I know, I know: A) this post is over due (sorry, yet again!) and B) It’s frickin’ Thanksgiving, all you want to hear about is another variation on sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts. But think of this as a holiday oasis post, a place you can come to forget about the will-it-EVER-stop rain (if you live in Seattle) and instead remember summertime, picnic blankets, sundresses and adorable foods on crackers.
It was a gorgeous August weekend in the Cascade Mountains, 80 degrees and sunny, with the crisp waters of Lake Wenatchee a five minute drive away. It was a weekend filled with friends, singing, dancing, and of course, whole lot of food.
I was never going to be a traditional bride — white ball gowns and pretty pictures of me gazing into the sunset are definitely not my thing. And I’ve got plenty of political ideas about marriage and taxes and civil rights that have kept me from taking the idea of a wedding seriously for most of my life. It really took a mental shift, reframing the idea of a wedding ceremony to get me on board. It doesn’t have to be about poofy dresses and until sickness and death parting us, or about weird beef dishes from the 60s and the electric slide. It can be about friends. And our rather tiny families. And celebration. And where there’s celebrating, there’s food. And board games. And lawn games. And a lemonade stand. And midnight re-enactments of frogger with hacky sacks. And karaoke with lots of dancing.
Since so many of our guests were coming from far away, we wanted the wedding to to take over a weekend, giving us as much quality time as possible — and, of course, providing us with plenty of opportunities for meals.
I like to dream big, and I’ve never met a culinary challenge that was too intimidating. So as you can imagine, the days leading up to the wedding were slightly insane. I am forever indebted to all my friends who spent many hours cooking, pickling, packaging, and labeling all the food that would become welcome snacks for our guests, breakfast baskets that got delivered to everyone’s cabins, and finally make it into the main event: a wedding picnic in the mountains.
We spent months scavenging for picnic baskets, vases and picture frames at the thrift stores, and then painted them all bright aqua blue. We filled them with all of our favorite things, and sewed napkins, streamers and pillows out of vintage fabric I found at my great-grandmother’s house in Alabama. Actually full credit for napkin sewing goes to Mariah, my close friend and inspiration for all things domestic, because she didn’t even blink when I dropped a box of vintage fabric on her porch before hopping on a plane back to Seattle. It was not a white wedding. It was bright. It was patterned. And nothing matched. It was perfect.
We had olives marinated with rosemary, orange and chile flakes, and herb roasted nuts.
A tuna salad with tarragon, fennel and celery leaves, concocted by my business partner Olaiya Land, that pretty much stole the show.
Some Olympic Provisions salami and our favorite cheeses: Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam and Jasper Hill’s clothbound cheddar.
Pickled cucumbers with fennel fronds and some red pepper jelly that my family is still asking about.
Smokey baba ganoush, which I think is responsible for keeping me fed the entire weekend, and a white bean and kale salad dressed with a preserved lemon vinaigrette, recipe courtesy of our friends at Picnic.
And since I’m a pastry chef and John has an unrivaled sweet tooth, there was plenty of dessert: lemon pound cake and my most favorite banana bread ever, and rhubarb ginger jam made by Rebecca of Deluxe Foods. Three days before the ceremony I let go of the plan to make homemade nutella. It was the right decision.
I still think about that weekend. Having everyone with us, being able to feed them. Swimming in the lake, playing kickball in the sun, eating dinner under the stars – I can’t even imagine a different kind of wedding. Thank you to all of my friends, for being there and for being so awesome. And a special thank you to Gabe and Ashley Rodriguez, for taking such beautiful pictures that will make me remember that weekend in visual style.
Marinated Olives w/ Rosemary, Orange & Chile
8 cups caselvetrano olives
4 cups olive oil
4 six-inch sprigs rosemary
1 tsp chile flakes
8 garlic cloves
- Using a vegetable peeler, remove zest from orange in long, wide strips. Smash garlic cloves with the edge of a chef’s knife.
