Monday, March 28, 2011

A Delicious Nightmare

I used to work for Subway - you know, the sandwich chain. I worked there for way too many years in my teens and early-20s while supporting myself in college. I can't tell you how many subs I slapped together in all those years - and the thought of baking just one more tray of footlong buns? I still have nightmares about it...seriously.

So it was with mixed emotions that I took my first stab at baking hoagie buns yesterday. I was making BBQ pulled "chicken" sandwiches with coleslaw and it just didn't feel right putting that on regular old sandwich bread. I found a pretty decent hoagie recipe online and decided to give it a whirl.

The difference between the aforementioned crap-filled artificially-flavored frozen franchise bread and the pure simple ingredients of yesterday's hoagies was immediately evident.

Maybe now I can put the memories of all those countless stinky food service hours to bed?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pita Please?

In an ongoing exploration of my passion for home breadmaking, I made pita bread today. What can I say, it was a slow day at work...

Talk about a blast - if you're a foodie dork like me, that is. These little guys are a miracle - cute soft little balls of dough that mutate and puff from a flat 6-inch circle into an airy soft pocket of goodness. I used the recipe out of one of my favorite cookbooks ever - Williams and Sonoma's "Bread", except I substituted-in some whole wheat flour to give a little more nutrition, flavor, and texture.

It doesn't get much more simple that flour, yeast, salt, sugar, water, and a little olive oil. All it takes is one rise, and you're ready to roll out each pita. The trick to get the pitas to puff is baking at a very high heat - 450F to be exact. The blast of heat causes the water in the dough to rapidly expand, creating the puffing action and the characteristic pocket.

So for dinner I baked some tofu with ginger teriyaki glaze, chopped up some lettuce, tomato, onion, and carrot, and stuffed it all into the fresh pita halves. Serve it with a side of sriracha greek yogurt sauce for dipping and some curried parboiled baby potatoes and you have yourself a beautiful meal for a beautiful spring evening.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bursting at the Seams

Oh, where do I start...

There comes a point in spring where you feel so full of anticipation you could burst. I think it's one of the most tangible demonstrations of sheer potential - it just doesn't get any more exciting.

Today it is 70F and breezy - in short, gorgeous. I'm sitting on our back porch finishing up some lunch and listening to a crimson cardinal singing his little heart out. Earlier this morning I had thrown on my garden duds and did some planting outside. The early spring vegetables are now in the ground, including peas, beets, radish, and greens. I also spruced up the herb bed and turned the soil, preparing the beds for some plucky seedlings in a couple of months.

Of course then I had to make my rounds, checking for new bulbs poking their heads through the thawed ground and tired leaves. If you were to ask me what colors typified spring, I'd have to say yellow and purple.

And, excitingly enough, the cherry tree is covered in pale green nubs - it survived the winter! I wish I could have prepared the hole better, but we'll see how much grit this little guy has this year.

This is what I was looking forward to all winter - it still amazes me that nature keeps coming back in full fashion, year after year.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Japanese Soba Noodle Soup

I've been *trying* to cook a little more healthy lately - specifically, with LESS CHEESE. I'm a cheese addict, I'll admit it.

Several years ago my family had given me a copy of Moosewood Restaurant's Low-Fat Favorites cookbook, but I've never really had a chance to sit down with it until recently. It's a glorious resource for lower-fat vegetarian recipes.

Tonight I decided to make their Japanese Soba Noodle Soup, starting with a roasted garlic and miso broth, fresh carrots, bok choy, shitake mushrooms, tofu, buckwheat soba noodles, and bean sprouts. Top it off with a squirt of sriracha sauce and dee-lish.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

2011 Rundown

This week I realized that I completely forgot to post this year's planting list - that must mean I'm becoming an old hand at this...or not.

Here it is - complete with some old faithfuls as well as some new kids - all heirlooms from either Baker Creek or Victory Seeds:

- I'm fortunate enough to have my thyme, oregano, and rosemary plants all coming back for another year.
  • Parsley, Giant of Italy (Italian)
  • Bee Balm, Lemon
  • Catnip
  • Catmint
  • Sage
  • Dill
  • Basil, Genovese
  • Hyssop, Anise
  • Blackstem Peppermint - ordered from Companion Plants, a SE Ohio-based greenhouse
  • Bay Laurel - plan to order a bay laurel bush for container growing from Companion Plants
  • French Tarragon - plan to order from Companion Plants
  • Swiss Chard, Five Color Silverbeet
  • Kale, Blue Curled Scotch
  • European Mesclun Mix
  • Rocky Top Lettuce Salad Mix
  • Pea, Lincoln
  • Radish, Saxa 2
  • Radish, White Icicle
  • Beet, Bull's Blood
  • Green Pepper, Emerald Giant (sprouts pictured)
  • Jalapeno, Craig's Grande
  • Rhubarb, Victoria (sprouts pictured)
  • Tomatoes - Mule Team, Sungold Select II, Aunt Ruby's German Cherry, Iris Candy Cherry, and Japanese Black Trifele
  • Cucumber, Delikatesse
  • Zucchini, Black Beauty
  • Crookneck Squash, Early Golden Summer
  • Acorn Squash, Table Queen
  • Bird's Foot Trefoil
  • Redcrest Cosmos
  • Amaranth Love-Lies-Bleeding, both green and red
  • Celosia, Flamingo Feather
  • Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate
  • Oriental Scarlet Poppy
  • Mexican Sunflower, Red Torch
  • Nasturtium, Jewel Peach Melba and Empress of India
  • Coleus, Rainbow Mix
  • Morning Glory, Clark's Heavenly Blue
So there you have it, a long list, but an exciting one. Is it spring yet?

A DAMN Fine Cup of Coffee

So what do two 20-somethings without kids typically do on a Sunday night? Replicate the epicness of Twin Peaks' coffee and cherry pie, of course.

If you haven't ever experienced the wonderfulness of David Lynch's early-90s TV series, you're truly missing out. Fans of the absurb, the hilarious, the quirky, the dark, and the twisted are sure to become as obsessed with this cult classic as we are.

Every couple of years we go through a period during autumn where we watch both seasons, along with the movie. One of the pervasive--and delicious--themes is good black coffee and fat slice of cherry pie. Even though it's not fall we were feeling nostalgic this weekend, so I decided to make a pie to go with our after-dinner coffee.

And yes, in case you were wondering, that IS an authentic Double R Diner coffee mug. You know you want one.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Rainy Day Dreaming

So I'm sitting at home on a dark rainy day, listening to Leonard Cohen, and dreaming of spring. I've made a list of "chores" that need to be done in the yard once the weather cooperates. One of which involves procuring a load of mushroom compost - oh yeah, you know, the smelly stuff. In my ongoing attempt to richen-up the clay and roots that classify as soil around here I'm going to make a conscious effort each spring to spread a layer of organic matter on every bed. Compound that over 10-20 years and I'm hoping to have some dark rich soil at my fingertips.

The yard is begging, pleading, shouting for spring. Bulbs are poking their heads out all over the place - daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, iris, squill - and perennials are beginning to unfurl the year's first tentative fronds. I'm elated to see that quite a few things have self-seeded, like the bee balm from my mother's yard, and other plants that I grew from seed last year have decided to come back for another year, including the thyme, yellow yarrow, and foxglove. Spring seems to come on so fast and is gone just as quickly. Working from home this year should allow me extra time to savor this delicate season.

And to top off this dreary but hopeful Friday, the rhubarb and peppers that I planted a couple weekends ago have all sprouted! I think that's the quickest I've ever had pepper seeds sprout - I sure hope impatience is not the theme for this year.