Fictitious Dishes

Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature's Most Memorable Meals, by Dinah Fried.
This is one cool book. It's a small collection of photos, all of which portray the meals of literature's most famous figures. It envisions everyone's plate, from Oliver Twist's gruel, to Alice's tea, to Esther Greenwood's ominous crab-avocado lunch. It's a great interpretation of literary texts, and the pictures are unique, beautiful, and fun. Books and food, food and books. You got to love it!
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
by Hunter S. Thompson
“‘You goddamn honkies are all the same.’ By this time he’d opened a new bottle of tequila and was quaffing it down….He sliced the grapefruit into quarters...then into eighths...then sixteenths...then he began slashing aimlessly at the residue.”

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
by Lewis Carol
“‘Have some wine,’ the March Hare said in an encouraging tone. Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea.”
by Johanna Spyri
“The kettle soon began to boil, and meanwhile the old man held a large piece of cheese on a long iron fork over the fire, turning it round and round till it was toasted a nice golden yellow color on each side. Heidi watched all that was going on with eager curiosity.”
The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger
"“When I’m out somewhere, I generally just eat a Swiss cheese sandwich and a malted milk.
It isn’t much, but you get quite a lot of vitamins in the malted milk. H. V. Caulfield. Holden Vitamin Caulfield.”
The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold.”
The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath
“Then I tackled the avocado and crabmeat salad...Every Sunday my grandfather used to bring me an avocado pear hidden at the bottom of his briefcase under six soiled shirts and the Sunday comic.”


Apple Pie

Fall is here! No, really; the leaves are changing, the weather is damp, and the apples have miraculously all become perfect.
It is time for pie.
I made this lovely, simple apple pie with guidance from online recipes and Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts. I used Gala apples, which are my favorite to eat and so I just have a lot around the house, but you can also use Granny Smith, Mutsu, or Honeycrisp. The key to fruit pies is to keep the moisture where you want it; as long as you take the right steps to get a dry and flakey crust (and give the pie lots of time to bake) the type of apple shouldn't make a huge difference, so go crazy with whatever you've got. (Some experts will debate the levels of sweet-tart combination, but that has never been an issue for me.)
This weekend I realized (too late of course) that I had no shortening, so this was made with an all-butter crust. However I recommend using my favorite pie crust.

  • 1 pie crust, or enough for a double-crust
  • 6-7 medium-large apples, peeled and cut
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 teaspoon cream
  • Decorating sugar or sugar in the raw

Total time: 2 hours
Bake time: 60 minutes

1. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Roll out half the pie crust, and fit straight into a 9 inch pie pan. The crust should hang about a 1/2 inch over the edge. Place in the fridge to chill.

2. Meanwhile, peel the apples and slice (as thick or thinly as you prefer).

3. Add the lemon juice, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt to the apple slices and toss together.

4. In a large skillet, heat the apple slices on medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes, until just soft. This will caramelize the sugars. Take off the heat and let cool.

5. Mix the egg white with water. Then brush the egg wash over the bottom and sides of the prepared crust. Important step: this will help to keep the bottom crust dry!

6. Add the apples to the pie pan. Roll out the remaining pie crust to fit over the top, and crimp the edges as desired.

7. With a sharp knife, cut slits into the top crust to vent. Mix the egg yolk with cream and brush the top and sides of the pie, and sprinkle liberally with decorating sugar.

8. Bake at 450 F for 15 minutes, then drop the temperature to 350 F for another 45 to 50 minutes. If the edges begin to burn, covering them with tin foil will help.

9. Let cool for 15-20 minutes before serving. 
Homemade pies are well worth the extra effort and time. Miles ahead of defrosted, store-bought pies, they're the ultimate comfort food, and you can make them anyway you like. This is great with coffee, with some vanilla ice cream, or anyway you like it. Everyone has their own way of eating pie, that I keep thinking of that one scene from When Harry Met Sally. No judgements with pies!
Happy fall everyone!


Audley End: The Victorian Kitchen Garden

Still writing about my brief life in England this summer.

