Friday, August 28, 2009

a kitchen disaster

A couple of days ago I was lying in bed after a hard day's work, happily watching Torchwood, when I decided to pause my video and get up to fix myself a peanut butter and Sriracha sandwich.

peanut butter, sriracha, and damsons

Just as I was getting the Sriracha out from behind the soy milk I heard a terrible crash, and I looked down to see that the glass shelf covering the vegetable drawer had shattered into thousands of little pieces! As soon as my sandwich was made I put the ingredients away and resolved not to think about my refrigerator till my next day off.

sad refrigerator

broken glass

I sent away for a new shelf in the mail, figuring I'd get it almost as quickly as if I waited for my day off and tried to get someone to drive me to the appliance parts store. It turned out it won't get here for almost a week and a half, so today I made myself a nice interim shelf out of cardboard. I was pleased to find a good use for some of my cardboard I keep around, justifying my hoarder tendencies!

cardboard shelf

Sunday, August 23, 2009

ideal bread

seedy dark bread

I recently made a bread of my own invention which turned out to be the perfect bread for a stretch of seven days of work. It was a big enough loaf to last that long, and it was still not stale on the last day. It was hearty but not excessively so, and the seeds added visual and textural interest. I'd intended to add some pepitas as well, but was out.

Rachael really liked this bread thinly sliced with vegan liverwurst. Neither she nor I have ever had actual liverwurst, so we don't know how this compares to the real thing, but it's also a nice thing to have on hand for work treats. The recipe makes two little loaves, so one can be frozen for later.

Seedy Dark Bread

500g whole wheat flour
125g each whole spelt, dark rye flour
25g potato flour
220g 100% hydration whole wheat or spelt levain
60g each toasted flax, sunflower seeds
550ml water
15g salt

Mix together all of the ingredients except the salt till you get a shaggy mass, then let half an hour. Add the salt, then knead the dough more thoroughly. Every twenty minutes for an hour and twenty minutes, stretch and fold the dough into quarters. Let rise till doubled, or overnight if your kitchen's not too hot. Shape into a bâtard and let rise in a couche or banneton till just about doubled (I let mine over-rise, so it collapsed a little and didn't have mush oven-spring). Bake on a stone in an oven preheated to 450ºF, then turned down to 400, for 45 minutes. Squirt with water a few times in the first five minutes or so.

seedy bread crumb

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

burnt jam

basil roots

I have lots and lots of basil at my house, since Annie made me buy some that I didn't need so she could take my picture. Fortunately basil keeps really well if you cut the tips of the stems and keep it in a glass of water out on the counter: it grows little roots and keeps growing as long as you can remember to keep the water topped up.

When Safeway had organic nectarines for 99¢/lb I bought a big bag of them to make one of my favorite jams, basil-nectarine. I like to make nectarine jam better than peach because the peels soften nicely when cooked instead of getting tougher, as peach peels seem to, so you needn't peel them. Including the peels helps make the jam a brilliant vermilion. Unless you burn it, in which case it'll be a dull brown.

My back was only turned for a couple of minutes when I smelled a burny smell. I quickly took the pan off the heat and took the jam's temperature: it was 226ºF, at least 4º too hot! I decided to proceed with my recipe and bottle it up anyway, and hope for the best. It turned out to have a really nice caramelly flavor, and to be only a little bit too sticky, so I considered it a success and labelled the jars 'Caramelized Nectarine-Basil Jam.' The following recipe, however, is for the pretty, vermilion jam I'd originally intended to make:

burnt jam pan

Nectarine Basil Jam
makes 7-8 1/2 pints

3lb nectarines, pitted and coarsely chopped
2lb 12oz sugar
4oz lemon juice
~1/2 basil, chiffonaded (about as much as in the photo at the bottom of this post)

Early in the day before you plan to finish making your jam, bring the nectarines, sugar, and lemon juice to the boil in a big kettle and let simmer till the fruit's tender. Cover and let rest till the evening, when you should bring it to the boil again, let cool uncovered, then re-cover and let stew till the next morning.

