I consciously took a week off from blogging. As much as I fought it, I think I needed a little break. Once again I was finding that I was putting pressure on myself to post because that’s what I’d grown accustomed to. That’s not a reason to blog. It’s not why I want to blog. So, I took a little time off. I’m back now and feeling pretty darn good about this space, the creative process, and, most importantly, the recipes I plan to share over the next few months.
There was a bit of an inner struggle about what to post. I knew I wanted to do something seasonal, but I felt like I’d covered all the bases recently with the dishes I’ve created using tomato, corn, cherries and berries. What was there left to do? I looked through the local market and saw these beautiful plums. I didn’t know exactly where it was all going, but I knew I didn’t want to do a cake. Been there, done that. Poached? Eh. Not really doing it for me. Ok, so cooked and then turned into something. A soup. Cold. That’s summer, but then, maybe, just a little hit of fall flavors. Cinnamon and ginger. This is one of those dishes I knew was going to work as soon as I smelled it cooking. Our whole house filled with the aromas that I find so comforting in the cooler months, and, yet, here we are with a chilled soup to enjoy during these last hot and humid days of summer.
Yogurt makes for the ideal garnish for a sweet soup like this, which needs a bit of tang to balance it out. In recent months, I’ve really grown to appreciate all the ways one can apply yogurt to a dish. For those interested in such a subject (believe me, I wasn’t at first, but now I’m hooked), my friend, fellow blogger, and cookbook author, Cheryl Sternman Rule, recently came out with Yogurt Culture. Just flipping through the book will have you rushing to the store to pick up a container.
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The moment came where I had to make a decision: do I go the easy route and bust out the food processor or mix the butter in by hand. Normally, I’d go with the former, but right now I feel like taking my time and getting my hands dirty. This is how Jessica does it in her book, Stir, and, having just finished reading it, I felt compelled to follow in her footsteps. Rubbing each cube of butter into the flour with my fingertips, I could focus on the feel of the dough and how it was forming. At the point it resembled a “coarse meal,” I picked up the bowl of buttermilk I’d mixed together (a combination of milk and white vinegar, because we rarely have buttermilk in the house) and drizzled it in as I circulated a wooden spoon. When all was combined, I gave it a taste. As a cook, I can’t help but try uncooked dough before it hits the oven. This met all the marks: buttery, a touch of sweetness, and a hit of salt. While the biscuits baked, I mixed together the vegetarian mushroom gravy. We had some cherry tomatoes around, which gave the sauce some acid and sweetness. I’ve now made this twice for breakfast, though, I think it’d would make for a delightful dinner as well. Just throw together a light green salad on the side and you have a meal.
I should step back and talk about Stir a bit more. This was a book that I knew nothing about before its release. I didn’t know who Jessica was despite her living in Cambridge and being a fellow food blogger who created her site, Sweet Amandine, around the same time I did. But as soon as her book came out, her name kept popping up around the blogosphere. I marked it down on my books to read this summer and I’m so glad I did. This isn’t a cookbook, which she states very clearly from the start, though there are recipes. Instead, Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home focuses a brain aneurism that she endures and the subsequent complications from the illness and corresponding procedures. But food has always played a powerful role in her life. Following her time in the hospital, she struggles to get back into the kitchen… so she turns it into a goal. If I can bake x, it means I’m still me. The writing is striking, personal and honest. But, most importantly, it’s inspiring. It made me think hard and deep about the important things in my life. And it made me want to get into the kitchen and make something, with my hands, and feed it to the people I love.
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My love for all things dairy, fishy, and eggy keeps me from full-on vegetarianism/veganism. Eric and I both agree that the best meal from our honeymoon wasn’t at the many restaurants we dined at, but, instead, the lunch we consumed together on a park bench in a small Provincial town. A baguette, the tupperware of tapenade, and a container of creamy, stinky cheese. The summer sun beating down from above. We moaned with every hunk of bread that was shoved into our mouths. Our heads shook side to side in disbelief at how something so simple could be so decadent and perfect.
When we dine out we’d much rather finish our meals with a cheese course than any chocolate creation that’s on the menu. After many disappointing endings to dinners at upscale restaurants (one exception being The French Laundry, which blew us away), when a cheese plate presents itself, that’s our dessert of choice. Which is why I ended up going the sweet route with this burrata. With all the recipes out there, I didn’t find many that treated it as a finale.
As I’ve said before, I’m not much of a baker and rarely prepare anything more than a quick, rustic crisp for dinner guests. So, I did what I feel comfortable doing and roasted some peaches with balsamic, which were drizzled over the cream-filled cheese, and topped with some chopped cherries and a buttery oat crumble.
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