Friday, March 29, 2013

Greetings from Austin

I seem to have taken an unplanned vacation from blogging.  Right now I am enjoying this view on a sunny 75-degree morning from outside of my brother's house in Austin.

My plan is to pick up again when I return to Chicago next week.  Until then, sit back with me and enjoy the view.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Baking Class: Irish Soda Bread

I had intended to make soda bread for St. Patrick's Day last year, but time got away from me and I never got around to it.  So I was determined to make it happen this year, and I am so glad that I did!

I was not really familiar with soda bread, so I assumed that it was more like a quick bread which, having no yeast, is a lot softer and more cake-like than yeasted breads.  But I was wrong.  This bread has a dense crumb that is strong without being tough.  It toasts beautifully.  It is not overly sweet.  In a word, it is delicious.
And quite easy to make.  You mix up the dry ingredients, cut in a little bit of butter, stir in the wet, knead it a few times, mold it into shape with your hands, cut a cross into the top (I didn't cut quite deeply enough so you can't see it that well, but that had no affect whatsoever on the texture or taste), and bake it for 40 minutes.  C'est tout.

I also like that there are only two tablespoons of butter in soda bread, compared to the half cup you find in scones and biscuits.  The small amount of sugar, combined with the raisins, gives a sweetness to the dough without being too sweet.

I can make no attestation as to the authenticity of this recipe.  I looked at quite a few recipes before deciding to try this one and the ingredients were comparable in most of them so I decided to go with this one.  It was a wise decision.

Whip up a loaf or two of soda bread for your St. Paddy's day celebration and your guests will be quite happy.  In fact, you should whip up a loaf anyway.  You won't be sorry.
Home Cookin Chapter: Breads and Muffins
Makes 8 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup dried currants

Preheat the oven to 375 deg. F.  Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Cut butter into flour mixture with pastry cutter.  Add buttermilk until dough is soft.  Stir in currants.

Turn dough out only a lightly floured surface.  Knead for 5 minutes or until smooth.  Form dough into a 7-inch round.  Place on a lightly oiled cake pan or cookie sheet.  Score with a cross 1/2-inch deep on the top.  Bake for 40 minutes.

from Larissa's Bread Book:  Baking Bread & Telling Tales with Women of the American South, by Lorraine Johnson-Coleman (Rutledge Hill Press, 2001)

Exported from Home Cookin 7.47 (

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Orzo with Ancient Sweet Peppers and Chayote

This recipe was a total win!  I had two chayote squashes in the crisper and not much else and I needed something for dinner last Friday night.  So I stopped at Treasure Island on the way home from work to see what I could find there.

What they had were the same beautiful ancient sweet peppers I first discovered last year and first used in this stir fry.  I thought they would pair well with the chayote and would add some color to whatever dish I decided to make.  My thoughts next turned to protein, and as soon as I thought of pancetta I knew I would be making some kind of pasta dish.

After a quick look in my pantry when I got home, I decided to use whole wheat orzo.  I got to work and in about half an hour I had a surprisingly satisfactory dinner.  Add a fresh green salad and a crusty slab of garlic bread and you have dinner fit for company.

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

4 servings

1 cup wholoe wheat orzo, cooked a minute less than package directions
1 scant Tbsp olive oil
1/4 lb pancetta, diced
4 large or 6 small cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, halved and thinly sliced
2 ancient sweet peppers, cored and seeded, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 chayote squash, seeded, quartered and thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup sauvignon blanc, or white wine of choice (or white wine vinegar)
3/4 cup tomato puree
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
grated parmigiana reggiano cheese for garnish

Put the olive oil and pancetta in a large skillet over medium high heat.  When the pancetta is just done add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the sweet peppers an cook for 2 minutes, then add the chayote squash.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring often, for a few minutes.  Add the wine and cook for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and the water.  Bring the skillet to a boil, then lower the heat and cook until the vegetables are just tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the orzo and bring it back up to heat.  Cook for another minute, until the orze is done.  Remove from the heat and add the parsley.

Serve immediately, garnished with the cheese and more parsley.


Exported from Home Cookin 7.47 (
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