Different parts of a whole.

This happened in Seattle. Businesses closed. City streets littered with detritus from last night’s fireworks. I’ve never seen this much enthusiasm in our city. It was nearly impossible not to get caught up in the groundswell.
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Taking a different direction, literally.
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Once in a while, I force myself to take a different path. It’s easy to get comfortable in the familiar, however a simple change in direction, a re-route, if you will, yields new discoveries. While I’m referring to running, the benefit of applying this metaphor to the rest of life’s journey is not lost on me.
As I begrudgingly made my way along the trail, there were trees I’d never noticed before. Fat robins perched on thin branches. I heard the bubbling brook as it meandered downstream and I embraced the crisp in the air.
bubbling brook
And I dreamt of spring.
And citrus.
I can’t seem to veer away from it. A messager du printemps, Spring is calling me; fresh, clean and bright. The invitation to wake up after Winter slumber; the hint of sweetness. Naturally, my mind wandered to food, or specifically, lemon curd. When I got home, I pulled The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters, off the shelf. I love this book; its simple design, classic and mature, with straightforward recipes and a focus on the local and seasonal. The recipes are brilliantly clear and approachable.
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Meyer Lemon Tart

Meyer Lemon Tart

I used Meyer lemons for the juice, and made a luxurious shortbread pastry to showcase the silky custard. Wasting nothing, I made merengue with the leftover whites. I got a bit fancy by adding chopped chocolate and pistachios to some, folding in sliced almonds into others.
I candied the citrus peels with the juiced fruit – the resultant citrus syrup became an impromtu cocktail and soda mixer, a quick and easy hostess gift for last night’s party.
Almond Merengue

Almond Merengue

 

Candied Citrus Peel

Candied Citrus Peel

Enjoy, and much love,
J
Meyer Lemon Tart
*note: I imagine the lemon would well with the flavor of thyme, or ginger, a relatively simple addition to the custard. Folding a bit of orange or lemon zest into the pastry adds another layer of dimension.
One 9-inch prepared tart (see link, here)
Lemon Curd (*adapted from The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters)
6 Meyer lemons, juiced, approximately 1/2 cup
Zest from one lemon
3 egg yolks
2 eggs
2 Tbsp milk
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp tapioca starch, or cornstarch
pinch of salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, diced
Optional: 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
In a medium saucepan, add whisk together all ingredients except the butter. Bring to a medium heat, and add butter. Stir constantly until thickened. As soon as custasrd is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat, add herbs (if using) and let steep for ~10 minutes.
Pour curd into prepared crust. Bake at 375 degrees for ~15-20 minutes, until set. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before serving*.
*For ease of serving, this tart will benefit from a brief chill in the refrigerator.

Nibble.

I’m always tagging recipes to refer to later; all of my cookbooks have dog-eared edges (don’t judge). I have boxes here and there with printed or hand-written favorites, tabs throughout my Cook’s Illustrated magazines, foodie folders in my email accounts. My organizational skills are a bit sub-par, so finding a reference when I’m in creation mode presents somewhat of a challenge.

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The other day I had a bit of time on my hands and so I sat, sifting through some recipes and came across this one from CHOW featuring a honey ricotta tart (you can find the link, here.
I’d saved it over two years ago, as soon as I saw it, I knew I’d found my template.
I’ve been on a bit of a honey kick, as evident from recent posts, and had a craving for a pie or cheesecake at strategic points throughout the week.
Or daily.
Whatever.
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When I saw this pie, it brought to mind the cheesecake I’d made with chèvre. And over the next several hours, my mind wandered. I dreamt of salted pistachio with bitter orange, and floral honey with the tang of goat cheese.
Sadly my cheese benefactor was out of town this week, so rather than relying on her supply, I had to settle on store-bought chèvre.
Sadly, Beatrice could not contribute to my efforts

Beatrice.

I did manage to include the last bit of wildflower honey produced on the farm. I love using ingredients that are local and familiar; it makes the experience that much more personal.

