The air has cooled and somehow smells different. The garden has calmed down and the sun is setting further south. The kitchen is no longer the furnace it was in August and people like me get the urge to create some hot and hearty concoction to nourish those who sit down at our table.
For cooking is truly a creative act of love and a way of communing with the Creator and those creations around me. To take the bounty of the earth (even if it must come wrapped in plastic from the supermarket) and add a unique touch of my own to it is to participate in the processes and wonder of life. And come the autumn, when the earth is getting sleepy, it’s especially good to remember the time of energy and abundance. So I make cooking an offering, to God, to my family, and to the friends who allow me to share my love with them.
To do this does not require fancy equipment or expensive gadgets. In fact, for the past 6 months I have been preparing meals without an oven. You’d be amazed how many cookbooks assume we all have one. I’ve learned to adapt many recipes to top-of-the-stove cooking, and I’d like to share some of them with you who depend on hotplates or wish to cut down your fuel bill.
The first thing I missed was bread-making. But a friend suggested making English muffins and they certainly have provided a good substitute.
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached white flour
1 pkg. yeast
2 cups warm milk (reconstituted powdered milk is fine)
1 tsp. salt
Dissolve yeast in ½ c. warm milk. Mix dry ingredients in bowl. Make a well in the center. Add yeast mixture to milk and then gradually mix it into the flour. Blend until well mixed. The dough will be soft. Let rise for at least an hour. Then with well-floured hands, shape the dough into 12 balls. Flatten and place on griddle or a soapstone or cast iron skillet at medium-low heat. “Bake” until brown and then turn (about 8 minutes per side). Cool on a rack.
Another staple of our diet I feared I’d have to give up was granola, but I soon learned that it, too, can be easily fixed atop the stove.
In a large cast-iron skillet, pour enough oil to cover the bottom. Then add about an equal amount of honey. Simmer over a low heat until the mixture is well blended and bubbly. Add enough oats to absorb the oil and honey, stirring well. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, so mixture is evenly browned (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat. Add raisins (or sunflower seeds, wheat germ, chopped dates, etc.) and allow to cool. Store in a tight, dry container.