Roasted Kale & Parsnips

1 bunch kale (entire kale plant) 3 medium parsnips 1 lime 1 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon coriander 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 425 F. Wash kale and cut into pieces that are 1 inch long at stem end and are progressively larger toward leafy end. Peel parsnips. First cut them into three sections which are each as close to uniform in diameter their entire lengths. Cut the largest in half. Cut all the sections into 1/4 inch wide chunks, perpendicular to the radial axis. Coat small roasting pan with olive oil. Lay kale in pan. Lay parsnips on top of kale. (Pile may be higher than pan--this is okay because kale will cook down). Bake for about 5 minutes. Dump pan contents into large mixing bowl, add coriander, black pepper, and salt, and toss with spoon. Replace kale and parsnips back into pan, squeeze half lime’s juice over pan and bake. After five minutes use spatula to mix vegetables around. After another five minutes cover pan with tin foil. Bake for another ten minutes. It’s done. Serve with remaining lime half.

31 January 2011

Quinoa with Tomato-Bacon-Beet-Spinach Sauce

What's most notable about this sauce is that it is red. Not tomato red or beet red, it's more fake blood red. The color seems wrong to me; bacony tomato sauce should not hurt the eyes to look at. To me it's a color that on the whole doesn't fall into the category of edible. Eating it is a very disjunctive experience: what I taste is not what I see. This is probably because I have learned throughout life to anticipate taste from appearance, along with a number of other cues. Foods "look tasty." This sauce, rather than looking tasty, or even looking like sauce, looks like raw meat, blood, candy, or some kind of overzealous berry. Looking at the food while eating it, rather than creating a suturing movement like this paragraph, creates more confusion than the following metaphor: the sewing machine sticks and the needle breaks.

I might even say, in one of the more postmodern gustatory aesthetics, that good food causes such renewing sensory rupture. Of course, ideally it does so more subtly than by blaring a neon red siren in your face and then handing you a plate of tomato sauce. Comfort food, on the other hand, strives toward a mimetic reproduction of your preconceptions. There can never really be, but comfort food may accomodate. What we have in this opposition of comfort and "good" is an appallingly bad account of what makes food good. Food full of the unexpected and disjunctive may still be bad, mediocre, nauseating, or even inedible. And comfort food also may be all of these things. This is not a way of evaluating the goodness of food, but a way of defining differing aesthetic modes. "Good" and "comfort" might be better termed "high" and "low."

What brought me here? Beets. The color of one of the oldest vegetables jars me into having to convince myself that tomatoes and bacon in fact taste like tomatoes and bacon. It has such an effect, I think, because it reminds me of blood--fake blood, and therefore of the permeability of bodily boundaries. We have become used to putting substances in our mouths and swallowing them. In fact, depending on the account of childhood psychological development you subscribe to, there may never have been a time when we were not used to it. Nonetheless we generally have come to think of the process of eating as not at all at odds with being contained within our bodies. Voiding waste is only slightly more threatening to this sealed bodily conception. But as much as straight male psychology at some unconscious level depends on rejecting it entirely, there is no avoiding it: things enter us and exit us through multiple orifices, including us. And blood, although generally this only exits. But from the plate in front of me deep red sauce enters.

1/2 large onion 1 small red beet 2 cloves garlic 7 medium frozen tomatoes 3 strips bacon handful or two baby spinach juice of 1/4 lemon

3 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon black pepper salt to taste (1/2 teaspoon?)

Fill a large saucepan 1/2in up the rim with water, add frozen tomatoes, and put on medium-high heat. In another large saucepan begin frying bacon on medium heat. Peel and finely chop onion, beet, and garlic. When bacon is browned on both sides (but not crispy), remove onto a cutting board or plate. Scrape blackened bits from bottom of pan with spatula. Reduce heat to medium-low and add onion, beet, garlic, black pepper, and a pinch of salt. Tomatoes should be about thawed at this point. Remove from heat, drain water, remove skins, and chop tomatoes into large chunks. Put tomatoes back on medium-low heat to begin reducing. Stir frying onion mixture every few minutes. When onions are very soft (maybe 25 minutes), transfer tomatoes to frying saucepan and add basil, oregano, and lemon juice. Stir. Continue reducing sauce. When it's the right consistency, add baby spinach. Allow it to wilt for a few minutes and then stir it into the sauce. Salt to taste. Serve over pasta or quinoa.

