4.01.2008

Brown bread with rosemary butter

Fresh bread is a luxury. This morning, as I sat writing at the dining room table, the smell of baking wheat filled the living room. Alex tiptoed downstairs to find the origin: whole-wheat brown bread.

The bread, part of my weekly effort to keep the two of us in good appetite and locally fed, was inspired by the 20 pound bag of flour that arrived from Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, Maine on our doorstep several weeks ago. The finely ground hard red wheat kernels were the best and closest source of the grain I could find. Grown on the family farm in the western hills of Maine, they carry both the heartiness and good taste of the region and its growers.

When the braided loaf emerged from the oven, I cut us each a slice and add a dab of butter infused with rosemary from the plant outside our sliding doors. Moistened with milk and honey, the bread was a firm crusted yet soft morning snack.

BROWN BREAD

Makes one braided loaf

Proof 2 and 1/4 teaspoons yeast in 3 tablespoons warm water. When dissolved, add 1 cup warm whole milk, 5 tablespoons olive oil, 1 fresh egg, 3 tablespoons honey, and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix well.

Add 3 and 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour gradually. Knead dough well.

Let rise in a ball in a warm place for an hour, or until doubled in size. Punch down and roll into three strings. Stick dough together at one end and braid like hair. Arrange on baking sheet; let rise again for at least 2 hours. The extra rising time is needed to lighten the heavier whole-wheat dough. Preheat oven to 375 degrees; bake 15-20 minutes or until just brown.


ROSEMARY BUTTER

Pour a pint of fresh cream into the blender and set it on low. When a heavy whipped cream forms (3-7 minutes), continue mixing for several more minutes until the mixture separates into solids and liquid (butter and buttermilk). Pour buttermilk into a container. Press the butter using a wooden spatula against the walls of a rough wooden crock for about ten minutes, or until it stops yielding buttermilk. Drain liquid periodically. Pour a very small amount of very cold water into butter and continue working as before until the water runs clean. (Do not skimp on this step, as if buttermilk remains in the solids the butter will go rancid).

Sautée several sprigs rosemary in a half tablespoon butter until fragrant; mix into fresh butter along with one teaspoon sea salt. Enjoy on bread; keep refrigerated.

3.30.2008

Fresh egg and lamb fritatta, with far away tomatoes

Earlier this week, a rep came to Mac's Shack from Sisco bearing samples of foods from away in gargantuan portions. Alex tasted and critiqued, and brought home the leftovers. Our fridge overflowed with head upon head of lettuce, buckets of fruit salad, and box upon box of pre-sliced tomatoes. Not one to let food go to waste, I did my best to incorporate it into the week's menu. By Saturday morning, the fruit salad was gone and the lettuce was dwindling, but the tomatoes still sat untouched like a line of pre-cut dominoes.

I remembered a quiche my mother used to make—bacon and tomato—and set to work transforming it into a Wellfleet breakfast. Without a crust, the French quiche quickly became a Spanish fritatta. I stuck with the bacon, but added leftover Barnstable lamb from our Easter feast and seasoned the mix with a dash of Garelick Farms cream and a few sprigs of Rosemary from the hardy plant that sits outside our door.

The result was a misplaced but delicious late August favorite. The tomatoes were perhaps not up to par, but the rest of the local bounty more than made up for what Sisco's lacked.

FRESH EGG AND LAMB FRITATTA

Fry 4 slices bacon (Top Choice Farm in Plymouth sells live pigs for $100—then instructs the customer to take it to Bridgewater and have the animal slaughtered and smoked—an equally expensive investment, but worth it if you are serious about eating locally and knowing where your meat comes from). Remove slices to drain on paper towel; leave excess fat in pan.

Whisk together 6 fresh eggs. Add a dash of cream or milk, and stir well. Pour into frying pan used to make bacon. Layer on top several slices lamb meat and cooked bacon. Sprinkle with fresh picked and chopped rosemary.

To stay in season, swap the sliced tomatoes for a side of homemade tomato sauce—it makes an excellent dip, and manages to retain the taste of summer without trying to recreate it.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the eggs have set and the top is slightly golden. Serve hot with tomato dipping sauce.

