Plan in Place, Dinner Party in Action

Dessert cakes were done the day before. Morning of dinner, butterscotch sauce was made. Corn soup with Indian spices finished before noon. Brioche pudding in oven.

By 1:00 PM we had a strong start on what would be five courses. Guests were due in five hours.

I am sorry to say actual pictures will be few since we got so caught up in cooking and greeting and serving that the camera was forgotten. So I will use some pictures from the cookbooks. Our food looked exactly the same (smile).

The appetizers are pretty self-explanatory. Suffice to say once we decided on the Chicken Livers with Sherry Glaze we found a ton of recipes on the web. It was more common than we thought. So just Google it. Once guests arrived we quick grilled them and the Pears and Prosciutto.

Dinner began with Corn Soup w/ Indian Spices from David Tanis Market Cooking. The spices included garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin, black mustard seed and cayenne. It had a wonderful tang over the creamy corn flavor. It may be the first time we’ve done a soup puree but it turned out quite nice. A tablespoon of whole milk yogurt and some chives topped it off. The yogurt in the photo seems to have cayenne in it.

photo from David Tanis Market Cooking

The Fennel, Radish and Mushroom Salad was from the same book. The lemon/olive oil dressing had been made ahead and the vegetables were all cut so it was any easy job to combine, plate and serve. We used watermelon radishes which looked so nice with the pale fennel and mushrooms.The main course was from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Nopi. The original recipe was Chicken Supremes with Roasted Garlic and Tarragon Brioche Pudding. We substituted duck breast. Because the brioche pudding is so different from anything we have made before I am including the recipe here. If our guests read this I think the ingredients may surprise them. It is very rich.

Tarragon Brioche Pudding

2 heads garlic
1/4 C olive oil
4 eggs
1 1/4 C heavy cream
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp grd cinnamon
1/2 oz. finely chopped fresh tarragon
2 tsp unsalted butter, melted
14 oz. crustless brioche loaf, trimmed and cut into slices
Sea salt and Black pepper

Cut off the tops of the garlic cloves, place on a square of foil. Drizzle w/ 2 Tbls olive oil, sprinkle w/ salt, wrap up the bundle and roast for 35 minutes. Once done and cool to the touch, squeeze out the insides of the garlic and crush to a fine paste.

Place the eggs in a bowl and whisk. Add cream, nutmeg, cinnamon and tarragon with 1 tsp salt and a grind of pepper. Put aside.

Lightly grease a 9″ x 4″ loaf plan with butter and line with parchment paper. Brush a bit more butter on the paper then layer the bottom with brioche bread. Spread half of the garlic puree on top and pour over a third of the cream mixture. Another layer of bread, pushed down so it gets soaked in the cream. Then spread the rest of the garlic, pour another third of the cream and top with the last layer of bread. Finish with the remainder of the cream. Lightly press down and set aside for 30 minutes.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes at 425 degrees. Should be brown on top and a knife inserted should come out clean. Once it is cooled and removed from pan it looks like this.Cut off the end edges and slice into six pieces. Just before serving, fry the slices in a bit of olive oil over a medium heat. Here is what it looks like when served with the duck and the peas & tarragon au jus.

Brioche Pudding: photo from Nopi by Yotam Ottolenghi

It was yummy but alas the recipe serves six so there were no leftovers.

After some time of talk and laughter and wine we served dessert which was described as Sticky Toffee Puddings but in reality looked like little cupcakes with butterscotch sauce and whipped cream on top. They didn’t look great but tasted good.

So with thoughts of an early Spring I had daffodils and green napkins and a floral runner on the table. (My hopes were high but as I write this, two days later, rain turning to sleet and ice is carrying on outside.) It doesn’t matter the dinner was a success.

Afterward: It only took us till noon the next day to clean up. But being exhausted we did sleep in a bit. However it is always a high doing it and we hope your next gathering is as fun. Bon Appétit!

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Dinner Party Prep or A Month of “How about this?”

