June 1, 2012 § 17 Comments
If you page through my spiral bound notebook stuffed with recipes, you will almost certainly notice that it is spattered and worn and nearly fallen apart. If your eye is particularly of the sort that seeks out patterns, however, you may also notice that somewhere in the realm of 75 percent of the recipes in it are attached to someone’s name.
Beth’s chicken, Peter’s pancakes, Daim cake from Caroline, Liz’s shirley bars, Judy’s scones, Peach’s cardamom bread. And I’m fairly positive that, all around the world, many cooks have similarly labeled recipes, this one from grandma, that one from an old friend, and this one from that lady who used to live down the street. Remember her? She always made the best…
Even some of my cookbooks by acclaimed chefs contain recipes attributed by name to someone else – Lindsay’s sugar cookies or Rob’s famous coleslaw in Sunday Suppers at Lucques, Sally Schmitt’s cranberry and apple kuchen or Eric’s staff lasagne in the French Laundry.
February 7, 2012 § 24 Comments
…Then Nutella slipped the shoe gently onto Eggnog’s foot. It fit perfectly! They gazed into each others’ eyes, and each knew it had found a soul mate. And they lived happily ever after.
I mean, is there anything else you really need to know about this remarkable combination of milk chocolate, hazelnut, and nutmeg? I don’t really think so. Of course, that has also never stopped me from waxing poetic for at least a couple more paragraphs.
I don’t normally eat milk chocolate. I’m a dark chocolate girl. Switching your tastes over from milk to dark seems almost a rite of passage. You know, paying your own rent, choosing subtle shades of eye shadow, drinking coffee, and eating dark chocolate. They’re signs you’ve entered adulthood. And, it’s not just because dark chocolate is healthier. Milk chocolate is often palate-deadeningly sweet. Just a single, uniform brushstroke of sugar across your tongue, while dark chocolate has notes of coffee, berries, caramel, wood, vanilla…
October 27, 2011 § 13 Comments
It seems to me that we have a failure of imagination when it comes to oven temperatures and apples. We always bake them. It’s like our temperature dial is locked between 350-375F. What’s up with that?
I know what’s up with that. It’s mostly dough or crumble topping. We put our apples in pies, and crisps, and dumplings, and strudels, and turnovers, and unless we want black and incinerated edges, we had best bow to the characteristics of dough and stick with those mildly hot baking temperatures.
Now, I like dough as much as the next person (maybe more than the next person), but today I’m going to say, “break out! Take your apples out of their floury, buttery, oaty sheaths!” Because if you do, then you can roast them! Crank up the knob on the oven and lash that fruit with intense heat.
You’ll find that this fast (faster, at any rate) and furious, let ‘er rip, method of cooking still gives you apples that have the sweet, tender innards of baked apples. But the outside, well the outside is where the magic happens. They become mahogany, all glistening and browned with a pleasant hint of burnt caramel to edge the rich sweetness with a thin rim of sophistication. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 5, 2011 § 8 Comments
This is going to be another short one as it’s been a long full weekend and I’m pretty beat. We spent the last couple of days exploring Portland, Maine with friends. It was wonderfully fun, with an abundance of walking, chatting, laughing, and eating.
At home now, I’ve spent the evening avoiding the work I need to get done for tomorrow morning by watching the sparrows. They’re diving and swooping and snatching bugs right in an easy line of sight. When swallows are flying low like that, it means that a storm is coming, or so they say.
June 9, 2011 § 10 Comments
It’s stinking hot out there! Stinking. Hot. If you are anywhere in the eastern half of the country you know what I’m talking about. And, being that I have an inborn ability to be a worry wort, the weather has me busy worrying about global climate change. How can you not, with a heat wave that’s suffocating half the country? Riding in on the coattails of tornados and floods and generally weird weather. Oh dear, oh dear. As Joel said this morning, it kind of makes me want to go all survivalist and move onto a farm in Nova Scotia, with a windmill.
Which would be kind of a cool thing to do anyway, come to think of it.
I get easily overwhelmed by the bigness of the problems we face. Sure I’m working in a field where we’re trying really hard to make changes in some of the biggest problems we’re facing in health and the environment, and maybe that’s supposed to make me feel better. But, most of the time it feels like we’re making about as much headway as a ramshackle raft trying to boat upstream, against the wind…with a waterfall right behind it too. Some days, I find want to walk out into the street and scream at the top of my lungs, “will somebody please just do something??!!”
