The soul wants for silence, now when grief shutters our smiles. Words seem starved, fallen like us, runaway with by cold committees, drained and riddled under management of Opinion. All this may leave the space bar blinking like a lonely beacon, an un-penned note of sympathy looking paltry. Some will make war and I wish not to make war with my words.
I have been praying for a community of silence, no less present, no less alive to suffering, but considering and steady around the teapot and the broken bread.
My opinion, my stance, on what we should do about the terror and death we are witnesses to, is not important. My love is. If something is to be done NOW, let it be the hard and powerful work of silence and small things. It is no mean feat to face our fear with silence, it is beyond tempting to fill that wounded void with action, with recommendations, qualifiers, with anything at all except silence. I can accept that this too may look like opinion, to you I will be vulnerable. Of course we don’t want to stay silent in the face of unjust and violent acts against the innocent. Silence isn’t about letting bad things happen out of cowardice or ambivalence, because silence is not always about the absence of words.
“We say we want to strike against terror, we want to destroy terrorism, but do we even know where to find it? Can we locate it with a radar? Can the army find terrorism using it’s night goggles and heat sensors?…To uproot terror, we need to begin by looking at our own hearts. We don’t need to destroy each other, either physically or psychologically. Only by calming our minds and looking deeply inside ourselves will we develop the insight to identify the roots of terrorism.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Finding the roots of a thing, a gentle and curious task. Digging down to the tenacious limbs of our fear and acknowledging it might help us to move that fear past self-absorption and into self-giving. Perhaps one of the roots of our fear is the fear of death. But how can something which is inevitable, natural, life giving to life, be used as a threat or a bargaining tool against us? Our death does not need to belong in the hands of violent men, it belongs to us as we continue to make meaning with the strength of our compassionate days, and the depth of our thoughtful nights. Our death belongs to us and to the Spirit from which it flows. I am glad that I don’t have to worry about protecting something which I will certainly lose, for it takes all of my energies to focus on being in the brilliant and daunting days of now. To be human, to accept the brevity of my time, to be joyful, to make life where there is grief, to hone the skill of wonder- this emerges in the silence.
Not being an expert at sitting still for long periods of time, I find my silence in cooking. Thankfully there are many ways to dig at the roots. A loved one I know turns inward with a holy concentration that results in a number of ingenious constructions, garden beds and bike-powered generators among them. As Thanksgiving approaches the United States, I plan to host my first Thanksgiving in a totally new country. Wish me luck introducing stuffing into a 90 degree day. I am looking forward to a shared meal and a moment of pause. It is going to be a time to root out terror, to be surrounded by people who just make you say, “Thank goodness!” and “Amen” to existence. We will remember and mourn. After looking into our own hearts we may discover that we are not so alone or so endangered. If we need help to root out fear…we have it.
May you have a peaceful and warm day of Thanksgiving, wherever and whoever you might be.
Pear & Fennel Crumble
2 fennel bulbs, stalks and some leaves removed
3-4 pears of your choosing, thinly sliced
1 large leek, thinly sliced until you reach the green stem
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 Tablespoon thyme
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 Tablespoon of Thyme
1. A savory and sweet dish. The thyme cuts the sweetness of the crumble beautifully. Something new on that table of old favorites. First, thinly slice the fennel bulbs crossways, being sure to remove the firmer root at the bottom of the bulb. Sauté in a large frying pan with leeks and 2 tablespoons of butter, and a little olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add thyme. When the leeks being to turn brown and the fennel is becoming tender, toss in the sliced pears. Sauté for another few minutes and then remove from heat. Pour this mixture into a 9-inch round pie plate or an 8×8 square pan will also do. Pour cream over the pears and fennel. Now we’re talking!
2. Top the pear and fennel mix with the shredded cheese. Next make your crumble in a medium to large mixing bowl. Place four, brown sugar, thyme, and salt in the bowl and whisk lightly to combine.Cut in the butter and with a pasty blender or fork, and work the butter into the flour to distribute. I like to have pea-sized crumble pieces interspersed with more generous butter clumps. Cover the mixture in the pie plate with crumble mixture and sneak some crumble.
3. In a pre-heated oven, 350 degrees, bake crumble for 30-40 minutes or until the crumble is a nice golden brown on top and there is some cream bubbling happily from beneath. Share around a friend-filled table with some French wine and joyful abandon.
November crept in, quietly overshadowed by the festivities of Halloween. There is fake blood on the carpet, sparkles galore, and I am the proud new owner of a few abandoned hats.The dented pirate’s hat looks especially jaunty. While the leaves darken, dazzling mountain hikers and highway peepers in North America, the days dry and warm here in Australia. This morning a pair of Rosellas feasted happily on their own treats in the backyard, pink flowers filled with nectar. We are not done with pumpkin recipes just yet however, so while you dust away that nylon spider web and hide your candy wrappers, take a look at these pumpkin puppies. Have you ever heard of a hushpuppy? I hope so, and for your sake I hope you have eaten one of these perfect cornmeal creations too. Hushpuppies are a Southern side dish with roots in Native American cookery, a simple and satisfying corn cake, or Johnny cake, that pairs well with catfish and keeps everybody quiet ( happily hushed and munching).
