Plucked, for memory keeping

IMG_2311

IMG_2279
Pea shoots, cucumber and goat cheese salad. Toss the greens with clean hands for your warmth will dress each green thing. Starting with cucumber, why not! Followed by pea shoots. Toss together. Nice to sprinkle chives or garlic mustard flowers plucked from walks. 

IMG_2241
Ana working on her book, a lamp came about our dining room!

 

 

Another dear tuber

Almost May, rainy as ever. Everything’s sprouting. I’ll take my bath and close my eyes and hope tomorrow I am sprouting too.

IMG_2332

Yuca Coconut Banana Cake
300g yuca, peeled and chopped
1 ½ (21g) tbsp soft butter (Ana suggested coconut oil next time and I don’t see why not :-))
20g coconut flakes
75g coconut sugar
~ salt
~ nutmeg, fennel pollen, black pepper
150g banana, ripe, peeled and chopped
95g coconut milk
Pulverize the yuca in a processor until gritty and squeeze out some of the juices using a towel. Fold in soft butter, followed by coconut flakes, sugar, salt and spices. Blend banana and coconut milk to homogeneous and stir into mixture. Bake in buttered tin at 350ºF for 40 minutes. Adding more coconut flakes atop the last 10 minutes of baking. Cool to room temp before serving. I’m going to have mine with yogurt and some sliced banana!

IMG_2354
for Ana and Sarah ❤

IMG_2392
Tchau!

Ana’s cake

IMG_0001

to skim the skum
to be clarified stock
to be as juicy and nutritious as bone and vegetable water
bearing all of my past lives
without anything to cling to
i’ll ladle all of myself into a bowl
don’t forget to drink me up
i’m ardently simmering to be nothing more than en,lightened
and to give nothing less

IMG_0006

Japanese Sweet Potato Loaf
This recipe was inspired by my roommate and dear friend Ana, her person always inspires me to bake for her.
225g AP flour (I used Magog, a hard red wheat variety, flour milled by Maine Grains)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
Palmful of crumbled dried sage (in the summertime pick them fresh and lay on a flat surface in the sun till sunkissed and crisp. In the wintertime buy from the market and lay on a dinner plate above the radiator till dry and crisp)
Heaping ¼ tsp ground cumin
10 scrapes across microplane of nutmeg
250g sunflower or safflower oil
225g mashed roasted Japanese sweet potato
250g sugar
¾ tsp salt
3 large eggs
2 tbsp sugar for topping
Think about it like this, 1,2,3! Set your oven to 325ºF and lightly butter a loaf tin. In a bowl just large enough, fluff flour along with leavenings and scents together. In a separate and big mixing bowl, whisk oil, mash, sugar and salt, until homogenous. continue to whisk now adding an egg one at at time, mixing in completely before following with another egg. Fold in the fluffy flour mix, when batter forms, transfer to the prepared tin. Lightly sprinkle with sugar if you love a little sandy sweet texture on a crust. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Cool in tin for 20 minutes before unmolding.

A burning bundle of sage to waft the heaviness away

IMG_0009
IMG_0005

How many brix?

Lately, all that’s been on my mind has been warm drinks. I suppose it could be my practically rotting cold fingers. A bit too far away from the irrigation system. As they’ve always been. There has got to be more than just morning rocketfuel? And my daily cup of joe has been a delightful journey, starting from not, to necessity, to a fateful espresso, to specialty beans, to now. Still a morning brew but perhaps a bit more to find under my cap. I promise, the coffee snobbishness has worn away! Because in any scenario, what else can be as comforting and essential as that muddy brown pool of delight?

White coffee of course! Too quick and simple? That’s how I felt after my first cup. This recipe and name is something I came across from a cookbook called Ducksoup, written by Tom Hill and Claire Lattin, chef and owners of three charming eateries in London. Which I haven’t yet visited, but I’m eager to do so. Especially see their new Picklery. Without the recipe, just an idea of ingredients, I got to work. Setting the kettle to a boil and a sorting out a favorite mug. (It is funny that my favored mug, a sort of South American high tea inspired cup shaped with clay, is my roommate Ana’s. Ana, we will just have to live together always or figure a good trade!) Fulfilling a spoon least twice with honey (it’s likely I had a sweet tooth and the idea seemed most accurate), a dash of essenced water and finally pouring the already boiling cup of water atop. The most lovely thing about this particular warm drink and my feeling of a full understanding of the name, is that it has the same body as coffee. That conditioning mouthfeel I think is what sets coffee apart from breakfast tea. I’m almost positive it’s a large part of why we love and feel nourished by coffee so much. Is it a stretch to ask, could that be the same consistency of breast milk? Just a fleeting thought…

what can be cast with porcelain
can also with wet earth
i’ll always choose you
just as i do each meal
what grows in abundance i’ll pick
and on the day we celebrate
i won’t forget the where the gifts came from

In the end, I learned I nearly had Tom Hill and Claire Lattin’s recipe backwards. Being, they add more essenced water than honey. Perhaps their idea for the name White Coffee, is that its strong perfume is as calming as a cup of coffee may be. A bit dry to the tongue, yet nonetheless soothing. A bit embarrassed about my jump to conclusions, I decided I quite very much like my recipe, as much as a mistake as it may have been!
So, in the evenings before our landowner turns on the heat and all ends are covered but my creeping hands, I’ve been charmed to have a drink like this, when I can’t do for caffeine but welcoming something to settle myself in or slick myself off into a slumber. A bears honey filled belly slumber.

remember what it was like to live atop this rock
honey from the bees
valiant roses atwine
slumber with the bears
upon this earthly cold rock

White coffee
This recipe is inspired from Tom Hill and Claire Lattins cookbook Ducksoup. Theirs being with an opposite ratio of things, (2 tbsp essenced water to 1 tsp honey). And not only that, their recipe calls for orange blossom water but myself having rose. To my surprise, orange won’t be missed until I have that in my pantry too.  I have always wanted to make a perfumed orange blossom brioche cake, a take on Provence’s famed Tropézienne. Perhaps then that cake will be a fine pairing with Mr. Hill and Mrs. Lattins proper white coffee recipe. 
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp rose water
150 ml hot water, recently boiled from the kettle
Stir all the ingredients together in a favored mug and enjoy.

I love myself

Letters to the New Year:

dearest new years,

your rays reflect so strongly off the snow i can see into myself.

thanks for the update,
jessica
. . .

dearest new years,

what are you but new soil to plant myself in?

sprawling scratchlings within my journal have become seeds
such i have planted in your soil
i know they need tending…

will there be a harvest at the end of the year?
a distribution of my own being?

jessica
. . .

dearest new years,

i have to remember
that the most important step in filling this void is
truly deeply loving my, self
with, out comparison

i will become what i feed
i will bloom from what i have already affirmed

until if there should be a next letter,
jessica
. . .

