Roasted Asparagus – Guest Post by Umut

 

The asparagus season is almost over here in Kansas, but I thought that it would be worth sharing this recipe anyway, since I’m sure there are readers of Amanda’s blog in other growing regions where it is still readily available. This is one of the easiest things to do with a vegetable, and dare I say, by far the most delightful.

1 lb. asparagus
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced or grated
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse asparagus in cold water and trim the bottoms by about half an inch. Arrange them on a cookie sheet or a big enough baking dish. Coat with olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes, serve hot. You can also do this on the grill; it takes about the same about of time, but be sure to have the asparagus on a sheet of foil so you can preserve the olive oil and garlic coating. Serves 4.

Blueberry Coffeecake – Guest Post by Umut

I am not much of a dessert-baker, but every once in a while it’s fun to bake a cake on the weekends, especially if you are expecting company. This is a really light coffeecake, even if you use sour cream. It would have even less calories if you opted for nonfat yogurt. I made it the first time with frozen blueberries, but I imagine it would be even better with fresh berries. I’m sure one could substitute any other type of fresh berry available locally.

Ingredients

Nonstick cooking spray
2 tablespoons plus 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour, divided
¼ cup turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup turbinado sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups fresh or frozen, thawed and drained blueberries, divided
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan (or glass baking dish) with cooking spray; set aside. Put 2 tablespoons of the whole-wheat pastry flour, sugar, butter and cinnamon in a medium bowl and mix together with a fork or your fingers until well combined and mixture is in large clumps; set streusel aside.

Put remaining 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt (or sour cream), vanilla and eggs then pour into bowl with dry ingredients and stir until combined. Gently fold in 1 cup of the blueberries.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and sprinkle reserved streusel over the top. Scatter remaining 1 cup blueberries over the streusel then top with almonds and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Once cooled, loosen edges of cake and transfer to a plate. Cut into slices and serve. Serves up to 12.

Adapted from Whole Foods recipes.

Basic Green Quiche – Guest Post by Umut

Early in the farmer’s market season, the one thing farmers have in abundance is spring greens. From late April until about July, here in Kansas we get plenty of spinach, kale, arugula and chard. Spinach is fairly versatile and can be used in salads, but the rest of the spring greens can look and taste intimidating with their bitterness and somewhat harsher texture. I like to sneak as many greens into our diet and have found that one way to make these spring greens palatable is baking them in a quiche. You can use any of the these greens — if you’re using spinach or arugula, use at least one pound, if it’s kale or chard, go with a fairly large bunch.

Ingredients
For filling:
1 bunch kale or chard (or 1 lb. spinach or arugula)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 eggs
¾ cup milk
2 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese

For crust:
1½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
salt to taste
7 Tablespoons butter
7 Tablespoons cold water

To make the crust, mix flour with salt and work the butter in with a pastry cutter or a fork. Slowly add the water and make into a dough ball. Cover in plastic, set it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

While the dough is cooling, wash the greens, remove any big stems if you’re using kale or chard. Blanch in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes. Chop coarsely. Sauté onion and garlic, cook for 5 minutes. Add the greens, cook for an additional couple of minutes.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, add the milk, season with salt and pepper.

Roll the pie crust out on a floured surface. Place it in a 9-inch dish. Put the veggies on pie crust, spread the mozzarella, then pour the egg and milk mixture. Top with parmesan. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Serves up to 8 with a side salad or soup.

The neat thing about quiche is, once you get the hang of it, you can tweak the ingredients as you wish. Use different cheeses, heavy cream instead of milk, feel free to add more sautéed vegetables and any fresh herbs you might find at the farmer’s market. Trust me, real men eat do quiche, in fact it’s one of the only ways to get them to eat greens!

Lawrence, KS Farmer’s Market Grand Opening – Guest Post by Umut

 
After almost a six-month hiatus, the Lawrence Farmer’s Market is back this weekend. This is great news to those of us who prefer local, seasonal produce to what is available year-round at the grocery stores.

