Bear Muffins

We are all creatures of habit, or rather to say, humanity loves a ritual, or maybe that’s just to say, I love a ritual. The ritual of the bath, the ritual of the fire in the woodstove, the ritual of making sure we soak in the wood-fired-hot-tub every new and full moon (that’s a new one over here). Sweetheart and I aren’t always together, he travels frequently, we spend some time in NYC, we are out in the world, honestly, more often than not (where I try not to get freaked out by the disturbing lack of rituals in place when, say, one is eating boiled peanuts for breakfast in the lowlands of Mississippi… breathe sister, for this is the world and it is glorious). When we are together, though, two snug bugs in our old farmhouse, our days form a pleasantly worn pattern like the sound of a foot-treadle sewing machine, in and out with our carefully calibrated daily rituals of acknowledging beauty (which, let’s be honest, are mostly just about food and when to have it). We have long loved the ritual cup of tea in the evening, before bed, with generous spoonfuls of our bee’s honey put right in the hot water to melt off the spoon. We try not to be too precious with the honey we harvested last fall (it’s good for the soul + body + sinuses we say!), but it still feels insanely indulgent to actually eat it. And, since we can’t abide caffeine at the late hour (and because I grew up drinking it when Mama would enact a similar ritual of fixing it and reading to us while we drank it before bed ONE CHAPTER ONLY NO MATTER HOW MUCH OF A CLIFFHANGER IT IS), we drink Sleepytime Tea. Waiting for it to steep the other evening and looking at the iconic box in the pantry, it occurred to me, we live the life of the Sleepytime Bear:sleepytimebear With his cat, who flops, laid out like a hot breakfast on his worn-in oriental rug…IMG_3325 And his roaring fire…IMG_2215 His strange window full of jewel-bottles and plants…10684104_563492667088815_1013671846_n and his radio, and his cotton night gown, and his club chair, and his basket full of antlers or whatever. I mean look at him! The Sleepytime Bear knows what’s up. Basically, he’s our aspirational life model and we. are. nailing. it. Except for one thing… when I mentioned the startling similarities between the bear’s sweet set up and ours, Sweetheart said: Yeah, but he has muffins. Well, damn. Indeed he does.sleepytimebearcloseup We decidedly never, ever have muffins. BEAR LIFE FAIL. Luckily/fortuitiously/as if she could read our bear-minds, the next day, Mama sent me this muffin recipe, which employs chickpeas, almond flour, and olive oil in lieu of butter and white flour and has a healthy kick of cardamom and lemon (one of our/the bear’s probably favorite flavor combos). Once made, they have now and forever been named: Bear Muffins. Enjoy, and keep on living the life like a bear, one ritual at a time. bearmuffincloseup

Bear Muffins

adapted from the CIA

1 3/4 cups chickpeas (1 15 oz. can), drained and rinsed
Zest from two lemons
Zest from one orange
The juice from those lemons
The juice from that orange
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, yolks and whites separated
2/3 cup whole wheat or regular flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tsps ground cardamom (I love cardamom, so I keep upping it every time)
1/3 cup almond flour a handfull of sliced almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar (I use sugar in the raw or demerara)

—Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray (or flour them or line them with cupcake papers).
—Purée the chickpeas in a food processor until smooth.
—Add the lemon and orange zest and juice, olive oil, sugar, and egg yolks. Purée until smooth.
—Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and half the cardamom.
—Stir in the chickpea mixture, then add the almond flour.
—Beat egg whites until they hold semi-soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
—Break up sliced almonds with a knife and combine with sugar and the rest of the cardamom in a small bowl. Set aside.
—Scoop batter into muffin tin.
—Sprinkle each muffin top batter with some of the almond-sugar-cardamom mixture.
—Bake 12–13 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
—Let cool and then gently knife each muffin out of its tin.
Makes 12 muffins. I usually double this recipe to make 24. Cause they’re delicious and you know that’s how the bear would roll. Because the frothiness of the whipped egg whites will fall if left to sit, if doubling, it’s best to bake two muffin tins at once if you have them.
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Summer Tonic pt. 1

