I made an awful lot of honeysuckle syrup last June. Drank up a bunch with vodka over ice, drizzled more in mini ladyfinger trifles, and am now baking up the rest.
One of the tenderest, loveliest pound cake recipes I know comes from Martha (http://www.marthastewart.com/315016/cardamom-pound-cake-with-roasted-late-su). I thought I’d guild the lily one step further and soak it in honeysuckle syrup. So I did.
Do everything she tells you to do, but hold the cardamom and cut way back on the sugar (your syrup wants to be the diva here). I put my batter in an 11″ springform as well, and put it on a rimmed cookie sheet. When it comes out of the oven, dock the top of the cake with a fork.
Like this. Martha’s would have been more even.
Then pour a cup or two of the syrup over the whole cake. The hot cake will slurp it up, and the little holes will help to facilitate that. (Since the cake contains almond flour, I added a splash of Disaronno to the syrup as well. Almonds and honeysuckle are such a good combo platter.)
Every morning I take out a half cup or so of extra syrup and pour it over my slice of breakfast cake because I love it all soaky.
Right now tax accountants across the country are busy closing out America’s 2014 fiscal year. I’m doing the same…but with honeysuckle. The 2015 season starts this June. I’m standing by with my collecting bucket.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged almond, almond flour, breakfast, cake, Disaronno, food, honeysuckle, photography, pound cake, syrup | 9 Comments »
A couple of weeks ago I read about a grandmother who, when covering her rising bread dough to hold in moisture, called it ‘veiling the bowl.’ And this is where it gets bizarre. From then on, I kept seeing veils everywhere.
A reader posted a photo of blue-veiled Indian women. I saw more veil references in my reading. One described illusion as a type of veil. Another called tears a veil. Still others discussed the role of veils throughout history. A woman in a veil is often a woman in transition—in mourning, in travel, about to be wed. She is in a liminal state, poised in a soulful world of her own, all the while walking in the topside world. There’s a certain power held by a woman who wears a veil; she stands among us, but is to a great extent untouchable. Everyone who beholds a veiled woman senses this power. It’s a silent warning that she is not to be disturbed, much like dough rising. She has work to do. And it can be mesmerizing to behold.
I spent a good portion of the winter under the throw that I mention often, writing, snoozing, thinking, and generally being soothed. It’s a fleecy sanctuary…and another veil. There’s more: I’ve felt most comfortable with my hair almost entirely down. (Another.) I’ve felt compelled to stand at the ocean’s edge and dip my fingers in the salt water, much like my own tears, and run them across my cheeks. (Yep.)
But then, it’s been a long and tough winter. From old to new thinking, from cold to warmth, from illusion to the not-always-comfy chair of reality, I’ve been incubating. For good, I hope.
There’s a Puritanical and misguided rule among many women (and men) that to allow time and peace to incubate is wasted time, or even more damning—frivolous and self-indulgent time. No. It’s in these moments that we can discern what works in our lives and what doesn’t, dispel truth from illusion, administer medicine to the hurt places, and cultivate strength for what’s ahead. The topside world can and will dry you out. Don’t ever apologize for going under the veil.
Last Friday I baked Easter bread, a three-generation tradition. There it is incubating, above and just below. This was one of my more successful years, despite my own liminal state. With a veil (a well-used cotton cloth), some warmth, some moisture, and some peace, the bread became just what it was meant to be: tender and spicy and resilient—quite the revelation, if I say so myself.
And there I am, incubating far below. Shooting for the same result.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged baking, bread dough, Easter bread, food, photography, veil | 2 Comments »
I used to hate avocados. Now I crave them. Who dreams about chicken salad sandwiches with avocado, kosher salt, and fresh garlic, I ask you? Short answer: Me. Long answer: Meeeeeee.
Okay, I guess it didn’t happen out of the clear blue. One of my theatre colleagues makes homemade guacamole. Now, normally that ubiquitous dip is an under-seasoned, nauseous-colored mush, dense enough to crowbar into a plastic jug and sell as spackle. His is tender, if that makes any kind of sense, and he’s liberal with the fresh garlic. He also brings it to post-show bacchanals, leaves it right in the big charcoal-grey mortar where it was made. People go crazy. Actors tend to be hungry as it is, and they descend upon this like…well, like hungry actors. And one day I grabbed a chip and muscled my way in.*
Last week I bought two avocados. One went toward the aforementioned chicken salad. I stuffed it into a really fresh, smooshy pita** and it was incredible.
Today I tried a friend of a friend’s idea: avocado smeared on whole-grain bread, with kosher salt and sliced red onion. Also a win. Crunchy sea salt would probably be addictive.
What should I make next?
*It took a while.
