Boston-3

Two weeks ago Mr. B and I found ourselves in Boston for a long weekend. He was there on business and I tagged along to play tourist for a few days. It was my first time visiting this historic city and we were lucky to catch it in full Spring splendor. An unusual bout of warm weather sent everything into bloom and the streets were lined with pink and white blossoms.

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After getting up at 3am to catch our flight (yeah that was painful) our first order of business was to find coffee and food. Anita, of the lovely blog Married With Dinner, had recommended Neptune Oyster, a seafood bar located in the North End. We arrived famished and were lucky enough to snag seats at a booth near the back of the restaurant. The restaurant is tiny and crowded but has a beautiful pub-like charm from dark wood, shinning tile, and mirrors reflecting the fresh oyster options for the day.

Oysters at Neptune Oyster in Boston

I may have mentioned a time or two (or ten) that I feel a bit seafood deprived living in the Midwest. When six varieties of fresh oysters arrived before us I could hardly contain my excitement. We tasted, we slurped, we sighed- it was marvelous. I wanted to do it all over again when they were gone, yet the meal was just beginning. Only minutes later the server placed in front of me a beautiful plate of seared scallops sitting atop a bed of duck confit with watercress, hazelnuts, and a touch of blue cheese tucked underneath. I was in heaven. Mr. B ordered an equally impressive grilled whole bronzini with basil pesto and fingerling potatoes sitting in a tomato-olive broth. Slightly loopy from the lack of sleep and giddy from the previously mentioned oysters, we dug in with glee. The scallops were cooked to perfection and are among the best I’ve ever eaten. Mr. B’s bronzini was moist and subtly flavored, allowing the fish to really shine. Both dishes disappeared promptly. It was a great way to start the trip.

Scallops at Neptune Oyster Bar

Bronzini at Neptune Oyster

We enjoyed the meal at Neptune Oyster so much that later we returned just before our flight left Boston for another round of oysters, mussels, calamari and a famous Maine lobster roll. (Can you tell it was our only meal of the day?) If you enjoy mussels, as we do, these are not to be missed. Bathed in a red curry broth and spiked by garlic, lime, and crunchy cashew nuts, they were fantastic. The lobster roll was quite delicious, but the scallops from the first day still haunt my thoughts. If you find yourself in Boston, I highly recommend a stop at Neptune Oyster for a seafood fix. (Be ready for a wait if it is during peak hours, for as I mentioned, it is a tiny space.)

Neptune Oyster Boston

With our hunger fully satisfied we walked up the street to grab an espresso at Boston Common Coffee, before joining up with a North End Market Tour to explore the shops and foods of this historic Italian district. Also recommended by Anita, this three hour tour (no joke!) was filled with fun stories, shops, and tastes throughout the North End. We started off at Maria’s Pastry shop, a hole-in-the-wall bakery filled with local residents sipping espressos amid aromas of anise and warm flour.

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Exiting Maria’s the tour continued through Salumeria Italiana (home to a few handsome butchers), Monica’s Mercato (a source of luscious fresh burrata), V. Cirace & Son Italian wine shop (makers of marvelous limoncello since 1906), and many other stops. Each location included tastings and we nibbled our way through samples of balsamic vinegar, homemade limoncello, imported prosciutto, and several other Italian delights.

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Boston-55

V. Cirace & Son Italian wine shop

After a long day of traveling, eating, and walking we returned to our hotel. Mr. B had a business dinner planned and I promptly turned into a pumpkin, resting up for a day filled with walking and sightseeing on Saturday. Up next: the Freedom Trail, Bunker Hill, and more shenanigans on the streets of Boston!

 

 

Scottish Oat Cakes

I don’t have many words for you today. The busyness of Spring has continued over the past week with a crazy amount of dirt moving and garden building. Beyond the Spring activity, something even bigger has been brewing: my parents are re-locating to the Dakotas! I think we are all still in a bit of shock that everything lined up perfectly for a cross-country move. After 30 years on the West Coast they are headed East for a major change of scene. Trading fish and forests for buffalo and prairies, it will be a whole new world to explore together! They stayed with us for the past week while house hunting and found a fantastic place that is within walking distance from our house. I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to have them only minutes away instead of two time zones and 1,000 miles.

