Sunday, December 4, 2011
Thursday, December 1, 2011
I like this month. I'm an omniholidayvore, so I've got a few packed in, plus my birthday AND my wedding anniversary. And also, cookies. And eggnog. And latkes.
Let's go back to October for a minute- back in the hilly wonders of California at Naya and Oliver's wedding. I was sitting at a picnic table, spacing out on the early sun and gnarled trees, waiting for coffee to clear the Champagne fog. There were lovely Californians all around me, bundled in their sweatshirts and anticipating coffee, and in the midst of the conversation, one woman (who kept wearing the most perfect shade of yellow through the weekend) said to another, "Oh yeah, I saw that at Bi-Rite."
"Bi-Rite?" I cut in. "Does that place really exist?"
They laughed and assured me that it did.
You see, a week or two earlier, I'd gotten this beautiful cookbook in the mail. (I know! It happens every so often, and it feels like my birthday, but I promise you I only tell you about the books that I love). It was nothing short of enchanting, and I turned the pages and wanted to inhabit every one. I made two recipes from the book that first week, and both were perfect. But the store that it came from? It seemed like something out of California legend.
A few days after the wedding, I was walking the streets of San Francisco with my friend and nearly-brother Andrew. It had been a while since we'd seen each other, and we walked and ate and walked and ate. Burritos in the mission. An eclair at Tartine. Noodles in spicy broth. And when we came to the right block, he pulled me into the Bi-Rite Market.
It was tiny. And (as a friend had so perfectly put it the weekend before) it was exquisitely curated. It was a living museum of artisan food, each cheese and fruit and meat local and gorgeous. Most liquids were in vessels that you would want to repurpose as vases, tiny ceramic crocks for yogurt and sensually curved bottles for oil. We stood in front of the jam and preserves shelf. Each bay area chef had their own preserves, and there was quince and marionberry and herbs and all of those different and elevated fruits. Andrew and I spent the next 45 minutes in there, as if it really were a museum, discussing the food like art on the wall.
There are a lot of reasons why you might want to pick up a copy of Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food. It is, in a way, a manual for conscious food shopping (as Marisa so eloquently described in her review). But the recipes! They are my favorite part of this book. That, and the fact that is stays so fabulously open on the counter. This is a book that inspires. It is sturdy, and beautiful, and (as we move into that season) exceptionally giftworthy.
Oh, the season. Because although Hanukkah is a few weeks away yet, I say- December is latke month. My grandfather used to be the latke maker in our family, and he and my grandmother would throw a party and make latkes all day long. Friends would stack those greasy pancakes on little paper plates with blue menorahs printed on them, chunky applesauce and sour cream along side. The day would begin with desire for latkes, and the day would end with the hope that we would never see latkes again. It would take three washes to get the greasy smell out of our clothes.
These are better, if that's possible. The butternut squash is sweet, the texture is perfect, and the flavor is... well, entirely worth of expletives. This recipe uses a method where the latkes are started on the stove and transferred to the oven and so the grease factor is nearly gone. This is my latke recipe now- I'm never going back to just plain old potatoes.
Oh, before we get to that- one more thing! Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow morning, my new site will be up! We're just working out a few last coding issues, but I can't wait to show you. So don't be scared- it's still me! And I've got a fairly rockin' giveaway to celebrate the site's first day, if I do say so myself. I'll see you there. Yeah!
And now, the latkes.
from Eat Good Food, by Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough
Makes 18 (they say! but I got 24- lucky me!)
1 1/2 cups grapeseed or other neutral oil, more as needed
1 large yellow onion, halved, peeled, and thinly sliced lengthwise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (about 2 large)
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash (about 1/2 medium)
4 large eggs
1 cup matzo meal
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
Position racks the the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat to 350 degrees.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden all over and very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Peel and grate the potatoes and butternut squash (I did this in the cuisinart using the grating disk, but a box grater will work too). Put in a large bowl, along with the onions, eggs, matzo meal, parsley, sage, marjoram, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss gently to combine thoroughly.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, use a 1/3-cup dry measure to scoop a mound of the mixture into the pan. With a fork, spread and flatten the mixture to a 4-inch disk. Repeat 3 more times. When the first side is golden brown (about 2 minutes), carefully flip the latkes over and brown the other sides, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the latkes to a rimmed baking sheet and continue to scoop and brown the remaining latke mixture in batches, adding another few tablespoons of oil before each new batch. Arrange the latjes in a single layer on the baking sheet; you'll probably need at least 2 sheets to accomplish this.