One Friday we took a quick trip to Audley End. This was one of my favorite outings, even if it was not quite as eventful as some of the others. Audley End is one of the great manor houses of East Anglia; think Downton Abbey, but much older, smaller, and filled with tourists. It's only a twenty minute trip from Cambridge, and has stunning grounds and gardens.
The day we arrived also happened to be absolutely beautiful. First we had some (more) tea and scones (all day, everyday). I had mine with clotted cream and jam. Clotted cream is a very dense spread, somewhere between whipped cream and butter. It's great with jam, and because I was on vacation, it had zero calories!
After tea we toured the house and explored the grounds. Audley End sells potted plants from its gardens. This is a quirky trait of English culture; tourist collect different plants from various houses all over the country as souvenirs. Gardening is really popular, almost like grilling for Americans.  
The house sported many beautiful, impressive rooms, but I think my favorite was the enormous Victorian kitchen. I could get used to that copper collection: 
And of course they had more things to try on....

The gardens at Audley End were very unique. In their hay-day, most of the great houses were completely self sufficient. Since their transformation into public monuments, many of the farms and gardens of the houses have been scaled back. Although the Audley End stables still had horses, the garden had been meticulously preserved. The huge kitchen garden featured every vegetable, fruit, and herb under the sun. In the manor's green house, which dated back to the nineteenth century, the manor's supply of grapes and other exotic fruits grew. The room growing peaches had the most beautiful fragrance!
After spending the day wandering around, in and out of the house, we were back to Cambridge in no time. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.


Martha Stewart's Cookies

Ok, so I'm not exactly a Martha fan. But I'm loving her baking books. Her Pies & Tarts has already been a staple in my cookbook line-up for years, but ever since I received this book devoted to biscotti, bars, russes, tuilles, macaroons, and snaps, I can't stop going back to it.
What I like most about the book is how it's organized.
Each section is dedicated to a specific quality of cookies. So instead of being ordered by flavor or holiday, the recipes are divided into sections such as "light and delicate", "crumbly and sandy", "cakey and tender". This is so important, because so much of what goes into great cookies, from how to make them, to how to serve them, is determined by texture.
Martha knows. Martha understands!

And of the recipes I've tried from it, Milk Chocolate Cookies, Cocoa Shortbread Hearts, and Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti, (I might just have a thing for chocolate, ok?) they've all turned out great.
Am I recommending this? Yes, I'm recommending this.

Milk Chocolate Cookies

I've been spending so much time travel-writing lately, it seems that I haven't been writing up any recipes (or baking them for that matter). But with the arrival of October, I thought it was time to make some of these ultra chocolatey, old-school cookies. Perfect companions for coffee or milk anytime, and they took me less than an hour to bake. These are so great, because they have that double chocolate punch: not just the chips, but melted chocolate too. I got this recipe from Martha Stewart's Cookies cookbook.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 oz milk chocolate
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Total Time: 45-60 minutes
Bake Time: 15-18 minutes

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
2. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl.
3. Melt the milk chocolate with the butter, either in a double boiler or in the microwave, and set aside to let cool.
4. Put the melted chocolate mixture, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium speed till combined, then slowly mix in the flour mixture. Then fold in the chocolate chips.
5. Drop spoonfuls of dough on parchment-lined baking sheets, about two inches apart. Bake for 15-18 minutes (till soft), and let cool.
Five steps and so delicious! I was really impressed with how these turned out; rich, gooey, and just enough chocolate to satisfy any chocolate fix. 


Picnic on the River Cam

So continuing some food- related adventures from England
One of the key things to do when visiting Cambridge is to punt the river Cam. "Punting" is the act of propelling a narrow boat up a river or canal by pushing a long pole against the bottom. This famous activity has been going on in Cambridge for hundreds of years, and has even been written about by many famous authors, including E.M. Forest and Virginia Woolf. The Cam runs along the beautiful backs of the colleges, and therefore punting provides some of the prettiest views of the city.

On one of my first days in England, I made the horrible, overambitious mistake of trying to punt the boat myself. It turned out to be a lot more difficult and stressful then I imaged, as the small, peaceful Cam is always teeming with boats full of tourists and students alike. If you aren't really good at it, you ended up running into the sides and getting trapped under all the beautiful, short bridges, in front of the many cute tour guides who flew past your boat.
Smiling and dying of panic.
So for my second trip up the Cam, I figured I'd leave it to the experts. On a beautiful afternoon, we hired a guide, filled our bags with snacks from the Sainsbury's, and enjoyed the river as it was meant to be enjoyed, leisurely. Our guide was really knowledgeable about the different colleges, so as we glided along (he made it look very easy) we heard a bunch of stories about all of ancient buildings we passed. Weird to think how almost everything in Cambridge was older than America.
For "lunch" we had grapes, strawberries, Digestive biscuits, chocolate, and some pink Champagne. Ah, much better.

Picnics are great, but they get way more fun on a boat. 

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