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I have been baking cakes lately, and putting things in jars. I am also poised before the chasm of a great transition, which has me somewhat preoccupied; just hanging out nervously, waiting to hear back from those voices in the wind. So I’m keeping busy with kitchen stuff.

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Everybody loves horchata! Not everybody loves chia pudding, though — not YET, anyways, but they will. Chia seeds are like the thing these days. You can easily do a cheater’s version of this recipe with boxed horchata in a pinch.

This takes time! 8 hrs. for horchata, 8 hrs. for pudding. (It’s a whole bunch of passive action, hanging around waiting for water to be absorbed.) So if you want pudding in your evening meal, start the horchata soaking the night before, finish it up the next morning, and set the pudding in the fridge for the day. You might not know what’s for dinner, but you will definitely know what’s for dessert.
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This is one of my most favorite everyday cakes, since it is reasonably simple to prepare and it includes two of my most favorite flavors, pears and cardamom.  I first made this cake at my sister’s house where I pulled the recipe from one of her cookbooks; I then copied the recipe onto the back of a receipt or something similarly scrappish and promptly lost it in a pile of paper; and then I rediscovered it today while cleaning off my desk.  The thing is that I didn’t write down whose recipe it is or what book it came from, so if there are any sleuths out there who can clue me in to its origin, please do.  Otherwise we’ll all just have to wait until I go to see my sister again.

It is called “Buttermilk Country Cake” and I am positive it is from a Maida Heatter-influenced cookbook.  I made a Pear Upside-Down Cake using an actual Maida Heatter buttermilk cake recipe for a dinner party in Alaska, and it was just not the same.  For starts, the M. H. version was enormous in comparison, like double-size the progeny’s version, and for seconds, it was a bit drier and tougher (though for that I’ll point to my probable overbeating of batter.  M. H. is not to be messed with).  The recipe I have for you here is moist-er than the popular Gourmet Magazine buttermilk cake recipe floating about online.  For me, it is just right.

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The making of these cookies was inspired by a lecture on Kierkegaard and irony I attended with friend T.T. at UC Berkeley earlier this year.

First, there was the lecture, held in the department’s Howison Library on campus. Wood paneling, wood and leather chairs, long tables, leather-bound volumes and portraits of ancient academics set the endearingly shabby scene for Johnathan Lear’s presentation on “Irony and Identity”. Shall I recapitulate the arguments? No! I confess my attention drifted from the speaker to the dress of the attendees (nondescript) to the printed signage instructing patrons on how to use the photocopy machine, and back again.  Did I enjoy it, even understand what was being discussed?  Yes!  Ducks were actually employed in part of Lear’s argument, which pleased me very much.

To the point: at the end of the lecture, the facilitator invited us into an adjacent lounge for “coffee and cookies”. How delightful! And indeed, cookies there were – six or seven different varieties whisked in from some fantasy bakery of deliciousness. I kid you not, the cookies were all very good. Lemon sandwich cookies, dressy chocolate chip, some sort of intense fudgelike concoction, and square-shaped mint-flecked sugar cookies. All so very tasty.

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I love rice pudding, and I also love Indian rice pudding, known (among other names) as kheer. Here, kheer with carrots. This week I picked up Mariquita Farm’s Mystery Box — a setup kind of like participating in a CSA without a subscription — and was pleased to discover, amidst the dark leafy greens and turnips, carrots by the bunches. Stubby orange carrots, white carrots, and purple carrots. Purple carrots! Their core is orange, cloaked in eggplant-purple skin, with orange flesh peeking out in spots like a knee through ripped jeans. I used all my purple carrots and my white carrots (ghost carrots) for this kheer, which stained the milk rather drably (drably? There, I said it), though your regular orange variety will impart a cheery golden hue. And I’m wondering — what to do with carrot tops? Carrot top soup? This time around, I’m afraid, they are simply compost.

Along with Welsh rarebit and split-pea soup, here is a variant on rice pudding — carrot kheer — a member of the vast pantheon of comforting foods.

2 cups peeled, grated carrot
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 – 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
Some sugar, if you think it’s needed
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

While preparing your carrots, toast your pistachios on the stove until fragrantly nutty. Bring the milk to a boil, minding it so it doesn’t scald. Add the carrots, reduce the heat, and stir until carrots are cooked, but slightly toothy. Add the condensed milk and cardamom and cook down about 15-20 minutes until the consistency is thickened to your liking. If you prefer your pistachios soft, add them with the cardamom; if you like them crunchy, garnish at the end. Add sugar if you feel it’s needed.

Its flavor is slightly vegetal with a very tender texture. Eat this hot or cold or when you are feeling blue.

About 4 servings

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