April 2010

Soft yet substantial, these hearty rolls turn a simple soup and salad into a memorable meal.  The dough also works for sandwich bread and the recipe will yield two loaves.  See here for instructions on forming the loaves and bake them 35-40 minutes.

Honey wheat rolls with oats and flax

Yield:  2 dozen rolls

2 c. warm water

1/3 c. honey

1 packet active-dry yeast

1/4 c. safflower or canola oil, plus a little more for the bowl

2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour

2 1/2 c. bread flour

2 tsp. salt

1 c. rolled oats, divided

1/3 c. ground flaxseed

2 tbsp. butter or dairy-free margarine, melted or 1 egg, lightly beaten

Combine water and honey in a large mixing bowl (use the bowl of an electric stand mixer, if you have one).  Stir to dissolve honey.  Sprinkle in yeast and let sit 5-10 minutes until yeast blooms.  Pour in oil.

Add flours and salt and mix well with a wooden spoon (or use your electric mixer’s paddle attachment).  Add 3/4 c. oats and flaxseed.  If you’re using a spoon, stir as best you can, then turn dough out on a lightly floured counter and knead until oats and flaxseed are evenly incorporated and dough is smooth and elastic, 5-10 minutes.  If you’re using a mixer, switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes.

Form dough into a ball, lightly oil the bowl, return dough to bowl and turn once to coat dough in oil.  Cover bowl with a barely damp, clean dish towel or piece of plastic wrap and set aside to rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  The easiest way to tell if your dough is sufficiently risen:  Poke  it with your finger.  If the hole doesn’t spring back, it’s ready.

Lightly oil two 9-inch round baking pans.  Turn the dough out on the counter and divide in two.  Roll the first half into a rope, then divide into 12 pieces.  The best way to make uniform pieces is to divide the rope in half, then divide each half in half, then divide each of those halves into three equal lengths.  Shape each piece into a ball, and arrange in one of the baking pans.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Brush tops of rolls with melted butter or beaten egg and sprinkle evenly with remaining oats.

Set dough aside to rise again until the rolls reach the tops of the pans, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  I usually leave the pans on the counter, but if my kitchen is very cold, I use my mother’s technique to encourage the second rising:  Open the oven door a crack and turn the oven on (any temperature, it doesn’t matter).  When you hear it ignite, look at the clock — when 1 minute has elapsed, turn the oven off, put the covered bowl or pan of dough inside, and close the door.

When the dough is ready, bake it in a preheated, 375 degree oven for 22-25 minutes (if you’re rising the rolls inside your oven, remove them before turning the oven on!).  The rolls are done when their tops are nicely browned and they sound hollow when rapped on the bottom (put on oven mitts and tip the rolls briefly out of the pan to do this — they will come out in a single loaf).  Remove immediately to a wire rack.

Let the rolls cool at least 10 minutes before separating and serving.

Rolls keep well, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for a few days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.


Root vegetable salads are perfect for early spring, when you want something light and fresh but warm weather vegetables aren’t in season yet.  This bright, crunchy carrot salad is made with dried fruit and seeds from the pantry and chives from the garden.  A little bit sweet, a little bit tangy, it’s mildly addictive and very kid-friendly.

Grated carrot salad with orange and honey

Yield:  Makes about 6 cups, serving 6-8

2 lbs. carrots, peeled and grated

Heaping 1/2 c. currants or raisins

Heaping 1/2 c. roasted sunflower seeds

1/4 c. finely chopped, fresh chives

Juice of 1 large orange (about 1/2 c.)

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. honey

Salt and freshly ground, black pepper, to taste

Combine grated carrots, currants, sunflower seeds, and chives in a large mixing bowl.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together orange juice, oil, vinegar, honey, a pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper until well incorporated.  Toss salad with dressing and let sit, stirring occasionally, at least 10 minutes before serving.

Boulanger is French for “baker.”  This classic, peasant casserole of potatoes and onions is so named because it was traditionally cooked overnight in the residual heat of a baker’s oven, after the day’s bread was finished.  Unlike other scalloped potato dishes that are soaked in cream and smothered with cheese, boulangere potatoes are relatively light.  Cooked in stock with just a touch of butter, they are earthy and sweet, simple yet immensely satisfying.  You can add a sprinkling of finely chopped, fresh thyme or an ounce or two of diced pancetta to the onions, if you like, but I prefer them plain.

Boulangere potatoes

Yield:  Serves 6

2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for the baking dish

2 yellow onions, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced, lengthwise

Salt and freshly ground, black pepper

2 lbs. potatoes (I like Yukon gold), peeled and very thinly sliced

1 c. very hot chicken or vegetable stock

2 tbsp. butter (or use dairy-free Earth Balance Buttery Sticks or Spread), cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Warm a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Drizzle in oil, then add onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to brown, about 8 minutes.  Season lightly with salt, reduce heat to low, cover pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very soft and tender, about 20 minutes more.

While onions cook, peel and slice potatoes.  Generously oil a 2 qt. gratin or casserole dish.  Arrange a portion of the potato slices in the bottom of the dish, overlapping slightly in an inward spiral until the entire bottom is covered.  Season liberally with salt and pepper, then scatter some of the caramelized onions on top.  Continue layering potatoes, seasoning with salt and pepper, and scattering with onions.  Finish with a layer of potatoes.  Pour the stock over the top — it should be level with the top layer of potatoes — and dot with butter.

Cover dish with foil and bake 40 minutes.  Uncover dish and bake until potatoes are tender and top is browned, at least 40 minutes more.  Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.