Thursday, July 21, 2016

This and that, part XVII


So much to talk about today. Topics: a pretty Japanese movie, unfrosted brown cakes, tomato-mayonnaise pie, turmeric lattes.

* The new film Our Little Sister follows the daily lives of four Japanese sisters sharing a rambling old house over the course of a year or so. Minor romantic complications arise, festivals, arguments, cherry blossoms, soccer games, tears, hugs. Plot-wise it’s not exactly, I don’t know, The Shallows. But the characters are lovely, their intertwined stories absorbing, the way the sisters take care of each other moving. A major theme running through the narrative is food. The sisters pile whitebait on toast, they cook seafood curry the way their mother taught them, but above all, they make, drink, give away, and talk about plum wine. The making of plum wine is beautifully rendered. We watch the sisters pick hard, green plums from their tree, prick them with a needle in unique designs, then place the plums in crocks that they store in a cellar with wine made by previous generations. I have so many unfinished projects going that I dread the appearance of a new one, but I hope I can make plum wine happen here next spring.

Mark found the film slow and overly delicate. I can’t say he’s entirely wrong. From my description you can probably tell whether you’d enjoy Our Little Sister or not. Obviously, I did. 

*Speaking of sisters, I told mine that I’d bring dessert to dinner the other night and while I intended to make a pie or layer cake, I ended up bringing an unfrosted, one-layer, brown cake. As always. You know the kind of cake I’m talking about. Marion Burros’ famous plum torte falls into that category, as do Marcella Hazan’s great walnut cake and Laurie Colwin’s nutmeg cake, to name but a few among thousands of unfrosted, one-layer, brown cakes. 

While the cake I brought was delicious, I felt vaguely sheepish about it. I realized that the unfrosted, one-layer, brown cake has become my lazy default dessert. I can tell myself I make these cakes because they are understated, elegant, vaguely European, but I know in my heart that these days I mostly make them because they are easy. The unfrosted, one-layer, brown cake has begun to feel like the home baker’s equivalent of an Eileen Fisher tunic: comfortable, neutral, tasteful, middle aged. Not that there’s anything wrong with Eileen Fisher tunics. There’s nothing wrong with unfrosted, one-layer, brown cakes, either. But what about the occasional trifle? Baked Alaska? Lemon meringue pie? 

I need to get out of this rut.

I’m not sure the previous paragraphs did anything to sell the Food52 rhubarb almond crumb cake, which is the unfrosted, one-layer, brown cake I brought to my sister’s. I’m sorry, because it was a winner. (Someone even described it as ambrosial.) It’s a basic butter cake with rhubarb folded in and a crunchy almond streusel topping.  You could use more fruit, you could change the fruit, you could change the nuts, you could swap out the almond extract for vanilla, you could experiment with different flours. If you have a crazy rhubarb patch like I do, bookmark this recipe. It’s a really handsome tunic. You can wear it anywhere.

*On July 4, 1996, nine days before we got married, I baked a tomato pie that Mark has talked about ever since. I know the date because it is written in the margins of Laurie Colwin’s More Home Cooking next to the recipe for tomato pie. It’s a bizarre recipe, involving a double biscuit crust with a filling that, in addition to cheese and tomatoes, includes a big dollop of mayonnaise. Mark loved this pie and wanted me to make it again immediately. I was displeased with this pie as it was very soupy. A cook doesn’t like serving a soupy pie. It feels like failure. 

not for company
This past Tuesday, six days after our 20th wedding anniversary, I made Mark a second tomato pie. I used a recipe in Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year that looked a lot like Colwin’s, but I hoped would be less soupy. Reichl’s recipe does away with the top biscuit crust, reduces the cheese, and quadruples the mayonnaise. If you lived through the low-fat mania of the 1980s, slathering that cup and a half of glistening mayonnaise over sliced tomatoes might give you palpitations. 

How was the pie? Very good. As good as it was fattening? Not in my opinion. Would I rather have pizza? Yes. Was it soupy? Yes. Did that bother me? Yes. Did Mark love the pie? Yes. The recipe is here. I followed Reichl’s instructions exactly, though skipped the “little flurry of chopped parsley” in the biscuit dough.