My husband Bryan came to appreciate asparagus late in life, at about age 30, and now he just cannot wait for the local asparagus season. For the last two years, he started asking around February if asparagus is coming soon. He’s like a little child waiting for Christmas and Santa Claus. “Is it here yet? Is it here yet?” he’ll keep asking. Even though we could be buying asparagus in December or January, store-bought asparagus tastes nothing like the local batches that start becoming available at the farmer’s market in early April. Farmer’s markets help us reconnect with where our food comes from and the cycles of Mother Nature that make it possible.

Here in Kansas, the market starts out slow with salad greens, spinach, asparagus and maybe a few peas. Following asparagus, if there isn’t a late cold snap, we’ll get rhubarb. After rhubarb, strawberries and other berries come in. Late June and definitely by the Fourth of July marks the beginning of local tomatoes. Then come all the other hot weather produce, cucumbers, peppers and eggplant. Late summer gives us a bounty of watermelons, cantaloupe and another favorite of Bryan’s, the charantais melon. Last but not the least, sweet corn arrives, oh the wonderful local sweet corn!

Most Americans aren’t aware of the fact that the majority of the produce we get in the grocery stores travels an average of 1,500 miles. The distance alone is proof that those vegetables and fruits cannot possibly be fresh. When the farmer’s market is in season, the produce available there is at most a day old. That is a considerable difference in freshness. That means a huge difference in flavor and nutrition, not to mention the local produce undoubtedly lasts longer in our fridges.

In the last few years, there have been some adventurous people, who have experimented with a strictly local diet where they only eat foods that are grown within a 100- to 150-mile radius (For more information go to: http://100milediet.org/). That diet may be easy to follow in places such as California or Florida but is a little difficult in Kansas. I’m not advocating that we all try to do that, but using more local, seasonal ingredients in the meals we prepare will make the food taste a lot better and cooking a little more interesting and fun. Plus, it’s a way to help out the local economy and make new friends with the people who grow our food.

The local farmers are great resources in cooking as well. When you come across an interesting vegetable or fruit, ask the farmer about it. Chances are, you’ll not only come away with great ingredients, but brand new recipes, too.

To find more information about the Lawrence market, go to www.lawrencefarmersmarket.com. There are more than 36,000 local markets across the country. If you want to find a farmer’s market near you, you can check out www.localharvest.org, which is a phenomenal resource of local producers and markets.

Happy local eating, everyone!

Guest Post by Umut – Flower Wheat Bread

After my success with the braided bread loaf, I e-mailed pictures of it to my mother, who reminded me that another festive bread shape in Turkey is what is called the “Flower Bread.” That bread is usually a white bread, but I like the taste of whole-wheat breads so much better that again, I thought I would do a version with mostly whole-wheat flour. I adjusted the recipe a little bit from the classic whole-wheat recipe according to what was actually available in my pantry. I only had about three cups of whole-wheat flour so I did a 50-50 whole-wheat and all purpose unbleached flour. In order to thoroughly mix the two different flours, I sifted both flours and stirred it in a mixing bowl first, then measured one cup at a time and added to the liquid in the other mixing bowl. I also switched from honey to turbinado sugar.

Flower Wheat Bread

Ingredients
2 cups water
1 Tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 Tablespoon (or packet) active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cups whole-wheat flour
3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

Preparation
Boil two cups of water and pour into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar and wait for the water to cool down to between 100F and 110F degrees. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can gauge the temperature by trying some on your wrist. If it doesn’t feel hot, it’s time to add the yeast. Add the salt and the oil; then start adding the flour one cup at a time. Stir the fourth cup of flour especially well until you get an elastic dough. The fifth cup will make the dough pretty stiff.

At this point, take the remaining cup of flour and sprinkle half of it on a kneading board or your countertop. Dump the dough out of the bowl on to your floured surface and start kneading. With floured hands, fold dough toward you then push away firmly with the heel of your hand. Keep turning the dough and repeating this process as you work in the last half cup of the flour, for about 6 to 8 minutes. Kneading is finished when the dough is no longer sticky and is smooth and satiny. Rinse your mixing bowl and grease it with a little olive oil.

Put the dough in the bowl and cover it with a damp kitchen towel. Find the coziest place (about 80F degrees) in your kitchen and put the bowl there and forget about it for about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Punch down the dough and squeeze out as many of the air bubbles as you can.

