Month: April 2011

Czech Easter Bread or It Tastes Like Spring

Czech Easter Bread or It Tastes Like Spring

   

Travel creates opportunities for brief blogs, my friends.   So here are the pics/recipe for the Czech Easter bread, which was huge, crusty,  and tender with a bit of a lemon feel.  Studded with golden and black raisins, as well as apricots (my additions-no citron to be found), it was only a tish sweet.  Fine with Easter dinner.  Also lovely for any holiday at all.  Sorry it didn’t get posted until AFTER Easter, but here it is in its glory.

Czech Easter Bread

Makes 1 large loaf Czech Easter Cake or Velikonoční Bochánek

Mixing in the fruit
Before the addition of the last 2 cups of flour

 

Get all the flour in

Prep Time: 1 hour Cook Time: 1 hour Total Time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup scalded milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup sugar (or less, to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 large room-temperature eggs, beaten
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup golden or dark raisins
  • 1/2 cup blanched sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup chopped citron (I subbed 2t grated Meyer lemon rind and 1/3 c chopped dried apricots)
  • Topping:
  • 1 large room-temperature egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons blanched sliced almonds
  • Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Add butter, sugar and salt to scalded milk. Stir to combine and let cool to lukewarm.
  • Place yeast and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and, with the paddle attachment, stir until dissolved. Add lukewarm milk mixture and 2 eggs and combine.
  • Add 3 cups flour and beat with the paddle until smooth. Add the raisins, almonds, citron, and remaining flour and mix, 3 to 5 minutes until smooth. Dough will be sticky.
  • Place dough in greased bowl. Turn over and cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double, about 1 hour. See this Quick Tip for faster rising.
  • Punch down dough and turn out onto lightly floured board. Knead a few minutes and shape into a large round loaf. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.
Use bread flour
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush bread with 1 beaten egg. Cut a cross in top of loaf with scissors and sprinkle entire surface with almonds. Bake 15 minutes, reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake 30-45 minutes or until instant-read temperature registers 190 degrees. Let cool completely before slicing. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before cutting, if desired.

Recipe courtesy About.com

 

 

 

 

 

Two-Dog or Two-Cardinal Kitchen

Ok, we’re out of the kitchen.  For now.

 

How long are you going to bake bread, Mom?

 

My kissin’ Cardinals feeding one another outside the kitchen window.

 

 

 

Front yard.  Ah, Spring!
Easing on into Easter or It Snowed on my Lilac Buds

Easing on into Easter or It Snowed on my Lilac Buds

Pork Tenderloin, Couscous and Sauteed Vegetables with Balsamic Fig Sauce

 Wherever I’ve lived, with the exception of San Antonio, there has been freak weather like snow on Halloween and Easter.  (Is it really freak?)  My own memories of Easter just south of Chicago are not necessarily warm and beautiful, but neither are they freezing with snow.  Perhaps I misremember.  But my kids’ Easter (and Halloween) photos show a yearly progression from clown to Easter lily all in a background of white.

This year may prove no different.

Here’s this morning’s view.

Doesn’t look like it’ll stay for long.  Below:  lilac trees ( no bushes in my yard) in frozen bud
 

 Below:   What they should (and will again) look like.

Coming up on Palm Sunday, this Sunday, I always know that while it’s just a week until Easter, it’s also forever.  This might come from my years as a director of church music.  For two reasons:  1.  The time spent preparing the music for 4-6 services within one week is a learning experience.  Sometimes it includes a Lenten cantata.  It always includes a humdinger of an Easter anthem.  If ever you’re going to pull out all the stops (and that’s literally here), this is the time.  2.  You’re right there, living it all.  The lyrics to from Palm or Passion Sunday through Easter are not just powerful, they are both life-giving and life-changing.

I will send the Holy Spirit to you….  He’ll remind you all the things that I’ve said and—–I will always be with you.

