Bread

Avocado Pizza + Arugula, basil, & lime

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You guys. I won't disappear for months again, OK. I've got it together now. (Fingers crossed). This pizza is surprising. Its creamy rich avocado-y goodness baked into the crust. Balanced by the bitter/sweet arugula/lime/basil topping. OH MY. Seriously. Don't add cheese. It is SO good without. You want to let the beauty of the avocado shine on through.

Keeping on with that plan is another works in Food & Fiction.


SPIDER BY THE LIGHT

A gift in the night

from the spider by the light.

Four soft, tiny wings

fell gently where the door swings.

Spider's full belly

wing skeletons for kelly.

It once was a moth

flying on wings of silk cloth.

Guilt entered my mind

To all but light, moth was blind.

I turned off the light

no capture of moths tonight.

Palm spread eagerly

gathering wings gingerly.

The wings are not waste

death. beauty. forever encased.

A gift in the night

from the spider by the light.


RECIPE - Makes 2 pizzas (feeds 4)

Dough (Slightly adapted from Peter Reinhart's neo-neopolitian pizza dough)

2 Cups + 2TB - unbleached bread flour (or all purp flour)

1/2TB - Honey

3/4tsp - active dry yeast

1 Cup + 1TB - warm water (between 100 - 110 degrees F)

1TB - Olive oil

  1. Combine the warm water, honey, and yeast in a small bowl. Whisk until dissolved & let it sit aside for 5 - 10 minutes until it starts to bubble/foam. Then combine your yeast mixture, flour, & salt into a mixer & mix on low speed for 1 minute with a dough hook. (or mix by hand with a wooden spoon). Then let the dough rest for 5 minutes. This step lets the dough fully hydrate.
  2. Change your mixer speed to medium-low for 2 -3 minutes (or continue mixing by hand). The bread is done when it feels somewhere between tacky & sticky. It should still be really easy to work with. If you feel it is too wet add another TB of flour. If you feel it is to dry, add another TB of water. Turn the dough out onto an oiled sheet pan & divide into two pieces. Form these two pieces into rounds & place equal distance a part on the sheet pan. Cover the top with plastic wrap & place in your fridge overnight.
  3. 1.5 hours ahead of pizza baking time, remove the pizza from the fridge so it has time to warm up & proof in room temperature before baking. Now move onto pizza baking step.

Avocado Base + Toppings

2 - Avocados

4 - garlic cloves, peeled

6TB - Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 Handfuls - fresh arugula

1 Handful - fresh basil

1/4 - Medium/small red onion, slivered

2 - Limes

Salt/pepper - to taste

  1. After letting the pizza dough ferment in the fridge overnight, take the dough out of the fridge 1.5 hours prior to baking to let it warm up to room temp. Place a baking stone in the oven & preheat it to 500 degrees. If you do not have a baking stone then get out a large baking sheet & lightly oil it, but still preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
  2. In a small blender such as a smoothie blender or small food processor, combine the avocado meats, 5TB oil, garlic cloves, juice of one lime, and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth. It should be spreadable but still thick. The thickness will depend on the ripeness of your avocados. If you think it is just too thick, thin it out with a tiny bit of water. Set this aside.
  3. In a large bowl toss together your arugula, basil, and red onion. Whisk together the lime juice of your other lime and last TB of olive oil. Toss this together with the arugula mixture and lightly season with salt & fresh ground pepper. Use your hands to toss this mixture together (slightly massaging the greens). Set this aside until later.
  4. Roll out one of the pizza dough rounds on a floured surface and if you are baking using the baking sheet, place on the oiled baking sheet. Top the pizza with half of the avocado mixture & spread evenly with a spoon. Then transfer it into the oven & bake for about 15 -20 minutes (until it is cooked & the crust starts to golden). If you are baking on a pizza stone then open your oven & use a glove to pull out the rack the baking stone is on. Drop on the pizza crust, quickly top with half of the avocado mixture (spreading with a spoon), and close the oven. It will be done in about 10 minutes or less (until it is cooked & starting to golden in spots).
  5. Once the pizza is cooked, remove from oven either with a metal spatula or with mittens & place on a cutting board. Top with half of the arugula mixture, slice, & enjoy!
  6. Repeat process with second pizza dough.


