flourless chocolate torte

Noosh and I have always had an unconventional way of celebrating. Whether it be the end of a busy semester, the completion of a long assignment, the bright festivities of the holiday season, or a long-awaited birthday.

By that, of course, I mean that we hole up in our apartment with absolutely zero intention of leaving the living room, and all of our efforts are spent on ensuring the accessibility to and consumption of good food. As I type, in fact, we’re lying here on the floor, surrounded by throw pillows and knit blankets, a platter of cake and tin of sweetened cream at our fingertips, only a few small bites away from a food coma with The Man in the Iron Mask playing on the telly.

Maybe not the most celebratory of 22nd birthdays, but as far as I can tell, we’re pretty content.

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lemon, blackberry, ginger cake

“…yeah, dad, the car’s been making this awful, sputtering noise for the last few hundred yards. But we made it up to the orchard and into a parking spot, at least. I’m about to call the guy and I guess we’ll have the car towed back to grounds. What a birthday.”

And so then we waited. Hot apple cider in hand, a bag or two of peanut brittle tucked away, and a container of apple cider donuts sitting on the hood of Matt’s poor old car. The poor old car who endured her – debatably – untimely demise on a breezy, October afternoon.

Then again, in retrospect, perhaps it wasn’t the greatest idea we’ve ever had to drive a near-18 year old stick-shift up a mountain.

It was somewhat of a stressful time, to be sure. Particularly for dear old Matt, who I’m quite certain did not plan to spend his 22nd birthday afternoon on the phone with AAA.

But we all persevered. Dignity a bit bruised perhaps, but happy enough full of donuts and each other’s company, and the assurance of a story that wouldn’t look quite as devastating after a few drinks.

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apricot-meringue bars

It’s been pretty slow-going the past few weeks. Not because there’s nothing much to do, but because I spend every hour of the day not doing any of the things I should be doing. Like thesis research, for example. But I figure, summer’s not over yet, so there’s always time to get it done before fall term starts.

Someone needs to tell me that the above excuse is not going to be acceptable the day before fall term starts.

Instead, my days have been filled with interning, work, and books. Not that any of this is problematic in the least. Plus, I figure, as long as I keep buying books having to do with my thesis topic, it’s basically like I’m doing the research, right? Never mind the totally neglected stack of textbooks waiting to be opened, but there’s all the time in the world for that.

In any case, it’s been fun. A trip to the White House here, a Death Cab for Cutie concert there, a few good meals all around, and a short little baking adventure.

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blueberry lattice pie

I really actually despise hot weather.

I should also clarify that anything above 80 degrees is ‘hot’ for me.

Perhaps it’s after two decades of mum warning me not to go out in the sun for fear of tanning until I’m black as night, but mostly it’s that I’m not particularly fond of having my shirt sweat-stick to my back the second I walk into a marginally cool building after strolling outside for less than 10 minutes.

And maybe that’s more information than you wanted.

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rhubarb bakewell slices

I’m not sure if you recall, but rhubarb has been the bane of my culinary existence for the past three or four years. Not because I dislike the thing, but because I’d never been able to find it. Between Whole Foods and farmer’s markets, you’d think I’d catch a glimpse of it at some point, but no. It was like the vegetable that always eluded me; either snatched up by other shoppers before I could make my trek downtown, or actually just invisible.

By early May, I was starting to think it didn’t actually exist and that the entire rhubarb market was a fabrication designed specifically to make me think I was insane.

It almost worked.

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rhubarb-strawberry jam

Rhubarb is, technically, a vegetable, but its strong, tangy flavor pairs beautifully with heapings of sugar and berries. Commonly, rhubarb stalks are chopped and used in fruit pies, but their flavor and color lend themselves just as wonderfully in a simple, tart jam.

Here, I’ve added comparatively few strawberries than you’d find in a typical rhubarb-strawberry jam, as I wanted to focus on the rhubarb, but you are welcome to alter the proportions as desired. Keep in mind the ratio of sugar and lemon juice needed if you do so.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam
Yields about 2.5 pints of jam

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1 cup hulled, chopped strawberries
  • 2.5 cups sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup water

Method:

Place the fruit, sugar, lemon zest, juice, and water in a large bowl and stir so all the fruit is well-coated. Let sit for about an hour. Have 2-3 pint-size mason jars prepared. I myself do not can for long-term preservation, but if you plan to do so, sterilize your mason jars and prep them as appropriate.

Heat a large pot over medium-high flame. Add all the contents of the bowl to the pot and bring to the boil. Cook, stirring the jam constantly, for about 15 mins until fruit has softened. Take care to remove any scum from the surface of the jam. Once cooked, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally so the jam doesn’t burn at the bottom of the pot. Cook for an additional 10-15 mins.

At this point, you can take an immersion blender to the jam to puree it (as I like to do for a smooth, almost-compote), otherwise remove the jam from the heat, allow to cool for 10-15 mins, and pour into the mason jars. Continue on to processing the jars in a water bath if you plan on preserving them.

Jams stay good refrigerated for up to 10 days, or preserved for up to 12 months.