Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Salad of Celeriac With Olives, Anchovies, Capers, and Eggs

This dish is always well received when I make it, but I seldom do as it is quite a bit of work. The recipe comes from Simca's Cuisine, One Hundred Classic French Recipes for Every Occasion by, Simone Beck. If you don't already own this cookbook, it is worth purchasing as she provides very clear, simple directions for everything from croƻtons that aren't greasy, to really elaborate dishes such as this. If you follow the directions, the recipes work. That seems rather obvious for a cookery book, but unfortunately having tested recipes no longer seems to be the norm in publishing.

Let's talk about celeriac for a moment. A good celeriac should be about the size of a softball, still have stalks at the top that are green, and be firm. If it is a shriveled, spongy little thing-pass it over and cook something else. Celeriac turns brown quickly, so you need to get it into lemon juice immediately. This recipe calls for letting it macerate for 30 minutes, which sounds like a bit much, but I've had such great success with the instructions as written, I wouldn't want to experiment with shortened time. Plan ahead to make this dish. Besides, at $3.88 a pound, you don't want to go wasting celeriac.

A few words on the sauce-the dried piece of orange peel seems to be integral to the recipe, and while you wouldn't notice it in the overall sauce, you'd miss it were it omitted. If you don't obsessively swipe the orange peels out of the hands of your family all winter to dry on a string in the kitchen, you can cheat and dry some in the oven. Dried orange peel comes in handy for making cordials, compotes, and so many things it seems pointless to ever toss it out. I have a couple pint jars worth to last until next winter's orange crop. You can of course buy dried orange peel...if you're the sort of person that pays money for things people dustbin. I don't think my readers are that sort of people.

So the sauce, the wonderful sauce that the boys refused to let me toss out the last tablespoons of, scattering to the kitchen in search of bread heels to finish it off with-what better endorsement is there? Don't despair at the length of the recipe-it really isn't as much of a challenge as it seems, but there are a large number of steps involved-more than we're used to in our, "Quick and Easy" recipes world.

The recipe did not call for it, but I served it over a bed of assorted greens from the garden, with some slices of grilled sourdough bread.

You Will Need:

6 anchovy fillets
1/2 cup tepid milk
1 medium celeriac (1 1/2-2 lbs)
Juice of 1 large lemon
4 large or 6 medium eggs
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 cups puree de tomate provencale (recipe follows)
1/2 tablespoon sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
3 ounces (5/8 cup) small, black olives
Black pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

For the puree de tomate provencale:
(recipe makes more than you will need, but it freezes easily)

5 pounds very fine, ripe tomatoes
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Enough onions to make 1 cup finely minced
A large bouquet garni of thyme, savoury, basil, and oregano
a 1 inch piece of dried orange peel
Black pepper
1-2 tablespoons sugar to taste

Wash and quarter the tomatoes. Warm half of the olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add tomatoes and cook uncovered over moderate heat, stirring until they have rendered all their juice. Put them through a food mill, and set them aside.

Heat remaining oil in same skillet and add the minced onions and cook slowly until tender but not brown (about 15 minutes). Add tomatoes, garlic, bouquet garni, peel and a little salt. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes.

Remove bouquet garni and peel. Puree the tomatoes again through the food millAdjust salt, pepper and sugar. If sauce is too thin, reduce it over heat to 2 1/2 cups. Stir to keep it from burning. let cool, then adjust seasonings.

Place the anchovies in the milk to soak for 1 hour before using. You don't need them until almost the end, so if you do this as you begin, it should be fine. When ready to use, drain and blot dry.Cut into dice.

Peel the celeriac cutting deeply to remove all the blackish parts. Cut the slices into strips, then cubes and place in a bowl with the lemon juice to macerate for 30 minutes.

Place the macerated celeriac into a pot of 6 cups boiling water. When it returns to the boil add 2 tablespoons (not a misprint) of salt. Boil 10 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold running water, then dry on towels. Set aside.

In the same water, hared boil the eggs for 10 minutes. Remove them, let cool in cold water, then shell them.

Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the chopped onion and garlic, cooking until lightly coloured. Pour in the tomato sauce and the sugar. Stir until sauce has thickened and browned. Remove from heat, add the vinegar, capers, olives, and anchovies. Add pepper and adjust seasonings as needed.

Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan. Roll the pieces of celeriac in flour and knock off excess. Fry them until they are lightly browned. Blot oil (I use paper bags).

Spread the tomato mixture in the middle of a serving dish, cover with the fried celeriac, surround with quartered eggs, and scatter parsley. Serve cold, but not chilled.

Monday, May 30, 2011


I've already printed these off to keep by my desk when I need a laugh. I suggest you do the same. Thank god for Prince Philip.

Oh No, Poor People! Close The Beach!

Officials in Chicago close North Avenue Beach due to heat. It was 88 degrees. The water temperature was 53 degrees. Sounds like a good way for people who may not have air conditioning to cool off-so they closed it. Oak Street Beach (close by, but in a posher neighbourhood) remained open.

It sounds like the officials and police panicked because there were throngs of working class people in one place. People pass out from heat exhaustion all the time without officials closing beaches. Then again, in the 24 years I spent living there, I never heard of Lake Shore drive being closed due to snow-so who knows, maybe there's some sort of collective madness at play. What's more, the people passing out were young and otherwise healthy...suppose maybe they had a few too many beers on a hot, holiday at the beach? Yeah, my money is on drunk. 88 degrees F. simply isn't hot enough to cause healthy, young people to fall over without the aid of alcohol. I say that as someone who even as a small child could not tolerate the heat and spent nearly every excursion to an amusement park puking my guts out before I got anywhere near a roller coaster. Still, I lived in a place with severe winters and ungodly summers that routinely went above 100 degrees F. for a week at a time. That's when people die-in the heatwaves. I sure hope they aren't planning to close the beach come July and August when people really need the lake to cool off-they'll be dealing with hearses lined up around the city morgue like they did in the late 90's. Passing out is surely better than dying, isn't it?

