Winter


I was trying to get back into reading blogs after the holidays three days ago and saw a recipe (and sublime pictures) for a tomato and quinoa bread on Cooking Books. Right away I knew I had to make it. Bread intimidates me something awful, but this one looked so good that I just had-had-had to try it.

But it is winter and you cannot go around making bread like this without having a bowl of steaming soup of some kind of vegetable to eat it with.  Tomato soup would be overkill, pea soup sounds too mushy, mushroom soup would be too creamy. I’m picky about soup, you see. My maternal grandfather would have soup for lunch 6 days a week, regardless of the season. During childhood summers on the farm, when it was in the high 30C’s outside, we’d be eating soup at his lunch table and had to keep quiet about it. Today the thought of soup as a meal is hugely off-putting idea to me, but every now and then I get a craving and then it has to be good.

I finally settled on a celery soup. Celery and tomato juice works well in a bloody mary so no doubt it will work well as a bread and soup combination.

I’m not going into the details of making the bread, Andrea did a great job of that, so head over there for the tomato and quinoa bead recipe. One thing I added to the dough was a couple of cubes of tomato flesh, without the seeds and juice, for some extra color and texture in the bread.

For the celery soup you need to collect:

– 500g of celery stalk, cut into about 1 inch pieces

– 1 medium sized potato (peeled and cut into cubes) or a cup of uncooked rice (brown would be a healthier choice)

– 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

– 1 medium onion, chopped

– 2 crushed garlic cloves

– 2 and 1/2 cups vegetable stock

– salt and pepper to taste

Making the soup:

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the celery, onion and garlic. Cook until the the onion is light, then add the stock and the potatoes or rice. Bring everything to a boil, lower the heat and let everything simmer until the ingredients are soft, but not mushy. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the soup to cool. You’re going to blend the ingredients and blending hot soup can have very nasty results. I know from experience.

Once the soup has cooled a bit, blend it in batches until it reaches the consistency you like. I prefer keeping some chunks in my soup, so I blend just a little. Pour the soup back in the saucepan and heat until ready to serve.

Enjoy it with slices of fresh bread, tomato and quinoa in my case, at a sunlit table on a winter afternoon.

Told you I was going to get into the season. I found this recipe for cranberry and oatmeal cookies on Martha Stewart’s website and Alexander suggested we bake it to serve with the pumpkin pie as part of his dad’s late Thanksgiving dinner for the family (we were stuck in Thailand for the holiday).

As we’re back in a house with a fully stocked kitchen there was no need to rush around trying to find ingredients and I got to work right away. Sweet!

For the cookie dough you should collect:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons milk

2 large eggs

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 cups oats

1 cup dried cranberries (I used half a cup cranberries and half a cup chopped almonds)

The process:

Start the process at least 2-3 hours before you want to bake it as the dough needs to be refrigerated.

Whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and soda in a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla extract in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the butter (cut into smaller pieces) and the sugar in a mixing bowl with the mixer on low (if you use a mixer without paddle attachment) or medium (if you have the paddle attachment) until it is light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, gradually add the milk mixture until well-combined. Next add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Finally stir in the remaining ingredients and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours.

When it’s time to start baking, preheat the oven to 350F (yes I am in the US now and trying to convert). Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape 2 tablespoons of dough into a ball and place them about 3 inches apart on the cookie sheets. Martha suggests flattening them with the bottom of a glass, but we used the spoon to kind of flatten them, which gives them more of a home-made look me thinks.

Finally, bake the cookies for about 16  minutes (or less, my first batch burnt a little on the underside). Remember to rotate the baking sheets halfway through so they bake evenly. When baked, transfer the cookies with the paper to wire racks to cool and serve.

As I only remembered to start baking halfway through the fantastic turkey dinner, the cookies were still warm and fresh when they were served along with the pumpkin pie. In retrospect I found that I added double the cinnamon and salt! Luckily it did not ruin the cookies and they tasted pretty good, in fact, I thing the extra cinnamon made the cookies even better.

And they were even better the next morning with some soy nog!

Oh! My efforts to get more seasonal was rewarded this morning with the first snow of winter. It did not exactly stick, but it looked pretty drifting down and had me quite excited.