A friend of mine from Canada came to visit a couple of years ago and brought me one of those souvenir sets of typical Canadian condiments. You know, the kind of gift set you might find in a shop at the airport? Well, the present was well used. The condiments included two different bottles of delicious pure maple syrup and though I am not a lover of maple flavored things myself, the syrups were quickly consumed by the younger members of my family. The third item however went unused. It was a bottle of tiny lumps of maple sugar. Until a few weeks ago I must confess that had absolutely no idea what I was going to use this for. (I tried it on oatmeal and it didn’t do the trick for me.) Not being really suitable to put in the box for the next canned food drive, I stuck it in the back of the cabinet with the other sugars, salts, etc.
Then recently, when it was time to fortify my bacon supply, while hunting in the cupboards to find the ingredients for the cure mix, I came across the odd bottle of maple sugar. Serendipity is a wonderful thing! What could be better than maple cured bacon smoked over apple wood? Now I told you all about bacon curing in my post here, so I am not going to repeat myself. All I did differently was generously sprinkle the curing bacon with the maple sugar. (FYI, I could just as well have used regular real maple syrup.) As the bacon cured, the sugar dissolved and the meat was infused with the flavor. After an 8 day cure, a couple of days drying and an afternoon in the smoker where I used apple wood for the smoke, the bacon was ready to meet some delicious, locally grown, heirloom tomatoes. My yield was about 5 pounds of bacon which I sliced up into serving sized packages for the freezer.
(Sorry for the crappy photo – look at the earlier bacon post for some much better porn.)
Finally around mid-June, at the Maplewood Farmers’ Market, I spied a few first-of-the-season heirloom tomatoes. The farmer knew that he had gold that week. They were ridiculously But my bacon was waiting and my patience was non-existant. I had to have one, even though I cost me my right arm. Ugly, but perfect in texture, color and flavor this expensive tomato did not disappoint us.
Bacon and tomatoes this good, have to have just the right bread, don’t they? Since coming back from the CIA last spring, inspired by my new found bravery in the face of yeast, I have been making our breads at home. I learned several breads in class but the one I prefer by far is the one my classmate Jessica told me about. Apparently everybody in the world knew about this bread before me. But since I was leavening-challenged, I had been clueless before that class. The bread I am talking about is Jim Lahey’s No Knead bread. If you have always fantasized about homemade bread but didn’t have the desire or guts or both to deal with an involved multi-stepped process, I would urge you to take a look at this recipe. I have made many different variations on the basic no-knead version and I swear it never fails. Add herbs, dried grated cheese, chopped olives, sun-dried tomatoes and the basic bread yields to your creativity. I even made a rye version (I used a fine ground flour) that came out fantastically.
Looks like it came straight from a Paris boulanger, doesn’t it? This loaf comes out of the oven moist and yeasty on the inside and crisp and chewy on the crust. It is an amazing bread that makes for some truly ecstatic eating. Bob always likes his toasted and this bread is both crunchy and soft out of our Dualit.
Summer dinners have regularly consisted of a big, thick, well stuffed BLT. For the “L,” we use baby lettuce from my little hydroponic garden supplemented by fresh radish sprouts from that same farmers’ market. These lovelies add an element of spice to our sandwiches. I would show you how beautiful one of these gourmet dinners is but we never seem to be able to wait to take a photo before devouring our meal.