May – Three Crostini or Tartines or Bruschettas

May – Three Crostini or Tartines or Bruschettas

Whatever you call them and no matter what their size, these toppings are unique and delicious. I call them the perfect start for a party. Made larger, bruschetta sized, they could even be considered dinner. What is the difference between the three? Crostini are smaller, in Italian the word translates as “little toasts”. Bruschetta comes from the Italian word ‘bruscare’ meaning ‘to roast over coals‘. Traditionally thin slices of bread are toasted and rubbed with garlic, then drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and served warm. They are usually larger than a crostini and can be topped with almost anything…I love them topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, and vine ripened tomatoes in late summer. Add a glass of rose to the mix and I am in heaven. A tartine is the French version of an open faced sandwich, pretty much the same thing as a crostini. All three start with a crisp slice of toasted bread.

The three toppings are fresh ricotta and pickled plums, fresh goat cheese with pickled fennel, and sweet butter with chili marinated anchovies.

If you don’t have pickled plums on hand (I had a couple of jars in the pantry from my backyard plum tree at the old house), use any pickled sweet fruit. And if you haven’t tried pickled fruit you are missing something. They are amazing in combination with cheese. I’ve seen some jars in the gourmet grocery stores. You can find recipes on-line, here’s one I found interesting. I might try pickling peaches this summer, they sound delicious as well.

You can toast the bread a day or two ahead and store the toasts (once cool) in a plastic bag. They keep well and leftovers make a delicious and crunchy garnish for a bowl of soup or a dip. When the kids were little I kept a jar on the kitchen counter, they didn’t last long and were a favorite snack.

To make the toasts, cut a baguette into 1/4 inch slices (you want it thick enough to hold the toppings but not so big that it isn’t an easy bite if you are standing up with a glass of wine in the other hand). Heat your oven to 350 degrees F and lay the bread slices in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake for about 7 minutes, then turn them over and bake for another 5-7 minutes. Check them frequently as they can burn. You want them a little charred and brown on the edges but not blackened.

Ricotta with Pickled Plums

Soft Goat Cheese with Pickled Fennel

Chili Marinated Anchovies with Sweet Butter

Pickled Fennel Tartines

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh fennel fronds
  • 2 fennel bulbs, cored and cut into ½-inch slices

For serving

  • 2 dozen toasts
  • 1 lb. fresh goats cheese
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Fine sea salt such as Maldon
  • ½ cup freshly chopped Italian parsley

METHOD:

1 day to a month in advance, pickle the fennel. 

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, thyme, bay leaves, salt, red pepper flakes, and optional fennel fronds.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pack the fennel into 3 wide mouth pint sized canning jars.
  4. Carefully pour the hot brine over the fennel, diving the herbs and spices between the jars at the end.
  5. Cover and refrigerate.
  6. For serving, add a smear of goat cheese to each toast, top with some chopped pickled fennel, then a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of sea salt and a leaf of chopped parsley.

 

Tartine with chili-marinated anchovies and sweet butter

INGREDIENTS:

First prepare the anchovies if they came packed in salt.

  • 1 (1.5 lb.) can of salt-cured anchovies
  • 1 (10.2 oz.) jar of Calabrian cilis
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) good quality sweet butter (unsalted)
  • 2 dozen toasts from a good quality baguette

METHOD:

Marinate the anchovies at least a week before making the crustadas.

  1. Rinse them well.
  2. Place them in a large bowl and add water to cover, soak for about 2 hours, changing the water every 30 minutes.
  3. Drain and rinse again, then set aside to “drip dry” in a colander. Use when no longer drippin
  4. Drain the oil from the jar of chilis into the work bowl of a food processor or heavy duty blender.
  5. Add the chilis, removing and discarding the stems, keep the seeds. Pulse the chili oil and chilis together about 10 times, until roughly chopped.
  6. Add half the chili mixture to a large mixing bowl, pulse the remaining until more finely chopped. Add the olive oil and pulse to blend.
  7. Once the anchovies are dry, transfer them to the bowl. Pour over the pureed chili mixture. Blend gently.
  8. Transfer the mix to a large glass container, seal, and refrigerate for at least a week or up to 6 months.

Just before serving, use a cheese slicer, vegetable slicer, or a sharp knife to shave the butter into thin slices. Cover each toast with the butter shavings, top each with 1 or 2 anchovies, and serve.

Lastly, the ricotta and pickled plums. You could use any pickled fruit for this one, the interest is between the ricotta and sweet but tart pickle. Pickled sliced and spiced peaches would be good, also figs. Use what you have in your cupboard or in the local specialty grocery store. I happened to have some pickled plum from a backyard tree. Let me know if you want my recipe for pickling them. They were cherry plums, actually wild ones that had sown themselves from the neighbors yard.

