This black barley dish is almost like a risotto, but like a risotto made by a very lazy person that didn’t want to make a broth or stir it every minute of the day. The barley is cooked till it’s tender but toothsome (if that means al dente). And it makes its own creamy sort of sauce, just like a risotto. I warmed some butter and white wine and herbs in a big frying pan, and added the barley with its creamy broth. Then I added some water and let that cook down a bit. I found baby kale at the grocery store, and I was quite excited about it. It does have a kale taste, but not as assertively. It has a little bite. I cooked it for much less time than I usually cook kale – I tossed it into the barley broth towards the end, and cooked till it was nicely wilted. (You could easily use regular kale, cooked first, or baby spinach, which wouldn’t need to be cooked at all.) I also made roasted mushrooms and tiny crispy roasted potatoes, to toss on the dish. And I toasted some pecans. I like all of these tastes together – and they all go so well with sage, rosemary and thyme, which I used to flavor pretty much every element involved. I topped mine with some crumbled bleu cheese, too, which added a lovely creamy/salty element, but nobody else in my family did, cause they’re not fans of the bleu cheese. The whole thing added up to a very savory, meaty meal – the smell of barley and roasted mushrooms lingered in my house all evening. It’s a nice smell!
I would like to tell you about my roman gnocchi pizza, though. I’m a big fan of roman gnocchi. Basically, roman gnocchi involves applying a cream puff technique (one of my very favorite cooking techniques) to semolina flour. It’s baked rather than boiled. It doesn’t call for potatoes, but it does call for eggs. So it’s light and fluffy. Dense and soft on the inside, cripsy on the outside. Very comforting and delicious. You can add all sorts of things to the batter – herbs and cheese being the most likely (I was going to make a joke about adding nails and pennies, and legos and other small household objects, but I thought you might think the coffee had made me crazy!). I like to make a big plate of roman gnocchi in the summer, and then have lots of little dishes along with it – fresh tomatoes and basil, chard and raisins and pinenuts, basil pesto, crispy eggplant, a good salad. It’s one of my favorite meals! This time of year I thought it would be nice with chard and roasted mushrooms. And I further thought that it would be nice to combine them before I bake the roman gnocchi, and to make it in a sort of pizza shape. So that’s what I did. It was quite simple to make. Generally, when you make roman gnocchi, you make the dough and then let it sit, so that you can cut it into shapes before you bake it. The sitting step was eliminated in this version, because I just scooped it onto a baking tray and arranged it with a spoon.
Here’s another installment in the non-sausage roll series. I made these for our shadfestivities. They’re the easiest of all the small savory pastries to make, in my opinion, because you slice them apart, rather than painstakingly forming each one. The mushrooms are roasted with sage and rosemary and thyme, and then a little Spanish paprika is added because I can’t resist it! And to give it a slightly smoky flavor, of course!.
Rather than go on and on about them, I’ll share this cartoon I recently saw.
I’m thinking of going back to the pointless barking!!
If you’ll cast your memory back, you’ll recall that for my last shadfest savory pastry post, I added Desmond Dekker’s Intensified Festival track. Well, this is Toots Hibbert’s recollection of the same event. Desmond Dekker came first!
Today friends, instead of finding a song about casseroles, tians or bakes, I’m going to post this song that has been haunting me. It’s so beautiful and plaintive. When a song like this is an earworm, it’s like having a little ghost howling in your head! It’s Tommy Johnson’s I Want Someone to Love Me.
Remember the scene in Bedknobs and Broomsticks when Charlie rebels against eating nettles and declares that he wants some “toad in the ‘ole”? My boys were intrigued. What is this toad-in-the-hole, of which he speaks? So I broke out my handy dandy Rupert the Bear cookbook (circa 1974), and Malcolm and I schemed together to make our own, vegetarian version. It’s fun flipping through the pages of my Rupert cookbook. These must have been some of the first things I learned how to make. I’ve been wracking my brains lately, trying to think of the absolute first thing. I just don’t know! David said his was cinnamon toast, which seems like such a nice thing to know how to make. Do you remember the first thing you knew how to make, all by yourself?
So we decided to follow the recipe for toad in the hole (which is a strange practice for me!) accept that, obviously, we wouldn’t be putting sausages in! We could easily have used fake sausages from the store, the boys love them! But I wanted to try something a little more inventive, so we used mushrooms, marinated in sausage-y herbs and spices, and then roasted till they were quite crispy. It turned out delicious!! I added a little bit of smoked gouda to the pudding batter (Just can’t leave well enough alone!) because I think it adds a nice meaty flavor to mushrooms. Other than that, we stuck to the recipe pretty carefully. Which I might not do next time – the book only calls for one egg, but I think with two it would have puffed up much more nicely. That’s how I’ll write the recipe – with two eggs!
I love the idea of spice mixes. Berbere, zatar, Ras el hanout, garam masala, jerk seasoning. Even the names are wonderful! In the past I’ve tried to recreate some of these using the spices most available around here – but it’s sort of exciting that, when they’re at home, these mixes contain spices that are extremely hard to find where I live. Everything about spices appeals to me – the textures, the fragrances, the colors, and, of course, the taste. It’s no wonder that they were once considered precious.
I realized the other day, as I was typing up a recipe for this very blog, that I tend to use the same spices over and over. I’ve got different combinations I like to use, but there are a few that I use a lot. I decided to embrace that fact, and to try to distill the different spices into one perfect (for me) mix. So I did! And I’m very enamored of it, because I think it’s very pretty and smells very good, too. It’s smokey, a little bit hot…it combines some sweet herbs with some more piquant spices. I test-cooked it first with some roasted cauliflower, and that turned out well, so I decided to use it in these little pies. They’re stuffed with roasted mushrooms, white beans and hazelnuts, and seasoned with my spice mix. Very nice!
Over the summer, my son Malcolm invented a spice mix of his own. So I decided to accompany the pies with sweet potato fries cooked with Malcolm’s supreme spicy spice mix. They went very well with the pies! And we had a fun time putting it all together.
Here’s Mix it Up by the Kingstonians. That’s the way I like it.
Apologies in advance if this seems garbled. I’ve got a boxing day haze all on my brain. But here is what I did…I cut the portobellos in thick slices, and cooked them in olive oil, white wine and balsamic till they were dark and crispy. I also roasted some white mushrooms with shallots, garlic and herbs to form the first layer on the pastry. And I cooked some big chard leaves until just tender to form the second layer. Then came some sharp cheese and then piles of portobellos.
I used paté brisée instead of puff pastry because I just didn’t have time to do it all! It worked out fine, I think. Crisp and flakey. And we had it with herbed walnut sauce, which I had added a bit of white wine to in the early stages.
This pie is full of flavors and textures!! It’s got roasted chickpeas, mushrooms and shallots! (All together they turn out pleasantly crispy/substantial/soft.) It’s got spinach sauteed with hot red pepper, garlic and lemon! It has smoked gouda! It has a flaky lemon-pepper crust! And it has tarragon!
And it all works beautifully together. Although it looks and tastes complicated, it’s really fairly easy. Being so handsome and deliciously impressive, this would make a nice holiday meal for the vegetarians in your life. I made the edge of the crust quite tall so that you could pile your holiday mashed potatoes right on top.