Saturday, June 30, 2012

Buddy, Buddy, Buddy...

It's always fun to see the great bakers who choose to be Buddies and bake with the Bread Baking Babes towards the end of the month. Since I was the lucky Kitchen of the Month for June it was even more fun to see all the ways that our Buddies...and there were quite a few...took the recipe and made it their own, in one case skipping right over our recipe and going back to Farine's wonderful Morning Cuddles that inspired our recipe.

Different nuts were used, different flours, different dried fruits, even different levains. Overall these talented bakers made each kind of twist their own, so now we have lots of options when we want to make 'em many have said they will.

Many thanks to our bodacious Bread Baking Babes for all of their versions, too. We had everything from thin bread sticks to nice wide twists perfect for sandwiches. Below are the Buddies in alphabetical order. Each entry has a link to their post so that you can go and admire their lovely Oatmeal Twists!

 Agnes of Szeretetrehangoltan blog - made Oatmeal Twists - beautiful twists with whole wheat flour, rosemary and walnuts from her garden. Lovely oatmeal on top of twists.

 Breadsong of The Fresh Loaf blog - made Barley Twists - substituting barley malt and flour for the oats and adding golden raisins and Breadsong also made Cinnamon Cuddles, very much inspired by Farine.

Carola of Sweet and That's It blog - made Oatmeal Twists -  with a nice vanilla touch, also she substituted oil for the butter to lower calories and used dried cranberries and pecans. She didn't like the way the first ones turned out (although they tasted fine) and her second batch, as you can see if you go to her post, are beautiful twists!

Cathy of Bread Experience blog - made My Buddy Twists - crusty twists using a spelt levain and spelt flour, hazelnuts, and dates.  They look yummy.

Connie of My Discovery of Bread blog - made Farine's Morning Cuddles -  with walnuts and dates and a lovely rustic twist. They baked up golden even with the challenge of almost running out of fuel.

  Gilad of Vegan - made Oatmeal Twists - lovely twists, braids and a crescent using potato and soy flours and oil to make them vegan, plus dried plums and nuts for flavor.

  Judy of Judy's Gross Eats blog - made Oatmeal Twists - using oatmeal flour instead of the oatmeal, making the poolish, freezing them, too.

Kelly of A Messy Kitchen blog - made Summer Twist - creatively made with cinnamon, pecans and twisted into a bit hug! There is even the plus of frosting.

Sandie of Crumbs of Love blog - made Oatmeal Twists - lovely little twists packed with oatmeal, dried fruits and nuts using the poolish with a little rye flour added. Sandie used dried blueberries and pecans and, it seems, probably in another batch, dried figs and walnuts with a little anise seed...sounds great.

Thanks to all the Buddies for baking with the Babes in June. Hope you will join us next month, too.
XO Elle

Monday, June 25, 2012

Asian Soup with Zucchini and Pi

Life is changing here on the farm. The garden plants, especially the veggies and herbs, are getting bigger all the time and we are getting enough zucchini squash to give some away and still have plenty for grilling and for other recipes.

A week ago I made my favorite spaghetti sauce which uses a couple of the squash. It's one of the first recipes I put on this blog and I've been making it for over 35's a winner! It is vegan if you omit the ground meat (which I did this time) and tastes even better the next day (I just love leftovers!). We had it over whole wheat penne pasta, along with a green salad.

I also gave some away on Thursday to a friend who loves to make zucchini bread and we gave some to Grandma L for her famous zucchini bake. It's possible I planted too many squash plants, but I don't think so. There are so many ways to use this versitile squash. Check out the soup recipe below.

Another big change is that we have adopted a rescue dog named Pi. It has been just about a year since Xam died. We had him for 16 or 17 years, so it took a while to want another dog. Then we had to fix the electronic fence and fix up a new animal door. Last Wednesday, after days and days of e-mails, we picked Pi up in Oakland.

He is a beautiful black lab male, about 2 years old and a real sweet boy. He is mellow and well trained and affectionate. We have taken him to the gym, on a picnic, to our favorite park twice and have been working on training him for the electronic fence. In the meantime we have to take him out on a leash. I had forgotten how enjoyable but exhausting it is to have a new dog! Sort of like having a toddler in the house. We feel very lucky to have Pi...he is a great dog! If you are in the neighborhood, come by and say 'Hi'...he is very friendly and not excitable as our previous dogs have been at this age.
Isn't he handsome?

