poofy lemon cookies.

I’ve been working out with more frequency and consistency than I have in ages; I’ve also been baking bread and desserts and eating them at roughly the same rate as my workouts. Any fitness dreams I had are not materializing, and right now, I’m okay with that.

I had a fierce craving for lemon cookies the other day. Actually it was sweet lemon anything; I wasn’t about to be picky about it. I had lemons in the fridge that needed to be eaten, so a quick google by my mom and voila: a surprisingly great, really soft and poofy lemon cookie I highly recommend if you’re looking to treat yourself.

The lemon flavor blooms as they sit, but they don’t get stale or hard: they’ll stay just as soft as they were on day 1. By all means, use more lemon: this isn’t my recipe, and if I had to do it over again, I’d pile the lemon zest in there with abandon, but that’s how I roll when it comes to citrus.

You probably have everything you need right in your pantry right now, which was part of the draw to this recipe: we needed to find something that didn’t require a trip out. I’m in no mood to recipe test or quibble over ingredient lists or ratios right now, so it’s an almost-straight copy of this recipe right here.

In other news: I’ve been repeatedly nailing this recipe for white sandwich bread, but my sourdough starter was a catastrophic failure – probably because I didn’t name it. I’ll embark on another one in a day or so, hopefully with better results. We’re also going to talk more about these magical rolls very soon.

What are you all doing for Easter? Hopefully keeping your butts home like you’re supposed to. We’ll be celebrating with a fun-but-modest spread of wee sandwiches and toppings, relishes, some roasted carrots, a salad, some fresh fruit, and a few simple desserts. Thinking about it makes me miss my normal overly critical pick-through of fresh vegetables for all the spring side dishes, but this year, I’m really just grateful for our health and some sun on my face – in the backyard, but hey: it’s still sun.

Poofy Lemon Cookies

by Baked by Rachel, original recipe here.

Makes | 20 to 24 cookies |

  • 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • zest of 1 to 2 medium lemons, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice freshly squeezed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

| Preparation | Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Continue mixing until well combined and no streaks remain.In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together butter and 1 cup granulated sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down bowl and add lemon zest, juice, egg and vanilla; beat for 1 minute. Scrape bowl as needed and add flour mixture; stir on low until just combined and mixture is homogenous, 45 seconds to a minute. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, roughly 2-4 hours or overnight. 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Use a medium scoop to portion dough. Shape into smooth balls. Coat well in remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Space at least 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 12-14 minutes. Allow cookies to rest on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container for up to several days.

Uncategorized

pork loin, two ways.

We tend to chuckle at the buying habits of humans during a minor emergency – an impending snow day here, for instance, will immediately empty all market shelves of bread, milk, eggs, and sometimes frozen pizzas. Actual emergency shopping isn’t funny, but it’s interesting to observe. I know enough about food and human behavior to know what people gravitate towards: chicken breasts were unfindable for a minute around here, while red meet of any sort was semi-plentiful. Cheese stayed in good shape, but veggie burgers cleared out, as did the chips. Cereal was living life like it was 1985 and there were still prizes in every box, but yogurt didn’t move at nearly the speed I expected it to (probiotics, people…probiotics!)

One thing people seemed to avoid/be hesitate to buy was larger cuts of meat, pork loin among them. Odd, considering how much you can do with a pork loin, including…yeah, chop it up into smaller pork sections and cook it. It’s not hard: in fact, it’s one of the easiest things I cook, and it’s super affordable, but I’ll admit: I forget it’s an option most days as well.

Yes, that’s me up there, trying not to burn down my yard; photos by the amazing Jennifer Silverberg, my permanent partner in crime. If you want to read up on grill tips, head here for the digital issue of the August 2019 Feast Magazine.

Did you grab a pork loin? Smart cookie. If you did, here’s two really easy ways to prepare it. The one above is one I did for a grilling article about a year ago for Feast – it’s the newest column I write, called Crash Course, which I’ll be talking about more here and there in the next few weeks. As it turns out, when you don’t post for a long time, you’ve got a ton of backlog stuff to tell people about. #whoops

This particular recipe is designed for outdoor grilling, but you could easily transition this to indoors by simply marinating it and then using the recipe directions below for how to cook it. it’s got a lot of flavor with a nice amount of heat: not overpowering, but it’ll hit you in all the right ways. Throw any vegetable next to it, maybe a little rice, and you’re set. Or hey: just get on out to your yard and fire up the grill, if you can. It’s a nice respite from being inside all the time, and so long as you don’t have to run out for charcoal, it’s a nice way to maintain a little spring normalcy in your life.