3.26.2008

Wellfleet eggs in a garlic pepper bechamel over toasted milk bread

It's Wednesday morning: the middling day of a busy week. Easter and the bunny have come and gone, paper grass and jellybeans are strewn across the back lawn, and all the hard-boiled eggs have been found (I pray).

Slowly but surely, we are whittling away at the holiday leftovers. With the fridge full, it is time for the basket of eggs that I so carefully collected from Jim Rose's hens (look for the Fresh Eggs cooler at 2426 Route 6 Wellfleet), my sister so patiently boiled and dyed, and the egg hunters so happily discovered on Sunday to go.

A call to my grandmother yields a suggestion for creamed eggs on toast. Her recipe for hearty breakfast used to be a favorite with my mother and uncle, she told me, though it wasn't much work.

Today's test earned it a place as a new favorite in our house as well. Mashed with a pinch of garlic salt, creamed with a bechamel of raw milk and flour, and served over a slice of homemade milk bread, the blue and violet tinged eggs made for a light yet substantive start to the day.

Top of the morning to you and yours—

WELLFLEET EGGS IN A GARLIC PEPPER BECHAMEL

Serves 4-6

Hard boil 12 eggs. In a heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Whisk in 2 tablespoons flour, stirring quickly to avoid lumps. Pour in 1 and 1/2 cups milk in several steps, whisking the sauce until smooth after each addition. Add two teaspoons garlic pepper, and let the bechamel simmer until just thick. Mash eggs into sauce and serve warm over toast.

MILK TOAST

Makes two small loaves

Reference Beach plum hot cross bun recipe in last post. Prepare dough, withholding spices and fruit. Let rise twice. Bake in well greased pans at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until golden brown.

3.24.2008

Cranberry cordial and Westport Rivers blanc de blanc mimosas

Westport Rivers Winery in Westport, Mass. makes a mean sparkling wine. Their blanc de blanc—"conceived and born into existence as the perfect wine for oysters"—fills a spot in our wine rack reserved for special occasions. Yesterday, as a toast to my favorite holiday, we set up the rickety old ladder and took a bottle down.

The family owned vineyard is best known for its sparkling wine. It claims the cool climate lends a dramatic taste to the grapes, which in turn is expressed in the wines. Based on my tastings, I'd say I agree.

Coupled with a splash of chilled cranberry cordial given us by a friend who went picking at the dune bogs in P-town, the sparkling wine made a crisp, delicate mimosa with a hint of spring.

A plate of fresh shucked Wellfleet oysters on the half shell rounded off the hors d'oeuvres, and we toasted to spring.

To check out the rest of their collection (I recommend the Imperial Sec Riesling—"a frothy mousse of tiny bubbles") go to www.westportrivers.com or buy at Perry's Market in P-town or the Liquor Loft in Orleans. The cordial you'll have to make for yourself come summer.

3.23.2008

Barnstable leg of lamb in a bed of rosemary

It has been too long of a day to say much, but let me say this: the leg of lamb we roasted today from Border Bay Junction Farm was melt-in-your-mouth good. The leg was the last of the two we got from the animal we bought this fall—and with nothing more than a brush of oil, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and several hours in the oven over a bed of rosemary, it made for a scrumptious Easter treat.

BORDER BAY FARM EASTER LAMB

Serves 4

Brush
3 tablespoons of olive oil with several rosemary sprigs over a leg of lamb in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, lay over rosemary, and let sit for 30 minutes.

Roast at 375 degrees, turning every twenty minutes, for an hour and 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 125 degrees. Let the roast rest for 20 minutes; serve warm.

3.16.2008

Beach plum hot cross buns with a cordial & nutmeg glaze


On Easter Sunday, I will be the matriarch of the holiday for the first time in my new home. My sister and two friends will travel out to our little red salt box on the tip of the Cape from Boston and gather around the table with my boyfriend and me. Our dog, Fisher, will surely hunker down underneath, praying for accidents.

It is a strange rite of passage—this first out of the nest holiday—and one focused mainly on the delights of the table. Sitting down in front of the wood stove this morning, I began composing a menu: goat cheese and leek frittata, fruit salad, curried lamb, hot cross buns. Peppermint tea, coffee, and cranberry cordial mimosas also graced the list.

