Friday, December 30, 2011

To Build a Better Buche

It's funny, isn't it, how the year silently slips by on a kitten's velvet paws. I feel as if nothing happened at all in 2011, but that's wrong. This year marked the biggest changes in my life so far. My life's opening chapter, a peaceful story on which I will always look with great happiness, has concluded. I hope the next chapter will be just as warm.

Each year at Christmas, we make a buche de noel. This year, Zoe and I wanted to do something different. Even though chocolate is my favorite food, we deserted the normal chocolate dessert and went with a chocolate-free recipe. It turns out that sometimes, to build a better buche, you have to abandon what you're familiar with. In this cake, the soft gingerbread is rolled with whipped cream and coated in a sweet spiced frosting. This yule log is a lot of work, but it's worth every bite. 

(And the mushroom recipe will follow shortly!)

Gingerbread Buche de Noel
Adapted from Bon Apetit and

3 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Whipped cream filling:
3/4 cup chilled whipping cream
1/4 c sour cream
4 oz marscapone (optional)
1/4 c powdered sugar
1 T brandy
1 t vanilla

Brown Sugar Spice Frosting:
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice

To prepare cake:
Preheat oven to 350. Line a greased 15 x 10 inch jellyroll pan with waxed paper; grease and flour wax paper. Set pan aside.

Beat egg yolks at high speed with an electric mixer until thick and pale. Gradually add butter and molasses, beating until blended. In another bowl, beat egg whites at high speed until foamy. Gradually add sugar, 1 T at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and sugar dissolves (2-4 minutes). Fold egg whites into yolk mixture.

Combine flour and next 6 ingredients; gradually fold flour mixture into egg mixture. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. 

Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or just until cake springs back when touched lightly.

While the cake is baking, sift a whole ton of powdered sugar in a 15 x 10 inch rectangle on a cloth towel. When cake is done, immediately loosen from sides of pan, and turn out onto sugared towel. Peel off the wax paper. Roll up cake and towel together; cool completly on a wire rack, seam side down.

For whipped cream:
Beat all ingredients in medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Unroll cake. Spread with filling. Roll up cake only (not towel). Place seam side down on long platter and refrigerate.

For frosting:
Stir brown sugar and cream in heavy small saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves and mixture simmers. Place in freezer until cold, about 15 minutes. Beat butter, powdered sugar and spices in medium bowl until fluffy. Beat in cold brown sugar mixture. Spread frosting all over cake. Chill until set, at least 2 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; chill.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Colors

My family has many holiday traditions (like decorating a Christmas tree and then viewing it through goggles that turn the lights into Hanukkah-appropriate six-pointed stars), but for some reason, a fancy Christmas dinner is not really one of them. When Zoe and I decided to plan an elaborate Christmas dinner this year, we were stumped as to what people usually eat for Christmas. A roast? Or maybe a turkey? Is that only for Thanksgiving? Perhaps a ham? Must Christmas dinner involve large portions of meat? 

In the end, we decided to skip meat altogether and instead derive festiveness from a red and green color scheme. We brainstormed red and green foods, then went to the winter farmer's market to find veggies for our harvest feast. It's no surprise that there are tons of red and green dishes, like kale with cranberries or tomatoes, for which we just didn't have space or time. Here is our menu, inspired by the red and green ornaments on our sparkling tree.

 salad with red striped beets and watermelon radishes
 swiss chard tart (see recipe below)
 baked tomatoes and zucchini 
 kiwi tart with raspberry coulis (see recipe below)

Swiss chard tart
Adapted (barely) from Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells

1 cup flour
1/4 t salt
1/4 c olive oil
1 large bunch swiss chard (red, not rainbow, to be more festive)
1 small onion
3 eggs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400. 

Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in 1/4 c water and then the oil, mixing until well blended. Knead briefly. Press the dough into tart pan (a 10 inch tart pan for a thicker pie or a 14 inch pan for a thinner one). The dough will be weirdly wet, but it's fine.

Wash and dry the swiss chard. Cut out the center stem. Dice the stems, the leaves, and the onion, keeping the leaves separate from the stems. 

In a large skillet, heat some olive oil. Cook the onions and stems together until the onions are translucent. Remove the onions and stems and place into a small bowl. Next, put the green leaves into the hot pan and cook until it's all wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated. 

Combine the eggs and cheese in a medium bowl and mix well. Add the chard leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well. 

