01 . 21 . 14
Oh, baby. Last week I was an emotional and professional doozy. Without getting into specifics, I can honestly say that I have never felt more tested to dig deep, set my ego on the shelf, and be the person of (strength, character, restraint, kindness) I’d like to think I’ve been practicing for since I joined the human race on December 26, 1989.
On Wednesday the kitchen had no appeal whatsoever, so we headed out for dinner at a restaurant that was probably a bit indulgent for two kids in Nikes, bad hair, and puffy jackets but, it’s Colorado, and the rising full moon begged us to release a bit of hardness and practice self care. On this night, care came in the form of fancy kohlrabi salad, grilled octopus, and two glasses of wine… all of which we probably couldn’t quite afford at the moment but felt so necessary to our existence that it didn’t even matter. At one point I looked at Shaun and said, I love this. “This” not being eating out, but the day, the moment, the fact that we were laughing and crying and so full and so empty all at the once. I started to well up with happy tears because of how ridiculously good everything felt (being alive, earning a right to sit across from each other at the table like this) despite the enormity of my exhaustion and general feelings of sweet-baby-jesus-this-life-business-ain’t-for the birds that hovered about.
As we age I imagine our daily struggles will wear different shoes, and the lessons we’re served will get harder and and somehow easier… but I also have to believe that in those future years we will look back on days like these and think: they were everything. These early days reaching and scraping and believing we can make something good of our lives are so brutal sometimes, but also so intensely rich. I can only hope that in ten, twenty, forty years we’ll be this resilient, this passionate. I can only hope we’ll be this feisty, foolish, and humbled in our smallness. I can only hope we’ll love how deeply we loved, how bad we royally fucked things up, how hard we tried, and how explicit we were in our search for opportunities to be better.
“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.”
Late Winter Chocolate and Orange Tart
A few disclaimers before you make a go of it. I’ll call this a “special occasion” recipe because it does take a bit longer than most of the recipes I share. Not that it should be reserved only for special occasions, but, you get what I mean. Also, for aesthetics, I did not remove the peel or pith of the oranges. Some people aren’t into the bitterness, so I’d suggest supreming or removing the rind of your fruit before dressing the tart.
The tart shell is the exact recipe from Yossy Arefi’s mascarpone tart last year, which she adapted from Dorie Greenspan. Please visit her site for the instructions. Ingredients listed below:
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 9 tablespoons cold, cubed butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 2 large blood oranges
- 3 large cara cara oranges
- 2 navel oranges
- 1 bar high-quality dark chocolate
For the tart shell preparation, see here. Set aside to cool while you prepare the pastry cream.
Warm the milk in a saucepan until it begins to steam, not boil. In a medium bowl stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add egg yolks. Whisking them together will create a crumbly-paste like mixture. This is totally normal. Pour warm milk from the saucepan into the bowl of egg-flour paste and store together. Once everything has combined, return mixture to the saucepan over medium heat. WHISK CONSISTENTLY. You will feel like you’re creating a ton of froth, but that’s okay, it will begin to thicken after a few minutes. Pause whisking after three minutes and see if it begins to boil, if so, remove from heat.
Stir vanilla into the cream and pour into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl in the sink. Push cream through the strainer to catch tiny bits of cooked egg. Place bowl in the fridge and let chill completely for 2 hours. To expedite the process, surround the bowl of cream in another bowl of ice. When the cream is cooled, stir in pomegranate molasses and lemon juice.
Melt the chocolate using a double boiler or water bath method. Spread melted chocolate over tart shell evenly. Pop in the fridge for 5 minutes. To prepare the oranges for garnish, hold the orange in your left or non-knife hand so that the navel is touching your thumb. Slice at your desired thickness, mine are about 1/4 inch. Retrieve tart shell with hardened chocolate from the fridge. Pour 3 cups of pastry cream into the center and spread as needed to cover. Arrange the oranges in concentric circles.
11 . 25 . 13
I’m not a coffee snob by any sense of the imagination, but I can appreciate a good cup and the careful attention it took to brew. What I don’t appreciate is the attitude that now often comes served on the side with these new trendy caffeine purveyors, and really, the “craft” food scene, at large. I was in San Francisco two weeks ago with my Mom and dear friend Mari shopping for my wedding dress (found it) (love it) (!!!!) and stopped by a hip and hyped establishment in SoMa for the day’s fuel. At the counter we were greeted with the most appalling you-are-wasting-my-time looks from the baristas for even asking what the meth-lab looking glass beaker contraption was at our left, and what the “minimalist” breakfast menu really entailed (does the listing “egg” really mean just an egg on a plate, or does that come with toast?). I usually can tune out the I’m-hot-shit barista vibe at home in CO, but that morning I wanted to reach over and smack the beards off their sassy faces for acting like jerks to my gracious and legitimately curious Mom.
