Fresh Bread and First Fruits

Well, summer did finally arrive and in the garden the squash vines have stopped shivering and the eggplants are growing almost as fast as the weeds.  It’s been a while since I posted mostly because we’ve been trying to focus on the garden.

August

This week we harvested some of the first vegetables: turnips, zucchini, some beans, and one fat little cucumber.  The collards and chard are ready for the first picking and there are a few blushing little tomatoes.  It’s the first gathering, lughnasa (or lammas if you prefer).

Photo by E. Broughton

Photo by E. Broughton

In honor of that tradition I’m baking a special ancient grain bread using spelt and quinoa.  I’ve been experimenting with spelt because it’s higher in protein than modern wheat and lower in gluten, for those of you who have a problem with gluten sensitivity.  It’s also very tasty with a warm nuttiness but not too dense.  I used my basic recipe as follows:

Easiest Bread in the World

In a large bowl start your yeast.

  • 1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
  • ½ cup applesauce (you could use strained prunes in a pinch or honey)
  • 1 tablespoon yeast (or just throw in the whole package – I hate leftovers)

Mix and let stand for 10 minutes.  Then add:

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2  cups spelt flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour

Stir together.  In the same bowl you mixed it in, knead well (8-10 minutes), add all purpose flour if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Put the dough in a greased loaf pan, cover with a sheet of oiled plastic wrap and let rise to double in size.  Brush with milk or half and half, sprinkle quinoa over the top and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

 

Photo by E. Broughton

Photo by E. Broughton

No messy floured boards, no extra rising time, and I’ve never had it turn out less than perfect.  I know you’re going to hold me to that.

While the bread is baking, it’s time for first fruits.  The little zucchini is just perfectly creamy so I’m making a mixed salad with vinaigrette.

Zucchini, Apple and Green Pepper Salad

Photo by E. Broughton

Photo by E. Broughton

Chop about 4 small zucchini, add 1 chopped apples, a small green pepper, chopped, and a handful of diced red onion.  The secret with red onion is to drop the diced pieces into a bowl of ice water and let it soak for about 10 minutes before you add it to the salad.  The vinaigrette is very simple:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped basil (dried works too).
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine in a glass jar and shake well.  Pour over the salad, toss and refrigerate.

But, there more bounty to enjoy.  The turnips were great and came early even with the rain.  I planted a variety called White Lady and they are beautiful.

Creamed Turnips with Dill

Peel and cube the turnips and in a saucepan in just enough water to cover.  Simmer until the turnips are just fork tender (don’t overcook).   Drain.  Add enough vegetable stock to cover and add teaspoon chopped fresh dill and a tablespoon of butter.  Stir a tablespoon of flour into a cup of cold milk until smooth.  Add to the stock and turnips and simmer until well blended and creamy.   Yum.

Photo by E. Broughton

Photo by E. Broughton

 

 

Celebrating the Equinox

Here in the north it’s been a long winter, lots of cold and lots of snow, so the equinox, even if you’re up to your butt in snow, signals the return of spring.  This year we celebrated the turning of the seasons with a quiet dinner and some reflective thought about how to balance our lives and focus on the new plans and hopes for 2013.

Photo by Lisa Broughton

Photo by Lisa Broughton

The menu reflects the return to longer days and all those ancient symbols of spring. To celebrate the returning sun, we began with a new dish (for me): Saffron Rice.  I’ve been hoarding my little stash of saffron since last fall and this was the perfect time to let it be the star on the table.  It wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I thought.  I used brown basmati rice because, well, that’s the kind of rice I eat, and contrary to some opinions it’s delicious with saffron.

Of course, there’s fresh steamed asparagus with a citrus vinaigrette, a crunchy chickpea and pomegranate salad, and as a special tribute to spring, gently boiled eggs covered in dill sauce.  Dessert is a special favorite Honey Cake. Here’s to spring and the hope of summer to come!