Back to the zucchini... On Saturday I used some freshly picked zucchini to make this soup with Asian flavors. It made just enough for a nice lunch for Sweetie and I. If you want it for a larger number, just double the amounts. It has a lovely, savory flavor and a faint hint of garlic and ginger fragrances.

Asian Zucchini Soup

1 tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced, including the green part
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 portobello mushroom, gills removed, sliced and cut into bite sized pieces
1-2 medium zucchini squashed, cut lengthwise into quarters, then sliced
1 can vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 package (4 oz) soba noodles
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce or to taste
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, stir to coat with the oil. Saute' for 1 minute, stirring occasionally to keep from browning. Add the celery and green onions, stir and continue cooking 1 minute. Add the garlic, ginger and mushrooms, stir and cook 2 minutes. Add the zucchini, stir and cook 1 minute. Add the broth, noodles (breaking them up if necessary), water, sesame oil, soy sauce, cilantro, and salt and pepper. Stir and heat through for at least 4 minutes, then serve. Serves two.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Berries

Summertime may bring heat and weeds in the garden and mosquitoes at dusk when we are trying to finish dinner, but it also brings a wonderland of fresh fruits. Right now we are enjoying ripe, dark red Bing cherries, mostly gorging ourselves by eating lots of them out of hand. No recipe needed!

Ripe white peaches are also starting to show up at the market. There is probably a pie in Sweetie's future with some of those.

The strawberries grown a few miles away are so sweet and juicy. We're having them for breakfast with our melon and bananas, for lunch with blueberries and cottage cheese, and just to snack on.

The olallieberries (an early and very juicy kind of blackberry; genetically, approximately two-thirds blackberry and one-third European red raspberry) down by the road are ripe now, too. To celebrate I made a simple galette and added some blueberries and strawberries, too for a three berry seasonal treat. This kind of free-form cousin of pie is easy to make and to serve as long as you have a large baking sheet. I use my silicon mat so it doesn't stick, even if the juices from the fruit run out during baking. You can follow the amounts of fruit that I used or make your own combination with the total being about 4 1/2 cups of fruit.

Three Berry Galette

enough pie crust dough for one crust - your favorite recipe or use (as I do) on Pillsbury Ready Crust crust.
2 pints blackberries or olallieberries
1/4 cup blueberries
1/4 cup strawberries
sugar to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

Take the pie crust dough and, on a lightly floured surface, roll it into a circle about 15 - 16 inches in diameter. Gently fold the dough in half and in half again, then move to a large baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Gently unfold the crust to a full circle again.

Wash, rinse and dry the fruit. Slice the strawberries unless they are very small. Set aside.

In a large bowl stir together the sugar, salt, cornstarch, flour and nutmeg. Add the berries and toss gently with your clean hands to lightly coat the berries. Pile the mixture into the center of the prepared crust circle leaving a few inches all around the outside uncovered.

Wet your hands and begin folding the outer few inches of dough up over the piled berries, using the dampness on your hands to seal the pleats as you go. Dampen again as needed. Bring the dough up and pleat it until all of the outer dough has been placed up and over the fruit.

Brush the galette with the beaten egg. If desired sprinkle with sanding or regular sugar (optional).

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until the crust is golden, about 20 minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6 - 8.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Summer Twists

It's summer! I know that we have a few days to the Summer Solstice, but around here it feels like summer has come. School is out. The heat has come, the garden plants are growing so quickly I feel like I can see them inch up (but I think they do it at night while I'm sleeping). Heat makes me listless, but I still have the energy to let y'all know about this great bread I've made a couple of times now while it was still cool. As we gather around my kitchen table for the June bread, the bodacious Bread Baking Babes make a very friendly bread, inspired by another blogger.

For Valentine's Day, MC Farine of the blog Farine made the cutest breads and called them Morning Cuddles. Darling twists with dried fruit, nuts and oatmeal is a great way to start the day. My variation adds some buttermilk and melted butter, plus I figured out how to do the recipe when you don't have a mature sourdough starter in your fridge. The thing that is still true is that these twists have a lot of oatmeal so I love 'em and call 'em Oatmeal Twists. They are pretty filling, too, for little twists.

The first time I made them I used the original recipe except I used all plain sourdough starter for the poolish and then left out the dried fruit until I shaped them and I put grated Romano cheese in some of them instead of fruit. They were twice the size, too.

