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.
May 17, 2012 § 26 Comments
Gratulerer med dagen! Happy birthday! To Norway.
Yes, as I’m sure you realized the very moment you woke up today and had your first conscious thought of the morning, it’s Syttende Mai, and it is a day for celebrating! I’m doing a little flag waving and national anthem belting, and I’m sure the bottle of aquavit will come out for a small nip this evening. But, for the second time ever in my life, I’m neither attending nor hosting a party.
(The first time, I was in fifth grade, and I was stuck on a week long camping field trip. We did a lot of outdoor education at my school. And, though it probably would seem to an outside observer that it would be fun to be camping for a week in May, it is, in fact, not at all fun if you are a)missing one of your favorite holidays and b)under an unbelievably aggressive siege by bloodthirsty wood ticks. They were crawling all over our tent. When I got home I picked over 30 off my body. It was nightmarish. It could have been one of the plagues. Goodness knows why I continued to love the out of doors after that.)
Anyway, it feels extremely odd.
The reason I’m not hosting a party this year is several fold. Partly it is because we are in the midst of another round of data collection this week and the timing couldn’t be more difficult for party planning. But, that on its own wouldn’t stop me. It is mostly because I have a slew of visitors coming in a little over a week, and I’ve been putting all my spare time and energy into crafting an epic, but belated, celebration for all of them to attend.
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??!!”
May 26, 2010 § 9 Comments
When I was just a wee thing, I had a wonderful children’s cookbook (British, I think) with life size color photographs of the recipes – each ingredient as well as the final product. I would spend private afternoons carefully paging through this book, gazing intently at the cheese sandwiches with faces made of peppers and olives, the scrambled eggs with ham and cheese, the fish stew. But, I would linger the longest on the cake recipe, a simple yellow sponge cake, decorated with icing and candies in the photograph. This cake was special. We almost never had dessert in my family growing up, unless it was a birthday or Christmas. But, once a year when the little rhubarb plant nestled along the corner of the garden shed was ready, my mother would give the go ahead, and we would cut down a few stalks and bake them into this yellow cake. It felt like Heaven, this dessert we got to make for no special occasion in particular, except that the rhubarb was ready and I had a cake recipe.
We’re in Minnesota again, at my parents house, for one of approximately 436trillion weddings that are happening this summer. I went out to the garden yesterday morning to check…the rhubarb was ready. I wanted to bake a cake. I’ve moved slightly beyond my “Child’s First Cookbook” days, I’m slightly sorry to say, but I still wanted to keep it simple, to let the rhubarb shine through in a delicate moist cake. Then again, I’ve also been becoming progressively more obsessed with brown butter (yes, I know that was totally two years ago, but better late than never, and it still tastes amazing, rich and nutty, even when it’s not one of Food & Wine’s foods of the year), and I had an inkling that browning the butter in the cake to give it a soft caramel undertone would buoy the tartness of the rhubarb to new heights.
April 20, 2010 § 8 Comments
At this point in my life, pie and crisp may be the first things that come to mind when I think of rhubarb. And sure, it’s what I just wrote about. But, this wasn’t always the case. I think that I didn’t actually try rhubarb crisp for the first time until I was in late childhood when I had it at a neighbor’s house. Rhubarb pie came even later! My first experience with eating rhubarb was one of the simplest possible, and one I still love. You just take a freshly picked and cleaned stalk of rhubarb (leaf removed!) and a small cup of sugar. Dip the end of the rhubarb in the sugar, then take a bite. The sugar hits you first and softens the blow of what you’re about to experience. But, the sweetness of the sugar can’t shackle the true nature of rhubarb. The amazing, almost biting, sour flavor bursts through the thin veneer of sugar to fill your mouth, making you pucker your lips and squinch up your eyes. Then you dip again and go back for more! It’s the kind of eating experience that gives you an adrenaline rush.
But, if you’re not quite up for that, the other way I remember having it was as different from this as could be, wonderfully sweet rhubarb soup – topped with whipped cream of course. This is a pretty standard dessert soup in Norway, as is rosehip soup actually. Andreas Viestad, the wonderful (and cute – I got to help him make some desserts for a talk once and totally developed a crush, hehe!) Norwegian food writer and cookbook author says he hated rhubarb soup when he was little because his family made a really sour version. This one does not run up against that problem.
April 17, 2010 § 5 Comments
Until I moved to Boston when I was 23, it just never occurred to me that backyards don’t automatically come fully equipped with rhubarb. All my life I’d just had rhubarb there for me each summer (in cold places it doesn’t appear until summer!). Even my apartment in college had rhubarb in the yard! So, when I moved to Boston and the time of year rolled around when I start pining for rabarbra suppe (rhubarb soup) or rhubarb cake or pie or compote, I was a little shocked to find that our tiny snippet of a back yard didn’t deliver.
None of my apartments since then have come with rhubarb either! It’s terrible really. I’d like to register a complaint!! Also, did you know that if you plant a rhubarb, you have to wait two years to harvest any or you might kill it. How terribly inconvenient for your transient early twenties! But, this may finally be the year to pop one into the vegetable garden. We’ll see. (Speaking of veggie gardens, did you know that rhubarb is really a vegetable? And – most people already know this, but it’s always good to be reminded – the leaves are poisonous, so cut them off and don’t eat them!! And wash your hands and the stalks.)