Traditions – the Annual Expedition to Zingerman’s

“Hey! Do you want to go to the food store with me?”

“The one with vinegars?! I remember that place! Can we also taste salumi?” – Kid the Elder*

“No!” – Kid the Younger**

About once a year I am lucky enough to find myself in Ann Arbor, MI with at least a bit of spending money. This, if you’re me, means going to Zingerman’s, a veritable treasure trove of well-curated, delicious, interesting things. Better still, they’ll let you taste just about everything in the store. I’ve discovered more than one favorite obscure, artisan food*** there over the years. The usual goal is to get at least one new thing to experiment with.

This year we got two vinegars, some coppa, some hot salame, a couple challah rolls for Kid the Younger, a holiday gift (so early!), some Urfa Pepper (the year’s new thing),  and a roasted fig ball, selected by Kid the Elder to share with friends back home. We left happy.

No recipe today, but I promise I’ll write about what I do with the Urfa, once I do it.


*that’s my kid!

**ok, this one is my kid too, but sometimes it’s less clear than other times

***an incomplete list: Anson Mills, American Spoon, Bourbon Barrel, Nuetske’s, Koeze, …

Cream Scones, the 2nd – My Favorite

As I mentioned, I have a few go-to scone recipes. This one is my favorite. It’s not as easy as Cream Scones, the 1st, because you need to cut in the butter, but I secretly like cutting in butter, and these are delicious, and I learned them from one of my favorite people in culinary school, so…

Cream Scones (II)

  • 2 c flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 oz butter
  • 3/4 cup dried fruit
  • 1 1/4 c cream
  • melted butter & coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 425º

Whisk together the dry ingredients, then cut in the butter. (I do this with my fingers, but a pastry cutter, or two knives, or a food processor will also work well.) Add the dried fruit, then the cream, mixing and flattening with a spatula until just forming a rough dough. Turn the dough out onto the counter, then fold it over itself and flatten, repeating until it comes together somewhat uniformly. Shape the dough into two circles, and cut each into 8 wedges.

Place wedges, evenly spaced, on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet, and brush with melted butter, then sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake until golden, ~12 to 15 minutes.


 

Note: the image used for this post is based on this recipe, but the scones were made mini-sized to serve with a kids’ homemade high tea.

 

Ubiquitous Kale

“What are you going to blog about today?”

“You could do a review of Steak & Shake.”*

“Nyah, I’m going to write about massaged kale.”

“Kale?”

Yep, kale. Everyone’s favorite hipster vegetable, for mockery if nothing else. I like kale! Though it did take me a decade or two to get there. My kids, like many kids who were toddlers in the last decade, have eaten their share of kale chips. I particularly like massaged kale, which I learned from reading The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved by Sandor Katz**.

Here are the basics.

Massaged Kale

  • 1 bunch kale, any type
  • vinegar, oil, salt, maybe honey, other things you might put on a salad

Wash and stem the kale, then cut into very thin, short strips (as thin as you can make them without stressing about it). I do this by stacking the leaves and then cutting across, as thinly as possible. Pile it in a bowl. Add a splash or two of a good vinegar*** and a hearty pinch of salt. 

Now the fun part: squeeze the kale with the salt and vinegar. Squeeze it a lot. Squeeze it a bit more. It should shrink by at least one half. Once it is pretty wet and bright, bright green and much, much smaller, you are done squeezing. It may be hard to get the shreds off your fingers. Add a splash of good olive oil**** and maybe some honey. Stir with a fork, then taste. Add whatever else you like*****. Serve like salad (because it is one).


*actually, Steak & Shake is a pretty great place to go with a party of 12 relatives, after post-holiday go-karting.

**I also like reading Sandor Katz.

***cider! or agro-dolce! or rice! or what have you

****or whatever you like!

*****I like diced apple and toasted walnuts. Something sweet is often good, particularly if you didn’t add the honey.

 

The Easy Scones – for Slow, Companionable Mornings

When people ask me what my favorite thing to bake is, I often answer “scones”. This may be simply a way of dodging the pie vs. cake debate*, but it’s also true. I love scones. They’re easy, and delicious, and still manage to feel special. They can be dressed up for tea, or made simple for potluck breakfasts.

