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Showing posts with label garden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label garden. Show all posts

Friday, September 25, 2020

Best Ever Sourdough Focaccia



Favorite Sourdough Focaccia


  • 400 g all-purpose flour
  • 150 g sourdough starter
    • I'm sure all of us started this thing when the quarantine began but if you don't have one, you can just omit this and up the yeast to 5 g
  • 260 g water, a little warmer than body temperature
  • 3 g yeast
  • 125 ml olive oil plus more for the pan
  • 3 g kosher salt
  • Herbs and such as needed
  • Salt and water for the brine
Combine the flour, sourdough starter, yeast, and water in the bowl of a standing mixer using the hook attachment and mix until just combined. Let it sit for about 10 minutes in the bowl to let the flour hydrate and the yeasts to get to know each other. When that timer is up, turn the mixer on to low speed and add in your salt and oil, and mix for five minutes. Then, mix for another 5 minutes on medium-high. Oil a clean bowl or a plastic container with a lid generously with more olive oil, using your hand. Use that same hand to scrape out your dough (so you won't stick) into the container and stick it in a warm place for about two hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

While we're waiting, let's get to the fun part...

Oil a new sheet pan quite generously and turn your dough out, as gently as possible, and pull it out to spread evenly. Oil more, and add your pretty ingredients. I cannot stress this enough if you are going to make lovely focaccia art, but it is absolutely imperative that you set in your picture now so that it can rise and stick when baked.

Focaccia art began circa April/May 2020, when the pandemic was really kicking into high gear. The trend has gone from Instagram to being all over Good Morning America, and even Buzzfeed's Tasty got in on the fun! Basically, you take a gorgeous focaccia loaf and create a lovely landscape using herbs, flowers, vegetables, and more. Now I was skeptical of this idea before because I subscribe to the belief that "every bite should taste the same" when it comes to bread. Once the boredom and existential dread set in, however, and I had more and more sourdough starter piling up, I frankly cracked and made one for myself. It was a big hit!




The reason I'm telling you this now is so you can look ahead for some inspiration! The flowers here on mine are made of sliced leeks and I used sliced green bird chilies here and there...and added leaves of spinach, parsley, cilantro, dill, and more. Many people use lovely fresh peppers and other vegetables to be atop their focaccia art, and I've joined in the fun on a couple of occasions. I do admit that I still believe that above all else bread should be tasty and while putting slices of raw peppers on a focaccia dough to let rise looks pretty cool I don't know how well it's going to taste. The taste of your item should absolutely reign as the supreme factor when it comes to food, leaving looks to be a close second. 

I'm sure that plenty of folks out there will tell you that you really need to think about what you want your garden landscape on the focaccia to look like far beforehand, and that's definitely true when it comes to just about any art project. Mise en place is a lifestyle/mentality that many chefs and cooks subscribe to! When it comes to this particular application, however, I personally prefer to let it develop organically, leaving it all dependant on what herbs I have in the garden that are ready to go. 

It's currently late September and I live in the North-Midwestern Americas, so I still have quite a few herbs, but the cooler weather of the midwest means that I have pansies. This means I get to put edible flowers on my focaccia! I invite you to look around in your own garden and see what edible flowers are available to you immediately. You likely will have pansies, marigolds, and roses...all of which are absolutely edible. 



As I mentioned before, the trick with focaccia art is that you must put on your flowers, herbs, etc., during the second proof so that when it rises, the herbs and flowers and such will really stick. Although I don't necessarily plan out everything meticulously, I certainly don't just slap stuff down willy-nilly either. To let it develop organically, I first decide on the visual orientation of the piece, be it portrait or landscape. Then, I take my biggest pieces or my most-colorful pieces of edible loveliness and pop that on first. In this one's case, the pansies were the biggest eye-catcher, so everything sort of developed around that. I also had these incredible nasturtiums that looked like tiny parasols, in a way, so that came on next. Then came the sage leaves, thyme, etc. 

