Sunday, July 10, 2011
Well. It's been a while, hasn't it. Much to my surprise, life after graduate school does not, in fact, automatically come with more free time. On the contrary, along with my shiny new job came a shiny new commute, and part of me feels a perverse longing for the "free" time I had a year ago. Finding the time and energy to cook dinner with any kind of regularity has been a challenge, let alone finding the motivation to photograph and write about what I manage to cook.
Recently, though, I've enjoyed some extra inspiration to make time for baking. Summer fruit hit its stride a few weeks ago, just in time for Amy I. to return to the Bay Area. Now, when a friend arrives back in town after six months abroad, when she and her spouse move into their new place, housewarming goodies must be baked. And baked they were. I could think of no more delightful way to celebrate their return than with an abundance of summer's best in one of my favorite fruit desserts: a frangipane tart.
You see, I am a sucker for many things nut-related, but perhaps most of all for frangipane. So simple, so easy, frangipane feels disproportionately (almost guiltily) rewarding for how little work goes into it. A food processor makes quick work of the filling, and whether you scatter the fruit haphazardly or arrange it artfully, the result rarely fails to take on a kind of elegance. In the end, for reasons I can't quite identify, frangipane tarts feel at once rustic and refined, the sort of dessert that feels equally at home eaten off of a napkin or china plates.
This is a choose-your-own-adventure sort of dessert, one that works with a variety of crusts and virtually any fruit you can imagine pairing with nuts. I think that stone fruits make the best frangipane tarts, but pear and apple also shine in this setting (pear frangipane tarts are a classic French dessert), and I will probably try a fig and frangipane tart before the summer's out. For this tart, however, the timing couldn't have been better for cherries.
Sweet and succulent, and just hitting their peak, cherries have had me on a veritable baking streak. They seem particularly fine this year, despite (or perhaps thanks to?) an unusually rainy and cool spring, and I am enjoying cherries like never before: packed in lunches, at picnics in the park with puppy, out of hand as I putter about the house, and of course baked in tarts like this one. I do hope you'll give it a try.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
We're having a quiet Christmas this year. S had hip surgery #2 on Monday, and so far things are going splendidly, but we're keeping the activity level to a minimum. I'll take the pup to the dog park while S blows up Nazi zombies from the comfort of a recliner (and underneath a pile of cats). Today's menu is traditional for our family: popovers, fruit, and homemade jam for breakfast (above), homemade soup and bread for lunch, and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding for dinner. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, do you have traditional family recipes or menus?
Whatever your plans are today, I wish you a day full of peace, joy, and love. I'll have another recipe up shortly, but in the meantime, safe travels and good eats!
Friday, December 24, 2010
Gingerbread houses: the baking, the building, the decorating. Ordinarily I'd say, what's not to love? The thing is, there is something not to love, and that's the gingerbread. Frankly, I'm not all that fond of the sturdy (ahem) gingerbread that's typically used in gingerbread houses. Perhaps some people are content with the only fun part being the decorating, and perhaps some people actually like the traditional gingerbread, but I'm not one of those people--I want to play with my food, but I also want to eat it. Fortunately there's a different way. If you ask me, it's a better way.
Years ago I happened on a Martha Stewart gingerbread house recipe that used not the hard, unappetizing type of gingerbread, but gingerbread cake. I can't for the life of me find the recipe, and I don't even remember if the cake was anything special. The key thing was the concept. If you make a gingerbread house using cake, your problem will be keeping yourself from eating all your construction materials before you even start building, rather than the guilt over throwing out something you baked but can't bring yourself to eat.
This cake is a ginger-lover's cake. Indeed, with two tablespoons (!!) of ground ginger and a tablespoon of fresh ginger, it might even be too strong for people whose feelings toward ginger don't rise to the level of fervent admiration. Again, I'm not one of those people. I've tried other gingerbread cakes before, ones that gave a cursory nod to the ginger flavor but ultimately left me wanting more. Not this one. Here the warm, spicy ginger flavor comes through beautifully against the hearty, stout-enriched cake. I enjoyed building and decorating my little house, but for once I think I might have even more fun eating it.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Friends, you've been so patient. It has been quite the year at the Beyond Ramen household. From a chest full of pulmonary embolisms to the long slog toward the end of graduate school, my time and energy have not quite been my own, and that means a sad state of neglect here at the blog.
Although for parts of the summer I had a few minutes here and there to bake something--and even to take some pictures--posting has fallen by the wayside. By autumn, even my kitchen was neglected in the final, harried push of thesis-writing.
Now, however, I am thrilled to say that the research is finished, the thesis is written, the defense is passed, and the whole thing has been wrapped up in a shiny bow. Okay, there's no bow, but it is official: midway through 23rd grade, I have finished my formal schooling.
