Sprouted Spelt Root Vegetable Handpies

Sprouted Spelt Root Vegetable Handpies

Root Vegetable Handpies / Food Loves Writing

You say that you can’t cook; I say, Give it time. I know it looks like people are born with fresh muffins coming out of their ovens, but it’s not true. Everybody starts somewhere. And the first time you try to cook, especially if that first time is when you’re no longer a kid and there’s nobody around to tell you what to do, it’s scary because you don’t know what will happen. Everybody knows this. Most people forget this, but everybody knows this. We all have different motivations for trying something in the kitchen at the beginning: adventure, curiosity, boredom, hunger, need. Whatever yours is, I probably felt it at one point or another. I grew up in a cooking household, the kind where my mom made dinner every night and my grandma’s life centered around what was simmering on the stove. I don’t remember learning from them to love to eat; I think I absorbed it naturally, the way I absorbed language or liking to laugh. Learning to cook was something different, though. Learning to cook took time—takes time—I mean, because, in a lot of ways, learning to cook is something I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.

Read More

Emeril’s Celebratory Artichokes, Slow-Cooked in White Wine, Garlic, and Oil

Celebratory Artichokes / Food Loves Writing

I wish you could have seen Tim and me in our little galley kitchen on Saturday, October 12, at around 2 p.m. in the afternoon. There we were, side by side in front of the sink, each of us with a plate of slow-cooked artichokes to our sides. Barely speaking, the both of us stood there, rhythmically pulling tender, wilted leaves of artichokes off their softened, deep green bulbs, scraping the flesh with our teeth, oil and juices dripping down our hands and arms and over everything.

“These are the best artichokes I have ever had,” Tim finally said to me between slurps, halfway through his dish.

Read More

Harvest Einkorn Pound Cake

Harvest Einkorn Pound Cake

A few days ago, Tim and I rearranged our work hours to go to the pumpkin patch in the middle of the day. We never found the pumpkin patch. Instead, where the map said the patch should be, we found a sweet little house and a lot of open land and, well, this:

cows

Sometimes I forget how close you live to the country when you live in Nashville. The entire time we drove those sunny back roads, we never saw another human being. We saw the friendly guys above, some horses, a dog I thought was a llama and a large parcel of land with a big “for sale” sign, but there were no signs marked “pumpkins,” no arrows directing us a different way, so we drove the winding trail back to town, just us and the animals and the blue sky.

hayonhills
TNstreets
RuralTN
countryside

Back in town—Watertown, that is, population 1500—We found an antique store where the shopkeeper not only welcomed us in, but also told us about her daughter, talked about Maine, invited us back (“Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days”) and recommended another shop to check out. “Just before that old brick building, you see it? The open sign?” We visited a roadside stand with mums as big as toddlers, two of which now grace our front porch. We passed a high school marching band, practicing off Main Street. Then, I listened to Tim tell me about growing up in a small Ohio town where he and his brother would ride their bikes to the grocery store for their mom and where, when a person wanted Chinese food, he’d have only one place to pick.

So we didn’t come home with a pumpkin, but we did come home refreshed, which was essentially the point of the midday errand. Also, as everybody knows, you don’t have to visit a pumpkin patch to find pumpkin. And that brings me to today’s pound cake.

HARVEST pound cake

I like the idea of pound cake. It’s a name that sounds like what it means! According to What’s Cooking America, pound cake became popular in an era when many people couldn’t read and so being able to say “Use a pound of everything!” made a lot more sense than telling someone to memorize a series of steps you couldn’t write down.

harvest pound cake
Harvest Pound Cake

The concept got me wondering about using flours besides all-purpose in a pound cake. Would einkorn still maintain the same proportions true to pound cake, provided I weighed it to measure rather than scooping out cups?

harvest pound cake on plate

I am pleased to report it did. What’s more, incorporating a little fall flavor into the basic formula only took things up a notch. Below, a recipe for a true (half-)pound cake, based on a method that’s been used since the days when all towns were small towns and all cakes were baked at home.

