Not for the faint of heart.

The stream of life is carrying me along, pulling me into uncertainty, as it ebbs and flows and eventually takes form. It’s happening both in life and in the food I create. My need for security is being replaced by Patience. Presence. Time. These are things that I fight with resilience on a cellular level. I think we all do, to some degree. However sometimes, we get the opportunity to slow down, to savor, to relax into the current and be surprised by the result.
I write this as I sit patiently, waiting for onions caramelize. As my well-intentioned plan is being whisked away by the undertow and evolving into something else, entirely. If this sounds a bit esoteric, I apologize. It just happens to be where I’m at, in this moment.
 PicFrame
later on…
I encountered one minor barrier after another. However, what evolved is only redolent of French onion soup. Rather, it is a hop-infused, sweet, aureus onion soup. The onions were cooked down to nearly a jam, and used as a base for the broth, which was then topped with artisan bread, and possibly the best aged goat cheese I’ve ever had good fortune to sample.
Clementine - Aged Goat Cheese from Yarmuth Farms

Clementine – Aged Goat Cheese from Yarmuth Farms

I’ll offer a template of the recipe, however there wasn’t really one to follow. I started with general encouragement and inspiration from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for onion soup, then transformed it with a bit of what was available to me in the pantry. I hope you enjoy it.
Much Love,
J
Onion Soup

Onion Soup

Onion Soup
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large yellow onions, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, center removed, minced
salt
6 cups chicken broth (or vegetarian chicken-flavored broth
1 cup beer
4 slices good thick country bread, or french bread
1 cup grated cheese (cave-aged Gruyère, or if you can find it, Yarmuth Farms Clementine)
Method:
Set a 4-quart stockpot, enameled cast iron, if you have one, on low. Warm butter and olive oil over low heat; add onion and garlic. Keep heat on low, and give a stir every 10-15 minutes, until the onions are golden and sticky. Be mindful of the heat, as burnt onion is not ideal. Once the onions have caramelized (this will take a good hour or so), add a tablespoon of flour. Stir for ~1 minute, then add 1/2 of the beer to deglaze the pan. Add broth and remaining 1/2 cup of beer. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer and let it bubble away for ~30 minutes. Taste for salt, then give it a few grinds of pepper.
Meanwhile, cut bread to the size of large ramekins, or other oven-safe bowls. toast bread on either side under broiler. When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls, then top with bread and cheese. Place under broiler until bubbly and browning. Serve hot.

Beg, borrow and steal.

A good friend of mine once said to me ‘There are no new ideas; just reinventions of old ones’. While I’m not entirely certain he’s correct, it’s provided comfort on days when I’m feeling unimaginative or uninspired. This year, as I struggled against the current of Time, I didn’t know if I’d be able to show up with the same creativity and personal touch that has become not only a source of joy, but a signature. 

photo 2

And so in the midst of an extremely full calendar, I’ve found myself turning toward the talented women in my life…and perhaps the internet. This post is rife with ideas borrowed, heavy with perspiration, and bountiful with Love.
Candied Orange Peel

Candied Orange Peel

My dear friend Lisa, is truly inspiring. She manages the kitchen with deft and ease. To spend an afternoon in her home, watch her dance about the kitchen, confidently balancing multiple dishes with grace ands ease (along with the occasional errant curl whipping about her forehead) is just dreamy. This week, she gifted me with a wedge of panforte, personally-crafted with home-made candied citron. I fell in love with panforte several years ago, while I was traveling in Italy. More confection than cake, rich with nuts, dried fruits and spices, lending bitter and sweet elements; it beats fruitcake, hands-down. Lisa knows that every year, I make a visit to PFI to purchase panforte for my father, secretly hoping he’ll share a wedge with me. Without fail, as soon as it’s out of my hands, he tucks it safely away so he won’t have to share his precious dessert.
I’ve never considered making it at home; I imagined it would be way too labor intensive. Of course, when I asked Lisa to give me the verbal how-to, she said with a tone of both assurance and challenge that I could, indeed, make it myself. She shared a link to this incredible blog, visually appealing and rich with recipes and text; http://www.remedialeating.com.
The list of ingredients was daunting, however the method merely involved tossing it all into a bowl, combining with honeyed syrup heated on the stove, and a stint in the oven for about an hour. Simple. 
 
mise en place: panforte nero

mise en place: panforte nero

And so, over the next two days I went about, crafting home-made citrus zest and panforte nero. I won’t bother lending the recipe; you can find it here.
What I will share is my experience. As the hours passed, labor lent way to meditative practice. I found that there was nothing to do but just…be…and wait. I found the steps startlingly simple, and yet requiring a commitment. On more than one occasion, I felt myself smiling, full, expressive and joyful. And the aroma! That citrus scent filling the air as oranges bubbled away in simple syrup; the warmth and complexity wafting from the oven as the panforte baked. Being greeted by sweetness every time I went out and returned home. This is what I love. This is what I crave. And I will keep baking and borrowing as long as I need to get through this holiday madness.
Citrus Swizzles, inspired by my lovely friend, Paige

Citrus Swizzles, inspired by my lovely friend, Paige

Heaps of Love,
J

Aplets and Cotlets.

Remember those classic confections? You know; the ones that stuck to your teeth and left you with no choice but to lick your fingers clean? They were a favorite of my father’s. Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve outings to the Pike Place Market, followed by a stroll along the waterfront and a visit in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, ending the day with some fish and chips at Ivar’s. It was customary while at the market to pick up a box of aplets and cotlets, which rarely made the trek home unopened.

