Friends, I'm writing a book.

I wanted to keep this business under wraps until I was sure it was really, truly, real. And now, it is. 

In the spring of 2015, around the ten-year anniversary of this site, my first cookbook will be published by Ten Speed Press and Appetite by Random House in Canada. 

(There's a lot in that paragraph right there that seems surreal.) 

Plums by Tara O'Brady

The book will be a collection of previously unpublished recipes, with only a few especially-loved ones revisited. When I was working up the proposal for the book, Sean noticed that the recipes on my prospective list were ones I already make; to him, they weren't new. And to me, that was the whole point. It is meant to be all the best from my kitchen, given to you. It is the meals I make in my day-to-day and for our celebrations, and the family secrets I've long wanted to get down on paper. It's a book we've lived and are still living, one tested and tried at our table.

The book is an extension of Seven Spoons. The funny thing about writing a blog is that while some may have started reading at the beginning in real-time, as years wear on, it's more and more likely that folks joined in along the way. So, there's never set course by which the story will be told. Parts can be read out of order, skipped even. A book gives the opportunity to set up a complete, contained work — it will be a sustained conversation, and one I'm excited to have.

Black + German Plums by Tara O'Brady

That said, the idea of a book still feels wobbly and whoa-boy-crazy sometimes. There's been moments when I've turned completely jello inside. But sharing the news with you pals, knowing one day I'll be sharing a book with you, well, that makes it great. Grand, stand-stand-up straight, arms wide, big grins, hurrah and yelping, super, happy great.  

In other words, your company makes it better. Makes this less intimidating, makes me less fearful. Everything more fun.

Actually, your company makes me better. Your company is what's at the heart and start of all of this. You've been here, sticking around, even when I was quiet, picking up right where we left off. You have been immeasurably kind. I am grateful and so very happy to know you.

plum rippled ginger crunch ice cream

It was the day before yesterday that I found out that the book had been officially announced. I read the email twice, squinting at my phone. Sean was home for lunch and right beside me. I was sure I was reading it wrong. It didn't sink in until later, until I was driving a few towns over, when laughter bubbled up. 

The last of the afternoon's errands had brought me out to a farm stand, one further than my usual. The weather had been showing off. I've got two coats ready for autumn but it was a wilting day of turned-up summer. The owner's daughter was behind the tables. Punnets were to her left, bigger baskets in the middle, then heaping bushels to her right.  Fruit and harvest got us talking, started us on that game of matching up favourites, of swapping tricks and tips and traditions. There was a discussion of peaches, the best for canning and eating, and talk of apricot jam. She offered me slices of fruit across the blade of her knife.

She told me some news, news that prompted me to share the photographs her mother let me take summer before last. She noticed her father's thermos of coffee, and I told her their plums were the stuff of legend. She walked me to the car, sending me away with more than I paid for, having pressed into my hand a bag weighted with Coronation grapes in tight, shadowy clusters, dusky purple-black, hugged up against a few, palm-sized, fat-bottomed pears with long stems. There were peaches already on the backseat, and plums in their baskets, ripe and full like water balloons, feeling as though their thin skins could only barely contain the sweetness within.

(If you're in Niagara, the stand is over on Victoria Avenue in Vineland, south of Claus Road. Drop me a line and I'll point you there.)

plum rippled ginger crunch ice cream

As I told her, I had in mind an ice cream stuffed with biscuits and plums, knobby in places with crunch, others smooth. In practice, it meant taking a prime extravagance and turning it into September's ice cream. Sharp and lush, this recipe is in honour of a family and the fruits of their farm, an ice cream that reminds me of the first time I drove out their way and found the sense to stop.  An ice cream as fancy as we needed to celebrate a book, as well as the years that brought us here, and the good fortune that brought me you.

Thank you for the bubbling laughter. 

(That was pretty smooshily said. Meant it just the same.)

 

 

 

PLUM RIPPLED GINGER CRUNCH ICE CREAM

Very much a plum crisp, frozen. I keep tripping over my words and calling it Plum Rumple Ice cream, which is how I sort of think of it. The fruit and crumbs and cream don't wholly blend, so the flavours are separate, yet in harmony.

