I have a list of beloved recipes for fall, the holidays, and beyond, and pretty much stick to them, especially when things get busy. Also, I don’t like change. Even so, sometimes an idea or book comes along that changes my ways and pushes me to re-imagine even my very favorite things. Samantha Seneviratne‘s The New Sugar and Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking is just that kind of thing. In it, Sam moves beautifully between engaging family stories and insights into baking, spices, and the history of how such far flung ingredients made their way into our kitchens. It’s also overflowing with perfect recipes. Just enough sugar to be delicious and with an admirable restraint – rather than the typical cinnamon/clove/nutmeg/ground ginger wall of flavor, Sam achieves culinary splendor by thoughtfully highlighting just a few ingredients in each dish. Think of it as the anti-pumpkin pie spice. [Read more…]
Grocery stores often label the popsicle aisle “Frozen Novelties.” In a world of extreme buffalo chicken pockets and microwave breakfast sandwiches with waffles for bread, being singled out as a field of food notable for novelty is a big deal. Luckily for those of us who like to push limits, there’s a vast expanse of popsicles entirely unexplored by the giants of ice pop manufacturing, probably due to their own uptightness and that of our legal system. We’re talking about boozy popsicles. [Read more…]
In the beginning, neither Brian nor I had grand ideas for parenthood. Honestly, it was a selfish endeavor for me – I wanted to see if I really could, you know, create another human. I also, somewhat mistakenly, saw pregnancy as a great opportunity to eat a lot of ice cream. Our daughter was an easy baby, especially once we’d made it through those first six weeks, and Brian and I settled in to parenthood rather effortlessly.
And things went along this way, with the usual ups and downs, until last year. That was when we realized that the skills required to nurture a big kid and help them become an upstanding person are pretty different from the ones you need to nurture a baby. It’s been a tough transition, with lots of instances of helping our oldest navigate her relationships with others, resolve conflicts, and right wrongs. These same things happen with littles, but the social web of interactions is so much more immediate. Also, there’s homework. [Read more…]
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Every week there’s a night where my deadlines combined with Brian’s work and an avalanche of homework or playdates or projects converge, and we don’t make it to the kitchen. Pizza is the easiest food to procure in a pinch, but we change things up by adding sushi or Mexican food to the mix. Recently, in a moment of rare lucidity, Brian and I discussed how much better it would be if we just planned to eat out once a week, instead of making the same desperate decision each Wednesday night at 6pm. We know there’s going to be a night when things are just too hectic, so why not plan for it and take away some of the stress and guilt involved?
A pizza confession may be an unusual way to begin a post about healthier families, but I think it raises an essential point: no parent is perfect. [Read more…]
Last night I feel asleep to an almost comic clanking of the radiators. They’ve been puttering along all winter, but on this particular evening they were hissing at full-throttle. Winter has finally descended on the city. Not the brisk days of December, but the deep freeze of January and February. As if to emphasize the point, snow has been drifting from the sky all day, making our frost-blurred city views just a bit more picturesque. [Read more…]
Peach was the first pie I ever made well. It’s the taste of midsummer, with tangy, sweet, and even gooey peach flavor. I like mine simple, with plenty of zest, a squeeze of lemon, and here, the warming presence of ginger. Comfort food for summer, wrapped in an elegant crust.
This pie used really ripe, smallish peaches. They were so ripe, in fact, that I peeled the skins right off with my hands. I really only peel my fruit when I want things to be extra fancy. In this case, it was just really easy to do. Watch the liquid content of your filling, and hold back the juices if the filling looks at all mushy.
If you are afraid of homemade dough, just try it. Mediocre homemade dough is better than Pillsbury every time. [Read more…]
If you ever lived in Charlottesville, VA in the 90’s or early 00’s you probably saw a bunch of bands in the basement of the Tokyo Rose. Those, my friends, were the days. Night after night of crazy, perfect, awesome shows and upstairs amazing sushi. Almost every friend I have worked there in some capacity at some point. I spent my youth eating sushi and listening to indie rock all at the same place. Sniff, the Tokyo Rose, that version, is gone and the heyday of indie rock is on the downswing, but I can still pop open a Kirin Ichiban and have some ginger ice cream.
