amendment

I found this in Nina’s homework folder last night.

If there was ever any doubt about thoroughly explaining the debeaking process to a seven-year old, well, we underestimate these little people far too often.

Oof, I love her so.

Nina's amendment

If I could write my own law or rule for the constitution, it would be…

to not torture animals and cut off their beaks and tails.

I would write this law because…

it hurts and can kill the animals just with pain.

serious business

As I head into week five (six?) of law school, things are starting to get serious.

Three legal pads full of writing assignments and case briefs, a comprehensive midterm one week away, my favorite book bag discarded because it wasn’t up to hauling around 80+ pounds of books at a time –

of course, all of this pales in comparison to Second Grade.

There is soccer practice, as evidenced by the tangle of shoes and shorts I stumbled over the other night.

team purple

There is science!, which means there are petri dishes and vials, slides and cover slips, tweezers and specimens — all scattered across the kitchen table for long, indefinite stretches of time.

science!

Nina and I took a break from our serious endeavors to make this cake.

rosemary chocolate cake rosemary chocolate olive oil cake

Olive oil cake with bittersweet chocolate and rosemary

§ § §

Another adaptation from my rainy day, desert island, if I could only choose one cookbook, Good to the Grain.

§ § §

Olive oil for the pan
3/4 cup almond meal flour
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
3/4 cup natural cane sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
3/4 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons plain, unsweetened soy yogurt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60-70% cacao), chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F / 180 C. Oil a 9 1/2-inch fluted tart pan. If your pan does not have a removable bottom, line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and rosemary. In another bowl, whisk together the soy milk, olive oil, yogurt and apple cider vinegar. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, gently mixing until incorporated. Fold in the chocolate. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth out the top. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the edges have started to brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool before cutting — unless you don’t mind an ooey gooey mess of chocolate.

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 40 minutes

Daisy

meeting Daisy

The animal sanctuary I work with recently became home to several hens and turkeys who were rescued from the factory farming industry. Nina has been waiting weeks to meet the flock, but they’ve been in quarantine, a necessary precaution as they settle into their new home. Nina understands all of this, but that didn’t stop her from asking me approximately two hundred times a day, “When can I hold Daisy?

This question has recently been replaced by several others, out of concern that Daisy won’t be able to eat. Every single one of these birds has been debeaked, something Nina noticed almost right away from their photographs. There were  questions, and tears, and discussions. Tears turned to outrage, and discussions turned towards solutions. Nina took it upon herself to inform her entire class — in the first week back at school(!) — about debeaking. She hatched a plan to teach Daisy how to use a straw, such was her concern over this tiny bird’s ability to eat and drink.

turkeys

Over the weekend Nina and I went out to the sanctuary to meet everyone, feed them snacks, give them hugs, and set Nina’s mind at ease.  I see this becoming a weekly event, and I’m ever so thankful that this opportunity to educate through animal kindness is just a short drive from our home.

Daisywith Daisy

squash sauce

With temps nearing 100 today, I’m keeping things in the kitchen simple, focusing all efforts on soaking up the last flush of summer.

This means my blender is seeing a lot of action: the family-sized green smoothie it makes every day, followed by a giant batch of butternut queso.

My garden didn’t yield any butternuts this year, but there were plenty at the farmers’ market. This sauce is easy to make with both fresh and frozen butternut squash, so I snatched several up to prep and freeze later this month.

squash sauce

 

Butternut queso

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This is one of those recipes that was born of not-in-the-mood-for-anything meals + staple ingredients. Items are grabbed from the pantry, tossed into the blender, and the rest of the meal figures itself out. If using a medium/large butternut, the neck portion will yield 2 to 2 1/2 cups cubed squash. The concentrated sweetness of dried tomatoes rounds out the flavor of this sauce and lends it a hint of color. We go easy on the garlic, but mine is a homegrown variety, more pungent than what’s found in most markets. This tastes good with a dash (or three) of smoked paprika; sadly, my family is too wimpy to handle such a thing. Sometimes, I sneak in a few dashes of ground chipotle – just as much flavor, but less discernible heat. You’ll notice I don’t add any oil or butter – this isn’t because I’m avoiding fat; the sauce is rich enough without it (especially after the flavors have melded in the fridge for a few hours). Some similar recipes on the web include Earth Balance, and I’m sure throwing in a knob would taste good to some palates, but we enjoy it without.

