Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wat Good Soups!

From the "other" food Root...
I recently saw a recipe in Saveur that I really wanted to try making. I never got around to it, but thankfully my lovely wife did. Doro Wat is an ethiopian dish with chicken AND eggs (I'm not sure which comes first :). The secret is heavily caramelized onions and a very unique sweet-and-hot spice mix called berbere. Add tomato, chicken pieces, and hardboiled eggs, and the result is a very flavorful stew, with an exotic BBQ flavor.

It turns out that 'Wat', roughly translated, means 'Stew', and there are all kinds of Wats. A vegetarian version called Misr Wat can also be made with lentils and berbere, and is a great way to spice up a sometimes bland soup. Elizabeth whipped that up yesterday, and having had my share of lentils, it's my expert opinion that this is one of the best ways to prepare them. Sega Wat is made with lamb or beef. We haven't tried that yet, but maybe if Elizabeth reads this post she'll be inspired? Or maybe I'll have to finally find that round tuit.

By request: recipes can be found at Saveur (the best food mag ever:)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Muffin Mishaps

Ok so I have another confession... this "expert baker" (I laughed when I read that in the newspaper writeup) is having muffin problems. It all started when I read Nourishing Traditions that my dear friend Amber sent me.

I have never been extremely satisfied with my muffin recipes that I've used in the past. Why:
  1. They are really more like cakes
  2. They are too dense
  3. I want to find a good basic recipe that I can use with different add-ins
So in NT there are several recipes where you soak the flour overnight in a cultured dairy product (kefir, buttermilk, or yogurt). On that note my poor husband is terrified that I'm trying to bake up some of my scary kefir to feed him. Have no fear, I have used buttermilk and yogurt. I have found that the buttermilk is far thinner than yogurt and I haven't had as good of results with this. If I were going to use buttermilk in the future I think I would use less and then increase the fat called for in the recipe. So I have had flop after flop with these recipes.

After researching my muffin mishaps on the internet it seems that there are real flaws with her recipe. This is my fourth or fifth week to tinker with the recipes and I may have a success, we'll see if my peach cakes make it to the market or if Daniel gets to eat fallen cakes all week!

Why would I continue working on this recipe? Because I have noticed in my failures wonderful flavor, soft (not harsh, dense) textures, and according to several scientific studies presoaking grains in an acidic medium will increase the nutritional value.

One reason I wanted to relay my disasters is to encourage my friends and customers out there to keep on trying to bake on your own despite the difficulties. I have people come up to me and express that they have trouble trying to "bake outside the mix box" well who doesn't. For almost a whole year most of my bread loaves were bricks. It took me a long time to get to a point where I think I can make a pretty good loaf of bread. Cooking from scratch is more work, but it is healthier and more satisfying that opening a box. So if you have time get your bake on:)


Ok well my birthday was Sunday, yea! And my birthday coming around sometimes brings out umm, materialistic inclinations I have. Do I really need the All-Clad name measuring cups and spoons? Probably not, even if I am in the kitchen all day. It's funny how much easier it is to buy overpriced, unnecessary cooking gadgets than to save my pennies toward my dream kitchen. Of course we have to replace carpet, fix the fence, repaint the entire interior of the house, and tile the guest bathroom before we sale. So it really seems like "Barley Fields" our urban farm is so far away.

I must say that using my heavy duty overpriced kitchen utensils brightens my day and they do really have a nicer feel than the aluminum measuring spoons that bend when you say try to scoop something firm (packed succanat). I have a nice set of All-clad mixing bowls (needed after WE broke some ceramic bowls we had). I must say they are very sturdy and I enjoy using them. Of course I love to receive these gadgets as a gift, and I am very fortunate that there are people that love me enough to splurge and get me something extravagant.

I really try to be simple and not be caught up in a quest for aquiring more stuff, but I have a ways to go. I sometimes think about my great-grandmother, who I have a few precious memories of. During the tough times of the depression she fashioned a grater out of a jar lid by poking holes through it with a nail. I'm pretty sure I'm not that smart, and I'm blessed I haven't ever had to resort to such.

I know that there are billions of people who would love to have a home like ours and a nice kitchen to cook in. In my outdated and cramped kitchen I'm somehow able to churn out enough baked goods to keep my little business chugging along. How important it is that we use wisely what we're given.