Once you're happy with your focaccia garden landscape, spread olive oil lightly on the dough and cover with clingfilm and let rise again. You can let this hang out in the fridge for up to three hours if you did this early in the day and want to bake it freshly for dinner! If you just want to bake it soon, simply set it in a warm place for about an hour and a half, or until it looks very puffy. Everything will have risen together and your herbs, flowers, vegetables, etc., will not fall off! Don't forget to preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

When risen after the rest, dissolve two tablespoons of kosher salt in three tablespoons of hot water in a cup. Oil your fingers her her her and press dimples between the spaces of the pictures you have created. Spoon in the brine to the dimples. Let sit for another 5 minutes and oil well with even more olive oil. Add a few grinds of fresh pepper and bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes, rotating your sheet pan halfway between. 

I like to let my bread hang out and cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting, but make sure you get this off the sheet pan and onto a cooling rack sooner rather than later, lest you get a soggy bottom. 



Thanks so much for joining me here today! I hope this has inspired you. Please don't forget to share this around if you try it, and tag me on Instagram or Facebook to let me see your incredible creation. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Spicy Garden Pesto Pasta



I love pasta. I am safely pro-pasta. In fact, if I were to run for President of the United States of America, I'd say "Hello, I am WannaBGourmande, I am pro-pasta, and I am running for president." I'd clearly get elected because there are literally zero qualifications at this point to run the arguably most-powerful country in the world. (I hope I get to look back on this post and laugh.)

I'm an avid gardener, and wannabe homesteader. I sometimes think about changing my name to Wanna B. Homesteader, but that doesn't quite have the fun ring to it as 'gourmande' does. Plus, if my initials ended with "H", I couldn't call myself "Notorious WBG." Ultimately, I don't feel truly right calling myself a homesteader if I'm still living on the grid, but I try every day to live a better, more wholesome life through my food, through the ways I consume products, and the ways I live. I've sort of decided to call myself a lifestyle blogger, without the excessive posts on pinterest and falling into the trope of 'rich girl pinterest'. You know, chia seed smoothies in mason jars with organically-grown kale from the co-op? I want to write about cooking and being a chef and eating well on a tight-ass budget, because that's the truth that I know and have lived. Anyway, on to the eating.


Easy Homemade Pasta

  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • Cool water, as needed

Making your own pasta is rewarding in both the culinary sense and the emotional sense. When making pasta, you can use the dough as a sort of worry stone. You'll have to knead the dough to be quite glutinous(no gluten-free pasta here; sorry, guys) and chewy, so you can use this moment to have your own version of tactile therapy. Go ahead; take the opportunity to imagine strangling your annoying coworker as you work the dough into the counter...because yes, Janet, I'm sure in your day you did just 'deal with it' even though the reality of anxiety and depression is that nobody ever got diagnosed properly, but sure, my generation totally invented mental illness.  But, seriously, there's no Netflix in prison, so just take your frustrations out on the dough and it'll be ready in no time.

You can combine this dough in the bowl of a standing mixer or do it the old-fashioned way, which is what I prefer. Simply pile your flour in the middle of your impeccably clean counter and make a well in the middle. Dump your eggs and oil in the center of the well, and use a fork to sort of break it up and beat it together. Using a dough scraper and your hands, fold the flour over and over each other to mix, then knead. Knead this for a solid five minutes, and remember that it's totally okay that you skipped arm day at the gym because of this.


Wrap your dough and let it rest for about ten minutes. If you have a pasta machine, take the time to set it up now. If you don't, you can easily just use a rolling pin to create long sheets of pasta and cut tagliatelle strips with a knife that you've rubbed with flour. Otherwise, once your resting time is up, roll and use your pasta machine as needed. Don't have these neat beechwood pasta racks? You can use plastic coat hangers(no seriously) or just pile them in 4 oz nests like these for easy portioning. If you don't intend to use them that evening, simply allow them to dry overnight, pop them in plastic bags (with a silica gel pack if you're feeling fancy), and then store them for up to 6 months in your pantry.



