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Monday, September 13, 2010

"Instant spoon bread"


Even in a relatively poor garden year, early fall in the country can be a time of too many options. There are potatoes in baskets, scattered along countertops, in bags, and still in the ground. Apples are all over the place, the freezer is full of bags of blackberries and containers of lightly blanched zucchini, eggplants and peppers hang forlornly from their branches waiting, like wallflowers, to be noticed, and the arbor groans with grapes. So, even though we've halved the size of the loaves we bake, it's still possible to wind up with a hunk of stale bread that's about to turn blue all along one edge.

At this point, one might decide it's chicken feed or compost. But we like our bread, into which we've put a lot of work, and often try to think of ways to redeem that last bit.

One is to slice it thin and toast it with a little cheese or homemade garlic-and-basil butter. Another is to crumble it up into a bowl of cooked-up cracked wheat or other grain. Yet another is to add it back to the next batch of dough, and still another is to use it in soup, just like crackers.

Risa likes to break down such chunks into bite-size bits, add sliced tomatoes, basil, chard, onion greens, chives or other fresh herbs, add some kale or other greens, shredded, then sprinkle on some grated local cheddar, and stick the bowl in the zapper for one to one-and-a-half minutes. She calls it her "instant spoon bread."

Some of her friends are still leery of zappers, but she observes them chattering away with powerful radiation-emitting cell phones jammed against their heads, and thinks she's chosen the lesser of same evils, so to speak. But if you're one of these friends, consider using the rice steamer for this "recipe." It takes only a little longer, and the results are only a little morewilty. A toaster oven might do. In cooler weather, you can set the bowl on a trivet on top of the woodstove or in a Dutch oven set there. What Risa tries to avoid, most of the time, is relying on the energy black hole that's the oven in her electric range. The broiler works well, but it sets the meter on the outside of the house spinning like a pinwheel in a hurricane.

A wide range of ingredients, almost whatever is on hand, can go into such "spoon breads." But we'll stop here. The truly eclectic country eater can feed herself much more easily than she can feed company, if they're not used to, say, cooked apple slices with eggs ...

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