Quick Basil and Feta Bread

There are a few food bloggers that I’ve been following for many years.  When I see their emails in my inbox, I know they’ll provide consistently delicious recipes that are interesting but not too difficult.  Clotilde at Chocolate and Zucchini is a food writer living in Paris.  She sends out a monthly post with a round – up of recipes, restaurants, and other tidbits.  This month provided a gem of a recipe: a savory quick bread with feta cheese and lots of fresh herbs.  There’s no yeast and no rising time, if you can make banana bread then you can make this!

Everything about this recipe is perfect.  The sesame seeds provide a subtle, nutty crunch, and the salty feta cheese in a soft rich bread hits all the right notes.  The basil makes this bread very seasonal for late summer, but any other herb or combination of herbs would work just as well.

Clotilde kindly includes converted measurements since Europeans measure baking ingredients by weight instead of volume.  I have ‘Americanized’ this recipe even more by using buttermilk in place of the yogurt and making a few other small changes.  However, her version is absolutely perfect so if you have some plain yogurt in the fridge please click through for her recipe.

Quick Basil and Feta Bread

A little butter for the pan

2 Tablespoons sesame seeds (I used a mix of black and white)

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 and 1/4 cup buttermilk (full fat)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 eggs

7 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1 bunch fresh basil or about 1 cup chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 1 full size bread pan or three minis (which is what I used) by smearing with butter and sprinkling in 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds.

Chop the herbs (here’s a post that includes directions for chopping basil) and crumble the feta cheese.  Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper and stir well with a fork or whisk in a medium bowl.

Using a 2 cup or larger liquid measuring cup (such as the one in the picture), measure the buttermilk and oil, then add the eggs and mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir gently.  When the mixture is still very lumpy, go ahead and add the herbs and cheese.  Mix until just combined (do not over mix or you will develop the gluten and make the bread tough).  Spread into prepared pans and top with remaining sesame seeds.

Bake 40- 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pans 10 minutes then turn out to finish cooling and allow the crust to crisp.

Enjoy!

 

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Lentil Salad

Lentils range widely in size and color from yellow, red- oranges, greens, browns, and black.  The most common lentils in my local grocery stores are brown or red.  I have unpleasant memories of brown lentils from childhood.  My mother has always strived for good health and nutrition, and lentils are a superstar in the world of legumes.  Obviously mineral content wasn’t what I was looking for in my food at that time and I was very suspicious of the mushy little beans.  I now recognize that they are powerhouses of nutrition and can be prepared in a variety of ways.  They readily absorb flavors and can be used for soups, stews and salads.  Lentils are surprisingly high in folate, iron, magnesium, protein, and fiber.

There are two varieties that are less likely to get mushy and therefore good choices for salad.  French green lentils (du Puy) and Beluga black lentils are both small and remain firm when cooked.  I usually cook with French green lentils and they are pretty good, but I really wanted to try the small black ones named for looking like caviar.  I had a recipe from Jacques Pepin for Beluga Lentil Salad, but was not able to find Belugas until recently. 

This lentil salad is the best I’ve made.  I often leave out the mint in savory recipes even though it grows nearly year round right by my front door.  I absolutely loved the mint in this salad.  It is light and tasty, but also satisfying and filling; I was really surprised how much I enjoyed it.  The recipe and ingredients are simple and easy to keep on hand, so this will be a great lunchbox meal from now on.

Lentil Salad

recipe from Jacques Pepin

1 cup dry Beluga lentils

water

salt

1 bay leaf

1 large clove garlic

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots ( I substituted sweet vidalia onion)

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Feta cheese for garnish

Begin by sifting through the lentils to check for stones.  You probably won’t find any, but this is good policy any time you cook with dry beans.  Rinse them under running water.

Soak the lentils in 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt for 1 hour.

Drain and cook in a saucepan with 3 or 4 cups water, 1 whole garlic clove, 1 bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until desired firmness.

Drain and discard the garlic and bay leaf.

For the dressing, combine the olive oil, white wine vinegar, olives, mint and shallot in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste.  A great tip when working with raw onions is to chop them, then rinse with cold water to remove some of the sharpness if you don’t want them to overpower the salad.

Add the warm lentils and toss to coat.  Serve warm or cold, topped with a little feta cheese.