Read More

Is It Too Slight a Thing / Apple Cream Cheese Streusel Pie

Is It Too Slight A Thing / Apple Cream Cheese Streusel Pie

trees

Is it too slight a thing
To have lived long in September,
To have caught the golden light,
To later have these days, “Remember?”;

goldenleaves

birchtree

leavesandlight

bridgetolight

treesandbranches

blueskies-goldleaves

greenleaves-fallleaves

backlitgrass

sky-apples

(Could we hold so much in
Our grasp, yet reckon things askew,
Because the things we hold are
Moving, moving, like things do?)

applepiecreamcheese

I bake a pie on Friday,
I bake a pie today.
Is it too slight a thing to get to
Make it,
Bake it,
Slice it,
Eat it,
With you,
(That’s our way).

pieandlight

At night, I miss the golden hour,
In life, I’ll miss these days—
When we were happy, simple, full,
Working from bed,
Baking our pies,
Laughing at night—

applecreamcheesepie

I say this now to know,

I knew.

Read More

Roast Chicken on Tomatoes + Potato Spaghetti Squash Puree

Roast Chicken On Tomatoes + Potato Spaghetti Squash Puree

chickenandsquashpuree

September 11, 2013 has been a beautiful day here in Nashville. Tim and I woke up early to grind popcorn kernels and make skillet cornbread. The cornbread was a dud, but Tim made a berry smoothie that wasn’t. Then, we drove through blue skies and bright sun to our car dealership, twenty minutes south, where a serviceman checked us in to get our air-conditioning fixed and asked the time: It was 9:11 AM on the nose.

dinner

Twelve years ago this morning, I was standing in a Wisconsin hotel, curling my hair, when my mom shouted from the TV in the main room, “Come look at this!” and I didn’t say anything, and we called my dad in Illinois, and he was crying. Today, I walked away from a serviceman and into a Tennessee car dealership lounge, where Tim and I would listen to someone making popcorn and watch a 10-month-old baby boy named John crawl around the room.

My mom and I were at that Port Washington hotel because I was scheduled for traffic court on September 11, for driving 24 miles over the speed limit a few months before. I remember telling the judge that day that I was sorry. “I don’t want to ever speed again,” I said to her when it was my turn. Everyone was talking about the planes and the towers, and there I was apologizing for something that was no one’s fault but my own. After court, we tried shopping, but our hearts weren’t in it. I wanted to drive back to school before dark. So my mom drove back to Naperville, and I drove back to college, and, when I got there, I returned to TVs all over campus, broadcasting live coverage of what was going on.

Today, Tim and I drove away from the car dealership and to the grocery store to pick up chicken; I had a dinner idea I told him I wanted to try. In the broad, bright Tennessee daylight, we cruised back up I-65 and then over to our house. We roasted spaghetti squash and tomatoes and chicken, and we boiled potatoes to combine with squash in a puree. We ate dinner by candlelight, the days shorter and the sun gone by before seven o’clock these days. And I exclaimed, over and over again out loud to Tim and Nathan, two men I’d never even met twelve years ago, about how much I liked the dinner tonight and how special it felt.

chickendinner

It occurs to me as I sit down on my bed tonight, fresh from this dinner, trying to write this post, how many people aren’t alive to be able to read it today. There are the ones killed by tragedy on this day twelve years ago, and there are the ones killed on other days by other things since then, from a Boston bombing to a Middle Eastern bombing to cancer to depression to kidney failure to old age. Even as I’ve been writing these thoughts, a mosquito has been bothering me, and I just, almost mindlessly, killed it between my hands and took it to the bathroom trashcan. Death is all around us. Life ends. We all know this, but there are a million ways to pretend it away—and in the pretending away, we miss something true. We are not promised tomorrow. Who of us knows when his or her life will end? Days like today, remembering and reflecting, it’s easy to see. We are finite. Our lives are short. And then, it’s easy to give thanks for the sheer blessing of living, of driving to the car dealership, of eating roast chicken in your dining room, of coming here to write about it in a blog post.

Read More

everybody wants a piece of the pie / pear crisp

Everybody Wants A Piece Of The Pie / Pear Crisp

Fresh Pears for Crisp  / Food Loves Writing

Everybody wants a piece of the pie, everybody wants a “How high you fly!”
We’re all looking for something, something to say that we count.
We meet and we’re asked, “What’s your something?”
We meet and we’re asked, “Who are you?”
“I’m my family,” “my beauty,” “my job skills,”
“My companion,” “my food blog,” “my work.”
But deep down, there’s somewhere a gnawing,
Deep down, there’s somewhere an ache.
We can mask it and hide it and hope that
Our efforts to cover will work.
“I’ve got it!” “I’ve won it!” “I’ve made it!”
“Look at me!” “Now, at last, I’m complete!”
But deep down, there’s still somewhere a gnawing,
Deep down, unmasked, still that ache.

