Wordless Wednesday: Farm to Table

Halbrecht Farm Food
Derekh ha-Be’er, Bitan Aharon
Kfar Vitkin 40294, Israel

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Spread Hope

Once relatively unheard of in the US, the popularity of hummus has risen to astronomic new heights within the condiment hierarchy. Now rivaling longtime champions ketchup and salsa for top honors, it’s more noteworthy when you can’t find this beloved dip at any establishment selling food. No where is the craze made clearer than in the mainstream marketplace, where even corner store bodegas are likely to carry at least one or two brands. For that matter, there’s a good chance you can even scrounge up a package of the creamy chickpea puree at your local drug store, right alongside the emergency rations of plain saltine crackers and white bread. It’s impossible to escape, as if anyone would ever want to, but such an overwhelming abundance of options does make it challenging to weed out the winners and losers in the field.

Hope Hummus sets itself apart from the pack by blending up unique yet approachable flavors that offer a delicious departure from the average bean dip. Sure, there’s still the austere plain and garlic options for the traditionalist, providing a solid standby for the pickiest palates, but greater gustatory adventures await the more intrepid eater. Heat things up with Thai Coconut Curry or Sriracha hummus, or explore new territory entirely with sweet Dark Chocolate hummus.

Though I can’t claim to have experienced the full range of inventive combinations, it’s only a matter of time before I can hunt them down, since my initial experiences have proven so gratifying. Picking favorites is never easy, but I need to give a special shout out to the Kale Pesto hummus, which combines everyone’s favorite leafy green superfood with basil pesto, lending vibrant, fresh flavor to this coarse blend. Primed for any party platter, it also strikes me as a promising candidate for enlivening creamy pasta sauce or topping a bowlful of piping hot tomato soup. Speaking of hot, Spicy Avocado hummus lights a smoldering savory flavor with piquant jalapeno peppers, tempered by creamy avocado. Though not nearly a five-alarm fire, it certainly boasted a well-defined spice that would appease any heat seekers in the crowd.

In this booming category, surprisingly few variations can be found on the classic staple, despite increasing demands. Hope Hummus is one company clearly thinking outside the plastic tub while always emphasizing high quality, organic ingredients. For a quick fix snack, consider branching out and trying their fresh twists on hummus next time.

Plot Twist

It’s one of those days. The sky is still dark when you finally wrestle off the heavy covers and swing your feet out of bed, never seeming to lighten a single shade all day. Rain falls intermittently, just enough to mock any attempt made to leave the house while remaining dry. Strangers hustle by with umbrellas carelessly outstretched, acting more as blunt weapons than shelters from the elements. How many times can you get whacked in the face during a brief 10-minute walk? Oh, let’s keep a tally and find out; it’s easy to lose count while tabulating the results in your head.

You know the script and play your part, muddling through as best you can, but wait- Who’s writing this story anyway? Why should you stick to your lines when a much more satisfying ending could be crafted with a bit of improvisation?

Here’s the plot twist you’ve been craving. Get home, throw off your muddy boots, cozy into a soft sweater, and break out the flour and yeast. There’s no antidote to those days, but there is a salve, and it comes in the form of baking bread. Something about the kneading of dough is indescribably cathartic, while the warmth of the oven can melt the iciest of hearts. Merely the smell of fresh dough transforming into golden brown loaves has a wholly restorative quality, even before taking a single bite.

Savory herbs mingle with roasted garlic in a rich, aromatic filling woven through every layer of soft, tender dough. You might think that they’re fussy, or too fancy to serve as an everyday loaf, but it takes no more work than the average bread. Treat yourself to something a bit more special than the standard; take back control and write your own story.

World Bread Day 2016 (October 16)

 

These two loaves are my ninth annual contribution to World Bread Day, and second submission to the baking contest mixed up by Simply Organic and Go Dairy Free. Should you find yourself in a baking rut and need new material to revise your personal script, just hit these links for ample inspiration, both sweet and savory.

Twisted Garlic and Herb Bread

Dough:

1 Package (2 1/4 Teaspoons) Active Dry Yeast
1 Tablespoon Light Agave Nectar
1 3/4 Cups Warm Water
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
3 – 3 1/2 Cups Bread Flour

Garlic and Herb Schmear:

2 Heads Garlic, Roasted
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
2 Tablespoons Simply Organic Dried Parsley
2 Teaspoons Simply Organic Dried Rosemary
2 Teaspoons Simply Organic Dried Thyme
1 Teaspoon Simply Organic Dried Oregano
1 Teaspoon Simply Organic Ground Black Pepper

In a large bowl, combine the yeast, agave, and warm water. Let stand until the yeast reactivates and surface of the liquid becomes bubbly; about 5 minutes. Stir in the oil, salt whole wheat flour, and 2 cups of the bread flour, mixing with a sturdy wooden spoon or the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer.

Once the initial addition of dry goods has been completely incorporated, add the remaining cup of bread flour. Slowly knead by hand or machine for 10 – 15 minutes until the dough is smooth, supple, and elastic. If it still seems very wet, add up to 1/2 cup additional bread flour.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel.
Let rest at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size; about 1 – 1 1/2 hours, depending on your local climate.