Pour the green egg mixture into the pastry shell (yes, I know the pastry hasn't been cooked yet). Spoon the red stems and onions onto the leaves in a pretty pattern. 

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the crust is golden and the chard mixture is firm and browned. 

Kiwi tart with raspberry coulis
Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
A perfect use for ripe Thanksgiving kiwis. The coulis is just for a red contrast to fit our theme, so you really don't need to use it. And this basic tart shell and pastry cream would be a delightful background for any soft fruit that doesn't need to cook, especially strawberries or raspberries. 

1 tart crust, baked and cooled
2/3 c sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
2 T cornstarch
pinch salt
2 eggs
2 cups light cream, half-and-half, or whole milk (I used 1/2 c heavy cream and 1 1/2 c skim milk)
2 t vanilla extract
2 T unsalted butter, softened
kiwis (6 to 9 probably, though more is better)
1/2 c raspberry or strawberry jam

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt. Beat together well the eggs and cream in a small bowl. Stir the cream mixture into the sugar mixture over medium heat. Whisk to eliminate lumps and stir almost constantly for 10 minutes until the mixture boils and thickens. Continue to cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon and when you draw your finger through the mixture, the resulting line holds its shape. Stir in the butter and vanilla. Cool the pastry cream for a few minutes. If you want to make the pastry cream in advance, refrigerate topped directly with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. 

To assemble the tart, spread a layer of pastry cream on the bottom of the tart shell (you might not use all of the pastry cream). Slice the kiwis very thinly and arrange them over the tart.

For a teeny taste of raspberry coulis, put a few spoonfuls of jam in a strainer and mix around to remove the seeds. Spoon the smooth pink jam into a ziplock and cut off the corner. Drizzle the coulis over the kiwis and serve!

Rich tart crust

1 1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
2 T sugar
10 T cold unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
3 T ice water

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar (in a food processor if you have one). Add the butter and process with a food processor, your fingers, or a pastry blender. Blend until the mixture looks like cornmeal, then add the egg yolks and process another few seconds. Sprinkle 3 T of water over the mixture and gradually gather the mixture into a ball. Wrap the ball in plastic, flatten it into a disk, and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes (or freeze for 10).
Roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap or on a countertop with a lot of flour. When the diameter of the dough is about 2 inches more than the diameter of the tart pan, move the dough into the tart pan. Press firmly into the bottom and sides of pan and patch holes with the scraps. 

Prick the crust with a fork. Line with tin foil and weight the bottom with dried beans or pie weights (or weigh the crust down with a heavy glass pie pan sitting on top of the dough). Bake the crust for 12 minutes at 425. Remove the crust from the oven, remove the weight and foil, then bake another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Let the crust cool on a rack. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Christmas Spirit

I know Thanksgiving is the holiday officially dedicated to being thankful, but it seems to me that Christmas is a better occasion for giving thanks. Over the past few days while studying for my finals, I've been able to reflect on my very first collegiate semester. I've discovered what I need to change and what I love as is. For an example of what I adore, see the picture up top. My plants on the windowsill, my Christmas lights sparkling on the red tinsel, my New Yorker covers with the NYC address label on them... How cute is my room? 

And even cuter are the friends I've made. I'm never going to forget how happy last night was, just sitting on the floor of my room with my three closest friends. Thank you Asia, Aria, and Anna, for helping me create new Christmas traditions in my new home.

These absurdly gorgeous roquefort tarts with arugula, grapes, and pomegranate were made by Matt for a Christmas get together with the e-board of Culinary Society. Matt has impeccable taste. And someone else brought a coconut flan to die for. Too bad the recipe is a secret.

(And Mama, if you're reading this, I promise that I study too, not just eat and sit on my floor. Although I do an awful lot of sitting on my floor eating with friends.)

I'm going to miss this scene over the next month. My school is beautiful. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finals, so soon?

I hope the rest of my life doesn't go by as fast as this semester did, or the next time I blink I'll be dead.

It was really a wonderful semester, though. This weekend was my second orchestra concert. Between the two concerts, I had ten relatives come from Ohio, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey to make up my cheering section. I felt so loved. Thank you for coming to my concert!

(P.S. Have I mentioned that I'm eating gluten again? And lactose, too. I think my stomach was just angry at me for dorm food in general, not wheat and dairy specifically.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

An Excellent Holiday

Stuffing, turkey, sweet potato, applesauce, cranberry sauce... 
all on top of Doris's amazing homemade bread. Can it get any better?

