Prune, Oat, and Spelt Scones


About this time last year, I realized that I didn’t like my job. At all. I liked the people I worked with; by all accounts, my managers were pleased with my work; and I certainly couldn’t deny that being surrounded by so many amazing cheeses, most of which would have been out of my reach otherwise, was a rare privilege. But I did not like my job. I hated the feeling of dread that churned in my stomach when my alarm clock went off in the morning and never really went away, even when I wasn’t working. I hated that I let my feelings about work creep into my personal life and affect the way I treated others. I especially hated that my forearms were constantly covered in mite bites (which is  a real thing that happens when you spend a lot of time around cheese). But at the same time, I knew I couldn’t up and quit, not with the specter of the holidays looming large. I mean, yes—I could have walked out at any time, but as I said, I liked my coworkers, and I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving them in the lurch during the busiest time of year. So I decided to persevere through Christmas, and then find a way out.

To help me cope with the three months I’d assigned myself, I knew I’d need a bit of a boost. I’d been in the habit of listening to some pretty depressing music during my daily commute, which certainly wasn’t helping matters, so I decided that step one was to put together a playlist that would put a bit more pep in my step. I present that playlist, titled “You Got This,” to you now: read ahead, and judge me all you want.

  1. Hold On,” by Alabama Shakes. For obvious reasons.
  2. Got My Mind Set On You,” by George Harrison. Just picturing Mr. Harrison twirling around, surrounded by dancing furniture and taxidermy, was usually enough to make me smile a little.
  3. Dancing in the Dark,” by Bruce Springsteen. “I ain’t nothing but tired, man, I’m just tired and bored with myself.” That just about summed it up.
  4. Hold On Tight,” by ELO. Also for obvious reasons.
  5. Roar,” by Katy Perry. Yes, bubblegum pop. Sometimes it’s necessary.
  6. Brave,” by Sara Bareilles. “But wait,” you say. “Isn’t that the exact same song as ‘Roar’?” To which I respond, “Oh noooo, two female pop singers put out affirming, encouraging songs at roughly the same time, which kind of sound alike, both of which are about tapping into your inner strength? Clearly that’s pop music’s biggest problem.”
  7. Slammin’,” by Huey Lewis. The song so funky, it only needs one word.
  8. Take it to the Limit,” by The Eagles. For a little taste of the dramatic.
  9. Here I Go Again,” by Whitesnake. I was kind of saving that one for when I finally quit.
  10. My Way,” by Frank Sinatra. Another taste of the dramatic.
  11. I Won’t Back Down,” by Tom Petty. This has been my go-to “I need a boost” song for years.
  12. I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” by The Darkness. I have never successfully listened to this song without laughing out loud.

I didn’t expect I’d need this playlist again so soon, but for the past few weeks it’s been on steady rotation once more. Things are completely up in the air in my current job, and I’m looking at the possibility of yet another big change in the near future. I’m feeling pretty calm about it, due in no small part to this excellent soundtrack, no doubt. But baking also helps. What else am I supposed to do, after all, when I don’t really know if I’m losing my job or not, but have been told to camp out at home until further notice? What on earth could possibly be a better use of some unexpected time in the apartment, especially now that it’s finally baking weather again?

By the way, I’m fully aware of how this recipe title sounds. I can just imagine the long-distance side-eye I’m getting from my brother-in-law at this very moment. Would it make you feel better if I called them plum scones? That’s all prunes are, after all, and these are reconstituted in hot Earl Grey tea before they go into the dough. And as far as spelt goes: it smells like graham crackers and tastes like toasted nuts. Get outta here with your teasing.


Putting together the dough for these scones was a little time-consuming. Much like biscuit dough, cold butter has to be cut into the flour mixture, which I still insist on doing by hand most of the time. It’s not difficult by any means, but it is slow going and more than a little messy (especially when your kitchen is a little warm and the butter wants to melt in your fingers). Then, once you have your dough ready, you spread it out in a parchment-lined baking pan, tear the tea-soaked prunes apart with your fingers and press the pieces into the dough.  Last but not least, the syrupy tea left over from soaking the prunes goes on top of the dough. And then, the dough sits in the fridge overnight. All that work, and you’re still hours away from a fresh, warm scone.

But in the morning, things get magical. You pop the dough out of the pan, parchment and all, and portion it into individual scones. And then– and this is my favorite part of the recipe– you bake only the number of scones you want, wrap the rest tightly, and freeze them for baking up later. So it’s a lot of work in the beginning, but then, any time you want a fresh, warm scone, all you have to do is preheat the oven and pop one in, straight from the freezer. Think of all the up-front work as a gift to your future self.


Another advantage of baking just a few scones at a time: I very nearly burned the first few I made, which would have been pretty sad if I didn’t have several more in the freezer to help me tweak the bake time and temperature.


I hope to be back in a happy work groove before too long, but in the meantime, the kitchen groove will do just fine.

Prune, Oat, and Spelt Scones
adapted very slightly from the Violet Bakery Cookbook

4 Tablespoons brewed Earl Grey tea
10.5 oz pitted prunes
2 cups rolled oats, plus extra for sprinkling on top
3 cups whole grain spelt flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/3 cups cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
4 Tablespoons honey
1 cup plain yogurt

Butter an 8×12″ baking pan and line with parchment paper. Put the prunes in a small bowl and pour the hot tea on top. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, spelt flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and whisk together. Using your hands, two forks, or a pastry cutter, cut the cubes of butter into the dry ingredients. Mix together until it resembles coarse meal.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, honey, and yogurt. Pour this into the flour-butter mixture and mix gently until just combined. Pour the mixture (it will be quite wet) into the prepared baking pan and spread it evenly. Tear the soaked prunes into small pieces and press into the dough, then pour the remaining liquid from the soaked prunes over the top. Tilt the pan to encourage the liquid to spread evenly. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours, or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pop the chilled dough out of the pan and cut into 12 triangles. (Cut the block in half lengthwise, cut each half into three squares, and cut each square diagonally into two triangles.) Place the scones you want to bake on the lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart, and sprinkle with rolled oats. Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden. Wrap the remaining scones individually in plastic wrap and freeze until ready to bake.

