small good things, big good things

Good things make life good. Some of the good things are small, some of the good things are big, and all of the good things are good.

- fresh-baked anadama bread, fragrant with molasses, chewy with oats and whole wheat, and hot from the oven. I love the way it fills the whole apartment with its rich, wholesome scent.

- wrapping Christmas presents, which gives me a marvelous calm feeling of accomplishment. And the penguin wrapping paper I picked up at Local Surplus & Salvage Shop is pretty darned cheery.

- snow! Granted, by the time I got outside in it, it was just lashings of cold and wet, but still: SNOW!

- hot tea with milk and the faintest lacing of sugar.

- anadama bread again, because it’s just that good. Also, because I’m making a second batch already.

- bright red coarse-weave fabric (also from Local Surplus & Salvage Shop) for reupholstering the Danish modern chairs Gaoo gave me. (She rescued them from the junk pile at our parents’ old house, so they’re endearingly familiar, too.)

- Nick Hornby’s About A Boy.

- The sweetest husband in the world, who knows me inside out and upside-down and who loves me with all my flaws.

topsy turvy stuffed squash

Every year, our referral logs show that visitors arrive at macbebekin searching for vegetarian-friendly Thanksgiving dishes. (And sometimes not-so-vegetarian-friendly Thanksgiving searches end up here, too.) Last year, I jotted down some tips and suggestions for a vegetarian-friendly holiday table, and in the same entry I outlined our proposed Thanksgiving menu, which centered around The Fella’s gorgeous roasted butternut squash galettes.

This year, I have one more vegetarian Thanksgiving entree to suggest, and boy howdy, it’s a doozy! Inspired by The Kitchn’s rendition of Dorie Greenspan’s stuffed squash, I whipped up a vegetarian version of my own. You’ll notice that the recipe at the link includes bacon, but don’t get hung up on that: the key here is the technique, not the ingredients.

I’ve never been a fan of baked stuffed squash, which too often comes out of the oven pallid and limp, slumping and drooling its thin juices onto the plate. But this simple, brilliant idea turns that bland, pale stuffed squash on its head — literally. The trick: hollow out the squash and fill it with cheesy, bready, aromatic stuffing…

And then flip it upside-down to bake.

Elsa's topsy turvy stuffed squash

It’s so simple and so obvious: get the stuffing in contact with the pan, let the oven’s heat and the roasting pan’s surface work their alchemy upon the ingredients. Here’s a photo of the squash halves, one still resting in the pan, the other flipped up to show off the crispy underside. As you can see, cooking them face-down results in tender roasted squash with a deeply browned, richly crisped crust over creamy soft stuffing.

The fabulous contrast in textures and flavors makes this a dish you’ll groan over. Our dinnertime last night was a chorus of “OOOOOH”s and “AAAAAAH”s and other, less polite expressions of delight. I urge you, urge you, to try this topsy-turvy stuffed squash soon. Continue reading

the Ploobwich

The Bitwrathploob has sampled sandwiches around the world, but that doesn’t mean he turns up his battered red replacement nose at humble homemade fare.

During this weekend’s Sandwich Party, Ploobie and I enjoyed this easy, cozy meal: a hot sandwich of cheddar and tomato on beer bread, served with a brimming bowl of simple black bean soup. Continue reading

beer bread

Mmmm, beeeeeer bread. This savory quick bread goes together lickety-split. Just mix the dry ingredients, stir in the beer, plop it in the pan with some butter on top, and bake it until it’s crusty and fragrant. So good, so simple, so darned fast!

With all these virtues to recommend it, beer bread shows up on our table often, cozying up to soup or salad or frittata, but this weekend you can expect to see it in a simple (and crumbly!) sandwich for the Sandwich Party.

The recipe from Epicurious makes a very tasty loaf of bread with a heady aroma, but I’ve adapted it slightly. A touch less sugar and butter and a heartier mixture of flours brings out the subtle flavor of wheat along with the tang of beer. Continue reading

puffed up

I spent part of yesterday and most of today grousing — or, more accurately, trying not to grouse, which is of course a lot more exhausting — about little things, dumb things, immaterial things that even I don’t care about. For example, this afternoon I walked into the room where The Fella was peacefully reading his book, put my hands on my hips, and opened with “Can I just point out one more problem with Lost?”

This is the level of irrational irritation I’m talking about.

And when I look back over the week, I see that I must have unconsciously anticipated this mood: as early as Friday, I planned to spend a couple of hours this weekend making pita bread… because I needed a recipe that would ever so subtly compound my bad mood, a recipe that is just a liiiiiiiiittle bit time-consuming, just a liiiiiiiiittle bit finicky, and that I have never ever managed to perform correctly. I’ve made pita bread a dozen times, and though the little flat rounds always taste fine, they never puff and separate enough to make a fully distinct pocket. In short, this is a recipe designed to make me grouchy. Grouchier.

But it’s amazing how one small success will buoy my mood. I peeked into the oven and squealed “It’s puffing! It’s puffing!” In amazement, I watched the little loaf balloon and lift itself off the baking stone… and as it floated up up up, so did my spirits.

Thanksgiving at home

It’s official: this year, The Fella and I are celebrating Thanksgiving at home, just the two of us. We’re having a modest vegetarian feast, and because many omnivores wonder what the hell to serve to vegetarians at traditional holiday meals, I thought I’d outline our menu here. Continue reading

Breaded bliss

Zopf
It doesn’t have to be Sunday around here to make the traditional Swiss Sunday bread, Zopf. JM has pretty much mastered the recipe (he is my bread machine) and makes it everywhere we go. It’s wonderful alone or with jams and butter. I ignore the warnings of my in-laws and even eat it warm from the oven which they swear causes stomach ache (none yet for me). They don’t know what they’re missing! Mmm.
And for those of you who want to learn how to braid a Zopf JM found a demonstration you’re sure to enjoy, more so if you can speak Swiss.