Category Archives: family

Cycling Martha’s Vineyard

My family is fortunate enough to have a house in Woods Hole, MA, a small, scientifically-minded town just south of Falmouth in the “armpit” of Cape Cod. We spend a glorious two weeks here each August, enjoying pastries from Pie in the Sky (the best bakery I know), swimming in the ocean, lying on the beach, reading ravenously, and exercising a lot to counteract the effect of all those pastries. One of the exercise-related traditions we have is spending a day cycling around Martha’s Vineyard, which is just a 45-minute ferry ride across Vineyard Sound from Woods Hole. This year’s trip was especially memorable, as it’s my first time back on the Cape since 2010 — the Peace Corps kept me away — and the wonderful F is also with us.

We drag ourselves out of bed at 6am in order to gather our cycling gear and grab a coffee from the aforementioned bakery before catching the 7am ferry. This gets us to Vineyard Haven just before 8am, in good time for a hearty breakfast at The Black Dog Tavern (the best restaurant on the Cape, as far as I’m concerned). I have the “George of the Jungle” pancakes (banana-walnut-chocolate chip) with an egg; F gets a meat-lovers’ omelette; my dad has some kind of scramble with tomato and guacamole; and my mom devours the “Green Monster” scramble with a single nutty pancake.

Black Dog breakfast

Black Dog breakfast

Well-fueled by 9:15am, we strap on our bike helmets, pump up our tires, and hit the road. We start by heading west out of Vineyard Haven, aiming for Menemsha and its adorable bike ferry. The Vineyard roads, despite having little to no shoulder and being somewhat busy with car traffic, are fantastically smooth and well-maintained. The drivers, too, know to look out for cyclists and so are some of the politest you’ll find. (My favorite part of this first leg was Lambert’s Cove Road, which I hadn’t ridden before; it’s smoothly paved and has some fun hills and curves.) Back on State Road, we take the righthand fork past North Tisbury onto North Road. A steep descent takes us into Menemsha and we decide to continue on to ride around Gay Head / Aquinnah. This means the bike ferry, an adorable raft that can hold four bikes and six people at a time and takes less than five minutes to cross the little channel into Menemsha Pond.

Menemsha ferry

Menemsha ferry

We ride around the point, stopping briefly for a view of the Gay Head clay cliffs before a fun descent to Philbin Beach. This is our favorite beach on the Vineyard: beautiful sand, pristine water, pretty rocks, funny shorebirds, and not crowded. My mom enjoys strolling up and down the flat shoreline; F, my dad, and I cool off in the waves and then lie on our towels to let the sun dry us off. A well-deserved rest after 20 miles (~32km) of riding.

After the break, F and I decide to take the next segment a bit faster — we, unlike D&T, have proper road bikes and no racks or panniers, which gives us an advantage in terms of speed — and agree to meet the parents at Beetlebung Corner. Thus starts a fun 10-km/6-mi section of more rolling hills — do you sense a trend? — and curvy roads in the sun. At Beetlebung Corner, in the center of Chilmark, we grit our teeth and set off up and down — but mostly up — Middle Road, the shorter and quieter but hillier option. At least the reward of making it up the biggest hill is pausing to watch the beautiful long-horned cows take turns licking each other, no doubt to scratch some itches.

At the end of Middle Road we always stop at the Field Gallery to check out the sculptures and paintings — all for sale, including some early Calder paintings — and take a breather before joining the bike path for the last 15km/9mi to Edgartown. We get on the bike path and enjoy its roller coaster-like twists and turns, ups and downs, through the forest. This segment is mentally tough for me; the path isn’t as well-maintained as the roads, and it’s hard to see the bumps and roots due to the dappled sunlight coming through the trees. (Also I fell off on this section some years ago and have a knee scar to prove it.) But we make it into Edgartown for a well-deserved break after another 20 miles (32km); this time, Mad Martha’s is our reward. We each have a PB sandwich before digging into hot fudge sundaes (peppermint and mocha chip ice cream for D, peppermint and sinful chocolate for me), a banana ferry (T), and a BLT for F.

we cycle for food

we cycle for food

We’re cutting it a bit close with our timing to catch the 5pm ferry from Vineyard Haven back to Woods Hole, but we have enough buffer to take the Beach Road route through Oak Bluffs with a 20-minute beach break for one last swim. T seems to have been revived by his banana ferry, and leads us at a good clip past the kids jumping off the bridge into the water and lines and lines of beachgoers’ cars. I also feel better after the calorie boost and take the lead for part of this segment. After the beach break, D leads us expertly through Oak Bluffs and along East Chop Drive back to Vineyard Haven, with 10 minutes to spare before the ferry!

