28 January 2014

something bright for a cold january


This is a really simple salad form the Ottolenghi cookbook — I've been making this salad with English cucumbers (pictured here but those small Mexican cucumbers are even better), poppy seeds, Fresno peppers, salt, sugar, rice vinegar, and sunflower oil. It was fantastic paired with the Korean tacos that Miss Fats made me last weekend, and it's fantastic with a simple sandwich on rye.

26 January 2014

seeded rye — returning to bread

As the "Polar Vortex" descends upon Chicago again, I decided that I needed a good, hearty bread for lunches this week. I made Dan Lepard's seeded rye (from Short and Sweet), using anise seeds, coriander, caraway, and lemon zest as its spice; I substituted apple cider for the recommended malt vinegar (which I didn't have), and I added a bit of diastic malt for good measure. The recipe calls for honey or molasses, so I used a very dark buckwheat honey.

The dough is a thick paste, foreign even to someone like myself who has made breads with a lot of rye (and even Vollkornbrot, but the texture is very different with all the rye chops, which are nearly impossible to find). It rose slowly, and baked beautifully:

Making bread is something I've just started again after a hiatus of four or five years — I developped baker's asthma, a common form of occupational asthma, and I've only recently begun baking bread (pastry, quickbreads, and the like are less of a hazard). I haven't worked in a bakery in about five years, and have since started a PhD in literature.

Now that I'm returning to bread, I've been avoiding the phenomenal Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman, partially out of the trauma with which I associate his phenomenal book (the book was an inspiration, and having to leave my career as a baker because my work was literally suffocating me is something I'd never wish on anyone).

And here I am, returning to bread, more careful than ever, and my apartment smells glorious.

18 January 2014

Pining for a coast?

I've been eating less seafood in Chicago than I might have eaten back in Massachusetts — I know that much food travels way too far either way — but some fish (sardines, mackerel) really don't travel. And then I realized that we can get decent mussels.

I made a basic egg pasta recipe ⅓ all purpose flour, ⅔ semolina.

I sautéed onions, whole chiles de árbol, and celery in butter with olive oil. To this I added garlic and cherry tomatoes, and then a splash of white wine and the mussels: it cooks in a couple of minutes, just the right time for fresh pasta to cook.

Garnished with salt, pepper, and parsley, it's simple, quick, easy, and delicious.