Grapefruit and Bay Leaf Marmalade


Marmalade is such a delightfully old-fashioned word. It reminds me of reading Matilda as a child, being whisked away to Miss Honey’s tiny cottage where she drank tea with milk and ate bread and butter and reveled in her freedom. I don’t remember if Miss Honey ate marmalade. Perhaps she couldn’t afford it, being in such debt to Miss Trunchbull. I do remember looking at Miss Honey’s life and thinking that even as sad as her situation was, it sounded impossibly cozy.

Cozy sounds good any time of year, but most of all this time, when we have snowy days and cold evenings. I love winter- I often say that I moved to Minnesota for the winters- and one thing I love most about winter is that it’s a season to be kind to yourself. In winter I find myself going on leisurely walks, drinking more tea, cuddling with Aaron and a book under blankets, and lighting candles. The Danish call it all hygge, a phenomenon that’s been welldocumented. It reminds me a bit of our American buzzword of self-care, but with less juicing.

I like that cozy is accessible and personal. There’s no insistence on designer workout gear that costs me a day’s work. I don’t have to forgo meals in favor of juices. I can make a bright, sweet-tart marmalade and eat it on toast in the morning. I can practice yoga sequences (I’m about to start this series) before work in my pajama pants. I get to choose what makes me happy, and that’s no small thing.

If this appeals to you, I would recommend making this marmalade for a cozy morning. It’s both hygge and self-care to me- I have a comforting spread for my toast, jewel bright and bittersweet. And I get to control the ingredients, which here means tart grapefruit, earthy bay leaves, sweet oranges, and enough sugar to set it.

A word of warning- there’s quite a bit of sugar here, and if you’re avoiding the stuff this isn’t the recipe for you. But this makes quite a bit of marmalade, and unless you eat a large amount of marmalade every day it will last you a long time. The finished product ends up with about 12 grams of sugar per tablespoon, which is well below the current recommendations for your daily recommended amount of sugar. I will gladly forgo desserts for a morning hit of marmalade, and perhaps you’re the same. Perhaps not. Either way I firmly believe that you know yourself best, and when you have all the information you can make an informed decision.

Whatever your marmalade decisions, I wish you cozy mornings and good breakfasts.



Grapefruit and Bay Leaf Marmalade 

Making this marmalade is a bit like making caramel- you need to watch it carefully and use a large pot. Long sleeves and shoes are both advised, as is keeping others out of the kitchen- whether it’s pets, children, or curious partners. I would highly recommend using a thermometer to make this- in fact, I used two (a candy thermometer and an instant read to verify the candy thermometer). But if you don’t have a thermometer, watch the bubbles carefully as I describe below. You’re trying to reach the thread stage, as described here. In the past when I’ve cooked a marmalade a bit further than is ideal, I’ve been able to warm it back up with a good hit of water and bring it back to a spreadable consistency.

Makes 8 cups

2 and a half (1 pound 6 ounces) thinly sliced medium grapefruits
8 1/2 cups (3 pounds, 6 ounces) cane sugar
5 cups water
zest and juice of 1 orange
3 bay leaves

Combine everything into a very large pot. If it feels silly to cook that much marmalade into such a large pot, you’re on the right track. The marmalade will bubble quite aggressively towards the end and you’ll be grateful for the extra space. Warm the pot over medium heat, and stir together well. Bring to a simmer, and allow it to simmer, stirring often so the bottom doesn’t burn, for 40 minutes. Skim all the bright orange foam that you can as it rises to the edges of the pot. The more foam you skim, the more brilliant your marmalade will be.

After the marmalade has cooked for 40 minutes crank the heat up to high. Attach a thermometer to the side, and let the marmalade cook to 223 degrees Fahrenheit (106 degrees Celsius). Watch it very carefully. It will take a while for it to get close, then will go quite quickly. The marmalade will first froth with small, quick bubbles, then larger bubbles will start to appear. Once the whole thing is bubbling aggressively, with medium sized bubbles that are thick and sputter just a bit when they pop, you are at 223 degrees. Remove immediately from the heat. Allow it to cool, remove the bay leaves, and transfer into clean jars.

