Thursday, February 20, 2014

Final Flicks of a Paintbrush: Dessert Painting Series


I thought I would get this post pieced together by early January, but here comes the tail end of February. In order to reconnect with what I've been wanting to share, I scroll through the pictures I'm about to post and remember the time I spent with these images. I speak of the paintings themselves, and how their ideas grew and morphed in the process of mental birth to compositional sketches to final flicks of my paintbrush.

I had a whole lot of fun with this series. It was almost to the point of feeling guilty that I wasn't channeling more serious, deep thoughts and messages. But the emotions behind each piece were deep in their own way and certainly real, as I connected to the dreams that food can stir up. One concept drew me into the process of layering figs with whipped vanilla bean mascarpone between two layers of a cornmeal-crumbed ginger spice cake. (Which painting do you think I'm referring to?)

Autumnal quince, eggs for a silky curd, something stamped and baked.
[Acrylic on Wood Panel]

Sugar pie pumpkin, liberal splash of bourbon, creamy and spoonable.
[Acrylic on Wood Panel]

The time I have spent in my home kitchen and just two commercial kitchens has heaped up to such a jumble of recipes, stained wooden spoons, tears, laughter, and dirty dishes. I never meant for these paintings to channel only my sole experience, nor do I want them to reflect my dreams alone.

They are simple and spacious for reasons. I want their viewers to find room to dream. I want old food memories to be sparked. For me, these memories can flood in faces of loved ones or little moments of self-discovery. What about for you?

I also do not want to dictate responses to these pieces. I'm so very curious what your thoughts and reactions might be. Please do share.

If you would like to see them in person, they are presently hanging at Ciao Thyme at 207 Unity Street, Bellingham, WA and best viewed during their lunch cafe hours. They are all priced for sale, and I have five more small pieces in the works.

I am so very grateful to Ciao Thyme for hosting my pieces. In their kitchen I was given the opportunity to own my love of the culinary world in new ways. It was such an honor to work with them, and the passionate people behind that project will always be dear to my heart.

Please let me know if you're interested in pricing on these pieces.

Pain au chocolat, perhaps.
[Acrylic on Wood Panel]

Plump fig, fresh ginger, piping bag at ready.
[Acrylic on Wood Panel]

Lemon in hand, elderflower liqueur to add.  *SOLD*
[Acrylic on Wood Panel]

Here is an edited version of my artist statement, which is posted alongside the series:

I have always found as much delight with whisk in hand and flour on my fingertips as wielding a paintbrush with pigments under my nails.

During college, I needed a platform of creativity without judgment or critique that was no less aesthetically rich or stimulating. That is when my key forms of procrastination on studio art assignments became baking and reading about baking on the inspiring blogs of David Lebovitz, Molly Wizenberg, Deb Perelman, and Ashley Rodriguez.

When I left Ciao Thyme's pastry station in July and transitioned to being a full-time art teacher, it took some time for my mental patterns to switch as I was still in the habit of constantly musing over dessert creations. I'd find a spare moment in the classroom, and pencil down a phrase like chocolate cake, salted peanut swiss buttercream, deep dark mousse, nib brittle. I felt mildly crazy in this lingering obsession, but also desired to redirect it rather than kill it. I knew I had to put all these pounds of sugar and butter, overused egg yolks and underused whites, and kitchen hours I no longer possessed into paint.

Each piece begins with a primary object, as if I were passing it at the farmers' market or had an overabundance to use up or simply knew it was the season to hunt it down and make the most of it. Each piece has a specific complete plated dessert in mind from each of the components, though as I've spent time with them I come up with other presentations and possibilities. 

The titles are vague because I encourage those who view them to come up with their own complete pictures, too, if they so desire. If the viewer cannot relate to my occasionally-excessive love of the kitchen but still finds these pieces intriguing, beautiful, and relatable in their own right, then my satisfaction as the artist is all the more peaceful and sweet.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Eating Good Food, Indeed.

granita dessert night V

There is a man in my life these days who expresses the most enthusiastic murmurs and sighs while eating the food I make for him.

