Last summer a good friend returned to Aspen after a week of sifting through, sorting and discarding boxes she’d left behind in her mother’s attic. “I had so many dreams and hopes back then,” she told me rather regretfully, “that I’ve never fulfilled.”
WINTERY FRENCH LENTIL SOUP with BISON MEAT and CARROTS, spicy and hearty
Color me shocked. As she later acknowledged, her life is privileged and bountiful. And while those early dreams and hopes have been unrealized, I suggested they were just replaced. “Yes,” she replied, deciding she would buy into that.
Melissa’s friend, Linda, made this fantastic paper art typewriter for me. I actually used a typewriter once upon a time.
At Thanksgiving dinner my family returned to this same subject. Melissa and Stephen are turning 50 this year. This has brought them up short, of course, a pause for soul-searching. Like many of you readers, they are peddling overtime with businesses, raising two teenage daughters, countless responsibilities. But during our annual “I am thankful for” pre-dinner grace, they both made it abundantly clear there is no place they’d rather be. To their two girls, who do realize they are running their parents ragged, those were reassuring moments.
There something beautiful about fresh carrots just pulled from the earth.
While I’ve been somewhat haunted by my friend’s revelations, I hadn’t had time to run through my personal hopes and dreams checklist until recently. My recent 1,500-mile car trip equaled thinking time. I’ll not only share those thoughts but also showcase Wintery French Lentil Soup with bison beef, carrots and red wine. It’s a quick and hearty meal adapted from Lori Lynn Hirsch’s blog, Taste with the Eyes. For sweets, try my faux Chaussons aux Pommes made easily with homemade applesauce.
The Chaussons aux Pommes are ready for the oven.
Although Lori Lynn and I are not related, I was attracted to her blog because of name coincidence. I subscribed because she is a fantastic cook. Her French lentil soup hit all my buttons and provided a home for my fresh carrots. In trying to introduce more grains to my diet, the lentils, a grain legume, were perfect and, as Lori wrote, ‘eating lentils in the new year is said to bring luck and prosperity.’
The Garlic Bulb after it’s had a haircut and been coated with EVOO. Now, into the oven.
Another change I’m making in many recipes now is to roast my garlic instead of mincing/sautéing it. Liz Berg at This Skinny Chick Can Bake and Peggy Gilbey at Spiced Peach Blog persuaded me that soft, caramelized cloves are a sweeter, user-friendly addition to cooked food.
When the garlic cooled, I squeezed the caramelized cloves into the soup.
Chaussons aux Pommes are a gussied up apple turnovers. Using apples from my Talley Farms Fresh Harvest box, I made one-step, no fuss applesauce and, with puff pastry, baked some sweet nibbles for snacks, dessert and breakfast. The recipes are below.
When it’s low tide I usually walk down the stairs to the tidal pools. Not this week. Sometimes the Pacific gets unruly.
Now, back to hopes and dreams. In the past three years as I dismantled our home, I cornered the market on that walk down memory lane. While there’s been some wishing I’d have done things differently or made wiser choices (don’t we all), that’s all shoulda, woulda, coulda poppycock. I was a halfwit at 21 when Melissa was born. Now, 50 years later, I consider myself a candidate for Mensa!
Although I prefer the applesauce in my slow cooker to be chunky, I do mash it up for the turnovers.
Each twist and turn in Life, I guess, is a building block to realizing dreams and fulfilling hopes and handling those damn disappointments and regrets. Frankly, I threw so many hopes and dreams at the wall, the odds were that something was gonna stick.
If you don’t wish to sprinkle cinnamon/sugar on the pastry, that’s fine. I just found it more flavorful because I purposely don’t add sugar to the applesauce.
Today my only shock is that after a big bump or two, I was able to rebuild a happy life again. Perhaps I just put my dreams and hopes in different costumes. After Michael died, all I wanted was to return to my Aspen home and friends. To do that, there were compromises which I elected to make. Then I revisited my passions, writing and the nature gig, and morphed them into possibilities which now consume my daily life. And, what I do best, being a grandmother, is a glorious role I play seriously. That’s it. Presently, my hopes and dreams are reimagined in those pursuits.
This is a Surf Scoter. These ducks hang out at the San Simeon pier with their relatives, the Black Scoters.
