Thursday, August 30, 2007

Potato Leek Pie

I'd promised to make potato-leek soup here in Japan for our daughter & son-in-law; brand new grandaughter not up to anything other than mother's milk right now. And on a trip we discovered beautiful leeks at a roadside market. But it's been very warm in Misawa, so hot soup didn't seem the greatest idea in the world. I decided tp put together a pie instead, using the same ingredients and drawing on a bunch of sources (listed below) for inspiration. This was the result:

Leek/Potato/Carrot Pie

6 fist sized white potatoes, scrubbed, roughly cut up, boiled
1 large carrot, diced
3 large leeks, scrubbed and chopped, both white and green
4 large cloves of garlic, diced
2 blocks tofu, cut up
1/2 cup olives, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
soy milk
pine nuts, toasted

sautee leeks and garlic in olive oil.
preheat oven to 425 degrees F
mash together potatoes and tofu, adding a little soy milk as needed (I leave potato skins in the mash, but that's optional)

Combine potato/tofu mash with leeks and garlic
add carrots, olives and seasonings (to taste)
spoon mixture into polenta crust. Top with toasted pine nuts.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F.
Bake until browned, another 35-40 minutes or so.

I used commercially prepared polenta, softed with a bit of water and spread over a large pie pan. It was ok. A good Polenta Pie recipe is at Mollie Katzen's website, from the Moosewood Cookbook; Her Leek and Potato soup from the same book is our standard. Next time I'll use her recipe for the pie crust as well.

on the table

The recipe was adapted from various sources, including:

"Tofu, Leek and Potato Pie" by Derek & Rhian Jones, Wales,
"Carrot, Leek and Olive Stew" from the Vegetarian REsource Center of Boston, Mass., both from from the International Vegetarian Union,

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


The tomatoes of summer, all canned. Both red and yellow--the green jars are a verde soup, adapted from the wonderful soup at Whole World all natural restaurant in Columbus, Ohio

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Baked Potato Bread from The Fresh Loaf

Currently in Japan, visiting the Most Adorable Grandchild in the Universe (for details, see, and so having to improvise ingredients and processes.

Baked this earlier this week; the basic concept is from The Fresh Loaf (, by Floyd Mann, the guru there; my adjustments were because I'm in Japan at the moment, and don't have access to some ingredients (no chives, for example); and no bacon because we're vegan. My variation first, followed by Floyd's original

1/2 cup mashed potatoes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped green onions (green stems only)

mix ingredients and knead, adding all-purpose or whole wheat flour alternatively to get to a soft loaf. I used a Kitchen Aid mixer for the kneading, doing a bit of hand kneading at the end. Let rise until doubled (about 45 minutes here in an un-airconditioned kitchen in Japan with temperatures in the upper 90sF outside); shape into loaves (I placed the shaped loaves into loaf pans greased generously with olive oil, since I knew we'd need sandwich bread for picnics, etc. Otherwise would have shaped into round loaves or -- if at home -- would have used a basket), let rise until doubled (another 45 minutes); while rising, preheat over to 425 degrees F. Bake at 425 for 5 minutes, lower temperature to 375 degrees F, bake until done (in this US military issue oven, which is not entirely accurate, about 45 minutes). Cool.

I add cornmeal to most recipes; adds a nice crunch to the finished bread, and doesn't change the taste that I can tell, although a less jaded palate than mine might well notice.

and the original recipe (and see for the method, directions, and some mouthwatering photographs):

1/2 cup mashed potatoes
3 to 4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour (ambiguity in original)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cooked bacon
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Darfur, Paris, and Bread

originally posted 7/07 elsewhere--but a recipe this time!

An interesting day. A friend sent a link to the new Amnesty International website devoted to the tragedy in Darfur, with satellite photos, eyewitness reports, and enormous amounts of information detailing the tragedy. The evidence remains overwhelming of systematic destruction, murder, rapes, all apparently with the support of the Sudanese government. Yet the United States stands by, distracted by our military follies in the Middle East and by the celebrity culture that blindsides most of us (Paris Hilton released from jail today! Will she go be sent back by an intolerant judge?--or so screams the headlines online, as we lurch from triviality to triviality, breathlessly seduced by the antics of incredibly trivial people). But we need to pay attention to Darfur, before we're pulled into yet another military debacle--or, worse, ignore what's happening as we did in Ruwanda. People need to look at -- if they do, one hopes they'll be moved to action.

Meanwhile, in Germany, the G8 issues a call to slow down global warming, but with no real recommendations, due to the United States blocking German chancellor Angela Merkel's original proposal to cut global emissions by 50% by 2050--too harsh on American business, ap
Merkel looks unhappy--Bush grins

Although Merkel and other leaders are calling the watered down statement a good beginning, at least one environmentalist says it's not, according to Claudia Kemmer of the Associated Pres, who writes today

“I know Chancellor Merkel is declaring victory, but in fact President Bush has shut the door in the faces of the other seven leaders at the table," said Philip Clapp, president of the U.S.-based National Environmental Trust, pointing to the "seriously consider" phrase.

"That is a far cry from the United States having signed up to any such reductions," he said.

