Getting over the hump

Molly is right to be fumbling around in her pantry at this time of year. It’s that funny bridge between the seasons, when the weather can’t decide if it wants to be winter or spring, and neither can the farmer’s market. All of the winter staples are looking tired and pale, while the first of the spring produce looks underripe, sad, and in some cases, downright wimpy. Twice I’ve bought strawberries, hoping the glory that we’ll see in a month has come early this year, only to be disappointed with berries that are flavorless and white on the inside.

I, too, have retreated to the pantry, with one of Molly’s prized recipes clutched in my hand (ok, ok, it’s just on my computer screen, but I do have a laptop!). I’ve made her sister’s scones three times this week, using up dried fruit and flour from our stash. The recipe is perfect: wide open for flavorings and adaptations, simple to make, and extremely reliable in delivering a moist, tender scone. No hockey pucks here. So far I’ve made dried pear and crystallized ginger, mixed berry, and simple lemon thyme varieties. All have been outstanding, and my freezer is now happily stocked for afternoon snacks and breakfasts on the go. I don’t have any pictures for you this time, though, since Henning is away for the week with his camera, and mine has decided to incessantly tell me to format every memory card I put in it. You’ll just have to make do with a wonderful, flexible recipe for scones. Poor you!

One more recent pantry discovery: NutritionData.com. I’ve known about this website for years (it was the first to tell me that brie has less fat than cheddar!), but only recently have I discovered its “Pantry” tool. This tool allows you to add ingredients to your virtual pantry, then enter quantities of them to create a recipe. It then gives you a complete nutritional analysis of the recipe. Molly’s scones fare far better than, say, Ina Garten’s, though that’s not saying much, since pretty much anybody’s recipes are healthier than Ina Garten’s recipes. I’m giggling to myself right now thinking of Deb’s post about Ina’s pecan bars. Oh, Ina I do love your recipes but my hips certainly don’t. But I digress. Molly’s sister’s scones are relatively healthy as far as starchy breakfast items go. They have fewer calories and much less fat than your standard biscuit, plus you can perk them up with dried fruit and nuts, adding not only flavor but nutritional goodness as well. So get to it!

Molly’s sister’s Scottish scones
From Molly’s blog, Orangette

1/2 c milk
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
3 tbs sugar
Flavorful additions of your choice, to taste*

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Beat together the milk and the egg and then set aside. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt with a fork. Using your clean hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture, working until you have no lumps bigger than a pea. Add the sugar and whatever additions you choose, and stir or toss to mix. Pour the wet ingredients into the dries, reserving just a tad of the milk-egg mixture to use as a glaze. Bring dough together gently with a wooden spoon.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead it until it just comes together, but not long enough to develop the gluten, no more than 12 times. Pat dough into a round approximately ½-inch thick, and cut into 8 or 12 wedges. Place on an ungreased baking sheet or a Silpat, if you have one. Using a pastry brush, glaze wedges with reserved milk-egg mixture. If making a sweet scone, you might want to sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar for a nice shine and a sweet crunch.

Bake for about 13 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack, and eat them as soon as they are cool enough to handle! They are best warm out of the oven, but are also still good after a day or two at room temperature. Longer than that, and I would freeze them.

*Ideas for flavorings:
Dried pear and crystallized ginger
Lemon zest and fresh thyme
Mixed dried berries
Dried cranberries, orange zest, and sliced almonds
Dried figs and anise seed

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5 Comments

  1. Posted March 27, 2007 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Maia you need to get out more. San Diego veggies have been looking very good for the last few months, I think you’re just not looking at the right ones. Check out any of the numerous farmer’s markets (or get on the CSA bandwagon already) and you’ll see all that is good this time of year.

    Props to using up your pantry goods. Mine is usually on the low side with some baking supplies making it look fuller than it actually is.

  2. Posted March 27, 2007 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    Hrmm, well, maybe we’re visitng different markets. I go to LJ or Solana Beach on Sundays, Del Mar on Saturdays, and in between I use the farm stand outside Pier 1 and TJ’s at LJ Towne Square.

    I went to Solana Beach farmer’s market just this past Sunday, it was the same story. Lettuce, oranges, apples. Sure, they looked alright, but I’m tired of lettuce, oranges, apples. Tomatoes and strawberries looking better, but still not great yet. There was one guy with expensive asparagus. At least the farm stand at LJ Town Square has his mangoes and good raspberries, but strawberries are still expensive and not great yet.

    I’m not complaining that there is no produce—there is plenty. I’m just ready for a new season to start. A CSA, while nice, wouldn’t help me here. If you check Be Wise’s weekly pick list, it’s beets, arugula, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, (all winter) plus some strawberries and zucchini. Sea Breeze reads a bit better with snap peas and radishes, but it’s still beets, chard, lettuce, etc. Plus, Sea Breeze is far too expensive for my graduate student budget. (Try living in La Jolla on $17,000/yr pretax.)

  3. Posted March 28, 2007 at 1:31 am | Permalink

    Hah! Trying living in La Jolla with a $150k/yr salary. I know I couldn’t do it.

    Last week’s Seabreeze went like this:
    Beets, chard, cauliflower, snap peas, lettuces, parsley, radishes. The fruit: Strawberries, bananas, mango, blood oranges, grapefruit.

    If it means anything, San Diego is pretty much the greens capital of the US. At least that’s what I get from the CSA week in and week out.

    Maybe I’m just spoiled since I’m from the cold Northeast where winter vegetables come canned, frozen, or trucked 3000 miles.

  4. Posted March 28, 2007 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    You’re right that I shouldn’t complain, being here in San Diego. We have it better than pretty much anywhere else in the country. I’m just being whiny, mostly because I’m tired of the same winter veggies, and the little bits of spring are tormenting me. I want my asparagus, favas, strawberries, and peas!

    Are you happy with the Seabreeze CSA? It seems nice, but it seems pretty expensive.. $60/week for the one with fruit, plus the startup charges and the fact that they make you buy their cookbook. It’s certainly good from a moral point of view, but is the produce consistently great?

  5. Posted March 28, 2007 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been a member of both Seabreeze and BeWiseRanch. While BeWise has more flexible programs and better pricing, the variety just wasn’t good enough for me. A large part of BeWise’s share would be greens every week, all year. The only fruit I remember from BeWise was oranges, oranges, and more oranges. The quality was always good though, so I can’t complain there.

    Seabreeze is more expensive, by a lot. I don’t really have a problem spending more to support a local system that delivers a good variety. I’ve yet to get anything I would consider bad quality. The greens are always super fresh and crisp, the fruit is always top-notch, and the veggies are just like from the garden.

    If you’re willing to spend money at whole foods, either option is a better choice in my opinion. Keep in mind that you have to play Iron Chef every week when you get your box. (it adds to the fun!)


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