July 10, 2005

A Day in Pictures

I didn't really set out to spend all day in the kitchen, but brief shopping excursions aside, that's pretty much what happened.

Breakfast was a quickly cooked and even more quickly eaten breakfast quesadilla, full of scrambled eggs, chile pepper rings, cheese, and Bufalo Chipotle hot sauce.

This fortified me long enough to get some much needed shopping out of the way in the morning, before coming back to the kitchen.

The first thing I set about making was a Turkish Lentil Salad, which I had promised earlier would be in the works for this afternoon. It takes less than an hour, and is pretty relaxing work.

The flavours of lemon juice and white wine vinegar sink into the warm lentils and take with them a payload of salt, cayenne, and most of all cumin. It's delicious while it's still hot, but it's even better when it has a chance to sit in the fridge for a while, to let the flavours meld.

I must have gotten a little faster at the vegetable chopping, since I had time to knock together a white bean hummus, flecked with parsley. I used the recipe Molly posted on Orangette as a departure point, but substituted cayenne for cumin. It's not hot, but it has a little zing to it.

Moving on, my only other real task of the day was to make Challah, which I wanted to do because a) we were perilously low on bread, and b) I wanted to make some as a thank you for someone who did something very nice for Palle and I last week.

I went with the traditional braid, as I often do. This is the bread that I often bring as a gift to housewarming parties, so if you think it looks familiar, it should. This is the "single decker" as opposed to the "double decker" that I sometimes do when there's a lot of people to feed.

I love the little extra bit of rising that occurs in the oven - oven spring - which creates lovely, decorative little tears between the braided strands, and shows of a wonderful contrast between the shiny burnished brown of the egg-washed curves of the braid and the pale, non-reflective, almost white interior of the loaf.

With my last task out of the way, and the bread lying on a rack in the bedroom, which is the coolest room in the house and is the only place safe from cat-predation of baked goods, I decided to have a whack at a raspberry almond torte. I monkeyed around with the ingredients to reduce the amount of oil called for, and studded the batter with fresh, juicy raspberries.

The almond appears as ground almonds, which I buy pre-ground (but very fresh) from Parthenon on West Broadway. It is essential to use fresh ground almonds, because I once made this cake with somewhat stale ground almonds left from Christmas amaretti, and the cake was barely tolerable and had an aftertaste. Not this one, though.

Fresh as a daisy. Er, fresher, actually, as daisies have always seemed a little rank. The reduced oil actually seemed to lighten the torte, making it airier and giving it a real spring in its slice. I plated the torte upside down and dusted it with confectioners' sugar for a simple, rustic dessert or snack. The raspberries did sink down to the bottom of the batter, though, so next time I may have to add them to the top of the unbaked torte, and perhaps they then will only sink half-way. Still, it should suffice for lunches for the coming week - if it lasts that long.

And now my day is drawing to a close. I still need to bag up the challah and put away a few dishes, and then it's quittin' time.

Good night.


Ana said...

Wow! What a full day. The Challah looks beautiful. Are you going to share the raspberry almond torte? It looks really delicious.

Dawna said...

The torte is still a work in progress - I will undoubtedly share it once I've finalized the recipe. I'm still working out little things, such as - is it better to use a springform pan or a cake pan? And I'm still playing with some of the measurements of the small-ticket items - salt, extracts, etc.

Molly said...

Now that's what I call a day's work, Dawna! Your challah--something I've been wanting to try making for a while now--looks absolutely wonderful. And thanks for giving my white bean hummus a whirl! Your rendition sounds terrific.

Dawna said...

Molly, I was amazed that I didn't even feel tired after all that - far greater than my usual output, I assure you! Of course, the thing about baking bread is that while it takes a while, the actual work is fairly minimal. I use the recipe from Claudia Roden's "The Book of Jewish Food" as my starting point. It's a terrific recipe - very dependable - although I find that the bread rises much more quickly than indicated (possibly because I have a very warm kitchen). The combination of easy and impressive is too much to resist!