With a sharp knife, first cut the dough into two equal parts, then make smaller balls of dough from the two larger portions. You’ll end up with anywhere from 8 to 10 small dough balls (I had 9 for some reason.) Grease a cookie sheet and sprinkle some cornmeal on it. (You can use parchment paper on top of the cookie sheet, too, but still grease and use cornmeal if you do.) Take the dough balls and arrange them into the shape of a flower, making sure that the individual dough balls are sticking nicely to each other.

Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel and let it rise again for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425F degrees and bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown and a knife or a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the bread.

Serve warm with butter, olive oil, cheeses or jam. The “petals” of this bread also make great rolls for sandwiches.

Umut’s First Guest Post – Braided Bread

As you’ll remember from Sunday’s Shout Outs, Josh and I spent this past weekend in New York and I didn’t cook much last week that was worth blogging about.  I’ve asked our good friend Umut to do several guest posts over the next few days and this Braided Bread is her first.  Umut, take it away. . .

My love affair with braided bread loaves dates back to my childhood in Istanbul. When I was in elementary school, there was a tiny little bakery about two blocks from my school, where two elderly twin brothers made the world’s most awesome savory and sweet treats. Every year, during the week of Easter they made this braided egg bread that was just delightful. Jewish people make a braided egg bread, too, called “Challah Bread” that is similar to what I grew up with. I love the shape of this bread, but I wanted to see if it could be made from a classic whole-wheat dough, instead of a recipe heavy with eggs and fat. The result was pleasantly surprising. It made a big and thick loaf that looked nice but also fluffy enough to break apart easily.

Braided Bread

Ingredients
2 cups water
½ cup honey
1 Tablespoon (or packet) active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
6 cups whole-wheat flour

Preparation
Boil two cups of water and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add honey and wait for the water to cool down to between 100F and 110F degrees. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can gauge the temperature by trying some on your wrist. If it doesn’t feel hot, it’s time to add the yeast. It’s always good to wait about five minutes after dissolving the yeast to “proof” it. If the yeast is frothing and showing some bubbles, that means it’s active and you can continue with the recipe.

Add the salt and the oil; then start adding the flour one cup at a time. The first two cups of flour will mix easily with a large (preferably wooden) spoon, but you want to start stirring really well by the third cup. The fourth cup of flour will start to make the dough pretty heavy but keep stirring until you get a fairly elastic dough. The fifth cup will make the dough pretty stiff.

At this point, take the remaining cup of flour and sprinkle half of it on a kneading board or your countertop. Dump the stiff dough out of the bowl on to your floured surface and start kneading. Kneading can be messy, but what’s a little flour on your kitchen floor? With floured hands, fold dough toward you then push away firmly with the heel of your hand. Keep turning the dough and repeating this process as you work in the last half cup of the flour, for about 6 to 8 minutes. Kneading is finished when the dough is no longer sticky and is smooth and satiny.

Rinse your mixing bowl and grease it with a little olive oil. Put the dough in the bowl and cover it with a damp kitchen towel. Find the coziest place (about 80F degrees) in your kitchen and put the bowl there and forget about it for about 1 ½ to 2 hours. When you come back from doing other fun things, the dough should have risen to almost double in size. A great way to test this is by sticking two fingers into the dough. If the indentation remains, it’s time to shape the dough.

Punch down the dough and squeeze out as many of the air bubbles as you can. Then take a sharp knife and divide the dough into three equal portions. On a floured board with floured hands, start rolling the three dough balls into strands. You don’t want to get the strands too long and thin, but they do need to be longer than the length of your cookie sheet you’ll be using. (If you’ve braided hair before, you know that the braid will be shorter than the original length of the hair.)

Grease your cookie sheet and sprinkle a handful of cornmeal. Gently pick up the strands of dough and place them on the cookie sheet, with the excess dough hanging off the sides at first. Start braiding the three strands, as you get to the end, you’ll be able to pick up the slacking dough and braid that as well. Fold and tuck in the two ends of the dough when you’re done. Place a damp kitchen towel over the cookie sheet and let the shaped loaf rise again for another 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425F degrees. Bake the loaf for 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow. Serve with butter and/or favorite jam!

Adapted from “A Short Course with King Arthur Flour in Baking with Yeast”