September 20, 2013

Swiss Miss

Alice is our little Swiss Miss. Of course she was always going to be our little Swiss Miss, but she really cemented her fate when she decided to grace us with her presence on August 1st, the Swiss equivalent of July 4th. The midwives at the hospital drew a little Swiss flag on her name card called her schätzli (little treasure). They also couldn't help but reference Alice in Wonderland. It seems that here in Switzerland the association between Alice and the rabbit hole remains strong and that's okay because our little Alice is full of wonder and is all sorts of wonderful. 

We didn't wait long before whisking our little bundle of wonder to the Alps. Zach booked our trip to Zermatt, earlier this summer, long before I knew if I'd be up and willing to pack and five week old and all her goodies into a car and drive away from the comforts of home.  I'm glad I was too preoccupied with nesting at that point to really consider what he was asking me to do. Don't get me wrong, when the time came to leave I had serious doubts - what about the car (!) and altitude (!) feeding while hiking (!) feeding without my giant breastfeeding pillow (!) and sleeping away from home (!). Thankfully it turns out Alice is a super duper traveler, but a small note-to-self - vacations with a newborn are not all that relaxing and you will end up more exhausted than when you left. Oh well, after a summer away from the mountains it was invigorating to be surrounded by peaks and fresh air and the exhaustion was worth it. 
Our favorite restaurant in Zermatt is Chez Vrony. We go every time we are there, its non-negotiable, even when getting there involves a train ride up the mountain, a rocky walk down to the restaurant, and a subsequent steeply switchbacked walk down to town after lunch. It's our happy place. I think it might always be our happy place. I told Zach that if we were ever to renew our vows we'd have to do it at Chez Vrony. This picture doesn't really do it justice, so take a look at this one, from when we were there last summer with our friends Perrin and Bobby.

The food at Chez Vrony is always good, but there tends to be a least one takeaway meal, something that I'm eager to make at home. The first time we went I was intent on making gnocchi like the ones that accompanied the lamb knuckle that I ordered. Then there was the hamburger with coleslaw and russian dressing, which resulted in many a burger with the aforementioned conditments. This time it was the plum tart. The tart was beautiful with rings of prune plums circling towards the center. The crust was thick and shortbread like with the edge pieces being especially tasty, crispy with caramelized plums and sugar. We shared one piece, and then ordered a second.

I came home and immediately googled plum tart and plum crostata, but didn't land on anything that fit the mold of the Chez Vrony tart so I stopped looking. I picked up my search again after going on a plum shopping spree at the farmers market. Once again I didn't find a tart like the one I was looking for, but what I did find was Luisa's take on Marian Burros plum crumble. I am a huge fan of the plum cake that Marian Burros published in the NYTimes and which I have made numerous times, but I'd never made her plum crumble so I figured now was a good a time as any.
The key to this crumble is the candied ginger, and well of course, the plums, but the ginger makes the plums sing. Truth is that I almost left the ginger out. I'm not a fan of ginger in general and I just wasn't sure how'd I'd feel about it messing with the sweet plums and the crispy crust. In general my mantra is to follow a recipe the first time before tweaking it so against my better judgement I grabbed a bag of candied ginger before checking out. I liked the ginger so much in the crumble that now I'm even eating plain.

So I know I said I follow recipes the first time around, I lied; I mostly follow recipes the first time around. It's just that Luisa posted on the crumble that she made, which she had tweaked by adding extra fruit, and who doesn't want extra fruit? She suggested that with the extra fruit it could double as a breakfast treat alongside yogurt, or perhaps a mid afternoon snack. Plum crumble for breakfast sounded too good to pass up, so I added extra fruit too. Luisa says to use 34 prune plums (the original calls for 12), but I just winged it and cut up all the plums that I bought from the market (all the ones pictured) and piled them in the bottom of a pie dish. It seemed like the right amount and it worked out well, so all I can say for fruit is to use as many as fill a pie dish.

Plum Crumble
from Marian Burros and Luisa The Wednesday Chef

2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp plus 1 cup flour
1/4 plus 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 heaping Tbsp finely chopped candied ginger
34 prune plums cut in half and pitted (or however many plums fit in your dish. I also used a variety of different plums, which worked out just fine)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 well beaten egg
1/2 cup unsalted buter, melted

Heat the oven to 375ºF

Mix the brown sugar, 1 1/2 Tbsp flour, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, ground ginger and candied ginger. Toss with the plums and mix well. Arrange the plums skin side up in a deep pie plate.

Combine remaining sugar, baking powder, flour, cinnamon and salt. Stir in egg. Then using your hands mix to produce little particles. Sprinkle the mixture over the plums

Drizzle the butter evenly over the crumb mixture. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the crumble is browned and plums are bubbling.

Here are some pictures of Alice and me just hanging out in the hotel room. It turns out she likes crisp clean sheets and big plush pillows just as much as I do.

love her!

September 13, 2013

August 1, 2013

Alice MacKay Mayer

*   *   *
August 1, 2013
Zürich, Switzerland
10:32 am 
3395g (7lbs 8oz) 
52cm (20.5inches)

I started this post last week when Alice was 5 weeks, now all the sudden she is 6 weeks. There's no doubt that life has picked up speed and is flying by, just as everyone told me it would. She is a big black hole of love and cuteness; I can get lost in Alice for hours, days, weeks it turns out. 

I've started this sentence and subsequently deleted it upwards of fifteen times. I'm just not sure how to tell you about our little lady love. Let's start with the basics. Her name is Alice, a name that Zach and I both loved from the beginning, but we more often call her Müsli - Swiss German for little mouse. We like to say that there is a mouse in the house when she coos and grunts and gurgles. She's quite an expressive little girl in all the best ways. It's funny, Alice has got to be one of the loudest eaters, grunting with each swallow as if she's trying out to be a professional women's tennis player When she sleeps her hands automatically pop up near her ears like she's calling a field goal. She likes Neko Case and Chopin and dancing in the living room. But best of all she's started to smile. Who knew a smile could be so amazing? I love this little girl. 
Before another whimper interrupts my attempts to post this I'm just going to go ahead and post it, but know that there is so much more to say and share.