Roasted beets & lemon greens wrap

Horror!

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All she could hear was her breathing. Everything else was silent. She set down the knife. It was red with crime. An un-blooded portion of the knife reflected her own face and glimpses of the carnage in front of her. She never knew she could be so violent. Heads chopped off from bodies and dismembered, there across the table and floor, was her proof. She gently and calmly wiped her hands clean with a rag; it was a white rag. The red soaked in deep, binding with the fibers, the contrast seemed to make her violence more permanent, more dramatic. She had been hungry before, and had simply set out to make a meal... before...

The phone range.

"Hello?"

"Hey, sweetheart, I'm on my way home. Do you want me to grab dinner?"

She glanced behind her at her crime, ripe with juices, and nibbled at a bit of red on her fingernail. It was sweet. Her heart should be pounding but she felt nothing was wrong. In fact, she felt the opposite. A different type of hunger began to grow in her...

"Oh, no, love. I'm making something at home for us." She hung up the phone.

She set to work cleaning up her mess; trimming and cutting away at the bodies, forming them into manageable pieces. It was an unusual meal. She pondered over a recipe, something simple. All that chopping had left her tired. Tired and hungry. Maybe... roasted in their own juices until tender? Salt and pepper of course, oh and olive oil! Certainly, olive oil! A little lemon to make the flavor pop. 

The smells from the oven were heavenly. She salivated. The dogs were in the kitchen licking at the floor in their primal states. Waiting for more tasty morsels to drip from the counter.

The door open and he walked in. He saw the red soaked cutting board and her stained hands. He stopped. 

"You're making beet wraps!"

Whoever thinks vegetarianism can't be gruesome has never cut their way through two bunches of fresh beets. 

This wrap is great, I've made it a few times and it has turned a beet hater (Ty) into a roasted beet lover. 

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Recipe (About 6 wraps)

Beets (with greens) - 2 bunches. Beets trimmed into thin rounds and save the greens)

Red onion - 1/4 cup, slivered

Goat cheese - 6TB (about 1TB per serving)

Lemon - Juice from 1 large lemon

Olive oil - 3TB

Salt/pepper - to taste 

Yogurt Flatbread (adapted from plenty)

Flour (any flour, this time I used spelt) - Generous 2 cups

Baking powder - 1TB

Salt - 1tsp

Whole fat plain yogurt (or greek) - 1 1/2 cups

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Begin with making your flatbread dough (or use a pre-made flatbread). Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then stir in your yogurt with a wooden spoon until the dough becomes workable with your hands. Knead for a few minuets. If the dough seems a little too sticky or dry, add in a little more flour. Cover the bowl and let it chill in your fridge while you prepare the rest of the wrap.

Wash and chop up the beets into thin rounds and put them into a bowl. Slice up the beet greens into slivers, discarding any extra tough stems and place them into a separate bowl. Add in the slivered onions to the beet greens. Squeeze over the fresh lemon juice into the greens and sprinkle with a small pinch or two of salt. Massage the lemon and salt into the greens and then set the bowl aside.

Now back to the beets. Toss the beets with the 3TB of olive oil and at least a teaspoon of salt & pepper each. Lay the beet slices out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20 minuets, until cooked and tender, stirring the beets half way through. 

While beets are roasting, go back to your dough and divide it into six balls. Heat up a skillet (cast iron works great here) on the stove top over high heat. Clean a work surface and sprinkle with flour. Place one ball on your floured surface and roll it out thin, into a round flatbread. Once your skillet is very hot, lay your flatbread on the skillet. When it starts to bubble up, flip the bread. When it starts to puff up with air, it is done and remove from the skillet. Repeat with the other 5 dough balls. 

After the breads are cooked and the beets roasted spread the center of a flatbread with 1Tb or more of goat cheese. Lay on top 1/6 of the beets and then top with a big handful of lemon greens. Repeat with others! The lemon greens and beets keep well when stored separately. Enjoy!

