April 10, 2014

a few film shots of Alice

I had forgotten how deeply film photos pull you in. Your eye surveys the scene and instantly you're transported, bathing in the rich colors and ethereal light. If my Boo is in the photo you can be sure I'm gonna take a nice long bath.

I picked up these photos from the shop yesterday and I can't stop looking at them. Mostly it's the light that I'm drawn too, it's light unlike anything in a digital photo, or at least anything I can capture in a digital photo. I put my film camera away shortly after Alice was born favoring the quick and easy iPhone and digital cameras over the slow and steady film. I think it's time for a switcheroo after seeing these photos. Yes, there are a lot of duds in the roll - blinks, grimaces, blur - but the ones that come out well are worth the twenty odd ones that come out badly.

I've also started taking a few on a Fuji instant camera. 

And here is one of my favorite photos of Alice, a film photo, taken when she was only two or three days old. I took the same photo on my digital camera and it's not as good, not as true to the moment somehow. 

March 18, 2014


I wasn't planning on sharing this cookie with you. But then I tried it, as you can see above, and I couldn't not share it with you. It's that good - a cookie worthy of the comeback blog post. A cookie that made me sit down gather some photos and actually write something here. It feels good. I owe this cookie some love, so here goes. 

It's a salted butter cookie and you should know that it has taunted me for almost three years. It's the recipe that I inadvertently flip to every single time I open Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table, which is a lot considering that it's my go-to cookbook these days. I don't know why it took me so long to actually mix up the dough and stick it in the oven. It's light on ingredients, it's quick, it's pretty, and as it turns out it's delicious. Sweet and crunchy at first and then melt in your mouth tender - that's the butter - and then the hint of salt comes in and gathers all the flavors into perfect combination and you smile because your mouth and mind are h-a-p-p-y. It's all about the salt. Zach went on about how he doesn't like salt in his sweets and then he ate this cookie and now he's a convert. He might have even said that this cookie was the best damn cookie ever. Ever

Take this cookie to a party, or have a party. You can bring out the slab and people can admire it's beauty and then break a piece off. And then you can all talk about what a lovely pair sugar and salt are. 

Speaking of lovely, let me update you a bit on Alice. She is seven and a half months and 99% pure joy. In the last few weeks her two bottom teeth have popped up (that accounts for the not so joyous 1%) and she is eager to test them out on anything she can get in her mouth. She delights in pulling toys and kitchen knick-naks out of bowls and waving them back and forth through the air to feel their weight before discarding them and digging in for another treasure. Crawling records are safe where they stand because this little lady is happy to just sit. She can shimmy and push her way backwards, but so far there's nothing in the way of forward motion, and that's okay with us because we know that soon enough she'll be on the move and we won't be able to slow her down. She likes books, but only so much and she can smack them and then chew them. Many of our computer files have been renamed and new ones opened because Alice goes goo-goo-gaa-gaa for the computer keyboard. I think she'd trade in her left foot for a computer keyboard. The same can be said for parchment paper - endlessly entertaining. It's the little things, a little person playing with little trinkets that makes my heart pitter patter away. 

Salted Butter Break-Ups
Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table

a note on the salt. Dorie calls for sel gris, a moist slightly gray sea salt with crystals that can be picked up individually, which I didn't have and couldn't find. She notes that you can substitute kosher salt or another coarse salt. I went with a fleur de sel - Le Saunier de Carmargue, which comes in a little circular container with a cork top. It too is rather moist with substantial size crystals.

* Dorie makes the dough in the food processor, but if you, like me, have a baby napping and don't want to use any loud kitchen appliances, then it's just as easy to make it by hand, like a tart/pie dough.

1 3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 - 1 tsp sel gris or fleur de sel
9 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 18 pieces
3-5 Tbsp water

1 egg yolk, for the glaze

Put the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the butter pieces, and using your fingers massage them into the dry ingredients to produce a coarse meal so that you have some flakes and no pieces larger than the size of a pea. Begin adding the water, just a tablespoon at a time, and mix with a fork. Only use as much water as you need to produce a dough that almost forms a ball (I only needed 3 tablespoons).

Scrape the dough on to a work surface, gather it into a mound and pat it down a bit to flatten it and then wrap it in plastic wrap and cool in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Put the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap and roll it out so that it is about 1/4 inch thick. A rectangle is a nice look if you can do it, but any shape that fits on your baking sheet will work. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet.