29 January 2011

Biscuits & Kidney Beans

Yesterday, in an attempt to entertain myself by imposing arbitrary lifestyle contraints, I decided not to use my computer. Yes, it's true, I composed this with pen and paper. Laugh it up at my affectation. The point is that instead of looking to the internet for proportions of flour, butter, and milk, I followed The Joy of Cooking (1972 edition) recipe for biscuits. It calls for kneading the dough "a scant 1/2 minute." (I do love this book's diction. It has so many instructions it creates its own semantic universe in which every term has precise meaning.) I had never realized kneading might be an important part of making biscuits; I thought one was supposed to handle the dough as little as possible. It turns out kneading is how they're made flaky.

I may have rolled the dough too thin. The recipe says to roll "until the dough has the desired thickness." That was a quarter of an inch in my case. They only rose to about half an inch. My brother commented that they looked English. They do look more like I imagine scones should look than they do biscuits. But they're too thin to be cut in half. So they aren't even scones really. But I like them. There's something really nice about the way they get stale. They get stiff and just a bit chewy. In this stale state they're perfectly suited to eating with hot liquids such as tea or soup. And they're the sort of thing you would put in your knapsack before setting off into the forest.

I made these to go with a pot of kidney beans seasoned with sambar powder. This came about because I couldn't find the cayenne chili powder I wanted to use. (The sambar powder consists mostly of chilis.) I'm not sure it's the greatest combination, but it was an improvement over kidney beans without the seasoning.

2 cans cooked kidney beans 1/2 cup water 2 tablespoons cooking oil 1 large onion 2 cloves garlic 3 teaspoons sambar powder 1 teaspoon dried oregano salt to taste

Chop onion into medium pieces roughly 1/2in square. Chop garlic as finely as possible. In a medium pot on medium-low heat, fry garlic in oil. When it is just browning, add sambar powder, dried oregano, and onions. Fry onion until well softened, maybe 20 minutes, stirring and scraping bottom every minute or two with a rubber spatula. Add kidney beans and water. Simmer for ten minutes and then serve.

27 January 2011

An Overused Metaphor

This blog has a shadow, or maybe it is the shadow of something else. Each entry is motivated by another entry that's never written. And there are still more unwritten entries which have simply been forgotten. And sometimes what I want to write is never even at play in a written entry. It just slips my mind, and I'm left to type out unbidden words only because I've cooked something and photographed it and ought to have something to say about it. Despite being obligated like this, there are still plenty of photos of food I intended to write about but never did.

As the blog trundles forward entry by entry, it does so in an attempt to recapture what it has left behind, and, fumbling, yet more slips out of its grasp. These movements do not necessarily result in repetitive content. I leave trains of thought like "recipeness" behind, wishing I could still write more about them but can't, don't. My nostalgia for them just pushes me to write about something else with similar zeal, even though my writing on any one topic is vague and unfinished.

27 January 2011

Inedibles: Beet Cake and Boiled Turnip

As a certain song would put it: what is a cake with no one to eat it? I have complained, I have belittled, and I have relativized, but never* have I written on this blog about something I cooked and refused to eat.  How does one deal with inedible food, and just what is meant by ‘inedible’?

I began composing this entry before I made the beet cake. Specifically I planned to write that I began composing the entry before I baked or ate the beet cake that the entry was to be about. I was supposed to then connect this fact to the idea that I tasted the cake before I tasted it--an idea I have been developing (or perhaps only reiterating) in recent entries. But instead the real cake completely collapsed the cake I had imagined (in addition to itself physically collapsing). It went against my expectations in the most extreme way. I couldn’t even manage to eat more than a bite.

