Food Update, Smoked Salmon & Ramp Tart.

Where does the time go?  I feel as if I barely look at the Internet anymore, rarely read the blogs that I once read voraciously and with total vigor.  I have slipped back into the old fashioned habit of cookbook reading from front to back (or did I never really abandon that notion?), devouring the written word the way God intended: inscribed into a tangible medium.

When I do have time to make the Internet rounds, I find that other people are likely as busy as I am.  A handful of people I checked up on recently haven't been posting in several months, perhaps now their blogs are even defunct.  Others are busy with other work and are posting less seldom.  It bothers me that I don't make the time to sit in the glow of the computer and update what has been going on in my own personal world of food - especially since I've feel so happy in my kitchen lately.

My kitchen was painted in late March, and when cleaning it out, (it was off limits for 5 days when ceilings/walls were repaired before painting) I reduced my clutter.  I was lucky to get a new fridge a couple weeks ago when my old one was keeping things at a balmy 60 degrees.  The new one is larger inside but almost seems smaller outside, and I took the opportunity to cleanse it of years old condiments: preserved kumquats from 2011? Imported capers packed in salt that expired in 2011?  Both were probably still fine to consume, but it feels so good to be lighter.  It feels so good not to re-clutter the fridge, enjoy the bright light through the new shelves when I open the doors.  The new fridge causes me to cook less, too. 

salmon ramp tart

What's that?  Cook less?  Probably because I am more in tune with the leftovers and I re-create things using them without needlessly making more.  Believe it or not, I notice a difference in my food budget too.  Being creative on what seems to be an empty fridge - but really it's never been more full.  I vow not to make more condiments before I actually run out this time.

Craving smoked salmon, I picked up an 8 oz. package a couple weeks ago and somehow decided on making Megan Gordon's smoked salmon tart with a remarkable cornmeal and millet crust.  It was so good I made it two weeks in a row, but adding more ramps than I did in the first rendition.  One thing I noticed this year above other years is just how long ramp season is.  Being a teacher caused me to spend more time outside and in the woods, and what I thought was really a fleeting 7-10 days of a season really stretches the better part of a month or more.  I spent the days of ramps well, but not overdoing it...  adding a single one here or there for a twist, eating really good soft cooked scrambled eggs with them butter-sauteed inside.

ramp ribbons.
ramps & onions

Maybe a month ago or longer already, I came across the TeamYogurt site after a friend pinned this brilliant Nutmeg Crunch.  I felt so out of the loop.  AND totally inspired to make heat-set yogurt again after a very long hiatus.  My room temp culture had conveniently just died, so I figured I didn't have much to lose using a store bought Greek yogurt as a culture.  I read an article on the National Center for Home Food Preservation site that recommended heating the milk to 200 degrees and holding it there for 20 minutes before cooling and then culturing for 7 hours.  I've streamlined my process now, and it doesn't take me all that long now that I've got the hang of it again.  I heat my milk to between 185-200 in a makeshift double boiler, hold it for 10 minutes, and then cool it rapidly (it only takes 5 minutes) by pouring the hot milk into the bowl I'll culture it in.  Then I sink that bowl into a larger bowl of ice water and stir it infrequently for 5 minutes.  It seems like a mess of bowls and timing, but it is easier done than said, and by the time I'm putting the cultured milk into the dehydrator to keep warm I'm nearly done with the clean up.

My yogurt has a gorgeous flavor now that it's several generations old - and a velvety buttermilk texture.  I used it in the salmon tart.

heat set yogurt

Megan Gordon wrote this recipe using creme fraiche, which is also easy to make, but in the spirit of using what I have I used the yogurt.  I love the texture of this tart so much.  It keeps well for a few days for lunches and the ratio is sound for pretty much any ingredient you would want to add.  Err on the shorter side of baking for a more custardy interior, but bake fully if you intend to pack for lunch or picnic.  And if you still spy a few ramps, by all means use them in their entirety.  The tart crust is just perfect.  With the additional of a couple tablespoons of confectioner's sugar, I really want to make it as a base for a lemon curd.  In my experience, you can never go wrong with millet!

I appreciated that her book Whole Grain Mornings was written in weights, and I made the crust using them.  Her conventional measurements are also below.  If you don't have ramps, make this with onions and add a clove or two of minced garlic with the onions of your choice.