It was the hot cross buns that garnered my immediate attention. I remembered running up and down the stairs of Wild Oats Bakery—where I worked as a girl—with tray upon tray of frosted buns each spring, stealing a lick or two of the delicate frosting as I carried the pans back down to the dish room. It has been a rare Easter that I have gone without the bakery’s buns; they were considered a staple on my mother’s table.

I considered calling the bakery to ask for the recipe; deciding against the idea, I paged through several cookbooks. Finally, with the variations piled up beside me I began crafting my own. The basic ingredients of the Joy of Cooking I liked: milk, butter, eggs, yeast, and flour, but the sugar and the spiced currant flavoring I could do without.

When I came upon the beach plum cordial tucked back into a dark corner of the refrigerator, I knew I had found the perfect Cape addition. The cordial—made from plums picked at Ryder Beach last fall—was well seasoned. The sugar had dissolved into the vodka, and the still intact fruit bobbed softly in the deep violet liquid. With jar in hand, I set to work dropping berries into a trial batch.

The resulting buns had a sumptuous gold crust, flecked inside with violet streaks and a rich nutmeg brown and crossed with a glaze of cordial and honey. A new Cape tradition...

BEACH PLUM HOT CROSS BUNS WITH A CORDIAL & NUTMEG GLAZE

Makes 12 buns

Proof 2 and 1/4 teaspoons yeast in 3 tablespoons warm water. When dissolved, add 1 cup warm whole milk, 5 tablespoons melted butter, 1 fresh egg, 3 tablespoons honey, and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix well.

Add 3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour gradually. Pit and add thirty beach plums (either from cordial, or soaked for several days in a small pool of vodka and sugar). Jam may work as well, or dried cranberries boiled in spices and sugar. Sprinkle in 2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg, and knead dough well.

Let rise in a ball in a warm place for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size. Punch down and knead into balls about half the size you wish the baked buns to be. Arrange on baking sheet in rows; let rise again. Preheat oven to 375 degrees; bake 15-20 minutes.

CORDIAL & NUTMEG GLAZE
Heat 2 tablespoons butter with 1 teaspoon nutmeg in a sauce pan over low heat. Add 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons honey, and a splash of beach plum cordial (substitute other cordial or sweet wine as needed). Stir until sugar is dissolved; add more to thicken. Pour in shape of cross over cool buns. Let dry and serve.

3.14.2008

Curried butternut squash and tart apple soup with baby swiss chard


It is early evening at 463 Commercial Street in Provincetown. As I quarter the heavy husk of a butternut squash, the wind outside rattles the pots and pans that hang from the thick beams overhead. I am making soup: a thick, velvety, soup of winter. The voices of an artist and a birthday plumber rise above the din of weather and champagne.

My eyes water over the coal black stove as I chop an onion, an apple, and a tear drop sizzles in the ring of blue flame. The oil is hot; I throw in the onion and the tart green fruit and they begin to sweat. When the squash emerges soft from the oven, I add into the ancient pan a spoonful of curry and a lump of butter.

As I extract the meat of the squash from its hull, I can hear the knock of pool balls upstairs. It is potluck night at the Beachcombers'—a secret society of men and their art. On certain nights, a member will open the door to passersby for a shared meal and a warm fire. Tonight, I got lucky.

I splash a quart of chicken broth into the pan and it spatters against the glass of a charcoal nude. My companions set the table with plates laid out to dry across a long, wooden banquet and a colander of silver, and we pull our chairs closer to the hearth. With the air laden with sweet curry, we say a toast and a blessing, and sit down to eat.


BEACHCOMBER SOUP

produce:
1 butternut squash
2 small, tart storage apples
1 large white onion
a handful of winter greens (swiss chard, arugula, beet greens, etc.)

pantry:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons indian curry
1 quart chicken broth

dairy:
1/4 cup raw milk
2-3 tablespoons butter

Quarter the squash and clean and salt its seeds. Roast fruit and seeds together in a Pyrex pan at 400 degrees, until tender or up to an hour.

Sauté chopped onion and apple in oil, add curry. Sweat 15 minutes or until onion is translucent, and pour in broth. Let simmer.