Beat the egg yolk with a few drops of water. Brush the cookie with the egg glaze. Using the back of a fork decorate the cookie with a hatch pattern.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until it is golden - "It will be firm to the touch but have a little spring when pressed in the center -- the perfect break-up is crisp on the outside and still tender within." Allow the cookie to cool to room temperature.

Alice started solids about six weeks ago. I'd say that this point that she "dabbles" in eating. Somedays she's can't get the food in fast enough and other days, like today, she just waves the green beans in the air, as if feeling their weight in her hands and conducting an imaginary orchestra, before setting them down and banging her hands on the table and looking out the window.

I think I only have a few more weeks of eating cookies in her presence before she demands one herself. I should take advantage of that huh?

Considering it's been so long since I posted last I thought I'd do a little photo stream of recent photos. We spent a week in Chamonix at the beginning of the month so there are a few mountain and snow shots scattered through out. We're back in Zurich now and enjoying spring and the nearby parks.

November 26, 2013

these two...

What do you bring to the table? Me? I bring Teddie's Apple Cake and White Bean and Fennel Dip. And I'm not talking just about the Thanksgiving table, I'm talking about any table - the book club table, the play group table, the you-just-had-a-baby table, the Sunday football table, the Saturday apero table, and the let's-get-together-for-the-heck-of-it-table. I figured in the spirt of all the gathering that will happen this week that it was a good time to share my gather go-tos, the ones I'm constantly asked about and continually make and yet never seem to have time to write about. 

These are both homey recipes in that they are made from a few simple ingredients and will make you feel all warm and cozy when you eat them. If you have a hand-knitted scarf at hand I suggest you wear it while eating the dip and for the cake I recommend fleece slippers. Neither of these recipes are fancy, but is anyone really looking for fancy when the sidle up to the spread of appetizers or slice into a piece of cake? I'm going to go with no. And if you're with me on that, I think you should keep reading. 

Let's start with the cake. Teddie's Apple Cake has made the internet rounds. I think that's probably why I haven't written about it here - it's a been there done that cake. Unless of course you haven't been there or done that in which case, get on it! At the risk of being repetitive let's chat about the virtues of this cake. First, you need to know that it's rustic, crumbly at the edges with a soft center studded with large apple chunks, walnuts and raisins. It's not a dainty cake. Secondly, because it's made with vegetable oil and not butter it has an incredibly moist, yet sturdy crumb and can keep for days without drying out. I made one last Tuesday for play group and I finished the last piece on Sunday for breakfast. That's six days of cake. Thirdly, the top crust, it's all about the top crust. I've been known to eat just the top off the cake after the guests have left. It's not in the original recipe but you've gotta sprinkle the top with cinnamon-sugar. It is so good. The cinnamon and sugar crystallize on the surface making for a sweet and crunchy bite, a perfect partner to the melt-in-your-mouth apples.

Teddie's Apple Cake : 1973 NYTimes, unearthed by Amanda Hesser 2007

butter for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cups apples (about 3 apples), cubed
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins
cinnamon-sugar for sprinkling 

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour a 9-inch tube pan

Beat the oil and sugar together in a mixer. After five minutes add in the eggs, one at a time, beating until well incorporated and the batter is creamy.  

Sift together the flour, salt and cinnamon and add to the batter. Add the vanilla followed by the apples, walnuts and raisins. 

Pour into the buttered and floured pan. Sprinkle the batter with a healthy dose of cinnamon-sugar. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a knife comes out clean when inserted. Let the cake cool before turning it out onto a wire wrack.
As I write about gatherings, I should note that they have become a key piece to my sanity the past few months. It is vital that we get out of the house everyday and see people, preferably friends. If we don't I get a little stir crazy and Alice risks turning into a pumpkin, one with a sly grin and threatening eyes. Yesterday was a good reminder of that. I had set aside the day to cook because I wanted to share these recipes with you and so our only outing was a super speedy trip to the store and back. All was going splendidly until it came time to put Alice down for her second nap, which was to be my cooking time, and she decided that she didn't want to take a nap. There was a lot of yelling and most of it was timed perfectly with the buzzer on the oven, pulling me in two directions. Alice was relegated to her swing to cool off while I haphazardly hustled around the kitchen. Have you ever tried to do anything while a baby is crying? How about while your baby is crying? Gah! I challenge you. It's impossible to think let alone measure ingredients. 

