Friday, March 8, 2013

Going Wild with Onions

 As I was sitting in my kitchen office, watching the lovely sunshine illuminate the utterly unlovely back lawn as revealed by melted snow, I felt the need of some uplifting flavor to keep up my Spring Awakening, and thought about making this bread from Brother Juniper.

 Wild Rice and Onion Bread is a treasure of a recipe. It's both comforting and crisp, with an aroma as it bakes that draws people into the kitchen, hungry looks on their faces. One slice is never enough. It's beyond tried and true-- I've shared it with friends, many places, and then watched my friends share it too. Easy but delicious, with a crisp crackly crust and a soulful flavor that needs no adornment.

 Rolls from this dough are wonderful, or a nice round loaf, decoratively slashed; but frankly I've taken to making long baguettes of it, in order to enjoy more of that savory crust! And the bread is gorgeous to see, speckled with grains that peek out from the crust. The savor and texture of the onion and rice make a for a fresh, hopeful almost-spring nosh.

WILD RICE AND ONION BREAD  from Brother Juniper's Bread Book--
                                                                       Slow Rise as Method and Metaphor, by Peter Reinhart

(Adapted slightly by Amvyn from the CLBB. Thanks, Amy!)

8 C unbleached high-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour
1/3 C chopped dried onions or 1 C diced fresh onions
1/3 C brown sugar
2 Tbsp instant yeast or 2 1/2 dry active yeast, proofed in 4 Tbsp warm water
1 1/2 Tbsp sea salt
1 C cooked & cooled wild rice blend
1/3 C buttermilk
1 1/2 C warm water

Mix all the dried ingredients, including the yeast and rice, in a bowl, then add the liquid ingredients, reserving a little water for later for adjustments during kneading. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead for 10-12 minutes, or until dough is elastic, unified and tacky but not sticky.

Return dough to a clean bowl, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and slip the bowl into a plastic bag. Put it in a warm spot. Allow between 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours for dough to rise/double.

Shape as desired, into 2 loaves or a loaf and rolls, place in greased pans, cover and let rise again, allowing 45-60 minutes for rising. Cut a star pattern in the top, or for rolls, brush with an egg wash made of 1 egg beaten with 1/2 C water. This is a good idea if making baguette, too.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven, for approximately 45 minutes-- rolls will take 12-15 minutes. These loaves are best if sprayed with cold water frequently during the first 10 minutes of baking to make the crust brittle. Cool thoroughly on wire racks before cutting. Makes 2 round loaves, or about medium 15 rolls.
 Serve with soup, or with sandwich makings, or on its own, though a glass of wine would be sooo happy sitting next to a slice of this bread.

 Keep those thoughts of Spring coming! Peace, Mari

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

5 Thrifty Things

Here are five thrifty little ways to use what is in your house, right now, to eat better.

 1. STEMS--

  Don't toss the stems of parsley, cilantro or mint. Tie them with kitchen string or throw them onto a tea ball and let them simmer in whatever you're cooking, to infuse with their flavor after you've used all the leafy parts. In fact, cilantro stems are so tender to start with, you can chop them very fine and use as you would celery, to add flavor and a slight crunch to soups, sautes, chili.

2. ZEST--

 I may have said this before, but I'll repeat it now: citrus fruits are precious and wonderful, especially to those of us in cold climes, so don't throw out the rind. Peel off the washed skin of any and all citrus in irregular sections with a paring knife, and freeze in a ziploc bag or (my choice) freezer container, for up to 6 months. You can take it out of the freezer and use as you would fresh, without thawing. Whether you're making a salad dressing, a sauce, baked goods, a drink, etc., it works perfectly.

3. GO NUTS--

 When you're down to the end of the bag of almonds: a couple handfuls of nuts are just the thing to grind and use to thicken a stew, add to a sandwich filling, use in a dressing for fruit salad. Chop instead and mix with a dash each of cinnamon and cumin, and scatter over chili, curry, rice, a smoothie. Use whole in pasta sauce (sauteed first for a nuttier punch), or to change up your usual fajita vegetables or burrito fillings. Or simply toast in a dry pan with a pinch of sugar or salt and shake of dried spice, then top your next salad with more flavor and nutrition than croutons provide.

4.  POT of GOLD--

 As in lentils (really the red ones cook up as golden-orangey). Or try black, navy pea, dark red kidney, pinto, or some of Rancho Gordo's exotic items, but cook up a big pot of beans on the weekend or any time. Using a slowcooker makes it convenient to cook them while you're busy living, and having them on hand in the fridge means you have a meal starter, adaptable to nearly any ethnic cuisine. You'll be able to whip up an Indian feast of lentils and spinach, pinto and potato curry, or Tex-Mex, Greek, Italian or Southern meals. Coming home to prepped beans makes dinner at least 60% easier for me, and usually has the benefit of making me feel more creative, too, knowing I'm not starting from zero.


 The brine or oil leftover from your last jar of olives, pickles, marinated peppers or artichokes, is NOT garbage-- it's flavor you've already purchased. Don't toss it! Instead, trim and shred/julienne carrots or zucchini, or cukes, or slice onions or peppers, and immerse them in the fluid for several hours to overnight. Now you have homemade pickled veg to perk up a salad, saute or salsa. If using pickle juice, add extra vinegar to lower the overall salt content, and to make it go farther. Also, don't hesitate to try hard pears, lemon rind, or lightly cooked root vegetables. Flavor-boosted veg, almost instantly. It keeps for a week or more before it starts to be visually unappealing. Diced, these tasty gems are nice on top of hot or cold soups, in stews, mashed into a topping for crakers or bruschetta, or simply served on a plate for a pre-meal nibble.

 It's been a weird winter, but I feel Spring rising up. Good eating to you, friends.