This afternoon's plan was to share a recipe, as I've got one waiting in the wings, but that isn't happening. What is happening is me on the couch, with my laptop, phone, various remote controls, an ice pack and a hot water bottle (and unfortunately without those doughnuts up top, which were from another day.) I wish I could say I did something exciting to warrant an injury, but I can't. Instead, it's simply that I've gone and tweaked something in my back, and so here we are. 

As a positive, my couch session affords the opportunity to tell you a little about what I've been cooking and eating lately, aside from doughnuts, and the recipes that I've got bookmarked for next.

Indian Baked Beans | Tara O'Brady for the Globe and Mail

 We started October with the Indian Baked Beans I wrote about in the Globe and Mail. They are a mashup of chole (channa) masala and traditional baked beans. Besides on toast, I like them tucked in naan with a slice of grilled halloumi. Or, I top a bowlful with a pile of bitter greens (frisée is especially good), a squeeze of lime or lemon, fruity olive oil, and some flaky salt. 

I went on a falafel kick after that, wholly inspired by the recipes in the book Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East by Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer (Little, Brown and Company, 2015). There are three recipes in the book; Jerusalem-style (for Itamar), Haifa-style (for Sarit), and Yemeni (for the family roots). I made the Haifa-style, also known as the one for purists, as it is a rather robust fritter full of cumin and coriander. Paired with a lemon-sharp tahini dressing, they were ideal. Bon Appétit featured the falafel in their last issue, along with two more — kuri squash and red pepper. I'm looking to have go a the squash, and I'm pretty into the spiced tahini from the same issue, as well as the feta and spring onion bouikos from the book. (Sara put her trademark spin on the falafel and created a baked variation.)

Over the weekend I made Martha Rose Shulman's Mexican Black Beans. Following Molly's advice, I soaked the beans longer than I usually would — a full 24 hours instead of overnight. I followed the recipe, with the addition of a minced chipotle in adobo at the start, and then half a fresh jalapeño (left whole) when the cilantro went in. I'd planned on following John Thorne's low and slow oven method for cooking the beans that Molly described, but due to an oversight in timing, I needed the oven for other things. So, I split the difference and cooked the beans on the stovetop, with the heat on low and only the faintest of burbles. They were done in about 3 hours, and while they were good that first day, I cannot tell you how much better they were the second. So, if you can, plan ahead and let them cool completely before stashing them in the fridge for a rest. Even once reheated, the broth from the beans was velvety, deeply flavoured and not at all murky, and the beans themselves still held together. Sean and I had them for lunch yesterday, with brown rice, avocados, pickled things, and sprouts.  

Spoonable meals are what I'm continuing for November. Yotam Ottolenghi's roasted pumpkin soup with harissa and crisp chickpeas looks rather enticing (scroll down once though the link), and the yam and peanut stew from Gena Hamshaw's new book Food52 Vegan (Ten Speed Press, 2105), is unreservedly great. And oh, if you're on Gena's site, her nut milk creamer is one to try. When I'm looking for extra soothing delivered via  mug, I make the Golden Milk from my own book and bulk up the liquid with some of her creamer.

And last but not least, the first cookbook my friends Nikole Herriott and Michael Graydon photographed is now out — the highly-anticipated Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California by LA-based chef and restaurant owner Travis Lett (Chronicle Books, 2015). The photographs look as remarkable as would be expected from those two and I can't wait to get stuck in to the recipes. Congratulations, guys.

The kettle just clicked off, so I should go attend to that. Talk soon soon. xo

 

 

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In many ways, my world is a small one. It isn't broad or grand or glamorous, really.

Most days I wear a familiar routine, worn in places from use, and I think it suits me well. I have an affection for that sameness; I am loyal to it and and it is reliable in its service. There is a luxury in contentedness that I have come to appreciate.

Fo us, that contentment with the regular is what prepares us for the extraordinary - good or bad. The security in knowing that the familiar will always be around gives us firm footing for standing up to hold close or defend against the happenings of the world beyond.

This undemanding coconut bread from Bill Granger is as trusty as trusted can be. We've been making this recipe for years, a recipe famous already and without need of my seal of approval as it has already been decorated by far grander folk. Nonetheless, I thought I'd bring it out in the chance that you might not have heard of it before, and for those who have, to remind you of its strong points.

If you have ever wanted to eat macaroons for breakfast, but felt the need for an excuse to do so. Here's you go, here it is. This bread is coconut through and through, a buttery base barely holds together that coconut in a texture that is moist and toothsome, like the centre of a Bounty bar in bread form.

