A Recipe Hall of Mirrors

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Sometimes recipe blogging is a little absurd. Take this recipe I’ve just poached, I mean posted.

Somewhere, many years ago, someone nicknamed Gran perfected a recipe for Easy Little Bread. Her granddaughter Natalie Oldfield published the recipe in a cookbook, which was then purchased by food blogger Heidi Swanson, who made it, photographed it, and rewrote the recipe for publication on her blog. Then I read the recipe on Heidi’s blog, and in turn, made, photographed and rewrote it yet again for publication on my blog.

Maybe the fact that I’m posting this recipe makes me unoriginal or even a thief, but the truth is, I love this bread. I’ve probably made it 20 times since I first saw the recipe in 2011. It tastes like something I probably ate growing up. It’s easy to make, and it is delicious plain or smeared with butter and raspberry jam.

I guess that’s where the absurdity of blogging and reblogging old recipes gets overshadowed by the beauty of sharing. For Gran, it was as simple as making this bread for her family. For Natalie, it was a desire to preserve that lovely family recipe (and many others) in a cookbook. For Heidi, it was a love of collecting interesting cookbooks like Natalie’s and sharing that find with her loyal followers–which no doubt helped sales of the book in turn.

And for me, it’s a love–nay, a compulsion–for sharing the stories behind the recipes I find, because food is a huge part of who I am.

Whether you create a recipe yourself, watch your grandmother make it a hundred times first, or find it online and fall in love with it–it evolves a little each time you make it as you inject more of your own preferences and little flourishes. Eventually, it becomes part of who you are, until you pass it on to someone else, and allow them the chance to make it until it becomes their own. And so on.

I’m not sure who the very first person to make Easy Little Bread was, but I’m sure glad it came into my life. And now I can’t help myself but to share it with you.

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Easy little bread ³
originally adapted from Gran’s Kitchen

    1 1/4 cups warm water
    2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
    1 tablespoon honey
    1 cup unbleached AP flour
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
    1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
    2 tablespoons melted butter

Method: In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast onto the warm water and stir until the yeast dissolves. Whisk in the honey and set aside for a few minutes, until the yeast blooms and swells a bit, about 10 minutes.

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In a large bowl, mix the flours, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir very well.

Brush an 8-cup loaf pan or 8-by-8-inch baking dish with the melted butter. Turn the dough into the dish (spreading into an even layer if necessary), and cover with a clean, slightly damp cloth. Set in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle.

Bake the bread for 35-40 minutes, until golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan. Finish briefly under the broiler for a golden brown finish on top.

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Remove from the oven, and turn the bread out of the pan quickly. Let it cool on a rack so it doesn’t steam in the pan. Serve warm, smeared with butter and your favorite jam.

Lemony roasted asparagus

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When I was in culinary school, my persnickety old French chef-instructor said cooking asparagus in any other way besides steaming it was heresy. “I don’t want to taste fire, only zee beautiful flavor of zee asparagus,” he said, in an almost scolding tone. Being the lowly, non-French culinary student that I was, I quickly agreed and dutifully steamed the spears at my cooking station. But since that day, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve steamed asparagus. I love the flavor of it roasted far too much. The tips brown the quickest, turning into crunchy, toasty little bites that I often snack on when I’m supposed to be plating up dinner.

The lemon zest and juice perfume the asparagus with citrus and a hint of acidity to balance their deep, roasty flavor.

Note: If you prefer your roasted asparagus a little more singed, opt for the skinny spears instead. You might have to adjust the roasting time down slightly–just keep an eye on them.

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Lemony roasted asparagus
serves 2-3 as a side dish

    1 bunch asparagus
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
    1 teaspoon lemon zest
    1 teaspoon lemon juice
    Good-quality extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
    Sea salt, for finishing

Method: Preheat the oven to 425F and arrange a rack in the middle. Wash the asparagus and cut the woody ends off the bottom of each spear. Place them on a sheet pan in a single layer, as you don’t want them to steam in the oven.

Drizzle them with the olive oil and season generously with salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Toss to coat and place them in the oven. Roast for about 15 minutes, tossing once or twice during the roasting process, until they’re browned on the outside and cooked through without getting mushy.

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Pull them out of the oven, and immediately sprinkle them with the lemon zest, juice and a thin drizzle of the finishing olive oil. Sprinkle them with a little sea salt, and toss once more with tongs. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: For a positively ethereal breakfast or lunch, fry a couple of eggs using the basting method I describe here. Arrange five or six roasted asparagus spears on a plate and slide the fried eggs over top. Break the yolks over the asparagus to create your own gorgeous sauce. Serve with buttered toast for sopping.

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