Monday, February 25, 2013

Soda Bread

"When owlish eyes are smilin'..."
(Yeah, we're doing an owl theme here)

This soda bread is my new favourite bread. I cannot believe how good it is. Usually, my attitude towards soda bread is that it was a bread that wanted to be a bannock. Well, I haven't tried wrapping this wround a twig and baking it over a campfire, but really, I couldn't expect more from a loaf of brown soda bread. The original recipe called for all manner of herbs-I thought that would be odd with the caraway and raisins, so I left them out. I skipped the wheat germ as well because I was too lazy to open a new box (that's the truth, god I'm pathetic). Still, I couldn't ask for better bread, and I know what I'll be having for breakfast tomorrow.

I used kefir in place of the buttermilk, as I always have that on hand.

The recipe comes from Beth Hensperger's wonderful book, The Best Quick Breads (and they are)

You Will Need:

2 cups plain flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons bicarb
Pinch caraway seeds (I used about 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins
1 1/4 cups cold buttermilk
5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet. Sift dry ingredients together.

In another bowl, combine buttermilk, melted butter, and egg. Whisk until combined. Add to the dry ingredients, and mix just until it comes together. Handle this dough as little as possible. Divide in two. Pat into rounds, and cut a cross in the top of each loaf. Bake 35-40 minutes or until brown and crusty. Cool loaves on the baking sheet.

Serve warm or cold, but bear in mind it slices best when cool, but crumbly soda bread is nice as everyone knows the crumbled pieces don't have calories.

I made some whipped butter to serve with the bread-perfect. 

Going Caker

...but not completely as I didn't use Velveeta. I did buy a brick of the stuff last weekend though. I was attracted to the special collector's edition Daytona 500 box. I wish I were joking. Anyway, if I'd had the Velveeta, I'd have used it here.

Mr. ETB thinks I'm having some sort of reaction to all the pretentious food blogging on the web. That's not completely wrong, but I don't think this particular meal was a conscious rebellion. I mean, if I want to wage class warfare, I don't need stale bread, and a Pyrex dish to do it.

What I used:

Stale yeast bread made with corn meal
Sliced tomato
Tinned Corn
Spaghetti Sauce
Colby/Jack cheese

And probably some salt and pepper, but not too much because the corn and sauce were pretty salty.

What I did:

I made something you could call a savoury bread pudding, or a strata, or French toast with cheese and corn, or god, I don't know what I did, but Mr. ETB loved it (once he got over the initial shock because this clearly ain't the sort of thing he walks through the door expecting.

A few hours before dinner, slice the bread and soak it in a combination of eggs/milk/cream or whatever your arteries think is good. I used about 6 egg whites, and 4 whole eggs. Maybe 2 cups of milk. Since this was a cleaning out the fridge kind of meal, I wasn't being too particular. Grease your pan. Just do it-you'll thank me. Lay out a layer of egg soaked slices of bread. Place a heap of corn on each one, add a slice of tomato, and some cheese. Top with another slice of soaked bread, and repeat. When you are all done, pour any remaining liquid over the bread. It should just nearly cover-if not, add more milk, cream, whatever. Now cover it, and let it sit in the fridge several hours.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cover the top of the dish with foil. Bake 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake another 30 until cheese is golden, and most of the liquid is soaked up. Before serving, add your spaghetti sauce (warmed) and extra cheese if you want to get all fancy.

I might as well confess to having served this with a pear salad on cottage cheese with French dressing. If I had some lime Jell-O I'd....I'd probably be in 1973. This dinner nearly was, but it was enjoyed (and not just for the novelty) and it reheated nicely the next day.

Purim Treats

"Hey, wait a, OK why not, we're an interfaith family. I don't want to hear a *peep* about it. 
Danny made the butterfly and ladybirds. We've made this cake together before-it has become a Purim tradition for us.

How to Bake Whole Trout-and Barley With Zaatar

I removed the head, tail, and bones (mostly) as the kiddo is on the squeamish side. My fish was on the small side, so adjust accordingly for your needs.

For the Filling:

A combination of dry breadcrumbs, crackers (I had vegetable Breton crackers) about a tablespoon of finely minced preserved lemon peel (or the grated zest of a lemon if that's what you have), 2 finely minced garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon (use more if you like, mine was pretty recently dried and quite strong) Salt/pepper, and about 1 cup of chopped, fresh spinach leaves.

You're looking at me funny, so I'll explain- the spinach will give off just enough moisture to soften the breadcrumbs without creating a mush. You don't need to precook the greens. Now stop looking at me funny.