Breakfast couscous
Thy, self!
1 tea cup filled with milk* or water (mine being half flax milk, half water)
half a tea cup filled with raisins
1 heaping spoonful of nut butter
pinch of salt
half a tea cup filled with Moroccan couscous
half a tea cup filled with blanched almond slivers
Brink milk, nut butter and raisins to a boil in a small saucepan. Add remaining ingredients and continue to boil for one minute longer.  When plump and steaming, eat right from the pot with a wide spoon. Or be civil and set in bowl with perhaps a smaller spoon.
*If using an alternative milk I would recommend flax as it holds up fairly well when heated. I’ve had perils with almond, separating and then just to make sure I got the picture, going sour.  I’ve never tried hemp or oat, or coconut for that matter! Be what may. I lesson will be learned in the end anyhow! But you know, regular milk will do wonders!

Winters bouquet

ApplesandPrunes5

A number of weeks ago I brought a bowl of speckled yellow green apples into my room to take a photo of. An unusual variety, with a rough skin airing on the side of a mans five o’clock shadow. Nicely nestled in the bowl atop a little dining table I’ve wedged into my bedroom, formally patio, that’s why it’s so sunny! (And why I sleep with two comforters and sometimes a knit hat) I decided to keep the bowl of apples in the bedroom, in place of flowers which have long since tucked in until spring.

ApplesandPrunes6

Seeing an apple soaking in the early mornings winters sun seems quite appealing to me. I’ve been munching on an apple in my bedroom many mornings lately when I’m not in a rush. As I tidy the bed, unknot my hair, dress and chat with Thomas, my pet bird, about today’s plans. Have you ever seen Benjamin Franklin’s Daily Scheme? “Munch on an apple as you tidy yourself and your space before getting on with it!” Just kidding, that’s my daily scheme!  And because of it I’ve been topping up my bowl of apples each Saturday. The abundance of apples has lead to a few namely pleasures. 1. Discovering  locally grown and unfamiliar varieties. 2. Baked apples with prunes. 3. A morning snack to hold me over before whatever is in store for the day. More talk about point 1. and 2. . . .  For me,  the most notable apples of the year have been a delicate French varietal known as Calville Blanc d’Hiver, almost quince like in appearance, soft and honey like to taste. Golden Russet, being the one I first photographed, under its tannic and rough speckled skin a refreshingly juicy, sharply cider tasting flesh awaits.  Finally, the elegant Winesap. Tasting like roses, and rose tinted  wine.  Each I’ve cored and piped inside a floral pruney paste. Raisiny, vanilla-like and chocolaty, there is something about this prune paste which has made for a wonderful treat with apples.

ApplesandPrunes4

Baked apples with prune filling
Prune filling – A paste I learned from a sunny English chef, as she casually tossed ingredients about pastry counter into the processor. Between pulses she’d taste, smiling the whole bout of it. Truly, she loved a good prune and showed me shortly that I would too.
It’s a rough ratio of things but prunes should be dominant. I have found this recipe to work for me, packaging the remaining and keeping in the fridge until another night in the week which calls for more baked apples.
4 apples
400 grams prunes
200 grams blanched almonds, ground coarsely in a oter and pestle, plus more for garnish
75 grams light brown sugar
Large knob of softened butter
Pinch of maldon salt
Glug of amaretto, or of course, whatever is still lurking in the pantry.
Begin by preheating the oven to 325ºF. Set your prunes in a bowl and soak in a small glug of amaretto. Set aside just for a few minutes as you prepare your other ingredients for assembly.
Take a handful of whole almonds, and spread onto tray, sprinkling a bit of sugar atop. Toast until golden about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, prepare you apples and baking parcels. Core the apples and set aside. Cut parchment paper into squares just large enough to contain one (I like two!) apple. Along with a few strands of bakers twine to tie each apple parcel up. Set aside as well and move onto the filling.It will all be done in a food processor. Begin by adding the prunes and their soaking liquor, pulsing until a jammy. Add a large, softened knob of butter, I’d say in between a ⅓ cup and ½ cup along  with the brown sugar. Pulse again until well combined. Adding a splash more liquor as needed and a pinch of maldon. Lastly adding the ground almonds, only pulsing together until just combined. Transfer the sticky and fragrant prune paste into a piping bag and pipe into each cored apple set atop their parcel, topped with a spoonful of butter, a few drips of the chosen liquor, a dusting more of sugar and a sprinkle of the almonds toasted earlier.  Tie up with the twine and bake in a pan until soft, about an hour, the time depending on the apple variety. Serve at once or reheat later. I love mine with creme fraiche loosened with heavy cream pooled in the base of the dish.

ApplesandPrunes1

ApplesandPrunes3

GoldenRussetWinesapCalvilleBlancd'Hive

Wandering mind

WanderersSoup3

So. It appears I quite like eating biscuits from the package. Not such a low, as it surprised me nearly gleefully. Who knew I’d soon be in the checkout line at the grocery store with only a semi-carefully selected chocolate bar in hand. It’s best to say I’m celebrating the time, and the time calls for this. My own version of Moroccan mint tea steeping, a packaged sweet, be it biscuit or chocolate unraveled nearby, and under the pressing glare of three lamps light. I have been nose deep in a crash course in what is Moorish cuisine. November has been a grave month for cooking but full of imagery. Saffron infused rice. (Goodness, and it may stay an image until I can just go on with it and buy a few pinches!) Almonds, garlic and stale bread blitzed until becoming a creamy Ajo Blanco and then dotted with bursting muscat grapes. Sunset pink sherry vinegar both sweet and sour doused on lightly cooked white flakey fish. Pomegranate molasses spread upon dark braises and roasts, perhaps duck! Spices like sweet and smoky paprika, citrusy and earthy cumin and peppery caraway. Dried citrus and apricots pridefully standing on a serving platter or stirred into Asure (barley pudding). Ground almonds, cane sugar, nose curling cinnamon bound with pork lard baked into a humble batch of cookies known as Polvorones.

I’ve felt completely in awe of every dish. The Moors have cultivated an elaborate peasants cuisine. Every ingredient comes from the fruits of their own, or their neighbors labor. The food is balanced, dotted with delicacies, loving and humble. Resulting in the most satisfying meal, I’m partial to think. There is an emphasis on spices, fruits and herbs. And as the summer became fall and fall is becoming winter, the juicy crunch of a fruit is still at foot.  Paired with a warming spice or sharp herb my metabolism is radiating. I can still wear a dress and slippers about the house, the only thing  different is warming foods.

As I read
I daydream
As if I were there
An assistant to the director
We conjure magic and read minds
And then of course it being read
Being a cookbook
It’s us at the table, but every recipe looks good!
It’s a big table
Closed the book, picked up a few magic tricks
And please won’t you come for dinner?

It’s December now and I’ve cooked my first two Moorish dishes. Wanderers Soup and a Quince Jello Jelly. Recipes from le grand duo, Sam and Sam Clark. The couple and talented chefs wrote two cookbooks based upon their documentations through Moorish villages populating Southern Spain, Northern Africa and Morocco. And then thirdly, this one, Moro East. Dedicated to the Manor Garden Allotment in East London. Where the two learned to grow variety crops (from peas and salad greens, to artichokes, sorrel and bundles of herbs) amongst the help and knowing hands of their British, Greek, Turkish, West Indian, Kurdish, Polish and Italian-born neighbors. This book is dedicated to the people of the allotment, the allotments itself, and the British grown vegetables and fruits which have sprouted there and lavish every dish.I can’t help but think of Mary, when the robin bird helps her find the way into The Secret Garden. Tending and then without realizing, blooming herself too.  