In sum:

  • ~81km (50.33mi) in ~4 hours total riding time (including the short jaunt to/from the ferry dock and home)
  • Total elevation: 483m (1,584 feet) — the Vineyard is hilly!
  • Three long-ish breaks — good for resting saddle soreness and sore feet from a tad-too-small shoes (I’m borrowing a bike)
  • Delicious food to keep us going
  • Perfect weather: mid-70s F, sunny, no clouds, little wind
  • Great company and great cycling!
the route

the route

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Recipe: Spicy Shrimp with Fresh Herbs & Corn

Friday evening. You may be running low on food staples while trying to hold off on grocery shopping until Saturday or Sunday. What a good time to throw together a quick and easy dinner from the corners of your fridge/freezer/pantry(/garden!).

 

As my dad rooted through the freezer, the only protein he found in a large enough quantity to feed four of us was a bag of frozen shrimp. From the couch, I offered to look up some recipes for inspiration, as jambalaya sounded too heavy for a summer evening. Many of the recipes I browsed through had avocado which, unfortunately, we had already eaten. Others paired fresh corn, which we did have, with the shrimp. Eventually I found this recipe from The Kitchn, which looked simple, quick, and tasty. I took it as a starting point and riffed from there.

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The result? Thumbs up all around the dinner table. At one point, my mom asked “What’s in this?” I took that as a subtle reference to the spice level… F said, “It has punch.” That’s due to the tag-team combo of red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper. Perhaps my wrist flicked a bit too much cayenne onto the shrimp, but F loved the heat. If you’re more sensitive to spiciness, use less cayenne. The herb combination can also be adjusted; we happened to have a tiny bit of CSA cilantro and a big bunch of parsley in the fridge, so I used those in addition to fresh basil from the garden.

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As we ate, I remarked that cooking a dish like this my favorite way to cook: take a few simple ingredients, throw them into a pan, and combine/season/enhance in a creative way. Make it on a Friday, make it on a Monday — it’s all the same to me!

Spicy Shrimp with Fresh Herbs & Corn (inspired by The Kitchn)

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • to taste: red pepper flakes + cayenne pepper (I used 1/8-1/4 tsp of each)
  • 1.5 lbs frozen shrimp, thawed, rinsed, & patted dry
  • kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn (1/2 – 3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup fresh basil, minced
  • 3/4 – 1 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • to taste: salt & pepper
  • zest & juice of 1 lemon

Procedure

  • Put the olive oil in a skillet or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and cayenne, and cook, stirring occasionally, 3-5 minutes or until the garlic is golden and fragrant.
  • Turn the heat up to high, then add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes. Add the corn and cook for 1 more minute.
  • Turn the heat off and stir in the rest of the ingredients (herbs, S&P, & lemon zest + juice). Serve over rice or another grain of choice.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Maple Blueberry Scones

Yes, this is another breakfast/brunch recipe. No, these are not more pancakes. They’re scones!

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This recipe is a mash-up of smitten kitchen’s oat and maple syrup scones and Joy the Baker’s maple blueberry scones (thanks, ladies, for the inspiration). With lots of fresh-picked blueberries hanging around in the fridge, I thought I’d try my hand at healthy-ish blueberry scones. I have made scones before and they have been well-received. When I saw the two maple scone recipes, I though I could probably combine elements of each to make oat-y, maple-y, blueberry-y scones.

