Sunday, September 29, 2013

Orphan Bread

You probably know someone who is a vegan. We used to call them vegetarians, but then vegetarians divided up that world and some were ovo-lacto vegetarians, meaning they could have eggs and milk, some were non-meat eating vegetarians, so they could have fish, too, and then the strict vegetarians who don't consume meat, poultry, fish, eggs or milk decided to call themselves vegans to make sure that it was clear.

There is a lot to be said for eating that way, but it is not an easy diet. The same is true for Paleo eaters, although they can't eat half (or more) of what vegans eat and they do tend to eat a lot of meat. If you find that either works for you, then go for it. If you are Paleo, this bread probably isn't for you.

I recently spoke with my older sister and she is a vegan. Her description of how to know if something is OK to eat is it can't have a mother. I doubt that it can have a father, either. This bread qualifies, so I'm calling it Orphan Bread.

This bread is based on a recipe from Soups and Breads - The Irish Kitchen by Nuala Cullen, but I increased the Irish whole meal flour and decreased the bread flour for added texture, flavor and fiber, plus I took out the walnuts and put in pecans. For one thing, the walnuts tend to tint the bread pink. Pecans don't do that and are delicious, too. The apricots are the same and they go really well with pecans.

To keep it an orphan bread, the milk was replaced with almond milk. It is a really wonderful, full flavored bread and lovely toasted. In keeping with the vegan theme, don't use butter on the toast, but top it instead with a nut butter or apricot jam...or both. I admit it, I added a bit of butter to the toasted piece, but then one feels so sorry for an orphan.

Apricot and Pecan Orphan Bread
Based on a recipe in the cook book Soups and Breads - The Irish Kitchen by Nuala Cullen
Makes one loaf

75 g finely chopped dried apricots
75 g roughly chopped pecans
405 g strong white flour (bread flour)
120 g coarse brown flour (I used King Arthur Irish Whole Meal)
one packet instant dried yeast
325 ml/12 fl oz/1 ½ cups liquid with 2/3 water and 1/3 almond milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons almond milk
additional 1 tablespoon finely chopped pecans for topping

In a large mixing bowl mix together the flours, apricots, nuts, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the yeast and water or water mixture and let stand 10 minutes for the yeast to 'bloom'. Add the olive oil and stir.

With dough hook in place and mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry mixture until the dough is soft and cleans the sides of the bowl. Knead with the machine for 3-4 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead 2-3 minutes until dough is satiny.

Oil the mixing bowl, put in the dough, turn to coat with oil, cover with plastic wrap/clingfilm and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Knock the air out of the dough and knead briefly before turning out onto a floured surface. Shape as desired. I did a three strand braid. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.

Brush some almond milk over the risen loaf and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped pecans.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and tap underneath. If a hollow sound results, the bread is cooked. If not, bake a little longer and test again. You could also shape the dough in two loaves and bake them in two 8 x 4 loaf pans.

This is the kind of bread recipe that you can play around with, substituting different dry fruits for the apricots, different nuts for the pecans. Have fun with it!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Buttery Good

The December 2012 issue of Saveur Magazine has a selection of recipes using white chocolate, including the cover recipe for white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. The cookies are a bit crispy and a bit chewy and infused with the complementary flavors of macadamia nuts and white chocolate...always one of my favorite combinations for cookies.

Recently I decided to make a batch of them to bring as dessert for a dinner we were invited to. When I went to the store for the macadamia nuts, I found that a can of nuts with a coffee glaze were far less expensive than plain macadamias. This gave me an excellent opportunity to play with the recipe.
A hallmark of these cookies is a buttery goodness and the almost butterscotch flavor from the brown sugar. Since the nuts had a coffee glaze, I decided to add the flavor of coffee to the batter, too. Some espresso powder took care of that. You could really taste it in the uncooked cookie dough, but it was just a hint of coffee in the baked cookies, so the buttery aspect was still dominant. Every once in a while you also bite down on a bit of the glaze, so you get a sweeter hint of coffee. These were good cookies in the original recipe, but now they are outstanding. The white chocolate is very mellow but a nice counterpoint to the coffee and the nuts keep the buttery flavors going. I used Guittard white chocolate discs, unchopped, but any good quality white chocolate will do. Chop it into chunks if it is a whole bar.

Two parts of the instructions are very important: be sure to beat the butter and sugar for at least three whole minutes. It may seem like a long time, but this helps the sugars dissolve a bit and makes sure that there is enough air in the dough. Also, leave the full two inches between dough balls. These cookies tend to spread a lot.