Making Scottish Oat Cakes

While my parents were visiting, I whipped up a batch of these Scottish oat cakes. Pulled from a recent issue of Vegetarian Times, this recipe comes together in minutes for a quick and healthy breakfast. The finished cakes are shaped like cookies (but not nearly as sweet), and are a wonderful portable breakfast for mornings on the run. Filled with rolled oats, buttermilk, and a little brown sugar they are a satisfying alternative to granola bars or cereal. Mr. B noted that “Without jam these cakes are doomed” which translates to, “These cakes are so healthy a good dose of sugar is necessary to call them breakfast.” However with a smear of your favorite jam or a drizzle of honey they are the perfect way to enjoy a weekday morning with family.

Scottish Oat Cakes

Scottish Oat Cakes (Printable Recipe)
Adapted from Vegetarian Times, February 2010
Makes 24
Ingredients:
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups oat flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1/4 cup non hydrogenated shortening or vegan margarine, cut into small pieces (I’m a bad Vegetarian Times reader who used lard…but it was oh so good!)
3/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
Directions:
Pre-heat the oven to 325°F with two racks set a few inches apart near the center of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Place the oat flour in a separate large bowl. Add the small pieces of shortening, and rub it into the oat flour with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Add the dry oat mixture and buttermilk to the large bowl, stirring well to combine.
Dust work surface heavily with oat flour, then pat the dough to roughly 10- x 8-inch rectangle 1/4-inch thick. The dough will be quite sticky. Dust additional flour on top of the dough as needed to form a rectangle. Use a knife or a 1″ biscuit cutter to cut the dough into circles or triangles. With a spatula, gently transfer the oat cakes to the lined baking sheet. Pat out the remaining scraps into another 1/4″ thick rectangle, and repeat the process until all of the dough is cut. Bake the oat cakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are a light brown. Let the cakes cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with jam or honey.

 

 

Spicy Kale and Wheat Berry Salad

This one-dish spicy kale and wheat berry salad has evolved over the past several months into one of our favorite vegetarian weeknight dinners. My experimentation with wheat berry salads began a while back with a delightful Greek wheat berry salad that is still on regular rotation. Then this winter I fell in love with kale, braising it with turnips and bacon, and even making the ubiquitous kale chips that have saturated the blogosphere. (For the record, I think that kale chips are a waste of perfectly good kale. I really don’t dig them.) Then one evening I had the fortuitous thought to sauté kale and leeks together with a bit of vegetable broth and a spices, poach a few eggs in the mix, and then spoon the whole concoction over a heaping pile of whole grains. To give the dish a fiery kick I added a spoonful of sambal oelek, which is a ground fresh chili paste used frequently in Indonesian cooking. (I found my jar at Cost Plus World Market, but you can also buy it online for only $2.99.)

Making the Spicy Kale and Wheat Berry Salad

A few bites into the dinner, and we were hooked. Chewy wheat berries support the savory kale and leeks, while a the lightly poached egg breaks open to give the salad a saucy dressing. The heat from the sambal oelek makes the dish anything but boring- add enough you may even break a sweat! If you want to round out the dinner even further, a few pats of goat cheese can be added to the pan while you poach the eggs, melting into the kale and adding a creamy tang to the entire dish. If you are looking to go vegetarian a few nights a week, this is a recipe that will keep a meat-loving spouse satisfied, and provide a savory and spicy kick to the routine. Paired with a glass of full bodied red wine, you won’t miss the meat at all!

