Monday, December 20, 2010
When I was looking for the recipe for the lovely pear bread I baked a few weeks ago, I stumbled on a recipe for beer bread. Since I am naturally lazy, I was very intrigued by the fact that it listed so few ingredients and seemed to require so little effort...
In fact, the recipe looked so simple and quick that I thought perhaps the Joy of Cooking had omitted something important, like some ingredients or a key step or two. But a quick online search confirmed that it really is that easy!
While I was rooting around online to make sure the Joy of Cooking had not had some sort of senior moment, I discovered Farmgirl Fare, a lovely blog written by Susan, a native Californian who lives on a 240-acre farm in Missouri with 1 farmguy, 7 donkeys, 3 dogs, 6 cats, sheep and countless chickens. Although she's got good recipes, the thing I am most sold on is the adorable photos of her menagerie -- see below for a recent example (one of these donkeys is named "Evie" -- quel coincidence, no???)
I'm happy to report that this bread is just as easy as I'd hoped. It took me all of 10 minutes to get the bread batter mixed up and into the oven and clean up! Now that is the kind of recipe I can get behind...
The end result is marvelous -- a chewy bread with an appealing tang from the beer and the sharp cheddar and a nice little kick of flavor from the dill and the caraway. It makes a great accompaniment to a hearty soup or stew and also toasts nicely. Added bonus: your house will fill with a mouth-watering aroma while the bread is baking.
So go, bake a loaf. It will only take a few minutes and should help get your family and friends all "hopped" up for the holidays (sorry, I tried to resist but the pun won in the end.) Also, timing is getting tight but, in case you have not seen them, check out my three holiday gift guides for food, gadgets & gear, and books for foodies.
The recipe below is my own adaptation of Farmgirl Susan's recipe and the Joy of Cooking's beer, cheese and scallion bread recipe.
Beer Bread With Cheddar & Dill
Makes one loaf
* 3 cups organic all-purpose flour
* 2 tsps granulated sugar
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 Tbsp baking powder (make sure it's fresh, otherwise your bread won't rise...)
* 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried dill
* 2 tsps caraway seeds
* 1 cup finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
* 12 ounces beer (you can use light or dark but don't use a stout -- the beer must not be flat though the temperature does not matter -- I used a Brooklyn Lager since that's what I had in the fridge)
Optional Glaze: 1 egg & 2 teaspoons water, beaten
1. Preheat oven to 375° and grease an 8-inch loaf pan. Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda dill, caraway seeds, and cheddar in a large mixing bowl. Slowly stir in beer and mix just until combined. The batter will be thick.
2. Spread the batter in the greased loaf pan, brush with egg glaze if desired, and bake until golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
3. Cool in the pan on a rack for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool for 20 more minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. This bread toasts nicely and will last for 2-3 days.
You might also like:
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Now that I've covered books, gadgets and gear, I turn my attention to a variety of fine comestibles that would make wonderful gifts for people who like to cook and eat. Hope you enjoy this final installment of the Garden of Eating's 2010 Holiday Gift Guide For Foodies.
Roasted Walnut Oil
Walnut oil lends a delicious, rich flavor to vinaigrettes (it's especially great with sharper, peppery greens like arugala), pesto, and is delicious on its own as a dipping sauce for fresh bread, in marinades for meat, fish or veggies, or to add an extra nuttiness to waffles, scones, biscotti, carrot cake and other sweets. Good for you, too, as it's very high in Omega 3's. I also like that La Tourangelle seems to take making oil very seriously. They make a number of other delicious, high quality oils, too -- sesame, hazelnut, grapeseed, avocado, sunflower, etc.
Fleur De Sel
True to its name, which means "flower of salt" en Français, this hand-harvested salt is very fine, even delicate. To make fleur de sel, saltworkers harvest the top layer of sea salt in the salt pans in specific towns of France. You'll often see it labeled with the region where it was harvested -- Fleur de Sel de Camarge or de Guerande, etc. It's best sprinkled on food (including certain desserts) right before serving since its fine crystals dissolve quickly. It often has either a slight gray or pink cast to it - a result of the sand where it was harvested. Although not technically the same, it is similar to Maldon Sea Salt Flakes from Essex in the UK which is another very nice finishing salt.
GuS (Grown Up Soda)
Anyone who's read my blog for a while knows that I have a weakness for Mexican Coke. But I'm kicking my Coke habit in favor of a new, slightly healthier addiction, GuS's Dry Cola. I spotted these at my local healthfood store and decided to try the cola and the ginger ale (my husband's favorite) on a whim. I was blown away by how good the cola was--better by far than la coca mexicana... I think the fact that it contains less sugar prevents sheer sweetness from overpowering the flavor of the actual drink. I've tried the rest of the flavors and am equally impressed with them. These are unique and tasty enough to enjoy on their own as a pairing with any meal or, if you know someone who is into making cocktails, the possibilities would be endless. You can include a printout of these cocktail recipes with your gift of a four-pack or two. In addition to the Dry Cola, their flavors include: Dry Pomegranate, Dry Meyer Lemon, Star Ruby Grapefruit, Extra Dry Ginger Ale, Grape Black Currant, Dry Valencia Orange and Dry Cranberry Lime. They're sweetened with cane sugar and have no preservatives and no caffeine. You can buy them at Wholefoods or check here to find a store in your area that carries them.
