At the risk of calling the existence of this very blog into question, there are some moments of unparalleled food pleasures that cannot be adequately described in words. This past Sunday was such a day, one so filled with wonderful meals, happy spring sights, and lively conversation that I feel I can hardly do the memories justice in simple linguistic devices. The surest way to convey the same delight and happy atmosphere would be to recreate it in more decadent lunches, suppers, and afternoon teas, of course! At the very least, I invite every reader to stop and smell the roses, as they say, and take in the littler pleasures of spring and the new season.
Sunday morning dawned with more elegance than spring usually affords: birds chirping, sunlight filtering in through the curtains, cheerful cries from young children on their way to the still on-going cherry blossom festival. Even after a rather sleepless night (coffee after dinner–never again), I awoke bright-eyed and positively giddy with excitement for the afternoon lunch I had with the same wonderful two ladies of Ichi Hana flowershop where I bought the first of the season’s sakura. And since there’s nothing more lovely than showing gratitude through baked goods, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to whip up a batch of fresh cream scones to take with. Continue reading
I’ve long been itching to try a matcha-flavored confection, not only because I’m exceedingly fond of the tea itself, but also due to the fact that I currently live in the very heartland of green tea and tea-flavored sweets. Of all the various possibilities of matcha treats–cookies, tiramisu, puddings, trifles, to name a few–I settled on a more simple but classic method: shortbread. It had been far too long since I’d made a batch of the crisp, flaky, buttery cookies, and having prized upon Clotilde’s own especially tempting sugar-rolled recipe over at C&Z, the call of the tea leaves summoned me to my kitchen, irregardless of the fact that it was already past nine on a Monday night.
It may sound an odd confession, coming from a lover of all things sweet at breakfast-time, but amidst all my plates of toast with jams, various incarnations of fruit and oatmeal, egg-dishes, muffins, and scones, pancakes have never been a dish of preference. Perhaps the idea of cleaning more than one bowl after eating, or having an excess of stacked flapjacks to do away with (meaning eventually eating them all myself…) were the culprits of reasoning behind my long avoidance of such breakfast fare. But the sense of celebration in the air as the entire community waited excitedly for the bloom of the cherry blossom, as well as a sense of festivity for the Easter holiday, were so pervading and the Saturday sunshine so fine (never mind that is was 43 degrees), I declared a special occasion in the kitchen and made some dazzlingly decadent lemon-ricotta pancakes.
Well, lemon-ricotta almost pancakes…More like full-bodied crepes, or a very skinny pancakes. Due to the fact that I had to clear out the entire refrigerator in preparation for the delivery of a new one (along with the new oven!!) on Saturday prompted me to do some creative thinking and cooking on my feet that day. And lemon-ricotta pancakes seemed the perfect way to use up a meager half of an already-zested lemon, as well as the last of the homemade ricotta I made earlier in the week (recipe below), as part of my no-oven baking fix. Although I intended to follow the recipe of my inspiration for all things cooking, Smitten Kitchen, I had only one of the four called-for eggs, so I halved the recipe and decided to make a thinner batter with milk instead.
When life hands you lemons…
I have a newfound appreciation for the old adage on lemons. With the less-than-desirable circumstances I found myself in over the weekend, in my case a defunct oven and a Saturday full of rain and gloom, it seemed decidedly defeatist to take it lying down (albeit on the couch cradling a mug of tea and the delightful French Women Don’t Get Fat), so I made my own sunshine in the kitchen: tangy and sweet lemon curd! And not just the usual citrus affair, but three exceedingly delicious versions, all with a simple last-minute addition. Very much taken by Clotilde’s lemon and almond curd, from the lovely Chocolate & Zucchini, in similar form I added ground almonds to the finished curd for an even creamier spread, and also tried stirring in a handful of unsweetened coconut flakes for another variation. Obligated to taste-test the results, like any good chef, the pale yellow lemon-almond curd was by far my standout favorite among the three, truly a match made in lemon curd heaven.
With a preliminary taste of the creamy spread on an english muffin half, I was so arrested by the tang and zest alighting on my tongue that I wondered if perhaps I’ve let winter linger a little too long in my kitchen. It was a good thing the lemons came three-to-a-bag, because now I can’t resist dashing off a fresh squeeze on everything–fried eggs, sauteed spinach, lentils, a bowl of blueberries and yogurt. In fact, my readiness to apply lemon without reserve to any and all things inspired a lighter take on eggs benedict for an easy weekend or weekday breakfast:
Sunday afternoon: Earl Grey tea, rich with a splash of milk, a spoonful of sugar, and cream–my most luxurious cuppa yet!
Despite the honest resemblance, this deceptive cup is actually a creamy, tea-infused milk jelly. It might seem slightly off-putting, I know, to read “milk tea” and “jelly” in the same sentence, let alone envision them as cohorts in the company of dessert. But despite any reservations I may have had previously about adding gelatin to such a familiar thing as brewed tea, it was only for lack of acquaintance with such a confection, because the little cup I had for an afternoon pick-me-up completely exceeded my expectations and tickled my senses in a most pleasant, beguiling way. It certainly looked and smelled like a cup of sweet milk tea, yet when I dipped my spoon in, the surface broke with surprising resistance, like scooping sorbet. It was like having the most intensely flavorful tea pudding–I could taste the sweet bergamot, actually bite into the richness of the milk and cream.
I first came across such a dessert in the repetoire of Japanese sweets, where jellies are often served with fresh fruit, sweet rice dumplings, or even scoops of ice cream. On its own, I don’t know that gelatin will ever have a fighting chance as a stand-alone treat for me, but in its incarnation as milk jelly, it allowed me the unique pleasure of enjoying a fragrant tea with the added feeling of indulgence any cold-cream treat usually invokes (and with hardly any pangs of conscience!). Continue reading