29 March 2010


Last night I went to hear Ruth Reichl speak about her writerly life. Stories and stories and a lack of gift bag later {apparently, only the highest paying patrons received the edible swag}, I left with a few gems, copied in my note-taking scrawl, black ink glistening between two pale pink textured Moleskine covers. But behind my eyes there also flashed again ideas, storied of course, about life and telling and doing, and melding all of those into something fanciful and honest. About how to access such life force, such inspiration, and to harness it into something presentable--like a tale, like a meal, like a treat.
So without further ado, I will share some of those encrusted considerations.
1. Apparently, as per Hollywood, Food is the new Sex.
2. At the dinner table growing up, Reichl was expected to turn her day into a good story--or at least to come to the proverbial table {this one laid with food of sometime questionable quality according to her most recent book} with some tale to share. Having never formally studied English or journalism, she attributes this accountability, among other things, to fostering and developing her writing talent.
3. What should you know about wine and food? Why is it so important to a well rounded meal?
Well, for one it makes food taste better, chuckled Reichl. But she offered this bit of advice, gleaned from a lauded chef's grandmother, roughly: "When you get good wine, you should wink." In other words, drink good wine and don't think too much about it.
4. If anyone comes across Reichl's first restaurant reviews published in New West Magazine, they are--judging from her stories last night {including one about a band of bandit food sabotagers, so to speak}--in for a very entertaining ride.

17 March 2010


I want to draw attention to a new addition here, on the right, called So Good and Tasty. A newly found cooking blog thanks to my partner in crime's search for "cookie glory blog" one March evening. Often, I find myself wondering if there is any room for another blog in this choked world, let alone one about food and cooking. Reading Julia Child's My Life in France only makes this question more imminent. How would the charming and exuberant Mrs. Child have fared in today's rush rush rush culture? How would she have began her "cookery-bookery" with Internet leakage and the looming blogdom holding court with all foodies, cookers and eaters alike? She was of the school where one time, time and more time in the recipe developing and writing process. What resulted was a veritable tome and ode to a cuisine at that time still virtually undiscovered by American eaters. What is lacking in the current cookery climate and how does one go about filling that void? As a firm disbeliever in creating one's own void for the sole reason of pleasing oneself, there has to be an element of goodhearted offering to a hoped-for readership, an intent public. Or at least the vision of an intent public.
So upon perusing the crisp photos of vegetarian meals and treats showcased on So Good and Tasty, which is a relatively new endeavor as indicated by the posting history, I marvel at once again being inspired and entertained by another food blog. Reinvention reigns.

25 January 2010

Something Guilt Born

Sometimes the memory of something baked, broiled or sautéed will induce languid thoughts into poetic labor. And for some reason, when I lay in hot water—literally, although I wouldn’t put it past my psyche to try it metaphorically—the provocation is almost certain. And so there I was, all stretched out corpse-like, when my eye caught the glimmer…

Glancing through low light, gleaming inside a green-tiled room, shone the cranberry colored rubies gathered in a bunch at the end of an intricate gold chain, bound to resemble the shape of a DNA code. They were there, carelessly yet deftly laid on the counter, dangerously nearing the soft slope of bathroom tile ledge. It would be a long fall for those jewels, clustered like grapes and dangling like a carefree child on the jungle gym—like a child who hasn’t yet fallen or who has learned that some fun is worth the underlying painful risk.

Like moving brashly. Like deciding strong-heartedly before completely thinking an action through. Like some things which in some instances might trigger self-reproach. But really, if you think more about it, who needs to fill hours in an already too-full day with lamenting deft acts? There is nothing wrong with living wildly now and then. I like to imagine Edie Sedgewick running “naked as a lima bean” for two blocks down New York’s concrete sidewalks before her friends catch up with her. Or of Margaret Mead’s wise words:
“We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.”

That said, my baking of this morning cake was guilt-born. Grabbing somewhat brashly the entire plastic sack of cranberries from the office kitchen, I realized instantly I would have to share the wealth via some tasty transformation of said ruby-like orbs, turning their bitter bite into the sweet burst of divinity that sugar does impart. I like this cake in the winter for many reasons, but perhaps my favorite is the way the batter, creamy beige, insulates the berries like a down comforter does in the dead of winter. I’ll take all opportunities to return to such a visual come mid-day tea or sunrise act of sustenance.