Smoked Salmon & Ramp Tart (adapted from Megan Gordon)
serves 4-6 as a main course (with a salad)

for the crust:
  • 65 g. (1/2 c.) cornmeal
  • 90 g. (3/4 c.) white wheat or whole wheat flour (I used the Lonesome Stone Milling organic all-purpose)
  • 3/4 t. kosher salt
  • 85 g. (6 T.) cold butter, cut into bits
  • 3-4 T. ice water
  • 45 g. (1/4 c. millet) 
 Butter a 9 inch tart pan (or springform pan, like I used) well and set aside.  In a food processor, pulse the cornmeal, wheat flour, and salt together to blend.  Add bits of butter and pulse several one-second pulses until it resembles a coarse meal with bits of visible butter.  Add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time and pulse until the dough starts to hold together when you pinch it.   Add the millet and pulse 2 times more to evenly distribute it.  Transfer it to the buttered pan and press it evenly into the bottom and up the sides.  Cover it, and place in the fridge to chill for 1 hour and up to a day.

for the tart:
  • olive oil
  • 4-5 ramps, leaves cut into thin ribbons and bulbs/stems finely chopped
  •  enough chopped onion to equal about 1/2 c. with the chopped ramps
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 c. yogurt
  • 1/2 t. dried dill (use a couple tablespoons of fresh if you have it) 
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 4 oz. smoked salmon, cut into small pieces
 After your crust has chilled and you're ready to bake your tart, preheat the oven to 375.  Remove the chilled tart base from the fridge and place on a sheet pan.  Pre-bake it for 15 minutes just to dry out the top a little bit.  Meanwhile saute the chopped ramps (reserve the leafy ribbons separately) and onions in a little olive oil until just wilted and soft - 5 minutes or so.  Beat the milk, eggs, and yogurt with the dill, salt, and pepper until well combined.  
Spread the onions evenly over pre-baked base , then scatter the salmon pieces over evenly.  Pour the eggy custard over the top and sprinkle with the ramp ribbons and more pepper if you think it needs it.  Bake in the center of the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the top is set and browned to your liking.

salmon ramp tart slice
This one is slightly underbaked to have a fluffier texture inside.  This one I baked more completely. (You can see that it almost has a cheesecake look about it, and it is pleasantly dense.)

This recipe is a keeper for so many reasons, the least of which is the absolute ease with which it comes together.  It looks complicated, and it's not.  It's the perfect all-in-one food.  It's vegetarian without being laden with cheese.  It's equally good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  It's exactly the type of thing that would fit nicely into the "Genius" category that I'm also so fond of lately.

Now that our school year is wrapping up, I'm looking forward to a little more online time, but I'm sure that our summer will be busier than ever.  There is a lot to cram into 3 short months of warm weather!  All the time I feel cursed by the convenience of the Internet.  I wonder if I could ever go back to the way things were in the 90's.  Conscious decisions not to be checking my phone/mail all the time are one thing, but I am not sure I could give up the convenience of the camera in my back pocket...

Brandy Bread Pudding

I remember the first time I ever tasted a hard sauce.  My Dad had taken me west, and I was completely charmed by the idea of cowboys and Indians and Wild Bill Cody.  We had come through the Badlands in 100 degree heat, me perched on the back of his motorcycle and we were hot.  We had intended to stay at Cody's Irma hotel, and had even checked in.  On the second floor, I plopped myself flat on the bed and looked up at the skylight which was cracked, the ceiling looked as parched and wrinkled as I felt myself.  The A/C was broken, and the rooms were so hot, I did feel like we had stepped back in time to the old west.  Every room on that floor had their door open, and people were lounging, talking, and otherwise downright communal.  My Pop and I discussed it, and decided that the lure of air conditioning in a smaller hotel across the street was better.  (There, the A/C was coming into our room through a transom over the door, it was some relief after a long day on the bike...)  

But we did go back to the Irma for breakfast, where we sat in the antler-lined dining room and ordered buffet breakfasts.  I doused my bread pudding and pretty much my whole plate in whisky hard sauce, which was boozy and sweet, and as good on the ham as it was on the pudding and pancake.  It was hard work journeying west, and I overate in anticipation.


Maybe I really like reminiscing about that hot, late summer trip because of all of the snow and sub-zero temps lately.  Right now I can barely remember the sun it seems, or the sunburn that blistered my skin after days on the road.  But I do remember that hard sauce, and my long food memory was good for rekindling some of that warmth for our New Year's Eve dessert. It's become somewhat of a tradition to go cajun on New Year's Eve, most likely because I leave the menu up to my Husband, and that is usually his request.

