Good Grains and Great Inspiration

March 16, 2011

There was a time when all of my work was in the kitchen; I would wake up in the morning, test this or that muffin recipe, head out for a run/ride/swim, return home, concoct breakfast #2, and set to work testing recipes for breads, pastries, chocolates and candies, making little bits of what would be dinner along the way. Before I knew it, the sun would be setting, and the kitchen would be asking to be cleaned  and I would be  covered in the deliciousness of a hard days’ work.

But now that my work is anywhere but the kitchen, its been tricky to find space in my brain to get creative, sending recipes on my own special spin — I absolutely love to take favorite, classic recipes and re-invent them by flavor profile, redefining their components to make them conducive, and helpful to my work on the trails, in the saddle and in swimming in the sea….or whatever else my moving body might need fuel for. Serious fuel. I was on a kick for a while, recreating recipes from my time in Europe over the fall, returning to the classics. Pastries, mostly, which are great for the soul, but not so good for running 3hr marathons. Sometime recently, I turned to my pantry to pull out something mouthwatering and just….couldn’t.

Not only have I been completely and utterly exhausted from training (which is mean that – YAY – its working,) March is a space between. From early winter through mid-spring we watch as the bounty of fruits, herbs and vegetables dwindles until, just as we think that we can’t eat another carrot, potato or onion, the blooms emerge and delicious things start springing from the ground again. This goes for the pantry too and staples are in too great a supply — humph. No colorful fruits to stain my fingers as I make pies and cobblers, muffins for breakfast and energy bars for the trail. No special herbs in bloom. The pantry contains chocolates, dried herbs, fruits and nuts, and of course the necessities of baking and cooking. Inspiration, in a tired, March kitchen has been hard to find.

Until this new, lovely, amazing, long-acclaimed book arrived in the mail. I had been meaning to order it for sometime, more as an obligation than to use as a resource; Kim Boyce – once a pastry chef working underneath the renown Nancy Silverton, creates with whole grain flours and lives in my old stomping grounds of Portland, so, since I am clearly interested in the art, should own her book Good to the Grain, right?

But in perusing the pages, Boyce was able to breath life back into my oven, back into my hungry body, back into me. Not only does she suggest excellent recipes for nearly every readily available whole grain on the planet, but she does so with grace and in a way that invites even the most novice of bakers to play. This is not just another book on the gluten-free bandwagon, friends. In fact, there is little mention of gluten at all. This book celebrates each of the ingredients for what it is — delicious, and vital in its own way, timelessly nutritious. This is FOOD people. Not a fad.

And just like that, I remember just how MUCH inspiration there are in those staples in my pantry! At the risk of sounding “woo woo,” there’s nutrition in there! Life energy in there! And when combined with butter, and sugar, and sweet free range eggs….the possibilities are endless! Each flour, each ingredient has a characteristic that is just pining to be set free! Variety is the spice, and the breath of life and Boyce has seemingly taken one million and one ways to incorporate that breath into the kitchen. I could go on and on but you’re going to have to get your multigrain-loving self to peruse the pages to really see what I mean.

Late on a Sunday night, I came across a recipe for Olive Oil Cake w/ Dark Chocolate + Rosemary; each of the ingredients were on hand and so I couldn’t resist. I took the loaf in for BakePedal Monday and it was well received — a nice balance of savory and sweet, an excellent little accompaniment to afternoon coffee/tea. And, a treat that even an over-the top ultra-marathoner can’t refuse.

You can order Kim Boyce’s book, Good to the Grain, at ecookbooks.com

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