No-Knead Rustic Bread

No-Knead Rustic BreadStill We Rise
I struggled with bread making for years. It was only in the last few that I figured it all out. Since then I have mastered a couple of recipes, Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread and Hearty White Sandwich Bread. And, have experimented with others with a decent amount of success. Lately, since I seem to have a little more time on the weekends, I have branched out to make some of the harder stuff. And, by harder I mean those beautiful crusty loaves that you would normally purchase from people who know what they are doing.

The most difficult thing about baking bread right now is finding the flour and even the yeast. I was fortunate to be able to order a 10# bag from the King Arthur website but I had to keep checking to see if they had stock before I got lucky. I will say that we have been able to get some flour in here at the store, though it’s been spotty. (But, it’s getting a little better.) Yeast is a different issue. The good news is thousands of years of bread making on this planet have taught us that you don’t need foil packets of yeast to make bread. It’s in the wild, man…

There have been a number of recipes popping up that require using “wild yeast” which for all intents and purposes means making a “starter”. The most obvious example is a sourdough starter. I have mostly tried to avoid making sourdough during my bread making journey because of the requirement of using a starter. Starters can be labor-intensive. They require daily feeding to keep them active. It can take over your life and become a real chore if you have an active calendar. As my calendar has become less active in recent weeks, I was working up the courage to start the process but I was saved by a friend of mine who not only dropped of a tasty loaf of her rosemary sourdough but some of her starter as well. This is a common practice amongst sourdough bakers. You gotta do something with the “discard” so why not dispense it to your friends? You can only make sourdough waffles so many times…

Because I am unable to share my starter with all of you I am sharing a few recipes for your viewing pleasure. The first is a fairly basic recipe for a rustic sourdough. Please note it does use packaged yeast as well as starter. And here are instructions for how to get your started going. If you are unable to get yeast, I encourage you to do a little research about natural yeast. (The King Arthur Learn section of their website is great.) Yeast from dried fruit is a very old but effective method of baking bread and might be a good option. ( It’s also a great science lesson for your kids.)

The recipe below is a fantastic peasant bread for those who want crusty loaf but aren’t big into sourdough. I made this one last weekend and it was so tasty. Also, remember that these recipes and ideas require time. Good news is, right now, we have that time…

No-Knead Rustic Bread
Adapted from the Food Network
Yields 8 servings Read more…

Lentils Three Ways

Lentils Three WaysIf you’ve recently grabbed some beans for your pantry, chances are you probably reached for lentils. I know I did. But, I will admit I don’t make lentils very often. If I do it’s usually the little green French ones that I serve with salmon. I’m not a habitual lentil consumer. But, now I have these lentils and I have been looking for new ways to use them.

Thoughts of lentils make me turn to Indian cuisine for advice—which makes sense. The pervasive use of lentils in Indian cooking makes them the experts. So, I turned to my library of Indian cookbooks and naturally found some answers.

If you have even a small affinity for Indian food I would recommend obtaining a Madhur Jaffrey Indian cuisine cookbook. She has many. She is also widely considered an expert on all things in the Indian culinary world. I found the following recipes in her World Vegetarian cookbook. The first is a basic recipe for lentils that can be eaten as is or used as a base for other recipes. So if you’re sitting there wondering what to do with your stash of lentils give these options a try.

Lentils with Onion and Garlic
Adapted from World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey
Yields 4 servings

The addition of a dollop of dairy (either butter in the first recipe or yogurt in the second two) adds a smoothness to the normally slightly dry texture of lentils.  Read more…

Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

Bread Pudding with Bourbon SauceBourbon Legend
My life for the past week has been bourbon-infused. During a random Sunday search of TV listings to veg out on, I came across a program devoted to Kentucky Bourbon. I have always been a fan of good bourbon and after watching 30 seconds of the show, I was hooked. By the end of it, I was way more educated and informed. And also, rather thirsty.

Though I do have a thing for bourbon, it is not something I drink often. This is mostly because to really enjoy a good bourbon, you need to take your time and savor it. It’s rare that I have the time to do it right. And, this week is no different. But still, I haven’t been able to get bourbon off my mind.

On top of that, Mardi Gras is this coming Tuesday. So, I have been thinking of a way to combine the two. What should I make? Is the classic Bread Pudding with Whisky Sauce, a New Orleans staple, too obvious a choice? And, there are plenty of bourbon BBQ recipes to choose from. But, that doesn’t scream Bourbon street to me…

Ultimately, I couldn’t find anything better to celebrate both Mardi Gras and bourbon than the bread pudding. Not that it is exactly a hardship to eat it. Bread pudding is one of life’s greatest indulgences.

A traditional recipe for Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce is feature below. And, if you’re feeling a little rebellious, you can try this recipe for Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream and Carmel Sauce from our archives.

Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
Yields 8 servings Read more…

Baked Lobster Mac and Cheese

Baked Lobster Mac and CheeseOscar The Grouch
The 92nd Academy Awards are this Sunday…and I am not sure if I am excited about it or not. My plan to see all of the nominated movies fizzled. I’ve only seen one, though I might try to sneak one or two more in during the next couple of days. We’ll see how that goes!

I just have this overall feeling of indifference. Maybe it’s political fatigue. Maybe it’s the hangover from the Super Bowl loss. Or maybe I just need my blanket and a nap.

In my opinion there just doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of hype for the Oscars this year. So, it’s possible I’m not the only one feeling this way. It might be that our attention is elsewhere (considering everything that’s been going on here and abroad). It makes a night of big dresses, big diamonds, and big winners seem somewhat trivial even if, for some, it’s the biggest night of their careers. Or perhaps a night of silliness, heavy satin, and escape is just what the doctor ordered.

So what does one eat for a night of escapism? Good question. You could follow the lead of the Hollywood Foreign press as well as the Academy and go all plant-based. Or you could take one for the team of attendees who didn’t eat anything so they could fit in their dress and go the cheeseburger route. It’s always one of my favorite plays.

After last weekend, I’m burned out on finger foods. I’m thinking the best thing to do is combine everything I am feeling into one satisfying dish. So here goes…

Lobster Mac and Cheese is the perfect solution! It has the glamour of the lobster, heartiness for the hungry, and the comfort food factor to help those of us who are wondering what the world is coming to. Plus it goes well with some lovely champagne and bubbles will always lift your spirits…

Baked Lobster Mac and Cheese
Adapted from Ina Garten and the Food Network
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…