Forced Recreation.

Where have you been, Beautiful Wallflower?
Ahh, there’s a question…
PicFrame
I enjoy telling my story through pictures, because an image can capture the emotion of the moment; it can both affect and effect. It’s communicating to the world from the lens of the observer. Images become indelible memories of experience, of time.
Tender, vulnerable, revealing.
A fine way to get to know someone, really.
IMG_6310
In the past month, I have attended festivals
IMG_6185 FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender
Made more baked goods than a girl probably should
PicFrame
Ran faster than the wind
Sought comfort and rejuvenation with friends
Celebrated birthdays and milestones
IMG_6206
And sequestered myself with a cold…
IMG_6439
As my inbox gets bombarded with loads of good things to create, my neighborhood filled with new restaurants to try, I am still called to the kitchen, with a yearning to create. I’ve been baking my way through Zoe Nathan’s Huckleberry, annotating what changes I’ve either made, or need to make, to ensure success the next time around.PicFrame
I’ve made at least four (five?) recipes now, and continue to be inspired by the gorgeous photography and straightforward directions.
Zoe has reignited my love of the teacake, that perfect excuse for a sit-down with a good cuppa something steamy.
I was inspired to make a citrus-fennel cake recently, a variation of her lemon kumquat poppy teacake.IMG_6434
I had a fragrant Cara Cara orange on hand that was begging to be put to use, and I always have several lemons at the ready. But fennel! I don’t know why it came so strongly to mind, however the subtle anise-like flavor seemed just the right thing pair with the citrus.
FullSizeRender     IMG_6435
And holy mackerel! This is by far one of the best cakes i’ve made in a while. The crumb, dense and buttery, was exactly what one might expect from a proper tea/pound cake. The flavor, so citrus-y and bright; the toasted bits of crushed fennel rounding out the experience better than I could have imagined.
 This recipe will be in regular rotation, for sure.
 IMG_6446
Citrus-Fennel Tea Cake
Inspired by Zoe Nathan’s Lemon Kumquat Poppy Teacake
 .
Ingredients:
1 c butter, at room temperature
1 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
zest and juice of one large lemon and one orange, separated (~1/4-1/3 cup juice)
2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp heavy cream
1.5 c flour
1.5 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp fennel seeds, lightly smashed
4 tbsp sugar
 .
Method:
Preaheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Butter a 9×5 inch loaf pan. I like to line the pan with parchment, which eases removal of cake from the pan.
Using your fingers, massage sugar and zest together until fragrant. Add to mixing bowl with the butter and salt.
Mix at medium speed until fluffy and light; about 2-3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl periodically.
Sift baking powder and fennel seeds into flour; set aside.
Whisk together eggs, egg yolks, vanilla and cream.
With mixer on low-medium speed, slowly drizzle egg mixture into creamed butter and sugar. Mix on medium speed for ~1 minute.
Add flour and mix just until combined; no more than ~10 seconds. It’s okay if there are still bits of unincorporated flour; simply fold into batter with spatula.
Scoop dough into prepared pan and bake for ~60 minutes. Cake is fully baked when an inserted knife or toothpick comes out clean. Let rest 10 minutes, then remove from pan and set on a cooling rack.
 .
While cake is baking, prepare the glaze: in a small saucepan, combine juice and sugar. bring to a boil, whisking while the sugar dissolves, turn heat down or a minute and allow the juice to reduce, just a bit. Brush over top and sides of warm cake.
.
Enjoy, and much love,
J

Tossed.

I’m sharing this recipe partly for my own selfish ends, as I am not feeling super loquacious. I’d say it’s the change in seasons, which is perhaps a half-truth, however of late I’ve been balancing the need for some self-imposed downtime with the equally necessary and soulful need to Just. Show. Up.

For the latter, I’ve managed to keep (most) commitments and remain accountable in both my professional and personal life, as well as build in the requisite training runs that keep my brain happy.

IMG_4742
I like to think I am fairly skilled at feeding myself; I can put together something basic on the fly, however lately my creativity has been lacking. I spent the last two days sifting through two of my favorite cookbooks, looking for ways to incorporate fennel into my meals, as I seem to be drawn to it lately. I made a fennel, pear, ginger and lemon juice that was pretty amazing, however I was looking for something a bit more toothsome, and came across a recipe for saffron orange chicken and herb salad that intrigued me.
IMG_4741
I had an orange, partially zested, that was begging to be put to good use, and then picked up a couple of other things that I thought would fit nicely. The recipe involved cooking the orange, peel and all, along with a bit of honey and saffron for a length of time, then folding in the chicken and serving along with fresh slivered fennel and a bit of herbs and a lemon-garlic vinaigrette of sorts. I limit my flirtation with garlic whenever possible, so I decided to tailor the recipe a bit differently, to suit my taste, and my pantry. Given that I’d forgotten to grab some saffron, I cooked the orange with a pinch of fennel and coriander seeds. I had a bit of cilantro languishing in the back of my refrigerator, so I plucked the best greens and mixed them with some fresh mint leaves. The chicken I purchased cooked from the deli, so there was really little work to do. I added a bit of avocado and a drizzle of olive oil to give it a boost of healthy fats and needless today, it was one of the most satisfying meals I’ve had in some time.
IMG_4743
This is a dish that bears repeating, so I’ll share it with you, and keep it on file for those days I’m in need of a bit of kitchen inspiration. I’m going to try something a bit different here, by incorporating the method into the ingredient list. If you end up giving it a try, I’d love to know how the recipe worked for you.
 –
Enjoy, and much love,
J
 –
Fennel, Chicken and Avocado Salad with Spiced Orange Dressing
Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem recipe for Saffron Chicken and Herb Salad
 –
1 orange, cut into 8 slices
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
**Bring the above ingredients to boil in a small saucepan, then turn down to a slow simmer and allow to cook for ~1h, adding water if needed. You’ll want a few tablespoons of liquid with the oranges to keep from burning.
 –
While the orange is cooking, prepare the salad:
Thinly slice 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs (I used a mandolin) and set in a bowl. Massage the fennel briefly with ~1 tablespoon of olive oil, along with healthy pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Add ~8 oz of shredded, cooked chicken breast, a small handful (~1/4 cup each) of cilantro and mint to the bowl, leaving a few tablespoons of herbs aside for the final garnish. Slice 1/4 large or 1/2 small avocado and set aside with reserved herbs.
 –
Puree the orange with the juice of 1/2 lemon, adding 1-2 tablespoons of water if needed so that the end product is the consistency of a loose compote. Add ~1/2 of the compote to the salad bowl and toss to combine. Garnish with avocado and reserved herbs, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Aside

