Potato Bread with Rosemary and Roasted Garlic

Shamelessly taken from Deborah:

Ingredients

Biga:*

  • 1¼ cups unbleached bread flour
  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 6-8 tablespoons water, at room temperature

Potato Bread:

  • 1 ¼ cups (7 oz) of the biga (you will probably have a little bit left over)
  • 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (14 oz) unbleached bread flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1¼ teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes (interesting with sweet potatoes)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons to 1 cup water, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons coarsely chopped roasted garlic** (go ahead – double it!)
  • Cornmeal for dusting
  • Olive oil, for brushing over the bread

Instructions

Biga (the day before):

  1. Stir the flour and yeast together in a bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer). Add 6 tablespoons of the water and stir until everything comes together and forms a coarse ball. Ad more flour or water if needed to form a ball that is not too sticky, but also not too stiff.
  2. Sprinkle flour on a work surface and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for 4 to 6 minutes, until the dough is soft and pliable. (Alternately, you can use the dough hook for 4 minutes.)
  3. Lightly oil a large bowl, then transfer the dough to the bowl and roll around to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to sit at room temperature until it doubles in size.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead lightly to degas the dough. Return it to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place the bowl in the refrigerator. Refrigerate overnight. (Dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

Potato Bread:

  1. Remove the biga from the refrigerator 1 hour before starting the bread. Cut it into about 10 smaller pieces, cover with a towel, and let it sit for 1 hour.
  2. In a large bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer) stir together the flour, salt and black pepper. Add the biga pieces, mashed potatoes, oil, rosemary and ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the water. Stir (or mix on low speed) for 1 minute, until the ingredients form a ball. Add more water or flour, if necessary, to form a dough that is not too sticky or stiff.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter. Knead for 10 minutes, adding flour as needed, until the dough is soft and supple. (Alternately, mix in medium in a mixer with the dough hook.) Flatten the dough and spread the roasted garlic over the top. Take the ends up into a ball, enclosing the side of the bread with the garlic, then knead the bread for 1 minute, working the garlic into the bread. (You may need to add a little bit more flour to absorb the moisture from the garlic.)
  4. Lightly oil a large bowl and add the dough, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 equal sized balls. Shape each of the balls into a boule. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silpat liner and sprinkle lightly with cornmeal. Place each of the boules on the sheet pan, separating so that they won’t touch, even after rising. Mist the dough with nonstick cooking spray and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Allow to proof at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, until the dough doubles in size.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400ºF with the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Remove the plastic wrap from the dough and lightly brush the bread with olive oil. If desired, you can score the dough.
  7. Bake the loaves for 20 minutes, then turn the sheet pan 180º. Bake an additional 15-25 minutes. The loaves should be golden brown and should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. (I spritz the oven with water at the beginning, then at three more three-minute intervals [total 12 minutes] before finishing with about another 25-30 minutes)
  8. Remove the loaves from the oven and cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

Notes

*this recipe does take 2 days to make – day one, making the biga, and then making the bread on the second day.

**to make roasted garlic: preheat the oven to 400ºF. Peel most of the paper off the garlic, leaving the bulb intact. Trim the top off the head of the garlic. Place on a piece of heavy aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, letting the oil seep in-between the cloves. Wrap the garlic in the foil and roast for 40 minutes, or until golden and soft. Let cool slightly before pressing the cloves out.

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Avocado Pesto

Came across a recipe for a pesto that is rich, creamy, tasty, and even more versatile than regular basil-only pesto!

Avocado Pesto

Measure Ingredient
2-6 Ripe Avocados, depending on size; want about 1 ¼ – 1 ¾ c. flesh
2-3 Bunches Basil, depending on type – I used 3 small bunches of lemon basil
½ t. Salt, large flake/crystal (ie, kosher) or soy sauce, to taste
1-3 T. Lemon juice, depending on taste (use less with lemon basil)
¼ – ½ c. Walnuts, toasted
2-5 cloves Fresh Garlic, depending on size of cloves and your taste
1 – 4 T. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Chop walnuts in food processor until finely chopped.

Add garlic and continue processing, scraping bowl as needed.

Add basil and process until it’s fairly fine in texture.

Peel/scrape avocados and add to mixture, and process until a thick paste forms.

