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.

Thanksgiving in Snapshots

thanksgivingcidergravyYou know it was a good time if you literally only took one picture of the whole shebang and it was this total WORK OF ART (I suppose I decided that the vision of dear sweet Ravenel deglazing a skillet of aromatic and reducing roux that becomes the base of her incredible cider gravy while a boozy put of mulled cider bubbles in the background and Nick tears bread for apple and herb stuffing and a pecan pie cools off slowly by the woodstove was worth saving for posterity’s sake, and I suppose I’m not wrong). Out here in the world of the internet, though, while one hand laments decorative gourd season and the other pins gilded pumpkin tablescapes that could/should never exist outside of Martha, I sort of like that this was the only snapshot I thought to take. When you’re dancing in the kitchen, there’s no time to stop and stage photographs. But, because you asked, here are a few shots I scooped up from a few dear ones who thought to take a moment and capture some loveliness while I was making sure everyone had enough wine. And that the bird was ready at the same time as my hairdo.susturkeysuspieIMG_1276thanksgivinglatkeshooraykitchen

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.

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.

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.

Mr. Jefferson’s Garden

MonticelloKitchenGardens1000 feet of vegetable garden. Perfect row upon row of standing onions, winter savory, bulbous dark cabbages, the beginnings of carrots the ends of broccoli, each variety labeled in a slanting hand with common and latin names (some of the heirloom types the very same varieties that we ordered from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for our own tiny-by-comparison plot), some under clay bell jars, some just noticeable from the brick and glass garden-flourishing observation gazebo, the spring-ready plants drawn out with compost-dark soil which, in this Albemarle clay you just KNOW took, well, about 300 years to look this good. That is what Thomas Jefferson has set up at Monticello. Oh Man. Talk about Garden Envy. We’ll just cross our dirt stained fingers and say “someday”…MonticelloVegetableGardenMonticelloBellJarsGarden

Starting from Scratch

SeedsBefore we left for New Orleans, Sweetheart and I pored over the seed catalogs I ordered back during the cold, dark months. We decided to order from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, an organic seed saving co-operative that’s about an hour away from us, figuring that whatever persnickety planting instructions they might have would ring true for us too. We were intoxicated with the sheer HOPE of the whole thing, the tiny paper packets full of possibility, with their seductive heirloom names (Lazy Wife Greasy Bean, Drunken Woman Lettuce, Ice Cream Melon, Whippoorwill Southern Pea, Yellow Moon and Stars Watermelon), and family origin stories (Violet’s Multicolored Butterbean: saved by 4 generations of Violet Brady Westbrook’s family, Banks County, GA, Turkey’s Craw Bean: according to folklore, a hunter shot a turkey and removed a bean from its craw; the bean was later planted and saved, hence the name Turkey Craw). When we returned we had a fat package of seeds waiting for us. We awoke to a frost today, but we’ve got to get our buns in gear! Dirt under our fingernails, the sun on our shoulders, the possibility of the soil, we are drunk with it.

In Love and Pizza

New York is a pizza town. Allegiances run deep… One of Sweetheart’s high school friends once broke up with a girl because she ate her pizza with a fork. There’s the ancient Neapolitan battlegrounds (Lombardi’s, Grimaldi’s, Difara’s), Staten Island’s best-pizzas-you’ve-never-had (Denino’s, Goodfellas, Salvatore’s of Soho), the hipsters (Roberta’s, Paulie Gee’s, Speedy Romeo), the best sicilian/place to take a southerner on a date (L&B Spumoni Gardens), the local slice (Rays ad infinitum, in our neighborhood “Not Ray’s”)… With all of these rarified pies, harkening back to ancient traditions, earth vs. brick ovens, coal vs. wood burning, cheese vs. sauce, the consideration of pizzaiolo-as-master-craftsman, it would seem as though pizza might simply be one of those things beyond the scope of the humble home cook, off limits to one possessing nothing fancier than a standard electric coil oven and a pizza stone. To this, I say: fuhgeddaboudit.This weekend at the Kitchen Garden Cooking School‘s Pizza Making Class we proved ourselves capable of transcending pizza barriers. Like most wonderful things, it was truly simple. The Dough: a riff on the fabulous No-Knead dough that turns out such incredible boules, the sauces: simple classic tomato, creamy funky caramelized onion, sweet pungent red pepper, the cheeses: burrata, gouda, gruyere, chevre, fontina, taleggio, parmesean, the toppings: tomatoes, basil, garlic infused oil, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, red onions, ginger, lemon, sumac, artichoke hearts, olives, and pine nuts.

We each floured, tossed, topped, peeled, baked, and devoured our own tiny, perfect pies, and it was revelatory. An ancient skill for the ages to add to the home cook arsenal: food grower, fermenter, jam maker, bread baker, pizzaiola, and the time-spent-with-good-friends factor that is absolutely necessary for successful kitchen endeavors.

 

ps. This was the second Kitchen Garden Cooking class my mama and our dear town mouse friends have taken, if you find yourself in gorgeous Upper Black Eddy, PA, I highly recommend the classes. Check out the blog here.

We Jam

I’m a sucker for good packaging. When I went to the co-op this week, these concord grapes were laid out like a hot breakfast in their own specially designed little cardstock bag, a squatter version of an apple sack, with a long white stitched handle and perfect Manischewitz-y purple font extolling their delicious and organic status. And, they smelled so very grapey, an olfactory punch powerful enough to create lush sense memories on the spot. I bought a bag and carried them home. By the time I got them back to the apartment, the bag was a crumplety mess, and when I liberated them from their 4x6x4 home it was like a grape clown-car. They just kept coming and I realized I had way more grapes on my hands than I could reasonably eat. Sharp-sweet, tannic, and full of seeds, what to do? Obviously, make Grape Jam. I got out my laminated “making jam without added pectin” chart from the very back of my recipe binder, and went to work. Skinning, seeding, boiling, sugaring, boiling, pouring into jars, putting hot hot hot on toast. Sweet, simple, at once fresh and old fashioned, this jam turned out fantastically, and it’s the most glorious rich dark purple color. Oh boy!Quick jams like this are sort of just about the easiest thing you can make. Have a pot? Can you stir? Good. You’ve got what it takes. If you’ve never made jam before, this tutorial is ah-mazing and has great pictures of each step. This kind of lazy-man’s jam plays fast and loose with canning/preserving requirements, so it will only keep for a few weeks in your fridge (add “the space to store a pot large enough for water bath canning” to my “homesickness vs. wanderlust” chart) but with enough crusty bread and one or two friends who should be gifted a sweet little pick-me-up-in-a-jar and you’ll go through it in no time.