When all the latkes have been shaped and browned, transfer the baking sheets to the oven and bake until the latkes are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Serve hot.
(With thanks to Ten Speed Press! Reprinted with permission from Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food by Sam Mogannam & Dabney Gough, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.)
Monday, November 28, 2011
My stomach turned at the thought of sitting in the airport with Joey and the girls, waiting for inevitably delayed flights, paying 3 bucks for water, packed terminals, food lines, tired and "when will we be there?" wishing I was one of those parents with a portable dvd player for my kids to watch something, anything, and by the time we are in Denver, we are done! ready to go home and done with laying toilet paper on the toilet seat and and (again inevitably) at least one child getting sick, most likely throwing up.
You might think me pessimistic, but I've done this before, and it's all come to pass.
But these days surprised me over and over. The girls with their backpacks and rolly bags, independent and looking forward to the next moving walkway so that they could break the rules and go backwards too, going back and forth until they were dizzy. Drawing and playing and watching- the girls were travelers in the very best sense. They were open and ready and adjustable in ways that made me marvel.
It was not just the girls that surprised me. It was the kind world around them. The smiles and comments from everyone. And on Tuesday, when we were surrounded by college students on their way home in their leggings and boots and big sweaters, the kindness was overwhelming. The girls, insisting on sitting together on the plane, sat next to a 15-year old boy coming home from boarding school, and he beamed at them as if they were his long lost little sisters. They talked deep into the dark airborne night, and when he, exhausted, couldn't stay awake any longer, he set them up on his laptop with a movie (only after politely asking across the aisle for parental approval from us).
After this momentous success, the girls said that they would always sit together with us in the row opposite. And so, on Saturday (after family and Denver and a turkey nearly on fire of course, but that is all another story), when all of the college students had been replaced by families, the kindness again all around us, Sadie and Rose took their seats next to Jessica, a woman in her twenties with shiny blond hair and heeled boots. The girls started to take out their books and coloring supplies but Jessica asked them about who they were, and because they are their home and their cats and their school and their family, she got all of the details. They talked all the way to Chicago, and then, learning that they would be on the plane together to Hartford as well, Jessica promised (with a pinky swear, Sadie told me), that she would save seats for them on the next plane.
As we pulled into Hartford, Sadie and Rosie were drawing our house for Jessica on a napkin. They wished Jessica and her terrier (waiting, with husband, at home) well, and Sadie gave her her prized polished rock at the baggage claim.
I can always create optimism in my little world. Traveler that I am, it is my home that feels brightest, and as much as venturing out can expand and enlighten me, I am just as prone to see the worst in things when the world (and so mundane a world as that within the Chicago Midway airport, for example) is pushing its way around me. But these masses- sitting on the floor of the airport, running through the terminals, getting up to share a table for a family who might be waiting, they shook me with their smiles and their kindness and their happiness. Couples holding hands, parents speaking so lovingly to their children, friends laughing as they found their gate. There was calm, and it shook me. They shook me with the ease in which they loved and supported my girls.
Perhaps I was watching with optimistic eyes? But I think something was different. Everyone just seemed... happy. Okay. Open. And for all the messes that we seem to be in right now in this country, I could not help but think that good things are happening, quietly.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Saturday morning, we piled the turnips high in the elementary school. They nearly reached the basket ball hoop.
The place was a madhouse. I love the crazy Berkshire Grown holiday markets. I love working them, mostly so I can hang out with so many people who are thinking about cooking for the holidays.
That's a particular breed of loony, that one.
I'm tempted to bring a bottle of wine with me, so I can hand out little glasses while people tell me about how nervous they are to meet their brother's new girlfriend, and about how she's a vegan and have I ever stuffed a squash for thankgiving? I want Joey to make me a T-shirt that says, "Oh honey, it's all going to be okay."
