The weather report indicates that we're in for six straight days of rain. Not that I'm complaining. Though I might write often about the weather here, which of course includes the spectacular lack of light in winter, getting through the dark months requires a shift in mindset that I actually find soothing.
Winter is a time to be gentle toward oneself. It's a slowing down of all things, the right time for eating foods that tend to involve braising in the oven or long simmers on the stove. It's about sitting quietly at the kitchen counter, sipping a cup of green tea, or perhaps some of the Winter Blend from Tony's Coffee, while reading a novel involving an epic journey or heartbreak and loss.
Meanwhile, the outside world - to which I am referring to Nature herself - marches on, providing us with soundtracks that include the roar of high, southerly winds tearing through the woods, the stratiform rain clattering on the rooftop, the almost imperceptible swoop of clouds rising then sinking.
Cheese and crackers are just the thing for an afternoon in the house, when one is safely tucked away from the meteorological hubbub, peering outside now and then only to see if the mail truck has arrived, or to watch the doe and young buck who, nearly blending in with the moss and mud, are carefully and quietly moving between the cottonwood trees.
Our CSA provided us with extra branches of winter rosemary this past week. I didn't want to waste any of it so I put it into these oatcakes. A wonderful Scottish invention, the oatcake is a plain thing in the best sense of the word. Neither only sweet nor solely savory, but wisely hinting at both, it is a sensible and nourishing vehicle for whatever you want to put on top of it - honey, cheese or a slathering of marmalade.
Adapted from one of my most favorite cookbooks, River Cottage Every Day, this version includes brown butter. Cooking butter at a low flame is the perfect way to fill the house with a warming and nutty scent in minutes. The brown butter's toasty depth counters the rosemary's astringent flavor, bringing this flaky, crunchy oatcake into well-mannered harmony.
Perfect food for a rainy day, I'd say.
Rosemary Brown Butter Oatcakes
Makes about 22.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/3 cup quick oats
1 1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Fresh black pepper, several grinds
Handful of sunflower seeds
Boiling water, about 3/4 cup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly flour 2 baking sheets.
To make the brown butter:
Place butter in small saucepan with high sides. On medium heat, melt butter. Swirl pan for more even melting. After butter melts, it will foam up in a white foam before settling into a more solid raft on top of the liquid. Continue to swirl the pan and watch the butter. You will begin to see brown flecks on the bottom. They will move more toward filling the entire bottom. The butter will become golden with toasty brown bits and smell nutty and fragrant.
Combine the dry ingredients, including the rosemary. Make a well in the center and pour in the brown butter. Make sure to include the flavorful brown bits. Using a large spoon, combine thoroughly.
Pour boiling water into the mixture a combine with your spoon. Using your hands, work the mixture together into a dough. If it seems too wet, you may add more quick oats, a spoonful at a time. Shape the dough into a ball. Let it rest for a few minutes.
Roll dough out between 2 sheets of parchment paper to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Using a round cookie cutter, cut out circles 2 1/2 inches in diameter. You can reroll any scraps but the dough will become increasingly crumbly the more you work with it. You may need to dampen the dough slightly with a bit of water on your hands, or if it needs more give it a light sprinkle of water before pushing it back together and rerolling.
Place oatcakes on prepared sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, then flip the oatcakes over and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from sheets and cool on a wire rack.
These will keep for up to 7 days in an airtight container but surely you will devour every morsel before the week runs out.