Author Ginger

On Collecting and Buckwheat Cakes…

sifter

For the past several years, my mom has been taking me to an antique store in a little town called Summerland. It’s a great shop and an even better town, but I’ll save that story for another day. For the longest time, I haven’t had much of an interest in antiques. But somewhere in the midst of working on this blog, I decided I needed to add some items to my kitchen. New pans, old dishes – at this point, I’ve added a little of both. There is a satisfaction in heading into a kitchen store and coming out with just what I need. But I’ve learned the thrill of the unexpected treasure found while rummaging in some antique collection.

Back in the little antique shop in Summerland, I found a worn muffin pan tucked away on a dark shelf of baking odds and ends. How exciting can a muffin tin be, right? But this little pan looked like it would turn out cakes, not just standard issue muffins and that has to be worth something. It hasn’t been the most well used of some of my finds, but things are turning around for my little pan.

pan

See, back when I was in Seattle a few months ago, I spent a little time tasting treats around town. I don’t think I can go downtown without stopping at Dahlia Bakery, part of the Tom Douglas megablock of dining establishments. This time around, I tasted a buckwheat cake with a whiskey glaze – a satisfying treat that feels wholesome and dessert-like at the same time. The cake was flecked with thick bits of oatmeal and drizzled with just enough of a sweet whiskey glaze. It was so good, I went back for a second one another day and this time I took notes.

I don’t really develop recipes – there is something about that process that sounds daunting. Probably because it is so precise and there is all this pressure to come up with a recipe that actually works for you. So when I came home, I had no plans to recreate it. I figured there would be a recipe out there for buckwheat cakes. As it turns out, that’s not really a thing and I couldn’t turn up a single recipe that looked right. So before that flavor memory faded in my mind, I decided I’d get baking on my own. Happily, these little cakes came together quite easily and we’ve been enjoying them most every weekend since.

platter

Tom’s version was labelled “flourless” so it made me think that these cakes had the potential of being gluten free. The final version I’m sharing here is just that, but if you’re not worried about a little wheat flour, feel free to sub out the gluten-free flour for a regular all-purpose blend. But the buckwheat is what makes this recipe unique, so don’t be afraid to try that out.

I’ve made this recipe two ways – frosted with a whiskey glaze or sprinkled with a light dusting of powdered sugar. The original cakes I tasted included the whiskey glaze, but I wanted a kid-friendly option! Try them both and pick your favorite. They both seem fitting in this winter season!

Buckwheat Oatmeal Cakes with Whiskey Glaze

Inspired by Tom Douglas’s Dahlia Bakery in Seattle
Makes about 10 muffins

¾ cup (110g) buckwheat flour
¼ cup (35g) all-purpose flour or all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (255g) applesauce
½ cup (50g) thick oatmeal
⅓ cup (60g) vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
¾ cup (165g) sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Glaze, optional
½ cup (75g) powdered sugar
2 tablespoons whiskey

Heat oven to 350 and prepare muffin pan.

In a small bowl, combine the buckwheat and all-purpose flours, and the baking powder.

In a large bowl, whisk together the applesauce, oatmeal, oil, eggs, spice, sugar, soda and salt. Add in the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Divide the batter amongst the tins so they are about ¾ full. Bake until puffed and starting to darken, about 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle just comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their tins for a minute or two, then remove and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

If using, whisk the powdered sugar and whiskey together until smooth and just pourable. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cakes and allow to set. Or sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar once the cakes have cooled. Any leftover cakes will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days.

 

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Cornbread skillet goodness

table

Last week, snow fell. It was a skiff, really, but with the dip in temperatures that accompanied it, that little dusting has managed to stay around all week. When the weather is cold and it is dark before I head home in the evenings, I feel like an extra measure of comfort is needed. I know I must have told you that when autumn comes around, my plans for cooking seem to make a turn all on their own. Suddenly, soup sounds like a good idea and I make at least one pot per weekend. One giant pot that simmers for hours on the weekend, then is doled out into quart jars in preparation for the week ahead. And as this ritual repeats itself over the first weeks of fall, my freezer fills up with lunch options. Corn chowder, red lentil and cream of cauliflower, portioned out and ready for a quick meal.

