Mêlé

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“One of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened before.”

Joan Didion

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

New York, New York.
The city that never sleeps: a proud acclamation even while most of its inhabitants are miserably dead tired.
Overgrown concrete jungle, deliciously bloated with opportunity, built of contradictions and false starts and dreams achieved.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I live-work-eat-sleep-breathe-watch New York.
As I settle in deeper, scenes swirl around me—little pieces of other people—dull and unremarkable, yet somehow thought-provoking.
There are soft, overripened edges amongst the city’s constitution.
I catch glimpses of them everywhere, curious (or nosy) as I am.

The subway is a microcosm of New York; ridership spans all walks of life. We all know this: we’ve seen the pictures of Meryl Streep, riding the train home after a failed audition (Meryl! Streep!); we have seen the dancers for whom riding the train is the audition.
A crowded subway full of diverse people is a great equalizer.
None of us can make it go faster and none of us can make it any less unpleasant.
Neither the man in the pressed suit and tie, nor the harried mother and her invariably crying baby, nor the bored looking model, and so on and so forth.
So I bide my time and I observe. Might as well.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

There is something disappointing and vaguely optimistic about the young, fashionable professional fishing a cigarette out from her bag while drinking a green juice at 9AM.
Something repellent and electrifying about the heady smell of freshly ground coffee, paint thinner, and body odor on the A train late on Sunday night.
Something disturbing and cutesy about the girl with an expensive-looking black and white calfskin bag that exactly coordinates with the pattern of her little pomeranian’s fur.
Something comforting and unsettling, no matter how bold you’re feeling, about accidentally meeting the same stranger’s gaze more than once, or, agonizingly, more than twice, as both your eyes dart around the car, tracing similar paths (ending at a woman and her bike, atop the handlebars of which perches a man’s bulky gym bag and, more precarious still, another woman’s very large Amazon Prime box).

I wonder what contradictions people see and feel when they look at me.
Is that terribly narcissistic or just some permutation of theory of mind?

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I am aware that there are, in theory, seven universal emotions.
I am convinced that body language and etiquette on an extremely crowded subway in the summer is equally well understood.

We all try desperately not to touch each other, (particularly when one enters with a stroller, or suitcase, or child in tow) carefully shifting bags, shuffling feet, and averting eyes.
Every overheated, uncomfortable body moves in unison as the subway shudders and accelerates or grinds to a halt, waving together like so many ungainly stalks of grass.
We attempt to keep polite social space between us.
When one stumbles, bumping all their neighbors while grasping with sweaty hand for the pole, mumbling apologies and righting themselves, smoothing wrinkles and reinserting headphones, we imperceptibly nod with tightly pressed lips hinting at a familiar camaraderie. We’ve been there. 
Though we are all trying to willfully ignore everyone else, we are embarrassed for the person, just for a moment.
But by the time the doors open and hot, sticky air pours into the car, we have long forgotten and returned to our bubbles lit with a ubiquitous, faint blue glow.
Newcomers load in, and we make room and begin the sweaty shuffle anew without ever even looking up.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Alright, now for an important soapbox-y aside.

I titled this post “mêlé”—mixed—for the decoration of this cake, and I started composing it long before nightmares unfolded in Charlottesville and Barcelona and Cambrils and Alcanar.
Let me be clear as day: there is no room for mixed reactions to these events.
There is no excuse for mixed reactions to these attacks. Our president’s inability to condemn hatred and bigotry, his choice of wavering and mixed reactions, is astounding, even at this point when we thought he could sink no lower.
You cannot morally equivocate hate-filled terrorist groups with non-terrorist ones.
Murder and violence, while both reprehensible, are not equivalent.
I will not make space for Nazi-sympathizers or ISIS-sympathizers in my life or on my web page. It is a disappointment every day of my damn life that America put an incompetent white-supremacist-apologist in the White House.
By the way, if you think there is a difference between a White Christian group that wants annihilation of all others and a Muslim group that wants the same—that the former can have good people as its members and the latter cannot—your racism is showing.
(And for the record, I don’t think either has good people: there are no “good” Nazis. There are no good terrorists, period.)

My heart breaks. Over and over, into a million pieces, even as my resolve strengthens.
I am begging the universe to manifest a peaceful world.
In the meantime, be nice to everyone. Condemn hate, loudly, and often.
Count the days to 2018. Count the days to 2020.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Miguel-Anxo Murado wrote a mournful piece called “When Terror Came to Barcelona” in the NYT and quoted George Orwell:

“If you can feel that staying human is worth while, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them.”

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Here’s a cake best shared with friends, a cake that is good to the earth and kind to all living beings.
Especially kind to the living beings who get a taste…!
No animal products whatsoever, and they’re not missed in the least.

