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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.

Spring seems to have finally arrived here in Portland.  And it’s about time!  I feel as if it’s been months since I saw the sun, even though I know that it has peeked out for as long as a few hours at a time in the past few weeks.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to be sunny and 70 degrees.  I’m not sure how I can contain myself.

One of the first signs of spring, of course, are tulips.  These were given to me by a thoughtful co-worker.

And the other sign of spring?  Farmer’s markets, fresh, local produce, lots of greens and daylight that lasts into the evening and inspires leisurely, light meals.

Today the intermittent sunshine and a big pile of ripe mangoes at the grocery store (and a package of fresh Dungeness crab meat in the fridge)

inspired me to make a crab, mango and avocado salad with micro greens (from the farmer’s market) and a lime ginger vinaigrette.

For such an elegant dinner, the prep was incredibly easy and the flavors a perfect combination of sweet, tart and little bit salty.

Crab, Mango and Avocado Salad with Lime Ginger Vinaigrette

(Serves 2 hungry people as a main course, or 4 as a starter)

For the Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoons grated lime zest

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon honey

1/3 cup olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients except the olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl, whisking briskly until the dressing emulsifies.  Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Set aside while you assemble the salad.

For the Crab Salad

2 cups fresh salad greens

2 ripe mangos (I like the Manila variety), peeled and cut into small dice

1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced into thin slivers

8 ounces fresh crab meat (here in the NW we use Dungeness Crab, but any fresh crabmeat will do)

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Choose a nice plate on which to assemble the salad.  Spread the greens evenly over the plate.  Cover the greens with a generous layer of mangos, saving a few for garnish.  Arrange the avocado slices around the edge of the plate and fill in the middle with the crabmeat.  Garnish with remaining mango, and, if you like a little spice with your crab, sprinkle some red pepper flakes over the whole thing.

Just before serving, drizzle no more than ½ of the vinaigrette over the salad.  Serve with the extra dressing on the side.

Even though we’ve finished dinner, the sunset still seems a long way off.  It must really be spring at last!

Inspiration

My sister-in-law Karen is frequently the person who inspires me in the kitchen.  (She’s also the person who inspired me to start this blog.)  Her kitchen is a spacious, family-friendly spot and the food that she creates is always tasty, and even really good for you.  I’ve spent many happy hours there, watching her cook and also cooking side by side with her.

Unfortunately, that kitchen is more than a thousand miles away from my own.  When we are not together, I often take inspiration from her blog, FamilyStyle Food.  And that’s where the inspiration for this post came from.

Last spring when Karen and the rest of my family were visiting Portland (during the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual meeting) she brought home a recipe from Portland chef Greg Higgins for walnut taralli.  She said they reminded her of something she had eaten growing up in Providence.  I was tempted.

Then we all got the flu and the thought of those biscuits flew far from my mind.  Until a few weeks ago, when Karen posted about them on her blog.  The thought of making them was back with a vengance, and this afternoon, while S was out doing errands and I was listening to the local NPR fund drive (yes, really), I decided to give them a try.

One of the great things about these biscuits is that they are really easy to make.  You mix the dough, let it rise, roll out and shape the taralli,

and bake.

Voila, crunchy little nuggets that taste great with cheese, or a drizzle of olive oil and some salt,

or just plain.

Chef Higgins’ recipe can be found here.  I made Karen’s version, with fennel seeds and 1/2 whole wheat flour; here’s her recipe,

Toasted Walnut Taralli

  • 4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups stoneground whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup finely ground toasted walnuts* (grind in food processor)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing on taralli

Using the dough hook on your standing mixer, stir together the yeast, flours, walnuts, salt and fennel seeds.

Add 1 cup of the water and mix at medium-high speed until the dough starts to come together. Slowly add more water as necessary (turning down the mixer speed as you do so) until you have a smooth, moist dough. It shouldn’t be too wet or sticky, so keep your eyes peeled. Depending on the humidity and your flour, you might need a bit less water. (in Portland, today I needed only about 1 ½ cups of water)

Put the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover and let stand until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 3 or 4 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Punch the dough to deflate and turn it out onto a sparingly floured surface. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.

Working with one piece at a time, cut each into balls about the size of a walnut. Roll and stretch each ball using your palms into ropes about 6 ” long. Bring the ends of the rope together to make a ring, tucking one end inside the other and pinching together.

Arrange the rings on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between.

Brush the rings with oil and bake until golden and firm, about 30 minutes.

Remove to a rack and cool. The taralli will crisp up more as they cool.

*toast the walnuts for 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees.

Store at room temperature in covered container.

Makes about 5 dozen taralli.

I highly recommend that you give them a try.


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