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The true meaning of comfort

by Bill Rutherford
| November 17, 2010 8:00 PM

Waking up as the sun lightens this cold, gray November morning, I reach for my heavy bathrobe in search of the morning paper. Opening the front door, I feel the chilly morning mist moisten my face - like an unexpected slap from a trusted friend. I separate the advertisements from the articles, brew a pot of coffee, start the fireplace and look out the window wondering if snow will result from the gray. The roasted smell of coffee fills the house as my body begins to warm and I wonder, "Is this the true meaning of comfort?"

I sip my coffee, think of delicious food and feel comfortable. I think of eggs fried in bacon grease at my grandmother's house as a child. I think of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner my wife and I will prepare for our family next week and I think of the pumpkins I began growing this past spring that still reside on the front steps of my home - what to do with those pumpkins?

After briskly walking our Canfield mountain neighborhood with my wife, I decide to create. I need the comfort of warm bread and savory food to satisfy my desire for on this dismally damp but energizing day. For the bread, I decide bread made from beer fills the internal warmth I require. For the savory, I roast pumpkins. The following recipes are a result of my search for comfort in my kitchen.

Beer Bread

3 cups self-rising flour

1/2 cup sugar

12 oz beer

6 Tablespoons

unsalted butter

First, let's talk about the beer. I love hearty, hoppy beer that is full-bodied and filling. I love beer that tastes like food. So, when choosing a beer for this recipe, I purchase a six-pack and offer one for the bread and one for the chef. Often, I make two or three loaves at a time.

For this reason, I choose a beer that meets my criteria of hoppy - some say bitter - while still comforting and is full-bodied. The beer I choose for my bread this season is Ebenezer, created by the Bridgeport Brewery in Portland, Ore. Last year my beer of choice was SNOW CAP, by Pyramid Breweries in Seattle. These seasonal beers are only offered October through December by the brewery - which is a shame.

If making this recipe in summer, I might choose a hefeweizen and add lemon zest to the batter or a pilsner with half the butter for its lightness. The bread will be lighter and offer a beautiful addition to a summer salad or broiled fish.

The preparation of this delicious bread goes as follows. Heavily butter a 5-by-9 bread loaf pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the flour, sugar and beer. This mix will be very sticky. Scrape mixture into the buttered loaf pan. Melt then pour 4 tablespoons of butter over the loaf. Place the loaf pan on the center shelf of the oven and cook for 55 minutes or until the loaf feels hollow when thumped.

One might ask, what is a hollow sound when thumped. I suggest using the same technique one might use when choosing a ripe watermelon. Thump the loaf and listen for a resounding hollow thud. This will take practice but once mastered, the home chef will understand how to use their natural intuition to better understand the food they are creating and, learning this skill will make you a better person - really!

Three minutes before the bread is done, drizzle the remaining two tablespoons of butter over the top of the loaf, place the bread back into the oven and wait. Remove from the oven three minutes later, release the bread from the baking pan onto a wire rack, let rest 10 minutes then serve.

I understand this bread does not sound like a healthy alternative to white bread, but this bread is a treat, easy to prepare and delicious. I would rather eat this beer bread with butter, goat cheese and a cold, frosty ale than eat a bucket of ice cream for dessert.

Now it's time for the pumpkin. I cut the pumpkin placed on the front step of our home, to honor and scare trick-or-treaters, in half and scoop out the seeds, strings and guts. I salt and roast the seeds to enjoy as I finish my autumn yard work, then bake the flesh in preparation for pumpkin soup.

Rutherford's Wild Game Feast Pumpkin Soup

I created the North Idaho College Wild Game Feast and offered this recipe for the inaugural feast. I poured the soup into an acorn squash and roasted it in the oven. As the squash roasted with the soup, it became soft and deliciously edible. I suggest pouring this soup into a jack-be-little or acorn squash shell and finish it off in the oven until the squash becomes soft. Top with yogurt, chives and olive oil to make a typical dish elegant.

1 1/2 pound pumpkin, seeded, cleaned, pealed and roasted

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Tablespoon butter

1/2 cup onion

1/4 cup carrots

1/4 cup celery

1 Tablespoon garlic

1/2 cup whole cream

Salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons ginger peeled and grated

4 cups vegetable stock

I've made this recipe with caribou, venison and vegetable stock. Each recipe tastes distinctively different while offering unique attributes to the recipe. E-mail me and I will give you the recipes I used for the different stocks.

Roast the pumpkin with olive oil until soft. Peel and cube the pumpkin when cool. Saute onions, carrots and celery (mirepoix) in butter in a saute pan until soft. Add cubed pumpkin, garlic and ginger. Cook two minutes on medium heat. Add stock and cook an additional 20 minutes. Blend in a blender, food processor or immersion blender. Return blended ingredients to the saute pan. Bring back up to a boil and add cream (if desired).

Serve soup as is or add to a jack-be-little or acorn squash and place back in the oven for 30 minutes. Top with olive oil, yogurt, chives and serve.

Now I feel comfortable. The weather has changed, my memory of past food experienced and new food explored creates excitement and I feel alive. Watching life pass by is not a life - it's simply existing. Being in control of one's life and deciding one's future is living! I want to live!

Bill Rutherford is a psychotherapist, public speaker, elementary school counselor, adjunct college psychology instructor and executive chef, and owner of Rutherford Education Group. Please e-mail him at bprutherford@hotmail.com and check out www.foodforthoughtcda.com.

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