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Twirling Spaghetti

It used to be called spaghetti, rigatoni, macaroni, lasagna or whatever noodle it happened to be. I don’t remember calling it pasta. Tonight while I was preparing it, I had a food memory from childhood. It’s a twirling spaghetti technique I don’t see my parents do any more. But, they used to. With a fork, they would spear a clump of pas-ghetti and using a large tablespoon, twirl the spaghetti in the bowl of the spoon, using their fork as a sort of baton, before eating it. It was so grown-up to me and something I didn’t think I could ever master then. I tried it tonight and smiled at the memory.

Breads

I told my daughter yesterday I’d send her two bread recipes from my family files. One’s a super easy yeast bread I dubbed Irene’s bread after our Burlington neighbor who gave it to me. It’s a simple sandwich bread and tasty. Makes great French toast, too.

The other is the perfect Granny banana bread, this from a nurse I used to work with. You could call it Nana bread because it actually is her gran’s recipe!

The recipes:

Irene’s Bread
Combine 2 1/2 c. hot water, 3 Tbsp. sugar, 1 Tbsp. salt, 1/4 c. Oil. Add 2 scant Tbsp. yeast, cover and proof until foamy.
Stir in 6 to 6-1/2 c. Flour total (so 4 to 5 c. white if using whole wheat, too). Knead for 3 minutes til smooth and springy.
Oil dough and let rise in bowl in warm place for 45 min., punch down, let rest for 15 min. Put in 2 greased loaf pans. Put in oven for 10 to 20 min. for last rise. Turn oven to 400* & bake from that time for 35 min. Loaves are done if they sound hollow when you tap them — you’ll know. Cool on racks if you have them. Slather with butter or good olive oil (I like Trader Joe’s Greek Kalamata Olive Oil), and sprinkle with some flaky Maldon sea salt. Enjoy!

Jenn Gratton’s Nana Bread
3 large (or 4 small) very ripe (black is good) bananas
1 c. Sugar (I use a bit less)
1 egg or if veganizing, 1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp. water
Eggshell full or @ 2 Tbsp. oil
1 3/4 c. Flour
1 tsp. baking soda

Mash bananas, add sugar, oil and egg or substitute. Stir. Mix in flour and baking soda together. Don’t over mix, a few lumps are okay (makes a lighter loaf). Bake in greased loaf pan at 350* for 45 min. When knife inserted in loaf comes out clean (no gooey batter on it), turn bread out of pan onto cooling rack to cool. Another yum!

Easy, Good for You Bonbons

After exploring healthy chocolate snacks at assorted food blogs, I developed my own version. I wanted a super easy recipe that needed no food processor (they creep me out) and no microwave or stove for melting ingredients.

Into my bowl went a handful of (about 8) Medjool dates which I pitted and mushed up well with my fingers (as my Irish grandmother used to say “fingers came before forks,” I gladly bow to her wisdom).

I sprinkled in Trader Joe’s almond meal, a bit at a time (a scant 1/2 cup perhaps), mashing it about until I got a consistency I liked and then added a tablespoon (or two) of chocolate chips. I love coconut and added a tiny sprinkle (as I planned to roll the bonbons in coconut afterwards), and finished squishing the mix until it was easy for me to roll it into bonbons. The flakes of coconut were far too big for rolling in — I learned I must get some finely shredded coconut for this. Nevertheless, my “raw” truffles were a delight!

Pasta Club

For Christmas, my daughter and her boyfriend gave me some pastalicious gifts — a pasta making class, and pasta club. The pasta class has me on the hunt for a manual pasta maker, preferably unused, in the box, sitting in one of our local thrift shops. (I gave mine away years ago thinking I’d never use it! Wrong!) Fresh pasta is now like fresh local grapes were for me when I first had them…nothing but fresh and local (my own kitchen if possible!) will do now.

But, in the meantime, I have pasta club and this past Saturday was my first day of it. Major yum and so simple! I picked up fresh tagliatelle, grated butternut squash, fresh thyme and basil, a plug of butter and olive oil, and salty toasted pistachios in several little containers. Included was a take and bake baguette, also!

To make the entree: get your pot of salted water boiling for the pasta. In a cast iron pan, heat the butter and olive oil on medium heat until hot, then add your shredded squash, stirring occasionally as it cooks. When the water’s boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain most of the water out, leaving a wee bit. Dump this in with your squash, lowering the heat and giving it a good stir. Add grated Romano or Parmesan if you’d like, toss well and serve with pistachios and crumbled herbs (I used the thyme…so delicious!). Mangia!

Dishes by Candlelight

We’ve talked about putting a dishwasher in our new old house. The kitchen’s quirky with old cupboards and other features we’d like to keep so we’re leaning to no dishwasher. Or should I say no electric powered, automatic dishwasher. Like my dad used to love to quip when people asked if my mother had a dishwasher, “she has four!” In our case, there will be two, Marty and me, and maybe an unsuspecting guest we might possibly recruit.