Homemade fresh ginger ice cream is an upgrade from the standard sushi restaurant fare, but it still has that amazing warm flavor that comes from frozen cream, which would be comforting even if it didn’t flood you with a wave of nostalgia for your squandered youth. Oh, but, did you buy that ice cream maker yet?
Ginger’s bright, crisp flavor and mild heat is a great counterpoint to fall foods. After curing for a few days the cream fully absorbs the ginger and orange, and the ice cream is silky with a little bite. I guess all homemade ice cream is festive, but this is especially so. You could even make the argument that you need to eat it after a big meal; ginger, after all, is a digestive aid.
Ginger Ice Cream with Black Pepper and Orange Zest
(adapted from the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook, by Michelle Wojtowicz, Phillip Wojtowicz, Michael Gilson and Catherine Price)
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons honey
1 cup sugar
4 inch section of fresh ginger peeled and sliced
4 egg yolks
a big pinch of salt
zest of one orange
4-6 turns of freshly ground black pepper
Put the ginger in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Bring it to a boil and then let it steep for 10 minutes. Dump the water and then combine the ginger and 1 cup of milk in a blender. Blend well, for two minutes or more.
Combine the milk and ginger mixture, and the rest of the milk, the cream, honey, salt, and half the sugar in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat, when the cream mixture is starting to steam set aside for ten minutes to allow for even more steeping. Bring the heat slowly back up and put the yolks in a heat proof bowl whisking in the other half of the sugar and the orange zest. Whisk a cup or so, 1/4 cup at a time, into the eggs. The goal is the raise the heat of the eggs so they won’t curdle when added to cream. Whisk the tempered eggs into the cream mixture. Cook over medium heat until the custard begins to thicken and coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Pour into a large bowl, cover and chill for a long time–3 hours at least. Then process according to your ice-cream maker’s instructions. Please note that this makes slightly less than 2 quarts of ice cream, so you might need to process the ice cream in two batches. Remove from ice cream maker and freeze for as long as you can wait. Three hours is good, but this ice cream is at it’s best once it has cured for a few days. Crank the Curious Digit and serve with a twist of orange peel and a dash of fresh pepper.
In the midst of this chilly winter I am running out of things to eat. We’ve had stews, braises, roasted root vegetables, gratin, and pasta, and all these things have been delicious. Is it wrong to pine for a tomato on a January night? I guess it’s not wrong, just foolish.
Perhaps rice pudding will distract you from the relative lack of seasonal delights. Everything you need is in the pantry. This recipe is very fragrant and your house will smell fantastic. The bits of crystallized ginger contrast nicely with the texture of the rice, and add a little heat. Sure to brighten the long winter night.
I use brown rice to make my rice pudding. White rice will certainly give you a creamier texture, but I like the toothsome qualities of brown rice. Raisins or dried cherries would be a great addition. Serve over fruit, cooked or fresh, for a more complete dessert. To make it vegan, substitute almond milk.
1 1/2 cups cooked rice (brown or white)
3/4 cup turbinado sugar (or slightly less)
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more)
3 cups milk
2 sticks cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds
a few whole cloves
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped (save a some strips for a garnish)
Cook your rice, according to whatever instructions are right for the type of rice you have, with salt and cinnamon sticks in a large pot. Overcook slightly so the rice is quite soft. Then add the milk, sugar, and ginger. Put the cardamom and cloves into a tea strainer (or other type of device) and dangle into the milky mixture. Cook on low, stirring often, for 20-30 minutes, until the rice has fully absorbed the milk and sugar. Let pudding set up at room temperature for 20 minutes, remove tea strainer, and serve warm with a ginger candy garnish.
A healthy muffin walks a fine line. I made these a week ago (to go with the fresh butter), and they were decidedly healthy (not in a good way). The second time around I think I got things just right. These muffins have plenty of caramel-y apples and are nice and moist. A little bit of whole wheat flour gives them a toothsome heartiness just right for this time of year.
2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/3 cup yogurt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup melted butter or coconut oil
1 or 2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups diced fresh apples
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a muffin tin. In a medium bowl combine the dry ingredients. In a larger bowl combine the butter, milk, yogurt, butter or oil, and the vanilla. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet, stirring as little as possible. Next, gently fold in the apples. Spoon into the muffin tins. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until golden brown. These muffins keep fine for a day or two, but are best enjoyed 10 minutes after they come out of the oven.