On a recent Friday night I found myself trying to contain a smile while spooning the most beautiful ruby red colored granita into my mouth, as he sat next to me and did the same. I love his audible sounds of pleasure and appreciation (and they're hardly overkill if you're picturing the scene from What About Bob? with Bill Murray and his cob of corn). In fact, if I was the noise-making type while eating, I would have been doing the exact same thing with this dessert. Rather, I sunk myself a little deeper into the couch, tucked my knees up, sighed in pleasure, and slowly spooned another bite of sweet yet tangy granita and vanilla bean gelato into my mouth, letting the flavors linger and slowly melt on my tongue.

granita dessert night II

granita dessert night III

About midway through the summer I finally claimed ownership of a copy of Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food. I've admired and appreciated Bi-Rite ever since I interned in San Francisco four summers ago. I still remember my first Sam's Sundae eating experience. The sun had set, and we were fully satisfied from sublime Delfina pizzas but still couldn't resist queuing up in the creamery's customary fashion for a final bite of something sweet and rich. The thought of bergamot olive oil and sea salt topping a scoop of ice cream was too intriguing to pass up, especially with my friend nudging me in the side that I should go for it, and it would rock my world. I ordered the sundae, and as dark chocolate ice cream with airy barely-sweet whipped cream and those two savory elements slid down my throat, my eyes were more widely opened to the possibilities within dessert creations.

I have made Eat Good Food my daily reading material during my dinner break at work. I have enjoyed being in no rush to get from page one to the end and the opportunity to cover each page of detailed education on produce, the butcher counter, dairy, and more and recipes to tuck away for as-soon-as-possible usage. It's an effortless choice to recommend and pass around to foodie friends or those desiring to broaden their education but needing an approachable while thorough place to start. I have already made my own adaptations of the almond cake, buttermilk cake, and turnover dough and been inspired by the lentil salad, gazpacho, and Sicilian meatballs.

granita dessert night VII

Honestly, I picked the Blood Orange Granita recipe because the author, and Bi-Rite's owner, Sam Mogannam described it as "the sexiest slushy on earth", and it's just too tempting to return to those childhood loves - like artificially colored and flavored slushies in giant styrofoam cups - and redo them for an adult palate. And then, he also mentioned something reminiscent of a creamsicle when pairing the granita with vanilla ice cream and had me further hooked.

Unable to leave our dessert alone at that, I was scheming up possibilities for an additional element and decided this was the prime opportunity to try David Lebovitz's Italian Almond Cookies. So, the morning's project grew as I settled on this pairing of something sweet and almond-y to hold in one hand, let soften with vanilla-scented cream, and alternate with cold spoonfuls of citrus flavor. It was still a quick and simple endeavor and one that I was completely satisfied with aesthetically and in flavors.

granita dessert night IV

Italian Almond Cookie Dough

Granita requires mild babysitting for a few hours, but otherwise it's an unbeatably easy desserts with a fanciful flair. Just make a simple syrup, combine it with your flavor elements (here, a whole lot of blood orange juice -- wear an apron for splatters, unless you have a better juicer than I or are more skilled at containing a mess). Ashley at Not Without Salt has a cream-based granita I'd love to try sometime. (And knowing how my boyfriend's eyes grow wide at any mention of coffee -- even if he's already had a few cups or it is getting late into the night -- I should probably get on this one.)

As for the cookies, they were an unsurprising winner. Conveniently gluten-free for those who need or prefer this, their soft gently almond-scented middles contrast perfectly with the crunchy exterior and would be just as lovely on their own or paired with a strong cup of espresso. I debated long over whether to use almonds or pine nuts, but for economic reasons, selected almonds this time.

granita dessert night VI

Blood Orange Granita
Adapted from Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food

Makes 1/2 Quart
(enough for 5-6 servings)

You really can take this recipe many directions within the citrus realm, adjusting your sugar amount accordingly. I used mostly blood oranges with a few Cara Cara oranges to bring up my total juice volume. Also, one tablespoon of Cointreau went into the mix -- because who can resist?

3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
pinch kosher salt
1-1/8 cups freshly squeezed juice of blood oranges, tangerines, and/or other citrus varieties
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Cointreau, or other complimentary liqueur (optional)

In a small saucepan, add the sugar and salt to the water and gently stir to blend. Cook over medium-high heat just until the crystals are dissolved.

Let cool slightly, then pour into a medium bowl with all citrus juices and Cointreau. Whisk ingredients together and pour into a glass storage container wide enough to spread the liquid to approximately an inch high.

Freeze uncovered until ice crystals start to form, about 1 hour. Stir the mixture with a fork to break up the crystals. Return to the freezer and stir every 30 minutes until the mixture is icy throughout (2-3 hours total, depending how diligent you are in keeping the crystals small).