The logic that they cleared the beach to let in emergency vehicles makes no sense. All those people leaving, in a rush would impede ambulances worse than clearing a path in and out. North Avenue beach isn't that hard to get in and out of, you could even drive on the bike path, in an emergency (which I did one night, accidentally- I swear I was sober, just lost).

I'm sorry, I just don't buy this, and were the crowd really testy, they would have had a damn riot on their hands rather than people leaving annoyed, but quietly. Don't these officials know how to lie anymore? Really, I'm serious. If you're going to pull a stunt like closing a public beach on the first hot day of the season because there are too many poor minorities in one place and it makes the police uneasy, you need to come up with something better than, "people were passing out." You do. Take the extra five minutes and come up with something plausible, like toxic waste in the water. That's how you clear a beach in Chicago. Hell, we wouldn't even swim when the alewives were washing up on shore in the 70's and that didn't pose a health risk.

Still, they close the beach? Are they serious? On a holiday weekend? What are they planning to do if the crowds at Taste of Chicago get too large, pull a '68 and start lobbing tear gas to clear Grant Park? Geez.

A Quick, Versatile Salad

I wasn't going to bother posting this, but the boys insisted. Danny declared it his favourite salad so far, so who am I to argue?

You can use any vegetables you like. I steamed the carrots and green beans before tossing them with the sliced radishes and dressing. Make this ahead several hours as it gets better with time to absorb the dressing.

You Will Need:

2 cups steamed green beans, refreshed under running water
2 cups steamed carrots, cut in matchsticks and also refreshed under cold water
1 cup sliced radishes

For the dressing:

1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Mix together and toss with vegetables. Chill well before serving.

Vichyssoise-sort of

I didn't have leeks, but had sweet Vidallia onions. The soup was obviously not the same as a true Vichyssoise, but nice on a hot evening anyway. I'm going to skip the photography because we all know what potato soup looks like and there's no way to make it look fancy, save for some chopped chives. I based this on the Julia Child recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, though she would undoubtedly disapprove of using vegetable stock and sweet onions.

You Will Need:

3 cups peeled and sliced potatoes
3 cups sliced sweet onions (or leeks if you have them)
1 1/2 quarts vegetable stock
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste (and no, you don't have to use white pepper)
1/2-1 cup heavy whipping cream (yeah, this isn't health food, but it is served in tiny cups so it isn't like you're going to eat the whole tureen at one sitting). I used 1/2 cup and it was fine.

In a large pot, simmer the potatoes and onions in the stock with the lid slightly vented for about 40 minutes, or until vegetables are soft. Puree in a food mill, then through a fine sieve. You can use a blender if you have one-I do not. Stir in the cream, and adjust the salt and pepper. Serve well chilled in chilled bowls (five minutes in the freezer should do it).

Adorn with chopped fresh chives if you must.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The "Best Apricot Jam Ever"

Danny tried it on toast this morning, declared it the, "best ever", and made the labels for the jars. Even Mr. ETB who isn't fond of apricots liked it. The recipe is very simple, but I need to make a few points.

Buy more fruit than you think you need, allowing for peeling and the occasional bad piece. I just made it with four and a half pounds. Were I to do this again, I'd buy closer to six-just to be safe. The recipe says it will yield 5 pints. I got three and a half. There's quite a bit of room for variables depending on the ripeness of the fruit, etc. Plan ahead, the worst that will happen is you'll have apricots leftover for eating fresh-hardly a bad thing.

I chop up a few peels in mine to add to the colour-but that's totally optional, and you should do as you like.

From The Ball Blue Book:

2 quarts peeled and crushed apricots
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 cups granulated sugar

Combine apricots and lemon juice in a large cooking pot. Grab a long-handled spoon because it will spit (I got a nice little splatter burn last night). Bring slowly to a boil stirring until the sugar dissolves. Then, turn up the heat and bring rapidly to the gelling point. Skim foam, ladle into sterilised hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe threads clean with a damp towel, adjust caps and process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. Let cool down 5 minutes in canner before removing to a heat-proof surface to cool. Let stand undisturbed for 12-24 hours before testing for seals. Makes roughly five pints.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Last year, the apricot harvest from California was terrible, and they were so expensive I didn't make any jams. I felt bad, as that's Danny's favourite, but six dollars a pound for spotted, rotted fruit is a waste.

I'm happy to see this year's harvest is better, and while still a bit on the pricey side, I was able to afford four pounds to turn into jam. A few may have disappeared from the counter when I had my back turned, but I understand. Mama understands. I've always been partial to plums myself.

I looked through my collection of cookbooks for something different by way of an apricot jam recipe, and concluded simplicity is probably best. I don't doubt the apricot/raspberry combination can be nice, or splashes of various cordials. Ultimately, a six year old will be the only one to eat it, and while apricots, lemon juice and sugar sounds a little dull to me, I think it will be exactly what he wants. Children like predictability in things, and if you can't be predictable and reliable with the apricot jam, how can they trust you with other important tasks like haircuts, and assuring them that knee socks and Bermuda shorts are actually fashionable (They are! Stop making faces). With an oxford shirt and an argyle vest...and loafers. What do you want me to dress him in, a Huskers jersey?