I might suggest to my friend to be more gentle with herself. Success or failure cannot be measured by something packed in a cardboard box for 45 years. However, her one innocuous comment has given me pause and will also hopefully stimulate some conversation at your house this week.
the San Simeon pier located near the Hearst Castle
WINTERY FRENCH LENTIL SOUP
Adapted from Lori Lynn Hirsch, Taste for the Eyes
3 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 roasted garlic bulb
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. chile powder (or to taste)
4 to 5 c. beef stock
1/2 c. of red wine
1 lb. Bison ground meat, cooked and drained
12 oz. french lentils, steamed (I like Trader Joe’s pre-cooked)
salt and pepper
large handful of cilantro, rough chopped
1. Roast Garlic (directions below)
2. Heat Oil in Soup Pot. Add onion and cook until soft. (If you’d rather use 4 minced garlic cloves, add them after onions are softened and saute for a minute or two until lightly golden.)
3. Then add carrots, cumin, chile power, softened roasted garlic cloves and beef stock.
4. When carrots are al dente, add Bison meat, cooked lentils and red wine.
5. Simmer for 10-15 minutes
6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
7. Place soup in warmed bowls. Dust with Parmesan and garnish with parsley or cilantro.
1 whole head of garlic
2 tsp. Extra-virgin Olive oil
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Remove the papery layers off the garlic, keeping the bulb intact.
3. Trim the top off the garlic, as shown (1/4” to 1/3”).
4. Drizzle EVOO over garlic bulbs, rubbing your fingers lightly over the top so oil sinks through.
5. Wrap tightly in foil and bake for 45-55 minutes.
6. Let garlic cool before squeezing into the soup.
CHAUSSONS aux POMMES
1. Peel 12 Apples (more if you wish)
2. Add Cinnamon Sticks, if you wish.
3. Put in Slow Cooker and add 1/2 cup water.
4. Set at Low and Cook for 8 hours (or, overnight).
CHAUSSONS aux POMMES
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed per package directions.
1 C. of applesauce
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water)
1. Heat oven to 400°F.
2. Line cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper.
3. Sprinkle work surface lightly with flour. Roll out thawed puff pastry into 15-inch square.
4. Using a coffee mug, small bowl or large round cookie cutter,
make cutouts with a paring knife.
5. Brush each square with egg wash. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon-sugar and spoon applesauce in the center as shown.
6. Fold each in half and press edges together tightly to seal.
7. Transfer to cookie sheet.
8. Use a sharp knife to make a few slices in the chaussons WITHOUT slicing completely through the puff pastry.
9. Bake between 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
10.Sprinkle top with plain sugar.
TIP: Let cool. (Applesauce can burn your tongue.) They will de-pouf a small amount.
Betsy looked at me oddly. After a long pause, she said, “Mary I wasn’t even two years old yet. I don’t remember it.”
TOMATO, BASIL & MOZZARELLA TART
I did the math. She was born in 1961. I was born in 1944. Holy Moly, I thought, she’s right! My first life-altering moment wasn’t even on her radar screen. “Mine was the Challenger explosion [1986 ],” she later added.
Our 17-year age difference became an additional thought-provoking layer during our week-long libraries journey. Many things that I remembered, she’d only learned in school. There were other situations we both recollected but recalled through our different generational lenses.
CAULIFLOWER & CHICKPEA CURRY
Every generation has its shared moments, life-altering events when we still remember where we were when something happened. This week I asked both friends/family to recall their first public experience that helped shape the adult they’ve become.
TO CARAMELIZE AND SOFTEN THE TOMATOES, THEY BAKE ALONE FOR 15 MINUTES AT 375 DEGREES BEFORE BEING JOINED BY CHEESE.
For 24-year-old Kacey Mahler, The Gant’s Customer Service Manager, it was 9/11. That was the consensus among the front office staff. But Bellman Chris Malone, 28, said, “Mrs. Hirsch, you may not like this but for me it was watching OJ Simpson being chased in his white Bronco by the police.” Malone, who was 7 at the time, explained, “That’s when I first realized heroes could be criminals.”
IMAGE BY ideasevolved.com
The responses were as varied as generational:
Hurricane Andrew. (a home lost); Princess Diana’s Death; Governor Orval Faubus closing all high schools in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958; Apollo Eleven’s Moon Landing;
Team USA upsetting the Soviet Union, 4-3, The Miracle on Ice, at the Winter Olympics in February 1980;
DUST WITH POWDERED SUGAR, IF YOU WISH.