It worked. These scones have a nice crunch from the cornmeal and whole wheat flour. They’re not too salty and not too sweet. The blueberries burst with juice. The scones are deliciously crumbly — you might even have to eat them with a fork. They disappeared really fast on a Wednesday morning with four people in the house.

I baked mine from frozen so had them in the oven for a full 25 minutes; my mom thought they were perfect, but my dad and I agreed they were a touch on the dry side and would’ve been better with 22 minutes of baking. If you bake them fresh, you might want to take them out closer to 20 minutes. You could totally make these with raspberries or even blackberries. Or no berries at all (but that wouldn’t be much fun, would it?).

Maple Blueberry Scones (inspired by smitten kitchen & Joy the Baker — makes 9 generous scones)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • generous grating of nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 3/4 cup (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, chilled & cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Procedure

  • Preheat the oven to 400F (200C) and grease a cookie sheet.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (through allspice). Work in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, syrup, and buttermilk. Stir into the dry mixture.
  • Carefully fold in the blueberries.
  • Take generous blobs in your hands and form scone-shaped rounds. Place them on the baking sheet and bake for 20-23 minutes. Eat warm and spread with butter.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Tabouli

Since my dad has made this tabouli three times in the three weeks since I’ve been home, I finally decided to post it. While I haven’t participated in every single step of the tabouli-making process, I’ve done enough of it to confidently assure you that it is straightforward to make and delicious to eat.

This recipe comes to us from Mollie Katzen’s The Moosewood Cookbook (the original, not “The New Moosewood”), a lovely book with parchment-like pages and hand-written recipes (or at least fonts made to look handwritten). My parents have made Moosewood’s tabouli every summer for as long as I can remember. The freshness of the citrus and vegetables plus the lightness of the bulgur wheat and the bite of the garlic make it perfect for a hot summer’s day — and we’ve had a lot of those recently. It is great alone for lunch, or alongside barbecued chicken for dinner.

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just add tomato

Like many of the best recipes, this one is open for experimentation and variation. We generally use what’s in the fridge and on the counters — sometimes green pepper, sometimes summer squash, maybe feta and maybe not. In my eyes (mouth?), the tabouli must have tomatoes and chickpeas. We always use way less salt and way more garlic than is called for; adjust everything to your taste. I’ll give you my favorite version of the recipe and let you take it from there!

Tabouli (adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry bulgur wheat
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • juice of 1.5 lemons
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • to taste: ground black pepper
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 2-3 scallions, minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled & grated
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • optional:
    • 1 green pepper, diced
    • 1 summer squash, sliced thinly
    • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped finely
    • 1/2 cup feta cheese

Procedure

  • Put the bulgur wheat into a large bowl and stir in the salt; pour the boiling water over the bulgur, cover the bowl, and let it stand for 15-20 minutes.
  • After the bulgur has soaked up the water, stir in the citrus juice, garlic, mint, olive oil, and ground pepper. Cover and put in the fridge for 2-3 hours to marinate.
  • Just before serving, add the chickpeas, diced/grated vegetables, parsley, and feta (if using). Mix to combine and enjoy!

Recipe: Four-B Pancakes

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Long form: buckwheat-buttermilk-blueberry-banana pancakes. That’s right, quadruple-B. I was going to call them “triple B” but then decided to use buttermilk. “Quadruple” is a bit of a mouthful, so I settled on “four-B.”

best with coffee on a sunny Sunday morning

best with coffee on a sunny Sunday morning

Whatever you call these pancakes, all you need to know is that they are awesome. I adapted them from  the “‘M’ Go Blue” pancakes in The Black Dog Summer on the Vineyard Cookbook, of the famed Black Dog restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard that my family visits for breakfast once a year to fuel up before cycling around the Vineyard.

IMG_4928These differ from many of my other pancake recipes because you don’t mash the banana; rather, you slice it and drop a few slices onto each pancake on the griddle before flipping it. When you flip the ‘cakes, the banana — now on the griddle-side — caramelizes beautifully. That may sound indulgent, but never fear — these four-Bs also pack plenty of health in buckwheat and whole wheat flours, cornmeal and buttermilk, not to mention the fresh blueberries.

