2013

christmas cookie party

Every year since moving to our little apartment in San Francisco, I’ve hosted a Christmas cookie party. We bake and decorate, drink mimosas, eat take out. It’s a good time. The tradition actually goes back further to when I was living in D.C. during college. My ‘Maryland family’, the Adinehs, would host a Christmas cookie party of impressive proportions. If there were not at least 12 types of cookies baked and two card tables piled high with delicious treats by the end of it, we had not done our job. There is nothing that makes a lover of butter feel more in the Christmas spirit.

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Thanks to our friend Kelly, there were no holds barred on the decorating front at this year’s cookie party. There were Mondrian cookies, there were paisley cookies, paintbrushes and toothpicks may have been brandished. Never before had I seen such dedication to the art of decorating. I felt like I was running a Martha Stewart craft factory and it was fantastic. Beyond artfully decorated sugar cookies, there were Jordan’s mom’s chocolate snow bombs, malted milk ball cookies, chocolate chip cookies, macaroons, chewy ginger cookies, and pralines. All modesty aside, we hit it out of the park this year.

The holidays are nigh and maybe you still need gifts for the neighbors, or maybe a plate of cookies for Santa, or maybe you just really like cookies? We’ve got plenty of recipes here to help you out.

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Granny’s Sugar Cookies (another one passed down from Nonnie for those who are counting out there)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups flour

Beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and sugar and cream together for a few more minutes. Add the egg. In another bowl, sift together the salt, baking powder and flour. Add flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir until combined. Divide into two balls, flatten into discs and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Roll out into 1/4″ thickness and cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 400° for 6 – 8 minutes. These babies cook fast so set a timer!

For the icing
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (trust me, it will save you time in the end)
1 lemon, juiced into a small bowl and strained of seeds
a few tablespoons of milk
food coloring

Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Add a few tablespoons of the lemon juice and whisk together. It will be a big sugary clump. Add a tablespoon of milk at a time, until you get a smooth icing. Careful though, you don’t want it to be so runny it runs of the cookie. Divide into as many small bowls or cups as colors you’d like to make and add the food coloring.

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Chocolate Snow Bombs (Jordan’s mom’s specialty, aptly named by Jordan)
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
powdered sugar for rolling

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Melt the butter and chocolate together. Cool slightly and add the sugar to the chocolate mixture. Add one egg at a time and beat well by hand with a wire whisk. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix well. Chill at least 30 minutes. Shape dough into 1″ balls, rolling in powdered sugar. Place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 300° for 18 – 20 minutes.

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Malted Whopper Cookies, adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup malted milk powder (we all remember this lesson, right?)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped Whoppers (or any malted milk balls)

In a large bowl, sift together flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Add the malted milk powder. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and beat some more. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until well combined. Mix in the flour mixture. Add the malt balls. Spoon onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, placing cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350° for 10 – 12 minutes, until lightly golden at the edges.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies, from Eileen Crawford, my cousin Katie’s future mother-in-law (pulling out all the secret-family-recipe stops this year)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
12 Tbs unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/8 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1-2 cups chocolate chips

Melt the butter. Combine the two sugars in bowl. Add melted butter and combine until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and combine until smooth. In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt and baking powder, lightly stir. Add flour mixture to the sugar mixture. Combine. Add chocolate chips. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spoon cookie dough onto cookie sheets and bake for 13-18 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie. (I use a large soup spoon to measure the cookie dough and find 15 minutes works for me.)

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Big Chewy Ginger Cookies, adapted from AllRecipes
2 1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup molasses
sugar for rolling

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat to combine. Add the egg and then mix in the water and molasses. Shape the dough into walnut sized balls and roll in sugar. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350° for 8 – 10 minutes.

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Coconut Macaroons with Mini Chocolate Chips, adapted from AllRecipes
5 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

Mix all ingredients to combine. Drop by teaspoonfuls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 8 – 10 minutes.

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So there you have it, an excess of sugar and butter that I guarantee will get you in the Christmas spirit.

-Emily
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alice waters and chez panisse

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For our fourth anniversary, Jordan and I went to Chez Panisse. We were in college and I know he saved for months to take me out for that meal. It was pure magic. The restaurant was cozy, beautiful and warm. A big bouquet of wild flowers and branches sat on a small table next to an assortment of gorgeous produce and loaf of fresh bread, a few slices missing. We snuggled into a corner near the kitchen and ate the most perfect four courses of my life. Everything tasted like the best version of itself. The love and care and respect that went into each and every part of that meal was palpable. It was how food is meant to be.

