Pickled Peaches, and The Next Course

This will be my last post here on Pas de Deux. For me, this past year was a bit of an experiment. It was a chance to solidify the creativity inherent in act of cooking, by photographing and writing about it. It was a chance to feel more “legitimate” when reading and commenting on blogs—I wanted to have at least a taste of the experience of blogging and to feel like a contributing member of the community of bloggers I was interacting with more and more frequently. It was a way for Casey and me to be in more frequent contact, and in some ways, to transform our broken relationship with food into a healthy and positive one. In the process, we re-awakened a family-wide recognition of our passion for cooking.

A pile of peaches

A pile of peaches

I will continue to blog, but with a slightly different focus. My new blog, The Next Course will take my exploration a step further. It will include some recipe sharing, interviews with bloggers and food writers, quotes about the “why” of food, and book/article reviews. It will be a blog that explores why we cook and why we blog. It will be a place to examine and reflect upon the role of cooking in our lives, but also a place to consider why we would want to write about food and share those thoughts with others.

Finished jars of pickled peaches

Finished jars of pickled peaches

I hope you will join me on this next step of my blogging adventure. Head on over to The Next Course to read more about my sticky, messy, amazing afternoon of pickling peaches.

-L

Strawberry Rhubarb Snack Cake

As you may have noticed, our posting has been down (way down) this month. We will both be sharing some big updates soon, but for now, I’ll just tell you, May has been busy!

We moved (still in Charlottesville) from an apartment to a house–a gradual move that has taken a solid month to complete. We took a weekend trip to Savannah. We hosted a small dinner party at the new house. We’ve had family in town, and we’ve been spent time with friends. Through all of this, I’ve barely had time to cook, let alone blog.

But this weekend, as we finished moving the last of the stuff out of the apartment and made dinner plans with friends, I felt the familiar itch, and knew that I had to make something “blog-worthy.” Knew that I had to find time to do more than throw together a salad or some pasta; to take and edit photos; and to sit down to write about what I had made, about this busy month of May.

pile 2

Strawberry Rhubarb Snack Cake

Though the City Market opens in April, May is the month when Virginia’s bounty truly begins to roll in. Greens become more abundant; spring carrots and spicy radishes appear. And then, the magic begins–it’s strawberry season!

Beautiful local strawberries!

Beautiful local strawberries!

And, alongside those beautiful, sugar sweet strawberries, there is rhubarb.

Though of course I had heard of it, I’m not sure I’d actually ever had rhubarb until last summer, when I made my first strawberry rhubarb crisp.

In the past two years or so, as I have begun to explore gardening, joined a CSA, and started to frequent the City Market, I have learned more and more about what vegetables actually look like while growing in the earth. Today I find that there is something about being able to identify a plant as “vegetable” that is incredibly satisfying to me. Vegetables often grow in surprisingly delightful ways–from the fact that the little yellow flowers on my tomato plants become beautiful red fruits, to the delicate and pungent garlic scapes that spring up from hard neck garlic plants, to being able to identify kale or chard as such when I see it used in decorative pots, it’s such fun to know what these plants are and to see the miracle of growing food in action.

So, back to rhubarb.

Rhubarb stalks

Rhubarb stalks

This vegetable looks a lot like Swiss Chard, but with a heartier stalk that can range from very green to very red. Locally, the stalks I have found have been very green with only a hint of red, though I have seen vibrantly red-pink stalks on other people’s Instagram feeds. On its own, rhubarb is incredibly tart, and frankly, not too enjoyable. It needs some TLC in the form of sweetener, and pairs perfectly with its seasonal pal, strawberry.

strawberry-rhubarb

Strawberry and rhubarb–a perfect match

I have been aching to make something strawberry rhubarb for weeks, and so, on Sunday, when I knew we would be going to dinner at a friends house, I jumped on the opportunity to make this cake, inspired by Smitten Kitchen. Though the cake is perfectly delicious as is, it took everything in me to not make this cake with buckwheat flour. After all, buckwheat and rhubarb come from the same family, and really, how perfect would that have been?!

But I was sharing this cake with friends, friends who I knew would appreciate my cake more if it was not made with the “weird” ingredients that I love to use.