Unfortunately I don’t have any final finished pictures because they were carried out to a hungry crowd as most excellent nibbles to have with a glass of wine or beer. The contrast made them interesting and easy to eat while in the midst of conversation.

 

From A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus, Menus and Stories. i have really enjoyed this cookbook from Renee Erickson of the Seattle based restaurants.

October – Amazing Croutons

October – Amazing Croutons

Ok, I know…croutons are those little crisp squares you buy in bags at the grocery store. Mostly boring, right? What if I told you how to build a better crouton? A crouton that would elevate your salads or stews or soups to an entirely new level. Our house is famous for this crouton. The crouton jar is always the first stop for visiting teenagers, or used to be when there were teenagers in the house. I was forced to make these almost every day, there was not a stale baguette to be seen anywhere that wasn’t turned into croutons. These croutons have crispy peaks, and valleys, yummy extra virgin olive oil, and sea salt. That is all. They have a crisp exterior and a softer interior (not too much though). I once found my son eating the leftover crumbs left in the pan with his fingers. That batch never even made it to the crouton jar.

What is the secret? Tearing, that’s all there is to it. Who knew it could be so simple?

The best ever croutons

Don’t ever cut your croutons again. These are torn, not cut. No bread knife needed.

Take a look at the wonderful crispy crouton pictured above. Can you imagine how it would be in a caesar salad? The dressing would melt itself into all those little cracks and crevices, but the edges would stay crisp. That salad would be memorable. These croutons are not going to get soggy in soup, at least not right away, and are perfect for soaking up a sauce but staying crips on the edges.

You can make them with any kind of leftover stale bread (although any kind you slice yourself is best). Sourdough is very nice. What about rye or walnut bread for pumpkin soup or a salad with cranberries?  Pumpernickel anyone for a salad with goat or blue cheese? Brioche bread makes wonderful croutons to use in your Thanksgiving stuffing. Tear the bread into small pieces or really big pieces, your choice. I once had a caesar salad at a restaurant in Seattle that had one very large crouton, torn not cut. Delicious, different, and inspiration.

Croutons

I don’t really have a recipe. Simply tear your bread, stale is good but not required, into pieces. Place on a large baking pan, coat with a generous slug of olive oil and use your hands to make sure the pieces are coated (but not swimming in oil), sprinkle with sea or kosher salt, and bake. I use 375 degrees F for 10 minutes, take the pan out and turn the pieces, then return them to the oven for another few minutes. How long will depend on the size and type of bread, but not usually more than another 5 minutes. They can burn easily at this point. You don’t want the croutons to be completely dried out, there should be some difference in texture within each crouton.

croutons – before

before baking

After baking

Once they cool, you can put them into an airtight jar and they will keep for a few days, if they last that long.

I think the folks at Fiesta Friday #195 might enjoy these as a snack or a garnish on any of the soups or salads. I’m linking this post to Angie’s blog site, the co-hosts this week are , Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Sandhya @ Indfused. Click on the link to Fiesta Friday to check out the fun.

August – Gluten Free Oat, Nut and Seed Bread

August – Gluten Free Oat, Nut and Seed Bread

This gluten free, dense, healthy, and flavorful bread is very like a Scandinavian black bread. Cut it thinly to serve with cheese, toast it for avocado toast, or pop a poached egg on top. It will delightfully satisfy your hunger and hold you over until your next meal.

There are many versions of this bread on the internet but they are all similar. David Lebovitz calls his Adventure Bread (his inspiration was from Josey Baker and his book Josey Baker Bread), My New Roots calls it The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread, and Deliciously Ella calls it Superfood Bread.

What they all have in common are sunflower seeds, chia seeds, almonds, and psyllium husk. Are you familiar with psyllium husk? I had to look it up myself, here is a short tutorial:

“Psyllium /ˈsɪliəm/, or ispaghula /ˌɪspəˈɡlə/, is the common name used for several members of the plant genus Plantago whose seeds are used commercially for the production of mucilage.

Psyllium is mainly used as a dietary fiber to relieve symptoms of both constipation and mild diarrhea and occasionally as a food thickener. Research has also shown benefits in reducing blood cholesterol levels.

As a thickener, it has been used in ice cream and frozen desserts. A 1.5% weight/volume ratio of psyllium mucilage exhibits binding properties that are superior to a 10% weight/volume ratio of starch mucilage.” Here is the link to Wikipedia if you want to learn more.

In this bread the binding power of psyllium replaces the gluten in flour. It has the added benefit of being a powerhouse of fiber. I am anticipating surgery at the end of this month and know how all those antibiotics and pain killers effect my intestinal health. Food is medicine, right? This bread will find a place in my freezer, ready for me when I come home from the hospital.

I baked David Lebovitz’s recipe and intend to try the others as well. I will let you know which I prefer.

