Nov 272010
 

Italian Reds

It is hard to believe that Mr BT and I were in Italy almost two months ago. We had planned a beautiful two week vacation, but sadly we had to leave five days into the trip due to my mother-in-law taking a turn for the worse.

Italian Savories

As I took the photos in Bologna of the beautiful food market and food shops, I was so looking forward to the numerous posts I planned for the blog. However, when I looked back at pictures this past week, I realized our hearts weren’t really in it. Mr BT and I were constantly worried: had we made the right decision to listen to the doctor and go ahead with the trip, wouldn’t your mother love walking through the streets with us, wouldn’t your Dad have loved this fish restaurant, wouldn’t my Dad love this museum…..

Cafe in Ferrara

When I called the owners of the farmhouse in Le Marche to tell them we had to cancel our stay, they said, “We are sorry, but don’t worry, we aren’t going anywhere, come stay with us next spring.” And that is exactly what we are going to do, go back and do it all over again.

Nov 232010
 

Stybl Spelt Flour

I have been baking exclusively with spelt flour for the last several months and it all began when I bought a kilo of organic spelt flour from the Stybel flour stand at Orbanics. I had heard that spelt is supposed to be better for you: that it is easier to digest, higher in protein, high in complex carbohydrates, contains all 8 essential amino acids needed by the human body, and is loaded with key essential minerals and vitamins. But, it has taken me a long time to actually buy some to bake with. I bake almost exclusively with whole wheat flour, so I am used to working with a whole grain flour. I actually like the nuttiness of some of the heartier whole wheat flours and would always buy bread and other baked goods from the Vollkorn (Wholemeal) bakery when I lived in Germany. The funny thing is after all these years I didn’t realize that bread I used to buy the most was a whole kernel spelt bread (Dinkelflockenbrot).

Italians call it “Farro” and it is found in gourmet soups, pizza crusts, breads and cakes; in Umbria it is even used instead of durum wheat to make pasta.

Spelt (Triticum spelta) is an ancient grain that is member of the same grain family as common bread wheat, rye, oats and barley, but is an entirely different species. It is one of the original seven grains mentioned in Ezekiel 4:9: “Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof …”. Sister Hildegard von Bingen (St. Hildegard), touted as one of the earliest health food nuts, said “the spelt is the best of grains. It is rich and nourishing and milder than other grain. It produces a strong body and healthy blood to those who eat it and it makes the spirit of man light and cheerful. If someone is ill, boil some spelt, mix it with egg and this will heal him like a fine ointment.”

Spelt Grain

Spelt was a popular grain up until the 19th century, when the common bread wheat was discovered to be easier to mill and give a much higher yield than spelt which was harder to process because it contains a very thick husk unlike its cousin. Spelt started showing up in health food stores in the 1980s, but has only recently shown a tremendous comeback since whole foods are shown to be much better for us.

Spelt is not wheat-free like some people are saying, and is definitely not gluten free. Celiac sufferers cannot consume products made from spelt, but some people with wheat allergies or wheat intolerance can eat small quantities of spelt. If, however, you have an allergy or intolerance to wheat, consult a doctor before you try eating products made with spelt.

Spelt is not difficult to bake with, but there are a few important pointers to ensure a successful baked-good:

  • Unlike all-purpose flour, where you can get away with not always sifting the flour, it is important to sift spelt flour before using it. Otherwise, you may end up with a lumpy dough or cake batter.
  • Compared to wheat flour, spelt flour needs less liquid to make the same consistency dough. Use three-quarters the amount of liquid relative to that you would use with wheat flour. For example, if a particular recipe requires 1 cup of liquid when mixed with wheat flour, it would need ¾ of a cup when using spelt flour.
  • Do not overmix the batter or overknead the dough. The gluten in spelt is not as durable as in other wheat and may result in a crumbly or tough texture.
  • It is recommended to keep spelt flour in your refrigerator or freezer to maintain its freshness.

Don’t be afraid to bake with spelt, it makes a really light loaf of bread with an appealing nutty flavour. The high protein in the spelt results in a very light, soft-textured bread that isn’t crumbly when sliced. It also makes a light, soft-textured cake.