I made super sized cookies that were about 6 inches across when baked, just because it is a fun presentation. No one needs more than one cookie, although I made sure there were extra, just in case.

I know that macadamia nuts are expensive, but once in a while it's nice to treat oneself to a buttery, sweet, nutty indulgence.

White Chocolate Coffee Macadamia Nut Cookies
based on a recipe in Saveur Magazine, Dec. 2012

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons espresso powder
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (1/2 pound)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 oz. roughly chopped white chocolate
8 oz. roughly chopped coffee glazed macadamia nuts
(or use plain macadamia nuts if coffee glazed ones are unavailable)

Whisk together flour, salt , baking soda and espresso powder in a bowl; set aside. In a large bowl, beat sugars and butter on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until smooth; beat in vanilla. Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined; stir in white chocolate and chopped macadamia nuts.

Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Using a large spoon, shape dough into balls and place 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, about 14 minutes.

Remove to a wire rack to cool. Store airtight up to 3 days (if they last that long!).

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Bread Baking Babes Bread Revisited

Sometimes you get a chance to sort of go back and rewind. There are things that you would have done differently, or, in fact, done at all. Making Sukerbolle, a very sweet bread that was a Bread Baking Babes choice for September 2008, is a case in point. This was the eighth bread that the Babes had baked as a group. Since a number of the Babes had blogs which I read fairly regularly, I had seen the posts on this bread and it looked good. The truth is that this was also before I became totally immersed in sourdough starter making and then frequent bread baking, so I mostly admired the breads the Babes baked but didn't really think to become a Buddy.

Now Carola of Sweet and That's It has given us another opportunity to bake the bread as a group. I'm hoping that Monique, who originally was the Kitchen of the Month for this bread, approves of the choice and of my unorthodox approach to it. I know that Carola will find it interesting because she is a true breadhead...and that is one of the best compliment I can give.

The recipe calls for ginger syrup. You can use the syrup that candied ginger comes in or you can make your own. As it happens, I had some apple cider syrup in the fridge and there was just enough left for this bread. I also have loads of Gravenstein apples this year on the trees. I decided to tweak the recipe so that it is a Caramel Apple Bread version, using store bought caramels, cut into small pieces. There is still a lot of cinnamon and all the rest of the ingredients are pretty much the same, but I used the apple cider syrup instead of the ginger syrup and I added 1/2 cup grated, peeled tart apple, and traded the caramel pieces for the sugar nuggets. Going back to the original version, I decided to knead the apple and caramel into the dough instead of doing the jelly roll thing. I borrowed Carola's versions use of a mixture of melted butter and plain yogurt.

This is a delicious bread with a lovely crumb. It is pretty sweet, so I hope you enjoy sweet breads. When it is first baked and just barely warm, the caramel is still gooey, which I love. You can just taste the apple and there is lots of cinnamon flavor. It can be eaten just as it is, but do try one slice with just a bit of butter. Sublime. Great for breakfast with some fruit and coffee. A nice afternoon snack with a cup of tea, too.

Thank you Carola for creating the Back to the Future Buddies group and for choosing this great bread. Can't wait to see what other versions there will be.

If you would like to join the group and bake the bread, contact Carola for the deets.

Sending this to Susan at Wild Yeast for the Yeastspotting weekly event. Do go there and see the wonderful collections of a wide array of yeasted breads.


From Monique's blog:
500 grams all purpose flour
10 grams salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon-powder (a little more if you like it)
3 tablespoons of ginger-sirop (use the sirop that comes with those gingerballs you buy in a jar, see picture)
Make that gingersirop up to 2 dl with handwarm milk. (from your Frisian cow in your backyard, maybe ?)
25 grams fresh yeast
75 grams unsalted, melted butter (let it cool down before use)
2 eggs
150 grams sugar grains, see picture. Or use sugar lumps /cubes, and make small pieces of them.( by beating them with….whatever). Or…but I didn’t try : Spread the sugar and the cinnamon on your cutting board and sprinkle,drop by drop, with 2 tablespoons of water. Stir until it sticks in thicker lumps and let dry for a couple of hours.

Make a nice dough with all the ingredients , except the sugerlumps or sugergrains and the cinnamon, and let it rise for 45 minutes. After that, you can fold in the sugar, mixed with cinnamon, and work it through your dough.

