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Archive for March, 2008

Ah, patience. Laboratory chemists, kindergarten teachers, intergovernmental negotiators, driving instructors: these are people with freakish levels of patience. But for some of us, patience can be an elusive trait. The idea of waiting and working — politely and diligently — with few immediate results seems far too tortuous.

But if you want to bake, you need patience. You need to carefully measure ingredients, wait for ingredients to bake and often — much to my dismay — wait for the cake or bread or baked good du jour to cool. Oh, the cooling…requiring so much patience and self-restraint, and sometimes, I just don’t have it in me.

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This Ukranian honey cake, for example, is so subtly spiced that you really need to let it cool for all the flavors to come together: the floral honey, the toasty coffee, the spicy cinnamon. But when the cake emerges from the oven, its surface craggy and golden and slightly sticky, you’ll want to cut off a slice right then and there — just a little one, to see if it came out okay…

Wait it out, though, just a little. Patience can be challenging, but in this case, you’ll be rewarded.

One quick housekeeping note: To those who read this blog, you also have amazing patience. Between planning a wedding and working like crazy, I’ve been a little…how shall we say…inattentive lately. My apologies, truly. And now I will ask you to have even more patience, as I’m headed to Asia for two weeks! I’m literally writing this as I pack…. I promise a full report of my culinary adventures in Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong when I return. So thank you for your patience :).

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On the Lamb

Noticed a serious dearth of savory recipes on this blog lately? Yes? Well, I swear to you, I really have been cooking. I’ve made slow-roasted pork and braised short ribs and all sorts of drool-worthy concoctions on my stove top. But they came and went, leaving behind only a bunch of dirty pots and pans, with no photographic evidence of their existence. And what fun is it to wax poetic about a recipe without pictures?

So when I made a lamb navarin this weekend, priority numero uno was snapping a few images before we gobbled all of it up.

To be honest, I didn’t grow up loving lamb. So often I found it gamy and uninteresting, and I can honestly say that I’ve never ordered lamb in a restaurant. I’ve tried bits off other people’s plates, and though sometimes the lamb tasted good — really good — I never felt compelled to order it myself, much less cook a whole meal with it.

Then I started dating a Brit and met all of his international compadres and before I knew it, I was eating lamb at dinner party after dinner party. And you know what? I started to like it.

The thing about lamb — or maybe “my” thing about lamb — is that it’s pretty easy to prepare badly. Cook it just a little too long, and it’s tough and dull and rather sorry looking. But when enough of my friends started cooking it well, I realized how tasty good lamb can be.

So when a newly purchased cookbook arrived at my doorstep last week, and I saw a recipe for lamb navarin (a French lamb stew), I knew what this week’s Sunday Night Dinner would be — and, of course, what I’d be photographing ASAP, so that I could share the recipe with all of you.

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Muffins

Pathetic attempts at food punnery aside, the title of this post refers to my predilection for wholesome, substantial muffins. Apparently, this is not a predilection shared by my better half.

Admittedly, after watching him scarf down my muffins for more than two years, I was a little surprised to find out that he “likes” my muffins…but doesn’t “love” them. At first, I didn’t understand. Then I realized: he’s English. Growing up, he rarely saw what we in America refer to as “muffins.” The type of muffins he was accustomed to were the kinds with Nooks and Crannies™, the ones we aptly call “English Muffins.”

It wasn’t until he came to the United States in the early 1990s that he really embraced the American muffin, which by then had grown into a behemoth monstrosity containing an entire day’s caloric intake. Needless to say, he loved these muffins. Who wouldn’t? No one ever went on a diet because buttery, sugary food tastes bad.

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I like those muffins too, as an occasional treat or an afternoon snack. But when it comes to breakfast, I really don’t feel like eating a baked good (glorified piece of cake, really) the size of my face. And the problem is, even once I’ve eaten one, I’m hungry about 30 minutes later. I need something hearty and filling that will keep me going until lunch…or at least until my self-appointed Mid-Morning Snack.

These muffins, adapted from a Nancy Silverton recipe, fit my qualifications. They are packed with seeds and whole grains, yet don’t feel like leaden fiber bombs. And since they aren’t “low-fat” muffins, they also don’t have the rubbery, sugary quality of those muffins that occasionally masquerade as health food. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re like me and love muffins chock full of grains and goodies, you’ll love this recipe.

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