I was dreaming of a hushpuppy dessert and realized pumpkin was the perfect seasonal squash for the job. These pups are dusted with brown sugar & cinnamon and finished with a ginger root caramel sauce. If you are anything like me you are already thinking about what to cook for Thanksgiving. Oh…No? Maybe it’s just me then. In any case, these bright orange fritters involve a sticky- dipping situation, perfect for ruining your fancy occasion tablecloth.
This kind of recipe is one of my favorites: combine the whole kit and caboodle and mix it together. Boom. If you are ever on the hunt for a quick and painless caramel sauce, this one rings the bell. Also! I discovered several varieties of golden syrup. Endless sweet adventures await.
Pumpkin Puppies with Ginger Caramel Sauce
For Pumpkin Puppies:
1 cup smashed pumpkin, roasted and pureed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk
Oil for frying
1. Combine all ingredients, perhaps in your preferred “pancake order”, and mix into a smooth batter.
2. Heat oil in medium to large saucepan and fry in Tablespoon of batter until golden brown and thoroughly cooked, about 2-3 minutes. You might manage perfectly round pups but mine were a little more interpretive.You can test the heat of the oil by dropping in a small amount of batter. It should sizzle, brown quickly, and remain at surface of oil.
3. Remove from oil and place on plate with kitchen paper or cloth to drain. Continue with remaining pups.Keep warm in an oven set on the warming setting if you so desire.
For the Ginger Caramel:
1 Tablespoon ginger root, grated
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup golden brown syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1. Combine all of these gooey ingredient in a medium saucepan and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes. You want the resulting caramel to be glossy and thick, so you want to reduce the liquid in the sauce and heat sugar close to a soft ball stage. This a fool-prood and deliciously easy caramel for all your dipping delights.
2. Pour over warm fritters or place in bowl for hungry dessert goers to dip in. Enjoy pumpkin all-year round and with relish!
Even oceans away from my pumpkin carving master and supervisor (my dad), I managed to carve a fleet of pumpkins this October. Much to my surprise the large, hollow, and seed filled pumpkins of my youth were available in the supermarkets here.The celebration of Halloween is a rather new phenomenon in Australia, it’s growth has met with mixed reviews. I might be able to think of some good reasons why…plastic fantastic chaos anyone? I offer Roasted Pumpkin seeds as a peace offering, with Cayenne, Cinnamon, Brown Sugar and Salt, they are an old-fashioned and un-commercialized treat. Yum. Yum.
Until next time, may your dessert time be hushed and happy.
A Monday cup o’ love to you, a toast to the brave things you will do this week, including getting out of bed. This week I will be sharing a recipe for Pumpkin Puppies. Sounds a slightly strange, right? Great! Halloween is fast approaching and Halloween has been a big deal since this American-born kid hit the scene. Remember when I dressed up as Pearl Jam? The entire band. Who says I can’t carve a giant squash into a terrifying likeness of Donald Trump ( key word search: “Trumpkin”), when it’s 80 degrees out? Hmmmm, I think I prefer to sacrifice my squash in better ways, let’s say into a doughnut- like pastry that can be shared peacefully and jovially with all. Perfect. Until then, a little Monday Mantra(s) for you.
“And your very flesh shall be a great poem.”– Walt Whitman
“Read a Poem, Write a Poem, Share a Poem, Be a Poem.” – Awesome English Teacher
I will start us off then. See you with a pumpkin pastry soon!
with her sore hands she signs only thanks
and opens upward, palms like solar panels
into the mud
which becomes clay
and then again with fingers
folded, round as women,
filled with silt water
and tin fish
brined in iron, red dirt
suckled dry from afternoon
the basin bears
the slow drip
and then in its depths
the murmur, small
on the shoulders of the valley
Biscuits and Gravy is the classic feel-good dish of the South. Fluffy, flaky biscuits are smothered with creamy sausage gravy, the color of the gravy might just depend on the cook, the state, or the syrupy superstitions of a well-used family cookbook. A good gravy is a practiced and intuitive alchemy of flour, milk, and fat. No recipes can replicate a granny’s hands about their saintly sign language of biscuit making. But most of all Biscuits and Gravy is a dish to welcome strangers and banish hunger form empty bellies for hours to come. As I think lately about what it means to be a stranger and what it means to welcome strangers, I was inspired to re-imagine this hearty staple. The movement of thousands of people from their countries brings natural worries about infrastructure and space, it also brings the possibilities of new voice, new community, richer tables and deeper dialogues. These voices will change our lives, right down to dishes we eat. Food figures prominently in the history of our migrations, escapes, and re-locations. Whether it be the first foot forward to connecting and listening to strangers, the means to start a business in a new land, or the strange feeling of not knowing what is what in the marketplace, food has a way of telling us about ourselves and the ground we can call home. Even when we cannot at first share a language, we can share bread.