ingredients

If I am going to have soup for dinner, I like to pair it with a salad or some bread. Hot buttered slices of toast work well, as do savory little muffins. But really, what I want most with my soup is a skillet of cornbread. For one thing, once the oven is turned on in the evening, the kitchen just feels that much more cozy. And this recipe is quick enough that by the time the soup is warmed up and the table set, there is cornbread ready to come out of the oven. Around here, we top it with some butter and perhaps a slice of cheese. We’re a divided house when it comes to a sweet topping though, but a drizzle of maple syrup always wins out for me.

cornmeal

This recipe came to me a few years ago when Tina shared it as an idea for a gluten-free quick bread. I’ve been making it several times a week already this season. In fact, it’s so good that I may have made it several nights in a row when my parents visited us. The three of us don’t eat the whole pan, but I like to toast the leftovers the next morning with a hard boiled egg, or make open-face sandwiches with more soup at lunch. And with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I couldn’t help but think that leftovers would make a tasty stuffing come next week.

slice

Recipe note: In my opinion, the main ingredient to watch is the cornmeal. Don’t be lulled into thinking any old grind will work. Stone-ground cornmeal gives a much better texture and bite to the cornbread. And meal that’s labelled for grits works really well, in my experience.

Skillet Cornbread

Recipe from Gourmet

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground)
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk (do not use powdered)
1/2 stick unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 425°F with the rack in the middle. Heat a well-seasoned 10-inch skillet in the oven for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile stir together the cornmeal, sugar, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Whisk together eggs together in a small bowl and measure buttermilk in a large measuring cup.

Remove the now hot skillet from oven, taking care as the handle will be very hot. Add butter and return to the oven for about five minutes to melt. When the butter is melted, remove the skillet from the oven, swirling to coat bottom and sides (butter may brown and it’s delicious). Whisk hot butter into the buttermilk mixture and return skillet to oven. Stir cornmeal mixture into buttermilk mixture just until evenly moistened but still lumpy.

 

plate

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Weekend workshop

egg-curry-detail

A week or so back, I attended a workshop on multidisciplinary storytelling in Seattle. I have been anticipating these sessions for awhile – a group of inspiring women, a city I love and time to focus on some creative skills. I could tell you about the amazing places to eat or exciting spice selections or even wandering the Pike Place market early in the morning. But honestly, the inspiration I left these sessions with was enough to fill two blog posts, so I’ll start there. The classes were held in Aran Goyoaga’s studio. You probably know her from her blog Canelle et Vanille.

 Aran’s studio is a light-filled space, with twinkling lights and white paper globes hanging from the beams. A clean light pours through the windows, even on this rainy morning. Tables are arranged together beneath those windows and a group of women from all over the place begins to gather. We’ve come from near and far to learn and connect. Everyone around the table speaks of their interest in telling food stories, making stronger connections between the imagery and words that inform each of our personal stories. 

egg-curry

Make notes on five things from today – they could be simple words or phrases or much bigger ideas. This idea came from Tara O’Brady, leading our workshop on multidisciplinary storytelling. I’ve been following Tara and her blog, Seven Spoons, for years now and I am very excited to hear her talk about her process. (She also has a cookbook coming out in the spring and you know how I am about cookbooks!) She shares the idea of gathering five takeaways as a challenge for herself, but we all join in.

toppings

So here they are, my five takeaways from this amazing workshop:

Be observant: Notice the details. What stands out to me will inform my work. It brings personality and viewpoint. This is an eye-opener to me because I am all about the details, those are the bits that get me into trouble! So making that connection and realizing that those details can be tapped to tell better stories, both visually and in writing, really makes me feel capable. 

platter

Gather inspiration: Whatever it is that inspires me, gather it around. My inspiration tends to be very visual. I love Instagram and some favorite blogs for their beautiful imagery and the ideas they spark. Same goes for the cookbooks that make me want to cook and the friends who share ideas and encouragement. The little pinecone that makes me want to draw. These influences will keep my creative juices going. And in those moments where inspiration feels low, having this resources close at hand will help me get back on track.

apples

Practice intention: Thinking about the intent of my work is something that has stuck with me as I left Seattle and came back to my daily routines. It’s likely because this idea resonates with some of the bigger things I’m pondering in my life. But knowing the end goal that I’m striving for and the message I want to leave others with will help edit and refine my work. 