I use foil to bake fish, but if you're handy at folding parchment, feel free to use it. Oil the foil (rhyme time!) with some olive oil so your fish won't stick. Place the fish on the centre of the foil, fill with the bread/spinach mixture. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, then seal in the pouch. Bake at 450 degrees F. for about 20-25 minutes.

With my extra spinach I made a saute of red pepper and sweet onions tossing in the spinach at the last. 

For the Barley:

1 cup medium pearl barley
water to cover
Vegetable stock

Soak 30 minutes. Rinse well, drain. Place in saucepan with enough vegetable stock to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated-about 40 minutes. Drain, rinse well under cold water to remove excess starch. Toss with about a tablespoon of zataar. Reheat, or serve at room temperature.

*I make a sumac free zataar due to allergy. Mine is equal parts marjoram and oregano with 1/2 part thyme, a few fennel seeds, and a few tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds. Grind it all lightly together, and store in the fridge.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Storm Wasn't Much...

...but the fire was impressive.

So last night, I'm looking out the kitchen window doing dishes as the neighbours are burning a pit fire. This is normal enough-they probably wanted to get it done ahead of a storm to help put out any smoldering-normal every day stuff of country living.

I watched for a bit thinking it looked pretty large, given they'd just done a substantial burn recently. I live about 300 yards from the rubbish pit. There was an East wind last evening, so it was blowing our way. Again, I didn't really think much of it-until I saw four firetrucks come up the drive, and the County sheriff shortly after. Well, I guess that shows how much I know about what's "everyday". I should point out that they burn our rubbish as well, so it isn't like I have a problem with a fire pit, or their handling of it. These things happen, even to the most experienced.

With a huge storm coming (that turned out to be much less large than anticipated) I wondered if we'd have to be grabbing documents, and fleeing. But really, even with the firetrucks lining the drive, I wasn't all that worried. I've probably lived here too long. I heated a pot of beans on the stove, and joked to Danny-at least if I burn them, I know where to find the fire department! He wasn't amused. He did enjoy watching all the flashing lights.

It took a bit, but they got it under control, and all is well. Our fire department is all volunteer, and they do a great job with the various sorts of fires you get in a rural community. Brush fires are about as common as leaving the beans on an unattended burner (I didn't burn the beans, in case you were wondering).

Looking outside (it is about 5 PM) the snow appears to have ended-I doubt we got three inches. We're expecting another storm later in the week, and hopefully it will turn out to be a non-event as well. Mr. ETB got a day off work, and I gave Danny a day off school because homeschooled children rarely get a snow day.  We spent the day enjoying doing nothing.

Parve Hamentaschen Dough

I made two batches of hamentaschen this week-one with a butter-cookie base, the other with oil. We still can't decide which we prefer. The oil dough, which I'll give the recipe for here is crisper, and would be excellent dunked in tea. To keep the comparisons fair, I used the same fillings (apricot, prune, and poppy) in both batches.

This recipe comes from Kosher Cookery, Frances r. AvRutic 1991.

4 large eggs
3/4 cup oil (I used corn oil)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
4 1/2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Glaze: 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Make dough at least an hour before rolling out as it needs to chill.

Combine eggs, oil, sugar, lemon rind, and lemon juice. Beat until smooth. Sift together dry ingredients, and add to egg mixture. Mix well. Divide dough in half, wrap in cling film and chill.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Assemble your fillings. Grease a baking sheet.

I found it easier to roll this dough between pieces of cling film, which enabled me to avoid toughening the dough with extra flour. It is a very soft dough.

Use a 2-3 inch round cutter. Roll dough about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Plop a bit of filling in the centre, then fold up into a triangle. Place on baking sheet. Lightly brush hamentaschen with the egg mixture. Bake about 20 minutes (the recipe said 30, but that was much too long) but start checking at 15. You may wish to rotate the pan. Cool on racks. Makes about 40 hamentaschen.

Monday, February 18, 2013

When a Storm Threatens...

...bake beans. Sure, you can stock up on bread and milk if that's your style of pre-storm panic (OK, I admit I bought bottle of vodka, but only because being snowed in for any length of time always makes me think, "Shit, this would be a good time to read the Gulag Archipelago", and who the hell wants to read that without vodka? ). Anyway, the storm isn't due until late Wednesday evening, so I have plenty of time to make a batch of baked beans, and steamed brown bread. The beans are soaking as I type.

