21 May 2011
When a child at our house does something they are inordinately proud of, like standing up for the first time or getting into college or drawing a cool picture or attending the world premiere of a new composition, we call the look on their face "prouding girlish." Kind of dumb, but that's the name of that look and there's no changing it.
So here's me, not the best baker in the world, holding a triumph deluxe, the Joy of Cooking's Tart Cockaigne/Meringue Cream Tart. This birthday gem is a cake and a meringue all in one--two layers each of cake and meringue filled and topped with pastry cream, whipped cream and strawberries.
I flavored the pastry and whipped creams with a few drops of Grand Marnier, and also macerated the berries in a few drops of said licquer. This cake is a great blank slate for a lot of cool flavors--I've had it with lemon curd, and had intended to fill it with mangoes for Liza's birthday, but couldn't find any nice ones. Lavender? Violets? Cherries?
And then there's my niece deluxe, Liza, turning twenty. Poet, activist, musician, smarty-pants and totally hilarious with some of the best hair on earth.
30 March 2011
I don't even remember when I made this, but it was around a year ago, and I just ran into the photo in Andi's facebook photo album. I completely forgot that I was obsessed with Apple Galette for several months, and its rich, crumbly, salty-sweet goodness.
It's a bad time to be posting this, it being spring and not apple season at all, but I knew I would forget later, and you could consider filling it with asparagus or caramelized onions (both?) instead. I would If I were you.
Here's Jacques Pepin's recipe, which is definitely the best, and one of the only recipes I've ever truly followed. (Because when Jacques says jump, you say, "How high?")
Makes 8 servings
1/2 recipe pate brisée (see recipe)
5 large apples
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons apricot preserves
1 tablespoon Calvados or Cognac (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
1. Make pâte brisée. Roll out the dough 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick, in a shape that fits roughly on a cookie sheet—approximately 16 X 14 inches. (The best cookie sheets are made of heavy aluminum that is not too shiny.) If the dough is not thin enough after you lay it on the cookie sheet, roll it some more, directly on the sheet.
2. Peel and cut the apples in half, core them, and slice each half into 1/4-inch slices. Set aside the large center slices of the same size and chop the end slices coarsely. Sprinkle the chopped apple over the dough.
3. Arrange the large slices on the dough beginning at the outside, approximately 1 1/2 inches from the edge. Stagger and overlap the slices to imitate the petals of a flower. Cover the dough completely with a single layer of apples, except for the border. Place smaller slices in the center to resemble the heart of a flower.
4. Bring up the border of the dough | and fold it over the apples.
5. Sprinkle the apples with the sugar and pieces of butter, and bake in a 400-degree oven for 65 to 75 minutes, until the galette is really well browned and crusty. Do not remove the galette from the oven too soon; it should be very well cooked. It should be very crusty, thin, and soft inside. Do not worry about the discoloration of the apples after you peel and arrange them on the dough. The discoloration will not be apparent after cooking.
6. Slide it onto a board. Dilute the apricot preserves with the alcohol (or use 1 tablespoon of water if the jam is thick and you prefer not to use spirits) and spread it on top of the apples with the back of a spoon. Some can also be spread on the top edge of the crust. Follow the design so that you do not disturb the little pieces of apple.
Serve the galette lukewarm, cut into wedges.
Recipe From: Jacques Pepin
Makes Enough for 2 Galettes
3 cups all-purpose flour (dip the measuring cup
into the flour, fill it, and level it with your hand)
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter, cold, and cut with a knife into thin slices or shavings
1/2 teaspoon salt
Approximately 3/4 cup very cold water
“In a well-made pâte brisée the pieces of butter are visible throughout the dough. If the pieces of butter get completely blended with the flour so that they melt during cooking, the pastry will be tough. The flour and butter must be worked and the water added as fast as possible to obtain a flaky pastry. If you work the dough too much after adding the water, it will be elastic and chewy. If you use too much butter and not enough water, it will resemble sweet pastry dough and will be hard to roll thin and pick up from the table; it will be very brittle before and after cooking, sandy, and with no flakiness.
