Tuesday, November 15, 2016

In Need of Comfort Food

Potato & Leek Soup with Garlic & Sage Sourdough

6-7 new red potatoes, chopped
3 leeks, sliced
2-3 carrots, sliced
bunch of celery stalks, sliced
bunch of kale, sliced 
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2-3 tbs olive oil
2 quarts vegetable stock + water if needed
3 tbs sage, sliced
crushed red pepper (a lot for my personal preference)
fresh black pepper
fresh squeezed lemon
salt (a lot of salt...)

Garlic & Sage Sourdough
add fresh chopped garlic and sage to country sourdough

Make your vegetable stock ahead of time (recipe below). Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add garlic and leeks and sauté until fragrant. Add celery and carrots and sauté a few minutes more. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Add potatoes and bring back to a simmer until the potatoes are tender. Add kale, salt, pepper, lemon juice and crushed red pepper flakes and take off the heat. 

Toast the garlic and sage sourdough. Serve on the side.

Potatoes, leeks, celery, kale, and sage are all thanks to the Field Museum garden.

Vegetable Stock
4 quarts water
tops, ends & discards of carrots, leeks, onions, garlic, celery, etc.
parmesan rind
whole black peppercorns
whole coriander 
bay leaf

Big pot, bring to a boil, 2 or so hours, you get the idea. Strain. Use or freeze. 

We've finished the last harvest of the season in the Field Museum garden. Between the Cubs winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years and the recent election it has been both a historical and an emotional time in Chicago, and I think it's fair to say some comfort food is well deserved. For me that means something salty, spicy and brothy. It's also a good time to recognize how important things like the community garden truly are. My own garden has been somewhere between mild success and total neglect depending on the year, and the community garden allows me to partake in growing a much larger variety of organic fruits, vegetables and herbs than I have been able to tackle on my own. It has allowed me the opportunity to connect with others that I may not interact with on a daily basis, and also allows me much a much needed break every so often from the confinement of the office or the ongoing stress that accompanies hard work. This garden is just one piece of a much larger network of community gardens in Chicago supported by organizations like The Peterson Garden Project and Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA) and I truly thank those who have been fighting to make these opportunities possible and hope to be able to involve myself more moving forward. After all, we're all in this together. Now for a hot bowl of brothy soup and some toasted bread.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

From the Start(er)

Almost exactly two years ago I was gifted a sourdough starter. A little less than one year ago I was crazy enough to try to start my own. Amazingly, it worked. Since then I have ditched all commercial yeast, and have found a new love for my free time. Free time that I currently have very little of. Free time that to my happy surprise, a few people around me have decided deserves a little baking as well.

It's really just flour, water and air. The first two mixed in equal parts (1/2 c of flour, 1/2 c of water), and left for the natural world to do its magic 
(with the help of lactobacillus and yeast)

I've read through and tested a few recipes along the way. The dream of having the time (and/or attention span) to tend to turns is still just a dream. I do the best with what I have now, which is a 13-14 hour window, and very little attention. If I can, I'll get creative, which will be mainly what I share here, but I feel it would be wrong to not show the basic country sourdough the respect it deserves. Here's what works for me:

3 1/2 c white flour
1 1/2 c warm water
1/2 c starter (unfed)
1 1/2 tsp salt

Dilute the starter in the water. Add the flour and the salt and mix with your hands until it comes together. Cover it with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and leave it alone for 10ish hours in a room temp-warm place. A longer fermentation in the refrigerator also works. Once it's doubled in size, turn it onto a floured towel (gluten free or rice flour prevents sticking), shape it into a ball by pulling the corners up and over itself, and place in a bowl or basket. Cover it with a kitchen towel for another 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Preheat your oven to 500 with a cast iron dutch oven inside. When ready to bake, flip the dough into the cast iron, remove the towel, score the top, and bake with lid on at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes take the lid off and reduce heat to 450 for another 15 minutes. Cool on a rack and enjoy.

As much as I love elaborate and challenging recipes, there is something to be said about enjoying the simple things. A good grilled cheese. Toast with apricot jam or apple butter. Toasted with olive oil, salt and garlic. And all from a little flour, water and air.  

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