I was looking over asmartmouth.com and I just can’t believe we have never posted a yeast bread in the history of the blog. It seems impossible to me. Bread baking is such an intrinsic part of my life. I have been baking my own bread since I was 16, not all the time, but often. In recent history I don’t think that I have bought a loaf of bread in the last two years. We always bake our own. Last Christmas Matt and Anjuli gave me my own flour mill so now I can even grind my own flour. If I had the land I would probably grow my own grain.15 Comments » Keep reading »
I had invited Priscilla for her birthday, but I was a little cooked out and couldn’t come up with anything to make. I started dreaming about the ingredients I knew she’d love – a stew of shrimp, chicken and sausage kept popping into my mind and making me hungry. So I considered what would go well with this rather unconventional trio. The cuisine of the seafaring Portuguese and hearty southern stews seemed apropro, as did capers, some wine and of course my herbs. I wanted this stew to be hearty and full with some heat from Italian sausage, a hint of sea brine, and those perfectly pink shrimp and deep brown chicken thighs.1 Comment » Keep reading »
Anjuli, poor girl, has, of all things, pneumonia. She and Matt have been staying in Connecticut while they get ready for their travels. They’re going to be outside of the US for a while, so their planning and packing involves millions of little details. The last thing Anjuli needed was to come down with pneumonia. I wanted to make something that would lift her spirits in this never-ending winter. It was Valentine’s Day, so I thought she would love it if I made some nut brittle and backed it with chocolate.2 Comments » Keep reading »
Meatballs in my family make their own meal. They’re palm-sized and ever so tender nestled in tomato sauce with rarely a carb in sight. You could bake them in the oven – yea you could – but we like them simmered until they are just barely held together. Mom recently bought half a whole hog which she split with her good friend Priscilla who lives up the road. They’ll be cooking everything save a few offal, including the head, which are illegal to ship outside state lines. She’s still waiting on the cured bits, but ground pork, raw sausage and chops have graced our table in the last few weeks. It’s damn good pork, out of a small farm in Maine. Today we broke out the ground pork and some grass fed beef.3 Comments » Keep reading »
In the words of my father, “Darlin, you really went to town on lunch.” Well, not exactly. What he was referring to was our lunch today of mushroom barely and chicken soup with focaccia. The focaccia was made last night by Matt in a baking frenzy – or as much as rolling out pizza dough and topping it with rosemary and goat cheese and little slivers of onions can be considered a sudden impulse. Yet focaccia does lend itself to a certain spontaneity and resulting crusty satisfaction. And we had mom’s post fresh in our heads to fuel the fire. While the dough was being rolled I stuffed a chicken in a pot, covered it in water and made the fixings of a good stock. After an hour or so of ever so carefully simmering the contents – which on mom’s stove requires a ton of finagling of knobs and peeking under the cocked lid to make sure the bloop, bloop is constant – we took the chicken out. I had started to feel the kind of crappy where your head is stuffed with foam and your kidneys hurt and you just want to lay on the floor in the kitchen and moan. So I lay there, perfectly useless, while Matt pulled apart the steaming chicken with a fork and a thumb. I did emerge a few times to pull dark chicken meat from the bowl and pop it in my mouth. I think boiled chicken may still rival the roasted kind in my book. Then we threw the bones back in and continued to barely simmer the stock, for what was supposed to be two more hours. At this point you’re aiming to get all the gelatin out of the bones. Well, unsurprisingly, we fell asleep somewhere in there and woke up at 2am to find the stock had been going strong for three long hours. It was down to about 2 inches in the pot including bones and vegetables and such. Ooops. It smelled divine, but we effectively had the essence of chicken stock, boiled down to very little. Matt strained it while I wobbled around, brushing my teeth, thinking about stock and getting into bed.4 Comments » Keep reading »
If I want something impromptu that I can whip up from start to finish in one hour and still call it homemade bread, something I can offer for lunch to dress up a homemade soup, for example, expecting each and every time I make it to hear oooooh, I make focaccia. I make it with my pizza dough, paint it with olive oil, sprinkle it with minced garlic, rosemary and coarse salt and voila, in six minutes at 500F I have a crusty masterpiece.1 Comment » Keep reading »
This is one of those dishes that is home to me. It comes out all piping hot and bubbling from the oven and you present it simply to your guests. You cut the flaky, tender crust into wedges so everyone gets a good piece and dish out the aromatic, creamy filling. The result is warmth and nourishment to the belly — pure rapture — and a dish that makes everyone feel like royalty.1 Comment » Keep reading »
I don’t know which is a more unfortunate name for this vegetable: sunchoke or jerusalem artichoke. Sunchokes look like overgrown, dirty ginger, are a cousin of the sunflower (hence, sunchoke) and native to the US, and taste like a slightly sweet potato with a bit of nuttiness and the texture of a turnip. Unfortunately, both its names and odd ginger shape have caused this root to be relegated to the oddball end-of-year bins at farmers markets.1 Comment » Keep reading »
I am sitting in the living room of one of my closest friends in Philadelphia, Anj’s godmother Kristin. I grew up in Philadelphia and have been very close with Kristin since I was 16. That is over 40 years. She is dying of lung cancer and I don’t know if this is the last time I will be with her.
For the last year I have been making the purest and simplest food for her – organic chicken broth or very simple organic lentils with greens. Even though I can’t be there to cook for her every night, she can combine these simple foods to make soups and stews – giving her comfort, inspiration and the nutrition she needs to keep her strength. I freeze them and bring them to her about once a month. Now most of what she is eats comes out of an intravenous tube. (What she takes by mouth she usually throws up.)
So here I am, sitting next to her, and writing this post while she dozes on my shoulder – a surreal experience. But work is an anchor that grounds the soul – so here we go.2 Comments » Keep reading »
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Pancakes, the limp dicks of the bread world… er… the carb darlings of the American breakfast. I’ll admit, I never liked ‘em. Pancakes always seemed like a sucker punch – refined flour and maple syrup taking turns until you were forced to go curl up in a corner and take a nap. Of course I always loved making them – they were the first food I learned to cook when I was about two. Mom would turn around the kitchen chair (so I didn’t tumble over onto the stove top) and let me (slowly now) ladle the batter onto the griddle. I’m sure there was a lot going through my kid brain at the time, but all I remember was making little dinosaurs and A, B, Cs.