WanderersSoup

Wanderers soup
today I’m in my mother’s wooden sole brown clogs.
cooking her soup.
When I picked up the chorizo for this dish, it came in a nice ring, like a hoop earring or a fine christmas ornament. Good for fun, not good for you if there are dogs.
serves 4
50g butter
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 medium potato, or six smaller ones (about 600g) peeled and sliced thinly
1 or 2 large garlic clove, chopped
3 fresh bay leaves
800ml chicken stock
A few grates of nutmeg
4 handfuls (about 200g) or foraged greens (a mixture of sorrel, rocket, dandelion, parsley), I used spinach or pea shoots from the farmers market, washed and chopped
150g cooking chorizo, diced small (the best part if I may say, of the dish!)
In a large heavy pot, melt the butter and 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion along with a four fingered pinch of salt and soften, cooking for about 15-20 minutes. Don’t forget to stir occasionally! Done when the onion is golden. Turn down the heat to medium-low and stir in the potatoes, garlic, and bay leaves along with another pinch of salt. Place the lid atop and allow to cook gently, for about 25 minutes. Or until the potatoes are tender. And again, stirring every so often, to keep things from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the potatoes are tender and glossy, plump with butter and olive oil, add the stock and a few grates of nutmeg. Now bring to a boil, and then a simmer for 5-10 minutes. It is almost lunch time! Turn the heat off, remove the bay leaves and whizz with a handheld blender, (a processor will do finely as well) until very smooth. At this point stir in your leafy greens. Meanwhile fry your chorizo in the remaining tbsp of olive oil, until crispy in parts and cooked through all over. Check the soup for seasoning, dot into bowls and spoon the chorizo and it’s spitting red oil dressed atop.

WanderersSoup2

QuinceJelly

Quince jelly
serves 4
2 medium quince (about 400g)
Juice of 1 lemon
125 g sugar
4cm cinnamon stick
700ml water
12g leaf gelatin
Peel the quince and with a sharp knife cut each into 8 long wedges, coring from each wedge. Toss the slices in lemon juice as you go in the saucepan you will used to keep them from turning brown. When all are done, top up the saucepan with the cinnamon stick, sugar and water. Covering with a tight fitting lid, place over a simmer, the lowest heat possible, and stew gently for the next 2 ½ hours. When the quince is done the liquid will be a rosy pink, the quince will have matured a number of shades and be tender to the bite. Use a slotted spoon to gently lift the wedges into a jelly mold or a favorite bowl. Strain the liquid, measuring out 500ml, discarding the rest (or saving for soon to discover clever use as I like to do). Soak the gelatin in cold water for about three minutes, squeeze dry and stir into the hot syrup until completely melted. Pour over the quince wedges and leave to cool, followed by refrigerating overnight. Serve in the bowl or allow to stand in hot water for a few seconds before turning out onto a plate. I serve mine by the great spoonful with softly whipped cream.

QuinceJelly2

there once was a pear tree which who turned water into honey
thankful for the gifts the villagers brought her roses
in which
she gave them a quince

Duck, duck, soup!

BeansMozzarellaSoup1

What’s in the fridge! That nice jar of dijon mustard. An indulgent buy of well salted capers imported from Sicily. The tin of anchovies which seemingly keeps on lasting. They are, preserves aren’t they? And that bouncing ball of mozzarella which was meant for something…but it’s lost on me now. Ah, and of course the rocket!

Received from a farm which sets up a stand nearby on the weekends. When I came about the tangled bunch, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the Italian rocket I’ve read about before. Wild and untamed. One rocket leaf, spun out from the bunch, unruly in formality and lengthy as my forearm. I can already smell the spice, similar to a juicy radish. After a sort of coiling, it’s in my mouth and I’m sure it’s leaning on the air of an herbs vanity.  Proud to be rocket! It’s lovely and I buy a big bag. How charmingly simple this recipe could be. A peasants fare indeed, as I did no shopping. My bag of rocket was priorly enjoyed on its own, well dressed in olive oil and flaky salt. Until a morning, flipping through cookbooks, a recipe found for my bouncing ball of nearly forgotten mozzarella. And perhaps, my prideful rocket.

Mozzarella, Borlotti, and Wild Garlic Green Sauce, as says Ducksoup.
Mozzarella, Kanderly Yellow Eye, Rocket Green Sauce, I say.
It’s what I have. And it’s close enough.

Mozzarella, beans and herb sauce soup
125g cooked beans, I had on hand Kanderly Yellow Eye
Handful of herbs, mine being rocket, not quite an herb but this one is nearly (others might be parsley, mint, wild garlic or a combination of the bunch)
3 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
Zest of ½ a lemon
½ tsp capers
½ tsp dijon mustard
Small garlic clove, grated
Extra virgin olive oil
1 mozzarella ball, about 150g
Flaky salt and black pepper
Warm the beans and their cooking liquid in a pan over low heat. Put the chopped herbs, anchovies, lemon zest, capers, mustard, and garlic into a large bowl with extra virgin olive oil and bind everything together, with a good stir. Stir your now green sauce into the beans and warm through, only taking a minute. Pour into your lunch bowl, placing a torn ball of mozzarella atop. Drizzle with more olive oil, flaky salt and black pepper. Serve with a soup spoon!

BeansMozzarellaSoup2

when it faded
she grasped dearly
it’s shape missing
without a hand to hold
hands cold
and through the window the sun
stroked her cheek
warm, there
and it’s growing
a sparkling glimmer in her eye
a little spot inside of her
warm, right there
and it’s glowing
without a hand to hold
a little spot inside of her
warm

Life by coffee and sleep

TrevisoRisotto8

Ten days without coffee felt like a bear’s winter hibernation. It’s the season and I seemingly never miss a clean opportunity to get sick. Slightly out of commission.
Cup of joe number one since the crash. At 3pm. Splendid! I’m upright, and thinking about what I’ve done this week. What I’ll do from this cup, onto the next one, probably tomorrow a.m. And so! It’s been a week of discovering the famed New York dollar slice. That you can indeed just order a side of plain white rice at the local Chinese haunt without a batting eye. And, a resurgence of a famed banana shake from my archives. Which I will fondly share the recipe. It’s one I learned from a Scandinavian baker, both goddess of bread and salads. She was lovely.

I did happen to make one nice dish during the down time. A simple one which I had all the ingredients to already, but one. Being the season it wasn’t hard to find. Treviso risotto.  A woody amber kick coming from a glass of dry vermouth, and a roundness by parmesan and butter. I read today an article about Japanese ikebana. An art much to do with opposing characters, harmonized. Could treviso risotto be a good meal example for that? Bitter yet creamy. Hm. It’s a thought! A bit of a silly one at that. It got me thinking about making life more like ikebana. The Scandinavian baker, both goddess of bread and salads.

