cardamom

almost

I wish I could do this every day. I'm sitting in a sunlit, clean house with a mug of tea and a jar of water and a square of dark chocolate. The birch tree out front has almost completely turned yellow. I've already wandered the garden several times (two raspberries!), tidied up and made a nest for our elderly cat, and tossed yet more onions and tomatoes in the oven. I feel - almost - at peace. We've been enjoying a long weekend (yay!). Yesterday I spent all afternoon painting white rabbits and yellow aspen on scraps of wood while listening to a charming audiobook, fed on a pleasant diet of tea and fresh caraway raisin bread that Jeremy started the day before.

I went to a lovely friend's lovely wedding reception recently, with the best bunch of friends. The weather was stormy, but delightfully so. The whole day was one long happy moment.

It's funny how moments like these can coexist, or at least be contrasted by those reigned by the less fun feelings. I have been so exhausted lately that the lovely moments seem few and far between. Sunday I spent curled on the couch, again with tea, and read. I feel very lost and frustrated when I think of how I spend most of my time at a job I really don't enjoy. It is a perfectly decent job, I'm sure, but somehow manages to be both the most boring and most stressful job I've experienced. At the reception it was so nice hearing about how my friends are following their passions and have found or are creating meaningful work. Over here at whine central (but without the wine), I have yet to figure that out for myself.

Still, there is plenty of good to celebrate. I made this pear tarte Tatin several weeks ago, and have been meaning to post about it ever since. I'm a little late for Canadian Thanksgiving, but it's a tasty way to end most any meal.

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Pear Cardamom Tarte Tatin Recipe: Choosing and Using Spices. Pastry: Terroirs de France, un million de menus

1/4 cup (50 g) butter, softened 1/4 cup sugar seeds from 10 cardamoms 1 tsp + ground cardamom 225 g (8 oz) puff pastry or use pastry recipe below +/- 4 ripe pears (the number of pears will depend on the size of the pears and the size of your pan)

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Spread the butter over the base of an ~8" cast iron skillet (or ovenproof pan or stoveproof cake tin). Spread the sugar evenly over the butter, then sprinkle the cardamom and cardamom seeds over the sugar. On a floured surface, roll out pastry to a circle slightly larger than the pan. Prick pastry lightly and set it on a baking sheet and chill.

2. Peel the pears, cut them in half lengthwise and core them. Arrange the pears, rounded side down, on the butter and sugar. Set pan over medium heat until the sugar melts and begins to bubble with the butter and the juice from the pears. If any areas are browning more than others (you can carefully lift a pear to check), move the pan, but do not stir.

3. As soon as the sugar has caramelized, remove the pan from the heat. Place the pastry on top, carefully tucking the edges down the side of the pan. Transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the pastry is well risen (for puff) and golden.

4. Leave in the pan for 2-3 minutes until the juices have stopped bubbling. Invert the pan over a plate and shake to release the tart. (Put a large plate face-side down over the pan. Keep one hand flat on the center of the plate to hold it in place while the other hand lifts and flips the pan in one smooth motion. The hand on the plate needs to keep pressure on it and move with the pan.) It may be necessary to slide a spatula under the pears to loosen them. Serve warm.

Pastry (pâte brisée) - the high butter content of this recipe makes it a tasty substitute for puff dough 200 g flour 100 g chilled butter 50 + g ice cold water pinch salt Stir together flour and salt. Cut butter into small cubes, then cut into flour with a pastry cutter. Add enough water that you can form dough into a ball, then let it repose in the fridge for 30 minutes. This recipe makes slightly more than is needed for the tarte Tatin, so save the extra in the fridge for spontaneous weeknight baking, or something.

