Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Spinach Parmesan Fougasse

Although this bread is known by many names throughout the Mediteranian region, the French version from Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is my favorite. A fougasse is an herbed French bread molded into a beautiful leaf shape.

1 tsp dry yeast
1/2 cup water
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp Herbes de Provence or
1/4 cup chopped fresh spinach
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp sugar

Proof the yeast. Leave for five minutes until the yeast mixture is fluffy. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture, then pour in the proofed yeast. Use a wooden spoon to to mix the flour into the dissolved yeast to form a soft paste. Cover the bowl with a dish towel and wait until it rises for about 20 minutes.

Remove the towel and add the oil, parmesan cheese, and herbes de provence or spinach to the flour well. Flour your working surface and knead the dough on it until smooth and elastic for about 10 minutes. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, turning it to coat evenly with the oil, then cover it with a dish towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down, then let rest for ten minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to flatten the dough into a tear shape, about fourteen inches long and 3/4 inches thick. Oil your baking sheet or place a piece of silicon lining on it.

Form the dough into a leaf shape, and make diagonal slashes across the dough. Pull out each slash gently with your fingers. Cover the shaped dough, then proof until an imprint of your finger springs back slowly, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for 40 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Serve warm.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Delay in posts - Fear not!

I apologize for the delay in posts. I usually post every other day to every third day, but I've been working on some big writing pieces. But I promise to have my Lloyd's Taco Truck review, Sarah and Lucy's Fall Review of B. Ferrante's, one IN Event review, and a spinach parmesan fougasse recipe up by Tuesday at the latest. Thank you for your patience!

Oh, and look for two posts to HandPicked Nation over the next two weeks. 
(Soon after I posted this, the first one was posted Food Safety Concerns.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Soup Kitchen - The Hidden People

This past week a political maneuver to create a buzz of moral responsibility failed tremendously. It wasn't just that the politician forced his way into a soup kitchen that was closing after a long day of service. It wasn't just that pressure was put on tired volunteers to remain for a photo opportunity that they may have been politically, personally, or morally opposed to. It wasn't just that the politician fumbled his way into an apron that had just been put away and washed dishes that had already been washed.

It was more than this. The politician missed the point. He missed that the volunteers who worked that long day had just made and served hundreds of meals to the homeless, the mentally unstable, the drug addicts and alcoholics, the elderly, the folks with young children, the folks looking for meaningful employment, the lonely. Folks so desperate for a hot meal that they troop down to this location and stand in a cold hallway waiting to be allowed to enter, their belly's grumbling from the smell of hot food wafting through the closed doors.

He came after they had been served. He came after they had left. He came not to touch lives. Not to listen to the stories of sorrow and suffering. Not to contribute with his time, resources, or experience.

He is not the only politician to use the soup kitchen or pantry to create a buzz, and unfortunately he will not be the last to use people to create a false history about themselves.

Yesterday I went to Central City Cafe at 200 East Eagle Street located in the outskirts of downtown Buffalo. I went unannounced. I didn't pull out my camera. I didn't make any waves. I bowed my head along with everyone else when the kitchen head said prayers. I sat and ate my plate of lentils and roast pork on rice and my icy cold brown banana and my bitter coffee while sitting across from Kelly. Kelly has been coming to this kitchen off and on over the last three years. Every time he stops taking his medication for schizophrenia he's admitted to ECMC and eats very well there, but he says he really likes the meals here. With shaking hands he struggles with the creamer cup and finally gives up. He eats what he can but the meds make his stomach queasy so he eats like a bird, though you can see he really needs to eat it all. He trembles and scatters rice across the table, his occasional "Fuck you man." tumbles uncontrollably, tic like, out of his mouth. But he lucidly smiles and says, "It's good food here. You don't drink, you don't smoke, and they feed you good food here."

This is what the politician and others like him have missed. The sour milk scent, the worn out strollers with sleepy babies in twenty year old consigned clothing, the shoes worn so thin you can see the color of socks peeking at the heel, the rheumy yellowed eyes of long time drinkers, the warm smiles of the grateful. It's nerve wrenching for those who come for the first time. They look so obviously out of place. You can see the look on their face. "How they hell did I end up here? How the hell can I get out of here without feeling like I've groveled for a bowl of rice and limp vegetables?"

