Archive for the ‘Sweet Stuff’ Category

A New Half Moon, but Not Like Twilight (a post by Josh): Black & White Cookies

Half & Half cookies (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I have a few things to confess. The first is that I haven’t completely abandoned this blog. I know that it seems like it, since the last time I posted was about five months ago. There are a few reasons for that, for sure, but maybe no excuses. I can’t say that I haven’t been cooking since then, since I surely have. I also can’t say I haven’t been writing since then, because it seem like I’ve written about three hundred pages since that time. What I can say is that a few things have changed since August. I finished my southern culinary tour, I moved into a new apartment, I ran a half marathon, I gained a serious affinity for Kombucha and turkey curry salad, and I finished my penultimate semester at college. So where does that leave me? At home, thinking about my last semester at college, and a little uneasy. So what do I turn to? Writing, but of course!

The other big thing I have to confess is: the inspiration to start back writing was both coming back home for the holidays, and (don’t judge) watching Julie and Julia. It’s not that I fell in love with that movie, but it’s that I realized that writing and food really are what I live for (I think that might be a line imbedded in that movie somewhere).

Dropping the dough (Eat me. Drink Me.)

Baking cookies (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

So what do I write about, to get things started one more time? I could go back to where I left off and talk about canning strawberry jam with my grandmother in Gretna, Virginia. Or I might be able to talk about that one article in Gourmet that inspired me to write a whole post, without posting it. Or maybe, I could talk about the fact that my dream job came crashing down the day Gourmet died. » Continue reading this post…

Mountains in New Orleans (a post by Josh)

While re-reading some of the archived entries, I remembered that Lyz had written about beignets a while back. Her first post, in fact. If I may quote, “Almost every culture has the compulsion to throw a wad of dough into a hot pile of oil, fry it, cover or fill it with something delicious, and eat it.” I would subscribe to this statement; I mean with all the thoughts of physical health aside, doughnuts are delicious. Especially hot. You know every time you pass a Krispy Kreme Doughnut factory and that “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign is on, you think about stopping. You may not stop, but you think about it real quick-like. Who doesn’t?

Who doesn’t want to gorge on soft, warm, sugary bread that collapses upon fist bite. And if you coat it in a glaze or powdered sugar? You can’t stop yourself. If you are reading this and saying to yourself “No, of course not, I don’t like sweets all that much,” you’re lying to yourself. I know it, I just know it.

But this is much more than Krispy Kremes. This is ever more than the beignets that Lyz and her friends made in that dorm-room kitchen (sorry blog partner). What I’m talking about are the real beignets. The ones that Lyz talked about in her post too: “Beignets, however, evolved outside of France, most notably in New Orleans, where the pastry was brought to the area in the 18th Century, most likely by the Ursuline Nuns.”

That’s right, my travels have finally brought me to New Orleans (“Nawlins,” “New Or-Lee-ns,” or “New Orlins,” whichever you prefer). I’ve tried the gumbo (file style, of course) and the po’boys and the crawfish and the spices and the bread pudding. I mean there are a thousand different varieties of all of these, but I’ve had at least one of those dishes (maybe a po’boy every lunch? » Continue reading this post…

Here’s to You, Ms. Sallie Ann Robinson (a post by Josh): Pecan Crunch Cookies

Scenery in Savannah (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

By no means am I trying to beat a dead horse, but Savannah is a beautiful city that needs just a little more attention. So don’t stop if you’ve heard this before, its worth a second telling. I know I’ve spoken about how Savannah is my second home before, but this time around, I was able to appreciate Savannah in a whole new light. I think it was the fact that by the end of my week there, I could get around town without directions, go to a coffee shop that I grew attached to, or just mellow out in a square downtown.

But I was also doing research; let’s not forget that part of the summer deal. Lyz described some of the meals, talking about the flakey biscuits and the crunchy fried chicken, Sallie Ann Robinson’s food and life advice, and homemade breakfasts at a slower pace. I also took off some days, separate from the group, to check out some amazing places around Savannah.

First, we have Sallie Ann Robinson. Lyz talked about her briefly in her last post, but let me try to parse out a few more details. Sallie Ann was born and raised on Daufuskie Island – a barrier island just north of Savannah. She left Daufuskie back in 1988, just “to get off the island.” It wasn’t the right place for her. What she brought with her, though, were some warm memories of her childhood, some excellent life advice and a whole lot of passion for food.

Lyz and I met with Sallie on a Friday morning, just two hours after her twelve hour shift let out. Sallie greeted us at the door and welcomed us into her home saying “Now, I was told not to feed y’all, because if I did – y’all would never leave!” And I use the exclamation point judiciously. » Continue reading this post…

Bless Your Good Corn Bread (a post by Josh): Aunt Sarah’s Fudge

It’s funny how, despite my multiple heritages, I claim certain aspects more. For example – I claim my Polish heritage more than anything else. But when asked where I’m from in the States, I say the South nine times out of ten.