Our dinner at Chez Panisse was the first nice meal we’d ever been to together. My love affair with food had really started to get serious at the time and it felt so special to eat at the restaurant that changed the way we eat in the United States so completely. It warms my heart to look back on that meal and feel the earnest excitement of that night all over again. I left Chez Panisse so inspired to learn, to cook, and to get closer to my food.

Alice Waters changed I think about food and cooking more than anyone, outside of my Nonnie, my Mom and Jordan. From Alice I learned to cook simply and with the seasons, to respect my food and let the qualities of each ingredient shine. I learned to care where my food came from and how it was produced, to acknowledge the environmental impact our food choices make on the earth. I learned that there was nothing more precious than sitting down for a meal together, and that the kitchen and the table are where I am most at peace.

I like to think that I cook with Alice every night. Her philosophies inspire the way I shop, I cook and we eat. Because I feel so close to her in my kitchen, and because I have tremendous respect and admiration for the amazing work she does for children’s education, for the environment, for growers, ranchers and producers, for food and cooking in the United States, it was a dream come true to meet her tonight. I was starstruck, like you are when you meet one of your heros.  I aspire to have a fraction of her guts, vision and grace. Here’s to making that happen and eating well along the way.

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-Emily

Ps. If you’re not familiar with Alice Waters, Chez Panisse and the slow food revolution, I’d recommend reading this wonderful book. You can’t read it and not fall at least a little in love with Alice. Chez Panisse Vegetables is also a favorite around here and a wonderful place to begin cooking more seasonally.

nonnie’s russian teacakes

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These are probably my favorite cookie. They are buttery, just the right amount of sweet, as perfect with coffee as they are with a glass of milk. The recipe is my Nonnie’s, and she always makes sure to have a tin of them ready when I go over to visit.  Food just tastes better when someone makes it for you, especially if that person knows their way around a stick of butter like my Nonnie.

I usually have an acceptable level of self-control in regards to the desserts I make, but restraint is nearly impossible with these cookies. These cookies are are my kryptonite. Whenever I make them, or am lucky enough to snag a tin from the master herself, I force myself to ration them to make them last as long as possible. One for breakfast with coffee, two for dessert. Tin kept under lock and key. Trust me, it’s tough to not plow through the entire batch in a day or two. I ate the last one out from under Jordan’s nose and didn’t feel even the slightest tinge of remorse. That is how much I love these cookies.

Because they are a family specialty and because they are my favorites, I thought it only fitting to go all out for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and send these to three lucky ladies, Rebecca, Laura and Willow.

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Nonnie’s Russian Teacakes
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
powdered sugar, for rolling in after baking

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Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in sifted powdered sugar and vanilla until well combined. Sift in flour and salt. Add pecans. Mix until a crumbly dough forms. Refrigerate for at least four hours, preferably overnight.

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Preheat your oven to 400° F. Roll dough into 1″ balls. Bake 12 – 14 minutes, until they are just starting to be a bit golden around the bottom. Roll in powdered sugar while hot. Let cool completely and roll again in powdered sugar.

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My Nonnie is an amazing cook. She rocks pot roast, turkey stuffing, crab cakes, berry pie, biscotti, not to mention her famous cheesecake, like nobody’s business. My russian teacakes couldn’t hold a candle to Nonnie’s until very recently, but my dedication to the art has paid off.  My secrets are revealed in this little puppet below. Watch it and learn how to make your cookies *almost* as good as Nonnie’s!

Packing cookies for transport is a serious thing. And serious things usually require a trip to Daiso, the Japanese version of the dollar store and one of my favorite places in San Francisco. There I picked up some adorable tins, mini cupcake papers and gingham wrapping paper—all in the interest of making sure my cookies arrived unharmed and as adorable as they are delicious. Once cooled, cookies were placed in tins, recipes were written up, and I packed the mailing boxes chock full with crumpled pages of an unread Vogue magazine to ensure my cookies didn’t get to jostled on their journey. Priorities.

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And now that I’ve exhausted you with all kinds of adorable, you really should make these cookies this holiday season.

-Emily
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lentil stew with sesame rice

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We didn’t really eat lentils much until a dinner at our friend Ted‘s house almost two years ago. He made a delicious Indian-spiced lentil dish and we got hooked—Ted’s lentils were that good. On the whole, lentils are tasty, cheap and versatile. I’ve been trying different recipes here and there, and though I cannot seem to reproduce Ted’s, this has been one of my favorites that I’ve tried.