Note: Start this bread the day before you plan to bake it. Most of the “didn’t work” comments are from those who ignored either this step or the one to let it rest for 2 hours after baking. 

Gluten Free Bread

Gluten Free Nut and Seed Bread

Ingredients – Dry:

  • 2 1/4 rolled oats, gluten free
  • 1 cup of sunflower seeds, hulled
  • 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds, hulled
  • 3/4 cup of almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup of flax seeds
  • 1/3 cup of psyllium seed husks
  • 3 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of sea salt

Ingredients – Wet:

  • 2 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup of olive or other neutral oil
  • 2 1/2 cups of water

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C. Spread the sunflower and pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and toast until they start to brown. This took about 10 minutes in my oven, stir them around half way through. This is also a good time to toast the almonds on another sheet.
  2. When brown, remove from the oven and cool, coarsely chop the almonds.
  3. While they are cooling, prepare your 8 or 9-inch by 4-inch loaf pan. Line it with baking paper so the bread is easy to remove when baked. David recommends greasing the pan but I didn’t find that adequate and the bottom stuck. The bread was good but not so pretty.
  4. Measure out your ingredients and place all the dry in one large bowl. Mix them up and then pour in the wet stuff. Mix everything very well with your hands or a large spoon. You need to really mush it up.
  5. Scoop it into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Cover and stick it in the fridge overnight and up to a whole day. You want the psyllium to completely absorb all the liquid.
  6. When you are ready, take the bread out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature.
  7. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F or 200 degrees C.
  8. Bake the bread for an hour on the middle shelf.
  9. When done, remove the bread from the pan and cool for at least 2 hours on a rack. This is very important, don’t hurry this step.
  10. Slice thinly to serve.

Avocado Toast

You can slice this bread and pop it in the freezer.

July – Easy Graham Bread

July – Easy Graham Bread

Cleaning out old files of recipes can be a treasure trove of food memories. This time it was one for Graham Bread, found on a stained 3 x 5 card written by someone named Lynn (I regretfully don’t remember her but I remember her bread).

Graham Bread

I used to bake this quick dark loaf almost weekly. It is super easy, there are only 6 ingredients and zero fat. With a smear of cream cheese or labne (yogurt cheese), and a piece of fresh fruit it was a healthy and quick breakfast. It still is. Although this recipe doesn’t call for any added butter or oil, it is still moist. It contains a 1/2 cup of honey for the entire loaf, no sugar! You could substitute another form of sweetener such as maple syrup or molasses, both would add some interesting flavors. I haven’t tried it, let me know if you do.

Graham bread keeps well and provides a walloping 2.5 g of fiber and 3.8 g of protein in a single slice. I used sprouted wheat flour so the fiber and protein content is probably even higher.

Graham Bread

This bread is very satisfying but doesn’t sit like a lump in your stomach, it will fill you up and prepare you to meet the challenges of the day. It’s equally good as a snack at the end of the day.

Please note that the flavor of the flour is crucial here, use the freshest and best you can find. My local store did not stock graham flour, I was able to easily find and purchase it on line.

Graham Bread

This bread is not very sweet and goes well with savory dishes as chili or soup.

If you are not familiar with it, graham flour is a very coarsely ground whole wheat flour, usually made from dark northern hard red wheat. It contains all the germ, oil and fiber from the whole wheat kernel. It is very flavorful and commonly used in rustic breads and classic graham crackers.

You will recognize the flavor of graham crackers in the bread. Add chopped nuts and/or dried fruit for extra crunch and sweetness if you want. But it doesn’t need it.

Graham Bread

  • 2 cups of buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup of flour (I used sprouted wheat flour)
  • 2 cups of graham flour

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)
  2. Whisk together the buttermilk and baking soda in a large bowl until bubbly
  3. Add the salt and flours to the buttermilk mixture, mix well.
  4. Pour into a large loaf pan.
  5. Bake for 60 minutes.
  6. Cool on a rack before slicing.

Graham Bread

This is the first time I’ve used this nutritional analysis, please bear with me while I get the hang of it. The loaf could easily be sliced thinner than 14 slices, it holds together well.

I am taking this to share on this week’s Fiesta Friday #182. Fiesta Friday is a virtual party hosted by Angie and co-hosted by none other than myself and Jenny @ Jenny Is Baking.

Please stop by to read all the fantastic recipes from all over the world.

A single serving of this recipe has 140 calories.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 14
Per Serving % Daily Value*
Calories 140
Total Fat 0.7g 1%
Saturated Fat 0.2g 1%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 1mg 1%
Sodium 37mg 2%
Potassium 69mg 1%
Total Carb 31g 10%
Dietary Fiber 2.5g 9%
Sugars 11.6g
Protein 3.8g
Vitamin A 0% · Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 3% · Iron 6%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet
Recipe analyzed by