Whole Wheat Zucchini Twists and Drunken Tomato Jam

It’s been another one of my experimenting days.  I’ve been into that a lot lately.  I must be going through a phase in my life…everything I do lately in the kitchen is about experimenting!  I never used to be this way.  It’s been fun though, and keeps things fresh and interesting.

Though, honestly this invention isn’t that unique or interesting.  It is however, delicious, hearty, versatile – both the jam and and the mini loaves can be paired in a number of different ways…not just together as I have them posted.

I was inspired by a recipe for tomato jam I saw recently, and so with the plethora of cherry tomatoes from my garden I had to put them to good use!   I added my own little touch of red wine when I opened the fridge to grab something and old bottle of red wine I had stashed in the fridge for cooking was staring right back at me screaming, “USE ME UP!”  So, I did.  I think it turned out quite delicious!  And baking fresh yeast bread is one of the easiest things – if you can read, you can do it.  So read on.  And furthermore, kneading fresh dough is quite a meditative process!  So meditate on!

First, the tomato jam recipe:

Drunken Tomato Jam

2 pints cherry tomatoes
3 large sprigs of thyme
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup red wine
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 tsp salt

Place everything in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer until thick about 30-40 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Now for the bread recipe:

Whole Wheat Zucchini Twists

1 medium zucchini, grated
2 tablespoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour

Shred the zucchini and place in a colander with the salt to drain excess water.

In a large bowl mix yeast, sugar and 1/4 cup water, stir to dissolve.  Set aside 5-10 minutes until quite bubbly.

Add flour, zucchini and remaining 1/4 cup warm water to yeast mixture.  Mix well.  Turn onto a well-floured surface and knead 8-10 minutes until elastic, adding flour as necessary.  Place in a greased bowl, turn to coat all sides.  Cover with a towel and set aside 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.

When doubled in size, punch dough down with one fist and turn onto floured surface again.  Divide dough into 4-inch long (or larger if you want larger loaves….these ones are small, like mini, personal loaves), skinny logs.  Then take two logs and pinch to top together.  Twist together (one log over the other) creating a twisted loaf.  Pinch the other end together.  Repeat with the remaining logs until all used up.  Set loaves on a baking pan, covered, in a warm place to rise another 45 minutes.

Whisk egg white well in a small bowl.  With a pastry brush, gently brush egg on the risen loaves, being very careful not to flatten them.  They will be fragile so don’t brush too hard!  The egg white will allow the loaves to have a nice golden, glossy finish.

Place in preheated oven at 325.  Bake about 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.  Watch these carefully because the time may vary…(my oven does clearly register temperature, so I kind of have to guesstimate this one).

When finished serve warm with the slightly cooled  tomato jam.  Bon Appetit!

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I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream for……Pizza!?

No, it’s not ice cream.  It’s Pizza – Pizza. Pizza. Pizza.  There is a universal taste appreciation for that crisp, flat dough topped with veggies, meats, cheeses and baked till golden brown and bubbly.  My mouth waters just thinking about it, and I “scream” for it.

And when it comes to pizza, everyone has their preferences – thin and crispy, thick, deep, meats, veggies, fruits, sauces, and so on.

Pizza is one of my favorite things to make.  It is seriously an art because one can be so creative with its toppings, and when you need to “use up” things from the produce drawer or the back of the fridge? Throw it on a pizza.

When it comes to pizza, my preferences are thin and crispy, and unconventional (no thank you to plain pepperoni and sausage).

Pizza has been around for a long, long time. According to Wikipedia (the most accurate and truthful site ever) pizza had appeared in Medieval Latin by 997 AD, and in 16th century Naples, a galette flatbread was referred to as a pizza.

And here’s a little fun fact about the oh-so-classic Pizza Margherita:

In June 1889, to honor the Queen consort of  Italy Margherita of Savoy, the Neapolitan chef Raffaele Esposito created the “Pizza Margherita,” a pizza garnished with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil, to represent the colors of the Italian flag. He was the first to add cheese.  Throughout the years to come, pizza had undergone many changes and even today across the world, pizza exists in many different forms (Chicago style, New York style, etc).

Like I said earlier, I personally prefer thin crust.  I roll my dough out nice and thin with a rolling pin creating a very crispy crust.  In the past I have put such things on pizza (not necessarily together though) as leeks, potatoes, shrimp, walnuts, mangos, eggs, mixed greens, and the list goes on and on.  I must say, one of my favorites was a roasted red pepper, basil and mango pizza with fresh mozzarella cheese.  Try it.  You won’t be disappointed.  Oh and for one of my favorite pizza dough recipes that’s been used time and time again (it’s simple, classic, basic) go HERE.  Add some fresh herbs to the dough for an added treat!!

So, I’m curious, what’s your favorite kind of pizza and pizza topping?


Lunch on the Farm

“Look at the view from my office!” Abelle exclaimed as he pointed out towards the lush rolling mountains high in central Costa Rica.

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Abelle lives on a farm at the end of a high road in central Costa Rica with his wife, Ellie, three grown children, two dogs, one cat, a handful of trout, and plenty of cows.  

The farm is his office.  

There, in this magical wonderland, where the sun casts warmth and nourisment upon it’s land, alchemy is created.  

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Ellie and Abelle have been making a living off their farm since before time.  Their land is chock full of blackberry bushes, apple tress, passion fruit vines, lettuce, herbs, kale, chard, tomatoes, and the list goes on.  Also smack in the center of their hill facing the sun, a solar dehydrator, to ensure none of their prolific fresh produce goes to waste. 

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But what roams the land, is the most important part – cows, “plenty of cows,” says Abelle.  The cows are milked twice a day and Ellie and Abelle make four rounds of fresh cheese daily, to age for months in their cheese cellar, and eventually to be sold to gourmet restaurants in the capital city of San José.  Small slices of artisan cheese and whole grain crackers was our appetizer for lunch that day.

Aside from how they make their living, I was so lucky enough to be invited to their farm for a lovely, home-cooked, homegrown meal.  We started out the day by catching the trout – rainbow trout, which is prolific in these parts of Costa Rica.  Then we ventured over to the garden to grab some lettuce, kale, cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs, stopping to crack open a passion fruit and grab a blackberry or two.

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Upon arriving inside their modest home, hands chock full of garden edibles, we prepared a simple, nutritious meal with olive oil, fresh lemons, sea salt, fresh herbs, salad fixings, trout, and couscous.  We sat down to enjoy it, valuing the hands that grew it, prepared it, and now those that were eating it. 

It was a slow afternoon, we didn’t do much.  It was one so rich in community, simplicity, food and friends.  But in my mind, there’s nothing quite like it.

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