SummertonicWhew, it’s hot! In an effort to try a “more vintage lifestyle”, as my Dad calls it (or as my Mom calls it: “crazy”), we are making an effort to forgo air conditioning this summer. Our Brooklyn apartment faces a back corridor of gardens and has a lovely cross breeze, and our old farmhouse is situated in the ancient manner, facing due East/West, meaning that from an hour after sunrise to an hour before sunset there is no direct sunlight streaming in through the windows. While in winter I lamented not getting enough direct light to nurture an indoor lemon tree (the epitome of house-dwelling luxury to me), now that summer’s heat is upon us, I understand. This orientation means the house stays a good 10-20 degrees cooler than it is outside at all times. Brilliant old almanac readers.  Still, Virginia in the summertime can be, well, let’s say “balmy”. For us, that means ceiling fans going full tilt boogie, popsicles in the freezer, bathing suit in the freezer, sprinkler in the yard, cotton nightgown on repeat. And still, we’ve been craving refreshment. So. Enter the summer tonic. We’ve made a few and we love them all, so here’s the first one concocted, a brew of the wild mint and lemon balm (brought by Mama to plant by the beehives) that spread and grow voraciously in every bed and along every treeline. WildMintSome people think of both of these plants as runaway scoundrels who hold flower beds hostage and generally take over, shooting up their leggy stems and heart shaped leaves wherever they possibly can. This invasive carpetbagging reputation is true in some respects, but when you consider the benefits of lemon balm and mint, both as flavor makers and as medicinals, the fact that they’re simply growing wild everywhere seems more like a little miracle than a problem. Here, a fast-and-loose miracle tonic recipe in action:

Lemon Balm and Mint Summer Tonic

2 cups packed mint leaves
2 cups packed lemon balm leaves
Water

Gather a big bunch of mint, gather a big bunch of lemon balm, wash and strip leaves from stems. Fill a pot with water, add leaves, bring to a boil. Strain leaves, pour tea into half gallon mason jars, put in fridge to chill. You can also add honey if you want a little sweetness.

Once cold, serve over ice. Sit on the porch steps, try not to drink the whole batch in one sitting. Good luck.summertonicporch

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).

Salty Potatoes Oh La La!

SaltyPotatoesSweet fancy moses. I met Miss Jennis in town at her (amazing, lovely, festooned with vintage suitcases and turned wooden bowls and multiple aprons) apartment for dinner+a movie. Dinner: Cold mexican beers, freshita carnita taquitas, cool citrusy slaw, and these salt-crusted potatoes with “cilantro mojo”. “Cilantro Mojo”? That’s just one facet of this recipe that makes it seem like a real jerk at first. Using words like “mojo”, “scant”, and “Muscatel if possible” almost made me forgo the whole thing and just mash ’em up with butter like I usually do. BUT, if you can get over the pomp, this recipe is a new, stunningly simple technique for cooking fingerling potatoes that leaves them perfectly tender and COVERED IN A SHEEN OF SALT. It knocked our socks right off. +A Movie: “Waiting for Guffman”… needless to say it was a pretty stellar evening.

Salt-Crusted Potatoes with Cilantro Mojo

2 1/4 pounds evenly sized waxy new potatoes, such as fingerling, scrubbed but unpeeled
Sea salt flakes

3 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 green chili pepper, seeded and chopped
Leaves from a bunch of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
Scant 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar, Muscatel if possible

Put the potatoes into a wide, shallow pan in which they fit in a single layer. Add 2 tablespoons salt and 1 quart cold water (just enough to cover), bring to a boil, and leave to boil rapidly until the water has evaporated. Then turn the heat to low and continue to cook for a few minutes, gently turning the potatoes over occasionally, until they are dry and the skins are wrinkled and covered in a thin crust of salt.

