Pronounced as “fee-jo”. The Feijoa is an egg-shaped fruit with a thin lime-green skin. The flesh inside is cream-colored and encases a jelly-like center with small seeds. The texture is gritty, close to that of a pear. The flesh tastes like a combination of several other fruits, usually described as pineapple, guava and strawberry. Some people report a taste similar to that of a quince or lemon. Feijoa is native to South America, but is now commercially grown in New Zealand and California. It is also commonly called a pineapple guava. Served fresh or cooked in salads, mixed fruit, sauces and pies this fruit provides a refreshing flavor.
One of over 300 garlic species grown worldwide, the Elephant Garlic or Russian Garlic is not actually a true garlic, but actually more closely related to the typical garden leek. It has a tall, solid, flowering stalk and broad, flat leaves much like those of the leek, but forms a bulb consisting of very large, garlic-like cloves. Many people are attracted to elephant garlic simply because of its size. They assume that it must be more strongly flavored than ordinary garlic. In fact the opposite is true as its taste is more onion and leek than garlic. It’s often used when a subtle hint of garlic is wanted without overpowering the rest of the food. In fact, the Elephant Garlic is so mild you can take a whole bulb of it and slice the cloves into quarter inch thick steaks, sauté them in butter or olive oil and serve them as a vegetable.
Cobblestone Bread with Fresh Rosemary, Roasted Garlic and Kalamata Olives
Rosemary is an evergreen shrub with pine needle-like leaves that is native to the Western Mediterranean region. The plant itself typically grows to a height of between 3 to 5 feet. The name Rosmarinus comes from the Latin ros maris or “dew of the sea”, from the dew-like appearance that sea spray creates on plants growing close to the water in its native environment. The fresh and dried leaves are used frequently in traditional Mediterranean cuisine as an herb; they have a bitter, astringent (menthol) taste, which complements a wide variety of foods.
In the English-speaking world, the “Goji Berry” has been widely used since the early 21st century as a synonym for a derivative of the legendary Chinese “Wolfberry”. While the origin of the word “Goji” is unclear, it is probably a simplified pronunciation of Gŏuqĭ, the Mandarin name of the plant. Renowned in Asia as a highly nutritious food, Goji Berries have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for about 1,900 years. Their undocumented legend, however, is considerably older, as Wolfberries are often linked in Chinese lore to China’s legendary First Emperor, mythical father of agriculture, and herbalist who lived circa 2,800 B.C. Gojo Berries have been said to taste somewhere between a cranberry and a cherry while others say they also taste of raspberry and plum. These delicious berries can be added to hot or cold cereals, used in trail mix, soups, with other whole fruit and in nut bars, baked goods and in tea and fruit juice blends.
More than any other food, there’s something about bread that’s forever intertwined it and us throughout the story of humanity. From ancient loaves found in the pyramids to the colorful balloon bags on our grocery store shelves, we have been linked to bread throughout history, and it has sustained us through some pretty rough times.
If you trace today’s bread to its roots, you’ll find something that looks nothing like a loaf of bread, at least as most of us think of it.
For the most part, breads need finely ground/milled grain–in other words flour. The earliest evidence of the kind of flour we think of today dates back about 30,000 years. It wasn’t nearly as finely milled, and it wasn’t bleached white, but it was a primitive beginning.
Flat and simple breads like lavosh, Mexican tortillas, Indian chapattis, naans, Scottish oatcakes, North American johnnycakes, and Middle Eastern pitas are all modern-day examples of breads made from this type of flour.
Eventually, about 10,000 years ago, foraged wild grains became cultivated grains, and that marked the turning point in human history because it allowed larger masses of people to become stabilized in one area. And when cultivation of grains became more efficient, not everyone had to be foragers or farmers of grain. This allowed common people to specialize in other trades and endeavors.
Civilization became more civilized.
As more bread was made, it was only a matter of time before something else happened. Leavened bread was just around the corner. Leavened bread, of course, is generally leavened with yeast, and yeast is in the air.
It’s everywhere, and it eventually settles on everything–grains included. This is why, if you take finely milled flour, mix it with water, and let it set out long enough, you get a spontaneous growth of yeast in the dough.
Of course, some places have more yeast in the air than others, and one place you’d find a whole lot of yeast in the air is in a brewery. And not so coincidentally, the early Egyptians made beer and are credited with discovering leavened breads.