Each pastor I worked with had different favorite Holy Week texts, so every year I’d read them and every year I knew them better (that’s not to say well). And while I knew the differences between the gospels (ok, this year the text has one angel; we can’t do THAT song where there are TWO), I’m not sure I understood them any better for it.  I did, though, become more thoughtful about how and why it all happened.  I had more time than most to consider what the disciples did all day on Friday or what the weight of that stone might be.  Your mind runs around as a sacred musician.   You’re the dreamer.  I knew that my faithful folks had one combined vision/story of the week.  Some couldn’t handle it and opted out of Thursday or Friday night services.  They liked going from the palms to the lilies.  That broke my heart.  Because without the hopeful meal teaching a new commandment on Thursday, the frightful heart-breaking cold of Friday, and the long looking of Saturday, we have no flowery bonnets, alleluia music, egg hunt or brunch.  We have no life, no plan, no nothing, nada, zip, zero, zap.

   

What?  No chocolate?**

Pork Tenderloin with Couscous, Sauteed Vegetables and Balsamic Fig Sauce 
  Serves 6 (divide or multiply)
Couscous:
2 boxes couscous (olive oil and garlic variety)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup raisins

Pork:
3 pork tenderloins
3 cloves of garlic, slivered
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6T olive oil, divided

Vegetables:
2 medium eggplant
2 each:  sweet yellow and red pepper
2 large red onions, cut into 1/8s
12 oz button mushrooms
2 each:  zucchini and yellow squash
Sauce:
6T fig jam (often in the cheese section of a good grocery)
4T balsamic vinegar (or more to taste–be careful)
3T white wine (can use lemon juice instead)
  1. Make couscous basically according to package directions, but first saute the onion in a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the raisins, the water…etc.  Cover to keep warm after done. Set aside.   Later, fluff with a fork and grind a little pepper over the top for garnish.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Heat a large grill pan, roasting pan or the bbq grill* to medium high.   Meantime,   brush the meat with oil and make 10-12 slits (fairly evenly) on each of the three pork tenderloins.  Insert a sliver of garlic into each slit.  Salt and pepper well.
  4. Grill the pork for 4-5 minutes over high heat.  Turn; repeat. Remove from stove and place pan in oven.  (You can take meat from grill pan and put it in a large casserole even.)  Let meat cook until instant meat thermometer reads 150 for medium-rare, 155 for medium and 160 for done.  Remove from oven and cover lightly with foil  Let rest 5-10 minutes.
  5. Meantime (or ahead), in a large skillet (or two large skillets), saute vegetables in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Season well with salt and pepper, but don’t add other herbs here unless you just have to.  (The can fight with the fig sauce.)  If your vegetables are done before the meat, you can re-heat briefly in the pan(s).
  6. Alternately, you can roast these vegetables in the oven on a half-sheet pan ahead of time and reheat them while the meat rests. 
  7. Make fig sauce:  In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients.  Drizzle over meat at serving time. 
  8. * If you decide to grill, brown the meat well and then lower the heat and cover until done.   
What else?
A small salad?  Some cheese?  Someone brings rolls or bread? Definitely deviled eggs!  If no one will make a bunny cake, buy a great cheesecake and call it Easter.  Keep it festive and thoughtful.  Some Easter grass and a few eggs on the table are quick decorations.  You might also want to make my carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and jellie bellies.


The link there is for my article on examiner.com, which doesn’t give my recipe for carrot cake, but provides for other options.  My own cake and frosting is right here on the blog, of course.

Wine?  I like a Syrah here.  Go California; the prices on California Syrahs are great right now.  Qupe is luscious and inexpensive.  If you want to spend a bit more, get the phone now and quickly order some Cristom Syrah (only the ’07 is left) and tell them to quick-ship, if possible.  The Cristom will be less fruity, spicier and will assuredly have more pepper.
I’ll be thinking of you this week, as we all make this trip without skipping one piece of scenery and then sing a new song,
Alyce 
**Chocolate bunny pic: courtesy Twice Pix
And this year, in some ways, is no different.  I don’t have a choir to prepare (and I miss every one always), I have myself.  This year, again, I’m reading THE LAST WEEK by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan.  I’ll be in worship tomorrow thinking about how Jesus appeared to the woman on the street.  Sitting on a donkey.  Or why people still stripped off their clothes and threw them down in front of him.  And then I’ll begin the long walk of Holy week.

Oh, dear:  did you come here for a recipe?  This one’s sooo simple; I promise.  It’s great for two, but is easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled or whatever.  Get someone else to bring the deviled eggs and the bunny cake.  You’ve got Easter dinner covered.
 
