I couldn’t agree more with the message Maria Rodale puts forth in her new cookbook, Scratch: Home Cooking for Everyone Made Simple, Fun, and Totally Delicious, of which I received a review copy. In the Introduction, she writes “I believe that a home-cooked meal made from scratch – preferably with organic ingredients (and maybe even homegrown) – is one of the greatest pleasures in life.” She goes on with “Cooking from scratch isn’t about impressing friends and neighbors (although you probably will); it’s about nourishing our families and ourselves. And the truth is, when it comes to making delicious and easy food from scratch, it truly is freaking easy!” She happens to be the granddaughter of the founder of the organic movement in the US and grew up on the first official organic farm in the country, but she’s also very open-minded and practical about what will and won’t work for everyone. There’s nothing preachy or judgmental about her advice and suggestions. Her hope is to inspire readers to make the most nourishing food they can with the freshest, healthiest ingredients they can get. The recipes are simple enough for beginner cooks tackle for the first time or for practiced cooks to make part of a routine. There are several salads to choose from, and one that got my attention was the American-style Antipasto Salad with red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, olives, pickled cauliflower and more. The Noodle Love chapter includes a couple of options for mac-and-cheese along with other sauces for pasta and even instructions for making fresh pasta if you want. Lots of variety is found in the recipes for main dishes. I’m interested in the Red Beans and Rice since this version is a little different than what I’ve seen before. Smoked turkey wings are used to make a broth, and the meat is taken from the bones and added to the beans later, and the rice is cooked with coconut milk. Some other great-looking dishes include Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls, Chicken Cacciatore, and Crispy-skin Salmon with Herb Dressing. There are also side dishes and sweets in the book, but I got side-tracked by the Snack Time chapter.
I love making homemade crackers and have made a few different types over the years. The promise of this recipe being the quickest and easiest convinced me I had to try it. It is a simple mix of whole wheat pastry flour, water, and olive oil. I found I needed to add some extra flour to get the dough to a consistency for easy rolling. And, in usual fashion, I made the recipe more complicated than it needed to be. In the book, the dough is placed on a baking sheet and simply rolled or pressed out to the corners. Then, the dough is cut into squares or whatever shape, sprinkled with salt or whatever desired toppings and baked. Instead, I rolled the dough on a floured surface, cut even shapes with a fluted pastry cutter, transferred the cut pieces to a baking sheet, and sprinkled with salt, pepper, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds. I actually enjoy pulling out my kitchen ruler and measuring dough to cut it. The purpose of making homemade crackers was to use them as delivery mechanisms for Smoked Trout Spread. Before making this, I was telling a few friends about my cooking plans for the weekend. I’m so glad I mentioned it because my friend told me about Ducktrap River smoked trout from Maine. I wasn’t familiar with it, but it’s sold at our Whole Foods Market, and it’s incredibly delicious. I’ll be thinking of all sorts of ways to use it now. The spread is made with softened cream cheese, lemon juice, minced onion, chopped herbs, and flaked smoked trout and I added some lemon zest as well. I combined everything except the trout and mixed until smooth and then stirred in the flaked trout.
If you’re looking for snack ideas for a big football game in the near future, may I suggest Smoked Trout Spread with Homemade Crackers? The smoky flavor with the lemon and onion make this a savory delight, and crunchy homemade crackers that you can customize to your liking are perfect with it. And, if you’re in need of some simple recipes to make for your family or friends, this book would be a great place to look.
Smoked Trout Spread
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from Scratch: Home Cooking for Everyone Made Simple, Fun, and Totally Delicious.
I’ve always wanted to make a trout spread and finally came up with this recipe, which is so simple and easy. My youngest sniffed it suspiciously the first time before trying it. After tasting it, she closed her eyes and smiled. “That’s good,” she said. Mission accomplished.
8 ounces smoked trout, skin removed
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Finely chopped chives or parsley, for garnish
or Homemade Crackers, for serving
1. Flake or chop the trout into little pieces and place in a bowl.
2. Add the cream cheese, lemon juice, onion, and salt and pepper to taste and mix until combined. (I find using my hands works best as it helps soften the cheese.)
3. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with the herbs, and serve with bread or crackers.
It started with a picture I saw in the local paper about making crackers from scratch. I saved it, but then never found it again. So I decided to experiment. A quick search online and I was disturbed by the complexity of the recipes I found. I wanted the quickest, easiest, no-fuss option, so I pulled the essence out of the recipes I saw and came up with these simple crackers. My kids now ask for them constantly; a batch never lasts more than 24 hours.
Serves 6 to 8
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the pan
sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or other toppings
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 17 3 11-inch rimmed baking sheet with oil.
2. In a bowl, combine the flour, water, oil, and 1 teaspoon salt and stir until combined and a dough forms. Place the dough in the center of the prepared baking sheet and roll out roughly with a rolling pin or use your hands, and press it into the corners. No need to be fussy here, rustic is great!
3. Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut even squares, rectangles, or whatever shape takes your fancy. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden. Set aside to cool (the crackers will harden as they cool). Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
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