This country recently announced that it plans to welcome greater numbers of refugees from Syria and Iraq, in so doing it commits itself to discerning not only how to welcome them, but how to help them feel at home. We are not talking about short term guests but new neighbors. The first step to welcoming the stranger might be overcoming our own fears, and there seems to be a pig pile of fear going around in every country. What are we afraid of? Perhaps at the heart of the refugee “crisis”, is the pernicious and persistent fear in each and every one of us that there is not enough room, not enough resources to go around, not enough love to reach me. If people can lose their home in mere moments, what is to stop that happening to my family or town? Where can we all go? Where will we fit? Perhaps we are afraid that we will be contaminated by the violence that caused other people to have to flee their homes, afraid that misfortune will slip into our lives like a flu, and that our lives as they are (as we like them) will change. Fear has the power to silence our welcomes and starve our hospitality.
It’s true, our lives will change. It’s true, we can’t guarantee that tomorrow will be like today. Hospitality asks us to confront the fears we have about our own security by welcoming the stranger into our lives, but is also helps us to do so by enlarging them past our own coffee table expectations. Hospitality takes courage, it sure does, but living into welcome might just make us free. It could be like an enormous, chaotic, delicious house party. You know the kind, big mess= big fun.There might be something more nourishing than security and surety to find. Despite the grim hypothesis of the newsreels there is enough room if we make it, together we have enough food, and no finite resource of love. I am not sure how to help all of the time, certainly not in the face of something so overwhelming, but I do know that I will have to put aside my fears and get big- big arms, big mind, big table, big life. When I was a stranger you let me cook in your kitchens and eat at your table, and it rocked.
Other people’s stories are good brain and heart food. I found these two resources to help on the way to No More Strangers:
In this lovely article, Omid Safi reminds us that refugees are living, breathing people, who never stopped loving their homes. On their journey they continue to fall in love, feel loss, lose connections, and keep on hoping.
A nifty list of Affirmations for Faith Leaders: Welcoming the Stranger, from Lutheranworld.org
Now for a little Texas meets Middle East in a new version of Biscuits and Gravy where Sweet Potato Biscuits are paired with Lamb Kefta/kofta in a Tahini and Yogurt Sauce. The sweet potato in these biscuits makes for an amazingly moist crumb and texture. They are buttery and filling and balance out the sweetness of the meatballs perfectly. I roasted some eggplant, cauliflower, and whole shallots to serve alongside. Sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts, I think B&G just went international.
Sweet Potato Biscuits & “Gravy”
For the Biscuits:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick, 1/2 cup butter unsalted and very cold
1 Tablespoon of Rosemary, finely chopped
1 cup of roasted sweet potato, mashed
3 Tablespoons of Milk
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To make biscuits place flour, salt, baking powder, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk. Cut in butter and with a pastry blender or your hands, process butter into flour mixture until the pieces are about pea-sized and well distributed. Add in sweet potato and rosemary and fold into dry mix. Add milk and bring the dough together. If it is a bit dry add some milk and if it seems a little wet, add a little more flour as your turn it out onto a cutting board or surface. Need together, folding over 3 or 4 times. After letting the dough rest for a few minutes, roll out to 1/4 inch thick and cut rounds with a biscuit cutter or glass. Place on a greased baking sheet, cozy right close to each other, so they rise up when baking and not out. Bake for 15-20 minutes until tops are golden brown. Try not to eat them all before the meatballs are done…but you gotta taste test of course!
Lamb Meatballs in Yogurt and Tahini Sauce
1 pound ground spring lamb
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 clovers of garlic, minced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 Tablespoon Blackberry Jam, or other preserve of your choice (Orange Marmalade is yum!)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
5 dates, chopped
dash salt and pepper
1 cup greek yogurt
1/2-3/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
salt and squeeze of lemon
1/2 cup pine nuts toasted
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1. Place the lamb in a mixing bowl and add spices, herbs, jam, dates, cheese and egg. Mix with a wooden spoon or your hands. Season with salt and pepper and mix again. In another bowl add tahini, yogurt, water, lemon and pinch of salt. Mix well.
2. Heat a large skillet or frying pan and coat with a thin layer of oil. When the pan is hot and oil heated, shape lamb mixture into longer, oval-like meatballs. Ideally they should all fit into one pan. When one side of the meatballs is browned, flip them. After both sides are brown and there is a good layer of fat and oil in the bottom of the pan, add tahini gravy and continue to simmer meatballs in the sauce for 15 minutes. If the sauce is to thick for your liking, you can thin it with a little more water or oil. The thicker the better for me!
3. Slice open a sweet potato biscuit and spoon a few meatballs and a serving of gravy overtop. Sprinkle with pine nuts, pomegranate, and leftover parsley. Enjoy with a new friends and stories unheard!