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Late Summer Update! Alternate Title: The Blog’s Still Alive!

Hello… Is this thing on?

After my customary summer break—which, in this case, actually started in early spring—it feels good to be back on the blog. I think it’s wise to step away and regroup every once in a while, and it has felt especially necessary as my daily relationship with food has changed in the months since I left the industry. Going from a workplace where everyone is laser-focused on food to a workplace where no one is has been both liberating (I could crack open a Diet Coke and a packet of string cheese right now and no one would notice or care!) and disorienting (why has no one here asked me about the difference between Brie and Camembert?) Being removed from the food-centric world means that I no longer come up with five or six blog post ideas on a daily basis, but on the other hand, I also no longer feel like I really have to. I’m looking forward to taking a more casual approach to the blog while I navigate the new world in which I find myself.

But before we even get back to the food, let’s have our annual post-summer catch-up!

Back in the spring, before it really began to warm up, I got super excited about preserving and pickling. In the shop where I worked most recently, we sold housemade preserved lemons by the piece, and I loved it when someone would ask me for one, because it meant I got to open the jar and breathe in their heavenly scent. I heard that they were really easy to make, too, so I decided to try it myself. I used the recipe from Jerusalem, which, up to that point, I had mainly been using as cookbook eye candy.

I’m happy to tell you that making these was indeed easy and delightful– at least until a month had passed and it was time to check on their progress. I had not taken care to make sure that everything was completely submerged in liquid and capped with olive oil, and my beautiful lemons were covered in a fuzzy layer of mold. I’m not sure I’ve ever been quite so distraught over such an inexpensive mistake (because, really, I was out a few lemons and a few tablespoons of salt, and not much else except a month of waiting patiently)– but I made a second batch, which turned out great. Lesson learned.


I had more immediate success with pickled green beans. These things are so ridiculously good in a Bloody Mary, I can’t even stand it. The pickling solution is crammed with dill, peppercorns, coriander seeds… and garlic. There is always garlic.


In other kitchen project news, I finally decided to try my hand at cheesemaking again. My last attempt didn’t go so well, and I had been shy about giving it another shot– even though I had a brand new, never used mozzarella making kit collecting dust in the pantry. Well, no more! It turns out mozzarella is super, super easy to make, and I was so excited about my success that I made it about four weekends in a row. There’s just something so satisfying about seeing the curds pull together in the pot like this.

















I didn’t take a lot of care to get a good photo of the finished product, but here you go anyway. You can’t just show a pot of curds and expect people to believe you managed to turn them into cheese without photographic proof, right?


In late May, having lived in the apartment for nine months already, my housemates and I finally threw a housewarming party. (Who knew a bunch of professional musicians’ schedules would be difficult to coordinate?) Our chosen date also fell just before Corey and Sam’s birthdays, so we did the logical thing– we offered four cakes. They were all delicious, but Sam’s was the showstopper.

















That’s a rosemary brown butter cornmeal cake with honey buttercream, by the way. Swoon.

My birthday fell shortly after that, and even though Alex was out of town (waaaaaah), I still celebrated myself thoroughly. I figured I’d had my fill of cake by that point, but since no birthday is complete without dessert, I made a crumble with some spectacular pluots. And, because Deb Perelman said I should, I ate it for breakfast. (Even though the picture shows ice cream, I topped my breakfast portion with plain yogurt, I swear.)


And, ok, I guess I hadn’t totally had my fill of cake, because I did manage to find myself a giant cupcake in the course of the day.

















I decided to sign up for a CSA share again this year. I’ve written before about the challenges of cooking with a farm share– you have to be creative and flexible in order to get the most out of each week’s haul, and I am not always completely successful. However, it is pretty glorious to get home and lay out the bounty every week.


Obviously, I made several bunches of garlic scape pesto early in the season. This batch also included the greens from a bunch of radishes. I was pretty proud of that one.


There has also been Caprese salad. Lots of Caprese salad. It’s not only been a go-to dinner side this summer…


It’s also been a pretty excellent desk lunch. My secret: take the tomatoes to work whole, with a few basil leaves in the same container; bring a tub of burrata; and dress everything with the stash of olive oil, balsamic, and s&p I keep in my desk drawer. YES, I am that person who stashes cooking basics along with her pens and paper clips.


Speaking of work, I went to England for about a week in July for a bit of job training. I always assumed that if I was going to travel to Europe for work, it would have had something to do with cheese, but I assumed wrong. Of course I missed Alex and Moose while I was away, but it was also a thrill to travel internationally on my own. After sleeping through all the dinner options on the flight to Heathrow and then spending about three hours on a bus, slowly making my way to Cambridge, I was completely famished. I made a beeline for the nearest pub and ordered pretty much the first thing my eyes focused on: piri-piri chicken. Apparently this is quite the thing in the UK, and it was an excellent first meal of the trip. Those sauces on the left of the board? Seriously spicy. Like, one of them made my ears ring. I loved it.


