End of Summer

End of Summer

Autumn Greetings, Friends! Living in a university town makes us keenly aware of the changing seasons, especially when fall arrives. You can just feel the youthful energy of the returning students in the streets. Freshmen (looking younger every year) clump tightly together as they walk the sidewalk wide-eyed and giddy with expectation, upperclassmen run up to each other anxious to reconnect, graduate students equally bunched are wearing their excitement for new connections behind a mask of ennui which quickly melts at the pub. My husband and I love this time of year, and we make a point of strolling down Nassau Street every possible evening to drink it all in. Autumn has its way of reminding us of the passing of time as it reminds of of our own passages. It is a time that invites us to reflect on how we want to age, and how our lifestyle choices reflect our desires. Food is at the center of that as are the long strolls. Both are the building blocks of well-being, and we are reminded how much cooking at home has been so central to our home life. We often think back on the dinners we’ve enjoyed at our house and the dinners to come. As I feel the passing of time, I sense the growing desire to align my cooking habits with a care for health, and I’ll be spending some time with Dorothy Mullen’s Suppers Programs around that. Dorothy asked for my help to make healthy food interesting, delicious and easy to prepare. Like me, she understands the importance of people cooking and eating together with...
More Bread Fellows, and an announcement!

More Bread Fellows, and an announcement!

Hello, Friends! I just had a tea party here with a lovely group of women! It’s becoming a yearly event. (You know who you are…) What better thing to do when one is still thinking about bread? Tea parties are all about little flour-based snacks… crumpets, scones, little cakes, and of course… tea sandwiches! I can’t get enough of them. My current obsession for those sandwiches, and it has been for some time now, is Danish Sourdough Rye. It makes any sandwich an event, even if all I put on it is a fine cultured butter with a little salt. My favorite two toppings, however, would be either a mushroom brie or a really good cheddar. This is no ordinary bread, mind you. Full of whole grains, wonderful seeds… It can turn the sometimes frilly and antiquated tea ritual into something deep that feeds the soul. The bread takes two or three days to make, and although one can buy the flours and cracked grains, I prefer to grind the grains myself. (If you have a Kitchen-Aid mixer you can get a grinding attachment.) You’d think THREE DAYS? What a bother! But really, it’s like having a plant. It just takes a little thought each day, never much work–not even kneading! And the bread? Well, if you like the stuff with substance, it will bring tears to your eyes. And it’s perfect to have with tea. Believe me, Ladies… There’s nothing frilly about this kind of tea. Speaking of tea and tea parties, I realize that I don’t have enough of them in my life, and I think most...

Uncommon Breadfellows #1… Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches

Whenever I go to downtown Seattle, I always stop at the tiny little Crumpet Shop next to the Public Market. Of course you can get amazing crumpets there. And tea–the best tea you will find anywhere! They give you a mug to help yourself at the tea urns, “As much as you like,” they say. “And when you leave, just ask for a ‘to go’ cup and fill it throughout the day as you wander the market!” I always make my friends get a crumpet, since almost no one I know has really had a great one of those. But I go for my other tea-time favorite, Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Sandwiches on Homemade Oatmeal Bread. The sandwich is easy to make, but if you don’t have the best oatmeal bread available for it, you’d best make it yourself. (See link.) These tea sandwiches are part of a menu I’m developing for a traditional tea I’m having here in April… well, as traditional as I’m able to get anyway! Salmon and cream cheese is an old favorite. Pickles of some sort, and an herb such as dill is always a great addition. This time, I used a pickle that was left by my culinary muse and good friend Amy Brummer. She showed up at my door last week with a bowlful of home-grown kumquats and and handful of jalapeños saying, “These are just screaming to be put in a jar together!” and I watched as she turned them into citrus-y and spicy pickles. How could I know they would be the perfect little jolt for the smoked salmon??? Directions are minimal...
Favorite Wheat and Oatmeal Bread

