Usually, the famous San Francisco fog rolls in the early afternoon, covering the city in a veil. But 2013 is different, not grey. It is sunny, and spring is coming early this year. The sky is blue and gold, cherry blossoms and green buds have begun to color the bare branches. It seems to me a sign, of bright joyous days that have come.
I have stayed away from here in 2012. It was a strange year, dishing out loss and sadness. There were a few minor health issues, the loss of my tiniest sweet friend, and of one of the dearest women I have ever known. I am single now, for the first time in my adult life. I was alone, my tiny world was adrift, with nothing to hold onto. It was terrifying, and life will never be the same again.
I believe in karma, that there is a balance of good and bad in the universe, and that extends to life. And there’s something about a new year. You know what I mean. It is a new beginning, fresh start and a chance to make things right, the feeling that anything is possible. This year is going to be a good one. I will not drift away again, when I have so much to hold onto, so much I hadn’t seen. I have missed you, missed my little happy peaceful space. I am anchored here, in the joy of making and sharing, in failing and trying again and in – hopefully, in succeeding. I will share more, savories along with the tea time sweets. And to give more treats to my friends and friends to be. I have so much to look forward to. And so I hope to that you will join me in a few of my journeys and mental wanderings, and that you are taking many of your own.
These recipes are two that I have turned to time and time again. They are comforting constants in my kitchen. The kale and lentil dish, in particular…it makes an appearance in my kitchen (and refrigerator) every week or two. Its healthy and balanced, full of varied textures and flavors. There’s the sweet of the slow-caramelized onions, hearty bits of lentils, fresh kale, with a bit of pasta to anchor it all together. Best of all, the leftovers are wonderful, with all of those flavors getting better acquainted with one another. The cake too, is sustaining and hearty, with nutty whole wheat flour, caramel dark sugar, and summer-berry jam. Both of them come with my highest recommendation.
Kale + Lentil with Orecchiette
Approximately 3 servings // Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
1/2 cup lentils du puy (or small French green lentils), rinsed and picked over
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 tsp + 1 tbsp salt + 1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup broth (1 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups onion, finely chopped (1 very large or two small onions should work)
2 bunches of kale (about 3/4 -1 pound), coarsely chopped *
8 oz (1/2 pound) orecchiette (try penne if you cannot find orecchiette)
1/4 cup water leftover from cooking pasta
1/4 tsp pepper to taste
red chili flakes, parmesan or toasted bread crumbs, for servings
In a medium saucepan, combine lentils, minced garlic, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1 1/2 cup broth. Simmer for 25 minutes, or until the lentils are just tender. Retain lentil and any leftover cooking liquid.
In the meantime, heat saute pan on high for 1-2 minutes. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil, then add onions. Cook for one minute, while stirring. Turn down heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the onions are meltingly sweet and caramel-brown.
Bring a large, lidded pot of water to a boil. Add tablespoon of salt, then chopped kale, and cover. While kale steams, prepare ice bath: bowl of water with an ice cube or two. Steam for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Immediately remove kale from hot water and plunge cold water. Keep the kale water simmering on stove. When cool enough to handle, squeeze excess water from kale and set aside.
Add pasta to simmering green water leftover from cooking kale. Cook according to instructions on package. Reserve 1/4 cup of starchy green-tinted water.
In the large pot, combine lentil + leftover liquid, caramelized onion, cooked kale, pasta, 1/4 cup starchy pasta-kale water and 1/4 cup broth. Add 1/2 tsp salt and/or pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes on medium-low to combine ingredients into a homogenous whole. Most of the liquid should be absorbed.
Serve with red chili flakes, and/or parmesan, and/or toasted bread crumbs.
* I have used Lacinato/Tuscan, Purple Russian, and curly green kale, all work well.
I found this loaf cake to be quite sweet. So, rather than using icing, I just used a small amount of honey syrup. And threw in some nutty whole wheat flour. Also, it keeps remarkably well.
Honeyed Rombauer Jam Cake
Adapted from Joy of Cooking, via 101 Cookbooks
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp cornstarch or rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
7 tbsp softened butter (1 stick minus tablespoon)
7/8 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 egg white
2 tbsp plain yogurt
2 tbsp dark molasses
1 heaping cup blackberry jam
For syrup: 3 tbsp honey + 1 tbsp boiling hot water.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour (grease) a 7.5/8 x 3.5/4 loaf pan.
In a large bowl, combine the flours and cornstarch, baking powder, and baking soda.
In another bowl, combine ground cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, softened butter, and sugar. Beat until fluffy. Inhale deeply. Adding the spices to the fat deeps their scent and flavor. Add eggs, white, yogurt, and molasses.
Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture and beat until just combined.
As gently as possible, fold jam into the batter. Do not beat until homogenous – you’ll want thin ribbons and spots of jam in the finished cake. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and level the batter before placing in the hot oven.
Bake, testing for doneness with a cake tester/toothpick at 30 minutes.
While the cake is baking, make the honey syrup by combining boiling hot water and honey, and stirring vigorously.
After removing the cake from the oven, use a pastry brush to brush half of the honey syrup over the cake. Allow it to cool for 5 minutes, remove from pan, and brush the remainder of the syrup onto the other side of the cake.
Tea pairing: a brisk and floral Darjeeling, such as Margaret’s Hope. An orchid- or peach-scented Phoenix Oolong would be nice as well.