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Archive for the ‘books’ Category

It’s not on the James Beard Foundation website yet, but it’s official, Kim Boyce has won the JBF award for Best Baking and Dessert Cookbook with her wonderful 2010 book Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-grain Flours.

To celebrate that fact — and to express my delight that she has relocated to Portland — I decided to take some time this afternoon to bake something from the book.

One of the great things about Good to the Grain is that, in addition to the recipes, which range from sweet to savory and include things like pancakes, puddings and granola as well as breads, muffins and scones, Kim includes a lot of helpful information about each of the flours she uses.  So, if you are worried about baking with something like teff, you can count on Kim to allay your fears with the background information she provides.  When I first got the book, I was so inspired I immediately went out and bought a few whole-grain flours (in addition to the whole wheat all-purpose and bread flours I keep on hand anyway) so I knew I had graham, buckwheat and oat flours in my pantry.

Today I spent quite a bit of time flipping pages and reading about ingredients and techniques before settling on Oatmeal Sandwich Bread.  It’s probably not the most unusual recipe in the book (and not even one that requires any unusual flours, using only whole wheat flour, bread flour and rolled oats) but definitely the one that spoke to me this afternoon.

The recipe is straightforward and the instructions easy to follow.  I love the fact that Kim uses the autolyse method where you mix together all of the ingredients except the salt and let them rest together for 30 minutes before adding the salt and kneading the dough.  This allows the dough to begin to form gluten on it’s own (without kneading) and to more fully absorb the liquid.  All in all it creates moister dough, better texture and flavor in the finished bread, and also increases the life of the loaf.

The loaf that emerged from the oven smelled wonderful and tastes great.  The molasses and oatmeal both come through, as does the sweet, nutty flavor of the whole wheat flour.

So, congratulations Kim, on your well-deserved award!  And thanks for adding another recipe to my collection of favorite breads; I’ll be making this one again.

And congratulations also to my friend Betsy Amster, Kim’s literary agent and new Portland resident as well.

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I just finished reading a wonderful book — A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.  Molly is the creator of the smart and tasty blog Orangette and the owner, along with her husband Brandon, of the Seattle restaurant Delancey.  I plan to eat at Delancey on my very next visit to Seattle.  I promise.

Anyway, as I was saying, I just finished reading A Homemade Life.  Every chapter tells a story and includes a recipe, and I pretty much want to cook or bake every recipe in the book.

Not wanting to put my exploration of these dishes off too far, I chose to start with one of the simplest — not that most of the recipes are complicated, but this one is particularly simple.  There are only 4 ingredients, and all but the tomatoes are something most of us have in our pantries all the time:  olive oil, salt and ground coriander.

The tomatoes are those Roma tomatoes, the ones that you can find year-round in most supermarkets.  I ran out to get some.

Preparation is quick — slice the stem end off each tomato and cut them in half lengthwise.  Toss them with the olive oil, spread them on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and coriander and put them in the oven (which you have preheated to 200 degrees) and let them roast.

The only thing challenging about this recipe is that it takes a while.  The tomatoes roast in a very slow oven for 4 to 6 hours.  Yes, 4 to 6 hours.  The nice thing is that you don’t need to do anything to them while they are roasting, just check in on them now and then.  I roasted mine for the full 6 hours, and honestly, they could probably have even roasted a bit longer.  I think they turned out perfectly.

I’ve used these tomatoes in at least three dishes since making them — we added them to a duck ragu that was tossed with homemade fettuccine, to a saute of chard and caramelized onions, and served them with scrambled eggs, for breakfast.

They even taste good on their own.


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Sweet life

I’ve just finished reading a lovely book — The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz, baker and blogger extraordinaire.  I got the book as a gift at Christmas and I am really wondering why I waited so long to read it.  I’m also a bit sad that I have finished it; I’ll miss DL’s funny, slightly ironic, informative voice in my head as I fall asleep every night.

The book tells the story, in a satisfyingly non-linear fashion, of Lebovitz’s adjustment to living in Paris after over twenty years in San Francisco.  Each chapter describes a different adventure (if you can call getting the painter to finish painting your apartment, or searching futilely for 110 cm shoe laces adventures) in Paris and ends with a recipe or two.

The recipes are sometimes thematically linked to the chapters they complete but more often are not related, resulting in the somewhat disconcerting juxtaposition of a recipe for Mole au Chocolat (Chocolate Mole) following a chapter on the rather unpleasant French habit of peeing in the street.  Nonetheless, it’s a wonderful book, filled with insight, humor and tempting recipes.

I found a number of recipes I’ll be trying in the next month or so, from flourless chocolate cake to chickpea crepes.  Imagine my delight to also come upon a recipe I had made once and loved (inspired by this other wonderful blog post about the same book) for Breton Buckwheat Cake.  Inspired again, I had to make it today.

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New year, new cocktail

Just before the holidays I read a book about New Orleans food called Gumbo Tales. Written by Sara Roahen, former food writer for The Gambit, the book tells the story of Sara’s experiences with food (and drink) in New Orleans before and after Katrina.

It’s a great book and I highly recommend it to any of you who like reading about food (or who are planning to visit New Orleans in the near future).  It made me long for a trip there myself.

There are a lot of chapters in the book that left an impression, but the one that has made the biggest change in my eating (or more accurately, drinking) habits is the one called simply “Sazeracs.”

Before reading this book I had never heard of a Sazerac, a drink that, according to Wikipedia (source of all accurate information), is one of the oldest known cocktails, originating in pre-Civil War New Orleans.

Always on the lookout for a new drink to test the skills of Portland’s many talented bartenders, and made truly thirsty by Roahen’s descriptions of the beverage, I started ordering them around town; and liking them.  So far I have had great versions at Toro Bravo, Clarklewis and Beaker and Flask.

Last night I decided to make my own.  I started (in the liquor store parking lot!) by reviewing a few recipes on my iPhone.  List in hand (I needed Rye or another “American Whiskey;” Absinthe, Pernod or Herbsaint; and Angostura Bitters — I had a small bottle of Peychaud’s Bitters and a lemon at home already), I made my way into the store.

The biggest dilemma was what whiskey to buy.  Despite some recipes that said NEVER to use Bourbon in a Sazerac, the Rye selection was very limited so I decided Bourbon would have to do.  I bought a bottle of Black Maple Hill Premium Small Batch Bourbon.

There was no Absinthe or Herbsaint so I ended up with Pernod, a lovely, green, anise-flavored liqueur.

The Pernod (1 scant teaspoon) is used to “rinse” a chilled glass. The other ingredients:  2 oz Rye or Bourbon, 1 tsp simple syrup, 4 dashes Peychauds bitters and 1 scant dash Angostura bitters, are mixed gently in an ice-filled cocktail shaker before being poured into the Pernod-rinsed glass.  Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

Sit back, take a sip and imagine you are in New Orleans.

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