Spicy Kale and Wheat Berry Salad

Spicy Kale and Wheat Berry Salad (Printable Recipe)
Serves 4
Note: Whole grains take a while to cook (1-2 hours) but can easily be cooked once a week, and then stored in the fridge for future use. If you cannot find sambal oleek, sriracha would make a good substitute. Also, adding 4 oz of goat cheese when poaching the eggs, is a good option to round-out the dish.
Ingredients:
2 cups Wheat Berries (In the dish above I used 1 cup Wheat Berries and 1 cup Kamut)
Water
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 large bunch kale, washed, stems removed, and coarsely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tablespoons sambal oelek (2 is very spicy, start with 1 and add more as needed)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 lemon, juiced
4 eggs
4 ounces goat cheese (optional)
Directions:
Rinse the wheat berries, and place them in a medium pot with a lid. Add water to the pot until it is about 3 inches above the wheat berries. Add 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt to the pot. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover the pot with a lid and cook the wheat berries until they are tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Drain off the excess water and cover the pot with the lid to keep the wheat berries warm until you are ready to serve them.
Place a large skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add the olive oil, leeks, kale, and garlic to the skillet. Sauté gently for 2-3 minutes, until the kale begins to wilt. Next add the sambal oelek, cumin, paprika, pepper, salt, vegetable broth, and lemon juice. Stir until the spices and vegetables are combined, then cover the skillet with a lid and cook until the kale is completely wilted, about 4 minutes. If the mixture looks too dry, add a bit more vegetable broth. Once the kale is wilted, use a spoon to make 4 indented “holes” in the mixture. Crack an egg into each hole, if using goat cheese add the sliced goat cheese around the eggs. Cover the skillet with the lid and continue to cook until the eggs are poached to your desired level of
doneness (about 2 minutes for a runny center). To serve, place the wheat berries on a plate, then spoon an egg and the kale mixture on top of the wheat berries. Serve hot with a sprinkling of salt and freshly cracked pepper on top.

 

 

Bulgur Salad with Roasted Vegetables-1

Has Spring sprung where you live yet? Things were off to a slow start here but in the last week a combination of warm weather and loud thunderstorms caused everything to wake up and bust out in new shades of green. The cottonwood trees are exploding with neon green leaves that literally grow overnight. It is the strangest feeling to wake up in the morning and have the trees look noticeably different than the day before. One can’t help but to feel invigorated- ready to get outside and take on the world.

Cottonwoods in Spring

Cottonwoods in Spring

I have found that once the weather breaks the last thing I want to do is spend hours inside doing anything (even cooking). Yet my Spring cravings for fresh bright flavors and bouquets of daffodils are hard to resist. This recipe for a healthy yet satisfying bulgur salad called me back into the kitchen, if only for a brief thirty minutes. It was created by the handsome Turkish Star-chef, Mehmet Gürs, who likes to make it with his four-year-old son when they spend time together in the kitchen.

Bulgur Salad with Roasted Vegetables-5

Bulgur Salad with Roasted Vegetables-4

Bulgur Salad with Roasted Vegetables-3

The vegetables are only lightly roasted, striking the perfect balance between deep roasted flavor and al dente freshness. You can steam the bulgur while the vegetables roast, and then all that is left is to fold in a bit of fresh cucumber and lemon juice. This recipe is so easy that I made it over my lunch hour, a feat that is hard to pull off with most recipes! We enjoyed the leftovers cold for lunch the next day, and it would be perfect for a weekend picnic in the park. Do you have a favorite fast and easy Springtime recipe? I’d love to hear about it!

Bulgur Salad with Roasted Vegetables-2

Bulgur Salad with Roasted Vegetables (Printable Recipe)
Lightly Adapted from Food and Wine
Serves 6
Ingredients:
2 cups coarse bulgur, rinsed
2 cups hot water
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 medium cucumber—peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
Crushed red pepper
Directions:
Pre-heat the oven to 400° with a rack in the middle. Place the rinsed bulgur in a large bowl. Pour the hot water on top of the bulgur and cover the bowl with a plate to trap the steam. Let the bulgur stand for about 20 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the grains are tender.
While the bulgur is steaming, spread the zucchini, carrot, onion, and bell pepper out on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the vegetables with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper, then toss them well with your fingers or a spoon. Place the baking sheet into the oven and roast the vegetables for about 15 minutes, or until they are slightly softened. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
While the vegetables are cooling, fluff the bulgur with a fork and stir in the tomato paste. Next fold in the roasted vegetables, lemon juice, cucumber, and the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Taste the salad, and season with more salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper as desired. Serve the bulgur salad at room temperature or slightly chilled. (I also found it was delicious rolled up inside big leaves of bibb lettuce, lettuce wrap style.)