We are planning a dinner party. Yes, we have done it before, many times, but it is always the same craziness and seemingly endless decision-making. The problem lies in the attitude of the two hosts. Me, who wants everything decided and organized at least a week (2 weeks would be ideal) before guests arrive and He, who says we have a whole week yet before guests arrive. Now you may think that this is because He doesn’t do the actual cooking but He is the main Chef. I’m the time, date, invitations, house cleaning, table setting and dessert person. In other words, Management.

All of this starts at least a month before the actual event. Once we settle on who we wish to invite, the dance of dates begins. We are retired but not everyone we invite is retired and everyone, whether retired or not, has a million other things they are involved in. So at least 6 dates are emailed out to guests before an actual invitation is sent and, fingers crossed, at least one works. That is the easy part. Now, what to serve?

We do a lot of talking and suggesting and mulling but finally a day comes when the cookbooks come out and a decision on the main course must be made. Once an agreement is reached, another afternoon is needed for h’ordeuvres, salad or soup or both and dessert. This time I got things started by suggesting a chicken dish we had a couple of months ago but neither of us really could remember where it came from so I just started going through some books and marking other possibilities. Most of my suggestions get rejected…but he doing the cooking so that’s OKAY, at least we’ve started looking. However this usually gets him to mark a variety of dishes and together we whittle this down to the MAIN. This time Yotem Ottolenghi’s cookbook Nopi, was the winner. (that’s it on top of the post). A day later He called an audible and substituted duck for the chicken.

NOPI -Yotem Ottolenghi

I had already found a dessert, like three weeks ago, so we were set there. He rarely questions the dessert choice and even after throwing out a few other ideas we both went back to my original dessert. This came from the Fall 2017 issue of Sift magazine.

After a lot of dancing around other course ideas for awhile, yesterday, a week before the dinner, the cookbooks came out and decisions were made.Even Martha was consulted, but she didn’t make the cut.The winners eventually were NOPI: main, DAVID TANIS MARKET COOKING: soup, PLENTY: salad, SIFT: dessert and a surprise entry, Mallmann ON FIRE: appetizer. Francis Mallmann is a culinary pyromaniac from South America. We will modify his recipe since he usually specializes in large portions.

pears and prosciutto

So now the store list gets made, I start attacking the house clutter, tableware is chosen and a plan of action for cooking day is developed. Hey, we’ve got a whole week. Ultimately it is all about food and friends and we enjoy every minute.

PS: Post dinner I will write about our successes and near misses.

Still Got the Sourdough Starter?…Revisited

In the post where I gave you the recipe for the Apple Cinnamon Flatbread I mentioned that this flatbread would also make a great savory dish. Well instead of just saying that I thought I’d try it. I followed the recipe for the bread exactly. But when it got to the part where the toppings go on I used raw chopped onion, cubed pancetta ( you can cut your own or buy it like I did; Volpi makes a great product) and chunks of fresh mozzarella. I just tore off pieces and placed them evenly on top. Then a sprinkle of dry oregano and basil and a light drizzle of olive oil.

Onion, pancetta and mozzarella topping, ready to go into the oven

I baked it at the same temperature (425) and time (25 minutes) and it came out great. I was a little nervous, thinking that a high heat and a long time (a normal pizza is about 15 minutes) the cheese would burn but not so. But depending on your oven, watch it.

Hot, out of the oven.

We served it with a side of marinara sauce for dipping. So yes! This bread is great savory or sweet. Now I want to try mushrooms and olives and red onions and garbonzos and…..

Another Turn of the Page: A New Year

“She remembered one of her boyfriends asking, offhandedly,
how many books she read in a year. “A few hundred,” she said.
“How do you have the time?” he asked, gobsmacked.
She narrowed her eyes and considered the array of potential answers in front of her. Because I don’t spend hours flipping through cable complaining there’s nothing on? Because my entire Sunday is not eaten up with pre-game, in-game, and post-game talking heads? —- Because when I am waiting in line, at the gym, on the train,
eating lunch, I am not complaining about the wait/staring into space/admiring
myself in reflective surfaces? I am reading!
“I don’t know,” she said, shrugging.”
Eleanor Brown, The Weird Sisters