The marmalade will stay good (without being canned!) in the refrigerator for weeks.


Gougères with Gruyere and Shallots


When I was 10 my parents made the decision to change churches. We went from attending Mass every Sunday at the a grand Cathedral to a small, scrappy church technically a mile away but actually in a different universe. It was no small decision. The Cathedral was where my parents had been married, where all three of their children had been baptized. It was where my dad had been an alter boy and a lector, and where many of my cousins attended school. It was large and elegant and intimidating.

Our new church was none of those things. The priests were Franciscans. They had nicknames and went barefoot on the alter. Babies were baptized naked. It was all new and exciting. And our new church was a bilingual parish.

My hometown had (and still has) a sizable Hispanic population. This was never something that I had encountered in my day-to-day life. My grandparents had been born in the same town I was. I knew where they had lived, the house my dad had been born into, where the only church that still spoke Slovak was located but somehow not about the huge swath of our town where signs were only in Spanish. Our neighborhood was mostly white. Our family was mostly white. My school was diverse, but the friends I hung out with outside of school were mostly white.

And my parents decided to change that. Soon we were attending bilingual services for feast days. After Mass in the summer we would eat paletas bought from the vender who arrived just as Mass was letting out. In the fall it turned to churros. My dad and I joined a choir and would sing verses alternating in Spanish and English. At church potlucks I happily ate tacos, but refused to eat more when I learned what lengua meant (tongue).

I want to be clear that this does not mean everything was all the sudden happy and easy. There were misunderstandings. There were missteps. I did not often want to go to services that would stretch to 2 hours, and where I only understood every 3 words. But it was good for us, as individuals and as a family.

I cannot, for the life of me, correctly use por and para, but there are hymns I will not sing in English. There is still nothing as good as a paleta in the summer heat. I am filled with gratitude of the humble  church where I was raised, where Aaron and I were married, that marched for immigration reform. It was not a wealthy church, but it was a rich one.

I was reminded of all of this last night, as the church I attended celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The church I attend here in Minneapolis is a Cathedral. It is large and elegant, but also warm. Last night there was a bilingual service. There was a procession of Aztec dancers. There were the words I have sung, hundreds of times, set to a different tune, but still “Santo, santo, santo, santo el Señor“. And there was a homily of hope in the darkness. About the radical nature of a brown-skinned Mary appearing in Aztec clothing and speaking Nahuatl to Juan Diego, an Aztec peasant. About how God is always with those who are oppressed, no matter when or where.

Gougères do not fit neatly with this story. But feeding people is one of the best ways I know to show love. I like to joke that I only speak culinary French, but the other half of the joke is that I only speak religious Spanish.

When we choose to love people it is not easy. It requires a steely resolve and great patience. It requires radical hope and realism. Love is not easy. But I would rather live actively working on love than live without it. And where I stand right now, love includes gougères .


Gougères with Gruyere and Shallots

Makes about 30 gougères

Gougères freeze well, and can be baked straight from frozen. One great beauty of gougères is that they are so versatile. You could add herbs, spices, or different cheeses to these beauties to make them entirely your own. I’ve been known to bake gougères and eat them straight off the sheet tray. But if you pressed me for the best way to eat them I’d tell you to invite people over, make mulled wine, and serve gougères warm from the oven.

8 tablespoons (113 grams) butter
1 cup (226 grams) water
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1/2 a shallot, diced
1/2 cup (40 grams) finely grated gruyere

In a medium saucepan over medium heat melt together the butter, water, and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, making certain that all the butter is mixed, then add in the flour. Use a rubber spatula to stir in the flour, being careful to completely incorporate the flour. Continue stirring on heat, using the spatula to pick up and turn the dough, until the dough looks smooth and even. Turn the dough out into a large bowl.

Stir the dough with a rubber spatula every few minutes until the dough is at room temperature. Once the dough is no longer warm, add in the eggs, one at a time, stirring completely between each addition. It will first look as though the egg will refuse to combine, but continue working and it will cooperate. After the eggs have all combined stir in the shallots and gruyere.

