Sunday, May 1, 2011

Caramelized Onion & Cheddar Pumpernickel and the Lighter Side of Local

Caramelized Onion & Cheddar Pumpernickel Bread
Welcome to spring in New England. The days can be either be warm with sun, or chilly with rain and a fresh coat of frost in the morning. For home gardeners, the time to plant can be variable. Will you try to put your plants in early and chance a hard frost, or will you wait and put off summer's bounty for just a few more weeks?

While I wait, I'm lucky enough that the people who make their living off of the land, do not. This is the time of year, where across the country, farmers' markets who may have closed for the winter, begin to wipe off the dust, and open to bring you the freshest of what your region has to offer. It's a beautiful time of year, and a perfect time of year for a change.

Hakuri Turnips
So, here at Lighter and Local, I'm brushing off some dust and cobwebs from winter as well. I want to help you make a good change in your life, if you're up for the challenge. I want to help you along the path of local eating this summer, starting with this renewal we call spring. Now is the perfect time to start thinking about eating in-season and preserving for the next. Call it a "spring cleaning" of your eating, if you will. And if you're looking for the bread, no fear, it fits into this all and the recipe is below.

garlic greens

I do not, in any way, profess to be an expert on this topic. We will all learn on this little journey together. I started focusing on local and regional eating a couple of years ago, and haven't looked back since. It's a slow, progressive, but rewarding task. I'm not going to lie to you. My home and kitchen still have plenty of products and foods from all over the world, including some from large, mass producers. Beginning to source food locally is not an all-or-nothing affair. It shouldn't be. Like most endeavors, easing into it will create a long-term pattern, not a local "binge", if you will. I hope to be able to help you figure out what works best for you, what foods and products make sense to buy local wherever you are.

If you've been a reader of my blog over the past year, you know one thing you will not find in this series is a truck-load of food politics. If you really want my take, you can feel free to ask me, but I don't believe in the rhetoric behind becoming a "localvore" is the right place to start for most people. You should first be interested in fresh, amazing, unbelievable food. You should also be a fan of supporting the people in your community, their businesses and their livelihoods (because it will only help your community in the long run). We can tackle the rest over time, but let's start with a love of amazing food and where you live.

Arugula and various other spring greens

So, we've talked about the reasons I want to do this, let's talk details. The plan is that every Sunday afternoon/evening or Monday morning here on Lighter and Local, you'll find a blog post about what I'm picking up that week from my market, and what I'm doing with it. We'll tackle what to use up that week, and what to store (and the methods to do so) that week. For those who enjoy the recipes I post, fear not, nearly every single post will come with a recipe (or two) for things we're picking up that week. I'll try to arm you with information, with insight, with whatever I know that might help us all out along the way.

This is not a one-sided discussion, however. Learning to love the "Lighter Side of Local" (yes, that's what we will call it), is a two-way street. I want your questions, your ideas, your insight into what you're doing wherever you are, and the amazing information and food you've uncovered or created. I'm looking for great questions, ideas, guest posts, whatever. I want you to feel like you're part of this process. I found bloggers to be the ultimate resource as I began to be much more aware of where my food was coming from, and I'm hoping to add to that discussion.

So join me, ask me what you'd like to know, and I'll try to unearth the answers. We have a tasty food journey ahead of us, are you on board?


This week, let's just start off with your local farmers' market. You can always find ones near you by either calling your local chamber of commerce or checking out http://www.localharvest.org/ . That website is an amazing resource for local eaters. Personally, my market, the Newburyport Farmers' Market opened up May 1st. Here's what you want to do:

- Set a budget. I only go with a $20 bill and I need to get whatever I can with that amount. Set your own limit.
- You need to be flexible with what you're going to find. Just because you need onions or tomatoes, doesn't mean your market will have them.
- Do a walk around first. Scout of out the prices of what you need at every booth. You might get a better deal from one farm versus another based on what they have available.
- It's not just produce. Look for farm-made cheeses, meats, prepared products. They're going to be pricier than normal, so budget that in if there's an artisan that interests you.
- Make friends. Talk to the people working at the booths/farms/artisans you buy from. Ask questions about how they manage pests, what they use to grow their food. Make relationships, they'll pay off down the line.


beautiful spring radishes

What I picked up this week:

3 yellow onions
1 lb shallots
1 bunch rapini (or early spring raab)
1 bunch garlic greens (mild garlic flavor, not yet scapes, but refreshing)
1 bag arugula
1 bag spinach (spring spinach is amazing)
1 bunch radishes

Total Cost: $19.50

Other things to look out for this week:

ramps (they're kind of a cross between a leek and garlic)
leeks (all out by the time I got there)
pretty much any kind of lettuce you'd like, it thrives in this cooler weather
micro-greens - young greens, peppery and beautiful
asparagus (not common for the Northeast, other regions may find it however)
shelling peas - we're not quite there in Northeast on these

-Note: I can only really speak to what I have here in the Northeast right now, I'd love if some of you would like to email me or comment below on what you're finding in your region, then I can include it!

Things I'm going to be preserving/freezing this week:

Nothing, too early this spring to really make it worthwhile to buy a lot of something and preserve. Everything bought this week will be used.

