<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\0757793856\46blogName\75Orangette\46publishMode\75PUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\46navbarType\75BLACK\46layoutType\75CLASSIC\46searchRoot\75//orangette.blogspot.com/search\46blogLocale\75en\46v\0752\46homepageUrl\75http://orangette.blogspot.com/\46vt\0757514811248055359532', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>


Over and out

Okay. So, it seems that I’ve come down with the flu. Brandon has been sick since last Wednesday, sweating and shivering and coughing, and by Friday evening, it had felled me too. Unless you count scrambled eggs and a half-hearted batch of tomato sauce, we have cooked absolutely nothing in the past five days. On the upside, however, we’ve done a first-rate job of filling the sink with dirty dishes.

Let me tell you, you know it’s bad when you eat cold pizza and ice cream for lunch, and you don’t even enjoy it. Or when you spend two days sitting on the couch, watching nature documentaries, a mafia movie, the Oscars pre-red carpet show, the Oscars red carpet show, the Oscars, and one and a half episodes of Law & Order, and everything, every last whale flipper and pockmarked mobster and close-up of bejeweled cleavage, makes you want to cry. Even Diablo Cody made me sob a little, because she seems like the kind of girl I would have wanted to know in high school, and by god, she made it big. Needless to say, it was a full weekend.

So I hope you’ll take a rain check? An IOU? I’ll even pay interest. Hell, I’ll pay interest in euros. You won’t be sorry.

Because assuming that we can peel ourselves out of our flannel pajamas, Brandon and I are going out of town tomorrow. To Europe. For two weeks. We’ve been planning it since early December, when our friend Olaiya stumbled upon some cheap(!) tickets(!) online. The three of us started to plot and scheme, and before we knew it, we’d booked tickets to Brussels. Olaiya lived there for four years and has been itching to show us her old haunts, and anyway, I can’t say no to a country that’s famous for waffles.

Plus, it’s a handy excuse for me and Brandon to go to Paris, just a hop, skip, and a train ride away. We’ve never been there together, and since much of our early bonding consisted, gag-worthily enough, of gushing about macarons and Pierre Hermé, it seems that we’re long overdue. And he claims that the baguettes from his favorite boulangerie can run circles around the baguettes from my favorite boulangerie, so a showdown is clearly in order. Anyway, what’s the use of a savings account if you can’t deplete it in one fell swoop? That’s what I’m saying. That, and that I need a vacation. And a Kleenex.

I hope you’ll understand. I had wanted to leave you with something better than dirty dishes - ideally this and this, in fact, which I ate on a recent visit to Portland and is possibly the most brilliant dessert ever - but I can’t. I’m so sorry. Really.

I’ll be back soon enough, though, with waffles, buttery pastry, and wine to share. And without the flu. I hope.


Over and over again

I hate to say it, but I had an awfully hard time getting here today. It’s not that I didn’t want to stop by and say hello; I like you guys too much for that. It’s just that it’s been way too pretty lately to be sitting inside at the computer. As I type this, the front door is open wide and an enormous, gauzy swatch of sunlight has stretched itself along the wall. Yesterday afternoon, when the light was glowy and golden, we rented a rowboat and paddled out onto Lake Union. Then we just sat there for a while, oars up, admiring the white-bellied yachts with frilly names like Princess and Dream Catcher, and let the current pull us slowly back to shore. That’s all I ever want to do, really. Just sit in a rowboat all day, maybe with a blanket for extra warmth, and a large thermos of hot chocolate, and let the waves teeter-totter me around. I’m not sure where Rainy Old February has gone, but I hope it stays there for a little while longer. Until tomorrow, at least.

But hm, now that I’m here, I guess I might as well make the most of it. The sun is already starting to dim - that thing is so damn fickle - and anyway, it would be a shame not to tell you about this recipe. It’s been kicking around my files for a few years now, since I first found it and fell in love, and in the past ten days alone, we’ve made it not once, but twice. A rowboat it ain’t, but it does have the distinct advantage of being edible. (How’s that for a sell job? Impressive, no? In my next life, I’m going to be a car salesman.)

The dish in question is adapted from something I found in Food & Wine in early 2005, an Indian-spiced mash of eggplant, tomato, and peas, smoothed with a swirl of yogurt. I stumbled upon the recipe while visiting my mother in Oklahoma - she always has a stack of food magazines on the coffee table, and sometimes underneath it too - and I packed it in my suitcase and brought it back to Seattle. I was living alone at the time, and it was one of those dishes I could make on a Sunday night and eat from all week, with a piece of roasted chicken or a fried egg. It was warming and fragrant and a little exotic, and each day, while other leftovers went limp and stale, it only got better. I made it over and over again.