- Place the olive oil in a small saucepan along with the orange zest, rosemary, pepper flakes and garlic. Warm over medium heat until fragrant but not boiling or simmering. Turn heat to medium-low and add olives. Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes. Do not cook olives. Pour olives and oil into serving dish and accompany with crusty bread for dipping in the oil.
Roasted Mixed Nuts
8 oz pecans
8 oz cashews
8 oz almonds
6 oz hazelnuts
6 oz walnuts
1/4 cup chopped rosemary
1 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tsp dark brown sugar
4 tsp Maldon salt
1 oz butter, melted
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
-Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.
-In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter.
-Thoroughly toss the toasted nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm.
Tarragon Tuna Salad
15 oz good tuna in oil, w/oil (I like Tonno brand)
3 TBSP chopped tarragon
2 tsp chopped parsley
1/2 cup finely diced fennel
1 stalk celery, finely sliced
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 TBSP lemon juice
1/2 cup loosely packed celery leaves
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
Pinch sugar, to taste
- Break the tuna into rough chunks.
- In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the salt, pepper and sugar. Mix gently, to combine. Season with a generous amount of black pepper and a pinch of salt and sugar, if needed.
Red Pepper Jelly
1 1/2 lb red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 TBSP red-pepper flakes
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 TBSP Sure-Jell less- or no-sugar-needed pectin
3 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup white-wine vinegar
1 TBSP unsalted butter
3/4 tsp kosher salt
- Pulse bell peppers with red-pepper flakes and smoked paprika, if using, in a food processor until finely chopped. (Mixture will measure about 2 1/2 cups.)
- Whisk together pectin and 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl.
- Stir together pepper mixture, vinegar, butter, salt, and remaining 3 cups sugar in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot. Bring to a vigorous boil over high heat, then continue to boil vigorously, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Gradually add pectin mixture, whisking constantly. Return jelly to a vigorous boil, stirring constantly, and boil, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes (mixture will thicken slightly). Remove from heat.
Best Banana Bread Ever
1 lb peeled, very ripe bananas
9 1/2 oz sugar
1 vanilla bean
5 1/4 oz melted butter
7 1/2 oz AP flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 conv.). Butter loaf pans and line with parchment. Set aside.
- Rub the vanilla bean seeds into the sugar to make a vanilla sugar. Beat bananas and sugar well with paddle, then add the butter slowly.
- Add the eggs one at a time.
- Sift the dry ingredients and then add.
- Spoon into the prepared cake pans and bake until the cakes spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool before removing from the pan.
So you may have noticed that I’m not really cooking much these days. What can I say that I haven’t said in the last 4-5 posts? I miss cooking. I almost even miss stopping everyone from digging into piping hot yumminess so I can spend 5 minutes photographing it. Almost.
While I have been building and planting at The Pantry like a crazy little caffeinated person in overalls, I did manage to learn a few things about cooking while I was away from my computer. In Seattle we have a lovely jam-maker named Rebecca Staffel, who owns a company called Deluxe Foods. She’s kinda awesome (and she’s my neighbor, how lucky am I?!) and one day in May she let me hang out with her while she made her prize-winning gingered rhubarb jam. I felt like the luckiest girl in the Pacific Northwest for learning some of the tricks of the trade. Because while I’ve made a jam or two in my day, I am in no way a seasoned jam-maker. And rhubarb jam just seemed intimidating. I mean, rhubarb’s not even a FRUIT! But Rebecca broke it down for me and I went away giddy with plans for making my own batch of pink goodness. It’s been a crazy month, and I suspect it’s about to get crazier (our first event is in three weeks!). But we officially ran out of home-made jam in my fridge and well, if that’s not a kitchen emergency then I don’t know what is.
So I dropped everything yesterday and made some rhubarb vanilla jam. Whew.
