This weekend I couldn’t get to the farmer’s market, so I resorted to the grocery store. Having found rhubarb at a Homeland on the other side of town made me go back again, hoping to score some celery root. No luck this time, but while checking out, the teenage cashier said to me:

“Ma’am, I’ve never seen anyone buying so much fresh food, the only thing you can’t eat here is the laundry detergent”!

I hadn’t noticed. But, back in the comfort of my kitchen I realized he was absolutely right (well, except that he missed the issue of Everyday Food ;-)).

This, my friends, is the way to start the weekend…

(click twice to enlarge it)

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Make this bread!  Even if you’re yeast-0-phobic,  even if you think you can’t  bake a bread to save your own life, …PLEASE  make this bread.  I’ll hold your hand throughout, and toast your success at the end!

(from Hamelman’s Bread)

For the poolish
1 lb bread flour (3 + 5/8 cup)
1 lb water (2 cups)
1/4  tsp instant dry yeast

For the dough:
all the poolish made the previous day (about 2 lb)
6.1 oz water (3/4 cup)
1 lb bread flour (3 + 5/8 cup)
0.6 oz salt (1 Tbs)
0.17 oz yeast (1 + 1/2 tsp)

Make the poolish the day before: add water to a bowl, sprinkle the yeast on top, add the flour and mix until smooth with a large spoon.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours (ideal temperature: 70 F).

This is what the poolish will look like the next day….

Prepare the dough:  add the flour, water and fermented poolish to the bowl of a Kitchen Aid-type mixer.   Don’t add the yeast or the salt yet.  Mix on first speed (or by hand) until it all comes together in a shaggy-looking mass.  Cover the bowl and let this mixture rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Add the salt and the yeast over the dough, turn the mixer to the second speed and mix for 2 minutes.  Ideally, the temperature of the dough should reach about 76 F.  If kneading by hand, then work the dough until it’s smooth, about 6 minutes.

Cover the bowl and let it rest for 25 minutes.  Give a quick couple of folds to the dough (as shown here), let it rest 25 more minutes.   Fold the dough a couple of times again, and let it rest 20-25 minutes more, undisturbed.

Gently divide the dough into two pieces, trying not to deflate it too much, and place them over lightly floured kitchen towels. Cover,  and let them stay for 20 to 25 minutes at room temperature, for a final quick proofing.  No need to shape the loaves in any particular way.

Invert the dough over parchment paper, so that the floured side is now up.  Slash the bread quickly with a single stroke of a razor blade or sharp knife.

Bake the loaves in a 460F oven, with steam (add ice cubes to a baking pan placed at the bottom of the oven, or use any method of your choice to add steam in the initial baking time).  The bread will be ready in about 35 minutes.   Let them cool completely on a rack before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  My expectations were not too high for this bread when I first made it:  no wild yeast, no involved kneading and shaping.  When the loaves were ready to go into the oven, they seemed too flat, with a tendency to spread.   However,  they had  nice oven bounce, and the simple slash perfectly coached them into the final shape.   Each loaf was light as a feather, with a nice crumb and subtle sour flavor, thanks to the poolish.

Even though this recipe comes from Hamelmn’s book,  I did not make it as part of the Mellow Baker’s Challenge.  I had to take  a step back and turn into an avid observer of the group instead of a participant.  But make sure you jump over there to see what they are baking,  some great breads for the month of August, including baguettes…  😉

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yestspotting

ONE YEAR AGO: A Souffle to Remember…  Julia Child

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…. always bring basil to mind. The classic threesome includes mozzarella, in a tasty caprese salad, but recently Fine Cooking offered a different twist: hearty beefsteak tomatoes topped with grilled corn and dressed with delicate basil oil, all of which was prepared in minutes. When it’s too hot to cook inside this meal is a breath of fresh air: everything’s grilled outside, the house stays cool, and so do you. 😉

(Fine Cooking Grilling issue, 2010)

for basil oil

1 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

for the salad:
2 ears of corn, husks removed
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
2 large beefsteak tomatoes

Make the basil oil: bring a pot of water to boil, add the basil leaves and blanch them for 10 seconds. Immediately drain them and plunge them in a bowl with ice water to stop cooking. Drain the leaves again, squeeze them to remove excess water, and place over paper towels to dry. Chop the basil coarsely and add into a blender. Add the oil and salt, blend to form a puree. Let the puree settle for about 30 minutes, strain through cheesecloth or a chinois, pressing the leaves to release all the oil. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Prepare the corn: break the corn cobs in half, toss them with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and cook them over a hot grill until browned in spots (about 2 minutes on each side, six minutes total). When cooked, return them to the bowl and allow them to cool. When you can handle them, cut off the kernels (lengthwise) with a large knife, and then set the cut corn aside until you’re ready to assemble the salad.