Spelt Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie with Spelt Flour and Cream Cheese Pie Crust

Serving Size: 8

Pie crust adapted from a recipe from the The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Pastry for a two-crust 9-inch pie:

170g (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold

2 cups spelt flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

127g (4.5 ounces) cream cheese, cold and cut into 3 or 4 pieces

2 tablespoons ice water

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Egg wash

1 tablespoon caster sugar

Cherry filling:

1/4 cup Demerara sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons ground cardamom

1kg (2-1/4 pounds) fresh sour cherries, pitted, or 3 packages of 380 grams (2 pounds) frozen sour cherries, partially thawed and drained

For the cherry filling:

In a large bowl, mix the cherries with the sugar, cornstarch and cardamom. Add more sugar if the cherries are too tart.

Spelt Cherry Pie

For the pastry:

Cut the butter into small (about 3/4-inch) cubes. Wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it until frozen solid. Place the flour, salt, and baking powder in freezer bag and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Place the flour mixture in a food processor with the metal blade and process for a few seconds to combine. Add the cream cheese and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the butter and pulse until it is in even small pieces, each a little larger than a pea. Add the water and the vinegar and pulse until the pieces of butter are the size of tiny peas. The mixture will be separate tiny pieces. Do not pulse into a mass.

Divide the mixture into two ziploc bags and knead the mixture just until the dough comes together. Flatten into discs and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes or overnight.

Grease a 22-inch (9-inch) pie pan. Roll out the bottom crust and place in the pan. Add the cherry filling and cover with the top crust. Cut slits in the top crust or cut out a decorative design to let the steam out of the pie while it is baking. Crimp the edges decoratively. Brush the crust with an egg wash and sprinkle the top with caster sugar.

Place the pie on baking sheet and bake at 200C (400F) for 20 minutes. Cover the edges with a foil collar to prevent over-browning. Continue to bake until the filling bubbles and the crust is golden brown, about 25-30 minutes longer. Transfer the pie to rack and cool for at least 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/11/23/spelt-flour-in-biblical-portions/

Nov 072010
 

Organic farming is nothing new in Israel, but given the fact that several Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms have popped up over the last several years and regular supermarkets are pushing organic products, not to mention the Eden Teva supermarket chain, you would think that Israel has just been introduced to the organic way of life.

It is quite the contrary. In 1958, a group of people of various backgrounds decided to create a moshav based on a vegetarian, vegan, and organic lifestyle and ideology. The founders of Amirim were among the pioneers of the vegetarian movement in Israel. The Israel Bio-Organic Agricultural Association (Tuv Hassadeh) was founded in the late 1970s by an 84-year-old farmer, Mario Levy, from Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu in the north of the country. It was quite difficult in the beginning to convince Israeli farmers to forego the use of pesticides, but now there are over 500 farmers who are members of the association and produce 13% of farm products in Israel.

Organic products and produce could always be found in the various health food stores in Tel Aviv, but now there is a dedicated famers market at HaTahana (The Train Station), the beautifully renovated Ottoman-period train station on the Tel Aviv-Yafo border. The Tel Aviv municipality and the Israel Bio-Organic Agricultural Association opened the farmers market as a joint project.

Every Friday, approximately 40 stalls with food growers and manufacturers, all certified members of the association, sell products such as cakes, dairy products, eggs, and of course beautiful seasonal fruits and vegetables.

The vendors at Shuk HaCarmel are always finding clever, but generally noisy, ways to advertise their products to the crowd of shoppers. The organic farmers market, by contrast, was relaxed, peaceful and unpushy.

At Orbanic, the attractive vendors smile and proudly talk about their produce, with passion in their eyes, and visible pleasure, the results of their hard work. Like on the face of Or Glicksman, who gives you a big beautiful smile when he describes his organic vegetables from his father’s farm on Kibbutz Gal-On in the southern part of the country.

And the cute guy from the Negev who was selling his sweet and juicy little mangoes and perfectly round cherry tomatoes.

There are vendors selling organic large-leafed purslane, from imported seedlings from France that are acclimated in hothouses at Kardesh Barnea in the Negev, and large shoots of lemongrass, waiting for a Vietnamese stir fry.

You can even take home the much sought after Aba Gil’s organic hummous, quiches, and brown rice pilaf. Their quiches are egg, wheat and dairy free.

And you can also take home romaine lettuce seedlings, which I bought for my garden along with 1 kg of spelt flour, 3 desert mangoes, a yellow and green striped pumpkin, olives marinated in red wine and herbs, and pickled baby eggplants.

Mario Levy must be smiling on his cloud as he looks down and sees how even in the big city, the movement that he helped start has achieved so much popularity.

Orbanic Farmers Market
HaTahana
2 Yehezkel Kaufmann Street
Tel Aviv
Open: Fridays, 0800-1500

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