Tag Archives: black bread

Roasted Cauliflower and Black Bread Gratin

1 Nov

Though I know these words will eventually (say, in May, when the temperature is 55 degrees and I am crying about the nonstop rain) come back to haunt me, I have to admit that I have been absolutely loving the chilly fall weather we’ve been experiencing around here. The morning fog, the hoodie I have to don each night to stave off the cold while reading in bed, even the torrential rain pounding against the windows—it’s autumn in Portland, and that means it’s time to break out the gratin dishes.

Not that one is prohibited from eating a warm, crisp-yet-soft gratin in the summertime, but a gratin in autumn is just so much more fitting than a gratin in the summertime. Of course, a lot this rationale of mine centers around what, exactly, makes a gratin in the first place, and, as with many things in the kitchen, the definition of a gratin is certainly up for debate. Traditionally, a gratin is a dish with a crunchy lid baked on top, that lid being, more often than not, bread crumbs, cheese, or a combination of both. The word gratin itself refers specifically to the crisp, crunchy bits left behind in a pan after baking, but, as most of us know a gratin, it means a baked dish itself, topped with something crunchy or cheesy, then baked into a state of complete heavenly bliss.

As far as gratins go, this one is low on the cheesy scale, but high on the crunchy bread factor. Big chunks of crisp, dense black bread get folded amongst roasted cauliflower, speckled with Parmesan cheese, and dotted with garlic, then baked into a warm, crisp mass of perfect autumn eating. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more decadent, you can up the cheese presence, even using something a bit more melty and gooey, like fontina. As it appears here, however, this gratin is a great balance of autumn comfort and roasted vegetable goodness. If I can somehow make all my meals as enjoyable as this one, the cold, rainy weather and I should be able to get along just fine.

Last Year: Ranchero Sauce and Mexican Rice, plus a few words on my unparalleled admiration of Tamra Davis

Roasted Cauliflower and Black Bread Gratin Recipe

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

4 cups cubed black bread (the densest, most flavorful black bread you can find–I used the leftovers from this enormous loaf of black bread)

1 large head cauliflower, core removed, head cut into medium-small florets

2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

¼ cup chopped Italian parsley

¾ cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

On a large baking sheet, combine bread cubes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Toss the bread cubes to thoroughly coat with olive oil. Bake bread cubes in center of oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until the bread is crisp, but not hard. Remove bread crumbs from baking sheet and set aside.

On the same baking sheet, combine cauliflower florets with remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add salt and pepper, and toss everything to combine. Roast cauliflower in center of oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the undersides are well-browned and the tops are golden.

Remove cauliflower from oven, then, while still on the baking sheet, combine with toasted bread cubes, chopped garlic, and chopped Italian parsley. Carefully toss together to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Lower temperature of oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightly spray or brush a casserole dish or baking dish (9” by 13” would be a good size, but I used one that was 10” by 7.5” and it worked out wonderfully) with olive oil. Add half of the cauliflower and bread mix, then sprinkle with ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese. Add remaining cauliflower and bread mixture, sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese, then bake in center of oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top of the gratin is crisp and golden brown.

Serve hot or warm, sprinkled with more chopped Italian parsley. Serves 6 to 8 people as a side dish, or 4 people as a main dish.

Black Bread Rolls and Food for Traveling

29 Mar

When you have to travel in a car for a very long distance, and, thus, a very long period of time, it’s a challenge to try and figure out what you can do to make your time trapped in a car a little less unpleasant.  Last summer, while undertaking a nearly 700 mile drive south, we prepared the car for the needs of a child: toys, books, and a makeshift desk top crafted out of a strategically-cut piece of plywood.  A couple of weeks ago, preparing for a drive that would be half as long with a turnaround time twice as fast (last summer’s trip netted roughly 1400 miles in 8 days, but our most recent trip spanned 900 miles in only 4 days), we planned not for maximum entertainment while in the car, but rather for maximum efficiency.