For my daughter, Melissa, it was about Jimmy Carter and her initial disillusionment with politics. “I remember listening to his energy crisis address when he was president,” she says. “It flipped everyone out – the idea to conserve energy – but I remember as a kid thinking it was a good idea. The result was President Carter got crushed in the re-election.”
I DOUBLED DOWN ON MOZZARELLA BUT IT’S YOUR CHOICE.
My Norwegian son-in-law’s first life-altering moment? ( “Yup, Mom,” Melissa e-mailed, “Swear to God, this is Stephen’s answer.”)
“The 1975 non-call of offensive pass interference against Dallas Cowboys/Minnesota Vikings game that allowed the Cowboys to win and go on to the Superbowl.”
Realizing this man is the love of my daughter’s life and father of my two granddaughters, I have no comment except, Go Vikings!
While you’re pondering how you would answer this question, here’s what I cooked up this week. My showstopper is undoubtedly Yvette Van Boven’s Sticky Chocolate Cake in Your Coffee Mug in 3 Minutes. There aren’t words to describe its fudgy appeal. Skeptical? Try it. A perfect dessert for one or two sweet tooths.
I ALSO POURED DULCE de LECHE, A CREAMY, SMOOTH, MILK-CARAMEL SPREAD OVER THE CAKE.
I made two recipes for this month’s Cottage Cooking Club from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg cookbook. The first, Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Tart is a keeper, something I’ll stick in my back pocket to bring out to impress guests. You may use a traditional round tart pan, an oblong pan which makes finger-friendly portions for appetizers or a regular baking sheet. Try other flavorful combinations such as Tomato, Thyme and Goat Cheese; Tomato, Rosemary and Pecorino or Tomato, Blue Cheese and Chives. Pretty and Tasty.
MY PUFF PASTRY RULE HAS BECOME THAT IF I CAN’T FIND DUFOURS, I DON”T MAKE A RECIPE WITH PUFF PASTRY. IT IS THE BEST, IN MY OPINION, AND, BETTER YET, ALWAYS WORKS.
Honestly, I am seldom disappointed with Hugh’s recipes but Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry didn’t work for me. Cauliflower, yum. And, I love curry. Still, this is a healthy recipe that, with its ingredients, should be packed with flavor. Although I’ve posted pictures of my effort, I need to return to the kitchen and try again. Back to you in a few weeks. Or, not.
PHOTO BY katrin.coaching-in-bulgaria.com
STICKY CHOCOLATE CAKE IN YOUR COFFEE MUG IN 3 MINUTES
Adapted from Yvette Van Boven, Home Made Winter cookbook
If you wish, sprinkle with confectionary sugar or add any syrup, liquor, ice cream or whipped cream.
1. Mix the dry ingredients in the coffee mug. Add the egg and whisk together with a fork. Add the milk and oil and whisk some more.
2. Stir in the chocolate chips.
3. Place the mug in the microwave and “bake” the batter for 3 minutes on high. The cake will rise above the rim of the mug. Use a saucer under the mug as it “bakes” to catch any drips. Let it cool for a bit.
4. Add any desired topping.
Thanks to Betty Pollack-Benjamin for introducing me to Yvette Van Boven.
TOMATO, BASIL and MOZZARELLA TART
By Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall by River Cottage Veg
Serves 4 to 6
Canola or Sunflower Oil
13 ounces all-butter ready-made puff pastry
1 large egg, beaten, for brushing
12 ounces tomatoes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
3 1/2 ounces Mozzarella cheese
2 TBSP shredded basil, added after the tart is baked
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Lightly oil a baking sheet or tart pan.
2. Roll out the pasty fairly thinly and trim to a rectangle measuring your pan. Put it on the baking sheet or tart pan. Cut a 1/2-inch strip from each edge. Brush these strips with a little beaten egg. Stick them onto the edges of the rectangle to form a slightly raised border. Brush the edges with a little more egg. Even if you are using a lipped tart pan, reinforce your edges.
3. Thinly slice the tomatoes crosswise into 1/8-inch slices. Discard the stalky top and skinny bottom slices. Scatter the garlic over the pastry. Then, arrange the tomato slices on top, overlapping them only slightly. Season with salt and pepper and trickle with a little olive oil.
4. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and lightly browned.
5. Take the tart out of the oven, scatter over the cheese. Add another twist of pepper and a trickle of oil. Return to the oven. Bake for another 10 minutes or so, until the cheese is melty and bubbly and the pastry golden brown.
6. You can serve the tart hot. Whittingstall recommends serving it half an hour or so after it comes out of the oven, with a green salad.