Cake!

Cake!

This cake was enjoyed at the end of a perfect summer meal – carnitas tacos, eaten on the roof top terrace of our friends apartment, on Sunday night of a 3 day weekend, with friends who have quickly become our “go-to” group. We shared food, wine, beer, and lots and lots of laughter.

A perfect start to the summer.

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

Strawberry Rhubarb Snack Cake

Slightly Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 large stalks of Rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch lengths on the diagonal
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 + 2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt (not non-fat)

Crumb

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Yum!

Yum!

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan with butter or a nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper, extending the lengths up two sides.

Stir together rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar and set aside. Beat butter, remaining sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at at time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Whisk together flour, baking powder, table salt and ground ginger together in a small bowl. Add one-third of this mixture to the batter, mixing until just combined. Continue, adding half the sour cream, the second third of the flour mixture, the remaining sour cream, and then the remaining flour mixture, mixing between each addition until just combined.

Dollop batter into the prepared pan, then use a spatula to spread the cake into an even, thin layer. Pour the rhubarb mixture over the cake, spreading it into an even layer.

Stir together the crumb mixture, first whisking the flour, brown sugar, table salt and cinnamon together, and then stirring in the melted butter with a fork. Scatter the crumb mixture evenly over the strawberry rhubarb layer. Bake cake in preheated oven for about 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. It will be golden on top. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Use the parchment “sling” to remove the cake from the pan. Cut into 2-inch squares. Store tightly covered in the fridge, no more than 5 days.

Perfect as a dessert or snack

Perfect as a dessert or snack

Make this cake and share it with friends. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did – I know Sarah did!

-L

WIAW — Cleanse Continued

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been following a modified version of the Food Lover’s Cleanse from Bon Appetit. I’m now on Day 11 out of 14, and have gotten more flexible with my interpretation of the meal plan as time has gone by. Even so, I’ve been making better decisions, I’ve successfully cut back on my coffee intake, and I’ve felt generally more healthy.

Here are some of the highlights of the past week of my “cleanse”.

Day 4

Yogurt Chicken, Carrots, and Bulgur

Yogurt Chicken, Carrots, and Bulgur

For dinner last Wednesday, I made yogurt chicken with ginger-cilantro chutney and carrots with mint (both recipes on Day 3 on cleanse plan), and served them up with the last of my bulgur with parsley and lemon. The chicken was moist and full of flavor. I’ll definitely make it again!

Day 5

Thursday was a series of leftovers and repeat dishes, most of which were enjoyed whilst sitting at work.

Day 6

Applesauce with Walnuts

Applesauce with Walnuts

Friday, my afternoon snack of applesauce with walnuts was surprisingly enjoyable! I want to make my own applesauce, and make this a more frequent treat!

Chili and Salad

Chili and Salad

For dinner, I made white bean chili with winter vegetables (recipe from Day 5 on cleanse) and a spinach salad with clementines. I loved the avocado on top of the chili. It was a fresh and creamy addition to the complex flavors of the chili.

Day 7

Kale Salad

Kale Salad

I had a long shift on Saturday, so I packed up a fruit salad and almond milk for breakfast and a big salad with kale, smoked salmon, tangerines, and radishes for lunch. I took a break from the plan that evening, and went out for a drink and dinner with one of my girlfriends.

Day 8

Blackberry Oatmeal

Blackberry Oatmeal

Sunday’s breakfast was a new twist on my usual bowl of oats. I cooked the oats in almond milk (nothing unusual), mixed in some berries while the oats were still cooking, and topped it off with fresh berries and a bit of chopped sage. The sage added an extra oomph to an otherwise basic bowl.

Mango Lassi

Mango Lassi

Afternoon smoothies are definitely going to become a more regular thing for me! Sunday I made a mango lassi with one mango, some Greek yogurt, a pinch of chile powder, and a dash of salt.

Radicchio Salad

Radicchio Salad

I used up all of my leftover produce from the week in a giant dinner salad! Radicchio, pear, avocado, and dried cranberries were mixed in with sherry shallot vinaigrette and white beans. Yum!