Form a nice bread and put it in a small bread-tin. Make sure it is greased with lots of butter !!

On top, you can sprinkle granulated sugar, so it can form a caramel on your bread.

Cover and let it rise for 15 minutes .

Bake it in a warm oven in 30 minutes until brown and done.

Sorry, no temperatures…in those days living and cooking where very easy…
(For me, I use 200 C or 400 F).

From Carola's Blog:Ingredients for one loaf of about 1 kg (35 cm long)
For the dough:
25 g fresh yeast (1 package (7 g) instant active dry yeast)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) of ginger-syrup
155 ml of lukewarm milk (milk + gingersyrup = 200 ml) 
500 g all purpose flour (350 all purpose flour + 150 g whole wheat flour)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten at room temperature
75 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled down (40 g butter mixed with 40 g plain yogurt)
10 g salt (= 2 teaspoons) 

For the Filling:
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (1 1/2 teaspoons)
150 grams sugar grains 

For the top:

Milk for brushing the loaf (or eggwash) 
Granulated sugar (or sugar in grain)

Directions for the stand mixer (or you can knead it my hand, if you prefer):

Grease well a loaf tin with butter or line it with parchment paper.

In the bowl of your stand mixer dissolve the yeast with the milk and the ginger syrup and wait 5-10 minutes for the yeast to activate = it will foam.

Add the sifted flours and shortly knead with the dough hook . Then add the eggs, the butter-yoghurt mixture and the salt and knead for 8-10 minutes, until the dough is soft and no longer sticky.

Transfer the dough into a lightly oiled big bowl , cover with a plastic foil and let rise for 45-60 minutes, until it doubles in volume .

Pour the dough on a floured surface, fold it twice and cover it with plastic

Roll out the dough into a rectangle, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar grains and gently press down with your hands the sugar into the dough. 

Roll tightly beginning from the short edge of the rectangle (or follow the original recipe: “fold in the sugar mixed with cinnamon , and work it through your dough”). 

Carefully transfer it into the loaf tin, seam side down.

Brush the top with some milk (or egg wash) and sprinkle with granulated sugar or sugar grains.

Cover with plastic foil and let it rise for the second time for about 30-40 minutes (to check if it’s ready, make the finger test:  when the dough springs back leaving a light indention, the dough is ready to go in the oven).
In the meantime preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) with a ramequin full of water (it will create steam and help the dough rising).

Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, until brown. Should it get brown too quickly, cover the bread with parchment paper (I do not like aluminum foil).

The first 10 minutes I've baked it at 400°F (200°C), then 10 minutes at 356°F (180°C). As it started getting too brown, I covered it with parchment paper and baked it for another 10 minutes; then I took the paper away and baked it for the last 3-4 minutes (total baking time: 34 minutes). PS: I always do the thermometer test: when the internal temperature reaches 200°F (93°C) the bread is ready. 

Remove from the loaf tin and place on a wire rack to cool.


Elle's versions:

500 grams all purpose flour
10 grams salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons apple cider syrup (45 ml)

155 ml with handwarm milk.
1 package (7 g) instant active dry yeast
40 g melted and cooled butter mixed with 40 g plain yogurt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
150 grams caramels, cut into small pieces. I also dusted them very lightly with confectioners sugar to keep them from sticking together
1/2 cup grated tart peeled apple
cinnamon-sugar and a bit of milk for the top of the loaf

Make a nice dough with all the ingredients, except the caramel and the apple, and let it rise for 45 minutes. After that, you can fold in the caramel and apple, and work it through your dough.

Form a nice bread and put it in a small bread-tin. Make sure it is greased with lots of butter !!

On top, sprinkle cinnamon-sugar, so it can form a nice topping on your bread. Some of the caramel pieces may poke through the dough. That's OK. They might drip a little over the crust, but will look great.

Cover and let it rise for 15 minutes.

Bake it in a warm oven in 30 minutes until brown and done. You may want to put some foil on the rack under the oven rack the bread is baking on, just in case some of the filling drips.

Bake in a hot oven until baked through.
(For me, I used 200 C or 400 F for 10 minutes, at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes, then I covered it with foil and continued to bake it another 10 minutes at that temperature. Turned out just right.)