Get all set up, with your jars boiled and everything, then bring the fruit to the boil for the third time and boil hard till it's reached 221ºF. This usually takes about four minutes, but watch it the whole time lest it caramelizes after only three minutes!!!! Take the jam off the heat, stir in the basil, bottle it and boiling water bathe for five minutes.

burnt jam


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another use for blueberries

blueberry sorbet

I had blueberries left over after I made jam , since my bargain was a little flat (maybe 8 pints) for $8. I decided to see if I could make some sorbet that Rachael would like. She ended up thinking it was just okay (she choked down a bowl, but didn't ask for seconds), but thought it was very good as sorbet goes. I thought it was good, period, and thought I'd better record the recipe while it's still blueberry season.

Blueberry Sorbet

1C water
3 lavender sprigs
1T lime juice
1/2C sugar
5C blueberries
2T clementine cordial or Grand Marnier

Bring the water, lavender, lime juice, and sugar to the boil in a largish pot and let simmer for five minutes or so, till you have a nice lavender-scented syrup. Pluck out the lavender, add the blueberries, and let simmer, covered, till the blueberries are tender. Whiz in the blender till thoroughly smooth, then chill overnight. Add the clementine cordial, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to its directions.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

tender noodles

summer dinner

Rachael, Annie, and our friend Julie came over for dinner last week, and I made them these summery noodles. Annie was very impressed with the noodles themselves--they're thin and tender and have no egg--and asked me to post the recipe ASAP. The secret ingredient is chickpea flour, AKA gram flour or besan. It's used by Indian vegetarians, who don't eat eggs, for its sticky, binding properties. You can get some at the health food store or Indian store, or a regular grocery store with a big flour selection. I think these noodles are best served with a light sauce, such as the one pictured: it's just raw tomatoes, corn, herbs, and spring onions, along with olive oil, olives, salt and pepper.

Tender, Eggless Pasta
makes a lot, enough for 6 or so

300g all-purpose flour
150g chickpea flour
1/2t salt
200ml water
3T olive oil

Mix everything together with your hands, then knead till it's a nice ball of dough. It'll seem too stiff and dry at first, but persevere and incorporate all of the flour. Wrap it up in Saran Wrap and let it rest for about half an hour, then roll it out and cut it as you would any other pasta dough.

In this case I rolled it in sheets of the penultimate thinness my Atlas pasta machine does, then let them dry out a little while I fixed the rest of the dinner. Right before I cooked the pasta, I cut it by hand into broad noodles. I boiled them briefly--only a couple of minutes--then tossed them with the sauce.

pasta sauce

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

blueberry jam

blueberry peach jam

I got a bargain on blueberries last week, so decided to use some of them up in jam. Plain blueberry jam is always pretty dull, so a lot of recipes liven it up with spices, but then it ends up tasting like spice jam, not blueberries. I thought adding some citrusy notes would liven the jam up without obscuring its essential blueberriness. And a little peach never hurt anything.... I think this is the most successful blueberry jam I've made to date.

Blueberry Peach Jam
makes 9 half-pints

1 1/2 lb blueberries
2lb peaches, peeled and chopped
juice of two lemons
1 cinnamon stick
1/3C orange juice concentrate
3lb sugar
2T clementine cordial (or Cointreau or Grand Marnier)

Bring everything except the sugar and cordial to the boil in a big pan, then cover and let simmer till the peaches are tender. Add the sugar, stir till it's dissolved, then let rest for a few hours. Bring to the boil again, then let rest a few more hours. When you're ready to can it, bring to the boil one more time while your boiling water bath's getting ready, and boil hard for about five minutes, till the jam's 222ºF. Stir in the cordial, then pour into your prepared jars, seal, and boiling water bathe for five minutes.