These appetizers I made back in September…of last year (!)…after finding tiny eggplant at the Farmers’ Market in Wauwatosa. Inspiration comes from one of my newer cookbooks, Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi. It’s a pretty rad book – all vegetarian – … Continue reading
Chioggia Beets from the garden that did indeed, make me say “yum”.
It’s been weeks and weeks since I’ve baked. One needs a good reason to turn on the oven on a Wisconsin August day. At $2.50 a quart, these apricots were the steal of the farmers’ market. I don’t remember the … Continue reading
I’m feeling particularly nostalgic today, because 7 years ago this month I started the best job of my life. It is where I met my Minneapolis family – my sure to be life long friends – and where I lost … Continue reading
With the arrival and departure of yet another holiday/birthday season, my cookbook-only-bookshelves have gained a few more inhabitants. From hip and trendy, to classic and traditional, to quirky and alternative – this collection cannot be tamed and I won’t stop until all the shelves are full. That’s right, ALL the shelves.
There’s only one problem. While my smashing ensemble of gastronomic instruction may have mastered, “sit there and look pretty”, is terrifyingly underutilized for the one activity on which I most pride myself. This is a disservice to all cookbook writers…especially to the ones whose books I really only look at for the pictures. Sorry.
The culprit: the Internet!
With a minimum or 40 cookbooks sitting just feet from my kitchen, I am constantly consulting the Internet for recipes. Let’s just quickly squash any sentiment of hypocrisy here: I have a food blog. I like writing for it and sharing my cooking endeavors and recipes. I like to see what other people are cooking and try their recipes as well. I have no intention to stop looking at food blogs completely, I just think it’s a waste to let beautiful cookbooks sit there and stay clean and pristine all their life, hiding their secrets. When I eventually pass them on to someone else, how will they know which recipes were my favorite if the pages have no grease marks, no coffee stains, no proof I ever touched them?
This leads me to this year’s resolution: Use my cookbooks!
Cookbooks > the Internet. I’m going to crack those spines, spill juice (wine) on the pages, and dog-ear all desserts that call for cream.
I can safely say I come from a family of excellent cooks, and each relative carries a special piece of the food puzzle that makes us all care deeply about the food we eat. Talk of Grandma’s famous spaghetti, Papa’s brandy decanter, or eating pogacha for Christmas Eve still unite my siblings and I stronger than most memories we’ve shared. And there have been a few. Every year I am reminded of the importance of family tradition when we dig ferociously into the Savoray from Aunt Kathy (a recipe so secret I don’t even know how to spell it!), the homemade chocolates from Aunt Bee, the granola from Uncle Bub, and the pecan pie from Aunt Margie. I’m sure Uncle Ed would contribute a Manhattan recipe if he was forced to, and if Uncle Mike could cook, I’ll bet he’d make a mean stew. Or maybe he’d just knit us all sweaters.
Just before Thanksgiving my aunt showed me decades-old recipes written in my Nana’s handwriting on paper older than the Titanic (probably not true, I just really like hyperbole). Seeing the papers strewn about – real property of a grandmother I never knew – readjusted my cookin frame of mind, and made me think deeply about the kind of cook I want to be. And that cook uses books!
Less than a month ago I was taken to a cookbook store in New York City run by a woman who used to correspond with M.F.K. Fisher – one of my beloved cooking icons. Her collection was outstanding. Because I am a junkie for vintage kitchen anything, I wanted everything but settled for nothing. My sister says my apartment looks like a thrift shop – which is to many degrees true – so I’m trying to limit my visits to St. Vincent de Paul and enjoy what I’ve got already. It didn’t matter though, that I came out with nothing, because the visit to that store was a wake up call to the beauty of the history of cooking, and the way it is spread from generation to generation. We can’t all learn the family recipes directly from relatives, and while the Internet offers abundant and frankly amazing insight to creative cooking, you can’t trace your grandmother’s buttery fingerprints on a website.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going back to the books.