§ § §

2 cups 1/2-inch cubed butternut squash
1 medium yellow-fleshed potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, or more to taste
4 thumb-sized sundried tomato pieces (preferably not oil packed)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon tamari
1/2 cup raw cashews, either pre-soaked/drained or pulverized in a spice grinder
1 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, more to taste
a few grinds white pepper, more to taste

Combine the squash, potato, garlic and sundried tomatoes in a large, wide pot. Add just enough water to cover and bring to a low boil. Lower to a simmer and cook until the potato and squash are fork tender, about 10 minutes. Taking care not to burn yourself, transfer the contents of the pot to the blender. Add the lemon juice and tamari, and blend until smooth. Add the cashews, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper, and blend again until smooth. Add additional water if necessary to make the sauce thinner, if you prefer. The sauce will thicken slightly when cooled.

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes | Yield: about 3 cups

law school

It’s difficult, and exhilarating, and everything I expected it to be.

I was going to regale you with exciting tales of the Socratic method, of color-coded note taking and bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils, of my love affair with briefing cases, and the new-to-me world of legal podcasts.

!!!!2014-08-17 19.04.25

2014-08-17 19.05.43

Instead, I’ll report on the sliver of my life that hasn’t changed. I’m still obsessively tending my little farm, creating chaos in the kitchen, and finding an excuse to bake something every day.

A couple of weekends ago, I picked tomatoes.

2014-08-17 12.41.17

And then I made a tart.

2014-08-18 14.40.18

 

Tomato chèvre galette with a cornmeal crust

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The tomatoes used in my galette pictured above were already roasted, because my cashew chèvre was quite tangy and I wanted my tomatoes extra sweet. However. The recipe is written for raw tomatoes, which are what I most often use. Be sure your layer of cheese underneath is nice and thick (to soak up any extra juice). If you go the roasted tomato route, the time it takes to preheat the oven and roast them is about the same amount of time it takes to chill the dough. Chilled coconut oil can be used in place of vegan butter, but it warms up more quickly so observe mise en place before you get started, to keep things moving along. Time spent from rolling out the dough to sliding the galette into the oven is under fifteen minutes. If the dough tears when you’re folding up the sides, just pinch it together and carry on; free form tarts are supposed to look rustic, not polished.

§ § §

1 1/4 cups whole spelt flour + additional flour for rolling out the dough
1/2 cup fine ground cornmeal (yellow or white)
1 teaspoon natural cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
6 tablespoons vegan butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup ice water

3/4 cup vegan chèvre-style cheese
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes, halved
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
pinch fine grain sea salt
2-3 grinds of white pepper
Soy (or other non-dairy) milk, for brushing the crust

In a food processor add the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt, and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse again, until it’s in pea-sized pieces. Add the olive oil and ice water and pulse a few more times until the dough comes together; it will be sticky. Turn the dough out onto the center of a large piece of parchment (the size of your baking tray) and shape it into a disk, adding a little spelt flour to the top of the disk to keep it from sticking to your hands. Carefully fold the parchment up around the disk, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap (or zip inside a gallon-sized bag), and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Fifteen minutes before you want to put the galette into the oven, adjust a rack to the center position and preheat to 375 F / 190 C. Halve the tomatoes and set aside.

When the dough is ready to be rolled out, carefully unwrap the parchment paper. Roll the dough into a circle until it reaches the edge of the parchment – or is 1/4-inch thick – whichever comes first. Sprinkle with flour as you go along to prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin. Transfer the parchment/dough to the baking tray you’ll be using and put it into the freezer for a few minutes to firm the dough back up. When you pull it back out, leave the parchment on the baking tray while you finish putting the galette together. Carefully spread the cheese out from the center, leaving a two-inch border of dough. Arrange the tomatoes in an even layer over the cheese, cut side up. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, and thyme leaves over the tomatoes. Using a spatula if necessary to avoid sticking, lift up an edge of the dough and fold it up over the filling. Continue folding the dough, forming a pleated edge as you go along. Pinch any tears in the dough together with your fingers. Brush the dough with soy milk. Bake until the crust has browned, 35-40 minutes. Slide the galette onto a cooling rack and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting into wedges. This tastes good both warm from the oven and at room temperature.

Prep time (dough): 10 minutes | Prep time (galette): 15 minutes | Inactive resting time: 1 hour | Cook time: 40 minutes

Over sharing

I’ve been away from this space for far too long, and it’s making me twitchy. Almost every day I think about posting something, but then I realize I don’t have a photo, or wonder if it’s too easy/difficult/ordinary/bizarre to bother sending out into the ether, or I can’t read my notes; and then I get irritable and go into my kitchen and make something that I know someone else out there might appreciate, but I forget to take a picture (or it turns out really shitty because my house of windows is also a house of shade trees and gets almost no natural light), and it starts all over again. Bah!

