Thursday, August 28, 2014

Blueberry Cobbler

blueberry cobbler | coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

This past Sunday Anne and I went to a wedding up in northern Michigan. The ceremony was on a balcony overlooking the water, and the reception was outside at a beautiful old cherry farm, complete with pie and dancing in the 100-plus-year-old barn. It was a perfect day. The bride is one of my oldest childhood friends, almost like a second little sister. She's my little sister's best friend - my sister was a bridesmaid, and she will be a bridesmaid(matron?) in my sister's wedding in November. It was so sweet and almost surreal seeing them together like that; beautiful, composed, tender-hearted, on the cusp of the great adventure of marriage. Supporting each other, standing side by side, just like they have done almost since birth. I saw so many people who aren't part of my daily life anymore, but who were fixtures in my childhood. Familiar as my own parents, my childhood home. It's so miraculous and strange to go back, to see them interacting with my little daughter, to hear them remark how much she reminds them of me at her age. It was a precious time.

blueberry picking | coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Yesterday was the feast of St. Monica, my patron and one of Anne's namesakes, and today is the feast of St. Augustine. I've been thinking about their lives, specifically how much can be accomplished when we persist in prayer, and brainstorming how I can make it more of a habit in our daily life. Anne has started to participate when we pray, making the sign of the cross, folding her hands and scrunching her eyes closed, saying "Amen." (She actually said "Amen" several times during the wedding ceremony, including just after the bride said her vows. She gets it.) She is so enthusiastic and proud of herself, and I just want to keep her going. When we were growing up, we knew that prayer was an ongoing conversation with a God who wanted to know what was in our hearts, no matter how silly or insignificant it seemed. I want Anne to know that, too, as soon as possible.

blueberry picking | coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

We were flying solo this week, as we so often do in this insanely busy season of my husband's career. We did all the things you want to do in Michigan in the summer: picked blueberries, swam in lakes, watched the sunset, ate ice cream and pie, sweet corn and tomatoes. I had the rare chance to spend some quality one-on-one time with my sister's soon-to-be husband, as we sat belly-up to the bar where she works, sipping PBR and laughing. He is a keeper. Thank you, God!

blueberries | coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

We are squeezing the last drops from this summer, paying no attention to the purple stains on our fingers and tongues (and some of our shirts).

blueberry cobbler | coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Blueberry Cobbler

3 cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup granulated sugar
zest of one small lemon

2/3 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup rye flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a baking dish (I used a deeper 10-inch covered dish, but you could use a wider, shallower pan if you make sure to keep your eye on it - cooking time would be shorter), gently toss together blueberries, cornstarch, sugar, and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Beat the egg slightly in another bowl or liquid measuring cup, and add the buttermilk and butter. Stir together, pour into the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Drop in large spoonfuls on top of the blueberries, sprinkle with sugar, and bake 25-30 minutes, until berries are bubbling and top is golden.

Serve cobbler warm with vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Guest post: Why Can't We Call it a "Playout"?

I'm over at Someday Saints today, sharing some thoughts about getting and staying fit while chasing a kid. Check it out! It's the first in Gina's series about fitness, so stay tuned to her blog for the rest! I'm looking forward to reading what the other contributors have to say!

Why Can't We Call it a "Playout?"

JUMP!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pasta Luglio

Pasta Luglio

It feels like summer. Yesterday we spent the entire morning at the park and pool, and most of the afternoon in the front yard. Last night after Anne was in bed, I scooped a bowl of homemade strawberry ice cream and sat on the front stoop watching the fireflies come out. This morning, we spent a solid hour sidewalk chalking the front walkway (a beach scene!), blowing bubbles, and watching the planes fly overhead. This afternoon we walked to the park and the farmers' market. We stopped at the market for a while and listened to a woman play the accordion. Anne danced, and drank tiny sips of water out of the top of my Klean Kanteen bottle.

I tend to read mostly non-fiction: memoirs, parenting, self-help, religion. I've decided that July is the Month of the Novel, and I am doing what I can to get through as much fiction as possible this month. On the list: The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and The Godwulf Manuscript, by Robert B. Parker. I've bitten off more than I can chew, but that's not terribly surprising. The bigger your stack of books, the more books you read in the end, even if you never finish the whole thing (How could you ever finish? Have you seen a library?). What are you reading this summer? Have you seen the selections for the Well-Read Mom for this year? I am excited for that.