I know, that’s a long quote. (And don’t you just love the word, gobsmacked?) But for the beginning of the year when we all start making resolutions for losing weight, getting organized or taking a class on candlewicking –  reading more, is usually the only one that I can keep. I belong to Goodreads, a site where you can keep track of the books you have read. Every year they offer a “Reading Challenge”, where you set your own personal goal for the year. In 2016, I said I would read 50 books, I read 51. In 2017 I challenged myself with 60 books, I read 66. Surprised myself. This year I got conservative again. We have a lot of travel planned and I just wasn’t sure, so for 2018 I have set 55 as my goal. I think I can change that as the year rolls on, so we shall see. But the reason some people can read 50, 60, 70..100 books in a year is just what the gal in the quote says, she reads everywhere. I always take a book with me to doctor’s appts. hair appts, waiting for the oven to heat up, waiting for the clothes to wash, long rides on planes, trains, cars. I have even read while also watching TV. Not easy, and the book has to be light fiction and the TV show has to be light as well. But it can be done. So set a goal and start reading, it’s only the end of January, you’ve got 11 more months. ( Btw, I am signed up for a candlewicking class).

Here are the books my group read in January:1. Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (2017) 307p. When Michael Wright, a black lawyer from Chicago, stops in the small East Texas town of Lark, he never makes it back home. His body is pulled out of the nearby bayou, and his fancy car has disappeared. A short time later, the body of Missy Dale, a local white woman is also found dead. The possibility does exist, considering how small this town is, that the two deaths are connected.
Darren Matthews, a black Texas Ranger, currently on suspension because of a different case up in Houston, is asked by the FBI to casually check out the incidents and see if they are related. A compelling mystery.

2. Two Kinds of Truth (Harry Bosch #20) by Michael Connelly (2017) 417p. Harry Bosch is back as a volunteer working cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department and is called out to a local drug store where a young pharmacist has been murdered.

3. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works – A True Story by Dan Harris (2014) 256p. After having a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America, Dan Harris decides to make some changes and investigates research that suggests meditation can help the body and mind recover. More a memoir than a discussion of meditation.

4. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld (2008) 555p. A “biographical fiction” tale of the life of Laura Bush. This cannot really be considered historical fiction since names and places have been changed. (Note: The author Curtis Sittenfeld is a woman)

5. The Runner by Christopher Reich (2000) 512p. Set in Germany immediately after the end of WWII, this thriller concerns an ex-Olympic sprinter, who is awaiting a war crimes investigation. He finds himself sprung from the POW camp where he is incarcerated, to join a plot to assassinate both Churchill and Truman on Russian territory.

6. Unbelievable: My Front-row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur (2017) 291p. Tur lived out of a suitcase for a year and a half, following Trump around the country.  She visited forty states with the candidate, made more than 3,800 live television reports. This is her account of how America sent a former reality show host to the White House. It’s also the story of what it was like for Tur to be there as it happened, inside a no-rules world where reporters were spat on, demeaned, and discredited.

7. Personal History by Katherine Graham (1997) 642p. This is the autobiography of Katharine Graham, whose family owned the Washington Post. She was the publisher and President of the Washington Post Companies from the 60’s through the 80’s. A very timely book considering the recent release of the movie, The Post, which covers the newspaper’s involvement in publishing the Pentagon Papers.

8. The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash (2017) 384p. This novel is based on the true life of Ella Mae Wiggins, a poverty-stricken mill worker at the Loray Mill in North Carolina, 1929. She helped to try to form a union, especially an integrated union, in a time when people didn’t accept blacks.

9. There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon (2017) 320p. This is a novel about an American woman’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War, the lessons she learned, and how her story will shape her granddaughter’s path.

 

Still Got the Sourdough Starter?

Well here is another really good recipe using sourdough starter. Which reminds me, I haven’t fed my sourdough in a while, it might be dead. Not good.

This particular recipe is Apple Cinnamon Flatbread but if you are a savory rather than sweet person it could be cheese and sausage bread, or onion and mushroom bread. Just make sure you put your toppings on in chunks rather than slices. You can do a lot with this flatbread because it isn’t sweet. The toppings are what makes this bread versatile. Because you use some yeast along with the sourdough starter this is a one afternoon bread and not an overnight creation.