Once the granita is thoroughly composed of small ice crystals, serve immediately or seal the container and store in the freezer for up to two weeks. Break up the mixture with a fork just before serving.

granita dessert night I
{When the sun goes down, the Instagram filters must go on.}

Italian Almond Cookies

I added a few drops of almond extract (a scant 1/4 teaspoon) for a more pronounced almond flavor. As for my apricot jam, I was too lazy to whiz it into perfect smoothness, so I whisked it up a good bit and then embraced the orange bits of apricot still peaking about the exterior of the dough; they melded into the whole by the end of baking.

Additionally, I made a half-recipe and got nine cookies out of it. (Egg whites weigh approximately 30 grams, so I used 45g.) Clearly my size was bigger than David's, still fitting easily within my palm but not classifiable as dainty. They barely spread, so I would recommend not shaping them so tall that their interiors aren't baked through before the edges have significantly browned; there should be a bit of moisture left in these cookies.

Find the cookie recipe in full over HERE at David Lebovitz's blog.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Shifts I've Made and Cookies I've Baked

I was reoriented to a term when I spent four months back in a land I love, New Zealand, a few years ago. The term was shift, which, of course, is familiar to my ears, but the way it was used confused me initially.


Over there, when you move from one house to another, you ask your friends if they'll help you "shift." I would hear this and picture a person shifting their weight from one leg to the other. How could such a subtle movement, essentially stationary and ineffectual to those around you, be equated with boxing up nearly your entire life, possibly organizing a garage sale, and spending days lifting heavy containers and foregoing decent sleep to uproot and re-root?

I struggled to not get distracted in conversation when "shift" was used in this way, as inwardly I wanted to insist that the word move held more weight. I like the idea of something of greater importance and drama, of braving new territory and discovering great new things. Over time, though, the verbs have become interchangeable to me as well.


I occasionally use "shift" when talking about my transition to California, and it seems to suit.

This word has not changed in its subtly as it has crept in; rather the concept of making a geographical move (whether house to house or country to country) has needed less weight and significance applied to it. For perhaps obvious reasons, we can get carried away with the expectations in making a move. A new home becomes a new start with fewer possessions (yet don't they too easily begin to accumulate again?). A new city becomes a new picture of self and dreams, goals, and identity (inevitably a new wardrobe and different body creep into this fantasy too...). Scooting off to a different country is so tied to the notion of adventure that we forget that loneliness is a universal experience.

The realist in me seems to be quite present as I look over the last year and all the shifts in life that have happened. They have indeed impacted my life significantly, but in and of themselves, they have not been able to go deep in making any lasting changes. It's still me in this body with these moods and opinions, journeying through these days. I still put on the same three bracelets every day, drive on American freeways, am within easy access of Starbucks, and crave pastries for breakfast.

I'm thrilled to have made the shift I did when I look around at the relationships that have begun in this city; I already cannot imagine going without them. I am entirely content to be where I'm at when I can coordinate a fairly simple road trip four hours south to hold a newly born niece and nephew (compared to being a plane flight away).


Not-so-old memories creep in as I lay my head on my pillow and give a brief thought to the option of setting an alarm. I used to live by alarm clocks and never felt rested enough -- six months ago, my life as a pastry chef required setting my alarm for within the five o'clock hour. I would even come home after certain shifts and crawl right back into bed, squeezing my eyes tight to shut out the daylight. Last January I was living on an entirely different schedule as the manager of a small business with varying work shifts day-to-day at a place that was open from noon to 10 P.M.

There have been so many changes which could be accentuated and dwelt upon! But as the years add up and the number of transitions in life become impossible to count, a fluidity connects it all, and I recognize that the measure of movement within that comes from these shifts is mostly up to me.

One delightful way to hold together these chapters is through food memories. Each country, city, group of friends, or season can be associated with particular food and drink interests and enjoyments at the time. As I was wrapping up my life in Bellingham in June, I made a trip to Seattle to visit my cousin, and we discovered this memorable combination of flavors at Arabica Lounge on Capitol Hill in Seattle.

We were catching up over delicious espresso and beautifully presented egg-y breakfast dishes while seated at the bar seats facing outside and passers-by. We returned to the counter to pick out sweet treats to-go after our meal, and I am so glad I chose the Mango and Chili Crackle. It was deeply cocoa-y, studded with nibbles of dried mango and dark chocolate, and had a confident presence of warming chili powder.