Hopes for safety, shelter, big hosts and warm tables
It’s officially fall in the States and I am in Australia, happily so of course. The spring air might still hold a chill here but the sun is beaming down her warm promise, summer is just around the corner. I am ready for the beach, prepared to join the many Sydney folk in fully embracing their birthright of sand and cerulean wave. Yet, it is simply impossible for me to overlook an entire season of autumnal recipes just because I have sand in my shoes already! Heavens no, not a chance. It’s hard not to have some foliage feelings as the thick sweaters and pumpkins start cheerily appearing on the news feeds of friends back home. That twinge of longing for the mountains of New England, draped in orange capes and veils of red, is bone deep. Autumn has always been my favorite season, and there is just something so right about apple pie that it transcends whole hemispheres of tradition. So here is all my nostalgia, longing, and celebration slapped together and filled with thick white frosting.
Guess what they don’t have here? Candy Corn. My teeth rejoice while me heart grows faint. Really though, it is a great excuse to make my own, inventing a healthier and more corny-esque version of the corn syrup sculpted relics of the past. No offense Candy Corn, I will always have several soft spots and a tummy ache for you.
These Cowboy Cookies are my version of an old-fashioned oatmeal sandwich cookie. This “Little Debbie” is made with fresh ingredients and no-preservatives so it won’t last for the entirety of your road trip to Portland, OR under a carseat. They are so tasty and comforting that they won’t even last a day, infused with all the flavor of an autumn apple pie. You don’t even need a pie dish. And if you play with this recipe you can make hundreds of variations. I made a popular version of these sandwich cookies for Roots Cafe in Brooklyn, and I ended up calling them Cowboy Cookies because 1) alliteration rocks, and 2) my dad is a cowboy ( yes, way!). The sandwich cookie is a staple folks, an honest to goodness institution. Take this simple recipe and have a ball. Maybe you could run through a corn maze for me while you’re at it? Oh! and definitely go for that extra large pumpkin and that jug of fresh apple cider.
Apple Pie Cowboy Cookies
Recipe adapted from cookie guru, Joy the Baker
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 hunky large egg
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
1/2 cup toasted and chopped pecans
1 cup apple pie filling
Apple Pie Filing:
2 cups, about 2 1/2 apples chopped into small cubes
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tablespoon orange or tangelo juice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
pinch of salt
dash of fresh nutmeg
1/2 stick unsalted butter
2 cups confectionary sugar
1 tsp orange, tangelo or lemon juice
pinch of salt
dash of milk or cream
1. Make apple pie filling pie placing the butter and chopped apples in a medium frying pan on medium heat. Add brown sugar, spices and juice. Sauté apples until soft and tender and the a little bit of the sauce starts to thicken and caramelize, 30-35 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl or kitchen aid, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices together into the wet mixture. Blend. Fold in oatmeal. Once the oatmeal is incorporated also fold in toasted and chopped pecans. Add a tablespoon of flour to your apple mixture before adding it into the batter. This will help incorporate the apples and prevent the batter from becoming too wet. Place in the refrigerator too set for at least 30 minutes.
3. Remove batter from the fridge and grease a small ice cream scoop or kitchen teaspoon. Wet hands to prevent dough from sticking and begin to take a heaping teaspoon of dough and form it into a small ball. Place cookies on prepared cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 10-13 minutes until golden brown on the edges. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the pan before transferring to plate or cooling rack to cool completely. Try to get an even number of cookies so each cookie has a sandwich partner! There is usually one solo, no worries, there is usually a little extra frosting too…
4. While your cookies are cooling, make the frosting. With a hand mixer cream the butter until smooth and sift in the confectionary sugar, add juice and a dash of salt. Blend until smooth, adding a dash of milk if the mixture is difficult to mix and too thick. We want spreadable but still substantial filling. Set aside and when the cookies are completely cool, spread frosting on one side of a cookie and squish with a partner. Apple Pie and frosting will make your dreams come true.
Monday pro-tips: Fresh nutmeg and a microplane can make your baked goods and savory dishes rock n’ roll.
See you soon dear feasters, feast on!
I need something really comforting. Something easy and charming like warm brownies and a glass of cold, cold milk. I want to make a dessert that everyone can dig into at the same time, laughing chins dotted with melted chocolate and gooey crumbs. I’m new in town and I need to figure out a way to “sweet talk” my new friends. How about a tray of chocolate chip cookies with something creamy on the side? How about one very large, very shareable cookie in a cast iron skillet? Yes please, and pass those sporks. You see I had a frightening experience more than a week ago and I feel in need of some kitchen therapy. I thought for a baker’s minute that my gratuitously large cookies and quirky cakes were in jeopardy forever…at least on the webs.
Having your website compromised is a disconcerting experience. Understatement. You feel like your stomach has dropped right out of your body as you frantically watch hours of your work slip into the nebulous unknown of internet back alleys. After an initial panic my New England stoicism kicked in as I geared up to let go of everything I had done here, thinking that I wouldn’t have the skills to fix the damage that had been done. If I had to start over, would I have the heart to? I love to create dishes that feed others and myself, and I relish that this space is an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of each dish and how it might have changed our lives a little. The whole process feels so much a part of me now, and in one quick click it all seemed so fragile. And life, just like a tender tart, is indeed fragile.
