Entries Tagged as 'Recipes'


Well, really Fred II.

He’s, or rather, it’s, my bread starter.And I’m starting his (’cause after all, it is a living thing that must be cared for, much like a pet, so it is far more of a “he/her” rather than an “it”) birthing process tonight. And in 6 days, I’ll have a very weak, hungry, but very much alive, starter.

Ironically, a few years ago, I discovered that I have a wheat intolerance; no, I’m not celiac, I’ve simply discovered that wheat/gluten products make me bloat, make me feel run down. You can tell by looking at me when I’ve indulged my delight of bread, I get, well, puffy.

So for quite some time, I was very strict: no wheat, no oats, nothing with gluten. I cleared my pantry of all my flours. I cleared my fridge of… Fred I. Well at the time, he was just “Fred”, not “Fred I”, but now that Fred II is coming into the world…

Ironic why, exactly? I was, am, a baker. No longer professionally, but still passionately. There is little more satisfying than starting out with some powders and liquids and conjuring up a crispy crusted, fluffy centered, delicious bread. The various aromas created throughout the process are enough to send me to heaven: First the deep, muskiness transforming during its time in the oven to a blissful, I’m at a loss for words to describe the amazing smell of bread baking, but I can say that just thinking about it now as I write, my heart is beating faster and my head is light. It is one of the most comforting smells in the world.

And I gave it all up.

And then, last January, in Paris, I had bread because, c’mon, how can you not have bread products in France? And what I discovered is, I didn’t puff. In fact, it didn’t seem to affect me at all.

My guess is that I’m not necessarily intolerant of the wheat/gluten, but rather all the processing and chemicals to which American bread products are subjected.

I’m intolerant of the adulteration.

So since when we were buying appliances for our new home I convinced Jamie to let me buy the convection oven that I’d always dreamed of, it seems incredibly stupid to not bake bread. And while it is true (he said immodestly), I’ve learned to make a mean loaf of gluten-free bread, it is simply not the same. Not the same in the production. Not the same texture in the pre-baked state: batter rather than soft fleshy-ness. And not, at all, the same smell.

And lets face it, having a convection oven at your beck and call and not baking is like having a Ferrari and driving in the slow lane. It’s denying the machine its nature.

So I’ve paused in my writing and put Fred II together. So simple. And I have to thank Julia Child and Nancy Silverton for the particular starter recipe I use to create my Freds.From Julia’s “Cooking with the Master Chefs” series, I present, for anyone hankerin’ to start their own “Fred” or “Ester” or whatever you choose to call your frothy, bubbling new pet: Nancy Silverton’s Bread Starter (I’m condensing-you can follow the “Cooking with…” link for a video of Nancy making it in Julia’s kitchen.):

  • 2 cups bread flour – she recommends a hard wheat flour-I’m using King Arthur Organic All-Purpose, no processing or chemicals added
  • 2 1/2 cups tepid water
  • 1/2 pound stemmed red grapes
  1. Stir together the flour and water in a glass or plastic container. Don’t worry about small lumps, they’ll dissolve.
  2. Tie the grapes up in a double layer of washed and rinsed cheesecloth.
  3. Crush the grapes lightly.
  4. Swirl the grape bag around in the flour/water mix.
  5. Submerge the bag in the mix.
  6. Cover the container tightly with a lid (if it has one) or with plastic wrap.
  7. Let it sit there for six days at room temperature, stirring once a day.
  8. Don’t do anything else with it. Just let it come to life.

Nancy Silverton: The bag of grapes will gradually appear inflated, and liquid will begin to separate from the flour base. The mixture will begin to taste and smell slightly fruity and the color will be strange. That is as it should be. By the sixth day, the bag of grapes will have deflated, the color will be yellow, and the taste pleasantly sour: the fermentation is complete. The starter is living but weak, and it needs to be fed.Feeding the starter:

  1. Remove the grape bag and squeeze the juices back into the starter. Discard the grapes.
  2. Stir thoroughly and transfer into a clean container.
  3. Add 1 cup flour and 1 cup tepid water.
  4. Stir well.
  5. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature until it bubbles-3 to 4 hours.
  6. Cover and refrigerate.
  7. The next day, repeat steps 3 – 6.
  8. The next day, day 3, repeat steps 3 – 6.
  9. Your starter is now ready!