The metamorphosis of my recipe came from a small amount of macadamia nuts in my kitchen and a craving for dark chocolate. I started thinking of adding mango and then recalled these cookies and knew chili powder needed to go in too. Just a couple weeks before, and I had been perusing the archives of a beautiful blog, Local Milk, and come across these enticing cookies. I figured they would be the perfect platform to work from for my own creation.

Double Chocolate Mango Chili Cookies
Adapted from Local Milk Blog

I brought these cookies to two different groups, and both were raving about them for the next few weeks (and beyond). I used 1/2 teaspoon of a strong chili powder that created a lovely effect of warming the back of the throat distinctly in the course of eating the cookie, but by the end the lingering flavor was more deep chocolate and salty-sweet than burning heat.

Yields about two dozen cookies.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2-1 tsp chili powder (increase or decrease depending on heat of particular spice and personal preference)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
4 oz. dark chocolate chips
4 oz. milk chocolate chips
2/3 cup dried mango, finely chopped
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped (optional)
raw turbinado sugar, to coat (optional)
flaky sea salt (e.g. Maldon) to garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and chili powder in a bowl.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter until pale and fluffy. Scraping down as needed, beat in sugars until very smooth and fluffy again, 2-3 minutes.

On medium speed, add vanilla and one egg at a time until incorporated. Slowly add dry ingredient mixture on low speed, stopping right before it is entirely incorporated. Remove from machine and use a large spatula or wooden spoon to fold in chocolate chips, dried mango, and macadamia nuts.

Spoon dough into Tablespoon-sized balls, roll gently between palms, and place in freezer for about 20 minutes if wanting to bake immediately, or allow to freeze completely, move to zip-lock for longer storage, and freeze for up to two weeks before proceeding to next step.

Once the cookie balls are chilled to almost-firm, remove from freezer, roll in turbinado sugar to coat, and space evenly on a baking tray lined with parchment. Sprinkle the top of each with flaky sea salt, and bake for 10-14 minutes, until edges are set and the top looks just barely wet.

Allow to cool slightly on their tray before moving to a cooling rack. Once completely cool, store in an airtight container for up to 24 hours...if there are any left to store!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

drawing on inspiration; an appeal for beauty to abound


I see the words crème fraîche and pumpkin together in the same recipe title...

Vanilla beans are dispersed into a milky infusion of spices;

Someone mentions they are on to their next cookbook project;

Someone else expresses their love of Campari;

Intricate pattern and lace are carved out of newspaper;

Burrata tenderly torn apart on a plate of tomato juices and breaded eggplant takes me back to my first taste of this decadent cheese -- in my first real job post-college;

A pineapple fragmented behind the glass of a punch bowl, all graciously layered and brushed into life by the hand and sight of an artist;

Gathered ingredients for a simple vinaigrette suddenly look like they belong in a frame -- similar hues of pink, grey, and varying yellows and neutrals bring a torn seal, the wispy skin of a shallot, and a cutting board together.

Sometimes it is too tempting as an artist to spend so much time surrounded by inspiration that we neglect to put our own creativity to use. Inspiration is essential (and it's delightful), but there are times when the busyness of intake overwhelms all opportunities for output.

Just yesterday, one of my young art students sat at her desk bent over a colorful palette of oil paint. She had taken her canvas from its easel and rested it on her lap. Cross-legged, she cradled a little story of life and motion as it came into vibrant clarity through her touch. I was jealous, in the best of ways.

I am beginning to map out a series of artwork through sketch and watercolor application, and I can't wait to share it with you as it unfolds. (Even more so, I can't wait to begin its unfolding and be surprised, myself, with the parts of the process that I can't predict.) Process from start to finish on artistic endeavors is full of unknowns, and I love how often these things start out with one aim or goal in mind and then take on a life of their own. Or how they require life and action to begin even before any sort of end hope is in sight.


Last summer I spent a lot of time painting to get ready for an art show. The timing was burdensome and yet also perfect as I battled my way through the emotions of a break-up. Often times my energy felt sapped, and I wanted to be out in the sun doing nothing. Simultaneously, I wanted to be constantly within close reach of people so loneliness could be kept in check and silence wouldn't surface anything unwelcome. Many of us have been through this sort of thing, I know.

