spelt crackers

spelt crackers 5

I’ve had one of those weekends that make people say goofy things about how they need another weekend to recover from their weekend. I’m blaming the holidays, although not all of my extra projects are holiday-related. In particular, the dinner party I’m co-hosting on Thursday is dominating a lot of my kitchen time this week, since it’s on a weekday so everything I’m in charge of needs to be done in advance.

spelt crackers 1

But I still managed to squeeze in time to make these crackers – twice. Not only do they only have three ingredients – water, salt, and fancy flour – those ingredients don’t require any complicated steps. There’s no kneading and no resting, just a quick stir before the dough is ready to be rolled out.

spelt crackers 3

Twenty minutes in the oven and just like that, you have crackers. Crackers so good that Dave said, “These are homemade? But they’re just like real crackers!” Fresh crisp crackers, baked brie topped with roasted red peppers and garlic, and a glass of wine make the perfect break from weekend chores.

spelt crackers 7

One year ago: Comparison of 3 Bolognese Sauce recipes
Two years ago: Bourbon Pound Cake

Printer Friendly Recipe
Spelt Crackers (barely adapted from The New York Times Magazine via Smitten Kitchen)

4-6 servings

The original recipe calls for white spelt flour, but I don’t know what I used. In fact, I bought my spelt flour in the bulk section at the same time I bought barley flour, and I mixed them up and don’t know which I used. The crackers turned out great regardless.

I didn’t flour the pan generously enough the first time and had some issues with the dough and then the baked crackers sticking. I tried spraying the pan with oil the second time instead of flouring, which made rolling a lot easier, but the crackers weren’t as crisp. From now on, I’ll stick with flour but be sure to use plenty of it.

¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup water
1½ cups spelt flour, plus more for flouring surface
Coarse sea salt, dried onion bits, poppy seeds and sesame seeds, or a seed combination of your choice

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Dissolve the salt in the water. Stir in the spelt flour until a ball forms.

3. Generously flour an overturned 12-by-17-inch cookie sheet and roll out the dough on top of it, using as much flour as needed to prevent sticking, until the dough covers the sheet from edge to edge. Using a spray bottle filled with water, spray the dough to give it a glossy finish. Prick the dough all over with a fork. If you choose, sprinkle with sea salt or seeds. For neat crackers, score the dough into grids.

4. Bake until the dough is crisp and golden, 15 to 25 minutes. Break into pieces and serve.

spelt crackers 4

steel cut oatmeal with maple sauteed apples

oatmeal maple sauteed apples 6

On a holiday, who wants cold cereal and milk for breakfast? No, something special is in order for the morning of Thanksgiving, but with a day of feasting ahead, it’s nice to get a somewhat healthy start. And with a day of cooking ahead, breakfast can’t be too complicated.

oatmeal maple sauteed apples 1

Steel-cut oatmeal fits the bill perfectly. Because steel-cut oats take the better part of an hour to cook, you’re probably saving it for weekends already. The oatmeal itself is healthy, but the caramelized apples make it a treat without overdoing the decadence first thing in the morning.

oatmeal maple sauteed apples 2

Steel-cut oatmeal isn’t mushy like oatmeal made from rolled oats is. The larger chunks of groats never completely soften, so it’s almost like eating tapioca pudding for breakfast – if tapioca pudding was packed full of fiber. It tastes nutty and slightly sweet on its own, especially after being toasted, but slices of browned apples make this oatmeal just right for a holiday – without being so decadent that it can’t be enjoyed any weekend.

oatmeal maple sauteed apples 4

One year ago: Shredded Beef Tacos
Two years ago: Pumpkin Mushroom Soup
Three years ago: Decorated Sugar Cookies

Printer Friendly Recipe
Steel-Cut Oatmeal (from Cooks Illustrated)

Serves 4

3 cups water
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup steel-cut oats
¼ teaspoon table salt

1. Bring the water and milk to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat until just beginning to foam; add the oats and toast, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until golden and fragrant with a butterscotch-like aroma, 1½ to 2 minutes.

2. Stir the toasted oats into the simmering liquid, reduce the heat to medium-low; simmer gently, until the mixture thickens and resembles gravy, about 20 minutes. Add the salt and stir lightly with the spoon handle. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon handle, until the oats absorb almost all of the liquid and the oatmeal is thick and creamy, with a pudding-like consistency, about 7 to 10 minutes. Off the heat, let the oatmeal stand uncovered for 5 minutes. Serve immediately with maple sautéed apples.