I'm running a half marathon next week (!), and I've run something like 170 (!!) miles in training since March. I don't particularly love the running, especially the amount of time it takes each week. I'm looking forward to crossing the finish line and getting back to more reasonable, balanced workouts. What has been amazing about this process for me has been seeing myself uncompromisingly committed to reaching my goal. I signed up for the half marathon and paid the ridiculous entry fee, I downloaded a training plan, and I have done basically every single thing on the training plan, rain or shine, in spite of other plans, fatigue, soreness, or just plain whiny laziness. I have gotten out and run my miles 3-4 times a week without fail for 4 months. I feel shocked! I guess it just goes to show you that you never stop learning things about yourself. I, apparently, am very goal-oriented, and benefit greatly from a specific schedule that I can follow. I'm excited to test this knowledge in other areas of my life.

I let Anne run around and pick things at the market for dinner tonight (her contributions: yellow squash and mushrooms), and as usual, the simplest seasonal ingredients worked their magic to form the most amazing pasta dish I've eaten in a long time. Buon appetito!

Licking her lips


Pasta Luglio
(serves 2 for dinner, 4 as a first course)

This is a weeknight dinner, and I have a busy toddler who likes to "help," so I go as quickly as I can. This means that I do not chop everything before I start cooking. Chop one thing, toss it in. Chop another, add. Chop more, add more, etc. Cooking times between additions would honestly be something like "as long as it takes to chop half and onion." It's a very forgiving recipe, just wing it.

1/2 pound penne or other short pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow summer squash, quartered and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
splash of white wine
6 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
5-6 large leaves fresh basil, shredded
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

Boil a pot of water for the pasta. Salt generously (it should taste like seawater), and cook the pasta about a minute shy of al dente (for penne, 9-10 minutes). Reserve about 2 cups of the starchy pasta water for the sauce (or splash it in the sauce as you're cooking the pasta, as I did - see below).

Place the olive oil in a wide, shallow saucepan over medium heat. Add the squash, season with salt and pepper, and let sit for a minute. Add the mushrooms, onions, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softening and pan starts to look dry. Splash with white wine and cook another minute. Add the tomato paste and stir together, splashing in enough pasta water to thin the paste into a sauce that coats the vegetables. Stir in the pasta and cook for a minute or two. Remove from heat and add grated cheese, basil, and butter. Stir until the butter and cheese are melted. Taste, adjust seasonings if needed, and serve.









Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Best Chili

When I was growing up, we spent a lot of Christmas and summer vacations making long treks cross-country in a minivan. We lived in northern Michigan. Bajee, my mom's mom, lives in southern Colorado, about a 24-hour drive away. My dad's parents, Grandmom and Pop, lived in Memphis, about 14 hours. Many of my parents's friends lived in New York. My sister and I got comfortable in the backseat, hauling great bulging backpacks full of books, crayons, travel games, and later, magazines, journals and portable CD players. We knew how to do a road trip.

Every time we arrived in Memphis, Grandmom would dish out bowls of the spiciest soup I had ever tasted, and we would eat every last bite, not wanting to suffer the shame of being labeled sissy Yanks by our cool older cousins. When I went to college, my mom started making chili for me when I'd come home. Spicy chili with shredded cheddar, warm corn bread with lots of butter and honey. We'd sit at the same dining room table we always had, just my family, sinking right back into our old ways of being together.

This time of year, I crave this kind of food. Hearty, packed with flavor, tasting like home. When friends and family arrive at your house this winter, road-weary and sick of fast food, give them some chili. It makes everyone feel better. Beer doesn't hurt either, but chili is a great place to start.



NOTE: This is not turkey chili, or chicken chili, or veggie chili. This is not low-fat chili. If you're looking for low-fat chili, I advise you to rethink your life choices look elsewhere. If you're looking for chili that warms you up from the inside out, makes children and grown men alike grin with delight, and tastes like the chili that would win first prize in Heaven's chili cookoff, MAKE THIS NOW.

The Best Chili

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package mild breakfast sausage (like Tennessee Pride)
1.5 pounds 80% lean ground beef
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 15-oz. cans kidney beans, rinsed
2 25-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more or less to taste

Place the olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and ground beef and saute, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon as you go, until it is mostly brown. Add the onion, green pepper, garlic, and tomato paste, and cook about 2 minutes, stirring until combined. Add the beans, tomatoes and spices, and stir. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Simmer 2-3 hours or more (you can also transfer to a crock pot and cook it all day). Taste and adjust seasonings, and serve with whatever condiments and sides you like: corn bread, Saltines, sour cream, shredded cheddar, chopped onions, green onions, Tabasco sauce.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.