Like most stews, this one only gets better as it sits. The flavors meld and develop over time and it goes from pretty good to really good in about two days. If you have the foresight, make it a day or two ahead of serving it. Also, the lemon really makes this stew. It adds such a perfect brightness to the dish. It might seem weird to put lemon slices in a stew before you simmer the thing for 30 minutes, but it turns out great. Don’t skip it!

Lentil Stew with Sesame Rice, adapted from The Kinfolk Table 
1 cup red or yellow lentils
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 – 1.5″ piece of ginger, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on how spicy you like it
1 – 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 lemon, sliced into rounds
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
chopped cilantro, parsley or green onion for garnish

Rinse the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear.

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In a dutch oven, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin and cayenne and saute a few minutes more. Add the tomatoes, stock, lentils and lemon slices. Turn the heat to low and let the stew simmer for 20 – 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender. If you’re eating your stew the next day, turn off the heat and stash your lentils in the fridge. If you’re eating that night, let the lentils simmer away until your rice is cooked.

For the rice
1 cup brown rice (or white rice, though the nuttiness of brown rice goes well with this stew)
2 cups water (or according to your rice cookers directions – rice cookers know all)
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon salt

Now brown rice takes a long time to cook. Plan for double the cooking time of white rice so about an hour on the stove or two hours in a rice cooker. If your rice cooker has a self-timer, use it. If it doesn’t, start the rice before you start the stew or the second you walk in the door after work.

I’m mentioning this because you, like me, might not be familiar with the intricacies of brown rice. You might realize only after you get home from work ravenous at 8pm that brown rice has 2 hour (!) cooking time. This news might force you to lie in dismay on the floor while your knight in flannel and skinny jeans orders Japanese takeout. Are you sensing a theme?

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While your rice is cooking and stew is warming, toast the sesame seeds in a pan over low heat until they are fragrant. Once the rice is cooked, mix them into the rice, saving a few for garnish.

To serve, ladle the stew over the rice. Top with some cilantro, parsley, green onions or sesame seeds—whatever you’ve got in the fridge will do—and enjoy!

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-Emily

and it’s december

This past week was quiet, aside from several lovely, family-filled dinners. I had a few days off of work, Jordan was on break from school, and we took it easy. We surfed, we watched back to back episodes of The Mind of a Chef, we ate risotto.

Our schedules are such that it’s rare to have more than a day off in a row to spend together and so these few days were especially lovely, just the two of us. It’s nice to have a bit of a break from the pace of a normal week to really remember why you like someone, to steep in all of the good the things they bring into your life, to appreciate them a bit more deeply.

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Willow is now happily resting her head on my keyboard, which is convenient because all I really mean to say is that Jordan is the butter to my bread, and I’m tremendously grateful for him.

These photos are from Ocean Beach. I shot them on Thanksgiving Day before heading down to dinner at my grandparents. Instant film really captures the colors of the Sunset beautifully. (Maybe one day I’ll get a film scanner and stop taking photos of photos, maybe?).

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I hope you had a restful Thanksgiving full of family and friends and good food. It’s hard to believe it’s already December, but I’m glad. I’m ready to buy a tiny Christmas tree, bake a ton of cookies, and say goodbye to 2013.

-Emily

malted vanilla ice cream with kit kat

This ice cream was a challenge. Not because making ice cream from scratch is a difficult thing—I’ve made it many times before with success. But because sometimes I loose my head at the grocery store, throw reason out the window and buy something as a ‘substitute’ that should never, never be used as a substitute.

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It was a Tuesday night and I was making ice cream for our supper club later in the week. We were responsible for dessert and I’d brainstormed a glorious candy-filled concoction. I figured I’d make the custard quickly before Jordan got home from work and we sat down to dinner. I was already feeling a bit on edge before I began this culinary project, but like I’ve mentioned before, there is nothing like cooking to help me find my center. Except when a crucial error in judgment sends the whole thing into a sticky, custardy, teary tailspin. You can probably guess which ensued that fateful Tuesday.

Dear readers, Ovaltine, though technically a malted milk beverage, is NOT malted milk powder. Don’t let any discussion forum or milk wiki on the internet convince you otherwise. And don’t try and talk yourself into it after you’ve already been to four grocery stores and not one of them sold true malted milk powder. Let me just say it again: Ovaltine is not a viable substitute for malted milk, in any cooking context.

