Ravenous Fig

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Strawberry-Almond Buttermilk Scones

[caption id="attachment_612" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="These scones are the perfect combination of crunchy, sweet, and wholesome. Get them while they're hot!"][/caption]

Crazy weeks have a tendency to make me… well, a little bit crazy. I'm constantly analyzing, constantly predicting what will happen next (and probably constantly wrong)! It's hard to think about what to make for breakfast when there's a four foot monkey on my back. Which is why last weekend was so nice — I woke up in the morning from a dream about these lovelies, and I had to make them.

Somehow baking has this way of bringing me back down to earth. Maybe it's the exactness of the knife scraping extra flour off the cup measure to make precise, scientific measurements (what, you don't do that?); maybe it's the chemistry that happens when leavening agents mix with a handful of raw ingredients to produce something smile-inducing. Either way, these scones marked the beginning of a perfect Sunday last week.

Toasted Almonds for Strawberry Buttermilk Scones The last scone

It's a happy thing when fate smiles upon us and all of the ingredients for a recipe are hanging out in our kitchen just waiting for us to swirl them together into a masterpiece of foodstuff. Whole wheat pastry flour, the last of a somewhat questionable carton of buttermilk, even turbinado sugar were all standing by when I stumbled down the stairs into the kitchen in my PJs and a nappy hairdo.

An hour later I had some of the most delicious — dare I say moist — scones I've ever tasted. We brought some extras with us to the park to give to Jon and Kendra, who promptly inhaled them after changing Ezra's third public diaper explosion of the day. Success.

Strawberry-Almond Buttermilk Scones

These scones are incredibly delicious the first day; if you plan on keeping them longer, store them in a container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days and rewarm in the toaster oven.

Scone Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, plus more for brushing
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (also called Sugar in the Raw)

Topping

  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • Pinch of salt

Scone Preparation

Preheat the oven to 400° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the all-purpose and whole wheat pastry flours with the granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender (or two knives), cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal (little pebbles? — never know how to describe this). Stir in the 1 1/4 cups of buttermilk and carefully fold in the sliced strawberries. (I needed about 1/4 cup of extra buttermilk to

Homemade Caramels with French Grey Sea Salt

[caption id="attachment_549" align="aligncenter" width="545" caption="The caramel stuck to the pan in only one place, which produced this lovely work of art."][/caption]

One of the things I'm beginning to love about the holidays is the freedom to unapologetically retreat for hours at a time to the kitchen. Today I'm preparing a rich vegetable stock with roasted vegetables and dry red wine. Tomorrow I'll use that stock for a hearty vegetarian shepherd's pie to take to a friend's house for dinner. Yesterday, though… Yesterday was a great day for caramels. Cold, rainy, and cloudy — really, what else is there do on a day like that? Cue favorite Good Will Hunting quote:

Maybe we could go somewhere and just eat a bunch of caramels.

I've made caramel before, but never with any success. It has always been a miserable fruitless endeavor that ended in a sticky mess of liquid brown stuff. Sure, it tasted alright, but it didn't look like the pictures! (And that matters, okay?)

Yesterday I gave it another go. Vance's family has a long history of making Christmas cookies and candies together. In an attempt to find some sweets we'd both enjoy to continue that tradition, I landed on a recipe for caramels. I pulled out all the stops — got out the biggest pot, the best quality local and organic ingredients, and (the key tool I was always missing in the past) a candy thermometer. I also set aside the whole afternoon, as everything I'd read told me it would take two hours of continuous stirring to get it right.

Miraculously, I ended up spending "only" one hour stirring, 15 minutes of which was taken care of by the wonderful husband. Caramels truly are a labor of love. The more love you put into them, the better they'll taste.

Finished Caramels

I'll give you one piece of advice about making caramels: Do it in the largest, heaviest pot you can find. You want a pot that heats evenly and holds more than three times the volume of liquid called for in the recipe. At its highest boil, your pot will most assuredly overflow if you pick a pot that holds any less (speaking from experience). Okay, here's another piece of advice (free of charge!): don't ever walk away from the pot. Grab a stool, turn on some Cooking Channel, and keep on stirring.

Homemade Caramels with French Grey Sea Salt

This recipe is adapted from one originally found in The Atlantic magazine.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup organic unsalted butter
  • 4 cups organic unbleached sugar
  • 2 cups corn syrup
  • 4 cups organic whole milk
  • 1 cup organic cream
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • French Grey Sea Salt (or visit the Spice and Tea Exchange for another salt of your choosing)

You'll also need a candy thermometer, a huge pot, and waxed paper. Also recommended: a stool to sit on while you stir.

Preparation

Begin melting the butter in your largest pot over

The best (vegan) sandwich I ever ate

[caption id="attachment_524" align="aligncenter" width="546" caption="Can you imagine a more delicious vegan sandwich? No, no you can't."][/caption]

Some days, getting food from a co-op feels a bit like a curse. Like when we got that bitter melon that (thankfully) started rotting before we had a chance to use it. (Shucks.) This week, though, the local farms put out some incredible high-quality veg that I couldn't wait to eat.

Today's lunch: phenomenal. Using the local avocado, grape tomatoes, lettuce, and bread we got from Homegrown, I threw together a vegan sandwich reminiscent of Heidi Swanson's "TLT Sandwich" recipe.

[caption id="attachment_521" align="aligncenter" width="546" caption="Slightly dried tomatoes are extra sweet; I could eat a bowl of these by themselves."][/caption]

Her blog really says it best:

At this point in time, no other sandwich I make is more requested. Instead of a classic BLT sandwich, I make a TLT - tempeh, lettuce, and tomato. Not an original concept, but my secret is this...every component needs to be over-the-top flavorful.

And that's exactly what this was. Hard to eat? Yes. There were pieces of tempeh flying across the table (thankfully all of it landed on the table, rather than on the floor, so we just picked it up and shoved it back into the sandwich for another bite). For this reason, do not use bread with a tough, chewy crust that you have to gnaw with your teeth! That is, unless you enjoy food flying at the lunch table. Then, it's a blast. Oh, and did I mention it was totally worth it?

It was.

Tempeh Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich

The original recipe differs quite a bit from this; I've shortened the prep time from about 2 hours down to 45 minutes and (accidentally) eliminated the chipotle in adobo. Definitely check out the original on 101 Cookbooks if you've got time to spare!

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or maple syrup)
  • 8 ounces of tempeh, cut into 1/3-inch thick strips
  • 1 small basket of grape or cherry tomatoes (2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (or maple syrup)
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ small head of butter lettuce, cored, then cut into ¼-inch ribbons
  • 1-2 large avocados, mashed with a pinch of salt just before assembling
  • 4 or 8 extra-thin slices of hearty whole grain bread, well toasted

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Whisk together the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar. Pour 1/3 of the marinade into an 8x8 baking dish (or something comparable) - you want a dish that is just big enough to hold the tempeh in a single layer - this way it will be fully enveloped by the marinade. Pour the remaining marinade over the top of the tempeh, cover and set aside until ready

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