Recipe Thursday: Bread Book – Tostadas/Crostini/Bruschetta, etc.

Whatever you want to call snack on toasts, I find it amazing that here in America, we don’t value this simple and delectable treat as much as they do in Southern Europe and Scandinavia. Of course we eat toast – mainly with butter and jam, for breakfast, or with eggs, etc, or a little cold cut of meat or cheese. And then there is the recent trend of truffle toast or avocado toast (why are these ‘trends’ when they should be no-brainers?!) but unless you are at a fancy party – there really are not crostini with yummy bits on them in our lives very often.

When I was a child, sometimes lunch (or brunch) was chipped creamed beef on toast (essentially a cured sliced beef in milk gravy – nicknamed S.O.S. ‘s*@t on a shingle’) or an even cheaper version with cream of mushroom soup (sometimes with green beans) on toast. Both I liked very much.

But we are about to begin the Summer feasting! Which entails so many fresh offerings, it seems a shame to neglect our toasts as a perfect vehicle to get all that Summer into us. As soon as Heirloom Tomato season hits, I highly recommend firing up the outside pit/grill/campfire. Then chop those fresh tomatoes right up into a coarse but juicy mess, rip bits of basil into them, sprinkle with a nice amount of Maldon salt and a little coarse ground fresh pepper, and a healthy glug of really good olive oil (the Fiore lady is always at our Farmer’s Market; I’m so spoiled) and let sit while you half a couple of big garlic cloves, and toast some nice slices of delicious bread over the open fire with a pair of tongs – you don’t want them blackened or on fire (this isn’t your guilty-pleasure marshmallow trick! though you could lay them on the grill – grill marks are sexy too), just toasted to your desire on both sides. Then, while warm, rub a cut side of a garlic half on one side of your toast, then top with the bruschetta tomato mixture, and eat. Then do it again. Share with a friend (or don’t).

I’m a big tapenade fan, too, though we don’t grow much of the ingredients here I still make my own by coarsely grinding up cured olives, artichokes, capers, maybe a little red pepper (or roasted red pepper) – with olive oil and fresh oregano. To really take it to the next level, use fresh rosemary instead of the oregano, and add coarsely pulverized dried figs. Separately (but nearby, they go together nicely) whip a little local goat cheese with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of Maldon salt/fresh ground pepper. Then after you toast the bread and rub with garlic, spread a little whipped goat cheese on, then top with a little of the fig tapenade – AMAZING! I kid you not.

But I can’t think of any reason why these little toasts wouldn’t be good with a coarse ground Jardiniere (which we make and sell! I also make it into a Muffuletta mix…more on that another day), or even oily cured fish (Wild Planet makes some yummy options like Yellowtail and Mackerel along with the classics of Anchovy and Sardine…) or fresh ricotta (someday we can sell it again, until then – make your own or come visit!). But I am adventurous enough to just eat shredded carrot sauteed in bits of bacon on toast or grilled peaches with goat cheese and fresh thyme, endless toast options.

I find these toasts work great for older or slightly stale bread – they can be toasted in the oven, too, or even prebrushed with olive oil and roasted a bit, or fresh out of the toaster and snacked upon. And now I’m thinking, well – what if I just spread a little Nutella on my toast with that guilty-pleasure toasted marshmallow?! What are your favorite toast options?

Tuesday on the Homestead

It is a jungle out there right now. There is just enough rain that mowing keeps getting missed and the timothy is as high as Duende’s nose! But the daisies, red clover, and cinquefoil are tall and lovely. Tiny and ethereally delicious wild strawberries cover the paths in the backfield and the blackberries are blooming like crazy. Most of the garden has been seeded and planted, though there is still some parts that need tending like the chamomile bed, a new pole bean trellis, the ground cherries to be put in, and maybe some wonderberry (J likes them a bunch). The flower beds are also seeded and some little bits waiting in the wings for empty garden pockets.

