Flaxseed and Rye Bread with Avocado, Tomato, Basil and Mayonnaise Sandwich

I realize that this sounds like a mouthful but trust me it’s worth the effort.

Instead of going gluten free I’ve decided to stay away from all wheat; Dwarf Wheat in particular, and opt for other grain varieties.

I happen to love rye bread and the added benefit of flaxseed made this a great choice.

Although Rye does contain gluten, it is much less than what is found in dwarf wheat which is consumed today.

Let’s get back to this sandwich!

The avocado, fresh basil and tomato are sprinkled with sea salt and a large dollop of mayonnaise.

This is a huge treat for me.

The mayo is the only real dietary indulgence….everything else is so healthy!

It is a filling, delicious lunch that leaves plenty of room for watermelon later in the day!

Enjoy and share!

Tomato, Basil and Mayonnaise on Olive Oil Grilled Whole Wheat!

I remember growing up in my European immigrant family with great food.

Some from Italy and some from Eastern Europe but all of it driven by the freshest ingredients and much of it, meatless.

My grandmas and aunts always had their own gardens and were “putting up” or canning something at any given time.

For me summertime always means tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches.

These were not gourmet growing up.

They were just any bread with mayo, fresh tomato and “crunchy” salt on top.

I spruced these up a little by grilling artisan whole grain bread with olive oil to give crunch and texture to the bread and I’ve also added big fleshy leaves of basil for that peppery edge that basil can give.

Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise is my favorite with this sandwich.

Even a few slices of avocado would be delish!

Get creative and keep it meatless. The possibilities are endless for a tasty, light and nutritious meal that says, “Summertime” in every bight!

Preparing Herbs for Holiday Feasts!

basil pesto<br />
pantry diaries

I made the last chance round-up of my garden herbs as I am anticipating a frost any day now. I considered infused oils to preserve them but after a little consideration I think that I’ll get more mileage out of pesto.

I’m planning to dry the oregano and keep it in the pantry and I made a pesto of the sage and of the basil.

I really want to use the sage for my holiday dishes and creating a pesto which I can freeze seems like the best way to keep it in the freshest state possible. I am pretty sure that the basil pesto will be gone this week.

For the sage I just added 3 cloves of garlic and about ½ cup of good olive oil. I didn’t add salt or pine nuts or cheese as my main goal is to preserve the sage and use it in a variety of ways over the next couple of months.

If I want to do infused oil I’ll take a portion of the mixture and incorporate it into more olive oil, I will use it in the stuffing and in a béchamel sauce for pasta. I think that the sage will be great for game like pheasant or duck.

sage pesto PD

Craving Sage

lentils and brown rice with sage BEST

I was craving sage! And by sage I mean Thanksgiving dinner, mostly the stuffing. But since I am shooting for the “unstuffed” look this Fall I wanted to come up with something that would have a rich texture, complex flavors and be healthy, nutritious, not fattening and still satisfy my cravings! Tall order but with a little luck; I had the ingredients on hand and not too much effort I managed to approximate the “stuffed” theme with out the aftermath; tight pants!

I started with my basic lentil recipe and added brown rice, and some chopped tomatoes. I also have an abundance of sage in my garden so I used that although I know for a fact that the dried stuff from the store works just as well. The secret, I think, is to slowly sauté the herbs in oil to extract the flavors.

I stuffed everything into peppers and baked them slowly. Eating healthy without feeling deprived, plus it was cheap! Lentils are the best bang for your food dollar around and full of nutrients; even protein. My good behavior left a little wiggle room today for a glass of wine! I love days like today!

Here’s the recipe which made enough to stuff 8 medium size peppers with some left over to make wraps for the children’s lunch tomorrow.

Ingredients

1 cup lentils
1 cup brown rice
1-2 Tbsp Oil or butter (I used coconut oil because I like the added flavor)
3-4 cloves of garlic
2-3 medium sized carrots
2-3 medium sized celery stalks
2 small tomatoes, chopped
Sage to taste (I used about 10 fresh fairly large leaves)
3 cups of water or vegetable stock, chicken stock; your preference
8 medium sized bell peppers (I used the orange, yellow and red variety)
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit

In a large skillet add the oil, chopped garlic, fresh sage or powdered, chopped carrots, chopped celery and sauté until soft.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the brown rice and lentils and coat them in the mixture then add the water and the tomatoes.

Let simmer until the water is absorbed. About 30-45 minutes.