Green banana shake
1 banana, best if frozen (adds creaminess!) at least for a few hours before blending
2-3 juicy dates
palmful of cashews, raw
1 small spoonful of vanilla paste
2 big handfuls of kale, removed from their stems
6-8 cubes of ice
Splash of nut milk
Blend all together until smooth. Serve in tall glass.

TrevisoRisotto6

Treviso risotto
A recipe from the great chef Russell Norman. His book Polpo is a favorite of mine. One I slip out when I’m looking for a singular example of a fine ingredient, he probably has it. His book is a dedication to his restaurant in London, but also a definition of his experiences at aperitivo hour in Venice, Italy. 1 liters of stock, be it beef, chicken or vegetable
50g butter, room temperature
Small sprig of rosemary
1/2 onion, finely chopped
150g risotto rice, carnaroli is best
Flaky salt
Half a glass of dry vermouth
250g Treviso radicchio, cut into 1 inch pieces
30g grated parmesan
To begin, bring a pot of the stock up to a gentle simmer on the back burner. On the front burner melt two-thirds of the butter in another pot. Add the rosemary and swig around a bit for a minute only to flavor, and then remove the sprig and discard.
Add the chopped onion, sweating slowly until glossy and translucent, about 10-15 minutes.
Now add the rice, being sure to coat in the butter. Allow to toast lightly, you’ll be able to smell it if you stick you nose over the pan. Add a pinch of salt, and stir for just a few minutes until the toasty smell is slightly present.  
Now is the time! Add the vermouth and lift any sucs sticking to the pan. Sizzling away until absorbed and steamed off. Add the first ladleful of stock, just enough to soak each grain, the mixture should be still gently simmering. Add the treviso now, reserve a small palmful for the final mix.
Slowly now, add the stock, one ladleful after the last has been absorbed. About 15 minutes. The risotto is done when a grain is chewy and soft on the outside, but the inside hull has a tiny al dente bite to it. Remove from heat, fold in the last knob of butter, parmesan and the palmful of treviso leaves set aside. Cover and leave for a few minutes before serving.

TrevisoRisotto5

TrevisoRisotto1

TrevisoRisotto4

Grilled treviso
And if in the end. You can’t be bothered to make risotto. Halve your treviso lengthwise, rub with olive oil, slipping into the inner leaves. Set on a hot cast iron pan, or grill, and cook undisturbed for about four minutes on both sides. Serve, sprinkled with flaky salt and a few drips from the old balsamic bottle. Paired nicely with a bouncing ball of soft mozzarella dressed in more sweet olive oil and flaky salt.

TrevisoRisotto2

And now all I’m craving is to watch Alice in Wonderland or The Secret Garden. Until next time! Hopefully sooner than the last!

TrevisoRisotto7

Porridge cake

Porridge Cake 2

Once I stood about the stove every morning to put on a pot of porridge. I’d dress it up with a spoonful of thick and tart yogurt, some honey and pumpkin seeds. If I made a jam I’d swirl that in, drop in a few toasted blanched almonds. A lovely bunch which I’ve found  imported from Sicily. And when my jam pot was all up, I’d return back to the dollop of yogurt. I won’t deny this breakfast. I know which oats I like. And I can grab them around the corner. But when I started working earlier, I found I didn’t have as much time at home to put on a pot, be sure it doesn’t burn, then scrub my pot clean after  minutes at the table sharing breakfast with my bird. Not to mention it was earlier! “Maybe it would be nicer to have this breakfast a few hours later.” One thing I’ve learned about myself, (great indeed, it’s wonderful to know something about your character!) I am not one for ambient room temperature porridge!

And then I learned about a cooks breakfast. Among the many places which I have worked, I’ve had the opportunity to catch onto, I think a rather intimate part of one’s day being, breakfast. Another one for character. I love learning what a person most often likes to eat at during these usually solely morning hours. It is intimate, isn’t it? A cooks breakfast usually take a little bit from the day’s haul without being much of an impact on production at all. It’s almost unnoticed really. Unless somebody is experimenting. In such a memorable case; we had scrambled eggs. The most softly cooked. Curdling slowly in a large bowl set over a simmering pot as a bain marie. A large slab of focaccia out of the oven, spread thickly with the egg clouds. Salt, olive oil. Wahla! A more usual breakfast was more to the likes of a steaming demi baguette along with an apple received from a delivery. A buttery and nutty scone from the bake off paired nicely with a thick and bitter shot of espresso. Or in the savory kitchen, a bundle of just blanched tender greens tangled atop a thick cut of bread dosed in the good olive oil and salt. All being pieces for tonight’s dinner service. Japanese rice cooked for today’s lunch, spooned into a small bowl along with a softly cooked egg, a good squeeze of the smoky and very sweet soy sauce and a pivotal pinch of togarashi chili powder.

I quite liked the convenience of these breakfasts. Nearly no dishes. At an opportune time of hunger.

Porridge Cake 1

During this time I was also reading quite heavily only the backs of Italian cookbooks where the cakes lie. Italian cakes seem to be not very sweet and Italians seem to love these types of cake for breakfast. Breakfast, more likely at the time for a mid morning snack with coffee to get on with it until a more lengthy lunch, a more lengthy dinner to come. I loved this. And adopted it nearly immediately after I got a few cakes under my belt, in which I will share them all in ongoing posts.

This particular cake, received from one of Marcella Hazan’s books, felt quite like a fall breakfast. ½ a cup of sugar for a cake, perplexing. Cooked polenta. Dried fruits and nuts mixed in. “It’s porridge isn’t it?” And it is, nearly. A cake with its own category. And a delicious one at that. Delightfully refined, thanks to thoughtful ingredients. Being a touch sweet, nourishing, and overall a nice combination of flavors and things. Quite like my stovetop porridge I thought. But this one is just as nice too at ambient room temperature. The next day, the day after that. In a little baggy I’ve been munching on it on my train ride to work. Along with coffee from the place down the street from my apartment. It makes for a lovely, easy morning. I look forward to a more lengthy dinner with my bird later on. Happily he’ll stand on my shoulder as we wash the dishes without much of any rush.

Porridge Cake 3

Porridge cake
1 cup coarse polenta
pinch of salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup dried figs, quartered
⅓ cup muscat raisins
⅓ cup pine nuts, I prefer to toast them!
2 tbsp fennel seeds
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp butter, plus more for buttering the pan
1 egg
1 cup flour, using a freshly milled flour, all the better!
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Begin by first buttering well about a 9 inch cake tin and then lining with flour. Be sure to tap out any excess over the bin! Go onto measuring the ingredients. Combining the dried fruits, toasted pine nuts, fennel seeds and sugar into a cereal bowl. The butter resting on the knife in which you cut from the block. The egg nearby and a cup of flour set into a bowl all for itself.
At the stove bring 2 cups of water up to boil. Pour the polenta in a steady stream through your fingers as you mix about any potential stubborn clumps forming with a handy wooden spoon. When all is in, continue stirring just for a few more seconds, the polenta doesn’t need to be on the stove long. Then add the olive oil and a pinch of salt, another few stirs and take the pot off heat.
Mix in your bowl of nuts and bolts, followed by the egg and butter. And when all mixed in, add the flour. Only mixing until your cake batter is just combined. Pour and smooth into the prepared cake tin. Bake for about 45 minutes until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan until warm, then invert onto a wire rack and serve as it still cools with a cuppa tea. This cake is lovely at room temperature, grasped in hand as you run out the door tomorrow morning.