Maple Sautéed Apples (slightly adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

2 tablespoons (¼ stick) unsalted butter
3 large firm apples (about 1½ pounds), peeled, cored, cut into ½-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon plus ½ cup pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the apples and 1 tablespoon maple syrup; sauté until the apples are tender, about 5 minutes. Mix in the remaining ½ cup maple syrup and cinnamon; simmer until slightly reduced, about 1 minute.

oatmeal maple sauteed apples 5

honey nut scones

honey nut scones 6

I made these for the first time almost three years ago, in the beginning of my scone phase, which has now become a scone way of life. While it is undeniably convenient to keep a stash of unbaked scones in the freezer that just need to be popped in the oven, my favorite part of scones is how easy they are to eat, not just to bake. A warm scone, a cup of coffee, and a food magazine make for a perfect weekend morning.

honey nut scones 1

I’m under no illusions that a smidgen of whole wheat flour in place of white makes these scones healthy; instead, the whole grains, plus the use of honey as the only sweetener, provides a wonderful earthiness to the scones, making them the ideal vehicle for jam or apple butter.  These are so good they might not even require a food magazine to make a perfect weekend morning – but the coffee is non-negotiable.

honey nut scones 3

Jeannette chose these scones for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted.  The only change I made was to double the salt, since I like my baked treats saltier than Dorie usually recommends.

Two years ago: Sandwich Rolls
Three years ago: Phyllo Triangles with crawfish and mushroom fillings

honey nut scones 4

cornmeal and bacon loaf

bacon cornbread 4

It’s impossible to get burned out on food fads in smalltown southeastern New Mexico. There are no cupcake shops (heck, there isn’t any kind of bakery), no restaurants topping their food with foam, and bacon stays where it belongs – next to eggs, not in desserts.

bacon cornbread 3

Not that adding bacon to cornbread is particularly trendy, but I naively fell for the naming trickery of this bread and didn’t realize until I was eating it that “cornmeal loaf” is cornbread. In this case, cornbread with bacon and without any fruit, as I didn’t want to confuse the issue of whether this was a dessert or breakfast. With a poached egg on top and savory bits of bacon mixed in, this is classic breakfast all the way.

bacon cornbread 7

Caitlin, who evidently can’t resist the combination of fruit and cornmeal, chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the full recipe posted. I substituted whole wheat pastry flour for half of the whole wheat flour, left out the fruit, reduced the sugar to ⅓ cup, and added 6 strips of cooked chopped bacon, as recommended by Dorie in her savory variation.

One year ago: Espresso Chocolate Shortbread
Two years ago: Lime Meringue Pie
Three years ago: Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

bacon cornbread 8

farro and pine nut salad

farro tabbouleh 6

It’s a good thing I really like farro, because I accidentally bought 26 dollars worth of it. Apparently I need to pay more attention to the prices on the bulk bins. I should also start enjoying barley or wheat berries or some other equally healthy grain that doesn’t cost $12 per pound. (I actually looked at the prices the next time I was at the store, and farro cost about five times as much as the other grains.)

farro tabbouleh 1

I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is about farro that I like so much. I don’t think the flavor of the different grains are so different that I notice a big difference once dressing and other ingredients are mixed in, so it must be more textural. It’s all about a balance of the tender and the chewy. Rice is soft and tender. Barley is very chewy. Farro is just right.

farro tabbouleh 3

Usually I mix it with caramelized onions and feta, which, with a squirt of hot sauce, becomes one of my favorite meals that also happens to be incredibly healthy. But having two pounds of farro is good incentive to branch out. There are few things that aren’t improved with the addition of summer vegetables, pine nuts, chickpeas, and a squirt of lemon juice, farro included. It looks like I have another delicious farro meal that also happens to be healthy.

farro tabbouleh 4

One year ago: Grilled Potato and Vegetable Salad
Two years ago: Casatiello
Three years ago: Soba Salad with Feta and Peas

Printer Friendly Recipe
Farro and Pine Nut Salad (adapted from Self magazine via epicurious)

If you choose a grain other than farro, your cooking time will probably be different.

The original recipe included jalapenos, which is why they’re shown in the photo above, but I decided not to use them.

1 cup farro (or another whole grain, such as wheat berries, barley, or brown rice)
salt
1 clove garlic, unpeeled
¼ cup pine nuts
Juice from 1 lemon
½ small red onion, very thinly sliced
2 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped, or 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 small cucumber, quartered and sliced ⅛-inch thick
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup feta, crumbled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Bring 2 quarts of water to a roiling boil; add the farro and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cook for 20 minutes, until the farro is tender but slightly chewy. Drain.

2. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into a large bowl; add the onions and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

3. Heat a small not-nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and toast it, turning once, until browned, about 2 minutes. Remove the garlic from the pan. Add the pine nuts to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and slightly browned, 3-4 minutes. Remove from the pan. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, peel and mince it.

4. Stir the drained farro into the onion vinegar mixture, then add the remaining ingredients. Let the salad stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before serving.

farro tabbouleh 5

whole wheat almond bread

almond bread 5

I’m not always as practical as I should be. Once I get an idea in my  head, I stubbornly cling to it regardless of whether it makes good sense. For example, yesterday I gathered up my laptop, its mouse, a glass of water, and a bowl of farro and lentils and carried it about twenty feet. The mouse kept falling, the water was sloshing over the rim of the glass, and the bowl was sliding around, precariously balanced on top of the laptop. Why didn’t I just make two trips, which probably would have taken less time in the end?  It is a mystery.

almond bread 2

Why didn’t I bake at least one of the loaves of almond bread in a regular bread pan that I’m familiar with? Why did I insist on baking both loaves in closed pans even though I have no experience baking in covered pans and didn’t know how it would affect the baking time or how I would test for doneness?

almond bread 4

My mom found these pans during a mass cleaning of my grandmother’s kitchen, and although they were in their original packaging, there were no baking instructions with them. And the toothpick test doesn’t work when the center of your bread is five inches from the edge of the pan. The outside few inches of each loaf were perfectly baked, slightly sweet, and intensely nutty. The middle portions were doughy, slightly sweet, and intensely nutty. And that was the case for both loaves, because I just had to take a chance with the whole batch instead of taking the safe route with at least one of them. Typical.

almond bread 3

One year ago: Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Two years ago: Aligot (French Mashed Potatoes)
Three years ago: Poached Eggs with Arugula and Polenta Fingers

Printer Friendly Recipe
Whole Wheat Almond Bread (adapted from Joy the Baker)

Makes 2 small loaves

This is the baking time for a regular, uncovered bread pan. In a covered pan like I used, increase the baking time to 50-60 minutes and use a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the loaf to test for doneness.

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups (9.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sliced, toasted almonds, divided
4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup honey
2 large eggs
1½ cups almond milk
¼ teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 8.5 by 4.5-inch bread pans with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and almonds. In a medium bowl, whisk together honey, eggs, milk and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Fold until the batter is evenly mixed; small lumps of flour are okay.

3. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf comes out dry. Set the pans on a wire rack and cool 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge of the pans; invert onto the wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

almond bread 6

tartine country bread

Sometimes I’ll be reading a recipe, and it’ll say “we simplified this horribly long complicated process with very little effect on the outcome!” and I always think, “nooo! I want to know the horribly long complicated process!” That’s why I made traditional lasagne Bolognese and barbecued a pork shoulder on the grill. And that is why I have now made bread without any commercial yeast – just the wild stuff.

That means that this bread takes at least a week from start to finish, probably a few days longer. Is it worth it? Oh, who knows. I’ve made some pretty fantastic bread using Peter Reinhart’s recipes too. But this isn’t about one loaf of bread. It’s about having a mixture of old fermented flour and wild fungus in your refrigerator, available to add just a little extra oomph to any bread you make.

I’ve jotted down the outline of Tartine’s Country Bread recipe below, but the beauty of this method goes far beyond this one loaf of bread, extraordinary though it may be. Because this isn’t about making sourdough bread. Tartine’s country bread isn’t sour, but it has a layer of complexity to it, a sweet savory-ness that makes it really special, not to mention the beautiful burnt red crust.

Chad Robertson has pages and pages of information in his book (and Martha Stewart has a tutorial on her site); my version here is merely the cliff notes. But the key here isn’t the nitpicky mixing, turning, rising, shaping directions. The key is that magical stinky starter you created. And with the starter mixture in your fridge, you have the power to add some of that complexity to every bread recipe you make. When I mix up a whole wheat pre-dough that uses yeast, I mix in some of this starter instead of instant yeast, which has resulted in some exceptional bagels recently. I’ve also started using the country bread dough for pizza, which makes for a bubbly crust with the bottom so crisp it’s almost crackly. This is why I like to know the whole horribly long complicated process – not only is the outcome often truly special, but it gives me the confidence to take the method and adapt it for my own needs.

One year ago: Turkey Burgers
Two years ago: Potato Galette
Three years ago: Orange Vanilla Opera Cake

Printer Friendly Recipe
Tartine’s Basic Country Bread (rewritten from Tartine Bread)

Makes 2 large loaves

The only ingredients in this bread are flour, water and some salt at the end. However, they’re mixed at so many different stages in the process that I’ve chosen not to include an ingredient list. Instead, the ingredients are bolded in the directions.

