When I was a kid, my father liked to joke that the vegetables on our dinner plates were rabbit food. “What’s this rabbit food doing on here?,” he would say with a smile. Anytime I eat a salad plump full of carrots, beets, radishes, and the like, I think fondly of my dad kidding around with us. Putting together the mixture for these seeded crackers, I thought back to those nights and imagined him comparing the batter to a sprinkling of bird seed. Sarah Wilson calls the crackers “Meal-In-A-Biscuit,” I assume thanks to the high protein content from the seeds and nut meal, which also give them that great texture and look. Her recipe calls for chia seeds, but those aren’t easily found in Berlin, so I swapped in flax meal. The genius here, is you can use whichever seeds and nut meal you have on hand.
They may look like they should adorn your tree as a treat for bluebirds, but these crackers are quite tasty, super easy to make, and remarkably similar to those found at many health food stores. I flavored my batch with a combination of ginger, garlic, and dulse flakes, a dried seaweed, which I steeped for a few minutes in the water to help impart flavor, but you can really mix it up with whatever you’d like. Sarah suggests fresh herbs, and I imagine a mixture of lemon zest and chili pepper would also be delicious. These are great for snacking, for a picnic or hike, or for an hors d’oeuvres for dinner parties. Serve with mashed avocado, nut butter, or dips. I whipped up a batch of zucchini hummus to go with mine—just add roasted zucchini to a basic hummus recipe.
When you start baking bread regularly, you end up with a lot of extras, from stale end pieces to the loaf that doesn’t turn out quite right. I’ve saved these bits in our freezer for a rainy day project, breadcrumbs or stuffing or the like. This week’s chilly, wet weather had me in the mood for a nice comfort meal, and I thought of the bread pudding I often made when I was a pastry chef, turning scraps of muffins, cake, and brioche into a sweet treat for coworkers.
This savory version is a great use-up-what-you-have dish; I’ve mixed together some leftover roast chicken, sautéed spinach, and garlic, but the idea will work with whatever vegetables you have on hand. The sauce is a simple combination of milk, egg, and grated cheese, and most hard rind varieties will work. The dish also freezes well, so you can save a few portions for those days when you need a quick dinner.
Bread, a simple combination of flour and water that sustains life. And lately it’s been sustaining me. I came down with a nasty stomach bug last weekend and since then, all I’ve been craving is the simple flavor of bread. But not any bread—this deliciously tangy sourdough.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that Malin and her Bread Exchange inspired me to bake bread last year, but my starter never took off. This year, thanks to a very active sourdough starter brought here all the way from California, I’ve had many successes. At first I tried the all around favorite, Chad Robertson’s Tartine method. Baking bread is soothing. Tartine’s version includes an initial overnight resting (a poolish), and then several hours of occasional stretching and folding. It’s peaceful and restorative work. But baking bread can take all day and sometimes you just can’t devote all day to bread. I was happy with my Tartine-style loaves but I needed a less time intensive method.
Then I stumbled on a sourdough version of Mark Bittman’s no-knead method. The recipe is basically just a baked poolish, the Tartine recipe without the folding steps the next day. Although the dough was quite wet when it went into the oven, it came out with a nice thick, dark crust, and wonderful sour crumb. While I’m sure very savvy bread testers could tell the difference in flavor, I’m happy with this low key technique. I can put together the ingredients the night before and wake up to bake bread before I leave the house in the morning. If I time it right, I can even have a nibble of still slightly warm bread for breakfast. Perfect!