It’s the time of year when peaches are piled so high on the counter that we hardly make a dent in them as we eat one after another, on the back porch or leaning over the sink, juice running down our wrists. The baby reaches for them: “apple! Apple!” (All fruit is “apple” in her lexicon.) We get peaches in our CSA box every week, and buy more, and then our neighbors came over with a heaping bowl, sharing the bounty of a box they brought home from some warmer, peach-growing place.
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There’s something about environmentally-unfriendly single-serving packaged snacks that children find irresistible. Maybe it’s the “all mine” factor, or the satisfying crinkle of those little bags, but it’s hard to compete with a store-bought granola bar for my kids’ affection in the snack category.
These bars did the trick partly because they were fun and hands-on to make, and partly because they’re basically cookies. Mmm, cookies. This recipe, from Good to the Grain, was a great starting point–chewy, sweet and oaty–but I expect to do a little experimentation in the future to find a granola bar that comes closer to being a healthy kid snack. On the other hand, these would make a great hiking snack if you actually needed a sugar boost, and I quite enjoyed them as an afternoon sweet alongside a cup of tea. We’ll just be calling them “cookies” from now on.
Do you have a granola bar recipe you like? Do tell.
Let’s start with this: I’m not at all above feeding my kids a box of mac and cheese, or declaring that it’s leftover night and wishing everyone good luck, or piling us all into the car to go out for ramen. But I do try to make dinner for my family with some frequency.
Do you know this nice blog called “Dinner: A Love Story“? I was just introduced to it recently. It’s all about feeding your family dinner every night and of course they have a new cookbook (who doesn’t these days?), apparently full of recipes and strategies for feeding a family of picky eaters without going crazy. I should probably get that cookbook.
But in the meantime I thought I’d share a tip of my own. One of the ways in which I manage to get dinner on the table on a regular basis is by using the term “dinner” fairly loosely. Some examples: breakfast for dinner? Sure. Sandwiches? If necessary. Tonight’s dinner? These pretzels. The girls gleefully chose their own dips (peanut butter, rhubarb jam, and applesauce), and the grown-ups had theirs with a sweet grainy mustard. I made a pot of that great turnip soup soup as well, but it was certainly the accompaniment to the pretzels and not the other way around.It’s a little time-consuming to make pretzels (you boil these in a baking-soda bath in addition to letting them rise twice), but it was a fun project to do with the girls and the resulting pretzels were very good. They have just the right combination of crispy bottom and chewy center, with a little tang that I assumed was from the rye flour, but Kim Boyce tells me is from the baking soda instead. This recipe is adapted from Boyce’s Good to the Grain cookbook, which I want to cook from front to back after having started with those Rhubarb-Strawberry Cornmeal Tarts recently.
Have you ever heard of black garlic? I hadn’t until last week, when I happened across a small new bin tucked in with the mushrooms at my local co-op. The sign said “fermented black garlic.” What? The employees in the produce section were enthusiastic in recommending it but vague about exactly what it was. It looked like garlic, but was slightly collapsed and shrunken, and smelled like a sweet, lightly garlic-flavored soy sauce. It smelled good. Into my basket it went. Later I found that wikipedia link above and determined that I had purchased either a traditional Asian ingredient or a new-fangled food entrepreneur’s invention from California, or maybe some combination (see here for the California producer’s description of how the “magic” fermentation process occurs “behind the closed doors of our patented machine”). Apparently this stuff is all umami and antioxidants and a darling of the food cognoscenti, of which group I am not a member, so that explains why I had never heard of it.
Finding a new vegetable is a big deal for a serious eater. A new taste experience on the horizon! I started researching how to make the most of my intriguing head of garlic. In the end, I didn’t find a recipe that called to me, so I adapted a potato and rosemary focaccia recipe from Food and Wine, which had in turn adapted it from a Daniel Boulud recipe.
