Monday, December 28, 2009

all buttered up

I know this is a little early for this, but happy new year! (Shortly leaving for family trip, so I won't be around for a while.) As I've reflected on the past 4 months, this statistic kept jumping to mind:

20 pounds of butter in 4 months.

I baked away 20 pounds of butter from September to December. This is a slightly insane and delicious number. And who knows what the next year will bring?! 

Wishing you a peaceful, love-filled, and buttery 2010,

Saturday, December 26, 2009

coming full dumpling

First off, happy Christmas "to you and yours" (this little phrase is so strange and apart from this entry, I will never use it)! This was an interesting holiday as I remembered how wholly different it was from last year (we topped off our celebration with Christmas day all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ. Oh yeah!). It came and went very quietly this year but not without ponderings on the subject of our celebrations: a poor unwed teenage girl giving birth in a stanky barn to a baby who would one day grow up to love and save and change the world for good. God's love, revealed to us.

The parallels between this life and my East Asia life continue to be striking. I had a poignant Christmas Eve day as mom and I prepped potstickers for dinner, a tradition now several years running. (Just a year ago, we were eating dumplings at our neighbor's place for winter solstice, a tradition in the north.) Mom commented that while I still made a messy job of it, my potsticker stuffing speed has gotten a lot faster, which I had to attribute to the mothers and grandmothers of East Asia.

Making dumplings (potstickers being a subset) is like a national pastime for the women of East Asia. It is super labor intensive, but somehow, all know how to make them impeccably. You would think that constructing them would be fairly simple, but spoon, pleat, pleat, twist is surprisingly difficult. I will not claim that I ever got the hang of it, but I did manage to eat a whole lot of them while I was there. What were you expecting? This blog is aptly named. (sidenote: It is my dearest hope that every foreigner in Asia has at least one opportunity to try to make dumplings at some grandmother's house, subsequently get laughed out of the kitchen due to awful foreigner dumpling folding skills, and then proceed to get stuffed with said dumplings for dinner. I can eat 50 in one sitting!)

Some throwback photos from the spring at my friend's grand-uncle & aunt's place...yes, dumplings.

You can tell some of these were made by me..the ones with green filling sticking out the top.

Grand-aunt's hands, rolling out dumpling dough and going a million miles a minute! 

As I connect all the dots in my head, I realize that I can't ever fully escape East Asia because it lives on in photos, in this blog, in my memories, and very importantly, through food. With our Christmas Eve potsticker tradition, it seems like I have come full circle (or dumpling, if you're feeling punny), and I look forward to the next one, where I will undoubtedly pick up new questions and answers, insights, lessons, and (hopefully!) more hope.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

i found you some pesto to love

(in response to Queen)

Pesto is kind of a wonderful thing to make. Pestopestopestopestopesto. Saying it 5 times fast makes me wish I hadn't eaten all of it already. I know that you're boggled because basil does NOT grow in December, and therefore fresh pesto should be an impossibility, but you are discounting the beauty of winter pesto.
Winter pesto, I love you and want to make you in the spring and summer and fall too.


Arugula grows well in winter, so that's a good one to throw in there. I've been using a lot of walnuts lately, so yay for those. Suddenly, I found myself saying, basil? Pine nuts? What are those?!

Even when you sub out all of a traditional pesto's ingredients for slightly less conventional things, it will always remain herb + nut + cheese + olive oil, take or leave the garlic (and nut for allergies) (and the herb thing can just be a green thing like spinach or peas or roasted tomato (I know, not green)). In the same vein, my life today looks vastly differently than it did a year, even two years ago, but I love remembering (when I can) that the most important things are still (and forever will be) the most important things: loving people, listening to the Author, and letting myself be guided.

Winter Pesto

Stuff handfuls of arugula in food processor. Sprinkle with a healthy dose of walnuts. Grate a bunch of Parmesan over the top, then run the processor as you drizzle in olive oil. When it comes together, toss with tagliatelle, smear atop homemade croutons, or sneak spoonfuls of it from the fridge (for personal thrills). Repeat with parsley + almonds, spinach + pistachios, cilantro + brazil nuts with romano or asiago or manchego you know the content of half of my daydreams! Scintillating, I know.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

no snow scones

I wanted to write a poem for you yesterday entitled "A Snow Dream Deferred", but Mr. Hughes did it better anyway. (Hey, that rhymes...right? Poem quota for blog: check.)

This part of the world never gets snow. Ever. So Sunday night when the weather man started talking crazy and mentioning snow...I got excited, naturally. But when the promised "snow" amounted to only a mere ground dusting that melted by the time I woke up...what's THAT all about?! (In case you were wondering, plenty of people around here woke up crazy early to catch a glimpse of snow, which tells you that this promised snow was a Really Big Deal. Oh California.)

So I thought I'd show you a quick way to be happy again. For me, there is baking, and then there's baking for others, and I've slowly learned over the years that making someone else happy is almost guaranteed to make me happy. (Unless we're playing a game, and then I'll make you work for your own happiness...) So I pulled out an old favorite.

Behold...the apricot scone. This is my take on Cheeseboard's take on that perennial morning pastry glory. But no triangles here! The Cheeseboard book compares this to a "rich, buttermilk biscuit", and I wouldn't dare to disagree. The top is crispy crunchy and the inside soft, with a cakelike crumb. If it's even possible, I would like to dare to say that the addition of following took this unusual scone to Mt. Everest heights:

White Lily (cue heavenly music). Many southern devotees are anxious that a recent relocation of the White Lily flour mill to the Midwest (oh, horror!) has wrecked the flour for good, but this Yankee wouldn't know the difference, given that this was my first experience with it. (Thanks to JH for gifting me with 2 bags after Thanksgiving'd better believe I held them to me tightly all the way home as visions of biscuits and cakes danced in my head.)

Of course, no scone would be complete without its fruity mix-in; Mom's favorite is apricot. (Notice how all the pieces are pretty irregularly-sized, meaning that my knife skills won't be winning awards anytime soon.)

Snow comes and snow goes, but a good scone is a portable piece of buttery joy. Spread the love!

Apricot Scones

3 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 c (2 sticks) butter, cut into little cubes and then stuck in the freezer for maximum coldness
1 c dried apricots, fairly finely chopped (alternately, use anything else you love)
3/4 c buttermilk
3/4 c heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, briefly stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar to combine. Drop in the cubed butter and stir on low for about 4 minutes until the butter is the size of little peas. Add in the apricot, and then stir in the buttermilk/cream with just a few rotations of the paddle (it's good if there's still flour at the bottom of the bowl).

Shape dough into 2 inch or smaller balls (warning: super sticky) and place on baking sheets. Bake 18ish minutes or until golden brown/you feel that you just can't wait any longer before actually sticking your hand into the oven to retrieve your afternoon snack.

Makes just shy of 2 dozen scones.