pavlova

Do you ever read your old journals and cringe? Like you want to curl up and die or at least scratch your eyes out because you’re so mortified by the things you wrote and the feelings you felt and the boys you liked? I’ve kept a diary since junior high; my little brother used to call it my book of secrets. He also used to steal it and recite passages out loud when my friends were over. And I would die a little bit from the horror every time. Ugh.

I came across an old journal from 2006-2008 while I was doing some major housekeeping over the weekend. 2006 doesn’t even feel like it was that long ago, but it was like another person wrote it, which is why I couldn’t put it down. It was certainly entertaining. And embarrassing. And it made me remember people and things I hadn’t thought about in a long time. It was also sort of sweet, and more poignant than I had expected it to be. In a strange way it made me happy to be older, but it was also a reminder that no matter how old I am, be it twenty-five or thirty-something, my fifteen-year-old self will always be somewhere inside my heart.

My fifteen-year-old self was momentarily obsessed with baked meringue. As a child, the only meringue I knew was the foamy, squishy stuff found on top of lemon meringue pies, which I was never fond of. But I remember being really intrigued when I found a recipe for star-shaped baked meringue cookies. And I was so pleased with myself when those cookies came out of the oven; they were light and crisp and pure white. They were definitely the prettiest things I had ever made. Looking back on it now, I’m pretty impressed with the idea of my teenage-self making meringue cookies. She was kind of fancy.

I think my love for pavlova is rooted in that past infatuation with baked meringue. Pavlova is one of my favorite summertime desserts because it is the perfect platform for all of the gorgeous fruit that is so bountiful this time of year. The baked meringue shell is crisp on the outside and soft and almost marshmallowy in the middle. It’s so delicate that it practically collapses when topped with soft whipped cream and fruit. It’s pretty dreamy. And hard to beat.

pavlova

from Simple Essentials Fruit by Donna Hay

serves 6-8

4 large egg whites

1 cup superfine sugar

3 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 teaspoons sugar (optional)

a splash of rosewater (optional)

fresh fruit, to serve ( I used a combination of figs, raspberries, strawberries, and currants)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, beating well until the mixture is glossy. Sift the cornstarch over the egg white mixture and fold through with the vinegar and vanilla.

Pile the meringue mixture into an 7-inch round on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in the oven, reduce the temperature to 250°F, and bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and allow the meringue to cool in the oven.

Just before serving, place the heavy cream and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high until soft peaks form. Add rosewater and mix until incorporated.

Top the meringue with whipped cream and fresh fruit. Serve immediately.

baba ganoush

Is it me, or does time just move faster and faster as you grow older? This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. How the days turn into months and the months turn into years, and before you know it, babies are walking and talking, and almost two years go by before you finally realize that you haven’t seen one of your best friends in forever. It’s a bizarre feeling. I’m not sure that I like it.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about friendships and how they deepen and evolve over the years. I am approaching the ten year mark with a handful of friends and it kind of trips me out. How did so many years pass so quickly? How am I so lucky? I love the idea of friendships that span decades, the idea of making memories with the same people for years and years, the idea that there are people in your life that know you way better than you realize; I feel extremely fortunate to have these. I also very much appreciate friendships that stand the test of time and distance and life, the friendships that pick up right where they left off, no matter what happens or how much time passes.

I met Dave in 2003, when we were both young and wild. We were inseparable for almost two years, and when he left San Francisco after college I cried my eyes out. We’ve somehow managed to maintain a very awesome, funny phone relationship, which might explain why it never really felt like two years had passed since we last saw each other. Clearly, a visit was long overdue, so I made my way down to LA last weekend. We spent three days drinking margaritas and ice coffees and shopping and hanging out with the pup. While we were having margaritas at Marix, we called Dave’s grandma, whom I’ve never met, but love to pieces. She recited a verse about the importance of old friends, and though I can’t remember her exact words, it totally resonated with me. As the weekend passed, it became pretty clear how much we’ve both grown up over the years, but in some ways we are very much the same. I find a lot of comfort in that.