"Egg Salad" or Ah Gotta Code in mah Noz and TIME

"Egg Salad" or Ah Gotta Code in mah Noz and TIME

Egg Salad #2

 Living in a new place can do a lot of things to you.  You might retreat into comfortable behaviors and forms of communication. You might call your old friends every day. (Or you might want to.) You might surround  yourself with things that you know.  You might cook meals that are soft and warm.  Or not.  You might just take this opportunity to start anew.  I’ve done it all a bit.  For one, I’ve made chicken and noodles or chicken noodle soup three times in the last week, attempting to get a perfect recipe for a one hour meal.  I posted the first attempt here, but I continue.  The most recent (with boneless, skinless chicken thighs) is on examiner, for which I just included a link.   I’ve also made new and perfectly crisp AND soft  salads, replete with poached eggs.  Textures, textures.

Egg Salad #1–in examiner article

Newest attempt….Truly done in under an hour.  Way under if you use the food processor.

Being in St. Paul is a joyous venture and adventure.   Every day is something new, but that might be because it’s spring.  The icebergs have almost melted unless you live on the south side of the street!  The yard is waking up day by day.  Nothing’s in bloom (crocus blooms at the neighbors), but the bulbs are peeking their little heads up.

I couldn’t wait and bought these at the market.

 The birds, as I told our realtor, are nuts.   The previous owners fed them, and I’m continuing the insane practice.  Soon I know I’ll have thousands of little Jack Sparrows, Woody Woodpeckers, and “My Little Chickadees” flying around my kitchen windows.  I know this because I see the little biddies chomping around with bits of twigs and grass in their mouths.  I know what’s happening out there.  I have two jays who pop in, grab peanuts and depart making noises a little like Groucho Marx.  They are not sociable like the sparrows, who argue and kibitz at the trough all day long like old men in the coffee shop.  Not flighty like the chickadees who are easily scared off. (Boo!)  Not jealous like the male cardinal, who, until yesterday, wouldn’t share the feeder with anyone–not even his wife.  Yesterday, I did see him sharing and wanted to give him a little “high five.”

Jack Sparrow and friends in the side yard if you look carefully.
Girl cardinal mixing it up with the sparrows.

  I have very little around me that belongs to me.  I feel light.   While I have a decent percentage of my kitchen in  place (but not appliances I’m used to), I don’t have furniture that has my butt imprinted on it.  I have few clothes, which means laundry is simple.  There’s no piano here; no practicing.  My time is definitely my own; I have no job except for writing cooking articles for examiner.com in St. Paul.  The rooms of the house are pretty empty; I sweep them with a broom.  Wipe up the bathrooms and kitchen and I’m done with housework.  Hm.  

I didn’t bring one of these.

 In other words, I have time for dog walks. I often read a blog called, “Don’t Eat Alone” (you can find it on my blog roll to the right) by a guy named Milton Brasher-Cunningham in Durham, North Carolina.  There’s a great post this week about walking. I think it was Barbara Brown Taylor who called it, “the spiritual exercise of putting one foot in front of the other.”

“Come on, Mom.”

   Time to listen to Minnesota Public Radio ad infinitum, where I hear things I’ve never had time to hear before. (Chanticleer singing Ralph Vaughn Williams’ version of “Loch Lomond” for one.)  I hike on down the grocery (ok, it’s a block and a half) if I need an onion or a piece of meat.  (They have a great butcher counter and lovely butcher named Daniel.)  If I’m feeling flush, I mosey on over to Whole Foods (four blocks) or Coastal Seafood (four blocks) for fish or organic blueberries.  Time.

I’m told “Goof Off” gets paint off wood.  Right.

 I’m painting my office.  Slowly.   It’s Pepto Bismol pink and it’s on its way to becoming a whiter shade of pale.  I think it’s called “moss” and, really, it’s kind of a dusty teal.  In my next life, I’d like to be the person who plays timpani (only in the orchestra, thank you) or writes paint names. Either will do.  If I named this paint, it would be “a greener Robin’s egg blue”, which is why I don’t write paint names.

A local office designer is working on the furniture for my office and he sent me a chart of colors from which to choose the colors of my cabinets.  There are 25 colors, clearly visible, but the names are not legible over the computer.  I was so down.  I don’t know if I got Brackish Water or Dusty Sunset. 