This pork loin is the one I was working on last post: It’s not an official recipe so much as it’s a “just put some things together” non-recipe: grab some herbs, garlic and mustard, a little salt and pepper, and you’re good to go.

Pork Two Ways

For my Gochujang-marinated Pork Loin recipe, head over here: if you’re doing it indoors versus grilling, come back to my instructions below for how to oven-roast.

For my slap-it-together oven-roasted pork loin with herbs, mustard and garlic, here’s what you need:

  • 1 pork loin – about 3 to 4 lbs
  • 2 to 2 1/2 Tbsp of pork-friendly herbs – like thyme, rosemary, and/or sage
  • 2 Tbsp or so of a grainy mustard – spicy, Dijon, whatever you have. If you don’t have the grainy sort, a straight-up Dijon will totally work.
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp high-heat oil, like grapeseed or vegetable
  • 1 large cast iron pan, or a large, shallow dutch oven – something heavy and high-quality that you can fit the loin into comfortably

Gather those things together, and it’s off to the races! First, make sure you let your pork loin sit out for an hour or so to take the chill off: meat always cooks better and more evenly if it’s not fresh from the fridge. While you’re waiting, chop any herbs together finely and stir them in with your mustard, garlic, salt and pepper: add more or less as you wish of any ingredient, but ultimately, you’re looking for a nice thick paste which will stay put when you smear all over the loin. You can’t mess this up.

Once you’re ready, simply preheat your oven to 400˚F. Rub your pork loin all over with your herby mustard paste, add the oil to your cast iron or baker of choice, and set that pork loin right in the middle of it. Throw it in your oven and roast until your pork is cooked but still juicy – I like to go to 140˚F (use the meat thermometer in the thickest center part), take it out, and then tent it to let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Uncategorized

I made a bread!

Last post, I was embarking on two bread projects: one was a no-knead crusty loaf done in a Dutch oven, and the other is an attempt at a sourdough starter. I went with King Arthur Flour recipes for both, because I trust The King implicitly…swear their website has never let me down, not once. Right now, it’s all about trust, because I’m not about to screw around with my flour and yeast supply.

I’m happy to report my crusty bread was a success! I mentioned before that I halved the recipe, because 7+ cups of flour is massive, even for me. The loaf itself turned out great: crusty as promised on the outside, nice and tender on the inside, but sturdy enough to make a fabulous garlic bread or to hold the tomatoes I plan to perch atop a fat slice once I can get out to get some tomatoes.

Things I would do differently:

Halving the recipe worked just fine in my 6.5 quart Dutch oven: it makes a wide, low-profile loaf with oblong slices. Would I make a whole loaf next time? Yes! I feel confident enough in my execution to use all that flour at one time. Alternatively, I have a 2.5 quart Dutch oven that may be fun to make a rounder, perkier halved recipe.

I would not skip / ignore the dusting of semolina flour. I know it’s in my pantry somewhere, but said pantry has been commandeered by dry goods, vinegar, and other essentials, so I swept past it, choosing to just oil the bottom and sides. Wrong move: I had to launch the bread out using a rubber offset spatula because it stuck to the bottom. It came out fine, but it took some muscle. Lesson learned: use the semolina or a nice dusting of cornmeal if you’re lacking in semolina.

Best thing about this was the no-knead part. I actually enjoy a good knead, but I have to be in the right mood, and yesterday, I wasn’t there for it. If you’d like to try it, the recipe is right here.

A note about the Dutch oven part of things: there’s lots of info out there that tells you NEVER to heat a dutch oven empty, lest it crack or explode: it’s simply not made for that sort of task. I was too afraid to tempt fate with my own Staub, so I employed this method: you make the bread in a Dutch oven, but without the preheating, which is way safer on your cookware, and makes a lovely, crusty loaf.

Sourdough starter update: I had my doubts yesterday – day 2 of 5 – because it just didn’t look like it was doing anything. I resisted overthinking it and followed the KAF instructions (here), so divide / discard half / add more flour and water / let it be. Today, things are looking surprisingly good! It has a few bubbles, seems smoother and smells like it should according to The King – fruity, and indeed, it does smell a little like ripe bananas with an undercurrent of general berry. I’ll keep you posted, but if tending to a starter sounds like self-care right now, here are the King’s basic guidelines. My biggest hurdle in this process right now is that it’s cold here, and my kitchen isn’t the warmest place in the world. Find a solid warmish spot and you’re halfway there – for any yeasted bread projects, really.

