Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easy Bread Wreath for your Easter Sunday

KQED TV has this fantastic food blog from which I stole the following yummy bread recipe.  It's decorative and easy to make, and the whole bread-honey-butter thing sounds very Eastery to me.

Here's KQED's photo:

I made mine gluten-free (for Mom) so replaced the whole wheat flour with buckwheat flour, and the all-purpose flour with brown rice flour, plus 2 1/2 tsp on Xanthan gum, essential in gluten-free baking.  Anyway, because of the buckwheat, mine turned out much darker in color, like this:

Buckwheat flour has kind of a strong flavor, and it takes a little getting used to, so I wasn't sure I would love it.  But, bread is bread, really; I never met a loaf I didn't love.  And, while the recipe calls for making a melted butter-honey dip, I just slathered the butter on and drizzled the honey right from the jar - freaking delicious!  Buckwheat and honey were made for each other.  Happy Easter, Everyone!

Honey-Wheat Bread Wreath with Honey Butter
This beautiful bread wreath makes for an impressive touch to any table, and is much easier than it looks. It also happens to be delicious and wholesome, full of good things like buttermilk, honey, and butter. (Adapted from A Taste of Home’s Whole Wheat Honey Rolls and Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day’s Holiday Wreath Bread.)
Prep Time: 25 minutes + 1 hour 30 minutes rising time
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Yield: 8-10 servings
2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
2 cups warm buttermilk (110° to 115°)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup honey
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour + about 1/2 cup for kneading
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm buttermilk. Add the butter, honey, whole wheat flour, salt and baking soda. Beat until smooth. Stir in all-purpose flour to form a soft dough (if it is looking too soft to knead, add more flour).
  2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  3. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and stretch the dough into a ring. Place the ring on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Let rest for about 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 450°.
  4. Right before baking, sprinkle the dough with flour. Using kitchen scissors, snip the wreath at a sharp angle, almost to the bottom of the ring to form points. The points should still be connected to the ring since you’re not cutting clean through. Now lay the points out so that they are fanned out a bit.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
For the Honey Butter:
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup honey
fleur de sel or sea salt
Mix the butter and honey until smooth. Place in a ramekin or serving bowl and sprinkle with fleur de sel. Watch people swoon as they slather it on their warm bread and inhale.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Up, Up, Up!

In my ongoing effort to cram as many edible plants into my garden as possible, this year I’m building 6-foot high trellises for everybody to climb up.  I built the first one this week from PVC pipe:  two 6-ft (½” diameter) pieces (yes, I cut them myself with a hacksaw) joined by a 3-ft piece.  They stand up by virtue of two 18” wooden dowls hammered into the ground and the string is trellis netting that I bought at the garden store.  Total cost is somewhere around $3.42 or so, and it took me a total of 10 minutes to construct and erect.  I have plans to build two more in my spare time.

Meanwhile, who do you think is eating my snap peas?  The leaves have little bites taken out of them!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Square Feet

It’s that time already – spring is almost here so I’ve spent the past couple of weekends pulling out all the yuck that accumulated in my raised beds (yes, that explains all the scars on my hands) and started making a plan. 

Someone turned me on to Kitchen Gardeners International,, on whose website you can make a digital map of your garden and “plant” whichever veggies you choose.  You enter your zip code and the website gives geography-based recommendations for sowing, planting and harvesting various yummies.

This year I’m practicing “square-foot gardening,” a concept of which I only recently became aware.  The idea is to divide your garden beds into sections of one square foot each and cram as many plants as is reasonable into each section.  I was surprised to find out that you can plant 16 carrot seeds, or 4 collard green seedlings, or 8 sugar snap peas, or one tomato plant, in one square foot.  The idea is to make the most efficient use of your space while leaving no room for weeds and to rotate your crops and practice compatible planting techniques in order to confuse pests enough that they move to your next door neighbor’s backyard.  In my tiny backyard (25’ x 13’ total), these techniques give me hope.

Here’s my map.  So far, I’ve only planted peas and collards. The plants that are outside of the beds are there because I haven’t decided exactly where they’re going to go yet. 

Here’s the schedule:

Blue shows the time for sowing seeds.
Green is for planting seedlings outside.
Orange is harvest time.

 And, here's what it looks like, so far, in real life:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Culinary Questionnaire

Inspired by the "My Stuff" questionnaire in Vanity Fair magazine, which usually features famous artsy types talking about their favorite linens and perfumes, but this month featuring Chef April Bloomfield (of NYC's Spotted Pig - yum!) talking about food, I submit the following culinary favorites of mine.  You?

Spice-Cabinet Must-Haves:  cumin, cayenne, cilantro, coriander, cilantro, cinnamon (do we see a pattern here?)