It is not an original recipe just another from SIFT Magazine, but you can easily make it your own. Also this is the full recipe. I cut it in half and still had a lot of bread.

APPLE CINNAMON FLATBREAD (with all the rising time this will take you about 4 hours, plan accordingly)

Dough:
1 C. sourdough starter (If you don’t have sourdough starter substitute 1/2 C.each lukewarm water and all-purpose flour)
3/4 C. lukewarm water
2 tsp instant yeast
3 C. Unbleached All-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbls nonfat dry milk
3 Tbls Olive oil

Filling:
4 very large firm apples
1/4 C. boiled cider (substitute thawed frozen apple juice concentrate)
1/4 C. maple syrup

Boiled cider

Topping:
1/4 C. cinnamon sugar
1/4 C. syrup, reserved from the cooked apples
2-3 Tbls coarse sparkling sugar (optional)

1. Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead them to make a very soft dough. (by hand or with a mixer)

2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let rise for one hour. Gently deflate it and allow to rise for another hour. It should at least to have doubled in size or come close to it.

3. While dough is rising, prepare topping. Core the unpeeled apples and cut into wedges and then cut the wedges into three pieces. You should have about 7 cups of apple chunks.

4. Put the chunks in a microwave safe bowl, drizzle with boiled cider and maple syrup (or substitute 1/3 C honey). Microwave till soft but still hold their shape, approx. 8 minutes.5. Drain apples. Reserve the juice.

6. Lightly grease an 18″x13″ rimmed baking sheet or 2 / 9″x13″ pans. (For half recipe one 9×13 worked fine). Drizzle the pan with some olive oil, this will give bottom of crust a nice crunch.

7. Deflate the risen dough, then pull and shape it into a rectangle that fits your pan. The dough will shrink back, as soon as it does, cover and leave it for about 10 minutes. Return and pat it toward the edges again. You may have to do this more than once until it covers the bottom.

8. Arrange the apple chunks on top. Mix 1/4 C of the reserved syrup with 1/4 C of the cinnamon sugar and drizzle over the apples.9. Cover the bread and Yes, let it rise again for about an hour, till nice and puffy. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove cover, sprinkle with sugar if desired, and bake 25 – 30 minutes till crust is golden brown around edges but feels set in center.

10. Remove from oven, cool a bit on a rack but serve warm, maybe with a nice piece of aged cheddar. Full recipe, 18 servings.

Just out of the oven.

This would be a fun Superbowl snack if you cared about any of the teams.

 

 

 

An End and a Beginning with Art

It is no secret that Curt and I appreciate art and have created much of our own. We also have been gifted art, we have traded for art and we have purchased art. The art we buy will probably never appreciate enough that you would call it an investment but we don’t buy art to make money. We buy it because it makes us happy. We enjoy looking at it. There are very few walls in our house that do not have a piece of art on them or, in the case of sculpture, in front of them.

For awhile I have been admiring the work of a Wisconsin Plein Air artist by the name of Steve Wysocki. Steve lives in Northern Wisconsin in a town called Armstrong Creek. He is a tireless painter. He recently posted pictures on Facebook of him painting on a frozen lake while ice fishing with his son. The guy can’t stop. And when he isn’t painting he is working on the family ranch, The Armstrong Creek Bison Company. If you look through his body of work you will immediately notice the influence the bison have on him. Now I mentioned that Steve is a Plein Air painter, well Plain Air is a French term meaning “open air” that refers to creating a work of art outside. It literally means the artist has his palette and canvas and easel and paints outside and he is literally painting what he or she is looking at, they are not just outside. Once again, when you look at Steve’s work I think you will understand.