Green Garden Pesto
(rough estimates; use what you have!)
  • 2/3 fresh basil
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup nasturtium leaves
  • 8 sprigs parsley
  • 7 cloves of garlic
  • 9 small hot chile peppers, pan-roasted and seeded
  • 1/3 cup raw pistachio nuts, shelled
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
So here's the only bit of cooking that you have to do for this recipe: blister the peppers. I have so many tiny cayenetta peppers from my hanging basket planter, it's not even funny. You can wait until they turn red or use them green(which I like to do for this recipe), but be advised that they are spicy, so use with discretion if you're sensitive to that! I like lots of peppery bite, so I used plenty. This is easy: just take a saute pan, heat it up - without any fat in it, mind you - and blister the skin of the peppers. Just cook them until they're soft inside, and then remove the seeds by popping off the tops and just squeezing the insides out, like you might for a tube of toothpaste. 

This is the easiest pesto ever - just pop everything in a blender and blitz until smooth. You can add more mint, more basil, more parsley, whatever! I like lots of spinach in this because it gives such a nice sweetness and a bright green color to it. The nasturtium is used because I have lots of it, and it has a nice peppery bite to it. I've got more mint than I have basil, so I used that, as well, but not too much as to prevent it from overpowering anything. You can substitute the nasturtium for tarragon, chives, or olive oil instead of coconut/grapeseed. Use what you have; this recipe is meant to be easy!

For this recipe:
  1. Cook your pasta in boiling water. (90 seconds for fresh, 7 minutes for dried)
  2. Drain your pasta.
  3. Toss your pasta in a spoonful of pesto sauce and a dab of butter.
  4. Serve.
Thats. It. 

I served mine tonight with a center-cut pork chop, and some braised swiss chard with corn and leeks. It was a simple meal, and the only thing I really had to buy was the pork chops, which were from a BOGO(buy one, get one free) sale at the Hen House down the street. You don't even need the extra stuff; just a few shaves of parmesan or even a poached egg will do for a light dinner.  This, obviously, can be very easily made vegetarian, and even the most-discerning guests will appreciate something that you grew and made by hand!

A post shared by Kolika of Pistachio Bakehouse (@wannabgourmande) on


In reality, I spent about $5.49 for a nice meal for two people, considering everything else was already available in my home and garden. I know you won't be able to buy a house with that kind of savings, but you can certainly splurge on one more avocado toast at brunch when you're only spending roughly $2.25/per person, per meal, in your own home. The only real investment here made was time, which took - roughly - 40 minutes from start to finish. It might take the average home cook a hair longer, but it's still a simple meal that's economic, has a teeny-tiny carbon footprint in comparison to going out to a restaurant, and is very tasty. 

Oh, and you don't have to have a big garden to grow the herbs in this recipe; a sunny window box with mint, basil, nasturtium, etc., in it will do just fine. You can garden. I believe in you. You can empower yourself and homestead in a tiny apartment, in your own quiet way. Happy cooking and happy eating!


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Pickled Green Tomatoes


I've had the privilege to become a homeowner within the last couple of years, and as such I've gained a small allotment of land as a backyard. On this five-thousand square feet of my own personal kingdom, I'm the caretaker of three glorious trees: a silver maple, a Chinese elm, and a sycamore. These trees, while beautiful, cause a lot of shade...but that didn't stop me from growing a garden.

I've posted garden-related blogs and 'what to do with produce' type blogs before. Gardening is an integral part of my life and is a huge contributor to my diet. I was so happy to be  able to have one that I could maintain for years and years without having to move and start over from scratch, so you'd better believe I started an asparagus patch! But more on that later... Meet Gloria!


Gloria, the Heirloom Tomato Plant that just won't quit


Gloria was a seedling that I found sprouting in the asparagus patch that I'd transferred from my old house. She was sprouting in late September, likely thinking that it was springtime! I felt bad for the poor thing, so I brought her inside to grow over winter.

Instead of dying, I planted her in the garden that next spring and she grew, and grew, and grew into a 7' x 8' x 4' giant of a tomato bush, producing more tomatoes that year than necessary, I can assure you. I mean, it was pretty obscene.