When we know this, when we see this, when we are this,
Why don’t we respond to the root?
Instead of ever reaching and striving,
Instead of just joining the race,
Why don’t we step back, slow, and realize
What’s driving our envy, snubbing and spite:
We’re, all of us, everywhere, hungry,
Hungry for wholeness, hungry for life.
All our pushing, for small fame and fortune,
For approval and high-fives and praise,
Is, all of it, every time, grasping,
For something much greater than that.

There’s a secret, locked up in there, hidden,
A secret you learn at the top—Solomon, that rich man, once said it:
These things we want won’t fill us up.
“All is vanity,” so says the preacher. “All is empty,” he finally concludes.
We think we want Big Brand to see us. We think we want That Guy to stop.
But that pushing, that fighting, that clawing,
Is such a fast, black waste of time.
They won’t fill you up! They are empty!
What you want is the water that lasts!
So why not open-hand it and drop what
Was never yours, in fact, at all:
Everybody wants a piece of your pie—Let ‘em have it.
There’s much more to fill empty palms.

Pear Crisp / Food Loves Writing

Read More

Spelt Birthday Layer Cake with Honey-Sweetened Raspberry Whipped Cream

slice of spelt birthday cake

I AM WRITING THIS POST FROM MY DINING ROOM, alongside a giant piece of leftover cake. Tim’s gone at a meeting, and I’m facing a front window, from which I have now seen my neighbor add and take things from at least three different people’s trash bins this bright and sunny Trash Day, and everything’s as quiet as it is in the middle of the night. Actually, I take that last sentence back. The neighbor’s terrier just got loose, and a woman walking down the street with her dog just became the middle of a barking, frenzied confrontation. But, ah, the neighbor’s wife is coming out! The loose terrier is lolling in the grass and being rubbed! Now, all is quiet again.

Last night was my turn to host book club, the first time since we launched this monthly meetup back at the start of the year. There are nine of us in the group, ten if you count Emmie who got a job in Chattanooga this summer and now reads along with us from two hours away. When you host, you make snacks, and for Tim’s and my sakes, it’s probably good book club is always at the end of the month when it meets, because that way, when everyone comes over on the last Tuesday of August, I know not to spend a hundred dollars on food as the end-of-the-month food budget is noticeably smaller—but, for my book club’s sake, it’s also good my turn happened to fall in the month of August because I am the fresh recipient of my parents’ annual Whole Foods gift card as a birthday gift, and so yesterday afternoon Tim ran to the grocery after his meetings and came home bearing the makings of all the fresh vegetables, fruit, butter, flour and cream I could want.

IMG_5317

Before he’d left that morning, I’d seen a tall birthday cake on Pinterest and told him how I wanted to try one. It was a sort of ambitious just-before-guests-come project to take on, especially for a girl who would list layer cakes among her top five most scary things to bake (it’s the frosting! hand me a spatula with whipped cream and I freeze!), but when I’d finished my hours for the day and he came home with brown paper bags, he helped me mix and bake and assemble things. He also spread most of the frosting. Everything was going beautifully until I decided to pull out the parchment strips I’d criss-crossed underneath the cake (“So the cake plate will be pretty and frosting-free!”) and ended up breaking the cake apart. PANIC! The end result was a large, pink, dense, moist layer cake—smooshed back together and slightly tilted to one side, like a sort of Leaning Tower of Cake hidden beneath all that whipped cream. With spelt or other heavy flours, it’s hard to achieve the same lightness of crumb and fluffy texture that defined the cake mixes of our childhoods, so the cake wasn’t as tall as I’d hoped, despite its three layers. The frosting job wasn’t perfect. And in the process of assembling things, I’d managed to spread cake crumbs all over the kitchen, from the stove burners to the floor.

“Oh, well,” I said out loud to the kitchen after Tim had left again and my book club friends were on their ways. “It’s just another rustic.”

Read More