Made | (Someone else's) Grandma's rhubarb pie

I have a friend who loves pie. The way people react to marriage proposals, winning the lottery, or receiving a new car from Oprah, Meg reacts that way at the sight of pie. Any pie, really, unless it has chocolate in it, but until she finds out there's chocolate in it, she's in love.

Last year I wanted to make her a birthday pie, and I set out to find a promising strawberry rhubarb pie recipe. And then I learned the hard lesson of a complete novice setting out to make an age-old pie recipe: there's no rhubarb in November, dummy. So this year I took note of the start of rhubarb season and told Meg I was going to make her a pie. I bought the rhubarb and the pie crust (Trader Joe's makes a convincingly homemade one), and I set out to coordinate our schedules. A week went by, and the rhubarb kept being moved around in the fridge. Finally, out of fear of rotting rhubarb, I decided to say to hell with Meg and I made myself a pie. (Sorry, Meg, I'll make you one next week!)
My main qualm with strawberry rhubarb pie recipes are the addition of gelatin or tapioca. It seems the whole point is to make a Jello-like consistency out of your fresh fruit, which, to me, is beside the point. I'll eat preserves in the winter, but in the summer, I want fresh fruit swimming only with its own juices. Luckily, with the onslaught of rhubarb recipes this past month, I was able to take my pick. This rhubarb pie recipe from Curio Quilt was promising in its simplicity, and though it doesn't have strawberries in it, I have some strawberry ice cream to put on top.
This is the filling's glue. It's an egg, flour, and sugar. Drop the chopped rhubarb in that sticky mess and stir it up. 
Lay out your filling in your prepared crust and top with brown sugar, flour, and butter. 
Seriously. That's it. This pie is fool proof and a no-fuss way to use up that rhubarb side-eyeing you from the fridge.
If you're afraid you'll miss the strawberries, throw some strawberry ice cream on top or just fresh strawberries. You can't go wrong. 
 (Someone else's) Grandma's rhubarb pie
Adapted from Curio Quilt

What you'll need
unbaked pie crust (I used Trader Joe's)

For the filling
2 1/2 - 3 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 egg
3 tablespoons flour

For the crumb topping
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cold butter

Preheat the oven to 425.

Beat the egg in a bowl then add the sugar and flour. Once combined, mix in the rhubarb.

Prepare your pie pan, placing your crust into the pan and cinching the edges.

Spread the rhubarb mixture evenly over your crust. 

In a small bowl, mix together the flour and sugar. Use a fork or a pastry cutter to break the butter into little pea-sized bits. (Great tip from Kate: Don't worry if you have some chunks of butter—those equal flaky goodness.)

Sprinkle the crumb topping over the rhubarb and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and bake for 30-35 more minutes or until the crust is lightly brown and the filling set.

Cool for 20 minutes before serving. Or, if we're being honest, cool for about five minutes before eating a piece with strawberry ice cream for lunch. Be sure to send a picture to your pie-loving friend.


Made | Grapefruit yogurt cake

I have this tendency to grocery shop for the healthiest version of me. I buy the big bag of carrots even though Mike doesn't eat them, I buy three bunches of broccoli for two people, all the salad greens, and four different kinds of fruit. Among that fruit selection is usually one lone grapefruit, stuffed to the back of the fridge, remembered only when he's past his prime and wrinkled beyond recognition. That is the fate of the grapefruit I buy.

It's not for lack of liking grapefruit. It's pink and it tastes pink (in the best way), but it is so hard to eat. I eat breakfast on the go or at work a lot, and a grapefruit does not travel gracefully. Unless, of course, you zest it, juice it, and bake it in a bread cake, like Deb did all those many years ago. She has since updated the recipe (and photos) for her cookbook, but I fell in love with this simple and grapefruit-y recipe.

