Dairy Queen

Labneh Tart with Blackberries and Walnut-Cardamom Crust

labneh blackberry
My father uttered some unintelligible word to the waiter and in minutes the young man returned with a tall, skinny glass of white liquid flecked with green. The beverage was thick but not so much so that it held the straw in place. “Have a sip,” my dad encouraged, as he pushed the glass next to my Coke. “What is it?,” I asked. “Yogurt.”

Yogurt? I hesitated before pursing my lips around the straw to drink. Sour, herbaceous, intensely savory yet very lean-tasting. The excessive saltiness surprised me and I did what I could to keep from spitting out the bubbly brew. “ICK. How can you drink that?”

I couldn’t have been older than nine or ten that first time I tried doogh, the Persian yogurt-and–carbonated water drink. It was at Mirage, a restaurant in Framingham, MA that was owned by dad’s friend. Though not hurting for Lebanese or Greek, Worcester County, where I grew up, lacked Persian restaurants. So on weekend nights when my mom was working, the two of us would travel, mostly silent, to Framingham for big platters of steaming rice adorned with crunchy browned tahdig and sumac-dusted kebabs, accompanied by charred whole plum tomatoes. I avoided doogh for many years; it tasted like watery mast-o-khiar (a Persian cucumber dip similar to tzatziki but made from a much thicker kind of Iranian yogurt). Every time my father ordered it, I recalled the unpleasant way it coated my mouth.

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By (kind of) Popular Demand

Rhubarb Poptarts with Rye Pastry and Cardamom Glaze

cardamom glaze

I had no intention of posting this recipe here—one that I quite literally just threw together little-by-little over the course of a couple of evenings (I am so not a weekday baker), hoping that it would work for a breakfast potluck we were having at work. I baked them off the morning of and piled the surprisingly substantial tarts, which were not even done cooling, in a Tupperware container that I left uncovered so they wouldn’t steam and turn from crisp to mushy. I ran to work in half the time it usually takes me, darting through the streets of my town with an open box of warm pastries. It couldn’t have looked as strange as that time I stuffed the remnants of a certain 3-layer cream cake into a bright blue cold-keeper bag and ran it around town in 90-degree weather. But it was still ridiculous. When I arrived, I threw spoonfuls of glaze messily onto just cooled-tarts and set them down.

These are simple tarts, elevated perhaps because they’re encased in my very favorite pastry, whose nuttiness is a warm counterpoint to the clarifying tang of the simple rhubarb filling. But they were very well-loved (in fact there are still shards of their flaky, flaky layers gracing corners of our office), so I thought I’d share them with you, just in case you haven’t had your fill of the stalks yet (or they’re the only thing in your garden). And I’ll take any excuse to get more rhubarb on the blog. I just love the stuff.

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Obsession

Yeast-Raised Donut Twofer: Coffee-Cardamom Cream-Filled Donuts + Browned Butter–Almond Glazed Donuts

short stack
My first donut (no, not doughnut) was not ring-shaped, nor was it round and filled. My first donut, like me at the time, I guess, was a Munchkin from Dunkin’ Donuts. On weekday holidays off from school, my mom would pick up a box from the Dunkin’ down the road from our home while I was still sleeping. Along with it, she’d buy a chocolate milk—a balanced breakfast, indeed. There was always chocolate milk with donuts but never chocolate milk without donuts. Come to think of it, I was really deprived of chocolate milk as a kid…

Dunkin’ Donuts are probably the first donuts that come to mind for folks who live in New England, unless they’re lucky enough to have a small mom-and-pop donut shop in their town. I was not growing up. For those of you who do not live near a Dunkin’ but perhaps near a Krispy Kreme or a Shipley (I’ve had donuts from the former but not from the latter), Munchkins—donut holes, really (they’ve got to do something with them)—come in a cute cardboard box with a handle. They’re staple classroom party, bake sale, and office kitchenette fare. I’m not sure if this is still true, but when I was a kid, they came in plain cake, powdered cake, cinnamon powdered cake, glazed chocolate cake, glazed yeasted, and yeasted jelly.

I have fond memories of those Munchkin’ mornings, but I didn’t realize until recently how deeply connected I feel to the donut, because I just don’t eat them that often; I avoid sugar in the morning, and most establishments have either sold out of their donuts or merely have shelves speckled with a few stale specimens by the time I’d like to eat them. But over the past five weeks, my latent devotion has become quite clear.

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The Spinning Drum

Blueberry-Cardamom Brioche Swirls

juicy blueberry
Laundromats. I haven’t thought much about them before. I am one of those rare and lucky city dwellers to have always had either in-unit or decent in-building washers and dryers. Well, until I moved into my current apartment. My house has a small coin-operated washer and dryer in a dark corner of a wet and murky unfinished basement. Neither machine works particularly well, making the setup even less inviting. So I use a laundromat. Down a hill and onto a main road, it’s a mere 2-minute walk from my house. This laundromat is really just a small room with washers on the right and dryers on the left. Oh, and a drop-off area for lazy people (or, most likely, lazy, parent-supported kids), so they can leave bulging knapsacks of their things for the little elves that must hide behind that door to tend to.

But, like I said, I had never really given laundromats that much thought. I assumed I preferred my laundry experience more private. My fondest laundry memories involve running through wet bed sheets hanging from wooden clothespins on the rotating clothesline in my grandparents’ large backyard on hot days. With my arms spread open and solid colors, stripes, and light pink flower buds flashing through my eyes I crashed into the silky fabrics, imagining that my touch would somehow facilitate the drying process. I’d run that thing in circles until I was dizzy and the sheets felt just a little less wet. I’d done my job.

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Rhubarb to the Rescue

honey-cardamom panna cotta with roasted rhubarb

I don’t think I’ve been bored since around 1996. Physically bored, that is. I don’t understand the idea of having nothing with which to fill time. Jaded, I get. Monotony, sure. Ennui, mais oui. I may not always enjoy or find meaning in what I’m doing. But, on the off chance that my to-do list is completely stained with the harsh boldness of my pen’s horizontal slashes, I can always find something to keep my mind turning. I guess this is a curse for many — the unfortunate result of a hyper-connected age. For me, it’s a lifeline. It’s not that I don’t appreciate calm or silence. I do! Man, do I ever, sometimes. But I’ve always been afraid of extended periods of nothingness, of white noise.

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