'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free;
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be;
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
- Traditional Shaker song
There's something about a wintry night that puts me in mind of simple food and simple pleasures. As an unusually mild winter nears its end in these parts, a short spell of brisk weather with gusts and flurries was more than sufficient to prompt me to fashion a simple meal of soup and bread.
I love to bake bread, and I mean the old-fashioned way, getting my hands and arms up to the elbows in flour, water and yeast. But time constraints being what they are, I rarely want to spare the time that most traditional breads require, so I'm constantly on the lookout for short-cuts and recipes that minimize the time from flour to loaf.
Until now, the quickest good, simple bread recipe I've found has been James Beard's Cuban Bread (see link to recipe below), which can be telescoped into 2 1/2 hours if you push it. So I was truly delighted to run across an even quicker yeast bread from a seemingly unlikely ethnic cuisine in an unexpected location: Madhur Jaffrey's new "World Vegetarian" (a recent addition to my library that I've been using a lot lately) offers a recipe for a remarkably tasty yeast flatbread from Morocco. Reduced and slightly modified to make a generous loaf for two, it's a fluffy white bread with a crispy crust, laced with sweet sesame and aromatic fennel seeds, that doesn't need much more than 1 hour from start to finish.
Meanwhile, a bulb of celeriac, a couple of potatoes, a leek and some garlic were all I needed to throw together a luscious, "creamy" soup (without an ounce of cream) that made a perfect companion to warm bread on a blustery night.
Simple gifts? Who NEEDS fancy?
For my recipes published earlier on a bean soup and Cuban bread dinner, see
for an orchestrated schedule that gets bread and soup to the table together.
The bread recipe alone is at
Since the bread takes a little more than an hour, with most of the work at the beginning, it makes sense to fashion the bread first, then work on the soup while the bread rises and bakes.
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1. Put 1/4 cup warm water into a warmed measuring cup and stir in the sugar; sprinkle on the yeast and stir with a fork until it's dissolved. Set aside for about five minutes until it's bubbly. Meanwhile ...
2. Put the flour in a mixing bowl and stir in the salt, sesame seeds and fennel seeds. Make a hole in the middle of the flour and, when the yeast mixture is bubbly, pour it in. Stir while adding additional warm water, a little at a time, until the flour becomes a rough dough. It shouldn't take much more than another 1/2 cup of water. Put the dough ball on a floured counter top or wooden surface and knead, flattening it and folding it and adding small amounts of extra flour if necessary, for 5 or 10 minutes or until it makes a smooth ball.
3. Then pour a little peanut oil on a smooth surface (I used the counter top) and roll the dough ball around on it, flattening it gently into a flattened circle about 1/2 inch thick - much like a pizza. Gently lift this round onto a baking sheet lightly dusted with corn meal. Using a sharp knife, gently score the top with light cuts about 1/2 inch apart, making a criss-cross pattern like a checker board. Cover the dough with a soft cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, while pre-heating your oven to 400F.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until it's a dark golden brown and makes a hollow sound when you tap it. Remove from the oven, let it cool a little, break or cut it into wedges and serve warm.This week's recipes: Celeriac soup
Celeriac is said to be commonplace in much of Northern Europe, but it has been a rarity around here until recently. I've already learned to love it, though, finding that there's a delicious heart beneath that muddy, nasty looking rough brown exterior. Carve off the rind and you've got a clean, crisp white root that looks something like a cross between a potato and turnip, with a fresh aroma and flavor that demonstrates its kinship with the celery family. I blended it with potatoes and leeks to make a quick, thick soup.
1 medium size celeriac (about 8 ounces)
2 small baking potatoes
1 large clove garlic
1 ounce butter
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Walnut oil (optional)
1. Peel the celeriac and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. Place them in a bowl with about 2 cups water. Peel and cube the potatoes in similar fashion and put them in the same bowl of water.
2. Wash the leek and cut off and discard the root end and the coarse green portion. Thinly slice the white part. Peel and finely mince the garlic.
3. Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan, and cook the leeks and garlic in it until they're translucent and soft but not browning. Add the salt, white pepper and cumin. Stir together, and add the celeriac and potatoes and their water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 30 minutes. (If you put your bread in the oven at this point, everything should come out at about the same time.)
4. About five minutes before serving time, coarsely mash the contents of the soup pot with a potato masher or fork, then blend it into a smooth puree with a hand-held blender or mixer. Check for salt and pepper and adjust if necessary, then hold over very low heat until the bread is ready.
5. Serve in wide, shallow bowls. Garnish with chopped scallions and, if you like, drizzle on about 1 teaspoon of walnut oil.
MATCHING WINE: I confess: I didn't serve wine with this meal. We had a nice late-bottled vintage Port on hand (the 1995 Ramos Pinto featured in today's 30 Second Wine Advisor) to enjoy afterward as the winter winds rattled the branches outside; and to be honest, even to this certified wine lover, the meal didn't cry out for wine. But had I decided to have wine with it, I would have thought along the lines of an off-dry German Riesling, an Austrian Gruner Veltliner, or an earthy sparkling Vouvray made from Chenin Blanc.Emeril Sweepstake: The winners!
Thanks to all of you who entered the "Emeril's Missing Ingredient Sweepstake" on WineLoversPage.com during the past month. We had hundreds of entries, most of you correctly identifying each week's missing ingredient (and many of you coming up with thoughtful, creative or just plain funny comments). I wish we could have had enough prizes to let everybody have one!
Instead, though, we resorted to the traditional random-draw technique from among those who got the missing ingredient correctly. For the record, here's each week's recipe, with the correct missing ingredient, and the names of the winners:
Week One: Emerilized Pilau. The missing ingredient was yellow onions. The winner, Samuel Morgenstein from Ontario, will receive Emeril Lagasse's new cookbook "Prime Time Emeril" with his autograph.
Week Two: Spiced Baked Ham with Sweet Potatoes. Missing ingredient was Cayenne. Winner Frank Anello of Missouri will receive "Prime Time Emeril" with autograph.
Week Three: Mississippi Mud Cake. The missing item was Bourbon. Winner Jacq May of Texas will receive "Prime Time Emeril" with autograph.
Week Four: Cherry and White Chocolate Bread Pudding. The official missing item was cinnamon, but since our editors (that's right, blame the editor) also left out bread, we accepted either or both answers as correct. Winner Kevin Fraley of California will receive a complete set of Emeril's five cookbooks including "Prime Time Emeril" with autograph.
Finally, three participants who submitted correct answers won special bonus prizes: CL Mays from Ohio gets a supply of Emeril's "Kick It Up!" green pepper sauce; Mike Dougherty of Virginia wins a ration of Emeril's "Kick It Up!" red pepper sauce, and Richard Smith, also from Ohio, will receive a variety of Emeril's Essence spices.
I'll be sending out the prizes as soon as we receive a couple of missing prizes from our co-sponsors at www.Emerils.com. We will also keep the recipes online for a while; you can find them at http://www.wineloverspage.com/emeril/index.phtml.
Thanks to all who participated, and congratulations to the winners!Let us hear from you!
If you have suggestions or comments about The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter, if you have suggestions or comments about the direction we're headed, or if you would like to suggest a topic for a coming edition and recipe, please drop me a note. I really enjoy hearing from you, and I try to give a personal reply to all mail if I possibly can. The Ask A Question form at http://www.wineloverspage.com/ask_a_question.phtml is the easiest way to reach me, but if you prefer, you may also send E-mail to email@example.com.Administrivia
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Thursday, Feb. 28, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
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