This has been a longer break from blogging than I intended, and returning to blogging has been infinitely harder than I expected. Shortly after my last post, my husband and I embarked on a long, nine day journey from the Sandhills of North Carolina to Oregon’s Willamette Valley – and once we and our dog, a tiny lemon tree, two cats and the horse had covered the vast expanse of our nation, it was like arriving at the unknown. Well, not completely unknown as we had visited the farm before, but aside from the 10 minute walk-through of the house and some fanciful strolls through the rain and around the fields, we had no intimate knowledge of the place. And so the minute we set foot on the packed gravel driveway, the adventure of our life began again. And once the horse had set hoof on the driveway, there was certainly no going back.
I wouldn’t say that it’s been a struggle – I am completely enamored with Oregon and believe that I have found the place I was meant to live – but it has been time consuming in the best possible ways. More than that, though, I haven’t posted because I wanted to remain in the moment. I take dozens and dozens of photographs when I cook something that I want to blog about. I could probably make better use of my time by taking a photography class or by learning the intricacies of Photoshop, but there’s still the styling (what little I do before I say screw it), the pauses for note taking, the converting of amounts to metric and back again, the writing, the revising, and the remarkable pervasiveness of the feeling that, once again, what you’ve written is terrible. Not just terrible, but pedestrian. Routine. Even sophomoric. And for that matter, so are the pictures.
You could say that I’ve loved living here and in the moment so much that I didn’t want to ruin it by scrutinizing it.
But here’s the thing: I love what I create, too. And I love to write about how I come to these creations, even if it’s just because I saw Ina Garten make it on TV and so I wanted to, too. And Oregon inspires me to create. She is so beautiful (and definitely a ‘she’) with her hills and valleys and ocean views and trees that go on for miles and skies that do the same. She is so abundant with her fruits and berries, cheeses and wines, nuts and mushrooms, the literal fodder for my blog is endless.
So I’m ready to recommit myself, even if it’s just for a while. This fall, mid-September actually, I’ll begin classes at Oregon State University. Having been awarded a teaching apprenticeship there, I’ll also be instructing one or two classes a term. If I fall off the blogging bandwagon again, it’s only because I’m writing far better stuff under the tutelage of people who really know what they’re doing. I’ll try to post from time to time; maybe not chicken-shaped cakes or how to dress out a deer, but something easy and good. Like this. And here’s to the first post from Oregon!
Strawberries and Cream (serves 1 or 2)
1 pint (0.5 L) fresh strawberries (sun-warmed and picked that morning are best)
1/4 cup (60 mL) heavy cream (or however much you want)
Sugar to taste
Remove tops and slice strawberries cross-wise; put into an attractive, clear glass or bowl. A martini glass is great for this.
Pour the cream over the top of the berries and sprinkle sugar over that, if you like.
Eat and enjoy.
Sometimes, you shouldn’t mess with a good thing.
We just got home from a week-long trip to Oregon, and I had a few things that were just this side of needing to hit the compost pile, so I went looking for a recipe. I wanted something delicious but easy — something that would fuel our unpacking and laundry efforts.
Usually, I try to make an adjustment to the recipe so that it’s mine, but in this case, I really didn’t see how that could be done, and went about making the pancakes as the recipe was written. So, other than adding the zest to the liquids first to cut down on stirring, and letting the batter sit for a few minutes to let the leaveners work, I didn’t add or subtract anything. And that’s a good thing.
I will say, also, that if you’ve never made pancakes on an electric griddle, do yourself a favor and try it. Borrow one if you have to. It’s pretty awesome.
Buttermilk Pancakes with Orange Zest
adapted from Creme de la Crumb
1 cup (110 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons sugar
1 cup (240 mL) whole buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon canola oil
Zest of one orange
Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar into a large bowl. In another bowl, stir together the buttermilk, egg, oil, and orange zest. Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry, stopping when the mixture is just combined. Really. Set the whisk down and step away from the bowl. It’s OK if it looks lumpy.
Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes while you heat the griddle. I used an electric one set to 375°F (190°C).
When the griddle is hot, ladle the batter onto it in scant 1/4 cup dollops, or whatever size you like your pancakes. Let them cook on one side for 4-5 minutes before turning. Look for the middle to bubble just a bit and for the edges to appear set. With a thin spatula, you can peel up the corner of a pancake and check to see that its golden-brown. Flip the pancakes carefully and let them cook another 2-4 minutes, or until golden-brown, depending on size.
Serve hot with warm maple syrup.
Rabbits eat granola. They carry it in miniature chewing tobacco pouches and when they need a bit of energy, they cram some in their little rabbit jowls and spit granola juice.
Gosh. I had no idea.
That creative vision stems from a question I asked my husband while we were having a quiet, post-holiday afternoon at home, letting the scent of this granola, fresh out of the oven, permeate our clothes. I didn’t know what to write about the granola, so I queried him. The above was my answer.
Now, I don’t know about the rabbits, but I sure can eat some granola. This version is particularly good with Greek yogurt and a drizzle of maple syrup. Like most things I cook, this recipe was born out of a moment of inspiration while watching my favorite chef of the moment: Ina Garten. She makes a cinnamon almond granola that was the blueprint for this one but, me being me, I made a few changes. I added a hint of salt to illuminate the other flavors, and swapped the original almonds for pecans and maple syrup instead of honey, making this recipe vegan. Coconut oil stood in for canola, too. The beauty of granola is its versatility, so I welcome you to riff on this recipe in whatever ways appeal to you.
Many thanks to my mother-in-law for the thoughtful gift of pecans. And all the same thanks to my father-in-law for shelling them. Hope there was something good on TV!
Preheat the oven to 325 F° (163 C°) . In a large bowl, mix together the oats, nuts, and one cup of the coconut. Add the oil, the syrup, and stir until all the ingredients are well coated. Add the cinnamon and salt and stir again to distribute.
Pour mixture into an un-greased half-sheet pan and spread into the corners so everything is level and will bake evenly.
Bake for 20 minutes; remove from oven and stir. Bake for another 15 minutes and stir again. Add the cherries and remaining cup of coconut. Bake in 5-10 minute intervals, stirring in-between, until the granola has turned slightly golden brown. At this point it’s up to you to determine how brown and crunchy you want it — I like mine on the lighter side so took it out after about 45 minutes. Let the granola cool completely before storing. I think it would last a while in an airtight container, but my batches have never stuck around long enough for me to test the theory. Don’t forget to leave some out for the rabbits.