Orange and Prune Granola

Sometime in the middle of this winter, when it seemed like it would be cold forever, I remembered the “Year with No Summer.” It had happened, I reminded friends over drinks. It could happen again. It seemed like a bitter joke in February. Sure, in 1816 it snowed in June in New York, but was I really that worried? Eh.

The farmers market came back to our neighborhood last week, and I began to reconsider. Where was the rhubarb? The asparagus? Usually full tables had a small selection of kale, a few remaining beets, and some ramps to tease us about the possibility of spring. It was May, but I realized that I, along with everyone else, was there in a fleece and sneakers.

Although it seems like we may have finally turned a corner (knock on wood), for a while there it looked like another year with no summer–or at least with no spring–was here. My fruit bowl looked sadder and sadder–filled with bananas and a few bedraggled oranges. I defrosted some frozen apple compote I made this fall. I finally caved and bought a lot of dried fruit. And that is how this granola was born.

Sure, an orange and prune granola seems more suitable for December than May. With a touch of cinnamon and citrus and a mixture of prunes, pecans, and figs, when you make this granola next December–because you will want to make it again–it will taste nice and seasonal and fruit cake-y. In the meantime, in this Year of the Very, Very Late Spring, you can use up your remaining oranges and clear your cabinet of dried fruit once and for all with this recipe. It’s excellent by the handful and even better on top of some yogurt with a little apple compote stirred in, especially when accompanied by a cup of milky coffee and a round of morning editing.

IMG_0402

Continue reading

Advertisements

No Such Thing As Vacation

Growing up one of my father’s mantra was, “There’s no such thing as vacation; just different places to work.” While I am generally not a rebellious child–more likely to accept parental wisdom as law than to question–I have never fully embraced this vacation doctrine.

So the fact that this Spring Break came not with a flight to somewhere warm or interesting but with a planned five days of uninterrupted work may have brought out an unbecomingly whiny, annoyingly grumpy side of my personality, which I wish I could say appears rarely but that’s probably not true.

I channeled at least a little of that grumpy energy into a baking bender that lasted until Noah made me a pina colada on Wednesday night–sweetly implying that it was time to get over my “why aren’t we in Aruba?” funk. A day later we took off for Rhode Island and I buried myself in a novel while snuggling by a fire.


photo

From here, I can tell you that even if I didn’t get to go away I did get to make some pretty great things that I had bookmarked for a long time. So, today, I thought I would put up  some links to the excellent food I made this week and throw out a big thank you to the excellent bloggers who pointed me towards these comforting, bad mood-defying treats:

Smitten Kitchen’s Millet Banana Bread: (Gluten-free: 1 cup buckwheat flour,  1/2 cup almond meal)

Casa Yelllow’s Frascatelli: (Wheat- free: 3 cups einkorn flour, 1 cup chestnut flour)

Sprouted Kitchen’s Cauliflower Gratin (Subbed millet for brown rice, added a chopped jalapeno, used chick pea flour in the roux)

My New Root’s Chocolate Buckwheat Granola (Added 1 cup mashed banana to the chocolate and took out the sugar, cut maple syrup down to  a 1/4 cup; threw in some dried cherries at the end).

I’ll be back with a real recipe next week.

IMG_0317

 

Back-to-School Sesame Plum Muffins

We’re in back-to-school mode here. Even though it is the beginning of my (ugh) 23rd school year, I’m still somehow hoping that school will turn out to be in Deep Valley, Minnesota instead of New York. But, after 23 Septembers, I know the best I can do is make muffins.

P1080365

For those of you who just went, “huh?”, Deep Valley is the fictional home of the charming Betsy-Tacy books, which trace the idyllic late 19th-century childhood and young-adulthood of Betsy Ray: Every Sunday night friends come over for Betsy’s father’s sandwiches, all high school high jinks involve making fudge, and on the first day of school there are always muffins.

No one in the Betsy-Tacy books decides to do nonsense things like go to law school or get a PhD, but in an effort to bring a little 19th century idealism and simplicity into our skeptical and over-complicated 21st century lives, I baked these muffins to welcome in the school year. Of course, it being the 21st century, they are gluten-free and full of tahini, an ingredient that I would wager Betsy’s devoted cook, Anna, did not have on hand.

P1080356

Sesame-Plum  Muffins (adapted from this muffin recipe from Sprouted Kitchen)

If you have any muffin-tin liners, I would use them. As you can see from the pictures, these muffins are pretty crumbly, very moist, and stuck to the pan a bit. I was fine without them, but my muffins were, perhaps, a little less pretty than they could have been. Makes 12 muffins. 

– 5 medium plums

– 1 1/2 cups almond meal

– 1/2 cup cornmeal

– 1/2 tsp baking soda

– 1/3 cup maple sugar (You could certainly substitute another sugar of your choice here, although I would avoid brown sugar as these muffins are already pretty juicy.)

– Pinch of salt

– 2 eggs

– 2 tablespoons olive oil

– 2 tablespoons tahini

– 2 tablespoons honey

– 1 teaspoon vanilla

* Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

* Oil or line muffin tin.

