Friday, February 27, 2009

Our daily bread - lunches

To follow up on yesterday's blog about our boring breakfasts, I shall briefly describe our repetitious lunches.

Mr Neff usually packs a sandwich--he's on a peanut-butter-and-jelly kick this year--and a tub of yogurt and fruit (grapes, an orange, or a pear). Sometimes lunch is ordered in so the staff can keep right on working. Pizza and outsized sub sandwiches are popular. And sometimes he goes to a restaurant. Favorite: India Palace's buffet.

Sometimes I lunch with other ladies either at home or in a restaurant, but most of the time I eat one of three meals at home: either a sandwich and a piece of fruit, or two slices of bread spread with peanut or almond butter and topped with applesauce, or a bowl of cereal and milk topped with berries. I sometimes finish with a handful of peanuts. And then I have a cup of tea.

Why do I feel like I'm on a talk show, divulging seedy secrets?

Hey, go ahead and laugh ... but these odd little breakfasts and lunches are providing us each with two or three servings of fruit, two or three servings of whole grains, a serving or two from the milk group, protein from nuts--and, equally important, we like them.

Really good whole wheat bread helps.

I've adapted a recipe from Mark Bittman's wonderful How to Cook Everything, though he would no longer recognize it and might even disown it:

In your food processor, bzzzz these ingredients for a few seconds to blend:
  • 1 lb (about 3.5 c) white whole wheat flour (you can get this at Trader Joe's: it's real whole wheat, but doesn't seem as serious)
  • 1.5 t active dry yeast
  • 2 t salt
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 2-3 T butter
Through the feeder tube, add 10-11 oz warm tap water while food processor is spinning. You want the dough to form into a soft ball, still a little sticky, but able to be picked up if you oil your hands. If you can pick it up really easily with unoiled hands, you probably didn't add enough water and your bread will be hard. If it turns into a sloppy muck, you need to add more flour and slow down on the water next time.

Put a little olive or canola oil in a pottery bowl, take the dough out of the food processor, knead it 20-30 times, and put it in the bowl. Turn it so all the dough gets oiled. Cover the bowl with a damp dishtowel (run a clean one under hot water and then wring out all the water you can) and put it in a warm place to rise for two hours. If the day is cold, I turn on my oven for just a minute, then turn it off and let the bread rise in there.

When the bread has doubled, punch it down and then shape into a loaf (if you haven't done this before, you can either experiment or you can buy Bittman's fine book and learn how he does it) and put it in a 9 x 5 loaf pan (preferably metal and nonstick; butter it anyway and shake some corn meal on the bottom and sides, if you don't want to risk permanently embedding the bread in it). Cover the pan loosely with the dishtowel and let the dough rise again for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread for about 45 minutes. Immediately after baking, remove it from the pan (so it doesn't stick) and let it cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Once you've done this a couple of times, you'll be able to throw the dough together and start it rising in less than 10 minutes. If you want, you can cover it with plastic wrap instead of a towel and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight. Take it out when you get up, punch it down, let it rest and warm up for half an hour or so, and then shape it into a loaf and take it from there.

In an excellent loaf of home-made whole wheat bread, virtue and pleasure are one.

Daily bread Breakfast and lunch--the usual. Dinner--whole wheat spaghetti, tomato sauce, parmesan cheese, vegetarian meat balls, fresh spinach with olive oil and garlic and lemon juice, berries.


Julie Ackerman Link said...

I'm going to try this in the bread maker using "dough" mode.

Lileonie said...

I add one half a moccha spoon of ascorbic acid (vit C) and I can skip all the rising, punching down and rising. I light my oven before I start, then form my loaves and put them straight into the oven from the mixing. The vitamin C makes the yeast "take".


Karen Tornberg said...

Do you have the revised version of Bittman's cookbook as pictured, or the original? Was that where you found the arugula recipe?

LaVonne Neff said...

Karen: I have the original one with the yellow cover. I also have the vegetarian version with the green cover, and that was the source of the arugula recipe (p 550, Grits Gratin with Arugula and Garlic, and I did the white beans variation on p 551).

Readers of Lileonie's comment: I've talked to her further, and that would be 500g ascorbic acid (you can get the powder at Trader Joe's). Begin baking at 400, then turn to 450 (or 475 if your oven agrees) for last 10 minutes to form crust.

LaVonne Neff said...


In the above comment, that was 500 MILLIGRAMS, not grams, of ascorbic acid. Of course you knew that already.

There's a reason I'm not a pharmacist.