I'm drawing a sleepy blank on what to say but I wanted to post a few pictures from the past month. I flipped through my notebook for inspiration and was reminded of a few things. In January and February I was especially glad for this year's seed catalogue, Zephyr the rabbit's silver feet, raspberry leaf tea, cara cara oranges, satsuma mandarins, AlterEco brown butter chocolate, the previously mentioned frozen cookie dough portioned out in the freezer and sideways-pouring silver rain. This month, I am grateful for bright mornings, marmalade! (on everything, now, with butter), flighty spring weather, lengthened light in the evenings, and riding my clattery blue bike, especially through the park where there are ducks and squirrels! galore. This is not to say that mornings have been easy this week with the time change (I almost wrote "moanings" instead of mornings there, and almost left it), but the light- I'm glad for the light. On the subject of marmalade, that bittersweet tangy light in a jar, I am blessed with a mother who makes a batch every winter and have amassed a small -yes, now dwindling- collection of the glowing jars. They taste of days spent scraping citrus rinds around my grandparents' table with cousins and aunts, the fragrant pot steaming on the stove, and the flavour of these gatherings concentrated in the vintages that line our pantry shelves. It's deeply reassuring to me that no matter what else, every year my mother hands me a small fiery jar of her grandmother's recipe. I missed the marmalade making this winter but, with my renewed appetite for the stuff, will be sure to join in next year-it's what we do.
Outside, the cheery trills of robins are balancing the soft dreariness of grey sky on the verge of rain. This afternoon, the sun shone and lit the pink cherry blossom and warmed the rug. In the morning, as on all mornings here, sea gulls dotted the field like sheep.
This past week there were some glorious spring storms, erratic wind/rain/sun and all colours in the sky. I dug out my paints. I finally bought an umbrella. Days were segmented by cappucinos, africanos, earl grey and herbal teas. Our rabbits are molting winter down. The daffodils are nodding bright heads.
I hurt my back by lifting a bin incorrectly and have spent the past few days feeling like a century has been tacked on to my years. It's easing up now and I am so glad. (That icy-hot stuff is so weird!) How easy it is to take health for granted.
I'm including the recipe for what I wish I was making right now. I like to make and freeze a batch of these cookies to have on hand - a gift to our future selves.
Chocolate Apricot Pecan Cookies Adapted from Leslie Mackie's Macrina Cookbook. The original recipe does not call for pecans, so feel free to leave them out.
In a medium large bowl, stir together with a whisk then set aside: 1 1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour 1 c all-purpose flour 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 1/2 tsp finely ground espresso beans
In a medium small bowl or in a KitchenAid mixer, cream until light and fluffy: 1 c butter, softened 1 c good raw/brown sugar such as panela-rapadura
Add eggs to creamed butter and sugar one at a time, mixing well, adding vanilla with second egg: 2 eggs, room temperature 2 tsp vanilla
Add dry ingredients and stir to mix until flour is just incorporated. Then stir in: 3/4 cup dried unsulphured apricots, chopped 3/4 cup pecans, toasted and cooled, roughly crushed by hand 8-9 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
Let dough rest in the fridge for at least an hour before scooping and baking cookies. Or scoop then freeze dough to later thaw and bake whenever you need a few cookies! Makes about 16 cookies. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes.
It is almost garden season here on the coast. Some people might be out puttering already, or wisely starting seedlings indoors. I'm content to revel in the spring flowers and cherry blossoms everywhere and let the soil dry out a little. The garden is very wet and mucky, and the muck is cold and wet. Yes, I can wait. But we have had the 2016 West Coast Seeds catalogue propped on our kitchen island for weeks, open to onions, juicy carrots, beans, bright perennials, bee and butterfly wildflower blends, asparagus and artichokes, and all sorts of salad greens.
So, the cherry blossoms! Since my mention of them around this time last year, their splendor faded in my mind as the months and seasons gave way to other things. There is perhaps no other season quite so spectacular in Victoria as when all the cherry tree-lined streets (much of downtown and seemingly entire neighborhoods as well) are decked out - nay, billowing, with small pink flowers. It's cheering, like a wholesome month-long valentines for the soul. Or something. In any case, they are undeniably delightful.
Most notable is the light lingering towards evening, and that I've left my sweater at home every morning this week and haven't missed it.
While dinners lately have tended towards dull, parsnips have been the shining stars of several meals, as have broccoli, cabbage and sambal olek. We found last year's rhubarb in the freezer and had it sauced with pancakes. Then there was chocolate cheesecake for my dad's birthday...
Chocolate Marble Cheesecake Makes one 9" cake. My mother's recipe- I'm not sure where she got it from.
Crust 1/4 c butter, softened 2 tbsp sugar 1/2 tsp vanilla 1/2 c flour
Preheat oven to 400º F. In large mixing bowl, beat butter till soft. Gradually add sugar, beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and stir in flour. With floured fingertips, press dough evenly in bottom of ungreased 9" springform pan. Bake until golden, 10-12 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.
Cheesecake 1 recipe cheesecake crust 3/4 c sugar 2 tbsp flour 1/8 tsp salt 3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, at room temperature 2 eggs, at room temp. 1 c heavy whipping cream (unwhipped) 3 oz bittersweet baking chocolate, melted
Make crust. Preheat oven to 375º F. In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour and salt; mix well. Add cream cheese. With mixer at medium speed, beat until smooth and well blended. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla; beat just until well blended (scrape down bowl to incorporate and prevent any lumps). Set aside 2 c filling. Pour remaining filling on top of crust. Stir chocolate into reserved filling until well combined. Drop chocolate mixture by tablespoonfuls into cream cheese filling, forming 6 "puddles". Swirl filling with a knife 2 or 3 times for a marbled effect. Bake 55 minutes (centre will be slightly soft). Immediately run spatula around edge of cake to loosen from pan (this helps prevent cracking). Cool on wire rack 1 hr, then cover and chill at least 4-5 hrs before cutting.
I meant to write on the morning after my last post that winter's edge had softened overnight and I noticed the green shoots of spring bulbs on my walk to the bakery. I even lingered on the porch in short sleeves and left the front door open for the length of a sunbeam to let the mild air freshen the house. I have since seen snowdrops (!) in veritable drifts and the first yellow crocuses are almost open. I've also sighted one of each of the following in flower: Oregon grape, currant, and cherry. Most of the rain lately has had a springlike feel to it -warmer, milder, more spontaneous and moody.
I'm going to resist the urge to itemize all the glories of the past month, but for memory's sake must mention a magical weekend in Vancouver, some good little invigorating runs in light drizzle along the water, a magnificent bike ride and a homey, crafty day complete with garden food and a very good friend.