This year I acquired the Heaven on Seven cookbook from my thrifting-genius friend Donna.  That Chicago restaurant is one of my Husband's favorites, and the book has plenty of their menu staples.  Of course, I generally use cookbooks as templates - which works good with heavy southern food.  The recipe for bread pudding was so laden with sugar, I could tell I could slash it by 3/4 and no one would be the wiser.  Before this book came into my life, I'd all but given up making bread pudding, since I was the only one to eat it.  A New Year's Eve menu picked out by my beloved, and he wasn't sure he'd ever actually tried bread pudding... Finally, an excuse to do it up right!

I started the day before by making a challah from Peter Reinhart's recipe.  I forgot how marvelously simple his recipe is, and how perfectly burnished and beautiful the loaf ends up.  For an enriched bread, it's not too sweet or heavy:  perfect for transformation into bread pudding. Unlike that first loaf I made without a stand mixer, I mixed this one up using the KitchenAid and it was even easier than I remember.  I made a braid of three fat portions of dough, and came up with a nearly round loaf.  4 good size slices made the 8 cups of cubed bread needed for the bread pudding, with plenty leftover for toast and french toast.

good eggs.
infused cream.

Jimmy Banos' bread pudding is served with a heavy caramel sauce, but like I said - I couldn't get a hard sauce out of my head.  I took a cue from Nigel Slater and made up a boozy version of my own.  Hard sauce, it seems, is generally made with softened butter, and is not at all melted like the small vat of whisky sauce I once poured over my plate in the American West.  The heat of the pudding is supposed to melt the semi-solid, gritty sauce; I lopped a few spoonfuls into a saucepan and melted it for old times sake.  

Use the same small saucepan throughout the preparation to cut down on dishes.

Brandy Bread Pudding (adapted from Jimmy Banos)
yields 1 8x8 pan, about 6 servings of modest size
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 3 T. brandy (more for the hard sauce)
  • 8 c. day-old challah (or other enriched bread), cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 2 oz. butter (4 T.)
  • 1 t. cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 1/4 c. whole milk
  • 1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2-1 t. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 eggs
 Bring brandy to a bare simmer in a small saucepan.  Pour over the raisins in a small bowl, and let stand for 30 minutes to soften.

Place the bread cubes in a large bowl.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, then drizzle it evenly over the bread cubes.  Mix 1/4 t. cinnamon with 1/4 c. granulated sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle it over the buttered bread cubes.  Toss gently to combine.

Crack the eggs into a medium bowl; beat to combine.  Heat the heavy cream, whole milk, 1/4 c. granulated sugar, 1/2 t. cinnamon, and as much nutmeg as you like in a small saucepan until just warmed through and the sugar is dissolved.  Slowly beat the warmed milk mixture into the eggs and beat well to combine.  Pour over the bread cubes along with the soaked raisins and their brandy, tossing gently to combine.  Let stand at room temperature for 30-45 minutes until the bread soaks up most of the custard.  Stir gently one time about half way through the rest.  Preheat oven to 350.

Butter an 8x8 glass baking dish, pour in the bread pudding, and place it inside a larger baking dish.  Carefully pour in boiling water to come about halfway up the side of the pan (You can do this in the oven if you aren't too steady).  Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean.   Remove from the oven and cool a bit before removing from the hot water.  Serve warm, room temperature, or cold - preferably with hard sauce.

Brandy Hard Sauce (inspired by Nigel Slater)
Mix equal parts by weight of soft, unsalted butter and dark brown sugar.  (I used 90 g. of each.)  Beat well with a hand mixer until fluffy.  Add a pinch of salt, and brandy by the tablespoon until it has the kick you are after - this was about 4 tablespoons for me.  Store in the refrigerator, and serve on warm bread pudding or other warm kitchen baked goods.  Or, melt some in a small saucepan for a pourable sauce.
brandy bread pudding

This bread pudding, despite the richness of ingredients, wasn't too rich or sweet.  The quality of the ingredients let me appreciate each mouthful.  It was room temperature by the time we cut squares out of it for our dessert; I poured melted hard sauce over, letting it pool a bit on the plates.  Because it was New Year's Eve.  Because is there any other way to enjoy bread pudding?  Because even in the blanket of winter I like to think of the summer I was so hot and happily riding west, free from all worry and responsibility, with my Dad - who also loves bread pudding.  It was the perfect sweet ending to the year.

brandy bread pudding

Salami Shakshuka.

salami shakshuka.