Last summer I saw one of his works on a Facebook page and I was immediately drawn to it. I inquired about the painting but at the time I just couldn’t justify the cost no matter how much I liked it. Time passed, I scanned Steve’s online gallery, good work but nothing clicked. Then that painting I loved was accepted into the Northern National Art Competition at Nicolet College in Rhinelander, WI. You may be saying, so what, but not so fast. This show has a National reputation and hundreds of artists enter every year for inclusion in the show. More than $8500 in awards is given out, including three $1000 awards of excellence. I thought for sure someone would snap it up. By now I was in communication with the artist so when I found out the painting had not sold at the exhibit (whew!) I showed it to my husband and asked him what he thought. He also liked it a lot and Christmas was coming. These days It is hard to buy gifts for each other so we decided to make Steve an offer and maybe, just maybe, this would be our Christmas gift.To make a long story short this great crow now lives with us. This was our last new art for 2017. And perfect for a couple of bird watchers.

“Flight” by Stephen Wysocki 16″ x 20″

Just a note to say this one is not Plein Air. Steve can’t paint that fast but his website said this image came from a trail camera he had set up.

The first piece of 2018 came as a surprise gift. I have a high school friend that I have reconnected with on Facebook recently. We graduated in 1967 so it has been a long time and in school we were probably acquaintances at best. We ran in different circles. But that’s the miracle of FB sometimes. I’m not going to go into the convoluted way how Rich and I found each other but since he has retired from a tech industry job he has been deeply involved in his first love, photography. Lots of great nature work, textures and occasionally a bird or two. Whenever a bird would show up in his lens he would send me a note asking, ‘what is this bird?’ And I or Curt would give him an educated guess (some were pure guesses, others were definite IDs depending on the photo). Over the last couple of years Rich would post pictures of his serious work and for a short time he had a shop on Etsy. Now I believe you have to visit his business FB page, Image with Vision, Inc., for information on him and his work. Worth a look. He lives in Chicago but on the far east side, almost in Indiana, so he does a lot of shooting at Wolf Lake and the Indiana Dunes State Park. Yes, even in the winter. Also a recent trip to Alaska has provided some inspired shots. Last week I received a cryptic message from Rich saying I should watch the mail. This is what arrived.

Corrugated Iron Ice #3-Wolf Lake , 10″x 6.625″ photograph by Richard Ackerman

It is a photo I had admired on his page. The simplicity and the color just drew me in. He sent it along as a thank you for all the bird identification and the support I have sent along to him in his new found love. Can’t wait to get it framed.  So this was the new art that began our journey into 2018. Hope your year is filled with art and images that make your life richer.

Super Easy, Last Minute Cookies

I made a batch of these the other day and noticed that the samplings by my husband ,as he strolled through the kitchen, was increasing, thus decreasing my cookie supply. So this afternoon I whipped up another batch. What are they? Coco-Almond Thumbprints.

Once again I have found some wonderful recipes in a cookbook my son gave me last Christmas, Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan. After I first received the book I made a couple of batches of savory cookies which turned out great. After that I tried one or two others but I really don’t get into a cookie mood till Christmastime. So last week I dug out Dorie and made her, “My Newest Chocolate Chip Cookies.” I always make Toll House so this was a big change for me. They were good, with a subtle flavor. A mixture of whole wheat and white flour spiced with nutmeg and coriander. But they took some time as this dough is typically stiff and you have to work it. The other cookies I decided to make were the star of the show, “Coco-Almond Thumbprints” because 1) I love coconut and 2) they were sooo easy.

Batch 1: Chocolate and Raspberry

These cookies are basically Macaroons so if you are familiar with making those, you will have no problems. Here goes:

In a food processor add 2 cups sliced or slivered almonds, 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut, 1/2 cup sugar.

Pulse until the nuts are ground but leave a few larger pieces for texture. Don’t make dust.

Pour two egg whites in a bowl and break them up with a fork. Add a bit of the whites to the nut mixture and pulse till incorporated. Keep doing this till you have a dough that holds together when you squeeze it. Whole process takes a minute, tops.

Remove the bowl from the machine and take out the blade. Then measure out a tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball. (Dorie does teaspoons…TOO SMALL)  Press an indentation into the ball with your thumb, your knuckle or the end of a wooden spoon. ( I used the latter). Steady the cookie when you do this so it doesn’t crack too much. You’ll get some cracks no matter what.