Made 'em smaller the second time around so each one is a more reasonable serving. Because I'm a dork sometimes, I forgot to buy more pecans so the second version is really cheese, nuts, dried fruits, or seeds. Still yummy! The texture seemed lighter with the active yeast and flour and water version than with the sourdough starter but both were great fresh from the oven and toasted, too. I left the pecans in the recipe given below because I liked them better with pecans. You can make them large and a bit wider and use them for sandwiches, too. The third time I made them I used raisins and currants for the dried fruit and some chopped walnuts. The twists were great but I took half the dough and made a braided loaf instead of twists and that worked, too. You are encouraged to get creative with these little breads!

Due to my days currently being over-packed I'm squishing things in here and there where I can fit as an overstuffed suitcase I I made the non-sourdough part (poolish/starter) one evening and let it sit overnight in the fridge, then made up the dough the next afternoon and let it sit overnight in the fridge, then let it rise the rest of the ways the next day, shaped and baked it in the late afternoon. Worked well, so if you have that amount of time you may want to space it out, too. At the minimum let the poolish/starter or the dough sit overnight for great flavor and shape and bake the next day.

Be sure to visit the rest of the Bread Baking Babes' sites to see their take on this versatile roll. Bet you'll be inspired to try them for yourself!

These are fun to make and fun to eat. Be a Buddy: bake this recipe by June 29th, send me an e-mail at plachman(at)sonic(dot)net. Be sure to include an attached photo of your creation so that I can add you to the round-up, plus a few sentences about your experience baking these twists.

Oatmeal Twists
based on Morning Cuddles at Farine
makes 16 twists

700 g sourdough starter (or poolish/starter of 350 g all-purpose flour mixed with 350 g water and 2 teaspoons yeast. Sit 3 hrs, stir down, put in fridge overnight, or at least 8 hours - use where recipe calls for sourdough starter.)
320 g all-purpose flour
230 g whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
115 g rolled oats, coarsely ground in a food processor
15 g salt
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
100 g pecans, chopped

Mix the flours together with the yeast, oats and salt. Stir the water, buttermilk and butter into the starter. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the starter mixture until a soft dough forms. Let sit 10 minutes. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead in additional flour if needed until dough is tacky but not sticky. Knead in the pecans. Shape into a ball and put dough ball into oiled rising bowl or container, turning dough to coat with the oil. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. This might take 2 hours or 6. (Also fine to cover and let sit overnight in the fridge, then let rise until doubled on the counter the next day.)

When dough has doubled, turn out onto lightly flour board. Shape into a log and cut into two pieces. Return one piece of the dough to the rising bowl and cover.

Shape the second piece of dough on the board into a log and cut into 8 pieces, each about 100 g. Cut each piece in half and shape each piece into a snake and twist two pieces together a a time or two, then place twist on a parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet.

Repeat with remaining 7 (100 g) pieces. You will have eight twists. Take the remaining large (about 800 g) piece of dough and repeat the shaping into a log, cutting into 8 pieces, cutting those in half and shaping into twists. You will finish with 16 twists set out on parchment or silicon mat covered baking sheets. Cover twists and let rise until doubled in bulk. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F when twists are almost doubled.

Uncover, glaze with buttermilk with clean pastry brush. If desired sprinkle with finely chopped pecans, or preferred seeds or with sea salt.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. If browning too rapidly, turn down the oven temperature. Turn the pans back to front and bake another 10 - 15 minutes or until breads are 180 degrees inside. Cool on a rack then serve.

Variations: When you knead in the pecans you can knead in dried fruit like dried cranberries or diced prunes, apricots or dates to make a breakfast twist. If you prefer savory you can knead in herbs and/or Parmesan cheese and/or seeds. This bread loves to have you make your own combinations, so other nuts can also be used in place of the pecans or with them. I made my second batch without any nuts, seeds, fruit or herbs and they were yummy, too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


There is a sense of mystery about something forbidden...and a challenge, too. I felt that way upon discovering black forbidden rice, a gorgeous black rice with a nutty flavor similar to wild rice. The mystery is how to use this lovely grain to best advantage...and that was the challenge, too.

A salad or room temperature dish seemed like a good idea so I trolled the Internet and found something close to what I wanted with a Black Forbidden Rice with Sugar Snap Peas and Nectarine dish by Giada De Laurentiis. It can be served warm or at room temperature, it has a slightly Asian feeling with fresh ginger and soy sauce and the combination of fruits and vegetables is interesting, too. As usual I had some ideas on how to change the recipe to make it my own.

