Salami Shakshuka.

salami shakshuka.

It seems lately that I haven't been so inspired to sit in front of the computer and write.  I'm inspired to cook good food (especially good food just for myself), and enjoy eating good food (even if it is a solitary lunch alone in my dining room), I'm just not so inspired to take to the Internet and brag about it.  I wonder if it has something to do with my mothering instinct, that I can take the time to labor over soaking and sprouting and fermenting things, but not necessarily to tell the masses about it.  Perhaps it is the primitive need to nourish and carry on without the trappings of the digital age.

Meanwhile all sorts of little triumphs have happened in my kitchen, for instance my picky-eating boy is starting to break out of his shell and at least try new things.  Most of the time, it ends in confession that he likes something new.  In part, this is because I stopped catering to the whims of both of my boys and I just cook food.  There is good food here and if you are hungry you will eat it, or at least try it.  St. Patrick's Day potato and kale colcannon (via The Domestic Man and his tantalizing facebook photo of it) didn't go down so well with the picky-kid, but the roasted cabbage and Outpost-made Irish sausage on the side did... and when I disguised the leftover potatoes and kale into a creamy cabbage/broccoli/"spinach" soup, it got demolished without comment.

bolzano salami.

I had hoped for the same for this shakshuka I was planning with the Bolzano salami I received recently to play around with.  A group of local food bloggers were challeged to come up with 2 recipes each using some real-deal, hand crafted, local salami.  I signed up for the Pamplona Runner salami, which I hadn't tasted before.  While I awaited it's arrival, I thought back to some of the early PBS watching days of my pregnancy, the days when food didn't taste good unless it appeared already made before me.  When Cuisine Culture went to Israel and cooked up a couple versions of shakshuka using local cheese, I could think of nothing that I'd like someone to make me than that.  But being the only cook in my house, I had to wait until I felt like cooking again to indulge my whims.

I actually thought long and hard about using a pork sausage in a dish that seems so inherently Jewish and Muslim at the same time...  I also thought about embracing more of a Spanish flare to the simple preparation.  But in the end, I just made some good food with some of my favorite flavors.  It was perfect and simple and I enjoyed alone for lunch one day.

frying bolzano salami.

This salami is not overpowering, its smoked paprika flavor not too spicy at all.  I chose not to add too much additional spice flavor to let it shine through as it fried in the oil.  I actually enjoyed this dish for two days in a row - some might frown on saving a sunny side up egg for another day, but I just popped a lid on the frying pan for refrigerated storage and then reheated the whole thing until it was bubbly throughout.  I daresay it was even better the second day - and of course even less work!

Bolzano Salami Shakshuka
Serves 1-2 people
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 oz. Bozano salami, sliced as thinly as possible
  • ¼ c. chopped red onion
  • ¼ c. chopped mixed sweet and hot peppers (I used cubanelle, red bell, and green bell peppers, with half a serrano pepper)
  • ½ c. drained whole (or crushed) tomatoes (I used home canned tomatoes)
  •  2 T. reserved tomato juice (from the canned tomatoes)
  • ½ t. cumin powder 
  •  ½ t. Aleppo pepper
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs (may add additional 1-2 eggs if desired)
  • chopped cilantro and crumbled queso fresco for garnish

In a small bowl, mix the tomatoes with reserved tomato juice, cumin, and Aleppo pepper.  Use a fork or your fingers to break up any large chunks of tomato.  Set aside.

In a small skillet, heat olive oil along with the thinly sliced garlic over medium heat.  When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the salami and sauté until the salami releases some of its oil and begins to crisp up.  Add a bit of black pepper to taste, a few grinds from a peppermill will do.

Add the onion, and sauté for about 2 minutes, just until the onion begins to soften a little.  Add the peppers, and continue to sauté just until the peppers are crisp tender, 2-3 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium low.

Add the tomato mixture, stir well, cover, and let simmer for 3-4 minutes to let all of the flavors meld.  Increase the heat to medium and make two indentations in the tomato mixture for the eggs.  Crack the eggs into the spaces, and let them cook (sunny side up style) until done to your liking, about 4-5 minutes. (If you cover the pan, the yolks will turn cloudy and cook more thoroughly.)

