November 12, 2009

Coming Clean

Welcome back to the kitchen. Look what's waiting for you, I baked some bread. But here's the kicker - it's boxed. I hope you're not offended. Those who know me know I'm of the 'from scratch' bunch, but I'm coming clean. I. Made. Boxed. Bread. And I like it. No, make that 'love it.' And I have IKEA to thank.


Alright, let's back up  because at this point everything about the previous paragraph sounds crazy, I know. Almost as crazy as Donald Trump putting advertisements for his golf properties in his daughter Ivanka's wedding invitations. Or as crazy as putting cream in coffee when drinking it with food. (I prefer it black with food and creamed without food.) Some things just don't belong. 

But stay a while. Let me explain. Unlike real estate ads in wedding invites, there is a time and place for boxed bread. And we need to get a few things straight. I did not buy the bread pre-baked in a box. It did involve the oven. This milk carton-like box contained a dry mix of rye flour, barley, and other wholesome goodness that I mixed warm water with, slid into a loaf pan, let rise, and baked before losing patience and nibbling on the first steamy slice. 

You're probably still not convinced, especially since it looks like a cranky grandpa up there, sitting all craggly and coarse. Just know there are a few outsides forces that brought me to this bread. During our stay in Canada, my Danish photographer friend, Mette, first suggested the bread as a way to save time, evade preservatives common in bagged grocery store bread, sidestep stale or too-chewy bakery bread, and to invite the presence of the warm aroma only bread can give off. Sometimes the second best thing will suffice. 

Additionally, the mystery man, not being so pleased with American bread, is on the never-ending hunt for bread that tastes like home. This bread, and its grainy goodness, seemed like a good candidate. And I knew it was a success when his request to have a nibble of my leftover goat cheese, basil, and tomato sandwich turned into three giant bites. We've got a winner, folks.

Since this bread leaves me recipe-less, I want to share with you another recent culinary obsession. (If we can even can consider that bread a culinary art.) Cider roasted parsnips - it cures any 'oh-my-god-it's-dark-at-4:30' blues that Seattle tries to pour on us. This recipe was a solution for the nagging cider that remained in the fridge. 

One late fall evening found me at the grocery store gathering goods for a cake baking session, where I was going to be assisted by some hard cider to cool me down from the heat of the oven as I diligently creamed, sifted, and combined. The cider found its way into my cart and stood proudly alongside the eggs and butter. (I know that's where I'd want to be.) Since I'm not big on boozy drinks - the cider remained untouched for quite some time thereafter. That is, until the parsnips rolled in the door. It provided the perfect bath for these sweet roots to soak their fibers in the heat of the oven. I was almost jealous.

(And if you still think boxed bread makes me crazy, I'm not the only one.)

Cider Roasted Parsnips

Of course you can use other cooking liquids - white wine, chicken stock, beer, etc. But then you can't call them cider roasted parsnips. Nothing else quite has the same ring. And no water, please - no water. Save that for baths, not food.  

4 medium sized parsnips - washed and peeled (if desired)
3/4 cup hard cider - or enough to have 1/2 inch of liquid at the bottom of pan
1 Tbs olive oil -  this is a matter of preference, add more or use less at will
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cube or slice parsnips to desired shape and size. (The smaller the resulting pieces, the shorter the cooking time will be.) Place parsnips in a baking dish deep enough to contain the liquid. Drizzle olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Place pan in the oven and let roast for 20 minutes. Then quickly spoon the parsnips around so the dry pieces can taste the cider and the drunken ones can dry off. Roast further until the pieces are at your desired texture. Again, these cooking times will depend on the size of your cut and, additionally, the strength of your oven.


November 5, 2009

One More Time

Most obviously, things have gotten a bit less food-centric around here. (That promise to Ty for a recipe two posts ago? It still remains unfulfilled.) My food obsession has been tamed by the need to soak in all that is to be discovered in this new city of mine. And so, cozy up for one more post about this city, and then we'll return to the kitchen. After all, the rainy season is upon us - where is there a better place to be? For now, let me gush about Seattle - one more time.

Clicking through the archive of one of my favorite food blogs (did I mention it's rainy season?), I came across a post titled 'Good, Better, Wonderful.' The post was a trio of the blog author's recent blog-worthy highlights. Since I know, for sure, that her chocolate cake turns out marvelously (I think the staff at Minnesota Monthly will also attest to that), I knew the post idea was sure to please. So onward we go: 'The Good, The Best, The Wonderful of Seattle'

1. The normalcy of online dating. Without the cultural support of it, I wouldn't have this Eastern European around, re-teaching me Russian, explaining the stock market, and dutifully forking in my culinary experiments. And I wouldn't be meeting him for lunch at Microsoft this afternoon. Seattlites know what they want, and they go for it. Had he not come along, the bleak job market and present rainy season would probably have seen me back to Minnesota after a one year post-graduation experimental 'trip' to Seattle. (So if you have doubts, go ahead, it's not weird!)

2. Pets and cars - two things I've noticed Seattlites take very seriously. Nowhere else have I seen 'Doggie Spas' on the corner of a street, or dogs with a larger variety of sweaters than me. Dogs have their own food stores and parks, and next thing you know they'll be able to vote! Concerning the cars, there's a very disproportionate amount of Subaru Foresters here. That said, the remaining vehicles fall under one of two categories: they're either of the a) rusty old Volvo - sort or the b) I just got promoted at Boeing or Microsoft -sort (think: red BMW convertible). But the rusty Volvo driver is just as passionate about his decision as the red BMW driver is. They don't take these things lightly.

3. Views at places like Kerry Park, where the pictures above were taken after a post-Sunday-roadtrip-to-Ikea-picnic that involved a turkey sandwich (amped up with strong mustard and fresh thyme), a neglected apple, leftover Halloween candy, and, his favorite -  nuts. (Who knew we'd have room despite all those Swedish Meatballs?) Kerry Park alone brings you the downtown Seattle skyline, Mt. Rainier, West Seattle, Elliot Bay, and Bainbridge Island. For me, it's like walking through the produce aisle at a (good) grocery store, where I find myself marveling at the various mounds of proud vegetables. They know they've got it.

So does Seattle.