The batter may seem gooey, but don’t worry because it cooks up nicely into fluffy, flavorful pancakes. Enjoy them with and combination of butter, maple syrup, yogurt, molasses, more fresh berries, and/or peanut butter.

choose-your-own-(adventure)toppings

choose-your-own-(adventure)toppings

What are your favorite pancake toppings?

Four-B Pancakes (adapted from The Black Dog Summer on the Vineyard Cookbook. Makes 12-14 small-medium pancakes)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 rounded tbsp cornmeal
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1.5 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1-2 bananas, thinly sliced

Procedure

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (through cinnamon).
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, butter, and milks. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in the blueberries.
  • Heat a griddle or pan to medium-high heat and oil it. Ladle 1/2 cup of batter for each pancake onto the griddle. Place a few banana slices on top of each pancake. Flip when small bubbles form and start to pop around the edges.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Cherry-Blueberry Cobbler with Almond Topping

We (i.e. my parents) have been getting loads of delicious cherries from the summer CSA in the past couple of weeks. I keep running across great-looking cherry recipes and finally found myself with most visa stress behind me and a free Thursday afternoon on my hands.

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I decided to take a stab at another one of Martha Rose Shulman’s great “Recipes for Health” on the NY Times. This time, I modified her recipe for Cherry Cobbler with Almond-Buttermilk Topping. We didn’t have enough cherries, however; nor did we have buttermilk. So I bulked up the fruit with some leftover blueberries and used almond milk instead of buttermilk.

Tangy, ever-so-sweet fruit pairs nicely with the crunchy topping that has a mild nutty taste and just a bit of sweetness. My parents gave it rave reviews: My mom said, “I like the tartness of the cherries plus the blueberries, and the topping is nice ’cause it’s not too sweet. It was just overall very excellent.” And from my dad: “I loved it. It was delicious. I liked the crust — the cobble-part — especially.” If that’s not a recommendation to go make this, I don’t know what is!

sometimes nibbles happen

sometimes nibbles happen

This cobbler smacks of health (while remaining tasty), with no white flour in sight, just a little sugar, and some token butter for richness. You could totally eat it with Greek-style yogurt for breakfast or brunch.

Cherry-Blueberry Cobbler with Almond Topping (adapted from Martha Rose Shulman)

Ingredients

  • For the fruit:
    • 2 cups cherries, stemmed and pitted
    • 1 cup blueberries
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • juice of 1/2 a lemon
    • 1/2 tbsp whole wheat flour
    • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • For the topping:
    • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 cup cornmeal
    • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 3 tbsp sugar
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 3 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cubed
    • 1/3 cup almond milk

Procedure

  • Preheat the oven to 400F (200C) and butter a brownie pan-sized baking dish.
  • Prepare the fruit: Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix, then pour into the baking dish, making sure to scrape all the juices out.
  • Make the topping: Whisk together the dry ingredients. Work in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the almond milk until a dough forms.
  • Plop small blobs of dough on top of the fruit; most of the fruit will be covered but it’s okay if some peeks out.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is browned and the fruit bubbles. Serve warm or cold, with yogurt or ice cream.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Terry’s Buttermilk Cornmeal Waffles

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I don’t have my own waffle maker (yet), but my parents have been making waffles for post-swimming Sunday brunch ever since I can remember. Being home with them for the summer means I get to enjoy waffles regularly. The original recipe comes from the red-and-white-checkered Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook‘s “Everyday Waffles”; my dad has adapted and perfected his own version by subbing in whole wheat flour and adding cornmeal.

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The combination of white and wheat flours with cornmeal gives these waffles a lovely, grainy-but-not-gritty texture. We also had ripe bananas this week so, like I do with my pancakes, we mashed one into the batter, which kept the waffles nice and moist. Feel free to leave the banana out if you prefer unadulterated (“unafruiterated”?) waffles. There are no spices in these except for vanilla, though I imagine they’d be delicious with a sprinkling of cinnamon and maybe some nutmeg. Feel free to get creative!