Tasted over already-finished coffee at Stumptown while late for work, lamenting the absence of a cinematic morning-date, scurrying to find an unoccupied computer that could actually give me the power of instant press, and finally deciding to stand up technology {since I, as it turns out, wasn’t—stood up that is} to write a note by hand introducing the once-raw cranberries to the office in their updated garb—no matter the journeyed circumstance, the cake still elicited the response, “Veronica, this coffeecake is too good.” And, in total agreement, I’ll leave it at that.

Cranberry Coffeecake
From Rustic Fruit Deserts from the lovely lady behind Baker and Spice
For the Coffeecake:

Butter for greasing pan
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
Zest of an orange
2 eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

For the Vanilla Crumb:

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup sea salt
½ cup cold unsalted butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

First, make the Vanilla Crumb.

In a food processor, combine the dry ingredients and butter, pulsing until coarse crumbs form. Pour vanilla over the crumb mixture and pulse just a few times to combine. Transfer crumb topping to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use. This mixture can also be frozen.

Next, make the cake.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9-inch square baking pan.

Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter, sugar and zest together until fluffy and lightened in color, about four minutes.
Next add the eggs one at a time, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl after each addition.
Stir in the vanilla.
In three additions, add the flour and stir just until combined, alternating with the sour cream in two additions. Begin with the flour, end with the flour.
Fold one cup of your cranberries.

Spread the batter into the greased pan and sprinkle the remaining cup of cranberries on top.
Retrieve the crumb topping and, breaking apart the mass of crumb, distribute evenly over the cranberries.
Bake the coffeecake for about 45 minutes, or until sides are lightly golden and the top is firm.

Store the cooled cake at room temperature for about three days, wrapped in plastic. After three days, transfer to the refrigerator.

12 January 2010

A Veritable Romance

I consider myself a fairly accomplished gal.  I have a college degree, can speak a foreign language, I'm madly in love with a handsome gardener, and in eighth grade I won the History Bee.  These are all pretty awesome things, yes?  I know, there are miles and miles of potential achievements ahead of me in this life, but I generally feel satisfied with the woman I have become.

Recently, however, I have been expanding my horizons.  No more same ol' dishes that have been tried and true.  I want new experiences, new tastes, new players in my culinary endeavors.  I feel like starring in my own post-modern French film, but instead of exploring sexuality, I want to explore soup.  And, oh mama, have I ever.

My love affair would not be a success without a third-party; instead, I am making this romance a veritable ménage à trois.  I refuse to stop at a spicy and saucy garlic broth freckled with croutons... give me more!  The perfect solution to my lusty privation on these cold winter days has revealed itself in nothing other than the perfectly poised and delightfully gushy poached egg.

You won't find me going into raptures over egg yolks all that often, and I admit that the combination of an egg and garlic soup can be a bit off-putting.  But no, it was delightful.  And the accomplishment of poaching an egg on my first try, after hearing for years the horrors of an attempt gone wrong, stacks up to any of the aforementioned exploits.  Lately, you'll find me in the kitchen, thinking up any excuse to poach eggs, whether in a bowl of soup or smothered in a homemade hollandaise sauce.  I'm always up for experimentation.

Garlic Soup with a Poached Egg
From Love Soup by Anna Thomas
One serving:

Olive Oil                                    sea salt
4 cloves garlic                            couple thick slices of day-old bread
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika                1 egg
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper              
2 cups vegetable broth

It's best to have all ingredients ready before you start cooking.  Peel the garlic and slice into thin pieces, make sure the broth is hot, and have your croutons prepared (recipe to follow).  Heat the oil in a small soup pot.  Sauté the sliced garlic over medium heat until it just starts to color.  Remove from heat and stir in the paprika and cayenne pepper, then add the hot broth.  Return the pot to the heat, and let it simmer gently, covered, for 4 to 5 minutes.  Taste the broth, and add a dash of sea salt if desired.

Add the croutons and simmer for 2 more minutes until the bread softens.  Break an egg, and lower it gently into the soup, making sure it is fully submerged.  If not, ladle a bit of broth on top of the egg to cook it properly.  Simmer until the egg white looks fully cooked, or is opaque in color, about 3 minutes.  Pour the soup into your bowl, and enjoy!

For the croutons:

Cube a few slices of day old bread, sourdough or other, and brush with a bit of oil.  Sprinkle salt and garlic powder, or whatever spices compel you, over the top, and broil for a few minutes until brown and delicious looking.

