Month: July 2010

My Father’s Birthday

My father’s birthday was quite some time ago, but today I had time to finally get around to baking a celebratory cake. I decided to be bold and part from the tried-and-trusted carrot cake with almonds to test a new recipe: Pear and Ginger Cake.

A favorable way to start the day: Saying good morning with freshly made waffles and raspberry+strawberry sauce, and a dollop of whipped cream.

My mother made a flavorful fish soup for dinner.

I like my world organized. Note that the cointreau replaces the rum called for in the recipe, because I didn’t have any of the latter available.

This is a very simple recipe, but required a bit more time since I only had two baking pans for the three required layers.  The liquid in the bowl is the homemade caramel, which was used as a glaze.

Almost ready for the party.

All suited up, and about to be dressed with chopped candied ginger.

Happy birthday!

Music: kaare norge – always on my mind


Garden Visitations

The small plot of land at the back of the house is starting to take shape. While it can’t compare to the land of our former property, which saw many productive fruit trees, vegetable plots, berry shrubs, strong willows, tall birches, and so forth, the more manageable rocky landscape here is beginning to resemble something close to a garden. Most recently, we welcomed a new addition to the family: the Saskatoon Berry tree.

The tree replaces the stubborn desert plant, which had thick and persistent roots that had spread deep into the ground.

This dead tree has long been a favorite hang out for the birds, most notably the one osprey that likes to perch on the large branch on the left while searching for its prey, or, perhaps, while contemplating its existence in this world.

I sprinkled old lavender seeds along the back; wild lavender is a hardy plant, and fights hard to survive – hopefully we’ll see the results in the following year. I’m thinking: Provence, France.

What better way to end the night than with a satay party on the balcony. Crisp, tender, and delicious with the peanut sauce. The neutral cubes of rice, crunchy cucumbers, and invigorating red onions are the perfect garnishes with the chicken and beef.

Music: Broadway Cast for the Lion King – The Lioness Hunt

Fast Patience

I was with my friend, Rachel, when I took these pictures from the shelter of our professor’s front porch. The occasional downpour provided a welcome reprieve from the heat and dust of coastal Tanzania. A few boys from the village had come by, fixing their plastic-bag-and-rope football while staying dry, if only for a moment, before running back out through the puddles.

Rachel has recently left for Tanzania once again to continue her research. While I miss the comradery we shared four years ago in the field, her presence there is a reminder of the solitary nature of the work we do. The process to get to India has been taxing to say the least, and it’s forcing me to really understand why it is that I’m going there in the first place.

Music: amadou and mariam – sabali |   rokia traore – sabali   |   nas and damian marley – patience (sabali) | also see mah bara soumano

allo, macaron

Well, it had to be done. It almost seemed obligatory for anyone with culinary leanings to express interest, if only feigned, in French macarons (not to be confused with macaroons). Up to this point, it had been easy to appreciate them from beyond the glass display case – pragmatically packaged, sized, and ordered, not to mention, very pretty. While my mild obsession with France and everything French died out rather abruptly after high school when reality started to overshadow romanticism, I think I’ve granted myself the right to let a bit of desire for some things French linger. But perhaps it was a) my brush in with the aloofness I encountered at Moroco Chocolat or b) the pretentious and at times haughty dialogue on macaron forums or c) the bill from purchasing a set of maracons from La Bamboche that turned me off the constructed aura around a bunch of egg whites that have been beaten to look like two bulging buttons.

My attempts at domesticating these desserts and making them in my own (read: my parents’) kitchen have been positive experiences. Frustrating, but beneficial. Suffice it to say that the things we deserve are within our grasp, that mastering anything requires commitment, perseverance, patience, and many, hard years; that failure is a force that can be harnessed into encouragement, and that the most important thing about food is not how it tastes but how it inspires connections.

After some research, I decided to try a recipe from La Tartine Gourmande: Cardamon, Wattle Seeds Macaron with Orange Filling. [I won’t post the recipes here, as the original sites deserve to be visited.] I was initially attracted by the unique use of cardamon in a non-savory food, and I have a soft spot for anything citrus. The recipe was straightforward enough to follow, but, as a first attempt, the results were rather… flat. I didn’t have the appropriate piping tip, nor did I opt for the use of the silpat, and had not figured out the temperament of the tricky gas oven. But, I must say, despite the unappealing texture, the flavor was delicious, an excellent pairing of slight spice with soft citrus.

They look dismal. Perhaps they were happy to be eaten.

Even after my mom, when asked, told me that I should just quit (thanks mom), I decided to give it another go with another recipe, this time using a firmer Italian meringue instead of the French meringue. Thanks to La Cuisine de Mercotte for the recipe. I thought it was a little over-the-top to measure and separate the egg whites five days in advance, but I wanted to do things as to-the-tee as possible for my first use of the recipe. I opted for adding matcha and making a simple chocolate ganache for the filling; seemed pretty foolproof to me. The consistency of the meringue during the whole process made me much more confident in the eventual shape the macarons would take.

With the right pipe, and a better consistency… round, round, round. I chose to let them sit for two hours to retain the shape.

After a short baking period, they are laid on a rack to cool.

I was thrilled to see feet. A mix of the chocolate and orange filling.

I’m not as eager to spend $2.50 on one of these little cookies at this point, and I have the urge to make an unruly fruit crumble.

Music: Al Bowlly – Guilty

Mountain Visitor

While in Vancouver, I received the following email from my mom.

Subject: Deer ate our bird seeds

See attachment – a baby deer this morning ate almost all the bird seed. So Pa is moving the bird feeder up to our balcony.

Music: sufjan stevens – come thou fount of every blessing