I should be writing. Instead…salsa. And more salsa.

salsas

No recipe here.

Just the patience to wait a whole day as the massive tomatoes sat unclaimed on the table in our staff room.

Those babies would not go to waste. I owed it to them.  I pounced.

On most cool wet Friday afternoons, I’m more than willing to camp out in the living room with fresh Italian roast and a treat [most recently, thanks to my wife, Yotam Ottolenghi’s Semolina Lemon Syrup Cakes].

But these tomatoes called for quick action.

Standard ingredients in the salsa on the right…onion, garlic, chili powder, pepper, salt, cilantro, cider vinegar, sugar. I left out jalapenos.

The salsa on the left called for experimentation. I added sumac, a favored spice in Middle Eastern/Turkish dishes, for a lemony touch, a tablespoon of  sweetened black vinegar to join the usual apple cider vinegar, and some smoked salt.

I can’t deliver a fair verdict on the flavors until I’ve let the ingredients meld, but once again, when the culinary gods call, my writing takes a back seat.

I should be writing. Instead…lepinja.

Lepinja reduced

Continuing my flatbread kick…

My Yugoslavian friend mentioned this Serbian version called lepinja and I was intrigued.

The varied recipes online all called for three separate rises, so I did follow that instruction.

What didn’t I do? I probably didn’t flatten out the dough enough, but hey, the ingredients were mixed in the correct ratios, so I just adjusted the baking time. Result: a tender consistency. Is that the way it’s supposed to come out? I liked it too much to care.

I do agree with one baker’s suggestion to raise the oven temp as high as possible.

And I will now ask traditionalists to avert their eyes as I admit to kneading some of my homemade pesto into one of the loaves.

Here is the recipe I followed…

Enjoy!

I should be writing. Instead…Msemmen.

IMG_3118

Yes, that ‘M’ belongs there.

Depending on the web page you summon, it’s pronounced, _____

Algerian flatbread. Moroccan pancake. Take your pick.

Here is one way to pronounce msmmen.

Here’s the recipe from https://www.breadexperience.com/msemmen-algerian-flatbread-hbinfive/ .

I have to say–this is goooooood stuff.

My steps:

  1. Used whole wheat flour to create the dough.
  2. Let it sit in the fridge for two days…no make that three.
  3. Shaped it into a ball [the size of a peach].
  4. Rolled it out to one-eighth inch thick.
  5. Evenly spread a paste of olive oil, cumin, salt [just a quarter teaspoon], za’atar, and pepper.
  6. Rolled it into a log.
  7. Curled the log into a tight pinwheel.
  8. Let it rest for 20 minutes.
  9. Rolled it back out to one-eight inch thickness.
  10. Slapped it into a medium-high heat, olive oil-coated cast iron skillet. [Feel free to lower the heat to medium.]
  11. Covered it with a pizza pan to trap the heat and steam–an important step.
  12. Version two of msemmen? I used Ras El Hanout and sumac for the seasonings in the olive oil paste and folded sun dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese into the dough.Both versions worked just fine for me. And the leftovers with a little reheat? Yep! And really, so many possibilities for creating your own version of msemmen.

Finally thank you, Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg for this winning recipe. I have two of their books. I recommend them both.

 

I should be writing. Instead…dining out.

rhubarb pie lattice

The end of a week.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m retired…for the weekend, at least.

And we aimed for Gathering Together Farm for dinner.

Meanwhile, on the topic of eating and writing, here is a Bon Appetit article, 9 Authors on What They Eat While They Write.

 

I should be writing. Instead…biscuits. [Again.]

Yep, when in doubt, it’s biscuits.

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Savory biscuits bordered top and bottom by the traditional ones.

Well, that and the suggestion from my wife that, ‘gee, with all this fruit around, I think biscuits would be perfect.’.

And so, with the Beatles’ ‘Penny Lane’ playing in the background, two versions are in the oven, with the aroma of the parmesan cheese-colby cheese-chive-Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute version [a not-so user-friendly label] filling the kitchen.

Starter recipe: Sky High Wheat Biscuits from Bert Greene’s The Grains Cookbook. I can send it to you.]

As always, I can’t help but stray from the exact instructions, but I’ve used this recipe for over a decade. [Instead of 1 cup cake flour : 1 cup wheat ratio, I went with 1.5 cups all-purpose and a half cup of wheat flour.]

The other version, what one might call ‘plain’—I added an egg and some vanilla and a little extra sugar. So yes, feel free to call them ‘shortcakes’–the accompanying strawberries won’t argue with you.

As I was hand-blending the frozen butter chunks [an upper-body workout hack.], my mind drifted to my semi-recent high school reunion.

And I pondered some of the questions I would like to have posed to the folks.

No, nothing about the staged–I’m dating myself here–Godfather-themed ‘abduction’ of a favorite teacher. And nothing about the senior boys’ version of ‘Alley Top’ during intermission at a Friday dance.

Instead, I would want to know what they’ve been cooking. And when they started cooking.

After all, when many of us parted at graduation, few of had any baking, sautéing, or barbecuing skills.

So, my questions:

What are your specialties?

What events pushed you into the kitchen? A lonely Saturday night during or soon after college? Forsaken by a spouse for a weekend? Expectations of kids? Having Thanksgiving hosting duties dumped in your lap? Or how about the age-old ‘just because’?

My first ‘real’ cooking experience took place sophomore year in high school.We were supposed to contribute to a culinary celebration in French class and I teamed up with my lifelong friend. He proposed [and made] stuffed French rolls. [I know what you’re thinking. I didn’t have the heart to tell him.]

I went with chocolate eclairs and son of a gun if I didn’t whip out the Joy of Cooking and successfully crank out the cream puffs shell recipe [page 646] and follow up with some variation of a chocolate icing. [Would have been fitting to try to make Fudge Cockaigne as a further nod to the French theme, but I was probably still dumbfounded that the cream puffs recipe worked for me.]

I would love to hear of your first successful experience in the kitchen. Chime in down below. Thanks for reading.

Bonus photo: [Seems my ‘craftsy’ wife needs an alternative leaf press.]

leaves in Joy of Cooking