Porridge Cake 4

Country salad

Country Salad 2

October, October. What grows in October? To be honest, I don’t really know. What seems like October might be a hearty salad. Enough to keep me warm. Enough to still keep me light on my toes without a desperate need for a hibernation nap.

Just a pot, a heavy pan, a cutting board and knife. My ingredients gathered about, in and out of the sink. Without having made this salad before, it already feels quite familiar. Being I’ll just wash and trim, toast, blanch and dice. Methodical and quiet. Quite nice to feel uninterrupted fixing lunch as more of a means to get on with the day than to be startled by sizzling action and unknown outcomes. One day, I’ll be at peace with something more,  but I can quite confidently confirm, blanching, toasting and dicing is no problem had by me.

Country Salad 1

Bring a large pasta pot full of plenty of well salted water up to a boil, blanch the cauliflower pieces until soft, but not mushy. It should hold its sturdy shape, but be soft enough to chew without resistance (and digest!)  Followed by the potatoes, blanched in the same manner. Meanwhile toast the walnuts in a heavy pan until fragrant. And as everything cools, chop the ingredients and toss everything together. “Wahla!” I love to say.

This salad idea came from one of Lidia’s books. She goes into such detail as to where her dish ideas originate from among her sightful travels. This one felt so familiar to me. I would have believed her if she first said she traveled to the great north east of America and discovered this apple, cheese and cauliflower salad! Not far off? But quite. She came about this dish in one of the very northern regions of Italy known as Trentino-Alto Adige. A place both containing Italian and German language and culture. The most hearty nonna’s cooking I can imagine! This is the place where Italy’s most versed apple farmers are. Growing thousands of varieties, in the same plot of land that has been spouting apples since the middle ages. Lidia even came about a spaghetti tossed in a shredded apple tomato sauce! (Which she found marvelous! I’m still skeptical, but won’t knock it till it’s tried.) Another product made from the land as old as time, is Asiago cheese. Made from cattle grazing on the lush pastures of Asiago High Plateau.

So, behold the great country salad. A simple gesture for lunch. I think the people of Trentino-Alto Adige were thinking; “What’s available? And what will keep me warm, yet light on my feet?”

Country Salad 3

Country Salad
serves many many many, (times over).
1 head of cauliflower, broken into pieces
4 small red potatoes (or a 4 handfuls of baby red potatoes)
1 bundle of radish, washed, trimmed and quartered
2 apples, diced
1 red onion, diced
8 oz asiago, diced
1 cup walnuts, toasted
2 large handfuls of Italian parsley, chopped
large pinch of salt
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
Begin by washing the ingredients which need a good rinsing and scrub.Meanwhile a large pot of well salted water is coming up to a boil. When ready, submerge cauliflower pieces into the pot. After about five minutes when soft but not mushy, remove the cauliflower and place in a colander to drain and cool down. In the same fashion, blanch the potatoes. Removing when soft but not mushy, then placing in colander to drain. Dice into chunks when cool enough to handle. Continue on by dicing the radish, asiago, apple, onion and parsley. Meanwhile toasting the walnuts in a heavy pan until fragrant. They color quick so don’t stray far from the happening by keeping your nose up. Toss everything together in your biggest bowl, along with four fingered pinch of salt, sherry vinegar and olive oil.

Country Salad 4

Crispy leaves and shively prunes

A Flicker in October

The wick begins to pool
one leaf falls
the wax begins to drip
a crunch under foot
my cheeks begin to glow
this precious time
before the wick runs out

Prune Loaf 3

Prunes! Glorious jammy things. Juicier than an apricot, whose color is alluring, but it’s the prune I find most satisfying of the dried fruits. A thin protective skin, just barely sealing a smoothing prune cream. Confoundedly a flavor both of vanilla and milk chocolate. And even a fragrance faintly reminiscent of orange blossom. Glorious prunes!

The leaves are beginning to turn in New York. Yellow and crisp. A few scattered underfoot, one crunching, another saved inside a book. The sun is still warm to the bone, and it’s…quite. Where might be the flock of finches whom lived in the tree outside my window be? The window unit is unplugged and the floor fan switched off. This precious, and perhaps introspective time!

I was a thinking about what I might like to eat for breakfast during the next few days, while I had the time, and prunes showed up first in mind. The first place I looked for inspiration was a big cookbook, humorous and light, but each recipe a rather serious matter. Fairly charming that such a talented and experienced chef wrote a book for us at home, reading in a way that feels, well quite doable. Needing only the right ingredients and a good dose of confidence. One day I’ll get to that warm pig’s head… ! Seemingly, Fergus Henderson loves prunes too. And seemed to crave the same sort of pruney breakfast loaf as I did. A prune loaf with brown sugar and molasses, extra vanilla for a lift of fragrance, and then quite a buttered tin – yielding a crust buttery and textured. The heavenly heavily buttered tin is a small trick I learned in school, beurre en pommade, a consistency mayonnaise like, which when heavily lining a tin makes the most lovely cake and loaf crusts.

So here is a slightly adapted recipe of Fergus Henderson’s le grand prune loaf. Fit for even those who may think they might not like a shriveled prune.

Prune Loaf 1

Prune Loaf
4 ½ oz softened (soft by leaving out, mine usually overnight) unsalted butter, and extra for greasing the pan
4 ¾ oz light brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
8 oz flour, plus a five fingered pinch for dusting the pan
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla paste, or 2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp black molasses
3 tbsp prune juice, mine coming just from my soaking liquid of tea and prunes.
3 tbsp full-fat milk, obtained at the coffee shop, thank you baristas, a generous slice coming your way!
20 oz prunes, and strips of lemon peel, soaked in two bags of black tea, mine being a rose like blend, soaked overnight or least an hour before.
Rummage about for a loaf tin, mine being a tube pan. With your softened butter, brush heavily into pan. Dust with a bit of flour and tap the excess out. Set aside and get on with the mix.
In a bowl with a wooden spoon, paddle the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Incorporate the beaten eggs slowly, which will help prevent a curdle. Sift in the flour, baking soda, salt and mix in. Next add the vanilla, molasses, prune juice and milk.  
Fill your prepared tin with half of the mix, then lightly pressing in the prunes. You’ll notice it’s quite a lot of prunes, it is, a prune loaf! Spoon in remaining mix and lightly spread about evenly. Place in the fridge for 2 hours. The chill stops the prunes from sinking to the bottom during the bake.
Bake in an oven preheated to 350ºF for 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven, invert onto a rack, remove tin, and allow to cool for ten minutes before serving.
**Fergus Henderson mentions a mist in his recipe which is 2 ½ oz of prune juice, heated in a saucepan until it starts to boil. Off heat, ¾ oz of Vieille Prune (prune brandy) is stirred in. Two spoonfuls of mist is soaked into a slice before serving along with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Prune Loaf 2

Ribollita for winter and summer

Ribeooohllittah, ribeooohllittah! I hum as I energetically dice my soffritto (a marriage of vegetables creating a base, most often, red onion, carrot and celery). The first time I had ribollita soup was probably at a high school football game. Odd I know, but our winter sports games had soups available at the concession. At the time, there was an Italian theme going, and soup was always available. I’ve cycled through them all, ultimately deciding the Italian wedding would be my go to order. Yes, at a football game. Anyway, the ribollita, well, wasn’t very memorable. Except in the sense I decided I didn’t very much like the soup. Being sort of a lip staining tomato water mixed with pre-cooked vegetables and tufts of bread. And so, that was the last time I’ve ordered ribollita.