Cottage Cooking Club is a virtual group cooking its way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’sRiver Cottage Veg cookbook. It is skillfully managed and inspired by our leader Andrea from The Kitchen Lioness.
For years I’ve yearned to visit the Galápagos Islands, that archipelago of isolation that sits 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. These are the islands where Charles Darwin landed in 1835. While the Galápagos Islands are recognized for the theories they launched, today they are more famous for the inhabitants.
Unfortunately, life has always nudged a Galápagos trip to the back of the bus. While I don’t often give into it, aging and the hesitancy to travel alone have begun to rear their ugly heads. Perhaps the endangered Galápagos tortoises and I would never meet. It just wasn’t happening.
Peach Ice Cream by David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop
A month ago, the stars aligned. I was asked to join 15 others for an 11-day December Origins of the Species Adventure to the Galápagos. We’d be traveling aboard an 144’ vessel called the Integrity. Within a week I’d agreed, booked a flight to Quito, Ecuador, and dusted off my passport.
However, there is one huge hiccup about this trip which we need to discuss.
Miss Colorado Peach 2015
First, let’s talk peaches. Since the prime season for our Colorado peaches is short, I’m greedy and, each week, buy big. I think this week’s show-stoppers are worth sharing. This week-end, why not try Brown Butter-Peach Tourte by Dorie Greenspan or David Lebovitz’s Peach Ice Cream.
Dorie’s tourte is peaches, butter and crust. C’est tout. There’s little sugar or flour and only a dab of vanilla and lemon juice. The delish is a result of the butter which simmers until it turns ‘fragrant and is golden browned to a caramel flavor.’ When your cut-up peach chunks swim in this, it’s heavenly.
Because of the butter, the top crust, sprinkled with sugar, gets browner, melting as it bakes. Here’s where you can be creative, simplify the process or bake to your taste. Since the magic of this dessert is the filling, the crust is your choice. Choose a sweet tart dough, pie dough (no shame in store-bought) or a strudel concoction. This delight is in the filling.
Memories were made from lazy summer days when we helped make hand-cranked peach ice cream. Magic, right? Lebovitz created the simplest stone fruit ice cream recipe I could find. It’s delicious. I know that because I enjoyed most of it myself. After making the mixture and refrigerating it to cool overnight, I found I needed unexpected oral surgery. (I will spare you the 2-day play-by play.) When I returned home, there was very little I could eat. I remembered Lebovitz mentioning this peach ice cream ‘is indeed best when spooned right out of the machine, just moments after it’s been churned.’
I followed David’s advice and poured the chilled mixture into my ice cream maker. Thirty minutes later I was standing at my kitchen counter, drowning my sorrows with this delicious ice cream. For the past two days it’s been my comfort food. With 2/3 of the quart gone, I’m definitely on the mend.
And, that’s important, because I need to be in top form to deal with the hurdle in my upcoming Galápagos trip. From the Brochure’s Itinerary: 11:00 am Snorkeling: The group usually snorkels once every day. You may be out for 30 minutes to an hour, and may even have two opportunities to snorkel in one day.
Snorkeling and swimming are an important part of this journey. The problem is, I don’t. While I can probably dog paddle and keep myself afloat, I don’t swim. My face in the water, nooooo. Twenty years ago Michael paid major money for my private snorkeling lesson in Hawaii. I was doing fine, being attentive and preparing to walk into the Pacific when my instructor said, “And, if you begin to hyperventilate, here’s what you do.”
Alarmed, I immediately laid my equipment on the sandy beach and left, leaving my husband a bit perturbed. (There were times that man was a saint.) Please understand, I am not proud of this and am determined to jump into those waters and swim with whoever wants to join me, whether marine iguana, sea lion or turtle. I am (a brave) woman!
FEAR OF WATER – IT’S THE PITS.
To that end, I am reading this book, will buy my snorkeling equipment next week and have the availability of The Gant’s two pools. My sweet friend, Carol Kurt, my naturalist colleague in all things who has just returned from Galápagos, has offered to “learn me.” She is confident and determined. As am I. I have four months. The clock is ticking.
As for now, I’m off to polish off the peach ice cream while I “Learn How To Swim and Snorkel Even if you are Afraid of the Water.”
