happiness

Sure happiness might be a warm gun to the Beatles, but to me, it’s a piece of halva the size of a brick. I’ve been asked for more food pictures from Israel, but alas, I’ve shared them all.

A short post with no recipe — how dare I? Yet I write not just to be useful, but for poetry: for the love of food, and simply because it brings me joy.

This is the freshest halva in Syracuse. Light and studded in perfect proportions with pistachios. It’s so good, it’s worth waiting in line for (especially when the line runs next to about 15 open buckets of olives.  Today I was caught, thank goodness only by a mischievous old lady.)

When life sends those  sudden sweet cravings, halva comes in swiftly to the rescue. When I’ve got this much of it on hand, I know that things will be just fine.

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to dip or not to dip

My ten year hiatus from lap swimming ended abruptly when I decided to start training for a triathlon. It was on my life list and I was feeling fitter than ever, and so this winter I put my ideals into gear for a dose of cold hard reality. And cold swimming pools on early snow-dusted mornings.

Not long after that I started Fresh Cracked Pepper. Now that I think about it, this sudden intersection seems perfectly obvious. As I have lately discovered, almost nothing makes you hungrier than forty five minutes flailing around in a big vat of water. I don’t know why swimming causes such a specific type of hunger, considering the loss of appetite that occurs after running or cycling. I suspect it has something to do with body temperature, but I’m content to roll with the blissful ignorance.

I love the cool slippery texture shock of jumping into a new element, the exhilaration of blood pulsing outward to propel heavy limbs, the desperate gulps of breath to sustain floatation, survival even. And then there is the onset of a pervasive emptiness, a hunger felt from the fourth toenail up to the left collarbone, and everywhere in between. I challenge any restaurant billboard to do that.

Naturally, when I finished today’s swim my breakfast seemed about as recent as the invention of fire. Did I even eat this morning? Oh yeah, porridge. And an orange. And a latte. Hello? Stomach? Satiety? Silence — no answer but a low rumble. More, give me more. This was an argument I was happy to lose.

I’ve been craving crunch lately. This is nothing special however, given that I’d probably choose crackers over caviar, pretzels over panettone, tortilla chips over truffles. (Ok, maybe the last one is pushing it.) I’ve always been a crunchophile.

Recent cravings for biscotti inspired me to augment my post-swim lunch with a little dose of la dolce vita. And this one I can promise you, is truly a slice of the sweet life. Not only is this recipe simple, it’s actually a healthy and traditional. With no oil, butter or shortening, it mirrors the traditional Italian more closely technique than many recent versions.

Don’t let biscotti’s bad rap stop you from trying these endearing biscuits. I promise you it’s not their fault. In fact, I blame their tragic fate on big coffee companies who pedal varieties done so poorly no one would feel them to the dogs waiting outside. Sorry guys, but even your best 6$ latte can’t redeem those cellophane-wrapped logs of petrified dough. Thanks to the Wednesday Chef, the true biscotti fairy paid me a long overdue visit this afternoon. Full of just-chewy centers edged with crispness, our acquaintance was renewed with gingery vigor.

And then I was ready for lunch.

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sweet somethings

Yesterday my friend came over to make the best kind of valentines: edible ones. I had a promise to fulfill to a friend, and so I decided on mini cheesecakes. Inspired by a Martha recipe for raspberry-almond financiers (check out the link, they are adorable), I decided to add a heart of jam.

First you whip up the batter (now how could a girl have anything but a perfect V-day with 4 packages of cream cheese softening in her hands?). Then you pop a little ‘Nilla Wafer in the bottom. My friend was incredulous that I hadn’t heard of these great American delicacies. My my, the culinary treasures we have yet to discover in this grand country.

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Then you pour in the batter, and drop a bit of raspberry jam on top, near the edge. Using the tip of a paring knife, you simply draw a line through the center of the drop of jam, forming a heart.

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They got a little crackled when they were subject to the heat of the oven, but I still accepted them. I doctored them up a little with fresh jam, trying as I may to fix the broken hearts. They could’ve been a little softer, and so next time I’d actually follow the original 20 minutes baking time. 

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cinnamon coffee cake touchdown

My first project for this blog coincided nicely with Superbowl Sunday, also known as Evening Of Excessive Eating. I figured that since I’m starting Triathlon training this week I deserved one last tango in the arms of Gluttony. Or at least in the collective embrace of butter and’ eggs.

So what to bring to the Great American Football Party? A late morning and a lazy afternoon yielded little inspiration for forays into the unknown world of new recipes or complicated appetizers.

And so I turned to The Book: a sturdy collection of our family favourites, lovingly copied out in my mother’s own handwriting. I flipped to her recipe for Sour Cream Coffee Cake.

This cake has a history. It’s simple cinnoman flavour and almost cheesecake-like density have made it the ultimate comfort food over recent years. It was there the day I moved into my new house full of roommates in 3rd year. It was there whenever I returned home, offering its crumbs of nutty, rich, just-sweet-enough-for-a-cup-of-coffee goodness. Apparently someone at Canada Post likes it too, because one was once “lost” in the mail en route to a Ward family member.

I made it for the gang, and it was a hit.

This cake reveals a slight swirl of cinnamon and pecans, achieved by layering them between boughts of dough in my favourite pan: Bundt bundt bundt. I just love the way that sounds. Apparently it was invented by an American engineer from Minneapolis who wanted a lighter version of the German ceramic Bund pan.

While this cake was the perfect companion to a potluck, it did make me a little homesick. I guess that means it turned out well.