On eating well.

Sometimes I go through fits of intense fascination with food.  It’s grounding and uplifting at the same time; fun to make and fun to eat; beautiful to be both a producer and a consumer of so much goodness.  Since I was boasting on Facebook about yesterday’s food-frenzy, I was asked for recipes; they are below.  More to follow, eventually.  Oh, we also made applesauce: core and chop Macintosh or Cortland apples; heap into slow cooker.  Add one or more chopped pears for fab flavor; 1/2 cup water for texture; 1 tsp cinnamon for attitude.  Cook on high for an hour or so; stir periodically until it reaches the texture you want.  Puree if you feel like it.  Freezes well!

Leek and Pumpkin Soup:

Roast one smallish pumpkin or other winter squash  (I cut mine in half, scoop out pulp, and roast them face-down in a pan with an inch of water until the outside is brownish and it smushes under pressure — maybe 40 minutes at 400F).  Chop and wash three medium leeks (yes, I do it in that order, so I can really get all the grit out from between the layers).  Sautee them in a Tbsp or so of butter until they are soft, adding a half-tsp of thyme and another of salt somewhere along the way.  Deglaze the pan with about a half-cup of dry white wine, keeping the leeks in there for the process.  Inhale deeply over the pot.  Add homemade chicken stock (maybe 6-8 cups?).  Add mashed insides of squash.  Simmer together for ten minutes or so, then puree if you so choose or keep it chunky.  Your call.  Enjoy.

Ricotta Cornbread:

This is an eggless variation of my old standby cornbread recipe.  It’s the sweet, moist kind.

Butter an 8×8 pan; preheat oven to 400.  Mix dries and wets separately and then combine.  Pour into pan; bake for 20-25 minutes until done.

3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour

1/4 cup sugar

2.5 tsp baking powder (more doesn’t hurt)

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

1 tsp vanilla

 

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Resurfacing

You know how when you get sick and worn down, nothing seems significant anymore?  And that which does is mostly depressing?  Yeah.  That’s been the past week.  But we’re all starting to get better now, which gave rise to a fit of afternoon food production around here: lentil-sausage-pesto soup and citrus olive-oil cake and even some bread dough.  Recipes are offered below.  But I just wanted to register not only this fine achievement but also an important realization: when we’re low and off-kilter and sick, we consume.  When we’re grounded and whole and healthy, we produce.  Perhaps this is not the most important thing I’ve ever noticed, but then again, perhaps it is.  Resurfacing does more than let us gasp for air — it reminds us how to swim.

Recipes:

Lentil Soup: from Smitten Kitchen (scroll down the page some to find the actual recipe amid all the hoopla and enthusiasm), but I like it best with garlic sausage instead of sweet italian; kale instead of chard; and a cup or so of pesto to keep things lively.  It’s gorgeous.  Oh, and the garlic oil they rave about?  I haven’t tried it.  I’m sure it’s brilliant.  But who has time?  This is quick, healthy, and totally delicious.

Citrus Olive-Oil Cake: sorry I can’t share it.  It’s from Rustic Fruit Desserts, about which I often rave, and I probably need permission.  Pester me if you want me to look into it.  I will mention that we used only grapefruit and orange rind and substituted lemon extract — which makes me wonder if you could use all extracts in a pinch? — and it was terrific.  I used a pretty fruity olive oil and next time will go milder.  I mean, the cake itself is GORGEOUS, but with such a strong oil, you end up with a bit of aftertaste and -feel.

Bread: this one cracks me up.  I’ve been flirting with bread-baking for, oh, fifteen years or so.  I mostly spend a lot of time to make something kind of mediocre and so I bail.  I think I really need to get a sourdough starter and try again.  But this was a last-ditch effort at ordinary yeasty hearth bread, and I tried it because it’s no-knead.  So a lot less time.  I figured it would suck, but whatever.  Here’s the thing: it’s really good! It is, so far, hands-down the best bread I’ve ever made.  The coolest part is that you make the dough, let it sit out for two hours, and then refrigerate it for as long as you want.  You cut off a chunk to make a loaf (my dough will make about three loaves, I think), shape it and set it out to rise for about 40 minutes, and then you bake it on a pizza stone.  Absolutely delicious, and with a better crumb and texture than anything else I’ve made.  Maybe bread is like garden soil: we all think we have to maul it for best results, but if we can get out of the way and let it do its own thing, it’s brilliant.  Recipe is here.