Many years ago Seattle held a contest to give the city a nickname. There were some lame entries, but when Emerald City was mentioned, a collective sigh of, “Ah yes, what else could it be?” could be heard.
Flying from points east at about 40 minutes out, inbound air traffic begins its descent. Passing over the Cascade Mountains, the landscape beneath the wings changes from the dry and drab of Eastern Washington to the lush, verdant, green carpet watered by the curtain of incoming Pacific moisture, urged to dawdle by those same mountains. It is a stunning transformation and to me, a beautiful reminder of why I chose to make this green jewel my home.
Since that contest, the “e” section of the yellow pages has grown e-normously as businesses from aerodynamic engineering to zoo maintenance tack “Emerald City” in front of their name. Why even the local horse track is named “Emerald Downs,” where if you were really lucky and could accurately pick the first, second and third place winners, you would have won the jackpot of horse racing, the Trifecta!
This weekend began our summer schedule, with the kids at their dad’s for a week at a time. While I miss them, it gives Steve and I time to be adults, to watch whatever TV we want and to eat something besides quick and sleazy. My goal – to hit the trifecta of culinary happiness; a meal in which all the parts were a winner. To begin – good bread.
Now I know the spongey stuff which holds fillings together so you can eat them does say “bread” on the wrapper, but it lacks the backbone to stand up and beat its chest to declare, “I am the staff of life!” When you want to sit down and indulge in a piece of bread and butter, you will never find this rising to the forefront of my mental imaginings.
Before we began our busy day yesterday, I popped the ingredients for my favorite rustic, crusty bread into the bread machine. Part one of the trifecta is
X Marks the Spot Peasant BreadAdapted from “The Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook” by Tom LaCalamita
- 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 T rye flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1 tsp lemon juice
All ingredients should be at room temperature. In the bread machine (adapt to hand kneading if you prefer), add all ingredients and set the machine on the dough/manual setting. At the end of the program, press clear/stop. To punch the dough down, press start and let knead for 60 seconds. Press clear/stop again. Remove dough and let rest 5 minutes before hand shaping.
Lightly sprinkle your baking pan or stone with cornmeal. Shape dough into a ball and cut in half. Using both hands, stretch ball of dough out and down. Gather the ends to the bottom center and pinch together to form a plump, round ball. Repeat this process a couple of times, or until the dough forms into a smooth, tight loaf. Gently pinch together bottom ends. Repeat with other half of dough.
Carefully place the loaf on the prepared baking pan/stone and with a very sharp paring knife or single-edge razor blade, cut the top of each loaf with a large X, approximately 1/4 inch deep. Cover with a clean kitchen cloth. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 425ºF. When loaf has doubled in size, sprinkle generously with flour and place in the preheated oven. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until brown in color. * Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.
* for a crispier crust, place a pan of boiling water in the bottom of the oven. It’s great either way.
And now what to have with it? We had our second winner with:
Mound ‘o BLT
At this point I could insert detailed amounts and preparation notes, but hey, this isn’t rocket science. Cook some very thinly chopped bacon, drain the fat, add some yummy chopped up tomatoes like the ones I have growing on my deck, some julienned lettuce and some mayo or Miracle Whip or yogurt — whatever floats your boat.
Cut the top off the loaf, scoop out part of the inside (not all of it — we’re about the bread here), and pile in your yummy filling.
And part 3 of our winning dinner, a cooling splash of melon to compliment the saltiness of the bacon,
Emerald CocktailAdapted from Midori recipe card
- 1 part Midori (or other green melon liqueur)
- 1 part vodka
- splash of lime juice
Combine the Midori and vodka in a pitcher and stir in some ice until chilled.
Note from my husband, who in one of his previous job iterations was a bar tender at a gentleman’s club in the UK. You do not, unlike James Bond, shake vodka. It bruises the alcohol. He suggests that James Bond had his shaken so it decreased the alcohol’s effect on him; he was more effective dealing with the bad guys that way.
Note from me – a gentleman’s club in Britain is NOT the same thing as a gentleman’s club in Texas.
Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the cherry. If you like a little more “fun” with your drink, fill to just below the rim with well chilled ginger ale.