Being away from home is hard because home is so truly awesome and amazing. I planned it that way. I planned it to be my little castle; a place I can retreat to, pull up the drawbridge and unwind, relax and be at ease. But, sometimes one must leave town and last week I truly felt the need to bolt like a jack rabbit. I wanted to run away. I NEEDED to run away. I had a “boutique” runaway planned: hotel reservations, giant home decor and antique festival, a populated Google map with foodie sites bookmarked and cash to spend. This was a no credit weekend. All prepaid.
But, after a couple of days and two no so comfortable nights in a hotel with mediocre pillows and no late night access to chocolate and peanut butter, I elected to go home. Home is awesome. Home is my refuge and my happy place.
I came home with a rented Chevy Suburban chock-a-block full of stuff I bought, plus a new coat and “market bag”. I came home to a garden abundant with beans and lettuces. I had purchased locavore vinegars and oils and killer Ikea salad bowls. After a run to The Fresh Market and the aquisition of shallots, an aged cheese and ciabatta rolls…..(along with Hollandaise sauce, sweet sausage and puff pastry intended for breakfast tomorrow) I spent less money than had I eaten the next 2 meals in Atlanta. Dinner was two hours out of the soil, uber fresh, very healthy and all cleaned up. Plus I ate it in my comfy clothes while watching a DVR episode of Elementary.
The beans were blanched and then chilled. A shallot was thin sliced and sauteed with walnut oil, capers and fresh cracked pepper. The salad was finished with fig balsamic.
The salad was one head of butter cos bibb lettuce with a slice boiled egg and shaved aged cheese with a simple dressing of avocado oil, peach balsamic, dijon, mashed garlic and fresh cracked pepper.
Add a cocktail (or two): 1 3/4 oz rum, 3/4 oz lemon juice, 1/4 oz grenadine in a shaker filled with ice cubes. Serve in a cocktail glass.
I adapted a recipe from King Arthur and did a practice run on a recipe I hope to make over Thanksgiving weekend. But yeast bread rolls and buns can be a bit tricky and since I often can’t refrain from tweaking a recipe, it helps to make it once first and to follow the recipe as close as possible.
Once I figure out how to retain formatting of a Word document, I will add my variation of this recipe. I also elected to freeze one of the pans. I will take it out and rise it in the morning to see if the recipe can be paused and held for a later baking.
Cranberry Cherry buns
Makes 2 9-inch round pans
Do not preheat oven
Adapted from Cranberry Sticky buns @ King Arthur Flour
1 bag fresh/frozen cranberries
¼ c sugar
14 c water
¼ c dried tart cherries
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick butter room temperature
1 c+ pecans or walnuts
Cook in a covered sauce pan over medium low heat until whole berries pop. Uncover and reduce heat, simmering until sauce thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in the dried cherries and vanilla and let cool to room temperature.
2 eggs, room temp
Warm water to make 2 cups
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp yeast
2 Tbsp butter or light oil
½ dry nonfat milk powder
2 c whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp salt
3 c all purpose flour
Crack eggs into a 2 c glass measuring cup. Add warm water to the 2 c line. Pout into mixer and beat until thoroughly mixed. Add sugar and yeast and let proof for 10 minutes. Add oil and the whole wheat flour. Mix with the paddle. Swicth to dough hook and add 3 c white flour. Mix until to pulls away from sides. Add spoonfuls of white flour until dough is tack but formed. Removed to a large well oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until double (about 90 min to 2 hours).
Dump dough out onto a floured counter. Roll to a 12 x 24 rectangle. Spread with the butter, leaving a 2 inch margin on the far long side. Spread the cranberry mixture on top of the butter, sprinkle with the nuts and then roll up the dough like a jelly roll. Pull the far side of bare 2 inches of dough toward you and pinch it closed.
Butter and SUGAR two 9 inch round pans. With a dough scraper, cut the jelly roll into 1½ inch sections and transfer to the round pans. Each pan will have at least 7 rolls. Cover the two pans and let rise 45 minutes. Uncover and place the pans in a COLD over. Set temp to 450F and bake for 15 minutes. Turn heat down to 325F and bake another 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle with powdered sugar glaze.
Pimiento cheese made from a recipe from The Glass Onion in Charleston, SC. I served it with Cracktastic crackers and some homemade pickles.
My variation of the Apple Honey Challah from Smitten Kitchen.