Painting in an old house (ours is nearly 100 years old) is a physical and spiritual experience.  It’s a great way to get to know your house intimately.  Every wave in the wall.  Every slant in the floor.  (My office floor makes me tilt my head.)  Every color that went before.  Well, not every.  In fact, before the Pepto Bismol pink, that room was a LOVELY shade of water-filled, pale green.  I’m getting to know the carpenter who cut the wood for the door and window frames so long ago.  How perfect and meticulous he was (I’m safe in saying a he in 1911 maybe) with the available tools.  Did he know how long his doors would hold up?  Or that I would try so hard to not get paint on the windowsills?

There’s just something incredibly wonderful about being able to paint in the spring with the windows open and the music playing.  Spending the day with your hair in a bandana (shades of 1971), concentrating so hard on getting the green over the pink.  Hearing the street noises and trying to decipher them without looking.  Eating lunch on the the back steps in your sweatpants and the hub’s old black t-shirt full of paint smears.  Scrubbing the brushes at night, hoping they’ll dry by morning.   Living.

I just finished GOAT SONG by Brad Kessler, who has a lot to say about living.  Simply, GOAT SONG is a book about a guy and his wife (not so much about the wife) who leave New York behind and move to Vermont to raise a small herd of goats.  Now while that story sounds likely, simple, bona fide, and typical, it is, however, none of those.  Brad Kessler not only wants a different life, he claims it in a far-reaching, thoughtful and thought-provoking manner.   He’s a fine, fine writer.  He’s an historian and a spiritual guide.  He’s a cook.  He’s a cheese maker.  He looks at one hundred pieces of land before he chooses one.  He buys goats and brings them home in the car.  He falls in love with his goats and, while he teaches us the history of goat herding, we, too, fall in love.   The goats, in turn, fall in love with him.  He travels to France to learn goat cheese-making first hand and gets around to doing something tres, tres beautiful with that milk.  Because Brad only buys girl goats and if they have any boy goats, they get sold.  And that doesn’t begin to tell the story. What I mean is:  I have time to read.

I just started BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER:  The Inadvertant Education of a Reluctant Chef by  (Chef) Gabrielle Hamilton–just as good of a read, though light years away from Brad Kessler.  In common, they have a love of the land, our world, and food.  Sick as a dog with a wretched spring cold, I could not put down this book and fell asleep with it in my arms. Time.

If you came here for a recipe, I suppose I’d better give it to you.  This is a light lunch or first course for dinner done in 5-10 minutes.  Sweet and filling.  Crunchy and soft.  Make extra dressing and keep in the frig.  Note:  Dressing keeps longer without the shallots or onions.  And you can skip the dressing totally if you make the egg quite soft (runny) and use that as dressing.

“Egg Salad #2”  serves 2

4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
2 small tomatoes, sliced (Try the Mexican “brown” tomatoes–tasty and cheaper.)
2 carrots, sliced
1/4 c minced parsley
1/2 English cucumber, cut into thin half-moons
1t fresh lemon juice
2 poached eggs (slide raw eggs, each in a cup, into barely simmering water for 3-4 minutes til white is firm)

Dressing:  1 T balsamic vinegar, healthy pinch each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, 1t minced shallot or garlic, optional, 1/2 t honey, 1/4 t dijon-style mustard, 2T extra-virgin olive oil–Whisk salt into vinegar.  Whisk in all else, though drizzle in 1T olive oil at a time, being sure it’s incorporated well before adding the second,)

  1. Divide greens and vegetables between two large shallow bowls.  Drizzle equally with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Top with well-drained egg and drizzle with dressing.
  3. Serve with a piece of hot, buttered whole wheat toast.

 Sing a new song and enjoy spring,
Alyce 

P.S.  I’ve come to realize a lot of my readers are from countries where English is NOT a first language.  I welcome you all, but hope you’re not trying to learn English from my blog!  I speak a little Spanish  (Hola, Que tal?) and less German (Wie gehts?)… and even less French (Mais oui!) Anyway, know that I’m aware and am grateful for your presence. I’d love to hear from any of you.  If you write in your own languages, I can figure out a translation.  But do write me–especially if you try the recipes!  Bon chance, mes amis.