Bake for 14-16 minutes, turning pan half way through the time. Cookies won’t color much  except for golden brown on bottom, but should be firm to touch.

Now Dorie goes on to make a chocolate Ganache that she puts into the indentations. Frankly that is too fussy for me. I just took a chocolate chunk ( or a chocolate chip if you like) and dropped one or two into the indentation right after the cookies came out of the oven. They melt nicely.

These chocolate cuties taste like an Almond Joy! Yum. But you can fill the dent with peanut butter, nutella, raspberry jam…use your imagination. Add the other fillings after the cookies cool. I did some with raspberry jam and some with apricot jam.

Batch 2: Chocolate and Apricot

Now I just have to hide some from Curt so I can send a cookie care package to my son.

Another Turn of the Page: No Matter What Happens, We Keep Reading

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
Mark Twain

This book group meeting occurred right after the Friends of the Library’s Big Book Sale and just before they geared up for the Give-a-Kid-a Book campaign. This is the Friend’s program to get new donated books from the community to give to children in need. We distribute the books the same day as the Toys for Tots. I don’t work the tables during distribution anymore. It is a joyful job but also exhausting and heart-breaking. There are more families than you can imagine who come through those doors. All have first registered with the Salvation Army so they are truly in need. But I say all this because I have been immersed in books lately and I am hoping the quote by Mark Twain is true because then I am a really smart person or maybe just a smartass. I hope a lot of books find their way under your Christmas tree so you can be smart too. See ya after the holidays.

What we read in November:

1. Midnight Champagne by A. Manette Ansay (1999) 240 pages. The time-frame is a single evening where a family wedding is occurring during a mid-western blizzard. April and Caleb have known each other for just three short months, so their Valentine’s Day wedding at a chapel near the shores of Lake Michigan has their families in an uproar.

2. Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani (2000) 354 pages. Set in the Virginia hills, with a charming cast of quirky, lovable personalities, this heart-warming story revolves around the narrator, one Ave Maria, the town’s self-proclaimed spinster who is a thirty-five year old pharmacist.

3. Devil’s Code by John Sandford (2000) 354 pages. This is book 3 of the Kidd books. In this book we learn more about the Kidd and LuEllen relationship and also about Kidd’s relationships in the hacker community as one of his fellow hackers gets killed and Kidd gets involved. The Fool’s Run is book #1. These books were originally written under the pseudonym John Camp.

4. Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life by Graham Nash (2013) 360 pages. From Graham Nash, the legendary musician and founding member of the iconic bands Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Hollies, comes a candid and riveting autobiography that belongs on the reading list of every classic rock fan.

5. Line of Vision by David Ellis (2001) 448 pages. Marty Kalish has been accused of murdering his lover’s husband. He had motive. He was at the scene of the crime. He manipulated evidence to hide his guilt. He even confessed. But wait, there’s more! (This book won the 2002 Best First Novel Award for an American Author.)

6. Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach (2000) 281 pages. Set in the 1600’s during the Tulip mania in Amsterdam, this story is about Sophia, who has been married off to an old merchant, but falls in love with Jan van Loos, the painter who comes to do the couple’s portrait.

7. The Bookseller by Mark Pryor (2012) 300 pages. Hugo Marston series #1, Max—an elderly Paris bookstall owner—is abducted at gunpoint. His friend, Hugo Marston, head of security at the US embassy, looks on helplessly, powerless to do anything to stop the kidnapper. Marston launches a search, enlisting the help of semiretired CIA agent Tom Green. A pretty good mystery for a first novel but the star of the show is the Paris setting.

8. No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Short Stories by Lee Child (2017) 432 pages. Eleven previously published stories and a thrilling new novella. These are tales from his childhood to an active military role, to the current lone wanderer. And just let me say for the record, Tom Cruise is no Jack Reacher.

9. Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas (1929) 314 pages. The author was a minister before he became a writer. This was his first book written and published after he retired from the pulpit around 1928. Saved from drowning, carefree playboy Robert Merrick learns the price that was paid by eminent Dr. Wayne Hudson. This transforms his life to continue Hudson’s work and make amends to those closest to the late surgeon as well as to the community. But to accomplish this, Merrick must learn Hudson’s secret.

