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Braiding Bread

I made myself remember to buy rye flour on Sunday. I did it half on impulse. I wanted pot pie and Roman Meal bread but did not know if there was enough in the house. I had not checked. I did the right thing.

Sunday I went on strike as far as making bread was concerned. Yesterday, I was too tired and addled to make bread. I knew I needed bread. I have a lot of long term, unbloggable, stuff going on in my life. It is not juicy, just unbloggable. The upshot for this part of the blog is that I need bread. I need lots of bread. I will also need lots of sardines. I may get very healthy.

I made bread anyway. It went well. I made bread on autopilot. I made Roman Meal bread. The commercial Roman Meal is about half white flour with some whole wheat and rye thrown in for fun. It is a wheat/rye bread you can use for anything. Cornell Dining used to serve Roman Meal as their whole wheat in Sage House. I had mixxed feelings about this. I wanted Kaufman's 100% whole-wheat instead.

The Roman Meal I make at home is 100% whole grain. It is five parts (cups) wheat to two to three parts rye flour with added oil and molasses to encourage a good rise. It is a staple bread and tastes good with sweet nut and seed butters.

I made one loaf in the regular way, and then I made a four strand braid, twisting two strands together and then twisting the twisted strands and then joining it all in a ring. I know...very fancy, but easy, and there is a weird compulsion to braid the bread.

By the way, braiding bread is more than cosmetic. Braided bread has more crust so it is crustier. A lot of older people like crusty bread. I wish I could share this braided bread with my mother, but she is up north. Oh well, more for me.

Eileen H. Kramer January 20, 2011

Beets for the Dead of Winter

Some people don't like beets. I don't know why they think they taste like dirt. True, they have an earthy sweetness, but raw beets are often sweeter and crunchier than carrots. That means they grate more easily, though there is still purple under my finger nails. Your typical red beet is intensely red. If you eat a lot of fresh beets, or cooked fresh beet, you will pee pink and defacate purple. The coloring is natural and harmless. Like lima beans in the New York Times which finally gave this legume its due, National Public Radio put beets in the spot light recently with tepid praise and light treatment. Beet lovers wrote back in disgust.

I'd rather write here. Face it, I hadn't eaten beets since before Christmas break so it was time. It was also time for a change. This recipe has two locally available ingredients, beet root available without tops (It's cheaper that way) and Mount Olive sweet salad peppers. Other sweet pickled peppers will do, but this dish needs a lot of beet root, so if you don't have a cheap supply, don't make it. In most places I've lived only bunch beets are available, and fresh beets are a delicacy. Thankfully, this is not the case in Atlanta, so get ready to sully your hands, and it's not as hard as it looks, and it tastes terrific. If your kids are like me when I was young, they should love this salad if you go easy on the spices. Pickled beets and sweet and sour vegetables make a great side dish with hamburgers.

Beet, Grapefruit, and Caper Salad

You will need...
2.5 lb beets without tops (see introduction for details)
1 decent size white, pink, or ruby red grapefruit
1/3 of a normal size jar of capers
1/2 a jar of Mount Olive Sweet Salad Peppers
Salt to taste
Spicey mustard to taste
Mrs. Dash to taste
5-6oz unfiltered cider vinegar (available in any healthfood store)
2 Tblsp oil

Get out a cutting board, preferably one that washes easy. You'll see why. Peel the beets with a carrot peeler. They peel just like carrots, though you may have to do a bit of surgery on them if they have any indentations. Cut off the fuzzy ends and trailing tails and any peel stuck in indentations. Your hands will get stained, but the color will wash away, except what gets stuck under your nails.

Cut the beets in quarters, thirds, or even eighths if you are lucky enough to have goodly size beets. I did not have those and had six beets instead of my usual three to four monster specimens. Bigger beets taste just fine and have less peel and more beet.

Grade the beets. This goes much faster than you think. I can grate 2.5lb of beets on a hand grater in about half an hour. If you have a good food processor you can use that. If you have a teenager or middle schooler at loose ends, he or she has a job, and yes, your hands get purple. Get used to it. Beets are EASIER to grate than carrots due to their high water content which makes them crispy. Taste a bit of raw beet if you don't believe me.

Get out a plate. You will see why you need it in a moment. Score your grapefruit and remove its peel. Seclet it and remove any seeds you find. Cut up the seclets into pieces and put these in the bowl with the grated beets. Your plate should be slimey with grapefruit juice. Pour this juice into a graduated measuring cup.

Lift the salad peppers from their jar with a fork and add these sto the salad bowl. Do the same with the capers. Add mustard, salt, and Mrs. Dash to the grapefruit juice. Add enough vinegar to make six ounces. Stir. Taste. Adjust seasonings, and repeat. Add the oil. Stir. Taste. Adjust seasonings and repeat.

Dress and toss the salad and put it away in a container. It tastes better if it sits over night. Now cleanup will not be as bad as you think. Beet dye is water soluble. That means soap and water takes care of it, except under your nails.

You can substitute Spanish olives for capers. Capers are not as expensive as you think. I thought this recipe might taste good with lemon pepper and fresh mint leaves. If you are making this for kids, add more sweet pickles and use a bit less mustard and Mrs. Dash. I would have loved this recipe when I was growing up. Sweet and sour especially in the dead of winter, rocks my world.

Eileen H. Kramer -- January 6, 2012