I’d like to still build little companion plant annexes at the end of the vegetable beds; I do interplant some friends but I like extras. They are little gardens in themselves – borage, nasturtium, marigold, dill, oregano, chives, calendula, sunflowers, basil and other aromatics like lavender, chamomile, sage, thyme, etc. Some just bring in the pollinators, some bring in parasitic wasps, some confuse predators, and some emit magickal properties that enhance growth and flavor of their relations. I’m a nerd for companion planting. Red onions separate the rows of chard, basil of all colors are in between the tomatoes along with some sunflowers down the center row and marigolds on the corners, the cucumbers trail with nasturtiums, and calendula and radish grow in front of the peas, there is a bed of fennel (all by itself because it doesn’t like direct friends) that brings in good things, and the nitrogen from the beans will replenish the heavy feeding of the corn.

I make little beds throughout the orchard, too. Boneset, blue false indigo, comfrey, native bee balm and many of the mature trees are surrounded by various narcissus and alliums. The dear late Michael Phillips has taught us well and we will continue to use his brilliance for many years to come. I don’t know where we would be without such great ecological and environmentally sensitive practitioners – I’m amazed every day at the neighbors in New England who know so much more than I (and not just New England, but it is here that the terroir that we share is a specific knowledge). It is an honor to learn from and with them. Always learning. May we all be so lucky.

Recipe Thursday: Bread Book – Beet Hummus and Seedy Cubes

Alright, I hate to admit it (it’s not good to pick favorites!) but the Seedy Sourdough Round Bread Josh makes is the best (if you haven’t – check out the Stone Broke Bread Bakery and become a member!). I love all the seed goodness, unexpected texture and protein (and getting all my seed nutrition like Omega 3s, lignans, manganese, copper, selenium, healthy fats and fiber, plus so many other benefits – amino acid absorption, hormone control, healthy microbiome, etc).

It doesn’t last long around here. It’s really nice when it’s warm with creamy soups like White Bean & Kale or Mushroom Cream Soup or even a luscious Butternut Squash Soup. Warm Seedy Bread with butter to sop up soup, yes please. But sometimes I also like when the rare leftover half’a’loaf happens and I can make it into croutons to have on the soup or a salad, too. Chunked up into squares of your choice (I like big ones – 2×2 Cubes), tossed with Olive Oil, a healthy pinch of dried Rosemary, Sage, or Thyme, Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper then baked at 350 degrees on a sheet pan for about 15 minutes, shaking every now and again to loosen and get all the sides nice and baked – these croutons are addictive! So, I also decided I liked them dipped as a snack into a yummy hummus.

Somehow this Beet Hummus speaks to me in a way hummus never has before – with a hint of sweetness and spiciness, it pairs with the crispy Seedy Bread Cubes perfectly (though it is also delicious spread on the bread or sandwiches – like a Roast Beef sandwich!, or as any other hummus suits your fancy). Serve with drinks with friends, at a picnic or outdoor gathering, or just as an afternoon snack! Though I use Red Beets here, I don’t see why Golden Beets (or any other color) wouldn’t work though I find the Horseradish better suited to the Red (and it’s so pretty!).

Beet Hummus
Makes about 2 cups

  • 3 Medium Red Beets (about tennis ball size, maybe a little smaller)
  • 30 oz of cooked Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans, though White Beans work nice, too)
  • 2 cloves of peeled Garlic
  • 1/4 cup Lemon Juice (or juice of 1 Lemon)
  • 1/4 cup Tahini (though I have made it w/o and it’s good, it’s a little better with…)
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Fresh Cracked White Pepper
  • 2 tsp Prepared Horseradish
  • 1 tsp Ground Cardamom (though Coriander is nice, too, if you want to garnish with Cilantro – use Coriander here)
  • 2 tsp fresh Thyme leaves
  • Garnish recommendations: toasted Flax and/or Sesame Seeds, or a few sprigs of Cilantro, thin Lemon slices, a drizzle of Olive Oil and a sprinkling of Maldon Salt
  • Serve with Seedy Cubes (see above description) or any kind of yummy Bread Cubes or Sticks, Cucumber Spears, Medium-Boiled Eggs – halved, Fresh Bush Beans (like Green Beans or Yellow Wax Beans), Carrot Sticks

Prepare the Red Beets by either roasting or boiling: wash and trim any woody spots then prick in a few places with a fork. If roasting, Preheat oven to 425 degrees and cover Beets in aluminum foil, place on a baking rack (if you forget and decide to fork them after you have wrapped them, put a sheet pan below them in the oven!), and roast for about 40-45 minutes. You can test them by sliding a knife into them (you want them fully cooked with no resistance), let them cool for a few minutes (or rinse in cold water) and slip skins off. For boiling, I find it easier to peel them beforehand with a potato peeler or paring knife, then fork them, and bring to a boil with enough water to cover the Beets until tender (about 35 minutes). Further alternatively – you could steam them or buy them cooked. Quarter the Beets and set aside.

