Dessert

Cardamom spice pudding + Rosewater scented whipped cream

Plights.

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When I started this blog I had grand ideas and visions of combining the folklore of food with recipes in every post. Despite my love for reading and learning the beginnings of specific dishes, the folklore surrounding herbs, and the strange stories of food; it is a difficult task. With all this reading, I can't help but be motivated to write. Not just to write anything but to write description, to write fiction. I am called to the endless creations that are born from unreality. I love to sit with a meal and read a fiction, a fairytale, or watch a movie. Eating and cooking food can be (and should be) a personal, and creative event. So many of us flock to recipes, cookbooks, blogs, publications because we are drawn to it; as we are drawn into a good novel. I want to re-evaluate my time here. I've been working on small fictions... little stories spun from the threads of travel, fantasy, and the outdoors. I want to bring you a meal, a delicious meal, and a story with each post. I want to feed your belly, feed your soul, and feed your imagination. This also will prove to be a difficult task but, I want it. It is true to me. I am approaching one-year of blogging here in a few months. It seems appropriate that I come full circle on the idea behind LORE. Here is a warming winter story with a warming winter pudding. A  fiction and food.

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Plights

Flecks of splintered red berries exploded on the ground as I sat on my pebble. Globs of red goop stained the white snow and splattered across my trousers. The crow perched above was the source of the mess, with a fresh meal of winterberries.

“Out of all the trees in the forest…he picks this one. Pinecones… the gall of that bird” I mumbled to no one.

I flicked the chunks of fruit off my clothes and wiped my hands clean.

"Would you cut it out?" I yelled up.

 

The crow continued to gorge himself. It was the response I expected. I wrapped up the remains of my mushroom stalk. I only had time for a few mice sized bites from it and appropriately so, after all, I am a mouse. My lunch break was over and I still had twenty more trees to fit in before the day ended. This year was particularly busy for tree-tuners. As if our job of solving plant growth problems wasn’t difficult enough. We were the ones to fix the plants when they  didn’t follow in line with the climate. Replacing bits of their internal clocks so that they could grow properly.  

 

The unusual changes in the weather had the trees’ internal clocks all out of whack; like a groundhog without a burrow. I was headed down the hill towards a cluster of oak trees still holding onto their leaves and acorns, despite the snow on the ground. I knew exactly which gear needed replacing and before the day was over, the oaks would be set right; their leaves would begin to shed by nightfall. The squirrels over in thicket knoll had lodged the complaint… in their family, they didn’t like climbing trees to fetch acorns. Some squirrels they are.

 

Tree-tuning happened to be a very old profession, usually passed on through families… but it was very stressful. The forest population is always keen to complain when the redbud flowers dropped too soon or their favorite gumballs are rotten. They always let me know when things aren’t right but when they are, they never say thanks. Would it really have been so difficult for that greedy crow to have said thank you and taken his mess over to the next tree? Especially after I spent three hours hammering out a custom brass piece for the winterberry bushes per the crows’ request? No one knows the plight of a tree-tuner. I felt like the most disrespected critter in the forest.

 

I scurried along towards thicket knoll. The path was beaten down; it had been well traveled that morning, the dark bed of leaf matter showing from underneath the snow. I hoped to spend my time working in solitude, and my interaction with the crow was enough for one day. I rounded the bend heading down into the blackberry thicket, quickly passing by the thorny stalks that hung dormant like skeletons.

 

“Oh, thank goodness!” A voice called out from the quiet.

“I worried I’d be stuck her all day before someone came by. Could you please help me? Some of my bristles are stuck.”

 

I looked around, clearly, I was the only critter about; I had to respond. I sighed, once again, someone needed me to fix something.

 

“Hhumm. Yes, of course, just a moment.”

 

I rumbled through my toolbox for the woodcutters and then scampered into the thicket. After my eyes adjusted to the change of light I looked around for the source of the voice. There, stuck in a net of broken brambles, was a woolly bear caterpillar.