Even better, this is a useful bread to have around. For the earlier-mentioned breakfast, toast it until crisp at the edges and serve with butter and marmalades, or save it for afternoon tea and serve it with a veil of confectioner's sugar sifted over its crust, or pack away blocky slices in the freezer where they won't mind the cold one bit.

It's also a bread that welcomes variation, one takes citrus beautifully (into the wet ingredients whisk in the zest of your choice, lime or grapefruit is especially nice). Or, if citrus isn't your thing, finely-chopped candied ginger or chocolate chips folded into the batter with the butter also make a top-notch additions.

There is nothing difficult about the recipe itself; in the matter of the ingredients or the method. It's made up of baking staples, simply stirred together wet into dry, in the muffin method - meaning just barely, so that all the liquid is absorbed and the flour is dampened and incorporated, but no more than that. No whipping or creaming required. In truth, anything that athletic is frowned upon, since overworking the batter will result in a firmer bread than is our aim. Lethargy wins the day. As it should.

So go forth, with sturdy slices tucked into your pockets or squirreled away for when they're needed. Come rain or shine, regular or remarkable, whatever the day brings you can be happy in the knowledge that there's coconut bread waiting for you.

It's good like that.

BILL GRANGER'S COCONUT BREAD

Adapted slightly from the original.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • Seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean
  • 2 1/2 cups flour, more for dusting pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 5 ounces flaked coconut (around 1 1/2 cups)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • Soft butter for greasing the pan

METHOD

Preheat an oven to 350°F (175°C).

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla seeds. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the sugar and coconut. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and slowly add the egg mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in the melted butter, being careful not to overmix.

Grease and flour a 8-by-4-inch loaf pan. Pour in the batter and bake in the preheated oven until the loaf is golden and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, around 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in its tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack. Position it again side up to cool a bit more.

Slice thickly and toast, or serve as is. A smear of butter or a dusting of confectioner's sugar is optional, but either would be a really good idea. Grapefruit marmalade would be exceptional.

Makes 1 loaf.

Notes:

• I had the urge to make this one day, and found that I only had a few ounces of each sweetened, flaked coconut and unsweetened, finely shredded coconut. I tossed them together equal parts of the two to get my full amount and haven't looked back since. It's not a necessary change, but worthy of note.

• If you do not have fresh vanilla beans on hand, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract can be substituted.

• The crust on this bread is something special; it has the crunch and lacy feel of the golden edge of a macaroon. To encourage a higher crust-to-middle ratio, I bake mine in a long and narrow loaf pan, it is 10-by-3 1/2-inches - in that case, I use a sling of parchment paper to make it easier to remove. This batter also makes pleasantly-dense cakelets when baked in a muffin tin.

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Hello my dears, will you do me a favour? Preheat your oven to 400°F. While you're at it, start slicing some leeks while we catch up.

I was feeling pretty good about my preparedness for the coming holiday season this whole year-end business, that is, I was until a friend sweetly pointed out that as of today, there were a mere six days left until our merriment begins. How'd that happen?

Their math must be wrong. Let's see, 24-18 equals ... oh.

Shoot. No such luck. We're almost at the count-the-days-on-one-hand stage, people.

Before I go on, how are those leeks coming? All sliced? Take a second and put a skillet on to heat with a knob of butter in there. When that's melted, toss in your leeks and stir them around so that everybody's friendly.

Where was I? Yes, there's a lot going on. I'm particularly giddy to report that Menu for Hope is off to a rip-roaring start. We've just hit the $20,000 mark, with fingers crossed that the momentum continues through the second half of the campaign.

And we've got some happenings that should help in the momentum department, first off let me extend my thanks and welcome to the kind folks at EAT Magazine, who have donated another raffle item to our efforts. "Taste of British Columbia" brings together a variety of offerings from producers from this gorgeous province, including Untamed Feast’s delicious dried wild mushroom products (Forest Blend), locally grown roasted hazelnuts from Butler Hazelnut Farm, Vista d’Oro Farm’s Turkish Fig with Walnut Wine, a ½ lb. bag of Mile 0 Roasters Niagara Blend, Gathering Place’s Organic Rooibos Tea, and two chocolate bars from organicfair. To bid on their item, enter code CA12, when donating.

There are lots of new raffle items being added every day; be sure to keep checking the worldwide listing for the most up-to-date information.