Cool on a wire rack 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides to loosen and turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool...if you can wait. It actually is wonderful just slightly warm, with the gooey caramel in little pockets here and there in each slice.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Crispy Crackers for September

Many people who know me have this illusion that I can easily do anything I put my mind to, mostly because I often am successful when I try something new. There are times, however, when I'm miserably unsuccessful, even after a few attempts. Making my own crackers has been one of those areas. If you check past posts you will see very few crackers...a clue...and when I have posted crackers they have usually be somewhat thick and not crisp, or the toppings fall off, or both.

 The Bread Baking Babes are a lively group of baking women and one of the liveliest and loveliest is Tanna, our Kitchen of the Month. I have to admit that when I read that our September recipe was for crackers that I became nervous right away. Would this be another case of not-quite-what-I-wanted crackers? The original recipe came from King Arthur Flour, which was encouraging since their recipes usually work well. Tanna's version used grams for many of the measurements, another plus since weighed ingredients are usually in better balance than ones made up of cups and half cups. Best of all the second batch can be made another day, so if one batch doesn't work out I get a second chance. OK, guess it's time for crackers...with seeds.

 For my version, I decided to use some King Arthur Flour Irish Whole Meal Flour that I had in the fridge, plus some all-purpose flour. For the topping I used poppy seeds and chopped pecans.

Guess what? I actually made crackers that were crisp and crunchy and behaved like crackers instead of shortbread. Sweetie loved them, especially the second pan that I left in the oven to dry. Those turned a deep brown and were just this side of burnt and very crunchy, indeed. I like the flavor that the Irish flour added and I loved the toasted nuttiness of the pecans.
I think the key was that I rolled them out very thin. Although I started out rolling half the dough, after the first rolling out to about 1/4 inch, I divided that dough in half and rolled each piece even thinner, to about 1/16th of an inch, on a sheet of parchment paper.

 Now it's your turn. Bake these, take some photos, and send Tanna an e-mail with a short description of your baking experience and a photo, so that she can include you in the round-up at the end of the month and send you a Buddy Badge. Hurry, you have until Sept. 29th to do that, plus these are so good, no time to waste.

 Sending these over to Susan at Wild Yeast for her excellent Yeast Spotting weekly event. Check it out!

 Last, but never least, do visit my fellow Bread Baking Babes to see how they went, made crackers this month. If they have not posted yet, check back. Sometimes we have computer troubles that hold us up.

 Kitchen of the Month - Tanna, My Kitchen in Half Cups

Bake My Day - Karen
Blog from OUR Kitchen - Elizabeth
Girlichef - Heather
Life's a Feast - Jaime
Living in the Kitchen with Puppies - Natashya
Lucullian Delights- Ilva
Notitie van Lien - Lien (who also creates the beautiful badges!)
Paulchen's Foodblog - Astrid
Provecho Peru - Gretchen

Crunchy Crackers
Recipe By: KAF
Yield: 2 cookie sheets

This recipe mimics an extra-crunchy, seed-topped whole-gain cracker you may find at your supermarket. These are great for spreads and dips of all kinds.


198 to 227g lukewarm water
170 g King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
120 g King Arthur Whole Wheat/Spelt
2 tablespoons non-diastatic malt powder or sugar - I used malt syrup
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
30 g whole ground flax
14 g sesame seeds
*Substitute 28g golden flax seeds for the flax and sesame, if desired.
71 g sunflower seeds, midget preferred*
28 g sesame seeds*
28 g whole flax seeds,* golden preferred
sea salt or your favorite flavored salt, if desired
*Substitute 3/4 cup artisan bread topping + 1/4 cup whole flax seeds for the sunflower, sesame, and flax seeds, if desired.
(I used poppy seeds and chopped pecans instead of the toppings above.. I didn't measure them, but the dough wasn't covered thickly. I also added some sea salt on top of one roll out of dough.)


1) To make the dough: Mix and knead together all of the cracker ingredients (except the seeds) to a smooth, fairly stiff dough. Add 1-2 more tablespoons of water if the dough is dry.

2) Knead in the seeds.

3) Let the dough rise, covered, for 60 to 90 minutes, until it's expanded a bit.

4) Divide the dough in half. Working with one piece at a time, roll it into a rectangle approximately 14" x 9", a generous 1/8" thick. This will probably require you to roll the dough until it fights back; give it a 10-minute rest, then come back and roll some more. It may need two rest periods to allow you to roll it thin enough.

5) For easiest handling, turn the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Spritz the dough with water. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the topping seeds, lay a piece of parchment on top, and press the seeds in with a rolling pin. Turn the dough over, peel off the parchment, and repeat. Set the seeded crackers on a baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining piece of dough.