I stumbled upon some writing I had done in that time in my studio and thought I'd share a bit of the artist process that helped me move along, sometimes haltingly so.

In recent days, I have finally chosen to lift up a weapon of resistance to these doldrums, to the weight that keeps me burying my nose in my pillow as my body stirs to morning light. In daylight hours my paintbrush has become a sword wielded in defense of the nighttime emptiness deep in my belly, when a pillow pressed close and long against my body serves to temper the ache.

As subtle of a defiance and as mild of a fight as I have the strength to entertain, taking paint to canvas holds hope. I do not understand how it will help these days pass into a further-healed state, but I am aware that placing a slender piece of wood between my fingers, bristled end wet and coated in deep hue, emotes worthwhile action.

This small measure of being entirely and utterly surrendered reduces down to a basic routine: Fill water cup, squeeze bent small paint tube, select paintbrush tip. Smear colors together, reach, dip, apply to canvas. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 

Rhythm helps my mind to ease and my breath to release. Rhythm seems so simple, an elementary, intuitive step. But daily rhythms of grace and renewal have been few in number. Of my own selection and impulses, their presence near me has diminished as I have turned and twisted and responded both wisely and foolishly to the unpredictable emotions of being utterly tender...

As I rise up and lay down, as I go to work and cook my meals, as dishes are washed and grief is forgotten in sweet pockets of genuine laughter, I’ll let time move forward. I will wait in hope and in forward motion. I will blink my eyes open at a new day and wonder if memories will be a little less raw in the coming hours. I will attend to my canvases and paint the beautiful details around me and appeal for Beauty to abound. It will again.

Maybe, just maybe, as I am inspired by the links at the beginning of this post and by the reminder and reflection upon putting my artist impulses into action, you will be as well. That is why I share this today.



On a closing aside, a beautiful little space in San Francisco to find inspiration is at the corner of Gough Street at Oak. I popped in with my cousin on a quiet Friday morning at ten o'clock. At that point only a small table was occupied (by three middle-aged grizzly-bearded men in Carhartts sipping Blue Bottle, I might add). This place is pristine (a wonderful juxtaposition to the casual trio customers). That is the word that kept coming to mind, as natural light poured into the space, highlighting each intentionally placed detail. Beautiful lighting, rich fabrics, and authentic vintage decor, 20th Century Cafe has already received press for its interior design by the owner, Michelle Polzine.

We each ordered a cappuccino and split an irresistible slice of the Russian Honey Cake that sat tall and elegant on its cake stand on the corner of the bar. I will certainly be back to try the apple strudel and was left wishing this place was close enough to home to make a regular stopping point.



{In case you missed it, each of the sentences at the beginning of this post does link to a blog very worthy of your time. Promise.}

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Layering Crepes & Wearing Gumboots

crepe cake

I smiled to myself at how silly I must look, pulling off knee-high gumboots while passing through security in arid Oakland, California. Not a cloud in the sky, and I had donned these thick black boots as I headed out this morning knowing that even if it wasn't raining when I landed at my destination, it could any moment. More importantly, the rain could come in heavy the next morning, and I'd be stuck trekking down a small wooded path in heels and potentially ruining them in the muddy meadow below.

Indeed, less than twenty-four hours later, my little sister gathered up the lace skirt of her ivory wedding dress, we ducked under umbrellas, and the three of us ladies on the female side of the wedding party wound downward on a trail of rain-moistened brown pine needles toward the white tent where the rest of those gathered to celebrate awaited.


As it goes with Washington rain, its downfall was gentle and ebbed and flowed, released from a light slate colored layer of clouds and fog over Puget Sound, misted over and only slightly discernible from our hilltop meadow framed in evergreens. There were a few intervals of heavy rain that beat down upon the top of the tent, and though I don't remember where exactly in the ceremony, I do remember swallowing a smile at how perfectly the sound accentuated the drama of the moment. (A few days later, my sister told me how their first night -- staying in a glass-walled one-night rental overlooking the Sound -- she and her husband witnessed the most powerful thunderstorm of their lives. I would take that as a good start to a marriage.)


The initial focus of my return to Bellingham was all wedding. Within an hour of landing I was cracking ten eggs and squeezing the juice out of even more lemons in order to make a French Lemon Cream. A friend had played an essential part in making my dessert creation possible by blending together a large batch of crepe batter the day before. Lemon cream thickened and chilling in the refrigerator, I set to work on building a stack of crepes sufficient for a stunningly tall and beautiful crepe cake. After the rehearsal dinner I returned to this task with my sister and fellow bridesmaid for company at the nearby kitchen table as we sipped white wine, and I began layering crepes sandwiched with sweet buttery lemon cream.