09 December 2009

On Soup

Remember this summer when it was about 120* outside, and everyone was grossly overheated and dripping in sweat and malice?  I don't.  Or, at least I'm beginning to feel as if I can forgive the spirits of Summers Past, if they will simply take away these inhuman temperatures and let me resume functioning as a normal human being.  The sun is shining so cheerfully outside, beckoning me to frolic through the streets on my day off, but I know it's just a tease.  These winter days are flirty little minx; it may seem like a great idea to romp around, but alas, it's 17*!  No thank you, I'll take my chances in here where it is warm and the blankets are plentiful.

Now, I realize this all seems a bit pessimistic.  Yes, yes, it is gorgeous out there, and all seasons have their merits.  But the winter inevitably turns me into a monster of sorts, one that stuffs themselves with candy and carbohydrates in anticipation of a looming hibernation, and only ventures out of the apartment when forced to go to work or coerced with the promise of more food.  I spend my days watching movies or delightfully girly television, reading, and every so often cleaning up my messes.

I truly do love winter.  It offers me an excuse for my perpetual laziness and homebody personality.  When it snows, I forget all about the subzero temperatures and prance around like a 7 year-old.  Of course, there is always Christmas.  But for me, winter holds that spot so near and dear to my heart because it is not only satsuma season, but, oh yes, soup season.

A big bowl of soup is as effective and much more delicious than any remedy money can buy.  I am accustomed to the "poor man's soup," that haphazard potion of potatoes, celery, beans, and whatever else left in the caverns of the refrigerator that warms and delights.  But this, dear readers, this is another thing all together.  I discovered this recipe in the Cafe Flora cookbook , which is a collection of recipes frequently produced in the kitchen of the celebrated vegetarian restaurant in Seattle.  A wholesome and slightly sweet concoction of butternut squash, curry, and coconut milk, this soup is sure to deliver some warmth to those otherwise intolerable winter days.

Curry Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from the Cafe Flora Cookbook

Cafe Flora suggests using two cans of coconut milk (14 oz each), but I found that the sweetness of the coconut can overpower the taste of the squash.  I use one can of coconut milk, and substitute the rest with vegetable stock, or if you feel so inclined, heavy cream.  Also, some hazelnuts make a delicious addition to the soup if you are feeling particularly sassy.  

1 medium butternut squash
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 (or much more, if you're anything like me) cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon finely ground coriander seeds
1 (14 oz) can of lite coconut milk
Pinch of cayenne pepper

1.  Peel and cut the butternut squash in half.  Scoop out the seeds, and cut into 1 to 2 inch cubes.

2.  Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and a bit of salt, and sauté until the onion is translucent and soft, stirring often.  Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for 2 more minutes.

3.  Add the curry powder, cumin, and ground coriander and sauté for 15 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add 4 cups of water and the squash, and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and cook, covered, at a low boil until the squash is tender.

4.  Purée the soup in a blender or food processor, or simply remove from the heat temporarily and mash it up with a big wooden spoon.  This works just fine if the squash is soft enough and your determination is strong enough.

5.  Return the soup to heat, and add the coconut milk and broth, bringing just to a boil.  Remove the soup off the heat, and add salt and a pinch or two of cayenne pepper.  Enjoy!

24 November 2009

An Unlikely Introduction

To be remembered, you must make it so. At a party, when introducing yourself, just giving a name won’t cut it. Attached to the name must be a story, something memorable, a play on words or a twist of phrase. So goes the advice a communications professor suggested to her class years ago, a bit of detail never to grow stale or be forgotten, although it might need to be dusted off from time to time, having spent too many months untouched in the back of the mind’s cupboard behind jars of brighter, newly opened delectables. Easy to incorporate into any dish, easy to digest. Which isn’t to say that jar gathering dust is difficult to swallow. Not in the least. It’s just easier to grab something closer, to avert the hand at the last minute and avoid the new face necessitating the storied introduction. Even if it might taste really, really good. Even if might awaken, if it might demand.

I like to visualize the act of memory-making as the first steps in creating the world you inhabit, in suggesting all that fine film of perception that surrounds a Self. This introduction is the entry point for the Other. Some common ground where neither extreme of oneself is revealed just yet, rather, an entryway is presented where seven halls beckon to be wandered, doors to be used as hiding places, windows to be peered through. And I like to think that if it were to have a taste—the whole kitten concept—it would hit the spot where savory turns to sweet, gooey to crusty, blackened to golden to honey-colored. It would taste like apple pie with cheddar crust.
So hello, welcome. Please explore our hallways, use our windows as a lens through which to see your own landscape, take comfort behind the doors standing ajar and don’t hesitate to open closed ones. From the Intemperies raging outside to the one’s baking in the oven to those bubbling on the stovetop, take a seat and take a breath and take a bite.