*We are living in the golden age of the experimental latte. I for one feel very lucky. I want to try them all. A couple of weeks ago I went to a restaurant that listed something called a misugaru latte on the menu. The waiter explained that misugaru was a kind of Korean cereal and convinced me not to order it. I’ve regretted listening to him ever since. One of these afternoons, I plan to drive into San Francisco and try a sweet potato latte. I was hoping that afternoon would be this one, but today’s blog post has taken too long to write, damn it.

Naturally, I was fascinated by the recipe for a turmeric-ginger latte in Tess Ward’s Naked Cookbook. I tried it yesterday. You toast some turmeric powder, ginger, and cinnamon in a little skillet, combine with steamed almond milk and an optional 1/2 teaspoon honey. I was suspicious of that meager “optional” 1/2 teaspoon honey and rightly so. The latte wasn’t even slightly sweet and I had to add a lot more honey to make it so. Unless you’re on a strict no-sugar diet, you should quadruple, maybe even octuple, the honey. A bigger problem with the latte, though, was the fact that the turmeric powder did not really dissolve. It settled thickly on the bottom of the cup so that as I got towards the end of the latte a bitter sludge of turmeric filled my mouth and guess what? It was yucky. A cheesecloth-lined sieve would solve this problem, but next time I’m going to try the Goop turmeric-ginger latte which looks more delicious anyway.


Goop is such an ugly word. Why did Gwyneth choose it? I don’t even like typing it.

blueberry mochi from Benkyodo in San Francisco

42 comments:

  1. Love your commentary on food and life, and could NOT agree more about Goop. I have her book "it's all easy" out of the library, and while some of the recipes look good, I find myself resisting b/c it's goop...

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    Replies
    1. Goop. It's just the worst name ever. Maybe I should get her book out of the library as I seem to be on a moderately healthy cooking kick.

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    2. Saya IBU WINDA ingin berbagi cerita kepada anda semua bahwa saya yg dulunya cuma seorang TKW di SINGAPURA jadi pembantu rumah tangga yg gajinya tidak mencukupi keluarga di kampun,jadi TKW itu sangat menderita dan di suatu hari saya duduk2 buka internet dan tidak di sengaja saya melihat komentar orang tentan AKI SOLEH dan katanya bisa membantu orang untuk memberikan nomor yg betul betul tembus dan kebetulan juga saya sering pasan nomor di SINGAPURA,akhirnya saya coba untuk menhubungi AKI SOLEH dan ALHAMDULILLAH beliau mau membantu saya untuk memberikan nomor,dan nomor yg di berikan AKI SOLEH meman betul2 terbukti tembus dan saya sangat bersyukur berkat bantuan AKI SOLEH kini saya bisa pulang ke INDONESIA untuk buka usaha sendiri,,munkin saya tidak bisa membalas budi baik AKI SOLEH sekali lagi makasih yaa AKI dan bagi teman2 yg menjadi TKW atau TKI seperti saya,bila butuh bantuan hubungi saja AKI SOLEH DI 082-313-336-747- insya ALLAH beliau akan membantu anda.Ini benar benar kisah nyata dari saya seorang TKW trimah kasih banyak atas bantuang nomor togel nya AKI wassalam.


      KLIK DISINI BOCORAN TOGEL HARI INI




















      Saya IBU WINDA ingin berbagi cerita kepada anda semua bahwa saya yg dulunya cuma seorang TKW di SINGAPURA jadi pembantu rumah tangga yg gajinya tidak mencukupi keluarga di kampun,jadi TKW itu sangat menderita dan di suatu hari saya duduk2 buka internet dan tidak di sengaja saya melihat komentar orang tentan AKI SOLEH dan katanya bisa membantu orang untuk memberikan nomor yg betul betul tembus dan kebetulan juga saya sering pasan nomor di SINGAPURA,akhirnya saya coba untuk menhubungi AKI SOLEH dan ALHAMDULILLAH beliau mau membantu saya untuk memberikan nomor,dan nomor yg diberikan AKI SOLEH meman betul2 terbukti tembus dan saya sangat bersyukur berkat bantuan AKI SOLEH kini saya bisa pulang ke INDONESIA untuk buka usaha sendiri,,munkin saya tidak bisa membalas budi baik AKI SOLEH sekali lagi makasih yaa AKI dan bagi teman2 yg menjadi TKW atau TKI seperti saya,bila butuh bantuan hubungi saja AKI SOLEH DI 082-313-336-747- insya ALLAH beliau akan membantu anda.Ini benar benar kisah nyata dari saya seorang TKW
      trimah kasih banyak atas bantuang nomor togel nya AKI wassalam.


