Monday, March 1, 2010

The Best Kind of Saturday

As a once again very busy underemployed jack-of-all trades, I have learned to value the long Saturday afternoons I now have wide-open-free for experimenting, crafting, stirring, tasting. The best of these Saturdays, shining bright after an endless week of carpooling and 30-minute meals are filled with some variation of the ultimate trifecta: pie, granola, and ice cream.

The pie: a sour-cherry confection, baked for my cousin’s 21st birthday (perhaps the ultimate hang-over cure?). I started with a double crust pate brisee from Martha,* and mounded a precariously high pile of canned (uh, I know, not the best, but hey, this was the request) sour cherries mixed with a tablespoon of cornstarch, ½ cup-of sugar, ½ teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt (next time, lemon juice!). The top crust fell apart a bit upon its careful placement, but hey, that’s what “rustic” cooking is all about.

The granola: my adaptation of Orangette’s adaptation of Nigella Lawson’s breakfast blend. It’s got the usual suspects—oats, nuts, honey, cinnamon—but is laced with applesauce, unsweetened coconut, and brown rice syrup, the secret to crunchy clusters without corn syrup. The recipe is super-flexible, so, at least in my house, no two batches are quite the same. Sometimes I add molasses, sometimes I add sesame, sometimes it’s flax seeds. Each adds its own magic.

The roasting process (especially if making a double or triple batch) can take quite a while, especially in my parents’ tinier than tiny oven, but there is seriously nothing more therapeutic than slow, routinized stirring, tossing, and tasting. And with this winter aiming to be the longest, coldest winter, um, ever, sticking by a hot stove all day is pretty freakin’ great. Once finished, this granola is worlds away from anything you can buy at the store, flavor-wise, money-wise, and health-wise. I eat it most mornings with yogurt, some kind of fruity topping, and occasionally mixed with Flax Plus.

The ice cream: left-over from my grandmother’s 78th Sundae birthday party. The ménage a toi of chocolate, vanilla, and mint-chocolate chip is particularly good topped with coconut, chocolate sauce and a cherry.

*Try as I might to convince myself to try a new recipe, like the supposedly foolproof Cook’s Illustrated vodka-laced pastry, I just can’t break with habit. This crust may be a bit finicky during humid weather, but it is crumbly-flaky in just the way I like it, and melts on the tongue in a way M&Ms can only dream of.

Oh, and a big Verdant Kitchen P.S. I prepared a trio of dips and crackers for a CDC party last week. Check it out over on my other webpage.

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