Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Vote

(Day 2 of 30 Days of Thankful)

Not only am I thankful for the right to vote and engage in our democracy, I'm also thankful for the collective national sigh marking the end of the campaign season.

My vote might not always "count" but exercising my voice in selection is table stakes to exercising my voice in critiquing.

I must now go and watch them tally the votes and project the results.

Monday, November 1, 2010

30 Days of Thankful Redux

Welcome to November readers!!! Only 24 more sleeps until Thanksgiving and to celebrate I am reviving my 30 days of Thankful. Not only do I want to build upon what I started in 2009 (I have more than 30 things for which I am ebulliently thankful) I feel compelled to finish what I started.

After my friend Larry died a blinking cursor was more than I could manage. So daunting in fact I could not even bring myself to complete and distribute the annual Christmas newsletter that gave birth to this very blog. He nurtured my love of writing so what better symmetry than to kick off the month sharing how thankful I am for... Words.

Courtesy of my niece Sophie, I think Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street sings it best, "Words, words and more words, how I adore words."

Grammar, tense and punctuation futilely render inconsequential sans words to knit together. Cornucopia, ramification, smorgasbord, organza, medieval, precipitate, palpable and even fuck--with all its creative and spicy derivatives--are some of my favorite words. Either the sound they make rolling off the tongue or the image they conjure.

Think about it, when you read the word organza what immediately comes to mind? Not a brick? And the word precipitate, you know something is going to be falling from somewhere--snow from the sky, solid out of a liquid suspension or innovative ideas in response to a barrier.

To punctuate my point in closing recently a friend of mine and I spent nearly 20 minutes over dinner one night discussing the difference between a gulch, crevasse, chasm, canyon, ditch, and valley; just two word nerds talking over dinner.

Monday, October 18, 2010

This Week in Pumpkin: Pumpkin Caramel Tart

Okay... this recipe was the inspiration (courtesy of JoePastry.com) for a variation I ran through my test kitchen last week as a part of my market testing for my someday bakery. While I have changed up the recipe and flavor profile quite a bit I wanted to share it with my readers in the spirit of the season and all things pumpkin.

Note: Don't let the sugar go too far, once that dark spot gets larger than a plum you're at risk of burning the sugar and if so, that stinks--literally. I burned the first batch and had to pour it into an old pizza box in the front yard just to evacuate the kitchen. The next morning I had a tar black candy slick seemingly untouched by nearby woodland creatures.

Also, this recipe makes enough custard for two 10-inch tart shells.

1 cup sugar
¼ cup water

2 cups cream
2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs

Moisten the first cup of sugar with the 1/4 cup water in a sauce pan and swirl over high heat until it turns light amber, then dark amber. For a more pronounced caramel flavor, wait for a brown-black spot to appear in the center of the pan before you remove it from the heat and start adding your cream slowly in a steady stream, whisking all the while (watch out, it'll foam and sputter a bit).

Once all the cream is in, whisk in the rum, pumpkin, sugar, spices and vanilla. Keep the filling warm on a very low flame until the crust is nearly ready. It should NOT be bubbling/boiling.

Pour the warm filling into your favorite shortbread tart crust hot out of the oven to create a water-proof seal.

Put the pan into the oven and drop the heat to 350. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the pan, jiggling it to see how "sloshy" it still is in the middle.

Bake another 5-10 minutes or so, just until the center no longer "sloshes", but jiggles firmly. Cool for a minimum of one hour before slicing and serving. I prefer mine chilled.

Monday, October 4, 2010

This Week in Pumpkin: Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes

Okay friends, it is that time of year again... my kitchen runneth over with pumpkin--shortage be damned! This week is a favorite I have made for years and my sister-in-law has been patiently waiting for its turn on the menu.

This was that weekend. We had these pancakes with turkey sausages, coffee and orange juice as a primer to our trip to the orchard. Sophie loved them, she ate three!

This recipe may look a little intimidating compared to standard pancakes but do not be thwarted by the whipping and folding egg whites... you're the boss and final pancake is worth it. Also, let the batter sit for 20-30 minutes before hitting the griddle.

1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups milk
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
4 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vegetable oil
Maple syrup

Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Whisk milk, pumpkin, egg yolks, melted butter and vanilla in medium bowl to blend well. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients; whisk just until smooth (batter will be thick). Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in another medium bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold whites into batter in 2 additions.

Brush large nonstick skillet with oil; heat over medium heat. Working in batches, pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls into skillet. Cook until bubbles form on surface of pancakes and bottoms are brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing skillet with oil between batches. Serve with butter, maple syrup, honey or pumpkin butter. Makes 20-24 pancakes.

Bon App├ętit November 2000 by way of epicurious.com