Add oil until the consistency is not quite pourable – you want it to be thick.

Add salt or soy sauce to taste.

This is great on pasta, with a hard grated cheese like Parmesan or Asiago, but also delicious as a spread on toast, especially toasted rosemary and roasted garlic potato bread!

Questions and Answers

I came upon a blog post recently, in which the writer lists thirty-one (31, like ice cream flavors) “questions for atheists.”  Here are my answers.  Please forgive the poor formatting, as the computer appears, on occasion, to execute commands that don’t spring from my hand.

31 Questions and Answers

How would you define atheism?

I don’t define atheism, but I accept the curiosity that forms the basis for questions regarding the possible and probable existence of a “Supreme Being.”

  1. Do you act according to what you believe (there is no God) in or what you don’t believe in (lack belief in God)?I act according to the current circumstances under which I find myself. I do not “consider god” or “don’t consider god” because it’s a meaningless question for me.
  2. Do you think it is inconsistent for someone who “lacks belief” in God to work against God’s existence by attempting to show that God doesn’t exist?I think people can spend their time doing whatever they feel is important. If disproving the existence of something, whether it’s flying spaghetti monsters or deities, it’s up to the individual.
  3. How sure are you that your atheism properly represents reality?It is the Reality I know.
  4. How sure are you that your atheism is correct?How does anyone? I don’t make any pretensions about my faith or lack of faith in the supernatural.
  5. How would you define what truth is?Reality is what exists objectively and can be observed consistently over many trials. I believe the scientific method is one means to find what “truth,” ie, reality, is.
  6. Why do you believe your atheism is a justifiable position to hold?How is it not justified?
  7. Are you a materialist or a physicalist or what?What.
  8. Do you affirm or deny that atheism is a worldview?It is a worldview inasmuch as it allows itself to be defined by others who have a stake in “knowing” because they cannot stand the notion of not knowing.
  9. Not all atheists are antagonistic to Christianity but for those of you who are, why the antagonism?It is not antagonism. What is construed by the “faithful” as attitude is, in reality, a natural, defensive reaction to outright condemnation and persecution BY CHRISTIANS THEMSELVES, often in the name of “saving.”
  10. If you were at one time a believer in the Christian God, what caused you to deny his existence?At one point in my life, I tried, really hard, to believe in the christian diety.  But then I came to my senses.
  11. Do you believe the world would be better off without religion?Yes. Absolutely.
  12. Do you believe the world would be better off without Christianity?I just answered this question. Why do christians claim exception?
  13. Do you believe that faith in a God or gods is a mental disorder?

    Not in and of itself; it is, rather, a willful desire for security that leads most people in to the “arms of god.”  Also, I notice that “God” is capitalized, yet “gods” is not.

  14. Must God be known through the scientific method?That question is a nonstarter.
  15. If you answered yes to the previous question, then how do you avoid a category mistake by requiring material evidence for an immaterial God?I didn’t.
  16. Do we have any purpose as human beings?Why must we have a “purpose” defined by others, outside of living?
  17. If we do have purpose, can you as an atheist please explain how that purpose is determined?We don’t.
  18. Where does morality come from?Morality is a social contract to provide security and structure to large groups of interdependent beings.

Are there moral absolutes?

No.

  • If there are moral absolutes, could you list a few of them?
  • I didn’t say there were any.
  • Do you believe there is such a thing as evil? If so, what is it?Again, evil is something that is determined by circumstance, so there are, as in morality, no absolutes.
  • If you believe that the God of the Old Testament is morally bad, by what standard do you judge that he is bad?The character of “God” as described in the christian Old Testament is a morally reprehensible one.
  • What would it take for you to believe in God?Faith, of which I have none (as defined by religion).
  • What would constitute sufficient evidence for God’s existence?There can never be, by definition.
  • Must this evidence be rationally based, archaeological, testable in a lab, etc., or what?See the answer to the previous question.
  • Do you think that a society that is run by Christians or atheists would be safer? Why?Safer? For whom? A society organized without recourse to a supernatural being would need to solve its own problems instead of using the crutch of faith.
  • Do you believe in free will? (free will being the ability to make choices without coercion)More or less, or at least as much as possible given the balance of chemicals in our bodies.
  • If you believe in free will, do you see any problem with defending the idea that the physical brain, which is limited and subject to the neuro-chemical laws of the brain, can still produce free will choices?That has been the question that has not yet found an acceptable answer. I certainly do not claim to have the answers. Why is this question trying to circle back around to the perceived “need” for faith?
  • If you affirm evolution and that the universe will continue to expand forever, then do you think it is probable that given enough time, brains would evolve to the point of exceeding mere physical limitations and become free of the physical and temporal and thereby become “deity” and not be restricted by space and time? If not, why not? How does one lead to the other?I affirm evolution.  I don’t believe the universe will expand forever. At some point, I believe it will begin to attract itself, through mutual gravitational forces, back into the speck from which it sprang.
  • If you answered the previous question in the affirmative, then aren’t you saying that it is probable that some sort of God exists?I didn’t.

