Resolutions and a return

January 6, 2014 § 1 Comment

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It’s not the most photogenic start to the new year, but it’s a start nonetheless. I’m deeply in that moment of time when I’ve been away for so long that it just keeps getting harder and harder to come back. I’ve made two batches of ginger molasses cookies with perfect crackly tops and sparkling turbinado sugar dustings, but haven’t been able to raise a camera to take a picture of what I’d call my ultimate cookie. For the past few months, my camera has sat abandoned at my desk while I made winter squash galettes with buttery crusts and dined on fried mussels and spinach falafel at Oleana and sole with romesco sauce and bittersweet chocolate pot de crème at Foreign Cinema.

Finally back from the holidays, I ended this weekend feeling fulfilled in a way that I haven’t for quite awhile. A snowstorm descended on Boston last Thursday and work was closed on Friday as a result. I spent the day working from home, teaching myself html, and was happy to step into the kitchen for lunch to make a simple spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and asparagus. There’s just something about preparing lunch in the moment that feels so much more like a break than turning on the microwave at noon. It was just a start to the weekend’s cooking. Friday night, we nestled into a bottle of wine, a movie, a batch of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, and a towering load of pumpkin bread with pecans. We sat on the couch and ate bowls of risotto with the snow piled up outside our windows.

One of my new year’s resolutions is to start cooking out of my rather extensive cookbook collection, and this weekend, we tackled two new recipes — a Indian tomato-based vegetable curry out of Prashad, and Thai stir-fried brussels sprouts from Pok Pok. Both came out fabulously, and I’m feeling recommitted to the goal of tackling cooking projects outside of my comfort zone. The ingredient lists seemed daunting at first — this has always been the main hurdle for me in cooking over baking — but once we got started, I was happy to spend the afternoon in the kitchen and learning.

The recipe today isn’t a curry or stir-fry, but the pumpkin bread I made while we were snowed in. Chock-full of pecans and super moist, even days after baking, it’s become my new favorite pumpkin bread. The recipe makes a lot, so I ended up with half a dozen muffins in addition to a towering loaf.

Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from Laurie Bennett’s Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread at Allrecipes.com

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup pecans (chopped coarsely)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour desired loaf or muffin pans.
In a large bowl, mix pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water or milk, and vanilla. Add both brown and white sugars and stir until combined. Mix in the nuts. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture, being careful not to overmix.

Bake loaves for about 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean (muffins will have a shorter bake time).

Winter’s Arrival

November 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’m sitting at a table, looking out a panel of old-fashioned windows at the mauve and pink clouds descending over white ground. The couple of inches that have survived the day, turning black and muddy at the edges of the path, still form a gentle layer on top of the bushes just outside the window. The first snowfall of the year always seems magical. By the beginning of January, I’ve had it with the cold and the snow, but right now, the light dusting is enchanting, inspiring a childlike joy and innocence with each step on untrodden powder. In just a few minutes, the pink clouds will disappear entirely. The view from inside noir.

I spent last night curled up in my saucer chair with an oversize fleece blanket and The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook — I didn’t even make it halfway through, past the main dishes, because the photography on every page requires careful and awed contemplation. Reading the married duo’s blog, the harmony with which they work together is both comforting and inspiring. It was the perfect reading material while the blizzard was having its moment outside. This evening, I may be nursing whiskey and apple cider instead of cookbooks, but you know, that’s the life of a college student. All so that we can steal dining trays from the campus center at 2 a.m. and go sledding.

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