 

Great. I thought. These things are always so cheery. I’ll just work quick to free him and be on my way.

 

“Just a few snips…. one there…  and you’re loose.” I turned to leave.

 

The caterpillar celebrated. “Thank you! Oh, just great! Wait… don’t leave, I haven’t really thanked you yet. Hey, wait, where are you going? Can I come?” Without turning around I stopped and rolled my eyes.

 

Hesitantly I responded. “Well, I suppose, come on then.”

 

I waited for him to catch up and we moved down the path together.  The woolly bear followed after me, the ripple in his bristles rolled through his body as he moved. I wanted to make the trip quick; walking with the woolly does not help my reputation. The woolly bear caterpillars are the most hated in the forest. It is believed that the color of their bristles makes the winter long and cold. If their stripe is narrow like it is this winter, they are hated, for it brings a severe winter. At least the confused oaks weren’t too far ahead and I would be rid of the woolly.

 

“So, it was lucky you had all those tools with you, what do you do?” The woolly asked, gasping a little as he walked.

 

“Oh. Those. Well, it really isn’t that interesting.” If I told him I was a tree-tuner, I didn’t want to hear about what herb or plant he needed me to correct.

 

“Sure it is! I mean I’m a caterpillar. I don’t have much going for me until I’ve transformed. Try me.”

 

He did have a point.

 

“I’m a tree-tuner.” I said quietly.

 

“Fabulous! What a wonderful job – being outdoors everyday, meeting all of the other forest creatures, talking, having responsibility…” The woolly went on with compliments “… not to mention solving problems!”

 

I cut in “Stop it. You have NO idea what it is like!” Oh Mr. Mouse, says the woodpecker, this tree was suppose to die last week and we haven’t been able to move in yet. Mr. Mouse, where are the crocus blossoms? Mr. Mouse, this tree only has one fruit. Mr. Mouse this is supposed to be an evergreen. Mr. Mouse where are the leaves? Mr. Mouse. Mr. Mouse. Mr. Mouse. Mr. Mouse! Pinecones! Where is the thank you Mr. Mouse, thank you?! Tell me that!

 

The woolly caterpillar was silent for once. I’m sure he had never considered my discomforts. Serves him right, what did he know?

 

“Mr. Mouse. Thank you, truly, the forest owes much to you.” The caterpillar sniffled.

 

I was stunned. I didn’t expect to receive gratitude. Now that I had it, I was not really sure what to do with it.

 

The woolly continued “—and not just for  your work as a tree-tuner… thank you for stopping to help me… thank you for not blaming me for your troubles. I’m sure you know I am not among the most liked in the forest. The others blame me for the weather, based on my appearance. They say it is my fault that the winter is too long or too cold but my brown band is not something I can control. What can you do when animals only value your appearance? They blame me for their discomforts. Do they even know that winter is hardest on the wooly caterpillars? Do you know that I will freeze solid for all the months in winter? I might as well be a rock. Actually, as a rock I would not be hated.”

 

Pinecones! I had never thought of how the woolly feels. How could I do this? I sit here day after day, complaining that no one knows how I feel. I’ve never considered the wooly, or the squirrel, or the rabbit, or the crow. I suddenly feel as if I am no good at fixing problems. No one can fix a problem alone.

 

“Woolly bear, would you like to learn how to tune a tree?” I asked.

 

The woolly bear brightened up instantly. “Oh, would I! There isn’t anything I’d rather do more.”

 

The forest was never silent of stories about mouse and caterpillar. No longer were the complaints for mouse or woolly alone. It was all about what they could accomplish together, for neither of them had to travel their plights alone.