      KLIK DISINI BOCORAN TOGEL HARI INI





















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  2. I'm in my 3rd year of making plum wine. Japanese ume can be hard to find, and they are in season for a really short time (May-June ish)

    I've found my ume at H-mart in the Seattle area. Other asian markets might carry them in season too. And I have friends who just use regular "American" purple plums. But I'm a bit more of a purist.

    Lucky for me the rest of my family doesn't love plum wine the same way I do so I get to drink mine all by myself. There isn't nearly enough to last the entire year as it is.

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    Replies
    1. Jennifer, is there a specific technique you use to make your plum wine? Or do you make it like any other fruit wine? I'm intrigued.

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    2. I just saw this post on making plum wine from Andrea Nguyen-looks promising!
      http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/2016/07/plum-liqueur-wine-recipe.html#more

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    3. I have made all kinds of liqueurs this way, but never thought about plums. Thanks, hjillianh!

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    4. Interesting, Jennifer -- I didn't know there was a specific plum you had to use. They looked unripe in the movie. But now I see that they are not even a real plum and you can buy them in the Bay Area for a brief moment every spring: http://www.thekitchn.com/in-season-right-now-japanese-u-118383 Good to know for next year.

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  3. Unfrosted one-layer cakes are my favorites, and the only kind I make. Marcella has a great carrot cake in this category. I also like Food52's Double Vanilla Cake; it is scrumptious and adaptable to all kinds of fresh fruit toppings. I make two different almond cakes, one a flourless torte, Gourmet's Walnut Jam Cake (substituting pecans the way my friend Sarah does), and bake my brownie recipe in a 9-inch springform pan instead of an 8-inch square, which makes a very thin, chewy "cake." And since I do have a crazy rhubarb patch, I have already printed out this recipe. Our Little Sister has been added to my list along with Sweet Bean, which is being released on DVD on August 9, 2016. Thanks for all the tips on good eating, good watching, and good reading. By the way, check out Marcella's (or Victor's, whichever way you look at it) Ingredienti. I like it.

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    Replies
    1. I hadn't heard of Ingredienti -- I will check it out. Those one-layer cakes are hard to beat.

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  4. Every summer I make that tomato pie more or less following Laurie Colwin's recipe. We love it at our house. To prevent soupiness, it helps to salt and drain the tomato slices on paper towels for half an hour or even longer.

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    1. I came here to suggest draining the tomatoes before baking, but you beat me to it :). Or you could even roast them separately in a very low oven for a few hours and then add them.

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    2. Yes, you are both right. In my original notes I'd said something like this, but did I listen to my youthful self?

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  5. I find King Arthur Flour's Golden Vanilla Cake completely dependable, if you want to make an unfrosted non-brown cake. It is delicious and rises beautifully, so if you make the full recipe in 9" cake pans you could split the layers and fill them with something and it will look (and taste) impressive. It's our go-to birthday cake, usually in a 9x13 pan to allow for the top to be decorated with whatever elaborate thing the birthday child wants (American Girl cake pic, song lyrics, Japanese anime, yadda yadda yadda).

    I'd rather have turmeric-ginger ice cream than pretend I'm drinking coffee by making one of those flavored lattes. Wait, did the Naked latte even have coffee in it? Was it just flavored milk? Actually that doesn't change my thinking at all. I guess I should re-read McLagan's Milk book to clarify my thinking on dairy and dessert and flavored drinks here ...

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    1. D'oh, Milk isn't a McLagan book. The book is even listed in your sidebar, how did I miss that?!

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    2. The funny thing about these lattes is that they contain neither coffee nor dairy -- which breaks any connection with the original Italian lattes. But once I fell in love with chai lattes it was a slippery slope. . .
      The Milk book is really good.

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    3. I love misugaru drinks. They're nutty and usually only slightly sweet. But I'd hesitate at a latte if it's a hot drink. Misugaru is made of various grains that are ground up, so it's kind of a heavy powder that doesn't really dissolve in liquid. Rather, you want a drink that suspends the powder. So a cold misugaru "latte" that you stir up right before you drink is good. Or a misugaru shake/smoothie. Hope you get to try it soon!