I’ve been baking quite a bit of vegan deliciousness up in my kitchen, because I don’t eat dairy and eggs day-to-day and therefore often don’t have them on hand. AKA I am lazy.
But hey, my laziness is forcing me to be innovative, so it is a good lazy. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.
Uh huh.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This vegan coconut cake is wonderfully moreish, with a texture that is dense and rich and studded with lots of shredded coconut.
Coconut oil provides the luxurious mouthfeel, and coconut milk keeps the whole cake extremely moist.
It is soft in the center, with a light, springy crumb. By baking it in a tart pan, I was able to get more slightly crisped edges, which are addictive and a perfect place for the glaze to well up!

The glaze is super simple: just coconut milk with a pinch of salt and powdered sugar, poured over the cake and allowed to drip down the edges. It doesn’t set rock-hard, but rather like a very soft royal icing, with a nice shine.

The showstopper aspect of this cake are the fresh fruits, most of which I got at the Union Square Greenmarket. I love supporting local farmers! And everything is so fresh at farmer’s markets.
Amazing summer fruit is so abundant right now—it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.
Here I used juicy red currants, the sweetest blueberries I have ever tasted, dark red cherries and strawberries, glossy blackberries, and a few fat smyrna figs for good measure.
The whole thing is topped with anise hyssop flowers, which provides a whisper of licorice and herb flavor to the cake.
You could easily sub a little thyme or lemon thyme, or even a tiny bit of rosemary or lemon zest. Anything that provides a contrast to the fruits without taking center stage!

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Vegan Coconut Cake
makes 1 9-inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
360 grams (3 cups) AP flour
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
480 grams (2 cups) canned coconut milk
200 grams (1 cup) coconut oil, liquid
30 grams (2 tablespoons) vinegar
1 generous cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

for the glaze:
22 mL (1.5 tablespoons) coconut milk
pinch salt
115 grams (1 cup) confectioner’s sugar

to assemble:
fresh fruits
anise hyssop (or other herb of choice)
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9-inch tart pan or cake pan.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together, and make a well in the center.
Stir in coconut milk, coconut oil, and vinegar until the batter is smooth.
Fold the shredded coconut into the batter and pour into prepared pan.
Bake until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs, or about 20-25 minutes.
Allow to cool completely.
When cooled, make the glaze: whisk coconut milk, salt, and confectioner’s sugar together and pour over the cake.
Allow to set for 5 minutes before piling on the fruits and sprinkling on the herbs.
Serve with a glass of non-dairy milk!

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Lumi

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Hospital gowns never fit like they should
We yelled at the nurse, didn’t do any good
More morphine, the last words you moaned
At last I was sure
That you weren’t far away from home

—The Lumineers, Long Way From Home

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Ho! A blogger returns!

And I come with spring tidings, because it finally seems like we have changed seasons for good.

Two weeks ago we were still getting intermittent snow storms, a cruel reminder that March doesn’t always go out like a lamb.  This year, she left as an unchanged lioness.
Today, the lake is turquoise like the Caribbean, the sky is cloudless and baby blue, and the weather is a balmy 65 degrees.
The tiniest yellow daffodils nod their heads along the path to our library, and even the rhododendron saplings have fuchsia buds delicately emerging.  April pulled through in a big way.

P.S. Lumi really is a fun word.
In Finnish and Estonian, it means snow. But in Romanian, it means worlds. In Latin, it means lights.
And in Yoruba, it means hit me.  Cool.
Thank you Google Translate.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

In other April news, have you heard the Lumineers’ new album, Cleopatra?
Some real gems on it. I recommend Ophelia, Cleopatra, and Long Way From Home. I just love their band!

More importantly, Game of Thrones is coming back in 7 short days. I am freaking out, to put it mildly. The show has now managed to overtake the books’ timeline, so some of what happens this season will be material even I have never seen.
~*fangirling~*~**~*

Less awesome news: I fucking got shingles this week.
If you are thinking, what the fuck?! you’re not 70 years old yet, then we share very similar sentiments, my friend.
Not only do I rarely get very sick, which I attribute to growing up in Ithaca and putting lots of dirt in my mouth, but I am 20—20!!!—and yet I got shingles, AKA a super painful, non-contagious reawakening of the varicella (AKA chickenpox) virus in your dorsal root ganglion (nerve roots) that emerges as an excruciating and somewhat debilitating rash (that can be very dangerous, even deadly, for immunocompromised individuals).
Luckily for me, work just started picking up (hi, UChicago) so this is totally the ideal time to feel simultaneously and relentlessly exhausted, itchy, and in pain.
But seriously, Universe. WHY.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

I haven’t been feeling exactly bright and alive lately, but I’m trying to get in the kitchen as often as I can.
This, primarily, is because I haven’t been baking as much as I really like to, and because I have no clue as to how much I’m going to be able to do over the summer.