Thankfully, Jordan got home just as I was warming the milk and cream to add to my eggy-Ovaltine blend of poor decision making and pulled the emergency break on this disaster. This is how it went down.

J: Why are those eggs so brown? I thought malted milk was white? How much did you use?

E: I … I … I went to four grocery stores. I couldn’t find malted milk powder ANYWHERE. I even went up to the market all way up the hill. I was there forever trying to find it.  So looked it up online to see if I could substitute something. Some internet people say you can substitute Ovaltine. It’s probably fine ……………(panic)……………… It’s probably horrible. I’m such an idiot. I just ruined five eggs. Five beautiful eggs. They were from our CSA, you know. And now we’re out of eggs. And the city of San Francisco still won’t offer up any malted milk powder. (Collapse in heap on kitchen floor).

J: Well, before you add the milk, did you even taste it?

E: No. (Shame face).

J: Sutter Fine Foods has malted milk powder. Let me show you.

E: (Grumble, sniff, grab purse).

And so we walked down to the corner store on our block, Jordan led me to the baking section, grabbed a container of Carnation Malted Milk Powder from the top shelf and beamed. I may have muttered something about how this was the most damn annoying ice cream that I’ll ever make, paid the cashier, and scampered up the stairs to correct my mistakes of earlier in the evening.

With actual Carnation malted milk powder instead of Ovaltine, my custard was a beautiful pale yellow, and the final ice cream was delicious. There is nothing like the combination of malted milk, vanilla and kit kat to make a person forget the trials that led them to that delicious end. And, if you heed my advice and don’t get lured to the Ovaline dark side, you too can enjoy a perfect ice cream without the drama.

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Malted Vanilla Ice Cream with Kit Kat, adapted from Bi-Rite Market’s Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup malted milk powder (we used Carnation)
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup 1% or 2% milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Kit Kat bars, chopped

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Add the malted milk powder and whisk together.

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream, milk, sugar and salt together. Bring just to a simmer. Whisk about 1/2 cup of the milk mixture into the egg yolks, pouring the hot milk slowly into the eggs to temper them. Add another 1/2 cup of milk into the eggs. Then pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk.

Put a mesh strainer over a medium sized bowl or tupperware. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Over medium heat, stir the milk and egg mixture until it begins to thicken. When the ice cream base could coat a spoon, pour it through a mesh strainer into a bowl or tupperware. Cool the base in the ice water bath, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate the base overnight.

The next day, add the vanilla to the ice cream base. Pour it into your ice cream maker and freeze according to your maker’s instructions. Meanwhile, chop up the kit kats.

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When the custard is just about frozen, add the kit kat pieces. Serve right away or put into a tupperware and freeze for another few hours to harden completely.

-Emily

apple galette

A  weekends or two ago, we had our friend David over for dinner. David is usually in far off places like Thailand, Tajikistan or the Democratic Republic of Congo doing amazing, amazing work, and so it not often that he comes over for dinner. There really is nothing like dinner with old friends to make you feel like yourself again. Eating a meal with David is one of the best things for the soul, for my soul at least. Fortunately, for the next year or so he is stuck in Palo Alto learning lots, which means many more meals with David are in our future. I couldn’t be happier about it.

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Onto the food. Fall is undeniably here even in temperate San Francisco, and so we roasted a chicken and vegetables to celebrate. In the spirit of fall, I thought it only fitting to make an apple galette for dessert. I’m not sure why it took me so long to discover the galette. As it turns out, galettes are everything that is wonderful about pie, but with an increased crust to filling ratio—a major pro in my book—and a far less fussy preparation. Because you simply fold a sheet of pastry around the filling, they are so easy to make. This particular apple galette turned out beautifully—rustic and delicious. I’m certain there will be many more galettes in our future, ideally eaten with David.

Apple Galette
For the Pie Crust 

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
about 5 tablespoons ice water

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In a food processor, combine flour and salt. Remove the butter from the fridge and cut into 1 inch cubes. Add them to the flour mixture. Process until the butter chunks are about the size of peas. Add the water and pulse a few times to combine. Divide into two equal balls, flatten into 1″ thick discs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.

For the filling (for one galette, to serve 3 or 4 people)
3 large apples, peeled and cut into slices about 1/2″ thick
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk or cream
sugar for dusting

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Preheat your oven to 375° F. Line a baking pan or cookie sheet with tin foil. In a large bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Roll out the crust until it is about 1/4 inch thick. In the center of the crust, mound the apple filling. Fold the dough up around the filling, take care to make sure that there aren’t any holes in the crust where the filling could leak out.