Sam's sandwich creation was inspired by the gods. Just look at this drama shot.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Make this cake.

Sometimes the nicest way to renew your affection for home is to go away for a few days. Staying in Boston this weekend for fall break was the most nights I've been away from my room since making my home in the city. It was just what I needed: a vacation with my two favorite people and a chance to renew my mental energy for the rest of the semester. I had three days of visiting friends, shopping, baking, and relaxing with my dad and stepmom. On Tuesday, I took the bus back to campus with a pair of red suede heels, an "I Voted!" sticker (!!I'M SO OLD!!), new speakers for my laptop, and half a three-layer birthday cake.

It took all the will power I possess not to dive in to this peanut butter fantasy with my bare hands on the bus ride home. This gargantuan confection is serious business... I don't even know what to write. The cake says it all.

Listen closely. For me, the cake says, "I'm such a lucky duck, getting the best roomie in the universe. You're absurdly smart and fashionable and just about the sweetest person I've ever met. Happy birthday Asia! Welcome to my crazy family!"

P.S. I was too lazy to lug my camera down from the third floor to the kitchen... but luckily the best photographer at Columbia was right by my side. All the pictures in this post are taken by Shriya. She is the very best. 

Asia looks happy, no? 

Make this cake and eat it. I don't care if you don't like peanut butter, you don't eat gluten, or you don't like chocolate. TRY THIS CAKE.

(Don't die, though. Allergies are serious business.)

This cake was all due to Smitten Kitchen. You're a wonderful lady, Deb.

Peanut Butter Layer Cake
adapted from Smitten Kichen (who got it from Sky High)

1 peanut butter cake layer
2 chocolate cake layers
peanut butter cream cheese frosting
dark chocolate peanut butter glaze

Bake the chocolate and peanut butter layers according to recipes below. After allowing each to cool, wrap in saran wrap and put in the freezer until you have finished making the peanut butter frosting and you are ready to ice your cake with the first frosting.

Place one chocolate layer on the cake plate and spread with 2/3 cup peanut butter cream cheese frosting. Repeat with the peanut butter layer, then the final chocolate layer. Frost top and sides with the rest of the peanut butter frosting. Make sure the sides are beautiful and smooth, but the top is less important because it will be covered with chocolate glaze.

Make the dark chocolate glaze when the rest of the cake is finished. While it is still warm, pour it on to the top of the iced cake. Spread it over the top of the cake, allowing the thick glaze to drip down the sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake to allow the glaze and frosting to set. Decorate the top of the cake as desired.

Chocolate Cake Layers
from Hershey's

2 c sugar
1 3/4 c flour
3/4 cocoa
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 eggs
1 c milk
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 t vanilla
1 c boiling water

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.
Stir together dry ingredients. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla, and beat for two minutes. Stir in boiling water. The batter will be strangely thin. Pour into the prepared pans.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Peanut Butter Cake Layer
adapted from

1 1/4 c cake flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 1/8 c sugar
1/4 c softened unsalted butter
1/4 c creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1/3 c milk

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour one round 9 inch cake pan. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and set aside. In a large bowl, beat together sugar, butter, and peanut butter until creamy. Add egg and vanilla, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour mixture and milk in alternating batches. The batter will be unusually thick. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting 
from Smitten Kitchen

10 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1 stick softened unsalted butter
5 cups confectioners' sugar
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter (a commercial brand so that the oil doesn't separate out)

Beat cream cheese and butter together with an electric mixer in a large bowl. Add the confectioners' sugar in small batches, beating well after each addition. Beat frosting until light and fluffy. Add the peanut butter and beat until blended.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Glaze
from Smitten Kitchen

8 oz semisweet chocolate
3 T smooth peanut butter
2 T corn syrup
1/2 c half-and-half or light cream

In the top of a double boiler, combine chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Stir often until the chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat and add the cream. Whisk until it is incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
Spread on the cake while still warm.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Control Freak

The majority of the meals I eat in the dining hall center around the salad bar. After I heard that the dining hall puts pancake batter in the scrambled eggs, I don't really trust any of their cooked food. I'm not scared to get sick, but I like knowing what I'm putting in my mouth. Eating from the salad bar allows me to obsess over literally every lettuce leaf before I eat it. In eating so many salads, I've gotten good at navigating the salad bars. Sometimes the offerings change, (I get very excited when they offer baby corn, arugula, or snap peas) but I have a favorite salad at each dining hall. Here are my tips for navigating salad bars. 

