Thursday, May 31, 2012
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
The other week, I went on and on about rhubarb – I couldn’t get it out of my brain. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, but everything I made wasn’t it. Then I got busy with field trips and holiday travel and projects I’m trying to finish up before the boys get out of school, and forgot about it.
This time of year, I wake up pretty early; I get up when I can no longer ignore the daylight and the incessant chirping outside. I don't set an alarm. This morning I awoke with a start at the sound of the front door closing. Alexi was on his way to work. I hadn’t seen him, and I was running late before the day even started. The morning after the long weekend. All of us had a bed head at the breakfast table. On the walk from our parking spot into school, we noticed how much the flowers on the block have grown in the six days since we’ve been in the neighborhood.
Today was a busy one, after being out of town for three days. I went grocery shopping, did three loads of laundry, swept the driveway and vacuumed the house. Paid bills, tackled a mountain of email, and a few other things I know I must be forgetting. I noticed two stalks of rhubarb languishing at the back of the fridge as I made myself lunch, bought weeks ago, I guess – I don’t remember buying them – looking as fresh as ever. Rhubarb is amazing in that way. Tuesdays the boys have chess club after school, so I pick them up an hour and a half later than other days. I decided I had time to bake a cake.
I hit the jackpot with this recipe. It gets the balance right between tart and sweet. And the lemon – oh, the lemon!
Lemon Buttermilk Rhubarb Bundt Cake
slightly adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon lemon oil (extract will work)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and very thinly sliced (3 cups prepped)
2 cups confectioners sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon softened butter
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 10-cup capacity bundt pan.
Sift the 2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest together on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition, then stir in the lemon extract and the lemon juice. On low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Toss the rhubarb with the 2 tablespoons of flour. Fold into the batter.
Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the pan and cook for an additional 30 minutes, or until the center springs back when lightly touched. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes before inverting.
To make the lemon glaze, whisk the confectioners sugar, lemon juice and butter together until completely smooth. Spoon the glaze over the cake as soon as you remove it from the pan.
Yield: 10 to 12 servings
Posted by Lecia Phinney at 10:50 PM
Monday, May 28, 2012
I'm left with the distinct thought that resonated through my head all weekend: "I am living the life I'm meant to live." The choices I've made, the community I'm building. I wish I could say the weekend was stress-free, that we all behaved well all the time - we didn't - but that really isn't the point, is it? All four of us, in different ways, challenged ourselves to try new things, to put ourselves out there. We got to know new friends, and old friends better than we did before. We stretched ourselves, learned things about ourselves, and each other, and feel all the more alive because of it.
Posted by Lecia Phinney at 8:20 PM
Friday, May 25, 2012
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Last weekend at Spinasse.
Our school's annual art and music event was last night. This is the first year the boys didn't both sack out on the drive home; usually Alexi has to carry them up the two flights of stairs to their beds. No school for the rest of the week or Monday - we feel lucky for the down time. Starting to get excited about the approach of 'the' weekend. And just like that, it'll be summer.
Posted by Lecia Phinney at 10:40 AM
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
I met Sherri when Cal was two weeks old. We were participating in one of Seattle Central Community College’s Parent Child classes. Her daughter is a few months older than Cal; she would roll, then scoot, then crawl, as she got older and more capable, to the center of our circle as we sat on the floor holding our babies, and entertain us as we discussed the topic of the day. If it hadn’t been for her daughter’s gregarious nature, I might never have noticed and gotten to know Sherri, especially since I was there with my second born child, and was not as free to get together before or after class as some did. But lucky for me, we became acquainted, and realized we lived within walking distance of each other. We’ve remained friends to this day.
Sherri is a great baker. In the past I’ve been the lucky recipient of wedges of cake, tarts, brownies, cookies… whatever just came out of her oven. Now we live at opposite ends of the city, so we get together at restaurants instead of walking to each other’s houses, and try other people’s food. For my last birthday, she gave me a book called Fat Witch Brownies. Cal doesn’t like chocolate, so I don’t make many brownies, but there are a few good chocolate-free bar recipes in this book. The cherry oatmeal bars are delicious; similar to an oatmeal cookie. Make no mistake – they are not granola bars. The quantity of butter puts them squarely in the camp of dessert. The beauty of this recipe is the ease with which it comes together – no scooping and rolling, no removing individual cookies from their sheets. You mix together all eight ingredients, press them into the pan, bake, then cut them out.
Here, as in any baked good, I recommend using good quality butter, as the flavor really shines through. I bake with Kerrygold.
The original recipe calls for one packed cup of dried cherries; I’ve reduced it by half, as none of us liked the bars with that much fruit. Use whatever kind of dried fruit you like. You can stir in ½ cup chopped nuts if you like.
Cherry Oatmeal Bars
Slightly adapted from Fat Witch Brownies by Patricia Helding
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups quick cooking oats
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup dried cherries
Grease an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with butter. Dust with flour and tap out the excess, or line the pan with a piece of parchment paper and let the excess hang over the sides, for easy removal after baking. Preheat the oven to 350F.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove it from the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon with a wooden spoon, flattening any lumps. Then pour in the melted butter mixture and blend until well incorporated. Stir in the cherries.
Spread the dough into the prepared pan, using your hands to pat it down.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the edges are starting to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 1 hour, then cut into squares.
Yield: 16 bars
Posted by Lecia Phinney at 10:31 AM
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Last week I accompanied Cal's first grade class on a field trip to the University of Washington's Botany Greenhouse. We learned about carnivorous plants, plants that have mutualistic relationships with ants, plants that smell sweet and plants that don't, cacti, orchids, and many other things.