I don’t aspire to be a fancy pants food blogger. I only think to check stats when I realize I made a big typo in an ingredient list and worry about how many people might have made the recipe. I’m too busy to finish my cookbook proposal. But when someone sends me an e-mail gushing about how much my recipe for something or other made their day, well, it makes my day, too. I use this site as my personal recipe repository – there are dozens of recipes that live in draft status, for the reasons I listed at the top of this post. Once I tweak a recipe to exactly how my family and I like it and I go to the trouble of transcribing it to this site, I guess I could just share it, right? And then maybe I won’t be so twitchy.

CMR-noted

In times of desperation I may simply post this. ^^

Because absolutely no one cares but I can’t stop thinking about it so I’m going to over share: a few things that make me twitchy. The word y’all. Andrea in The Walking Dead. The smell of anything fishy, including seaweed. Intentionally misspelled words. Noisy children. Not being able to tell Nina why I get choked up over certain characters in the Harry Potter series because we’re only midway through book four and oh, so many of them are going to die! Anyone who doesn’t recognize Stephen King as a genius storyteller based on his writing and not the genre.

CMR-before

Moving on!

So here’s the thing: I’m going to start putting more of my recipes out there. The boring ones, the really complicated why-would-anyone-bother ones, the accidentally genius-to-me ones. Even the one pot meals that I fear my family will have to subsist on once law school starts in a few weeks. If it’s good enough to make my personal recipe archive, it guess it might be good enough to share.

CMR-after

 

Cherry macaroon tart with muscovado and rye

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Muscovado, rye flour, and dark, heady fruit are one of my favorite combinations. I’ve made this tart with blackberries and plums in the past, depending on the season. The crust can easily be made gluten free by substituting buckwheat flour for the rye. I use a tapioca slurry in place of egg white for the macaroon topping, which gives it a nice sheen. Flax-thickened water made with whole seeds (which are strained out) also works well, if you have the extra time; you can add the strained seeds to the crust. I find that arrowroot gets too gummy, and cornstarch makes the topping dull.

§ § §

3/4 cup almond meal
3/4 cup rye flour (or buckwheat flour for gluten free)
3/4 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut
1/4 cup muscovado sugar, lightly packed
6 – 8 tablespoons natural cane sugar, depending on the sweetness of your berries
1/2 cup melted coconut oil

1 1/2 cups cherries, pitted and halved

1 1/2 cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut
1/2 cup natural cane sugar

2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1/2 cup water

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 F / 160 C. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish or tart pan with parchment.

Combine the almond meal, rye flour, shredded coconut, and sugars in a large bowl and whisk to incorporate, taking care to break up any lumps. Add the melted coconut oil and combine; the mixture should be damp and sandy, and stick together when pressed between your fingers. Transfer the mixture to your lined dish and distribute evenly. Set aside the bowl to use for the macaroon topping. Using a silicone spatula or dampened fingers, press the crust into the bottom of the dish. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 350F / 180C.

While the crust is baking, combine the additional shredded coconut and sugar for the macaroon topping in your bowl; set aside. In a small saucepan, whisk together the tapioca flour and water. Place over low heat and whisk until it just starts to thicken and turn glossy, one to two minutes. Remove from heat, whisk once more to make sure it’s smooth, and add to the macaroon ingredients, taking care to scrape out any last bit clinging to the sides of the pan. Mix the macaroon ingredients together until well combined; there should not be any dry coconut in the bowl.

Spread the cherries evenly over the crust. Add dollops of macaroon topping in between the spaces, around the edges, and over the top until used up. There should be bits of cherries poking up here and there. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, or the macaroon peaks are golden brown. Cool before slicing.

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 40-45 minutes, divided

Kitchen garden tour // chocolate beet root cake

Indoors, my husband’s minimalist nature prevails; outdoors, my maximalist nature is unhindered. More is more! I often refer to the steps leading from the back of my house onto the grounds as my happy place. From a distance, my teensy weensy, one story, 1,000 square foot old-but-not-too-old farm cottage appears to dwarf the small beds that flank both sides of the concrete stairway. When you’re standing on those steps, though, the beds take on a life of their own.

1. house

To your right, a small but vigorous patch of wild strawberries that produce all summer long. To your left, a tiny kitchen garden with chives, oregano, thyme, lavender and marjoram spilling onto your feet. The steps and back wall are lined with pots containing anything from shade-loving greens to a bay laurel tree, and a grotesque named Gargoyle. The opposite edge is lined with dahlias, sunflowers and lemon balm, and the front is guarded by our gnome. Inside this illusory boundary, it’s organized chaos. Greens overflow from a central raised bed year round – what we don’t eat I let bolt and feed them to the hens. Green and purple shiso form a carpet over the garden floor. I’ll let an entire patch of carrots, cabbage or onions go to seed just so I can marvel at the flowers. Flats of seedlings are lined up wherever they’ll fit, preempting the soon-to-be basil forest into a nursery. In addition to the toads, frogs and turtles that take advantage of Nina’s carefully arranged broken and side-turned pots and the thicket of Japanese knotweed I can never completely eradicate, we have blue-striped skinks who live in the cracks around the stairs and scurry from bed to bed along the side of the house. It feels like another world.

