So here goes...
On Cooking :
What recipe or meal do you wish you had the courage to tackle?
Where do you look for / find inspiration?
One of my favorite pastimes is wandering into grocery stores in foreign places. I drag Zach to all sorts of markets and food shops when we travel. I love seeing what's on the shelves and in people's baskets.
What is the ideal number of people to cook for?
4. After 4 I begin to get stressed. When I cook for 2 I generally make enough for 4 anyway, so 4 feels natural.
Is there a recipe you consider your go-to - perhaps a recipe that other people have named after you because you make it so often? (please feel free to share links!)
(Talley's) Fennel Dip and (Talley's) Banana Bread
On Writing (applies to all writing, not just blogging):
Do you have a writing routine? Or do you write whenever you find a few spare minutes?
I try to sit down every morning, before breakfast but with my tea, and write for thirty minutes. These morning notes are more me releasing the busy thoughts that are taking up precious space and that once I get down on paper make room for more productive ideas. When it comes to blogging, if this month has been any indication, I sit down after dinner and write, just like I'm doing right now.
What is your writing process? Do you start with index cards and baby step your way to a Word document or blog platform? Or do you dive right in?
I am a slow and self-conscious writer. Before this blogging month I would write ideas - one or two lines - in a Moleskin and then draw those ideas out in bullet point form in a Word Document and then eventually start a new Word document (there is something refreshing about a blank page) and turn those points into sentences. And then finally rewrite everything in Blogger (I know!)
This past month has loosened me up a lot. Now, after four weeks of daily posts, I have started writing directly in Blogger. It's liberating. I don't fret over ever word, I simply write down what I'm thinking in that moment and then press publish. There hasn't been much time for dilly dallying.
Do you have any tips on how to ease the angst of writing and let the words flow?
My only advice is those thirty minutes of morning pages. I'm really looking to you on this one...
On Reading :
What do you most enjoy reading about (here or on other blogs)?
I love learning little personal details; being given little inlets into the writer/bloggers life.
What are you reading when you aren't reading blogs?
I followed Amy's lead and downloaded Jane Eyre, which I have been reading at night scrunched up on the couch. I also just recently bought two books by Michael Chabon - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Telegraph Hill which the NYTimes compared to one of our favorite movies -You've Got Mail. How could I not get it?
What's for dinner?
Zach is at a whiskey tasting so just me tonight. I made a butternut squash, onion, zucchini and tomato sauté and ate it with torn basil leaves over pasta.
Let's say there's something baking in your oven right this minute, what is it?
THESE (see below) cookies! You know they're done when they smell like melted Nutella.
* * * feel free to answer just one or three or all * * *
(edit: of course now 20 minutes after posting I'm nervous you won't answer at all...so maybe just one?)
Every year at Christmas mom my makes sugar cookies, Aunt Julie's Sugar Cookies to be exact. After thinking about the recipes I'll be remembered for (see above) I decided I wanted to add a cookie to this list. I decided that one of my missions before Christmas arrives is to find my cookie. I might have found it on the first go. This buttery hazelnut cookie, which is just slightly crackly on the outside and melt in your mouth buttery on the inside, is the perfect bite size Christmas treat if you ask me. The fact that it looks like a snowball also doesn't hurt either. Let's talk about the real clincher though, the fact that this cookie smells like Nutella when it is baking. I opened the oven to check on their plumpness and doneness only to be met with the most wonderful scent, like I was floating down a river of smooth hazelnut chocolate. Granted there is no chocolate in this recipe, yet that is. David Lebovitz just recently posted a recipe for a surprisingly similar cookie with a chocolate layer. I'll be trying those next.
// Palle di Neve : Snowball Cookies //
from Biscotti: Recipes from the Kitchen of the American Academy in Rome: Rome Sustainable Food Project by Mona Talbott and Mirella Mistenti
(more on this book and the American Academy in Rome in another post)
140 g / 5 oz hazelnuts
300 g / 2 cups + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
230 g / 1 cup + 1 tbsp butter
85 g / 1/4 cup + 3 tbsp granulated sugar
5 ml / 1 tsp vanilla extract
5 ml / 1 tsp water
325 g / 2 cups + 3 tbsp confectioners sugar for coating
Preheat the oven to 150ºC / 300ºF
Spread the hazelnuts evenly on a sheet pan and toast for 10 minutes or until the skins begin to split. While the nuts are still warm pour them into a kitchen towel. Cinch up the kitchen towel and rub with your hands in a circle direction to work the skins away from the nuts. The skins can be somewhat bitter so removing some or all of them is helpful. Lift the nuts out of the towel, leaving the skins behind, and place in a food processor and pulse with 2 tbsp of flour until they are an even sandy texture.
Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and water and mix until incorporated. Add the ground hazelnut mixture and the rest of the flour and continue to mix on low speed until the dough forms a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and form into 80 balls, about 9 g / 1/3 oz each. At this point you can place the balls of dough in a zip lock bag and store the freezer for up to a month until you are ready to bake them.
When you are ready to bake the cookies heat the oven to 180ºC / 350ºC
Place the balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper leaving about 1 inch between them. Allow the balls to come to room temperature (if they have been in the freezer). Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Cool the cookies completely on a wire wrack and then roll in confectioner sugar a few times, or sprinkle with a sifter a few times (of if you are like me you can do both).
These cookies are best freshly baked. (Although I baked them yesterday (made the dough Wednesday) and just ate one and they are equally delicious today as they were yesterday).
And so it ends, 4 weeks of blogging. It has been a wonderful experience, in a large part because I knew you were there reading. Thank you!