I have a few go-to scone recipes. This one is the easiest, and great for if you wake up tomorrow and want to make something for a easy breakfast nibble.**

Cream Scones (I)

  • 7.5 oz (1 1/2 c) flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1.75 oz (1/4 c) sugar
  • 2.5 oz (~1/2 c) dried fruit (chopped to raisin size or so)
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla (or some lemon zest)
  • milk or cream and coarse (or regular) sugar for garnish

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Whisk (or mix) the dry ingredients together, then add dried fruit. Add cream and vanilla together and stir with a spatula until just mixed. You should have a rough dough. Pat into a round disk, ~1/2 inch thick, and cut into eight (or twelve) wedges.*** Place wedges, evenly spaced on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Brush tops with milk (or cream) and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake until golden. ~20 minutes.


* The answer to “pie vs. cake”, of course, is often “tart!”

**If you don’t happen to have any pie, that is. Leftover pie for breakfast is a wonderful tradition.

***I use a bench scraper for this if I have one, but knife or other handy straight edge will work fine.

A Poem About Pie

I am traveling and not baking (though I may bake some tomorrow), but for many US cooks, tonight is pie night. Tomorrow, after all, the oven is reserved for the turkey (and rolls and stuffing and …). This is for the late night pastry cooks and poets. It’s one of my favorite poems about pie, because sometimes it’s good to do a small, useful thing*.

Untitled – Grace Paley

I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead it took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
draft a poem would have had some
distance to go days and weeks and
much crumpled paper
the pie already had a talking
tumbling audience among small
trucks and a fire engine on
the kitchen floor
everybody will like this pie
it will have apples and cranberries
dried apricots in it many friends
will say why in the world did you
make only one
this does not happen with poems
because of unreportable
sadnesses I decided to
settle this morning for a re-
sponsive eatership I do not
want to wait a week a year a
generation for the right
consumer to come along

*that last bit is a quote (also about pie-making) from the movie version of “A Home at the End of the World”.

Procrastinating via Shortbread

completed shortbread finger cookies on a baking sheet with silpat

My family is getting on a plane this evening, traveling to see two sets of loved ones for Thanksgiving. This means I’m currently putting off packing and thinking about airplane snacks. Therefore, shortbread!

Shortbread is one of my favorite spur of the moment things to bake. It’s simple. It’s forgiving. It’s delicious. I’ve fallen out of the habit recently, but baking shortbread was even a part of my wedding vows.

Here’s how I do it these days: 1-2-3 Shortbread – 1 part sugar, 2 parts fat, 3 parts flour.

  • 6 oz flour – can be pastry or AP or a blend including oat flour. add a bit of rice flour if you like your shortbread crisp.
  • 4 oz cold, unsalted butter
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • flavoring and additions such as today’s:
    • 1/2 t vanilla
    • 1/4 c baker’s cut candied ginger
    • 2 T chocolate coated cocoa nibs

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer*, fitted with the paddle attachment. Cut the butter into slices or cubes and add to the flour mixture. Mix on low until the dough begins to come together. This will take a long time, ~10 minutes**. You’ll see it progress from floury to sandy to pea sized clumps.

From this: sandy mix of flour and butter being mixed in a green kitchenaid mixer

To thisdough forming pea-sized clumps being mixed in green kitchenaid mixer

Once the dough begins to come together, add your flavorings and mix until well-incorporated.

Once the dough is blended, press it into a log (~2in diameter), or a rectangle or circle (~1/2 in thick), or shortbread molds if you have them and are feeling fancy, and chill for a bit in the refrigerator (30 minutes to… forever, more or less) either covered or wrapped in plastic wrap. Slice or cut into your desired shape and bake at 350ºF until done, just beginning to color at the edges, golden but not deep brown.

(Baking depends on the shape and thickness of your cookies. The fingers I just made took ~17 minutes.)


 

*yes, you really do want a stand mixer for this.

**this is why I said you’d really want a stand mixer

Different People Are Different (Food News)

One of my ongoing frustrations with many (all) diets and most food news relating to health issues is the prevailing attitude that there is an answer. I… don’t really believe this. Recently, apparently, there’s been a study that actually backs up this belief. You can read all about it in this Washington Post article. (Very short summary: different people respond differently to the same foods, so diets are best when individually tailored.) I really hope to see more of this sort of research in the future.

(I’d also love to see more research relating to the other factors in our lives which lead to different health outcomes – stress, happiness, environment, sleep, etc. – in combination with food studies. We’re complicated beings, after all.)