soup

Live the details: Watching Aran and Tara plate their own lunch at the workshop reminds me that appreciating beauty in everyday life is part of this practice. When what I do comes from an authentic place, the details that fill my life serve as inspiration. So I’m embracing my fiddly garnishing habits and rearranging my prop dishes that I love to sit out amongst my everyday items!

goodness-in-a-pot

Go buy some darn notebooks! I love paper products and I’ve got a stack of lovely sketchbooks to prove it. Tara shared her idea-gathering practice of taking notes in plain spiral bound school notebooks. No fancy notebooks need apply. We’re talking about a basic lined notebook where one can scribble down a taste or a word or the beginnings of blog post without a thought to how it looks. Since I’m the girl who revises recipes on the back of junk mail envelopes, this is a plan worth adopting.

garnish

So there you have it, the five ideas that I’m thinking after my workshop, along with some photos from the weekend. Do you have an tips on how you strive to bring creativity and inspiration into your daily life? I’d love to hear about it.

 

 

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Good morning granola bars

napping

We are not the most devoted of campers, we pretty much stick to basic car camping in campsites where there are actual bathrooms. We pick campsites for scenic views and proximity to day hikes or breweries, depending on the situation. There is a little kid in my life and these things make camping easier. We pack coolers of ingredients for full-on fancy camping meals and a set of bocce balls for afternoon entertainment. Once we get out there, camping is a pretty carefree way to spend a weekend. There is little to do besides cook up the food we’ve brought along and relax. In the evening, we build a fire and sit around it. Sometimes we play card games or watch for stars in that dark sky.

press

This fall we’ve been doing a lot of camping. Maybe it is an unconscious attempt to draw out the season as the cooler weather and shorter days set it. On every trip, I’ve been returning to the same recipe for granola bars. They are tasty and portable. I’ve packed up these bars for early morning kayak paddles, long rides in the car and hikes into the hills. And on camping trips, they are the perfect snack to tide me over between an early morning wake up and actually being alert enough to start cooking breakfast at the campsite. We tumble out of the tent, start heating up water for coffee, pull out the pan of granola bars and everyone is happy.

bars

I’ve been working to keep these bars from getting too crumbly and the best advice I have is to chop things up – the nuts, the cherries. The smaller pieces seem to stick together that much better. Of course, you can help matters out by storing them carefully. I’ve found returning them to their pan or some other container helps them keep their shape. And since these bars have become a breakfast staple, I’ve been using them to clean out the pantry, substituting different nuts, various chocolates and even some peanut butter chips I found, along with any kind of coconut flakes I can find lurking in the cupboard. Another breakfast note – I don’t like too much sweetness early in the morning, so I’ve been lighthanded with the sugar, even going with a little less than what I have listed here on a batch where I used up the rest of my sweetened coconut.

 

GOOD MORNING GRANOLA BARS

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Orangette

 

1 ½ cups (160 grams) quick-cooking oats

⅓ cup (35 grams) oat flour, or quick-cooking oats pulsed in a food processor

⅓ cup (65 grams) to ½ cup (100 grams) sugar (see above)

1 cup (110 grams) raw walnuts, chopped into rough pieces

½ cup (25 grams) unsweetened coconut flakes

½ cup (85 grams) chocolate chips or chopped chocolate of similar size

¼ cup (40 grams) dried cherries, halved

½ tsp. fine salt

1/3 cup (85 grams) peanut butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

6 Tbsp. (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted

6 Tbsp. (120 grams) honey

1 Tbsp. water

 

Heat oven to 350°F. Prepare an 8-inch square baking pan with a little butter or baking spray. Line pan with parchment paper so it covers the bottom and two sides of the pan with a little overhang. Lightly grease the parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, oat flour, sugar, nuts, coconut flakes, chocolate chips, dried cherries and salt.

In a medium bowl, stir together the peanut butter, vanilla, melted butter, honey and water. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and give everything a good stir to combine thoroughly. Transfer to a prepared pan and press the mixture into the pan. A spatula works pretty well, but a damp hand or piece of plastic wrap will help as well.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the bars are golden all over with some browning on the edges. Don’t be surprised to find the bars are still a little soft to the touch, they will firm up as they cool.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely or even overnight. When cool, run a knife along the around the edges of the pan and use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan. Cut into bars.

