Wednesday, June 02, 2004


My Mother the Dreadful Cook (tm) used to get fancy around holidays and have the obligatory crudite offering alongside the tinned green and black olives. Radishes cut into flowers and crisped in cold water, celery sticks, matchstick carrots, the occasional dill pickle. That was the extent of appetisers growing up and frankly, they weren't all that appetising. What's more, she rationed the olives. Supposedly they were fattening. While I don't care for raw carrots and the like, they can be nice in addition to other offerings and only if nice vegetables are used. Baby snow peas still in the pod are attractive as are baby corn from a tin. I really loathe the idea of a watery bowl of ranch dip. Surely with a bit of experimentation you can come up with a small variety of jams, chutneys, and light dressings that will work in place of the buttermilk-dill glop.

I've always felt that cheese selections did better to conclude a meal than to begin it however that is a personal preference. If you don't mind the obvious stereotypes associated with it, havarti with lingonberry jam and rye bread makes a rather nice start, particularly if you intend to serve a main course of fish (or, ahem-lutefisk).

The following are a few favourites that can be prepared without too much fuss and don't involve cutting up tiny vegetables to be coated in aspic.

White Bean Dip

1 can white beans

1-2 tablespoons olive oil depending on taste

1 teaspoon garlic salt

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Mash the beans, add the rest, and set in icebox for an hour before serving with nice bread or crackers.

Fresh Mozzarella and Basil serves 4

5-6 large basil leaves

1 large ripe tomato

2-3 hunks of fresh mozzarella (sliced)

2 tablespoons olive oil

7-8 oil cured olives

Loaf of crusty bread

Slice bread generously. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Layer slices of tomato, and mozzarella with olives and basil. Top with more oil. Set slices out on a platter and serve chilled.

Dulse Salad Serves 4

Handful of dried dulse,chopped, rinsed and drained.

4 Belgian endives halves, rinsed, dried.

1 Very thinly sliced red onion

16 small capers

vinegar and oil for dressing

Sprinkle the dulse and onion over the endive. Use four capers on each salad and top lightly with dressing. Serve very cold.

The World's Most Overlooked Appetiser:

A glass of tomato juice with a wedge of fresh squeezed lemon. This was very common in restaurants when I was a child but seems to have disappeared from menus in recent years.

White Bread With Milk

This recipe is terribly simple. I learned it rather early on with very few disasters. It certainly is worth noting that good kitchen equipment will ensure better results and that decent heavy bread pans are available for minimal cost at restaurant supply stores. A heavy-duty jelly roll pan also makes a terrific baking sheet.

White Bread With Milk

1 Package active dry yeast

1/4 cup water (105-115 degrees)

2 cups milk, scalded

1/4 cup butter

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

6 cups sifted all purpose flour

Sprinkle yeast into water and let stand for a few minutes, then stir until dissolved. Pour hot milk over butter, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Cool to lukewarm and add the yeast and three cups flour. Mix very well. Add the rest of the flour and knead until smooth. Put in a buttered bowl, turn once to coat, and let rise until doubled-about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down. Let rise for 30 minutes. Shape into two loaves and place in greased 9x5x3 pans. Let rise until doubled (aprox. 45 minutes). Bake in pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 35 minutes. Cool on racks.


This recipe is milchig if you keep kosher. I've baked challahs with vegetable oil however the result is dramatically different in that it produces a much, much softer loaf. This recipe does not lend itself well to substitution with oil. Makes two large loaves.

3 packages active dry yeast

1 1/3 cups warm water (100 to 115 degrees)

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon coarse salt

3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

3 eggs

5 to 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour or bread flour( Gold Medal makes a decent bread flour).

1 egg yolk mixed with one tablespoon water

Poppy seeds and or sesame seeds (optional)

Combine yeast and water in a large bowl. Let stand for a few minutes until bubbles or foam are visible. Add sugar, salt, eggs, butter, and five cups of the flour, a cup at a time. Dough should be VERY stiff. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, use it to knead the dough for about five minutes until it is quite elastic and smooth. If kneading by hand, you have about ten minutes of hard labour ahead of you.

Place the dough in a large buttered bowl, turn once to coat, and cover tightly with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Place it somewhere warm and draft free for 1 1/2 to 2 hors or until doubled in bulk.

Punch the dough down and divide into six equal balls. Roll each ball into a rope and braid three together for each loaf. Pinch ends together well. Place the loaves on a buttered baking sheet. Cover again and let rise until almost doubled (about an hour).

Brush the tops of the loaves with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds (or coarse salt)if desired.

Bake in pre-heated 400 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. Check for hollow sounding bottoms. Cool on racks.

