Tuesday, March 25, 2014

An ideal Saturday

I woke up late to a light-filled room.  This house has really great light, which I didn't notice until we moved in, but for which I am grateful nearly every day.  We went outside on the deck with Toby so he could bask in the sun before we hopped into the car and drove south for a hike.  The first trail we attempted seemed to fall off at a 90 degree angle straight down to the beach below.  A fellow "explorer" was intrepid enough to engage a man and his dogs in conversation, discovering along the way the much easier path across the highway.  The man with the dogs described it as a Disney land hike, which sounded just right by me.  We found it, took it and came out beside the beach, where we were greeted by a very wet dog named Duke and two little girls crawling about in the sand, one very talkative and the other quite shy.

After a long walk, we fell back into the car and headed home, enjoying the sunshine, stomachs growling.  A quick stop at the store got us beers (and butter--we were out, if you can imagine) and we headed home.  Me to the kitchen and J to work on my computer.

I had a rather aggressive list planned:  sour orange marmalade, oatmeal sandwich bread, smothered cabbage and rice soup and maybe even a cake for good measure (I was thinking rhubarb).  I sketched the timing out in my head as I grabbed a not quite cold German weissbier from the fridge.  First up was getting the braised cabbage going, then blooming the yeast for the bread.  I quickly dropped the cake idea, but ran full steam ahead with the remaining three, sure of my success with two (the bread and cabbage are old favorites).

Unfortunately, I put too much vinegar in the cabbage, which was only saved (and not completely) by swirling some ricotta into the finished soup and showering the whole mess with parm.  The bread came out right, and is still going strong on the countertop.  As for the marmalade, I'd probably slice the peel into thinner strips next time, and wouldn't let the sugar caramelize like I accidentally did while distracted by The Goonies on television.  But it was lovely with salted butter on toast, thick strips be damned.

Was my evening a great culinary success?  No, not by a long shot.  But I got an edible dinner on the table, made my first batch of marmalade, and set myself to the task of becoming proficient at making preserves.  This likely means I'll need to do some online investigation and maybe finally get Ms. Ferber's confiture book.  (I can find just about any justification for a new cookbook, I swear.)  Most importantly, I was able to do exactly what I wanted that evening, with good beer and good company to boot, an all too rare occurrence these days.  

Monday, March 28, 2011

Zuni saves the day

When you feel like nothing good has emerged from your kitchen in ages, and you're starting to wonder if it's not just that you've been stressed or distracted or out of sorts,

make this.

And all will be right again.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Time to bake

To make myself feel normal, I have two solutions: Go to a dance class or bake.

Since coming to Ann Arbor, I've been doing the latter quite often. While there aren't exactly a plethora of dance studios around here, there's always somewhere to buy butter, eggs, sugar and flour.

Which is reassuring when you have recipes with titles like lemon olive oil cake or sweet potato pound cake nagging at you.

I made the lemon olive oil cake two weeks ago, and it is luscious. The recipe comes from a bakery I staged at for two weeks this summer after my "real" (aka legal) job was over. I cannot describe how much fun I had. The women who work at Floriole are all wonderful, especially Sandra, the owner. Follow the recipe in that one exactly: use a fruity lovely olive oil, take your time pouring in the olive oil, and you should be good to go. Believe me when I say people will be falling all over themselves for a slice.

The sweet potato pound cake was my diversion last night. Two of my roommates and I were studying at the kitchen table, when I put down my highlighter, walked into the kitchen, turned on the oven and popped open a bottle of wine. It was time to bake. The rest of the evening was spent drinking wine, laughing and singing along to oldies music.

I followed this recipe pretty much exactly, but would do a few things differently next time. After roasting the sweet potatoes (at 350 degrees for around an hour, until a knife slides in and out without resistance), I would puree them in a food processor to make sure you end up with a really smooth texture. I would also take Molly's suggestion to put the glaze through a sieve before drizzling it on top of the cake, as it's prone to lumps. Otherwise, it's really lovely--a spice doughnut in cake form.

Happy fall, everyone. Enjoy it while you can--our forecast is for snow flurries tonight.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

There, we feasted

We came, we saw, we were conquered--by Tokyo.

There was the gorgeous bento box I picked up for lunch in the bottom of a department store one day, full of flavor and texture.