Until it was bestowed upon me. I was working at a flour mill, when the chef, mostly nose deep in his own creations, handed me a small bowl of soup. Claiming it to be “Ribbeeohllittah”! And it was magic. The single best spoonful of soup I’ve ever had. I stopped what I was doing and gobbled up my five spoonfuls more. I asked him to show me how to make it, and ever since it’s been the soup I continuously crave and fix at any flicker of a crisp wind.

It wasn’t until recently, at a lovely cookery bookstore, that I came across two interesting books.  The food being from a foreign land, but the ratios of ingredients and method of cooking, seemed strangely familiar. I bought both books in haste. Now another cuisine I was fascinated by! With some reading later on, I learned that the authors, Sam & Sam Clark, began their chef training at the helm of The River Cafe in London. (A fiercely influential seasonal restaurant, open now for 30 years now, that draws inspiration from regional Italian cuisine.) The familiarity of the two books I stumbled upon contained honest, humble, and fulfilling recipes from a land that I didn’t have much knowledge about before, (and still have much to learn, but a sense of incentive now) but after flipping through, I not only felt a little bit closer to the true cuinse of the Moorish villages in Spain, North Africa and Morocco, but also little deeper understanding of the people too. This style of cooking, showcased in fine dining restaurants swept the world, thanks to people like Ruthie Rogers and Rose Gray, Alice Waters and Paul Bertolli.

Sam and Sam Clark shared their recipe for summer ribollita. And it was right then, as quickly as I sent my eyes left to right making sense of their recipe, that I internally revolutionized that a cook has the power to make a cuisine of their own, a storyline, from all they have met and then applies.

I can’t deny a thick soup, full of warm vegetables, beans and bread to fill me up when the air gets crisp, or maybe in San Francisco, where even the summer nights might ask for a sweater. So here are two recipes for ribollita, the one I learned at the flour mill. And Sam and Sam Clarks of Casa Moro in London.

Ribollita
soffritto (very, very finely diced and equal parts, 1 1/2 red onion, 4 medium carrots and 4 celery stalks, perhaps 3 cups per vegetable)
extra virgin olive oil
salt
28oz canned peeled tomatoes, preferably the san marzano variety
garlic clove
white wine, a forgotten, opened bottle from the back of your fridge
a small bunch of lacinato kale, also known as tuscan kale, stemmed and shredded roughly
16 oz canned borlotti beans
black pepper
28 oz canned cannellini beans
block of parmesan with rind on, nutty and buttery in flavor.
a few days old loaf of sourdough bread, preferably one made from a cold fermentation process, more flavor!
a glug and a drizzle from your nice bottle of extra virgin olive oil
Soffritto! Finely dice red onion, carrots and celery, as small as you can go, involve yourself! This is an important step because it will lead to a, I mean it, luxurious mouthfeel. Scoop up your vegetables, and place in a wide and heavy pot. Drench with nice, but not too nice, extra virgin olive oil, about two cups worth. Followed by and a four fingered pinch of salt. Let cook at a medium low temperature, uncovered, slowly the water contained in the vegetable will steam out and and be replaced by luscious olive oil. Stir regularly. If the pot becomes suspiciously dry, and you start to hear sizzling, dig out that opened, almost forgotten, bottle of white wine hiding in the fridge. Using just a few drops and a few scapes at a time to deglaze and lift the sucs forming below your mountain of vegetables. Continue this process until the vegetables are plump with olive oil, and completely tender. About 30 minutes. 
Add a garlic clove that has been crushed with the side of your knife, and the tin of tomatoes, using a whisk, sort of crush the tomatoes right in the pot. When the tomatoes smell roasted, add a good pour of that wine wine, about 1 cup, followed by handfuls of stemmed and torn lacinato kale. Sir together for a minute or three and then fill up your tomato tin with water and pour into the pot. Let simmer and bubble for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile make a borlotti bean puree, by placing entire can, bean cooking liquid and all, into a blender along with lots of black pepper and a hefty pinch of salt. While blending, stream in olive oil, about ½ a cup. Pour this into the simmering pot along with the whole cannellini beans, spooning in some of the cannellini beans cooking liquid too. Depending on how much liquid you want to add. Ribollita is about intuition! Chuck in your parmesan rind. This gives off a nutty undertone note to your soup,(and to be honest I kind of love gnawing at it if I do find it bendy and melting in my soup bowl). Begin tearing bread, using mostly crumb, some crust too, adding to the pot by the handful. Stir and squish the bread with the back of your wooden spoon against the pot. The goal is to attempt to liquefy the bread, Cook along, stir along, press the bread against the rim along. When all is married and soft, lacinato kale, so tender giving no resistance back when you chew, the bread – liquified, and the soup thick. Don’t hesitate to add a cup of water or bean cooking liquid, more or less if you think, “too thick”! About 30 minutes.
Finish with a light glug of your nicer bottle of olive oil, cranks of more than you might expect of black pepper and a blanket of shredded parmesan. Stir and voila! Ladle into shallow bowls, with a dusting more of olive oil, black pepper and parmesan.

Lemons + Varietals

Lemons_Varietals final

Lemon + Varietals

Lemon; To wake from sunlight tantalizing your cheek

It’s hard to write about an ingredient I’ve never tasted before. Being I don’t live in Italy. Or a stone skip away from the nearest place growing this particular range of fruit. But I am determined to go on because I did my best to taste without tasting. One day (I do imagine), but for now, I am happy with my research. And I shall be ready when I stumble upon the great lemon from my dreams! But for what I do tastefully know; the New York corner stand lemon. Sharp, not sweet, juicy, a rind mostly plain, but then a bit of a hairy aftertaste. This plump sponge is what I’ve been squeezing and candying in far too many recipes without thinking about the fruit doing so much of the work. It wasn’t until a great unveiling of tomatoes and their distinctive varieties this summer, that I thought there must be more to many ingredients I thought to know. Like the lemon. And it came to mind first because it’s natural quality of, addictiveness? It’s that cleansing tang. It’s perfect for helping a chewy, salty and oily fish slide through the mouth. It’s perfect when grated into the dough of a morning cookie. For some reason, lemon, feels, renewing. I really love lemon, and what I have learnt from tasting tomatoes of different terroirs this summer, I think, I could love lemons even more, knowing more. So, I’ve conducted a study of lemons. A lot of reading lead me here. And I’ve made a small list of lemons to remember and to always seek when spotting yellow.