Basic Soda Bread and Variants

This is the first bread I learned to bake, and it is the easiest and most versatile. My first few attempts tasted better than they looked. One time when my Father was visiting shortly after I learned to bake this recipe, he commented, "That bread would go to the bakery thrift shop." Admittedly, soda bread can go a bit lopsided in spite of one's best attempts. Hopefully, your relatives are more polite than mine and will instead marvel over the fact you baked from scratch.

Basic Soda Bread

2 cups unsifted all purpose flour (do not use bread flour for this).

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk (if buttermilk is not available, use regular and add one teaspoon cream of tartar).

Mix the dry ingredients. Add the milk slowly to make a soft, but not soggy dough. Depending upon conditions in the room, you might not need all of the milk. If you do over-add, tossing in a bit of flour won't ruin the bread though it is easier to add milk than remove it)!

Knead on a lightly floured board for about a minute. Don't use a stand mixer for this bread as it will become overworked. Soda bread requires little kneading. Shape the dough into a round loaf, aprox. 8 inches in diameter. On top, cut in a cross, which will cause the bread to split when baking,producing the distinctive top. Place it on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. To test the bread, rap the bottom of the bread with your knuckles-if it sounds hollow, it is done. This bread should be thoroughly baked, and a few extra minutes won't harm it-though burning it is nearly always to be avoided.

I have seen recipes that advise cooling soda bread on its side, which I have not found to be more helpful than a cooling rack, as well as wrapping the loaf in a towel to cool for a softer crust. I rather think the crust is part of what makes soda bread so nice, however depending on your taste, it might prove better.


You can substitute a cup of whole wheat for one of the cups of white though it will produce a "tougher" loaf.

Dried herbs such as basil or oregano( or any others you prefer) may be added to the dry ingredients to make an herbed loaf.

1/2 cup dried currants make a nice addition.

Some people prefer a sweeter loaf. Sugar, white or brown can be added to taste.

For Cinnamon Bread- Add 1/2 cup raisins or currants, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 cup packed brown sugar.

Scones From Same Recipe

Roll dough out thickly and cut into triangles. Brush tops lightly with an egg was (one yolk plus one tablespoon water)for sweet scones, sprinkle with sugar. For savouries, either top with cheese, seeds, or herbs.

Pizza Scones

Prepare basic white soda bread recipe except adding one tablespoon each dried basil and oregano to dry ingredients. After adding milk, toss in about ten oil cured olives that have been finely chopped. Roll out and cut into triangles. Do not overwork the dough.
Brush tops with egg wash and top generously with shredded cheese-about a cup (mozzarella, fontina, Parmesan, etc. it is a matter of personal taste).Bake for about 20 minutes or until tops are deep brown-check frequently. Allow to cool completely before serving Makes 6-8 depending on size.


Bread baking isn't an exact science as something as simple as the amount of humidity in the air or the draftiness of your kitchen can make or break a successful loaf. That shouldn't serve as discouragement. With practise, a baker will be able to gauge the way a dough is coming together and add more flour until the desired results are achieved. True, it is immensely difficult to describe the correct feel a dough ought to have. Cookbooks often rely on standard words such as "elastic", "satiny", or "smooth." Those terms are rather useless if you are baking a particular recipe for the first time. Besides, one baker's satiny is another baker's taut.

Another common dilemma facing first time bakers are instructions such as "proof the yeast." That can, and often does mean anything the author wants it to. Proofing yeast can mean dissolving it in water and sugar to see if it is still active. It can mean waiting until the yeast and warm water has a large foamy crown. Proofing can also mean something as simple as looking for small bubbles in the yeast mixture indicating activity. As a rule, letting the yeast sit too long won't likely damage the end product unless otherwise noted in the recipe.

I used to ruin a good number of baking sheets. After a short period of use they would begin to accumulate a brown sticky, burned-on substance that could not be scoured away. It was only after I switched to greasing the pans with butter that I realised the non-stick spray was to blame for the damage. It is my feeling that non-stick spray will not save you much by way of calories in bread baking to make it worth the trouble of ruining pans. I have not found Silicone baking pads to be helpful with bread, though I really like them for pastry. An exception to this will be discussed in cakes and pastry where cooking sprays that include flour are concerned. With intricate molds the sprays are often the easiest way to treat the surface.

The recipes in this section are rather simple to prepare though I strongly encourage you to gather the ingredients ahead of time and read through the instructions once or twice. While I have never had much of a problem with substitutions such as skim milk for whole, others that involve wheat flour for white can be more complicated. Bearing that in mind, it might be wise to adhere to the recipes until you have a better feel for adding/deleting/substituting ingredients. Where a substitution is obvious, I will note it.

I Can't Believe I Ate The Whole Blog!

Welcome to Eat The Blog! My initial thought was to title the site, "Eat This!" but then I thought better of it. For years, friends have been after me to publish my recipes, and thoughts about them. This is the result.