Archives for category: Food

Tomorrow will be my last Thanksgiving as a “single” woman. Next year at this time I will have been married for almost 6 months. It boggles my mind a bit. Our save-the-dates came in, correctly done this time. Hooray! And I picked up my cousin’s bridesmaid’s dress for her brother’s (my cousin’s) wedding. The dress is in NY, she’s living back in PA, but we’re going to Thanksgiving at my grandfathers/father’s place in CT. So it’ll all work out. Remember the “3 weddings in 6 months, one of them mine” thing from a few weeks back. One of the weddings is my cousin’s in March.
I’m making apple and pumpkin pie to bring for tomorrow, and oatmeal-raisin-chocolate-chip cookies for Friday’s fest.  I made pie crust on Monday night, and did my annual search through all of the recipe books to find the one that doesn’t use shortening/lard. ( The only time I’d ever use shortening is pie crusts, but once a year. It’s not worth if to keep in the house.) I always look through at least two before remembering it’s in Moosewood. My pumpkin pie recipe is from Horn of the Moon, and the photocopy that I have has “The Best” written on it. When I was younger, my mother and I would look through cookbooks trying to remember what recipe we liked the best. We finally remembered to just write it on the recipe. I unfortunately slightly scorched the top, but it’ll be yummy anyway.

I accidentally bought too many apples. I’m used to needing at least 10, but the apples I got are GINORMOUS. I have no idea what the farm adds to its soil, but both their apples and their sweet potatoes are huge. I’m guessing it’s just floodplain.

I’ve been hanging out in my house alone this evening. No siblings, no fiance, and hardest of all: no Mom. After my parents split up, making pies with my mother for Thanksgiving stopped. (We did thanksgiving with my dad’s side of the family, and then immediate family only for Christmas. It’s a big family thing on my dad’s side, and it’s important to see them, so Jarak and I go to that, and then do Christmas with his family.) One of my favorite memories from growing up was having the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off from school and spending the day in the kitchen with my mother making pie. My share of responsibility has grown from simply peeling apples and mixing pumpkin pie filling to completing whole pies on my own, with minimal assistance from her, to now making them entirely on my own, including making my own pie crust. And it’s a social thing, hanging out in the kitchen working.  When my brothers were both on this coast, they’d come to my house on Wednesday and we’d make pies together.  So it just feels strange and wrong to be doing it all by myself today.

I appear to have taken the collective baked yumminess of my parents, and what they have traditionally brought to big family/community functions and adopted it. I bring pie on Thanksgiving now that my mother no longer comes to Thanksgiving, and I bring bread to Easter, now that my father no longer comes to Easter. It’s my mother’s pie, and my father’s bread, and in some ways doing it this way means that I maintain my family connections even when they’re not there.
Tomorrow we pack up the car and drive the 2.5 hours to just outside Hartford with pies, cookies, homebrew, local beer and local whiskey (Yay Coalyard!) This year the cousins seem to have scattered to the four corners of the earth. My two brothers in Colorado and LA, with girlfriend’s family and son, and girlfriend’s family respectively,  a cousin in Maryland with his fiance, and a cousin in Geneva Switzerland with her boyfriend. We will have one child from each family with the parents this year. Yup… we’re grownups.

We’ve been buying cream from Battenkill Creamery for a while. They’re local, and we can get them at the Greenmarket. We’re there regularly enough that they know us and have our pint of half and half waiting when we walk up. I love being a regular. It’s also some of the best milk I’ve ever had.
I grew up hating milk and not liking to drink it plain. And then I had local milk and that changed. There’s a dairy about 3 miles from my dad’s house, and having fresh, local, glass bottled milk changed how I think about milk. I still won’t drink a glass of it, but it’s much nicer. Battenkill has some of the best milk around.
Anyway, I got annoyed with how expensive yogurt is, and realized that I talk myself out of buying it far too often. So I’ve started making it myself. We got a yogurt we liked from the coop, and then used a couple tablespoons to start the next batch of homemade yogurt.
The first shot came out more like Kefir, I had let the milk get too cool after scalding it. ( I used a meat thermometer by accident. Now I use Jarak’s brewing thermometer.) The second batch set up nicely and I used the last of it to start the batch that’s setting in the kitchen. I snagged my family’s yogurt maker one of the times I was home recently becuase my dad isn’t using it anymore, and I love yogurt.
Steps:
Scald a quart of milk
let it cool to about 100-110 F
Pour it into a clean glass jar
Stir in 2 Tablespoons of your favorite plain yogurt
Put into a yogurt maker, igloo cooler filled with hot water, or warm oven and let set for 6 hours. The longer it sits, the tangier it gets. Mine started around 6. so I’ll ask Jarak to put it in the fridge right before he goes to bed so it’s not still fermenting in the morning.