My version keeps the ginger and the soy sauce, but I add a strong orange note with both orange zest and juice in the dressing. I find that citrus adds a sparkle to both rice and bean dishes. I was out of nectarines, but had just purchased fresh red cherries so I used them.
Cherries and oranges are also a great combination. For a bit of crunch I added celery and some green onions for their fresh green taste.

I had thought that such a good dose of fresh ginger would leave a strong ginger taste in the rice but during the cooking process the ginger is muted and the flavor of the rice shines with just a hint of ginger in the background. I didn't use any hot sauce or other additional heat but after tasting this rice dish I think that you could add a little fresh minced ginger to the dressing or a dash of cayenne if you like your food a bit spicier than I do and it would be a great addition.

By the time I served this dish, the rice was lukewarm. The warm cherry mixture was perfect with the slightly cooler rice and the dressing added just the right mixture of salty and sweet. Sweetie took two helping, so I suspect that this will be a hit with your family, too. If you wish to dress this beautiful rice dish up, you could sprinkle some toasted sliced almonds over it when you are ready to serve it.
Black Forbidden Rice with Cherries

based on a recipe of Giada De Laurentiis'

Serves 4-6

3 1/2 cups water
2 cups black forbidden rice
1 (1 1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 green onion, sliced, white part only
6 oz fresh cherries, pitted and halved

1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon grated orange zest

For the rice: In a medium saucepan, bring the water, rice, ginger, and salt to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook until the rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and place in a large serving bowl.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the celery and green onion and sauté for 3-5 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Add the cherry halves and sauté for 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the serving bowl with the cooked rice.

For the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, oil, honey, orange juice, soy sauce and orange zest until smooth.

Pour the dressing over the rice and cherry mixture and toss gently to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Lovely Spring Lamb Marinade

We have been enjoying some great dinners but most of the food is the same as dishes that have been posted here before. The marinated lamb today was excellent and was served with fresh steamed corn on the cob and a big vegetable salad with field greens. On checking my recipe list I found that I haven't given you my lamb marinade (or if I have I can't find the excuse me for being a forgetful biddy if it turns out this is a repeat). Sweetie loves this marinade! I've been making it pretty much like this for years and years and the flavor combination of the red wine, garlic, rosemary and mustard is a winner.

Yesterday we went to Matanzas Creek Winery, hoping to see their lavender fields in bloom. Looks like we are about two weeks too soon...lots of buds but few were blooming. They have acres and acres of blooms later this month and a big-deal Lavender and Wine weekend at the very end of June. Guess I could have put some lavender from my shrub into the marinade but didn't think of it...maybe next time.

Lamb in Red Wine Marinade

6 oz. dry red wine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon-type mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
about 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary (OK if still on the stem)
1 lamb roast (we like a leg of lamb with the bone removed but this will work for lamb steaks and lamb rib roast, too)

Place all the marinade ingredients except for the rosemary in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Lay a gallon size zipper lock plastic bag in a large baking pan, carefully un-zip and place the rosemary and them lamb in the bag. Add the marinade. Close plastic bag. Let marinate at room temperature for an hour, then turn the bag over and let the other side marinate for an hour. If there is time, continue to marinate in the refrigerator, turning occasionally. Have never marinated the lamb for longer than 8 hours, but more might be OK.

Remove lamb from the marinade and discard the marinade. Grill the lamb on a prepared grill to the degree of pinkness you desire. Serve at once.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Welcome June

It was hot enough yesterday (91 degrees when we were walking in town by the water) that it feels like summer, even if the summer solstice is still weeks away. They were decorating for Project Graduation so school is almost out, too. Time for some fun!

Started the morning with a summery breakfast: fresh blueberries (from Southern California...our blueberries are about a month away) cooked in the microwave with a half a perfect peach. Into that mixture I spooned some unsweetened plain Russian style yogurt which made for a nice sweet/tangy contrast. A cup of coffee, a slice of sourdough toast with peanut butter, the morning paper and the deck to enjoy it all on. The only thing that was missing was my big sister and she came out to join me after a while. Then it was perfect!
So grab some fruit and mix it with yogurt and get outside to welcome June.

Now we are off to Petaluma to visit the museum there and find out about the World WarII Code Talkers.