I mean, look at this nonsense!



I mean, look at that nonsense! Just look at how big she was when we pulled her out!


And Howl, of course, had to get into the action for some kisses...


To explain: tomato plants are tropical and last only two years in X conditions. I didn't want to just let her die horribly and slowly in the frost, so I figured I'd be kind and yank her out on Samhain, the last harvest holiday. We laid her out and she was taller than me! But not before harvesting the last of her green tomatoes...


I harvested quite a few tomatoes from her before I pulled her out to make room for my winter crops, and most of them were green. I had a few that were turning orange, so I left them out for a salad or a marinara. The rest, however? All destined for the pickle jar...

Pickling is one of those cherished traditions shared by grandmothers and hipsters across the nation. I love that we're adopting it as a trend because it's not only thrifty(good news for us Millenials) but it's satisfying to have a tactile validation of what you did, which is save something that would have otherwise been wasted. Here's my basic pickle recipe, for your using pleasure:

Basic Pickle Brine

  • 1 cup white vinegar(5% acidity)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp sugar
To create the brine, all you have to do is combine all of the ingredients and boil them together in a saucepot. When the mixture has come to a boil, turn off the flame and pour the hot brine over your soon-to-be pickles. Now, here's how you make the tomatoes...



My tomatoes were extremely plentiful, so I packed them as tightly as I could into seven pint jars quite nicely. I put the tinier ones in whole, but I cut the larger ones in half so I could fit more and make sure everything pickles the same way. A basic rule of cooking is that everything needs to be generally the same size when doing preparations like this.

As far as spices and other flavors, this is the stage that you add it. For these pickles, I put in, per jar:


  • A single peeled coin of ginger
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 10 whole peppercorns
  • 2 allspice berries
You can change these around by adding any spices you like. To make a more Asian-inspired pickle, for example, try, per jar:

  • 1/2 tsp schezuan peppercorn
  • 2 ginger coins
  • 1/4 tsp orange peel
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
Either way, put your choice spices in the bottom of the jars before you add in your produce, so that way they won't all float to the top when you add the brine. Pack your jars as tightly as possible, while still leaving some head room to breathe...this means that the threads on the jar's lip should be free of liquid and that little half-inch from the top is where you stop filling.

Process your jars accordingly. If you're using the old-fashioned boiling method, like I do, I let them boil for 15 minutes straight, evacuate, and then allow to hang out overnight on the nice wood butcher's block, undisturbed. Pressure canning takes 12 minutes, but please be careful when operating a pressure cooker, and always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Once your jars are dry, your seals are assuredly tight, and everything looks hunky-dory, label your jars. You can use a dry-erase marker on the top of the lid or print out labels for yourself. I've go these great labels that I use for my apple butter, and you can find the template on most word processing programs if you buy the printer paper at an electronics store...or, of course, online. Even if you simply hand write your label and tie it around the jar's top, make sure you have the date on it. These will hang out just fine for up to six months on your shelf...but please refrigerate once you've opened them.

Happy canning, happy cooking, and happy eating!


Friday, June 26, 2015

Spiced Beet Gelato

I had a fun little contest on my Facbeook page to see who could guess the right flavor!

Good morning!

Summer is upon us, and the 1st harvest was marked by Litha. This means there was a bunch of stuff in my garden that was ready to be harvested to make room for the new stuff. In that harvest was a variety of heirloom beets, which grew like weeds all throughout the spring. In reality, I probably should have harvested sooner, but hey. I'm happy with my haul. I'm also happy with my garlic haul, this year! But this is not about the garlic; no, this is about the beet.

Beetroot is one of the absolute healthiest veggies you can eat. High in antioxidants, the root itself is delicious...but let's not neglect the greens, which are delicious, cooked in sweet cream butter and salt, maybe a drop of red wine vinegar.