For pizza, I like to add a squeeze of honey (or a spoonful of sugar) to the dough to help it brown in the oven. The bread doesn’t get the same beautiful burnished color as the loaf because it isn’t covered while it bakes.

Make the starter:

I’ve provided precise measurements here, but it isn’t necessary to follow them exactly as long as your starter always has the consistency of a thick batter.

1. Mix ½ cup room temperature filtered water with ½ cup white bread flour and ½ cup whole wheat flour. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set aside in a cool, shaded spot for two days.

2. Check the culture to see if any bubbles have formed around the sides and on the surface. If not, let it sit for another day. The culture is ready when it smells like stinky cheese and tastes very acidic. It’s okay if a dark crust has formed on top.

3. Discard three-quarters of the culture. To the remaining culture, add ¾ cup water, 6 tablespoons white bread flour and 6 tablespoons whole wheat flour. Stir vigorously until there are no lumps. Repeat this step once a day until…

4. Your starter is finished when it behaves in a predictable pattern after each feeding, from stinky and sharply acidic before feeding and sweet and milky just after feeding. The volume should increase for several hours after feeding, then begin to collapse.

To store and keep your starter: Lightly covered, the starter can be kept indefinitely in the refrigerator. (My mom keeps hers in a covered pitcher; I keep mine in a canning jar with a paper towel screwed on instead of the lid. A bowl with a cover would work fine.) To keep it active and healthy, feed it every week or two by following the directions below to make leaven for bread (step 1 of the bread part of the recipe).

Make the bread:

1. To make the leaven: Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the starter. Feed the remaining starter with 200 grams of warm water, 100 grams of whole wheat flour, and 100 grams of bread flour. Let the mixture rise overnight at room temperature. When it’s ready, the leaven should have risen slightly, float in room temperature water (test a small piece; you can still use this piece in the final dough), and smell like overripe fruit.

2. In a large (huge, actually) bowl, mix 700 grams of water and 200 grams of the leaven. (The remainder of the leaven is the starter that you’ll store and feed regularly.) Add 800 grams of bread flour and 200 grams of whole wheat flour; stir until the flour is evenly moistened. The dough won’t be smooth. Let it rest for 25 to 40 minutes while the gluten starts forming, the flour starts hydrating, and the flavor starts developing.

3. Add 20 grams of salt and 50 grams of water to the dough, and squeeze the dough to mix them in. This dough isn’t kneaded; instead, fold it a few times by using a dough scraper to scoop up one side of the dough and drape it over the rest of the dough.


before turning

4. Allow the dough to ferment for 3 to 4 hours and give it another few turns every 30 minutes. This takes the place of kneading. Be more gentle with the turning toward the end of the rising time. The dough is ready when it’s slightly increased in volume and is full of air bubbles (which will be visible on the sides if you’ve used a clear container).


after one turn


after two turns


ready to shape

5. Turn the dough out onto floured surface or a damp kitchen towel. Divide it into two portions. To shape each one into a round, cup your hands over the top of the dough and rotate the dough around on the counter. Cover the rounds with a damp towel and set them aside to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

6. To increase the surface tension of the dough, ensuring that the bread rises up and not out in the oven, perform a series of folds. Working with one ball of dough at a time, stretch it out and fold it over several times, eventually ending up with a neat square. Cup your hands around the dough and rotate it on the counter to smooth the surface again.


one large loaf and several smaller portions instead of two equal portions

7. Transfer each round to a floured towel-lined bowl or basket with the seam facing up. (Actually, I prefer to use an oiled bowl, covered with a damp towel. If you want to freeze the dough, transfer it to a ziptop bag sprayed with nonstick spray and store in the freezer. Let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator before continuing with the recipe.) Let rise for 2-4 hours at room temperature or, for maximum flavor, overnight in refrigerator.

8. Half an hour before you’re ready to bake the bread, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Place a Dutch oven and its lid on the middle rack in the oven and heat the oven to 500 degrees. When the oven is hot, turn the dough out of its bowl onto a floured work surface or a damp kitchen towel so that the seam is down. Use a very sharp or serrated knife to cut four intersecting ½-inch deep slashes in the dough, forming a square of cuts. Carefully place the dough into the heated Dutch oven; cover the pot with its lid and transfer it to the oven. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake 20 minutes, then remove the lid and bake 20-25 minutes longer, until the bread is deep golden brown and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads about 205 degrees. Remove the bread from the pan and cool on a wire rack for an hour before serving.

oatmeal nutmeg scones

For most of my life, I didn’t think much of nutmeg. It was just one member of the pumpkin pie consortium, of which only cinnamon could stand on its own, as far as I knew. The rest were generically fall-flavored. It wasn’t until I met Dave, professed nutmeg lover, that I started considering nutmeg as its own entity.