We have a window over the kitchen sink and I plan on creating artsy wild bits in our yard, so we’ll have a pleasant view when dish washing. I’m also going to try washing dishes by candlelight. Maybe listen to an audio book. Last spring during a power outage, my Baltimore sister-in-law washed dishes by candlelight for about a week, and found herself enjoying doing the dishes. Candlelight can transform an otherwise tedious or mundane experience into something more special — contemplative, meditative — and in the interests of slowing down and savoring more everyday moments, I am going to give it a go. Just don’t know about the audiobook if there’s a power outage. Might have to learn to use my iPod, or learn to enjoy the wondrous quiet of an evening.

MUST remember FLOUR

Once again, a Heidi recipe hits one outta the ballpark for me. Occasionally, there’s a recipe of hers I’ll try that I don’t like; but
not her sticky kissed teff loaves, another recipe out of her book Super Natural Cooking.

Sadly, while I already know they will be killer tasty, I may not be able to get them out of the pans. Just after putting them in the oven and after more recipe wrangling than I normally do, I realized that while I did butter the pans, I forgot to FLOUR them. I am not a martyr. I was not about to pour the batter back into a bowl, wash the pans and rebutter AND FLOUR them. So my Sticky Kissed Teff Loaves will be very sticky indeed.

Per usual, I tweaked Heidi’s recipe a bit. I didn’t have all of the molasses or any of the honey the recipe called for so I used what molasses I did have, some maple syrup and some brown rice syrup. I had some coconut oil I wanted to use up so I used that in place of half the butter. The sugar I used was grated from the cone I bought at my local Brazilian grocery store, not quite a cup but this recipe will be plenty sweet for me. Can’t wait for it to be out of the oven. I can wait to scrub the pans however. Hmmmpfh, maybe I can get Marty to do them.

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

If Alice validated my love of simple, Heidi encouraged me to experiment. To be adventurous with ingredients I have or don’t have. To seek a foundation for the ingredients I have on hand and adapt a recipe to them. And I’ve been successful! When I was much younger (although it doesn’t seem as much!), I used to think exotic spices, herbs and other ingredients created a great dish. I could not have been more wrong.
I have since learned that good old salt and pepper can be the best seasoning, maybe butter, garlic and olive oil, too.
Heidi does create recipes with ingredients that I would not necessarily consider combining though and her Sweet Potato Spoon Bread recipe is one of them. But, like I said, she taught me to take more risks in the kitchen. After all, if I’m going to live on the edge, the kitchen’s a fairly safe place to do it. So, I gave the spoon bread a try. And it was delish! So good that I have since repeated it and also discovered another blogger’s recipe that is a sweet potato soup with goat cheese biscuits. In the interest of simple and ease though, I use Heidi’s from her cookbook Super Natural Cooking, leaving out the shallots. So it’s basically just the mashed sweet potatoes with some whole wheat pastry flour and eggs stirred in, layered in a casserole with dollops of creamy goat cheese and baked. Even Marty likes it! Super Natural Cooking was the first cookbook I’d bought new in decades. I highly recommend it with the caveat that one way I’ve figured out I must buy a certain book is when I’ve checked it out from the library several times, keeping it on my shelf longer than the library’s probably had it on theirs!

Simple Potato Gratin

Hmmm, what to make for dinner? Truth be told, I love to bake but am not crazy about cooking. Or perhaps I should clarify…involved cooking. I like simple food. Straightforward ingredients. Seasonal and as local as I can get is good, too. This makes me a huge fan of Alice Waters. If I ever needed someone to validate my need to cook (and bake) this way, it is Alice. Why validate? Because Alice elevates simple cooking to the sublime. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be divine. So thank you, Alice, for helping me realize that I am a great cook sometimes and an even better baker most times.
And here is one of Alice’s recipes from The Art of Simple Food: Potato Gratin. For the details, I encourage you to get her book…if you can’t buy it, borrow it from your local library system.

What I use: several potatoes, thinly sliced and layered in a buttered casserole pan. Salted and peppered on each layer. Overlap the layers and if you’d like, layer in some thinly sliced onions or other veggie you may love (even kale!). Marty, me matey, doesn’t like onions so I sprinkle a light layer of smoked Gouda or other cheese we like. When I’ve used up the potatoes, or filled my casserole, I pour a mixture of milk and heavy cream over it to cover the potatoes. Sprinkle on some paprika, maybe some bread crumbs, and bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for about an hour. Serve with greens and/or whatever accompaniments feed your soul at that moment. Breathe deeply and enjoy!

Superheroes, Dolls and Stories, Part 3

Chlorine is another item I am parting with — think I’m gonna redo the photo though — it doesn’t do Andrea’s work justice. I already have another Superhero necklace and plan to someday get more (there’s one I particularly covet), but for now one is all I need. When I received my first Superhero necklace, I could feel its power. I found that interesting — how you can actually feel an artist’s energy in their work. I felt such a connection, it was truly special and personal, the first experience I’d ever had with feeling a connection to someone through their handwork. And it’s so true, her work really does give you super powers — I always feel stronger when I wear my superhero necklace. Andrea’s craftswomanship is superb — these necklaces are built to last. And like Rosa’s work, I believe Andrea’s may be highly collectible someday, too.

I am asking $75. for this including shipping and handling within the USA. Insurance extra. (I’m happy to ship beyond the USA for cost of shipping).

Think Handmade for the Holidays. Please email or comment if you’re interested.