Saturday, May 28, 2011

tenacious bread

Lisssn: I have been rocking the grain salads: some kind of whole grain, olives, sundried tomatoes. Whole Foods bulk aisle and I are buddies. Even SPELT and I are buddies. Grain salads make me feel like some kind of Mediterranean goddess, all swarthy and feta cheese. From quinoa to spelt to wheat berries... to buckwheat groats. The other day I got up and put on a pot of grains and didn't measure, just threw in some kasha and spelt and, apparently, too much water. And it got crazy overcooked and sloppy gloppy. I made gruel. And my sanctimonious bulk-items-in-glass-containers grin fell. I tried to bake this glop into a kind of crisp bottom layer for crostini. I tried to fry it into fake arancini (but with neither breadcrumbs or egg: failure). And, finally, I baked it into bread. And it's delicious. So while this won't allow you to feel awesome about yourself for not eating refined carbohydrates, it is a great way to use up leftover grains. It still has that kasha funkiness, but this time in a good way.

(via James Beard's oatmeal bread)

2 cups or so of leftover grains
4 cups flour
2 1/2 t yeast (2 packets, if you aren't a baller who buys bulk yeast)
1 T salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk

Proof the yeast with the warm water (just hotter than body temp) and a tablespoon of sugar for about five minutes.

Add your grains, the milk, salt sugar, mix it up. Knead in the flour. The dough will be really sticky, add flour and knead for like 10 minutes until it is shiny and elastic. Then let it rise for about 2 hours, until doubled in size and not rising any more.

Punch it down, shape it into 2 loaves, plop into greased loaf pans, and let rise again until they fit in the bread pans, about an hour.

Bake at 375 for 40-50 minutes, until golden brown and hollow-sounding when you knock on it. Then take the loaves out of the pans and let the sides crisp up for another 5 or 10 minutes.

Right now I am totally obsessed with Marmite, so this bread basically exists as a plate for the mouth-stinging, umami goodness that is Marmite. Every 15 minutes or so I sneak into the kitchen and spread myself another slice. But the bread has a nice crumb and is suitable for all kinds of sandwiches: of the ludicrously British variety or no.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


"Last year, Mr. Zuckerberg committed himself to learning Chinese"
-- Every single thing about this article makes me laugh out loud.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What makes the Engine of Creation Run? Not Physics but Ecstatics Makes the Engine Run:

Let Deep Roots Grow:
If you do not MINGLE you will Cease to Progress:
Seek Not to Fathom the World and its Delicate Particle Logic:
You cannot Understand, You can only Destroy,
You do not Advance, You only Trample.
Poor blind children, abandoned on the earth,
Groping terrified, misguided over
Fields of Slaughter, over bodies of the Slain:
There is No Zion Save Where You Are!

--Angel, Angels in America: Perestroika, Tony Kushner

It was so beautiful to spend the weekend of the Rapture writing a lecture about Angels in America. That whole scene about how God left after the 1909 earthquake: it's just perfect. The Great Work Begins, my dears. It's such a treat to read aloud to yourself on a Saturday afternoon, to have a play fold you under its wing like that.

It's funny because in posting about the simple things that really do it for me-- literature, butter-- I forget that sometimes I do cook things with steps and that this is a cooking blog and maybe I should give you all some recipes to try. Do you want to make some pretty good cookies? These are nice cookies: what they lack in my ecstacy over sunflower seed butter or olive oil (hot&heavy baking loves), they have in old fashioned chewy goodness. There is nothing particularly sexy or interesting about these cookies, but I will say that sometimes old school kind-of-boring buttery cookies are just a very good idea. John Barricelli-- Martha's right hand man and Norwalk local (holla!)-- notes that these cookies are a good addition to a lunchbox, which I think sums up their friendly-but-not-wholesome-but-not-decadent-either appeal.

"Nice" cookies
from the Sono Bakery Cookbook

+2 cups flour
+1 t baking soda
+2 sticks butter at room temp
+1 1/2 cups sugar (1 cup granulated and 1/2 cup brown, although I ran out of brown sugar so whatever)
+1 t salt (or a little more. Mine weren't salty enough. Did I forget the salt? I might have forgotten the salt)
+2 eggs at room temp
+1 1/2 T vanilla
+12 oz chocolate chips, I chopped a bar into small chunks (er, Sonia chopped a bar into small chunks, thanks) and I liked the mixture of big & little pieces of chocolate. Maybe do that.
+1 cup shredded coconut
+1 cup rolled oats

--Preheat the oven to 350.
--Beat the butter and sugar and salt for a few minutes and "make sure it tastes ok"-- ahhh this is my favorite part of making cookies for real. Also the oats in this dough are awesome for making sure you don't just sit and eat the whole thing of dough, do uncooked oats give other people a stomach ache? Is that a thing?
--Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Now the dry ingredients, make sure the flour is kind of fake-sifty and the baking soda doesn't hide in gnarly clumps. Now fold in the chocolate and coconut and oats all gentlelike.
--Make these cookies big-- like a full quarter cup each. Bake 15-18 minutes, they will still be soft in the center and that's a good thing. As Martha would say. Or the guy that developed her recipes would say. Or I would say as I bring not one but five of these cookies in my lunchbox.......based on a true story.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

bread and butter

Thinking a lot about this time last year. Apparently, I was all about simple food combinations: strawberries and whipped cream, artichokes and mayo, pairs that are so good together that they just sing. And so while there are some Big Deals around these parts-- planning a move, convalescing from this viral weirdness, kicking this scifi design project into high gear, submitting a grant and all the other school work and life chores, the Biggest Deal around here is bread and butter.

A recipe for the first free Saturday in recent memory:

Slice a nice loaf of country bread (hello, Bread and Cie! are we going to be neighbors soon? only time will tell!)
Spread with salted butter, salted butter, salted butter. Thickly!

It is, as James Beard says, one of the perfect matches in gastronomy. I think that all the salted-sweets hype lately, with big chunks of sea salt on everything from brownies to bacon cookies, is kind of gilding the lily. Don't get me wrong-- I love a compost cookie more than the next girl. I am a cheerleader for team salty-sweet. But let's be real about origins here. Salted caramel, the French godfather of this whole craze is made with, not a crapload of table salt but-- what?-- SALTED BUTTER. Oh, it's so good.

Monday, May 2, 2011

the power of salad

My salad days: when I was green in judgment, cold in blood...
--Antony & Cleopatra 1.V

It is beautiful. We moved the table out to the patio and even grant writing is improved by a tall glass of water in the shade (wish me luck!). Here is the salad that I make for myself always: never bothered to put it on here, because I figure that salad is just one of those things that people figure out for themselves, you know?

But once I was crazy about this girl who put sunflower seeds and raisins in her salads. It seemed so exotic and impossible and kind of gross at the time, so its kind of amusing that this is now one of my go-to ways to feed myself.
I am not that unhappy and unattainable young woman who would eat a big plastic bowl of salad for lunch-- more of an afternoon porch snack, really-- the sun is shining and I am getting freckles and I am a long way from institutional cutlery and fall in New England. But I started putting sunflower seeds and raisins in my salad and then one day it all came back to me-- the wood moulding of the dining hall, the crunch of chow mein noodles in a bowl of soft serve, the rebellion and pride at cobbling together your own dinner from the salad bar. So. I'm making a borrowed salad and wearing the same house outfit that I wore in high school and writing about blackness again and it's kind of nice to think that there's nothing new under the sun. Literally. The sun!

My favorite salad

+Salad greens
+Goat or feta cheese
+a handful of raisins
+a handful of sunflower seeds
+Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a little maple syrup mixed together
+Fresh pepper