* Pit plums and chop into bite size pieces.

* Mix together all dry ingredients.

* Whisk together all wet ingredients.

* Fold wet ingredients into dry and then fold in plums.

* Fill muffin tins close to top, these muffins do not rise much.

* Bake 20 minutes, until tester comes out clean and tops are golden brown.

* Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes and then remove from pan and allow to cool the rest of the way.

We got warmer and the food got better.

P1050952

I listened to Jenny Hollowell’s “A History of Everything, Including You” on a Radiolab short while running the other day. I think it’s wonderful and worth a listen so head on over there. Then come back. We have to talk about summer.

Although it’s not even a little bit what this line is referring to in the story, “We got warmer and the food got better” is the line that has been swimming in my head for the last few days as I enjoy the comforts and discomforts of summer. Of course, it has been a million degrees out, but the sticky heat paired with the over-air-conditioning, the ice cubes, and the berries, and then more berries, are the kinds of familiar pairings that make the whole thing kind of wonderful in spite of itself.

I have been writing, and running, and showing people around New York City. Every so often we find some time to cook a real meal, but when we have time we usually pick somewhere new to go and head out on an adventure. Last week it was Jackson Heights and Nepalese food. At home, the focus has really been on fruit.

So, here are some more pairings for summer–minimal recipes, if you can even call them that, which I’ve been enjoying, through these long, lazy, yet somehow hardworking days

– Breakfast: Cooked millet warmed with cinnamon and butter, swirled into yogurt and topped with roasted apricots and maple syrup.

– Post-Run Breakfast: Leftover buttermilk from making pancakes (isn’t there always leftover buttermilk in the summer?) + peach + lime. Blend.

– Writer’s snack: Spoonful of crunchy peanut butter topped with a single strawberry plucked from homemade pickled strawberry jam.

– Before dinner: Suze + Ice.

– Dessert: Whipped Cream + Whisky + Toasted Oats + Raspberries + Honey. (What are you waiting for?)

P1050967

Lacy Spelt-Oat Bran Pancakes

P1050894Just as I strongly believe that every dinner by the beach should taste, at least in part, like fish, one of my cardinal rules of vacation is that mornings should start with a special breakfast. Like so many things, this is a direct result of growing up with my mother. When I was young, all visits from vacationing guests in the summer, and many weekend mornings in the winter, began with some sort of sweet morning baked good–pancakes, waffles, muffins, popovers, or scones were all in rotation. (I also think vacation is a great time to carbo-load.)

So, I promised Noah pancakes while we were in Rhode Island. My mother’s pancake recipe produces such good pancakes that I generally refuse to eat any others. I know they will just disappoint. Her pancakes are fluffed by buttermilk, baking soda, baking powder, and beaten egg whites. The cloudy pancakes that result are my back pocket recipe for making friends. When I was 15, lonely, and struggling to communicate in France, I made these to convince my French family I was worth knowing. It worked. I also made them for Noah early in our relationship to, you know, seal the deal.

P1050889

When I make them these days, I split the recipe in half and make one batch for Noah and other people who eat gluten with regular flour and one batch for me with a flour substitute. Until this weekend though, I had never found a flour substitute or gluten free pancake mix I really liked. Saturday, I made them with a mix of spelt flour and oat bran. They were so good that I think I might make a whole batch this way next time and not even mention that they are wheat-free. The spelt and oat bran pancakes are less fluffy than the originals. As far as pancakes go, in fact, they are pretty thin. I would go so far as to describe them as lacy. Their delicacy doesn’t prevent them from doing an excellent job soaking up maple syrup or, later in the day, from making an excellent cold snack with a slice of sharp, hard cheese.

Continue reading

Fig and Fennel Granola

P1030742

When I was 15 my parents sent me to live with a French family for the summer. When I arrived, I discovered that in preparation for the arrival of an American teenager they had stocked their kitchen with a box of Golden Grahams. Now, my own home had never in my life had a box of any such sugary cereal, but I was eager to please. I ate the Golden Grahams, which let’s be honest, were delicious while the rest of the family ate baguettes. When the first box ran out, they replaced it assuming it was what I wanted.

It took a while for my French to be good enough and my confidence high enough for me to tell them that I really was more than happy to join them in eating French breakfasts. Once I did, I got to walk to the bakery every morning and pick up baguettes and a few personal sized egg custard tarts for myself and their 9-year-old son.

Back home, the father would efficiently split his baguette in two, slice it in half, and then scoop out the doughy center and toss it in the garbage. He would then fill the hollow baguette halves with french butter. He was trying to cut carbs, he told me.

At fifteen, I was always on a diet, but unfortunately, even in France, never one that involved bread boats full of butter. I would nibble more circumspectly on my lightly buttered bread or egg tart.