Cut the stem out of the peppers creating a “cup”

Spoon the mixture into the peppers and place in your baking dish.

Here I will add enough water to cover the bottom of the dish; sometime I add a little white wine for flavor.

I don’t like my peppers to be mushy so I bake them just until they are tender; about 30 minutes.

Infused Oils and Hopes for Holiday Gifts

pantry diaries curry

This is a photo of curry in my garden. I bought it just because I thought it was pretty. I had no idea what I would do with it. I never knew that curry looked like this. Now that I see it and smell how wonderful it is I want to do something creative with it. I am sure that there are Curry Cupcakes in my future! But for now I will be experimenting with the infused oil idea.
Since I started my garden I‘ve had illusions of grandeur. Or rather, should I say dillusions.
I have had big ideas about giving gifts at Christmas; gifts of infused oils and alcohol decoctions. In an effort to be thorough, of course, I went on line. I’ve learned about mold and rancidity. What I thought would be easy and practical, given the abundance of herbs in my garden, has turned into an exercise in futility. Fresh herbs go bad very quickly when packed in oil.
It is important to eliminate air, moisture, and light and to maintain sanitary conditions on all utensils and containers used to keep and prepare the oils. After much research and inquiry I have come upon recipes which will insure the safety of your recipients and the enjoyment of all who partake in your generosity!
There are hot and cold methods and the general consensus is that refrigeration is necessary to maintain freshness. Creating an air-tight seal is extremely important to slow the oxidation process.
So, will I will be experimenting and will keep you updated on my progress, successes and failures. Hopefully, by the time the holidays roll around, I will have some beautiful oils to share with family and friends!
Cold Infusion (Blender Method)
This technique for cold infusion is best used with herbs, roots, citrus zest and fresh Chile peppers. Because these products may add moisture to the oil making it ripe for spoilage, the velocity of the blender will release their essential oils and they can be refrigerated immediately after preparation. Combine the oil and the flavoring ingredients in the blender cup and blend at high speed until the product is liquefied. Leafy herbs can be quickly blanched in boiling water and then shocked in cold water to help preserve their color and give the finished oil a pleasing green appearance. Roots such as horseradish, and ginger should be grated or chopped to fully extract flavor in the blender. Fibers from roots should be strained before bottling. Straining other ingredients is optional.
Hot infusion
The use of heat to release flavors is the best way to make infused oils with dry spices. It is also good with roots and woody herbs. The heating of the oil and flavor ingredients makes the finished product more sanitary and less prone to spoilage. It has the further advantage of making the flavor of some spices like cumin and curry more rich and complex the same way that toasting them does. To create a hot infusion, combine the oil and the flavor ingredients in a saucepan and heat over a moderate flame. Monitor the temperature with a thermometer. In most cases a temperature between 180 and 200°F is sufficient to release the essential oils of flavoring ingredients. Higher temperatures tend to give the oil a “cooked” taste and may caramelize or scorch the flavorings. Strain if necessary and bottle in sterile containers while still hot. Seal and allow to cool. Refrigerate oil after it has reached room temperature.

Good-Bye to Summer

tomatoes oantry diaries 3

It seems as though my summer came and went without much of a fuss. Like many people this year, I planted my first garden and had high hopes of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash to spare.

I imagined myself giving them to friends and neighbors and freezing the extra to serve during winter. I was so naive! I barely grew enough to make one salad. But that’s fine with me. I learned alot and hope for a better yeild next year; with much less going to the deer who were not at all afraid to jump over the little fence I put up and enjoy my garden for themselves!

Here is the lion’s share of tomatoes which just came in. The plants quickly withered and turned brown and I feel lucky to have these.
Some went right into a basil, tomato salad with olive oil and the rest I ate on bread with a bit of homemade mayonnaise. I went “old school”. I made Depression Era sandwiches with my Recession Garden !

Courtesy of Julia Child, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Julia Child’s Hand-Beaten Mayonnaise

The following directions are for a hand-beaten sauce (using a wire whisk). For electric beaters, use the large bowl and the “moderately fast” speed for whipping cream. Continually push the sauce into the beater blades with a rubber scraper.