But there's no time for that. I'm shoving change in people's hands, and telling them how to caramelize white turnips (sliced thin, tossed with salt and pepper and olive oil, 425 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes), and I'm trying to convince people that broccoli greens are a fitting replacement for spinach on the Thanksgiving table. We sold so many turnips. Endless turnips.
Elizabeth would not have lost her voice.
Oh, honey. It's going to be okay.
A few things to remember:
If you are traveling, bring snacks, lots of snacks. Give your kids their own snack supply.
If you are a drinker, drink while you cook. Do not wait until the meal begins to have your first glass of wine. If you are a "no drinks before 6" kind of cook, break that rule.
And while you're at it, put booze in your cranberry sauce. Put booze in your brussels sprouts. Why not.
Don't forget the fucking gourds on the table. Even if you've read this one before, it merits a yearly rereading.
Oh, no you don't. Just don't!
Don't mess with it too much. Just leave it alone.
Today, I'm packing up for our very first ever family Thanksgiving travel experience. Oh yes, Denver- I'm talking to you.
And if you are one of the millions making there way through the Chicago airport tomorrow night, I'll be the one with the husband looking for the Chicago Dog (even if it's in another terminal) while I keep the girls from trying to ride on each other's rolly bags.
Yes! Here we go!
(You guys are so great, you know that? I'm not sure I tell you enough. All this grateful talk is making me feel, well, particularly grateful. I hope you all are having a good week out there, and... thank you.)
Friday, November 18, 2011
They were tucked away, but before I knew it was sitting on the floor with them all around me.
It was that kind of day. But I made you a mix for the weekend. A quiet one.
Have a good one, friends.
I'll see you on the other side. Till Monday, then...
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Oh, yes. Here we are.
When I was sixteen, my friend Jette and I hopped on a bus to New York late late the night before Thanksgiving. The ride took nearly the whole night, and we arrived in the city just as the sun was starting to come up. We sat on the sidewalk and watched the massive balloons inflate for the Macy's parade. We wandered the empty city, resting in parks with the pigeons. (I know, I know. What did our mothers say? Honestly, I don't even remember.) It was a gray day, and we had no plan. Somehow, we got on a train and ended up at a friend's house outside of Philadelphia. I don't remember how we got the invitation, but I do remember sitting at his fancy table with his very proper family, struggling to use my knife and fork correctly. I remember being bleary with sleeplessness and thankful to be in that strange and warm place. I remember that Jette and I were proud of ourselves for stepping out of the lines, for making the holiday an adventure, and for making the holiday our very own.
Four years later, my friend Eilen and I cooked for days, and we invited every straggler we could find. My parents were there too, visiting our woodsy home in Santa Fe. My mother and I were really fighting for the first time in my life, and she kept out of the kitchen. Eilen and I rolled and chopped and baked, and we were grownups in our own kitchen. We, too, made that holiday our own.
We've had Thanksgivings with friends and Thanksgivings with family. We have cooked and been cooked for. Every year has been different. But through these years with all of those meals, we are always finding ways to make the holiday our own.
Have you found traditions that make this one yours?
We have an appreciations box. We learned that one from Gould Farm. Everyone writes down the things they are thankful for, and then we read them. That's a good one.
I woke up thinking about this tart last week. I made it a few times before I found it. Joey and the girls can attest to this. (It's a hard life in the kitchen of a food writer) But then I found it.
I thought you might be interested, just in case you haven't settled on your dessert options for next week. This is easy to put together, and the maple, cranberry, and orange sing to each other in a way that brings out the best in each.
And while we're at it, shall we take a moment for some dessert inspiration? I'll give it a go...
Pear pie. Poached quince. Damp gingerbread with pears (I can't get enough of that one). Indian pudding. Sweet cornmeal biscuits. Apple rhubarb pandowdy. Olive oil and sherry pound cake. Apple pie. Pumpkin Mexican hot chocolate. Buttermilk spice cake. Are we there? Did we find it? Let me know- we can definitely keep the list going.
But in the mean time, let's have a piece of this one to keep the hunger at bay.