Our UK office is located in a settlement called Cambourne, less than 10 miles outside Cambridge. The hotel where I stayed was steps away from the office, and I had been warned that there wasn’t much else in Cambourne beyond that, and pretty much zero in the way of entertainment. I was not bothered by this. After I wrapped up my office work, I’d head back to the hotel, read until I got hungry, then have dinner and a drink in the hotel restaurant (whose food I’d also been warned about, but hey, I didn’t have to cook it or pay for it, so I was perfectly content), and wrap up the evening with a warm bath in the giant tub in my bathroom. That’s kind of all I needed for a week. Oh, and there was a grocery store just beyond the hotel, and come on– what more entertainment do you need than wandering around an English supermarket??

















I had pretty severe dairy envy when I saw how much high-quality butter they had, and for how little money. Even with the exchange rate factored in, those are some good deals.

(Obviously I did more sightseeing than just a jaunt through the grocery, but we’d be here all day if I put up the non-food pictures.)

When I got back, Alex and I took a vacation– the first time we’ve had more than a couple days off together since our honeymoon. And, we decided to spend our vacation in one of America’s most beloved destinations– BOSTON!! In all seriousness, we considered going someplace we’d never been, but in the end, we decided we’d have just as much fun enjoying our own city, sleeping in our own bed, cooking most of our own meals, and, of course, spending the week with our dog. It was an excellent decision.

First stop on vacation? Kupel’s Bakery, of course. This is what dreams are made of. The Coolidge Corner: an everything bagel stuffed with smoked salmon, chive cream cheese, and fresh tomatoes. Side of hot black coffee for me, even in the summer. All the tables were full that morning, so we just walked to a nearby park and had a picnic breakfast.


After this heavenly carbo-load, we kayaked the Charles River. Lesson learned: doubles kayaking is much harder than singles. Second lesson learned: Sitting in the back of the kayak requires muscle. Possibly a little more muscle than I actually have. Hellooooo, sore shoulders.


Complaints aside, though, there’s no feeling quite like the feeling you get when you’re on the Charles and the skyline comes into view.

















We also thoroughly enjoyed the chance to just putter around the house together, which rarely happens in normal life. We worked on Alex’s garden…


I baked a cake…


And we had lunches that looked like this. SUMMER.

















Other vacation activities included Alex’s first Red Sox game, two excursions to the Museum of Fine Arts, lots of movies, time with friends, and lots of grilling and cocktail making. It was a week very, very well spent.

And that pretty much catches us up! I’m getting into the kitchen tomorrow morning– it’s finally getting cool enough to bake things without sorely regretting it– so perhaps I will be back in short order. Fingers crossed.

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Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Parmesan, Leek, and Lemon


Every few months, I think seriously about cancelling my food magazine subscriptions. I still get a little jolt every time I open the mailbox and see those beautiful glossy covers, but lately, I find that I have less and less motivation to move beyond the covers and read the contents. Plenty has been said about the current state of food media– the big publications are all producing the same content; they’re all starry-eyed over celebrity chefs; they all cater almost exclusively to wealthy-ish mostly-white young people in Brooklyn, San Francisco, or other appropriately hip locations; and so on. I certainly share some of those objections. I get annoyed when Bon Appetit gets obsessed with some new ingredient– usually an ingredient that isn’t new at all, but is only recently trendy, like gochujang, sunny-side-up eggs, avocado toast, etc. I don’t particularly enjoy extended raves about simple dishes that everyone knows, like Cacio e Pepe, which must be one of the oldest and simplest pasta preparations in the Western Hemisphere, but which BA has co-opted into a revolutionary new technique by verbing its name (real email subject lines: “Let’s Cacio e Pepe Everything,” and “How Did We Wait This Long to Cacio e Pepe Our Potatoes?” How indeed– it’s butter, cheese, and pepper; end of ingredient list). I also didn’t find it particularly cute that Food and Wine ran a monthly feature for at least a year in which celebrity chefs taught F&W’s editor-in-chief the dos and don’ts of basic cooking—was no one else bothered by the fact that the person at the helm of one of the biggest food publications doesn’t know how to cook??

But despite all my complaining, I have not yet cancelled. I haven’t even unsubscribed from the emails with their annoying subject lines (“Yes, You Should Be Totally Obsessed with Buckwheat”). And there are two primary reasons for that: 1) A subscription is so cheap that, if I think I’ll pick up more than one issue per year at a newsstand, it makes better financial sense just to subscribe; and 2) I’ve found quite a few really good recipes tucked in those pages. Yes, there are some months when I flip through the issue and toss it directly in the recycling bin, but other issues end up dog-eared and food-spattered in no time flat. I figure it’s worth wading through the duds in order to find the gems.

One recent gem: this pasta, a simple, fast-cooking dinner that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Except for a bag of brussels sprouts and a single leek, the dish is composed entirely of kitchen staples, yet it tastes like something one of Bon Appetit’s beloved celebrity chefs would probably put on a dinner menu for $18. (It also calls for white wine—that totally counts as a kitchen staple in my house.)

Aside from a little bit of chopping, this also comes together in no time. All you have to do is slice a leek, zest a lemon, grate some cheese, and quarter some brussels sprouts (peeling off a few outer leaves from each sprout first, so they can go in the pasta later). The cooking process is equally un-fussy; aside from the pasta, everything cooks in one skillet, and it doesn’t require that much attention—the whole point of the brussels sprouts is to let them get deliciously charred.


The finished dish is just about perfect: tender pasta coated with a lemony, cheesy sauce, with bitter, vegetal crunch from the sprouts and leeks. I really love that you get two totally different textures from the sprouts– the quarters are crunchy from the char on the outside but tender in the middle, while the loose leaves are fully soft and tender. Plus, the whole thing is just great to look at:


And, even though it’s very food-maggy of me to close this out by suggesting that you #putaneggonit… it must be mentioned that any leftover pasta can be brought to fabulous new life by frying a slice or two of bacon, rewarming the pasta in a bit of the bacon fat, and topping with the crumbled bacon and a poached or fried egg. Some trends are trendy for good reason, it turns out.


Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Parmesan, Leek, and Lemon
from Bon Appetit

1 pound brussels sprouts
1 large leek, white and pale-green parts only
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
zest of 1 lemon, either cut into very thin strips or grated
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup dry white wine
12 ounces pasta of your choice
2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving
wedges of zested lemon, for serving

Trim brussels sprouts with a paring knife, then snap off several dark outer leaves from each; set aside. Cut sprouts into quarters (or halve if very small). Starting at root end, cut half of leek into ½”-thick rings, then chop remaining leek.

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium. Add brussels sprout quarters and leek rings; season with salt and pepper and cook undisturbed until deep golden brown, about 3 minutes. Toss and continue to cook, tossing occasionally, until browned all over and tender, about 3 minutes more. Transfer to a medium bowl.

Set aside a little lemon zest for serving and add remaining zest along with chopped leek, garlic, and 2 Tbsp. oil to same skillet. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until garlic and leek are golden, about 4 minutes. Add wine, bring to a boil, and cook until skillet is almost dry, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until very al dente, 8–10 minutes; drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Add pasta to skillet along with reserved brussels sprout leaves, brussels sprout quarters and leek rings, and ½ cup pasta cooking liquid; toss to combine. Bring to a simmer, then gradually add 2 oz. Parmesan, tossing constantly. Cook, shaking skillet to toss pasta and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until pasta is al dente and sauce is thickened and glossy, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide pasta among bowls. Top with more Parmesan and pepper and reserved lemon zest; drizzle with oil. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over

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Black Pepper and Pistachio Granola


I have never been a sports person. Despite having spent the first twenty-two years of my life in the Deep South, where football fandom is stitched into the very fabric of our existence, I could never convince myself to care much about it. I frankly resented being forced to play volleyball and soccer in middle school P.E., and I joined marching band in high school at least partly because it would get me out of taking any further gym classes. I did, however, spend a couple years in my early teens playing basketball (poorly) in a church league, and for that reason, I do get a moderate amount of enjoyment from watching basketball (go Celtics). But this lukewarm enthusiasm is about all I can muster; you’ll certainly never see me filling out an NCAA tournament bracket.

But, if you take the principle of the bracket and apply it to something that I do care about–like cookbooks–then I am ALL IN. I first learned about The Piglet, Food 52’s annual cookbook showdown, after it wrapped up last year, so this is the first time I’ve been able to follow along as it’s happening. At the time of this writing, two reviews have been posted, and I’m disappointed to say that I called the result incorrectly both times. But that’s the beauty of a cookbook tournament– it’s all in good fun, and practically nothing is at stake.

While I was preparing to fill in my bracket (yes, seriously), I did my best to get my hands on as many of the books as I could. Because the books in competition were all published within the last year, many of them weren’t available from the library, either because the library doesn’t yet own them or because there were several people already in line to borrow them. Bookstore visits and Google book previews did the trick in most cases, but I was lucky enough to snag a couple of titles from the library, including Modern Jewish Cooking, by Leah Koenig.

This is another great thing about The Piglet: it encourages me to check out books that were not even remotely on my radar. To my knowledge, I had never even seen this book before this year’s Piglet lineup was announced, and even if I had, I probably wouldn’t have reached for it. I know next to nothing about Jewish food beyond standard deli/bakery fare, and while I do love that– the Coolidge Corner sandwich at Kupel’s is one of my very favorite Boston breakfasts– I have never felt compelled to learn any more about Jewish cooking. But that all changed once I started flipping through this book.

There are many reasons to love a cookbook, and perhaps controversially, I don’t think usefulness necessarily has to be one of them. An example: I love Heritage by Sean Brock, even though the only thing I’ve cooked from it is grits– which, arguably, you don’t need to purchase a cookbook to learn how to do. But even though the rest of the recipes seem out of my reach, I am smitten by the book, partly because of the writing, partly because of the aesthetic, partly because of the author’s deep commitment to Southern foodways. But, that being said, it is magical when you come across a book that sings to you, recipes and all, and Modern Jewish Cooking did that. Every turn of the page showed me something else I knew I had to cook, from inventive breakfast dishes to comforting soups to why-didn’t-I-think-of-that vegetable preparations. I’d only had the book in my possession for a few days before I found myself cooking from it, and then reaching for it again and again.

I knew as soon as I saw this granola recipe that it was going to become a staple for me. Granola is so easy to make and customize that another granola recipe might seem unnecessary, but this one stole my heart with its unexpected use of cayenne and black pepper. It provides a gentle warmth that never quite crosses the line into spicy, making the granola a perfect match for a cool dollop of yogurt. It’s also stuffed with pistachios, almonds, and walnuts, lots of dried fruit, and a hit of maple for good measure.
















I accidentally let mine bake for a little longer than I meant to, and I was worried at first that I had ruined the whole batch. But once I picked out the extra-blackened nuts and trimmed off the burnt bits at the edge of the pan, I found that I really loved the granola’s extra crunchiness– so much so that I’ll probably make it the same way next time, but maybe with a few extra stirs to stave off the burning. Because, for this granola, there will definitely be a next time.


Black Pepper and Pistachio Granola
from Modern Jewish Cooking

1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, or more to taste
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2/3 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
2/3 cup sliced almonds
2/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together the maple syrup, vegetable oil, brown sugar, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cayenne in a small bowl.