This is deceptively simple dough. You may get excellent results one time and an ordinary pastry the next. Try it a few times to get a feel for it. Wrapped properly, it can be kept in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days, or it can be frozen.”
1. Mix the flour, butter, and salt together very lightly, so that the pieces of butter remain visible throughout the flour.
2. Add the ice-cold water and mix very fast with your hand just enough that the dough coheres.
3. Cut the dough in half. The pieces of butter should still be visible. Refrigerate for 1 or 2 hours or use it right away. If you use it right away, the butter will be a bit soft, so you may need a little extra flour in the rolling process to absorb it.
For one galette, roll half the dough between 1/8 and 1/16 of an inch thick, using flour underneath and on top so that it doesn't stick to the table or the rolling pin. When the dough is the desired shape and thickness, roll it onto the rolling pin and unroll it on the pie plate, tart form, or cookie sheet that you plan to use. Repeat with the other half or reserve for later use. Bake according to the instructions for the particular recipe.
27 March 2011
If you know Christian's mom Pat, you'll know she likes word-play a lot in it's many forms. So that's how the dessert known as Strawberry Shortcake came to be called Strawberry Shotcrop at our house.
And here's the story of today's dessert: several weeks ago I started getting obsessed with the pastry chef at Communal, Joseph McCrae's, biscuits. Every time I've made them, they've been pretty damn good, but have fallen short of the tall, fluted rounds he serves at breakfast downtown next to cute little ramekins of soft butter and homemade strawberry preserves. I guess there's a reason some people are pastry chefs while others are mere home cooks. My biscuits are always light, fragrant and tender, but I crave the tall layers of feuilles-like buttery crumbs and the delicate toothsome bite in the real deal. Maybe some time Joseph will invite me over and show me how it's done? Hi, Joseph!
Anyway, this week's discovery involves adding two extra tablespoons of sugar to his recipe, sanding the top of the biscuit with raw sugar, splitting them in half, and then filling them with mounds of strawberries and cream. I made them for my students last week, and Karl said it was the best thing he'd ever tasted. He may have been exaggerating, but not much.
One last note about these biscuits: working with the dough is like holding a pound of freshly bathed baby flesh in your hands. It's almost unbearably fun to touch. You might get addicted.
12 February 2011
06 February 2011
24 January 2011
I'm jumping into the list craze here and starting a list of 100 great books by Ladies. I know, it's possible that I'm only contributing to the ghettoization of Lady Writers, and so I'm interested to know what you all think of the categorization of literature by gender and race. Segregation or separation? Necessary or not?
20 January 2011
There is always a day in each season when I think I will never want it to be summer ever again. Ever. And then there is always a polar opposite day when I think Summer is the most glorious season of all, and I can't wait for it to come. It puts me in mind of Left Handed Son of Old Man Hat who tells the story of how, when he was little, he thought summer and winter were locations rather than times--summer was up in the mountains where the sheep grazed when the heat came, and winter was down in the valley where the sheep were moved when the snows came. The Son of Old Man Hat recalled always wishing he was in the winter place when he was in the summer place and the summer place when he was in the winter place.
06 January 2011
I've been explaining these resolutions to myself in my head for several weeks now. I think I have them sort of worked out, even though my very first resolution was against resolve:
1) Be more aware and observant. Be present with people and don't let goals and what you think should be happening get in the way of what is. So all of the things on this list are subject to number one, and I have to be ready and willing to let them go if they interfere with number one. Number one is my guiding principle for 2011. Unless observation tells me to get rid of number one. Or something like that.
2) Go for a walk once a week. This seems modest and attainable, and perhaps shocking to you folks who love the outdoors. Christian has dubbed me the indoors-y type, and he couldn't be more right. I'm so happy in a small, cozy hole, like Mrs. Tittlemouse. But I think I'll be happier if I get more sunlight, look around more.