Anne and I went to the market together this gorgeous fall morning. I drank coffee and fed her raspberries and bites of a maple-pecan scone. As we sat, I read her some poems by Seamus Heaney. I wanted to share one with you.

Blackberry-Picking

for Philip Hobsbaum

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls swelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pear-Raspberry Pie

Pear-Raspberry Pie | coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

There's something about a pie. It's homey. Nostalgic. Comforting. The cozy interior of Hoosier Mama Pie Company is tiny: a couple of tables and chairs, an old sea-foam green dresser serving as a checkout counter, and a display case full of pie. But it's where I want to go when my spirits need lifting. I made my husband take me there after some careless knife handling necessitated a trip to the emergency room a few years ago. I sat there with my mom, sharing buttery pie and hot coffee after I found out I had lost a baby, only 8 weeks into my first pregnancy, almost exactly two years ago.

Paula Haney's new cookbook, The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie, is a veritable encyclopedia of pie knowledge. Step-by-step photos of important, hard-to-describe processes (pie crust, anyone?), funny stories, and page after page of fantastic recipes. Pear-raspberry was the first one to jump out at me, because the window for both fruits at the farmers market is happening right now. I know it won't come as a shock to you that I love to cook, and that time in the kitchen is relaxing and very rewarding for me, but making a pie is a special sort of culinary meditation. Mix the dough. Wait. Roll out the dough and shape it into a crust. Peel and slice the fruit. Toss. Wait. Bake for a long time. Wait. Wait. Slice and eat. It's almost a full day from start to finish, and so worth it. Every step is magic. And then, of course, there's pie for breakfast the next day: one of the highest pleasures in this life.

Pear-Raspberry Pie | coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Pear-Raspberry Pie

from The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie



Make sure to use soft, really ripe pears. I didn't, and while the flavor was still amazing, the pears were a little crunchy. This recipe is printed as is from the cookbook. I'm not going to print any other recipes from this book, and I'm not including the crust recipe, because I think you should just go buy it. It's awesome. Go.

1 9-inch double-crust pie dough (preferably from page 24 of the cookbook linked above)
5 cups ripe pears, peeled, cored, and chopped into bite-size pieces
2 cups raspberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch kosher salt

Place the pears, raspberries, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Do not mix. Place the sugar, cornstarch, ginger, and salt in a small bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the fruit, until most of the mixture is absorbed. Take care not to break up the raspberries. Sprinkle Crust Dust (a mixture of equal parts flour and sugar, designed to absorb some of the fruit juice and ensure a not-soggy bottom crust) into the empty pie shell. Pile the fruit into the shell and smooth the top with a spatula. Finish the pie with a lattice top, and freeze for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the lattice with Pie Wash (equal parts cream and whole milk) - be amazed at how easily you can brush a slightly frozen pie crust without smashing it - and sprinkle liberally with coarse-grained sugar. Bake for 60-80 minutes, rotating 180 degrees every 20 minutes, until the crust is dark golden brown and the juices are bubbling thickly. Cool for at least 2 hours before slicing.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Late Summer Minestrone

Hello?

...Anyone still here?

I accidentally took the summer off from blogging! I trust that you have been eating well, taking advantage of beautiful weather and farmers markets, and hopefully you've been online less this summer as well!

I'm back, because fall energizes me and makes me excited about what I'm cooking again! And I want to share! To kick off your weekend, a simple summer soup. Late summer means you can put whatever you want in it - seriously. Anything that looks good at the market, or that you have too much of in your garden. Yesterday I was reading a novel, in which a soup like this was described: a recipe that's never quite the same, served with whole grain bread and salted butter. Into the kitchen I flew!

Late Summer Minestrone

(not pictured: pile mountain of unfolded clean laundry, several piles of clutter, unvacuumed floors all made possible by aforementioned novel-reading and soup-making.)

Late Summer Minestrone

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, rinsed well and sliced
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 zucchini, chopped
1 cup shelled fresh cranberry beans (or cooked cannellini beans)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 large can whole tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper
Asiago cheese, for serving

In a soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leek, carrots, celery and garlic, and cook 3-4 minutes. Add the zucchini, beans, tomato paste, and tomatoes, crushing the tomatoes slightly with your hands as you add them. Fill the can again with water, and add that to the pot. Add the herbs, bring to a simmer, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer 20-30 minutes, until the beans and vegetables are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with Asiago cheese grated on top.