 

 

Do You Peppadew

Have you tried a Peppadew? These small red bombs of flavor are often nestled next to rows of olives and antipasti in the deli section or tucked into a jar alongside rows of pickles. I spotted them recently at our local grocery store and realized that this delightful little pepper has finally trickled down from specialty stores to mainstream America.
Shaped like a large habanero but flavored more like a sweet red bell pepper, Peppadews are a unique pepper variety originating from South Africa. The story goes that in 1993, a South African man found a wild pepper bush growing in his yard and fell in love with the piquant sweetness of the small peppers. Since it is difficult to patent wild seeds, he instead devised the smart business plan to pickle the peppers and name them Peppadew. The production and growing of Peppadews is closely controlled by the corporation that now runs the business. This creates the benefit of ensuring consistent quality to consumers but is a downside for gardening enthusiasts (like myself) who would love to grow these gems at home.
The brine is both sour and sweet, carrying the tang of pickle juice with a mild heat and viscous consistency. Peppadews are delicious to eat straight out of the jar but also combine well with other flavors. I have used them to create a wonderful relish for salmon or pork and have even included them in a tuna salad.
This recipe for stuffed Peppadews is as simple as it gets. Requiring only 4 ingredients and a few minutes to assemble, the result is a beautiful plate of bite-size appetizers. Peppadews, feta, cucumber and mint come together in your mouth creating an explosive combination that is all at once sweet, tangy, spicy, and refreshing. As the summer cocktail season stretches out before us in a warm happy haze, this is the perfect recipe to whip up when your evening plans are nothing more than lounging on the deck with a gin and tonic nearby. Oh, and did I mention each stuffed Peppadew has only 14 calories? Make that two gin and tonics!
Feta Stuffed Peppadews (Printable Recipe)
Makes 24
Adapted from Vegetarian Times, February 2010
(Can I tell you how much I love this magazine? It is a new find for me, filled with inspiring ingredients and recipes. So far everything I have made from the magazine has been absolutely delicious!)
Ingredients:
24 fresh mint leaves
24 Peppadews, drained
1/2 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
4 Tbs. feta cheese, cut into small (aprox. 1/4 inch) cubes
Directions:
Slip 1 mint leaf into the open cavity of 1 Peppadew. Stuff 1 or 2 cucumber cubes into the cavity, then stuff 1 cube (aprox. 1/2 teaspoon) of feta into the Peppadew.
Repeat this process with the remaining ingredients. Chill the stuffed Peppadews until ready to serve.

 

 

Eggplant Parmesean with Swiss Chard and Mint-1

I think I am falling for eggplant. Over the years we have had a tenuous arms-length relationship. While I enjoy the savory and earthy flavor of eggplant in babba ganoush there was a time when a bad eggplant parmesan almost killed me. (Okay, so I’m being a bit dramatic. But have you ever had all the hairs on your body prickle and stand on end as you fight chills and hot flashes due to food poisoning? I thought I was going to die!) Aside from that unfortunate incident there is also the necessary salting, draining, and rinsing of eggplant slices- a lot of steps just to eat one purple vegetable. Yet the shiny skin and the unique silky texture beckoned me to give eggplant another chance.

Eggplant Parmesean with Swiss Chard and Mint-5

Then the cover photo of the March 2010 Bon Appetite caught my eye with a beautiful casserole of eggplant rolled around a fluffy filling of ricotta, Swiss chard, and mint. Inside the recipe detailed a new take on eggplant parmesan using a light hand and fresh ingredients to update this Italian classic. When I noticed that the author of the article was Molly Stevens (who wrote my favorite cookbook, All About Braising) I knew in an instant that this was the recipe to bring eggplant back into my life.