On the agenda today: I did some layered stocking up of food and essentials over the past few weeks, and in that stocking up, took note of what I currently had in my deep freezer. I always think master lists are helpful when you have large amounts, so we have one of all our frozen meat, vegetables, dry goods, cans/jars, etc., listed out so I can plan meals around our fresh ingredients.

Today, I’m rubbing a pork loin with some fresh rosemary and thyme, a little grainy mustard and garlic, and roasting it. If it sounds extravagant, it’s not: I found the pork loin hanging out in the freezer from a little while ago, and the rub ingredients are all leftovers from other things too. Bonus? It’ll feed us for several days, and I can switch out the sides to make it more interesting.

Also, grilling some chicken breasts for lunch salads: I neglect proteins sometimes without meaning to, and these were also hanging out in the freezer. So that’s me today! Hope you all are staying well.

Uncategorized

pickled carrots + onions, for anything.

So, here we are: in varying degrees of social isolation. You’d think it would be an introvert’s dream: as it turns out, you tell this introvert she can’t see anyone in person, and all she wants to do is…see everyone, every day. Check in on people. See how they’re managing. TALK.

I think about all the play dates and get-togethers I postponed because we had too much going on – remember when we had “too much going on”? Anyone says the word “activities” to me and it’s like I’m remembering some distant past life, when in fact exactly one month ago me and 20 other moms were hosting a chili cook-off at my kid’s old school. All of us, together, slinging chili and laughing and not realizing how good we had it. 

The same goes for this space, maybe: we all wrote to each other for years and years, got married, had kids, had more kids, switched jobs, switched cities, built houses, and talked about all of it. Talked through it. and with a few exceptions, we never were in the same room (same country, same state) as each other. And it worked.

Maybe it still works: I don’t know. I’m a poster child for inconsistent communication skills: I know some of you are like “that girl can’t even reply to an email” – you’re right. I’m the worst.

Or I was: I’m working on reopening this space in the hopes that you’re all still out there. I’ll be honest: at some point – we’ll say around 2016 – life started to feel really intense, and I struggled talking about food here b/c it seemed like there were massively more critical things happening all around. I felt like an idiot pushing my homemade cookies and ingredient-laden salads when the world felt like it was skidding to a halt. My focus on maybe the more enjoyable, optional parts of my life got diluted; it felt like a luxury i shouldn’t indulge, I guess? It’s hard to figure out how to put that. The world felt sucky, and my food ramblings felt trivial by comparison. As a person who has always felt pretty burdened to make a difference, small or big, I didn’t feel like i was doing that.

But maybe I was making a teeny difference. Or maybe I could, just by being here. I underestimated the power of friendship and connection and the impact it has on the world, even in a small way. How talking to each other matters. After all, you all still matter to me: my poor communication skills notwithstanding, i still think about every single one of you more than you’d imagine. 

So here’s what: I have no idea what this  blog is going to look like, but it’s going to look like something. If you’re here, yay! You’re more dedicated than I’ve been to this space, but I’m hoping that changes. On the agenda: 

Streamlining –  Blogging seems to be all about social media now: it wasn’t like that 7 years ago when I started. If it had been that heavily reliant on constant content-pushing, i doubt i would have ever started. I can not stand social media anymore; you’d think I was allergic to it. Because of that, I may just rid myself of my Facebook page for this space and continue on with Instagram and Twitter. I haven’t shut it down yet, but at this point, it’s an albatross I’d do better without. 

Posting – Re-starting a food blog during a time of crisis seems really…hard? So we’ll navigate that one together. I can say this: I have learned a lot about myself and my ability to crisis-navigate with food and other supplies, and i am GOOD, people. So maybe for awhile I just share what I’m doing at my house to keep semi-interesting meals on the table and ingredients from spoiling. So TBD on what i’ll post, but i’ll be here talking about food in a round-about way. Maybe we talk about TV or movies or books too…who knows. 

People-ing – Expect emails, friends: I’m going to try to touch base with as many of you as I can. My work email has always been out there, but because of that, i get a FLOOD of nonsense “business” emails that drown out emails from people i like, and I can’t wade through them at this point. So! New email address for here is aperiodictable@gmail.com. Friends, change your contact info for me, because I’d hate to miss something. Please forgive/forget how crap I was at replying/keeping up and email me, if i don’t get to you first: i’d love to know how everyone is doing. If you’re going to tell me about how i can improve my online presence, bots, stay away: anyone that truly knows me knows I would never want to do that. Also, I’m going to do my level best to catch up on those of you that are still blogging: I’ve been absent completely from that, so be patient.

