One Saturday night a few weeks ago, friends tipped us off that Butler's Orchard had snap peas and blueberries and black raspberries all ready to go at once. Needless to say, we canceled all other plans for the next day, and by 8:30 am Sunday morning, we were off to the races.
Blueberries are awesome to pick with an 18-month old. They free from the bush easily, they're plentiful at toddler height, and us oldies can reach the higher ones and save our backs while the kid gets the low-hanging fruit. We came home with 5 pounds of blueberries, 5 pounds of black raspberries, and stains just about everywhere.
If you've seen me in the past few weeks and expressed even vague interest in Asian food and/or cooking, I've probably bored you to tears gushing on about the best cookbook of the year (IMHO), 101 Easy Asian Recipes. The title is both accurate and a bit tongue-in-cheek, since it makes the book sound like something fusion-y and inauthentic and terrible, when in fact, it inauthentic, and unabashedly so, and wonderful. The back of the book has big speech bubbles boasting "100% inauthentic" and "very good" and "easy, really." It's fab.
The book comes from Peter Meehan, who has worked with David Chang (Momofuku) and Danny Bowein (Mission Chinese) for years, co-authored the Momofuku cookbook, and now edits Lucky Peach magazine. He's clearly a meticulous guy who gets how Asian food works -- the balance of flavors, the precision with cooking times, etc. But this book takes a step away from the "this has 500 ingredients/steps, but it's worth it"-style of recipes, opting instead for formulas that follow two important ground rules: no deep-frying, and no recipes within recipes. The rationale: Asian food isn't just for Sunday projects, it's for weeknight dinner with kids. Good bless you, Peter Meehan.
've had this Thai glutinous rice sitting in the bottom of my cupboard for months, but never quite worked up the guts to make it into something until, a few weeks ago, the waiter at our little Laotian spot in the neighborhood told me that sticky rice may be the easiest thing on their menu to make at home. That doesn't necessarily say much, considering the menu includes items like crispy rice salad (involving rice that's cooked, mixed with other stuff, formed into balls, deep-fried, broken into pieces, and tossed with a gazillion other ingredients, which I know only because I've made it and whoa, pain in the butt doesn't even start). Still: "easier" was motivation enough not to let that rice sit untouched.
Not a full post today, but a bunch of odds and ends that I've been meaning to share.
Marmalading: That's what kept me out of trouble and away from insanity during our two-ish weeks of hibernation under an impenetrable and, apparently, unplowable 30 inches of snow. (Attention DC officials: occasionally, it snows here. Surprise! Buy another plow or two.) Fortunately, my fridge was chock-full of citrus you've never heard us, because Cathy went to Texas for a marathon series of cooking classes, and her trip coincided with Central Market's wonderful Citrus Festival, and she is a goddess and a wonderful friend and a crazy lover of citrus like yours truly. (I paid her in Barcelonian anchovies, yes). For most of last weekend, our home smelled like a heavenly mix of chartreuse hot cocoa (thank you Pam!) and boiling citrus peel. Not shabby. Not shabby at all.
It's snowing! It's snowing! THE APOCALYPSE IS COMING! I hope you bought flour and sugar. I hope you happen to have walnuts in the house. Yes? Wonderful.
Meet my latest, love, the Povitica. It comes from my other latest love, the Great British Baking Show. If I may, for just a moment, evangelize on its (the show's) behalf, it is the sweetest, coziest little food show on television. Contestants do their preparation in advance, and come to weekly competition with dog-eared copies of recipes they’ve developed. If someone runs behind, others pitch in to help out. Even the hosts of the show sometimes provide assistance. There’s a lot of smiling and hugging, absolutely no product placement, and so much Englishness, you won’t know what to do with yourself. It's Victorian sponge for miles.
Don't let the coziness fool you: each episode brings a "bake" more ambitious than the last. There are hot-water pastries and raised yeasted loaves, tiered pies and sculptured cakes. There are desserts you’ve never heard of, from Germany and Poland and France and Croatia, which if you saw in a cookbook might give you pause: lots of ingredients, pages of instruction, no sense of what the thing is supposed to look like if baked correctly. But when a bunch of (okay, very accomplished) home bakers give these recipes a go, under the pressure of a short timeline a televised competition, you watch them, and you think, yeah, maybe I could do that. One minute I’m watching the show, then next, I’m all I must have this in my oven now. That is why last week I up and baked a dobos torte, just because. And then this week, I got baking shpilkes again, so I went totally mad and baked my beloved povitica.
This is a happy-accident story, but it doesn't start that way. This past fall, I was determined to make hachiya persimmons into smooth, spiced butter. But each time I tried, I created something so ruined, so mouth-dryingly inedible, that I had to dump the entire thing. I did this too many times. cough three.
Fuyu persimmons are sweet and crunchy. They can be eaten as you would an apple. Hachiya persimmons are not as friendly. If you buy them hard, you must wait to eat them, or you will take a bite and your entire mouth will turn dry and chalky, like what tannins in wine do to your mouth but unpleasant, a thousand times unpleasant. To avoid this, you must tend to your hachiyas: put them in a paper bag, set them somewhere warm but not too warm, encourage them to ripen but protect them dutifully against spoilage. Hachiyas can be eaten when they are soft all over, and plump like a balloon. At that point, their astringency goes away, leaving behind soft, floral-flavored flesh that's wonderful as is, or in dozens of baked goods.
The catch, though, is that if even one bit of the persimmon hasn't reached that perfect stage of ripeness, its astringency will infiltrate and ruin whatever you're making with it. This is especially true in the case of butter, where the persimmons are cooked together and then pureed. And so it was for me, time after time, I found persimmons, coddled them to ripeness, cooked them, blended them, tasted them, cursed, and tossed the mixture into the trash. So wasteful, so frustrating. There must be a better way.
I want desperately to tell you all about this chaat-style salad I've been making almost daily, but it's probably rude to offer guests something to eat without first saying hi, so:
Hi! I've got a new home.
Not Derby Pie is still there - go see for yourself - but it was time for a fresh start. I never really had the technical wherewithal to manage my own website. I faked it pretty well for 8 (!) years, but with every automatic Wordpress update, my site would break a little bit more – the header, gone! the comments, gone! etc – and late last year, I finally decided I needed a full reboot. So, here we are: From now on, I'll be sharing new recipes over here, at rivkafriedman.net.
I used Squarespace to build this site, and I hope you love its clean interface as much as I do. The search function is simpler, the design is 100% mobile-friendly, and I've managed to haul all of my old posts over to this new home, with only minor glitches in spacing and captions and whatnot. I'm 90% of the way there. The biggest issue is that ingredient lists in recipes transfer as a block, not a list. You may see some other minor formatting issues for a little while longer. If a recipe looks particularly garbled, you can always find it back on NDP.
New year, new start. I'm so excited to finally share this with you.
Now then, onto business. 2016's first sprouts are ready for a salad.
I know it's almost Christmas, but I'm about one month behind (on everything) and right now, I need to commit a tiny act of Thanksgiving blasphemy. I tell you this: the best dessert I ate on Thanksgiving was not pie.
By 7 pm the evening of the holiday, our house was full of neighbors who had decided to stay local. Our table was overflowing with pies, many of which our friends had brought: a glistening, lattice-topped sour cherry pie; several bourbon/brandy-filled pumpkin pies; a gorgeous rendition of Deb's chocolate tart with gingersnap crust (a slice of which I carefully set aside for myself, which my unsuspecting and always-cleaning lady accidentally threw away, *sob*) and many more. I tried too many; I loved them all. But I think my favorite bite of all was a slice of these maple walnut squares.