Years ago I used to work for a small college in Oklahoma City. Once a year during finals week, the faculty and staff would get together and cook a special late night meal for the students. Midnight Breakfast became a favorite event for the students, providing them with a little break during their studies, as well as giving them them the opportunity to see another side of the staff and faculty. I usually manned the pancake station, flipping as many as I possibly could throughout the night, before sitting down to enjoy some time with the students.
On one evening I managed to spend a little time with a young lady who was a foreign exchange student from Japan named Satoko. She was interested in learning about food and cooking, and asked for a little advice. I thought about it for a minute and remembered something that a chef once told me. “Buy the freshest ingredients you can get, and do as little to them as possible.” She just looked at me and smiled.
I have enjoyed so many of Melissa Clark’s books. With more than 25 books under her belt and her ever popular New York Times Dining Section column “A Good Appetite”, Melissa is definitely a well seasoned writer.
In Cook This Now Melissa’s appreciation for fresh seasonal ingredients, and her simple approach to how they shoud be prepared, reminded me of that advice I once passed on to a student. The book is divided by seasons and the months within, and the recipes are simple and delicious. The techniques she uses are simple and approachable for even a novice cook, and the flavors and ingredients she uses will delight those with a more experienced palate. Melissa gives great tips and advice throughout this book, which is a reflection of how she cooks at home. Every recipe comes with with an alternative, a “What else?” at the end, listing alternative ingredients you can use as a subsititute, or to add a twist and change it up a bit, giving you endless possibilities with 120 recipes within.
With St. Patrick’s Day approaching I thought I would bake the Irish Soda Bread. This is probably one of the easiest breads I have ever baked. Lightly sweet and studded with raisins and caraway seeds, this no knead bread requires absolutely no rising time, and is absolutely delicious. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
IRISH SODA BREAD
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt (I used the what else option an subsituted with sour cream)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cup raisins
1 Tablespoon caraway seeds
1. Preheat the to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 10 inch round cake pan.
2. In a large bowl combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined, taking care to not overmix. Fold in the raisins and caraway seeds.
3. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a round about 7 inches in diameter (it will spread to about 10 inches in diameter) and place it on the prepared cake pan. Using a paring knife, score the round with a cross and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Bake until golden brown, 45 to minutes. Serve warm if possible or toast slices before serving.