Current status: typing this. I have a loaf of bread proofing – it’s this one from King Arthur Flour, because I’m lazy and didn’t feel like kneading today. I halved it, because 7 1/2 cups of flour felt big. Also in the midst of creating a sourdough starter: i can’t think of a better time to do that, as i stocked up on all the yeast / flour / oil / salt at the store and committed myself to keeping my family in all manner of bread styles for the immediate future. 

Because everything happened really fast with layers of stocking up / preparing for social distancing and limited store trips, I still had some vegetables left over from a photo shoot. Before they went south, I used a recipe I developed years ago for pickling them: maybe it’s helpful your own vegetables. It’s a carrot and onion pickle to be used as anything, really: i developed it as a crunchy vegetable bite for tacos, but you could use them on sandwiches, or in salads. Whatever they’re in, they really amp up flavor and give you that hit of sour that I think everything needs. I had them on my turkey and cheese lunch sandwich today, as a matter of fact, and it added some welcome pep and just the right amount of texture. 

Here’s the recipe! Before you ask, yes; you can substitute. Must-haves? vinegar, water, salt, sugar, carrots, onlons: it would work just like that. I have cumin seeds in there, but coriander is nice also. Garlic is great, and if you have fresh hot chile of any sort, use it (bearing in mind its relative heat as compared to a Fresno.) No chile? A dash or two of chile flakes will do. No peppercorns? You’ll be fine without.  If you don’t have that much apple cider vinegar, sub in plain white vinegar, or mix the two together. 

Pickled Vegetables

Remember: you don’t have to go running out for any of this. You have carrots and onions you need to save? THIS. Tell your eyes to head up a paragraph for some substitutions if you’re missing one of these ingredients, or ask me! I’ll *whoa* actually be mindful of comments coming in. 

  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1⁄3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 lb carrots, sliced into long matchsticks
  • 1¼ cups paper-thin ring slices of red onion
  • 2 32-oz wide-mouth glass canning jars
  • 4 cloves garlic, divided
  • Fresno chiles, finely diced divided
  • 2 tsp toasted and cooled whole cumin seeds, divided
  • 2 tsp whole black peppercorns, divided

Preparation – Pickled Vegetables | In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add water, vinegar, sugar and salt, stirring until solids are dissolved and mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat, add carrots and onion, cover and place back on high heat until mixture comes to a boil once again. Remove from heat, keep covered and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

In 2 32-oz widemouth canning jars, equally divide garlic cloves, chiles, cumin seeds and peppercorns. Using tongs, carefully divide hot vegetables between jars. Evenly divide pickling liquid over vegetables and allow to sit at room temperature, uncovered, until completely cool. Secure lids and transfer to refrigerator.

tutorial

how to: poached pears.

Katherine wanted more details on how to poach pears, so here I am, because I love her. How-to’s are my favorite to write: a study on how to approach and succeed at something helps me as much as it helps all of you, because often I’m either learning or fine-tuning techniques right along with you. Feast has been brilliant this past year at letting me do this in a new featurette for the magazine, but that’s for another post: right now, let’s poach. Continue Reading…

breakfast, brunch

fresh peach scones (before the peaches leave.)

Bet you didn’t think I would post something in April and then be all “peace out!” until August, did you? Yeah, neither did I. “Time flies” seems a little too cliche of a sentiment, but it’s accurate: time really does fly, and we had an unusually large amount of random things going on this spring and summer, even for us. Without going into too much detail or complaint, I’ll just summarize by saying that I’m happy to have gone through it, proud we waded through, and even happier that it’s over. I owe a few of you long-overdue catch-up emails, because my communication levels have been at Level 5 Introvert lately. Continue Reading…

brunch, sides

asparagus + peas with lemon-mint gremolata.

I’m on a spring vegetable high, friends;  it’s the week I test-drive potential Easter recipes. I give myself a considerable amount of freedom with Easter side dishes, mostly because my family insists upon having ham as the main: It’s 2019, and still no one will let me roast a leg of frigging lamb. So I spend most of my time on the sides: vegetable-forward, fresh, bright stuff befitting the weather, which has been particularly nice this year. Like Thanksgiving, I could do an entirely vegetarian menu at Easter and be completely satisfied, so I take my sides (and desserts, let’s be honest) very seriously.  Continue Reading…

brunch, sides

irish soda bread.

Real talk: it’s not often that I run across a soda bread and think “wow: this is really good.” Often my interactions with soda bread include phrases like “not much flavor,” “a little dry,” and “hmmmm…” No offense to my soda bread fanatics out there (are you out there?), but it’s just not often done…correctly? with care? I’m not sure which. What I do know is that soda bread is often cast aside as something less than it should be; I’m guilty of this as well. Continue Reading…

desserts

classic red velvet cupcakes.