First, I zested my grapefruit and piled that together, then I juiced the grapefruit using a regular old citrus juicer.
Then toss the dry ingredients (flour+salt+baking powder) into a purple bowl (or color of your choice).
The sugar, eggs, oil/applesauce, vanilla, and yogurt get whisked together in their own green bowl. Then the dry ingredients meet the wet ingredients and there's no turning back. 
You let it relax and cool off for a bit, then you put it on a rack and give it a grapefruit+sugar bath. 
But one bath is never sufficient, so you finish it off with a powdered sugar+grapefruit juice bath and all is well in the world. 

The cake is a bit tart, which is offset by the sweetness of the glaze. Reducing the amount of grapefruit juice+sugar mixture that you pour over the first time will help with that, but if you're not a fan of tart, what are you doing buying a grapefruit anyway?
Grapefruit Yogurt Cake

What you'll need
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (13 grams) sugar
3 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon grated grapefruit zest (I just zested one grapefruit)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I did 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup apple sauce, but you could probably replace it all with apple sauce and not tell the difference)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (one large grapefruit makes more than this)

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a loaf pan, or if you double the recipe, grease a bundt pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, grapefruit zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil (or apple sauce) into the batter, until incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

While your cake bakes, cook the 1/3 cup grapefruit juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan or the sink. I just suspended the cooling rack over the sink and poured the grapefruit juice and sugar mixture over the top while the cake was still warm.

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and grapefruit juice to make the glaze and pour over the cooled cake.


Made | Portobello steaks with dandelion greens and roasted radishes

I grew up in Georgia, land of biscuits 'n' gravy, chicken 'n' waffles, mac 'n' cheese. Pretty much anything you can stick an over-abbreviated and in the middle of, we make it (after slathering it in butter). My grandpa has his own garden, which by Boston standards would be considered a full-fledged farm. As far as I can remember, he's grown corn, watermelon, green beans, butter beans, cabbage, tomatoes (oh, the tomatoes), even sweet potatoes. So it's not that I didn't grow up eating my vegetables, it's just that they were usually alongside a steak or a meatloaf and topped with a buttery cheese sauce. 

I am not complaining, but I am trying to strip down my understanding of how to prepare a vegetable. For a while now, Mike and I have been making portobello burgers as a staple in our weekly meals. They're cheap, less harmful to the environment than ground beef, and just generally less gross to handle. He marinates them in soy sauce and ginger (and really whatever sauces or dressings we have available) then grills them on the George Foreman. A couple weeks ago, after deciding to start replacing all of the bread we usually eat with other, more nutritious fillers, we tried these as just steaks. And what a welcome change! Without the bread and toppings, the flavors of the mushroom and the marinade shine through. I can't recommend this enough. 
We're also trying to cut back on how many white potatoes we eat, which has pushed me to try new things and new ways of cooking old things. Take radishes. I've been adding them to salad for a while now, but the other night I chopped them up, seasoned them like they were potatoes (seasoned salt, pepper, garlic salt), tossed them in olive oil, and roasted them at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until they were golden brown. Roasting them softens the radish-y crunch, but brings out all of the flavors hidden in there. 
Next up we wanted to try out some new greens. We're always sauteeing kale or bok choy, but we thought we'd give dandelion greens a try. It's one of those ingredients you see on the menus of upper scale restaurants, but it costs about $1.99 for a bunch at the grocery store. 
I washed them well, threw in some of the greens from our radishes, and sauteed them with already-browned onions and garlic. 
Mike took care of the important part.
Let me tell you: this meal was no less satisfying than the steak and potato meals of yore. If you're not too keen on replacing everything you hold dear with vegetables, start small. Replace the potatoes with roasted radishes or mashed cauliflower (recipe coming soon!). Summer is the best time to start experimenting with new veggies, as you can find all kinds of things at farmer's markets. 


