Thursday, February 7, 2008

Taking a Break

I have decided to take a break from blogging and blog-visiting for about six weeks. This is not only an effort to make a daily sacrifice but to use the time I would ordinarily spend on blogs expressing myself through painting and drawing and other types of creativity that are more difficult to discipline myself in.

I started this blog last October and have been so grateful for the comments and encouragement I have received. I have been inspired in cooking, art, and word by many in this food blog world, including Orangette, Chocolate & Zucchini, 101 Cookbooks, Aapplemint, and Smitten Kitchen. Go explore their sites if you haven't before. Just remember to come back to me!

Peace to you in this season -- the mingling of winter's chill with spring's hopeful awakening.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Surprised By the Common Orange.

My watch says it is going on six o'clock. Katie Melua's Pandora station is crooning to me in this quiet apartment. It's a lovely evening.

And if I stay inside pretending the sunshine giving a glow to branches and rooftops is as warming to the earth as my soul, it becomes even lovelier. Especially with the empty plate next to me. Scraped lines of crème fraîche and orange nutty crumbs are all that remain of a delicious orange cake.

Let me tell you about this cake. It is perhaps the most unusual recipe I have ever made, but when I stumbled upon it on Nigella's website I jotted down "oranges" on my grocery list.

However, I have the horrible habit of grazing over recipe directions until I am actually standing in the kitchen with ingredients spread before me. So, there I was Saturday afternoon with an orange in each hand, surprised to learn that I was supposed to plop them in a large pot of water to boil for two hours. Really? Whole oranges?

Shrugging my shoulders I obediently followed Nigella's prompting and returned to my bedroom to study.

Two hours later I had a pot of very yellow water and whole oranges that looked almost exactly like they had before. But as I picked up on the recipe, which now required the simplest of steps, a beautiful batter came together.

After I put it in the oven I finally began to get excited. For, as I was turning on the faucet to rinse out the mixing bowl, I decided to swipe a finger along the bowl's rim, and what I tasted was sweet and honest. Real citrus. Nibbly almonds.


I've been sharing the cake around since and it's still getting compliments. Tomorrow will likely be its last day of glory, but I know the recipe won't stay neglected for too long. Whether with afternoon tea or at a special dinner, there are too many occasions for cake out there. There are also too many citrus fruits out there secretly desiring to be dunked in a pot and minced into a proper pudding. (There. That word was my ode to Nigella, to Oxford, and to all things British/Kiwi that I love.)

Now go. Bake. Eat with those you love.

Orange Cake Recipe
by Nigella Lawson

Go here for a more detailed description of the recipe.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Soup and Bread and Wind

One of the first things I noticed when I walked into my room after returning from Christmas break was that the leaves on the tree outside my window had mostly fallen and only sparse, uneven bunches on the lower branches remained. These still cling to the tree in their brown shrivelled state.

As I listen to the wind and watch it shake these persistent leaves, they continue to hold on.

Just a few minutes ago I was outside, facing the same temperamental wind, wondering at times how my feet were still holding on to the ground as gentle gusts built to a violent momentum and then dropped back down to stillness.

The first leg of my walk around campus was the worst. I had to consciously lean into the wind and turn my squinted eyes downward. About halfway along this straight path with nothing but the aggressive sound of the wind in my ears I almost turned around, ready to forfeit my walk just to feel the wind at my back.

However, as I began to come up with cliché life metaphors for this wind, I determined to continue through while memories of windy times entered my mind. They are sweet memories. The kind of memories that cause the corners of my mouth to curl upward until I stop myself from breaking into a full blown smile or laugh. You know what I mean, right?

The windiest place I have ever been is Pali Lookout on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. My favorite impressions of this place are from a home video when I was about one year old. Too young to remember (in fact, I wasn't even present. I was tucked away in the car with my mom) my older brother Jared and my dad walked toward the peak. In the video Jared takes off the pointy hood of his sweatshirt and gives the camera a comical grin as his golden brown hair is whipped around. (Then he proceeds to weave in and out of the railings leading to the peak by climbing over and flipping through -- something I'm sure he would still love to do if he could.)

Though I can assume we made it back up to Pali Lookout at least once in our Hawaii stops between New Zealand and the USA from 1990 to 1994, the personal experiences I recall there are from a trip with my sister and aunt at age thirteen and once again with a larger collection of the family when I was sixteen. Memories like these are always so precious. I have been blessed by an amazing family, both immediate and extended, and it's always fun to spend time with such people in a place where you can count on a powerful wind. Whipped and ratted hair, shouted conversations, wisely paranoid women pressing their skirts to their legs, these are all common sights at Pali Lookout.

So as my mind's eye filtered through memories I eventually made it to a bend in the path and entered peaceful air. By the time I was back in my apartment, I was thinking of a warm soup or hot bath for my chilled yet refreshed body.

Since I finished off the last of an amazing soup yesterday, I'll have to opt for a bath after I post this. But now is where I tell you about that soup.

My sister emailed me the recipe a couple weeks ago, which she found on the website of a Northwest restaurant we love. While we usually go to Anthony's for the Bailey's Irish Cream Mousse, I will certainly look for this item on the menu next time because I don't think I could ever get sick of it (...and then I'll finish it off with the mousse!).

The ingredients blended into a very lovely soup, creamy from the potatoes and sweet from the parsnips and pears. Perfect for wintertime.

And, because I'm pleasantly surprised by the beginnings of my breadmaking ventures, I have to sneak in a picture of the loaf I made to go along with it. Not bad, aye?

Soup. Bread. I think my stomach just grumbled.

Find the recipe at the bottom of this page on Anthony's site:
Parsnip, Potato, and Pear Soup.