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The book will be a collection of previously unpublished recipes, with only a few especially-loved ones revisited.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. Well Fed  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.

Well Fed 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! 

 

Posted
Authortara
46 CommentsPost a comment
unknown

I haven't known how to come back here, or exactly what to write. I'll apologize first and foremost; I'd not intended to be gone so long. There really is no easy introduction to this explanation, as the reason I've been quiet is that we lost my grandmother. My Mum's mum.

She and I were close. She was sharp, and encouraging, and a talent in the kitchen. When my brother and I were growing up, she lived with us sometimes,  a steadfast influence always. We were fortunate to have had her as long as we did. I was granted the grace of sharing her last days.

She was a teacher who liked crossword puzzles, and apples in her salad. She would tell us not to drink our juice too fast at dinner, or we'd ruin our appetites. She made a habit of the library. I remember the day she took her hair, which was long and dark and worn in a low bun at the base of her neck, and had it cut into a short bob, set in curls. I thought she looked like Queen Elizabeth.

Still beautiful, only different.

A few days ago, caught up in the busy-mindedness that happens when we potter about with efficient industry, I was checking off items on the running to-do list in my head when I reminded myself; "It's Sunday, I should call Grandma." 

No. She's gone. And with the realization, the air left of the room.

It seems that close, that possible, that on the other end of the line she could pick up and I'd hear her voice again. At some point soon, I hope to be able to do her justice, to come close to explaining who she was, and how much she meant to us.

I'll tell you about the dinner we held in her honour; of all that was made, of those who celebrated together and the stories that were told. I'll be sure to describe the photographs and the music.

I'm not there yet. But I look forward to it.

Until then, here's some of what I said that afternoon:

When I think of Grandma, I think of someone who liked things done a certain way, who had particular tastes, and who wasn’t afraid to let her mind be known. I think of a woman with faith. I think of a woman with strong opinions and the conviction to stand by them. I think of someone who put up with me running to jump in her bed, every time I had a nightmare. I think of a woman who was stubborn, so much so that it feels surreal to stand here without her. I think of independence and strength, a strength that lasted all her days, a strength that serves as fine example for the times ahead.

I think of a woman to whom we are forever grateful, to whom we are forever indebted; one who we love dearly, and whose legacy continues in all those gathered.

She will be truly missed.

roly poly

During my grandmother's decline and passing, food was a tricky thing. It was full of complications and, paradoxically, spontaneous joys. I became prickly about the subject, finding it difficult to talk about cooking and meals and all those things she enjoyed, and we enjoyed together. Having children to feed kept me in the kitchen. The boys had begun to understand what was happening, and so I made her recipes. They called her Gigi.

A little while after we said goodbye to Grandma, we accepted an invitation from dear, darling Jason and Jeff to spend a weekend at their cottage with a bunch of pals. It felt strange, and almost heavy, to be packing up and getting excited again. Someone told me it was "just the thing to do. A change is what you need." They were right.

That group that descended upon Muskoka was one of the finest contingents of individuals we could ever be lucky enough to know; in the end, my stomach hurt from laughing. Goodbye hugs on the dock felt like the last day of camp. The next day, I wanted to go back.

At first the trip had felt half an adventure, half as though I was leaving things behind. But as time passed, it seemed less like moving away from recent days, and more that I was heading in a direction of this new normal, one I'm not wholly ready for, but where I need to go. To a place that's still beautiful, only different.

Those friends set me on my way.

Beyond the fun and games and meteor showers, we'd had meals together, shared in the making and the eating, family-style, tight around the table. It felt comfortable, good. I don't think I can ever fully repay them for the difference they made. I will try, though. 

so this was tasty.

I might begin with lifetime supply of ice cream sandwiches. If that's agreed, then these are most certainly the ones where I'll start. The cookie is crumbly, yet densely, unmistakably full of peanut butter, craggy with dark chocolate and gritty bits of oatmeal. They're alternately squishy and substantial, and make the ideal base for an a scoop of ice cream. What's even better is where I got the recipe.