But then Brandon came along, and by the by, I got kind of distracted, what with all the cross-country swooning and then moving in and then marriage and so on, and I forgot about it, to tell you the truth. Sort of like I forgot about eating fresh ricotta straight from the container, or cottage cheese on baked potatoes, or watching The Cosby Show while I cooked dinner, other staples of my single days. So sad. I tear up a little just thinking of it. Except maybe the cottage cheese part.

But a couple of Sundays ago, we were playing around with Brandon’s recipe for chana masala, retesting it for the book - you didn’t think I could leave it out, did you? - and we needed a vegetable to eat with it, to round out the meal. Suddenly, I remembered my old favorite eggplant. It was just the thing. And so long as you don’t mind a little chopping - an onion, some garlic, a chile, some fresh ginger - it’s really quite easy. The eggplant gets roasted whole in a hot, hot oven, until the flesh inside yields like an old pillow. Then you scrape it out, mash it, and stir it into a skillet with a few aromatics, tomatoes, and frozen peas. To finish, it gets a good dose of chopped cilantro and a scoop of whole-milk yogurt, which rounds out the flavors and unites the whole mess - because it does look like a mess; I’m warning you - into a cohesive, softly spiced mash. We ate it with our chana masala and some flatbread, and it was so good that we had to make the whole meal again last Wednesday. My mother was in town for a visit, and she scraped her plate clean like a champ. Then she asked for the recipe. I gave it to her, but I forgot to tell her that I tore it out of one of her magazines. (Sorry, Mom. If you wondered where that page went, now you know. And thank you for my new flats! I’m wearing them today.)

I’m feeling so smitten, actually, with my old eggplant standby that I’m already thinking about making it again. Redundancy has never bothered me much, you know. I embrace my inner bore. Anyway, I’m sure February will be back soon, with all its usual huff and puff and bluster. My rowboat fantasies will no doubt wither under a raincloud within the next few days. But then, there’s always dinner to dream about.

Spiced Eggplant with Peas and Yogurt
Adapted from Food & Wine, March 2005

When choosing eggplant, be sure to look for firm, shiny specimens, with skin that looks like patent leather. To try to get ones with the fewest seeds possible - the seeds can lead to bitterness - you might check the small spot on the blossom end, the end opposite the stem. From what I’ve heard, eggplants with a dimple or indentation on the blossom end can tend to have more seeds, whereas the ones with a flatter (or more outwardly pointed) end tend to have fewer. I have also found that the heavier and rounder an eggplant is, the more seeds it tends to have. But if you get one that tastes bitter, don’t sweat it: just try adding extra garam masala or some good curry powder (and even a pinch of sugar) while cooking, to sweeten and deepen its flavor.

Also, since tomatoes aren’t so great right now, consider using cherry tomatoes instead of the three standard-size ones called for below. Cherry tomatoes tend to be tastier in the winter than their full-size cousins. You’ll want about a scant pint of cherry tomatoes for this.

3 large eggplants (about 3 ½ lb.)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small jalapeño, seeded (or not) and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ½ Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
½ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. turmeric
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
¾ cup chopped cilantro
1/3 - ½ cup whole-milk plain yogurt
Salt, to taste
Garam masala, for serving

Preheat the oven to 500° F. Put the eggplants on a rimmed baking sheet, and pierce them all over with a paring knife. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the skins are blackened and the flesh feels very soft when pressed. Set aside to cool slightly. Then slice them open lengthwise and, using a spoon, scrape the flesh from the skin onto a large bowl. Using a potato masher or a large fork, mash the flesh coarsely. (This part can be done a day or so ahead, if you like. Refrigerate the prepared eggplant in a covered container.)

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large (12”) skillet. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they begin to sizzle and pop, about 10 seconds. Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is soft and beginning to brown, about 5-10 minutes. Add the jalapeño, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and stir well. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the paprika and turmeric, and cook, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes. Add the eggplant, stir to combine, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the peas, and cook to warm through. Reduce the heat to low, and stir in the cilantro, yogurt, and salt.

Serve hot or warm, sprinkled with garam masala.

Note: This dish gets better with age. I like it just fine the first day, but by the second day, it’s even better.

Yield: 6 servings


Like a lullaby

For almost a year now, Brandon and I have performed a particular ritual at the start of each new season. It’s going to make some of you want to roll your eyes and gag - and really, be my guest; I gag a little just typing this - but I want to tell you about it anyway, because it’s kind of dreamy. You might even want to join in. Basically, the ritual goes like this: one night, when the season is just beginning, we climb into bed, prop ourselves up on pillows, and I read to him from Edna Lewis’s The Taste of Country Cooking.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: You read aloud to him? From a cookbook? Oh, PLEASE. But before you lean back in your chair and aim that letter opener at your eye, I hope you’ll hear me out. There’s been a lot of talk about Edna Lewis lately - the second anniversary of her death is this week, and Gourmet made her the centerpiece of their January issue - and rightfully so. The granddaughter of a freed slave, Miss Lewis grew up in a small farming community in Virginia and went on to become what some have called the South’s answer to Julia Child. The lady was a national treasure. The Taste of Country Cooking, her second book, was published in 1976, wrapped a yellow and brown cover with an endearing shot of Miss Lewis on the front, standing in a field of sunflowers, wearing a pinky-white dress and gazing into a bowl of tomatoes. Organized by season, the book is filled with reminiscences on her childhood and the food her family grew, cooked, and ate. In the summer, Brandon and I read from the summer section; in the winter, we read from the winter one. The same goes for spring and fall. It’s like a lullaby in printed form. I don’t know about you, but I think someone would have to be pretty heartless to not feel pleasantly dopey after a passage like this:

One usually thinks of lamb as a spring dish but no one had the heart to kill a lamb. The lambs were sold at the proper time and the sheep would be culled - some sold and a few butchered. My mother would usually buy the head and the forequarter of the mutton, which she cooked by braising or boiling and served with the first asparagus that appeared in along the fence row, grown from seed the birds dropped. There were the unforgettable English peas, first-of-the-season garden crop cooked and served in heavy cream along with sautéed first-of-the-season chicken. As the new calves came, we would have an abundance of milk and butter, as well as buttermilk, rich with flecks of butter. Rich milk was used in the making of gravies, blanc mange, custards, creamed minced ham, buttermilk biscuits, and batter breads, as well as sour-milk pancakes. And we would gather wild honey from the hollow of oak trees to go with the hot biscuits and pick wild strawberries to go with the heavy cream. (Spring, p. 4-5)

Of course, I should also warn you: bring some cookies or cake or something into bed with you. You’re going to need them. That, and some cheese, and olives, and salami, and last night’s leftover spaghetti, and a pint of ice cream, and the salted peanuts in that baggie on the counter, and a beer.

Ever since I got my copy of the book, I’ve had my eye on one recipe in particular. It’s from the summer section, and it’s called “Busy-Day Cake or Sweet Bread.” If that name alone doesn’t win you over, I don’t know what will. Maybe Miss Lewis’s description? Let’s see:

Busy-day cake was never iced, it was always cut into squares and served warm, often with fresh fruit or berries left over from canning. The delicious flavor of fresh-cooked fruit with the plain cake was just to our taste and it was also refreshing with newly churned, chilled buttermilk or cold morning’s milk. (p. 86)

I must have read, and reread, those words at least a half dozen times. But for reasons I cannot fathom, it wasn’t until yesterday that I finally made the cake. And all I can say about that is: DO NOT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE. Hop to it.

The busy-day cake is exactly what you might imagine, only even better. It’s a simple, quick-to-make white cake composed of the usual suspects: butter, sugar, egg, flour. But it bakes up into something uncommonly fragrant, moist and nubbly-crumbed. When Miss Lewis called it “sweet bread,” she was onto something. More than a cake, really, it reminds me of cornbread: dense, chewy, and only moderately sweet; the kind of thing you want to keep nibbling long after you’re full. I baked it yesterday afternoon, just in time to spoil our dinner, and as of this writing - a scant 25 hours later - we’ve already eaten over half of it. Miss Lewis, I think, would be very pleased. I’m usually a chocolate-cake-and-banana-bread kind of girl, but now, I don’t know. I already feel another busy-day cake coming on.

Edna Lewis’s Busy-Day Cake
Adapted from The Taste of Country Cooking

For this cake, Miss Lewis called for 4 teaspoons of a particular single-acting baking powder called Royal Baking Powder. It is no longer being made, so I used my standard baking powder, Rumford brand, which is double-acting. (Most commercial baking powders today are.) Because I was using the double-acting type, I should have used less than Miss Lewis indicated, but, uh, I didn’t think to. (See here for information about ingredient substitutions like these.) As a result, my cake collapsed(!) in the center - as cakes with too much leavening can do - and had an especially coarse texture. I happen to love it, though, so to tell you the truth, next time, I might not change a thing. I don’t mind a cake with a crater in the middle; its rustic! But if you want the cake as Miss Lewis intended it, decrease the amount of baking powder to about 2 ½ teaspoons. Or make your own homemade single-acting baking powder. It’s very simple: mix / sift together 2 parts cream of tartar and 1 part baking soda. Ta da, it’s ready. You’ll use 4 teaspoons of this mixture, as Miss Lewis calls for. Any extra can be kept for weeks, or even months.

Also, the original version of this recipe calls for the batter to be mixed by hand with a wooden spoon. But since I’m a little lazy, I used my stand mixer. (Come to think of it, I don’t believe I’ve ever creamed butter without a machine. I hope Miss Lewis will forgive me.) You could also use a hand-held mixer, or, if you’re a better woman than I, you could do it by hand. I imagine you might end up with an especially nice texture that way.

1 stick (8 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 ½ - 4 tsp. baking powder (see headnote, above)
¼ tsp. salt
1 good pinch freshly grated nutmeg, or more
½ cup whole milk, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9” springform pan with butter or cooking spray. (Miss Lewis used a 10” x 10” pan, but I don’t have one. A 9” springform pan has a similar capacity.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, blend the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. One by one, add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract, and beat to blend.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.

Add about ¼ of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and beat on low speed to incorporate. Add 1/3 of the milk, and beat again. Add the remaining flour mixture in three more doses, alternating each time with a bit of milk, and beating to just combine. Do not overmix. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir to incorporate any flour not yet absorbed.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly across the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This cake has a tendency to brown quickly on top, so after about 20 minutes, you might want to peek into the oven and tent the cake with aluminum foil if necessary.

Serve warm.

Note: This cake is pretty wonderful plain, although it’s also good with crème fraîche, and I’ll bet it would be lovely with some warm, crushed berries.


In all the right places

Hi again, guys.

I just got the March issue of Bon Appétit in the mail, so I wanted to pop in and tell you a bit about my column and the recipe it contains. This month, I’m tackling the (not-so-)tricky business of baking with yeast. More to the point, there’s a recipe for cinnamon rolls with cream cheese glaze.

Yep, you heard me. Cream. cheese. glaze. (!).

They’re pretty terrific, if I may say so: warm, soft, and gooey in all the right places. I owe a big thank you to a very kind woman named Yi-Fun Hsueh, on whose recipe mine is based. She’s a baking wonder.

So if you find yourself needing a cinnamon roll anytime soon, you know where to go. The magazine will be on the stands any day now: it’s the one with the corned beef sandwich on the cover. You can’t miss it.

Oh, and two quick pointers:

Just so you know, you can assemble the rolls the day ahead. (That way, you won’t have to wake up ungodly early to have them ready in time for breakfast.) Go ahead and make the dough, fill it, cut it into individual rolls, put the rolls in their pans, and then refrigerate them, covered with plastic wrap, overnight. The next morning, pull them from the fridge, let them do their final rise, and bake them. That’s how I like to do it. Cinnamon rolls taste best on a good night’s sleep, I find.

Also, about the yeast quantity: you will need 2 ¼ teaspoons rapid-rise yeast. A typical envelope of yeast contains that exact amount, but because there can be variation, you might want to make sure you have two envelopes on hand to start.

Happy weekend, all, and happy baking!


Consider it

I like to think of this space as my personal treasure chest of sorts. It’s a place to keep all my favorite odds and ends, my old dishes and etched spoons, my smudged and splattered recipe cards, the ones with rips and tears and dog ears. It’s my Official Repository of Good Stuff. Every week, I come here, into this warm white space, and deposit something I want to remember: a recipe, a story, maybe a photograph or two. Then, whenever I want, I can pull up a chair and look inside, pulling out ideas one by one, nibbling at crumbs, scheming and dreaming, making grocery lists and dinner plans. It’s very convenient. Much better than sealing things away in a bank vault, I’d say, or in a musty shoebox under the bed.

