Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"My Bread"... Inspired by Gluten Free Girl and Jim Lahey

Well, it's very exciting....

Well, it IS very exciting!!! The Holy Grail... The Holy Vessel... of my Gluten Free Bread Quest Thusfar.

I decided to implement the no knead baking technique (ha ha so funny, SO PERFECT, as gf bread is already typically NO KNEAD! I love it.) from the book, My Bread by Jim Lahey. A while back, I'd read a post about dutch oven bread from Gluten Free Girl and always meant to try it. I even had my Chantal enamel ready for the purpose, but was worried about the plastic handle/top as well as the high heat effect on the beautiful enamel. So I delayed. (Upon research I did find some people removed this and replaced with a nut and bolt or somesuch and BETTER YET some employed a stainless steel cabinet knob from the home improvement/hardware store. Sounds like a great idea!)

However, I am always loving it when in my life I'm shown something I'm not using to full advantage- often something staring me in the face on a daily basis- and am graced with the epiphany (or one might say "duh!" moment) of just why that thing is there and what I should be doing (or should have been doing)with or about said thing. I mean, not to live life with shoulds. But, HELLO?! I do LOVE the joy in those hello moments, even given the time in the dark that makes them possible...

This pot is one of those epiphanies for me. I bought it one Halloween to make Transylvanian Goulash in. It's a traditional Potjie Pot ("poy-kee"), from South Africa, the original Dutch Oven, as it were, the molds derived from the originals in the 1600's, I believe. I mean doesn't it look just like a witch's cauldron? I LOVE the shape. It holds heat amazingly well. In fact I've been known to get it going, turn off the stove and leave the house to let it keep cooking in complete safety with no power but it's own heat. And I make the BEST fried chicken in it. When I make fried chicken that isn't oven fried, that is.

(Read more about the here, and how the Dutch brought them to Africa in the 1600's: http://potjiepotusa.com/ )

So here's this pot. Moving around the kitchen, hasn't been used in some time, very heavy, not really FEATURED the way my red Chantal is on display. Just shuffled here and there...

Duh moment! Would it could it possibly be? The perfect vessel for my Dutch oven bread? (Well , now I think I know the answer, but then? It was still a question mark hanging in the air...)

Well look at the pictures and let me know what you think.

Needless to say, I have fallen in love with this pot all over again...

And this Bread? Well, I'm in love with it as well. NO QUESTION!

I used my own flour blend, and took some tips from BOTH GFG and some from Mr. Lahey. For example. I did my own thing with leavening, vinegar proportions, but took definite cues from them as to liquid to flour proportions, certainly. And since I don't bake with eggs, I deviated there, too. I used Jim's Temp and Shauna's baking time. I was nervous about there being no oil in the recipes! But am greatly pleased. And even with the deviations, would likely never have made this precise loaf without the inspiration and guidance mentioned above, so THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

I'm going to go make more right now!

sigh.... mmmm bread! Tasty! Crusty! Moist! Flavor Crumb & Spring! And good looking, too! ;)

(And this bread will so fully supply and equip my Tartine Expeditions... has begun to already! More on that in subsequent posts...)

Monday, January 25, 2010

World's Best Leftovers... Post Party Bliss

I love leftovers. I mean, if it was good the first night, chances are it will be even better the second night. Right? Part of that I'm sure has something to do with anticipation. Another part, to do with the fact that I CAN HAVE SOMETHING GREAT WITHOUT COOKING OR WAITING.

And often, there is an assortment or choices as to how to serve 'em up. (My Brother-in-Law from Wisconsin used to call this the Smorgie Effect, as in Smorgasbord.)

Restaurant leftovers are great, with the caveat that one must count carefully the time the items have been outside the safe food temp zone....

