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.

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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.

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And then I made a tart.

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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.

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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

I’m lucky I didn’t burn the house down

This past weekend, I baked and cooked around the clock for two entire days. None of it was planned! And yet all of it went smoothly.

Action JacksonThis particular bowl saw a lot of action // muffins, granola, macaroons, grain-based sausage, brownies . . . I’m full just thinking about it

While the muffins were cooling and the granola was baking, there was an impromptu birthday party. I had no idea there were triplets in the house!

birthday girlsthere ain’t no party like my nana’s tea party // . . . happy birthday, dear Rainbow Sparkles, Kookaburra, and Click . . .
zesty macaroonsorange zest-spiked macaroons // totally on a whim, because I needed something to do while the granola was baking

At one point, I had four slow cookers going at the same time. Beans, more beans, lentils – and the richest, smoothest marinara I’ve ever made. Accidentally slow cooking my marinara sauce for 18 hours was the key.

grain-based Italian meatballsspaghetti and grain-based meatballs simmered in glad-I-didn’t-burn-the-house-down marinara // meatball recipe will be posted on Wednesday
researchresearch! because somehow, I was still actually hungry // I rarely eat when I’m cooking or baking, the smell all on its own makes me feel stuffed

There was also potato focaccia bread, triple chocolate buttermilk brownies, multiple tester recipes for two of my favorite cookbook authors, and another accidental discovery – my wok is the perfect popcorn popper.

When I wasn’t actively cooking, I managed to leave my kitchen. There was a library visit, grocery shopping, Lego building, movie watching, more Lego building, winter clothes sorting, book reading, and even laundry. Whew! Just thinking about it all makes me tired. The only thing we didn’t do was go for a hike, because my still-healing knee was throbbing. Apparently, standing on an injured knee for several hours straight will do that.

Oh, and there was also this soup.

cup o' soup creamy tomato soupI used both my slow cooker and my oven for this, and it was totally worth it
soup dregsthe best part of cleanup duty

Slow cooker tomato soup

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This recipe may read as long and complicated, but most of the time is spent waiting for the soup’s base ingredients to melt together in your slow cooker. It can be made on a stove top, but the results just aren’t the same. You’ll need to purée the base by itself, and then again with the rest of the ingredients once they have roasted. I usually combine everything in a tall, stainless steel pasta pot and use my stick blender, but a stand blender or food processor will also work.

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Soup base, to slow cook:
1/2 cup red lentils
1/4 cup steel cut oats
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (or 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved)
1 tablespoon chicken-style broth powder
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
10 basil leaves, torn
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and white pepper

Soup body, to roast:
4 medium tomatoes, quartered (or 20-25 cherry tomatoes, halved)
1 large shallot or red torpedo onion, quartered
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
large pinch kosher salt
large pinch turbinado sugar

Finishing garnish:
nutmeg
agave
crostini or croutons, optional

In a 2- or 3-quart slow cooker, combine the first seven ingredients (red lentils through smoked paprika) with 2 1/2 cups of water and set to low. Allow everything to cook for six hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water if needed. You want enough liquid to purée everything easily at the end, but not so much that it will be watery. When the six hours have passed, purée everything until smooth and season with salt and white pepper to taste. Keep the base warm in your slow cooker until the roasted vegetables are ready.

When your slow cooker has about an hour to go, preheat your oven to 375 F / 190 C. In a baking dish, arrange the quartered tomatoes and shallot, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with oil and vinegar, then sprinkle on the salt and sugar. Roast until the tomatoes have caramelized and their juices are concentrated.

Combine the puréed base and the caramelized tomatoes, shallots and their juices in a blender or food processor (in multiple batches, if necessary) and purée until completely smooth, adding water if needed.

Garnish with a drizzle of agave and fresh grated nutmeg, and serve with small crostini or croutons.

Yield: 2-4 servings, depending on course and appetite

Prep time: 10 minutes | Slow cooking time: 6 hours (mostly unattended) | Roasting time: 30-45 minutes

My love affair with red torpedos // vodka sauce // raw not-vodka sauce

Today I’m feeling like a Talky McTalkerson and am dying to wax nostalgic about all of the things that make a vodka sauce so good, but I don’t have time (and you may not have the patience). So, I’m going to distill it down to just this:

alcohol + tomatoes + heat = a release of alcohol-soluble tomato goodness

It’s that simple! Any alcohol will do, preferably one that is as flavorless as possible (enter: vodka) so that as the tomatoes cook down, no trace of alcohol flavor remains. More often than not, I use a dry white wine.

red.torpedos.justpulledRed torpedos: they look like football-shaped shallots.

Have you ever grown the red Italian bunching onion called red torpedo? If not, grab a couple of seed packets, fill a pot with vegan compost-rich soil, and get on it! In my climate, I’m able to grow red torpedos year-round, and they proliferate equally well in pots and in the ground. They tolerate summer heat as long as they’re in partial shade, and they love a slight chill in the air. I have no idea where to buy them, but they grow so easily I’ve never bothered to look. Red torpedos can be used any time a recipe calls for red onion, and they can be paired with a bit of mild garlic to replace shallots. They are mild and sweet and taste great raw. They roast and caramelize well. Also, they’re pretty. In short, the perfect onion.

red.torpedosReady for the skillet (vodka sauce) or the blender (raw sauce).

If you have really amazing just-picked tomatoes with a flavor that knocks your socks off, then this recipe can easily be adapted into a (not vodka) raw tomato cream sauce. I make it both ways, mostly depending on how much time I have. If you’re good about mise en place, you can start either version of this sauce while you wait for your water to boil, and be done in time to dress your pasta.

crostini_pesto+vodka.saucePairs well with pesto.

Vodka sauce // raw tomato cream sauce

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If you don’t have any red torpedo onions, 1/4 a small red globe onion will do nicely.

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3 red torpedo onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 handfuls small/medium tomatoes or 3 large tomatoes, cored and chopped
1/4 Cup dry white wine
1/2 Cup raw cashew pieces
1/2 sweet bell pepper, optional
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a skillet or heavy pot over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize – about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and wine and bring the pot to a simmer, stirring and smashing the tomatoes around in the pot as they cook down. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat. Add everything to a blender or food processor – if you’re including the sweet pepper, add it now. Puree until smooth, adding water if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make this recipe raw: omit the olive oil, and blend everything straightaway.

Yield: 1 1/2 – 2 Cups

Prep time: 5 minutes raw, 15 minutes cooked