Within and Without

While I am, on the one hand, heartened by the rising popularity of Sustainability (with the capital “S”) within the building design (and, by extension, construction) industry, I am disappointed by the mechanical nature of the most prevalent rating systems that have emerged. LEED, in which one must accumulate “points” to reach a precious metal certification for one’s building, and the Living Building Challenge, in which designers and builders pursue “petals” (though it appears few, if any, buildings ever achieve more than three such “petals”) appear to be in an ever-increasingly competitive race to see which can be stricter, more exclusive, than its competitors (why are these organizations so fixed on the notion that they must compete with each other as opposed to working cooperatively for the betterment of humans in general?). The field is broadening, bringing in systems with different names, with slight nuances in their application and attitudes (take, for instance, the newish LEED certification WELL – which, at least, is a word – a separate rating system that LEED folded into its own format). Many of these names are made up of tortured English, stacking adjectives and multiple nouns together to create a new “supernoun” to describe the idea that one is pursuing. My initial complaint with BREEAM, which stands for (take a deep breath now): Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Model, is that, as a phrase, if not completely unintelligible, then at best tortured English phrases. Where do the creators of these systems come to decide these are the words they want to use to create a memorable [supposedly, anyway] acronym? Why are nouns piled on top of one another as if they’re adjectives and adverbs? For this example, there is only a single adjective in the last phrase. Where are the first three words headed? I suppose it might be a real phrase in English: building research establishment. But, as I just mentioned, it’s rather tortured (if not torturous to the reader) language. Whatever happened to grammar?

Before you, my dear reader, label me a “grammar Nazi,” I challenge you to come up with a definition for this phrase, this adjacency of words. Is it merely a pet peeve of mine? Indeed, it is. A big pet peeve of mine is the creation and subsequent use of words like probiotic. A compound can have probiotic properties. Sure, this one is fairly common these days, (perhaps even more so than digestive being shorthand for “digestive biscuit,” but the increasingly popular use of the word “probiotic” is driving me up a wall;  not literally (obviously), but figuratively, up a fucking wall. I suppose one could be referring to a cabal as “the building research establishment,” referring to a body of persons who appoint themselves “keepers of proper building research,” but even that sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it? But I digress…

Yes, LEED, the acronym for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” isn’t all that bad, I suppose. It’s not even as bad as SNUBA®, which, as a trademarked term, takes its cue from SCUBA (coined by Jacques Cousteau, Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus is, at least, a real, descriptive phrase in English), from “Surface Nexus Underwater Breathing Apparatus.” Well, perhaps I can give that a go, since they were obviously trying to relate their system to an established acronym that people can already pronounce. However, the more acronyms I come across, particularly the newer ones, the less and less they make sense as language. English has become, over the course of my lifetime, and I’m not that old, a repository of phrases that form acronyms which are hardly straightforward anymore.

Well, that was a long enough diversion from the topic of “green” buildings.  The creative minds within architecture have been challenged to create “biomorphic” buildings.  Biomorphic, as I’ve come to understand it, means “to take one’s cue from living things.”   There are some aspects of different living creatures that lend themselves to mimicry, hence the word biomimicry, to describe designs that are directly influenced by animals, or, as I should say, nonhuman animals, since I believe that life is a continuum and that humans are part of that, as much as some would have us believe that homo sapiens is somehow “above” other species, “created” to “rule over” them, as proclaimed in the holy book of jewish and christian sects.

