Man Does Not Live by Bread Alone – But It Helps

November 8 – November 14, 2021

Monday:                   Coq au Vin with Rice / Roasted Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce

Arlo – Billy’s dog – with pizza. He likes to eat from the crust inward

Tuesday:                   Leftovers with Salad and Warm Pancetta Dressing

Wednesday:            Minestrone with Home Made Bread

Thursday:                 Spaghetti and Meatballs

Not an appetizing picture, I know, but this snapper with dill sauce was very good.

Friday:                       Broiled Snapper with Dill Sauce and Rice

This skillet cornbread, which we had with chili on Sunday, is spectacular

Saturday:                  Leftover Spaghetti and Meatballs

Sunday:                     Chili with Skillet Corn Bread

 

Man Does Not Live by Bread Alone – But It Helps

We’ve been cooking pretty fancy stuff lately, and it occurred to us that it might be nice to simplify our lives and our menus and get back to some of the basics that excited us when we first moved beyond Kraft macaroni and cheese with hot dogs and Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza.  And the baking of bread was prime among those excitements.

There is, first of all, the aroma of baking bread which we recommend as a treatment for anorexia.  The whole house becomes a stimulant to good appetite. There is, secondly, the righteousness and economy of baking your own bread. You’ll want to watch that righteousness – bakers are sinners just like the rest of us.

There is, finally, the end result – a loaf of tasty bread that you made yourself – without help from Pepperidge Farm or Wonder or Roman Meal.  If you’re willing to follow my advice, you’ll make some whipped butter seasoned with a little crunchy sea salt to go with it.

But let’s face facts:  A diet of pure carbs will not fly in this day and age and She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed certainly wouldn’t countenance such a peasant-based approach to nutrition.  So, if you’ll take a little more advice, why don’t you cook up a pot of minestrone soup to go with that bread? If you have my instinctive objection to popular opinion, you might object that vegetables and broth are a nod to the fashionably slim among us – but it turns out, once you get past your not unreasonable prejudice, they’re awfully good in their own right.

You’ll find recipes for both the bread and the soup below – but, really, you can figure these things out for yourself. The bread recipe is from Jim Leahy’s book, My Bread. Leahy has developed a no-knead approach that is suited to home ovens.  [And you might want to buy Leahy’s book for the other types of bread – particularly the Italian Stirato – narrow baguettes that are fragrant with olive oil and sea salt and, I must warn you, addictive.]

The minestrone is fairly traditional but uses a higher vegetable to broth ratio than most – we like our minestrone a little chunky.

If you do decide to make your own bread and this fine soup, I would guard against feeling that you need to compost your vegetable scraps, churn your own butter and raise your own chickens.  As with all avocations, home cooking can lead to excess.

No-Knead Bread Recipe

(adapted from Jim Leahy – My Bread)

Timing:                      18 – 24 hours (14-20 hours inactive – 1 hour cooking – 1 hour resting

Please note that you must start the dough the day before

Ingredients:             (Yields one rounded loaf – a little more than one pound)

Note:  You will need a large, heavy pot (4 ½ to 5 ½ quart)

3 Cups Bread Flour

1 ¼ teaspoons table salt or maybe 1 ¾ teaspoons Kosher salt

¼ teaspoon Instant or other active dry yeast

1 ½ cups of cool water (55-65 degrees – let your tap water run cold for 30 seconds, you should be fine)

Wheat Bran, cornmeal or more flour for dusting.

Make dough and let it rise:

In a bowl (medium or larger), stir together the flour, salt and yeast.  Add the water and mix with a wooden spoon or your hand until you get a wet, sticky dough (about 30 seconds). Cover the bowl with a plate, tea towel or plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature (72F), out of direct sunlight, until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough has more than doubled. You will need to allow at least 12 hours – 18 would be better since the fermentation of the yeast is what develops the flavor.

Note:  Since we keep our house around 68 F, I turn the thermostat up to 72 and then place the bowl of dough in a powder room with a heater vent and close the door. After an hour or so, I put the thermostat back to our standard setting and then I guard that powder room door for the next 18 yours. I don’t want the heat to escape.

When the first rise is complete, dust a work surface generously with flour and, using a bowl scraper or rubber spatula, scrape the dough onto the board in one piece.  The dough will cling to the bowl in long, thin strands and it will be very sticky and quite loose. Don’t add more flour, but dust your hands to lift the edges of the dough in toward the center, then tuck in the edges to form a ball.  Place a cotton or linen tea towel, or a cloth napkin on the work surface and dust it generously with wheat bran, corn meal or more bread flour and lift the dough onto the cloth with seam side down.

Loosely cover the dough with the cloth and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 2 more hours.

Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat your oven to 475F with a rack in the lower third and place that heavy pot (with a cover) in the center of the rack to heat.

When the dough is ready, use pot holders to remove the pot from the oven and uncover it.  Then unfold the cloth over the dough, dust it lightly with a little more flour and, lifting the dough with either your hands or the tea towel, quickly invert it into the pot, seam-side up. Be careful, this pot is hot.

Cover the pot and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Then uncover and bake for up to 30 more minutes (until the bread is a deep chestnut color. [In our oven this takes about 25 minutes – but check from time to time to make sure that you don’t burn the bread.]

Use wooden spoons or heatproof spatulas or oven mitts to lift the bread from the pot and place on a rack to cool. This will take an hour – do not slice into the bread before that.

Minestrone to accompany your home-made bread

(you can find recipes everywhere – our own reflects our preference for a chunky minestrone – if you like it more brothy, cut the vegetable amount by 1/3)

Timing:                                                                    One hour

Ingredients:                      Serves 6 normal people or 10 fashion models

1 to 1 ¼ cup chopped onion

1 to 1 ¼ cup chopped carrot

1 to 1 ¼ cup chopped celery

1 large Yukon gold potato cut into ½ inch chunks (or use 8 or so smaller potatoes, quartered)

2 cups sliced cabbage (any type)

1 zucchini, cut in 3/4-inch chunks

Tablespoon minced garlic

Bay Leaf

2 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried

¼ teaspoon fennel seeds crushed

2 medium fresh tomatoes (Roma tomatoes, if you have then), cored, and chopped. It is best to peel the tomatoes, but who has the time?

8 cups chicken stock

1 can of cannellini or great northern beans, drained

¼ cup chopped parsley

Salt

Ground Black Pepper

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Grated Parmesan or Pecorino for garnish

Prep:

Chop vegetables and measure out chicken stock. Drain beans.

Heat oil in a large thick-bottomed pot on medium high.

Cook:

When oil is hot, add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until lightly browned – 8 minutes.

Add the garlic, then add the fennel seeds, bay leaf and thyme. Now add the potato, cabbage, zucchini and tomatoes and the chicken stock.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 20 minutes.

Add the beans and the parsley, season with salt and pepper. Bring back to a simmer and cook 5 more minutes. Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs.

Serve with grated parmesan.