I’m also feeling the call to the kitchen because of my cravings for humongous, fresh salads, which require some time and patient chopping. Trying to dive into as many spring vegetables as I possibly can and saying Bye Felicia to winter squash and citrus.
Like, I love you. But it’s past time for you to go.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing a pretty little tart that has virtually no bake time and minimal effort required.
It’s totally adaptable—use whatever bounty of fruit you can get your hands on.
This could be made (and deliciously, I might add) with poached rhubarb or sliced plums or apricots.
Lemon and cream cheese never fail as a delicious backdrop.
Strawberries are cheap and abundant right now, as spring has long been arrived in more verdant parts of the globe (looking at you, California).
This tart would be fabulous with just strawberries.

You can check out another riff on lemon+strawberry (plus one of my most favorite poems that I’ve written) from eons ago two summers ago, here.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

The base of this tart is my beloved pâte sucrée. It’s like a buttery shortbread cookie, but not quite as sweet, and it holds its shape perfectly when frozen and weighted with some dry beans (my ceramic pie weights live at home).
The filling is smooth and rich—lots of lemon zest and juice is thrown in with cream cheese and powdered sugar. Equally delicious would be a substitution of mascarpone for the cream cheese. Nom.
On top, a bounty of berries, juicy and colorful, brushed with a little apricot jam for extra shine and dusted with a shower of powdered sugar, if you should so desire.

Perfectly low-key, full of fresh fruit and flavor, this tart is a perfect way to officially ring in spring!

*Please don’t let this post jinx our beautiful weather, please don’t let this post jinx our beautiful weather…*

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Cream Cheese Berry Tart
makes 1 13×4 inch tart

ingredients:
for the crust:
112 grams (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, soft
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
120 grams (1 cup) flour, plus 2 tablespoons if needed
1 egg yolk

for the filling:
120 grams (4 ounces) cream cheese, soft but still chilled
zest of 1 whole lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon heavy cream
200 grams (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar, sifted

to assemble:
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blackberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon apricot jam
powdered sugar, as desired

directions:
Make the crust: place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high until doubled in size, about 4 minutes.
Add in the sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Stir in the flour and egg yolk slowly until a cohesive dough forms.
Press into the tart pan with your fingers and prick with a fork.
Freeze for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cover tart shell with foil and weight with pie weights or dry beans.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and fully set.
Allow to cool fully.
Meanwhile, make the cream cheese filling: beat cream cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, and heavy cream on high for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Add in the powdered sugar and stir slowly until incorporated; increase speed to high and beat for another minute.
Filling should be thick.
Spread into the cooled shell.
Decorate with berries, then brush hot jam over the berries with a pastry brush.
Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

My Dog

Ginger | La Pêche Fraîche

If Weenie hadn’t died he’d be purring beside her, his ears flattened against his skull and his tail curled like a hook around her bare ankle, his eyes slitted across the dark lawn at the restless, echo-ranging world of night creatures that was invisible to her: snail-trails and cobwebs, glassy-winged flies, beetles, and field mice and all the little wordless things struggling in squeaks or chirps or silence.  Their small world, she felt, was her true home, the secret dark of speechlessness and frantic heartbeats.

— Donna Tartt, The Little Friend

Lemon Cream | La Pêche FraîcheGinger and Rach

You weren’t really a Great Lover or, for that matter, listener.
And that used to frustrate me to no end when I still believed I could influence and control you and have you wear a tutu and jump through hula hoops (literally).
I mean, I was six.  Still a puppy, too, and ever the dog-idealist, despite your clear departure from Normal Doghood.

Gingey, you weren’t like Bambi, Mama’s childhood dog.
Try as I might have to show you my tears and demonstrate how you ought to have sat by me and comforted me, or to hug you close and attempt to teach you how to snuggle, any discomfort or indeed, all-too-discernable display of emotion made you awkward and unbearably antsy.
(But darn it all if I don’t often feel like your nervous younger self now, enduring wild-eyed bouts of panic over minutiae, over things that have negligible impact on my life as a whole.
A leaf blowing in the street; a forgotten homework, etc. etc.)

ginger as a puppyLemon Cream | La Pêche Fraîche

No, you were very much you.
Uniquely neurotic and uncomfortable around humans and other dogs, and cats, and spooks, of course.
Always, you were a lemon.
You loved us in a very non-obvious, difficult to discern manner.  Ever the lemon.  But always my girl.

Anyways, as I have oft-declared, lemon is the best flavor.
I wouldn’t want you to be any other dog or have any other type of manners.
As weird as you were, you fit perfectly into our dysfunction.  You were our dog and we loved you no less for your dislike of affection and attention.  You were different but sweet.

Lemon Cream | La Pêche Fraîcheginger as a puppy and rach

My dog was born on January 6th or 8th (we could never remember) in 2002, somewhere obscure in North Carolina.
She didn’t come to us until she was 8 weeks old, a terrified, lanky little bundle of sable fur with a uniquely unbecoming patch of orange hair splashed between her soft little ears (think: Bozo the clown).
She would have been 14 this coming January.
Some part of me wanted to wait until her birthday, but that’s the selfish human in me talking, so I could quantify just how old my pup was when it was her time.  So that the length of the years we spent together could, in a meager way, demonstrate how important she has been to my childhood and my family to anyone, even those who don’t know.
Dogs don’t have a sense of future time.  Ginger certainly never understood the fuss over her birthday and she couldn’t see her own grey hair spreading across her snout.
She knew, though, that she was old.  She felt the aches and pains, even through the medication.
We could all see that she was weary and uncomfortable.

