The List: Cheese Monastery

cheesemonasteryJust up the road from my house there is a monastery where the Trappist sisters wear homespun robes with wide tanned leather belts and make and sell cheese. They are open every day, and you go in and there is no shop, just a sister behind a door and a standard white kitchen fridgidaire filled with glossy red waxed boules of handmade cheese. You give her a check, she gives you a new gouda, heavy and shiny, and silently blesses you as you quietly leave. The whole thing feels like a kind of sacrosanct drug deal.monasterycheese And the cheese. Well, you keep your fingers crossed when you cut into it because since you did the whole shady-monastery-cash-for-cheese re-up you want it to be incredible, and it is. It’s buttery and mild and sweet and just hard enough to go perfectly with a crusty bread and a little white wine. Thank you, sisters.monasterygouda

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Macarons

frenchmacaronsThese are French Macarons. That we made. From scratch. And no, not the coconutty pile of the macaroon (though those have, surprisingly, made their way into my heart via Sweetheart’s mama dipping them in chocolate around Passover … though now thinking about it THIS macaron is the perfect Passover dessert oh my yhwh) but no, not the macar-oon-, the macaron, the delicate almondine fluff and crisp sweet explosion of the world’s most perfect cookie (dare we even call it a cookie? a pastry… a delicacy… a mouth cloud of joy?). Heretofore known, really, only in Paris, coming wrapped in pistache green Ladurée boxes and tied with ribbons as if a simple parcel of macarons was as worthy of such trappings as a brace of jewels (they are). The macaron has always seemed to me like the soufflé or the perfectly poached egg or neuroscience: something probably best left to the experts. But! When one of those experts comes into your very home and pulls back the luster-dusted curtain and shows you the secrets and teaches you the wiles of measuring egg whites by the gram, well, then all of a sudden the macaron ceases to be one of life’s great mysteries and becomes a giddy joy of I can’t believe we’re actually making these and then the five of us are going to eat all. of. them. Almond, Lemon (with a slice of raspberry), Strawberry, and Coffee with Chocolate ganache. Oh my. macaronrecipe macaronpiping macaronbaking macaronpile macaroncloseup

Infinite thanks to resident-macaron-expert-and-sweetheart Miss Lucy (whose instagram is full of positively pornographic pastries, such as, ahem MACAR-OO-N BIRDSNESTS what the what!?) for walking us all through it step-by-step, Miss Maggie for constantly re-filling our coffee and deciding when it was time to switch to wine, Sweet Kitty for lugging her standing mixer (and being ever the perfect-and-slightly-doubtful-guest), and Mama for makin’ it all happen, always.

Best Travel Advice Ever (duh)

NewOrleansThe last time that we were in New Orleans, we split our time between two sets of friends, the fabulous doctors-in-love completing their residencies and living in a gorgeous walk-up in the Garden District, and an amazing boho restauranteur couple who were savvy enough to snag a double shotgun in the Bywater ten years ago. As most hosts would do, they both gave us recommendations of their favorite places, seedy-wonderful dives and juke joints, po’boy shacks and wine bars, fancy oyster houses and music halls. Occasionally, the lists overlapped, and we saw (perhaps in a head-slapping-obvious moment) that whenever both sets of friends, very different and divine in their differences, both recommended the same thing that that thing was undeniably the best. We’ve followed this mandate ever since, and it’s taken us to Luke’s for 50 cent oysters, Robert’s and Jeni’s in Nashville, Cole’s in LA, Edo’s Squid in Richmond, the Tomales Bay Oyster Pound, Frank Pepe’s in New Haven,  the farmstand in Bolinas, The Tip Top in Bed Stuy… if two people recommend that you do something in their fair city, go out of your way to do it. Simple, brilliant.oysters

 

We Scream

JenisFour different people insisted that we go to Jeni’s in East Nashville for Ice Cream, so, obviously some totally-unnecessary-but-absolutely-necessary 11am ice cream snacks were in order. Oh, my, the flavors! Two scoops each, clockwise from Daddy’s (hiding behind the flowers): Brambleberry Crisp and Loveless Biscuits and Peach Jam, Mama’s Queen City Cayenne (a rich, spicy dark chocolate) and Sweet Corn and Black Raspberries, Sweetheart’s Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate and Bananas + Honey, and my Salty Caramel and Brown Butter Almond Brittle. Words can’t even begin to describe.

Peach Pie

PeachPieSo I told you I was going to make a peach pie with the 8,759,428 peaches we picked, and I did. A little vanilla ice cream, some fireflies, a few dear friends, and a last minute switch from an-all-too-shallow standard pie plate to a just-perfectly-deep cast iron skillet to handle all of the peaches and we had quite a summer treat on our hands.

Peach Pie
(recipe lifted/half-assed by the addition of store bought pie-crusts/slightly adapted with joy from Smitten Kitchen)

This is a classic peach pie with no frills, because peach pie needs no frills to be fantastic. Let this pie convince you. I like to split the sugar between white granulated and light brown for best flavor without too much of a muddy beige color. Feel free to use all of one or the other, or bump up the sugar if you think you’d like the pie sweeter.