FOR THE ICE CREAM BASE

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (14-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • A pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

FOR THE PLUM RIPPLE

  • 8 ounces plums, pitted, halved if small, quartered if large
  • 2-4 tablespoons brown sugar, depending on fruit
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated ginger

 

FOR THE GINGER CRUNCH

  • 4 ounces gingersnap cookies, homemade or store bought
  • 1 1/2 ounces pecans, toasted

METHOD 

To make the ice cream base, stir the condensed milk and evaporated milk together in a medium saucepan. Spilt the vanilla bean down its length, scraping out the seeds. Add both the seeds and the bean to the saucepan, along with a pinch of salt. Heat over medium-low heat until just under a simmer, stirring often.

Pour the mixture, including the vanilla pod, into a clean bowl or pitcher. Stir in 1 cup of the heavy cream and taste. It should be very sweet, but not uncomfortably so. If needed, add up to 1/2 cup more cream. Cover and chill the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, and up to overnight.

While the base is chilling, make the plum ripple. Tumble the plums into small, heavy-bottomed saucepan along with 2 tablespoons of sugar and the grated ginger. Bring to a boil, stirring regularly, over medium heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the fruit blip away until the flesh is quite soft and the juices deeply coloured, around 3 to 5 minutes. Push the fruit through a fine-meshed sieve over a bowl, then pour the liquid back into the pan and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes more, stirring often. The sauce should look shiny and thick, with a fresh, true plum flavour, tangy but fairly sweet. Keeping in mind that the flavour will dull when frozen, , stir in additional sugar as needed. Set the plum sauce aside to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

For the ginger crunch, simply crush the cookies in a mortar and pestle or in a resealable food bag with a rolling pin. The crumbs should be irregular, with some dust and some chunky bits. Pour the cookies into a bowl, then bash the toasted pecans the same way. Stir the nuts into the cookie rubble, and that's done.

To assemble, strain and freeze the ice cream base in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. When it reaches the consistency of soft serve, spoon the ice cream out into a large mixing bowl. Fold most of the ginger crunch through the ice cream with a few purposeful strokes. Do not over mix.  

Spoon one third of the ice cream into a lidded, freezer-safe storage container. Sprinkle some more of the crunch over the layer, then drizzle on a few long stripes of the plum sauce. With the tip of a thin-bladed knife, gently ripple the plum sauce into the cream. Top with half the remaining ice cream, and repeat the layers, ending with crumbs and plums. Cover and freeze for at least 3 hours.

Makes a generous quart of ice cream.

 

Note:  

  • The plums can be roasted instead of cooked on the stove. Arrange them snugly in a dish, toss them with the sugar and ginger, then pop it all into a moderately hot oven, say 400-425 degrees, until the fruit is soft. 
  • The crumble on my serving is pulverized candied pecans. They added some extra gilding to an already-fine day.

 

*Note: The book was tentatively-titled Well Fed, but that has since been changed. Some of the kind comments below reflect the earlier title. Thanks! 

 

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Hello, hello! I'm home from some days in Montréal, and doing my best to keep up with the pace of this last sprint of summer. I've got tales from our time away,  a book I think we should discuss, and a recipe that I've got pinned to the fridge.

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However, I'll first point you in another direction — on over to Food52 and again to their Small Batch column. They asked me back, with an interest in my Blue Cheese Dressing recipe. It's a tweak on my favourite one, more assertive with white wine vinegar in a way that's ace with tomatoes, and avocados, and especially, shockingly so, with stone fruit. 

Many thanks to Marian and Food52 for having me, and see you around in a few days. 

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PS I've had quite a few queries about the ceramic bowl in which I ate my peaches‚ the bowl here is from the same series, made by Colleen Hennessey, available through More & Co.  I can't tell you how nice they are in person, a joy to hold and use. I have them on a shelf in our dining room, but I keep snitching them down for my breakfasts.

You guys are swell to notice such things, and thanks for asking. 

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I was folding towels on the counter when I looked in the mirror and noticed, over my shoulder, the small white stool pushed in the corner of the bathroom. It has been, for I don't know how long, maybe as long as we've been in this house, the stool the boys use when they're brushing their teeth, or washing their hands, or filling up a cup of water to drink. That stool makes a creaking scrape of a sound as it's pulled across the floor, which is amplified by the shower tile, so, in the middle of the night, you're always notified when someone short is thirsty.

It's not been used in months. The boys are taller, getting so much so that there are times I have to squint to see the baby in their faces. This whole growing up business happens both in secret little bursts and slow, steady progress. It seems persistent and yet surprising that they're getting bigger, and it's all of a sudden May and the school year's almost over. 