My friend Sara wrote a book, and her husband Hugh took the pictures. It's called The Sprouted Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, 2012), after the website they've built together over the last three years. You probably know all about them, since they've done a cracking good job of making a name for themselves already. Nonetheless, I'll say the collaboration between the two of them is one of the most striking I know; I remember the first time I saw their work, I asked myself "now, where did this come from?" It was too lovely, too fully-realized, a package of pretty, all tied up.

The book is the very much more of same, with 100 of Sara's best recipes, including Lentil Meatballs in Lemon Pesto (zesty and punchy), Quinoa Collard Wraps with Miso-Carrot Spread (vibrant with colour), and Baked Artichoke Dip (addicting). 

In Sara you'll find an earnest cook who wants to feed people healthfully, with whole foods, conscientious choices, and meals full of personality. Her recipes are gorgeous, and Hugh captures them deftly; he's got an artful way with detail, that one. They should be proud.

As a bonus, the pair of them are too stinkin' cute for words. 

I'm glad to share their excitement, and for the opportunity to express my gratitude to those who have been keeping me company. I'm glad to be back here, too. 

Grandma, we know that you are home. I wore your earrings one day and my hair was up, and Mum said I looked like you. I can't imagine words that could have meant more. Thank you for everything.

 

OATMEAL ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

From The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods (Ten Speed Press, 2012).

Sara says: Making this recipe requires a little bit of time, since you'll have to wait for some of the ingredients to chill, but once they are made, they'll keep in the freezer for up to a month, so you'll have an ice cream sandwich whenever you please. It's such a special treat to have these waiting in the freezer when someone pops over. The cookies are pretty tender, so I freeze them before I put the ice cream between. They never get rock hard in the freezer, so even on the first bite you can enjoy them without hurting your teeth.

I find that a thinner, more fluid natural peanut butter, such as Laura Scudder's Organic Smooth Peanut Butter, works best. You can purchase oat flour, but I love the convenience of making it myself, and the texture of homemade oat flour is quite lovely. To yield the amount you need for this recipe, pulse about 1 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats in a food processor until it looks like a coarse flour.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup dark muscovado sugar
  • 1/4 cup natural cane sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup creamy natural peanut butter
  • 1 1/3 cups oat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, coarsely chopped
  • 2 quarts premium vanilla bean ice cream, see note
  • 1 cup chopped roasted peanuts, for garnish (optional)

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add the egg, honey, and peanut butter and mix until well combined. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oat flour, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place them on a baking sheet 2 inches apart, using a second baking sheet as necessary. You should have about 30 cookies. Bake, rotating the trays halfway through, until the outer edges turn golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Once cooled, transfer to plates and chill in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.

Remove the ice cream from the freezer and let soften for a few minutes. Using and ice cream scoop, place one scoop of ice cream on the bottom of a cookie and top it with another cookie. Gently press down and smooth the outer edge. Roll the ice cream edge in the peanuts, pressing them to adhere, and place the sandwich back on one of the plates in the freezer. Repeat. Once fully frozen, after 20 to 30 minutes, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or parchment paper. They will keep in the freezer for up to a month.

Notes:

  • I used a 2-inch scoop to portion the dough and ended up with 18 cookies, making 9 sandwiches. They baked for about 10 to 12 minutes. 
  • Instead of vanilla bean ice cream, I used the Crème Fraîche Ice Cream from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones(Ten Speed Press, 2012), the exceptional new book from Bi-Rite Creamery. I left the lemon out of the recipe, adding vanilla bean, and substituting half the granulated sugar for turbinado. We made brown sugar crème fraîche at the cottage to serve with crumbles, and I'm still thinking about it. The tangy finish of the ice cream works really well with the richness of the oatmeal cookies; I'm sure a sour cream or buttermilk ice cream would also be very nice.

*******

My wholehearted congratulations to Sara and Hugh on The Sprouted Kitchen, and its release on August 28, 2012. If you can't wait to see it for yourself, I've got some great news! Ten Speed Press has generously offered a peek into the book, with the complete table of contents and a 10-recipe sampler. You'll want to bookmark that page.

Posted
Authortara
55 CommentsPost a comment