Maximum efficiency in this case relegated lunch and snacks to the car, allowing for the most efficient use of driving time with the least amount of stops (or so we thought, until a certain preschool-aged child decided that it was of utmost importance to announce his desire to visit a restroom every 20 minutes, but that’s another story).  It also meant that I was going to be able to plan a small menu of picnic-type items, which gave me a certain amount of pleasure.  I am a big fan of meals that consist of many small bites of many different things, so this was right up my alley.

The first order of business, as it is in life, was snacks.  I roasted some nuts, sprinkled them lightly with sea salt, then combined them with some dried cherries and dried cranberries.  To excite our child, I also threw in some chocolate chips (be sure to combine these items AFTER the roasted nuts have cooled off, lest you inadvertently end up creating some sort of chocolate/nut blob that will cool into the world’s lumpiest candy bar.  Which, come to think of it, actually sounds sort of appealing…).  Baby carrots are always welcome, so I added those to the snack pile.  Strawberries and blueberries were fortuitously on sale at the market, so they came along, too.  I sliced up a pear and an apple, packed them into a tightly sealed container, and moved on to lunch items.

In the interest of keeping things simple, I planned to pack what amounted to tiny little sandwich fixings, only without the messiness of spreads and condiments.  The best way to accomplish this, obviously, is with cheese.  You slap some cheese on slices of bread and you’ve got the beginning of many a delicious sandwich.  You can pack cucumber slices and slices of red pepper, and those apple and pears I mentioned earlier are absolutely wonderful when tucked in between slices of sharp cheddar cheese and spicy black bread.

And now, having listed all the foods we managed to pack into one canvas bag for one very long drive, I have to admit something.  The most absolutely essential element to everything we ate?  The bread.  We ate it slathered with almond butter, we ate it enveloping vegetables, cheese and fruit, and we ate it plain, as a snack, managing to totally obliterate the entire supply within the first day of our trip.

Dense, satisfying, and packed with flavor (including hits of fennel, chocolate, espresso, and rye), it’s almost tough to imagine getting into a car now without a little disc of this bread to keep me company.  Luckily, car travel is not required of anyone in order to enjoy this bread, so you can bake it and enjoy it in preparation of another event.  Like, for instance, the fact that it is Tuesday.  Or Wednesday.  Or Thursday.  You get the idea.

Black Bread Rolls

Adapted slightly from Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible

2 1/4 cups warm water (105-115 degrees F)

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

pinch sugar

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons molasses

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon caraway seends

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/3 cup wheat bran

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 cups medium rye flour

3 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

cornmeal, for sprinkling (optional)

1) Pour the warm water into a small bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the surface of the water.  Stir to dissolve and let stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.

2) Combine caraway seeds and fennel seeds in a spice grinder and coarsely grind until no longer whole, but still slightly chunky (you can use a mortar and pestle for this, but I use an old coffee grinder).  In a large bowl using a whisk or in the work bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, molasses, instant espresso powder, salt, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, bran, cocoa powder, and rye flour.  Mix until smooth and add yeast mixture.  Beat for about 3 minutes.  Add the unbleached flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and continue to beat (with paddle attachment if using a machine, or with a wooden spoon if mixing by hand) until too stiff to stir.

3) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes, dusting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to prevent sticking.

If kneading by machine, switch from the paddle to the dough hook and knead for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and springy and springs back when pressed.  If desired, transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead briefly by hand.

4) Place the dough in a greased bowl.  Turn once to grease the top and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

5) Gently deflate the dough.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Grease or parchment-line a baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal, if desired.  Divide the dough into 12 equal portions.  Shape each dough portion into a round ball and place seam side down on the baking sheet.  Flatted each ball with your palm.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk and puffy, about 25 minutes.

6) Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Place the baking sheet on the center lower rack in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until slightly browned and firm to the touch.  Transfer to a rack to cool.

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