Day 9

Chickpea Salad

Chickpea Salad

Monday was another crazy workday, so I packed up smoked salmon and avocado on rye crackers, an apple, and a big salad with chickpeas, arugula, clementine slices, tahini dressing, and a leftover dollop of ginger-cilantro chutney.

Day 10

Oatmeal with Berries

Oatmeal with Berries

I’ve enjoyed mixing up my breakfast routine, but I still always enjoy a nice bowl of oats in the morning! I kept the berry theme going with a smoothie later in the day, made with apple cider, half a banana, and frozen raspberries and blackberries.

Berry Smoothie

Berry Smoothie

For lunch on the run, I had another “clean the icebox” type of salad, using pineapple, smoked salmon, arugula, tahini dressing, and the last bit of ginger-cilantro chutney.

Salmon and Pineapple Salad

Salmon and Pineapple Salad

Dinner, vegetable pot-au-feu and soft thyme-scented polenta, was listed on Day 11 of the cleanse. I am realizing how much I LOVE parsnips and carrots. I could eat them every day! I’m looking forward to the leftovers.

Vegetable Pot-Au-Feu

Vegetable Pot-Au-Feu

I love how many fruits and vegetables I’ve been eating! I intend to keep this trend going once my 14 days are up. Even though I haven’t followed the full cleanse, I feel as though I’ve cleaned up my act.

Thanks, Jenn for hosting this “What I Ate Wednesday” party!

WIAW GOES GREEN

Happy eating!

-C

Meyer Lemon and Blueberry Scones [MMAZ]

Spring is officially here! We even had a taste of summer last week, with a few days of 80 degree temperatures. Suffice to say I am craving lighter foods, fresh fruits, and delicate flavors like lemon (Meyer lemon to be exact).

Spring colors and flavors

Spring colors and flavors

Meyer lemons are actually a cross between a lemon and an orange, resulting in darker, deeper yellow skin and aromatic, less sour juice than a typical lemon. The taste is absolutely incredible in baked goods–light and “zippy”, taking a dish to a whole new level of “yum.”

It’s been a while since I cooked with new-to-me ingredients that required research… Enter the result of this weekend’s kitchen experiment: scones made with spelt flour and coconut palm sugar, inspired by the recipe Shanna shared, via her friend Kendra, last Tuesday. Shanna’s recipe used Einkorn flour, but I could not find any at the store, so I decided to use spelt flour instead.

Meyer lemon and blueberry oat scones

Meyer lemon and blueberry oat scones

Spelt is an ancient grain with a mellow, nutty flavor, and slightly higher protein content than wheat. Though it is not gluten free (it actually has more gluten than wheat), it is easily digestible. Sarah B of My New Roots explains more:

“Spelt is an excellent source of manganese, which helps protect your cells from free radical damage, keeps your bones strong, maintains nerve health, and promotes the function of the thyroid gland. Spelt is also very high in fiber and contains a good amount of protein.” (source)

Delicious!

Delicious!

Coconut palm sugar is made by tapping the nectar from the coconut palm tree and drying the juice in a kettle drum. It condenses into an unrefined brown sugar that can be used as a 1-to-1 replacement for white or brown sugar. It has a deep caramel flavor, perfect for baked goods. You can read more information here.

one scone

Perfect for breakfast or tea time

Meyer Lemon Blueberry Oat Scones

Adapted from Shanna’s recipe

Makes 8 scones

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 3/4 cup oat flour (make your own by blending steel-cut oats until fine)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Zest of 1 – 2 meyer lemons
  • 8 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or, in a pinch, strained regular yogurt, per above note)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • Juice of 2 – 3 Meyer Lemons
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Method

Preheat your oven to 400°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, oats, coconut sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ginger and salt. Toss the lemon zest with the dry ingredients.

Add the cubed butter to the dry ingredients. Rub or cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles small, coarse peas (using your fingers or a pastry cutter). Add yogurt and honey, and toss everything together with a fork or your hands until all of the dry ingredients are moistened.

Add the lemon juice last. Use the juice to bring the batter together, adding a little at a time until the mixture forms a nice dough that will hold together in a disc shape–not too wet or too crumbly. Gently fold in blueberries.