Yet it is so hard to say goodbye.
She will be greatly missed.

ginger rach first communionLemon Cream | La Pêche Fraîcheginger and rach pigtails

Thank you for being my unwilling and willful companion and our family’s scaredy-cat guard dog.
I am sorry for being stubborn and impatient and altogether too cuddly of a playmate.
And I’m sorry that everyone was so sorrowfully ignorant of your pains as you grew older.  We tried to understand.
And always, we loved you.

On her last morning, Ginger had steak for breakfast, and she got to have some peanut butter as her last snack.
And so it goes that this afternoon, my big, fat, goofy chocolate lab passed into the infinite and left us mortals here feeling very terribly, awfully small.
But Ginger, if even a single iota of your complicated happiness could be attributed to me and my love for you, I am content.

ginger on the porch

Rest easy, good girl.  I love you.

rachel walking ginger

Lemon Cream
adapted from Tartine Bakery
makes 1 1/2 cups

ingredients:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 grams) lemon juice
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
pinch salt
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, cut up

directions:
Place lemon juice, sugar, salt, eggs, and egg yolk in a small pot.
Whisk vigorously over medium-low heat until combined; whisk every 30 seconds or so to prevent lumps from forming.
Cook for 7-10 minutes, until thickened and at a low boil.
Remove from heat and pour into a blender canister or another bowl if you have an immersion blender.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then add the pieces of butter in and blend on high speed until light in color and thick.
Pour into desired vessels and chill.
Serve with blueberries and powdered sugar.

Aux Myrtilles

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”

–Pablo Picasso

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Can I tell you a secret?

Oh, bother—of course I can. I do it all the time, don’t I?
The rush—the relief—of spilling inky, irreverent and inwardly-felt thoughts into the incontrovertibly stained internet drives the very heart and soul of the blogosphere. I think.

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The writing of this post began with sadness and loneliness pouring forth from a disquieted mind, with introspection and frustration and words that were important—questions about growing older that, inevitably, must be asked—but it fizzled, never reaching a boil but a rather disappointing simmer that belied the troubles beneath.

It took me so long to eke out a few tortured words.
The sentences clashed, metallic and hard-edged, and rather than producing the profound music I had hoped to hear, begat only dissonance and off-tune complaints.
Somewhere along the way I lost my thread of consciousness and the subtlety of the emotions thus came undone.

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Without it, I was uncertain of the questions I was even trying to ask, or the tone I was trying to set.
This is just an elaborate way of saying: the writing sucked. It was bad. It was melodrama without substance and it was destined to develop into nothing. A half-assed staircase to understanding.

It’s not like I knew, firmly, what I wanted to write about. I was exploring as I wrote, as I often find myself doing in this space.
I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it; couldn’t quite convince each finger to tap out the required letters.

So I erased it, and sat in front of my computer, vexed.
I also simply don’t feel like putting effort into editing recent photos since I’ve moved (again)—it is such a pain, trying to document pretty food without any props and poor lighting and without my tripod.
It’s far more frustrating than not being able to articulate my anxieties, and that’s reflected in the photos.

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m annoyed that my blog is lingering, stale crumbs lying stagnant.  The same post to see every time you click back. Boring!
I want freshness and excitement and movement, and yet I am swimming against what feels like an insurmountable tide of writer’s and photographer’s block to deliver even a single post.

I can’t wait to go back to Ithaca, where I have pretty linens and lots of plates and a huge oven etc. etc., if only to glean a little inspiration and rediscover myself in the big jars of flour and sugar.
Even if the trees cast green on everything up there.  Even if I have no pastry bags and piping tips or cake stands.  Even if there is a lot of cat and dog hair floating around in the summer air.
Even if these are all complaints I have lobbed previously, in indignant validity, they will vanish away when I’m back in the heart of my home—the kitchen. (Do I say this every time before I return home? Maybe.)

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve been waiting to share these enchanting little cakelets with you, as I felt them deserving of more than just a rant.
Whatever.  I gave up, I gave in, and I realized that they were plenty good on their own.  Rant be darned.
Some pretty, flowery words would have been a lovely accompaniment to these ruffled pound cakes, but a cup of tea does just as well in their stead.  Take it from me.

In truth, these photos are old enough to go back to Chicago, where the lighting was good and I had all my favorite kitchen tools.
This might be the real reason why I am feeling almost reluctant to release them!

