Sunday, December 24, 2006

Less Scones and Carols

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the flat,
The smells of home cooking flew this way and that,

For if I intended to sing all night long,
I needed good cooking to keep muscles strong.

So after a hearty and comforting lunch,
I pulled out a recipe I like quite a bunch:

Chick pea minestrone, a soup full of all
Of the veggies I found at the market this fall.

An onion, some garlic, some tender green beans,
A jar of tomatoes like summer's past dreams,

A couple of carrots, a quart of fresh stock
All simmered together in an old beat-up pot.

The soup's lush aroma soon filled the air,
And I considered the rest of my dinner with care.

I've wanted to try a new scone variety
With the flavor of pesto imbued with sobriety,

Laced with fresh basil and some shredded cheese
Plus a handful of walnuts (local, if you please).

The dough mixed up quickly and baked quickly, too,
Which left me with only the cleanup to do.

With soup and a feather-light scone on my plate,
I savored a simple Christmas dinner date.

The flavors, perfection! The substance, divine!
I cleaned my plate once, and then one more time,

Before tucking all the leftovers away
To enjoy once again some other day.

My taste buds were satisfied, my tummy quite full,
I bypassed the cookies (though they exert such a pull),

Went straight to the cupboard and pulled out some tea
(A far better treat for singing a high key).

Then, refreshed and ready, I went out in the night
To sing lovely carols in the church candlelight

To dream of the joys that Christmas can bring
As we remember the reason behind everything,

And to hope for the day when true earthly peace
Becomes more than wishes and words we just speak.

And so, on this night, I wish you love and good cheer,
A very Merry Christmas, and a joyous New Year!

Pesto Scones

I don't often think about scones as a savory bread, but the new scone mixes in the Baker's Catalogue have intrigued me, and I finally decided to try my own savory scones. I pulled out a recipe for Cheddar-Chive Scones (found, incidentally, on the King Arthur Baking Circle web site) and tweaked it a fair amount to get the pesto flavor I wanted. Due to a pre-Christmas shortage of some ingredients, I did the best I could with what I had... and was thrilled with the excellent results. Though pesto itself combines basil with olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan, I found that walnuts, Asiago cheese, and no garlic suited me just fine in these astonishing, almost biscuit-light scones. Serve with a hearty minestrone or other good Italian soups on a cold winter's day.

1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 c unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 T chopped fresh basil leaves (or 2 tsp dried)
1/4 c (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese (Romano or Asiago would also work)
1/4 c coarsely chopped walnuts
Up to 1/2 c milk

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In mixing bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, salt, and butter. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Toss in cheese and walnuts, mixing until evenly distributed.

Pour 1/4 c milk into dry mixture, mixing to make a soft dough, adding more milk as required. Finish pulling the dough together by kneading it by hand in the bowl; I find this also helps to work the butter into the dough more fully. Turn dough out onto a very lightly floured surface. Knead a couple of seconds and then pat dough out into an 8" circle (or square or rectangle). Cut into wedges (or squares, or use a cookie cutter for shapes!).

Place scones on prepared baking sheet and bake until tops are just starting to brown, 12-15 minutes. Remove to wire baking rack and allow to cool. Store in airtight container if you don't plan to eat them all up on the spot!


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