The Culinary Traveler: Rice and Vermicelli Pilaf

The combination of rice and thin pasta in a pilaf has pure Middle Eastern roots. It also happens to be the prototype for the commercial RiceARoni mix, a supermarket familiar. Want to make it from scratch (to cut down on the sodium but not lose the great flavor)? The secret is not to use too much pasta, just crumble some ultra-thin angel hair, vermicelli, or one little nest of pasta called a fideo.

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Growing Food Grains in Your Home Garden — Yes You Can

If you love to bake bread and are a gardener, chances are you’ve wondered about growing a small patch of your own grains. An increasing number of avid home gardeners are growing, reaping (cutting stalks and binding into sheaves), threshing (shaking the grain from heads), winnowing (separating the grain from chaff and straw bits), and grinding their own grains from a small backyard patch.

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Bernard Clayton, Breadmaker, 1916-2011

In each genre of cooking, there are the celebrities, the ones who are well known by being on TV, and then there are the insider pros, the ones who the food world recognize but often are not more widely known. If you are a serious home bread baker, you know Bernard Clayton’s recipes.

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Creamed Corn and Parmesan Risotto

The wedding dinner was held after the sunset ceremony. The vegetarian option was a vegetable risotto. Now you are wondering how to make risotto for over a hundred people.

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Champagne Risotto with Leeks and Celery

While you can use any champagne or sparkling wine, such as Prosecco, it can be fresh from the bottle or leftover flat dregs. I heat the champagne first to burn off a bit of the alcohol. This is has a good proportion of wine, so the flavor will be marked. If you want your risotto to look pristine, be sure to use white pepper.

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It’s All in the Pan

If you like to bake bread, you know all about the search for the perfect loaf pan. Since all bread pans bake just that little bit different, bakers tend to own at least two different types, choosing the right pan for the each recipe.

First is usually a pair of Pyrex glass loaf pans from the supermarket with the lip-like handles on the two opposite narrow ends. You have to remember to drop the oven temperature by 25 degrees, but you can see underneath to make sure the bottom crust is baking properly and they can be easily washed in the dishwasher.

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Sunflower-Oatmeal Bread

When I worked at the bakery in 1980, my assistant Celeste made this variation of our standard Sunflower Molasses Bread with buttermilk and honey. It was scrumptous and ended up being one of our best sandwich/toasting breads, rich flavored and moist textured. When I wrote Bread for Chronicle Books, I included the recipe. Good thing I wrote it down for Celeste never did and had forgotten she ever created it. Always write down your variations!

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Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread

Whole wheat bread is the mainstay of the baker’s kitchen. Until you have mastered whole wheat bread you cannot say you are a bread baker. The easiest whole wheat bread is a 50-50 blend of whole wheat and white flour: it makes the dough easy to work with and gives a high rise. Use fresh flour, as fine a grind as you can find, for the grind will dictate the overall texture. Remember when kneading to leave the dough a dash sticky, as the whole grains will absorb it during the rise. This is real old fashioned home baking at its best and is perfect made in the terracotta bread pans.

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