While the potatoes are cooking, make the cilantro mojo. Put the garlic, green chili pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt in a mortar, and pound into a paste. Add the cilantro leaves, and pound until they are incorporated into the paste. Add the cumin, and gradually mix in the oil to make a smooth sauce. Just before serving, add the vinegar, and spoon into a small bowl.

Pile the hot potatoes onto a plate and serve with the mojo, instructing your guests to rub off as much salt from the potatoes as they wish before dipping them in the sauce.

 

recipe from here, with thanks to Mama for discovering.

Lime-Aid

Despite the white-pants moratorium and the sweet chill in the air that has me playing “Autumn in New York” over and over, SUMMER IS NOT THROUGH. I repeat: DO NOT PACK UP YOUR JEAN SHORTS AND HEADSCARVES JUST YET LADIES! I love fall (it’s secretly my favorite), but I’ve also been wanting to cling to the seemingly endless twilit seaside days of the most adventuresome season. And, like-minded tactile and sense-memory based souls, I’ve discovered the best way to do that is with homemade limeaid. This is actually, technically, just lime simple-syrup, one of those non-recipe recipes that takes three things and through some magical alchemy turns it into a world of taste and feeling. Add rum and ice and you have a classic daiquiri, add tequila and you’ve borne the perfect margarita, vodka makes a sideways Tom Collins (a shaken egg-white and some mint and you’ve got yourself a sideways Southside), or just add a few healthy pours into a pitcher of still or sparkling water and you have the most divine, freshest, bracing-but-tart-sweet concoction that’s ever come straight out of August.

Ingredients:

Lime juice
Sugar
Water

Squeeze limes. Boil equal parts sugar and water and cool. Mix lime juice and simple syrup. Voila!

 

Cocktails, Dreams, and a very happy weekend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carrie came over last night and we had what might be the last glasses of red wine of the season. Now, New York hasn’t exactly been cooperating with this season business- winter was a mere turkish delight’s worth of chill and March has come on like a liger, tricking the crocuses and then making them cry. My mourning for red wine and whiskey is almost more symbolic than anything else, a wish for the warmth I know/hope is coming. To that effect, I think maybe instead of looking back on the end of the season, I’ll look forward. To late sun and backyards and flowy striped dresses with bare legs. And for that I need to raise my glass with something fresh, light, champagney, and not too silly. Perfect timing for Meags sending me this early-spring-perfect concoction, the cherub’s cup. Added bonus: you can fix it in batches in a big pitcher, alleviating muddle fatigue, and allowing for that “breezy effortless hostess” thing that’s so very hard to capture. Oh this? Just whipped it up.

Cherub’s Cup

1/4 cup sliced strawberries + more for garnish
1/2 cup St. Germain
1 cup Hendrick’s gin
1/3 cup lemon juice (this is NOT exact, so you can adjust)
~1.5 bottles dry sparkling wine (enough to fill your pitcher 3/4 of the way)

:: Muddle your strawberries with a bit of the St. Germain (it’s easier to muddle if you’re working with a small volume)

:: Pour the muddled berries and all the hard alcohol into a large pitcher. Stir in the lemon juice and the sparkling wine and taste to make sure you like the proportions. You can make a bit more of the St. Germain + gin mix and add it in if you like. Add additional sliced berries to the top for a pretty finish, or slice a slice on the diagonal and perch it on the rim of the champagne flute.

:: Put on pink lipstick, something cottony, maybe a silk scarf, and tiptoe through the tulips.

It should get to 55 today, let’s cross our fingers and our legs at the ankle and pray for 60. Happy weekend.

Cherub’s Cup Recipe/image from new fave (and serious sister-in-cocktails) Heart of Light.

