Archive for May, 2009

Committed

“People who eat white bread have no dreams.” –Diana Vreeland

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If that statement is true, then I must have dreams grand and frequent, because I’m a whole-wheat bread eater. Give me your humble-but-seedy sandwich loaves and your 9-grain pitas. Give me baguettes rustiques, rosemary focaccia and pillowy challah configured to sync with the whole-grain ethos. It’s all dreamy to me.

Just about the dreamiest — not that I’m playing favorites — is this whole-wheat brioche. I bought a brioche pan a couple years ago, committing myself to actually using it from time to time. I make brioche for special occasions, but honestly, when a loaf — any loaf — emerges from the oven it turns any old day into a special occasion for me.

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And I just joined the BYOB (Bake Your Own Bread) cause boldly started by Sandy at Bakers Bench, a special occasion of there ever was one. The idea is to make all your own bread — yikes! I know. It’s a bit of a crazy, oddball notion, but I’m on pretty good terms with yeast these days, so I think I can hack it.

We’ll see.

At any rate, consider this brioche my debut BYOB loaf. Or maybe I should reconstruct that sentence in past tense, because this brioche is good and gone already.

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Contrast

So the basil’s not exactly upright these days.

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Can you believe they let me take it home? Were they not aware that I have priors? Year after year I buy a pot, make all kinds of lofty promises about keeping it happy and watered, and then this happens.

Droopy, muted leaves.

I thought I had it figured out this time. The tag says “Full Sun,” which is not hard to come by in these parts. I’ve learned a thing or two in the past year thanks to other planting escapades and decided that I was probably putting the basil too close to the house. Too much reflected heat.

This year I put it in the backyard. No reflected heat, but no water, either, because I’d gone and forgotten all about it. Not the way to treat basil, I know. Basil is hardly deserving of this kind of negligence; it’s been nothing but good to me.

You s’pose if I water it with greater frequency it’ll spring back to its former loveliness?

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Contrast my gardening attempts with those of kindergarteners. Quinn brought these tomatoes home from the school garden today, and promptly bit into them for her snack.

If only I’d been able to give her a sprig of basil to go with them.

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The scoop

[Recipe: Homemade Tortilla Chips]

Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention. And very often being the mother gives rise to necessity.

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I’m talking about the necessity of reinventing the tortilla chip.

At best, tortilla chips are thin, crisp and sufficiently salty. Not to mention difficult to stop scooping into salsa. Or into that guacamole you made for your husband after he hinted by dropping avocados in your shopping cart. Or the scallop ceviche* that made last night’s dinner.

Tortilla chips are also, well, junk food. Nutritionally irredeemable. Unfortunate, really, but there’s the awful truth.

And so I made these lovelies, because a) I try to be a good mother and keep the nutritionally irredeemable food to a minimum, and b) I try to be a good mother and fashion healthy alternatives to the nutritionally irredeemable food we happen to enjoy.

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You know what I mean.

I’ve made homemade tortilla chips before, but they’ve been the flat kind, the kind that can’t stand up to any of the aforementioned dipping mediums. Unadorned chips are still good chips, but that wasn’t what the evening required. Besides, I knew homemade impostors would only appeal to Brian if they were in fine scooping form, the better to cradle the ceviche.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

Ingredients:

Store-bought whole-wheat tortillas
Sea salt

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Using kitchen shears or a pizza cutter, cut tortillas into wedges (about 6 to 8 per tortilla, depending on size). With a pastry brush, brush one side of wedges very lightly with water. Place wedges into muffin tins, then sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until tortillas are crisp and golden.

Remove from the oven. Scoop. Enjoy.

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*This recipe inspired my ceviche, but I didn’t follow it exactly.

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Welcome home

I don’t know about you, but I’m particularly prone to the post-travel blues. Once in a while it’s good to come home to your own bed, but more often than not it’s just a letdown.

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One morning you’re sipping Mexican hot chocolate on a cafe patio in your vacation location of choice, skimming the Times without really letting that real-world doom and gloom sink in; the next you’re scarfing your usual oatmeal in your rush out the door, and wishing you’d checked the traffic report.

At least we have our taste memories to sustain us until the next trip. This is my latest: Cioppino at Brockton Villa Restaurant in La Jolla, California. It had been a blustery day, with winds and sideways rain that had thrust our umbrellas into uselessness. We sat at a window-side table with beach views, and although the plastic screens were in place, they were hardly secure. It was, in a word, cold. But between sopping saffron broth with crusty bread and the space heater aimed strategically at my feet, it was a beautiful meal.

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These scrupulous notes are headed for my seafood file. I won’t be able to replicate the feel of the cold ocean breeze in my kitchen, but it’s still comforting to know I can conjure a similar cioppino of my own.

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