To store, place bars in an airtight container. Or do like I did and slide the bars and the parchment paper back into the pan for storage. I think it’s the best way to keep them from crumbling.

 

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Green bean and fresh corn stir-fry

table

It’s not everyday that I find a recipe that inspires me to make it immediately. Just like everyone else, I’ve got stacks and bookmarks and torn out magazine pages, waiting for their moment to shine. Unless that recipe is the salted Texas chocolate sheet cake from Bon Appetit, that demands immediate attention. (True story!) Anyway, there is often something keeping me from making them, some missing key ingredient or prep step that seems better suited to a weekend cooking foray. Maybe I am a collector or recipes, a hoarder even? That might be a topic for another day, but in this case, I had the perfect combination of enough of the right ingredients and some time, so I started cooking.

Without even knowing it, I started prepping for this recipe by heading out to my favorite fresh veggie place earlier in the day. Their late season corn is such a treat, and they had it sitting around by the bucket. By now, I have a pretty good idea of just how much corn I can fit in the produce drawer in my fridge, so I loaded up, knowing I would be eating fresh corn for the next few days. I don’t know how the corn and the recipe found me on the same day, but I’m not asking any questions!

I made this for a solo dinner by splitting the recipe, but whether you’re cooking for yourself or a few people, this stir-fry comes together pretty quickly and has great late summer flavors. And while I know the sambal oelek and fresh lime juice I squeezed on top of my plate might not have been exactly in keeping with the originally intended flavors of this recipe, I thought they were pretty darn good additions!

 stir-fry

Stir-Fried Tofu with Green Beans and Corn

 Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe on The New York Times

1 14 oz. package of firm tofu, drained
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons sesame oil
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon ground pepper, preferable white pepper
¼ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
Kernels from 2 ears of corn
1 finely sliced scallion
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro

 Cut the tofu into ¼ inch slices, then cut slices into ¼ inch matchsticks. Place on a clean towel or paper towel and allow to drain while you prep the rest of the stirfry.

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, and the sesame oil. Combine the salt, pepper and sugar in another small bowl. Keep these handy for when you begin cooking.

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil and add the green beans, blanching for about one minute. Remove from heat, rinse in cold water, drain and set aside.

Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates immediately. Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and tilt to distribute. Add the tofu and stir-fry for a minute or two, until it just begins to color. Drop in the ginger and jalapeno and stir-fry for a few seconds.

Pour in the remaining oil, then add the green beans, corn and scallions. Stir-fry for about one minute, then add the salt, pepper and sugar mixture and toss for good measure. Pour in the soy mixture, top with a lid and cook for about 30 seconds. Uncover, throw in the cilantro and stir-fry for another 30 seconds or so. The green beans should be crisp tender by now. Remove from heat and serve.

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Two ways with grilled bread

Try as I might, I am pretty sure there is no holding off autumn now. The changing sunrise and sunset times are a pretty strong indicator that a transition is underway. The produce that I picked up at the market last weekend had a totally different color palette than my last shopping trip a few weeks back – deep purple plums, rosy apples and golden pears. I often reach late August not quite ready to make the transition to September. It’s taken all summer to get to these long, lovely days and warm evenings lounging on the patio. I need some time to settle into the idea. Can’t we just stay in late August for a few more weeks?

tabletop

By this point in the summer, it seems like my garden is just coming into its own. Everything is growing with gusto, there are armloads of tomatoes just waiting to be picked, a row of kale practically falling all over itself and green beans are gaining such momentum that I am pretty sure that is all we will be eating for the next two weeks. It’s true, I probably brought this situation on myself with I planted four rows of beans, but I was a little excited. I had big plans for beans and I didn’t really stop to see the potential for green bean overload at the time.

peach-tabletop

Back in spring, when I would sit out in the empty garden and dream about how things would look at this time of year, I decided to create an archway over the entrance to the garden. And since gardens are lessons in patience, I decided not to “build” an arch, but to grow one out of runner beans. I staked up 6-foot high sections of netting at the front of the two raised beds that make my garden. Then I wired bamboo stakes over the pathway, connecting the two panels. From there, I planted a selection of beans, based mainly on their descriptions, which all included some wording about an 8- to 10-foot plant.