BROWN BUTTER-PEACH TOURTE by Dorie Greenspan, Baking Chez Moi
2 pounds ripe but firm peaches (about 5)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Tiny pinch of fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or a drop of pure almond extract)
Juice of ¼ lemon
1 partially baked 9- to 9½-inch sweet tart dough crust, cooled
1 12-inch sweet tart dough circle, refrigerated
Sugar, for dusting (I used Turbinado natural cane sugar)
1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. Using your favorite method for peeling and dicing peaches, cut each peach into one-inch chunks. Put the peaches in a strainer, over a bowl, to catch extra juice.
3. Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and allow it to melt and bubble. When it reaches a light caramel color, pull the pan from the heat. If you spot small dark brown spots on the bottom of the pan, that’s fine. You’ll also catch the whiff of warm nuts. After a minute or two, pour the butter over the strained peaches. Add the sugar, flour, salt and vanilla. Gently stir together. Finish with the lemon juice.
4. To assemble the tourte, ut the tart pan on the lined baking sheet. Give the filling another stir and scrape it into the tart shell, smoothing the top. You should have just enough filling to come level with the edges of the crust. Remove the circle of dough from the refrigerator while it’s resting a minute or so, brush the edges of the tart shell with water. Position the circle of dough over the crust. Press the rim with your fingers to glue the two pieces together, pressing on the rim as you go.
5. Use a knife to remove a circle of dough from the center. Brush the surface lightly with cold water and sprinkle generously with sugar.
6. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the crust is deeply golden brown and the butter is bubbling. Transfer the tourte, still on its baking sheet, to a rack and allow it to cool until it’s only just warm or at room temperature before serving. As it cools, the buttery syrup will be reabsorbed by the peaches, which is just what you want—so don’t be impatient.
Storing: You can partially bake the bottom crust up to 8 hours ahead and you can have the top crust rolled out and ready to go ahead of time, but the filling shouldn’t be prepared ahead. Best served the same day but if you’ve got leftovers, refrigerate them. The crust will lose its delicateness, but the dessert will still be satisfying.
PEACH ICE CREAM by David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop
Yield: 1 quart
1 ½ pounds ripe peaches [about four large peaches]
½ cup water
1/4 cup sugar
½ cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
A few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Peel the peaches, slice them in half, and remove the pits. Cut the peaches into chunks and cook them with water in a nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, covered, stirring once or twice, until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
2. Remove from heat, stir in the sugar, then cool to room temperature.
3. Purée the cooked peaches and any liquid in a blender or food processor with the sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla, and lemon juice until almost smooth but slightly chunky.
4. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator and freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Eight years ago, about this time, our daughter, Melissa, and her family were spending Easter with Michael and me at our home in Nevada. I was in a state of frazzle. The ramifications of Michael’s illness and the resulting responsibilities were overwhelming me. I’d recently had another meeting with our health care consultant who told me things were only going to get worse, never better. And our new phones, among other things in the house, didn’t work. It was a difficult holiday.
Orange-Almond Cream Tart, my French Firday’s with Dorie recipe choice this week
The following week, maybe Wednesday, Melissa called to chat. A few minutes into the call she casually said, “Mom, Stephen and I were just thinking…..”
(Whoa. Click into high alert. Whenever my son-in-law’s name is evoked, it’s not going to be good.)
“maybe it’s time you and Michael consider moving into a condo where everything is easier.”
As I recall the resulting conversation was very short. If my recollection is right, I just might have ended it with “When pigs fly.”
Today, after dispensing with a lifetime of belongings and a houseful of furniture, I just completed my second year of living in a 940-square foot condo where the phones always work and my chores are few. And, every so often I look up to see Wilbur, Babe and the Three Little Pigs passing by overhead. That’s the reason my French Friday’s with Dorie recipe this week is this scrumptious Orange-Almond Cream Tart. Here’s the lowdown on this sweet celebratory dessert and the special crew at The Gant who shared it.
The Front Office staff at The Gant who pronounced the Orange-Almond Cream Tart as fabulous and delicious. I’m going with that.
Americans bake fruit pies. The French prefer fruit tarts. Pate sablée (sweet dough) and almond cream are two of the three essential tart parts. Oranges are an unexpected twist but a flavorful one. Tarts are exquisite desserts often dismissed by us. I urge you to master the dough and the cream, quite easy tasks, then pick a fruit of your choosing. You’ll be pleased by the result. Although I’ve included the recipes below, here are four extra tips:
The Orange-Almond Cream Tart, ready for the oven..
1. Both the Pate Sablée and Almond Cream can be made days ahead.
2. If your tart crust starts to brown too much, cover it with tin foil.
3. Although the oranges need to be peeled and separated into segments, remember that the almond cream, when baked, covers up many sins!