Making Eggplant Parmesan with Swiss Chard and Mint

The recipe started off with the expected salting, draining, and rinsing of eggplant slices. I gently patted each piece dry and then they took a turn underneath the broiler, where the water cooked off and the eggplant slices softened into a silky roasted state. A quick mix of ricotta, mint, egg, and Swiss chard created the filling while the eggplant slices cooled. Then I simply rolled up the filling inside the eggplant slices, set the rolls on top of tomato sauce, and layered thick pieces of mozzarella cheese on top. This entire process can be completed a day ahead of time, leaving you with nothing more than to turn on the oven and bake the casserole an hour before dinner.

Eggplant Parmesean with Swiss Chard and Mint-2

Eggplant Parmesean with Swiss Chard and Mint-8

When the steaming dish came out of the oven I couldn’t wait to give it a try. One bite and…redemption. A divine combination of savory Spring flavors wrapped around a light filling erased all past experiences with eggplant. The silky texture of the rolls melted in my mouth, a perfect compliment to creamy ricotta and bright tomato sauce. Eggplant- you are lovely indeed.

Eggplant Parmesan Rolls with Swiss Chard and Mint (Printable Recipe)
Minimally Adapted from Molly Stevens, Bon Appetite March 2010
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
2 medium eggplants (about 2 1/4 pounds total), trimmed, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
Coarse kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 1-pound bunch Swiss chard, center ribs removed
2 large eggs
1 15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 15- to 16-ounce can tomato sauce
1 8-ounce ball fresh water-packed mozzarella, drained, thinly sliced

Equipment
2 Colanders (or 1 colander and 1 salad spinner basket)
3 Rimmed Sheet Pans
1 10x15x2 inch baking dish (glass or ceramic)

Directions:<
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Place one layer of eggplant slices along the bottom and sides of 2 large colanders (I used a colander and the basket of a salad spinner, because who has kitchen space for 2 large colanders?). Sprinkle the eggplant slices with a generous amount of kosher salt. Add another layer of eggplant slices on to p of the first and salt again, repeat this layering until all of the slices are used up. Set the colanders the sink or place each in a large bowl to catch the liquid that will drain off. Let the eggplant slices stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Then rinse off the eggplant slices to get rid of the salt and dry each slice thoroughly with paper towels. (This will feel a bit fussy, but it is worth it.)

Pre-heat the broiler in your oven with a rack 5 to 6 inches below the heat source. Line 3 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the eggplant slices in a single layer on the baking sheets, and brush each side of the slices with olive oil. Place one sheet at a time underneath the broiler, watching closely, and cook until the eggplant just starts to turn brown, about 3 minutes. Open the oven, and using tongs carefully turn over the eggplant slices, close the door and cook for another 3 minutes until the second side is brown. Pull the sheet out of the oven, and repeat the process with the remaining two sheets. Let the eggplant slices cool while you make the filling.

Place a large pot of salted water over high heat. When the water is boiling, add the Swiss chard to the pot and boil until it is just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain the chard into a colander, and then rinse it with cold water. Pick up the chard and squeeze out all the excess water you can. It will form a small tight ball. Place the chard on a cutting board, and chop it coarsely. Wrap the cut chard in paper towels, and squeeze it again to remove any leftover moisture.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and a pinch of coarse salt. Stir in the chopped chard, ricotta cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan, mint, and black pepper.

Lightly coat the inside of a 15x10x2 baking dish with oil. Pour half of the tomato sauce into the dish, and spread it evenly across the bottom. Layout an eggplant slice lengthwise on a clean surface, place 1 heaping tablespoon of the chard-ricotta filling about 1/3 up from the bottom of the slice. Starting at the bottom, loosely roll up the eggplant slice, enclosing the filling. Place the roll seam side down, on top of the sauce in the baking dish. Repeat this process until all of the eggplant slices are filled. Spoon the rest of the tomato sauce on top of the rolls. Place the mozzarella slices evenly across the top of the casserole, and then sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese on top. If you are doing this dish 1 day ahead- cover tightly with foil, and then chill.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle. Leave the foil cover in place, and bake the eggplant parmesan rolls until they are heated through (30 minutes if just made, 40 minutes if made the day before). After they are heated through, remove the foil cover, and continue to bake until the cheese turns brown in spots and the tomato sauce is bubbling, another 15-20 minutes. Serve the rolls hot, spooning any excess sauce onto the plate.