Meanwhile, prepare the garlic and herb schmear by first squeezing the cloves of roasted garlic out of their skins. Place them in a small bowl and roughly mash with the salt. Let the mixture remain somewhat chunky, but smooth enough to spread without too much difficulty. Add in all of the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly to combine. Set aside.

After the dough has properly risen, punch it down and divide it into 4 equal pieces. Take one at a time and on a lightly floured surface, press it into a rough rectangular shape. Use a rolling pin to further smooth it out, until it measure approximately 15 – 16 inches long (the exact width isn’t critical.) Cover the surface evenly with 1/4 of the garlic and herb schmear, and roll the dough up in a tight cylinder exactly the same way you would for cinnamon buns. Repeat this process with the remaining dough and schmear.

Now that you have your 4 filled rolls of dough, focus your attention at two at a time, to form each loaf. With the seam-sides down, use a very sharp knife to slice right down the center of each roll, but NOT all the way through. You want to reveal the layers within, but not cut the dough entirely in half. Press the tops of the two split rolls together to adhere, and very gently twist the pieces together, keeping the cut sides facing up. When you reach the end, press the bottoms together to seal, and curl both ends under to keep the pieces from separating in the baking process. Very carefully move the twisted loaf over to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and allow the loaves to rise once more, until not quite doubled in size. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until golden brown and utterly aromatic. The tempting smells will make it very difficult to wait, but allow the bread to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Makes 2 Loaves

Printable Recipe

Food is the Best Remedy

I’ve made no secret of my distaste for “cleanses,” a concept that merely sounds like a thin guise for a more modern interpretation of the classic crash diet. The theory goes that this stringent regimen of fruit and vegetable juices will clean out the digestive system, remove unspecified toxins, and fill the participant with vital nutrients that are otherwise difficult to assimilate through whole foods. Though it may typically lead to weight loss in the short term, any victories over the scale are short lived, as it’s mostly water weight or the result of nothing more than a simple calorie deficit. These attractive quick fixes are impossible to sustain, and every pound is sure to come right back when the devoted juicer returns to their prior eating habits.

That all said, how on earth did I find myself joining forces with Urban Remedy, a company known to push that very dogma, with their rainbow-colored juices packed into attractive plastic bottles? Thankfully, Urban Remedy is a company that believes in choice, and understands that health is not a one size fits all deal, offering so much more than just liquid sustenance. Healthy prepared foods will always be attractive for those crazy days when just throwing together a salad sounds like a demanding task, and having their array of fresh, ready to eat options is an absolute luxury. I was lucky enough to be treated to a few samples of these clean eating options, in addition to their better known line of juices. Just because cleansing is not for me, I won’t begrudge anyone who truly finds it beneficial, but I’m quite happy to cherry-pick the very best drinks as supplements to my daily diet, treating them as snacks and treats along with my daily eats.

Tell me, does this look like a feast or what? Between the Shredded Kale Salad, Zen Salad, and Cauliflower Tabbouleh, I was positively spoiled for choice come lunchtime. That pesky midday meal can sometimes get neglected on my busiest photo shoot days, turning into a few harried bites here and there, so having some truly satisfying sustenance on hand was a greater treat that I can fully describe. As someone who always does all of the cooking, having anyone make a meal for me, no matter how simple, feels like pure extravagance. Best of all, this indulgence is one that comes with no guilt, only pleasure. What impressed me the most was how fresh everything tasted. I would have never thought that anything arriving in a shipping crate could hold a candle to something pulled straight from my fridge, but there was no sad, wilted lettuce or mushy vegetables here. The dressings are packed separately to keep everything crisp, adding a bright, tangy taste only when the time is right. I was especially impressed with the raw cauliflower tabbouleh, each bite leading with lemon flavor and accented with cumin. It’s the kind of side dish that I wouldn’t hesitate to serve to a crowd- If I could be convinced to share, that is.

Before you start thinking that this is still another austere menu of only greens and veggies, I would implore you to check out their ample selection of snacks and desserts. Of the treats that I was lucky enough to sample, the Crème Caramel stands out in my mind as a particularly decadent departure from your standard “healthy” dessert. Thick and silky smooth, the texture was absolutely luscious, bearing a deep, rich, earthy caramel flavor that was accentuated with a touch of salt. Crunchy caramelized almonds added textural interest that made this grand finale particularly irresistible. Those fudgy Almond Brownies are not to be overlooked though; super soft, immediately yielding to the most timid of nibbles, the rich cacao squares effortlessly melt in your mouth.

Without hesitation, I would recommend Urban Remedy to anyone who wants to kick-start a healthy eating program or squeeze in some real nourishment on a busy schedule. Such delicious convenience does come at a price though, which will unfortunately be the single factor preventing me from ordering regularly. Happily, for a limited time, you can snag a discount off your order by entering the code FallSpecial at checkout for 15% off $150, 20% off $225 or 25% off $300 or more. Whether you’re into the concept of cleanses or not, you’ll want to take advantage of this opportunity; this unrivaled marriage of flavor and nutrition is worth every cent.