The photo from When Mia Cooks After the last time I wrote about beets I googled beet cake, and, really, just looked for the most appealing images. The photo of uncooked batter in one recipe looked incredible: bright pink. Although the interior of the cake is hidden in all of the photos (all are taken from directly above the item), I suspect that it was in fact cake, and not whatever substance my ‘cake’ turned out to be.  Of course I didn’t exactly follow the recipe. My most egregious mistake, I think, was not measuring the amount of beets while following the measurements of everything else (eggs, flour, baking powder). But who knows. Now I want to write a recipe for something not at all appealing or expected, but photographs well. Watch out for that one. (Not that I imagine anyone is following any of the recipes I post.)

In preparation to be blogged, the process of creating the cake was photo-documented in detail. You can see the beets being boiled whole, releasing their wine-colored dye into the water. For some reason I decided that, contrary to the recipes I had read, I needed to boil the beets and puree them in a food processor rather than grate them into the cake batter. You can see the deep violet (even violent violet) batter, and the pink frosting. I reserved and then reduced the dyed water that the beets were boiled in, and used this liquid in the buttercream frosting. The reduced liquid had an overpowering taste, but the frosting was both delicious and pretty. You can see that the ‘cake’ that came out of the oven even looked like a cake on the outside, just like the photos from the recipe I didn’t follow. But look inside to see the strange, soggy result. It might be best described as beet puree with other things in it, as opposed to cake with beet puree in it.

What you can’t see is that I deliberately omitted sugar from the cake. I wanted to see how sweet a cake only sweetened with beets could be. Also I was motivated by the beet mythology that I established earlier.  The beets, I thought, should not be corrupted by their inferior cousin, sugar. My plan was to keep the sugar separate, to load enough sugar into the frosting that the cake would be sweet enough yet the beets would still remain beets. In the end omitting sugar from the cake only made it more disgusting than its texture did already.

Earlier I wrote of beets as an antithesis to taste in relation. I treated beets as a taste singularity around which language strains to find adequate comparisons. What happens when a singularity is baked into a cake? It intervenes. 

When I was carrying them home, the beets stained a library book I had in the same bag. One more beet just fell out of my bag. I had no idea it was still there, lurking.

It wasn’t just the beet cake that was inedible. Mashed turnip too. I assume this is the work of the beet. However I would also be willing to believe, given the legends surrounding mandrake root, that all roots are malevolently disposed. I had never tried turnips before. One reader pointed out that the turnip I boiled and mashed may not have been ripe. Do turnips ripen? “Doesn’t everything ripen?”

I feel obligated to describe how the turnip was inedible. I’ll go about this in a roundabout way by describing the anxieties that the guide to cooking turnips I found online gave me. While not explicitly saying so, the guide gave the impression that the turnip is a toxic vegetable, similar to, say, cassava. It warned that “turnips tend to have a bitter flavor if not boiled long enough, with at least ONE water change (usually two)!!” I had to extract the bitterness from them by changing the water, twice? Moreover for larger (and therefore more bitter) turnips “it is best to cook them uncovered so the bitter gasses can escape.” They have gasses? What was I trying to do, exorcise a possessed vegetable? If so I was not successful. The cooked turnip smelled nice, but I could not stomach it. It was not an immediate bitterness; it twisted slowly in my mouth, making all food distasteful for the rest of the evening. It was something evil. But I’m willing to believe that the evil can be more completely beaten out the turnip, if not entirely, and that the result would be tasty.

I was going to write about the (im)possibility of taste independent of other tastes. This was brought about by the realization that my writing usually peters out into thematic dissonance. Themes may be dissonant, but can they have no relation to one another? Can tastes? Circumstances changed , but I could have just the same written about bad taste (in)dependent of other bad tastes, or good tastes. I could have tried to answer the inane question: does the turnip I didn’t eat constitute a singularity of inedibility?

