Today we had a brief respite from the snow, so I decided to drive to Worcester (about 30 minutes) to check out the BirchTree Bread Co. I already tried two of their breads with my purchases the last two times at the Saturday Cambridge Winter Farmers Market, so I was intrigued and wanted to learn more.
Arriving at about 11 AM, the place was just starting to get busy, but I was able to introduce myself to the baker/owner, Robert Fecteau, and found him to be a genuine and knowledgeable guy. The bakery/cafe is spacious and full of tasty things made there. I went home with one country loaf (which they make daily) and one olive herb bread (just on Fridays), along with a pint of their house-made peanut butter, all very good. Before I left, I tried a double espresso, which was delicious.
After a series of shopping errands, I got home about 2 PM and was happy to have the olive bread with their peanut butter for lunch. Finally, as a late night snack a few minutes ago, I toasted a slice of the olive bread, smeared Tofutti cream cheese on it, and then cut two thin slices of membrillo (Spanish quince paste) on top. Accompanied by a small glass of Cinzano sweet vermouth on the rocks, it tasted just right.
Later in the afternoon and evening I cooked a large batch of Controne white beans for a Ribollita I plan to make tomorrow, and I roasted three sweet peppers and peeled and saved them in olive oil for weekend dining.
At this point I wisely turned the kitchen over to Barbara, who conceived of and executed a superb vegetable torta. She cooked spinach with garlic, boiled potatoes and carrots, mashed the potatoes and crushed the soft carrots, then seasoned them with lemon zest, and added a few more touches she’ll be glad to tell you about if you want to know. Mixing the mashed potatoes with two eggs, a little butter and two thin slices of Greek feta cheese, she took out a springform pan and dusted it with bread crumbs.
She assembled the torta in layers: mashed potatoes, spinach, potatoes, carrots, and finally potatoes and more bread crumbs on top. Then it was baked in a 350º F. oven for about 50 minutes. With the sides of the form removed, it was easy to slice into wedges and serve. The results were outrageously good, worth two servings apiece, even after I had already eaten some leftover chopped salad as a first course. For wine, I chose a Corsican wine I had bought a few years ago at Kermit Lynch’s store in Berkeley, a 2010 Patrimonio, from Yves Leccia, using 90% Niellucciu, 10% Grenache grapes. An earthy, nicely-balanced wine.