 

 

Salmon Teryiaki with Sweet and Sour Cucumbers

I live in the land of beef and pork. Highway billboards still shout the 1990′s slogans “It’s What’s for Dinner” and “The Other White Meat”. Restaurant menus feature caveman size slabs of pork ribs and 32oz cowboy steaks. Local fresh fish is tasty but usually limited to the freshwater catch of walleye and bass, and when the ponds are frozen over that can be hard to find too. (We haven’t taken up ice fishing yet!) During my first few years, I managed to get by, eating fish on a limited basis, mainly when we were in a big city or could source a fresh supply. However the more I cooked dishes like pinot noir braised salmon, salmon in a dijon cream sauce, and cod with micro greens and bananas, the more I craved the fish of my childhood.
Then I discovered Costco’s Wild-Caught Alaska Sockeye Salmon. Individually flash frozen in roughly 3oz portions, a bag of these salmon steaks have quickly taken up residence in my freezer. The quality is among the best I’ve found for frozen fish. Once thawed, the salmon does not have an ‘off ‘ fishy odor or taste, and it handles itself well both in a skillet and under the broiler. I am happy to say that fish is now a regular part of our monthly menu rotation. Yet as is true with most fresh foods, after being frozen and thawed, the fish needs a little help. This is not the time for a simple salt, pepper, and squeeze of lemon preparation. Instead this is where creative sauces, rubs, and marinades can play a star role in carrying the fish to new heights.

Salmon Teryiaki with Sweet and Sour Cucumbers-2

Is it just me or does this teriyaki sauce look like it holds the secrets of the universe?

Salmon Teryiaki with Sweet and Sour Cucumbers-1

A simple recipe for homemade teriyaki sauce and a quick cucumber pickle results in the mouthwatering combination of salmon teriyaki with sweet and sour cucumbers. Making your own teriyaki sauce only takes a few minutes and the result is a balanced and savory sauce which avoids the cloying sweetness of many bottled teriyaki sauces. The salmon cooks beautifully under the broiler, where the edges turn slightly crisp as the sticky sauce caramelizes. Served on top of a steaming heap of jasmine rice and brightened by the clean taste of cucumbers, this salmon dinner is so easy and delicious I think it deserves a slogan of its own. “Salmon- It makes you happy.”
Salmon Teriyaki with Sweet and Sour Cucumbers (Printable Recipe)
Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 4
Ingredients:
1/2 small seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
1 small daikon radish (about 4 ounces), peeled and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water
Four 6- to 8-ounce salmon or cod fillets, rinsed and patted dry
Steamed rice, for serving
Directions:  
Combine the cucumber, daikon, and garlic in a small glass bowl. Place a small saucepan over medium-low heat, and add 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and the granulated sugar to the pan. Heat until the sugar and salt are just dissolved. Turn off the heat, and pour the warm liquid over the cucumber mixture and gently squeeze the vegetables to help soften them. Set the empty saucepan aside to use later. Place the cucumber mixture into the fridge and chill, at least 15 minutes or longer.
Pre-heat the broiler on high heat, with a rack 6 inches below the heat. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
In the set-aside saucepan, combine the brown sugar, soy sauce and the dissolved cornstarch with the remaining 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar. Bring the liquid to a boil, and whisk until the glaze is thickened, about 2 minutes.
Dip the salmon into the teriyaki glaze, getting an even coat across the top. Then set skin side down on the foil-lined baking sheet. Place the sheet underneath the broiler and cook, watching carefully for 10 minutes or until the salmon is cooked through. Baste the fish once or twice while cooking. If the glaze starts to burn and the fish is not cooked through, cover the top of the fish loosely with foil. It is normal for the edges of the glaze and fish to burn slightly, do not worry about those, they are tasty bits!
Transfer the salmon fillets to plates and spoon rice on the side. Use a slotted spoon to set the sweet-and-sour cucumber salad on the plates. Drizzle any remaining teriyaki glaze over the top of the fish.