As you can see by my recent activity, pie making has taken a new priority in my life. I’m still working on making that perfect crust, so when a friend asked me to bake him a pecan pie for his … Continue reading
Fall has been kind to me this year. The trees were gorgeous and seemed to change slowly, rain did not dampen my adventures, and my garden continues to yield many goodies. Two weeks ago I dug up the rest of … Continue reading
Good old fashioned apple pie. It’s never been something that has interested me much to make myself. When I bake, I like to “be extreme” in my choices, meaning making something unusual or complicated or strange. This often results in … Continue reading
Before Autumn disappeared forever, I swore I would take advantage of a morning in the park. Orton Park, to be specific. Everyone talks about James Madison Park as the place to be, but I have to disagree. Actually, you can … Continue reading
Epelgaarden is, in their words, “Da Apple Orchard vit da Norvegian Exposure.” Located about 20 minutes from downtown Madison, this apple orchard gives you the deep in the country feel while still be close to town. Forgetting of course, that … Continue reading
See that pumpkin down there? That pumpkin deserves a blue ribbon. Dark orange flesh, sweet without seasoning, perfect as is. It’s just too bad I don’t remember the variety it’s called. The farmer who sold it to me told me … Continue reading
The items in my kitchen are my special collection. From the wooden spoons to the China from my Aunt Margie, they are all unique treasures to me. I’ve been in this new apartment almost two months now, and it feels … Continue reading
Recently, our garden has become more of a tomato cemetery than anything else. Heavy tomato plants split at the roots and fall every which way, spilling both ripe and unripe fruit all over the soil. At this point, I’m not … Continue reading
I think it is fair to say, that I have grown the world’s coolest looking tomato. Ok, maybe that’s not completely true. This particular tomato plant was bought from the co-op, but I planted it! The variety is “Pineapple”, and … Continue reading
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I volunteered with Slow Food at the Kickapoo Country Fair back in July. The fair was held on the grounds of Organic Valley Farm in LaFarge, Wisconsin, which is located in the gorgeous Kickapoo … Continue reading
What do you do when you don’t know what to eat? Most likely, you stare aimlessly into the fridge and shoot a despairing look at whatever leftovers grace (or haunt) your shelves. In my case, it was couscous. However, this … Continue reading
A few weeks ago, I was helping to lead a group of youngsters in a cooking and nutrition class at a phenomenal organization in Milwaukee called Arts At Large. That week: IT. WAS. HOT. Between working in the garden, riding … Continue reading
Every summer for the last eleven years, I’ve been going down to New Madrid, Missouri to roof and paint houses with a small volunteer group that calls itself the Southern Missouri Project (SoMoPro for short). Along with myself, there are … Continue reading
Well, we finally got some rain. In fact, it’s still drizzling out right now. Very exciting. The ground is so dry that they are even banning recreation sports leagues from playing in all Madison parks. Not ideal. Contrary to what I … Continue reading
I’m going to combine my last two market trips into this post. The first, as you’ll be able to tell from the sight of strawberries, was about a month ago. Those strawberries, along with these fresh sugar snap peas, were … Continue reading
Sometimes, there’s just nothing better than roasting squash. Even if it’s the middle of the summer and your apartment has no A/C. I’m going to make a chilled butternut squash soup… And no one’s going to stop me. Crank that … Continue reading
This is Andrew and my third year with our community garden plot here in Madison. It’s most certainly my favorite nook of the city, surrounded by black walnut trees that used to serve as a carriage way back in the … Continue reading
Berry season is never long enough for me. Fortunately, nature has different berries ripen at different times of the summer, meaning as soon as you’ve overdosed on one kind, another one is just around the corner. Wild black raspberries, also … Continue reading
Last weekend, my older brother Simon got married to the lovely Rachel Smith. The wedding was gorgeous, as expected, but more fun than I ever could have imagined. But really, how can a Milwaukee wedding not be amazing? I am … Continue reading
It’s a sunny Saturday morning and you find yourself in Madison, Wisconsin. Whether this is by choice or due to serendipitous circumstance, we’re glad you’re here. Madison is truly a wonderful place to spend a summer day; in fact, a … Continue reading
Rhubarb season is still in full swing, but there is hardly enough time (and butter in the world) to make all the treats on my wish list. Spring and summer harvests are like Christmas, I wait all year for the … Continue reading
My mom and I were doing some hard core weeding the other day in the backyard. Luckily there was avocado in the house to reward us for our hard work. My dad bakes all the bread that is so ferociously … Continue reading