Skin squash and add to pot with milk and butter. Simmer for 15 minutes, taking care not to boil, and puree. Serve steaming and garnish with greens and roasted seeds.

WHERE TO PROCURE...
squash: Trader Joe's in Hyannis (grown in Massachusetts); apple: stored from fall harvest at Crow Farm in Sandwich; raw milk: Lawton Family Farm in Foxboro; butter: Wellfleet Marketplace (Garelick Farms in Franklin)

3.03.2008

A buttermilk breakfast


The doughnuts are gone, but I awoke this morning with a full jug of buttermilk still idling on the top shelf of the refrigerator. Looking to use the quart before it spoiled, I flipped to the index of the Joy of Cooking. Breakfast would be basic buttermilk muffins.

In only 30 minutes flat, Alex and I were seated at the dining room table with a tin full of piping hot buttermilk nutmeg muffins and a pot of black Chai tea. The crisp crust of the pastry tops gave way to a moist, steaming interior, and we dug in with delight.

Buttermilk Nutmeg Muffins with Amaretto
adapted from the Joy of Cooking

Makes 10 large muffins

Sift together in a large bowl 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 3 large ground nutmeg seeds.

In a separate bowl, stir together 2 large eggs, 1 cup buttermilk, 2/3 cup honey, 6 tablespoons room temperature butter, and 1 teaspoon almond extract. Beat lightly to incorporate honey and butter.

Mix dry ingredients into wet; fill 10 well oiled muffin cups to the brim with batter. Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Enjoy hot with spiced tea, steamed milk, or a latte.

3.02.2008

Ode to an old fashioned cake doughnut

In 1950, William Rosenberg opened the first Dunkin' Donuts in Quincy, Mass. Fifty years later, his 5,000th shop opened up in Bali, Indonesia. Love of the fried rings patently has no bounds.

Today, while the company still claims to be running America, the doughnuts seem to have been lost in the coffee shuffle. The deep fried breakfast has fallen out of favor, both on the street and in the home kitchen.

While its street rap might be deserved, a homemade old fashioned cake doughnut is really not such an undeserving breakfast. Fried in a healthy oil low in saturated fat (try canola or walnut oil for an unobtrusive flavor), it is probably a better choice for cholesterol counters than a piece of toast slathered in butter. It packs an oil punch, sure, but even the ones baked in trans fat at Dunkin' Donuts weigh in at 40 calories less than the company's plain bagel sans cream cheese.

So if you love doughnuts, indulge every once in a while. Don't let the tradition of dropping a well shaped ring of sweet dough into a pot of boiling oil at home be lost to the convenience of Krispy Kreme or the restraint of a dieting nation.

This old Joy of Cooking favorite is the perfect treat for a Sunday morning. Curl up with the newspaper and a fresh mug of coffee, and enjoy.

BUTTERMILK POTATO (or TURNIP) DOUGHNUTS

Makes 15 large doughnuts, plus holes

Boil two large potatoes (or one small Eastham turnip) until very tender. Strain and crank through a food mill or ricer. Measure out one cup, set extra aside.

In a large bowl, stir together 3 and 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt. Grind and add one nutmeg seed.

In a separate bowl, beat together 2 eggs. Add 2/3 cup sugar, 1 cup buttermilk, 4 tablespoons melted butter, and one teaspoon vanilla. Stir in potatoes (or turnips).

Add dry ingredients. Pat dough flat until it lies 1/2 inch thick onto plastic wrap. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or until needed.

Cut dough into rings. Save scraps to make doughnut holes. Fry in several inches of very hot (365 degree) oil for 5 minutes each side or until the dough turns a deep golden brown. Drain excess oil, pat dry, and leave plain, roll in sugar, or powder when cool with confectioner's sugar.

NOTES and IDEAS

Turnips can be substituted for potatoes with little change in flavor. Eggnog makes a wonderful substitute for buttermilk in a holiday doughnut. Ground nutmeg or cinnamon can be added to the sugar for a well-spiced coating. To make a glaze for the treats, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan. Remove from heat and add a tablespoon of cream and powdered sugar (about one cup) until the desired thickness is reached. To thin, increase cream; to thicken, continue adding sugar. Drizzle and enjoy.

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