breadbowl1By Saturday, I had it.  Too many times we went to Urgent Care; Mom swore she had heart pains which turned out to be pains from a fall  and Suzanne washed her contacts out with the wrong cleaner, thus burning her epithelial cellular layer of her eyes.  Too many times I drove kids around, too many interruptions and too little time for me to get the things done that I had on my list.  I really wanted to work on my family tree and hem my new suit  jackets and pants.  Nothing I wanted to get done got accomplished.  So when it came to dinner time, I panicked.  I hadn’t defrosted any meats or fish, and no little grey cells in my brain were coming alive and printing out a menu.

Then I remembered Clam Chowder Bowls.  Christie loves going to San Francisco and getting a bowl for lunch.  Not only is the soup delicious and warming, there is the afterlife of the meal which she gets to pull apart the sourdough bread and chew the bread with the remnants of the soup.  Plus, I know how to cheat on clam chowder, and by using a favorite can brand,  I add some ingredients, and voila, gourmet clam chowder in 10 minutes.  So here is the skinny.

Clam Chowder Bowls for 4

INGREDIENTS

4 sourdough bread rounds

3 cans of Snow’s New England Clam Chowder (condensed**)

3 cans of low fat/regular milk

1 bunch of finely chopped parsley, no stems

¼ cup of white whine

½ lb of sliced mushrooms

1 onion finely sliced

DIRECTIONS

Turn the sourdough bread rounds into soup bowls by slicing the domed top and hollowing out the inside of the bowl (don’t hollow out too much of the sides) just you would do a pumpkin.

Follow the directions on the back of the Captain Snow’s chowder can.  This will become a rich soup using 2% milk, so it will become incredibly rich with regular milk or half & half. Add the wine.

Sauté the onion and mushrooms in a small pan.  I use olive oil but butter is fine.

Once the onions and mushrooms are sauté (onions should be limp and translucent, mushroom should be soft), place them into the bottom of each bowl.  Add the soup and garnish with parsley and a tab of butter.  Serve immediately.  Excellent with a glass of white wine (I really needed it on Saturday) and a mixed green salad.  Don’t forget the vinaigrette using your SaladSuccess salad dressing shaker.

*** If you can’t find the clam chowder in the condensed form, use the regular can (but you will need double the amount and should adjust the recipe accordingly).

flowers1Yes, there is springtime in Paris, and autumn in my fridge.  A strange phenomenon occurs in western winter-challenged areas, such as those of us living on the coast of California.  We begin to empty out the third or second shelf in our refrigerators and fill it with bags of tulip bulbs.  Since tulips need cold weather for the bulb to set, we artificially induce the cold for 8 weeks, which turns out to be quite a commitment since autumn begins the season of big food – ham, roast, turkeys, stews and soup.  And here is the irony:  After cooling the bulbs, preparing the grounds and having a wonderful tulipy spring, the bulbs rot in the earth and we start all over.

However there are some positive aspects to clearing out the shelf.  It is the one time of the year when I go through the fridge tossing out jars of store-bought dressings, barbeque sauce, weird Chinese gloopy bottles that I never used, and probably a very old container of pickles and mayonnaise.  For a brief moment the refrigerator is pristine, only to clutter up again over the year.  Word of advice, when buying a new fridge, don’t get one that is deep; old bottles tend to get stuffed in the back recesses, never to be found again.

One item that we find and refresh is last year’s jar of yeast.  Usually, once we buy the new jar, Suzanne, my master bread-making daughter, makes us the first fougasse of the season with cheddar, garden herbs and olives.  Depending on her mood, she might make several more loaves with onions, Parmesan cheese, anchovies, bacon, tomatoes or jalapenos.  A green salad, a bowl of fruit and a glass of French Reisling; Voila, the perfect lunch.

The fougasse is bread from the Provence area of France.  Similar to focaccia, it is moister and does not to be dipped in olive oil.  After years of searching, we found the perfect recipe, a prize-winning Kalamata fougasse from Anne Baldzikowski of Belle Farms (a superb small olive orchard that has wonderful proprietary olive oil).  I was lucky to be a judge at the 2007 Harvest Festival where Anne brought us this wonderful bread.  Start this bread the night before planned menu since the slow cool rise is essential for developing the flavor.

Kalamata Olive Fougasse with Belle Farms Extra Virgin Olive Oil

INGREDIENTS

2 cups warm water, 100 – 105 degrees

2 teaspoons of dry active yeast

4 cups of flour

2 teaspoons sea salt or 1½ teaspoons table salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped

1 teaspoon coarse (sea or kosher) salt

THE NIGHT BEFORE

Pour warm water into a large bowl.  Sprinkle yeast onto warm water and stir until dissolved.

Add flour and 2 teaspoons salt.  Stir until mixture forms shaggy dough.

Add chopped Kalamata olives and continue stirring dough until it forms a loose ball.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in the refrigerator overnight.

NEXT DAY

Preheat oven to 500 degrees

Take dough out of the refrigerator and invert onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet.  Divide the dough into 2 pieces.  Let dough rest for 10 minutes

Take a piece of dough and gently form into a leaf shape – 14 x 9 inches- stretching the dough with your fingertips.  Take a pizza wheel and make 2 rows of 3 slits down each side of the leaf.  Brush leaves with olive oil and gently apart the slits in the dough with oiled fingers, MAKING BIG HOLES in the dough.

Sprinkle with chopped sage and coarse salt.  Let rest for 20 minutes on the counter, until dough comes to room temperature.

Place leaves in oven and reduce heat to 450 degrees.  Bake for 15 minutes or until leaves are golden brown.

Courtesy of Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets – www.montereybayfarmers.org