So that's my big plan for the holiday weekend-canning apricots and tending the garden. I couldn't ask for a better way to spend a long weekend.

The Grapes Set, and other garden stuff

Three years ago, when I planted the Concord grape vines, I didn't expect much. Year after year, the beautiful leaves unfurled, but we never had any grapes-until now. The tiniest pebbles have begun to form in clusters on the canes. I was afraid I might have gotten carried away with the pruning, but I see now that was probably best.

I am so excited. October seems a long way off, but I'm looking forward to canning my own grapes for jelly this year.

In other garden news-the escarole is growing like mad, as are the peas. We've had an unusual stretch of cold weather, and it really seems to have benefited the peas and lettuces. My spinach is growing amazingly well (from a ten cent packet) and we've been enjoying salads fresh from the garden each evening. The rocket that grew on my windowsill all winter took to transplanting in a raised bed well, and is still giving me enough to fill a bowl once a week.

The Four O Clocks and moon flowers are up by the porch, and will hopefully start trellising. They're directly behind the rose bushes on either side of the west-facing porch, and my hope is that they will enhance my summer evening ritual of sitting on my rocking chair, lemonade in hand watching the sunset. No, as a matter of fact I don't drink my lemonade from a Ball Jar, but thanks for asking.

Now I need to find out who has been nibbling the tips off the leaves of my bay laurel. I suspect cats, as it is only the very tips of the leaves on lower branches. I try "shooing" them out of the yard when I see them, but they've become bold and no longer take to, "shooing." They sit there instead, gazing at me, wondering why I'm trying to chase them off the delightful outdoor litter box they've discovered (that would be my raised bed).

Finally, the potatoes. I had no idea if they would work in our soil, and I suppose I won't know until it is time to harvest, but the tops are green, healthy and look promising.

If the weather cooperates (if it stops pouring rain every five minutes) the lima beans, bush beans, and watermelons will go in this weekend.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Go look at THIS over at Sweet Juniper!

I think I want to go live with them. I'll bring cake.

Still Not, "Neglect"

Here's a bit more on that story from the other day about the parents cited for child neglect after their child was missing for 30 minutes.

Still not neglect. It does make you wonder how many people won't call the police for help fearing they'll be cited for a crime.

Wenham Tea House Carrot Muffins

These muffins come from the Wenham Tea House Cookbook. The recipe caught my eye as it had a reasonably small amount of fat and sugar (for muffins, anyway) and didn't call for nuts. The cookbook says each muffin is 149 calories, and 8 grams of fat. That is of course, assuming you don't coat them in cream cheese icing, which I did to four of them for dessert-the rest were frozen unadorned.
I have no idea why the muffins look green in this photo. It was dark here today, but green? No clue.

This does provide me with an opportunity to talk about tinned pineapple (you wanted to hear my thoughts on tinned pineapple, did you not? That's why you came here, don't lie). When I purchase tinned pineapple (as I frequently do as it regularly goes on sale) I purchase the sliced rings. My reasoning for this is that I can cut my own tid-bits, or need be, crush it with a fork. Oh, I know the twenty seconds it takes to do so could be better put to use reading the Daily Mail to see which celebrity I've never heard of has been photographed in an unflattering clothing item, but trust me on this-you don't want to be forced to stock all manner of pineapple on the odd chance you may need a certain type, and crushed pineapple will never, despite your best efforts, return to rings should you be taken by an overwhelming desire to bake an upside-down cake. Good god, would you look at the (lack of) punctuation on that run-on sentence? Tinned pineapple just brings that sort of thing out in me.

I know you're wondering, did the boys like the muffins? Indeed, they did-even the plain ones. That's good enough for me. The recipe makes 20 muffins, but I managed to fill 12 regular ones with the batter and had no overflow problems. It is always best to place the muffin tin on a baking sheet unless you're one of those people that nerd out over scouring the oven.

To store in the freezer, I purchase the least expensive fold-over type sandwich bags and save the twist ties from the produce department when I go shopping (what? You don't do that? What's wrong with you?). Twisted tightly to keep out air, the muffins will keep well for several months-but they'll never last that long. Twenty seconds in the microwave will bring them back to life (out of the plastic, please) or in warmer weather they should thaw by the time you've had a shower, commuted to work, etc. Don't frost them before freezing.

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 cup sugar (I reduced this to 3/4 cup and they were fine)
1 teaspoon each, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup salad oil
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup finely grated carrots
1/2 cup crushed, drained pineapple
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheets with paper liners, or grease well.

Sift dry ingredients together, add oil and stir until moistened. Beat in eggs. Add carrots, pineapple, and vanilla. Beat for two minutes (I did this by hand with a wooden spoon because I didn't feel like dealing with a mixer. It was really easy batter to mix). Spoon into muffin cups. Bake 25 minutes (mine took 28). Cool on rack.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I've Been Outcaked

Go look at these cakes, immediately. The Starry Night one is pretty breathtaking.

Some Pretty Rolls

Nice buns, heh, heh, heh.

They're baked pretty dark, but sometimes that can be an advantage. These are nothing but sourdough starter, bread flour, water and salt. If they're any good, I'll post up the recipe tomorrow.

Cherry/Peach Turnovers

This was my apple turnover recipe modified for cherries and peaches. You'll need enough crust for a two crust pie, divided into eight pieces, and about 4 cups of fruit. I tossed the fruit with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Cut-up 3 tablespoons of cold butter into tiny bits and toss through the fruit and sugar.