Form the dough into a large, flat disc on the parchment paper, pressing with your fingers as needed. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown on top. Cool for 15 minutes before cutting into 8 pieces.

Cut into wedges, like a pie

Cut into wedges, like a pie

The “base” for these scones came from Shanna and Kendra, but the blueberry-lemon combo was inspired by this week’s Meatless Monday from A – Z link-up, hosted by Heather. Although I missed the last two weeks (avocado), I hope to make it to the party more often this round!

BWV-Round2-April-Blueberry_thumb

Though I did not notice a huge difference in taste using the spelt flour (versus my usual whole wheat), I like the idea of an easier to digest and higher protein grain. Have you ever cooked with spelt flour? Please share any recipes you have tried! 

Enjoy!

-L

Apricot Coconut Quick Bread

When we started this blog almost a year ago, I wasn’t quite sure why I really wanted to try out this whole blogging thing.

I have worked to improve my food photography skills, sometimes with success, and other times, less successfully. But in the past few months I have realized that photography is not my passion.

Apricot Coconut Quick Bread

Apricot Coconut Quick Bread

Sometimes the lighting in my apartment is just right, and I love taking photos of my food. I love that I have learned to use my husband’s DSLR, and I am very proud of how far my photos have come.

But sometimes, the lighting is just blah and I am more invested in the process of cooking and sharing the food I make with others than in the process of photographing my food.

Sliced bread

Sliced bread

In the almost year we have been blogging, I have invented some delicious new recipes, but in the past few months I have realized that recipe development is not my passion.

I much prefer to be inspired by other peoples’ recipes or to just throw “a little of this and a little of that” into a dish, no measurements required. By the time Friday rolls around, I have pinned and bookmarked more recipes than I could ever tackle in one weekend, and I don’t really feel like creating something “new” of my own.

(Note: Mom got a new bunny apron this year!)

(Note: Mom got a new bunny apron this year!)

But blogging has helped me to learn more about myself and to find a way to articulate my true passion(s). It has helped me to understand why I cook, and it has awakened in me a curiosity about why other people cook.

Blogging has helped me to learn more about our food system, and to understand how my personal choices can and do have an impact on our larger food culture and food systems.

Blogging has helped me to understand that the pursuit of self knowledge and taking time out for self care make me a better person not only for those I love, but also enables me to work towards something greater than myself.

Hello gorgeous!

Hello gorgeous!

Blogging has helped my sister and I connect over food in a new way, and it has created a platform by which my family has begun to share stories about out “kitchen history.”

After losing our Grandma last August, these stories are more important than ever. They are slowing coming out—like a few weeks ago, when my Aunt Kris followed up on my post about pizza with an email telling me that Grandma used to make huge batches of pesto, with basil that the neighbors left on the porch for her (the whole plant, roots and all!), and froze it in ice cube trays to have on hand whenever it was needed.

Freshly baked

Freshly baked

All of this is to say that as life has gotten busy in the past few months, the frequency of our posts has decreased, and will likely continue to remain at 1 or 2 posts per week rather than 3 or 4. But I will continue to document and recount my kitchen adventures when I can! I assure you that I spend most weekends on my feet making one thing after another, even when I forget to take photos.

I whipped up this lovely loaf of bread last Saturday to serve on Sunday morning for Easter Brunch with the East Coast portion of my family (Casey was sorely missed). Inspired by Smitten Kitchen, I did what Deb said was not necessary, and adapted Bill Granger’s recipe for Coconut Bread. I wanted to incorporate the dried apricots that my sister’s mother-in-law brought as part of a house-warming basket for my parents, and this bread seemed the perfect use.

While I have no doubt that the original recipe was fabulous, I really love the addition of the apricots.

Served for Easter Brunch

Served for Easter Brunch

Apricot Coconut Quick Bread

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups canned coconut milk milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes 
  • 3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 

Method

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar and coconut, and stir to mix. Make a well in the center, and pour in egg mixture, then stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Add butter, coconut, and apricots and stir until just smooth — be careful not to overmix.

Butter and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or coat it with a nonstick spray. Spread batter in pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool in pan 10 – 15 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Hope you had a happy Easter with your loved ones!

-L