I can't say exactly when I will return to proper (let alone routine) posting--especially given that much of my newfound free time has been spent caring for the pup pictured at the end of this post--but I hope it will be soon. I miss the sharing, I miss hearing from commenters, and I miss the community of the foodie blogosphere.
I have a few recipes waiting for their photo shoot and write-up, and although the next few weeks are a whirlwind of travel, visitors, and other commitments, I do hope to have something to share with you all in time for the winter holidays.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with some photos that, while a poor substitute for a proper post, do in some small way give a sense of what I've been up to over the last several months. Other than thesising, that is.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Last week I posted various links with information on how you can get more green in your life. Today I'm going to post about getting more green in your diet. I don't mean the sustainability kind of green (though of course it can be that, too); I mean the crisp, lively, juicy spring green that's so welcome when you're starting to have had your fill of root vegetables.
The look of my local farmer's market is changing rapidly these days, exchanging the warm yellows and oranges of winter citrus for the vibrant greens of spring vegetables. Gone are the blood oranges and cara caras; in their place are tables overflowing with fresh peas. Last weekend we even got our first fava beans, and I was ready with a recipe. A green recipe!
This risotto has been on my to-do list ever since I came across it in Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Vegetables last summer (after the favas had disappeared from the markets, naturally) because it combines one of my favorite things about spring (fresh peas) with one of my favorite things in general (risotto). But it's not just peas, and this is where we really get our green on. This risotto takes the best of the spring green vegetables: peas, fava beans, and asparagus.
That might sound like a lot--indeed, done poorly, I can imagine the result feeling clumsy--but Waters incorporates the vegetables in such a way that none of them steps on another's toes. And although in my mind risotto falls squarely in the warming, cozy "comfort food" category, this risotto manages to be at once comforting and refreshing. I don't know how better to describe it than to say that it tastes of spring. And if that doesn't chase away the winter doldrums, I don't know what will.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I'll have a lovely, spring-green recipe coming your way soon, but in the meantime, let's take a quick look at a different kind of green. In celebration of Earth Day, here are some links to help you get your earth love on. Happy browsing!
KQED's Bay Area Bites has a list of things you can do to make your kitchen a little less wasteful and a little more environmentally friendly. If you're already doing most (or all) of the things on the list, give yourself a pat on the back. If not, perhaps you'll learn something new. Everybody wins!
iPhone-wielding fans of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch now have a handy way of keeping Seafood Watch's sustainable seafood recommendations handy: a free iPhone app with region-specific seafood information determined by your phone's GPS function.
If you haven't seen Food, Inc., do. Seriously. It's an eye-opening, heart-breaking, blood-pressure-raising 90 minutes chock full of information on where our food originates. Netflix account holders can have it streamed to their tv or computer.
I doubt that anyone reading this blog doesn't know where to find locally grown produce, but just in case, U.S. readers can find a wealth of local market and producer information through Local Harvest.
This isn't food-related, but NASA/Goddard's Flickr photostream has some pretty neat images of this blue planet of ours.
And finally, also not food-related but filed under "neato," some awe-inspiring new images of the star that makes it all possible: our sun.
Anything to add? Drop your links in comments. Happy Earth Day!
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Before we begin, I must beg your pardon. I've waited so very long to share this recipe with you that at this point, I fear you'll have some difficulty in obtaining the ingredients. But it would be a shame to have to wait until next winter to make this marmalade, so I'm going to post it anyway. I hope very much that, what with California often being on the leading edge of the change in the turnover of seasonal produce, the bright hues of winter citrus are still in abundance at your local markets.
Personally, I've missed my window. I made only a small batch as a test run, and as it often does, life (*cough* grad school *cough*) kept me from making another, larger batch before kumquat season came to an end. Now that that one small batch is long gone, I find myself pining for it.
I still love orange marmalade, but after making and tasting tangerine-kumquat marmalade, I admit that I'm spooning ordinary orange marmalade onto my toast with a little less enthusiasm than I used to. There might even be a sigh now and then as I remember that what I have left in my pantry for the next nine months or so is not, in fact, tangerine-kumquat marmalade.
Most marmalades succeed reasonably well in striking a balance among sweet, tart, and bitter flavors. None, in my experience, does it with the grace that this one possesses. As Thomas Keller notes at the beginning of the recipe, this marmalade is at home aside an elegantly prepared duck as it is atop a humble bagel with cream cheese.
Marmalade skeptics might look askance at the relatively large pieces of rind suspended in the jelly. Indeed, the marmalade does have a substantial (in my opinion, very pleasant) chew, but the rind's bitterness mellows with an overnight soak in water, so those large pieces are not as bold as they otherwise might be. In fact, other than the color, there's not much about this marmalade that is bold. But don't let that dissuade you. It doesn't need to be bold. It's perfectly content to wait, earnest and smiling, for you to discover its virtues in your own good time. And I'm sure you will--assuming you can find some kumquats.