23 June 2010

Summer Memories

I just found this photo in my blerg archives from last year. It's Jacky on the squash phone! Who is it Jacky?? Breaks my heart, those little paws. 
I was looking in the archives to see just how ripe the cherries were at this point last year, and there on June 16th is a photo of a huge bowl of rosy cherries. So. Not to sound bitter or anything.


I was planning on being full of despair if it was another hideous, cold day today, but it's not, so instead I'm just really tired. The sun really takes it out of you, when you know it's just right there outside your window!!!
Seriously though, this spring has sucked it big time as far as the weather goes. I'd say we held up pretty well as a people, we Portlanders, but sadly the cherries did not. I have some in my tree, but at least 30% less than last year and they are all green and tiny if not rotten and shriveled. Those cherries up there in the photo are from California, where the sun still shines and plants don't just die on you like traitors. Just kidding cherry tree! I know it's not your fault. But I am a little pissed at the sun for being so distant and flakey. 
Meanwhile, the raspberry bushes are out in full force. We have this routine where every day I go out and eat all of the ripe ones off the bush, and then the next day there is a whole new batch ready for me. It's perfect. I get to eat just enough to not get a stomach ache, and then the slightly unripe ones can get enough love from the plant to ripen for the next day. The few that escape my discovery and become overripe go to the chickens who are bat shit crazy for them. They, unlike the bluebirds, aren't smart enough to pick them on their own- YET. But luckily for them I like to watch them scramble around with raspberries on their beaks and I feed them by hand. The little darlings. 

One last thing: how good does this recipe look? I love her. I'm going to make that soon-ish.

22 June 2010


I just bought the beautiful cook book Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce and I am in love with it. First I just admired the photography, and then I began reading each of the recipes and falling for not just the recipes but the language too. The way she describes each recipe brings personal warmth and respect to food and the art of cooking. I am a bit of a voyeur, and something about reading about another persons' kitchen always sets me right off the deep end. 

I am obsessively learning about wine these days because I am suddenly in charge of the list at the restaurant I work at- a big undertaking. I have so much to learn! One of my favorite parts of the process is learning how to describe what I am tasting. This requires me to slow down and actually think while drinking- a challenge. I am not usually a slow-down kind of girl. But in learning to taste wine, I am learning to taste everything. It's obvious, but each ingredient in a dish is there for a reason. Being a speed-eater, I am guilty of not even tasting half of what I eat. This is sad and must stop. In Good to the Grain, Kim Boyce describes the flavors of each grain and what they can do for a dish. She uses words like "nutty", "milky" and "grassy". I love these words. I want to taste them. Maybe if I slow down, I will.

On Sunday, I decided to try one of her recipes. I used a different fruit filling than she did, but I am mostly interested in how she's using all these nutty grains anyhow. I made corn flour galettes filled with blueberries and raspberries from the yard. The corn flour added a wonderfully gritty (in a good way) texture and a sweet, earthy flavor. I was so happy with the result. Had it been my usual a.p. flour crust, I might have skipped thinking about what it actually tasted like until I got to the fruit, but with the corn crust I stopped to consider what I was tasting. Today I made waffles and threw in some spelt flour, just to see what would happen. They were golden brown in color, still crisp and light, but also had a malty, honey flavor. Grains! They don't have to make food heavy and taste like cardboard.
I'm hooked. Next I will be trying her quinoa porridge, perfect for freezing Portland summer mornings.

16 June 2010

Apricot Braid

What do you do for someone who just had a baby? You bring them food, and plenty of it. My friend Holly just gave birth to her daughter Alice Mae (is there a cuter name? No.), and I wanted to bring her something comforting for breakfast when I went over to meet the little monkey. I had just been reading about this recipe over on Smitten Kitchen, and so I decided to give it a whirl. It calls for a lovely sweet yeasted dough, a cream cheese spread and lemon curd. Well, I have a weird problem that makes no sense- I don't like lemon curd. I think it tastes metallic and sometimes sweet lemon breads remind me of lobster. I never claimed to be fully, you know, with it. 
So anyway I thought I would swap out the lemon curd for homemade apricot jam, and then things would be right in the world (besides the whole oil spill thing, etc.). I was right! Apricot was just right in this pastry. It was still as tart as I imagine the lemon would be, but also warm and golden flavored. The cream cheese was essential, and next time I might even add a little bit more. I served this with dark cherries and pineapple soaked with booze, cause thats what new moms need. 