Make the salad: Slice the tomatoes 1/2 inch thick and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the slices on a plate, scatter the corn kernels over them and drizzle with basil oil.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Until recently I’d never grilled an ear of corn. We’d always bring the corn to a boil in water with a little sugar and salt. That’s the way my husband’s family has always prepared corn, and trust me, it’s an excellent approach. I don’t even butter mine because it’s so flavorful; just a dash of salt and pepper is enough. But, for reasons that will soon become clear I’ve been grilling more often, sometimes even making a full meal in the grill.

I was satisfied by how well the beefsteak tomato worked in this recipe. We normally don’t buy them, but prefer smaller tomatoes (Campari, cherry, or grape). However, in this recipe the beefsteaks shine! If you find them in your farmer’s market, then don’t think twice and make this salad.

The basil oil is a bit of trouble to prepare, but worth the half an hour. Blanching the leaves produces a bright and beautiful green oil. Store any leftover basil oil in the fridge for about 1 week.

Note to self: Grill more corn! 😉

ONE YEAR AGO:  Focaccia

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When Jacques Pepin speaks, I listen.  His book “Fast Food My Way” is a permanent fixture in my kitchen, just because I often cook from it on weeknights.  His simple dish, “Little Shrimp Casserole” only takes 30 minutes to prepare, and you’ll will be delighted by the moist tenderness of the shrimp,  which are baked hidden beneath a layer of bread crumbs.

(adapted from Pepin’s Fast Food My Way)

4 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp chopped garlic
1/4 cup minced chives
1/2 cup coarsely chopped mushrooms
salt and black pepper
2 Tbs canola oil, divided
1 pound large shrimp (about 24), shelled and deveined (brined if previously frozen)
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup vermouth

Mix the melted butter with the garlic, chives, mushrooms, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Add the shrimp and one tablespoon of canola oil;  mix well.   Transfer the mixture to a shallow baking dish (or make 4 individual servings).

In another bowl, toss the panko crumbs with the remaining tablespoon of oil, but make sure that they remain fluffy and don’t stick together. Sprinkle the crumbs all over the casserole, pour the vermouth on top and bake in a 425F oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the top is well browned and the shrimp are fully cooked.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: When using frozen shrimp, I like to quickly brine them to plump them up. You can see my method in this previous post. If you have access to fresh shrimp, then skip it. Whatever you do, make sure to thoroughly dry the shrimp on paper or a kitchen towel before assembling the dish.  Jacques uses white wine in his recipe, but I substituted vermouth because I like the way it complements seafood.

You can assemble the casserole a few hours beforehand, keeping it refrigerated until baking time.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Avocado Three Ways

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May 2009.   While browsing  at Tea and Cookies I became smitten with a recipe.  Her description of its texture and flavor, plus the fact that she called it a “revelation,” made me crave for it, even though I’d never had it before.  I even left a comment on the site with a commitment to make that dish the following weekend.   Why did it take over a year to finally do so?    I simply couldn’t find any fresh rhubarb!   I’ve been on a quest for it ever since.

A few weeks ago I stopped by a Homeland supermarket that I don’t normally shop, and while walking through the produce section I saw, in all its glory,  fresh rhubarb!    I heard myself saying aloud: “OOOOOH!  RHUBARB”! A lady standing nearby gave me a strange look and moved away, taking her child by the hand, in that protective mode that Moms often display in the face of a loony. Too excited to care, I grabbed a full bunch and left the store with THE biggest smile ever.  My husband finds it unpalatable, but I’m not so predisposed!

(from Tea and Cookies)
2 Tbs butter
1 lb rhubarb
3/4 cup sugar
2 TBS orange liquor (optional)

Trim the rhubarb of the ends, and split it lengthwise. Cut across in 1/4 inch pieces, forming  small cubes.

In a large bowl, toss the rhubarb with the sugar and set aside.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the sugar-coated rhubarb and the orange liquor, if using. Let this cook over a medium heat, undisturbed, for about 2 minutes. When the rhubarb has started to release juices, gently stir.

Continue cooking the compote over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the juices are all released, then begin to thicken. Cooking time is about 10 to 15 minutes total, until the compote looks thick and the rhubarb is tender.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I could ‘t help but think of  “Happy in the Kitchen”  by Michel  Richard.  No, the book doesn’t have a recipe for rhubarb, but Happy in the Kitchen described me to a “T” while making this compote.  Maybe it was the long wait to finally get my hands on the plant, or maybe the anticipation of how it would taste.  It is indeed delicious!   My beloved stayed true to principles and didn’t care for it.    But I loved it:   by itself, with yogurt, with a swirl of honey, or… best of all,  over my homemade fromage blanc with a bit of agave nectar.  Each bite was unique in its own combination of flavors, and a perfect way to either start or end a day.

ONE YEAR AGO: Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Peanut Sauce

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