It didn’t taken them long to race up the netting and wind their way over the bamboo bridge to create my archway. It’s turned out really well, in fact. The unintended consequence has been the bumper crop of beans. I’ve been freezing a few batches of them when my harvest takes up too much room in the fridge. But mostly, we’ve been doing our best to keep up with the bounty and eating them at most every meal.

dinner

Today I am sharing a couple of late summer ideas that are starting to warm me up to the idea of my dinner spending more that a few minutes on the stove. Think of this grilled bread as a blank canvas, just awaiting your creativity. We’ve been loving a recipe for slow simmered green beans that I shared here. I completed the toasty trifecta with a couple of slivers of speck and topped it off with a slice of fresh feta. But it would also be delicious with ratatouille or some sauteed greens and a poached egg. Don’t stop with the savory options, the grilled bread is also a delicious base for the late summer fruit that is in season. Sliced fresh or lightly grilled alongside the toast, peaches, plums and pears are all going to be delicious. No need to mention the addition of ice cream – you know I already went there!

first-bite

GRILLED BREAD

Loaf of French bread, or other favorite loaf
Olive oil

Slice bread to a medium thickness. Brush both sides of the slice with olive oil. Place on a hot grill until char marks appear. Repeat on the other side. Remove from grill, top and eat immediately.

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A new kind of icebox cookie

2-mixers

My son has been asking me to let him help in the kitchen. Since he brings his toys out into the kitchen to play most evenings, he has a good view of the happenings and has zeroed in on a few tasks that interest him. Most recently, he wants to know how to use a knife. This comes after lessons with the box grater, egg cracking 101 and ice cream churning. I’ve started him out with the smallest, dullest knife that I have and Sean is under strict orders not to sharpen it. Might as well get him in there while he is interested, right? With constant supervision, he has gotten pretty good at slicing olives and cucumbers, his favorite tasks since he also gets to snack while working! Consistency will come eventually, I suppose, but for now, slice width varies widely!

coconut

One of his earliest tasks was stirring. We’ve had our fair share of spills and sloshes. But once we got past those, he has become quite a good little helper. Which brings me to the cookies I am sharing today – they are a perfect recipe to make with kids.

The summer heat is upon us – days and days of 100+ degree weather. By late afternoon, it seems like the heat has hits its high point and just maintains a searing level of intensity that can undo the deepest air conditioned shivers in two minutes flat.

distractions

These days the oven is rarely on. I can’t bear to add to the indoor temperature. We grill, we eat salads and ice cream. And when we need cookies, we gather at the counter and make these little freezer treats, then go park it somewhere cool for awhile.

If you have a small cookie scoop, you’ll want to use it for this recipe. Otherwise, you can use a spoon to shape these cookies.

2-scoops

Chocolate Freezer Macaroons

Makes about 15 cookies

⅔ cup dark cocoa powder
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups unsweetened coconut

Combine first five ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth.

Stir in shredded coconut until everything is combined. Use a small cookie scoop to form cookies, place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Freeze for 30 minutes or until firm. Store in the freezer.

treats

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Quick refrigerator pickles

cucumbers

During the summer months, I don’t make many trips to the grocery store. So much of my usual wintertime shopping list is available at local farm stands or the farmers market. My standing grocery list is most likely a couple of scribbles about picking up limes and lemons, milk for coffee, a couple of whole grains or pasta and frozen treats. You’ve got to have plenty of ice cream in the summer!

setting

We are big fans of pickled things around here, so we’re never without a jar or two of some combination of vinegar and vegetable. I think they make the perfect snack when I am in need of a little something. The salty tang of a couple of pickles really hits the spot when I’m hungry. But once the pickling cucumbers and other veggies of that persuasion start showing up at the market, I take pickle production in-house. The recipes I am sharing today give you a couple of options for easy cucumber pickles that have become favorites around here.

spices

While you certainly can commit to the big batch of pickles, one of my favorite things about this recipe is that there is no cooking involved. No commitment to 20 pounds of cucumbers and no boiling caldron and steamy kitchen in the summer heat wave. Instead, we’re talking about a couple of pounds of cucumbers and a little time at the cutting board. And as the reward, the cool crisp crunch of refrigerator pickles just shouts of summertime.

spiced

These recipes are a great starting point for any kind of spice combination you can muster. Feeling spicy, throw in a few slices of jalapeno or a dried chile pepper. Is garlic your thing? You may have noticed that it’s not mine, but go ahead and throw some in! Don’t have fresh dill? Dried dill weed or dill seeds will add a similar flavor. And don’t stop there, you can mix and match flavors to come up with all kinds of options.