**I live in an area with a large Syrian Jewish population, they eat a lot of pita, and they would never put up with the dreck on supermarket shelves.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged avocado, avocados, chicken salad, chicken salad sandwiches, food, garlic, kosher salt, photography, pita, sandwich, sea salt, whole-grain bread | 7 Comments »
For the past few Marches I’ve made soda bread. Wildly delicious breakfast.
I started out using traditional recipes from Gourmet Magazine* and Linkedin, tender, buttery, raisiny ones. Then last year I decided to get all cocky and do riffs off the usual recipes.
The below is last year’s oeuvre, with a big handful each of dried cherries and dark chocolate chunks. It worked. I’d do it again. And, no, I never slice these dudes.
Pulled-off chunks taste way better.
This year’s idea clocked me upside the head while in the car, just a few minutes from my place.** I’d thought I’d go with a tropical theme, with dried pineapple or mango, toasted coconut, and rum. It’s a solid idea, and it’s still in the running for next year. Stick around.
Then I thought, no, I’ll stay really, really close to the heart, soul, and fisherman sweaters of the Irish, and use Baileys Irish Cream somehow. I toyed with making a glaze out of it. When I heard a howl of brogue coming from across the pond, I got a mite shaky and poured this lovely stuff right into the dough—halved the buttermilk called for, and made up the difference with Baileys.
The broguey howl mercifully shifted in character and pitch, and sounded a lot more appreciative.
I also threw in a cup of raisins that I had soaked in a combination of hot water and my homemade vanilla extract*** until they plumped up, and dark chocolate that got a very rough chop. Shamelessly big chunks. If you’re gonna do it, you know.
Do I seem obsessed with chocolate?
Warm out of the oven, this quite knocked me out—vanilla and chocolate in such a grownuppy way, with creamy, boozy, mesmerizingly fragrant undertones. It worked.
OH, and kindest regards to my #1 Irish fan. Brendan, hope I did you proud! :)
*God rest its soul.
**Most accidents happen near the home. Look it up.
***Because I was out of Jameson.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged Baileys Irish Cream, breakfast, brogue, cherries, dark chocolate, dough, dried cherries, food, Gourmet Magazine, Irish, Jameson, Linkedin, March, photography, raisin, recipe, soda bread, St. Patrick's Day, traditional recipes, vanilla extract | 9 Comments »
In late winter into early spring, the warmer days and cold nights cue maple trees to get their sap moving up into the branches for bud production. It’s also the brief window of time in which maple syrup producers work night and day to get sap extracted from trees, boiled down into syrup, and bottled. They’re scrambling this year, because the extended cold weather here on the east coast of the USA has pushed off the season. Once spring weather hits, it’s over for the year.
Yesterday I went with my sister and brother-in-law to the western end of New Jersey where maple syrup collecting is a hobby; we don’t have scads of sugar maples (the variety that produces the sweetest sap) the way our northern states and Canada do. Shame, because I could totally see myself doing this for a profession, despite the fact that I was crap at science.
In the meantime, groovy class. Bundle up.
Allison the instructor showed us three pots of sap in various stages of reduction. You want to get the water out, to get down to the essence of this stuff. This is the sap after just a bit of boiling; it’s faintly tinged with brown.
Here’s another pot of sap after longer boiling.
This one’s almost ready to rock.
Next we headed out to the sugar bush, the name for the cluster of tappable trees. Although, a woodpecker got to this tree first.
A 100-year-old sugar maple, with ancient tapping scars.
Another old tree. Sap running down its bark many years ago stained it black.
The sap is clear, icy cold, and very faintly sweet. We got a taste of it coming right out of the tree. Bloody awesome.
A bucket lid keeps out random things that float in the air. Wild coincidence that Canadians made these, huh?
An old-fashioned hand drill. Far cooler, although much less efficient, than a power drill.
It has a wooden handle and knob. How cool is this thing?
The syrup in the jar at the top is the product of trees tapped right on the property; it’s single-origin (from one region) syrup. It was offered for comparison along with a commercially-sold brand of pure maple syrup and a popular brand name featuring brown-tinted corn syrup and a woman in a babushka. I thought the syrup made on the property was the best. But admittedly I gave the babushka the snub.
Oh, and then since we were only 20 minutes outside of Princeton, we hit the bent spoon, which, as I posted to my friends, kicks every ice cream ass there is. The proprietors do their own tapping of local resources whenever possible, supporting local farmers and growers. This is chocolate Port and coconut ice cream. A knockout.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged bent spoon, Canada, food, hand drill, maple, maple syrup, maple trees, New Jersey, photography, power drill, Princeton, sap, sap bucket, Spring, sugar bush, sugar maple, woodpecker | 4 Comments »