Prepare the cooked beans by draining and rinsing them (if using Garbanzo beans, put them in a colander in a bowl and fill with water, rub gently to dislodge their skins – they will float, gather them out and discard, then pull colander from bowl with water and rinse).

In a food processor, add Beets, Garlic, and Beans with a Tbsp water – pulse until your texture preference (I like mine smooth but not soupy, add more water as needed but remember, you have Lemon Juice and Oil to still add). Add rest of ingredients (not the garnish) and pulse until texture is satisfactory. Taste and add more Lemon, Sea Salt, Pepper, or Horseradish if needed. Garnish as desired, serve with Seedy Cubes and Cucumber Spears – Snack away!

Duendesday: Moving on up…

{life with a curious and crazy almost 12 yr old}

Child-time is moving too fast for me. I enjoy every stage of the growing but somedays I just wish each stage would last a little longer. I remember thinking when she was a wee babe that each time we had to bounce her to sleep felt like a mini eternity, but now it all feels so fast. Almost 12. At one end, a great age – such a fun age to be with her, but simultaneously – 12! – that’s almost 13! and then small childhood is over and a new era begins (literally with her 3rd cycle, but we’re not quite there yet – whew!).

Duende is amazing. And crazy. And sometimes frustrating. But amazing. And hilarious. And beautiful. And clever. She’s a slob and will always choose the path of least resistance or work, or sweet thing, or the thing you’d rather not…but that’s part of kid-dom. She’s tall! At least, to me, because she was small and now she’s tall. My mind keeps her small even though I know in real life, she’s a being of her own volition.

AND, she’s officially a 7th grader! I know, it’s crazy. She passed her homeschool assessment nicely (I know some of you have doubts that not only can ‘we’ homeschool her effectively, but some of you also just strongly believed children need to be ‘schooled’, I assure you – she is…) and will continue working through the Summer (as a lifelong everyday learner, there are no sessions or breaks). It works nicely that a year of her life is a year of school ‘grade’ since her birthday is at the end of June.

Today she is planning a celebratory break from her ‘sugar’ fast. The Tooth Fairy requested she try a week without sweets and she was very successful (but plans on loading up today) which means she can rent any movie of her choice and we can get in our matching Solstice pajamas, make seaweed and nutritional yeast popcorn, and snuggle in the big bed. I think she is making some sort of dinner, too – with Rainbow Chard, some local ground Pork, Potatoes…not sure what magick will come about with all of that (and something about peppers, which is amazing since she doesn’t like cooked peppers). But I’m sure it will be delicious and fun and Duende-ish.

The duende is strong with this one. ❤

Tuesday Affairs

It was a very busy morning for the baker today! Because of the long weekend, he was up early at 4am to make the (generally Monday) morning bagels for the ReVision Energy folks and then instead of sneaking back into bed for a couple more hours of sleep, he had to jump on the regular Tuesday baking and delivering schedule – whew! I bet he’s going to bed early tonite! But the breads are beautiful (and delicious – I cannot resist a freshly baked bagel or slice of yummy bread with butter!) and he is off in the world with the peach delivering his goods.