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  6. I am a member of the one layer cake club, and I make Maialino's Olive Oil cake from Food 52 regularly. My husband requests it often. My tastes have evolved as I have changed my diet and grown older. All that really sweet icing is no longer my cup of tea. Now, that doesn't mean the cakes that I make are low in sugar, but the sugar is in the batter, not sitting on top of the cake. You should never feel sheepish about taking a _homemade_ one layer cake anywhere, Jennifer!
    I am always on the lookout for flavorful, moist one layer cake recipes, so I will have to try all those you listed.
    The tomato pie looks luscious, and I will have to make it soon if I can find some worthy tomatoes. Perhaps you would feel better about it if you did a positive re-frame and called it a casserole? Sometimes soupy is good!
    That latte does not look good. I think of lattes as an indulgence, so no medicinal lattes for me. Medicinal smoothies, ok. See, I have my quirks as well!
    Thanks for all the suggestions for reading, watching, and eating. Your posts are always nudge my curiosity, and that's a good thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have I made the olive oil cake from Food52? I will try that. It's so hard to go back to the elaborate desserts once you start with the simple little cakes. But especially when I'm baking for my niece and nephew (and to a lesser extent son and daughter) I feel like I should do something gaudier.

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    2. I don't think I have seen you post about the olive oil cake. It is loved or hated. It has a lot of olive oil in it, and when first made the crust is divine - think caramelized sugar and olive oil. Then it becomes more pudding like as the olive oil sinks in the cake and the crust softens. I think it is a great cake either way, but most people think it best when first made. I have used emulsions to make different flavors, but the original is the best. I don't think the liqueur is necessary. I use all juice in the batter. It's pretty with a dusting of confectioner's sugar.

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  7. I wonder if you've seen Kore-eda's haunting first non-documentary film, "Maborosi". (It's my favorite movie of all time.) I don't think any of Kore-eda's subsequent work has been nearly as good.

    As you may know, food also featured prominently in "Still Walking". The Criterion booklet even includes some recipes!

    https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/1666-at-work-in-the-criterion-test-kitchen

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    Replies
    1. Maborosi goes straight on the list. I haven't seen Still Walking. But now I will be sure to.

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    2. Wow, those pictures on the Criterion site are as bad as mine! I have to get Hulu Plus asap.

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    3. Oh no, I think your pictures are wonderful!!

      If you do get a chance to see those films, I hope you enjoy them!

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  8. I have my grandmothers spidery handwritten "note" from 1910 on how to make a tomato pie, and have had a dozen variations of this all my life. The key to success is A) choose a tomato that isn't overly ripe, cut thick slices, sprinkle with salt 30-45 minutes before using and let them sit on paper towels for at least 30 minutes. I also blind bake my crust and let it cool before putting everything together. A top crust is ok, but not necessary.

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    1. Does your grandmother's pie contain mayonnaise? I have to give this another try and maybe use meatier tomatoes.

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    2. It does, but it is a homemade type of mayo, whipped with a whisk of small twigs(!). I use Hellmans, but Dukes is good too. I also use what ever type of cheese I have on hand, not the "hoop" cheese that she used.

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    3. i actually just finished reading Ruth Reichl"s book and was planning on giving the tomato pie a try. Have you tried the tomato slices, salted and then a bit of cream on each slice...? I picked my first tomato that was a good size and tried it. I didn't have any cream so used International delight coffee creamer ...southern butter pecan. I know it's full of crap, but it's all my daughter had in the fridge. But it was truly the BEST THING I SLURPED DOWN IN AGES. AND LICKED THE PLATE CLEAN.

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    4. i actually just finished reading Ruth Reichl"s book and was planning on giving the tomato pie a try. Have you tried the tomato slices, salted and then a bit of cream on each slice...? I picked my first tomato that was a good size and tried it. I didn't have any cream so used International delight coffee creamer ...southern butter pecan. I know it's full of crap, but it's all my daughter had in the fridge. But it was truly the BEST THING I SLURPED DOWN IN AGES. AND LICKED THE PLATE CLEAN.

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  9. Very helpful advice in this particular post! It’s the little changes that make the largest changes. Thanks for sharing!

    monkey go happy| mahjong| yahtzee with buddies| defend your nuts 2 | superfighters 2 | happy wheels| cat mario 4 | bloons tower defense 5

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