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Monday, November 24, 2014

California Gourmet: Two Easy Appetizers for the Holidays

California Soda Bread with cheese - a simple appetizer

Thanksgiving is almost here.  If you’ve dried aromatic leaves for seasonings, you may want to use them this holiday season.   Here are two easy bread recipes featuring native plant seasonings.  They may be just what you need for an appetizer.

The California Cheese Biscuits add a California touch to any party.  They are quick,  easy and particularly tasty when flavored with native Salvia(s) or California sagebrush (Artemisia californica). You could also make them with non-native herbs like rosemary, thyme, basil, etc.    Make them regular size and serve them with a holiday meal. Or use a mini-muffin tin to make bite-sized appetizers.  We offered the ‘bites’ at our last Second Sunday Stroll - folks of all ages liked them.

The California Soda Bread is another easy way to incorporate California flavors into a holiday meal.  Soda Bread is easy to make and tasty.  We particularly like it as an appetizer with slices of cheese or a favorite spread.  If you have leftover turkey, it can also be used for sandwiches or toasted and used with creamed turkey.


California Native Plants as Seasonings

Many California native plants can be used as seasonings.  They are traditionally used fresh to flavor soups, stews, meats and other dishes.  Many can also be dried for later use.  To learn more about native plants as seasonings see: http://www.slideshare.net/cvadheim/gourmet-seasonings-2009 .     For a list of California native plants that can be used as seasonings see: http://www.slideshare.net/cvadheim/ca-native-seasoning-herbs-spices

For use in these recipes, the sage (Salvia species) or other leaf herb needs to be fully dried, then finely ground with a spice mill or mortar & pestle.  Remove any large chunks prior to measuring. 

Some native spices, particularly some sages and the sagebrush, are strong flavoring agents.  We suggest using the smallest suggested amount the first time you make a recipe.  Increase the amount, if needed, the next time.  You can use spices separately or combine them according to taste.   Be creative!

California Cheese Biscuits are an easy way to
dress up 'from the box' biscuits
California Cheese Biscuits

All Purpose Baking Mix (enough for one recipe of biscuits)

¼ to ½ tsp. dried, prepared native herb/spice

½ cup grated cheese (your choice of type)

Water or milk (according to package directions)

Oven temperature: 400°F (or as specified on package directions)

Preheat oven.  Add the spice and grated cheese to the Baking Mix. Stir well to mix.  Prepare biscuits according to package directions.  Grease muffin tins with vegetable oil  (or use a pan spray).   Spoon dough into prepared tins (fill about 2/3 full).  Bake according to package directions.   Serve warm or cold.

Fresh loaf of California soda Bread

California Soda Bread

3 ½ cups all purpose (white) flour

¼ to ½ tsp. dried, prepared native spice

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 ½ cups milk

Oven temperature: 400°F

Note: you can halve the recipe to make just one small loaf

Preheat oven.  Lightly grease a baking sheet with vegetable oil.   Mix flour, spices, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl (a 12 cup or 3 liter bowl is perfect).  Add the milk and stir to form a soft ball (if too sticky, add a little more flour).   Turn out onto a floured pastry cloth* or floured surface.  Knead until dough is smooth and holds together – about 1 minute.   If using for appetizers, divide the dough in two. 

Form two rounded mounds on the baking sheet, each 4-5 inches in diameter and about 1 ½ inches thick.  Using a knife, cut a deep ‘X’ extending almost to the edges.   Bake until the breads are golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped – about 15-20 minutes for two smaller breads, 30-35 minutes for a single larger loaf.   Cool on a cooling rack.       For appetizers, cut the loaf in quarters.  Slice each quarter thinly.  Serve with slices of cheese, fresh vegetable slices, cream cheese or other toppings.  

California Soda Bread is good, hot or cold


*ours is just a double thickness of heavy cotton 'duck' material


We encourage you to send us your questions, comments and recipes (either comment below or e-mail to us at : mothernaturesbackyard10@gmail.com

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