Frankly, I could care less about how cool or well-known a person, brand, or product is. Cool bores me. Cool tells me nothing about your heart. Cool tells me nothing about your brain. I’d rather sip lukewarm instant coffee in a dirty, poorly-lit diner outside Reno, Nevada every day of the year then have to stroke an inflated ego to get some pour-over in prime urban real estate. What happened to being friendly WHILE these folks do whatever sustainable, curated, artisan, handmade, small-batch, “authentic” thing they do? Hi there! I’m human, you’re human, isn’t it neat that we get to be humans together!? What happened to being and living those maxims for the sake of it, not because it’s en vogue and gives people/brands this elevated sense of social importance and license to be inconsiderate.
On that note, Shaun and I have been on a crusade lately to eliminate the use of the word authentic in our daily dialogue. I feel like we’re living in this supersaturated season where friends and colleagues can’t express themselves or be in relationship without tossing around the word to qualify to everything they care about: authentic storytelling, authentic branding, authentic relationships, authentic conversations, etc. It’s gotten so bad we have even joked about pitching a film to the Portlandia producers where a couple sits down at dinner and has to use the word authentic in every sentence they speak to the waiter, i.e. “is the tomato in this burger an authentic tomato?” It seems that in the process of trying to authenticate our lives, work, and experiences, we turn our social environments into the very antithesis of the word. By definition, authentic simply means to be genuine. Yet if we’re all trying SO hard to be genuine, is genuine even genuine anymore? It certainly doesn’t feel like it. When a friend emails, “I’m really looking forward to authentically relating with you” in regard to an impending meet-up, I scratch my head and think, oh wait, you mean, like JUST BEING ALIVE TOGETHER IN THE SAME ROOM AND LISTENING TO ONE ANOTHER? I realize that this is a terribly circular debate, one that I know seems to wrap around and over itself and runs into all sorts of dead-ends and fingers pointed right back at me at various times of my life. That said, I think it’s worth stepping stage-left and sorting through the mess of how this word “authentic” has made us more or less of the thing we want most — to be ourselves and feel “different,” to feel like we’re all not just cogs in the machine.
We have friends who make furniture from reclaimed wood in an old mechanics shop south of downtown Denver and furnish some of the “hottest” bars and restaurants of the city. On paper, they seem like poster children for a hipster, eco-chic, cool-kid (fill in the blank). What I love most about Rob and Ben though, is how utterly unconcerned they are with “striving for authenticity” in their lives and craft. They just ARE authentic. Imagine that! They do what they love. They live what they love. They are the truest expression of authenticity I know because of how little attention they pay to accomplishing the definition, and how much attention they pay to being good humans and enjoying the time they get to live on earth and do the things that make them happy. I find that this I’m just doing my thing the way that works for me attitude is constantly in attempt to be emulated by the creative community but most of the time ends up feeling forced in a I’m trying way too hard to not care… but… really I care a lot about what you think of me and my authentic-ness, kind of way.
And then I sit back and think… I’m probably just a grouch. What is authentic for me is different for someone else. Maybe, as it has been suggested to me, some people just authentically are assholes. Maybe the trendy coffee experience is sincerely soul-affirming for some in a way I can’t possibly understand or appreciate. I happen to find conversations with the folks working in cafes with saggy green leather couches, gay-marriage posters, and drip coffee more affable than the former, but hey. At the end of the day, the pandemic use of the word authentic underscores how massively disconnected we are, as individuals, to what it means to be fully ourselves. Fully and/or comfortably. We have to talk about being authentic all the time to convince ourselves that we actually are. And where does that come from? Ultimately that’s what we’re left to assess. Why is everyone trying so hard? WE DON’T NEED TO TRY SO HARD! We just need to BE our own weird selves. That’s authentic. Be weirdly enthusiastic. Be weirdly honest. Stay weirdly interested in the things that make your heart sing. We are all unique little snowflakes. Except when we’re not unique little snowflakes. Let’s try owning that too. I actually really like that I’m not the only one who enjoys camping or has binged on episodes of Mad Men or wants to be Oprah Winfrey’s best friend or puts avocado on toast. Is being alike really so bad?
