Category Archives: poem

Ana’s cake

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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GoldenRussetWinesapCalvilleBlancd'Hive

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

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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.

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Lemons + Varietals

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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!