Serve in the skillet with good bread on the side.  If needed, add good flake salt at the table.  The salami adds enough salt that you likely will not need any additional.

salami shakshuka.

 Maybe, I knew I'd like this enough that I didn't want to share - and that's why I decided to make this for my lunch on a school day.  But when our Friday night pizza ritual came around (we've had a solid 2 months of pizza on Friday nights; my son actively helping me by stretching his own dough and topping pizzas himself!), I sliced some salami for my pizza.  One bite by the pickiest member of my family and he was hooked.  The kid likes salami pizza.

salami pizza.
salami pizza.

While I continue to improve on expanding his taste buds, one thing is certain:  I am going to invest in more salami.  While on a fairly strict food budget lately, quality ingredients like this salami actually pay for themselves.  I easily got 4 dishes out of one stick, most of them serving more than 2 people.  It's an indulgence, but definitely a justifiable one.  If you need a bit more inspiration, check out posts from other Bolsano salami experimenters this week:

Anna from Tallgrass Kitchen 
Lori and Paul from Burp!

salami shakshuka.

Disclaimer:  I did receive this salami free of charge in exchange for writing a couple of recipes and promoting our local man, Scott Baur.  Of course, all opinions about Bolzano salami are my own.  Having already sampled other Bolzano products, and also having some familiarity with his local commitments to excellence in slow food, I knew I would have nothing to say but complementary things!  If you are looking for "Something Special from Wisconsin", look no further!

On The Addictive Nature of Breakfast Cereal.

I live a moderate life. I usually insist upon whole, from scratch foods (especially in my own home), but I will stop for an ice cream cone once in a while. I will eat greasy pizza that I know has dough conditioners, and I will eat canned "baked" beans - but those are all occasional indulgences, part of the philosophy I grew up with to "do what we can, and trust God with the rest".

I also read a whole lot about health and diet, but am slow to jump on the latest trend. I never was sold on Atkins, The Zone, South Beach or other low carb or carb-free diets. I can, however, see valid points to "real food" diets such as GAPS, Paleo and what is usually referred to as the NT or Nourishing Traditions diet. Nourishing Traditions ("The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats") is a book I've had on the shelf for several years now. I got my copy after running into an old boyfriend's parents in the health food store. His mom saw the canola oil in my cart and said innocently, "You are still eating canola oil?" Within the month, a copy of that book found its way from her generous zeal to my hands. I opened it and scoffed at the shear ridiculousness of the length of it, the unbelievable attention to detail, the amount of information also crammed into into the margins, and the simplicity of the numerous recipes.

To that point, I had never heard that canola oil may not be good for you, that whole milk and full fat dairy were not actually the things that clogged arteries were made of. I couldn't be bothered with crazy, time consuming diet ideas when I had a 2 year old kid to chase around. But little by little I read that book, and found supporting information in many other places around the Internet. Gradually, I became one of the crazy people who actually think that what we put into our bodies has a huge outcome on our general health - from skin and hair to dental and digestion. My moderate lifestyle was altered even more by gradually cutting back on sugar and caffeine, and especially changing the way I think about whole grains.

In particular, I no longer buy breakfast cereal. What? But breakfast cereal is the staple of my generation, the stuff we all learned to get ourselves in the mornings before school. I'll bet the vast majority of Americans still choose a box from a shelf to validate themselves as a "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" type. Breakfast cereal is still my Kiddo's most favorite thing, and given the opportunity, he will eat huge amounts of it and request it for every meal. That alone could be why I just stopped buying it. Now I get him a single box for special occasions and limit him to one smallish bowl per sitting. Even though boxes haven't been entering my house for at least 2 years now, he still loves the stuff - and I'll admit that I still occasionally long for the crunchy, quick staple too.

But why are the health food nuts like me demonizing breakfast cereal? It all boils down to processing. Any quick Google search will show you in a number of places that all grains contain phytic acid, a naturally occurring acid that prevents the minerals in grain from absorption into you body. You can unlock the nutrition in whole grain by giving it the time to soak in acidulated liquid (like buttermilk, yogurt, or whey), or by first sprouting the grain and then dehydrating it and grinding it into flour.