2-jars

Both of these recipes make enough to fill one quart jar, which makes them perfectly sharable at summertime get-togethers.  However, you can easily double them once you decide which one is your favorite! Enjoy!

SPICY REFRIGERATOR PICKLES

4 to 5 pickling cucumber
5 fresh dill sprigs
½ cup white vinegar
1 ¼ cups water
1 tablespoon pickling salt
½ teaspoon white sugar
½ teaspoon dill seed
½ teaspoon mustard seed
½ teaspoon hot pepper flakes
½ teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Scrub cucumbers and trim off ends. Cut into quarters length-wise and place in a clean 1-quart jar, along with the sprigs of dill.

Top with the vinegar and water, then measure in the spices. Cover the jar and gently shake to combine the liquids and spices. Refrigerate for at least three days before eating. Will keep well for one month.

SWEET PICKLES WITH ONIONS

1 pound pickling cucumbers
1 small onion, sliced
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon celery seed
1 cup white sugar
½ cup cider vinegar
½ teaspoon yellow mustard seed

Scrub cucumbers and peel onion. Trim ends off the cucumbers and cut into ½ inch slices. Cut onion into ¼ inch slices. Layer cucumbers and onion slices in a colander with salt and allow to drain for about 30 minutes. Toss gently and allow any excess liquid to drain from the colander.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a small pot and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Pack drained cucumbers in a jar, the top with brine. Cover and refrigerate for at least three days before eating. Will keep well in the fridge for a month.

 

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Cherry picnic cake

I am calling it Summer Chop Madness, but it seems like most meals around here involve some kind of chopped salad. I’ve been busy shopping at the farmer’s market, as well as my favorite family farm and the best way to use the great selection of fresh veg is with giant salads. I should also mention the crazy heat that we’ve been sweltering in, as I am sure it has had a part in this. On a hot summer evening, a cool salad bowl is just what I want to eat. We’re not talking about a leafy green number – these salads have enough heft to carry a meal. Wedges of newly dug potatoes, handfuls of the best green beans and no end of cucumbers. But more on that later. With all of this talk of salad, I feel I am within my right to bake cake or two.

slice

I have no favorite summer fruit. I cannot be pinned down to just one top pick. I love them all in their turn – the few weeks when each one has a little window of perfection before giving way to the next one on the list. For us, cherries have been enjoying their time to shine. While I can’t get enough of a just-warm cherry clafoutis, like this one, I do have a new cherry recipe to add to the mix this year. I found this amazing recipe for a cherry picnic cake just about the time cherry season was starting. I’ve been baking it on a weekly basis ever since. And now that we are nearing the tail end of our season, I am finally getting around to sharing it with you.

pans

After my first time baking this cake, I spent several evenings standing at the kitchen sink with a dark apron and a box full of cherries to be pitted. You see, this recipe is just as happy with fresh fruit as it is with frozen. I imagine myself pulling this cake out of the oven on a grey winter day, when the smudge of a juicy cherry will make a slice of pound cake seem like the sweetest treat. And all of my cherry pitting efforts will be well rewarded in that moment.

cake-pan

But for now, I’ll be serving thick slices of this cake in the garden or packed up for a picnic. It travels so well and you know you won’t go wrong when you finish off a meal with this treat.

picnic

This cake turned out perfectly the first time I made it, so I haven’t changed a thing from the original recipe. I did make one swap, toasted walnuts for the pecans called for in the original recipe. Go with your favorite flavor on that one. And while a 6-inch cake pan may not be in your cupboard, I made do with a 6-inch soufflé dish the first time around. Since then, I added a pan to my collection. I know it is going to be well used!