If there's any, "trick" to this, it is returning the turnovers to the fridge for 20 minutes before brushing with cream and dusting with sugar. Pierce a hole in the top to vent. The cold pastry then goes into a hot oven (425 degrees F.) for about 30 minutes. Some of the juice will run out on the baking sheet-that's OK and it cleans up easily with hot water.

These go fast, so you might want to bake a double batch.

That's Not Neglect

A two year old wanders away from a campsite. The parents notify police, and child is found 30 minutes later. They are charged with child neglect.

Unless they were passed-out drunk and didn't notice he was gone for hours, it is hard to see where a lost child equals neglect. Children can move pretty quickly, wander off, etc. and if there were other children being watched it seems like a pretty common enough thing. Hell, I used to get lost at Marshall Fields when shopping with my mother, deliberately (lost kids at Marshall Field's got candy (Frangos!) and sometimes ice cream if you were going to be waiting a while).

If there is more to the story than what is being printed, that they cannot print for some reason, then it calls into question this practise of having people pilloried in the newspaper long before they get anywhere near a courtroom. Even if the charges are dropped, or it is tossed out of court, the parents still have a record of having been charged with child neglect. A couple weeks ago it was an eight year old girl who lost track of her parents at church and went to wait for them in the car. The parents thought she was sitting with friends, the police were called alerted to an eight year old sitting alone in a car, (which we always did at that age) because that's obviously a neglected child.

I'm always amazed when they charge parents of toddlers that wander out of the house as everyone is asleep. If you locked them in the bedroom, that would be abuse, but if your child defeats the safety lock (which isn't hard to do) you're a criminal. All these absurd charges factor into the 'crime" statistics so that when agencies charged with investigating abuse feel threatened by budget cuts, all they need do is roll out the numbers of "neglected" children they need to save.

I wonder how long it will be before someone markets a baby-type sling for older children so you can wear them on your back, lest they wander off in the supermarket and you're thrown into the legal system for letting go of their hand for 30 seconds.

I can't wait to see how these kids turn out when they need help crossing the street at the age of forty because their parents feared a neglect charge for letting them look both ways and proceed in a timely fashion. Besides, you never know if everyone else walking down the street has been properly vetted-why, they could be criminals! They might have had a child get lost at some park.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Borlotto Beans, etc.

Something is devouring the leaves off of my Borlotto beans. I can't find the actual insects, or caterpillars, but I'm very nearly left with bare stalks. I staggered the planting, so it is possible they will move on before the next rows emerge, but I am not pleased. The Fava beans which are next in the row are completely untouched and flowering well. Go figure.

Escarole is nearly ready to harvest. I clipped a large amount of spinach over the past few days, and I have Lima beans, purple beans, and peppers up next in the rotation. The nasturtiums are doing well, as are the peas. The failures seem to be the plants that came from the nursery. The aubergine, cherry tomato, and curry plant all look terrible. Blighted almost as the leaves are turning white. The Asters I bought all died. The pansy and petunia are holding on for dear life. This annoys me, as I rarely purchase plants preferring to work from seeds.

Tomorrow, the seedling snapdragons, columbines, and Canterbury bells go in. I really hope we're through with all the 60 mph winds and hail.


A couple weeks ago, Mr. ETB made a trip to the hardware store for some nails and ant baits. Instead, he came home with a crowbar he's taken to calling, "Easy Tom." Excuse me, I've just been corrected, Easy Tom is a ripping bar. Being the sort of person that names her sourdough starters after Italian Humanists, I suppose I ought to go easy on the better half's naming of tools, Burroughs-esque as it sounds.

"Hey kid, did ya ever see Easy Tom ripping apart a wooden palate? Kid, I tell ya, it was tasty."

He cannot stop taking apart palates. We have many just piled up by the rubbish pit waiting to be burned, and this is the sort of thing that bothers my husband. He's fenced in the potato patch, and the compost, and I half expect to find a shoddily nailed together clubhouse in the yard with a "NO Girls (with a backward "s") sign hammered askew in the front.

All this hammering and ripping has taken a toll though, as Mr. ETB suffers from a tendon problem in his thumb commonly referred to as, "trigger finger." I'd never seen it actually happen until this evening, and I must tell you, it is horrifying. The thumb gets stuck in a funny position and it takes a minute or so to go back in place.

"Me and the rube was pullin' apart wooden palates down in Saunders County with Easy Tom when the Scotsman got a case of the trigger finger. You can't shake down a mark with your thumb all bunched like that."

Anyone have any craft ideas for old wooden palates? Mr. ETB saw some Adirondack chairs that looked interesting, but I don't know if Easy Tom is up to it . Ot does seem like a shame to let such solid wood go to waste.

Kate Beaton Returns

-and she's brought Caesar with her.

Basket Weaving From Old Maps

I remember doing something like this in second grade. The tutorial is excellent, and I plan to give it a try later this week with Danny.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Armageddon Days Are Here Again?

So, if the world ends tomorrow and by some mistake I end up ascending to heaven, I just want you to feel free to help yourselves to my husband...because we all know he ain't goin' nowhere. I'm probably not either. You can still borrow Mr. ETB if you must. I'll need him back to mow the lawn though (does the grass still grow in the End Times?).

Now, for a recipe. How about Date Raptures? I never made them because I thought I'd get a million Google hits for, "Date Rape", but what with this being potentially the end of the world, what the...er...hell?

