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Archive for the ‘breakfast items’ Category

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I’ve got a pumpkin post happening here, something just a little bit different, and I’m going to do it without talk about that ubiquitous harbinger of autumn – pumpkin spice. Nope, instead I’m going to work in something better, something more interesting – five spice powder. As for the pumpkin, I’m going beyond the ever present can of puree, beyond the jack-o-lantern and roast a real pumpkin, in nice pretty chunks and put it on top of oatmeal. Yeah, I’m pushing oatmeal too. Oh, it’s getting a little crazy around here.

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I’ve been doing quite a bit of recipe development work lately which is great but there is always the same end result: piles of random, leftover ingredients. The bags and boxes are open so I can’t donate them to the food pantry and it’s often too much for me to work through, knowing the next assignment is coming down the pike with even more stuff. In fact today, the FedEx guy delivered a 15 pound box of even more stuff from a client. Of the 9 things in the box, I really only need 2 of them and I’m not really sure why their light brown sugar is better or different than the brown sugar I have. But it is not for me to decide these things; I’ll use it at some point. The 5 pounds of lecithin, I’m not so sure. I’ve joked with my friends that when this round is over I’m going to have a pop-up grocery store in my dining room. Half filled bags of stuff for cheap! Kathy’s Store of Cheap Random Crap. C’mon down!

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Due to my career choices and wonderful friends, I am often the lucky recipient of some good things. Most of these good things, again due to the above, are food. And booze. I am gifted a lot of booze but that’s another story for another day. Right now both my freezers are completely packed and most of it is pork. Neatly wrapped and labeled packages of really good, farm raised pork. Not long ago, I was digging around and deep amongst these neat little white packages were three good-sized pieces of pork belly, that delicious cut we often know as bacon. I needed to make some room fast so I threw one of those bellies in the fridge to defrost while I thought about what to do. There really was no question. It was going to become bacon. In addition to being delicious, homemade bacon is incredibly easy. After a week long cure, I didn’t feel like firing up the smoker and babysitting a temperature gage all day so I did something I’d never done before: I baked the cured belly. And it was amazing.

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I had two pressing matters last week. First, I needed to make some space in my freezer, which was packed to the gills. Second, I needed a coffeecake. The situation I was facing was not an unusual one in my world; I was helping two friends, one a butcher and one a photographer, with a photoshoot. They had procured a big, beautiful pig and over the course of two busy days were going to break down (i.e. butcher into various cuts) and photograph the beast. Hence my needs: I knew I’d be coming home with a lot of beautiful pork and nowhere to put it and I knew with no budget, there would be no lush breakfast funded by a paying client. As happens with weekend shoots, we’d be tired and hungry, necessitating a continuous flow of coffee and sugar. I perused the contents of my freezer and pulled out a bag of fat blueberries I’d frozen last summer. A coffeecake was in the works. Something nice to start two very busy, intense days.

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For a few summers, I worked my friend Pete’s fruit stand at the Green City Farmer’s Market every Wednesday and Saturday morning. It was an early start, the market opens at 7am, and not being much of a morning person it took me a while to get rolling. Once we got the stand set up and I got my bearings, I was usually looking for something to eat before the big crowds rolled in with their double wide strollers and large dogs who liked to pee on our sandwich board signs. Oh joy. You need some sustenance to deal with that. My standard go-to breakfast, one I really looked forward to, was from Hoosier Mama a fantastic pie company in the city. On the back of their checkered tables was a large black plastic warmer thing. If you were smart, you knew this is where they kept the amazing savory hand pies nice and toasty. While there were always a few varieties, the breakfast sausage hand pies were my favorite and apparently others too because they sold out fast. A warm flaky pastry filled with herby breakfast sausage, I could inhale 42 of these things in no time if given the opportunity.

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For reasons that baffle many, myself included, its damn near impossible to get a good bagel outside of New York City. Maybe Montreal; they get a pass. Some say it’s the water, others say it’s the flour but I think it’s the technique. Making good bagels is complicated, involved and time consuming. You have to develop the proper amount of gluten in the dough and do a long, slow cold rise that sometimes lasts 2 days to develop that distinct flavor and texture. Then the coddled rounds of dough need to be poached in a solution of lightly sweetened water spiked with lye to develop that distinctive crust before a relatively short bake at a high temperature. Sure, bagel shops abound nationwide. Not the same. I find them to be universally bready, lacking in that toothsome chew that makes a bagel great. You can buy them in the bakery section of your local grocery store but they more resemble a dense onion roll. And yes, there they are in the freezer section. Walk away. I was raised on Lender’s and they are an abomination. Unless you live in NY with a bagel shop on the corner (and even those are becoming harder to find these days), there’s only one solution to this conundrum. Make your own. It’s not as difficult as you may think.

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Of all the recipes out there, one of the easiest and most impressive is cured salmon. Mix some salt and sugar, maybe additional spices and/or herbs, rub a piece of fish (typically salmon) and refrigerate for 1-3 days depending on the size of your fish. It’s unbelieavably simple and incredibly elegant. For the easiest bang with the smallest amount of effort, gravlax is the one for you.

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