I didn’t say it was a fast process, nothing worth it ever seems to be, but it is so very worth each and every one of those nine days. And after this first big production, it gets much easier, you just need to do the three day feeding process each time you want to use it. To clarify, you will not be using all the starter in a recipe, unless, of course, you’re baking a hell of a lot of bread; more power to you.

And now, like Fred II and, indeed, Jamie (who’s been asleep for hours), I’m off to bed, to dream of delicious, crusty pillows of delight!

Ok, so I really, really like bread; so sue me.

Nite, k.

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No really, this post is about a recipe. A real recipe, not an excuse to sidetrack into a paean to the unfathomable forces of the cosmos that have brought together, like so many disparate and seemingly uncombinable ingredients, the elements that are this wonderful soup that is my life.

No, I shan’t do that. No, this post is about a recipe. A recipe, as it turns out, for soup.

But first, let it be said that the thing I think I will miss most when Jamie and I move to our new home, is the Greenmarket that occurs every Saturday nearly right outside our door. NYC has done an amazing job getting these set up all around the City and indeed, while we are not moving more than 15 minutes north and thus will still have easy access to our market, it won’t be as easy. It will now take more planning than, “Lets go downstairs to the market.” Boo hoo to us, indeed. Sometimes you do get used to the convenience of things.

But plan we will ’cause we must have our Patrick Farm milk (a thing of beauty, cream sitting clotted on top waiting to be shaken back into an unhomoginizable, delicious slurry) and eggs. Our Patrick Farm friends also sell yogurt that a neighboring farm, Evans Farmhouse makes; life wouldn’t be the same without it.

Oh and all the cut-and-picked-this-morning fruit and produce. And the organic cheese maker, and the free-range turkey (hot Italian turkey sausage!); well, as the song goes, “Never can say goodbye”.

Oh, soup, you say? There was something said about soup? Ok, ok, I’ll leave my orgiastic organic reverie. But I’ll bring with me the asparagus. It’s in bountiful season just now. And it make a delicious, phenomenally easy, soup.

I came across the recipe in the current (June ’07) issue of Food and Wine (p.106). It is incredibly good as is, but being the kitchen tinkerer that I am… Here’s the updated version:

Asparagus Egg Drop Soup Unnecessarily Dressed Up

2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO for the RR fans)
1 TBS Sweet Butter
1 medium Onion, cut in half lengthwise and then thinly sliced from top to bottom
3 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced and matchsticked
1 ear fresh Corn, kernels cut off the cob
4 C Chicken Broth or Vegetable Broth if you prefer
1/3 C White Wine
1/2 LB Asparagus, cut on the diagonal into 1″ pieces
2 Eggs
Salt and Pepper
Fresh Nutmeg
1/4 C freshly grated Pecorino Romano or better still, the old hard rind of same, about 2″ square.

Heat the Olive Oil over moderate flame in a 4 quart sauce pan. Add the butter and let melt and foam. When the foam dies down, add the onions and garlic. Stir and cover. Let cook gently for 3 minutes, then add the corn kernels. Season with salt, pepper and 8 grates of nutmeg (a good 1/4 tsp) stir and cover for about another 5 minutes when the onions and garlic should be translucent.

Add the broth and wine and bring to a gentle boil. If you are using an old cheese rind, add it in now to soften and disperse. If using the cheese rind, gently boil for about 10-15 minutes, breaking up the rind from time to time with a wooden spoon. If not using the rind, you can either bring broth mixture to a higher boil right away, or let it boil gently for 10-15 to marry the flavors.

When rind has dispersed, bring soup up to a higher boil and add the asparagus.

While that cooks, only about 30 seconds, gently mix the two eggs in a separate bowl. Do not scramble; just mix them around enough that the yolks are broken and semi-combined with the whites. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.

While gently stirring the soup, gradually pour the eggs into it in a figure eight pattern. Do this slowly. And then let this cook about another 30 seconds until the eggs are cooked through.

If using the grated cheese, add it just at the end and stir.

That’s it. Eat and enjoy. Jamie and I often eat just this for dinner. You could definitely serve 4 using smaller portions.

I hope someone tries this and that I’ve been clear enough, a recipe writer I’m not. It’s an amazingly simple but outrageously delicious soup. In fact, we had it earlier this evening. Now I’m out of asparagus until this Saturday’s market. *Sigh* Thank God I bought enough yogurt to last the week!


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