There was the traditional Japanese breakfast served at the last ryokan (Japanese style hotel) we stayed at, brought in on a tray by an adorable woman who hummed under her breath while setting things up just so, oblivious to Jimmy still sleeping on his tatami mat in the corner.

I should also tell you about the sushi meal to end all sushi meals. We dined at Kyubei, a place famous even to Tokyo residents, including the staff at our first ryokan who kindly helped us set up a reservation.

There, we feasted. For the first hour and a half, it was just Jimmy, me and our sushi chef. He made us feel at home by telling us to eat with our hands, naming each fish, and working so quickly, deftly and gently with each piece of fish that I could do nothing but sit mesmerized. After each piece of sushi, I involuntarily emitted a (quiet) groan of pleasure, shook my head, then sighed "oishii" once more to the sushi chef.

And, of course, there was the delicious sushi breakfast at the Tokyo fish market, incredibly fresh and tasty.

Our tour around the market itself was something to be remembered. We were dodging in and our of alleys, jumping out of the way of carts and fish salesman, fascinated by the sheer number of fish and the dizzying array of shapes and sizes.

We even managed to take a quick trip up north of the city to the mountains of Nikko.

An unforgettable whirlwind tour, to be sure.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Our breaking points

You will not believe what I found at the farmer's market this past Saturday. Who knew that we grew fraises des bois in the States? I'm sure the fact that the head farmer is French didn't hurt things.

If you're never had the exquisite pleasure of sampling one of these gorgeous tiny strawberries, think of it as a concentrated strawberry floral flavor bomb, so delicate that a good quarter were squished by the time we brought them back to the apartment. However, since the farmer had thrown in an ENTIRE extra box with a smile and a "Mademoiselle", I didn't even mind much.

Fraises des bois mush is better than none at all.

On another note, Jimmy and I have been trying to cut down on our grocery costs, and didn't buy a single thing last week (except for some fresh ricotta from the Italian grocer two blocks away to pair with rhubarb compote, but we all have our breaking points), in an effort to use up the rather alarming supply of canned goods he's built up over the past two years. It was also a decision motivated in part because of the last minute trip we've lined up for Fourth of July week:


I can't tell you how excited I am about this. It'll be Jimmy's first trip to Tokyo (we're going in conjunction with research he's doing for a professor) and I can't wait to be back in Japan myself. There is something bewitching about that country that's hard to put a finger on.

I foresee quite a bit of sushi, mochi, honeydew melon popsiscles, onigiri and royal milk tea in my future.

I'd love to hear any suggestions you might have for places to eat, things to see, etc.

In exchange I'll leave you with rhubarb compote. Hopefully you're enjoying the tail end of its season, and are as sad to see it go as I am.

Rhubarb Compote

2 lbs. fresh rhubarb, leaves removed, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
1 Tbs. vanilla extract

Throw the entire mess into a saucepan, stir it up well and let it bubble away over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes. Let it thicken at room temperature before slathering on toast, spooning over fresh ricotta or throwing into the middle of a french-style yogurt cake.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

and the living is easy

I am one day away from being able to say that I made it out alive. Unscathed? Not so sure, but alive is a good way to be.

It feels as if I spent most of the past year twirling by myself in a corner, arms outstretched and head up to the sky, while others engaged in complicated choreography all around me.

Now I have the summer to work, sleep, exercise, watch movies in the park, turn myself back into a human being...and reevaluate. Summer is a good time for all of those things, but especially the last item on the list, I find. The days are long, which means there are more evenings on the patio that stretch past twilight. There are bunches of asparagus and strawberries now, tomatoes and peaches just around the corner.

And soon there will be pies...lots of pies.

(images above were taken at this time last year in Louviers).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A wee bit more time

After a year of plotting and planning, I now hold a polaroid camera in my hands.


And you know what? It really is as much fun as I thought it would be. As soon as I get a wee photo scanner, I can show off my new toy.

Until then, you'll have to satisfy yourself with a poladroid version of a digital photo from Chicago, circa 2009.

Also, I promise to update more this summer. Let's just say that everything they say about law school--totally true.

Oh well, in a month, I'll be back in the working world for a few months, and have more time to devote to my new toy and cooking.