It seems lately that I haven't been so inspired to sit in front of the computer and write.  I'm inspired to cook good food (especially good food just for myself), and enjoy eating good food (even if it is a solitary lunch alone in my dining room), I'm just not so inspired to take to the Internet and brag about it.  I wonder if it has something to do with my mothering instinct, that I can take the time to labor over soaking and sprouting and fermenting things, but not necessarily to tell the masses about it.  Perhaps it is the primitive need to nourish and carry on without the trappings of the digital age.

Meanwhile all sorts of little triumphs have happened in my kitchen, for instance my picky-eating boy is starting to break out of his shell and at least try new things.  Most of the time, it ends in confession that he likes something new.  In part, this is because I stopped catering to the whims of both of my boys and I just cook food.  There is good food here and if you are hungry you will eat it, or at least try it.  St. Patrick's Day potato and kale colcannon (via The Domestic Man and his tantalizing facebook photo of it) didn't go down so well with the picky-kid, but the roasted cabbage and Outpost-made Irish sausage on the side did... and when I disguised the leftover potatoes and kale into a creamy cabbage/broccoli/"spinach" soup, it got demolished without comment.

bolzano salami.

I had hoped for the same for this shakshuka I was planning with the Bolzano salami I received recently to play around with.  A group of local food bloggers were challeged to come up with 2 recipes each using some real-deal, hand crafted, local salami.  I signed up for the Pamplona Runner salami, which I hadn't tasted before.  While I awaited it's arrival, I thought back to some of the early PBS watching days of my pregnancy, the days when food didn't taste good unless it appeared already made before me.  When Cuisine Culture went to Israel and cooked up a couple versions of shakshuka using local cheese, I could think of nothing that I'd like someone to make me than that.  But being the only cook in my house, I had to wait until I felt like cooking again to indulge my whims.

I actually thought long and hard about using a pork sausage in a dish that seems so inherently Jewish and Muslim at the same time...  I also thought about embracing more of a Spanish flare to the simple preparation.  But in the end, I just made some good food with some of my favorite flavors.  It was perfect and simple and I enjoyed alone for lunch one day.

frying bolzano salami.

This salami is not overpowering, its smoked paprika flavor not too spicy at all.  I chose not to add too much additional spice flavor to let it shine through as it fried in the oil.  I actually enjoyed this dish for two days in a row - some might frown on saving a sunny side up egg for another day, but I just popped a lid on the frying pan for refrigerated storage and then reheated the whole thing until it was bubbly throughout.  I daresay it was even better the second day - and of course even less work!

Bolzano Salami Shakshuka
Serves 1-2 people
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 oz. Bozano salami, sliced as thinly as possible
  • ¼ c. chopped red onion
  • ¼ c. chopped mixed sweet and hot peppers (I used cubanelle, red bell, and green bell peppers, with half a serrano pepper)
  • ½ c. drained whole (or crushed) tomatoes (I used home canned tomatoes)
  •  2 T. reserved tomato juice (from the canned tomatoes)
  • ½ t. cumin powder 
  •  ½ t. Aleppo pepper
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs (may add additional 1-2 eggs if desired)
  • chopped cilantro and crumbled queso fresco for garnish

In a small bowl, mix the tomatoes with reserved tomato juice, cumin, and Aleppo pepper.  Use a fork or your fingers to break up any large chunks of tomato.  Set aside.

In a small skillet, heat olive oil along with the thinly sliced garlic over medium heat.  When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the salami and sauté until the salami releases some of its oil and begins to crisp up.  Add a bit of black pepper to taste, a few grinds from a peppermill will do.

Add the onion, and sauté for about 2 minutes, just until the onion begins to soften a little.  Add the peppers, and continue to sauté just until the peppers are crisp tender, 2-3 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium low.

Add the tomato mixture, stir well, cover, and let simmer for 3-4 minutes to let all of the flavors meld.  Increase the heat to medium and make two indentations in the tomato mixture for the eggs.  Crack the eggs into the spaces, and let them cook (sunny side up style) until done to your liking, about 4-5 minutes. (If you cover the pan, the yolks will turn cloudy and cook more thoroughly.)

Serve in the skillet with good bread on the side.  If needed, add good flake salt at the table.  The salami adds enough salt that you likely will not need any additional.

salami shakshuka.