At the end of all this, I feel like I’ve made no progress in wrestling the issue. In fact I’ve hesitated even posting this diatribe after coming across a sticky note in my suitcase while packing for our trip that I quoted from a magazine: “gratitude alters your vibration, moving you from negative energy to positive – it’s the easiest, quickest, most powerful way to effect change in your own life and the world.” Gulp. In some weird way, sorting through and throwing out the bullshit in our lives is a way of expressing gratitude. What if we were all just too darn grateful to worry about what’s most cool or most authentic? We don’t get enough time in this life to navel-gaze on the these matters, and I’m stomping my feet and throwing my arms to just say so.
Be a nice human. Listen well. Be intentional. Speak your truth. Say thank you. Like what you like. Love what you love. Do what you do. That’s all I have left to say about that.
- 6 persimmons (any variety)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 tsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- Butter, for coating the pan
In a mixing bowl, combine milk, water, butter, honey, and eggs. Add flour and stir together vigorously. Place batter in the fridge for 1-2 hours so bubbles rise and diminish.
Cut persimmons into wedges, peeling off the skins as you work. Place in a heavy bottomed pot or pan. Set over medium heat and saute persimmons with sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and lemon for 20 minutes until softened. Add cornstarch and simmer for another 5-1- minutes. Remove from heat.
Heat a small, non-stick crepe pan. Scoop half cup of batter into the center of the pan and spread evenly. Cook for 30-ish seconds and flip, cooking for another 10 seconds before removing to a plate.
Fill corner of crepe with a dollop of mascarpone and persimmon compote. Fold crepe over itself until you have a triangular shape. Repeat. Cover desired serving with more persimmon compote.
10 . 22 . 13
Autumn. FINALLY. My bones have ached for this season. I do believe the leaves on the trees that line our street now match the hues of my heart, and for a few brief, palpable moments over the past few days, I’ve been reminded that I belong in this human skin, this temporal world.
Offline life owns any and all coherent bits of my lexicon right now, so today I give you a film, doughnuts from Ashley’s super fun new cookbook, and a few notes from the field, as follows:
(1) Tell people you love them while they can still hear you (2) Get over yourself. Self-consciousness robs us of being fully present to others (3) Pay attention and everyone is the guru — especially the 6 year old boy next door (4) Celebrate the people who keep you company. Thank them, daily, for their grace, patience, and wisdom (5) Beautiful things don’t just happen, you make them happen. Work hard. Keep your chin up (6) We belong to the earth. Lie in the leaves on the ground and pray like hell you’ll learn how to burst and bless and move on like they do (7) Change your toothbrush more often and buy new underwear. It’s the little things (8) “Nobody looks stupid when they’re having fun” – Amy Poehler (9) Date pits do not go in the garbage disposal (10) Sparklers in place of birthday candles make a mess, but are always a good idea.
Gluten-Free Apple Fritter Doughnuts
- 1 cup oat flour
- 1 cup rice flour
- 2/3 cup cane sugar
- 6 tbsp almond meal
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup + 4 tbsp buttermilk
- 1/2 cup apple sauce
- 4 tbsp coconut oil
- 3 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup peeled, diced honeycrisp apples
- 1 1/2 cup sugar + 2 tsp cinnamon for coating
- 1/4 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
Preheat the oven to 350.’ Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, and mix well. In another bowl, whisk together liquid ingredients and eggs. Pour wet mixture into the dry and stir gently with a wooden spoon until just combined and there are no more flour streaks. Fold in the diced apples gently.
Spoon batter into standard doughnut molds, before the top of the basin. As you can see in the video, I struggled with this. If they look wonky and overflowing they still turn out good, I promise. Bake for 15-18 minutes until lightly golden brown around the edges. Let cool before tackling the cinnamon sugar coating.
Ashley’s instructions for the fritter effect are for stoves with a broiler situated at the top of the oven, mine are for a lower oven/drawer-style broiler and instructions are shared accordingly. In an assembly line, place bowl of melted oil/butter in the middle between the cooled rack of donuts and a bowl of cinnamon sugar mixture. Dip tops of baked and cooled doughnuts in the oil/butter for a millisecond, then roll around in the sugar mix. Place on a baking sheet, cast iron pan, or sheet of tin foil beneath the broiler to caramelize the sugar for 2-3 minutes, careful not to burn. Repeat until doughnuts are coated. Serve warm.
** Leave a comment with your field notes of late and I’ll pick one winner to receive a copy of Baked Doughnuts for Everyone by October 29, 2013. Winner will be announced on facebook and via email! Cheers!