Saffron Brown Basmati Rice

 

Photo by Lisa Broughton

Photo by Lisa Broughton

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tsp. crushed saffron threads
  • 3 tbsp. water
  • 1 tbsp. Butter Buds or butter
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
  • Lg. pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain brown or brown basmati rice

Directions:

Dissolve the saffron in water in 3 tablespoons water and let it steep for about 10 minutes.  In the meantime, in a large saucepan or non-stick skillet, melt the Butter Buds in a small amount of water or stock.  Add the raisins, pinenuts, and rice. Stir over low heat for several minutes, then add the rest of the stock stock or water and dissolved saffron. Stir once to blend, raise the heat, and bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer for 35 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid.  Fluff with a fork and serve.  Serves 6 to 8.

Asparagus with Citrus Vinagrette

Photo by Lisa Broughton

Directions:Whisk together 3 tablespoons orange juice, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons sugar or honey, 1/3 cup olive or grapeseed oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  I pour it into a small jar and shake.  Next trim the ends from the asparagus and place in the steamer for about 8 minutes.  Arrange in a dish and drizzle with citrus vinagrette.

Chickpea & Pomegranate Salad

Photo by Lisa Broughton

  • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup of pomegranate seeds (most supermarkets sell containers of seeds – less messy)
  • 2 oranges, peeled and segmented
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Mix all ingredients in a medium sized bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.

Boiled Eggs with Dill Sauce

1 egg per person, hard boiled or soft depending on your preference

Photo by Lisa Broughton

Photo by Lisa Broughton

Mix together 1/2 cup sour cream, 2 teaspoons finely chopped dill, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons honey, salt and pepper.  Pour the sauce over the eggs and chill.

Honey Cake

Photo by Lisa Broughton

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamon
  • 2 cups flour (I use 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 unbleached white)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee (you could use instant).

Directions:Whisk together the honey, applesauce and eggs in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl combine the flour, spices, baking power and baking soda.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, alternating with the coffee.  Mix well.  Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan or a taller springform pan.  Bake in a 325 degree oven for 60 to 90 minutes.  Test for doneness after 1 hour.  Cake should be spongy and golden brown.  Use your favorite icing or dust with powerded sugar.  This is rich, delicious cake that we all look forward to on holidays.    ε

 

 

The Magic of Meatloaf – A Mid-Winter Feast

 

by Lisa Broughton

by Lisa Broughton

A few years ago, during a particularly dreary January, I decided that we should create a personal family holiday, and after some thought, I picked Ground Hogs Day.  I didn’t realize at the time that lots of other people throughout history had the same thought: Embolc, St. Brigit’s Day, Candlemas and a lot of others I can’t pronounce.  But in our house, February 2 is the Mid-Winter Feast and it has some of it’s own very peculiar customs starting with the food. We also invented a game: Pin the Shadow on the Ground Hog.  And we enjoy best of winter dishes starting with the main course of meatloaf that has been shaped into a fairly recognizable groundhog, covered with pastry complete with little ears, eyes, a nose and tail.  I’ve enclosed a picture of the most recent example.

Ground Hogs Feast

My brother brings his famous mac-n-cheez.  The recipe is a jealously guarded secret that I haven’t been able to duplicate.  There’s winter sun cake (a rich yellow cake with coconut frosting), yummy spice bread from my daughter, crunchy cucumber-radish salad, deviled eggs, mulled white wine with pears, and this year wonderful ground-from-beans coffee from a new friend.

The Mid-Winter Feast is a statement of faith that spring really will come and it’s a chance to give thanks that we’re surviving the winter.  Believe me, a week or two of -20 to – 30 windchills can seriously shake your confidence in the power of down jackets, and you’re grateful for all your blessings.  So we get together, share our favorite wintertime dishes and talk about seed catalogs and gardening and what we’re going to do this summer.  It makes the Long Dark seem a little less endless, even if we do still have to get through the annual Tournament Blizzard.  I love you guys!