 Maybe, I knew I'd like this enough that I didn't want to share - and that's why I decided to make this for my lunch on a school day.  But when our Friday night pizza ritual came around (we've had a solid 2 months of pizza on Friday nights; my son actively helping me by stretching his own dough and topping pizzas himself!), I sliced some salami for my pizza.  One bite by the pickiest member of my family and he was hooked.  The kid likes salami pizza.

salami pizza.
salami pizza.

While I continue to improve on expanding his taste buds, one thing is certain:  I am going to invest in more salami.  While on a fairly strict food budget lately, quality ingredients like this salami actually pay for themselves.  I easily got 4 dishes out of one stick, most of them serving more than 2 people.  It's an indulgence, but definitely a justifiable one.  If you need a bit more inspiration, check out posts from other Bolsano salami experimenters this week:

Anna from Tallgrass Kitchen 
Lori and Paul from Burp!

salami shakshuka.

Disclaimer:  I did receive this salami free of charge in exchange for writing a couple of recipes and promoting our local man, Scott Baur.  Of course, all opinions about Bolzano salami are my own.  Having already sampled other Bolzano products, and also having some familiarity with his local commitments to excellence in slow food, I knew I would have nothing to say but complementary things!  If you are looking for "Something Special from Wisconsin", look no further!

Veg of the Month Club: Ramps (A Wisconsin Pie)

Since innBrooklyn announced their new seasonal cooking feature, Veg of the Month Club, I've been excited. I'm reminded of my favorite college professor, an artist who staunchly believed that the more restrictions you had on a theme, the more creative you would be forced to become. I find this is true so many times, especially in the kitchen. There are so many things I'd like to try, and if I just get a nudge in the right direction, I am sometimes all the better off for it.

That was certainly the case with this Veg of the Month Club pick: Green or Spring Garlics. I have to say while I've eaten ramps, the wild growing, leek-like Spring varietal, I never cooked with them myself. Laura gave me a pint of pickled ramps one year, and that was a particular favorite! Our Winter Farmer's Market has closed, and I was unsure where to turn in the city for a few of these delicacies. I was tipped by Lo that Outpost had them at the State Street location, so we took a drive out to Wauwatosa to pick up a small bunch.

After thoroughly documenting them photographically, I tasted the lovely looking greens. I really was shocked with their mild garlic flavor, and was plotting something to make the best use of their tenderness...

As I collected my ingredients, I knew I was going to aim for a quiche (or Pie, as we Wisconsinites - or at least I - like to call them). I figured since I had wild Wisconsin ramps, why not challenge myself to a fully Wisconsin Pie? I do try to eat local and preserve what I can from other Wisconsin growers (including some of the bounty grown from my own Parent's ample garden), but don't ever really set out using ingredients that are fully from my state. My result was astounding, in my ever so humble opinion, and I can see this pie becoming a Springtime favorite.

To make less work of it, I made the crust first thing yesterday morning. Then I roasted the ramp bulbs and "baked" the bacon. To roast ramps, drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and put them in a 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until they are soft and lightly golden. You can do the same for the bacon, but use a 400 degree oven, and watch it so it doesn't get too dark. I like to use a rack over a baking sheet, but since it was so lean, I probably could have just let it go right on the baking sheet. My beautiful bacon came from the same pig that the rest of my pork stores are from, grown on an Amish farm just down the road from my Parent's house. It was very nearly like ham, so lean and nicely flavored. I think this may be the first of the bacon I've made from the hog, and let's just say until now I thought that Comet/Honeypie had the best bacon...

I swear I did not shellac this bacon.

Wisconsin Pie could be adapted to use your local ingredients, and that is one of the most beautiful things about a quiche, chief on my list however is that they are good any way you choose to serve them: hot, room temperature, or cold. One of the first cookbooks that I ever purchased was Mollie Katzen's The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. In it, she gives a "formula" for quiche that in the years since, I've used frequently. It is a very general and proportional recipe, and includes some suggestions for variations that lend themselves to great or small experimentation.

