Wednesday, February 24, 2010

57.  Cornmeal Yeast Bread, pg. 61

I was looking for a bread recipe to accompany chili, but didn't want to make a standard cornbread.  (What can I say?  I like to live on the wild side... :))  So, here I ended up, keeping the corny component, but marrying it with our lovely friend, yeast.

I made several changes to this recipe, all being positive.  I used brown sugar instead of white, and would even take a step to make it healthier next time by using 1/3 c. honey or agave instead of sugar at all.  I also used unsweetened soy milk (for the lactose-sensitive among us).  Finally, I replaced the 1 c. white flour with whole wheat, and as usual, added about 2 T. of vital wheat gluten.

The end result was a sweet bread with lovely crunch from the cornmeal.  For less crunch, use finely ground cornmeal.  If you're making these into rolls, bake for only 20-25 minutes.  Will make 14 large rolls in two 8" cake pans.

Overall:  4 out of 5  Will do quite nicely with soups, and will probably fare better eaten as rolls rather than sandwich bread (but I may be proven wrong.)

58.  Minestrone Soup, pg. 210

Often, with an ingredient list this long, I overlook recipes because they seem overwhelming.  Not only that, but this one takes some serious planning, with cooking beans and then a long overall cooking time.

But, a healthy soup was called for, and time miraculously allowed.  And so it came to pass (in those days), that this soup was made.  And fear ye not, vegetarians/vegans/pork haters:  this recipe is and can be for you, too.

I had looked at this recipe before starting, and saw a few places where I was going to do my own thing to accommodate what I had on hand (I must have some disease that doesn't allow me to follow a recipe.)  Subbed cannellini beans for navy (not a huge deal -- just a slightly longer cooking time), dropped the pork completely, and jumped in straight to the veggies.  Double that onion, consider doubling the garlic as well, especially if you're not using meat.  The more flavor, the merrier!  I used only 4 cups of water (and had about 4 cups of bean juice), mainly because the pan I was using wouldn't have held any more.  Because I didn't use pork, I did still use 4 bouillon cubes, even though I added less water.  Instead of cabbage, I tossed in 2 c. of shredded zucchini from the freezer, which made the soup really pretty.  Lastly, I used a pint of stewed tomatoes (another reason to use less water).

Regardless of the fact that it says to simmer soup for 1 1/2 hours, just check it periodically until the carrots are mostly done.  (I can't imagine what simmering it for that long would do...would there be anything left to chew?)  Didn't add the peas or green beans at the end, and threw in a whole cup of whole wheat macaroni.  Again, you've got to be crazy to let macaroni cook for 20 minutes ... I let mine go for about 8 minutes before turning off the fire, because I knew the pasta would continue to cook.  I don't like obliterated pasta, and you shouldn't either. :)  In case you're wondering when to put the beans back in (because the recipe doesn't state it), I added mine just as the macaroni was reaching the perfect "al dente" state.  Because we weren't eating the soup immediately, we tried to cool it down a bit faster by sitting it outside in the cool.  This still gave the macaroni more time to cook, and so we did end up with nearly lifeless pasta, but I can't imagine how bad it could have been had we let it cook for 20 minutes (really! who cooks macaroni for 20 minutes?????)

Overall: 3.5 out of 5  Fairly colorful, fairly flavorful, and makes a ton.

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