There is a fat Robin in the garden today, but he’s not eating my Purple or Black Barley or Sunflower or Glass Gem Corn seeds. I’m a bit of a bird-nerd (I would not go so far to say that I am serious about it, but I do get a little giddy when there is some bird drama) and last Tuesday at the Augusta farmer’s market (which is on the Kennebec River, in a meandering little park where D and her friend like to rollerskate on the paths) we got to see a bevy of feathered friends: 4 Great Blue Herons hanging out together, a pair of Common Mergansers, Baltimore Orioles, Eastern Peewees, juvenile Osprey practicing their fishing techniques, and another pair of Bald Eagles. There was some issue with the Peewee, the Orioles, and a noisy Crow but eventually they all chased the latter away. Back home we frequently hear our resident Pileated Woodpecker, Catbirds in the front bush along with a pair of Cardinals, and the Phoebe in their sweet nest on the back of the garage. Early in the Spring (late Winter) I saw a couple of Bluebirds but they don’t stick around for us. Though last week, outside the studio window I got to see an Indigo Bunting in my Witch Hazel! I won’t regale you with my Life List or anything but seeing a Hoopoe in the Agora in Athens, Greece was certainly a highlight!

And speaking of marvelous highlights – a wonderful dear human gave me a sprig of a mint plant last year that he got from his other lovely friend, the artist David Driskell, who received it from another friend that found it on the ground where he was as a soldier when he found out the war (WWII) was over and brought it back with him (there are details there that are certainly lacking, as the story was told to me and another like-minded colleague who also received some mint: we try and reconstruct the story to each other but we know we fail; it is more like the telephone game, a chain letter through time…). I got to see Dr. Driskell speak a couple of times, in intimate small group settings – his stories are so good. Stories about visiting Zora Neale Hurston for lemonade with Langston Hughes, stories about his realization of where and how to function as an African American male artist and how he could help others with his perspective, stories about his craft and subject matter…just a lovely human being.

Well, suffice to say, the mint lingered for a bit before I found it a home and when I planted it, it looked like a sad little stick but seemed to survive. But alas, this Spring, it just looked like a dead stick and I was deflated. No Driskell love letter mint for me, but I kept checking on it. I composted around it, watered my dead stick, weeded the bed, etc. Just for fun I thought I would check on it the other day, just to lament the stick again, and 3 inches away from the offending dry twig was a foot high new mint shoot!! The Driskell Mint lives, in Maine, where so much of his heart lived too. I am so grateful to have this gift (Thank you lovely George and Amy! It grows for you, too!).

So, as the sea of Daisies waft in the humid breeze, and the Dragonflies appear to swoop and scarf the mosquitos (those jerks don’t get capitalized), and the Honeysuckle calls to me to make Country Wine, I get to hear and see the birds enjoy this verdant Spring, and watch the tiny marvelous plants with all their stories (and my stories, and stories of stories) grow. Let your stories grow!

A Muse for Monday

Then, too I had trouble with the cookbooks. As I studied the recipes, I discovered the fateful word MEANWHILE. I was supposed to separate eggs, then beat them, MEANWHILE stirring something constantly. I was to melt butter, blend in flour and gradually add milk. MEANWHILE dicing or peeling something, and not forgetting to test the cake in the oven with a clean broomstraw. MEANWHILE I was theoretically tossing the salad.

The most important lesson I learned was not to get in a panic when I saw MEANWHILE staring at me.

~ What Cooks at Stillmeadow, by Gladys Taber (1958),(found in Leonard Louis Levinson’s 1965 Complete Book of Pickles and Relishes)

Homestead Tuesday: thank goodness for fermentation…

The other day we had several things going on in the Rock Bottom/Stone Broke Bakery kitchen: bubbling yeasted Blackberry and Cranberry Soda in the carboy, foraged greens gurgling in the Kimchi crock, Dandelion wine fermenting in other crock, Daisy Pesto being made on the island, and the Sourdough Starter being fed so she could grow and grow in time for baking day! It was a plethora of food doings.

Meanwhile we talked of reinvigorating the (shhhhh) Secret Pickle Club, new bread shapes and flavors, garden plans (my vast wasteland of sticks and strings right now – though I did manage to put in the Glass Gem Corn, Sunflowers and a Milkweed patch, Purple Barley, and Midnight Black Beans – while the lovely peas are still growing on their webwork of trellis. Josh has been working so hard to expand the garden and take care of mass gobs of sod and put up new fencing), and plan for a visitation from lovely friends (where we, of course, cooked some meat over the fire – ha! as they were gracious enough to bring beer, cheese, and a scrumptious Blueberry Pie and cookies!).