If you are using a piping bag, use a medium sized round tip (or do as I did, and just cut a opening in your bag and don’t use a tip) and fill your bag. Pipe out the gougères onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. I aimed for mine to be an inch and a half in diameter and an inch in height and found that to be a perfect size.

If you are not using a piping bag, use two spoons to scoop the batter onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Aim to use about 2 tablespoons of batter in each gougère. Be careful, regardless of which method you choose, to not let the gougères touch.

Put a tiny bit of water in a shallow dish. Dip your fingers in the water, and then use your fingers to shape the gougères as necessary. If you’ve piped your gougères, flatten out the tail on top. If you’ve spooned your gougères, smooth out any rough lines.

The gougères can now be frozen, or baked off. If you want to freeze your gougères just pop the tray in the freezer, then transfer to a ziplock bag once frozen.

When you are ready to bake your gougères, preheat your oven to 400. Bake the gougères, spaced an inch apart, for 20-30 minutes (20 for fresh, 30 for frozen), rotating the baking tray every 10 minutes. The gougères are ready when they are golden in color, firm to the touch, and light when picked up. Enjoy warm.


Easy Quick Pickled Red Onions


It took restaurant work to learn that almost anything can be pickled.

At the places where I’ve worked I’ve seen cucumber pickles, yes, and giardiniera, but also beets, herring, fresno peppers, cabbage, green beans, radishes, and mustard seeds. And those are only the ones I can remember with absolute certainty.

Pickling makes sense. It’s a way to preserve vegetables through the winter. Fresh winter produce is a pretty new innovation if you, like I, live somewhere where it snows. It’s a way to get something fresh and bright and tart and clean in your food when nothing grows. And it helps that pickles are delicious.

My childhood self has disowned me for that statement. I used to hate pickles- the sharpness on my tongue and the way the acid hit the back of my throat would make me cough. But age and exposure are great cures for all manner of ails, including pickle aversion.

I would be remiss, however, if I made you think that I love the common green cucumber pickle. We’ve come to an understanding. I don’t mind the cucumber pickle, and on occasion I even like them. The worst I can say is they don’t offend me. But I find other vegetables more interesting when pickled. And my heart really sings for the sharp, acidic, and crunchy bite of a pickled red onion.

One thing I love about pickled red onions is that although they are bright and acidic and sharp, they also tame the bite of red onions. They help take red onions from aggressive to assertive, gussying up the red onions with vinegar while the sugar helps bring out the inherent but hidden sweetness of the red onions. I added fennel seeds, coriander seeds, white peppercorns, and star anise to bring in some warmth. The result is certainly a pickle, but a balanced one.  And with what color.

For a long time at work I would end every brunch shift with a sandwich of smashed avocado and pickled onion. It was a happy habit, and one that only ended when the dish using the pickled onions and avocado was taken off the menu. At home I’ll be adding these pickled red onions to tonight’s dinner of red kuri squash, rice, and beans. They make an excellent addition to all manner of tacos, and I’ve plans involving grain salads and these beauties. And I’ve got my current favorite breakfast sandwich coming up later this week, which stars (you guessed it) pickled red onions.


Easy Quick Pickled Red Onions

This recipe really is a template, and you can take it in a variety of directions, depending on what flavors you want to bring out. These pickles will keep well for weeks at a time, as long as the jar is clean and kept in the refrigerator. Of course, do use your best judgement. If you do smell any off smells, or the pickles become cloudy rather than brilliant, then it’s time to toss them.

Makes 1 quart

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
2 whole star anise

Place the red onion slices into a clean quart jar and set aside.

In a small saucepan combine the vinegars, salt, sugar, and spices. Bring to a boil, then pour over the red onion slices. Allow the vinegar to cool, then place a cap on the jar and refrigerate.

The pickles can be eaten after an hour of refrigeration, but will taste better after hanging out in the brine for over a day. They will keep, refrigerated and tightly capped, for a few weeks.



