Sunday, September 27, 2015

The plum cake to rule them all

Ladies and gentlemen, I have returned! I know you've all been waiting desperately. The time without my presence must have been excruciating. Do you weep at my return?

I have perfected the arts of hyperbole and sarcasm... mostly for the purpose of my own entertainment. I have also made a plum cake. 

A couple of weeks months ago, before my computer decided to poop out on me, I picked too many plums. My roommate had emailed me because the community plum tree was overloading, and I jumped at the opportunity to appear helpful while acquiring free food. Since individual plums don't really fit into my everything-in-tupperware lifestyle, I decided to make dessert. I'm not much of a baker, but since every other food blogger on the internet is, I was sure that if I googled "plum cake", I would find directions to something edible.

Turns out there exists a the plum cake... a seminal plum cake. A plum cake whose recipe has been printed at least a hundred times. The one plum cake. What is happening with these people?

As it turns out, the hype was well deserved. I've since made it six or seven times- most recently for my community potluck two weeks ago. I actually ended up missing the potluck, because a visiting friend and I went hiking and got stuck behind a moose. Hey there Sunray! Sometimes Utah is exactly what you expect it to be.

I've been struggling to write about why the cake's so good, mostly because half the internet and a lot of professional food writers have said it better. What I will add is that using slightly sour plums to start with makes a difference- the plums in the above photo baked down into pockets of sweetsour perfection. When I made it two weeks ago we used sweeter plums and the results were slightly sub-par. Not that it mattered- between the two of us it was gone in less than three days. Lessons learned: use sour plums, and share with friends.

The one true plum cake 
stolen quite directly from the New York Times, where they call it as 'Marian Burros' plum torte'

1 cup granulated  sugar (you can use less if you'd like- 3/4 cup works fine)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
big pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
~12 plums, pitted and cut in half
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. With an electric mixer- or a whisk if you're me- cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then the flour mixture, whisking as you go.

If you have a 9-inch springform pan, use it! Otherwise butter whatever dish you're going to be playing with, then pour in the batter. It will be quite thick- I always need to use a rubber spatula to even out the surface. Arrange the plums, skin side up. Use as many as will possibly fit! You don't want to see batter when you look down at the surface. Sprinkle to top with lemon juice and cinnamon.

Bake until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean, somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour. Let cool, then devour.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Asparagus pickles

Last Friday, I had an unexpected day off, and I celebrated by making asparagus pickles and freezer-berry pie. Also some strawberry rhubarb syrup, preserved lemons, and something with eggplant and roasted red peppers that wasn't nearly as good as I'd expected it would be. All in all, I may have gone a bit overboard... but Sunday was my birthday, and I ate cold pie, homemade soda and a full jar of asparagus for lunch.

Hello, 25.

I made my first jar of asparagus pickles in college, courtesy of my good friend Dan. I may have been raised ten minutes from Berkeley (and currently live in a hippie commune) but I'm just an imposter. As much as I'd like to pretend otherwise, I'm a hippie-flavored WASP. Dan, on the other hand... Dan's the genuine article. When we lived together, he would come down to breakfast in the most wonderfully absurd striped pajamas, and all of his mugs were the heavy, clay variety. He also made granola, and yogurt, and our junior year he took me to a fermentation workshop put on by people who actually grew things in the ground.

That's where I met the pickles.

To be honest, I only agreed to go because someone promised I'd get to make ginger beer (which turned out terribly). I was confused by the idea of pickling a non-cucumber, and even more confused by how fast I ate them once I opened the jar. I've since learned to make better ginger beer, but I'd never attempted the pickles.

More's the pity, because I've now made them twice in the last month. If you'll excuse me... I'm going to go eat another jar.

Asparagus Pickles
note: the quantities below are kind of relative

3 12oz mason jars
2lbs asparagus (about 2 bundles)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
~1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 cups distilled white vinegar
2 cups water
2 Tbsp kosher salt

Trim the ends off the asparagus, then cut the remaining stalk in half. Measure against your jars- you want the asparagus pieces to fit into the jar with a little headspace, and you want the jars tightly packed.

At this point, you should have a good idea how many jars you're going to need. Put 1/8-1/4 tsp of mustard seeds and a clove of garlic in each jar, and set aside.

In a sauce pot, bring the vinegar, water  and salt to a boil. Make sure the salt is dissolved, then keep hot while you cook the asparagus.

Boil more water! Working in batches if necessarily, blanch the asparagus pieces for three minutes, then drain and stuff into jars. Fill the jars with vinegar/water mix, cap and refrigerate.

Pickles are phenomenal after a week... but if you're impatient, they're edible in a couple days.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Overnight Oats (and my commenting request is still at large)

I was up at six this morning. No, it's not because I've suddenly become a morning person (note to universe: please make me a morning person). I'm just so out of whack that I slept most of Sunday and not at all last night. Six am was when I declared defeat. I know other people have control over their sleep cycles, but most of the time mine is a puppet master.

Also, it was too hot- inside and out- at 6am. Utah!