Clapp said the agreement showed progress among the other countries in reaching a consensus that could be taken up by the next U.S. president after Bush leaves office in January 2009.

So again we're stymied by Bush and his crew. How long will it take us to undo the damage this bunch has done, both to the United States's reputation, as well as to the disasters, both natural and military, that they've either created or allowed to become disasters? It'll be years--

So what do I, as an involved citizen, politically and socially active, do in the face of these continuing disasters? It should be obvious: I bake bread. Herewith today's mostly whole wheat; mixed up the starter and basic dough on Sunday, aged for four days in the refrigerator, and baked early this morning.

Here's the recipe; made five loaves, so was able to use a lot of different flours (four loaves now in the freezer); great crumb, and terrific taste. And, as always, kneading the dough works out a lot of frustrations and anger at world events. Very therapeutic, a lot cheaper than psychoanalysis, much more rewarding that firing off yet another letter of protest, and you get something good to eat at the end!

Mostly Whole Wheat

Org whole wheat flour
King Arthur traditional whole wheat flour
Org rye flour
Org teff flour
Org quinoa flour
Org cornmeal
Org spelt bran
Org wheat germ
Oat flour
Chickpea flour
Millet flour
Ground sunflower seeds
Ground flax seed
Hemp seeds
Ground golden lentils
Kosher salt
Agave nectar
Org canola oil

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Com Fest, politics, and still more bread

originally posted on another blog, June, 2006. and a note: I was testing recipes for Peter Reinhart at this point, so can't post his recipes. Will add some of my own later on, when I'm not in Japan, and have access to my files in Ohio!

A busy week. This was the 34th annual Community
Festival in Columbus, an event begun in 1972 as a university area, radical student event. It's grown and moved to Goodale Park just north of downtown Columbus a number of years ago. Although it retains its radical, post-hippie sensibilities. Lots of craft artists, leftist and progressive political groups, environmentalists, animal rights folks, and so forth. And several hundred thousand others. We usually wind up volunteering at community or political booths. This year, we were to be at the booth sponsored by the Coalition of Democratic and Progressive Organizations of Central Ohio (grand name, no?), groups that grew out of the 2004 election campaign efforts and decided to continue on after the disappointing results of that election (about which more later). (The Coalition's activities are at ) That was for Sunday afternoon. But since Ann thought she might put some of her 'Some Women Are Born Leaders' tee-shirts at the booth for sale, we went down late Saturday morning.

The booth was too busy with various groups (including our own Uptown Progressives) and representatives for candidates to put out the shirts. But we ran into the formation of the Pride Parade, about to start at Goodale Park, the ComFest site.

A church group heads down State Street

The Marching Flaggots of Central Ohio

We wound up marching with the
Kilroy for Congress group.

Which meant a long walk as part of the march, and an even longer walk back to the car. But there's nothing quite so exhilarating as rounding a corner from a side street onto the main north/south artery and finding some 80,000 cheering people lining the sidewalks.

the kelly green shirts are for Kilroy

The march was logical, since we'd hosted a fundraiser for Mary Jo the night before, sort of! We'd worked with the campaign to set up a house party, invited a bunch of folks over, cleaned the house, bought food and wine, and then had the event cancelled--Mary Jo couldn't make it. We had the party anyway, although it was no longer a fundraiser. But we had a great time, and had a lot of terrific conversations about politics, both secular and religious (the Episcopal Church had just finished their convention in Columbus, and a couple of gay Episcopalian activists were with us).

Here's the group on the deck
Sunday we were back at ComFest, at the Coalition booth. Good conversations again, and very reinforcing to be with like-minded folks.

And more bread on the testing circuit; this time all rye. With decent results. The bread testing is fun, although the freezer is filling up with loaves; will have to start giving some away soon!

More hypocrisy--and more bread

originally posted 4/30/06 on another blog

With gas prices at the pump going higher and higher, and the primary elections on Tuesday, the political rhetoric is flying fast and furious--and watching politicians suddenly posturing about alternatives and talking about needing to investigate the oil companies to see if they might be profiteering (!!!! I guess that 49% rise in profits announced last week for Chevron, and the record 8.4 billion dollars in profit for Exxon Mobile, were both purely accidental)--and this from people like Senator Frist who saw no need to explore how energy companies coordinated prices or even to question the administration's energy policies only a few months ago, and who've taken record contributions from energy companies and their lobbyists. And, of course, much of this is to distract us all from the spectacle of an Administration adrift on all fronts, led by a man who can barely keep his eyes open at the White House Correspondents' Dinner last night--
probably not hearing Stephen Colbert
But the best political hypocrisy of the week (at least on a national level--the battle for the Republican nomination for the Ohio governor's race has had both major candidates, J. Kenneth Blackwell and Jim Petro, labelling each other hypocrites in a barrage of television commercials all week. And, of course, they're both right) goes to House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Who this week made a pitch for hydrogen powered vehicles in Washington. Here he is riding in one:

And here he is, thinking he's out of camera range, leaving the hydrogen-powered car and getting into his SUV--his gas-guzzling SUV, provided by the government--to be taken the several blocks back to the Capitol.