Yeast spores settle on the grain; grain becomes flour; yeast consumes the sugar in the flour, creating carbon dioxide gas, which is then trapped in the dough; and BINGO, you get leavened bread.
Of course, this makes you wonder why leavened bread didn’t arrive on the scene earlier?
The likely explanation is that early breads were both flat and dense not to mention made from dough that was prepared for the moment and consumed just as readily. There would have been few opportunities for yeast to sit around long enough, under the right conditions, to do its thing. On top of that, whatever carbon dioxide gas that might have been created would stand little chance to leaven such tough, leathery dough.
However, over time, grain was eventually milled much finer, and dough became less dense. This allowed the yeast’s gas to form bubbles trapped within the dough, which remained during baking.
Modern bread was born, but it took until the 1800s when Roller flour mills led to even more highly processed flour, which led to even lighter and whiter loaves.
By 1825, a German baker was able to create cakes of yeast, package them for mass sale, and make the baking of bread easier forever after. Even today, however, there are those who LOVE breads baked not with commercially processed yeast but instead with the wild yeast in the air.
They go by the name Artisan Breads, and Nino’s has an Artisan bread bakery in our Clinton Township store. The breads we make there are, in a word, FANTASTIC.
Want to know more about Nino’s Artisan Breads and the flours we use to make them? Check out these posts:
In spite of Michigan’s heat and drought, many of us have still found the time and resources to faithfully water and attend to our backyard gardens. And the fruits of our labors are beginning to pay off with, among other vegetables, zucchini, one of the most popular homegrown garden vegetables and certainly one of the most versatile.
From sauté to soup, casseroles to desserts, zucchini’s appealing taste and nutritious attributes lend themselves to recipes of nearly every culture and preparation style.
Also known by the name “Courgette” (France, Ireland and the United Kingdom), the zucchini is typically harvested at approximately 8” to 10” in length but can grow to 3 feet or longer if allowed to. Another related hybrid, the Golden Zucchini, is deep yellow or almost orange in color and has a similar taste and texture.
Unlike many foods we eat in the U.S. but like most squash, the zucchini actually has its origins in the Americas. The actual variety of squash we now call zucchini, however, was developed in Italy (some believe near Milan) many generations after its introduction back to the “Old World” from the “New World.”
In a culinary context, the zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. Botanically, however, the zucchini is a fruit, just like the tomato.
Although it can be enjoyed raw like a cucumber, zucchini is usually served cooked. It has a delicate flavor and requires little more than quick cooking with butter or olive oil, but it can also be cooked using a number of other techniques, including steaming, boiling, grilling, stuffing and baking, barbecuing, deep frying, or incorporating in other recipes, such as soufflés. It can also be baked into bread or incorporated into a cake mix. Its flowers can be eaten stuffed and are a delicacy when deep-fried as tempura.
Before I share with you a couple of new recipes, you might want to check out a few recipes that are already on Nino’s website including:
And review Nino’s Squash Guide, which gives you more information about other varieties of squash.
Now, on to my new recipes:
First up, we have a delicious soup, incorporating zucchini and fresh basil. Garnished with a dollop of sour cream and some finely julienned zucchini, carrot and yellow squash, it tastes as great as it looks.
Zucchini Basil Soup
(Makes about 2 Quarts)
2 Lbs Zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces
3/4 Cup Sweet onion, chopped
2 Each Garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 Cup Olive oil
4 Cups Chicken broth (or stock)
½-Cup Fresh basil leaves
To Taste Salt & pepper
To Garnish Sour cream
To Garnish Finely julienned raw carrot, zucchini & yellow squash (approx 1 TBSP each per serving)
In a soup pot, add olive oil and bring up to a medium heat.
Add onion, and sweat for 3 to 5 minutes. Do not brown.
Add garlic and zucchini, and sweat until glazed and slightly softened.
Add chicken broth, and bring soup to a gentle simmer.
After 10 minutes, add basil and continue to cook until zucchini is tender (approximately 30 minutes). Do not cover.
Allow to cool until mixture can be placed in a blender (30 to 45 minutes).
Blend soup until smooth. Strain if desired, and then return soup to the original soup pot and reheat.
Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
Serve in shallow soup bowls with a garnish of sour cream and a julienne of zucchini, carrot and yellow squash.