I started by chopping up the rhubarb into teeny tiny bits. Like 1/8″ big bits. I rubbed the vanilla bean seeds into the sugar, and mixed the vanilla sugar (pod included) into the chopped rhubarb. I squeezed in the lemon juice and threw in the whole lemon chunks, which supplied some much needed pectin. I let the whole pile sit overnight in the fridge to get the juices out of the rhubarb.
The next morning I heated it all in my favorite pot. I kept it at a good strong simmer (is that just a boil?), stirring occasionally, until it reached its set point. This was my first time using a thermapen (Thanks for the tip on THAT one Rachel!), so I was feeling condident bringing the jam just to 220. Except then I got nervous that it wasn’t set and cooked it a bit more…hee. I ladled the hot jam into jars that had been boiling the whole time to get nice and germ-free. Once the jars of jam were lidded, I placed them on a tray and baked them for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. This is my first time “baking” them instead of processing them in boiling water, and I’m super excited at how easy it is (easy like, I can set a timer and run back to construction land and let John pull them out of the oven)!
We cracked open one of the jars last night for dessert. We just ate it with shortbread cookies and whipped cream and oh my, it is going to be a great summer.
Rhubarb Vanilla Jam Recipe:
2 lb 12 oz rhubarb, finely diced
2 lb sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 lemon, quartered and seeds removed
What a week!
Construction on my new business, The Pantry, is moving along, and I can finally see how the space is going to feel when all done. Such a good feeling. Then we released our class schedule on Monday and my “How to be a Pie Ninja” classes sold out in three days! And THEN, as if that wasn’t enough to make me blush, I wake up on Wednesday to the announcement that “I Made That” is a finalist for Saveur Magazine’s Best Cooking Blog award along with 101 Cookbooks, Lottie and Doof, Smitten Kitchen, Sprouted Kitchen and The Wednesday Chef! Seriously, my friends, I am glowing. And a little intimidated…I mean, I knew I had a few readers out there, but I don’t know how I landed in that company. All of a sudden I’m staring intensely at my photos, worried that they just aren’t up to snuff. And what recipe do you post when people are actually LOOKING? I was so scared I actually went out and bought $25 worth of pine nuts, because suddenly walnuts just weren’t good enough! I’m cracking people, I obviously can’t take the pressure. But thank you, whoever nominated me, you are a very nice person. And I mean that.
After a week like that there is only one answer: cake. And, well, I might as well put those pine nuts to good use…
So I toasted them.
And folded them into one of the weirdest cake batters I’ve ever made. It’s from the book “Urban Italian” by Andrew Carmellini, which is a book that I just love. Everything I’ve made from it has been right up my alley, and I’m excited to share this particular recipe. The book has you start with creaming the butter and sugar, and then go straight into adding all of the flour. Once all the flour is in, THEN you start adding the eggs, yogurt and lemon juice. That’s just crazy. But it worked. The cake has a beautiful crumb and it’s not too dense for my taste at all (did I mention it gets meringue folded into it? That probably has something to do with it).
It’s a simple cake, with the texture of a pound cake and a flavor that is almost savory. I made the recipe as he called for, except that I added salt, because all cakes want a little salt. And to be honest, I might add a bit more next time to make it feel even more savory. Or maybe make a salty caramel to pour over it. In fact I might just go do that right now. Certainly all that salt I just added makes it count as dinner rather than dessert, right?
Pine Nut Cake (Pinolata) Recipe (Andrew Carmellini):
2 cups pine nuts
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 pound (4 sticks) butter, at room temperature
zest and juice of 2 lemons
4 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 whole eggs
3/4 cup yogurt
for the meringue:
4 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Toast the pine nuts over very low heat in a dry saute pan until they have just begun to take on a golden color. Remove from the stove and reserve. I actually just toasted them in the oven…
- Prepare the batter
- Meanwhile, cream the sugar, butter and lemon zest together in a KitchenAid with the paddle attachment. Be sure to scrape down the sides as you go to make sure everything mixes evenly.