This is why I am so adamant about improving the types of food donated at my International Dinners. This is why I want to honor the work that Food Not Bombs does. This is why I encourage people to donate time as well as money to their local kitchen and pantry. This is not about coddling or being permissive, this is about supporting the community you live in. The first world concerns of malfunctioning phone apps, doggy day care issues,  not having enough money to put eyelashes on your car so you put it on a 21% interest credit card just boggles my mind. There are people in your neighborhood that don't eat or don't eat enough. Don't have access to clean water, to bathrooms, a place to do laundry. Have you ever scrubbed a t-shirt in a public restroom and dried it using the hand dryers? Have you ever bathed using a container of wet naps?

I don't want you to feel guilty. I want you to feel inspired to do something. Even if you can only contribute four times a year. Pick times that are not connected to a holiday. Holidays are easy. Too easy. It's the times in between that help is needed. It's not an all or nothing endeavor either. You do what you can, when you can. You do it quietly, unobtrusively, without thank you's, without that tax return slip for write off purposes. You can't write off your neighbors, you can't write off their lives, you can't make a profit off of their suffering. You do the work without expectations. When you do this, you discover it brings it's own rewards. I can only guarantee that this much is true.

If you want some ideas on how to help, you can contact me through email. I would be happy to suggest different ways in which you can make the greatest impact in the smallest of ways.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ito Konnyaku Soup and Stir-fry

Ito konnyaku noodles

Broad bean

Hoisin braised pork



Organic soy bean paste glazed pork or chicken

Mixed vegetables

Layer of raw large cut
kale or chard

Friday, October 12, 2012

Globe Market

On a cool, damp, breezy early afternoon I went to the Globe Market for their 1/2 & 1/2 lunch special. The market is so inviting, with it's warm colors and cozy corners, that I found myself wanting to tuck into more than just a quick lunch. A meal here could quickly turn into a leisurely multi-course visit.

The choices for meals and the platters and bowls loaded with food in the deli case are plentiful and enticing.

Prepping pork in the kitchen. Marinating in spices and freshly squeezed oranges.

The prep kitchen efficiently makes use of every surface.

So many beautifully constructed cold salads to choose from!

Winners of Buffalo Spree's The Best of WNY 2012 Best Small Caterer, Artvoice's Best Soup and Best Salad, and they are proud to serve Elm Street Bakery's freshly roasted coffee.
I picked the Beef Minestrone which came with a slab of light molasses multigrain bread, and a grilled cheddar and tomato panini. Both were full of flavor and beautifully done.

I highly recommend visiting with family and friends. They have large round tables that can comfortably seat everyone without fear of knocked elbows. I'll be back for certain!

Globe Market on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Caramel, Irish Sea Salt, and Madagascar Vanilla Bourbon Ice Cream - No Eggs

1 pint of organic heavy cream
1 cup organic 2% milk
1 cup organic 1/2 & 1/2
1 cup raw organic sugar
1 1/2 tbls Madagascar Vanilla Bourbon

Whip the ingredients together. Stir in 1 to 1 1/2 tbls gritty organic Irish Sea Salt. Do not use Kosher, regular sea salt, or table salt.

Whip until frothy. Set up the Krupps Ice Cream machine. Set a funnel in the opening. Start the machine and slowly add the whipped ingredients.

After 25 minutes, use a heated spoon or knife to drizzle several tablespoons of caramel into the mixing ice cream.

When the cycle is finished (30 to 40 minutes) pack the soft ice cream into two 1 pound plastic containers. Recycling your large yogurt containers for this is perfect.

Freeze for at least one hour before serving.

Drizzle more caramel on top before serving.

Monday, October 8, 2012

HandPicked Nation: A Rye Bread Recipe for Fall

Courtesy of HandPicked Nation

Recipe: Rye Bread

Recipe: Rye Bread
Raw sugar and lukewarm water (110*) helps the yeast to proof faster and more fully.Proofed yeast.Blend of Rye, Whole Wheat, and Whole Wheat White bread flours.Olive oil helps create a more elastic dough, making the kneading process easier.Hand mixing is messy but better than using a machine.As the dough comes together, notice that the texture is spongy and smooth as the ball forms. Turn the dough out onto a wood board and let rest for 20 minutes under a warm damp towel.Stand on a step stool or use a lower table so that you stand over the bread dough as you knead it for ten to twelve minutes. After kneading the dough springs back when you press on it. This shows the gluten has been developed.See that sponge forming on the surface? That means it's going to have a fantastic crumb when sliced.After an hour, the bread has risen to twice it's size and has a stretched soft appearance.Baking at 400* in a pre-heated glass covered crockpot creates a crisp crust like that found on artisan store bought loaves. You can also use a pizza stone or a cookie sheet to bake your bread.