3) Formally express gratitude once a week.
4) Read the New Testament.
5) Finish the libretto begun in 2010.
6) Limit kids' screen time to weekends only, thereby giving us more time for:
7) Family novel reading. Ingrid jolted me into this one last week when I commented about how much she and Eva used to read and loved to be read to. "Yeah," she said. "No computers." I've become lazy with the kids and don't read to them as much. They get crabby, lazy, and unimaginative when they're online or watching TV too much. Eva and Ingrid didn't have a TV a lot of the time growing up, and I want the younger kids to have the benefit of limited screen time. If you're so inclined, list your favorite read alouds for an almost six and almost eight year-old. I read Harry Potter to E and I at that age. We read Stuart Little and Little House on the Prairie last year.
8) Go to Salt Lake once a month. Now that the kids are a bit older, I need to get out of my rut of a quick dinner or movie in Provo and get back to my earlier, more adventurous ways. We used to go to so many cool events, which was easy to do when we lived in NYC, San Francisco, and Seattle. It's a little harder to do here, but necessary to maintaining a connection with what's going on artistically in the world.
9) Work on duo with Christian. In the picture above, snapped by our friend Hailey Meyer Liechty, we are performing with master percussionist Greg Campbell at our December Salon. A link to our duo can be found on the side of the blog. I really enjoy this work, and want to do it more. It feels like a perfect meshing of our particular skills and relationship. The text, the improv (it's all improvised except for the text), Christian's genius with timbre and form, etc.
10) Work in small, daily practice, like I learned to do in yoga, but with my job/career/art or whatever it is called. I don't even know what it's called or what it is. Be comfortable with that. Let it be what it is and just do little, enjoyable things with little enjoyable challenges. But don't be in charge. Don't try to control. Just live and do. (Please don't mock my mish-mash of eastern philosophy influenced thinking here. It's working for me right now.)
There is almost nothing I love more than hearing other people's New Year's Resolutions. Feel free to post many of them in comments.
This photo of Eva and Ingrid reminds me, for some reason, of when they were little and they used to play "Lizzie and Jane" from Pride and Prejudice, which used to play constantly in the background of our lives in Seattle.
I can't bring myself to take down the now sagging and brittle lopsided Christmas tree. Is there a way to savor the days more slowly? It is so dark and cold, and we still need the suggestion of warmth from our tree lights--I'm not ready to give it up. In years past, I've been so glad to put away the decorations, so sick of holiday music and rich food and festive gatherings, but this year it seems to have barely happened. Is this what happens when you get older?
Though it passed in a blur, little highlights stand out, like Yorshire pudding, many versions of the Hallelujah chorus, Christian's homemade eggnog, pierogies, paper cranes, onion tart, old friends, cheese platters, and the kids' nativity.
This was a sweet, sweet year. Christian gave me one of the best presents of my life when he compiled all of my emails from the nineties, when he and I shared a University of Washington email account, printed out and bound. I used to write a weekly news update to my family and friends, and so it's somewhat like a journal, and I've made so many little discoveries in there, found so many things that shed light on my life and my children's lives now. I've been reading it like a suspense novel every night. And then Christian went back through old hard drives and printed out all of my poetry since 1985, that's right, 1985, when I wrote my first poem and gave it to Leslie Norris so he could tell me what a genius I was, and organized it alphabetically with different versions, etc. I know this was very time consuming, and I can't say how touched I am by this labor of love.
The day before Christmas, Ingrid rounded up all of the kids and went with her friend photographer Nate Lebaron to Rock Canyon where he took many beautiful photos of the kids, including the one above. How did she know I'd been wanting a group photo of the kids for so long? She framed these photos and had them ready by Christmas morn, although she had just barely arrived home from her first semester at college and was in an extreme state of sleep and food deprivation. Eva made a great collage and framed it--I love her art work so much--and Lula gave me a silvery gray scarf that I wear every day. Last but not least, Moses and Cecily gave me two enormous plastic cocktail rings, one in green and one in blue that they purchased and wrapped without my knowledge at Santa's Secret Workshop at school. They know my taste so well.