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Recipe (Makes 5 puddings)

Whole milk - 1.5 cups

Half & half or light cream - 1 cup

Heavy whipping cream - 1 cup (for whipped cream, optional)

Sugar - 1/3 cup + 3TB

Rosewater - 1TB

Cardamom pods - 1TB heaped, slightly crushed

Cardamom seeds - 1tsp

Ground cardamom - pinch or two (optional... for extra cardamom flavor)

Cinnamon stick - 2

Peppercorns - a small pinch

Cornstarch - 3TB

Fresh or dried edible rose petals and ground cinnamon - to adorn, optional

Put the whole milk, 1/2 a cup of the light cream, and spices (except the ground cardamom) in a pot over medium heat. Cook covered until it just begins to simmer and then turn off the heat and leave it covered. Let this sit so the spice can infused for at least 30 mins. Then strain the milk mixture through a sieve, reserve the milk and discard the spices (or you can infuse the spices in a tea ball or bag for easy removal). In a bowl whisk together the other 1/2 cup of cold light cream and cornstarch until it is dissolved.

Put the spice-infused milk back into the pot with the 1/3 cup + 2TB of sugar, salt, and ground cardamom and set over medium-low heat and bring it back to just before simmering. Whisk in the cornstarch-milk mixture. Let it cook, alternating frequently between stirring & whisking, until it barley boils.. this will take about 5 minuets. Once it starts to reach a boil, turn the temperature down to low and stir/whisk frequently for another 5 minuets... it will thicken considerably. The pudding is done when it will completely coat the back of a wooden spoon and drip off in globs. Distribute into 5 teacups or ramekins and put into the refrigerator for a few hours to set (or eat it as-is if you like it loose). Cover the teacups with plastic wrap if you do not want skin on your pudding. After the pudding has chilled in the fridge and just before serving, put your heaving whipping cream into a mixture with the whisk attachment. Turn onto medium low and after the mixture gets foamy, increase the speed to high & add your rosewater & sprinkle in 1TB of sugar. Beat it until stiff peaks form. Distribute the whipped cream over the pudding (you will have some left-over whipped cream) and sprinkle with rose petals & ground cinnamon - if desired. 

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A simple cake of rosemary & apple

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I was listening to an This American Life (I start way too many conversations with "I was listen to The American life") rerun and there was a story about a retired man who wanted to start a cable channel from scratch in the early 90s. A channel called the puppy channel. Naturally, this is brilliance. A channel entirely donated to the cuteness and adorableness of puppies with nothing but soft instrumental music in the background. Now I don't want to hear any complaints "hey, what about kittens? Monkeys? Sloths?" All other cute animals aside, puppies alone are cute and entertaining. The man explained his inspiration came when he saw a diverse group of people in a parking lot all standing around and watching some puppies. People from all points and acts of life paused for a brief moment to smile at puppies. Why? Puppies make us feel better, they make us happy. I looked back in my car at my own fully grown puppies. They were chasing after the back windshield wipers. Yeah I have to agree, they do make us happy.

A cake can do the same thing. Especially one scented so sweetly with rosemary. Rosemary, it is like an old friend; warm and comforting. Mix that into a cake with apples? No doubt it makes you happy. This cake is perfect, moist, with the apple chunks soft and starting to infuse in the layers. It is the sort of cake I could eat everyday if you could healthfully eat cake every day. The rosemary warms up the batter and compliments the apples wonderfully. 

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Recipe (Fits in one, greased 8" springform pan.)

Whole wheat flour - 1 1/4 Cup

All purpose - 1 Cup

Sugar - 1 Cup

Heavy cream - 1/2 Cup

Baking powder - 1 1/2tsp

Baking soda - 1/2tsp

Salt - 1/2tsp

Eggs - 2

Butter - 1 stick room temperature

Rosemary - 1TB dried

Rosemary powder - heaped 1/2tsp

Apples - 2 chopped in small & medium chunks.