My original plum galette.
Half of a whole Hereford beef tenderloin (about 4 lbs) rubbed with garlic, cracked pepper and then encircled with slices of a jumbo Vidalia onion.
When it comes time to celebrate the one year anniversary of my dream home, I debated how to commemorate. Should I have a large blow out with a band and a food truck? Make some noise and get a bit rowdy? For a moment, that felt like the correct path. Then last weekend, for my birthday, some dear girl friends came in the morning of my birthday with breakfast and we broke bread and celebrated the day as the sun came up. It was appropriate; its my favorite time of day. So, instead of trying to cull a large group or to set about the inaugural 1900 Secret Supper Club, I decided to invite a friend, her dear husband and their three sons. Since I have my boys for the weekend, cooking a meal and setting a table for a potentially rambunctious group of boys was perfect. It is part of my dream about this house: gatherings, the noisier the better centered around food and kitchen messes. I hemmed about the menu because there are some dietary restrictions. Given that this is Rosh Shashanah weekend, avoiding pork, shellfish and the meat-in-dairy simplified my culinary imaginings. Stick to the simple, albeit Southern Simple.
Pimento cheese with Cracktastic Crackers with Husk’s Light Dragoon punch; organic Barlett pears with three cheeses and balsamic vinegar; Hereford beef tenderloin with cracked peppercorn and horseradish sauce; corn pudding or Alexsandra’s rosemary potatoes; garlic green beans and dessert. I made Martha Stewart’s fudge bars last night for the boys. I’ll make some Smitten Kitchen Intense Chocolate Sables to pair with coffee and a fresh black and red plum galette with fresh whipped cream to pair with a French pink Louis Perdrier. It will be a quiet celebration.
Next month I will plan the Inaugural 1900 Secret Supper Club. I’ll invite my closest friends to celebrate my ultra gourmet cooking that has cult status in the legal community.
With a day off work, I have a day to work around home. It’s 7:30 and I sit at my kitchen counter watching the sun rise and stream into the windows along the east side of the house. It is how I imagined the sun in the early morning hours although the reflection on the carnival colored glass mosaic tiles behind my range hood is far more stunning then I could have predicted.
With a fresh pot of coffee brewed, I assembled the ingredients for Bacon Jam. I first saw the recipe on Not Quite Nigella’s website. I have modified it for my own tastes and to include honey from Biddan Ridge’s hives. I need to include this on the menu for the Thanksgiving weekend gathering.
1 lb bacon, chopped
6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large sweet onion
1 c strong black coffee
¼ apple cider vinegar
¼ c maple syrup
3 Tbsp Biddan Ridge Honey (or brown sugar)
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1 c water
Put all ingredients in a deep skillet EXCEPT the water and slow cook, uncovered for HOURS. After the first hour, add ¼ c water. Repeat each hour until it’s cooked down into a dark, rust brown concoction.
Let cool for 1 hour. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until desired spreadable consistency.
Makes 1 pint jar. Keep refrigerated. Spread on biscuits, crackers with cheese, burgers, as a base sauce for pizzas. Be creative.
Having a choice between regular okra and red okra at the farmers’ market Saturday, I elected to go off the beaten path and bought two bins of small, red okra. Okra is not my most favorite veggie; in fact, I will cook it in gumbo or she crab soup but I just don’t eat it. But, I have a couple of friends who love the stuff pickled and spicy. So, today I made seven pint jars of okra.
Spicy Pickled Okra
6 – 7 pints
3-4 lbs small – medium okra
5 c water
3 c white distilled vinegar
2 c cider vinegar
½ c salt
½ c sugar
2/3 c chopped dill (enough for 1 Tbsp per jar)
6-7 whole cloves of garlic
Pickling spice mixture per jar:
1 tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp whole coriander
2 dashes celery seeds
3 whole black peppercorns
1 whole clove
1 whole allspice
Rosemary grows abundantly in my herb garden. My mind fills with ways to use it. I remember an amazing recipe from Smitten Kitchen for a foccacia bread with rosemary and grapes. This time of year. Publix carries season grapes: champagne grapes and Thomcord, a seedless hybrid of Thompson and Concord. Today I further adapted the recipe that Smitten Kitchen had adapted, using my honey and home milled flour. The hard white wheat gives the foccacia a nutty flavor. I also used pecan oil I bought in Thomasville a couple of weekends back. I will continue to make this recipe, tweaking and adjusting but I am exceptionally pleased with how it turned out.