Of course, all this is contingent upon my remembering, from week to week, which things I wanted to deposit here. There’s the rub. Sometimes I make a new recipe, and it’s delicious and wonderful and totally worthy, and I mean to tell you about it, really I do, and so I make it again, just to make sure it’s really good, and it is, and so I make it again, and again, and then a breeze whips through the room and I turn around and before I know it, said recipe has been solidly lodged in my repertoire for a year or two, with nary a peep around here. Such is the case with my daily granola. It’s been in heavy rotation for, uh, two years now.

Consider it now deposited.

I’ve been warned that making my own breakfast cereal - and, what’s more, admitting to doing so - places me firmly within the category of Crazy Hippie, but I’m not afraid. I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. For my money, no store-bought granola can compare to the homemade kind. Plus, have you ever sat at the kitchen table while a batch of granola bakes, reading a magazine and taking slow, deep breaths of the toasty, sweetly spiced air rising from the oven? It’s an experience not to be skipped. Especially now, in February, a month I’d like to skip entirely.

I’ve written about a granola recipe before, about three years ago, in fact. For a long time, it was my go-to formula. But then, sometime in late 2005, I picked up a copy of Nigella Lawson’s charming book Feast, and lo and behold, her granola caught my eye. I made it, and then I made it again, and well, you know how it goes. With the exception of a few weeks last fall when I was too busy with my manuscript to bake much of anything, I’ve never let my stash run empty. It’s really that good. To be fair, I’ve tried plenty of others too, including a few recipes floating around the Internet, my uncle’s recipe, and one given to me by a friend’s husband’s mother. Though all were very good, none of them hit the spot quite like Nigella’s. (All apologies, of course, to said uncle, friend’s husband’s mother, etc. Nothing personal.) It’s rich but not fatty, sweet but not cloying, deeply flavored but not fussy. It’s just right.

As granola recipes go, some are simpler and some are more complex, and this one lies squarely in the middle. I love the idea of a bare-bones, just-the-essentials granola - oats, nuts, oil, and a sweetener of some sort - but to my palate, a great granola needs a little more. It needs a variety of nuts and seeds, and maybe a couple of different sweeteners for flavor complexity, and some warm spicing too, like cinnamon and ginger. It may require buying a couple of extra pantry ingredients, but once you’ve got them, you’re set for a while - and for a lot of granola.

Which comes in handy, let me tell you, because as soon as word gets out that you make a fine granola, people will start phoning from across the country, requesting shipments. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Brandon first tasted this granola shortly after we started dating, on one of his visits to Seattle, and it wasn’t long before I was packing the stuff in a cardboard box and shipping it to him in New York. I’ve also sent some to my mother in Oklahoma. Brandon’s mother first tasted it this past summer, when she stayed with us for a few days before the wedding, and she too has since called to request a special delivery. I haven’t yet filled her order - and may have thus totally missed my shot at Daughter-in-Law of the Year - but between you and me, I’ve got my eye on Mother’s Day.

Consider it done.

Daily Granola
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Feast

The recipe that follows is the way I’ve come to use Nigella’s recipe. Of course, tweak as you will. For example, feel free to use whatever type of nut you like best - just one, or a variety. You could add some flax seeds, if you like, or some shredded coconut. If you like your granola with dried fruit, go ahead and add some - but after baking, not before. And about the applesauce: I like to buy it in those single-serving cups, the kind made to go in kids’ lunchboxes. I used to buy it in bigger glass jars, but I found that it started to go moldy before I could use it all. The smaller containers are very handy that way; there’s less waste.

Finally, I highly recommend eating this granola with plain soy milk. I like it with plain yogurt or regular milk too, but soy milk is especially good. This granola also mixes nicely with other cereals, like this one, and this one.

Dry ingredients:
5 cups rolled oats
2 to 3 cups raw almonds or pecan halves, or a mixture
1 cup hulled raw sunflower seeds
¾ cup sesame seeds
¾ cup light brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt

Wet ingredients:
¾ cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
¼ cup honey
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, such as canola or safflower

Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300°F.

In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Stir to mix well. In a small bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients. Stir to mix well. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ones, and stir well.

Spread the mixture evenly on two rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until evenly golden brown. Set a timer to go off every ten minutes while the granola bakes, so you can rotate the pans and give the granola a good stir; this helps it to cook evenly. When it’s ready, remove the pans from the oven, stir well – this will keep it from cooling into a hard, solid sheet – and set aside to cool. The finished granola may still feel slightly soft when it comes out of the oven, but it will crisp as it cools.

Scoop cooled granola into to a large zipper-lock plastic bag or other airtight container. Store in the refrigerator indefinitely.

Yield: about 10 cups