The thing that kills me? We've had insanely beautiful weather since that single storm in December-60 degree days, plants coming up, bees for god's sake-now we get a blizzard when I have tickets to the opera. This crap better blow out of here by 2 PM Sunday afternoon, or I'm going to be really unpleasant to be around. These were not inexpensive tickets, but I wanted Danny's first opera experience to be memorable. I informed Mr. ETB that if it really looks like we might get a second storm at the weekend, I'm booking a hotel room downtown. He's in agreement. I might have put on my angry face to drive home the point.

Right, the beans. I don't really follow a recipe other than including the basics-molasses, brown sugar, mustard powder, smoked salt (because we don't do bacon or salt pork) sometimes a bit of paprika if I'm feeling adventurous. I've seen everything from marmalade to pineapple, to maple syrup and bourbon go into beans, but I suppose this is where I embrace a, "less is more" approach. Really, the only thing baked beans need is time-about 6-8 hours after the initial bean cooking. Cook them slow, and you'll be rewarded with something you can serve over toast, baked potatoes, or cold between slices of white bread (don't pretend you don't do that).

Also on the agenda-hamentaschen. I have fruit and poppyseeds soaking for the fillings, and the dough is already chilling in the fridge. I make the cookie type rather than the yeast raised, but only because they freeze better (we always have far too many). A hamentaschen is basically a kolache, but shaped in a triangle. Jews eat them at the Purim holiday because they resemble the ears on the villain of the story, Haman. Or his hat, depending on who tells the story. Either way, they are nearly identical to kolache, and the fillings-typically poppyseed, prune, or apricot are similar as well. I know a woman that makes rhubarb kolache, but I don't think my boys would put up with that in their hamentaschen. I still don't understand how the two people I love more than anyone else could be rhubarb haters. I mean, I still love them, but I do wonder what the hell is wrong with them.

So, I've got beans, vodka, hamentaschen and the Gulag Archipelago to get me through the next few days-and that snow better be done by 2 PM Sunday afternoon.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Great Backyard Bird Count Weekend

 Oh look, a winter scene with birds!

Yes, the birds are larger than the tree.

You are counting birds, aren't you?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Not My Best Day

When I missed the sink, and spit my toothpaste down my blouse (whitening toothpaste will bleach a teal blouse, by the way) I should have called it a day, and returned to bed. Instead, I dragged the child out to run errands. When the "Low Coolant" light came on, and the dash began the furious dinging that is supposed to alert you that this isn't something you can just shrug off, and go about your day, I pulled into the closest repair shop I could find (a tyre place with a good reputation, so that was lucky). That's when my life got a little David Lynch-ish.

I watched as the much-too-neatly groomed mechanic without any visible dirt on him poured coolant into the tank. Ever meet people that speak like they are reciting lines, even when the interaction doesn't seem like a script-able thing? Well yeah, it was like that. Yes, why yes it was.

"Hey, I don't want to micro-manage you but..." I pointed to the trail of liquid pouring out the radiator onto the ground.

You'd think being stuck at a mechanic a good fifty miles from home with a bored kid, and a strange attendant would be bad enough-and it was pretty bad. There aren't too many things that could make it more uncomfortable, or at least that was what I thought until I settled into the waiting room with Danny to find the movie I loathe more than all other movies blaring from the large television set.  I called Mr. ETB, explained that we'd likely need to replace the radiator, and then, as more than twenty years together affords a couple, he asked if they have magazines, and I replied there was a television, and asked him to guess what movie I would be forced to watch for the next hour or so.

"Groundhog Day?"

I tell him we can't ever divorce. I sit watching Groundhog Day, thinking about Purgatory, and how much the radiator is going to cost. Two hours later, the part comes in, and they start working on the car. All the while, the attendant who now really reminds me of the cop from Twin Peaks, keeps calling me by the diminutive of my name. My family won't dare to call me by the diminutive of my name. I say nothing. I try not looking at the television, but all they have is People Magazine, which clearly isn't about any "people" I can relate to. I'm not really certain they are people at all, but computer-generated fictions. The attendant leaves briefly, I imagine him going to the diner for pie. The young-ish woman at the counter in his absence looks like she's just in from hiding bodies, but short sleeved  Oxford shirts make everyone look that way.  I notice she's been picking at her face recently, as the bloodied spots are still oozing a bit.

