In New England, the celebrations surrounding the 4th of July are palpable; parades, center of town concerts, strawberry shortcake festivals. Weeks in advance, the white clapboard houses lining the proverbial main street, north street and south street don their festive regalia in preparation for independence day celebrations. Flags and buntings unfurl from their wintry storage places, with a brisk dusting off, they begin to don the front porches and entryways of various houses. Planters and hanging baskets begin to fill with red white and blue petunia or begonia and window boxes are outfitted with miniature flags on little gold-capped wooden sticks, the very same that line the brick pathways leading from street to the front doors of many houses this time of year. While the 4th of July conjures this very specific imagery, it celebrations also manifest in the form of backyard picnics, cookouts and potlucks.
This year, spring has been slow in coming and only just now is it beginning to show itself. The slightest hints are trickling in at the markets, tucked amongst the wintry root vegetables are a few tender green stalks of asparagus and the brilliant pinky reds of slender rhubarb. But even still, as these items shyly make their way to market, there is snow on the ground and low digits temperatures awaiting us each day. Winter’s persistence has me reluctant to shun it’s comforting meals just yet but I do so long for those first few tastes of spring. So, I’ve folded the two seasons into one to create the recipe below – A spring green bread salad. It ticks all the boxes, fresh and light with distinct flavors of the new season and a nourishing hearty backbone. This delicious backbone comes from one of my favorite foods, really beautifully made bread. Give me all the crisp crusts and invitingly chewy centers and I couldn’t be happier. La Brea Bakery breads, with their Big Sky Montana grown single origin wheats and stunning sourdough starter create some truly wonderful artisan breads. And their Reserve sourdough demi-baguette was the perfect choice for this recipe, crisping up beautifully in the oven. La Brea Bakery breads are consistently delicious and accessible nationally (something else I love!) and they have been using the same starter since 1989. Look out for their new Reserve breads like the sourdough in this recipe at Krogers Markets specialty cheese counters – distinguished cheeses and artisan breads in one place, yes please. Find out more here & look for a little coupon too! continue reading
Bread is my desert island food.
As in if I had to choose one thing to eat forever, should I find myself alone with only one food source on a desert island for the rest of days – It would be bread. It is one of those foods that nourishes not only my body but my soul. That sound of thick crust cracking as you tear off the end of a baguette or slice into well baked boule has a sort of magic about it.
On a recent rainy autumn weekend I found myself on a small island in the Pacific Northwest. Surrounded by the waters of the Sound and the colors of autumn. Hues of amber and ocher just beginning to dot the dense evergreen forests and a welcomed chill in the air, just right for lighting fires in the wood stove and layering on a cozy jumper. The smell of slowly baking bread ensnaring us all in our little weekend home.
So, there I was on my island just south of Seattle, not marooned or alone nor in a climate that could be called tropical or considered desert but happily there was plenty of delicious bread. Beautiful La Brea Bakery bread baking away in the oven as six members of the food blogging community and I cooked up a storm. Armed with a handful of newly developed recipes and a curated selection of fresh artisan La Brea Bakery breads (in the most stunning array of shapes, colors, textures) we made a little magic together over that weekend.
In the course of three days we prepared meals, styled tables, gathered, ate, gleaned inspiration, cultivated conversation and photographed it all. Each of the seven of us prepared a recipe for the weekend – mine, for a Smoky Aubergine Spread can be found lower down in the post and you can find the other six amazing recipes from our meals through the links here – Natalie’s Coconut French Toast with Poached Apples and Pecans. Sasha’s recipe for Fall Panzanella with Roasted Squash and Creamy Lemon Pepper Dressing, Shelly’s recipe for Roasted Grape Crostini with Chevré and Rosemary,Trisha’s recipe for Shakshuka with Chevré & Fresh Herbs. Alanna’s Golden Vegetable Chickpea Minestrone with Lemon Parsley Oil and Eva’s Apple Bread Pudding with Caramel Drizzle.
It was a weekend full of camaraderie and living well. Taking the time to savor the simple, to be intentional and find the elegance in the everyday- elevating it beyond the mundane and repetitive. For me a huge part of living well revolves around good food and being together at the table. Good foods start with intentionality and its one of the things I love most about La Brea Bakery breads – they are crafted according to slow-process artisan methods. They take the time needed to let the breads develop using honored tradition, the original starter – circa 1989! and a slow rise – it takes at least 24 hours for each bread from start to finish. And the result is all that thick crunchy crust goodness you could ever want in a loaf of bread.
For my Smoky Aubergine spread – it is best served with La Brea Bakery’s Cranberry Walnut loaf, a slightly unexpected pairing but I love the hint of sharp sweetness from the cranberry in the bread and it’s gorgeous closed-crumb texture is a perfect counterpoint for this heartier spread. If you don’t have a grill you can still make this recipe by roasting the aubergine over the flame on your gas stove top or placing them on a baking sheet and putting them under the broiler.Just watch them carefully and remember to turn them frequently.*Thank you to La Brea Bakery for sponsoring this weekend and making this post possible. All opinions are my own
Smoky Aubergine Spread
- 2 loaves of La Brea Bakery Cranberry Walnut
- 2 medium-sized aubergine (about 250/300g each)
- 1/2 cup tahini + 2 tbsp
- 3/4 cup Crème fraîche
- 2 tbsp sour cream
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic (paste or grated on the microplaner)
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp shallots
- ¼ cup each parsley and dill
- ¼ tsp honey
- salt to taste
- 2 Tbsp toasted pepitas roughly chopped
- 1 tsp sumac
- 1 Tbsp Za’atar
- 1 Tbsp dill fronds
- Preheat the oven to 375F (190C)
- Prick each aubergine a few times, then char the outside evenly by placing them directly on hot grill, turn them until the eggplants are uniformly charred on the outside.
- While aubergine are charing add shallots, garlic, sour cream and Crème fraîche to a small bowl and let stand with a light pinch of salt
- Slice aubergine in-half the long way, salt lightly and place on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven approximately 20 to 25 minutes or until they’re completely soft and most of the liquid has evaporated; a poke from a paring knife poke should meet no resistance. Remove from the oven
- While the aubergine is cooling, place tahini and lemon juice in a blender or food processor and blend on high about 30 seconds. Then add Crème fraîche mixture and honey and blend another 30 seconds.
- Add the dill, parsley olive oil and blend 30 seconds more or until the olive oil is incorporated
- Scrape the pulp from the skins. Puree the pulp in a blender or food processor with the other ingredients – it should be relatively smooth but still with some texture to the aubergine and all ingredients should be incorporated into the mix.
- Taste, and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary. Let is stand at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator or make up to a day ahead before serving.
- To serve sprinkle with chopped pepitas, sumac, Za’atar and perhaps some additional herbs
- Serve with quarter slices of La Brea Bakery Cranberry Walnut Loaf and/or Olive Loaf