Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Rolls

My love,

I want to tell you a story. 

I think about it a lot. 

Once upon a time there was a boy and there was a girl. 
They met in college. 
And the boy liked the girl, and the girl liked the boy back. 
And one day, she was wearing a blue sweater. 
And he was wearing a brown suede jacket. 
And he looked at her, and she felt like he looked into her soul. 
For a second.
And then he asked her to go out with him, on Halloween. 
And she said, "Sure."
And they went out. 
And they kissed. 
And it was the best kiss ever. 
And that was that. 
And they fell in love. 
He ended up becoming a writer. 
And they went to Europe. 
And he was a dancer for a little while. 
And she taught art to children. 
She taught the children how to make color wheels and things with clay. 
And she wore pink shoes to their wedding. 
And they built a life together. 

Everyone grows up with a love story, I think. That is the love story of my parents.  The abbreviated version. They have built such a beautiful world for themselves. Out of sweat and tears and blood and love. 

I cannot believe it sometimes. 

Sometimes their goodness makes me cry. 

The other day my mother brought me chocolate chip cookies and strawberries and spring rolls. The spring rolls were beautiful. 

Food is absolutely the best manifestation of love.  
Or at least, food is the best manifestation of love until you actually find real romantic love. 
Which I have yet to do. 

So spring rolls are my love of the moment. They are particularly fitting, given that it is so SPRING-ISH right now. I mean, everything is so green. SPRING HAS SPRUNG. It's a beautiful thing. 

How to Make a Spring Roll

I asked my mother what recipe she uses to make these, but she said she just made it up, which is her way. You simply take the rice paper wrappers, dip them in a bowl of hot water until they are soft and pliable and then fill them with thin rice noodles, lettuce, cucumber, tofu, grated carrots and whatever else you like.And serve with a chipotle mayonnaise. That is how my mother makes her spring rolls. 
There are more ideas, plus a real recipe here:


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Vanilla Sugar Cookies

Several months ago I had the most gorgeous moment:

I realized that I loved my face. 

For the first time in my life, it felt like my physical appearance was finally matching up with the person I felt I was inside. 

And I felt beautiful. 

Not pretty. Not cute. 


It was kind of astonishing. 

And it was so funny, because I turned to my roommate and shouted "I'M BEAUTIFUL!"
And she looked at me with this funny expression, and said "Yeah!"and nodded, as if it had been obvious all along. 

But it wasn't. At least not to me. 

Let me tell you something. Growing up ain't no picnic. But sometimes the rewards are really sweet. 
Maybe I am learning to love/accept myself/my perceived flaws. I don't know. Maybe in that moment I just decided to believe in whatever modicum of loveliness maybe I do or don't have. I don't know. Maybe being beautiful is ultimately about not giving a fuck. 
And lately, I have gotten increasingly better at not giving a fuck.

What does this have to do with Sugar Cookies?

Here is my sugar cookie story: Sugar cookies have always seemed like the most pointless cookie. I mean, what is a cookie without chocolate?And for most of my life I have avoided sugar cookies because they seemed so plain-- they lack pizzazz and bravado. And then I had a life-changing sugar cookie that was just beyond delicious. And since then I've loved them. 
I don't know if this new-found love is due to my evolving tastebuds (did you know that your tastebuds allegedly have preferences which change every 7 years?) or if I had epiphany or call from the heavens or what. But sugar cookies are beyond delicious

And I am beautiful

And so are you. 


Vanilla Sugar Cookies

from who got it from The Pastry Queen 
These are kind of seriously scrumptious. But really. Go for it. xoxo
makes 1 dozen 4-inch cookies or 2 dozen 2-inch cookies
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil, such as canola or sunflower oil or almond oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus additional for sugaring tops
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or the seeds of 1 vanilla bean
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper, or foil, or grease generously with butter or cooking spray.
Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter in a large bowl on medium speed for about 1 minute.  Add the vegetable oil.  It may not fully incorporate with the butter, but that’s ok.  Add the granulated sugar, powdered sugar, egg and vanilla, beating on medium speed until each ingredient is completely incorporated.
Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt all at once using a wooden spoon or the mixer set on low.
The dough will be soft.
Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour or freeze for 15 minutes just so it’s easier to handle.
For large cookies, dollop 2 Tablespoons of cookie dough onto the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  For smaller cookies use 1 Tablespoon for each cookie.  Press the dough evenly with your fingers or palm to 1/4-inch thickness.  Generously sprinkle sugar on top of the cookie dough.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes for larger cookies or 8 to 10 minutes for smaller cookies.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes before transferring to racks to cool completely.  The cookies will keep for up to 3 days if stored in an airtight container.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

I want to tell you something:

If you want it, and you claim it as your own, it's yours. 

Several years ago, I wanted to be a Dancer. I danced every day, for hours and hours. But I started late. And I did not dance on pointe, and I worked so hard, and I loved to dance so much. 
But I could never call myself a Dancer. 
In my mind, I was always just Someone Who Danced. 

(My ballet shoes.)

I thought that being a dancer was a title that was earned, something you were eventually given when you were "good enough." I thought that to be a Dancer you had to be some kind of rarified angel. A sort of god. 

And then, just the other day, I realized that being a Dancer isn't something you earn, or win or are entitled to. It's something you claim. 

And now, several years later, after giving up that dream, I'm a Dancer. Finally. 

I wish I had realized this much sooner. I would have saved myself so much heartache. 

If you want it, and you claim it as your own, it's yours. 


Anna Pavlova certainly did: 

And she was so utterly fabulous that the spectacular dessert The Pavlova is named after her. 

Pavlovas are light and airy: egg whites are whipped and whipped until they are basically cloud, baked until crisp, and then topped with whipped cream and berries and shredded chocolate. 
Pavlova is oh so divine. Pavlovas are bold and different, a sort of anomaly in the dessert world. 


because according to modern dance goddess Martha Graham, 
"First we have to believe, and then we believe." 
Which I guess means OWN IT.
And I am a Dancer. 


Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

from Nigella Lawson via The Food Network

For the Meringue Base:
6 large egg whites
2 cups superfine sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder sifted
1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 ounces dark chocolate finely chopped 
For the Toppings:
2 cups heavy cream
4 cups raspberries
1 to 2 ounces dark chocolate 

Prepare the pan: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Draw a 9-inch-diameter circle on the paper with a pencil, tracing a round cake tin that size. Flip the paper over so your meringue doesn't touch the pencil marks - you'll still be able to see the circle. Make the meringue: Beat the egg whites with a mixer until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Add the chocolate: Sprinkle the cocoa, vinegar and then the chopped chocolate over the egg whites. Gently fold everything with a rubber spatula until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in. Shape the meringue: Secure the parchment to the baking sheet with a dab of meringue under each corner. Mound the meringue onto the parchment within the circle, smoothing the sides and the top with a spatula. Bake the meringue: Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 300 degrees F and cook for one to one and a quarter hours. When it's ready, it should look crisp and dry on top, but when you prod the center you should feel the promise of squidginess beneath your fingers. Let it cool: Turn off the oven and open the door slightly; let the chocolate meringue disk cool completely in the oven. When you'reready to serve, invert onto a big flatbottomed plate and peel off the parchment. Decorate the Pavlova: Whisk the cream till thick but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue, then scatter the raspberries on top. Coarsely grate the chocolate haphazardly over the top so that you get curls of chocolate rather than rubble, as you don't want the raspberries' luscious color and form to be obscured. You want the Pavlova to look like a frosted cake.