My dear Ben is a bit discombobulated as of late. He must, you see, find new living quarters. The era of living in style and being my neighbor in Chelsea is coming to an end, quickly. And if there's anything worse in the world than giving up your home, especially one that you love, to find a new one - one that can never really measure up, especially in New York or any of the outer boroughs - well, then you've got to tell me about it. Because as far as I'm concerned (and I think Ben agrees), this search is akin to the innermost circle of hell.
We spent most of the weekend traipsing around town, looking at places in different neighborhoods, trying our best to imagine Ben's daily walk to the subway, or what it would feel like for him to come home there at night. We saw shared lofts with no central heating, two-bedroom apartments next to (and I mean, looking out at) the BQE, and studios with peeling walls and astronomical fees. To fortify ourselves throughout these treks, we had a perfectly cooked meal of Dominican rice and beans with fried eggs and plantains at Hurricane Hopeful in Williamsburg, and our first Vietnamese sandwiches, crunchy and warm, in the East Village.
And to keep our spirits up, I cooked for comfort this weekend. Pasta with tomato sauce and peas. Cheeseburgers, with organic beef on toasted English muffins, oozing with juice and ketchup. Ben's smile as he chewed his way through one was the best part of an exhausting day. And fulfilling a longstanding desire of mine to finally use the gorgeous waffle iron my stepmother so kindly gave me last year, we also made breakfast yesterday. Of course, it wasn't all easy. Batter sticking to (nonstick, oiled nonstick, I tell you) waffle iron grids was enough to send me over the edge, but Ben calmed me down and we got through this sticky patch just fine (har). Here was my sweetheart, almost homeless, making me feel better because of a damned waffle.
Donna Deane wrote a piece in the LA Times a few years ago about Belgian waffles and how sophisticated they've become as of late. She included a few recipes, one of which just jumped straight out at me. You make a yeasted batter with buckwheat flour that ferments overnight. The waffles are barely sweet, and you serve them with honey butter and toasted sunflower seeds. (Though I skipped both and served the waffles with maple syrup and my new favorite thing: maple cream. It's maple syrup that's been cooked down and then creamed into a solid state, much like honey. It's unctuous and spreadable and tastes like what I imagine angel food tastes like. I'm in love. New Yorkers, I got it at the greenmarket in Union Square.) Whatever you can't eat, you can freeze. Which I did.
The most difficult part of the process is figuring out your waffle iron: how much batter does it take? Will it stick? How do you prevent this from happening? But this isn't exactly rocket science: you'll figure it out if you haven't already. And the waffles? They were delicious. Light and airy, crunchy outside, tender within. Each batch gave us a different texture. The last ones were, of course, the best. I love buckwheat: its wholesome, otherworldly flavor is indescribably appealing to me. It reminds me of my childhood, when my father would make buckwheat pancakes for breakfast on special mornings. I can only hope that the comfort I used to derive from them was somehow channeled into the waffles I made for Ben yesterday, making him feel that no matter where he ends up, my place is always his home away from home.
Note: I've noticed that some of the recipe links in early posts are no longer valid (curse you, LA Times archive). If you ever desire a recipe that I've linked to and that no longer appears, please tell me and I'll do my best to scrounge it up for you.
Raised Buckwheat Belgian Waffles
Serves 6 to 8
1 package yeast
1/4 cup hot water (100 to 110 degrees)
2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup honey
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup cake flour
1 1/4 cups buckwheat flour
1 1/8 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir until the yeast is completely dissolved. Let it stand until bubbles begin to form. Stir in 2 tablespoons of honey, the buttermilk and the oil.
2. Combine the cake flour, buckwheat flour and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in the yeast mixture just until blended. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
3. For the honey butter, combine the softened butter, the remaining honey and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cover and set aside until ready to serve.
4. A half hour before cooking, remove the batter from the fridge and let it stand at room temperature. Then stir in the beaten eggs and baking soda. Combine thoroughly.
5. Heat a nonstick Belgian waffle iron and spray with cooking spray or brush with oil. Pour the recommended amount of batter onto the waffle iron. Close the lid and cook until the waffles are browned and release easily from the iron. Repeat with the remaining batter. Break or cut the waffles into sections. Spoon the honey butter over the hot waffles and eat immediately.