Speaking of donations, we've got a brand spankin' new donation form for you; it lists all raffle items available worldwide, with a simple widget alongside that tallies your bids. To see it in all it's point-n-click glory, click here.

Oh! Back to the leeks. How are they doing? Are they all loopy and lithe yet? No? Okay, we've got a few more minutes to go.

More news. Remember way back in June when I said I'd be in the summer issue of UPPERCASE magazine? Well, Janine was kind enough to extend the invitation for me to write for them again. I'll be in the Winter issue, out in January 2010, talking about Maple Walnut Caramel. It's the recipe that started my recent walnut fixation.

While we're on the subject of UPPERCASE, a first look at the cover for the issue was recently available for subscribers to their newsletter. I'm sort of in love with it. I think you will be too.

The leeks should be looking about there by now - give them a poke with your spoon. They should be soft and sweet, still green and brightly fragrant. Good stuff, we're ready to go.

Now this is probably only exciting to me, but I've finally settled on what I'm making for the savoury portion of our Christmas breakfast. As you might have surmised, those scrummy leeks play a big part in the deliciousness to come this December 25th's a.m.

I have been looking for a partner to the Breakfast Bread from Donna Hay from years ago. A steadfast presence our menu that's focaccia in feel, but with a biscuit method for the base. A thick, spongy dough lays beneath a Christmassy landscape of wilted spinach and oven-dried tomatoes, with a crowning snowdrift of Gruyère to cover all. This is a bread that I start thinking about in the fall, when the last of the tomatoes are coming off the vine and I'm drying and preserving them in oil in eager anticipation of their winter debut.

Whatever arrives alongside that bread has to be a humdinger of a dish.

Enter the wonderful Lusia Weiss, with exactly what I was looking for. The Baked Eggs in Cream she introduced last week are, as she says, adorable. And boy are they tasty.

From the softly-set egg that is lush and dreamy, to the supple leeks hiding underneath the whiteness, it's ridiculously easy to get all swoony about this recipe. What's even more brilliant for my needs is that I can cook the leeks the night before, so they're ready and waiting come Christmas morn; crack an egg and spoon over some cream, in to the oven they go. En masse, everyone's taken care of.

If I'm being honest, the presentation of the individual ramekins was of specific appeal. Not only does this recipe allow you to cook for many with minimal fuss, it also allows for some greedy indulgence. A fleet of these little darlings on the table looks abundant and generous, but to each is own means that nobody has to share.

With all the support we've had for Menu for Hope, a moment of mine-all-mine gluttony can certainly be overlooked. You've all earned it.

CAMINO'S EGGS BAKED IN CREAM

A multiplied rendition of Camino's original, via The Wednesday Chef. Luisa's advises cooking the leeks longer than in the original recipe, and I am not one to argue. A cluster of oil-packed dried tomatoes nudged up against the yolk added an appreciated acidity.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 4 leeks, cleaned and the white and light green parts sliced thinly
  • Salt
  • 2 sprigs thyme, leaves roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs parsley, leaves roughly chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or coffee cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Grilled or toasted bread slices to serve

METHOD

With a rack set in the middle, preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

In a small sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks, along with a splash of water and a pinch of salt. Cook until the leeks are tender, around 10 minutes. Stir in the herbs. Divide the herbed leeks among four small dishes or ramekins, flattening the vegetables out slightly to make a nest for the eggs.

Crack one egg in the middle of each dish. Add enough cream to just over the white, then season with salt and the freshly-ground black pepper. Set the dishes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until the white is set, between 8 to 12 minutes. Serve immediately, with the grilled bread.

Serves 4. Or really 2, as you'll want seconds. Trust.


A warm nibble for the cooler days ahead; spiced pumpkin scones. Photos courtesy of Deep Media.

“Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils ..."

Sometimes I think I would really like to go back to school.

I could say that it was because I wanted to be surrounded by knowledge, or that I long for the daily exchange of ideas or that I crave an opportunity to stretch my mental boundaries. But, while all of that is well and good, I must be honest.

The thing that would most excite me about back-to-school would most likely be the stationery.

My love of lists is old news, I know. But it is a continuing, relentless habit. What you might not realize though is that the quirk is even deeper-rooted than the itemized collection of things to do; in fact, lists only scratch the surface of my fondness for writing things down, getting organized, and the supplies associated with both.

