Bread


Bread, toasted and rubbed with garlic, soaking up a kale and white bean stew.

Bread came to the rescue this weekend. A dear friend was visiting (the one for whom the wedding cake was made) from out-of-town. She showed up on Saturday mid-afternoon and both of us happened to be starving. I had some day-old white bean and kale soup on the stove. It was a fine soup, a good soup really, but there wasn’t a whole lot left. So I toasted a couple of slices of bread, rubbed a garlic clove across the warm slices, covered them with hot soup, drizzled on a little good olive oil and a bit more salt . . . And we enjoyed a most satisfying mid-afternoon meal.

Bread comes to my rescue a lot actually. In savory bread pudding, in bruschetta with stewed leeks, for quick lunches with a salad, for soaking up the tomato sauce in which I poach eggs, etc. Bread has been getting a bad rap lately and I want to counter some of that with a little bread appreciation today. And I do know and understand that some of you can’t tolerate bread and I’m not trying to rub it in, but for the rest of us, it can be a handy, tasty and nutritious life-saver. And of course it truly is a life saver in much of the world. A vast percentage of the world’s population subsists primarily on a variety of grains and for more than six thousand years people have been baking leavened breads with many of these grains.

75% Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread

After many years of making the  no-knead bread made famous in the New York Times I still swear by it. I make a whole wheat version with 75 % whole wheat flour*, which is what you see above. It has a wonderfully open and airy crumb, loads of flavor from the wheat and the long rising period and a serious crust. It is definitely my pinch hitter. . . yesterday I toasted a slice and slathered it with almond butter as I ran out the door to pick up  my son. It’s one of his favorite snacks and mine as well. Yesterday I also made dinner for friends who just had a baby. I made winter squash and onion panade (for which I’m going to post the recipe soon) which consists of stale bread turned into a gratin with caramelized onions, diced winter squash, veggie broth and cheese and a raw kale salad with hearty bread crumbs and a garlicky lemony dressing. Because of bread’s long history, most cuisines/cultures have ways to use up the stale stuff which I think merits a post in-and-of-itself soon.

Fresh out of the oven

Until then . . . Happy Cooking and Eating!

* A quick note on flours. It’s important that you use bread flour in this kind of bread since it’s made from wheat that has a higher percentage of protein/gluten (than all-purpose flour) which is what gives bread its strength and structure.

Stuffed and Roasted Pumpkin

This is the most delicious, beautiful fall dish. It’s perfect for a regular old dinner (though it does take almost 2 hours to bake so maybe a weekend dinner) or a Thanksgiving treat. But it’s so easy and so adaptable that you should add it to your regular repertoire. It’s wonderful with cooked rice instead of bread, additions of cooked spinach or chard, cooked sausage . . .

Serves 6

 

Pumpkin Stuffed and Roasted
–adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table

 

1 pie pumpkin, about 4 – 5 lbs (just adjust the amount of filling if your pumpkin is smaller or larger – though you don’t want to go too much larger as it takes awfully long to cook)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 lb (or slightly more) stale bread, sliced and cut into ½-inch chunks
1/3 lb cheese, such as sharp cheddar, Gruyère, Emmenthal or a combination, cut into ½ chunks or grated
2-4 garlic cloves (to taste), finely chopped
2-4 slices bacon, diced and cooked until just crisp
¼ cup chives or sliced scallions (green onions), thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
½ cup of cream or half and  half
½ cup milk
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

 

Preheat oven to 350F.

 

You can using a baking sheet, a pie pan (as seen above), or a dutch oven with a diameter that’s just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin. If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but might stick to the casserole, so you’ll have to serve it from the pot which is fine too.

 

Using a sturdy knife, cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin. Cut a big enough cap that it’s easy to hollow out the inside. Scrape out the seeds and strings from the cap and the inside of the pumpkin. Rub the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper and put it on the baking sheet, pie pan or in a pot.

 

In a large bowl toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together. Season with pepper and salt and pack the filling into the cavity. The pumpkin should be well filled—you might have a little too much filling, or you might  need to add to it. Stir the cream, milk and nutmeg with a bit of salt and pepper and pour it into the filled pumpkin. You want the liquid to come about half-way up the cavity. It’s hard to go wrong though. Better a little wetter than too dry.

 

Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours—check after 90 minutes—or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Remove the cap for the last 20  minutes or so of baking to brown the top and let any extra liquid evaporate. Transfer carefully to a serving platter if you baked it on a sheet. Serve, scooping out plenty of pumpkin with each serving or serve it in slices.