Femminello: the most popular variety grown in Italy is read to be much like our New York corner stand lemon. Albeit perhaps a bit sweeter. One day will have to try. This is the A.P. of lemons. It can do it all, but certainly, quite right for  squeezing onto a lunch of pasta, anchovy and fried breadcrumbs.

Verdelli: green skin and starved! Yet not sickly at all. Well, perhaps maybe the poor lemon tree felt so until an infiltration of water did finally come about. One to two months later. This stress and relief, induces an unconventional bloom. That will ready to be plucked from the tree the following summer, when the supply is lowest and the demand is high. With it’s mark from the starve, Verdelli lemons are to be like regular lemons just with green skin. It’s hard to say much more than that until it’s sliced and squeezed!

Ponderosa: pondered to be a cross between a lemon and citron. As its size might tell, it looks like a citron, but a cross section will show it to look like a lemon. Sour, and then a flowery after taste. Lovely. Sounds delicate, and cleansing, as it might make one’s lips pucker. This is a very juicy lemon with a fairly substantial pith as well, right for marmalade-ing.

Citrus Limetta: Limoo Shirin in Iran or Bergamot in France, this lemon looks like the sun as the day sets, and many of us begin to wind down. It has a thin yet, protective coat, bearing inside cells ready to burst with a sweet and tasting juice. Freshly squeezed, a glass be along with breakfast. Perhaps breaking out a bag of papadum crackers, speckled with cumin and salt. Or the Italian variety, pane carasau (sheet music), with a bit of rosemary and salt perhaps a few fennel seeds too. A morning to sing too.

Meyer: Petite and sweet. Grown in California and quite fairly readily available even here in New York. Thought to originally come from China it’s considered to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. I can chase this one down next! Making lemon desserts with likely, less sugar, since there’s no need to balance the acidity. A win-win indeed!  

Citron: Not a lemon but an orb, displaying itself of the famed lemon, in the most grandmotherly way. And it is. Citron is believed to have been introduced to Sicily by the Arabs many years ago in the 10th century. And what’s most interesting about citron, is that it’s the white absorbent pith you eat and relish. The fruit, strongly perfumed for the nose, yet it’s taste is delicate, sweet and a bit spicy. It’s sponge like being is right for carrying that lovely bottle of olive in the cupboard. Sicilians slice the pith, tossing with olive oil and capers or marinated olives, leaving to sit for an hour before serving. Dishes like this is what I think lunch was meant meant to be. When all you have on hand is the curious orb, the rest coming together from the pantry. Anchovies resting at the rim of the sink, filleted from the large tin kept in the cold spot in the refrigerator. A hunk of crusty bread, especially one full of earthy bran a sweet germ, to mop up the remaining olive and the splatter of fruity olive oil. One dish used, a serrated knife and a fork.

And as I daydream; a bell rings in my head. Candied citron! So, it’s this confection lightly tossed in Italian pastry such as cakes, ricotta fillings, and favorite of all, panettone. I love the aroma, so much I wish I could smell like it. Surely there is a French perfumery doing just that. But, for now, a kitchen full of the scent sounds delightful. And the reward of having candied citron to play with along with its perfumed syrup sounds life enriching. There are a few ways to go about it, most simply, slicing with rind on, into pinky finger length batons and candying for about an hour. Or more Provencal, candying whole. Taking about a week’s time, the result is a dazzling vibrant orb, nearly translucent, intensely sweet and a marvel by its own. I can’t help but wonder which came first in Provence; the candied fruits or the fruit chandeliers.

The candied citron, will keep for a year, to be diced and tossed in anything that comes about. The syrup will last equally as long, but I am usually eager to douse. Upon cakes, first coming to mind a baba, plump with raisins! Maybe then thinly glazed with a white royal icing. And a simplified version of the Italian soda, Cedrata. Just a splash of the syrup and a glug of sparking water. Lovely in a chilled tall glass, in the afternoon, before the day has almost wound down to an evening with loved ones. I know the syrup wouldn’t last me long.  

Candied Citron and Syrup
2 Citron, yielding about 500g fruit, sliced into pinky finger length batons of equal size.
600g sugar
500g water
Tablespoon of glucose /or, light corn syrup
First cover the citron batons in barely simmering water until they are translucent, this will take about a half hour. This processes removes all water content in the fruits cells, readying those cells to be filled with sugar. When ready, drain. Fill a pot, with the citron batons, sugar, water and inverted sugar and bring to a boil. Use a candy thermometer to watch the temperature. When the temperature reaches soft ball stage, 230ºF, turn off and allow to cool until room temperature. Don’t fear if there is no candy thermometer amongst the spoons and ladles! This can be done with a watchful eye, which I prefer more often than not. One less thing to clean! When the syrup is past it’s vigorous bubbling and thickens so that each bubble that emerges seems to be slow and dramatic, you’ve reaches soft ball stage. Don’t let it go on, caramel comes quick. Which isn’t a bad mistake, how about a take on Torta Arluno? While the syrup cools to room temperature, perhaps run some errands and finish up in the evening.
Now that the citron and syrup of cooled, drain the batons from the luscious syrup, reserving for future projects, like soaked baba or topped with double the amount of sparkling water for a little soda. Not much of a project at all and more of a simple pleasure in life.
What’s left is still quite sticky citron batons, continue to drain by placing colander over a sheet pan, to reserve extra syrup, and allowing to sit perhaps an hour, lightly tossing once or twice. The citron batons can then either be tossed in a bowl of granular sugar, or left as is, as I like, and stored in an airtight container. To be diced in many future pastries to come into your life this year!

Saved for the gourmand

 

dear anchovy,

you slender silver thing. green then blue. a tone of gray, polished.
you are cared for.
as colatura di alici
as burre cafe de paris as anchoiade
atop this egg
you are richness to this garden.
i’ll help care for your shallow, temperate, just salty waters.

thank you,

A purse full of silver coins or purse full of little fish.

Anchovy, perhaps always anchovies, is an oily little fish, not beefy enough to satisfy a slightly sneering tummy, But a lick to satisfy the gourmand. Anyone who likes anchovy is a gourmand, in my book. Their tongue welcoming the tantalization this little fish brings.

When fresh, it’s an essence of what it will become packed and tinned under salt. Buy a bundle, fillet them and simply serve with halves of lemon. I can’t help but imagine; an hour of aperitivo, sheets of Carta di Musica (or, Pane Carasau, sheet music) stained with green olive oil and dusty flakes of pestle pressed fennel seed, chili and salt. The sun beaming a setting golden mist, and just like a candle blown out from the soft summer wind you’re whisked off to dinner.

A moment hopefully all of us, least have once. For some, a friendly routine out of convenience and perhaps stimulated by the milder nature of the fresh fish.

When handled with care, placed under salt, still full in body and bone, they become something stronger. A taste that lingers. A sharp and clear moment for your own bliss.

Preserved this way, anchovy may be considered even more a delicacy. It’s flavor dependent on the seasoned hands who cared for it. Known as alici to Italy, and anchois to France, both countries in the southern coastal towns, enjoy the little fish fresh and tinned in throngs. Being part of the land just as the people.