So that’s what I thought of when I envisioned this tart. I’d received a special request for apple pie, however I was thinking I could do a bit better and really wanted to “wow” with presentation. Tarts are fantastic that way, as the fruit is really the star, all caramelized and glistening to perfectly baked perfection. I’ve made many pies, and have gotten the basics of a good flaky pastry down. Always, always start with ice-cold ingredients, minimal handling, and appropriate rest. It’s like nurturing a new relationship: love the pastry. respect it. don’t interfere too much.

It’s quite simple really. I used a basic recipe for pate sablee ( you can find a link here), which I proceeded to roll out and tuck into a fluted ceramic tart pan, brushed generously with melted butter. It could easily be rolled out flat; placed directly on a cookie sheet, folding up the edges for a bit of rustic appeal. A tart pan with a removable bottom is also an option.

Pate Sablee

Pate Sablee

I then coated my apples with bits of butter and a mix of sugars for caramelization, along with lemon zest for fragrance and brightness. The perkiness of apricots complement the apples wonderfully; I found several examples that combined apples and apricots in turnovers, or using apricot jam as a glaze. Another consideration would consist of a simple glaze made with a reduction of honey, lemon and fresh ginger, though I would use a sweeter apple as the base.

Something to keep in mind: the crust may start to get a bit brown, and that’s okay. an interim solution is having strips of foil at the ready to fold around the edges. If you have a piecrust protector, then you’re a bit ahead of the game. Laying the dough flat and covering with apples end to end will also alleviate the concern for excessive browning, however, the perfectly browned, fluted borders really make a statement. In any case, this crust is cookie like, buttery, crisp and perfectly lovely in every way. Enjoy!

Sparkles, Alight.

Sparkles, Alight.
~happy birthday, David.

For the tart:

1 recipe pate sablee

4 tart apples (example: granny smith)

1/4 c each granulated sugar and brown sugar (muscovado is nice)

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

2 tbsp. butter, frozen and then grated or chopped into small bits the size of peas

For the glaze:

~1/2 c apricot jam

2 tbsp. apple juice, liquor, or water

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment, or if you are using a mold, brush bottom and sides generously with melted butter.

Measure the diameter of the tart pan you’re using. I used a pan that was ~8″x11″ at the base.

Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness and press into pan, allowing the dough to come up the sides. Pierce several times with a fork, then let rest in the refrigerator while preparing the filling.

Mix the sugars and lemon zest together with your fingers until fragrant; set aside.

Peel and core apples; slice into 1/4 inch lengths.

Fan apples onto the tart dough in rows, or if using a round pan, fan along the outer edges, working toward the center.

Sprinkle apples generously with sugar, then dot with butter.

the pre-bake.

the pre-bake.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, rotating halfway through.

Note: About mid-point in the baking, warm jam and liquid over medium heat until lightly bubbling. Strain into a bowl or measuring cup (I use a sieve to remove the fleshy bits of fruit). Set aside.

Remove from oven and brush with apricot glaze.

Serve warm or at room temperature with freshly whipped cream or crème fraiche.

Much Love,

J

Filler.

Funny how a well-planned trip to the store can lead to something different entirely. Just prior, I had been glossing over recipes in my latest aquisirion, ‘Around My French Table’, by Dorie Greenspan. I was inspired by a lentil salad with preserved lemon and thought that adding a little bit of bacon to the mix might be nice.
I also wanted to make a salad with sweet potato and zucchini salad I’d found on one of my favorite website recipe culling sites food 52.com. Alas, the store was out of one thing or another and I had to make a decision. As I was coming home to chill in the air, I thought ‘Soup’! What could be more perfect than a lentil sweet potato stew with smoky bacon on a cold Fall evening?

I have a preference for French lentils however when I was out these tiny little beluga lentils caught my eye. Slightly smaller than the French lentil, the beluga lentils hold their shape well and are great and soups or salads. I like to par-cook my lentils a bit, giving them a rinse before adding to the soup, so as to not muddy the broth. The bacon I sauté separately and then add the bacon fat to the pan in which I sauté the aromatics. The addition of preserved lemons contribute a bit of brightness to complement the more earthly flavors.
Finish it off with a bit of chopped parsley, creme fraiche or yogurt and a slice or two of a good rustic, yeasty loaf of bread.
Lentil Soup with Preserved Lemon

Lentil Soup with Yam and Preserved Lemon

Lentil Soup with Yams and Preserved Lemon
For the soup:
1 c tiny lentils, French, or beluga
4 pieces good peppered bacon (~1/4 lb), diced
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
5 c vegetable or chicken stock
2 medium sweet potatoes or yams, rinsed and cut into 1/2-1 inch dice
1 small handful fresh, or 1 tsp dried thyme
I stem rosemary (about a tsp)
2 bay leaves
1/2 bunch kale, ribs removed, chopped
I/2-1 preserved lemon, peel only, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish:
Small handful parsley, chopped
Creme fraiche or yogurt
Method:
In a small sauce pan boil about 3 cups of water with one cup lentils for ~15 minutes; drain and rinse. Set aside.
While lentils are cooking, sauté bacon over medium heat in a large stockpot until fully cooked. Remove from pan and drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.
Add the chopped onion and sauté for about three minutes until soft, then add in garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Add lentils and remaining ingredients, with the exception of kale and lemon. Bring to boil and then lower to simmer for about 20 minutes.
Toss in kale and lemon; give it a stir. Pepper generously. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Garnish and serve.
Oh! There was a bevy of food production last week with Thanksgiving and all. Here’s a teaser of my fabulous pumpkin pie. I hope to post the recipe at some point, however I used a pate sablee for the crust and filled it with (canned) pumpkin in a pinch. Don’t judge.
Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

Much Love,
J