Combine the oats, pistachios, almonds, and walnuts in a large bowl. Drizzle with the maple syrup mixture and stir to coat completely.

Spread the granola on the prepared baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown and toasty smelling, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven, add the raisins and cranberries, and stir to combine. Set the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool completely– granola will crisp up as it cools.

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Grapefruit Olive Oil Pound Cake


How even to begin a new blog post when it’s been nearly three months since your last one? Do you acknowledge the long absence with a rambling story about what happened in the interim (which sounds a lot like something I would do)? Do you skip the pleasantries and go straight into the recipe as if nothing ever happened (likely easier and certainly quicker)? As eager as I am to jump in and talk about this glorious cake, there is one major change that has occurred since November that at least deserves a brief mention: for the first time in several years– since before I even started writing this blog– I am not involved in any professional capacity with the food industry. I have packed away my kitchen clogs and retired the title “cheesemonger” for an exciting job that is considerably more science-focused and far outside the realm of food. There were many factors that drove this decision, none of which I particularly want to write about when I could be writing about cake, but I will say this– the transition has filled me with such relief and positivity that I can feel it creeping into every area of my life, including the kitchen.

This cake is a case in point. It comes from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, which I have had on my shelf for several years. I had been eyeing this recipe for months, as I found myself craving hearty cakes and wanting to experiment with baking with olive oil. But for months, I ignored it. I just didn’t feel up to it. I didn’t feel like going out to buy grapefruits or making a recipe that required more than a few steps. I didn’t feel like devoting over an hour to any kitchen project. I just felt so tired and bogged down all the time that I didn’t much feel like being in the kitchen any more than was necessary. But now that I’ve made several healthy changes– the career shift being one of the most notable– I’m feeling like my normal self again. And my normal self definitely feels like making cake. So a couple weeks ago, I pulled SK off the shelf and spent a Saturday morning (because, for the first time in over six years, I do not have to be at work on Saturday mornings) making it happen.














I should say right off the bat that if you don’t like grapefruit, this is probably not the cake for you. There is grapefruit zest and juice in the batter; when the cake emerges from the oven, it gets a dunk in grapefruit syrup; and finally, once the cake is cool, it gets drenched in a grapefruit glaze. That’s quite a bit of grapefuit. But, if you only sort of like it, or if you would like to like it but are not wholly convinced– you should go for it! Despite the triple hit of grapefruit, the flavor of the cake is quite subtle, with not nearly as much citrusy bitterness as you might expect.

We start off by zesting a couple of grapefruits, then rubbing the zest into the sugar. This helps to release all the oils from the zest, making the cake batter extra fragrant and flavorful. Also, since the best way to do this is with your fingers, your hands will smell like sweet citrus for the rest of the day. Bonus.


Once the sugar is nicely blended with the zest, the recipe proceeds like most pound cake recipes, but with olive oil instead of the usual butter. The olive oil I had on hand was on the mild side, so the cake didn’t have a particularly strong olive flavor. I was a teensy bit disappointed with that– I was hoping for a nice vegetal tang–so be sure to taste your olive oil before you get started and decide whether to trade it in for something more zippy.

I’m not sure if there’s anything better than the smell of freshly baked pound cake wafting through the house, especially in the cold, gray days of early February. I’m also confident that there are few things better than the look of a loaf cake, all golden brown on the edges and blond in the middle where the cake cracks. (Not the greatest thing in the world: when the cake sticks to the pan. Can’t win ’em all, I guess.)














My favorite thing about this cake, though, is what happens after it comes out of the oven. Using a skewer (or a toothpick, though something thicker than a toothpick is ideal), you poke holes all over the surface of the cake, and then coat it with grapefruit simple syrup. The syrup soaks into all the little holes, keeping the cake deliciously moist and infusing it with an extra hit of grapefruit. And even then you’re not done! Once the cake is completely cool and all the syrupy goodness is absorbed, on goes the glaze– deliciously crackly citrusy glaze.


I need to revise my previous statements and assert that, actually, the best thing is seeing sweet glaze dribble down the sides of a freshly baked cake. Or maybe it’s the way the glaze cracks when you’re slicing the cake… or maybe it’s the pools of glaze that collect on the plate, just begging you to dip a finger in… or maybe it’s the fact that you get to serve it for breakfast, thereby starting your day with dessert. Maybe it’s all of the above.

Happy February! May yours be filled with cake and all the things that make you happy.

Grapefruit Olive Oil Pound Cake
from the Smitten Kitchen

for the cake
Butter or non-stick spray for pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons freshly grated grapefruit zest, from 2 large grapefruits
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
1/3 cup buttermilk

for the syrup
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice

for the glaze
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
Pinch of salt

Heat the over to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, rub the grapefruit zest into the sugars with your fingertips. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk until combined. Scrape down the bowl.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a second bowl. In a liquid measuring cup, combine 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice and buttermilk/or yogurt. Add the flour and buttermilk/or yogurt mixtures, alternating between them, to the oil-and-sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour.

Spread the batter in the pan, smooth the top, and rap the pan on the counter a few times to ensure there are no air bubbles trapped. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

While the cake bakes, combine 2 tablespoons of sugar with 1/3 cup grapefruit juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves.

When the cake is finished, let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then invert it onto a rack set over a tray. Poke holes in the cake with a skewer or toothpick, then spoon or brush the grapefruit syrup over the cake. Let the cake cool completely while it absorbs the syrup.

When the cake is cool, combine the confectioners’ sugar, grapefruit juice, and pinch of salt in a bowl, whisking until smooth. Pour the glaze over the top of cooled cake, and allow glaze to drizzle decoratively down the sides.