Confectioner's sugar to dust (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat up the heavy cream in a small pot in a low simmer with the 1TB of dried rosemary. Turn it off once warm and let it steep, covered, for 30 minutes. Once it is steeped, strain out the dried rosemary and whisk in the rosemary powder. Mix together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Add the butter and sugar into a mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrapping with a spatula half-way through. Add in the two eggs and mix until combined. Alternatively (3 batches each) add in the flour mixture and milk mixture. Scraping with a spatula when necessary. Last, dump in your apple chucks and stir in by hand, with the spatula. Pour the batter into the greased springform pan and tap the pan down on the counter to settle the batter. Place in the oven and bake 50-60 minutes or until a pick comes out clean and cake is puffed up. 

Let cool at least 15 minutes (if you can) and dust the top with confectioners sugar. I served mine with anise tea but served with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or apple ice cream would be delicious. 

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Vegetarian ramen with homemade noodles

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I never really did the whole college ramen cuisine thing. Not because I didn't eat easy, packaged food, I did. I was just way too weight concerned (with incorrect nutritional knowledge) that I wouldn't make a habit of a whole meal out of carbs (still a good habit not to do). I missed the boat on the ramen train, admittedly, I'm a little sad about it. Recently, we took a weekend trip into DC. We went to the United States Botanical Gardens, The National Museum of the American Indian, did a lot of walking around, visiting memorials, flea market, Sigur rós show, ate at a great Indian restaurant, crêperie, and an El Salvadorian pupusaria. Although I have this image stuck in my head from a magazine about DC's 100 best restaurants. One of them being a restaurant that sold traditional Japanese ramen. Oh my stars it looked good. Ty glanced at it and responded, "I want that." Yes Ty, so do we all. 

This is my version of traditional Japanese ramen that is not so traditional. Traditional ramen varies in the type of broth, a fish broth, pork broth, soy sauce broth, or miso broth. There are some borrowed flavors from pho broth here, but also I combined the soy sauce and miso style broths into one. I also took my hand at making homemade noodles. They were very good and easy to make even though I do not have a pasta machine. Feel free to buy regular ramen noodles too!

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Recipe (Makes 4 bowls)

Veggie broth - Great time to use your own if you have, you want it tasty.

Lemon grass - two stalks, sliced

Star Anise - 3

Tofu - 1/2 brick sliced into squares

Kale - 1 bunch torn off the stem into pieces

Crimini mushrooms - 5 or 6 sliced mushrooms

Radish - 3 radishes slivered

Green onions - 2 or 3 slivered

Garlic - 3 cloves

Eggs - 2 soft boiled (5 minuets)

Sesame oil - 3TB 

Mirin - 1TB

Yellow miso - 1TB

Soy sauce - 2TB

Rice vinegar - 1TB + 1tsp

Sriracha - to top

For the Noodles

All Purpose Flour - 1 Cup

Egg yolk - 1

Baking soda - 1tsp

Salt - 1/2tsp

Water - 1/4 cup + a few TB

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Make the noodles. Mix together the flour, salt, & baking soda in a bowl. Make a well in the center and egg in the egg yolk. Pour in 1/4cup of water in the well. Using your fingers mash up the egg yolk with the water and stir into a slurry, slowly incorporating the flour. Adding in another tablespoon at a time until all the dough sticks together but before it sticks on your hands. Knead the dough with your hands for several minutes. If it gets too sticky, sprinkle in a little extra flour. Let the dough rest in the bowl for 30 minutes at least but an hour would be better. Go on with the rest of the meal. When the dough is done roll out the dough into a long rectangle as thin as you can get it. Lightly flour the rectangle and fold it in half, hotdog style. Take a very sharp knife and slice into very thin noodles, mine were about 1/8" thick. Unfold the thin noodles and lay out flat to dry for a bit. 

