Pancakes with Fresh-Ground Flour

Fluffy, nutty, gritty: the fresh-ground whole wheat pancake. Something you need to try.

I think that pancakes are probably one of the finest foods in the world. They’re easy to make, impressively adaptable, and fabulously delicious. Eaten plain, with a little maple syrup? Yes. With fruit and whipped cream? Yes. Studded with chocolate chips and stuffed with peanut butter? Yes. While its true that there exists some debate about whether they should be thin and crispy or thick and pillowy, this is an argument kept afloat by fools: they should most certainly be big, puffy, and ready to sop up whatever’s beside them on the plate. They’re a near-perfect comfort food.

While the pancake’s ability to stand up to anything you can throw at them has helped them to be one of the world’s most popular foods, a little something can be lost through these additions. The rise of the garish, stuffed-to-the-gills pancake seems to have accompanied the advent of boxed pancake mixes made from inferior ingredients: when you’re cooking with leaden bleached white flour, or a just-add-water supermarket mix, you could probably be forgiven for needing to throw in a bunch of sugary extras just to make it palatable (though you’d not be forgiven for purchasing that boxed stuff in the first place). Can’t we cheer, every so often, for the dish at a far more basic level? Can’t we enjoy a pancake made from pretty much just wheat, baking powder, liquid, and a little salt? We can — especially when we’re lucky enough to be able to mill the flour ourselves. Read more of this post

Vegan Carrot + Ginger Soup

My love affair with carrot ginger soup started in England, when I was around 13 or 14. Before tetra paks became a popular way to package premade soup, the British were packing soup in milk cartons and keeping them on the refrigerated shelves of the supermarket. For whatever reason, this is a distinct memory of mine from childhood – going to grandma and grandad’s house in England and eating soup out of a milk carton instead of a can. Anyway, my favorite flavor which I could never get in America was carrot ginger. Now, it seems, this flavor has gained popularity and is available everywhere, though none of the soups I’ve ever purchased have been as good as the vegan version I made for dinner last night.

Hungry Bruno had mentioned in her CSA Week Twelve post that our carrots from our Stone Soup Farm CSA were a bit woody this week. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to boil them up and obliterate them with an immersion blender along with some ginger to recreate one of my favorite childhood food memories. When I was browsing the internet for inspiration, I found that almost every recipe for this soup contained dairy. Not understanding this, or thinking it was necessary, I went ahead and made my own vegan version. I had about 1/4 of a can of coconut milk in my fridge so I decided to use that to make the soup creamier, and it really worked. The end product was silky and delicious. To make it a little bit more filling, I cubed up some firm tofu I had leftover from making fresh spring rolls for a party this weekend and mixed it in.  It works either hot or cold, so it’s a versatile summer or winter soup. Delicious!

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Homemade Sourdough (Part 2/2)

Sourdough baguette

This is a baguette that was made last winter for a friend. You've heard of San Francisco Sourdough? This is Southie Sourdough. Cool, right? Yes.

Welcome to Sourdough Primer, Part 2/2. Before giving this a shot, you should have active starter. See Part 1 for how. The below will also work for a starter you’ve obtained from someone else. If it’s dormant, skip down to the bottom of the article for information on reviving it. This isn’t really written out in a strict, linear format; forgive me, I’ve indulged my urge to dally about this subject. Besides, sourdough isn’t a one-and-done cooking process. It’s an ongoing thing. That’s my excuse for not giving you a stepwise recipe, anyways.

At this point, you’ve got your sourdough starter, and are probably totally enamored with it. Since you’ve been actively building it an maintaining it, you’ve also essentially got the first part of the recipe over — your starter is doubling as a sponge, which is just a term for an active sourdough batter. If you’d been storing it in the fridge, you’d have to wake it back up, but since you haven’t, it’s all bubbly and frothy and very eager to get to work.

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Homemade Sourdough (Part 1/2)

Rosemary Sourdough Rolls

Naturally-leavened rosemary rolls, one of the eight billion breads you can make with the help of your friendly neighborhood (literally) microorganisms.

Bread is one of the oldest food products known to man. For many home bakers, it’s probably also one of the most frustrating. You have to make a dough of the right consistency. You have to knead it, but not under-knead it or over-knead it. You have to shape it. Then, after you’re done, you have to wait around for hours just to see if it worked. If it doesn’t work — usually meaning that it didn’t rise — you’ll get something which, when baked, will come out more like a dense, crumbly brick than the familiar hearty loaf you’re looking for. If you want to try again, that means more kneading — and more waiting. 

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Heather – 1, Risotto – 0

I tend to be apprehensive about trying new techniques due to a self-propagated fear of food failure. Once I’m familiar with something it’s no sweat, but it’s the breaking the ice part that gets me panicked. It’s all due to my own ridiculous expectations of my cooking, and my pastry chef father who had no qualms with telling his young daughter why her chocolate chip cookies weren’t bake shop quality.

Risotto had always been something I feared making. Most of what I’d read said making a good one was a tricky process. Eek! You mean it might turn out BAD?  Gluey? Sticky? Soupy? I don’t really know what sparked my confidence, but one night I decided to just go for it. If it fails, it fails, and Finn will eat it anyway.