27 November 2010
26 November 2010
My favorite day of the year has come and gone.
21 October 2010
25 September 2010
I've been a little (read: a lot) crazy in the past six months. Today feels like a coming together--all the kids are settled in school, the house is clean, the laundry caught up, and I'm rested and practiced yoga five times this week, which keeps me so much calmer than I've ever been in my whole life. In addition to calming me down, yoga is keeping my body free of pain--I can't believe how many years I went waking up every morning with sore hips, back and/or shoulders.
02 July 2010
30 June 2010
How have I not known about this blog and it's recipe for bacon ice cream?
17 June 2010
Last year there was no oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, though our waters were in danger already.
30 May 2010
“Hope and future are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps.” Henry David Thoreau was very much endeared to a specific kind of beauty—he learned from the East Coast, from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s lush property and from Walden Pond. This quote connects deeply to Walden School Philosophy because at Walden we learn truth from the world around us as well as in books and in the classroom. While Thoreau spent time discovering himself by the famous Walden Pond, Waldenites gain experience from the amazing, rare, and unique ecotope that we’ve created at the school.
Thoreau is often criticized because he would make bold claims about escaping humanity and embarking on his own, only to take in numerous visitors at his cabin, send his laundry back to his mother, and head to town to spend an evening in the tavern. We named our school after Thoreau’s book in hopes that we could, like Henry David, learn by creating makeshift shelters, foraging for food, and gazing at moose. Anybody associated with Walden can tell you the extent to which we have taken Thoreau’s words to heart—in the spirit of emulating his idealized “impervious and quaking swamp,” we have acquired reptiles, more than a little mud, and sometimes even a pair of waders worn as a fashion statement. Our ecosystem also contains a few decrepit couches, large piles of pseudo-wearable detritus, and many moldy Tupperware containers.
We operate as something of an ecosystem—after witnessing nature on our many Walkabouts and Moab expeditions, we seem to have done a great job of emulating the organic, symbiotic communities that are present in the mountains and deserts of Utah. Many say that 80% of Walden’s biomass consists of one species—a certain barefooted, heavily empowered herbivore with certain political views and a fondness for outlandish clothing. Though many students fit this description, I think it’s safe to say that many also defy the stereotype. One such mammal is a friend of mine who has very different political views from me. One issue he is very passionate about is gun control and second amendment rights. About three times a week, we have a conversation that sounds like this:
“Oh hi, Ingrid! Listen. You know I totally respect your beliefs, but let me tell you about this article I was reading that supports my argument!”
Then approximately forty-five minutes of lively debate ensue, during which we both learn about the issue and practice what we just learned in class about the rhetorical triangle. The discussion inevitably ends with, “Well Ingrid, I may not share your views, but I just love ya to death. Thanks for talkin’ to me.” And I say, “Well, the feeling is mutual. At least we can agree on that!”—regardless of who fits the Waldenite stereotype, I think the most important thing we have in common is respect and love for each other… at least, while we’re not in the middle of a heated political argument. This little-know biodiversity translates into an amazing education when it is placed on fertile soil.