From The Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, 1950 edition:

"Last Minute Date Raptures"

Sift together:

1 cup AP flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt


1/4 cup soft shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp. grated orange rind

Beat until smooth.

Blend in:
1 cup cut-up dates.

Pour into greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees F. 25-30 minutes.

Pour over them:

3/4 cup strained orange juice
1/4 cup sugar.

The juice soaks into the cakes.

Caramel Pear Pie


The boys both loved the pie. I thought it was far too sweet, bordering on headache inducing. The texture was nice, though I thought the crust was somewhat heavy. I'd use a different crust recipe were I to make this again. I still don't think it was worth the cost of all that Golden Syrup which could be put to better use atop a bowl of porridge or as cinder toffee.

I haven't served mine yet, so I'll post reactions later. The recipe may be found HERE. I did mine with 1/2 cup of Golden Syrup, which at close to $7.00 a jar (I know, I know-for a by-product of sugar refining!) makes this kind of a pricey dessert.

The more I thought about the ingredients it seemed like a sugar pie with pears, or maybe a custard pie that grew up to be a sugar pie...with pears. I don't know. The crust was certainly different from anything I've ever made and I was sure it would shrink, but was pleased to find it did not. I did take the extra precaution of setting the crust, plate and all in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to baking.

Flatbreads With Savoury Lentils

I've made similar recipes HERE and HERE. What is different this time is the bread.

For the past three days, I've had a sourdough slowly rising in the fridge-with no real plans. My freezer is stocked with loaves at the moment, and I haven't been feeling particularly inspired of late. I mixed the sponge into a final dough and shoved it in the chill figuring I'd do something with it eventually.

The bread is strange...sort of a cross between pita bread (it puffed and has a hollow centre) and a bialy. I'm calling it "flatbread" because I lack imagination. Feel free to offer up your suggestions if you've got 'em.

The boys liked them, and if made smaller in size they would be wonderful apetisers. The topping was thrown together from what I had (lentils, boiled potato, garlic, an open tin of tomato paste) but really, treat it like a blank canvas. I might use the remaining breads to make frozen pizzas for quick lunches during the week. Plenty of possibilities in these little breads.

For The Bread:


1 cup fed sourdough starter (more or less-I'm not super-exacting with what I pull out of the jar)
2 cups water
2-3 cups bread flour (enough to make a very sticky, but not batter-like dough)

Mix together and let rise in a covered bowl for 8-12 hours.

Final bread:

All of sponge
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Enough bread flour (about 2 cups) to make a very soft dough. It will be sticky.

Mix together, cover and let rest 30 minutes. Return to a work surface and knead (it will be crazy sticky-that's OK) for a few minutes until it starts firming up. Let rest while you clean the bowl. This should take a few minutes to scour all the dough off the sides. Give the dough another quick knead. It should begin to feel less sticky. When it becomes too sticky to work, stop again, wash off your hands and go grease the clean bowl. A few minutes later, start giving the dough a few folds. Plop it in the bowl and let rest 1 hour. Drag out the dough, give it another fold in each direction, then cover and set in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Baking Day:

Remove the dough from the fridge and let warm on the counter for a couple hours. Remove dough from bowl and divide into 24 balls. Set on an oiled baking sheet and cover lightly with a damp kitchen towel. Let rest about 40 minutes.

Take each ball of dough and shape as for rolls (pulling sides and tucking under to get a tight surface on top. Return to sheet and cover again. Let rest 30 minutes.

Begin preheating oven to 500 degrees F.

Generously dust several baking sheets with cornmeal.
Dust a ball of dough with flour on both sides and gently roll out to circles. Mine were about 5 inches across the centre, but do as you like. Place onto prepared sheet. Cover with a dry dishtowel as you work on remaining bread.

Let rolled breads rise another 20 minutes.

Place the oven racks in the lowest position, and the middle position. Staring on the lowest rack, bake for 5 minutes, then move to the centre rack for another 3-4 minutes. Remove to a towel and wrap breads to prevent them forming a crust as they cool.

This will generate quite a bit of smoke from the heat and the cornmeal so I suggest turning on a fan or opening a window if you are able.

When cool, top breads as you like, or use like a pita, bialy, or roll. Makes about 24.

For The Topping:

6 large cloves garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons tomato paste
Black pepper
1 cup diced, boiled potato
2-3 cups cooked brown lentils
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Cook the garlic in a pot with the oil over medium heat taking care not to burn the garlic. Mix in the cumin, tomato paste, and pepper. Mix well and cook for a couple minutes to mix in the tomato paste. Stir in the potato and lentils. Remove from heat and mix in the parsley. Use to top flatbreads.

I baked my flatbreads at 475 degrees F. for about ten minutes.

Lentil and Rice Salad with Raisins

It makes sense to cook this sort of thing in quantity as it often improves in flavour after a day or so. We have a busy weekend planned, but dinner's ready. I served the salad with some steamed green beans, however a lettuce salad would be nice as well.