In Campania, during the summertime, fresh anchovies are placed in wooden barrels, salted then pressed. Then in the fall, the barrels are speared from the bottom and a  longly awaited viscous and amber liquid secretes. An Italian fish sauce. It’s then bottled in glass and labeled Colatura di Alici. With a special place in the cabinet it’s to be dotted along with pasta and vegetables as northern Italians might balsamic.

Beurre Cafe de Paris made its name by a French chef in Geneva, but I would think it has been around for time before then. It is a compound butter of tinned anchovy and fresh herbs such as thyme and marjoram. Rolled into a log and served in rounds, maybe atop anything. I still want to toss it in pasta.

Anchoiade is a thick and hearty emulsion coming from Provence. Truly, an anchovy mayonnaise. Best set a little looser, a touch of water will achieve this. (Italians having a similar sauce, without eggs and the splash of liquor replaced with vinegar). Like a skier’s favorite trail wide and curling. High with newly fallen snow, I imagine endive, puntarelle, chicory or frisse gathered highly upon a wide plate. Then capped from a large silver spoon, a robust round of anchoiade. Curious and a bit dangerous, it’s first licked from the tips of the diners heavy fork. Next, gently and next, greedily tossed desiring every leaf to be strewn. The bitter green is the last remaining ingredient making the sauce perfectly harmonized and desirable.  Make a jar full and lunch for a week! Only more needing a boule of bread and a row of eggs to softly poach.

Anchoïade
1 yolk
6 whole anchovies, cleaned, filleted
palmful of thyme leaves
juice from ½ a lemon
150g extra virgin olive oil
dash of Cognac
salt + pepper
By hand using a pestle and mortar then a big bowl and a whisk:
Using a pestle and mortar, cream the anchovy fillets along with the thyme and a dash of the lemon juice. Transfer to a large bowl and add the egg yolk. Whisk until combined and smooth. Continue to whisk, quite vigorously now, as you slowly drizzle in the olive oil. When fluffy and spreadable it’s done. Season with more lemon juice, a dash of cognac, (a little trick I picked up at the restaurant, which may have been picked up from Alice Waters, who may have picked it up from Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. A fickle string to follow), lots of freshly ground pepper and some salt.
This can also  all be done in a food processor: the same, but with a less achey arm, and gratitude for your machinery. But, never as triumphant as the one who beat willfully.  Still, be be sure to slowly add the the oil as the processors blade quickly turn.
P.S. making an emulsion is marrying  fat (olive oil) to a little protein (yolk). Quite temperamental! Be sure all ingredients are the same temperature, (just out of the fridge, or room) to ensure at least one variable is against forsaken mishap. As it does sometimes happen. And in which case; don’t fret. Pour the split sauce into a cup, add an egg yolk to the bowl, and slowly drizzle in your split sauce while whisking, the extra protein will help bring the sauce together again. 

anchovy and egg

Tozzetti alla mandorle

Tozzetti

I cannot quite pinpoint which book it may have been where my eyes first glazed over Italian pastry recipes. I think it actually was a flood of books I brought home all at once, I’d scramble to the ends of each book and try to absorb every ingredient and method. The style in which the author wrote the recipe, I was, and am still elated. My heart nestled into Italy, it was the mentor I had been looking for but didn’t know existed. This cookie that looks like what I first knew as biscotti, seemed to be an Italian classic, (I suppose as most Italian recipes are), lots of cookbooks had their variation of it. Seemingly alike, it took quite a handful of trials and reading to discover the difference. Biscotti means twice cooked and in Italy there are two types of biscotti; tozzetti being softer and more cookie like. And cantuccini being made from a bread-like dough, dry and crisp. This recipe falls under the tozzetti category.

Classically enriched by egg yolks, being that the land had more eggs to offer than butter at a time, this recipe is delightfully and nutritiously rich. In what to me feels to be relatable to human digestion, being easy on our metabolism. Still, lots of sugar is necessary for the sharp tooth this cookie is known for. Making it a sublime treat. Any mix in additions to the dough will be lovely. I can imagine showcasing chocolate, and other ideas being pine nuts, rosemary, anise, or candied orange and melon. I think when you try an ingredient and it strikes you that would be a delight savored over a morning coffee ritual, or a weekend 4pm break, working your way slowly through the cookie studded with the ingredients that first drew the inspiration, all along the while sipping a sweet glass of Vin Santo to celebrate yourself and the moment.  

It’s summer now,  I am enamored with Sicily, and these almonds I brought home from a local Italian market. Flatter and wider in shape they looked interesting. The flavor to me was remarkable. Still fragrant and plump of the mediterranean air scented with oregano, tomatoes and fennel growing abound. I imagined biscotti and as I gathered my ingredients I threw in lemon and vanilla feeling it was the right melody I most felt like savoring along with my special almonds. It’s likely you too have the remaining ingredients already in your cupboard, really just flour, eggs and sugar. The cookie is strong, sweet and soft when warmed by the tongue but resilient to all else. I like that the yolks keep it from being crisp like many biscotti’s I’ve had before. This biscotti in that sense fills you like a meal. It’s a delightful breakfast and a joy to hold in hand with a to go cup of coffee on the train as I make my way to work.  

Tozzetti with candied lemon, vanilla and mandorle
2 eggs
3 yolks
350g sugar
2 tsp vanilla paste
450g flour sifted with 4 ½ tsp baking powder and 1 tsp fine salt
1 tbsp butter, melted
200g mandorle (Italian almonds)
2 tbsp finely minced candied lemon
Pinch of flaky salt
Preheat oven to 375ºF, if convection 350ºF. Blanchir the eggs with sugar and vanilla. Sift in flour mixture. Mix in the butter, almonds and lemon peel. Work with hands to make two strong logs. Set atop parchment paper and a strong baking tray, bake for 25 minutes until lightly golden. Turn oven temperature down another 50º. Cool for three minutes, and using a tea towel and a serrated knife, saw the log along a slight angle, making tozzetti shapes. It’s an important time to do this now while still hot from the oven, otherwise it will prove difficult.  Arrange slices back onto the baking tray and return to oven for five minutes. Flip the tozzetti to their other sides, and bake another five minutes. Turn the oven off, set the door slightly ajar and allow the rich glory to cool completely as the oven does.

Tozzetti with candied fennel and mandorle
The same as above, simply take away the candied lemon and vanilla. And mix in the candied fennel along with the almonds.

For candied fennel:
1 fennel bulb, trimmed of outer leaves
300 g sugar
300 g water
Dice fennel into small cubes of equal size.
Meanwhile make a simple syrup, by bringing the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan. Add cubed fennel and turn down the heat to a lively simmer. Continue on until fennel is plump and full of sugar, Drain and set aside fennel to cool. Either discard or reserve syrup for other uses, perhaps a dash in your seltzer. Or drizzled on your morning cantaloupe.

I am part of the summer
my bare feet spread on the warm wooden floorboards
a sense of temperature warmly like the womb
And like me, the frayed screen awry
our curling hairs
Soft wind, humming engines, play and flighted notes, a field of cilia sways
My water glass round, of the overgrown mint and the bouquets of fennel fronds set aside …

The stone building is warm, I am warm

Cantelope_Syrup