The good food and even better company continued through the next few days, long after the newlyweds flew off on their honeymoon and I camped out in their apartment.

Between the many lingering hugs with an extra squeeze; Friday's stunning sunset; candid conversations of frustration and joy; glasses clinking in cheers; dancing to music you have to shout to sing along to; driving without GPS; and still getting to create new memories with old, old friends; I left feeling filled. It was a gracious sort of loved-to-the-brim feeling that released me to willingly return to my new home and the possibilities I'm still discovering in a place where I look at my black patent Hunter gumboots and wonder if I'll ever find a need to wear them here.



{In regards to making your own crepe cake, resources are not hard to find online. And it truly is as straightforward as stacking crepes with a delicious filling between each layer, though straightforward does not translate to this being a quickly assembled dessert. I whipped up mascarpone, added a vanilla bean and powdered sugar to taste, and folded it with whipped cream for the top of the wedding cake. I would recommend starting at Smitten Kitchen.}


[All photos in this post were taken with my travel-friendly iPhone, except for the fully-assembled crepe cake shot at the top. This one was by my brother, Kiah, and all photo credit is due to him.]

Monday, August 26, 2013

Equally Amazing Feats


It has been a tumultuous week, to say the least. Never one to readily own the characteristic of being "dramatic," nevertheless, the passionate, artistic side of me does swing in stronger sometimes and paint life's moments with additional flair. But always while keeping my feet close to the ground, or so I hope.

With that preface, I can still honestly say that looking back over the last seven days, I've felt a whole lot of gratitude, anxiety, triumph, and despair. It's always a good exercise of humility to put oneself in situations outside of our full competence, and I felt despairingly incompetent as I struggled to smoothly shift gears and keep my car's engine running in the manual vehicle I was so graciously given in this time between owning vehicles. It was a good place to be in the long run, and it's a place I'm glad to have moved maneuvering through parking lots and accomplishing other equally amazing feats.


I hopped on the Bart and enjoyed a day and night in one of my favorite cities, exploring it sans vehicle, which is my preferred manner. The smells of San Francisco's streets are sweet, sour, filthy, and homey depending which street you wander down, and I always leave inspired for future kitchen endeavors by what I eat and drink. I recommend Absinthe for a cocktail (but don't stop at the drink menu), Contraband for a cappuccino and morning pastry, and a donut from Bob's, especially if you see them pulling the buttermilk variety fresh out of the oil as you're passing by. Even (especially?) if it is past ten o'clock at night, and you know they're going to turn around, dunk it in that maple glaze and hand it to you so hot that you almost have to alternate it between each hand for a couple minutes. I've never really raved about a donut, and generally can pass them by without much regret, but this was worth every sweet bite.


A recent cake I baked turned out so well, I'll surely return to it and do wish there had been enough to share a slice with you. Half of it made its way to a brunch with some ladies who are fast becoming essential friends in my new city, and the other half went to work with me, where it quickly disappeared down to crumbs in the break room.

The base recipe is from Dolce Italiano, a cookbook I was introduced to at my pastry station at Ciao Thyme. I know it will eventually make its way into my personal cookbook collection because every recipe I've made and heard others have made from Gina DePalma's pages is worth sharing and repeating. Her recipe titles alone make my mouth water.

This zucchini cake is moist enough to improve over a day and last up to two or three. The original recipe includes walnuts and a crunchy lemon glaze, but I had my heart set on adding in blueberries. Whole grain spelt flour was hanging around my pantry, so I substituted it in for part of the flour and added toasted coconut. I was excited about the blueberry-coconut combination as well, but my coconut strands were so small and my measurement of half a cup so gentle that it hardly came through. Nothing was lacking without, though; this cake can stand well on its own without any tinkering. (If you want to fancy it up, though, go for that crunchy lemon glaze or a drizzled glaze of salted caramel and sprinkling of pine nuts.)


Zucchini Blueberry Cake
Adapted from Dolce Italiano

1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole-grain spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 small zucchini)

1 cup small wild blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 10-cup capacity bundt pan.