Just typing that last sentence in seems like a lot of work, but consider how fast paced our lives are now. Traditional foods dictate traditional time, and when you have no t.v. show or Facebook to get to, gobs of time suddenly appear. This is the opening paragraph of Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions book:
Technology is a generous benefactor. To those who have wisely used his gifts, he has bestowed freedom from drudgery; freedom to travel; freedom from the discomforts of cold, heat and dirt; and freedom from ignorance, boredom and oppression. But father technology has not brought us freedom from disease. Chronic illness in industrialized nations has reached epic proportions because we have been dazzled by his stepchildren - fast foods, fractionated foods, convenience foods, packaged foods, fake foods, embalmed foods, ersatz foods - all the bright baubles that fill up the shelves at our grocery stores, convenience markets, vending machines and even health food stores.
Breakfast cereal is the definition of fractionated food: it is made from grain that is treated harshly with heat and pressure, coatings to keep it crunchy and artificial colors and flavors. Even the added vitamins are from suspicious sources - most of which are not even viable after the heat and pressure treatments. Grains are reduced to liquid form and extruded into shapes, and as Fallon mentions in this article, it costs pennies to produce and sells for $4-$5 a box, making it one of the highest profit margins in the food industry. Skeptical as I can be about the latest health crazes and claims, it seems fairly logical to me that something that makes so much money for so many involved is hiding and harboring all kinds of things that consumers don't want to know about. (Like the recent reveal of GMO's in Kashi...)

real breakfast cereal

But enough on boxes of processed cereal. We can eat real breakfasts! We can even eat real breakfast cereal once again. I just finished making a big batch of this cereal I recently read about on The Healthy Home Economist. It's good. It's really good. And even the Kiddo liked it.

The best thing about this recipe is that it is basically a cake that is crumbled up and dehydrated. Not only can you just enjoy it as a cake the possibilities are endless for cereal flavor variations. I'm thinking even a chocolate version could easily appear sometime in the near future. I dehydrated this because I have a dehydrator, but Sarah bakes hers at a low temperature until crisp and dry.

Real Cold Breakfast Cereal (the Healthy Home Economist)

(my yield was 2 half gallon jars of cereal)
  • 6 c. freshly ground organic flour (I used about 3 cups each of soft wheat and spelt)
  • 3 T. whey added to enough water to make up 3 cups
  • 3/4 c. coconut oil, melted prior to measuring
  • 1 c. maple syrup
  • 1 t. maple extract
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 T. cinnamon
  • 2 t. baking soda

In a very large bowl, mix the flour with the whey/water until it is smooth and well combined. Cover with a clean towel (I like to also top it with a lid from a large pot to prevent a skin from forming on the top), and let soak at room temperature for 24 hours. (I have read elsewhere that as long as you soak 7 hours or longer, the enzymatic change has taken place in the grain. I let mine soak for about 20 hours.)

After soaking, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir very well until well mixed. Batter will be very sticky will kind of form a single mass. Divide the batter into 2 9x13 glass pans (no need to grease them, and no need to be exact), and bake for 20-30 minutes until a tester comes out clean.

Cool the cakes in their pans, then crumble them into small pieces. Spread onto dehydrator trays and dehydrate at 147 degrees (or as hot as your dehydrator goes) until fully dry and crisp - this was just overnight for me. Time will vary with heat and the size of the cake pieces. When dry, you can crumble the pieces further if you like. Store in glass jars or a zip top bag - it's recommended to store in the fridge, but I have some space so I may pop my jars into the freezer for optimum crunch preservation. I would recommend storing without dried add-ins, and adding them directly to your cereal bowl.

real breakfast cereal

This cereal tastes exactly like a raisin or "All-Bran" type cereal, and was especially great with raisins. I'd recommend storing it out of sight quickly, because it's really easy to keep on munching on it dry. If you eat at a moderate pace, it keeps fairly crunchy in milk too. I'd really like to sneak some ginger into the batter, but may have to settle for a few cubes of crystallized ginger in my own bowl since the Kiddo doesn't share my taste for it.