Dark or Milk Chocolate Bacon Bars
My friend, Marc, treated me to a bite of one of these heavenly chocolate bars a year or two ago. Once I got over my initial surprise at seeing bacon paired with chocolate, my only question was "why didn't I think of that?!" After all, I love chocolate and I love bacon... Luckily, it did occur to the good folks at Vosges Haut-Chocolat, so we can now choose from either their milk or dark chocolate bars which combine the savory, smokey flavor of bacon with the sweet, rich flavor of chocolate and topped it off with a bit of salt to balance all the flavors. To quote their product descriptions: "Applewood smoked bacon pieces with alderwood smoked salt, and 45% creamy milk, or 62% deep dark chocolate." They're heart-stoppingly good... (and, yes, pun intended.)
Sweet and just a little spicy, ginger syrup is delicious in tea, desserts, baked goods, drinks, you name it. I like the kind made by The Ginger People (I've bought it at Whole Foods in the past) but you can also easily make your own by boiling down a syrup of sugar and grated or sliced ginger and give it as a gift. It's kind of like liquid gold...
NoMU Spice Rubs & Blends
If you know someone who likes to grill, roast or marinate, you should check out NoMU, a South African company that makes the best spice rubs in a lot of really interesting flavors. My friend Ben introduced me to these when I finally thought to ask why everything he grills is always so amazing. I recommend their Moroccan, African and Indian rubs but they also make lots of more "normal" sounding rubs like Provençal, Cajun, lamb, barbeque, poultry, beef, veggies, etc. I've bought several of their rubs via Amazon (they come in packs of three or four so you can divide one pack to make presents for several people!)
This is such a wonderful thing -- sweet, tart, rich and complex. Pomegranate molasses is made by boiling down the juice of a particular type of tart pomegranate along with some cane sugar and lemon juice. The result is a dark, thick syrup that adds a wonderful zing and sweetness to lots of dishes, dressings, and drinks. Pomegranate molasses is widely available in many supermarkets and smaller ethnic markets nowadays, often for just $3-$5 a bottle. If you can’t find it in a market near you, you can always find it on Amazon which sells a bunch of different brands.
Spiced Roasted Nuts from Olomomo Nut Company
I'm nuts about roasted nuts, particularly when spices are involved. My friend Justin started roasting nuts as a hobby a few years ago, after he got inspired by a nut guy at a farmers market in Washington, DC. He's since turned his hobby into a bonafide business -- Olomomo Nut Company. As a frequent eater, I can vouch for both the amazing (and addictive) flavors and the high quality of these hand-spiced nuts. Some of my favorites include the Cosmic Maple Masala Pecans and the Mango Chipotle Zinger Almonds. If someone likes nuts, they will like these.
Fresh Chopped Herbs, Frozen!
I first tried these a couple of years ago (when a guy from DaRegal emailed me to see if I wanted a free sample) and now I'm not quite sure how I managed without them. Inevitably, one needs some basil or parsley or cilantro at some point in the cooking process -- for dressing, to add a little more flavor to a marinade, etc. But there may not be any in the fridge (or the garden) or it may not justify buying a whole bunch of the herb. In those situations, these chopped frozen herbs are a life-saver. And once you start using them, you can never go back. Although there may be other companies out there, the one I buy my herbs from is DaRegal, the same place that sent me the free sample a few years ago. If you do mail order, I suggest that you buy 2 of each herb -- they've got better and better deals if you get more than 4 at a time (and the shipping costs are really high since they have to send them in dry ice). Keep a set for yourself and give one to someone you really like. Or check to see if your local chain grocery store carries them (mine does not, sadly).
Browse the rest of The Garden of Eating's 2010 Holiday Gift Guide:
Part I: Books for Food-Lovers
Part I: Books for Food-Lovers
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Welcome to part deux of the 2010 holiday gift guide! This week, I am zeroing in on gadgets, gear and other glorious gee-gaws that will appeal to food-oriented folk (let's hear it for alliteration!) As always, please add your suggestions for other brilliant gift ideas via comments.
Gorgeous Calendars From Cavallini & Co.
I've loved looking at their Farmer's Market calendar all year long so I just took a peek to see what they're offering for 2011. In addition to the Garden calendar ($22) below, they've got a delectable-lookin' desserts desk calendar ($13), and a bunch of other beauties you can browse through.
These are great for making lists, leaving messages, writing out a menu, and encouraging your kids to be creative. I also just love the way they look in a kitchen - homey, fun and old-fashioned. You can either buy one (check out this cool Etsy shop that sells chalkboards made with recycled window casings and picture frames) or you can make one yourself! Click here for Martha Stewart's tutorial on how to make your own magnetic chalkboard.