Heat up the veggie broth with the lemongrass and star anise and let it simmer/ low-boil for 30 minutes at least. While the broth is simmering, prepare the rest. Heat up 2TB of sesame oil in a large skillet on high heat and then toss in the tofu. Toss and flip for 5 minutes or so until they turn golden. Add in 1TB of tofu and stir until combined. Dump out the tofu into a bowl and add in the last TB of oil. Add in the garlic and sliced mushrooms, cook for about five minutes until it colors a bit. Add kale (in two batches) cooking for a few minutes until wilted and all the kale can fit into the pan. Add in 1TB of mirin and stir until combined. Pour out into a bowl. Strain out the broth and place back into the pot and keep on low heat, do not let it boil at this point. Add in 1TB of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and miso. Whisk until combined. Heat up a medium salted pot of water to a low boil. Add in the noodles and the whole eggs and cook for 5 minutes after they get back up to a low boil until done. Run the eggs under cool water.

Distribute the noodles into four bowls and ladle over some broth. Top with some of the kale/mushroom mixture on one side, sliced radishes on the other, tofu cubes in the center, and then sprinkle over some scallions. Peel the hard boiled eggs and slice in half carefully, the yolk will still be runny. Place an egg half in each bowl and squeeze over some sriracha.

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Meyer lemon & mascarpone tart + hibiscus whipped cream

Meyer Lemon.

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I realized at the start of spring that I went the whole winter without doing anything with meyer lemons. I decided to take my chance at the last of the late season meyer lemons and make these tarts. Meyer lemons are so perfect in a tart because unlike other lemons, meyer lemons are more sweet. Adding in this hibiscus infused cream was the perfect topping to add some extra acidity to the somewhat mello lemons. Plus the pink on yellow is undeniable. The mascarpone cream gives the lemon curd a creamy (think lemon meringue pie) taste that will make you want to spoon up the curd all by itself. Which I did...

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Recipe (Makes 4 5" tarts and extra crust you can freeze, I got 4 mini tarts of extra crust)

Hibiscus infused whipping cream.

Heavy whipping cream - 1/2 Cup

Dried Hibiscus - 1TB

Sugar - 3TB

Heat up the whipping cream with the hibiscus in a small sauce pan over the stove until fumes rise and the cream starts to simmer very slightly. Watch carefully as you don't want the cream to boil. Turn off the heat after it simmers and let the hibiscus infuse in the cream until it turns a nice deep shade of pink, stirring every so often. Strain out the hibiscus and put the cream in the fridge to cool. 

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Tart Crust.

All-purpose flour - 1 1/4

Cups (you could used pastry flour if desired)

Sugar - 1/8 Cup

Salt - good pinch of salt

Butter (unsalted) - 1 stick frozen (or very cold at least)

Egg yolk - 1

Ice cold water - 1/4 cup (sometimes it take more or less so prep more just in case)

Shift together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut the frozen butter into small cubes and pulse the butter, egg yolk, and flour mixture together in to a food processor until it is a coarse meal. Add the very cold water to the food processor, 2TB at a time until the dough just holds together. It is ok if there is a bit of crumbly/dry spots. Press the dough into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigeration and leave for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the curd.

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Meyer lemon/mascarpone curd.

Eggs - 3 large eggs and 1 large egg yolk

Sugar - 2/3 cup

Juice of meyer lemons - 2/3 cups (took me about 8/9 lemons)

Butter - 4TB

Mascarpone - 2/3 a container

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl beat the eggs, yolk, sugar, and lemon juice together. Move the mixture into a small saucepan and place on the stove over low heat and add the butter cubes. Whisking while it melts/heats. Keep whipping/stirring until the mixture thickens and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Keep whisking and add the mascarpone by the spoonful until it melts and make sure it is still thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If it isn't keep whisking over low heat until it is. 

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Take out your crust and cut into 4. Roll each quarter into a ball and then roll it out big enough to fit your tart pans. Grease the tart pans and then press in the crust on the bottom/sides. Repeat with the other 3. Place the crusts temporarily in the freezer and store the extra crust (if any) in the manner of your choosing. (You can store the leftover crust by freezing wrapped in a plastic wrap, in the fridge for a few days, or pressed into mini tart pans and frozen.) Let the curd cool for about 5 minutes and the tart crusts stay in the freezer for about 5 minutes. Take out the tarts and pour in the curd and distribute between the four tarts pans. Tap each tart down on the counter to settle the curd and then place into the oven. Bake for about 20-30 minutes until the crust turns golden and the curd puffs up and slightly colors. Let the tarts cool while you whip the cream.