Also, earmark this recipe as a really great cake in its own right: it reminded me of the soaked and sourdoughized applesauce cake I've made in the past. Add in some raisins and nuts prior to baking, and you're in business! (I may recommend using half the recipe, unless you need 2 9x13 cakes...)

real breakfast cereal

It's easy to want to grab a quick breakfast before running out to start our harried, modern days, so it's easy to see just why marketed boxes invade our homes. My challenge to myself was just not to buy any cereal, and then I was forced to make and eat real food for breakfast. I usually just have a smoothie fortified with chia, but it's definitely more of a challenge to satisfy a child without the aid of the almighty cereal box. But time has passed enough now that we don't miss cereal as frequently as we once did. Now with the revelation of "dehydrated cake as breakfast", the upcoming school year may have one more breakfast option on the menu. I'll take the long waiting times to produce my own convenience food, it's definitely worth it!

In search of healthier granola, (or in which I discover Toasted Muesli)

Last weekend, I found myself in need of granola. Normally, I make a batch once a month - but that was before the Boy-O came into the obsessed with granola food phase. Now, he requests granola for 3 meals a day. At least he's moved on from the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (and with that, I find myself making a lot less bread), but I actually had to make another batch today, since the other was nearly gone. Granola making is an easy task; you don't even need to accurately measure if you don't feel like it. You can use what grains/seeds/nuts/dried fruits you have on hand, and have a completely different experience every time you make it quite by accident. Normally, I don't write down what I'm doing as I'm doing it, but in my quest for a healthier granola, I did.

I did ship off a quart jar of my last batch to a new "Internet friend", so that accounts for something, but since the Boy-O is seriously garnering most of his nutrition now from granola, I am forced to seek out ways to increase the healthiness a little. Last weekend, I replaced all of the refined sugar with agave syrup and honey (I used to use a little brown sugar) - but today I went a bit further and used rolled grains that were higher in protein: kamut and wheat flakes. I had never tried kamut before, and while munching a few of the raw, flattened grains, I could tell they were much tougher than plain old oats. They also had a peculiar striation pattern that made me think of gnocchi.

Kamut, is an older varietal of wheat, so is not gluten-free. From my last Daring Baker Challenge, I learned that oatmeal is GF, if it is processed in a facility that does not allow cross-contamination with other products. Kamut grains are roughly 3 times larger than regular oats (though not in their rolled state), and contain about 8 grams of protein per half cup serving. There are 5 grams of protein in regular rolled oats, at least according to the co-op bulk bins. So, for a Boy-O who won't eat meat (other than bacon), seldom eats an egg, and is rather picky about greens in general right now, I figure those 3 little grams must add up!

I didn't have any particular reason for trying out this grain. As I perused the bulk grains aisle as the co-op, I actually wanted to try the quinoa flakes because I know that quinoa is a complete protein. Since they were out, I asked a worker which were his favorite and both the bins of his recommends were barren as well. It wasn't a good day to shop the bulk aisle I think, and in the end I just went by amount of protein on the nutritional information cards. I figured that the grains would toast mostly the same as rolled oats, and in the end, I was mostly correct.

Last Saturday's batch had a couple of T.'s of olive oil in it, but since I had a small portion of butter out on the counter in its wrapper, I figured to use it up. It gave me a change to use one of my favorite garage sale finds, an incomplete set of copper measuring cups. I can put them directly on the heat to melt butter, and one of them is a 3/4 c. measure which comes in handy and is not normally included in modern measuring sets. They are like miniature pots, really.

My method for granola making is always the same, I mix the dry and ingredients separately, toss them together in a stainless mixing bowl and then spread onto a baking sheet. I have found that I can either line the sheet with parchment or leave it unlined and it doesn't make much difference especially when using little to no added fat. I always add the dried fruit after baking, but when there is still a little warmth left in the granola.

