Maggie

Pistachio Ice Cream with Roasted Strawberry Swirl

pistachio ice cream strawberry swirl
Maggie’s Ice Cream is a quaint-looking but always-hopping ice cream shop on the main strip in downtown Hyannis, Cape Cod. Well, it was. It was briefly named Laura’s and has been called Katie’s since 2002. But it will always be Maggie’s to me; no after-dinner stroll on a Cape weekend was complete without a scoop or cone from the house-like shop, with its white tables and expansive front porch. Maggie’s probably didn’t have the best ice cream, but it was homemade and satisfying after a day full of sand and sun. [ed note: Massachusetts, and specifically Boston and The Cape, is known as the unofficial ice cream capital of the US. How lucky am I?] The young teens, who at the time, seemed like adults, were always kind and patient, even though I rarely made a decision by the time it was my turn to order.

My dad was easy, and he’d rarely step foot into the shop: He always got pistachio, a departure from the coffee or mocha flavors he ordered everywhere else. It was “real” pistachio—dubbed that only because it wasn’t radioactive green, but, instead, a milky beige. I thought pistachio seemed so adult and sophisticated, European even, so I happily stole bites from my dad’s cup. I was a mini elitist: I knew never to touch green pistachio ice cream. My parents taught me the important stuff.

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Feeling It

Lentil and Rhubarb Salad with Fried Halloumi

lentil, rhubarb, halloumi

Feeling completely myself, I am not. But I’m working hard to fix that (overdoing it, probably), and I’ve unearthed a little bit of the old me. I’ve missed it.

You may have noticed that I’ve been absent from this space. Or maybe you haven’t. I mean, I’m not Smitten Kitchen here. But I had checked out. I haven’t read your blogs either.

It bothers me when blog authors (well, the ones who don’t make money from their blogs) apologize for being absent. It bothers me not because I find it arrogant, but because no one should have to apologize for something that’s not his/her job. I guess I’m good at looking after others’ mental health; my own is a different story. So I’m not apologizing, but I’m being honest about the absence because, yeah, I’ve not been feeling well; yeah, I’ve been dealing with “stuff”; yeah, I’ve been a little stressed. But, really, most weekends went by without me developing and testing new recipes and documenting it, because I just didn’t feel like it. I don’t ever want to come to this space if I’m not feeling it.

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Francophony

Chickpea Crêpes with Peppery Dijon Crème Fraîche, Mushrooms, and Egg

mushroom galette When I was 16, I went to France for 10 days, living, speaking, and breathing the language and culture with a family of strangers in the Loire Valley for the first five days. I celebrated Easter with the family and enjoyed escargots. I ate aligot. My toes touched the sea at both Île de Rhé and La Baule. I bought a treasured tin of salted butter caramels in Brittany. I snuck into the discothèque without an ID (though I was old enough), stayed up until 5am and slept in until 1pm. I rode the bus and went to Nantes with my “sister” and her sophisticated, older Blonde, anorexic-skinny, multiple-pack-a-day-smoking, herb-taking, porcelain-skinned, ripped-jeaned cousin. I was now cultured. Right.

My love of all things French endured, and I studied the language and culture (and la gastronomie, bien sûr!) through college. Now, I’ll occasionally listen to French music. I’ll read Le Monde every once in a while. I’ll flip through a French cookbook a couple times a year. I can help with French culinary terms at work. But a francophile? Well, I’m posing. I am many years removed from my time in France, when I was confident about my language skills and up on current events. I am a phony. But I have my memories. And by recalling them, I might have the motivation to reconnect.

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This Might Help

Roasted Pears and Chardonnay Ice Cream with Olive Oil and Pine Nuts

olive oil pine nuts
How can a world so white seem so dark? This isn’t the first time I’ve asked this kind of question in this space. But walking through endless walls of winter white so tall I can’t see beyond them has gotten old and contempt, depression, and illness is brewing in our apocalyptic (no longer hyperbole) city. Weak. Tired. Done.

We have limited means of transportation. We’ve suffered through arctic blasts of ice-cold air. There’s nowhere left to move the white. We just continue to pile, hoping the sky is as far away as it seems.

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Five

Roasted Persimmon Yogurt Parfaits with
Burnt Lemon Honey and Pistachios

burnt honey
I avoid writing about the subject of a new year with each passing one because it just seems so big. I lack the hearty optimism of those who can expound on the year that passed and the one to come. But the number five holds a lot of weight. A number with a five in it automatically seems more important than others. So for some reason, in 2015, I’m attracted to the idea of embracing a “clean slate” mentality, which I’ve typically ignored since I measure my time not by years but by accomplishments. I’m looking at the new year with a slight sense of urgency. Urgency to do what? I don’t know. But there’s a little spark and, at the very least, it’s kept me from hitting the snooze button in the morning, even though I had no intention of stopping that.