You Will Need:

Cooked brown lentils-about 4 cups, more or less
The Rice:

1 cup brown rice
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth

The Vegetables:

2 cups chopped scallions
Handful of raisins
a handful of radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped preserved lemon rind (or grate in some zest if you don't have it)


1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
Salt/Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Bring the vegetable broth to a boil, stir in rinsed rice and cover. reduce heat to a simmer and cook 50 minutes. Fluff, and let cool slightly. Toss with lentils. Gently toss in the vegetables, then add the dressing. Mix gently (you don't want to mash the lentils) and chill before serving.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Weekly Library Book Sale

I thought it couldn't get any better than the quarterly sale-I was wrong. You should note that as I'm rarely wrong about much-but this time I truly was. Every Thursday from 11-4 at the Swanson Branch in Omaha. They open two of the better rooms, and keep continually re-stocking week-to-week. They must have so much stuff in storage. Anyway, two weeks in a row I came home with fifteen dollars worth of really excellent books. Today's find was a coffee table book on the history of satellites. Photos, diagrams, more information than you ever wanted-perfect for a six year old interested in technology. I suppose I'd better start budgeting for this weekly trip as that fifteen a week adds up rather quickly.

Speaking of the Quarterly sale, the next one is 3-5 June 2011. See you there.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Molasses Poached Pears

I know, they look like turds with ladyfingers and ice cream. You'll just have to take my word on this. If you don't like molasses, these won't change your mind-but if you do....

The ladyfingers are from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and are so absurdly simple to make it seems absurd to every buy them from a store. The ice cream is a stirred ice cream made in a freezer tray. All very easy to prepare. I gave it all a drizzle of Golden Syrup, but really, that was more for appearance than anything else. See, now it looks like the turd went wee on the plate. Geez. You're never going to make these now, are you?

The recipe for the pears may be found HERE.

Green Beans With Red Onion and Preserved Lemon

I served these cold as a salad with dinner. You don't have to French cut the beans, but they do cook quicker.

You Will Need:

Green beans (about 1 lb.)
Red Onion, sliced
Preserved lemon peel, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
Olive Oil
Pinch of dried thyme
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Steam the beans until tender, then refresh under cold running water. Drain.

In a small pan, cook the red onion over medium heat with the peel, spices and enough oil to coat (a tablespoon at most). After a few minutes, stir in the balsamic to taste. This will help the onion keep the red colour as well. Combine with cooked beans, and chill. bring to room temperature before serving.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I Swear I've Been Cooking

I have been pretty neglectful with photographing and posting recipes of late. As the semester winds down, and the garden takes more and more time, I'm essentially cooking large batches of food to be reheated a few days at a time. I did bake a jelly roll on Friday, which I opted for as it took all of seven minutes in the oven to bake. The boys were still awfully impressed. What is it about rolled-up food that seems to turn the most mundane ingredients into something notable? That would make an interesting research paper.

Anyway, please accept my apologies. I really do appreciate people taking time to come here, and I feel a bit embarrassed when I don't have anything save for some cookies bearing the likeness of larval stage insects.

I have the most beautiful aubergine sitting on the counter. I swear, I've never seen such a perfect example of the fruit (yes, it is a fruit-it has seeds) and I really feel pressured to do something spectacular with it. I had a curry planned for tomorrow but that somehow feels wrong. The thing must weigh three pounds, I could probably make a couple of dishes from it.

By the way, I've only recently heard aubergine called, "The Brown Jolly", but I find it so wonderful because of all the really awful things it brings to mind. Brilliant. Anyone know where that comes from? It sounds like something that happens, after the aubergine curry.

See? You're wishing I wouldn't post more often, aren't you?


Nearly nine years since my last haircut that wasn't a self-inflicted chopping with a pair of office scissors-I caved and had a $14.00 trim. The professional cut looks exactly the same as the haircuts I give myself, save for the back is now a bit better shaped. I'm just pleased to have escaped without a series of absurd looking choppy layers in the back, which is the popular look in these parts.

In the course of conversation, I let slip to the hairdresser that I rarely get out by myself because we live in the country and don't have anyone to babysit. This seemed shocking to her, that in six years we've never hired a sitter or had anyone watch Danny for us. I guess I never thought about it. I suppose, were we younger it might seem like having a child along was a burden, but since we were practically elderly when we became parents, we'd pretty much had enough of each other's company by that point. That said, it was nice going out for a haircut. I might do that again in another nine years or so. I'm still going to cut Danny's hair at home because he wears a pageboy and let's face it, any idiot can do that haircut.

I still haven't coloured my hair. I used to give it the whole peroxide bit when I was young, but I got tired of having my scalp burn, so I stopped. I'm about 50% grey now, but it is evenly distributed. I'm not swearing I won't cave and dye it some hideous colour, but for now I'm resisting the urge.

I still can't get over the fact that I paid $14.00 dollars to have someone trim the back of my hair. Yikes. I don't want to know what an actual style with wash and blow-dry would cost. I tipped 20% but got a funny look from the hairdresser. Does anyone know what the going rate for tipping hairdressers is these days? I thought that was kind of generous for a $14.00 cut that didn't involve anything other than cutting, but I admit I don't get out as much as I used to.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger Still Working Poorly

Anyway, posts appearing/disappearing and I don't have the patience to deal with it.

Apologies in advance if stuff looks funny.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pickled Mushrooms

Finally, here's the photo of the pickled mushrooms from earlier in the week. Wasn't I correct in my description? They're brown, and look like mushrooms.

Q: Why did the mushroom get invited to parties?
A: He was such a fungi.

Q: Why did the mushroom need a new flat?
A: There simply wasn't mushroom.

Happy (Belated) Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week

Damnit, you know how I hate to miss an, "awareness" week. Danny has given the ash trees a thorough looking over, and to celebrate the absence of Emerald Ash Borer in Nebraska (so far) or at least in our yard, we baked some cookies.
Cute, eh? Oh, I know what you're thinking...yeah, I did the larva as well.