2 store bought pie crusts
About 3 1/2 pounds peaches (approximately 6 large, 7 medium or 8 small)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, from about half a regular lemon
1/4 cup granulated sugar (see note up top; use 1/3 cup for a sweeter pie)
1/4 cup light brown sugar (ditto)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Few gratings of fresh nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch

To finish
1 tablespoon milk, cream or water
1 tablespoon coarse or granulated sugar

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Prepare an ice bath. Make a small x at the bottom of each peach. Once water is boiling, lower peaches, as many as you can fit at once, into saucepan and poach for two minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to ice bath for one minute to cool. Transfer peaches to cutting board and peel the skins. In most cases, the boiling-then-cold water will loosen the skins and they’ll slip right off. In the case of some stubborn peaches, they will stay intact and you can peel them with a paring knife or vegetable peeler and curse the person who made you waste your time with poaching fruit.

Halve and pit the peaches, then into about 1/3-inch thick slices. You’ll want 6 cups; it’s okay if you go a little over. Add to a large bowl and toss with lemon juice. In a small dish, stir together sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cornstarch until evenly mixed. Add to peaches and toss to evenly coat.

Preheat: Oven to 425 degrees.

Assemble your pie: Put one pie dough in the bottom of the pie pan, trim the overhang to one inch.

Scoop filling into bottom pie dough, including any accumulated juices (they contain the thickener too, also: tastiness).

If you’d like to make a regular lidded pie, use it as is, cutting some decorative vents in the pie lid before baking. To make a lattice-top pie, cut the pie dough into strips anywhere from 1/2 to 1-inch wide with a pastry wheel, pizza wheel or knife. Arrange every other strip across your pie filling in one direction, spacing the strips evenly. Fold back every other strip gently on itself and add the longest remaining strip in the other direction. Fold the strips back down, repeat with the other strips until a full lattice-top is formed. Trim the lattice’s overhang to the diameter of the pie dish’s rim. Gently fold the rim of the bottom crust over the lattice strips and crimp decoratively.

To finish:Brush pie with milk, cream or water and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake pie: For about 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until the crust is set and beginning to brown. Reduce oven temperature to 375 and bake pie for another 30 to 40 minutes, until filling is bubbling all over and the crust is a nice golden brown. If the pie lid browns too quickly at any point in the baking process, you can cover it with foil for the remaining baking time to prevent further browning.

Cool pie: For three hours at room temperature before serving. I know you won’t listen to me — there’s hot delicious pie to be eaten, after all — but if you’re concerned about the runniness of the pie filling, keep in mind that the pie filling does not fully thicken until it is fully cool. Pie can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge; from the fridge, it will be even thicker.

Mulberry Pie

mulberriesThese are Mulberries. I have no idea how I hadn’t heard of them until just this spring. I mean, I knew a Mulberry Tree was a kind of tree that existed and that there was something vaguely to do with silkworms liking them, but that was it. I had NO IDEA that literally EVERYWHERE there are big beautiful Mulberry Trees growing with millions of dark, juicy, sweet, totally edible, totally delicious berries on them just ripe for the picking. I have a bunch of trees growing wild at my house, Sweetheart and I stopped for lunch at a roadside stand and there was a Mulberry Tree in the parking lot (dessert!), even on our block in Brooklyn, right by the bus stop, there are low hanging branches of this sweet fruit (and a bunch of bamboozled people waiting for the bus looking at me funny as I stop en route to the subway every morning to pick+shove a handful of the sticky sweet berries in my mouth). pickedmulberriesThe Mulberry itself tastes most like a blackberry (almost I-dentical, actually), but bigger and juicier than the wild blackberries that are just starting to green up on the thorny embankments around here. So much sweet bounty, just growing for the taking? I say: FREE PIE! When the boys were down visiting from New York, Tony had specifically asked for a pie, so Seth and I took a ladder and a bowl out to the back yard and spent 20 minutes in the tree canopy, picking classically: a berry for the bowl, a berry for me, a berry for the pie, a berry for the pie-hole. We filled our bowl and baked her up. Deee-licious.mulberrypie

Mulberry Pie 

This recipe was pretty inexact, which is usually not how I roll with baking, but with a berry pie, (apparently) it doesn’t really matter.

-One large bowl freshly picked Mulberries, enough to fill a tarte pan
-1/4 c. sugar
-2 tbs. flour
-2 piecrusts (I cheated and used pre-made)
-butter
-1 egg white

Preheat oven to 400

Toss Mulberries in sugar and flour

Line tarte pan with one pie crust, cutting off any excess, fill with berries

Cut a design into your top crust (or lattice it, or cut a slit… do what you feel! I cut stars)

Dot the top of the filling with as many pats of butter as you are comfortable with

Layer the top crust on top and crimp the edges (again, cutting off any excess)

Lightly whip egg white and brush crust with it

Bake for 15 minutes at 400, reduce head to 350 and bake for another 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown

If you can possibly stand it, let the pie rest until cool so the gooey berry filling will set (cutting the pie warm means the filling will be oozy, you can make your own t-chart about the detriments of oozing filling vs. the benefits of eating warm pie).

Have any of you ever made mulberry pie? mulberry jam? I’d love any stories or recipes since I feel like I just discovered this AND it’s supremely old fashioned (my favorite combo).

Easter Egg Radishes

EasterEggRadishesO Easter Egg Radishes, with your multitude of colors and strange bulbous shapes, how delicious you are pulled right from the garden, thinly sliced, and put on a plate with thick dutch cheese, bread, and mustard (and a nice cold beer). We felt very European, and also, even though the chilly spring and our beginner-gardener-flailings means we aren’t pulling our radishes until mid-June, pretty proud of ourselves.