It is true, I am from the South. I was born in Virginia and now live in North Carolina. But for my more formative years (ages 4 – 18) I lived in New York. I guess my nomadic lifestyle has allowed me to claim the best of either of the worlds.

Easter is the perfect example of my picking and choosing of my heritages. When it comes to Easter, I think of two things: chocolate and ham. Those years I was a vegetarian, I would think: chocolate and yam. Almost ham, but not quite. It’s a joke, roll with it.

As far as the foods though, I claim Southern pride when it comes to chocolate. My grandma’s fudge is pride-worthy. And with ham, or yams for that matter, I go with my Northern grandma and her honied ham and candied yams.

During my last visit to Gretna, Virginia – the home of my dad’s grandparents – I found my grandma’s secret for her devilish fudge: A cookbook from 1939 entitled: The Southern Cook Book of Fine Old Dixie Recipes (a cook book she’s had since they were married.)

This cookbook is a rare find: wooden panels serve as the cover, red yarn as the bindings and pages that don’t adhere to consecutive numbering (page 46 is followed by the index, the title page preceded by page 8).

In addition to the lyrics from antebellum South that border on racist (“Carry dat load on your head, De Lord will bless your good corn bread,” “I’s got a girl in Afriky, She’s az purty az can be”) and recipes that make 1200 gallons of Burgoo, I found my grandma’s recipe for fudge on page 46 (found at the front of the book). » Continue reading this post…

Brenda’s Carrot Cake (a post by Josh): Carrot Cake

Friends often know each other by many names. Sometimes relevant, sometimes obscure. Just yesterday I got a letter from an elementary school friend, who currently lives in the 7th in Paris, addressed to me as “carrot cake.”

I think I first made this tempting dessert when I was 16 – after an eight hour day of bussing tables. During that shift, my boss had revealed the dessert of the week – carrot cake. It was good, but a typical semi-dry, walnut laden, not so sweet cake trying to border “good for you” and decadence. At that point in my career, I had established a semi-serious competition with the dessert chef. With this new revealing, I had another opportunity to top the chef.

At home that night, I searched through online and hard cover cook books to find a recipe. Epicurious again prevailed – a carrot cake with Maple cream cheese frosting. Giddy and ambitious at midnight, I started prepping the ingredients as if I was going to be able to finish that night. Carrots shredded in a bowl topped with brown sugar, cream cheese sitting out to acclimate to room temperature, flour sitting in a fluffy pile, I was well on my way when my post-work high faded. I left everything out that night, which turned out to be my best use of procrastination.

The next morning, I found the carrots had juiced themselves, leaving me with two cups of carrots, shredded, and ½ cup of sweetened carrot juice. I proceeded through the recipe, adding ginger, cardamom and nutmeg to my liking and prematurely iced the warm cake – allowing the cream cheese icing to sink into the crust.

Obviously I didn’t want to send my “rough draft” straight into the main event, so I packed up my cake and headed off to my elementary school friend’s house to have a proper taste testing. » Continue reading this post…

The Magical Beignet

Everybody loves donuts. Almost every culture has the compulsion to throw a wad of dough into a hot pile of oil, fry it, cover or fill it with something delicious, and eat it. In Austria, krapfen stuffed with vanilla cream or apricot jam, are a particularly popular Carnival food. In Indonesia, a ring-shaped dough of flour and mashed potatoes is fried and coated in powdered sugar or confectioners icing and called donat kentang. China, Israel, Germany, Greece, and a slew of other countries have their own version of a donut. In France, they have beignets.

I’ve never had a particularly good relationship with beignets. I burned my arm once making them when I was twelve years old. One spoonful of dough dropped too hastily in a deceptively still pool of oil, and three kiss-shaped scars were suddenly splattered on my arm. Since that encounter, every time someone said the word beignet, drawing out the last syllable with nasal panache, I’d grimace and think, What a pretentious way to say donut. Although I can just barely find the scars now, I hadn’t had another beignet until last Sunday after the Super Bowl.

Two of my regular cooking companions had invited me to a study hall featuring beignets and black coffee. Drawn to any event involving food, I packed a bag with reading and headed to the kitchen in which they were busy mixing dough. The recipe was one from Gourmet, part of a Middle Eastern feast, and featured rose water, orange juice, and lemon zest in addition to the flour, butter, and eggs that formed the basis of the batter. The gathering involved little studying–I read nothing–and a lot of cooking, chatting, and eating. These beignets were nothing like the flat pads of dough I had tried to make as a twelve year old. » Continue reading this post…

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