08 . 25 . 13
Many years ago I was on a flight from Boston to Dallas after the funeral. My heart was swollen with grief, my head pounded with rage and questions about loss. Sick and lonely, I sat in an aisle near the front of the plane and stared blankly at two stewardesses gossiping and locking, unlocking, locking cabinets in preparation for takeoff. A little girl lept, literally, across the threshold of the plane behind them. We made eye contact and I smiled at her. She was four years old, maybe five, I never can tell the ages of children. Turning back to her mom, then back to me, she bounded toward the corner of my seat and placed her tiny hands on my crossed knees and shouted “You are the most beautiful princess I have EVER SEEEEEEENNNN!!!” I began sobbing, instantly. I don’t remember anyone looking at me, the hot, soggy mess that I was. I don’t remember being embarrassed. I only remember feeling more peace, anguish, and assurance than I had ever previously known, or have perhaps known since.
I share this with you, friend, because I know that little girl is looking for you right now. She is bounding down the aisles of your life to tell you, remind you, that despite your brokenness, you are a bright shining light in this world. You are worthy of joy and happiness. Despite your mistakes and wrong turns, you deserve the sun and the moon and all of the stars. The pain you feel, the questions that keep you up at night, the sadness you harbor, the wounds you hide for friends and colleagues — all of this, all of these things, will make sense one day. Not today. And that’s totally fine. It’s okay that things are not okay.
If you lived here, I would hope to find you sitting on my front porch tomorrow evening as I returned from errands. I would hold you. I would hold you so tight. Then I would make you a grilled cheese sandwich and we might drink the good wine straight from the bottle and I would tell you about the little girl and the plane and how wonderfully fucked up and outrageously mind-blowing the Universe seemed in that moment. Because that’s what there is, you know. Madness and wonder. Joy and agony. Fear and freedom. All at once, all the time.
Remember that night in Beijing after we had that god-awful duck and saw a show at the Peking Opera house and it was so cold in the theater that we could barely feel our toes? We found a bathroom in a bar down the street at intermission and the insides of the stalls were completely covered in mirrors. Everywhere. Head to toe mirrors in front of us behind us, above us. We laughed hysterically and you asked me from the stall next door, “have I been drugged?!!” I sat with my pants at my ankles and laughed, “well, if you’ve been drugged, so have I.”
We were in China. Sick and stuffed with duck and happiness. We were also in China, having no idea, really, where we were, and had found ourselves in a bathroom where it was impossible to NOT look at our tired, pale, puffy-faced, half-naked selves and wonder about the meaning of life. I remember blowing steam on the wall to my right and watching my reflection become hazy. I closed my eyes and prayed that we’d never forget who we were and how we felt in that moment. The magic. The hysteria. The total confrontation of self in the most bizarre and unknown circumstances. There was this feeling that the situation reflected upon how perfect and awkward and hilarious and terrifying the best and worst moments always are.
I mean this in all seriousness. For you and me, girl, there will be times in our lives that will somehow all boil down to one vulnerable minute, sitting on the John, and really seeing ourselves… seeing ourselves, and coming to terms with what’s looking back. I think you’re upon one of those times. What do you see?
Dear friend, I want you to know that you are the most beautiful princess I have ever seen. Your losses, regrets, sins, and secrets. Your exstacies, braveries, dreams, and triumphs. All of it, a masterpiece. Every last bit.
Breathe in, breathe out. Dig deep. I love you.
Caramelized Fig Ice Cream with Mascarpone and Honey Pecans
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup mascarpone
- 1/3 granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp pink salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 lb Black Mission Figs
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2-4 tbsp water
- 1 cup honey roasted pecans, roughly chopped
For the fig-swirl: Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Add brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Halve all of the figs and toss in the saucepan with water and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until you have a chunky-jammy mixture. Add salt with one or two stirs, set aside and let cool completely.
Ice cream: In a small pot over medium heat, combine milk, and granulated sugar until sugar is completely dissolved and the milk is just barely lukewarm. Whisk in the egg yolks. Set mixture in the fridge and wait until the fig mixture is cooled.
Using an ice cream machine, pour liquids into the frozen basin and process according to manufacturer instructions, i.e., let spin and thicken for 20 minutes before adding mascarpone, fig jam mixture, and the nuts. Continue to process for +/- 10 minutes. Pour semi-frozen mixture into a pyrex dish or glass tupperware. Freeze for at least two hours before serving.
No ice cream maker? The Kitchn can help with that.