Ingredients

Round-bottomed, 2½ to 3-quart glazed pottery, glass or stainless steel mixing bowl. Set it in a heavy casserole or saucepan to keep it from slipping.
3 egg yolks
Large wire whisk
1 tablespoon wine vinegar or lemon juice (more drops as needed)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dry or prepared mustard
1½ to 2¼ cups of olive oil, salad oil or a mixture of each. If the oil is cold, heat it to tepid; and if you are a novice, use the minimum amount
2 tablespoons boiling water
Directions

Warm the bowl in hot water; dry it. Add the egg yolks and beat for 1 to 2 minutes until they are thick and sticky.
Add the vinegar or lemon juice, salt and mustard. Beat for 30 seconds more.
The egg yolks are now ready to receive the oil. While it goes in, drop by drop, you must not stop beating until the sauce has thickened. A speed of 2 strokes per second is fast enough. You can switch hands or switch directions, as long as you beat constantly.
Add the drops of oil with a teaspoon, or rest the lip of the bottle on the edge of the bowl. Keep your eye on the oil rather than on the sauce. Stop pouring and continue beating every 10 seconds or so, to be sure the egg yolks are absorbing the oil.
After 1/3 to 1/2 cup of oil has been incorporated, the sauce will thicken into a very heavy cream and the crisis of potential curdling is over. The beating arm may rest a moment. Then, beat in the remaining oil by 1 to 2 tablespoon dollops, blending it thoroughly after each addition.
When the sauce becomes too thick and stiff, beat in drops of vinegar or lemon juice to thin it out. Then continue with the oil.
Beat the boiling water into the sauce. This is an anti-curdling insurance. Season to taste.
If the sauce is not used immediately, scrape it into a small bowl and cover it tightly so a skin will not form on its surface.
Tips For Making Mayonnaise
Julia Child’s tips for homemade mayonnaise:

Room Temperature: Have all ingredients at room temperature. If they aren’t, warm the mixing bowl in hot water to take the chill off the egg yolks; heat the oil to tepid if it is cold.
Egg Yolks: Always beat the yolks for a minute or two before adding anything to them. When they are thick and sticky, they are ready to absorb the oil.
Adding The Oil: The oil must be added very slowly at first, in droplets, until the emulsion process begins and the sauce thickens into a heavy cream. Then, the oil may be incorporated more rapidly.
Proportions: The maximum amount of oil one large egg yolk can absorb is six ounces, or ¾ cup. When this maximum is exceeded, the binding properties of the egg yolks break down, and the sauce thins out or curdles. If you have never made mayonnaise before, it is safest not to exceed ½ cup of oil per egg yolk.

Focaccia Bread Magic!

pantry diaries focaccia bread edit
I tore this page out of a House Beautiful magazine about a year and a half ago and it has been like a sacred document in my house ever since.
I now know the recipe by heart but always pull it out to keep my eye on this familiar page and to refer to Devon S. Frederick’s notes which are helpful.
I did not make mine with the onion tomato topping suggested but I made two variations with tomato, basil and parmesan, and tomato and parmesan. Both with coarse sea salt and lots of really good olive oil.
You can vary the toppings just get the bread recipe down to a science. Once you do, well , you will always be able to pull fresh bread out of the oven for snacks, entertaining, or just plain eating! This is so good that you could just top it with olive oil and dried herbs from your pantry. I think rosemary, garlic and coarse sea salt is perfect. (done it, love it!)
HINT I line my baking pan with parchment paper as I have had “sticking” issues. On the stone it is not as big a problem but it has happened here as well.
There is nothing as wonderful as bread fresh from the oven.