1. Don’t choose every ingredient that looks good. Salads are best when you stick to a few key ingredients. Choose the freshest vegetables and fruits available and build a salad around those fundamentals. My go-to salad at my favorite dining hall is mixed greens with mandarin oranges, cranberries, and walnuts. 

2. Remember to add protein to your salad. Grilled chicken is an obvious choice, but sometimes dining hall chicken looks suspicious. Instead, add hard boiled eggs or cubes of tofu or toss walnuts on your salad for a fun crunch. I can never find potatoes and green beans for a salad nicoise, but I like romaine topped with shredded carrots, cucumbers, and hard-boiled eggs.

3. Always top your salad simply with olive oil and vinegar. Before reaching for a bottled dressing, ask yourself if you really want to pour high fructose corn syrup on your lettuce. You can never go wrong with balsamic vinegar to offer sweetness and tang to your veggies.

4. Grind pepper and salt on your salad if you used plain vinegar and oil to dress it. Seasoning vegetables with salt is easy to forget, but it can instantly spruce up a flavorless salad.  

5. If you get bored easily, try skipping the lettuce once in a while. Add grilled chicken (if it looks safe) to tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, kalamata olives, and feta cheese (crossing my fingers that it's available) for a flavorful Greek salad. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dorm Room Cooking

I miss cooking. I miss the freedom to eat anything at any time and I miss the control I have over every detail of my meal. I miss the chaotic mess on the counter during preparation and I miss the smoothness of my soapy hands when I'm washing dishes.

I miss buying groceries so much that I've stopped seeing the dishes at the dining hall as complete meals and started seeing ingredients begging to be reformatted. What if I stir fry the raw tofu, broccoli, and baby corn from the salad bar and serve it over rice taken from the action station? What if I roast cherry tomatoes from the salad bar then toss them with hot pasta from the home station and fresh arugula?

Today, I decided that I would find a way to cook even without any equipment. My main constraints were that I have no pots, cutting boards, or utensils and that the kitchen is filthy and I have no way to clean it (paper towels and hand soap isn't working so well). I took a few things from the dining hall and gathered my materials on the table in the lounge. Ready, set, devilled eggs.

Dorm Room Devilled Eggs

mayonnaise packets (from the dining hall)
spicy mustard (dining hall)
salt and pepper packets (from McDonald's)
hard boiled eggs (poached (lol) from the salad bar)
pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds (salad bar)
romaine (salad bar)
plastic camping plate and bowl
plastic knife and spoon

On the plastic plate, cut each egg in half. Scoop out the yolks with your spoon and put them in the bowl. Add three or so mayonnaise packets, some mustard, and some salt and pepper. Squish the yolks with the back of the spoon and mix well. Spread the lettuce on the plate and arrange the whites around the lettuce. Scoop the yolk mixture into the whites and garnish with pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Admire your creation and enjoy!

Friday, September 30, 2011


My dad isn't the kind of guy who likes to collect stuff. He'd be happiest if he didn't own anything at all. One day last summer, he explained his minimalism to me. When most people see something desirable, they think, "Wow. There's something attractive. I would be very happy to own that object!" For him, if he sees something desirable, he thinks, "Wow. There's something attractive. I'm happy to know that that object exists." He tries to remind me to be happy in the knowledge that something good exists, so that I don't need to actually buy it. When first offered the opportunity to buy a Chromebook, I desperately wanted to get my hands on one, but he talked me out of it. He reminded me that I can appreciate the existence of Google's creation without actually purchasing a second laptop.

Even though he has talked me out of a Chromebook and many other purchases, in one specific arena, I was never content with just knowing something exists. When it comes to food, I couldn't just see some yummy treat and walk past. I always had the overwhelming urge to stick food in my mouth, like a little kid in a candy shop. The evidence always pointed to me being lactose intolerant and I occasionally thought about becoming a vegetarian, but I always refused to stop eating any type of food. I didn't want to limit my options by going meatless or dairyless, because then what would I do if I saw a really yummy looking cheeseburger? I wouldn't be able to say no. 

A few days ago, I realized that I needed to make a change in my diet. My stomach was constantly hurting due to my switch to dorm food. Something I read recently about gluten-free diets convinced me to give it a try, just to see my stomach's reaction. For a little over two days now, I've been completely gluten- and lactose-free. My stomach's feeling a lot better, but that might just be a placebo. I'm going to keep eating this way for a few weeks and then I'll evaluate my dietary situation. In some sick, twisted way, I hope going gluten-free doesn't help me, because I could really use some cinnamon toast. 

