You must know how I love real mail. If the USPS goes belly up, I will literally hire owls or pigeons, any entrepreneur in flight, to keep mailboxes fed with my letters. If I had to argue the significance of the tangible, which I don’t because I assume the readers of a food blog have no such dispute, my opening statement would detail how parchment and papyrus letters saved western civilization.
I recently received a green paint swatch upon which a friend of mine scrawled a frantic message, as though in the middle of the Home Depot paint department, something about the contemplation of Honeydew versus Lime Parfait had propelled her into the poet’s rapture of an urgent line of Virginia Woolf’s: “I have a deeply hidden and inarticulate desire for something beyond daily life.”
This little gem arrived in my box the same day that a card arrived from my mother, with this image that perfectly captures what it is to be a young doctor in training, and which could have been amended to include the quotation from the green paint swatch.
It was as if the letters had been having a conversation with one another in my mailbox before I came home and discovered them—the imagination of such a thing itself an inkling that there is indeed something beyond daily life, should we choose to peer into the looking glass.
Herb Bread, or Pane all’Erbe
from Carol Field’s The Italian Baker
½ C packed parsley leaves, chopped fine
3 Tbs finely chopped onion (about a ⅓ of a medium sized onion)
1 large clove of finely chopped garlic
1 cup sourdough starter
1 C + 2 Tbs warm water
1 Tbs olive oil
3 ¾ C flour
2 tsp salt
In a mixing bowl combine the yeast and water, stir, and let sit for 10 minutes.
Add the olive oil, parsley, garlic, and onion and mix.
Mix the salt and four together. If using your stand-mixer slowly add 1 C of flour to the water/yeast/herb and mix until dough pulls away from the sides.
Using the dough hook knead on medium for 3 minutes. Take the dough out and finish kneading on a flour dusted board until the dough becomes elastic and smooth. About 5 minutes of hand kneading.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 90 minutes.
Punch the dough down, divide into two equal halves (or not), and knead briefly. Shape into small rounds, place on parchment paper or cornmeal dusted board and allow dough to rise 45-60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place loaves in oven and bake for 40-45 minutes or until they sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
Remove from oven and cool on wire racks. No herb butter needed for these!