Just nailing it at new years’ resolutions over here; don’t mind me.

I think I’ve finally figured out why the vast majority of resolutions fail in the new year: it’s all down to timing. Clearly the beginning of the year is a static event, but think about it: why would anyone make resolutions – usually requiring a rare combo of self-motivation and hard work – ant attempt to begin them on January 1?

Nothing against January 1, actually: that day is usually a pretty good day, filled with a certain brightness, hope, and a concrete grasp on the year ahead. There’s a clarity people get on that first day of the year that’s undeniable: you may clean your house that day, or pack up holiday decorations, or just try to eat your way through some leftover new year’s eve appetizers because they’re not going to eat themselves, right? And you’re committed to minimizing waste.

But then, January 2nd hits. Kids begin to trudge back to school, the weather is junk, the thrill is gone.  When was the last time you heard anyone describe midwinter as “refreshing?” Never, that’s when. It’s cold and wet and frozen in places, all with a sort of grime patina to it. Listen to “In the Bleak Midwinter” and you’ll realize it’s written after Christmas: probably right in the middle of January.

All this to say that some of us may do really well with following through on our resolutions, starting bright and early on January 1, and that’s wonderful. I’m here to say cheers to the rest of us who come crashing to a halt January 2 with returning to school, work schedules, and real dang life. I have the best of intentions on January 1: those intentions often get put on hold until, say, March, when the sky cracks open with sunlight, my 1st quarter workload comes to a close, and I’m not wearing a throw blanket around my shoulders 24/7. New years resolutions would be way easier to keep if the new year started around, say, April.

So here I am: blogging in the new year – one of my big resolutions, and one I intend to follow through on this year. I’ve got these cupcakes in the oven right now, under the assumption that they turn out as brilliant as I’d planned: it’s a recipe from The Back in the Day Bakery cookbook, which is an oldie by now, but so solid when it comes to recipes that I have no doubt they’ll be perfect.

One of my other resolutions is to quit shoving cake in my mouth at random, these cupcakes already have a final destination (that isn’t my mouth) – they’re headed to the Wee  (she’s not so wee anymore, but she’s still my baby) One’s school tomorrow as a thank you for all the work they’ve done this year, and every year. They’re a great group, and they deserve all the treats.

If you don’t know what red velvet cake is, the best way I can describe it would be a classic yellow cake with a whisper of cocoa to it. It leans on the vanilla for over all “cake” flavor, but the cocoa adds a nice “what’s that” element, and the red coloring makes things exciting. And hey, guess what: I know food coloring isn’t good for you, but neither is cake, so let’s just go with it.

such a creeper.

They’re out of the oven now, and cooled, and are as expected: perfectly delicious, with a nice tender crumb. Cream cheese frosting is essential for these: no other frosting will do (same for carrot cake, and I actually prefer cream cheese frosting for chocolate cupcakes as well) because the low-key twang of it keeps the sweetness of the cake in check.

I can’t over think this whole blogging thing or else I’ll never post anything: let’s just all agree that I may misspell something, my photos could use work, or something else wonky could happen. Let’s just go with it so I can get rolling again. Thanks. 🙂

Adapted from the Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook by Cheryl and Griffith Day.

Classic Red Velvet Cupcakes

Yield | about 30 cupcakes |

for the cake:

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1-oz bottle of red food coloring
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh buttermilk

for the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 8-oz packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 5 to 6 cups confectioners’ sugar

Make those cakes:

Preheat the oven to 350˚F; line muffin tins with paper cupcake cups. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and cocoa; set aside. In the bowl of mixer, cream the butter, oil, and sugar together on medium-high for 5 to 7 minutes, until very pale and thick. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla and beat on medium for 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, mixing until smooth and homogenous, 1 to 2 minutes. Use an ice cream scoop to portion batter into paper liners; fill to 2/3 full. 

Bake at 350˚F for 15-16 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.

When cupcakes have cooled, Beat the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until smooth and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, beating until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes, until fluffy and thick. Portion out onto cupcakes and chill for a few minutes in the fridge to set. 

Keeping them in the fridge can dry them out, but once set, they hold well at room temperature for 2 days.

appetizers, feast magazine article, snacks

pickled watermelon rind.

Until this summer, I thought watermelon rinds existed only as a watermelon handle: somewhere to grasp your watermelon slice so you could take it places. Also, as a makeshift basket for your watermelon-inclusive fruit salads; I see you, sixties-era garden party. Turns out, those rinds you’ve been throwing away can be the best part of your summer and your fall: all you have to do is pickle them. Continue Reading…