6) If you don't have parchment, roll on a rolling mat or on a very lightly floured or lightly greased work surface; and transfer the seeded crackers to a lightly greased baking sheet. Sprinkle each sheet of crackers with some sea salt or flavored salt, if desired. Crush the sea salt between your fingers or grind it in a salt mill if it's very coarse.

7) Prick the dough over with a fork, and cut it into rectangles, whatever size you like. Pull the crackers apart just a bit; you don't need to separate them completely. Let the crackers rise for 30 to 45 minutes. while you preheat your oven to 350°F; they'll get just a bit puffy.

8) Bake for 20 minutes, until the crackers are a medium brown. Turn off the heat, wait 15 minutes, then open the oven door a couple of inches and let the crackers cool completely in the turned-off oven. When they're completely cool, break apart, if necessary, and store airtight. 

Two balls of dough ... why bake them at the same time.  Put one in fridge for the next day.  Fabulous.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

R in the Month Stew

When I was growing up we were told that the only months that were OK for eating oysters are those with an R in them. Well, it's September, so the season for oysters has begun. Truthfully, I sometimes eat oysters in other months as long as they are local ones. We have companies in our area which grow oysters year-round in Tomales Bay, so there are always some oysters in the right stage of development to be eaten. Still, old tapes are hard to dislodge. September means I can eat oysters and so I do.

Oysters are an acquired taste. If you eat them raw, it is like a slurp of sea brine with a little bit of muscle thrown in. It's hard to imagine why anyone ate them in the first place, but once you get to like them they get a hold on you. I could eat them all the time. Unfortunately they, like most seafood these day, are somewhat expensive, so I save them for a treat.

Tonight's treat was Oyster Stew. Our market had jars of small ones on sale and I had green onions, celery, carrots, parsley, small red potatoes, corn and milk handy, plus some bacon. That, plus some salt, pepper and thyme is all you need to make a warm, hardy bowlful of deliciousness.

There are lots of ways to make Oyster Stew. I started by cooking the red potatoes. Mostly that was because I wanted to keep this a one pot dish. After they were cooked and draining, I used the same pot to cook some bacon, then, after fishing out the cooked bacon, I used the bacon grease to cook the onions, celery and carrots. After that it was a simple matter to drain the oysters, mix a bit of flour with the reserved liquid the oyster had been packed in, and then used that to thicken the milk/veggie combo a bit. Throw in some thyme, salt and pepper, the potatoes, the corn and heat 'em up. Right before you are ready to serve, add the rinsed oysters and stir. Set the timer for 1 minutes, stir again, and let sit one more minute. You'll see the edges of the oysters curl like ruffles on a dress. That's it! Time to ladle the stew into bowls and top with a bit of chopped Italian parsley, then dig in. Mmmm.

Elle's Oyster Stew

3-4 small red potatoes, cut into small bite-sized pieces
3 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 green onions, sliced fine, including part of the greens
1 medium carrot, diced fine
1 stalk celery, diced fine
1 jar small oysters
2-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 -2 cups frozen or fresh corn - if frozen, thaw in the microwave
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped

In a large pot, cook the red potatoes in simmering water until tender. Drain and set aside.
In the same pot, cook the bacon until crisp, turning once or twice for even cooking. Remove the bacon and set aside.

In the same pot, sauté the green onions, carrot and celery in the bacon grease until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
While the veggies cook, drain the oysters in a fine mesh strainer, reserving the liquid they were packed in. Rinse the oysters under cold running water. If the oysters are large, cut them in half. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour and the reserved oyster liquid.  Set aside.
Add the milk, thyme, salt and pepper to the pot of veggies, stirring to release any browned bits on the bottom and sides of the pot. Stir in the flour mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until liquid thickens a bit. Add the reserved potatoes, bacon, and corn. Heat thoroughly but don't boil.

2 minutes before it is time to serve the stew, make sure that the stew is hot, then add the prepared oysters. Set a timer for 1 minutes. When one minute has passed, stir the stew, then let sit a few more seconds. The oyster edges will have ruffled, so you know they are cooked. Ladle stew into bowls and top with a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Serve at once.

Monday, September 09, 2013

This Little Piggie

The enthusiasm for all things bacon is still running high, as far as I can tell, around the blogosphere. Although I need to keep my consumption to a minimum, I do love the flavor and crunch of bacon.