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Buttermilk Cornmeal Waffles (family recipe, adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook; makes enough for 3 people)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • optional: 1 ripe banana, mashed well
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 egg whites, beaten until stiff peaks form

Procedure

  • Whisk together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the egg yolks, banana (if using), vanilla, buttermilk, and oil. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry.
  • In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the rest of the batter.
  • Bake the waffles on your waffle iron for the time instructed. Eat hot with butter, maple syrup, yogurt, fruit, and/or molasses.

Enjoy!


Quarter Century Birthday Wisdom

Yes, that’s right — today I turn 25. A quarter century! I certainly don’t feel that old.

I spent my previous two birthdays in Ukraine. Two years ago I was actually working at a camp run by a fellow PCV — my “team” gave me a lovely framed picture as a gift, and I believe flowers and cake were also involved. Last year I was at site in Sniatyn and remember having a delicious-as-always pizza lunch at Kapryz with Janira and Natalia; other Natalia gave me a leather wallet from her shop that I’d been eyeing and Ilona gave me a ring/earring/necklace set; it was a Wednesday, so there was English club and my adults gave me some really nice gifts, flowers, and well-wishes.

This year’s birthday finds me in Münster, Germany, where F studied. We’re visiting friends here and, because F’s dad shares my birthday, we’ll go to his parents’ tomorrow for weekend celebrations.

But this post is not to tell you about how I celebrate my birthday; rather, it’s to reflect a bit on the past year and share the traditional birthday wisdom, as I did last year.

this is the most recent photo I have (taken by Anthony) of myself

this is the most recent photo I have of myself (taken by Anthony)

The past year has been one of great changes: I finished my Peace Corps service, having to say goodbye to two years’ worth of accumulated friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and places (not to mention stuff); I moved home to my parents’ for a couple of months, then uprooted again to move to London. Since my last birthday I’ve run one half marathon, a 10k, and a bunch of 5ks (including a PR/PB) — now I’m “aging up” in road racing (darn!), so the competition gets stiffer. I also returned to formal education, earning a CELTA and being accepted to an MA program at University College London beginning this September.

My 25th year has seen lots of new, exciting, and different things. There have been lots of adjustments and adaptations to make. So with that in mind, my birthday wisdom for this year is as follows:

Give yourself time to adapt to change. Don’t be too hard on yourself or expect yourself to immediately feel at home in a new environment or living/working situation. Focus on one thing at a time, living in the moment and addressing each new thing as it arises, and adjustment will eventually come.

I wish you all another year of change and adaptation.

Recipe: Strawberry “Mousse”

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I almost called this strawberry soup, but somehow soup doesn’t sound as appetizing as mousse. Also C, from whom I got this recipe, calls it mousse, too, so I decided to stick to the dish’s roots in naming my version. In any case, this “mousse” is an entirely delicious springy-summery dessert. C made it for us when we were in Brussels with my parents last month, and F — not known for his sweet tooth — easily slurped down two servings.

Seeing as F’s birthday was this week, and remembering how much he loved C’s strawberry mousse, I had the brilliant idea to surprise him by making it myself.

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He certainly was surprised and loved the mousse as much as he did in Belgium. I believe “this is awesome” was repeated quite a few times as he was consuming it.

Despite being a dessert, this mousse isn’t entirely unhealthy. Sure, there’s some double cream and sugar, but not that much in relation to the volume produced. Yogurt lends a nice tang at the finish, and lemon juice brightens everything up. C had told us that her mother — from whom the original recipe comes — adamantly said not to whip the cream first. I whipped it, just to add a bit more body to the mousse; it is still soup-like but in the best way possible. I also stirred in some diced strawberries for chew-factor.