My Go-To Recipe:  Thai coconut curry

Favorite Cookbook:  Jacques Pepin's La Technique/La Methode

Must-Have Kitchen  Tools:  My carbon steel chef's knife with the wooden handle, sharpening steel, cutting board, blender.

Dream Kitchen Tools:  Kitchenaid mixer, a proper-sized food processor (as opposed to my mini Cuisinart)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Yay, Bugs!

Every year, I release upwards of 10,000 ladybugs into my garden to fight those pesky little white flies called aphids that munch on my rose bushes.  You can buy ladybugs at the garden store - I get mine at Sloat Garden Center and release a couple thousand of them every month.  It's way easier than crushing the aphids with your fingers or spraying stuff all over the plants.

Turns out, one in five flowering plants are attractive to ladybugs and other beneficial insects.  Sloat has a recipe for planting a "Good Bug Tub" which includes flowers native to California:

Blue bedder penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus var. purdyii)
Dwarf blue lupine (Lupinus nanus)
Seaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus)
Coyote mint (Monardella villosa)
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Tidy tips (Layia platyglossa)

 More details on the Sloat website:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Awesome Sauce Redux

Rice paper salad rolls with a side of Awesome
Biz gave me this recipe a few years ago. It's fresh, lively, and herbal. Biz, our friend Tim, and I ate it on everything for an entire summer: salad, cooked veggies, rice, quinoa. Play around with the herbs, and throw in handfuls of whatever's handy.

It's basically a pesto, sans diary, and it's vegan, if you replace the honey with a hippie sweetener (agave, maple, etc.). I always think I've made too much, but then it disappears in a couple of days.

One batch = about a pint
 Recently, I found my original hand scratched recipe (no doubt dictated by Biz over a bottle of wine on her porch, on a lovely summer evening in Woodacre). I thought I'd share the written recipe, instead of typing it out. The paper version is so homey and used; I love it.

You can make substitutions where you see fit, and make it thinner or thicker by adjusting the water (I use just a tablespoon or two), just don't leave out the orange juice (squeeze it yourself), ginger, or garlic. Substitute avocado for the oil, if you want. You can exclude the soy sauce, and up the salt (or not). Also, I add four or five cloves of garlic. Is one clove ever enough for anything? And I throw in loads more herbs than the recipe calls for.
The original recipe, c. 2006 (you won't need that much water!)

Instructions: Chop up the herbs by hand first, then throw everything in a blender. I always start with the garlic, ginger, and seeds, so I can be sure they are blended to a fine consistency, then add the herbs and liquids. Blend until smooth. Awesome Sauce will thicken, and the flavors will meld in the fridge, but you might not be able to wait that long. Keeps for about 5 days. Enjoy!

Kale, No Excuses

OK, one more kale recipe - this one's got a fantastically light yet flavorful peanut dressing.  We have now gathered here no fewer than four, count 'em, four delicious recipes for kale, ensuring you have plenty of options and no excuses for not getting enough dark leafy greens, a crucial source of calcium, fiber, iron, and a million other good-for-you things.

I promise to move onto another food group with my upcoming posts, but this one I couldn't resist sharing.  Thank you, Judy Lewenthal Daniel, for turning me on to the website TheKitchn ( from whence this recipe and the accompanying photo hail.

When I make this salad I screw around with the ratio of kale to peppers to carrots depending on what I have in the fridge, but recommend you always have one of the sweet red/orange variety to balance the bitterness in the kale and the acidity of the vinegar.  The dressing recipe is perfect, so don't mess with it.

This salad is so freakin' delicious!

Kale Slaw with Peanut Dressing
serves 6 to 8
2 large bunches curly or lacinato kale, about 2 pounds
2 red bell peppers, cleaned and cut into fine strips
1 large carrot, peeled
3/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts, divided
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
Fold each leaf of kale in half lengthwise and slice out the center rib. Discard ribs. Roll a stack of the leaves up and slice in half lengthwise, then crosswise into very fine ribbons. You will have 10 to 12 cups of finely chopped kale in the end. Wash and rinse thoroughly in a salad spinner.
Toss the kale with the sliced bell peppers. Slice the carrot very thin, either by creating curls with a peeler, or by running the halved carrot lengthwise down a mandoline. Toss with the kale, red pepper, and 1/2 cup of the peanuts.
In a chopper or small food processor, briefly puree the remaining 1/4 cup peanuts, oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper flakes. Pulse it just a few times; the peanuts should be partially pureed, but with some nibs and nubs still left in the dressing. (The texture difference between the whole peanuts, ground peanuts, and pureed peanuts in the sauce is one of the things that makes this slaw so wonderful.)
Toss the dressing with the slaw and let it sit for at least a few minutes before serving.