Second-Easiest Ice Cream

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Alex and I are moving in a few weeks. If it feels like you’ve heard me say this before, it’s because we’ve moved every two years, like clockwork, since we arrived in Jamaica Plain for the first time eight years ago. Part of me wants to chalk this up to #BostonProblems– it’s not at all uncommon to get priced out of apartments, to have a changing roster of roommates, to switch neighborhoods, etc.– but we know plenty of people who have managed to stay put for longer stretches, so maybe we are just bad at adulting. (More likely: we just can’t decide what we want.) In any case, in a few short weeks, we’ll be moving across town–to the exact building we left two years ago, in fact. I’ve missed that tiny little place ever since we left, and, weirdly enough, I’ve also missed Allston itself. I’ll be glad to get back to the neighborhood that feels most like home to me.

I’ve already started packing up our kitchen stuff, and I was just about to wrap up the bowl of my ice cream maker in newsprint when I realized that I hadn’t actually made ice cream in over a year. This probably has to do with the fact that I relegated the bowl to a kitchen cabinet in order to free up some space in the freezer, which made spur-of-the-moment ice cream making impossible. But still, to let an entire summer go by without homemade ice cream? Completely unacceptable.

What I really wanted was a batch of lemon curd ice cream, but, to be honest, I had no desire to go through all the necessary hoops to make it– even if you use store bought curd, you’re looking at a half-day process. No one who’s trying to pack up her kitchen equipment has that kind of time. But guess who saved the day, with a minimal effort-maximal reward ice cream recipe? My old friend Joy the Baker. (Disclaimer: not my friend in real life, though I did meet her at a book signing and talk her ear off in a bout of nervous energy.) This recipe, from her second book, consists of five ingredients, and the batter doesn’t require any egg-tempering or extra chilling time– you just blend it up and put it right in the ice cream maker. It’s the second-easiest ice cream in the world. (First easiest: one-ingredient banana ice cream. It sounds too good to be true, but it’s totally, blessedly real.)

Here’s another thing you might have heard me say before: I used a local brand of cream cheese in this recipe, which I brought home from work because it was a couple days out of code. Yep, I put my cheesemonger hat back on for a few days this summer, and I have never had so much fun at work in my life. I was back at the market where I first started working with cheese back in 2012, and it felt a lot like going back home. (I guess my whole life has a going-back-home feeling lately.) While a few things have changed at the shop over the last few years, the staff and the customers are pretty much the same, and it felt so good to be part of the gang again. I was so jazzed about the whole thing that I didn’t even mind being at work on Saturdays for a few weeks.

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But anyway, back to the ice cream. The main players here are cream cheese, brown sugar, and half-and-half. I should probably know more about the science of ice cream than I do, but my hunch is that this recipe can get away with such a short ingredient list because the cream cheese bulks up the batter so nicely. I’m also willing to bet that the cream cheese wards off potential ice crystals as the ice cream freezes. I churned a second batch of this a few nights ago in a not-properly-frozen ice cream bowl–usually the kiss of death for homemade ice cream– and somehow, after spending the night in the freezer, it still turned out perfectly. Miraculous.

The recipe also calls for an optional tablespoon of Bourbon. I have made the ice cream both with and without the Bourbon, and it’s delicious either way, but I really love the judicious amount Joy calls for. I’ve made Bourbon ice cream before that was just too boozy for my taste, but here, it’s just right: a little warming, but not bracing. If you have some on hand, I’d recommend adding it.

This ice cream is best served, if at all possible, outdoors. Preferably with a cute dog looking on.

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Happy Summer!

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Ice Cream
from Homemade Decadence

1 (8oz) package cream cheese, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups cold half-and-half
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon Bourbon (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe bowl and cover the ice cream with parchment paper or plastic wrap (directly on the surface of the ice cream). Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours, or overnight.

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The Summer of Mezcal

Last month, I turned thirty. Three-oh! Three whole decades! I’d been looking forward to this birthday for a while, so much so that I jumped the gun and started telling people I was thirty about a month early. I have high expectations for this decade; while my 20s were chock-full of good things (I moved to Boston! I married Alex! I got a dog! I ate my weight in amazing cheese!), they weren’t exactly the most stable years. I’m hoping things settle down a little bit in the years to come. (Something tells me that there’s no such thing as life “settling down,” but one can dream.)

True to form, I spent the last few hours of my twenties baking; I made carrot cake from the wonderful, wonderful Brown Betty Cookbook (my first time making carrot cake, somehow), and, also true to form, forgot to document the process at all. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that it was heaven on Earth. And if you like cake, you should go check out that book; I’ve baked from it several times in the last year or so, and everything has been perfect. Plus, the authors include stories and photos of the women in their family, after whom most of the desserts are named (examples: “Hattie Don’t Play,” a chocolate ganache cake; “Hey Thelma,” a buttermilk cake with coconut frosting; and “Only For Eliza,” a sweet potato cake I loved so much I made it twice in four days). It’s so sweet, in every way.

A couple weeks after the cake, Alex and I had our first little fête of the summer. We’ve come up with a pretty nice dinner setup in our backyard, with a grill, a folding card table, some potted plants, and a string of Christmas lights around the porch railing, which just makes everything feel a little more magical. We’ve been eating dinner out there most nights over the past several weeks, even (especially?) when we have friends over. On this night, the menu included blistered shishito peppers, a pared-down version of Bon Appetit’s brassicas bowl, and roast chicken (because when you’re eating outside, it’s ok if you heat up the kitchen a little). But, more importantly, it included a drink that has quickly become the Nishibun house cocktail. It’s called the Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em.

