rhubarb

the season so far

The season so far has been like every other coastal February- the brightest, best days since summer, bookended by days of soft, sleepy grey rain. I love it.

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.

 

in the midst

I'm sitting in a sunbeam, herbal tea in my hand and on the stove, a pot of earl grey waiting shyly beside the espresso machine. This morning, I watered the garden and watched swallows and starlings dive through endless blue. Yesterday I got the laundry dry and hauled in just as another rainstorm blew in. There is a great satisfaction in sitting on the bed with a pile of sun-warmed clothes and a sleepy cat as rain pounds the grass flat outside the darkened window. I made an accidental discovery that I'll share with you because it was glorious. I like to heat milk for my coffee in a steel measuring cup on the stove. Sometimes I leave it too long and it boils over in a stinky mess. Yesterday I caught it just as the foam was rising, and voila, hot frothed milk for a latte. This is delicate business though, and must be watched.

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I have some catching up to do. Here is Friday:

I think it's alright to feel a little bit sad on mornings when the sun doesn't come out. The sky feels heavy today. It is the sort of day that I want to keep for myself, to drink tea and make art and bake pie.

This evening, a spontaneous sandwich dinner on a rainy walk. We walked down to the ocean, into which sky and mountains dissolve in this kind of weather, under the droplets. The water was slate and churned turquoise blue-green, the setting sun somewhere giving the rocks a golden glow. Walking through sheets of rain, water all around, the light faded as we followed the path and bridges over into the Garry oak meadow on the point, blue-violet camas flowers in long grass and the lights of the city across the water. Darker now, the water still shone blue, a deep almost-iridescence. Streetlights illuminated pale old Garry oak trunks and the pathway, and caught on a circle of raindrops like tiny meteors. Lit-up forest and tall grass, deep blue water, rain falling illuminated all around us, and us in the midst of this.

I was playing with a recipe for rhubarb custard pie. It still needs some tweaking but since you might have rhubarb now (?!), I'm including it as a starting point.

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Experimental Pastry 1/2 c each of almond meal, kamut flour and AP flour 1/2 c butter, chilled and cut into cubes (I tend to cube this before doing the dry ingredients and stick it in the freezer for a few minutes until needed.) 1/2 tsp each of salt and cardamom 1/4 tsp each of vanilla and almond extracts 2 tbsp vanilla sugar (or just nice natural cane sugar) 2 tsp to 1 tbsp lemon juice (I used 1 tbsp and the dough tasted kind of sour but once baked it was good, however I might use less next time.) 1/4 cup ice-cold water (I put my water- usually more than called for, just in case- in the freezer before I assemble my other ingredients so that it's nice and cold by the time I'm ready for it.) Mix dry ingredients with a fork. Cut in butter. Add wet ingredients all at once and mix with a fork just until it comes together. Chill dough in fridge for an hour before rolling it out.

Rhubarb Custard Pie a generous 1 1/2 quarts rhubarb, cut up (just use however much fits nicely in your pie dish) 1 1/2 cups table cream (I also made this successfully with 1 can of full-fat coconut milk) 1 1/2 cups sugar (if making this with something less tart than rhubarb definitely reduce the sugar) 2/3 cup flour a solid pinch of nice quality salt (Vanilla extract or the contents of a split and scraped vanilla bean would be a nice addition too) Stir together sugar, flour and salt with a whisk. Add cream and beat until smooth. Put rhubarb into an unbaked pie shell. Pour sugar mixture over the rhubarb. Bake at 400º for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350º and continue baking until custard is set (thickened, glossy, skewer comes out clean), about 40 minutes to an hour or so.

it will grow

"Surround yourself with what you love." This has been on my mind today. Surround yourself with what you love and... you'll be happy. Surround yourself with what you love... and it will grow... and there will be more of it. Maybe because this is happening in my life? I am so happy to be here on this island, near my family, in the midst of spring. We are rich in eggs right now, and also rhubarb, both thanks to Jer's parent's farm. As one might imagine, this has been leading to all kinds of deliciousness. Last night I made rhubarb yogurt cake ( I used this recipe as a base and switched out the 1 1/2 cups flour for 1 cup AP flour and 1 cup almond meal, stirred in an extra 2 cups of rhubarb in addition to the cup sprinkled on top and sprinkled coarse raw cane sugar on the top - it turned out tasty but a little gooey in the densely rhubarby centre). Earlier in the week we had crème caramel.

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Crème Caramel very slightly adapted from Cécile Ferragut I halved the original recipe except for the caramel, so feel free to double the amounts below if you're feeding a crowd. 500 ml milk, preferably whole 150 g sugar 1- 1 1/2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise Bring above ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan until milk foams and rises. Meanwhile, cook appoximately 1/2 cup sugar* 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan until caramelized (brown), then pour into flan dish and swirl round until cool. When milk mixture is ready, slowly temper it (adding just tiny amounts at first, then gradually more) into 3 eggs 1 yolk careful not to cook egg. Cook for about 45 minutes in a bain-marie (a pan of water set in the oven) at medium-ish heat (I went with 325°) until set (you want it to not slosh like liquid, but move more like jello). Chill in the fridge overnight and flip onto a plate to serve. *If, like me, you use natural, less-refined sugars at home, heed my warning. Only refined white sugar will caramelize properly. Impurities in unrefined sugar interfere with the caramelization process and leave a person stirring a pale sticky mess. You can still use a natural sugar with the milk.

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spring leaves

The cherry blossoms have given way to small wine-red leaves. The afternoon sun today was barefoot-on-the-front-porch balmy, though this morning seamist swirled and billowed across the field, thick as smoke. I've been reveling in spring flowers for what seems like months now, but was unprepared for the elation of translucent chartreuse slips of leaves on hungry branches. The leafing out, greening of bony patches of sky, catkins, pussywillow buds unclenching, opening. New leaf tissue fanning out, waxen thin as leaves unfurl into air and light. Here on our small swath of land, horsetail, thistle and morning glory are vying for the garden. Dandelion, clover and scrubby grass are next in line. I found rhubarb among tall grasses at the base of the sprawling spruce, and a stub that could be currant, and fennel and parsley are coming in along the fence. I'm freeing and coaxing along these and some mystery plants.

I have exciting news but will wait until I have photos to share it here.

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