Homemade Ricotta


In my last post I was sappy. Today we’re getting cheesy. We’re making cheese. Specifically, ricotta.

I was introduced to making ricotta in restaurant kitchens. There we make it by the gallon, using a ratio instead of a recipe. 2 to 1 milk to cream. Boil with salt. Add acid. Set. Strain. The pure white curds that emerge are magic. When I tasted homemade ricotta for the first time I realized that ricotta is so much more than just a filling for lasagna. It’s creamy and light and almost sweet, and it plays so well with everything.

I’ve seen ricotta as a base for dumplings, as a component of a strawberry-chocolate dessert, and as a filling for bruschetta, among other things. In my own kitchen I eat ricotta on top of nutella smeared toast, as a topping for pastas, melted on pizzas, and straight from the spoon. Once you start looking it’s hard to think of anything that’s not improved with a smear of ricotta.


Ricotta is simple. You need a pot, a spoon, a colander (or sieve, but you may not have a sieve and you likely have a colander), and some cheesecloth. Cheesecloth should be available at most grocery stores for two or three dollars, and has a habit of proving enormously useful. And once you have the tools, it’s boil, stir, set, and drain. The whole process takes an hour with maybe five minutes of active time, and you’re left with the best ricotta you can acquire this side of $20 a pound.

Making ricotta also has the benefit of leaving behind whey. The whey is the milky, salty, slightly acidic liquid left behind when you drain the ricotta. I’m not going to promise you you’ll love it, but at this moment I am drinking whey straight from a coffee mug. It’s also magic in bread making. I recently made this pizza crust using whey instead of water and it was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever made. And if bread making isn’t your thing, whey would be fantastic in a creamy soup.

If you’re still on the fence, think of all the things you could eat with the ricotta you make.

-My mom used to make stuffed shells. These ones look like a grown up version of my childhood favorite.
-I made this cake with our old wonky oven and it was delicious. I can’t imagine how good it would be with homemade ricotta (and our newer, functioning oven).
-I love everything I’ve had from Anna Jones, and I’m willing to bet that includes lemon ricotta french toast.
-Baked ricotta? Baked ricotta.
-And to take advantage of the last of summer produce, a tomato and ricotta pie.

Homemade Ricotta

makes about 2 cups

4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup lemon juice

In a  heavy bottomed pot stir together the milk, cream, and salt. Bring to a boil (200 degrees if you’d like to be specific) then turn off the heat. Stir in the lemon juice, and stir for 10 seconds. Let the whole mixture sit for 20 minutes.

Line a colander or sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth and place over a large bowl. Pour the ricotta mixture into the colander. Let it drain, undisturbed, until the ricotta is at the texture you want. This usually takes 20 to 30 minutes for me.

Save the whey separately from the ricotta. The ricotta should last refrigerated for a week, but it’s unlikely to last that long.


Nectarine Pie


There’s a reason, I think, that the expression is “a piece of cake”, not “a piece of pie”. Cake, while possible to complicate, is not by its nature complicated. There are 5 ingredient cakes, 1 bowl cakes, cakes whose recipes are easy to memorize and even easier to complete. Pie, with the complications of chilling and rolling and cubing and blind baking, can’t touch cake for convenience.

That doesn’t mean that pie can’t be simple. It just means you have to pay a bit of attention. I will happily make a pie over a cake any day, and only part of that is because pie is so much tastier than cake. Pie has an advantage over cake that it’s broken into discreet steps. Pie is one of those glorious treats that’s somehow acceptable for dessert and breakfast. And pie is never the wrong thing to bring when eating with people, no matter if the occasion is a casual cookout or a formal sit down dinner. It is both homey and fussworthy, which is a good thing to aspire to.

I used to think there was one standard pie crust recipe for every occasion. My standard is all butter and cut by hand. But I’ve been exposed to enough pie now to know that’s not true. There’s the shortening pie crust my mom swears by because she says it’s less fussy than butter. There was the pies made with vodka for tenderness by a college roommate. There was the lard crust that didn’t need to be chilled at a restaurant I worked at. And that was all before I had ever encountered the pie crust made in the food processor.