Loving local onions


One of the most underrated of local produce is the onion. Seriously, you use it in so many different ways, but you probably overlook its true beauty. I picked up a few end-of-winter onions at market today. They're the ones from the previous month's store. However, I did this to point out that although many markets still are offering onions from their store right now, they're still far superior to anything you'd find anywhere else. They're sweet and fresh. If you see some green sprouting, no fear, as long as the bulb isn't soft, you're OK to move forward and use them. If you're lucky enough to have early spring onions (small, tender white bulbs with a whole lot of green sticking out from them), please use those for this bread. They're amazing.

This recipe is actually for this month's Kitchen Play Progressive Party Sponsored by the National Onion Association. The original idea for this bread came from Cookistry, who made a Caramelized Onion and Swiss Rye Bread. I love rye, but am in love with its heftier cousin pumpernickel. I hope you enjoy my take on this month's recipe!


Caramelized Onion & Cheddar Pumpernickel Bread
Makes: 1 loaf

Base pumpernickel recipe adapted from: Stonewall Kitchen, adapted from Techniques of Bread Baking 1 at the ICE , also adapted from Cookistry.

1 cup warm tap water, about 100 degrees
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast

1 tablespoon unsulphered molasses
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (250 grams)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (60 grams)
1/2 cup whole grain rye flour (51 grams, I used dark rye)
1 tablespoon non-alkalized cocoa powder (example, Hershey's unsweetened cocoa)
2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup caramelized onions (technique here)
3/4 cup extra-sharp cheddar
cornmeal for bottom of loaf


Pour warm water into a stand mixer bowl or a general mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast on surface and whisk, letting it stand for five minutes. Now, add your molasses and stir in flours and remaining ingredients, saving the cornmeal for later. At this point, you can knead by hand or knead using the dough hook attachment for your stand mixer. Either way, knead until you have a smooth, elastic, soft dough.

Now transfer your dough to an oiled bowl and turn dough over so top is oiled as well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or a kitchen towel) and allow to rise at room temperature until doubled (I usually put the bowl on top of a preheating oven because my kitchen is drafty).

You can interrupt the process if you don't have time for a second rise right now or will bake it later on by punching the dough down once doubled, covering it tightly and refrigerating. To continue on, bring the dough back to room temperature until it starts to double again.

Otherwise, once that dough has doubled, turn it out onto a floured surface (I suggest having a scraper handy, less of a mess). Press dough with palms of hands to deflate. Gently knead, shaping the dough into a sphere by tucking edges under and in toward the center all around the bottom. Take a round basket or bowl and line it with a heavily floured napkin or tea towel, making sure the ends of the napkin or towel are sticking out. Now invert your dough into the basket or bowl (see picture below). Cover with plastic wrap or towel and allow to rise until doubled.


When that loaf is almost doubled, preheat your oven to 500 degrees and set the rack at the middle level. Take a heavy duty baking sheet (what I used) or baking stone and set it on the rack.

While the oven/baking sheet it preheating. Sprinkle cornmeal on top of your loaf (technically the bottom) and invert it onto a cardboard round or peel (I used a large dinner plate, worked fine). Using a razor blade or knife held at a 30-degree angle, score an "X" at the top of the loaf. Slide the risen loaf from the plate onto the preheated pan in the oven (carefully, it's hot in there!). Immediately lower oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake the loaf about 20-30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 210 degrees.

Cool the loaf on a rack and do not cut until completely cooled.


Herbed Egg in a Nest
Inspired by: Poor Girl Gourmet

Now you have this beautiful bread, what can you do with it? I suggest a beautiful herbed egg in a nest. The sweetness of the caramelized onions make this amazing. Simply cut a hole out in the middle of a slice of bread with whatever cutter you'd like. Now, in a medium skillet, melt a pat of butter, and start toasting the slice of bread. Now, take an egg and crack it right into that little hole. Sprinkle with whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. I went for chives and parsley. Wait until egg is cooked and slide onto a beautiful plate of your choosing! Thank you Tendercrop Farm in Newbury for fabulous fresh eggs this morning!


I hope you'll continue to join me on this journey of a fresher, more community-based way of living and eating. Please, I'd love any questions or suggestions you have throughout this process. Tell me about your local markets and farms, and what changes you've made when it comes to eating. Pin It

7 comments:

Belinda @zomppa said...

Love amazing food & community? Right there with you! Photos are lovely, and what an amazing bread and brunch treat!

Isabelle said...

Thanks for sharing your farmers market bounty. It's giving me a serious hankering for a trip to the market, though it's still a couple of weeks before they open for the season. *sniff*
Great bread recipe, BTW! I love caramelised onions and cheddar in my pumpernickel sandwiches, so I can just imagine how wonderful the flavour must be when they're baked right into the bread like that.

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

It's almost here! I know, I get jealous when I hear about everyone south of me getting stuff at market I won't see for a month or more. :-) I need to grab some turkey, I think this bread would make great sandwiches!

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

It all really put me in an excellent mood yesterday!

Marie @ Chocolate and Wine said...

I love that I saw all of these beautiful images in real life and then got to see them again here! It really was a terrific market and the day was perfect for it. I took boyfriend and we will both be going there more often!

xo - Marie
Chocolate & Wine

Annapet said...

I will have to try this! Someone here loves pumpernickel and I like caramelized onions...Thank you for sharing!

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