Easy Summer Dinner

Made an easy summer dinner tonight:

Cucumber Salad: One cucumber, sliced thinly. Dressed with a light vinegar (I used rice and cider), salt & pepper, dill, a dash of olive oil, and about a tablespoon of sugar. Delish.

Broiled shrimp: One pound cooked shrimp at $4.99/pound. Tossed with Old Bay Seasoning, paprika, dill, olive oil, and salt & pepper. Let it sit for a few minutes while I let the oven get to broil. Put it all in a shallow baking dish, broiled for about 10 minutes (until starting to char at the edges). This actually wound up being too much for me with everything else, but if I’d had fewer other things, it would’ve been fine. As it was, I have some for lunch tomorrow.

I also cut a few pieces of quality bread and spread them with butter. Then I cut up a quarter of a watermelon. About half went for tomorrow’s lunch. But the other half was quickly gobbled up. Watermelon is so delicious!

Yay for summer!

ps. For the curious, tomorrow’s lunch will be: Watermelon, shrimp, bread, and maybe some boiled corn on the cob.

Loaf Love

I made bread. Delicious bread. Crusty bread. Edible bread.

This is a new thing for me.

See, there are two kinds of people in the kitchen: cooks and bakers. It’s easy to tell the difference: Cooks are the ones who, when asked for a recipe, say something like, “Oh, I just mixed in some lemon juice with some eggplant and tahini— threw in some olive oil and a couple of spices at the end.” Cooks make it sound easy, but when you’re standing in front of your mixer, trying to make baba ghanoush, you realize all you have is a list of ingredients.

Bakers, on the other hand, will write you out a detailed, step-by-step guide, or direct you to the page number of their favorite cook book. Bakers see every act in the kitchen as a science. Unfortunately, it means that they get a little nervous when it’s time to experiment or if they’re missing an ingredient. On the upside, it means that they can create things like bread.

I’ve always been a cook. As a kid, if we didn’t have vegetable oil in the house for banana bread, I’d shrug my shoulders and use olive oil, leaving my parents to wonder why such a sweet food had such an odd earthy flavor to it. Didn’t have regular potatoes for my favorite soup? I’d throw in sweet potatoes. Out of apple cider vinegar? I’d use balsamic. And so on. Some of my substitutions led to disaster. Some of them were delicious. All of them were edible.

Except for my breads. A true German, I love bread. I love it with butter, with cheese, with jam, with meat— or even just to sop up the juice from my plate after a delicious meal. I longed to make it myself. So while living in a co-op in college, I gave it a shot. Except each time, I “adjusted” part of the recipe: Cut the rising time from seven hours to three. Skimped on the yeast. Ignored the second rise altogether. Naturally, the results were wholly disastrous: Whole wheat? Like a foot ball. Rye? Like a hockey puck. White? Like marble. After countless experiments, I gave up. Clearly, I was too much a cook to bake. Who needed to make their own bread, anyhow?

Enter rising bread prices.

Confronted with four-dollar-a-loaf prices for “artisan” bread and not much less than that for sliced (and forget about getting organic), I knew that I had to try again. This time, I swore, I would keep it simple and follow. the. directions. I bought a small bag of organic unbleached flour and some active yeast, went home and googled until I found a recipe for idiots like me. I knew it had to be out there.

And it was:

Simple Crusty Bread (Adapted by The New York Times from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, and then adapted by me) Continue reading