It's so patently more of the same practice perfected by President Bush and his Rovian band of merry men: do the photo op suggesting one thing, then once the cameras are gone, revert to your old practice--assuming the image is more important than the actuality.

So it was a relief to get back to the actuality of bread--and at least the bread worked this time--a mixed grain whole wheat for the baker for whom I am one of a couple of hundred volunteer recipe testers. This is a multi-grain; last time I tried it, it was far too soft. Still a softer bread than we normally like, but good flavor, and pretty good development. Almost entirely whole wheat flour, with a little bit of cornmeal, oats, and (in this try) some barley flour.
a low loaf, but with a slight dome
it makes good sandwiches and toast

and has a decent crumb

Divas, local politics, and bread again

originally posted elsewhere in March, 2006

Three events over the weekend: divas, politics, and bread. First: the divas. Old friend Luke Yankee came in to do his one-person show, Diva Dish, as a benefit for the Eileen Heckart Scholarship Fund at Ohio State. Luke's mother was Eileen Heckart,

Eileen Heckart

the celebrated Broadway actress, winner of Oscar, Tony, Emmies, more awards than can listed, and a central Ohio native and Ohio State alumna. Luke's put together a warm tribute show, telling the many (and wonderful) stories he heard and witnessed growing up as her son.

Eileen and Luke

He performed three times, to enthusiastic crowds, and Ann and I were able to spend some time with him at lunch, and at a reception following the Saturday night show. Luke's also published a book that puts the stories into literary form, Just Outside the Spotlight; it's terrific reading.

More about the show, the book, and Luke himself at and at Eileen was a wonderful actress and great to know, and Luke's terrific in his own right.

Also got to spend a little time with our neighbor, Jan Fleming, now a candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives; see We knew Jan by sight from seeing her running down the street, but really met her through the Kerry campaign and the organization of Uptown Progressives in the past year. She'll make a wonderful state rep, with her background in both higher education and in banking--what a combination! Here's me and Jan at her campaign kickoff party earlier this year:

Alan and Jan schmooze

Then I also continued on my bread recipe testing experiments, following Peter Reinhart's recipes as he develops a new book on whole wheat braed (and there's a great deal more about that whole process at his blog, Here are some photos of yesterday's bread, a multi-grain loaf. Far too soft, as you can see from the 'shaped' loaf. But a great tasting bread, even if it remained moist (all right, wet) in the middle. Will try again, with more flour and less than the original recipe calls for.

the shaped loaf in the pan: very soft!

it was so soft it stuck to the pan

too moist!

Ah well. All good events, good people, and good (tasting) bread that's now terrific bruschetta. A welcome distraction from the leak follies happening in Washington!!

Easter--and bread

originally posted elsewhere 2006
Now it's Easter Monday. The Christian holiday always makes me think of the sharp distinction between the message in the Christian New Testament, and what contemporary American 'Christians' say and do. Perhaps very well expressed in a post on Daily Kos on Saturday,
that I recommend. And the news of the translation and publication of the 'Gospel of Judas' -- along with the earlier 'gospels' of Thomas and Mary Magdalene -- is a reminder of just have politically and historically determined are both the content and structure of the Christian Scriptures. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne has an interesting column on the Judas 'Gospel'--see it at
And how those same Scriptures are used to justify intolerance, injustice, wars, torture, and so forth--all the things that the Jesus portrayed in the Scriptures spoke against. Mark Twain's savage satire of a war prayer still, sadly, remains all too apt. For the full text of Twain's satire, go to

Easter also brings thoughts of bread. And since I'm baking these days to test recipes for a forthcoming book of whole wheat
bread (I'm one of some 250 testers, so it's hardly very special!), here are some photos of the most recent experiment: entirely whole wheat flour. Great taste!
cooling on the rack

in profile; didn't dome as well as it could have

and great crumb!

The First Bread

A contest on the Year in Bread blog ( asks for our favorite bread stories; here's mine:

I first started baking bread when we were poor graduate students; it made sense financially, and also psychologically--kneading (make that pounding) the dough took out a lot of frustrations built up from classes with conservative professors (this was the late 1960s). After doing ok with white bread, I decided to move on to whole wheat. Without Peter Reinhard to guide me, or Bernard Clayton, or King Arthur, I plowed ahead, making a dough of whole wheat flour rather than white. Only whole wheat. It never occured to me that some mixture of white and whole wheat would be a good idea. And, of course, I was using Gold Medal off the shelf. Really a rank, rank beginner.

I baked the bread. I had two loaves of small, grey, bricks. Heavy, solid. And essentially unedible. My loving bride took one taste and said, diplomatically, "I'm sure you'll do better next time." I took one taste and contemplated throwing out my loaf pans and breaking my rolling pin across my knees.

Luckily, at that point, two neighbors arrived, along with another graduate student. They'd all been drinking, and perhaps something else as well, it being the late 1960s, and were giddy. And hungry. I offered the bread. They devoured it, both loaves, among three people, in less than an hour.

And I learned a basic lesson, both for baking and for life: no matter how much you screw something up, there will always be people who think it's terrific. You just need to find them.