The next recipe is a classic “Quick Bread” using zucchini as a key ingredient. It’s a delicious breakfast treat or goes exceptionally well with any cream cheese frosting you buy or make from scratch.
Zucchini Carrot Bread
(Makes 1 – 9” Loaf)
3 Cups All-purpose flour
1 TBSP Baking soda
½ Tsp Ground cinnamon
1 ¼ Cups Granulated sugar
½ Tsp Salt
¼ Cup Poppy seeds
4 Each Egg, extra large, beaten
1 Cups Vegetable oil
2 Tsp Vanilla extract
1 ½ Cups Carrot grated
1 ½ Cups Zucchini grated
¾ Cups Dried currants (or raisins)
Sift the first 5 dry ingredients together in a medium-sized mixing bowl and stir in the poppy seeds.
Combine the eggs, oil and vanilla, add to the above mixture and stir in until smooth.
Squeeze out the moisture from the grated carrots and zucchini, and stir, with the currants, into the mixture.
Turn batter into a greased and floured 9” loaf pan, and bake approximately 45 minutes at 350 F or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
Remove from the oven, and turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Wrap tightly in plastic film and store refrigerated until served.
I hope you’ll enjoy these recipes — let me know how you liked them.
Until then, keep the watering hose at the ready and enjoy the bounty of Michigan’s backyard harvest.
“You get what you pay for” so the old adage goes. And in the search for a quality loaf of bread, the expression has never been truer. While a loaf of a “national brand” sliced white bread can be as inexpensive as a buck and a half, Artisan Breads can be more than twice that. So, if it’s nothing new, just flour, water and a few ingredients why the big difference in price?
Well, to begin with, I have to agree that bread is nothing new, in fact, it’s ancient…very, VERY ancient. Today’s white bread of “P.B. & J.” fame and Artisan Breads do however, have a common ancestry, that is; flour, water, yeast, sugar and salt. So, I suppose the two breads are related, but let’s just say they’re very distant cousins. Like “coffee at the vending machine versus an Espresso at Starbucks”.
Unlike coffee however, in spite of modern “improvements” like commercial yeast, vitamin enrichment, mold inhibitors, dough conditioners, sweeteners & flavor enhancers, many bread purists are convinced that unlike many other things in our world, bread hasn’t gotten better over the years, it’s gotten worse. How did the so called “Staff of Life” get so bent out of shape? Where were WE when the “Grain Train” rolled out of town and left us all with loaves of spongy bread with colorful balloons?
Likely, we were asleep at the switch. The switch to convenience that is…
Among the conveniences for the bakers, commercial yeast is more easily controlled, thus has a more predictable outcome. Vitamin enrichment is a convenience for the flour mills because stripping off the bran and germ allow for more convenient milling. That sounds great until you learn that flour is stripped of some of it’s nutrition as a result, so adding back some of it’s former “goodness” only gives you “half a loaf’s worth”. Mold inhibitors, dough conditioners and sweeteners allow the bread to stay “fresher” longer, and that’s a convenience for the consumer.
Artisan Bread on the other hand starts with flour that is MUCH less processed, there are usually no artificial ingredients, very little sugar (2 to 3 %) and the salt is quite often sea salt. The one obvious ingredient you may have noticed isn’t there, is fat. And that’s because many Artisan Breads don’t use it. It’s one reason Artisan Breads have such a GREAT taste and such a crisp crust, the down side of that (for many) is that it also greatly reduces its shelf life (or freshness). Many Artisan Breads have only a day or two at the most of “true” freshness. So, unfortunately, with the schedules that most of us have nowadays, it’s easy to see which of the “bread” cousins eventually won favor in the check out lines over the years. Mr. Convenience.
So just what are Artisan Breads?
And I don’t mean Artesian (…that’s a “water” well). The term Artisan simply means, “A skilled craftsman” in this case, a skilled Bread Baker. What a “skilled bread baker” does makes all the difference between ending up with the loaf of sliced white bread you might buy in a brightly colored plastic bag and the bread you see in the windows of a French Boulangerie (Bread Bakery).
Without getting “bread geeky” let me explain what makes Artisan Bread so special, and specifically what makes the Artisan Bread we make at Nino’s Clinton Township Store so special.
It all begins with GREAT flour.
