Most Important Ingredient

Although I don’t make many of my Grandma Lil’s recipes anymore, because most of them are not vegan, I do still cook with the one ingredient she taught me is the most important, and needs to go in first if you want a dish to turn out right… sounds corny, but it’s a four-letter word… LOVE!  Can you taste the difference when you are cooking when you’re rushed, and not enjoying it, versus when you are excited to make a dish for your family, and are cooking with intention, or baking a favorite cookie recipe for someone special?  That’s when you know that you are cooking with that most important ingredient.

You don’t necessarily have to make everything yourself from scratch to taste the love baked in.  Many Tusconans were anxiously awaiting the opening of Don Guerra’s Barrio Bread Artisan Breads, located at 18 S. Eastbourne Ave., near Broadway and Country Club.  Prior to the bakery’s opening, his truly special loaves could only be procured at select farmer’s markets, until they sold out (almost instantly), or by pre-ordering for pick-up at a CSA.  In the week or so leading up to the opening, a few pre-opening bakes were announced, but I didn’t seem to make it there in time to get a loaf.

Just before Thanksgiving weekend, I was a few miles away, on Broadway, just settling in to write a term paper at Story Land.  I had my computer opened, had just heated up my lunch, brewed a cup of coffee, and so forth.  I saw a post on Facebook that Don had done a test-bake in his new oven, and would be selling bread until the loaves were sold out.  Needless to say, I dropped what I was doing… left my computer, lunch, coffee, and raced to my car, and was lucky enough to purchase two loaves!

Once you try this bread, really any of the varieties, you won’t be able to go back to buying your bread at the grocery store.  Over fifty percent of the flour in each loaf is sourced locally, from grains native to the area.  The bread is leavened with a sourdough starter, that not only gives the bread a complex structure, with naturally occurring pockets, but also lowers the carbohydrate content by eating away at the sugars and starch in the grain.

The first day or two after purchasing a loaf, I will eat it by the slice plain, without toasting, and without a topping.  After that, I wrap it well in plastic wrap and refrigerate it, then toast by the slice.  I have topped slices with a variety of choices, including almond butter, Earth Balance, agave nectar, a splash of a nice thick balsamic vinegar from Alfonso Oils, a spread of Tree Line nut cheese topped with sprouts or hummus.  It really is good enough that it needs no topping, but I like to make a meal out of toast.

Two weeks ago, my friend Jeanette surprised me with a special delivery from Barrio Bread. She had sliced a few varieties and put them in Ziploc bags.  This has lasted the longest of any method I’ve tried, and I kept them on the counter, instead of refrigerating.  I just finished the last hunk of a cranberry loaf from that batch, dunked in a thermos of pumpkin soup.  Yum!

If my grandma were here today, and could try this bread, she would agree that each loaf is baked with love.  Try some Tuesday through Saturday… but go early, before they’re all sold out!

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