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I have so many posts highlighting summer’s produce to share with you all!
I really must make haste, because at the rate at which I am posting, it will be pumpkin-spice-latte season and I will be shit out of luck with a bunch of purply-stained blueberry posts lurking in my drafts folder.
I’ll start here, with these lovely mini pound cakes.
The base is a dense lemon yogurt cake, fragrant with zest and moist and buttery–in spite of the lack of butter in the batter–the texture is all due to a generous scoop of yogurt.
Each mini cake is studded with a few juicy blueberries, which, as they bake, collapse in on themselves to become sunken craters of sweet, sticky fruit.
Each cake is dusted with a little powdered sugar; in just two bites, tangy lemon and sweet berries are brought together in the best of summer pairings.

These would be magnificent if made with raspberries or blackberries, and I can imagine that they would also behoove themselves to a ripe wedge or two of peach or apricot.
These are a perfect accompaniment to summertime tea–sweet or unsweetened.
They’re adaptable to whatever summer fruit you have in your pantry (a few white chocolate chips would also sub brilliantly) and simple to make, and they bake so quickly that you won’t even notice that your oven is on!

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes
makes 15 mini cakes

ingredients:
2 eggs
135 grams (2/3 cup) sugar
150 grams (2/3 cup) yogurt
75 grams (1/3 cup) canola oil
zest of 1 lemon
120 grams (1 cup) flour
1 1/4 baking powder
5/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup blueberries
powdered sugar, for dusting

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 15 mini muffin tins or mini tart pans.
Whisk eggs briskly with sugar.
Add yogurt, oil, and lemon zest and whisk briskly until fully combined.
Add in flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir until the batter comes together.
Portion the batter out evenly into the prepared tins and press 2 or 3 blueberries into the top.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the edges are golden and the blueberries have released their juices.
Allow to cool completely, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Enjoy with a tall glass of iced tea.

American Pie

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I know that you’re in love with him
’cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes,
man I dig those rhythm and blues
I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck,
with a pink carnation and a pick-up truck,
but I knew I was out of luck
the day the music died.

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Happy Fourth of July!!
AKA happy birthday America!

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What do y’all think of the new blog?
It took me forever to update, and now I have a snazzy new sidebar where you can access archives, subscribe, search, and click through to important (read: pretty) posts.
Let me know if you have any problems, or if things seem glitchy.
I’ll try to get them worked out ASAP.
Note: to click through to see or make comments, click on the top of the post in the meta tag (date posted/comments) or just click on the post and scroll to the bottom.
Also note: blank spaces will soon be filled.  Please ignore the giant gaping holes… I am trying to iron things out.
(I am quite bad at it.)

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Y’all. There is a reason 4th of July rhymes with PIE.
(No, it’s not a coincidence. You hush.)
It is our god-given right to eat pie while celebrating the US of A.
We have lots and lots of traditional pies that originate here in America—thick shoofly, key lime, pecan, etc.
I had my heart set on a red, white, and blue pie—a true American Pie—for the 4th of July.
(Although now, I am realizing… shoofly, Ju-ly… that might have to happen too!  Oh well, more pie to eat..)

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American Pie.  American Flag Pie.
Wild blueberries make up the upper quadrant, with dark sweet cherries comprising the rest; the entire thing is encased in and carefully decorated with flaky, buttery pastry; rich, creamy vanilla bean custard adds a touch of white!
This pie is so dang cute, and delicious to boot. That vanilla bean custard, man. I could put that on cardboard and eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I love the combination of cherry blueberry, and if you’re not looking to American-ize your pie, just chuck everything in and top it with a lattice or even a full crust.

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I hope all of you have a safe, sunny, and fun Fourth of July! May you eat BBQ and patriotic desserts and break out the bathing suits and have a great time celebrating our country.
America!!

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Pee Ess:
I know some of my readers like to connect with me via instagram (and Pinterest). Click on the little instagram icon in the About the Author section and it will direct you to my profile. Same for Pinterest!
(Picture below is from my instagram, taken with iPhone and edited with Afterlight.)

