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Archive for October, 2009

Dinner at home

I am guessing that most of you who read this blog might have gotten the impression that I do most of the cooking at our house.  If that’s the case, you’d be wrong.  S does at least as much cooking as I do.  He is the undisputed king of breakfast; famous for his waffles, pancakes and most delicious egg concoctions.  He also takes the lead on dinner quite often.

We do approach cooking differently.  I am an improviser.  I come home, look at what’s in the fridge, and throw something together.  Usually it is edible, and often it is quite good.

S, on the other hand, is a planner.  He likes to go to the grocery store with a cookbook (or review recipes before we head out and make a detailed list) and buy food for specific dishes.  As a result the food he cooks is a work of art.

He also likes to prep all of his ingredients in advance, setting up his mise en place carefully before beginning to cook anything.  I usually chop and saute and fumble in the refrigerator for the next ingredient as I cook.

Last weekend, S decided to make a seafood stew.  Oddly, he had not decided this before we went to the grocery store, but fortunately we had the ingredients he needed: Manila clams,

clams

Alaskan spot prawns, red and white onions, lots of garlic, hot pepper, fish stock, and canned tomatoes.

After a few hours in the kitchen, the smells were mouthwatering.  And as usual, the finished dish was both spectacular to look at and incredibly delicious.

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Along with the stew we had some of the last artichokes of the fall

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which we served with a balsamic vinaigrette.

vinaigrette

A perfect fall meal.  We ate it all

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and washed it down with a little local pinot noir.

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Sunday bread baking

I am sure many of you have been wondering what ever happened to the “other” sourdough starter I was working on all those weeks ago, the one that I was going to use to make the panini I love from the Pearl Bakery here in Portland.

panerecipe

You may remember that when I first started working on that starter it wasn’t very strong.  Well, I was determined.  And ever since that last post over two weeks ago I have been faithfully feeding it.  Every day.  And, as promised, it got more and more active each time it was refreshed.

Finally, I decided that the starter was ready

firmstarter

and that this Sunday would be baking day.  That meant that I needed to refresh the starter one more time on Saturday morning and then, on Saturday night, combine 1 tablespoon of the resulting starter with bread flour and water to make the levain that would provide the leavening for the final dough.

This morning I woke up early and mixed the dough.  Once you’re at this point it is pretty easy.  You combine the flours (bread flour, all purpose flour, rye flour and whole wheat flour) with water and mix until the dough wraps itself around the dough hook of your mixer.  Then you let it sit for 30 minutes so that the flour can absorb all of the water and the gluten can begin to develop (this is also called the autolyse).

After the dough has rested you add the levain and some salt and mix the dough for another four minutes.

Now I have a confession to make.  I cheated.  I added a little bit (less than 1/2 a teaspoon) of commercial yeast to my dough along with the levain.  I just couldn’t stand the thought of failure after all of that work.  I hope that doesn’t make you stop reading right now.

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After kneading in the toasted walnuts and raisins, I left the dough to rise for about four hours.  Then I cut the dough in half and formed two batards (kind of torpedo shaped loaves)

shapedloaves

and left those to rise again for another three hours in baskets lined with floury, linen towels.

risingloaves

After this second rise, I baked the dough in a 425 degree oven for 40 minutes, rotating the loaves after about 20 minutes to prevent uneven baking.

bakingbread

The finished bread is beautiful!  Dark and crusty and incredibly flavorful, too.

bakedloaves

I wish you could have a piece.

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Squid hat

Sometime last winter my friend R asked me if I could make him a hat.  He had a particular kind of hat in mind — one that he called a “squid hat” because he thought it was shaped something like a squid. He remembered them from Vermont, he thought.

He was not referring to a “real” squid hat (and there are some of those both knitted and sewn), but a classic ski hat with a squid shaped top.

Always up for a challenge, I got to work.  I first asked him what color(s) he liked.  Since red was near the top of his list, I went with that.

reddetailsquidhat

I didn’t have a pattern and what follows is NOT a pattern.  It’s more like a memoir:  Knitting a Hat.

squidhat2

To get started, I looked at pictures of hats online and decided that I wanted the “cuff” to be doubled, so I borrowed a technique from a baby hat I made a few years ago, knitting for 2-3 inches and then purling one row, then knitting another 2-3 inches.  At that point, I folded the hat along the purled row and knit two rows together to make a doubled cuff.

I continued knitting (this was all in the round, on needles slightly smaller than the ones the yarn manufacturer recommended) until the hat was about 7 inches tall.   Then I started decreasing slowly (about every 5 rows or so) to make the top of the hat taper a little bit.

squidhat

Once the hat was tall enough, I cast off, pinched the opening together into a cross and sewed it up from the inside.

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I know it’s not really a “squid” hat, but I love the way it turned out.  I hope R does too.

topdetailsquidhat

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