 

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Borrani Banjan

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Heavy air, dew drenched leaves, forests filled with cicadas and fireflies. The east coast can be a magical place. Especially, the south. Salty costal air, wise old mountains covered in blankets of poplar, oak, and pine, summers bring the juiciest tomatoes, crisp pods of okra, and the sweetest peaches. I'm enamored with the world, traveling is a love affair with the experience and the new perspectives it brings. I've been to more continents than I have not, seen many of our states on both sides of the country, and called quite a number of places home. My collection of experiences is far from complete but, slowly, I feel the call and yearning for the east coast. The other day I glanced through a magazine and inside was a set of gorgeous pictures from Charlottesville, VA, the place I was living before Denver. The pictures were taken at the gardens where I use to intern and I remember being there that morning when the photo shoot was in motion. I didn't pay too much attention to the shoot and I glanced through that magazine purely by chance. Yet, it awoke something in me. I took for granted the beautiful views of the rolling mountains fading into a soft blue. I knew I loved it, I just didn't realize how much. 

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This dish, Borrani Banjan, is an Afghan dish that we regularly ordered from our favorite restaurant back in Virginia. An Afghan restaurant called Arianna's. My version is a bit thicker and less oily but still uses a generous amount of oil. It's the perfect dish for my current mood. Something to remind me of home, but also a dish that draws near a foreign culture, balancing a love for home and a love of the afar. Borrani Banjan is traditionally a friend eggplant dish severed in an oily tomato pureé, drizzled with a yogurt sauce and eaten with warm, Afghan bread called Nan. I made a few modifications so it wasn't quite as oily, and I baked the eggplant instead of frying. 

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Now a quick word about oils and fats. Oils and fats are good for you, hear me scream it from the rooftops! You need fats, they are essential for your body to process certain nutrient and proteins, good fats do not increase unhealthy cholesterol. Actually, they help lower you unhealthy cholesterol and increase your good cholesterol (HDL). Good cholesterol is needed to build cells and produce hormones. Oils/fats are all different and since most of us use oil in almost everything we cook, even if it is just a little, you need to pay some attention to what oil you are using. So most cooking oils are in the category of good fats which are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats although they aren't all equal. I typically always use organic extra virgin olive oil and I look for oils that have been first-pressed and cold-pressed because this oil will have the highest percentage of monounsaturated fat, the good type of fat. I want it cold-pressed because heat breaks down oils turning them rancid and creating free-radicals, which destroy your body, essentially, by aging you. I don't want my oils to have ever been heated before I use them.

I typically like to use olive oil on no higher than medium heat so I do not break it down. This brings me to coconut oils, which is a saturated fat. Wait? A saturated fat? Yes, saturated fats typically are bad fats, but tropical oils (coconut oil) do not contain or contribute to LDL (unhealthy cholesterol), they are the exception to the rule. Coconut oil is also solid at room temperature, and it takes a higher heat to break coconut oil down. It is why I tend to use coconut oil for all my high-heat needs. Plus, its really tasty. When looking for coconut oil make sure you do not buy a hydrogenated version, and look for a virgin/organic version. I know, oils can be pricey, but really... this one is all about your health, you use it in everything. The very best coconut oil I have ever had is from Mountain Rose Herbs. It is very fragrant, more fragrant than any coconut oil I've had, and tastes fantastic. There is no comparison to the brands found in the store, plus, for the quantity and quality, the price is better than store versions. After I tried their coconut oil (virgin unrefined), I'll never go back, here is the link to their coconut oils.

Enough of me talking about fats... my fat, your fat, all the fat! yay! 

Now lets get down to business with this Afghan food!  You might want to have the bread made before making the eggplant dish and then reheat before serving. Just lower the oven temperature to 400degrees after making the bread to get ready for the next step.

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Bread (Nan)

I slightly modified the recipe from here . Usually this bread is cooked in a tandoori oven so this is an adaption of the traditional version.

Bread flour - 5 cups

Salt - 2tsp

Active dry yeast - 1TB or 1 packet

Water - 2 cups warm water (between 105-115degrees) 

Olive oil - 5TB

Honey - 2tsp

Dissolve the honey and yeast into the warm water in a bowl and set aside 5-10 minutes, it should start to bubble and froth up.  Meanwhile mix together the flour and salt in a large bowl. After the yeast mixture as frothed up add in the oil. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the water/oil mixture gently. Stir the mixture together with a big wooden spoon working from the center out but the mixture is solid enough to work with your hands. Knead for about 10 minutes. Place into a oiled bowl and cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for 2 hours. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees with a greased baking sheet or stone inside. Punch the dough down, divide dough into six balls, and flour the work surface. Roll each dough into an oil with a rolling pin and stretching with your hands until they are between 1/4inch - 1/2inch thick. If desired you can mist the bread and then sprinkle over some black sesame seeds. Once the oven is hot, remove the pan or stone and place the bread on top and then return the stone to the oven. Cook for about 5 minutes, check, and then cook 5 more minutes. The break should be slightly golden.