iphone pie


American Pie with Vanilla Bean Custard

makes 1 10-inch pie
ingredients:
for the crust: 2 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
16 tablespoons butter, cubed and cold
ice water, as needed
for the filling:
2 1/2 cups frozen wild blueberries (or about 2 cups big fresh blueberries)
5 cups halved cherries (about 1 1/2 pounds frozen or 1 3/4 pounds fresh)
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
for the vanilla bean custard:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup lowfat milk
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
scrapings of 1/2 a vanilla bean
directions:
Make the crust: place flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
Dump all the cold cubed butter into the bowl and begin to smash all of the cubes to sheets.
Rub some of the mixture between your hands so that it’s sandy—you’re going for a crumbly, sandy mixture wherein the largest pieces of butter are about the size of a marble and flattened into a sheet.
Begin to stir in the cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time; you will likely need 4-6 tablespoons, but it all depends on kitchen environment, so go slow.
You want the dough to come together into a ball but not be sticky at all.
Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a long rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.
Fold over the edges like you’re folding a letter, then pat the folded dough out into another rectangle; repeat twice more for a total of 3 folds.
Divide the dough in two and pat into disks; wrap each in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, roll one out of the disks to a 14 inch diameter—it should be about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.
Fit the dough into a pie pan and loosely fold excess edges over temporarily; place in the fridge while you make the fillings.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees before making the fillings.
Place the cherries in a large bowl with the juice of half a lemon.
Place the blueberries in another bowl with a little less than the juice of half a lemon.
Stir the cornstarch, sugar, and salt together and divide it roughly into thirds: toss blueberries with 1/3 and the cherries with 2/3 of the mixture.
Roll out the other pie crust and cut into stripes and stars.
Spoon the blueberry filling into 1/4 of the pie (unfold the edges so they hang over the pan), and the cherry into the other 3/4.
Lay on the stripes and stars, then fold up the overhanging crust and crimp.
Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until the crust is golden and the fillings are bubbling.
Meanwhile, make the custard: whisk all ingredients together and place them in a small sauce pot over medium-low heat.
Cook, stirring nearly constantly, until the mixture thickens up slightly—it should still be liquid, but when you drag your finger across the spatula, a trail should remain (like the texture of quite cold heavy cream).
Pass through a strainer and chill until ready to eat.
Serve the pie warm with cold custard sauce!

Thyme Out

“Boom,” goes the cannon.
*Canon.
 
Yes!  I got a new camera!
My old Canon Rebel XS treated me very well; it’s a lovely little camera.
I just desperately needed an upgrade- the XS doesn’t have video capabilities and a whole mess of other features that I wish it did, because it’s a pretty intro-level SLR camera.
 
So, I upgraded!
I’m now shooting with a Canon Rebel T4i, which I love.
It has a touchscreen, HD video, and really clear photos.
The continuous shooting is rocking and the images are crystal clear.
I’m in love, guys!
There have been weeks and weeks of never ending rain
of weather warnings blaring through the television
of flash flooding and full waterfalls
mist spreading far and wide
perfuming the air.
 
Finally, it’s starting to heat up again.
Unfortunately, it’s very humid due to all the moisture.
My hair is in afro-mode.  
I just figure I’ll let it run wild.
So I’m welcoming in this heat with ice cream, the first true ice cream of the summer. 
(I made a lot of ice creams for WISE, but they were technically homework!)
 
This ice cream is rich.  
It’s a lovely shade of yellow thanks to the (9) egg yolks, and has a delightful but difficult-to-pinpoint tang from the buttermilk.
My favorite part is how the lemon thyme pairs with the buttermilk.
There’s a balance of acidity and tongue-coating richness that makes this ice cream very difficult to resist.
 
You don’t need to use so many egg yolks; I happened to have some on hand from a cake that I made earlier in the day.  
4 upwards would likely do the trick.
 
(On that note, there is the longest post ever coming at you in two days or so.  
Spoiler alert: it’s got to do with cake.  And buttercream.)
I found a gorgeous and huge bunch of lemon thyme at my farmer’s market, and I scooped it up without any real intentions.
Have you ever had lemon thyme?
It’s got a wonderfully floral and lemony scent, but also has some savory thyme flavor.
It’s delightful; I made some lemon-thyme sugar that I plan on using with stone fruits sometime in the near future.
 
I may be weird, but I just love how thyme is spelled.
I just love it. Thyme thyme thyme.
 
Have you ever seen the lovely blog My Darling Lemon Thyme?
First of all, the name is too cute to handle.
Like, I can’t handle it.
Secondly, the food is gorgeous and mouthwatering.
There’s no better combination!
Every time I think of lemon thyme, I think of her lovely, lovely blog.
I hope all of you Americans have a wonderful 4th of July!
Once again, happy birthday, America!

Buttermilk and Lemon Thyme Ice Cream
adapted from Claudia Fleming, via Smitten Kitchen
ingredients:
1 1/2 cups half and half
big bunch of lemon thyme or other herb, or use a vanilla pod, split and scraped
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
9 egg yolks
1 cup buttermilk
directions:
Strip the lemon thyme by running pinched fingers along the main woody stem.
Place all the leaves in the half and half in a medium saucepan.
Bring to a simmer; turn off the heat.
Allow to steep for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours at room temperature.
Strain the thyme leaves out; discard.
Using an immersion blender, or switching to a regular blender, blend the sugar, salt, and egg yolks into the half and half.
Heat over medium heat until it comes to a boil, stirring/whisking constantly.
Blend very well with an immersion blender, or pour the mixture back into your blender canister and blend extremely well; you want any lumps or curds that formed to be smoothed back into the mixture, and this takes a good minute and a half with a hand blender.
Blend in the buttermilk and chill until very cold; press saran wrap onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
Churn in your ice cream maker!
(Shown in pictures with freshly whipped cream, strawberries, and blueberries.)

‘Murka

 
 
Bottom line, I love America, I do.
With all these recent events, I am even gladder to live in this country.
We are on our way to a happier and more equal state, with more love and more satisfaction.
I’m glad to be part of the ride.
Happy birthday America.  Keep up the good work.
 