Which is why homemade leftovers rule, with the emphasis on PARTY LEFTOVERS. You know in each instance how long each item was left at room temp, etc. and can judge more accurately it's safety. And since it didn't need to travel, you have more room to work there, too. And then, for me there are all the specialty items I don't usually buy on a daily basis, AND my tendency to MAKE WHAT I REALLY WANT TO EAT for a dinner party. My guests are my guinea pigs of sorts. I don't cook most of the things I serve at a dinner for the crew around here! What would be the point? They would not "get it" or sometimes even try it. And yet, the magic of a party seems to make my family more adventuresome. And in the instances where they won't try something I slaved over, I have the joy of many others trying and often (I hope) enjoying it. And the striving to be green, not to waste, well. I try to do my part! At least I can tell myself that when I'm looking for lunch and, well, no-one else is going to make use of these delicious things if I don't-- don't find the enjoyment of the variety and in spinning them into other incarnations. Come on, finish up that Brie! Somebody's gotta do it! ;)

DAY ONE: Order Up: Making the Baguettes Measure UP for Four... For (leftover sirloin) Steak Sands, and one request for a Hot Ham and Cheese with Muenster. Steak and Arugula, Steak and Red Onion, Steak with Arugula, Red Onion and Horseradish- Yum!
DAY TWO: Panzanella Salad with Salmon and Poblano, short grain Brown Rice, Shredded Parm and a splash more Fig infused Vinegar.

DAY THREE: Perfect Brie, Fontina Cheese, Walnuts, Dalmatian Fig Preserves with Glutino Crackers - Plain (like Water Crackers), and Wholegrain (with Poppyseed & Whole Fennel!).

(Bouquet of Flatleaf Parsley and Basil!)

DAY FOUR: The Flowers are still going strong and GORGEOUS.

DAY FIVE: The last two roasted mushrooms...

A Magical Evening with Friends

This past weekend, we were finally able to hold a dinner here that had been indefinitely rescheduled from November! One child with pneumonia in November, the other with h1n1 in December, and the general holiday madness, including but not limited to always having 2 Christmases over a four day span left it nearly impossible to do before January.

The couples invited had never before now met each other, something I still find hard to fathom. But the spark of inspiration that had us select these pairs to get together did not disappoint.

From the cooking, the conversations, the eating, and the guitars and singing afterward, there was never the tiniest lull-- one of those rare sparkling nights that will forever stand out.

Something that made it so very special for me, was all the involvement help and encouragement in the kitchen. I am NEVER completely ready when guests arrive. This evening, I had the baguettes baked, the the crostatas assembled (thanks to my teen- it warmed my heart to have him cooking with me!) when the first guests arrived.

As a frustrated foodie, in a house with multiple food allergies, and picky eaters, I can't TELL YOU THE JOY I experienced and still do when I recall, for example, grabbing some tea spoons to encourage those helping me in the kitchen to taste the different vinegars I'd selected to determine one to go with the Poblano, onion, fennel and orange zested Salmon. OOOOh! How the right one became apparent! Great joy, bonding and tastebud revival abounded!

And of course, it never hurts to have a professional chef as a guest! I guiltily accepted more help that I should have, while he made very quick and expert work of some of the remaining tasks! I always learn when I watch him; for example I would never have though to grab the shears out of the knife block to core the peppers, which were to be slit up the sides rather than topped since they were long red ones. And the chiffonade of the fennel bulb drew a crowd, who audibly exhaled the breath they were holding when he at last lowered his eyes back to the chopping board!

The Menu:

Apple, Walnut and Brie Crostata

Bliss Potato, Apple, and Golden Beet Crostata, on spiced pear butter, with fresh rosemary & coarse sea salt.

Baguette Crostini, cheeses, Fig Jam, olives, gardinieria, etc.

Red Peppers stuffed with Penne, capers, olives and Fontina Cheese (with cheeseless ones for some)

Salmon rubbed with orange zest, ground fennel, thin rings of Poblano pepper and Onion, drizzled with Fig infused vinaigrette.

Top Sirloin Steak rubbed with fresh garlic black and red peppercorns, grey salt.

Panzanella Salad of arugula with garlic rubbed bread, sliced fennel and fronds, basil leaves,red onion, garnished with roasted mushroom assortment. (to please both those who do and don't like mushrooms!)

Various Chocolate desserts, including Gluten free Chocolate Cake.


Several Guitars, and many voices, time forgotten, joyful laughter.

Everything gluten free, of course, except some of the desserts others brought.