This crust throws a wrench into everything I thought I knew about pie crust. You start with a borderline obscene amount of fat (I used all butter), and use an electric mixer to blend it with cream, then slowly add in the dry ingredients. When rolling the crust out, you roll, then fold and roll again to make layers. What you have in the end is a beautiful crust that’s both tender and sturdy. There are layers of butter distributed in the crust that make it light, but it won’t break or flake apart as you try to eat it.

If you are a novice to pie-making this is the pie you should make. The crust is forgiving.  Making a pie may seem like a big time commitment, and it relies on a bit of planning, but there are discreet steps that make it easy to start and stop as needed. If you are not a novice to pie-making this is a pie you should make. The nectarines are juicy and have a sophisticated, dark sweetness after their turn in the oven, and the filling could be easily adapted as you desire.

Either way, it’s a piece of pie.


Nectarine Pie

adapted from The Perfect Finish by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark

Yosses’ original recipe for this crust calls for 20 tablespoons of butter, 7 tablespoons of lard, and 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour. I’d encourage you to play around with the fats and flours that you want to use. The technique should remain the same, whatever you use.


27 tablespoons (13.5 ounces, or 3 and 3/8 sticks) of cold unsalted butter, cubed
7 tablespoons heavy cream
1 3/4 cups (225 grams) whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups (220 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt


8 nectarines, pitted and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon brandy (I used cherry brandy, but any brandy would be good)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg, beaten, for brushing
Demerara (or other) sugar for sprinkling

To make the crust add the butter and the cream into a large bowl and use an electric mixer to beat until smooth. The butter shouldn’t be creamed, and it may not emulsify with the cream, but it should be a smooth mass. In another bowl combine the whole wheat pastry flour, the all-purpose flour, the sugar, and the salt. Add a third of the dry mixture and continue to beat until the mixture comes together like a wet dough. Add the remaining two-thirds of the dry mixture and beat until the whole thing barely comes together and resembles a shaggy dough. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead it all together until it’s in one mass. Divide the dough into two balls, wrap both balls in plastic wrap, and flatten into disks. Chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Once the dough is sufficiently chilled remove it from the fridge, one disk at a time. Generously flour a clean surface. Roll the dough into a 12 inch square. Fold into quarters, and re-roll the dough. You want it just under a quarter inch thick. Be sure to be gentle, to use a good amount of flour, and to avoid tears. If you tear the dough attempt to patch it up by taking a piece on the end and molding it into the tear. If you can’t patch it up fold the dough again, use more flour, and roll again. Transfer your first piece of dough into a 9-inch pie pan. Pat into the pan and trim the edges so the dough extends only as far as the pie rim. Place the pie pan into the freezer. Repeat with the second piece of dough, but transfer onto a sheet tray. Place the sheet tray in the freezer. Let them chill out for at least an hour.

When you’re ready to start baking the pie preheat the oven to 425. Remove the frozen pie pan from the freezer, and line with aluminum foil. Fill the aluminum foil with dried beans or rice. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely before removing the aluminum foil.

While the pie crust is cooling start the filling. In a medium bowl toss the nectarines with the two sugars and the salt. Mix gently and let sit for 30 minutes. After thirty minutes have elapsed add in the cornstarch, brandy, and vanilla, and mix well.

Preheat the oven to 350. Fill the cool pie shell with the nectarines. Remove the sheet tray of frozen dough from the freezer. Brush the edges of the pie with the beaten egg using a pastry brush. Place over the filled pie, and cut off the edges that hang over the pie pan. Use your fingers to crimp the edges. Using a knife, cut vents for steam. Brush the whole thing with egg, and sprinkle with demerara sugar.

Place on a sheet tray (I used the same one that the dough had been frozen on) and bake for an hour, until the crust is golden and the juices of the pie are thick and bubbly. Let cool. Eat at room temperature.