There was a request for my bread recipe, and here it is. This is an adaptation of the bread that I grew up eating, which is my father’s adaptation of my grandfather’s recipe. It’s seriously noms. I form it into sandwich loaves, but you can also bake it on a sheet as a boule. You can also add whatever else you want. We’ve added eggs and flax, which slightly changed the consistency, but was still good. You need to set aside about 4 hours for this, but only about 30 minutes are actually doing work. The rest is waiting for the bread to rise/bake. I usually watch Dr. Who or get all my ironing done while I’m waiting for it to rise.

The basic recipe for 2 loaves:

2C spent grain buzzed in a blender or food processor to chop the husks finely

2C whole wheat flour

2C very warm water

1T dry bread yeast.

2T oil (I use safflower, or cooled melted butter)

3T sweetener (honey, maple syrup, or sugar)

1T salt

Enough White flour to form a solid dough, about 2.5 cups

Spent grain sitting in the bowl

Mix the first 4 ingredients together. It should look like soupy oatmeal. Add more water or flour until you get to the right consistency.

Beginning of the sponge. Soupy oatmeal consistency.

Cover and let it sit in a warm place for an hour. If your house is above  70*F on the counter is fine. In the winter, I turn on my oven light and put the bread in the oven, or turn the oven on low when I’m mixing and then turn it off and let it rise in a pre-warmed oven. The sponge should about double in size.

First rise is done. Sponge is about 2 times bigger than it started.

Now add the sweetener, oil and salt. I add a handful of flour to the top before I pour the salt on, because I don’t want the salt hitting the yeast first and killing it.

Sponge with a little white flour, salt, honey and oil added.

Then mix in the white flour. Stir until you can’t stir it easily anymore with the spoon, and then knead it in the bowl to get it to start to form a ball. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter and knead it, adding flour a little at a time until it’s not sticky. Keep kneading it until its springy.

Mixing the white flour into the sponge.

Kneaded dough.

Return the dough to the bowl, cover and let rise again for an hour.  During this time you want to prepare your baking pans or sheet. Make sure they are very well greased or the loaves will stick.

Second rise, ready to be punched down.

After it’s risen, again about doubled in size, punch it down. Literally, stick your fist into the middle of the bowl and make it deflate. Then scoop the dough out onto the counter, divide in two and shape into loaves. I roll mine out into oblong sheets and then roll it up jelly-roll style into loaves. Place your shaped loaves into greased baking pans and let rise for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350* while the bread is rising one last time.

Formed loaves waiting to rise.

Bake at 350* for 40-45min. If you used an extra-flour-y spent grain, like rye or oats, your bread will hold more water and will need to bake for longer. Your house will start to smell lovely after about 30 minutes.

Fresh loaves!

Let it cool on a wire rack with a clean dish-towel draped over it so it doesn’t dry out too much. You’ll want to cut into it right away, but wait at least 15 minutes for it to cool a bit and for the center to finish cooking. Also, it’ll be cool enough to eat by then.

Empty bread pans. Note the bit of stuck crust on the right. Grease your pans well!

I often keep one loaf out and put one in the freezer. There are no preservatives in this bread, and it’ll mold faster than commercial bread. In the summer I keep it in the fridge to avoid spoilage. Enjoy!

I may have mentioned once or twice that I like to cook. I’m trying to focus on mostly-local and organic ingredients. Sometimes it’s not possible, but we’ve been pretty successful recently. We’re very lucky to have an Indian and a pan-Asian grocery store within easy driving distance. This way I can get things like inexpensive fish, baby bok-choy, and 10lbs of brown rice for very reasonable prices. Sometimes local loses to inexpensive yummy things.
Dinners recently have been:
Mixed Shellfish stir-fry with brown rice, oyster mushrooms, mixed veggies and bean spouts
Beer glazed black beans with pan fried pollock, Israeli couscous and salad
Fish Chowder with fresh cod
Butternut squash and coconut curry over brown rice (that one got lots of comments when I had it at lunch the next day, everyone wanted the recipe)
Mixed Shellfish stir-fry with soba noodles, cabbage and other frozen veggies
Baked chicken seasoned with sage, with roasted parsnips, carrots and sweet potatoes. (the parsnips, carrots and sage are all local, the chicken was naturally raised, sweet potatoes are organic)

Yes, I made baked chicken for my boyfriend. It was yummy. We learned that a 4.4lb chicken needs about 10 min longer in the oven than the recipe called for. But under an hour for roast chicken was seriously awesome. We used Mark Bittman’s Minimalist Cooks Dinner “Simplest Roast Chicken” recipe. Now the remains of it are bubbling on the stove making stock. I’m feeling seriously domestic right now.

I’m in the middle of making a new batch of spent-grain bread. We brewed a brown ale a few weeks ago that we meant to bottle this weekend, but ran out of time. So I’m using the spent grain from that. We learned the hard way a few weeks ago that spent grain has a shelf-life of about 2 weeks in the fridge before it starts to get really funky and fermented. I’m experimenting with adding more and more spent grain to the bread as I go. I’d like to get to the point where it’s about 1/2 grain, and the rest flour. I should post pictures at some point.