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Recipe (Serves 4 as a meal - nice served with a salad) 

Eggplants - 2 small/medium, sliced into very thin rounds

Yellow onion - 1/2, slivered

Tomatoes - 4 medium, chunked

Tomato paste - 6oz can

Garlic - 5 cloves, minced

Coconut oil - 1/4 cup plus extra for brushing

Olive oil - Scant 1/4 cup

Good quality curry powder - 3-4TB I used curry from here if I don't make my own. 

Yogurt - plain, whole fat, about 1/4cup

Mint - fresh, 3-4TB, minced

Salt -  to taste

Chop up all your veggies and have them ready and then mix together the yogurt, 1 clove of minced garlic, mint, and a pinch of salt. Set aside for later.

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Lay the eggplant slices onto a baking sheet, brushing each side with coconut oil. Bake in the oven for about 8 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil on medium high heat in a large, deep, skillet. Add in the rest of the garlic and the onions. Cook for 3-5 minutes until fragrant and beginning to soften. Add in the tomatoes.  Cook for about 10 minutes and then add in the tomato paste. Stir until combined. Cook for several more minutes. Pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Dump back into the skillet on medium heat. Add in the curry powder and generous 1/2tsp of salt. Cook for a few minutes and then taste and adjust for the spices. Drizzle in the olive oil and stir. Add in the baked eggplant and stir to coat. 

Pour the eggplant mixture onto a platter and drizzle over the yogurt sauce and then garnish with a bit more mint, if desired.  Serve spooned over the nan.

Oh-My-Oh-So-Good.

 

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Spring equinox egg salad made with yogurt & fennel. + Watercress & black bread.

Spring.

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Happy Spring Equinox! March 20th was the equinox. A time for new beginnings, putting the past and the dreamtime of winter behind you. It is time to birth those creations you have been hibernating with all winter. I am really trying to kick my arse and be productive about this things I THINK I want to do. I'm letting go, leaving all the grief and uncertainty and questions winter leaves us stagnated with. Spring truly is about new beginnings and branching out into a new life. You can feel the soil thawing out from under you, it is a mindset of accepting this new season. Spiritually and physically. For me, this spring does mark a significant period of change, even this website is one of my new beginnings. My herbalism course ended on Tuesday and we went out under the moon that evening to give thanks for our experiences and honor the coming of spring. I am so thankful for having the experience of this herbalism course and the teachings I have received. Not to mention all the beautiful people I got to study with, it truly has made my beginning months in Charlottesville much better. They are kindred spirits whom I will be sad not to meet with every Tuesday from here on out. Ty and I made a recent trip down to GA & NC to visit friends and family. Being in Athens really rejuvenated me and filled me up with all the love that is there; something I think I have been lacking a bit of up here this winter.

I do have exciting things to look forward to and have finally been able to make a decision, at least a small one. Not one so grand as "what in the stars will I do with my life?" One battle at a time right? Ty got an internship (that will lead to a job once he finishes grad school) in Denver, CO. I've decided to hold off on working here in Charlottesville, VA and move to Denver with him for the summer. I'm extremely excited, I've never been to Denver but have always held the idea of Colorado in a very special spot in my heart. I'll be doing some work there this summer but I cannot wait to get into those mountains! Spring really is for new beginnings and for me this spring it's Colorado and all the changes that will unfold because of it. I'm just afraid we won't ever come back! 

I've always had a weird love for egg salad. A lot of people hate it and its a shame! My Mom said that when she was pregnant with me that she had mad cravings for egg salad sandwiches with chocolate milk. I really like both of those things... but not together. Though it might be why I have a peculiarly strong appreciate and cravings for egg salad. This recipe actually does combine chocolate and egg salad but in a very delicious, balanced manner. I chose to eat egg salad today though because it is the spring equinox. Spring is for new beginnings and what food better represents new beginnings than eggs? 

