Hey guys. I'm having trouble finding the start that seems right. I've tried, then deleted the attempt, then tried again, then got a drink, put in a load of laundry, and tried again. And deleted again. So let's take a deep breath and jump in. 

Seven Spoons cookbook first look + preview recipe bundle | Tara O'Brady

There. Much easier. My cookbook, Seven Spoons: My Favourite Recipes for Any and Every Day, comes out slightly-less-than two months from now. Specifically on April 21, 2015, which happens to be my birthday and nine days before the tenth anniversary of this site. The publishers, Ten Speed Press in the US and Appetite by Random House here at home, didn't know the significance of the date when they chose it, and the coincidence feels like kismet.

russeted apples and book preview recipe bundle!  | Tara O'Brady

Today I was going to tell you about how I came to write a book in the first place, but then I thought it might be nicer to work in reverse. Start with the book itself, and go backwards from there. Maybe I'll split it up into a few posts — one with how this all happened, and another on how I actually wrote the book and organized my work, if that sounds good to you. Then we can keep the conversation going. 

ploughman's lunch + book preview recipe bundle! | Tara O'Brady

As I said what feels ages ago, the cookbook was an opportunity to gather up the favourite recipes of my family and our friends, and finally nail down some of those go-to dishes that have thus far been without any recipe at all. I ended up at over 100 of them — I think the count is 114 — with more than 80 photos to match. I shot the photography in my home, around the region where I live, and up north in Muskoka, on days spread out over the year I took to write. So you'll see how the light changes with the seasons, and get an idea of how those plates looked on our table. (If you'd like, I can cover my approach to the photography in one of those posts I'll get on planning.)

I aimed to make a book that would be as useful on special occasions as it was in the day-to-day, whether craving a crackling plate of fried chicken burnished with gochuchang-laced honey, or some invigorating quick-pickled vegetables and herbed labneh bundled up in collard greens, or an icy sip in the form of a Paloma with chaat masala salt. There are recipes from my childhood (including a primer on dal), and Sean's too — I am thrilled about how the Walnut Cherry Butter Tart Pie turned out, based on his maternal grandmother's recipe —  as well as dishes we have come to call our own in recent years (baked colcannon, corn gazpacho, and sausage rolls with nuoc cham). While it does have vegetarian, vegan, whole-grain, gluten-free, and many other diet- and allergen- friendly recipes, the book has no fidelity to one set way of eating. It does have an overarching commitment to eating in season, and as locally as possible, with whole foods the usual. The collection is varied, suiting the way I eat, and hopefully you do too.

The book is simply organized to follow a day's worth of meals. It has Breakfast, Lunch, Soups, Snacks and Starters, then Suppers, Vegetables and Sides, followed by Treats, Sweets and Sips, and a chapter of Staples. 

cheesy mushrooms and greens + book preview recipe bundle | Tara O'Brady

In Seven Spoons the book, just like on this site, the stories of those dishes are included too. That said, a few had to be trimmed, even after we added pages to cram in as much as possible. I wanted to include those somewhere, and here seemed a good place. 

On the Pickled Strawberries (pictured above with chicken liver pâté as part of a ploughman's lunch): The first time I had pickled strawberries was in New York City, in a restaurant at the edge of Central Park. The place was packed, filled with people and noise, and a fierce windstorm was kicking up outside. Still, the strawberries pulled attention. Luminously scarlet, lacquered in juice, they were berries from Oz, daintily presented on top of succulent slices of fresh mozzarella. The supple cheek of sharp fruit against the cool, creamy blandness was startling. Refreshing and silky, each soured morsel had me wanting another.

On the Bostocks (I love bostocks): Nikole introduced me to bostocks. We were once waiting to cross at a busy corner in Toronto — Yonge at Roxborough Street East, if you happen to know the neighborhood — when she asked a question I couldn’t quite hear over the cars. It sounded like, "Have you ever had a bus stop?" Not understanding, I don't think I replied either way. She then led a block further down Yonge Street, to Patachou Patisserie (sadly, now shuttered).

In the front window, between apple turnovers and showy cinnamon swirls, was a cluster of plain, brown, icing sugar-dusted pucks labeled bostocks.

Those squat pastries proved remarkable at first bite. 

One Pot Brownies + book preview recipe bundle!  | Tara O'Brady

The book is available for pre-order, for those interested. As a special thanks, anyone who orders early gets a bundle of recipes right away, starting today. (Those who have already ordered get one, too!) There are five recipes from the book, including the North-Indian style baked eggs that some folks asked about, along with two exclusive to the package. These brownies are one of those recipes, with a super easy, fudge caramel glaze that takes them to fully over the top, rather than just slightly so. Click this link to claim your PDF; simply enter your information and follow the instructions. Then you're off to the races. Or the kitchen, as it were.

I'll sign off for now. I'm working with both my publishers to plan events around the book's launch — so if you'd like a visit do let me know! We'll also take the locations of pre-orders into account, so that kindness will be represented. Once confirmed, those dates and information will be added to the NEWS section on top menu bar.

Well then. This feels like a lot, yet feels really great. Thank you for reading this far, and for so long.

xo and happy days.

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It is difficult for me to draw a line between Ashley Rodriguez my friend, and her cookbook Date Night In. If looking for a straight up review of her work, my apologies, but there isn't one here.

