Awaken and Rise

Life Around My Table

More and more I find myself looking forward to Spring. I noticed just yesterday that my fig tree has begun to awaken. It has sprouted a few baby leaves and buds of what will become the most delicious fruit. I remember that last year these little leaves appeared right on the first day of Spring.
So, I guess even Spring is ready to make its debut a little earlier this year.

It was lemon harvest day here in my backyard a couple of days ago. All of these lemons came off of one rather small tree. There are still even more on the tree that have not ripened. This week it will be time to make Limoncello in my kitchen. If you notice, there is still a bit of green on a few of the lemon rinds. I use these lemons for the Limoncello because it gives it such a beautiful, almost chartreuse color.

With all of the rising awareness and cautionary measures people and communities are taking concerning the Coronavirus, I thought I would share what I have been doing here in San Diego.

I have been home more and more these days. My son is attending a very unique high school academy, which only meets three days a week. This has given me the chance to condense and organize my weekly errands into just a few trips. Before this, I was admittedly, running errands daily.

It all started with this garage reorganization project. I finally got into the deepest corners of my garage and purged. I don’t have a very large garage, which means there isn’t much storage space. How things got so piled up in there over time still remains a mystery to me.

I began by taking a mental inventory of paper products, canned and boxed goods, and cleaning supplies. I created a corner in the garage for the increase in provisions I want to store. Similarly, I took note of what was available in my freezers. Over the past few weeks, I have filled in and rounded out what is needed to establish a working 2 month inventory of household provisions.

Here on my shelves, there is everything from canned beans and pasta, to all sizes of canned tomatoes, dried lentils, rice and grains. There are tins of tuna, salmon, sardines and anchovies. Teas and espresso, olive oil and vinegar, broths, condiments, mixers for cocktails and bottled water are all to be found here.
My goal is to create a sustainable dry goods inventory where the only things necessary to purchase on a regular basis are perishable items such as milk, other dairy, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables.

This has been a task of preparedness. I have every hope and belief that most of this exercise will never be needed, but it has forced me to rethink the way I spend my time running errands needlessly everyday. Now that I have carved out even more time in my life, how will I choose to spend these new found moments?

Life Around My Table

Let’s start with the basics and make Italian Bread!

Basic Italian Bread

Overnight Starter:

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup water, lukewarm
  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • pinch of sugar

Dough:

  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water, lukewarm
  • 5 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Topping:

  • 1 egg white, beaten with 1 Tbsp water
  • sesame seeds

Method:

  1. Make starter: combine all starter ingredients in a small bowl, mix thoroughly. Let rest at room temperature, covered, overnight.
  2. Combine the starter and all remaining dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix and combine slowly and thoroughly. Knead the dough by turning out onto a lightly floured surface. I use a plastic or wooden board. Knead the dough until a smooth, soft and elastic mass is created. This takes about 10 minutes by hand.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and then a dish towel. The dough needs to rest and rise for 90 minutes, turning it and punching it down after 45 minutes, rewrap and cover again. During this stage, I keep the bowl in the oven, where it is draft free.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 6 equal equal pieces.
  5. Roll each piece of dough into an 18” rope. Using 3 ropes, braid the ropes and tuck the ends under. Set the braid onto a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet.
  6. Cover the braided loaves with a clean dishcloth. Let rise for an additional 90 minutes. At the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 425 F.
  7. Uncover the loaves. Brush each loaf with egg wash and heavily sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  8. Bake the loaves for 30-35 minutes. A longer baking time will yield a crunchier crust. There will be a hollow sound from the bottom of the loaf when knocked on.
  9. Remove the loaves from the oven and allow to cool on a rack.
Life Around My Table
Life Around My Table
Life Around My Table

While the world around us seems to be teetering off balance, it is so important that we put into place patience and calmness. There are many things at play in our environments that are unseen. People in the medical profession around the world are seeing first hand what the virus is capable of. This doesn’t mean that we need to jump to conclusions. Being prepared can mean simply taking those extra few seconds to thoroughly wash your hands. Please remember that you never know what someone else is going through. Show kindness and understanding.

Finding Inner Balance and Calm

All content and photos ©DianaAmato

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8 Comments

  1. catherine duvendeck
    March 10, 2020 / 11:53 am

    I see you have a Vespa, too! My husband and I both still ride ours around town for errands, and we to try to combine all our errands for only one or two trips a week. I want to try your Italian bread; I’m not much of a baker but yours sound fabulous!

    • 93zingara
      Author
      March 10, 2020 / 12:07 pm

      I do have a Vespa! It certainly makes running around doing errands a little more fun. Time and just a little patience are all that is needed for making wonderful bread. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll be happy to walk you through the process. Thanks so much for sharing a little time here, Catherine!

  2. Juliet
    March 10, 2020 / 1:43 pm

    Diana – your bread looks yummy and I’m going to try it when I get my kitchen unpacked. Yeast has always given me trouble … or I should say getting the water temperature just right. With your encouragement I will co quiet it! Love your efforts and preparedness … I hope it won’t be necessary but how good it must feel to know you’re ready for anything. And, now I must get to the store! xo

    • 93zingara
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 8:00 am

      Good morning Juliet,
      In this recipe, it is the starter that really takes away the fear of using yeast. Once you see the starter bubbling away you know you have a lively dough in the making. Lukewarm for me, can mean anything from mildly cold to just before you can actually feel the water warmer than your fingers. My fingers are naturally cold, so the water for this is never ‘warm’. I’m happy to walk you through this process whenever you’re ready.
      Things are really shaping up beautifully Snowberry!

  3. NancyMary3
    March 10, 2020 / 3:26 pm

    Beautiful Post D. See you soon xo

    • 93zingara
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 8:02 am

      Good morning Nancy!
      I’m looking forward to seeing you next week, too. We have to talk about Easter!

  4. March 11, 2020 / 4:58 pm

    I’m in the process of EMPTYING my PANTRY!!!!!
    I want MORE room for dishes and pots!
    Guess I picked THE WRONG TIME TO be sizing DOWN!
    I see YOU use THICK SPAGHETTI……….US TOO!
    I like your PLAN of ACTION………..makes sense.
    May WE ALL RIDE THIS OUT AND BE SAFE…………
    We have made it through BIG EARTHQUAKES WE WILL MAKE IT THROUGH THIS………….
    Do you freeze your bread ever?
    How does it turn out?
    XX

    • 93zingara
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 8:12 am

      Good morning Contessa,
      Yes! I do freeze my bread. I wrap it in plastic wrap and then tightly in foil, of course once it has completely cooled for a few hours. When I go to use it, I let it thaw, I unwrap it, and toss the plastic away. I heat it in a 300F oven for 10 minutes. I save the foil to keep the extra bread wrapped in. To me, it still tastes fresh baked.
      I am concerned about all the worldwide travel bans at this time. Although, I believe, like everything, there are cycles. This one, however, is just a little too big for my liking! I was so happy to see that beautiful photo of Jenn and you! Magic!
      XOXO
      Diana

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