Squashed Spinach

For a fall weekend lunch pulled together with NOTHING in the fridge, I’m pretty proud of this Roasted Butternut Salad. I found three almost-to-the-wrinkled-stage butternut squash(es?) sitting resignedly in the vegetable bin along with some almost-wilted spinach. Peeled and cut the squash and roasted it with a bit of olive oil and half an onion for about 35 minutes. Put it on the not-so-fresh spinach and added crispy cheese bread made from the lonely ends of a pumpernickel loaf and freshly grated parmesan (that, at least, was new and good). Sometimes, being too lazy to go to the grocery turns out to be a good thing.

To Dress or To Stuff, in White Bread or in Corn

I think we all know there are two kinds of people: Those who start making their Thanksgiving dressing by tearing up pieces of white bread and those who start by whipping up a couple of pans of cornbread. And although husband JP and I generally are in sync with almost all of our opinions — except, of course, the eternal questions of politics, the Clintons and whether or not Sarah Jessica Parker is “hot” (I just don’t see it) — we each are pretty adamant in our position when it comes to white bread versus cornbread in Thanksgiving dressing. And neither of us is budging. When I tell you that I come from Yankee stock since my mother’s family was from Illinois and my dad’s from Pennsylvania and that my husband’s family is full of Southerners from way back , you probably can guess which side of the bread basket we each claim. Read more in the food story I wrote for the TimesDaily. But whatever sort of bread/cranberry sauce/pie/potatoes/vegetables (just not lima beans, please), hope your dinner is yummy and you eat it with people you love.


If It’s “Tuscany,” It Must Be Good

Husband JP was flummoxed by this loaf of "Neo-Tuscan" bread we found in a Wal-Mart bakery department. I mean, "neo-Tuscan?" What does that even mean? Is there such a thing as "new-Tuscan?" We in no way would ever be confused that we perhaps were buying "old-Tuscan" bread. But at least the label has all the triggering words that make me add an item to my shopping bags: natural, Tuscan, boule. Never mind that this basically is a round loaf of soft crusty white bread. It's "neo-Tuscan!" So there!


I’ll bet you thought that “Sister Schubert” was the product of marketing folks sitting around a table brainstorming the image of a sweet and gracious Southern woman who just happens to make The Best Rolls Ever. Ever. But Sister Schubert is an actual real person — she really is a sweet and gracious Southern woman who makes The Best Rolls Ever. Patricia Barnes Schubert — “Sister” is her childhood nickname — is an Alabama native who built a successful bread company from her grandmother’s recipe for Everlasting Rolls. Schubert was in Tuscumbia, Alabama, this past week signing copies of her new cookbook, “Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters,” and demonstrating a recipe for Lemon-Blueberry Trifle at the weekly Spring Park Farmers’ Market. I sat under a tent with her for a few minutes and loved watching people come up to look at the cookbooks and then slowly recognize the woman sitting there as the woman pictured on the book cover. If I had a Sister Schubert roll for every time somebody said, “I didn’t know there was a real Sister Schubert,” I’d have a lot of rolls. These frozen delights are a staple for Southern meals — everybody’s got a pan or two stashed away for bread emergencies. Read the story I wrote about her visit to Tuscumbia and check out the recipe at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100616/NEWS/100619858. Her story of hard work and determination — and family and faith  — truly is inspiring.


You — yes, you! — can bake bread at home, even if you suffer from yeast phobia and break down in tears at the thought of controlling water temperature and room temperature and oven drafts and all those other variables that affect bread quality. And I’m not talking about bread machines, either. I think we can all agree that those weirdly consistently rectangular loaves never can be confused with real homemade. But there’s a way to do produce yeast bread perfectly every single time. It’s called the no-knead method, and it involves a wet dough you stir up and then let rise for almost a whole day, resulting in a freeform artisan bread that needs to be eaten that day. But you’ll never have to worry about it going stale because I promise when you make bread with this method, you’ll gobble up every crumb within minutes. I’m speaking from personal experience here — well, the gobbling up part, anyway. My friend Sherry Campbell, director of the kitchen-incubator Shoals Culinary Complex in Florence, Alabama, gave a class on this method recently and everybody was impressed. It’s easy and simple and requires equipment you probably already have on hand — or can pick up inexpensively. There rarely is breaking news in cooking, but this method got lots of attention a couple years ago when cookbook author Mark Bittman, who writes The Minimalmist column in the New York Times food section, reported on his success with the no-knead techniques perfected by Jim Lahey, a New York restaurant owner and chef. Here’s Bittman’s original article, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/08mini.html (which I was shocked to see actually came out almost four years ago instead of the two I was thinking in my head), and more photos and a story about Campbell’s class from the Florence newspaper, http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100324/ARTICLES/3245001.