Monday, February 21, 2011

Great Grains Muffins

I'm not much of a coffee drinker. The idea of drinking a cup of joe is really only appealing if said cup of joe is injected with a shot of mocha and sprinkled over a cup of whipped cream and caramel sauce. That said, I sometimes wish I had a coffee addiction, it seems so comforting: waking up, bleary eyed, to a steamy hot cup of coffee, like a friend who never changes and is always there for you.

Lately I've turned to tea. Tea is spartan. Tea only withstands a bit of sweetening (sugar) or souring (lemon) or richness (cream) and then you can't add anything else, because then tea wouldn't be tea.

Tea is also far more romantic than coffee. Sure, Voltaire slurped down endless cups of coffee, (He reportedly drank 50 cups a day. Which is what probably made him so anal. Anyone would get tired from having to rush to the restroom every five minutes.) Tea however, conjures images of stuffy victorian ladies swathed in clouds of lace and diamonds, with pinkies out. Tea is the drink of kings.

And you know what goes with tea in the morning?

Petite, wholesome, and oaty blueberry muffins. And an orange. Yes yes.

Great Grains Muffins
from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 12 muffins

Note: These are wholesome muffins. They are not the cakey monstosities that most of us have had to get used to. That said, they are lovely and almost crispy around the edges, very dainty.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 blueberries, or nuts or dried fruit i.e. plump prunes or whatever else you may fancy

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400 F.
Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Place the muffin plan on a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cornmeal, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, maple syrup, eggs and melted butter. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough-- if the batter is a bit lumpy, that's fine. Stir in the fruit or nuts, if using them. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thing knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes, then carefully lift each muffin out of its mold and onto the rack to cool.

Monday, February 14, 2011

On Valentine's Day

I'm not in love.
Regardless, I'd like to share a list of things I love.

Things that I love, in no order:

2. Long walks at dusk.
3. The movie Bonnie and Clyde.
4. Turquoise.
5. Long baths.
6. The song "Silver Cloud" by Alejandro Escovedo. I dance to it when I'm angry.
8. Diana Vreeland

10. The word "exquisite."
13. Listening to my brother play guitar in the backyard.
14. Sunlight.
15. Rain.
16. Perfect Chocolate Sheet Cake.
17. Best Chocolate Chip Cookies.

18. Getting the mail.
19. Waking up and not having to get out of bed right away.
20. This painting:
21. The book about Doughnuts my aunt and cousins sent me as an early birthday present. LOVE.
22. The fact that I am making doughnuts for my birthday.
23. My birthday.
24. Red fingernail polish.
25. Pearls.
26. Staying up late, watching movies.
27. Music.
30. Dorie Greenspan.
31. Reading the Sunday New York Times.
33. Being alive.
34. Hats.
35. Dancing. Especially tap dancing.
36. Tea parties.
37. Tutus.
38. Old home videos.
40. You.

Now stop wasting your time and go make something delicious.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tilapia a la Provencale

I woke up the other morning with a sick feeling in my stomach.

I'm facing a lot of decisions in my life right now, decisions about where I want to go and what I want to do, and it's just this incredibly dreadful feeling, this responsibility for myself and my future. And I know I'm being illogical. I'm not even 18 yet, and the choices I make right now probably won't haunt me for the rest of my life. But I'm just not a very logical person.

Anyways, it took me most of the morning get the shaky, worried feeling out of my body. I ate a lovely breakfast. I cleaned. I took a shower that lasted about half an hour. (It was a glorious, glorious shower.) I tried to draw and read, things that usually calm me down. But I just couldn't. I couldn't focus.

So I made Tilapia au Provencal. There is something about the rhythm of cooking that is so comforting. As I pan fried the fish, chopped tomatoes and looked for olives in the wilderness that is my refrigerator, I felt my anxiety drift away like plumes of steam.

And you know what else? This tasted wonderful. It's a french recipe: Lightly panfried fish, that is then baked and tossed into a bright tomato sauce. At the risk of being morbid, I would like to request that my final meal have lots of tomato sauce. Tomato sauce cures all ills.

And then I went and had a beautiful day.

Tilapia a la Provencale
adapted from I Know How to Cook by Ginette Mathiot

The beauty of this kind of recipe is that it leaves lots of room for improvisation. The original recipe suggested using salt cod, but this would be lovely with any white fish. Salmon would be interesting... I forgot the onion and instead added bok choy and spicy olives and peppers. It's your life. Do what you want.

3 tablespoons oil
3 1/2 ounces onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 pound 2 ounces tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Generous 1 cup black olives
2 tablespoons chopped parsely
1 pound 2 ounces tilapia filets

Preheat oven to 500 F.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan, lightly cook fish, about one minute on each side, or until the fish begins to look less pink and more white. Remove from pan and place in a baking dish. Roast in oven for 5-7 minutes, until fish is cooked through. (It's difficult to explain doneness. Just trust yourself, also because most ovens run at slightly different temperatures, you may want to check fish sooner or later, depending on the fickleness of your oven.) Remove from oven. In the meantime, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in pan. Add the garlic, onion and tomatoes. Cook over low heat and stir occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add olives, parsley, season with pepper and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Flake the cooked tilapia and add it to the pan. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, then serve.