In this case I was able to salvage all of my files and get Grits to Grace back to baking order, but not without some heavy sighs of woe and much staring at the computer. You see, I must confess that I am more of a chef than a computer whiz. Phewww. Okay, now that’s out. I feel like we are closer now, we could even split a skillet cookie. Two spoons, it’s a date.
Even if my true home is pacing the 70’s orange and calico patterned tiles of your kitchen, doesn’t mean that I can avoid knowing about the other mediums in which I work. Taking ownership of more aspects of how things work in our lives is an important piece of being a whole person. We don’t have to seek identification with one set of skills in fear we might fail at the rest. With more and more technology that can do things for us, it might be vitally important to do some things with our own hands, for ourselves. I can write code (slow as molasses), and start to get the hang of a language that was previously incomprehensible. It is not unlike learning a recipe for a favorite dish that you often eat out. Or learning to fix your motorcycle yourself. We can’t avoid loss in life, even of our most beloved projects and works of art, but we can be more involved in piecing things back together. It rains, a wind blows through the house, we get hacked. We keep digging, we start over, we start something new, never ashamed of our newness. I didn’t reach that realization on my own. Someone who loves me and deserves a whole pan of a cookie helped me to see that I can keep growing into whatever the seasons may throw down.
Some things that I learned from my adventures in the magical forests of CMS (content management systems)! Especially for fellow food bloggers.
- Make a hearty snack. You will need your energy, and a periodic temple massage.
- Beyoncé knows what she is talking about when she exuberantly suggests you, “back it up.” You have spent hours writing, editing, and taking photos, not to mention at the markets and standing over a pot of browning butter. You deserve security! Find a system that helps you to store your work automatically and at regular intervals. Make sure that you can get to these easily if something should go wrong.
- Teach yourself how to fix things. It might take a long time, maybe someone else could fix it in a jiffy, but it will make a huge difference to how you approach your blog and increase your general knowledge of everything. You may not be able to do some things on your own, but you have still picked up some nifty know-how in the process.
- Ask for help, help chat with everyone you can, be persistent and descriptive. Wait! Where are you going?! Stay with me! I am known by name now I am sure, by the famous helpers of my host provider. I wish I could send them cookies.
- Alright, too much talk and not enough cookie.
Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
Lovingly Adapted from Not Without Salt
1 stick butter, melted and browned in pan
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon of Greek Yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 ounces dark chocolate 70% to 80%
3 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips
flaky pink sea salt
Method of Madness:Preheat oven to 400 degrees
1. Brown butter in small sauce pan on medium heat. The top of the butter will bubble and foam and amber- brown specks with begin to appear at the bottom. It will smell toasty and wonderful. Be careful not to burn. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl sift in combined dry ingredients. Also add your sugars to another bowl. Chop your chocolate set aside.
3. When butter is slightly cooled pour over your bowl of sugars. Stir with a wooden spoon or baking spatula until combined. Add vanilla and stir heartily again. Add the egg, repeat. Add Greek yogurt. I like the tang it adds to chocolate chip cookies!
4. Add dry ingredients over the wet and fold in. Now you can add in your chocolate chips and place the the batter into a small (buttered) cast iron skillet or Le Creuset. Bake for 12 minutes or until the sides are golden crunchy looking and the middle is still gooey. You can top with ice cream and eat immediately with a bunch of legends. Now isn’t that a comfort.
Wow, here we are! It has been exactly one week since we hugged our New York City friends goodbye and landed in Sydney Airport. There was plenty of monotonous flying in between of course, and eating bacon and egg rolls, and staring mooned-eyed at the creamy tops of the flat whites flying out of the cafes. Out of all the beautifully unsettled days, yesterday was the first time I was able to get back into the kitchen. In a couple of weeks I will have my own kitchen to debauch again, until that time I am a wandering cook, an itinerant baker, and a tortilla-tossing traveler. Grits to Grace has always been about mobility and flexibility so it feels just fine to be on the road, if not a little more challenging. Creating meals in different spaces and for different folks is one way I hope to start a larger conversation about meanigful hospitality and just food. It is also ridiculously fun and eye opening. You really don’t need the world’s fanciest kitchen to make a substantial meal but you can’t make pancake batter in a colander (FYI)…but you can make spaeztle!
Being able to cook up something was an important centering point in this first week of living in a new country. I might not have all the details sorted out but I can make a tart. Isn’t it always food that moves to the center of our travels away from home? What are we going to eat? When and how are we going to eat it? What is it? Some people admittedly choose a destination just for the cuisine. The food in Australia is not drastically different from anything I would find in America, yet there are a few mysteries and pleasures I have yet to unravel. The dairy section in the market for instance, has a perplexing plethora of cream about which I am perhaps unduly excited. Pouring cream?! Yes, please.