Strawberry “Mousse” (adapted from C’s mom’s recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1-2 kg (4-6 cups) fresh ripe strawberries
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 250g (1 cup) low-fat yogurt (use full-fat or non-fat, if you prefer)
  • 150g (2/3 – 3/4 cup) double cream (aka heavy/whipping) cream
  • 75-100g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar

Procedure

  • Wash and cut the tops off of the strawberries. Put most of them (all less 1 cup or so) in a bowl with the lemon juice and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. (Alternately, throw them all in a stand-up blender and puree them that way.)
  • Stir the yogurt into the strawberry puree.
  • In a separate bowl, whip the cream and sugar together until soft-medium peaks form. Fold into the strawberry mixture.
  • Dice the remaining strawberries and stir them into the mousse.
  • Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and serve chilled, preferably on a warm spring or summer evening.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Popovers

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Have you ever had a popover? If you haven’t, you’re in for a crunchy-fluffy treat. I have long been familiar with the soft, moist eggy-ness of popovers, thanks to Pie in the Sky, the incredible bakery from which my family has breakfast almost every morning during our yearly two-week residence in Woods Hole, MA.

this is a popover

this is a popover

Here in London, we finally got a muffin tin, and what better way to inaugurate its use than by attempting to make popovers myself?

 

It was a relatively successful attempt. Like soufflé, popovers don’t have any leavening/rising agents, yet the magical combination of eggs, flour, milk, salt, and butter somehow allows the little guys to puff up beautifully. Mine ended up sinking a bit in the middle, but they still tasted awesome. We enjoyed the popovers with butter, jam, and soft-boiled eggs.

great with a soft-boiled egg

great with a soft-boiled egg

This recipe comes from The Kitchn‘s “How to Make Popovers” tutorial (gosh, I love those tutorials — they make it so easy to cook things that once seemed complicated). I added a few chopped chives to the batter for a little color. Next time I may try making cheesy popovers. How do you like to make and eat your popovers?

Popovers (from this recipe)

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • to taste: minced chives or some other fresh herb

Procedure

  • Melt the butter and whisk 1 tablespoon of it into the milk and eggs. Reserve the rest of the butter for later.
  • Whisk the flour and salt into the wet mixture until smooth.
  • Preheat the oven to 450F (230C) and let the batter sit while the oven heats.
  • When the oven is hot, stick the muffin tin in it for 1 minute. Remove the tin and divide the remaining butter between the cups.
  • Whisk the batter again until it is bubbly, then fill each muffin cup halfway.
  • Bake the popovers for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350F (175C) and bake for 10-15 more minutes. Do not open the oven while the popovers are baking!
  • Popovers are best eaten warm, with butter, jam, or an egg, though you can reheat them later.

Enjoy!

What We Feed Our Guests

roots, glorious roots

roots, glorious roots

Since it is our first year in London, many people have been eager to visit us. Over the past few months, we’ve enjoyed entertaining people from near and far for dinners, brunches, and everything in between. Here is a sampling of what we feed our guests when they come to call…

  • CMcG stopped by for dinner during a brief visit to London and was the guinea pig for this lemon and fennel chicken and my successful attempt at carrot cake, both of which he professed to enjoy.
  • H stayed with us for a few nights over two weekends, in between which she traveled around to play some soccer. We helped H fuel well before her soccer adventures with our lentil stew and green curry (you’ll see this one appear again and again; it’s so easy to make for large amounts of people). Upon H’s return, we celebrated with smitten kitchen lasagne and these amazing cookies:
Nessie recommends these cookies

Nessie highly recommends these cookies

  • The “Münster crew,” as I will call them, were here for a long weekend and as that made five of us, F and I stuck to simple dishes that we could make in large quantities. That meant green curry (see above), falafel and roasted root vegetables (these will pop up again, too). F also made Full English Breakfast one morning. The crew enjoyed my savory cookies and had fun trying to guess the secret ingredient (parmesan); the cocoa brownies also disappeared quickly.
  • On his way home from the U.K., S joined us for a nice dinner. He eats gluten-free, so we made the lemon and fennel chicken (see above) with yogurt panna cotta for dessert.
  • F’s mom visited us for a weekend at the beginning of May. She liked our green curry so much that she bought some green curry paste to take back to Germany. I made this lemony yogurt cake for her arrival, and she was also privy to my signature pancakes for Sunday brunch.
  • Three of F’s colleagues from Münster stayed with us for one night; we had decided to make it an easy dinner by preparing a bunch of small dishes — tapas-style, if you will. We served sweet-salty eggplant (which disappeared really fast), soy sweet potato pancakes, scallion biscuits + tomato salad + whipped goat cheese (so good), and more panna cotta.
  • My parents were here for about five days; we ate out or ordered in for a few meals, but F and I were also able cook a bit. I made falafel with root veggies and F made his simple and delicious tomato-spinach sauce with pasta (recipe forthcoming).
  • Our final visitors (for a while, at least) were F&B from Münster. They liked our roasted root vegetables, Grandma’s mac & cheese was a hit, and my signature pancakes (boosted with apple chunks and chocolate chips) were appreciated after a Saturday morning parkrun.