It turns out this was not an entry concerned with the ontology of inedibles. Instead I wrote a great deal about how the inedibles were cooked, and how they tasted. Their specific visceralness blinds me to the social construction of inedibility waiting just beyond the immediate “ew.”

24 January 2011

The photo from

To write this blog is to find new ways of describing how food is disgusting.

I hate cooking. Have I mentioned that? Also I want to do nothing but cook.

On the one hand, the need to eat is an obstacle to the rest of life. I don't want to have to eat. But I'm always eating to preempt hunger--not so much a a desire to eat as a visceral awareness that I need to eat. Hastily and begrudgingly I try to fill myself with adequate food so that I can get on with life. Can’t I get this over with?

Most mornings all I really want is tea. I want to have my time with tea, or I should say of tea: it is supposed to pull me out of time’s regular flow into tea time. Tea is in this way a kind of pastry. However tea is in reality never enjoyable by itself. One has to be enjoying something else--to be enveloped by, focused on, or occupied by something else for tea time to happen (or not happen) at all, if it does. Usually, lacking in some other enjoyment, tea time really is no time at all, in the wrong way. It passes quickly, bringing me almost immediately to tepid sloshings of acrid, camel liquid--then out of (in the sense of having run out) but very much in time and out of tea. So, dispassionataely, I cook breakfast out of necessity. This is how I hate cooking.

On the other hand I want the same impossible thing from cooking that I want from tea. I want to escape through cooking. I want the process to be involving enough that I forget everything else. I want a kind of productivity for which there is no need. The taste of the results, really, is not all that important.

Biscotti are dry, crumbly, tasteless things. Hunks of stuff to have with coffee. By themselves they are blah. Good coffee has a slight aroma of shit. This is an incomplete metaphor that doesn’t work; it doesn’t just leave a slight trace behind, it leaves whole swaths fallow.

One can’t not eat, and one can’t only cook--then one would be a cook, and would have to get one’s jollies elsewhere.

21 January 2011

This is a tea commercial and the slogan is "taste the secret."

Generally I poo-poo herbal tea.  When I do drink herbal teas, it is ginger or chamomile.  I think this is because I don't have for it one of those yet-unnamed "way in which food compels," which I'm tempted at the moment to call exoticization.  But I'll let the terminology simmer for now.  Instead I'll illustrate the appreciation I don't have for herbal tea with a scenario.

You're in Starbucks.  There are too many things there, but to simplify the situation you could get coffee or you could get tea.  Coffee seems the safe option, as they are in the business of coffee, after all.  If you get tea it will probably come in a bag and be brought stewing in lukewarm water.  But you're not after fine or well-brewed tea.  You're not here to be picky and get what you expect.  You get some herbal infusion full of arcane-sounding fruits, herbs, and spices and named after some far-flung locale.  It's not that you care particularly what's in it or what it's called--these are all just allusions to what you want.  You put your nose to the steam swirling from the cup and feel like you're privvy to a secret.  The aroma taps you into the ephemera of some other life lost to nearly everyone else.  They're all drinking coffee.

That whole scenario is a lie.  It's the addressed who leads "some other life lost to nearly everyone else," which, through an imagined appreciation of tea, I wish to access in the same manner.

20 January 2011

Inadvisable Meal II: Beets & Sausage

Red beets are not just colorful; they have an excess of color.  They stain everything around them bright red and still their color remains incorruptably deep.  They taste like they look.  They're too much.  It is as if cane sugar is a weak imitation, and red beet is the true flavor of sweet.  We learn from the beet that sweet is in fact not entirely pleasant; it turns the mouth in on itself and pounds the tongue with sticky rocks.

In short, beets should be tempered with other things.  Do not eat a pile of beets with beet sauce.  A pile of beets with sausage covered in beet sauce is not much of an improvement.