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Place the galette back in the fridge for about 15 minutes for the butter in the dough to firm up. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolk with the cream or milk. Remove the galette from the fridge and brush with the egg mixture. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the crust is golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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-Emily

on life and cooking

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I don’t often write stories this long, or this personal. But, I know that one day I’ll wish I had, so here goes. Be gentle.

I was on my way back from work one evening in May. My phone rang, it was my mom. I talk with my mom a lot on the phone, and I could tell the second I picked up that something was wrong. She told me she had found a lump in her breast and had gone to her doctor for a scan and a biopsy. She said it was most likely nothing, probably just a cyst, and she’d know for sure in a few days. I told her that I loved her, that I was sure it was just a cyst and that she should call me as soon as she knew anything more. I hung up the phone and cried, sitting in traffic on Highway 101, waiting to cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

The next day I was walking home from work. I was expecting a call from my mom and it came. The lump in her breast was not a benign cyst, it was cancerous. Just like the day before, I told my mom I loved her, that we would make it through this. When I hung up the phone, I cried. Screaming profanity on the the streets of my San Francisco neighborhood isn’t out of the ordinary, but that day was the first time for me.  As much as I wanted to, grasping onto the possibility that this was just scare, a scare ready to fade away into foggy memory wasn’t an option anymore.

My mom was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. We were shocked and devastated. My mom was the healthiest person I knew, she never stopped moving for a second, her biggest heath complaint was the occasional headache. With the benefit of the passage of time, it’s now clear that a positive cancer diagnosis is always a shock and always devastating, regardless of who it affects. But at the time, it felt like such a personal attack, on my mom and on our family. To say that my faith in the universe was shaken would be an understatement.

The irony of my mom’s diagnosis (if you can even find irony in such a thing) was that just a week earlier my mom and I had been talking about how we were so lucky, that our family was healthy and that health is something that’s easy take for granted. Though things might be tough—and it hasn’t been an easy few years for a variety of reasons—we at the very least could rely on our bodies to get up and do the things we needed them to do each day. My mom’s unexpected diagnosis felt like the universe was punishing us for speaking too soon, in the harshest possible way.

With a positive cancer diagnosis, your life is no longer yours. You go from the independence of normal adult life to an onslaught of doctors appointments, scans, surgeries, treatments. My mom never visited the hospital aside from her yearly mammogram, and now she was spending most of her time there. Trust me, it’s enough to shake a person. When you’re young and healthy like my mom, the doctors waste no time. Your cancer is treated aggressively, no holds barred. This is a good thing, it means your chances of making it though the other side cancer-free are high, and obviously that is what everyone wants. But while it is happening, you’re at the complete mercy of doctors, nurses and the body that turned against you. Brutal is putting it lightly.

There are more bad things about cancer than I could possibly name in a single blog post, but the worst for me was that cancer robbed me of any control. There was nothing I could do to make my mom better, there was no way I could make the coming months any less difficult, there was no way I could ensure a happy outcome. Knowing that you would do anything you could, but being powerless to meaningfully change anything, that is one of the worst things in the world.

Desperate for some relief from the sadness, anger and frustration that I couldn’t seem to shake, I turned to the thing that had helped me through tough spots in the past—cooking. Cooking once again became my therapy. I’d spend entire days in the kitchen, lost in recipes, sometimes making four or five new things at once, all available counter space covered in mis en place and open cookbooks. I would fall apart while mixing a dough or whirring my food processor, worrying about my mom, my family, the future. Everything felt uncertain, our lives outside of our control, and I wanted desperately for that to not be true. Still, cooking was a comfort. Hours would go by and I wouldn’t notice, absorbed in my work. It felt good. It felt constructive.

When I’d sit down and write about what I was cooking here on the blog, the worry that usually hung over me fell away. I’d get sucked into the story of the dish, transported to an alternate universe where cancer wasn’t torturing the people I loved most and we just happened to eat delicious things. It was a really lovely place to be, even if it was only for a few hours.  And I don’t think I could have made it through the past few months without it.

I know that by diving into my cooking and my writing over the past few months, I’ve pulled away from friends and family who were there to talk, who wanted to help me through this tough time. The thing was, I didn’t want to talk, it didn’t seem to help at all. I’m sure this hurt, and I’m sorry. Those epic days alone in my kitchen were healing, and writing recipes on this little corner of the internet helped me find some light in the darkness of the past few months, which I couldn’t seem to hold onto any other way.