Having left the heavy New York summer for the first chilly days of an Australian spring my season sensibility is a bit off. It is barely Autumn back home and by now my thoughts are habitually turning to apples and eager sugar pumpkins. For the first time in my life summer will turn into spring, and then into summer again. So I thought up a recipe that could sit comfortably in any season. One of the nicest welcome meals I have had thus far was a simply thrown together cheese plate, some white wine in a backyard garden, a few chairs huddled together before supper. Being able to put together an impromptu and impressive cheese plate should definitely be part of your sexy back pocket entertaining repertoire. There was something so resonant about the promise of sun- mellowed summer grapes as we all shuffled around to find the last sun beam to sit in. I felt at home. Sweet fruit and sharp cheddar was the inspiration for this dessert, perhaps a few savory rosemary crackers to catch up a bit of soft goat’s cheese. A cheese plate inspires all sorts of plans and promises, learning to surf, finding a good hike, a dinner party with a long table and lanterns.
We have been received into so many open arms and fluffy couches, I feel compelled to repay the kindness with an abundance of food. Care for a tart, sweet friends? As the winter departs here in Australia the grapes are not at the top of their game. No worries, roasting grapes is a sure fire way to bring back out the sweetness. With a dose of olive oil and a little salt to suck out the moisture, grapes are ready to roll again, on a cheese plate or as a simple dessert with whipped cream or crème fraîche. These grapes tasted like a smoky port, decadent leftovers alongside my breakfast porridge. There are a few steps to this recipe but all the components are easy as a breeze. You will have leftover pastry cream and you will want to put it on everything.I roasted the grapes stems on for dramatic effect…and to keep them from rolling all over the place.
A road trip to Melbourne is our next move before we settle proper in Sydney. I hope to have some camp cooking for you and a peep at the awesome cafes and eateries in that fine city. I think we need to re-visit our famous Kangaroo tacos and getya a recipe. I am also psyched to do some more in-depth research about Australian wine, since I have been a bit of a francophile on that front before now. It’s so much more than juicy and bold, it’s a whole different taste of land and stone! I think this research requires another cheese plate.
Roasted Red Grape Tarts~ Rosemary Shortbread and Sharp Cheddar Pastry Cream
Rosemary Shortbread Crust
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cup all- purpose flour
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons rosemary
7 Tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 egg yolks
3-4 teaspoons water
Sharp Cheddar Pastry Cream
1 1/2 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 eggs yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons corn flour
1/2 stick of butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar ( I used Mersey Valley Classic Cheddar) Yum!
dash of salt
Whipped Cream & Crème Fraîche
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup creme fraiche
Sweet Balsamic Reduction
1/2 cup caramelized balsamic
1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
- Place walnuts and oatmeal in in the bowl of a food processor and grind to a fine powder. Add flour, salt, and sugar, rosemary and blend until rosemary is in fine little pieces. Add the butter by tablespoon while continuing to blend, when finished add the egg yolk. Finish with tiny teaspoons of ice cold water until the dough comes together. It will be a little grainy but should look similar to the dough above. Grease a single tart pan or several smaller ones. Push dough into the pan and up the sides, crimp with a fork and polk holes in the center for baking. Place tart or tarts in the refrigerator for a half hour to chill. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown and a little puffy.
- While your dough is chilling out in the refrigerator you can roast your grapes. Place grapes stems and all, onto a rimmed baking sheet. Cover with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Roast the grapes slowly at 350 degrees until wrinkled and some of the juices have gathered and caramelized on the pan. You can cook the tart crust at the same time as the grapes if you so desire.
- To make the pastry cream place the milk and cream into a medium sized sauce pan over medium to hight heat. Whisk egg yolks, sugar and flours together in a separate bowl. Add vanilla extract to yolk and sugar mixture, which again. When the milks are bubbling and hot to the touch add about a 1/2 cup of milk to the yolk mixture to temper. Whisk quickly and add all the liquid back to the saucepan over heat. Whisk or stir continually until the mixture starts to thicken. At this time add the salt, butter, and grated cheese. Continue to whisk until the mixture is completely thickened (the texture should be like a slightly watery pudding and take about 7-8 minutes), and remove from heat. Place a strainer over a clean bowl and run pastry cream through. Let cool on the counter for 20 minutes before placing in the refrigerator to chill completely.
- For the balsamic reduction place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add maple syrup and brown sugar. Reduce the liquid by a half until it coats the back of a spoon like thick cough medicine (ooooh joy!). Place in a small jar and let cool.
- Tart assembly!: Remove pastry cream from refrigerator and fill the tart or tarts shells up to the brim. Whip cream and fold in creme fraiche. Smooth a layer of whipped cream over the pastry, top with roasted grapes and drizzle with balsamic. Serve with a dessert wine or espresso next to an outdoor fire. Presto!
I briefly touched on the fact that Grits to Grace was making it’s TV debut in a previous post. Crazy right? Well, the show has aired and I want you to be the first to hear about how hard it is to watch yourself on the screen. Despite my misgivings on the spectacle my hair decided to stage that day, it was truly amazing experience. In addition to eating some hot food together we dug down deep for some meaning, and since good talk can’t be broken down into a soundbite, here are some of the thoughts and themes from the day of the shoot. The episode is down below if you haven’t seen the fun yet!