After the business end fell out of our potato peeler a few months ago, I did a little research and ended up getting one of these awesome palm scrubbers by Chef'n ($8.50). It's super comfortable, won't slip out of your hand and also has a good set of bristles -- not too soft. Chef'n also makes a palm peeler that people seem excited about -- I have not tried it but they sometimes sell the two together ($15.50 with shipping). A great stocking stuffer!
Animal-Shaped Cutting Boards
I've been admiring these (and wanting to make them myself) for years, ever since I first saw the idea in an old Martha Stewart Living magazine. But in the meantime, you can buy these adorable porcine, bovine and poultrine (definitely made that word up...) cutting board from Fishs Eddy for $33.
I got one of these great Kikkerland timers ($12) from my Aunt Katy's storehouse of wonders (a.k.a. Healthy Living Market in Burlington, VT) a few years ago. It's hard not to be smitten with this timer's classic looks and powerful magnet. Admit it, you are powerless to resist...
Rubber Stamps For Marking Freezer Items
My cousin Norah introduced me to this idea at Thanksgiving. She and her boyfriend Chris had marked the items in their chest freezer with the appropriate stamped images to help keep them straight in a sea of white freezer paper. A deer stamp ($8.25) for venison, a pig stamp ($8) for pork, etc. Cute idea, right?! (Well, maybe it's not quite as cute if you're a vegetarian, but since I am a meat eater I found it adorable!)
Pretty Much Anything By Bauer Pottery
I have been a groupie of this company ever since my Aunt Katy gave us a set of Bauer Pottery mixing bowls as a wedding gift. They specialize in these simple, sweet designs that remind me of the 1940's and 50's glazed in great colors that somehow manage to be both classy and cheerful at the same time.
Immersion Hand Blender
When it comes to gadgets, nothing can compare to the immersion, hand or wand blender. I think it is the single most useful kitchen gadget I own. I got mine for $5 at a yard sale about 8 years ago when I lived in Washington, DC and it's still going strong! This handy little wand blender allows you to puree things right in the pot or bowl without having to deal with pouring hot (or cold) liquids into a blender or food processor. And the clean up is wonderfully easy, too -- no need to mess with the Cuisinart's millions of hard to clean parts. I cannot say enough good things about these blenders. Prices vary by brand.
Porcelain Glove Molds
Although this is primarily an objet d'art, these can also be useful by the kitchen sink to hold your rings while you're scrubbing or to dry rubber gloves on. I love that these are actual glove molds direct from the factory so each one is different. Also from Fishs Eddy, these range in price from $37 to well over $100, depending on the rarity of the mold.
This is something I have been wanting for many years but just could not afford counter-space-wise until we moved back to the east coast. A super helpful thing to have on hand when your hands are messy from cooking, especially when you're breaking in a new cookbook with a stiff binding. I like the looks of this cookbook holder ($35) because it has clean lines and a cover to protect the book while you're making a mess.
Microplane Grater and Zester
This rockin' tool was one of my first Gifts From The Kitchen Gods posts. Nothing beats this light little rasp ($11) for grating chocolate or parmesan cheese or zesting a lemon or orange. They're inexpensive and stocking-shaped, too...
I keep seeing these pop up in other people's gift guides and am always tempted to get one. Something about the rustic and nature themes really appeals to me and I like the idea of having a wall-mounted bottle opener in a kitchen, too. Here are a few of my favorites -- the wall-mounted bear opener ($14) is made by HomArt and the bird ($16) and the antler ($28)openers are from Anthropologie.
Glass Storage Containers!
In addition to being prettier than tupperware, glass storage containers are also a lot healthier for you and your family because they will not leach toxic chemicals like BPA into the food you store in them (a definite plus in my book!) Unlike their plastic cousins, glass storage containers do not trap odors, nor do they stain, and they will also last a long time (unless you drop them, that is...) Click here to read my post about these gems for more info on the health benefits, etc. Crate and Barrel Outlet is a great place to get these and Amazon also has a big selection.
Recipe Storage Boxes
As I've learned from personal experience, having your recipes organized can make all the difference in actually using them. And for some people, just storing them in something pretty will probably provide the incentive they need to cook more often. A company called RSVP makes this cute bamboo box ($16), Martha Stewart makes a very cute, painted tin that also comes in red ($10), and I also like this neat-looking stainless steel box ($36).
Oxo Drain Strainers
I have already waxed poetic about the merits of these little silicone beauties by Oxo. And I like them just as much now as I did a few months ago when I bought them. They're nicer-looking than most drain covers and much easier to clean since you just flip the silicone basket part inside out over the compost bucket or the garbage. You can buy them with a drain plug for $10 or without the plug for $8. Another good stocking stuffer.
Periodic Table of the Vegetables
I have long been a fan of this wonderful poster. And now, our little Will loves it, too! He likes to sit on our laps at the kitchen table and point to the different vegetables and say their names (as best he can). His favorites include the pumpkin (pump), peas, tomato (may-may), and the corn. You can buy the poster here for $20 (it appears to be a bit hard to find right now, this was the only site I found that offered it.)
In case you missed it, you may want to check out the other two installments of the 2010 Holiday Gift Guide: Part I: Great Books For Foodies and Part III: Food,Glorious Food.