Sunday, June 14, 2015

Baking Class: Savory Soda Bread

After I made my first Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's Day a couple of years ago I started looking for a more healthful, savory version.  I really liked the raisin-sweetened white flour version, but like most sweet treats it is meant to be enjoyed occasionally, as a treat.  But because it was so easy to make and had such a wonderful bread-like consistency achieved without yeast or long risings, I wanted to see if I could find a savory version that contained whole wheat flour and no sugar.

An internet search brought up a recipe from Claire Robinson, who had (has?) a show on the food channel called "5 Ingredient Fix."  Not counting salt and pepper and maybe a few other ingredients considered staples, the show features recipes that can be made from 5 or less ingredients.  When I first started watching it I assumed it would involve opening a lot of boxes and cans a la Sandra Lee, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the recipes contained fresh ingredients and involved actual cooking.  And what she was cooking looked good.

I was not particularly tempted to try any of them, but when I went searching for a savory soda bread recipe that did not contain raisins and found this recipe I decided to give it a try, based on what I had seen from her show.

And I was not disappointed.  It was delicious.  And ridiculously easy.  It has become one of my staple bread recipes.  It is the perfect recipe for those times when I have neither the time nor the inclination to play with yeast but I want bread.  And it holds up beautifully to sandwiches and toasting.

When I am making it just for myself I will halve the recipe and I have enough bread for about a week.  From the thought of bread to a lovely loaf cooling on your counter in less than an hour, this is the one that you want.

Home Cookin Chapter:  Breads and Muffins

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading surface
3 cups whole-wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, oats and salt. Pour in most of the buttermilk and mix well, adding more buttermilk, if needed, to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and lightly knead into a shapeable dough. Avoid overworking it.

Shape the dough into a round disk shaped loaf and cut a deep "X" in the top with a sharp knife. Put the dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes at 425 degrees F. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. and bake another 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven to a cutting board. Cool slightly before cutting and enjoy warm!


Exported from Home Cookin 8.63 (

Sunday, June 07, 2015

North African Cauliflower Soup

photo by C Chang
I made North African Cauliflower Soup for a Spiced-up potluck last week.  The theme was fennel, a spice which I only recently started using, and I have mainly used the seeds, not ground.  The first time I experimented with ground fennel was for a rice dish upon which I improvised a few years ago on one of my Austin visits with my brother.  It was one of many herbs and spices I used, and I think it was one (if not a few) too many.  The end result was a muddy mishmash of oddly conflicting flavors.

I love the flavor of the whole seeds, toasted in oil before adding zucchini, greens, or other vegetables.  And they are now a must for me when I make pot roast, and of course they are a large part of what makes Italian sausage Italian sausage.  But ground?  Not so much.

The next opportunity I had to use it was in a dish I made for our fenugreek potluck (yes, fenugreek).  I did like the way it combined with the other spices in that dish, so I realized that it is a matter of matching it with the right ingredients, and not having too many conflicting flavors with which it must contend.  The spice combination for this soup is cumin and fennel, which I thought surely ought to go together fairly well.

They did.  The cumin adds its wonderfully earthy tones and the fennel gives it a slightly sweet, floral finish that comes through at the end.  And it was ridiculously easy to make.  The original recipe called for water and bouillon cubes, but I don't use bouillon these days.  I happened to have a quart-sized bag full of vegetable trimmings in the freezer so I threw them into a pan with enough water to cover and cooked it for about an hour and just like that I had vegetable broth.  If that is too much work for you, though, store-bought would work just as well.

This was delicious heated up for the potluck, but for the rest of the week I just let what I took into work for lunch come to room temperature outside of the refrigerator.  Like vichysoisse, it was just as good cool as it was warm.

The person who originally posted the recipe mentioned that the tomato and chives (or scallions) garnish really makes the dish.  I would have to agree with that assessment.  Next time, I might even toast some fennel seeds as well.
Home Cookin Chapter: Soups and Stews
Servings: 4

2-1/2 cups chopped onion
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 potatoes (about 2 cups diced)
1 medium head cauliflower (about 5 cups chopped)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-1/2 teaspoons ground fennel
4 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and ground black pepper to taste
chopped fresh tomatoes for garnish
chopped chives or scallions for garnish

Saute the onions in a 6-quart saucepan over medium heat until they are translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the cumin and fennel and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Add the potatoes and cook, again stirring constantly, until the potatoes are well coated with the spices.

Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add the cauliflower and bring back to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and puree the mixture in a blender, food processor, or with a stick blender until smooth. Return to the heat and add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Reheat if necessary over low heat.

Serve garnished with the chopped tomatoes and chives or scallions.

adapted from a recipe in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, by The Moosewood Collective (Touchstone, 1994), as found at

Exported from Home Cookin 8.63 (
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