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The flavors couldn’t have been more well-matched. The scent of orange, woven through the crust…it was hard to refrain from nibbling a pinch before I added the filling.
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A simple dollop of crème fraîche with a bit of reserved pistachios and a drizzle of honey elevate this tart to center-stage.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Salted Pistachio, Orange and Honey Hart
Ingredients:
1 1/4 c flour
1/3 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 c powdered sugar
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
8 tbsp unsalted butter, diced and expertly chilled
1/2 c ice water*
*Note: you will only need ~3-4 Tbsp
Filling:
8 oz goat cheese
2 large eggs
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1/3 c honey
2 Tbsp sugar
Topping:
2 tbsp salted pistachios, chopped
Pinch of coarse sea salt
Method:

1. Combine flour, salt, sugar and orange zest.
2. Using either a pasty blender or food processor, fold in diced butter and blend just until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
3. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing with either hands or spatula until the dough just starts to come together. Mixture should be a bit craggy and on the drier side, but should come together if pinched.
4. Wrap dough in plastic or parchment and allow to rest for about an hour in the refrigerator.
5. Remove pastry and using a rolling pin, roll into a flat disc and press into a 9-in tart pan with removable bottom.
6. Prick bottom several times with a fork and set in freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up.
6. Preheat oven to 425°.
7. Line tart pan with a sheet of aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
Bake for about 15 minutes, remove weights and foil, lower heat to 350° and bake for 10 more minutes, just until golden-hued.
While tart shell is baking, prepare the filling:
1. Cream honey, sugar, cheese and orange zest together in a large mixing bowl, scraping down sides as needed.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.
4. Pour mixture into prepared crust and place on baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle top with a pinch of salt and the pistachios and bake for another ten minutes, or until the middle is just set.
5. Cool completely on wire rack.
Serve as is, or garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche, and a drizzle of honey.

Copy Cat. Or, if Baklava had a Sister.

Even though I’ve completely saturated myself with sweet indulgences this holiday season, I’ll never deny a good pastry. My oh so lovely friend Donna sent me a link a few week’s back to an online zine that featured a couple of pies from the famed Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn. She’d made a pear pie with juniper berries that sounded fantastic. You can find the link, here.

Honey almond pie; aka Baklava's sexy sister

Honey almond pie; aka Baklava’s sexy sister

Once I saw the recipe for a salt-studded honey pie, I knew I had to make it mine. It looked simply stunning. And yet…I thought I could personalize it a bit with a few enhancements. I’d recently been gifted a jar of fabulous local honey.  I wanted to do right with it, and this pie seemed like the perfect vehicle to transcend it into something extraordinary.

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The recipe called for vanilla paste. I thought I could do a bit better by using whole vanilla bean. I scraped the seeds out of the bean and set them in sugar, with a bit of freshly-grated lemon zest. I love the sensuous feeling of using my fingers to combine the sugar with aromatics, the sugar crystals unlocking the essential oils and perfuming the air with vanilla and lemon-scented goodness.

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I added sliced almonds to the top, to accentuate the crunch of salt and contrast the silky filling. This pie and baked went from a pale sandy yellow to a dark caramel brown; the almonds developing a tan as the crust bubbled and spit.

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Drizzled with a bit of thyme and vanilla-infused honey, sprinkled with flaky Maldon salt and crunchy toasted almonds, this pie is pure heaven. Probably one of the flakiest pastry crusts I’ve made in some time, which I attribute to a bit of old-school pastry cutter technique. A quick blitz in the food processor flirts a bit too much with the gluten in the flour. If nothing else, this crust inspired me to go back to my humble ways of tactile experience with the dough. When you work with your hands, the hands become the intuitive barometer of when something is near completion. The bits of butter strewn throughout the dough formed delicate air pockets that left layers of flaky, meltingly-tender crust.

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Oh! And the flavor! The filling, similar in consistency to pecan pie, but without the cloying, one-dimensional sweetness of corn syrup. The elements of buttery pastry, crunchy almonds, and sweet honey reminded me instantly of baklava, the incredible Turkish sweet.

I am already dreaming of when I’ll make it again.

Much Love,

J

Honey Almond Pie

Note: I used a basic recipe for pate sucree; you can find recipes and techniques in previous blog posts, however I encourage you to try to make the crust without using a food processor. There are excellent tutorials for basic pie crust techniques available online.

