Recently in Bread and Pizza
Thursday, May 15, 2008

korean pancake

david lebovitz' korean pancake

People, it’s been a busy week and it all started on Monday when KS and I attended a wonderful benefit, which was inspirational and motivating. I’ve been asked to try to create a Russia-based branch – so we’ll see if I am successful in launching a Russia chapter. Would be swell!

The other weeknights, tonight included, KS has been galavanting around town for business-related functions, and I (sigh) have been left home alone, forced to fend for myself and cook single portion meals, which could at times be daunting. Well, not this time!

scallions batter

While catching up on my daily food blog reading, I came upon David Lebovitz’ recipe for a Korean pancake. And it looked so good that I resolved to cook it that very evening for my own single-portion dinner.

Except, when it comes to cooking for myself, I am quite shockingly lazy. I mean really lazy. Lazy enough that I had to stand in the kitchen making a mental list of pros and cons of whether or not I should cook this dish for myself. We’re talking about a five minute dish, here. But I was all, “Meh, I have to clean up after myself and I don’t wanna,” and “All I want to do is watch Freaks & Geeks on dvd, not cook and clean up!” People, I mean stupendously lazy. But I was so ashamed of just how lazy I was, that my own self-shame, propelled me to get off my behind and make this pancake.

kimchi & scallions

Which. Was. Amazing.

I know that David instructed to let this pancake cool before eating it, but in my book, that just wasn’t happening – I was far too hungry to wait. I ate it warm, drizzled with Sriracha sauce (ok, so not really Korean, but still) and a side of kimchee, which I could eat daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And it was heavenly and I was even more ashamed of having even debated making it.

almost there...

And so, tonight, with KS being out and about again, I am left to my own devices. I have a bunch of scallions left over and a jar of kimchee in the fridge. I think another pancake is in order for dinner. I just hope that I don’t have the same internal laziness debate when I get home – that would be truly embarrassing.

Continue reading korean pancake.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

homemade croutons

for soup, salad, or snacking alone

One of my grandmothers lived through the siege of St. Petersburg
during the WWII. She watched her mother, among others, starve to death
and was lucky to make it out alive. I have few stories of her
experience during the war, as she doesn’t like to talk about it. And
while she doesn’t try to forget it, she is certainly not eager to dig
up and unearth those painful memories. I used to want to find out, but
I figured she’s earned her right to silence – she’s 93 years old,
after all.

Living through the war, when the daily rations of bread, bread that
was mixed with woodchips to increase its density and decrease the
flour content, were sparse; and after the war, when food supplies were
still limited; taught my grandmother not to throw out even food that’s
gone spoiled. She always tried to rescue it and always insisted that I
cleared my plate during a meal. She wasn’t the greatest cook, but
having experienced hunger unlike anything most of us have ever felt,
she just couldn’t bring herself to throw food in the garbage.

So naturally, when our bread would go stale, we wouldn’t dare throw it
out. We’d cut it into tiny cubes and toast them in the oven with salt,
until they got hard and crunchy. These were tiny Russian croutons –
“suhariki” as we called them – made primarily out of Russian rye
bread, the same kind you can now buy in most Russian stores. They look
like big, fat bricks and when fresh, smell like heaven. When our white
bread would go stale, we would sprinkle the cubes with milk, and shake
a mixture of sugar and cinnamon over them before sending them off to
the oven. I can’t even begin to tell you how good these sweet croutons
tasted!

things to do with stale, old bread

You’d think that this easy, practical tradition would stick with me,
but I cannot remember my mother or me making these croutons since we
arrived in the United States. In fact, I think I pretty much blanked
out on this treat until last week, when we had some sourdough bread
and I was lamenting that it was past its prime. KS, the practical boy
that he is, suggested I toast them in the oven to make homemade
croutons! And I jumped on the idea because it was so simple, so
practical and so tasty. So, credit him for the ingenuity!

I am on a cayenne kick lately, and KS loves the spice so much, he’ll
never complain about its presence in practically anything, so why not
give my croutons a little personality? I gave the bread cubes, also, a
generous sprinkling of extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and rosemary,
before sending them to a dry-heat sauna.

I suppose it’s fitting then, that around Russia’s V-Day, perhaps as a
tribute, I post about not wasting foods that are too easily put in the
garbage, even though it’s very easy to save them and create something
altogether. And what is more fitting to salvage than bread – the
staple of so many diets?

Continue reading homemade croutons.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

pissaladiere

the power of sprat

We’ve barely had two days of spring, and I’ve been just itching with ideas for new projects. With the move almost behind me, I’ve focused on unpacking and settling in as quickly as possible. And I’m almost there too! Between KS and me, efficiency is our shared strong suit. And with some time on my hands while KS is in sunny Mustique next week enjoying things like the beach and fish tea, I am eager to get started with all things spring.

Like plant some herbs on our patio. And maybe a few flowers. I’ve got zero landscaping skills, but I am going to do a little research and digging on my trusty friend, the internet, and hopefully come up with some easy, cost-effective solutions. And of course, with my gardening project in mind, I’ve also shifted gears in my food cravings and consumption. My winter cravings for root vegetables and hearty stews is all but gone and my cravings are for all things fresh, crisp, spring-like.

Whenever I think of spring, I think of Provence with its fields of flowering lavender, outdoor tables with little bowls of olives and freshly baked bread with thick salted crusts. Provençal food, to me, is a real reminder of the vernal season, though I cannot justify the association.

And so with spring on my mind, and in my step, I decided to make something I’ve always enjoyed rather gluttonously, yet never attempted to make – a pissaladière. Pissaladière comes from Pissalat — a provençal condiment made of puréed anchovies mixed with some herbs and olive oil and spread on the pastry dough. I was inspired by Béa’s beautiful pictures and writing over a month ago and was looking for a perfect occasion to craft one myself.

caramelized & ready to go

I must note a few things here that might help you in your own preparation of this dish. For one, I think that the pastry dough should be made and not bought. I say this only because the store-bough version I had was lovely, but not breathtaking. Like a picture-frame that could make or break a picture, the pastry in this case was good, but not great. And so in my next take on this dish, which turned out really great, I will make my own pastry dough, recipe yet to be determined.

The onions take longer to cook than the recipe suggested. I cooked them rather slowly (as not to burn them) for about 45 minutes. And for my own, odd, taste preferences I omitted the garlic. I know, I know – you’re probably thinking you did what?!?!?!? But I’d thought (and I don’t regret making this choice one bit) that I wanted the onions, caramelized and sweet with some salt to give them edge, to be the stars of this show. And maybe the anchovies playing the supporting role.

twenty minutes away from baked bliss

A propos anchovies, another note. I couldn’t find any in our cupboards. But it’s entirely possible I didn’t know where to look (as I often miss things right in front of my very nose). But my mother did send me back to New York once, with a few Russian store goodies, including a can of sprats. Sprats are apparently little species of herring that are often packed in oil, much like sardines. I quite like them, having grown up with eating them right on thick slices or dark, Russian bread with pieces of onion.

And you know what? The sprats worked gloriously well – giving a slightly salty edge to the sweetness of the onions. And the little Niçoise olives completed the flavors quite nicely.

smelling of spring and sea

And so the three of us, KS, a friend, and myself, enjoyed this little rite of spring, sipping Riesling and enjoying the night. And though KS and I went to bed rather late, by our school-night standards, we were full and content, and delighted in good company and a favorable change in season.

Perhaps, to give Provence its due course, I should think of planting some lavender upstairs – the next best thing to actually being in Provence in the springtime.

Continue reading pissaladiere.