With Jane, who might take a seat among the loveliest of ladies—and a spot in my heart as dear friend—I take credit for what follows in this space. Look to her definition of Intemperies, which reminds me that even without all the exotic spices, the sumptuous linens and the gilded teacups to hold that silken crème, life right now can be just as rich as life over in dark Parisian corners or bluish Scandinavian mornings, fluid Florentine museums or writhing Bombay avenues.

But for now, some aged white cheddar and slippery, un-spiced apples to entice that ephemera from where it sleeps on blustery November nights.

Apple Pie with White Cheddar Crust
From Gourmet, September 2009

For the crust:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ {2 1/2 cups} lb extra-sharp white cheddar, coarsely grated
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ -inch pieces
¼ cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into ½ -inch pieces
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon milk

For the Apples:

1 ½ lb Gala apples {3 medium}
1 ½ lb Granny Smith apples {3 medium}
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

Equipment: 9-inch pie plate

Make the crust:

Toss flour, salt and cheese in a large bowl or pulse in a food processor. Blend in butter and shortening with a pastry blender, processor or fingers. Stop when you have pea-sized lumps. Drizzle 6 Tbsp water over the flour mixture and toss lightly to combine and dampen mixture.
If dough doesn't hold together at this time, add 1 Tbsp of water at a time. Do not overwork.

Divide dough in half, making two disks and wrapping them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Make the filling:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a foil-lined baking sheet under rack where pie will rest.

Peel and core apples, slicing them about 1/4 in thick. Toss well with the sugar, flour, lemon juice and salt.

Roll out one piece of dough into a 13-inch round on a lightly floured surface. Fit into the pie plate and roll the remaining dough into an 11-inch round. Pour the apple filling into the pie shell and dot with butter. Cover with the second pastry and trim edges leaving a bit of dough to pinch together all around the circumference. Brush top crust lightly with milk and cut 5, one inch long vents.

Bake on the foil-lined sheet for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes, until the crust is golden and filling is bubbling. Cool 2-3 hours before serving.

It's lovely with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, which cuts the cheddar with a cooling sweet.

19 November 2009


Finally.  I've done it.  My curious fixation for blogs began a few years ago when I happened upon the eloquent and highly-relatable musings of Molly Wizenberg on her beautiful blog, Orangette .  While reading the stories Molly shares with her vast, anonymous world of readers, I realized that I may have just found what it was I had been searching for; that is, a way to combine two seemingly contrasting passions, the crafts of cuisine and writing, into an outlet of energy and emotion that allows me to explore more deeply the very things my life revolves around.

This is not to say I am any expert in either.  I struggle with finding a voice in my more creative writing that seems genuine; let me loose on an academic paper and I'll knock your socks off.  And I am certainly no Alice Waters.  I've made pancakes and left out the flour (and believe me, this is not an isolated incident).

Nonetheless, I have been yearning for a space where I can cultivate these interests of mine in the hopes of connecting with or inspiring others, much like the multitudes of foodie bloggers out there have done for me.  It is my firm belief that what we eat sustains our bodies and enriches our minds and hearts, and there should be so much joy in the preparation of meals, and certainly in the sharing of our food.

I have been lucky enough to encounter like-minded individuals in my life that share these fundamental values of food and writing and happiness, and upon forming a bond with my dear friend Veronica, Intempéries was born.  Our goal is to share stories about our daily lives that inspire us, especially in our culinary ventures, while focusing on dishes that are seasonal and, more often than not, local.

Intempéries is a french word for "bad weather," but as Veronica explained to me, the term can be used to refer to those surely surreal moments in time when it seems like the weather is a bit schizophrenic, emulating the four seasons all at once.  In the context of a blog centered around food, I took this as a way to incorporate a multitude of ingredients in a food-geek cop-out.  However, I think a much more poignant view is thinking of our lives as a bit intempéries themselves.  Life can be glorious, depressing, raucous, and downright crummy all at once.  No matter what, though, it is always beautiful, always worthwhile.  I could drop a bottle of wine on my foot, followed by a can of coconut milk on the exact spot (like I did a few days ago), let my soup boil over and scald, and forget to put in those spices that make it all the more sexy, but... somehow, it is still delicious and oh-so-worth it.

I am so looking forward to this shared venture with Veronica and the rest of you.  Do bear with us while we get the blog going and designed to our liking... we're even delusional and excited enough to believe we can learn html code for it!