September 29, 2010 § 12 Comments
Sometimes I secretly think maybe my nutrition degree should be revoked. The thing is, I just think that using smaller plates, cooking more of our own food, and trying to squeeze in extra veggies wherever possible will get most of the job done. I can’t help but feel that bacon and butter are legitimate “spices.” Oh, and then there’s the matter of me and salted caramel. Pardon me for a moment while I glaze over and daydream about creamy, salty, buttery, luxuriousness…Oh no, was I drooling?! How embarrassing. Anyway, I firmly believe that one of the most important things we need to do to eat more healthfully is cut out as much sugar (or equivalent) as possible, but can adding some salt to your sugar count instead? Pleeeeeeeease??? (Real answer: definitely not. There’s actually something about the salty-sweet combination that trips up our brain and makes us less able to control how much we eat. Sometimes life is so unfair! )
It all began when Joel’s parents very thoughtfully sent me a care package back when I was studying for my comprehensive exams. I’m sure they had no idea that they were creating a salted caramel-obsessed monster when they tucked a tiny box of dark chocolate sea salt caramels from Fran’s in with the other goodies. I ate one. I promptly adopted the use of the phrase “O.M.G.” which I had steadfastly promised myself I would never use. Who would have thought that that dark smooth little chocolate cube, with its innocent little sprinkling of grey salt on top, could pack that much decadence into it?! I ate the second one, and amidst the bars of the “Alleluia Chorus” that were playing inside my head, I came this close to packing up everything and moving to Seattle so that I could go live behind Fran’s and eat nothing but their caramels forever more. (I’m sure the fact that I was studying for the most stressful exam of my life in no way contributed to my excited planning for an escape.)
August 16, 2010 § 2 Comments
One of my favorite children’s songs was about plums (another one was about baking pepperkakkor – I seem to have been food focused from a very early age). It goes roughly like this (my apologies for making absolutely no attempts at rhyming in the translation):
“If you had a thousand plums, you could eat them all year long. If you had a hole in your pocket, you could scratch yourself on the thigh. I do not have a thousand plums, nor a hole in my pocket. I have only good humor, and I can scratch myself when I itch.”
To my adult mind the song sounds pretty weird. But as a child, there was something so appealing about the idea of having a secret hole in your pocket, and having an awesomely towering pile of perfectly juicy, midnight purple plums from which you could eat all that you wanted, the red juice trickling all down over your face and fingers.
This is a decadent time of year in the market, when the stone fruits are all ripe and fleshy and ridiculously luxurious (and messy!) to eat. I love them all. I love that you have to stand over a sink to eat a good stone fruit. And don’t wear a white shirt. But, I didn’t used to be so all-encompassing in my stone fruit love. I used to be put-off by the fuzziness of peaches and apricots (what was wrong with me?!). I liked nectarines, but they left strings in my teeth. Plums, on the other hand, were my perfection. They were sugary sweet, drippy-messy, and you could easily eat five in a sitting, provided that you hid the pits to conceal the evidence from your mother. So, my love affair with plums has been a long one. And seriously, could it be a coincidence that the word “plum” also means “good” or “highly desirable”? I think not.
July 4, 2010 § Leave a comment
I wish I did a better job with the 4th of July. I don’t get nearly so excited for it as I do for Syttende Mai. And I have yet to coerce my friends into parading around the neighborhood with me to celebrate America’s independence. I think maybe it’s because I don’t get excited about fireworks or watermelon. When I say this people look at me like I’ve told them I don’t like puppies or those huge-eyed insanely adorable little bushbabies. It’s not that big of a deal people. And, I maintain fireworks aren’t that exciting. Well, except for this one summer in Norway when I was around 10…My uncle decided we should celebrate the 4th of July American-style with a bunch of fireworks that he had purchased (I think illegally). Most of them were your standard sort of small fireworks that spray small cascades of sparkling red, green, and yellow and then fizzle. But somehow he had found one that stood out with its intimidating heft. It was called “the bomb.” It had four large components, connected to one another, each containing explosives that the description claimed would shoot hundreds of feet up in the air and burst into fiery blossoms.
We propped it up, precariously, in front of our cabin using some small rocks. My uncle lit the fuse and we all stood back. The first pod shot up and burst with all the splendor of a professional firework (at least to a ten year old’s eyes). However, its force knocked the rest of the packaging free of the supportive rocks. It toppled and, bang, bang, bang! The next three explosives rocketed into bushes in our yard and the neighbors. It had been a dry summer, and WOOSH, the bushes instantly went up in flames. We started yelling and scrambling to find buckets. We hollered to our neighbors who came running out and threw their hands up in the air, seeing their bushes ablaze. We half expected the voice of God to start ordering us around through the dancing flames in the bushes. But, finding this didn’t happen, we began a bucket brigade from the shower to douse our bushes while the neighbors cranked up their hose and snuffed theirs. All in all we made quick work of the fires, but the level of excitement and clamor far exceeded that of a standard holiday – even Christmas! To children who had never been to a theme park besides Legoland it was like a thrill ride, or a scene from a movie come to life!