February! Here we are at the time of the year when the groundhog predicts whether we will have an early Spring or have to soldier on through more of Winter’s brutality. I get that he is just a rodent but after all, I was born in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (not everyone knows that bit of Queen Jeanne trivia) so believing is what we do. This year “Phil” did not see his shadow and therefore an early Spring is anticipated. We can only hope, I mean, I DO BELIEVE! With that thought planted firmly in my mind, I try to escape the cold during this month in hopes of finding warmer days and soon to be budding gardens upon my return. That said, I am off to California, my home for 30 years and the home of my children and three grandchildren. I will take a couple of weeks away from writing the blog and teaching cooking classes to spend time with my family and hopefully thaw out, but I will be back so keep looking for new posts and use this time to try out some of the recipes in my archives. Not to worry now, I will not leave without one more new recipe.
You know how I am, always messing around in the kitchen and experimenting with new taste combinations. Recently I developed this recipe which I quite like and hope you feel the same. It combines some of my favorite things; buttermilk, fresh herbs, kalamata olives and Pecorino Romano cheese. It is a quick bread so it comes together without much fuss or lengthy preparation.
Let’s take a minute to look at the ingredients. First we have buttermilk. Buttermilk of yesteryear was the liquid remaining after butter was churned, hence the name. Today it is mostly made commercially by adding special bacteria to nonfat or low fat milk, giving it a slightly thickened texture and tangy flavor. Some manufacturers even add a few flecks of butter to give the illusion of authenticity. It adds a punch of flavor in many baked goods as well as other recipes. I use it often and almost always have it on hand. Next is kalamata olives also a staple in my kitchen. These are a Greek olive that comes packed in either olive oil or vinegar. They are dark eggplant colored and have a flavor that is rich and fruity. They can be added to many dishes such as salads or pasta or eaten alone. Many who thought they disliked olives have changed their minds after tasting these purple beauties. Another staple I keep on hand is Pecorino Romano. In Italy, cheese made from sheep’s milk is known as pecorino. The most widely known in this country is Pecorino Romano which ranges in color from off-white to pale yellow and has a sharp, pungent flavor. It can be used in any recipe that calls for Parmesan cheese especially if a sharper flavor is desired. My grandmother would often use a half and half mixture of Romano and Parmesan in her cooking. I think it adds a wonderful depth of flavor and tends to be cheaper than the much revered, Parmigiano-Reggiano. I needn’t go on about fresh herbs as you know I love the brightness they add to almost any recipe. I can’t wait until I can start harvesting them from my own herb garden again. I keep thinking, EARLY SPRING!
Here’s the recipe.
HERB CHEESE BREAD w/ KALAMATA OLIVES AND PECORINO ROMANO
Makes 1 9×5-inch loaf or 8 mini ones
2 ¼ c unbleached white flour
2t baking powder
½ t baking soda
1 t salt
2 large eggs
¼ c extra-virgin olive oil
1 ¼ c buttermilk
1 ½ c Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (you could substitute Parmigiano-Reggiano)
NOTE: I use the small holes on a box grater, not a microplane grater as it makes it too fluffy and throws off the measurement.
½ c kalamata olives (or olives of choice), pitted (do I need to tell you that?) and roughly chopped
1t fresh thyme, finely chopped
1t fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and dry mustard in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk eggs, olive oil, and buttermilk.
- Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients.
- Add the cheese, olives and herbs. Mix until moistened but do not over mix.
- Place batter in prepared pan (s) and bake until golden and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes (25-30 minutes for mini loaves).
- Let stand in the pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely, if you can resist eating it warm. Serve with butter, honey or jam (I served it with tomato jam).
If you have some that is a couple of days old and beginning to dry, try toasting it. Add some butter and/or jam and you have another whole taste treat.
Farewell for now. I will be back in a couple of weeks with new ideas from my travels that I will be dying to share. Keep those comments and questions coming as I am going to check and promise to answer. Meanwhile, stay warm and think Spring!