Recipe courtesy of Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
ONION-TOMATO FOCACCIAFocaccia d’Altamura
MAKES A LARGE ROUND FOCACCIA, SERVING 10 OR MORE
2 packets active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
5 1/2cups all-purpose flour, plus more for handling the dough
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water, or as needed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil for the bread bowl
FOR THE TOPPING
1 large onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced (about 2 cups slices)
2 cups ripe cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half
1/2cup extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or as needed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1. To make the dough, dissolve the yeast in G cup warm water and let it sit for several minutes, until it begins to bubble. Put the flour and salt in the food-processor bowl.
2. Stir together the active yeast and 2 cups lukewarm water in a spouted measuring cup. With the processor running continuously, blend the flour and salt briefly, then pour in all the liquid through the feed tube and process for about 30 seconds. A soft, moist dough should gather on the blade, with some sticking to the sides of the bowl. If it’s very sticky and hasn’t come off the sides at all, incorporate more flour, a tablespoon or two at a time, to stiffen the dough and bring it together. If the dough is dry, process in more water in small amounts.
3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, scraping the bowl and blade clean. Knead by hand for a minute, using as little flour as possible, until the dough forms a smooth round, still soft and a bit sticky. Coat a big bowl with the tablespoon of olive oil, drop in the dough, and turn it to oil it all over. Seal the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.
4. While the dough is rising, toss together the sliced onion, cherry tomato halves, 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, and H teaspoon salt in a small bowl, and let them marinate.
5. Coat the baking dish or pan, bottom and sides, with 2 tablespoons or more olive oil. Deflate the risen dough and lay it in the pan. Gently press and stretch it into an evenly flat round that fills the pan. If the dough is resistant, let it relax for a few minutes before stretching it again.
6. Lift the marinated onion and tomatoes out of the bowl with a slotted spoon, draining off the juices. Scatter the vegetables all over the focaccia, and lightly press in with your fingertips, creating dimples in the soft dough. Finally, drizzle the marinating oil over the top.
7. Let the focaccia rise, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Set a baking stone, if you have one, on a center oven rack and heat to 425°. Just before baking, gently dimple the dough again with your fingertips, and sprinkle another H teaspoon coarse salt all over.
8. Bake the focaccia for about 20 minutes, rotate the pan back to front for even cooking, and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, or even longer, until the bread is golden brown and the onions and tomatoes are nicely caramelized.
9. Remove the pan, drizzle another tablespoon or two of olive oil over the focaccia, and crumble the dried oregano, scattering it on top. Let the focaccia cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve it warm or at room temperature.

I am including Devon’s notes as they very helpful to me and may well be to you, too.

DEVON MAKES THE FOCACCIA
A home run here. This is a great, easy to make, not messy- to-clean-up-after recipe for bread dough. You’ll love being able to use it when good bread isn’t available—a Wonder bread–infused vacation on the coast of Maine comes to mind. Simply whip up this dough, top it with whatever you’re in the mood for, and serve it warm from the oven.
You make the dough in a food processor. The flour filled mine to the very top, and I was dubious about whether there was enough room for the two cups of water. But within seconds the whole thing had formed a very malleable dough and was ready for quick kneading.
The tomato and onion topping was very tasty, but so was a topping I made with sautéed onions and dried thyme. For that matter, when you have focaccia this good, a topping of nothing more than coarse salt and a drizzle of olive oil is wonderful.
I had a little trouble timing this to come out of the oven for dinner. The first time I made it, we all had a snack at 10 P.M. I would advise leaving 2H hours from start to finish.

Fried Cauliflower with Lime and Sea Salt

pantry diaries fried cauliflower 042

This little discovery was made at the home of my dear friend M. She had me over for a dinner party one evening and really pulled out the stops. I will leave the trout and the cilantro potatoes for another day, however, the fried cauliflower really got my attention. And it was a good excuse to buy a deep fryer.

This was a new presentation for me. I’ve had fried cauliflower and other veggies before but they were always coated with an egg and flour coating or tempura batter. This was simply, deep fried cauliflower; vegetable oil, cauliflower. That’s it.

It is served with lime wedges and sea salt. Squeeze on the lime, sprinkle with salt and enjoy as a snack or as a side dish.

Garden Lunch

garden lunch

This was my first meal from my garden. This was my first attempt at a garden! It was actually thrilling to grow my own cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and basil and construct these humble ingredients into a healthful meal. I felt invigorated all day with these wholesome foods in my belly.

I never realized that I would be so deeply affected by something so simple, so primal. Is this how our ancestors felt? Does this feeling explain the elaborate and brutal ritual sacrifice practices of ancient cultures? Did they realize the tenuous and fragile balance of nature which allowed them to produce food? Were they in awe? Were they grateful?

I wonder if we would be more humble, more grateful for our food if we were more deeply connected to it. Would we eat as much meat if we had to raise, care for, and slaughter animals ourselves? Would we value the complex nutritional components of vegetables and legumes if we watched them grow and saw the sun and rain turning tiny seeds into beautiful plants and fruits?

When you can taste the sunshine in a tomato do you not feel completely connected to the Universe?
I did. If just for a moment I was grateful.

Cherry Tomatoes with Cucumbers and Basil
Cherry Tomatoes
Cucumber
Basil
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Lemon juice

Chop, toss together, drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice.

Tuna Steak with Peppers

4 oz Tuna steak fresh or frozen
Garlic
Pepper

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees
Chop pepper and garlic. Place tuna on foil (enough to completely wrap).
Toss pepper and garlic on top, sprinkle with sea salt. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Wrap completely. Place in oven and cook until the tuna is right where you like it!

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