Sunday, August 17, 2008
A few months ago, I abandoned the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and started getting the New York Times every day. I was sorry to give up the Star-Tribune, which, as a small-town girl coming to the big city of St. Paul for college, lo these many years ago, seemed like a sophisticated newspaper to me. As many of its best reporters and columnists fell victim to budget slashes, it pretty much stopped covering national and international news--except for condensed versions of stories from the Times. Now I love getting the NYTimes every morning, especially on Tuesday (the Science section, which you can read even if you know nothing about science) and on Wednesday, when they have the food section.
I always go to Mark Bittman's The Minimalist column first, and when I saw his recipe for grilled chapati, I knew that would be my weekly bread. First, I love Indian bread, and second, it was going to be hot this weekend, so a no-yeast, no-rise, no-oven bread sounded pretty good.
Then, next door to Bittman's column on page D3 was Melissa Clark's recipe for grilled sausages and summer beans with herbs, tomatoes and caramelized onions. Maybe Mark and Melissa didn't plan it that way, but their recipes sounded like they belonged together.
Jim offered to cook today, but I was so in love with the idea of chapati, sausages, beans, herbs, etc. that I turned him down.
I caramelized the onions and was going to start mixing up the chapati dough (which is simplicity itself: 2 1/4 cups of whole wheat flour, 1 cup AP flour, 1 t. salt, and 1 cup water, mixed in a food processor)when I realized that my food processor was suddenly not working.
I was irritated, but not panicked. After all, hadn't Indian women been making chapati for hundreds of years without a food processor? I just transferred the flours to my KitchenAid--which is much more primitive--and mixed everything up. While the dough rested, I stirred the beans now and then and got the sausages ready for the grill.
As much as I like Mark Bittman, he does have a way of making everything sound easier than it really is: "When you're ready to grill, just tear off walnut- to golf-ball-size pieces, roll them out with a little flour and toss onto the grill." The word "toss" makes everything sound so cavalier and devil-may-care. I don't know about Mark Bittman's kitchen arrangements, but my grill is outside and my counter, where I roll out dough, is in the kitchen. And we eat on the back porch. So, although the "tossing" part is not so hard, the running back and forth from grill to stove to counter to porch is a workout.
But I love to bake unleavened bread that puffs up as it cooks--it always seems like a miracle to me. And that's what happens to chapati. After you toss it on the grill, you watch it puff up, then you turn it over, hoping that it hasn't burned, and brown it on the other side.
The sausages were a combination of pork sausage with fennel pollen, pork sausage with pesto, and bratwurst.
My favorite was the fennel pollen, but it might just be because it sounds so much more exotic than bratwurst.
The grilled chapati and sausages were excellent, but the star of the show was really the beans.
Picking up the subtle sweetness of the caramelized onions and the yellow cherry tomatoes, and the zing of the herbs, the beans were so delicious they could have almost passed for dessert. I can hardly believe I just wrote that sentence, but these beans were seriously good.