 

 

Making Bread

I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I have not written about my ongoing bread baking adventures since December. Yikes! Where does the time go? Despite the absence of yeast-related posts, I have managed to stick to the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge and continue to bake my way straight through the book. When the Holidays hit my bread baking frenzy slowed down a bit and in the aftermath of January resolutions I found myself baking bread about twice per month instead of weekly. Yet in that time I have graduated to loaves powered by wild yeast starter instead of dry yeast. After a full year of abject neglect my sourdough starter is now happily living on the counter and I actually remember to feed it. This is amazing because at our house unless you can beg for food you’re typically out of luck (which is why we have no plants or fish).
Over the past several months there have been many successes, a few flops, and a baguette shaped brick that defied consumption. Let’s have a look shall we?
(The recipes for all of the loaves are available in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and are not reprinted here out of respect for the author’s copyright.)

Pugliese

One of my favorites, a loaf of Pugliese bread, this rustic southeastern Italian style bread had large holes, a soft interior, and a chewy crust- it didn’t last long! Very similar to ciabatta, the Pugliese is made with a mix of fancy durum flour (I used semolina) a biga (pre-fermented dough), and surprisingly- mashed potatoes. While not quite as delicious as my favorite sourdough, I still anticipate that this loaf will show up in our kitchen frequently.

Sourdough Bread

If I knew how to do back flips I would have flipped over this loaf. It is the first sourdough bread to rise on its own wild yeast power and successfully come out of my oven. After dreaming about baking sourdough for two years, this marked a huge step in the right direction toward recreating the West Coast sourdough I miss so dearly. I still need to work on finding a recipe with a higher hydration (for bigger holes) but this was so close I could taste it!

New York Deli Rye

If I ever become a sandwiches for lunch person, this New York Deli Rye will be my go-to loaf. Boasting a huge soft crumb and the irresistible combination of buttermilk, caraway, and sautéed onions this loaf created perfect savory slices of bread. Mr. B and I gobbled up both loaves in no time flat, enjoying them for breakfast and wrapped around thick slices of roast beef and sauerkraut for dinner.

100% Sourdough Rye

Lest you think I have been living in annoying bread baking bliss, I give you the 100% Sourdough Rye bread. An exhibit for why trying to grind your own rye meal from whole rye kernels in a Mini-Cuisinart does not work. Epic failure. I don’t know if the chunks of hard rye kernels killed the loaves or if my sourdough starter decided to sleep in, but these loaves turned into baguette shaped bricks. I sliced off a piece so you could see the inside, but not even the dog could chew that hockey puck! Does anyone know what to do with leftover rye kernels?

Poilane-Style Miche

And finally, the two pound behemoth which graces the cover of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice, the Poilane-Style Miche. This recipe is an attempt to create a loaf made by Lionel Poilane, a man who Peter Reinhart calls, “the most famous bread baker in the world”. Using a medium-grain whole wheat flour from hard spring or winter wheat and following the long steps of fermentation and barms, this loaf is a process. Of course I couldn’t find medium-grain whole wheat flour anywhere, so I crossed my fingers, sifted a regular whole wheat flour, and hoped for the best. With over 8 cups of flour going into the dough, the final loaf was the heaviest I’ve ever baked. A very hard outer crust gave way to a dense and flavor-packed crumb. We enjoyed the bread quite a bit, but next time I will do the right thing and order a medium-grain flour online. I think to achieve the greatness purported by many, you definitely need to start with the proper flour.

* Not pictured above are the Portuguese Sweet Bread and the Potato Rosemary Bread. I baked these during the Holidays and in the course of cooking lobster pot pies and Meyer lemon panna cottas I somehow forgot to photograph the loaves! 

The binding on m
y copy of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice is loose and the jacket is dusted with flour. Only 11 recipes remain to complete the challenge. If you have a desire to learn to bake bread or are looking for new recipes, I highly recommend buying
this book. The author, Peter Reinhart, was just nominated for the James Beard Award for ‘Best Baking Cookbook’ for his newly published book “Artisan Breads Everyday“. As much as his work has changed my bread baking life, I hope he wins.

 

 

 

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