Dad’s self-taught, home-made, wood-fired clay oven
I just arrived in Oregon two days ago for a one-week trip to recharge and pick up stuff to take back to Kyoto. And I know this vacation will be wonderful. After flying for nine hours and eating two terrible meals (for reports, look at www.airlinemeals.net in the next few days under Air Canda from Osaka to Vancouver on February 25), my parents and I went into Portland to Powell’s Books, where I got MFK Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf, Whole Foods, where we couldn’t stop taste testing the gryere, and Sur la Table, the cooking store. All are located on Burnside within walking distance of each other.
The next morning I was wide awake at 4:30 am. Dad, who likes to get up incredibly early, wasn’t even up yet. I sat down in the kitchen and started flipping through the wonderful bounty of cookbooks there. Some are mine, and I might have to reclaim them. How can I do that peacefully, I wonder…
By 5:30, Dad was up and making a fire in his wood-fired clay oven in the back yard, which he made three years ago using Build Your Own Earth Oven by Kiko Denzer. It was bread-baking day. The fire was in the oven by 6:00, and he was kneading the bread. His tips on kneading bread: 1) don’t overdo it, you don’t have to sweat, 2) the point is to break open the gluten in the flour, because yeast needs gluten to grow not sucrose, so you don’t need sugar!
Dad’s bread turned out wonderful, filled with flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds, three kinds of flour – he had ground whole wheat kernels the evening before in a special flour grinder to have the freshest flour possible -, and a starter and recipe he’s been working on for years now. He made 12 loaves.
The result was a hearty, but not overpowerfully flavorful bread that goes well with cheese or jam. It’s Mom and Dad’s everyday bread. We had a delicious lunch of it with the gryere and a St. Agur blue cheese from Whole Foods, fresh comice pears, and tomatoes. I contributed by marinating some feta cheese like you find in Turkish or Greek delis in Germany.
Marinated Feta Cheese
enough olive oil to cover the cheese
chili pepper flakes
dried juniper berries, boiled to reconsitute them, or fresh juniper berries if they’re avaliable
garlic, finely chopped
fresh rosemary and thyme, stripped from their branches
Put everything into a sealable container or bowl and let it sit in the fridge overnight. That’s it!
When you eat it, separate out the parts you can eat from those you can’t. I love to spread a lot of olive oil and a few chili pepper flakes onto my bread with the cheese. This goes well with a crusty baguette, some kalamata olives, and a glass of red wine as well.