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Road to the Recipe

Browned Butter Almond Torte with Pears and Cranberries

torte serving
My memory had always been laser sharp—a gift I received not from my mother or father but perhaps from my grandmother. So it’s unfortunate that I can’t recall when I got my first cookbook that wasn’t a kid’s picture book. It must have been a Christmas gift—Christmas is the only time I receive cookbooks from family. I wish I remembered what title it was so I could know how all of this started.

This Christmas, I hope to see a couple cookbooks under the tree like this one and this one. Because lately I feel like I haven’t treated cookbooks as I used to. It’s been some time since I’ve flipped furiously. I don’t hold them as close; I don’t study them. I’ve been too wrapped up in my own cooking to take pause and keep up with newer works.

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Inspiration

Savory Pumpkin Chickpea Pancakes with Crispy Aleppo Chickpeas, Lemon, and Maple

pumpkin-apple

Normal people—those who do not fit squarely in either the “eat to live” or the “live to eat” categories but rather fall somewhere in between—enjoy going to restaurants. Savoring a meal that you didn’t have to make, perhaps in good company, is a universal pleasure. These normal people can appreciate a meal and think about it long after the waiter clears the dessert plates. Food musings are not reserved for the live to eaters.

Well, all of this is mere speculation because I am not normal. I am instead one of the group, an ever-growing population, of folks who can sit back and enjoy a nice meal out (again thankful that someone else labored over it for me) but who has the magnifying glass out. I don’t look for flaws; I’m not a critic or reviewer. I want to learn. I’ll pick apart a dish with imaginary tweezers to find within the creamy center: a flavor combination, a chef’s vision, a beating heart. I’d be a liar if I said that my own cooking doesn’t take inspiration from past restaurant meals; I think most would be if they affirmed the same.

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Apples, Cheddar, Slides

Apple Cider Ice Cream with Cheddar Tuile Cup and Pickled Apples

ice cream cup
I swear that the fall months were warmer when I was a kid. I remember wearing jean shorts and a light sweatshirt each year on my annual trip to the Brookfield Orchards with my mom. The orchard was a 45-minute drive from our house. We had orchards just a couple of towns over that we frequented, but driving a ways to get to one felt like an adventure. We’d navigate through orange, red, and yellow tree-lined back roads, our car engulfed by the fiery hue so that nothing green or grey was visible. We were probably singing in unison along to the Top 10, my soprano an octave above her alto.

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Embracing Fall with Grapes

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars with Oat–Potato Chip Crust
and Concord Grape

Peanut Butter Cheesecake
Concord grapes are a New England treasure, as they were developed in—go figure—Concord, Massachusetts. Now they are most widely grown in other regions of the country, but it’s nice to know that little old Concord was the birthplace not only of freedom but also of the grapiest of grapes. Concord grapes are so grape-y that they may even seem artificial to first-time eaters. They’re very sweet, yet tart as well; they are the fresh fruit incarnate of grape jelly (and, less virtuously, of grape candies and grape soda).

Like other grapes, Concords are in season now, which is a hard concept to grasp, as many do not have access to locally grown grapes. Probably thought of as simply a California thing (have you seen the commercials?), folks buy overly elongated and mutantly large grapes in bags at the supermarket. They’re tasty enough. But local grapes, at least in these parts, are very different: rounder and often with thicker and more flavorful skins, they’re complex, musky even. The green are not sour; the red are not bland. And the Concord grape has the thickest skin of them all. Biting into one (be careful of seeds) is like experiencing grape times infinity: taut squeeze, rip, POP. They’re juicy and packed with flavor.

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Obsession, Part Two

Five-Spice Spudnuts with Prune Plum Jam

potato donut crossection

We interrupt the usual beat and flow of this blog to present another dissertation on donut-making…

I kid. I will keep it very short this time, because I’ve reread my previous donut post—the one in which I explored the ways to make light yeast-raised donuts at home—and got a bit of a headache.

I mentioned that there would be more donuts. But I’ll spare you from too many words this time. Pie is my passion, but donuts, which I’ve also said I rarely eat, are, for some reason, my fascination. Or at least my fascination du jour. I knew immediately after posting the last donut recipes what my next project would be—five-spice spudnuts with plum jam; I just needed to wait until that project was in season. The clarity was a result of having given up testing iterations 10 through 25 of the yeast-raised donuts with the fancy fillings and toppings in the recipes (browned butter glaze, butter-toasted salty almonds, cardamom-sugar, coffee pastry cream). Instead, I rolled each batch in five-spice-sugar for ease and to save money. And I came to love it. Plus, given the popularity of apple cider donuts (I might tackle cider donuts that actually taste like cider and not just like warm spices next year), donuts would be the perfect summer-fall transition dish, especially when paired with a favorite summer-fall transition fruit, sweet but just tart enough and musky prune plums.

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