As you can see, we have some staple dishes that most of our guests have been / will be served: green curry, roasted root vegetables, falafel, roast chicken. And anyone who is lucky enough to be around on a Sunday morning will get to enjoy my signature pancakes. F and I enjoy cooking for guests and being able to share our favorite recipes with others.

one of our most popular signature dishes

one of our most popular signature dishes

Afternoon Tea at Saatchi Gallery Mess

It is probably cliche and silly, but ever since moving to London I’ve wanted to experience a proper British afternoon tea. Luckily, a visit from the parents (along with C from Brussels) was a good excuse to indulge. After scouring the TimeOut London afternoon tea reviews, I settled on The Gallery Mess for its reasonable prices, solid reviews, and location in the Saatchi Gallery, which would give us an opportunity to see some art as well as enjoy tea.

I’d been to the Saatchi Gallery last year with a friend and loved its simple, well-lit, open layout; I thought my parents would appreciate it, even if some of the contemporary art was a little weird. The Gallery is worth a visit, if only to become hypnotized by this installation piece:

Richard Wilson 20:50 installation (photo courtesy of my dad)

Richard Wilson’s 20:50 installation (photo courtesy of my dad)

After a spin through the Gallery, the five of us were promptly seated in The Gallery Mess for our three o’clock reservation. Since each of us wanted the standard Afternoon Tea, ordering happened fast and then the excitement set in. First, the waiter set out our plates with a napkin and knife carefully positioned on top:

IMG_4735Then, empty teacups (more like mugs — we liked their large size) and glasses with water appeared, again carefully positioned in relation to the plates and each other. The anticipation built…

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Next up: our tea, in pretty clear glass pots with removable inserts filled with each person’s choice of tea:

T had mint tea (foreground), D had jasmine (middle), C had wild berry (background). F and I shared the best Earl Grey tea I've ever had.

T had mint tea (foreground), D had jasmine (middle), C had wild berry (background). F and I shared a delicious, smooth Earl Grey.

Finally, the tea trays arrived! Since there were five of us, two pairs had ordered the tea for two and D got the tea for one (the difference? £1 saved by ordering the tea for two, but the one-person tea came with two scones — lucky D!). The food was beautifully presented in neat little pairs, with one of each offering for each person. Savory bites included classic cucumber sandwiches, mini bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon, bread with some kind of mayonnaise spread and a quail egg. Sweet bites included pink macarons, chocolate-covered marshmallow-y things (by far the worst offering), currant scones with butter and jam, and squares of lemon cake with a delicate dollop of cream cheese:

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We polished off everything, satiated but not stuffed; there were just the right amount of nibbles for each person. I liked the combination of sweet and savory; F and I ate ours in reverse, because I like to finish with sweet and he prefers to get that taste out of the way first. My favorites were the lemon cake and the scone with tasty fresh butter.

all gone!

all gone!

I would definitely recommend The Gallery Mess’ afternoon tea. It was just £11.50 per person, which is way cheaper than most afternoon tea services around London. The tea was excellent and the food tasted fresh and delicious, though I found the sweet nibbles moister and tastier than the savory ones, which were a tad dry. And don’t forget to visit the Saatchi Gallery before or after tea!

A Great Quote

A masters’ swimming friend, who also happens to read my blog, emailed this quote to me yesterday. It really resonated with me. Thanks, L!

“When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.”

Molly Wizenberg, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, 2009