 
Let’s celebrate with barbecues (if this blasted rain will stop…), fireworks, and red-white-and-blue foods.
Let’s celebrate with these patriotic shortcakes.
Crunchy, sugar-spangled biscuits filled with blueberries and strawberries and pourable cream cheese.
They’re not too sweet, but devastatingly summery.
 
Catch y’all on the other side. 
 
 
Patriotic Shortcakes
for the biscuits:
adapted from Dot’s Diner, via Bon Appétit via Smitten Kitchen
ingredients:
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
9 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
3/4 cup buttermilk, cold
half and half or cream, for brushing
1/4 cup turbinado sugar, optional, for sprinkling
directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Stir the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a bowl.
Cut in the cubed butter, either with a pastry cutter or with two knives or with your fingers, which is how I do it.
Flatten each of the cubes and rub them so that they are flat and pea-sized.
Pour in the buttermilk and bring the whole batter together with a few kneading motions- your hands will be very dirty, but that’s good for you.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat into a rectangle 1/2 inch thick.  
Make a letter fold, by folding it into thirds, and pat the resulting rectangle out to 1/2 inch thickness as well.
Repeat the letter fold twice more.
Pat out the dough and cut circles out of it, being careful not to mangle the edges.
Place on a baking sheet and brush with half-and-half.
Sprinkle liberally with turbinado sugar.
Bake for 12-15 minutes.
Split and fill!
for the berries:
ingredients:
1 cup of sliced strawberries (slice, then measure)
2/3 cup blueberries
1+ tablespoon of sugar
directions:
Gently stir the strawberries and blueberries together with the sugar and set aside, preferably in a fridge, to macerate for at least 20 minutes.
Adjust the amount of sugar depending on the sweetness of your berries.
for the cream cheese filling:
4 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
directions:
In a food processor or with an immersion blender, mix until pourable. 
Add more cream if need be, but be sure to fully mix the sauce before adding more.

Zaftig

 Zaftig blueberries, people.  Get your minds out of the gutter.
 
I think zaftig is the perfect adjective to describe blueberries, especially those which have been blanketed in delicious crumbles and baked until just about ready to burst.
Pleasantly plump.
Outrageously juicy.
This is a vegan, gluten-free, refined-sugar-free, white-tee-staining, antioxidant-bursting, blueberry crisp.
(Well, vegan until I added a dollop of cold and creamy Greek yogurt.  Sue me.)

This crisp is sweet enough, even without any refined sugar, to serve with unsweetened plain Greek yogurt.
Forget the crisps and crumbles served with ice cream.  
 
This one is healthy enough to eat for breakfast, 
satisfying enough to eat for lunch (ahem), 
moreish enough to eat for a snack during a movie, and 
tempting enough to still call you back for an evening sweet.
 
It’s good.  Real good.
The only sweetener in this crumble is maple syrup, a few good glugs of it.
I was just in Vermont/New Hampshire and bought some maple syrup.  I promptly came home and put it to good use in this crisp.  
JK I used my already opened quart of syrup that was in the fridge.  Let’s just say it was inspired by my trip.
 
(Note: I still haven’t found/bought/even tried any Grade B… Who knows where I can get my sticky, grubby paws on some?)
While in New Hampshire/Vermont, I went on a long hike in the pouring rain.
Pouring as in so wet that you throw out your socks after the hike.
Pouring as in so wet that your baseball hat had its own rain cloud directed straight in between your eyes.
Pouring as in so wet that everything in your waterproof backpack is soaked.
I wrapped my camera up in two plastic bags and braved the cold, bone-soaking rain.
I loved it!  I love the rain; I figure, once you’re wet, you’re wet.
My camera… not so much.  Although the body didn’t get wet at all, there were a lot of raindrops that I ended up having to edit out of my photos.  Some were too impossible for even the clone tool to fix.  Sigh.
 
(I was right along the Connecticut River, and was in both states multiple times.  I don’t know whether to say VT or NH.  Both seem misleading.  I’ll go with NHVT.  Nahv-t.  Then I’ll sound really intelligent.)
 
The photos you see here (photovomit, sorry!) were taken in the Quechee State Park, which has a breathtaking gorge.
Unfortunately, later in the day, just as I was driving out of Vermont, the sun came out and the lighting was perfect, unlike earlier, when it was raining buckets.
That’s life for you.
The park is gorgeous- I found a large swath of dead forest, which seems to have been burned out.
It was hauntingly beautiful in all the mist.
I also found a lot of discarded garbage from disrespectful campers.
Seriously?!  Take out what you bring in.
I was immensely saddened by all the rubbish lying about.
How could such a pristine place be downgraded like this?
Pick up after yourself.  Nature doesn’t appreciate slobs.
Dietary-Restriction-Friendly Blueberry Crisp
ingredients:
2+ pounds (900 grams) fresh blueberries, picked over (enough to fill/heap up in your baking dish)
drizzle of maple syrup (depends how sweet your berries are)
100 grams hazelnut flour
100 grams oats (make sure they’re certified gluten-free if you intend on serving this to gluten-free guests/friends)
80 grams cornmeal
120 grams maple syrup
80 grams coconut oil
pinch kosher salt
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the blueberries in a 10×6 inch pan.
Drizzle maple syrup over them, if desired (I used 2 tablespoons or so).
Stir the hazelnut flour, oat, cornmeal, and salt together.
Add the maple syrup and coconut oil and stir until combined.
Sprinkle the crisp topping over the berries.
Bake for 25 minutes, until the top begins to brown deeply.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 more minutes.
Allow to cool slightly.
Serve with plain Greek yogurt.