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With the impressive headway into big personhood my sons are making, they've got their own schedules, ideas, homework, playdates, and plans that need managing, along with my own, to make up the hectic that fills up our minutes. (For the record, I don't understand how people function with only calendars on their phone. I'm a pen and paper sort, and am lost without a hard copy to keep track. ) 

In response, I made breakfast. A hot breakfast, a full-flavoured, full-bellied assignment, as one does. A celery root and potato rösti with Gruyère and eggs. The recipe came to me by way of Caroline Wright's new book, Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals.

 

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Though her recipe feeds four, I split the portion to feed one and three, respectively. For me, I nicked a generous handful of the celeriac potato strands and pressed it into a small skillet, while I took the remainder of the mixture and, as per instruction, cooked that in a larger skillet alongside. When mine was done, an egg was cracked and slid on top, then the Gruyère, and a generous seasoning of pepper. Under the broiler it went, until the white was set. The egg white, left to its own devices for that blasting, eked its way into the nooks and gaps of the rösti, filling in those spaces, and melding into a chewy, brown edge with the vegetables and cheese. 

That's not to say that the rösti itself is a slouch. It isn't. In the pan, the combination of potato and celery root turns solidly golden and interesting, with the grassy notes of the celery coming through and going nutty. The method of its making is fuss-free, yet the rösti approaches elegant.

Since I am happiest when there's greens with eggs, I couldn't help but pinch some twisty leaves of frisée from the crisper and snag some bacon too. The sharpness of the endive balanced out the sweetness of the celery root and the stodge of the potato and the richness of the egg and cheese. The salty crunch of the bacon brought another texture, and, come on, there's not need of convincing. It's bacon and eggs and potatoes and cheese. It's an easy sell.

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Can I confess? It felt like cheating. Here I was, in the funny light before the sun is properly up, I'm in the backyard eating a feast of a breakfast, on a weekday no less, and everyone else's lunch? Pretty much taken care of! Already! All I had to do was rewarm the larger rösti I'd made, crack some eggs, dress some greens, and, done.

Caroline's whole book gives you the feeling you're getting away with something, like you're already ahead before the game's even started. It delivers quick, straightforward recipes with glance-and-you've-got-them instructions, plus tons of chatty substitutions, suggestions and tips. She's like the girl in high school that seemed to always have it together, who knew where to hang out on Friday night, or listened to the coolest music that nobody had ever heard of, and always had perfect hair. (I was not that girl.)

 

CELERY ROOT RÖSTI WITH GRUYÈRE + EGGS 

Excerpted from Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals  (©2013) by Caroline Wright. My congratulations and cheers to Caroline upon its release. Used by permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc. New York, all rights reserved.

The recipe here is reformatted from as it appears in the book.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 small peeled celery root (celeriac), about 10 ounces
  • 1 medium peeled potato
  • 1 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Salt and pepper, for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated

METHOD

Preheat the broiler with a rack in the top position. Coarsely grate the celery root and potato into a medium bowl; toss with cornstarch and rosemary. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the celery root mixture, pat it into a large pancake, and cook until browned on the underside, 5 to 7 minutes. Slide the pancake onto a plate, then carefully flip it back into the skillet to brown the other side, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Crack eggs on top of the pancake, sprinkle with Gruyère, and season with salt and pepper. Broil until the cheese is golden and bubbly and the egg whites are set, 3 to 5 minutes. 

Notes: 

  • Caroline suggests another combination of parsnip with thyme and Parmesan.
  • In my laziness, I grated the potato and celery root in the food processor, which makes quick work of the job, but will leave the vegetables damp. I sprinkled the shreds over a lint-free tea towel and then folded the towel over, pressing out the liquid. I came back about 5 minutes later, fluffed up the strands, and they were dry and ready to go.
  • As said, I tossed some frisée with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and bunched that up on top of the r   östi. The bacon happened to be hanging around.

 

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limes are key

Hello, hello! 

A quick stop in on this afternoon, as I wanted to let y'all know that I'm on Design*Sponge today for their "In The Kitchen With..." series. (These are some outtakes, more photos and the full recipe is through the link.) It's an honour to be featured, and I'm especially excited to be talking about pakoras — or at least my not-at-all traditional take on pakoras, less of a fritter and more of an Indian take on a tempura-style fry up.