Well, let me tell you. My risotto is the queen of all risottos. It did not fail, and much to my delight it was absolutely delicious! You can basically put anything you want in it, including leftovers. In recent weeks I’ve made risottos of the plain fish stock (to go with some grilled swordfish kabobs), butternut squash and roman cauliflower, and asparagus varieties. I even made a rice pudding with dried cherries risotto-style. Though all remarkably good, the most successful bites were the ones full of nutty, sweet butternut squash.

One thing I love about this risotto is that it’s rather deceiving. Without the addition of cream, milk, butter, parmesan this risotto comes out incredibly creamy and rich. If you were really in a pinch, all you’d really need is Arborio rice and water, though I don’t suggest that. Unless you like your food bland, in which case, go for it. For the rest of you, try this recipe and then pat yourself on the back for a job well done, then come back here and tell me all about it!

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“Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a plate of fried green tomatoes..”

The mention of fried green tomatoes might make you think of the 1991 film by the same name, or it might make you think of the green food classic, Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham”. After you’ve tried these, though, this deliciously crunchy and surprisingly juicy, melt-in-your-mouth snack will be the first thing that comes to mind.

These were made on the fly on Friday night without consulting a recipe. I tend to struggle with weighing how I think things are traditionally supposed to taste versus how I actually want them to taste, but for these I really had no idea. I knew I wanted them to be at least a little bit spicy – cayenne. I wanted them to be extra crispy – panko & corn meal. And I knew the egg wouldn’t stick to the tomato without dredging them in flour first. With those as my guidelines, I went to the kitchen and I can only describe the outcome as a cross between a mozzarella stick and an onion ring. (The best mozzarella sticks and onion rings EVER, of course.) Initially there’s a crunch, then a surge of tart juicy tomato with a grand finale of some hot cayenne heat.

It’s been a notoriously bad season for tomatoes, so I wasn’t surprised to find a big basket of the unripened, green variety at my local farmers market on Thursday. I told the woman at the stand I was so glad they brought some green ones along so I could finally give frying them a try, and she said “No one wants them! Grab another on your way out!” Obviously they don’t know what they’re missing, and prior to this, neither did I.

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An experiment in Miso & Maitake

Here in New England, signs of fall approaching are everywhere.  The air is cooling, the leaves are changing, and the – oh, who am I kidding?  The only signs I need are food-related: my local farmers markets are teeming with bushels of winter squash, sweet potatoes, apples, and cabbage. Yes, we’re kissing goodbye to summer and hunkering down for sweatshirt weather, and while those typical forbearers are all well and good, I’m partial to one more item that might not be on your autumn radar: mushrooms.

I took the train to Forge Park with Finn last Friday and was greeted at the train station by my father, still in his trademark food covered striped chef pants, with a back seat full of Hen of the Woods (or Maitake) mushrooms. He griped “No one will ever be able to convince me global warming isn’t real. These mushrooms are growing exactly three weeks later than usual this year!”

Driving with my father during “mushroom season” is a rather harrowing experience: his attentions are split 60%/40% between watching the road and watching for mushrooms. Abrupt braking and swerving is to be expected. We were driving along, talking about my upcoming trip to Vermont when he cuts me off saying: “Ohhh boy! Did you see that over there? It might have just been a pile of leaves… but it could have been a big fat Hen of the Woods!.

Oh boy. At the next stoplight he takes half of a left turn twice as fast as one should, yells at the oncoming traffic to keep driving around him, peels out the rest of the turn, finally swinging into a old woman’s driveway (we know it was an old woman’s driveway, specifically, because she was sitting on her front porch innocently rocking back and forth in her rocking chair) to find out that the would be mushroom was in fact, a pile of leaves.

Earlier in the week I had been browsing Saveur.com (which I love) when I came across this recipe for Mushroom Miso Soup. Clearly, I had to take advantage of my opportunity. Having survived the ride with my father – and having mooched a big, fresh Hen of the Woods off of him — I headed back to the city, Mushroom Miso on the brain.

Fresh wild mushrooms are hard to come by, and my inspiration recipe used a whole dried Hen of the Woods mushroom which was purchased online. I’m generally not the biggest fan of dried mushrooms, probably because I’m spoiled in this area. But, his photo looks quite beautiful and I’m sure it would come out great if that’s what you’ve got to work with!

If you do, however, get your hands on any fresh Hen of the Woods mushrooms, make sure you take care not to let them get too dried out. Place the mushroom into a glass baking dish lined with a damp dishrag. Then, cover them with another damp dishrag and pop them in the fridge until ready to use.  I purchased some Chicken mushrooms at the farmers market in Central Square a few weeks ago and oh boy. Those suckers were dry. Nothing a little (read: a lot) of butter couldn’t fix.

After tinkering with the soup base and fretting over how to cook my pretty little mushroom, I finally settled on the recipe below. The base was perfectly salty without an overwhelming miso flavor and celery provided just enough crunchy texture. The scallions tied everything together with their aromatic onion flavor — not to mention made a beautiful garnish! Prior to making this recipe, my only experience with miso was in the soup I ordered as a side to sushi. Turns out, it’s extremely easy to replicate! So, grab a blanket and buckle down for fall with this simple recipe; a way more interesting alternative to your usual chicken noodle.

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