I can't help thinking these would have turned out better if I could find my decorating tips. I used plastic bags with the corner cut off which worked, but kind of lacks the detail I would have preferred.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

They Took Some Liberties With the Story

Danny finished the Iliad yesterday. He's mighty pleased with himself. As a reward of sorts, I let him watch the Troy movie. You probably already figured out that anything starring Brad Pitt isn't going to be a faithful re-telling of Homer. Still, it had Peter O'Toole and Julie Christie for god's sake, so you know, I kind of had a little bit of hope it wouldn't be awful. In fact, it was kind of the Iliad for about 45 minutes, which I guess is when the test audiences must have started grumbling about the horse...so then the film shifts into the Aeneid. I dunno, one or the other-sometimes you need to make these decisions...or not. What the hell do I know? I don't make movies that gross a gazillion dollars. I do think, for such a big-budget-star-filled movie the fight scenes could have been better. Still, it wasn't the worst thing I've sat through, (oh man, the movies I wish I could un-watch). Now I need a copy of The Trojan Women (the one with Katharine Hepburn). When I covered the myths I let Danny watch Jason and the Argonauts and I can truthfully say the fight scenes with the skeletons blew away anything in the Troy movie with live actors. Maybe I could appreciate Brad Pitt better as claymation.

Brad Pitt can't act. He isn't so great to look at either. I just don't get it. Am I missing something about this fellow that others obviously see? Two and a half hours of Pitt doing his acting was quite the ordeal. Still, Danny liked it, though as he noted they, "took some liberties with the story." Indeed.

When we finally cover the Aeneid, I'm going to let him watch Battlestar Galactica (no, not the one from the 70's-he's already watched all of those), because let's face it, it is the same story. Thankfully, Brad Pitt wasn't in that (was he?).

On to the Odyssey!

Pickled Mushrooms

If you find yourself with large quantities of mushrooms, this recipe will take care of 2 lbs. That sounds like a lot, but after they cook down, you get about two pints-hardly worth firing up the canner. Trust me, these will go fast.

I used the first of my oregano growing in the garden and well...it is very assertive oregano. That's not bad...I suppose I prefer marjoram in most instances.

No pictures as I had a bad Linux crash and along with taking out all my bookmarks, the camera software needs to be re-installed. Still, I have to say-this crap happens once or twice a year which is about 1,000% less than what I had with Windows. So there. You don't need a picture of pickled mushrooms. They're brown. There's some flecks from the herbs. See? Easy mental image to conjure. I knew you could do it. Evoking the scent of Greek oregano is another matter.

I made adjustments from the original recipe which called for aubergine and mushrooms. I'm sure my family wouldn't touch that (idiots) so I used the mushrooms that were threatening to take over my kitchen. I landed an outrageously good deal on mushrooms, but I had to buy 5 lbs. That's not difficult to run through at my house, so I bought them. Mine were plain, old button mushrooms, but I don't see why this wouldn't work with other varieties.

Adapted from The Best of Food and Wine Salads, Vegetables, and Grains 1993

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups white vermouth
2/3 cup white wine vinegar
3 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 large cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon oregano (I just threw the stalk and all in the pot)
1 tablespoon basil
3 whole cloves
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 cup water
2 lbs. mushrooms, cut into quarters
1/3 cup olive oil

In a medium non-reactive pan (that means don't use tin. Stainless or enamel are fine) combine wine, vinegar, garlic, cinnamon, bay leaf, oregano, basil, cloves, salt, sugar, and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to simmer and cook 5 minutes over low heat.

Add mushrooms, return to a simmer and cook stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.

Strain contents, discarding liquid. Pick out cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf and oregano. Place mushrooms in a bowl to cool to room temp. Add the olive oil, sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon each wine and vinegar and toss gently to coat. Cover with cling film and chill overnight.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Lime Pickle

This is an ungodly spicy pickle. I say that as a warning, and to point out that you can of course, adjust the peppers to your taste. Mr. ETB really loves this sort of thing with a curry, so I put that dozen limes I picked up for .19 cents to use. Really, .19 cents at the Asian market that just opened off of Cass in Omaha. Go around the corner to Hy-Vee and they are .89 cents each. Guess where I buy my limes? Mint and basil are a bargain there as well.

It will take a month for these to be at their best. They get stored in the fridge, so the whole canning bit can be skipped, but I did sterilise my jars for ten minutes in boiling water because I'm a nerd that way.

This pickle is best with thin skinned limes, but the others will do if that's all you can lay your hands on. Feel free to adjust the spices, omit at will, and play around with the recipe as you like. The basic proportions of oil to limes is what really matters-all else is a matter of taste.

Makes 2 quarts of lime pickle.

You Will Need:

12 limes cut into 8 wedges
1/2 cup coarse salt
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin seed
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
3 teaspoons mustard seeds (I used yellow, but brown is OK)
5 chopped green chillies (or, if you don't want to screw around with this, use chili flakes to taste)
4 cloves garlic, sliced
a 2 inch piece of peeled ginger, grated
1 tablespoon oil
2 cups oil (I used soybean, but anything you like will do)
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Cut the limes and toss with salt in a large non-reactive bowl. Set aside.

Combine turmeric, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, and mustard seeds. Fry a few minutes in a dry pan, then grind. I use a dedicated coffee grinder for spices, keeping chillies to their own grinder. I find this works best, and I have an assortment of them for various tasks. You can almost always find nearly-new onces in thrift stores for a couple bucks. this is money really well spent.

In the tablespoon of oil, fry the chillies, ginger, and garlic for a few minutes until they begin to brow. Reduce heat, add the limes and salt, oil, sugar, and ground spices. Mix well and simmer gently over low heat for ten minutes.