On the bright side, I already had breakfast made. These last two weeks, what with having to be far away from home at 8am (with my brain functioning, no less), oatmeal in mason jars has been my salvation. It's official... I have a mason jar problem. I can't help it- I can fill them with liquid, put them in my purse and not have them leak! Why haven't regular travel cups/tupperware figured this out yet?

[Answer: because regular travel cups are designed for easy access drinking, which eliminates the whole 'seal cap and then screw down' thing that makes mason jars work. I hate it when I'm smart enough to answer my own questions.]

Also I'm guessing that for most people, carrying several meals and coffee in a purse is not a high priority. Maybe I should get a lunchbox.

Back to the point- did you know you could make oatmeal overnight? Fancy oatmeal, the kind that usually takes ~40 minutes to cook?The last two Saturday nights, I've put a whole bunch of steel cut oats in a pot with water, left it overnight, and the next morning I had fully cooked oatmeal, just ready to be jarred up and topped. This is exactly my kind of food- planning+laziness = delicious. Even nutritious! It allows me to do the work when I'm feeling most productive (not morning) and reap the rewards when I'm running late and hungry (every morning). WIN. So good that last night, even though I don't have to be in class at 8am, I soaked some oats. This morning? I even ate them from a bowl.

And yes. I did put cocoa powder in my oatmeal. You're welcome.

Overnight oats
I'm pretty sure this was just common knowledge

Note: the ratios below are a good guideline, but I generally make bigger batches because I can eat almost two cups of oatmeal in one go.

For the oatmeal:
1Tbsp butter
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups water
pinch salt

This morning's toppings/mix-ins:
1 tsp cocoa powder
1.5 tsp maple syrup
couple spoonfuls of yogurt
toasted coconut

In a pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add oats and cook, stirring frequently, until the whole mess starts to smell toasty. Add the water and a good pinch of salt, cover and bring to a boil. When you've hit boiling, take the pot off the heat and leave covered overnight.

The next morning, divide oats up among tupperware/mason jars/bowls and add deliciousness! I suggest nuts, fruit if you're fancy enough to have it, and yogurt. I know the last thing sounds weird, but I love how the sour tastes against the whole mess. Since it can't be heated, it's often a last minute addition.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New commenting setup (and a favor?)

Well good morning! I'm house-sitting for a friend, so I was woken up around six am by two hungry greyhounds. Two! Also there's currently a cat digging in my purse. On the bright side, I'll definitely be on time for class.

On a less adorable note, I'm trying to figure out a workable commenting system for this blog. As most of you know, I am absolutely horrendous with technology, so coding my own was clearly not an option. I added some weird, third-party commenting system the internet recommended and (here comes the favor!) I could use some help testing it. So! If you've got a minute, I'd love it if you tried to post something- what I'd like is for you to a) be able to comment b) without having to create a separate login but c) be required to input some sort of name/identifier so everyone doesn't just show up as 'anonymous'. Also, I may have accidentally erased all previous comments. I'm working on that one.

Feedback both requested and greatly appreciated :D

Love and radishes,

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Udon Pantry Soup

Since I still haven't finished my undergraduate degree, I'm currently taking a two-week intensive stable isotope course. (25 and still working on a bachelor's anyone? Just me? Ok then!). Starting Monday I've been in class at least 8 hours a day, and since campus isn't all that close to home, I've been leaving in the morning carrying two meals in my purse, and returning 13 hours later with my brain completely fried. Last night, in a stress-induced fit of bad decision making, I bought three packs of sour punch straws at a gas station on my way home and ate all of them while avoiding my dishes. This morning my teeth hurt, which is perhaps unsurprising. I hate getting older. Am I going to have to actually start flossing now? Adulthood sucks.

On Thursday, I took advantage of an unexpected afternoon break to go home and catch up on several hours of sign language homework and eating something that hadn't come out of my freezer stash. Unfortunately I haven't gone to the grocery store in a while, so my refrigerator contents consisted of a couple green onions, some seriously wilted beet greens and a carton of eggs. Enter: udon noodles.

Did you know you could buy udon noodles fresh? I found them individually wrapped in 6oz packages at the asian grocery near my old apartment. In Utah!! Take that, culturally diverse cities all my friends live in!

So yes, here is my recipe for white-girl pantry udon noodle soup. This came together in 20 minutes while I was doing some laundry, and it's still good a couple days later. I even used the turnip greens! And a good day to you.

Udon noodle soup with greens and eggs
adapted from thekitchn

12oz udon noodles
6 cups vegetable broth (I use better than bouillon veggie base!)
2 star anise
~1 inch of ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch chunks
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and gently smashed
a big handful of greens, roughly chopped (I used beet greens, but I'm sure kale, spinach or what have you would also work well)
3 Tbs soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
3 green onions, thinly sliced
3 eggs

Hard boil eggs however you choose- I bring a pot of water to a boil, add the eggs then turn off the heat, cover, and wait 12 minutes. Starting with cold broth, bring broth, anise, ginger and garlic to a simmer over low heat. When it's simmering, add the noodles and greens and cook for about five minutes, until noodles are warm all the way through and greens are wilted. Remove from heat and fish out garlic, ginger and anise. Stir in soy sauce, rice vinegar and green onions, and eat with hard boiled eggs.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


I am in love with the colors of these tacos. I love them so much that I bought a red cabbage the other day expressly for this purpose... and I had a whole green one at home in the fridge. What am I going to do with a whole green cabbage? I didn't even know I liked cabbage until this recipe.