E-Z Bake Bread

I baked this loaf of bread. Yep, I did it. This wonderful, perfectly round, air-bubbly, still warm from the oven, undeniably bread-y to its very essence loaf came out of my oven. I’m no genius, and though I make a mean almond cake and can poach a passable egg, I’ve always thought that bread baking takes cooking beyond the artful science of experimentation and flavor into the ACTUAL science of chemical reactions, margins of error, and precision measurements- not usually my strong suit. My dear friend Kitty (who lives here) passed along this recipe to me with promises and assurances that The Recipe (a revision of the now-infamous no-knead Mark Bittman recipe that took home-ovens by storm in 2006) was, in fact foolproof. I can attest: make this. It is easy, cheap, and utterly, completely satisfying. Do you need a commercial kiln oven and generations of flour covered grandparents to make this? Nope, you only need about $3 worth of ingredients, a (preferably bright red) dutch oven, and 24 hours.

Bread a la Sheila McDuffie.

3 c bread flour
¼ tsp. yeast
1 and ¼ tsp. sea salt
1 and ½ c water at 75 degrees, plus a Tlb. or 2 (well or spring water)
Flour for dusting
Finishing: flour, bran, cornmeal, semolina flour, sesame seeds, flax seeds, or rice flour

Combine flour, yeast, and salt in a glass bowl.  Add water and stir with a wooden spoon for 30-60 seconds until a shaggy dough forms and all the flour is incorporated.  Add a bit more water if necessary.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rest at 70-75 degrees for 12-16 hours or up to 20 hours.

Scrape the dough onto a well floured surface spread slightly into a flattened square, and fold all four sides, one by one, onto the center of the dough.  Invert so the seam is down, dust with flour, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Form the final loaf by holding the ball of dough in your hands and gently pulling and tucking under around the edges 8-10 times while rotating it.  Be careful not to over-stretch—allow the gluten cloak to form.  Generously coat a plate with the desired finishing and place the dough with the crease facing down.  Or use parchment paper.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 1 hour.  Preheat the oven, with your Dutch oven in it at 475 for 30 minutes.  Loaf rises for a total of 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Using oven mitts, take Dutch oven out of hot oven, dust with flour, and flip the dough into it or lower the parchment paper in.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the lid and bake 30 minutes more, until the crust is a dark chestnut color.  Interior temp:  180 degrees. Take bread out of the pan and cool on a rack for 1 hour.  Do not cut until the hour is up.

Here’s a breakdown of the loaf timing to serve the bread the next day for 7pm dinner:

Mix dough 9:00 p.m.
Fold step 3:30 p.m. the next day  (18 hours 30 minutes)
Form loaf 3:45ish
Preheat oven, etc. 4:45
Bread goes in 5:15
Cover comes off 5:45
Bread comes out 6:15
Ready to serve 7:15

In light of the $100 dinner, we present: The $5 dinner

After all of the discussion over the dreaded $100 dinner that so many of us have found ourselves forced into at one time or another (more on that tomorrow), how refreshing it was to find this series of $5 dinners from the ever-lovely Sarah over at Pink of Perfection. These sweet and simple recipes are culled from pantry staples and feature hearty wintry vegetables- but, like all good things, each has an ingredient or two that makes it zing, pow, sparkle and mmmm. Humble lentil, meet dashing caramelized onion, tomato soup, go ahead bring along your friend poached egg. Seeing as this is essentially my current life motto: live well, but simply, and add a bit zing-pow-sparkle when you need it, these recipes couldn’t come at a better time. Substitute “spending a quiet night with a crossword puzzle and a glass of wine” for “Lentils” and “wear a sparkly jacket and a party hat and go dancing” for “caramelized onions” and this recipe might as well be my g-cal. Life’s good.
Red Lentil Soup with Lemon and Caramelized Onions
Serves 2

3/4 cup red lentils
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup water
pinch cayenne
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
salt
pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 small onion, sliced thin
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon sugar

To caramelize the onions, melt the butter over moderate heat. Throw in the onion and cook until beginning to brown. Sprinkle sugar evenly over onions and continue to cook until onions are brown, sweet, and sticky.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine lentils with water, stock, cayenne, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until lentils are soft and beginning to break down. Turn off heat, and stir in chopped parsley and lemon juice. Ladle into bowls and serve with caramelized onions.

as mentioned, recipes and images from the truly wonderful Pink of Perfection.