Favorite Wheat and Oatmeal Bread

OK, I go a little crazy with whole grains, as I prefer to grind them myself (or with oats, I often roll them.) I love all grains freshly ground when possible. For one thing, they stay fresh longer in their whole form. But before you think I’m too tied to the earth, I do prefer to work with a mixer with both the paddle and dough hook so that I can keep the dough a little wetter than I would do with white bread. If you’ve never made bread before, it might be helpful to read up on it, or look at some YouTube videos for good technique. Just remember… no matter how new you are at this, freshly made bread hot out of the oven is always better than anything you can buy. Enjoy!   Wheat and Oatmeal Bread 1 cup milk 1 cup cold water 2 tablespoons honey 2 tablespoons butter 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 package dry yeast, dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water 2 cups whole wheat flour 1 cup rolled oats (crumbled a bit between your fingers) 2-3 cups bread flour In a saucepan, heat the milk to almost boiling. Turn off the heat and let the milk cool. (This is called scalding.) When cooled a bit, there will be a skin on top of the milk. Remove this and throw away. (That skin tends to prevent the bread from rising.)  Now add the water, honey, butter and salt to the warm milk and reheat so the butter melts and the honey dissolves. Take off the heat, stir in the oatmeal, and cool again...
Happy Valentines Day!

Happy Valentines Day!

I’m here to tell you, the mixture of chocolate and rose petals is like a love drug. So what better way to start this beautiful sunny snow-snuggled morning than with a nice cup of hot chocolate topped with a lusciously melting chocolate rose petal marshmallow? It’s guaranteed. Even the oldest and grumpiest of us will feel young and in love.   Chocolate Rose Petal Marshmallows 1/2 cup cocoa for dusting 1/2 cup powdered sugar (also for dusting) butter for greasing pan 1/4 cup dried rose petals (food quality only–no pesticides) 1 cup (240 ml) ice-cold water 3 tablespoons powdered gelatin 2 cups (400 g granulated sugar ½ cup (120 ml) Lyle’s golden syrup ¼ teaspoon fine salt 1 teaspoon vanilla extract   Directions:    ♨ Oil the bottom of a 9×13” pan, wiping it down with paper towels to remove any excess. Place the cocoa in a hand-held strainer and dust the bottom and sides of the pan liberally. Place the rose petals in another strainer and sprinkle (by rubbing the petals against the screen of the strainer) liberally over the bottom of the pan, over the cocoa. ♨ Pour half the water into a large bowl and sprinkle the gelatine over the water. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes. ♨ Warm the granulated sugar, golden syrup, remaining water and salt in a large saucepan set over low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and let boil for 10-12 minutes, or until a candy thermometer reaches 240°F (the soft ball stage). Remove from the heat and pour...
Chard in the Cast Iron Skillet

Chard in the Cast Iron Skillet

You already know how I feel about chard; I could eat the stuff for breakfast. So you might like to know how I cook it most days. 1 bunch chard 2 tablespoons olive oil, clarified butter, (or my favorite, thyme infused clarified butter) 1 cup red onion, halved and sliced thinly crosswise 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sweet paprika 1/2 teaspoon salt (to start) Grindings of black pepper 1/4 cup slow-roasted tomatoes Remove the chard stems and save for another use. Slice the leaves into 1/4″ strips, then crosswise into 1″ pieces. Set aside. Heat the oil/butter in a large cast-iron skillet. Add the onions and sauté until caramelized. (This may take awhile… be patient.) Add the spices, salt and pepper. Sauté another minute or two, then add the chard. (The salt will help maintain the chard’s color during cooking.) Cook the chard on medium heat up to your liking. (I don’t cook it much, but traditionally, it’s cooked until it’s dark and silky.) When it’s almost done, add the tomatoes and enough salt to taste right. (It may take a lot.) Cook for just a minute or two, and serve. (Once you add acid, like tomato, the color of the greens can turn more muddy, both because acid discolors things in a cast iron skillet, and acid turns gorgeous greens into army greens. So…) Serve the dish soon after adding the tomatoes. *Note: I supposed you don’t really need a cast-iron skillet. It’s just that I use mine whenever I possibly can!  (Don’t use it when you are cooking acidic foods, or very light...