Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti


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Express Post: Asparagus

This is going to be an express post, because I have a lot of things I want to get done today, but I want to tell you about our new favorite way to eat asparagus . . . just in case you get your hands on some fresh asparagus.  To our great delight, a new crop of Maui-grown asparagus has hit the Upcountry Farmers Market!  If asparagus isn’t available in your area just yet, don’t fret-spring is coming your way soon.  Just for the record, I love thick spears of asparagus;  I want to know that I am biting into something.  We enjoy asparagus steamed, then topped with freshly squeezed lemon/lime juice, freshly ground salt and pepper and homemade mayonnaise.  It’s also fantastic roasted in a hot oven, after rolling around in some extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground salt and pepper and sprigs of fresh thyme.  I was looking for ideas in my newest Deborah Madison book, Vegetable Literacy, and found a way to cook asparagus that we think is genius, not to mention downright delicious.  It is pretty much the same technique as this green been recipe I shared with you a few months ago, which is our new favorite way to eat green beans.

pan griddled asparagus 2

Griddled Asparagus
adapted from Vegetable Literacy {Madison}

1 bunch asparagus
olive oil, for coating asparagus
kosher salt
Maldon Sea Salt, or other flaky sea salt, to finish
freshly ground pepper

If you are using asparagus with thick spears, peel the lower parts so they will be tender.  Toss the spears with olive oil to coat {you don’t need a lot} and season lightly with salt.  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.

When the pan is hot, add your asparagus.  Don’t move it around just yet; you want some color to form on the spears that are in contact with the pan.  When you see some beautiful browned spots on your asparagus, toss the spears around in the pan.  You do not need to methodically move them one by one. Keep the heat on medium high and continue cooking the asparagus for several more minutes, until they are tender when poked with a sharp knife.  Some of the larger spears may still be a little al dente {crisp}, but I assure you they will be perfectly delicious.

Serve the griddled asparagus on a platter sprinkled with whatever crunchy salt you have selected.  Although I think it is perfect just like this, without any other additions, Madison suggests rolling the cooked spears around in Tarragon Butter and a few other sauces from her book.  I greatly respect Madison’s opinions when it comes to making delicious food, so I will probably try some of these sauces in the future.

Bon appetit!

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A Delicious Loaf

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“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.” – M.F.K. Fischer

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I’ll start by apologizing for my finished bread looking burned; it was not burned.  No matter how I aimed my camera, part of the loaf looked black, which is why the picture is cropped.  Sometimes a photo just doesn’t do justice to its subject.    Now that that is out there, let’s move on.

I love baking yeast breads because I find it relaxing and therapeutic.  Not that I’m necessarily in need of therapy when I decide to bake some crusty, yeasty and delicious loaves.  It’s just that it feels good to get your hands in the dough and feel the magical transformation from wet sticky dough to dough that is silky and elastic, and a pleasure to touch.  Homemade bread actually engages all of your senses-

~There is the smell . . . yeasty fragrance wafting up from the bowl of blooming yeast.  “Blooming yeast” sounds like a British expression; in this case it means to put the dry yeast into warm water to dissolve and begin activating, so your bread will rise properly.

~ The tactile nature of bread dough is that it goes from sticky to silky, shaggy to supple

~ Visually appealing is your bread when it emerges from the hot oven, golden and brown, like it just spent the day on a glorious tropical beach {Maui??}

~ If you were able to achieve a nice crisp crust, you will hear that crust shatter when you tear or cut into your beautiful bread.  Maybe it’s the kind of crust that sends pieces of toasty shards over the edge of the counter to the floor when it’s cut.

~ Last but not least is the taste . . . yeasty, whole wheat flavor {or maybe rye} made better with thin slices of good butter.  Or perhaps you have chosen a smear of fresh goat cheese, or a dip in some fruity extra virgin olive oil showered with freshly ground salt, pepper & herbs.  My dear readers, it doesn’t get any better than this!

For tips on baking yeast breads {proofing the yeast, shaping the loaves, etc.} click here.

