Seeking Perfection (and Cake)

Theres a new NYT column from Yotam Ottolenghhi titled: Eat Your Sugar in which he speaks to the wonderful experience of sharing food with another human being. That “moment of bliss that you see when someone bites into something sweet and delicious for the first time”.

I know exactly how he feels. It’s the same joy I get when I enter into a sweet experiment and then offer my creation to friends and family. Watching the recipient close their eyes and smile as they taste notes of love that were part of its preparation are one of the most rewarding experiences I can testify. It’s on par to how I feel when I get inspired by something and then set about making it my own.

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A month ago, a friend sent me an Instagram pic of an insanely gorgeous crepe cake. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Layers of cream and marmalade between whisper-thin golden crepes. Having made marmalade recently, I thought this would be the perfect foil, and so a sort of experiment ensued. I made a pastry cream steeped with ginger and saffron, prepped a tower of crepes, and gathered my blood orange marmalade. My expectations turned ever so slightly to disappointment as the resultant cake appeared less glamorous than I’d anticipated.

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And yet, I served it anyway; with minimal apologies, because it was made with love and some damn fine ingredients, to say the least. The response was no less than sincere appreciation and enjoyment.

It’s only through tactile experience that we learn what works and what doesn’t, as well as how to improve upon the task the next go-around. We also learn that perfection is not necessarily the endgame and that expecting perfection can be a bit misguided. Sometimes things are a bit messy; just like life. I can’t think of a better metaphor.

But not to worry! I’ll leave you with something delicious:

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Take these cookies, sub in half brown sugar, fold some melted chocolate into the dough, as well as a healthy handful of dried cherries, and sprinkle generously with Maldon or fleur de sel before baking. Bliss is guaranteed! (just ask MKN)

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Enjoy, and much love,
J

In Which She Finds Salad to be More Her Liking.

Pear Almond Upside-Down Cake

Pear Almond Upside-Down Cake

To put it mildly, writing this past year has been a struggle. During the past several months, I’ve had to wade through the cobwebs of my mind for a bit of inspiration. It’s been a bit frustrating and has at times left me feeling somewhat forlorn.

Enter: Summer Fruit.
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Being a city gal no dirt call her own, I get my perishables from the Farmer’s market, brick-and-mortar, and a bit of foraging. In Summer months, I’ve got dear friends and family who generously share with me a bit of their harvest.

This year, it seemed to come all at once. Tomatoes, pears, plums. The kind of fruit that requires one to be ready for action. Needless to say, I produced several small-batch wonders.
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~An orgasmic caramel-vanilla pear butter
~A zippy plum chutney
~Blushing strawberry preserves.
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And then the cakes…I have made several over the past couple of weeks. I’ll debate anyone who disagrees with me that cake is a perfectly acceptable stand-in at breakfast. Add some eggs, or plain yogurt, and there you have it: a complete meal. My favorite cake as of late is a variation on this olive-oil ricotta cake in which I substituted some cornmeal for part of the flour.
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But what’s carried me through this past week and sustained me throughout the long hours and hectic days is a hearty dish of my own genesis. I was perusing the internet and reading a post on grain salads in one of the Food52 columns, which got me thinking about my pantry. Needless to say, it had been a while since I’d done any serious shopping and my cupboards a bit paltry, however I had a bit of red rice tucked away, along with some coconut chips, from which sparked an interest in a salad fleck with toasted coconut and pistachios, and a kaleidoscope of colorful veggies, complemented with a spicy ginger miso dressing.
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This salad was so bright and hearty, the pistachios flecking about like little green jewels. It’s appealing on a multi-sensory level. I ate it for several days running.
I imagine this salad would easily lend itself to substitution, say; wild or brown rice, farro, wheat berries or another grain. Ditto that for the pistachios. The key is to let the grains cool thoroughly before combining them with other ingredients. I like to line a pan with parchment and pour the grains out onto the parchment to let the excess moisture evaporate before mixing with the other components.
Buddha's Salad

Buddha’s Salad

I’m calling it “Buddha’s Salad,” because, well…it feels appropriate.
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Enjoy, and much love,
J
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Buddha’s Salad
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3 c. cooked red rice (or sub another grain)
2 c shredded red cabbage
1 c shredded carrot
1/2 c. finely sliced green onion (green parts only)
1/2 c. fresh cilantro
1 c. toasted coconut chips
1/2 c toasted pistachios
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For the dressing:
1/4 c rice vinegar
2 tbsp miso paste, more to taste
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp grated ginger (I often cheat and use the Ginger People brand grated ginger)
1/2 tsp red chile flakes
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Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients; toss with salad mains to coat. Eat with exuberance.