Divine Lemony Roasted Broccoli

Broccoli gets a bad rap. Relegated to rubbery-ranch dressing ignominy on crudite plates or as the lesser half of Beef’n’ at bad chinese restaurants, humble broccoli doesn’t often get the cruciferous credit it deserves. Mama sent me this recipe, and holy wow- it is delicious! It came out like broccoli candy- and you use the whole head of the broccoli, even the stems. Which, in these recessionary times, is pretty great.

Lemony Roasted Broccoli
Serves 2-4 as a side

Ingredients
* 1 large bunch of broccoli, cleaned, trimmed and cut into florets and chunks of a similar size
* Zest of two lemons (get organic since you’ll be using the skin) and the juice of one of them
* 3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
* 3-4 Tbsps olive oil for roasting
* Sea salt
* Freshly ground black pepper

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the broccoli florets on a heavy baking sheet large enough to hold them in a single layer.
2. Toss the garlic with half the lemon zest, all of the garlic, sea salt, pepper, and the olive oil. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping once to ensure even roasting, until the pieces are crisp-tender and browned at the tips.
3. Remove the broccoli from the oven and toss with other half of the lemon zest and the juice from one lemon. Serve hot.

 

Perfect for V-to-the-egetarians.

Ah-mazing! Recipe and image from here.

It’s a Lemon

My mother keeps a meyer lemon tree in a glass room off the back of our house in Virginia and every winter it yields exactly one lemon. This year she brought this singular bounty with her up to New York for the holidays and we had big plans for it. Maybe we’d make meyer lemon hot toddies, maybe we’d put the zest over braised fennel bulbs (a recipe cut from the New York Times Magazine five years ago and so loved the paper is almost literally see-through from having been groped often by olive oily fingers), maybe we’d… make lemonade? But, alas, the lemon got repeatedly passed over in favor of Chinatown Dim Sum and Staten Island pizza. As of yesterday, it was still just sitting there. Beautiful, a saturated yellowy orange the color of organic egg yolks or fiestaware, solitary, special. So…. what to do? I did some light googling and came across this article from the LA Times, 100 Things to Do with a Meyer Lemon (ahhh California, where such lemons are so uproariously plentiful that suggestions #35 is “Throw a Meyer lemon for your dog to catch and play with; you’ll lose the lemon, but your dog’s breath will smell fantastic.”). And though I only had one lemon, I decided to make Marcus Samuelsson’s Shrimp piri piri with quick-preserved Meyer lemonsThe quick preserving of the lemon peel was absolutely fantastic- yielding a sweet-salty-sour-somewhat pickled-somewhat candied-sort of bitter-sort of crystalline zest that is making my mouth water now just thinking about it. The preserved lemon was perfect with the cilantro-and-pepper spice of the shrimp, but really, it would be fabulous on many things in many flavor directions- pricking into the slow heat and sweetness of a curry, in lieu of lime on adobo roasted chicken and rice, sprinkled over fresh pizza with thyme and ricotta, marinated with fresh fish and olives, over pasta with just a little hard cheese… So, at its heart the solitary lemon traveled up from the south to yield something even better than a hot toddy (if you can believe it): a new easy, cheap, and delicious trick to turn the usual mundane recessionary meal into something truly spectacular. Here’s the recipe for the quick preserved lemons, find the rest of the shrimp piri piri recipe here.

Quick-preserved Meyer lemons

6 Meyer lemons
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar

1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the lemons, trying to keep away from the white pith. (If necessary, scrape any pith away from the peels with a small knife.) Squeeze the juice from the peeled lemons into a bowl and reserve: You should have about 1 cup. Add water to bring the liquid up to 2 cups; set aside to reserve.

2. Place the peel and 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Drain. Repeat this procedure once more. Return the drained peel to the pan, add the reserved juice, salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Makes about three-eighths cup.

Since I only had one lemon, I used 2tsp each of salt and sugar and it made enough preserved lemon for Sweetheart and I to totally enjoy. Good to know. When life gives you lemon, quick preserve it.

Piri Piri image via Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times