The batter is my grandmother's, so no disputing that it's the real deal, but I keep the vegetables in large-ish pieces to show off all the shapes and colours to their deep-fried finest. Plus, you can pick and choose your favourites — mine are the onion ones, followed closely by the green beans, then sweet potatoes, sliced thin.

I've also shared the recipe for my Mum's Fresh Green Chutney; it's got green apple, green chilies and fistfuls of cilantro, zinged up with lime juice, ginger and garlic. It's not only good with these fritters, but it's also what I like with samosas or even dolloped beside kofta kebabs that have been grilled over the fire. Keep a jar on hand in the fridge, and you'll find a million ways to use it.

We've got birthdays to celebrate tomorrow, and I'm pretty excited for that. Meet you back here next week, with tales of the weekend no doubt, along with the winner of the UPPERCASE contest! (psst! There's still time to put your name in the hat; I'll count entries up until 11:59 p.m. EDT.)

Cheers, folks, here's to swell days ahead.

pakora batter

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ingredients all together

I had planned to share a recipe today, but in the midst of holiday weekend chaos and revelry, I came to the conclusion that it required another go round before we gave it our attention.

Nonetheless, on this sunny Tuesday, with a sky that's a clear, true blue, I came to say hello. It's a day for company, don't you think? One made for visits and a chat.

lucky spring rice

The latest UPPERCASE, the spring edition, has just come out; it's issue 13 and is packed from beginning to end with good things. You can preview it here, if you'd like.

My contribution to its lineup is a story on how we can conjure up good weather and good luck through food. How a gloomy day can be made spritely with citrus, or the smell of cinnamon brings us to fruitful September. I touch upon superstition, too, like pomegranate seeds and their mythical ties to fertility. In many ways, the story is a lot about hope, the bolstering effect of positive thinking, and the small measures we take in good faith.

The recipe is for Lucky Spring Rice, and that's what you see in the photos up top, a dish with much in common with Lebanese Mujaddara, Persian Jewelled Rice, Egyptian Kushari and the Indian Pilaus I grew up with. There's lentils, and nuts, a mix of rice and fried pasta bits. Here's how I describe it there:

[This is] a rice that’s balanced. There’s the weighty, chewy comfort of starch that suits the spring days that still run cool. Then there’s the bright sweetness of fruit both fresh and dried, against the musky fragrance of cinnamon, coriander, cumin and clove. There’s the spark of pepper mollified by the cool of mint and grassy cilantro. There’s a twang of sharpness, as life must have some to offset everything else, and there’s a richness too, which rounds out the flavours.

It's hearty and satisfying, and a meal that can be eaten out in the yard with plates balanced on laps. No fuss, spring evening food, which is to say pretty much what I'd like for lunch today.

In other (read: fun, amazing, oh-my-gosh-really) news, I have been nominated for two awards over at the Saveur 3rd Annual Food Blog Awards, which explains that big banner over there. I am a finalist for Best Cooking Blog and Best Food Photography, and I cannot come up with sufficient thanks for those who nominated me. It is a true, jaw-dropping honour to be in such brilliant company. For those who'd like to vote, the polls are now open and run until April 26. As always, I am grateful for all the support.

Well then, I'm off. I wish you both fair weather and fine fortune, and we'll meet back here soon. 'Til then, pals. 

UPPERCASE magazine issue 13 can be purchased online, or visit their site to find your local stockist.

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I don't think I've ever mentioned this, but I'm a ship's captain's daughter.

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I'm suprprised I've omitted this essential information, as it was relative proximity to the waters upon which my father sailed that determined where I was born, and where I would grow up.

My father's workplace was the wheelhouse of a steamship, at the top of a steep flight of stairs. Each step had a ridged metal tread at its edge that shone. I made that climb countless times up to the ship's bridge, and spun around on many a wheelsman's chair, and all too often accidentally smudged my greasy fingerprints on the lenses of the binoculars they kept handy. I can tell you the type of cookies in the crinkly packet always tucked by the tea kettle, and how much I liked it when my father wore his captain's hat with its embroidered gold leaves, which wasn't often.

I spent a good deal of my childhood on boats. There are regulations mandating age minimums for children on those boats now, but they were more casual with such concerns then. I've got stories to tell.