Posted by Lecia Phinney at 6:40 AM
Monday, May 21, 2012
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
I stepped out of a restaurant and into this scene, straight out of Robert McClosky's book, in downtown Ballard today. An entourage was following the mama and her ducklings; an officious man in a tie told me they were 'guiding' her back to the water.
Never a dull moment around here.
Posted by Lecia Phinney at 10:49 PM
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
As I ate my lunch today, I read the foreward to A Platter of Figs. Alice Waters wrote that David Tanis knows “creating a meal means creating your own reality.” I wrote the phrase on a post-it, and stuck it inside my spice cabinet door. Truer words were never spoken.
Our collective family life often gets busy during the school year. I’d love to be able to say we’re around the table, lingering, every night. During the school year, on weeknights, there is always a night – or two – when dinner is something quick, sometimes even in the car. In those pockets of busyness we do what we can to stay connected, to check in with each other all the same, to eat well.
This salad is in regular rotation here in warmer weather; sometimes enjoyed in the bleachers at a baseball game on a school night. When I took my first bite, I was surprised to be taken instantly to a picnic blanket in my mind’s eye. A taste memory from last summer.
The flavor improves with time - make it a few hours before you’re going to eat it (or even the day before, if you leave out the tomatoes and walnuts until the last minute).
Adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
According to the author, “Similar to Tabouli, but more complex (although no more difficult to prepare), this salad is a perfectly balanced protein dish that can be served as a main course – especially for lunch on a hot summer day. All you need to complete the meal is toasted pita bread and some ripe fresh fruit for dessert. This is also a good dish to bring to potluck parties. You can easily double the amounts.”
1 cup French lentils, picked through for pebbles and such
3 cups water
1 cup dry bulgur wheat
1 cup boiling water
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 medium cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint, or 2 teaspoons dried mint
2 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh dill, or 2 to 3 teaspoons dried dill
fresh black pepper, to taste
½ packed cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup finely minced red onion
1 small bell pepper, any color, diced
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup Nicoise olives (1/4 lb.)
1 medium sized tomato, sliced
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts
wedges of lemons, for garnish
In a medium saucepan, cover the lentils with the 3 cups water, and bring them just to the boiling point. Turn the heat way down, partially cover, and allow them to simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are tender but not mushy. Drain well, and rinse under cold water. Transfer the cooked lentils to a large bowl.
While the lentils are cooking, place the bulgur in a small bowl – I use a cereal bowl. Add the cup of boiling water, cover with a plate, and let it stand, undisturbed, for 10 to 15 minutes.
Add everything to the lentils, except the tomatoes, walnuts, and lemon wedges, and mix gently. Cover tightly and refrigerate.
Just before serving, top with the tomatoes and walnuts, or serve them on the side. Garnish with lemon wedges.
Yield: 6 servings
Posted by Lecia Phinney at 9:20 PM
Monday, May 14, 2012
I spent half the day at school hanging art for the annual Spring Arts Showcase next week. This and several other end-of-the-year commitments are filling my calendar the next couple of weeks; there will be a continuous stream of busyness until it's over mid-June. It starts to get out of hand emotionally, but I'm going with it.
Where does it go?
Posted by Lecia Phinney at 9:46 PM
Sunday, May 13, 2012
Today I was reminded that, for some of us, this day is hard. Some are faced with failings as parents and broken relationships. Some of us have mothers or children who've died; some were never able to have children. Maybe our hopes for our relationship with our mother don't match up with our reality.
I woke up to coffee in bed. Abbott made eggs and toast for my breakfast.
My step father-in-law left me what was perhaps the nicest phone message ever, in appreciation of my mothering work.
And the homemade cards and other efforts to make me feel loved, honored and respected from my family! - they made my heart sing.
Sending love to you today, whatever your circumstances.
Posted by Lecia Phinney at 10:00 PM
Thursday, May 10, 2012
at Belle Epicurean
Burning both ends of the candle this week, and I am just fine with that. I've woken to an alarm, unusual for me, early, and have been surprised to discover that it's light already. I've gone running right after slugging down a glass of water and a mug of coffee. There is a pink cast to the sidewalks, and a different crowd than my usual mid-morning cohort of moms with strollers, friends walking together, and older, hat-tipping gentlemen. Along with the serious-looking runners with earbuds in place, who pass me, there are dog-walkers, and couples out for a walk before work, holding hands.
Now, it's close to my bedtime, and it's light, still. I love this time of year.
Posted by Lecia Phinney at 8:37 PM
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
The refrain in my head all week has gone something like this. It started when I met my friend Kathleen for dessert at the Boat Street Cafe last Thursday. I had the rhubarb clafoutis; she had the bread pudding. Saturday night, I found myself at Boat Street again. (While I love the place, twice in one week was a first.) Rhubarb margarita was the special; Alexi and I each had one. Sunday, I decided to make a rhubarb cake. I expected to love it based on the list of ingredients and the recipe's author; it was only okay. Today, I made a rhubarb buckle - also only okay.
RIP Maurice Sendack. Sendack On Death (and life) (via Stephanie).
Posted by Lecia Phinney at 9:00 PM
Monday, May 7, 2012
The day was full of sun and shadows.
The fourth grade class play - Macbeth this year - is in 10 days; we're busy rehearsing lines and cues and inflection. Abbott is Macduff. Hefty choice for this age group, seems to me, but not to him.
I've said it before, I'll say it again - my love for camellias could not be overstated. They're fading fast. The petal snow is happening in earnest, from these and all the other blossoms, everywhere I turn. Soon, it will be summer.
I coached the boys on putting the utensils in the drawer all facing the same direction when they unload the dishwasher. I tell myself this will benefit their future well being; possibly they'll simply remember that as one of my neuroses when they're adults.
I hope your week has gotten off to a great start.
Posted by Lecia Phinney at 8:33 PM