, 4 c. flour), let it raise, and then on an oiled sheet form a flat rectangle. Leaving adequate room on both sides to fold up and enclose the filling, I layer the following:

2-4 minced garlic cloves sauteed in 3 T. olive oil, cooled, and mixed with 8 oz. Neufchatel Cheese
2-4 oz. Italian salami (I used salami and mortadella here), deli meat or sausage -or omit meats for a vegetarian version (and add some diced red or green bell peppers instead)
3 sliced mushrooms
1/4 c. sliced green and/or black olives
4-8 slices of mozzarella or provolone cheese
3 T. pesto and/or chopped fresh spinach leaves
2-4 T. chopped sweet onions (I just used yellow onions here)

I fold up the edges and ends, pinch together and seal. Here is the tricky part: I turn the whole roll so that the seal is on the bottom. I suppose this step could be skipped but then the seam may pop open during baking, and I really hate it when it does that! Cut vents and bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes (or 400 degrees for 20 minutes), or until it's golden brown and the loaf sounds hollowish when tapped. Cool. Slice and wrap in aluminum foil for picnics or potluck toting. Or, as we did last night, slice and serve with warm soup, while marveling at the fury of the rain outside pounding on the windows.