In elementary school I knew this Jehovah's Witness who loved beets.  In the cafeteria he would sit down with a huge helping of ruffle-cut beets on his tray, lustily spearing them with his fork and turning his bulging lips red by slurping them into his clumsy mouth.  "Oh, I love beets," he would say.  We would all grimace in disgust.  Some would try to make fun of him, but he would just laugh and flash back an evil, self-contented smile between chomps.  Somehow I always liked him.  No harm could touch him.  He had become a beet, staining everything and impossible to stain.  The dye of beets is the only true substance.  A beet may be eaten, but its color persists and travels through you, eventually ending up in the ocean.  How the oceans are not a deep magenta is beyond me.

I had planned to write this in the morning, but tonight beets have kept me up writing about beets.  The beet has disrupted my plans and it smirks.  Pastry may be sorcery, but the beet is something much older, purer, and more insidious.  Root vegetables are coming into vogue like never before.  It is the age of roots, and the beet is rising.

I am sick of beets.  Perhaps I should make a beet cake, or a beet pie.

3 medium beets: 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 white & pink 1/4 of a lemon 4 peppercorns 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon olive oil 3 teaspoons flour

Peel beets and chop into bite-sized pieces ~1cm thick.  In a large saucepan bring 2 cups of water to boil, and add beets  Squeeze juice from lemon quarter and drop the whole thing in the pan.  Add peppercorns and salt.  Lower heat to medium-high and cover.  Boil for about 50 minutes, adding more water if necessary and stirring beets every fifteen minutes or so.  When beets are soft, remove them with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.  Lower heat to medium-low.  Add olive oil to liquid.  Sprinkle flour gradually while whisking liquid.  Remove from heat.  Pour sauce over meat accompaniment.

18 January 2011

Rockfish Salad

Shit, I didn't take a photo and I've run out of fish.  Oh well, isn't this rockfish adorable?  The photo was taken by Joyce Feuerbacher Altgelt, apparently. I usually eat this quickly because I want it to go away. The salad without the fish would be appealing, but here it serves mostly to mask the flavor of the slimy, five-day-old fish. Seriously, in the fridge the cooked fish gained a layer of transparent slime at the bottom. Okay, fine, it's not that it tastes or smells particularly bad, but the idea of it makes me feel it will taste bad enough to make me vomit at any moment. Eating it is an exercise in repressing a nausea of potential. It only came about because of one of my dad's Costco misadventures, in which he bought far too much salad greens and rockfish.

Without further ado, here is a recipe for an undesirable salad that came about in peculiar circumstances.

2-3 large handfulls salad greens ~1/2 cup cooked rockfish 8 kalamata olives 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 1/2 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon honey

In a large bowl place salad greens.  Tear olives in half into salad.  Tear bite-sized pieces of rockfish into salad.  Drizzle balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and honey over salad.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over salad.  Write one more sentence that ends in "salad," just in case your readers missed that everything was going into the salad.

16 January 2011

Corn Dodgers & Lembas

"True Grit" (1969) has corn dodgers.  The Lord of The Rings has lembas.

I could pretend to subtly treat these foods with their very different functions in their respective narratives, but the truth is I'm wrapping them both, and all of their cousins that I'm too lazy to research, into a doughy mass of sloppy exemplarity called "traveller's food."  Traveller's food is at the heart of one of high fantasy's fantasies: the long journey on foot.  (Westerns share this, but by far more often on horse.)  An adventurer, Bilbo might reminisce, does not travel bogged down with food.  No, he pops out the door with a knapsack and a cloak and is on his way.  In his knapsack he has a few bits of traveller's food--some bread and cheese perhaps (or some corn dodgers).  Traveller's food is rations but romanticized--hard tack but less disgusting while just as imperishable.  Despite its portability it is highly sustaining.

Traveller's food is one of the more extreme ways that food can compel that I have been trying to communicate.  Can one ever really make traveller's food?  No, but if you're me as a teenager, its impossibility can be easily forgotten. There was a time when I labored under the illusion that I could walk for days in the mountains with nothing but the biscuits I had baked before embarking.  The fact that I always came back before the next day was due to a personal failing and was not a reason for disillusionment.  Moreover it wasn't precisely that I went home; I simply stopped being the adventurer.  I paused the game.  No, the conflicting logics of "it was a personal failing" and "I paused the game" are not problematic.  They exemplify the necessary discontinuity of living in two.  In this manner I adventured for weeks in the wooded mountains while only doing so for an hour every day or two.  On the one hand adventuring army of one, on the other, at home on my computer.  (Not a strange combination at all, actually.)  The biscuits, obviously, did what they were supposed to.