At Nino’s we use nothing but King Arthur Brand Artisan flours which are farmed in the Mid-West and milled in Vermont. The flour isn’t bleached or bromated (which ultimately means you get a better taste and more nutrition). We choose different King Arthur flours with different protein percentages and that allows us to make the many different styles of bread we offer from Ciabatta, which requires high protein flour, to our Sourdough and Tuscan Semolina breads which require less.
The next most important “ingredient” in Artisan Breads is a story in and of itself here at Nino’s. Namely, the “starter” or wild yeast culture which is the “leavening energy” and flavor enhancement that many of our breads receive here at Nino’s. Its story began a decade and a half ago when I began an Artisan Bread program with my former employer. It all has to do with yeast.
Yeast is an interesting fungus. Especially the many strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (ok….I’m being a bit geeky here). It craves sugar, warm, moist places and creates carbon dioxide and alcohol in the process of being…well…? Itself.
The same strains of yeast that can make beer also make bread and amazingly enough, you don’t even have to go out and buy it? It’s free!! It’s generally in the air, all the time. And, not surprisingly, it is attracted to sweet things that have moisture, like grapes for instance. Or a bowl of soupy flour and water left out on the sill. Each of the many strains of wild yeast produce an ever so slightly variation of flavor in their resulting work. Thus, each bakery which develops a wild yeast starter has the chance to have a flavor of bread all their own. Some proprietors (bread bakers and distillers alike) guard their “wild yeast colonies” with such fervor that only a very few have access to its propagation and lawsuits have been waged to protect them from their competition.
Our starter has the unique distinction of coming from a single cluster of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the acres of Robert Mondavi’s vineyards in Napa, California in early August of 1995.
I…ahemmm…“creatively procured” a particularly healthy cluster of grapes with a good deal of the powdery white wild yeast that had collected on them over the summer months. After carefully wrapping them in some parchment paper, I stuffed them into my luggage for the return trip back home where within 2 weeks I had a robust “bacterial broth” of wild yeast starter bubbling away in the bakery.
Those first loaves were amazingly good and the flavor was everything I could have hoped for. From that day until today, each and every day, 7 days a week, sometimes twice a day, that very same starter has been invigorated with more nutritious artisan flour and water and kept active and alive for over 15 years now. The yeast from that one cluster of grapes has been grown and re-grown every day, thousands of times, keeping the characteristics of that same strain of yeast over and over again all the while creating leavening and favor for what I can imagine is well over a hundred thousand loaves of bread of one kind or another. Just at Nino’s alone!!
The other major difference that makes Artisan bread so unique is, unlike “bagged, white bread” which tastes like yeast, sugar and “added flavor enhancers” an Artisan Baker’s is dedication to developing the flavor of the WHEAT. That is, in the end, mostly what bread is?
How do you do that?
The simple answer is that instead of a warm dough with lots of yeast and sugar, and a short and explosive proof and a quick bake to get the bread to market, the Artisan Baker does just the opposite. Cool dough temperatures which slow down the yeasts grown to give the dough all the time it needs to extract and then harness all the delicious flavors of the wheat. Even the baking is extended a bit longer to develop a nice, crisp brown crust with another flavor all its own. Everything about Artisan Breads takes time, you don’t rush it, and you can’t tell the bread what to do or control it too much without ruining what it is. Perhaps, on a warm day, you can slow the dough down a bit with cooler water and on a cold day just the opposite, but in the end, the bread is in charge. It’s a living thing. It’s nature. Literally…
We only make our Artisan Bread at our Clinton Township store. Our Artisan Bread Bakery is tucked in the back of our store’s bakery department. (It’s back by the big wooden butcher block table where all the dough’s are “benched” then cut and shaped.) And while you’re there, check out all our terrific values and the fine display of our Artisan Breads. We feature over a dozen different varieties in many different shapes including Baguettes, Batardes (free formed loaves) Boules (round) and rolls. You’ll also find other unique breads that we feature including our ever famous Pretzel bread.
Try a loaf and see for yourself the difference that “skilled craftsmen” (& women) make. “You get MORE than what you pay for” when you buy a loaf of Nino’s Artisan Bread, you get our guarantee of complete satisfaction and assurance that each and every loaf is deliciously hand crafted by our dedicated bakers so that when you pay the difference you can TASTE the difference!