The whir of a label maker makes me happy. I have spread sheets detailing gifts given for holidays over the last five years. I was recently miffed to find out that Ikea had discontinued the glass jars I like for pantry storage. I have been known to colour code paper clips to best suit the subject matter they clamp. Seriously. And yes, I got made fun of for that one.

As you can well imagine, my level of commitment to eccentricity has led me down many an aisle of a stationery store. And so then you can imagine, I have bought enough stationery to be particular in my purchases. Rollerball, not ball point pens please. A mechanical pencil with no more than a 0.5 millimetre lead, thank you.

But back to the lists. My incessant scribbles need a home, and this brings me to my greatest love of school supplies - notebooks. Oh, how I adore a brand-new notebook. Whether tiny or fat, simple in its decoration or elaborate, a notebook smacks of promise and new beginnings. Some notebooks seem to make ideas flow easier; inspiring one to sit down and put thoughts to paper.

Throughout our house, our car and in my purse, you will find notebooks. Teeny tiny scratch pads for quick reminders are tucked in the junk drawer in the kitchen. On the desk is a thin, spiral bound notepad of my father's, containing a story about a squirrel I wrote in elementary school. A collection of journals line a shelf in the den, their contents spanning years of our lives. Innumerable recipes and food thoughts are jotted down on scraps of paper and tucked into random books and magazines, or take up books of their own.

It was in one of these (many) notebooks that I came upon a recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Scones and, as a bonus, a mystery. Reading it over, I realized that I had absolutely no recognition of the words whatsoever. Though in my handwriting, with notes and substitutions in the margin, I have absolutely no remembrance of where the recipe came from, or when I heard of it.

Mysterious provenance aside, I was charmed by prospect of lightly-spiced scones; perfect for the cooler weather forecast for the weekend. They were quick work through the use of a stand mixer. Butter is blended into dry ingredients, then liquids are added to that. Dump everything out onto a work surface, knead lightly, and you're done. All that is left is to cut the dough into the desired size and bake.

A scant 15 minutes later a tray full of proudly-puffed scones are yours to be enjoyed. The addition of cake flour helps to keep them tender, while the pumpkin purée adds moisture and pleasing saffron yellowness. Lovely on their own, even better with a smear of butter and a cup of tea. Simply delicious.

Wherever this recipe came from, I am so glad I had someplace to write it down.

Some of my favourite stationery sources are:
Russel + Hazel, See Jane Work, Etsy, and of course the classic, Moleskine.

Spontaneous moments often end up overshadowing the most stylized effort. While enjoying these little bites outside, the cooling rack was momentarily placed amongst the stones. I was so taken by the texture of the crumbly, crackled scones against the gravel, I felt compelled to include the image here.

Spiced pumpkin scones
Of unknown origin, but so tasty that I am tempted to claim them as my own.

Ingredients
2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1 cup (1/2 pound, 2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, diced
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup canned pumpkin purée (unsweetened)
2/3 cup 18% (table, coffee) cream, chilled
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of milk or cream, for egg wash
Granulated or sanding sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Use parchment paper to line a standard baking sheet and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. On the machine's lowest setting, cut in the chilled butter until the mixture resembles course meal. The butter should be in small pieces approximately the size of peas.

Lightly whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée and cream. With the machine running still on low (or stir), pour the liquids slowly into the flour and butter mixture, stirring until just combined. Small bits of butter should still be visible, but almost all the flour should be incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Working quickly, gently knead the dough, folding and pressing gently until fairly smooth. Divide the dough into four, and shape each ball of dough into a 4" round about 3/4"-1" thick. Cut each round into six wedges, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Once finished, brush each scone with the egg wash and sprinkle with granulated or sanding sugar.

Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the the tops are lightly golden and the cut sides look flaky and dry. When fully cooked, they should feel light for their size and sound almost hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes. Best served warm.

Makes 24 medium scones.

Notes:

• 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice can be substituted for the individual spices.
• The scones can be frozen before baking. After cutting them out, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze uncovered. Once firm to the touch, remove to an airtight container or a freezer bag and store. To bake, take the scones from the freezer and preheat the oven. Wait 10 extra minutes after your oven has reached temperature, then egg wash and sugar the scones. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until cooked through.
• These can be made without the aid of a stand mixer. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour, then stir in the wet ingredients. Do not over mix, stir until just blended. From here, the method remains the same.
• If your kitchen is very warm, chill the cut scones for 15 minutes before baking for best results.