4. Refer to my Post, https://www.lightsonbrightnobrakes.com/french-fridays-tart/, It’s All About the Tart, to see other ways to use sweet dough, almond cream and fruit (apples, pears, cherries, figs, peaches, nectarines, apricots, or plums) to make wonderful desserts.
This Pear-Almond Cream Tart is made with the same crust, filling but different fruit.
I returned home this week after a three month absence. If you recall, I live at The Gant, a 143-condo resort complex in downtown Aspen offering upscale lodging opportunities to tourists. Each condo is individually owned but managed by a staff of 100.
I returned home in time to join my dear friend, Luky, at the Aspen Mountain Club, where she is the Membership Director, for a delicious Easter Brunch.
Never did I believe this living situation would be such a fortunate stroke of serendipity. I arrived with more memories than baggage to live in the smallest spaces of my life. I can usually grow where I’m planted but even to me, this was a stretch. However, I soon discovered if I had visions of self-pity, licking my wounds or grieving, I’d picked the wrong address.
Tuesday morning I joined the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies Birdwalk. At our North Star Preserve we observed a Heron Rookery with 5 active nests. This Rookery , located in conifers, is the highest in Colorado.
The Gant staff is all about great service and providing comfort. “Are you having a good day, Mrs. Hirsch?” I’d be asked. “Do you need anything?”“Mrs. Hirsch, How’s your day going?” Honestly, I almost felt obligated to just get out there and, doggone it, not return until I’d had a good day.
Our nature group is beginning a study of Colorado water issues this month. My colleague, Donna, and her husband, Bernie, invited me and well-respected Colorado journalist Brent Gardner- Smith and his wife, Ann to dinner. Brent is a recognized authority on local water issues. We had questions. Perhaps, too many.
As you might suspect, I am very independent, closely guarding my privacy, and, of course, they all have jobs to perform. During the past two years we’ve settled into an easy and compatible relationship in which I’ve thrived. The goodwill of 100 who always have your back is something to treasure. I know that for sure.
Since the road to the Pass is closed, my friend and neighbor, Ann, and I hiked up towards Independence Pass this morning.
As these photos show, my returning to Aspen has been wonderful. But, sadly, I also returned home to grieve with my special friend, Karen, who unexpectedly lost her husband in February. Jim, newly retired from an unblemished career flying jumbo birds internationally, was my friend and one of this blog’s staunchest supporters. From the day I wrote my first French Fridays with Dorie Post, he called me Dorie. I knew he never understood the concept of FFWD nor had heard of Dorie Greenspan but to one and all, I was Dorie. If it was my project, he’d be a booster. “How ‘bout dinner tonight, Dorie?” or “Dorie,” he’d ask, “What’s your recipe this week?”
Before I left for my Cambria winter the three of us drove to Denver to see the Broadway production of “Kinky Boots.” For dinner, after meticulous online research, he promised he had found ‘the perfect tiny French bistro for Karen and Dorie.’ The bistro was indeed très magnifique and the evening, magical. No one dreamed it would be our last. Too young. So missed. Fly High, my friend.
This White-breasted Nuthatch lives in the cottonwood near my balconey.
Orange-Almond Tart by Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table
6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar 3/4 cup almond flour
2 tsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 large egg
2 tsp. dark rum or 1 tsp. top-quality vanilla extract
To prepare the oranges: Using a sharp knife (I use a chef’s knife), cut a thin slice off the top and bottom of each orange so it can stand upright. Working from top to bottom and following the curve of the fruit, use the knife to remove the peel in wide bands, cutting down to the fruit. You want to expose the juicy fruit, so take the thinnest little bit of fruit away with each strip of peel. Carefully run the knife down the connective membranes to release the orange segments one by one. Place the segments between a triple layer of paper towels and let them dry for at least 1 hour, or for several hours, or even overnight. If you have the chance and the towels seem saturated, change them.
To make the Almond Cream: Put the butter and sugar in a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth and satiny. Add the almond flour and process until well blended. Add the all-purpose flour and cornstarch, and process, then add the egg. Process for about 15 seconds more, or until the almond cream is homogenous. Add the rum or vanilla and process just to blend. (If you prefer, you can make the cream in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a bowl with a rubber spatula. In either case, add the ingredients in the same order.) You can use the almond cream immediately or scrape it into a container and refrigerate it until firm, about 2 hours. It’s better if you can allow the cream to chill, but it’s not imperative. (The cream can be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 3 days.)