For my pie, I also decided also to use a completely unusual crust, one I've never used before: Oat Crust. It's not often, my friends, that I adapt a recipe to include more fat, but that is what I did for this one. Originally from Cooking Light, it only used 2 tablespoons of butter, and that was not enough to hold it together. (I imagined their test kitchen working with this recipe, and trying to be painfully patient in their attempts to get it right!) I love the texture of oats in most things, and this crust was no exception. It also gave me the unexpected assistance of soaking up some of the cheese and egg custard of the pie. I didn't actually notice this until I ate a piece for lunch today and could see how custard-y the bottom of the pie had become. It does add to the richness of this regal dish, and I will keep it as a quiche (or pie) base for years to come. (I will also note that the oats I used may or may not have been from Wisconsin. My Mom traded me many quarts of rolled oats - she seals them in canning jars after purchasing 50 pounds of oats from her co-op.)

Wisconsin Pie (a.k.a. Ramp Quiche)

9 in. pie crust of your choice, unbaked (Oat Crust recipe below)
4 oz. mild Swiss cheese, grated (Country Connections Sweet Amish Swiss Cheese)
2 oz. crispy, baked bacon (5-6 slices, but you can use any leftover for garnish - or eating while you wait)
1 bunch roasted ramp bulbs, sliced (there were 7 in my bunch)
Strips of ramp leaves, cut in half or thirds
4 eggs (Amish raised, farm near my Parent's house)
1/2 c. sour cream (my homemade - from Crystal Ball Farms milk)
1 c. buttermilk (my homemade - also Crystal Ball milk)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Into pie crust, layer cheese, bacon, ramps, and latticed ramp leaves. Whisk together eggs, sour cream and buttermilk and pour over the top. Dust with black pepper (but omit any salt until you taste it, I didn't need to add any due to the bacon and cheese). Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is puffed and lightly browned around the edges, and a knife poked into the center comes out clean. Let stand out of the oven for at least 20 minutes if you can help it. The longer you let it sit, the easier it is to get neat slices.

Oat Crust

1 cup rolled oats
1/3 c. oat bran
4 T. (half a stick) cold butter, cut into cubes
3-4 T. ice water

Combine oats, oat bran and butter (and a pinch of salt if you like) in a food pro, and pulse to combine into a homogenized "coarse pebble" mixture. The rolled oats will not be fully processed to a flour state. Add ice water and continue pulsing until the dough holds together when pinched, adding a bit more water if needed. (Since oats are gluten free, you don't have to worry too much about over processing...). Gather dough into a ball (I like to dump it into a plastic bag, and form it into a ball and then a disc this way), and roll out between two sheets of waxed paper.

Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate with butter (a bit of insurance against sticking), remove the top sheet of waxed paper, and carefully use the bottom wax paper to help you fit the crust into the pie plate. Fill and bake! I'd bet this crust would also be good pre-baked and filled with a custard or pudding...but it may be a little temperamental since it is a bit on the fragile side.

I was fortunate to have Sasa for my Pie dinner, since my Husband is not crazy about this kind of thing... but I do have a feeling if he would have had some, I may have won him over! It was so rich and delicious, I can't imagine anyone tasting it and then disliking it. It had a quiet garlic base, and the bits of bacon were a perfect thing to include to highlight them, though I guess I would be hard pressed to find something that bacon didn't improve.

Because I was so proud of my homemade sour cream, I made Sasa try a bit on the side. A subsequent serving then had to be served with it directly on top...

And wouldn't you know that the two of us ate nearly a whole pie? There were only 2 pieces left, one of which was eaten for lunch today. We just couldn't stop. It was that good.

So many times, restaurant food leaves me so full and heavy. Though this pie contained more rich ingredients than I ever usually use in one place and at one time, it somehow translated as light. Perhaps it was the spring essence of the ramp? Perhaps it was chatting over the slabs of pie for a couple of hours? Either way, I am proud of my state and her ability to healthily produce for us who love to eat and cook, as I'm certain so many others are proud of theirs.

If you have a spring garlic recipe, why not consider sending it over to innBrooklyn for the Veg of the Month Club? There are still a few days left, if you need to be properly "nudged" into making a recipe. Sometimes, that is the best way to cook!

Of Wonder and Eggs.

On this Easter Eve, I find myself looking back over nearly a year of posts. My blog will be a year old on April 8th, and I can hardly believe that a year has gone so quickly. I was recently asked what made me start blogging. I've been doing what you faithful readers have been seeing here for the past 12 months, for a much longer time than I've been writing about it. I may not have been quite as prolific when I was working a job or multiple jobs, but I was still making my own noodles and chicken stock, and stockpiling quick homemade meals in my freezer, and reading as much (usually in the way of cookbooks or magazines back then) as I was able.