This recipe produces a bread that is dense, chewy and slightly sweet, with a crisp crust when toasted.  We had a turkey sandwich on it a couple days ago, and it was most excellent.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread

adapted from Honey Oatmeal Bread from Bread Winners {Mel London, 1979}

2 cups boiling water

1/2 cup mild-flavored honey

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tsp salt

1 cup/100 grams uncooked rolled oats {not quick cooking}

1 pkg dry yeast

1/4 cup lukewarm water {I use water that is between 95 & 115 degrees.}

*3 1/2 cups/490 grams to 4 cups/560 grams whole wheat flour

*1 cup/110 grams ground oats {uncooked rolled oats processed in a food processor until you have 1 cup}

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

*I wanted my bread to taste more of oats, so one of my adaptations was to add a cup of ground oats in place of 1 cup of whole wheat flour.  Feel free to use all whole wheat flour, or other flour of your choice.

Glaze:
Honey
Uncooked rolled oats

In a large bowl, stir together boiling water, honey, butter, salt and rolled oats.  Let stand for 1 hour.

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water.  Add to the oat mixture.  Stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time and beat well.  I start with the ground oats, and then add whole wheat flour until the dough is not super sticky.  Stir in the sunflower seeds before the dough gets too stiff.  It will be a little sticky, but that will be remedied as you flour your counter to knead the bread.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic {about 10 minutes}.  If necessary, add enough flour to keep dough from being too sticky.  Wash the big bowl you just used, rub some olive oil around the bottom and sides and add your ball of dough.  Turn the dough to coat all the sides.  Cover the bowl with a towel or damp cloth.  Place in a warm spot and allow to double in bulk-about 1 1/4 hours.  I turn on my oven for a minute or 2 to get it slightly warm, and that is where I put my dough to rise.

Turn out onto floured counter, knead for 1-2 minutes, shape into 2 loaves and place into well-greased loaf pans {9” x 5”}.  Cover and place in a warm spot until almost doubled in bulk {about 45 minutes}.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.  Tops should be well browned and the bottoms should sound hollow when rapped with your knuckles.  I look for a temperature of 200 degrees when I insert the instant read thermometer in the bottom of the loaf.

For a delicious glaze, brush tops of bread with honey that has been slightly warmed, then sprinkle with oats.  It looks pretty with the honey & oats on top, but I must say that the oats don’t stick very well.  Maybe I don’t use enough honey!

As hard as it might be, you should cool the bread completely on a wire rack before slicing.  We {or I should say my husband} often finds it difficult to do this!  Enjoy the rewards of your efforts!

Bon appetit!

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Shine On Award

I was nominated for my first blog award!    Ada, who writes a tasty food blog called More Food, Please, nominated me for the Shine On Award.  I am truly honored by her nomination.  There are so many excellent food blogs; just knowing that people visit and read my blog is quite a compliment, but an award nomination makes the time I spend writing even more worthwhile.    If you have never visited Ada’s blog, I encourage you to do so.  She posts wonderful stories & recipes, the most recent being some exquisite and delicious {I’m sure} Rose and Lavender Macarons. 

                       Image

The rules are:
1. Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Acknowledge that blogger on your blog, and link back.
3. Share seven random, interesting things about yourself.
4. Nominate up to 15 bloggers for the ‘Shine On’ Award, provide a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.

Here are 7 random, hopefully interesting, things about me:
* I am a huge Dr. Who fan.
* I moved to Alaska when I was 6 weeks old, and to Hawaii {Oahu} 12 years later, where I met my future husband {of 35 years!}.
* The kitchen is my favorite room in the house; I love being there.
* Food and music are my favorite topics of discussion.
* Some of my favorite musicians are, in no particular order, Underworld, Radiohead, Yeasayer, Ghostland Observatory and !!! {pronounced chk chk chk}.
* My earliest recollection of being interested in food is when I was in the fourth grade.  I loved getting the cooking badge in Girl Scouts!
* Like many foodies, I enjoy a good cookbook for bedtime reading.

I have recently discovered some food blogs that I would like to nominate for the Shine On Award.  I am looking forward to reading their archives and upcoming posts.  You may want to check out what they are writing about.  They are:

Danube Waltz http://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/52731768/

Dinner of Herbs http://dinnerofherbsblog.wordpress.com/

Paper and Salt  http://paperandsalt.org/about/

The Back Yard Lemon Tree http://thebackyardlemontree.com/

Thank you again, Ada, for your kind nomination!