Time for Savory.

Most the time my week involves simple food: thick slices of crusty bread, smeared with avocado and sprinkled with coarse salt. A toasted sandwich. Roasted root vegetables. A quick soup puréed with whatever I can find on hand, adding meat or legumes if I’m feeling the need for something a little heartier. An easy salad with poached egg. Green smoothies and the like.
IMG_5193 IMG_0802
Lately I’ve been more interested in creating sweets that I almost need an excuse to make something outside of my usual repertoire.
Rhubarb-Pear Tart with Almond Crumble

Rhubarb-Pear Tart with Almond Crumble

This’ll go on for some time. When I start to worry that I’ve forgotten how to cook, I’ll open my books and my refrigerator and glean inspiration, usually starting with the latter and ending with the former. This weekend, I was celebrating a friend’s birthday and wanted to bring something interesting and delicious to share. I had this beautiful bulb of fennel, and I knew that would be the genesis of my creation.
Run-spiration.

Run-spiration.

As per usual, I set out on my run and let things percolate. I found myself thinking about the kale, and dried apricots at home, just waiting for something purposeful. I imagined a weaving them into a salad of hearty grains and a silky-sweet-tart vinaigrette.
photo 3
And so on the way home, I picked up a package of farro and went from there. For those unaware, farro is hearty variant of wheat berry, with origins in Northern Italy. It is similar to barley in appearance; chewy, nutty and yet surprisingly light. It adds great depth and body to soups and is fantastic in grain-based salads.
photo 5
I loosely based this recipe off another inspired recipe from Ottolenghi that calls for roasting fennel and red onion prior to folding into a warm, rice or quinoa-based salad. It seems this recipe has gone through several adaptations, and so I feel comfortable calling this one my own, however for the original post in Cardamom can be found, here.
photo 4
This salad is fantastic when served at room temperature, and even better the next day, when the flavors have had married together a bit. I was witty enough to steal a bowl away for myself before sharing, and was glad to do so, as there was none left when I was making my way home. Now that, friends, is the sign of a good dish! I can only imagine this dish would be even better by roasting fresh apricots along with the fennel and onion.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
 
Roasted Fennel and Apricot Salad with Farro

Roasted Fennel and Apricot Salad with Farro

 
Roasted Fennel and Apricot Salad with Farro
*Note: Soaking the farro for an hour or so will reduce the cooking time a bit. Otherwise, be prepared to wait an hour or more to put it all together. Likewise, if the apricots are too firm, give them a quick soak in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then drain.
Ingredients:
1 c farro
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, sliced about 1/4-in thick
1 large red onion, sliced about 1/4-in thick
4-5 lacinato (flat) kale leaves; sliced into ribbons
1 large handful cilantro, chopped roughly
1/2 c dried apricots (I prefer Turkish, because they are generally softer), cut into quarters
1/3 c chopped walnut
For the vinaigrette:
2 tbsp olive oil
juice and zest of one lemon
1 tsp ginger paste, or 1 tsp grated ginger and a pinch of sugar
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp sea salt
Method:
  1. Boil Farro for ~60 minutes in a large pot with 1 tsp salt and ~5 cups water until al dente (for quick-cooking farro, prepare according to package directions). Drain and let cool slightly
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
  3. Toss fennel and onion in 2 tbsp of the olive oil and a smatter of salt. Spread onto baking sheet and roast for ~40 minutes, giving a turn about 20-30 minutes through, the latter if you want a more charred effect. Let cool slightly, then scrape into a large bowl.
  4. Place kale ribbons on baking sheet and set in warm oven for about 5 minutes. It doesn’t need to be on; you just want to wilt and toast it a bit. Remove from oven and add to onion/fennel mixture.
  5. Make vinaigrette: Combine all ingredients; whisk. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Set aside.
  6. Add farro, walnuts and apricots to roasted vegetables; toss with vinaigrette. Fold in cilantro and adjust seasonings as needed.