Anybody who has experienced the stunning Fiery Furnace hike in Moab has been subjected to the Cryptobiotic Soil video—it is shown mandatorily at the visitor’s center before any hiker may embark. At Walden, this piece of cinematic genius is a classic—though the dialogue is occasionally lackluster and the aesthetics experimental, we all heed the oft-repeated warning that hikers should NOT walk off of the path for fear that the vitally important living soil that is the foundation of the arid ecosystem will be disturbed. Like Cryptobiotic soil, the Walden faculty is an often underappreciated foundation of the school’s ecosystem. Though our teachers may not contain many lichens, mosses, or cyanobacteria, they are a earthy, dedicated, and expert part of Walden and of the lives of the students. Cryptobiotic crust is known for its ability to improve stability of otherwise easily eroded soils, and similarly, I have seen many teachers help the current graduating class with college applications, coaching them through the infamously hectic and draining senior year. My math teachers along the way have had to deal with some real emotional instability on my part, for any long and seemingly incomprehensible equation can sometimes render me teary-eyed and whimpering. The crust also serves the purpose of increasing water infiltration in regions that receive little precipitation, and the teachers have been extremely gracious when it comes to making sure that students have access to and knowledge of every cultural opportunity in Utah. I will never forget afternoons spent this fall in Park City watching documentaries with Bev, or going to physics lectures in the Marriot Center (with such speakers as Neil Tyson and Brian Greene), or that amazing field trip we took during my sophomore year to see Michelle Obama speak in Salt Lake City. And, of course, the faculty is never hesitant to lead us halfway around the world if that is what it takes to quench our cultural thirst. This metaphor, however, is somewhat weak because the Walden teachers are significantly more resilient than soil—a simple footprint is enough to destroy a patch of cryptobiotic crust, whereas I’ve seen the teachers weather the literal and figurative elements many times.
Teachers, in case you are ever discouraged or have moments where you believe that your tireless work has been in vain, I would like you to know that you have made an enormous difference in my life. I came to this school feeling discouraged about and intimidated by my own education, feeling like I had no future and no talent, and I graduate today, having been treated and taught as an individual, which has given me the understanding that even frightening subjects can be my friends. You have instilled in this class an enormous and insatiable intellectual curiosity, and I cannot thank you enough for the education you’ve given me. In addition, I believe that there are students whose lives you have not only changed, but literally saved. Watching your tireless dedication to service has inspired many students to follow in your path—I cannot tell you how many of my peers have told me that they want to become teachers because of how much they respect and admire you. Your passion for your subject areas has shown us the value of pursuing our own passions. Thank you.
The Walden School was founded with Thoreau’s ideas and journeys in mind, and has evolved into a strange and lovely ecosystem. This week, Walden took a group of students to Capital Reef. Standing at the top of a cliff with my classmates and teachers, I knew exactly what Thoreau was talking about when he noted that hope and future could be found in the wild swamps rather than the manicured lawns—I saw hope and future reflected in the wild, untamed beauty of the sagebrush and the boulders, but I also witnessed it in the wild, untamed beauty of my fellow Waldenites. Ecosystems in their natural state function in a seemingly chaotic, but in fact perfectly balanced manner. As you cultivate your minds, don’t neglect your inner wilderness—our world could really use the symbiosis that the uncivilized wilderness seems to have perfected. Congratulations to the class of 2010, today is your day!
29 March 2010
I've been so disheartened lately by the hateful rhetoric and irreconcilable differences heightened by the healthcare reform process, and even uncomfortable at church thinking about how I might be worshipping next to someone who thinks I'm a communist or a baby-killer because of my political views, so when Sister B. said that, I felt the balm of creamed soup come over my soul. After all, no matter what our political views, when asked to bring potatoes to a funeral, we all combine two cans of cream of chicken soup, one pint of sour cream, 1/2 bunch of scallions, and 2 c. of cheddar cheese with a bag of frozen shredded potatoes and bake at 350 in a 9x13 dish. At least that's what I've been doing since I moved to Utah seven years ago. (Although some of us choose to top with crushed cornflakes or potato chips and some of us don't). For a moment I melted, became molten inside, as Scarlett Lindeman described funeral potatoes in this beautifully written article.
This can't be a bad thing, to come together in this way, even with processed, industrial food, to support each other in our trials. And though I've had my moments of alienation in the past twenty-plus years as a sister, this communal spirit keeps me in the fold year in and year out.
p.s.--photo of molten funeral potatoes stolen from this website.
p.p.s.--are funeral potatoes served in any other churches, for instance, midwestern churches, where they also serve a lot of jello?