That said, while I don't remember how or when we met, the Ashley I am lucky enough to have come to know over boozy drinks, shared sandwiches and seagulls, early morning walks for (not tomato soup-ish) coffee, phone calls, and a road trip covering a section of the west coast of this continent, that Ashley is the same Ashley her readers find on her site, and in her book.

So, if you'd like to know about her, and her grapefruit cake, then please read on.

Ashley is one to bring you a (homemade) doughnut before dinner. And who has a weekly doughnut tradition with her three spitfire kids. She studied art, takes photographs, and appreciates a well-baked egg. She's sassy and used to drive a convertible. She likes fried chicken, ginger beer, and ice cream. Ashley can pull of a wide-brimmed felt hat with aplomb and a tote that holds everything from notebooks to this really amazing chunky bracelet, from a package of her famous cookie mix to a tube of cherry red lipgloss. There's the magic of Mary Poppins in this girl, hidden under that blonde hair and behind her warm smile. 

She is fiercely committed to her family and her husband. She is an attentive mother to Baron, Roman, and Ivy, while still active and present in her partnership with Gabe. She also maintains time alone, or with her friends, and considers how those experiences help her in her life at home. It is not a balance that is easy, so it only made sense that Ashley would write about how exactly she does it all, including those intimate moments difficulties and those of reward. 

I think, as a culture, we are nervous to talk about the work that goes into our relationships — romantic or otherwise — it is seen as a shortcoming. Ashley disagrees. In her book, an extension of a wildly-popular series on her blog, she is as generously candid as she is in conversation. Her earnest, heartfelt intention is evident on every page. Date Night In isn't just about food; it is about the way she and Gabe come to the table to come together.

By the by, on that table, and in this book, you will find Braised Pork Chilaquiles with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa and Pickled Red Onion, German Pretzel Sandwiches, Chanterelle Pot Pie, and Nutella Semifreddo, among other things.

Ashley's Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate | Tara O'Brady

One of the other things is a Grapefruit and Olive Oil Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate. It's part of a menu called Somewhere in Italy, and offered alongside Pasta e Fagioli, Crostini with Ricotta, Proscuitto and Peas, and an Aperol Spritz. It is a straighforward quick bread, with a tight crumb and the qualities of both a muffin and a cake. The scent of the batter reminded me of those chocolate oranges from the holidays — the one you smack into segments — yet decidedly more refined, with the grapefruit's sharper note heightening that floral aspect of the olive oil and the darkness of the chocolate. It cuts just so. To continue the silver screen theme, it's Audrey Hepburn's Sabrina after she comes back from Paris wearing that Givenchy dress by the tennis court. In other words, like Ashley and the work she does, a fit that's practically perfect in every way. 

 

GRAPEFRUIT + OLIVE OIL CAKE WITH BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE

When baking with olive oil, I recommend one that is more grassy and floral than peppery.

— From Date Night In: More Than 120 Recipes to Nourish your Relationship by Ashley Rodriguez (Running Press, 2014) 

Makes a 9-inch loaf cake, serving 8 to 10

 

INGREDIENTS

  • Unsalted butter, for the pan
  • 3/4 cup / 180 ml freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated grapefruit zest, divided
  • 1/2 cup / 125 g whole-milk plain yogurt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup / 160 ml best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup / 150 g granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups /235 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 ounces / 110 g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  •  1 1/2 cups / 170 g confectioners sugar, see note below
  • Crème fraîche, for serving (optional)

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

Add 1/2 cup / 120 ml grapefruit juice to a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the juice by half. Cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, combine 1 tablespoon grapefruit zest, yogurt, eggs, olive oil, and reduced grapefruit juice and whisk to mix well. 

In a large bowl, add the granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix until everything is well blended. Stir in the chocolate.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place in the hot oven. Bake until the cake is deeply brown and set and springs back gently when pressed, 50 to 55 minutes.

While the cake bakes, prepare the glaze. In a bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 tablespoon grapefruit zest with the remaining 1/4 cup  / 60 ml grapefruit juice. Gently, in order to prevent a confectioners sugar snowstorm, stir in the confectioners sugar and continue to stir until well mixed. 

Let the cake cook in the pan for 5 minutes before cooling on a wire rack.

When cooled to room temperature, place the cake on a serving platter and drizzle with half the glaze. Reserve the rest of the glare for serving along with the sliced cake. Serve with crème farce, if desired. The cake can be made 1 day in advance.

NOTES FROM TARA:

If, by any chance, you are new to olive oil in sweet baking, you may want to cut some of the oil with an equal amount of something more neutral — say grapeseed or canola.

I made my cakes in miniature, for ease of sharing. I divided the batter between three 5 1/2-by-3-inch loaf pans and baked them for about 30 minutes, or until deeply golden as per Ashley's instruction — the edges were coming away from the sides of the pans, and a cake tester inserted into the centre of each cake came away clean. 

The recipient of one of the cakes has a weakness for marmalade-ish glazes, and so that is reflected in the photos. To make, combine the 1/4 cup grapefruit juice that had been set aside for the glaze with 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon marmalade in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stirring, bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring now and again. Remove from the heat and cool to warm before using.

 

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