We got the cocktail idea from a trip we took to DC late this spring. Alex had a concert there, and it also happens to be the home of one of my oldest friends, Chris, so all the elements were right for a visit. Chris took us to Churchkey, where Alex ordered this drink; he was so enamored with it that we decided to take a crack at making it at home. All we had to go on was a snapshot of the drink description, so it took a little trial and error to figure out the right proportions, but we’ve landed on a version we like very much. It’s not too sweet; it’s a little bitter, but pleasantly so; and as the name suggests, it’s deliciously smoky, thanks to the Mezcal. I took a sip of Alex’s drink at Churchkey and decided that it’s like all the good things about smoking a cigar, without actually having to smoke a cigar.

The only thing you have to make for this drink is honey simple syrup, which couldn’t be easier: just mix equal parts honey and water in a saucepan, bring it to a simmer, stir, and let it cool. Done. Once that’s made, all you have to do to make the drink is squeeze a lemon wedge over ice and open three bottles. Done and done.

It’s officially the Summer of Mezcal at our place. Its smokiness makes it perfect for warm weather, maybe because it mixes so well with the smell of the grill and the lighter, more veggie-centric meals we prefer at this time of year. Although we’re already in mid-July, and summer wanes fairly quickly in Boston, I’m looking forward to many more back porch evenings with friends, food, and a house cocktail in hand. Cheers.

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em
inspired by the bar menu at Churchkey, DC

2 oz Mezcal
1 oz Averna (we’ve experimented with a couple different kinds of amaro, but Averna is our favorite)
scant 1/2 oz honey simple syrup*
about 1/4 oz lemon juice (we cut a lemon lengthwise into 8ths and use one wedge per drink)
1 strip of lemon zest, for garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in a rocks glass over ice (an ice globe or a big chunk is especially nice) and stir to combine. Roll the lemon zest into a loose tube and squeeze over the drink, releasing the oils. Rub the zest over the lip of the glass, drop it in the drink, and enjoy.

*to make the honey simple, combine 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup water in small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, stir, and let cool. You can make this in any 1:1 proportion, but this amount keeps nicely in the fridge in a jam jar.


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Browned Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I’ve never been particularly skilled at handling disappointments, but one of my proudest achievements in my adult life has been learning to accept bad news with grace. By all accounts, I’ve had an exceptionally good life so far, so the bad news we’re talking about here is pretty minor, but lately it’s been well-concentrated in the career category. (You may remember that I’ve taken to the blog to lament job problems many times before.) I don’t want to get into all the unpleasant details, but I’ve had even more job setbacks in the last few weeks, capped off by a phone call on Friday that I hoped would be a job offer, but was not.

Of course I still feel the sadness and frustration that accompany these disappointments as acutely as I always have, but I think I’ve gotten better in recent times about channeling those feelings into productive activity. When I received my bad news on Friday, I could easily have crawled back into bed and hidden under the covers all day (and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider it), but getting in the kitchen and browning some butter turned out to be a far better idea.

There’s just something about carefully measuring out flour and sugar, chopping chocolate, and sipping hot coffee that makes me feel like everything is going to be ok again somehow. I have to think it’s not just because of the soft, gooey cookies at the end of the process (though that certainly doesn’t hurt); it’s also because there’s comfort in knowing that I know how to make cookies. I know that I can take a few simple ingredients, put them together in a particular way, and barring any really strange mishaps, they’ll turn into the exact thing I want to eat. It makes me feel capable and accomplished.

The recipe for these cookies comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, and one of the first ones I ever bought: The Modern Baker. I’ve made these cookies time and time again, making little tweaks here and there. Most importantly, I’ve added the step of browning the butter; not only do I prefer the flavor of the cookies when the butter is brown and toasty, but it also speeds up the process a good bit. You can brown the butter for these cookies, and in the time it takes to prepare the rest of the ingredients, it’ll be cool enough to use– quite a contrast to the time it takes for fridge-cold butter to reach room temperature out on the counter. I’ve also become fond of using a few different kinds of chocolate to stir into the batter. This time around, I used what was left of a bag of semi-sweet mini chocolate chips from an earlier baking bout, and supplemented with two chopped up chocolate bars: a tiny bit of the “fire” chocolate bar from Jelina Chocolatier (appropriately named– that stuff is crazy spicy), as well as a heartier portion of Jelina’s maple sugar bar.

Thanks to the browned butter, you can make this dough by hand if you like. Once the butter is mixed with an egg, some brown sugar, and a little vanilla, the rest of the ingredients need to be folded in gently, anyway; all you need is a good spatula.

All told, it only takes about an hour to make these cookies, start to finish. I can’t think of a better or more efficient way to combat a case of the job blues.

Cheers to happier times ahead, and cookies in the meantime.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
adapted from The Modern Baker

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
10 oz chocolate chunks (a mixture of dark, milk, or whatever you have on hand, if possible)

Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°F. While the oven preheats, brown the butter. Cut the butter into pieces and add to a skillet. Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, it will start to foam and crackle. Stay close by, and give the pan a shake every few seconds to keep the butter moving. Continue to heat until the solids turn brown and toasty and the butter smells nutty; remove from the heat and immediately pour into a heat safe container to cool. Set the browned butter aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Stir the flour, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.

Combine the browned butter, brown sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle on medium speed until just mixed, then beat in the egg. (Alternatively, you can do this in a bowl with a whisk.)

Use a large rubber spatula to stir in the flour mixture, then the chocolate.

Drop tablespoons of the dough 2 to 3 inches apart on two baking pans lined with parchment paper. Bake the cookies until they are spread, well risen, and golden, about 15 minutes. About 7 minutes into the baking, place the pan from the lower rack on the upper one and vice versa, turning the pans back to front at the same time.

Slide the parchment papers off the pans and onto cooling racks to cool the cookies. Eat a couple directly off the racks– life’s too short.

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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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