But whether or not I decide to reintroduce gluten into my diet, this diet is forcing me to learn my dad's materialism lecture first hand. Just because I can't personally indulge in a chicken sandwich or spaghetti with meatballs doesn't mean that I can't appreciate the existence of my favorite foods. I can still be a foodie without eating everything in my grasp, and maybe I'll even forgive myself for becoming one of those despised picky eaters. 

So let me sit here and appreciate the existence of this beautiful grilled cheese from Deluxe. I can lean in close to smell the cheddar then wrap my hands around the sandwich to feel the squish of the buttery white bread. I will see and smell and touch this sandwich, but I don't need anything more. I'm content that it exists. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I'm glad that I have friends that will scramble around Manhattan in search of macaroni with me, then pose as hand models. Check it out!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Time and Tacos

At noon today, under a light drizzle of rain, I ran back from the cafeteria with paper plates precariously stacked. At the bottom was my big mound of salad (romaine with mandarin oranges, cranberries, walnuts, balsamic vinegar and olive oil), followed by a mozzarella and tomato sandwich for my roommate, and then the top plate had a thick slice of lemon pound cake to share for dessert. I carried this treasure to a conference room where I met my roommate, a few friends and a few strangers for a lunchtime workshop on time management. I nibbled my romaine while the first-year dean talked to the roomful of girls about the battle between organization and procrastination. 

I can't stop thinking about the workshop. While I didn't learn any new tricks for saving time or a better way to manage my schedule, we did an exercise in delegating the hours in a week to specific purposes that I can't forget. On a time sheet of a typical week, we shaded in every time commitment. I crossed off the night for sleeping, a few hours for classes, more hours for tutoring, p.e., orchestra rehearsals, meals, and club meetings. We counted up the remaining free hours and I had around fifty hours left between all seven days. Next the dean had us calculate how many hours we should spend on average studying and preparing for class; she said for my courseload, around forty hours is about right. Subtract and you find my remaining unscheduled time to be ten hours per week. I'm allotting myself ten hours a week for practicing cello, doing laundry, writing articles, taking showers, blogging, cleaning my room, cooking, keeping up my journal, going to the gym... 

Is my schedule insane? Clearly. Do I want to change it? Not at all. I don't know why I'm here and I don't know where I'm going, but I like where I am. I think I was born to be a college student. 

P.S. An update on exactly what is filling up my schedule: I'm working on whittling down the list of activities in which I want to participate and at the moment, I think it's down to three. This evening was my first orchestra rehearsal. I had forgotten how wonderful it feels to be a part of something so big and so beautiful. Straight from rehearsal, I ran to join my new friends in the Columbia Culinary Society. I was one of two leaders in a cooking class on making sweet and savory microwaved baked apples in your dorm room. We had a lot of fun playing with flavor combinations. And my third organization is, of course, the Spectator. I'm going to be writing a biweekly blog post comparing dishes from local restaurants, plus if I have time, I'll write additional articles for the daily newspaper. My first Spectrum blog post comparing two taquerias came out today, so check it out!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What I've Learned

I moved in two weeks ago, and so far I've tried almost every cafeteria on campus and chosen my favorite, I have finished my box of dental floss but haven't had time to buy another, I've worked out at the gym once, I've purchased envelopes and tupperware at the Kmart in the East Village, I've done two loads of laundry, I have strolled around Harlem with some friends, I have spent one sweaty night convinced I would die of strep throat, I've pressed through the crowds of beautiful people on Fashion's Night Out, and I've even sat through three days of classes. I'm learning a lot (mostly people's names) and there's nowhere I'd rather be.

Lesson One: It's good that I brought about fifteen pairs of shoes to school with me, because New York is full of beautiful places to walk. The High Line is a beautifully put together elevated park where you can strong along concrete paths between natural gardens for over a mile. There's even a lawn to lie on while you suck on a popsicle. If you look hard enough, you can find anything you need in the city, even green space.  

Lesson Two: New Yorkers are nicer than they'd like you to believe. No one has laughed at me when I ask for directions to the nearest subway stop or even when I'm on the train in the wrong direction. When I didn't have enough cash to buy macarons at Ruthy's in Chelsea Market, she gave them to me anyway.

