It's not that I haven't been cooking. In fact, I've been cooking up a storm. But as always, I've also been doing everything else (school-consulting/teaching, taking stultifying administration classes for which they have us doing huge, undoable, unreasonable, useless projects, and in addition, tutoring for a little extra pay-puh, as the kids would say). On top of that, there's always helping out with dear old dad and keeping our own home fires burning. It seems to me that sometimes it comes down to a choice between cooking or blogging about cooking/eating. Then, of course, if I choose blogging over cooking, what will I blog about? Endless meals of cheap take-out? I think not. So cooking it is, but fear not.
I hereby initiate drive-by blogging at AFIEP for those periods when I don't have time to post, but can give you a glimpse into our (sadly very messy) kitchen.
Here's last weekend's bread, a delightful recipe that I found on the back of the package of no-less delightful cereal (available from King Arthur) called Pompanoosuc Porridge (and yes, of course, the name of the porridge has occasioned a flood of puns and merriment on the part of G). The porridge is a lovely mix of white bulgar wheat, finely chopped steel-cut oats, and flax seed. It's absolutely my new favorite hot cereal. Once cooked up, you use a few cups along with KA's own White Whole Wheat Flour and bread flour to make these crunchy yet voluptuously wholesome loaves.
Last weekend saw the beginning of a huge spate of baking, which has continued, as you'll see. I didn't take any other pics, but you'll simply have to take my word for it that in addition to the bread, I made two of Nigella's Dense Chocolate Loaf Cakes (using strong coffee instead of hot water in the batter), a large pan of Sour Cherry Streusel Cake (made with last year's sour cherries from the freezer) and a batch of what I've decided to call No-Brainer Bars -- a sort of quickie chocolate chip blondie. These last are such a fabulous cheat that they deserve their own post, so I'm saving the description for another day. All of this largesse was distributed to friends in Connecticut, where we went for Mother's Day lunch, as well as to my 8th grade advisory group and my fellow sufferers in my administration course (watch, I'm going to get dooced and thrown out of the admin program for talking about how terrible it is. Especially since it's a federally sponsored program, and they never tire of reminding us that we're getting our administrative licenses for FREE, whoo-hoo. I, of course, would argue that the cost of listening to most of these blatherers for FOUR HOURS every Tuesday evening is all too high).
Like everyone else who tries to eat somewhat seasonally, if not entirely locally, I've been making quantities of asparagus lately: roasting, steaming, what-have-you. Last week I steamed three large and blooming bunches, and decided to turn some of these sweet green spears into another dish. They found themselves nestling into this herb-and-vegetable-laden springtime risotto of arborio rice, leeks and shallots simmered to creaminess in vegetable stock, then melded with lightly steamed carrots and zucchini and a mince of fresh mint, basil, rosemary and parsley. Since it's so chock full of health-giving anti-oxidant veggies, this risotto couldn't possibly be bad for you, could it? What's a bit of rice (and a little butter and cheese and a tiny dab of créme fraîche) going to do to you, after all? This dish was originally intended for the last IMBB/WBW, to be paired with a delightful wine, Amethyst Winery's Malvasia Bianca Floralia 2001. But since I haven't yet been able to get ahold of the wine, and I couldn't get it together to post about the risotto in time, here it is in drive-by format for you.
Or not. I'm noticing as I write this that it's not really a drive-by at all -- in fact, it's taking me quite as long as a regular post. I guess maybe it's a drive-by in the sense that it's basically a condensed version of what would have been several longer posts.
Today's baking binge consisted of two items. First up was a eau-de-vie de framboise-scented poundcake, laced with berries, recipe courtesy of the lovely Molly at Orangette -- my only modifications to her recipe being that 1) I do preheat the oven, since mine doesn't seem to behave well unless I do, even with a slow-baked cake, 2) I use the framboise instead of kirsch, and 3) I add an extra teaspoon of baking powder, since, due to my uncooperative oven, I've had trouble in the past with poundcakes that didn't have quite enough leavening. Next up was a large panful of layered bar cookies. My hunch is that the poundcake will go over big on Tuesday night in my admin class, helping to pass time by sedating us all with butter and sugar during the interminable 4 hours. The bar cookies will be beloved by my 8th graders -- although I'm sure there will be some crossover between the two. The bars are part invention, part ancient history. They're based on the cookie known variously as 7-Layer Bars, Hello Dollies, Magic Bars, and even Boy Scout Bars. You know the one -- graham cracker crust, nuts, chips and coconut in various arrangements depending on the recipe, with a can of condensed milk poured over all to glue it together while baking. I've been making them since I was in high school, when they assured instant popularity among the munchies crowd. A few years ago, I began boiling the cans of condensed milk to caramelize them before pouring them over the layers, which turned it all to lovely caramel. Today I took it a step further, and replaced the graham cracker crust with one made of Famous Chocolate Wafers. Graham crackers are beloved things, and I'm as fond as the next person of a good graham cracker crust -- but a chocolate wafer crust beneath the crunchy nuts and coconut, caramel chewiness and melting chocolate just about did me in.
Even G, official hater of coconut although recent convert to coconut curries and rices, ate one. "That's really yummy," he said. "Really? You like it? It has coconut in it," I said with the customary smugness I use whenever I've
tricked him convinced him to eat something he claims not to like. He looked at me fondly, with infinite patience, as one might look a deeply beloved but somewhat slow pet. "Yes, sweetheart, I know," he said.