Carefully pack into sterilised jars and seal. Store in fridge. The pickle takes about a month to mature. It should last about 8 months.

Breastmilk As Art

Presented without comment.

I did however have a difficult time finding a good tag for the post.

How To Pick Up Chicks

-alligators, apparently.

Personally, unless said alligator is on shoes or a handbag, I can't say it would do much for me-but eh, to each their own.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Sourdough Wheat Bran Olive Loaf

This bread turned out so beautiful I was tempted to shellac it as a decorative effect. Really, would you look at that colour?

You Will Need:


1 cup fed sourdough starter
2 cups water
2 cups bread flour (strong)

Mix together and let rise about 4-6 hours.


Mix in 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1-2 cups chopped olives of your choice
1/4 cup wheat bran

Slowly mix in enough whole wheat flour until you have a dough that is holding together. It will be sticky-that's OK. Let it sit 30 minutes.

Knead dough as much as you can to incorporate the olives. Generously oil a very large bowl and place dough inside. Cover, and let rise at least 12 hours. It is useful to arrange this for an overnight rise. Say you start the sponge at noon, then put the dough together at dinnertime, you can leave it until morning to complete next day-that's how I work it on my schedule-yours may vary. At any rate, you need to let it rise slowly. If your house is too warm, stick it in the fridge. The dough should double (sometimes even more).

Next Morning:

Carefully invert bowl taking care not to deflate dough too much. Let it rest ten minutes before very carefully shaping (I mean, just fold it into shape-you don't want to overhandle it).
Place it on a baking sheet generously dusted with cornmeal. Dust with flour if you like, then cover lightly with a towel. Let rise until doubled (about 3-4 hours).

About an hour before baking, preheat the oven to 485 degrees f. Place a pan in the bottom of the oven, or use whatever method you like to create steam. Slash loaf, steam oven and load bread into oven. Bake 20 minutes. Carefully open door (steam, remember?) and rotate the bread pan. Remove the pan for the steam. Continue baking another 15-20 minutes or until the bread reaches an internal temperature of around 205 degrees f. Turn off oven, pop the door ajar, and let it cool down another five minutes. Remove to a rack and cool completely several hours before slicing.

This bread stores best in large paper bags for the first couple days, plastic after that. I like the 2 gal. size twist-tie bags rather than zipper bags as they keep out more air.

Pea Shoots

We're having salads tonight.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

I Canned Pickled Beets Today...

...and then I transplanted about a hundred carnation seedlings in the garden. Three hours later, I had most of the seedlings in, and six jars of pickled beets cooling on the counter. Pictures and recipe for those tomorrow, after they set.

Also planted today:

annual flower mix seedlings
Canterbury bells
bell peppers

Planted earlier this week:

forget me nots
curry plant
cherry tomato
dwarf eggplant
four o' clocks

Next up:

About 25 sunflowers (god help me, I don't know what I was thinking)

After that:

California poppy
sweet pea

...and more than I can think of off the top of my head. Slowly though, I'm reclaiming my windowsils. The peas, spinach, onions, potatoes, rocket, fava beans, and escarole are all thriving like mad. I was lucky to get the hardy crops in early.

I hope I don't drop dead before I can enjoy my garden. Oh, how out-of-shape I feel in the first few weeks of serious gardening each year. I. Am. So. Old.

Yeah, you'd better get offa my lawn. You damn beatnik kids.

Everything, And Then Some

Another interesting meatless dinner cobbled together with what I had on hand.

1 tin pinto beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups pea shoots (from my garden, dudes!)
6 scallion (as above, dudes!)
6 carrots
1 tin of corn
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon preserved lemon peel
2 green bell peppers
Handful of chopped parsley
Dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 heaping tablespoon sweet paprika
Olive oil for cooking (a couple tablespoons should do)

I served the vegetables over "seasoned" rice. That sounds exotic, but it isn't.

1 veggie broth cube
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried garlic flakes
1 3/4 cup water
1 cup white rice

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Drain. Boil the cube, onion, and garlic together. Add rice. Stir. Cover, reduce to simmer. Cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A Spring Cake

As you can see, my cake decorating skills haven't improved much since the last time I attempted something like this-eh, whatever.

We have a frost warning tonight. I'm serious. I have to go out and cover my eggplant tonight because the universe thinks Nebraska needs a frost on 2 May. But lets not dwell on that, look everybody, Mama baked a cake! I'm thinking spring whether the universe likes it or not, specifically flowers.

This is the maraschino cherry cake from my 1950 Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, filled with sour cherry preserves (last jar-almost made it a year as they were canned on 27 June) and frosted with creamy white frosting (also from Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook).

This would be a lovely Mother's Day cake, or a "just because the universe is sending frost on 2 may cake". Your call. As it is made with egg whites it is a nice way to use up extras sitting around in your freezer. If you don't have extra egg whites sitting around in your freezer, you should come on over because I have dozens. That's the problem with homemade pasta and ice cream-surplus egg whites.

In other news-we're on book 23 of the Iliad. One more to go...
I really must say, it hasn't been that tedious and I credit the Fagles translation. If in a moment of madness you decide to have your six year old read the Iliad aloud an hour a day, this is an excellent translation for the task. I don't know that it would be my first choice for an older student reading on their own, but for Danny's level of vocabulary and comprehension (which admittedly, is pretty good) it was a good fit.

Well, I'm off to go cover my plants before the universe sends us a 2 May frost in Nebraska. Gee whiz.