In Sebastopol, in Sonoma County, CA, part of the West County in fact, there is a new foodie haven called The Barlow. Since I've been familiar with Sebastopol for decades, I can tell you that The Barlow area used to be Barlow's cannery. That was from the ancient past when Sebastopol was the central point for the cultivation and harvest of the lovely Gravenstein apple, now a Slow Food apple. Gravensteins are not keepers. They tend to turn to mush over time, as I found out when I tried to store a box of them over the winter during our first year in the area. Best to beat them to it and turn them into some of the best applesauce you'll ever have. Hence the Barlow's cannery operation.

With the inroads that grapes for wine have made in Sonoma County, the acreage planted in Gravensteins (or any apple, really) has fallen off and the cannery has been closed for years.

Now it has been transformed into an area for both retail and wholesale distribution of coffee, wine, beer, bread and baked goods, and...bacon.

Last week I had lunch at Zazu Kitchen and Farm in The Barlow and my friend and I had a yummy pizza that had bacon, but also a delicious artisan crust, slivers of fresh basil and some fresh and toothsome corn, as well as a nice, thin layer of intensely tomato flavored tomato sauceand a nice, light hand with the cheese. I think it was cooked in a wood fired oven, so the crust was crunchy in places and overall the dish was delightful. They also sell the Black Pig bacon used on the pizza. In fact it is made right there at the Barlow.

New establishments are opening every week, so if you happen to be in the area or live in the Bay Area and want to take a day trip, come see The Barlow, especially Zazu before it becomes too crowded to enjoy.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Tomato Love Summer Soup

Given my absurdly successful experiences with starting tomato plants from seed, I am never able to complain of too many tomatoes, but, wow!, there are a lot of them coming ripe at once.

With three pounds of blanched and peeled tomatoes on hand, a take on the classic gazpacho cold tomato soup was easy to accomplish. I still had another two pounds for making pasta sauce, and that's not even counting the endless cherry tomatoes.

This is a refreshing soup with a little crunch. If you prefer really smooth, just keep the blender running longer. If you make a lot of this, you can keep it in a pitcher in the fridge and just pour out some when you need a quick, cool hit of yummy tomato bliss. The addition of red pepper, classic cucumber, and tangy celery gives it a more complex flavor, as does the onion and garlic. Since I'm not a big fan of raw onion or garlic, I sautéed and cooled mine before I adding them to the soup (absolutely not classic!), but you can go with uncooked if you prefer...and it will be faster.

Almost Classic Gazpacho
Serves 4-6

1/2 yellow or white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil (if cooking the onion and garlic)
3 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled
1 cup diced cucumber, peeled if skin is thick
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil, if cooking, until onion is translucent and garlic light brown. Set aside to cool. If not cooking onion and garlic mix them and set aside.

In a blender, combine cooked or uncooked onion mixture, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, red pepper, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Pulse until mixture is of the desired consistency. I like mine a bit chunky, but it can be smooth. If necessary, process in one or two batches. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Turn into a non-reactive bowl or pitcher and chill thoroughly, at least one hour.

To serve, put portions in either glasses or bowls. If desired, garnish with red pepper and/or cucumber cut into a fine dice. Crisp croutons are also a nice garnish. Serve at once while fully chilled.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Strawberry Moon

Summer is still with us, in warm breezes and hot afternoon sun, sultry evenings on the porch, and ripe fruit, too.

On this past Saturday, plain Jane strawberries were transformed by my amazing daughter into boozy, juicy Moonshine Strawberries by the judicious addition of some Strawberry Moonshine, a bit of sugar, and a touch of lemon zest.

On Sunday we enjoyed a summery dessert of butter pound cake slices, softly whipped cream and some of those slightly softened and decadent, just-sweet-enough strawberries. The alcohol had dispersed by then but it added a hint of daring to this lovely dish. There was a tang of lemon here and there to add interest.You could make this with peaches or nectarines, instead and it would still be wonderful.

Moonshine Strawberries Shortcake

2 pints hulled, sliced strawberries
1 shot glass of Strawberry Moonshine
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pint heavy cream
1 loaf pound cake

Combine the strawberries, moonshine, lemon zest and sugar. Let sit in the 'fridge overnight.

In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters or whisk, whisk the cream until soft peaks form. If desired, add a bit of sugar towards the end.

When ready to serve, slice the pound cake. Place a slice on each dessert plate, spoon on some of the strawberries and their juices, dollop on some whipped cream and put a bit more of the strawberries on top. Serve at once.