One hundred drafts, one meal

People write blogs for different reasons.  Some to make money, others to promote their business, many want to showcase their photography, and some simply have a story inside of them that needs to get out.

For me, the reason is simple.  I use this space as my own personal cookbook.  The process of cooking for me is very organic.  I’m impulsive in the kitchen.  I go with my gut, adding a pinch of this or a dash of that, all the while taking notes and writing down the steps as I go.  Most of the time all this note-taking happens right here on the blog, in a new, unpublished post where I type while in the midst of cooking.  If, in the end, the food is good, if the people around my table are happy and linger long, cleaning their plates with the last bits of bread, draining the last drops from the bottle of wine, laughing while they hold their full bellies, I’ll save the draft.  If not, I just hit “Delete.” Continue reading “One hundred drafts, one meal”

Raisin-Stuffed Baked Apples

This weekend, the dishwasher worked overtime, as did the oven.  The kitchen bustled with holiday excitement and children sneaking tastes and dogs underfoot and enticing aromas drifting into every corner of the house…. And my camera stayed put, tucked away in its case in the closet the whole time.  I took almost no photos of any of it, aside from a few on my phone because, the truth is, there are days when I just want to cook – messily, in all directions, with flour in my hair, dishes on the counter, crumbs on the floor, towels draped over the chair, and plastic cookie cutters strewn across the table (so NOT photogenic!).  Would I be amiss to say that I think all food bloggers, photographers and recipe developers go through this at some point? Continue reading “Raisin-Stuffed Baked Apples”

Biscuits de Noël

I don’t bake cookies very often.  There are so many more exciting desserts to be made this time of year – chewy fruit-filled meringues, fancy tarts, densely rich pies and, of course, the boûche de Noël.  Cookies seem so… dare I say, ordinary.  And, with so many store-bought varieties, well, sometimes I think, why bother?  But that is a very one-sided way of looking at it, isn’t it.  Cookies are exciting, both in their own right, but more so in feelings they evoke and the excitement of what they represent.  Especially if they are the biscuits de Noël.  In that case, there really is no choice – they must be homemade. Continue reading “Biscuits de Noël”

Kolaczki Cookies

Happy Monday!  I hope you all had a very wonderful Thanksgiving, if you celebrate… and if you don’t, I hope you had a fantastic weekend.  We discovered on Thanksgiving day that our refrigerator wasn’t keeping things as cold as it should.  Actually, I had suspected that was the case for a few weeks, when I kept having to turn the temperature down, but since I’d packed it full of food for the holiday it became very apparent that only the bottom of the fridge was maintaining a constant temperature. Continue reading “Kolaczki Cookies”

Cardamom Orange Cake

On Sundays we often drive into the city to have dinner with my parents.  They still live in my childhood home in the charming neighborhood where I grew up.  I love that my children now play in my old bedroom and in the garden where I once planted flowers.   My brother selects the wine for our dinners, and I always bring dessert.  I’m lucky to have this outlet with which to dispense and disperse all of the sweets I like to make, otherwise my husband and I would be terribly fat!  This past Sunday morning we woke very late.  The sunlight that normally streams through our bedroom window and falls in a band of warmth across the bed was completely eclipsed by thick, cold November storm clouds. Continue reading “Cardamom Orange Cake”

Brown Butter Carrot Cupcakes

The feasts before the feast

Happy November!  I love these few weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving when the anticipation of the holidays begins to build from a mild hum to a full-blown roar.  November is, quite possibly, the month in which I spend the most time in the kitchen, and that couldn’t make me happier.  My thoughts of food start to shift from pumpkin-spice everything in October, to warm and wintery and extravagant meals, fit for a king.  In our house, Thanksgiving recipe-testing begins and the menu starts to take shape.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll have many “mini-feasts” as I test and try out new recipes and new combinations before finalizing the Thanksgiving menu.  November is the month of feast after feast. Continue reading “Brown Butter Carrot Cupcakes”

Pots de Crème au Chocolat

A homesick American

On a dim side street that cut through the buildings like a crack in a rock there was a nondescript little candy shop.  It wasn’t too far from our apartment on Viale Italia, in Livorno, and I passed it frequently on my way to the market. You could easily  have walked right by without noticing but for the aromas that slipped beneath the door – apparitions of caramelized sugar and bittersweet cocoa.  Though I didn’t often stop in to buy anything (willpower, you know), just knowing it was there was reassuring.  I was quite homesick during that first winter abroad and everyone knows that a little chocolate is the best cure for homesickness.   Continue reading “Pots de Crème au Chocolat”

Apricot Clafoutis

If you ask me, apricot season is far too short.  Here in Colorado if you blink you’ll miss it.  So when I find apricots in the market I never pass them up.  Of course there are always apricots in the grocery stores, hard and bitter rocks that will never ripen to perfection and will ruin any recipe you use them in.  But if I find ripe, local, charmingly bruised apricots in the farmers’ market I buy bags and bags of them.  We eat them by the dozens and anything we don’t eat raw is transformed into a number of seasonal treats.  Perhaps because of their very short season, recipes that centre around apricots have always seemed rather exotic to me, perfumed with the most enticing and seductive spices in the world.  Apricot and Chicken Tagine from Morocco, Apricot Blatjang from South Africa, Indian Apricot Pudding with almonds and cardamom.   Continue reading “Apricot Clafoutis”

Cocoa Meringues

I get oddly excited about recipes that require only the egg yolks.  It’s similar to the way someone might start looking forward to their birthday cake a few days in advance, or how enticing a Friday evening cocktail becomes when you’re stuck at your desk on Wednesday, because when a recipe requires only the yolks it means there will be leftover egg whites, and one of the very best ways to use leftover egg whites is to make meringue cookies. Continue reading “Cocoa Meringues”

Strawberry Balsamic Hand Pies

As evening fell, I stood by the window with a glass of wine in my hand and saw her.  Opening the back door – the one that led from the kitchen – she gathered her flowered housedress and white apron in one hand.  Slowly she approached the five steps that led to the garden and very carefully, unsteady, she descended.  I always watched her, never leaving that window for fear that if her knees buckled and she fell I would have to run out to help.  But she never did fall, and once down in the garden she walked among the rows, chatting with someone unseen, perhaps a bird, perhaps a rabbit, or ghost, or maybe she talked only to herself.  I never knew. Continue reading “Strawberry Balsamic Hand Pies”