This post got lost long ago in the midst of traveling, moving and general brevity of hours in the day. Back in early spring, Alsace was literally overflowing with asparagus, both green and white. However, white asparagus is really their … Continue reading
“Claire tastes like sugar.” This is the phrase that one of my closest friends used to describe me in college, a period of time where there was a direct correlation between exams and the production of baked goods in our … Continue reading
Well, that’s it. I’ve finished my stint in Strasbourg and have said my goodbyes to Alsace, France. It has been a truly magical period of time, and although I was only gone about 8 months, it seemed much longer. Once … Continue reading
My teaching contract is now finished, and my time in France – as well as my visa – will soon expire. The end is always bittersweet. Now that my friends and I are free all the time, as opposed to … Continue reading
The Friday morning breakfast tradition has been strong this year. As three language assistants representing three countries, we frequented a cafe in town that has a display of gorgeous cakes and tarts. We rarely ordered them, but it made eating … Continue reading
Southern France. The phrase alone can evoke vivid imagery: tables heaped with vegetables and freshly caught fish, scenes from The French Connection, the salty sea of Cassis, and the yellows and pinks of the buildings that have been baked pale … Continue reading
Saturday again. Time to hop on the Peugeot cruiser and fill my basket with veggies. With the sun shining and some newly acquired pocket money, I was off. What, oh what, will I find today? I started with what I … Continue reading
On Sunday evenings here in Strasbourg, I meet my friends out for a beer or three. Last night, during the course our conversations several key words came up which sparked the memories shown here in photographs. Camping, blueberries, tents, pancakes, … Continue reading
Chocolate Pasta. Could it be? Yes, it could…and it was. I’m going to tell you a story. I remember a night not too many years ago, sitting at Ma Fischer’s – a 24-hour diner in Milwaukee – with some of … Continue reading
The Wednesday market – rarely am I able to visit this joyous place. Situated just next to the greatest boulangerie of all time – Au Pain de Mon Grand-Père – in Place de Zurich, this market is just down the … Continue reading
This post is dedicated to the lovely Laurie Boulard, who inspired the realization of these macarons. I’m just going to point out right now that I’m not misspelling the word “macaron”. I’m simply choosing to use the French spelling, so … Continue reading
For those of you who do not know Ron Swanson…you should. Start watching the sitcom Parks & Recreation immediately. Those of you who watch the show will understand this reference. For those of you who do not, Ron Swanson, a … Continue reading
The Farmers’ Market. This is the first of many Farmers’ Market posts to come. After a successful shopping trip, I am always excited about my purchases. I lay them out like Halloween candy and admire them. Loving food photography, I … Continue reading
As a general life rule, I try not to judge people. However, when someone looks me straight in the eye and tells me, “I don’t like Nutella”, I rebuke them for their foolishness. My gut reaction is a violent lurch … Continue reading
When I was a child, beets were apparently my favorite food. When I entered that age of childhood where I felt socially driven to hate most vegetables, I stopped eating beets. Roughly 15 years passed without the entry of one … Continue reading
If you can’t open your heart…open your stomach. In one hour, it will officially be Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday! This should not come as a surprise to anyone, but this is one of my favorite days of the year. I … Continue reading
When I set out to make dinner, I rarely know what the final product will be. I usually start with a few key ingredients, set them out on the table, and then stare at them. Fortunate victims – the transformation … Continue reading
A pomelo (also spelled pommelo) is quite an impressive fruit. Native to Southeast Asia and ancestors to our friend the grapefruit, I first discovered their existence thanks to a wine I stumbled across years ago in Minneapolis. Pomelo, a Sauvignon … Continue reading
Color contrasts. Food art. What better medium than soup to show off your artistic skills in the kitchen. With inspiration from my lovely companion, EdibleMadison magazine, Curried Sweet Potato Bisque was on the menu last night. Upon returning home from my … Continue reading
While I may never become the famous chef I always dreamed I’d be, I can still cook, and by George if I’m not pretty good at it. I’m Claire - Eclaire to some – and I’m an extremely talented eater. To those who know me, I might be pictured as a straight up sugar cube. French pâtisseries are my utter weakness, followed closely by tomatoes and all things dairy. Lucky for me, I live in France, but for only a petit moment. Come May it’s back to the great state of Wisconsin, where gardens need tending, Old-Fashioneds need drinking, and kitchens need Claire…ing. Pleased to have you along for the ride.