By next week we are hoping to have much of the rest of the garden in (flowers, seeding, vegetables, and fruit) and perhaps end No Mow May with a good grasscut around here (it’s getting hard to walk in some lush spots!). Then we can start to work on the new herb garden in the little area we call La Petite Jardin, hopefully soon to be a new expanded relaxation and outdoor kitchen space (with an outdoor bread oven!). Fermenting Summer dreams.

Recipe Thursday: Bread Book – Foraged Pizza

We have lived semi-rurally for a few years now and one of the first things we realized was that we could not get pizza delivery. Not only that, but there are very few choices in the area if we could. Pizza is not just pizza to me. Having a sizeable chunk of my teenage/young adult years in Southern PA/New Jersey shore has made me partial to certain foods (pizza, bagels, bread in particular – not to mention typical dishes such as -a real- Italian sub, Stromboli, the dreamy heart attack Pork Roll/Egg/Cheese, Black & White Cookies, and Portuguese or Italian hard rolls, Funnel Cake, etc) so I’m a little romantic about certain aspects. And because now that we are more interested in natural and clean foods, we can’t or don’t just eat any old thing.

With that said, we make our own pizza. Not only does Josh make a lovely fully fermented sourdough pizza dough (available again soon for customers! ask and see!) that stretches beautifully but if you cook it on an oven stone, you can get the crispness of the crust that I prefer. Pillowy in the right places, thin in others, bubbles abound. With a good sauce (or none – we love a white pizza), ingredients, cheese – we are all happy. Duende generally prefers hers pretty straight forward: extra cheese, black (and sometimes green) olives, and nitrate free pepperoni (though many times she will skip the pepperoni because she’s already eaten it all as a snack – I’m surprised we can keep olives in the house). We like to go for whatever is in the fridge or forage (we use that word for both food from the lawn, and leftover food – ha!).

Foraging is one of my favorite acts of homesteading. I love to know that my terroir is offering me something seasonal and regional that could work for us. Free food! Yes, that, too. I love to forage many of my teas (and many are grown, as well), medicines, things for savvy drinks and ades, and things to eat. I started with just one or two things I knew were safe and easy to find, and every year I have added a couple more. Even my child can look down along the side of a parking lot and find at least 3 things to eat ‘in the apocalypse’ (because sometimes, just because you can eat it, doesn’t mean you want to). But many many bits are delicious and healthy – so many bitter and oxalic greens to get your body moving in the Spring!

Josh loves when Daisy shoots and leaves are abound. I put them in Kimchi, in Saag, in Pesto – and on Pizza. Fiddleheads or Ramps on pizza is a wonderful thing. Dandelion greens work pretty good but you have to put them under the cheese or they will burn, same with any of the other tender greens of Spring like False Solomon’s Seal shoots or Evening Primrose rosettes, Cleavers, or Wild Leeks. When Summer finally peeks out, Milkweed shoots are great on pie (pizza pie, that is) with Pineapple and Ham, Lilybud shoots, as well. In the height of Summer, things like Zucchini or Yucca blossoms from the gardens with Nettle Pesto on a white pizza is delicious. And the beginnings of Fall bring Mushrooms (we’re good at Lobster and Puffball Mushrooms around here) of all kinds with frilly fronds of Goldenrod or Yarrow. There are always outside options to add to the excitement of Pizza game night (Get your Ticket to Ride or Taco vs. Burrito or Clue on!).

I wouldn’t willy-nilly eat from your yard without making sure what you have is what you can eat but it’s likely you can eat more than you think. Sam Thayer is my favorite foraging expert but there are many regional lists and sites that might suit you better. Check your foraging guides and eat well!

Foraged Pizza
for one 14″ pie

  • 1 20oz Pizza dough (thaw for a few hours, if frozen, to room temperature)
  • 1 14oz jar of Pizza sauce (we rely on Muir Glen, but you can easily make your own) or Pesto, or Alfredo sauce
  • 1 sack of Mozzarella Cheese (again, we rely on Cabot but anyone without starch is good) or for a White Pizza – sliced whole Mozzarella, Goat Cheese, or any sexy cheese you think might sound good
  • Toppings of choice: in the case of Daisy shoots – maybe 10-20 shoots, or a mix of Dandelion leaves and shoots, sliced Black Olives, Day Lily buds or shoots, sliced Cattail root, Ramps or Fiddleheads, Fiorucci Salami or leftover Ham bits, Evening Primrose leaves)
  • 1/4 cup Semolina or Medium fine Cornmeal

    Heat the oven well in advance with the stones (if using, if not use the biggest sheetpan you have) to 425 degrees. You want the oven hot when you put the pizza in. Have a rack ready in the middle of the oven.