To bake: When you’re ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the tart shell on it. Stir the almond cream, then turn it into the crust, smoothing the top. Arrange the orange slices in a decorative pattern over the top. Don’t cover every bit of cream — it will bubble and rise as it bakes, and it’s nice to leave space for it to come up around the fruit.
Bake the tart for 50 or 60 minutes, or until the cream has risen and turned golden brown. If you slip a knife into the cream, it should come out clean. Transfer the tart to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature. Right before serving, dust the tart with confectioners’ sugar and enjoy!
French Fridays with Dorie is an international group of food bloggers cooking the book, Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan.
Croquants, this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe choice.
There’s no reason to not take five minutes right now and read this blog. I guarantee you’ll want to run to your kitchen, pull out nuts (any kind), sugar, 2 eggs (whites only, freeze the yolks) and flour. Within ten minutes, no KitchenAid needed, you’ll have mounds of these little darlings on parchment-lined baking sheets ready to pop into the oven. No butter, oil, salt, extracts or leavening required.
Add egg whites to the sugar/nut mixture and blend.
Besides turning into Cookie Monster this week, my first month in Cambria officially ended. It’s been productive and quite wonderful. I hesitate to throw out those adjectives because I don’t want to whammy myself. Have you ever felt like that? It’s always seems whenever things are running smoothly, on an even keel, I relax, get complacent, a little cocky. Until things take a bad turn or two or three and I am forced to change gears. That’s just Life, isn’t it?
After the flour joins the party and is blended, the mixture turns thick.
Michael’s last ten years were all bumps and bruises and disasters. While I did many things right in those ten years, I never handled those many crisis well. As I’ve often said, when my second grade teacher asked who wanted to be a nurse when they grew up, I never raised my hand. I was unequipped and lacked the knowledge, tools and DNA to be a caregiver. Oh, I tried, would smile and soldier on but no one ever mistook me for Florence Nightingale.
Bring on the heat.
I wasn’t a total loser, however. I was all about running our affairs with their many complications and intricacies, keeping us afloat. Organization is my forté. Never underestimate the importance of that. When a critical issue had to be solved, I would seek advice and help. The final decision, however, was mine alone and I made it. I really never gave up hope we could beat this disease until Michael entered the Memory Care unit. I never cried much throughout this entire journey but that day I sat by his wheelchair and sobbed.
After removing the cookies from the oven,transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack for 10 minutes.
After Michael died, it was my job to create a Lifestyle for myself. This, I could do. I had the knowledge, tools and DNA to build a business. The business of living, if you will. The majority of spouses who become longtime caregivers can never reestablish a contented life. Either they do not have the energy or health or resources or will to jump back into life after so many years. It’s too overwhelming or they don’t know how.
Croquants are sold in speciality shops all over France.
Sometimes I wonder if my friends, family or you readers find it puzzling or odd or weird that I appear so happy and content and laugh so easily. How could someone who lost a spouse of 25 years bounce back so quickly. Does she ever feel sad or grieve? (This quiet month in California has given me thinking time, do you get that?) What I’ve chosen to remember and celebrate are the 15 good years. Returning to Aspen has given me that gift. I used up a lifetime of sadness and grief during Michael’s illness. There is none of that left in my tank. Plus, it’s not my nature. My good times will continue to roll, hopefully, just as they have the past two years. That is my hope for all caregivers who walk this road.
Great Egret, Fiscalini Ranch, Cambria, California
I haven’t, however, used up my fondness for cookies. In all modesty, I admit that Mary Hirsch knows her cookies. Although pies, cakes and pastries don’t tempt me, dare not get between me and a cookie. My mom’s speciality was Hermits, a spicy New England classic. When her cookie jar was empty I was partial to Archway’s crispy Windmills and, twist my arm, Oreo’s. My friend, Jane Carey, makes me Mexican Wedding Cookies but only at Christmas. In Aspen I now live a 5-minute walk away from my favorite cookie bakery. Buy two, get the third free….Peanut Butter, Molasses and Snickerdoodle. It’s a blessed Life.