15 January 2011

Pastry's Conspiracy

In _The Last Unicorn _nothing is quite what it seems. Great monsters are puffed up from the aspirations of common animals with a bit of magical trickery, and a unicorn goes about unrecognized as anything more than a white mare. The book’s tangle of seeming and being is much like what one encounters when one tries to unravel tasting and eating.

Food may be elevated to the snobby heights of having a “palette” because at some level it is a bare necessity. As animals, to live is to eat. There’s no getting around that. But we may sculpt food and manipulate it into dreams that could otherwise not be dreamt. Eggs may, for instance, be separated and whipped into sugary clouds. This is pastry.

The whole object of pastry, it seems to me, is to create something unreal. With pastry we may believe briefly that hunger and nourishment do not exist, and that beauty and taste are everything. Defined this way pastry comes to include not all desserts, but things such as ice cream, candy, and, liminally, some forms of haute cuisine, decorative bento boxes, and even molded gelatine. It is a strain of magic in cookery. In a purely imagined history it began as delights for jaded court royalty and eventually expanding to industrially produced Hostess cakes.  The empire of pastry has wriggled its way into the fabric of many lives and has necessitated enormous quantities of sugar plantations. Unlike the Illuminati, there is no one to cackle at bringing abstractions into the world. There is no pastry sorcerer* triumphantly grinning and wringing his hands. Pastry is its own sorcerer, its own cabal and its own cult leader, and it has no more control over its destiny than those that do its bidding.

The meringue is a meagre beast, yet as beautiful and powerful as it is full of air.

13 January 2011

Bakewell Tart

Ever since I ran across this video & recipe I've developed an instant righteousness about Bakewell Tart.  Nobody has ever heard of it around here.  The injustice!  I keep having to explain what it is.  My explanations being what they are (stunted, reluctant, and full of 'err's), I settled upon this one: it's basically butter, almonds, and sugar in a pie crust with a bit of raspberry jam.  This seems to simultaneously please and put people on edge.  Unless of course they have an faddish, ironic adoration of fat, in which case they pronounce the absurdly rich tart "awesome."  Why did I sweeten to this tart so quickly?  Because it's British, of course.  And how!  The infinitesimal amount of fruit present is in the form of jam and buried beneath a vast stratum of stiff, buttery whiteness.

My version is flecked with brown because I couldn't find the recommended blanched almonds.  Instead I just put some raw almonds in the food processor.  I have to say if you consider the crust a given, this is one the easiest tarts ever.  Mix ground almonds, butter, sugar, and eggs together.  Spread the crust with raspberry jam.  Spread the almond mixture evenly on top of that, and bake it well.  I'm waiting for the rotten fruit to hit me for that one.

Adapted from Elaine Lemm and Smitten Kitchen

1 baked tart shell or pie crust

1 1/2 sticks butter

3/4 cup white sugar

2 large eggs and one yolk

1/2 cups almonds

zest of one lemon

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Warm butter until soft but not liquid.  In a large mixing bowl cream butter and sugar together.  Whisk in eggs, yolk, lemon zest, and almond extract.  In a food processor grind almonds thoroughly but not into a paste (i.e. don't turn it into almond butter).  Mix ground almonds into the butter/egg/sugar mixture.  Spread raspberry jam on the bottom of the tart shell or pie crust.  Spread filling evenly on top of raspberry jam.  Bake for 50 minutes.

6 January 2011

Ginger Tea

This is very much not the ginger tea at Koshy's, which is steeped.  Maybe it would have been more appropriate to call this "ginger chai," but then some might have gotten the impression that it's like a Starbucks Chai Latte, but with more ginger.  A more accurate name such as "boiled ginger tea" just sounds nasty to me despite the fact that I boil my tea to death just about every morning these days.

