No-Knead Bread

In the morning, I have a habit of flipping through How to Cook Everything over breakfast. I’ll open to a random page and skim a few recipes, then move on with my day. A few weeks ago I did this and found the page for Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread. It sounded fascinating – bread you barely touch that comes out fancy and artisanal? Rock on! I finally got a chance to try it over the weekend, and I now believe this is one of the best things I’ve ever made. If I made this for a person I was trying to court he’d fall in love with me instantly. Kings would bow to me and presidents would give me medals.

I am convinced this bread ends wars.

I won’t post the recipe here for two reasons. One: mine came directly from a copyrighted book and I respect intellectual property rights. Two: it’s really easy to find online. I will, however, share the process.

 This was my first attempt at the dough. It was entirely too wet and I ended up pitching it. (Side note: too-wet whole wheat bread dough makes an incredibly convincing fake puke.)

 The second attempt, and the one that worked out. It’s wet and shaggy, per instructions, but not too wet. At this point, before the first (18-hour!) rise, I was not entirely convinced this would work.

 After a few hours it was obvious the yeast was behaving exactly as it was supposed to. Good yeast!

 And after the 18 hours had passed, the dough looked like the best and most delicious kind of swamp beast. Success! At this point the dough also had a lovely slightly sour flavor, which made me want to figure out no-knead sourdough bread.

 The loaf about to go into the oven. I used a small amount of oat bran during the last rising to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface, and also because oat bran is awesome and deserves to be in everything, more or less.

 Is this not one of the prettiest things you’ve ever seen? I had to let it sit for 30 minutes before I could cut it, during which time I nearly went mad with desire. The smell. You can’t imagine how good it smells.

 The delicious perfect chewy air-holey interior that takes oh so well to a smear of butter or a fried egg.

I may have to make more tonight.

Fried Okra

The other day my roommate and I went to the farmer’s market, where 5 oz of okra was part of my farm share. I’ve never had okra before, to my knowledge, but my roommate is from Tennessee and waxed poetic about fried okra. So, with plenty of time on my hands, I decided to try it.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the taste and texture. With my eyes closed it could have been fried zucchini. (My roommate just came home, tasted one, and said, “Good job.” High praise from someone who’s been eating her mama’s recipe her whole life.)

I used this recipe from Allrecipes, and I would definitely do it again. My one complaint is that there was more than half the cornmeal mix left over once all the veggies were in the skillet. Next time I’ll throw in some other vegetables for good measure.

 The okra, just begging to be eaten.

Since there was so much leftover batter, I made what my mom calls pancakes but are secretly fritters. When I was a kid, my oldest sister was a vegetarian for several years. She loved my mom’s chicken schnitzel but couldn’t eat it. So my mom would take leftover batter and cook it up with the chicken. Pancakes! Basically all I did was take the cornmeal (there was maybe 3/5ths of a cup), add a beaten egg and a couple tablespoons milk, and fry in the leftover oil.

 Eat me.

Everything came out delicious, but it doesn’t take much to realize these are gut bombs, and therefore, sometimes foods. I look forward to the next sometimes.

Delicata Squash

A new kind of winter squash (what? winter? it’s still almost 90 degrees out!) showed up in my CSA box last week. They were out of spaghetti squash so instead I got delicata. This lovely little vine fruit is secretly a summer squash but is treated like its winter cousins. Having never seen a delicata before, I consulted my old friends Mark Bittmann and The Internet. Both advised me that roasting was the way to go, and so I did.

I wish I could show you pictures of the end result, but…there isn’t anything left. It came out so well I almost couldn’t help eating every last slice while they were still hot enough to burn my tongue. I hope to get more next week. (Secretly, I really hope for spaghetti squash. Why? So I can make spaghetti squash and meatballs, of course.)

Roasted Delicata Squash

(makes enough for, oh, let’s say 2 side dishes, or one me-sized snack)

2 squash, scrubbed clean and not peeled, about 1 pound each
olive oil
salt, pepper, other spices as per your inclination

Set the oven to 400. Prepare the squash in one of several ways:

  • Slice off the ends, then cut into 1/2″ thick rounds, removing the seeds with a knife, a spoon, or your fingers (this is what I did)
  • OR slice the whole thing longways, remove the seeds, and slice into half-moons
  • OR poke the skin a couple times with a knife and roast whole

(Keep the seeds if you want – clean off the guts and roast those suckers right along with the squash.)

Drizzle olive oil all over a rimmed cookie sheet. Lay the slices onto the sheet, flip once, and season. Cook for about 40 minutes or until everything is caramelized and lovely, flipping once halfway through. If you decided not to slice, cook it until you can poke the skin easily with a knife, rotating once or twice during the cooking process.

Try not to remove too many taste buds eating directly from the cookie sheet.

Life got in the way

I meant to write all about last week’s dinner party and the wonderful things I made. However, I lost my job very suddenly Friday afternoon and I’ve been focusing on that instead. I will say this: the pop-tarts were fantastic.

Since I have the time, I’ve been doing a fair bit of cooking this week. Last night I made my first attempt at eggplant Parmesan. For all that I don’t much care for eggplant, it was pretty good! Later I will made some fried okra and decimate the house’s insane basil crop with pesto. I also have some winter squash to use up – perhaps I will stuff them with barley and other assorted goodies. But first priority right now is finding an income source. Argh.