Cranberry Maple Tart
serves 8 to 10, or thereabouts
For the crust:
scant 1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) all purpose flour
1 stick+1 tablespoon (4.5 ounces) cold unsalted butter (cubed) plus extra for greasing the pan
the zest and juice of 1 orange (this will be in both the crust and the filling)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
3 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Lightly grease a 10-inch tart pan with butter. Combine the flour, butter, orange zest, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fit with the chopping blade. Pulse about 10 times. Add the egg and 1 tablespoon orange juice, reserving the rest of the juice for the filling. Process just until the dough comes together around the blade. If it's too crumbly, you can add another teaspoon of juice.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it is a circle at least 14 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to the tart pan. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take the tart pan out of the fridge about 10 minutes before you are ready to bake. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, peeking in to gently press down any air bubbles that might rise in the crust over that time. Remove the crust from the oven, but leave the heat on.
Combine the cranberries, 1/4 cup of the maple syrup, brown sugar, and remaining orange juice (it should be about 1/4 cup) in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and cook, stirring often, until the berries burst and the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the cream, egg yolks, vanilla, remaining 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, and salt in a mixing bowl.
Spread the cranberry mixture into the crust, then pour the cream mixture over it. Put the tart pan on top of a baking sheet and bake until the top is firm and golden, about 40 minutes.
Allow the tart to sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving. If preparing a day or two ahead (totally fine- this holds up beautifully!), store in the refrigerator, then let it come to room temperature for at least an hour before serving. This is good on it's own, but also lovely with whipped cream. I served it with orange flower whipped cream (1 cup heavy cream+1 tablespoon sugar+1 teaspoon orange flour water).
Monday, November 14, 2011
I did, after all, promise you jelly.
Last year, I made a tiny batch of quince jelly--4 perfect half-cup jars. They were firm like tough jello- barely spreadable, but I was proud of the chemistry of that superhero pectin that lay within my beloved quince.
This year, the jelly was soft, just short of dripping off the knife.
You never know where the jelly's going to go. At least I don't. And although some might say I'm here to tell you what will work every time, when it comes to jelly, I promise to tell you when I figure it out. Until then, I'm wringing my hands, fiddling with my thermometer, and taking little plates in and out of the freezer.
I love making jelly.
I find deep satisfaction in the rough chopping of a whole piece of fruit, core and all. I like the process of coaxing the essence out of the fruit. And in this rare circumstance, I love not knowing if it's going to work.
There is, of course, always the cocktail option if you "fail". But when there are cocktails involved, you have simply not failed.
So, in the last chapter of our quince romance for the year (perhaps, although I'd never promise that), for those of you who don't mind a bit of hand-wringing in the service of these perfect pink jars, I offer you quince jelly. And, understanding that we are just over a mere week before Thanksgiving, I promise that I will shift into the more reliable and useful foods that you might be searching for this week. I've got a tart on deck that I'm pretty excited about, and we'll do the usual brussells sprouts roundups, too. But first, the perfume, the gentle stickiness, and the pink.
Quince Jelly Recipe
(makes about 11 cups)
7 pounds quinces
1 vanilla bean, split
8 cardamom pods
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
8 cups sugar
1. Wash the pubescence (the slight furriness) off the quinces. Roughly chop the fruit. Leave the skins on, and roughly chop the cores as well. Put the chopped quince into a large pot along with the vanilla bean and cardamom pods. Just barely cover with water. Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours, or until the fruit is so soft that it starts to fall apart.
2. Set up a jelly bag, or rig your own with a pot, a colander, and a length of cheese cloth. Let the fruit drain (without smushing or poking!) for at least 3 hours, but up to overnight if that's convenient.
3. You should end up with about 12 cups of juice. Combine the juice, sugar, and lemon in a large pot and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, and keep it at a rolling boil until it registers 225 degrees on a candy thermometer OR (if you're thermometer-phobic) it makes a nice jelled drop when you put a bit on a plate that you have been storing in the freezer. This will take between 10 and 20 minutes of rapid boiling (and hand wringing).
4. Decant into sterilized jars and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. If you're new to canning, hop over here first!