Superman

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…

Sorry.  It’s just me.  Nothing special.

But often I am asked (yes, boring old me), with slight suspicion and narrowed eyes, “What are you?”

And when I answer that question, it is immediately followed with, “So what do you eat?”
Um, so, here goes: I am a nutritarian, which is a term I use loosely.  I like to think that I follow a diet led by my principles, rather than solely my stomach.  I am conscientious of my body and of the environment.  I make choices that I hope will benefit them both.  Technically, I am a strict lacto-ovo-vegetarian (I eat dairy (generally only cheese and yogurt) and eggs), a part-time vegan, and a lot of times, a raw foodist.  I guess I’m also a locavore because I do my best to eat locally and sustainably.

One very full, very sleepy little kitty

I hate these labels.  They’re restrictions that I don’t particularly care to have.  I’m not one or the other one hundred percent of the time.  (Except the no meat or bones deal.  I’m not trying to proselytize, but if you are looking for more information, read up with some of the great books out there, like Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals (my favorite book), Hal Herzog’s Some We Love, Some We Hate, and Some We Eat, and Michael Pollen’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. )

I believe the real truth about food and how we should view it finds its roots in the simplest fact of it all.


Food is, in and of itself, love.  Cooking is an act of love.  It represents the need and desire to feed and nurture those who you care about, including yourself.  Live to eat, not eat to live. The act of eating is hugely important; feeding yourself and others represents an innate desire to nourish those whom you love.  Most importantly, food is not just fuel; it is a vital social connection between all of us. It shouldn’t be used just to get by, nor should it be all about the labels.  
There are so many fads going on nowadays that everyone feels pressured to define their way of life and way of eating with names.  What’s the point?  It doesn’t help you enjoy a fresh piece of fruit any more knowing that you are “raw” and “vegan.”  You’re not really happy when you deny your body a treat because you’re on a diet, and your body sure isn’t happy either.  If you’ve been drooling over chocolate for weeks and weeks, have a piece of cake.  You’ll be happier and healthier for it.  Treats are treats, and we all deserve them once in a while.

Our society has got it all twisted.  Left and right, I see people going gluten-free, raw, vegan, paleo, vegetarian, dairy-free, nut-free, fat-free, low-fat, high-protein: doing the Atkins or the South Beach or Weight-Watchers or whatever.  In my opinion, we could learn a lot about eating from Europeans and Asians, who take time to have a meal and enjoy what is put in front of them.  Instead, we leap like lemmings off a cliff, plummeting towards “health” by following all sorts of wacky diets.  A lot of times, we convince ourselves that we are doing or feeling better without gluten or dairy or carbs, but most times, it’s the placebo effect taking hold.

Give your body the nutrients it craves; don’t hold back on the foods you really desire because of a restrictive diet; feed your body, love your body, love yourself.  Simple as that.

Phew.  Anyways… I made this raw cheesecake a few weeks ago, because I had been longing after many of them online.  I’m glad I did.  It most certainly isn’t low calorie or fat-free, but it is damn delicious.


Raw Blueberry and Raspberry Cheesecake
adapted from a few places, namely Green Kitchen Stories
Makes 2 4.5 inch cakes, or (possibly, I haven’t tried it) one 8 inch cake
For the crust:
ingredients:
1 cup mixed nuts; I used walnuts, almonds, pecans, and a few bits and bobs I found in the pantry
6 Medjool dates, pitted
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
pinch sea salt
directions:
Pulse the nuts in a food processor until they are relatively finely chopped.  Add in the rest of the ingredients and pulse until they begin to come together.  Press into the bottom of your springform pan and place in freezer.
For the middle (cheese) layer:
ingredients:
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 and up to 8 hours
zest and juice of one large lemon
pinch cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cardamom
seeds of one vanilla bean
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons agave nectar
directions:
Gently heat agave and coconut oil together until liquid and uniform.  Place everything in a food processor and puree until very smooth and thick.  Pour over crust and place in freezer.
For the top (berry) layer:
ingredients:
about 3/4 cup mixed berries (I used raspberries and blueberries)
juice of 1/2 a lime
directions:
Puree until smooth, pour over chilled cakes, and freeze until set.