not to be taken lightly

Seven the sweet bunny has an ear infection. And her teeth are a little offset so she needs to have some dental work done. Poor baby. This morning I tried to apply online for a job I found a couple days ago. The pay wasn't great, but the work seemed alright and for an interesting business in the healthy foods industry. I hit the submit button and it didn't work. Tried another ten times (because that totally helps...), but it looks like the ad got taken down already. The most frustrating thing about missed opportunities is that I can only blame myself. Did a semi-desperate search of the job board again. I'm getting pretty tired of chasing around jobs that pay only slightly better than minimum wage. I could just keep doing what I'm doing, which I like for 3 days of the week and dislike for 2 days, and hope that eventually I can switch to better hours or that something ideal will someday come up for me. Or, I have this back-up plan: I could go back up north for the summer as a wildfire dispatcher, which is a pretty neat job with awesome pay, but it really sucks to be so far away from home and from my man and the bunnies and everyone. The awesome pay would help us pay off student debts so we could get on with having better lives. I need to decide pretty soon though because the application deadline is probably right around the end of this month. I've filled out the forms. One minute, I've decided that I'll go. Thirty seconds later, I'm staying for sure. Back and forth. 1,765 km from home is not to be taken lightly. With the money I make we would be closer to being able to afford to start a family. But what is money to almost half a year apart? There, butterflies and big active skies, relentless sunshine and aspen trees of the boreal forest. It is undeniably beautiful. The bugs are so bad I spent most of my spare time indoors. Not to mention fear of dry lightening strikes. Here, dipping into the ocean at the end of the day. Family. Home. Garden parties and cool evening breezes. What is it worth? I think I need some help with this one.

There have been shriveled mandarin oranges sitting neglected in the fruit bowl for ages here, since other citrus have come and gone and fresh kiwis are available at the farmers market. In order to save them from sitting longer or worse, hitting the compost, I thought it was worth a try baking them into scones. I am pretty devoted to Molly Wizenberg's Scottish Scone recipe so I thought I would try a variation of it here. I'd say that I've had more luck when I followed her original recipe more closely, and with fruit like raspberries, strawberries or rhubarb. The dough was a little sticky, but manageable. The orange segments were wily and resistant when I divided the dough into scones, but it could just be that I need to sharpen our knives. After 15 minutes in the oven, these still looked quite pale so I left them another five-ish minutes but may have overbaked them slightly as I feel they could be more tender. A recipe that needs more testing perhaps, but a pretty tasty way to use up languishing oranges.

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Orange Oat Cardamom Scones recipe based on these scones by Orangette 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup oat flour (you can make this! - or buy it, or just substitute all-purpose flour or WW pastry flour or something) 2 tsp baking powder 3/4 tsp salt 1 tbsp ground cardamom 3 tbsp vanilla sugar (aka cane sugar that has vanilla beans hanging out in it from the last time you made something with a vanilla bean. Organic cane sugar is nicest.) 2 oz butter, cubed and chilled zest of 3 small mandarin oranges 7 small mandarin oranges, peeled, segmented and de-seeded 1 egg 1/2 cup whole milk (Not homogenized though because your body doesn't know what to do with the tiny fat particles- get the kind with the cream on top. Cream of some kind could be deliciously substituted.) Preheat oven to 425º. Stir together dry ingredients. Cut in butter until the lumps are not bigger than a pea. Toss in fruit and zest. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk, then add it to the dry ingredients, reserving about 1 1/2 tbsp to use as a wash, then gently stirring/folding with a wooden spoon until the dough barely comes together. Turn it onto a lightly floured surface and knead it just until it's cohesive, as few times as possible. Flatten dough into a circle, about 1/2" thick, then slice it into 8-12 scones. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with the egg-milk wash (if it looks like you won't have enough then thin it out with some milk or water). I sprinkled a little vanilla sugar on top but it kind of disappeared during baking. Medium or coarse sugar would be better, and I will eventually buy some. Bake 10-15 minutes, until golden, or longer if it still looks doughy. Cool on a wire rack (but eat while still warm, with butter). These should keep for a few days in a cookie tin, and might be nice if re-heated in a toaster.