Gosh. How is it that this will be the last post of December? The last post of the year? And what better way to celebrate than to raise a glass to the amazing gals at The Kitchn for hosting me as a guest writer today. I’ve been a big fan of the site for some time, but even cooler is the fact that some of my favorite bloggers like her and her and him were featured as guest writers this holiday and I’m honored to be in their company. So head on over to check out the post there. And I thought I’d re-post it for you here. Cheers to a full, dynamic, and inspiring 2010 with many new recipes, friends, stories, and travels. And in other A Sweet Spoonful news, the site redesign is almost done and should be up soon, soon, soon. I’m so excited to share it with you. Happy, happy New Year! See you in 2010.
Well folks, it’s over. The hustle is no longer hustling and the stockings are waiting to be packed up for the next go ‘around. An ungodly amount of See’s Candy has been consumed, and we’re slowly making our way through leftovers and the last dregs of eggnog. Now if you’re anything like me (read: efficient first child), you’ve broken down boxes, recycled wrapping paper, and put your new gifts away. Heck, maybe you’ve even got your thank you notes ready to roll.
Yes, it’s true: I’ve put Christmas behind me and I’m looking ahead to the next big thing. So I’ve started to think about the New Year with mixed emotions of excitement and hesitation. During the weeks following New Years Day, people are resolution-happy, vowing to finally lose those pesky five pounds and get organized. It becomes very hard to park at the gym, and families race to the mall to return gifts that weren’t quite right. The bustle starts up again. However, with it comes a few good things, too. It’s a symbolic fresh start, a do-over, a ‘if this year didn’t go quite as planned, you’ve got another shot.’ While I’m not one for resolutions, I am one for taking stock, being thankful for what I have, and thinking about where I’d like to see myself in the coming year ahead.
When I was in college, I worked at a sweet little paper store in Boulder, CO and the owner would always ride her bike up Left Hand Canyon and just sit with herself on New Years Day. At the time, I found it equally puzzling and intriguing. A part of me thought it was a good idea to force yourself into some quiet time and another part of me felt the antsiness ensue. While you won’t find me climbing any steep grades this year, I am making a list of things I’m thankful for that happened this year, and goals or wishes I have for the year ahead. So far it looks a little something like this: get to really know my new San Francisco neighborhood by foot; get in touch with Sara and Alice, my two childhood friends; learn to poach a perfect egg; plan a big trip that involves lots of eating, flip-flops and very little luggage; try and figure out what I want to be when I grow up; not stress about the fact that I’m 30 and have no idea about the aforementioned; start rock climbing at the gym in the Marina; learn more about vintage cocktails. What’s on your list this year? Resolutions or wishes?
While you ponder that, I want to leave you with a simple New Years Day recipe for black-eyed peas. There are a number of foods that are traditionally thought to bring luck and good fortune and are, thus, eaten at the start of a new year. Black-eyed peas are really more of a Southern tradition; friends I have that hail from the South wouldn’t dream of having a New Years Day without them—with a little okra and pink rice on the side, of course.
Someone once told me that black-eyed peas symbolize good fortune because they grow and swell when you cook them. Who couldn’t use a little good fortune and luck this year? So here’s hoping the start of your New Year is more humble than harried, and that luck and good fortune find their way over to your place.
This recipe is originally from famed Southern cook, Eula Mae Dore’s cookbook, Eula Mae’s Cajun Kitchen. Saveur republished it on their website. One quick note: although the recipe dictates a cooking time of two hours, my peas cooked in a little over an hour and were delicious.
Combine the peas, onion, garlic, water, salt, black pepper, Tabasco, and sausage in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the peas are tender and creamy, 45 minutes for fresh peas and about 2 hours for dried peas.
Stir in the parsley and green onions and cook for about 2 minutes longer. Serve either over hot cooked rice or mixed together with it.
It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
This time last week I was up in the Skagit River Valley sitting in the early fall sun eating wood-fired bagels and chatting with farmers, millers and bakers at the Kneading Conference West. I made homemade soba noodles, learned the ins and outs of sourdough starters, and sat in on a session where we tasted crackers baked with single varietal wheats. It was like wine tasting, but with wheat and the whole time I kept pinching myself, thinking: THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! I don't get the opportunity to be a student much these days -- usually on the other side of things teaching cooking classes or educating people at the farmers markets about whole grains and natural sugars. So to just sit and listen with a fresh (red!) notebook and a new pen was surprisingly refreshing. I miss it already. Thankfully, this cookie recipe has come back as a memorable souvenir, and one that is sure to be in high rotation in our house in the coming months.
Strolling New York City streets during the height of fall when all the leaves are changing and golden light glints off the brownstone windows. This is what I envisioned when I bought tickets to attend my cousin's September wedding earlier this month: Sam and I would extend the trip for a good day or two so we could experience a little bit of fall in the city. We'd finally eat at Prune and have scones and coffee at Buvette, as we always do. Sam wanted to take me to Russ and Daughters, and we'd try to sneak in a new bakery or ice cream shop for good measure. Well, as some of you likely know, my thinking on the weather was premature. New York City fall had yet to descend and, instead, we ambled around the city in a mix of humidity and rain. When we returned home I found myself excited about the crisp evening air, and the fact that the tree across the street had turned a rusty shade of amber. It was time to do a little baking.
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon on a day when we had big plans to conquer pre-baby chore lists, but Sam's not feeling great and my energy's a little low so it hasn't been quite what we'd envisioned. My goals for the morning were to repot a house plant and make some soup and I've done neither. I will say that the sweet potato and fennel are still sitting on the counter eagerly awaiting their Big Moment -- it just hasn't come about quite yet. Sam and I were both going to attempt to install the carseat, but it started to look really daunting so we abandoned ship; it's now sitting proudly in the basement, also eagerly awaiting its Big Moment. So it's been one of those weekends -- the kind you look back on and wonder what it is you actually accomplished. At the very least, I get the chance to tell you about this hearty cranberry cornbread. I know maybe it feels premature in the season for cranberry recipes, but hang with me here: slathered with a little soft butter and runny honey, there's nothing I'd rather eat right now on the cool, crisp Seattle mornings we've been having lately.