Cooking + Baking

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More walking, less picture taking, okay?

Backyard plums! Our first real harvest, shy of about twenty the raccoons mauled. Sharing is caring?

Eye-talian pepper, not the first nor the largest, but mighty fine!

Playing games…Seasons to be exact.

First fennel! Shaved and on pizza. Mmmm…

As is my wont when visiting my parents (last weekend – and my cousins and aunt, too!), I take pictures of pictures – mostly times long past. These are my Great-Grandparents Tillie and Howard. I love her closed eye smile, a rare moment of pure joy.

Bake early and often, peeps!

I give all credit for my love of music to my dad. He can keep the beer, however.

My cousin Angela and Grandpa Marv. She’s in her late 30s now!

My Grandma Frances, Dad, and Mom in 1972.

With my adorable cousins Stephanie and Allison, probably 1980. I am wearing one of my favorite shirts, ever!! It was so soft and had super tiny red stripes.

And to up the vintage vibe, I’ve got 1970s era Fleetwood Mac blasting on the hi-fi. Warm Ways, indeed.

We grow quite a bit of mint and forget to use it more often than not. In a mint-lucid moment, I grabbed a bunch, whirred it in the Vitamix with lime and sugar syrup before topping it off with fizzy water. The color was a delightful almost neon, and the flavor equally electric. I am so parched looking at it that I think I’m going to beg off writing this post for a few to make another. You won’t know the difference, and summer couldn’t really ask for a better drink.

Well before the pandemic had us mostly confined, Greg and I found ourselves spending more and more time at home, thinking about moving to the country, as our need for space, starry skies, and silence grew more important. Interaction with other people, for in-theater movies, sporting events, art galleries and museums, and dining out became less and less so. And so, depsite the horrors and losses of this dreaded disease, we feel grateful to know that our isolation is neither a punishment nor a burden.

Additionally, and I sometimes feel snobby for saying so, but I like my food best. At the times when I crave something special, something I don’t feel like cooking, or when I simply need a break from the kitchen, and we go out or order in, I am often disappointed, and Greg whispers, “Yours is better.” So we are pinching the necessary pennies and hoping to have our own slice of quiet country life, hopefully sooner than later.

When we lived in Portland, our dear neighbor Pat went through the trauma of breast cancer. It was an awful and stressful time for her, and just about the only way we could help out was to make food. Her favorites were my lasagna (at least at the beginning, before she was terribly sick) and these ginger muffins. While rooting through recipes on the hunt for something else, I stumbled upon it, entitled, without an ounce of creativity, “Pat’s Cancer Muffins.” I don’t remember if they were a riff off someone else’s idea or my own fabrication. They don’t look like much but were as tasty as I remembered. Maybe you’ll like them, too.

3 oz piece unpeeled ginger root

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon zest

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

Cut ginger into large chunks. Process into tiny pieces. Alternatively, use a microplane to shred it or mince it by hand. Put the ginger and 1/4 cup sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar is melted. Set aside to cool.

Add zest to ginger mixture.

Beat the butter with remaining sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, beat well. Add the buttermilk, beat until blended. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda, and beat until smooth. Add the ginger mixture, beat until well blended. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin (I prefer to grease the tin rather than use papers for a crispy texture). Bake for 18-20 minutes at 375, or until a tester comes out clean. Serve warm.

Variation:

4 tablespoons butter & 4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup buttermilk & 1/2 cup orange juice

zest of one orange

Grandma’s rose bush made a heap of beautiful hips! I made delicious jelly!

The rim of Palmer Park between the trees. We walk here at least once a week, in most weather — Juniper hates the rain.

First onion!

cod + pineapple salsa

C A S S A T A ! !

I FINALLY remembered to take a picture – Michael, Mary, & Greg
Jesus & Juniper under foot!

When Greg and I first moved to Portland (1998!), and Hawthorne only had a handful of restaurants where we would actually eat, Bread & Ink was among our favorite places, one of those we enjoyed on a leisurely walk. A saunter of about two miles each way, depending upon which view or which house or which garden I felt like seeing that day – Greg never really cared. Their food, up until we left in 2014, was very 90s and always good. Fun cocktails, excellent coffee, nice servers. My favorite had a tattoo of a sparrow on her forearm, after the bible verse, she said, and to this heathen, non bible reader, a bit of new information, and a lovely revelation (Psalm 84:3).

But the reason for my choosing to go was always the Cassata. I remember reading the description the first time: ricotta, candied orange, & chocolate filling, chocolate frosting, and thinking, hmmmm. Could be alright. It really, really was. And so it became my dessert there, one that was not always on the menu, which was always a major disappointment, of course.

I hadn’t had any since leaving Portland (almost six years now – GOSH), and it, like every memory, came bubbling to the surface, out of the blue, and I had to have it. We were hosting Michael and Mary, and I fashioned our menu around it. Problem was, I needed to find a recipe. Type cassata into ye ole search engine and a couple rise to the top, neither of which is the cake I want. Add chocolate, and bingo, at least closer. I ended up making a 1-2-3-4 yellow cake, read through some cannoli filling recipes and got a feel for what I wanted to accomplish, then candied orange peels and made a dark leaning fudgy frosting. It gave me so many problems, but after literally jumping up and down in rage and frustration, it finally adhered to the cake. It wasn’t much to look at before slicing but made up for it, in spades, once it hit the tongue.

I also made a tomato tart, two kinds of crackers, a cheese spread, apricot mostarda, and blueberry gooseberry (home grown!) preserves. Then, for dinner, because this was a marathon, grilled rosemary chicken, grilled asparagus, a salad entirely grown by farmer Greg (two varieties of lettuce, carrot, onion, radish!!).

Of course we put together a puzzle, as we always do, talked and talked, and talked some more, and walked the dogs. The best of times among the best of friends – twenty-six years strong.

Tags:

First carrot!

ground cherries – small but mighty

plums

crocosmia & eager hummingbird

liatris

orange horned poppy

evening primrose

ratbida

fernbush

Choke cherry – how wild the birds are for these!

beautifully grilled salmon

mushroom + sausage + fennel

home grown (!) roasted italian pepper + langostino + olive oil

Dizzyingly good pizza and a bumpy birthday cake for my favorite person, a few days early. My frosting didn’t look quite right, but the flavor sure was.

Flowers and mountains and homegrown food – how lucky they make us and our days. The bees and butterflies and birds, everyday joys: walking, sweating, reading, a soak in the tub.

This post begins with a lament and too much information. Our middle-aged bodies are no longer as friendly with lactose. We take the little pills, which are super helpful, but don’t do ALL the work. But dang, how I love a little cream in my Saturday coffee and find the substitutes pretty darn awful in taste, consistency, or both. So I made almond creamer! It was truly delicious and the perfect consistency, without any added sweeteners. I soaked almonds in water overnight, slipped the skins off before putting them in the blender with just enough water to keep them whirring. I squeezed and Greg squeezed, and the pint jar is the final product. It’s a little work, of course, but worth a tasty cup of joe!

I also made another batch of peach jam (after realizing I overshared and we only had one jar left – a tragedy) and some red pepper jelly. It was my first time with the red pepper, but it was as easy as can be, and tastes wonderfully spicy and fruity – on a grilled pork chop (with grilled peaches), on chicken, over a bit of cream cheese, and spooned decadently from the jar and into my mouth.

The white mess in the bowl is what the almonds look like after being soaked and whirred and squeezed into milk. Since I am ever thrifty and abhor waste, I used it to make the dough & streusel for the pretty peach cake and the bit of toasted goodness just below on the tray. A bostock, normally on brioche or some equally decadent bread, but we only had homemade white, so that’s what I used, with chopped almonds & powdered sugar sprinkled over top. And the iced coffee has THE creamer in it. My good-ness.

The adorable tray was my grandparents, emblazoned with gold stars and a very patriotic bald eagle with the flag of the good ol’ U.S. of A. When my grandparents died, and everyone visited the house to select furniture and treasures, I chose, according to my family, the most random. But if you know anything about me, I am most definitely odd, but also quite calculated.

These items and more like them. A toll painted trashcan that sits in my office, because I always liked the look of it. The tray with the eagle because it was one I used the whole of my life and could still perfectly envision Grandma’s hands, nails long and pointy and laquered, carrying it. A wee stove top pot, with lid, that Grandpa worked for and used most days of my memory. Carvings of a duck, eagle, and geese – made by Grandpa. A statue of the Virgin Mary that lived my whole life atop Grandma’s dresser. A chest of drawers that held Grandpa’s clothes. Every item of little monetary value, but so rich with memories as to make them priceless to me.

And a couple more delicious dazzler meals. I bought the fabulous Sababa Cookbook and made the matbucha – tomato & red pepper spread, along with the golden onion & chickpea dip (though mine looks very different from hers), and my own favorite hummus & pita. The cheezy asparagus pashtida is from the same book on a different day. Um, yes, more please.

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