Ultra Crunchy Granola (or Toasted Muesli)

  • 1 1/4 c. kamut flakes
  • 1 1/4 c. wheat flakes
  • 1 1/2 c. thick rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. coconut (I like the Let's Do...Organic brand, and it's actually really inexpensive in Whole Foods!)
  • 1 c. walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 c. sesame seeds
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 T. butter
  • 1/2 c. agave syrup (I used raw dark for the first time, and was pleasantly surprised at the flavor)
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries (more or less of any dried fruit, really)

Bake at 350, stirring every 10 minutes until it looks as brown as you'd like it. Remember, that it gets crunchier as it cools. This batch baked for about 30 minutes.

I could hardly wait for it to cool enough to try. Everything I've tried with agave syrup lately I've ended up loving. It's so delicious on its own, and really gives a pleasant amount of sweetness without being at all sugary. It has the added benefit of absorbing slowly into the bloodstream, preventing the sugar spiking effect that is the bane of Mothers everywhere. Prior to this, my favorite sweetener for granola was a combination of honey and maple syrup. I hate to say, that maybe this is going to become my new staple - especially since it was so crunchy I decided to soak it like a muesli.

I do love muesli, as I described here, normally in the summer when I enjoy eating a cold breakfast. Just a moment of forethought before bed, and the oats magically transform into "fully cooked" by morning. I never thought of soaking a granola before, but tried it right away since the crunch factor was so high with the kamut. Even a quick 30 minutes in the refrigerator covered in milk, and the grains swelled and the cinnamon popped - I did use the cassia, which I reserve for just such this kind of welcomed effect.

If 30 minutes was a serviceable soaking, then 8 hours was completely transforming. I just tried a spoonful that I've had soaking since about noon, and it is silky and delectable. Now, I can't wait for breakfast tomorrow.

Obsession has officially set in: Burp! Where Food Happens...

I woke up at 2:45 this morning and just could not go back to sleep. I haven't really had this problem in quite a long time, since I usually hit the sack after midnight, and am promptly refreshed in about 7 hours. I turned in about 10 last night to try and re-cultivate my reading habit, which has fallen by the wayside as of late. If it's not a food blog recipe, or the paper a couple of times a week I'm probably not reading it, and that is terrible. Like all things, I tend to go through cycles and get into and out of things that turn into Obsessions.

I suppose that is what happened around 3 am when I decided to do a little reading on the iPod so I didn't have to turn on the light. I discovered Burp! Where Food Happens a few weeks ago when trying to find other Milwaukee food bloggers. Not only did I find that there aren't many of us, I found that sometimes you meet people on accident and could immediately strike up a friendship. I never was (or I dare not say, could be) someone who would cultivate an online friendship. Or maybe, more appropriately, I never thought that it could happen to me... But this Lo that writes Burp! is fast becoming someone I'm proud to know. She is full of advice, encouragement and great recipes. A link to Burp! will forevermore be found to the right of my posts in the Food Blogger Obsessions category , and you can click here to be magically transported to their online trove of recipes.

As a healthy hour or so of my normal sleeping cycle was blissfully given over to the recipes that Lo and her husband Peef generously lent to the Internet world, I was amazed that one site could have so many perfect things that I would want to make. It seems that we share the same palate as well as the desire to cook (and bake) with what is around us in the greater Milwaukee area. After about a half dozen bookmarks to the rapidly growing recipe file on the iPod (I fear I'm going to need more memory soon), I finally was able to get back to bed - albeit dreaming of Cornmeal Waffles that were going to be my breakfast.

I used half the recipe, eyeballed the oil instead of using butter (I save that for company), and used 1 egg for my half-ing endeavors, and they were the best waffles I've ever produced. Boy-O even ate one of the 2 leftover as a snack this afternoon. Another of the coolest things about their site is that they discuss, and then have the recipes posted seperately. This is pure perfection for insomniacs, as I just trolled through the archives, pleasantly reading as if I were deeply embroiled in Shakespere. Here are the links to another several recipes that will be made sometime in the near future:

I could go on and on, but I won't since you should stop what you are doing and head over there to find out what you are going to have for supper.

I'm kind of hoping I'll have another sleepless night tonight so I can get through the rest of the archive. Better go charge up my battery...