Now I think of nutmeg as warm, cozy, complex. (Or maybe the association I have between nutmeg and Dave has caused me to describe my husband instead of the seasoning?) Its spice adds richness to any dish, sweet or savory, and has become one of my favorite flavors.

Oatmeal reminds me of Dave too, as it was his staple breakfast – no sugar, no salt – when he lived alone. (It was bland, mushy, gross, but these aren’t words I associate with my husband.) I may not need complex, cozy scents to make me warm out here the desert, but I certainly won’t turn down a nutmeg oatmeal scone. You can bet Dave wouldn’t either.

Patricia chose these for Tuesdays for Dorie, and she will have the recipe posted. I didn’t make any changes.

One year ago: Strawberry Chocolate Ice Cream Pie
Two years ago: Chipster-Topped Brownies
Three years ago: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

maple cornmeal biscuits

These are not Italian in any way. Dave and I booked a trip to Italy last week and thought we’d have an Italy day on Saturday, where we’d have espresso, eat Italian food, drink Italian wine, and plan out our adventure. Little of that happened. We ate maple cornmeal biscuits because I needed to make them for Tuesdays with Dorie.  At least we had them alongside frittata with swiss chard. We never got to the espresso, and it wasn’t until Sunday that we sat down to map out our vacation plans. The grilled lamb and asparagus we had for dinner could have been any cuisine, although the Barbera that accompanied dinner was wonderful.

I’m always jumping ahead to the wine. Let’s talk more about breakfast. Even though maple cornmeal biscuits are not Italian and we had them on (what was supposed to be) Italy day, they were very delicious – sweet and gritty. I suspect we’ll have many more Italy planning days between now and when we leave in September, and I just might start them all out with maple cornmeal biscuits, Italian or not.

Lindsay has the full recipe posted. I made no changes.

One year ago: Cherry-Cherry Bread Pudding
Two years ago: Fresh Mango Bread
Three years ago: Traditional Madeleines

quinoa with salmon, feta, and dill

I imagine that most people have a set of ten, twenty, or maybe even thirty dinners that they regularly make. Some people might try a new recipe every couple of weeks. But for the most part, I suspect that dinner on any given night is something familiar.

Then there are a class of people who have so many recipes they want to try that they know there simply aren’t enough nights in the week, month, year, life. Every time an old favorite is made is an opportunity lost to try something new. Not that I don’t have a rotation; it’s just that meals are considered on the rotation if they’re made only once or twice a year. Something in heavy rotation might be made six or seven times per year.

This was a surprise addition to my rotation. If I didn’t think we’d like it, I wouldn’t have made it, but I didn’t know we’d like it as much as we did. Dave compared it sushi bowls, with the grain base, fish, and cucumbers, but the lemon, dill, and feta take it in a different direction.

Of course, it takes more than good flavor to be added to my rotation – dishes have to be healthy, which means no refined carbs, limited oil and butter, and plenty of protein and vegetables. Recipes also have to be easy if there’s any hope of me making them often, and the limited amount of ingredient prep required here can be accomplished while the quinoa cooks. Not only have I made this three times in the last year, I’ve made it twice in the last month – heavy rotation indeed.

One year ago: Shrimp Burgers
Two years ago: Roasted Baby Artichokes
Three years ago: Double (or Triple) Chocolate Cookies

Printer Friendly Recipe
Quinoa with Salmon, Feta, and Dill (adapted from Apple a Day)

Serves 6

You can use also fresh salmon and cook it either on the stove or in the oven. Kelsey has directions for stovetop cooking. If you use fresh salmon instead of smoked, increase the salt in the quinoa cooking water to ½ teaspoon.

While you can serve this immediately after mixing, it will be better if you give the flavors some time to meld, even just 15 minutes. This is particularly true if you’re using salty smoked salmon.

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 lemon, juice and zest
8 ounces smoked salmon, chopped small
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced ¼-inch thick
½ cup feta cheese, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced

1. Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer; rinse until the water no longer foams. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the quinoa, salt, and the zest of the lemon. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the heat off; let the quinoa set, still covered, for another 5 minutes. Drain off any unabsorbed water.

2. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the quinoa, then mix in the salmon and remaining ingredients. Serve immediately or refrigerate overnight.

Oh yeah, I used red quinoa!  Regular quinoa will work every bit as well though.