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3 Doors Down Cafe’s White Bean and Fresh Herb Spread

22 Oct

This recipe is one of those food discoveries that, when revealed, makes you want to weep with joy. A few blocks from our house is a great little neighborhood restaurant by the name of 3 Doors Down. It’s a lovely place, featuring fantastic seasonal fare (a concept they’ve long embraced, far before it became a national trend), great wines, and an atmosphere that caters to both a nice family meal or a special evening out with friends.

That last point is a fairly spectacular achievement, and I give nothing but glowing reviews to 3 Doors Down for being so capable of meeting such disparate needs. On more than one occasion I have spotted a variety of simultaneous diners at 3 Doors Down that included a couple with a new baby snoozing away in an infant carseat, a table of six adults ordering wine two bottles at a time, several tables of dressed-up, cozy couples, and a party of three that included two adults and one bowtie-wearing six year-old (full disclosure: one of those tables was my household).

Every meal at 3 Doors Down is started with a dish of this superb white bean spread, accompanied by a plate of crusty bread. To illustrate its allure, picture this: when the aforementioned bowtie-wearing child was presented with a petite dish of the tasty spread, a single taste was all it took to hook him, and before long he began simply spooning the deliciousness into his mouth, forgoing the bread entirely. While all the food at 3 Doors Down is top notch, there cannot be enough fawning words dedicated to the creamy, flavorful white bean starter. So savory and rich, so wonderfully fresh and delicious, it is practically the definition of comfort found in a food. And the tear-inducing part? The recipe is available on their website, because that’s how great 3 Doors Down really is. Whip up a batch of it and you’ll see firsthand why my tears of joy were totally and completely justified.

Last Year: Cider Pressing and Two Kinds of Cupcakes

3 Doors Down Cafe’s White Bean and Fresh Herb Spread Recipe

I made this with freshly cooked beans, as called for in the recipe, but I see no reason why one couldn’t use canned cannellini beans if pressed for time.

2 cups dry cannellini beans

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons fresh garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped

2 pinches red chile flakes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Cover beans with water by two inches. Soak for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Drain beans. Put beans into saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook beans until tender, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Drain.

In separate saucepan melt butter over medium low heat and add all remaining ingredients, except for the olive oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent about 7 to 10 minutes. Add cooked beans. Mash or puree with a food processor or stick blender until chunky-smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a dish or bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with crusty bread.

Makes 4 cups.

Cheddar, Apple, and Poppy Seed Scones

17 Oct

I don’t want it to end. I am speaking, of course, of the San Francisco Giants, and their near-miraculous performance in the postseason this year. After coming back from a two-game deficit last week, winning the division series and advancing to the pennant race, my heart was as full as it’s been in years. Okay, since 2010, when the Giants won the World Series. But still. My devotion to baseball is such that I tend to get very, very excited when things go well (and, conversely, very, very sad when things do not go well).

Plus, I am having a great time coming up with new and inventive ways to incorporate black and orange foods into our meals. Sometimes the black and orange components are front and center, but other times, like with these scones, the black and orange bits are a bit more subtle, though no less enjoyable. Actually, it just occurred to me that there might have been a more obvious scone to make when adding to my arsenal of orange and black foods: orange chocolate scones. Why did I not think of that earlier?

Truth be told, I am glad I did not go the orange and chocolate route. These cheddar apple scones, rich and buttery, but barely sweetened, were an absolute delight. With just a hint of whole wheat pastry flour to add to their heartiness, their pure, simple flavor made for a perfect fall bite. I had a bit of an internal battle with myself before I decided to hold off on adding any pinches of fall-ish spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.), and, in the end, I am so glad I decided to reign things in. With just enough sharp cheddar folded into the dough to offset the fresh sweetness of the apples, these scones are just lovely. They served us well as both a fantastic afternoon treat and a welcome, celebratory post-game snack. The Giants won, so I am, of course, going to credit the scones. Not that I really need an excuse, but I just might have to make these again for Game 3. You know, because of the good luck they brought the team. Of course.

Last Year: Panko-Crusted Sole, a Dinner in 20 Minutes

Cheddar, Apple, and Poppy Seed Scones Recipe

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 ¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 ½ cups cold buttermilk or soured milk

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 cups peeled apple chunks, about ¼-inch in size (from roughly 1 ½ large apples)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, poppy seeds, and lemon zest. Whisk to combine thoroughly.

Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few large pea-sized butter bits strewn throughout. Using a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula, carefully stir in the buttermilk until the dough appears quite shaggy and just begins to hold together. Fold in both the grated cheese and the apple chunks.

Turned the dough out onto a floured surface. Carefully pat the dough into a long rectangle about 18 inches long and roughly 1 ½-inches thick. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 12 triangles.

Place the dough triangles on the prepared baking sheet. You might need to partake in a bit of creative arranging in order to make all 12 triangles fit on the baking sheet. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops of the scones have turned dark golden brown. Remove scones to a wire rack to cool slightly, then serve while still warm.

Makes 12 scones.

Cheddar Apple Cornmeal Bread

24 Sep

Sometimes I just want to bake something. It doesn’t matter what, really. There are days when, faced with an open stretch of an hour or so, I just want to root around in the pantry, see what jumps out at me, then bust out the flour and create something that I can put in the oven. Maybe it’s the comfort that baking suggests, what with the emanating warmth of a heated oven and the lingering scent of something slowly baking and waiting to greet you. Or maybe it’s just that I have so little free time these days, when I have an open moment, my brain automatically commands: MAKE SOMETHING.

Unromantic as that last notion may be, I am glad to have whatever urge it may be that compels me to create new foods. It keeps my creativity sharp, sure, but it also brings me so much joy to be measuring, mixing, and anticipating what new thing I have just thrown together. Because sometimes that is exactly what happens: I find things, I put them together, and I wait to see what emerges. My efforts are not always successful (remind me to not tell you about the time I put dried pears in a batch of cookies and ended up with cookies that tasted as though they were studded with chunks of fibrous cardboard), but, as with this bread, when they are successful, it certainly makes my day feel that much more complete.

So: the bread. I had an apple, I had some cheese, and I wanted to bake something. A tour of the pantry lead me to some cornmeal, and, with the knowledge that I had only a single egg left in the refrigerator, I decided that some sort of batter bread was in order. Heavy on textural variation, this bread is not a cornbread, per se, but neither is it a standard batter bread. Chunks of apple and streaks of sharp cheddar cheese lend the bread a comforting flavor, and, along with the cornmeal, they add a sunny brightness to the appearance that I did not anticipate. Added along with the fine crumb, wonderful toothsome bite, and delicately savory/sweet flavor, it was the final element of a pleasingly successful afternoon experiment, and one I certainly plan on revisiting in the months to come.

Last Year: Lime Coconut Tart and Everything Flatbread

Cheddar Apple Cornmeal Bread Recipe

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and diced into ¼-inch chunks (about 1 cup apple chunks total)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup cornmeal (finely-ground, not polenta)

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups buttermilk or sour milk

1 large egg

4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled slightly

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously grease an 8 ½” by 4 ½” loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then whisk to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk or sour milk, egg, and melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and, with a spatula or wooden spoon, stir just to combine.

Fold the shredded cheese and diced apples into the batter until they are fully incorporated, being careful not to overmix the batter as you fold.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, then smooth the top as much as possible.  Bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, rotating halfway through. The bread will be done when the top is tall and golden brown and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the bread emerges with just a small amount of moist crumbs attached.

Cool the bread in its pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Bread is best when served ever-so-slightly warm, or at room temperature.

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