But what made me decide to start writing about the food I make was the sudden passing of my uncle a year ago. It really affected me. It made me stop and realize just how precious our day to day lives are, and on a grander scheme how the things I love are important to others. While food blogging could seem frivolous and lighthearted at times, I often draw so many correlations to the bigger picture, especially during this Easter season which is very important to me.

One of my favorite food ruminations is that of milk and honey. Nearly all life on our planet must be sustained by eating foods that first must die. This goes for people of all dining preference: vegetarian, carnivore, vegan. All diets contain that element of the brevity of life, be it a lamb or cow, or a stalk of wheat or a lowly legume. When God promised the Israelites the land of Milk and Honey, it confirms to me the amazing knowledge of life everlasting. Milk and honey are two of the only foods that are nutritionally valid and contain no death to produce. (I think an argument for maple syrup could be made, but to my knowledge, there were no maple trees in the desert...)

Food blogging has been a series of personal kitchen adventures for sure, but it has also changed the way I see this basic necessity for life. I've heard it said that there are two types of people, those that live to eat (*raising hand*) and those who eat to live. No matter your category, you can't escape the fact that everyone, everywhere, needs to eat to live. In this incredible era of computing, I can immediately have access to hundreds of thousands of ethnic recipes from cultures around the world. If it is edible, I'd wager it has been written about somewhere. And it's all because we have the amazing privilege, I believe by design, to eat.

Not only does eating sustain us physically, but it does mentally as well. Conversation that can be had over mealtime is often among the most memorable. And what you ate on a first date, or an anniversary, what kind of cake you dreamed of for your birthday, what foods are served after a funeral of a loved family member, these are all very powerful things that we carry around with us, intrinsic parts of especially our childhood memories. They are the things that unite food bloggers of all types, regardless of all the external things that hang up all of us humans in endless debate and argument.

I think the egg is an important part of Easter for me personally. Though I wrote a very inarticulate essay by comparison, in his book The Elements of Cooking, Michael Ruhlman's discussion of the egg is alone worth the cover price. I read this book for the first time a couple of months ago, and I really find myself thinking about it often. A sample of his passage on the egg:
My reverence for the egg borders on religious devotion. It is the perfect food - an inexpensive package, dense with nutrients and exquisitely flavored, that's both easily and simply prepared but that's also capable of unmatched capability in the kitchen. Yes, an egg is just an egg, but it is also ingredient, tool, and object, a natural construction of near mystical proportions..... Eggs are appropriate to serve at any time of day for any meal. They can be the main item or the garnish, they can be served simply in rustic preparations, but they are equally suited to four star cuisine. No other ingredient has so many uses and effects. The egg is a wonder.
Easter in particular holds a special place for eggs. We dye and hunt for them. We make them out of chocolate. We fill plastic ones full of jelly beans. As I type, I'm waiting patiently for my Chocolate Schaum Torte (courtesy of Burp! Where Food Happens) to bake; it is full of the wonderful levity that egg whites produce. I'm glad I decided to make it, since this is my first ever Easter dinner at my house - with just my little family. A dessert appropriate for Easter in my 33rd year...

One night this past week, we had eggs for supper. My Husband: two fried, with runny yolks. I decided at the last minute that I had to have a soft boiled egg. I have never had one! I've eaten eggs all sorts of ways, including raw, but never have I soft boiled one. I remember Sasa telling me how she loved them as a child, and called her to ask how many minutes to boil them. She said 5 minutes without hesitation, and then Googled to be sure. Bring water to a boil, carefully lower eggs into water, and boil 5 minutes. That's it. Without a doubt, the best way I have ever eaten an egg - even if I had to improvise an egg cup by using my 1/8 cup measure and the 2 ounce side of a bar jigger. I am not sure I could eat two of these every day as Nigella Lawson does, but I can tell you I will be eating many more of them in the future.

As CakeWalk bravely enters year two, I have no idea what will be in store. I am frequently surprised even at the direction my thoughts take me as I type away, let alone what will be on the docket of food adventures. I do know that I am thankful for this opportunity to share what is important to me, and that I live in a place where I can sit here and type whatever comes to mind without fear. (I just recently read of a blogger who was visiting China, and had to post her food adventures when she returned because they do not allow blogging!) I enjoy being a small part in other people's lives, and in some cases discovering what that little part is. It's also quite contenting to know that I may never know some people who read about my little life, just as some others don't know that I read about theirs. A great mystery in this wonderful life.