Anywho, at some point after lifting her in and out of her crib, the swing, and the bouncy seat she finally fell asleep on the couch and I ventured back to the kitchen to finish up this dip. 

This is the best dip on the planet. It's warm, it's flavorful, it's reasonably healthy and it makes people smile. The cannellini beans provide for a smooth foundation on which the hearty flavors of roasted fennel, garlic and rosemary can really shine. I like to eat it with bread, but it takes just as well to carrots or tortilla chips. It's versatile. Eat it with veggies and bread and serve it at an apero, or pair it with tortilla chips and serve it at a football party.

White Bean and Fennel Dip : adapted from Food52
Over the years - wow it really has been years - I've cut back on the amount of olive oil. The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup of olive oil, but I've found that too be a bit too much. The beans themselves are so smooth and pillowy once pureed that you really only need a small amount of oil to achieve the desired consistency and flavor.

for the roasted Fennel
2 medium sized fennel bulbs, cut in chunks
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves still in papery shell

for the cannellini bean puree
1/4 cup of olive oil plus 2 Tbsp
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans (from 2 cans)
1 Tbsp rosemary, chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Place the chopped fennel and garlic on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast until the fennel is brown at the edges and soft, about 30 minutes. Let cool on the roasting pan. Once cool remove the garlic from their skins.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the minced garlic and cook until lightly golden. Add in the cannellini beans and rosemary. Stir for two minutes and then take off the heat. Add in the roasted fennel, garlic and lemon juice. Puree in a food processor or with an emersion blender until smooth. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil and half of the parmesan cheese. (you can add more oil if you want, I sometimes do if it seems a bit too thick). Smooth out in a baking dish and top with the remaining cheese.

Raise the oven temperature to 450º and bake until golden and bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.

Here's Alice, all nice and happy after her nap on the couch. It didn't last long. For some reason last night at bedtime she went completely bonkers. Up until the last two nights she's been easy to put down at night. I have no idea what happened. She eventually went down after an hour of red faced crying and I went into the kitchen and ate a big slice of cake while wearing my slippers and a knitted scarf. 

November 21, 2013

I never would have guessed

I never would have guessed... that I'd find myself sining the Wheels on the Bus while cutting out the backbone from a chicken. Yet there I was last Sunday night doing exactly that...with a little add lib here and there..."the kiddies on the bus say "we want chicken! we want chicken! we want chicken!" ... all through the town." My hands were gross and the little lady was fussy so I sang and sang and sliced and sliced until the backbone was clean and Alice calm. 

I never would have guessed... it would go by this quickly. I know, yadda yadda, so cliche, but it is going by so fast. Alice is almost 4 months. Gasp! I got her to giggle for the first time yesterday. We were dancing in front of the mirror, and there it was, a little chuckle. I nearly died. My heart exploded. (My heart seems to have a fast recovery time considering how many times it's exploded in the last 4 months.) 

I never would have guessed... I'd spend so much time thinking about Alice's sleep. On any given day I have no idea when she'll sleep or for how long. I can tell you that she'll likely take four naps, but when they occur and how long they last is only known by some little sleep center in Alice's brain. Right now she is taking a long nap, almost an hour and a half, which is lovely and amazing, for me and her. You see, Alice's sleep and the blog are deeply connected, because when she naps I can blog. So along with sleep I'd say I never would have guessed it would be this hard to blog. I miss it. I crave it. And yet, it's still hard to get to.

I never would have guessed...that homemade challah would be this good. Ever since Darcy posted the recipe I have been dying to make it. There's something about making your own bread that is incredibly satisfying. It's easy, yet it feels like such a worthwhile accomplishment. I've been delighting in buttered toast and avocado sandwiches and dreaming of French toast and bread pudding.

.... and here are a few favorites from my iphone.....
1) Alice all bundled for an excursion outside
2) yes, my baby has a bald spot - will it ever grow back?
3) my little Who from Whoville - reading Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who
4) a nice evening stroll
5) Alice and I rode the Chocolate Tram around town. She was eyeing all the treats.
6) cozy in her sleep sack
7 ) Fall! I love Fall!
8) Alice busy playing with her toy gym.

...and the little lady is still sleeping - from start to finish in one nap time - it's a blogging miracle :)