I'm also not normally that into sweet potatoes. They're too sweet. I'm a big fan of putting salt in my deserts, but I prefer not to put sweet things into my vegetables. I'm clearly a very interesting person.

Becca- why is all of this food in tupperware? My whole LIFE is tupperware. You think I have time for plates? 

Even beautiful all mixed together, hanging out on the sidewalk where I was eating dinner. Canvassing is terrible, but good food makes it better. Good food makes most things better.

The tacos are awesome. I've fed them to serious meat eaters with rave reviews. There's no cheese and I don't mind. I think they might even be healthy! They're good even if you run out of tortillas and end up dumping all the filling into a bowl. They're so good, in fact, that I've started making double batches... and it's just me eating tacos. Last time I did this, I consumed four pounds of sweet potatoes in a matter of days. That may not have been a responsible decision, but I don't care. Tacos!

This recipe is courtesy of joythebaker, who takes beautiful photos and knows what to do with bourbon. I've only done a little bit of editing... like only putting spicy things in one of the components. If I try and chili all of the parts, I get distracted and end up making fire tacos. She also uses real limes, because she's classy. I use bottled lime juice, because it's cheaper and won't go bad in my fridge. I think she'd probably forgive me.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos with Lime Cabbage Slaw
Adapted slightly from joythebaker

Corn tortillas
2 large sweet potatoes (about 2 lbs) peeled and cut into small pieces
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red cabbage, shredded 
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, seeds removed, diced very finely
1/2 a large onion, diced and divided
~2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
4 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp cumin
Red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes with 1 Tbsp olive oil, a big pinch of salt, and red pepper flakes if using. Spread on a sheet pan and bake until soft, about 40 minutes. A couple times during the baking process, take the pan out of the oven and toss the potatoes around so they cook evenly.

Meanwhile, toss the cabbage, serrano chile and lime juice together. Add ~1/3 of the onion. Since this onion is staying raw, I like to give it an extra dicing for good measure- I leave the other 2/3 in bigger pieces. Add salt to taste, and let it sit while the potatoes are cooking.

Heat some olive oil (1tsp-1Tbsp) in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, then stir in cumin and stir for juts about a minute. Add beans, turn heat down to low, and cook until heated through.

When all your components are ready, warm your tortillas in a pan over medium-low heat, or by tossing them in the oven for a couple minutes. Tortilla, potatoes, beans, cabbage. Enjoy and repeat!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

In the summer of 2010, while doing some late-night organizing for a backpacking trip in Yosemite, my friend Kimi made a frittata. It was the first one I'd ever seen made. As I recall, it had artichoke hearts and spinach and corn, and since all of the pans in Kimi's house were cast iron, she let it cook slowly on the stove instead of putting it in the oven. The next day we ate it cold from a ziploc bag, sitting at the trailhead, and I remember all five of us being vaguely surprised at just how good it was. "I think it's the corn", Kimi said.

That spring I made my first fritatta in our recently remodeled dorm kitchen. It had zucchini, onions and corn, and my roommates and I ate it sitting on the floor of our common room. It's possible, even probable, that we were dignified enough to have plates, but I prefer to remember that we ate it straight from the pan. "I love that it doesn't have cheese", Nicole said, and Kirsten looked up. "This would be phenomenal with cheese." I smiled. "I think it's the corn."

These days I make a lot of frittatas, in an 8-inch cast iron skillet that I purchased expressly for this purpose. I like a high ratio of vegetables to eggs, and I find that at this size, one frittata will make me two good meals. Mostly I improvise, using whatever vegetables are hanging around my fridge, but I come back to this combination with some regularity, because it's delicious but also because it's comfortable. Sometimes I even add cheese.

Fritatta with zucchini, corn and goat cheese
Note: This is portioned for my one-person household. It could easily be doubled and done in a larger pan

1 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise then thinly sliced
1 onion, diced
1 package frozen corn
3 eggs
2 oz goat cheese
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Heat some olive oil in an 8-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add zucchini and continue sauteing. When both the zucchini and onion are soft, turn up the heat to medium high for a couple minutes to give them some color. Transfer zucchini and onions to a bowl and return the pan to the stove.

Heat some more olive oil, then add corn. If you're like me and WAY too lazy to actually defrost the corn before using, it will take a little extra time for the corn to cook, and there will be some moisture from the defrosting. That's ok! Cook corn until thawed and a little browned.

Meanwhile, crack 3 eggs into a large bowl and whisk with a pinch of salt. When the corn is browned, dump all the vegetables into the eggs and stir to combine. Add the mixture back to the pan. Cook over low heat for a couple minutes, then blob the goat cheese on top. Put the whole pan in the oven, and bake until set.