Combine both of the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a medium bowl, whisk, and set aside.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until well combined, about two minutes. Slowly add olive oil while mixer is on medium speed. Keep mixing until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Beat in the dry ingredients all at once on low speed until they are thoroughly combined, then switch to medium speed and mix for 30 seconds. Mix in the zucchini on low speed until just incorporated. Thoroughly incorporate zucchini in this final step by folding in blueberries and giving it all a final gentle stir.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake the cakes for 40 to 45 minutes or until a tester inserted in the cakes comes out clean and the cakes have begun to pull away from the sides of the pans.

After 10-15 minutes of rest on a cooling rack, poke down along the edges of the pan and the inner tube with a butter knife, invert, and de-pan.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Friendship in a New Place and a Salad


It's payday. That is my thought as I note the date.

My second paycheck in this new job is coming through, and this is no dream I'm living. This past week has in fact felt mildly like a nightmare. I've wanted to wake myself up and breathe a sigh of relief as my eyes adjust to the light and all the tension, self-condemnation, and tears become unnecessary.

But it takes release, faith, and intentional energy to quiet these responses, rather than a merciful awakening. The self-condemnation seems to a be a futile wearying cycle for I know I get the point -- be more mindful of changing traffic speeds on the freeway, particularly while changing lanes. Ultimately, I have much to be grateful for; there are no injuries and the collision was relatively minor.

But there goes my car, a combination of constructed parts that apparently I grew quite attached to in two years. It gave me a sense of freedom and initiative, and while it wasn't ever going to last a lifetime, its end does feel premature.

Not having the answers to how things will look in the next few steps of this process is hard. I'm at a place of need and that's a good thing, as uncomfortable as it often feels. It's a chance to let myself be helped and experience the friendships that have indeed formed in the last month.



A few weekends ago I headed out for a wonderful dinner with new friends in a new-to-me home. Hugging a heavy ceramic bowl before me, I brought my contribution: a purple and green salad full of crunchy roasted hazelnuts and walnuts.

Inspiration for the salad came from one of my favorite food sources: Nigel Slater. If I haven't waxed poetic about him on this site then, well, I've been exercising some serious self-control because I am pretty smitten by this man's writing. (Though, if you do a Nigel Slater search on my blog, as I just did, you will find a mention from four years ago that discusses a perfectly wonderful cake...I equate phrases like "perfectly wonderful" with Nigel quite frequently.)

I own Ripe, The Kitchen Diaries, Real Fast Food, and Real Fast Desserts...and will help out anyone looking to buy me a gift by dropping the obvious hint that I would gladly add all his cookbooks to my collection.


So, back to Ripe, which I was thumbing through with salad in mind. I stopped the pages from turning when my eyes fell on A "New" Waldorf Salad and the herb-filled dressing on top of such a simple, fresh flavor palate pulled me in. Not being able to leave well-enough alone, I wanted to add more salad-y bulk, so shaved napa cabbage and raddichio were penned onto my grocery list along with the apples and celery. I had access to a generous amount of local walnuts from last year's harvest and decided to throw in hazelnuts as well to add further crunchy, toasty elements.

Like I said, it was the herbs in this salad's dressing that really got me, and I would encourage you not to hold back here either. Plenty of mint and parsley whisked into an emulsion of crème fraîche and olive oil, seasoned just right, is not just a wonderful thought with apples, celery, nuts, and cabbage but would work well in so many other ways.


A Waldorf Salad (of sorts)
Adapted from Ripe, by Nigel Slater

Serves 6, as a side salad.

2 apples, a sweet crisp variety like Pink Lady
2 celery stalks
Quarter to half of Napa Cabbage, depending on size
Half to whole Radicchio, depending on size
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted

4 Tablespoons Crème Fraîche
5 Tablespoons Flat-leaf Parsley, chopped
5 Tablespoons Fresh Mint, chopped
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Zest of One Lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

If those nuts are not already toasted, turn your oven to 350F and watch closely as you fill your kitchen with their fragrance, stirring and roasting on a single layer for approximately 10 minutes.

Chop apple and celery. Chiffonade (or thinly slice) cabbage and raddichio. Combine all in large bowl.

Whisk together crème fraîche and olive oil, slowly adding oil until smoothly emulsified. Add lemon zest. Stir in freshly chopped herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add dressing to bowl of vegetables and apples and toss. Toss in walnuts and hazelnuts right before serving.