It's once again Fall, which means my family's favorite stack of recipes comes out and are made with a complimentary loaf of bread. One of our household's favorite breads is Rye. Rye is one of the most awesome grains I have ever played with and I am incredibly fortunate to live in western New York where some of the prettiest organic grains are grown and ground. My favorite resource for these grains is Five Points Bakery, located in the west side of Buffalo.
Owner Kevin Gardner shares:
"Because we use so much, we keep a stock of bread flour and pastry flour, but we (also) grind a variety of other grains to order, including spelt, rye, corn, triticale, emmer, gruenkern, and if you have a wheat you would like ground that we don't carry, just bring it in, we would be happy to mill it for you. All our grains are organically grown and range in price from $5 for 5lb of bread flour to $4 per pound of our Wapsie Valley, Heirloom, Bi-Color organic cornmeal. We also do wholesale flour for orders of 50lb or more."
Known to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart failure, rye breads are an excellent source of soluble fiber, effective in lowering cholesterol levels, controlling blood pressure and optimizing the overall health of the heart. Furthermore, rye is also helpful in inhibiting the onset of coronary artery complications and osteoporosis.
Rye contains the naturally occurring plant compounds called lignans, which increase the formation of the plasma enterolactone by your intestinal microflora. Combined with the lignan enterodiol, enterolactone is beneficial in lowering the risk of certain cancers, particularly colon and breast. Lignans are also phytoestrogens, which help to reduce the frequency of hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.
The fiber obtained from antioxidant-rich rye is effective in the overall improvement of digestion. Another advantage of rye is that it is ideal for treating obesity. With a high water binding capacity, the fiber in rye provides a feeling of fullness and satiety for longer durations, thereby contributing to weight loss. Rye bread is exceptionally valuable in triggering a quick insulin response and thus making it a healthy alternative for people suffering with diabetes.
Talk about a “wonder” bread.
Making this loaf is particularly enjoyable. Few types of bread need to be kneaded, but in order for the gluten to develop in whole grains, you should knead your bread for 12 to 15 minutes by hand... and that's where the fun comes in!

Using the wrong whole wheat flour can also cause bread rising difficulties. Make sure you are using whole wheat bread flour. This may also be called “hard winter wheat”, or “hard red wheat” or “Hard white wheat”. The other type of whole wheat flour is “soft white wheat”, also known as “pastry flour”. This does not have the protein needed to develop the gluten and therefore your bread won’t do as well with this type of flour. Save your pastry flour for quick breads, it does beautifully with those.
Using one type of flour can lead to a heavy, leaden flat flavored loaf, so I blend my bread flours together. This recipe will create two loaves of the loveliest rye bread.
Rye Bread
(makes two loaves)
2 tsp yeast
2 cups warm water (110*)
1 tsp raw sugar
2 cups Rye flour
1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat bread flour
1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat White bread flour
4 tbls olive oil
Proof the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water, sprinkling the sugar on top. Set aside for twenty minutes to allow for yeast to fully proof.
Blend the flours together. Add the olive oil and 1 3/4 cups of warm water and begin to blend by hand. Add in the proofed yeast and continue to blend until a shaggy ball forms.
Turn out onto a wood cutting board, cover with a warm damp towel, and allow to rest for twenty minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 400*. If you are using a crockpot with a glass lid or a pizza stone, place it in the oven now.
Knead the dough, standing over it, for ten to twelve minutes. Divide and cover and allow to rise for one hour.
With the crockpot, carefully remove the lid and lay the dough in the bottom of the pot and cover. Bake for 30 minutes, removing the lid during the last five minutes before removing it from the oven. If using a pizza stone, sprinkle a bit of cornmeal or ground whole wheat and lay the dough on top. Bake for 35 minutes. If you choose to use a cookie sheet, lightly grease where you will be placing the dough with a bit of oil, layer on the bread dough and bake for 30 minutes. Cool the bread on a wire rack.
Store in a wax paper or plastic bag on the counter or in a breadbox. Slather with butter, jam, marmalade, or dunk it in your soups.
What is your favorite grain bread?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Damn Potato Eating Squirrels! First June Bugs now Squirrels?!