The supper club that Holy & Hungry captured at The Riverside Church is a very special one, and I am very lucky to have been it’s chef for a short time. As community members sit down to share a meal with their Senior Pastor, personal stories and life testimonies tumble onto the table as the dishes are passed around. We leave supper a little more aware of the people we are sharing the world with, and a little more aware of the ways in which we are hungry.
By carving out and keeping safe a space of peace and gathering, The Riverside Church has fulfilled one aspect of its mission to extend radical hospitality and welcome to all the people who walk in the door. Humans need to eat and they also need to be loved- what mighty threads are running through these two truths. When we sat down to this dinner we asked ourselves if food figured in our lives as a spiritual relationship. Did someone have a memory of Church or a special family gathering that included food? The answer was most invariably yes. Did certain foods represent, remind us of, and encourage actions of love and connection? As adults a specific smell, perhaps a pie or a beef stew, can give us a sudden warmth and happiness as our memories dance back to us. How is the scent and steam of food unlike the use of incense in early and modern worship and celebration? The reminder of an offering, a sign of a feast, the prayers of those long past filling our senses and surrounding us once again. When we cook a meal together we are creating a space, saying something definitive about time itself, and inhabiting our being with the new attentiveness of hunger and the intention of renewal.
There are many ways to believe in love in this world, as many names for God as there are unique and treasured dishes on our tables. In a time when our food can seem as mysterious and inacessible as the discourse of political parties, it might be important to have a bit of ceremony about the whole delicious thing. When I hear people say “You are what you eat!”, it sounds so lonely. Our food has become lonely, and we, completely in control and inevitably flawed. I am not satisfied with that story. We are how we eat together. Let’s make a meal and think of a new story.
When we eat an apple,
Let us really eat that apple
Let us savor every note of sweetness
considering every mineral of flesh and seed
each memory of sun and soil slowly awakening
Let us like Saint Hildegarde
name our involvement in the mystery
of growing things and the miracle
of new and nourishing life
let us eat together at the same table
For the hunger we have cannot be filled by bread
alone- only in the warmth of fellowship do we feel full again
This is where we return when we are lost
and greet one another
at the end of each day
What we put on the table is up to us
Whatever we bring will be multiplied by our sharing
Loneliness is not on the menu
We want to participate in the world
in all its sorrows and celebrations
We know that our eating implicates us
in relationships of giving and recieving
and with deep thankfulness we will look
at what has been given us through creation
at our own hunger
at the fullness we feel in fellowship
and the lives of others living things which have given themselves for us
We see the hands that have prepared this food
and those who have grown it
We eat and see
what new work our hands must turn to
We will sing to each other
Come, sit and eat
Feast on your life!
and let not others go hungry for kindness
Holy & Hungry on The Cooking Channel
For more good reads on the show and the topic of Food and Faith, amble on over to this lovely article about me in the Deseret News! Visit Patreon to get the yummy recipe for my Jesus and Mary Biscuits featured on Holy & Hungry, and become a patron to recieve updates, personal recipes, and posts from Grits to Grace.
I have to make something decadent to say goodbye to a city like this one; a city so crowded, and maddening and lovely. A city so colorful, music-filled, relentless, ruined, and resurrected at every turn.
My farewell is a full one. I fell in love here at the same time that I struggled to keep my head above water and struggled to distill my passions into purpose. I cooked in a dozen kitchens and stood for hours on end. Sweaty, lonely, and totally inspired. I started another degree then suddenly decided to just go ahead and educate myself, instead. I couldn’t be more excited or ready for my next adventure, though I feel all the tugs and aches of having to say goodbye to such wonderful friends. It is true that people make the place. My joy is increased by getting to travel forward with some of that life-changing love – a crew with which to share the spoils and toils of our earthly kitchens. I hope I have left some of that love behind as well, in gratitude’s wordless wake.
One of the most important things that I have learned in New York is that you have to be true to the way you want to live, and if that means not living in New York, then adventure elsewhere! Having to start over somewhere else should never keep you from following your hunger. Life is about starting over everyday and “from scratch” doesn’t mean “from nothing”, it means beginning again with every beautiful, random, useful bit of wonder your days and dream- drunk nights have accumulated. New York has taken away my fear of most things, despite (or because) it has scared me out of my boots plenty of times. New York ran my game, my claim, and my best defence right out of me. In doing so it helped me to confront going home to myself, a journey whose importance I can no longer ignore. When you do that, you really can “make it anywhere”.
Isn’t it funny that right before you depart a place it becomes more dear to you, even more clear. With your soon-to-be travelers coolness you can step back a moment from the surviving, the troubled curiosity of how you might maintain this routine, and look at the crush with the peaceful cream pot eyes of a wandering Buddha- to- be. New York has been another tree under which to sit and contemplate life. The children screaming harmlessly at each other outside your house are suddenly your children, have always been your children. You know the textures of your favorite places will greet you suddenly while walking down a similar street somewhere, and flirt with you over a mesmeric dawn. Sitting on your steps in a hazy twilight as your neighbor’s enjoy their backyard birthday mariachi band, you finally understand this city, and with a sly and exacting power she will make you feel completely at home. Finally your realize that this is not the finale, as your open your heart for an endless encore. Next up, Sydney Australia.
