Entries from June 28th, 2012

A Star-Spangled Tart

2

28.6.12

Something that I haven’t been quite honest about, reader, is that the past year or so has been some sort of limbo for me.  I know I’ve mentioned it, but I thought I’d address some things that have had a lot of impact on my writing, my cooking, and my outlook on life in general.

So much of my life is weighted upon my work – even for those of use who have workaholic tendencies (guilty as charged), what you do is your means to how you live your life: it determines what you eat, how you sleep, where you live, and how you spend the majority of your time awake as a person.  What you ultimately do for work says everything about who you are – everything, and no less.

When I first started working, my parents advised me to work for the weekends, and to savor time spent away from the office, while my peers say not to work too much or too hard.  Both options, to me, are a waste of time that you will never get back – as a single twenty-five year old, anyway.  If I had a family to support, my story might have been different.

Note to self: if you are not satisfied where you are, you should never be satisfied until there is a (non-fluorescent) light at the end of the tunnel, and you should never, never – ever – settle for anything less.

Maybe this is a generational thing. I feel like I’m surrounded by incongruencies: people saying that you can’t do anything without a graduate degree, others saying that you don’t need any sort of degree to be successful.  Some people are unhappy at their jobs, but stay for the benefits, and/or the ability to have their cake and eat it too.  Or they just complain, and stay where they are solely because they’re not working to change it.  Or, they put in the work to find satisfaction.  Those who pursue satisfaction – however long or winding the road may be – well, I hope with all my heart that they find it.

After twelve long months, I think I have a good idea of what will happen to me next.

I’m wrapping up my position at CIPE, where I was able to learn so much about what I want to do.  Next week, my family arrives, and I’ll be able to share a tiny slice of what my life has been like since I found my home here in Washington – and my Washington friends will finally meet my family, and probably do a long-awaited beer bat with my father.  I’m hoping for another Fourth-of-July Eight Clap.

After that, this American girl is going to Mexico for a week.

And after that, I’m taking the next step – so thank you, all of you who have dealt with my bitching and moaning, my neglect, and my stress.  Your unconditional support means the world to me, and I promise, I can pay you with food, friends, and long, chatty runs along the Potomac river.

Sweet, delectable food.  Happy fourth of July, America.

 

Sweet tart crust, by Smitten Kitchen

1.5 cups AP flour, plus whatever you need to make the dough workable
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

Whipped Cream Filling

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions

You’ll need two rectangular tart pans to make the American flag shape – the dough recipe gives you just enough to fill both.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a food processor, combine 1.5 cups flour, 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Pulse grind until evenly mixed.  Then, add the cubes of butter and pulse grind, slowly adding in the egg.  Pulse grind (about ten seconds each) until it won’t mix any more.  At this point, the dough was too sticky for me to work with, so I gradually added flour – about another half cup – until it was more of a pie-dough consistency.

Deb recommends chilling the dough, but I’m horribly impatient these days, and frankly, since it wasn’t required, I didn’t do it.  I rolled the dough out to about 1/4 of an inch in width, and transferred to a buttered tart pan.  I like giving tarts a nice, thick crust – the dainty crusts always fall apart on me.  I’ve given up on them.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the crust is golden to your liking.  Then, remove it from the oven, and let cool.

While that’s resting, beat your whipping cream in a stand mixer for a couple of minutes, until it looks like, well, whipped cream.  Look for stiff peaks.  As it begins to form, gradually add the sugar and vanilla extract.  Set aside in the refrigerator until your tart is ready to serve.

To prepare, use a spatula to fill the tart with whipped cream.  If you want it to be extra decadent, line the tart with a layer of fresh strawberry jam before filling with the whipped cream (that was my original intent, but I got distracted when I made this, and then forgot to do so).  Arrange your berries on top of the whipped  cream to look like a star-spangled banner, put on an American flag bikini, and share your tart with some of your best friends, American or not.

Honey Vanilla Affogato

3

18.6.12

Believe it or not, I was my father’s daughter.  Still am.

My earliest memories are of waking up early to eat cereal with my dad as he read the newspaper.  I had no idea what the stocks were, but nothing gave me more joy than crumpling up the corner of the page that, to this day, I don’t really understand.