10. The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance and Hope by Amy Goodman (2012) 342 pages. This book chronicles Goodman’s writings from 2009 until 2012 on a variety of topics such as Occupy Wall Street, Veterans’ suicide, the Afghan War, WikiLeaks, Gun control, police brutality, the Obama presidency and much more. Amy Goodman is an investigative, truthful journalist and the host of the news show, Democracy Now!

11. Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck (2014) 384 pages. This novel revolves around the lives of the fictional seamstress Laura Kelley and the real poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and the relationship which develops between them in an upstate New York town.

12. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (2017) 386 pages. Nel Abbot was found dead in the river, just a few short months after the death of her daughter’s best friend Katie in similar circumstances. Nel’s sister Jules, searches for clues about her sister’s death. Was it an accident, a suicide or murder? This book is by the author of, Girl on a Train. Our reviewer loved that book but was not impressed with this one.

 

Sourdough: No longer a Mystery

I’ve never made bread, and I definitely have never made sourdough starter but that is exactly what I accomplished this past week. My husband is the bread maker in this house and he makes wonderful bread. He has even taught some friends how to make bread. So I really never had an incentive. Why take on such a task when I can just eat his beautiful creations? But then while browsing in a local bookstore I found a gorgeous magazine called Sift. The photographs were beautiful and it promised 65+ Fall Recipes, Prize-winning Breads and Baking with Cider. I was hooked and paid the $12.95 and happily took it home. However once I really started looking through it I found most of the recipes I was interested in called for sourdough starter.  Oh yeah, I should have noticed that other line on the cover, 10 Sourdough Recipes to Try Now. Sourdough starter? Where do I get that? Well the short answer is you can buy it but you still have to feed it and keep it going and you are out $9.00 plus postage so I researched making my own. Basically your biggest investment is time, and a bag of flour, so I thought ,”What can I lose?”  After consulting the internet for some recipes, I settled on the one from King Arthur Flour and dove in. And even though we live in a fairly cool house (one of the many warnings) I had success.

left: Day 1 right: Day 4

After numerous feedings of flour and water it was doing really well by Day 4. And since when you feed it you discard half of the mixture I decide to save a cup and try one of the recipes from the magazine. (A side note, by Day 6 my starter was all it could be and I refrigerated it for later recipes.) The bread I decided to try first was Nutty-Fruity Sourdough because it was a one day bread, that is, no overnight rising.

One cup sourdough starter, a real sticky blob

In a large bowl combine 1 cup sourdough starter, 1 cup lukewarm water, 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (or pumpernickel), 2.5 cups all-purpose flour, 1.5 tsp salt and 1 tsp active dry yeast. Mix until the dough comes together, adding more water or flour depending on if your mixture is too dry or too wet.

Knead by hand for 10 minutes. Halfway through the kneading add in the 1.5 cups of dry mixed fruit and 1 cup chopped nuts. I used currants, cherries, raisins, apricots and walnuts. This was pretty difficult since the dough is really firm. Next time I will mix them in during the first step. As it was I resorted to flattening out the dough, adding some of the fruit mixture and then rolling and kneading it in.

Flatten, add some fruit, knead, repeat.

I did this about 4 times till it was all incorporated. Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise about 1.5 hours. It gets puffy but doesn’t double in size.Once the first rise is complete shape the dough into a boule or a log and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. You can also divide it into two loaves. Cover with greased plastic and let rise another hour. After second rise, slash the top (dust with flour or brush with an egg wash) and bake for 45 minutes until the bread is golden brown. Note: recipe said 30-34 min. but 45 worked for me. (internal temp should be about 190° F.)

And then it came out. I was really excited and could hardly wait till it cooled so I could cut it. I am happy to say it was a success. It is a pale bread but that is what the recipe said. No sugar but the fruit lends a subtle sweetness. I think it is good just plain but Curt says toasted with butter is the way to go. So if you happen to have sourdough starter around or get ambitious to make some, this is a good first bread to try, especially if you are a beginner like me.