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Carrot Coconut Soup


I have had some pretty unglamorous jobs in the food industry. I worked in the office of a peanut plant during the summer after my freshman year of college (specifically, in the division that sold the leftover peanut hulls– one of my office mates was constantly talking about “whole hulls,” which in her Southern twang sounded like “hoe hulls”). I also washed dishes for a small catering company while I was between jobs a few years ago; once you’ve washed dishes in a professional kitchen, you’ll never eat another restaurant meal again without thinking about the person in the back doing dish duty. But the least glamorous job I’ve had, by far, was my brief stint at a certain soup-sandwich-salad joint which shall remain nameless. It wasn’t particularly challenging work, but there was one time when I somehow managed to douse myself in salad dressing, and another time when a customer yelled in my face for slicing his bagel in half, and another time when a different customer coughed directly into a wadded-up bill in her hand and then handed that same bill to me to pay for her food… I could go on. It was definitely the worst job I’ve ever had.

But I still have a small soft spot for that sandwich joint, because it was the place that first introduced me to butternut squash soup. That soup has been off the menu for years, but I ate it at every possible opportunity during college, and once I moved to Boston, I set to work in an attempt to replicate it. I found my ideal recipe in Cooking Light, which was my go-to source for pretty much all recipes at the time, and I’ve made it so many times that I can now do it entirely by memory. I’ve also learned to riff on it in seemingly endless ways, and this soup is one of my favorite riffs.

The beauty of this soup is that it requires only a handful of ingredients, all of which are cheap, and most of which you probably have on hand most of the time. It also happens to be vegan, if you’re into that sort of thing… though I have also topped this vegan soup with crumbled bacon, so there you go.

The first step in this process is to brown a handful of vegetables: a diced onion, and bunch of carrots in this case (though I have had equal success with butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and a mixture of all three). Once that’s done, add broth to cover the veggies and leave it alone for half an hour or so.


After that time, the veggies should be deliciously soft and fragrant; all that’s left to do is add a touch of coconut milk (or any other cream or dairy product you have on hand; I often use half-and-half), transfer it to a blender, and purée. If you have an immersion blender, now would be a great time to use it. Also, I’m jealous.

And that’s it. I like to top every serving with a drizzle of good-tasting olive oil and a fresh grind of black pepper. Add a hunk of crusty bread on the side if you like, and round out the meal with a bone-warming glass of red wine, and you’re done.

Here’s hoping this soup carries you through many, many winters, just as it’s done for me.

Carrot Coconut Soup

1 generous glug olive oil (at least 1 Tablespoon)
roughly 4 cups peeled, sliced carrots
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add carrot and onion and sauté for 10-12 minutes, until nicely browned. Add broth, cover the pot, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in coconut milk.

Place mixture in blender (work in batches if your blender won’t hold it all) and blend until smooth. Taste, add salt and pepper if desired, and serve right away with an extra drizzle of olive oil.

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Rice Pudding with Apples, Cinnamon, and Maple


I am a bit of a cookbook hoarder. I know this, you know this, my poor husband definitely knows this, and so do all the saintly people who helped me move over the summer. I actually pared down a good bit of my collection before the move, parting ways with cookbooks I bought but never used, the ones I bought for cheap at Ross during college (and whose recipes never turned out quite right– probably why they were going for five bucks at a discount store in the first place), and the ones that just didn’t speak to me anymore. I think there’s something to be said for keeping my collection at a manageable size; it encourages me to be more selective when buying new books, and it helps me keep a better mental inventory of recipes. At a certain point, when my cookbook library spills into several different rooms and covers multiple shelves, I can’t be expected to keep track of what recipe came from which book, or where that book is even located.

What really helps me manage the size of my cookbook collection, though, is the Boston Public Library, which has just about every title I could possibly want. Having that wealth at my fingertips lets me essentially take the books for a test-drive; I can bring them home for a few weeks, cook a recipe or two, and then decide whether it’s worth buying my own copy. Usually, I decide it’s a better idea just to borrow the library’s when I need to.

A few weeks ago, I checked out Nigel Slater‘s Ripe, a giant collection of fruit-focused recipes. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something about this book just enchanted me– probably the combination of clean, un-fussy photography and excellent, almost lyrical writing. I still have the library’s book– they have several copies, so I’ll probably be allowed to hang onto it for quite a while– but this one is going to have a permanent place on my shelves.

I knew as soon as I saw this recipe that I needed to make it happen in my kitchen. I love rice pudding, and that love has intensified over the last several months, as the chef at the market where I work makes a fresh batch every Friday. For a short time I was in the probably-not-so-healthy-but-definitely-delicious habit of bringing home a small portion after work on Fridays to enjoy for breakfast the following morning. I’ve quit that, but now that I have a sizeable batch in the fridge, I may have to resurrect the habit for a few days.

Nigel Slater says in his introduction to this recipe that it is “as comforting as an old teddy bear,” and he is exactly right. The apple-cinnamon combination is undeniably wonderful and warming, and the maple syrup drizzled over each serving is like a warm, soft blanket. Because most of the sweetness comes from grated apples, the pudding requires very little sugar, and it’s equally delicious whether cold, warm, or at room temperature. It is a perfect dessert, as far as I’m concerned, and just the thing for these cold days when the sun goes down before 5pm.

I am so glad I plucked this book from the library shelves, and so glad it led me to this rice pudding. The best cookbooks do that– regardless of how many recipes they contain, they somehow manage to put just the right recipe in your hands, at just the right time, and make you wonder how you ever lived without them.