For the filling:

3/4-cup sugar

1 tsp lemon zest

Seeds of one whole vanilla bean pod (reserve pod for later)

3/4-cup honey

1/4-pound (one stick) butter, melted

1/2-cup cream (not half and half)

3 eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp cornmeal

2 tsp white vinegar

You will also need:

1 prepared pie crust, frozen

~2-3 tablespoons sliced almonds

1/4 c honey

Several sprigs fresh thyme

Vanilla bean pod

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl, rub together sugar, lemon zest and vanilla seeds until aromatic. Set aside.
  3. Combine honey, salt, and cornmeal; whisk together, then add melted butter, cream and eggs, one at a time, whisking until well-incorporated.
  4. Add scented sugar and whisk again well, then pour through sieve into prepared crust.
  5. Bake for ~35 minutes, then sprinkle with slivered almonds. At this point, you may need to cover lightly with parchment to prevent excessive browning. Bake for another 20 minutes until set. This is best tested by giving a gently nudge to the pan; it’s okay if the filling is slightly jiggly; it’ll continue to cook once removed from the oven. However, if it’s sloppy, keep pie in the oven and check at ~5-minute intervals until set.
  6. Remove from oven, sprinkle with a flourish of sea salt and let it cool. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

When ready to serve, warm honey with a few sprigs of thyme and the vanilla pod, then let steep for ~10 minutes. Strain into a jar, then drizzle over pie and garnish with a few fresh thyme leaves.

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. 

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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

Feed your soul…

It’s good to get a girl out of the city. Just a couple of days, immersed in the awesome wonder and beauty of nature.

Necessary rejuvenation.
White Horse Mountain

White Horse Mountain

White Horse Mountain

Stillaguamish River

And so we drove to Darrington to spend the weekend at the family farm. Nestled on a hill overlooking a small pond, far away from city lights, acres of lush land, trees, nothing to hear but the sound of dragonflies snapping themselves against the glass-paneled walls, denied access to the indoors. Being greeted by the sweet smell of cedar as I enter the cabin. It’s enough to just take a deep breath and…exhale gratitude. It was exactly what I needed; a place of respite, a place to disconnect, to ground, and to eat!
Ooh! and kiss the goats.
Kissing the babies

Kissing the babies

 

Africa
I had a few ideas of what I wanted to make prior to our departure. First, I am obsessed with the new collaboration by Yotam Ottalenghi and Sami Tamimi; Jerusalem. I was gifted this cookbook, full of gorgeous color photos and mouth-watering delights. I aspire to cook every recipe in this book. This weekend I elected to make the Lamb Stew with Cannellini Beans. The broth had an unctuous, mildly sweet profile, and with 20 cloves of garlic (twenty!), surprisingly didn’t leave us smelling like stinking roses for the remainder of our stay. I accented the stew with some crushed cilantro, mixed with lemon, sugar, salt, chile, ground coriander and olive oil. It’s kind of like loose adaptation of Zhoug, a gremolata-style condiment. I must say it was perfect; it brought a citrusy brightness complementing the heft of the soup perfectly.
Lamb stew with cannellini beans

Lamb stew with cannellini beans

I’d been dying to make something sweet and cakey ever since last week’s incredible uber-blueberry cornmeal muffins (of which I’ll try to write a recipe as soon as I recall my method!). David’s mother sent me a clipping from the NY times which served as inspiration:  almond cake with figs; dense, honey-sweetened and rich with eggs and butter. I had a couple of perfectly-ripened peaches on hand, and so the recipe underwent a bit of metamorphosis. this peach-blueberry almond cake is something between a cake and a tart, perfect with afternoon tea, or eaten cold with some Greek yogurt for breakfast. We served it after dinner with a bit of freshly-whipped cream.
With fresh whip!

With fresh whip!

Peach-Blueberry Almond Cake

Peach-Blueberry Almond Cake

Peach-Blueberry Almond Cake
*Adapted from NY Times Fig and Almond Cake
Ingredients:
1 c almond flour
1/2 c unbleached pastry flour (or all purpose flour)
1/4 c fine sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
4 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 med-large ripe peach, sliced into 1/4-inch crescents
1/2 c blueberries
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Butter a 9-inch tart tin with removable bottom (line bottom with parchment, if you prefer).
  3. Combine all dry ingredients in medium-sized mixing bowl.
  4. To a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, honey, lemon zest and extract, then whisk in melted butter.
  5. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and fold in the wet mixture, stirring until just combined.
  6. Spread batter into tart pan. Fan peaches on top, leaving small amount of space between the slices. Toss the blueberries casually over the top, allowing them to roll into the crevasses.
  7. Sprinkle either a bit of Demerera sugar, or other granular sugar over the top (~3 teaspoons)
  8. Bake for ~30 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch.

Upon our return home, we made yet another of Yotam’s recipes for Cauliflower cake. You can find the recipe online. A savory cake, reminiscent of something between a quiche and a custard, this dish packs tons of flavor and is an excellent source of protein. I served it with a salad and a simple vinaigrette. So good!

Cauliflower Cake

Cauliflower Cake

With love (and full belly).

~J