• the quotidian (2.25.19)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    Still searching for a dry, crunchy  but not rock hard  super-flavorful biscotti. Suggestions?

    Steadily improving.
    Italian buttercream: haven’t quite nailed it.
    Cake scraps, trifled.
    The recipe called for toffee so I made some  [adjusts crown from scratch. 

    Lava cake, four ways: a sampling.
    On a platter. 

    Sausage and spinach.

    And then they adulterate it with applesauce: what weird food habits do your children have?

    He made himself an impressive breakfast, but it’s the placemat that slays me. 

    This same time, years previous: homemade pasta, jelly toast: a love story, steer sitting, doppelganger, old-fashioned molasses cream sandwich cookies, lemon cheesecake morning buns, roasted cauliflower soup, the quotidian (2.25.13), bandwagons.

  • collard greens

    Besides the butter dumplings, I learned to make a few other southern staples from the Bragg book. Several of the recipes were for the birds (literally), but there were some solid finds, too: creamed onions, jalapeno cornbread, ham and beans, stewed cabbage, and collards.

    The collards, in particular, I was excited about. I’d always been curious about them — how could a bitter, boring vegetable be at the heart of a cuisine that relied so heavily on meat, fat, and sugar? 

    Turns out, the greens are anything but boring, and they cut the richness quite nicely — probably that’s the key to their success. I like them because they’re a cheap and delicious way to get great mounds of greens into our tummies, and the slow simmer is perfect for cold winter nights.

    Never mind that no one else is particularly enthusiastic about my new discovery. It’s good for them and I’m in charge so end of story.

    Collard Greens
    Adapted from The Best Cook in the World by Rick Bragg.

    The first time I made these, I accidentally cooked the pot dry and the greens got slightly charred on the bottom. I immediately transferred them to another pot, added a little water and continued cooking, but rather then being a disaster, the chewy bits of caramelization made the greens taste fantastic — sweet and salty, with a hit of heat. The second time I cooked these, without any scorching, they weren’t quite as interesting. Do as you wish!

    I used my dad’s homecanned hot sauce, but you can use whatever you have: sriracha, tabasco, dried peppers, etc. Just be careful not to go overboard. You’re aiming for only a whisper of heat.

    2-3 large bunches of collard greens
    2 slices bacon, rough chopped
    A dollop of hot sauce
    1 small clove garlic
    1 tablespoon each salt and sugar

    Devein the collards and discard the stems. Rough-chop the leaves into large pieces. Wash well. You should have enough greens to fill a 12-quart soup pot.

    Put two to three cups of water into the pot. Add the bacon, hot sauce, garlic, salt (I usually start with half the amount and then add the rest at the end), and sugar. Pile in the greens.

    Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, clap on a lid, and simmer for about two hours. Use a pair of tongs to gently stir the greens every fifteen minutes or so. By the end there should be very little liquid, and the greens should so soft that you can easily cut them with the side of a fork.

    Remove the garlic clove and taste to correct seasonings. Serve with ham and beans, cornbread, eggs, pot roast, whatever.

    This same time, years previous: kitchen sink cookies, the quotidian (2.13.17), the quotidian (2.15.16), the quotidian (2.16.15), chocolate pudding, buses, boats, and trucks, sweet.

  • the quotidian (2.11.19)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    Avocado toast.
    Baking lessons with my neice.
    Experimenting (and making edits here).

    Better than it looks: with freshly-ground chocolate barley (similar), millet, and oats.
    Well, shucks. 
    The rest of it.
    Flipped and fixed.

    A backwards C.

    The studier. 

    This same time, years previous: good morning, lovies, bits and bobs, chasing fog, a taste, and then I turned into a blob, how we do things, chai-spiced hot chocolate.

  • snake cake

    I’m not much for finicky cake decorating, but earlier this week, with my younger son’s birthday celebration looming — his real birthday was Sunday, but we wouldn’t be partying until Friday — I got an uncharacteristic urge. Maybe it’d be fun to do something a little more involved?

    Along with a host of other off-handed suggestions, my son mentioned a snake. The idea lodged in my brain. A snake, with its low center of gravity and streamlined body, seemed fairly simple, right? Plus, since my son is the youngest, the pressure was off. No other children would be coming up through the ranks demanding a similarly fancy cake come their thirteenth birthday. Neat how that works, yes? So after a quick Internet search, I settled on a cake by Yolanda of How To Cake It fame.

    My son said that he wanted chocolate and not white icing and please, no weird experiments. Fine, I said, it will be chocolate, but no promises on the icing and yes, this is an experiment and a surprise so that’s all I’m saying about that.

    The poor kid’s anxiety shot through the roof. He still had lingering PTSD from The Picaken Fiasco of 2015, in which his birthday cake ended up in the compost (and then the dog ate it).

    “Can’t I make a small cake?” he pleaded. “Please? Just in case the experiment doesn’t work?”

    “Oh, shush,” I laughed. “You’re going to like it just fine.”

    I made the chocolate cakes — four recipes worth — on Thursday, so he saw those. And then on Friday morning he saw me make the two batches of fondant and a fifth chocolate cake (and I made the coffee buttercream, too, but I don’t think he noticed that).

    Right after lunch, I took him to my mother’s house so my younger daughter and I could decorate in peace. The two of us worked the entire afternoon.

    To start, there was the carving.

    To do it well, or at least thoroughly, one must dispose entirely of any notion of thriftiness. Cake is a medium: Cut and chuck with abandon! (We did, however, freeze the scraps. What to do with three containers of chocolate cake bits?)

    Then we connected the pieces with buttercream and spritzed them with simple syrup to lock in moisture — something that I learned from Yolanda.

    I dirty iced the whole affair.

    The board cleaned, it was time for the fondant. Because it was a tricky process — but not hard! — there are no photos of the rolling, lifting, pressing, and patching.

    To create a pattern, I cut a piece of netting an onion bag and pressed that into the fondant. It didn’t leave a very clear imprint, but it was good enough, we decided.

    Then the painting.

    We brushed the whole snake with ivory gel mixed with rum. Then we made the shapes using mixtures of browns and blacks, blotting with paper towels as we went.

    It was touch-and-go, and the end result was highly imperfect, but we were having far too much fun to really care.

    We decorated the board with rocks (that my father brought over when he and my mother came for supper) and twigs from the yard, and then hid the snake in the downstairs bedroom until the big reveal.

    The whole project was so much fun, and now I can’t stop thinking about cake.

    What to make next?

    This same time, years previous: crispy baked hash browns, timpano!, a horse of her own, the quotidian (2.9.15), eight, seven, school: the verdict, travel tips, gourmet chocolate bark.

  • the quotidian (2.4.19)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace


    Wrong, on so many levels.
    Shooting up (the steers).
    In search of self.

    Also in search of self: an ancestory lesson from his parents.
    (Interesting fact: on his great grandmother’s ride across the Atlantic, 
    her ship stopped to take on survivors from the Titanic!)

    Ice bells.
    “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another 
    until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” Neil Gaiman

    This same time, years previous: chicken and sausage gumbo, baked brie with cranberries and walnuts, the quotidian (2.1.16), object of terror, the quotidian (2.2.15), a Wednesday list, itchy in my skin, how we got our house, taco seasoning mix, wheat berry salad.