Pear and ginger muffins

I had the best of intentions last week, yet I still found myself with a half dozen pears sitting on my counter, too far gone for eating out of hand. That, of course, didn’t stop me from buying more pears at the market this past weekend. With an over-abundance of fruit and a decidedly fall chill in the air, it seemed as good an excuse as any for a little baking project.

Moody muffin

It would make a better story if this recipe came about after deep contemplation of a perfect bag of golden, freckled pears plucked from a tree with branches positively aching, overloaded with fruit; if I told you how the warming spice of ginger speaks to the new fall season and complements and contrasts the pear’s sweet flower smell. Or if I waxed poetic about the crisp fall leaves flying around me in eddies and waves of yellows, oranges, reds, purples, their sound the autumn equivalent of waves on the beach, while the sun’s angled rays stretches and pulls shadows across the ground.

Freckled pears

Truth? I stared at the pears on my counter on Sunday morning and had this conversation with myself: “These poor pears are not going to last a single day longer. You know, it’s been entirely too long since I made muffins. I wonder how pear muffins would be. And pears go so well with ginger and hey, don’t I have a bag of ginger bits somewhere? I bet if I mashed up the soft pears I could just add them to the liquid ingredients. Good enough, let’s try this.”

Streusel-ed

Like I said, the first version makes the better story, but sometimes the muffin is all you need.

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In a rhubarb jam

I feel like I’m trying to make up for lost time. When I first tried rhubarb last year, it was at the very end of its season and it’s hardly the most popular kid on the block when it comes to the freezer case at the grocery store. So now that rhubarb season has come around again–now closer to its end than beginning–I find myself buying it in bunches by the pound (more accurately, 5 pounds). I just can’t get enough of the color, its pretty red to pink to green stalks, or its flavor that reminds me of sour cherries.

Ready to cook

Pie is of course a great way to use up a big bunch, but I don’t want to overload myself on pie before I even get to strawberries, blueberries, cherries, or peaches. Cake is good too, and I’ve simmered a good amount (4 cups chopped) with sugar and water (1 cup of each) and a vanilla bean (split) to make rhubarb syrup (cook for 20-30 minutes and strain) to add to seltzer or slightly more boozy libations that deserve neon bendy straws and a sunny day on the porch.

Jammy

But how to keep a little taste of spring around longer than the last crumbs of baked goods or drops of syrup? Jam, of course. I picked up this cute little cookbook at Chicago’s Printers Row Book Fair last weekend and figured it was just the push I needed.

Stacked

Ginger is a pretty common accompaniment to rhubarb’s tartness, and it’s easy to taste why. The prettiest rosey pink color of the jam looks like it would be overwhelmingly sweet but the tingle of ginger (in raw and candied forms) along with a little bit of sour from strips of lemon zest make this my new favorite thing.

Rhubarb Ginger

I’m usually indifferent to jam stirred into yogurt, but this jam is perfect for that (and hey! pink yogurt! pretty!); I’ve also been spreading it on a slice of whole wheat bread with dried fruit baked in. It would be so perfect with scones or cream biscuits, and I can’t wait to use this in thumbprint cookies, or even some variation on a linzer tart or cookies.

Pink

…Excuse me, I need to go buy 5 more pounds of rhubarb before it’s all gone.

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Soup season, take two

And so begins the Week of All Food, Thanksgiving week. The only holiday dedicated solely to cooking and eating (and appreciating the people you cook and eat with) is on Thursday and, as you would expect, I’m super excited and have all sorts of capital-P Plans. But since I know the latter half of this week will be overflowing with treats in all forms, savory and sweet, better to start the week with something light.

Carrot-Ginger-Miso Soup

I’ve already mentioned that soup is one of my favorite dishes this time of year, and this particular one is just so good for so many occasions. Feeling like you’ve over-indulged in all that fall and winter have to offer (or know you’re about to)? This is substantial enough to satisfy, but won’t make you feel like taking a four hour nap after one bowl. Coming down with a bug and not in the mood for chicken soup? Copious amounts of ginger, garlic, and carrot are all fantastic for fighting whatever ails you. Or simply feeling especially virtuous? You will feel like a saint when you pull this out of your bag for lunch.

Carrot-Ginger-Miso Soup and dumplingsCarrot-Ginger-Miso Soup

And now, a bit of a diversion–I was lucky enough to meet Deb Perelman who writes the Smitten Kitchen food blog (the source for this particular recipe) on Sunday, and it was amazing. Rare, perfect mid-November weather in Chicago, one of my favorite neighborhoods, awesome indie bookstore, and great company with the friend who introduced me to the Smitten Kitchen blog (thank you again Katherine!). Could it get much better? Turns out, yes!

Deb was, as expected, incredibly kind and generous to the huge crowd of people anxious to meet her, taking a few minutes to talk to everyone. And personally, when I mentioned that she inspired me to set up shop in this little corner of the internet and told her the name of the blog, she asked if I commented on her site because the name sounded familiar. Oh yes. This blog sounded familiar to Deb Perelman. Shut the doors, turn off the lights, we’re done here because it can’t get better than that.

2012-11-18 16.29.52 Continue reading