Saturday, January 29, 2011


Seems like ages ago, the BW and I are schlepping our entire bedroom furniture into the living room, so we can remove the laminate “wood” flooring. My BW is allergic to the floor and wakes up each day sneezing with itchy eyes, so we acquired these ceramic tiles (boy are they heavy) for the floor.

Right afterward, BW gets sick with the flu. And then I join her malaise. So we’re in our pajamas 24/7 each day and I don’t feel too much like eating, but my BW has to eat, because her diabetes requires a certain blood-sugar level.

Having time all over my hands, I was reading a recent Mother Earth News magazine article about bread, one of my favourite foods. I am intrigued by the concept of not kneading the breads. This is something I need. I read the article and decide to bake a Crusty White Bread loaf. William Rubel wrote this article and stressed “wetness” in the success of the finished loaf.

I make this bread (it is very easy, but you have to start the night before), and it was so satisfying, my beloved and I finished it within an hour after it cooled.

Crusty White Bread

1 pound (455 grams) unbleached flour. I used “bread” flour.
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
11/3 cups (320 ml) water
Baking stone or cookie sheet
Pizza peel or sturdy piece of cardboard

· Put the flour, yeast, salt and enough water in a large bowl and mix them to form a soft, sticky dough. I mixed it with wet hands.
· Let it sit covered at room temperature overnight.
· In the morning, wet your hands, lift dough onto flat, wet surface, then gently stretch it and fold it in half four times.
· Return dough to bowl, cover and let it rise till doubled in size in a warm place (about 70F, 20C).
· Line a bigger bowl with a clean cotton or linen towel and dust it heavily with flour.
· When the dough has doubled, gently turn it out to a work surface.
· With wet hands and a dough scraper (or spatula) stretch, fold and turn about four times until the dough begins to stiffen and assumes a ball shape.
· Put the ball into the lined bowl, cover and let rise till almost doubled, about one hour.
· Preheat oven with the stone inside to 500F (260C).
· Turn dough onto a well floured pizza peel or cardboard. I usually sprinkle cornmeal on the peel. Put a couple of slashes with a sharp knife on the top of the dough.
· Slide onto the baking stone and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. At the beginning, I placed a big 13”x9” pan of hot water on the lowest oven rack; this makes the crust very crispy.
· Let it cool at least 2 hours before slicing. I didn’t want to, but did.

Some folks are maybe put off by this, starting in the evening etc., but you could use a timer and go about your business. I know speed and convenience is the norm nowadays, but for thousands of years, bakers have relied on the live yeast to work the dough and I respect that. If you are undecided, I urge you to try it just once; if you don’t think it is worthwhile then forget about it. If you actually enjoy baking, maybe you could interest a neighbour, bake an extra loaf for them, and get something in return, maybe a jar of pickles or jam or whatever. Or just give it as a kind gesture with no expectations.

Years ago I used to bake a kind of “Cuban Bread” where you added a pan of water to a cold oven and then turned the oven on. Some of my co-workers didn’t like the crisp crust, the water pan can be omitted if you prefer. But it’s wonderful bread.

Monday, January 10, 2011


If you recently received a blender for Christmas or as a wedding or other gift, you may have read the pamphlet that came with it and started blending fruit smoothies. At first they might have been so thick you couldn’t drink them and so you kept adding juice or milk or water until it was thin enough, but you had more than a litre of beverage when you were done.

I hope you didn’t get discouraged and put the blender away (perhaps next to your old fondue pot), because a fruit beverage in the morning is a healthy way to start the day. A simple smoothie would be ½ cup of frozen blackberries and half a peeled and chopped apple with some juice or milk You can make it even better by adding a little whey protein powder to your “smoothie”. If you are using all fresh fruit, crack some ice cubes and add to the fruit in the blender.

But if you’re determined not to use the blender (maybe it sprayed your ceiling with blended fruit and now you’re punishing it), you can still enjoy and obtain the benefits of fruit. Try cooking with fruit. You will be pleasantly surprised how fruit can enhance certain dishes. If you think your foods will be sweet, don’t worry, fruit can lend a balance to many spicy foods and actually improve them. Try adding a little fruit from time to time, it will taste good and do you good.

Here is a simple Chicken Curry that uses fruit. If you don’t have all the spices in your cupboard, start with a tablespoon of Curry Powder.

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size cubes
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon light olive oil- or your favourite vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 piece of gingerroot, the size of a walnut, chopped finely
3 green onions, sliced thinly
1 green Chile, seeds removed and sliced finely
1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds or powdered
3 whole cloves or ½ teaspoon powdered
1 stick of cinnamon or ½ teaspoon powdered
½ teaspoon each, salt and black pepper
½ teaspoon brown or white sugar
1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into large dice (about the size of sugar cubes)
1 green banana, just beginning to ripen sliced as thick as the apple
8 ounces chicken or vegetable stock
Apple cider vinegar to taste, about a tablespoon

· Gather all the spices together. If you have ground spices instead of whole, that’s all right, but whole spices should be heated gently, cooled and then ground in a grinder or mortar and pestle
· Drain the rinsed chicken pieces and dry with paper towels
· While they are drying, put the onion, garlic and gingerroot in your blender and whirl it into a paste
· Put the butter and oil into a pot
· While it is heating, put the dry chicken in a bowl, sprinkle lightly with salt, sprinkle the cornstarch over it and massage the chicken all over using your clean hands
· Scrape all the paste from the blender into the pot and stir frequently over medium heat for about 5 minutes, don’t let it stick to the bottom
· Now add the spices, salt and pepper and sugar to the onion mixture and stir thoroughly. Then add the chicken and stir it as well
· While you are cooking the chicken (this will take 10 minutes), check the liquid in the pot. If it’s soupy-looking turn up the heat; but if it is dry go ahead and add the stock, vinegar and the fruit
· Simmer covered about 40 minutes. Check liquid from time to time. Now the chicken will be cooked and sitting in a fairly thick sauce
· Taste the sauce; you may want to add a little more curry powder (or garam masala if you have it). If you think it needs a little more zip, add a little more cayenne
· This goes good over a bed of boiled rice
· Serves six with side dishes
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