Rice Pudding with Apples, Cinnamon, and Maple
adapted slightly from Ripe

5 oz (roughly 3/4 cup) Arborio rice
2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons water
2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons whole milk
large pinch of cinnamon
1 large apple, or 2 small– I used 2 small Braeburns
3 Tablespoons sugar (vanilla bean sugar is great if you have it)
maple syrup, to serve

Put the rice in a medium pot and cover it with the water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the water has almost completely evaporated. Stay close– this happens fairly quickly.

Pour in the milk, bring back to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer and cover partially with a lid. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. It should still look pretty soupy at the end of 15 minutes.

While the rice simmers in the milk, grate the apples on the large holes of a box grater. I found it was easiest to cut the apples into quarters, cut out the core, and carefully grate while holding the apple by the peel. A few small bits of peel will end up getting mixed in with the grated apple, but I didn’t mind that.

After the 15 minutes, stir in the cinnamon, grated apple and juices, and the sugar. Let sit for five minutes (some of the remaining liquid will be absorbed during this time), and then serve, drizzling each serving with maple syrup.

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Lemon Cornmeal Muffins


And we’re back– with more muffins! When life is so weird and fast-paced and confusing that I can barely even remember what day it is–which basically sums up my last couple of months–I find myself falling back on the comforting ease of muffins. As far as baking projects go, muffins are far and away the easiest: they’re simple to put together, they bake up in no time, and they’re pre-portioned: a perfect bit of order in an otherwise very un-orderly phase of life.

This batch of muffins was the first thing I baked in our new apartment, which is a veritable palace compared to the teeny-tiny apartment we left behind. But, of course, moving is always an adjustment; just when I’d figured out how to work with the spatial limitations of our pint-sized kitchen in Allston, we uprooted and moved back to Jamaica Plain (the same neighborhood where we lived when we first arrived in Boston), and now I can’t remember which of the sixteen cabinets or bazillion drawers I stashed which baking pans in. This is definitely a good problem to have, but it also calls for simpler culinary undertakings while I get my bearings.

I picked these muffins for two reasons: one, I cannot stop leafing through Huckleberry, the source for this recipe and one of my favorite new additions to my cookbook collection. The recipes in Huckleberry are organized according to the bakery’s production schedule, and the muffin chapter is subtitled 3:30 A.M., a handy reminder that, as much as I love baking, I definitely should not pursue it on a professional level. Reason number two is that I have recently become addicted to the miniature orange-olive oil cakes that are produced at the bakery in the shop where I now work (likely also made in the wee hours of the morning, thankfully without my help).  Since these muffins have a healthy dose of citrus, a glug of olive oil, and a crackly, sweet glaze on top, they hit a lot of the same buttons for me as those tiny, cold-from-the-bakery-case cakes that have gotten me through so many long work days.

The only snag I hit in this muffin-making process concerns the cornmeal. The cornmeal I had on hand was coarse-ground, almost like polenta, and it gave the muffins a slightly gritty texture. It didn’t bother me much, but in the future, I’d probably whiz the cornmeal in a food chopper for a few seconds before using it in these muffins (or pay closer attention to what I’m buying in the first place).

As Boston marches into the cold months, and as I get a better handle on living and cooking in a new space, I hope to flex my baking muscles and work on some heartier, more complicated projects. But for now, I’ll stick with the simple comfort of an honest batch of muffins.


Lemon Cornmeal Muffins
slightly adapted from Huckleberry

for the muffins
3/4 cup unsalted, cubed butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup + 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
zest of 4 lemons, plus 2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs
4 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup fine cornmeal
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cup ricotta

for the glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp heavy cream

Position a rack near the top of your oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with 18 muffin liners.

In a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, salt, and zest on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, until the butter looks fluffy. Incorporate the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition on medium speeed. Scrape the sides of the bowl.

Slowly pour in the olive oil, maple syrup, lemon juice, and vanilla; scrape the sides of the bowl again. Add the flour, cornmeal, baking poawder, baking soda, and ricotta, and mix gently, being careful not to overmix.

Fill the muffin cups three-quarters full. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the muffins just barely spring back to the touch.

Once you take the muffins out of the oven, make your glaze: combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add the cream and whisk until incorporated. Spread the glaze on the warm muffins with a spatula or butter knife.

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Jelly Doughnut Muffins


You may not believe me when I say this, but I have never been much of a doughnut person. It’s not that I don’t like doughnuts– who doesn’t, really?– it’s just that I can take or leave them. While I am totally incapable of turning down, say, a slice of cake with buttercream, I can walk past a box of doughnuts and not think twice about it. Or, at least, this was all true until I discovered jelly-filled doughnuts.

I should stress that the jelly-filled doughnut in question was not your standard, mass-produced Dunkin’ variety. (Say what you will, but I still don’t get what the big deal is about Dunks.) Rather, it came from Flour Bakery, and it was about a month ago. I was at an event with a bunch of colleagues, and someone brought a variety of pastries for us to share; I tried to take a small chunk of the jelly doughnut and leave the rest for the others, but I ended up sneaking back to the food table every ten minutes or so, and before I knew it, I’d eaten the whole thing.

Fast-forward a few weeks to my birthday, when Alex gave me the Ovenly cookbook. I’d been hanging on to the library’s copy for weeks; I renewed it as many times as they’d let me before I begrudgingly returned it, so I was thrilled to have a copy of my very own. The next time I made brunch, the memory of Flour’s doughnuts was still fresh in my mind, but I was reluctant to spend the hours required to make a batch from scratch. Fortunately, Ovenly offers a solution: a quick muffin stuffed with jam and coated in sugar, which tastes unbelievably like a doughnut. And just like that, Alex doesn’t want me to bake anything else, ever.

