When I think childhood, I think homemade sugar candy made by my abuelita, fried starchy plantains and a thin crepe-like pancake called fritas popular in my Mom’s homeland. Basically, carbs! Thank goodness, Maria offers new wholesome food memories in her new book. Denise tests out Maria’s book and we’re giving away a copy! -Maggie
Sure, I’m familiar with Maria Speck’s writing for Saveur magazine. But, after cozying up to her cookbook, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, I knew from the first glimpse of a gorgeous rye berry and haloumi cheese side dish that my connection with this cookbook author runs deep. Normally, I flip through a new cookbook, reading a little here and there, before settling in on a new recipe. This time, I poured a glass of wine, quieted the house and indulged. Her words immediately drew me in: “Whole grains have cast a spell on me – from the first sweetened wheat berries I chewed on during my grandfather’s funeral to the comforting corn polenta my Greek mother makes to this day.” I wanted more. I guess you could say she was casting a spell on me.
The warm, personal stories continue throughout the book as Maria shares memories of her meals at home, full of Mediterranean and German roots. Aromatic flavors of Greece stirred with pots of rustic grains filled their bellies. Page after page, I was beginning to feel as if I had shared similar experiences with food.
The book starts with fond memories of enjoying grains and soon dives deep into learning about the different grains that Maria enjoys, from seeds such as buckwheat, quinoa and amaranth, to staples, such as barley, couscous and millet. She gives a brief, but informative run down on each grain as well as flour, if it has been made into one, and guides you on how to shop for each grain.
The first recipe I decided to try was for saffron waffles with orange cream. I was enticed by the Greek flavors of thick yogurt, citrus and honey, as well as the warmth of Middle Eastern cuisine by using saffron. I normally do not cook with whole wheat flour because I find it too dense, but, this recipe calls for white whole wheat flour which actually had an amazingly light texture.
The orange cream recipe calls for Greek yogurt (which I adore) as well as heavy cream. I opted not to use the heavy cream, and added a bit more yogurt. I also used a dark chestnut honey, which was a dreamy compliment to the citrus.
The pages of Maria’s texture rich cookbook and her personal anecdotes completely drew me in. Lucky for those of you in Boston she’ll be signing copies of Ancient Grains at the Eat Boutique Holiday Market on Sunday, December 9. For everyone else, I hope you enjoy the waffle recipe and cookbook giveaway below!
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1) Enter once by leaving a comment on this post answering this question: What is your favorite food memory from childhood?
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All entries must be made by Wednesday, December 12 at 11:59pm, and a winner will be chosen and notified by Saturday, December 15, 2012. We can only ship to US residents. There’s not much time so leave your comment now!
Saffron Waffles with Orange Cream
*adapted loosely from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals
*adapted loosely from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals
- 1 1/2 cups plain whole milk Greek yogurt
- 1 large orange
- 3 tablespoons chestnut honey
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) white whole-wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- maple syrup
- Using a wooden spoon beat the yogurt in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth. Finely grate the orange until you have 1 tablespoon zest. Set the zest aside.
- Peel the fruit, cut the segments into 1/2” pieces, removing as much of the pith as you like. Gently stir into the yogurt. Drizzle in the honey and sprinkle in the zest. Stir. Chill, covered, until ready to use.
- Place a wire rack on a baking sheet and transfer the sheet to the center shelf of the oven. The wire rack will keep the waffles from getting soggy. Preheat the oven to 200F.
- To make the waffles, place 1/4 cup of the milk and the saffron in a small heavy- bottomed saucepan and heat over medium high heat until steaming. Let sit for 5 - 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl whisk the eggs with the remaining 1 3/4 cups milk, saffron milk, and the oil until blended.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and whisk together with a few swift strokes. Do not over mix; the batter should have a pebbled look, with many lumps. Allow the batter to sit for 5 minutes while preheating the waffle iron (or chill the batter for up to 1 hour).
- Lightly grease the waffle iron with oil or coat it with cooking spray. When a drop of water sizzles and briskly evaporates on the surface, add 1 scant cup batter to the center and level with a spatula to distribute (or as specified in the manufacturer’s instructions).
- Close the lid and cook until the waffles are golden and can be removed easily using tongs, 3 1/2 to 4 minutes.
- Transfer the waffles to the baking sheet until ready to serve. Do not stack them, as the waffles will become soggy.
- Continue until all the batter is used, lightly greasing the waffle iron in between as necessary.
- Serve with a dollop of orange cream, and pass the maple syrup.
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