Books, bread, and buckets of rain.
Don't you just love "odds and ends" posts? If not, why are you here? (Uh, nevermind, don't want to drive away all three of my fans!) I've got a number of accumulated things to write about; today's random accumulation is brought to you by the letter B.
Let's start with a bit of trivial cuteness. River staring balefully at the buckets of rain. More on that later.
On my list of life's small pleasures, there's not much better than a new cookbook. Even better is free cookbooks. Today, I've got a slim new volume titled Very Pesto, which I won over at Cooking With Amy—see, all that trivial herbish information does come in handy! Although I've yet to make a recipe from it, I am having fun deciding where to start. One thing I really like about the book is that it has recipes that can be made in most seasons. (Meaning it's not all basil, which I love, but Nov. is not the time for it.) There's fennel pesto, which sounds like it would be amazing on salmon; thyme and/or oregano pestos; and a sage pesto that I am thinking about for a condiment at Thanksgiving. So much fun and I haven't even started cooking yet. Thanks Amy!
McAuliflower, just down the road at Brownie Points, points out a couple of free ebooks at tasting menu, one on Apples and one titled Autumn Omakase, which is a lovely detailed look at a nine-course menu. You really should go read her description, then hurry over to tasting menu and download the books.
Also on my table, Don't Try This at Home, a look at the notable failures of people who are, by and large, notable cooking successes. I must admit that my favorite stories are those where the "mistake" turns into not just a success but a signature dish. One don't miss: the true tale of how Tom Douglas's lobster potstickers were invented.
True, there's a question of sensitivity regarding Gabrielle Hamilton's piece, but I've watched many a male chef get a walk on his equal lack of clue about people who aren't just like him. So can we just add this to a long list of people who could use a little enlightening on a particular topic. Gordon Ramsey is making hay off some recent comments about how women can't cook. Gee, how original, a male chef dissing women as a class. Yawn. There's even a thread over at eGullet right now wherein some people are arguing that GR is right. Yawn again. I'd link to articles about GR, but really, the guy doesn't need me to help the PR machine.
I finally got around to making Farmgirl's pita bread and they puffed! Not that I had any serious doubts about the recipe—especially given the source—or my bread-baking chops, but pitas rely on a rather tenuous relationship of heat-moisture-dough to puff. But puff they did! Check it out.
mage dances happily around kitchen
In honor of that success, and with a nod to Joe's Satuday night chickenSalad, we made customized chicken salad pitas for dinner. Chicken breasts were poached in a mix of water, stock, sherry, thyme, and bay, then chopped up and mixed into two very different fillings. One had blue-cheese, red onion, lovage and probably some other things—it wasn't mine. The other was sour cream, lemon juice, red onion, celery, thyme, sea salt and walnuts. A little lettuce, some sliced tomatoes on the side, and poof it's dinner. Tasty and quick. It was probably an hour and a half between thinking, "I should make pitas" and sitting down to eat. Not exactly 30 minutes, but oh so much better.
Another round of bread that wasn't quite such a raging success is a wheatberry loaf I've been playing with off and on for a while. After a dozen or two variants...and a misplaced current recipe...I decided to take what I have learned and start over. So I did some searching through my cookbooks and the Internet. First problem, there are a lot of bread recipes that have wheatberries in the title but not the ingredients list. (Excuse me? Is this like that all fruit juice that can have 30% added sugar?) Just because it's not all bleached white flour does not mean it is wheatberry. Sheesh! After discarding many recipes because they were just white bread with some whole-wheat flour (and maybe bran) thrown in, I found a couple that seemed like decent places to start. Not so much. (note to self: even if it's from a flour mill, if it looks like twice as much yeast as any sane recipe would call for, trust your instincts...)
Actually the bread tastes wonderful, it's light to the point of fluffy with enough intact wheatberries to provide some nice chewiness. The rolls are awesome—with soup season upon us this is sweet—and as soon as I refine a few things, I'll post a recipe for use as rolls. Heck, it even makes good loaves—I just had some as french toast, with vanilla and freshly grated nutmeg. Soaks up the flavorful eggy mixture like a sponge. Delicious. But not what I am after.
I want sandwich loaves, with a dense crumb, no discernable wheatberries, and a slightly sweet taste. Truth be told, I am trying to recreate something like Oroweat's Honey WheatBerry bread, the smaller ones. So it's back to the drawing board...to work on the texture mostly. Wheatberries are a bear to grind into the texture I am after—something like Zoom cereal—once I get that, it'll be easy. Stay tuned for round 27.
On to the buckets of rain. I stepped outside for a minute and saw this.
Yeah, the gutters need cleaning, but it's still a nice picture. Did I mention we average something like 120 inches of rain annually here? Seriously, ten feet.