Do you see this animal to the right? I couldn't get a photo of his cousin doing this very same thing, so I'm posting this so you can get a good sense of what I saw.

Yesterday I had found one slightly exposed and it was beautiful. Deep red, smooth skinned, size of my fist. I tucked it back under the soil with the intention of plucking it and all of the rest of the hidden spuds in the morning.

I stepped outside, all excited to harvest my potatoes. I step out, look over, and see our resident squirrel, the one with the half chewed tail, perched half in half out of the bucket munching away on that gorgeous potato. THAT RAT BASTARD!

Shoo shoo shooed him away and frantically started scooping soil out only to discover that out of three buckets I had six fist sized russets and ten fingering reds. I've been feeding him and his girl friend for the last two months. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

I Googled potato bucket guards. When I try this again next year he's going to have to learn how to pry a lid off before he'll be able to get at the next harvest.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Farfalle & Cheese - An elegant twist on traditional Mac&Cheese

Brown butter roux made with barley flour, First Light Farm & Creamery cheeses, organic sun dried tomatoes in olive oil and rosemary, and local heavy cream and butter.

Make the roux. Add the heavy cream and tomatoes. Use a stick mixer and blend till smooth. Add the cheese and stir until blended.

Boil one pound of Farfalle (bowtie), though any brass die cut pasta like spugnole, trofie or cappelletti will do.

Chunk up 1/2 pound of Cuba extra sharp white cheddar cheese. Shred another 1/2 pound and fold into the sauce.

Drain the pasta well and slide into a 9x11 casserole dish. Pour the sauce evenly over the top and using a wooden spoon turn over the pasta to coat evenly. The wood spoon prevents the pasta from being damaged.

Sprinkle the chunks of cheddar on top and cover with foil. Put into a pre-heated over, set to 400*.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil the last five minutes to lightly brown the cheese. Set out to cool for ten minutes.

Serve with a wild arugula salad and balsamic, olive oil, and mustard seed braised asparagus. A thick hearty red is best, consider a 2008 Palmina Barbera.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Scallop Potatoes and Roast Beef, Leek, and Celery Soup

In the morning, start in a crockpot a large roast, surrounded by two large well-rinsed leeks and a whole celery along with it's leaves that have been thinly sliced. Add in two cups of beef or vegetable stock and two cups of water. Leave to cook on the highest setting for no less than six hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 400*. Sliver five to six large. well-scrubbed potatoes. Layer into a pan, drizzling olive oil and adding a bit of salt and pepper between each layer.

In a sauce pan, make a brown butter/flour roux. Add in one tablespoon of Grind a Salt from Simply Organics, one cup of milk, and 1/2  to one cup of mild farmer's cheese (depends on how cheesy you like your scallop).

Blend till smooth and then pour the sauce onto the potatoes. Tent tin foil over the top to prevent over browning. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

While the potatoes are baking, pull the roast out and cut in half. Shred one half and cut the other half into 1x1x5 inch pieces. Place the meat back into the soupy broth and stir gently.

When the scalloped potatoes are finished, scoop some into the bottom of a bowl. These French Onion bowls are perfect for this.

Layer some of the shredded meat and vegetables on top and then add in one cup of broth.

Store the larger cuts of meat in a little bit of broth to keep juicy. They make really great sandwiches with spicy brown mustard slathered on top and layered in thick hearty rolls.

The NOFA-NY 2012 Locavore Challenge ends, but the challenge to eat local doesn't!

Yes, so today marks the end of another year, another month long acknowledgement of our local small-scale producers and growers. We've made new connections, tried new recipes, talked to or followed other folks who are locavorists. Now it's time to consider what can be done about the other eleven months. Are you planning on continuing to include as many local items in your diet as you did this month? Will you be setting yourself new challenges? Have you considered setting one challenge a month? I will, and I'll let you know how it goes.

Thank you so much for coming along on this journey with me. It's been a lot of work, but so worth it in the end! I look forward to sharing even more WNY resources with you as the year unfolds.