He and I are cut from the same cloth.  We are both practical, temperate, and sincere.  We value honesty, good grammar, and thinking things through.  We explore all of our options before making a decision, but we’re both generally quick to do so.

We know what we want.

Then, there are the moments where I am more like my mother.  Like whenever my decisions are more emotional than practical.  Like the time I booked an impromptu trip to Mexico before knowing what my grad school schedule was (whoops).

And then, there are the things about me that are somewhere in between the two, or the things about me that come completely out of right field (that’s the side of the field where no one hits, right? My baseball knowledge is limited).  I love planning.  I value little luxuries, sometimes more than I should.  I’m stubborn.  Sometimes mercurial, but not very often.  That’s a trait that comes from my mother.

What I’ve learned from my father over the past twenty-five years is naturally infinite: he taught me how to type, how to write, how to draw, and how to photograph.  He helped me learn to be independent, which is something I had to learn earlier than most people my age.  And most importantly, he taught me how to want to live the most fulfilling life that I could.  To take opportunities to make your life better when they come, and to take the opportunities to help others as much as possible, when possible, and affordable.

Some girls think they have the best dad in the world.

Whatever the ranking is, they’re missing out, because they don’t have mine.

Writing Father’s Day cards is something I enjoy slightly more than any other type of card, because I can be completely sincere with my father.  I am who I am mostly because of what I’ve learned from him.  He wasn’t exactly happy with my decision to study Arabic, or move east, but he’s the one who taught me to be independent, and make something of myself… so here I am.  My father’s daughter.

I like to introduce the Gerritys to a new dish or dessert whenever I see them.  Croquembouche was first, then there was banh mi, and then coq au vin.

They’re coming to Washington in a couple of weeks for a whirlwind of a Fourth of July – the best Fourth of July celebration they’ll ever have.  My dad asked about beer bats, and I told him about the flabongo.  I’m sure he’s ready. And he’s excited to see all my UCLA friends on the East Coast, so there will probably be an eight-clap.

There will also be affogato.  My step mom, the coffee and espresso afficionado, will truly appreciate this delicate dish.  After a predictably smoldering July day in DC spent on a bike, in the sun, with the monuments, we’ll all need a little cool-down with a pick-me-up.

Affogato literally means “drowned” in Italian, and is basically a scoop of vanilla gelato, drowned in a shot of espresso. It’s a fat girl’s latte (my name is all over it). I’ve been hitting the gym solely to counter my discovery of this dessert.

I should really double those efforts, because I’ll be riding my bike on a Mexican beach in a few weeks.

Affogato: Honey Vanilla Ice Cream with Espresso

For the Honey Vanilla Ice Cream:
2 cups milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
5 eggs
3/4 cup honey
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon salt

To dress:
1 shot espresso per scoop of ice cream
Zest of orange or lemon, to garnish

Instructions:

If you don’t have access to an ice cream maker, well, that’s a problem. But there are ways to make ice cream without one.  Some people use a blender or a food processor.

In a medium-sized sauce pan, combine the milk, cream, salt, and honey.  Heat over medium- to high-heat, constantly stirring, until the liquid starts to boil.  Once it boils, take it off the heat.

Slice your vanilla bean lengthwise, and scrape the vanilla beans from the inside.  Whisk them into the  ice cream solution.  Toss in the bean itself as well, cover the saucepan, and let the vanilla steep for at least 30 minutes.  But let’s be honest – the longer, the better.  After it’s done steeping, heat the saucepan again, just until it boils.  Then, remove from heat.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks.  Take a smaller measuring cup, and pour about 1/4 a cup of the hot milk solution into your egg yolks.  Whisk furiously.  We do this little by little so that the eggs do not scramble.  Once the first 1/4 cup is mixed evenly, add another, and repeat.  When the yolk mixture feels more liquidy than eggy, you can pour the egg solution into the saucepan to combine completely.  At this point, we’re completely done with the stove.

Pour your custard through a fine sieve to remove any lumps, and let the mixture chill completely.

Run the mixture through an ice cream machine, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Once frozen, serve one or two scoops per serving, and douse in a fresh shot of espresso (or very strong black coffee).  Garnish with a dusting of orange or lemon zest.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers