Cornmeal flatbread

Cornmeal flatbread

This may come as a big surprise, but despite the fact that I’m the lady authoress of a vegetarian food blog, and that I celebrate the ordinary in food, art, and life, and that I’d like to redefine “success” to rate compassion for people and animals over financial gain (wouldn’t you like to see a sort of “world’s wealthiest” list of people who are kind to their dogs, rather than people who have accrued a lot of money?) – despite all of these factors, I’ve never interned for Paul Ryan. I know! Weird, right? We’re a perfect match. Consequently, I’ve never read any Ayn Rand. I have, however, watched some youTube videos of interviews with her, which, I think you’ll agree, makes me something of a modern day expert. I must confess, I’m very puzzled. I cannot fathom why anybody would espouse her views. She seems like a sad and dangerous sociopath, to me. This is my highly nuanced and expert view. It just doesn’t make sense to me that anybody would admire her, and that those people would achieve what we now know as success, in politics or life. I’m befuddled, because I hear a lot of people very angrily shouting about self-reliance and criticizing the poor and unfortunate. I hear it at my work, where the very loud angry people would go down and sort out those clowns in Washington, if they could get off their bar stool. I hear it in clips of debates, in which people yell, “let him die!” I see it on Fox news, which they watch at work sometimes. But I’ve never really seen it in the actions of individuals. Most people I know are kind and charitable. Everybody loves It’s a Wonderful Life! People like helping other people – it makes them happy to do it. They join together to help people who have had an accident, or fallen on a patch of bad luck. This is all people, regardless of nationality or political identity. Sure, there are bullies – there are insecure people who beat up on others because they feel bad about themselves, but nobody admires them. They might consider themselves strong, and the people they abuse weak, but few people would agree with them. When Rand said that weak people don’t deserve to be loved (which is a tiny part of a clip that I saw, in my extensive youTube research), you have to feel sorry for her. Because we’re all weak, sometimes. Everybody is. But surely nobody is more weak than the person surrounding herself with hate and scorn and self-interest, and cutting herself off from compassion and kindness.

I apologize for getting nearly political here. I know it’s not the place. But I feel quite upset about this, so I’ve got to talk about it! You know what’s comforting? Flatbread. Making it and eating it. I made this flatbread with some cornmeal, some thyme, and some mozzarella. I thought it was delicious. A nice crispy/chewy texture. They’re not cheesy, exactly, but they have a nice flavor of cheese, and it helps to make them less dry. The boys loved it, too. We ate it with grilled vegetables, sliced tomatoes, spicy fried potatoes, and a big big salad. It’s not hard to make, but it is one of those pleasant do a little bit all day long types of dish. It was nice fresh with dinner, and nice the next day toasted with scrambled eggs.

Here’s Billy Bragg with The Milkman of Human Kindness
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Giant puffy rosemary flatbread

Giant puffy flatbread

We went creeking today, for the first time since last year. It feels like the real start to summer. My boys turn into little wild water creatures who won’t wear shoes or shirts for the rest of the summer. Malcolm bounds through the water and leaps off the rocks. Isaac picks his way gingerly across, bobbing through light and shadow, deep and shallow. They glow in the sunshine, as smooth and warm as river rocks. Today we saw a spider the size of a small mouse scamper across the water, carrying dozens of baby spiders on her back. And my boys hop after speckled toads – much smaller than the spiders, who blink their golden eyes at you from between my boys’ fingers.

With the start of summer comes the start of summer eating, and my ideal meal in the summer is a big mix of vegetables, prepared different ways, some cool, some warm. Salads, beans, potatoes, olives, cheeses, maybe a sauce or two. And something to eat everything with. Some bread or crepe to tuck everything inside. Like this giant rosemary flatbread! It’s quite chewy and crusty (from the milk, I think) which makes it idea to sop up tomato, basil and olive oil, or the sauce from nicely seasoned greens and beans. You could make smaller shapes, if you liked, but I got a kick out of making two big pieces, almost the size of my cookie sheets. Parts puffed, parts didn’t, but even the parts that didn’t could be pulled apart and stuffed with yummy things. I kneaded rosemary into mine, because it went nicely with everything else I was making, but you could easily add any other herb, or sesame seeds, or caraway seeds.

Here’s Booker T and the MGs to cool you off with Summertime.
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Puffy roasted sweet potato and rosemary flatbread

Roasted sweet potato flatbread

The night we had these for dinner, Malcolm asked if he could have another. (I think he’d already had two!) I said, without thinking, “No, I’ve got to save them for a photograph.” Then I realized how crazy I’d gotten. Instead of being glad that my 9-year-old son liked sweet potato flatbreads enough to ask for another. Instead of being thankful that he was eating a healthy food, with vitamins and whatnot (sweet potatoes have vitamins, right?), I was going to save them to take a picture. Ridiculous. Well, I quickly saw the error in my ways, and let him eat one more. (Yes, I did save one!)
Here’s how it all came about…we had some leftover stew, and for some reason I was semi-obsessed with the idea of making flatbreads to go with it. But I wanted to do something different. I wanted to use some unusual ingredient. I thought about all the different kinds of flour in the cupboard. But I’ve already made toasted barley flatbreads, and semolina flatbread. Then I thought about the sweet potato I’d bought on a whim. Why not put that in? And I’d just bought a huge bunch of fresh rosemary, so we’ll have some of that, too. And we’ll roast them together, rather than just boil and purée the potatoes, for more intense roasty flavor. So that’s what I did! The dough was a pleasure to work with – soft and firm at the same time, just as dough should be. I wanted them to be sort of light and puffy, so I made them the way I’d made pita bread one time, on a preheated baking sheet. They puffed beautifully! I was so happy! I love a bread that you can tear apart and use as a spoon, and stuff with delicious foods. I finally let Malcolm eat the remaining flatbread the next day, and it was good reheated as well.

In the early days of this blog, I foolishly used up all my sweet potato songs at once in a small playlist. It’s been a while, and they’re all good songs, so I’m just going to repost it here. Something to listen to while you wait for your dough to rise!
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Toasted barley flatbread with sesame seeds

barley flatbread

You know who likes these? My son Isaac. He doesn’t like a lot of different flavors, but he gobbled these up and asked for more. As you might recall, I bought some Machica a few weeks ago, in my super bodega travels. Machica is a toasted barley flour, and mine is from Ecuador. I did a bit of research into recipes that call for toasted barley flour. I read about some rolls served in an ecuadorian restaurant, which sounded intriguing. But most of the recipes I came across were actually Tibetan, for a sesame-crusted flatbread that sounded delicious! This is my vague interpretation of that idea. Baked toasted barley has a lovely flavor – slightly sweet, distinctive but subtle. I have to be honest, and tell you that my flatbread became crisp bread, because I left it in the oven to keep warm after it was fully cooked, and it cooked further till it was more cracker-y than bread-y. Tasty, though! I could almost pretend that I’d done it on purpose. The other thing I might say, is that my sesame seeds (I used black, because I had them and they looked nice, but you could use white as well) fell off and, somehow, I got them all over my kitchen. If I were to make this again (which I will!) I’d knead them right into the dough. Yes I would.

Here’s Freddie Hubbard with Open Sesame.
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Introducing…the Ooto!

Well, I said I was going to invent my own version of a flat bread/pancake along the lines of injera, tortillas, pita, roti, dosas, moo shu etc, etc. And I HAVE DONE IT!! *THUNDERCLAP* I feel like John Cleese in the brontosaurus sketch. This flat bread, which is mine, belongs to me and I made it.

But let’s start at the beginning… I’ve always loved foods you could eat with your hands. Indian, Ethiopian, middle eastern – any cuisine that involves lots of little delicious dishes you mix and match, and eat with a bit of bread that you tear off, or a big piece of bread that you wrap around. It’s the best, most enjoyable way to eat. I’ve made (or tried to make) injera, pita, roti, crepes, etc, with varying levels of success, but it’s never quite as good as you can get at the restaurant. And yet, I’d like to eat this way more often. And so I decided to try to invent a new type of bread of my very own. Here was my criteria… I wanted it to be crispy on the outside, but softer and chewier on the inside. I wanted it to be smoothish on one side, but have crumpet-like holes on the other. I wanted it to hold together well enough to be a useful utensil, but not be too dense. I wanted it to taste good all on its own, but not be too distracting from other tastes on the plate. I wanted it to be fairly easy to make, and not fall apart frustratingly when you tried to cook it. I wanted it to have little toasty patterns on it.

And here is what I came up with. I’m calling it the ooto (it’s an acroynm!) because I like the sound of the word. But I suppose I might reconsider that in days to come. It’s made with semolina flour and regular flour, which gives it a nice taste & texture. It’s got black pepper in it, but no other distracting herbs or spices. Black pepper goes with everything! The first pancake fell apart, but after that it was a breeze to make. Although it did smoke up my kitchen a little, since I used olive oil, which is tasty but does get smoky. And that’s pretty much the news about that. My family liked it. And it tasted good today toasted and crispy – nice with scrambled eggs.

Here’s The Ethiopians with ONE. Why? Because I love it, that’s why! And this post, which is mine, belongs to me!!
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