I could tell you about the mail boat that would pull alongside ours in the Detroit river. I think it brought the Customs Officer aboard, to stamp the papers that allowed our passage across the line that divides Canada and the United States. More importantly to me, the small boat also brought tuck shop supplies. My father once ordered a case of Coca Cola and a box of Nestlé Crunch Bars for my brother and me to hoard and barter and savour for the remainder of our run. You really can't beat a day like that.

I could tell you about studying the undersides of bridges as we slipped underneath. Or about the people who would wave from shore as we'd pass through a canal. And how we'd wave back.

I could introduce you to a  Sleeping Giant.

Or tell you how, after earning your sea legs, (the habit of keeping a bounce in your step, knees flexible and unlocked even when standing in one place), to step on land feels strangely static. There is a momentary shock to realize the ground isn't moving.

I could tell you about storms. The ship would roll and pitch, and I'd understand why some of the furniture was chained to the floor. In wild storms, when the waves came onto the deck, or the rain was hard, or the wind fierce, we couldn't make the walk from our quarters at the bow of the ship to the galley at its stern for our meals. (Not all ships have this set up, with such a split.) In those circumstances we would climb below deck to the tunnel, a space between the side of the ship and the holds, and travel the football-field length of the deck that way, stepping up and through the raised, rounded doorways that marked our progress.

There was a time I woke up to lightning in the middle of  the night. I went to the window and the only lights to be seen were the swaying blips of those on deck. Then the sky lit up, a shock of energy diving straight into the water. I boosted myself up onto the deep windowsill. It was recessed, with a heavy drape mounted outside. I pushed my back up against one side of the alcove and put my legs straight out to the other. So wedged, I pulled the curtain closed, and watched the lightning flash. I don't remember going back to bed.

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I could tell you about the days that were grey.

On those days, those windless days, the water was still and heavy; a silver-backed mirror reflecting a sky that was perfectly overcast, without sliver of blue to be seen. There would be no waves, no movement except our own. The water looked viscous. As it broke against the bow it folded upon itself like ripples of pewter silk, reminiscent of the slick, rounded backs of sea lions when they surface. 

I did not realize the size, the space, the breadth of the unkown on an airplane; in the air, the miles in between wing and ground grants a distance that makes it seem unreal. In a car, you are immersed in the landscape. It is all around, you're closely contained. It was on water that I truly understood the smallness of my world; a world that at that moment was 30 souls on a 700-some-odd-foot man made island of steel and steam. It was one of those grey days, when the outline between sky and water is lost, and there was no land in sight. Only grey, in every direction. I stood still, aware of the hum of the engines that powered us - a vibration you feel in your joints, in the soles of your feet - and was sure I could walk the thick tension of the lake, all the way to the horizon, and go on from there. We were a pinprick. A dot on a map.

I talked to my mother about this memory, and she provided the context; it was most likely Lake Superior we were sailing then, possibly Erie. She told me a quote from Christopher Columbus, which seemed to fit: "You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

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These photographs aren't of the waterways I knew, although my father has navigated these too. They are of Prince Edward Island, a province on the eastern edge of Canada, and the setting for a new adventure. For Kinfolk Magazine's second volume, two friends - Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott - and I put our heads together on a project.

We collaborated on a story about travel, most specifically as a pair. It follows the cross-country drive to the 150-year-old farmhouse where they stayed for a week. Here's an excerpt:

In this case, we're speaking of memories of days spent on the tip of an island. Looking through windowpanes effervescent with bubbles trapped in the glass. Meals shared, and chairs pulled close to the table, and to each other. Walks on soft sand after a feast of clams with butter and beer, to return the shells to the waters from whence they came. The taste of potatoes dug from red earth, the likes of which you won't find anywhere else. The act of battening down the hatches and together bundling up against a storm, with winds that wailed against ancient walls in exhilarating gusts.

Clothes brought in from drying, branded with the scent of salted air.

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The magazine is out now, available both in print and on the iPad. If you would like our recipes from the story, I'm chuffed to point you in the direction of Bon Appetit, where they're published along with a few more shots from PEI. Thanks so much to Julia for that.

And speaking of photographs, Nikole has some others up today too - we wanted to show y'all some of our favourites, and though it nice to divide them between us two. So if you head on over to her site you can see them, and read her thoughts on the matter. 

For a look back at the launch of Kinfolk and our first collaboration, it's here

All photographs by Michael Graydon. Food and styling by Nikole Herriott. Cheers guys, it was great fun.

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