This baba ganoush doesn’t really have anything to do with friendship or LA. But it’s what I’ve been eating and I’ve been meaning to share it with you. Baba ganoush is the new hummus in my world. Like hummus, it’s seasoned with tahini and garlic and lemon juice. But the smoky roasted eggplant is what really makes me swoon. It’s great with fresh pita or pita chips or a little crudite. But you might want to eat it by the spoonful like I do. And you should. I won’t judge you if you do.

baba ganoush

adapted from David Lebovitz

makes 6-8 servings

2 medium-sized eggplants

1/4 cup  tahini (roasted sesame paste)

1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt

3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon olive oil

a half bunch picked flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 400°F (190°C).

Prick each eggplant a few times, then char the outside of the eggplants by placing them directly on the flame of a gas burner. As the skin chars, turn them until the eggplants are uniformly-charred on the outside. (If you don’t have a gas stove, you can char them under the broiler. If not, skip to the next step.)

Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until they’re completely soft; you should be able to easily poke a paring knife into them and meet no resistance.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Split the eggplant and scrape out the pulp. Puree the pulp in a blender or food processor with the other ingredients until smooth.

Taste, and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary. Chill for a few hours before serving. Drizzle with olive oil. Baba ganoush can be made and refrigerated for up to five days prior to serving.

honey chamomile ice cream

I’m always amazed by how much a weekend away can do for your well-being. I feel very blessed and rejuvenated. And ready. I know I’ve said it once, but I have to say it again – Big Sur is magical.

We left the Bay Area and headed down to Big Sur on an overcast Saturday morning. Highway 1, even when enveloped in fog, always takes my breath away. The curves of the road, Bixby Bridge, the Pacific Ocean; it’s one of my favorite drives.

I’ve been mildly obsessed with Big Sur Bakery since I first laid eyes on their cookbook a few years back, so you can imagine my disappointment when we discovered upon arrival that it was closed for a private event. Who rents out an entire restaurant in Big Sur on a Saturday afternoon? Well, I ain’t one to gossip, but as it turns out, a certain Black Swan decided to get married in Big Sur the very weekend we were there. And I’m just guessing that might have had something to do with the bakery being closed. Not that this could ever be confirmed since every hotel and restaurant employee we crossed paths with was super tight-lipped about the event. We didn’t even know who got married until we got home. We just caught wind of a celebrity wedding while we were hanging out at our hotel.

Fortunately, we were able to have brunch at the Bakery before we headed home the following day. We were seated on their super cozy back patio, where we enjoyed the amazingly gorgeous weather along with a couple of pizzas, a burger, and a ginormous skillet baked pancake. It was the perfect place for our last Big Sur meal.

This ice cream was inspired by a recipe in The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook. The original recipe is for a honey chamomile ice cream terrine. I made the terrine last summer, and while it was delicious, it was almost too rich, even for me. But I loved the combination of chamomile and honey in a frozen treat and always meant to revisit it.

The opportunity finally presented itself the other day while I was looking for coconut milk ice cream recipes. I’m kinda sorta avoiding dairy and white sugar at the moment, so a coconut based ice cream sweetened with honey totally fit the bill. Then I remembered the honey-chamomile ice cream and ran with it. I couldn’t be more happy with the results. The ice cream still has a richness thanks to the coconut fattiness and the addition of egg yolks, and the chamomile and honey shine, even through the coconut milk. Add a few peach slices and maybe a drizzle of honey and you’ve got yourself some serious dessert.

Thank you, Big Sur!

honey chamomile ice cream

inspired by/adapted from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook by Michelle and Philip Wojtowicz and Michael Gilson; and WholeFoodsMarket.com

serves 6-8

1/2 cup honey, plus more for drizzling (optional)

2 cans regular coconut milk

1/2 cup loose chamomile flowers

4 egg yolks

2 peaches

1 tablespoon sugar

Combine the coconut milk and honey in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chamomile flowers, and let it steep for 10 minutes. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Discard the chamomile. Return the strained mixture to the saucepan.

Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl until smooth. Bring the coconut milk mixture back to a boil, and slowly ladle the hot liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over very low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve one more time, and refrigerate until it is cold. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

About 10 minutes before serving, slice the peaches and put them in a bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and let them macerate. Serve ice cream with peaches.