CHERRY PICNIC CAKE

Recipe by Tara O’Brady via Herriott Grace

Makes 2, 6-inch round cakes

For the cake

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (256 g) cake flour

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/3 cups (275 g) granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling if not using the glaze

4 large eggs

Seeds scraped from a vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons thick yogurt or sour cream (not nonfat)

1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts

1 cup pitted dark cherries, fresh or frozen

For the glaze (optional, but recommended)

1 1/4 cups (142 g) confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1/4 cup heavy cream

A pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 300°F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter two 6-inch round cake pans and line both the bottom and sides with parchment. Butter generously.

Sift flour and salt together in a bowl, set aside.

Combine butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and cream on the medium-high setting for 8 minutes. Scrape down the bowl regularly. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla. Turn the mixer down to low, mix in the flour in two additions, alternating with the yogurt until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in the nuts with a spatula. Spread one-quarter of the batter between the prepared pans, then scatter with a few of the cherries. Continue to layer dollops of batter with cherries until finished. Smooth the tops with a spatula, then sprinkle with granulated sugar if you are not planning to glaze the cakes later.

Bake the cakes for about 60 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. They are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before unmolding. Return the cakes to the cool rack and allow to cool, right side up, until completely cool.

If you are making the glaze, whisk together all ingredients until smooth. The glaze should be soft enough to drizzle nicely from a spoon. If more liquid is needed, add more cream one teaspoon at a time. Spoon the glaze over both cakes and allow to set for at least one hour before cutting.

These cakes keep nicely at room temperature for a few days and will look lovely under a cake dome or loosely covered in plastic.

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Life outside the kitchen

Having a food blog, it is a fair assumption that I spend a good deal of time cooking and in the pursuit of many things related to food. It’s true. My interest in the kitchen is far more than simply getting meals put together, it colors the way I approach my eating life. Reading cookbooks, finding farms and markets to shop at and trying my fair share of new recipes all play a part in that. But my interest in food sometimes takes me far outside of the kitchen as well.  So I thought I would share a little about some of the things I do when I’m not in the kitchen.

Weekends are one of the best times to make time for cooking adventures. We are coming up fast on preserving season, in fact, I’ve already just started pitting and freezing some of the first cherries of the year. Standing at the kitchen sink with my with my favorite podcast, I can make reasonably quick progress on pitting cherries. But this doesn’t happen every weekend, sometimes we just pack up and head out of the house for the day to explore.

roadway

We’re lucky enough to live in a part of Washington state where adventures can be found in all directions. Head west 30 minutes and we’ve arrived at the Columbia Gorge with plenty of water, trains and stunning views. In the opposite direction, mountains and trees offer a distinct change of scenery and that is where we went last weekend. Out on the road, we have opportunities to find new places to eat, shop for antique treasures and props or pack a picnic to eat out of the back of the car.

stream

On our way into the mountains last weekend, we stopped at scenic overlooks and a happy little creek where I scrambled down the rocky bank to check out the water. A thicket of thimbleberries edged the creek, still in bloom. The mountain water ran cold but I waded in, despite the warning call of “Leeches!” from my traveling crew. I picked a path through the stream and on the other side, I found a little stand of columbine flowers blooming.

columbine

Generally, I pack up some food for our roadtrip adventures. Travelling with a small child keeps me mindful of necessities, such as food and proximity to the next bathroom. Sometimes our fare is as simple as some dried fruit or nuts. Now the summer weather definitely has me in a picnic state of mind. This time of year, I might pack up a baguette with some butter, a few cherries and some chocolate and call it a meal. Eaten outdoors in the sunshine, there isn’t much better!

lostine-front

On this particular day, our travels took us through a tiny town called Lostine and past the Lostine Tavern that had recently opened up. Apparently, Lostine is officially designated as a city, but with a population of 213 at the 2010 census, I am just not sure how that adds up. But no matter, the Lostine Tavern was a real treat for lunch as we made our hungry way through the hills of Oregon. Billed as a casual farm to table pub, the tavern has a growing menu of great food options with many locally sourced items. And with dessert options like strawberry and rhubarb bars, chocolate layer cake and cowboy cookies, I’m certainly stopping by again soon!

m.crow
Wherever your journeys take you this weekend, have a great one!

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