2 small slices fresh ginger

2 teaspoons Assam CTC

1 cup water

1/2 cup milk

3 teaspoons sugar or 2 1/2 teaspoons honey

Combine water, milk, and fresh ginger in a small saucepan and bring to a boil on high heat.  When milky water boils it will foam.  At this point quickly add tea and remove from heat to prevent it from boiling over.  After 40 seconds put saucepan back on heat and boil once more.  Immediately strain into a mug.  Remove ginger from strainer, rinse off, and plop into mug.  Stir in sugar.  Drink immediately.

4 January 2011

Oh my buttons!

In The Mill on the Floss, Tom explains to Maggie why he will not be running away the next day.  “It’s the pudden,” he confides, “I know what the pudden’s to be--apricot roll-up--oh my buttons!”  I’ve never heard of a roll-up before except of course those strips of candied fruit puree that kids used to (do they still?) have in paper-bag lunches called “fruit roll-ups.”  I assume this is a pastry.  It sounds very appealing, but more appealing to a not especially wealthy nineteenth-century English family who only ever has such things on special occasions than to my contemporary palate.  Apricot roll-up, ever since I read that sentence, has taken on a vibrant and uncertain life in my imagination.  I keep thinking of the words nd of why Tom is oh-my-buttonsing about it.  Incommensurate images float unresolved in my mind.  How is it rolled up?  It is made from fresh, dried, or otherwise preserved apricots?  What kind of pastry dough are they rolled up in: pate brisee, pate sablee, puff pastry, yeasted dough, or something else?  What is apricot roll-up?  At this point a google search would not answer the question I’m trying to ask.  I don’t want to know what it was historically, what George Eliot may have been referring to.  Because I don’t know what it is I have begun to imagine something.  I want to know what that something is, and in what ways it might be brought into the world.

Or maybe, considering what I did recently bake, I don’t want to make it tangible at all, and I’m content letting it draw me toward baked semblances.  After making pear-ginger tarte tatin and sweet potato pie for Christmas, I still had some pie dough leftover in the fridge.  Thinking of apricot roll-up, I rolled the remaining dough into a roughly rectangular sheet, covered it in thin pear slices, sprinkled it with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, rolled it up and baked it at 400 F.  Well, fifteen minutes in I became paranoid that it wouldn’t become properly crisp and turned it up to 425 F.  Also I tried to pucker the ends together to keep the juices from running out too much.  The juices did run out and burned to a black caramel at the bottom of the pan, but I liked it.  It was a roll-up.  The nice thing about a culinary fantasy defined by a single word with little semantic grounding is that it can be many things.

I was also pleased because this pear roll-up was made from things that just happened to be around.  Probably derived from the frugality endorsed by environmentalism and an ego-aspiration to quiet resourcefulness, this is also one of my foremost culinary desires.

Like the sweet potato pie of last entry, I liked it because of what I thought I was making as well as because it, I thought, tasted good.  Some vagueness or polyvalence in what I imagine I’m making seems to be a necessary part of this equation.  Taste is again mediated by fantasy, but instead of the enticing photos I referred to as enthralling (as in actually placing me in their thrall) motivators to make Mrs. Hudson’s Biscuits, tarte tatin, and apple strudel, this came of a written phrase.  Why do I romanticize the textual seed of this fantasy, and hold the photographic distastefully between thumb and pinky?

1 small round pate brisee

1 large pear

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Roll out pate brisee into a rectangle roughly twice as long as it is wide.  Halve and core pear.  Slice pear thinly.  Lay pear slices parallel to the shorter edge in two rows.  Sprinkle brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg over pear slices.  Roll from short side to short side.  Pinch together the open ends of the roll.  Place roll in a baking pan with the seam facing up.  Bake at 425 F for about half an hour, or until the crust turns golden brown.

1 January 2011