There are limits to which many of these adaptations can be applied to the artificial world in which humans have ensconced themselves.  Yes, velcro (a combination of velour and crochet) is a great invention, created out of observing the ability of small seeds, by making themselves “sticky,” to be carried long distances by animals before being deposited into new soil (preferably with little if any competition for resources, since plants don’t generally move from place to place by their own power).  However, there are some problems that humans face as the consequence of living modern lives, for which there is no natural parallel, but are invented to enable humans to live more comfortably.  Take Gore-tex®.  It’s a completely manufactured material.  Hats off to the family of inventors Gore!

Is it possible to create a truly biomorphic building, one that behaves much like a living thing in that it has the ability to actually grow?  I have heard of self-assembling materials that are under fairly recent study as a means of sequestering carbon, and I would be thrilled to learn that this has made itself into a building (construction) application.  The only drawback is that I believe a lot of such processes are time-consuming, and thus not as applicable to our current drive to make things operate and come online at an ever faster pace.  Could we make a return to living in the trees, but ones of our own design?  This is something that remains to be seen.

 

Well, What Do You Know?

via Daily Prompt: Miraculous

I’ve been told that my survival from my automobile accident in2006 was miraculous.  I believe it really says something about the state of modern medicine that people can survive the kinds of trauma that once would have killed them, if not immediately, then through ineptitude. But inept is probably not the correct word, because it would not have been due to neglect that my aorta probably would have ruptured and killed me.  It was lack of knowledge and the ability to treat trauma in a manner sufficiently such that the body can continue to function much in the way it had previously.

I don’t know if my personality has been altered to any great degree, but the stint in the hospital, away from the everyday life that continued around me, robbed me of experiences that I would have had, replaced by experiences that I would never have gone through had I not been through the trauma.  I don’t even know whether the lapses in my memory are strictly due to brain damage;  could just be the way I’m ageing.  Also, the accident probably precipitated other events, or perhaps enabled the continuance of my marriage, which was, apparently, already rocky at the time of the accident.  But in the long run, it only served to delay the inevitable breakup of that relationship. C’est la vie.

 

 

Excitement and Satisfaction

via Daily Prompt: Bliss

I feel excited and much more relaxed than I have been in the past few weeks.  I’d been anticipating a job interview at what appears to be a wonderfully-run architectural firm in San Francisco.  The Principal is a woman, and the firm is made up of 25 people at this point.  They’re interviewing for additional people (plural!), and so placed an ad online.  I was lucky to come across it, as the nature of their work, as well as their work ethic, is “right up my alley,” so to speak.

The firm designs primarily civic buildings and nonprofit (low-income) housing.  Although they’re slightly recession-proof, by nature of having a lot of government contracts, the three of us (there were two interviewing me:  Principal and Partner) all expressed some worry about current and future actions of the Rump Regime, and how they may immediately directly effect public investments.  We commiserated over last year’s presidential election, but expressed cautious optimism for the midterms, in which we’re hoping the Dems will slaughter (virtually, if not, unfortunately, literally) the Repugnicans.  The defeat of Moore in Alabama was a clear sign of discontent, and a referendum on the Rump Regime, for the Rump clearly favored his fellow rapist.

We discussed my availability, and I told them that I would not be relocating to the Bay Area until June, when Kat graduates from high school.  They understood perfectly and reassured me that I was making the right decision to wait instead of pulling Kat out of school so close to completion.  They said to keep in touch, and I very much intend to do so.  In fact, I’ve already sent them a message proposing that I start remotely, if such a thing were possible and practical, before coming to the office this summer.  I’ll report their response, and my actions, in future posts.

Kat and I went to Kitchens for Good this morning for a Community Cooking Day.  I went over an initial menu with the volunteer coordinator, Nina, and then went into one of the walk-in refrigerators to see what produce and other ingredients were available.  Since Nina found corn tortillas, we decided on fajitas.  Originally, I thought to make chicken fajitas, since they had tens of pounds of donated chicken, but it was still not defrosted, so we went with the a veggie meal:  veggie fajitas, with mushrooms, the smallest tomatilloes I have ever seen, yellow onions, tomatoes, and zucchini.  I took out spices for it, and most were used; they left out the garlic (obviously, I wasn’t watching over them to supervise their choice of spices), but used the cumin, celery seeds, salt, pepper, and chili powder.  I helped to chop up yams, which we roasted with cinnamon, brown sugar, and allspice (the apples were, unfortunately, left out of the roasting pans even though they had been cubed).  I chopped the leftover broccolini that was left over from a catering gig they had yesterday.  The broccolini was added to very narrow (young) asparagus that Kat and one other volunteer chopped into inch- to inch-and-a-half long segments for the second side.