2. strawberries+chives3. kitchen garden collage4. dahlias et al

Continuing to walk around the house is the tea garden, anchored by a small wisteria tree and a sea of irises. This past winter was not kind to my turmeric and ginger roots, lemongrass, nettles, catnip or chamomile; the bed is presently a chocolate mint garden. I’ll be replanting everything in pots and troughs so I can move them around if next winter is surly.  Next to the tea garden is a butterfly bush and scrub grass. My goal is to turn it into a rock and succulent garden by summer’s end. Parallel to these beds is our rose trellis. On a whim, my husband lashed a few scraggly vines up off the ground so Nina wouldn’t cut herself on thorns while chasing Goblin. The roses have all but taken over the south side of the house. I use the petals for cooking all summer long, and collect rose hips for tea in early winter.

5. Goblin+mint 6. chocolate mint 7. scrub garden 8. rose trellis

In front, we have one bed completely overgrown with wild blackberry vines, and another that’s home to anything that catches Nina’s eye when we visit the nursery. This autumn the blackberry vines will be replaced with peonies, mums, and maybe a gardenia. The other bed has Chinese lantern and balloon flowers, hostas, caladiums, sweet potato vines,  variegated grasses – anything that tolerates partial shade. Around the corner, the north side of the house is home to hydrangeas, butterfly bushes, allspice and holly trees, giant blue hostas, and my rhubarb. A few feet away is another overgrown bed that I’m going to turn into a moon garden. It’s anchored by ginkgo and Japanese maple trees.

9. future peonies 10. collage 11. ginko+maple

That was an awfully long walk around my house! Next week I’ll take you through my main garden, our fledgling orchard, and the arbor.

But first, cake.

A few months ago, I bought a cookbook based solely on the photo and text of one recipe. This is not unusual behavior for me. But the tiptoeing around this recipe, my not wanting to be disappointed outweighing the challenge of omitting a scant cup of butter and five eggs from a highly lauded recipe by a renowned author and chef? Very unusual. And then I saw the most beautiful bundle of beet roots at the farmers’ market, stopped myself from asking if they were any good (it’s way past beet season here), dug my best quality chocolate out of the freezer, and made the best damned chocolate cake I’ve had in a good long while.

cakeThis is what happens if you touch your cake before it cools. Consider yourself warned.

Chocolate beet root cake

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This is my vegan interpretation of Nigel Slater’s Extremely Moist Chocolate Beet Cake, from Tender. Have no fear – it does not contain five eggs’ worth of egg replacer or a scant cup of oil subbed for the butter. What it does contain is seven ounces of best quality bittersweet chocolate, and this is non-negotiable. You’ll need to take great care when melting your chocolate, which is easier than it sounds. Simply place a heatproof bowl inside a skillet of barely simmering water, and stir stir stir. This cake is dusty on top, but incredibly moist. I serve it topped with homemade vegan crème fraîche and poppy seeds, but it tastes (almost as) good without.

§ § §

7-8 ounces beets (3 small/medium)
7 ounces best quality chocolate (70% cocoa solids), cut into half-inch size pieces
1/4 cup hot espresso
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups white spelt flour
1 cup natural cane sugar
3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Vegan crème fraîche and poppy seeds, for serving

Boil the beets, whole and unpeeled, in unsalted water until fork tender, 30 to 40 minutes depending on their size. Cool under running water, remove the peel, top and tail, and place in a food processor. Pulse a few times until coarsely puréed.

While the beets are cooling, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Lightly oil an 8-inch round springform cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment. If you don’t have a springform pan, you can turn this out onto a plate once it has cooled, but it will be a little messy.

Melt the chocolate in a small bowl set inside a skillet of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Add the espresso and olive oil and stir until smooth and glossy. Remove from the heat.

Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa and baking powders, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the melted chocolate mixture, almond milk, apple cider vinegar and almond extract to the bowl, and gently stir until fully incorporated. Gently fold in the pureed beets.

Pour into the prepared cake pan and transfer to the oven. Immediately decrease the heat to 325 degrees, and bake for 50 minutes. The top of the cake will look dry, especially around the edges, but it will feel springy to the touch. In the last few minutes of baking, the center of the cake will fall. Once the cake has cooled completely, carefully loosen around the edge with a thin icing spatula or butter knife before removing the ring. Serve with vegan crème fraiche and poppy seeds.

Prep time: 10 minutes | Stovetop time: 30-40 minutes | Oven time: 50 minutes