Noah and I went to Paris a few weeks ago. It was my first time back since I was 15. I knew in advance, that it was going to be tough to not eat gluten while there. I decided to allow myself a few treats including a morning baguette with butter and an egg tart. I never found the egg tart of my memory, but I did get my baguette. Even now, however, I couldn’t bring myself to eat it a la my french host, which is too bad because I love French butter.

To keep myself from eating a baguette every morning and also in a play to save a little money, I decided to make some granola before we left. I figured it would be a nod to my cereal eating days the last time I was in Paris, but healthier and, dare I say, classier. Because, this is the classiest granola I’ve ever made. It’s not the stuff of hippies, not slicked with honey or oil. Instead it’s crisped with a combination of oil and egg white, lightly sweetened with maple syrup, and full of toasted fennel seeds, almonds, dried figs and cherries. If the French ate granola, I think this is one that would meet their standards.

IMG_9323

Fig and Fennel Granola: (Giving credit where credit is due, this granola was actually inspired by this genius chocolate bar.)

– 3 cups oats

– 1/2 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds

– 1/2 cup pepitas

– 1 cup chopped almonds

– 1 cup unsweetened, finely shredded coconut

– 1/4 cup flaxseed meal

– 1/4 cup brown sugar

– 2 egg whites

– 1/4 cup olive oil

– 3/4 cup maple syrup

– 2 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds

– 1 cup chopped dried turkish figs

– 1 cup chopped sour cherries

* Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

* Mix together all dry ingredients, except dried fruit.

* Whisk together maple syrup, olive oil, and egg whites.

* Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until evenly mixed.

* Spread granola evenly on a baking sheet.

* Bake 45 minute to an hour, until the granola has turned deep shade of brown. After half an hour of baking, toss granola with a spatula every 5 to 10 minutes so it does not burn.

* When it’s done baking, cool, and then toss in dried fruit.

* Store in freezer to keep it from going stale.

Spelt Bread

IMG_9316

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in Home Depot. My parents love nothing more than a good kitchen renovation, except maybe gutting a barn to turn it into an office or laying their bathroom tiles, so I spent a lot of time waiting for them to pick tiles or wood. Unlike the time I spend in our big suburban grocery store, where they stocked Babysitters Club books that I could read while my mother bought dinner, at Home Depot there was no children’s paperback aisle.

This was a great disappointment to me, but fortunately trips to Home Depot were not a total loss. Right next store there was bread bakery. It may seem like this should not have been that exciting for someone who grew up with a constant supply of homemade sour dough, but this bread was nothing like my mother’s crusty, tangy, almost spongy boules. That bread, which formed the basis of almost every piece of toast or sandwich that I had during my formative years always seemed so wholesome and virtuous. It was the bread of educational science projects at school.

The breads at this bakery on the other hand were soft, nearly crustless loaves made with yeast from packets not the air. And the loaves were packed with raisins, sun-dried tomatoes, or other indulgent ingredient of the ’90s. The bakery always had a big cutting board lined with open loaves of bread and you could  pick your flavor and have a sample slice smeared with soft butter from a huge tub. Basically, these loaves were the bread equivalent of the The Babysitters’ Club: a treat to buy off whiny-kids, but not virtuous enough for everyday consumption.

I had not thought about that bread in years, but last weekend I made the first loaf of bread I’ve made since my elementary school science project days. It’s a spelt bread and it reminded me immediately of the bread shop next to Home Depot, because its texture is so similar to those special slices of bread that bought my limited patience as a child.

Unlike sourdough, this bread does not have the makings of a science project. Frankly, it’s barely a cooking project. It’s one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever seen. The dough comes together in minutes, and then suddenly you have had what turns out to be the deeply satisfying experience of making your own loaf of bread.

IMG_9312

It’s a spelt bread, so very low gluten and it’s packed with seeds and raisins. It’s excellent buttered out of the oven or toasted the next day. I ended up slicing up half of it and freezing. From our freezer it has toasted up nicely into the base for many tartines.

Spelt Bread:

This recipe comes from The Guilt-Free Gourmet by Jordan and Jessica Bourke. I was recently given the book as a gift. It was the perfect gift because I never would have bought a book with that title myself, but the pictures are beautiful and if this recipe is any indication it’s got great recipes for reliable standbys. I’m sold. 

 

– 3 2/3 cups spelt flour

– 1 teaspoon baking powder

– 1 teaspoon baking soda

– 1 teaspoon sea salt

– 1/3 cup golden raisins

– 1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

– 1/2 cup sunflower seeds

– 1 tablespoon molasses

– 2 1/3 cups warm water

* Butter an 8-inch loaf pan

* Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

* Mix together all dry ingredients including raisins and seeds.

* Dissolve molasses in warm water.

* Stir water and molasses mixture in to dry ingredients until well combined.

* Pour into prepared loaf pan.

* Bake 1 hour, until tester comes out clean.

* After 10 minutes, remove from pan and allow to cool on rack.

* Serve warm with butter, as toast, or as open face sandwich. (Thus far I’ve had one sandwich with white beans, red pepper and egg and one grilled cheese with spinach. Both were delicious.)