Went | West Hurley for Memorial Day

For Memorial Day this year, we rode down to West Hurley in Jenna's new car for a few days away in an adorable farmhouse. It was rainy and cool on Saturday when we arrived, so we made a delicious lunch and explored the house and the market nearby. The house was right down the road from Overlook Mountain and Woodstock, both of which we took full advantage of on Sunday and Monday.
On Sunday morning we made a big breakfast and headed up to Overlook Mountain for a quick hike. I say "quick hike," but as a sporadic hiker (at best), it was a challenge for me. I was thankful when we got to the remains of what was the Overlook Mountain House, built in 1871. The story behind this place is pretty incredible: it was destroyed by fire, renovated, destroyed by fire again, then renovations began again, but were never finished because of the owner's death. When his son went off to war, all of the top of the line building materials were stripped out and the remains stand as a reminder to not rebuild in a place plagued by fire. Seriously.
Once we got to the top, we were expected then climb this six story fire tower, left over from the days when the fastest way to get news of a fire was by having a volunteer stand above everything looking down. Now it serves as a chance for hikers to get an even better view of the summit. I made it up about two flights before my knees buckled and the intense winds made me turn right back around. 
The overlook was incredible despite being one of the lowest elevations in the Catskills. I'm content working my way up from the bottom. 
After the hike, we explored the nearby monastery then walked around Woodstock. We ate a late lunch at the Garden Cafe, and it was amazing. It's all vegetarian, and the black bean sweet potato burger and the brown rice and kale bowl were just what we needed after our trek up the mountain.
We all took long naps then woke up around 9 for matzoh ball soup and board games. We didn't want to leave on Monday, but we took the long way home, stopping in Woodstock again and then in Rhinebeck before heading home. The weather was so beautiful, we were all giddy with the windows down, and I was able, for once, to stave off the realization that vacation is nearing its end. 
Self-timer and manual focus are not friends. 
I woke up from a nap to Jenna and Ron getting out of the car to take pictures of one last overlook. 
I miss that farmhouse.


Books of 2013 | Mid-April through May


In this span of a month and a half, I've managed to read two books by the same author without entirely meaning to. I picked up The News from Spain by Joan Wickersham before heading home to Georgia for a wedding at the end of April. I read the first story while I put off packing the night before my flight, and read the rest on the plane. Wickersham weaves the simple phrase "the news from Spain" into these heartbreaking love stories set all throughout history and all over the world. What strikes me most about this collection is that she explores more than just romantic love—though that is a major theme as well—but the kind of love that blooms from the nipped bud of romantic love. There is deep friendship that seals itself in the hearts of two broken women, between a man and a woman who reach beyond their roles as boss and servant to relate as the bearers of spurned and ignored love. They give each other what they cannot find in their significant others, finally releasing the affection building up just under their skin, accepting one another with grace and forgiveness. These were the stories that completed this book for me; these are the details of life that make every day full with possibility.

I finished the book and jumped from one collection to the next, not finishing anything. I read as much as I could of Sam Lipsyte's The Fun Parts and Jamie Quatro's I Want to Show You More, but neither of them were doing it for me. I'll return to them some other time. Then at the beginning of May, after making a promise to myself not to buy anything unnecessary for the month, I found The Suicide Index on the remainders shelf at Harvard Bookstore. It was only six dollars, and I clutched it like the continuation of my life depended on that purchase, but I requested it from the library instead, trying to create a new kind of muscle memory when it comes to spending money. A week later, it was ready for me at the library, and I dove in head first.

I should say that this book is not for the light-hearted. It is a messy, self-conscious, in-depth look at the suicide of her father. It is a memoir, not fiction. After reading the first section of the book, which is organized like an index, I hoped that it was a work of fiction, but alas, it's not. It is heartbreaking at times, and beautifully written and honest at all times. I hesitate to recommend this to anyone who has known the loss of suicide, but I also know the healing that can come from hearing another voice telling a story not very different from your own. Wickersham explores all of the emotions that surface after her father commits suicide: there is anger, delayed and stunned sadness, the guttural need to protect the memory of someone you love. The book is not told in a linear manner because, as Wickersham herself asks, how could it be? After her father's death, everything he ever said or did comes into question, gains new significance in the harsh light. While she does not attempt to make sense of it all through the book, she comes out on the other end recognizing that no longer trying to do so is a healing in its own right.