This draws me to one natural conclusion; cheesecake.
A super soft, buttery cherry cheesecake. And a backyard BBQ to bring it all home. This cheesecake was inspired by my favorite Manhattan cocktail, topped with the most delicious maraschino cherries that have ever been swaddled in irresistible liqueur. This creamy and complex cake has a Teddy Gram ( little bears!) and roasted peanut crust. It’s like dessert walked into the fanciest bar in Manhattan and left a legend.
Split between friends after an al fresco dinner of fried fish, grilled corn on the cob, chorizo and gouda pasta salad, and some classic burgers, this cheesecake made a magical night even more so. I know that using Luxardo cherries in this way might be irreverent, lavish even, but this is a farewell party! It’s hard to say goodbye, but I know we will see each other soon, and eat another meal, and cook up some more dreams. For now, let’s split another slice.
Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Cheesecake
1 cup Honey Teddy Grams
1 cup roasted and salted peanuts
1 stick butter, melted
pinch of salt to taste
2 packages cream cheese (8 oz. each)
1 cup full fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup melted ice cream ( I used Tahitian vanilla bean)
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup syrup from Luxardo Maraschino Cherries
2 cups heavy cream
1 drop red food dye
Chopped and Whole Cherries and juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Greece the bottom and sides of a springform pan and cover with two layers of tin foil. Fill a rimmed baking sheet with 1/2 inch of water and place in oven. In a food processor blend teddy grams and roasted peanuts to a fine crumb. Add a pinch of salt and the melted butter. Blend until the mixture comes together and you can’t resist eating it. Press the crumb crust to the bottom and a little way up the sides of the pan.
In a large mixing bowl add the cream cheese and greek yogurt and mix until smooth and combined. Add melted ice cream, vanilla, salt, powdered sugar, flour, and blend again. Add one egg at a time and slowly drizzle cherry syrup in between. Place a sieve over your pan and process mixture through. I added a few cherries to the batter so I could press them through the sieve, thereby adding one more boost of cherry goodness. Once all of your batter is in your crust, carefully place the pan onto your watery pan in the oven. Bake for 60-65 minutes. Turn of the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven as it cools down, allowing it to set for another 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 2 hours before placing in the refrigerator overnight, tightly wrapped.
When the cake is cool and ready to meet the crowd, place your cream in a cold mixing bowl and whip until thickened. I hand whip cream because I think it’s easier than using more electric things and tastier, but feel free to whip in your electric mixer. Add a drop of food coloring for a pretty cherry pink! Drizzle more cherry syrup on top and crown with cherries. Slice it nice and devour.
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“When I cannot write a poem, I bake biscuits and feel just as pleased.”
― Anne Morrow Lindbergh
In my case this time, I made a peach pecan cobbler.
Anne Morrow Lindberg’s “Gift from the Sea” is a seminal text in my internal library, snuggly shelved in between Melville’s “Moby Dick” and Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet”. If I had to give you a quick synopsis I would say it’s about simplicity, solitude, and silence. It is about how your mind is wiped clean by wind and sea salt when you arrive at the shore. In place of the drift and deep silt of the busy days spreads a holy thoughtlessness. Anne observes, ” the beach is not a place to work; to read, write or to think.” It is a place to be emptied. Though I hyprocrtically find myself writing this on my computer, hopefully to be read upon some other electronic device, I venture to say that rest includes time away from the screen. When cooking, reading, or staring off into the waves, feelings and thoughts that have been shoved away return like loyal and understanding friends. So on Sundays I try, wherever I may be, to let the music do my thinking and the wind through the window make my schedule.
In the mystic mess of a domestic scene, a cobbler emerges, or perhaps a new idea for creative project, the redressing of a sticky sorrow, a perfectly thoughtless and nourishingly full silence- a gift.
Peach Pecan Cobbler with White Chocolate
6-8 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
1 lime, juiced
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup whole pecans
1/4 to 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, based on preference
Heavy cream for the whip, and a dash for the cobble mix
1. Peel and slice the peaches and place in a bowl. Add lime juice, 1/2 cup brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and a pinch of salt. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add this to the peaches too. Toss. Add 1 tablespoon of flour to this mixture and let it sit as you prepare the cobbler.
2. Saute pecans in a small sauce pan with 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Don’t burn the pecans, just toast them until crunchy and slightly caramelized.
2. In another bowl place the flour, oatmeal, baking powder, salt, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar and mix gently. Add softened butter and cream cheese. Work in the butter and cream cheese either with your hands or a pastry blender until the dough starts to form. Add a few dashes of cream to make it a little moist. Fold in the white chocolate. Place peaches in a deep baking dish or pie plate and sprinkle with pecans. Top with dough and press gently to cover the juicy peaches. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the top is golden brown and the peach juice is bubbling up around the edges nicely, 40-50 minutes. Let cool and top with whipped cream ( vanilla bean ice cream would be swell). Share in peace with friends and lovers.
So simple and so filling.
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