You can slice beets thin to make a salad, eaten raw, or roast them as a delicious side dish. You can chop them and put them in rice to create a gorgeous pink color and surprise your kids...or just have them sauteed and buttered, which is my favorite way.  But did you know that a medium-sized beet averages at a whopping 9 grams of sugar per root? This is not a bad thing; in fact, this is a very good thing. Natural sugars from vegetables are very good for you, and much better than processed sugars. This makes this following recipe ideal for people who are looking to cut sugar without cutting taste; seriously, if you're a Diabetic, this won't be bad for you! Here's the recipe for making Spiced Beet Gelato!

Spiced Beet Gelato

  • 3 medium beets(or a dozen or so small beets)
  • 1/2 cup of the reserved roasting liquid(see below)
  • 4 oz egg yolks(about six or seven)
  • 1/4 cup sugar plus 1 Tbsp (seriously, only THAT MUCH!)
  • 1 scraped vanilla bean, or a scant tablespoon of vanilla paste
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 3 allspice berries
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Trim your beets of their greens and any little root-hairs you might have. Generally, though, leave them in tact. Put them in a roasting pan of some sort with high sides, such as a casserole dish. Fill with a solution of equal parts water and red wine, just to cover, and add a pinch of salt and pepper, along with 3 allspice berries. Cover in aluminum foil, and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, or until the beets are very tender.



Drain the liquid and save about 1/2 cup of it. To peel the beets, you can simply use paper towels to wipe away the skin. It'll take a few minutes to do,but you'll save so much of the beet in the process. Trust me, you want all of this deliciousness. 

Once that's done, chop your beets into manageable cubes for your blender, and blend together with the poaching liquid until a smooth, almost custard-like consistency forms. It'll be thick, but you want it to be extremely smooth. 
If you have a Vitamix blender,  you're one step
ahead of the game! Otherwise, a regular blender
will do just fine. 

Add in the cinnamon, lemon juice, eggs and 1/4 of the the sugar, and blend again. Bring to a boil the heavy cream in a separate saucepot with the vanilla and the remaining tablespoon of sugar. 

Once boiling, immediately turn off the heat, and ladle in a splash or two of the hot cream to the beet mixture. Stir, but do not blend; just take a spoon and stir it in the pitcher of the blender, before dumping it all back into the hot cream. 

I am in LOVE with this color!
Scrape down the sides of your blender, ensuring that you've gotten everything, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Once boiling, immediately remove from the heat and run through a strainer into another container, which will chill in the fridge until cold, at least 4 hours. If you're impatient, like me, however, you can use an ice bath to chill it quickly. One thing you must be sure of when making ice cream, gelato, or any sorbet, is that your mixture must be cold before churning. This will ensure that your machine won't work harder and longer than it has to, and that your finished product won't curdle.
Once churned according to the manufacturer's instructions via your machine, label it and set it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. You can eat it now, but I prefer my ice cream to hold its shape. This freezes beautifully, and it'll last at least a month in the freezer. If you're me, though, it's not going to last that long. It'll last until the week is up, if it's lucky. Because this is seriously delicious. 

This is an excellent way to get some great fiber in, as well as make a low-sugar/no-sugar dessert. Seriously, the amount of added sugar is so low in this recipe, it's practically no-sugar! This is honestly the healthiest, most-beautiful gelato I could think of to make...and I got the beets from my own garden! If you don't have beets growing, of course, store bough is just fine...although I would recommend going to your local farmers' market and buying a bunch. A small bunch of beets is about what this recipe calls for, anyway. If you liked this post, and want to see more like it, just click on the tag "Culinary school" for more!

Oh, and don't be alarmed if your pee turns red after eating half a quart of this stuff. It's completely normal. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Litha/Father's Day

Here, we have a Green Man Mask, and Litha-in-a-Jar, cool swag from my dear friend, WitchyWords!

Happy Litha, everybody!

Today is the Longest Day of the year, and a sunny and/or sweltering 78 degrees F with a humidity of 85%. Basically, it's hot, muggy, and gods-awful. But when you look out at all of this gorgeous greenery, you can hardly notice! 