My mom had her final dose of chemo last Monday. Her prognosis is looking good and we’re extremely hopeful. But, if the last few months have taught us anything, it’s that this journey isn’t over yet. For the future bumps in the road, I’m grateful that I’ve got recipes in the waiting and a blog to fill.

As always, thanks for reading.

Love, Emily

 

 

 

 

chicken tikka masala

My first memory of chicken tikka masala was from my freshman year of college. I had gone out to eat with a group of friends from the newspaper to a nicer Indian restaurant in Georgetown. After the server sat our large group, he pointedly asked, “Raise your hand if you’re ordering chicken tikka masala. I know someone in this group is ordering chicken tikka masala”. Our friend Tim somewhat sheepishly raised his hand. He was indeed ordering the chicken tikka masala. I’d never heard of chicken tikka masala at the time, and only inferred from the waiter’s tone that chicken tikka masala was not true Indian cuisine.

Turns out, that’s probably true (the jury is still out on chicken tikka masala’s precise origins) and chicken tikka masala does win the prize for most universally appealing to white people (apparently it’s Britain’s most popular dish). But, like most popular things, chicken tikka masala is popular because it’s really, really good. Surly waiters aside, I’m never disappointed when I order it when we go out for Indian in the neighborhood and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with this recipe.

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We decided to try and make chicken tikka masala for our supper club. After scouring the internet for recipes, cross referencing one against the other, reading comments and reviews, we landed on a recipe from The Pioneer Woman and adapted it to suit our tastes (chicken thighs forever and always). For not requiring tons of obscure spices or days of simmering, we think it turned out pretty damn good. You can feel free to cross-reference this claim with our friend Ted.

Chicken Tikka Masala, adapted from The Pioneer Woman
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
salt
ground coriander
ground cumin
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 – 2″ piece of fresh ginger, grated
3 tablespoons garam masala
1 – 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper
cayenne pepper or jalapeños if you want it spicy

For the rice
2 cups basmati rice
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups water

Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt, ground coriander and ground cumin. Put them in a large tupperware and pour the yogurt over the chicken. Coat the chicken in the yogurt. Let the chicken sit in the marinade for an hour, or preferably overnight.

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Turn on the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and place a metal rack over the baking sheet. Place the chicken in an even layer on the rack. Broil the chicken, 5 – 7 minutes per side, until charred and cooked through. Once cooled slightly, cut into chunks.

Start your rice. Cook the rice according to the rice cooker or package instructions with the turmeric, butter and salt.

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While the chicken is broiling, saute the onion in a few tablespoons of butter, until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and cook a minute or two more. Add the garam masala. Add the tomatoes and tablespoon of sugar. Add the jalapeños or cayenne, if using. Let simmer for 15 or 20 minutes to let the flavors come together. Use an immersion blender to blend the sauce until it doesn’t have any chunks. Add the cream and season with salt and pepper. A few minutes before serving, add the chicken and stir to coat it with the sauce.

Serve the chicken tikka masala over rice. Naan optional. If you happen to be getting the frozen naan from Trader Joe’s, go with the garlic naan.

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-Emily

chickpea lavash wraps

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Chickpea Lavash Wraps
For the chickpea spread
1-15 oz can of chickpeas, drained
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 red onion, chopped
a few tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2/3 cup plain yogurt
salt and pepper

For the cucumber-yogurt dressing
1 medium cucumber, diced or sliced
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
1 clove garlic, diced or grated
salt and pepper

To assemble 
2 cups spinach
1 bell pepper, sliced
sriracha
2 pieces lavash bread
1 tablespoon butter

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In a food processor, chop up two-thirds of the chickpeas. Put in a medium bowl and add the rest of the chickpeas, lemon zest and juice, onion, parsley, and yogurt. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. This spread can be made a day or more in advance. After sitting in the fridge for a day or so, the flavors melt together and it gets even better.

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In a small bowl, combine chopped cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice and zest,  garlic, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. This dressing can be made a day or more in advance as well.

To assemble, lay a lavash bread on the counter. Spoon some of the chickpea spread and some of the yogurt dressing onto the lavash. Add some sriracha for heat.  Add a handful of spinach and a few slices of bell pepper. Roll it all up like a burrito.

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In a saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter is foaming, add the lavash wrap. Toast each side and serve.

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