I can't stand it anymore. Danny asks if he can have the remote to change the channel, and it turns out that's fine. He promptly switches it to the Weather Channel, which isn't all that different from watching Groundhog Day as the same reports rotate through. Maybe this *is* Purgatory. I try looking at People again, but I can't concentrate. I've had a headache for a couple weeks now-on and off, sometimes really intense, but mostly just sort of there, screwing with me. Danny switches to the channel that runs a stock ticker across the screen. The Dow is down, he tells me like I have any investments to care about. My head is killing me.

We finally get through, get out, and on the road. I attempt to switch lanes only to have a crazed mini-van come barreling up on me from at least fifty yards back, ensuring I would be unable to get over. I watch the car pass me, weave in-and out of traffic. I finally get along side her, and flip her off while mouthing something she could clearly understand before she sped off yet again. It was only as she drove ahead that I noticed the sign painted to the mini-van door; Organ Transport. I really, really hope this isn't Purgatory, or I'm going to have to go back, and get a do-over on that one.

Friday, February 08, 2013


-no, not here...we had bees buzzing around in the 60 degree sun the other day (that was so freaky) but back east. I am really glad I don't live in Boston tonight. Or tomorrow. Or the day after because digging your car out of three feet of snow is going to suck. I lived there for over ten years, but I never remember the road being shut down, or the National Guard being activated. I guess '78 is still enough of a memory that people don't want to take chances. If you're in Boston, and reading this-hey, you still have power! Or a mobile signal. You probably have milk and bread. You did stock up on milk and bread, right? I mean, it doesn't matter if you're coeliac, and lactose intolerant-tradition dictates you stock up on milk, and bread. I don't make the rules.

The crazy thing is, I keep hearing about the snow out there and get all racy-heartbeat worried. I hope everyone stays safe, and that no bastards try to steal your parking space after you dig it out, and leave a chair in it. Really, people-you don't take someone's space they spent hours digging out. That's just wrong. Wrong. I know the city has changed in the last couple decades, but it is still, you know...wrong. Don't steal spaces.

Be safe, Boston. Holy god, three feet of snow.

Chocolate Banana Tart

 I dunno Feathers, I heard her tell the kid it was, "Mouse-like", but it sure don't look like any mouse I know. I'm an adventurous eater and all...hey remember that time we was up Canada way and had those lemmings? Man, it was like all you had to do was sit at the bottom of the cliff, and the food just fell into your caw! I don't think this is mouse, Feathers. It looks like something you'd find at the bottom of a bog. You gonna try it? I'm going to check the traps the lady human keeps under the basin-better chance of finding a mouse I'd be comfortable calling dinner. But hey Feathers, go ahead and tuck in without me.

I've made my share of chocolate/banana/pies, but this one is noteworthy for being extremely rich, without being overly sweet. It is also a colossal pain in the arse to make. Colossal. There are probably easier ways to deal with a bunch of overripe bananas-but I can truthfully say, this is worth the effort. This is the fifth recipe I've made from this cookbook, and all have been excellent, if not a bit tricky to prepare.

Recipe from, Chocolate by, Nick Malgieri 1998

For the Crust:

1 cup plain flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
1 large egg
A few drops of water if needed

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter until fine. Beat egg lightly, then add to dough and mix just until it comes together. Add a few drops of water if dough is too dry. Gather into a ball, flatten to a disk, Wrap in cling film and chill several hours before rolling out.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line pie plate or tart pan with crust (I used a pie plate). Line insdie of dough with foil, then fill with dried beans (or pie weights if you have them). Bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans, and bake another 5-10 minutes until done. Because the dough is dark, you'll have to watch it carefully. I like to cool my blind baked shells on a rack, but if it feels too fragile to remove from the plate, just cool it in the tin on a rack.

Meanwhile, make the filling:

1 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch (cornflour)
3 egg yolks
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chopped small
3/4 cup whipping cream
3 large bananas, sliced

Heat milk and sugar in a saucepan to boiling. In a heatproof bowl, combine egg with the cornstarch dissolved in about 1 tablespoon of water (use more if you need it). Beat boiling milk in a stream into egg mixture, then return it to the pan. Cook over medium heat until it thickens. Remove from heat, whisk in chocolate. Scrape into a bowl, place cling film directly on the filling (or if you're paranoid about plastic, use a buttered piece of wax paper) Chill. Whip cream and set aside in fridge.


When filling is cold, fold in whipped 3/4 cup of cream. Fold in sliced bananas.   Whip 1 cup heavy cream with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Use this to top the pie. Decorate with chocolate shavings. I just made a batch of banana chips, so I employed them as well.