With Litha being the longest day of the year, we celebrate the here, the now, the fertility of the land. This is a celebration where a lot of Pagans/Wiccans choose for their wedding days, and often choose today as a day of dedication, be it to themselves, their Crafts, or their loved ones. This is also a day to remember that now the days will grow shorter, now the days of summer will begin to wane...so it's very important to celebrate the here and now. 

This is my dad and me vacationing in Chicago. I think I was 21 in this picture. So that's
about 6 years ago!
Another reason to celebrate today is because today is Father's Day! How fitting! The celebration of God, the Green Man, the giver of Sun and provider, protector, Father to All...having the same day as this years' Father's Day!

My dad was a single dad for most of my life. He and my mother had me when they were 22, and he fought tooth and nail for custody of me when my parents divorced. It's kind of rare that men get the custody, but he did it.

My dad never married until I was older and out of the house, and never stopped. I remember being alone while he worked, and learning to take care of myself. I remember cooking dinner for us so I didn't have to do the dishes(our house rule: whoever cooks doesn't have to clean). In reality, it was my dad that taught me how to cook, so it's really him that I owe my career to.

 I remember him showing me how to cook. I remember him fighting for me, calling out teachers for calling me "Bossy" while the boys were praised for "leadership skills." I remember him telling me that if he had to come into the principal's office because I got into a fight for defending myself, or someone that couldn't, I would never be in trouble. I remember, mostly, him just being there. He was pretty gender forward-thinking when I was a kid; I remember him kind of getting this look of shock on his face when I would say certain things, or when other people would say certain things. I don't think he thought about gender roles a lot, since he's(y'know) a straight white man, so I think having a little brown daughter really woke him up. He told me to fight back, and never treated me "like a girl" because...well, I don't actually know. But he never treated me "like a girl." He treated me like the little person that would eventually grow up into a big person. He was crazy-forward-thinking until he realized the little monster he created(i.e. high school), which was a loud-mouthed teenager that yelled at a lot of boys in her class. Things like "I'M NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR DUMB-ASS THOUGHTS" or "YOU JUST ACT LIKE THIS BECAUSE YOUR DAD DOESN'T LOVE YOU" or whatever. So, uh, sorry, Dad.

Anyway, what I want to say most is that a lot of single dads don't get the mad props they deserve. Well, screw that! 

Here's to you, Single Dads! You're the real MVP! (I'm also really sorry for being so fucking hellish as a teenager. I wish I could give you a medal of honor or a Purple Heart or something to commemorate your achievement.) 

An old addage says to plant on the shortest day of the year(Yule/Winter solstice) and harvest on the longest(today). In the spirit of that, and celebrating all of what the God, the Green Man, has given, allow me to say thanks and honor Him by showing the bounty of my garden. Let the garden pics commence!

Here's my first harvest of beets! I know they're odd-looking. That's okay! They were delicious!


Here's an auto-awesome of my Indigo Rose tomatoes. They're so cute, and I can't believe that I started these beefy mothertruckers from seed! The plants' stalks are almost as thick as my pinkie. I think they'll be ready to harvest in another two weeks.


Here's my pumpkin patch, which actually vines out past where I was taking the picture. I don't mind the tall grass so much as it's perfect for the vines to grasp onto. These pumpkins are a mixture of varying types, so it'll be a really fun surprise to see what I get! There are more blooms every day, and bees and dragonflies are buzzing all around the blooms in the early morning! It really fills my heart with joy to see bees...


This was too cute! One of my blooms popped off and into the leaf of another plant! It was like a little baby, tucked in it's little faery crib....


I later went back and harvested more garlic. This was all of it from my garden. This is Spanish Red garlic, and the flavor is bomb! It's like...it's not mild, but the flavor is a combination of taking a nice bite of roasted garlic while inhaling some freshly-tilled garden soil. It's earthy and acrid, all at once. Crazy! 


And here's a picture of my dog giving me a little hug, for no reason, other than I just feel the need to document every moment of his existence. 

Happy Litha, everybody! Now go hug your dad!