Lesson Three: Dorm food isn't as bad as you'd expect. I'm not saying I'd gobble down everything that appears in the dining hall, but there's always something good to eat. Feeding hundreds of girls every day, the kitchen staff know to keep the salad bar fresh and full (you should have seen the riot when the romaine was finished and not refilled for ten whole minutes) and to have plenty of cake. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Going, going, gone.

Tomorrow, I'll wake up at five in the morning. By ten, I'll be in Manhattan. By four, less than twelve hours after waking up, I'll hug my dad goodbye. I'll watch him squiggle through Broadway's post-Irene traffic, headed for home. Without him, I'll be all alone, surrounded by girls identical to me. I'll be an ant in the anthill of Barnard College. Or maybe NYC is the anthill? I don't know what the metaphor is exactly, just that I'll be an ant. 

To my favorite teachers at West Side, to my classmates, to my debate competition, to my music teachers, to my family, to my neighbors, to my friends, to anyone who ever read this blog: if you ever come to New York, come say hi. I know a tiny bit of floor between two beds in a college dorm room that has your name on it. 

(Diane baked me an omgsheiseighteenandmovingaway cake. It was chocolate with marscapone coffee frosting and raspberry sauce, and it was the most amazing cake ever. Not to mention the fact that it followed my ideal meal: meatloaf with green beans and corn. Thank you, Diane!)


My sister is smarter than your sister. My parents are funnier than your parents. My cousins are prettier than your cousins. My grandparents are wiser than your grandparents. And my family recipes taste better than your family recipes. That's the way it is; deal with it.

It had been months since I saw my cousins and grandparents, so my day in rural New York last weekend was much appreciated. In the afternoon, I lay out in the sun with my cousins with vinegar in my hair (note: we smelled like salad, but it didn't lighten our hair) and the next morning, I made corn fritters with my grandma. Corn fritters are one family recipe I've already shared with you. They're less like pancakes than like fluffy piles of tender sweet corn. When touched with a fork, a fritter should fall apart and ooze maple syrup.  

I tried Date Nut Chocolate Bit Squares for the first time while I was there. Apparently my dad and his brother and sister were basically raised on these bars. DNCBS look like brownies, but one bite tells you it's not a brownie. These bars are light and cakey with a crown of currants, chocolate, and nuts. Try them and they'll become your own family recipe.

Nanny's Date Nut Chocolate Bit Squares (DNCBS)

1 3/4 c regular flour
2 T cocoa
1/2 t salt
1 c chopped dates
1 c boiling water
1 t baking soda
1/2 lb butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 c mini chocolate chips
1 c currants
1 c chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 325. Grease a 9x13 in pan. Stir together flour, cocoa, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, mix together chopped dates, boiling water, and baking soda. Let the dates cool while you cream the butter with the sugar in a third bowl. Add to the butter the eggs and vanilla, then flour mixture. Stir in date mixture. Pour batter into the greased pan. Top with currants, chocolate chips, and chopped nuts. Bake at 325 for 35 to 45 minutes. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

For Neha

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

By giving me this beautiful new book, Neha gave me ice cream for a lifetime. She knows how obsessed I am over Jeni's ice cream. Thank you, Neha!

If you have an interest in making ice cream, buy this book. I love reading cookbooks, and this one is an extremely good read with stunning pictures and detailed instructions. The flavors are real ones from Jeni's stores, each more intriguing than the last. Flipping page after page of ice cream porn leaves your hands itching for an ice cream maker.

Since I received the cookbook just a couple weeks ago, I have made basil ice cream with honeyed pine nuts, peanut butter ice cream with dark chocolate flakes, spicy curry chocolate ice cream with raisins and coconut, watermelon lemonade sorbet, and beet ice cream with marsapone, orange, and poppy seeds. Our ice cream machine has been spinning wildly and I've eaten more ice cream than I care to admit.

The fact that our kitchen has produced five flavors should by no means suggest that making this ice cream at home is easy. Most ice cream recipes require very few ingredients, just cream and sugar to make the basic recipe, but Jeni's is not that simple. Her easiest flavors involve cream, cream cheese, whole milk, cornstarch, corn syrup, and sugar. I'm usually extremely comfortable in the kitchen, but making Jeni's I find myself in all sorts of disasters, like pouring a bubbling black mess of pine nuts down the drain or straining white globs of cornstarch out of my liquid ice cream. It's fair to say these recipes are a challenge. I now totally understand why they're sold for $12 a pint. Jeni's is worth every penny.