We packaged up the meals and completed 96 meals (12 trays holding 8 meals each).  Nice weekend activity.  Since it’s on Sunday, Kat said that she’d be able to come with me more this semester, or at least before the second semester begins in February.

Savory Muffin Recipe!

I’m in a culinary mood this morning.  For breakfast, I prepared these for Kat before taking her to take the ACT at Rancho Bernardo High School:

Muffins with Cheddar and Chives

Ingredients

1 ½ c. a-p flour

1 t. salt

1 t. baking soda

1 t. baking powder

several chives, chopped (about ¼-1/3 cup, packed)

2/3-3/4 c. shredded sharp cheddar

1 large egg

¼ c. vegetable oil

¾-1 ¼ c. milk (I use cashew or almond, but this works with dairy milk, as well)

1 t. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375°F

Mix dry ingredients, cheddar, and chives in a large bowl, stirring to combine.

Beat egg thoroughly, then add oil and beat together to blend.

Add lemon juice and ¾ c. milk. Mix together, then add to dry ingredients all at once. If the batter is too dry, add enough milk to give it a good texture (it can be relatively dry or fluid, but that will only determine how long they need to bake).

Scoop by the 1/3 c. into silicone-lined muffin tin.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until there are tinges of brown on muffin tops.

Remove muffins from oven, and allow to cool for one minute.

Place in tea-towel-lined bowl and wrap with towel to keep warm. Serve with lots of butter and coffee or tea.

 

To the Gills!

via Daily Prompt: Gorge

I have been trying not to consume so much at any given meal that I feel ill, or even uncomfortable.  It helps that I’m trying to eat more slowly, as well, in order for my brain to catch up with my digestion and not keep telling me to eat when I’m actually already comfortably sated.  Of course, this can be applied to other indulgences, as well, including drinking, smoking, gambling, all those “sins” that we are warned against.

Not having an addictive personality (or at least having outgrown it) allows me to be much more focused on the task at hand, even when the task is as dull as studying for an exam for which one only needs the ability to memorize things.  It’s exactly the type of exam I detest, for there is no learning involved, merely repetitive rote drilling.  That is what is so difficult for me right now.  I want to understand the reasons why the rules are set forth as such, so that it’s not merely arbitrary…

But, alas, so many things in life are arbitrary, like some people’s tastes in various arts.  The genre where this seems to come out most frequently (at least in my life) is music.  We all have our tastes in music, and most of us have a range of likes (and dislikes), with reasons why we like one thing over another, or dislike something completely.  We end up with a relationship with our choices, for the tunes and lyrics evoke emotions that we find pleasant, or at least provocative (in a good way, if such a thing is possible).  Some like the mix and play of contrapuntal music;  others base their selections purely on lyrics;  yet others enjoy the flow of wordless music.

This afternoon, I participated in a protest at a retail outlet for a national telephone/internet service provider, in order to call attention to the potential destruction of the Internet as it has been developed, as a free space for the exploration of ideas, with little hierarchy.  Internet service providers (ISPs for short)  can potentially place a monetary value to certain ideas, and therefore charge customers according to the sites they (the customers) visit and, more importantly, frequent.  Imagine how much money Spectrum (as Time Warner has rebranded itself) could make if it charged a penny for every Facebook visit made through its lines?  Or it (in this case, Time Warner, but could just as easily be Verizon or AT&T) might feel perfectly within its “rights” (because apparently, entities other than persons have rights, as judged by the Supreme Court in a terrible decision) to block access to political speech that does not agree with its owners’.

The air is dry.  Very dry.  My skin is telling me it’s horribly dry here, even for San Diego.  I will quench it in the shower before going to bed tonight.  Hopefully, it will feel better in the morning.