Take out your hibiscus infused cream and place it into a mixer with the whisk attached. Turn on medium/low heat until the cream starts to foam/bubble and then increase the speed to a medium high/high speed. Start adding in the sugar slowly, 1TB at a time as the cream is whipping and thickens. Stop once the whipping cream has reached your desired thickness. Top onto the tarts and serve.

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Apple and mascarpone dumplings

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I had gathered the ingredients for this dish prior to the snow because, I had planned on making these during the snow. Something about snow always makes me want to have something sweet and warm. A pastry or a cookie but when I saw the mascarpone on sale, I knew it had to be. Unfortunately, we lost power from Wednesday - Saturday and I had no use of my oven. By the time we got it back, the snow was pretty well melted by then. No worries, these tasted just as good without snow.

I think you could play around with these a lot, try half and apple instead of a quarter, different spices & cheeses, and I'm looking forward to replacing the apple with a peach in the summer. Eat alone or top with another dollop of mascarpone and let the warm pastry melt it, a serving of ice cream or fresh cream would do as well.  

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Recipe (Makes 8 dumplings)

Apples - 2, I used a sweet small, pink-fleshed apple

Mascarpone - About 1/3 a container (5-6 TB) 

Sugar - scant 1/2 cup

Flour - 1TB

Cinnamon - 1tsp

Cloves - 1/4tsp

Vanilla extract - 3/4tsp

Anise extract - 1/2tsp (optional or try almond) 

Pastry ingredients

Flour - about 11/4cup (I used a heaped 1cup) (I used all purp but pastry might have been better) 

Sugar - a tablespoon or two - just a small fingerful

Salt - a small pinch

Butter - 1 stick very cold cold. If you can leave this is the freezer awhile, even better. 

Water - ice cold water in a two cup measuring pyrex

Egg wash - beat together an egg white mixed with a splash of cream or milk. 

Fill a two cup measuring pyrex (or do this in a bowl) with ice and water. We want this to sit, let the ice start to melt, to get very cold water. The key to good pastry is not letting the butter melt until it is in the oven. Shift together the flour, sugar, & salt for the pastry. Cut your butter into smallish cubes. Toss in the flower and work in with your finger tips. You want the mixture to look coarse but about the sizes of peas; work quickly. Now you will start adding in the ice water (strained from the ice). Add the water slowly, mixing the water/flour together as you go. You want to keep adding water until the mixture just comes together. You don't want it too wet and sticky. You should be able to press it into a ball - it is ok if there are some dry spots. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic. Place in your fridge for half an hour at least. It will keep in the fridge for a day or two.

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a baking sheet. Toss together the sugar, 1TB flour, cinnamon, & cloves. Place your marscapone in a small bowl and beat in (with the back of a spoon) the extracts. Slice you apples into quarters. Hollowing out a little bowl in the center of each apple wedge, to hold the mascarpone. Toss each wedge into the sugar/spice mixture - flipping to coat. Then take a generous teaspoon of the mascarpone/extract mixture and place into the shallow bowl on the apple wedge. Adding more mascarpone if there is leftover after all 8 wedges. 

Take out your pastry dough and cut into 8 wedges. Working quickly, roll the wedge into a ball and roll into a disc on a floured surface. You want the size to be just big enough to wrap around an apple quarter. Mine were just a bit smaller than the size of my hand. Place a apple quarter with mascarpone on the dough disc, facing down. Sprinkling with more of the sugar/spice mixture and then wrap the pastry up, kind of like a burrito. Repeat with all 8. Place, spacing evenly, on a baking sheet. Brush on eggwash, top with more sugar/spice mixture or course sugar and bake until golden - about 30 minutes. 

Serve and top with more mascarpone, cream, or ice cream. 

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