Rosemary Grape Foccacia
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
¾ c warm water, (110F)
2 Tbsp powdered mil
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp yeast
Mix together in mixing bowl and let sit until frothy.
2 ¼ c finely home-milled white winter wheat
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp oil (olive, pecan or other light oil)
Add to the yeast mixture. With a dough hook, mix for 8 minutes. Dough will be sticky. Turn into a large, well oiled mixing bowl and set to rise for 2 hours.
Turn out and split into two balls. Shape each ball, oil it well and place on an oiled cookie sheet. Let rest for 20 minutes. Stretch and shape into flat, roundish-ovalish breads and poke with fingertips to give the characteristic focaccia dents and wells. Let rise for 1 ½ hours.
Brush with oil and sprinkle breads with
1 cup sliced grapes
1 Tbsp rosemary leaves
1 Tbsp coarse SUGAR
2 tsp coarse salt
Bake for 16 minutes.
There is a steep learning curve to growing your own food when you don’t come a gardening or farming family. I wanted to grow some of my own food. I’ve grown herbs for years; they are some of the most expensive per ounce groceries except for maybe saffron and too often they go to waste. The store packages of herds are more than can be used in a single dish. They usually get slimy and get exiled to the compost pile. So, I grow my own. I designed a special walkway for the growing of herbs. I wanted that path between my car and entry to be inspiration for dinner.
I made a wonderful dinner. I usually start with an ingredient and build out from there. Tonight it was a butternut squash bought for $1 at the farmers’ market. I roasted and then cubed it, setting it aside for when needed. I browned some bacon and once crisp, removed it and sauteed a purple onion in the bacon drippings, adding fresh cracked pepper. Then I added julienned yellow peppers I grew in the garden. I had seeded and chopped and froze the peppers, storing them in a quart sized mason jar for easy use.
I added crushed garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, chopped sage picked from the herb garden, black walnuts and the cubed butternut squash.
I put it over pasta, sprinkled with the crispy bacon and added finely grated Romano cheese. A nice glass of Riesling and a slice of sourdough toast and I am in heaven.
I planted three pear trees back in the winter. All I really want are the sand pears which some people also call Asian pears or pineapple pears. Sand is the best adjective, because they are gritty and coarse. I lost all the blossoms to freeze so had to buy pears at the farmers market. I bought 2 baskets last week and two more this week.
Peel and core the pears and add a whole, fresh pineapple putting all of it through the food processor. Add 4 cups of cane sugar.
Bring it up to a rolling boil, add cinnamon and nutmeg if you like, or a whole vanilla bean, and continue to boil for 20 minutes, stirring constantly. The pears and pineapples will become glassy and glossy. Can it all like jam following the standard water bath canning instructions.
Getting the boys to eat homemade bread has as much to do with the taste as how the loaf looks. The solution: a pullman pan from USA pans. This is a lidded, heavy gauge cast aluminum pan that allows you to bake a SQUARE loaf of bread. I sifted through the internet for recipes for the Pain de Mie bread, the customary bread baked in the pullman pan. I made some final adjustments and I will likely continue to tweak the recipe to get it just right. The original recipe is here. The Biddan Ridge version is this:
- 1 1/3 cup hard white wheat ground
- 1 cup soft white wheat
- Grind the flours to end with 3 1/2 cups of flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp yeast
- 2 Tbsp Biddan Ridge honey or other local honey
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 c dry milk powder
- 1 cup milk heated to 95-105F
- 6 Tbps butter cut into small pieces
Whisk 1/2 c warm milk, honey and yeast in mixing bowl until frothy. Add flour, salt, remaining milk and mix until shaggy. Add eggs. Then add butter pieces one at a time until incorporated. If dough doesn’t pull together and away from the sides of the bowl, add 1 spoon full of flour at a time until it does. I added 10 additional spoons of flour. Run mixer for 10 minutes on low. Scrap down sides of bowl and let dough rise until doubled (approximately 1 hour). On a floured surface, roll out dough, knead a few times and shape into a 9×13 sheet. Roll up and place in a buttered Pullman pan.
Remember to butter inside of lid. Let dough rise until almost to the top of the pan. Slide on the lid and bake at 350F for 35 minute. Take off lid and bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until thermometer registered 190F.