Thursday, August 21, 2008

Asparagus Fritatta, Rustic Walnut and Fig Bread, Greek Vegetable Salad

Today, let’s enter the “WayBack” machine and return to 5 weeks ago…

(I certainly hope that at least one other person reading this remembers the WABAC machine…)

… and one final post about our cooking weekend at the lake house. As I mentioned before, my friends Jenni and Nancy joined me at our lake house for a couple days of cooking and talking, talking, talking. :) This last post will review breakfast and lunch.

I took the easy was out for Saturday breakfast and put together a fresh fruit salad as my contribution. In no other time of the year is it as pleasurable to do so than in mid-to-late summer!

Nancy made a knockout Asparagus Frittata from Sunset. Eggs are my absolute favorite breakfast food (I eat them at least 4 breakfasts per week and, since I am careful to eat mostly whites, my cholesterol has remained between 130-140 for the past 8 years or so).

Wow, was this frittata good! Of course, anything with shredded Gruyere is good, and when I make it again I will still use the full-fat Gruyere but I will probably cut it by a third.

The cheese taste was pleasurably intense and I am sure that, even with less, it would still be delicious (and with less saturated fat). The recipe prepared as written contains163 calories, 11g total fat, 5g saturated fat. A couple of basic substitutions, replacing one of the eggs with 2 egg whites, and reducing the cheese to ½ cup, cuts out 4g total fat, 2g saturated. The recipe is very low-calorie and loaded with protein, and it remains so even after the changes are made.

I know, I know-- some of you reading this (and I know who you are!) think that I can get a little picky with this sort of thing. It’s only 4 grams of fat, 2 saturated that is saved. Why should it make a difference?

Look at the percentages: 64% less total fat, 40% less saturated fat. Now, doesn’t seem to be a more substantial savings to make those substitutions? It’s cumulative too. Little savings add up!

Back to the frittata. The combination of gruyere and asparagus is an incredible taste combination. Certainly, it’s great for breakfast or brunch, but it is also the sort of quick supper that would leave you feeling satisfied.

Look at this photo. Don’t you want to dive into the whole thing?!?!?

Jenni is quite an accomplished bread baker and she provided a rustic fig and walnut yeast bread for our breakfast enjoyment. Our utter enjoyment! I am a big carb fan, and bread is my favorite carb of all. Jenni was not pleased with the appearance of her bread since, even though she followed the directions to implicitly, the figs and walnuts were clustered in “bands” rather than being dispersed evenly throughout the loaf. Pooh. Yes, the figs and walnuts were having a nice little get-together in certain areas of each slice, but that in no way detracted from this bread! It was light, with a nice crumb, and the flavor combo of figs and walnuts was just so good.

She very kindly allowed me to take the leftover slices and I finally found a use for that jar of fig-and-chocolate spread that I picked up at Whole Foods a few months ago. YUM!

Following is the recipe. Jenni used chopped figs instead of walnuts, and she thinks that chopped dried cranberries would be nice to use for fall baking. So do I. But can I get her to make me a loaf (hint, hint!)???

Italian Walnut-Raisin Whole-Wheat Bread
From "The Bread Bible" by Beth Hensperger

2 ½ cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 tablespoons (2 envelopes) active dry yeast
pinch light brown sugar or 1 teaspoon honey
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon salt
4 cups fine-grind whole-wheat flour, preferably stone ground
1 ½ -1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups (10 ounces) dark raisins, plumped in hot water 1 hour and drained on paper towels )
Scant 2 cups chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour, for sprinkling
2 tablespoons, wheat bran, for sprinkling

In a small bowl, pour in ½ cup of the warm water. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over the surface of the water. Stir to dissolve and let stand at room temperature until foamy, until 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl (or in the work bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine remaining 2 cups warm water, olive oil, honey, salt and 2 cups of whole-wheat flour. Add yeast mixture. Beat vigorously until smooth, about 1 minute. Add remaining whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Add unbleached flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until a soft dough that just clears the sides of the bowl is formed. Switch to a wooden spoon when necessary if making by hand.

Turn dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface and knead about six minutes, until soft and springy yet resilient to the touch, dusting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to prevent sticking. Dough should retain a smooth, soft quality, with some tackiness under the surface, yet still hold its shape. Do not add too much flour, or loaf will be too dry and hard to work.

Place dough in a greased deep bowl or container. Turn once to coat the top and cover with plastic wrap . Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 2- 2 1/2 hours.

Grease or parchment-line a baking sheet. Sprinkle whole-wheat flour and wheat bran on the baking sheet.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface without punching it down. Pat it into a large oval and sprinkle even with half the drained raisins and half the walnuts. Press nuts and fruit into the dough and roll dough up. Pat dough into an oval again and sprinkle it evenly with remaining raisins and walnuts. Press in and fold dough in half, sealing ends.

With a dough cutter, divide dough into 2 or 3 equal portions. Shape into 2 tight right round loaves or 2 baguettes about 14 inches long. Gently pull surface taut from the bottom.

Place loaves on prepared pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes-1 hour.

Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a serrated knife, slash the loaves quickly with 2 parallel lines and one intersecting line no more than ¼ inch deep.

Place baking sheet in oven and bake until loaves are brown, crusty and sound hollow when tapped with your finger, 35-40 minutes for round loaves, 25-30 minutes for baguettes.

Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before slicing.

Okay, now for lunch.

This was planned to be lunch on our boat, anchored upriver with gorgeous scenery to gaze upon as we ate. I had planned a nice salad for that, but it was not to be. Last year when we installed our boat lift, even though Jack measured and remeasured the lake depth where our dock is, the lift was assembled in an area which is too shallow to take the boat off when the water level is low (and the water level varies since there is a hydroelectric dam at the end of the opposite side of the lake). That day, there was apparently an order for electric power and lots of water was let through the dam. As a result, although we cranked the boat as low as it would go, it was still too high to launch. Mostly undaunted, we climbed aboard. Yes, we had lunch on the boat but we didn’t leave the dock!

Jenni made a Greek salad for this meal, and it was packed full of wonderful flavors. My mouth waters just reading about it, and I think I’ll have to make it for lunch tomorrow. Aside from the chopping, it really was easy to put together and tasted fantastic.

Greek Vegetable Salad

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 small cucumber, sliced
1 small zucchini, peeled, halved, and cut into thin strips
1/2 small purple onion, sliced and separated into rings
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke heart quarters, drained
14 pitted Kalamata olives, halved
1 (4-ounce) package crumbled feta cheese
Lettuce leaves

Whisk together first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add tomato and next 5 ingredients, tossing well. Chill at least 2 hours. Sprinkle with feta cheese, and serve on lettuce leaves.

Yield: Makes 8 servings

Southern Living, AUGUST 1999

Sorry, no photos of this one… I had the camera on the boat, but it totally slipped my mind. Was it, perhaps, because of the wine???


Anonymous said...

Vicci, for shame! I think we're good enough friends that you could just ASK for a loaf of cranberry-walnut bread. :-) -jenni

Kitchen Queen Victoria said...

Oh Jenni, hinting is so much less obvious... ;)

Perhaps, "fall baking day"??