Scalded and Malted Milk Cake

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I made this cake twice. The first time I baked in a bundt pan and seriously fucked it up when trying to remove it from the pan. Pieces. Cursing. Why Does everything happen to me? LOL. It was mostly my fault,  I was lazy when preparing the pan. Luckily I was bringing it to by best friend who had just had her second son and wasn’t going to judge me, she was covered in spit-up. I threw the half I could salvage into a disposable lasagna pan and presented it as the glorious mess it was.

I made it again more recently for the same friend (she really likes malt, and I had something to prove) and this time baked it in a square muffin tin, making cute little individual cakes. I also made the glaze less of a glaze and more of a frosting. I liked it both ways. The cake is full of intense vanilla/malty flavors and feels just right for fall and cool weather and rainy days. It’s kind of my dream cake. It might be yours, too.

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[Talk about voracious!]

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These Recipes Will Save Your Life

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No they won’t. That’s ridiculous. But I was finding inspiration in the strangely portentous title of Ruth Reichl’s new cookbook.

We have some catching up to do. I’ve been cooking!

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My friend Abra is a chef and writer and teaches me a lot about how to be a better cook. She’s especially good at preserving food. I’ve been following her lead and roasting and then freezing cherry tomatoes to get me through the long tomato-less winter. (Though maybe this winter won’t be as tomato-less as some for Chicagoans). She also makes a mean ratatouille, using those very same roasted tomatoes. I used her recipe to improvise mine, the wine and the paprika are key.

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Plum Salad

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Remember when everyone was eating bacon and bone marrow? I am sure they still are, but we’re having to hear about it a lot less. The pendulum has swung toward vegetables. Now we hear about rice bowls and fermentation—or we did, maybe even that moment is over. It’s odd how these trends effect our perception of food. I found myself annoyed by bacon for years. It had become embarrassing. Once the moment has passed, you’re suddenly trying too hard or something. Those bacon band-aids. 

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L + D Guide to Madison, Wisconsin

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I spend a lot of time trying to convince people in Chicago that Madison, Wisconsin is one of the coolest cities in the country. I get a lot of blank stares or condescending smiles. But if you’ve been there, you know.

We’ve been visiting a couple of times a year for the past few years and have fallen in love with Madison. It is the state capitol of Wisconsin and also home of the University of Wisconsin, which makes it very much a college town. It is a progressive city, sometimes referred to as the Berkeley of the Midwest.  It is built on an isthmus and surrounded by four (five?) beautiful lakes. Nature and urban life flow together in wonderful ways in Madison. It has a thriving food scene and is one of the friendliest places you’ll ever go. Because it is in Wisconsin, beer and cheese are plentiful. Basically, it is paradise.

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Another Banana Bread

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The last few weeks have been kind of juicy in the ole’ U.S. of A.. I’ve felt everything from shame and anger to pride and joy as an American. That is my usual range of emotions related to my citizenship, I guess it has just felt very concentrated. That coupled with summer, and a series of fun visitors, has kept me pretty distracted. When we’ve been home, we’ve eaten a lot of old favorites. I’ve made this eggplant spread a couple of times and still love it. I baked these cakes for the 4th of July and they were as good as ever.

I also tried another banana bread recipe. This one from the pages of Bon Appetit. I don’t actually read Bon Appetit anymore, I just use it for recipes—some sort of reverse Playboy thing is happening?  I do find myself wondering why magazines are making such a mess of themselves. The way to compete with the internet is not to make your magazine seem more like the internet—yet we’re being given lists and infographics and stupid celebrity stuff. But like I said, there are still some good recipes. This banana bread is from El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette in New York City and is a really special riff on everyone’s favorite quick bread that adds some sesame seeds and sesame paste to the mix.

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How We Used to Flex in Texas

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Amanda Rockman has left the building.

After a good run in Chicago, she has packed her bags and headed back home to Texas. You may remember Amanda from the famous Gateau Basque recipe she shared on these pages. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating a plate of sweets made by this super-talented chef, you probably won’t forget her. If pastry chefs were spirit animals, she’d probably be mine. So, as you might have guessed, I was a little bummed when I heard she was leaving town. So bummed that in her last couple of weeks I’d just show up at Nico and eat all of the desserts for dinner. Amanda’s been an important part of Chicago’s pastry scene for years—but Chicago’s loss is Austin’s gain (Austinites—Amanda will be in charge of all pastry at the soon to open South Congress Hotel, go tell her I said hello), and I am happy for Amanda and excited to see what she does next.

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Radishes

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Who can resist the pretty little radishes that are being sold in Midwestern markets right now? They are great served with some salted butter, but they are even better when you coat them in butter and salt.

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#notboring

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Alan Levinovitz is a professor of philosophy and religious studies and so it may be surprising that his latest book is about American diets. In The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths About What You Eat (deliberately provocative title, jeez!), he explores the myths and pseudoscience that much of our culture’s dietary understanding is based upon. He makes smart observations about the ways we use religious ideas and arguments to talk about food. And argues for a relationship with food that is less anxiety-ridden and fearful.

Once, at a farmers’ market, I asked a juice vendor whether her juice counted as “processed”—yet another vague, unscientific epithet that gets thrown around in discussions of food. After a moment of shock, she impressed upon me that processing fruit into juice doesn’t result in processed food. Only corporations, she insisted, were capable of making processed food. Not only that, but it wasn’t the processing that made something processed, so much as the presence of chemicals and additives.

Did the optional protein powder she offered count as a chemical additive, I pressed? A tan, gaunt customer interrupted us.

“It’s easy,” she said, staring at me intensely. “Processed food is evil.”

Processed food is evil. Natural food is good. These are religious mantras, the condensed version of simplistic fairy tales that divide up foods, and the world, according to moralistic binaries. Genuine nutritional science, like all science, rejects oversimplification. “Natural” and “processed” are not scientific categories, and neither is good nor evil. These terms should be employed by monks and gurus, not doctors and scientists. Yet it is precisely such categories, largely unquestioned, that determine most people’s supposedly scientific decisions about what and how to eat.

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Lovage

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Farmers Markets are slowly reopening in Chicago. I like this time of year, the produce tastes good, and it’s fun to be outdoors. But I often buy stuff just for the novelty of buying stuff, which is stupid. Sometimes, though, it pays off—like with the bunch of lovage that I impulse-bought at Green City Market on Saturday. I don’t see lovage very often, and I got excited. For those of you unfamiliar, lovage is herbaceous plant that tastes somewhat like celery—though more intense, and perhaps also a bit like lime. It’s delicious.  read more+++