This black bread was slightly adapted from the beloved smitten kitchen blog. I love pumpernickel bread and have made it several ways but I love Deb's version.

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Russian Black Bread (suped-up) Two loaves.

Active Dry Yeast - 1.5TB or 2 packages

Sugar - good pinch

Warm water - heated between 105 & 115 degrees to create the right yeast environment.

Coffee - 2 cups of fresh brewed strong coffee.

Molasses - 1/4cup

Apple cider vinegar - 1/4 cup

Butter - 4TB unsalted

Cocoa powder - 1.5TB (unsweet)

Whole wheat flour - 1/2 Cup

Dark rye flour - 3 Cups

Bread flour - 3 Cups (unbleached)

Wheat germ - 1 Cup

Caraway seeds - 3TB (some people grind these, I like the whole seed texture)

Fennel Seed - 2tsp (some people grind these, I like the whole seed texture)

Salt - 1tsp

In a small bowl combine the 1/2 Cup of warm water, yeast, and pinch of sugar. Dissolve and let sit aside for about 10 minutes until it gets foamy. This provides a nice warm environment and food (sugar) for the yeast so it can activate and begin to breed, eventually making lovely air pockets inside your bread.

Make your coffee (I made a french press) and, if the coffee is still hot, add it in a bowl with the butter and stir until butter melts (if not then heat up on a stove with the coffee until melted). Then add in and combine the molasses, vinegar, and cocoa powder. Set aside. 

Combine all your flours together in a bowl and whisk until evenly distributed. 

In a bowl fitted with a dough hook add in 2 cups of the flour mixture, the wheat germ, all the seeds, and the coffee mixture. Let stir until almost combined on a low setting. Then add in the yeast mixture and stir until almost combine. Keep adding the rest of the flour about a 1/2 cup at a time until the dough starts to come together. Increasing speed as needed. I had a scant 1/4 cup flour left which I reserved for later use. The dough should be tacky but firm. Sprinkle a counter with some of this flour and knead several minutes to help the gluten continue to develop. Form the dough into a round and place into a oiled bowl, flipping the dough in the bowl to coat with oil. Leave in a warm place covered with a cloth for 1.5-2 hours or until doubled in size. 

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Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two. Shape the two loaves into a desired shape. You can make a round, a loaf pan, or any shape you desire. I made two bâtard shapes which is basically shaping a round (a boule) but adding pressure while rolling towards the ends to elongate and taper off. I placed each loaf onto a lightly greased baking sheet. You could also try just baking them on bread or pizza stones if desired. Let sit and rise for 45 minutes or an hour. You want it almost doubled again. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. I then brushed the tops of my loaves with olive oil and put the rest of the flour in a sieve and sprinkled to coat the tops of my bread. Then I took a bread knife and slashed the loaves with three angled lines. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes - 1 hours. It took me closer to an hour. The internal temperature should be around 200-210 degrees. The bread should be a dark color and a hollow thump when tapped on the bottom with a knuckle. 

*Nice thing about making two loaves? Stick one in the freezer for later. Having homemade bread twice with half the work!

Cool it and eat it! It is so good. Or make an egg salad sammie.

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Egg salad with yogurt, fennel, & watercress. (enough for 4 sammies)

8 eggs - Hard boiled, peeled, and chopped

Yogurt - 1/3 cup. Plain, whole milk.

Dijon mustard - Scant 2TB

Fennel - 1/4 a bulb finely diced

Celery - 1 stick, finely diced

Red onion - 1/4 an onion, finely diced

Dill - 1TB scant, dried.

Salt and Black pepper - to taste

Watercress - as a topping a small handful for each sandwich. 

Combine the yogurt, mustard, and dill together. Stir until well combined. Add the fennel, celery, red onion and stir to coat. Stir in egg and combine evenly. Taste and season with salt and pepper to desired taste. 

Assemble the sandwiches. Slice medium/thin slices of the black bread and toast. Lay down some watercress on one slice and then top with 1/4 of the egg salad mixture. Top with the other piece of bread. Enjoy! Mmmm egg salad, happy spring!

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