Bald Eagles, Lopez Lake, California
Can you understand why I don’t often bake cookies? That may change with today’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe. A Croquant is a crispy morsel that doesn’t know if it’s a macaroon or meringue.They are readily available in France at boulangeries, patisseries and supermarkets. I was once in Paris with a friend who loved ice cream. Everyday she and I would walk to Île Saint-Louis where France’s well-known glacier, Berthillon’s, had a store.I would buy a Chocolate Noir ice cream cone. While every lick was heavenly, it was the little crunchy wafer stuck in the ice cream that I loved most. With all its leftover egg whites, Berthillon’s makes Croquants. Genius.
Snowy Egret, Fiscalini Ranch, Cambria, California
The recipe is below. Here are some tips. Unskinned hazelnuts and/or almonds are the classic nuts of choice. For fun, Dorie suggested cashews. I loved that. Chop the nuts the size of chocolate chips. NO smaller. The recipe makes 4 dozen delicious cookies.
Great Blue Heron, Moonstone Beach
CROQUANTS by Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table cookbook
3 ½ ounces (about a cup) of nuts, coarsely chopped (I used cashews)
1¼ c. sugar
2 large egg whites
½ c. plus 1 Tbsp. flour, sifted
1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
2, Put the nuts and sugar in a medium mixing bowl and, using a rubber spatula, stir together. Add the egg whites and stir so the nuts are evenly coated. Add the flour and stir to blend until you have a thick mixture.
3. Measure out a teaspoonful of dough and put the little mounds on the parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies.
4. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through, until puffed, crackled and nicely browned .
5. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack, and let the cookies stand for about 10 minutes, until you can easily peel them away from the parchment. Transfer the cookies to the cooling rack, and allow them to cool to room temperature.
6. Store in a dry, covered container, not in a plastic bag or plastic wrap, or they will lose their crunch. They will keep for a week.
Today is Dorie’s birthday. October 24th. We tasked two of our Doristas, Liz Berg, That Skinny Chick Can Bake, and Susan Lester, Create Amazing Meals, to organize a virtual celebration worthy of our leader. Also, of note, Dorie’s 11th cookbook, Baking Chez Moi, Recipes From My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere, arrives in bookstores next week.
Palets de Dames, Lille Style, a frosted tea cookie, from Baking Chez Moi, Recipes from my Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere
Why not be the first to bake from Dorie’s new book, they suggested, before it’s published? We had a Plan. Dorie shared four recipes from Chez Moi so we each made our choice. Cookie-monster than I am, the Palets de Dames, Lille Style, a frosted tea cookie, was my pick. Described as “adorable”, Dorie suggests that “with wide, flat uppers iced in white with rounded bottoms, they look like children’s tops or open parasols.”
With Dorie Greenspan who was the keynote speaker at last year’s IFBC in Seattle.
To that I will add, “and, are doggone delicious”. The palets are easily made, a sugar cookie that’s hand-dipped in icing. I know two 11 and 13-year-olds who can bake these for Christmas. The secret, I discovered, was to make them small. I started large and finally worked down to using a 2-teaspoon capacity cookie scoop. Because I devoured five of these little darlin’s while they were cooling, I packed the rest up and delivered them to the Pitkin County Library crew and The Gant kids. No complaints.
I balanced off my sugar-high with Pacific Cod and Double Carrots, last week’s French Friday’s recipe choice. Dorie’s recipe called for monkfish but any fleshy white fish will work well. What makes this dish a hit is the double carrots sauce. I’m not a fan of cooked carrots and this recipe doubled down on them, using both carrots and carrot juice. Surprisingly, this duo worked, enhancing the fishy taste of the cod. Good enough for dinner guests, that’s for sure.
Pacific Cod with Double Carrots
For her past five birthdays, Dorie has been working on Baking Chez Moi. One can only imagine the work, time and effort that this cookbook represents. Having received an advance copy months ago (thank you, Dorie), I’ve discovered these are plain and simple baked items that I can replicate quite successfully. I know that was Dorie’s goal and, to my mind, she scored. My next effort? Tarte Tropézienne, so named because it was Brigit Bardot’s favorite dessert!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, sweet DORIE and, also, to my many good friends who have October Birthdays – Ellen Fahr, Michelle Morgando, Amalia Sciscento, Cathy O’Connell, Marysue Salmon, my Mother, who would have been 98 years old on October 4th – and, yours truly.
To see what my colleagues chose to bake this week – Cannelés, Chocolate Cream Puffs, and Brown Butter-Peach Tourte – visit our French Fridayslink. I have shared links to all the recipes in today’s Posts. As I mention weekly, we are an international cooking group having a blast working our way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table, more than 300 recipes from my home to yours.