Apricot Braid
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (Really the only thing I did differently was swapping lemon for apricot.)

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup (1 ounce) unbleached all-purpose flour

Sponge (above)
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) sour cream or yogurt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, 1 beaten for dough, 1 beaten with 1 teaspoon water for brushing bread
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
Large, sparkling white sugar for sprinkling

Apricot cream cheese filling
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons (5/8 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sour cream
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (2 ounces) homemade apricot jam

First make the sponge. In a small bowl, combine the sponge ingredients. Stir well to combine, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to proof for 10 to 15 minutes.

Then make the dough! Combine the sponge, sour cream, butter, egg, sugar, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add flour and mix with the paddle attachment until the dough is a rough, shaggy mass. Switch to the dough hook and knead on until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 5 to 6 minutes. ??Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until quite puffy and nearly doubled.

For the cream cheese filling, combine all the filling ingredients (except the apricot jam) in a small bowl, mixing until smooth and lump-free. Reserve the filling and apricot jam until ready to fill the braids.

To make the bread, gently deflate the dough and roll it out on a very well floured counter to a 10″ x 15″ rectangle. Transfer rectangle to a large piece of parchment paper. With the side of your hand, lightly press two lines down the dough lengthwise, dividing it into three equal columns. Spread the cream cheese filling down the center section, leaving the top and bottom two inches free of filling. Spread the apricot jam over the cream cheese filling.
To form the mock braid, cut crosswise strips one inch apart down the length of the outer columns of you dough (the parts without filling). Make sure you have an equal amount of 1-inch strips down the right and left sides. Remove the four corner segments. To “braid”, begin by folding top flap down and bottom flap up over the filling. Lift the top dough strip and gently bring it diagonally across the filling. Repeat on the right side, and continue down the entire braid, alternating strips until you are out. You can tuck the last couple that hand off decoratively under the end of the braid.
Carefully transfer the dough and the parchment paper to a baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic and set it aside to rise for 45 to 50 minutes, until quite puffy.

To bake, preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the loaves with egg wash, and sprinkle with coarse sparkling sugar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

08 June 2010


Yesterday I sauteed asparagus, snap peas, pea tendrils, onions, garlic and gai lan, put it over pasta, stirred in some raw eggs and grated parmesan, and called it lunch. I served it to the big workin' men who are turing our garage into a sunken make-out party living room! I can't say I'm into heavy lifting, but I am into heavy lunches.

Also, check out this painting Kevin found in the rafters above the new room. I am hoping that when my brother comes to visit us he will paint Jacky in and maybe light the forest on fire. It's a real find.

06 June 2010

That Bread Everyone's Always Talking About/Already Blogged About

I know, I know. Everyone and their blind grandma already made this bread. Well, so did I and it's just so attractive that I couldn't help but put it up on the old Staff Meal blerg. Look at that loose crumb! And that distinctively french looking crust! You're probably saying to yourself or to the dog sitting on your lap, "That loaf is so picturesque- it must be her tenth or eleventh attempt!" You can go ahead tell your dog that it's my first try and I'm not usually a natural at things so this has to be a really easy recipe. Being the lazy, no, efficient, broad that I am, I won't bother copying down the recipe for you. After all, Smitten Kitchen already did it, the New York Times is hot for it, Wednesday Chef was all over it, and heck, even Martha wanted a piece of the action. Of course, the original  comes from Jim Lahey (not from the Trailer Park Boys, sadly) over at Sullivan Street Bakery. Which I have never been to, but if anyone wants to fly me there for a tour I would probably go. 
All you need for this recipe is some flour, yeast, salt, water and a dutch oven. Go fourth and bake bread! Oh yeah and plan ahead because the dough has to ferment for 17 long hours.