It turns out there are a few secrets to making a muffin taste like a doughnut, and the first is grated nutmeg. I can’t put my finger on the reason why, but the toasty spiciness is completely reminiscent of fried dough. Second, when the doughnuts are cool enough to handle, a brushing of melted butter and a roll in sugar amps up the doughnut factor. (Sidenote: the original recipe calls for a cinnamon-sugar mix for the topping, but I used vanilla bean sugar instead. I took a bean whose seeds I’d used for another recipe, put it in a jar, and filled the jar with granulated sugar. A week later, voilà! Vanilla bean sugar.) And, of course, the jelly filling is crucial. I’m particularly fond of Bonne Maman jams; I’ve used both four fruits preserves (cherry, strawberry, red currant, and raspberry) and mixed berries preserves (stawberry, blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry) and found them both delightful.


I’ve made these muffins three times in the last month. That adds up to thirty-six muffins over the course of less than thirty days. Fortunately, Alex and I have a number of hungry friends and colleagues who have eaten the bulk of the muffins for us. It’s bittersweet, because I appreciate the savings in calories, but at the same time, I want ALL the muffins for myself. Life is full of conundrums, I suppose.

Jelly Doughnut Muffins
adapted from Ovenly

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
3/4 cup whole milk
jam of your choice, about 1/2 cup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup vanilla bean sugar, or 1/3 cup sugar plus 1 Tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, canola oil, and egg. Add the whole milk to the sugar mixture, and whisk until smooth.

Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir gently with a spatula until just combined.

Fill each muffin liner with roughly 2 Tablespoons of batter. Spoon 1/2 Tablespoon of jam into each liner, being careful to keep the jam in the very center of the cup; try not to let the jam touch the sides of the liners. Top each cup with another 2 Tablespoons of batter.

Bake for 22-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a few muffins comes out clean.

Meanwhile, melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a small microwave-safe bowl on medium power; set aside and let cool slightly. Place vanilla sugar (or cinnamon-sugar mixture) in another small bowl.

Remove muffins from the oven and let cool slightly. Using a basting brush, coat the top of each muffin with melted butter, then roll in sugar, taking care to coat each muffin evenly.

Let cool, and try not to wolf them all down immediately.


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Banana Nutella Ice Cream


For a long, long time, fall has been my favorite season. The reasons for this are both obvious and well-documented: crunchy leaves, vibrant colors, chilly nights… I’m sure I’ve listed all the reasons publicly, at least twice. But this year, after the winter we just had, I am completely ecstatic to welcome summer. I don’t even care that it’s a little too hot to sleep comfortably through the night, and I don’t care that Moose still wants to drape her warm, furry little body across my lap at every possible opportunity. I’m just glad that it isn’t snowing, and that I don’t have to wear anything made of down or wool for at least a couple more months. (But apparently the snow piles still haven’t entirely disappeared…?!? It seems winter never really lets us out of its grip.)

I am also glad that it’s the perfect weather for ice cream making. Mind you, I still made ice cream right on through the winter, but those batches seemed to last for quite a while. On a night when the temperature hovers in the single digits, I’d much rather have a little glass of Port and a hunk of cheese than a frozen dessert. But in the summer, when sunlight still creeps through the windows at 8pm, the apartment is filled with the sound of humming fans, and Alex is more likely to be home for dinner than at rehearsal, pints of ice cream just disappear like magic. Quick consumption gives me more opportunities to try new flavors and new recipes; summer is a good season, indeed.

This batch of ice cream comes from the Ample Hills cookbook, which I snagged from the sale rack at Anthropologie. I recently passed the book along (one can only have so many ice cream books in one’s personal collection), but not before jotting down a couple of particularly enticing recipes. The banana Nutella combination is, of course, an homage to everyone’s favorite crêpe filling (except those weirdos who prefer ham and cheese), and banana ice cream is  a longtime favorite of mine, hearkening back to church ice cream socials. The flavor is rich, yet also bright, and the texture is super-creamy, thanks in part to the addition of milk powder, which gives the ice cream batter plenty of fat while cutting down on water, which tends to crystallize.

While the banana ice cream is excellent on its own (I know, because the recipe made more than I could fit in a single container, so I packed some of the ice cream separately, sans-chocolate), the Nutella swirl takes it over the line from treat to indulgence. I should confess, though, that I used knock-off Nutella: specifically, this one from Barefoot and Chocolate (a brand name that kind of weirds me out; I assume it’s supposed to make me think of “barefoot and pregnant”?). I brought it home from work, because it was technically expired. Eh, still delicious.


I’ve fed this ice cream to a handful of people besides my husband, and they all react in pretty much the same way: with wide eyes and unitelligible grunting noises. I’d say that’s a pretty hearty gesture of approval.

Cheers to summer, to sundresses, shorts, grilling, late nights, iced tea, and everything that is decidedly un-wintery.














Banana Nutella Ice Cream
adapted slightly from Ample Hills

for the ice cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup milk powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pound ripe peeled fresh bananas
2 cups heavy cream

for the Nutella swirl
1 13-ounce jar Nutella, or other chocolate-hazelnut spread
½ cup heavy cream

Make the banana ice cream: in a blender, combine the milk, skim milk powder, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and bananas and blend until smooth.  Add the cream, and stir until combined. Transfer the base to an ice cream maker and churn.

While the ice cream is churning, stir the Nutella and 1/2 cup heavy cream together until smooth and pourable.

When ice cream has finished churning, transfer to a storage container, gently swirling in spoonfuls of the Nutella mixture as you go. Cover the surface of the ice cream with parchment or plastic wrap, and freeze until firm.

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