- When the mixture is quite smooth, add the flour and baking powder. Mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated and then begin adding the eggs, one by one, waiting until each egg is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next. Turn the KitchenAid up to high for about 5 seconds to combine everything thoroughly, then scrape down the sides and the bottom with a spatula and mix in any bits that have failed to incorporate.
- Add the yogurt and mix in with the paddle attachment until it’s thoroughly incorporated.
- As you continue mixing, add the lemon juice and incorporate. Scrape down the sides and bottom and mix well with a spatula. Then transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
- Fold a third of the meringue into the batter using a rubber spatula to combine well. Add the rest of the meringue and fold in well until the mixture is combined. Fold in the pine nuts, reserving about 3 tablespoons for the top of the cakes.
- Brush 2 9×5 loaf pans with melted butter. Fill each loaf pan with the batter. Smooth and flatten the tops with the spatula. Sprinkle the tops of the cakes with the reserved pine nuts. I forgot to do that part. (Now I’ll never win!)
- Bake the loaves on the middle rack until you can put a knife into each and bring it out clean, about 45 minutes.
- Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool in the pans for about 30 minutes and then turn them out onto a cake rack to cool completely.
So January was kind of a big month for me.
Construction for my new business, The Pantry, is in full swing. We’ve got all of the walls and ceiling ripped out of our space, and now begins the moment of building rather than destroying. We have a beautiful landscape plan (dreamed up by the talented crew at Fresh Digs), 3 sore backs’ worth of scavenged garden pavers, and lots of beautiful edibles in our future. We just launched our brand new website (check it out!), courtesy of the fantastic Wandering Works Design Co., as well as our first bit of press in Seattle Magazine. I am positively giddy. And if that weren’t enough, last week me and John took a trip to NYC, where we first met 8 years ago, and got ourselves engaged. Wow. Talk about a fun year ahead!
So to celebrate good times, as well as my trip to Momofuku Milk Bar on my first day as a fiancée, I give you the Crack Pie. If you haven’t heard of the Crack Pie, I am so happy to be the first to introduce you. Possibly the most famous slice of pie in Manhattan right now, it is a force to be reckoned with. It’s sweet. It’s salty. It’s oaty. Dare I say it’s over the top. It was exactly what was called for last night.
The crust. The crust is so much fun. It starts with a pretty straightforward oatmeal cookie dough. You press it into a sheet pan until it’s pretty thin. I actually found it a bit sticky to work with and ended up rolling it between parchment sheets.
You bake it until you have one gigantic golden brown oatmeal cookie.
Then you break it into crumbs and toss it with butter and brown sugar, to form an oat cookie pie dough.
That gets pressed into a pie pan, really tightly to prevent leaks.
Then the filling is poured in and the whole thing goes in the oven to set.
And Oh. My. It is insane. Kind of like pecan pie, without those pesky pecans. Wrapped in a crunchy oatmeal cookie. I will admit now that I made two. Friends came over last night and helped me devour the first pie. The second, well I’m regretting that one. It’s just too much crack for this little one. I suspect some staff at Delancey will be finishing it off if John doesn’t read this and hide it before I get there.
CRACK PIE RECIPE (Christina Tosi, Momofuku Milk Bar):
Oat Cookie Crust
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
4 1/2 oz unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
5 1/2 TBSP (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
2 TBSP sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 TBSP old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 tsp (generous) salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper; coat with nonstick spray. Combine 6 TBSP butter, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 2 TBSP sugar in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Turn oat mixture out onto prepared baking pan; press out evenly to edges of pan. Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.
- Using hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl; add 3 TBSP butter and 1 1/2 TBSP brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together. Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 TBSP nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 oz unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
6 1/2 TBSP heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for dusting)
- Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 10 minutes longer. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight.
- Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into wedges and serve cold.