I made two medium-sized focaccias, and I used half a head of black garlic to flavor one of them. I roasted thinly-sliced potatoes with olive oil, rosemary, and a couple of minced cloves of black garlic, then I layered more sliced cloves of black garlic onto the potato-topped bread before baking it. I was a little worried that I might have overdone it with all that garlic. (The other focaccia was topped only with rosemary-roasted potato slices as a delicious control group.)So hey, it’s good bread. But the garlic flavor is quite mild, and in my opinion the black garlic’s flavor, at least as I prepared it, doesn’t live up to the bold promise of its alluring scent and striking appearance. But I like strong flavors, and the unexpectedly delicate garlic flavor may be a plus in your book rather than a disappointment. In any case, the midnight-black cloves certainly lend dramatic flair.
Here’s the important question: what should I do with the remaining cloves of black garlic? Have you used it in a preparation that you liked? Do you have some off-the-wall inspiration to share? I’ll give it another go.
There are plenty of good reasons to make friends with your neighbors. You can always borrow a cup of sugar, they’re conveniently close for impromptu cocktail parties or afternoon barbeques, and you can share a lawnmower. (What, not everyone shares a lawnmower with their neighbors? Well, maybe you all mow more than twice a year.)
We are lucky enough to have the kind of neighbors who, in addition to all of the benefits above, sometimes drop by with treats. Recently it was a dish of petal-pink tender baked rhubarb, barely sweet and redolent of orange zest and ginger. I know, right?
I admit to eating a few stalks straight from the dish with my fingers, and heaping spoonfuls made their way into bowls of yogurt for breakfast. But I have a new cookbook, Good to the Grain, and it has a picture on the cover of some mighty handsome little single-serving rhubarb tarts. I couldn’t resist cooking the remaining rhubarb down into a jam with fragrant strawberries and baking them into delicate and delicious free-form tarts. They’re like the biggest, best jam-filled cookie you’ve ever had. We shared them with the neighbors, of course.
There was a period in my life when I had three or four breadmakers. All used, of course, as a breadmaker is the sort of appliance that seems to wander around in search of a home. You probably know a couple people trying to give away bread machines they got for their wedding 15 years ago and never used, and they’re always on Craig’s List for $5, and they carom around on Freecycle like nobody’s business.
So anyway, a few years ago I somehow came into possession of a breadmaker. I hadn’t used one in years. I used it once or twice with, you know, breadmaker-type results, and then it broke. Suddenly I keenly felt its absence. I couldn’t find the same model so I got a different one, and then I did find the same model so I got that too, and maybe I even got a third before I came to my senses, discarded the broken one, and gave the surplus breadmakers away. Phew.
I will say this for my breadmaker: it makes a reliable whole wheat sandwich bread when we run out of the store-bought stuff. And what else do I want it for, really? I usually buy 100% whole grain sandwich bread because I have not found a 100% whole wheat recipe that works in my breadmaker. (Do you have one? Please, please share!) This recipe, straight from the Breadman manual, has been my go-to breadmaker loaf for years. It is moist with a sturdy crumb and a nice crust and it slices just right for sandwiches. You can get it going the night before and have a hot loaf waiting in the morning. It’s worth keeping a breadmaker around for (but just one).
Let’s just get something out of the way: I am not posting this recipe because these pancakes are the easiest-to-flip pancakes in the world. (They’re not.) I’m posting it because they’re some of the more delicious pancakes I’ve ever eaten. (They are.) And with Mothers Day coming up on Sunday, you just might want a special pancake recipe up your sleeve. Sweet with juicy blueberries, a bit of crunch from the cornmeal and crispy edge, lemon zest singing the high note. You can make them even if you’re not brunching with your mom, you know.
A word about vegan pancakes, and vegan baking in general, really: I used to always think in terms of how to “replace” the eggs in recipes, but Isa Chandra Moskowitz & her Post Punk Kitchen empire have changed that for me. I don’t get the science, I just follow the recipes, but hey, they work. (Have you baked out of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World?) This recipe is from her book Veganomicon.
Back to the pancakes. Give them room, people. The batter is thin, and it spreads quite a bit. If I had a nonstick pan, I would have used it here, but I don’t. Instead, I oiled my seasoned cast iron griddle well and waited until the pancakes were well-browned and released (more) easily with the help of a thin metal spatula. It’s a fine line between well-browned and burnt, however, so keep a close eye as that pivotal moment approaches. And if a pancake buckles as you scoop it up, just flip it and smooth it back out on the other side.