Monday, May 4, 2009

Chickpea Salad & Homemade Oatmeal Bread

Did Ina Garten die? Because I think I may have been recently embodied by her spirit, a la Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost.

How else to explain the sudden irrepressible urge to put capers in everything I make, smash chickpeas into a lemony salad, and - of all things - to make my own bread, for Gawds sake? Next thing you know, I'll be making my own chicken broth (um, no).

Let's start with the chickpea salad. I had one last baggie of chickpeas from my giant CostCo can lurking around my freezer, and I wanted to try making a sort of lazy-person's hummus, with ingredients I always have on hand: olive oil, shallots, garlic, lemon, and chickpeas.

And there's really not much more to it than that. A little salt and pepper. And a drizzle of olive oil on top when you serve it. In fact, I'm not even going to take the time to assemble a proper recipe (the whole idea came from something similar I saw Ina Garten make once on TV) - just mince the garlic and shallots, mix them in with the chickpeas and the juice of half a lemon and a healthy glug of olive oil, and smash with a fork. Just make sure you have a good amount of chickpeas - if the ratio's off, the raw garlic and shallots could be a bit overpowering. Parsley would be nice, too, if you have some around.

I served mine cold for a post-yoga lunch with orange bell pepper slices and cucumbers for dipping, some nuts, and an orange. It was delicious.

And now on to the truly impressive feat: my very own, handmade loaf of bread. And I do mean HANDmade. No fancy Cuisinart Mixing Machine, no bread machine, just my two little hands and a fighting spirit.

I bought King Arthur Bread Flour after I read some glowing reviews about it online. I was originally planning to make my own Naan bread (look for that soon enough), but I got distracted by the recipe for Oatmeal Bread on the back of the flour bag (typical).

Oddly, I had all the ingredients on hand, so I just followed the very simple instructions, and - to my utter amazement - I actually created and baked a loaf of actual, edible, bread. And it was delicious! Stupendous, even! Exactly what I imagined bread that's warm, homemade, and right from the oven would taste like. What bread would taste like if it weren't laced with strange preservatives to extend its shelf life.

And it's economical - I've estimated that with the ingredients I bought to make that first loaf (about $12 worth, including the loaf pan), I can bake 5-6 more loaves without buying more ingredients. If any of you have checked out the price of bread lately, you'll agree that I'm beating the system.

I waited about .0364 seconds before I sliced a piece off the end and slathered it with butter and peach jam. Heaven. It was heaven.

I must say, I'm impressed with myself. I thought for sure I would spend half a day working on this loaf of bread only to end up disappointed and breadless.

It's nice when things turn out better than you expected.

Thanks for reading! More soon...

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