    Make your pie! Stretch out the dough with your hands in a circle, carefully but assertively pushing and widening the circle until it is the size you prefer (and the size your stones can bake). Lay out on lightly floured surface with a scattering of Semolina or Cornmeal or onto the same for a sheetpan (yes, with a little flour and cornmeal). Add Sauce or Pesto (if using, if not, a light drizzle of Olive Oil and Sea Salt is marvelous), a bit of Cheese, scatter your Veg, add another layer of Cheese, then more Veg or Meat bits and a final layer of Cheese (doesn’t have to be so Cheese heavy, just make sure that tender bits are protected by a little Cheese so they don’t burn).

    If using oven stones, scatter a little Semolina/Cornmeal onto them right before transferring Pizza to oven. Using peel, in one swift move slide under the pie. Transferring to oven, again – using one swift shake, get the pie onto the stones (yes, this has ended badly but with practice, it can be done efficiently and easily). If using sheetpan, put it in the oven. Bake for 10-20 minutes depending on how heavy your toppings are – keep an eye on how brown you like your top crust, the lower crust should be crisp and the cheese baked. Remove from oven to a cutting surface.

    Let sit for at least 5 minutes, then slice (the rest helps everything solidify again for easy cutting and eating). Serve and Enjoy!

On a Tuesday

What gets our juices flowing this Tuesday? Literally, juices. After putting up a stunning smelling and looking foraged Kimchi (with Daisy sprouts and buds, Dandelion leaves, heart shaped Violet Leaves, Red Clover Leaf, a little young Yellow Dock leaf, the serrated spears of Evening Primrose leaves, some ‘refound’ – or rather lost and forgotten patch- of baby Garlic and Radish leaf, and some local foraged Fiddleheads), we decided to do a batch of Dandelion wine since those sunny blossoms finally appeared (and I might do another batch, too, this week…). And then – after perusing the techniques of Pascal Baudar and Sandor Katz, we decided we wanted to try some Berry Soda so we put up a batch of Blackberry to try (so far, so good!). I think we will try some Ginger Beer and real Beer’s too.

The Violets are starting to match their leaf growth so a batch of Violet Syrup might be a consideration this week. By the end of that little endeavor, the Lilacs will likely be ready to syrup or wine-up, and then maybe the Honeysuckle. At that point, tea foraging becomes a primary focus for me – lots of Red Clover buds will be popping up to try (and maybe also make a little wine from, I tried it a few years ago and liked it very much…Goldenrod, not so much), Raspberry Leaf, Bee Balm, and as the Summer progresses my Chamomile patch will be buzzing. I love to get the drying racks up and start filling them with Calendula blossoms, Mullein leaves, Cleavers, Yarrow, and maybe this year some Wintergreen Berry, too. Amazingly I do not have a crazy patch of Mint. I have tried to start one here and there but then I generally put it somewhere I am not set on and then pile stuff on top of it, forgetting until I really want some. Though Bee Balm is in the Mint family, it doesn’t have the same cleanness to it that you want out of a Mint (but it does have a lovely well-rounded body that I enjoy). I do drink a lot of tea and hope to have enough to sell again this year.

Right now we are just excited that many of the baby Apple trees we have planted over the last couple of years are blooming. It’s an off year for the big trees but the little ones are looking pretty good despite the incessant drought and bug plague they have been struggling through. The baby plants are also looking good and can’t wait to get into the new garden – still a few finishing touches (and a fence) but we’re almost there; the coldframes are bursting! But we did finally get a first Asparagus harvest after many years since starting from seed (and the fear that the deer dug it up last year, though none of the Purple came up, perhaps they will return) – YAY!

May you have unexpected surprises!